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***Part One***

Buffy woke up feeling dreadfully cold, hung over and sore. She hesitated to open her eyes. How had she gotten home last night? What had she done? She honestly couldn't remember a damned thing past Willow's deep depression and Buffy guiltily having to leave her best friend alone when she was so depressed. Patrolling must have been something.

She had dreamt the strangest things. She and Spike had gotten engaged, like that would ever happen. As if that wasn't weird enough, Giles had gone blind and Xander had been plagued with some sort of curse causing demons to chase after him no matter where he tried to hide.

She stretched languidly and sighed. It must be the slaying that gave her such strange dreams. She rolled over, reaching for her extra pillow to rest her head against it but instead found hair. Xander? Had Xander spent the night last night? Okay, that was fine, but why was he in her bed?

"Xander," she called out sleepily. The response she received was some sort of sleep induced snort. As her fingers touched the head of hair once again, she knew instantly it was not Xander, it was too short to be Xander's hair. Her eyes flew open and she screamed when she saw Spike lying on his stomach next to her. Worse yet, they were not at her house and he had no clothes on. Neither did she now that she was awake enough to realize it.

"Bloody hell," Spike said rudely. "Go somewhere else if you're going to wake the dead like that. I've got hours yet til sundown."

"Spike," Buffy called out, furious and petrified. What had she done? What had they done? "Spike, wake up damn it and tell me why in the hell I'm here. And there had better be a damned good reason." Not like we had sex last night on some whim. Buffy had a sinking feeling that was what had happened, though. Some parts of her dream were too vivid and real to be a dream.

"What," he called out, turning over so he lay on his back. "Buffy? Slayer," he said with disdain. "What in the hell are you doing in my bed?"

"I could ask you the same question. How did I get here?"

"Hell if I know," he said, raking his fingers through his hair. "I hope it was good though, whatever it was we did."

"We're naked, you and me, together, how can that possibly be good?" She scooted herself to the far edge of the bed as far away from Spike as she could get without releasing the sheet she held in front of her.

"Oh, Slayer, if you have to ask that then I need to have a talk with Angel."

"You are not Angel, I don't love you, you are icky and evil and, well, just bad."

"That's right, baby, I'm all those things, I don't know that I've been told I'm icky before, but the evil and bad parts hold true. You just wanted to take a walk on the wild side last night, no harm, no foul."

"No harm? No foul? Spike, we can't stand one another."

"Yeah, so? And your point?"

"Oh God."

"I don't think he's going to help you in this one, Slayer."

"You're sick."

She looked back at him over her shoulder, careful to keep the sheet positioned so he could not see too much of her. He was enjoying this far too much, and the look in those deep blue eyes of his was a little frightening. "Well, you are bearing my mark, so you must be just as sick as I am."

"Your mark?"

He chuckled lightly as he sat up apparently not worried about his nakedness as the sheet dropped from around him. He touched her neck and ran his finger along it.

"You bit me? You bastard."

"I did no such thing, Slayer. It's a love bite, a hickey is all, should be gone in a day or two, maybe sooner with your Slayer healing."

She placed a hand around her neck where he had touched and gasped softly. "I have to get out of here. This cannot be happening. I did not sleep with you. I did not have sex with you. What in the hell am I going to tell anyone? I can't tell anyone, I won't tell anyone, it's as simple as that. I'll just tell Willow I was out all night patrolling. Or with Riley."

"Calm down, Slayer, and take a breath. No need to announce anything to anyone. Cover up the mark until it's gone or faded and you'll be fine. If you think I am going to walk around Sunnydale and tell people I shagged the Slayer instead of slew the Slayer you've got another thing coming, sweetheart. I've got a reputation to uphold, you know. Who the hell is Riley?"

"Oh yes, and Drusilla was some piece of work."

"Leave that bitch out of this."

"Gladly. There is no this. Now if I could just find my clothes I can get out of here. Riley, I'll have you know is a guy I've been sort of seeing."

"And I'm sure he'll love knowing you were out all night."

"He won't find out, now will he? Willow will cover for me."

"Just be sure and cover your neck," he added flippantly. Buffy just glared at him.

"I won't forget. Do you think I'd walk around proudly displaying I let a vamp get all lovey on my neck?"

"They might not think you're such a cold fish if you did that."

"I am not a cold fish," she said as images of the night before came to her mind.

"You come across that way. You come across as stuck up and prissy and too good for most people."

"I don't mean to," she said defensively, his words pricked her in a way she did not want to dwell on. "Turn around. I mean, turn away. Don't look at me," she demanded as she stood from the bed to find her clothes and dress.

"Love had nothing to do with it. And no I'm not going to kiss you good bye. I'm going to go wash my mouth out with soap and scrub my body off with Lime Away or something."

"Oh come now, I am not that repulsive."

"Close enough," she said, wondering where she would find something to cover her neck between here and her dorm room.

"You need to work on your pillow talk, Slayer."

"I guess this means you won't be seeking me out for more of it. Good riddance," she said. She waved to him, not understanding why exactly she bothered to give him the courtesy. "I'll see you around, Spike, and you'd better hope I don't have Mr. Pointy on me."

"Just itching to stake the Big Bad now. You might want to hold off on that, Sweetness. I've heard tell once you get a sample you keep coming back for more," he called to her as she retreated from his room, down the stairs until she could no longer hear his taunts.

Downstairs she realized she was at Giles' house. She had sex with Spike at Giles' house? "What in the world possessed me to sleep with him," she queried aloud to herself. There was no one else around to answer her or to hear her hold a conversation with herself. This was good, the last thing she needed was the bad guys or her friends to think she had gone batty. Of course, when they found out she had slept with Spike they might think that anyway.

Her mind jumbled with various thoughts, she decided to take a walk through the cemetery near where Spike said he had been captured and where he claimed to have escaped. So far they had found nothing.

"Buffy," she heard her name called and spun around to face the person who had called her. It was Riley and she softened slightly, tugging the lapels of her jacket slightly so the hickey was covered.

"Riley. What are you doing here?"

"I was just taking a walk actually."

"In the cemetery?"

"Yeah," he said. "I was actually looking for something I lost." Something he lost in a cemetery? Buffy grew a little suspicious at that comment.

"Oh," she said softly not knowing what else to say. "Can I help you find it?"

"Uh no, it's fine really." He frowned slightly. "Are you wearing the same thing you had on last night?"

"Yeah. Long night, stayed at a, um, friend's since it was so late. Just on my way home now for some shower action."

"I won't keep you then."

"Okay. I'll see you later," she said, the hint of a question in her voice.

"Yeah, sure."

She walked away, curious about the conversation and why Riley had seemed so distant. They had been making some progress she had thought. Oh well, she really did not need the headaches that came with a boyfriend anyway. She wanted one, sure, but after Angel they all sort of paled in comparison. Well, except for the turning evil part.

She got back to her dorm room and was disappointed Willow was not there. She had to talk to her and find out what happened last night. Willow would have the answers, she had to.

She showered, changed and took out her Psychology book, determined to get a little studying in while she waited for Willow. The need to sleep, however, was strong and overshadowed her desire to study.

***

Willow flipped on the overhead light, turning it off as soon as she saw a sleeping Buffy on her bed. "Buffy," she called out in the dimly lit room. "Are you all right?" She was glad to see her friend was alive and well. No one had seen her last night. Hopefully, she was not too mad at her for what she had done to her. It was only for a little while, though Giles talked as though he might be permanently scarred because of the ordeal despite being blind for a good portion of it.

"Willow?"

"Yes, Buffy, it's me. Have you been sleeping all day?"

"Uh, I guess so," Buffy said, turning over and looking at the alarm clock. "Is it really five o'clock?"

"Yeah it is. Are you okay? You're not mad at me, are you? I'm sorry, really. I had no idea the spell was working."

"I'm not entirely happy right now, Willow, but I'm not mad. Bad things could have happened. I know you're depressed and I know you're hurting, but magic is not the solution."

"I know that - now. I just wanted to fix my heart, heal it so that I wouldn't hurt so much anymore. I had no idea it would filter over into everyone else." Buffy sat up, gripping the edge of the bed. "Oh my God, Buffy you've got a hickey!"

"What? No, it's nothing, really," she said, placing her hand around her neck.

"Did you and Riley get with the smoochies or something?"

"Uh no. It must have been Spike."

"Oh yeah, Giles said you two were going at it pretty heavy. He says he thought for a while there he was going to have to hose you off or try and separate you. I told him you would never have slept with Spike, spell or not."

"Right."

Willow was curious what the frightened and confused look she saw on Buffy's face was about. She hoped she really wasn't too mad at her. "Well, I'm sorry. If it'll help I'll explain to Riley for you."

"No, no explanations will be necessary. I'll cover it up and with the way I heal, it should be gone in no time."

"I am sorry, Buffy. Really. I was so mad that you seemed to be helping Spike, turning your back on me."

"I know, Willow. But he's being hunted right now. Whoever abducted him is still around here. From the sounds of it, it's a pretty large operation. He's helping us, so I owe him my protection. He won't be able to help us find the entrance to the place if he's caught again."

"I know," she said resolutely. "I do. But last night I didn't."

Buffy stood and Willow watched as she tousled her hair, glad her friend forgave her. Of the wills she had wished, she was most sorry about Buffy's. She was her best friend, best friends were not supposed to hurt one another and she knew Buffy was just doing her job. How embarrassed she must feel knowing she had claimed the spell had not worked on her. Willow smiled slightly at that. From what Giles had said, a few minutes longer and they would have been going at it in his chair with him watching.

"It's all right, Will. Really, it is. I'm hungry. Do you want to get something to eat?"

"Sure. Maybe we'll run into Riley."

"I saw him this morning actually at the cemetery."

"That's a little bit of a strange place for him to be hanging around, don't you think? A little weird for you to be there in the morning, but you just had a long night right?"

"Right," Buffy said, averting her gaze and Willow suspected Buffy was lying. But about what? "I thought so too. He said he had lost something, but when I offered to help him he turned me down. Who loses things in a cemetery?"

"Uh, I don't know. Maybe he attended a funeral and dropped something."

"Maybe," Buffy said, though she did not sound any more convinced that was Riley's reason for being in the cemetery than Willow was.

"I'm sure there's a logical explanation, whatever it is."

"Yeah," Buffy said again. She was too complacent, too eager to agree with her, and that sort of worried Willow.

"Are you sure you're not holding any grudges? If you want to yell at me or something, go ahead, I know I deserve it. Just don't hit me too hard if you feel like hitting me."

Buffy laughed and shook her head. "I don't want to hit you, Will, and I'm not mad. I'm just trying to piece last night together and figure out what Riley was doing there. Just once I'd like to be interested in someone or have someone interested in me who was normal."

"Oh but that wouldn't be any fun, Buffy," Willow said wryly.

"Yeah, I guess we've both had our share of interesting relationships, huh?"

Willow looked down, avoiding looking at Buffy. Interesting was not how she thought of her relationship with Oz, but it was interesting that he was a werewolf and she had loved him anyway. "Yeah."

Willow felt Buffy's arms around her and stepped into the hug her best friend offered. "Don't go all sad on me now, Will. I don't know that I could take another night of kissing Spike. You might pair me up with someone even worse next time."

"Oh, so you didn't mind kissing Spike, is that it?"

"Well, from a strictly performance stand point, he was good. He made my insides feel like Jell-O and my heart feel all poundy. Too bad he doesn't have a heart that beats for me to know if I affected him as well."

"Aww, Buffy, I'm sure you did. Who wouldn't like getting kissed by the Buffster, the Slayer?"

"Gee thanks."

"You know what I mean. Let's go get some dinner, though. Are you going to put on a different shirt? You don't want Riley thinking you're two timing him before you can officially be two timing."

"Yeah, hold on," she said, finding a turtleneck and putting it on, adjusting the collar so that it covered the hickey sufficiently. "I'm going to kill Spike for this when I see him next."

"Well, now, Buffy, don't get me wrong or anything," Willow said. "But doesn't that sort of defeat the purpose of protecting him? I mean if you kill him, well, he'll be dead and won't be able to help you find the lab."

"Yeah, I know. I guess I won't kill him, yet. But once we find this lab and I don't have to protect him from these commando guys I'll stake him."

Willow was not convinced Buffy was going to do any such thing, but said nothing. If Buffy wanted Spike staked she would have done it by now. Yet the vampire still lived. Willow had wondered about this more than once, but had left her questions unasked and her thoughts on just why Buffy felt the need to protect him unsaid. It seemed to Willow Buffy had gone and done some transference to Spike with Angel leaving.

"Okay, I'm ready, let's go eat. Hey, maybe we can go talk Giles into taking his two favorite girls out for dinner instead of eating dining hall food."

"I don't know that would be too smart. He's sort of suffering aftereffects of the Spike and Buffy show last night."

Buffy placed her hand over her face and groaned softly. "God, it's bad enough you all know I was kissing Spike, but the fact that someone, Giles, saw me is sick."

"Have I mentioned I'm sorry?"

"Yes, Will, you have and it'll be fine. I just need to get over it. And I will, just not right away."

***

Still reeling from having found out that Riley was a part of the commando guys Buffy had been searching high and low for, she had immersed herself in slaying and an attempt at studying, carefully avoiding Riley anywhere that wasn't in Psych class. They were sort of in a holding pattern, a Buffy induced one but it was what it was nonetheless. She was not sure if she could handle what he was and she was leaning toward being pretty certain he would not be able to handle what she was. There were days she could not handle it and she was the Slayer.

Part of her thought she should use the fact she could have a relationship with Riley to her advantage and infiltrate the commandos. She hated the thought of doing it, using someone, but she had to know what they were up to. It was not just Spike either, from what Spike described there were quite a few of them.

Buffy had to know what they were doing. The American government was not always right, Buffy knew that much. They experimented on soldiers and did things that were not always legal, but they could do that because they were the government and had few people to stop them. The Slayer would stop this government project if she found out it was for anything bad.

Chipping Spike, while humorous, was in a way cruel. He still got the cravings and still had the need. That could not be good. One day he would stop caring about the pain and just go crazy and do what he could until he passed out from the blinding headache.

She had seen Spike since that night, he had helped the gang some. Most of it was begrudging until he found out he could kill evil things. Buffy had to admit with Angel gone sometimes it was nice to have someone along with strength and speed beside her. Both had been more than careful not to bring up the night or let on to anyone else that more than kissing had occurred. It had never occurred to Buffy that anything more than sex had occurred - until today.

Six weeks worth of mail both some her mother had given her the other night at dinner and some she had received at her dorm room was her task for this evening. Two items struck her as odd. The first was from the Social Security Administration, the second was from the county. What did they need? She was not working, so she should not receive anything from Social Security, but the county one was a little more frightening. It was local.

Because of that, she opened the Social Security envelope first, which only served to confuse her more. It was paperwork for a name change. Why on earth would anyone think she was changing her name? She threw it away assuming it had been sent to her by mistake and opened the county envelope.

"Oh my God," she said unbelievingly as she read through the letter a third and fourth time. "This cannot be happening." It was a good thing Willow was not home or Buffy might have chosen that moment to take her best friend up on her offer made weeks earlier to let Buffy hit her.

It was early for her to go patrolling, but she needed to go now so she got her gear together and headed in the direction of Spike's crypt. She would go patrolling from there, hell maybe he'd be in the mood to kick some ass like she was. She burst through the door without bothering to knock.

"Spike," she shouted. No response. "Spike."

"Well, good evening, Slayer. So nice of you to drop by," Spike said, reclining in a chair in the dark like the creature of the night he was.

"Do you know about this," she asked him, holding up the piece of paper from the county court.

"I realize there's a perception that vampires have excellent vision, Slayer, but I am not that good. If you want an answer you will have to do better than waving a bloody piece of paper at me from a good fifty or more feet away from me."

"You and me. We're married. I'm Mrs. Buffy Harrison. Where the hell did Harrison come from?" She stormed toward him and shoved the letter informing her that her marriage certificate could be picked up at any time at the courthouse.

Spike read it, seemed to be enjoying Buffy's irritation and prolonging it. "Spike. I know you are not a mentally challenged person and have read it at least once by now. Did you know about this?"

"Hell no. Do you think I'd want to be married to you, Slayer? Yeah, vampire and slayer, talk about a match made in hell."

"How? I mean it was at night when we, I mean. How?"

"Well, I'm guessing we made a housecall on a circuit judge and convinced him somehow to marry us last minute. Together you and I could convince just about anyone to do anything, Buffy." He actually smiled as he said that, which made Buffy wonder if he knew.

"With no blood test, no license beforehand, no nothing? That can't be possible."

"Pet, I don't know. I honestly don't. I remember doing the arranging with you at Giles' house and I remember leaving Giles' house but I thought we left with Xander, Anya and Giles. Evidently we either ditched them or left at some other time."

"Evidently. Well, how are we going to undo it?"

"Well, back in my day you'd be shit out of luck. We consummated the deal, Buffy."

"Yeah, but we didn't know what we were doing. We could get it annulled."

"And say what? You inadvertently, under a spell, married a vampire? You'd have to have a good reason to get an annulment. Thank goodness there's no chance of a child, at least we don't have to worry about that."

"I'm going to call Angel. He'll be able to help me. Surely he somewhere, somehow has dealt with something like this."

Spike was on her quicker than she believed. His hand was on her arm. "You leave Angel out of this problem, Slayer," he said and Buffy knew before looking up from his hand at her arm that he had changed.

"Spike, you're scaring me. Are you saying you don't want to find a way out of this? You can't be serious. I can't be married to you."

"Scaring you but not hurting you. Bloody great," he muttered.

"Spike. You have to help me here. You can't want to be married at all let alone to me."

"Well, that all depends, do we get gifts and everything? I could use a bit of redecorating here at the crypt. It's been unlived in for a while."

She glared at him. "Buffy, look. Maybe if we found the judge who married us he would annul it, but I think he - or she - would ask a lot more questions this time around. It's bloody amazing we were able to pull it off. I have no birth certificate, no passport, no identity, no blood to give for a blood test, none that's mine anyway, and technically, hello, you married a dead man. I'm not sure how you're going to find a way to reverse it."

"You're not helping."

"Buck up, Slayer, you won't live to be older than twenty-five or so anyway, so you won't have to live until a ripe old age with old Spike as your dearly beloved."

"So you're telling me that you won't help me?"

"Not particularly no. It's no skin off my nose. And you can't stake me neither. I'd turn to a big pile of dust as you know and then you'd have to wait years to declare me legally dead since there would be no body. So, no, I don't think I'm going to help you, love. It seems your best friend bought me some life insurance."

"Well, I could just stake you now and begin my waiting."

"You could, but you won't, because it would be murder. Good or evil, demon, vampire or human, it does not matter, I'm defenseless and have not threatened you or done anything but bloody help you since I escaped from that place. Might not be murder in the eyes of the law and there would be no proof, but I know you, Slayer, and you couldn't live with yourself if you dusted me as I am now."

"So what the hell am I supposed to do, Spike? I mean, what if I want to marry someone. Like Riley?"

"That Boy Scout? I might grant you an annulment if I approved of the bloke, but not for him, no. And since no children will come as the result of our marriage we could get an annulment whenever we want. But for now, I'm going to keep my life insurance," he said with a wicked smile and a deliberately taunting wink. "Besides, Slayer," he said, drawing her to him. No reaction went over his face as he pulled her to him, so Buffy knew he meant her no harm. "He doesn't do it for you. I know he doesn't. He won't turn your crank, knock your socks off or whatever the term for it nowadays is. He won't ever get you, he won't ever understand you and he won't ever be able to accept who and what you are. You think he'll understand and accept you've shagged not one but two vampires? You think he'll understand that you knew all along I was one of his fugitives and helped hide me? Especially now that you know who he is and what he does. I don't think so, Goldilocks, so get over it."

"So what are you my father now?"

He brought his face menacingly lower, but again no reaction crossed over his face so Buffy was not scared. Being scared would give him satisfaction, he would smell it on her, she knew that. "No, Slayer. Back in my day, our relationship would have given me certain rights by law that I know today it does not. A man cannot take his wife unwillingly. But make no mistake about it, Slayer, I am no father figure."

"Then why are you doing this? I already have Giles. I don't need another one of you men hanging around me trying to interfere with my life."

"I already told you. Until I can find out how to get this bleeding chip removed from my head so I can be what I was once again I want the life insurance. Once the chip's gone, I'll grant the annulment and I'll leave Sunnydale behind. Maybe I'll go to LA and work for Angel."

Buffy slapped him hard across the face. "He would never. Not after I told him about this."

"Oh, Slayer, back in Angelus' day he would have done exactly what I'm doing. To actually be married to a human gives a vampire such power. It used to get done, but now with all the legalities, blood tests and what not they demand of you it's just so rare anymore. Maybe I'll find out who married us and send them a fruit basket as thanks."

"You're getting off on this, aren't you? In some perverse way you are enjoying this. Are you going to go pick up some whore at a bar and burrow into her so you can get your rocks off on the fact you can make me miserable?"

She saw the look of pain cross over his face and knew he was going to strike her. Good. She was getting to him. "Not on your life, Slayer, would I be thinking of you while I buried myself inside another woman."

"You're a pig, Spike."

"You're the one who brought it up, Slayer. Why am I the pig?"

"I'm so out of here, it's not even funny."

"I guess that means I shouldn't expect dinner at the usual time?"

"Not on your life," she called as she stormed out the door to his crypt, slamming it closed behind her.

Chapter Text

***Part Two***

Weeks passed and Spike was more and more irritated at this whole situation. The whole team knew of Spike and Buffy's faux marriage, except Riley. Of course, Riley was not really a part of the team, he was just the man trying to get into his wife's pants. Bloody wanker. Both of them! Riley for wanting Buffy so badly and Spike for even caring. Why should he care who or what Buffy did? She should be able to go out and screw the whole Oakland Raiders football team if she wanted to and he should not give a damn.

Unfortunately, somewhere inside of him the pitiful poet that was William still lurked, a caged puppy dog that periodically got brave enough to bare its teeth at its master Spike. And William cared very much, which made Spike care. It did not help either that he had not been completely forthright with anyone in Sunnydale about his breakup with Dru. Dru had cheated because she was sick of Spike always talking about the Slayer, dreaming about the Slayer. And it was not always killing her he was doing in his dreams either.

He had at first chalked it up to the fact that she was far more attractive than the first two slayers he had met were. At least to him they were, others might differ with him he knew. So that was the reason he wanted to have sex with the Slayer. He already knew what tasting the blood of one would do to him. He wondered what surrounding himself with one, filling one up with not just him but his very essence would feel like.

Well, tonight, Riley was going to find out. They had made love, Spike understood that it was the power in the house that had sucked them in but Spike was not going to let it go without Riley knowing he had bedded a married woman. Who cared if it was in name only? If it would hurt the bloke and get him to leave Buffy alone, the world would be a better place as far as Spike was concerned.

He was sitting around Giles' dining room table talking about the night's events and why the house had chosen Buffy and Riley. Giles was talking about the house's power and why it had picked tonight to come alive.

"Maybe because it picked up on the fact they are adulterers," Spike said without looking at Buffy or Riley. He kept his eyes straight ahead, focused on the wall in front of him as he leisurely sipped the mug of warmed blood in front of him.

"Spike," Buffy interjected.

"No, actually, Buffy, Spike might be right," Giles interrupted the Slayer and Spike chortled soundlessly. Another vampire would have picked up on it, but no human would have.

Spike wished he had a camera to take a picture of the priceless look of confusion on Riley's face at this little exchange.

"There is no adultery."

Spike just shook his head. "The world really has become more lax in these things, Slayer. Thou shalt not covet another man's wife I believe is what the commandment states. I realize it's been years since I have had to worry about such things, but I do believe those commandments are still some sort of law to some people."

"I am nobody's wife."

"But Buffy," Giles interjected before Spike could. "I hate to tell you this, but legally, you are. Whether it's been consummated or not would make no difference to a force such as this. In your mind, you know you are married."

"Excuse me?"

"He has finally found his tongue," Spike observed.

"Shut up, Spike."

"No, I will not. Let me explain it to the bloke since the lantern doesn't seem to be turned up all the way quite yet. She is married. To me."

"That's impossible. Buffy?" Spike loved the look of disbelief and hurt in the other man's eyes. It was almost worth it to have to sit here and smell them on one each other and the scent of sex mixed in. "Why don't you get a divorce? An annulment? Why did you continue to see me? He's a vampire for crying out loud, you can't be married."

"It's complicated," Buffy said simply. Spike returned her glare with an amused smile. He loved making people miserable, it was the one thing he could still do despite the chip. He lived for it, relished in it. Normally. The look on her face made the caged puppy dog break through and Spike felt a little remorse. A little. Not enough to apologize for.

"How complicated can it be? I mean, nothing was said about the fact you were married. You don't live with him, so what's the point? I mean do you even love him? I think back to that night you told me you were getting married and you sure sounded like you were crazy about him. I had no idea it was him," he said, gesturing to Spike.

"No!"

"Then what? Nothing can be that complicated and while I admittedly don't advocate divorce in normal circumstances…"

Giles interjected and Spike could see the relief in Buffy's eyes. "Riley. You will have to trust us on this. It is not as easy as it sounds. I will admit, however," he said, turning his attentions to Spike. "I did not realize that the marriage was being taken seriously by either party or I would have surely intervened as Buffy's Watcher to prevent her from continuing to see you."

"It's not being taken seriously by either of us. Giles. Riley. Spike!"

"Hey, I didn't say I was taking it seriously. Merely commented that the force, whatever, caused you to shag Captain Boy Scout here must have picked up on the fact that you were committing adultery. You don't have to physically commit the act to violate the commandment. Coveting is merely the wanting, the thought, the desire to have something another man has."

Giles stared at him and Spike shrugged. "What? I paid attention in church as a boy. Had bloody nothing else to do during my youth. Some of it was retained."

"So is your name really Buffy Summers then? I mean, man, you told me you couldn't know if you knew who I really was."

"Well, yes, actually, it is still Buffy Summers. I never filled out that stupid paperwork the Social Security office sent me," she muttered. "And Riley, no offense, but we wouldn't even be standing here having this argument if it weren't for that force. Yes, I went to that party with you and yes we've been seeing each other but I would never have slept with you if something hadn't intervened and helped us into it."

"Oh thanks. You know how to just build a man's ego up real well, Buffy."

"No, Riley, that's not what I meant. It's just well. There's this marriage thing and, well, I still haven't figured out if you and I can work all of this stuff out."

"You got that right. I don't think we can." He stormed out of the room, being courteous enough not to slam Giles' door shut behind him but Spike found the soft click more effective.

"Thanks a lot Spike."

"Hey, I was just offering some insight. I didn't realize the bloke didn't know. I assumed you'd told him."

"Well, it is not exactly something I'm proud of. How do you tell someone that the lie that you told to cover up the effect of a spell was a lie? I mean we were just getting used to him being commando guy and my being the Slayer. Why in the hell am I justifying myself to you?"

"I don't know. Why are you? Repressed feelings maybe? I told you you'd be back for more after that first night."

"Enough you two." Giles said. "Wait a minute. Spike, did you just say?" He took off his glasses and began to clean them. "Oh dear, I didn't realize. Then the force most definitely would have picked up on the adultery issue, Buffy."

"You bastard," Buffy said under her breath. It was low enough that she knew Spike would hear the insult but no one else would. "Why should I be surprised? I knew better than to trust you. I'm surprised you haven't gone around the demon underworld telling them you have an inside track to me now."

"Did I mention I'm sorry," Willow interjected her face red. "I don't really want to bake any more cookies, but if I have to."

"No, Willow, no more cookies!" Buffy, Xander, Giles, Anya and Spike all said in unison.

"I think I'll go home now," Willow said and Spike could not help but enjoy her discomfort.

"Xander and Anya, why don't you two go with her. Buffy, Spike and I need to talk some."

"Yeah, sure, Giles," Xander said, looking at Buffy.

"She'll be safe, Xander," Spike said with a wry smile.

"Right, with you around. Even with the chip you still manage to be able to hurt her."

"Ain't life grand," Spike said simply.

"Enough," Giles bellowed again.

"Come on Xander," Anya said, pulling him toward the door. "Good night."

"Night," the remaining three called after them.

"Buffy, while I realize you're underage and I shouldn't offer you any, would you like some wine? I have a feeling you could perhaps use a glass."

"No, Giles, let's just get this talk done with so I can go home too. I've got a test tomorrow."

"Yeah, and without the Boy Scout on your side any longer I'll bet you need to do some heavy duty cramming for it."

"He never cheated for me, Spike. And I never asked him to. In fact, I've been doing pretty well in that class. In all my classes actually," she frowned.

"That surprises you," Spike queried while Giles was out of the room getting whatever it was he was getting. "Hey, Giles, I could use some Wheatabix if you were bringing stuff back in here."

"All right, Spike," he called from the kitchen.

"Well, yeah, it does surprise me. I was never a brainiac in high school. In fact, I barely got by."

"You were too busy being the Slayer. In fact, I don't know of other Slayers who have gone to school and done the other non-Slayer things you do. Date, have friends, and so forth. You passed, that's the important part. And just because your grades aren't superior doesn't mean you are dumb, Slayer."

She regarded him for a moment, Spike was regarding himself unsure where those comments had come from. The Slayer was not stupid that he knew, but it was not his place to boost her morale. Her Watcher in the next room was here for that. Spike's purpose was to bring her down, notch by notch if he had to.

"Thanks, I think."

He shrugged. "Don't worry about it. I hate to see people be so hard on themselves. Take a look at others around you, those who hold jobs or play sports and look at the things you were doing while they were sleeping. Saving the world from things they don't even believe really exist. I don't know why Giles allows you to continue on with your humanoid path like he does, but cut yourself a break."

"Giles allows me to because he knows it keeps me happy. I would be miserable if I were to have to be holed up here, my life a big secret like Riley's. I mean it is a secret, but at least I can see every day the results of what I'm doing. I know people at the high school whose lives I saved. That's important to me, makes it more personal."

"You're right. You're different than the other Slayers I've met, you're more," he shrugged. "Human," he said for lack of a better word. "Humanized might be a better choice in words. You feel, you're learning the lines aren't so cut and dried."

Giles returned with a drink and sat at the dining room table. "Okay, you two need to come to some sort of peace agreement. Spike I understand your reasons for not wanting to grant Buffy an annulment, and while I can't say I'm pleased about it I'm admittedly a little impressed. But you two have to stop bickering. Buffy," he said, taking a sip of his drink. He removed his glasses and set them on the tabletop, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger.

"You need to stop withholding information for me. This is not the first time you have left something pertinent out that has come back to haunt us. I understand you might not have wanted Xander and Anya or Willow to know what happened, but I need to know these things. Anything that happens to you can affect things Buffy. I don't know how many times I can impress that upon you."

"God, Giles, don't you think I know that. You have impressed it upon me, but I didn't realize my having sex with Spike once as a result of a spell Willow cast was going to come back and be a problem. I told you as soon as I found out about the marriage thing."

"Yes, you did, and I commend you for that and appreciate it. And while I'm sorry it seems to you like your private life is anything but private, there are things you just can't keep a secret from me. The results of tonight could have been disastrous. I mean if Spike truly had feelings for you," he put his glasses on. "I shudder to think at what that might have added to the force's power."

"Yeah, but see, he doesn't have feelings for me beyond hatred and vengeance."

Spike shifted slightly but said nothing as he crushed a Wheatabix into his cup of blood. The problem was he did care that she had slept with another man. It had nothing to do with love, it was something far more base and primal than that. He could not kill this Slayer, he had tried before the chip and had only ended up in a wheelchair among other things as a result of his efforts. But he could do other things with her. And he could, like she had said, boast about having wed the Slayer when she was no longer here. Because if Spike knew one thing for certain it was that this Slayer would die young.

He remembered quite vividly their night together, he imagined Buffy did as well. They had never spoken of it beyond insults. He would love another night with her that had nothing to do with the red headed witch's spell. He would love to just take her and carry her back to his crypt and ravish her, get her out of his system but he could not do that without force and the chip prevented him from doing that. One night with Soldier Boy should have left her wanting the darker side that Spike knew she craved and could give her.

The other two were quiet Spike realized and he looked up from his crushed Wheatabix and blood. "What?"

"Will you call a truce for now, Spike? If you are harboring some feelings here, whatever they are, we do not need some other force calling upon them to use them against Buffy. You two need to work this out. Somehow come to terms with what you are going to do and how to live with it. Buffy, as much as I hate to say it, I would suggest until this issue is resolved that you do not consider yourself single. In other words, no dating."

"Giles!"

"I'm not saying to close yourself off socially of course. Though I can't say that it's an entirely bad idea," he muttered the last part under his breath though Spike caught it and laughed lightly. Giles met his gaze and Spike simply shrugged. "But no dating. Tell the boys you are just getting over a bad relationship or whatever you need to tell them to say no without telling them much and keep it at friends. There's another thing here I, as your father figure, need to ask."

"What Giles?"

"Did you and Riley take precautions against pregnancy?"

"I, well, uh, no. I mean I was not planning on having sex with him and the only person I had had sex with before him was Angel."

"Hey," Spike interjected.

"Okay, the only two people I had sex with before now were vampires. Not much need for birth control there. The undead can't make babies."

"Got that right, Slayer. See, there is a good side to being my ball and chain."

"Get over it already, Spike."

"Well, that is something you will need to be aware of and pay attention to. The last thing we need is a pregnant Slayer."

"And if I am pregnant," Buffy said and Spike could smell the fear and apprehension on her.

"Well, let us all hope that will not come to pass. If you were to be, Riley could make things very difficult for you both. Demanding blood tests and all that, and I somehow have a feeling he is feeling hurt and betrayed enough right now he might just do it. Not to mention the mere fact, the two of you would be on record as having a baby. I need not point out the annulment would be out of the question at that point. I am unsure what would happen, from a legal standpoint, if it were found out the two of you were successfully married. The judge I imagine would be punished for allowing the marriage to take place. So let's just hope you're not."

"She can take one of those tests," Spike volunteered. "Those little stick things. I've seen them."

"I couldn't take one until after I'm already late."

"Oh," Spike said. "I was just trying to help. There has to be a way for you to find out sooner than waiting for your monthly."

"Eww, Spike. I can't believe you just said that."

"What? I am a vampire, hello, blood, I do know about these things. I can even smell when a woman is having her monthly."

"You're disgusting."

"Whatever," he mumbled, standing up in a fluid yet annoyed movement, taking his cup to the kitchen to rinse it out.

"He is right, though, Buffy, there is a way. You could get a blood test. I believe ten days after the act has occurred a blood test would be at least remotely accurate. I mean, if it were to come up negative, you would not necessarily be in the clear. But if it were to come up positive, there would be little question as to its accuracy."

"So, you want me to take a blood test? Is that wise? I mean, do Slayers give blood?"

"Ordinarily, no, we would not want you to give blood for testing, but they will test for pregnancy solely so it should be fine. Spike," he called.

"Yeah, I'm still here," he said, leaning against the doorframe leading from dining room to the kitchen area.

"You should take her to the clinic. You two should act like the excited, happy newlyweds anxious to know if your efforts at trying for a baby have worked."

"Dear lord. I didn't want a bloody whelp when I was living."

"Spike."

"And we should do this why?"

"Because you will want to give a fake name of course, Buffy. Take her somewhere she will not be known or recognized, Spike, and they should not question much if you go in together, the happily married young couple. Were you single and you wanted to know so early, they might be worried you were going to try and do something to abort it and want more information on you."

"Okay," Spike said, crossing his arms over his chest. "Sounds doable to me. I remember when Dru had a hard on for wanting to add a child to our family, a real child not childe with an e at the end of it. Man, it took me years to get her off that idea."

"Oh God, I could not even imagine Drusilla with a child."

"Neither could I. Believe it or not, I'm not off my rocker and would never have given into her on that one. Not to mention it would have me being the one to care for it."

"You know, Spike you impressed me for one second there. You should have just shut up while you were ahead."

"Children, please. Stop your infernal arguing."

"Now, onto the other matter of resolving your issues. I realize you are never going to like one another, but Buffy you have to think of what you're doing to yourself and to the cause. And Spike," Giles paused. "I know you're not on our side but you have been helping us some of late and I think you have come to appreciate the job that Buffy has to do and how she goes about doing it. I sense somehow that you don't want to put her in jeopardy either."

"Of course not. I don't want anyone to kill her before I can get my chip out and do it myself. Got to get my third kill, third time's a charm I've heard."

Buffy walked up to him and put her hand around his throat. "We had a deal, Spikey. Remember, chip out you leave Sunnydale and life for Buffy goes on as an unmarried woman. Are you telling me you plan on going back on your word? How surprising? Giles, hand me a stake."

"Buffy, you can't do that."

Buffy's eyes never left Spike's and his never left hers. Her grip was unrelenting, tight enough to cause him discomfort and to let him know she was unhappy. Good. If she heard Giles' protest, Spike was not sure. He had really pissed her off, he realized and instead of filling him with a belly full of warm happiness he felt like a bloody heel. What in the hell was happening to him? Was he getting soft? It was the bleeding chip is what it was, causing him to somehow think he was human without ever letting him be human again.

"No, I'm not going to kill you, Slayer. My promise of earlier has nothing to do with why either. Like Giles there said, I have developed a bit of an appreciation for your work and well, now that we've started you seeing that not all demons are bad I think you'll do well."

"I never said they weren't all bad."

"No, you haven't. But I also know your first thought isn't always slay anymore when you encounter some things."

"Yeah, well, the minute you get that chip out if you hang around, don't count on slaying not being my first thought."

"I know where I stand with you, Slayer."

"Good. And I know where I stand with you. So we're fine. Problem solved, Giles," she said, releasing Spike's throat and walking away.

"Buffy, I wish it were that simple. But until the two of you are willing to resolve the issue by annulling the marriage or working together to ease the tension between you both then I'm afraid problems like what happened tonight will occur. The supernatural will pray on whatever weakness you give them, Buffy."

"So what I'm supposed to do pretend I'm happy about being married to a vampire?"

"Well, no, but quit being so obviously distressed by it. I mean, you aren't living together, there is no chance from your one encounter that a child will result. So you can't date. You are not supposed to be doing those things anyway as the Slayer. So instead of thinking of it as a hindrance because of the legalities of a marriage you don't want, think about it as giving something up for the cause. If you focus too much of your mental energy on any one thing the powers will pick up on it, and inevitably they will get to you through whatever is taking your attention, good or bad."

"All right. I will try, but Spike has to stop purposely annoying me. I know he does it because he can, but if I have to go no datey girl, then he has to go no sarcasm boy."

Spike shook his head slightly but said, "all right."

"Thank you both. Now why don't you two go on home and leave me to my own devices for the rest of the evening. Buffy, it might be advisable for you to do some patrolling after what happened tonight."

"I'm guessing she's already expended enough energy there, Giles," Spike said a little more bitterly than he had meant to. Giles looked at him, Spike felt his eyes on him but he did not give the Watcher the satisfaction of seeing what was in Spike's eyes.

"See. Sarcasm. Bad thing. You make it sound like I wanted to sleep with Riley. Have either of you stopped to think that those forces raped me? I would never have slept with him otherwise."

"Well, they were using you Buffy as an outlet. I see your point, and I'm sorry. He was not hurtful to you, was he?"

"No. He was a perfect gentleman."

"How boring," Spike drawled under his breath.

"You didn't seem to mind it that night."

"What? Being a gentleman?"

"Yeah."

"Well, I didn't confuse you with Dru or anything if that's what you mean." He looked at her sharply. "Oh so you do remember?"

"Well, sure. I never claimed I didn't remember."

"Perhaps you two could discuss these things on the way to the cemetery, since I assume you are both headed there."

"Yeah, I guess I could do some patrolling with you, Slayer."

"You make it sound like you're doing me a favor."

"Interpret it however you wish, Goldilocks. Let's get out of here and leave Giles to his Scotch and Brahms or whatever he's dying to get an earful of."

"Thank you," Giles offered. "Good night you two. Please think on what we've talked about here. I do know that you can get along. I've seen it."

Chapter Text


***Part Three***

"So," Buffy finally spoke up, breaking the silence between them. They had walked in virtual silence from Giles' house to the cemetery. "Drusilla really wanted to turn a child?"

"Yeah," Spike admitted wryly. "I think she wanted someone in our family to be more childlike than she was. Sadly, though, I think a child would have been more mature than she was eventually. Physically no, but mentally as the years went by it would have been. And good lord, what age do you decide you want your child to be for eternity?"

"You wanted to help her though. I admired that. Not the killing things way you wanted to go about doing it."

"Nah, I wanted to help myself more than anything. God, she was tiring toward the end there. Needy, weak, sometimes she couldn't even finish turning someone or finishing them off. I'd have to go in and clean up her messes. Like I said I never wanted a child, but at times being with her was like having one. And once Angelus was gone, well, Darla went off with the Master, as you know and I was stuck with Angelus' problem."

"Stuck with? You seemed pretty cozy to me."

"Well, sure, I loved her in my own way don't get me wrong, one hundred twenty years with someone will do that. She was twisted like I was, but after Angel became Angelus again a while back," he shrugged, finding his hands very interesting just then. "Everything changed after that. We left town as you know and nothing was right after that."

"So it was Angel's fault?"

"I didn't say that."

"Do you know where she is?"

"No clue and no desire to know either. I'm better off without her. Especially now. Hell, do you think she would lift a finger to help me right now? No, she would leave me to fend for myself."

"I'm helping you. What does that say about me?"

"You're not insane, Buffy," he said but was stopped from saying more by two vamps coming onto the scene.

Patrolling was her gig and Spike waited for her to signal which vamp she wanted. Sure, somewhere inside of him the gentleman who had been taught that women were the weaker sex and therefore needed protection still existed. That part of him wanted to go after the biggest, baddest vampire and let her take the lesser one, but Buffy rarely let him do that. She was the Slayer and he was a chipped vampire who got his jollies off killing his own kind.

He would think about his pathetic situation later. Buffy had chosen her vamp, Spike took a stake out of his duster's pocket and went after his. Vamps did not particularly care for their own kind hunting them. As a result, Spike's run-ins with his vamps leaned toward the unnecessarily violent. Some when coming up against Buffy while giving their best knew they were about to be bested by the Slayer. No vamp wanted to be bested by another vampire. Spike assumed this was, whether she knew it or not, part of the reason Buffy always left him with the weaker vamps, to protect him. Instinct kicked in over feelings sometimes.

His vamp taken care of without much ado, a few bruises here and there and some rib damage was all, Spike turned to find the vamp on Buffy having gotten the upper hand. She was up against the stone wall of a crypt and the vamp was not paying much attention to Spike or his vampire friend. Good. Using the vamp's inattention and his own quickness to his advantage, Spike was on the vamp, a stake driven through his heart from the back.

The vampire turned to dust, leaving Spike standing flush against the Slayer. It had not been the worst either of them had ever seen, but the vamps had gotten some good licks in on both of them. One hand on the stone wall of the crypt near her ear, his other hand slowly dropped his stake into his duster pocket. She was not shouting at him to get away from her and Spike was in no hurry to draw away.

They were not far from his crypt so he would be able to go home to some more blood and rest in no time. Buffy had to walk back to campus. She was short of breath, he was too, though he did not need to breathe to survive. She did on the other hand. His eyes dropped to her neck and the pounding pulse point there. He could smell her excitement and her nervousness at almost having been bested and perhaps because Spike was looming large over her. The scent of blood was in the air as well, hers. He licked his lips slowly debating about testing whether the chip would let him feed on a willing donor, but decided against it.

"Are you all right, Slayer?"

"Yeah, I don't know what happened there. Got distracted I guess."

"Don't mention it, Goldilocks." Still he made no effort to move away from her, she made none to push him away.

He was close enough he could feel the beating of her heart against his duster. Perhaps it was because he was in tune from being so focused on it. He could almost hear it pounding in his own ears, part of that was because he was so familiar with her now. He sniffed lightly, trying to pick up on what she was feeling but found it difficult to detect anything beyond apprehension which was understandable.

Before the moment and opportunity was gone he leaned forward and kissed her. The only part of him touching her was his mouth, he was careful to avoid touching any more of her than he had to. Less seemed to be the key with Buffy. Where that thought came from he was not sure, he did not make a habit out of worrying what the key to Buffy was.

He was gentle as he kissed her, hesitant only because he expected his cheek to be met with the palm of her hand at any moment. She made no effort to strike him, her hands remained pressed against the crypt's wall but she returned the kiss. He was aware of the fact the kiss had moved beyond friendly as they prolonged it, thoughts of ending it were pushed aside when he felt her hands in his hair. She was not just kissing him back but encouraging him to deepen it.

Instinctively, his body moved closer, pressing against hers, her curves fitting perfectly against him. He would love to use his hands and feel those curves, the warmth of her skin against his cool hands but he was letting her set the pace. If this was that bloody force still at work there would be hell to pay.

"I see you're real torn up over our argument. To think I came here looking for you to apologize for running off like that," Riley said, his voice laced with bitterness and hurt. Spike could smell the anger on him as he pulled away from Buffy. He did not look at the other man; his eyes were focused entirely on Buffy.

"Bloody perfect timing," he muttered under his breath, loud enough for the just in front of him Buffy to hear. The look that she gave him would have given his heart wings if he had one to take flight. She looked sorry and displeased. And those emotions were not directed at him.

"Riley," she said as Spike stepped out of the way.

"No wonder you haven't wanted me to patrol with you lately. I guess I'd interfere with you kissing your vampire husband."

"Riley, it's not what it looks like."

"I have eyes, Buffy. I should have known. I should have put two and two together when I learned Spike's name and it was the same as the guy you said you were going to marry."

"But we're not. I mean, he's Spike. He's gross."

"It didn't look to me like you were too grossed out a minute ago. If you were pulling him any closer you wouldn't have needed two bodies."

Spike was purposely silent during their exchange. He had walked to the rear of the crypt and leaned against it, his arms crossed over his chest. His eyes were hidden from view by the fact he stood in the shadows. This was not his argument. There were things he could say, but they would not help his case. Silence was golden was a phrase he did not adhere to often, but now seemed like a good time to do it.

"You walked out on me. Need I remind you of that? I don't recall there ever being the title of boyfriend or girlfriend to our relationship. I told you I needed time to figure myself out. Kissing Spike. Okay, that is not a part of the Buffy figuring out plan." She sighed, Spike could tell she was frustrated.

"How can you kiss him? He drinks blood for crying out loud."

"Well, meat is a part of an animal. Blood is, too. All part of the same thing. We eat meat."

"Now you're making excuses for him."

"I am not. I'm not responsible for what he is either. I was not there in the eighteen hundreds to turn him."

"But your ex-boyfriend was. He was Spike's sire or grandsire, wasn't he?"

"So?"

"And you don't find that a little sick?"

"Jesus, Riley, I kissed him. He saved my life. The vampire went puff and there he was. We kissed. No big."

"Maybe to you it's not, Buffy, but I don't just kiss anyone."

"I don't normally either. It just happened. Get over it already."

"We have sex and you run off into another man's arms and I'm supposed to just get over it?"

She poked his chest with a finger and pushed against him. She was pissed now and Spike looked forward to the tongue lashing he was going to witness without being on the receiving end of. "We did not have sex. A force used us to gain power. If it weren't for Spike it sounds like we wouldn't have been able to be used. I did not go to that party as your girlfriend or to have sex with you. I'm sorry if you can't understand that. Tonight does not change anything."

"How can you say that?"

"Not a conscious decision. Hello? I'm going to change my mind because some mystical powers put us in a bed together?"

"Well, no, but I didn't expect to see you making out with a vampire a few hours later."

"Wasn't intentional, but I'll take responsibility for it before I will what happened between us earlier."

"I don't understand you. We're on the same side, aren't we? You slay demons and I capture them."

"Well, let's see. Your boss tried to kill me. You are toying with nature, altering beings without knowing what it's going to do to them. I don't think you take me seriously. You think because you've got the big guns and the backing of the US government that you're somehow better than me. Or your way is right and mine is wrong. And I don't think you like it very much that I can take you."

Spike watched as Riley ran a hand through his hair and mentally chided the moron for staying as long as he had. Soldier Boy needed to get on home and leave Buffy alone so she and Spike could finish what they started. They were not going to resolve anything tonight. He pushed himself from the wall and walked purposely to Buffy's side.

"It sounds to me, Soldier Boy, like she's giving you the heave ho for now. Take the hint and head for the hills. We still have patrolling to do."

Riley grabbed a hold of Spike's shirtfront, his hand balled into a fist and he pulled Spike toward him. Spike tried not to be frightened, but hell this bloke could kill him. He would do it, too, and without batting an eyelash about it. "You stay out of this, Hostile 17. Perhaps I should take you back like I should have weeks ago."

"Riley," Buffy interjected and stepped between them. It did not take much exertion on her part to get Riley's fist dislodged from Spike's shirtfront and Spike brushed his hand over the wrinkled patch straightening it out some. "Just go home. Preying on a defenseless person isn't going to win you any points. I need time. You need time. As far as you and I goes, tonight did not happen. It cannot play a part in our decision."

"He's not a person, Buffy. I think you need to remember that." He looked from Buffy to Spike and back again. "You'd stop me from bringing him back into custody?"

"Damn straight. I know what Spike's capable of without that chip. I'm glad he's not out there sucking blood out of people and killing them. But I'm not going to let you use him like a guinea pig. I may not want to be his wife. But he's not a bad guy. He's saved my ass the past few weeks more times than I can count. And he understands me, understands the Slayer part of me."

"You don't give me the chance."

Buffy stepped back and gestured to herself with her hand. "This is me. Buffy. Slayer. Same person. You want me to be two different people and I can't. I am the Slayer and I am Buffy. They co-exist."

"I know that."

"I don't think you do," she said, placing a hand at her forehead. Spike could almost feel her headache coming on. "Just please go home, Riley, and let us finish patrolling so I can get some sleep tonight."

"You're going to go home with him, aren't you?"

"What? No. Ew. We patrol, he goes one way and I go the other."

"Yeah, but you like vampires, Buffy. You do. You loved one and," he said, inclining his thumb at Spike, "you like this one. Sometimes you treat him better than you treat me."

Spike's head snapped to attention at that. He had noticed it, but he was not so sure Buffy had. Over the past couple of months Buffy had come to treat him better, to treat him like a man rather than monster. The whole marriage thing withstanding, he had felt a sort of kinship with the Slayer. Neither of them really belonged anywhere, he in the vampire world she in the human world. Riley might have ruined it. Bloody bastard. Now that it had been pointed out to her, she might go out of her way to treat him like crap again. He would prefer it not come to that.

If Riley had noticed, it must have been more obvious than Spike realized. Perhaps that was why their arguments the past few weeks had been so intense. Had the others noticed it? Spike was almost sure they had not, Giles would have said something if he noticed. Spike was more aware of his feelings for the Slayer than he ordinarily would have been because of the arguments he had with Drusilla about Buffy Summers.

Spike had contented himself with living with his feelings, whatever they were. Never would he have imagined the Slayer returning them on any level. He was not Angel, Angel had a soul where Spike had none. He had a bloody chip in his neck that prevented him from feeding, killing, and fighting. That was all that kept him from being the monster she was so quick to categorize him as.

"You know, Riley, if you really cared about me, about us, you would have left me alone. Or at least left a while ago like I asked. But you haven't, you just stand here arguing on my time. If I were interrupting you on one of your patrolling shifts you or one of your men would ride me about distracting you. I have to work. Buffy's not very happy right now. A cranky Buffy makes a sloppy Slayer. Sloppy Slayer's end up dead. So please go. Shoo."

"Fine," he said.

Spike offered him a wicked smile with a wink. "Night, Soldier Boy."

"You keep your hands off of her."

"You scare me."

"I should."

"Slayer here would stop you, even if I can't. You heard her, she likes having me on her team."

"She's not going to be around you every second of every day."

"Riley. If he comes up missing I will start with you. You don't want to piss me off. Not when it comes to my friends."

"He'd stab you in the back the first opportunity he had."

"Maybe. A year ago, six months ago, hell three months ago I would have agreed with you. But now," Buffy shrugged. "He's saved my life more than once. And he doesn't get in my way when we're patrolling."

"I do?"

"I wasn't saying that. He's more like a partner. Like Angel was. I like it," she admitted. "I like knowing the person with me is strong and fast and I don't have to worry about them getting killed."

"Sounds like you two should be married. A match made in heaven. I'm out of here," he said before turning to walk away from them.

"Did you mean all that," Spike asked once Riley was out of earshot.

"Yeah," Buffy said softly. She looked up, meeting his gaze. Her eyes registered surprise. "Yeah, I did. It's one of the things I miss about Angel. I don't need the help, you know that. I'm the only Slayer in history who has anyone but my Watcher helping me. But it helps. It helps keep the nights from being so lonely. It helps keep the blood from getting to me. Tainting me. I can't explain that to Giles. Sometimes I wake up and I see it. I see the blood and the dust from all of my kills and it's frightening."

"Slayer, I doubt you're the only one, whether it be Slayer, soldier, or what have you. It gets to you after a while. If it didn't," he shrugged. "Well, if it didn't you wouldn't be human. You'd be like me."

"Like you used to be you mean."

"I still am, Slayer. Don't let this chip fool you. You and I and your little band of do gooders might have come to a truce, but this chip comes out and the Big Bad is back to being the Big Bad of all."

"I don't believe you'd go back to being just like you were."

"Slayer, you and your band of merry men excluded, I would. I hunt, I feed, I kill, sometimes I kill just for the fun of it. That's what I do. I have my good moments, sure. We all do."

"No, Spike, you all don't," she said simply. Spike regarded her for a moment, realizing she was talking about his race. "I haven't liked any vampires other than Angel. And all right, you. Angel's curse made him a good person because he felt remorse. He really wasn't a very good human though his first go around. You. I don't know what it is. It's not just the chip. You're actually sort of humany underneath it all."

"Great," he said. "I'm not sure what I like better. The Slayer wanting me slayed because I'm the Big Bad or the Slayer wanting me saved because I'm redeemable."

"You could have gone off on your own once you figured out you could kill demons, but yet you still hang out with us. And even when you aren't patrolling with me I know you're around. I feel you. I had that connection with Angel, too. I always know when the two of you are around."

"Amuse?"

"Something like that, yeah."

"Lie much?"

"What?"

"You heard me."

"Yeah," he said cautiously. He was saved from having to say more by the appearance of a vamp, only one so Spike let her handle it. He would step in to lend a helping hand, or stake as it were, if she was struggling. He was glad for the distraction, anything so he would not have to talk about feelings. He had thought until tonight he could control them. But picturing her with Riley had awakened something in him that had been gone for over a century.

If he were human or had a soul as Angel did she might not mind being with him in every sense of the word. He wanted her, it was as simple as that, in whatever way he could have her. At first his not granting her an annulment was just as he said, a life insurance policy, but as the weeks passed he kept thinking that maybe, just maybe. It was stupid to think that, they would never be anything but adversaries on somewhat friendly or neutral terms at best. At least he had not believed so until tonight when they kissed.

She had kissed him back, she had pulled him to her, she had pressed herself against him, and she had stood up to her boyfriend about him. That had to say something, right? Perhaps if he were to put a little bit of effort into winning her affections, showing her he was not all bad she would see things differently.

She had not needed his help so he had been left standing there with his thoughts running through his head, infecting him like some sort of disease. The idea of Buffy loving him was ridiculous, nearly as ridiculous as a vampire being in love with the Slayer. The vamp she took on earlier had hurt her worse than Spike realized and as soon as this vamp was dusted she crumpled to the ground gripping her side. He had forgotten with Captain Boy Scout coming onto the scene that she was hurt bad enough to bleed, bad enough that he smelled her blood. This latest vamp was not careless and attacked her where she was wounded. As if her scent was not permeating within him already now he had to deal with the strong scent of her blood mixed in with the rest of her.

He fell to his knees beside her on the ground, a hand moving to push her hair away from her face. He kept his fingers there, in her hair. "Buffy. Slayer. Let's get you back to your room so Willow can doctor you up."

She opened her eyes and looked right into his eyes and he could not help but smile slightly. She made him nervous lying so still. "I don't think she's there. She hasn't been coming home all the time."

"Oh really," Spike said a little impressed. His hand seemed to have a mind of its own and continued stroking her hair. She did nothing to stop him. "A new man?"

She shook her head a little. "I don't know. I don't think so. If it is I haven't met him. She's been hanging out with this witch a lot, Tara. I think they do spells and stuff and she crashes there some nights."

"All right. Well, you need to have that gash looked at."

"It's not that bad."

"Don't lie to me. I can smell it, Slayer. And I haven't known you to lie on the ground for this long when you're not hurt. I know you've got Slayer healing powers, but you still have to bandage it up."

"All right. Promise not to be a pig?"

"When you ask like that how can I resist?"

"If you promise I'll let you do it. Even if Willow is home she'll be sleeping. I'm not going to wake her up."

"I'll get you back to your dorm then and patch you up there."

"You don't have to do that."

He stood slowly and shrugged. Why did she have to be so difficult about taking him up on his offer of help? "I didn't say I had to. I could leave you here bleeding on the ground until you got up and walked away, but I don't want to do that."

She took his offered hand and stood, Spike noticed her hesitancy and the side she favored. She regarded him curiously and he wondered what she was looking for. She frowned and he thought he was done for, in trouble for something he was not even aware of having done. It always worked like that, he tried to be nice to her, tried to help her and she turned it around, twisted it into something perverse or evil. "Are we getting along," she queried.

Spike was caught off guard by the question and paused. He nodded then finally. "I guess we are at that, Slayer," he shrugged. "Now, let's get back to your room and then you can go to bed. I can do one last go round on my way back to the crypt."

"Sounds good."

"All right then," he said, starting them walking in the direction of campus. "So are you going to try and make up with the Boy Scout?"

"I don't know. How can we go back to what we were before after tonight? Not just, uh, him seeing me kissing you either. Force or not, we had sex."

"Yes, you did," Spike said distastefully.

"Jealous much," she said, glancing sideways at him. Gratefully, they were walking through a darker section of the cemetery with no lighting so she could not see his reaction to her words. He still felt caught and very exposed.

"I've been spending a good bit of time with you is all. Without this chip I could take care of him for you."

"Like I can't take care of him myself?"

"Right. Of course you can. Not what I meant. Girls like that I thought. A guy rushing to her defense and everything."

"Well sure. If you were a normal guy and I was a normal girl. But you're not and I'm not. Slayers don't need vampires coming to their defense."

"Need I point out what happened earlier tonight?"

"True, it does come in handy from time to time." Spike could tell by her tone she was smiling and gave her one in return. As much as he enjoyed the battles of wits he and the Slayer engaged in, he rather enjoyed holding a conversation with her. Before the chip he would never have thought of talking to the girl no matter what Dru insisted his feelings for her were. Now he had time on his hands and he found he was curious to know who this chosen girl was. She at least treated him decently at times, which was more than he could say for a lot of humans who knew what he was.

The walk back to her dorm did not take as long as Spike might have liked. They actually talked without arguing along the way, the subject of Riley was avoided as was any topic that might spur an argument. It was a new experience for Spike, talking to the Slayer without the intent to bother, harass or hurt her.

"She's not here then, eh," he said unnecessarily as they entered the dark and empty dorm room.

"No," Buffy said. "I guess she's staying at Tara's," she said after reading the note Willow had left her saying she would see Buffy in the morning.

"So I guess it's me doctoring you up. Where are your supplies?"

"Supplies?"

"Antiseptic, bandages, you know supplies."

"Oh yeah. Right." She opened her closet and pulled out her supplies chest.

"You keep your first aid supplies with your slayer stuff?"

"Sure. People might wonder why I need all this stuff. Especially as often as I do. Not to mention the Slayer healing powers. It's best people not know."

"Good point," he said as she brought the box of supplies from the chest to the bed. "I'll bet you keep Johnson & Johnson from going under."

"Mr. Eighteen hundreds making a joke about the stock market, I'm impressed."

"Just making an observation. You do get hurt a lot." He sat on the edge of the bed near the supplies box and rummaged through it. "What will we need? I haven't seen how badly you're hurt, but I can smell that you are still bleeding."

"Big ick factor there, Spike. It's best not to talk about that."

"What?"

"It's creepy."

"I'm just concerned is all. Now, let's get this done."

"In a hurry? Have plans tonight? A date?"

"Hardly."

"Then what's the hurry?"

"Slayer. We've gotten along for about an hour now consecutively. I'm not ready to sign a peace treaty or anything."

"Oh," she said and Spike thought he saw disappointment there.

"If you don't want me to leave right away, you could just say so. But let's get you bandaged up before you pass out from loss of blood."

"It's not that bad."

"I know it's not but still. Come on, stand in front of me and move the shirt out of the way."

"No touching."

"Slayer, I have to touch you if I'm going to do this."

"No touching beyond that."

"Pet, it sounds to me like you don't trust yourself. Doesn't Soldier Boy kiss you like I did earlier?"

"We hadn't really gotten to that part."

"Not anymore."

"Well, sure, but I don't count tonight," she said, lifting her shirt out of the way so he could tend to the gash below her ribs.

"He must not have been very good or you'd not just count it but jump up and down about it, wanting more of it without the force."

"You think too much about my sex life."

"Someone has to. You haven't made very good decisions in the past." He glanced at her mindful of the position they were in. With her standing in front of him while he sat on the bed he had quite a view.

"Angel was a decision, Riley was not. I don't know what you were. A spell induced decision?"

"And the other bloke? The party boy who changes girlfriends rather," he paused, trying to be somewhat tactful, "frequently."

"Yeah, well, everyone's allowed one mistake."

"Oh, I don't think the doing part was your mistake. The mooning after him was. He didn't deserve you, even if he had wanted you."

She took a sharp intake of breath as he started to clean the wound. "Thanks. I felt like an idiot afterward. I had no idea. I still wonder if I did something wrong."

"It happens to the best of us. One night stands are nothing to be embarrassed about."

"I should have known after Angel."

"Known what?"

"That slaying is all I'm good at. Boys and love and beds I'm bad at."

He grimaced slightly as he struggled with the bandage. He had to use a gauze pad and medical tape because of the odd shape of the gash. Thankfully he did not need to be as gentle with her as he would a normal human. His hands pressing near the gash were not sending her into a fainting fit.

"Well, speaking as a man who has kissed you, quite a bit one night in particular if you'll recall, I think you are too hard on yourself. You make it sound like the problem is with you."

"Well, what else could it be? I mean Angel and then Parker."

"Angel losing his soul was not your fault, Buffy."

"No," she said abruptly.

Spike knew there was more and waited, but she said nothing further. She obviously had a complex about sex, Angel had done something to make her believe she had done something wrong. He would love the opportunity to prove to her that the problem did not lie with her. "I'm still here, aren't I?"

"You don't count."

He tried not to let her see that her comment bothered him. He was unaccustomed to feeling human things like hurt. Until recently if someone said something to piss him off he just took care of them. He could no longer do that, though. "Well, I am a man and we shared a bed and I haven't gone off on a rampage trying to kill you and your friends. And I kissed you tonight."

"Mm hmm," she said softly.

Spike was pleasantly surprised when her hands rested on his shoulders. She was tired and had experienced some blood loss tonight, so she was probably just a little weak and needed the support. Right and he no longer needed blood to survive.

"So that obviously means I wasn't dissatisfied with the first go round." He was done seeing to the gash on her abdomen, but his hands remained there. A thumb grazed the tape against her skin. He grew curious if her skin would redden when she removed it in a day or so once the gash had healed. "Slayer," he whispered. Her skin under his hands was soft and warm, pale but in a creamy white, delicate way that was very human. The idea of it being red from the adhesive was abhorrent to him. "Buffy," he corrected.

"Spike."

He closed his eyes at the sound of his name, her voice resembling that of one in need. He would like to believe she needed him, wanted him. He called himself a man a moment ago, but they both knew who and what he was - and what he was not. He set his cheek against her stomach, feeling her body's heat, hearing her heart beat, taking in her scent.

Her hands at his shoulders reached inside his shirt. One hand found the nape of his neck, her fingertips working into his hair. Her other hand drew his face away from her, took hold of his chin and kissed him full on the mouth. Her lips muted his sound of surprise. She was kissing him. Unsure of just what brought this on he was skeptical. If Willow had been working her magick again, Spike would have a word or two with her. Later. For now, he pushed thoughts of anything but the Slayer and her killer body out of his mind.

His hands skimmed along her abdomen until they rested at either hip, drawing her to him. She took the hint and straddled him. As if he was not already turned on, now he had her sitting on him and rubbing against him. She had just gotten some earlier that evening, but it apparently had not satisfied her because she wanted more. He would probably regret this tomorrow, but tomorrow was not tonight.

He slid a hand from her hip to her abdomen, unfastening her jeans and parting the front of them. His hand slid inside the waistband, fingertips grazing the tops of her panties and stopped. He expected an argument but he got instead her shifting on his lap, allowing his hand to reach better. His hand inside of her panties, he heard a groan and could not be sure if it came from her or him.

She moved against him, against his hand but he was not ready to get her off just yet. He slid his hand lower still, letting her rub her sensitive core against the palm of his hand while he entered her. She was hot and wet around his finger, gripping his finger like a vice. His mouth fell to her neck where he sucked and bit, pleased that the chip allowed him to do that much.

The sounds she made inspired him. Words he had never imagined saying to her were whispered in her ear as his fingers worked at bringing her a release. Her hand around his neck tightened, her nails digging into his skin at the side of his neck as she rubbed against him with wild abandon. He encouraged her, verbally and without words, and was rewarded with a genuine release on her part. She had not held back, had not been afraid to let herself go and had not been afraid to move to bring about the best ending for herself. And to top it off, a whispered "Spike" had accompanied her climax. Not Angel, not Riley, no one's name but his.

Breathlessly, she pressed against him, her face buried against his neck almost as if she was trying to hide. His hand had stilled but remained where it had been, he was no where near done touching her, loving her. There was time yet before the sun rose and he planned on using it well. If she wanted to hide he would let her, for a little while.

Chapter Text


***Part Four***

Buffy woke the next morning and reached over to shut off the blaring alarm clock. It took a minute to recall all of the prior night's events. She recalled just how the night ended, having sex with Spike - again. She was surprised to find she was alone. Instead of being revolted by the images of what they had done together she found herself wondering if he had really left.

"Spike," she called out as she struggled to sit up, clutching the top sheet in front of her. Willow was not home yet, but it was still early. Her clothes from the night before were on the floor next to the bed, but she chose the shirt at the foot of her bed. It was the shirt Spike had on the night before over his T-shirt. It was deep blue, a blue that brought out the blue of his eyes. It was big enough on her that she did not mind walking around her room wearing only the shirt and it smelled like him, which for some reason she wanted this morning.

She looked in her closet on the chance he went in there when the sun came up. "Spike," she said to the empty closet. He was not there, but she noticed he had put her equipment chest away. She leaned against the closet door and sighed not wanting to admit that she was sad he was gone. She was not angry because she understood he could not stay here. There was no place but her closet for him to stay out of the sunlight.

This morning Buffy felt a different range of emotions than the first time she woke up after having slept with Spike a couple of months ago. Last night they had not slept, though Buffy did eventually fell asleep. She could not remember when exactly and something told her Spike had not slept. It was that thought, that he had stayed with her all night and into the morning the first time but not last night that nagged at her. For the briefest of moments that morning months ago, before she had realized who she was next to and what she had done with him, she had felt comfortable.

She did not want to dwell on feeling disappointed. He had made it clear last night that one night stands were no big thing to him. She tried to focus instead on being upset about what had happened between them, that they had ended up in bed to begin with. She was a little ashamed at the things she had let him do and say to her. Maybe that was why he had left.

That made no sense and deep down Buffy knew that as her hand ran along the length of the silk scarf he had used at one point to bind her wrists together. Dru was no proper lady and Spike had spent over a century with her. One thing she was not going to do was a repeat of Parker. This was Spike after all, Buffy suspected where she stood in Spike's mind. So they had sex, good sex several times during the night. So she had let him bind her wrists and be less than the slow and gentleness she had gotten from Angel. He had been nice to her, she had been upset over what happened earlier in the evening. He had helped her with some vamps and looked after her when she was wounded. All things that added up to her doing some irrational things.

She got ready for the day, hanging the blue shirt in her closet unsure if Spike left it behind intentionally. She took a last look at herself in the mirror. She would see Riley in Psych class and wanted to make sure there was no physical evidence of the night before. Their first night together Spike had given her a hickey on her neck. It had been her first unless you counted the nasty mark she had on her neck after Angel had fed off of her, which she did not. Spike had given her more last night on her breasts, stomach and on her inner thigh. Thankfully none were visible with clothes on. She ran a finger over the one on her thigh a little embarrassed that she sort of liked knowing it was there. Riley would not be getting that close to her again, so she was fine.

Seeing Riley was torture. She had hoped to get out of the classroom before he could catch up to her, but she had no such luck. He must have been anticipating her escape because he was right there waiting for her. He just did not get it, and his determination only made her realize he was not right for her. It was sad, really, because she so wanted him to be right for her. He was nice, treated her well, and he was human which should have headed her list of requirements in a boyfriend. Instead, she was pushing Riley away and drawing a vampire, who until a few months ago had a hard on for killing her, closer to her.

"Buffy."

"Riley," she said, meeting his gaze evenly. She had nothing to feel guilty for and hoped that her eyes did not betray the little bit of doubt she had.

"You got home okay last night?"

"Yeah. I had more work to do after you left, busy night for some reason."

"Was it?"

"Yeah," she said with a slight frown. Three in one night while not unheard of was not common either.

"Can we talk later?"

"I'm not ready to talk. I need more than a few hours, Riley."

"I need to know what's going on, Buffy. I like you, I really do and I can't stand that you think on last night as if nothing happened. I can't ignore it."

"I know. And that's the problem. I don't know how we can go back to what we were before. I'm just not ready for more than that." She sighed softly and looked at her feet. "I don't want to hurt you, but I don't want to mislead you either."

"Tell me what I can do."

"Just give me time, Riley. Time and some space. If you pin me down for an answer, my answer right now is this can't work between us."

"You really believe that? You've said that before and yet you seemed willing to give it a chance."

"I do like you, Riley. If nothing else, as a friend."

"I don't want to be your friend, Buffy. I mean, of course I do, but I want more than that."

"I don't think I can give that to you right now. Not until this situation with Spike is resolved."

"You know I think you like having that as an excuse."

She was not going to stand here listening to his thoughts on Spike. She could just imagine what he would say if he knew what she and Spike had done the night before. God, she winced, she had slept with Spike after having been with Riley. Spike had not seemed to mind much less notice, but Riley would be royally upset about that. "Listen, I have to go. Willow's waiting. We're having lunch together," she said and began to walk away. He took a hold of her forearm and stopped her from getting far.

"Buffy."

"Let go of me, Riley," she said evenly. "Crowding me is not going to get you anywhere but out of my life. Just let go of me. Now."

"Fine."

"I'll see you later."

"Right. Later."

Buffy looked at him for a moment and then looked away. He released her arm and she walked away without saying anything else. God she hated that she had to do this, hurt him. What happened with Riley was a fluke. She had no idea what the deal was with Spike. They had actually gotten along the night before. Giles had sent them off to work out a way to stop fighting. Buffy was relatively certain having sex was not what he had in mind, but at least they weren't fighting.

She got her lunch and spotted Willow sitting with her friend Tara and sat with them. She had sort of hoped to get Willow alone, a chance to talk to her best friend. Buffy did not know exactly what she would say anyway. Talking to Willow about Angel had been difficult enough, and Willow liked Riley which might make her not want to hear about Spike. Willow seemed happy and Buffy didn't want to bring her down, so she remained quiet about her love life problem.

"Tara and I are meeting Xander and Anya at the Bronze tonight. You want to come?"

"Sure for a while before patrolling."

"Okay great. I hear there's a new band playing tonight. They're supposed to be good."

"Great," Buffy said, offering Willow a smile. She was glad to see that the idea of seeing a band at the Bronze did not bother Willow. There was a time it did, reminding her of Oz. It was good to see her friend happy, Buffy hoped that soon her own life would be simple enough that she could enjoy it.

"Are you going to ask Riley to come?"

"No," Buffy said quickly. "I don't think inviting him anywhere is going to be happening anytime soon."

"He took the news about Spike pretty hard, huh?"

"Well, you were there and saw it. I'd say hard is a bit of an understatement," Buffy muttered. "It was my fault, I should have told him."

"Well, you were doing what you thought was best. You were protecting Spike too."

Buffy cocked her head slightly at that as she sipped on her soda. "I guess."

"He would have wanted to take him back to the Initiative if you had told him."

"Maybe," Buffy said. No maybe about it, Willow was right. If Riley had thought it would help he would have. If Riley had known weeks ago that the thing holding her back from wanting to be his girlfriend was this Spike marriage thing he would have done something to alleviate the problem. So why was that a bad thing? Buffy did not know why she did so little to annul her marriage. Until last night it was not like they were really married or anything.

Last night had nothing to do with marriage she thought as she ran her fingers along one of her wrists. Spike had tied the scarf a little too tight at first and while there was no mark from it now she could still feel it. She could see Spike on top of her, feel him inside of her, her wrists bound above her head unable to touch him, his lips on the sensitive skin on the underside of her arms as he brought her over the edge.

Done with classes for the day, Buffy went to her room and studied for the test she had the following morning. Just before dinnertime she had had enough of her dorm room and being indoors so she decided to take a walk. Her walk brought her to the cemetery and Spike's crypt. Now that she thought about it, she was headed here the moment she left campus. She had even stopped at a butcher's on the way to get blood for him.

She knocked on the door, the packets of blood in a bag at her side. She had left his shirt back in her room hanging in her closet. On purpose? She was not sure. She offered him a hesitant smile when he opened the door. He was working the buttons on a shirt, a portion of his chest still visible. Deep red marks from her nails and a hickey could be seen on his skin and she looked away knowing she had left those marks. Had anyone else seen them?

"Slayer," he said, a lift to his voice indicating he was questioning her presence. Great. Like she knew, he was supposed to know.

"Aren't you going to invite me in?"

"Like you need an invitation, unless you changed over night," he said, stepping away from the door. He gestured flamboyantly with one hand. "But by all means, please come in. To what do I owe the honor?"

"I brought you some blood," she said, lifting the bag as she stepped over the threshold into his crypt. She hated thinking of it as his home even though it was.

"Thanks," he said and she knew he could see through her charade. He sat in a chair and slid on his socks. He had stopped buttoning his shirt, presumably because it was her at the door, so it remained open near the top. Her eyes continued to drop to his chest and the marks there. She wondered how bad the rest of them were. There were some on his abdomen, his back and his arms if she recalled correctly. He had called her an animal. At the time it had aroused her, heightened her pleasure and made her act even more out of character. Now, she felt a little ashamed. "That was nice of you. Where'd you go?"

"The butcher on Elm," she said, setting the bag on the table near his refrigerator. Spike nodded as she walked to the sarcophagus in the middle of the crypt and leaned against it. She folded her arms over her chest and watched him adjust and straighten the legs of his jeans. "I didn't get to thank you for last night."

"You are thanking me?"

"Well, yeah, for walking me to my room. Bandaging me up. And, okay, the rest of it too."

He stood, his body folding out of the chair in one beautiful and fluid motion, and strode to her. The distance between them was cut to mere inches in no time and his hand was at her hair. His fingers touched her hair, his palm rested against her cheek. She swallowed hard, her eyes wide staring into his deep blue ones trying to figure out what he was going to do. Kill her or kiss her. "You don't have to thank me."

"I, you were gone this morning."

"I thought it best I leave," he said, his hand preventing her from looking down, away from his piercing gaze like she wanted to. "I would rather have been gone than wake up to one of your tongue lashings, Slayer. After what had happened with Riley, I didn't want to be included in the force's power."

"No, it wasn't. I mean, it had nothing to do with it."

"I know that, but Buffy you and I are not always rational when it comes to one another. I didn't want you to accuse me of taking advantage of you."

"You didn't, Spike."

"She says that now, hours later."

"I didn't come here to argue with you. I would think you'd be happy that I came here at all."

She saw something cross his face, which made her curious. "Why did you come here then? To bring me dinner?"

"I'm not sure," she admitted.

"Well then," he said, placing his hands at her hips. She started to protest, but he moved quickly and lifted her onto the sarcophagus. "Have a seat."

"I feel a little weird sitting up here," she said with a light laugh. She grew quiet then, uncomfortable. They had never sought out one another's company before, not like this anyway. "Should I not have come?"

"You're welcome here anytime, Slayer, but you'll pardon me for being a little cautious as to your motives. For bringing me blood. If this was yesterday I would wonder if it was poisoned. Actually, because of yesterday I might wonder that."

"It's not poisoned. If I wanted to kill or maim you, I'd just do it."

"Knowing you as well as I do I know that's true."

"You think you know me?"

"I think I know you better than most, with the exception of Angel. And perhaps Giles and your gang, but I imagine in some ways better than they do."

"Just a little better than they do," she said softly.

"So, what then? You decided to come by for some conversation?" He laid a hand on her knee and she looked at it. Was he expecting a reaction out of her? For her to be offended?

"Maybe. Would that be so bad," she asked, placing a hand over his and slid it higher along her leg.

"I suppose not." Both were focused on his hand now on her thigh. Buffy had stopped breathing for a moment, unsure of what she was doing. "I take it conversation is not exactly on your mind, Slayer. You can just say that's what you came here for if that is indeed the case."

"No! I didn't. I felt like going for a walk. Here I am."

"Ah. Bad day? Or did you miss me?"

"The day was okay. And no I didn't miss you."

"She wounds me with her bluntness."

"I didn't mean it like that. I just. I saw Riley after class. And then at lunch Willow asked me if I was going to invite him to come to the Bronze with me tonight."

"And are you?" Buffy picked up on the note of definite interest in his voice and smiled slightly.

"No. I'll probably just go by myself." She looked up at him and swallowed hard, getting up the nerve to say what was on her mind. "Unless you want to come." There it was, open season on ridiculing Buffy. He would go on and on about how last night had happened but meant nothing, changed nothing between them. But to Buffy it had been more than nothing. He brought things out of her, had said and done things to her that had brought her higher than she ever imagined going.

"To the Bronze? With you and your pals? Why," he asked suspiciously.

"It's not a trick. Willow's going to be there with her friend Tara, Xander's going to be there with Anya. I just didn't want to feel like a fifth wheel with no one. I know you like to go there, drink the beer and eat the food."

He lifted his hand from her thigh and she felt cold as the air brushed against her skin. He ran a fingertip along her lower thigh, from the outside in. Buffy's breath caught at the gentleness of the touch, it was sort of intimate. "Let me get this straight," he said, lifting his eyes to meet hers. She was reminded of his shirt hanging in her dorm room closet, almost the same blue as his eyes. They could be as cold as a winter's day when he was angry, but right now they were warm and bright with intensity. "You want to be seen with me? In public?"

"Why not? It's not like it would be a date. I mean, you've hung out with us before."

"Not like this. And whether you want to admit it or not, Slayer, things changed between us last night."

"Did they?"

"How could they not? We made love. The first time under the influence of the spell, that was excusable and it was only the one time. Last night, there was more than one time, and there was no spell. There was no force. There was a good deal of desire, though. Raw want and need."

"I remember."

"I'm not going to pull a Riley on you and push you, but you can't toy with me."

"You think I'm toying with you?"

"Uh, pet, coming here bearing the gift of blood, putting my hand higher up along your leg, kissing me."

"Did I kiss you?"

He leaned toward her, offering her a wicked smile. Her heart stopped its relentless pounding for just a second and time stopped briefly as he leaned even closer. "Not yet," he said before he drew away. But Buffy was having none of that, which was exactly what he wanted more than likely.

She grabbed a hold of his shirt front and almost violently drew him to her, crushing his mouth with hers. The intensity of the kiss surprised her, after last night she had expected there to be little desire left. Her arms went around his neck and she scooted closer to the edge of the sarcophagus, closer to him, her calves going around his thighs.

Without breaking the kiss he managed to get her skirt up while she reached to unfasten his jeans. He did not step out of them merely pushed them down. His hands clasped her hips, drawing her closer to him, onto him as he entered her. The kiss was broken briefly as they both took a deep breath, Buffy adjusting to having him inside of her again.

The cool smooth stone of the sarcophagus under her was arousing despite what it was. That combined with the neediness of the act, both seeming to want it there and then, brought her over the edge quicker than she had expected. She had not come there for sex, but now that she was there having it with him she wanted nothing else.

She sensed the change in him before he drew away and she reached up to touch his face. "Don't stop," she whispered before leaning in to kiss him, vampiric face and all. His hands encouraged her to lean back against the sarcophagus and she followed his unspoken directions. Her eyes left his face only to watch his hands as they trailed a path all over her upper body. Even with her shirt and bra on he was able to excite her all over again.

"Buffy," he called out and then hesitated.

"It's okay, Spike," she said softy, reaching up to touch his face again. "It's okay."

"No, you shouldn't have to kiss me like this, pet."

"I like it."

"You what," he asked, his brow furrowed.

"I like that you lose control. That I make you lose control like that. It's," she shrugged slightly.

"Exciting," he offered.

"A little," she replied.

"Exciting is good."

"I think I'm finding that out." She shifted slightly, the stone she was laying on getting uncomfortable.

"I hurt you."

"No, it's just the slab of concrete is uncomfortable."

"Right," he said his arms going to her waist. He drew her up so she was sitting again and adjusted her skirt. "So do you still want me to come with you tonight? Or now that you've gotten a taste of Spike are you ready to go without me?"

"It's up to you," she said, running a fingertip along the path of buttonholes on his shirt. "Maybe I want dessert later."

"Slayer," he murmured as he moved to kiss her, taking her lower lip between his teeth. "When you put it like that I think I might be convinced to tag along."

"You can't tell anyone though," she said with a light laugh.

"Tell them what? About us? About this?"

"Yeah. It'll be our secret."

"I don't make it a habit of kissing and telling." She shifted against him and he groaned softly. "Careful where you're wiggling there."

"Too much for you, Spikey?"

"Not at all, love, just making sure you realized there are consequences to what you are doing. Punishments if you will."

"If this is your idea of punishment, I'd love to see what your idea of a reward is."

"You would, would you," he asked an eyebrow arching up.

"I think so, but not now."

"Tired? What about all that Slayer strength?"

"Yeah, well, you exhausted some of it."

"And you have to patrol tonight."

"Yeah, after the Bronze."

"Bloody hell. You should have told me you were tired, Buffy."

"No, it's okay I'm good." She placed her hands flush against his chest and pushed him gently. He took the hint and stepped back and she slid off the sarcophagus. She smoothed down her skirt and found her shoes suddenly very interesting. Why was it she enjoyed it while it was happening but felt incredibly guilty afterward? Was it her? Was it because it was Spike? She had no idea.

"Something the matter, pet?"

"No, I don't know," she said, running her hand through her hair.

"You can't lie to me, Slayer. Something's on your mind. Guilt is overrated. We did nothing wrong."

"I know," she said softly, still hesitant to meet his eyes.

"But."

"I just feel weird. I mean, we don't even like one another."

"I don't think liking one another is the issue here, Slayer, it never has been. Our dislike for one another was based on my being intent on killing you. And you on killing me. That's gone."

"So are you saying you like me? And I like you? That's why we're doing this?"

"Well, we've only done this three times, well, okay more but last night counts as once. And the first time doesn't really count in the grand scheme of things. So it's hard to say why we're doing this. But yeah I'm guessing the old love/hate thing is playing a bit of a part. We've fought for a couple of years and now that we can't fight any longer that built up passion and tension is coming out another way."

"So we're having sex because we can't fight?"

"Something like that, yeah. I much prefer the sex part truth be told," he said, smiling charmingly. "I like the softer side of Buffy. I think I liked you from the moment I first saw you. Might be why I never stayed and fought you to the bitter end during one of our battles."

"You did not like me, Spike."

"It was easy to focus on wanting you gone when I was trying to save Dru, you stood in the way of my doing that. Dru knew it a while ago. She left me because of you."

"All right, now you're lying."

"Do you think I'd admit something like that if it wasn't true? I mean, I'm obviously not trying to get into your pants. Again. I was just there."

"Obviously not," she said softly and turned away from him. She did not want to think about liking Spike or Spike liking her. It was too bizarre and less easy than if they hated one another and were enemies. That she could deal with. But them liking one another was not just creepy but impossible.

"Hey, Slayer, I didn't mean to spring something like this on you. Not at the same time your Boy Scout is pressuring you. So I like you, it doesn't change anything. You can come here no strings attached, no wigging out by ol' Spike. You've gotten a taste for it, no sense stopping now."

"How can you make me feel so good one minute and like complete shit the next?"

"Luck, I guess."

"I did not come here for sex."

"I know you didn't. But just in case you want to know if you could when you want to."

"I don't."

"All right then."

"I've got to go."

"I'm no longer invited to tag along?"

"You can, but you can't tell anyone what's going on."

"Ashamed?"

"Not really, no." She sighed softly. "All right, a little. I just don't think anyone would understand. Or like it very much. It took them a long time to warm up to Angel. He was souled, not chipped. Big diff."

"And you think they have reason to warm up to me?"

"I don't know," she said, whimpering softly in frustration. This was all too confusing and a way different type of confusing than with Riley. Up until recently, up until last night really, she would not have trusted Spike as far as a normal human could throw him. "Can we just go to the Bronze and have fun? And then I have to patrol. Then I'm going home. Alone."

"Right."

"Hey."

He held up a hand and stepped further away from her. "I was agreeing with you. It's not like you need me, or anyone else for that matter, walking you home. I'm well aware of the fact you can take care of yourself."

"That doesn't bother you, does it," she said, spinning around to look at him again. "That I don't need looking after."

"No, not really. I'll admit a part of me revolts against it from time to time, especially when I'm patrolling with you. But no, it doesn't bother me. I had enough of looking after Drusilla. I'll admit it is nice when you do need my help, like last night. I like to feel useful," he shrugged.

"Because of the chip?"

"Well, yeah, that's part of it, but I just like knowing I can help you in some way. Let's get out of here before we get too deeply into this heart to heart and I start spouting off things that are better left unsaid."

"Okay," she said curiously. "This isn't a date. You know that, right. I mean, Willow's bringing her friend and I'm bringing you. Xander's the only one on a date tonight."

"There's something deeply wrong with that, Slayer. But yeah, I am aware of where I stand with you and your little gang. I'm just the chipped monster who you're taking pity on for some reason."

"It's not like that."

"Yeah, whatever, Slayer, let's go," he said, grabbing hold of his leather duster and slipping it on. "Didn't you bring a coat?"

"No, I wasn't thinking about later when I left my room. I just wanted to get out of there, away from studying. And Riley."

He disappeared as she talked, reappearing with a jacket. "Here. It's not much, but it's warmer than that slip of a top you've got on. How you can dress like that without getting accosted is beyond me."

"You mean like you just did a few minutes ago," she quipped, offering him a smile. She was teasing and hoped he was aware of that.

"Yeah, like that." He placed the jacket around her, over her shoulders and kissed her. "But you wanted it from me, there's a bit of a difference, pet."

"I did not."

He slid his hand from her shoulder to a breast, brushing it with the back of his hand bringing her peak to attention with the touch. "Right."

"That's not fair."

"All's fair, pet. All's fair. If it proves my point at least." He winked and then offered her his hand, which she took without thinking. "I get to have one of those onion things, right?"

"Yeah, you can have one of those onion things."

"Great. Those are good."

"I'm so glad such a little thing can make you happy." He squeezed her hand but said nothing, leaving Buffy to wonder just what he was thinking. He didn't say, so she never found out.

Chapter Text


***Part Five***

Spring semester was done, Adam had been defeated, Riley had gone back to Iowa for summer break, and Buffy was getting more deeply involved with Spike. No one knew, whether or not they suspected Buffy did not have a clue. A few weeks ago she cared, now she did not so much. Spike understood her in a way that no one else could.

At first they had done little more than have sex. Buffy was still uncertain what it said about her that she let Spike do and say the things to her he did. She did not think about or mind them when they were doing them. Afterward, though, when she was back in her room she was plagued with guilt and uncertainty about the path she had started on.

The first night in her dorm room when he had bound her wrists with the scarf had just been the beginning. He had even convinced her to use his handcuffs on him. She marked him up pretty badly whenever he was cuffed. And he liked it, and a part of her liked it because she continued doing it. Once, when he had been on top of her, her cross had fallen back to its place at her chest. She felt it and knew that it was burning him because he was lying flush against her. He stopped her from moving it and he had seemed to like it, the pain. He had liked it when she ran her mouth along the burn mark in the shape of her cross as well.

She had been unable to stay away from him, though. Like a fly to a spider's web, she was caught in whatever spell he had cast on her. When she was with him, all she wanted to do was touch him. When she was away from him much of her time was spent thinking about him and what they did, looking forward to what they would do next. How she had gotten through the last few weeks of the semester and managed to pass she had no clue.

Lately, though, it had been more than sex. Spike and Buffy had secretly worked together to defeat Adam. No one else could have known if their plan was going to go off without any problems. Adam had to be convinced that Spike was a vampire out to get his chip removed and the Slayer out of the picture so he could start on his path of death and destruction. Somehow over the past few weeks, they had become more than just lovers, they had become friends. Spike helped her study a few times, and he had made her study too despite her mind being on other things.

Buffy could talk to Spike about things she could never with Willow. So why was she still hiding from everyone the fact that they got along? She was not ready to call him her boyfriend. They were sort of in a holding pattern and neither seemed to want to broach the subject of what they were doing. Spike was afraid, Buffy realized, that she would flee if he pushed her into putting a name to their relationship. And Buffy, well, she was afraid things would change. She was afraid to admit that she had grown to like him.

Her friends would not accept him. They would think he had done something to get Buffy on his side. And he had, by simply proving himself time and time again with actions. He had given her small gifts; a flower here, a card there, a box of chocolates once. None of the gifts had crossed any real line.

He still talked of getting the chip removed, but Buffy suspected that if it was taken out while he might begin feeding on humans again he would be less violent than he had been pre-chip. She had nothing to base this on, knew he could be fooling her, but she did not think so.

The chip had changed Spike, had made him more human. Buffy did not fool herself into believing that he was human. Even Angel admitted to missing the warmth and the taste of fresh human blood. He told her recently it was harder now since he had fed off her. While she had nothing to compare it to, Buffy likened it to eating canned ham instead of a fresh one. Sure, it was the same thing, but it just was not as tasty from the can.

The fact of the matter was Buffy thought she deserved this. She deserved to have someone in her life, someone to share things with. She had not minded having to abstain with Angel, it was his presence in her life that meant something. Knowing they absolutely could not was a bit of a downer, but had he not broken up with her she knew it could have worked.

Willow had Tara and Xander had Anya, surely Buffy deserved somebody too. As much as she had tried to convince herself Riley would make her happy, deep down she knew he would not. There would come a time when he would expect her to give up slaying, as if it was a job that she could walk away from. Not to mention the longevity factor of Slayers, in that there was not a life expectancy past twenty-five for her. She would never do that to a human, leave them a widower so young. The fact that Spike had an eternity to live without her, as Angel did, did not bother her as much for some reason, both had seen human friends and family die for several years now.

Riley would never accept her past relationship with Angel and would expect her to cut off all contact with him. That was something Buffy was not willing to do. They had been through too much together, good and bad, to just cut him out of her life. He was as much a part of what made Buffy Buffy as her hair or her eyes were. Yes, he was in LA and they talked infrequently, but Buffy knew he was always just a telephone call or a bus ride away. Angel knew the same was true in reverse. He had and would always have a piece of her heart and soul.

The Initiative was gone, but another division like it would pop up sooner or later. Hopefully, the things Riley had seen and gone through with Buffy and the Scoobies had opened his eyes to the reality of what Professor Walsh had been messing with. She had no idea if he would be back in Sunnydale without the Initiative.

She hoped he would, she liked Riley and he was not responsible for the Initiative's secret plans. But if he was no longer involved with the Initiative and she was no longer in Psych class, what did they have left in common? Buffy never told him about the possibility of her being pregnant, and she never had to because she was not. He would have gone all noble on her if he had known the possibility existed and it would have complicated things even more.

Her night done, Buffy returned to 1630 Revello Drive ready for a hot bath and bed. It was strange to be home again. Nine months of dorm life had given Buffy a sense of freedom she enjoyed. She missed her mom, but she liked the independence.

At least she did not have to crawl through her bedroom window anymore since her mother knew what she went out to do. She did use the back door, though. Her mother had asked her to, not wanting the neighbors to wonder why Joyce let Buffy stay out until all hours of the night. Buffy was not overly certain what difference which door she came through made, but if it made her mom happy she would use the back door.

Her senses picked up on something, a presence and she waited a minute to see if whoever it was would show himself.

"It's late and I'm tired, who are you and what do you want?"

No one answered her and she took hold of her stake, ready for action. Vamps did not commonly follow her home, but it had happened a time or two. She turned around, stake at the ready and frowned.

Spike emerged from behind one of the trees, looking tall, blonde, sexy and a little scary in the moonlight's shadows. "Spike you scared me."

"Slayer," he said simply, shoving his hands in his duster coat's pockets.

"What are you doing back here? Why didn't you tell me it was you?"

"I assumed you'd figure it out. I didn't mean to scare you, love. In fact, I planned a bit of a surprise for you. I was hoping you'd investigate a bit, but I got you weren't in the mood for some harmless fun."

"I'm sorry," she said softly, putting the stake away. "Did I hear you say something about a surprise," she queried with what she hoped was a pretty pout.

"I did at that. Are you sure you want to see it," he said, tilting his head in a gesture Buffy had come to recognize as his being uncertain. He always seemed so confident, but now that she knew him better she recognized little things he did that betrayed his uncertainty.

"Sure," she said and followed when he turned, disappearing behind the tree stealthily. She hated that he could do that, just appear and disappear. She wondered sometimes if, like Angel, he would one day disappear from her life entirely. "So, how long have you been waiting for me," she asked but was stopped short by the scene before her. "I guess a while," she said softly. "Spike, this is amazing."

"Yeah, well, I had a little help."

"Help? Who," she said still taking it all in. One of those citronella torches was lit and near it was a blanket.

She would have commented on the fact he had put an open flame within reach of anyone who happened along but did not think now was the time for sarcasm. On the blanket were several small tea candles in votives. She glanced at him when she noticed them only to see uncertainty in his eyes. "Who helped you," she asked softly her eyes back on the blanket. There was a bottle of wine, some flowers and a boom box playing some instrumental music she did not recognize. When she looked at Spike she pictured hard rock and heavy metal not chamber music, but it suited the setting.

He cleared his throat lightly. "Uh, your mom."

"My mom," she repeated in disbelief.

"Yeah, had to get some ideas for the little gift and have her let me know what time you left so I'd know about what time you'd be done. I knew asking Willow was out of the question and your mom wasn't going to go around blabbing to anyone what I was planning."

"Oh," she said, taking a seat on the blanket, drawing her knees to her chest and her arms wrapping around them. "I actually wasn't thinking about that. I mean, I wouldn't care if you ask Willow."

"You wouldn't?"

"No," she said simply and for the first time in a long time she did not try and figure out what it meant or worry what would come as a result. "So why did you do this? I mean, not that I don't appreciate it."

"I just figured you could use a break from just coming home and going to bed, or coming home to me and my bed. I know we don't always go right to it, but I thought it was time you realized that's not all I want from you."

"I do."

"This is for you," he said, handing her a box. She opened it to find an assortment of hand dipped chocolate strawberries, a combination of milk, dark and white chocolates.

"You're sweet." His head lifted from the spot on the ground beside her he had been focused on and she smiled slightly. "What? Can't I say something nice to you?"

"Well, yeah, sure, of course you can, I just don't know that I've ever heard sweet used to describe anything about me."

She took one of the chocolate dipped strawberries and moved so she was kneeling in front of him. She fed the strawberry to him, pulling the stem away once he had bitten through it. She leaned closer, her mouth finding his, tasting the strawberry and chocolate as she kissed him. "Definitely some sweetness."

"Keep that up and my plan to just spend the evening with you will be spoiled."

"You think?"

"I know," he said with a light laugh, kissing her. "My turn," he said, picking up a strawberry. This one had been dipped in white chocolate. "Joyce said you had a soft spot for white chocolate, but I wanted to give you the chance to taste them all." He teased the tip of the strawberry over her lips and laughed lightly when she tried to bite it. He was quick and drew it away before she got her teeth on it.

"No fair. I didn't tease you."

"Not my fault, pet, that you didn't think about it," he said teasing her again. "Because I did." He smiled wickedly as she groaned in frustration, the taste of the chocolate on her lips now. Finally, he fed it to her, slowly, still teasing her as he drew it in and out of her mouth. She let him, obviously she could have bitten it as soon as he had put it in her mouth. But the look of desire that came to his eyes when she closed her mouth around it or swirled her tongue around the tip was priceless. "Good?"

"Delicious," she said softly. "So are you telling me my mom is aware of the fact you are out here putting the moves on me?"

"Well, I don't know that she suspects that, no. I just told her I wanted to do something nice for you. Trying to woo you and all."

"Is that what you're doing?"

"Well, um, sort of, I mean, we've been getting along, out of a bed as well as in one. It seemed about time."

"And the open flamed torch is in case I took offense and wanted to get rid of you real quick?"

"Yeah," he said with a light laugh. "Something like that. Or just to keep the bugs away."

She shifted on the blanket, sitting so her back was against his chest. She felt his cheek pressing against the side of her head, the coolness of his body against hers and a scent that was distinctly Spike. Her head fit into the crook at his shoulder where it met his collarbone and she reclined comfortably against him. She drew another strawberry out of the box and looked at it. "Thanks," she said softly.

He kissed the top of her head and she sighed, eating the strawberry, tasting the bitterness of the dark chocolate. "Any time, pet."

"You better watch how many of these you buy me. You won't like me if I've eaten one too many and weigh two hundred pounds."

"Yeah, well, I don't see that happening, but it wouldn't stop me from liking you, Buffy."

"You say that now."

"I say that because I know, Slayer."

"No vamps at the cemetery tonight."

"Really?"

"Yeah. I was surprised, figured there'd be some action."

"You can have some right here if you want. Not the slaying, staking kind but I'm sure we could come up with something."

"My mom's upstairs and knows you're out here."

"I can be quiet and discreet."

"I know you can be discreet. But quiet? I don't think either of us has ever been quiet, Spike."

"No, I suppose you're right. You know I was thinking something the other day."

"What's that," she asked, tilting her head slightly to look at him.

"Well, we're running around like we have to hide what we're doing."

"I don't know that we're running around exactly, but go on."

"You might not like it. My idea I mean."

"Go on."

"Well, I was thinking, what if we put the idea of getting an annulment out of our heads and actually gave this whole thing a go."

"You can't be serious." He was quiet, which made her uncertain. "Are you?"

"Well, we've proven we can get along. I'm not saying we have to go all out and set up house together or anything, but why not actually try and see if it can work. Come out of the closet. Admit you're with me."

"So, like a boyfriend?"

"Yeah, I guess. It just seems sort of stupid that we have to sneak around like we do, hide from your mother, when legally we can do whatever we want."

"I kind of like it."

"I know you do, but I'm growing tired of it. I don't know from one day to the next if you're going to wig out on me. Up until tonight, you've given me every indication that what we're doing is to remain a secret. Yet tonight you said you wouldn't have minded if I had bothered Willow for some help. It's all a bit confusing and I hate treading on water not sure if I'm going to sink or swim from one moment to the next." He leaned toward her, his arms going around her waist and kissed the side of her neck. "Waiting to find out if you were preggers was torture and I really don't like the idea of having to go through that again with some other bloke. I had no reason to get jealous then and it bothered the hell out of me."

"I didn't like it either. Thank God Giles had that idea of the blood test, I would have spazed for a month not knowing for sure."

"I know, I watched you remember? You didn't talk much about it, but I knew it was on your mind."

"You know, when I was with Angel we talked about that, whether or not I wanted children. He seemed surprised that I was willing to be with him. I honestly never gave it much thought. I mean, what kind of life could I give a child anyway? Oh excuse me, honey, I know you're teething or sick with the flu and vomiting all over the place but I need to go slay some vampires."

He chuckled lightly. "Yeah, being a mom does not exactly seem to fit into your life."

"So I guess that means it's good I'm with you."

"Well, I'm not here to be your method of birth control, Buffy."

"I know you're not. But I like that the chance isn't there."

"We're getting off the subject here, love. Or is that intentional?"

"What? Of my being your girlfriend?"

"Yeah, that. I'm bearing my heart to you here, Slayer."

"Still no husband and wife stuff, though, right? I mean, this is just a trial period type thing. If we find it doesn't work or can't work, we get the annulment?"

"Yeah, I'll grant you the annulment. But you have to promise me, pet, that you're not going to sabotage things because I've just agreed to that."

"I wouldn't. I think you know me better than that. I didn't exactly jump in with both feet right away with Angel either. I'm just not that rash when it comes to getting involved with guys."

"Except Parker."

"Yeah, except him. I learned, though, that just wasn't me. I mean, I realize we aren't in love or committed but have been having sex. I at least knew you and knew you weren't going to treat me like he did."

"I could have."

"You could have, but by the time we got to it I think I knew you wouldn't. I was a little bummed you left that next morning, but I knew why you did. And you left your shirt behind."

"Oh, and you figured out I left it behind for you?"

"Yeah, I did, I guessed anyway especially when you never asked for it back."

"Do you still have it?"

"Yeah, it's in my room."

"Good. When I come visit you tomorrow night I want you to wear it for me." He nipped the side of her neck, sending shivers down her spine. "Nothing else."

"Oh you do, do you?"

"Yeah, I've wondered what it would look like on you since that day."

"I don't think Mom would appreciate my walking around in just the shirt."

"She's going to LA in the morning, didn't you know that?"

"No, I didn't know she was leaving in the morning."

"She told me tonight, I think she likes knowing I'll come by to check on you and the house."

"Fool that she is she thinks I'm safe with you."

"You are safe with me, Slayer. I would work through the pain in my head because of this bleeding chip if I had to."

She looked up, pushed away from leaning against him and kissed him, deep and slow, lingering at his lower lip before she drew away from him. "You know, Riley asked me something a while ago that I never really thought about until now. I guess I should ask you the same question."

"What's that?"

"Does it strike you as weird or strange that Angel sired you? And now we're," she paused, "together. We weren't when Riley asked me the question. It was the day after he saw us kissing by that mausoleum."

"Angel was not truly a relation, so no. Dru is actually the one who started it, Angel just finished it. I spent about twenty-five years with him and then he was gone. Other than briefly a couple of years ago, I have not spent any time with Angel since his soul was restored. I mean, if I had gone after Darla, yeah, that would have been strange. Why? Do you feel strange?"

"I don't know. I admit I have wondered what he would say about it."

"What can he say?"

"Nothing, nothing at all, which is why I try not to think about it. He broke up with me, he left me not the other way around."

"I'm guessing he did it in an attempt to let you lead something akin to a normal life, the Riley type boyfriend, college, maybe even the sorority thing girls do and all that."

"That's just not me."

"I never claimed it was. You need something that Angel and I are able to give you, that balance of darkness to your light, bad to your good, strength to match your strength, and someone who can accept you for what you are. That would be difficult to find in a human. You were lucky that Riley even had a concept of demons and vampires and your world."

"I know."

"Took you long enough to realize it. Christ, I thought you'd never see it. Especially when you'd shrink from me after we had sex."

"I only did that when we did something different."

"Yeah, I know, because it doesn't fit into your image of right or allowable. I hope I'm changing your mind somewhat on that."

She kissed him again, turning as she did, drawing him to her as she lay down on the blanket. "Yeah, you are, or I wouldn't be thinking of doing this in my backyard knowing my mom is home."

"She's probably sleeping by now, she's leaving early she told me. And besides, you wore a skirt for me, it makes it easier."

"Well, it wasn't for you, I mean, I didn't plan it or anything."

"Oh shut up, Slayer, and let me believe you dressed with me and some illicit sex in mind."

"Oh well in that case," she said, pushing his duster over his shoulders and off. "I dressed with exactly that in mind."

"You catch on quick."

"I'm a fast learner, what can I say," she said, watching his hands as they unfastened his jeans. There were times that she loved sex with him like this, spontaneous and unplanned, clothes merely moved out of the way. She liked knowing he wanted her so much that he would take her on a sarcophagus or in his Desoto or a shower stall at her dorm or upstairs at the Bronze or any number of times he had taken her merely because he wanted to and could.

It was exciting in a way she could not possibly explain to anyone else, she had stopped trying to explain it to herself even. She vowed as he entered her she would no longer feel guilty about it. It was hard to feel guilty about something that felt so good.

***

The little candles had long since burnt out when their appetites had finally been satisfied. Spike lay on his back beside Buffy, one arm underneath her with the other on his chest over his unbeating heart. His jeans remained unfastened, but he had pulled them back around his waist so if anyone happened to walk back there he would not be entirely exposed. Not that he particularly cared, but Buffy might. She had said earlier she was ready to go public with their relationship, but he would believe it when it actually happened.

The torch was still going strong, working its mojo to keep the bugs away. Buffy had just finished feeding him another strawberry, this one dipped in dark chocolate. "Keeping the white ones to yourself, love," he queried with a light laugh as he licked his lips. He peered up at her and realized she had been about to kiss away the strawberry juice until he had licked it away himself.

"Yeah, you didn't really expect me to share those with you, did you?"

"No, and I don't mind. They were a gift for you. I'm not a big chocolate fan anyway."

"Oh God, how could you not love it?"

"Just not a part of the vampire diet I guess. I'm growing fonder of it the more I taste it on your lips, though."

"Is that right? There's an interesting lip gloss flavor."

"Nah, I'd only want the real thing. Real chocolate on you."

She moved on top of him, sliding lower along his body until she was even with the waist of his jeans. Apparently, she had not been satisfied. "And what if I wore it while doing this," she whispered as she pulled his jeans down along his hips and took him into her mouth.

"Now who's not playing fair," he said hoarsely, both hands moving to her hair. She had never done this before, she had come close a time or two but had always stopped short of actually doing. Maybe he should look into buying her more chocolate if this was the result.

She was obviously uncertain of herself, but that did not hinder her from making an effort. Hell, she could have been horrible and he still would have been aroused merely because it was her doing it. Something told him this was something that Spike was able to claim for his own.

He did not last as long as he would have liked and she moved to lie on top of him once he had finished. His fingers ran through her hair unsure of just what to say. He could feel her heart beating against his chest and wished for once that he had a heartbeat for her to hear and feel. He would like for her to know just how she affected him. His body obviously let her know that she pleased him, but she was missing out on the more subtle signs.

"I'd say thanks, but that would seem rude."

"You don't have to thank me."

"I don't, but somehow I need to tell you how good that felt."

"I'm glad. I've never done that before, so it could have been terrible."

"I don't think anything you would do to me would be terrible, pet. After everything we've done, you've let me do no questions asked you question whether or not I'd like something you'd do to me?"

"Well, since you put it that way," she said, shifting so she was beside him instead of on top of him. Her head still rested against his chest. "How can I argue with that logic?"

"You can't. It's as simple as that."

"So will you stay with me while Mom's in LA? A house, a bed, no creepy sarcophagus."

"You don't like my crypt, love?"

"Well, I figured, you know, we could make a weekend of it."

"You're taking this step in the boyfriend direction pretty seriously, aren't you? Inviting me to spend an entire weekend with you. Are you doing this in an attempt to drive me away? If I spend too much time with you I'll get fed up over something and go?"

"No, I just hate being home alone," she said and Spike understood how difficult it must have been for her to admit.

"Sure, I'll stay with you then."

"I'm not scared or anything."

"I didn't say I thought you were. You don't have to explain yourself to me, pet. I said I'd stay with you."

"Maybe I'll invite Willow and Tara and Xander and Anya over, do the cooking dinner bit and everything."

"Need I remind you what happened the last time you were set on cooking dinner? You were attacked and I was nearly killed."

"I'm not going to cook Thanksgiving dinner and I don't think Xander's digging up any old missions. So we should be fine." She kissed his chest before she sat up and looked at him. "I figure if we're going to come out, privately instead of publicly is probably best. Let them hear it and see it and then get used to it before they have to see us somewhere like at the Bronze or something."

"You really think they're going to react that badly?"

"Spike, up until a little while ago you were hell bent on killing us or causing us pain and suffering. So yeah I think it will take them a while to accept it. Not to mention they don't like the fact you won't grant me the annulment."

"Point taken, Slayer, I have not been an upstanding Sunnydale citizen."

"That's an understatement."

"And what if they don't come around?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. It's my life, and I have to do what makes me happy. I have to do the right thing for me."

"And you think I'm the right thing?"

"I don't think you're the wrong thing. At least for right now. I mean, look, you're one hundred twenty something. That's your vampire age, add onto that your real age and you're like one hundred forty. I'm nineteen. I can't predict my future and I don't think you can either. Mine or yours. I might not be alive for more than five or six years, if the past is any indication."

"You'll live longer than that, Slayer. I believe in you, in your skills and your ability. You're a survivor. You've got a support system like no other Slayer I've ever heard about has ever had. That's going to work to your advantage."

"I hope you're right," she said somberly.

Spike pulled her toward him as he sat up and re-fastened his jeans. He kissed her, pushing back her hair as he broke it. "We shouldn't be talking about this depressing stuff. If you're done with our little picnic, let's get the blanket inside and I'll let you get to sleep."

"Yeah, I'm done. You don't have to go."

He stood and offered her a hand to help her up. "I know I don't have to go, but you need your rest. I can tell you are tired, Buffy. We're going to have a busy weekend if I'm spending it with you alone in your house."

"You know she invited me to go to LA with her."

Spike paused briefly as he bent to pick the blanket Joyce had given him to use. He sensed this was important and so he waited for her to continue.

"It would have been nice to see Angel, I haven't in a while. Since Thanksgiving, in fact, now that I think about it. And we fought," she said and Spike could detect the bitterness in her voice.

"Why don't you go then?"

"Well," she said, putting out the anti-bug torch. "I realized I didn't want to see him. I mean not go to LA for the sole purpose of seeing him. And that's what it would be. Mom will be busy with her gallery stuff all weekend. I don't really have many friends left in LA, they've all moved on."

"Why are you telling me this, pet?"

"I just thought you might like to know I'm staying here with you. That I'm not going to LA to see Angel."

"Well, I do, but I do get why you'd want to see him."

"Thanks," she said simply, picking up the box of strawberries. "We didn't drink any of the wine."

"I didn't think we'd drink it anyway, honestly, just seemed like the nighttime picnic thing to do. Setting a mood and all."

"I'm not a big drinker anyway."

"I know." He placed his hand at the small of her back once they were ready to go inside. "Give it to your mom. It's a good vintage, at least that's what I was told. I'm not a big wine drinker myself."

"No, I don't guess you are. Wine's not very big baddish."

"Exactly. See you get it now. Image is everything."

"And you don't think being seen with the Slayer will ruin your image? You told Angel he was my lap dog, remember?"

"Yeah, well, I'm not your lap dog and I'm not worried about it. I'm a different person and no one would mistake me for being like him. Other than falling for the same girl perhaps. But that's as close as we get to being alike."

"You've fallen for me?"

He drew her to him and kissed her. "I'm getting there, Slayer, yes. I wouldn't waste my time on another human. Chip or no chip, I could arrange to seeing you dead if I really wanted you that way."

"You say the most romantic things sometimes, Spike."

"Yeah, not very endearing was it? But you brought up my being concerned what others in my world will say. I don't think many will be too surprised honestly. If for no other reason than because you were involved with a vampire once already."

"Yeah, I guess I do have a bit of a reputation that way, don't I?"

He laughed lightly. "Just a bit of one, yes." He walked her to the backdoor and followed her into the kitchen, setting the blanket on the island there. "I'll come by tomorrow around sunset then. If you change your mind for whatever reason you'll have to come to the crypt and let me know."

"I won't change my mind, Spike. It's either come out or break it off. I'm not sure what exactly we're doing, but I don't want to end it."

"All right," he said, his arms going around her. "Good night then. And thank you again for," he smiled slightly, noticing her blushing. "All right, I won't say any more. Thank your mom for me then," he winked. "Do you need me to bring anything?"

"No. I'll take care of everything. Thanks. I'd let you stay here tonight, but I don't know how Mom would feel about it."

"I don't want to stay in a guest room, pet. So, it's best I go home."

"Speaking of homes and staying in guest rooms as opposed to sleeping together. Don't you think maybe it might be time for you to look into getting a real place to live?"

"Why's that? My crypt's not good enough for you?"

"Well, if you were to get something close to campus maybe I'd have an excuse to tell Willow she can room with Tara. I think she feels she has to stay my roommate because of the best friends thing."

"Let me get this straight. You want to live with me? Is that what you're suggesting? You'll forgive me for being a little suspicious, but we just got to telling everyone about us. This seems awful fast."

"Well, I didn't say it would be a real living together situation. It might be roommates."

"Yeah, like we could do that, Slayer. We can hardly keep our hands off each other now."

She blushed and he smiled slightly that he could make her do that. "Well, just think about it. We wouldn't have to worry about my mom or a roommate that isn't Willow if she decides to room with Tara anyway." She shrugged then and Spike realized this had to be difficult for her.

"All right, pet, I'll think on it. I guess living in a crypt for a living, breathing human isn't exactly their ideal. You'd want a kitchen with a stove and all those modern gadgets."

"Yeah, all that stuff."

He leaned down and kissed her. "Let's see what happens, pet, with your friends learning about us and after that how we handle everything. Then we'll talk about it again. I wouldn't pick a house or apartment without you with me anyway if that's what we were going to do."

"Well, I wouldn't care, just so long as there was somewhere for you to be during the day."

"Right. I know that jig, Slayer. Girls say they don't care but yet they do. I'm not falling into that trap. We'll talk about it again."

Her arms went around his neck and she kissed him, clinging to him when she broke away. "All right. You're being too logical about this."

"Bloody great," he said with a low chuckle. "Just trying to watch out for you. You need your rest, pet. Good night. Off to bed with you. Pleasant dreams and all that good stuff. I'll see you after sunset tomorrow."

"Good night," she said and he turned and walked away.

Spike paused in Buffy's front yard before leaving the neighborhood entirely. He was trying to figure her out, trying to figure out just where the trick was. Was he being taken? Was this her idea of a joke? Was she playing him? While all of these things were a distinct possibility, Spike could not help but realize that allowing herself to get this close to Spike was beyond Buffy. At least as some form of retribution or punishment. She might have taken her watcher's advice and come to some sort of neutral agreement with Spike, but she would never have given him her body as she had.

The one night stand with Parker aside, Buffy was not one to just jump into bed with someone or to use sex as a tool or weapon. Oh sure, she was attractive and sexy as hell and could use that as a means to an end, but this went above and beyond flirting. Now she was talking about living together? Spike was not sure how exactly he felt about that. Angel lived above ground like a human, Spike had lived in places here and there like that but an apartment or a house, that was something permanent.

There was too the problem of paying for it, furnishing it and everything else that not only would she expect but she deserved. He decided a call to Angel was in order. That mansion they had lived in was still vacant. Perhaps Angel would be interested in letting his grandchilde and his ex-girlfriend live there. Spike was not too sure that would fly, but it was worth a try. Otherwise, dear lord, he would have to get a job or earn money somehow.

Chapter Text


***Part Six***

Spike broke down what he hoped was the last of the empty boxes. She was a nineteen year old girl who had lived at home and in a college dorm room, he had no idea how she could possibly have so much. Most of his belongings could fit in one of the boxes he had just broken down.

The house was two blocks from campus and would suit their needs perfectly. He had gotten it for a song because the previous owners were anxious to sell quickly due to a transfer. Spike had known the house was for them the minute he had seen the For Sale sign in the front yard.

It was a house he imagined most women dreamed of as little girls and when he had brought Buffy for a walk-through with the realtor he knew he had made the right choice. It was a newer house, but was Victorian style and offered plenty of space for the two of them. Willow and Tara were thinking about moving in. Buffy had made a similar offer to Xander given the two spare bedrooms upstairs, but Xander had quickly said no. Spike knew that Buffy hoped Xander would eventually get fed up enough with living in his basement, but Spike sensed that Xander's dislike and distrust of Spike would have to go away before Xander would live with them.

Buffy never asked where he got the money to buy the house and Spike never offered the information. Perhaps she did not believe it was any of her business. Spike on the other hand was not sure how she would react to how he had chosen to earn money. She had left him little choice when it came down to it. He needed to earn money fast and there were not many businesses open all night in Sunnydale. So, his choice was limited unless he wanted to work as a bouncer at the Bronze or another bar. The idea of dealing with dozens, if not hundreds, of college and high school aged students night after night just held no appeal for Spike.

He stepped outside onto the covered porch that ran along the front of the house and lit a cigarette. It was a star-filled night, the sky as clear as could be which Spike took as a good sign. He leaned his shoulder against one of the posts and regarded the turn his unlife had taken in the past few months.

He had not believed Dru when she insisted he had feelings for the Slayer, but now he could not deny she had been right all along. The eloping thing had been the result of a spell, but for whatever reason Spike had denied Buffy an annulment. He had watched as a human pursued her and had gotten inexplicably jealous the night the two ended up in bed together. As a result of that jealousy Spike had somehow gained the Slayer's favor instead of the human. And now here they were making a house together.

Joyce had not been thrilled about Buffy moving in with Spike. That night Spike had briefly given up on the possibility of their sharing living space together. Buffy had surprised him by telling her mom they were married. Until that night, only the Scoobies and Riley Finn knew of their marriage.

"Spike," Buffy called from behind him, startling him. For a human she had the stealth of a vampire sometimes.

"Sneaking up on me, pet," he said, taking a drag on the cigarette as he regarded her.

"I didn't mean to. I used the door from the study."

He chuckled lightly. "Didn't think I was so deep in thought I missed hearing the front door open."

"I just wondered where you had gone to."

"Just out here to have myself a smoke. All of the boxes are broken down. The garbage is waiting to be taken to the curb on garbage day."

"Great."

"Yeah, awful bloody domestic. I'm not sure how long I'll be able to keep it up." He perused her freely, his gaze intense and curious. She seemed nervous and he was not sure why. Did she regret her decision before they had even spent a night together? "You all right, Slayer?"

"Yeah, it's just a little strange."

"What's that," he asked hesitantly. "Shacking up with a vampire?"

"No, Spike, that's not it at all. This was my idea, remember?"

"Yeah, I remember. Then what?"

"I don't live with my mom anymore. I mean, a dorm room isn't permanent, you know? I went home to Revello Drive and still had my room, my things were still there."

"You're not a girl anymore, pet. That's all. It's a right of passage, moving out on your own and all. And it's not like you're hours away or anything. You can go there whenever you want."

"I know," she shrugged and he cocked his head slightly, beckoning her closer. Wordlessly, she walked to his side and he placed an arm around her drawing her closer still. He kissed her temple, lingering a bit as he took in the smell of her shampoo, her perfume, the affects of their day of unpacking and putting things away, and the scent that was distinctly Slayer, Buffy Summers. A few dampened tendrils of hair tickled his nose and he drew away, sniffling as a result.

"I've been meaning to ask you, just where did you get all of this stuff, anyway?"

"Well, I've accumulated stuff over the years and some Mom gave me. Some dishes and things like that."

"So I have china now to drink my blood out of, is that it?"

"Yeah, something like that. She had a lot of stuff that were wedding gifts from when she and Dad married, and I guess she decided I should have them."

"As well you should, being her only daughter and everything, love." He glanced out from the porch to the street. "Are you going to patrol tonight?"

"I should."

"But?"

"I am tired from unpacking," she admitted and Spike knew she must be truly exhausted for her to admit she was tired. "And I've got to go to campus tomorrow to buy my books for the semester."

"Then take the night off," he offered. "I'll patrol for you. No sweat. You deserve it. Just have our bed warm and ready for me when I get back."

"Our bed. That sounds so strange."

"It does, doesn't it?"

"Do you think Willow and Tara are going to move in?"

"I don't know. I guess it depends on whether or not they think it will save them money, paying us rent instead of the dorm costs."

"I feel bad charging them."

"Pet, I know they're your friends, but this isn't letting them stay with us for a few days or a couple of weeks. They might very well live here until college is finished if they move in."

"I know."

"And it's not like we're asking them to pay an exorbitant amount or anything."

"A what," she asked and Spike couldn't help but laugh.

"We're not asking them to pay an arm and a leg, sweet."

"Oh," she said, pouting slightly.

He kissed her, taking the extended lower lip between his teeth. "What are you pouting for," he asked when he broke the kiss. Their first real kiss at the house. They had been so focused on unpacking that they had taken little time away from it, not even for signs of affection like kissing.

"I hate that I sound stupid sometimes."

"You don't, Slayer. Not at all."

"I feel like I do."

"Why because you don't have a huge vocabulary?"

"Yeah, and just the fact that I have such a hard time in my classes all of the time."

"We're not going through this again, Slayer. I told you once a while ago that you're too hard on yourself. You're off saving the world when others have their nose in the books. If I have to hold your hand every step of the way for the next three years to see that it's done, you will graduate with a degree, Buffy."

"Yeah, and do what? I mean, it's not like the degree is going to do me any good. I'm the Slayer, no college degree required. I didn't even need a high school diploma."

He stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray he kept on the porch's railing. He was trying to avoid smoking in the house. Buffy had not asked him not to, but she did not smoke and he was trying to be considerate. On the cold days, he had already decided he would go down to the garage. He stepped up behind her, his arms going around her. His hands found hers, placing their joined hands over her abdomen. "Well, you mentioned once those tests you took in high school indicated you should be in law enforcement. That's why you're getting your degree in Criminal Justice, right?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, well, who's to say a police force sort of like Riley's Initiative won't develop, specializing in preternatural beings. You'd have a leg up on anyone applying for the job. Hell, if the powers that be were smart, they'd put you in charge of such a thing."

"I don't think that's going to happen in my lifetime, Spike. It's a nice thought, and maybe one day you'll see it."

Spike grew quiet he did not think it was as unlikely as she thought. If the military knew there were demons and other beings walking around Sunnydale surely the police did, too. There were just too many unexplainable things around the Hell Mouth for them not to suspect something preternatural. "Maybe you're right, Slayer, but think about it as a possibility and maybe that will get you through the next three years. Your situation is not hopeless, predestined or not, there are things that you might one day be able to do in conjunction with being the Slayer."

"Thanks," she said softly, rubbing her cheek against his jaw before turning her head and kissing him there. He tilted his head away from her hoping she would continue to his neck. No such luck and he growled in a predatory like warning as she drew away. "I wonder what our neighbors think of us."

"What's there to think?"

"Have you noticed that some have children not much younger than me?"

"No, I hadn't paid them much attention. I've seen some of the little kiddies riding their trikes and bikes around. One boy was fascinated by the Desoto."

"You left it on the driveway," she asked curiously.

"No, pet, I'm not foolish enough to leave a car with every window blacked out even if it is behind the house. I had the garage door open and he saw it, his ball had come into the yard or something. Seemed like a nice lad. I don't think he noticed the windshield was blacked out, too."

"Oh good. I mean, I don't mind if they think we're quirky, but I'd sort of like to fit in if we can."

"Right. Us fit in? Sweet, need I remind you just what we are?"

"You know what I mean. It seems like a nice neighborhood, really. We were lucky you found this house and that it's a residential area rather than college apartments."

"Yeah, I thought you'd like that fact. So you really like it then? The house I mean."

"Spike, how can you even ask me that? It's great. Mom's jealous."

"Is she now?"

"Yeah. Not that her house isn't nice, but our bedroom is huge. And we have a whirlpool."

"Good for aching Slayer muscles."

"Exactly. I can't wait to use it."

"With or without me?"

"With, of course," she said, turning in his arms and smiling at him suggestively.

"Patrolling. One of us has to go," he mumbled before lowering his mouth, capturing her mouth in a deep kiss. They had gone days without making love, unusual for the two of them, and Spike was feeling a little randy. Kissing her like this didn't help. This was their first night in the house and he was going off patrolling. He was an idiot, but it had to be done. At least if he wanted to be able to keep paying for the furniture and everything they had ordered.

"Mm hmm," she mumbled into the kiss. Her hands skimmed his chest, one moving up and around his shoulder, her fingers toying with the nape of his neck. The other hand she was not being fair with, dropping it to the front of his jeans.

"Slayer," he said as he drew away, turning from her and the street as he felt his form change. "Not out here. Not after so long without."

"I was hoping you'd forgo patrolling, for a little while at least."

"The sooner I go, the sooner I get back and then we'll have all night together, pet."

"I do like the sound of that better," she said, her pout slowly dissipating.

"Getting me all hot and bothered before I go. Are you trying to get me killed?"

"No, just reminding you what you have to come home to."

"Like I could forget," he said, turning back to her his face back to its human state. "I'll be back after I've done the normal sweeps." He went inside to grab his leather duster and the normal weapons he used for patrolling.

"Okay honey," she called after him, her voice laced with sarcasm. He heard her and wished he had not. It was the first time she had used an endearment, too bad she was teasing him. "Hurry back. I better not catch you playing footsy with your secretary or anything," she said once he had returned to the front porch.

"Right like that would happen, Slayer. Need I remind you you're the boss, and I'm the, well, sidekick more or less," he said, kissing her lightly before descending the porch steps. "Keep that bed warm, love," he called, his back to her while offering her a slight wave of his hand.

***

Buffy returned indoors, closing and locking the front door behind her. They both agreed to use the downstairs door to come and go for patrolling. Once they had figured out whom and what their neighbors were about perhaps that would change, but Spike had agreed that it was best not to draw too much attention to themselves this early in the game.

She leaned against the front door and closed her eyes for a minute. She let the fact that she was standing in her home wash over her. How Spike had done it she did not know, but he had. It had not taken long after Buffy suggested they live together for them to decide to go ahead with the idea. If it did not work out for whatever reason, Buffy was not sure what would happen and hoped she did not have to find out. She could always go back home to her mom, but would feel weird doing that now that she had really moved out.

She had not been alone in the house yet and decided to take advantage of it now. She walked through the still empty dining room into the kitchen to grab herself a bottle of water. She took a handful of grapes and ate them as she looked at the kitchen. It was the one room that looked lived in so far. She had not used the stove yet, but there were dishes in the sink. Dishes, glasses, flatware, and food had been put away. The breakfast room to the left was furnished with a table for six and chairs.

She walked through the breakfast room to the sun room. The fact that Spike had bought a house with a sun room still amused her to no end. But it had a fireplace in it and looked out over their deck. They had already ordered the blinds without slats that rolled up and down to help keep the sun out later in the day. She doubted Spike would ever get to come out and enjoy this room during the daytime.

She returned to the kitchen and went to the laundry room next. Spike had thought of things Buffy just took for granted she realized as she saw laundry soap, fabric softener sheets, and bleach set out. He had also set up an ironing board, not that she ironed much but she imagined with time she would accumulate things that needed ironing.

The garage, basement, and a huge storage room were downstairs and aside from Spike's Desoto stood empty. It was a three-car garage and Spike had mentioned getting Buffy a car and himself a motorcycle. She had declined his offered car, but suspected he would do it anyway. She could not drive his Desoto, not unless she wanted to kill herself and if she was going to do this living together, domestic thing she would have to go grocery shopping and other things.

The great room had another fireplace in the center of the wall along the side of the house, overlooking the porch and their yard. She was not sure why any house was in need of two fireplaces, but it was about the only totally unnecessary thing Buffy had found about the house so far.

She had no need to go upstairs. The two bedrooms were empty, waiting for Willow and Tara to decide if they were going to move in or not. The bathroom that the two bedrooms shared remained empty, Willow and Tara could buy the type and color towels they wanted if they moved in. If they didn't move in, Buffy was not anticipating having overnight guests so she was not worried about furnishing that bathroom yet.

Spike talked about getting a pool table for the game room upstairs and a big screened TV. If Spike were any other guy, the big screened TV would be for watching football, NASCAR, or something. With Spike it was to get his daily fix of Passions. For now, the second floor remained empty, making do with their 17 inch TV in the bedroom. A stereo was in the great room, and both had agreed to no TV in the main room.

The house felt empty to Buffy and it was sort of depressing. Things were set to be delivered over the next couple of days, but she did not like the temporary feeling of a mostly empty house. At least their bedroom was furnished, which was probably the most important room for now.

She took a sip of the water and turned to enter their suite, the most disorganized rooms in the house. Spike had given her most of the space in the walk-in closet, but she had yet to get everything hung up and put away. She had her own computer, which Spike had bought for her when he saw the huge computer desk the study offered. How much easier it would be now to do papers and homework, no more competing with Willow for her computer. The study would also give them a cover as to just what Spike did for a living, should anyone ask he worked from home.

She had just taken a seat on the edge of their bed debating about taking a shower when the doorbell rang. Buffy glanced at the alarm clock on the nightstand next to the bed and frowned when she realized Spike had not even been gone for an hour. She glanced at herself in the mirror wishing she had thought to take a shower earlier before walking toward the front door hoping it was Willow.

She turned on the outside light and opened the door. "Hi," she said, hoping to be friendly to the unfamiliar face. She had a dish in her hand, so unless she was bringing poisoned food Buffy gathered she was a friend and not a foe.

"Hi," the dark haired woman said. As dark as her hair was, her eyes were a light gray making for a beautiful contrast. "I'm Jessica Stiles. I live across the street and over one. We just moved in a few months ago and I remembered what it was like our first few nights." She extended the aluminum foil covered dish and Buffy took it. "It's a casserole. I hope you like it. I didn't go out of my way or anything, just made a little extra for our dinner tonight. There's some cookies wrapped in foil on top, too. I figured with all the unpacking you're doing you could use a little pick me up."

"That was nice of you, Jessica. Really. I haven't even thought about cooking yet. Thanks," Buffy said. Damn, this was one thing Buffy was going to have some difficulty with. She wanted her neighbors to like her, but she was nineteen and this woman was, like the other neighbors Buffy had seen so far, older. She just hoped she did not sound as stupid as she thought she did sometimes. "I'm Buffy," she paused and for the first time said the rest. "I'm Buffy Harrison. I'm sorry William's not home right now. He went out for a walk and to have a cigarette." She had not talked to Spike about what name she would use, but she preferred the neighbors know they were married then believe they were living together. Why she was not sure, but she did.

"Good for you, dear," Jessica said. Buffy's face must have reflected her confusion on what the woman was commending her for because she continued. "Not letting him smoke in the house. It's best to get him in the habit now of those things."

"Oh well, it was his idea. He's considerate. Would you like to come in? Most of our furniture hasn't been delivered yet, but I do have a table and chairs in the kitchen."

"Oh no. I need to get back and get the kids to bed."

"You have kids?"

"Yes three, two boys and a girl."

Children had never been a strong suit of Buffy's. She liked them, sure, but she had no clue about them. Being that she was the Slayer and at the moment her boyfriend/husband was a vampire it did not appear that she would need to have knowledge of children. Her scare after having slept with Riley was as close as Buffy had ever come to even thinking about them. "How old are they," she asked. It seemed the polite question to ask.

"Ten, seven, and two," she said smiling in what Buffy assumed was pride.

"Wow. That's great. We don't have any. Kids I mean. I'm still in school and everything."

Jessica glanced at her watch ready to leave. Whether it was because she truly had to get back home or because Buffy was boring her to tears she was not sure. "Listen, I need to get them to bed. If I don't get the two year old down ahead of the older two they argue with me about it being unfair they have to go to sleep at the same time as the baby. But why don't you and your husband come over tomorrow night. We can talk then."

"Sure," Buffy said a little relieved. "What time should we come?"

"Say eight o'clock?"

"Great," Buffy said relieved that she had said a time well after sunset. "That will be perfect."

"Okay, see you then. Good night, Buffy, welcome to the neighborhood."

"Thanks. Good luck getting the kids to bed," Buffy said before shutting the door. She took the dish into the kitchen, removing the wrapped cookies from it before putting it in the refrigerator. Spike ate food every once in a while, but not often and she assumed he would want blood tonight as he usually did after patrolling.

She took a bite of one of the cookies as she leaned against the kitchen's center island. She could do this, appear to be a normal married woman going to college. Sure she could, just so long as no demons trashed her house or Spike did not vamp out in front of anyone.

***

Spike closed the door of the warehouse behind him and pocketed his cash. It had been a very profitable night indeed for ol' Spike. He had managed to find a dozen Bezoar eggs before they had hatched. This was something Buffy had dealt with in high school before and she probably would not approve of him cashing in on turning the eggs in. They fetched him a fair price and the eggs were being destroyed. Wherever the Mommy Bezoar was did not concern Spike. He had been asked to find its eggs, nothing more. And he needed the money, damn it. Surely she did not expect him to wear a suit and tie and get a job selling stocks and bonds or life insurance.

He walked the short distance home, remembering to cut through to the back yard instead of using the front door. The basement entrance's exterior light was on unnecessarily but he smiled at her thoughtfulness as he entered the house. He made his way upstairs and was greeted by Buffy standing in the kitchen wearing the blue shirt he had left in her dorm room months ago. He was guessing she had nothing on underneath. It was a good thing he only had to deal with unhatched eggs tonight and no slimy monsters. He was clean and did not smell skanky.

"Hey, pet, I'm home," he said, closing the door that led to the basement stairwell. He shrugged out of his jacket and went into the great room to hang it in the closet by the front door.

"I was just getting some blood ready for you. I heard you coming up the stairs."

He entered the kitchen again and stepped up behind her, his arms going around her. She had taken a shower and smelled fresh and clean, no evidence of the hard work she had done that day. "Thank you," he murmured, finding the side of her neck. He released her when she moved against him.

"There are some cookies," she said, gesturing to the aluminum foil packet on a counter after she had put the cup of blood in the microwave. "A neighbor brought them by. She invited us to come over tomorrow around eight. I told her it was okay. They've got kids, so I can't imagine we'd be there too long. I can still patrol then."

"Sure. Sounds good. It was a lady then?"

"Yeah, her name is Jessica. Stiles was the last name. I don't think she said her husband's name."

"No worry."

"You're William, by the way. I mean, I figured they'd understand if your nickname was Spike, but it might sound funny if I said that was your name."

"Always thinking, Slayer. I guess I'd best get out of the habit of calling you that. As endearing as it is, some might wonder. I should have bought us a house surrounded by a mote or a large brick fence, so that we could live in seclusion and not have to worry about being anything but Spike and Buffy, vampire and slayer."

She took the cup out of the microwave once it had beeped. "We could sit at the kitchen table, don't you think?"

"Are you having something? Or is it just me and my nightly necessity?"

"I'm going to have some grapes," she said, pulling some off and putting them in a bowl. Spike watched as she sat on one of the chairs. She was definitely wearing nothing underneath the shirt on top. He had not gotten a good enough view yet to know if she wore bottoms yet or not.

"So anyone else call on you?"

"No, just Jessica. She seemed nice, but she's older. Her kids are ten, seven and two. I'll bet I'm closer to the ten year olds age than I am her age."

"Don't worry about it, Slayer. What does it matter? You're going to college, the house is two blocks from campus, and no one will question why we're here."

She pouted prettily as she popped a grape in her mouth and Spike wished he could kiss that pout away. "I know. I just hate feeling so young. Like I don't already just being around you, Mr. Century Plus."

"Yeah, yeah. So we're going there tomorrow night. And you're going to campus tomorrow to get your books and such, right? Anything else?"

"Some furniture is being delivered tomorrow. That's all that I know of. Oh," she said softly and Spike's head bobbed up in attention from drinking his evening's sustenance source.

"Yes?"

"I sort of told Jessica my name was Harrison."

"Sort of, pet? You either did or you didn't."

"I did."

"Ah, love, I don't mind, if that's what you're thinking."

"No, I just wanted you to know. I already felt weird, being so young. I didn't want them to think you were some perverted old man living with a college girl."

"Little do they know how right on they'd be," he chuckled.

"It's not funny, Spike."

"Well, we are legally married and all, so you didn't lie."

"I never changed my name."

"Right. Well, they don't need to know that. You could just say you are waiting to change it legally until you're done with college, want your records to be all in the same name or some nonsense."

"You think that will work?"

"Love, I think you're thinking too much on this. So you're a little younger than they are, I don't think they're going to treat you like they did Martha Carrier and burn you at the stake or any such thing. Just relax," he whispered, pushing back in his chair.

She took his offered hand and sat on his lap in the chair, one arm around her while the other sat laced with hers on a thigh. "I know," she said, resting her head against his jaw.

"Don't dwell on it, Buffy. You'll only screw up if you worry too much. They won't question it seeing us together. Well, unless they get to see one of our fights," he said sarcastically.

"Everyone fights."

"Not like we do, Slayer."

"We do take it to extremes," she said coyly as she kissed him.

"Extremes are good, love. At least for us they seem to be. Who would have thought it?"

She ran a finger along his lower lip. "Are you done with your dinner then?"

"I am at that." He tilted the cup towards them so she could see it was empty. "Are we ready to move beyond the kitchen then? It's nice in here, but not nearly as cozy as that big bed in there waiting for us."

"Cozy?"

"I can only feel parts of you against me like this. Not nearly as cozy and I've thought of little else since your groping earlier this evening."

"I didn't distract your patrolling, did I?"

"Not at all, dusted a couple vamps and everything. I was in peak form."

She stood, her hand finding his and tugged, a not so gentle Slayer tug. "We'll see about that peak form bit," she said. "I hope they didn't wear you out. You said earlier we had all night, remember?"

"I did, did I? I guess I'd best follow you then. Got to keep up my reputation and all, wouldn't want to disappoint you so soon."

Chapter Text


***Part Seven***

Buffy finished her first week of classes as a college sophomore having drawn the conclusion that her adviser was evil, maybe not demon evil, but evil nonetheless. Why else would she have advised Buffy take Accounting, Algebra, Abnormal Psychology and Judicial Process in the same semester? The Psychology class seemed like it would be okay, but Buffy could do without the other three. Willow had promised to help her best friend if necessary. Buffy was certain it would become necessary despite Spike's attitude about her negative thinking.

She and Spike had patrolled separately so Buffy could finish sooner. She had no idea whether Spike was done and at Willy's by now or not. She showered while Willow and Tara made popcorn and got other munchies ready for their movie night. It was an all-girls night to celebrate the end of their first week of classes. She replayed her conversation with Spike about this all-girls thing while toweling off her hair.

"How in the bloody hell do you plan on having girl's night when I live here?"

"Well, the big TV is upstairs, so when you come back from patrolling you can watch the one in here."

"And what, listen to the three of you giggle like school girls?"

"Well, you'd be in here while we're upstairs with the door closed. And we are school girls, or have you forgotten that?"

"But they live here, why do you need to set aside one particular night?"

"Because we got through the first week of school without dropping any classes. It's a big deal," she had said.

"So then I can go to Willy's and hang out for a while after I've done my patrolling? I don't need to sit here knowing you're one story above me but I can't go up and watch whatever movies you're watching, do I?"

"You're asking my permission?" She had grown concerned with that. "Spike, if you want to go to Willy's or wherever for a while, you don't need me wanting to spend time with Willow and Tara as an excuse. Go. You've done so much the past couple of months, you deserve it."

"I haven't done that much, love."

"Spike, you not only bought a house but you've managed to furnish it completely with only a few things coming from my mom. I mean, look around you. It's amazing, we have a house, a real house, one that we could have a party at and I wouldn't feel weird about showing it off."

"Is this your way of saying you want to throw a little party here, Slayer?"

"Well, we could. People do that you know, have housewarming parties when they have a new house."

"A housewarming party for a house that a vampire lives in? Sounds very charming."

"Oh come on. It would give us a chance to meet more of our neighbors and show off our digs."

"Are you just trying to distract me from this girl's night thing?"

"No, but if it's working, let's keep talking about the party."

He had given in on the party and on the girl's night. Looking back on the conversation now, she really hoped Spike didn't see himself as a prisoner here. She went to school and the Magic Box and home to see her mom and things. He certainly had the right to do things, too. She pulled on a pair of black sweats, a black tank top and tied her hair back with a black scrunchie. She noticed the kitchen was empty and went upstairs.

"Hey guys," she said as she entered the game room. She left the door open, wanting to hear when Spike came in. As much as she wanted this girl's night, there was something from her night's patrol she needed to talk to Spike about. Something she still had the wiggins about in a big way.

"Hey Buffy," Willow called out.

"Hi, um, Buffy," Tara said shyly. Tara was still nervous about not just Buffy but living here with her and Spike. Buffy would probably be nervous, too, living with a vampire and the Slayer who couldn't stop trying to hurt one another until a few months ago.

"So what movies did you guys get?"

"Well, we decided on one scary yet kind of romantic, for you."

"For me," she asked curiously.

"Yeah, Dracula."

"What," she said, coughing as she took a sip of her drink. Hopefully, they would think she just swallowed wrong.

"Dracula. You know? The vampire?"

"Uh yeah, great. What else did you get?"

Buffy felt Willow's scrutiny and reached for some popcorn, hoping Willow wouldn't push her on this. "We got The Breakfast Club and then Face/Off in case Spike decides to join us."

"I don't think he will. He knows it's just supposed to be us three. Besides, I get a feeling he might like Dracula better anyway." All three laughed lightly.

"Well, it's okay, we can watch Face/Off then. It's got action and stuff, but that's okay we just have a bit of everything."

"Let's save Dracula for last. I've had my share of vampires for the night."

"Tough night patrolling," Tara asked. Buffy was surprised, Tara did not normally ask about patrolling. She had helped research a few times, but her involvement with the slaying had been minimal.

"Yeah," Buffy said vaguely. "But nothing too out of the ordinary."

"Buffy," Willow said as she stood to put The Breakfast Club in the VCR. "You do remember that you sleep with a vampire, right?"

"Yes, Will, I remember. I didn't mean Spike, I meant the ones I actually have to turn to dust."

"I know. I just thought I'd point out the bit of irony there."

"That's my life," Buffy said and then grew quiet as the movie started. Eighties Brat Pack movies were some of her favorites, she was glad Willow and Tara had chosen one for the night.

They were midway through Face/Off when Buffy heard movement downstairs. "I'll be right back guys," she said. "I'm going to go get some water."

"Uh huh," Willow said with a knowing smile. "Water. Right. We'll see you when the movie's over. Or you might as well invite him to come up and watch with us."

"Maybe I will, but I don't think he'd come up after what a big deal I made about it being just the three of us earlier. I just need to talk to him for a minute. That's all."

"Make sure it's really him, you mean and that he's not hurt," Willow said, her smile widening.

"Yeah, something like that. You don't need to pause it. I've seen it before anyway."

Willow's brow furrowed and Buffy suspected her best friend knew something was up. Willow knew her better than most and would realize there was something wrong. After she had talked to Spike about it and he eased her mind she would feel more comfortable telling Willow.

She released her hair from the scrunchie as she descended the steps and found Spike heating up a cup of blood. "Hi," she said as she leaned against the doorway.

"Hey yourself," he said, turning to face her a hand on the microwave. "All done with your movie watching or did you come down to see how much I imbibed tonight?"

"Neither. They're still watching Face/Off, we watched Breakfast Club earlier." The look of non-recognition on his face told Buffy neither was one he had seen before. "Anyway, I came down to talk to you for a minute. I met someone tonight."

"Oh, you did, eh," he asked with forced calmness. She noticed his grip on the microwave tighten and realized too late how what she had just said sounded.

"God, do you honestly think I'd just tell you like that if that's what I meant? Give me a little bit of credit, please. Need I remind you Angel broke up with me not the other way around," she said. "I was perfectly willing to go the long haul with him."

"You don't need to remind me of anything regarding your ex, love. So what of it then? Tell ol' Spike who you met that's got you running to tell me about him."

"Dracula," she said simply.

"Dracula? As in Vlad the Impaler?"

"That's what he said. Well, not the Vlad the Impaler part, but I'm inclined to believe him."

"I find it hard to believe he would let you live, Slayer. What makes you believe it was him?"

"Tall, dark, handsome, charming, heavy European accent, eyes that were captivating and never seemed to end."

"You looked him in the eye?"

"I didn't know who he was. With the exception of once with the Master I can look vampires in the eye without a problem. I don't get caught up in the mind control gig. Anyway, he seemed to know who I was and my being dead did not seem to be on his mind."

"Because you were patrolling," he said softly. Buffy saw a look of pain cross over Spike's face. "You dusted some, too, I suppose. So there's no doubt he knows who and what you are. Christ, Buffy."

"What," she demanded. "You make it sound like I should have known he was there. He just appeared. There was some mist and then there he was. He introduced himself, said we'd meet again, and then he left."

"I'm not going to let him meet you again, Slayer. I could fight him, sure, but he's like four hundred years older than me. A little more experience surviving than I have. You can't look into his eyes, Buffy, and you can't bloody invite him into our home."

"Tell me something I don't know."

"No, you don't get it. He's not like me or the others you've met around here. He can shift forms, be mist or an animal or whatever the bloody hell he wants to be. He can charm you, bespell you, and seduce you without lifting a finger. It would be you going to him, wanting him, doing all of the work."

"Well, what am I supposed to do? Stay in the house and not patrol? I know you've been helping me a lot and I appreciate it, but it is my job."

He walked toward her and placed his hands on either shoulder, almost shaking her, his eyes were wild and frightening. "I know what your job is, Slayer. But this is not your run of the mill vampire. This is bloody Dracula."

"Have you met him?"

"Once or twice, but it's not as if he'd remember me. We paid our respects while traveling through his territory. Some vampires don't mind other vampires coming and going through their territory. Dracula is one for formalities, wanted to know who was there and why, pay a bit of tribute to the famous one of our kind."

"So what do I do? I mean, I realize as the Slayer he's someone I should go after, but it's Dracula. He's lived this long, I'd feel almost wrong trying to stake him without reason to."

"Just stay away from him and you won't have reason to stake him, pet."

"But I need to find out why he's here. I mean, of all the places he's come to Sunnydale? Hell Mouth aside, I just don't see it."

"No, you're right," Spike said, and Buffy could not help but think once again he was hiding something.

"What aren't you telling me?"

"Well, if he didn't kill you or try and turn you, my guess is he wants you. I don't know how quickly news travels, but even if he doesn't know about your involvement with me your relationship with Angel was big news in the world of the undead."

"He wants me. Why?"

"Um, hello, you're the Slayer. The blood of a Slayer is invigorating, it's strengthening, and it's potent."

"So he wants to feed off me."

"Buffy, I don't know. I'm not him and I'm not his lackey. You asked me a question and I'm answering it as best as I can. He left you unharmed despite knowing you're the Slayer and seeing you dust some vampires. I'm guessing he's not here to kill you. Turn you maybe and make you his."

"Okay. That's creepy. I mean, you don't feel the need to turn me." She paused and looked at him. "Do you?"

"No, as difficult as it would be to watch you grow old, I would never turn you. I never wanted to turn you, I wanted you dead, not undead. I knew then, and know it even more now; you are the sunlight, Slayer. You belong in that world and I would never take you out of it."

She put her arms around him and rested her head against his chest. She no longer found it odd to have her head there and not hear a heartbeat. It had thrown her for a while with Angel, but she was used to it now. She did wonder what his heartbeat would sound like if he had one. "Thank you."

He stroked her hair and Buffy sighed softly at his soothing touch. "You're welcome, pet. No need to thank me for stating the obvious, though." He kissed the top of her head and she snuggled closer against him. "Watch the force of the hug, Slayer."

"Oh, sorry," she said, stepping away. "So should we go find him and find out what he wants or what? I mean, if he's just passing through great. Not that he'll tell us if he's here to cause mayhem or anything."

"You catch on quick," he said with a low chuckle.

"I'm already yours. That will stop him, right," she said hopefully, though she suspected that was not true.

"I don't think so, love. You are still human, still the Slayer, not to mention I aid in your slaying. No, I don't think your being with me will stop him." He narrowed his eyes slightly. "You consider yourself mine?"

"Well, I'm living with you, we're married. I could have gone out of my way to make sure things didn't work. To get the annulment you promised me." He smiled, wicked and predatory, as he stepped toward her with Buffy backing away instinctively. "What," she said, her voice only a hoarse whisper as she backed against a counter.

"You smell of fear, Slayer. Am I scaring you? You just admitted you're mine and now you're scared of me."

"I, uh, Spike, the look in your eyes. I've seen it in other vampires and in you before. It's usually when they're about to make a kill."

"I can't kill you. Have you forgotten that little tidbit?"

"No, haven't forgotten it."

"Good," he said, moving closer. "No longer as afraid as you were a second ago, that's good. I can hear your heart beating, though," he whispered as his hands cupped her shoulders, bare because of the tank top she wore. Her breath caught for a moment when he lowered his mouth to her neck instead of her mouth. "I can feel your blood flowing, pumping quickly, pet," he said before running his lips and tongue along the pulse point there.

"Spike, blood always flows."

"In you, yes," he said, grazing his teeth along the pulse point on the opposite side of her neck. "It calls to me. Do you know that?"

"My blood," she queried, her eyes drifting closed.

"Yes. I've tasted the blood of two before, but both in death. It would be different with you. I know it. Dracula knows it."

She placed her hands on his chest in a lame attempt at pushing him away. In spite of her ookiness over what he said she liked what he was doing. God, what did that say about her? Her eyes flew open when the teeth at her throat were no longer human teeth and the tips of his fangs ran over the spot the Master and Angel had sunk into and her breath caught. "Spike," she whispered.

"You've got a scar there, love," he said, running his tongue along the pin prick like scars. He drew away, running his tongue along his teeth.

"Yeah, they're the only scars I've gotten since becoming the Slayer."

"I didn't realize you'd been bitten, pet."

"Really? You've kissed every inch of me I'm surprised you never noticed them."

"Different reason for kissing you this time, pet."

"You were going to bite me?"

"Well, yes, but not without permission."

"And I'd give you permission why?"

"You said it yourself, you're mine."

"I'm not your blood bank, Spike."

"But you let Angel," he said, unable to hide his disdain and contempt.

"To save his life, Spike. I didn't let him."

She watched as his face changed back to human form, his eyes returning to blue instead of yellow. He knew by now she did not mind his vampire form, but she preferred his eyes this way. "I didn't realize, I hadn't heard I mean. I saw Angel once a while back, but we didn't talk much. And the others," he asked.

"What do you mean?"

"There is more than one scar there, Buffy."

She shrugged. "It was the Master, before you had graced Sunnydale with your presence. I don't talk about it much, he's ancient history."

"I know I don't like hearing about Angel just like you don't like hearing about Dru. But if you want to talk about it I'll listen."

"I know and it's no big. Maybe sometime when Dracula's not in town and Willow and Tara aren't upstairs waiting for me. They probably think I've forgotten about them."

"I do tend to distract you," he said, offering her a charming smile.

"Yes," she said, feeling the heat of a blush coming to her face. "You do. At least you've seemed to grasp the concept of letting me study."

"It isn't always easy. I've grown accustomed to having you at my disposal whenever the mood strikes. Now you've got classes and homework on top of patrolling."

"Are you complaining? Neither of us works and I'm only in class for three hours on my worst day. So it's not like we have no together time."

"No, I'm not complaining. It's just that sometimes," he said, inclining his head upstairs. He placed his hands on her hips and pressed against her. "I feel like we have children even though we never can. Before they moved in we were lucky if we made it to our bed sometimes. And now."

"Spike, focus here. Dracula is here." She paused then, some doubt creeping to her mind. Was she not making him as happy as she thought she was? "Is our sex life really that awful?"

"I didn't say anything about it being awful, Slayer. Just that here we are in our own house, no children, yet we're confined to our bedroom."

"We're not confined to our bedroom, Spike. Sometimes we are, sure." She sighed exasperated. "You know we talked about this at length before I even brought it up to them."

"I know we did, and I don't mind having them here. But sometimes, like tonight, I've had a bit of beer and you smell like you just stepped out of the bath and I want you here and now. I don't like having to wait until you're ready to come to bed. Not to mention another vampire is here sniffing around. It brings out the beast in me. The one that wants to put him completely out of your mind, take that look of worry off your face and replace it with one of complete oblivion."

"Baby."

"Yeah, well, I don't like having to share."

"If you didn't cut me off you would have heard the rest."

"The rest of what," he said quizzically.

"I was going to say, Baby, why do you think I came down here?" His face scrunched into a part frown, part scowl and Buffy laughed. "I wanted you to know he was here. I guessed he wanted something from me. Giles is a great resource guy. But I've got my own resource guy on this demon. So I came to him first."

"All right, go up and watch the rest of your movies with your girl friends and I'll think on what I know about his Lordship and what he wants from you. Though I hasten to guess he quite simply wants you."

"You might want to come up and watch the last movie with us, research and all."

He looked at her curiously. "Explain that, Slayer. What is it a porno or something?"

"No," she laughed. "Not that type of research." She stroked his cheek and kissed him. "It's Dracula. Willow had no idea when she rented it."

"Oh this ought to be good, a vampire watching Dracula with three humans."

"I think Willow was trying to be cute, given both of my serious boyfriends have been vampires."

"Yeah, all right. Let me shower so I don't smell like a gentleman's smoking room and I'll be up in a bit."

"Take your time. Face/Off won't be over for a little while yet," she said, glancing at the clock.

"Are you going to tell them why I've been invited into the private party?"

"No, they expected you I think. I'm not going to worry anyone unless I have to. Maybe he's just passing through and just wanted me to know he wasn't here to leave a trail of death and destruction behind."

"Uh huh."

"Okay, it's lame, but it is possible."

"Right, Slayer," he said, dropping his mouth to hers for a deep kiss. He drew away and smiled shrewdly able to hear her heart racing in reaction to his kiss. Just once she wished he had a heartbeat so that she could laugh at him. She would give him a kiss he would never forget!

"Go take your shower. If you're good maybe I'll give you a surprise tonight."

"I like your surprises."

"Then be good."

"You're not trying to turn me into a lapdog are you now, Slayer?"

"No, I like my Spike just the way he is, the not housebroken version of the Big Bad."

"I like that." He walked back to the microwave and reheated the blood for a few seconds before taking it out and heading toward their bedroom. "I'll be up in a bit."

***

Spike watched as Buffy finished with her nightly bedtime ritual. A few nights here and there over their six weeks together in the house he had missed watching and always regretted it. She had traded in her black sweatpants and tank top for a black lace negligee number he had bought when he realized her wardrobe lacked for such things. Some might have preferred satin or silk instead of the lace, but Spike loved the contrast of black against her pale skin, the glimpses of her creamy white skin through the lace was arousing as hell.

She had a few more in her collection now, but when she wore this particular one Spike got lucky without question. After suffering through Dracula with Willow and Tara prompting him for questions about the historical basis of the movie he was looking forward to some alone, get lucky time with Buffy.

"I wonder if he watches those movies."

"I doubt that he does, doll. What makes you ask?"

"I don't know. I mean, he looks nothing like that. I'd think he'd get upset or something after a while."

"Well, the movie itself is outdated, love, made before you were even born I noticed on the box. I mean that hair."

She exited the bathroom, shutting the light off as she emerged and walked to the bed. He watched, riveted as she knelt on the bed and then straddled him. Her arms went around his neck and she kissed him. The kiss was deep, so intense that if Spike had to breathe he would be unable to right now.

"I didn't realize watching movies like that got you all hot and bothered, Slayer. Has the whole vampire thing always been a turn on for you?"

"Not always, and not the whole vampire thing. Just this vampire," she said before taking an earlobe into her mouth, swirling it with her tongue before biting on it. "But yeah I guess watching that movie knowing I've got you here is a bit of a turn on. Is that a bad thing? I'd think you'd like it."

"I'd like it better if the movie was about the Big Bad and not Dracula, or at least not when his Lordship is here in town with his eye on you."

She arched her back, pressing her breasts against his chest and moved them across his pectorals. He could feel her peaks harden through the lace against his bare chest and he groaned. Now was not the time to argue with her about Dracula or just what it was about that movie that put her in the mood. Maybe it wasn't the movie at all he tried to tell himself. But it was bad enough having the memory of Angel around, he was not willing to share her with a second vampire.

She released his ear, his hands at her back supported her as she put her head back, bearing her neck. He did not take her up on that invitation though. First he buried his head in the soft swell of her breasts. Another thing he liked about this lace number, he could find one of her peaks and work it into a pebble-like state leaving it to jut out from the confines of the lace.

Her fingers bore into his shoulders as he sucked her breasts. He could go on like this the entire night, tormenting her with only this touch which would bring her close but not quite push her over the edge. He had done it on occasion, toyed with her until she begged him to finish her off. Tonight was not going to be one of those instances. He needed her, needed to couple with her, to be inside of her and stake his claim. As if he had not been doing that over the past few months, but tonight was different. Never before had there been something or someone he had perceived as a threat.

It bothered him and shocked the hell out of him that he felt so possessive. Her exposed neck beckoned him as his demon struggled to be released. He found the scars, two sets of pin prick like holes. One set had been made by a vampire who wanted to kill her and had succeeded albeit briefly. The second set had been made by a vampire who this woman, this Slayer, his wife was willing to give her own life for despite what he had put her through. Spike wanted his own scar, evidence that he had been there, that he had tasted her with permission.

"Do it," she murmured. Spike lifted his head away from her neck certain he had heard wrong. Her hands slid from his shoulders to his upper back, fingers imbedding themselves as she repeated more clearly, "do it."

He did not need to be told again. His fingernails dug into her back as what shred of control he had possessed slipped away. She gasped at the feel of his sharpened nails, but he did not hesitate to imbed his fangs in her offered neck. He could not have leashed the demon in him even had he wanted to hesitate.

Once his fangs had broken through her delicate skin and were there, the beast was quelled a bit. He was aware, vaguely, of her hands leaving his shoulders, of her lifting the negligee she wore out of the way, and taking hold of his shaft through the slit his boxers offered. Not until she impaled herself onto his hardened length did he let the last shred of control he was holding go. He feasted, hungrily, ravaging the life's blood she was pumping into him and for the release she was working diligently to bring him while he fed.

Her hands were at his head now, intertwined with his hair holding him to her, moving his length in and out of her. She was sweet, warm, delicious. People had spoken of Ambrosia, nectar of the gods, Spike was quite certain he had found it here in his Slayer.

She worked her hardened nub against his pubic bone, achieving her release none too quietly. Neither were quiet tonight, attempts at discretion or not worrying the two women living on the second floor were tossed out the window with this primal and intense joining.

He tore away from her neck, her blood coating his lips. He did not bother to lick it away as he brought a hand from around her to his lips. He was not done yet, he would taste as much of her as she was willing to give. There was something he could do in an attempt to throw Dracula off Buffy's path. She seemed at the moment receptive to just about anything. He ran his fangs along his wrist and offered it to her. "Drink, Slayer. Drink," he repeated.

A hand slid from his hair and encircled his wrist, keeping it at her mouth as she placed her mouth over the slice on his wrist. He returned to her neck and plunged into her neck a second time, his need to feed not as urgent this time so he just let his mouth and fangs be there, feel her, taste her without taking more from her. He felt her sucking at his wrist and that coupled with the sounds she was making, sounds of heightened arousal not disgust sent him over the edge. He came inside of her hard and intense, unable to stop himself from feeding off of her almost as violently as his climax.

Her mouth at his wrist stopped, a flick of her tongue accompanied her drawing away from his wrist as he retracted his fangs from her neck. She was still straddling him with him still inside of her, but it was not enough for him just then. He ran his tongue along the pin prick holes on her neck and buried his head in the dip between her collarbones. He was prepared for a tongue lashing of the worst kind. He had not taken that much from her, but he had not just sampled gently either.

"That was amazing," she whispered hoarsely. "I've never felt anything like it."

"I should hope not," he said with a light laugh kissing her collarbone, kissing away the light coating of perspiration there. "I should get you some juice or something sweet to eat."

"Uh why?"

"Well, you just donated a bit of blood, pet."

"Oh," she said, snuggling against him. He fell back on the bed with her still on top of him. "I didn't even notice."

"Not notice?"

"Mm, okay I noticed."

He laughed lightly. "You're too much, Slayer. Your blood is in me now, and I have replenished in part that which I took. You realize that, yes?"

"Yeah," she said cautiously.

"In essence I have tied us to one another, Buffy. I don't know if it will stop Dracula, but it's the closest I could come to marking you if you will."

He felt her stiffen in his arms and remained quiet, letting her take in what he had just told her. "But I'm still me, right? Human? Buffy? The Slayer?"

"Of course. I did not take your life, you were no where near dead, Buffy. You would have told me to stop before you got to that point."

"Yeah, I would have. It felt," she paused and took a deep breath. Spike grew a little pensive waiting for what she was going to say. Had he made a mistake? She had given him permission, but perhaps now that it was done and she had time to think about what she had just let him do she regretted it. "Weird but good. I had to have you in me when you did that. Had to. Like the two went together or something."

He chuckled lightly, a hand smoothing down her hair before it rubbed her shoulder. "I haven't made love to every person I've fed off of."

"I should hope not," she mumbled against his clavicle, a warm puff of air against his skin as she breathed against him. She kissed him lightly. "Sleepy."

"You had such a tough night, too," he said teasingly. He felt her move so she lay beside him. "Watching movies and eating popcorn, giving blood to your boyfriend."

"Yeah, well, I had a lot on my mind. School, this girl's night you had such a problem with, patrolling, Dracula, and this party we're going to have."

"The life of my Slayer," he said, clearly amused.

She snuggled up against him. "Cold," she murmured.

"Snuggling up against me isn't going to help that condition, pet. Should I get another blanket?"

"No, I'll be fine." She snuggled in closer, her hair rubbing lightly against his arm underneath her. "Not my boyfriend," she added.

She was half asleep which caused Spike hesitation in asking what she meant, afraid that her words as incoherent as they might be would be the truth. "Not your boyfriend, pet," he asked despite his reservations.

She lifted her left hand from his chest with a bit of effort and indicated her ring finger. "Husband."

Spike was not accustomed to feeling guilt or remorse, but hearing her say that and seeing her gesture with a finger devoid of the traditional decorative symbol that would indicate she was anyone's wife made him feel like a heel in the worst way. She was not asking or hinting that she wanted one. She would not do that, but that only made him feel worse.

He felt her breathing slow and become shallow indicating she was sleeping and got out of bed. He pulled on a pair of sweat pants and went into the kitchen to get himself a glass of water. Despite what she said she would need nourishment, the last thing he wanted was her waking up weak because of him. He searched for something sweet to replenish her and found some apple juice, Willow or Tara's he guessed because he had never seen Buffy drink it. He poured some into a glass before returning to their bedroom with his water and her juice.

Chapter Text


***Part Eight***

Spike had tried not to be overly obvious he was anxious for Buffy to leave. The bloody housewarming party that she had wanted was slated for the next night and she was off to the store with a list a mile or two long. He was not looking forward to it at all, but at least her mother was coming to help her with things.

Their neighbors were coming, which Spike could do without, as well as some of her college chums. As long as none of them were college boys interested in Buffy he would deal with them just as he would their neighbors, pleasantly with an edge to it that indicated his tolerance and little more. Humans. He was going to be surrounded by them. Isolation and lack of socialization were two things he rather liked about being a vampire. The only time he had taken to going to human parties was if he and Dru were in need of some fun before their meals.

"Tara," he called, grabbing his duster from the closet as soon as Buffy drove her Jeep away. She had argued vehemently with him about buying a car. She still preferred to walk, but at least she was using the blessed thing. He had spent days scanning the classifieds until he stumbled upon the perfect choice for Buffy. It was not a yuppie's Jeep with all the bells and whistles, hers was the type with the canvas top. A bright yellow Wrangler, the color had gotten his attention. He knew instantly that it would look perfect with her at the wheel driving to the beach, top down, her hair flying in the wind while the sun beat down on her flesh, warming it. Spike would never see it happen, but he could picture it clearly nonetheless. And he would get to see at least part of the scenario play out at night.

"Tara," he called again when the girl had not come downstairs yet. He was pacing in the great room and turned abruptly to face her when she finally came downstairs. "What took you so long," he asked crankily.

"I wa-wa-was just brushing my hair, Spike. I'm re-re-ready now, though," she said, pushing a few strands of hair behind her ear.

Spike turned without another word and went to the stairs leading to the basement and garage where his Desoto was. "Bloody hell, she better appreciate this," he said, checking to ensure there was a blanket in the backseat before sliding into the driver's seat. The mall had covered parking, but one never knew when venturing out in the daylight when a blanket would be necessary. He checked his pocket one last time to ensure he had everything he needed.

"She wi-will, Spike, I know she will."

"I swear this party is going to be the death of me. If I hear one more time not to stand in front of any mirrors or to get all of my blood packets to the refrigerator downstairs I'm going to scream."

Tara smiled with a light laugh and Spike scowled. She was laughing at him, the little witch was. Bloody great. He could not even throw a fit without getting laughed at anymore. "So then why are you doing this, if she's driving you so crazy?"

"Because damn it, she deserves it."

"You know, I don't think she cares."

"I know she doesn't, that's why I want to do it for her today. Before the party, before we have wall-to-wall people in here waiting to pass judgment on what a cretin I am. I care, damn it. Not that I know why."

"You love her."

"Well, yeah. Just like the great poof, I guess I'm not all that different from him after all."

"Y-Y-You are. I mean, I ne-never met him, Angel, but from what Willow says you are."

"Not sure if that's good or bad, but thanks," he said with a shrug.

Soon enough they were at the mall. Once upon a time he would have come here looking for food sources or things to take without paying for them. Today, he was here with his wallet full of money he had actually earned somewhat legitimately. Buffy might not consider it legitimate work, but he was not stealing it or beating people up for it, so it was legitimate as far as Spike was concerned. She certainly did not seem to care where the money came from to buy the house, the Jeep, the furniture and pay for all the blessed food for this party she was going all out with.

His trip to the mall took longer than he had anticipated and by the time he and Tara had returned, Buffy was back and did not look too happy to find the house empty. He guessed the unhappiness stemmed from no one being there to help her haul groceries upstairs more than anything. Luckily, Spike and Tara had stopped by McDonald's on the way home.

"Hey love," he said, sporting the brown McDonald's to-go bag while Tara held the drink holder.

"You got fast food," she asked, regarding the bag.

"Sure. Tara said she was in the mood for a cheeseburger, so we went out. No worries I have driven in the day before." He set the bag on the island and offered her one of his most charming smiles with a wink. He was behind her before she had much of a chance to respond, one advantage of vampire stealth. His arms went around her waist and his mouth sought the side of her neck. He breathed in deeply, the scent of her perfume intoxicating. "I got you a Quarter Pounder, no pickles or onions. Just the way my pet likes them."

"Did you get something for yourself?"

"No, I'll have some blood after you've both eaten your chow. I know none of you particularly care for my drinking while you're eating."

"It-It's okay with me, Spike. I-I-I don't mind."

"Thanks," he said, offering Tara a wink. "What about you, Slayer, do you mind?" He kissed Buffy's neck and stepped away from her.

"Not at all. I have to get these groceries put away first anyway."

"What difference does it make if you put them away? You're just going to take them out in the morning when you start cooking for this shindig of yours."

"Ours."

"Yeah, whatever. It's your party. I'm just here as man of the house or something. Not even sure that I qualify as that." He retrieved a few bags of groceries from the floor and placed them on the counter near her.

"I think you qualify," she said and Spike was surprised she was paying attention to him with the countless grocery bags she had yet to put away.

"We'll see about that tomorrow night I guess," he said with a shrug. Anxious to change the subject he tried to think of something else to talk about other than her friends' opinion of him. "The Jeep's running good for you then?"

"Yeah. I'm still getting used to the clutch and shifting, but I didn't crash it if that's what you're asking."

He laughed lightly. "I think I might have noticed that, love. I am just making sure we didn't get a bum deal and I don't need to vamp out on the guy."

"No vamping out is necessary."

***

Willow and Tara were gone and would not be back until the morning. Joyce had agreed to put them up for the night. Spike had taken the night off from being the Big Bad of the monster world and patrolled alongside Buffy for the first time in weeks. He was still doing harm to monsters with Buffy, but he was not getting paid for it.

They were out on the deck, drinking cups of hot cocoa with the little marshmallows that Spike liked so well. Tomorrow night the house would be abuzz, full of people most of whom he not only did not know but had no desire to know. But it was making her happy, and Spike could not resist much of anything if the end result was Buffy's happiness. He could not help but believe that she would stop being happy with him one day. Sooner or later a human would come along or she would decide she did want children after all, or he would just flat out do something that she found unforgivable and this would end.

That and his efforts to locate Dracula were nagging at him. Buffy had not said whether or not the bloody Count had come calling on her again. Spike hoped she would tell him if he had. He had checked every mansion he could think of and his searching had netted him nothing so far.

"It's quiet with the girls gone, isn't it," he said with a slight smile, pushing thoughts of Dracula and the party away. He had grown used to having the two witches around. Tara was always willing to lend him a helping hand like she had that morning, particularly if it was to do something nice for Buffy. Usually it was picking up flowers or something for him so that he would not have to go out during the day. Today was by far the most expensive thing she had aided him in picking out and Tara had been noticeably nervous. That made both of them. Spike was still a little nervous.

"Yeah, they were going to a movie and the Bronze."

"Is that where they were off to," he queried with faux surprise. Willow had cooked up that little lie. Of course Buffy would realize in the morning when Willow and Tara came home with Joyce that it was a rouse.

She did not respond and Spike could tell she was lost in thought. "Nervous about the party tomorrow? Or is it something else, pet?"

"A little," she took a sip of the cocoa, clutching the cup with both hands. "Okay a lot. I mean, what if I go through all this effort to make all this food only to have it turn out terrible, or have someone get food poisoning or something? Cooking Thanksgiving dinner once and other smaller meals doesn't mean I can do this."

"Sweet, no one's going to get food poisoning and I've tasted your cooking a time or two, so I don't think anyone disliking it will be a problem. Besides, you're buying the ham and the roast beef. So, nothing really can go wrong. So you burn something, Willow or Tara, or your mom, can go out and get something to replace it."

"I know. It's just," she shrugged. "It's a big deal. I mean, sure we've been living together and Willow, Tara, Xander, Anya, Mom and Giles know about it, but I mean tomorrow night," she trailed off.

"Tomorrow night, what? You're admitting to the whole world that you share a bed with one of the monsters you go out to kill every night?"

"Something like that. I mean, the neighbors all know me as Buffy Harrison, my friends away from here know me as Buffy Summers, only a handful know me as the Slayer. Jessica was here yesterday afternoon while you were sleeping."

"She was? I didn't know that," Spike said puzzled. He had not noticed the scent of another human in the house at all. Buffy and Jessica had become rather chummy of late and it was not unusual for Jessica to stop by for a bit of R&R from the kids. Perhaps that was why he did not pick up on her scent.

"Yeah."

Suddenly this conversation was not going in a very positive direction. He could tell that was the case when her answers shortened. "Okay, love. And what? She put some sort of voodoo on you that you can't cook, be a hostess or what?"

She shrugged again, taking a sip of cocoa. "It's nothing, Spike. No big. Just chalk it up to pre-party jitters."

He rolled his eyes and inclined his head, letting her know he was annoyed. Fine, whatever. He was not going to pry it out of her, particularly if it was something that would make him think she viewed him as ignorant or a bigger poof than Angel was.

"Well then, I have something I hope will cheer you up. Or make you feel less pouty or whatever your deal is this evening."

"I'm not pouty. If you really want to know, she asked to see our wedding pictures. I mean she sees we have friends, right? Willow and Tara live with us and Xander and Anya, Mom and Giles come over from time to time. So it stands to reason we didn't sneak off in the middle of the night under the influence of a spell and get married when we couldn't even stand one another."

And she managed to take the rose right off the bloom. Damn it all. There was a reason he did not like the idea of her becoming chummy with too many people. Sooner or later this type of thing was going to come up. How could he get through to her that their worlds, whether they were together or not, were different than the world humans existed in? Sure, maybe if she had stuck it out with the Boy Scout she would have had a grand wedding with a gown, pictures and all the grandeur that went with it. She deserved it, he did not believe differently.

He set his cup down and stood, closing the short distance to where she sat. He took her cup and set it next to his on the little table that matched their patio set. He felt like a bloody domestic animal sometimes when he looked at all the things he had accumulated over the past few months in an effort to keep her happy. And he had been succeeding, but now here someone had gone and ruined it with one bloody conversation. About pictures, no less. Nothing in this house mattered to him one bit, except her. He had admitted, indirectly, to Tara that morning that he loved Buffy. He had never said so to Buffy, nor had she ever to him or asked him about his feelings for her.

His hands took hers and he brought her to him, his arms going around her waist. He looked at her, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears and he lowered his lips to her face to kiss them away. "It's all right, love. Really, it's all right. So we have no wedding pictures. Surely we're not the only married couple who has no wedding pictures."

"Maybe from your era that's true. But, hello, this is the nineties. The nineteen nineties. People have photographers at their weddings."

"Buffy, has it occurred to you that there could be a very simple explanation for no pictures at our wedding?"

"No," she said, sniffling lightly. He kissed her face again, enjoying the salty taste of her tears. It was probably best not to tell her he enjoyed tasting her like this so he said nothing.

"Well, how about we just decided not to wait. We just went off and got married, to save your mom the expense of a big wedding and to save yourself the headache of having to plan a wedding, distracting you from your studies and all."

"I suppose," she said, wiping her eyes with her shirt sleeve. She was wearing a flannel shirt, lord only knew where she found it. But he imagined to her it was cool enough outside to require something other than just a T-shirt.

He kissed her on the forehead and reached into his shirt pocket. "I bought you something today. Maybe it will stop those tears from falling. I see them there, I know they want to, but it breaks the Big Bad's heart to see his pet fretting over something we can't go back and do over."

"You don't have a heart," she said poutily.

"Yeah, well, I must have something for you to stick around here with me. And for me to care whether you cry or not." He took her left hand and slid the set of rings he had bought earlier onto her ring finger. "I guess I should have waited to give this to you and heard out whether or not I have something that makes you stick around."

She stood in silence, looking from her hand to his face to her hand to his face repeatedly. "All right, Slayer, say something. Have I grown horns or did I screw up royally or what? It fits you, it has to. I brought one of your rings with me to make sure I got the right size and everything."

"It's," she paused and Spike saw the tears that had been threatening to spill over earlier falling aplenty now. Good grief, he had not meant to make her cry.

"If it's that hideous looking, well it's Tara's fault. She helped me pick it out. That will teach me for listening to a bloody lesbian about wedding rings."

"That is where you two were today?"

He nodded his head and rolled his eyes. "Caught me. Yeah. Like I'd venture out in the daytime for a bloody McDonald's cheeseburger."

"I sort of wondered about that," she said absently.

"Slayer," he said, using his hand to tilt her face up so he could look her in the eye. "Do you like it? I mean, if you don't, if you'd prefer something else we can go back and pick something out. But I agree with Tara, it suits you. I mean, you're the Slayer, you can't have some big huge diamond on your hand catching on things. Or for the baddies to be able to get a hold of and rip your finger off. I like my wife with all ten of her digits, thank you," he whispered, the thought of her losing any appendage offensive to him. He brought her hand to his lips and kissed her fingertips.

"It's beautiful, Spike. Really. I don't know what to say. I mean, I wasn't expecting it. You've done so much already. The house, the Jeep, now this." She cocked her head slightly, extending her hand slightly. Spike chuckled as he saw her regarding the ring in the moonlight. "It's perfect," she said.

"This comes off, by the way," he said as he wiggled the diamond solitaire portion off. He had to admit he liked the diamond himself. It was big enough without being gaudy, and for some reason the round cut appealed to him over the other cuts available. "So," he continued. "For patrolling or whatever, you could take it off and just wear the band here," he said, his thumb tracing along the plain gold wedding band remaining there. "That is if you want to. Up to you entirely, of course. Just letting you know they're not joined together."

"Shut up, Spike," she said before kissing him. The kiss and her momentum pushing herself against him forced him back against the deck's railing. He groaned softly, startled more than hurt by his back's sudden encounter with the wood.

Her kissing was desperate, animal like and her hands were busy ridding him of his button up shirt. None of these things did he mind in the least. He had not been sure what type of reaction to expect to the ring, particularly with her mood tonight. This scenario had never really entered his mind. In truth, his mind had come up with mostly negative scenarios. That ring on her finger meant they were well and truly doing this marriage thing, making a go of it. While a comment she had made while basically asleep inspired him to buy the piece of jewelry he liked the idea of it, a permanent mark unless she took it off. He had not been overly certain she would like it, though.

Her hands pulled his T-shirt from his jeans and he felt her fingers aptly work the belt buckle. His own hands were busy reaching underneath her T-shirt, mindful to leave the flannel shirt she wore in place. No sense in distracting her by getting her cold. His hands found her breasts, cupping, stroking and caressing them the way she liked. He loved it when she got urgent and needy about wanting him, it always led to some of their most exciting trysts.

Her hand was inside of his jeans now, stroking him to further attention. She reached lower, cupping him before sliding up along his length once again and circling his tip. "Christ, Buffy," he murmured, biting her lip as he did. He moaned followed almost immediately by a moan of her own when he licked the blood droplets away.

"Switch with me," she said and pulled on his shirt front with one hand. He got the idea and switched so her back was now against the deck's railing. He broke the kiss, his mouth drifting lower to her jaw, her neck and throat and lower still. Instinctively, her back arched as he lifted the soft cotton T-shirt she wore exposing her breasts to him and the cool night air. Her peaks puckered and Spike smiled wickedly, more then up to the challenge of warming them, bringing them to a hardened state of arousal.

Her hand was still busy working him to a heightened state of arousal while her other hand worked the fastening on her jeans. "Now, sweet, here," he queried. They had not had sex outside since that night at her house months ago. For some reason here at their own home they had just never gotten around to it.

"Yes," she gasped moving a hand to his head, clutching him back to her breast. Her Slayer agility came in handy as she worked her legs around his waist and without much more effort his length inside of her. His hands went to her bottom to support her.

Her hands wandered blindly, wildly along his chest. She was not using her nails, but if she had been he probably would have been shred to pieces just then. He loved when she got like this, wild and out of control with want and need for him. No Angel or bloody Boy Scout could make her lose control this way. Thoughts of Angel brought out the possessiveness in him and he grew noticeably rougher, more animal like himself.

All this because of a bloody ring he couldn't help but wonder to himself. It had to be more than that, something Spike just did not understand. Whatever it was, it never failed to bring the demon in him close to the surface. Always when their couplings were like this he had to fight to squelch it, keep it at bay. Tonight though he did not want to. He wanted this joining to be complete, body, mind, soul, and blood.

As if reading his mind or just knowing when his game face appeared, Buffy dropped her head back even further bearing her neck to him. "Drink Spike," she whispered. He led them so they were lying on the deck and did as she asked, but not at her neck. Instead, he did something he had never done in all of his years, something he had only seen amongst animals, he bit her shoulder. In packs, it was a sign of dominance, a way for the alpha male to stake his claim on the female of his choosing. She cried out as his fangs sunk into her flesh there, his arousal fed by the show of dominance and her seeming acceptance of it.

Her left hand moved and he thought she was going to push him away, get pissed off at him and throw him across the deck. She would have every right to, even still caught in the moment he was aware of this. As much as he would love to be, he was not dominant to her. It was probably one of the reasons things did work between them, neither of them was weak. Instead of pushing him away her hand found his right hand and she joined their hands. The feeling of those pieces of metal on her finger, metal he had placed there in another, symbolic, effort to claim her, helped push the demon down.

His mouth remained at her shoulder when his face returned to human form, licking the droplets of blood as he thrust into her. They clutched one another's hand, her breathing grew shallow and her back arched toward him as both fell over the edge together.

Once she had caught her breath and he had attempted unsuccessfully to come to some understanding about what he had just done he moved to kiss her. He expected full well for her to reject him, but she kissed him affectionately, welcoming him with parted lips and a seeking tongue.

"Did I hurt you, pet," he asked, forgetting for the moment she was the Slayer and it was sort of a silly question to ask her.

"Mm, only in a good way," she murmured against his mouth kissing him again.

He pulled back, lifting his chest off of hers and looked into her eyes. "So was that my reward for my little gift? If so, I need to file that away for future reference. Buy Buffy more jewelry."

"Sort of. It was just so sudden, a surprise. I never expected one." She frowned then and Spike could almost see her mind working.

"What is it that's got you fretting, pet?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all. It's beautiful. And tomorrow's going to be great. You're right, we don't need wedding pictures or anything else. It doesn't matter."

"I hope you believe that. Pictures are just that, pictures. What really matters are the pictures, the memories, we're storing in your heart, Buffy."

"I guess. It's just," she shrugged and shifted underneath him. He moved beside her, realizing he was getting heavy. "As a girl you dream about your wedding you know? I mean, there are a lot of things I've dreamt about that because I'm the Slayer won't happen. I realize that, but it's just still sort of a bummer."

"Oh, pet, don't let those women get you down. No offense, but women can be pretty catty about things like that. What was your dress like? How much did it cost? Where did you have the reception? Who was your photographer? Who did the cake? Christ, you'd think it was the second coming instead of a wedding. Most of them end up in divorce anyway, so what's the point?"

"And you wouldn't grant me one, so what does that say about us?"

"That we're stuck with one another?"

"Until I die you mean," she said somberly.

"All right, Slayer, let's not put a damper on this night with talk about that. Please. You've got a big day ahead of you tomorrow, surely there are more positive things you can think about. Picture me wearing those goofy clothes you insisted I wear or something."

"All right. I don't want to get all depressing Buffy on you anyway."

"Good, love. I'd like the after effects to remain with us for a while after that go around."

"It was pretty intense, wasn't it?"

"They're all intense with you, Buffy. I can count on one hand how many times have not been intense. That's just the way it is between us, heat and intensity, sweat and noise."

"How romantic."

"Yeah, that's me."

"I can see why your poetry didn't go over too well."

"Hey, play fair now."

"I see the North Star," she said, pointing up into the sky. Sure enough there it was, the Big Dipper with the North Star as bright as could be.

He brought her left hand to his lips and kissed it. "I am glad you like the rings."

"Oh, I would have been more than happy with just the band, Spike. I don't need a diamond."

"I know you don't and I know you would have been fine with the band, that's why I got both. I realize I've gypped you out of some of the stuff you dreamt of. I just wanted you to have your party tomorrow and feel like you weren't putting on an act for anyone. Or have some insensitive chit ask about your bare finger. Women get off on that stuff for some reason. Who's got the biggest diamond. You'd think you all have a complex about size issues or something."

"No complex about size issues coming from the Slayer," she said with a laugh and Spike could not help but smile. "Can we go inside now? I'm getting cold."

"You're always getting cold," he teased.

"You should talk, Mr. Undead. No fair that you are a one temperature Spike."

"Tell me about it," he said as he stood, pulling up his jeans and fixing his shirt before offering her a hand up.

"How about joining me for a bath before we go to bed?"

"Sounds great, love. Work any sore spots right out of you."

"That's assuming I'm sore." He kissed her shoulder where he had bitten her earlier. "That's a different type of sore and one I don't mind living with." She turned her head slightly to look at him. "It was different though."

"Yeah," he said solemnly, expecting a scolding.

"Intense."

"Yeah," he said in agreement, waiting for the tongue lashing. Instead she merely took his hand, laced her fingers through his and walked inside with him.

"I can't say I understand it. I'm not open to it all the time. Sometimes I like it. Need it. It's like your demon calls to whatever is inside of me," she said frowning. "Does that make sense? I mean, I can feel it. Like a force. Both times I've let you I could tell you were close to being over the edge."

"It's the Slayer part of you, love, that's all. You've got your own force inside of you, and it responds to my demon. That's good, at least we know we won't kill one another because of it."

"Well, I don't know about that. One bite in the wrong place or the wrong way and Buffy will be gone."

"Never happen, pet. You don't think after one hundred twenty years I don't know the difference between killing my prey and loving my partner?"

"Yeah, I know. I was just saying."

"Yeah, I know, love. Just wanted to assure you that you are safe."

"I never questioned that, Spike."

"Good, pet, let's get inside to that bath. Did I mention our tenants won't be coming home tonight? Shacking up for the night in your old bedroom, guests of your mom."

"No, you left out that little detail, scheming husband."

He snickered snidely. "Just wanted some time alone with you before you're a crazy woman tomorrow."

"Are you going to stay up all night tonight so you sleep during the day tomorrow?"

"Been thinking about it, yeah. Can go on that computer of yours and do some reading or something. There's a Passions mailing list I'm on that is always full of gossip about the show."

"Oh God. I had no idea that's what you used the computer for."

"Not entirely, no. But sometimes, you know, I can't always be seeking knowledge and what not. A boy has to have some fun, too. All work and no play, you know what that makes."

"Yes, I saw that movie too."

He kissed her on the temple before moving to start the filling of the tub. "Tore your shirt, pet. Sorry," he said seeing that the shoulder of her T-shirt was ripped to shreds.

"It's all right, it was old anyway."

"You sure? I don't need to run out and get you a new one."

"No, I don't want you running out anywhere. You are housebound Spike until after the party ends."

He wagged a finger in front of her. "Got to make the liquor run, Slayer. Lest you forget you're not old enough."

"I feel ancient, and yes I forgot about that part. But that still lets me have you until the morning, right?"

"Yes, until you decide to leave my side to be Betty Crocker or Julia Childs or whoever you liken yourself after."

"Just Buffy."

"Good, I love just Buffy."

"Me, too," she said softly as she shed her clothes to get into the tub.

Chapter Text


***Part Nine***

One of the drawbacks to being a vampire was the no reflection thing. Spike did not mind the pants Buffy had bought for him to wear to this bloody shindig of hers, black trousers were good. He could still be the Big Bad and wear black dress pants. The shoes were debatable but she had insisted he could not wear his boots.

This shirt she bought was cutting it close to where he would draw the line. At least he did not have to wear a tie and she had bought the shirt in a dark red rather than white. But the band collar, whatever that was, just seemed silly to him. What was the point of wearing a dress shirt if there was no collar to fold down and button or do something with? All he knew was that he could not see himself to know whether or not he looked like a poof.

He let the shirt hang open for the time being as he slipped on the black dress socks she had bought him with gold stripes on the toe. What the bloody hell did men need gold stripes on their socks for? He tried not to complain much, he knew this party meant a lot to her. Unfortunately, he felt like he was on display and it bothered the hell out of him. She wanted bloody William on display not Spike. The socks were followed by the shoes.

He stood then and walked to his dresser, buttoning the shirt as he went. He rolled up his shirt sleeves, he would at least have that bit of comfort. He slipped on his ring, the ring he had given Buffy months ago in place of an engagement ring when Red cast her spell that had gotten them to this point. He opened his dresser drawer and pulled out the other ring he had bought the day before, a wedding band for him and slipped it on his finger. It was a plain gold band much like hers was only wider.

He had stayed out of Buffy and Joyce's way the entire day, holed up in their suite for as long as possible. Buffy had brought him a cup of blood so that he would not be too horribly pale when the guests arrived. He saw her in passing when he left to go to the liquor store for the alcohol for the party. Other than that, he had seen very little of the women of the house. It smelled good and she had not run into the room crying about things coming out burnt or tasting bad so he trusted all in all things were on schedule.

"Slayer," he called out as he opened the door from their suite. "I can't bloody tell if this shirt looks right or not," he said, stopping short when he saw Jessica standing in the great room. His eyes met hers and he thought he saw question there but it was gone quickly. He gave her his most charming smile. "I didn't realize you were here already, Jessica," he said, glancing at the mantel clock behind her. She was here almost thirty minutes early. "Where's Brian," he asked, walking through the great room toward the kitchen only to see it empty. He heard someone in the sun room, but he could not go out there yet.

"He'll be here as soon as the sitter comes. I came to help Buffy not realizing her mom was already here to help."

"Oh right, yeah she has things pretty well under control last I checked. I see you've got a glass of wine. Any idea where Buffy is," he asked, not liking the idea at all of having to entertain one guest let alone any others that would come early. At least he knew Jessica, there would be others he would not know. Buffy had taken the past month or so to get to know more than just Jessica in the neighborhood. He knew that she was worried about not fitting in, so he said nothing about how hard she was working at the whole thing.

"She'll be down in a minute, she's just getting ready," Willow said as she and Tara came downstairs.

"Thanks Red," he said. "She's getting ready upstairs?"

Willow smiled coyly. "She didn't want you getting in her way I guess. You know how we girls are when we're getting ready, nerves and all."

"Right, sure," he said. He could use a beer about now, but the keg was out in the sun room. "I guess that means I can't go up there and ask her if I look like an idiot in this shirt. So you can tell me instead," he said as he smoothed his left hand down along his shirtfront. He caught a glimpse of gold on his left hand and paused to glance at the ring for a moment.

"I think you look great," Willow offered.

"Y-Y-You look fine, Spike," Tara said, offering him a smile which he returned.

"Thanks, pet, I've just never worn a shirt like this," he shrugged and adjusted one of his shirt sleeves so they were both even. "I wanted to be sure it looked the way she thought it would on me." And since he could not see himself in a mirror he had no idea. "Don't you ladies all look good as well? I'm not sure how I got so lucky to have three of the prettiest college co-ed's in Sunnydale living under my roof," he winked.

"Just your luck," Willow said with a light laugh.

"Indeed," he quipped. "So, Jessica," he said, realizing he was excluding the woman from the conversation. "Do you have someone in the neighborhood that baby sits?"

"Yes, Alyssa lives about a block down. She's the one we use most, but I have names of others if you and Buffy ever need one."

Willow coughed lightly and Spike glared at her. "I don't think we will need one for a while, we haven't really talked about that yet. Buffy has school to finish and all. But thanks."

"What about me and school," Buffy said as she entered the room.

Spike's relief at hearing her voice was quickly pushed aside when he saw her and was replaced with awe. She looked amazing, if he had breath he would be holding it now. She was dressed in a form fitting, black lace dress that fell mid-thigh, a generous assessment of the dress hem's length. He loved it, but hated it at the same time. Every bloody man in the house was going to see her in that dress. The top was somewhat conservative, in that at least the tank like sleeves covered most of her shoulders. He smiled a little wickedly at that thought. If he had bit her last night on the neck instead of the shoulder or just a little to the right instead of where he had she would not have been able to wear the dress.

He groaned softly when he noticed her stockings were the kind with seams along the back of the leg. And her shoes, he had never seen her wear heels so high. He finished looking at her legs and feet, his eyes scanning up the length of her again to her face and hair. Her makeup was perfect, her hair was worn up, a few loose tendrils framing her face. A collar was around her neck the same material as her dress. Never without her cross it was around her neck, her only jewelry besides the rings he had given her the night before. He glanced to the three other women in the room and realized they were all looking at him. Great, on the spot. What the hell was he supposed to say? She looked amazing, but even that simple of an assessment was wrong.

"Well, Goldilocks," he said, finally finding his voice. "You put me to shame. I guess I don't need to worry about whether I look like a bleeding idiot in this shirt, because I'll look like one next to you anyway."

"You act like you've never seen me wear a dress before."

"Not like that I haven't," he said, clearing his throat lightly. "Were you two responsible for this," he said looking at Willow and Tara.

"Guilty," Willow said, holding up her hand.

"I should be thanking you I think if I can hold my jealous streak in check throughout the night that is."

"You look wonderful, Buffy," Jessica said from where she stood by the mantel.

"Thanks, Jessica. Sorry I made you wait, but I had a hard time getting the seams straight," she said, flexing a leg.

"Bloody hell," Spike whispered softly. Buffy might have been able to hear his utterance, but none of the others in the room would have.

"It's all right. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"No, my mom is finishing up the last of it. Otherwise, you have a glass of wine, the best you can do is just relax." She walked to where Spike stood near the kitchen and kissed him. "You don't like my surprise?"

"Slayer," he whispered. "You know I like it. You look beautiful. And you smell great, too," he said, running his finger along her jaw. "Go talk to your friend. I'll go help your mom or something useful."

"You're not going to stay in the kitchen and drink beer all night, are you?"

"No," he said, though the thought had crossed his mind. "I might stand right here and drink beer all night," he quipped. "Just kidding, pet. I won't do anything to piss you off."

"Thanks," she said as the doorbell rang.

"And the fun begins," he said under his breath. He placed his hand at the small of her back as he walked with her to the door. "Is anyone coming that I know and actually like?"

"Xander, Giles, Anya?"

"They'll do I suppose. Can we sit upstairs and watch the tele?"

"No, you cannot. Talk to my mother."

"All right," he mumbled as she opened the door.

***

Xander had never been fond of Spike and the feeling was mutual, but Spike was grateful he and Anya were there this night. Spike remembered enough from his human days of what would be expected of him as host of a party, but that did not mean he had to stand there and talk beyond introductions and the immediate conversations resulting from introductions.

Spike had just finished talking to a guy in Buffy's Psychology class who seemed like a nice enough bloke. And overall their neighbors were decent people. They minded their own business for the most part while looking out for the neighborhood. It was a good balance, one Spike did not find too intrusive.

He had just refilled his beer and stopped in the kitchen to grab one of the stuffed mushrooms Buffy had made. As it turned out, Buffy was a damned good cook, everything had turned out good. Spike had not eaten too much, given he did not need to eat, but he sampled things and eavesdropped with his keen hearing abilities to comments about the food.

"So, you're Spike," he heard and turned to face the voice.

"Guilty as charged," he said, regarding the guy in front of him. The empty plastic cup he held indicated he was probably on his way to the sunroom and the keg. "And you are?"

"I'm Tom. I'm in Buffy's Accounting class. We're trying to hold our heads above water together. She actually does better than she thinks."

"Yeah, I've tried to get that through to her myself." He was beginning to wonder if Buffy had any female friends in her classes. Willow and Tara were college chums, but they did not count. And why were all of these college men here at the party the clean cut, all-American mama's boy types?

"So where did you get a name like Spike?"

"Oh," Spike shrugged and took a sip of his beer. "It's just a nickname I picked up along the way and it's stuck. I don't much care for William, no one calls me that."

"I have to admit I thought Buffy was talking about a pet when she talked about you at first. It's a good thing I figured it out before I made an ass of myself."

Spike laughed, though inwardly he was looking for a way out of this conversation. "So what's your major then, Tom," he said, letting his name hang for a moment.

"Business. Finance."

"Sounds good." He caught sight of Buffy in the great room talking to Xander, Anya and a couple of guys he had met earlier but could not remember their names. He would forget this bloke's name more than likely. He did not see the point in remembering the names when he would never see these people again.

"She sure does like to talk, doesn't she?"

"She's a college girl, of course she does," Spike said automatically. "If you'll excuse me, mate, but I haven't had more than two words with her all evening and now that the throng around her has thinned I'm going to join in."

"You bet, man, great party, by the way."

"Right, thanks," Spike said under his breath as he left the kitchen and walked towards Buffy and at least two other familiar faces.

"There you are."

"Me?"

"I was looking for you."

Spike regarded her for a minute. "Well, I haven't gone from the house all night if that's what you're suggesting. I've been bloody here the whole time."

"No, Spike," she said, putting her hand through his arm. "I just wanted you to meet Owen and Scott. We went to high school together."

"Great," he said. That explained why Xander was in among the conversation. Xander felt almost as uncomfortable as Spike did at this party full of college students. "Nice to meet you."

"They didn't believe I was married, so I wanted them to meet you."

"I get that a lot," he said a little dryly.

She frowned at him and Spike thought he was about to be on the receiving end of a Slayer tongue lashing, but she froze instead her hand at his arm tightening its grip. "Pet," he whispered in an attempt to get her to loosen her grip just a bit. Her point was made if she thought he was being rude. Then his eyes followed hers and he realized when he saw him that it was not Spike that was the problem.

"What the hell is he doing here," she whispered. "How did he get in?"

"I don't know, love," he whispered. "Let's go find out, shall we?" He cast a glance at Xander and Anya as well as the other two blokes. "Excuse us," he said, managing to remove Buffy's hand from its vice-like grip on his arm. He placed his hand at the small of her back, felt her tremble slightly and he grew more than a little concerned. Not much frightened Buffy, very little frightened Buffy to the point of a physical reaction.

Spike liked his presence here even less than Buffy did. He would have the head of Willow or Tara, one of them had to have let him in. It had to be someone who lived here to actually grant him entry. Spike saw him for what he truly was, saw how he was truly dressed, he had no idea what form of magick or mind control he might be using on others. He was dressed classically, a Victorian style dark gray suit, with an ivory waistcoat and gray cravat. His shirt was crisp white and if Spike knew anything about the man standing in his great room he knew the shirt cuffs were fastened with cufflinks not buttons. His hair was longer than Spike remembered it being, but it was still raven black, his face was chiseled yet perfect. No mind control would be necessary to make people see him as attractive. Spike felt slovenly when compared to him.

"Miss Summers, a wonderful party," he said, his voice thickly accented.

"You weren't on the guest list. How did you get in here?"

"A young girl, a friend of yours I presume, let me in." He smiled, more like a leer Spike thought. "Very kind of her to do so."

"I'm glad you think so. I don't. What are you doing here?"

"I came to see your home, of course. I heard tell that one of my kind had taken the Slayer as a lifemate and I had to see with my own eyes that one of my kind was truly living with and as a human."

"You live in houses, go out amongst them as well," Spike said defensively.

"I merely came out of curiosity, I mean you no harm. Had I wanted to harm you, it would be done already. You really ought to tell your friends to be more careful about whom they let into your home, though. Next time, it might not be one who comes in peace."

"William," Dracula said softly. "You let her talk this way to a guest in your home?"

"It's her house, too, her party, she wrote up the guest list, not me. And trust me when I tell you, I don't believe you would have been on it even had I been the one to draw it up. We don't travel in the same circles, Count. Never have. You know it, I know it. So that leads me to side with the Slayer here, that you want something."

"Nonsense. My curiosity got the better of me, it's as simple as that. I was planning a trip to the New World anyway. Sunnydale seemed like an interesting place to stop, having its own Hell Mouth and all. That coupled with a Slayer married to a vampire, her second vampire lover no less. What demon could resist paying homage to such a thing?"

"Obviously not you. And hello? New World? We've been a country for like four hundred years; I don't think we qualify as new any longer."

He smiled and Spike wished the vampire would bloody well stop that. Spike knew first hand from both Dru and Darla how charming that smile could be. "For what reason are you rude to me, Miss Summers? I have not harmed you, I have been kind to you, I have not embarrassed you in the least."

She glanced past him, looking around the room wondering why no one else was noticing Dracula standing there right out of an antique photograph. "Because I did not invite you here, I did not invite you into my home, and it's rude in our society to crash a party."

"Crash?"

"Yeah, Vlad, you know, come without the invite on that ivory parchment you're so fond of. Uninvited guest."

"Ah, I see. None of your guests interest me in the least, Miss Summers, so you have nothing to fear from me. I have already fed this evening, and fed very well I might add. I don't suppose you remember what that is like, William. A fresh feed, warm and intoxicating."

"Actually," she started to say, but Spike stopped her from saying more with an increase of pressure at her back.

"Actually, you're right I don't remember what it's like. I won't say I'm happy about it, but it's the hand I've been dealt. No one's died from my current diet. Angelus has survived on it for a hundred years."

"Yes, but his is by choice. Angelus could feed, he chooses not to. Yours was forced upon you by others tampering with the laws of nature," he said evenly.

Spike honestly had not given much thought to getting the chip taken out lately. He was actually, well, happy where he was at the moment. Now here comes the Count himself implying perhaps he could reverse Spike's plight. Was that why he was here? Here Spike had been worried Dracula was there for Buffy, and perhaps he was.

If he was counting on Spike wanting to get the chip removed and reverting to his old sadistic, Spike earning nickname ways Buffy obviously would not stay with him. That would free her up for Dracula to swoop in and mend her broken heart. What Dracula did not realize was that the Slayer was not exclusive to vampires. There was Riley and he had seen her over the years on dates with other humans, too. Chances were if Spike turned back into the Big Bad, Buffy would be done with the vampire race. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me was how he believed the saying went.

"I'm sorry, and maybe I'm being rude, but you've come, seen us and our home, has your curiosity been satisfied yet? I'd like to get back to my invited guests."

Dracula took her hand and kissed it in the old worldly way long since gone, above her wrist, his lips stopping just before actually touching the skin. "Of course, Miss Summers, you will forgive my morbid curiosity getting the better of me causing me obviously what you perceive to be rude."

"It's Misses," she corrected. "Summers is fine, but," she continued and Spike thought he saw a flexing of her ring finger as emphasis and he smiled to himself at that, "at least get the Misses part right."

"A simple faux pas," he said smoothly. "Pardonnez moi."

"It's all right." She glanced at Spike and he tried to figure out what she was thinking. She was not happy, he knew that much. "So you're going to go now, right? I don't have to worry about working wearing this dress or one of my guests ending up dead from blood loss on my front lawn in the morning."

He glanced at Spike. "She does speak her mind, doesn't she?"

Spike smiled widely with a casual shrug. "I suppose she does, yeah. I find it endearing where I imagine you'd be rather intolerant of it."

He actually seemed to ponder this, which really was not Spike's intent. He did not want him dwelling on Buffy anymore than necessary. "It could be overlooked, I imagine."

Spike laughed heartily. "You don't know this Slayer if you think that's an aspect of her personality that could be overlooked. Just ask her Watcher over there," he said, gesturing across the room to Giles. "He could tell you stories I'm sure, more than you'd care to hear about her disobedience."

"My what? What am I a puppy dog?"

"No, pet, you're no such thing," Spike said evenly, mindful after he had said it of the endearment he had used. It was just so automatic to call her pet that he never thought on it. Dracula obviously noticed too by the smirk on the elder vampire's face. "Was just making a point is all."

She frowned and whether intentional or not ran her hand over her shoulder. The sleeve moved aside slightly, enough to expose the bite marks from the night before. As if seeking them, her fingers ran over the two holes and then her hand dropped back to her side. "Whatever. You two stand here and talk if you want. I'm going back to Owen and Scott. I haven't seen them since graduation." She spun around on a heel and then stopped. She placed her hand on Spike's forearm and kissed him. "I want him gone. I don't want any problems at this party. Just once I'd like something to go off without a hitch," she whispered before drawing away.

"She's trouble for you that one is, William. Look at her, blonde and tan, bright and cheery, so very obviously of the light you and I do not hail from. Look at the smile she gives to other men. Men who are not her husband."

"Yeah, what of it? We're not living in the fourteen hundreds anymore. You do realize that? I trust her. No reason not to."

"She's been with him."

"Who Angelus? I know that."

"No, recently."

"She has not, you bloody troublemaker."

"Not since you were married, no. But recently, nonetheless."

"I don't believe you. He didn't lose his soul again. Can't be possible."

"There were extenuating circumstances, William. He was mortal, a human, with a beating heart, all things you cannot possibly give her."

"She would have told me if he was human."

"You are right, she would have. He gave it up for her, and with it took away her memories of their time together."

"Then how do you know about it?" Dracula glanced at him condescendingly. "All right, I don't bloody need to know. But even still, it was before we were married and she doesn't remember it, what they hell are you telling me for?"

"Oh, I don't know, most men would want to know that shortly before they wed a woman she had willingly, completely and lovingly lain with another man."

"Makes me no difference," Spike said simply.

"No? I find that hard to believe, William the Bloody. I know what you were like in your previous life, I know of your quest for love and your attempt at finding it in silly poems. I know the object of your affections laughed at you. And I have seen the way you have looked at this girl. I have seen the way you seek to protect her despite her not needing your protection. I can feel the love you have for her, it's a poison to your system and makes you forget who and what you are. Makes you forget about your quest to get that device removed from your body. Makes you turn against your own kind, kill your brethren. I have seen what you do when you are away from her at night. Something I imagine she would find of interest, yes?"

"I'm not doing anything wrong, so piss off if you think you're going to get to her that way."

He laughed, a fully hearty laugh. "What makes you think I want anything to do with her?"

"And you don't? Your coming to Sunnydale was just a coincidence, right? It just so happens that you graced a town with your presence where the Slayer lives and breathes, one who happens to have a reputation for being up for a shag from our kind."

"Is that what it is to you? I underestimated you then, William. Here I thought it was love that drove you. If it is merely her bed and her body, I cannot blame you for such things. She would be worth the sacrifice for a short while I imagine. You will break her heart when you leave, though. You do realize that, don't you?"

"Don't have any plans on leaving just yet."

"No, but you will, William. One day, you will. I don't claim to know the where, why or how, but you cannot run forever from what you are. You cannot bury your head in the sand and claim that you are not the blood sucking fiend you are. You and your grandsire were among the most ruthless I had seen in quite sometime. I would have been proud to have been able to lay claim to either of you. Instead, that insolent Master is whose bloodline you stem from."

"I'm aware of my heritage, Count."

"Well then," he said simply and moved in a graceful movement to adjust his cravat. "I believe I have taken up too much of your time and I do have a prior engagement to get to. You will say good bye to your charming wife for me, won't you, William? I look forward to talking with her again sometime. It might be a very enlightening conversation."

"Right," Spike said calmly, careful not to reveal any hint of emotion to the senior vampire. "Good night then. You'd do well not to break your word to the Slayer. Any of her party guests come up dead or undead she'll be after you. She has not wanted to come after you, you being an unliving legend and all, but don't think for a minute she would hesitate if you gave her reason to come after you."

"I appreciate the warning, William. I beseech thee to have a pleasant evening then. Oh," he said with his smile widening. "You might want to be careful when you make love outdoors, you never know who might be watching. It's a good thing she's a Slayer, isn't it, William? In truth, I had to see for myself this evening that she was able to walk. Just how long do you think it will be before the demon gets loose and stays loose?"

"It can't. It won't. I can control it."

"Oh yes, I saw last night how well you are able to control it. Fare thee well, William," he beckoned one last time before departing as suddenly as he came.

Chapter Text


***Part Ten***

Buffy woke the day after the party, reaching for Spike only to find his side of the bed empty. She frowned as she glanced at the alarm clock and saw that it was after ten. "Good thing it's Saturday and you don't have class, Buffy," she mumbled to herself as she stood. She put on her robe and went to find Spike.

"Hey Buffy," Willow said.

"Hey Will. Are you cleaning?"

"Yeah, this is the last room to be done."

"You didn't have to do this."

"I know, but Tara and I woke up early for some reason," she shrugged.

"Well, thanks. I didn't mean to stick you guys with cleanup duty, though."

"Spike helped, too. We agreed you and your mom worked hard putting everything together that the three of us could see to the other end of things. It's no big, Buffy, really. I'm glad you slept."

"Where is Spike?"

"I think he's downstairs."

"Downstairs?"

"Yeah, he went down there a while ago, haven't seen him since. So unless he took the car and drove somewhere, he's still downstairs."

"Okay, thanks," she said, walking to the kitchen. She stood there for a moment in awe at how clean and organized it was. She opened the refrigerator and all the leftovers were put away more organized than the way she had put them away the night before.

"There are some in the refrigerator downstairs, too," Willow called out from the doorway.

Buffy turned to look at her. "Thanks. Thanks so much."

Willow smiled. "You're welcome. Hey, that's what friends are for, right? Tara and I both felt like we were in the way, other than the bit we did to help with your hair and stuff. I know Spike felt the same way."

"Yeah, I guess he must have. Hey, Will," she said cautiously. "I hate to ask you for another favor, but I need you to do that spell again you did before to revoke an invitation."

"No worries, Spike already had me do it. I don't know which of us let him in, Buffy, but we're sorry. You should have told us."

"I didn't know he was going to show up at the house on the night of the party, Willow. Any other time, I know you would be cautious about who you guys invite in. I guess I should have expected it. What better time for him to get an invitation?"

"Okay, good. I was afraid you'd be mad. Spike was at first, but I think he understood just what you said. There were so many people coming and going, it was hard to keep up."

"It's no problem, Will. I was a little mad last night, but I'm glad Spike took care of it this morning. I don't want him being able to come and go."

"So you really met Dracula? I mean, what's he like? I don't even remember anyone who would look like him."

"I guess he must have done something to make him look different to you, to everyone but me and Spike, because you would have noticed him. He was dressed just as if he stepped out of a picture from a hundred or more years ago, complete with one of those big, floppy ties."

"Ah," Willow said with a smile.

"Stop laughing at me."

She put her fingers up to her lips as if she was zipping them shut. "No laughing here."

"Yeah, right. I'm going to go down and see if Spike's all right," she said admittedly a little concerned. It was not like him to sit down there.

She went downstairs and looked in the garage. Both cars were here, so he had not gone anywhere. Not that he would have taken her Jeep during the day. "Unless he decided to dust himself," she said softly not sure where that thought had come from.

"Spike," she called when she opened the basement door. She heard something in response, but it did not sound like words more like babbling. "Spike," she called again.

She stopped short when she saw him. He sat on the floor in the middle of the room looking at her, the nozzle to the keg in his hand. Well, he was looking in her direction; she did not think he actually saw her.

"Spike?"

"Yeah."

"What are you doing?"

"Tying one on. What does it look like I'm doing?"

"It's ten o'clock in the morning."

"Creature of the night, Slayer, it's past my bedtime in actuality."

"All right then let's get you to bed."

"Are you handling me, Slayer," he asked, his scarred eyebrow rising to emphasize the question.

"No," she replied cautiously.

"Good, because I'm perfectly content sitting here right now. This is where I belong, isn't it? Here, alone, in the dark?"

"What the hell has gotten into you?"

"Realism has gotten into me, Slayer. I don't belong here, in this house, with you. You deserve one of those college boys who are wagging their tongues after you. One who can take you on picnics, take you to the beach in that Jeep of yours when you can actually get a tan. You deserve little babies and worrying about who in the neighborhood is going to baby sit your kids."

"I don't want babies. I never said I wanted babies. When have I ever given you any indication I want babies?"

"You haven't. But you're so young yet, Slayer. I was stupid to think I could make this work, make you love me, convince anyone I'm human."

"But you're," she sighed softly. "Spike, I'm here, aren't I? Did I do something last night to make you think I wanted to be with one of those guys?"

"No," he said sounding dejected, his eyes downcast.

"What is wrong with you? If I did something wrong, just tell me."

"I did something wrong, Slayer, not you."

"What are you talking about?"

"I should have just granted you the bloody annulment and been done with it."

"You want out of this? Why? Did Drusilla come back?"

"You think I'd pick her over you? Not likely. Once upon a time, years ago, sure. Well, maybe. I don't know anymore if I would have chosen her." He peered at her, his eyes still downcast. "That's not the answer you were looking for, I imagine. I suppose I should have said I would have chosen you no matter what."

"No, you would be lying if you said that. You can't spend a hundred or so years with someone and not have some attachment to her."

"What do you know about it?"

"I don't. It was just a guess."

"Right. I suppose you were thinking of Angelus when you said that."

"Angel? What does he have to do with this?"

"Interesting question, that," Spike said.

"I haven't seen Angel since he came here to apologize, months ago. You know what I think?"

"This ought to be good."

"I think you want to be mad at me. I think that you want me to be mad at you. I think that something happened to make you think that we don't deserve this. Angel has nothing to do with it. He's just an excuse for you."

"Right. And you don't love him anymore, right?"

"I suppose no more than you can say you don't love Drusilla anymore. I realize it's different, I didn't spend decades with him or anything. Sure I still love him, but not as a boyfriend. We went through a lot, lots of good and bad, I can't cut him out of my heart. I can't stop the memories from being there. But, Spike I was seventeen."

"Pfff that, you're only bloody nineteen now, Slayer. Two years and it's gone, right. The heart is cleansed."

"I'm not going to stand here and argue about Angel with you. You're drunk and you're for whatever reason looking for a fight. I'm not going to give it to you."

"No, come on, give it to me, Slayer. Let's see what you got. It's been a long time since we've gone a round." He took a quick pull off the keg's nozzle as if he knew she would not even try it.

"Hello? Chip in your head? You can't. On top of that why would I hurt you?"

"You should have staked me one of these times you've had the chance and been done with it. It's your job, don't matter, chip or not, I'm a bloody killer. Remove this chip and I'd be right back out there doing it."

"Do you really believe that?"

"It's what I do, Slayer. I'm a vampire. I'm not human. I can't give you, or me, a normal life. I can't go out and mow the lawn on Saturday morning, but then I can't feed either."

"Do you really miss it?"

"Hadn't thought much about it honestly until last night. Tend to block it out I guess when you know it can't be done. For some reason, things started going in a positive direction between us and I stopped worrying about getting the chip out, stopped craving the kill, the fresh blood."

"And now?"

He took a longer pull from the nozzle, his eyes closing as if he relished the taste of the beer. Or maybe he thought if he got drunk enough whatever he was feeling would go away. "He made me miss it, Slayer. The thrill of the hunt, the taste of their fear as I fed, the power of it when I felt the life leave their body, the fleeting feeling of warmth I got from their blood coursing through me."

"I," she stammered not sure what to say. He had never talked like this. Sure, she knew what he was capable of without the chip. For a while there when he had first come to Sunnydale she actually wondered if he would be the one to kill her. But that he actually missed it, that bothered her. "Am I doing something wrong?"

He smiled sardonically, and Buffy was both frightened and hurt. She did not know what to do. This was not Angel struggling with the return of his soul or with the fact he had been returned here to kill her. This was Spike who other than a chip in his head was the same vampire he was last year. "You made me believe in love, you made me believe I could live in your world, you made me believe in something good, something light." He sighed taking another drink. "You just made me believe. You made me remember what it was like to be human. I never understand what Angelus meant when he told me that, and how it could be something he would come to resent. To even have an inkling of what it was like to be human, to feel that once again, I always thought it would be something like a rare gift. It's not. It hurts and it sucks."

"But I'm not doing anything. I'm not trying to make you human. Okay, other than wanting the house or an apartment. Would you rather I go back to living with my mother? What is it you want, Spike?"

"I want you to put me out of my misery."

"Is it me? Did feeding off me do this," she asked, taking a seat on the floor in front of him but not too close to him. Being responsible for Angel losing his soul was bad enough, she did not want to be responsible for this, too. All she had done was let him drink her blood. He had been doing it for years. "I am not going to kill you, Spike."

"And why not? You'd be a hell of a lot better off."

"I'm happy. Don't you get that?"

"Right. Do you even know what I do? What I've done these past months to get you this house? Your car? Those rings? Everything? Haven't you even wondered? It strikes me that you haven't wondered because you just bloody well don't care."

"I do care. I mean," she shrugged. "I guess I didn't want to know in case it was, well. You know, you have never thought twice about stealing."

"You think I'd buy all of this stuff, buy you all of these things, with money I've stolen? You really don't have a fucking clue, do you?"

"Don't swear at me. All right, so I don't know. I do know that you don't have a job. So that led me to believe it wasn't exactly honest the way you were earning money. But I didn't care! Has that occurred to you? Even though I thought that I didn't tell you to stop, did I? And it wasn't because I wanted you to spend the money on me. I'll give back the Jeep, the rings, the clothes you've bought me. All I wanted was a house for us to live in so that we could live together."

"Getting tired of living with your mom were you?"

"No! I was getting tired of having to leave you. I always felt so cheap afterward, you know?"

"No," he said and she wondered if he was just being difficult.

"Right. Whatever. Listen, I'm going to go upstairs, take my shower and go on with my day. I'm not going to sit here and argue with you about staking you. If I had wanted you dead, I would have done it without you asking me to do it." She stood then. "When you decide to sober up let me know if you want to talk."

"Right. Still a bit left to go in this here keg."

"Spike. Let's just stop this before it gets totally out of hand." She turned and walked away, stopping at the door. "What do you do, by the way? You brought it up. You must want me to know. So tell me," she said, turning to face him again.

"I kill demons."

"Well, I know that."

"For money. I kill demons or bring them in. Kind of like a bounty hunter, I suppose, but dealing in demons. And those hiring me aren't the police or bail bondsmen."

Okay, the killing the demons part she did not have a problem with. Bringing them to people she did have a problem with. Was there another Initiative wannabe out there? "Bring them in how?"

"Well, you know sometimes it's like a domestic squabble, demon A has left demon B and demon B wants demon A back, so I find them, stun them and bring them back. Collect my money. End of bloody story."

"So you're not like bringing a bunch of demons to someone trying to power up and bring about an apocalypse?"

"Not likely, Slayer. I'm evil, but I'm not crazy. I told you once before, I kind of like the world," he inclined his head slightly. For a brief moment he looked lucid. "Especially now that I have you here in it with me."

"You have an interesting way of showing it."

"As do you, Slayer."

"What does that mean?"

"Never mind, pet. It's not important. Go on up to your shower and what all."

"Are you going to be all right?"

"I'm not going to stake myself or anything, if that's what you're asking. Tried that once and I don't know that I could do it again. I actually have something to lose this time."

"I hope you remember that when you're hung over and looking to crawl back into bed with me."

"Can find another bed. Can sleep right here if I need to. It's nice and dark, no windows, no sunlight."

Okay, he was trying to keep her here and argue. That was why he was suggesting he would rather be down here in the basement than in bed with her. She was not going to do it. Whatever it was that had gotten him into this mood, she obviously was not the thing or the person to get him out of it.

"I'll check on you later," she said before leaving the basement, closing the door behind her and making her way back upstairs.

***

Buffy pulled into her mom's driveway, getting used to this driving thing. She hated driving, but now that she was doing it more and more she did not mind it so much. She pulled the large shopping bag full of her mom's things and made her way to the door. She always felt weird coming over to her mom's house now. Did she just walk in or ring the doorbell? Technically, she did not live here anymore. She rang the bell because her mother was not expecting her.

She had told her mom she would get the dishes and things back to her, but she had not counted on Willow, Tara and Spike being busy beavers that morning and getting everything done for her. Besides, she needed the excuse to get out of the house. Knowing that Spike was down in the basement, getting drunk and feeling sorry for himself was not something she wanted to sit at home thinking about.

"Hi Mom," she said when her mom opened the front door. "Just bringing back your things."

"Oh fine. I wasn't expecting you to bring them back today."

"I know. You can thank Willow, Tara and Spike for that, actually. They cleaned up while Buffy slept in."

"That was nice of them. You know I have to admit I had my misgivings about Spike but he seems nice."

"He has his moments."

"Uh oh. Are there problems?"

Buffy wondered if it was her tone or if she was just that easily readable. Once upon a time, Buffy thought her mother did not know her at all. Now, she was not so sure. Their relationship was a little different now, mother to daughter still but mother to married daughter no longer living in the same house. "No more problems than there should be considering." She paused, a thought occurring to her. "Mom, you know better than to invite anyone you don't know into the house right? I mean, just because I don't live here anymore doesn't mean you're entirely safe."

"Yes, Buffy, if you've taught me anything it's that."

"Okay, good," she said relieved.

"Well, come in then, Buffy. Can I get you anything?"

"Mom, no, you don't need to get me anything, but I'll stay for a few minutes. Tell me what you thought of the party."

"Oh the party was great. Everyone seemed to have a good time. Your neighbors all seem nice. There was one couple that seemed a little off," she said as they walked toward the kitchen.

"Yeah, the Jonas's."

"Yes, that was them. I don't know what it was about them, but I just didn't want to stay and talk to them longer than I had to."

"I feel that way most of the time. Claire is all right, but Buddy is," Buffy shrugged. "He just gives me the wiggins sometimes. Claire will talk to me when I'm out getting the mail, and she's always real nice. She's a stay at home mom, three kids and I think she gets lonely."

"That might explain her oddness."

"It might."

There was a silence between them while Buffy took the things out of the bag and her mom wiped down the counter. Buffy could tell there was something on her mom's mind, so she just remained quiet.

"You know, I have to tell you, Buffy. I don't pretend I understand exactly how it is you and Spike came to be married, and I had never given much thought to being a grandmother being that you're only nineteen. But you know I realized last night talking to your neighbors, I'm not going to be one, am I?"

"No, Mom, you're not. I'm sorry if that bothers you. I mean, I don't know yet what Spike and I are doing. He has promised me if for whatever reason things don't work out he'd grant me an annulment. But, we get along all right, he makes me happy for the most part, I don't have to worry about hiding who and what I am to him, I don't have to worry about him getting hurt when he's with me." She shrugged. "So, no, no grandbabies for you."

"It's all right, honey, I just thought I'd ask. Say it aloud, I guess."

"I've thought about it. I mean I thought about it with Angel, and I guess I just got used to the fact that I wouldn't have them. Not that I'd want them now anyway."

"No, I guess I should be thankful in that regard. You're too young."

"You weren't much older than I am now."

"No, I wasn't, but I didn't have your job."

"Yeah, I know. It wouldn't be easy." She went to the cupboard and got a glass, getting herself a glass of water. "Mom. We had kind of a fight this morning."

"You and Spike?"

"Yeah," Buffy said, taking a sip of water before turning to face her mom. "I don't really know what it was about."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"I don't know what to say. It all started when Dracula came to the party."

"Wait, Buffy, did you just say Dracula?"

"Yes," she said and proceeded to relate the story to her mother of how she had met Dracula to begin with and how he had come to be at the party the night before.

"He says he misses it, the killing, the being a chipless vampire."

"Just wait and see what he says when he's sober, Buffy. People say lots of things when they've been drinking. Some are true and some are just bold because their inhibitions are gone. He loves you, Buffy."

"He does not, Mom. I mean, we like each other, but it's not love. He has no heart, not a beating one anyway."

"I'm not going to argue with you, Buffy. Just see what he's like once he's stopped drinking, and until then," she shrugged. "I don't know what to tell you. At least I don't have to worry about him hurting you."

"No," Buffy said with a light, unfeeling laugh. "No, you don't. He can't hurt me."

A knock at the front door caused them both to stop talking. "Are you expecting someone?"

"Me? I don't live here anymore, Mom, so no."

"It's still daylight, so it's not going to be him, is it? Dracula? You don't think he's going to come here, do you?"

"I don't know, Mom, and I think he can do mind control, mind trick things, so just don't let anyone you don't know inside."

"I hate this, Buffy. I hate it especially because you're not here for me to know," she said, walking to the front door. She opened the door and paused. "Hello," she said softly.

Buffy heard the hesitancy in her mom's voice and walked to the front door, understanding her mom's reaction immediately.

"Buffy," Riley said. Dressed in a pair of jeans and button-up chambray type shirt, he looked exactly like he looked when she last saw him. He was tan, though, his hair was a little lighter. What had he done with his summer to look like he did? "Mrs. Summers. It's nice to see you again."

"It's nice to see you, too, Riley," Joyce said. She looked to Buffy and Buffy felt like a trapped rabbit. She did not know what to do. She had not known that Riley was back in Sunnydale. Of course she had not really looked.

"Riley," she said softly, smiling though she was certain it was as obviously fake to him as it felt to her.

"Can I come in, or is this a bad time?" He gestured behind him to the driveway. "I see you got a new car, Mrs. Summers. It's nice. Low mileage I noticed," he said, blushing a little at that comment.

"It's mine," Buffy volunteered.

"Oh," Riley said and Buffy could hear the puzzlement in his voice. If only her driving habits changing were all he was going to find out about. "Well, it's still nice."

"Thanks," she said shyly. Damn it, why was she acting like this in front of him. "I didn't know you came back."

"Well, you're hard to track down, honestly. I didn't find out you weren't living on campus until the other day. I was talking to someone in the Psych department and they mentioned you."

"Oh yeah, Abnormal Psych, it's actually my best class this semester."

"Good. I'm glad to hear that."

"I think I'll go put some things away in the kitchen. It's nice to see you again, Riley."

"You too, Mrs. Summers," he said as Joyce returned to the kitchen. "She's not leaving because of me, is she?"

"Probably a little," Buffy admitted.

"So you got the Jeep to get back and forth to school then. Good idea. Despite being the Slayer and all, I always hated that you walked everywhere."

"No, actually," she hesitated slightly. She ran her fingers through her hair, pushing her bangs from her face nervously. "I don't live here anymore, Riley. I was just bringing some things back to Mom she lent to me for a party I had last night."

"Oh, so you're really living off campus then, no RA and no Mom."

"Sort of, something like that, yeah."

"Okay," Riley said and Buffy could tell he was waiting for her to fill him in. Unfortunately, Buffy was not sure where to even start. "You don't seem that happy to see me, maybe I shouldn't have come over. I realize I didn't leave things very well between us, Buffy, but I was hurt and confused. Not just you, but Professor Walsh, the Initiative, everything. The summer off, working back at the farm really cleared up my head."

"Oh God," she said softly, sensing the direction this was going. "Riley. Wait. I'm living with Spike."

"You're what," he asked, inclining his head like he always did when he hoped he had heard her wrong. Buffy could not help but smile slightly.

"I'm living with Spike. The whole marriage thing," she said. There was no easy way to say these things. "He bought me the Jeep because I can't drive his car. Not unless I want to kill myself from lack of seeing."

"Wait a minute. I went home for three months, I come back and you're living with him? Not just dating him, but living with him? Buffy, are you crazy?"

"Maybe I am, Riley, that's what I'm trying to figure out. Things happened," she sighed softly. "Listen, I don't know how to explain it. All right. We're married, and we're trying to actually make a go of it."

"Buffy, he's a vampire."

"And I'm the Slayer, Riley. I don't belong with a human."

"You don't belong with the undead either."

"Well, the thing is, I understand his world better than I do yours. I don't understand a world where you would alter beings into some sort of army. In fact, it's your fault anyway."

"Excuse me," he said doing that head incline thing again.

"You heard me. If you and the Initiative hadn't taken him and chipped him, I wouldn't be married to him right now. So point the finger where it belongs, you and your Initiative."

"Buffy, I did not make you marry him."

"No, but without the chip he would not have been hiding at Giles' house from you and I wouldn't have had to protect him from you guys."

"Protect him from us? Is that what you were doing?"

"Yeah. Before I knew it was you. Yeah. All I knew is that there were some commando guys running around town. And by the time I knew it was you, well, he was helping us."

"So losing my girlfriend to a vampire is my fault?"

"I was never your girlfriend, Riley. We never got that far. From the night that I first slept with Spike I knew, part of me knew anyway. I can't explain it."

"The night you first slept with him," he asked and then shook his head. "Forget it, I don't even want to know."

"You probably don't. That morning I saw you in the cemetery, I was going back to campus and you were looking for something you lost. I realize now it was Spike."

"You were coming back from being with him?"

"Yeah," she admitted, suddenly finding her hands very interesting. She glanced at him, her head still lowered. "I'm sorry, Riley. This isn't how I normally would have said all of this. You happened to find me on sort of a bad day."

"Well, I'm sorry to ruin your happy life with the undead, Buffy. And you had a party at your house last night? Was he there? Christ, Buffy, you are just too much. How normal of a life can you have with this guy?"

"Not very, but my life stopped being normal the day I became the Slayer. I need him, Riley. Just like he needs me."

"He needs you, right. Like I need to have my leg shorn off. Wait a minute. You told me that day that the whole engagement thing was a lie."

"Yeah, because I didn't know at the time we had gotten married that night."

"But you'd had sex with him."

"Yes," she said softly, hoping her mom was not listening too closely.

"And you didn't think that might put a little wrench in our dating?"

"No, I honestly didn't. It's not like I liked him. It was a spell for crying out loud."

"And look at where that spell has gotten you now. You're living with him. You have a house with him. He's using you, you know that."

"He's what? Using me for what? What could he possibly be using me for, Riley?"

"A place to live, all that stuff."

"He bought the house, other than my tuition I haven't spent much on anything lately. Mom's helped some and Spike offered, but I wouldn't let him pay for my education."

"How nice of you."

"Don't be rude to me, Riley. First of all, you did not contact me once all summer. Mom would have taken a message had you called and would have given it to me. She would have given me a letter had you sent one. So don't come here, to my house, accusing me because I moved on and made some decisions. I'm happy. Don't you get that?"

"No, I don't. I don't think I'll ever get it. You know, I didn't have to come back here this year. I could have chosen a different school. University of Iowa is a damned good school. But I came back hoping to make things work between us. I came back for you, Buffy."

"You came back for the wrong reason then, Riley. I'm not yours to have. I'm sorry, but even if things don't work out with Spike I couldn't. We know too much about each other to start with a clean slate and we would never be able to trust one another. You'd always wonder if I talked to a vampire, Angel, Spike or whoever if I wanted to be with them. Hell, I already get that with Spike thinking I'm going to run off to Transylvania with Dracula."

"He what? Now you've lost me. What is it with you and vampires?"

"I don't know. Just lucky I guess. Anyway, it's not important. I hope we can be friends, I really do. But that's all we can be. And you can't walk around telling everyone about me, about Spike or what I do as far as being the Slayer goes as some sort of vengeance kick."

"I wouldn't do that, Buffy. No one would believe me anyway. I'm not sure I want to admit I lost you to a vampire anyway."

"I know." She did not know what else to say.

"So are you going to tell me where you do live?"

"You aren't going to come over there to hurt Spike are you?"

"Like that would get me anywhere. I can't say it wouldn't make me feel better, but no, Buffy, I'm man enough to realize when I lost. I'm not happy about it, and I think you're making a big mistake. Angel I could at least understand. I mean he had a soul. But Spike, he's an animal. All that keeps him from being what you stake is that chip."

"That's where you're wrong, Riley. That chip curbed the animal and has brought out some of his former self. He's not an animal."

"You really believe that."

She thought on that, really mulling it over. He had scared her that morning for sure, but something told Buffy that there was a reason for the thoughts. Something had caused Spike to start thinking like that. "Yes, I believe that. I might lose my husband, but I don't think he'd come after me."

"I hope you're right."

"Why? Are you going to arrange to have his chip removed?"

"No, we don't have the facilities to do it anymore anyway."

She told him her address. "I don't know what he'll say if you come over, but as long as you can be nice I have no problem with it. But you have to understand, Riley, it's his house."

"I understand, and I don't know that I'll ever come over. But it's nice to know where you are," he said with a shrug. "In case I need to know. Never know when knowing where the Slayer lives might come in handy."

"You never know," she said, offering him a smile. "I am sorry, Riley. I honestly didn't plan any of this. Any of it."

"I'm hurt but I'm not mad if that makes any sense. I don't blame you and I'm not mad at you. You have to do what you have to do, Buffy. You're an adult and if he makes you happy then I guess you have to go with that. Obviously, I didn't make you happy enough."

"I think we just had too many obstacles from the get-go, Riley. First we had to hide from one another who and what we really were, then we had to deal with knowing who we really were and I think it was just doomed to begin with."

"You might be right, and I guess we'll never know. I guess I'll let you get back to talking to your mom. If you ever need anything, I'm in the room next door to the one I was in last year."

"Thanks. Maybe we could have lunch sometime. Willow would like to see you again, I'm sure."

"Oh yeah, how is she?"

"She's doing all right. She and Tara live with us actually. I'll tell her you said hi."

"Yeah, do that," he reached for the doorknob. "I'll see you later, Buffy. I hope things work out for you."

"Thanks. You too. Hey," she said softly. "Will you be staying here? I mean, finishing out school here?"

"I don't know. I love you, Buffy, I won't lie to you and say I don't and that it hurts, but I also like you and I want you to know you can always count on me if you need to."

"I know," she said, tears forming in her eyes despite everything. A year ago she would have loved to have him say those words. A year ago she would have thought he was exactly what she needed, her Mr. Perfect. So much had changed in a year. He was somebody's Mr. Perfect, she had no doubt of that. He just was not hers.

He released the doorknob and stepped toward her, kissing her lightly on the forehead. "I'll see you around. I don't know about lunch right now. Sometime, though. Okay?"

"Okay."

"Good bye, Buffy."

"Bye Riley," she said and walked to the door, closing it behind him.

Chapter Text


***Part Eleven***

Spike woke slowly, the pain in his head and the foul taste in his mouth were what he noticed first. He groaned loudly and came awake quickly when he moved his arm, spraying himself in the face with beer. It was then that he realized his clothes were damp and smelled almost as rank as his mouth tasted. "What the bloody hell," he mumbled, regretting making the noise for the further pain it caused his head.

He released the nozzle head and sat up, raking his fingers through his hair. He had no idea what time it was or even why exactly he had been sleeping on the basement floor in a puddle of beer. The basement had no windows for him to judge the time that way.

As he stood, he removed both shirts and decided that burning them would probably be better than ever trying to wash them. Stale beer was a rank smell. The conversation he had had with Buffy floated around his mind and he wondered if she was still upstairs. It would serve him right if she had packed her things and gone back to her mom.

He checked the garage before going upstairs and not surprisingly her Jeep was gone. He tossed his shirts in the trash can and then ascended the stairs. He was a little surprised to see Willow in the kitchen. From the smell of it, she had made grilled cheese.

"He lives. Or he has risen. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say."

"Yeah, I'm still here."

"You look terrible."

"I feel terrible, Red." She smiled widely. "What are you smiling at?"

"Oh nothing. It's just funny to see a hung over vampire."

"Glad to be a service to you. I'm going to take a shower. Your sandwich smells good, don't suppose I could talk you into grilling one for me."

"Sure, I'll wait until I hear the water's stopped."

"Thanks, Red." He turned to go and paused in the doorway. "Is Buffy gone?" Her silence made him turn to face her. "Well, is she?"

"She went to her mom's."

"She coming back?"

"As far as I know," Willow said and Spike could hear the caution in her voice.

"That's better than a flat out no I guess," he said and walked to the bedroom.

He returned to the kitchen a short while later, feeling a little better. He learned while in the bedroom that he had spent the entire day and most of the evening passed out in the basement. It was almost eight o'clock and Spike wondered just how long she was going to stay at her mom's. He sat at the table just as Willow placed a grilled cheese in front of him. He looked around the kitchen, taking in his surroundings. How in the hell had he gotten here? And why was Buffy here with him? Even sober he did not understand it. He sighed heavily, a finger grazing along the edge of the sandwich waiting for it to cool.

"Do you want to talk about it," Willow asked.

"Not much to say. I guess whatever needs to be said should be said to her."

"True. If you wanted to sound things out or anything, though," she offered.

"Thanks, Red. Not much to say. I was feeling sorry for myself. Don't know if I have the right to or not, honestly. Everything's about give and take, right? You give something up to get something else. That's the way it works. Why should I be any different?"

"I don't think you are. Is it worth it?"

"What?"

"What you got in exchange for what you gave up?"

"Well, I didn't exactly give it up, it was taken from me, but yeah, she's worth it, Red. I just," he shrugged. "I don't think she's treating this like it's real, more like some sort of fairy tale that if she wakes up tomorrow unhappy or wanting the real Prince Charming we can end this and I'll go away without much of a fight. I don't think she believes I care."

"Have you told her this?"

"Not hardly."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't want to sound like a bloody poof or an idiot is why. Having her around for a little while is better than not at all." He shrugged, taking a bite of his sandwich. "Besides, she doesn't love me, she's never going to love me. She loves Angel. I didn't do the things to her he did yet I can't cut a break."

Willow shook her head and frowned. "I don't think she loves Angel. I think when she went out with Parker she put him in the past."

"Right. A one-night stand puts the love of her life in the past?"

"Well, yeah. It meant she was ready to move forward, move past him, she was ready to deal with it. She knows what she's getting with you."

"A neutered animal?"

"Well, in a way, yeah I suppose, but no. I mean, she had to put Angel in the past. I mean, what is she going to do kiss him for the rest of her life?"

"I don't know that this is making me feel better, Red."

"No, wait, just hear me out. Angel was good, Angelus was evil. There was no good in Angelus, he was incapable of it. You, on the other hand, even without your chip you've done some good things."

"I have not."

"You have too! I know you like to talk big and I remember Giles telling us about you when you first came to town. I know you've done some bad things. Some really bad things," she said under her breath. "But you also helped Buffy before you got your chip."

"Did not."

"You did so. She told us about it."

"She's a liar."

"Why is that so hard for you to admit?"

"Don't know, don't like it being pointed out to me that I might have loved her even then. I remember one of the first times I saw her. It was a videotape and I watched it over and over and over again. Of course I justified it, the watching it repeatedly I mean, by telling myself I was familiarizing myself with her moves. Like a coach I guess preparing his team for the next week's game."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. So what's wrong with loving her?"

"Haven't you been listening, Red? She doesn't love me and she's not going to. She can shag me until the cows come home and I'm not going to go and lose my soul - or my chip. So she gets her fill of whatever it is about vampires she likes without that as a consequence. But this chip comes out and I'm back to being the me I was and then we'd be right back to where we were a year ago. Vampire and Slayer, adversaries."

"It's a rather poor substitute, Red."

"Well, but if you love her," Willow started and then stopped.

"If she loved me back."

"Ask her. Tell her. You're both scared, that's your problem. Tara and I both know you love each other, you just have to tell each other and be done with it."

"Dracula suggested he might be able to see to my chip being removed."

"Oh," she said simply.

"For a price, of course. I'd be indebted to him, and someone never really pays a debt back in full to him."

"But you're thinking about it."

"Not really. I mean," he shrugged. "It would be so much easier to take him up on his offer if I knew when she was going to end it."

"I don't think she will, Spike."

"Why?"

"Because that's just not the way Buffy is. She's here with you, she's your wife, she's not going to walk away from you unless you do something really wrong. Or unless you walk away from her first."

"But what can I really give her, Red?" He sighed heavily, unable to meet her eyes. "I dread watching her grow old, watching her die, knowing that I will go on, knowing that she sacrificed so much for me."

"What is she really sacrificing? So you can't go out for walks during the day together. Otherwise, what?"

"Children."

"She could adopt one if she really wants one. There's also artificial insemination if she really wanted to have a baby. Though I have to admit, I don't see Buffy as a mom. So what else?"

"Growing old with someone."

"So you don't get any older and she does, don't you think she's thought about this too?"

"Knowing that I'll have to go on without her after she's gone, and even if I walked into the sun I'd never see her again. This time is all I will ever get with her. There will be no afterlife for us, not together anyway."

"So, I guess that means you'd better make the most of it, don't you?"

He was quiet for a while as he finished his sandwich. "Is she coming home tonight?"

"As far as I know."

"All right, Red, I make no promises, but I'll give this honesty bit a try. I haven't done this in a hundred or so years, and the last time did not turn out too well."

"You never told Drusilla you loved her?"

"That was different. Can't compare the two, human and vampire. Things are different. I could apologize to her by bringing her a fresh heart and she'd be happy. Won't work on Buffy."

Willow laughed, though Spike noticed her face had paled considerably with his heart comment. "No, I don't think that would work on Buffy. I don't think you really need to apologize, Spike. I mean she didn't say she was mad at you. She was concerned, worried she'd done something wrong."

"Christ, what would she possibly do wrong? Doesn't she get it? She is incapable of doing wrong where I'm concerned."

"Well, look at why and how Angel lost his soul, Spike and I think you might understand her reason."

"I suppose," he said, taking his plate to the sink. "Thanks for the talk, Red. You're surprisingly good at this relationship stuff."

"Not really, it's just that you two are so obvious it's pretty easy. And Buffy hasn't asked me for advice. So you were the lucky winner of Willow's advice."

He smiled with a light laugh not altogether sure he considered himself lucky. "I'm going to go watch some television, I feel like I just returned from the dead, again. I'll just wait for her in our room."

***

"Hey Will," Buffy said when she got home a couple hours later. "I saw Spike was gone from downstairs. Is he okay?"

"Yeah, I think so," Willow said. "He's in your room. I think the whole Dracula thing kind of freaked him out."

"I don't know why, it doesn't seem like he wants me for any reason. In fact, he seemed to go out of his way to say so." Willow gave Buffy that half-smile she had grown accustomed to seeing when her friend had something on her mind but was not sure if she should say it. "What?"

"Maybe it's not you he wants," Willow said softly.

"Well, what else would he want? I mean, I can't believe Dracula would have any real need to set up shop at the Hell Mouth."

Willow did not answer her and Buffy thought about it a little more. If Dracula did not want her, what else would that leave him to want? As far as Buffy could tell the Count had not gone on a killing spree while here in town, in fact no one among the demon underworld seemed to know that he was in town. No closer to her answer than she was a minute ago she was perplexed. "I guess I should go talk to Spike."

"I think you should," Willow agreed.

"I thought you didn't like him, Will."

"A year ago I didn't, but, well, he's changed and," she shrugged. "He's not so bad now that I know him. I mean, he's funny sometimes and Tara likes him, and he's never afraid to help out."

"Well, of course not, this is his house, too."

"Oh right, no I didn't just mean the house, though. I mean like listening to us and just being nice. He gets me to help him with the computer sometimes, which is always funny," she said and then grew quiet.

"What? Why did you stop?"

"I don't know, I just think you should talk to him not listen to me talking about him. He's not a bad guy, Buffy, vampire or not."

"No, he's not. I never thought I'd say it."

"Well, Tara and I are going out. We're going to catch a movie and then go to the Bronze for a while, so you two have the house to yourselves. Don't do anything I wouldn't do," she said before making her way toward the stairs.

"Like that leaves a lot for me not to do, Will."

Willow turned and smiled widely at Buffy. "Yeah, I know, but it seemed the thing to say. Anyway, don't be too mad at him for getting drunk."

"I'm not mad," Buffy said softly, surprised that she really was not.

"I hope you remember that when you're talking."

"I hope so, too, Will. Have fun tonight and thanks again for cleaning up earlier."

"You're welcome. We didn't mind, honest."

Buffy entered the bedroom not altogether sure what to expect. She had seen Spike when he had been drinking before, but she suspected this was far worse than anytime prior. She guessed she might find him in the study at the computer. He seemed spellbound by it and its capabilities sometimes. "Spike," she called as she opened the study door. "I'm home." But the room was empty.

"Spike," she said as she walked toward the main room of their suite. She saw the bluish hue emitting from the television set once she got closer. "Spike?"

"I'm here, pet," he said, the sound of sleep in his voice. His forearm was draped over his eyes, so he was not watching the television.

"I woke you."

"No," he said unconvincingly. He lifted his arm from over his eyes a bit to peer at her. "All right, you caught me, I was dozing a bit."

"Do you feel okay?"

He sat up in the bed, his arms propped up on either side of him. Just like him to distract her by not wearing a shirt. "I feel all right. Are you all right? You spent the day with your Mum I understand."

"I did. We had lunch and then it turned into dinner. We talked. It was nice. It's different."

"Different," he asked, moving to the foot of the bed and sat.

"Yeah, I haven't really gone back home to see her. I've always needed something or have just gone by to warn her about something," she shrugged. "Today it was like I was an adult."

"You are one, love."

"I know, but I don't think she really saw me as one until today."

"I think that's difficult for most parents to see. It's good that you had a nice time though."

She took a deep breath. This was not getting them anywhere. Willow suggested she talk to him, and if she had done something wrong she needed to know. If she was doing something wrong that he needed to drink himself into oblivion she wanted to know what she was doing or why he did not just leave her and be done with it.

She closed the distance between them, a hand reaching for his hair. She ran her fingers through it until her hand was at the nape of his neck. "I wasn't sure you wanted me to come home or not."

"And whatever gave you that idea? Without you there is no home, Slayer. I have no need for these things, they're for you."

"Don't you like them?"

"I can't say I don't, but I don't need them. I have lived over one hundred years without them."

"Is that what's bothering you?"

"No, Slayer, it has nothing to do with it. If it makes you happy it does not bother me."

"But what about making you happy," she said hesitantly, half questioning with her tone.

"Until last night I thought I was, as happy as I'm capable of being. Why you even put up with me I don't understand. I have tried to kill you. I wanted to kill you even without knowing who you were merely because of what you were. For years I tormented you, got off on seeing you suffer. I wouldn't give you an annulment, despite knowing I was the last thing you wanted to be stuck with. And yet here you are, sharing my house, sharing my bed," he sighed softly. "I don't deserve you, no matter how short the time I get with you might be."

"Spike, you talk as if I'm going somewhere."

"Aren't you?"

"Where would I go?"

"I don't know. I guess the better question is why wouldn't you? Why would you stay?"

"Because I want to. I thought we had been over this."

"You want to see if it works, is that it? And if it doesn't? A year from now some guy in one of your class's turns your head what's going to stop you from ending whatever it is we have?"

"I don't want some guy in one of my classes, Spike. If I had wanted that I would have stuck it out with Riley."

"Speaking of the Boy Scout. You smell like him. Why is that?"

"He came by Mom's house today."

"Oh really. Convenient for you that you happened to be there."

She slid her hand up from the nape of his neck to the back of his hair and tugged none too gently. She drew his head back so that she could see his face clearly. His blue eyes were focused intently on hers, she for the first time noticed the pain in them. Was she the cause of all that? "I told him about us. He was there for all of fifteen minutes, didn't even come in past the front hall. Nothing happened."

"I know."

"You know?"

"I said you smelled like him, but it was not intense enough for you to have been with him."

"Spike, I don't know what I've done to make you think I want anyone but you. Do you honestly think that I would do this? Live with you, sleep with you, love you if I wanted a different life or thought that in a year I wouldn't still feel like this?"

"What did you just say," he asked, his eyes wide.

Buffy knew her eyes were just as wide as his. Had she just said what she thought she said? Had she just told Spike she loved him? She was quiet, trying to read him, to see what his reaction was to her having said it. He did not look amused, instead he looked like a child waiting for a precious gift. Had she resorted him to this? Waiting patiently but expectantly for words from her of how she felt about him? And she never did tell him. She had not admitted to herself until just now that she loved him. She just assumed her actions, being here with him were enough. She closed her eyes, not wanting to see him laugh at her.

"I said I love you," she whispered.

She felt his head turn, his face rub against her forearm and she felt dampness there. He was crying. "I've waited forever to hear you say those words, Slayer," he said his voice hoarse and shallow. "I don't deserve you. I don't deserve your love. I'm a monster, not even human," he continued mumbling, his face buried against her forearm.

"Spike," she whispered and kissed the top of his head. "Please don't do this. You're not a monster, I think you lived as one once, wanted to believe you were one, but you're not."

His arms went around her, and he drew her against him pressing a cheek against her abdomen. "Oh God, Buffy, don't. I don't deserve your forgiveness. I don't deserve redemption."

"Granting redemption is not within my powers. I can forgive you for the things you've done to me, Spike. If you can forgive me for making you feel like this."

"It's not you, love. It's me. I just kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for some classmate to ask you out and for you to realize you want that life. Football games, picnics in the park when the sun's up, parents."

"I have my own parents, I don't need some other guy's parents, too."

He laughed lightly. "It's Dracula, he's messing with my head. Offering to take out my chip. I can't decide if he wants you or me."

"He wants to take out your chip?"

"He hinted about it last night, yeah."

"That's what got you thinking about it."

"Thinking about what?"

"Missing blood, human blood."

"Yeah, I guess so. A year or so of not feeding does not make you forget the hundred and twenty-five you fed."

"Well, you have me," she whispered.

"Yeah, you're worth keeping the chip in for I guess. If you didn't love me, if you were treating this like a temporary thing until something better came along I'd go to him and tell him to do it. As much as I dread the idea of watching you grow old, watching you die I dread even worse you walking away from me before it's your time to go."

Her hands went to either side of his head, tilting his head back. She lowered her mouth to his, kissing him. "It is temporary, Spike, to you. We may only have a few years together, we may have eighty I don't know. But even still, it's only a drop in the bucket compared to what you've already lived and what you will live after I'm gone."

"I know, Slayer. I know. I've thought of that," he met her eyes and she was captivated by the intensity in them, the sincerity there.

"Will you get the chip removed then? When I'm gone I mean?"

"And go on a rampage you mean? I don't know. I suppose it's either that or take to the sunrise. I pity anyone who gets in my way if this chip is gone and you are gone. Demon or human, it won't matter. I may not have a soul or a heart that beats, love, but I don't need those two things to feel these things for you. If your life is taken from me through an act of violence, yes I would do it."

"It almost makes me feel bad for doing this."

"Doing what?"

"Giving you this life, knowing it's going to come to an end eventually."

"Don't feel bad, pet. You have no idea what you do to me. You bring out the poet in me, something that had been lost since Dru turned me. You made me believe in love, the healthy kind, the kind that people envy. I do love you. We can have that, don't you think?"

"Yeah, I think so. I hope so, but," she said softly and she smiled at the look of worry that entered his eyes. "When I told you earlier you had me, I didn't mean it like that. I mean, you do have me, Spike. You are right, I need your darkness, I need your monster, it calls to me. But what I meant was if you crave it, you have me."

"No, Buffy, I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to turn you into my food source."

"Oh God Spike, the other night on the deck was not about being a food source."

"No, it wasn't."

"I'm just saying," she shrugged. "If the craving gets real bad and you begin to really think on Dracula's offer, it's here. I'm here. A slayer's blood offered to you."

"Come here," he bid, his voice charming, enthralling.

"What," she said coyly.

"I was an ass to you this morning."

"You were," she agreed.

"But you shouldn't have kept leading me to believe you wanted an annulment, that I was more of a boyfriend than a husband."

"I thought you knew, Spike. I thought you knew."

"I didn't, but I do now," he said as his hands moved to her hips drawing her onto his lap.

"We've admitted we love each other, everything should be just fine, right? So now what do we do?"

"Well, I'll tell you what I'd like to do right now, pet."

"What's that? Let me guess, it involves taking off my clothes?"

"It could, doesn't have to, clothes on or off makes no difference."

"You're so bad," she said, kissing him deeply before drawing back.

"I love it when you call me that," he murmured, taking her lower lip between his teeth.

"Bad? You like it when I tell you you're bad? The big bad Spike," she whispered as she drew away from him, shaking her head slightly.

"Yeah, that. But I don't want to be that tonight. The big bad Spike is on a vacation."

"Where did he go," she whispered followed by a loud gasp as he nipped at her throat.

"Don't know. Don't rightly care. But tonight, Mrs. Summers-Harrison, I want to make love to my wife."

"That's an easy thing to arrange, I think, since she's right here and more than willing. You know, it's a good thing Will and Tara are going out tonight. I swear they're going to think this is all we do."

"It's what we do best together, Slayer. Besides we have the strength and the stamina to go at it like animals for days, why shouldn't we?"

"Days?"

"You heard me, Slayer."

"I've got class on Monday."

"Well, I guess we'd better make the most of the two nights we have then."

"I guess so."

Chapter Text


***Part Twelve***

Spike knelt on the ground, his hand clutching the stem of the rose he had placed on the grave. It was not much, but this late at night there were no stores open and he did not feel right stealing flowers to place them on Buffy's final resting spot.

"So you're a grandmother now, William Bradley they named him. And our daughter," he said almost ruefully. "A head she's got on her shoulders. Smart as a tack that one is," he said as he pulled some weeds from around the plot. "Though I'm not quite sure giving her son any part of my name was a way of using those smarts."

He sighed softly as he recalled years ago how they had talked at length about adopting. Buffy for whatever reason had dismissed it as an option claiming she wanted the baby to be a part of them from the beginning. Spike had insisted no matter what a baby would never be a part of him. But she and Willow had proved him wrong.

Willow had used her computer skills to find someone who was related to him, albeit distantly given the generational differences one hundred twenty years makes. And she had used her witchcraft to obtain the blood relation's sperm. Spike had been angry as hell at first that she had used her magic like that so that Buffy could have a baby. Once they found out it had worked and Spike realized a baby grew inside of Buffy, one that was in fact a part of him no matter how distantly, his anger had subsided.

And now here was that child, all grown up having a baby of her own. Buffy and Spike had both agreed immediately on the name for a girl. Joyce had been the first and only one thought of. The death of Buffy's mom had affected them both and it seemed right and appropriate to name their only child after the woman who had brought Buffy into the world to begin with.

He smiled slightly as he pictured young William. Spike recalled portraits from when he was a baby and swore he could see a resemblance between those portraits and the newborn. It was probably hopeful thinking on his part, wishing that a part of him truly still existed in the blood relation Willow had found.

Spike had never asked who the man was and to this day did not care to know. For one he hated the idea that Buffy had to go to someone else to get pregnant to begin with, not that they had actually done the act to create the baby but still it gnawed at him he could not do it himself. And for another, he really did not want to know who and where any true blood relations of his were. Joyce and her family were the only blood kin Spike needed to worry himself with. "He's perfect, the newest little bit is."

"I hated that I gave you my word that I'd stay and look after Joyce when you were gone. Willow and Tara, Xander or Giles would have been happy to take her. They would have understood why I had done it, walked into the sunlight once you were gone. It was fine when she was little, still living at home, but once she was gone," he trailed off.

He moved a little so that he could pull up some more weeds. He cursed himself, it had been too long since he had actually come here and talked to her like this. "But seeing him today, seeing how happy Joyce was, it made me glad I kept my promise to you."

"But in truth, Slayer, the reason I stay isn't for Joyce or for our grandson," he continued softly. "It isn't even because I gave you my word I'd look out for our child, her children, and their children until there were no more children to look out for."

He paused, wondering what she would think about the next tidbit of information if she were here to hear it. "No, I stay because your Watcher's Council for whatever reason didn't deem Sunnydale important enough to send the new Slayer here. This is your work here, someone's got to see to it that all of your hard work doesn't go to hell," he laughed lightly. "Quite literally I guess."

"Joyce asked me recently if there's another Slayer, one who had replaced you, and I told her I believe so. I've never known there not to be one to replace the last one. She's somewhere out there, and I hope that somewhere within her is a part of you, your strength, your courage and your ability to see past someone's exterior to know what's on the inside. She hasn't come after me at any rate, so I guess there's something to be said for that."

"Maybe one day I can take her to meet her, Joyce to meet the new Slayer. Giles could probably arrange it somehow. I think she'd like that, Joyce would, some sort of connection to you, getting to know why you were taken from her when she was so young."

Tears fell along his cheeks as he thought over the years, struggling to raise Joyce from the age of three by himself. Willow and Tara had been a huge help. He had sold the house and bought the mansion from Angel. It gave them a lot of space, got him out of the house that held too many memories of Buffy in it, and granted him seclusion. Joyce knew the truth about both her parents, she knew that Spike would be there to watch over William's children's children's children. He did not like standing out, did not like people noticing that Joyce's dad looked no older than the day she was born. And worse when Joyce got to looking older than he did.

"God there were days I hated you, cursed you, wished I had turned you just so I didn't have to be here by myself trying to raise a bloody girl child on my own. Like I know a damned thing about little girls. But we done all right, Joyce and me. You'd be proud I think. Her husband's a likeable bloke, but I imagine if you're looking down like I expect you are you already know all that. He's a little afraid of me, saw me vamp out once, but I guess that's good. It assures he'll never hurt Joyce. She doesn't know about the chip and neither does he, so he doesn't know I can't hurt him. Don't know if she thinks I'm just a big poof like Angel, soulful vampire and all or what, but I don't really care when it comes down to it."

He did not know what else to say and so he stood after adjusting the rose so the bloom rested where her head was. He hated thinking of her in there, knew it was just her body, the shell of her, but he hated it nonetheless. He had nightmares after she had died that she had not really died, that he had left her there to claw her way out of her coffin as he himself had to do. But her soul, the part of her that mattered, was no doubt in heaven.

He could have gotten the chip removed, could have gone off on a rampage killing humans left and right. In the end no matter how the idea had appealed to the demon in him out for revenge and justice for taking her in the way she had been taken he knew it just was not who he was anymore. Besides, humans were not responsible for her death, those he could hunt and kill were the ones responsible. And so night after night, month after month, year after year he continued to patrol just as she had done hoping that one day he would meet up with the demon who had managed to best her.

He ran his fingers through his hair and lifted his eyes to read the headstone, shaking his head slightly in disbelief that he had not been able to help her live longer. She had been taken from him too young, too soon, and now he was left with a hollow space inside of him that he did not quite understand. How did Angel do it with a soul? Joyce had filled a part of it, and now little William probably would fill another part of it, but there was still a big empty space that Spike suspected never would be fixed or filled again. These feelings she had brought out in him, given him, gifted him with came with a price. He was eternally changed.

Maybe his torment would end and the feeling that he had somehow failed her or let her down would stop if and when he found the one who had killed her. And then what? He had no idea. The sunlight no longer held its appeal, seeing life renew itself as he had with William, remembering what Joyce had been like as a baby, made him realize that. He would go on, patrolling, watching, drinking pig's blood and going down in history as the vampire that killed his own kind and who had loved and been loved in a return by not just a human but a Slayer.