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If this was a magic trip, she’d definitely had worse ones.

One moment she’d been sitting at a bar, chatting with some demon who had reminded her so much of Anya she’d expected Xander to pop by at any moment and propose marriage; the next, Buffy had found herself sling-shotted into one hell of an orgasm, white-hot shots of pleasure scoring through her with bone-rattling intensity she'd thought was well behind her. And as more of her brain came online, other things shot into focus. Things like the rough grunts against her lips, the scrape of the floor against her back, and the sensation of a hard cock pounding into her. Buffy dug her fingers into a powerful set of biceps, tightening her legs around a slim, familiar waist on instinct, and gazed up into a cobalt stare she’d spent the past two years chasing in her dreams.

“Oh god,” she gasped, a tangle of conflicting emotions seizing her chest—elation, confusion, fear, grief, and joy twisted so intimately she couldn’t begin to pull all the threads apart. All she could do was hold onto him as he fucked her, and hope against hope that if she held on tight enough, she could pull him with her into the real world once this dream ended.

But this didn’t feel like a dream. Even the most vivid dreams came with tells—the edges were somewhat blurry, and finer details like his scent, the way he’d grinned, and the soft little gasps he’d fed her never crossed over.

Then he closed his eyes, and there was no mistaking that look. How he whimpered when he tensed and came, but more than that—how he seemed split between euphoria and despair. It was something she’d always noticed but tried to ignore during their tumultuous affair, the knowledge that he was holding off as long as he could to keep her with him. Because Spike had the script down—he knew what came next. The instant she climaxed he was on borrowed time. Just a matter of seconds before she shoved him off and made for the door, usual threats ringing behind her. So he’d keep going, keep fucking her as long as he could, until she flexed her muscles around him and he couldn’t fight it any longer.

Buffy had never seen that look in a dream. Not once. Hell, until this moment, she’d forgotten about it.

Which meant this was real. Somehow, some way, this was real.

More than that, it was familiar. Oddly, specifically familiar. The next thing she knew, Spike had rolled away and lay panting beside her. Those intoxicating, lung-filling breaths that he didn’t need to take but did anyway, and the scenery crystallized even further. The ceiling of a crypt buried under a town’s worth of rubble, the foot of a bed that had more than one broken spring thanks to her, the rough sensation of a rug against her skin.

She knew this. She’d been here before. It was there at the edges of her memory. And before she could stop herself, Buffy opened her mouth and said, “We missed the bed again.”

Spike grinned and looked at her with that goofy daze he often wore after they’d had tremendously good sex. “Lucky for the bed.”

And that was it. Something within her snapped. Buffy found herself in motion the next second, straddling the still-panting Spike, seizing him by the shoulders and hauling him up so she could maul his lips with hers. He seemed stunned stupid for a second before he growled and tugged her closer, funneling his fingers through her hair to hold her mouth against him. This was another thing dreams couldn’t get right—the way Spike kissed. With his whole being, always. Hungry and desperate and needy. Like she was the thing that kept him from dust.

But in the end, that hadn’t been enough. Nothing had.

That thought hit her with the impact of a battering ram. Buffy tensed against him, felt him tense in turn, and burst into hard, body-shaking tears.

God, this was real. Really real. All of it.

“Slayer,” Spike said, and the worry in his voice nearly did her in all over again. “Buffy, love, what’s wrong?” A pause. “Didn’t hurt you, did I?”

She shook her head, trying to focus on him but it was no use. “No. It’s…” A smile tried to take over her mouth but it felt more like a wince. “You’re here.”

He went still—that deathly still that she knew so well. The sort that told her he was weighing her mood, unsure whether or not she considered his being here a good thing. Because this was Spike as she’d known him before. Before the soul, before the Hellmouth had collapsed, before he’d been resurrected just to die again, the big jerk. This was the Spike she’d used and abused, the one who loved her unconditionally and gave himself freely whenever she asked. No matter how much she made it hurt.

“Yeah,” he said slowly. “Can’t turn me into a different bloke, love, no matter how hard you try.”

God, that voice too. Buffy cupped his cheeks and pulled him into her, desperate to taste him again. Feel him. Remember.

“It’s you,” she said against his mouth. “It’s really you.”

The tense muscles against her began to relax, then he was kissing her back with enthusiasm, lips and tongue and teeth in the heady combination that had always been just a bit too much for her. Too much yet not enough. “’Course it’s me,” he said, and released a giddy laugh. Like he couldn’t believe it, either. “Reckon on sharin’ why you thought I might be someone else? Not that I’m complainin’…rather like that you seem so bloody chuffed about seein’ me. Just a bit lost on who you thought was shagging you just now.”

Buffy pressed her brow to his, running her fingertips along his cheekbones, over his scarred eyebrow, then his lips. So much she’d denied herself.

“Slayer…” He favored her with a soft grin. “Enjoyin’ the hell outta this, but better to know now if you got bit by some spell before a fella starts thinkin’ things.”


“Like how you might actually fancy me a bit after all.” This he said without a flinch, though there was a somber undertone to the words that nothing could eradicate. Something she’d noticed more and more the longer their affair had gone on, though before he’d started talking about how she belonged in the dark with him. Like he couldn’t quite dare himself to hope too much, but also couldn’t stop himself from hoping at all.

“Spike…” Buffy looked around the crypt again, the cool air hitting her face and making her aware of her drying tears. “This… I’m sorry, I’m just trying to figure this out.”

“Makes two of us.”

“It’s 2002, isn’t it?”

At this, he narrowed his eyes, real concern leaking in there at last. “Uhh, yeah,” he said, reaching up to tug on her hair in an affectionate way she hadn’t let him get away with more than twice. “Been it for a couple of months now. Rang in the New Year at the Bronze with your chums. Fingered you in the broom-closet, if memory serves.”

Heat tinged Buffy’s cheeks. “Okay. And if you and I are still doing this, that means Riley hasn’t shown up yet.”

“The bleeding hell do you mean by that?”

“Spike, you need to listen—”

“Can’t tell me you still miss that tosser. We both know Wonder Bread couldn’t keep up with you on his best day. You’re a sodding animal. Got the bite marks to prove it, if you’d like a peek.”

“God, shut up.” She rolled her head back and begged the cosmos for patience because with the extreme good also came the annoying. The annoying being his defensiveness and insecurities which, yes, she acknowledged she was more or less responsible for stoking, but that was so not the point now. “Spike, when I woke up this morning, it was 2004. May of 2004, to be exact.”

Nothing for a moment. He just stared at her like she’d lost her marbles. Well, at first. Then, slowly, the doubt in his gaze began to wane, taking with it the hard edges that had been there.

“Right then,” he said. “So who did it this time? Red go on a bloody bender? Guessin’ her little rehab didn’t take.”

“What? No—well, no, it didn’t, but that’s…a whole different story.” Buffy pressed her lips together, her heart hammering so hard her chest shook. The longer this stretched, the more certain she became that she was not going to be lampooned back. The world felt settled in a way she hadn’t known to appreciate. “I was in a bar in Los Angeles. A demon bar, actually, celebrating with the girls. We’d arrived in time to stop…”

Stop the big evil that Angel had stupidly poked. Save the world yet again. And god, she didn’t know if she’d ever stop being mad at Angel for the insanity that was the Circle of the Black Thorn nonsense—how he’d gone in alone, even knowing she had an army of slayers at the ready to tackle world-ending baddies. If it hadn’t been for the Seer in Willow’s new coven, none of them would have been any the wiser.

Except that Seer hadn’t seen everything. Like that Spike was alive and in the thick of it. Like that Buffy would show up with said army just in time to help turn the tide for the good guys, but not in time to not watch the man she loved go up in a cloud of dust again.

Buffy’s lower lip trembled, her eyes filling with tears once more. That had been just hours ago, and she’d been forced to shelve everything. Shove it all back—the pain, sorrow, outrage—until the fight was over and the day was won. Then she’d demanded the truth from a battle-worn Angel, who had seemed upset with her that his new humanness wasn’t the headline news he’d expected. Because apparently, that was a thing vampires did. Turn human. If they had a soul and saved the world. There was a prophecy and everything.

And Buffy’s first question?

“Why didn’t you tell me Spike was alive?”

Angel had been somewhat crestfallen after that, but had told her the whole story while some healers with the new Watchers Council patched him up. Nineteen days after Sunnydale had collapsed on itself, Spike had shown up as a ghost at Wolfram and Hart. But he hadn’t stayed a ghost, and he hadn’t called her. Hadn’t written her. Hadn’t dropped her a note or anything to let her know that he was back among the living, for some stupid reasons that sounded far more like Angel-logic than Spike-logic. Which led her to believe Angel had spent the time between Spike being a ghost and Spike being corporeal doing everything he could to infect Spike with doubt. Because that was what Angel did—make decisions for other people, convince them he had the right of it.

Also, Buffy had been cookie dough the last time they’d seen each other. Only she hadn’t been—she just hadn’t known it at the time. But she’d figured it out fast after Sunnydale collapsed. After Spike gave her the world.

Angel couldn’t have known about the times she’d cried herself to sleep, only to be chased by endless nightmares. How she replayed those final seconds with Spike to the point she forgot to eat sometimes. How Xander had ultimately asked her to come with him to meet his therapist—someone Giles had found to help ease slayers into their new powers. Someone who also had some background in grief counseling and had been helping Xander navigate life post-Anya.

“He thought it’d be good if a friend came in with me,” Xander had said—err, lied. “I need to become more comfortable with expressing myself and my emotions to the people who matter. Will’s busy building Hogwarts, so tag, you’re it.”

And since that had seemed all kinds of reasonable, Buffy had bucked up and gone with him, watched as he talked about the mistakes he’d made, the things he’d like to redo, what he’d say to Anya now. Acknowledging his right to his grief, his regrets, and the myriad of emotions that came with both. Then the doctor had turned to Buffy and launched into a series of seemingly innocuous questions that quickly morphed into something personal and uncomfortable, until he had pushed her to do something she hadn’t done since standing beside the crater that was now Sunnydale.

Say his name.

“A lot changed that day. You lost your home but gained a new life for yourself. How did it happen? Can you walk me through it?”

So she had. The whole plan to defeat the First, empowering the Slayers, saying goodbye, then mad dash to freedom—

“Goodbye to who?”

“To him.”

“Who is him, Buffy?”

She’d swallowed and glared at Xander, tears filling her eyes. “Spike.”

“Ahh. And who was Spike?”

“A vampire.”

“A vampire? Yet you are the Slayer.”

“He was different. He got a soul for me.”

“Incredible. Why?”

“He loved me.”

“Enough to get a soul?”


“And did you love him?”

Still glaring at Xander, tears spilling down her cheeks, she’d said, “I told him I did. He didn’t believe me.”

“How does that make you feel?”

She hadn’t been able to answer. Dissolving into sobs tended to make talking hard.

At the moment Sunnydale collapsed, when she’d laced her fingers through Spike’s and told him she loved him, she hadn’t known she meant it. And that, more than anything, was what had haunted her in the nights following. Spike had seen the doubt there, known it for what it was, and hadn’t let himself be fooled. Except they had both been fools—something she’d recognized only when it was too late. Something he’d never recognized at all, because she’d never given him a reason to.

“Slayer?” Spike gave her a little shake, jarring her back to the present. Well, his present, her past. “You were in Los Angeles?”

She swallowed and nodded. “Angel had screwed something up. We were there to fix it. And we did.”

It was impossible to miss the impact referencing Angel had on him—something that, the last time she’d been in his crypt, she’d brandished like a weapon. A tool to keep herself safe whenever she sensed Spike was edging too close to places she’d marked off-limits. Had kept off-limits since the second her first great love had disappeared into the freaking shadows.

“Great sod’s always mucking something up,” Spike muttered, having gone rigid. “No short wonder you haven’t had to play the hero more than once.”

Laughter bubbled off her lips, and Spike reared his head back, staring at her like she’d grown a second head. “I know, right?” she replied. “And this was a big, big thing. Like end-of-the-world big, which apparently is something he does on the regular. I had this whole freaking army of slayers and—”

“What now?”

“Yeah, that’s… Long story.” Long story with possibly a different ending now. And holy crapola, did that thought ever make her dizzy. Buffy pressed her eyes shut to maintain her equilibrium, though she was shaking again as shock melted into understanding. She had really gone back in time—back to this. To him.

She had another chance.

“I’d wager everything’s gonna be a long story, love,” Spike said, tilting her head up so their eyes were locked again. “How many times you fancy tellin’ it?”


“Or is this the sorta thing only a dead man can hear?”

His meaning became clear almost instantly.

“No.” She shook her head. “No, I’ll be telling… Well, everyone.” Everyone, which included Tara and Anya. Another wave crashed and she blinked eyes suddenly filled with new tears before looking back to Spike.

“I’ve missed you,” she said, then cupped his cheeks and pulled his mouth to hers before he could get in another word.

It was stupid, she knew. Reckless, even. Something that could move time was likely not a concern to put on the backburner, but Buffy had spent far too much time living for other people. For now, just for now, she wanted for herself.

And as Spike growled and pulled her to him, his cock thickening against her ass, she figured he’d be okay with postponing the big talk until later too.