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Leave Your Lights On

Chapter Text

1.  Hers

Hey now, all ya children
leave your lights on
Better leave your lights on
Cause there’s a monster, livin’ under my bed
Whispering in my ear
There’s an angel, with her hand on my head
She say I got nothing to fear
There’s a darkness, living deep in my soul
Still got a purpose to serve
So let your light shine, deep into my hole
God don't let me lose my nerve
Don't let me lose my nerve.

Hey now, all ya sinners
put your lights on
put your lights on
Hey now, all ya children
leave your lights on
Better leave your lights on
Cause there’s a monster, livin’ under my bed
Whispering in my ear
There an angel, With her hand on my head
She say I got nothing to fear
hey ya gotta
shine like a star
shine like a star
then fade away
    Put your light on, Everlast and Carlos Santana

He doesn’t remember precisely how it became a ritual – or exactly when, but he does remember vividly how it started.  And why.

The why is something he’ll never forget.  Never escape.  His fault.  His failing – his. . .  

He is consumed by his regrets for that night, swamped by them.  By what he should have done and for what he’d failed to do.

The one promise he’d not been able to keep – and it had cost him – cost everyone.

A light had gone out that night.  Extinguished because of his failure.

Spike gathered the items for his nightly ritual – votive candle, scented with vanilla and lavender, hints of frankincense.  The lantern he’d nicked because it protected the flame. . . . . a single flower.

The flower was a recent addition to the ritual, but he thought it fitting – as fitting as the next item – a stake.

His fingers stroked over the wood, smoothing the rough splinters restlessly.  The wood had softened in spots from so much constant handling, but he couldn’t help himself.

He paced from refrigerator to sarcophagus and back in an endless loop, rehashing that night.  The look on her face as she stood in the darkened hallway, inviting him back in – and the grim reality of her request.  Keep her safe. . .

He’d failed her so horribly.

Should have been faster. . . . stronger. . . smarter . . . less dismissive of the old demon. . . something.   Anything.

Anything to save her.

His hand tightened around the stake, tiny pinprickly slivers of ash poking into his skin, bitter reminder of her calling.

Ashes to ashes. . .   Dust to dust. . . .

The candle had been first – a light left on for her – for her soul.

Lantern to protect the light.

Spike pulled the candle out of his copious pocket, pressing his thumb hard into the wax.

From me to you, luv . . .  A prayer for your soul . . .

He’d long since resigned himself to the irony – a soulless demon lighting candles for the soul of the Slayer.  Didn’t matter – he wasn’t doing it for anyone but her – and perhaps, in a small way, himself.

Some nights he merely counted off the paces between his crypt and her grave.  Those were the easy nights.  Those were damn few.  Most nights he walked in cadence with his memories – never in any chronological order – although he generally started with his first sight of her.

But always, always, every single night . . . the last memory he replayed was the one he hated – was always the same.

Her lifeless eyes.

Dull hazel staring at him – the light behind them gone.

Spike dropped the candle back into his pocket, refusing to give in to the tears suddenly flooding his eyes.  With his free hand, he pinched the bridge of his nose until he gained some control.

The late afternoon was quiet, broken only by the chirp of crickets and the far away whir of cars on the freeway.  Restfield was the quietest spot in Sunnydale – another irony not lost on him.

His nightly sweeps started and ended here – at her side.  He tended her marker – her plot – making sure it was . . . Undisturbed.

Shadows danced over the cold stone of his crypt, lengthening as the sun finally dipped completely below the horizon, signaling his time.

Time to see her – to leave a light on – and then to fulfill his promise.

The crypt door banged shut behind him, its echo playing havoc with his memories.  A light breeze rose softly from the west, carrying with it the faintest trace of the ocean and something elusive he couldn’t place.

Spike paused, cocking his head to the side as he tried to identify it.  The scent eluded him, there one second, gone the next, like a fleeting memory of what never was.  Scanning around for any mystical disturbance, he waited, then shrugged off the tickle at the back of his neck.  Tightening his grip on the lantern and the flower, Spike resumed his pilgrimage.

Ah luv, one more bloody night. . . . without you.

His hand rested on the cool granite, brushing off imaginary dust.  The trek between crypt and grave had been too short and he found himself avoiding the front.

Shouldn’t be in there. . . . . an’ its my fault you are.

He remembers doing this for his father, more than a hundred years gone.  The hush of the silent church, echoes of countless prayers encased in medieval architecture.  Sibilant whispers of his mother’s prayers – for her dead husband and children.  The rustle of onion skin hymnals.  The scent of beeswax and hallowed walls.  Places and things forbidden to him now – and yet he draws the memories close, like a shroud.

It was those memories that had started his ritual – the dead honoring the dead.  How the ritual of prayer and candle eased his mother’s pain.

A candle for the soul.

He couldn’t fight the prayers that sometimes surfaced in his head – prayers once recited merely by rote – no thought or emotion behind them.  Now when prayers did him no good, the emotion was bottomless – a well of regret and despair and – yes – guilt.    A great gaping maw of pain no prayers could ease.

She was gone.  

Dead and buried.

And no amount of prayer from a demon was enough – would ever be enough – to change that.

But still. . . still. . . he lit a candle for her soul.

Two hundred ten steps from crypt to grave.  One hundred forty-seven nights gone.

He fumbled for the lantern at his side, sliding the latch up and open.  It was a pretty thing, dark wrought iron, almost Oriental looking, strong lines and thin metal, very much like her . . . a flower, perhaps a lotus blossom etched in the glass encasing her light.  Gently he placed it next to her headstone, sweeping away yesterday’s still fresh flower.

Stake – because it’s what you did, luv, the tool you used to save the world, night after bloody night.  Spike gently placed the stake beneath her name – images of her fighting playing through his memory.  A lopsided smile, one of wistful regret, flashed across his face and he squatted down, placing the stake just so.

Flower next – to remind everyone you weren’t just a bleedin’ hero, you were a gorgeous bird to boot. . . an’ ‘ve seen some beautiful women in my day, pet, but you topped ‘em all . . . tonight it’s a rose, pet, a pretty red one.  Meant eternal love, back in my human days . . . an’ well. . . he stopped thinking, because the tears wouldn’t stop and Spike bowed his head.  ‘ll always love you, pet.

Candle – for you. . . .  For your soul. . .  

So you can have peace.

His knees dropped to the earth, while his shaky hands fumbled for the candle and his lighter.

One hundred forty seven nights an’ this isn’t gettin’ any easier.

I miss you Buffy, every minute of every damn day.  Niblet misses you somethin’ fierce. . . so bloody hard without you . . . I’m so sorry.  My fault you had to . . . all my fault.

Vision blurred, he flipped open the Zippo, touching fame to wick.  Light flared and his heart lurched.  Sending the only wish – he dare not call it a prayer – heavenward, he whispered, “Someday, luv, I hope you’ll forgive me.”

Rest in peace, luv . . . here’s the candle for your soul. . .

Chapter Text

2.  His

My lover's gone,
his boots no longer by my door,
he left at dawn,
and as I slept I felt him go
Returns no more,
I will not watch the ocean,
my lover's gone,
no earthly ships will ever
Bring him home again,
bring him home again
My lover's gone,
I know that kiss will be my last,
no more his song,
the tune upon his lips has passed
I sing alone,
while I watch the ocean,
my lover's gone,
no earthly ships will ever
Bring him home again,
bring him home again
    Dido, My Lover’s Gone

She doesn’t count the first time – well, really, it was the second time, since he was of the undead.  No, Sunnydale collapsing doesn’t count.

Because he didn’t . . .  well, he did, but he’d come back.  Just not to her.

The fact was he had been back – not whole, at least not at first, anyway.  But he had been back.

So Los Angeles was a different story.  

That counted.

Why, she’s not really certain.  Perhaps, because in the time since Sunnydale she’s had time to grow up. . .   Time to realize what it was between them.  Time to understand how much he really, truly had meant to her.

Time was something she had far too much of now.

Without him.

She realizes now, what it was with The Immortal.  He was Riley in reverse. Just a poor substitute for who . . . And what she really needed.

But he’s gone and she has no mementos . . .  nothing but her own memories.

His touch, his voice . . .  all colored now with rosy lenses, whitewashed clean of their violence.

Rome, like The Immortal, was now behind her, instead, after learning about the coming battle in Los Angeles, she’d packed up everything, shipping her things, and Dawn, off to London.

She’d arrived too late – Angel’s crew decimated, the slayers living in the States battling valiantly to get to the badly injured vampire.

He survived, though there was no trace of Spike – no duster, no dust . . .  no nothing.

No witness . . . And for days she held out hope, scouring alleys and sewers, searching for something.

Any trace of him.

There’d been no sign.

Buffy ran her fingers over the top of his television, eyes on the door.  A sigh broke through her and she made no effort to wipe away her tears.

Almost time. . .

Ten days into her search, Angel had come looking for her – determined to make excuses, to convince her the search was foolish – which she had ignored.

Four days later, she moved into his old apartment, desperate for some connection to him.  God Spike, this is worse than the crypt . . .  there’s nothing of you here . . .  except your clothes.

Damn you, Spike. . . . Damn you for not believing. . . . For not trusting.
  A soft sigh broke from her.   Not that I gave you much to trust.

Buffy stared at the bed she’d been sharing with a ghost – unable to remember moving from living room to bedroom.

Dawn and Giles had arrived a month into her quest, full of false mourning and unspoken regret.  Her sister, in a rare moment of sharing, told Buffy about Spike’s nightly ritual and she seized upon it like a lifeline.

Two weeks later, they were gone, back to England . . .  and she was alone again. . . .



She wasn’t sure about how ironic it was, but she knew it was odd, heaven’s chosen one praying for a vampire . . .

She wished, more than once, for some place of his, other than this dreary apartment – where she could set his candle nightly.

For some reason an anonymous dark, dirty alleyway wasn’t good enough.

Neither was his apartment.

It wasn’t until she’d been lighting his candle for a month that she’d found it.

She’d been chasing some demon, and it disappeared into a garden and Buffy had stopped in her tracks.

Something about the place – the sudden serenity of it all called to something deep inside her – it was a sanctuary.

Instead of chasing after the demon, she retraced her steps, grabbing his lantern.

Every night since then, she’d snuck in, ducking behind the last visitors or blending in with wedding guests, winding her way through the deserted paths.

Most nights, the lantern was left by the waterfalls – those were the nights she sat quietly, contemplating her past.

Other nights – the hard ones – his candle flickered amid the tall pines, casting feeble shadows.

Those were the nights she cried.

He was gone – no prayers, no pleas to the Powers – to heaven or a god she wasn’t sure existed – would change that.

He deserved peace – his last few years had been nothing short of chaotic – and there were whole days when she believed it was what he’d gotten.  

But a bigger part of her knew better.

He may have twice died a champion . . .   had it been enough to wash away his sins?

Did giving his life to save the world absolve him?

Buffy hoped so – almost more than she wished him back.

Time to go . . .  

In one hand she scooped up the lantern and a candle, heading straight for the door.  The memory of the night they’d gotten drunk in his crypt – well, she had anyway – surfaced, and a sad smile crept across her face.  That had been a good night – before the madness between them had grown.

Another night’s memory flashed and Buffy fought the wave of grief rising in her belly.

Finding him, bare chested and wounded, in that abandoned church . . .

Wiping away the tears, Buffy leaned hard against the door, unable to go on.

I don’t. . . . I’m still not ready for you to not be here . . .

A sob caught in her throat and her head banged softly against the door.  The lantern clattered, bringing her thoughts back to the moment.

Time to go . . .

Time – now that she had all this time – the one person she wanted to spend it with was gone . . .

How the hell am I supposed to go on?  

There was no one she could confide in, no one who would even understand – or grieve with her.  She’d never told her sister all that transpired between her and Spike – some things she couldn’t bear to admit except to him.  Explaining to Willow –   Buffy shook her head.  

Not going there . . . All that’s water from the bridge.

Every single one of them had tried, in the past few months, to intervene.  To make her see reason  . . .  that what she was doing was foolish and silly and all sorts of other words that did nothing but belittle what she had shared with him.

Not that she could explain it to any of them anyway.  To them, he was nothing more than a reformed demon, someone unnecessary, dispensable, someone not to be mourned or missed.

Buffy knew differently.

He had been her rock when every single one of them had failed her.  Been her support when he barely understood what it meant.  Stood by her when she – souled champion of good – beat him nearly to death, left him to face the sunrise in an alleyway and still, weeks later, said he loved her.

Professed it, proved it, lived and breathed it time and again.

He’d saved her, more times than she cared to admit.  And for a while, all she’d done was throw his devotion back in his face, decrying his lack of soul as a hindrance to anything real existing between them.

And all the while she’d known, in her heart, what was the truth.

Truth it had taken her years to admit.  Truth she’d barely been able to admit to herself and only to him when it was almost too late.

Truth she couldn’t bring herself  – still  – to admit to her friends.

Her behavior that year from hell had bordered on  . . .    Buffy shied away from comparisons.  That was then and you’ve made your amends for what you did.  He forgave you . . .  you need to forgive yourself.

Pushing herself away from the door, Buffy shook off the tears.  It was a long way to Descanso Gardens, and she needed to move faster if she was going to make it in before closing.  

Her fist closed reflexively around the candle, bruising it in her grip, the heat from her hand releasing some of the scent.  The familiar aroma of vanilla mixed with other scents drifted up to her nose and another wistful smile crossed her face.  Trying to find a candle that smelled of leather and whiskey had proved more than futile, some merchants looking at her crosswise.  She’d thought briefly about going to the demons to find someone to make her that particular blend and decided against it.

Besides, he’d loved the smell of vanilla . . .

Almost every candle he’d stolen for them had been vanilla scented.  

She made it as far as the car before her knees started wobbling and her belly clenched with repressed tears.  Not gonna be a good night at all . . .  

Tonight, she knew, would be a night for the pines.

It made sense, since today had been a milestone she hadn’t wanted to pass – it was the anniversary. . . . The same day they’d knocked the house down, writhing and rutting like the two supercharged beings they were.  She never told him, never admitted it, but he was the best she’d ever been with.  He’d ruined her for anyone else’s touch.

Damn vampire. . .

At that thought, a real smile broke over her lips and Buffy shook her head, snorting a little.  He knew it too, even called her on it when she denied it – he knew her so damn well.

Sex with Spike was worth remembering every damn day – only thing wrong with it, was that she couldn’t keep doing it.

Truth, Buffy Anne Summers, is not something you like facing.

He’d known it though, forcing her to face the truth.

Only problem was – as she saw it – when she finally admitted it out loud, it was too late.  He’d thrown it back in her face, denied her the  . . .  grace?  What was the word for it anyway?

Stuck at a traffic light, in a car he must have taken from Wolfram & Hart, Buffy once more gave into the tears.

Her thoughts were all jumbled, unable to focus on any one thing, circling round like frenzied bees.

Somehow she made it to the gardens, just as a wedding reception was commencing.  Easy enough to slip in amongst the chaos of guests and catering staff.  Maybe I can steal a bottle of whisky for him.  He’d appreciate that.

A wry, wistful smile played over her lips and Buffy moved through the milling guests.

Cigarette smoke drifted past her nose, stopping Buffy in her tracks. . . No . . . oh god . . . how I wish. . . . What I’d give to see him smirking at me again.  To hear him say my name, just one more time.

No English accented voice broke her reverie, only the nasal twang of a native Californian.  Shaking off her dreams, Buffy slid past the kitchen staff, grabbing a bottle of something brownish colored, with an expensive looking label and headed directly for the pines.

Winter was coming, Thanksgiving not that far off and she made a noise somewhere between a sob and a giggle remembering the first holiday she’d spent with Spike.  His expression had been priceless when the mystical bear appeared.

Day one hundred forty eight had come and gone, Buffy unconsciously clinging to the magical number like a lifeline, starting at shadows and half expecting him to turn up at any given moment.

But he hadn’t.

The letdown had been horrible.  Every hope she had, had been pinned on that day.  Just knowing if he was going to return to her – it would be on that day.

But he hadn’t.

Tears had been her constant companion for days afterward, until a numb sort of calm overtook her.

Why didn’t you come back . . .  It was the perfect day . . .  or it would have been.   Damn stubborn vampire . . . Couldn’t give in and come back, could you. . . .

Why didn’t you believe me?

It’s almost one hundred sixty days, Spike . . .  

Too many days without him.  Buffy looked around, trying to find the best spot – a spot for tonight.  A soft rustling breeze blew through the pines, ruffling her hair, almost caressing her.  New tears started to fall, and she stopped walking, listening to the wind and the steady thump of her heart.

Two phone calls had come today, both of which she’d ignored.  Giles had left a terse, concise voicemail, requesting her presence in England – and his displeasure about her decision to remain in Los Angeles was still very clear.

Willow’s message had been less terse, but no less judgmental.  To Buffy’s way of thinking – the group plan to spend Thanksgiving in London was nothing more than a ploy to get her away from what they saw as destructive, self-indulgent behavior – fueled no doubt, by Angel’s reports of her repeated refusals to see him.

She avoided him at every turn, refusing his calls, telling him to go away through closed doors, laughing when he’d tried using his key to get into the apartment.  Apparently, whatever mystical force governed vampire entry into private dwellings blocked him from entering.  The look on his face after he’d bounced against the barrier had been enough to make her cheer – until the reality of that set in.  

It was her home now.

Not just his . . .  

She didn’t want to think about what that implied.

I’m not ready to let you go . . .

Not ready for you to not be here. . .

It’s so hard to remember when he wasn’t a part of her life. . .

Hard to remember before she was called.

So many of her memories of Sunnydale were laced with his image – his smirk and swagger, his fists and fangs – so much of her life was spiced with him.

Buffy closed her eyes, drawing in the peaceful calming scents and atmosphere of her surroundings.  Her feet moved, following her out-flung senses, trusting her instincts to lead her to the right spot.  
Twenty-eight steps later, Buffy opened her eyes, gasping at the sight in front of her.  Two small pines stood opposite a single sapling, just beginning its stretch toward the sky, all of which were intertwined with ivy and honeysuckle.

The sight of it was enough to pause her tears.

Moving forward almost mechanically, Buffy placed the lantern midway between the small trees, brushing away the pine needles.  On her knees, she placed the iron and glass contraption just so, so that the dragon etched in the glass faced her.  Dawn hadn’t remembered what her lantern had looked like, so instead Buffy had followed her instincts and bought one that reminded her of him.  A snarling dragon motif in scrolled iron laid over the frosted glass, talons stretched and fangs showing.  It was he, invulnerable yet with a soft underbelly – as long as you knew where his heart was.  

Yup, that’s my Spike.

Buffy refused to think of him in the past tense – he was always either just gone somewhere or on his way back from some place else.  Anywhere.  The real truth was too hard to face, so she lived in denial, clinging to the slim hope – the only hope – she had.

No one had seen him fall, not any of Angel’s people, not any of the Slayers.  And the strange blue demon-king inside Fred’s body spoke in riddles no one understood, although she was also, like Buffy, strangely insistent on Spike’s non-dusty state.  Illyria’s freakish determined belief Spike was not dust was sometimes the only thing keeping Buffy from complete breakdown.

She fumbled with the lighter, her fingers still unfamiliar with its use, even after all this time.  The silver casing was slick from her sweaty hands and Buffy had to stop and wipe her palm on her jeans, a memory of that day she’d lied to him about his lighter passing through her mind.  Cutting her hair because he called her goldilocks as he’d said he loved her hair had been incredibly childish.

Her hair was long again, as blond as it had ever been, and she was perversely not going to cut it because he’d liked it this way.

It was silly, and she knew it; but there were hundreds – okay, dozens – of things she wished she could do over again.   How come no crazy time demon or time traveling witch is after me when I want it to be?  Coz, Summers, you don’t always get what you want.  Wah.  And I know I’m not on the Hellmouth coz all these crazy wishes would so be backfiring on me.

Maybe, if she’d been able to talk to Willow, or Giles, or someone who could help her figure out what had happened to Spike and where he was, she’d be okay.  But the only one who even thought positively about Spike was Illyria. . . And Buffy didn’t know if the old one could help.  Despite her claim to untold powers and control over dimensions, Illyria could no longer access any but the most simple of magics.  

Not enough to help Buffy.  

Not that she was even around to question.  

Which was why every night Buffy lit the magic candle.  Because maybe . . .  Just maybe, love would work again in their favor.

Maybe love would be enough.

Oh, Spike – wherever you are – I hope you know it.  I do love you.

And I probably always will.

Finally getting the candle lit, Buffy gently closed the latch, sliding the lock home.

Unnoticed tears slid slowly down her cheeks, pooling into the honeysuckle and ivy beneath her.

Rest in peace . . .  


Damn you, you stupid vampire.  

Come back.  

Just come back to me. . .

Chapter Text

3.  Theirs
Upon a darkened night
the flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest

Shrouded by the night
And by the secret stair I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
while all within lay quiet as the dead

Oh night thou was my guide
of night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other

Upon that misty night
in secrecy, beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
than that which burned so deeply in my heart
That fire t'was led me on
and shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still
it was a place where no one else could come

Oh night thou was my guide
of night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other

Within my pounding heart
which kept itself entirely for him
He fell into his sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave
From o'er the fortress walls
the wind would his hair against his brow
And with its smoothest hand
caressed my every sense it would allow

Oh night thou was my guide
of night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other

I lost myself to him
and laid my face upon my lover's breast
And care and grief grew dim
as in the morning's mist became the light
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
there they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
there they dimmed amongst the lilies fair

The Dark Night of the Soul
Words by St. John of the Cross;
Music, lyrics arranged and adapted by Loreena McKennitt

Hours later, after a long time spent patrolling, Buffy headed back to the Gardens, intent on retrieving his lantern.  She searched for two hours, looking for the small copse, stumbling wearily through the pines.  Patrol, since Angel’s battle with the Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart, had been mostly a bust, until recently.  Since the season change into fall, demon activity had increased, although it was nowhere near normal levels.  Buffy wasn’t sure if it was because of the location or the aftermath of the battle.  Somehow the reason wasn’t really all that important.  Her frustration grew the longer it remained hidden and once more Buffy fought back tears.  

No, please. . . . it’s the only thing I have left.  

The only thing.  

Except for his clothing and what little he’d managed to accumulate in the time he’d been back in Los Angeles, there was nothing else.  And strangely, Buffy didn’t consider any of those things really his.

I have to find it.

Desperation grew, until finally, Buffy stopped moving, letting the desolation wash through her. I can’t lose that. . . . please, if you’re playing with me, please just let me have it back.

Her eyes closed and she swayed a bit on her feet, fatigue worsening the effects of her desperate grief.  Slow tears slid from her eyes, rolling down her flushed cheeks.  Her hands almost automatically clenched into fists, but there was no enemy she could fight, nothing to rage against.  Only her grief.  

Fighting to regain some control over her erratic heartbeat and shallow breathing, she counted to ten, then found herself counting off the number of times they’d had sex.  A watery giggle broke through the tears and she caught herself from guffawing out loud.  Why the hell am I counting that . . .  And that night in the abandoned house – does that count as once for the whole night or do I count every single time we orgasmed?

Inhaling deeply, she fought back the waves of exhausted hilarity, realizing it was her nerves strung tight and the fatigue causing the ridiculous thoughts coursing through her head.  Shaking away the cobwebs, Buffy slowly opened her eyes and recognized her surroundings.  The little trees were off to her left, the light somehow still burning brightly in the lantern.

Her mind blank, she followed her feet toward the flickering light, slight surprise running through her.  Flopping gracefully onto the soft undergrowth, Buffy focused on the lantern.  Lifting a hand, she stripped the scrunchie from her hair, letting the blond strands loose.  A soft breeze rose up, bringing the faint smell of roses and something else she couldn’t place to her nose.  Shaking her head, Buffy let her mind drift, wondering how she could avoid traveling to London for Thanksgiving, and avoiding all the lectures she knew were coming.

Shadows closed around her, as the candlelight wavered.  

One more night without you. . .

How many had it been now?

Exactly one hundred fifty-seven.

Plus the whole year before.

No.  That doesn’t count. . .  

And still it was time we weren’t together.

Regrets for holding back while they were together in Sunnydale raced through her.  She’d been so focused on surviving and talking about them after that she hadn’t once thought – it hadn’t ever crossed her mind that maybe they both wouldn’t make it.  Too many should haves, would haves and could haves raced through her head, and Buffy realized, she never ever should have kissed Angel that night.  What a huge mistake that was. . .

That action alone was probably the one he remembered when she finally found the courage to say the words.  Stupid Buffy . . .   Stupid, stupid.  

It had only made him doubt her words even more, down in that pit.  If she could go back, change only one thing from those last days – kissing Angel would be top of the list.  What a huge mistake that turned out to be.   A reflex, that’s all it had been.  Homage to something that wasn’t real, not in hindsight.

First love.  Nothing more.  First love is based not in reality, but in cotton candy fluff and that was all she and Angel had shared. Unreality.  Dreams and castles in the sky.

Real love wasn’t like that.  It was day-in and day-out sharing, standing shoulder to shoulder with your partner.  Sharing everything.

Like Spike had said more than once – love wasn’t brains, it was blood and bones, tears and aching.  It was hate and passion.

It was real.

It was seeing the real ugliness in each other and still having your heart thump or your belly drop or your throat close whenever thoughts of the other crossed your mind.

Love didn’t die because you weren’t together.

She’d come back from the grave to find Spike more in love than before. . . .  And he was going to come back to her to find the same thing.  He might not have been in the grave, and really, don’t much care where he’s been as long as it wasn’t some hell dimension. But wherever he was, Buffy was going to convince him of her feelings.

The candle was starting to gutter and Buffy finally realized how late it was.  She really didn’t want to add another stripe to the calendar . . .  

Her phone vibrated at her hip and for a brief second she panicked, believing nothing but news of the worst kind couldn’t wait at three in the morning.  And then Buffy remembered her family lived half a world away and disregarded time differences all the time.

Flipping open the phone, she grimaced.  Giles – or Dawn – either one wanting to talk, to convince her to give up the foolishness and go back to London.  Buffy stared down at the device in her hand, exasperation surging, coupled with anger.  Maybe Giles wouldn’t understand – or refused to anyway, but Dawn. . . .  She should know better.  Her younger sister had loved Spike – and then because of Xander’s loose lips, that love had turned to hatred.

Nope.  Not answering the phone.

Decisively turning it off, Buffy stared at the waning candlelight.

How can I expect them to understand. . . when I’m not really sure I do.  Yeah, I’m here. . . hoping, wishing, praying for you to come back. . .    Is this what you did for me?

Did you light all those candles, hoping I’d come back?  Or were you hoping I was at peace?

I wish I knew which I want more . . .

Do I want you to be at peace  . . .

Or would I rather have you back?

Buffy dropped her head into her hands, fighting fresh tears.  Grief was a constant with her, a gut-filling ball of regret she carried al the time, even in sleep.

Sometimes, while she slept, she relived those last days in Sunnydale, unable to change any part of them, doomed to watch herself remain closed off from him.  Other dreams were filled with the distant past – all the many moments between them replaying over and over like some television rerun of her life in constant loop.

Twenty-three years old, almost twenty-four and . . . some nights I feel like I’m ancient.  Was this how it felt for you?

Nine years a Slayer . . .

So much for the normal life.

Normal had flown out the door the moment she’d become a Slayer, only she’d been too slow and stubborn to accept it.

At least now she knew normal wasn’t what she wanted.  Or needed.

No, what she needed and wanted was decidedly abnormal – even for vampires.

A wry smile, followed by a knowing chuckle, crossed her features.  Yup. . . who knew the oldest living Slayer had a kink?

It’s so your fault, Spike.

Oh yeah, so your fault. . .

He hadn’t let her hide behind the mask she’d carefully crafted following her first brush with heartbreak.  If she had known then what was to come, Angel wouldn’t have been anything more than a speed bump.  And Riley might not have ever gotten past the getting-to-know-you state.  She certainly wouldn’t have wasted a year trying to fit into his ideal.

But would Spike and I been able to make it?

Definitely without her Angel baggage she wouldn’t have been so hung up on Spike’s lack of soul, which so wasn’t a point anymore anyway.  So maybe yeah, without all the stuff she’d forced herself to believe, things with Spike would have been easier.

Spike had uncovered all her secrets, torn down all the walls she’d hidden behind, making her face the real her – fears and warts – everything.

Sighing deeply, Buffy wiped away her tears, then took a deep bolstering breath, settling her nerves and emotions.

Okay . . .   So need to get back to that dreary dumpy apartment.

Getting to her feet slowly, Buffy lifted her eyes up to the sky, feeling the effects of crying on her balance.  Her ears and nose were all stuffed up, and she could feel how puffy her eyes were.  She figured she looked a fright, what with the supposedly tear-proof mascara she’d taken to wearing not being so tear-proof and the exhaustion weighing down her muscles.  

The exhaustion reminded her of all those nights she’d very nearly crawled home from Spike’s crypt, every muscle screaming with fatigue, stretched and used beyond her endurance.  Looking back, she knew he’d been the only one to match her, step for step and if she’d been in a position to give him the crumb he’d once asked for, everything might have been different.

But regrets wouldn’t help.

Wouldn’t bring him back.

And yeah, that was something she’d wanted, especially if he wasn’t resting in peace.

With one last look at the small clearing, Buffy gripped the lantern, preparing to return to his lonely apartment.

It took her longer than expected to reach the parking lot and the sky, though still dark, was beginning to streak with morning stars.  She wondered just how long she’d sat there, lost in thoughts of Spike and the past, reluctant to leave the sanctuary of the gardens.

Halfway across the deserted parking lot, Buffy felt her spider senses go haywire and her eyes darted all around, though she never broke stride. The air around her moved strangely, thickening for a moment, the shadows seemed to coalesce into something solid, off to her left.  Buffy’s step faltered and she slipped into a fighting stance.  A stake appeared in her right hand, as she gently placed the lantern against a trash container.  Hopefully this will keep it safe and out of danger.

Almost silent footsteps sounded against the pavement.  Buffy faced the source of the noise squarely, automatically, unconsciously shifting into a fighting stance.

“Had I wanted to attack you, she-warrior, you would no longer be standing.”  Illyria’s voice was devoid of emotion, yet there was the barest hint of irony, something Buffy liked to believe she learned from Spike.

She wanted to snark back, but such things were always lost on the once god-king, so Buffy bit back her retort.  Instead she straightened back to her full height, eyeing the demon.  “What brings you here?”

“You weep for what is lost.  That is weakness.”  The blue haired one cocked her head to the side, smelling the salty tears that were almost always present on the Slayer.  “Grieving is a human emotion.  Cease wallowing in the muck.”

“It’s not so easy for us, Illyria.  Grief. . . isn’t something you can just turn off because someone says you should.”  Buffy tucked the stake into her light jacket, then turned around to retrieve the lantern.

“The white haired one would not thank you for your emotions.”  She fell into step beside the Slayer, her eyes focused on something Buffy couldn’t see.

“Maybe . . . I dunno.  I can’t stop.  I miss him. . . more than I expected to.”  Buffy opened the car door, placing the precious lantern on the floor, then peered across the car at Illyria.  “You miss Wesley.”

Instead of looking again at Buffy, Illyria stared back into the gardens.  For long moments it appeared she wasn’t going to answer Buffy’s statement, but then some soft noise, akin to a sigh, escaped from her and the demon turned to look at Buffy.  Unnatural blue eyes met hazel green and suddenly it was no longer Illyria standing near her, but Fred and Buffy had to blink for a moment to make certain of her vision.  “I do miss him.  He was . . . Wesley loved me and I think I was beginning to love him back.”

Just as suddenly, Fred was gone and those unnatural blue eyes were back.  “I have no wish to feel those emotions again.  I have helped you.  It is for you to help me now.”

“What?”  Buffy stared at the stiff lines of Illyria’s posture, misunderstanding her words.  “You’re helping me by ordering me to stop grieving.  Not really a help there.”

“My assistance is not of the kind you expected.  We must return.  It is time.”  Stiffly she turned to look once more at Buffy.  “We can use this transport or you can come with me now.”

“Where do you want to go?  What’s this all about?”  Illyria had moved around to the driver’s side of the car, where Buffy was standing with the back door opened, poised to close it.  

“You will no longer need rituals.”  

“Illyria, it’s late, I’m tired and . . . It’s really late.  Could you just be a bit clearer and explain what it is you want?”  Buffy leaned against the car, watching the taller female and her stilted body language.

Instead of answering, Illyria grabbed her wrist and moved her away from the metal body of the car.  One second they were standing in the parking lot of Descanso Gardens and the next they were outside Spike’s building.  Almost no time had elapsed, because Buffy was still saying the words she’d started speaking when Illyria had grabbed her and the disorientation was enough to set Buffy rocking on her feet.

The first thing to cross her mind was the lantern and how long it would take her to get back across town to retrieve it.  “I have to go back.”

“Rituals have no meanings.  They are empty gestures made by humans to supplicate powers you cannot fathom.  The deities do not deign to answer the entreaties of beings whose entire existence is an abomination.”  She finally dropped Buffy’s arm, letting it fall between them.

“You weep for what was and for what might have been and yet do nothing in your power to alter what is.”  Whirling gracefully to face the smaller woman, Illyria stalked closer, their faces bare inches apart.  “I have done what no other would have done.  You will assist me now.  It is my command.”

Grumbling something about bossy demons, Buffy turned away from the building, intent on returning to the gardens to get the lantern and Spike’s car.  Before she had taken half a step, Illyria was there, blocking her.  Almost snake-like, Illyria was peering into Buffy’s eyes, her cool breath washing over the smaller woman’s face.  “To return is foolish.  Go inside.”

“Illyria . . .  I really need to get that lantern and the car.  I can’t leave either of those things.  I have to get them back.”  Buffy moved to step around her and again she was blocked.

“For a warrior you are exceedingly sentimental.  It is a downfall.  Your weakness is the care you have for those around you.”  

“It’s not a weakness, it’s my strength.”  Spike always said it was her heart that kept her going, her capacity for love and she clung to it now, because it was the only thing she had left – his words.  “I have nothing left of him, Illyria.  I need to go back.”

Once more, instead of answering Buffy, the blue-haired god gripped her wrist tightly.  This time, Buffy was almost prepared for the abrupt transition and she didn’t react as badly.  What had her confused though, was their location.  They were in the hallway, leading down to the basement apartment and their positions had reversed.  Buffy was facing toward the apartment door and before she had a chance to regain her balance, Illyria was stepping away, moving toward the wall.

“You are more stubborn than a human has a right to be.  Do as I say.”   Without waiting for Buffy to respond, Illyria pushed her toward the door, then strode to the short stairway.  “I will await you where the other vampire sleeps.”

And with that, she was gone.

Wrought with frustration, coupled with extreme emotional upheaval, Buffy sunk to her knees with a half choked sob.  Between missing Spike so much it felt like the ache in the middle of her chest wouldn’t ever ease, the fierce hold she had to keep on her temper with everyone else and now Illyria’s weirdness over . . . well, just weirdness, Buffy couldn’t deal with it anymore.  It all came tumbling down and she had the sinking, gut-wrenching feeling that he wasn’t ever coming back.  Spike was lost to her.  And she couldn’t live with that.  Couldn’t admit to that . . .   She couldn’t face it back in Sunnydale, when he’d asked to leave and she couldn’t face it now.  

I’m not ready. . .   I’ll never be ready.

I wish you were here . . . oh god, Spike. . . . I need you.

I love you.

I’ll always love you.

The tears fell, dripping down her face and her nose clogged; the remains of her mascara streaked over her flushed cheeks and Buffy didn’t care.  She didn’t care how long she was crying on her knees in the dank hallway of a building in Los Angeles . . . she only knew the one person in the whole world she wanted, the only one who might understand how she felt, wasn’t coming back.  She didn’t care that the tingles signaling demonic presence started, nor did she want to know if what was coming down the hallway was going to squash her like a bug.  It didn’t matter anymore.  Nothing mattered.

Spike was gone.  

No amount of tears was going to bring him back.

And that sucked beyond the thinking of it.

Buffy rested her head against the wall, her hands fisted in front of her, and finally, took a deep breath.  The presence that had been walking down the stairs halted, then slowly came forward.  Heavy feet stopped behind her and strong arms swooped down, lifting her off the floor.  She didn’t fight, half believing the arms were there to comfort, not to harm.

She dared not open her eyes, because a sudden scent worked its way through the watery snot clogging her nose and Buffy thought perhaps she’d fallen asleep and was dreaming.  Cool hands brushed damp and tangled hair back from her face and a sob caught in her throat.  The gesture was so reminiscent of Spike that she unconsciously curled into the hand brushing over her head.

There was no sound in the hallway, even time ceased as she curled into the arms holding her and Buffy fought the urge to open her eyes.  If this wasn’t real, was just her mind playing tricks she didn’t want to know.  

It was better to be in denial sometimes.

A soft rumble sounded from the chest behind her and Buffy moved closer.  The silence stretched out, elongating the surreal moment.  Neither she nor the person holding her moved, more than content to stay like this, wrapped in dark silence.  

Finally, after long moments, Buffy dared to shift, her small fists unclenching and she dared to look down at the hands holding her close.  White hands, bitten nails, long elegant fingers, whiter scars crisscrossing the backs, callouses ringing the tips of some fingers.  Her eyes closed again, fighting the overwhelming urge to follow up from those hands . . . those oh, so familiar hands . . . to find that what she was imagining wasn’t real.  

She was just dreaming.

She had to be. . .  This couldn’t be real.

She wasn’t this lucky.

“Suppose we could stand out here all night, pet, but what’s say we go inside and suss this out, yeah?”

And just like that, her illusions were all shattered.

Buffy’s eyes flew open despite her brain’s warning to stay closed, and she twisted, coming face to face with him.  

His head was cocked to the side, his eyes looking tired and there were little lines around the corners that she didn’t remember ever seeing before.  Despite the twinkle, there was wariness there, swirling around with a dampened emotion that she suddenly hoped was joy, and she grimaced because she knew she looked like hell and why couldn’t he have come back when she was all daisy-fresh?

A watery, almost hysterical giggle escaped from her, and she couldn’t stop her fingers from creeping up his arm to his biceps and pinching hard.  

“Ow.  What was that for?”

Another laugh, this one very breathless, gurgled up from her throat.  “Just making sure I’m not dreaming.”

“Then you should be pinchin’ your own arm.”  

“I guess.  Had to make sure you weren’t an illusion either.”  

A wry smirk formed on his lips and Spike nodded, murmuring, “Have to convince myself of the same thing.”  He paused, his eyes roving over her features, focusing on the tear-tracks on her cheeks.  “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?”  She looked at him like he had two heads, and Spike had the first inkling that something had changed.  “Up until a couple of minutes ago, nothing was right.”

“Let’s go inside and talk.”  He shifted her weight, one hand dipping into his pockets to retrieve a key, when Buffy produced one from hers.  “You have a key?”

“Yeah, had one for a while now.”  

Shaking his head, Spike walked the few steps to the door, not once relinquishing his hold on her, nor letting her get to her feet.  Buffy slid the key easily into the lock, then looked up warily, waiting for the barrier to block him.  Instead, Spike stepped without difficulty over the threshold and kicked the door shut behind him.  When he glanced down at her, the look on her face must have been telling, because he stopped walking.  

With a visible gulp, Spike whispered out his question.  “How long was I gone?”

As an answer, Buffy pointed to the calendar she had tacked on the wall, with the number of days written in the date boxes in red permanent marker and black stripes outlining all but the last one.  Spike peered at it closer, then looked away.  Feeling compelled to say the words anyway, in an echo of his when she’d come back from the grave, she whispered just as softly, “One hundred fifty-seven damned days.”

“That long.”  He let his hands loosen their hold on her and Buffy had to find her feet.  She wobbled for a bit, and his hand shot out to steady her.  The next second, she had moved forward, her arms circling his waist, her face buried against his chest.

His arms full of Buffy, Spike tried to wrap his head around what had just happened to him.  One moment he was in the alleyway, fighting with hordes of demons, Angel somewhere to his right, Illyria off wreaking havoc and the next, hundreds of baby Slayers were dropping down from the rooftops and swarming from behind them and then everything had gone wonky on him.

Spike held onto her, dropping his head to rest on top of hers, the heady scent of her shampoo tickling his senses.  He groaned a little, then unconsciously rocked sideways, feeling her curves fit against him.  A salty tang overlaid her scent and Spike knew she was crying, as she had been when he’d walked down the stairs.  His own eyes swam with matching tears and for once he made no effort to stem them.  

There were thousands of questions he wanted, needed answers to, but he couldn’t think of one that was important enough to break the silence they were sharing.  Fatigue stole up on him though, and his legs gave out, and had it not been for Buffy holding him upright, Spike would have nearly collapsed where he was.  Buffy felt him falter and she reacted swiftly, maneuvering them toward the couch.

“Are you okay?”  She almost wrestled him down, then pulled back to really look at him.  He was thinner than she remembered, his cheeks nearly sunken and there was a grey cast to his skin that told her more than words how starved he was.  “When was the last time you remember eating?”

He shook his head, not really knowing the answer.  “Not sure.”

“There’s some blood in the freezer.  Might take a little while to defrost, but it won’t take that long right?”  With her lower lip between her teeth, she looked all of twelve and he sunk back into the soft cushions behind him.  Leaning back his head, Spike shrugged.  Taking in his posture and the dust covering his clothing, Buffy pressed a kiss to his forehead as she got up.  

He heard her moving around, her footsteps light, walking from the living room into the kitchen.  There was no hesitation, no opening and closing cabinets in a search for things that she was unfamiliar with; and within moments, the microwave whirred to life.  He relaxed, soaking in the scents, hers mixed with his.  Within moments, he was asleep.

Buffy walked back into the living room, her eyes focused on his still body.  One thought kept rolling around in her head, and though she had no idea how she’d managed to accomplish this miracle, Buffy was certain this was all because of Illyria.  

Oh god . . . he’s here. . . he’s here.

So much for deities that no longer granted the prayers of humans.  

A smile bloomed on her features and she went back to the microwave when it buzzed.  Squeezing the blood packet in her hand, Buffy realized it was still mostly frozen, with a glance toward his still form, she had a second realization.  Wherever he’d been, it hadn’t been heavenly and he was already asleep.  She took the moment to stand there, staring at him.  

Spike is back.  He’s here.  With me.

He’s back.

I’m so not letting him go again.

Putting the blood into a pot of warm water in the sink, Buffy moved back to him.  Grabbing one of the pillows she situated it so he could lay down, then suited her thoughts to actions and lifted his legs so he was stretched out on the couch.  He rolled to his side, the moment she finished removing his boots, his body curling in a bit.  She thought about taking off the duster, then changed her mind.  It would disturb him too much and she didn’t want that.  He looked like he needed the sleep more than he needed to be comfortable.  

Unable to stop herself, Buffy headed for the bedroom to quickly change into her pajamas.  Snagging the blanket off the bed, she headed back for the living room and Spike.  There was no way on earth she wasn’t going to curl up next to him, despite the fact the couch wouldn’t be comfortable.  He was back and she wanted – needed – to be near him.  

Slipping into the tiny spot in front of him, Buffy curled his arm around her waist, kissed his chin and closed her eyes.

Like him, she was asleep within seconds.


The warmth was what woke him.  He was comfortable, surrounded by unaccustomed heat and almost surreal quiet.  Spike slowly opened his eyes, uncertain of his surroundings; something floral and comforting tickled his nose and Spike immediately thought of Buffy.  It took his eyes a few moments to refocus and once his brain caught up with his vision, Spike let out a deep sigh.

Not dreamin’.  ‘s good then.

He shifted and the creak of the couch beneath him reached the slumbering girl in his arms.  She stretched, head bumping against his chin gently.  The arm he had wrapped around her lifted, brushing away loose strands of her hair.

There were no words coming to mind to explain – thinking he was really caught in a dream, Spike hugged her tighter, feeling Buffy’s arm tighten around his waist.  She murmured something and it suddenly hit him  – he wasn’t stuck in a dream.  This was real.

A groan escaped him when Buffy’s hand dug into his side, squeezing his broken ribs.  The noise woke her and for long moments she resisted looking at him, until he spoke.

“Thought it was a dream.  Wakin’ up to you in m’arms.”

“If it is a dream, then we’re sharing it.”  Buffy nuzzled into his chest, burrowing closer into his embrace.  “So stop talking in case it wakes us up.”

A low rumbling laugh was her only answer and Buffy’s whole body reacted.  Wriggling against him, she breathed out, “Missed that.”

Spike shifted and his muscles screamed in protest.  Buffy looked up in time to catch the grimace cross his face and as much as she could, moved back, giving him room.

“You okay?”

“Not sure.  Everythin’ hurts.”  Feeling her eyes on him, Spike looked down to see her concern.  “Been awhile since I could just rest like this.  Could sleep for a week.”

“So go back to sleep.”

Unable to keep the uncertainty from his voice, he asked, “Will you still be here?”

A slight flush covered her cheeks and Buffy looked away, then back at him.  “Well yeah, since I live here.”

“Oh.”  Then as her actual words caught up with him, Spike’s mouth gaped open a bit.  “What?  You live here?”

“Yeah.”  Buffy got up from the couch, unable to stay still.  “Found out about this just . . .   Well, sort of as it was happening.  Andrew finally told me and I got the stateside Slayers all moving.”

Her voice started to drift off, when she moved from the living room to the kitchen.  He sat up slowly, nursing his broken ribs and sore legs.  It was a couple of minutes before he could focus on her words, though he pretended to be listening when she came back in with warmed blood.  “Here.  Drink this.  I’ve got more defrosting now.”

He gratefully took the mug, his eyes on her face once more.  “Who made it?”

They both knew he wasn’t asking about the Slayers.  “Just three.  Illyria, Angel and now you.”

Spike drank in silence, unable to think of anything to say.  They’d tried – followed Angel’s vision, and instead of beating the Senior Partners and the Black Thorne, all they’d done was manage to kill Wesley and Gunn.  He finished the blood, absently swiping his finger around the inside, then licking it.

“Hungry?”  Buffy’s voice held a hint of laughter.

“Yeah.”  He held out the mug.  “Need a shower.”

Spike walked past her, heading straight for the bathroom.


Buffy got more blood out of the freezer, putting it in to defrost, puttering around while he showered.  When the shower began lasting longer than expected, Buffy laid down on the bed.  Her mind was still numb, unable to think beyond his presence, the miracle of his return.

Yeah, he looked tired, exhausted, drained and he was quieter than she could ever remember him being, but he was whole.  Pretty much in one piece.  They could sort through the rest later, when he was feeling better.  She wasn’t prepared for the sight of him when he walked into the bedroom; nor was he prepared for her to be resting on his bed.

“Oh my god.  What the hell happened to you?”

His belly was concave; almost black bruises ringed the right side of his torso from his collarbone to below the towel he’d slung around his hips.  The wounds on his legs were still raw and red, and his left arm looked like something had tried taking a bite out of it.

“Been fighting nasties . . .   An’ trying to find a way back.”

Leaping up from the bed, Buffy covered the distance between them before he finished speaking.

“Where were you?”  At his blank look, she shook her head.  “Never mind.  It’s really not that important.”

She got him to the bed, waiting while he climbed under the covers.  “I’ll be right back.”

He wasn’t asleep when she returned, though it was a near thing.  Now that she cared to look harder, she was frightened by the changes.  He’d aged, something vampires weren’t supposed to do.  That fact alone scared her more than she wanted to admit.  Spike opened his eyes when she sat on the edge of the bed.  Before he could even thank her for the blood, she was talking quietly.

“I’m sorry . . . for some of the . . .  If you had believed me, we wouldn’t have been apart last year.”  When he started to speak, she rushed out, “Don’t say anything yet, just drink, okay?”  

Buffy looked down at the blankets, picking at them.  “I should never have kissed Angel. That was so wrong.  And I understand, I guess, why you stayed away.  Can you forgive me for that and maybe we could start all over again?”

Her voice trailed off and Spike had all he could do not to chuckle at her.  That of all the things for her to focus on – it had been that kiss.  Buffy was nothing if not adorably self-focused at times.  He’d forgiven that moment a very long time ago . . .  Although, not by these standards.  

“Pet, look at me.  ‘M not up for long discussions yet, being bloody knackered an’ all.  Just want you to know . . .  Was goin’ to find you, if I made it through that day.  Was goin’ to let you know I was back, let you make up your own mind about things.”

He lapsed into silence then, feeling a buzz work through his muscles.  Spike stared down at the mug, then raised his eyes to hers.  “What’s this?”

Flushed roses bloomed on her cheeks and she didn’t answer him.  Tears choked him for a minute and his voice was very hoarse when he asked a second time.  “Buffy?”

“It’s mine.  Been stockpiling it for months, just in case.”

“Why?”  He was stunned, any other words beyond him.

“Because I want to . . . needed to do something for you when you got back. “   A choked off cry escaped from her constricted throat and tears sprang to her eyes.  Buffy looked at him squarely, her eyes not wavering from his.  “I wanted you to know how I feel.  I missed you so much.”

His fist clenched around the mug, knuckles whiter than before.  “And how do you feel?”

She laughed, an almost hysterical sound grating on his ears.  “Oh, you dopey vampire.  I love you.”

“Do you now?”  He knew his voice wavered, he couldn’t help it, but he needed this spelled out.  Needed clarity.  

“Since before Sunnydale became a huge dust bowl.”  Buffy wiped away a tear.  “Was just too scared, or stupid or way too stubborn to admit it.”

A smile broke out on his face, though he quickly sobered.  “What does that mean?”

She huffed, taking the empty mug out of his hand and putting it on the floor.  “It means. . . I’m done.  I’m not looking anymore.  It means no more mooning about fairytales with Angel.  Or regrets over not being normal with Riley.  Or dancing until dawn with Mr. Wrong.”  Buffy lifted the blankets and crawled under, resting her hand over his still heart.

“It means I finally sussed out what I want.”

Her lips met his, the kiss soft and sweet and so full of promise Spike figured it had to be real because it was so bizarrely strange, he couldn’t wrap his head around it.

“It means I love you.”

Buffy rolled onto her back, tugging him close and held on while Spike unsuccessfully fought tears.

Chapter Text

4.  Theirs – part ii

When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone

I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Then the mountain rose before me
By the deep well of desire
From the fountain of forgiveness
Beyond the ice and fire

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Though we share this humble path, alone
How fragile is the heart
Oh give these clay feet wings to fly
To touch the face of the stars

Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We'll rise above these earthly cares

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
Please remember me
    Loreena McKennitt, Dante’s Prayer, The Book of Secrets

They both fell asleep again, despite having slept most of the day.  This time, though, they were sprawled out over the bed, Spike’s head pillowed between her breasts.  Curled around each other, both rested better than they had in months, drawing comfort from their proximity.  His hands tightened around her convulsively as he dreamed, one of her hands  smoothing down his back or through his hair every time his agitation increased.  

There were moments, when Buffy swam toward wakefulness, confused and feeling bound to the bed, only to have reality wash over her.  Everything about the room was familiar, his presence the only addition.  

He’s back . . . Home . . .

It was those thoughts, more than any holdover grogginess that kept her sane, kept her aware and tethered to the moment.  And kept her body locked with his, willingly trapped beneath his mostly still form.  This was all new territory for her, holding him close, staying still with him . . .    Not fighting to free herself from his embrace.  And yet it wasn’t.  This was –  What she’d wanted all those nights, when she was too damaged and afraid to ask for him to just hold her, when she had first been thrust back among the living.  

Glancing at the small alarm clock on the night table, she realized they’d slept – almost eighteen hours – and it was now closing on ten o’clock.  A low groan of pain vibrated into her skin and Buffy knew the rest and what little blood he’d taken hadn’t helped enough.  Spike needed more of both, but he wasn’t going to get one without her moving.  Besides, she wanted to take a quick shower, wash some of the sleep gunk from her body.

Yet she didn’t move, stayed exactly where she was, her arms slung around his shoulders, one hand buried in his blond curls, the other resting in the middle of his back.  Staring up at the ceiling, Buffy suddenly found herself crying, which she hadn’t realized until her eyes blurred. Spike’s back . . .   Her arms tightened, almost clutching him to her.  His ear was settled over her heart and she knew he could hear it, because as it accelerated, he reacted, rolling over to wrap her in his arms, almost switching their positions.

His hand came up to cup her cheek and somehow the combination of her tears and thumping heart woke him up, because his voice rumbled between them.  “Why the tears?”

Instead of words, a gulped hiccup emerged from her and Buffy snuggled into his arms, trying to avoid having to answer.  “Kitten, what’s wrong?”

She spoke into his chest, afraid to look into his eyes.  “I was . . .  almost thought I was dreaming, I guess.  Been wanting, well, really, wishing for this for so long, I just . . .”   

“Just?”  Still more asleep than awake, Spike was coherent enough to understand she needed some form of reassurance from him that it was real . . . And he needed the same from her.

“Don’t leave me . . . I couldn’t deal if this is just a dream.”

Spike loosened his hold on her waist, practically pulling her head up to meet his barely opened eyes.  “Don’t think we’re sharing dreams, sweets, much as I’d like to think we deserve it . . . “   He paused, looking at the tears pooled in her hazel eyes.  “I’m here.  Finally.  Not going anywhere, not for a while.”

Her lips quivered and he could see the tears rebuilding, so he did the only thing he could think of to calm her.  Impulsively his lips found hers and when she didn’t stiffen or pull away, he curled one hand beneath her head, the other he slid back down to her waist.  Buffy slumped into him and an insane thought entered her head and she very distinctly remembered the first time they’d ever kissed.  The bubble of laughter formed in her chest and she couldn’t hold it back.

She broke from him, and he half expected her to look repulsed or indignant or any one of a hundred other negative things, so it took him a moment to realize she wasn’t going to hit him or flounce away in a huff.  Instead, she giggled hysterically, wrapped her arms around him, then tried vainly to say something.


More giggles escaped from her and she had to gasp, trying to get air past her lips.  “Oh god . . .   “   
More giggles and Spike pulled away slightly to see her staring into his eyes, a wide smile across her features.  “You remember . . .    Willow’s  . . .    Spell?”  When he nodded, all she said next was, “Want a taste of Slayer on your lips?”

It took him more than a minute to figure out what she was saying, and when he finally did, Spike looked at her like she was insane, then deadpanned, “You’ve got lips of Spike all over yours, kitten.”

Almost as if she’d been waiting for that, Buffy attacked him, laying kisses all over his face, giggling the whole time.   Determined not to be outdone, Spike curled his fingers around her waist and tickled her, his own chuckles soon joining hers.

Buffy was gasping for air, lights dancing behind her closed eyes and despite her breathless state she kept trying to talk.  Finally though, the hilarity wound down, although little hiccupy-giggles leaked out of her.  “My sides hurt.”

“Haven’t laughed like that for ages.”  He paused, growing serious.  “Don’t think ‘ve ever seen you like this.”

Though he hadn’t meant them to, his words stung just a little and Buffy stiffened.  Before she could say anything, Spike picked up on her discomfort and hastily snapped out a defensive apology.  He was flinging back the blankets, preparing to strategically retreat, when Buffy’s hand tugged him back onto the bed.  Whether by accident or her design, he landed flat on his back, Buffy hanging on like a limpet.

“Don’t.  You have nothing to be sorry for.  That was all me, Miss Miserable Sunnydale 2001, and unanimously reelected the following year.  You tried so hard to make me feel better and I was all get in the way girl.”  She was up on one elbow, the other hand laying across his bare chest, fingers toying with the sheet covering his skin.

“Buffy, you were going through quite a bit back then.”  A twisted smile bloomed on her face and her fingers walked up to brush over his lips.

“I love you for it, but stop making excuses for me.  I didn’t want to be anything other than miserable back then.  At least you saw it and tried to help.  Everyone else just ostriched it.”

“Whated it?”  He wasn’t going to address her other little admission, leaving that for when he had more energy to pursue her slip of the tongue.

“Ostriched.  You know, stuck their heads in the mud and pretended it wasn’t happening.”

His mouth quirked and he was trying so hard not to laugh at the way she deliberately downplayed her intelligence.  “In the sand, luv, ostriches stick their heads in sand, not mud.”

She waved off his clarification with an airy hand.  “Still, the scoobies had their heads in mud, or really, something way denser than sand.”  Buffy shook her head, letting her hair fall all around them.  “C’mon, Xander never once thought I might be with you when I was invisible?  What was with that?  How lame is it to believe you might be doing naked pushups in bed when invisible Buffy is on the loose?”

His hand reached up to push back her hair, and his thumb brushed across her cheek.  Dark blue eyes focused on the golden strands, while she could almost see the wheels turning in his head.  Before he could say anything to defend everyone else’s actions that miserable year, words started tumbling out of her mouth.  “Look at what happened, not just between us, but for everyone that time.  Everything just fell apart.  Not one of us was in a good place, the badness was just oozing all around us.  The only time I felt safe was with you, and yeah, I know I was just using you for a while.  I’m sorry for that, sorry about a lot of things but we can’t go back and do it all over, so we have to move forward.”

Buffy knew she was babbling, knew words were just spewing out of her mouth, yet she couldn’t stop them.  She didn’t know how to stop, until Spike lifted his eyes to hers and she saw the twinkle.  A huff left her and she hung her head, hiding from his suddenly intense gaze.  “There I go, all babble-girl again.  Can’t you get me to shush?”

“Nah.  It’s adorable.  Haven’t heard it in so long, I’d almost forgotten . . . How you do that when you’re nervous.”  

“Hah!  I bet you haven’t forgotten any thing about me at all.”

The soft circles his thumb had been rubbing on the side of her neck stopped for a fraction of a moment, then started again.  His voice dropped, becoming husky with need, “Haven’t  forgotten.  Remember every bloody thing.  Din’ wan’ to forget.”

Goosebumps rose on her skin and Buffy realized suddenly, where they were, and how little they were both wearing.  And it didn’t matter, didn’t make any difference at all, except cause her heartbeat to quicken.  She knew, too, the instant he picked up on it, because his jaw tensed and his nostrils flared in response to her body’s reaction.  

“I missed you pet, so bloody much.”  He looked away, knowing their separation had been mostly his fault; the result of his disbelief for her last words in Sunnydale and his own insecurities –  and too, Angel’s insidious belief that she was better off without him.  Something he never failed to repeat whenever the mood struck him.

As if she understood every single thought in his head at that moment, Buffy responded.  “Hey, it so wasn’t your fault.  If I hadn’t spent so much time giving mixed signals, we would have avoided a whole lot of mistakes.  I just didn’t  . . .  trust a lot of what I was feeling.  And just so we’re clear, I missed you too.”  A lone crystal tear dropped down onto his chest, and Spike shifted a bit so he could watch his skin absorb the evidence of her sorrow.  “I didn’t forget either.   I couldn’t, even when I told myself I shouldn’t remember.”

Her fingertip rubbed against the tiny spot, then her head drifted down, soft lips covering the area.  Both of his hands cupped her head, his fingers tangling in the length of her hair.  “Kitten?”

The almost growled endearment went right through her, igniting nerve endings and Buffy opened her eyes to find his gazing at her intently.  “I remember, Spike . . . Oh god, do I remember.”

For only the second time in nearly two years, their lips met and for both of them, it was a jolt.  He groaned, curling his hands around her, holding her in an inescapable grip, while she gasped, sliding a leg over his hips, her thigh bumping against his erection.  Spike’s hand closed around her thigh, holding her tight against him.  Buffy’s muscles clenched, holding him still within the cradle of her thighs.  

“I missed you so much Spike.”

Resting her forehead against his lips, Buffy sighed, trying not to shudder and hold back her tears.

“Missed you too, baby . . .  every bloody minute.”

Their words were bare whispers, hardly more than soft sounds.  Fresh tears leaked from Buffy’s eyes, this time mixed with his.  

“This is real, kitten.”  He said it as much to convince himself also, not just her.

“I know . . . I think I finally get that.”  She wriggled against him, undulating her hips, teasing him with her warmth.

“Buffy . . . “   He groaned into her mouth, unable to hide the wince when Buffy accidently brushed against his broken ribs.

She pulled back, her eyes sweeping over his torso.  “It looks better.”

Buffy leaned down, brushing kisses over the dark bruising.  Her fingers ghosted over his flesh, trailing tendrils of warmth over his cool body.  Spike’s hips shifted, loosening the sheet, writhing under her touch.

“Kitten . . . “

Up on her knees, Buffy leaned over him, one hand on either side of his chest.  His hands reached up to cup her face and she nuzzled into his touch.  “Buffy.”

His voice was low, hoarse with need and slightly tinged with pain.

“Shhhhh.  Lemme take care of you, okay?”

She was gone before he could blink.  Spike dropped his head back onto the pillow, his eyes closed and a grimace of pain on his features.  Bloody bint . . . How the hell is leavin’ me . . . Gets me goin’ an’ then runs off. . .  Again.  

The aroma of warm blood hit his nose seconds before her scent did.  Spike opened his eyes to see Buffy perched on the edge of the bed, a soft smile playing about her lips, eyes twinkling and hands cupped around a steaming mug.  “Drink up.”

“What’s this?”

“Drink up, fang face.  You need to get better.”

Spike gingerly slid up to the headboard, taking the mug from her hand.  “Why is that?”

The small smile bloomed into a wide grin.  “So I can show you how happy I am that you’re back.”

A smirk crossed his features and he growled low in his chest.  “In that case, kitten, line ‘em up.”

She blushed beautifully under his close attention, then tried to divert it.  “I’ve got another mug heating up, do you want a third?”

He stared at her for long minutes, sipping the heady liquid.  “Is it all yours?”

“Yeah.  Why?”

“Kitten . . .  You aren’t food.  Have you got anything else?”  A frosty, hurt look entered her eyes and she looked away but Spike had seen it.  “Sweetheart . . . I . . .  This is more than you should be doing for me.”

“What?  No. . . No.  I – this was . . .  I needed to do this, just like the lantern, it was my hope, the only hope I had.  No one else, except Illyria was even willing to believe me.  I needed something, in case you needed healing when you came back . . .”  Heaving sobs broke through her words and Spike stared at her, his brain unable to believe what he was hearing.

“Spike . . .   Please just . . .  take it.  It’s all yours.”

“Buffy . . .”  He tried speaking, but her emotions were swirling around both of them, engulfing them in their depths.  

“Please, Spike.    I understand if you don’t trust me enough to start over, but I have to do  this for you.  Please let me do this.”

He shook his head, trying to clear his own thoughts.  Buffy saw it, and mistaking it as his rejection, she sobbed quietly, saying in a very small voice, “When you . . . I’ll pack up my stuff and go. Giles and . . . and Dawn want me to go to England and so I’ll be out of your hair by the morning.”

She was standing in the doorway, her small shoulders squared against the perceived hurt and rejection.  Not so furtively brushing away her tears, Buffy didn’t hear him moving behind her, didn’t sense anything until she felt his arms circle around her.

“If you walk out that door, kitten, it’ll be with me right on your heels.  I let you go once, trying to do the right thing, ‘m not doin’ it again.  If that makes me a selfish bastard, ‘en so be it.”

His arms pulled her closer, hands snaking under the soft cotton of her pajamas.  Clamping one hand around a breast, sliding the other down to cup her sex, Spike growled into her ear.  “Told you, ‘m a bad, rude man an’ more than a bit possessive . . . I’m no martyr like Peaches.”

Buffy sagged against him at the first touch of his skin on hers, her body reacting to his nearness.  

“Do you love me?”

Her head fell forward in a soft nod and the word, “yes,” was choked out of her.

“Say it.”  His low growl sent shivers shooting up her spine.  “Say it.”

“I love you, Spike.”

His mouth closed on her neck, in a blunt bite and Buffy gasped out the words again.  “I love you . . .  Please believe me . . . I love you.”

“Tha’s all I need then.”

His fingers curled into her pussy, squeezing her clit before delving into her warmth.  Using his free hand, Spike pushed her pajama shorts down her legs, almost lifting her clear of the pooled material once it was at her feet.  Skimming his cool hand over her hip, he softly growled a litany of words into her ear.  Buffy shivered, dropping her head back to rest on his shoulder.  Almost of their own volition, one hand reached up, threading into his hair, the other reaching around to hold onto his hip.  
Spike’s cock was nestled between them, twitching against her ass.  “So warm an’ wet, kitten . . .   Is this just for me?”

“Yes . . .”  For the first time, Buffy was willing – needing – to be as vocal as he usually was.  “Oh god, Spike, don’t tease me.”

“Mmmmmm . . .    Open up for me, little girl.”

Her legs shifted, her tiny feet resting on the outside of his, hips angled forward, giving him better access to her core.  He bit down on her shoulder and Buffy’s entire body spasmed, a rush of new liquid covering his fingers.  “Baby likes that, does she?”

His low chuckle curled through her, uncoiling the knots in her belly.  “Only when you do it, Spike. . . .   Only you.”

Her hand swept over his lean hip, as she rocked back into his erection.  “Wanna see you. . . . Please?”

“What is it you wanna see pet?”  Soft kisses trailed over her neck, cool and wet, leaving wildfires in their wake.

“You . . .   Us . . .  Wanna. . . .   Oh Spike.  I need to  . . .”   Two fingers plunged into her depths, his thumb pressing on her clit.

He stepped back, sliding his fingers out of her, trailing them wetly over her hip.  A shiver stole through her at the loss of his touch and Buffy snuck a look over her shoulder.  And gaped.

“Come look then, sweets.”

Proudly naked in front of her, Spike flung his arms wide at his words.  His erection jutted out, hard and heavy, almost pulsing with her borrowed blood.  Only his side was marred with bruises, all the other wounds faded away with the infusion of Slayer blood.

Buffy’s eyes rested on his cock, then glanced up at his face.  There was such longing and fierce need swirling in the ocean blue eyes, she nearly buckled under the enormity of it.

Wordlessly she stepped closer, her fingers tugging at the small buttons of her top.  Before she’d taken two steps, she was as naked as he, her hands reaching for his.  

“Love you, Spike . . . I really do.”

Buffy stepped closer, trapping his erection between them, letting it rest against her belly.  Gently she wrapped her arms around his torso, brushing tiny kisses over his pectorals.  “I missed you . . . So much.  I had to come back here . . .  For . . . I was so worried.”

Her words, so long sought, were balm to his tattered soul.  A low groan passed through his lips and his arms dropped, cradling her to him.  “Dreamed ‘bout you, whenever I could sleep.   Was worried I wouldn’t make it back . . . “   

His voice trailed off, and he buried his face in her hair, hiding his tears.


Buffy pulled back, ducking down to slip under his bowed head.  What she saw in his eyes both warmed and frightened her.  “I’m here . . .    All of me.   Spike, hold me please.”

He swept her into a deep, drugging kiss, stumbling backward onto the bed.  Buffy rolled, ending up beneath him, his face cupped in her hands.  His erection thumped against her clit and she writhed in response.  Buffy tilted her pelvis, planting her feet flat on the mattress, her eyes never leaving his.  “Now Spike . . . “

“Are you sure?”

“More sure than my own name.”  

Together their hands guided him inside her and she hummed in appreciation, feeling the slow glide of his cock through her tight vaginal walls.  

“Oh god . . .    I missed. . . . “   Her voice dropped to a bare whisper.  “Welcome home, Spike.”

He stared down at her, every muscle frozen in place, his mind overloaded, his senses drugged.  “Buffy?”

Tears pooled in his eyes and Spike shifted, wanting to hide them from her.  This moment was achingly bittersweet for him – everything he’d wanted – and he was afraid to believe it.  Except . . .  His body remembered the feel of her – her pussy tight and clenching him tighter than a fist, the smell of her – vanilla and power, lavender and tears.   His body knew. . . And his heart had no choice but to follow.

“Missed you . . . Love you so much, Buffy.”

Words spilled from him, nonsensically profound, love laced with need, pouring forth in a torrent, gaining speed even as his thrusts within her body slowed, lengthening, savoring each languid, liquid slide inside her.

“God, woman . . . “

It was his own damned miracle. . . .  Being here, back – home – with Buffy.  Her words, for once, not his.  Their lips met, the kiss sweetly innocent while their bodies undulated slowly.

“Spike . . .  I love you.”

Big luminous hazel green eyes stared up at him, her words ringing in his ears and Spike knew he was lost again.  Gone, drowning under her spell, never to surface again.

“Love you too . . .”

Their orgasms built slowly, fractionally by hitched breath and mingled kisses, fraught with tenderness.  Something so totally new for them and yet it was no less explosive than one of their wilder couplings.

Buffy’s walls closed around him, rippling and clenching around his cock, milking him steadily.  Her body convulsed, the wave cresting from her to him, her eyes never leaving his.

This was so new . . .  tenderness.   Love . . .  sharing.  All new.  

Buffy held his gaze, through the haze of tears, both his and hers, a hushed litany reaching his ears.  “Always, love you . . .   Spike, love you . . .   Love you . . .  Spike . . .    Buffy loves you . . .”

Resting tiredly on his elbows, Spike brushed damp tendrils of blond hair from her face.

His eyes swam with tears and his jaw clenched as he tried gaining control of the ragged edges of his emotions.  Buffy curled her arms around his torso, holding him close, unwilling to let him go.  Dropping light kisses over her flushed face, he slid to his side, exhaustion and his injuries catching up with him.  Buffy tucked herself against him, a slow giggle erupting from her when his hand clamped itself around her ass.

They drifted into sleep once more, surrounded by each other.


Spike woke before she did, the pounding thump of someone banging on the apartment door loud enough to disturb his rest.  He groaned, stretching his sore aching muscles, in an effort to trounce whoever was banging away at the door.  Unwrapping his arms from around Buffy disturbed her and she came to, the sound of his grumbling complaints low in her ears.

Sleepily she asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Someone’s at the door, pet.”

Buffy rolled over, pushing him back down.  “Stay there, I’ll get it.”

Suiting action to words, Buffy got to her feet, reaching for one of his tee shirts and a pair of sleep pants.  He watched her, his eyes half closed, his mind blank of all coherent thought.  “Come back to bed, sweets, whoever it is can go bugger off.”

The pounding restarted, louder, this time accompanied by the simultaneous ring of the phone.  Buffy rolled her eyes, then headed for the doorway.  “I’m coming, I’m coming.  A little patience at this hour wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Angel’s voice reached through the doorway, calling her name as he kept up the pounding.  “Buffy!  Buffy are you in there?  C’mon, Buffy, answer the door, the phone. . . .   Something.”

Flinging the door open, Buffy stood facing the agitated vampire, arms crossed over her chest and obvious displeasure on her features.  “You do realize it’s the middle of the night.”

“Are you okay?”  He leaned against the barrier, his eyes scanning her from top to bottom.

Eyebrow raised in disbelief, she sniped out, “Standing here in one piece.”  Shaking her head at his dense expression, she asked, “You’re here waking me up in the middle of the night asking me if I’m okay?”

“Well, yeah.   Illyria said she . . . Took care of you and I got worried when you didn’t answer your cell phone.  No one’s heard from you since last night and I got concerned.”  He paused, peering at her.  “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Fine and dandy, and all in one piece, as you can see.”  Buffy shook her head again.  “Next time just call.”

“I worry about you, Buffy.  What if something happened and you got hurt or Illyria had done something to you?”

“Angel, did you not get the memo?  In case you forgot, I’m still the Slayer and I can take care of myself.  I really don’t need a babysitter, so just go back and do whatever you were doing.”

Angel stared at her, a strange look on his face and he started to speak, when Buffy partially closed the door in his face, turning away from him.

“Buffy, you have to stop this crazy behavior.  You have responsibilities, to the other Slayers and the Council.”  He paused, realizing he was getting nowhere, then said, “What about Dawn?  How can you just leave your sister halfway across the world?”

She turned back to face him, irritation written all over her face.  “You don’t get to play that card, Angel.  Not now, after everything that’s happened.  Don’t act like you care about Dawn or the other Slayers.”

“Buffy, you have to give up this foolish idea of yours that Spike is miraculously going to reappear.”  He tried pushing the door opened, coming up hard against the barrier.  She wasn’t paying attention to him at all, her whole body turned away from the door.  “Are you even listening to me?”

She ignored him and Angel’s frustration grew.  “He’s not coming back.  It’s time to wake up and realize that.  Spike is gone.”

The door flung open and Angel gaped, his mouth dropping open wide.  Spike was standing in the middle of his living room, bare-chested with barely fastened black jeans hanging low on his narrow hips.  Bruises stood out starkly against his white skin and Angel could see the fatigue on his face.

“What the hell?!”  Angel stared at them, watching how Buffy turned her back on him completely.  She was at Spike’s side in seconds, her arm wrapped around his waist.

“You should have stayed in bed.”

“Heard who was out here an’ figured he wouldn’t leave until you made him.  Thought I’d get somethin’ to drink an’ watch the show.”

“Stay here.  I’ll get it.”  Buffy helped Spike onto the couch, both of them pointedly ignoring Angel’s looming presence in the hallway.

“How did . . .   What’s going on?”  He pressed up close against the barrier locking him out, concern and disbelief clear on his features.  “You can’t – Buffy this might not be Spike.  He could be dangerous.”

She stopped short, on her way into the kitchen, whirling around to face the door.  “Are you insane?  I’d know whether or not this is Spike.  Trust me, Angel, I’d know.”

Spike just stared at Angel, an indecipherable look on his face.  He said nothing though, sensing for the moment, at least, this was between the two of them.

“How can you be sure it’s him?  He could be a doppelganger or some demon wearing Spike’s body.”

Buffy blew out an exasperated breath.  “I’d know if it wasn’t really him.”  She shook her head, turning to walk back into the kitchen.  “Go home, Angel.”

“I don’t know what game you’re playing, but whatever it is, isn’t going to work.”  Angel directed his comments to the other vampire.  “You can’t hide in here forever and whatever you’re doing to convince Buffy that you are really Spike will be over.”

“Piss off,”  Spike said without any heat.  “‘M not playing a game, you git.  It’s me, not something else.  An’ I wouldn’t hurt Buffy.”

“You can’t be trusted.  She doesn’t need you.  She deserves something better than you.”

Neither one of them heard the soft footsteps of the Slayer re-entering the room, so both were unprepared for her fury.

“Since when do you get to decide who and what I need or deserve?  Last time I checked it was my decision, since, hey, it’s my life and all.”  Buffy handed a fresh mug of blood to Spike, then strode for the door.  “Angel, this is so not your call.  I finally got what I’ve been hoping for since you screwed up with the Black Thorn and Spike disappeared.  Were you not paying attention?”

“I was paying attention.  I just don’t understand why you care about him.”  His words contained so much contempt and dismissal, that she flinched.

“See, that’s just it,  I more than care about him.  I love him, Angel.”

“What?!”  Angel pushed against the barrier, hands fisted at shoulder height.  “You . . . Can’t.  What about us?”

“There is no us, hasn’t really been an us in more than six years.  I was just a little too stubborn to let it go, but I finally did.  Now, you need to do the same thing.”  Buffy started to close the door.

“Wait. . . .   Buffy, you’re making a huge mistake.  Spike’s no good, he’ll just go back to Drusilla or turn on you some other way.  He’s using you, Buffy.”

Spike appeared behind her, looking Angel square in the eyes.  “Not gonna ever happen, not even after Buffy’s gone.  I don’t play games, Angel, that’s your gig.  ‘M not you, Peaches.”

Buffy leaned back, reaching for Spike with her free hand.  Their fingers meshed and she tugged him forward, until their bodies were flush, his chest against her back.  Angel’s expression turned to pure disgust and he growled, his eyes flashing gold.

“I see you didn’t waste any time in getting into Buffy’s bed.”

Her smirk rivaled one of Spike’s, though the blond vampire couldn’t see it, he could gauge her expression by the anger blooming on Angel’s face.  “Actually, I got into his bed.”

“What!!!”  The dark-haired vampire’s roar of disapproval echoed in the small hallway and Buffy blithely kept on speaking in spite of it.

“His apartment, his bed.  I kinda just crawled in with him.”  She peeked over her shoulder and caught the slight grin gracing Spike’s features.  “Go away, Angel, we’ll come see you in a couple of days.”

Without any further words or waiting for Angel to vent more of his fury on them verbally, Buffy slammed the door shut in his face.

The pounding immediately started up again, but Buffy had turned in Spike’s arms, wide hazel green eyes staring up into his, and she whispered.  “You are a good man, Spike, and I do love you.”

His growl was low and possessive, causing shivers to crest over her skin.  “Come back to bed now, kitten.”

Ignoring the noises from the hallway, the two headed back to bed.

It took him close to an hour to get the idea neither Buffy nor Spike was going to come to the door again, and finally, Angel got the hint and left Spike’s building.  


Fourteen hours later, sometime around mid-morning, Spike woke to find himself alone in the bed.  He could hear the shower running, and he realized, once she emerged, the time for discussing the future was at hand.  Don’t really wanna do this, but . . .   We, no I need to know what’s going on here.  And I should tell her. . . Where I was.

He was so lost in his own thoughts that Spike didn’t hear the water shut off, nor hear her slip into the bedroom.  While he was drifting in and out of his thoughts, Buffy curled up next to him, another one of his tee-shirts covering her.  “Penny for those deep thoughts.”

“If they’re so deep, maybe I should be gettin’ more than a penny.”  He rolled up onto his side, looking down at her.  “Smell good, princess . . .”

“It’s the shower gel, vanilla and jasmine.”  She slung her arm over his waist, so they were face to face.  “You look so serious.  What’s wrong?”

“Just been thinkin’ is all.”  

When he lapsed into silence, seemingly mesmerized by the feel of her skin under his fingers, Buffy nudged him gently, prompting him to share his thoughts.  “Spike?”

“What do . . .  Wanna know what’s ahead for us.  Is there an us?  What are we, Buffy?”  He wouldn’t look at her, averting his eyes from her intense gaze.

“I guess, um, well, I kinda thought, we could sort of you know, just do whatever we want to.  I’m not tied down to the hellmouth anymore, and while I liked Rome, it just wasn’t the same without someone I really want to share it with.”  She moved back just a bit, trying to catch his eyes.  “What is it you want to do?”

He did look at her then, his eyes searching hers for hints of doubt or insincerity.  “Are you saying. . . .   What are you saying?”

“Spike.  I told you when you first got back that all I wanted was to be with you.  Doesn’t matter where we go, or what we do.  We could go anywhere now, because the only reason I’m here in LA is because this was the last place you were.”  It was her turn to be the shy one, afraid of finding something different in his eyes.  “That’s if you wanna start over . . .  I guess there’s an us.”

“Is that what you want?”  He couldn’t help the words from blurting from his mouth and Spike finally dared to look at her.  

Buffy stared down at the comforter, picking at the threads.  “I do.”

Nothing but silence greeted her whispered words and it was long moments before Spike broke it.  “Are you sure about this?”


“Look pet, there’s . . .  I want to tell you what happened.  You know what went on with the Black Thorn, yeah?”  At her nod, he kept talking, trying to get it all out.  “Already made up m’ mind to come see you if I made it through.  Wanted to . . .   Needed to get it all out in the open.  Well, Blue an’ I were fighting hard, while Peaches was off tryin’ to protect Charlie an’ fight a dragon.”

At her snicker of laughter, Spike smiled, but then quickly sobered.  “Charlie wasn’t . . .  Knew he wasn’t gonna make it.  I got hit by some baddie an’ I still don’t know what it was, then suddenly ‘m someplace other than that alley.”

He paused, gathering his thoughts.  “At first, it was just as bad, constant darkness, lots of demons an’ . . .    It was just more fighting.  I didn’t leave from that spot I got dumped in, just found myself some shelter on the rare times there was sunshine.  Ran across an occasional human, had no choice but to drink.”  Tensing in a preemptive motion, Spike almost flinched when Buffy just hugged him tighter.

“Didn’t kill anyone, didn’t have to.  The other demons always got them, no matter what I did to protect ‘em.  Had one bloke with me for a while, nearly two years, I think.”

It took a moment for his words to sink in, and Buffy drew back to look into his eyes.  “Oh my god.  How long was it for you?”

“Near as I can tell ‘bout fifty years.”  His hand brushed over her face and both of them had tears in their eyes.  “Thought I . . . Thought I was only gonna make it back in time to say goodbye to you.”

She couldn’t speak for the tears clogging her throat.  Instead of trying, Buffy just snuggled closer, her face plastered against his chest, arms tight around him.  It took him a while to compose himself and Spike fought his own tears.  “Nearly didn’t believe it when Blue punched a hole through an’ found me.  Thought I was dreamin’ when we came back . . .  Never expected to find you waiting for me.  Figured you’d be married, settled somewhere.”

“Blue surprised me, fixing my clothes, replacing the duster.  Could’ve sworn Percy took away all her powers.”

“Maybe when the building got destroyed, her power got restored?”  Buffy mumbled against his chest.

“Who destroyed the building?”

“Ah, well . . .   That would have been me, with some help from the other Slayers.”

His chuckle took her by surprise, though his next words made her blush.  “Got some penchant for destruction there, kitten.”

“Haha, real funny, Spike.”

They lapsed into silence then, both digesting his story.


On the third day of their reunion, Buffy told him about Giles’ plan to get her out of Los Angeles for Thanksgiving and they finally ventured out to find Illyria.

The demon god was in the Hyperion, pondering the pattern of floor tiles in the lobby, when they arrived at dusk.  Spike approached her, while Buffy checked the main floor to make sure Angel wasn’t around.

“Blue?”  Illyria’s head swivelled to where Spike stood, hands in his pockets, rocking back on his heels.  “Wanted to thank you for finding me and bringing me back.”

“Gratitude is befitting you.  It pained me to see your mate lost in grief.”  His head snapped up to look at Illyria, an assessing look on his face.

“We’re not mated.”

Illyria waved away his denial.  “I have seen it so.”  She cocked her head to the side, watching Buffy walk toward them.  “It is inevitable, no matter what dimension or incarnation you take.  The depths of your emotions will not be denied.”

The two blonds shared a look, but neither remarked on Illyria’s comments.  

“Thank you, Illyria.”  Buffy’s soft voice caught the she-king’s attention.

“I require your assistance.”

“Anything.  What do you need?”

“This world disgusts me.  I will not abide this place any longer.  The time will come when my kind will rule this dimension and all will be as it once was.”  Another look passed between the two, though Illyria ignored them.  “Long after you are gone, your spirits moved onto another dimension, demons will again hold sway over lesser life forms. I wish to wait until that time.  You will give me your assistance.”

Spike stared at her for long minutes, gauging her sincerity.  “You want to go back to the Deeper Well?”

“It is necessary.”

“Wesley said the only way it could be done was if everyone you came in contact with was sacrificed.”  

Illyria stared at him fixedly.  “Those requirements are only necessary if I do not wish to retire to stasis.  It is my desire, my will.  Only the blood of a champion will seal my prison.”

“Wait . . .  What?”  Alarmed looks appeared on both their faces, but Illyria’s next words alleviated their worries.

“Just enough blood to set the seals is enough.”  Without waiting any longer for either of them to speak, she grabbed hold of their wrists.

Between one eye blink and the next, the three were teleported from Los Angeles to Coventry.  Daylight was little less than an hour away and the two superhumans rocked forward, off balance from their trip.  Illyria spun on her heels, moving toward the ancient tree marking the entrance to the Deeper Well.

Spike looked around, half expecting Drogyn to appear out of the mist clinging to the ground, but he did not. What a bleedin’ waste. . .   We didn’t do any real lasting good at all. . .

His attention was drawn back to the present when Illyria suddenly turned to him, her open hand outstretched.  At first he didn’t recognize the item sitting in her palm, until she turned so that the waning moonlight caught the edges of the green gem and he stared at it.  “Blue?”

“Take it.  It does belong to you.”

Spike hesitated long enough for Buffy to get exasperated with him.  Her small fingers took it from Illyria’s hand, pressing it into Spike’s curled fist.  “Can’t think of anyone else who should have it.”

His gaze swung from one female to the other, noting the approval on both faces.  Spike nodded his head, slipping the Gem of Amarra on his finger.  Buffy laced their hands together and as one they turned to face Illyria.

“It is time.”

The demon god turned away, stalking off toward the Deeper Well.  Without any words, Buffy and Spike followed after, their eyes trained on the slight form ahead of them.

A casque appeared, hovering inches above the mist, very much like the one she’d been locked into before and Illyria placed her palm on the top, just below a glowing blue gem.  Light flared from the gem, locks sprang and clicked, the door swinging open.  Stepping into the iron box, Illyria glanced one last time at both of them.  Sliding a hand into one of the many pockets of her leather skin, she lifted out a second blue gem identical to the one on the door.  She stared at it, then thrust it at Buffy.

“Should you have need, she-warrior, this will summon me without ill effect.”

“Pet, are you certain about this?”  Spike looked into her eyes, trying to find any emotions at all.

“This realm sickens me.  The stench of humanity, the corrosion of what once was revolts my senses.  I cannot walk among such refuse.”  She raised a hand, and in some oddly endearing way, sneered at them.  “You were the only one beside Wesley I tolerated, half-breed.  Your presence and your mate are not enough to keep me here.  It is time and I will it so.”

Without another word, the iron slammed shut and Illyria disappeared behind a flashing blue light.  Spike stared at the casket for long moments, growled lowly in his throat, and, with a stretch of his neck, slid into game face.  Using a fang, he opened a shallow cut on his left forefinger and sealed Illyria’s tomb.    The second he was done, the casket disappeared and a resounding boom was heard from the depths of the Deeper Well.

He stood, staring off into the rising sun, his thoughts resting on a slight, brainy Texan, who’d cared for him, when no one else did.  Buffy slipped into his arms, reaching up to wipe away his tears.

They stood like that for long minutes, bathed in early morning sunlight, until Spike came back to himself, his eyes drinking in the sight of Buffy, love and happiness in her eyes, looking up at him.

A slow grin formed on his face and he couldn’t help the laughter growing inside him.

“So pet, fancy a tour of Mother England?”

Buffy’s smile got wider and she laughed right along with him.  “Wherever you wanna go.”

Wrapping his arm around her, Spike checked the rising sun and headed toward it.

“So Spike, about this mate thingy . . .  “

His laugh echoed off the dissipating mist, traveling all the way into the blooming sunlight.  One thing he knew, life with Buffy would never be dull. . .

Not even if they lived forever . . .