Nights have passed since we defeated the first evil. The gang’s clustered in my living room, tattered, beaten, and exhausted after the apocalypse to end all apocalypses. I honestly never thought I’d. . . we’d face anything that evil, but we did. . . and most importantly, we survived.
I don’t know exactly how long I’ve been asleep. Hours or days may have passed; the only thing I know for sure is that right now, the world is swathed in darkness. I’m reluctant to check the television or radio because I don’t want anyone to lose precious sleep, and we don’t receive the newspaper anymore. I’m not sure I want to be oriented to time anyway.
Stretching, I extract myself from the tangle of Dawn’s arm and yawn. . . a good, wide yawn as if to prove how very alive I remain. Dawn moans in her sleep and turns over, allowing me to climb from under the blanket covering us and stand on shaky legs. I shiver in my release from the warm cocoon and the heady scent of dreamless sleep.
Every fiber in my being is slightly stiff although the wounds in my legs and torso are significantly less sore and upon my inspection seem to be nicely healing. Self-inspection complete, I survey the gang. . . my dearest friends. Like a mother hen, I count them, noticing that one is gone. . . the most errant, strong, and vulnerable of my charges. . . the blond vampire who won himself a soul. . . for me.
My ears detect the sound of flowing water from upstairs, and I decide to check on the situation to make sure he is okay. Ascending the stairs slowly and quietly, I pad barefoot down the hall toward the bathroom door.
The water is shut off as I reach my destination, and a few seconds later, the door swings open as I lift my hand to knock. Light sweeps across the hallway, and I inhale sharply at Spike’s appearance. He is naked except for a deep green towel that hangs about his hips. Bruises and scabbed-over cuts cover him in random patches like a coat that’s been worn for years and stitched up when necessary.
He surveys me just as curiously as I study him. His eyes are tired and ringed with need for sleep, but the irises are cornflower blue with the kind of brief clarity that comes after a shower following an exhausting day. I wonder what he sees in me.
Making no move to touch me, he reaches back for his tattered clothes and attempts to squeeze by me without a sound. I grasp his free left hand, careful not to harm his mending bones. He jerks back in surprise at my touch as if I’ve singed him. My heart thumps like a frightened rabbit’s.
He whispers the first words I’ve heard in days, “I’m sorry.”
A lump in my throat, I shake my head to indicate he has no reason to be apologetic. Reaching for his hand again, he allows the gesture and strains his uncertain muscles to weave his fingers with mine.
My words come out hoarse and scratchy. “Let me look at your wounds.” I need to make sure you’re okay. I know it’s silly, but I need to know that you’re as alive as the others, and I can’t tell when you’re sleeping because you don’t breathe.
Spike opens his mouth to protest that he is healing fine without inspection. I bring my eyes to his, and his lips turn up slightly in response to what he reads there. He nods once in assent, so I lead him quietly to my untouched bedroom, glancing back every few seconds to assure myself that he’s still present.
Switching on the bedside lamp, he assumes a sitting position on the edge of my bed. Avoiding his gaze, I take possession of the jeans and shirt he holds, folding them neatly and placing them on my dresser. Then, I open a drawer, withdrawing a rather large first aid kit. I’ve learned the value of having multiple boxes of medical supplies handy in every room of the house. I wipe my hands down with an alcohol-saturated wipe.
Climbing easily behind Spike, I examine his broad back. My heart still beating rapidly, I slowly trace each bruise and scrape with tentative fingertips, in search of something without name. He shakes beneath my ministrations, and my lips and arms tingle with his reaction. At a particularly tender, deep cut along his left shoulder blade, I gently apply antiseptic lotion, knowing full well that bacteria are unlikely to settle in a vampire’s flesh.
After I finish his back, I settle next to him, my thigh touching his. I cradle his left hand, probing for what I suspect are broken bones. He tenses but doesn’t make a sound when I expertly set each twisted bone in its proper place. Then, I wrap the fragile hand in gauze.
Efficiently, I clean my hands and pack away the kit. Unwilling to move from Spike’s side, I lay the box on my nightstand. Then, I force myself to return my focus to him, sliding my hand lightly over his towel-covered thigh. My breathing speeds when I accidentally brush over an evident sign of his increased arousal. . . a definite indication that he’s going to be okay.
Before I can question what I’m doing, I slide onto the floor to kneel before him. Desire shoots warmly through my stomach and abdomen. As my hand slips beneath the damp towel to cup and slowly stroke his erection, he trembles in a way that he’s never done before.
“Buffy,” he breathes lowly, “what are you doing?”
Bringing my eyes to his, I hold his gaze to show him how serious I am. “This.”
Standing, I push him back against the bedspread, straddling him above his hips and sweeping the towel aside so that he is completely vulnerable beneath me. I close my eyes, and bring my lips to his without demand, without tongue, and with all the softness I can muster.
He responds with equal lightness, letting me take the initiative. His hands remain still at his sides, and I deepen the kiss and trail my hands over his collar bones, ribs, and stomach to show him that I want him to touch me.
An involuntary moan escapes my lips as he touches me at last, finding the hem of my baggy nightgown and lifting it over my head. His mouth leaves mine for a mere second, and his tongue requests entrance, which I grant eagerly, my own tongue coming to life. The cloth hits the floor as he pulls me flush against him with his good hand and twines his injured hand in my hair. His desire presses hard against my stomach, sending shivers over my body.
Needing air, I lift my head and open my eyes as his hands find and rove over my hips. His blue eyes darken in the shadows, conveying the love I know he’s never ceased feeling for me. I do my best to match his feelings, unsure if the strength of my emotions can ever equal his.
Sliding my hips forward, I rub myself over his swollen member to show him just how damp my panties are in my readiness for him. His fingers catch and dive beneath the elastic of my undergarments as he draws them over my hips and down my thighs. As I kick them off, his fingers linger on my inner thighs, stroking teasingly so that I groan and squirm in protest for more.
Bringing my head down, I return the favor by allowing my tongue to lave deliberately over his nipples until they are erect. My hands meanwhile outline the edges of his pelvis, never touching him where he most wants. His hips arch up and down slightly beneath my touch, but to keep him at bay, I keep his thigh between my legs, matching his movements.
With a growl, he suddenly turns the tables, flipping me onto my back, forcing my legs apart, and pressing his tip against my now wet, throbbing opening. He pauses to kiss my mouth deeply before he brings a string of kisses down my neck and over my breasts and stomach until I’m whimpering for him to do something more.
He gladly grants my wish and suckles my nipples, nipping them lightly before returning to nuzzle my neck. My hands run over his ribs and waist to find and grip his buttocks suggestively. He raises his head from my neck then, making sure I have no choice but to stare into his familiar eyes. We’ve done this so many times before; only this time, I feel differently about him. . . and about myself. This time, what we’re doing isn’t about me being alive. . .it’s about *us* being alive and together.
My eyes widen, and my breathing quickens to match his. As he gradually enters me, my muscles tighten around him until he groans. My legs slip around his waist, drawing him deeper into me and letting him know not to stop.
In response, he pulls back more quickly, increasing the speed of his thrusts and whispering my name over and over. I match his actions with small moans to let him know how wonderful he’s making me feel. For the first time, I breathe his name, too. A light brightens his eyes with the utterance, and my heart swells with love for this person who’s done so much for me without a second thought about his own well-being.
As our motions carry us over the edge into orgasmic bliss, I think that I can’t bear to be apart from him. . . not ever again. I realize that I’ve lost control of my feelings as well as my body, and tears blur my vision when I view the unquestionable evidence of his unwavering feelings for me in his unclosing eyes. No matter how out of control I feel, he won’t let me fall. He’ll always be there to catch me. Does he know that I would do the same for him?
As our bodies revert back to a state of relaxation, we remain unmoving, breathing heavily and relishing the fading spasms. His hand smoothes my hair out of my face, and he kisses my eyelids. I smile up at him without resentment or self-loathing.
“I love you,” he murmurs as he rolls to the side, spooning me firmly against his chest.
I snuggle against him and close my eyes, too afraid to say the words in return. He accepts my silence with the same quiet dignity he has since he regained a soul. After several minutes of lying together, I almost spill over into the world of dreams. However, I force myself awake with a single thought.
Climbing over Spike and off the rumpled bed, I scoop up my undergarments and nightgown, hurriedly redressing. I peer up to witness Spike turned on his side, watching me with raw hurt covering his features. Confused, I reach forward to caress his face, but he flinches as if I’ve slapped him.
Oh! He thinks I’m running away again.
I grin. “Silly. *You* are coming downstairs with me.” I have to watch over all my friends. . . my makeshift family.
With Spike following behind me wearing jeans and one of my too large T-shirts, I virtually skip downstairs to rejoin my sleeping beauties in the world of healing slumber. I giggle at Xander’s snores and Willow’s quiet mumbles. Out of the corner of my eye, I view Spike smiling at the love that I so obviously display for my friends.
Avoiding the pile of humans lying on the living room floor, Spike lowers himself into the lounge chair as if to observe from afar.
I shake my head at his hesitance, and he raises a curious eyebrow at me. Resuming my position facing Dawn, I peek over my shoulder at him and pat the blanket behind me. His smile touches his eyes, and he gratefully takes me in his arms again, burying his head in my hair.
Almost immediately, we are both asleep.
Hours later, the smell of coffee, pancakes, and bacon stirs my senses and eventually my mind awake. Spike’s arm is heavy around my waist, and Dawn is still sleeping snugly beside me. Disentangling my hand from Spike’s, I tuck a strand of Dawn’s hair off her face and behind her ear.
My sister shifts in her sleep, smacks her lips once like a small child, and blinks her eyes. When her eyes clear and focus on me, she smiles. “We did it,” she says evenly, referring to our defeat of the enemy. Then, she discerns Spike’s arm around me. “What happened while I was asleep? Did I miss something?”
“*I* almost missed something.” I stroke Spike’s forearm lovingly.
“But you didn’t,” Dawn acknowledges, not letting me ignore the truth. “All these months, you saw it when the rest of us didn’t.”
“I guess so.”
Footsteps sound from the direction of the kitchen, and a throat is cleared. Willow stands in the doorway wearing a grin, her pajamas, and an apron. She waves a spatula, and the bruises on her face have faded to a faint green-yellow. “Breakfast is served, sleeping angels.”
“Oooo, breakfast!” Dawn exclaims, her stomach growling. She hops to her feet with the energy of her youth, favoring her twisted ankle and straightening her nightgown and her hair.
A jagged cut on his forehead and his arm in a sling, Xander appears behind Willow, putting his chin on her shoulder and grinning like a big child. “Hungry, Dawnie?”
“Yep.” She pauses. “Did you help cook?”
Willow shakes her head, shrugging her best friend’s head off her shoulder. “He only helped make the coffee.”
“Ahh. But fine coffee, it is,” Xander insists, jabbing a finger in the air playfully.
“Probably why I’ll drink juice,” Dawn says, pushing her way past Xander and limping toward the source of the delicious smells.
Spike pokes his head over my arm. “And blood?”
Xander bobs his head in a signal of acceptance. “Yeah. Blood for the resident bloodsucker.”
“Great. Nothing like blood-covered pancakes,” Spike quips, earning a grimace from Xander.
I stand to my feet with a bit more grace than my sister and head with the others to the kitchen for a much-needed plate of food.
Anya is already seated and eating a stack of pancakes at the breakfast bar. She gives Spike and I a little wave as we enter and continues chewing.
Dawn slides onto a stool across from the ex-demon and flashes her less full plate at me. “Look. Willow made funny shapes like Tara used to make.”
The memory of our friend is a welcome one, and I smile, picking up my own plate and taking a mug of coffee from Xander. “They always taste better when they’re funny-shaped.”
“Yes, they do.” Willow scoops me a plate of pancakes and bacon directly from the pan.
I find a seat next to Dawn, pouring syrup over the pastry. The first bite is pure heaven. After the last battle, I wasn’t sure if I would ever get to have a real meal again. Xander’s traditionally strong coffee is something else to cherish. Caffeine is a must in the slayer business.
Warily staying out of direct sunlight, Spike accepts a proffered cup of blood from his ex-roommate and takes a sip, leaning against the kitchen counter and facing me.
Xander plops down next to Anya, heartily continuing his feast. Willow’s plate of food is still half-eaten next to me, but she’s busily cleaning up the last of the mess. When she’s done, she unties and slings the apron on the counter and balances on the stool next to me.
Looking up at Spike who has assumed his traditional position on the edge of the group, she smiles at him, picks up her plate, and rounds the table to sit next to Xander. She motions to Spike and points at the vacated stool next to me.
“Sit,” she commands. When Willow commands, one is wise to listen.
Spike thanks Willow and stares directly at me as if to get my permission, too. Once he understands that I want him by me, he’s confidently at my side with his leg pressing into mine as earlier when I tended his injuries. I suppose everything happens in steps, especially if things have been opposite for so long. Soon, he won’t ask for my go-ahead anymore to join the group.
The sound of munching fills the air. Spike sips his blood and occasionally steals bites of pancake and bacon off my plate. I am content.
“It sure is great to have everyone here for breakfast,” Dawn comments through a mouthful of food.
“Yeah, Dawnie, it is,” I agree, glancing around the little group with a smile. “Everyone’s here. Everyone’s alive.” I take a deep breath and decide to take the chance, hoping Spike will get my double meaning. “And everyone’s loved.”
I watch Spike as I say that I love everyone in the room, implying that I especially love him. His expression is one of uncertainty. I believe I’ve shocked him so much in the last few hours that he doesn’t know quite what to think. To reassure him that his assessment of my words is correct, I rub my hand over his left thigh. He doesn’t give me any indication that he understands.
Heart aching a bit, I pick up my fork again and shove pancake into my mouth, feeling the heat rising in my face. Then, his broken hand covers my knee and squeezes ever so slightly. I glance back at him and smile at the happiness in his eyes.
Spike and I have worked so hard, each battling our own demons and fighting inner and outer evil. Finally, the heavy, dark blanket of the night has been completely overthrown, and light is breaking over the horizon.