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The Ewer of Enheduanna

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Part I

 

Right now…

 

Her eyes seemed to flicker with the candlelight in the chamber, now green, now gold, now black, and half a hundred expressions with it, all hinted at but never fully shown.

 

“Do you trust me?” he asked her, not for the first time, but she turned away without a word to look at the nearest of their robed voyeurs, face burning a furious red. Slowly, taking care to let her know it was coming, he reached out to touch her cheek, try to turn her back to face him. “Look at me.” He swallowed. “Please.” For a moment, he didn’t think she would, and god knew he couldn’t make her do anything she didn’t want to. Well, under normal circumstances. But her eyes kept flickering and eventually, she did.

 

“Hey,” he said when her eyes met his, at a loss. The whole situation was so far beyond the wacked-out Buffy had proclaimed it as yesterday, that he thought even her colorful vocabulary would struggle to provide an apt description. Wasn’t it just the way of the fucking world, how you could want something for so long, dream about it, and then… something like this happened to turn it around on you and fuck it all to hell (and no, something told him, she wouldn’t appreciate the pun just then).

 

“Spike,” she said, tense and low. “Come on. This isn’t a date. Can we just-” her voice faltered and he felt it in the pit of his stomach, a clenching, fearful sensation. “Can we just get on with it?”

 

And it wasn’t that he didn’t want to, or even that he couldn’t, but something about those flickering eyes, huge and luminous in this dim and cavernous chamber, gave him so much pause as to make his willingness moot.

 

“Look, Slayer,” he tried, stepping close so that his voice wouldn’t carry. “Buffy. I just… I’m sorry, okay?”

 

She snorted. “Oh please, like this isn’t a vampire’s wet dream,” she said, flexing her arms so that her chains were set to clanking. “We could practically be back in your crypt. The only thing missing from this picture is Dru.”

                                       

She was trying for humor, or a wry wit at least, and yeah, fair point, he had chained her up like this once last year, but he’d learned quite a bit about co-existing with a slayer since then, and non-consensual bondage, death threats and insane ex-lovers were not a few of her favorite things.

 

“I love you,” he said, frustrated. “Believe it or not, it matters to me whether-” He bit the words off, chewing on their futility. “Well, pet,” he said after a moment, aiming for his own brand of off-color laughs. “If you’ve been harboring any fantasies about me, now’s the time to dust ’em off.” Her eyes flashed hotly, probably with disgust, he thought. Her disdain for him had so many faces – he’d forgotten, with it having been absent these last few months, and all the more painful for it now.

 

She looked ready to say more but just then a gong sounded, a deep, mournful, carrying sound that seemed to rise up out of the dark and wend around them like the wind. Her eyes flickered again and this time he saw an almost desperate courage as her chest rose and fell with a steadying breath. He fought himself for a moment, to keep his eyes on hers and not her heaving breasts. The look she gave him was the same look she’d had when she’d suggested this whole mad venture, though it softened significantly when she caught sight of his expression.

 

“Listen, Spike. I do trust you. You know I do,” she told him, and he could see it in her eyes as she gazed up at him, a deep, strange feeling humming through him, tempered only by the ring of robed demons set around them like the numbers on a clock. “Just… do what you have to do,” she said, and it sounded decisive, so he closed the last remaining space between them and kissed her.

 

*

 

Two days ago…

 

Buffy woke with a gasp to a vampire plastered against her back. It wasn’t an ideal situation for any slayer to wake up to, but given that it was Spike, it wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the dream she’d just been having. The very naked, very sweaty, very sensuous dream, starring the same vampire who currently had his face smooshed into the back of her neck and one hand tucked possessively around her middle; the dream she’d awoken from just before the good bit, which had left her burning and unsatisfied with no privacy in which to deal with it.

 

As if to underline the point, a soft, inhuman roar sounded at the other end of the dormitory, followed by something that sounded like a cat hissing, and in the dark Buffy saw a brief flurry of movement several beds down before things settled again. Spike shifted behind her, arm tightening a little, and the small movement was enough to bring her focus down razor sharp to the imprint of his hand on her belly, the way his pinky finger had dipped just beneath her bellybutton into dangerous territory.

 

God, she hated this dimension, and it wasn’t even just for the weird, room-sharing demon inns, or the fact that she had to travel as Spike’s slave to avoid the constant attacks for no reason other than walking while human, or even the vicious and scarily huge flying insects that came out at sunset every day. It was that, separated from her normal life with no one but Spike for company, it was somehow getting increasingly hard to remember that she shouldn’t want more from him than the friendship she’d finally ceded in the wake of Glory’s defeat. He’d really come through for her that night, and she appreciated it more than she would ever be able to put into words, but it wasn’t… she wasn’t…

 

He was in love with her; that was the crux of the matter. Since that moment on her stairs, when he’d told her she made him feel like a man, and shortly after, when he’d plunged from Glory’s tower with Doc’s knife in his kidney, effectively depriving the slimy little bastard of his sister-carving weapon – since then she’d really believed that he did love her, however that was possible. It’d made something in her loosen, lighten. And yeah, sometimes he was fun to flirt with on patrol, or trade barbs with depending on her mood, but she always tried to remember that she couldn’t return his feelings, couldn’t ever be more than friends, and he seemed to accept that too, because his weird attempts at courting or whatever were long in the past and they were… they were good. They were allies and friends. And if her libido sometimes thought there should be a ‘with benefits’ tacked on the end there, well, he’d saved her sister and maybe the world, and didn’t deserve to be toyed with like that.

 

But back home, she hadn’t had to contend with bed sharing, which was apparently the only way a human slave could stay with her demon master in this place. Buffy had seen the slave quarters – she’d rather share with an unconsciously cuddly vamp than face that again. It just meant waking up every morning since they’d set out on this quest tangled up in an intimate position with the object of her occasional, under-the-sheets-lusty-wrong thoughts. And her dream just now? Really, really not helping.

 

At her back Spike stirred again, mumbling something unintelligible, the movement of his lips against her neck making her skin prickle. His hips shifted restlessly against her ass and she felt his erection with an almost dizzying stab of lust, fantasizing for a moment about pushing his broad hand just a couple of inches lower to cup her between her legs and ease that goddamn ache, but her ratcheting heartrate seemed to wake him, as it always did, and as he always did, Spike froze before carefully disentangling himself and rolling onto his back.

 

He sighed, sounding pained, and Buffy tried to tamp down on the feeling of loss now that he was no longer holding her.

 

“You awake?” he whispered a minute or so later, even though he must know that she was. The maintaining of polite fictions – one to add to the growing list of Surprising Spike-Related Phenomena.

 

She rolled over nonchalantly to face him and whispered back, “Yeah. What time is it?”

 

“About an hour before dawn.”

 

“We should probably get going, then,” she said lightly, “cause if I’m not first at the wash trough I’m not washing, not after the tentacle thing at yesterday’s place, and a smelly slayer is a grumpy slayer.”

 

Even though it was dark, somehow she could tell Spike was grinning. “Had no idea before this little road trip that you were such a princess, love,” he said, cracking a huge yawn. “Thought the mighty Buffy Summers might be able to manage roughing it for a couple of days.”

 

She poked him in the rib, only not so hard as to make him yelp, because she really did want to get there before the others woke up. “Shut up. You didn’t see it.”

 

“Well, no,” he conceded, “but it wouldn’t be the first time a long, pink appendage has popped out in the-”

 

“Oh my god Spike!” she hissed, aggrieved, only it came out as more of a squeak given where her mind had been only moments before, and Spike clapped his hand over her mouth, half pressing her down into the mattress with his body while he shook with silent laughter.

 

“Quiet,” he whispered needlessly. It was very dark in the dormitory, but his face was close enough to hers that she could make out his expression, and it was that rare one of genuine amusement that was somehow infectious, and how weird was it to be in bed with Spike –– willingly – more than a little turned on and smiling at each other in the dark?

 

“You are such an asshole,” she whispered, pushing his hand away.

 

“Yeah,” he said, in that fond tone that did something hot and liquidy to her knees and the pit of her stomach, “but I’m the asshole who’s going to get you into the masters’ bathroom.”

 

“Are there showers?”

 

“Sweetheart, there’s soap.”

 

“Oh god,” she groaned softly, before realizing just how pornographic she sounded. Clearing her throat she warned him, “No peeking.”

 

He grinned again, a very different kind of grin, producing a very different kind of heat in a very different place. Almost thoughtfully, he fingered the slim leather collar at her neck.

 

“No promises.”

 

*

 

Right now…

 

There was a moment, stretched and teetering, when her whole body tensed and he expected her to recoil from him, as she always had done whenever he’d been this close. She’d brushed off the bed-sharing they’d been forced into all week with surprising ease, and they’d somehow managed not to talk about the whole embarrassing sleep-cuddling thing, but he knew from long association that he couldn’t invade her personal space without an instinctive reaction from her. So reining in the urgency their situation had wrought in him, he cupped her jaw in his hands and kissed her gently, once, twice, and hovered against her lips, pleading with her silently to let him have this, the illusion of her willingness.

 

“Spike,” she murmured, mouth moving against his so sensuously it made him shudder. “What-?”

 

“Three times, remember?” he replied roughly. “This whole thing’ll go easier if you can…” He closed his eyes, resting his forehead against hers, willing himself to stop trembling. They had to do this, he knew they did, and he’d probably even enjoy it, but some better part of him that Buffy had long ago stirred to life wouldn’t let him shake the thought that all the joy and light and happiness she’d given him since she’d finally granted him access to her life would disappear. No matter what she said, that part of him knew that after this, the trust she’d placed in him would be gone, and he just needed something to distract himself from how painful it all was. “Just imagine I’m Christian bloody Slater, all right?”

 

Her chains clinked and he felt, rather than saw, her smile – ever so faintly. “I see what you’re doing,” she said softly. “And thank you. But you know what’d help more than anything?” He drew back just slightly to look at her face. Her expression was droll. “Not being naked in a room full of religious demon nutjobs.”

 

Spike swallowed. He’d made himself keep eyes his above her shoulders, he wasn’t even sure why, but he was naked beneath the long robe they’d dressed him in and the thought of opening it up to cocoon her inside with him, all that skin against his own, was…

 

“Yeah,” he croaked, “I can do that.”

 

And there was no way of doing it without his erection bobbing against her stomach or hip, and so he bit his lip and resisted the urge to rub the thing all over her. She didn’t flinch at the intimate touch, however, just watched his eyes as he tucked the edges of the robe around her as best he could, and waited until he was done before she tipped her chin back and said, “Now kiss me again.”

 

*

 

Four days ago…

 

“Argh!”

 

Willow’s spell, it seemed, had dropped them in the middle of a forest. The yell told her there was something about this fact that needed her attention, but she was lying on her back on a bed of soft pine needles watching with bleary eyes as the sunlight filtered down through the trees, and she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

 

Wait, sunlight. Spike.

 

“Spike!” she yelled, scrambling to her feet, but once her head stopped swimming she saw there was a distinct lack of combusting vampire. Instead, he was standing in a shaft of light like the freaking second coming, poking himself curiously.

 

“I’m not burning up,” he said.

 

“Yeah,” Buffy said, trying to hide the breathlessness of her receding panic. “I can see that.”

 

He held out his hands, inspecting them back and front. Weird how he looked in daylight, even paler than usual, but softer somehow too – younger.

 

“Must be different rules in this dimension.” He closed his eyes for a moment, face turned up, seemingly enjoying the feel of the sunlight on his face. Maybe not younger, but… boyish, delighted. Strange vamp.

 

“Wonder if you’ll freckle,” she said dryly, raising her eyebrow at him when he turned to give her a narrow look.

 

“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, Slayer,” he groused. “Never did get much time to enjoy my ring, though, did I?”

 

“Oh and you were going to, what – spend all your time at the beach frolicking innocently in the waves?”

 

“Well,” he said, switching instantly from boyish to very, very not-boyish, “probably not innocently.”

 

She thwapped him on the arm before stomping off down what she hoped was a trail amid the foliage.

 

“Come on, you remember what Willow said, we need to find a town or something and get directions.”

 

That, of course, was when the first attack happened. Fifteen minutes later, panting and covered in demon gore, Buffy staggered away from the pile of bodies surrounding her over to the other pile of bodies surrounding Spike, wiping her sword on some convenient moss along the way.

 

“Guess we can classify the locals as unfriendly,” she said.

 

Spike’s t-shirt was ripped at the neck and he was fingering a tear in his duster’s lapel mournfully. “That, Slayer, you can say again.”

 

The second and third attacks came on the dirt road they’d finally stumbled across, which made sense in a way because – clear targets – but in a completely different way made absolutely zero sense at all because what was the point of a road if everyone just got attacked on it?

 

“Why,” Buffy grunted between punches to the last-demon-standing’s face, “Do. You. Guys. Keep. Attacking. Us?”

 

“You want him to actually answer that, you might have to stop pummeling him,” Spike said easily from behind her, the soft, familiar sounds and the slight muffling of his voice indicating he was lighting up while he watched her, probably lounging against a tree looking more attractive than he had any right to, post-punch up.

 

Buffy glared at her captive, fisting his collar. “I don’t know, are these even the English-speaking variety?”

 

“Huh, good point,” Spike said as he came to stand at her shoulder. “Harkrak’lar?” he said looking at the demon. “No? Grrzzztnump? How about, uh, jallon thallan.”

 

“Huh?” Buffy said, looking back at him, just as the demon grunted and said, “Thallan! Thallan!”

 

Surprising Spike-Related Phenomenon number one: he spoke a whole bunch of demon languages.

 

“He says,” Spike told her after a lengthy and frustratingly incomprehensible conversation, “that humans aren’t allowed to just run around willy nilly, and any found out in the wild are fair game to be captured and taken to market.”

 

“Market?” Buffy asked, confused. “They buy them things? That doesn’t sound… so…” She caught sight of Spike’s expression. He looked like he was on the verge of laughing.

 

“They take them to market – to sell,” he said. “Humans in this dimension are slaves, by law.”

 

What?” Buffy turned back to the demon to glower at him, who shrank back and let out a pitiful meep.

 

“Easy, Slayer,” Spike said, openly amused now. “Our friend here has agreed to escort us to the nearest town if you promise to stop hitting him.”

 

“But – he – what –” she spluttered, so filled with outrage she couldn’t settle on a target.

 

“Don’t worry,” Spike told her soberly, a consoling hand on her shoulder. “Since I’m a demon, I’m allowed to own slaves. You can be my property, Slayer.”

 

*

 

Right now…

 

This time, she kissed him back, and for a moment everything fell away, no demons, no rituals, no life or death. Just Buffy, naked, kissing him with slow, exploratory kisses. Unable to resist he buried his hands in her hair and held her to him, kissing her deeply. It brought their bodies together more tightly, her breasts rubbing against his chest, and he couldn’t help the deep groan that escaped him at the sensation. It felt like a bloody dream. Except, of course, that her hands were manacled above her head to an enormous stone pillar in the middle of a cavernous ritual chamber, and so not only would she not be touching him back, but she wouldn’t be——

 

No, no thinking about that now, he told himself. The situation was as it was, and they were going to do this. No point getting bogged down in regret that she was only permitting this to save Giles’s life – there’d be plenty of time for that later.

 

She shifted against him, skin sliding against his just the minutest amount, but he felt every inch that they were touching, and shuddered. Buffy tasted divine, a more concentrated version of her scent, and the feel of her tongue against his when she opened for him made him burn all the hotter. She would turn him to ashes before this was done, he was sure of it – just the thought that her pussy would feel as hot as her mouth once he was inside her was nearly enough to see to that.

 

“Buffy,” he groaned, trailing kisses down her cheek to her jaw. “God, I want you.” He couldn’t help himself. Already he was rutting against her with small, shallow thrusts.

 

The shock wasn’t that she replied, but that she said, “Tell me.”

 

“Tell you what?” he murmured, reaching her neck. He heard her gasp as he placed tender kisses down her fluttering artery.

 

“Tell me… how this would go, with us, if… if we were home.”

 

He had to screw his eyes shut for a moment, to rein himself in. She wanted dirty talk? Was that really what she’d just asked for? He’d tried to get out of her, last night, what things would get her off quickest, what she liked, what he could do for her. In customary fashion, Buffy had gone wide-eyed and embarrassed, before running off to the restricted part of the temple where he couldn’t follow. He was a good lover, he knew that, knew he could figure it out as they went if he had to, knew he could do that especially well with her, as used as he was to listening to her body, but that it had felt like a punch in the nose was putting it mildly. Now she was telling him, and he found himself disproportionately touched  by her wording – not, if I were willing, but, if we were home. As though the only important thing here was the location. He went with it.

 

“Got a lot of different scenarios,” he said into her skin. “Had a lot of time to think about it, you know? Hard and fast amid the grave markers, when our blood’s up after a good fight. Under that tree outside your house. Got a nice little fantasy where a sparring session turns into something more… passionate. You and me, we could bring down the Magic Box if the mood took us.” He licked back up her neck to nibble on her earlobe, murmuring right into her ear, “But my favorite? We’re in my crypt, candles flickering. Maybe you got knocked around a bit more than usual on patrol, and I’ve brought you back to patch you up. You’re sitting on the sarcophagus upstairs, while you let me tend to you, and then you kiss me.” She turned her face into his, seeking the kiss, and he took a long, wonderful moment to give it to her. When they broke apart her eyes were closed, head thrown back, and he couldn’t help but reach down and gently cup one perfect breast, weighing it in his hand with a growing sense of wonder. When he flicked her nipple with his thumb, it hardened instantly into a tight little bud, and Buffy gasped again, chest rising and falling as she started to breathe more heavily.

 

“You pull my t-shirt off,” Spike continued, skipping a whole section she didn’t need to hear just then, in which she confessed her feelings and admitted how stupid she’d been all this time trying to deny them. “And I return the favor. You’re not wearing a bra so I get to go straight for these.” He smiled a little to himself as he squeezed both her breasts now, rocking against her in a steady rhythm. His own arousal was so heightened it was almost painful, but the sensation of her growing slick against his shaft as he slid it against her slit had still got to be one of the most erotic things he’d ever felt. “You wrap your legs around my waist and I lift you down, carry you to the nearest wall, and prop you there, get some friction where we both need it.” He twitched his hips against hers a little firmer. “You make me hard enough to feel like I could pop my fly, and just when I think I can’t take it any more you reach between us and open my jeans, pull me out in your hot little hand.” God, just the thought of what he was missing out on, with her hands out of commission... Trying to make up for it, he let his own hands slide around to her back and down to the dip of her sacrum, where he hesitated. Stupid, really, given what they would do before this ritual was over. Pushing those strange, uncertain thoughts away, Spike let his hands go lower, until he was cupping her arse. “I put you down just long enough to tear the rest of your clothes off, and you do mine.” Kneading her cheeks, lost in the feel of her smooth skin and firm flesh, he started to move her hips rhythmically against his. Her expression flickered, almost a frown with her eyes still closed. “You rip my jeans as you pull them down, you’re like an animal, so full of need, and then you practically jump on me, take me to the floor, pin me there.” He sucked on her neck and felt rather than heard the vibration in her throat that might have been a soft, soft, moan. “When I push my thigh between your legs, against your needy little clit, you cry out and grind yourself against me.”

 

He’d been fondling her body all this time, whispering roughly into her ear, thrusting against her mound, and while it seemed like the fantasy was getting to her, he still didn’t expect it when she parted her legs, just enough to be an invitation. Groaning helplessly, he slid his leg between hers and felt a shudder rip through his body as slowly, a little tentatively, she started to rock against him of her own accord.

 

*

 

Four days ago…

 

The demons of this dimension weren’t especially big or scary, averaging somewhere around Spike’s height with floppy ears that reminded her of Clem, though their skin was mustard yellow and more scaly than… whatever it was Clem’s skin did. They wore clothes, too, which was always a plus, even if there was a distinct medieval peasant vibe going on. Their guy, who looked kinda like a gremlin and who Buffy had consequently christened Stripe, seemed talkative enough once they’d come to their agreement, although who knew what ground a friendly conversation between demons might cover? But given that she couldn’t understand a word they were saying, she found herself watching Spike’s body language minutely, and realized that she could actually tell the difference between Peaceably Making Smalltalk Spike and Just Playing Along Spike, and it did seem to be the former. What it all boiled down to was, take their weapons away and they were a pretty civilized species – as far as these things went, with demons.

 

Stripe disappeared pretty quickly once they came up to the so-called town, which to Buffy looked more like a scattering of thatched dwellings in a big pit of mud, but at least he’d already given them directions. Or so she’d thought. When they ended up in some kind of clothes shop, she started to have her doubts.

 

“Seriously, Spike?” she asked, watching him finger a weird-looking shirt in a shade of blue that admittedly would look very good on him. “Clothes? While we’re questing? You’re worse than Cordelia.”

 

“Slayer,” he said witheringly, “given the sweet little socialite you were when we first met, I’d have thought you’d understand the importance of blending in with the local fashions.”

 

Buffy gave him a look. He looked right back. She crossed her arms. He raised an eyebrow.

 

“We don’t want to stand out,” he finally said, slowly, as though speaking to a toddler. Unfortunately, it made sense.

 

“I was not a socialite,” Buffy muttered petulantly, before turning to look at the smaller, presumably female, collection of clothes on offer. It didn’t look promising.

 

It looked even less promising half an hour later when, having discovered that the slave clothes were in a separate little room in the back, windowless and smoky from some extremely rustic looking candles, she came out of the store in one of her new outfits, the second stuffed into her rucksack with the rest of her supplies and weapons, feeling like she was wearing a sack. The fabric was rough and smelled of smoke and vaguely of hay, a nondescript light brown skirt that fell almost to her ankles (good in one sense at least, because she hadn’t brought a razor and no one wanted to see stubbly Slayer legs) and a horribly shapeless blouse that she’d tucked in to the skirt, to at least pay lip service to the fact she had a waist. Thankfully she’d brought a couple of camisoles with her, and that kept the worst of the itchy fabric away from her skin, but it didn’t improve the fact that she felt like she’d just stepped out of American Gothic. All she needed was a pitchfork.

 

Things only continued to get worse once she’d found Spike again, leaning against the front of the shop with a cigarette dangling from his lips. He’d bought the blue top, made from some much softer-looking fabric than her clothes, and in a strange, wrap-around style that should’ve looked way feminine but somehow had the opposite effect. Possibly because it exposed his chest in a deep V and yeah, just as she knew but always tried not to remember, Spike had a fantastic chest.

 

“Great,” she sighed as he came over.

 

“Something wrong?” he asked, giving her that shit-eating, fake-innocent look she loved to wipe off his face.

 

“Oh, no,” she said snippily, “nothing wrong, just having to stand here looking like Amish-Buffy next to…” she waved her hand up and down the figure he was cutting, “that.”

 

He smirked, but thankfully didn’t comment on what she realized a moment later she’d let slip – that he looked undeniably attractive.

 

“Poor Slayer. Them’s the breaks of being a slave in this dimension. Don’t worry, though, your master will treat you well. Oh,” he said, biting his lip at her furious expression, “if looks could stake.” And damn him for making that attractive too.  “Well, sweetheart, if you can get over your burning fashion envy, I got something for you.”

 

“What?” she asked suspiciously, because their friendship was not the type of friendship that involved the giving of gifts, and besides that he looked far too smug.

 

“As my slave, you have to be marked as such, or we’ll just continue to be attacked,” he said, putting on earnestness now.

 

Buffy crossed her arms. The scratchy fabric of her blouse chafed at the soft skin on the inside of her forearms, only irritating her further. “You’re not tattooing me,” she told him flatly. “Or painting me with any magic sigils. Or putting me in a collar—” His expression gave him away. Her arms fell back to her sides in disbelief. “You’re putting me in a collar?” she whined.

 

“I got you a nice one,” he promised, pulling something from his pants pocket, but to Buffy’s satisfaction, looking a little less pleased with himself now. “Spent ages choosing it.” And when he held it out to her, she could see that it was actually very pretty – a beautiful green stone that changed to gold and back to green as it turned, fastened to a simple strip of leather thong like a choker. It was the kind of thing she might’ve chosen for herself, back home, but here it would mean something a bit different.

 

“Here,” Spike said, taking it out of her fingers, and stepped behind her to place it around her throat, tying it in a loose knot at the back of her neck. She realized she had swept her hair up for him automatically, and that she was suddenly hyperaware of his every movement. His breath on the back of her neck sent her skin into goosebumps.

 

When he was done, she reached up to touch the stone where it sat at the base of her throat, and tried to work out why she didn’t hate it.

 

“How are you paying for all this anyway?” she asked, to change the subject.

 

“Picked our friend’s pocket before he legged it,” Spike said unconcernedly.

 

“You stole from Stripe?” she spluttered, appalled. He’d shown them the way! He’d…

 

You were going to tear his head off with your bare hands,” Spike pointed out, and that shut her up, because once again he was right.

 

*

 

Right now…

 

He felt incandescent. He felt like he was burning up. Buffy was riding his thigh while he drowned in her kisses, a series of soft, helpless little sounds escaping her throat as she got wetter and wetter against his leg.

 

“God, I love you,” he whispered, as she tore herself away to breathe, and at his words her eyes shot open as though she’d just realized where she was, and with whom. He froze as he watched her, and found himself getting angry though he tried to hold it back. Not like any of this was her fault; not like his anger would serve a single fucking purpose right now. Then he realized she was still rubbing herself on him, watching him right back with a heavy-lidded gaze, lips kiss-pink and eyes a little hazy, and his anger was forgotten, or at least channeled into something else. He began to lean back in to capture her mouth but she bit her lip and that stopped him.

 

“What?” he asked softly. “Something you want? Just need to ask, petal.”

 

“I’m… I’m good to go,” she said huskily, not quite meeting his eyes. “You can use your fingers now.”

 

The first part of the ritual – making her come with his hands. He might have been trembling, he couldn’t tell. His whole focus narrowed down to her flushed mouth, and when they kissed again he could’ve sworn she leaned up into it. He let his left hand run with slow purpose down over her breast and her stomach until he reached her mound, the neatly trimmed hair scratching lightly at his fingertips, and her hips jerked at the feel of his hand there. Carefully, gently, he parted her lips and ran two fingers over her, all her sweet little bumps and mounds, until he reached her pussy. She was really wet, much wetter than he’d realized, and as he teased around her entrance, gathering up her honey, he couldn’t stop himself from murmuring a heartfelt, “Fuck,” against her mouth, balls starting to tighten as his own inevitable wave threatened to crest.

 

Fingers slicked, he slid them back up to her clit, plump and swollen and practically begging for attention, and started a slow, circular massage. “How’s this?” he asked against her cheek, too afraid to look at her face, but the sound that rose up from her throat came straight from his fantasies.

 

“Good,” she panted, hot breath gusting against his ear. “The… the speed is good, just… harder. Oh god.

 

She was trembling now, muscles tensing, chains clanking as she strained against them. Her skin had broken out in a light sheen of sweat that seemed to make her glow in the torch light. Spike’s eyes fell from her mouth to the hollow of her throat, where his mark of ownership had rested until this morning, and he bent to kiss her there, a wet, open-mouthed kiss with the clear intention of marking her all over again. She bucked against him, a convulsive movement, and he could feel everything tensing and coiling within her. The feel of her hot little button quivering beneath his fingers, the taste of her skin, the wordless sounds she was making, everything in her was telling him she was desperate to come. Working more wet kisses up the column of her throat he went back to her ear, nuzzling aside the sweaty tangle of hair, and told her, “Let go. Let go, baby. I’ve got you.”

 

Her eyes met his for the most fleeting of moments before they fell shut and she arched against him. He kissed her again – he couldn’t not – and swallowed her cries as finally, everything unwound and she crashed into orgasm, and took him with her, and they twitched and trembled against each other, and breathed each other’s breath. Even the long, mournful sounding of the gong seemed distant, just then. All there was, was her.

Chapter Text

Part II

 

Right now…

 

Buffy didn’t look at him for the longest time. Comments flitted through his head – anything to break the silence – but some were too soft and some were too hard and others were just plain unfair if she couldn’t punch him in the nose for it.

 

“All right, Slayer?” he finally settled on. The fingers of his left hand were still nestled between her legs, bodies jammed together, his spendings slicking both their bellies, and he felt stupid being so tentative in such a situation, but his heart wouldn’t come down from his throat and he didn’t quite trust himself not to do or say something stupid.

 

Buffy took a deep, shuddering breath, hardened her mouth, and swung her eyes up to his in a way that was achingly familiar. This – all of this – was a challenge, and she was girding herself to overcome it.

 

“Fine,” she said a little tightly, and he read it as embarrassment. Better than disdain, he told himself. Better than that. Then, she raised an eyebrow in a surprisingly prim gesture and asked, “Are you?”

 

Bloody brilliant, he almost said, and would’ve meant it in every way possible, if he hadn’t then realized she was referring to something rather more prosaic. Was he all right to continue, she wanted to know – physically. Like that would ever be a problem around her.

 

“No fear,” he said, flashing her a small, sardonic, and to his shame, slightly shy smile. “Vampire, remember?”

 

“Vamp stamina will win the day, huh?” she said, and then they were both letting out a breath as though they’d been holding it, laughing quietly but a little hysterically against each other.

 

“Not my pleasure that’s going to open that vault,” he reminded her.

 

“No, but you still need to…” She bit her lip, and he watched in fascination as the flush from her exertion rose to a deeper hue. “I can’t believe I’m blushing after… that,” she muttered, rolling her eyes to the dark, invisible ceiling.

 

“Don’t stop on my account,” Spike said before he could think better of it, and equally brashly – because when else would he ever get the chance? – leaned in to lick her cheek, tasting her sweat and the hot tang of blood just beneath the surface. When he drew back, her eyes were closed and her expression was one of surprised pleasure. Experimentally, Spike twitched his fingers against her soft, slick folds and had to suck on his cheeks to keep from grinning at the keening noise she made. “Ready for round two, then, pet?” he asked, and didn’t bother to wait for her answer. Besides, he’d have to uncover her for this part, so the sooner she got into it, the better.

 

*

 

Eight days ago…

 

“What on Earth is thi-”

 

Giles’s voice was cut off abruptly by a bright blue light and a sizzling sound.

 

“Oh, that can’t be good,” Xander said as they all stood around afterwards, blinking away the glare and staring a little dumbly at Giles, who seemed to be encased in a cocoon of blue sparks. He was staring right at Buffy, expression frozen in a look of surprise, hair standing on end like he’d just put his finger in an electrical socket. Which, she guessed, he’d kind of done the mystical equivalent of. Watchers.

 

“Shouldn’t we try to do something?” Dawn asked, looking nervously around the group.

 

“Giles?” Xander said loudly, waving his hand in front of Giles’s immobile face. “Giiiiiiiiles!”

 

“I mean like a spell or something,” Dawn said.

 

Anya shrugged. “What, though? We don’t know what it is or what it might-”

 

“Spike, don’t!” Buffy cut in, but it was too late – with an annoyed huff Spike had stepped up to her watcher and given him a firm poke in the middle of the chest. Or at least, that’s what he would have done if whatever magic was encasing Giles hadn’t sent him flying back across the large room and into a velvet upholstered ottoman.

 

“Ow,” he said, rubbing at the back of his head, but that might’ve been more from the cuffing Buffy, going to her knees at his side, had just given him. Then again, he was also smoking lightly.

 

“You idiot,” she said, leaning over to examine the damage, just as the Giles-cocoon, wobbling precariously from the force of the blast, began a slow, inexorable topple back into the plush carpet.

 

“Definitely not good,” Xander said faintly.

 

It wasn’t until later, after they’d snuck him out of Glory’s old apartment and back to his own, that Buffy managed to get a good look at the artifact that had done this to him.

 

“It’s a ewer,” Tara said as she unwrapped her cardigan from around it, careful not to touch. “Like a, a jug, for ceremonial purposes.”

 

“Was it booby-trapped?” Anya asked. They were all sitting or standing around Giles’s coffee table in his small living area, peering at the innocuous-looking piece of pottery with the funny, stick-like inscriptions carved into its side.

 

“I don’t know,” Willow said. “But there’s a few things we can try, see if we can figure it out.”

 

“What about Giles?” Buffy asked, glancing to the upper level where they had left him in his bed, still sizzling gently.

 

Willow and Tara looked at each other in a way that made Buffy’s stomach sink.

 

“We’re not sure,” Tara said, “but it’s safer to examine the ewer than Mr. Giles, given what happened to Spike.”

 

All eyes turned to the vampire slouching in the corner, still looking faintly frazzled. “I said it was a bad idea to go poking around in there,” he said, looking somewhere between smug and annoyed. “Hell Goddess’s pad, of course there’s going to be all manner of dangerous knick-knacks lying about.”

 

“Spike!” Dawn slapped his arm, hard enough to deepen his frown. “Of course we had to. Someone could’ve gotten hurt.”

 

“Someone did get hurt,” Buffy said, conceding neither point but wanting to move the conversation back on track. “And now we’re going to fix it. Okay. Willow, Tara, you go to the magic shop and do whatever mojo you need to do to figure out what this vase thing did to him. Xander, Anya, you’re on research duty – get some books and bring them back here. I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave Giles unprotected like this. Spike and I will do a quick patrol and then swing back around to help out.”

 

Everyone nodded and started moving purposefully, gathering up their things. Behind her, Buffy heard Dawn whisper to Spike, “Did she forget about me? Think I can go help-”

 

“Not on your life, platelet,” Spike snorted, just as Buffy turned and said, “Come on, Dawn. We’ll take you home before patrol.”

 

*

 

Right now…

 

She didn’t quite seem to realize what he was doing as he kissed his way down her throat and the deceptively delicate line of her collarbone to visit first one breast, then the other, just let out a series of soft, sweet little sounds as he licked and kissed her taut nipples, cupping and massaging both breasts so that neither would feel left out. God, she was something –– those noises were doing more for him than even her nudity, freely given as they were.

 

It wasn’t until he left her chest behind and started to make his way down her smooth, golden stomach, taking a few moments of decadent depravity to lick his own come from her skin, that she seemed to realize his destination, and clamped her legs together like a Victorian maiden.

 

“Spike, no. Wait,” she said a little breathlessly, looking mortified, and he thought she was about to get self-conscious again about being on display while he was kneeling at her feet and heading firmly south of the border, or maybe her damned morals had somehow just caught up with her and she was calling it quits. “I haven’t shaved my legs in a week,” she told him, and it was such a relief he laughed right in her…… well, in her delightful little patch of manicured fuzz. She made a strangled noise and her legs relaxed again, the chains at her ankles, which had considerably more give than those holding her arms, clinking almost musically.

 

“Look,” he said, tearing himself away, “when I was alive, you were lucky if people bathed once a week, and women had a full bush, and legs the way nature intended. Think I can handle a little bit of…” he stroked her thigh, “this.”

 

“Oh god,” Buffy moaned, not really out of pleasure, he could see, but it only made him smile again as she looked down at him like the affronted sun goddess of his benighted sky. “How come you’re still all smooth and freshly shorn, anyway, while I’m all prickly Buffy?”

 

“You really want a lesson on vamp physiology right now, kitten?” he asked, kissing the top of her thigh where his hand had just been, and making sure that she felt his breath on her sensitive parts. “That what’d tickle your… fancy?”

 

“You’re a pig, Spike. Get on with it,” she said, imperiously enough that his cock jumped, but he heard the unwilling amusement in her tone, as well.

 

“Your wish, princess,” he said, and pushed her legs further apart and thrust his tongue into her as deep as it would go.

 

Her sounds this time were far beyond sweet, but wild, and guttural. She jerked against him, groaning loudly and low in her throat, working herself against him the way she had earlier, except now it was his face she was riding and Spike thought if he dusted just then, he’d probably go a happy vamp. She tasted like heaven, like light and life and goodness and ferocity, and he loved her powerfully in that moment.

 

She barely needed any coaxing at all to brace one leg over his shoulder; she spread herself wide for him, and whined and panted and practically growled when he fastened his lips over her clit, thumb tickling her entrance and fingers strumming over the sensitive little pucker in back. Her leg tightened over his shoulder in an iron grip, holding him in place in a way no human would’ve been able to take, and he loved her for that, too, because it felt a little like acceptance. With no breath, no thought to his own body at all, he lost himself in the rhythm and the overwhelming beauty of it, teasing her and tasting her and memorizing every little thing that she liked, before, eventually, she tensed, and tensed again, and all but howled as she came, and came, and was still coming as Spike rose to his feet, lifted both her legs around his waist, and drove into her body, deep, and deep, and deeper still, almost sobbing against her throat for how right it felt, how good, how much like home.

 

*

 

Six days ago…

 

“It’s called the Ewer of Enheduanna,” Anya said, tapping the wood-cut image in the book.

 

Buffy was one hundred percent, thoroughly and completely surprised when it was Spike, not Willow, who looked up sharply and said, “The Mesopotamian priestess?”

 

“You’ve heard of her?” Tara asked, looking just as amazed.

 

Spike frowned. “Well, yeah. First named author in all of history, not exactly one you forget, is it?”

 

“I don’t know, blood breath, four syllables is quite a lot,” Xander said from across the table.

 

“Strictly speaking, it’s five,” Spike said, looking unbearably self-satisfied. “I know that’s pushing the limits of your capabilities there, pea brain, but if you use your thumb-”

 

“All right,” Buffy interceded, shooting a glare at a smirking Spike. “So what do we know about this En-hoodoo-whatsis?”

 

“En-hedu-anna,” Spike said helpfully. Buffy kicked him under the table. Spike kicked back. She really ought to invest in some steel-toed fighting boots, she thought, surreptitiously rubbing her shin.

 

“What Spike said,” Anya told her a little sheepishly. “She was a high priestess in Mesopotamia, daughter of a king, kind of a celebrity of her day.”

 

Buffy sighed. That wasn’t much. “Anything else?”

 

“She worshipped the goddess… um…” Willow was paging through a second book, even bigger and fustier than Anya’s. “Here. The Goddess Inanna, Mesopotamian goddess of love.”

 

“Oh,” Buffy said, looking around the table, derailed for a moment. “Wait, Anya, was she-?”

 

“Way before my time,” Anya said, sounding offended. “Way. I mean, we’re talking three millennia apart, here.”

 

“Right,” Buffy said.

 

“Do I really look that old?”

 

“No, sweetie.”

 

“Because I know I’ve been around the block in human years, but in demon terms-”

 

“You don’t look a day over eight hundred.”

 

“Well,” Dawn said. “Goddess of love… that doesn’t sound so bad, right?”

 

Spike chuckled darkly and flashed Buffy a look she didn’t see from him very often these days, before turning to Dawn. “You’ve obviously never been in love, bit. Besides, if I recall correctly, she was also the goddess of battle and chaos.”

 

“And how, exactly, are those things related?” Dawn asked, arms crossed over her chest defiantly and that particular tilt to her chin that made Buffy’s teeth begin to grind on instinct.

 

Spike just rolled his eyes, and Buffy couldn’t help but smile a little in response, failing to smother it in time before Dawn looked her way for an explanation, and then deflated into a sulky frown.

 

“What if…” Tara started, and then cut herself off, looking down.

 

“Go on, sweetie,” Willow urged.

 

“I just wondered,” Tara continued uncertainly. “What was an artifact of one goddess doing in the old lair of another?”

 

“You think they were in league?” Xander said, sitting up straight, and Buffy’s chest clenched in panic for a moment at the thought, but no, that didn’t sound quite right.

 

“Didn’t Travers say something about…” She got up, suddenly restless and needing to move. “Something about… other gods? From Glory’s dimension? They kicked her out when she got too big for her boots.”

 

“Right, right,” Willow said, flipping pages furiously again, this time in one of her notebooks. “Two gods plus Glory. They ruled as a triumvirate, but when she became too powerful, they banished her to this dimension and bound her to a human host.”

 

“What if-?” Buffy looked around the table again as she paced, eyes catching on Spike’s.

 

“Could be,” Spike conceded.

 

“What?” Willow asked, looking between them.

 

“This Inanna might be one of those two gods,” Spike finished for her.

 

“Oh god,” Dawn said quietly.

 

“I think you mean gods, plural,” Xander said, but no one laughed.

 

*

 

Right now…

 

“Oh god, oh god,” Buffy was chanting. “Nnng. Oh god.

 

Her legs felt like a molten band around his waist, burning, constrictive, possessive. He pounded into her urgently, beyond what he could take, beyond words, nothing but breath and a body that felt like it was made to drive hers right through the bloody pillar. His face was buried in the crook of her neck, mouth open and sucking hard on her thundering artery, and he knew somehow that if he bit her now the chip wouldn’t fire, yet at the same time, he didn’t want to.

 

“I love you,” he grunted into her skin. “I love you. I love you so much, Buffy.”

 

“Spike,” she whimpered. “God. Touch me.

 

For all her power, she barely weighed a thing, and he braced her weight with one hand to bring the other round to her clit. He took a moment to look down, catch his breath, find his place, and was transfixed by the sight of them, their bodies together, his and hers, his cock glistening with her juices and her sex quivering and pink with racing blood and desperate for his touch.

 

“How’d you want it now?” he managed to ask, voice hoarse and catching, watching her face as her eyes screwed shut in ecstasy.

 

“Hard,” she panted. “Yeah, like that.” And so he rubbed her without finesse, hard like she wanted, and tried to get his rhythm back. Something had changed, though, and it took him a moment to realize she was watching him now, eyes bottomless in the changing light, and he felt himself caught like an insect on a pin – caught and splayed wide open for her. Suddenly, he wished he could know where her hands would be, if she could move them –– if she would touch his hair, his face, with any kind of wonder – and then an uncontrollable sadness rolled through him.

 

“Hey,” she said softly, nothing more than that, but it was enough to make him realize that he’d stopped, with his head bowed to her sternum, because this would end soon, and it seemed impossible to survive it. Still, he started to move again, slow thrusts that made him almost delirious, pressing desperate, soft kisses to the flat of her chest beneath her throat and refusing to acknowledge the golf ball in his throat. “Spike,” she whispered then, voice strangely small amid the heaving of her breath. “Don’t go away.” The words confused him, because they felt like his own, but when he dragged his eyes up to meet hers, he realized something, or perhaps just the possibility of something, but either way it hadn’t occurred to him before – that she needed him with her, just as much as he had needed it earlier.

 

“Sorry,” he said, though it seemed nonsensical, because suddenly everything else was gone, just gone, and he was making love to Buffy as she stared into his eyes so intently it felt like she was scouring him. And maybe she was, he thought madly. Maybe, finally, his love for her would make him good, and everything that made him evil and unclean in her eyes would just… disappear.

 

There were no more words then, just movement and her intense, unbroken gaze. She was squeezing him inside her with a strong, rhythmic movement that gripped him like a glove whenever he was deepest, her little nub hard and swollen against his fingers, her hands clenched in her chains. Dust skittered down the pillar, knocked loose by the intensity of their exertions, and stuck to Buffy’s sweat-slicked skin; her chains groaned under the tension; he took in every tiny detail without ever looking away from her eyes.

 

Between them, something was growing, an energy that coiled and crackled and mimicked the energy building within them. Spike felt it on his skin like the first warning of approaching daylight, that dangerous prickle he’d always found alluring.

 

“Think it’s – ugh –– working,” Buffy panted, but Spike couldn’t speak, driven by some strange instinct to slow their bodies even further so that it felt like a dream, hazy and moving in slow-motion. He felt Buffy tighten impossibly around him, her mouth falling open in a rictus of pleasure; felt his own climax begin to build, and build, and seem to go on forever until he could barely move and had stopped breathing altogether. They teetered together at an impossible height, wound so tightly it hurt in the best possible way, and then something snapped and Spike drove into her with a roar that came straight from the heart of him, and Buffy screamed her release, body flexed, and distantly there was the sound of something breaking, but just then all Spike could comprehend was that he was coming, and she was coming, and her hands were in his hair, and her mouth was on his. When the waves finally began to subside in deep, full-body shudders, he sank to his knees, Buffy in his lap, and kissed her until he could breathe again.

 

*

 

Yesterday…

 

It took a full day to get from ‘Is that a temple on the horizon?’ to knocking on the big oak door, but it was the right place at least, so that was of the good. The demons, it turned out, were a sisterhood – rare enough to be passingly interesting, though Spike’s attempts at flirting his way to their prize had absolutely zero impact.

 

“What you seek is very precious,” the demon leader – Mother Superior? – told them. “Very important. It is locked away and can only be accessed by magic, rituals.”

 

She held a large, flat stone in her outstretched hand that sparkled in strange patterns as she spoke. For communication, Spike had explained. Buffy read it as a pointed display of powerful magic.

 

“So, do the rituals,” Buffy said flatly, unimpressed.

 

“It is not that easy,” Demon Superior said. “It requires a sacrifice of sanctity. The participants must be properly prepared, observances made. Unless……” She was eyeing Buffy weirdly now, almost intrusively. “You are human, yes?”

 

“Yes…” Buffy said, just as Spike said, “So what if she is?” They glanced at each other. Spike gave her a minute shake of the head, which Buffy took note of before plowing ahead anyway.

 

“The sacrifice must be human,” she said, her smile distinctly unpleasant. “How badly do you want access?”

 

“Now wait just a minute,” Spike said, just as Buffy said, “You know, I could probably just kick the door down with a big enough incentive.”

 

“The sacrifice is figurative!” the demon said, backtracking rapidly. “Merely a sacrifice of virtue, not of self. Our Lady is the goddess of love –– it is only by the action of love that her vault may be opened.”

 

“Wait,” Buffy said, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I am getting some severe mixed messages here. I have to sacrifice my virtue by acting in love? How does that even make sense?”

 

“Er, don’t think that’s what she meant by ‘the action of love’, Slayer,” Spike said. Buffy turned her glare on him, but his expression was sorta helpless.

 

“You must come to fruition,” Demon Superior said, looking way too pleased with herself. “Three times, following a sequence. With a demon. Only the tantric energy produced in such a union can unlock Our Lady’s vault.”

 

“Just to be clear,” Buffy said faintly, “by ‘come to fruition’ you mean…”

 

“Reach the height of sexual pleasure.” She looked between them. “Orgasm,” she said bluntly. “You have to orgasm.”

 

There was a pause as everyone let that sink in.

 

“Our acolytes are well trained and of various species and genders,” she said helpfully. “I’m sure we could find something that would-”

 

“What about Spike?” Buffy said. The words just came out, and once said, she didn’t dare look at him. Didn’t dare take them back, either. “He’s a vampire. That demon enough for you?”

 

Another factoid to add to the list of Surprising Spike-Related Phenomena: can actually be silent when sufficiently shocked.

 

Demon Superior gave him an assessing once over before pursing her lips and nodding. “He’ll do,” she said.

 

*

 

Right now…

 

It took them both more than a few moments to realize that Buffy had broken her chains. Spike was holding her so tightly his arms were trembling, cock still nestled deep in her warmth, half-hard and comfortable, and she was kissing him with a sort of lazy, post-coital possessiveness that made him hum down to his bones with happiness.

 

In retrospect, he’d have expected it to happen quickly, the pulling apart, but instead the separation was as slow as the return of his senses, a natural receding of urgency and desire.

 

“So,” Buffy said almost tentatively as she finally turned away from his mouth. “Is it just me or were there more demons here when we started?”

 

Spike shook his head to clear it before looking around the cavern. It was empty, and not only that, it looked hastily deserted – various items had been knocked over or left behind, and Spike couldn’t help but grin, sliding his left hand from her shoulder down her bare arm to the hand now resting easily on his shoulder, wrist still adorned with its manacle and a length of chain like a very clunky bracelet.

 

“Well, sweetheart,” he said, toying with the length of chain so that her arm moved like a puppet. “I think you might’ve scared them away.”

 

She gave him a wide-eyed look before yanking her arm away and rising a little clumsily back to standing. Spike sighed, but rose to his feet too, and slipped his robe off when he saw her hugging herself and wrapped it around her shoulders.

 

“Oh,” she said, surprised. “Thanks. Um… aren’t you…?”

 

It was gratifying, the way her eyes slid lingeringly down his naked body, as though trying covertly to take it all in.

 

“Don’t feel the cold,” he said, though he knew that wasn’t really what she’d been asking, but she didn’t rise to the challenge in his raised eyebrow, and instead started turning around as though trying to get her bearings.

 

“There’s a little side room around here somewhere,” she said, clinking softly. “They made me leave my clothes.”

 

Right, Spike was about to say, mine too, when a bass metallic rumble filled the chamber and they both turned to see the vault door swinging open. She glanced at him, but there was no need to actually ask the question – he nodded, and they left their clothes for later, entering instead the glittering vault.

Chapter Text

Part III

 

Right now…

 

There was something inherently interesting about the sight of a completely naked Spike padding down the rows of sparkly riches – lithe muscle and comfortable gait amid a backdrop of voluptuous wealth. He… and she… they had… even now it was kinda hard to believe. But after what had just happened, all that skin was totally distracting. Which was weird and stupid because shouldn’t it be less? Now that they had, you know. Although it wasn’t like she’d actually gotten to see the goods, her traitorous brain supplied. Now, however…

 

“Think this is it,” Spike said, coming to a halt a little way ahead.

 

“Uh, how can you tell?” she said distractedly. Everything was all mingling into one shiny package as far as she could see, with Spike as the illuminated centerpiece. Then he stepped aside and she saw the plinth with the simple stone urn atop it, the same alien script etched into its side. “Right,” she agreed. “That… that definitely looks like it.”

 

“You all right?” Spike asked, turning to give her a look of genuine concern, and whoa! Full frontal! Very, very frontal.

 

“I, uh,” she grasped desperately for the first straw to hand. “I was just wondering, you know, about why the demons all up and disappeared on us.”

 

“Slayer, they probably didn’t think it would work,” he said, as though that was obvious. “It’s not like either of us is trained for – that.” He glanced away, looking oddly uncomfortable. “And when you broke free, well…”

 

A little frisson of pleasure jolted through her at what his words recalled  – the best, most intense orgasm of her life – and she became minutely aware of the way her inner thighs were still slick with both their spendings, skin sliding against skin as she walked to stand beside him. This was easier, though, she told herself – less of a view.

 

“I guess I did make a lot of threats when we first got here,” Buffy said, hoping that her powers of deception were sufficient to keep her less-than-innocent thoughts off her face, just as an unearthly howl rose up from deep in the back of the vault, followed by a gust of disconcertingly warm air.

 

“Of course,” Spike added, “there’s always the chance of something scarier than you back there.”

 

They looked at each other as another howl came, closer this time, and shared a decisive nod, before Spike leapt forward to scoop up the urn and Buffy hastily gathered up the hem of her voluminous robe, and they ran.

 

*

 

Spike fighting naked was an even more interesting proposition, but there wasn’t time to stand back and admire the fluid movement of his body and the way the torch light accentuated his muscle tone because their demon hosts, though still in disarray, really didn’t seem too keen on letting them run off with the urn after all. Unfortunately, it was still totally distracting, as the new bruise she could feel forming over her ribs would attest.

 

“I really hate when people go back on their word,” Buffy growled, shaking a dead ringer for Demon Superior by the neck before tossing her into a wall.

 

“Demons,” Spike reminded her, grinning viciously as he downed his opponent with a hard punch to the temple. “They’re not all as honorable as yours truly.”

 

“Oh, right,” Buffy said, wondering where that slip had come from, and why she felt so weird about it. “Demons.”

 

They dashed down to the corridor, first to Buffy’s room in the now-deserted restricted area, and then to Spike’s. He was just pulling out his spare clothes, much to Buffy’s relief, when another unearthly roar rattled the window panes, and instead of getting dressed, he started stuffing them back into his bag.

 

“You aren’t gonna put those on?” Buffy practically yelped. She hadn’t dressed, but she had a robe, and even then things felt disturbingly airy. Was he enjoying this or something? Wait, stupid question.

 

“There’s no time,” he said.

 

“There’s always time for pants!”

 

“Fine!” he snapped, skinning hastily into his jeans. “But if we get eaten by terror incognita back there because of your prudish American sensibilities—”

 

He was cut off by another roar, louder this time, and he grabbed his boots without another word and they ran for the nearest exit.

 

Around the back of the temple there was a horse-like thing tethered to a cart-like thing and Buffy strangely felt no compunctions whatsoever about stealing it.

 

“Go!” she hissed at Spike’s bare back as she scrambled into the bed of the cart.

 

“If you know how to drive a horrock beast I’m happy to take suggestions,” he snarled, going into game face to try to scare the thing into action. It just stood there, chewing placidly. “Bloody—stupid—”

 

From inside the temple the demonic howl went up again, followed by the sound of something heavy and breakable crashing to the floor, and the animal finally seemed to get the memo and jerked into frenzied motion.

 

“Not just scarier than me,” Buffy said, and couldn’t help the relieved laugh that entered her voice. They careened at a gallop out of the temple courtyard and down the hill, Spike whooping as the sounds of destruction grew ever more distant, and when they finally made the tree line, the beast slowing to a comparatively gentle trot, Buffy allowed herself to collapse back in the soft hay lining the cart bed and catch her breath. When she glanced up, Spike was looking down at her over his shoulder, upside down but still so familiar.

 

“Most fun you’ll have with your clothes on,” he grinned, and Buffy winced inwardly as she watched him realize what he’d said. “Uh, toss me my shirt, will you?” he asked after an awkward moment, smile falling to something unreadable as he turned back to face front. Buffy sat up and stared a moment at the bunched muscles of his back before busying herself with their bags. Spike already had his boots up front; she threw him the blue shirt when she came across it before using one of his t-shirts to wrap the small stone urn.

 

“All this trouble for this little thing,” she said, mostly to herself, though it still somehow surprised her when he didn’t have anything to say in response.

 

Finding her own things, she quickly pulled on her stupid slave outfit beneath the robe and climbed over the front of the cart to sit beside him, both of them fully clothed once more, an unnamed anxiety swelling in her chest at his silence. He glanced over at her, eyes coming to rest at her neck, and she touched herself self-consciously before realizing what he must be thinking. Wordlessly, she drew the slim leather collar from her skirt pocket and held it up so that the stone dangled, twirling above her knees, now green, now gold, and back again.

 

“These woods are deserted,” she said after a moment, fastening the thong around her wrist beside her beautiful new manacle accessory – what every slave girl is wearing this season! “I’ll put it on properly later.”

 

“Whatever you want, Slayer,” Spike said, and when his eyes flicked up to meet hers there was so much in them, almost too much, but the thought of moving further away was unbearable so instead she shuffled minutely closer and started work on loosening the remnants of her chains.

 

*

 

An hour or so later, the horrock beast having settled into a loping stride, the sound of running water penetrated the strange symphony of the forest and Spike hauled their transport to a halt. They’d stopped at this river on their way up yesterday, to fill Buffy’s canteen, but she was all topped up this time so it took her a moment to figure out what was going on.

 

“Don’t know about you,” Spike said evenly when she gave him a questioning look, “but I could really do with cleaning up.”

 

Buffy looked down as her mind supplied why it was they needed to wash, willing herself not to flush. Again. If ever there was an advantage to being a vamp… “Yeah. Good idea.”

 

And yet, when he hopped down, she felt his sudden distance like a physical ache.

 

“Wait,” she said, jumping down beside him. “I…”

 

“You…?”

 

“My back,” she said. They stared at each other for a moment before she turned and, jerkily, pulled the wide neck of her blouse aside so that he could see her shoulder, the back of her neck. “I think… how bad is it? I think it needs cleaning.”

 

When he said nothing she glanced back at him. His expression was fixed, pupils wide and unfocussed.

 

“Knew I could smell blood,” he murmured. “Thought you’d just scratched yourself. Was too dark in the cavern to really see.” He visibly shook himself, blinking. “Christ,” he said, as though only just seeing the scrapes she was pretty sure covered her from neck to tailbone. He reached out like he was going to touch her, but stopped. “Buffy, I’m sorry.”

 

The way he said her name affected her more than it should have. “Not your fault,” she told him. Their eyes met again and the sense memory of being pounded into the rough stone pillar rushed through her. “Not exactly,” she amended. “But, can you help me?”

 

It was a surprise when his hands came to her waist and gently began untucking her blouse, though not, she realized, an unpleasant one. She felt his hesitation when he realized there was nothing beneath it, but she told him simply, “It’s okay.”

 

Weird that she didn’t mind him touching her, undressing her. How was she supposed to feel, though? She doubted even the Slayer Handbook had guidelines for a scenario like this one, and besides, it wasn’t like there was anything to hide anymore.

 

Back still turned to him, she shucked her skirt and walked into the river in just her panties. The water was cold and clear, and she had to stop for a moment when it came above her knees, then she scrunched her eyes closed and dove right in, rising in the deepest part, spluttering as her body acclimatized. God, it felt good. That strange ache reappeared, though, that pull towards Spike, and she swam back towards the shore to find him sitting on a rock, barefoot and jeans rolled up his calves.

 

“I thought you wanted to bathe,” she said, trying for a nonchalance that came more easily this time.

 

“You first,” he said, jerking his chin at her injuries. “Then me.”

 

She shrugged, whatever, and turned her back on him once more, getting her feet under her in the shallower water so that, when she stood, she was exposed down to her thighs, and crossed her arms over her chest where her hair didn’t quite protect her modesty from any prying eyes.

 

From behind came the sounds of rustling, and a splash, and then something cool and soft started gentle work on her skin. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw it was his blue shirt, made from much finer material than anything else they’d brought with them. His consideration made her feel warm and light and strangely tearful. She’d accepted some time ago that his love for her was real, and she’d seen what that meant for her sister, the world, but it wasn’t until today that she’d really understood what that meant for her – since the very beginning of the ritual, he’d shown her such care. To think that two years ago they’d still been trying to kill each other… it felt like a different life.

 

*

 

Spike finished up his careful ministrations to the cuts and scrapes their fervor had left on the Slayer’s skin with a gentle swipe down the center of her spine to her sacrum, the unmarked dip of her back. He’d touched her everywhere less than two hours before, and now… he was reluctant to be done all over again. He bent and rinsed the shirt out in the river, and when he straightened up again Buffy had turned to face to him looking solemn and… yeah, pretty much naked.

 

“Thanks,” she said, and pulled him by his belt loops from the rock and into the water. It wasn’t an aggressive move, or really even a playful one –– he slid in without much of a splash and landed on his feet, not as close to her as he would’ve liked because she had backed off again.

 

“Come on,” she said, “let’s go a bit deeper,” but stopped once the water had risen to their waists and shyly took the bunched up shirt from his hand. Then, without a word, she wrung it out and began to wipe him down, arms and chest and stomach, gently along the contours of his face, over the sting in his cheekbone that must’ve been a cut.

 

“What are you doing?” he asked, and it came out far quieter, far weaker, than he had wanted.

 

“What does it look like, dummy?” she said, turning him to get at his back. “We’re getting clean.”

 

So when she was done, he took the cloth back, not quite believing she would let him, but unbalanced enough to push it, and reached for her again. She simply stood, arms held away from her body, and let him bathe her, delicate wrists and sensitive armpits, beautiful neck where the mark he had left over her pulse was already fading, breasts with nipples all perky from the cold, quivering stomach and belly button he suddenly regretted not paying more attention to earlier.

 

It was intimate, but not sexual. Not really. Oh, he was hard and a bit uncomfortable in his soaking jeans, but it was a passive sort of arousal – reflexive. He thought of a thousand such times with Dru, the pleasure he’d always taken in the simple domesticity of looking after one another. Not one of those times had ever held such an edge of soreness as this, though, this elongated moment as tender as a bruise. Still, he wouldn’t have forgone it for the world.

 

I love you, he thought, the words seeming loud in his head. Can you…? Can you…? And thought it as she left him to see to more personal bathing needs, and as they dried off and dressed once more on the bank; all throughout the afternoon, and again when they pulled off the path to sleep in the back of the cart amid the trees that night and she just rolled into him all warm and soft and easy. Then he had to ask her, but the words got all tangled in the unfamiliar fear that had risen up in him since the morning, and came out far more circumspect than he meant them to be.

 

“Buffy? What does this mean?”

 

“I just need to be close to you. I can’t explain it, I just need it. Is that… okay?”

 

Her voice was small and she hadn’t looked at him, as though there was something shameful in her admission, and he felt it in his chest profoundly.

 

“Yeah, it’s okay,” he told her, and lay still and unprotesting as she made herself comfortable against him, and quickly went to sleep.

 

Spike stayed awake for a long time, longer than usual even though he had found it hard to adapt to night-sleeping in this place, and tried to make himself not think, just enjoy, watching the unfamiliar stars begin their slow wheel overhead with Buffy voluntarily in his arms. But it came to him in the early morning with a soft, flowing sadness, the reason why she sought his nearness – an after-effect of the day’s magic. Tantric spells were notorious for, well – he looked down at her sleeping face, the trusting way her body draped his, the love bite just poking out above her collar that he couldn’t keep his eyes off and the way her hand was tucked just so beneath the arm of his t-shirt, seeking skin – this.

 

She didn’t want to want him. He knew that. It was purely an animal attraction thing. She couldn’t love him, she’d made that clear enough; the number of times he’d laid himself bare for her, she’d definitely made that clear enough. He’d felt like he was comfortable with that. Not happy, but he’d known where he stood. He’d still had hope for the future, of course, it’d take more than a measly year of rejections to kill that in him, but what they’d had, the friendship, their closeness – he’d valued that too. More than he’d wanted to admit, before. And now this day had happened, which was more than he’d ever dreamed of and yet rang so hollow. The magic’s after-effects would wear off eventually, and the price for this simulacrum of bliss could very well be everything.

 

*

 

Spike told her of his suspicions about the magic when Buffy awoke, and she sat up, rubbing her eyes to give herself a moment, before she asked, hating how thin her voice sounded, “Is it just me? How come you’re not affected?”

 

He smiled, looking comfortable on his back with one arm tucked behind his head, but the smile was small and strangely twisted, and she felt her insides twist with it. “Buffy, love, I always want to be near you.”

 

“Oh.”

 

The unfamiliar desire to respond in some way, to comfort him, washed over her, but she stopped herself. So they’d had sex to save Giles’s life – and okay, it’d been really, really good sex – but that didn’t mean she was any more capable of being with him than she had been before. Nothing had really changed; they were who they were, and anyway good sex didn’t equate to feelings, no matter what spell-induced weirdness she was experiencing. She had to keep reminding herself of that.

 

It was just that, in a weird way, she’d never felt so free as she had when chained to that pillar. Some secret, shameful part of her had always loved ceding control, being held down and fucked hard, but  equally, hated asking for it. Even the fact that they’d managed to rub her back raw had somehow heightened the pleasure – at the time, anyway. It’d been pretty sore after the river yesterday. But even so, occasionally when she moved and the healing skin pulled and twinged, it just reminded her of how she’d got like that, and left her feeling both hot and contented. She’d never… had that before.

 

“You ever…” she started to ask him, but couldn’t figure out where she meant to go, and so just let it hang, shaking her head. “Come on, let’s get going. With the wheels we can probably make it back today.”

 

*

 

It was night when they landed back in Sunnydale, which was lucky because the two dimensions didn’t exactly seem to synch up. Spike took a deep, bracing breath: asphalt, warm air, freshly turned earth.

 

“Home sweet graveyard,” he said, and Buffy grinned a little before turning pensive.

 

“I should go,” she said, holding up her rucksack by the strap. “Get this to Willow and Tara.”

 

It had been a day of stilted conversations and long silences, and Spike hated himself for the embarrassment that he was, but he couldn’t think of anything more smooth to say than, “Be seeing you, then, Slayer.”

 

The magic did seem to have dissipated, as he’d predicted. Throughout the day they’d made a couple of stops and Buffy had been perfectly comfortable leaving his side. Now, she strode away into the dark without looking back even once, and it was suddenly beyond what he could take.

 

“Buffy, wait,” he called, jogging to catch up. She turned, eyebrows raised expectantly. “You should probably cover that,” he said, flipping up the collar of her jacket to hide his mark.

 

She touched her neck, eyes widening, but all she said was, “Thanks.”

 

“I just…” he added, sucking in an unneeded breath that somehow felt very much needed. “Is there any way things can go back to how they were before?”

 

When she looked up, her smile seemed to him a little sad. “Honestly? No, I don’t think so,” she said, and turned for the cemetery gates.

 

*

 

“Buffy!” Dawn exclaimed when she opened the door to Giles’s apartment, pulling her into a tight hug. “You’re back.”

 

“I am,” Buffy said, smiling at the familiarity of her sister’s gangly limbs and the smell of her hair. “And I come bearing mystical urns. Or, well, urn.”

 

“Urn girl returns triumphant!” Xander said, from behind Dawn.

 

“Ooh, urn girl spies donuts,” Buffy said, pushing past them both to get at the box on Giles’s coffee table. “So what’s the what? How’s Giles? How long was I gone?”

 

“Giles is the same,” Willow said, looking up from her book. “It seems like he’s just… completely frozen. Uh, everything else is pretty much the same too. You’ve been gone less than a day.”

 

“Huh,” Buffy said. “It was over a week where we were.”

 

“So where is Spike?” Dawn asked expectantly, still loitering by the door, and Buffy almost choked from inhaling the powdered sugar on top of her donuty goodness, suddenly having to fight the urge to make sure her neck was still covered.

 

“He, uh, he had to go back to his crypt. Wear and tear on the ensemble. You know.” She plucked at her own jacket sleeve – having changed into her normal clothes before they used Willow’s totem to get back to Sunnydale, Buffy could appreciate that she really did look a little worse for wear, what with the woeful lack of quest-related laundry facilities.

 

“Oh, that’s pretty,” Tara said quietly from beside her on the couch, her soft fingers brushing against the wrist Buffy had just exposed. She was looking at the leather slave collar Buffy had forgotten to return to her neck. “May I?”

 

“Oh, um, sure,” Buffy said, reluctantly untying it so that Tara could get a closer look.

 

“What an unusual stone,” Tara said, turning it over in her fingers. “It really brings out your eyes.”

 

“So!” Buffy said brightly, snatching it back and stuffing it safely in one of her pockets. “Urn, anyone?”

 

Of course, she’d completely forgotten about wrapping the urn in Spike’s tee. The moment she took it out of her bag an image came to her out of nowhere, of pulling the shirt from his jeans waistband and sliding her fingers under the hem to find soft, soft skin.

 

“Buffy, are you okay?” Dawn asked, coming to perch on the couch arm beside her, and Buffy cleared her throat and said, “Yeah, I’m fine,” and passed the urn to Willow while the certain knowledge formed in her mind that for whatever reason, and she didn’t want to examine it at all right now, she was going to sleep in this shirt tonight.

 

Willow rustled the pages of her book, bringing Buffy back to the now. “It says we need the blood of the sacrifice,” she said, following a cramped line of text with her finger. “Sacrifice?” She frowned and looked up.

 

Buffy let her fingers wend into the soft black fabric spread across her lap. “That’ll be me again.”

 

“Again?” Anya asked. Damn.

 

“I… I just mean, Slayer blood, gotta be extra-potent, right?”

 

*

 

Finally all the ingredients were assembled, dropped one by one into Enheduanna’s Ewer and poured carefully into the urn. There was the requisite chanting, and then Buffy the Super-Strong Guinea Pig climbed the stairs in trepidation to pour the bubbling mixture over her watcher’s crackling form.

 

It worked. There was some sizzling and mess, hugs, celebratory pizza, and the kind of genteel bitchery Giles seemed to excel at after succumbing to the foe of the week. And then they all went home.

 

“Shame Spike didn’t come back for the celebration,” Dawn said as they walked along arm in arm. “Do you think we should go tell him? You know, maybe he’s waiting to hear what happened.”

 

“I don’t think Spike has either the desire or the inclination to spend his night worrying over Giles,” Buffy said dryly, but felt inexplicably bad about it a moment later. His fantasy, when she had asked him to tell her during the ritual, had started off with him taking care of her. That seemed terribly important all of a sudden. What if… what if goodness and compassion could actually be learned? She looked at her sister, for whom he’d taken a knife in the back and a long drop off a tall tower. “I’ll go tell him tomorrow, okay?”

 

“Sure,” Dawn said, though she seemed a little disappointed. Buffy tried not to let the feeling echo within her own chest.

 

 

Chapter Text

Part IV

 

Right now…

 

His eyes seemed to glimmer with the candlelight in the bed chamber, a blue so deep it felt bottomless, and yet was so open for her. He was lying in the center of his bed, shirtless, covered from the waist down by a bed sheet, but instead of the devastating smirk Buffy might have expected to go along with the visual, he instead had a wide-eyed, awed and strangely vulnerable expression.

 

“What’s this?” she asked, bemused by her own cool despite the sharp pounding of blood through her limbs, the same eerie calm, she realized, that came from having made a decision, no matter how crazy things turned out as a result.

 

“What’s it look like?” he said, bravado unable to hide what she had seen in his face.

 

“It looks like you’ve chained yourself to your bed,” she said, letting her gaze linger on wrists held suspended above his head, the shape and contour of the muscles in his arms, a very pretty picture. “Unless you’ve recently hired a kinky housekeeper. Cryptkeeper?” He didn’t answer, but watched her silently as she came closer and, to his obvious surprise, lifted the bed sheet to examine his feet. “You’re only shackled at the wrists,” she pointed out. “No fair.”

 

“Yeah, well, if you’ll recall I only have the one pair of shackles.”

 

Something about the hoarseness of his voice, the way he tripped over his words, filled Buffy with the same kind of thrill she got from landing the killing blow.

 

“Listen,” Spike hurried on in the face of her equanimity, “forget all this; bad bloody idea. Just finish what you were saying before, right, pet?”

 

Before? There had been words before? Right, important words, words she’d been intending to say to him. But now he was right here and chained to his bed, and suddenly that was really, really important too. “Do you trust me?” she asked with an amused quirk of her eyebrow, and began to pull the sheet from his body, slowly, like unwrapping a present.

 

“You know I do,” he groaned as the silk slid over his skin. “Not the point, love.” Then he was naked, spread out and restrained, and despite his protestations, very much aroused.

 

*

 

Two days ago…

 

After Buffy had left him standing there in the cemetery like a goon, the thought of returning alone to his crypt was beyond depressing, so instead of turning for home, Spike made a beeline for Willy’s.

 

The ferrety little bastard was none too happy to see him, but it’d been a while and Spike’s ill-gotten funds were as green as the next demon’s. Unfortunately for Willy, the next demon was a Flox. Mouthy bugger, he was, talking big about his evil plans here on the hellmouth. Spike gave it half an hour to see if his indolent grunting would fade into the background with the first hit of Jack, and when it didn’t, turned to him and butted blithely into the conversation.

 

“You know, we’ve got a slayer in these parts,” he said amicably. Behind the bar, Willy closed his eyes and moaned softly.

 

“Oh yeah?” said the Flox. “Well I’ve got a big axe. We’ll see who comes out on top, won’t we?” His cronies hur hur hurred in the background.

 

“Oh sure, sure. ‘S just, she’s a right little firecracker, this one. You take a weapon into a fight with her, all’s you’re doing is giving her a weapon. Piece of friendly advice, mate.”

 

“You vamps are pathetic,” he spat in return. “Cowards! Too scared to take on one little human bitch.

 

Ah, there it was. Spike smiled almost beatifically. Distantly, he heard the sound of clinking glass as Willy pulled down the most expensive bottles from the shelves, muttering to himself.

 

“You’re not too bright, are you, champ?” he said sympathetically. The Flox glowered and rose to his feet. At eight feet tall, it took him a little while. By the time he was done, there wasn’t a sound in the bar except for the scraping of his stool against the linoleum and Willy’s soft, incessant string of prayers and recriminations. “Better demons than you have tried and failed to get one over on this slayer,” Spike continued. “She might be a bitch, but she’s a fucking glorious bitch, and I am looking forward to seeing the two minutes it’ll take her to hand you your own head.”

 

“Or, I could just do it myself,” he added some time later. It had taken him longer than two minutes, but he’d wanted it that way and besides, he was half drunk, though that was definitely not half as drunk as he wanted to be. “Willy!” he roared, wiping his boot dagger on the dead Flox’s stinking hide. “Get me a fresh drink! This bastard’s ruined my buzz.” The sound of broken glass and breaking bones under his soles as he staggered back to the bar was music to his ears. “Unless anyone else wants a go,” he suggested, swinging around. The room was deserted. “Fine, then,” he muttered sulkily. “And that wanker called me a coward.”

 

Willy didn’t say anything until Spike had made solid inroads into the bottle of whiskey. When he did finally speak, it was with a gibbering ill will.

 

“Your girlfriend’s going to be hearing about this,” he said. “You see if she don’t. Slayer and me, we got an understanding, right, and she’s not gonna be pleased. Just see how you like having your goods and wares shattered into lots of itty bitty pieces.”

 

“Ain’t got any goods-n-wears,” Spike slurred. “And she s’not my bloozy gurfnnd…”

 

Passing out in the establishment he’d just wrecked really wasn’t one of his better plans.

 

*

 

Right now…

 

“You said you wanted to talk,” Buffy murmured, looking pointedly at his erection, taking detailed note of the way it twitched under her scrutiny, the way Spike’s hands clenched in his restraints, before letting her eyes trail up the length of that beautiful body to his equally beautiful face. “This doesn’t exactly scream friendly chit chat.”

 

“Was focusing more on the screaming than the chit chat,” he said almost helplessly, something fragile and hopeful suffusing his tone, his expression, his whole being. “You know, if you wanted to take advantage.” The candlelight was playing off the dips and valleys of his form, warming his skin to something more golden, and he looked so good, so very touchable, that all of her convictions seemed to be running out of her ears. How did he always do this to her? Even now, while tied down?

 

Buffy laughed, then. She couldn’t help it, full to the brim with desires she barely knew how to name. “I shouldn’t be surprised, I really shouldn’t.”

 

And hell, she’d come here with one thing very clearly in mind, but the thing you could never count on with Spike was predictability. He’d successfully short-circuited her brain. She laughed again, and started stripping.

 

“You’re… actually going for it?” he asked, transfixed, disbelieving.

 

“Oh boy,” Buffy muttered. “Am I ever.”

 

She bit her lip as he watched her hotly, slowing her fingers to an unbearable tease so that each inch of skin revealed gave an erotic rush. She stopped when she got down to her bra and panties, though, and moved a little closer.

 

“Regretting having your hands all tied up now, Spikey?” she asked, sweetly mocking. His chest was heaving and Buffy couldn’t help reaching out to brush a nipple. It tightened immediately at her touch and she stroked gently for a moment before giving a hard flick. Spike groaned, and arched his body to follow her touch, but she was in control here, and they both knew it. “Answer me,” she said silkily.

 

“Yeah, okay,” he panted. “Little bit.”

 

She touched him again — she couldn’t not — and let her fingers trail down the side of his pectoral muscle, the sharp edge of his abdominals, that tempting groove above his hip. His cock twitched again and she stroked it too, lightly with the backs of her fingers, just enough to make him gasp, and make him whimper once she’d stopped.

 

“Buffy,” he moaned, voice cracked with longing, but whatever he’d been about to add seemed to fizzle on his tongue as his eyes came to rest on her chest. A necklace hung between her breasts, long silver chain with a single pendant, a stone that changed color with the light, now green, now gold, that he had picked out for her not as a symbol of ownership, but because it matched her eyes.

 

“You kept it,” he said quietly, almost reverently, and Buffy touched the stone, warmed by her skin, feeling self-conscious for the first time.

 

“I did,” she said.

 

“Why?”

 

But the answer to that was more complicated even than what she’d come here to say, and so instead of lying to cover words she wasn’t ready for, Buffy leaned forward and kissed him.

 

*

 

Yesterday…

 

Spike woke slowly from his torpor, a pleasant dream just tickling the edges of his memory, and reached for Buffy. She wasn’t there. Right, not in the demon dimension anymore. He sighed and found to his great dismay that reality was even less pleasant than previously assumed. He was so hungover he felt desiccated, and sore in places he hadn’t felt since Doc had chucked him off the hell bitch’s tower. Not so long ago, all things considered, but hanging around Buffy had a tendency to be punishing, in more ways than one. Of course last night he’d brought entirely on his own swimming head, but that was what happened when you… Wait.

 

He sniffed again, and caught it. Sunlight and righteousness — delicious Buffy-scent, and strong, too.

 

Slowly, wincingly, he rolled over onto his back and found himself in bed, all tucked up nice and cozy like. It hadn’t registered at first because he was still clothed instead of his usual sleep ensemble of skin, but here he was in his own bed, a circumstance so unlikely after the night he barely remembered having as to be suspicious.

 

And Buffy had been here. Recently.

 

She’d only ever been down to the lower level of his crypt twice. Once when Drusilla was in town, and hadn’t that been one of his more spectacular failures? And once after they’d defeated the Goddess of Bad Home Perms. He remembered then, as now, waking in his bed with no memory of getting there, and there had been Buffy, sitting by his hip, looking at him like that, and all the pain in his broken body had just… leached away. She’d thanked him for keeping his promise to protect the little bit; said she wouldn’t forget it, and he’d known she wouldn’t because of the way she was looking at him, like she was finally seeing him, perhaps for the first time. And then she’d kissed him, light as a petal on his broken lips, and he remembered thinking that if this was how she was going to keep thanking him he could stand to put himself between the platelet and harm’s way more often.

 

Now, there was no heroic sacrifice, no Buffy, and no kiss, but still, in the way his boots were sitting together by the foot of the bed, in the way his duster was folded over the back of the armchair, in the way she’d got him between the sheets as though the temperature down here might somehow bother him — in that, there was caring. It gave him hope.

 

*

 

Right now…

 

She didn’t stop kissing him even as she climbed onto the bed and sat astride his lap, his straining cock snug against her heated center. He gasped at the contact, bucking into her so that she had to steady herself against his chest, and when he opened his eyes they were heavy and dazed, still hungry. She leaned forward, reaching for his hands, and entwined her fingers with his, giving him just the tiniest little switch of her hips. The sensation exploded within her and her breath caught, head arched back as she did it again and again, tiny little movements against the long, hard length of him.

 

She could feel her panties getting soaked, and didn’t care, not about the embarrassing damp spot or what it might say about her sex drive or anything else. She was pretty sure now that Spike would like anything so long as it was her, and that was… something else she’d never really had before. Not that certainty.

 

As if on cue, he started up a litany of how amazing she felt to him, how good she smelled, what he would be doing to her right now if he wasn’t chained to his bed, and it only made her hotter, freer, happier. She squeezed his hands hard, reveling for a moment in not having to hold it in, before sitting back to unhook her bra. Her nipples felt excruciatingly sensitive, a shiver going through her just at the feel of the soft fabric sliding away, and damn him for his hands being out of commission, because she wanted them on her breasts with a need that almost burned.

 

He was still making small, wonderful thrusts beneath her, carrying on the rhythm she had begun, and she closed her eyes and let her body move with the gentle rocking for a moment as she fondled herself, before letting it propel her forward, hands on either side of his shoulders and hair making a curtain around their heads.

 

“So what is this all about?” she murmured, letting her lips move tantalizingly over his.

 

“What?” He was panting, short, shallow gasps that brought his chest up to rub against her breasts. God, it felt good.

 

“This. The chains, all of this.”

 

Spike looked up at her, licked his bottom lip, caught hers in the process, moaned as she chased it into a kiss. “You've had a very submissive week, Slayer,” he said between breaths when she came up for air. “Thought you might want to make up for it."

 

*

 

Yesterday…

 

“Spike!” Buffy started violently as he stepped out of the shadows, a reaction that still somehow pleased him, despite everything. She put a hand to her pounding heart and glared at him. “Geez. Bell, neck, look into it.”

 

Spike grinned. “Come with a nice leather collar, does it?”

 

He realized a second later that that kind of comment probably wasn’t all that welcome, given… but, well, she didn’t seem all that cut up about it, rolling her eyes as if it was all business as usual.

 

“What are you doing here, anyway?” she asked, continuing on the way she had been going, a wide sweep around Shady Rest cemetery. “Thought you’d still be in a boozy coma.”

 

“Yeah, about that,” Spike said, feeling suddenly and strangely abashed. He caught himself rubbing the back of his neck, and glared at the betraying hand for a moment before realizing Buffy wasn’t hanging around to wait for him, and jogged to catch up. “Don’t know why you were helping me out, but, uh, thanks, Slayer.”

 

She glanced at him, frowning a little and looking as though she couldn’t decide what to say, before letting out a sigh. “No problem.”

 

Spike put his hands in his pockets and Buffy started twirling her stake, and despite the fact that they could usually be quiet together quite comfortably, tonight it seemed to drag.

 

“So,” he said. “Watcher all better? No more fireworks?”

 

“No more fireworks,” Buffy confirmed.

 

“Your little witches ever find out what Inanna’s talisman was doing in The Great Lopsided One’s pad?”

 

“Nope.” They walked. She twirled her stake. Spike tried not to feel like an excruciating prat. “Giles said he’s going to look into it, now he’s, you know, stopped sparkling.”

 

“Right, good. That’s good. And… you? How’s your, uh, day been?”

 

“Oh, peachy,” Buffy said, and sighed again. “If by peachy we mean ‘taken to the deepest depths of humiliation.’” She smiled wanly and explained, “I had to spend the better part of the morning begging for my job back at the Doublemeat Palace. Turns out they don’t take kindly to employees who skip out on their minimum wage drudge work to fulfill their sacred duty.”

 

He looked at her then, walking along beside him, and saw how beat down she seemed. That job wasn’t good for her, but it was an old argument between them and he knew he didn’t stand a chance if he started in with her now.

 

The risk of running his mouth off anyway was greatly reduced the next moment by the group of Skilosh demons who came ambling across their path. Disgusting, wasteful buggers, they were, using human hosts to incubate their young, but Buffy didn’t need him to tell her that because for some reason they’d been migrating en masse to the hellmouth the last couple of months. This tribe wasn’t the largest they’d faced – five or six at an initial count, but it was a little hard to be sure with how quickly Buffy dived in and started the take down.

 

God, she was like deadly poetry in motion, fire in the night, and he felt the inevitable pull to be by her side, to match himself seamlessly to her in combat. Didn’t even matter anymore that he was fighting with her – they worked so smoothly side-by-side, in some ways it was better. At least, as good as it was going to get with the chip still stuffed up his cranium. Buffy took her second opponent down with the cute little short sword she’d whipped out of her coat, just as Spike got his first with his bare hands. He was still sore from last night’s misadventures (and the kicking Willy had almost certainly given him before Buffy’d shown up) and it was making him just the tiniest bit slow. Possibly that explained why, as he flung the dead-demon-goo from his hands, he entirely missed the big one’s powerful gut kick.

 

The next thing he knew he was flying backwards until something hard broke his fall, and he slid to his knees, stunned and feeling like his intestines had been bunted through his back. He didn’t see the glint of metal in the moonlight until it was already on the down-stroke and heading for his neck.

 

“Spike!” The slayer’s voice was strangely anguished and he forced himself to move, lurching sideways, but the axe, so to speak, never fell. Buffy stood over him, chest heaving and hands still raised from where she’d just twisted the bugger’s head clean off. The weighed-down girl of earlier was gone — she looked bloody magnificent, and he felt something in himself answering to it, the rightness she had in command.

 

“Feel better for that?” he asked as she hauled him to his feet. He couldn’t help the slight leer that entered his tone. She was so hot like this — he’d always thought so — and an idea came to him out of the ether, impossible, but nice to imagine nonetheless.  How hard it must have been for his masterful girl, he realized, to be enslaved first by custom and then by ritual. He felt a sudden surge of tenderness for her, for the difficulties of her life.

 

A tendril of hair had come loose from her ponytail and caught in one of those ridiculous loopy earrings she insisted on wearing. He freed it, and smoothed it back into place, and the next thing he knew he was stumbling back into the hard thing again — a tree trunk, it turned out — with her hands clenched in the lapels of his duster and her mouth hard and demanding on his.

 

“What was that for?” he asked cautiously when she pulled back, the move as sudden as the kiss had been. She was still pinning him to the tree and she was stronger than him, so really, no point fighting it. But her eyes were wide and shocked — about the same as he felt, truth be told — and he had no idea what was coming next. Bloody exhilarating, that was his girl.

 

Buffy had no response for him, though, just shook her head and leaned in again, and though this kiss was just as heated and desperate as the first, it lasted a hell of a lot longer, and Spike dared to raise his hands to her waist and pull her closer.

 

Things gentled a little, less teeth, more tongue, and her hands slid up into his hair, nails scraping against his scalp so that he growled in pleasure. She was making little noises too, sweet little desperate sounds at the back of her throat, pressing into him so hard she might as well have been trying to climb into him. The thought occurred to him that they were making out against a tree like teenagers, but it was a nice thought, because she’d started it, she wanted it, with him, and that was…

 

“Damn it,” she said, breaking away from him and looking down, and Spike’s heart sank. “I’m sorry, I… shouldn’t have…”

 

“Buffy,” he said, as gently as he could manage, “don’t be sorry. Really not complaining here.”

 

To his relief, she smiled a little, and he lifted her chin with a finger so that he could get a better look at it.

 

“No, I guess you aren’t,” she said. “It’s just…”

 

“Just what, love?”

 

She bit her lip, and he tried not to lose all focus on the conversation.

 

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” she said. “Today was awful, and then you… and now I don’t, and…”

 

He sighed shakily and reached for that wayward strand of hair again. She let him, and maybe even leaned into it, and he tried to find his balls again, enough to risk asking, “Do you wanna talk about it, then?”

 

She looked up at him almost nervously and he tried not to look like he was on tenterhooks. “I guess…” she said. “I guess we probably should, but — tomorrow? I’ll come by before patrol. I just… I need to think and that’s really hard around you.” She stepped back out of his reach and he let his arm fall.

 

“Tomorrow, then, pet,” he said, not sure whether to feel deflated or elated. Then he remembered his idea from earlier, and a plan began to form.

 

*

 

Right now…

 

“That’s… bizarre, and twisted, and actually kinda sweet,” Buffy said after he’d confessed all, kissing the tip of his nose, something that didn’t feel at all out of place with the way they were rutting against each other. His logic struck her as uniquely vampiric, but hey, Spike was a vampire, and she was kind of done with getting in knots over that. And anyway, it wasn’t like the thought of tying Spike down and having her way with him hadn’t occurred to her before, but… “Just one question. Where are the keys?”

 

“Why… why’d you want them?” Spike gasped, and she wondered briefly what he was afraid of, so she took her weight onto her haunches and cupped his face in her hands, and kissed him gently this time.

 

“This is fun, and we’ll play it again later, but right now? I want to feel your weight on top of me,” she told him. “I want to grab your ass while we’re doing it. You know, simple stuff.”

 

He stared up at her a moment, that look of wonder that always made her heart skip, then he blinked and said breathlessly, “Underneath the pillow.”

 

She took her time rooting around because Spike’s mouth found her breast as she reached around him and what he was doing to her nipple was… wow… yeah, fast learner, that was pretty much the perfect combination of hard and tender, teeth and tongue, that she liked. She wondered, as she had done in the cavern, if it was possible to come from just that, because he seemed to have found some short circuit that went straight from his tongue to between her legs.

 

“Buffy,” he mouthed into her skin. “God, Buffy.” And the tone of his voice, the reverence and urgency, finally galvanized her, so she sat back on his stomach and tried to get the key into the first lock with fingers that shook with anticipation.

 

“Shit,” she cursed at her fumbling. “Come on, come on.”

 

And somehow that broke her lover’s trance because he gave her a pained look and said, “Fuck. Buffy, wait.”

 

“What?” she said stupidly, eyes ping-ponging back and forth between the manacle and his face. “Why?”

 

“You were saying something, outside. Please, can you just—”

 

The key turned, the lock clicked, and his arm came abruptly free, slapping her lightly on the thigh before he let it trail tentatively up to her hip.

 

“Buffy, please, just tell me.”

 

*

 

This morning…

 

The thing was, Buffy told herself, it didn’t feel wrong to want Spike, not anymore. It didn’t feel wrong to have really, really gotten off on restraints and voyeurism and… and him. It hadn’t felt wrong to wake up that last morning in the demon dimension, curled up against him under the robe with his arms around her, their bodies fitting so snugly together it was like they’d been made for it. But she didn’t exactly have the strongest track record when it came to that kind of judgment call, and the what ifs kept going round and round in her head like an endless spin cycle. She missed her mom keenly at times like these, when a bit of parental advice felt sorely needed. Not that she’d ever had a great track record of being open with her mom about boys, either, but she thought, maybe, she would’ve been this time. She felt she like she would’ve wanted her mom in on this one. Did that mean she was growing up?

 

Well, who did grownups talk to, when their parents weren’t around? Giles was great but he’d never be able to keep his cool through a conversation like Buffy needed, and there was just no way on god’s green earth that she would ever discuss her sex life with Dawn. At least that narrowed down the options, she supposed.

 

*

 

“Hey,” Buffy said when Willow opened the door. “Can I come in?”

 

“Buffy, hey! Don’t see you around these here parts too often anymore, working girl,” Willow said with a grin, before hastily adding, “No! I mean, not, not working girl, as in, working girl, but, girl who works…” She trailed off lamely. “Why don’t you come in and I’ll just stop talking.”

 

“Hey Tara,” Buffy said dryly. “I hope I’m not interrupting.”

 

“We were just finishing up,” Tara said, closing the school books scattered across the bed to make space for her. “Come sit down. Can I get you some tea?”

 

“No, I… no. Actually, I just wanted to talk.”

 

“Sure,” Willow said, coming to sit with them. “What’s on your mind?”

 

Buffy took a deep breath, hating how her heart was suddenly pounding. She’d never been good at this stuff. Where did she even start?

 

“Wills, remember when you told me you were… were dating Tara? And I freaked out a little?”

 

Willow grinned, glancing sideways at her girlfriend. “It was only a very little.”

 

“Right,” Buffy said wryly. “So now I have something to tell you that might be a bit… surprising… and I guess you’ll be entitled to a certain level of wig, too. But, uh, I hope not too much.”

 

Willow and Tara nodded in unison, which was not only way cute but kinda weird, because it made her wonder if she would ever have that kind of synchronicity, familiarity, with another person, and… huh, now she thought of it, she and Spike sure did fight well together these days, and pretended not to laugh at each other’s lame jokes, and would sometimes hold half a conversation without even talking.

 

“Wow,” she said softly to herself.

 

“Buffy?” It was Tara, who reached out a gentle hand to touch hers. “We’ll always listen, to anything you want to tell us.”

 

“I have feelings for Spike,” she said abruptly, gaze turned inward in shock, because she’d known that she wanted him but she hadn’t realized how damn much. “When we were away, there was this… thing. This ritual. We couldn’t get the urn without doing it; it was in a vault sealed by magic. And Giles was… So there was no choice, and, uh, it was a tantric ritual, so we had to… to sleep together, and it was…” She trailed off, coming back to herself and her audience, whose blushes made her blush, and then none of them were quite looking at each other. She cleared her throat, and soldiered on. “It was weird, but not awful, and I realized…” She swallowed. “It was Spike who made it not be awful, because he made me feel like we were in it together.” And also, amazing, she added silently.

 

“Tantric rituals are powerful, Buffy,” Willow said a moment later, after a taut silence. “There can be side-effects.”

 

Buffy pulled a cushion into her lap and fiddled with the beads sewn across it, because that was easier than meeting their eyes. “I know, and we had those too, but… I felt like this before. I just didn’t really realize it until...” Until just now. Until he saved my sister’s life. Until he fixed my pipes that day with Xander because it’d save me money. Until he made me come so hard I broke my chains. “Wow,” she repeated.

 

“Are you…” Tara stuttered over her words, which she so rarely did any more that Buffy did look up then. “Are you asking for our permission?” She looked concerned, as though that might be a bad thing.

 

“I don’t know,” Buffy said, confused. “I guess? I mean, it’s Spike. Not exactly your boy next door.”

 

Willow was frowning a little, looking off into the distance, but she didn’t say anything.

 

“Did you, um, expect Willow to ask your permission before dating me? Or, or Xander with Anya?” Tara’s eyes seemed to fill the room.

 

“No! Of course not. I just—”

 

“He’s done a lot of good things,” Tara interrupted, which was also pretty rare, so Buffy shut up and listened. “And he does love you. Feelings like that… have their own kind of magic. A transformative kind.”

 

Buffy glanced at Willow again nervously. “I know,” she said quietly. “He’s been trying so hard to be good.”

 

“Because of you,” Willow said softly, before finally meeting Buffy’s eyes again. “You’re worried, aren’t you? About what it says about you? Come on, Buffy, I’ve known you a long time.”

 

“A little, I guess.”

 

“Well don’t. He made himself into someone you could… feel things for. He changed for the better. Not the other way around.”

 

Buffy’s heart was beating madly. “So you don’t mind?”

 

Willow broke into a sly grin. “Well that kinda depends on what type of feelings you have for him. I might need details.”

 

“The type…” Buffy started to smile, and bit her lip to stop it becoming something face-splitting and goofy. “The type I should tell him about first.”

 

*

 

She was a little earlier going to Spike’s crypt than she’d said she would be, but after talking to Willow and Tara, Buffy couldn’t wait. The door gave her some difficulties, though. Should she knock? She didn’t usually, but barging in probably wasn’t the right way to go about this. Then again, the late afternoon light was slanting down over her shoulders and she didn’t want him getting flambéed just to show off his oddly archaic and mostly unconscious manners. Instead, she cracked the door open and called his name, but when there was no answer she ended up just letting herself in anyway.

 

“Spike?” she called again. “You in here?”

 

Daylight or no, he was usually up by now, slouched in front of the TV or reading or whatever. Today, no sign of him.

 

“Spike?”

 

Finally a response drifted up from the hole in the floor. “Downstairs, love.”

 

Down… downstairs? She’d been down there just yesterday but it suddenly occurred to her he’d never actually invited her before. Down there was his bed and… well, a lot of personal stuff. A bookshelf, a reclaimed armchair that, every time she’d seen it, had a burned down candle on the little table by its side. The kitschy little bar. It was his home, more so than the upper level, and suddenly she felt oddly shy about invading it.

 

“Sorry, did I wake you?” she called as she climbed tentatively down the ladder. Still no sign of him — he must be in the bedroom.

 

“No, just sorting something out. Be two ticks.”

 

“Right,” she said, standing awkwardly amid the chair and the bar and the bookcase. His bedroom didn’t have a door to it, just an open archway cut through the earth and rock, but all she could see was the flickering of candlelight against the wall. She could hear him now, though, moving about the room, sounds of rustling and… clinking? The mattress sproinged. She crossed her arms and uncrossed them again, sat on the edge of the chair and smoothed her skirt with sweaty palms before getting back to her feet. Twice she had to stop herself from pacing. What on earth could he be doing in there that it was taking him so long?

 

“Look, Spike,” she called out after a couple of minutes, unable to wait any longer. The words felt like they were busting out. “I’ve been thinking about that ritual and why it worked.”

 

“Er, yeah?”

 

She listened, but the rustling and clinking seemed to have stopped.

 

“Yeah, because you were right, neither of us knew what we were doing, we just had to take the demons’ word for it, and it was obvious they never really intended to give us the urn. Then I remembered what you said about Insane-a being the goddess of battle and chaos – and, and love – and I got to thinking about, well, us, and how between us we each kind of embody all of those things, and I realized…” she glanced nervously at the archway again. She probably ought to say this bit to his face. “Are you coming out any time soon?”

 

“Don’t stop on my account,” Spike called, almost urgently. “Sounded like you were on a roll, would hate to interrupt.”

 

“Spike,” she groaned. Nothing could ever be easy with him. But she was done prevaricating. Even if he was standing on his head in the middle of the bed butt naked, she was going to say this to his damn face. Buffy felt pretty confident of the fact that there was nothing he could be doing in there that would shock her anymore. Too amped up to wait any longer, she went in.

 

*

 

Right now…

 

His eyes seemed to glitter in the low light, a blue so deep it felt bottomless, and yet so full of emotion it staggered her. She could lose herself to looking at him, the beauty of what he felt for her suddenly apparent, like lifting a curtain — not because it hadn’t been there before, but because now she actually understood it. It was like looking into a mirror.

 

Please,” he said again, whispering now, and she could see how much it cost him to beg like that while she tried to squeeze the words out around the cotton ball that had lodged itself in her throat. Her eyes prickled as she gazed down at him, a rising wave of feeling that only grew and grew. Quickly, she freed his other arm and pulled him up to sitting so she could look him square in the eye, because hard as this was, she refused to miss a moment of it.

 

“Spike,” she said, voice sounding raw to her own ears. “That thing I realized? About the goddess, and the ritual, and us? It’s that I really, really love you.”

 

His smile was almost hesitant at first, eyes shining so bright she thought he might cry, and then he was hugging her, crushing her so tightly against him, and she was crying but in a happy way, and said it over and over again, the floodgates finally opening, so that he wouldn’t have to ask anymore. She figured she had some catching up to do, anyway.

 

“God, I love you,” he said, pressing fervent kisses into the crook of her neck where he had buried himself. “So very much.”

 

“Hey,” Buffy said, swiping her tears away before pulling him up to look at her, smiling so hard it almost hurt and light as air with finally having found her place within that ancient call and response. “I love you, too.”

 

Gently, she wiped the wetness from his cheeks with her thumbs, then kissed where her thumbs had been, then kissed his mouth because there really was nothing better, and then she was toppling backwards with a squeal and a very amorous vampire between her legs.

 

“What was it you said, now?” he murmured against her lips. “My weight on top of you, your hands on my arse?”

 

“Yeah,” she breathed, then kissed his nose again and grinned. “For starters.”

 

He groaned, sliding his erection long and slow just where she wanted him, but he was grinning too, almost his usual devilish smirk but softened with fondness. “Woman, you are going to be the death of me. Again.”

 

She buried her hands in his hair as he kissed her deeply, but his words had invoked an image of Drusilla, who really had been the death of him, and so she pushed him back a little and told him, “I’d rather be the life of you.”

 

He cocked his head as he seemed to gaze through her, right down into the deepest part of her, a sensation that still made her want to turn away and shield herself, even now, though she resisted.

 

“Can try to be a lot of things for you, Buffy,” he said quietly. “Will try, until I’m dust, but I can’t come back to life, not even for you.”

 

She looked up at him, the sudden uncertainty that seemed to have come over him like clouds across the moon, and for once felt compelled by honesty. “No, I… I wouldn’t want you to.” She touched his forehead where his ridges would appear, the outward signal of the strength that made them equals. “I love you for you,” she said softly. “Besides, I didn’t mean it literally, dummy.”

 

“Oh,” he said. “That’s all right then. Now where were we?” And, grinning once more, propped himself up on an elbow so that he could reach between them to push his fingers into her panties and stroke her aching clit, cool fingers making her burn so hot for him.

 

“About here,” she gasped, ripping her panties off in one fluid move, grabbing his ass like she’d been promising, and guiding his cock into her.

 

She loved him, she really did, and that meant everything about him. It wasn’t an easy admission, but it felt right, and though the words to let him know exactly how she loved him weren’t there yet, she figured, as they moved together and her body filled with pleasure, she could at least set about trying to show him the fullness of her heart.

 

*

 

Tomorrow…

 

Surprising Spike-Related Phenomenon number whatever: he really liked to cuddle. Of course, Buffy probably should’ve figured that one out already, what with the waking up smooshed against each other every morning during their mission, but between not thinking about it, and thinking about it way too hard, she’d ended up putting it down to an unconscious lust thing. Neither of them was unconscious now, though. Sure, they’d slept at intervals throughout the night, but it’d somehow never lasted long, what with all that skin to touch, and all those good feelings to feel. Now they were lying together in the tangle of linens that had once been Spike’s bed, languid and sated, sticky from their spendings and a bit ick with dried sweat, and still Spike seemed to want to wrap himself around her like a vamp-shaped blanket.

 

Honestly? She couldn’t really find any part of her that objected, especially when he played with her hair like that. She found she couldn’t stop touching him, either.

 

“So listen,” she said into the peace. “Dawn spent the night at Janice’s, and I’ve got the lunch shift at work today. You mind picking her up? She’s a real demon if you wake her before ten on a weekend.”

 

“’Course,” said Spike. “Her poker game needs more work, at any rate.” At her look, he raised an eyebrow. “What? ‘S teaching her all sorts of skills. Maths—”

 

“Deception.”

 

“—reading other people’s bullshit—”

 

“Whatever, just so long as she does all her chores and eats something other than junk food.”

 

“Now when you say junk food, pet…”

 

“Yes, that includes blooming onions.”

 

“Got vegetables in it,” he said sulkily, but the argument was moot — he was better at making sure her sister ate well than she was, and they both knew it.

 

“Thanks,” she said, pressing a kiss to his chest. He made a rumbling sound of contentment that she had become very familiar with through the course of the night, and she liked it an awful lot, so she did it again. Absently, he started toying with her new necklace, tracing the chain with his finger around her neck, over her collar bone, down between the valley of her breasts and back again. He’d done it periodically since the start of the night, though he hadn’t asked anything more since he’d first noticed it

 

“So why’d you keep this, then?” he asked now, and there was a sense of finally about it — she couldn’t say she hadn’t been expecting it, but she still wasn’t sure how to explain. “Was pretty sure you’d want to forget any trace of being my slave.”

 

“Meh, it wasn’t so bad,” Buffy said lightly. His expression made it clear what he thought of her honesty. “I’m serious. Listen, I was completely dependent on you, couldn’t go anywhere without you unless I wanted to get attacked, was basically considered a, a pet — a commodity. Something less than… well, I want to say ‘human’, but you know what I mean.”

 

“Yeah, I do,” he said seriously. “Which is why I’m still not seeing it.”

 

“You could’ve made it awful,” she said softly, caressing his cheek. “And instead you… you made it about me. Even the ritual was…”

 

“Oh,” he said, understanding dawning. “Slayer! You liked it!”

 

She bit her lip. “Yeah, I kinda did. I mean not, not for every day, but… for sometimes, you know? ‘Cause It was kinda, um, really hot.” She waited for him to start crowing, was braced for it, but instead he caught her hand and kissed her knuckles tenderly.

 

“That it was, sweetheart, and nothing wrong with it,” he said, and even though he was smirking like the cat that got the canary, she couldn’t help the swell of warmth that rose up in her chest. Then he opened his mouth again and she reverted to wanting to smack him.  “You just let me know next time you fancy that flavor of fun and I’ll arrange the audience – I always had a yen for that balcony in the Bronze. Point of fact, I’ve got this box under my bed we could play with right now, don’t even have to leave the room. See how many more times I can bring you to fruition.”

 

“Ugh, no,” she said, shoving him back, “I can’t be late for work today.”

 

“You’re no fun, love,” he said, but he was laughing, and she was trying really hard not to.

 

“Yeah, well, spend the day trying to get Dawn to take out the trash and then tell me how un-fun I am.” Then, just in case he really did think she was grumpy with him, “Think you’ll stay for dinner?”

 

“Dinner, tea — I’ll even tuck you in with a bedtime story and a… kiss.” The last word was said so dirtily she felt her toes curl.

 

“All right, Don Juan, you’ve won me over,” she said dryly. “Anyway, before anyone’s bedtime there’s a Scooby meeting. Apparently Giles has some big announcement to make. And… and so have I.”

 

“Oh yeah?” That piqued his interest enough to put the brakes on his wandering hands and obviously wandering thoughts.

 

She stretched up to kiss him softly on the lips, body molding into his in a way that felt beyond perfect. “Yeah,” she told him. “I have to introduce the gang to my new boyfriend.”

 

Spike’s smile could’ve lit up the room.

 

Buffy was late to her shift after all.