His Way by dreamweaver
Chapter #1 - Chapter 1

Chapter 1

If one had to go out, this was the way to do it. Fighting impossible odds. Fists and fangs all the way. Death and glory and sod all else, right?

Gunn was already gone. Angel was taking on the dragon. He could hear Illyria screaming in fury somewhere on his left. But he couldn't see them. He was in this singing, white clarity of battle lust, his vision focused solely on the faces of his enemies. He spun, wove, slashed, and they fell before him. He went on, killing, killing, killing in the cold rain until his arms began to fail and even vampire strength was exhausted. The lance with its metal-tipped head but fatal wooden shaft came in under his guard. He felt it slice through his heart and laughed even as he fell.

He woke up floating on a cloud. Literally. Puffy, misty, white stuff. At least it wasn't wet.

"Bugger," said Spike and let his head fall back in exasperation. "Don't you pillocks ever get tired of bringing a man back?"

"You're too useful."

"Useful. See how useful I am when I'm ripping you a new one."

"There's gratitude."

He raised his head. A few yards away, a small man with an unbelievably awful taste in clothes (could that be a porkpie hat?) was standing with his hands in his pockets, watching him.

"Who the hell are you, mate?"

"Name's Whistler. Angel might have told you of me."

"Remember something. Oh, yeah. Messenger of the Powers That Be, right?"

"That's me."

He pushed himself up on his elbows and looked around. The cloudy, white stuff stretched away to infinity in all directions, dotted here and there with Grecian-style columns.

"Where am I?"

"Not Heaven. Guess you could call it a waiting room." Whistler looked around with the pride of an interior decorator surveying his latest masterpiece. "Cooked this one up all for you. Like it?"

"Tacky and predictable," muttered Spike not quite as sotto voce as he had intended and Whistler looked offended.

"Hey, you could have woken up in Hell." Whistler sniffed. "And I fixed your wounds up for you too. You could show a little gratitude."

Spike looked down at himself. He was naked, so he could see clearly that there was not a scratch on him, although he knew he had taken several wounds, especially that last one that had finished him off. He decided against gratitude, since he had been healed only because someone obviously had a use for him and he was tired of being used.

"Be more grateful if you could get me some clothes. Uh, not like the ones you're wearing."

"Are all of you fashion snobs?" Whistler looked piqued. "Get them yourself then. Reality bends to desire."

"Oh, God, not that rot again." Spike concentrated, then sighed with relief as his jeans, T-shirt, boots and finally duster flowed back on him. "Hey, this is my original duster! The one that was blown up in Rome."

"That was the one you were visualizing."

"Brilliant." Spike came guardedly to his feet and stood there with his legs spread, braced to jump in any direction.

Whistler shook his head at this evident distrust. "Think we'd go to all the trouble of bringing you back just to off you now?"

"Don't know, do I? What's happened to the others?"

"Short version? Gunn bought it. Angel got incinerated by the dragon. Illyria decided to leave for another dimension now that the battle's won."

"Battle's won? Four of us against the armies of Hell and we won?"

"Buffy and the several hundred slayers-in-training that she brought with her did."

"Buffy! Is she all right?" Spike asked immediately, not caring about anything else.

"She's fine. Not a scratch." Whistler looked pleased at his concern.

Buffy. The thought of her was a warmth in his dead heart. The thought of her was ground under his feet, gave him a place to stand in this shifting world around him. Her face, her eyes, her smile—he held the thought of them close, cherished and safe within his protective hands.

Whistler was still talking. "The whole exercise was pointless, really. What did you think you were achieving? You can't defeat evil. All you've done is buy a little breathing space."

Spike shrugged. "Good enough. It was Angel's idea anyway. I was just in it for the fight."

Whistler leaned against a column, frowning. "It all comes back to Angel. It always does, right from the beginning. That wasn't the way it was supposed to be when I chose him for the male lead in our little passion play."

"You picked him? Right brilliant decision, that was," Spike said scornfully. Checking the pockets of his duster, he was delighted to find a pack of cigarettes and his lighter. He lit up and drew a long, luxurious drag. "What was it supposed to be all about, Alfie?"


Spike froze in the middle of bringing the cigarette to his lips again.

"He was supposed to be her partner, back her up, make her stronger. Instead ... Well, you know what happened instead. He hurt her, ruined her relationships, made her doubt herself, made her hold back emotionally from everyone, made her hate being a Slayer. She was supposed to enjoy being a Slayer. Instead she got colder, harder, more brittle, closed off from the rest of the world, too much like all the other previous Slayers, the ones that died early. That was not what we had in mind when we provided her with family and friends."

"Yeah, that gave her an edge," Spike nodded. "Saw that when she took me down that first time."

"Then everything went wrong."

"After Angelus."

Whistler nodded. "That's when it started. We kept hoping that things would turn around, but..."

"Why'd you choose him anyway?"

"Vampire with a soul. Her match in strength and abilities. Willing to be a white hat because he was searching for redemption. Looked like the perfect choice. I didn't know the ramifications of his curse though."

"I thought the PTB were supposed to know everything!" Spike spun and slammed his fist against a pillar. "God, you people are so inept! Didn't you even check?"

"My bad. Worse, I didn't realize that he'd choose redemption over Buffy."

"It's all about Angel. It always is. He's the most egotistical bastard there is." Spike flung his cigarette stub away because it was the only thing at hand to throw. It was either that or throw Whistler, which was what he truly wanted to do. "Fuck!"

"We want to fix it."


"Go back to the beginning and fix it. That's where you come in."

"I could go back and stake him." Spike gave him a feral grin. "I'd like that."

Whistler sighed. "Wouldn't work. The PTB would just bring him back. He does have his uses."

"What do you want me to do then?"

"Help Buffy."


"Keep her from being so unhappy. Prevent some of the lousy things that happened to her."

"Yeah, I'd like to do that," Spike muttered. Then he stopped short, swinging around. "Hey, wait a minute! You want to change the timeline. But if you do that...For all you know, she could die this time around! As it stands right now, she's alive, the First Evil's stopped, she's moved on, she's happy. You want to change all that? No!" he said flatly. "No!"

"Calm down. Nothing's going to happen to this reality's Buffy."

"This reality?"

"Everything in this reality has already happened. But, if we go back to the beginning, we can make changes to the alternate reality that would splinter off at that point."

"Stop. Just stop. Alternate reality. Another Buffy?"

"Guess you could say that. She is and she isn't."

"You make my head hurt," Spike sighed, then turned around to lean his back against the column. He lit another cigarette and drew the smoke gratefully into his lungs. "Okay. Say we do this. Say I go back in time. What exactly do you want me to do?"

"Whatever is necessary."

Spike gave him an exasperated look. "In other words, you don't know. Oh, you're a piece of work, you are. First you pick Angel and make a mess of things. Now you pick me. But I'm supposed to go into it blind. You don't really have a sodding idea what I'm supposed to do."

"Every situation has its own imperatives. And Joyce Summers is the one who picked you, not me." Whistler looked peeved at that.

"She's dead."

"So? She talked to the PTB and convinced them that you were the one to fix things." Whistler scowled at him. "Don't you want to help Buffy?"

"Of course I do!" Spike thumped a fist against the column behind him. "Let me get things straight. Joyce, who happens to be dead, talks to the PTB. They want me to jump dimensions or go back in time or shift realities or whatever the hell it is. And when I'm there, they want me to fix things for Buffy. Somehow. You don't know how."

"That's about right."

Spike looked upward in supplication, then drew a long drag off his cigarette.

"Do I get to keep my soul?"

"Yes. Otherwise..."

"Yeah, I'd turn into the Bid Bad again. Any chip?"


"Good. Do you care how I do it?"

"Your call."

"So if I want to stake Angel, I can."

Whistler shrugged. "If you don't mind him coming back a couple of months later, go for it."

"Oi! Wait! Me and Dru."

"What about you and Drusilla?"

"What are you going to do? Off the other me and pop me down into his place? Because that really doesn't give me any warm fuzzies towards the PTB. Don't like the idea of any version of me getting killed off. At the same time though, if the other Spike turns up in Sunnyhell..."

"It might be a complication."

"Ya think?"

"You only came because Drusilla got sick," Whistler mused. "So we'll fix it so that she doesn't get sick. No mob in Prague. No reason to come to Sunnydale. Would the two of you stay in Eastern Europe then?"

"Most likely. Dru likes the smell of repression in the old Eastern Bloc countries. Hmm. Other side of the planet. Yeah, that works."

"You'll do it then."

"Of course I'll do it. It's for Buffy." He gave Whistler a hard look. "One thing though. Angel's had a free run all these years. You never interfered except to bring him back when he got sent to Hell. I want the same. No interference. No second guessing. No backseat drivers. If we do this, we do it my way."

Whistler nodded. "Your way."


He hadn't let Whistler see it, but he was nervous. This was a huge responsibility and he didn't have a clue how to go about it. He'd have to fly by the seat of his pants and it was Buffy who'd have to pay the price if he got things wrong. The only thing that he had going for him was that, unlike Angel with his redemption fixation, Buffy was what came first with him, not himself. He was determined not to let her down.

Make Buffy happy? Yeah, like he'd been so successful at that so far. Make her enjoy slaying? That was more feasible. Take it step by step. See how it played.

First things first, though. Keep Angel from turning into Angelus. Because that was the start of it. That was when the shit had first hit the fan.

The white, sourceless light of the cloud place phased into black. He staggered, trying to keep his balance, then found a hard surface taking form under his feet. Things began to shape themselves out of the blackness: a wall, streetlights, a full moon high above him. He was standing in an alley and it was night. He stepped out onto the street and realized that he was just outside the Bronze.

Timelines. Into what time period had Whistler dropped him? ‘The beginning' was vague, could mean anything: the first time Buffy came to Sunnydale, the first time she met Angel, hell, it could even mean the time when Angel changed into Angelus. He hoped it wasn't that, because then the game would already be lost. He didn't think Whistler would be that stupid, but hey, the interfering little git had already proven himself to be not the brightest bulb out of the box.

He needed a drink and a chance to sit down and think. He checked the pockets of his duster and was relieved to find that Whistler had had the sense to provide him with some cash. Not much, but enough to tide him over until he could parlay it into a decent stake.

He stepped into the Bronze. The band was Nickel and they had just started playing ‘Stupid Thing.' He glanced at the dance floor and then started to laugh.

Whistler had taken him back to the first time he had seen Buffy. There she was, dancing with Willow and Xander.

God, she was young. He had forgotten how young and carefree she had been at the start. She was laughing, her head flung back and her arms raised as she shimmied to the beat of the music. His Buffy hardly ever laughed, was never so light-hearted, had honed herself like a knife-edge into the perfect, steely, killing machine. This Buffy was young and gay and joyous, the golden cascade of her hair swinging happily as she danced, her face open and unguarded, guileless not wary and watchful, full of hope for the future not wearily determined just to get through another day. He saw where Whistler and the PTB were coming from.

And still she was Buffy. The Slayer. He could feel the force emanating from her. Power and danger. The predator, the alpha hunter, the ultimate adversary of his kind—that was what she was, and he found it intensely erotic, intoxicating to him. Such a turn-on, the challenge she represented, his Slayer. And such a turn-on, the girl herself.

The first time around, he hadn't heard the words of the song. He had been too focused on her, too focused on studying her in order to pinpoint the flaws that would enable him to kill her. This time he heard the words. I'm one step away from crashing to my knees. One step away from spilling my guts to you. He laughed wryly under his breath.

"Buffy," Willow said in Buffy's ear as they danced. "Take a look at that guy checking you out."

"Where?" Buffy looked around. "Whoa."

White hair, obviously bleached; black leather duster over black jeans and a black T-shirt; a really gorgeous face with supermodel cheekbones and a beautiful mouth. God, he was hot! If it wasn't for Angel, she'd...

He was watching her intently, circling the outskirts of the dance floor in a leopard prowl, sinuous and powerful and graceful as a cat.

"You do attract interesting...characters," remarked Willow, studying him with appreciation.

Buffy found herself wondering what color his eyes were. She couldn't tell in the dimness and strobing lights of the club. She was tingling all over from the weight of his gaze.

Then her Slayer senses finally clocked in and told her exactly what that tingle was. Oh, damn! Just her luck.

"I attract vamps," she said bitterly. That was what all that salty goodness was.

Willow gasped. "He's a vamp?"


She pressed her lips together and headed for him, stopping at the table where her school books lay to snatch the stake out of her purse.

Events were already moving out of their previous tracks, Spike realized. The last time, she hadn't seen him until he stepped out of the shadows after she killed the Anointed One's minion. This time, she was staring at him while she danced, her eyes wide and betraying an interesting combination of shyness and heat. And now she was coming over to him.

He tilted his head to one side, watching her draw near. He hadn't seen Buffy since burning up in the Hellmouth nearly a year ago and now he lost himself in the simple fact of her presence—her face, her hair, her mouth, the intent green eyes fixed on his. She was a younger Buffy, but she was still Buffy and he couldn't stop looking at her.

He was so absorbed in her that he almost missed the downwards blow of her right hand. The point of the stake was pricking the skin right over his heart before his left hand reflexively managed to catch her wrist and stop the motion. The stake quivered under the pressure of the two opposing forces as she tried to drive it through his chest and he held it back. They were equally strong. The stake went nowhere.

"Vampire," she snarled, glaring inimically into his eyes.

"Slayer," he retorted and laughed.

Buffy blinked. Vampires were supposed to throw themselves at her in a rage or run away blindly in sheer panic. They were not supposed to laugh, not with genuine amusement and enjoyment, as he was, as if this were some sort of delightful game that they were playing.

"You're dust, vampire."

"Eventually. But not anytime soon, Slayer."

He bent suddenly, taking her by surprise, and audaciously kissed the fingers of the hand holding the stake against his chest. She felt his cool lips move against her skin and recoiled with a gasp. He let her wrist go and tilted his head with interest to see what she would do next.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" she demanded, amazed, the stake held poised at her shoulder.

"Having fun."

A smile tugged involuntarily at the corners of her mouth. She forced it back and glowered at him.

"It isn't going to be fun when I stake you."

"Here, Slayer? In front of all these people?"

The tone of his voice turned it into sexual innuendo. She frowned at him, feeling the traitorous quiver of heat pass through her, thrown completely off-balance. Vamps weren't supposed to act this way. Vamps were supposed to be all fangy and serious, or all with the chants and the rituals, like the Master.

"No one would notice," she growled. "It would be over in a second."

"Oh, they'd notice. Think I wouldn't fight back?" His tongue curled behind his teeth. "Wanna dance, Slayer? It'd be a long, hot dance. I like to take my time. I like to make it last."

Was he flirting with her? she wondered incredulously. She was usually the one making all the quips. Now she found herself completely at a loss and he was running rings around her.

His eyes were blue, an incandescent gas-flame blue in the lights of the Bronze, vivid with laughter and a strange heat. It made her feel...hot all over.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" she asked fretfully.

"Like what?"

Like she meant something to him. Like she was amazing and delightful and beautiful and special. No one had ever looked at her that way before, not even Angel.

"If you want to get it on," he was saying, "let's go outside. More space there and...privacy."

It was a challenge.

"All right," she said. She never backed away from a challenge.

They moved towards the door to the alley, never turning their backs on each other, she still holding the stake at the ready, he still poised to stop her should she strike.

"What's your name?" she asked.


"That's a weird name."

"Oh, and Buffy is so much better."

She grinned involuntarily. "You know my name."

"All vamps know the Slayer's name."

"This isn't an accident," she realized. "You came looking for me, didn't you?"


"Why? Do you have a death wish or something?"

His left eyebrow lifted sardonically. There was a scar across it. She wondered how he had gotten that. It looked good on him, adding a rough edge of danger to that handsome, sensual face.

"I'm not as easy to kill as the others you've been dealing with, Slayer. Except for the Master, all you've faced so far are fledglings. I've been a vampire for about a hundred and twenty years. I'm a master vampire of the Aurelian line. A whole different proposition."

They had reached the alley. She looked around and saw with satisfaction that it was empty.

"You haven't answered the question," she remarked.

"Why did I come looking for you? I'll tell you tomorrow."

"Presuming you're still alive," she said and swung the stake before he even realized what was happening.

He flung himself backward and the stake only scored a line across his chest, ripping his T-shirt. His reflexes were faster than she had anticipated.

"Hey, that's cheating, Slayer!" he exclaimed. But he was laughing.

"Pre-emptive strike. It's not cheating when you're trying to kill me."

"I have no intention of killing you, Slayer." He blocked the back-slash of the stake and hit her solidly, knocking her backwards across the alley.

She rebounded smoothly off the brick wall, somersaulted back and got him with a spin kick to his jaw. He fell into a pile of crates, smashing them, but rolled away before she could reach him.

"Good one, pet."

He kipped back to his feet in one smooth move and they were trading blows. She was trying her level best to kill him, but he was too quick, too agile, rolling with the punches, laughing the whole time as if this were just some delightful game instead of the deadly contest that it really was. After a while she found herself grinning too. He was as strong and fast as she was, her equal in every way. It was truly satisfying to have a worthy opponent. She realized that she was enjoying herself.

"Oh, nice move, luv."

She had feinted, then hit him with a right cross. She laughed.

"Glad you like it."

"Having fun yet?"

"Y'know something? I am. But I'll have more fun when I stake you."

"Never happen."

She was beginning to think that he was right. They were evenly matched, but he seemed to know all her moves, seemed to be able to anticipate everything that she threw against him. There were only a couple of times that she was able to surprise him with a blow. And she was never able to surprise him with the stake. He always seemed to know where that was.

She was also beginning to realize that he was speaking the truth when he said he had no intention of killing her. He had knocked her back several times, but never followed up on the opportunity. He seemed to be treating this as a sparring match, rather than a real fight.

"You're dropping your shoulder, Slayer."

Giles had warned her about that, but she kept forgetting. Spike punished her for it with a solid blow that sent her flying the length of the alley. But instead of following up on his advantage, he just waited for her to get back on her feet.

"Sloppy," he said, shaking his head. "Could have taken you then." His head whipped around suddenly and his face hardened. "This is between us. Keep them out of it or I'll hurt them."

Buffy looked around and saw that Xander and Willow were standing at the back door of the Bronze. Willow had her hands pressed to her mouth, but Xander was coming forward, waving a stake.

"He's got guts," Spike remarked. "Gotta give him that. Also gotta say, he's amazingly stupid."

"Xander, go back!" Buffy yelled, but Xander kept coming.

She raced forward, trying to get between them, but was too late. Xander swung; Spike ducked smoothly, then hit him. Xander crashed into the metal back door of the Bronze, then slid down it and lay still. Willow rushed to him.

"Bastard!" Buffy exclaimed and flung herself at Spike.

"Time we finished this," he said and jumped straight up and over her.

It took her completely by surprise and she didn't even have time to whirl before he came down behind her, twisting in the air before he landed. He caught her from the back, his arms wrapping around her to hold her hard against him. He had her thoroughly immobilized, his arms trapping her upper arms against her sides, his hands gripping her wrists. The only thing she could move were her legs. She tried to kick his legs out from under him, but couldn't.

"Not going to hurt you," he said quietly.

Spike was in trouble. God, she felt good against him. He hadn't held her in his arms for so long, not since the night before the fight in the Hellmouth. Now her body was against his, those lithe, smooth, strong muscles straining against him, the way they strained when the two of them were making love. If only she would stop wriggling! It was turning him on. Shyeah, as if the fighting itself hadn't turned him on. Fighting with her always made him horny. Fighting was foreplay for them.

His forehead dropped against the back of her head. He closed his eyes, leaned there for a moment, breathing in her scent, just luxuriating in the feel of her in his arms again. God, this was wrong! This was not what he was here to do. He sighed deeply and forced himself to draw back.

Buffy's eyes were wide. He was holding her fast, all that cool, hard muscle wrapped around her, sinuous and powerful. He felt—Lord, he felt good, his body vital and vibrant. And he was aroused. She could feel him hard against the small of her back.

"Let me go," she said furiously.

"Making a point here."

He bent and ran his open mouth down the side of her neck, then closed it firmly over the vein lying there. She gasped and closed her eyes, waiting for the killing bite. Willow screamed.

She felt the pinpricks of his fangs very light on her flesh over the vein. His lips were cool on her skin. Then he just licked her neck lightly, his tongue sliding caressingly over her flesh. It felt incredibly sensual. She shuddered involuntarily. Her whole body felt hot and her toes had curled.

"You taste good, Slayer," he said and let her go.

She whirled at once, stake slashing out. But he had jumped again. Fifteen feet straight up. He came down on the roof of the Bronze as neatly as a cat and swung around to grin at her.

"Could have killed you, Slayer. Could have bit you. Drunk your blood. Drained you dry. Didn't."

He hadn't even broken the skin.


"Tell you tomorrow. At your school library after sunset. Bring your Watcher. Bring anybody you like. I don't care. I just don't want to have to explain everything more than once."

He started to turn away, then paused.

"Forgot. Bring the gypsy."


"What's her name?" He snapped his fingers irritably. "Oh, yeah. Jenna...Jenny Calendar."

He swung on his heel and flashed away with vampire speed over the rooftops, leaving Buffy and Willow staring blankly at each other.

Chapter #2 - Chapter 2
Chapter 2

"William the Bloody." Buffy pored over the books Giles had given her. "Wow. He wasn't kidding when he said he was a hundred and twenty years old."

"The older the vampire, the more dangerous he is," Giles said. He rubbed his forehead worriedly. "Experience counts. And those four—Angel, Darla, Drusilla and Spike—used to be called the Scourge of Europe."

"Double wow."

"I don't understand," Giles muttered fretfully. "What is he doing here?"

"He said he came here for me."

Giles' eyes widened. "He's killed two Slayers already. Good Lord, Buffy, he means to make you the third notch on his belt."

"Then why didn't he? Giles, he beat me. His fangs were at my neck and I couldn't have stopped him. Ask Willow."

Willow nodded, her eyes huge. "It was game over, Giles. Really."

"We have to stake him," Xander snarled. He was burning with the humiliation of having been defeated so easily and kept on touching resentfully at the large bruise Spike had left on his jaw.

"Not tonight," Buffy said firmly. "We have a truce for tonight. I need to know what's going on and he's the only one who can tell me."

"That's a good point," Giles agreed. "But how do we know that he'll keep his word?"

"That's the one thing about William," said Angel, coming through the swing doors of the library. "He does keep his word."

He smiled at Buffy who smiled back awkwardly. She was feeling a little uncomfortable at the way Spike had turned her on last night. She shouldn't have been turned on by Spike, hottie though he was. She shouldn't be getting the hots for anyone but Angel. And yet...

"Is it sunset already?" she asked hurriedly to cut off her thoughts.

Angel nodded. "Spike should be here any minute."

"Y'know, it's funny," Willow remarked, still poring over the books. "Except for killing those Slayers, Spike's nowhere near as bad as Angelus. Killing two Slayers does put him in a class of his own as far as being lethal goes, and he seems to like fighting. But he's not famous for rapes or pillaging and stuff. That's all Angelus. He's way more..."

She looked up to see everybody staring at her. She blushed vividly.

"I...I mean...You're way better at being the Big Bad than he is, Angel." She realized that her last statement could hardly be considered a compliment either and turned the color of her hair.

"Well, it's sunset," said Jenny, coming into the library at that moment, much to Willow's relief. "Is he here yet?"

"He'll be checking out the place," said Angel. "He's reckless, but not stupid. He'll be counting how many heartbeats are in here and..."

Giles looked up quickly. "You don't have a heartbeat. If you hide in the stacks..."

Angel shook his head. "We're family. He'd sense me right away. I wish you hadn't agreed to this, Buffy. He's dangerous."

"Guessed that when he had his fangs in my neck," Buffy said dryly.

"God, Buffy!" Angel winced at the thought. "You should be dead right now!"

"I know. Why didn't he kill me?" Buffy spread her hands in bewilderment. "It doesn't make sense."

"Didn't want to kill you, pet."

They all whirled. Spike had come in quietly through the library doors while they were still talking. All the humans, except for Buffy, grabbed at crosses and Angel took a quick step forward, snarling.

"Oh, knock it off, Peaches," said Spike, unimpressed. "All that manly posturing doesn't mean bollocks to me."

"Spike," growled Angel threateningly.

"Yeah, yeah." Spike waved a negligent hand dismissively and smiled at Buffy. "Since the gang's all here as I asked, pet, can I take it that you've agreed to a truce for tonight?"

"Yes," said Buffy, then whirled as a bowstring twanged. "Xander!"

The bolt from the crossbow slammed into the doorjamb in front of which Spike was standing. But Spike was already three feet away and unharmed. Buffy slapped the crossbow from Xander's hands and he glared at her as it clattered to the floor.

"Should have let me kill him," he spat at her.

"I gave my word," Buffy said angrily. "I said we had a truce."

"The thing you have to remember about the whelp," said Spike quietly from where he was lounging against the wall, "is that he has guts, but no honor. Your word means nothing to him. He's blindly prejudiced against demons and he thinks he knows better than any of you. Even though, intelligence-wise, he's the low man on the totem pole in this room."

"You evil..."

"Who tried to kill who tonight, whelp? Why do you think I'm not dust right now? I knew you'd try something."

"Sit down, Xander," said Giles sternly. He distrusted Spike entirely, but he was chagrined that one of his white hats should be the one to break the rules. It made them all look bad.

"I'm the Slayer!" Buffy said fiercely. "What I say goes. I let you into the group, Xander, but that doesn't mean you get to make the decisions around here or override the decisions that I make. You're not the Slayer. I am."

"Then why don't you try slaying the Undead," Xander snarked, "instead of snuggling up to them?"

Buffy caught her breath. Xander quailed at the furious look in her eyes, then flinched again when Angel turned to stare at him.

"That's the heart of it," said Spike, leaning back comfortably against the wall. "Jealousy. You don't have a chance with her, whelp. She needs someone who's her equal. As fast and as strong and as powerful as she is. You don't make the grade. You never will. Face it."

"Spike, shut up!" Buffy hissed. "You're making things worse."

Spike straightened up. "You need to know this, Slayer. That's what drives him. Jealousy and fear. There's a lot of good things about him—the heart and the guts. But the judgments he makes about people come from this and you have to remember that."

"You're being too hard on him," Giles objected loyally.

"Am I, Watcher?" Spike looked him right in the eye. "So far, has Buffy ever been in as much danger from either Angel or me as she was from Hyena-boy over there?"

"That was a spell!" Xander blurted. "I wouldn't have tried to rape her if it wasn't for the spell!"

Willow and Jenny both gasped and Angel made an uncontrolled movement forward.

"The others of your pack didn't try anything like that," said Spike just as Buffy exclaimed:

"But I thought you didn't remember!"

Xander turned bright red. "I...I..."

"He remembers," said Spike scornfully. "He just likes living on that river in Egypt, pretending that it never happened. That way he can make sure other people will never be forgiven for the same mistake that he has been forgiven for, and he can feel all righteous about it."

Giles was looking at him intently. "What are you doing, Spike?"

"You're supposed to be her Watcher, Rupert. Why haven't you taught her to judge the motives behind an opinion, even if it comes from her nearest and dearest, even if it comes from you? She needs to know that. For her own protection."

"Why should you care about protecting a Slayer?" Angel demanded. "What's going on, Spike?"

"Ah, well, that's the crux of it, isn't it?" Spike strolled forward and everybody tensed before he dropped into a chair and threw his right leg over its arm. "Why are you protecting her, Angel?"

"I...care about her." Angel looked uncomfortable. "And it's my job."

"Who made it your job?"

Angel's eyes narrowed. "A guy called Whistler, representing the Powers That Be. And why are you asking?"

"Because a git called Whistler drafted me for the same job."

Exclamations broke out all over:


"No way!"

"He's lying!"

Only Buffy said nothing. She kept watching Spike who looked back unwaveringly.

"You're serious," she said to him finally, waving the others into silence.

He nodded. "Not lying."

"Why would Whistler do that?" Angel asked, bewildered.

Spike knew he had to be careful with this part because Buffy's loyalties still lay with Angel.

"Maybe he wanted two people on the job. Or maybe," he tilted a brow mockingly at Angel, "he thought you weren't doing a good enough one."

"Why would you agree?" Buffy demanded. "I mean, you're evil!"

"Am I?"

"Well, sure. Vampire. No soul..."

"Sorry to disappoint you, pet. But I do have a soul."

The chorus of exclamations broke out all over again. Buffy and Spike continued to stare at each other, ignoring the hubbub.

"You do, don't you?" she murmured at last. She could see it in his eyes, the difference between him and other vampires. She could see it in the softness and the warmth with which he looked at her.

He nodded.

"We can't just take your word for it," Giles objected. "Angel, is there any way for you to know if he's telling the truth?"

Angel shook his head, looking more than a little miffed at having his unique status taken away from him.

"There's a spell I can do," Jenny offered. "It would show the soul like an aura around him, if it is actually there."

"Yes, very good, excellent." Giles fussed with his glasses. "That's just what we want. Are there any special ingredients you need to cast the spell?"

"Let me look it up." She flipped open her laptop.

"Were you cursed as well?" Willow asked Spike, her eyes wide. "We know the gypsies cursed Angel because of what he did to one of their tribe. What did you do?"

"Wasn't cursed. Fought for it. Earned it."

"You chose to get a soul?" Angel was incredulous. "You?"

"Yeah, me."


Spike's gaze flicked betrayingly towards Buffy before he controlled himself and looked away again.

"Personal reasons."

"Where's Dru?" Angel asked suddenly.

"Prague. Why are you asking? You ducked all responsibility for her the minute you got your soul."

"Did you dump her when you got your soul? Or did she kick you out?"

"We broke up, yeah, but for other reasons." He gave Angel a cold look. "But she's still got a protector in the here and now. I made sure of that."

Jenny's voice brought an end to the acrimonious stares the two vampires were giving each other.

"There are a couple of ingredients that I'll need," she said. "They're fairly common and I have some in my locker. If you don't mind waiting, I'll go get them. It'll only take a couple of minutes."

"Before you go, Janna of the Kalderash clan," Spike said sharply, "there's something I'd like you to tell these sods."

Jenny gasped. "You know!"

"Yeah. You want to tell them, gypsy, or shall I?"

"Jenny?" Giles was staring at her. "What is he talking about?"

"I..." She gave Spike a hunted look, then took a deep breath and turned to face everyone squarely. "Okay, I don't know how he knows this, but the fact is that I'm a member of the clan that cursed Angel. I'm here to make sure nothing happens to break the curse."

Giles was looking betrayed. "Why didn't you tell us? Why...?"

Jenny rubbed her eyes. "I wanted to, but ...There was no reason for me to tell you..."

"Isn't there?" Spike said harshly. "With these two playing kissyface all over the place, you thought there was no reason for them to know?"

"If you're talking about Angel and me..." Buffy began furiously, blushing bright red.

"Anyone else playing tonsil-hockey around here?"

"It's none of your business!"

"Isn't it? Gypsy, tell them what happens if they fuck."

"Spike!" Angel roared.

"God!" Buffy had both her hands up to her blazing cheeks. She hadn't even really let herself get to the point of thinking that way about Angel yet. They had kissed, yes, and the kisses were getting hotter and hotter, but she hadn't really decided whether she wanted to go all the way yet. Things were still at that delicate, experimental stage. And here was this crass vampire trampling all over her fragile, tentative feelings. "God, could you be more crude?"

"I'm a bad, rude man," shrugged Spike. "If they shag, then."

"I'm going to kill you!" yelled Angel.

"But...But it hasn't gotten to that stage," Jenny stammered. "It might never..."

"It could any day. What are you going to do, wait until it happens? Do you want to be the one responsible when it does? Tell them, gypsy!" Spike was snarling now.

Buffy whirled on Jenny. "Tell us what?"

Jenny drew a deep breath. "All right. Angel's curse gets broken if he has a moment of perfect happiness. I'm here to see that it doesn't happen."

Giles was frowning. "Let me get this straight..."

Spike put up his brows at Jenny who sighed and tried again.

"Angelus was cursed with a soul. That turned him into Angel. If Angel has a moment of perfect happiness, the curse is broken and he loses that soul."

Everyone was silent, working out the implications of this.

"A moment of perfect happiness," Xander mused. "You mean if..."

He fell silent at Buffy's furious glare.

Spike had no such compunctions. "They fuck, he gets a happy, the curse is broken, Angelus comes back, and people start dying."

"She said perfect happiness," Xander objected. "How do you know that...?"

"You wanna take the chance?"

Buffy had swung around to stare at Angel. "Did you know?"

"No!" Angel looked as pole-axed as everyone else in the room. "I had no idea!"

"One hundred years," muttered Spike, "and he didn't even bother finding out the complete ramifications of the curse. Preferred to spend his time brooding over past sins and eating rats. Irresponsible, I call it."

Angel whirled and ran out of the library.

"More brooding coming up," remarked Spike to the ceiling.

Buffy had sunk down into a chair, Giles had his glasses off and was polishing them furiously, and Willow and Xander exchanged uncomfortable glances.

Jenny looked awkwardly around the room. "I-I'll just go and get the ingredients for that spell, okay?"

Giles nodded numbly and Jenny hurried out of the library, relieved to get a little breathing space.

Spike pulled a silver penknife out of his pocket and started opening and shutting it restlessly. His attention seemed totally focused on his hands, but there was a little smile playing about his lips.

"You seem to be getting an inordinate amount of satisfaction out of this," Giles accused.

"You have no idea, Ripper," said Spike and Giles jumped a mile. Buffy turned her head to observe them. "Have a checklist of things I'm supposed to do and keeping Angelus from returning was at the head of it."

"You won't be able to keep me and Angel from being in love," Buffy said furiously.

He was silent for a few minutes, his gaze focused on the penknife in his hands.

"Didn't hope to, pet. Know better than that. You can snog all you want, sweet. Just remember to keep those hands from going south of the border."

Buffy turned bright red, shot to her feet and flew at him. "You have a filthy mind! Shut up! Just shut up!"

He caught her fist before it hit him, looked up at her calmly. Something in his gaze threw her. A sadness, a quiet acceptance of pain.

"Won't be your whipping boy this time around, Slayer. ‘S not good for you." He let her go and she stepped back, frowning. "Don't kill the messenger. That's the trouble with the lot of you. You live on that river in Egypt, refusing to look at what's right in front of your eyes. Vamps and demons don't faze you, but your own emotions? Shyeah. It's a tough world out there, boys and girls, and you won't be able to face it if you can't face yourself first."

"Know thyself," said Giles under his breath.

"And that applies to you too, Watcher. Know your motivations." His gaze swept all of them.

"Lessons in life from the Undead," Xander scoffed.

"Been around a long time, whelp. Might have learned a few things over the years."

"Yeah, like how to kill and maim and torture." Xander kicked with his heel at the wall he was leaning against and gave Spike a hate-filled glare. "Don't need lessons from you on anything, Deadboy. You're just an evil, disgusting th..."

The penknife whizzed across the room and sliced into the wall a millimeter away from his ear. Xander let out an unmanly shriek and jumped away, almost falling over his feet.

"The next time it's going into some part of your anatomy. No chip this time. Nothing keeping me from hurting you. Nothing forcing me to take any of your lip this time around. So watch what you say to me, wanker."

"I thought you claimed to have a soul," Giles said dryly.

"Does your soul make you accept insults, Ripper? You humans never clip anybody on the jaw for something like that? Christ, the shit I've taken from y...people like you over the last few years. Just because you could dish it out and I had to take it. No more. Wanna call me names? Well, ‘smile when you say that, pardner.'"

He went into full gameface deliberately and snarled. They stared, appalled, at yellow eyes, ridges and fangs. Only Buffy failed to react. She sat down on the edge of a table and surveyed him thoughtfully. He gave Xander a hard stare, making the boy edge away uneasily, then shook off the gameface and cocked an eyebrow at Buffy.

"Show-off," she said and he laughed.

Jenny came hurrying in and stopped at the sight of Giles standing protectively in front of a cringing Willow and Xander, and Spike and Buffy regarding each other attentively.

"Did I miss something?"

"Just a bit of attitude," Buffy said and looked with interest at the herbs Jenny was shaking onto the table. "Is this going to be complicated?"

"No, no." Jenny crumbled dried herbs into a small chafing dish, lit them, then lit a couple of candles. A pleasant scent spread through the library. "It's all in the incantation really."

Willow had drawn near, fascinated. "Then what are the herbs for?"

"In this case? Some of them purge the air of evil influences, others focus the mind." Jenny smiled at her. "If you're interested, I could teach you more later."

"Remember to teach her about consequences," Spike said quietly.

Jenny glanced at him, surprised, saw that he was serious and nodded. "Of course I will."

"What did you want me to do?" he asked, getting to his feet.

"Nothing. Just stand there." She frowned thoughtfully at the spell still on the screen of her laptop. "I've never done this before, so I'm not sure how the spell will manifest itself."

"Will it hurt?"

"It shouldn't." She looked around at the others. "Everybody be quiet now."

She began to read the incantation in a calm, firm voice. An electric tingle grew in the air. Spike stood watching her curiously, his head tilted a little to one side.

"Fiat," she said at last. "Let it be done."

A light sprang up around Spike. It was all around him, not emanating from any one spot, silvery and very bright, shimmering like shot silk.

"Whoa!" said Willow softly. "Is that his soul?"

"Like an aura," Giles nodded.

"It seems quite clear that he does have a soul," said Jenny and made a small gesture.

The light flicked out and left Spike standing there, frowning at them in puzzlement.

"Did it work?" he asked.

"Didn't you see it?" Buffy asked, surprised.

He shook his head. "Just saw the lot of you looking gobsmacked."

"It was very pretty," offered Willow.

"Pretty!" He looked disgusted.

Giles was just about salivating. "I have to get this down for my Watcher's Diary. Nothing like this has ever been reported before! Spike, would you be willing to tell me exactly what you had to do to get this soul?"

"Uh, sure, Rupert." He looked a little taken aback by Giles' enthusiasm.

Buffy grinned triumphantly. "That's a better punishment that anything I could have thought up. You have no idea what you've let yourself in for, vampire."


Parent-Teacher night turned out to be a serious downer. Buffy had put a great deal of effort into it in the hopes of getting into Principal Snyder's good graces and the little troll still blabbed on her to her mother, blowing everything up way out of proportion, judging by how angry Joyce was on the drive home. Sneaking out to go on patrol looked like it was going to be a lot more difficult from now on than it already was. Added to which, Angel had been a no-show all day, Buffy still hadn't come to terms with Jenny's bombshell of last night and...well, life really sucked.

She was almost relieved to see Spike sitting on her front steps when she and Joyce got home. His presence would make Joyce stop her scolding while he was here; Joyce might be mad at her, but she wouldn't take her daughter to task in front of a stranger.

Spike stood up politely as she and Joyce came up the walkway and nodded to them. "Buffy. Mrs Summers."

"What are you doing here, Spike?" Buffy demanded.

"Wanted to know when you were going on patrol. Thought I might join you."


"What are you talking about?" Joyce demanded. "Patrol?"

Spike's brows rose. "What? Your Mum still doesn't know?"

"Know what? Buffy, who is this man?" Joyce glared at Spike. "Who are you?"

Buffy closed her eyes in resignation. She knew exactly what Joyce was seeing when she looked at Spike. Bleached hair, black clothes, the Billy Idol wannabe look—what they equaled was the quintessential bad boy that every mother dreaded, rough trade in black leather. She was so dead.

"Slayer," Spike said suddenly. "Lend me your stake, would you?"

"What? Hey...!" she exclaimed as he lifted her stake smoothly out of its sheath at the small of her back, underneath the waistband of her skirt.

He disappeared into the bushes at the side of the house. There was the unmistakable sound of a vamp dusting, then Spike came back, brushing himself off.

"One of the Anointed One's minions." He handed her back her stake with a nod of thanks and she took it numbly. "Looks like he's keeping an eye on you. The night of St. Vigeous is only a couple of days away."

She had forgotten about the night of St. Vigeous. Giles had warned her of it, but she had been too concerned about Parent-Teacher night to give it much attention.

"Buffy, what is going on?" Joyce demanded.

"Gee, thanks for blowing my cover," she told Spike bitterly, but he just shrugged.

"Should have told your Mum long ago. Don't know how you've managed to do your job and keep it secret this long. Look, I'll help you take the Annoying One down. Between us, we can easily clean house on St. Vigeous. But his minions will be out in force that night and some of them will come after your friends and some will come after your mother. And if she doesn't know what they are, she'll be an awful easy mark."

She looked from his grim face to Joyce's questioning one, then sighed deeply. "Guess the cat's out of the bag. Mom, let's go in and I'll explain everything to you."

Joyce unlocked the front door and the two of them stepped in. Buffy hesitated before inviting Spike in, wondering whether she was really being wise, allowing Spike into her house.

"May I come in, Mrs Summers?" he asked Joyce politely while Buffy was still trying to make up her mind.

"Oh, yes. Yes, of course...uh, what did you say your name was?" asked Joyce with a harried look.

"William, though everybody calls me Spike." With a smug smile, he stepped over the threshold, then bent to murmur in Buffy's ear, "See how easy? If she doesn't know, then any vamp can pull that trick on her. Oh, and by the way, it might be a good idea to give Giles a call and ask him to come over in about half an hour. She's not going to take this well, and having an adult from your school corroborate your story might make things easier."

"The last time I tried to tell my parents about being the Slayer, they put me in a psycho ward," she muttered.

"Won't this time. Not with the little show and tell we're going to put on. Could I help you with anything, Mrs Summers?" he called as Buffy headed for the phone.

Joyce gave him a wild-eyed look. "Uh, no, I'm fine. I was just going to make some coffee. And some hot chocolate for Buffy. Would you like something?"

"Hot chocolate sounds nice," he said, following her into the kitchen. "Thank you. Would you have any of those little marshmallows?"

Joyce's face softened a little. "I'll take a look. Why don't you sit down?"

"Thank you, Mrs Summers."

She softened even more. At least he had manners, she thought. She opened a cupboard door and reached for the mugs. "Um, could I ask? How old are you?"


Joyce bit her lip. "Don't...don't you think that's a little old for Buffy?"

"What? Oh! I'm not her boyfriend, Mrs Summers. I wish I were," he muttered almost under his breath and she caught the look of sudden wistfulness in his eyes before he looked down at his hands on the kitchen table. "I'm just a friend. Well, not even that, really. I don't know what I am. Just an acquaintance, I guess."

Buffy came into the kitchen and regarded them both warily. "So. Where were we?"

"I was going to make some hot chocolate and you were going to give me an explanation, young lady."

"Yes. Well. It's like this..."

Joyce listened incredulously to Buffys long and involved explanation, helped out by Spike whenever she got herself tangled up in a knot. None of it made any sense and all of it was completely unbelievable.

"Vampires and demons exist and you're their Slayer. I thought you'd grown out of that fantasy, Buffy. I've got to get in touch with that psychiatrist again," Joyce muttered.

"I'm not crazy, Mom. They do exist."

"And Spike's a vampire." Joyce looked at Spike quietly sipping hot chocolate at her kitchen table. Joyce the mother agreed that Spike looked like bad news to any mother with a teenage daughter, and Joyce the woman agreed that Spike looked like sex on a stick to any female between ten and a hundred. But what Spike definitely did not look like was a storybook vampire; he looked like any normal human being. "Right."

Spike went into full gameface. Joyce shrieked and leaped up, knocking over her chair.

Buffy caught her. "It's all right, Mom. Calm down. We just had to show you."

"But he...But he...How did he do that?" Joyce clutched at Buffy. "He's got fangs...and...and yellow eyes and..." Her pointing finger waved wildly, indicating the ridges.

"He's a vampire, Mom."

"She needs a drink," said Spike and headed into the livingroom to fetch one.

Buffy got the chair upright and settled her mother back into it. "I know it's a bit of a shock, Mom."

"That's...an understatement." Joyce flinched as Spike came back into the room, still in gameface.

"Not going to hurt you," he said gently. "Not going to hurt either you or Buffy. I'm here to protect you."

Joyce grabbed the drink he set in front of her and took a deep swallow. When she looked up again, he had shaken off the gameface and was looking at her with human eyes once more, vividly blue and warmly sympathetic, smiling a little, patient with her shock.

"You can do that at will."

He nodded.

"Could you do it again?"

He complied and this time she heard the little grate of bone that accompanied the transformation.

"May I touch?"

He smiled. "Sure."

She ran a finger tentatively over the ridges on his forehead and then down across his nose. He twitched a little and stifled a sneeze.

"Sorry. Ticklish."

"It's real," she said in amazement.


His fangs were razor-sharp. She nicked her fingertip on one by accident, drew back, then very carefully took it between thumb and forefinger and pulled delicately.

"Doesn't come off," he said when she let go. He grinned. "This must be what it feels like to go to the dentist."

The doorbell rang and Buffy went to answer it.

"Vampire," Joyce said, taking it in, and he nodded, resuming his human face. "And my daughter is a vampire slayer." He nodded again. "But I don't want her to be that. It's too dangerous. She could get hurt."

"She's too good. Besides, it doesn't matter what you or I or even she wants. She's the Slayer. That's what she was born to be and do."

"She's only a teenager," Joyce protested. "It's not right. Can't she stop?"

He shook his head. "Not until she dies. And I'm here to make sure that doesn't happen for a very long time."

"But you're a vampire."

"Got a soul. I'm here to protect her, make things better for her. That's my job and I mean to do it."

"You'll defend her?"

"With my unlife. Dust before I let anything hurt her. Swear to you, Mrs Summers."

"Call me Joyce," she said, softening entirely at his obvious sincerity.

Buffy came back into the kitchen, accompanied by Rupert Giles, the school librarian, his arms full of books.

"This is Giles, Mom. He's my Watcher. He'll explain things to you properly. I know I haven't made much sense." She turned to Giles with relief. "I'm going to go patrol, Giles. Why don't you take it from here?"

"Yes, all right," said Giles, resigned.

"What do you mean, patrol?" Joyce exclaimed.

"I patrol the cemeteries every night, Mom. Looking for demons and killing any that turn up. One good thing now," she said, looking happier. "I won't have to sneak out any more."

"Killing!" Joyce was appalled. "My little girl kills things?"

"Slayer here, Mom. That's what the word means."


"She'll be all right, Joyce," Spike said. "I'm going with her."

Both Buffy and Giles looked at him askance.

"For why?" demanded Buffy.

"It'll be fun." He grinned at Giles. "Won't hurt her, Watcher. Soul, remember?"

"Besides, I'll stake him if he tries," growled Buffy and caught his sleeve and dragged him out of the kitchen before Joyce could make any further protest.

"Um, you gonna change clothes, Slayer?"

"Why should I?"

"Pants might be a good idea, unless you want to flash your thong at the world every time you make a kick."

Buffy flushed vividly. "You shouldn't be looking!"

"I'm male. We look."

Muttering to herself, she went upstairs to strip off her short skirt and drag on a pair of jeans.

"Satisfied?" she grouched as she came back down the stairs.

He grinned at her. "Not really. ‘S a pity to cover up those legs."



She didn't know whether to feel offended or complimented. "C'mon, let's go," she growled and stalked out of the house. She could feel his gaze on her as he followed. "And you better not be looking at my ass."

"But it's a gorgeous ass, pet."

She whirled around to see him laughing at her. He bounced on his toes a couple of times, then suddenly took off, breezing past her at vampire speed.


"Try to keep up, Slayer," he called back over his shoulder. "If you can."

"You bet your ass I can," she muttered, chasing after him. He was heading unerringly towards the closest cemetery, Shady Rest. She caught up with him just as he passed through the gates. "For Pete's sake, will you slow down? I don't want to go back home until I'm sure Giles has had time to give Mom the full lowdown."

"That's what all those books he brought were for, huh?"

"Yeah. If I know Giles, he'll be going over everything exhaustively. It was a good idea to call him in. Thanks."

"You're welcome." He smiled at her. "I gather from the vibes you and your Mum were putting out when you got home that Parent-Teacher night didn't go so well."

He looked genuinely interested, so she found herself telling him all about Snyder's perfidy, in detail.

"Just a nonentity powertripping," he said contemptuously when she finally ran down. "Want me to eat him, Slayer?"

"What? No!" But what a delicious thought that was! She paused, surveying him thoughtfully. "Would you, if I asked you to?"

"You wouldn't ask. Protector of the people and all that, even a little weasel like Snyder."

"But if."

He looked at her, smiling faintly. "You're asking if I'm your dog. Well, I am, Slayer. Soul would get in the way of anything really heinous, like eating Snyder. Otherwise, just point me at the target and I'll take it down for you."

"But...You said Whistler sent you. And Whistler sent Angel. And Angel would never..."

"Oh, well, that ponce," Spike shrugged dismissively. "He prefers mind games. No artistry in just plain fighting, he said to me once. Likes to slowly break a person's mind over a period of time until death comes as a relief. Mental and emotional torture. That's a good kill for him."

Buffy flinched. That was disgusting. She had never thought of Angel that way. Wait. "You're talking about Angelus."

"Oh, yeah. Never was much into the pre-show myself," he said absently, wrinkling his nose in disdain. "Never played with my food. I just wanted lunch."

A vampire's perspective. She didn't know whether to be horrified or amused. He was speaking without thinking, she saw; just saying what came off the top of his head.

"Me, I like fighting," he said. "Fists and fangs. Testing yourself to the limit. Now that's fun."

She watched him with interest, thinking back over the last couple of days. He had done that all along, saying just what he thought. He could hold back things, was holding back things, she sensed; but whatever he did say came out with unthinking and betraying honesty.

"What exactly did Whistler want you to do for me? What's your mandate?"

"Simple. Make things easier for you. Covers a very wide latitude."

She was asking the wrong questions. She could feel that. He wasn't telling her everything. She would have to do something about that. She couldn't make decisions properly if she were being kept in the dark. She would have to think things over later. And there were things to think over; he had given away a lot in the things that he had said, but she hadn't noticed them at the time. She had been too preoccupied with the revelation of Angel's curse to really consider the implications of Spike's being here. And that seemed to be quite as important.

A vamp sprang up from between the gravestones. The night had been so dead so far that she was delighted to see him. She jumped forward, eager for a fight. But it took one look at her, squeaked in terror and fled like a deer, leaping gazelle-like over the tombstones.

"Now that's just sad," said Spike, joining her where she stood shaking her head.

"Gotta agree. Where is everyone?"

"I think the Annoying One's put the word out. No confrontations until St. Vigeous. That's when they'll be the strongest, so why put themselves at risk before that?"

"We should make a plan for then. Uh, you are going to help out, aren't you?"

"Of course. My plan, if you agree to it, is very straightforward. The Anointed One will send out his minions at sunset on St. Vigeous. That'll leave only a couple of vamps with him. I'll go in and stake him. I'm a vamp. I can get close. The breaking of his link with them will throw all the minions into confusion. Some will run, some will fight. Either way, the two of us can clean up."

"I like it."

"Good." He looked around. "Doesn't look as if there's going to be any action tonight. We've been out over an hour. Think Giles has had enough time to explain everything to your Mum?"

"Let's give him a little longer."

"Just keep on wandering around then? I know." He grinned suddenly, reached out and tapped her shoulder. "Tag. You're it."

He spun on his heel and then was racing away through the darkness, platinum hair glinting in the moonlight. Against her better judgment, she found herself chasing after him.

He had a longer stride than she did, but she was lighter. She caught up with him and lunged to touch him, only to miss when he did a side-spinning cartwheel.

"Getting slow, Slayer," he mocked. "Getting soft. Had it easy so far with nothing but fledglings to deal with."

He vaulted a tombstone and was gone again.

She raced after him, on her mettle now. His vamp senses told him when she was close without his having to turn his head to look and he would just dive into a roll or do a backflip or leap onto a crypt and somersault off the other side whenever she got near.

It was childish and ridiculous and silly...and so much fun! She was laughing helplessly as she ran.

He dashed around a crypt. She scrambled straight over it and came down in front of him as he tried to brake. Tag!

He tagged her back before she could spin away. Then they were trading slaps. Then elbows. Then fists. Then they were in a whirl of motion, trading punches and kicks at top speed, without hesitation.

"Getting slow, huh?" she laughed and he laughed back.

They were moving too fast now to actually see anything coming and block. They blocked by instinct, by the sense of movement and momentum. She wasn't striking at him now, but at where he would be by the time her fist or her foot arrived. It was exhilarating, a dance, a perfection of motion and balance and power.

Then his foot slipped on a patch of damp grass and he went down. His flailing arms brought her down with him. They rolled over and over until they fetched up against a tombstone, laughing, with him on top.

And suddenly he wasn't laughing any longer. He was looking down at her, the vivid blue of his eyes darkening to black as his pupils dilated, his face completely and utterly still. Her breath caught. She was intensely aware of his body upon hers, his weight, heavy and vibrant, the scent of leather and cigarettes and a clean earthy scent that was Spike himself. He was aroused; she could feel it, feel him hard against her hip. And she was aroused too, could feel herself all buttery and throbbing. Her hands clenched involuntarily on the leather shoulders of his duster.

His face was drawn tight with passion and desire, the hard beautiful planes of bone standing out with tension, and his eyes burning with hunger and something else she couldn't understand. His hands tightened on her upper arms and his head dropped and his parted lips were a millimeter away from hers and she felt his breath shuddering against her own lips, making her intensely aware of the cavern of his open mouth.

She gasped.

The little sound brought them both back to their senses. He jerked away, flinging himself onto his back, lay there staring up at the sky. Buffy shot to her feet, stood there with her arms clenched about herself. She could hear him gasping as he fought for control, felt her own breath shaking in her throat.

This was crazy, crazy. There was no way she should be feeling like this for someone she had only just met. And, oh, God, what about Angel? She was supposed to be in love with Angel and here she was...

She heard a sound beside her and looked around to see him on his feet, carefully backing away from her.

"What just happened?" she whispered.

"Sorry," he said. "Sorry. Fighting gets us both...hot. My fault. Won't happen again. I'll be more careful next time."

But she wanted it to happen again. Oh, God, she was turning into such a ho-bag!

Then some of the things he had said over the last three days started to click into place.

"We'd better get back," she said abruptly.


She had a lot of thinking to do.


Spike turned up at the back door the next night. Joyce heard his quiet knock and went to let him in.

"‘Lo, Joyce. May I come in?"

"Of course." She looked at him nervously as he stepped into the kitchen. "You don't need to ask anymore, as I understand it. That's what Mr Giles said. You can just walk in unless we put up a disinvite spell."

"Well, yeah, I could. But it's your house. Wouldn't be polite to do that."

She laughed involuntarily. "A polite vampire."

"Victorian upbringing." He grinned at her and ducked his head a little shyly. "Wouldn't do it with anybody else. But you're a lady, Joyce."

She found herself charmed by him, even though Giles had told her how dangerous he could be, how dangerous any vampire was.

"How are you coping?" he asked with genuine concern.

"All of this, it's hard to accept," Joyce confessed. "I'm...adjusting. Can I get you anything? Hot chocolate, perhaps?"

He laughed. "Not tonight, thank you. I just dropped in to see whether Buffy plans to go patrolling tonight."

"Buffy goes patrolling every night," said Buffy, coming into the kitchen.

"Wasn't sure. Looks like another quiet night, Slayer. Won't be much happening."

"Want to talk to you anyway. Bye, Mom. See you in a couple of hours."

Joyce sighed in resignation. "Be careful, dear."

"Where are we going?" asked Spike as the door closed behind them and Buffy set off down the street at a fast pace.

"There's a park not far away. It's quiet and private and there'll be benches to sit on. I've been thinking..."

"Never a good idea," muttered Spike and she gave him a hard look.

"And I want answers."

"To what?"

"How do you know me?"

"What?" He shied like a nervous horse, his eyes widening so that the whites showed around the blue of his irises. "Um, Whistler..."

"C'mon, Spike. I may be young and naive, but I'm not stupid. Whistler may have brought you here just like he brought Angel. But even Angel doesn't know the things about me that you do. When we fight, you know every move I make..."

"That's just..."

"No, it's not just that you're a cunning fighter, though you are, Spike. But you anticipate every one of my moves. You know what I'm going to do before I do it. I can tell. It's as if we've sparred a hundred times before. And what was it you said last night? ‘Fighting gets us both hot.' How did you know that? You said it as if it had happened before. And yet I've only just met you."

He was silent, his head down so that she couldn't see his expression. But she could see from the tension in his body that he was thinking hard.

"You know too much about all of us. Not just the big things like Angel's curse, which Whistler might have told you about. Little things about Xander and Willow and Giles and even my Mom. You called Giles ‘Ripper' and he jumped a mile. What was that about? You knew exactly where the liquor cabinet was when you went to get my Mom a drink. When Miss Calendar offered to teach Willow magic, you mentioned ‘consequences,' as if Willow had done something or would do something that would have consequences. Xander and denial. The way you talked about that suggested that his denial has had some sort of backlash on you personally."


"Do you know how many times you've said ‘this time around'? ‘No chip this time'. ‘Nothing forcing me this time'. ‘The shit I've taken from...people like you', you said, correcting yourself. But what you were really going to say was ‘from you'. I could tell. But you've never met any of us before. Supposedly."

"Fuck." Spike scrubbed both hands across his face. "It wasn't supposed to play this way. I could have told him I make a bloody awful undercover agent. I'm a straightforward kind of git. Never know how to watch my mouth."

"Told who? This guy Whistler?"

"Yeah. God!" he exclaimed. "I don' know what to say. Don' know if anything I tell you is going to screw up this timeline or not."

"This timeline."

"Yeah." He sighed. "Don' know whether I've already fucked things up. Don' know better than to keep on going the way I've already started and hope for the best. But this is between us, okay, Slayer? You don't tell the others, not even your Watcher. Don' know what might hit the fan then."

"Promise." She meant it.

They had reached the park. He hopped up onto one of the picnic tables, resting his feet on the bench, and reached into his pocket for his smokes. Buffy climbed up beside him and waited while he lit up and sat leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and his head down while he ordered his thoughts.

"You know about alternate realities, Slayer?"

"Suppose so. We've got demon dimensions, why not alternate realities?"

"Yeah, well, in the reality one over from this one, I guess, I've already lived the next seven years. End of that time, I died. Woke up in limbo, I think. Whistler called it a waiting room. The PTB yanked me there, said by way of Whistler that they had a job for me to do. They're interested in you. Chosen One and all that. The Buffy in that reality, well, she had a lot of bad things happen to her. She made it through them, but it was tough. The PTB didn't want it to happen to you, so they asked me to come on over here and try to fix things." He sighed deeply. "Don' know how good I'm gonna to be at that, ‘specially now that I may have messed things up. But I'm sure gonna try."

"I see." She sat there thinking that over. It was a lot to digest. She found herself appreciating what her Mom had gone through last night, learning that her daughter was the Slayer.

Spike drew a long drag off his cigarette. "Got one thing right, though. You know about Angel's curse now, so at least that won't happen again. Hopefully."

"Angel lost his soul in the other reality?"

"Yeah. You got it back for him, but people died and Angelus hurt you a lot before you managed it."

She thought that over. "So I slept with him."

Spike's lips tightened. "Yeah."

"But he got his soul back and he's still around."

"We-ell." Spike switched the half-smoked cigarette from one hand to the other uneasily. "He's got his soul back, but he's in L.A. Got his own detective agency there. Helping the helpless and all that rot."

"He left me? After all that?"

"Seeking redemption." There was no expression at all in either Spike's face or his voice. Then he shrugged. "To be fair to the wanker, it's kind of hard lines not being able to shag and all."

Buffy bit her lip. "It wouldn't matter to me. If I loved someone, I'd still want to be with him even if we couldn't sleep together."

"Me too." Oh, he could relate to that, Spike thought. Been there, done that, with Buffy, with Dru all those months when she was sick. It was being with the loved one that was important.

"Then why didn't Angel...?"

Spike shot her a sideways glance. "Said he wanted you to have a normal life."

Her jaw dropped. "Hello. Slayer here. I'm never going to have a normal life!"

"That's the way I see it. But Angel..." He scowled down at his cigarette. "Angel sees things from a very narrow perspective. It's all about Angel. He's a very self-involved son of a..." He caught himself up abruptly. "I'm not the one to ask about Angel."

"You sound as if you hate him."

He flicked the cigarette stub away irritably. "We've got history. A lot of it. I hated Angelus. It wasn't...pleasant...having him as a mentor. And Angel...well, there are other issues."

"Like what?"

His glance flicked betrayingly to her, then he looked away again. "This and that."

She studied his averted face. "Why did you agree to come over to this reality?"

He looked surprised. "I told you. Whistler wanted me to fix things for you."

"Yeah, but why should you care? What were we to each other?"

His eyes widened. "Uh, nothing much, Slayer. Nothing that mattered."

She caught the sleeve of his duster as he started to jerk to his feet. "Spike. Why would you agree to come back and help me if it didn't matter?"

He looked panicky. "Not important. Nothing that mattered to you. Irrelevant."

"But it seems to have mattered to you, so it is relevant. Spike. The truth."

He let out a long, shuddering breath. She saw the abortive movement of his hand to his eyes. Then he looked down, not meeting her gaze.

"I loved you. You didn't love me. End of story."

Oh. Things were falling into place. The way he looked at her, as if she were precious to him, the softness, the warmth, the care and concern. The way he tried to keep from touching her and then reacted so intensely when he did. The way he knew all her moves, knew so much about her.

He wasn't looking at her. He was looking away into the darkness, the planes of his face taut and set. She could see the pain behind the stillness of his face.

"So that's how you know all my moves when we fight," she said, delicately circling the point. "I guess we must have sparred a lot."

He smiled faintly. "Yeah. It was fun."

"Were we lovers?" Straight to the point now.

His smile disappeared and his lips tightened. "For about a month."

"Why would I do that if I didn't love you?" she murmured almost to herself. "I'm not that kind of girl. Or do I become that?"

He reached out as if he couldn't help himself and ran a strand of her hair very lightly between his thumb and forefinger, his gaze fixed on that, avoiding her face.

"Happened by accident the first time. And after that..." He gave her a sideways-slanting, wicked look. "The sex was good, yeah?"

"Oh!" She blushed vividly.

He laid the lock of hair carefully on her shoulder. "Hated yourself for liking it though."

"Is that why we broke up?"

"Yeah." He lay back on the picnic table, looking up at the night sky. "Said you were using me. I told you I didn't care. Use or abuse, didn't matter. Just wanted to be with you. But you said it was killing you. So..."

It was killing her? What had it been doing to him? She looked down at him lying there looking up into the darkness, his face very still and contained. His eyes were open and fixed on the stars, but she could see the intensity of emotion that he was trying to keep locked behind his stillness.

"Why didn't you lose your soul? If Angel loses his soul if he has a moment of perfect happiness, then why wouldn't you? Weren't you happy?"

His mouth twisted into a crooked smile. "Oh, I was happy. The thing is, Angel was cursed with a soul. I earned mine. Fought for it, yeah? Endured a lot for it. Won it. Nothing can take it away from me. Besides, I didn't have it when we were making lo...when we were involved."

"You didn't have a soul then? But if Angel doesn't have a soul, he turns into Angelus, right? How is it possible that you could fall in love while you didn't have a soul?"

"Don't know. Angel is always fighting his demon. Maybe that makes a difference. My demon and I get along pretty well." He turned his head to look at her. "Demons can love, pet. Not wisely, perhaps, but well. You never understood that. But it's true."

She was starting to understand him, starting to make intuitive jumps.

"Why did you get a soul, Spike?"

"Oh, shit." He jerked upright. "God, you're quick."

"What would make you do such a thing? You said you didn't have a soul when we were involved. So that means you got it after we broke up. Was it because we broke up?" All the little pieces were clicking into place. "Was it because of me?"

He closed his eyes, sighed deeply. "Thought it would make a difference. Didn't."

That was a huge thing to do, for a demon to get a soul of his own volition. It had never happened before, according to Giles. That was a terrible, magnificent, headlong thing to do.

It should have made a difference. "Why didn't it?"

"I'd done some unforgivable things. And you were hung up on Angel. Never got over him, or the being normal business. Vampire here. Not normal. Never be normal. Soul made me understand why I wouldn't ever have a chance with you."


He caught her shoulders lightly, leaned forward, his eyes intense. "Look. I've learned my lesson. You never have to be afraid of me. Won't make the same mistake. Won't force myself where I'm not wanted. I don't expect anything. You understand?" He made a little throwaway gesture of his hand, looking down. "Kind of person I am, just not lovable, I guess. Always wanted to be loved. Never was. Flaw somewhere. I accept that. I know better now. Don't have to be scared of me."

She looked at him, seeing the pain and the vulnerability behind his intense face. Her heart ached for him suddenly, for all the things that must have happened to him that brought him to feel and say something that hurtful about himself.

"Don't have to care for me," he said. "Just let me care for you. Because that's why I'm here. I'm here for you. I'm here to make sure a lot of bad things won't happen to you. Don't know what they are, because things may already have changed now that you know about Angel's curse. But I'll know them when I see them. Do my best to see they don't happen. Yeah?"

"Yeah," she said softly. "But, you know, things might go a little differently in this dimension."

He frowned at her, puzzled. "I don't understand."

She laid her hand lightly against the side of his face, palm settling in the hollow of his cheek, fingers brushing one beautiful cheekbone. He caught his breath in surprise.

"This Buffy is not interested in normal," she said quietly.

His eyes widened and caught fire, a sudden blaze of passion and intensity and tenderness. His hands rose to cup her face in his turn, his touch delicate and tentative. He leaned forward slowly, helplessly, as if drawn against his will. His lips a breath away from hers, he checked himself abruptly.

"Don't want to take advantage."

"Even if I want you to?" she murmured and he lost his breath in a gasp.


Then he was kissing her as if there were nothing in the world but her. She had never been kissed like this before, not even by Angel. Angel kissed her sweetly and the kisses were hot and getting hotter, but she always felt as if there were something held back. Spike kissed with his entire self, nothing held back, his whole being surrendered to her. Angel kept his emotions in a cage, never really sharing them. Spike wore his heart on his sleeve, even when he tried not to. Spike poured everything he was into her hands, opened himself up completely, never caring how deeply he might be hurt. And he could be hurt deeply. She saw that in him, saw that he already had been.

The world spun away. There was nothing but the taste of him, the feel of him, his tongue sliding against hers, taking possession of her mouth devouringly, desperately, his hands stroking her face, her hair, his voice muttering endearments brokenly between kisses.

He dragged his mouth away and they leaned their foreheads together, gasping against each other's faces, their breaths shuddering in their open mouths.

"This is crazy," he muttered. "I'm not supposed to...This has got to be wrong...Buffy, do you have any idea what you're doing?"

"No, but I like it."

He laughed breathlessly, his parted lips moving over her face—her hairline, her temple, her eye— coming back again and again to her mouth, unable to keep away. She caught sight of his eyes, vividly blue around their dilating pupils. It wasn't just his kisses, scorching as they were, that were turning her so weak and boneless with desire. It was the way he was looking at her, as if she was wonderful and delightful and powerful and amazing, as if she was all the world to him. And she wanted to give that back to him, wanted to make him feel as cherished and special as he was making her feel.

"Gotta stop," he was muttering. "Gotta stop. Not gonna take you here and that's how it's gonna end up if we don't stop right now. Never made love before, have you?"

"No," she sighed, leaning against him languorously, her eyelids drowsy from his kisses. "Is it so obvious?"

"Hadn't in the other reality. And I don't want your first time in this reality to be on top of a picnic table in the park." He drew a deep, shuddering breath. "Whoever it is."

"That's very thoughtful of you," she murmured, smiling.

"I'm a bloody idiot, that's what I am." He tore himself away from her and fell flat on his back on the table, throwing one arm across his eyes. "But I don't want you to regret anything, Summers. Not this time around."

"I don't regret kissing you, Spike."

He raised his arm and looked up at her, his face unguarded and vulnerable. "You don't?"

"Not a bit. But you're right. This is all too fast."

"Yeah. See how you feel in the morning. Harsh light of day and all. You might find that normal has merit once the sun's up."

Chapter #3 - Chapter 3
Chapter 3

Morning brought no second thoughts. She lay on her stomach on her bed, considering the two men.

Why had she fallen for Angel? Because he was tall, dark and handsome. Mysterious, with all that popping up out of and disappearing into the shadows. An enigma, brooding, melodramatic and romantic. Intriguing, because she knew so little about him. And he was so much more interesting than the boys at the high school. He made her feel grownup, flattered that this glamorous older man should fall for her, naive and young as she was.

There was nothing glamorous about Spike. He was down-to-earth, practical, earthy, raw. Sex on a stick, that was Spike. Sensual, reckless, gleeful, living in the moment with complete enthusiasm and enjoyment. He made her senses whirl, made her come alive. He was so much fun. And then there was that other side—protective, caring, heart-on-his-sleeve loving.

God! Life was getting so complicated! It was so much easier when all she had to worry about was staking demons.

Which she would be doing tonight. It was the night of St. Vigeous, the night the vamps would be at their strongest. Which was cause for some concern. But with Spike and perhaps Angel also at her side, she could probably take them.

She needed something to give her an edge. She snuck into the library between classes to ask Giles to see if he could think of something, but was doubtful that he would. And then, History class, of all things, provided the answer.

She raced down to the library once the school day was over only to find it empty. Giles was off somewhere and the others hadn't arrived yet. She settled down to wait, going through warm-up exercises in the meantime to prepare herself for the coming night.


She whirled around. "Angel! What are you doing here? The sun's still up."

"There's a sewer access in the basement."

"Oh." She studied him thoughtfully as he came into the library, a hangdog look on his face.

"You do believe that I didn't have any idea of the details of the curse, don't you?" He wasn't able to meet her eyes.

"Yes." But Spike did have a point: Angel should have looked into it.

"I'm so sorry. I wouldn't have had this happen for the world."

"That's okay. We'll deal." She made a little irritated gesture. This was not the time to talk about their relationship. It was the night of St Vigeous. She should be preparing herself for one of the biggest fights of her life. She didn't have time to be distracted with emotional angst right now. She had to be Buffy the Slayer, not Buffy the girl. She bit her lip. "Uh, Angel, maybe this isn't exactly the right time..."

He gave her the soulful, puppydog eyes. "We have to talk about this, Buffy."

"God, do I agree! But why today? What have you been doing for the last couple of days?"

"Thinking. A lot of thinking. Buffy, I can't stay here."


"I love you. We love each other. But if we keep on seeing each other every day, who knows what might happen. The temptation...I have to leave Sunnydale."

If Spike hadn't told her of Angel's leaving in the other reality, she would have been completely devastated. But she didn't feel anything at all. She just felt totally numb. It was almost as if something in her had been expecting this, had been prepared for this, that this Angel would also decide to leave.

"You don't want to be with me," she said slowly.

"Being with you, seeing you, touching you, but not...I'm not strong enough for that, Buffy."

It should have sounded like the storybook romance, all Romeo and Juliet, not being able to keep away from each other, unable to restrain their Great Passion. Why didn't it? Why did it just sound lame?

"I have to leave Sunnydale. It's the only solution. And I've been thinking. The two of us, this freakshow of ours..." Buffy's brows rose at his phrasing. "It's all wrong. You shouldn't be involved with a vampire anyway. You should have a normal life. You deserve to be married, have kids..."

Here it came. And why did it sound like a lame excuse, a justification for abandonment? She watched him as he walked around, talking, talking, waving his hands, looking her with tragic, wounded, puppydog eyes. She should have been immensely hurt, she should have been in pain; instead, she just felt fed-up. She didn't have the time for this. She could feel a smouldering rage building up inside her.

She had to put a stop to this before she said something she would regret. She had to have time to think, to process. He had spent days thinking and she hadn't bothered him, knowing he needed the space. But he wasn't giving her the same courtesy. He just came in here and expected her to agree to everything that he had decided, as if she didn't have a mind of her own.

"All right, Angel," she said in a tightly controlled voice. "You've explained your reasoning. Now I need time to think."

"Yes, of course." He looked surprised. She didn't know whether it was because she seemed to believe that he wouldn't give her time to think, or because she actually wanted time to think, didn't just agree with him automatically. "I understand."

"I'll see you later then, okay?"

He looked taken aback to be dismissed so abruptly. "But, Buffy..."

To her immense relief, Giles came into the library at that moment and stopped short, looking from one to the other of them questioningly.

"Oh, I'm sorry," he said. "Was I interrupting something?"

"Not at all, Giles. Angel was just leaving."

"Uh, yes," said Angel and left reluctantly, looking back at her over his shoulder as he did so.

Giles awkwardly shuffled a pile of books from one side of the counter to the other. "You and Angel must have a lot to talk about. I'm sorry I walked in on you like that."

"Angel's thinking of leaving Sunnydale," she said abruptly.

"Oh!" Giles shot her an apprehensive look. "That actually might not be such a bad idea, Buffy."

"I thought you might say that." She compressed her lips together grimly. "But let's not talk about that now. We've more important things to think about. St Vigeous, remember?"

"Oh, yes, quite." Giles looked pole-axed. "I do agree. But I must say, Buffy, I never expected you to be quite so responsible."

Upset as she was, Buffy still couldn't help smiling. "Don't know about responsible, but the idea of twenty or thirty vamps out for my blood in a couple of hours kinda has to take priority."

"You must be growing up. Well, you are seventeen now. Still, teenagers and their emotional crises," muttered Giles, still amazed.

"Yeah, yeah. Giles, let's concentrate on my not getting killed. Have you thought of anything that might give me an edge?"


"I have. Molotov cocktails. Fire. Vamps are awfully flammable, aren't they?"

"Oh, Good Lord! Of course they are! However did you...?"

"History class."

"You mean you were actually paying attention?" Giles laughed as Buffy gave him a look. The strained lines of tension on his face were easing and he seemed truly enthusiastic about her idea. She hadn't realized how worried he had been until now. "Let's go to my place. I've got some empty bottles there and we can pick up some gasoline on the way."

They collected Willow and Xander as they went. Once they were all at Giles' place, it didn't take long to put the bottles together and pack them carefully into a rucksack.

"Should we come with?" Xander asked, but Buffy shook her head.

"Too dangerous."


"I'll have Spike." She ignored their doubtful glances. "I'd like you all to do me a favor though. They might come after my Mom. Would the three of you mind going over to my place and taking care of her until I get back?"

"Of course we'll do that," Giles nodded. "Buffy, do be careful."

"I will."

Spike had told her where the Anointed One's lair was in the industrial district. She arrived there just before sunset, the rucksack slung over her shoulder and several stakes distributed here and there about her clothing. Spike was already there, leaning against the wall in the shadows.

She liked the way his eyes lit up when he saw her.

"Slayer. Right on time. He'll be sending them out the minute the sun goes down." His gaze went past her, then searched the area behind her. "Where's Angel?"

"Uh..." Angel didn't usually fight the fight with her. He'd turn up out of the shadows to warn her about a problem, but then fade away, leaving her to actually deal with the problem herself. She had never questioned it before, but with Spike frowning like that, she began to wonder.

"Should be here," he muttered. "He knows that the Anointed One's minions will be out in force tonight."

"He may have forgotten all about it. He had other things on his mind when I saw him a couple of hours ago."

"Still brooding, is he?" Spike remarked, both amused and scornful.

"You were right."

"About what, luv?"

"He's going to leave Sunnydale."

"Figures," he muttered. "It's all about getting his rocks off..." He stopped short. "Wait a minute! He told you this today?"

"Yes...Spike! What's the matter?"

He had slammed his clenched fist against the brick wall.

"That wanker! That stupid, selfish, self-absorbed bastard!" He kicked the wall as hard as he could, arms flying out from the force of it. "Today, when you need to be on top of your game! Today, he chooses to drop a bombshell like that on you? That...that...!"

He was spluttering, beyond words.

"Spike, calm down. Spike!" She caught the lapels of his duster and shook him. "It doesn't matter."

He caught her shoulders, his fingers digging into her flesh with the intensity of his emotions.

"Buffy. Buffy, you mustn't think about what he said now. Whatever you're feeling, you've gotta shove it aside. Bury it. You let yourself get distracted, even the least little bit, you're gonna get yourself killed."

"I know. I know." She patted his cheek reassuringly. "I've compartmentalized it. I'm in Slayer mode now. All of that, I'll think about it tomorrow. Right now, all I'm concentrating on is killing some vamps."

"You're sure?"

"I'm sure."

He relaxed under her hands, though his face was still furious and his eyes were blazing.

"And after all that," he muttered, "he doesn't even stick around to help."

"Don't need him. I've got you."

This time his face softened and he smiled. "You'll always have me. But you could still use a little more help."

"I've got a little more help." She showed him the Molotov cocktails and he laughed in surprise.

"Oh, nice idea, Slayer! That should be an equalizer, all right."

"Will you be okay with these?" she asked in sudden concern. "You're just as flammable as those other vamps are."

"Know to duck, don't I, now that you've warned me of them."

"Do you know where the minions are? Are they scattered all over the place or are they all congregated somewhere? These things work best when the target is all bunched together."

"See those big doors at the top of the loading ramp there? They're all milling around behind that, waiting to rush out when the Anointed One gives the word. I can sense them. Toss the bottles in when the doors open and you'll have a great little party going."


He cast an assessing glance at the setting sun. "Almost time. I'm going to go round and see whether I can work my way down to where the boy is. He'll probably keep only one of his most minor minions with him and send his right-hand man to direct the troops. But even if he keeps Absalom with him, I can take that git. The man's a braggart. No sand to him."

"Be careful," she said quickly.

He gave her a vivid, flashing smile. "You too, Slayer."

Spike was still furious, but he did what he had told Buffy to do: shove his emotions down and focus solely on the moment.

He ghosted around the side of the building and found the fire stairs. He slid up them silently and broke open the fire door on the second floor as quietly as he could, then slipped inside. He could hear the chanting coming from the main floor, and the mutter and rustle of the crowd in front of the loading doors. His senses located the Anointed One in a central room, three or four lackeys with him, including Absalom. There were three accesses to that room if one counted the main one. He dropped down to the main floor and glided to the one at the back, directly opposite the loading area. Then he waited.

He knew the time had come when the chanting stopped. Absalom and the other lackeys headed towards the loading doors, leaving only one minion with the boy. He heard the loading doors open and then the crash of glass as Buffy threw the Molotov cocktails in and the screams and the hubbub that resulted. He smashed through the door into the central room.

It was almost too easy. Both the Anointed One and the minion were staring towards where the noise was coming from. He staked the minion with one smooth blow, then turned on the boy.

"Traitor!" the boy was screaming. "Don't you know who I am? I'm the Anointed One, I'm..."

Funny how they always thought who they were mattered.

"You're dust," he said simply and staked the boy with calm efficiency.

The noise at the loading doors changed from anger to panic as the minions felt their link to their master become severed. Absalom came rushing back in horror and Spike took him out with one quick slash before he was expecting it. Spike was sorry about that, because he would have liked a good fight, but he could hear Buffy fighting at the doors and he didn't want to waste time getting to her.

Besides, there was battle enough to keep him more than happy. The main area before the loading doors was in chaos. Some vamps were columns of fire from Buffy's cocktails, blundering about like blazing torches setting their neighbors alight. Others were trying to flee. Others did turn to fight, but those found themselves attacked on two sides, Buffy whaling on them from the front, Spike from the back. They never had a chance.

It wasn't long before every vamp was either dusted or fled.

"Shall we follow them up?" Spike asked, still raring to go, glaring after the last few figures racing pellmell away from the factory.

"Nah. They're all over the place and we'd never catch them. Too few anyway to cause much trouble and we can take care of them over the next couple of weeks. Besides, you're hurt."

He was favoring his knee. He had wrenched it on a kick.

"You're not," he said, smiling. "You're a better fighter than I am, pet."

"Luck." Buffy bent over, her hands on her knees, and blew out a long breath. "Whoo, that was a good fight."

"Yeah," said Spike with satisfaction. "That was fun!"

"It really was."

They leaned back companionably side by side against a table, catching their breaths amidst the piles of vamp dust while the last lingering fires sputtered out.

"It shouldn't be," she said suddenly.

"Shouldn't be what?"


He squinted at her sideways, frowning in puzzlement. "Why not?"

"Killing shouldn't be fun."

His brows rose. "You're the Slayer. You're supposed to kill vamps."

"But I shouldn't be enjoying it."

"Ohh." It was a long sound of comprehension. "It should all be grim duty. You should just be chopping them down like firewood. No emotion involved at all."

She gave him a look. "You know what I mean. There's something intrinsically wrong with enjoying it."

"You're the Slayer. That's what you are, that's what you do and you're good at it. It's like an artist enjoying painting or a musician enjoying playing music."

"Killing...is different."

"You don't enjoy killing, Slayer. You enjoy fighting. You enjoy winning. You're a warrior, Slayer. Ask any soldier, anyone who's been in a real war. Most of them don't want to kill. Most of them are shit scared while it's happening. But most of them get a rush out of fighting. Out of winning. Out of being the one to survive." He reached out and tapped her breastbone lightly. "That's what in there, Slayer. It's not a killing instinct. It's a competitive instinct. That's why you like sparring with me so much. Testing yourself. Stretching the limits. You enjoy that just as much as you enjoyed winning today."

She did.

"Yeah," he said softly. "And afterwards? Battle's over and you're on this high. Yes! You made it. You're alive. And you want to celebrate being alive. You're hungry. You wanna eat, you wanna get drunk, you wanna fuck. Life affirmation, you see?"

She hadn't thought of it that way, had always been embarrassed about being aroused after a fight.

"Warrior. Be proud of it, Slayer. You're a good one. One of the best. Killing's not what it's all about. Fighting and winning is. Enjoy it."

She felt as if he had lifted a weight off her shoulders, all those qualms and doubts that Giles with all his talk of duty and obligation had never been able to remove.

He was on his feet, moving deeper into the factory, exploring.

"Is that why you like fighting?" she asked, following him. "It makes you feel alive?"

"Strong sensations. Yeah." He grinned at her over his shoulder. "Strong appetites. Of any kind."

The scarred eyebrow quirked meaningfully and she gave him a look. He laughed.

"Y'know," he said, looking around, "the Annoying One's got this place set up nicely. Shouldn't be too hard to fix up."

Her brows rose. "You're thinking of moving in here?"

"Need a place to stay. This is convenient. Water and electricity already laid on. Just have to add a few things. Fridge, telly, bed. Why not?"

"It's awful big for one person."

"I'll just carve out an area for myself. Leave the rest like a buffer zone. Anyone comes in here will think it's just an abandoned factory. Won't go deeper. Certainly not without my knowing."

"Need any help?"

He smiled at her. "Would you? I'd like that. Can start on it tomorrow. But tonight..." He moved towards her suddenly in a flash of vampire speed. "We did good tonight. Wanna celebrate?"

Her breath caught. He was standing only inches away, not touching her in the slightest. But she could feel his breath against her face, his parted lips moving teasingly a millimeter away from her skin, from her temple down over her cheek to hover over her mouth. She was intensely aware of him, of his body so close to hers, of the cavern of his open mouth, the half-lidded flame-blue eyes watching her, smiling and intent at the same time.

"Celebrate how?" She wasn't ready for the kind of celebration he had talked about before.

"I was thinking maybe..." The scarred eyebrow rose. "Dancing at the Bronze? Why? What did you think I meant?"

He was laughing at her, his tongue curled against the edge of his teeth. So tempting.

She hit his shoulder lightly with her clenched fist and he did laugh. "Stop it."

"Wouldn't mind the other kind of celebration if you'd prefer it." His hand closed lightly over her fist and opened it, pressed her hand into the hollow of his shoulder. "Anytime. Just say the word, Slayer. Oh," he breathed," say it."

She was so aware of the hard muscle and bone beneath the leather, of his body vibrating sinuous and powerful within his clothes, the scent of the cool flesh so close to hers. He was doing wonders for her self-esteem, bruised after that earlier encounter with Angel.

But she didn't want to use him just to recover her amour propre. And what did it suggest about her that a week ago she had been thinking about sleeping with Angel and here she was not just thinking about but seriously wanting to sleep with Spike?

Too much coming at her too fast. She needed time to think.

"The Bronze," she said firmly and he sighed, accepting it with a faint, rueful smile. She saw from his eyes that he had never really hoped for the other. He was accustomed to getting nothing and even acceptance as small as allowing him to come with her to the Bronze gave him pleasure. It moved her deeply. "The other? Maybe...later."

His face went still and his gaze came up, eyes widening. "What?"

She leaned her forehead against his. "Maybe. I don't know. Need time."

"Take all you want." He raised her fingertips to his lips and kissed them lightly. "No hurry."

"And if I say no?" she asked, thinking of Angel.

"Still be here, pet. Not going to go away. Just want to be with you. You'd have to dust me." He grinned faintly. "And probably I'd still come back, what with the PTB and all."

She hoped so. She realized that she didn't want anything to happen to him.

It was all too much.

"C'mon," she said. "The Bronze. I want to go home first though. I can't leave Mom and the Scoobies in suspense for hours. You don't mind if Willow and Xander come with us, do you?"

"To the Bronze? If you like. Don't mind Red. Whelp's another story. You realize he's gonna have a fit that I'm with you lot?"

"He's just going to have to deal," she said firmly.

Everyone fell on her, shouting, when she walked in the front door. She hugged them all, then told them the whole story in detail, laughing in triumph.

"...Then Spike killed the Anointed One and they all fell apart. I took them from the front and Spike took them from the back and we dusted the lot of them. Sweet," she finished.

Joyce walked over and kissed Spike's cheek. "Thank you, Spike."

He looked both astonished and embarrassed. "Was nothing," he muttered. "My job." He looked askance at the hand Giles was holding out.

"I do believe that now," said Giles and they shook hands awkwardly.

Xander suddenly clued in to the fact that Spike was standing in Buffy's livingroom. "Wait a minute! He's in the house! You let him in the house?"

Everybody groaned.

"Where have you been for the last half hour, Xander?" asked Willow, exasperated. "Can't you see now that he's helping Buffy, not trying to kill her?"

Spike grinned at her and she blushed. "Thanks, Red."

"Spike is always welcome in this house," said Joyce firmly, then gave Xander a stern look. "And if you keep this up, Xander, you might not be."

"Go, Mom." Buffy jumped to her feet. "How about the four of us go over to the Bronze? I want to celebrate. No school tomorrow," she said quickly as Joyce started to open her mouth. "I'm just buzzing with energy and I've got to burn it off somehow."

"The four of us?" Xander growled, scowling resentfully at Spike's inclusion.

"Feel free not to come, whelp."

"I'm coming! Someone needs to keep an eye on you," he muttered under his breath as they left the house.

A little while later, he was getting way too much of an eyeful for comfort.

"Look at the way he's got her plastered all over him," he snarled furiously. "He's holding her way too tight. You couldn't get a sheet of paper between them."

"They're just dancing, Xander." Willow rolled her eyes.

"Dance floor's not supposed to be X-rated."

Spike caught sight of Xander glaring at him, said something to Buffy, then quite deliberately bent and ran his open mouth down the vein in her neck. Willow had to hold Xander back by main force to keep him from charging over there.

"For Pete's sake, Xander! Can't you see that they're both laughing? He's pulling your chain."

"First Angel. Now this Captain Peroxide." Xander was fuming. "What is it with Buffy and vampires?"

"Maybe that they're majorly hot?" Willow shrugged when Xander glared at her. "Spike is, Xand. There's no denying it. I'll talk to her, okay? In the meantime, just calm down. You are so not helping."

The music changed to a faster beat. Buffy and Spike left the dance floor, then Spike headed over to the bar.

"There's my chance," said Willow. "Give us a few minutes girl-talk, Xand."

"Okay. Long as I don't have to go anywhere near him," Xander muttered and headed away in exactly the opposite direction from Spike.

Willow sat down beside Buffy. "So."

Buffy gave her an amused glance. "Lecture time, Will?"

"Question time." Willow's brows were up. "What about Angel?"

"Angel has announced that he's leaving Sunnydale."

Willow's jaw dropped. "Oh! That's...that's...well, that's, uh, noble of him," she finished, recovering herself.

"Isn't it."

Willow's eyes narrowed. "You're not upset. Or rather, you're angry."

"Yes, I am." Buffy bit her lip. "Is leaving noble or cowardly, Will?"

Willow thought it over. "I don't know," she said honestly.

"We have to avoid temptation, it seems."

"But you're not finding it that tempting anymore," said Willow shrewdly. "Or should I say, there's another temptation."

"And that one's looking really more yummy by the day."

"Have to agree," said Willow, looking appreciatively towards Spike heading back to them with a beer and two soft drinks in his hands. Buffy laughed. "Sure he's not rebound guy, Buff?"

"Don't think so, but that's what I have to find out."

"Hey, Red." Spike set the drinks down on the table and sorted them out. "Thought you might like one too."

Willow blinked down at the drink he set in front of her and realized that it was the kind she liked. "How did you...? Thank you. That was very thoughtful."

Buffy raised an eyebrow significantly at her and Willow nodded back, smiling. Spike was looking at the band on stage, which was Dingoes Ate My Baby.

"That guitarist on the left there. The one with the green hair. He's been looking at you all night, Red."

"What?" Willow jumped a mile, then turned to stare.

"Goes to your school, doesn't he?"

"I...I...Yes, I think so."

"Guy's got good taste. Wanna dance, Slayer?" he asked as the music segued to a slow dance.

"Sure." She moved into his arms as he drew her onto the dance floor. "Okay, Spike. What are you doing?"

"Thought she could do better than the whelp."


"What? Whelp doesn't give her a thought and that guy looks interested. No harm in calling her attention to it. Pretty girl, Red. All she needs is more confidence and that guy might give it to her."

She looked at him in amusement. "Are you trying to fix all our lives, Spike?"

"Only the ones I care about. Which are you, Red and Joyce. Not the others, unless they affect you, or I like ‘em," he shrugged.

"Well, that's honest." She glanced down at his leg. "How's your knee holding up?"

"Can't do the fast dances. But the slow ones are fine." His arms tightened about her waist, pressing her to him, and he grinned down at her, scarred eyebrow quirking. "Real fine."

She laughed breathlessly, her arms around his neck, leaning into him. He felt wonderful, his body moving against hers, his breath against her temple, all that cool hard muscle wrapped around her.

"I think I agree."

Spike was in heaven. He had never had this before tonight, never danced with her unless they were fighting, never felt her leaning sweet and compliant against him, her body moving with his unless it was violent, her arms around his neck, her temple against his jaw, her breath soft against his skin. He dropped his face into her hair, his eyes closed, breathing in her scent, memorizing the feel of her in case he would never have any more than this.

He was happy. Everything seemed to be working out. Before he came to Sunnydale, his plans had always worked just fine; once he came here, everything had gone wrong. Maybe because of Buffy; maybe because they had been just the wrong plans. Now, for once, things were going right.

He wasn't taking anything for granted though. He didn't dare be reckless, not when it could affect Buffy. He would have to go at things carefully, cautiously, step by step over the next few weeks.

He needed money and he needed safety. To take care of Buffy, he had to stay in existence and he had to stay in Sunnydale. Bank accounts that he could tap did exist, accounts that he had set up to take care of him and Dru over the years. But he dared not touch those. That would draw the other Spike's attention, having funds drawn out of his accounts in a place called Sunnydale. He didn't want Sunnydale to come to the other Spike's notice in any way.

By playing poker at Willy's, he had already parlayed the small amount of cash that Whistler had gifted him with into a halfway decent stake. But he needed serious funding. The Gem of Amara and the treasure lying around it was the solution. This time, not for the Gem but for the treasure. He had enough from poker to bribe a couple of demons into digging it out for him and there was a dealer he knew, a demon of course, who would buy all the stuff. He wouldn't get full value for it, but, hey, it was found money anyway. He'd put it into a bank account with both his name and Buffy's on it.

Joyce's medical bills had wiped out her insurance in the other reality. Buffy had had to leave college, had to work at the Doublemeat greasepit, flipping burgers for minimum wage. And the Council of Wankers hadn't lifted a finger to help. They'd sat there in that fancy building of theirs, drawing their expensive salaries and living in their expensive houses, and hadn't given one penny to help the person who was doing the actual work. All they would have had to do was fire just one of their numerous flunkies and give that person's salary to Buffy instead. But nooo, they wouldn't do that. Well, it wasn't going to happen this time around. He would make sure that Joyce didn't die, but he'd also make sure that the money was there if it were needed.

Had to make himself legit though before he could open a bank account. He knew a demon who could forge him some papers.

And then the Gem. He was not going to use it this time. No one was going to know about it, except perhaps Buffy. He would have loved to have seen Giles' face when the pillock saw him walking in the sunlight. The sod would probably have a heart attack. Problem was that if word got out, every vampire in the world would be after him, wanting it. It was dangerous. He didn't want to have it taken away from him, as Buffy had the last time, didn't want it falling into the wrong hands. He thought of an invulnerable Angelus, for instance, and shuddered. If Angel got the Gem, that possibility would always exist, Angel's soul being so shaky in him.

No, the ring was going to go into a lockbox at the bank, to be taken out only when there was an apocalypse, as an absolute last resort.

Things were going well. He and Buffy went on patrol every night and it was fun, killing demons with her and sparring with her. He tried to make it as fun for her as possible and it was working; she was enjoying herself, just as Whistler and the PTB had wanted. After patrol was over, she'd come help him convert the factory to his own uses and that was fun in itself. Joyce had become resigned to Buffy's coming in at all hours of the night and had even fallen into the habit of inviting Spike to have dinner with them before he and Buffy went on patrol. Spike found himself loving the dinners, the three of them together, talking and laughing. It was the closest he had come to having family for the last hundred and twenty years and he cherished every moment.

He couldn't remember being this happy in years. He kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. For something to go disastrously wrong. But nothing happened. Even Angel didn't seem to be around or Buffy wasn't mentioning it if he was. He was still in Sunnydale though, Spike could sense that, probably holed up in his apartment, brooding. In his place, Spike would have been trying to find some way to get around the curse, trying to find some way to anchor his soul and make sure it wouldn't disappear if he slept with Buffy. That certainly would have been Spike's top priority if he were Angel. Maybe that was what Angel was doing. But Jenny Calendar said that he hadn't been around to see her and she would have been the first person Spike would have gone to for help.

He cherished no hopes that Buffy would really forget about Angel. She hadn't in the other reality and he was certain that she wouldn't in this one. Oh, there was this heat between her and Spike and they both felt it. And maybe she would give in to it and maybe she wouldn't. But in the end, she would never feel towards him the way she felt towards Angel. He understood that. He flirted with her and teased her and they were happy together. But he knew how fragile and evanescent his happiness was, held it like a soap bubble delicately in his hands, waiting for that inevitable moment when it would pop and vanish.

What he didn't know was that Buffy was watching him intently. She knew because he had told her that the other Buffy had wanted nothing to do with him. The other Buffy had been hung up on Angel, on being normal, on the soul. But she wasn't the other Buffy. She didn't have the baggage that the other Buffy had brought with her and she could see him clearly. And what she saw, she liked.

Angel always kept himself to himself; she had never been able to learn much about him. The only thing Spike ever tried to keep to himself was his pain. Everything else was all out there, for the world to see.

She was learning a lot from him. He was a superlative streetfighter, never letting himself become straightjacketed into any planned series of moves, staying always fluid and open in both offense and defense, adapting to everything that was thrown against him and using everything around him to its fullest advantage. Giles was always telling her to think, think, and Angel backed that up, never acting on impulse. Spike just threw himself headlong into things, gleefully and recklessly. Potentially, it was a recipe for disaster; but at the same time he never stopped looking for things that he could turn to his advantage and he usually found them. Something in her responded to that. She never liked plans cut in stone and this fluid, never static, always adaptable method of operation was something she could relate to and appreciate.

He threw himself into things with relish and complete enjoyment. That spoke to her. Ever since becoming a Slayer, she had felt herself burdened, trapped. Allowing herself to enjoy life had seemed somehow like she was not doing her duty. Spike's enjoyment was enormously liberating. Why not have fun? asked Spike, flinging himself into battle, yelling with glee. Why not enjoy the moment?

Why not, indeed?

And then there was the other side to Spike, the side that watched her as if she were the center of his universe. That would linger on her every move as if he were memorizing them. That would light his eyes into a blaze of heat and tenderness at once, soften his face the moment he saw her, make him so completely vulnerable to her. The power that she had over him was touchingly evident, was enormously flattering, was...addictive. She could ask anything of him and he would try to do it. For her. She knew it.

She wanted to...She wanted...

"Almost done," said Spike. It was a Saturday afternoon and they had managed to get a lot accomplished, the major work already done over the last couple of weeks and only the little things left to do.

The factory was still a warren of alternating wide open areas and small cubicled rooms, all still dusty, messy and apparently abandoned. In the center, however, they had carved out a protected area like a nest—bedroom, livingroom, a proper bathroom with a shower stall instead of a tub, and alcoves for a small fridge and laundry. It was spare, but practical, and he was already bringing things in to make it more comfortable—rugs, candles, books, a television. There were security cameras set up to scan the entrances to the factory; he was surprisingly comfortable with modern technology.

"Most vamps aren't," he agreed when she questioned him about it. "But I've always liked to stay ahead of the game. Safer, and more fun. Good protection against humans and demons. Best protection against vamps though would have been to have you own the place. I looked into that, but the title here is so messed up that straightening it out would have drawn more attention than it's worth."

"Satin sheets?" she said now. He had been sleeping on a cot in one of the small cubicles in the back. Now he had a kingsized bed set up and she was helping him put the sheets on. "Sheesh. Talk about having sybaritic tastes. Should have gone for silk then while you were at it." She raised a sarcastic eyebrow.

"Silk has to be drycleaned," he said with a perfectly straight face. "Satin doesn't."

She rolled her eyes and he laughed. "Oh, come on."

"Well, I like to sleep naked and this feels nice."

The thought of him naked on the sheets brought the heat up into her face. She ducked her head to hide her blush and found herself wondering what he would actually look like naked. She watched him under her lashes as he turned away to get the pillows. He wasn't wearing his duster and she could see his body moving in his tight T-shirt and jeans, remembered how those hard, supple muscles had felt against her when they fought or danced. Oh, yeah, he'd be gorgeous.

It was so damn tempting. She wanted...She wanted...

She bent and ran a hand over the slippery surface of the sheets to hide another blush.

"Try it," he said, amused.

She gave him a look, then laughed, kicked off her sandals and flopped back on the bed, throwing her arms out and spreadeagling comfortably.

"You're right. It does feel nice."

He didn't say anything, just stood there, looking down at her. A muscle jumped diagonally across his flat cheek as his jaw clenched, and the bones of his face were suddenly very visible in strain.


"I..." He drew a little, sharp breath, his eyes darkening as the pupils dilated. "You'd better get up, Slayer."

She frowned, puzzled. "What's wrong?"

"You'd better get up...or you'll find me on top of you, yeah?"


She scrambled to her feet, then stopped short, thinking, ‘And what would be so wrong with that?' She wanted it. Suddenly she wanted it very much.

He was turning away, his lips parted on a shuddering breath and his hand clenched so tightly at his side that the knuckles showed white. She could hear that harsh, painful intake of his breath.

"Maybe...I want that," she said.

He jerked to a stop and looked around at her, incredulous. "What?"

"Maybe I want you on top of me." She was smiling now.

"Buffy!" His eyes flared wide with passion and tenderness and heat. He made an uncontrolled movement towards her, then stopped. "Buffy. Do you know what you're doing?"

"Yes. Want you."

"Oh, God."

His hands caught her head and then he was kissing her over and over again, devouring her mouth desperately, despairingly. She fell against him, her knees turning to water. She was drowning in him, the taste of him, the feel of him. His arms were tight around her now, crushing her to him, and his body was hard and urgent against hers.

He tore his mouth away. "Buffy, are you sure? Be sure, because even a little more of this and I won't be able to stop."

"I'm sure. And, hey, there's a real bed," she murmured. "Not on top of a picnic table in the park. Wasn't that what you said?"

"Oh, God." He shuddered as she wound her arms around his neck and the movement pressed her even more intimately against him, their bodies rubbing together. She shuddered too. "You're trembling."

"Nervous, not scared."

"Oh, Christ. It's your first time. Buffy, are you sure you want your first time to be with me?"

"Do you...care for me?"

He dropped his forehead against hers. His eyes were blazing with heat and adoration, intense and helpless at once. The way he was looking at her made her feel so special, as if she meant the world to him.

"I love you. God, I love you so much."

"Want it," she whispered with resolution. "Want you."

His kiss was so forceful it bent her back over his arm. She felt as if she were floating on air, giddy with pleasure and desire. He pulled his mouth away and slid it down her throat. It was a new sensation to her, so sweet that she made a little inarticulate hum of delight in her throat. He picked her up suddenly and laid her on the bed, then started to draw away. She caught his T-shirt with a little sound of protest and pulled at him, unwilling to lose the feel of his body against hers even for a minute.

"Gonna do this right," he said, leaning on his straight arms over her. "Want you to enjoy it."

He kicked off his Doc Martens and yanked off his T-shirt. Even seeing him in that tight T-shirt, she hadn't realized how ripped he was under it. Grecian statue time. Pale, smooth, alabaster skin, copper-tinged nipples, taut six-pack. Beautiful. She found all her courage, pulled off her tank top and threw it away.

"No, don't," he said and dropped onto the bed beside her, leaning over her. "I want to do it. Gonna take my time. Want it to be good for you."

He bent and ran his lips over the curve of her breast where it swelled above the cup of her bra. She shivered. It was already good for her. The way he kissed, the long strokes of that sinful, knowledgeable tongue against hers, the slide of his lips against her breast, she had never felt anything like that before, had never been with anyone so experienced and knowing. The fumbling attempts of the boys at Hemery High School all seemed just ridiculous now, had never gotten anywhere; and Angel had never done more than kiss her, had never moved lower than her collarbone for all Spike's mocking remarks about south of the border. This was all new—scary and wonderful at once.

She realized suddenly that he had eased her bra away and she was naked above the waist. Her hands flew to cover herself.

"No. Let me see. Let me look," he whispered. "God, you're beautiful!"

Her confidence came back and her hands lifted.

"So are you," she murmured, stroking tentatively down his chest. His skin was cool and satin smooth under her fingertips. His nipples hardened when she brushed them accidentally with her thumbs. "Oh..!"

His hands had drifted across her breasts, a light touch, exploring, teasing. She trembled and gasped. He smiled down at her, then bent. His mouth closed over her right nipple, suckling on it.

"Oh, God!" A lightning bolt of pure pleasure shocked through her. She had never felt anything like this before and her body arched involuntarily to his mouth and her head fell back against the pillow.

"Just getting started, luv."

If this was the start, then she was going to die before he finished. His mouth was moving from one breast to the other, tongue licking across and around her nipples, pressing them against the roof of his mouth; and his hands were sliding everywhere across her torso, stroking, kneading, caressing. She was drowning in sensation, her head flung back, eyes closed, nails digging into his shoulders.

"Oh, God, Spike!" she gasped and felt him smile as his mouth slid along her ribcage.

"Gonna take your jeans off, pet, okay?"

"Anything." She didn't care as long as he kept on doing what he was doing to her.

He unzipped her jeans, then hooked his thumbs into the sides, pulling both them and her thong downwards. His mouth followed them, sliding along the top of her leg down to her ankle. Then her jeans were gone and he was working his way back up. He bent her knee and pushed her leg outward gently, then his lips were nibbling up her inner thigh.


"Think you might like this, luv."

"Oh, no, wait..." She had never even thought of this, too focused on the scary thought of having him inside her, of losing her virginity.

Then his lips and tongue were on her clit. Her whole body bucked with the sensation.

"OhmiGod, ohmiGod!"

She was thrashing helplessly now, arching and writhing. He had to put a hand across her stomach to hold her down. She caught at his head, then flung her hands out and clutched at the bedclothes, fingers digging into the mattress, unable to keep still under the exquisitely pleasurable torment of what he was doing to her.


Then her climax hit her and her brain whited out. She screamed and fell endlessly.

She came back to herself to find him holding her close, his lips against her forehead and his free hand stroking her hair.

"Oh, God, Spike, that was...that was..."

He smiled down at her, his eyes soft with pleasure at her pleasure, looking at her as if she were the most glorious, precious thing on earth, when he was the one who had done all the work. He had kicked off his own jeans and she could feel him naked against her side, his erection hard against her hip.

She pushed a little away from him and looked down curiously. He was bigger than she had thought and she bit her lip a little nervously before putting a hand down to explore. He hissed when she touched him and caught her hand to stop her.

"Do that a little later, luv. If you touch me now, I'm gonna come for sure and we've still the main event to go."

"Oh, God, I don't think I can." She was just limp and spent with pleasure.

"Slayer stamina, remember? Oh, I think you can." He bent to kiss her, his hands sliding over her. "I think you might want to."

She didn't know whether it was her Slayer stamina or his skill, but it wasn't long before he had her panting and writhing again, breathing "Oh! Oh!" into his mouth as her fingertips stroked his face.

But she had learned from him and besides she wanted to touch him too. Her hands ran his chest and shoulders and back; she bit his lip and then his neck and felt with triumph the racking shudder that went through him and smiled when she heard him groan.

"Vixen," he muttered and moved full on top of her. They both moaned at the contact, bodies rubbing against each other, hungry for each other.

"Oh, yes," she sighed, arching against him, then felt the unaccustomed pressure at her entrance, the beginning intrusion, the size.

"Gonna hurt, pet."

"I know."

He grinned suddenly. "Kind of like tearing off a bandaid. How do you like that, luv? One rip or a series of agonizing jerks?"

"Idiot." But she laughed involuntarily. He could make even this moment fun. "Slayer here. I can take it. One rip."

"Brace yourself."

It hurt, but it didn't hurt as badly as she had thought it would, probably because he was controlling himself tightly. There was the inexorable pressure, then the moment of bright pain and then he was all the way in, filling her completely. He waited, letting her adjust, get used to the size of him within her.

"Oh, God," she muttered. "That feels...that feels... so good."

He stretched her completely, to the point that she thought she was going to split in half. But it felt perfect, it felt so right. He made her feel full. He made her feel complete.

"God, the way you feel," he groaned. "So tight. So...Gotta move, kitten. Gotta..."


He was pulling out of her and thrusting back in again, going all the way in and just that little bit further, shifting a little with every thrust.

"Oh, God!"

He had found some place inside her that sent a lightning bolt of unbearable ecstasy through her. Her whole body bucked against him; her hands clawed his back.

"Oh, yeah," he purred, pistoning into her now steadily and with surety, hitting that spot on every thrust, twisting his hips a little at the end of every stroke so that he hit her clit on every thrust as well, driving her relentlessly higher and higher.

She lost control of herself, her brain whiting out in utter, unendurable pleasure. But her body knew what to do, instinctively finding his rhythm, thrusting up as he thrust down, arching and writhing mindlessly under him, clenching upon him, making him gasp and shudder helplessly himself, his eyes closed in ecstasy, surrendered completely to her and to this moment of agonizing delight.

She felt him pulse within her, fell over the edge herself, fireworks going off in her brain.

Chapter #4 - Chapter 4
Chapter 4

Buffy woke up in a strange bed. She blinked at burgundy satin sheets for a moment, then memory came back and she smiled. She stretched luxuriously, brushing against a cool, strong body behind her, then rolled over. Spike was watching her, leaning his head on one bent arm. His face was very still, expressionless except for the tiny frown in his eyes and the tension in his faintly compressed lips.

"Have you been watching me all this time?" she asked.

"Pretty much."

Spike hadn't let himself sleep, hadn't wanted to lose a moment of this. Her body relaxed and compliant against his, the softness of her hair against his face, the scents of their two bodies intermingled with the scent of sex, her face calm and sweet not angry and upset, surrendered to him. It was too precious to miss a moment of it. He cherished every second, stored it up in his memory, not knowing how long it would be until it was only a memory, not knowing how long he would be permitted the reality.

He watched her now tensely as she blinked out of sleep, braced for the moment when he would lose it all.

"I wish I'd stayed awake," she said.


Buffy smiled. "Could have watched you."

His eyes widened.

She rolled completely over to face him, snuggled into him, sighing with content, her face in his throat. "Mmm. You feel so good."

He made an odd, little sound against her hair, a wordless catch of breath, involuntary and astonished. She drew her head back to look at him.

"What is it?"

"Nothing. Surprised, is all."

She realized suddenly that he had been expecting rejection. Was that because of the other reality's Buffy? Was that what that Buffy had done? She honestly couldn't understand why.

She pulled his face to hers and kissed him. He shuddered in her arms, then all the tension ran out of him and he relaxed against her, his body fitting to hers and his arms holding her close.

"Buffy," he whispered. "Buffy."

They kissed slowly, luxuriously, relishing the moment.

"Is it always like this?" she murmured. "So... perfect."


"Making love."

"Oh, pet." He leaned his forehead against hers, his eyes closed. "Only with you. Only with you."

She smiled in triumph, ran her hands over his back. "What time is it?"

"About eight."

She sighed. "Not enough time. Mom will be expecting us for dinner."

"Not enough time for what?"

"What do you think?"

He grinned suddenly, his tongue curling behind his teeth. "Always time for a quickie. Could get you off in five minutes. Want me to show you?"

She laughed. "Nuh-uh. Want to take my time. Want to explore. You said I could later."

His breath left him in a little hiss. "Anything you want, luv."

She reached up and pulled a strand of his hair onto his forehead, studied the arrangement with interest. "Bed hair. I like it."

"Are you trying to change the subject?"

"Is it working?" She grinned at him. "We've only got ten minutes and then we've got to get ready to go because otherwise we'll be way late and Mom will start asking questions. And then we've got patrol. But after that, I don't have to be back till two or three in the morning because it's Saturday. So we'll have hours."

He was grinning too. "The way you think has potential. But what do we do with these ten minutes?"

"Cuddle?" She snuggled into him, wrapping her arms around him. "Do you mind? I've heard that guys don't like to do that."

He dropped his face into the curve of her shoulder and said nothing for a long moment. "This guy ... likes it."

They lay there for a while, just enjoying the feel of each other's bodies, lips brushing, hands lightly stroking each other, keeping a low simmer of slow, sweet, lingering sensuality going but not taking it higher. Finally Buffy drew back, sighing regretfully.

"I've got to take a shower."

"Could join you," he murmured. "Save time and water. That's a good thing, right?"

She laughed. "We wouldn't save anything. We wouldn't get out of there for an hour."

She reached for his T-shirt and pulled it on, still a little embarrassed at walking around naked in front of him. He lay watching her, one knee bent and the sheet at the bottom of the bed, naked and beautiful as the dawn and not embarrassed in the slightest. Her gaze ran over him with pleasure.

"Knew I should have gotten a tub," he remarked as she stepped into the shower. "Got the shower for speed and efficiency. But now I think maybe a Jacuzzi tub, yeah? They've got some big enough for two."

"I think the shower will give you ideas enough," she muttered and he laughed.

Once he had taken a shower himself and she had forced him reluctantly into his clothes, they headed back to Revello Drive. He turned out to be a handholder, she found as they walked along, hands comfortably interlinked. He was very tactile, brushing her hair, stroking her arm or her back lightly with his fingertips, constantly and unconsciously touching her. She liked it.

"You're late," Joyce said when they walked in.

"Had a lot to do. And there's...still a lot to be done," Buffy added, with a glinting look of promise at Spike. "We'll be going back after patrol."

"Well, don't be too late getting home, dear," said an unsuspecting Joyce.

"Of course."

Joyce might be unsuspecting, but she was a mother after all and soon realized that something had changed in the dynamic between the two. The talk and the laughter during dinner was exactly the same as it had always been, but there was an intimacy and a warmth in their voices and glances that hadn't been there before and they were both eating onehandedly. Buffy's left arm and Spike's right both hung straight down at their sides and Joyce didn't have to look under the table to know that they were holding hands.

‘Oh, dear,' she thought. A vampire was not what she wanted for her daughter. She wanted Buffy to have a settled life and kids and everything a normal woman should have. Then she thought of what Giles had told her about Slayers, the awful statistic that most Slayers died before they were twenty. Maybe it was right that Buffy should seize the day, find as much happiness as she could before the inevitable.

‘Dust before I let anything hurt her,' Joyce remembered Spike saying. She glanced at him and caught the look of utter devotion in his eyes as he watched Buffy. ‘Well, there were worse things,' she thought. ‘At least he can't get her pregnant.' She had learned that from Rupert Giles' books.

Buffy's cell phone rang just as they were starting to get up from the table.

"Oh, hi, Willow...Oh, really! Sounds like it's moving right along. Give me a moment to get upstairs." Buffy leaned over confidentially to Spike. "You were right about Oz. Girl talk. Ten minutes. Okay?"

He looked amused and nodded.

"Oz?" Joyce asked as Buffy ran upstairs.

"Guy who seems to like Willow."

"Well, good. I never thought Xander gave her the attention she deserves. Or any at all. Would you like a drink? I feel like one, but I don't like to drink alone and you're certainly old enough."

"Yeah, I'm old enough," he grinned. "Thirty year old Glenfiddich!" he exclaimed as she poured him a glass, then set the bottle on the table. "Where did you get that, Joyce?"

"Rupert Giles brought it over. A friend in England sent him some and he knows I like Scotch."

"Been a long time," he said, sipping at it with appreciation. "Felt like celebrating tonight."

"What are you celebrating?"

He jumped a little. "Oh, just having a good day, is all."

Something hit the open back door with a crash: Angel, finding out face first that he had forgotten that he had yet to be invited into this house and smashing into the invisible barrier. Joyce leaped to her feet with a shriek.

"Oh, balls," muttered Spike under his breath and got to his feet himself.

"Joyce, let me in!" Angel was yelling. "That's Spike! He's dangerous!"

"Who are you?" Joyce was stammering. "I don't know you!"

"I'm Angel! Buffy's boyfriend! Spike, tell her!"

"Like I would," Spike muttered.

"But I thought you were Buffy's boyfriend," Joyce said under Angel's yelling about how Spike was a vampire and dangerous.

Spike's lips tightened. "Told you. I don't know what I am."

"Joyce, let me in!" Angel was shouting. "You're not safe with him!"

"I am safe with him," Joyce retorted. "He has never hurt me. I know him. I don't know you."

The time that this had happened in the other reality, Spike had enjoyed himself, laughing and clowning and pretending to bite Joyce. This time he was not enjoying it one bit. Buffy and he had made love, yes, but he didn't know whether he meant any more to her than just good sex. He had wanted just a little more time for her to get used to being with him, hadn't wanted anything to remind her of Angel. And here Angel was, banging on her door, inevitably destroying everything Spike had hoped for.

"Is he her boyfriend?" Joyce asked as Angel raged and shouted outside.

It hurt him to say so, but: "I guess so," he admitted. "But don't you let him in. That should be up to Buffy to decide."

"What the hell's going on?" demanded Buffy, storming into the kitchen. Then she stopped short. "Angel."

She gave Spike an unreadable look.

"Doesn't like my being here," said Spike simply.

"I see. Angel, stop it. Spike's welcome here."

"What's wrong with you, Buffy?" Angel demanded. "Why did you let him in? He's one of the most dangerous vampires around..."

"So are you, Angel."

"I'm different! I..."

"He's a vampire too?" Joyce asked Spike.

He nodded. "Yeah, but he's also got a soul, just like me."

"You don't have a soul," spat Angel. "You just say you do."

"I'm going on patrol," Buffy interrupted. "Come with me, Angel. Bye, Mom. See you later, Spike."

"Well, there was a dismissal if ever I saw one," said Spike under his breath as Angel gave him a triumphant look and stalked after Buffy.

"I'm sure she didn't mean it that way," said Joyce, looking after Buffy and Angel worriedly. "I don't like her going with him. Will she be safe?"

"Oh, he won't hurt her physically. Emotionally is something else. He's an assho...sorry, Joyce, a ponce. Don't worry. I'm going after them. Not gonna let Buffy do a patrol without me for backup."

He didn't trust Angel to be as protective of her as he was.

"Don't let him in without Buffy's sayso," he said quietly to Joyce and she nodded. He downed the rest of his Glenfiddich in one gulp (which was a sacrilege, but he needed the liquid courage right now, his heart felt so heavy), then slipped silently out of the house and ghosted after them.

He stayed far enough back that they wouldn't sense his presence, but close enough to be able to see them and any threat that might appear. Angel was a good fighter, as he had cause to know, but he didn't like the way Angel seemed to think that all the threats of the Hellmouth were Buffy's to deal with alone. He couldn't help remembering Parent-Teacher night in the other reality, for only one instance.

Spike was dangerous. Angel had that right. Spike was deadly and lethal and he had meant to kill Buffy that night. But Angel had run out of the school to fight the lesser threat of the fledglings outside, leaving Buffy and her Mum to Spike's mercies inside. And Spike would have killed Buffy if Joyce hadn't hit him with that fire axe. He had won that fight and his fangs had been at Buffy's neck. Some protector Angel had been.

He could just make them out in the distance. Angel was talking nonstop and Buffy was walking along with her hands in her pockets and her shoulders defensively hunched, not saying a word. But she was listening.

From the looks of things, Spike was pretty well shot down already.

Well, he had had his night. And that had been more than he had hoped for, more than he deserved. And it had been a perfect night, with nothing to spoil it, nothing to leave a bitter taste in his mouth. He could hold the memory of that night, every moment of it, pristine and cherished to warm his dead heart. Only one thing could have made it better. But that he knew he would never have.

He dusted a vamp who had slipped around the preoccupied Slayer but failed to notice him following, then checked to see where the two of them were. It looked like they were heading back towards Revello Drive.

He followed them until he saw Buffy step onto the porch, then turned away. He didn't want to see Angel invited into the house.

Back at the factory, he slumped into an armchair and turned on the telly, flipping unseeingly through channels, then turned the set off and flung the remote away. Sleep would keep him from thinking, but sleep wouldn't come even though he was tired, having been up throughout the day when he normally would have been sleeping. He sat there for a while, chainsmoking and sipping at one carefully measured glass of JD. More booze than that would have helped, but it took massive quantities to turn off his brain, and he wasn't going to risk being out of his head when Buffy might need him. He wasn't going to screw up in any way this time.

After an hour or so, he took off his boots and went and lay down on the bed, still fully clothed. The bed smelled of her and him and sex. He wondered how long it would take for the scent to fade away. He hoped it never would, but like all his hopes this too he knew would be futile.

He was still wide awake, staring at the ceiling when he heard footsteps at the factory doors. He came to his feet fast, then thumped back down in shock on the foot of the bed when Buffy came flying in.

"Buffy! I wasn't expecting you."

"Didn't I say I'd see you later? It took forever to get rid of Angel. I finally had to slam the door in his face and then he hung around the yard forever and then I had to make sure that he was really gone before I could come here. God! Does that man ever listen to anybody else but himself?"

"Uh, not usually." It sounded to his dazed brain as if she were mad at Angel. Which was a good thing. A very good thing. "What did he say to you?"

"Well, basically he went on and on about what," she made air quotes with her fingers, "an evil, duplicitous killer William the Bloody was. So I said that Angelus was a lot worse. Then he said it wasn't the same thing because he wasn't Angelus any more now, he had a soul. So I said you had a soul. Then he said you were lying. So I told him about Jenny's test. And he said Jenny was an incompetent because it was all just a load of crap."

Spike bit his lip to hide a grin since the Slayer didn't look as if she were in the mood for humor right now. She looked completely fed-up. Way to go, Angel.

"And he said all of this over and over, like I would finally get it through my stupid head if he only said it enough times. So I finally told him if he kept on about it I was going to scream. So then he said I was a silly, irresponsible child."

Big mistake. But then a two hundred and forty-two year old vampire who had always had his own way about everything would take that attitude towards anyone who disagreed with him.

"He always tells me what to do," she fumed. "He always thinks he knows better than me about everything."

Sounded like Angel hadn't done himself the least little bit of good tonight. Spike rejoiced, but for once had the sense to keep his mouth tightly shut.

"Leaving everything else aside," she said, "I like you a lot better than I like him."

Which wasn't everything he wanted, but was a lot more than he had ever expected. The Buffy of his reality would never have said or felt that.

"‘Preciate that, luv."

She looked at him narrowly. "You really thought that I wouldn't come tonight. That he'd turn me against you."

"Yes," he said simply.

"Silly vampire. Don't you know I make up my own mind?"

"And have you?" Then bit his lip because he hadn't meant to ask that question, too scared of what the answer might be.

"Still working things out here." She came and stood between his knees, smiling, her hands on his shoulders. He put his arms lightly around her waist, unable to believe that she was really here. "You could try persuading me."


She brushed her parted lips against his, teasing. "You're very good at persuasion."

"Not at that!" He drew a harsh breath. "Sorry, luv. Can't joke about that. Making love with you. That's just me and you, yeah? Nothing else. No other agenda."

"It matters that much to you," she said quietly.

"I love you. It matters. Look, I've been there, pet. Thinking I can make someone love me if the sex is good enough. Had it blow up in my face. Should have known better. Won't make that mistake again. Not asking anything of you, yeah? Just this moment. Just that you be with me in this moment. Just that you want me. In this moment. Not asking for more."

Buffy looked down at the pain in his face. One day she was going to make him tell her about that. But not now. Not when the pain was so raw. That would be like putting a rough hand on an open wound. She took his upturned, vulnerable face in her hands and kissed him.

"I want you," she said softly.

His arms tightened so fiercely about her that she felt their bones would fuse together. Then he was drawing her down on the bed. They lay there, wrapped in each other's arms, kissing slowly, sensually.

He stroked her shirt and bra away, lips sliding over her breasts, then sat up to pull his T-shirt off and kick off his jeans. He drew her jeans off, then settled down beside her again. She wrapped her arms around his sides and rolled him over until he was on his back. He laughed a little, breathlessly.

"Wanna drive, pet?"

"Wanna explore. You said I could."

He looked up at her and spread his arms out in a gesture of surrender, his eyes soft. "Anything you want."

She leaned over him, smiling, running her hands over him, working her way down his torso. He made an inarticulate sound of pleasure and pushed himself up on his elbows to watch what she was doing, then caught his breath when she abruptly changed direction and raked her nails up his inner thighs.

"Well, look at that," she remarked, running her hand up and down his shaft and interestedly watching him swell and thicken. "You're so easy to get all worked up."

He grinned. "Never said I wasn't. Just have to look at you, pet, never mind this."

"Oh, well, I'll stop then."

"No, don't stop," he said quickly and they both laughed. "Wouldn't dream of interfering with your research."

She was playing with his balls now, fascinated by his reactions. She could hear his breath getting harsher and faster. "Getting to you, aren't I?"

"Oh, yeah." He shifted his weight to one elbow, freeing his other hand to slide up her ribcage and drift across her breasts. She purred and pushed against his palm, then caught his wrist and pulled his hand away.

"Quit that."

"Why? If you get to play, then I should too."

"You already know how to play me like a violin." She shook her head so that her hair trailed lightly over his stomach and cock, and laughed when he hissed. "I want to learn your buttons."

"‘K. I'll just touch your back then. Have to touch something."

Problem was that he could turn even her back into an erotic zone, running his hand and the backs of his nails in random patterns across her skin. But she was learning him too now, finding all the places that made him writhe and moan. He was growling continuously, not loud enough to be heard, but she could feel it, a vibration in his throat, his chest, that thrummed through her own body as she lay across him, an intensely erotic sensation.

"Slayer." His voice dropped into a low, raspy growl that went straight to her core. "Can't take much more of this."

"Don't be such a wuss," she laughed, but her own breath was coming fast now.

They were both playing with each other now, using hands and lips and teeth, stroking, kneading, biting softly, their breaths shaking with laughter and passion in their mouths. His hips bucked suddenly right off the bed as her hand ran across his groin. Then she was rolled onto her back and his weight was on her.

"Buffy. Have to..."

"Oh, yes," she sighed, arching against him, way past the point of play herself.

He came into her hard. She moaned and clenched around him, nails raking down his back. Their hips battled, she thrusting up as he thrust down, both of them making little, helpless, inarticulate sounds in the backs of their throats.

"Oh, my girl," he gasped. "That's it, that's it..."

"Oh, God, Spike..!"

His throat brushed her face as he strained over her with every thrust. She raised her head and sucked on it and felt him shudder in response; anywhere on his neck was an erogenous zone for him, vampire that he was. She bit the base of his neck where it met his shoulder, and his hips slammed helplessly into hers. He was ramming into her with all his strength now, all control lost, and it felt unbelievable. The Slayer in her wanted it that way, met his strength with her own.

"Oh, yes, harder, yes..." She writhed, bent like a bow under him. His head dropped and she felt his open mouth against her face, felt the gasp of his breath, opened her eyes for a shivering, delicious second to watch him, his eyes squeezed shut in pleasure so intense that it was close to pain, his lips parted and a diagonal muscle in his cheek jumping over teeth clenched in a snarl of effort.

It was too much, unendurable. She felt his cock pulse within her, felt him shudder as he came, and her own brain whited out, her orgasm shattering her into a million fragments of unbearable joy.

Chapter #5 - Chapter 5
Chapter 5

"You're the perfect boyfriend, you know that?" Buffy remarked, studying the wide selection of toiletries that had appeared in the dresser drawer the very next day, all the brands and products that she liked. The dresser itself had suddenly acquired a mirror.

"Am I your boyfriend?"

"Well, duh."

He knew better than to say, ‘What about Angel?' He reached out and drew her down to lean back against him on the bed, his knees slightly raised on either side of her to act as armrests for her. She relaxed against him, smiling, as he started to brush her hair with the brush that he had taken from the dresser. He was casually naked, but she had pulled his T-shirt on, still not as comfortable as he was with walking around the place completely nude.

"You didn't have to get all that," she said, enjoying the slow sensuousness with which he was running the brush through her hair. They were both sated and spent, having made love over several hours since coming back from patrol, and this was just sweetly and lazily stretching out the afterglow.

"Wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to keep coming back here, pet."

"You're what keeps me coming back, silly," she said, turning her head to rub her temple against his jaw. He smiled and bent to lip along the curve of her shoulder. "This last week, it's been lovely. Going out to patrol, then coming back here to..."

He laughed when she broke off. "Go on, pet. To?"

"This," she purred and reached up to pull his head down to hers and kiss him.


"Hard for me to say things," she confessed.

"As long as you feel them," he said quietly.

"I feel them," she said softly and smiled as his arms tightened about her. "Speaking of feeling, did you sense something weird on patrol tonight?"

"Like what?"

"I don't know. My Slayer sense kept picking up a tingle like there was a vamp in the vicinity, but every time I looked around, there was nothing there." She lifted her brows at him questioningly.

He shook his head. "Didn't notice anything. When did it start?"

"About midway through patrol, then sort of on and off." She shrugged it off. "Nothing to worry about if the vamp was too chicken to come close."

"Might be able to flush it out tomorrow if you go ahead and I follow at a distance. Might come up on it while it's concentrating on you."

"Good thought."

He snickered suddenly. "Good thing I didn't take you up against that tree. Damn nearly did. It would have gotten an eyeful then."

"Oh, God." She laughed helplessly. That had happened at the end of their patrol and things had gotten pretty hot and heavy for a while there. They had been all over each other. "You're a primo distraction, y'know."

"Hey! Patrol was over. You know I don't lay even a finger on you while you're on duty."

He didn't. He was very good about that and quite conscientious about it, not even the slightest touch to interfere with her concentration until the patrol was officially over.

"Yeah, but I keep wanting you to," she grinned.

He laughed, tipped her over, pinned her to the bed and kissed her long and deeply. "That's what I like to hear."

She stretched luxuriously, her arms above her head. "It's late. I should be getting home. It's a good thing tomorrow's Sunday."

"More time to spend together."

"Mm." She shook her head at him as he too rose and started getting dressed. "You know you don't have to walk me home. I'm the Slayer, for Pete's sake. I'm more dangerous than anything around."

"And I'm Victorian. A gentleman doesn't let a lady walk home on her own." He grinned as she lifted an eyebrow at him. "Besides, gives me more time with you."

"Now that sounds more believable. Get a fresh T-shirt," she said as he picked up the one she had discarded and pulled it on.

"This one smells of the two of us. And sex. I like it."

"That should sound gross, but it doesn't."

"Coming round to my way of thinking, are you?"

"You're a bad influence." She caught the T-shirt, pulled him to her and kissed him.

He kissed her back, slowly and lingeringly. "I try."

As they crossed the cluttered and dusty open area in front of the factory doors, Buffy paused suddenly.

"There it is again. That vamp feeling."

"Here?" He turned in a circle. "I can't pick up anything."

"Neither can I anymore. I think my Slayer sense is playing up."

His arm came around her shoulders. "Maybe you're tired."

"Maybe." She grinned at him. "It's been a very full week."

He laughed, deep in his throat. "Is that how I make you feel? Full?"

"Oh, yeah."

"We're going the wrong way." He swung her right around and headed back towards the bedroom.

She laughed and pulled him around again. "C'mon. Quit kidding around. I've got to get home."

"Who's kidding?" But he allowed her to haul him through the factory doors.

Spike had just had the best week of his entire existence. It wasn't just that Buffy let him make love to her. It was that she made love back, that she teased him and laughed with him and let him be part of her life. He had never been this happy before. He was living blissfully in the now, refusing to think of past or future, letting neither regrets nor hopes interfere with the present joy. It might not last, probably would not, which was why he held it fast while it was there, storing it up against the lean years.

It took physical force to get him to leave Buffy on her front porch; he kept kissing her whenever she tried to get in the door and she had to finally shove him down the steps, both of them laughing helplessly, before leaping into the house and locking the front door behind her. After that, he did a quick pass through a couple of cemeteries, too wired to go back to the factory right away. The way he felt, he could have taken on all the demons in the Hellmouth and licked them hands down.

He came running back into the factory, still with energy to burn. He tossed his duster over the couch in the central room that he and Buffy had turned into a livingroom, then headed towards the alcove that held his fridge for some blood. Something came barreling out of the shadows of the alcove, grabbed him and flung him into the open space in front of the loading ramp doors.

He landed on one shoulder, rolled and came halfway upright when something grabbed his T-shirt and ripped it off him.

"What the fuck..?" he roared and the fluorescents came on right across the factory, blinding him for a moment before his vampire sight had time to adjust. He swiped the back of his hand across his eyes and found himself staring at Angel looming over him with his fists clenched and his legs spread in a threatening stance.

"Angelus," he said softly and came smoothly to his feet. "So my girl was right when she said she sensed some vamp hanging about. Become a bit of a voyeur, have you? Oh, I forgot. You always were."

Angel's fists clenched even tighter. "I came in just as you two were leaving. And she's not your girl!"

"Isn't she?" Spike glanced across with a tight grin to where his T-shirt lay flung on the dusty floor several feet away. "Smell something you don't like?"

"You son of a bitch," rasped Angel. "How dare you? How dare you take what's mine?"

"Yours, is she? Didn't see the marks of a claim. Until then, the girl's her own."

"Why'd you do it, Spike? To get back at me because I could take Dru away from you whenever I liked?"

"Actually, no. Never even thought of Dru. But if it makes you feel the way I used to feel those times? Bonus."

"She doesn't love you."

"Didn't think she did." That was the truth, so the words didn't hurt him; he'd accepted that a long time ago. "Wants me though."

He had the satisfaction of seeing Angel flinch. It didn't last long.

"She's only sleeping with you because she can't sleep with me. I'm the one she wants."

Inside, Spike winced. That was exactly what he was afraid was true. He didn't let it show. One couldn't afford to show weakness to Angelus. He had a genius for finding the most vulnerable spot and cutting one up through it.

"Is that so? Then I suppose she's thinking about you the whole time I'm putting it to her."

Angel snarled into gameface. "You need to be taught your place, boy. It's been too long. You've forgotten."

Spike smiled grimly. "Won't be as easy as you think, Peaches. Was real easy for you before. You a master vampire with a hundred and twenty years experience behind you. Me a mere fledgling. Didn't have a chance then, did I? But it's been a hundred years since then. Things have changed."

"Nothing's changed," said Angel dangerously. He was bigger, stronger, had the longer reach. He had no doubts that he could teach the younger vampire the lesson he deserved. "It'll be easy this time too, Willy."

They were circling each other slowly.

"And you like things easy, don't you?" Spike mocked. "I was ready to take you a hundred years ago, but you got your soul and vanished. Went off to eat rats and wear hair shirts while I had fun fighting. Got the experience now, Angel. You can't take me. But I can take you."

"No, you'll just talk me to death." Angel rushed him. It was a ploy that had worked for him often before, his weight and strength carrying him over his opponents.

Spike slid to one side and hit him, a solid one-two that rocked Angel back against one of the load-bearing pillars. Angel swung around to stare at him, his eyes widening in surprise.

"Yeah," said Spike softly. He blocked the punch Angel threw at him. "How's the soul holding up? You Angel or Angelus? This about protecting Buffy or just because you're sodding jealous? Should be up to her, shouldn't it, which one of us she wants to be with?"

This time Angel's furious punch connected. "She doesn't know what she wants!"

"And you do." Spike hit him back. "She's her own person. She can make her own decisions."

"She's not thinking straight. Otherwise she wouldn't be with you!"

"Ah. And you're going to save her from herself."

They were in a whirl of motion now, slamming blows at each other.

"Someone has to," Angel gasped. "I love her."

"If you did, you wouldn't be running out on her."

"That's for her own good!"

"Ri-ight. You do that then." Spike gave him a grin that showed all his teeth. "I'll still be here, making her...happy."

"I'll claim her first!" snarled Angel, driven beyond reason.

All humor left Spike's face. It went utterly cold and lethal. "Don't you do that to her. I'll stake you before I let you do that to her."

Then his gaze went beyond Angel and his eyes widened.

"Break it up," Buffy commanded coldly.

Spike's arms dropped to his sides and he stepped back. Angel took advantage of the opportunity so suddenly presented to him and flung him against the wall, his hand closing on Spike's throat.

Then he froze, feeling the point of the stake against his back.

"Let him go, Angel."

"You'd dust me?" Angel said incredulously.

"I told you to break it up. Spike chose to listen to me. You didn't."

Angel let go reluctantly and stepped back. Spike stayed where he was, rubbing his throat absently as he leaned against the wall. Angel's actions didn't interest him. Angel wouldn't have been able to keep him pinned against the wall for long, even if Buffy hadn't intervened, and he was perfectly ready to pick up the fight from where it had left off should Angel start it up again. What he was really concerned about was the guilt trip Angel was sure to lay on Buffy.

Angel had turned and was staring reproachfully at Buffy. Buffy was looking back quite calmly, her brows faintly raised. The silence stretched out painfully.

"How'd you know he'd be here, pet?" Spike asked, more to break up that silence and divert Angel's judgmental stare from Buffy than because he really wanted to know.

"Apparently he saw us making out in the cemetery, then lost track of us. Mom told me he tried to get her to tell him where we were, but of course she didn't know and wouldn't tell him even if she did. I thought he might track you down, so I came to check out the situation."


"You're protecting him?" exclaimed Angel, affronted.

"I kinda like him in one piece."

"Thanks, pet, but it really wasn't necessary," said Spike. "He's not good enough to hurt me."

He gave Angel a tight, provoking grin when Angel turned to snarl at him. He wanted to keep Angel's attention on him rather than on Buffy.

But Angel had already turned back to Buffy. "You're sleeping with him."


"How could you? How could you let him touch you? He's...He's...Buffy, I thought we meant something to each other!"

"But you're leaving, Angel. You're going away to find yourself a new life far away from temptation."

"Yes, but..."

"What am I supposed to do? Sit here all pure and untouched like a nun?"

"I want you to have a normal life!"

"News flash, Angel. I'm the Slayer. I'm never going to have a normal life. Most Slayers don't even live to be twenty. I've got less than three years."

"You're gonna live to retire, pet," growled Spike. "‘M gonna make sure of that or dust trying."

"Shut up, Spike!" Angel snarled. "You have nothing to do with her. You have no rights here."

"I have whatever rights she gives me," he retorted. "Why don't you ask what rights you have?"

Angel made an uncontrolled movement in his direction, but Buffy stepped between the two of them.

"It's a valid remark, Angel," she said quietly. "You're taking a lot for granted."

Angel stared at her. "But you...But we...We love each other!"

"Do we?"

"You can't possibly be telling me that you love him!"

"I'm not." Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Spike slump just fractionally in defeat against the wall and turn his head away, not looking at either of them. "I'm not discussing Spike with you."

"Look," said Angel. "I'm sorry. I was just shocked and surprised. I understand why you did this. I really do. You couldn't sleep with me, so you slept with him."

Spike's face had turned to stone and his lips were pressed together into a tight, hard line, their corners pointed with strain. Buffy realized suddenly that he believed that what Angel said was true.

She laughed abruptly. "God, Angel! Ego much? I didn't sleep with Spike because I wanted to sleep with you. I slept with Spike because I wanted to sleep with Spike."

Spike's head whipped around and he stared at her, his eyes wide.

"Buffy, you can't mean that!" Angel exclaimed. "It's like...You're not...It's like you're saying you had an itch and scratched it. That's not the kind of girl you are!"

"No, it's not," she said. She saw that Spike was following her, but Angel still didn't have a clue. "But you don't know the kind of girl I am. You don't even want the kind of girl I really am. All you want is the perfect Slayer, the obedient dutiful girl up on her pedestal, following her ‘destiny'. Tell her what to do and she does it, like an automaton. Not."

She gave him a dangerous smile. Angel stared at her in disbelief.

"Buffy, you're getting this all wrong. I never thought of you like that. I..."

"Didn't you? It doesn't matter. I'm Buffy. I'm my own woman and I make my own decisions."

"Buffy, listen..."

"‘I'm doing this for her own good.' Isn't that what you said, Angel? But I want to decide what things are for my own good. You don't have the right to decide for me. I never gave you that right and I'm never going to."

"Look, someone had to make the decision. I can't stay here."

"Don't see why not. Oh, that's right. It's such a temptation."

"Yes," said Angel heavily, looking very grave.

"I'm sorry about that. It's very flattering. But, really, there's no danger, Angel. You can stay or you can go. As you please. It doesn't matter. You're not a temptation to me. Haven't been for some time."

Angel's jaw dropped and his eyes went completely round as he finally clued in. "You mean that he..."

"I told you before. I'm not discussing Spike with you, Angel."

Spike's whole face had gone soft and he was looking at her with his eyelids tensed and faintly strained, as if he were looking into a blinding light.

"You mean that you and he...No. You can't mean that. No." Angel shook his head like a bull harassed by stinging insects.

"What part of not discussing Spike didn't you understand, Angel?" Buffy demanded and snapped her fingers at him to get his attention. "What I want to discuss is that claim thing you talked about. What is a claim and why did Spike get so angry when you said you were going to claim me?"

"Oh, that!" Angel looked horrified and upset. If he hadn't been a vamp, she suspected that he would have been bright red with embarrassment. "I didn't mean that. I was just angry, just talking off the top of my head."

"Okay, I get that. But what is it? I think I noticed it in some of the books Giles has, but I was looking for other things at the time and didn't pay attention."

Angel looked down and then to the side, as if he were searching for some way to escape.

"It's a vampire thing, luv," said Spike. "It's a link between two vampires. It links them together for eternity. A double claim, where each of the pair claims the other, is like a marriage. Except no divorce is possible. It's irrevocable and can only be broken by death, and usually the death of one is so traumatic that the one surviving also dies shortly after. It's a way of, I don't know how to explain, owning each other, I guess. Separation causes physical pain, so neither can stay away from each other long."

"I see. And a single claim?"

"Well, that's a mark of ownership by the one making the claim. It's rare. Most vamps won't stand for a single claim. It's a mark of possession, like a leash put on you. The link is there, but the one making the claim has the power. It's like the hold a Master has over his minions. The Master can do anything he likes, but the minion has to obey."

Buffy gave Angel an accusing stare. "So you were going to leave, but still keep a hold over me, control me, still go on telling me what to do?"

Angel looked as if he were trying to disappear into the wall behind him. "I wouldn't have done it! I swear, Buffy! I was just angry! Saying things I didn't mean!"

Buffy suddenly had a horrible thought. "You mean any vamp I meet on the street while I'm slaying could decide to do that to me and I couldn't do anything about it?"

"No, no," said Spike reassuringly. "You have to agree. It can't be done without your consent."

"Then how..?"

"Well, you can be fooled into it if you didn't know what was happening." He rubbed his forehead, trying to find an easy way to explain. "See, it's like this. The usual way is to bite your partner, take a sip of blood and say, ‘Mine.' And, if your partner agrees, she says, ‘Yes,' or ‘Yours," or some such thing that signifies agreement. Got it?"

Buffy nodded. "Got it."

"Now, if you're trying to trick someone who doesn't know about it, you say, ‘Mine," and then you say something like, ‘Do say you're mine, sweetheart,' all romantic and whatnot. And if the partner says something as innocuous as, ‘Of course I am,' the thing's done. And it can't be undone. It's set in stone. Irrevocable. Easy if the other person doesn't know about claims."

Angel could have pulled that on her. She could see how simply that could have been made to happen. She frowned at Angel and he made a helpless gesture of appeal and distress.

She looked away from him and back at Spike, smiling crookedly. "Sounds as if you've done it."

He was affronted. "Never! I've never done that. Not to anyone."

She looked at him thoughtfully. "Have you wanted to? Could have done it to me any time this last week, couldn't you?"

He looked appalled. "God, no! Not against your will. To force a claim? That would be worse than a rape. It would take away all your choices. Would like to claim and be claimed, yeah. To belong to y..." He caught himself up. "Someone. God, yeah, I want it. But not like that! Never like that!"

"You didn't even think about it, did you?" She could see that he hadn't. Despite the way he felt about her and despite his conviction that she'd never love him, that she cared for Angel instead, it had never even occurred to him to do that. And, as he said, it would have been so easy. "Does it even work on a human? I mean, you said it was a vampire thing."

"As long as there's a vampire in the mix, it works."

"So a human could even initiate the claim, as long as the other person was a vampire."

"I suppose. But why would a human do that?" He grinned faintly. "Not a good thing to have a vamp permanently hanging around."

"Might have its benefits."

She looked at the two of them, both vampires, both with a soul, but so utterly dissimilar. It was like looking at night and day, darkness and light. Angel, static and unchanging, wanting peace and order, needing to be in control so that he could keep things in that order. Spike, the chaos figure, always in flux, always changing and reinventing himself, the poster boy for anarchy, the Fool in the Tarot deck always dancing on the edge of the abyss. Angel accepted things as they were. Spike never stopped looking for solutions. Angel kept himself to himself, never opened up for fear of getting hurt. Spike gave himself away with both hands, profligate and uncaring of hurt.

If she had been asked only a few weeks ago which one stood for darkness and which one stood for light, she would have had no problem answering. But now she found herself remembering the way Spike's soul had looked like during Jenny Calendar's test—silvery and very bright, full of light. She wondered what Angel's soul would look like.

Darkness and light. They even looked the part. And the light in Spike burned sunfire bright, very sure and steady. The only thing more steadfast was his love for her.

She looked at him leaning bare-chested against the wall, the bruises from his fight with Angel in no way diminishing his beauty. Beautiful and savage and deadly and hers. With every fiber of his being.

"Don't need to claim you to keep you around, do I?" she said. She came to him and put her hands lightly on his shoulders. "You belong to me already. You're my dog, isn't that what you said?"

He nodded, smiling wryly. "I'm your dog, Slayer. You own me."

She raised herself up on her toes to get the proper angle and struck like a snake, biting as hard as she could at the junction between his neck and shoulder. She felt him jerk against her as all the breath left him in shock, heard Angel make a sound as if he had been punched right in the gut. A little blood welled up in the bite. She tasted it coppery on her tongue, swallowed and said firmly:


His knees nearly gave. She felt the shift in his balance, then he braced himself dazedly against the wall.

"Yours," he breathed in a shaky whisper. "Always yours, Slayer. Till I'm dust."

She tilted her head sideways, offering her neck to him. He stared at her incredulously, his eyes full of disbelief and awe.


"Complete it, Spike."

Angel was saying something indignant and furious, coming towards them.

"Angel, if you interfere," she said clearly, "I will kill you."

Angel stopped. Spike hadn't even looked in his direction. He was staring at her as if she were the only thing that existed in the entire universe.

"Buffy," he whispered. "Buffy, are you sure?"

"I'm sure. I want it. I want you. Want you to be mine. Want to be yours."

His arms swept around her, closing about her shoulders and her waist, crushing her so tightly to him that she felt that their bones would fuse together. His head dropped to her neck and she felt his lips brush her, light and cool against her skin. She felt the shuddering exhalation of his breath, then his fangs slid with exquisite delicacy into the vein at the side of her neck. She felt the draw as he drank and a sensation of voluptuous pleasure thrilled through her, a languorous rapture. She sighed contentedly and leaned into him.

His fangs retracted and he licked the puncture marks to seal them.

"Mine," he said very quietly, reverently.

"Yours," she agreed.

She could almost feel the click, as of something slotting irrevocably into place. Like fingers interlinking or jigsaw puzzle pieces interlocking. Everything was suddenly just so right.

"Angel," she said. "Go away."

Angel went. They ignored him. He was utterly irrelevant to them, an unimportance barely on the edge of their consciousness.

"Why?" Spike whispered. "Buffy, why?"

"Because I love you," she said, running her hands over him, caressing his naked shoulders and chest and back.

He was trembling against her, shaking uncontrollably.

"This can't be happening," he muttered disbelievingly. "Things this right don't happen to me."

"They do now."

She kissed him sweetly and he caught her to him and kissed her over and over again.

"Say it again."

She smiled against his mouth. "I love you."

"Oh, God! Buffy! Buffy!"

There were tears in his eyes. She wrapped her arms around his head and kissed them away.

"Love you, Will."

"Whistler must be having a cow," he muttered. "I really don't think this is what he intended to happen."

"You said he wanted me to be happy, right? And that a lot of nasty things don't happen to me. Well, they're not happening and I am happy. So you did what he wanted you to do."

"Yeah, but...Creature of the night here, yeah? Can't be right for a Slayer. A Slayer is of the light."

"A Slayer is of the dark too. It's like that yin yang symbol. Light with a spot of darkness. Darkness with a spot of light." She touched his face lightly. "More than a spot, in fact. Look at you. Creature of darkness, but full of light."


"It's true, Will. That's why the PTB sent you here. We balance each other. It's right. It's exactly right. And if Whistler turns up, trying to change things, I'm going to rip off his head."

He laughed involuntarily. "I don't think he will, pet. He said he wouldn't interfere. He said I could do it all my way."

"And what is your way?"

He looked completely at a loss. "I don't really know, pet. I've just been struggling along, trying to do the right thing."

She kissed him softly. "Loving me. That's your way."

They looked at each other for a moment, she smiling and he totally taken aback. Then his face crumbled in surrender and he caught her to him.

"Love you always, pet."

"Love you too, Will." She gave him a wicked grin. "And now will you take me to bed? I want to see what it's like when we're claimed."

He laughed aloud and swept her up in his arms. "Oh, I think you'll like it."

She did.

The End