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His Girl by dreamweaver
Chapter 1
SpuffyWin2 SpuffyWin1

Rogue 4 BDS

Chapter 1

"Spike!" Dawn screamed, giving away his presence, but his vampire speed still got Spike to Doc before the little demon could react. He caught Doc's head in his hands and wrenched it around, breaking his neck, then threw the limp carcass off the tower.

Buffy had reached the platform as well and was running towards Dawn. Spike yanked his knife out of his boot and flung to her. She caught it and cut Dawn free, then pulled her to a more stable area of the platform. That was a relative thing, though: the whole shaky, rickety structure of Glory's tower was swaying precariously in the wind and lightning bolts of the storm all around them. Some spell, already started and not yet finished, was still running its course.

"Are you all right?" Buffy shouted to Dawn.

The teenager nodded, crying with relief now and unable to speak.

"Did he cut you anywhere?" Spike demanded, arriving beside them. Even one drop of blood and the portal would open and all of this would have been for nothing.

Dawn shook her head. "He didn't have time."

The tower quaked again, swaying violently. They all caught at struts to stay on their feet.

"We've got to get to the ground," Spike shouted. They could all hear metal complaining as the tower swayed and bolts started to wrench apart. "This thing's going to collapse."

Buffy looked at the stairs, but it was a long way down and the tower was already starting to crumble. Spike caught up a cable and started wrapping it around Dawn.

"Listen to me, Bit," he said, making the end fast and scooping Dawn up. "It's gonna be scary. Gonna feel like you're falling. But trust me. I've got you."

"I trust you, Spike."

He swung her over the edge of the platform and let her drop. Dawn started to scream, then choked it back as she felt him take up the slack on the cable. He lowered her as fast as he could. Beside him, Buffy leaned recklessly far out over the railing to watch her descent.

"Almost there, Spike! Another ten feet. She's down!"

"Now you, Slayer. Quick!"

A bolt of lightning struck the platform, so close that Buffy felt the hairs on her left arm crisp. Spike screamed.


He was down on the metal, convulsing. She flung herself towards him. The whole top of the tower swayed violently, metal screeching, then tilted sideways. She caught at a strut with one hand and grabbed the collar of Spike's duster with the other, keeping them both from sliding right off the platform and being flung into space.

The top of the tower tilted even further. She found herself looking down at the ground a couple of hundred feet below. A thin, burning, white line broke open in the air just below them, started to widen, radiating incandescent white light.

It was just not fair! Dawn hadn't spilled a drop of blood and the portal was opening anyway!

"Damn you!" she yelled at the heavens.

Then the whole top of the tower broke away and fell into the portal.


"Are you all right?"

Spike opened his eyes and saw Buffy bending over him, her face worried. It was a view he normally would have relished, having her concerned about him. Except that his head felt like it was splitting apart.

"Oh, God. Oh, God. My head. The chip. It kept firing again and again." Memory came back. "Shit. I was hit by lightning."

"You should be dead."

"Vampire here. Takes more than that to kill me." He looked up and saw the sun burning down on him. "Holy God!"

He scrabbled backwards instinctively, then stopped, belatedly realizing that he was not on fire.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"I'm not burning up," he said dazedly.

"Why should you be?"

"The sun..." A flash came back out of his confused memories—a line of white light widening. "The portal opened, dinnit? We're in another dimension. That's why the sun can't hurt me. Different sun. But then..."

He climbed shakily to his feet and looked around. They were in a meadow beside a small stream and there were woods all around and everything was calm and peaceful.

"Dimensions were supposed to bleed together and there would be chaos and..."

"What are you talking about?" she asked, moving from where she had been kneeling beside him to a more comfortable position cross-legged tailor-fashion on the thick grass.

"No chaos. Everything's quiet. Not Glory's portal, then. Was a portal, though, otherwise we wouldn't be in another dimension. Wait." He snapped his fingers. "There was some kind of spell running. That's what that storm was all about. Maybe she opened one portal, then Dawn's blood would open the rest, connect them all together. Does that make sense? Damn, we need Red or Giles to figure it out."

"None of what you're saying is making sense."

"Doesn't matter. What we need to do is find a way to get back. Maybe that's what the Scoobs are doing on the other side of the portal. Hope so. Neither you or I are any good with magics. We'll just have to wait, is all."

He swayed on his feet, then sat down beside her.

"Damn. Still woozy. Are you feeling all right, Buffy?"

"Is that my name?" she asked curiously.

Spike's jaw dropped.

"Uh, pet," he said after a moment. "Are you saying you don't know who you are?"

She nodded. "Not a clue."

"Do you know who I am?"

She shook her head.

"Well, um, my name's Spike."

"We've both got weird names," she remarked.

"Uh, yeah." He reached out to tilt her head gently from side to side. "Doesn't look as if you got hit on the head. Maybe falling through the portal did something. Lot of energy crackling through there. Maybe it fried something, same way my chip fired when the lightning hit me."

"If you say so."

"Gotta say, you're taking it pretty well."

"Did all my screaming before you woke up," Buffy said wryly.

He laughed a little. "That's my Slayer. Don't worry. Your memory will come back. Everything I've ever heard about amnesia is that it doesn't last long."

"I hope you're right."

"Just have to wait it out. Like the rest of this. You'll probably remember everything the moment we're back to our own dimension."

"See, that's what's wigging me out," said Buffy. "This dimension business. Are you sure the lightning didn't totally fry your brain?"

Spike laughed and lay back on the grass, stretching his arms out and luxuriating in the warmth of the sun on his skin.

"No, all of that's really true, pet. See, it's like this." He gave her a brief rundown of the last few weeks and then a potted bio of her own life.

"So vampires and demons and Hellgods do exist and I'm their Slayer."

"That's right."

She looked at him thoughtfully. She had been relieved to find someone with her when she had woken up in this meadow. Being alone would have freaked her out totally. And it didn't hurt that he was majorly hot. Face like a fallen angel, bleached-white hair, killer cheekbones, beautiful mouth and a beyond-sexy body beneath that black leather duster. But...

"You're a vampire," she said dubiously.

Spike went into full gameface.

"Whoa!" She recoiled instinctively, then recovered herself. "Well, look at that. May I touch?"

He grinned. "Sure."

He lay still, amused, while she explored his face, running her fingers over the ridges and tilting his head to study the yellow eyes. His fangs were razor sharp. She ran the tip of her finger up one and delicately examined the sheath where it emerged from his gums. He shivered.

"Sorry. Sensitive," he explained.

"Well, it's real, all right. Okay. Vampire. So am I supposed to stake you or what?"

"Rather you didn't," he said, resuming his human face. "Won't hurt you, pet. Can't. These government sods shoved a chip up my brain. Keeps me from hurting humans. But I can hurt other demons and I like fighting, so the two of us, we have an understanding. I help you fight the good fight and you don't stake me."

"So you help me with this Slaying business."


"We're friends then."

"We-ell." Spike sighed deeply. There was no way to explain the tortuous ins and outs of their complicated non-relationship. What could he say? ‘I tried to kill you. I'm madly in love with you. You think I'm not much better than a dung beetle.' Yeah, right. He'd better just keep it simple. "I'd like us to be friends. And you tolerate me."

Buffy looked at him thoughtfully. The way he was looking at her suggested that he'd like to be more than friends. A little quiver of heat went through her, curling her toes.

"Just tolerate?"

"Mm." His lips tightened and he looked away.


"Hey. Vampire here. Evil. No soul."

"I see." She watched him under her lashes. "Well, that's honest. Gotta give you that, Spike. I mean, you could have said we were humping like bunnies and I'd never have known better."

She laughed as his eyes widened. He thumped the back of his head on the ground a couple of times.

"God, how could I have missed the opportunity? Wanker! Never even thought of it."

"Looks like my mind's more evil than yours."

"You have your moments. Truth is, I know if I tried something like that, you'd stake me the moment you got your memory back."

They were both smiling. Then he sobered and looked at her seriously.

"Wouldn't do that to you, pet. I know I'm a monster, but you treat me like a man. Wouldn't put something over on you like that." He reached out a hand and touched a lock of her hair very delicately. "I'll be honest with you, luv. I want it. Very much. But I want it to be real. Wouldn't trick you into it."

"‘And Brutus is an honorable man.'"

"Wow. Some of the English Lit stuck, dinnit?" He grinned as she laughed. Then he sat up and looked at her gravely. "Won't hurt you, pet. Not in any way. Try not to, anyway. Don't know what's right or wrong sometimes. Make some pretty big mistakes. But I don't mean to. You see me going off the rails any time, you just tell me. I'll stop. Okay?"

"Okay," she said quietly. "All of that doesn't sound very evil to me."

He grinned crookedly. "Oh, I'm ba-ad. Proud of it too. But not to you, if I can help it. Got my own kind of honor, I guess. Was at least brought up to be an English gentleman." He gave her a twisted smile.

"Guess some of that stuck as well."


They smiled faintly at each other.

"So what are we going to do now?" Buffy asked.

"Sit and wait. Your friends will be looking for us. They'll find us eventually. Trouble is, it might take days. But I don't think we have any other options. I for one don't have a clue how to open that portal."

"And I don't even know what a portal is. Except that we must have come through something." She tilted her chin at where the remains of the tower top and platform lay at the edge of the meadow, half-buried in the earth and crushing a few trees and bushes beneath them. The mangled metal looked totally incongruous in the pastoral setting of meadow and woodlands all around. "That clearly broke off from something and fell from a great height. But there's nothing around that it could have fallen from. No metal structure of any kind as far as the eye can see."

"The eye can't see very far though, what with all these trees. Let me see whether I can find out what's around us."

Spike stood up, headed for the tallest tree that he could find and began to climb with vampire speed and agility. Watching him, Buffy thought that she would have guessed he was something other than human just by seeing that, forget about the vamp face.

"Nothing but trees in all directions," he said when he was back on the ground again. "No roads, trails, houses, billboards, phone lines, whatnot. No sign of human presence at all. Even a village in the Dark Ages would have fields around it and smoke from cooking fires. Wherever we are, it's far away from human habitation. It would take us a month to walk to anywhere."

"And you don't want to," she said shrewdly.

"Got it in one. Don't want to leave this place. If the portal opens again, it'll be right here. The Scoobies would never find us if we leave. We need to stay within sight of this meadow." He looked around. "We've got water here. Wood for a fire and shelter. All we need is food."

"Yeah. Really rather not have you snacking on my neck."

He grinned at her. "Might come to that."

"So reassuring."

"I'll go hunting after we get set up. Check your pockets. See if you've still got that knife I gave you before we were thrown here."

She checked, then shook her head.

"Pity. Must have dropped it on the platform. Here."

He handed her a switchblade. She pushed the button and raised her brows at the six inches of lethal steel that emerged. It was wickedly sharp.

"I thought these things were illegal."

"They are." He shrugged at her look. "Evil here, remember? You keep that, just in case. Don't think stakes are going to be useful against wild animals."

"What about you?"

He yanked loose one of the solid metal struts from the tower and hefted it. "Yeah, this will do." He pulled two more pieces of metal loose, one flattened and the other with a sharpish edge. "Shovel and axe," he explained at her inquiring look. "Not optimal, but they'll work with vamp strength behind them."

"How can I help?"

"See if you can find dry wood for a fire. And tinder."

He had a firepit dug and lined with rocks by the time she got back, her arms full.

"Nice load," he said appreciatively. "More out there if we need it?"

"Tons. What are you going to do now?"

"Make us a shelter. Gonna build a lean-to using the platform as one wall. It's leaning nicely as it is. Just have to add another side to it."

He cut several stout branches to lean against the platform, covered those with smaller branches and twigs, making a wall about eight feet wide and five feet high. She helped him cover both that and the grating of the platform with debris like fallen leaves, dried fern and pine needles to provide insulation. Heaped pine boughs made a halfway decent bed inside.

"You're pretty handy at this outdoors stuff," she remarked. "I wouldn't have known what to do."

"SoCal urbanite," he mocked. "Dru liked good hotels and the high life. But there were lots of times we'd have to go on the run and rough it in the wilds. I learned."

"Who's Dru?"

"Drusilla. My ex."


"Yeah. She was my sire. Turned me," he explained at her puzzled look.



"Wow. You're that old? You don't look it."

"Vamps don't age and I was only twenty-eight when I was turned."

"Do you like being a vamp?" she asked curiously.

"The truth? Yeah. Was just an ordinary git before. A mediocrity. Got turned and suddenly there was all this power and strength. Could do anything. Be anything. Weird when you think about it, really. I was dead, but I'd never felt so alive."

"So you wouldn't want to go back to being human."

"No. Never." He shuddered at the thought, then gave her a rueful smile. "Not the right answer, is it? Going right off the rails here. But it's the truth."

She bit her lip. "It's the killing people that gets me."

He shrugged and tapped his temple. "Chip. I don't anymore. Can't."

"But if the chip were gone, you'd go back to killing."

He was silent for a while. "Depends. Can survive on pig's blood. Found that out. Disgusting stuff. But it's blood. It keeps me going. Might not go back to killing if...if I had a reason not to."

She glanced at him quickly, but he was looking down at the lighter he was turning around in his fingers.

"Almost sunset," he said abruptly, turning away towards the west. "Gonna go hunt. There's animals in the woods. I can sense them. Should be able to find something. Will you be all right alone here for a while?"

"I'll climb a tree if anything turns up," she said wryly. "I've no idea if I can fight like the Slayer you say I am, but I can sure climb a tree."

His fist shot towards her face with shocking speed. She blocked it instinctively, then gasped when she realized what she had done.

He was grinning. "You'll do. Reflexes are built in now. Your body remembers even if your mind doesn't."

"Whoa." She drew a long breath, then frowned at him. "But I thought you couldn't hurt people."

"Knew you'd block. Chip doesn't fire if there's no intent to harm."

He lit the fire and made sure it was burning properly before shrugging off his duster, picking up the solid metal strut and ghosting away into the woods. She noticed how silent he was and wondered whether that came from being a vampire or whether it was just good woodcraft. The moment he entered the trees, she lost track of him. She should have been able to see him still, but she couldn't. That she supposed was the vampire part.

It was strange being so completely alone, different from choosing to be solitary by herself in her room. She couldn't remember exactly, but she didn't think she was anything but a city girl. She had this sense of always having been surrounded by streetlights and noise and people. Here everything was dead silent except for the rustle of the wind in the leaves and the soft chuckle of the stream. She listened hard, but could hear nothing else. There was a sense of utter, lonely emptiness. It creeped her out. She shivered and hugged herself for comfort, hoping that Spike would get back soon. It wasn't that she was scared; she just wanted the company.

There was a spectacular sunset as the sun went down and then the stars came out. There were millions of them, thickly peppering the night sky. No light pollution. She stared upwards, entranced.

Spike still hadn't come back. She paced around the campfire restlessly, hoping that nothing had happened to him. She wouldn't even be able to go look for him until morning, the night being so completely black, the thin sliver of a new moon in the sky providing not even the slightest bit of light. She sat down on the dead log she had rolled towards the fire as a seat before the daylight died, and tapped her foot impatiently. She wasn't worried about him. Not a bit. Hey, vampire. Talk about being able to take care of oneself. No, she wasn't worried; she was just bored, that's all.

"Where have you been?" she demanded when he stepped out of the darkness into the circle of firelight, one moment not there, the next solidly present. Another vampire thing, she supposed, letting out a hidden breath of relief.

"Up a tree," he drawled and her brows rose.

"What's that?" she asked, staring at the limp shape dangling from his hand.

"Pork." He grinned and held it up into the firelight. A...piglet, she thought. But it was brown and bristly, nothing like Babe in the movie. He saw her dubious look. "Wild pig. Mum was the reason why I was stuck up the tree."

She couldn't help laughing at the picture that presented. "The mighty hunter. Why didn't you bring Mum back?"

"Mum was three feet high at the shoulder and had tusks the length of my hand. Besides, what would we do with four hundred odd pounds of meat? ‘S not like we have a freezer around here and I can always catch something fresh tomorrow. Lend me that switchblade, luv."

She followed him as he went off a little ways into the trees, then watched as he skinned and dressed the pig efficiently.

"Did it have enough blood for you?" she asked and he nodded.

"Drained it and got enough in me to last a couple of days. Tasted better fresh from the pig than it does in the bag from the butcher's. It's the life, you see. It's not the blood alone that nourishes you, but the life that you're draining."

"Oh. Is that why you kill when you feed?"

"Hard to hold back once you start," he agreed. "The life, it's powerful, addictive. Though I've done catch-and-release, times when we've had to keep a low profile." He cocked his head to one side, considering. "Some blood's stronger that others and you can go longer before you have to feed again. Some people's lives are stronger than others."

He saw the queasy look on her face and grinned.

"Too much information? That's the way we are, pet." He gave her a sideways-slanting, mocking glance. "Slayer blood's the best. Wicked powerful stuff, that is. One mouthful would do me a week. Plus, it's an aphrodisiac."

He laughed at the look she gave him.

"Definitely TMI," she said firmly and went back to sit on the dead log while he finished cleaning the piglet, got it roasting on a spit over the fire, then went off to wash his hands in the stream.

"Cold?" he asked when he came back to the fire, seeing the way she was sitting with her arms wrapped around herself.

"A little." The night air was cold and the fire only warmed the front of her.


He picked up his duster from where he had left it on a boulder and put it around her shoulders, then came around to crouch on his heels in front of her to draw it closer about her. She watched his absorbed face, its hard planes soft and concerned as he settled the duster around her. This close, his supernatural beauty was even more evident. The firelight threw the strong bones of his face into high relief, making the killer cheekbones and hard temples and strong jaw stand out. His thick, straight lashes cast a shadow on the flat plane of his cheek as he looked down at the lapels he was drawing together, and his lips were parted, making her very aware of the cave of his open mouth.

"Better?" he asked. His hand brushed her hair lightly, lifting it carefully out from under the collar of his coat. The way he was looking at her, as if she were wonderful and amazing and delightful and special, made her breath catch and her heart beat faster.


He smelled of leather and cigarettes and whiskey and a clean, earthy scent that was Spike himself. Very masculine. Very...attractive. She bit her lip.

"You'll feel even better once you've had something to eat," he said. "I know for a fact you haven't eaten much all day. Too worried about the fight with Glory." He started to stand up, then paused. "Oh, wait."

He reached into the right-hand pocket of the duster and withdrew a pack of cigarettes.

"Only one pack," he said sadly. "Have to ration myself. Mustn't smoke more than one a day, maybe two at the most, until we get home."

He rose and went to sit on the grass some distance away where the smoke wouldn't bother her, then lit up and took a long, luxurious drag. She found herself sorry that he had moved away.

"You know those things aren't good for you," she remarked.

He laughed, left eyebrow quirking. "It's not like they're going to kill me, luv."

Vampire. She laughed too, shaking her head at herself. "Right. So what do we do now?"

"Wait for your dinner to finish cooking. Eat. Go to sleep."

She sighed and he grinned.

"Bored, are you? No telly, no clubbing, nothing to do. Poor little modern-day city-girl. So used to having entertainment provided to her. We used to make our own entertainment in the old days."

"And what was that, Grandpa?"

"Play games. Visit each other. Sing, dance. Read, write long letters or diaries. Mostly though, something that's gone out of fashion these days."

She raised her brows at him. "Which is?"

"Have conversations. Talk." He cocked a mocking eyebrow at her.

She gave him a challenging look. "Okay, then. Talk to me."

"About what?"

"You've been a vampire a long time. Tell me about it."

"Didn't think horror stories were in your line, pet."

She made a face. "I didn't mean that. But you must have traveled. Tell me about Paris, for instance, or Rome."

"Oh! Sure. I can do that."

He had been to a lot of places. She watched his face vivid in the firelight as he described them, the clever, sensitive hands shaping the air in illustration. He was a keen observer and his sardonic sense of humor added bite to his words. The way he saw things was interesting, at once cynical and romantic, a wry, mocking, rueful attitude. She found herself enjoying herself immensely.

"Better go to bed," he said at last. "Been a long day for you. Gonna fall in the fire, keep on nodding like that."

She realized that her eyelids were drooping. "You're right." She sighed and stretched. "That was fun. Thank you."

He smiled. His eyes were warm, lingering on her. "Never talked this long before, the two of us."

"Did you like it?"

"Yeah," he said softly. "Very much."

"So did I." She started to hand his coat back to him.

"Keep it. Spread it out over the pine boughs. Won't be so prickly that way." He leaned forward and started to bank the fire. "Don't worry about anything. I'll be up."

She turned, surprised. "Do we need to keep a watch?"

He shook his head. "I'll know if anything comes close. Just not sleepy yet. Body clock thinks that night is the time to be awake. Still hasn't gotten used to the idea that I can move around during the day now."

Once she was in the lean-to, she didn't even notice whether the pine boughs of the bed were prickly or not. She went out like a light the minute she put her head down.

She woke up several hours later to realize she was still alone in the lean-to. It was the dead of night and everything was black, even darker than before because the fire was banked and even the stars had disappeared behind a heavy overcast. She looked around for Spike and located him on the other side of the fire. In the dim light of the banked coals, she saw that he was asleep, stretched out on the ground, with his back against the dead log, his arms and ankles crossed and his chin resting on his chest.


He was awake and up into a crouch in a flash, hand reaching for the metal strut beside him.

"Something wrong, pet?"

"What are you doing out there?"

She saw him blink in the light of the coals. "Guess I fell asleep. Sorry."

"That's not what I meant. If you're going to sleep, you'd better get in here."

He looked taken aback. "Shelter's for you, pet."

"It's big enough for two. It looks like it might be going to rain and all that this situation needs is for you to get soaked and catch cold."

"Vamps don't catch cold."

"Well, I don't like sleeping warm and dry while you're out there getting wet." She wondered why he was looking so surprised. "Hey, don't worry. I'm not going to jump your bones."

"Well, I know that, don't I?" he said, then added under his breath, so quietly that she knew that he hadn't meant her to hear him, "Miracles don't happen."

"And I know you won't jump mine," she finished gently. "I trust you."

"I don't," he retorted, but he laid down the strut and came towards the shelter.

"Now, isn't that better?" she asked when they were lying back to back on the makeshift bed.

‘No,' thought Spike. They weren't touching, but he could feel the warmth of her body close to his and smell her scent and hear the soft sound of her breathing slowing as she fell asleep. For him, it was a kind of refined torture, to be this close and not be able to touch her. He forced himself to ignore it, forced down his responses, forced himself to blank out his mind and fall asleep since no good, no good at all was going to come out of staying awake, only more pain.

He woke up a couple of hours after dawn to find himself on his back with something snuggled up against his side, and a weight on his shoulder and across his ribcage. He opened his eyes cautiously and looked down. Buffy's head was in the curve of his shoulder and her arm across his stomach. She was fast asleep.

He curved his arm carefully around her to hold her to him and dropped his face into her hair. God, it was sweet, just holding her. He lay still, his eyes closed, just luxuriating in the feel of her against him, lying so trustingly in his arms. He wasn't going to sleep now, wasn't going to miss a moment of this. He wanted it to go on forever. He lay there in a still haze of amazement and wonder, storing up every moment in his memory.

Yesterday had been a good day. They had had a conversation, a real conversation that had gone on for hours, not just a few orders flung at him. They had really talked and laughed and enjoyed themselves. And now this. Maybe miracles do happen.

After a couple of hours, she stirred. He sighed silently, letting his arms fall away from her. Eyes open the barest fraction, he watched her through his lashes, wondering whether she would be angry and upset when she realized where she was.

Her head turned in the curve of his shoulder, then he felt her sudden stillness and knew she was completely awake. Her hand flattened on his chest, then she pushed herself up a little and looked down at him. Through the screen of his lashes, he saw that she didn't look angry; she just looked startled and a little amused. She looked down at him thoughtfully for a while, then frowned all of a sudden. He held his breath, then was surprised when her fingers brushed his face lightly, first beside his right eye and then just beneath it. Then she shrugged and drew back. He felt her sit up and work her way downwards and out of the shelter. He turned over and watched her get up and move out of sight, heading towards the stream to wash.

He gave her about fifteen minutes, then got up himself. It was still an astonishment for him to be walking in the sunlight. He looked up at the cloudless sky and thought that he could get used to all of this.

Buffy was kneeling by the stream, splashing her face. She smiled at him as she wiped the water out of her eyes.

"Morning. It looks as if it did rain last night, so it was a good thing you slept in the lean-to." She sighed. "What I wouldn't give for a toothbrush."

Spike broke off a green twig, frayed one end and handed it to her. "Toothbrush. Sorry, no toothpaste, not even salt. That was what they used to do, round the time of the American Revolution. Dip a frayed twig in salt to brush their teeth."

"The things you know," she said, smiling.

"Packrat mind. Wait a minute." He went back to the lean-to, dug around in the pockets of his duster and came back in triumph. "Wondered what felt so hard in the small of my back."
She looked at the metal flask in his one hand and the roll of mints in the other.

"Mints and mouthwash," he said.

She took a sip of bourbon and swished it around her mouth. "Gahh!" She grabbed at a mint to take the taste away.

He laughed at her reaction. "Sterilizes."

"Good excuse," she said dryly as he took a bigger swig.

"Felt like celebrating," he explained, then sighed. "Another thing that needs to be rationed. Mints too. Here."

"Oh, joy!" She took the comb he was holding out.

"Was in a hurry yesterday. Must have shoved it into my pocket without thinking."

"Now, that is a lifesaver."

"You'd look good anyway, pet. Breakfast coming up. Cold pork. Wonder if it'll taste better if we toast it over the fire."

She smiled after him as he headed that way. He was always trying things out, looking for new ways to do something or things to turn to his advantage. She was finding it interesting and fun to be with him.

He had fanned the embers into a blaze by the time she got to the firepit. Some time during the night, he had broken off other pieces of metal from the wreck of the tower and platform. There was a flat piece that he clearly intended to use as a griddle and a hollow one that she saw now could be used as a rudimentary pot.

He looked up at her, smiling as he squatted on his heels beside the fire. She put out a hand and tilted his head to one side.

"What happened to the scratches?"


"You had two deep scratches last night. Here and here." She brushed her fingertips beside his right eye and then beneath it.

"Oh! That's why you..." Spike stopped abruptly before betraying the fact that he had been awake when she had touched him like that before. "Vamps heal fast, luv."

"That must be useful."

"Is. Slayer healing's even faster."

"I heal like that?"

He nodded. "Got yourself staked two-three months back. Belly wound. Deep. Healed in a few days."

"Well, that's reassuring. Helps if I'm constantly getting into fights like you say."

He grinned at her. "You still don't really believe me, do you?"


"Show you after breakfast. Do a little sparring, yeah? No point getting out of shape while we're here. Who knows how long the Scoobies will take to find us."

"Okay." It would pass the time. She sat down on the dead log they were using as a seat and started trying to pick the pine needles out of her white pullover. "Pity there was no warning that we were going to fall through that portal. Wearing a knitted top and thin gray slacks out here is definitely of the bad. There's something pricking me right between my shoulderblades."

She twisted, trying to reach it, and he set down the griddle and came to sit beside her.

"Let me take a look. Oh, you've got a burr."

He picked it off and showed it to her, rubbing her back lightly to take away the irritation. She made a face and leaned against his shoulder, shaking her head.

"I am definitely a city person. I'm not cut out for roughing it."

"You're coping damn well, pet."

"Thanks." She turned her head to smile at him, then caught her breath. His face was only inches away from hers and his gaze was fixed on her mouth, the vivid blue of his eyes darkening as his pupils dilated.

She was suddenly intensely aware of him, found herself remembering the way he had felt when she had woken up this morning, that cool strong body so vibrant and fine against hers. His lips had been parted and she had found herself wanting to cover his open mouth with hers, find out what that mouth would taste like. Now, with his breath shuddering against her lips, she was tempted all over again.

Something popped in the heart of the fire and they jerked away from each other. Her face was hot and she knew she was blushing, couldn't meet his eyes. But he was looking away too, jolting to his feet and using the excuse of putting the griddle on the fire as the reason for moving away from her.

"Think this is ready to eat, luv," he announced after a while.

The pork had tasted really good last night and wasn't half bad this morning either, heated up on the griddle.

"So," she said, needing to fill the awkward silence. "I was staked and managed to heal from it. Can vamps heal from a wound like that?"

He dropped down to sprawl on the grass safely on the other side of the fire. "Long as it's not through the heart. Fire, decapitation or a stake through the heart—that's what kills vamps. Has to be a wooden stake, though. Your ex once shoved a plastic woodgrain stake through my heart. Hurt like bloody hell, but I didn't dust."

"I have an ex?"

"Riley Finn, his name was. Big, cornfed, Captain America type. Wasn't trying to dust me. Wanted me to stay away from you and was making a point. That's why he used plastic instead of wood."

Buffy was frowning. "Was he human, this Riley Finn?"

"Well, of course. Otherwise, I'd have kicked him clean across the country. Your other ex, Angel, he's a vamp. I can fight him. But Riley or Xander? They're human. All I can do is duck when they try to stake me. Finn took me by surprise when he got me with that plastic stake."

"I see. Xander. He's one of the Scoobies, isn't that what you told me before? Why should he try to stake you?"

"Get on his nerves, don't I?" He gave her an unrepentant grin. "I like giving him the bird, that wanker."

"Do they know you've got that chip? That you can't hurt them?"

"Oh, yeah. Otherwise they'd be pissing themselves if I even looked at them."

"Oh, that's brave," said Buffy.

Spike blinked. "What?"

"They try to stake you only because they know you can't hurt them. Cowards. That business with Riley and the plastic stake. He wanted to cause pain. That's torture. Stake through the heart, that must be agony. Take you by surprise, torture you, shove you around, and you can't even fight back. That's my definition of a bully and a coward. No wonder I dumped him."

Spike was staring at her, his jaw dropped. "Uh, pet, I think you've got the wrong idea..."

Her brows rose. "Why, you accept it, don't you? You don't even think it's wrong for them to act that way."

"Well, uh, vampire here, pet. I'm..."

"Evil. Yeah. Got that. Well, I think what Riley did was evil. Geesh, and these are supposed to be the good guys?"

He looked totally taken aback. He opened his mouth to say something, but no sound came out. He seemed to be beyond words. A silence fell. Buffy was fuming. Spike was staring at the ground, the crease between his brows very evident. He was obviously thinking hard.

"A going off the rails moment, huh?" he said at last.

"For everyone."

"Ethics," he sighed. "Vamps aren't big on ethics. You want something, you take it, fight anyone who objects. Nice and simple. Why do you have to complicate things, Slayer?"

"Me? Looks like you're the one who's not operating in that nice, simple way anymore, Spike."

"Don't say it. Don't say it. I'm not a white hat." He glared at her when she was silent. "I'm not!"

"Didn't say a word. Tell me again though what you were doing before you fell through that portal of ours. Saving my sister, didn't you say? Saving the world from an apocalypse?"

"That was for you!"

"Yeah, right. Whatever."

He jerked to his feet and stalked off into the woods, his back very stiff as she laughed.

The sun was high in the sky before he returned. She had been busy while he was gone, creating spoons out of strips of metal by using the handle of his switchblade to bang a depression into one end, deepening the rudimentary pot and creating a metal spider to allow it to be set over the fire. If he could be inventive, she could too.

"No more talk about white hats, okay, Slayer?" he growled, stopping beside her.

She mimed zipping her lips closed, locking them and throwing away the key. But her eyes laughed at him. He looked heavenward, then dropped two rabbits on the grass beside her.

She stroked the soft fur of the pathetic, little, limp bodies sadly. "What a shame."

"Gotta eat, Slayer, and coneys are good eating. Pity that prey tends to be cute."

"And predators?"

"Tend to be beautiful." His gaze moved, smiling, across her face.

"I'm not a predator!" But he was and he was beautiful.

He looked down at her, amused. "Yes, you are, Slayer. You kill my kind. You're the alpha hunter, the ultimate threat. Most vamps are scared even to whisper your name."

"But you're not."

"I like challenges. I've killed your kind."

She was shocked. "You've killed Slayers?"

"Two." His gaze was steady. "Thought you should know."

"Is this the white hat, black hat business again?"

"You don't know what I am. You can't remember. Don't want any false pretences here. One of the reasons I came to Sunnydale was to kill you."

"Why didn't you then? Because of the chip?"

He hesitated. "Couldn't kill you. Even before the chip. Tried. You were too good. And...don't think I was really trying."

She opened her mouth to ask why, then closed it again abruptly. He wasn't meeting her eyes, so she thought she knew.

"Thing is," he said, looking back at her, "you're seeing things from my side. That's the only side you're hearing. And that's not fair to you. Everything's skewed. Better reserve judgment until you get your memory back, yeah?"

"Okay." But even the fact that he felt compelled to be fair was a point in his favor.

"Right then. You've been busy," he said, looking at the utensils she had created and the new pile of wood beside the fire.

"Needed to keep myself occupied. Bored otherwise." She stood up, forgetting about the open switchblade in her lap. "Oh!"

He caught it out of the air in a blur of vampire speed before the razor edge of the blade could impact with the toe of her boot.

"Careful with that, Slayer!" Then he grinned crookedly. "But then you're more used to stakes than knives."

"So you say. God, you move fast." She shook her head, both at her lapse of attention and at his speed. "Are you telling me that I can keep up with that?"

"Oh, yeah. Come on." He pulled her along to a clear area of the meadow. "I'll show you how to spar. All the talk in the world is never gonna convince you, stubborn bint that you are."

"But I don't remember how to fight!"

"Your body does. Gonna start off slow. I'm gonna try to hit you. You block."


"I'll be in slow motion. You'll see it coming. You respond at any speed. Whatever comes naturally, okay?"

"Okay," she said dubiously.

His fist came towards her face in slow motion and she struck it away. He threw another blow and she countered. It became a slow dance, weaving back and forth, smooth, intricate motion. But she couldn't feel that it was fighting. Anyone could strike away the slow, telegraphed blows.

Then his fist came at her with sizzling speed, out of nowhere. She blocked it without thinking.


He grinned at her. "Again, Slayer."

A little faster now—and she was keeping up. Faster still—and she was holding her own. She couldn't believe it. Her conscious mind said that this was not possible.

He barely managed to pull his punch in time before clipping her across the jaw. She had frozen up and he had come right under her guard.

"You were thinking, Slayer. Don't think. Let your mind go blank. Your body remembers the moves. Let it take over. It's like making love. Just go with the flow."

She deliberately blanked out her mind. He was right. If she didn't think about it, her body responded correctly. He started out slow again, but this time sped up rapidly.

"Action and response. That's it, pet. There we go. Keep going. That's right."

She concentrated on the sound of his voice, that soothing litany that kept her from thinking. If she kept her mind focused on simply moving and responding to his moves, her body kept up. Then she realized that she wasn't just blocking anymore. She was hitting back.

She froze in shock. His fist hit her shoulder hard before he could stop himself and knocked her backwards. She was falling, twisting as she fell. She caught a glimpse of a rock in the grass below her, knew absolutely that she was going to hit her temple on it, everything happening too fast to prevent it.

He flung himself at her, his arm coming around her head. She heard the little grunt of pain he made as they both struck the ground and realized he had wrenched his shoulder getting between her and that rock.

"Spike! Are you all right?"

He let out a little breath and sagged back on the grass, his arm still cradling her head. "Yeah. You?"

"I'm fine." She leaned her forehead against his collarbone. "Oh, wow."

"Started thinking again, didn't you?"

"I'm sorry."

"Not your fault, pet. Whole thing kind of escalated." He let her go and pushed himself up on one straight arm, smiling at her. "But, hey, I think you've come around to the idea you really can fight now, haven't you?"

"Mm." She sat up herself and reached out to knead his shoulder. "Did you pull it really badly?"

"No. Getting better already."

"Hey!" she realized. "You hit me."

"Kinda the reason we're sitting on the ground here, yeah."

"Why didn't your chip go off?"

He blinked. "It didn't, did it? Maybe because I didn't mean to hit you."

"Oh. Thank you for getting between me and that rock."

His gaze moved across her face, lingering. "Wouldn't let anything hurt you, pet."

Their faces were so close together that she could feel the shudder of his breath on her lips. She didn't know who made the first move, but suddenly they were kissing. And it was sweet, scarily, thrillingly sweet. Her mouth opened to him without a thought.

He made a painful, inarticulate sound in the back of his throat and then his hands were cupping her face and he was kissing her over and over again, lips clinging to hers, unable to draw away. She purred, drowning in him, losing herself in him. She was drunk on sensation, the taste of him, the feel of him, the long slides of that sinful, knowledgeable tongue against hers.

"You make me feel drunk," she murmured against his mouth.

"Oh, God."

He was kissing her as if there were nothing in the world but her, his whole being surrendered to her. Despairingly, devouringly, as if the world were going to end any minute and this was the only chance he'd get to hold her.


He tore his mouth away. They leaned their foreheads together, their breaths ragged against each other's faces.

"This isn't right," he groaned. "You'd never let me if you knew who you were, if you had your memory back..."

She leaned against him, shivering with pleasure, her bones turned to water. "I can't seem to care."

His lips were sliding across her face, kissing her eyes, her temple, her jawline.

"Too fast," she murmured, trying to get some sense back, and he gasped against her throat.

"Mustn't," he muttered, agreeing.

They drew back reluctantly. The vivid blue of his eyes was dark with heat and intensity, his pupils dilated, his eyelids heavy with passion and all the bones of his face standing out with strain under the taut skin. Beautiful. She almost fell right back into his arms.

"Oh, wow," she breathed. "That was..."


"Gotta keep our heads. That was way too fast. Came out of nowhere."

"Not for me," he muttered and she couldn't help cupping the side of his face. He closed his eyes and pushed against her hand, like a cat wanting to be petted.

"Need some time to think about this."

"Take all you want, pet."

The power she had over him was touchingly evident. She dropped her forehead against his for a brief second, then sighed and got to her feet.

"We'd better skin those rabbits."

"I'll do that, luv." Spike rose and retrieved the rabbits, switchblade and pot. "Back in five."

He took the rabbits well away from the campsite where the blood smell wouldn't attract animals and got to work, his hands on automatic while his mind whirled.

She wanted him. Really wanted him, not like that spell of Willow's a couple of years ago, the one that had both of them planning on getting married. This time, it was real: she truly wanted him.

But this too was like a kind of spell, wasn't it? Her not having her memory. Non compos mentis. Not in her right mind. In her right mind, she'd never touch him. In her right mind, he disgusted her.

In her right mind, he'd never have a chance in hell.

And, oh, God, he wanted her. He wanted her so. And this would be the only chance he'd ever get to have her—when she was not in her right mind.

It was wrong. He knew it. No question about that. Even as a vampire, he knew it.

But, hey. Vampire here, right? What did quibbles about right and wrong have to do with vampires? Want, take, have—that was all there was to it, right?

‘The only chance you had with me was when I was unconscious.' She had said it herself. And this was a kind of being unconscious.

Oh, God, he wanted her.

‘And Brutus is an honorable man.'

He rested his elbows on his knees, dropped his forehead onto his unbloodied wrists and sat there for a long time.

Chapter 2
Chapter 2

"There’s no way to tell which portal opened." Willow put a hand across her eyes and groaned in exasperation. "There are a gazillion dimensions. Glory could have picked any one of them as the starter dimension to seed the others. I am not a miracle worker, Xander! I can’t tell which one she used!"

"There could be resid..." Anya began, then jumped as Xander slammed his hands down on the table.

The lone customer paying Giles for a book at the counter turned his head to stare and looked as if he regretted having entered the Magic Box.

"We’ve got to do something, Will!" Xander shouted. "It’s been three days! Anything could be happening to Buffy!"

"What do you want me to do? I’ve tried everything! Every spell I can think of. But I can’t find any way to pinpoint which dimension it is."

"It’s okay, sweetie." Tara kneaded Willow’s shoulders. Willow was so tense she vibrated under Tara’s hands. "We’ll find a way. Just take a deep breath and relax."

"She doesn’t have time to relax," Xander snapped. "Buffy could be dead right now!"

"Well, if she is, it’s too late to do anything about it," said Anya, then looked honestly surprised when everybody glared at her. "What?"

"She’s not dead," said Xander flatly.

"Well, if you want to turn a blind eye to the facts. I mean, there are all sort of dimensions. Some don’t have a breathable atmosphere. Some portals open into space and some open onto water worlds with no land anywhere, just ocean..."


Anya tipped her head thoughtfully to one side and considered. "Can a Slayer swim continuously for three days? What if she just floated on her back? How long could she stay afloat then, do you think?"

Xander slapped his forehead. "Anya, for God’s sake! Do you have to be such a ditz?"

Anya looked hurt. "I was just trying to be helpful. As I was saying before, there could be resid..."

"Why can’t you just open portals at random?" Xander asked Willow. "You could open them and we could take a look and..."

"Gee, why didn’t I think of that? It only takes hours of really heavy spellcasting to open even one portal and since there are an infinite number of dimensions, we should get around to the right one in, oh, shall we say...a million years?" Willow screamed the last three words at him.

Xander fell back in his chair, stunned at the violence of her reaction, and Tara bent to put her arms around Willow’s shoulders.

"Hush, baby. Just breathe. Xander, stop it. You’re not helping."

"Tara’s quite right," said Giles, coming back to the table after ushering the bewildered customer out of the shop door. "Xander, getting hysterical and putting pressure on Willow is pointless. We need to stay calm and work out a logical way to attack the problem. If only we could find anyone who knew what spell she was using. One of her minions, for instance."

"All the little hobbits with leprosy are gone," said Anya. "Without Glory holding them here, they must have reverted back to their own dimension. And those brainsucked people don’t have a clue."

"Tara helped me look through that penthouse apartment of hers," said Willow, calming herself with an effort. "I was hoping she’d left some notes or something. We searched every inch. Tara even helped me get down that huge painting by Tamara de Lempicka that she had on the wall, just in case there was something behind there. Nada."

"It’s a pity that tower collapsed," Anya said regretfully. "If we could have gotten even a little bit closer to where the portal was, we might have been able to detect some sort of trace elemen..."

"Well, we can’t get up there without the tower, can we?" snapped Xander, out of patience.

Tara looked up suddenly. "Trace elements. Was that what you were going to say, Anya?"

Anya smiled widely, glad that someone was listening to her. "That’s right."

"Oh, Christ," sighed Xander. "Like she knows what she’s talking about."

"You know something, Xander? I’m sick of hearing you blow her off like that all the time." Tara looked really angry. Giles looked up, surprised, and Willow sat up slowly, her eyes widening. "Anya’s an ex-demon with a thousand years experience behind her. Even if she’s human now, she still knows more about dimensions and magic than Willow or I ever will. I just realized...Anya, you’ve been trying to say something for the last three days, haven’t you?"

Anya nodded, pleased. "Every spell leaves a residual trace. There was a lot of energy crackling around that portal. It would leave a...a kind of signature. And if I could just get close enough, I might be able to tell what it is. I’m not a demon any longer, but I can still sense magics."

"Oh, dear Lord." Giles had his head in his hands. "Here we were, all of us yelling and shouting our useless opinions and there in the corner the still, small voice that we couldn’t be bothered listening to."

Anya looked taken aback. "I’m sorry..."

"Not your fault. Not your fault," said Giles heavily. "It’s ours, for ignoring you."

"Yeah, but how are we gonna get her up there?" demanded Xander, waving that aside impatiently.

"I was thinking, maybe we could rent a...a cherrypicker or a...a crane or something," said Anya hesitantly. "I know it would be expensive, but..."

"The Council of Watchers can pay for it," Giles said firmly. "They want the Slayer back as much as we do Buffy."

"And don’t forget Spike," added Anya.

"Oh, let’s forget Spike," Xander groaned. "Why do we have to bring him back too? Can’t we just leave him there?"

"No, we can’t." Tara was upset. "That’s not right. He helped us so much. And he saved Dawn..."

"Buffy saved Dawn. Look. Giles agrees with me." Xander nodded at Giles who was indeed looking thoughtful.

All three women were frowning.

"We can’t take the chance," Willow said decisively. "They went together. They’ve got to come back together. Who knows if the portal will work properly if only one of them tries to get through? We may not have more than one shot at opening the portal and I don’t want to mess with any of the factors involved."

"Damn!" said Xander with feeling.


"Twelve days," said Buffy. "You’d think they’d have found us by now."

"All sorts of things could be happening. Don’t give up hope, pet."

"What’ll we do if they never find us?"

"Build a bigger shelter. Log cabin or something. Start collecting and smoking food for winter. It’s autumn here. Look at the color in the leaves. Wouldn’t start looking for civilization now. Might get caught without food or shelter. I’d camp out here until spring. Start looking then. The Scoobies might find us by spring. If they don’t by then, well, they’re never going to."

"It’s not such a bad dimension," she agreed. "Wouldn’t be that terrible being stuck here. Still, there are a few things I’d like. Soap, for instance. Taking a bath in plain water from the stream is fine, but soap would be so appreciated."

He grinned. "Could make you some, pet, if we’re gonna be here a long time. It takes work and a lot of time, but it’s not hard."

Her brows rose. "You’re kidding. What would you make it out of?"

"Animal fat and campfire ashes. What, did you think the pioneers could afford fancy store-bought soap? They made their own."

She gave him a totally disbelieving look. "Come on, Spike."

"‘M serious. You pack down campfire ashes into a pot with a hole in the bottom and pour water through it. You get this brown lye-water. You boil that down to concentrate it. Then you cut up animal fat, any kind will do. Pig fat, for instance." He raised his eyebrows at her. "You boil that into goo. Then you put the two things together and boil them until they turn into soap. And then you pour that into a mold and leave it alone for a day. It takes hours and the lye can burn you if you’re not careful, but it works. You can use the soap right away if you like, but it’s soft. If you want hard soap, you let it cure for a couple of weeks, then cut it into chunks."

He grinned at her as she sat with her jaw hanging.

"It’s easy. But it takes a lot of time and a lot of wood. Soap-making day was a big day for the homesteaders in the Old West. Third World countries still make it that way."

Buffy shook her head. "How do you know these things?"

He gave her a pointed look. "I read."

She hit his shoulder and he laughed. She leaned back into the curve of his arm as they sat resting comfortably against the dead log. They had just finished a sparring match and were taking it easy for the rest of the afternoon. He had her doing the kicks and leaps now, and she believed him when he said she was right back up to par.

"I’m glad you’re with me, Spike."

He turned his head a little to brush his lips against her temple. "Glad I’m with you too, pet. Would have gone crazy being on the other side of the portal and not knowing what’s happening to you."

It had been a good twelve days for Spike. Spending twenty-four hours a day with her, talking, laughing, getting to know each other. He hoped she wouldn’t forget all this when she got her memory back. She had never bothered to know anything about him before. He was the enemy or at best the irritating and untrustworthy semi-adversary, neither friend nor foe. There was no place for him in the black and white world she and the Scoobies chose to believe in, no place for grays, and so she shut him out. But the world was made up of grays, if she would only look at it.

Angel had done this to her. Angel without a soul had become Angelus, the vicious killer incapable of love. To admit that Spike could love her without a soul was to admit that there was something wrong with Angel. Easier to accept the party line of the Council of Watchers—that when a person became a vampire, his personality disappeared and a demon took his place. The soul went, yes, but the personality stayed and merged with the demon; and it was the strength of that personality which dictated which one was uppermost. And even demons could love—in violent, twisted ways perhaps, not wisely but quite well, as even Drusilla had tried to tell her. Even Dru, warped and twisted by Angelus as she had been, had loved to the limited extent that her warping permitted.

With Buffy’s memory gone, the harsh legacy of Angelus was also gone. She was seeing Spike fresh, without the baggage of the past, and he just prayed that when her memory came back, a little, just a little, of what she was seeing now would remain.

"Thank you for giving me space," Buffy said, her head on his shoulder.

"Couldn’t do anything else," he said, stroking her hair lightly with his fingertips.

He had found that out. Oh, he wanted her, wanted her so bad that it was an ache in his gut. But what he really wanted was for her to care for him. He could do without sex, had done all those months that Dru was sick. It was being with the loved one that was important. He was used to not having things. There had been so many things he had wanted with Dru that he had never been able to have because of her fixation on Angelus.

Caring was what mattered. The tiniest crumb of caring was all he had ever asked of Buffy. And here he was getting so much more than that. It might be only half a loaf, but even so it was precious to him.

Oh, there was this heat between them. They both felt that. If he wanted to push for it, he could have seduced her, could have talked her into bed. They both knew it. But, with her memory gone, that would have been a betrayal of what was slowly growing between them. If she had come to him, he wouldn’t have been able to hold out. No one, demon or not, could have held out under that much of a temptation. But so far she hadn’t and he didn’t know whether to be relieved or sorry.

So he slept on the second bed of pine boughs that he had made under a tree well away from the lean-to, and didn’t try to push things or take advantage, and kicked himself for a wanker the whole time.

But he was happy.

"Spike!" Buffy suddenly jerked bolt upright.

"What!" He jolted upright too, staring around automatically for whatever danger she might have seen.

"Look! There!"

She was pointing to where the wreckage of the platform lay. He swung around. Just beside the wreckage, a thin, burning line was beginning to form in the air.

"Oh, Christ! It’s a portal! They’ve found us. Slayer! Go!"

Buffy leaped to her feet and ran towards the widening portal, then realized that Spike was not with her.


He was racing towards the lean-to.

"Spike, come on!"

A turmoil of blazing white light and heavy wind was blasting out of the portal. In the middle of it, she could just barely make out a form—a red-haired woman waving a hand urgently and shouting something that she couldn’t hear over the howl of the wind.


"Slayer, go!" He snatched his duster out of the lean-to, then came running towards her.

"Not without you!"

It was just like him to make a detour to grab his duster, Buffy thought, somewhere between amusement and exasperation. She held out a hand urgently to him, the same way that the red-haired woman in the portal was holding out a hand to her. She waited until he caught her hand and only then whirled and reached for the redhead.

The redhead caught her wrist with both hands and hauled. Buffy struggled against the raging wind, then fell through the portal. There was a brief moment of wrenching disorientation and then she was no longer in the clearing. She was standing in a strange room that looked like a store, with shelves and counters all around, and all these strangers were grabbing at her and shouting things at her.

Six different voices were yelling, "Buffy, are you all right?"

"I’m fine. I..."

Her head was spinning. She struggled, bewildered and frightened, as they pulled her about and hugged her and spun her from one person to the other. These must be the Scoobies that Spike had told her about. There was an older man with glasses, and the redhead, and a woman with mouse brown hair and sweet eyes, and a very pretty blonde, and a teenager who was crying, and a loud guy with black hair. They all kept talking and pulling at her and jerking her around. She felt suffocated—by them, by her surroundings. She looked around desperately for one familiar point in all this strangeness and found it in Spike, standing beside a counter some distance away, calmly pulling on his duster.


He looked up at once at the panic in her voice and started to come quickly towards her, then was shoved backwards by the black-haired guy.

"Where d’you think you’re going, Deadboy?"

"Buffy needs me."

"Get a grip. Buffy doesn’t need you. She never needs you, Evil Dead."

"Let me go, lackbrain! Can’t you see she needs help?"

Buffy struck away the hands pulling at her and fled towards Spike. He shoved the black-haired guy away so hard that the guy tripped and fell against the counter. Freed, he reached towards her. She grabbed the lapels of his duster and clung to him. He was the only thing that made sense in this confusion around her.

His arms came around her. "It’s all right. It’s all right, pet. Just breathe. These are your friends. Just give her some space, will you?" he said angrily to the others. "This is all strange to her."

"What the hell is going on? Get away from her, Spike!" The black-haired man grabbed for her and she jerked away.

"Back off, Harris!" Spike jolted him away with one straight arm and the guy stumbled and nearly fell. "Look, she doesn’t know you, okay? She just needs a little breathing space. Just give her a minute here, will you?"

"What have you done to her, you evil..."

"She’s got amnesia. Something happened when she fell through the portal the first time. She doesn’t know who she is. Doesn’t remember any of you."

There was a lot of exclamations and shouting. Buffy pressed her hands to her ears. There was too much noise and confusion. She leaned against Spike, her eyes closed to shut out the world, deeply grateful for his presence and the reliability of his support.

"For once, will you think of her instead of yourselves?" he snarled at them. "Just shut the hell up, all of you! She needs quiet."

A grudging silence fell. She dropped her hands and opened her eyes warily. They were all staring at her, all these strange faces. She flinched and pressed closer to Spike, then managed to turn a little and look back at them.

"Right then," said Spike. "The noisy moron on the left here is Xander. Guy beside him is Rupert Giles, your Watcher. Redhead’s Willow. Next to her, Tara, then Anya, then..."

"Dawn," she whispered.

"That’s right," said Spike with satisfaction. His arms fell away as she reached out towards her sister.


Dawn ran into her arms, crying, and they hugged tightly.

"It’ll come back," Spike was saying to the others. "Just give her a little time. It’ll all come back now that she’s in familiar surroundings. She knows who Dawn is already. She remembers how to fight, though I wouldn’t make her patrol for a few days. I’ll do patrol until she’s up to par. But she does know how to fight. That came back. We’ve been sparring these last twelve days."

"Twelve days?" Giles said sharply. "It’s only been four days since the two of you fell through Glory’s portal. We wasted a couple of days trying to find the right one. Anya managed to identify it today and we opened it right away."

"Time went three times faster there then," Spike conjectured. "It was twelve days for us."

"And Buffy had amnesia the whole time. So you’re the only person she really knows."

"And you took advantage of that, didn’t you?" Xander said slowly. He reached for a stake.

"He didn’t lay a finger on me!" exclaimed Buffy angrily and struck the stake from Xander’s hand. He gasped and jerked back in pain. She hadn’t pulled the blow. She had hit his wrist deliberately hard to underline her point. "Spike was a perfect gentleman. You leave him alone. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here. I’d have wandered off and got lost and probably died in those woods. He helped me. Got food for me and fire and shelter. He took care of me. I’m not going to let you hurt him!"

"There are other ways of taking advantage," said Giles quietly. "Still. Why don’t we wait until Buffy has her memory back? Then, if she thinks Spike needs to be staked, she can do it herself."

"I’ll be looking forward to that," muttered Xander sulkily.

"Why don’t we go home, Buffy?" Dawn said tentatively. "You’re probably hungry and you’ll want to change your clothes."

"Yeah," Buffy sighed. "I’ll have to trash these. Nothing’s going to get the dirt and pine needles out of them. And I’m going to have a bath. A long one, with shampoos and fragrances and soap!" She grinned at Spike who grinned back.

"It’s Saturday. Willow and Tara have been staying with me while you were gone. We could have a girl’s night," suggested Dawn hopefully. "With ice cream and movies and stuff. And we could answer any questions you have."

"Okay," said Buffy, but gave Spike a troubled look.

He knew that she wanted him to stay with her, but he also knew that the Scoobies would raise holy hell about that. The last thing she needed right now was fuss and argument.

"Don’t need me now," he said lightly and ignored Xander’s automatic "She never needs you, Deadboy." He headed for the stairs to the basement of the Magic Box and the access to the sewers there. "See you later then."

He said it carelessly, throwing it casually over his shoulder as he went, so that the Scoobies wouldn’t think twice about it. But the slight tilt of his scarred eyebrow told Buffy that it was a promise and she relaxed.

Sure enough, the moment Willow and Tara left that night, returning to their dorm now that Buffy was back, Spike turned up at the back door. She saw the familiar black duster and white-blonde hair glinting silver in the moonlight and ran to let him in.

"Oh, thank God." She put her arms around him and hugged him tightly.

"How are you coping, luv?" he asked, rubbing her back comfortingly.

"Everything’s so strange. I know this is supposed to be my home and these are people I’m supposed to know and I can see they’re my friends, but...but...all I feel is that they’re strangers, even Dawn. I wish you could stay. I know you. I’m comfortable with you."

"They’d have a cow."

"Dawn wouldn’t."

"No, Dawn’s got sense." He pulled out a chair for her at the kitchen table and settled her into it. "But Dawn’s just a kid. The rest of them, they wouldn’t listen to her. Or to me. Or even to you, as long as you have this memory loss."

"I know. The Scoobies have been in and out of here most of this evening. And, except for Tara and Dawn, all of them treat me like I’ve gone completely 404. Especially Giles and Xander. I’ve just lost some of my memories, but they act as if I’ve lost all of my brains. They keep telling me what to do, ordering me about."

"Possessive, the lot of them," Spike nodded. "Noticed that even before. Think they know what’s best for you. Always tried to tell you how to think. Never dared try to tell you how to act before. You’d have given them hell. Now with the memory loss putting you at a disadvantage, they might try to push it, all for your own good, of course."

"I’ll give them my own good," Buffy muttered resentfully.

"No, don’t. Right now you’re vulnerable. Don’t know what they might try to pull on you. All for the best," he said sarcastically. "Never trusted anyone who says they’re doing something for someone else’s own good. Usually it’s just because they want power over that person. Otherwise why can’t they trust that person to make his own decisions? I mean, he’s the one who should know best, right? Maybe it’s because I’m evil, but I’ve never trusted altruistic motives."

"You say you’re evil, but so far, you’re the least evil person I’ve seen around here," Buffy growled, then grinned when he pulled a mock-offended face. "Well, except for Dawn and Tara."

"Talk about being damned with faint praise. Anybody would be more evil than that pair of fluffy kittens." They grinned at each other. "But seriously. Gotta keep a low profile, pet. At least until you get your memory back."

"How can I tell if what they want me to do is right? They say this and that, and I can’t judge for myself and I don’t trust them. They all seem to have hidden motives of one kind or the other."

"Yeah, I know. And they don’t even admit it to themselves. Tell you what. Ask Tara. She’s true-blue, that girl. She’s got the right instincts and no hidden motives. Or ask me. I haven’t got the right instincts, but I’ll do my best for you. Got only one hidden motive and I think you know what that one is."

She smiled at him. "Yeah, and I think I can deal with that one."

He stroked a lock of her hair delicately. "Can’t be useful to you in the day. Vamps and the sun don’t mix here. If you have a problem during the day, come to my crypt. Can show you where it is right now, if you’re not too tired."

"I’m not too tired. I’d rather be tired, to tell you the truth. I don’t think I’ll sleep well tonight unless I’m exhausted. The house is strange. The bed’s strange. I’d rather be back in the lean-to with the pine boughs." She gave him a rueful smile.

"It’ll get better, pet." He gripped her shoulder lightly, then stood up and went to call up the stairs. "Dawn? I’m gonna give Buffy a tour of the town. Will you be okay alone for a hour?"

"I’ll be fine," Dawn called back. She came and leaned on the banisters. "Take your time. Don’t see why Giles and Xander are causing such a fuss. I know Buffy’s safe with you, Spike. They’ve got their heads up their..."

"Dawn!" exclaimed both Buffy and Spike at the same time and she giggled unrepentantly before disappearing back into her room.

"Fourteen-year-olds," muttered Buffy and Spike grinned.

"Has a point though."

"Doesn’t have to express it quite that way. Are you serious about giving me a tour of Sunnydale?"

"Yeah. The more you know, the more normal you act, the less excuse they’ll have to hassle you."

Buffy locked the front door after them, then stared at the black DeSoto that was parked at the curb.

"Whoa. How old is that thing?"

"Hey! This is a classic."

"Uh huh. Why are the windows painted over?"

"So I can drive during the day. This side, Slayer." He held the passenger door open. "I’ve seen you drive and you’re not getting your hands on my baby."

"Am I that bad?"

"Worse." He started the car. "Roll the window down, pet, and you’ll get a good view."

They quartered the town slowly, he showing her all the places that she might need to know and making sure she knew exactly where they were in relation to her own house. After a while she noticed that the discussion had all the marks of a military briefing: this route for offence if such and such a thing happened, that for defence, here a bolthole if a dive for cover was required.

"Are you always this thorough?" she asked, impressed.

"Been in Sunnyhell several years now. Know it pretty well. But, yeah, I usually scope things out when I come into any town. When everyone’s after your hide—and if you’re a vampire, everyone is— these are the things you need to know to keep yourself undusted."

"Do all vampires do this?"

"A lot don’t. Fledglings can be stupid. Those pay the penalty. Aren’t many vamps like me, over a hundred years old. Reason I’m still around after hundred and twenty years is because I’m careful about things like this." He grinned at her. "‘M reckless in a lot of things. Like it that way. But not with this."

They were back at Revello Drive by now but, instead of stopping, he drove slowly to Restfield cemetery so that she would know how to get there from her house.

"Show you the sewer system tomorrow night," he said after he had hidden the DeSoto in its usual place and they were winding their way on foot through the cemetery. "Might be useful for you to know."

The back of her neck tingled suddenly and she rubbed at it, startled.

"Vamp." Spike flicked his cigarette away. "Do you see him, pet?"

She did: a scruffy-looking individual moving through the gravestones. Spike started to move forward, then stopped, grinning at her.

"Wanna have a go, Slayer?"


"Just like when we’re sparring. Except..." He held out a stake. "The object this time is to shove the pointy end of this through his heart."

She took the stake doubtfully. "I don’t know if..."

"Be right behind you if you need me, pet. But you won’t."

It was nothing like any sparring match she had ever had with Spike. She stepped forward into the moonlight. The vamp took one look at her and flung himself at her, snarling. She struck his claws away, ducked, then slammed the stake right through his heart. It took all of five seconds. She stood with her mouth open while he turned to dust and vanished.


Spike strolled up to her, grinning.

"But it was so easy," she said incredulously.

"Well, yeah."

"But when we spar..."

"You’ve been sparring with the best there is, pet," he said smugly. "Not going to find many my caliber. They’re all gonna be easy after me."

She gave him a look. "Ego much?"

But he was right. After all the difficult moves they had gone through while sparring, this had been ridiculously simple.

"And you’re better than me, Slayer."

Her confidence had taken a tremendous leap forward.

"Hey, I might really be able to do this," she said in wonder.

"Sure you can. C’mon, my crypt’s this way."

She was amused at the way he had converted the crypt to his own uses. It had everything that he would need, all cleverly set up. He showed her the trapdoor towards the back.

"If you ever need a bolthole in this area, go down there, pull the trap down and lock it." He showed her the latch that he had installed. "There’s an access to the sewers along here. See it? You can get out that way if you need to."

"You’ve thought of everything. It’s nice down here."

The downstairs was cozy, with its big bed, rugs, candles, books. She bent over a carton half-filled with LPs: Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Lou Reed, The Clash, Iggy Pop, but also German Cabaret music from the thirties, music from Woodstock, Piaf, early experimental jazz...

"The soundtrack of my life," he said wryly.

"Why don’t you get CDs?"

"Dunno." He ran his fingertips lightly and affectionately over a cardboard sleeve. "Kind of used to the pops and the crackles. They’re almost part of the music, had ‘em so long. CDs would clean all of that up and I’d miss them."

"Part of your history."

"Yeah." He gave her a rueful, embarrassed smile.

"Wait a minute," she said suddenly, looking at the shelves. There were LPs there too, but he had been clearly taking them off the shelves and placing them into the cartons. There were holes in the rows of books too. "You’re packing! Are you leaving?"

"Not leaving," he said quickly. "Thing is, we’ve got a problem. Wanted to talk to you about it, but wanted to be safe here where no one could hear before I told you about it."

She sat down, tailor-fashion, on one of the rugs. "What’s wrong?"

He didn’t sit down beside her, kept pacing restlessly around the room.

"Just packing the things I care about. Don’t want them to get busted up. Gonna take ‘em over to a friend of mine. Demon called Clem. You won’t know him. Harmless. He’ll take care of them for me for a while."

"Spike. Get to the point."

He turned to face her and drew a deep breath. "Chip doesn’t work any more."


"Remember when I shoved Xander in the Magic Box? Shoved him twice. Shouldn’t have been able to do that. Chip should have fired each time. Didn’t."

"Oh, God." The implications rattled her. "What happened?"

"I’ve been thinking about that. The lightning that hit me before we fell through the portal? It must have fried the chip. Chip’s dead. Doesn’t work any more."

"Oh, wow."

"Gonna stake me, Slayer?"

She should. She knew that. He was one of the most dangerous vampires around. He had told her so himself. She looked up at the strain on his face. She didn’t want to stake him.

"Are you going to eat people?"

He shook his head. "No. Swear to you."

"Must be one hell of a temptation. Fresh blood. Human blood. Human...life. Didn’t you say that’s what really nourishes?"

"Bagged it this long. Can go on doing that. Conflict of interest for you, Slayer, if I went around snacking on people. Understand that."

"You’d do that for me?"

"Yes." His face was intense, completely sincere. "Don’t want to hurt you, Slayer. Not in any way."

"All right," she said quietly. Over the last twelve days she had gotten to know him very well and she knew when he was telling her the truth.

"You’ll know if I start to feed. If I do, you stake me. Yeah?"

"Yeah." She reached out to him and they shook hands solemnly. "Deal."

He let out a little breath of relief and sat down on the foot of the bed. She leaned back beside him, her elbow on the mattress.

"What would you have done if I’d reached for a stake?" she asked.

"Run." He gave her a wry smile. "I was all set for it. Couldn’t have fought you, Slayer. Not for real."

She touched his knee lightly, then glanced at the boxes. "Why are you packing?"

"Gonna move out. Just temporarily. Scoobies know where I live. They haven’t clued in to what happened at the Magic Box. But they might. And if they do, Xander or Giles would be here in full peasants-with-stakes-and-torches mode. I’d have to hurt them, kill them, maybe, just to stay alive. You wouldn’t want that."


"Gonna find a place to stay they don’t know about. Just temporarily, until we get this all sorted out. I’ll tell you where it is once I find it. Gonna take the things I care about over to Clem’s. It’ll be only a couple of cartons. Leave the rest the way it is so that they don’t know I’ve moved. If they see everything still here, they’ll think I’m at Willie’s or just fooling around somewhere. They’ll stake out this place, won’t go looking anywhere else. Safer that way."

"I wish it didn’t have to be that way," she said sadly. "I wish I could make them understand."

"Tara or Dawn would. But not the others. Tried to kill them often enough before the chip. Tried to kill you. If you had your memory back, maybe you’d want to stake me too."

"God, why do things have to be so complicated? Do you really think I’d try to stake you if I got my memory back?"

"Might. Hope not. Hope you remember all of this."

She looked up at him in surprise. "You mean I could forget what happened in the last twelve days?"

"Could. Started reading up on amnesia today. There’s all sorts of variations. But lots of times— most times, in fact—what happens during the period of amnesia is lost when the actual memory comes back."

She shivered. "God, I hope not! I don’t want to lose the last twelve days." She reached up and laid her palm against his cheek. "I’ve been happy. I want you to know that. I’ve been happy with you."

His hand caught hers and pressed it against his mouth. He swallowed hard.

"Thank you," he said almost under his breath. "That means...a lot to me."


"I think it’s time I started patrolling," she said to the Scoobies three or four days later. She had already gone patrolling every night with Spike, but she knew better than to tell them that. Dawn knew, but Dawn wouldn’t mention it.

"Good," said Xander. "Rather have you out there than Spike. Who knows what he might be letting slip by—on purpose."

"Do you have any facts to support that accusation?" Buffy inquired. "Or are you just saying what you would do in his place?"

Xander stared at her. "Why are you defending Spike?"

"He doesn’t seem to be doing anything wrong that I can see. Just helping. And he doesn’t seem to think of things like that. But you do. So I was just wondering."

"Now wait a minute..." began Xander defensively.

"Must be just this pesky memory loss. But you keep saying all these nasty things, Xander. Not only about Spike. About everybody. And then you say, hey, I’m just kidding, can’t you take a joke? But the nasty thing’s still lying out there, sending feelers in all directions." Buffy made a face, then shrugged. "But, hey. Maybe I’m being over-sensitive. Maybe when I get my memory back, it won’t seem like anything at all."

Giles was frowning, and Willow and Tara exchanged glances.

"Anybody else get the idea that maybe Spike’s brainwashed her?" Xander muttered to the others as they followed Buffy down the street to the first cemetery.

Only a couple of demons showed up that night, for which Buffy was thankful, because the Scooby gang was really not that effective on patrol. Willow and Tara threw some useful spells, but the others were pretty much dead weight. She dispatched the two demons with dispassionate efficiency, like chopping down firewood, and was glad to feel the tingle that was Spike’s signature on the edge of her awareness. He was watching them from a distance and would be right with her if anything more dangerous showed.

She found herself getting irritated with the Scoobies’ insistence on hanging around. She didn’t need them. They were only getting in the way and their prejudice against Spike was keeping her from teaming up with him. The two of them made a really effective team. She couldn’t understand why the Scoobies wouldn’t see that.

The next night she said she was going out alone. There was an immediate storm of protest.

"But I didn’t have any trouble yesterday. It was way easy. C’mon, guys! I don’t need memory to chop down demons. You saw that last night. All I need to do is kick the hell out of them."

"Buffy, anything could happen," Giles objected.

"Yeah, so? I’ll deal. I didn’t take the lot of you with me before, did I?"

"No, but..."

She turned and faced them squarely. "Am I your prisoner?"

"Good Heavens, no!" gasped Giles and the others looked appalled.

"Because that’s the way you’re making me feel. Can’t even go to the mall without the bunch of you hanging around. What’s up with that?"

"We didn’t mean..." That was Willow, shooting a guilty glance at Tara who had an ‘I told you so’ look on her face, but was tactfully saying nothing.

"They think you can’t be trusted on your own," said Anya with her customary forthrightness. "Not until your memory comes back."

"Anya!" Xander yelled and everyone else looked horrified.

"I don’t need a babysitter," said Buffy flatly. "You guys are acting as if my IQ has suddenly dropped to my shoe size just because I can’t remember certain things. That’s not the way it works. I do remember how to tie my own shoelaces, people. I can take care of myself. So now I’m going to go on patrol and you all are not coming with me."

"But Spike is," Xander accused suddenly.

Buffy’s brows rose. "What brought that on, Xander? Have I even mentioned the possibility of Spike coming along?"

"You’re thinking it."

She just looked at him. "What is this? Jealousy? Just don’t go there, Xander."

She walked out of the Magic Box and slammed the door after her. She reached the first cemetery and realized that someone was following her. It wasn’t Spike. She could feel his presence ahead of her, not behind. It had to be one of the Scoobies, probably Xander. The bunch of them must have decided to keep an eye on her anyway. She grinned tightly to herself and started to run. She was the Slayer. No one could keep pace with her, except a vampire.

She zipped through that cemetery, crossed Main Street and was sprinting north when the vampire she was expecting caught up with her.

"What’s going on, Slayer?"

"Haven’t done the cemeteries in the north for a while, have we? Told the Scoobies I wanted to patrol on my own. They decided to send a shadow anyway."

"Xander. You’ve lost him, pet. Way back. He was still casting about the first cemetery when I hit Main Street. He’s gonna have a cow when he can’t find you."

"Serves him right," she growled. "Serves them all right. I hate this. They’ve got to learn that I’m not about to be kept on a leash."

He laughed. "I think they’ll be getting the idea." He glanced with a smile at the black tank, track pants and sneakers that she was wearing. "You were expecting to make a run out of it, weren’t you?"

"The way they’ve been acting, I thought they might try something like this."

They fell comfortably into step. The northern cemeteries were small. It didn’t take them long to determine that everything was quiet and the graves undisturbed there. Then they made a quick pass through the town, checking out the trouble spots.

"Want a drink, pet?" Spike asked as they passed the Bronze.

"Why not? I’m thirsty. But just a soft one though."

He gave her an amused glance. "Don’t like the taste of the hard stuff, do you?"

She made a face in agreement as they skirted the dance floor, then pulled her hair out of the scrunchie holding it back and shook it loose. He reached out unthinkingly and ran his fingertips lightly through the golden strands. She smiled.

"You like it loose, don’t you?"

He drew his hand back quickly. "Yeah, I do."

"Wouldn’t it be funny if Xander is still wandering around looking for me and I’m here dancing at the Bronze?"

He grinned involuntarily at the thought. "Technically, you’re not dancing, pet."

"We could correct that." She hooked an arm around his neck and pulled him onto the dance floor.

His hands dropped to her hips and tightened as she moved against him. Then he caught his breath and pulled back sharply.

"Don’t tease, Slayer."

"Sorry." She was laughing, but his eyes were very dark when he looked at her, their pupils dilated.

"Trying to do the right thing here, pet. But what I am is a demon. Push me and you might get something you hadn’t bargained for. Even a human would have trouble, you keep playing games like that."

"Won’t play." She held up a hand in an ‘I swear’ gesture, but her eyes were laughing at him. "Promise."

"Let me see your other hand."

She held that one up as well. "No crossed fingers."

"You’re getting a charge out of this, aren’t you?"

"Kinda funny if you think about it. The demon being more moral than the human."

"Can’t believe myself either," he muttered. He ordered their drinks and shoved hers at her when it came. "Change the subject, for God’s sake."

"Okay. Hey, did you find a place to stay or are you still using the crypt? You never said."

"Oh, yeah, right. Meant to show you where it is. Got it all set up yesterday. Needs only one more thing to finalize it. Take you over there once we finish our drinks."

"What’s it like? Another crypt?"

"No, not this time. Thought I’d get something different. Breaking the pattern, you see, in case the Scoobies start looking for me with blood in their eye. No crypts, no factories. See, there’s this evil law firm..."

"Redundant," muttered Buffy and he grinned.

"All law firms are evil? Well, this one really is. Wolfram and Hart, they’re called. They like demons for clients. One of the things they do is rent out safe houses to demons who want to keep a low profile for one reason or the other. They’ve got a couple in Sunnydale. Expensive, but, hey, it’s only for a while. Just until you get your memory back. Then, either you dust me or you keep the Scoobies off me and I can go back to my crypt."

"What if they still don’t listen?"

"Cross that bridge when we come to it."

The place turned out to be a house clear on the other side of Sunnydale from both his crypt and Revello Drive. It was a perfectly innocuous one storey, suburban bungalow exactly like the others all around it on a perfectly innocuous suburban street.

"It’s got a lot of windows," Buffy remarked. "Do you think people might notice that the windows are curtained all day or will you be sleeping in the basement?"

"Necro-tempered glass. Wolfram and Hart have had vamps for clients before. They know what we need." He paused as he opened the front door to let her in. "Did you keep track of how to get here from your place?"


The place was small, but luxuriously furnished with all the amenities. Buffy looked around with amusement and appreciation.

"Spiffy," she said dryly. "Don’t you wish you could live like this all the time?"

"Don’t really care," he shrugged. "I’ve lived high life and low. Makes no odds which. Got all I need in my crypt. Though that necro-tempered glass is a real plus." He considered that, then shook his head. "Expensive and not necessary. Can do without."

"Are you sure it works?"

"Haven’t tested it out yet, if that’s what you mean. There’s a failsafe. Apparently just a touch of that button over there closes all the curtains."

Buffy went and pushed it. The curtains swished together throughout the house.

"Well, that does seem to work." She scowled at him. "Now keep it that way till morning."

Spike laughed. "Not the trusting sort, are you?"

"Do you really want to take anything an evil law firm tells you in good faith? Rather not see you a big pile of dust when the sun comes up tomorrow morning. Test it first."

"Appreciate the concern, luv." His eyes were soft as he looked at her. "Place is pretty secure. Spells don’t work on it, so Willow for instance won’t be able to suss out where I’m living just by casting a locator spell. But it’s not vamp proof if it’s being rented by a vamp. Needs to be rented by a human before it will keep vamps out. I’d like to put the place in your name, if that’s all right with you."

"Why should vamps come after you?" she asked, puzzled.

"One might. A vamp called Angel. Scoobies might call him in if they find out the chip’s not working and you refuse to dust me. Rather not wake up to find a stake headed at my heart."

She nodded. "What do you want me to do?"

"Just sign these papers. Here and here. Both copies. Wait," he said as she reached for the pen. "Let’s test that out too."

He opened the front door and stepped outside.

"Right. Sign them now."

She did so and he patted at the empty air of the doorway, then smiled.

"Did it work?" she asked dubiously, then gasped as he turned, leaned back dramatically at a forty-five degree angle and stayed there quite comfortably, supported by thin air. "Whoa."

"Like a wall. No vamp can get through unless invited." He straightened up. "Invite me in, luv, and specifically say my name."

"Lean back like that again first," she grinned and he laughed.

"Oh, no, you don’t."

"I’d catch you."

"Sure you would."

She laughed. "Come in, Spike."

He stepped through the doorway and shut the door behind him. "Done. Now as long as you don’t invite any other vamp in, we’re good to go."

He dropped down onto the couch. Buffy kicked off her sneakers and sat down beside him, tucking her feet under her.

"It’s an awful thing to say, but this is the first time I’ve been able to relax since we came back through the portal." She leaned back into the curve of his arm. "I like it here. No one can find us here. No one even knows we’re here. It’s like we’re still in that other dimension."

He looked at her in surprise. "Do you want to be in that other dimension?"

"Yes. I don’t mind being the Slayer. It’s fun kicking demon ass, either alone or with you. And I’m fine when I’m with Dawnie or Tara. They let me be me. It’s the others. They have so many demands and expectations. They keep pushing and prodding at me. Won’t let me alone." She gave him a curious look. "You don’t push. You’re the demon and you...want the most from me. But you don’t push."

"I did, a while back. Tied you up. Tried to get you to say you could care for me."

Her brows rose. "And you’re telling me this why?"

"Thought you should know. Like I said, I can make some awful big mistakes. Don’t really know what’s right or wrong. That was a real going off the rails moment."

"And how’d it work out for you?"

"About how you’d think." He gave her a twisted smile. "Learned my lesson. Not asking for anything from you, yeah? Just want you to be happy."

"You care for me."

His hand came up to brush the side of her face lightly, a delicate, helpless touch. "I care for you, Slayer."

"Do you love me, Spike?"

His throat worked as he swallowed hard. "I love you, Slayer. So much. Don’t have to worry, though. Not going to take advantage..."

She kissed him.

He made a wordless, agonized sound in his throat, then his mouth was painful on hers, devouring her, desperately, despairingly.


Then he tore himself away, jerking to his feet, stumbling backwards.

"God, Slayer! Have some mercy. You promised you wouldn’t play games."

"Not playing," she said quietly. She stood up and came to him and took his face in her hands. "Wanted to do this a week ago. Should have."

"Oh, God." His hands caught her wrists, then he froze, wanting to but incapable of pulling her hands away. "You’re not in your right mind. If you had your memory back, you’d never let me touch you."

"Then it’s a good thing I don’t have my memory back. Want you, Spike."

His breath caught. "Oh, Christ. Wanted you for years. Wanted you since the first time I saw you. But...But...Know this is wrong. Going off the rails here."

She leaned against him and felt his whole body shudder against hers. "Don’t care."

"Oh, my girl." His mouth took hers painfully hard. "‘M only a demon," he muttered against her lips. "Can’t be expected to hold out. Even a human couldn’t. Don’t care. Don’t care if you stake me after. Worth it. Buffy, Buffy..."

He was crushing her to him so tightly that she had no breath. But she didn’t need breath. All she needed was his body against hers and his mouth raking down her throat and the way he was looking at her as if there was nothing in the world but her, nothing more precious than her.

Neither of them had time for gentleness. It was all raw hunger, all urgent need, gasping bodies struggling and straining against each other. He was pulling off her tank top and she raised her arms to help him. She hadn’t dressed for seduction, hadn’t intended this to happen, wasn’t wearing anything more sexy than a plain sports bra. He unclasped that and made a painful sound in his throat.

"Oh, God, you’re so beautiful..."

She cried out as his mouth closed on her breast, suckling and licking at her nipple, pressing it to the roof of his mouth. The bra fell away as her arms dropped. She arced to his mouth, holding his head to her breast, her whole body gone liquid, knees turning to water.

"Oh, yes, Spike..."

She was pulling him downwards. They both collapsed, unable to stay upright, ended up sprawled on the carpet, mouths fused together, hands raking over each other’s bodies. He was pushing at her track pants, trying to get them off. She raised her hips to help him, reached for his belt buckle. They struggled, getting in each other’s way. Then her pants were off and she had pulled down his zipper, was pushing his jeans down, reaching for him. He groaned aloud as his cock sprang free into her hands.

"Want you in me, want you in me now, Spike!"

They were both way past the point of foreplay.


He grabbed her thigh, pulling it over his hip. And then he was sinking home, shoving into her in one hard thrust.

"Oh, God." She arced against him, clenching upon him, her hands clawing down his back.

He froze for a second, staring down at her, his eyes full of awe and disbelief, unable to believe that he was really taking her. She yanked his head down to hers, kissed him fiercely hard.

"Damn you, Spike! Don’t stop!"

His breath left him in a rush. He gasped against her face, then he was pistoning into her, all control lost, thrusting in all the way and just that little bit further, his hips twisting at the end of every stroke so that he hit every sweet spot in her body with every thrust. They strained against each other, eyes closed in ecstasy, mouths open and panting desperately for breath, driving each other relentlessly higher and higher. It was unendurable, excruciating, and it went on and on and on until she thought she would die from it. It was all too much, too intense, unbearable, and yet she never wanted it to stop.

She felt him pulse within her, fell over the edge herself, her brain whiting out and her heart feeling as if it were going to stop out of pure, insupportable rapture.

She came back to herself to find him heavy upon her, panting into the curve of her shoulder. She wrapped her arms around his head, kissed his eye and then the corner of his gasping mouth.

"Oh, God, that was amazing."

"You’re amazing," he breathed and turned his head to look at her. "Never felt so...Nearly blacked out."

He pushed himself up on his elbows, trying to take some of his weight off her. She made a little, purring sound of protest.

"Want your weight. Want all your weight."

"Too heavy..."

"No." She pulled his head down to hers and kissed him, then laughed a little. "Look at us. I’m completely naked and you’re still fully dressed."

Even to his duster, its folds blanketing both of them.

He rolled suddenly to one side and started to rip his clothes off.

"Too fast," he was muttering. "It was all too fast."


"Wanna take my time. Wanna make it last."

He pulled his T-shirt over his head and she made a little sound of pleasure. He was beautiful under it: taut, supple muscle and fine, strong bone, alabaster satin skin, an utterly lickable six-pack. She reached out a hand and ran it over his chest and stomach. He shivered.

"You’re beautiful," she said.

"Me?" The way he was looking at her turned her bones to water—as if she were the only thing that mattered in the whole world, as if she were the most beautiful, glorious, precious thing on earth. "Oh, pet, I’m not the one who’s beautiful."

He was as naked as she was now, coming smoothly to his feet, scooping her up into his arms.

"Yes, you are," she murmured, her arms around his neck as he carried her into the bedroom.

He stopped for a second, holding her tight, his face pressed hard against hers.

"Oh, my girl. Don’t know how I’m going to stand losing this. Think I’d want to dust."

"You’re not going to lose it."

He dropped her onto the bed, fell on top of her. She laughed, deep in her throat, and wrapped her arms around him.

"Now what?"

"Now we’re going to do this right," he muttered and bent to her, his mouth and hands sliding over every inch of her.

Now that the urgency of their first encounter was behind them, they were able to stretch this out. It was slow as honey, voluptuously sensual, their lips and hands sliding over damp, shivering flesh, caressing, kneading, biting softly. She was drowning in sensation, lost in him, the feel of him, the taste of him. The world spun away. She wasn’t even aware of the bed beneath her, just the feel of his body and his mouth and his hands and his voice whispering indistinguishable endearments into her skin.

"Oh, God, Spike! Come on. I’m dying here." She was writhing uncontrollably against him.

But: "No," he said and later still, "No," again, stretching it out excruciatingly.

She was just about clinging to the ceiling by her fingernails before he finally came into her, his eyes almost black with passion and tenderness, and his parted lips gasping with exigent desire and with laughter. They were both laughing and it was so piercingly sweet, so intense, so unbearably perfect, that she found herself thinking, as he had, that she would die rather than lose this.


Chapter 3
Chapter 3

She woke up flat on her stomach, her head in the crook of his arm. She could feel his cool, strong body against her side, his face against her hair, his free hand light on the curve of her shoulder, thumb dreamily making small, absent circles on her skin. She smiled into the bend of his elbow.

"Haven’t you slept?"

"Sleep later," he breathed. "When you’re gone. Like feeling you against me."

She rubbed her lips back and forth against the satin skin of his inner arm, felt him shiver. "What time is it?"

"About six. Sun’s just come up." Even with the curtains drawn, he could tell, with that vampire’s infallible knowledge of exactly where the sun was.

"Don’t have to go quite yet." She stretched luxuriously, buried her face in the pillow as he drew his arm away. "Mmm. Want to stay a little longer. Comfortable."

He ran his hands down her back, a slow, languorous caress across her shoulderblades to her ass and back again.

"How about I make you uncomfortable?"

She laughed into the pillow. "Works for me."

She could feel him smiling as his mouth ran down her spine, then she shivered as his tongue ran back up it. His arms settled on either side of her and his weight came across her back. His lips slid along the curve of her neck, lingered there, sucking at her skin lightly, mouthing her flesh.

"You want to bite, don’t you?"

"Oh, yeah." But all he was using was his blunt human teeth, his fangs nowhere in evidence.

"Go ahead. I don’t mind."

He went still in surprise. "You mean it."

"Yes." It was one more intimacy she wanted to give him.

He kissed the side of her neck, over the vein. "No."

"Why not?"

He let out a little breath against her skin. "Wouldn’t be able to stop myself from claiming you."

"What’s that?"

"Binding you to me for all time. Want it. Want it too much. If I get my fangs in you, I’d do it. Wouldn’t be able to stop myself. So, no."

"Maybe I want to be bound."

"Tell me that when you have your memory back. Until then, no. You might not want it if you had your memory back, and it’s irrevocable. To claim you now would be to take away all your choices. So, no."

She could see how much he wanted it. His longing for it was naked on his face. But he was resolute.

"I think I love you," she said. She did. He was trying so hard, cared for her so much, fighting his own nature to do right by her.

"Oh, God, Buffy!"

"I do."

"Oh, my girl. I love you so much." He kissed her fiercely hard and she kissed him back, tried to turn so that she could put her arms about him. He stopped her, smiling. "No. Let’s try it this way. Might like it."

He was moving against her back, sliding up and down her skin, rubbing himself against her. She pushed back involuntarily, arcing against him, and felt him hardening between her thighs. His hands slipped under her, closing on her breasts. She purred, arcing her breasts into his hands as he kneaded them, his thumbs rubbing her nipples. He bit the junction between her neck and shoulder softly with his blunt human teeth and she shivered.


His hands were sliding all over her, her breasts and her belly and between her legs, kneading and caressing. She arced back against him, her head against his shoulder, her hands grabbing at the rails of the metal headboard because she needed to hold on to something.

"Oh, God."

He caught her thighs, drawing them apart, came into her in one smooth thrust. She pushed back involuntarily, gasping, feeling him thick and hard within her. It was a new angle, deeper, harder.

"Oh, yes!"

He had found her G-spot, was hitting it with every thrust. The heel of his hand pressed at it from the outside and his fingers strummed her clit. His other arm clasped her ribcage tightly, holding her to him, forearm between her breasts, hand gripping her shoulder.

"Oh, God, Spike!"

She clung to the rails of the headboard, arcing and writhing under him as he drove into her, goading her relentlessly higher and higher. It was unbearable. She came hard, fireworks going off in her brain, felt him shudder and groan helplessly against her as he too fell over the edge.

His forehead hit the pillow beside her head and his weight was heavy on her for a few minutes while they gasped against each other’s faces. Then he recovered himself and drew back. She twisted to face him, wrapped her arms around him. They lay holding each other.

"That was incredible," she murmured.

"Oh, yeah..." A lost breath against her eye.

"But I like this way better. Like to see you, see your face. Like to hold you."

"All sorts of ways to make love," he sighed. "Want to try them all with you."

She giggled involuntarily. "What, with all the toys? The...the cock rings and the feathers and the whips and chains?"

He laughed. "That’s for jaded palates. Gonna be a long time before I’m even close to being jaded with you. Several centuries maybe. Don’t need the toys, pet. Lots of ways to make love even without them. Chains, though...Shackle you down, drive you crazy. Good idea that."

"Looking forward to it," she purred. "Though the other way. Shackle you down."

"Oh, please." He dropped his face between her breasts, burrowed there, replete and spent. "Oh, my girl. Don’t think I’ve ever been this happy."

"Mm." She laid her cheek against his bright hair and they stayed there for a while, just luxuriating in the feel of each other. At last Buffy drew back with a regretful sigh. "Gotta get back home. I’ve left Dawn all night. I wonder if the Scoobies know I haven’t been home yet."

"Have an awful feeling they do, what with Xander chasing after you last night. They’re probably freaking out right this minute."

"Huh." She sat up and reached for a curtain, angling it carefully so that the sunlight coming through would not touch him. Outside, it was clearly day; the sun had definitely risen. "Want to test your necro-tempered glass?"

He laughed and held his hand out into the shaft of sunlight. Nothing happened.

"How about that?" she said. "It works."

"You didn’t think it would, did you?"

"Not really."

There was another button to open the curtains, on the wall beside the bed. He reached out and pushed it. The room flooded with sunlight.

"That glass has its advantages," he remarked. "You’re gorgeous in the sunlight, luv. My golden girl."

"So are you." She leaned over him, smiling, running her parted lips over his face, tracing his features one by one, teasing him.

"Oh, pet." He caught her mouth with his.

"Have to go."


"Really have to go," she repeated reluctantly, several minutes later. "Where are all my clothes?"

He sighed and released her regretfully. "With mine, all over the floor of the livingroom."

It normally wouldn’t have taken her that long to dress, but with all the distractions he provided, it was more than an hour later before the cab he called for her deposited her at Revello Drive. She walked into the house to find the entire Scooby gang, including Giles, scattered in random heaps about her livingroom.

"What on earth are all of you doing here?"

They all leaped to their feet. "Buffy, where have you been?"

"Out. Have you guys been here all night?"

"We were worried. We couldn’t find you. Where were you?" different voices yelled.

She raised her brows at them. "Slayer here, remember? More dangerous than anything around."

"Where were you?" Xander demanded.

"None of your business."

"But, Buffy," Willow protested. "We were worried. What happened last night?"

"Nothing much. Did a patrol of the northern cemeteries that we’ve been neglecting, then did a quick pass through the town. Dropped in at the Bronze. The rest is none of your business."

"You picked someone up?" Willow’s voice went high in amazement. "You never do that!"

"Told you there was nothing to worry about," said Anya scornfully to Xander, then gave Buffy a wide, conspiratorial smile. "So, was he hot?"

Buffy grinned. "Very."

"About time. I hope you got a couple of good orgasms out of it."

"Oh, yeah," said Buffy dreamily.

Willow’s mouth was open in shock, both Tara and Anya were grinning, Giles was polishing his glasses frantically, and Xander was gobbling like a turkeycock.

"Who was it?" Xander demanded.

"What part of none of your business didn’t you understand, Xander? Now why don’t all of you go home? I feel like basking in the afterglow."

Giles bolted precipitately for the door and Tara drew a somewhat shell-shocked Willow after him. Xander, of course, insisted on hanging around, uselessly throwing questions at her and blustering when no answers were forthcoming, then was dragged bodily out of the house by an exasperated Anya.

"She’s a grown woman, Xander. She can have sex with anybody she wants to." Anya smiled over her shoulder at Buffy as she pulled Xander out of the front door. "A sexually satisfied Slayer is a better Slayer. Anyone knows that."

"Anya!" Xander yelled.

"Oh, come on, Xander. Orgasms do a world of good. Basic fact of life. I’m glad you finally came to your senses, Buffy. Have fun. Enjoy."

"She’s not going to keep on..." Xander started to splutter. "Buffy, you’re not...!"

Buffy shut the door after them as Anya pulled him, still resisting, down the walk. She locked the front door, then went up the stairs and stopped short on the landing when Dawn popped out of her bedroom.

"Is it Spike?" Dawn asked, keeping her voice low, as if the others were still in the house to hear her.

Buffy nodded and Dawn squealed loudly and hugged her, bouncing up and down with glee.

"This is so cool! I won’t tell anyone. Cross my heart and hope to die."

"Someone will die if that lot found out," Buffy agreed. "I’ve got to find some way to get them used to the idea. I really don’t like all this secrecy, but..."

"Yeah. Xander and Giles would be after him with stakes if they knew. Don’t worry, Buff. We’ll figure something out. Pity we can’t tell Tara. She comes up with good ideas. But if we tell her, she’ll tell Willow. She’d feel it wouldn’t be right not to. And Willow would tell the others."

"Maybe it’s the memory loss, but I really can’t see what the big problem is that they have with Spike."

"It’s the no-soul-equals-evil thing." Dawn sighed. "They’re dumb that way. Spike hasn’t done anything really bad for a long time, but all they can see is that he could if he wanted to. Anybody could if they wanted to. Serial killers do, don’t they? Soul’s no guarantee."

"You’re bright for a fourteen-year-old, aren’t you?" Buffy grinned and Dawn made a face at her. "Why can’t the Scoobs see that?"

"The girls would come around in no time. They’re smart that way. But Xander and Giles? You know what I think it is? I think they’re jealous."

Buffy’s brows rose and Dawn shrugged.

"C’mon, Big Sis. Giles is a surrogate father and you know how fathers are when their little girls grow up and get boyfriends. And Xander? He’s had the hots for you forever. He hated Angel and he only got along with Riley because he saw Riley as a kind of action figure double of himself. Sort of lived through him vicariously, if you see what I mean."

"What kind of TV have you and Janice been watching recently?" demanded Buffy and Dawn grinned.

"You don’t want to know. Will you be seeing Spike again tonight?"

Buffy nodded. "Will you be all right on your own for a couple of hours every night? I’ll take my cell with me. You could call if there are any problems and both of us would be right there in no time."

"No prob. He’s not at his crypt any more, is he? Didn’t think so," she said when Buffy shook her head. "That was one of the places Xander went last night when he was looking for you. He came back when he couldn’t find you and kept saying that you were with Spike. When Willow couldn’t find you even with a locator spell, he went looking for Spike."

"They did all that?" Buffy was frowning. "I thought Spike was getting paranoid when he moved, but it looks like he was right."

"I suppose they want to keep you safe," said Dawn dubiously. She and Buffy exchanged glances. "I can totally understand why you don’t like it. I hated it when everyone got all over-protective about me a while back."

"I wish I had my memory back," muttered Buffy. "They wouldn’t be doing this to me if I had my memory back."

"Yes, they would. Getting your memory back wouldn’t make any difference to the way they feel about Spike. They’d still be all over you about him. We’ll have to figure out something different."

Dawn was right, Buffy thought a few hours later, looking at the shambles that the ground floor of Spike’s crypt had become. The screen of the ancient television set had been deliberately smashed, the armchair knocked over, the candles flung everywhere, and the door of the small fridge left wide open so that the couple of packets of blood still inside would spoil. The anger and malice behind the damage was evident. It was a message, Xander’s version of the plastic stake that Riley had shoved through Spike’s heart.

The trapdoor at the back of the crypt had not been discovered. She tried to pull it up, but it wouldn’t budge. Spike must have thrown the latch when he left and gone out through the sewer access. She went in through the sewers as Spike had shown her and was relieved to find that the downstairs area was undisturbed.

"Nothing that can’t be replaced, luv," said Spike unconcernedly when she told him about it that night. "Expected something like that. That’s why I changed locations."

"He would have staked you for real if you’d been there," she said with a little shiver.

"Yeah. Happened once before when he thought I was getting somewhere with you. Glory’s minions broke up that little party before he could get the stake out."

"And I had my memory at the time."

"Couldn’t have been in your right mind if you were taking up with me. Your mother had just died. Clearly I was taking advantage of your being vulnerable. You had to be rescued from yourself. An intervention was necessary," he finished dryly.

"I see. So the only time I’m in my right mind is when I do what they want."

"Not quite as bad as that, luv."

"Oh, I think it is."

They looked at each other ruefully.

"Let it go, pet," he said, gently stroking her hair back from her face. "Worry about that later."

"I can’t. What are we going to do? How does one go about changing that kind of fixed mindset?"

"We’ll find a way. Have to, don’t we? See how it plays, once you get your memory back."

"Yeah. Then I can tell them all where to go."

He laughed and rolled her over onto her back. "That’s my Slayer."

But there was a darkness behind his eyes, a fear that he wasn’t articulating.

"You don’t think I will, when I get my memory back."

"May not want to, pet, when you’re yourself again. Might not want this."

They had gone on patrol and come back to the Wolfram and Hart safe house and made love and were now just luxuriating in the afterglow for an hour before she went back home to Dawn again.

"I’ll want it," she said. She couldn’t see herself ever not wanting this.

"We’ll see."

He bent over her, drawing intricate patterns with his mouth and his hands over her breasts and belly and thighs. He had a gift for living in the moment, refusing to let doubts and fears interfere with the present joy, immersing himself in it. She realized that it was because he was accustomed to not having things, to always losing whatever he had achieved.

"I’ll always want it," she said softly against his mouth. "Even if I should forget everything that’s happened, somewhere inside I’ll still want it and grieve for not having it. You’ve made me so happy. I want you to know that, Spike."

He pressed his face between her breasts, holding her to him.

"Oh, my girl. Not asking for forever. Not asking for promises or a claim. Not asking for any more than what’s right here and now. That’s enough for me. Maybe you’ll stake me for this when you remember. Don’t care. If you should stake me for it right this moment, it would still be worth it."

She held him tightly, her arms fierce about him. "Don’t ever want to lose this. Don’t want my memory back if it means losing this, Spike."

"Maybe you’ll remember this when you remember the rest. Maybe if you want it enough, you’ll remember."

"I want it," she said intensely, from the bottom of her heart.


"I’ve tried everything," said Willow. It was ten days later and the Scoobies had finally decided to resort to magic in an effort to bring Buffy’s memory back. Under Tara’s careful supervision, Willow concocted all sorts of potions that Buffy dutifully swallowed, and tried all sorts of spells, none of which worked. "I’m sorry, Buffy."

"I don’t care," Buffy shrugged. "I’m functioning perfectly well without it. I don’t seem to need a memory to slay demons. In fact, I’m perfectly happy without a memory."

Willow, Xander and Giles looked frustrated, Anya was amused and Tara looked both sympathetic and thoughtful.

"You don’t really want to remember, do you?" Tara said and the others looked around at her in surprise.

"Oh, come on, Tara!" Xander exclaimed. "How can she not want to remember?"

"A lot of bad things happened," Tara said slowly. "Her mother’s death, her father’s leaving them, Angel, Parker, Riley, all the apocalypses. Wouldn’t you want to forget all that pain? Why would anyone want to bring all of that back?"

"You mean she’s doing it on purpose?" Xander sounded almost affronted, as if Buffy had let them all down by not trying to remember.

"Not on purpose. But what incentive does she have to get her memory back? I’d let it go," said Tara quietly. "She’s absolutely right. She’s functioning perfectly well without it. It’ll come back when she’s ready."


"Tara’s quite right, Xander," Giles said heavily. "I’ve been having doubts about this all along. It doesn’t seem right to force it on her. It might even be traumatic."

"Good," said Buffy. She had gone along with all this magic business because they had been so insistent about it, but she was glad it hadn’t worked. She ran her hands through the loose golden waves of her hair and smoothed down the silky top and black leather wraparound that she was wearing. "Giles, you said we could go to the Bronze once this is over."

"Yes, go ahead," Giles nodded. "You’ve been working very hard, all of you. You do deserve a break."

She had agreed to go dancing at the Bronze because she knew she should spend some time with the Scoobies, but although it was fun, Buffy kept waiting for that tingle that was Spike’s signature. Towards the end of the evening, she felt it. Xander and Anya were on the dance floor, but Willow and Tara were sitting this one out. Buffy hurriedly downed the half-inch of cola remaining in her glass and stood up.

"I’m going to get another drink," she announced and headed for the bar.

She was glad that the bartender was busy, since she had no intention of placing an order. She smiled as a presence came up against her back, leaning forward on his two straight arms on the counter on either side of her. She leaned back against him, tipping her head back to rest on his shoulder, feeling that cool body supple and strong behind her.

"I wondered when you’d show up," she murmured.

"Thought you’d need the bonding time. Did a patrol. Nothing’s stirring." He brushed his lips against her temple. "I gather the magic business didn’t work."

"No. They tried everything."

"Don’t know whether I’m glad or sorry," he confessed.

"Neither do I." She turned to face him, her hand running lightly down his chest to flatten against his stomach just above his belt buckle, the movement hidden by his duster.

He laughed breathlessly. "Playing with fire there, pet."

"Mm." She tugged lightly at his belt, pulling him forward until he leaned full on her, his eyes smiling as his weight pressed her against the counter. She slid her hand around his side under the duster and flattened it in the small of his back, holding him to her. "Tara said it was because I didn’t want to remember."

His face went soft. "Don’t you?"

"Not if it means losing this."

Willow saw Tara’s eyes widen and turned to follow her gaze. Her jaw dropped as she saw what Tara was looking at and she started to jerk to her feet. Tara’s hand closed on her wrist and pulled her back down into her chair.

"Willow. Don’t judge. Just look," Tara said quietly.

Spike was saying something intense and hushed to Buffy and the look on his face was so helpless, so vulnerable, that it made Willow catch her breath. Buffy put a hand against his cheek. He put his hand over hers to press it to his face and his eyes closed for a moment as he leaned his cheek into her hand.

"He really loves her," Willow said under her breath.

"Yes." Tara looked at her. "Would it be so wrong?"

"But...She doesn’t...Her memory..."

"Let them work it out."


"Can’t we do that, Will? Do we really have the right to interfere?"

"I don’t know." Willow looked at Tara’s grave, sweet eyes watching her so steadily. "I really don’t know. This is all too complicated."

Buffy had turned and was pulling Spike onto the dance floor.

"What the hell!" Xander was standing beside them, staring at the dance floor with his mouth wide open.

Willow winced. "Uh, Xander, they’re only dancing."

"But that’s Spike! She’s dancing with Spike?"

"Why not?" Anya pulled out a chair beside Tara and sat down. "I’d like to dance with Spike. He’s hot."

"Will someone please tell me why nobody else sees anything wrong with this picture?" Xander demanded. "She wouldn’t have given him the time of day before she lost her memory, but now she forgets all about us and takes up with the Evil Dead instead. And you guys think there’s nothing wrong?"

"They’re just dancing, Xander," Willow repeated weakly.

"And what else? We’ve got to do something about it. Where’s my cell?" He fumbled in his pocket, yanked out his cell phone and stalked away, mumbling to himself as he punched in a number.

"Probably calling Giles to complain," said Anya, exasperated. "So silly."

Buffy was looking right at them over Spike’s shoulder as they danced. She raised her brows and smiled.

"She’s making a statement," Tara murmured.

"I hope it doesn’t backfire on her," Willow muttered. "Giles and Xander might decide to stake Spike."

"Does that seem right to you?" Tara asked and Willow sighed.

"No," she conceded. "No, it doesn’t. You’re right, baby. It is none of our business, after all."

Tara smiled at her.

"They’re going to give you a hard time about this," Spike said as he and Buffy swayed to the slow, driving beat of the music on the dance floor.

"What’s wrong with just dancing?" She smiled and rubbed herself against him under the cover of his duster.

He grinned. "The way you dance..."

"They’ve got to start getting used to the idea. What if I never regain my memory? Are we supposed to go on hiding from them forever? This is not some hole-in-the-corner affair. I’m not ashamed of being with you. They’ll just have to deal."

"God!" he exclaimed. "I love you so much."

"Start out slow. Get them used to it step by step."

"The last step’s the one that’s gonna give them a heart attack. That last one’s gonna be like falling off a cliff for them."

"I think the girls may already have gotten the idea. The guys..." She looked up at him worriedly. "The guys might come after you with a stake."

"Then I’ll take them out," he shrugged. "Not afraid of them. They can’t hurt me." He touched her face lightly. "You’re the only one who can hurt me, pet. Because I’ll let you."

She shivered. "Don’t say things like that. I don’t ever want to hurt you. Saying things like that is like daring fate."

"We’re already daring fate. You and me, it’s wrong. Think I don’t know it? But I can’t give it up even if I dust for it."

Her hands tightened on his shoulders. "Can we get out of here, do you think? Want to be back at your place. Want to be making love to you."

"Oh, God, yes." He eased her backwards through the dancers, heading unobtrusively towards the Bronze’s back door. "How long do we have? When do you have to be back home?"

She grinned. "Not till morning. I let Dawn stay over at Janice’s when I found out the Scoobies were planning to come here."

"The whole night, is it?" His eyes lit up.

"Planning on being inventive?"

They were out in the darkness of the alley. He shoved the back door shut, pressed her against it and kissed her hard.

"Nah. Just planning to fuck you blind."

She laughed against his mouth. "You have the most romantic ideas."

They struggled down to the back alley where he had hidden the DeSoto, kissing all the way and falling over each other’s feet. The alley was deserted and completely black. Buffy tripped over something in the darkness and they fell against the side of the DeSoto, leaned there, kissing avidly, their mouths and hands hungry on each other.

She ran her hands down his torso, cupped the hard bulge in his jeans. He gasped back from her mouth, his whole weight coming on her.

"God, pet!" His hands ran up her inner thighs. "Oh, yeah. A skirt has advantages, doesn’t it?" He was pulling it up. "Did you plan this?"

"No. Didn’t have to patrol. Going dancing...Ohhh..."

She caught her breath as he snapped the sides of her thong and pulled it away. She raised a leg to hook her thigh across his hip, rubbing her wetness against him. He groaned.


His hands came under her, lifting her up. Then he was shoving home. She gasped at the feel of him thick inside her, clenched upon him. They both moaned.

"Oh, yes."

They were both gasping against each other’s faces now, their breaths ragged, lost in the pounding rhythm of their bodies arching and thrusting against each other. This was reckless and crazy, making love in the open like this, where anyone could walk in on them. But she didn’t care, it was so deliciously decadent, so erotic, so much fun, and she couldn’t have waited another minute anyway...

She felt him shudder violently against her as he came, bit the leather shoulder of his duster to keep from screaming as she fell over the edge herself, colored lights flashing behind her closed eyes.


The room was flooded with sunlight when she woke. She jerked forward instinctively to hit the button that would close the curtains, then stopped when she remembered what kind of glass was in the windows.

He laughed beside her. "Thanks for the thought, pet. Glad you care."

"Huh." She rolled over to face him, snuggled into his arms, her face in his throat. "What time is it?"

"Around eight. We were both dead to the world. Five hours straight can exhaust even a vampire."

She laughed helplessly against his throat. "Wuss."

"Like you held up that much better, Slayer."

She hugged him tightly. "Ohh. I’m just limp. Don’t want to move."

He kissed the top of her head. "So don’t."

"Got to. Janice’s mother will be dropping Dawn off any minute. I should get back."

She sighed deeply, then pushed him away reluctantly and climbed out of bed.

"Could join you in the shower," he murmured and she laughed at him.

"Insatiable. No, you don’t. I’m late enough as it is without adding another couple of hours to the tally."

When she came out of the bathroom again, he was out of bed himself and pulling on his jeans.

"Feels weird without underwear," she said, clipping her wraparound about her waist. "What happened to my thong?"

"It’s in the pocket of my duster. But, uh, you won’t be able to wear it, pet. Sides are gone."

She grinned. "Oh, right. At least my bra survived."

She shrugged that on and he hooked the clasp for her, then tipped her backwards across his arm to kiss her between her breasts, both of them laughing, before releasing her and moving towards the livingroom.

"I’ll call you a cab. Wish I could drive you home, pet."

"Maybe later, when everything’s sorted out." The distinctive ringtone of her cell sounded and she looked around. "That’s my cell. Where did I leave it?"

"Top of the dresser," he called back over his shoulder.

It was Dawn.

"Dawnie? What’s wrong?"

"Angel’s here." Dawn’s voice was hurried and urgent and a little muffled as if she had a hand cupped around both her mouth and the phone. "Xander called him last night. I don’t know what Xander told him, but they’re both on the warpath. They want to kill Spike."

"Who is Ang...?"

She stopped as a sudden flash of horrible embarrassment shot through her, shame, guilt, horror, all triggered by...

Oh, God, Angel was here, what would he think about her sleeping with...

But what was wrong with that? Why shouldn’t she be sleeping with...

Memories cascaded—faces, voices, scenes, a dizzying kaleidoscope, all jumbled together. She staggered and fell against the dresser.

She flung out a hand, trying to shut it all out. She didn’t want to remember.

Her mind blanked. Tried to reset itself.

Dawn was still talking. "You’d better get back, Buffy. All the Scoobies are here. I’m calling from the bathroom. Didn’t want them to know I was calling you. I didn’t know what to do..."

"I...I’ll be there, Dawn. I’ll...Give me a minute. I’ll..."

Memories were crashing back. Too many. Too fast. A terrifying confusion slamming at her. She couldn’t shut them out. She dropped the phone, leaned against the dresser, gasping.

No! She couldn’t possibly be sleeping with...

Cascade failure. Her brain whited out.


"Cab’s here," said Spike, coming into the bedroom. Then he stopped short. "Buffy? What’s wrong?"

She jerked away from him as he reached for her.

"Buffy? Are you all right?"

She stared at him, standing there wearing only his jeans. Bare chest, bare feet, his hair mussed... She looked around in horror at the unmade bed, his T-shirt flung on the floor, her top lying on the chair beside the bed, looked down at herself to see that the only thing she was wearing above the waist was her bra.


"Buffy!" he whispered, appalled, as realization dawned.

She hit him.

All her strength went into the blow. It threw him back against the wall behind him. He struck it, then lost his footing and fell.

There was a stake lying among the clutter of things on the top of the dresser. She snatched it up and was on him in a second, the stake slashing down in blind rage.

He didn’t resist. He just lay there, his hands flung out on the floor, looking up at her. It was that lack of resistance that stopped her. That and the pain in his eyes—the terrible depth of pain, the utter desolation.

She looked down at the bead of blood welling up where the point of the stake bit into the flesh over his heart.

"I should kill you," she hissed.

He just looked at her, his eyes wide and dark.

"Do it," he said.

She almost did. But she couldn’t. She didn’t know why. She flung the stake away from her in a fury, then shot to her feet, snatched her top from the chair and ran into the livingroom, pulling it on.

She would have run out of the house barefoot, she was that desperate to get out of there, but then she saw her shoes lying on the carpet near the front door. She stamped into them and ran out to where the cab waited at the curb.

All the Scoobies were at Revello Drive when she got there. Plus Dawn, Giles and...Angel. They leaped to their feet as she slammed into the house.

"Buffy, are you all right?" a chorus of voices demanded.

"Just peachy," she snarled. "Will someone give me some money for the cab?"

"I’ll pay him," said Giles and went out to do so.

"You’ve got your memory back," said Tara and Buffy gave her a twisted smile.

"You always know, don’t you, Tara. Makes things easier. For what it’s worth, yeah, I’ve got it back. But there seem to be some important things that I’m missing."

"What do you remember?" Willow asked worriedly.

"Everything up to falling into the portal. Then nothing until I woke up in Spike’s bedroom ten minutes ago."

"Did he...?" Angel sniffed the air, then developed a thunderous scowl.

"Oh, yeah," she said through her teeth.

"He took advantage of you," Xander snarled. "Tell me you staked him!"

"No. I didn’t."

"Why not? Why the hell not? He deserves to be staked for what he did to you!"

"I don’t know!" She flung up her hands and pressed them desperately to her aching head. "Still trying to get my brain sorted out."

"I’ll kill him," Angel growled. He yanked his coat over his head and ran out to where his car was parked at the curb. "Xander!" he yelled over his shoulder.

"Right with you!" Xander yelled back gleefully and ran after him, heading for the driver’s side of the car. "Giles, come with us!"

"Go do that," muttered Buffy and slammed the door after them. "What?" she asked as she turned and saw the dismayed looks on the faces of the four girls behind her.

"They won’t stop until they find him and stake him," Tara said.

"Yeah, so?"

Dawn looked at her for a moment, then turned, ran up the stairs into her room and slammed the door behind her.

"What’s wrong with Dawn?" asked Buffy, somewhat startled.

"She doesn’t think it’s Spike’s fault," explained Anya.

"Nothing is Spike’s fault if you listen to Dawn," Buffy muttered. "How long has it been since I fell through the portal?"

"A couple of weeks," said Willow.

"You mean I’ve been doing the nasty with Spike for a couple of weeks?"

"We don’t really know whether...I mean, maybe you didn’t," Willow stuttered, flushing vividly. "We can’t be all that certain. And you don’t really remember, do you? So maybe..."

"I wake up half naked in a guy’s bedroom and I’m supposed to think nothing happened? I’m sore, okay? The kind of sore that comes from a really long sex marathon. So, yeah, I’m pretty sure."

"Must have got a lot of good orgasms out of it, so I really don’t see what’s so wrong with that," muttered Anya and Buffy glared at her.

"Do you think I’d sleep with Spike if I were in my right mind?"

"I would," shrugged Anya.

"I had amnesia and he knew it. He took advantage of me." Buffy flung herself onto the couch and hit a cushion viciously. "I hope Angel finds him. I hope Angel kills him."

"Buffy," said Tara very quietly and seriously. "Spike loves you."

"Vampires can’t love," Buffy said flatly.

Chapter 4
Chapter 4

Three days later, Angel and Xander were still scouring the town, hunting for Spike. He was nowhere to be found—not in the demon quarters that Angel knew so well, not at Willie’s, not in his crypt. Angel had ripped open the trapdoor, but the lower area was empty and even his scent there was days old and fading.

"He’s found another lair somewhere," he snarled. "But it’s a small town. I’ll find it."

Buffy said nothing. She didn’t know why she didn’t tell the two of them where Spike was. She rationalized it by telling herself that she didn’t know the exact address. But she did know the street and, if she had been standing on that street, she would have known exactly which house was his. She could have led them right to it. Even telling them that it was a house instead of a crypt or a factory would have simplified things for them.

Something in the black hole that was her memory of the last two weeks, something was keeping her from telling them where he was. She didn’t know what it was. She knew he had tricked her, taken advantage of her loss of memory. But something in her balked at the idea of staking him. He deserved it. Absolutely he deserved it. But she couldn’t make herself take action on that thought.

Dawn knew. Dawn had spent that first day curled up in a ball on her bed, waiting to be told that Spike was dust. The second day, she came out of her room, looking inexpressibly relieved. Buffy realized that Dawn knew that Buffy was aware of Spike’s whereabouts. It was the thought that Buffy might tell Angel and Xander and so be personally responsible for Spike’s death at their hands that had added an extra dimension of horror for Dawn.

Now relieved of that particular terror by Buffy’s silence, she went about the house, watching Buffy thoughtfully.

Giles too had apparently had second thoughts. About an hour into the search, he had suddenly disassociated himself from Angel and Xander and gone home. He and Anya were now very busy with new consignments at the Magic Box. Anya wasn’t taking Xander’s homicidal fervor on Buffy’s behalf very well.

Xander had demanded that Willow and Tara do another locator spell on Spike, but both of them had refused. If the first one hadn’t worked, they said reasonably, a second one wouldn’t either, and they weren’t going to put themselves to all that trouble and effort for nothing. Xander had promptly accused them of being on Spike’s side, Willow had yelled back at him, and tempers were short all around.

For someone nowhere in evidence, Spike was certainly causing a whole lot of trouble. Buffy could just picture him sitting there, smirking at the lot of them. The thought made her want to kill something, made her go flying out of the house in a rage at all hours of the night. Several demons had already paid the price of her foul mood and the survivors were now prudently keeping low. Willie’s bar was deserted when she dropped in on it and Willie gave her reproachful, accusing stares, but kept his mouth sensibly shut.

Having nothing to kill put her in an even worse mood. She was still prowling around, looking for victims in Restfield cemetery half an hour before dawn, unable to rest out of sheer frustration and wrath.

Something moved among the gravestones. She stepped forward, smiling grimly.

A white-blonde head glinted in the moonlight. A pleasant baritone sang, "'Never could understand how eagles fly, never could understand the rising tide...'"

She blinked, jolting to a stop. Spike. Here in Restfield, which was the last place he should be with Angel and Xander looking for him. Singing. Something from the sixties from the sound of it.

"'...but I absolutely understand the rising of the sun...'"

"Spike! What the hell are you doing here?"

"Slayer." He gave her a wide, mocking grin and patted the side of his crypt. "Live here, don’t I? My crypt. Bit messed up, but mine. What are you doing here this time of night? Come for a little nookie?"

She gritted her teeth and drew a deep breath, ready to tear him into little bits. He laughed at her and put out a hand to brace himself against the wall of his crypt.

"Still on a rampage? Got to Willie's just after you left. He said you’d driven all his customers away. But I made up for that." He saluted her with a bottle.

"You’re drunk," she realized. He was massively drunk, weaving on his feet.

"Getting there." He upended the bottle, took another huge swig, leaned back against his crypt and started to sing again. "‘Many things I’m never sure of, never understood. Things that man will do to man—in the name of good...’"

"Spike! For God’s sake, will you stop that stupid song already? You can’t stay..."

"‘S a good song, Slayer. Has a point." He started caterwauling again, the chorus apparently this time. "‘The sun will rise tomorrow morning, eastern skies of rain are gone and you and I-I-I-I will be reborn.’"

She flew at him, grabbed the lapels of his duster and thumped him against the wall of the crypt.

"You moron! Don’t you understand? You can’t stay here!"

"Ooh, Slayer. Do that again. It feels good." He grinned at her provokingly. "Can’t keep your hands off me, can you?"

She had the stake at his heart the next second.

"Go on," he said. His eyes were very dark and he was smiling crookedly.

She shoved him away in frustration and he staggered and nearly fell.

"That’s your solution to everything, isn’t it, Slayer? Can’t deal with something, just stake it."

"I should kill you!" she snarled.

"For what, Slayer? For fucking you? You wanted it. You came on to me, pet."

"I wasn’t in my right mind! And you knew it."

"So? I should turn down a perfectly good shag because of that? It was great sex, Slayer. You’re a bloody animal in bed, you know that?"

"God! Why are you pushing me like this?" she yelled at him. "Do you want me to kill you?"

"Don’t care." He saluted her with the bottle again before taking another swig, laughing. "Already lived for sodding ever. Be a new experience, yeah? Gonna meet up with a lot of old friends down there in Hell. Might be fun."

"You are the most..."

"Why aren’t you killing me, Slayer? What’s holding you back?"

She didn’t know. She put her hands up to her head.

"You’re just a demon," she muttered. "You don’t know any better."

"Yeah. Evil. No soul. Can’t love. Don’t know right from wrong."

"Shut up, Spike! Can’t you see I’m trying to cut you some slack here? Just get out of Sunnydale, okay? Just get out and don’t come back. Or I really will kill you."

"No point. Might be nothing for me here. But there’s nothing for me out there either." He leaned back against the side of the crypt. "I’m tired, Slayer. Come to the end of my rope. Don’t care any more."

"Look. Look, you idiot. I might not be able to kill you. But Angel and Xander are looking for you. And they most certainly will kill you."

"Wouldn’t give them the satisfaction." He slumped against the crypt, his eyes closing. "Sleepy. What was I saying? Oh, yeah. Least you’ll get something out of it if I dust, Slayer. Got it all set up with Wolfram and Hart. They’ll know if I dust. They’ll take their cut, send the rest to you."

"What are you talking about?" She caught him as he started to slide down the side of the crypt. "Spike, wake up! Send what?"

"Hm? Money. Got some. Lived a long time. Compound interest accumulates."

Her jaw dropped and she stared at him, horrified. "I can’t profit from your death, Spike!"

His eyes opened hazily and he heaved himself higher on the wall. "Can."

"I’ll refuse it!"

He gave her a tight, cold smile. "Got that covered too. You refuse, it goes to Dawn. In trust. Pay the mortgage, give her a college fund."

"Goddammit!" She shook him hard and he laughed. "Why are you doing this, Spike?"

"You wouldn’t understand, Slayer."

"This is crazy, all of it. What the hell am I going to do with you? None of this is making any sense. Come on. It’s almost morning. We’ve got to get you back to that house of yours before Angel and Xander find you."

"I’d like them to find me. Take care of Angel proper this time. Wasted my opportunity last year with that Gem. Should have killed the wanker." His eyes were utterly cold and lethal. "Do you really think he could hurt me? He’s a vamp. I can fight him. Never really did before. This time I will. Do for him, I will."

She saw with a shock that he meant it.

"Hurt you," he said. "Keeps on hurting you. Ruining things. Everything’s good until he shows up. Then everything fucking hits the fan. No more."

"Spike, no. Xander’s with him and you can’t fight Xander."

"Can’t I?" He laughed. "Forgotten, have you? Chip’s dead. I can tie Xander into a pretzel. Bury him deep. I will, if he comes at me."

She jerked away from him in horror. "The chip’s..."

"Dead. Fried. Kaput." He snapped her earlobe with his fingernail, taking her by surprise.


"No zap. See? Wanna stake me, Slayer?" He spread his arms out against the wall, presenting his chest to her. "Come on."


"Two weeks ago."

"Have you..."

"Eaten anybody? No. Promised you I wouldn’t. Come on, Slayer. Aren’t you going to stake me?"

Her head was whirling. She pressed her hand to her forehead, trying to find stability in the middle of all this confusion. He shrugged.

"Well, if you’re not going to kill me, just go away, okay? Got a bottle I wanna finish." He grabbed the roof of the crypt and swung himself up to sit comfortably swinging his legs and warbling, "‘I know the sun will rise tomorrow morning...’"

"Will you stop with that stupid song?" she yelled. "It’s giving me a headache!"

"‘...And you and I-I-I-I will be reborn.’" He snickered. "Well, not exactly. But close enough."

"Oh, Christ, the sun is rising!" The first rays were just coming over the horizon. "Spike, come down!"


"You’re gonna burn up!"

"Go away, Slayer." He upended the bottle, finished off the remaining quarter in one long chug-a-lug, then flung the bottle away and flopped onto his back on the roof of the crypt. "Wanna get some sleep."

"Not up there, you moron!"

She grabbed his ankle and yanked until he came slithering back down onto the ground again. He pulled away from her irritably.

"Le’ me alone, Shlayer."

She grabbed the lapels of his duster and dragged him into the crypt despite his strenuous resistance, kicked the door shut behind her.

"Why the hell am I doing this?" she muttered, shoving him along to the trapdoor at the back. "I must be out of my mind. I should leave you out there to fry."

"Mush be my irresishtible charm an’ good looks."

God, even totally sloshed, the man still had to crack wise.

"Go down the ladder. Go down the ladder, Spike," she repeated patiently as he wavered.

He went obediently down a couple of rungs, then lost his balance and fell.


She hurried down after him and found to her relief that he was unhurt, having fallen with the rubbery, ragdoll bonelessness of the truly drunk. She heaved him up onto his feet and dragged him over to the bed. The back of his knees hit the bed and he staggered and lost his balance again. They both thumped down on the side of the bed, sat for a moment staring at each other.

"She’s gone, isn’t she?" he said suddenly. "Kept hoping and hoping..."

"What?" she asked, bewildered.

He reached out and touched her face with aching delicacy.

"My girl’s gone. Never coming back."

The depth of misery in his eyes shocked her.

"No point in anything," he said and turned away from her and fell flat on his stomach on the bed, his face buried in his arms.

She found herself putting out a hand to him, then stopped.

After a few minutes, she got up and went to the ladder. He didn’t move. She climbed the ladder and stopped to check the latch on the trapdoor. The latch was useless, broken when Angel had wrenched the trapdoor open. There was no way to secure the trap. They would just have to take the chance that nothing would discover him here until she could get back when the sun went down this evening and talk him into going back to his safe house once more.

Both Angel and Xander were at her place when she got back.

Xander’s eyes were alight. "We’ve got a break."

Her voice went high in panic. "You found Spike? You know where he is?"

"No," said Angel, frowning. "You sound...Don’t you want us to find him?"

"No," she said flatly. "I don’t. This is between him and me."

"You’d let him get away with it, for some weird reason," Xander said scornfully. "He has to pay."

"Do you know where he is?" Angel asked, coming towards her.

She backed away from him, terrified that he would smell Spike on her.

"No, I don’t know where his lair is." Carefully phrased.

He wrinkled up his nose. "Why do you smell of whiskey?"

She realized with relief that the pungency of the whiskey was masking Spike’s scent from him.

"I stopped at Willy’s bar." Again carefully phrased to be the truth. She drew a deep breath. "Listen to me, both of you. I want you to leave Spike alone. This is none of your business. Angel, go back to L.A."

"No." Angel’s eyes were cold with dangerously repressed rage. "I’ve had it with Spike. This time, he’s gone too far. He’s been a thorn in my side for over a century. I’m putting an end to it."

"Yeah, and we’ve got a break, Buffy!" Xander exclaimed gleefully. "Wesley found this thing. It’s called a Duhartic Wand. It can track a person down by his scent. Kind of like a super bloodhound. Wes will bring it this evening. By tonight, we’ll have the bastard. By tonight, he’ll be dust."

Buffy put her hands to her head. It was aching painfully.

"Go away, both of you," she muttered. "Do what you like. I don’t care. You won’t listen to me anyway."

"Buffy..." Angel stepped towards her, frowning, and she shoved him away.

"Get out of here." She gripped her head tightly. "God, my head is killing me. Just go, will you?"

They went reluctantly, looking back worriedly at her over their shoulders.

Her head was splitting apart. Three Tylenol made no difference. She went and lay wretchedly on her bed, still fully dressed, her arms wrapped around her head.

"My girl’s gone," said a voice desolately in her head. "Never coming back."

She put her hands over her ears. Exhaustion hit her like a fist. She had been up all night. She fell into a fitful sleep, troubled by nightmarish dreams.

"Oh, my girl," he said softly and she relaxed, the nightmares fading away, safe with him, happy with him. "I love you so much."

"Wanna take my time. Wanna make it last..."

"Know this is wrong. Don’t care. If you should stake me for it right this moment, it would still be worth it."

"Not asking for forever. Not asking for promises or a claim..."

"Get my fangs in you, I’d do it...To claim you would be to take away all your choices. So, no."

"Maybe if you want it enough, you’ll remember."

"I want it," she said and woke up with a jerk.

Her head was clear. The headache was gone. In its place...

All the memories were there. Every moment of the missing weeks. Every word, every look, every touch. She remembered everything that had happened between them.

She was still Buffy. But she did remember. And she couldn’t let Angel and Xander kill Spike because of what had happened.

She sat up slowly. Outside, the sun was close to the horizon. She had slept away the whole day. In only a couple of hours, the sun would be down and Angel and Xander would start hunting Spike. And this time, they would find him—either still passed out and helpless in his crypt or at that safe house with that wand thing of theirs.

She could hear voices downstairs. She jumped off the bed and ran downstairs, not caring about her disheveled appearance. Tara and Willow were with Dawn in the livingroom. They all looked around, concerned, when she came flying in.

"Buffy, are you all right?" Dawn asked. "You slept so long, I was getting worried."

"Getting my head together." She shoved her hair out of her eyes. "Guys, Wesley’s bringing down some sort of wand thing for Angel that’ll track Spike down."

"A Duhartic Wand," Tara nodded. "Xander told us about it."

"Will it work?"

"Yes. It’s very effective."

"We’ve got to stop it."

Dawn was on her feet, her eyes shining. "You remember!"

"Yes. And it wasn’t Spike’s fault. He didn’t take advantage of me. I practically jumped his bones. It’s not fair that Angel and Xander should be after him. We’ve got to stop them."

"How?" Willow had jumped to her feet as well.

Buffy smiled at her. "You with me, Will?"

"This whole vendetta of theirs has been bothering me. It’s no one’s business but yours." She gave a wry smile to Tara who smiled back. "Right. So what do we do?"

"Well, first of all we’ve got to get Spike somewhere safe. He got humongously drunk last night and he’s over at the crypt, probably still passed out. Really easy to find if they’re looking for him. I can take care of that part. The place where he’s staying is spellproof and should block the wand. It’s getting him there that’s the problem. No good being somewhere spellproof if the wand can track him right to it. Isn’t there some way to defuse that thing?"

"I know a spell that will confuse it," Tara said. "It’s in that red Modus book at the Magic Box."

"How long will it take? We’ve got to do this before the sun goes down."

"Not long. I should have it done by then. I’ll just need the book and some ingredients."

"I’ll get those," said Willow. "Just give me a list, Tara, and I’ll get them while you get set up here."

"Right. You get started," said Buffy, "and I’ll get showered and changed."

She ran upstairs again.

Tara tapped at her bedroom door as she was zipping up a fresh pair of jeans. "Buffy, do you have anything scented that we could spray on Spike?"

Buffy grabbed a perfume bottle at random from the dresser and tossed it to her and Tara promptly vanished again.

"Right," said Willow an hour or so later. "Just spray this on him. It’ll throw the wand right off and they won’t be able to track him."

"And here," said Tara with a grin and handed Buffy another little spray bottle. "Anti-hangover. It takes a massive amount of alcohol to get a vamp drunk, so the hangover’s probably going to be a bitch."

"Thanks, guys! Will the two of you stay with Dawn? I don’t know how long..."

"Sure we will."

"My cell’s over at Spike’s place, but we’ll be there in about half an hour. Keep me posted about anything that happens, okay, Dawn?"

"Abso-fucking-lutely. Now go," said Dawn, pushing her out of the house.

Buffy laughed and went. It was half an hour to sunset.

Spike was still flat on the bed. He had yanked off his duster sometime during the day, but otherwise he was still fully dressed, down to his boots. She shook him hard.

"Spike, wake up! Come on. Wakey, wakey."

He rolled over and opened one bleary eye. "God, Slayer. Can’t you let a man die in peace?"

"Get up."

He heaved himself into a sitting position, braced on one straight arm, then nearly folded over again.

"Oh, God, my head. My bloody head. Oh, God, I’m sober." He looked as if he were nearly going to weep at the thought. "Shit, Slayer. What did you have to sober me up for? Now I’ve got to do it all over again."

"Do what? Get drunk?"

"Yeah. Oh, Jesus, somebody please cut off my head."

She spritzed Tara’s little hangover remedy into his face. He jerked away and gasped, involuntarily drawing it into his lungs, then immediately started to look less green.

"Oh, that’s better. What was that?"

"Hangover cure." She sprayed some more and this time he breathed it in.

"Should patent it." He eased to the side of the bed and sat there, his head hanging. "What’s going on?"

"Got to get you back to the safe house."

"Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber coming looking for me? Let ‘em come. Might get a surprise."

"I don’t want any one of you getting hurt or killed. Stand up, Spike."

He did so obediently, not looking at her, braced himself against the wall with one straight arm. He looked utterly defeated and dejected.

"What now, Slayer?"

"Stand still." This time, she sprayed him with the anti-wand potion.

"What the fuck!" He jerked away and nearly fell. "Slayer, stop it! What the bleeding hell is that stuff?"

She stalked him inexorably as he tried to get away from her, spraying him from the top of his head to the toes of his boots. He twisted away, throwing an arm across his face, but that only let her get his back as well.

"It’ll hide your scent from Angel," she explained.

"Fucking A, it’ll hide my scent! Christ, Slayer, couldn’t you at least have made it vanilla instead of jasmine? Angel gets a whiff of this on me, for sure I won’t have to worry about him any more. He’ll just keel over dead from shock."

She couldn't help grinning at the disgusted look on his face.

"Come on. The sun’s low enough for you to get to where you’ve hidden your car."

He picked up his duster and followed her. She noticed with amusement that he was holding the duster well away from him, not putting it on, not wanting to get it contaminated by the scent.

"Keys," she said when they got to the DeSoto.


"You’re still squinting and you’re not that coordinated yet. I don’t think it’s safe for you to drive."

"Slayer, either I drive or we stay right here. Don’t mind peacefully waiting for the sun to come up to dust, but don’t want to end up mangled in the kind of accident that’s just waiting to happen if you get behind the wheel."

She said nothing for a moment, her suspicions about last night confirmed. He was rubbing his face with one hand, unaware of what he had inadvertently given away.

"I’m not that bad," she said, deciding to ignore it for the moment.

"You’re worse."

In the end, he drove. He was silent all the way, never looking at her once, his face remote and still. She watched him out of the corner of her eye, worried at how quiet and subdued he was, wishing she knew what was going on in his head.

"Now what?" he asked, once the DeSoto was hidden away in the safe house’s garage and they were heading into the house itself.

"Now we wait to see whether Tara’s spray really works. Wesley found this Du-something wand for Angel that supposedly locks in on your scent and tracks you down. Tara says this spray should confuse its radar."

"Duhartic Wand," he nodded. "Heard of that." He paused before shutting the door. "You don’t have to stay, Slayer."

"Want to be here, in case it doesn’t work and Angel shows up."

He shrugged, then closed and locked the door. "You realize that all you’re doing is putting a bandaid over the problem. I can’t stay in here forever. Won’t."

"Working on that," she said quietly.

He frowned down at the floor, still not looking directly at her. His mouth started to shape the word ‘Why?’ Then he changed his mind before articulating it and shrugged.

"Make yourself comfortable then. There’s stuff in the fridge you lik...There’s stuff in the fridge."

She knew what was in the fridge—all her favorite foods, with his blood packages tucked discreetly into the opaque vegetable crisper where she wouldn’t have to look at them.

"Help yourself," he was saying curtly. "I’m going to take a shower. Can’t stand this scent a minute longer."

"Yeah, it should be okay to wash it off now that you’re in here where it’s spellproof. And that combination of booze and jasmine is really weird."

"Tell me about it," he muttered and went off into the bedroom.

After a few minutes, she heard the shower turn on. The curtains in the livingroom were drawn so that no one could look inside. She got up and went to make sure that the ones in the bedroom were closed as well, then remembered the cell phone that she had dropped.

It was no longer on the floor beside the dresser. The previously cluttered top of the dresser was now bare, all the things that she had left lying about gone. She frowned at that, wondering whether he had thrown them all out in a fit of temper, then opened the top drawer to find them all carefully laid out there, with her cell phone neatly to one side. The backs of her eyes hurt suddenly. She bit her lip, took the cell phone out and laid it on top of the dresser where she would hear it if it rang.

The bed was just the way she had left it four days ago, its coverlet thrown across a chair. He hadn’t changed the sheets. She remembered him saying a while back that he liked sleeping on sheets that smelled of the two of them and sex.

She bit her lip even harder and retreated into the safety of the livingroom.

The shower kept running for a long, long time. Long enough for the hot water to run out. Vamps didn’t react to heat or cold, staying consistently at room temperature, so it wouldn’t bother him that the water was cold. She wondered whether he was waiting for her to get bored and leave. Before falling through the portal, she probably would have, wouldn’t even have been here in the first place.

Finally the shower stopped. Even so, it still took him quite a while to come reluctantly back into the livingroom. He stopped in the doorway, leaning his shoulder against the jamb, his thumbs hooked into his belt. He was wearing a fresh T-shirt and jeans, and his feet were bare. His skin looked chill, so she guessed the water really had gone cold. A muscle jumped diagonally across his cheek as his jaw clenched.

"Still here, Slayer? Thought you would have left by now." So he had been trying to wait her out.

"Angel will have barely gotten started."

"If you’re gonna stay until you think he’s given up, it’ll be a long wait, luv. He’s a persistent sort of bugger."

"Dawn’s going to keep us posted on my cell."

He looked automatically over his shoulder at the bedroom, towards the dresser visible through the open door, saw her cell lying there and shot her a brief, edgy glance before looking quickly away again.

"Why won’t you look at me?" she asked.

"Looking at you, pet." And now he was. But his eyes were tense, wincing a little, as if he had to force himself to look at her, as if it hurt him. His lips were pressed into a tight, straight line, their corners pointed with strain.

"What are you seeing, Spike?"

He frowned. "Buffy Summers, the Slayer. What else?"

She rose and came towards him and he drew back, as if her nearness were a torment to him.

"Not your girl?"

His eyelids creased in pain. "She’s gone."

"Is she?"

"You don’t even remember her, Slayer."

"I remember."

His gaze came up and his eyes widened. "What?"

She took his face in her hands. "You said maybe if I wanted it enough, I’d remember. I wanted it enough."


She kissed him.

His whole body jolted against hers. Then he was kissing her desperately, devouringly, his arms crushing her to him so tightly that she felt their bones would fuse together.

"Love you, Spike."

"Oh, God."

He was shaking against her. She felt him start to slide, then all of a sudden he was on his knees, his face pressed to her stomach, his arms tight around her. She wrapped her arms around his head, holding him fiercely, her face buried in his hair.

"I’m Buffy and I’m your girl."

Her legs gave way as well and suddenly they were both sitting on the floor, their arms tight about each other.

"This can’t be happening," he said blankly. "That’s why you didn’t stake me, innit? I wondered why you weren’t staking me."

"Couldn’t. Something kept stopping me. I think I was remembering all along."

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

"I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I forgot. Even for a little time. I hurt you. I never ever wanted to hurt you."

"Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. You’re here now. You’re mine now."

"I’m yours."

Their hands were drifting over each other’s faces, tenderly, lovingly; their lips clung in slow, deep kisses.

"Want you to claim me," she said and he caught his breath.


"You said you would if I wanted it when I had my memory back. Well, I want it. Want to be bound to you. Want you to be bound to me."

"Buffy, are you sure? It’s for all time. Irrevocable. Death’s the only thing that can break the bond and...and the death of one always means the death of the other. And who knows what might result with a bond between a Slayer and a vampire? Might be all sorts of side effects. It’s a huge thing to do."

"I want it," she said quietly, then kissed him for that look on his face, that look of pure joy, of utter happiness. "How do we do it?"

"Show you." He lifted her to her feet and drew her into the bedroom. "Gonna do this right."

They undressed each other slowly, leaning against each other, hands and mouths drifting over every inch of skin as it became exposed. He laughed when he realized that she wasn’t wearing any underclothing.

"Planned this, did you?"

"Yes," she laughed back. Her mouth slid along his collarbone from the hollow of his throat to the point of bone on his shoulder. "If you can go commando, so can I."

"You have the most romantic ideas," he mocked, quoting her.

"Don’t I." She tongued his nipple, pushing the soft nub inwards and smiling when it hardened.

"Oh, well, if you’re going to go there..."

"Ohh..." she sighed as his mouth found her breast, arched to him, her arms wrapping around his head.

He lifted her onto the bed, settled beside her, his mouth and hands drawing intricate patterns on her skin. But she had learned from him, her mouth licking down that lickable sixpack, sucking at the hollow of his pelvis, first one side then the other, biting him just below his navel, so that his whole body bucked.

"God, Buffy! How am I gonna make this last if you keep doing that?"

"Don’t want it to last. Want to do it again. You can make the next one last."

He laughed helplessly. "Insatiable."

"Oh, yes." They coiled around each other like snakes. "Can’t get enough of you."

"Oh, Buffy."

Laughter fell away into passion, his mouth greedy and demanding on her, her nails raking down his back.

"Oh, yes," she sighed as his weight came on her. They both moaned at the contact, bodies rubbing together.

"God, you’re so wet. You’re so wet for me."

"Always. Ohh..."

He came into her hard. And it was perfection. No one had ever been so perfect for her as he was. He filled her, stretched her to the utmost. She gasped and gasped again, losing her breath, just as he was groaning at the resistance of the tight Slayer muscles of her sheath. She had lost control, clenching upon him, arching and writhing under him as he pistoned into her. But he was still in control, his eyes intense as he drove her higher and higher, his breath shuddering against her face, a diagonal muscle in his cheek jumping and his jaw clenched with effort.

"Oh, God, Spike, I’m gonna..."

"Come for me, baby..."

His head dropped as she started to fall over the edge and his fangs slid smoothly into the vein at the side of her neck.


The sensation when he drank was incredible. An unbelievable rapture flooded through her, an unbearable ecstasy. Through the mad pounding of her heart, she heard him whisper:


"Yes! Yours," she choked, then bit hard at the base of his neck. Tasted his blood coppery on her tongue. "Mine," she said fiercely.

"Yours," he gasped. "Always yours."

She felt him pulse within her, felt him shudder violently as he came. Felt something lock into place between them, irrevocable and sure. Perfect.

"Oh, God, Spike!"

She felt him smile against her skin, his weight heavy on her, his lips dreamily moving over the bite marks on her neck.

"Yeah," he whispered and licked the marks to seal them. She shivered helplessly, the sensation was that sweet.

He slid sideways, pulling her with him, and they lay facing each other, their hands tenderly stroking each other, lips murmuring love words against each other’s faces.

"Don’t think I’ve ever been this happy," he breathed. "This is the best day of my entire existence."

"Mine too."

"Oh, luv."

She grabbed the hair at the back of his head suddenly and yanked his head back. "Last night, did you mean to dust?"

He looked completely embarrassed. "It didn’t start out that way," he muttered. "Just meant to go on a bender. Then a ways into it...I dunno...Just suddenly seemed a good idea at the time."

Alcohol was a depressant and he had swigged down a massive amount of that.

She shook him fiercely hard. "Don’t ever, don’t ever..."

"Swear." He kissed her intensely. "Wouldn’t want to now."

The cell phone rang. They both groaned.

"That will be Dawn," she sighed, reluctant to let the outside world in again. "Don’t want to get up."

Spike whipped suddenly out of bed, grabbed the cell phone from the dresser and was back in bed against her the next second, dropping it into her hand. He wrapped himself around her again and gave her a smug look.

"Smooth move," she grinned and flipped the cell open. "Dawn, what’s up?"

"Just keeping you posted," said Dawn. She sounded very smug. "Tara’s spray worked. The Wand’s like totally screwed up. Angel and Xander are going postal. We’re all heading down to the Magic Box to have a conference. Real serious stuff."

"Sounds like fun. I think Spike and I will join you."

"Buffy! Is that safe?"

"Time to have a confrontation. No more of their freaking games. No more not listening to me. I’m done." She flipped off the phone.

Spike was grinning from ear to ear. "Angel and me gonna have a little chat? Yeah, about time. Gonna enjoy that, luv."

"No killing," said Buffy sternly.

"Can I just beat him up some?"

"No. It’s time to put all the cards on the table."

His brows rose. "Even the one about the chip being gone?"

"Spike. We’re claimed."

"Well, yeah..." He stopped and his eyes widened suddenly. "Bloody hell! Did you plan this, luv?"

She leaned over and kissed him. "No. But it just occurred to me right now that that was the answer to everything."

He flung his arms wide and laughed exultantly. "This is the best day!"

When they got to the Magic Box, they could hear the yelling and the shouting even from outside. They grinned at each other, then Spike threw open the door and they walked in.

A dumbfounded silence fell.

"Hey, guys," said Buffy happily.

"Spike!" snarled Xander. "You were with Spike? All this time we’ve been running around this fricking town and you were with Spike?"

"Pretty much," nodded Buffy. She cast a meaningful glance at Tara and Willow, and they faded unobtrusively back against the wall, drawing Anya and Dawn with them. "I told you that you should leave Spike to me. It’s not my fault you two made fools of yourselves."

"Angel!" yelled Xander.

Angel was already coming forward, his eyes fixed on Spike who was grinning widely.

"Peaches! How’s it hanging? Still pretty uselessly, I’ll wager."

"You..." Angel stopped abruptly, sniffing the air. "My God! Buffy! I can smell him all over you!"

"I wish you guys would stop doing that," Buffy complained. "Certain things a girl likes to keep private."

"You mean...You let him...!" Xander was spluttering. "Even now? I knew there was still something wrong with your head!"

Angel was staring at Buffy’s neck. "He bit you!"

"He bit her?" shrieked Xander.

"Really don’t need the Greek chorus thing, Xander," remarked Buffy. "Yes, he bit me, Angel. He claimed me."

Angel looked shocked beyond belief. "Oh, you little fool! He’s tricked you! Don’t you understand? That claim gives him power over you! You’ll never get free of him while he’s alive."

"Yeah, that was the point," said Spike softly and provocatively.

"We have to break the claim." Angel’s eyes had gone black with rage. "I’m going to kill you, Spike."

"You can try."

Everybody yelled as Angel threw himself at Spike and the open area in the middle of the shop suddenly became a killing zone for two snarling, furious vampires.

Xander grabbed at Buffy. "You’re not going to protect Spike!"

She brushed him off scornfully. "He doesn’t need protection."

She was right. Spike slammed Angel against the wall and held him there despite his struggles. Everybody stared in shock.

"How...?" choked Angel around the hand at his throat painfully constricting his gullet. He was bigger, stronger. This should not be happening.

"Slayer blood. Powerful stuff."

"You let him drink from you?" Xander yelled at Buffy.

"Really adds something to the sex. It’s a real rush."

"Oh, yes," agreed Anya and Buffy smiled at her. "Been th..."

"Anya!" But Anya just shrugged at Xander when he glared at her.

Spike was giving Angel a tight, vicious grin. "Mutual claim, poofter. Can’t be broken."

He dragged down the neck of his T-shirt, exposing the human bite mark at the junction of his neck and shoulder. Angel gasped and sagged against the wall. Spike let him go with a contemptuous flick of his hand and stepped back.

"What? What?" gasped Xander. "Angel, kill him!"

Angel didn’t move.

"All right, then," snarled Xander. "I will."

He jerked around and reached for a stake.

"Oh, this is going to be fun," said Spike.

He knocked the stake easily away and grabbed Xander by the throat, lifting him right off the ground and holding him there with one straight arm, despite all his struggles.

"Chip’s dead, asshole. Can’t play kick-the-Spike any more. Push me and I’ll rip your lungs out."

"Don’t kill him, Spike," said Buffy from where she was leaning against a table, her arms folded. "He’s been one of my friends for a long time."

Spike tossed him disdainfully away and dusted his hands. Xander landed with a thud on the floor and struggled to his feet, gasping.

"The chip’s dead? It’s dead? My God, why aren’t you guys staking him? What’s the matter with all you people?"

He whirled and scrambled for a crossbow.

"No!" yelled Giles and Angel at the same time.

Giles reached Xander first and knocked the crossbow out of his hands. Xander fell against a table and stayed there, his mouth open in shock.


"They’re linked, you fool!" Giles shouted at him. "If you kill Spike, you kill Buffy!"


"That’s what a mutual claim means. It’s more than a marriage. They’ve literally linked their lives together."

"But...but...if the chip doesn’t work...We can’t let him go around snacking on people!"

"Don’t need to do that, wanker." Spike hooked a hip onto the table beside Buffy and pulled her into his arms. He dropped his head to her neck, smiling, and licked the bite mark. She shivered and leaned against him, purring. "Got Slayer blood right on tap here."

Xander was appalled. "You’d let him drink from you? Buffy, that’s horrible!"

"It’s not like he’ll be taking a lot," said Anya. "Slayer blood is powerful. All he needs is a couple of sips every time they make love. And they’ll probably be making love a lot. Vamps are really impressive in bed. Got a lot of staying power and the vamp refractory period is a real plus. But I’ve guess you’ve found that out already, haven’t you, Buffy?"

"Oh, yeah," said Buffy and Spike laughed.

"And the biting really intensifies their orgasms."

"TMI! TMI, for God’s sake, Anya!" yelled Xander.

"Oh, yes, quite," said Giles, bright red with embarrassment. "Buffy, I know that it’s a little late to be saying this, but have you thought this through carefully?"

"It’s very simple, Giles. I love him and he loves me. We decided to get married, just like everyone else."

"Not quite like everyone else," muttered Giles.

"Spike said there might be side effects because I’m the Slayer. Would there be any way to find out, Giles?"

"I can certainly look it up. But, um, I do know of a couple. The bad one is, of course, that you die if he dies and vice versa. The good ones are that you might pick up the vampire ability to stay young and live forever, and he might be able to walk in the sunlight."

"What?" said both Buffy and Spike together.

"I’ll need to look it up, but I’m pretty sure. That doesn’t mean you’re invulnerable. You can still get killed and he can still get staked but, barring accidents like that, well..."

Buffy looked at Spike dazedly. "When you said we’d be linked together forever, I didn’t think you meant it literally."

"This just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it, my love."

Dawn, Willow and Tara were performing a fandango in the corner. Xander was sitting stupefied on a table, with Anya amusedly patting his shoulder. Giles was polishing his glasses. And Angel was stalking out of the Magic Box, with a grim, furious look on his face, on his way back to L.A.

Buffy and Spike had no attention to spare for any of them. They were kissing intensely, their arms wrapped around each other.

"My girl," said Spike with profound satisfaction.

"For always," said Buffy and laughed with pure joy.

The End