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Normal Is Just a Word by slaymesoftly
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Chapter Twelve

"You've been avoiding me."

"No, I haven't. We just haven't been in the same places at the same time very much."

"Not for lack of trying on my part, pet."

"Maybe you shouldn't be trying so hard. Didn't you say you wanted me to stay away from you?"

"Didn't really mean that, and you bloody well know it." He gave her sidelong glance, his lashes almost hiding his eyes so that she couldn't really see the expression in them. "Especially now that we—"

"Don't say it!"

There was no ambiguity in Buffy's voice and he stopped with a low growl. She sighed and leaned against a nearby bench. "I think you did, Spike. You meant it when you said – sang – that being with me was hurting you." She raised her eyes to his. "I don't want to hurt you. I don't know why I don't – or why I want to be around you, for that matter. But I don't. And I am. We're not the friends or slaying buddies I keep telling myself we are. It's time for me to stop pretending."

"I take what I can get, Buffy. Told you that a long time ago. If this is my crumb, I'll take it. If it gets so bad I can't handle it... well, that bike will get me a good distance from here before it runs out of gas."

"I can't be what you want, Spike. And the more we're around each other—"

"I'm a big boy, pet. Let me decide what I do and don't want, yeah?"

Buffy didn't reply, just stared at his familiar face and wondered when it went from being the face of her enemy to that of someone she felt drawn to. Sure, she had begun to trust him before she jumped, and nothing she'd heard about his actions over the summer had done anything to make her question that trust. But he'd been just another fighter at her side. Someone strong enough to take up the slack if she wasn't around. Since she'd come back, somehow being with Spike made her feel slightly less alone in this harsh world. It was unsettling... and annoying.

His head was cocked; she could see him trying to figure out her thoughts. For once, he seemed to have no clue. She stood up to leave, holding up a hand when he made to go with her.

"Just leave me alone to work this out, Spike."


"I should have known, starting the night off by saving his stupid life again... It had to go downhill from there." Muttering to herself about how often she and Spike seemed to rescue each other, she walked past the cemetery where they'd had the encounter with Spike's bookie, and right into Giles' stammering explanation for why he had to leave. She was so bewildered and shocked that it barely registered at first that he was saying he was leaving her... and soon.

"I have to."

"Uh-huh," she muttered as she sank onto a pile of mats. She leapt to her feet again when he continued, "You...you have to be strong. "I'm...I'm trying to—"

"Trying to what? Desert me? Abandon me? Leave me alone when I really need somebody?" Leave me with no one to lean on but a vampire who thinks he's in love with me?

Her pleas and barely suppressed tears had no effect on his decision and the conversation ended with her emphatic "You're wrong!" as she stomped out the door and into the shop. Where things just became more confusing...

Spike burst through the door just as Giles was about to break the news of his latest departure to the group. Buffy rolled her eyes when he explained why he was dressed so oddly and looked to her for confirmation; although she was grateful for the distraction.

Her plan to pretend the desperate kisses they'd shared had never happened lasted only as long as it took for Willow to work another spell. And how weird was it that when they had no memories, she and Spike still ended up going out together to fight the vampires?

Randy and Joan had seemed to be on the verge of something that felt both exciting and comfortable. Sure, it was annoying not to know who they really were, but they'd fought well together and the attraction between them was real. She felt like she could do worse than let this strangely dressed, but sweet and sexy vampire-hero into her life. Until the spell was broken, and she was staring at Spike – the non-hero vampire who loved her.

She told herself it was only residual spell influence that had her clinging to him under the stairs at the Bronze, falling into kisses that were both familiar and breathtakingly exciting and new. She pulled away briefly, then tightened her grip on his neck and lost herself again. It was only when someone bumped into Spike, pushing them against the wall and muttering, "Get a room," that she realized how long they'd been standing there, bodies straining against one another and mouths constantly in motion.

"Oh my God!" Buffy said, pushing him away and trying not to see the bulge that she had been rubbing against while she was clinging to his neck.


"Don't! Just...don't, Spike. Please? I'm... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to... I'm sorry."

Avoiding his eyes, she edged out of the shadows and pushed her way through the crowd. She ran as soon as she got out the door, not sure if he would try to follow her, but determined not to be alone with him again.

When she looked back on it, the sex seemed inevitable. She couldn't deny the attraction that had always been between them. As much as she might do so to Spike's face, she knew he was telling the truth when he said there had always been something there. That she would act on that attraction seemed only more evidence that Buffy had been found unworthy of remaining in Heaven. The Chosen One had once again given her body to a vampire – this time one with no soul.

If she'd needed more proof, the fact that his chip didn't recognize her as human would have been it. He'd been cruel enough to call her on the way she'd been enjoying the fight as much as he was, which only contributed to her certainty that not only had Heaven rejected her, she hadn't even been sent back whole. Suddenly giving in to the desire for his kisses and the need to feel again didn't seem like such a bad idea.

As much as she wanted to do so, there was no way to accuse him of taking advantage of her. The hand on his zipper was hers, the hand that pulled her skirt and panties out of the way was hers, and the hand that guided him into her was also hers. Spike's only participation at first had been to stare at her with mingled awe and shock. Her own amazement at both her boldness and the strange-familiar-wrong-right sensation of having him inside her mirrored the expression on his.

Spike recovered from his shock as soon as their bodies began to move and he quickly took the lead from her. In the dusty basement where their vigorous activities sent them, he showed her what over one hundred years of experience, a vampire's strength and stamina, and the lack of a need for air could do for a man's ability to make the painful world disappear – at least for a few hours.

"Spike!" Buffy cried out – not for the first time that night – writhing beneath him as he encouraged her to let herself go. Oh my God. Oh my God.

"That's it, love. Tell me what you want from me. Do you like this? Or would you prefer me to..."

"Oh, oh God... Yes!"

"Yes, what, love?"


Don't spoil this. Please don't spoil this by—"

"Oh bloody... Buffy...." His voice was a hoarse whisper. "What you do to me...
Knew you'd be wonderful, but this is..."

"Shut up, Spike."

"Make me."

The bright light of morning brought the world back with a vengeance. Waking up naked next to Spike in what little was left of the building sent her gasping and scrambling for her clothes. His pleas to stay and keep him company all day had less effect upon her than his insistent kisses that immediately reawakened the heat of the night before. Only when he opened his mouth: "I knew the only thing better than killing a slayer would be—" did she come back to her senses and remember whose naked body she'd been clinging to.

Anger at Spike, anger at herself, and guilt over having been out all night combined to sharpen her tongue and it wasn't long before they were snarling at each other as though the night's couplings had never taken place. Her "never again!" as she raced from the building kept repeating over and over as she ran home.


Never was not in Spike's vocabulary, and once she'd come to him – even if she had been invisible at the time – he'd known he had her. Even his anger at her for toying with him while he tried to hide her presence from Harris was tempered by the pleasure of hearing her giggle and knowing she was relaxed and enjoying herself. Until the interruption, they'd been indulging in the sort of playful, passionate love-making he'd always imagined sharing with her.

"Got to say, love, invisible Buffy is a bloody good shag." They were sprawled across his bed, her invisible head resting on his stomach and his fingers running through her invisible, but silky, hair.

She snorted and poked him in the ribs. "Are you saying I'm not any good when I am visible?" He could hear the pout in her voice, even if he couldn't see it. He slipped his hand from her head to her face and ran his thumb over her lower lip.

"Can see that pout, pet. And you know it's not what I meant. I just meant that this is nice. You and me... spending the afternoon making— shagging in my bed. Might get out of this without any bruises."

"I didn't give you bruises when I threw you against the wall?" She sounded almost aggrieved, and his chuckle bounced her head up and down.

"Wasn't countin' those. I just meant I didn't have to hit you – you didn't have to hit me – to get the juices flowing. You know I'd never object to a bit of rough and tumble with you... but this is nice too."

"It is nice, isn't it?" she sighed, turning her head to move her lips over his stomach.

"Even nicer now," he purred, squirming as she teased him by dropping kisses everywhere except where he wanted them. They'd quickly moved from caresses and kisses to another round of what Spike continued to call love-making – although only to himself – and were enjoying the way their bodies pleased each other so perfectly when Xander's arrival put a stop to both the sex and the pleasant afternoon.

In spite of Buffy's "cheating" when Spike tried to tell her he didn't want her if she wasn't going to admit they were together, he couldn't forget how it was her very invisibility that had made her so free and easy with him that day. Hoping he wasn't shooting himself in the foot, he managed to resist her enticements and insist that she leave.


"Want some help, Slayer?"

Spike watched with worried eyes as Buffy spun and kicked in what looked like an uneven fight against three much larger vampires and two demons. She rolled her eyes at him as she took a hard punch to her face and fell to the ground.

"If you're not too busy," she snapped, kipping to her feet in time to stake the first vampire to reach her.

"Never too busy to help a lady."

Spike grabbed the nearest opponent, using the demon's body to take out both his frustration over not having seen Buffy in a week, and his anger at himself for sending her away. He listened to the sounds of the conflict behind him, keeping one ear cocked in case Buffy seemed to be in real trouble. However, with his arrival and subsequent distraction, she had quickly staked the remaining two vamps and was now systematically beating the other demon into the ground. Lacking a sword, she settled for picking up a tombstone and smashing it down onto the demon's head until she was sure it was dead. Spike quickly broke the neck of the one he was fighting and they stood, panting, staring at each other.



Simultaneously, they leapt together, Buffy's mouth on his demanding and hungry. He pulled her against his hard cock, muttering his apologies and begging her to give him another chance. She didn't answer in words, just wrapped her legs around his waist and rubbed herself against him until they were both moaning with frustration and desire.

"My place?"

She nodded mutely, dropping her legs and letting him take her hand to pull her into a run.

They soon settled into a pattern of almost daily sexual encounters. Sometimes Buffy came to his crypt in the daytime; sometimes he was waiting outside for her to take her break at the Doublemeat Palace; sometimes they finished a night of patrolling and slaying by tearing each other's clothes off the instant the heavy crypt doors closed behind them. No matter where or when, the world and all its burdens went away for those moments when she could get lost in his touch.

"I smell like Doublemeat burgers," she whispered as he pushed her up against the wall outside the restaurant.

"You smell like Buffy," he insisted, inhaling deeply against her neck as his hips moved against her.

"Buffy smells like the Doublemeat Palace," she argued back, bringing one leg up to wrap around his waist.

"Fine, suit yourself," he said, pausing for a second or two. "You smell bad, and I want you anyway. Happy now?"

"I smell bad?" Her voice was suddenly icey. "You're dead, and you're telling me I smell bad?"

Their hips never stopped moving against each other, even as they exchanged angry glares and angrier words. When he'd brought her off and emptied himself into her, she pushed him away, hiding her face as she straightened her clothing. Spike said nothing, just zipped up and turned to go. He paused just before stepping into the light, turning his head to look at her. He opened his mouth to speak, but Buffy turned away, her shoulders pulled forward tightly and her hands clenched around her arms.

The nights when she used him like he had no more feelings than the bot were hard on both of them. Spike, because he wanted so badly to believe that they were making love; and Buffy because she knew that she was using and hurting him. The very things she'd told him she didn't want to do.

On a few, very rare, nights, however, she was a different girl. One who was soft and giving, and willing to receive his caresses and hear his endearments without telling him to shut up. Those were the nights he cherished, when she seemed to forget that he was a soulless vampire and treated him like the man he wanted to be for her.

"If I didn't know better, I might think you were starting to like me..."

"Don't let it go to your head. I'll get over it by tomorrow."

He sighed and pulled her against his chest. "I expect you will at that, love. But you can't blame me for enjoyin' it while I can."

Spike's constant nagging for her to spend the night was becoming harder to refuse, as dozing off next to him and waking up with his arms around her became more common and less horrifying. Although she usually did her best to keep her distance whenever they finally broke apart for much needed rest, somehow just knowing the vampire was sleeping beside her made her feel warm and safe even when they weren't touching. There was something so familiar, so comfortable about his presence...

"That feels nice," she murmured as he rubbed the back of her neck with an ice cube.

"Is the headache going away, love?"

"Mmmm-hmmm." Buffy yawned and allowed him to spoon her body as her eyes drifted shut.

"That's my girl," he whispered. "Let those pretty eyes have a rest, yeah?"

"Jus' for a few minutes..." She relaxed completely, safely held by the creature she continued to believe was beneath her.

Although she threw his love back in his face every time he tried to express it, she knew she was becoming addicted. Not only to the amazing physical things he could do to her body, but to his very presence, his acceptance of her and her moods, the way he was always there, backing her up if she needed it, but never getting in the way. More frightening than any demon she'd ever faced was the knowledge that Spike had become the person she most depended upon. The man who was gradually bringing her back to life, chasing away the numbness and adding color to her gray world, was a soulless, evil, dead man.

"You know, Buffy," he murmured in her ear very early one morning, repeating an argument that had become a daily occurrence. "If you just told the Bit about us, you wouldn't have to go running off before dawn every morning."

"Don't," she said shortly, unwilling to admit how reluctant she actually was to leave the only place she felt remotely content or happy. How hard it was to force herself to get up, dress and go home.

He sighed and flopped back on the bed, hands behind his head, biceps and torso on display.

"She won't care, pet. I promise you."

She whirled on him, eyes wide. "How do you know? Have you told her anything?"

"Relax, Slayer," he said, his face shutting down. "I know my place – and it's not being the one to say that you come to me for some cold comfort."

When she didn't attack him, but just nodded and began to dress, he turned his back and put a pillow over his head.

"Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out," he growled under his breath.


"Where do you go? When you stay out all night? Where are you?"

"What?" Buffy stared at Dawn, her mind whirling as she confronted the question she least wanted to answer.

"Are you with Spike? Is that why you don't come home?"

Okay. that was the question she least wanted to answer.

"Some... sometimes? I mean, he is a creature of the night, and I'm... you know, it's night when I go out to slay and—"

"Sheesh! Chill. I don't care, Buffy. I just want to know." Dawn's voice softened. "I worry about you. I can't help it – you were dead. Remember?" Ignoring Buffy's soft "No, I don't remember," she went on, her voice rising again, "Every time you aren't home when I go to bed, I worry. I wake up a dozen times during the night, and you're not here. What do you expect me to think?" She glared at Buffy, then her eyes went wide. "And, ohmygod, I sound like Mom."

'I'm... I'm sorry, Dawnie. Really, I am. But I'm safe out there. And... and sometimes Spike's with me, so then there are two of us, and..."

"And Spike would dust before he let anything happen to you. You think I don't know that? You think I don't know why he stayed around here and took care of me while you were gone? But if he's always with you, why can't he be with you here?"

"Why would you want that?" Buffy frowned, genuinely confused for a second. "And I didn't say he was always with me!" She remembered what Xander had let slip about Spike's summer-long devotion to Dawn and shook her head, at a loss to add anything that wouldn't give away more than she wanted.

"Because he's my friend?" Dawn's voice dripped sarcasm as only a teenager's can. "Or he was. Before you came back and he stopped coming around. I guess he doesn't care about seeing me anymore -– now that you're back in his life."

"I'm not... it's not like that..." Buffy blew out her breath. "Look. I'm sorry he isn't here every night tucking you in and reading you bedtime stories, but we... I just...." She stopped and glared. "You know what? It's none of your business why he isn't here. Or why I don't come home. All you need to know is that I'm safe." She watched her sister's face shut down and added, "And that Spike still cares about you. He just doesn't come around as much because... because..."

"Because Xander and Willow think he's still got the hots for you and they'd bitch about it. Do you think I'm stupid, Buffy?"

"No. Obviously you aren't stupid. And, yes, that's got a lot to do with it. I don't want to deal with their... I just don't want to deal with it, okay? I'll talk to him. Maybe you can... I don't know. We'll work something out." She stared at Dawn's rigid shoulders. "He misses you, Dawnie. I know he does."

"Yeah? Well he's got a funny way of showing it," Dawn muttered, refusing to admit she was mollified by Buffy's words.

"Hey. It's Spike. Doing things wrong is his middle name." Buffy's attempt at humor brought a small smile to Dawns lips. "We're not trying to shut you out, Dawn. We... I just don't want to listen to stupid accusations and... stupid... stupid things."

"If you're... like...with him, with him—" Dawn threw up her hand as Buffy leaped to her feet. "I'm not saying you are, I'm just saying, if you did want to... I wouldn't care if he stayed with you. In your room."

"That is never going to happen. And this conversation is over."

Buffy almost ran from the house, only returning when she had to change into her Doublemeat Palace uniform. But that night, she was home and in her own bed by midnight. As she was for the next several nights. She refused to explain to Spike, knowing he would just start the "You should just tell everyone" argument all over again.


Riley's arrival, his perfect new wife, and Buffy's own mistake in killing the female demon all conspired to send her spiraling back down into the place where only one person could make things better. Asking Spike to tell her he loved her – when she knew he did, and wanted only to be allowed to say it – felt like one of the cruelest things she'd ever done to him.

His "In point of fact—" was cut off when she fastened her lips on his, silently begging for the release only he could provide. It was one of the rare instances when she allowed him to make love to her the way he wanted to – sweetly, slowly and with murmured endearments that she usually refused to acknowledge.

"Something's different, love," he said, stroking her bare arm as they rested quietly. "Want to tell me what's going on?"

"Not really." She turned her head away, but remained within touching distance.

Spike nodded, grateful for the physical closeness, even if she was no longer letting him into her life in other ways. As she rolled over to sleep, he leaned down and whispered in her ear, "I love you, Buffy," before settling down on his own side of the big stone slab. There was no reply, but she allowed him to leave his leg touching hers as they drifted off.

The following day, guilt and shame overcame her craving for his body and the temporary oblivion that it could provide. Her farewell conversation with Riley had reminded her of the person she used to be, the person she would like to be again – the woman who was strong enough not to abuse another's feelings for her just because it helped her feel better.

"I'm sorry, William."

Without so much as a "thank you" for what his love had done to help her become strong enough to reject it, she turned her back and walked out to begin a new life in which her biggest problem was locating Warren and his two nerdy buddies.

The demon guarding their house was a surprise. As was the immediate weakness she felt after being stabbed.

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