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Prior Claims-NC17

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  • Prior Claims-NC17

    Disclaimers:1. Clearly, I do not own any of these characters. Here's hoping Joss and crew don't mind if I borrow them to play for a bit. 2. Unlike a few of my other stories, where I posted NC17 and then didn't really leave the PG realm-this one gets naughty-if you don't like that or are under 17-please don't read it. Thank you. 3. I'll be forthright about this one-it's a romance (more or less). I will attempt to keep the characters in character, but where as I generally try to fit in to the normal rules of the Buffyverse, this one is a bit more fantasy-based. 4. Oh....and did I mention it's a Spuffy-story. I probably should huh? Well now-do I still have any readers?

    Set: After ATS- basically disregards comicverse.

    Special thanks to my fabulous friend and beta Huntress Tiger, for her advice and commentary. Not everyone has a friend who is willing to chat about the pros and cons of various language choices used during the naughty scenes.

    Prior Claims

    Chapter One

    Buffy stepped out of the shop and back into the London drizzle already feeling ridiculous about her purchase. She even considered returning it on the spot; she could make up some excuse, tell the salesclerk that she had just realized that she already had it. Even as the inner debate waged she knew she wouldn't. She held the slim brown bag to her chest and quickly made her way along the damp sidewalks to the small townhouse she currently called home.

    She ran up the steps, slid her key in the door and stepped into the front hall. Closing the heavy door behind her she blocked out the sounds of the busy street and took a moment to appreciate the silence. It was why she was here, the quietness and the solitude acting as a balm. She'd runaway again and felt guilty about it. Such a typically dumb Buffy move, to wallow in her loss instead of focusing on what she still had, she thought. She knew that it would have been healthier to turn to her friends, to let them in, to share her feelings. Oh well, she thought, it's not like anyone could really still think she was the poster child for mental health at this point anyway. Besides, she argued, they knew where she was this time, which was progress, right?

    She'd gone to Giles when it happened, when she'd heard, and told him that she needed to leave. He'd tried for a moment to convince her to stay, that her place was there in Scotland setting up and helping the new slayers, but he'd quickly realized that she was going to leave either way and had changed his tactics. He'd instead set her up with this place in London and asked that she call once a week to let them know she was safe. She'd accepted only because it seemed easier to than not to.

    That was almost five weeks ago. For the first week she just cried, with no one around to be strong for she had sobbed until her body ached and her eyes had stung. Since then she had settled in to a nice quiet routine. She watched soap operas and cooking shows, took long walks and naps in the middle of the day, and she made her weekly call to let everyone know she still loved them, but that she wasn't coming home yet.

    Buffy hung her jacket on the wooden rack by the door and carried her purchase into the living room. She placed the bag on a table by the couch and starred at it for a moment. Stupid, she thought, and shook her head once before turning away.

    She walked into the kitchen, filled the tea kettle with water and set in on the stove. "Days like today called for hot cocoa", she said out loud though she was alone and leaned back against the counter to wait. Of course I don't make it as well as Mom used to, she thought, accepting the wave of sorrow that washed over her with the sudden memory the thought had brought on. It had happened more than once, she had come home to find her mom and Spike chatting cozily while sipping tea or cocoa. It had made her angry at the time, furious even, with both of them. Now it was just another reason she missed them, another one of the quirks that make the people you love into the people you love.

    The kettle's whistle interrupted her thoughts and she poured the water into a large clay mug. She dumped a generous amount of chocolate powder in to the water and, holding the now hot mug with both hands, she walked back to the living room. Buffy enjoyed the slight pain where her fingers met the heated clay. Sometimes it seemed like pain was the only thing she could feel anymore, but she refused to let her thoughts settle on that. She placed the mug on the table, careful not to drip any cocoa on the bag and once again allowed her eyes to settle on the brown paper. Stupid, she thought again, it's not even my style.

    She lifted the mug up to her lips and took a sip. Still too hot, she thought making a face, and it would probably be better if she'd mixed it more. She shrugged and took another sip before returning the mug to the table.

    Finally she reached for the bag and pulled out the CD she knew she'd probably never listen too. Her eyes teared up once again looking at the cover. That's why she'd bought it; when her eyes got teary, as they so often were these days, the picture blurred and it almost looked like someone else. Dumb reason to buy a CD, she acknowledged shaking her head. She placed it back on the table. She'd been doing better before today, she thought, and then she went and did this.

    She closed her eyes, hugged her knees up to her chest and rested her forehead upon them. She wouldn't let herself cry again, but the effort not to was exhausting.

    Actually, she'd felt tired, really tired, ever since she'd heard. It was just too much, too many people dead, too soon after Sunnydale, too soon after losing her mother, too soon after being yanked out of heaven and having to learn how to live again. How much was one girl expected to take? Apparently a lot if that girl is me, she thought bitterly.

    She hadn't talked to Angel that last year, hadn't bothered to listen to his reasoning; she'd been so full of self-righteousness. She couldn't help but regret that now. She should have been willing to listen; she should have realized that she didn't have forever. She knew that now, now that it was too late, now that he was gone. She'd still been reeling from that, from finding out that Angel and all the good people he'd had helping him were gone when Andrew had broken the news. She hadn't known he was back, but she'd lost him again just the same. Spike had died trying to save the world again.

    And so she was mourning again, mourning both of them for a second time. The moment that she'd realized that, that this was the second time she'd lost him, both of the hims, she'd actually laughed. The stares she'd gotten when she'd let that bitter and hollow sound escape her mouth was what had convinced her that she needed to leave. How many girls could actually say they'd mourned the death of the man they loved four times when they'd only loved two men?

    She took one deep breath and another before lifting her head up. She had already said goodbye to Spike. She had stood there on the Hellmouth with the world falling around them and known that he was going to give his life to make sure that the rest of them got out. She'd held his hand and she'd told him that she loved him and then she'd run. And when she had finished running, when the work was done and everyone was safe, she had cried. She had cried for him, and for herself, and for the chance that they hadn't had. But when she'd stopped crying she was done. She had moved on. He was gone and she hoped he was at peace, but it was done. It was done until Andrew told her the truth. He hadn't been gone. He'd come back, just not back to her.
    Last edited by Dorian's Kitten; 25-09-07, 02:49 PM.
    "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."

  • #2
    Chapter Two

    "Hello" She tried to sound more cheerful than she felt.

    "Buffy. Hello. How are...How is London? Are you still enjoying the ?umm that is, is everything?"

    "I'm fine Giles."

    "Oh?good, that's?good. Are you?have you made any decision about when you will be coming home? Not that I'm?"

    "Not yet."

    "Oh, well that's fine, Buffy, that's? as long as you're?"

    "I'm fine."

    "Right. Buffy?"

    She could tell by his change in tone that Giles was going to try once again to talk with her about what had happened. She wasn't ready. "Giles, I can't really talk right now. I'll call later."

    "All right." He sighed, reminding himself not to push.

    "Tell everyone?tell them I love them."

    Buffy hung up the phone and headed into the kitchen. She cooked last night, or tried to anyway, and there were dishes to clean out of the sink. Maybe I can become one of those people who find cleaning all relaxy, she thought turning on the water.

    She was putting away a glass when she saw him. Out of nowhere, a man or something that looked like a man had appeared in her kitchen. Her instincts kicked in, immediately the glass was replaced with a knife.

    "Who are you? And what do you want?" She pointed the knife towards him menacingly, though she doubted it would have any affect. She knew he wasn't human, the doors were locked. There were also magical shields to keep everything else out. All that told her was that whoever and whatever this was, it was strong.

    "Well that's complicated." He spoke in a strangely smooth and completely unaccented voice.

    "Uncomplicate it."

    The man chuckled. "It's also unimportant."

    Something about his laugh made Buffy want to shiver. "My house, I decide what's important."

    Another chuckle, "You can call me Malach."

    "Is that your name?"

    He shrugged.

    "What do you want?"

    "Actually the question is what do you want?"

    "Aside from wanting you to leave?"

    "You're not what I expected."

    "Sorry to disappoint you. Oh wait, no?I'm not."

    "Yes. Charming. I still don't see how you've managed to inspire such loyalty."


    "You can put down the knife; it wouldn't make any difference." He demonstrated by waving his hand through the table."

    "The First." Buffy's eyes widened as she took a step away from the man.

    "No. There are other beings that appear as incorporeal on this plane."


    The man sighed deeply, shook his head and spoke with deep condescension. "Go-through-able-other things are go- through-able."

    "Fine. What kind of things?

    He grinned. "Things like me."

    "And again I ask, What. Do. You. Want?"

    "As I said the question is what you want and I am merely here to ask it."

    "To ask what I want?"

    "Exactly, will you be maintaining or relinquishing your claim?"

    "What claim?" She scrunched her forehead in confusion.

    "Your claim on the soul, the situation is highly irregular."

    "You're here to find out if I want to keep my soul?" For the first time Buffy wondered if she had fallen asleep and was dreaming. She looked down at her body as if she could physically check that her soul was in place.

    "The other obviously, not the one originally given to you."

    "I have another soul?"

    "Well you apparently hold the claim to another soul, as I said the situation is highly irregular."

    "I don't?"

    "I was afraid of this. You were not aware of the claim,"

    Buffy shook her head.

    "Seems to me if she's not even aware of the claim." He'd looked away when he'd spoken that time as if there was another person in the room.

    Buffy turned cautiously, but saw no one.

    Malach made a face and continued speaking. "As you wish." He turned back to Buffy. "Normally a claim is built or developed based upon one's actions on this plane. Each side presents its case and the side with the stronger claim takes the soul, becomes its final destination."

    "You're talking about like heaven or hell."

    "That would be a common simplification. Occasionally one side or the other can claim a soul at its inception. In those cases the actions on this plane are irrelevant, unless the side with the claim relinquishes the claim, the soul belongs to them."

    "So there is no free will?"

    Malach looked surprised, though Buffy wasn't sure if his surprise meant he thought she was clever to ask or an idiot to not know the answer.

    "In those cases, and they are rare, the actions on this plane are freely chosen, the final destination is not."

    "All right, I still don't see where I have a claim-I'm not?"

    "Yes, the circumstances are highly peculiar. I've never heard of another case where this?typically of course the soul is installed pre-consciousness. A person does not have the opportunity to choose for themselves the final destination of their soul, except of course by their actions."

    "Unless there was like a prior claim thingy."

    "Right. This case is unique I believe because the soul was installed or more accurately reinstalled in to an entirely conscious person. Since this is not a normal occurrence we were really quite unaware that a person would be able, if focused strongly enough, to choose their own final destination. In this case you. Although I have suggested that such a claim could not have been deliberate, since he could not have been cognizant of the possibility." He looked away for a moment and nodded. "I have, however, been over-ruled and therefore I ask whether you will be maintaining or relinquishing your claim."

    Buffy stared at him wide-eyed and gripped the counter for support. "Spike."

    "Yes, I believe that was one of his names."

    "You're asking me if I want Spike's soul?" She asked quietly.

    "No. I am telling you that he has apparently already given it to you, such as it is, and I am asking whether or not you plan to accept."

    "His soul?"


    "I don't understand. Where is his soul now?"

    "It's waiting as all must until its final destination is determined. Do you wish to relinquish your claim?"

    "Then what would happen? What happens if I accept or whatever?"

    "If you relinquish your claim then the party with the next strongest claim will obtain the soul."

    "Spike's soul"


    "And who has the next highest?would he go to heaven?"

    "I cannot say."

    "Can't or wont?"

    "Either one."

    "And what if I accept it? What actually happens?"

    "Then we shall return his soul to this plane for your keeping."

    "How can you ?just his soul?"

    "And here I heard you had some sort of preference for the soul." He chuckled. "We will restore his body as well, if that is what you are asking. The soul cannot exist without containment on this plane." He smiled. "Unless you would prefer a different container?"

    "No, I?you can just make him be alive again because I have a claim?"

    "If you choose to maintain the claim, his destination shall be you, wherever you should be."

    "So if I die?"

    "The claim will be maintained."

    "And his soul would go with me?"


    Buffy looked down for a moment thinking. "Can I choose a location for the soul, like can I decide to send him to heaven?"

    "Quite caught up on this heaven thing aren't you? That is not how it works. You can either accept the claim or relinquish it. I really must ask that you make a decision; this whole thing has put me quite behind schedule. Do you wish to relinquish the claim?"

    Something about the way he kept asking that was seriously creeping Buffy out, she shook her head. "No, I don't relinquish my claim. I want?"

    Malach sighed. "Very well."
    "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


    • #3
      Chapter Three

      Buffy opened her mouth, but before she could ask another question the man disappeared and Spike appeared crouched over, head facing down in her living room.

      "Spike." She said it quietly, still not sure she could believe her own eyes.

      He looked up. "Buffy?"

      She froze for a moment her eyes locked on his. She saw his confusion, his fear, his pain and the smallest flicker of hope. For a second she could swear she saw his soul twinkling behind the blue of his eyes.

      She watched as his eyes suddenly closed and his body dropped to the floor. "Spike!" She ran to his side and dropped to her knees. "Spike?" She pulled his head on to her lap and watched his eyes blink open again.

      "Buffy the others, someone might still be?you have to?" His hoarse voice trailed off when he saw the tears on her face. "Buffy?"

      She shook her head. He didn't remember, she realized. He thought that the fight was still going on.

      "All of them?"

      She nodded.

      " am I? Buffy how am I not dead? I remember Angel was?there was a dragon? I tried to?How did I not? What happened?" He tried to sit up and winced.

      "You're hurt." Buffy looked down and gasped. She hadn't even noticed. He was mess, covered in blood and soot and a variety of slime-like substances. His clothes were torn and burned. She couldn't even tell where his injuries were. "Do you think you can walk if I help?"

      Spike clenched his jaw against the pain and sat up. "Buffy, luv, what happened?"

      "It's complicated, let's get you fixed up and then we can talk. Can you?.can you make it upstairs?"

      He nodded and Buffy helped him up. Slowly they made their way across the room and up the stairs with Buffy holding up as much of Spike's weight as his pride would allow. When he swore weakly halfway up, Buffy had to fight off the urge to just pick him up and carry him.


      "I got it luv, just? slow?" He trailed off as though out of breath.

      "Right here Spike." She nodded and angled them towards a door.

      Walking in the room, Spike knew immediately that this was where she slept. It was her room. She had brought him up to her bedroom. It was not a place he had ever even hoped to be in again. He tried to play off his awe with a joke. "Not sure I'm up to that just yet pet, might have to give me a few minutes to get to rights."

      "What?" Buffy followed his gaze to the bed got his meaning. She knew he was teasing, but blushed just the same. "The bathroom is through here, we'll get you washed up. Then I can see?then I can see where you're hurt."

      Spike was tempted to tell her that he hurt pretty much everywhere, but didn't want to lose face any more than was necessary. He was trying to figure out what his injuries were, what could make him feel as weak as he currently felt when he got hit with a wave of nausea and swayed. Buffy kept him on his feet, but barely, she quickly lowered him onto a chair just outside the bathroom door.

      "Spike?" She started to pull off what was left of his coat and shirt, checking for a serious injury. "What is it? Are you bleeding too much?"

      "Don't know?feel?wrong?I'm?"

      Buffy got the rest of his shirt off and scanned his chest and abdomen, he was pretty scraped up, but nothing seemed to be too serious. Certainly she'd seen him in worse shape before. But maybe the injuries are more internal, she thought. She laid her hand on his chest and gasped. "Warm. Spike you're?" Her eyes widened as she moved her hand across his chest to where his heart was absolutely beating. "Heart! Spike, your heart."

      Their widened eyes met for a second before he pushed out of the chair and into the bathroom. He barely made it to the sink before he began vomiting, violently retching the contents of his stomach into the porcelain bowl.

      Buffy followed behind him, catching him with an arm around his waist when he slumped from the exhaustion brought from his actions. She reached across and turned on the water.

      Spike watched the blood and tequila that had been his stomach's only contents wash down the drain and tried to clear his head. What happened? Gathering his strength he lifted his head and saw himself in the mirror. He fell back at the shock of it.

      Buffy pulled him tighter against her. "I think you need to lie down." Without waiting for a response she led him back into the bedroom and helped him on to the bed. When she started to turn away, he grabbed her wrist.


      "Spike, let's?"

      "Did you do it? Did you make me?"

      "No?maybe" She shook her head. "I don't know, Spike I?please let's just make sure you're all right and then we can talk." She pulled away again and went to the bathroom.

      "All right, how can I be?I'm...what the hell am I?"

      Buffy returned with a cloth and a bowl of warm water. "We'll figure it out." She began to wipe the worst of the dried blood and grim from his face. "Are you?" She stopped unsure of what she should ask. "Maybe we should take you to the hospital."

      He shook his head no. "Don't really know if I'm something that doctors like to see yet do we pet?"

      Buffy rested her hand on the side of his face. "Spike, I think you're human now."

      Spike gave a single weak nod. "Maybe, don't reckon I quite remember what that's...but how Buffy?"

      She looked down at him for a moment, trying to figure out how to answer that question. It was so strange to see him like this. He looked scared and weak and hurt. He was shivering she realized with a start. "You're cold." She placed her hand on his arm for a second before turning to reach for a blanket. "Maybe you should just try to rest."

      He nodded. "Buffy?"

      "I'll be right here when you wake up. We'll figure this out."

      He nodded once more before the exhaustion overtook him.
      "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


      • #4
        Chapter Four

        It was dark when he opened his eyes, but he couldn't remember if it had been very bright when he'd fallen asleep so he had no idea how long ago that had been. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust, which he found utterly frustrating, but when they did he saw Buffy curled up on a chair next to the bed. She was wrapped in a blanket but her eyes were open.

        She jumped to her feet when he sat up. "Spike?"

        "Morning pet" His voice still sounded hoarse.

        "How are you? I mean are you feeling?"

        "Like I got trampled by a merry tribe of chaos demons? Yeah." Seeing the concern on her face he sighed. "I'm fine, or as fine as?"

        "Are you hungry or?" She turned on the light. "maybe a shower."

        Spike glanced down at the now filthy sheets and looked back up sheepishly. "Sorry ?bout that."

        "No. I just meant that you?I'm not worried about the sheets Spike."

        "A shower will put me to rights." He gave Buffy a small smile. She was clearly not ready to tell him what was happening and he wasn't feeling up to pressing just yet. He pushed the blankets aside and stood up, pleased to find that he was at least a little steadier on his feet now.

        "Do you?will you?do you think you'll be ok on your own?"

        Spike couldn't help but grin at Buffy stammering lips and flushed cheeks. "A hundred plus years?I should probably be able to bathe myself." He pressed his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "Of course if you feel like playing Nightingale?"

        "What?" Seeing Spike's attempt to smirk and pretend like he wasn't freaking out, Buffy figured he was teasing. She did wonder how nightin-whatever was played. "There are plenty of towels in there and soap and stuff. I think I can find you some clothes; the house was, well it used to belong to an old Watcher friend of Giles. I think there's still some stuff. I'll just ?" She trailed off. He never stopped looking at her. She had forgotten how intense it was, being in his gaze. He was looking at her for answers, she knew that, but she wasn't so sure he was going to like the ones she could give. She could just hear herself now ?We'll turns out I kind of own your soul'. Yeah, she thought bitterly, that was just thing a man who didn't even want you to know he was alive was waiting to hear. She turned away breaking the hold of his eyes on hers. "I'll just let you get cleaned up."

        Spike watched Buffy leave the room before turning and walking into the bathroom. He was once again startled by his reflection and found himself starring at it for several minutes. How had this happened? How was it that he was not dead? The prophecy hadn't been for him, he was sure of that, regardless of what he may have said to the contrary.

        Buffy returned to the room with the clothes she'd scrounged from closet in the other bedroom. She placed them on the chair and began pulling the bedding off. It really was pretty gross now, she thought, so she might as well throw it in the wash. When she returned with fresh sheets, she realized that she still hadn't heard the shower. She was at the door, ready to pull it off its hinges and rescue him, when he finally turned on the water. She made up the bed and laid out the clothes she'd found. She sat for a minute listening to shower and considering the story she soon would have to tell. Once again, Buffy couldn't help but wonder if she had made the wrong choice. Was she keeping him from heaven?

        She stood up thinking that it would probably take him a while to clean up considering how covered he'd been. She went downstairs and put water in the kettle, though she suspected Spike would prefer something a bit stronger than tea. Though, she thought, considering the pukefest earlier he might not really be up for anything stronger. She opened the fridge and considered its contents. Should she cook something? He probably ate regular food now right? She shook her head, even if he did eat regular food, she thought, he probably wasn't up for a Buffy-cooking experiment yet. She closed the fridge and pulled a couple of cans of soup out of the cupboard instead. Buffy poured the soup into a pot and set it on the stove as well. She leaned back against the counter for second before hoisting herself up to sit on it.

        She was sitting there watching the kettle and contemplating the wisdom of the whole watched pot thing when Spike came down the stairs. "Buffy?"

        "I'm in here." She slid down from the counter as he walked in the room. "I figured?" Her jaw dropped. The clothes she'd found were definitely not his style and she suspected he felt ridiculous wearing them, but she couldn't quite get past what the dark blue button-down was doing for his eyes. Both it and the khakis she'd found were just a little too big for him causing Spike to look sort of smaller and younger, though that was generally the case whenever he wasn't wearing his duster. Buffy wondered, not for the first time if that was why he wore it, to look bigger. "You look?"

        "Like a right prat?had to be a Watcher's place right?" He shook his head and told himself he must be misreading the message in Buffy's eyes. She hasn't wanted you like that in a long time mate, he thought, no reason for her to start now.

        Buffy looked away and began pulling mugs from the cupboard. "I know it's not your?we can go out tomorrow and find you something more? you. Ok?" She turned her head and gave him a small smile.

        He nodded. "Where are we?" He asked quietly.

        Buffy turned to him surprised and realized then how incredibly patient he was being. He had no idea what was happening. If it were her she'd have been throwing punches by now, but he just stood there waiting for her to be ready to explain. Are you really surprised, a voice in her head argued, waiting for you is what Spike has been doing for years. Or did do for years, it corrected, until you finally convinced him you didn't care. "You're in London and it's been a little over a month since that battle in L.A."

        Spike nodded, his eyes widening with surprise and waited for her to continue.

        "I'm making tea and heating some soup. I think you should try to eat." when it looked like he might argue she added "while we talk." She poured water into the teapot and brought it along with a couple of mugs to the table. Setting them down, she returned to the stove to ladle the soup into a couple of bowls.

        Spike watched with interest as Buffy settled the bowls and a couple of spoons on a tray and then brought those to the table as well. She seemed quite a bit more comfortable in the kitchen than he recalled. He smiled, it was nice to watch her do something so normal and homey. It was the soft side of Buffy that he so rarely got to see.

        "Spike" She nodded at the table before sitting down.

        Spike walked over and took his place at the spot beside her. He smiled as she handed him a cup of tea.

        "I don't know how you like it."

        Spike wasn't sure how to take the nervousness in her tone. "Plain is fine, thank you." He frowned when he realized her nerves were bringing out his. It seemed that without his demon it was a bit harder to keep up his normal masks. His voice didn't even sound right.

        Buffy took a sip of her own tea and tried to decide where to start. "You?you died again" she glanced up to see him nod and settled her gaze back down. "During the battle I think, I'm not sure how; I didn't know that you were even?we got reports right afterward and we sent people to try and find?I don't think anyone made it." She looked back up. "I'm sorry; I heard that you were close to?"

        Spike cut in, his voice rough. "They were trying to do the right thing, trying to be champions."

        Buffy nodded, thinking once again that she should have been there helping. "We weren't sure at first about you or Angel; I mean there wasn't any bo?way to know for sure. But after a couple of weeks of searching?" She trailed off remembering watching while Willow performed a dozen different locater spells.

        "He's really??" He stopped at her nod, watching the tears threaten to escape her eyes. "I didn't really hate him you know or I did but not just?"

        Buffy looked surprised for a moment but just nodded.

        He gave her moment, let her push back the tears before asking "Buffy if I died, how am I ?was it?was there a spell?"

        He was watching her again, head tilted in that way that was entirely unique to him. Buffy reached her hand towards him, but stopped short of touching. She pulled it back to her lap. "I'm not?" She shook her head. "I don't think so. There was a man or a thing; it has to do with your soul."

        Spike waited questions clear in his expression.

        "When you got your soul back, you?you must have?somehow?" She paused. "You got it for me didn't you?"

        Spike looked up with watery eyes and shrugged. "Thought it was what you wanted; couldn't let myself hurt you again." They'd never really talked about it, or at least she'd never really acknowledged her part in it. He wasn't sure why she was bringing it up now, after so much time had passed. He shrugged again. "Yeah, ?course I got for you."

        "He said you must have...been thinking about me or?" She caught Spike's ?Of course I was' expression. "You gave me your soul." There, she thought, I said it.
        "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


        • #5
          Chapter Five

          Buffy looked up. She'd spent the last half hour recounting her visit from Malach and the choice she'd had to make. "I'm not sure why you're human now though."

          Spike glanced at her over his shoulder and snorted. He'd been pacing for the past several minutes. "Returned the soul and the body but not the demon, pet. Nothing in here to make me anything more now."

          Buffy scrunched her forehead. That made sense, she realized. She wasn't surprised by his easy analysis; for all the jokes about Spike's intelligence or lack there of, he always seemed to see the truth of things. "I don't think you can die though?I mean not unless..." She frowned; there were still a lot of questions. "I'll call Willow tomorrow, maybe she and Giles can find out if this has ever happened before, or maybe the seers can tell us something."

          Spike nodded, suddenly feeling tired again. He walked into the living room and picked up the CD she'd left on the couch. Billy Idol, he thought, not really Buffy's taste. He held it up. "You know the git stole his look from?"


          Startled, Spike looked up to see the tears running freely down her cheeks. "luv?"

          She shook her head. "It's just been a long day."

          He nodded. She's probably still upset about losing Angel, he thought. "Yeah, it's been that."

          "Maybe we should try to get some sleep. It'll be daytime in a few hours." When he bent his head in agreement she continued awkwardly. "There's another bedroom upstairs. Do you want me to show you?"

          "I can probably scout it out myself." He walked to the stairs.

          "Right" She watched him start up the stairs. "Spike?"

          He paused. "Yeah?"

          "I missed you."

          He responded without turning. "Missed you too pet."

          Buffy watched as he slowly climbed the stairs. He's probably healing like a human now, she realized, suddenly noticing the tension and pain in his gait. She wondered again if she should be taking him to a hospital. Where she would tell them what exactly, she thought with a smile. It might be a good idea to have Willow look into getting some fake ID's for him.

          She brought the dishes to the sink but quickly decided to see to them in the morning. She'd been tired all day, as she had been for weeks, tired when she forced herself out of bed and tired when she crawled back in and finally cried herself to sleep. She turned off the lights and headed up the stairs. She stopped for only a moment, wondering if she had any real excuse to check on him one more time. She didn't; she just wanted to see him, so she went into her own room and got ready for bed. Buffy showered quickly, hoping the hot water would pull some of the tension from her aching body and pulled on a cami and shorts to sleep in. She was crawling in to bed when she heard him. She froze for a second, focusing on the sound and then rushed to his room.

          She pushed the door open quickly, ready to fight off whatever demon was causing him to make such pained sounds, and found nothing. He was alone, asleep even. But the sound continued, groans and whimpers from a battle Buffy couldn't help fight, the battle he fought in his sleep. She remembered suddenly that she knew about this, the nightmares. He'd admitted to them that last year in a moment of embarrassment and self-loathing.

          She paused for a moment, unsure of what action she should take. She knew what he would do. If it were her, if she were crying in her sleep, he would offer comfort. He'd take in his arms and tell her that everything would be all right and he would keep telling her until she'd heard him. He'd done it before. But she'd taken the comfort and not offered any in return. Oh sure, she'd given a few pep talks, even said thank you in a way, but she'd never just held him and told him that is was going to be ok. She should have, she realized now, she should have done a lot of things differently. She wasn't sure if he'd want her comfort now, but she figured she would try.

          She sat at the edge of the bed and placed her hand on his. "Spike" She said his name softly, her tone gentle and soothing. "Spike its ok, everything is going to be ok. I'm here and I promise?" She continued whispering soft words for a few minutes and watched the tension leave him. He never woke up, but his face relaxed and he became quiet. So she watched him sleep again and smiled at the wonder of his breathing. She could tell he had mixed feelings about his new humanity, but couldn't deny thinking that it was a miracle herself. He moved, curled up on his side and she slipped into the bed behind him. She was still for a moment, worried that her movement would waken him and that he would ask her to leave. When he didn't, when he snuggled back against her instead, she smiled and gently wrapped her arm around his waist. Within moments she fell asleep.
          "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


          • #6
            Chapter Six

            Buffy woke first, never having gotten used to sleeping for very long. Sometime during the night Spike had rolled over and curled into a ball, burying his face against her stomach and holding her in place firmly with both arms. Surprised at the intimacy of their position, she tried to pull away without waking him. He pulled back with surprising strength for a sleeping and now human man. He'd made a small noise of irritation, but he hadn't woken up.

            She smiled as he snuggled against her; remembering how deeply he sometimes slept. She brought her hand up to run through his hair; without the gel he usually used to slick it back it was a riot of soft curls. She dropped her head to press her lips gently on the top of those curls. He hadn't told her if she'd made the right choice yet, but he hadn't told her that he wished things to be otherwise yet either. She decided to hold on to that; it was hopeful. It made her feel like maybe there was still a chance.

            She was still lost in thought when he began to stir, nuzzling first her stomach and then her breasts in a slow sleepy fashion. Suddenly he froze and she knew he was awake. He pulled back enough to look at her, surprise and fear written on his face.

            "Hi," he said quietly, the unspoken question clear on his face.

            "You?you were having a nightmare, I just?I wanted to help."

            Spike nodded. She'd felt sorry for him, he thought, that was all.

            She pulled away a little, sitting up but not quite leaving the warm cocoon of his arms. "I didn't mean to invade ?Are you mad?"

            He gave a soft laugh. "Course not pet, ?s not everyday a bloke goes to bed alone and wakes up with a pretty bird." He winked then, as if to remind them both of their buddy status.

            Buffy forced herself to smile as she pulled herself away. He doesn't want you anymore, the voice pressed, leave before you embarrass yourself. "I should probably call Giles and Willow, they're in Scotland so it could take a couple of days for them to get here."

            "Who's here with you?"

            "No one, I needed some time after?I'm here alone."

            Of course she did you git, he thought bitterly, she just lost Angel. He was the love of her life, you were just convenient. "Right."

            She got off the bed and stood in the doorway.

            Spike watched her for a moment. "Pet?"

            "Huh, what?"

            "Did you need something?"

            "What? No?I?"

            "I didn't sleep in my pants luv, so unless you're lookin' for an eyeful."

            Buffy starred at him for a second, eyes wide, before mumbling "sorry" and disappearing down the hall.
            "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


            • #7
              Chapter Seven

              Buffy was dressed and finishing up the dishes when he came down. She smiled. "Hey."

              "Hey," he echoed quietly.

              It worried her, the quiet. Spike had never really been this quiet before. "Are you hungry?"

              He nodded.

              "Well then I guess it's time to show off my newfound cooking skills."

              "You cook now?" He played along, hamming up his response as though that was even more shocking than his new human status.

              "Oh you just wait mister, soon you'll be eating your words?and also?scrambled eggs."

              "Well this I can't wait to see." He pulled himself up on the counter to watch.

              Spike had enjoyed watching Buffy cook and even enjoyed eating the slightly burnt results, but he realized now that he should have talked her out of the shopping trip. It had sounded like a great idea to find something to wear that didn't scream "I'm a nancy boy who went to Oxford and I've never slept with a woman," but now they were in their fourth store and he'd met Shopping Buffy. He'd quickly decided that Shopping Buffy was actually more frightening than "I'm here to stake you" Buffy.

              "I think we've ?bout shopped this place out pet."

              Buffy laughed and shook her head. She spotted a black dress across the store and moved in on it like a missile. She grabbed it off the rack. "I'm gonna try it on." She handed Spike the bag she was holding and verily danced in to the dressing room.

              Spike looked at the bags in his hands and sighed, here was something he'd never imagined he'd be doing.

              A moment later Buffy popped out of the dressing room. "What do ya think?" She turned.

              Spike's mouth went dry. ?Think?' "Bit short innit luv?"

              "Too short?' She pouted. "You don't think I could pull it off"

              "Oh you can pull it off, might need a bloody bodyguard, but you can pull it off."

              Buffy smiled. "Perfect." She danced back into the dressing room. Well, she thought, at least you know he still finds you attractive. There was no denying the lust on Spike's face when she'd come out a moment ago.

              They visited two more stores before Buffy was satisfied. "I think that's enough to get you started right?"

              He raised his eyebrow in defiance. "Pet I was good a decade ago."

              She smiled. He'd wanted to stop at a pair of jeans and a couple of black t-shirts. She'd had to push for a more well-rounded wardrobe. He'd just looked too cute in the Watcher's clothes. She'd managed to sneak a few blue shirts into their bags.

              "What do you want to do today? Seems like you can be outside in the sun. Did you want?"

              Spike shrugged. "Don't suppose you've got an Xbox?"

              Buffy grinned mischievously. "Nope, but we can get one."

              Spike shook his head. "They're not cheap pet."

              Buffy's smile deepened. "Not a problem. The council was totally holding out on me. I've got plenty of cash."

              Spike chuckled. "In that case?"

              Forty-five minutes later they walked back in the townhouse and began depositing the bags on floor. They'd picked up an Xbox and several games.

              Spike grinned. "Let's get this set up." He held up a game. "'Cause I'm gonna kick your cute little ass Slayer."

              "Dream on."
              "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


              • #8
                Chapter Eight

                Buffy had made with the big talk, but she had really never played video games. Spike was absolutely kicking her ass. After his seventh victory, he made his character perform an amusing little victory dance.

                She laughed. "All right I surrender."

                Spike laughed and gave her an expression of mocked shock. "So easily, surely not Slayer."

                There it was again, she thought, he was calling her Slayer again. She couldn't help but wonder what it meant. "When did you get so good at this?"

                "Doc said it'd be good PT for me after?" He trailed off realizing that he hadn't told Buffy about his experiences with Dana yet.

                "Your hands, Andrew told me." She got quiet for a moment. "I didn't know until after?he didn't?" She put down the controller. "Why didn't you tell me you were alive?"

                Spike looked up startled. He'd known the question would come eventually, but she'd surprised him with it just the same. "I?I don't know. I wanted to. At first?At first I couldn't, I mean really couldn't; I was like a soddin' ghost. Then I? I was scared." He shrugged. There it was, he thought, there's the truth.

                "Why? I told you?" Her voice dropped to a whisper as she turned away, unable to meet his gaze. "I told you I loved you."

                "Yeah, but?" He shrugged.

                Buffy turned back, eyes blazing with anger and pain. "I meant it." She stood up and walked up the stairs.

                Spike sat for a moment before his own anger raged large enough to propel him up the stairs after her. He yanked open her bedroom door.

                "You kissed him. I saw you. You said that I?but then you kissed him. How did you think I felt? How was I supposed to believe?right after you kissed him? I know I don't deserve?but you can't say loved me?I saw you."

                Watching Spike's stricken face quickly caused Buffy's anger to drain. It was just as quickly replaced with guilt. It was her fault, she confessed. She'd known that already, but looking at the pain in his eyes now made it all the more real. She didn't know what to say.

                Her silence frustrated him. He couldn't help but accept her non-answer as an admission. He'd been right, he knew it; she'd only said the words to be kind.

                She watched him turn and walk away to hide in the room she already thought of as his, but not before she caught a glimpse of the tears. He was crying, she realized, and it was her fault.

                The hopeful voice in her head pleaded and shouted at her to follow. "Don't let it end like this," it shouted. She'd been given another chance, she thought, she had to try harder.

                She slowly made her way from her room to his. She didn't bother to knock, knowing that he'd only send her away. She opened the door and met his tears with her own. "I'm?I'm sorry and you're right."

                Spike stared at her as though horrified. "You've what, come to rub it in?I can never be good enough?got it pet?don't need?"

                "No?you were right when you said I shouldn't have kissed him. I should have seen you, seen us." She paused to pull together her courage. "But you were wrong when you said I didn't love you. I did, I just didn't realize it until it was too late." She turned to walk away and whispered "I'm sorry."

                His hand snaked out and grabbed her wrist before she could leave. She turned and he pulled her down to sit next to him on the bed. She watched him, waiting for a something to tell her why he'd stopped her.

                He was trembling. He hated that, hated that he couldn't hide even that display of weakness. But then he had no pride where she was concerned, he'd already admitted it. "And now?" He let his head drop to the side and with his stormy eyes burning a hole in her soul, he waited.


                "Do you??" He couldn't ask, couldn't put himself out there again. There just wasn't enough left.

                Her eyes widened as the question he was trying to ask became clear. She nodded slowly. "Yeah; I still love you."

                His lips curved, but the smile didn't quite reach his eyes. He looked down, focused on his hands. "I want to believe you, but?" He shrugged.

                She almost ran at that; it felt like dismissal and she'd never liked crying in front of someone else. But she didn't. She forced herself to stay seated, forced back all the snarky comments designed to help her save face and decided to try something new. "Guess I'll have to work on that."

                It worked, Spike was startled enough to look up at her quizzically.

                She smiled and he almost melted. The voice telling him that he was a fool was just a little too loud though, so he just waited.

                "Will you stay until we figure this whole ?return from the dead as a human' thing out? I called Giles this morning before breakfast. They should be here within a couple of days. I just?I just got you back, I need to know that they can't just take you away again?that you'll be ok." When he frowned, Buffy realized that she'd left something out. She put hand on his tentatively. "Spike I'm not saying I want you to leave after we figure it out; I'm just asking you to stay at least until we do."

                He sighed. "Both know I'll do whatever you want pet, hell you own me now right?"

                "Spike that's not?I don't want it to be like that."

                "Just being honest luv, we both know how it is."

                She sighed. "Fine. Take off your shirt."

                Spike glared at her, eyes wide, jaw-dropped. "What?" He stood up. "Have you?"

                Buffy giggled and cut him off. "You're still hurting. Sore, probably. You don't heal as fast as?as before. I've got something that should help. Take off your shirt." With that she stood up and walked out of the room.

                He listened to her opening drawers and shifting through things in the other room for a moment before doing as he was told. She returned a moment later carrying a glass bottle. "What's that then?"

                "It's just a rub, mostly herbal. Tara used to make it for me before?"

                Spike sighed as she trailed off. She's lost too many friends for someone so young, he thought. "I liked her, Glenda the Good Witch, she was?"


                "Yeah. Treated me like?" he shrugged. "Like I was a person."

                Buffy nodded. "She knew about us?when we were?"

                Spike looked surprised for a moment and then laughed. "Your birthday. Chit knew then didn't she?"

                Buffy nodded. "I think?yeah."

                Spike laughed for a moment longer. "Yeah." She'd played him all evening he realized now. Well good on her, he thought, knew there was something stronger hiding in the little mouse.

                "This will be easier if you lie down."

                Spike grinned and waggled an eyebrow in an attempt to hide the affect the mere thought of her touching him had. He sat on the bed, pulled his legs up and leaned back, hands under his head. "Sure thing pet."

                "Roll over." Buffy kneeled on the bed next to him.

                He hesitated for a second, but complied. This would be harder, he realized, not knowing when her fingers were going to make contact with his skin would make it harder to still his responses. He closed his eyes; glad she couldn't see that at least, he tried to ready himself.

                Buffy watched as he tensed every muscle in his back. "Spike relax, it won't hurt. I promise."

                Spike laughed and muttered "'course not."

                Buffy poured the oil on to her hand and smiled as it immediately warmed, that part was magic. She rubbed her hands together and then laid them on the center of his back. She grinned when the muscles there rippled at her fingertips and began to softly rub the oil upward across his sore shoulders. She kept her touch light, spreading the oil across the entirety of his back and pausing twice to get more oil. Through it all he remained still and tense. She brought her hands up to the top of his spine, thumb on either side, and she began to use more pressure. "Relax."

                Sure, he thought, that'll happen. He tried to remember the last time someone had done something like this for him He came up blank. Dru had liked to play at giving back rubs from time to time, but she'd always liked using his own blood as the oil. Aside from that, he wondered, who would have ever bothered. Harm probably would have given it a shot, but she'd have probably driven him insane with her chatter at the same time. He smirked; it wasn't like this sort of thing was a part of his life before he was turned. No, he thought, he was almost a hundred and fifty years old and this was the first time someone had ever really given him a back rub. The thoughts distracted him from guarding his response and when her fingers pressed on a particularly tense spot, he moaned deeply.

                Buffy's stomach clenched at the sound; deep, almost a growl, and so sexy, it fed her confidence. She scooted closer and placed one knee on either side of his hips so she sat straddled across his thighs. The position made it easier for her to apply a firm pressure behind her hands. "Let me know if I get too rough."

                For a moment after feeling her bottom land on the back of his legs, Spike forgot to keep breathing, he inhaled and held. At her words he released the breath in a swift hiss. Should make a smart ass remark, he thought. But his ability to prepare one was temporarily lost.

                Buffy studied his back as she rubbed. She'd never really seen him up close in the light. She could see now all the faint scars she'd missed before. They didn't make him any less beautiful, she realized, though the sight of them made her want to cry. After a few more minutes, she scooted back off. "Roll over."


                "Roll over. I wanna do your front."

                "That's? I'm fine. I?"

                "Spike." Buffy said his name with exasperation and gave him a light shove.

                He complied, hating the tell-tale blush he felt heating his cheeks. He hated being human again already. Vampires don't blush; they don't have enough extra blood to waste any making a big sign to announce their embarrassment.

                Buffy noticed that he was blushing, but pretended otherwise. She just settled back across his thighs and reached for the oil.

                "Pet?I can't?oh god Buffy." He gasped as she ran her hands down his chest.

                Buffy feigned innocence. "Does that hurt?" She scrunched her nose as though confused.

                "No?I surprised me is all. It's nothing. But I think that's enough yeah?" He moved to sit up.

                Buffy stopped him with her hands on his shoulders. "But you still look sore."

                His eyes widened as he realized that she knew exactly what she was doing to him. He pulled away standing up in shock. "What are you doing?"

                Buffy had to fight back a smile; he just looked too cute there blushing pink and still all shiny from the oil, a look of indignation on his face. "I just wanted to make you feel better."


                "I told you why."

                He was next to her in a second, kneeling on the bed his hands gripping her arms. "Say it again." His voice came out rough, a desperate edge pulling on her heart.

                "I love you."

                He pulled her against him so his mouth could claim hers with a possessive kiss. He still couldn't believe her, figured she was feeling pity or maybe gratitude. But he also couldn't resist her, not when she was giving him everything he'd ever wanted. "You're sure?you want this?"

                She nodded, straining upwards for a kiss.

                "Oh God Buffy, you have no idea what you do to me." He gasped against her neck.

                Buffy giggled. "Actually?" she reached down to grasp his belt buckle "these pants don't hide things as well as your jeans usually do, so I do have an idea at least."

                He groaned. "You're going to kill me luv."

                "Had other plans actually."

                When she started to unbuckle his belt, he pushed her hands away. "Slow down pet. No reason to rush this." When he saw her pout he continued. "Want to do it right this time."

                Buffy smiled and brought her hands up to the buttons on her own shirt. She wiggled back a bit so that he could watch.

                He couldn't take his eyes off her hands. She was undressing for him, fingers trembling. This wasn't an angry ripping of clothes that were in the way, this was a woman preparing to be loved. When she finished the last button she shrugged off the shirt and stood up to unsnap and push down her jeans. Then she stopped and stood before him in nothing but a few scraps of pale pink silk and a suddenly shy expression. He quickly stood up to collect her, scooping her into his arms and placing her on the bed.

                He joined her there just as quickly, closing his eyes when he felt her arms wrap around him in welcome. Maybe it was a joke, he thought, maybe he is in heaven. He lowered his head to press soft kisses along her collar bone and up her neck. "You're gorgeous, so bright?never seen anything like you ?" he whispered, tugging her earlobe between his lips and tickling it with his tongue.

                When he brought his head lower to run his tongue along the edge of her bra, Buffy dug her hands in to his hair and gasped. Her back arched of its own accord, her body pleading to be consumed. But he made no move to go forward, continuing to lick and kiss his way across her chest before once again claiming her lips. When she reached for his belt a second time, he caught her hand and brought it too to his mouth. She shuddered when he brushed his lips across the back of her hand and began to kiss each knuckle and she whimpered when he drew her finger into his mouth.

                He grinned devilishly at the sound, looking more like himself then he had since he'd appeared in her living room. He released that finger to pull in another, scraping his teeth gently along the skin as he pulled his head back.

                When he released her hand, she used it thread through his hair and pull his face back down to hers. Bringing her hands around to cup his face she whispered. "Want you."

                He trembled at her words but kept his resolve, bending lower to caress her ear with his words. "Glad to hear it pet, but I'm plannin' to make you scream a bit first."

                He bent and drew her breast into his mouth, suckling and licking at her nipple. She wondered distractedly if the oral fixation was the result of a century spent as a vampire or if that was his own, a William thing. When he tugged her bra down to bare her other breast for his palm, she lost the ability to wonder about anything but the feel of him, his skin, his mouth.

                "Perfect." He murmured brushing her nipple with his thumb and then cupping her breast in his hand. "Made for me..." He looked down at her intently. "Don't you see how sodding well we fit?"

                "Perfect." She echoed before rolling them both over so that she straddled his hips. She reached back and unhooked her bra. When his hands ran up her sides and firmly clasped her breasts she cried out and threw her head back. Buffy leaned down and pressed her breasts against his chest, enjoying the new litany of endearments and pleas it drew from Spike's lips.

                "Oh girl? my sweet brilliant girl?no words?I have no bloody words."

                She giggled at that and pressed a gentle kiss to his cheek. "Seem to be finding plenty." She reached down again and finally succeeded in the unbuckling and unbuttoning needed to pull off his pants. She pulled away for second, dragging his pants down, and soon found herself pressed down on her back again. Spike hooked his thumbs under the sides of her panties and drew them slowly down the length of her legs. But when she tried to pull him into place above her, he pulled away again to drop a kiss on her stomach.

                "Need a taste first pet." He ran his hands up her thighs, pressing them gently apart and scattering light kisses on her smooth skin. "Been too long," he murmured against her thigh, "need a taste."

                She cried out. His heat of his circling tongue was too much; she moaned and gasped his name. "Spike?oh god?so good?Spike."

                He chuckled. "That's it pet, sing for me."

                "Please?want? love you?please?"

                He moved to settle himself between her legs and rubbed himself against her heat. "Look at me pet." He waited until her eyes focused. "I love you." He held off for a moment trembling from the effort, his fingers tightly holding her hips, and waited for her response. He needed it to be different this time.

                She nodded, brought her hand to his cheek and gently rubbed her thumb along the sharp angle there. "Love me, please."

                He pushed into her in a single thrust and paused for second before moving in a slow careful rhythm. His eyes never left hers.

                Buffy gasped, wrapping her legs around his waist and pulling him closer. She ran her fingernails up his back and listened to him growl. When she let her head drop to the side she felt his hand on her chin, turning her back to him.

                "Wanna watch?gonna make you sing again."

                His confident words, so strongly in contrast to his soft expression almost made her come. She shuddered.

                Spike picked up the pace, thrusting harder each time. "God you feel good pet, so hot so ****ing hot?love it when you squeeze me ?so bloody tight?you like my **** don't ya pet?like it when I'm?" He stopped talking when she screamed.

                Buffy came hard. He'd kept his hand on her chin so she'd had no choice but to keep her eyes on his while he'd whispered his naughty words. He never stopped talking; she remembered not liking it before or maybe just pretending that she didn't like it. Now all she could think was how sexy it was, how Spike it was.

                He watched her come with her eyes open and focused on him. It was all he needed to send him over the edge. Three more thrusts, hard and fast, and he collapsed on top of her. After a moment he pushed himself up on his elbows and shifted to move beside her. Her arms wrapped around his waist and pulled him back down. "Just didn't want to squash you luv."

                "Mmmm?I like being squashed."

                He chuckled and rolled them both over so that she was on top. "Here you squash me then." He smiled up at her before she turned on to her side and settled down on top of him, her head tucked beneath his chin.

                They laid there for several minutes catching their breath. Spike held her on his chest, occasionally kissing the top of her head. Buffy rubbed her cheek where she could feel his heart beating.

                He laughed, suddenly and softly, and she turned to look at him.

                "What's so funny mister?"

                "Just realized?" He shook his head. "This is the first time I've ever done this as a human."

                Buffy's eyes widened. "No way." She sat up and scooted so that she was sitting on his thighs. "Never? But you've got to be like?" She wrinkled her nose. "How old are?were you?"

                "When I was turned?"

                She nodded.

                "Almost twenty-eight."

                "And you were still?"

                He sat up. "Times were different?people just didn't?" He sighed. "I was a ponce."

                Buffy leaned over and gave him a quick kiss. "I'm sure that's not the case. Besides you didn't do too bad?for a virgin."

                "Not too?I make you scream and you know it." He tried to maintain an air of indignation but failed. Having a giggling Buffy on his lap was too nice; he went with a pretend pout instead.

                "I was just teasing and you know it."

                "True, still gonna make you say it." He clicked his teeth with his tongue.

                "Say what?"

                "That I'm the best you ever had, that I can make you scream and whimper and beg?"

                Buffy flushed at the inevitable arousal his words brought. She shook her head. "Not right now, I'm hungry."

                He pulled her up against him. "Umm me too." He nuzzled her neck.

                "No seriously, really hungry here?let's go out."


                "You know where you put on clothes and actually leave the house. There are bunches of restaurants right down the street. A few clubs too, for after maybe?" When he still looked skeptical she pressed a kiss near his ear and whispered. "Like a date, only I can promise you're going to get lucky."

                He laughed. "Already the luckiest bloke in the world pet. You want to go out; we'll go out."
                "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


                • #9
                  Chapter Nine

                  Buffy fixed her lip gloss and smiled at her appearance. She looked good, she thought, better than she had in months. It wasn't the dress, she realized, although Spike's reaction when she'd come out wearing it told her that it was good too. No, she looked good because she looked happy. There was a flush in her cheeks and an aura of energy about her that hadn't been there a day and a half ago. She turned and walked back out in to the pub.

                  There was a waitress at their booth. Buffy paused in the entrance of the hallway for a moment and watched the girl flirt with Spike. She frowned. Miss Big Hair was pulling out all the tricks, she thought, laughing like whatever Spike had said was the cleverest joke she'd ever heard. When the waitress leaned on the table, Buffy decided that she had seen enough. She walked over and gave the girl a big smile as she scooted on to the bench with Spike. She placed her hand on his leg. "Did you order for me baby?"

                  Spike grinned at Buffy's little show, but decided to play along. "How do you feel about fish and chips kitten?"

                  "Sounds yummy."

                  Spike nodded to the waitress. "A couple a pints" he added pulling Buffy tighter against his side. He chuckled when the waitress left. "Having fun pet?"

                  "What...I mean yeah."

                  He tried to talk her into going home after they'd eaten. He told her he was ready to have some dessert and that she tasted sweet like honey and vanilla and spicy like hot cinnamon too. But she insisted they go to a club. "I want to show you off." She'd whispered, and he'd nodded helplessly. He too easily remembered all the nights he'd spent wishing she would tell her friends, wishing that they could go out, wishing that she would stop being ashamed of him. This was like a dream, which was of course, why he knew it couldn't last. She'd realize soon enough that she didn't really love him, that she couldn't, and it would be over. He was determined to enjoy every minute until then.

                  Buffy pulled Spike on to the dance floor, only mildly surprised that he didn't resist. A lot of guys did; a lot of guys acted like dancing would somehow steal their masculinity. But Spike just tugged her close, fitting her body to his, and swayed with the music. He pressed his leg between her thighs and she gasped.

                  "Wanted to dance with you the first moment I ever saw you."

                  Buffy leaned back and gave him a skeptical look. "Really?"

                  "Not saying I didn't want to drain you right after."

                  She laughed softly. "Are you?are you happy that you're human again?"

                  He froze. He knew that she was; that it made things simpler for her. "I don't know pet."

                  They danced for a while, slow and close regardless of the song being played

                  They'd barely made it in the front door when Spike dropped to his knees in front of her and reached up to tug down her panties. "Can't wait." He mumbled, leaning back to rest against his heels and pulling her on to his lap. He held her against him with one hand and reached his other down to unbuckle and unzip his pants. He quickly buried himself in her warmth.

                  She moaned when he began thrusting himself up and dug her fingers into his shoulders. She wrapped her legs around his waist. "Oh god baby."

                  They came fast, the dancing having already left them both close to the edge. Spike held her against him until they had both stopped shuddering and then stood up. When she untangled her legs from his waist to stand, he slid an arm behind her knees and scooped her into his arms. "Not done yet." He headed towards the stairs.
                  "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


                  • #10
                    Chapter Ten

                    The blood drained from Spike's face as he looked down at the small leather-bound book. How the hell did she get that, he thought, it's impossible. He picked it up. It couldn't be, he thought, not really. It was.

                    He was still holding the book, starring at it with glossy eyes, when Buffy came back from her shower. "Spike?"

                    He turned to her, holding up the book. His jaw clenched. "Where did you get this?" His voice was low.

                    Buffy's eyes widened. He was clearly upset. "Andrew?Andrew found it when he was going through the Council archives?he knew that I ?" It wasn't helping, she saw that and sighed. She dropped into a chair. "He'd heard Willow and I talking?I didn't have anything?Sunnydale was just gone?everything was just gone. All my pictures, my mom's?everything that I had, everything that I could hold and?Willow lost everything of Tara's too and Andrew heard us talking and he was just trying to help. He found stuff; he went online and found stuff: the picture from my Mom's driver's license and Tara's class schedule and?and he went in to the archives and he snuck that out so I could have something of yours too."

                    Spike continued to stare at the book. He remembered the day he'd lost it, some twenty years after he'd been turned. He'd been surprised that he'd been able to hold on to it for so long. Spike remembered the trouble he'd gone to in order to keep it hidden from Angelus. Journals full of bad poetry you'd written as a man were hardly the sort of thing he'd approve of. It was too human. He'd often managed to hide it on his person, but he hadn't that day. And when they'd had to leave town in a hurry, as they often had due to his adventures, he'd had to leave it behind. He'd always thought that it had gotten burned, consumed in the fire lit by the mob that chased them out. Apparently he'd always thought wrong.

                    "Spike?are you mad?"

                    He was quiet for a moment. "Did you read it?" He looked up at her.

                    "Yeah." She nodded. "I ?"

                    He looked away. "I know it wasn't any good?dreadful bit of rubbish really."

                    Buffy stood and took a step towards him. "I liked it." She whispered.

                    Spike looked back up, eyebrow arched.

                    She shrugged. "It was pretty?and rhyme-y and?" She bit her lip. "It was yours." She said simply.

                    Spike looked back at the book for a moment and placed it back on her dresser.

                    "So you're not mad?"

                    "Pretty pissed those pricks at the council had it."

                    "At me?"

                    He shook his head.

                    Buffy stood up and reached for the journal. "Will you read them to me?"

                    Spike looked like he was about to say no.

                    "I would really like it." She lowered her voice suggestively.

                    "That so?"

                    Buffy nodded.

                    He pulled her up against him. "Maybe we can work something out."

                    She giggled. "Yeah?"

                    "You think a bit a bad verse will do it for ya; I want to watch."

                    Buffy crinkled her nose. "What?"

                    He placed her on the bed and kneeled beside her, untying the belt of her robe. He lifted her hand and kissed it before pressing it down her body. "You play, I read."

                    "Spike! That's?"

                    He chuckled at her blush. "Hot."

                    "Weird and kind of pervy."

                    "So you don't really want to hear them then?"

                    "Spike!" She groaned.

                    "C'mon pet, just want to see what you do with those pretty little fingers when I'm not around." When it looked like she might give in he settled down beside her and opened the journal. He held the book in his right hand and used his left to guide her hand back down. "Bet you start right here, don't ya pet, straight to business?"

                    She blushed hot red. "Spike"

                    "So you were just being nice, don't really care for ?em then?" He fought back a smirk and gave her a pout.

                    She swallowed. "Start reading."

                    He took a deep breath and began reading a poem he'd written but hadn't seen in a century. He read with the voice of the man he had been, cultured and clear, and Buffy was once again struck by the idea that so much of who he was remained a mystery.

                    "You're in my heart, a song I hum
                    Whilst the bird at my widow does ditty
                    Though the crowds you know me not from
                    do swell, my soul knows you, the time shall come ?"

                    Spike glanced over the book and smirked.

                    "When you let me play with your titty."

                    "Spike! It does not say that."

                    He shrugged. "It should." He set the book on the table and leaned over her. "You looked like you needed some help."

                    "You were helping." She giggled.

                    Spike kissed her neck. "Deserve the words of a far better poet luv."

                    Buffy smiled, amused by his ability to go from dirty to earnest at the drop of a pin and wondering how quickly he would go back. "I like your words."

                    Spike smirked. "Good cause I'm thinking a few right now."

                    There he goes, she thought with a grin.
                    "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


                    • #11
                      Chapter Eleven

                      Buffy reached into the bag and pulled out the tube. "Come on."

                      "I'm fine. Don't need that."


                      "Whatever happened to that whole ?humans can go out in the sun' bit?"

                      She shrugged. "Skin cancer. You're gonna get burned."

                      He held out his arm but continued to mumble. "Sittin' in the bloody shade and wearing a shirt?no reason to?"

                      "Other arm."

                      He held out his left arm obediently.

                      "It's not like you have a base tan."

                      "Probably just freckle." He said disgustedly.

                      Buffy smiled. "Freckles could be cute." She scooted around behind him. "Here I just want to get the back of your neck."

                      "You do realize that I took care of myself for a hundred plus years right?don't need you goin' all mother hen on me." He was talking a good game, but loving the attention.

                      She squeezed a dollop of lotion on her fingers and stretched up on her knees to rub it on his neck. Once again she was startled by the scars she found. She recognized these, knew he'd gotten them from a vamp, or maybe several. There were a lot of scars, faint and small, but definitely fang marks. Absently, she began tracing them with her finger. "You have?you were bitten here."

                      He pulled away, sure she was disgusted by the reminder of what he'd been.

                      "I didn't mean?Are they from when you were turned?" She'd moved her hand to his arm and now softly caressed his wrist.

                      He looked at her for a second before dropping his chin to his chest. He shook his head. "No, Dru always went for the jugular. Pretty sure hers all healed up anyway."

                      "So how did you?" She trailed off. He hadn't looked up at her once. "I'm sorry; you don't have to tell me."

                      He sighed. "Just not sure you really want to know."

                      "So it was Angel."

                      He looked up then, startled by her slip. He knew that she considered Angel and Angelus as two entirely separate beings. "Angelus, yeah." When she didn't say anything he continued with a hint of bitterness. "William was a bit too human for Angelus, had to rid him of it." Dru may have been the one to turn him, but Angelus had been his sire in every other sense of the word. He'd trained him. He'd made him. For a second he was lost in the past, caught up in his memories of the older vampire. Gone, he thought and let the sharp loss run through him; he's really left me this time. Spike trembled and pushed the dark thoughts aside. Forcing a lighter tone, he grinned. "Also I'm a brat."

                      She smiled. "I'm aware?.So he would bite you?"

                      She said it like it was something she'd never considered, which surprised him. She was the slayer, surely she knew more about vamps than that. "Only when I was too slow."

                      He was grinning, so she smiled back. "Are you hungry? I also grabbed sandwiches. I figure first day in the sun calls for a picnic."

                      "Sounds good pet. Have to admit, daytime in the park is a bit of a disappointment."

                      Buffy looked up, her forehead creased. "Why?"

                      "Too many people. Rather it be just the two of us."

                      "We can come back at night if you want."

                      "Do a bit a patrolling."

                      "Umm?I'm not sure if you?I mean?I haven't been?patrolling?here."

                      "All the more reason to start, we can't have the nasties getting too comfy right?"

                      Buffy turned away. "Right"

                      She had no intention of taking him patrolling, but really didn't want to tell him. She'd been down this path with Riley. She couldn't do what she had to do if she was worrying about him getting hurt. But she knew he wasn't going to like the news. She figured she would be able to distract him from it for a few days, but eventually she would have to tell him that he was sidelined. She loved him too much to let him get hurt.
                      "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


                      • #12
                        Chapter Twelve

                        Giles pulled their bags from the trunk of the cab and walked to the door with Willow.

                        "Here goes." She said with forced cheerfulness.

                        "Right." He pulled out the key.

                        They'd caught the first flight after talking with the seers. Willow had tried calling once but not gotten an answer. Giles wasn't sure that his Slayer was going to be thrilled with the surprise visit; she hadn't even wanted to talk with him for the past couple of months. The situation however had been too serious. They needed to know what they were dealing with.

                        He opened the door and heard Buffy's voice.

                        "Left, no higher, yeah?that's it that's good?no faster, faster?"

                        "Give a bloke a chance, bossy chit?I'm doing it."

                        "Well do it faster."

                        "I ought to make you do it yourself."

                        Willow took one look at Giles and decided she'd better go in first. She stepped inside calling out "Hey Buff?Ummm surprise?are you guys?decent." She looked up to see Buffy and Spike starring at her like was completely nuts. Buffy was sitting in his lap, but they were both clothed and apparently playing a video game. "Giles you can come in."

                        Buffy hopped on to her feet and walked over to give her friend a hug. "Hi Wil, it's good to see you."

                        "You too. Had us worried you know."

                        "I know. I'm sorry."

                        "That's ok, you seem better?now, are you?"

                        Buffy glanced over her shoulder at Spike and back at Willow. "Yeah, I guess I am." She grinned.

                        Giles stood watching the girls for a moment. She looked good, he thought, three days with Spike and Buffy looked better than she had in years. She was almost the girl she had been, the girl that hadn't lost her mom and her whole town, the girl who hadn't died. He decided to hold back his reservations for the moment. "Buffy."

                        She turned to him. "Giles." She smiled and hugged him as well.

                        He patted her back awkwardly. "You look?you look wonderful my dear."

                        "I'm good Giles."

                        He nodded.

                        Spike stood up but didn't come any closer.

                        Giles turned to him awkwardly. "Spike"


                        Willow walked between the two men. "Hey Spike, how are?how are you doing?"

                        Spike raised an eyebrow at the unexpected concern in her voice. Of course, he thought, she was always a bit of a softy. She'd even tried to cheer him up after the chip. "Aside from the standard humiliations and limitations of humanity?" He shrugged "fine."

                        Willow nodded and the group stood for a moment unsure of how to proceed. Willow suddenly broke the tense silence. "Something smells really good."

                        Buffy's head went up. "Oh my god, I almost forgot?the cookies." She hurried into the kitchen.

                        Willow watched her with a look of amazement. "You baked cookies?"

                        Buffy opened the oven and grabbed the potholder; she pulled out the cookie sheet as she responded. "Actually I mostly supervised while Spike?"

                        Willow and Giles both turned to Spike.

                        "What? Had to do somethin'; that girl gets any skinnier we won't be able to find her."

                        Buffy left the cookie sheet on the stove and came back to the loving room. "Oh and you're one to talk." She poked him in the side. "What they don't have blood in L.A.?" She turned back towards Willow and Giles. "They need to cool for a minute, then yummy chocolaty goodness for all."

                        "Right. Then perhaps this would be a good time?that is we have some information about your?situation."

                        Buffy shrugged. While the whole thing was odd, Spike seemed fine, and she just wasn't too concerned anymore. She couldn't help but think that maybe they'd just finally had some good luck. She followed Giles and Willow over to the couch and sat down.

                        Willow started. "Umm?I guess first off?Spike is definitely human now, there is nothing of the demon left so?"

                        Buffy looked over at Spike. He'd sat back in the chair and was looking down as though the conversation didn't concern him. She was confused by that for a moment before realizing that it wasn't that he was uninterested in the conversation so much as that he didn't expect to be a part of it. Too many times they'd made decisions about him without his input. She stood up, walked over to him and sat on the arm of the chair. Taking his hand she looked back at Willow. "But otherwise he's ok?"

                        "Yeah?pretty much."

                        Buffy frowned. "What does that mean?pretty much?"

                        "Oh it's nothing sweetie, just remembering something one of the seers said."

                        "Oh something about allergies and a?umm" She fought back a grin. "Tendency for nose bleeds, like that guy in Mr Hines Chemistry class remember Buffy, he was always all arghh and then with the tissue and we joked about how all the blood on his clothes probably attracted vamps, and?"

                        Buffy giggled and looked at Spike. "You were the nose bleed guy?"

                        "Ah nooo?I was?am?oh bloody hell." He shook his head.

                        Buffy bit her lip and looked back at Willow. "Ok, aside from apparently being a nerd?all normal?"

                        Spike growled at her remark and yanked her down onto his lap.

                        Buffy batted his hand away when he tried to tickle her, but made no effort to get up.

                        "Yeah?he should do all the normal human stuff now." Willow turned slightly to speak directly to Spike. "Sorry?"

                        Spike shrugged and kept Buffy's hand in his. "Could be worse."

                        Willow nodded as she watched the two of them. She remembered noticing that they were closer than she'd ever realized that last year. It had kind of surprised her at the time. She'd known that Buffy had slept with Spike, but it wasn't until after she'd gotten him back from the first that Willow had considered the possibility that she also talked with him. And then there had been lots of little things; shared jokes and small smiles. But back then it had all been quiet like a secret everyone knew but didn't really talk about. This was different. Now they looked like a team. Hell, she thought, they were even dressed alike in their blue jeans and blue tees. Since when did Spike wear blue tees? Willow pushed away the little wisp of jealously; she used to feel like she was part of Buffy's team. Buffy's voice broke through her thoughts.

                        "But I got the impression that he couldn't?I mean if his soul is ?Can he die?"

                        "Not exactly?but?I don't think he can really heal anything that a normal human couldn't."

                        Giles finally broke in. "Yes this is one of the things we need to discuss."

                        "So if he was hurt?like really hurt? he would?"

                        "Stay that way, yes."

                        "If you finalize the claim his?soul will be bound to yours for eternity?it will not be able to leave his body until you die."

                        Buffy was overwhelmed for a moment. She was horrified by the possibility that Spike could be stuck in a body that couldn't heal. She didn't even notice the other thing that Giles had mentioned. Spike did.

                        "What do you mean finalize?thought it was done."

                        His words caught Buffy's attention. "Malach didn't say anything about finalizing or anything, it was just do you accept or relinquish?yada yada."

                        "Yes, well perhaps he had hopes that you would not discover that you had to and someone else would be able to claim?erm?well claim Spike's soul."

                        "So how do I do it, finalize it?"

                        Willow broke in. "It's not hard?I can get the stuff tomorrow?"

                        "Yes but certainly it should be discussed first?there are ramifications, this is not something to be taken?"

                        "I've already made the decision Giles; I'm not going to?we don't know where he?I?made the decision." She stood up suddenly. "I think the cookies are cooled." She walked into the kitchen.

                        Giles followed her in. "Buffy there are things we don't know. This is not a natural state. Being?well responsible for two souls, it might drain you or it might upset the balance. This is not a thing that is supposed to occur?"

                        "Giles that's the story of my life; I was 15 when I was called. My sister is a mystical key and my friends brought me back from the dead, twice. I am not?Giles, I love?"

                        "Buffy I ask that you try to remain rational about this. Have you realized that you cannot be separated? The best estimate our seers have is that Spike is physically unable to be more than a dozen miles away from you."

                        Buffy took a deep breath before answering quietly. "I don't want him to be away from me."

                        "Buffy, we are talking about eternity. You must be sure that you are not confusing gratitude, however well-earned it might be, with something more. I know that you have? lost a lot of people. I can certainly understand how appealing it might be?to be with?to have someone who cannot leave?but if you do this you will be?"

                        Giles was cut off by the sound of the front door shutting.

                        "Spike." Buffy pushed past Giles and out the door. "Spike!" She spotted him a short ways down the sidewalk and rushed to catch up. "Spike!"

                        "Just goin' for a walk pet, wasn't going far?well I guess now I couldn't." He laughed softly and bitterly.


                        "You should think about what he said?makes sense."

                        "No." She shook her head. Her eyes filled with tears.

                        "I was never what you wanted."

                        "I love you."

                        He turned towards her angrily. "Don't know me. I don't even know who the sodding hell I am now."

                        "Spike." She pleaded.

                        "No not him, not now. Gave him up bit by bit?for you. Human. I was nothing before I was turned Buffy?nothing. No good to you now, you see. Can't fight now right?not even good for that. Oh yeah?I noticed how you came up with clever little distractions every time I mentioned patrolling. You know it?hell Harris could probably take me out now. Right. Not a big man. Not a big bad. Just nothing."

                        "Spike that's not true?you were?you are a good man. I?"

                        "But I wasn't pet?you see. William, he was weak, not bad really, just unwilling to see. Couldn't be bothered?too wrapped up in his own little world. I was inconsequential luv, just nothing. And now? again."

                        "Stop it! Stop?you are not weak. You are?" She shook her head and didn't bother to hold back her tears. "You are the strongest man I have ever known."

                        He scoffed.

                        "No. It's my turn. You listen. You say that you were weak and nothing, but it can't be true. That man did the impossible. He loved so hard he held back a demon and won back his soul. He?you?could never be nothing. You could never be weak. You're incredible."

                        Spike looked up at her in surprise and she saw the tears flowing freely down his face.

                        "You have to relinquish the claim pet. You can't get stuck with me. What happens when you move on?new boy wants to take you away for the weekend. I'll what, just tag along? Won't work. Watcher-man is right?can't just do this cause you're sad about Angel or feelin' bad cause I might get what's comin' to me."

                        "That's not?"

                        "Rather be in hell then have you hate me again."

                        "Spike, that's not?I couldn't?don't you?" She stopped suddenly, her face paling as she realized the truth. "You don't, do you? You still don't believe that I love you."

                        He shrugged, his eyes cast downward.

                        "But the last few days?" Buffy shook her head, fighting back her natural reaction; anger wasn't going to get her anywhere right now. "Why did you?"

                        Spike looked up then, stopping her question with a single arched eyebrow.

                        They both knew why he'd made love to her; he would do whatever she wanted regardless of his own feelings. He really couldn't help himself. That's what it means to be love's bitch.

                        Buffy took a step back as a feeling of revulsion settled in her stomach; he thought she was just using him again, she realized. Worse, she knew it was her fault. She had told him that she couldn't or wouldn't love him so many times that it didn't even seem possible to him. And of course it wasn't like she had given him any time to get used to the idea this time around, she thought disgustedly; no she had practically jumped him the moment he showed up. Of course he thinks you're using him. Why wouldn't he? She took a deep breath. "I do. Love you. I understand that you can't see that and it's ok?well I mean it's not ok but?" Her lip trembled for a second before her tears started anew. She fell to her knees, dropped her head to her hands and pleaded in a small strangled voice that sounded nothing like her own. "Please don't go."

                        Spike's eyes widened at the sight of her small body raked with sobs and kneeling at his feet. He had done this, he realized, he had brought this incredible woman to tears and begging. He was horrified. May be human, but I'm still a monster. He dropped down and pulled her into his arms. "Please don't cry pet; not worth it. I won't go anywhere. You know that. Couldn't get rid of me when you tried. Shhh now." His hand cupped the back of her head and his fingers tangled in her hair. "Shh now."

                        Buffy pulled back so she could look at him. "I love you. I'm just going to keep saying it until you believe me, and?and I'll show you, I'll prove it." She gave him a shaky little smile.

                        He leaned forward, kissed her on the forehead and told himself that it didn't matter whether she loved him or not; she needed him. At least for right now, she needed him and it was enough.
                        "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


                        • #13
                          Chapter Thirteen

                          Buffy woke up frustrated. They'd all gone to bed soon after she and Spike came back in. She'd set Willow up in her room and pulled out the sofa-bed for Giles. She glanced at the clock and found it was only just past midnight. She turned over to watch Spike sleep.

                          She had told him that she didn't think they should make love again until he believed her, until he knew she loved him. She'd done it for him; she didn't want him thinking that she was using him, again. She'd wanted him to know that she was willing to wait until he was ready for a change, but he hadn't looked too pleased. He'd shrugged and nodded and then she'd asked if it would still be okay for her to sleep there with him. When he agreed she'd crawled into the bed and they had lain on their separate sides for several minutes before he groaned and pulled her towards him. He'd spooned her, curling his body around her own, and nuzzled her neck.

                          "Ok?" he'd asked quietly and she had snuggled closer in response. They'd both soon fallen asleep; exhausted from the emotional roller coaster they'd ridden all evening.

                          But now, only a few hours later, Buffy was awake again. She was frustrated and she was angry. With herself mostly, she acknowledged. She needed to get rid of some energy. Quietly, so as not wake Spike, she slid out of bed and pulled on a sweatshirt and a pair of sneakers. A moment later she gently shut the front door and began jogging towards the only cemetery she'd seen since coming to town. With any luck, she thought, she'd find something other than herself to fight with.

                          Ten minutes later Spike woke trembling. He sat up quickly, his breath coming in hard pants and his hands gripping the sheets tightly.


                          It had been a familiar nightmare and yet different. He'd had dreams, or memories really, about his victims many times since getting his soul back. Hell, he'd had them a few times before the soul, if he were honest. But he was always himself in those dreams; he relived moments from his own perspective. Sure he didn't always feel like the same person, he often pleaded helplessly with that Spike to stop, but he was looking through his own eyes and feeling with his own hands. This time he'd been her; this time he'd watched himself through her eyes. He was the little Chinese slayer and not the monster that killed her. He'd heard her thoughts and understood her words. He knew that her final thoughts had been of regret, guilt and her mother. He knew that she had taken no pleasure from the fight; it was a duty, an honor even, but never a joy. And when he died by his own hands and fangs, he became another girl fighting the same fight with a different but same monster. But then he wasn't the girl anymore; he was no one. He was outside watching in, and she was there, and she was hurt, and he woke up.


                          He knew without looking that she wasn't there, that she wasn't in the house even, though he couldn't have explained how he knew. It was just a sense. He felt alone, incomplete even, when she wasn't close. Probably has to do with that whole soul claim mumbo jumbo, he thought getting out of bed. He'd left his jeans on in deference to her ?let's not have sex' plan, so he quickly grabbed a shirt and slid on his boots. He bent his head from side to side, stretching his neck, and headed downstairs.

                          He moved quietly into the living room and stood still for a moment watching the watcher. The other man hadn't moved, but Spike knew he was awake.

                          "How long?"

                          "Perhaps ten minutes." He opened his eyes.

                          "Which way?"

                          "I think she headed towards Northwood Cemetery, probably just patrolling."

                          "Right." Spike headed towards the door.

                          "Spike, I rather think?" Giles sat up as the door shut and sighed. "Guess it really doesn't matter what I think."

                          He reached over, felt for his glasses and turned on the lamp. Sitting up, he acknowledged the inevitable feelings of jealousy that now peppered all of his encounters with Spike. It wasn't his relationship with Buffy, though the loss of their former closeness still stung. No, it was the freedom with which the other man lived. Spike, he'd often thought, did and said whatever he was feeling. It was like he lived without an internal filter, and no matter how many stupid things he did, it always seemed to work out for him. And that, Giles thought with frown, was truly irritating. Certainly he too wanted to follow Buffy. He wanted to make sure she was safe, but he held himself back. He waited.

                          "What's going on? I heard the door."

                          Giles was startled to find Willow standing in front of him; he hadn't even heard her coming down the stairs.

                          "Oh, it's nothing. Buffy I believe decided to go patrolling and Spike has chased after her."

                          "Oh, so things are getting back to normal." She smiled.

                          He let out a small chuckle. "Yes, in a way I suppose?"

                          "So what's with the frown-face?"

                          Giles sighed and shook his head. "I'm not entirely certain that normal is possible under these circumstances nor am I at all convinced that this is a normal we ought to?"

                          "She looked good though, didn't she?"


                          "Buffy. She looked better. Spike made her look better."

                          "Perhaps, but?"

                          "He loves her." She shrugged, not sure what else to say.

                          Giles nodded. That was an increasingly hard fact to dispute.

                          "And he's human now?" Willow grinned impishly. "Which makes him about the most normal guy Buffy's ever dated."

                          Giles looked up. "Well yes, that does put this in perspective some doesn't it?at least she hasn't?"

                          "Found another vampire." She finished his sentence with a giggle.

                          Giles suddenly remembered the day Buffy told him that she'd been sleeping with Spike and was once again brought to laughter.
                          "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


                          • #14
                            Chapter Fourteen

                            Spike found Buffy rather easily. He couldn't smell her track anymore, which frustrated him intensely, but he soon found that if he didn't think about it he would naturally walk in her direction. He once again chalked it up to the whole soul claim thing, which he decided with a shrug, could have its uses. He'd walked quickly, unnerved by the graphic imagery of the dream. He needed to see that she was safe.
                            He'd dreamt of her death before, that hadn't been new either and yet he knew this was different. This hadn't been the memory of his failure or his mind creating new situations in which he yet again failed to protect her. Though, those too had often left him shaking. It was, he acknowledged, no doubt for the best that she had no idea how frequently he had crept into her yard and watched her walk by the windows just to assure himself that she was safe or about the many nights he had stood sentry by that tree in her yard. It wasn't that he didn't think she could take care of herself; he knew she was a warrior and he respected it. It wasn't really about her at all. He could admit it to himself when he was feeling honest; protecting her was something he needed to do. He needed it, period.

                            Once he'd found her, he kept his distance. She was alone, walking the cemetery and clearly trying to look vulnerable. He almost laughed. She did that intentionally, he knew, to try and draw out the baddies when she was looking for a fight. It probably worked too, he thought, though her acting was never going to get an award.

                            He followed her for a while and could tell she was getting bored. She'll give up soon, he thought; she'll come home and try to pretend that she hadn't spent the past hour trying to dig up a fight in a dead cemetery. He'd seen her do this all before. It hurt more now that he was the one she was trying to fool. It hurt knowing that she felt the need to try and it hurt knowing that she still thought she could. He knew her too well. For the millionth time he thought that if only she could see that; that if only she knew how wholly he knew and loved her that she might just love him too.

                            He saw it before she did. Or not so much saw it as sensed it. He'd climbed a tree so that he could watch over the whole place without her hearing him follow and was silently observing her wanderings when something made him look over his shoulder. It wasn't a noise, it was more a pull, he realized while sizing the man up. He couldn't have explained why he knew it was a vampire, he didn't recognize him or smell him and the man wasn't dressed in any way that advertised his undead status. Yet, Spike was sure. He glanced quickly back towards Buffy and was about to shout over to her when she froze and turned slowly towards the man. She knew too, he realized; slayers often have some ability to sense vampires when they are near. He fought back the urge to go over and help. She didn't need it. Buffy had quickly edged towards the vampire and had taken him by surprise. Spike watched as she clearly allowed several opportunities to stake him pass by. She was taking her time, he knew, though he suspected she wouldn't admit it. She needed the release the fight brought her. He understood in a way few others could.

                            He dropped down from the tree and walked over while she was still distracted. By the time she finally dusted the vamp, he was only a few feet away. "Feeling better now pet?"

                            Buffy turned quickly and looked up, surprised. "Spike, what are you?it's not?you shouldn't?"

                            He cut her off with an arched brow. "Not really plannin' on lecturing me ?bout all the nasties that prowl at night are you luv?"

                            Buffy blushed and looked away. He still had the ability to make her feel like a child at times. Which, she supposed, wasn't all that surprising given that he was well over a hundred years her senior. Really, she thought, it was more surprising that it wasn't the case all the time. It had been with Angel. She'd grown frustrated with his condescension repeatedly. With Spike though she generally felt like they were the same age, like they were both still trying to get a handle on the same stuff. Well maybe different stuff, she corrected, but the same level stuff. Great, she thought, I can't even explain my feelings to myself. She mumbled. "It's not the same now."

                            He sighed. "Do you think I don't know that?"

                            He sounded more weary than angry, so she relaxed a touch. "I know you want to help, but?" She trailed off not wanting to say the words.

                            "Yeah, pet, I get it. Just human. But, for the record, I?d rather watch from the sidelines then wake up alone. Just a thing I got. Man goes to sleep with a pretty girl in his bed; he likes to think she'll stick around ?till he wakes up." He gave a wry smile and a shrug.

                            She blushed again. "Sorry. I just?"

                            "You were just feeling all restless and frustrated and needed a fight. I get it pet; wouldn't mind a good brawl myself right now."

                            "Spike?" She began.

                            "You ready to head back or you wanna try and find another?"

                            Buffy shook her head. "Pretty sure this is a vamp-free zone now."

                            "Never been a particularly active part of town." He shrugged.


                            "I can point out a few spots worth checking."

                            "Maybe tomorrow?"

                            "Sure pet."
                            "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


                            • #15
                              Chapter Fifteen

                              Buffy looked up from her spot on the couch to see Willow and Giles walk in from the street. "Did you get everything?" She asked anxiously.

                              Willow gave her a little smile and shook her head no. "Sorry sweetie." She shrugged. "Turns out a couple of the things we need aren't so easy to get as I thought." At Buffy's concerned look, she continued. "The magic store is ordering it for me. It won't take more than a couple of days."

                              Buffy glanced at Giles and couldn't help but wonder if the delay was caused by an inability to get the ingredients or by his desire for her to reconsider.

                              Willow caught her suspicious look. "Turns out I was a bit spoiled in SunnyD with an excellently stocked magic shop." She slid her hand around Giles' arm.

                              Giles acknowledged her obvious show of support with a small but warm smile. "Yes, well, that is particularly surprising considering the tendency for my stock to simply walk away unaccounted for."

                              Both girls glanced away guiltily.

                              Giles chuckled.

                              Spike put the game controller in his hands down and turned to look at Willow. "Is there any reason for the rush? Am I gonna disappear or ?" He shrugged.

                              "No I think we have some time." She smiled "actually, I think we have forty days from when you were first returned."

                              Spike chuckled. "Is that right?"

                              Willow giggled and nodded.

                              "Don't suppose I have any new talents do I? Maybe that water and wine thing?"

                              "Don't know. But if you wanna try, I prefer a smooth white."

                              Buffy watched the two dissolve into laughter again with a confused expression. "Umm anybody want to explain what that was all about?"

                              Giles shook his head and sighed. "Forty days has a great deal of significance for most Christian religions. In this?" he gestured between Willow and Spike "scenario it would appear Spike is the figure of ?Christ."

                              The distaste in his tone sent the two into another, though quieter, fit of laughter.

                              Buffy shook her head. "Why do all my friends have to be nerds?"

                              "Oi!" Spike turned to her. "I'll have you know I was at Woodstock."

                              Buffy giggled. "That doesn't so much make you cool as old Spike."

                              Spike gaped at her for a second. "That hurts slayer; that hurts."

                              Buffy giggled softly and shook her head at Spike's performance. She turned back to Willow and stood up. "You're sure you'll be able to get the stuff soon?"

                              "Yep. It's all under control." She grinned. "How rarely do I get to say that?"

                              Buffy smiled back. They certainly didn't get to say things like that often enough. Or they did, and just didn't mean it. She glanced back to Giles, who was still standing just inside the front door. He looked uncomfortable, she realized with a small sigh. Of course, she knew that was nothing new; their relationship had never really recovered after he'd tried to stall her so that Robin could kill Spike. Actually, if she was going for really honest; things hadn't been very good since he'd tried telling her that she might have to kill Dawn. A wry grin spread across her lips. See, she thought, if he'd just stop trying to off the people I love everything would be fine. But as confident as she was with her views, she also knew that things weren't simple. She understood that he had meant well. Maybe, she thought, I should tell him that. The question of how still remained though. How do you tell your teacher that you know better then he does? And how do you do it gently? More importantly, how do you tell him that you still need him? She took a step towards him. "It looks almost sunny out there."

                              Giles looked up at her and nodded. "Yes. It is quite pleasant out."

                              "Seems like a crime to just waste it. Do you maybe want to take a walk?"

                              Giles looked startled for a moment before nodding. "Well yes, yes a walk would be fine."

                              Willow smiled and watched as Buffy walked over to the couch to grab her sweater. She noted the quick glance Buffy gave Spike and his small nod in response and wondered if it was important or just a ?see you later'. She missed silent communication; she and Tara had had that. They hadn't needed to say the words to hear them. Of course, Willow acknowledged, I can chat psychically with anyone but it really isn't the same thing. She turned slightly to watch her best friends head out and sent a small prayer to the goddesses to help them talk to each other.
                              "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


                              • #16
                                Chapter Sixteen

                                Buffy walked through the door Giles was holding open and glanced back at him over her shoulder.

                                "Spike said that Kensal Green Cemetery has always been pretty hoppin'. It's still a good bit before dark but we could go scope it out if?if you want. You know find the best vamp nesting spots and what not."

                                "You're planning on patrolling later then?" Giles said with a tone of moderate surprise.

                                "Yeah." Buffy shrugged and looked up at him. "I can't really help it you know; it's who I am: the slayer." She smiled. "Even if I'm just one of the many slayers now."

                                Giles nodded and gave her a warm smile. "I suspect I shall always think of you as the slayer as well."

                                "I don't really need a watcher anymore." She blurted out in a frank tone.

                                He gave her a small smile and a nod. "I'm well aware."

                                "But that?it doesn't mean I don't still need you." She turned and stopped in front of him. "You, Willow, Xander; you're my family. Just as much as Dawn is; you're?my family." She shrugged again. "I still need you."

                                Giles swallowed sharply and looked at the ground for a moment. It really wouldn't do to make a scene right here on the street. "I'm?it is very nice to hear that; you know that I don't?that I?" He sighed. "I care about you very much Buffy; perhaps that is the very problem, I've come to think of you as more like a... a?"


                                "Watchers are supposed to avoid becoming too emotionally attached to their slayers."

                                Buffy smiled. "I think we did pretty good."

                                He smiled back. "Yes, I think we rather did."

                                "I still?I respect your opinion?it's not?" She shook her head. She hated trying to explain herself. "I love him Giles. I'm not sending him to?I love him." She met his eyes. "I've already made up my mind. I need you to?to try to?"

                                "Support your decision." He finished for her with a quick nod of his head. "Very well. You will however forgive me if I remain concerned."

                                "That's what families do."

                                Giles gave her another small smile and thought, not for the first time, that it was a shame Joyce wasn't here to see the woman that Buffy had become. He considered Joyce a remarkable woman in her own right; after all, not everyone could raise a young woman who would gracefully accept the duty to protect the world as her own. "If I'm not mistaken Kensal Green is up this way; though I think it is quite a walk."

                                "I'm up for it if you are."

                                "Very well."
                                "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


                                • #17
                                  Chapter Seventeen

                                  Willow stepped out of the shower and dried her hair. She'd risen early that morning to scope out the local magic supply shops and hadn't wanted to wake anyone so she'd forgone a shower until now. She'd made it up to herself by spending an extra long time under the hot water. It might be nice outside by London standards, she thought, but she was a California girl and she didn't like feeling chilly. She quickly slipped on her underwear, a pair of jeans and a cozy sweater. She considered applying a touch of makeup, but decided not to bother. She did however smooth some cream on to her face and hands; it was one of the few lessons from her mother that had stuck; Willow Rosenberg always moisturized. She dug through her bag and pulled out a pair of thick and brightly colored socks. "Perfect" She exclaimed to herself. "These should keep my footsies nice and snug."

                                  Sitting on the edge of the bed to pull them on, Willow considered giving Xander and Dawn a call. She rather quickly decided against it; they still didn't really know what had happened and she wasn't feeling like dealing with their reactions. She silently promised to call them soon.

                                  Choosing instead to make some lunch, she headed down the stairs. She noticed that Spike was still sitting on the couch and walked over to see if he wanted to join her. It might be awkward, she acknowledged, but it appeared the he was here to stay and that she should make an effort to be friendly. "Hey, do you want?"

                                  Reaching the couch she realized that he was asleep and turned to leave before she woke him. Willow was halfway to the kitchen when she heard him yell. Running back in, she realized that he was still asleep, though it was obviously not peaceful. Spike had clenched both fists and raised his arms defensively in front of his face and chest. He looked scared, she thought, and he was muttering in what she thought sounded like Italian. When he yelled a second time, Willow decided that she'd better try to wake him up. She glanced warily at his fisted hands and tried to decide upon the method that was least likely to gain her a black eye.

                                  "Spike." She started in a soothing but firm tone. "Wake up." She reached for his hands and tried to gently lead them back to his lap. "You're dreaming Spike. Wake up. It's okay."

                                  He awoke with a start and a push that sent her stumbling backwards. He leapt up from the couch and studied her for a moment, while trying to catch his breath.

                                  Willow kept her eyes on him while she stood back up slowly. "You were dreaming. You're awake now." Taking in his confused expression, her eyes narrowed slightly. "Right?"

                                  He nodded. "Yeah. I'm awake. Sorry about?" He nodded again.

                                  "Hey that's okay. It looked like you were having a real doozey of a nightmare, I just thought?"

                                  He nodded again and looked away, his eyes settling on the stairs. "Yeah thanks, I'll just umm?"

                                  "You wanna bite?"

                                  His head swung back. "What? You know that I'm not?have you gone mad?"

                                  Willow's eyes widened slightly as she realized the misunderstanding. "I meant like ?Do you want to grab a bite?' like food." Her shoulders fell dejectedly. "I was going to make myself a sandwich and I thought maybe you'd like one too. Buffy has a tendency to forget about meals, so if you're only eating when she does?I just thought?I didn't mean like bite, bite, ?cause obviously now you wouldn't?"

                                  Spike smiled slightly at the girls nervous babbling. "Sure Red, that'd be?all right."
                                  "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


                                  • #18
                                    Chapter Eighteen

                                    Spike followed Willow into the kitchen and stood off to the side watching while she surveyed the contents of the pantry and the fridge. She turned back to him still holding open the refrigerator door.
                                    "What do ya think? Tuna, turkey?"
                                    He shrugged. Food tasted different to humans. He wasn't all that sure which he'd prefer. He gave her a sheepish look. "I like grilled cheese."
                                    Willow smiled. "Grilled cheese is definitely doable, ooh and?" she shut the refrigerator and went back to the pantry. After a few seconds of rummaging she turned back to him, holding up a can triumphantly. "Tomato soup. Can't really have grilled cheese without tomato soup right?"
                                    He gave another shrug and Willow noted how much quieter he seemed now. Used to be you couldn't get him to stop talking, she thought and wondered what else was different about him now that he was human. He still looked the same and sounded the same. He definitely still looked at Buffy the same way. Of course, she thought, getting his soul back hadn't made him seem all that different either, just sadder and maybe a bit less confident. She shook off the thoughts and held out the can to him. "You make the soup and I'll do the sandwiches."
                                    Spike took the can from her hand and set about finding the can opener and a pot to warm it in. They worked in companionable silence for a few moments and were soon sitting at the table dipping their crusts into warm soup.
                                    Willow watched him for a moment and giggled.
                                    "What?" Spike looked down at himself and that back at her quizzically.
                                    "It's just you with the mug of steamy red liquid?kinda like old times only you know without the death threat part." Willow cringed inwardly when she heard herself. She was hoping to get him talking and inappropriate jokes were probably not helpful.
                                    Spike's expression was unreadable for a moment. He raised an eyebrow. "That's just ?cause you didn't burn the sandwiches." He gave her a faux menacing glance, laughed softly and shook his head. "I'm sorry about that you know?the whole trying to kill?I'm not the same man, I?"
                                    Willow cut him off. "I know. You don't need to explain." she shook her head "it's done."
                                    He gave her a small smile and a grateful nod. How do you apologize for trying to kill someone? Sorry seemed pretty pointless.
                                    They were almost done with lunch, Willow realized. She decided that she'd better just jump in. "That seemed like quite a doozey?your dream that is."
                                    He nodded and looked away.
                                    She sighed. "I'm not trying to pry?or I am I guess?I'm just wondering if it's connected to the whole claim thingy. Dreams are usually more important than we think they are, like a lot of beings talk through dreams and sometimes we tell ourselves things that we didn't even realize that we already knew, and ?"
                                    He cut off her rambling. "Had them before, but they're different know."
                                    "Sometimes?but mostly just different and more often." He sighed. "It's like they're not mine."
                                    "Not your dreams."
                                    He nodded. "Yeah. Like I'm reliving someone else's worst moments. Final moments"
                                    Willow looked thoughtful for a moment. "Whose?"
                                    "Changes." He focused his eyes on the table. "Sometimes I'm the one from China, or Dana, or ?her, her ?sometimes?" He looked at her straight on. "I think they're all slayers."
                                    Willow nodded. "You're dreaming that you're a slayer."
                                    "Yeah. Usually one getting' herself killed by some baddie." He shook his head.
                                    Willow nodded again and bit her lip.
                                    Spike tilted his head to the side and leaned towards her slightly. "Do you think it's connected? "
                                    "Maybe. I should look into a few things okay."
                                    He leaned back and nodded.
                                    "Have you talked about them with Buffy?"
                                    "Not really. She knows I sometimes have ?she doesn't know the slayer part. I just don't want her getting worried or?" He sighed.
                                    "I know, but you should talk to her. She'd want to know and she wouldn't like to think that you're keeping stuff from her; she kinda has some trust issues;"
                                    Spike winced at Willow's unknowing reminder of the afternoon he had finally felt like a monster. Her voice still rang in his ears. I could never trust you enough? Ask me again why I could never love you. He tried to hold off the shudder and answered quietly. "I know." Because I'm the reason she has them, he added to himself
                                    "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


                                    • #19
                                      Chapter Nineteen

                                      Buffy climbed out of the cab and headed for the front door grumbling as each step made a sloppy sloshing sound.

                                      "Supernatural grace my ass" She muttered as Giles paid and tipped the driver handsomely.

                                      He tried not to laugh at his swamp-covered chosen one, but he couldn't quite hide a small grin. He followed her into the townhouse and watched as Willow and Spike took in the muddy and dripping slayer.

                                      Willow stood up. "Was there a demon?"

                                      "Are you hurt?" Spike's eyes quickly slid up and down her body searching for signs of injury.

                                      Buffy brushed off their concerns with a brisk "I'm fine" and headed towards the stairs.

                                      "Is it still out there?"

                                      Buffy grumbled.

                                      "What? Buffy?" Willow looked at her with a confused expression.

                                      Buffy sighed and gave her a long suffering glare. "It wasn't a demon. Everything's fine and I would like a shower ok?" She headed up the stairs.

                                      "Then how?what was it?" Willow turned to Giles.

                                      "I believe the villain was a ?squirrel." He took in the expressions on Willow and Spike's faces and laughed. "Buffy was up on the roof of a crypt when she heard something watching her. Naturally she attempted to investigate by climbing onto a nearby tree. The branch gave out and Buffy unfortunately fell into the swamp."

                                      Spike nodded. "That would explain the smell."

                                      Willow giggled. "I am so telling Buffy you said that."

                                      He paled. "You wouldn't."

                                      She did her best impression of an evil glare.

                                      He smirked. "Do it and you're translatin' that relocation spell on you own. Hope you're good with tenses; it'd be a shame to screw that up and relocate in pieces."

                                      Willow frowned. "You already said that you'd help with that. You can't just take it back." She'd been thrilled to discover that Spike knew Ancient Greek, as hers was even worse than her Latin. It turned out that Spike had been seriously holding out on her over the years; he spoke at least seven languages.

                                      "Guess I'm still a bit evil then." He waggled an eyebrow at her.

                                      Willow shook her head and laughed.

                                      Spike glanced up the stairs and then back at her. "I'd better make sure she isn't more hurt then she's lettin' on." Ignoring Willow's laugh he bounded up the stairs.

                                      Giles rolled his eyes. It would seem, he thought, that Spike has now charmed himself into Willow's good graces. He watched as the still grinning woman settled back onto the couch with her book and sighed. He knew defeat when he saw it.
                                      "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."


                                      • #20
                                        Chapter Twenty

                                        Spike opened the bathroom door a crack and listened to the sound of the shower. "Are you sure that you're not hurt?"

                                        "I'm fine, or I will be once I scrub everywhere. Gross slimy cemetery."

                                        He laughed. "Need some help?"

                                        Buffy smiled for a second before remembering her rule. She frowned. Stupid rule, stupid Buffy, she thought, but she was determined not to screw up this chance with him. "No, I'm good. Almost done actually."

                                        "Right. I'll just leave you to it then." Spike closed the door and walked over to the bedroom.

                                        He was sitting on the bed when she came in a few moments later.

                                        She tightened the arm holding up her towel. "Spike. I umm?I need to get dressed."

                                        He nodded. "I really think I should just check and make sure you're not hurt."

                                        She looked at him as though he'd lost his mind. "I'm fine. I fell out of a tree. I'm not even scraped up."

                                        "Still?" he stood up "you can never be too careful." He moved towards her, smooth as a jungle cat, and leaned down to whisper in her ear. "I think I should give you a good look over, just in case."

                                        Buffy trembled as his warm breath brushed against her neck. She swallowed and stepped back. "Spike, we said that we wouldn't?we can't?" She trailed off when he closed the space between them again.

                                        "Never really been one for rules."

                                        "I just don't want you to think that I'm using you for?I don't want to hurt you again."

                                        Spike gave a low chuckle.


                                        "I'm trying to avoid the obvious response Buffy."

                                        "Which is?"

                                        "Not touching you does hurt me." He looked down and shook his head in frustration. "Whenever you leave the house, hell whenever you leave the room, I feel like I'm missing a part of my soul. It's like I'm not real. The only time any of this?" he gestured towards himself and then around the room "feels right is when I'm with you."

                                        "Because of the claim, Willow said that distance might?"

                                        "No, Buffy, because I love you."

                                        "Spike?" Her eyes welled.

                                        "Don't you see? I don't even know who I am, what kind of man?but I know that I love you. Do you have any idea how terrifying that is? To love like that."

                                        Buffy nodded and let the tears fall. "I think it's always scary Spike. Love. I'm always scared, but you, you're the brave one. That's who you are. You say you don't know what kind of man you are, but I do. You're brave and no matter how scary it is you love, you love with everything you have, I don't know anyone else who loves like that?I want to...for you, you deserve that kind of love. And?and you're kind; you always worry about everyone else more than yourself. You took care of Dawnie and Mom, and you took care of me, again and again. And you're strong, Spike, you're so strong."

                                        He was crying now and he didn't bother to try and hide it. "I'm not. That was the demon, Buffy, I've never been strong. If I was I wouldn't have hurt you. I never wanted to but I did, I was weak and ?bad. I'm not?"

                                        "No Spike. No." She shook her head vehemently. "You knew it was wrong and you made sure that the demon would never be stronger than you again. You are a good man."

                                        "What if I don't know how to be a man anymore?" The question came out quietly but clearly.

                                        Buffy looked at him surprised. She'd realized that the whole newly human thing was odd for him but she hadn't realized how much it was bothering him until that moment. Of course it would, the voice in her head sighed with frustration, how would you handle it if you suddenly weren't a slayer? She'd only been a slayer for a decade, she thought, but she wasn't so sure she could handle being anything else; he hadn't been human for a century and she had just assumed that once he got over the shock he'd be thrilled. Why, the voice asked, because it's better for you? He liked being a vampire. He told you as much. "You want to be a vampire."

                                        "I'm not saying?"

                                        "No. You do. It's ok. I get it." She nodded like the whole thing was finally becoming clear.

                                        "I'm not?"

                                        "I don't think you can lose the soul. I'll talk with Willow, maybe she knows how you can get turned back."

                                        "Buffy?" He looked at her with a baffled expression.

                                        "I want you to be happy. If you want to be a vampire?" She shrugged.

                                        "I want you."

                                        "I'm not asking you to choose."

                                        Spike's eyes widened. "You're saying you'd still want me."

                                        "I love you."
                                        "All I ask is that... that you try to see me."