Buffy never questioned whether or not Spike would be there when she woke up; she knew he would be, and she was right.

They were both lying in her bed, nestled together intimately. Buffy awoke to the wonderful sensation of her head on his chest and his arms around her, holding her close, just like she was doing with him.

She smiled. Definitely won't regret that.

Her fingers gently trailed the length of his face, and while it was the faintest of touches, it was enough to rouse Spike from his sleep. His eyes opened, and he smiled when he saw her. "Mornin', pet."

"Morning." She smiled back. "Sorry I woke you."

"No need to apologize," he said, placing a kiss on her forehead. "So long as you continue to be the first thing I see when I wake up. Absolutely gorgeous."

He pressed his lips against her own and they kissed, soft and tender. There was no burning passion behind it or any need to re-enact what had happened the night before; it didn't need to be any of this. The kiss was still deep and laced with meaning, as all of their kisses were becoming, Buffy realized.

Buffy pulled away before she turned to look at her alarm clock. "Not as late as I thought it was, but I still need to get up for school."

She turned back to Spike, who was still smiling at her. "I know." He tenderly laced his fingers through her hair as their foreheads met in a gentle touch. Buffy closed her eyes, bathing in the feeling of him being there with her.


Her eyes snapped open. "Mum!" She quickly pulled the covers from Spike, and after muttering, "Sorry about this," in his ear, she pushed him off the bed. He fell and not-so-gracefully hit the floor with a thud.

She wasn't ashamed of being seen with him – she just didn't want Joyce Summers discovering that her seventeen-year-old daughter had lost her virginity to a vampire who had once been her enemy.

Joyce opened the door only moments after Spike had disappeared behind the bed. "Morning, Buffy."

"Morning," Buffy mumbled back. God, I hope she doesn't take one step further; she'll see him…

"How was patrol?" asked Joyce. "I presumed you were asleep when I got in last night."

Buffy nodded. "It was good. No vamps, but we had an encounter with ghosts. It was kinda creepy."

Joyce nodded…before she looked over at the other side of the bed. "Morning to you too, Spike."

Buffy's eyes widened as Spike hesitantly sat up, trying to avoid eye contact with the elder Summers woman. "Mornin'…Mrs. Summers."

"Mum, how did you-?"

"I'm your mother, Buffy," said Joyce. "You may have been able to hide that you're the Slayer from me, but you can never hide a boy in your room. And just so you know, Angel can't fit in your closet very well."

She knew about that last year? "You never said anything about that!"

"I wasn't sure what to say," Joyce admitted. "Will Spike be going home this morning?"

"He can't walk around in sunlight," Buffy reminded her. "Vampire, remember?"

Joyce nodded. "Then he can help me with the house cleaning today. Will that be alright, Spike?" Buffy could see the look in her mother's eyes; she was daring Spike to challenge her after he'd taken her only daughter's virginity.

Spike continued to avoid eye contact with her as he replied, "Yes, Mum."

Buffy tried to hide her amusement; it was funny watching a once notorious vampire cower under the gaze of her usually sweet-natured mother.

Joyce's gaze returned to Buffy. "Put something on and come down the stairs. We need to have the talk."

Damn, the dreaded talk… Buffy bit her lip before she sighed. "Sure. I'll be down in a minute."

Her mother left the room, leaving Buffy and Spike alone.

"Are we in trouble, pet?" asked Spike.

Buffy wasn't sure. Her mother didn't look as angry or shocked as she had been in the memory, which she supposed was a good thing. "Probably not as much as we think we are. I mean, I'm not eighteen yet which is one point, and I never mentioned that I was dating you. I think it's always awkward for a mum to find out their daughter had their first time with someone."

"Understood." He rose to his feet and crossed the room to where his clothes had been tossed the night before.

Buffy changed into a loose pair of pyjamas before hesitantly walking down the stairs to her waiting mother. Joyce was sat at the breakfast bar, and Buffy took a seat next to her.

"First off, you're not in trouble," Joyce began. "I like Spike, and having a relationship with him does have its perks; he can't get you pregnant and there's no worry of STDs. But above that, he's a dear."

Buffy didn't know what to say other than, "So you approve?"

Joyce nodded. "Now for the hard parts. I did research what 'The Talk' usually consisted of, so hopefully I won't get this wrong. Was he your first?"

"Yes." Buffy didn't have a memory of her and Angel doing it; only brief glimpses, since the TV show obviously wasn't rated for porn. Of course it hadn't happened to her anyway, which she was glad of – and not because Angel would have lost his soul. "And if things go well, he'll be my only."

"I sure hope so," said Joyce. "I should mention that he's way too old for you, but I won't bother. And while he wasn't stable when we first met him, he seems stable now."

Buffy tried not to laugh. "Mum, you hit him with an axe when you first met him."

"And I think that did some good; he's obviously afraid of me."


Joyce laughed. "All I can tell you now is be careful, and more importantly, be happy. If you love him, then you have my happiness and blessings."

"I love him," said Buffy. "He showed me what love is, and I think I did the same for him."

When Buffy walked down the stairs half an hour later, ready for school, she found Spike waiting for her at the bottom. He was pale, even for a vampire – meaning that her mother had already had words with him.

"You look like a cat that's just walked past an army of Great Danes," she commented with a grin.

"I'm gonna be frank, pet," said the vampire when she reached him. "Is your mum a retired Slayer?"

Buffy shrugged. "If she is, she never told me."

"I'm a soddin' master vampire, and half an hour with your mum scared the bloody crap outta me," Spike admitted. "She's the single scariest woman I've ever met – and that's why I like her."

The Slayer wasn't surprised, considering he had become genuinely fond of Joyce in the memory, even when he was still evil. "Well, I hope you're brave enough to endure a full day of what she just put you through. And believe me; she can drag her 'mum torture' for hours."

If it was possible, Spike paled further. "You sure I can't come to school with you, pet?"

Buffy almost laughed. "What, so you can become Spike the Teenage Walking Flame? Yeah, so not happening – at least until we uncover the Gem of Amara."

"I still can't believe that thing's real," Spike mused.

"It is, and when we find it, I'm super-gluing it to your finger," said Buffy with a firm nod. "After school I'm gonna ask Giles to help me locate it. Speaking of… If you can find your way to the school through the sewers, I want you to be there. After school, I mean."

"Why's that?"

She sighed. "I'm gonna tell them about us."

His eyes widened. "Are you sure that won't result in them stakin' me?"

"Hey, they actually seem to like you now," said Buffy. "And it wouldn't matter if they didn't; you're the best thing that's ever happened to me, and I'm not about to hide our relationship because people might not approve."

He sent her a warm smile before tenderly reaching out and tucking a stray hair behind her ear. His hand lingered, and Buffy pressed her cheek against it. "I still can't believe this, you know? I keep thinkin' I'll wake up and find this was just a dream. Wouldn't you be happier with a normal guy?"

"No, because you're not a normal guy, and normal guys are boring," she insisted. "Normal guys a part of a normal life, and I gave up hope of having one of those long ago. Think about it; the only reason Xander's still alive is because of luck. If I tried to bring a normal boy into this mess, he'd be dead long before the three-month serious relationship mark. And if he wasn't, he'd eventually grow to resent me; guys hate it when girls come to their rescue, which is what I would be doing constantly with one. I'm the Slayer; I could never settle down with a normal guy."

Riley, from what I saw, proved that. He couldn't deal that the Buffy in the memory was tougher than him, and that she – I – rarely needed saving.

"I like that you're tough," said Spike. "I would never have a problem with you savin' me."

"And that makes you one in a million." She placed a kiss on his cheek.

He pulled her in close, their foreheads touching. "But what about children? That's something I can never give you."

"Yeah, but do you really think bringing a child into our world is a good idea?" It was apparently bad enough with Dawn. "And even if our lives calmed down enough for us to manage it, there's a little something called 'adoption'."

"You'd make a great mum."

"And you'd be one of those fun dads who all the other parents call 'a bad influence'."

Spike chuckled before their lips met.

They hadn't been kissing for long when Joyce walked by. She didn't even turn to acknowledge them but as she passed she said, without breaking stride, "You'll be late for school, Buffy."

Buffy and Spike pulled away, embarrassed. As they watched her mother disappear around the corner, Spike commented, "I swear, that woman's gonna be the soddin' second-death of me. Six hours with her is too long."

That time Buffy did laugh.

The day couldn't have gone any longer, and when Buffy finally found herself in the library with her friends, she had figured out exactly what she was going to say and how she was going to say it. So I guess it being a long day helped.

First thing's first, though. "Giles, we need to find and uncover the Gem of Amara."

Her Watcher blinked in surprise. "The Gem of Amara? I thought that was only a myth among vampires."

"So did I, until I had one of my Slayer dreams about it," said Buffy. "Spike filled me in on some of the details; it's supposed to reside in the Valley of the Sun, and since we live in a town called Sunnydale…"

"Then it must be here," said Jenny.

Buffy nodded. "It's underground somewhere; I don't know where abouts, but I'm sure we can pinpoint its location. Then once it's found we give it to Spike, which…is something else I wanna talk to you all about."

"What's that, Buffy?" But even as she asked this, Willow was smiling. Buffy saw that her friend suspected what she was about to confess.

Buffy sighed. "Something happened last night. I won't go into the full version as it's not that important, but…it led to things…happening between us… You know what? I'm just gonna come right out and say it; Spike and I are a couple"

The room fell so quiet that if a pin dropped, it would be heard. The group stared at Buffy for what felt like minutes.

"You…you love him?" asked Giles.

"I know it may be hard to believe, but yes," said Buffy.

"What about Angel?" asked Cordelia.

"Wasn't meant to be, I guess." Buffy shrugged. "Angel was my high school crush; something which wasn't love and wasn't meant to last. Spike is real."

"And that's a bundle of feelings which have come flying in out of nowhere," Xander commented. "Buff, this guy tried to kill you last year. I mean, sure, he's on our side now, but letting him help us and falling in love with him are two completely different things."

"Well, Xander, it goes a little something like this; when two people spend time together in the workplace, feelings develop," said Buffy. "And please don't bring up the whole 'he's a demon with no soul, so he can't love me' argument; you all know that's not true when it comes to Spike."

"You said that he loved Drusilla for over a century," Jenny pointed out.

"Exactly." Buffy rose to her feet. "I told you all because I don't wanna hide our relationship; I'm not ashamed to be with him. If anyone has a problem with that, it remains your problem, and you keep it to yourself. Opinions; one at a time."

Willow was first. "I said before that he likes you, likes you, Buffy. I was already OK with it."

Oz just shrugged. "I see what I see; I can see that he loves you and you love him."

"He's handsome," said Cordelia. "So I don't blame you for jumping him."

Xander raised his hands in defence. "I'll admit that this is gonna take some getting used to, but if there's one positive thing I can say, it's that I prefer him over Angel. Oh, and he killed Snyder – which is two positive things. Which is better, I suppose."

"As long as you two have made the mature decision, and have both thought it through, then I see no reason to oppose," said Jenny.

Buffy looked at Giles hopefully.

He sighed. "I'll be honest, Buffy; I approved of him on the night of your birthday. And while I cannot say that he would have been my first choice for you, I will not deny that I have never seen you happier. You are practically glowing."

"Glowing?" Willow smirked. "Does that mean you two…you know…?"

Buffy's blush confirmed it.

"Well, nice to know I'm not gettin' staked anytime soon."

Everyone turned to see Spike standing by the door.

"OK, I have to ask," Xander spoke up. "Is it something about your linage which gives you the power to sneak up on people like Batman?"

"I was doin' it long before the Dark Knight," said Spike. He crossed the room and placed his arms around Buffy. She responded by leaning into his chest, letting him kiss the top of her head.

"Spike," Giles spoke up, "while I approve of this, I must say that if you do anything to hurt her-"

"I know, I know," said the vampire. "Joyce already gave me the 'you break her heart, I'll break your legs' talk. Believe me, if I hurt Buffy not only will I let you both torture me, I'll dust myself after."

"Good. Then we're on the same page." Giles sighed. "So about the Gem of Amara…"

The week leading up to the Sadie Hawkins Dance was spent locating the Gem and digging it up. So by the time Spike escorted Buffy to the dance, he was wearing the ring on his finger and Buffy was at ease that nothing could hurt him.

Since the dance was only a casual one, both Buffy and Spike didn't dress up for it. They talked with their friends, had a few dances, and when they left the pair did a quick patrol of the area.

It was late when they came to a halt outside Buffy's home, hand in hand.

"I would invite you in, but… I don't want this to become that obsessive love where we can't stand not seeing each other," Buffy admitted. "We have to spend some nights apart to keep it healthy. You understand, right?"

"Of course I do, luv," he said. "I'll see you tomorrow, then?"

She nodded with a smile, and they shared a kiss goodnight. And for that one moment, everything was perfect.

Which made it all the more shattering when she arrived in her room and found an unwelcome visitor waiting for her.

Angel smiled. "I'm back."