And then Buffy was kissing him. In a few of Spike's many fantasies, it happened like this - she'd follow him out, throw herself on him (preferably in view of the idiot Scoobies.) Then they'd be making the beast with two backs in his crypt, noisily and for a long time.

But this wasn't like that, at all. It was just the two of them, no Scoobie gasps of horror or Gilesy sputtering. Buffy's kiss wasn't hot and sexy, it was a little frantic and maybe - oh, lord - desperate. So Spike did what he never, ever would do in his fantasies and would damn well curse himself for later, and put his hands on either side of Buffy's face and stopped kissing back. She stared at him, and he expected to see visions of staking him dancing in her eyes from the embarrassment and anger. But instead she looked confused, and then bleak. Lonely. A look that slayed in its own right - how many times had he seen this vulnerability since she came back from the grave? When before the tower, and Glory, it had been never. It hurt him, seeing the warrior in Buffy leached out. Without thinking about it then, Spike leaned back in for a quieter, tender kiss. He left one hand on her face and slid the other down to her birdlike shoulderblade, his long fingers stroking it. Their lips just lay for a moment, warm on each other. Buffy pushed into him a little and Spike used his tongue to trace the outline of her mouth. It was the kind of kiss he'd dreamed of when he was William the inexperienced twat: sweet, slow, but incredibly arousing. He couldn't help himself and drifted his hand down her back to the top of her perfect ass, not squeezing, just floating. But then Buffy flicked her tongue into his mouth and made a little sighing sound and that was it. Spike pulled her into him, moaning at the sensation of her body against his. It lasted for just a moment, until Buffy registered his stiff cock announcing itself and pulled back.

Instead of the disgust - for him, and herself - Spike expected to see in Buffy's eyes, he saw bewilderment, lust, and a hint of humor. She flicked her eyes down and then looked back up with a definite smirk. He was almost annoyed, but then charmed by the immaturity of that response to his very obvious erection. When did Buffy ever get a chance to be a silly 20-something?

And as if on cue, a bunch of silly somethings came tumbling out of the building behind him, for once not shrieking about something. They all looked subdued still, by the revelation of Buffy's having been in heaven. Nonetheless the idea of being around them after whatever just happened between him and Buffy nauseated Spike, so he looked at her once and left as quickly as he could. He wanted to get back to his crypt. He wanted to think, he wanted to imagine that Buffy might care for him, he wanted to watch Passions. Then his own smirk came to Spike's face, because most of all right now, actually, he wanted to have a good wank.

The next evening Spike had done all those things, more than once. He'd also poured a handle of whiskey down his throat and killed a few fledglings in the cemetery and still just wanted to go see Buffy. He could, he knew he could, he could ask if she wanted to patrol and the Scoobies would be none the wiser - although they might try to come and then he'd have to kill them, and then Buffy would stake him and then he'd never get to kiss her again. It wasn't the bloody whelp and the witch keeping him here, though. It was the idea that he might get to 1630 Revello Drive and she would look at him, cold and wanting to pretend it never happened.

"It was a mistake, Spike," he mimicked in a falsetto. Boy, couldn't he just hear that tripping off the Slayer's tongue. If she even deigned to reference the kiss at all. Which she probably wouldn't. And then they'd be back to being platonic chums, with Spike helping kill a few things at opportune moments and Buffy telling him stuff she couldn't bear to tell her friends. Because she loved them, and he loved her. Fuckitall. But wait, his inner hopeful self reminded him, she had kissed him - of her own volition. And that look at the end, it was complicit, it acknowledged his desire, and maybe hers too?

"Getting fuckin' delusional, you wanker," Spike muttered to himself. Striding around the top level of his crypt, he did it again: rehashing the kiss with Buffy, picking apart every little twitch of her lips and remembering her expressions over and over. He played that last moment when he met her eyes in his head. She didn't seem to want company anymore than he did, or was she relieved? Suddenly in a moment of self-disgust at what a nancyboy he was being, Spike grabbed his coat off the back of his chair and headed for the door. Revello it was. Even if the superfriends were there, he was well within his rights as a mean nasty vampire with a jones for the Slayer to skulk around her house at least, wasn't he?

By the time Spike got to Buffy's, though, he realized how late it really was. The windows were dark and even his vampiric hearing detected no voices or movement. Buffy must have already gone patrolling and was sleeping in her little pink and white room, the sleep of the righteous. Spike spared a moment for indignation that the bint hadn't swung by his crypt, if she was patrolling and all, but didn't dwell on it for too long.

Lighting a fag and leaning on his usual stalking tree, Spike mused that he was much more rational outside of his crypt. On serene Revello drive, in the deep quiet of night - even in Sunnydale, you could feel that silence sometimes - he could see that kiss for a little more of what it was. Buffy liked him, against her will. She liked him enough to talk to him, and drink with him, and she trusted him more and more every day. He had taken care of the Niblet all summer long, and although she never said a proper thank you, he could tell it had softened her towards him. Spike was going out of his way to be - what was that new touchy feely phrase? - emotionally available, to Buffy, in a way the Scoobies just weren't. Too wrapped up in their own garbage, the whingeing whelp and the ex-demon with the sharp honest tongue, the witch steeping herself in magic and her lover beginning to be wary, the librarian itching for a way out. Spike preened for a moment. He liked having one over on the bloody gang, with Buffy and with Dawn. He knew Dawnie missed him, was annoyed by his absence. And, well, he missed her sometimes too. A swarm of resentments hit him over the way that things had shaken out. In an unbiased world, his ass would've been in on that couch tonight, watching movies on the telly with his girls, soulless or not.

But these things take time, reminded the sensible voice of rustling tree leaves and night air. What that kiss had meant was that he had a chance. If he rushed it, if he pushed, if he assumed, that chance would disappear. Not fair really, considering the berks Buffy had dated in the past, but the reality of the thing. She at least knew she wanted him, was attracted to him - he grinned. That was a damn bloody good start.

A muffled scream split apart his self-satisfied reflecting. Not loud enough for a human to hear, but to Spike it was clear as a bell, and from Buffy. He launched himself to the tree by her window and within seconds had slithered into her dark bedroom. In a fighting crouch, Spike speedily scanned the corners of the room - nothing. He turned towards the bed. Buffy was wrapped up in a cocoon of covers, struggling and sweating. Another half-swallowed shriek broke the fog in his head and he jumped towards her. He didn't sense a demon, or magic, or anything that might attack Buffy in her own bed.

"Buffy," he said urgently. "Buffy, love, what is it?"

No response. Spike leaned in closer, and realized Buffy was asleep, caught in a nightmare. Her breathing was heavy, like there wasn't enough oxygen in the room, and despite her Slayer strength she couldn't seem to get free of her blankets. It struck him as he reached in to help her: she was dreaming of her grave. Being trapped underground, without air, in the dark, in a wooden box no wider than her shoulders.

Spike's stomach twisted. "Oh god," he breathed, filled with blood fury for the witch who hadn't even thought to dig her up before that damn spell. Gentle despite the rage in his head, Spike slowly peeled Buffy's duvet, and then her sheets away from her torso. Her hands were claws underneath the coverings, white and trembling ineffectively. He took them in his, crooning a little as he smoothed out her fingers and rubbed some blood back into her palms.

"It's ok, love," he whispered. "You're up here, you're above ground, with someone who loves you. You're safe, Buffy, it's ok."

As he murmured to her, Buffy's breathing began to even out and her strong tiny hands relaxed in Spike's. When it seemed like she was sleeping normally again, Spike let himself slump against her nightstand. A strange feeling was taking hold of him - he couldn't quite figure it out, because it was mixed in with the remnants of fighting readiness and anger for Willow's selfish hocus pocus. Part of it was concern for Buffy, but… oh sweet Jesus. It was guilt. He was feeling guilt, because he had been out there scheming on how to make Buffy fall in love with him when she was in here tormented by something he damn well knew about.

Then Spike shook his head. Wait a second - guilt? You could almost think he'd picked up a soul somewhere, like ever-poncing Peaches. Guilt! He might be chipped and in love, but feeling guilt for wanting to get something his own way! No self-respecting vampire would even entertain the thought. He was the only one there for Buffy right now, and that was good for her. He was good for her, and the Scoobies weren't. End of the flipping story, that's it. This was his chance, and he would get Buffy.

Spike settled into the carpet. He would stay here until sunrise, chasing away the nightmares if they returned, so that Buffy could get some rest. And if she awoke, and saw him, and was grateful, well fancy that.

Buffy woke up slowly, with a sense of peacefulness. She'd had the same horrific dream she'd been having since she came back, but for the first time it had ended before dawn. Replaced with warmth and softness, she'd actually been able to sleep soundly for a few hours. She felt… refreshed. Today would be slow, and horrible, like all the others, and in a little while she'd have to face chirpy Willow and hopeful Dawn, but at least she wasn't starting with already frayed nerves. Buffy snuggled deeper into her bed and turned on her side to check the clock - and instead, saw Spike's sleeping face. Buffy smothered a squawk. So much for the not frayed nerves! What on earth was he doing in her bedroom? Sleeping upright like a little kid trying to stay up too late, no less.

"Spike," she hissed. "SPIKE." He grumbled a little but didn't wake up. There was something sweet and actually kind of pure about his still face, like one of those Renaissance marble statues they'd talked about in Art History. Buffy almost didn't want to wake him, but at the thought of anyone else in the house discovering him in her room, she huffed out his name again. "Spike!"

"'M sleepin, Slayer…" he mumbled without opening his eyes. "'S my bloody crypt so put a sock in it, won't you."

"It's not your crypt you idiot, it's my bedroom!" Buffy freed an arm and whapped Spike's shoulder. His eyelids popped up and he met her stare with confusion. "And I'd like to know why you're using my nightstand as a pillow!"

Spike shook his head a little and looked around, then grinned. "Why not, Slayer? It's better than a sarcophagus, I dunno." At Buffy's look of death, he shrugged and cut the smirk. "I was walking by outside and I heard you scream... I came rushing in here, cause, well, you know," he sheepishly raised his eyes to hers, then dropped them, "and I realized you were having a nightmare."

"And?" Buffy said, acidly.

"And so I talked to you and held your hands until it went away," Spike said, suddenly caustic. "And I stayed just in case another dream came back to trouble your widdle beddy-bye time, but don't bother thanking me, or anything." The vampire stood. "I guess I'll just be pissing off before you even have to say it, eh?"

Buffy opened her mouth to say something - what, she wasn't sure - but then Spike got to the window and started cursing. So a totally intelligent "what?" came out, instead of a decent comeback.

"It's almost daybreak, pet," said Spike. "And I harbor no expectations that you'll tell me it's the nightingale, and not the lark, which makes a risky departure necessary all the same." He grabbed Buffy's duvet off the bed and wrapped it around himself, managing to look evil despite the way the fluffy covering clashed with his black leather. "This'll do the trick, then," he said. As Spike hopped out the window, he looked back over his shoulder. "Don't worry Buffy, I'll bring it back."

Buffy sat, in now much-lessened bed covers, irritated beyond belief. If that snarky vamp got scorch marks on her duvet, she was going to stake a bunch of tiny parts of him before she did the main event. And what on earth did he bring up birds for? Another way he was trying to make her look stupid, probably. Could anyone BE more infuriating? He hadn't even let her get a word in edgewise, cocky asshole.

Buffy stood up and headed to the shower. She wasn't going to get back to sleep after that, and she might as well try to get in a hour or two or peace before the house filled with people chattering at her. Or people giving her extended sidelong glances, actually. All of yesterday, after her song for Sweet, they'd been treating her like a mental patient encased in glass. Don't trouble the poor resurrected girl, she might tell you the truth. Can't have that.

Buffy stepped into the hot shower, and tried to let her bitterness slide down the drain. The warm water all around her reminded her of the good sleep portion of last night, and that helped. But was Spike really responsible for chasing off the dream of airless coffin and clods of dirt? As much as she hated to admit it, he probably was. She couldn't ignore that his presence had coincided with the first time she'd had actual rest since she came back; and how would he know she was having nightmares, anyway? So, fine, she was grateful for that, but he didn't have to be such a jerk about it. Not that she would've told him thank you anyway, but still. Exasperated again, Buffy started lathering her hair.

By the time she turned the water off, Buffy felt marginally ready to face the day. As she toweled off, she thought that at least in Spike's actions towards her there was no hushed fragile glass-ittude. He was just Spike, good at listening sometimes and full of crap other times. For a moment, she wished a little that he could've stayed. Definitely not worth the Willow disapproval, though. Sighing, Buffy pulled a plain grey shirt out of her closet. Whatever. Spike had just better bring back her duvet, clean and smoke-free.

Spike didn't bring her duvet back that night, and it was below Buffy's dignity to go get it from him. She did a blessedly brief patrol (not too much vamp activity right now), put off Giles's requests to have a talk, and managed to suffer through a chick flick with Dawn squealing at every cheesy line. When it was finally time for bed, Buffy got an extra quilt out of the closet and put on her sushi pajamas, and was just fine.

Of course, when her alarm went off the next morning and Buffy burst out of her claustrophobic dreams with a gasp, she wasn't so fine. Her body seemed to feel the horror and the tiredness even more for having one night of sleep. Buffy wondered where Spike had got to. He was in love with her, right? So shouldn't he take any excuse to be in her bedroom? Stupid demon. It wasn't like she could ask him to hang out at night, so why couldn't he just do it? Buffy briefly considered asking Willow to figure out a spell to keep nightmares away, but dumped that idea. It meant telling Willow about the dreams in the first place, plus Tara had asked her not to encourage Willow's current all-powerful-magic-lady persona. Urgh.

When Buffy got downstairs, there was already a Giles-led powwow in motion. Willow and Tara sat with her cloudy faced Watcher, while Xander nervously ate handfuls of cereals direct from the box. At Buffy's entrance, everyone paused and Giles said his traditional, "Ah, Buffy."

Buffy first walked over to Xander, extricating his fist from her cereal box. "Ew," she told him firmly. Setting the box on the counter, she turned back to the group. "Who died, and what do we think did it?" she asked.

"Well, as a matter of fact," Giles said, "several young men died last night behind a bowling alley."

"Bowling ball to the head?" Buffy suggested helpfully. Everyone looked at her blankly. "Ok, ok, supernatural causes, great."

"Precisely. Supernatural causes that have utterly flummoxed Sunnydale's police service," said Giles with a touch of severity.

"That's not hard," grumbled Willow.

"Please," Giles said with a look at the witch. "Human beings have lost their lives, and if that is not sobering enough, I can tell you that upon a little research, this incident is rather alarming. These young men died from all the blood in their veins literally freezing, and then shattering. What was left was incredibly gruesome, as one might expect, making identification difficult, but one thing the coroner could report was that they all died at exactly the same instant."

"Meaning that whoever killed them did it with a instantaneous spell affecting multiple targets," mused Willow.

"It may not have been a spell, Willow," said Giles. "Although I recognize that magic is a strong possibility, it could also have been a demon we have not encountered before. Either way, you are correct that this being wields power that it would be difficult to escape, or fight."

"But fight I will, right?" said Buffy. "That's the point of this little get-together?"

Silence stretched out for several moments as everyone avoided looking at Buffy. Then Giles cleared his throat and said gently, "You are still the Slayer, Buffy. Willow and I will research whatever could have attacked those men, Xander will get Dawn to school, and you could do a little reconnaissance before your first class today. Ask Spike, perhaps, if he's heard anything."

Buffy imagined herself saying, "Sounds great, I will go see Spike, get my bedspread back from him. And maybe ask him to spend the next few nights in my bedroom. Any other instructions?" A giggle at the potential reactions rose and faded almost as fast, leaving Buffy feeling tired and empty. So all she said was, "Ok. Thanks Giles."

Walking to Spike's crypt in the morning sunlight seemed surreal, but then so did her entire life at this point. Buffy tried to will the sun to warm her, but it was all she could do to put one foot in front of the other. When she got to the cemetery, it was almost a relief to get away from the gorgeous day into the cool dark crypt.

"Spike!" she called. "I want my duvet! And some people have died - they didn't win the resurrection lottery so it's a crisis! Spiiiiiike!" No peroxided head appeared. First floor, empty. Buffy headed for the lower level, paused. Spike was definitely the type of man - vampire - to sleep nude, and his bed was down there. Making lots of noise and prepared to look away, Buffy descended into the second part of Spike's weird home. Pretty soon though, it was obvious - no Spike.

Where on earth could the extra-flammable guy have gone during daytime? Buffy drew closer to the bed, and realized her duvet was folded in a very neat square at the end of it. Well, at least she got something out of this trip. She reached out to pick it up and saw the note on top written in elegantly crooked handwriting.


I'm sorry I didn't bring this back, as I promised. I'll be back in a few days and you can shout at me then. Til I return, be careful. There's a new, bigger bad in town. I don't reckon it'll show it's ugly face to you yet, but when it does, you'll need what I'm trying to get.


So, that confirmed Giles's fears. Something new was going bump in the night in Sunnydale, something scary enough for Spike to take immediate action. Buffy felt oddly comforted at the idea of a proactive Spike. Here was one person who didn't rely on Buffy to do the dirty work all the damn time. So instead of crumpling and tossing the note, Buffy folded it carefully. She put it in her pocket and tucked the duvet under her arm. As she left the crypt, the note felt warm against her hip, pulsing through her body despite her better judgement - "yours."