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Coming Out:

They decided it would be best to break the news to Buffy's friends as soon as possible, though they agreed they should wait to tell Giles for the time being. They also decided it was something they had to do together, and in a public place. It made Buffy feel very grown up, making the decision together. Like Spike saw her as an equal. Which he did. And for a moment she was intensely grateful (even more so than usual) that she was with Spike and not Angel. Angel never let her take part in the decision making, he always told her what he had decided and then guilted her into agreeing. Jerk.

Luckily for them the Scoobies happened to already have a favorite haunt that was very public. Which was why Friday night found Buffy making her way to the Bronze with a platinum haired vampire in tow.

And in serious danger of losing her lunch all over her awesome new shoes.

Spike's hand came to rest gently on the nape of her neck, rubbing soothingly. "Easy, luv. 'S gonna be fine."

She nodded, taking deep, gulping breaths. Sudden pain in her hands drew her attention to the fact that they were both clenched into white-knuckled fists, and she forced them to relax.

She didn't know what she was so worried about. They couldn't hurt Spike and he wouldn't hurt them. This was going to be fine.

Spike slid his hand down her arm to clasp her own. "You sure you wanna do this tonight, sweetheart?"

She jerked him to a stop, staring up at him anxiously. "We said tonight. We agreed!"

"An' I'm still agreeing, but you're looking a little green around the gills, luv. Don't even know if this thing is going to work out yet. We could wait."

She shook her head. "No. You're not going to be my dirty little secret, Spike. If we do this we're gonna do this right." She'd promised him a chance and she meant it. If she was going to give him a real chance then she couldn't be skulking about in the shadows, sneaking off to see him, and keeping quiet about it in front of her friends. That wasn't how relationships worked. Not healthy ones anyway.

She hadn't realized how tense he was until he relaxed beside her. The shadows that had been lurking in his eyes all through patrol vanished and she realized that he'd been worried too. Only he wasn't worried about what her friends might think; he was worried she would change her mind. And he would have let her too. He didn't want to wait, but he was willing to, for her. He was the sweetest thing ever. She just hoped her friends gave him the chance to prove it.

"If you're sure then."

"I'm sure."

She threaded her arm through his, pressing into his side as they resumed walking. He looked down at her, expression caught between amused and "chuffed", as he liked to say. British people used weird words. Why couldn't he just call it what it was? Head over heels, jump up and down, thrilled. Okay, yeah, that was a bit much. Maybe chuffed worked just as well. It sounded funny, but it took much less time to say.

"Like the shoes," he observed as they walked. "Like the whole outfit, actually."

She smiled, resting her head against his shoulder, which was just the perfect height thanks to the aforementioned shoes. "Aren't you glad I insisted on changing after patrol?"

"Mm." He pressed a kiss to her exposed temple. "Patrol clothes weren't bad either. You're right gorgeous in anything."

She laughed softly, but didn't accuse him of flattery. She knew he was being completely sincere.

"Romantic," she said instead.

He puffed his chest as best he could with a slayer-shaped growth on his left side. "And proud of it."

They were approaching the Bronze now and he hesitated at the bottom of the ramp. He gave her arm a soft squeeze.

"Ready?" he murmured.

"Yep." She pulled away, but only slightly, readjusting them so that they were holding hands again.

"Into the fray," he teased.

She bumped his shoulder and gave him a genuine smile. This was going to be okay. It was going to be more than okay.

The gang was waiting at one of the tall tables. Someone, probably Willow, had ordered her a diet coke and it was sitting, untouched, in front of an empty chair – the empty chair. She threw a backwards glance at Spike, who had been forced to step behind her in the crowded club. He nodded and she drew him along after her as she wove through the crowd toward her friends.

"Hey, guys."

"Buffster!" Xander greeted as she drew up to the table. "Done with patrol already?" His gaze shifted to the blond over her shoulder. "And, uh, did you know you had a stalker?"

Cordelia rolled her eyes, focusing directly on Spike. "You'll have to forgive him. He has foot in mouth disease."

"Not a problem, pet."

Buffy could tell from Spike's tone that he was giving the cheerleader one of his melt-a-girl's-insides grins even before the other teen fluttered a hand over her heart.

"Go Buffy," she muttered.

Buffy could feel Spike's silent chuckle behind her.

"Aren't you a little old for the Buffster? I mean, sixteen might be the legal age in England, but around here we call this 'jailbait'."

"Xander," Cordelia scolded.

"No, I mean, no offense and all, I'm sure you're a, uh," Xander eyes Spike's form skeptically, "a fine, upstanding citizen of the mother country and all, but Buffy's only sixteen, and you've got to be, like, thirty."

"Xander!" This time Cordy elbowed him.

"Oof." Xander cradled his stomach, but would not be deterred. He looked to his other friends for help. "Come on, somebody back me up here. Oz? Willow?" His best friend said nothing. "Hello? Earth to Willow?" Xander leaned across the table to wave a hand in front of her face.

Willow didn't seem to notice. "Buffy, is that Spike?" she asked slowly, unable to draw her gaze from the blond vampire.

Buffy winced. Leave it to Willow to put it all together.

"Spike!" Xander yelped, ducking behind his girlfriend. "I take it back. You're evil. Go away!"

"Really?" Cordelia asked, looking over her shoulder at her cowardly boyfriend. "What do I see in you again?"

"What? You're meaner than me." He looked up at Buffy. "Buffy! Stake him."

Taking a deep breath, and shored by the comforting touch of Spike's hand splayed against the small of her back, Buffy decided to just plunge in. "Sorry, Xand. Can't do that. He's sort of my date."

There was a moment of stunned silence and then, predictably, Xander's panicked voice.

"Holy frijoles! Buffy's been thralled! Somebody get a stake - or holy water." He fumbled in his back pocket belatedly and pulled out a small wooden cross. "Back, you demon!"

In his panic it took him a moment to realize that no one else was moving.

"Uh, guys? Evil vampire controlling slayer. A little help here?"

"Nit," Spike muttered under his breath.

Buffy elbowed him, though she secretly agreed. "I'm not under a thrall, Xander. Spike doesn't even have a thrall." She looked back at him. "Do you?"

He shrugged. "Never tried it, but I don't think so. Only a few vamps I've met can thrall, and they all had something a bit other about them even before they were turned. Or were older than God."

Buffy nodded firmly and then turned back to Xander. "So, no thrall. And put that cross away. Spike isn't going to hurt anyone. Didn't we go through all this last fall? Spike is bagging it, Spike is helping, there will be no dusting of Spike."

"You told them last fall?"

Spike's tone was dangerously close to awed and Buffy automatically turned to see his face, flushing at the adoration clearly visible there.

"After you took out the Annoying One and canceled the Order's contract."

Spike seemed choked up. When he lifted his free hand and cupped her cheek lightly, Buffy found herself covering it with her own without thought.

"Buffy," he breathed, twining their fingers and drawing it to his unbeating heart as he pressed his forehead to hers gently.

Buffy's eye fluttered closed.

"Oh, yeah. He's real dangerous," Cordelia said, shoving Xander back into his seat. "I say if he hasn't killed her in the last eight months he's not likely to try now, right Willow?"

Willow floundered a moment, possibly because of the display Buffy and Spike were putting on, or perhaps just because Cordelia was looking to her for support. Buffy turned her head slightly to look at her best friend.

"Oh, uh, yeah. Right. I mean, he's saved her twice and everything, right? Anything that keeps Buffy alive is good, I say."

"Anyone," Buffy corrected quietly. "And it was three times." She and Spike had finally pulled apart, though now her back was practically plastered against his chest.

"Right." Willow flushed guiltily. "Yeah. Sorry. I didn't mean, you know, that you were a thing. I just meant – in general."

Oz laid a gentle hand over her fluttering fingers. "What she means is: welcome to the Scoobs. And we appreciate you not killing Buffy – and not letting anyone else do it either."

The two men exchanged nods as the girls chorused a welcome, which Xander reluctantly echoed after a not so gentle kick from his significant other.

"You gonna stand all night, or what?" Cordelia asked, arching a brow.

Spike chuckled and grabbed the empty seat, holding it out for Buffy. She looked down at it and then up at him and shook her head.

"Can stand, luv. Not like I have circulation to cut off."

Buffy was adamant. He was her date, she wasn't going to have him standing on the fringes all night. "Sit," she insisted.

Watching her carefully, Spike did as commanded. Buffy immediately dropped into his lap, forcing him to bring his arms up around her waist.

"We could get another chair, Buff," Xander said, clearly unhappy.

"I'm comfy, thanks." Buffy made a show of leaning back into the vampire and then sighed with contentment. She squeezed Spike's arm reassuringly in response to his slight stiffening beneath her frame and was gratified when he immediately relaxed, pulling her more firmly into his body.

For several moments the table was engulfed in awkward silence. Then Willow asked Oz a question about the band, and Spike made a comment about Oz's answer, which set the two of them talking about the evolution of the modern rock band, and even Xander seemed a little impressed when Spike told them he'd been to Woodstock (though thankfully he kept the part about snacking on flower people and subsequent hallucinatory highs to himself).

Buffy smiled as her friends and her date fell into easy conversation. Everything was going to be okay. Yes, there was some awkwardness and some wiggins, but that was only because her friends didn't know Spike yet. Vampires as something other than mindless and evil was still a very new concept to them, but once they got used to him and realized that he was a person like them, only a little sturdier, everything would be fine. The best thing she could do was to be completely comfortable with him, because that would help her friends be comfortable too.


Telling Giles, as it turned out, was even easier than telling the Scoobies. In fact, it was downright anti-climactic and Buffy felt almost cheated by her watcher's lack of objection.

Almost.

Apparently she was the slayer and Giles trusted her judgment. Who'd have thought? Of course, it probably helped that Spike had saved her life more than once and had been living on bagged blood for almost a year.

She also had a sneaking suspicion that Giles was looking forward to a new direct source of material on vampires. He had that researchy gleam in his eye. She didn't suppose she could blame him. Angel had never been much with the sharing, which must have driven Giles crazy. Or, you know, whatever passed for crazy when you were a stuffy British guy.

There was, of course, the obligatory threat:

"You hurt her, you're dust."

Spike took it in stride. "Know that, don't I?" He held the other Brit's gaze with sincerity. "You needn't worry, Watcher, not gonna do anything to cause Buffy harm. Not gonna let anyone else have done either."

Giles' eyes narrowed in suspicion. "And her sacred calling?"

Spike shrugged. "Got no ties to my own kind. And I do like a good spot of violence." He grinned, sharp and feral, before letting the expression ease into a more genial smile. "Our girl's gonna be the longest lived slayer in history. I promise you that."

Giles held his gaze for a long, hard, moment. And then he nodded.

"Well, Buffy, I suppose that we'll be adjusting your training regimen now that you have a suitable sparring partner. I shall have to look into finding us more training space. Can't have the two of you thrashing the California Public School System's books, now can we?"

And that, as they said, was that. She couldn't believe she'd gotten off so easy, but she wasn't going to question it. It was about time the Powers cut her a break from the suckage that was her life.

She exchanged a grin with Spike as they followed Giles back into the storage closet where he "hid" her training weapons. She reached out to snag the vampire's hand and he used it to draw her closer to him. He raised their join hands and pressed a fleeting kiss to the back of her palm while Giles was busy searching for something nonlethal for them to spar with – in deference to the books, of course.

Spike chuckled and then reached around the other man to grab a Nerf plastic dart gun from the stash. Flustered, Giles blushed.

"Xander must have left that here."

Spike shrugged. "Don't care if it was left by Father Christmas. 'S a good training weapon, yeah? No danger to the books or the furnishings. I can hide in the stacks and the Slayer can practice finding me with her vampy vibes." His finger worked the plastic trigger.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Please, I could find you with my eyes closed. Other vamps . . . er, not so much." Her eyes brightened. "Oh, maybe we could catch a fledge, or, well, maybe not a fledge, they're not too good with the paying attention for longer than three seconds, but a newbie-ish vamp and I could practice on him."

"No."

The two Brits shared a comradely grin at their simultaneous, flat responses.

"Yeesh, it was just a suggestion," Buffy muttered, but inside she was smiling.

She'd promised Spike a real chance, and it looked like he was going to get it – from everyone.


Chapter End Notes:

I know I said I'd start posting one-shots right after the holidays, but I had some computer trouble. I didn't lose any of my writing (thank God), but I had no where to post from. Good news is that now I have a few one-shots saved up. If anyone has anything specific they'd like to see in this altered Buffy world I'm still open to ideas.

Also, the first half of my upcoming epicseason 4/5 fix-it re-write is just about complete. I'm considering posting it as two separate stories, one for season 4, one for season 5. Honestly, it's just that long. I'm at almost 400 pages on the season 4 portion and it's still got four chapters to go. Also, looking for a beta on that one if anyone is interested.

Thanks and I hope you enjoyed. I'll try to post at least once a month from now on, maybe every other week if the ideas are flowing. I'm trying to squeeze these oneshots in between the epic, so no promises.

-reenas-as