Set sometime during the sexcapades of Season Six.

This is just a little one-shot showing a brief interaction between Buffy and Spike. No warnings.

Interlude

Buffy started to stir and Spike paused, holding his hands still as she came slowly back to consciousness. She stretched, cat-like, then lay back against the pillow with a contented sigh. "How long was I out this time?"

He held still for a few more seconds then cautiously resumed his actions. "'Bout forty minutes, give or take."

She smiled down her body at him where he lay across the bed at her feet. He was propped up on one elbow, cradling the heel of her left foot in his palm as he delicately applied nail polish to her toes. "So you decided to paint my nails?"

He shrugged. "Wasn't sleepy." He glanced up at her then applied polish to her pinky toe with unhurried strokes. "Figured I'd be done 'fore you woke and I'm more than a bit surprised you're lettin' me finish. To be brutally honest, I was expectin' a kick in the head soon as you opened your eyes and remembered where you were and who you were with."

Buffy looked away, wearing an uncomfortable expression. "Well, I can't go around with some toes painted and some not, so I have to let you finish." She carefully lifted her right leg and peered at the toes that were separated with a pink sponge. The nails were all a bright bubble-gum pink and looked like she'd had a professional pedicure. "You did a good job, Spike."

He shrugged again, but this time there was an air of embarrassment around him. "Yeah… well… been paintin' my nails for years."

Buffy set her foot back on the bed. "With pink polish? And toe separators? Big Bad punk vampires need toe separators?"

The air of embarrassment grew thicker as he dipped his head so she couldn't see his face. "It's Niblet's stuff. She spent a lot of time here when…" He stopped, his head drooping further until the tip of his nose was hovering over her newly pink toenail.

She pointed the foot he wasn't holding and gently tapped her big toe against his stomach. "When I was dead. You can say it, you know."

He lifted his head slightly then shook it as he blew air across her toe. "No, I can't." He sat up and capped the nail polish bottle then set it aside. "Don't move 'till those are dry so you don't foul the polish."

Buffy smiled at his back as he rose from the bed and slipped into his jeans. "Okay."

He sat back down on the edge of the bed, being careful not to look at her, and said, "Shouldn't take but a few minutes and you can be on your way."

He was quiet after that, just sitting there, and Buffy looked him over. His back was covered in bruises, scratches and welts; marks she'd left on him during their… well, lovemaking wasn't the right word. He loved her, yeah, but she didn't love him. She was sure of that. As sure of that as she was of anything. She had sex with him, that was all. She didn't love him.

He twitched a shoulder toward her feet. "Should be dry now." He stood and moved to the cabinet that held his liquor bottles, keeping his back turned toward her. "Your kit's in the chair next to the bed."

She looked over at the chair. Her clothes were folded and stacked on the cushion, her boots set neatly on the floor. She rolled off the bed, her legs still a little wobbly, and hobbled over to the chair. She was dressed and tucking her stake into its normal hiding place when Spike turned to face her. His chest was covered in bruises, welts, and scratches, too. She'd looked herself over as she'd put her clothes on. She was barely marked; a few bruises and some scrapes, but those had been inflicted by contact with Spike's furniture and the rocky floor of his crypt, not by Spike. He didn't hurt her when they…

Spike nodded toward the ladder. "Guess you'll be going then?"

Buffy started in that direction. "Yeah. Should get home before Dawnie goes to bed." She felt his eyes on her as she walked across the room. She stopped a few feet shy of the ladder then turned around and walked toward Spike. He was wearing a resigned expression as he braced himself for whatever she was about to dish out. She stopped in front of him and reached out, gently clasping his hand. "Thanks."

He looked down at her hand then back up to her face, his eyes wide with wonder. "For what, pet?"

She shrugged. "My clothes, my nails… everything you've done for me." She rose up on her toes and planted a gentle kiss on his cheek. "You make it easier, Spike... being in this world… being alive. I don't think I'd have survived this long without you, so… thank you."

He stammered, "You're welcome," and squeezed her hand.

She smiled at him then let go of his hand and turned around. She didn't look back as she climbed the ladder. If she had, she'd have seen Spike's smile and the one tear coursing slowly down his cheek.