Disclaimer: I do not claim to own these characters or the series they're from.

A/N: Written as a fill for the prompt "sunburn" on Sb Fag Ends.

Lots of thanks to Spuffy Luvr for being my beta and offering some great suggestions.

Buffy pulls him into his bedroom by the wrist and shuts the door.

She looks gorgeous, her hair pinned up and sunglasses perched at the crown of her head already. Her bikini top, which is of the sort that barely escapes the label 'skimpy,' is bright against her skin and her colourful sarong is sheer enough that he can see her bare legs through the fabric.

Spike reaches out, slips his hand through the slit in the sarong, and strokes his fingers over her leg. Her skin is warm and smooth and he can feel the firm muscles underneath even with his light touch. "So, what brings you by, luv? Wanna get wet before you get wet?"

Her eyes are sharp, but her lips tilt up anyways. "No," she says. "I brought you this." She hands him a bottle of sunscreen.

Spike takes it in one hand and stares down at the SPF 30 label. "Don't think is is strong enough for me," he tells her. He hopes she doesn't think it will be. He doesn't want to disappoint her if she thinks she's found some cure. If she thinks she's found herself a way to spend the nights with him fighting against the unholies of the underworld, having the sex that doesn't leave her wondering if she crushed any pelvises and spend her days outside with him, strolling the boardwalk arm in arm and getting couple's melanoma. Or maybe just spend the afternoon at the beach with her friends together.

He'd thought she'd recognised her decision about him as a sacrifice.

"It's for me," Buffy says and rolls her eyes. "You're supposed to put it on me, in all the spots I can't reach. Like a good boyfriend."

Oh. So that's what this is, then.

This is about him, and his days on the couch keeping away from the windows, and what happened to his hand. It's her making things up to him for his having to stay inside all day.

He knows from personal experience how flexible she is. There aren't any spots on her back she can't reach. She doesn't need his help. But she smooths out a place on the sheets and lies stomach-down on his bed.

It's amazing.

Spike sits beside her and flips the top off the bottle and squirts some sunscreen onto Buffy's back one-handedly. His hand has stopped hurting by now, but it's not really healed and isn't particularly useful.

It's not like he forgets ever. He's got a instincts and century of experience to keep him in the shadows. Even getting used to not diving away from open windows in the Wolfram and Hart building had taken a while. But sometimes once he's out there, already defying the limitations of his species, he pushes things too far. Gets too cocky. Does stupid things like hold his hand out for evidence bag number five without first leaning into Dowling's shadow and ends up with third degree burns spanning his entire palm.

He rubs the sunscreen into Buffy's skin slowly, gently. She never tells him to be more thorough or that she thinks he missed a spot. But of course she doesn't. Anywhere he misses, she will just fix herself. She's here for his enjoyment. For his inclusion, as minimal as it may be.

The cat removes himself from the tangle of discarded laundry he's been sleeping in and hops onto the bed to watch Spike's hand move. After a minute of observation, he leans in and begins to lick the sunscreen off of Buffy's back.

"Hey!" she squeals and rolls over, smearing the sunscreen into his sheets. She's struggling to scowl through her smile.

Spike raises his hands. "Didn't have anything to do with it, Slayer."

Both the scowl and the smile die away.

Right. The sunburn. Spike drops both his hands, palm down so she can't see it. "I'll be all right," he says, just like he said two days ago when she first saw it.

"I know," says Buffy. She sits up, knees to her chest, and draws his hand to her, peering at the wound with both her thumbs at the edges of the burn.

He said it doesn't hurt anymore, and that's pretty much true, but that'll probably change if she gets to poking at it which, in his experience, is about what her nursemaiding adds up to.

"It's just a reminder," says Buffy. "About what you can't have."

"I've lived like this a long time," he reminds her. "Just got stupid for a minute."

The cat leans in and bumps his forehead against Buffy's wrist and she releases Spike's hand to pet the cat's head. "But I get to have a fun day at the beach with my friends to balance out all the long nights in the cemetery beating up monsters and collecting unflattering bruises." He certainly hadn't noticed any unflattering bruises. "I just feel bad leaving you here while the rest of us hang. I don't want you to be missing out on so much."

The only thing he regrets missing out on is watching her have fun. Which she's not going to have if she spends her time thinking about him. This is where he's supposed to be, not her. And, yeah, he used to think he could make her belong here, force her to stay in the dark with him, but he knows better now.

He knows what's best for her is out there. Knows what's best for her is sprawling on a towel and spending time with her sister and getting her feet wet and sandy. He knows that's what'll really make her happy.

And it's what'll make him happy too.

Spike reaches out and scoops the cat into his lap. "Well," he says, "guess you'll just have to come back and make it up to me afterwards."

Buffy wrinkles her nose adorable but smiles. She leans in over the cat and kisses her, one hand to his cheek. "Oh, I will."