Title: Armor

Author: cousinjean cousinjean@hotmail.com

Summary: Clothes don't really make the man, and the coat doesn't make the vampire. S/B.

Rated: R

Spoilers: Follows the S7 ep "Get it Done" and the fic Something Other Than Dead. All you really need to know about that last one is that Spike started a garden for Buffy in her back yard.

Disclaimer: Spike is mine! All mine, dammit! But, um, Joss Whedon and the fine folks at Mutant Enemy created him. Buffy too.

A/N the first: Thanks to sunbrae and eep for the quick beta turnaround, and to adjrun for cheering me on.

***

He stepped out on the back porch and began to pace, feeling the swish-swish of leather against his legs as he absentmindedly lit another cigarette. He'd spent all day pushing his limits -- coming out of the basement, invading everybody's personal space and conversations, the way he used to do. Annoying people still came easily to him. Good to know. But when he'd tried to smoke in the house, outside the confines of his self-appointed cell, Dawn had practically maced him with a can of Lysol, and he'd decided to retreat outside. He might be armored once again in his bad-ass black leather, killing demons twice his size with his bare hands, but a brassed off Bit was still not something he wanted to reckon with.

Armor. Costume, more like it. He was both amazed and not a little bothered by how much of an effect the damn coat had on his attitude, not to mention the way he carried himself. The way he fought. He supposed it wasn't that bothersome if he thought about it. Normal, really. Human. Clothes make the man and all that. Wasn't any different than all those comic book heroes the little boy and Harris kept gabbing about when Harris thought no one was listening, donning their capes before battling the forces of evil. Or for a less boffinish example, Buffy slipping on her strappy, three inch, come fuck me pumps and turning into an instant se-- don't even finish that thought, Spike ol' boy. Best not to go there. Even better to detour around it via the scenic route. With a sigh, he threw down his spent cigarette and started another.

Still, strange that the coat seemed to give him so much power. Courage. He'd done fine without it for nearly a century. More than fine. He hadn't needed it to kill its previous owner, after all. And he hadn't needed it to win back his soul. Even so, one wears a costume long enough -- twenty-five years, in this case -- and one becomes it. He should know. Change your accent, your walk, your entire manner to match the tough guys down at the docks, and soon everybody believes you're tough. Eventually you even believe it yourself, and that's what you become. Change your hair to match the rebels, and you become a rebel. Slip on the coat of a legend and become an even greater legend.

Speaking of legends…

He knew she was out here. Could hear her off to the side, digging in her garden. She probably heard him too, and if not, most likely she could sense him. She made no sign of it, though. For all of the intentional irritation he'd caused all day, he'd pretty much kept out of her way. Not that she hadn't made it easy for him. They weren't avoiding each other, exactly. At least he wasn't. Not consciously, at any rate.

Funny. He'd expected the coat to feel heavy. An albatross around his neck. But it hadn't. Instead it had been like taking a huge weight off, made his soul feel lighter, put a spring in his step and a bunch of other clichés. Last night he'd wanted her to see him that way, but when she'd come back through the portal she'd been in too much shock to notice. Then she'd gone to bed, and the guilt had set in, and the fear. That "dangerous" Spike would be too much for both of them to handle; that he would forget himself and return to what he'd been, what he'd fought so hard not to be, what the First Evil had tried so hard to make him be again; that no matter what he did he would always be more monster than man.

She muttered a curse under her breath, and he wondered if she cursed the ground, or him, or herself. Or possibly the First and the coming apocalypse. Then silence as she went back to work. Spike smiled, remembering the first night he'd shown her the garden he'd plotted out, how happy it had made her. How gorgeous she'd been. Even in the faint light of the moon and the fairy lights strung up along the trellis, she'd been radiant. Glowing. He'd thought them on the verge of a breakthrough that night, and he had vivid and varied fantasies -- some tender, some heartbreaking, some best entertained in the solitude of his cot -- about what might've happened if they hadn't been interrupted.

But they had been, and no sooner had he dared to hope they'd pick it up again than she had made a date with the principal. So he'd once again kicked himself for his foolishness and stuffed his hope back down where he thought she couldn't touch it and pronounced himself ready to move on. Then she went and said she's not ready for him to do that, and his hope sprung out of its box and did twirly nancy dances 'round his heart. Then she said she wants the old Spike back, and in true old Spike fashion his hope flipped them both the bird and stormed off to have a good sulk and wish that the dozy bint would make up her mind already.

But, they did have a literal hell of a fight coming. If she needed him to suit up and don his armor and be a little bit monster in order to get through this thing, then that's what he'd do.

At least she liked her garden. He wondered if he should go help her. As a burning sensation tickled his fingers he realized he'd been standing at the end of the porch this entire time, staring off in her direction, forgetting his smoke. He flicked off the long column of ash that had formed, took a final drag and stubbed it out on the porch rail. He was stalling now. He didn't know if he wanted to go over there any more than he knew if she wanted him to. But then, if he was capable of staying away from her for very long he would've saved them both a lot of trouble long ago. Almost of their own accord his feet started down the steps. So much for having his rocks back.

"Y'know, Pet, the idea was that you'd come here in the daylight."

Without looking up, she gave him half a shrug. "Last night I buried a little girl. Tonight I wanted to bury bulbs."

He nodded, but cringed inwardly for reminding her. This was meant to be her escape from death, after all. "What kind?"

"Narcissus."

He couldn't suppress a smirk at that. "I'm pretty sure there's a joke in there, but I'm not gonna be the one to make it."

She didn't say anything, but her shoulders shook a couple of times with silent laughter.

"Want some help, then?"

Still nothing. She stabbed her trowel into the ground, leaned back on her heels and stared at the handle. He kept quiet, let her gather her thoughts. Looked at what she'd done with the place while he waited. Some shrubs had been planted, and Harris had finished the arbor. It turned out well. Stretched over the whole walkway, with benches on each side that opened up to hold supplies. The pond had been lined. Still needed filling, though. It was all coming along quite nicely.

"I was pretty hard on you yesterday," she said at last.

"You weren't wrong, Love."

"Not wrong … that's not really the same as right."

Spike knelt beside her and took up the trowel. "Don't know how it went over with the girls, but you got Willow and me to come out of our 'fraidy-holes and face our demons. That's something."

"Yeah, but I won't exactly be joining the motivational speaker circuit any time soon." She sighed. "I just don't want to bury any more girls, Spike."

"Yeah." He hollowed out a small hole and dropped in a bulb. "And I don't want to bury you anymore. That means making my inner demon my outer demon, so be it."

She looked at him then. Her eyes drifted down his body, took in the coat. He couldn't read her expression. "Nice gardening smock."

"'S comfortable."

She raised an eyebrow. "Really? I thought you'd outgrown it."

"Turns out it still fits." He looked at her, but she busied herself covering up the bulb he'd just planted. He couldn't tell what she was thinking. He cursed himself for wanting to know. "That's a good thing, right?"

Buffy shrugged. "It's just a coat."

Spike gaped at her a moment, then forced his mouth shut. "Right." He threw down the trowel, got up, and spun around to leave. He got about five paces before he stopped, hanging his head with a sigh. "You said you wanted to see the old me. The one what tried to kill you after we met?"

"Spike …"

"Got me to thinking." He turned to face her. "About that night, at the school. Something you said to me then. Remember?"

Buffy sat watching him. Her face scrunched up as she tried to remember. "That thing about the weapons?"

He smiled, briefly. "'Sides that. You told me, 'it's gonna hurt a lot.'" He regarded her for a long moment. "Truer words never spoken, eh Pet?"

He started to leave again, but she called him back, her voice stern. As she stood up and brushed off her skirt, her eyes sought his. "It's just a coat."

"Just a coat? Tell that to the dead Slayer I took it off of." Her eyes widened almost imperceptibly as they scanned the garment. "Didn't tell you that, did I? Left that bit out of our little history lesson that night."

She pursed her lips and folded her arms. "I didn't figure you got it on sale at Bloomie's."

"No. 'Cause it's not 'just a coat.' It's a trophy, 's what it is. A symbol."

"A symbol of what? Dead cow?"

"Stop that. Don't trivialize --"

"No, you stop! Stop putting so much importance on things that just don't matter. So, you got your coat back. So what? You think you can just put it on and suddenly you're the Big Bad again, just like that?"

"Got it done, didn't I? Didn't hear you complaining last night."

"Yeah. You and your security blanket did a great job killing the demon."

He took a step toward her, mouth open to protest, fingers twitching, itching for another smoke. Or maybe a fight. He shoved his hands in his pockets and laughed instead. "Oh, nice Love. Think I don't see what you're doing? Trying to goad me on?"

"Surprised I have to try so hard," she said, tossing her hair. "I mean, you shouldn't be afraid of anything, should you? After all, you've got your magic coat. You can do anything in that. Kill Slayers -- oh, except you didn't have the coat yet when you did that. Eh," she waved a dismissive hand, "guess you got lucky those times. But in the coat you can beat up little old man demons, rescue girls from towers -- oh, wait …"

His fingers curled into fists. "You b--" He bit his tongue and shook his head.

"I'm a what? Go on, Spike. You've come this far, don't start holding back now."

Fine. She wanted to do this? He was all too happy to oblige. "Bitch!" He took another step toward her. "How can you talk to me like that? Do you have any idea what this represents for me? How hard it was to let myself go there again? How frightening?"

Her face softened, and she looked at the ground. "I do."

"No, you don't! Me, and, and Willow…" He pointed at the house. "We were monsters, Buffy. The stuff of nightmares. Of our nightmares! We did things that make you sick to your soul, and you want us to risk becoming that again --"

"I want you both to stop hiding from it."

"I'm trying, Love. But it's not enough, is it? It's never gonna be enough for you!"

"Not me. The First. We can't hold back, Spike. We can't be afraid to be all of what we are, even if that means embracing a part of ourselves that we don't like. And no. It's not enough." For a moment she seemed to look straight through him, at some horror that made his unspeakable deeds look like a minnow in an ocean of badness, and he had to stop and wonder what she'd seen in that place. She came back to herself and shook her head. "It's not gonna be enough."

Spike sighed, and paced before her. "Fine. You don't want William the Weepy, don't want the Big Bad … what do you want from me, Buffy?" He stopped pacing and closed the gap between them. "What the bloody hell do I have to do to satisfy you?" Despite his words, all anger had seeped out of his voice, leaving only weariness behind. "Just tell me, Pet, 'cause I've done all I can think of trying to make you happy. And I'm through."

She looked stricken at that. Then she just looked sad. "You want to hear what I want before you give up?"

He deflated a little and slunk away from her. "There any point?"

"What I want is the Spike who doesn't give up." She moved with him, not letting him get away. "The one who doesn't back down, doesn't take no for an answer. The one who's not afraid to fight, and fight dirty if that's what it takes to win."

He stared at her for a moment, not quite believing her. Then he got in her face, invading her space, filling the air she breathed with his own forced breath, filling her vision with his face. She didn't back away. Didn't flinch. Didn't show any fear. Time to remind her what she should fear. "You mean the same Spike that tried to rape you?"

She just raised her chin at that. Set her shoulders, hardened her face and gritted her teeth. "No. I mean the Spike that defied his nature and dropped everything to travel to the ends of the earth and prove he was worthy of a soul. The same Spike who stood up to a god because he didn't want to cause me pain. The one who was always there when I needed him. It wasn't a coat that did all that. It was a man. A man who I…" Her voice started to tremble. She stopped, looked away to compose herself. Then her eyes locked on his again. "Where did he go?"

Spike swallowed. "He … got trapped under a mountain of guilt and self-loathing."

"Well dig him out. Because I need him again."

He nodded. "For the fight?"

"No." Feather light fingers brushed his cheek. "For me."

He closed his eyes and leaned reflexively into her touch. "Buffy…"

"Spike. Do you still want me?"

His eyes snapped open and he looked at her like she'd asked if the sun was hot. Then they narrowed, his wariness returning. "How can you ask me that?"

"You don't fight for me anymore."

"What? You …" He put his hand over his heart. "How many times do I have to tell you that I did this for you?"

She shrugged. "Why? So we could be good friends? You got your soul and gave up on me. On us."

"I bloody well did not! I didn't … You know that I couldn't … not after …"

She placed a finger on his lips. "That was then. What about now?" She looked up at him. Her face had softened, her eyes filled with something he was afraid to name.

"Buffy …"

Her finger traced his bottom lip. "Be the Spike who'll fight for me. The Spike I…" She smiled a little, her mouth trembling. It was the way she'd looked at him when she'd found him in the First's cave. He'd longed to have her look at him that way again, but had about given up on it. "The man I was falling in love with," she finished.

He stared at her, his head tilting to take her in, to try and comprehend what she was saying. He couldn't have heard her right. He blinked, and realized she was leaning in. He grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her back, holding her at arms length.

"Spike, what--"

"Don't. Not unless you mean it. Not unless you plan on following thro--" Her mouth muffled his words with a stinging kiss. Warm hands stroked his cheeks, slid down to his chest and pushed the coat back, off his shoulders and down his arms. He let go of her only long enough to pull it off and shuck it aside.

No costumes. No armor. No more walls.

He caught her around the waist and pulled her against him, reveling in how perfectly she fit. Not that he'd forgotten. As her mouth reacquainted itself with his, her hands traveled back up his arms, caressing his biceps before moving back up to his neck, clutching him, pulling him closer, fingers threading through his hair and tracing the lines of his face. In turn all he could do was hold her in a grip that would have crushed a regular girl. But she was no ordinary girl. She was extraordinary. His Slayer. His Buffy. His… His.

All too soon she broke it off. Gasping for air, she rested her temple against his cheek and leaned into him, her fingernails lazily combing through the hair at the back of his neck. He had to struggle to form words. "What … I mean, why …"

She pulled back to look at him, and smiled. "Didn't you hear? I've been on this whole 'Be all you can be' kick lately. Not holding back, facing your fears …"

"And I'm one of your big fears?"

"No, dummy." She cupped his cheek in her hand, tracing her thumb along his cheekbone. "Loving you was." Standing on her tiptoes, she pulled his head down and kissed his forehead. "But not anymore."

A strange sound escaped him, somewhere between a laugh and a sob. It seemed to go along with this foreign feeling bubbling up inside him. It took a moment for him to put a name to it: joy. Overwhelmed by it, he buried his face against Buffy's neck and clung to her. Even as he felt her heart beating against his chest, heard the rush of blood through her veins, her breath against his ear and her delicate touch as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and stroked his hair, he feared she'd turn out not to be real. That she'd become ephemeral and slip through his grasp at any moment and float before him, untouchable, taunting him with hate-filled threats. If that happened, he knew it would break him. But instead she just kept holding him. "No more holding back, Spike," she was saying. "Not for either of us."

He shook his head and straightened up. He had to see her. See that look in her eyes. The tenderness. He could only look back at her with undisguised wonder as he brushed her hair back from her face. He kissed her again, soft and sweet as her hand lingered on his face. He caught her hand in his and laced their fingers together. "I never once stopped loving you, Buffy."

Her eyes filled with something else. Something he'd once grown accustomed to seeing there but never thought he'd see again. "Show me," she said, desire creeping into her voice.

God, he wanted to. He felt himself growing hard at the mere thought of being inside her again. Imagined taking her, right there in the garden, and his need for her grew. But what if it was no different this time? What if they started fucking and stopped talking? He gritted his teeth and shook his head. "Maybe we should wait."

"We're running out of time. Spike, we might not have many more -- any more chances like this."

Despite everything, he managed to look at her disapprovingly. "That's rather defeatist talk, innit Pet?"

She looked down, and nodded. "Fine. Then let's remind each other what we've got to live for." She pressed the entire length of her body against him, one arm hooked around his neck as her free hand slid down the front of his jeans. She kissed a line across his jaw to his ear. "We've waited long enough," she whispered, then nipped at his earlobe. "Make love to me, Spike."

Oh, Jesus. He should slow this down, make her wait, make sure it was real this time; but his soul was only human, and his body not much more so in these matters. He kissed her, pouring all of the love and lust he'd been unable to express for the last several months into her and drinking her pent up emotions like blood. She backed up, pulling him with her until they stumbled into the arbor. Then she turned them and pushed him backwards until he was up against the trellis wall at the back of the garden. Still kissing him, she unbuckled his belt as his hands slid over her hips and down her thighs, gathering her skirt in his fists. When he'd hiked it high enough she leapt up and wrapped her legs around his waist.

It reminded him of their first time. A little too much, in fact, and fear gripped him as her hand curled around his cock and pulled him out. He stopped kissing her as she poised him against her. Just like before, he had to look into her eyes. Had to see what she was feeling as she slid onto him. But this time he felt sure the love he saw there wasn't imagined. This time they took it slow, knowing each other's rhythms and timing themselves to match. This time they were building up instead of tearing down. This time … oh God. This time as he lost himself inside her she leaned down to whisper in his ear. "Love you, Spike. Love … oh, God."

He spun them around and leaned her against the trellis. Couldn't hold her up on his own anymore. If the feeling of being inside her hadn't been enough to overwhelm him, her confession had done it. "Buffy, sweetness…" He pushed up her sweater, raked a thumb back and forth over the lace stretched across her taut nipple and reveled in the way it made her gasp. Buried his face in her cleavage and breathed in the smell of her, dissected the layers of scent until he could identify each one, from perfume to sweat to sex. Oh, how he'd missed this. Missed her. "Love you…"

"Spike, I … oh, Jesus God. Please, you're almost …" He pulled her mouth to his for another kiss, swallowed her release as she screamed it into his mouth. She sagged against him for a moment, nuzzling his neck and making a little satisfied hum he'd never heard from her before. That alone was almost enough to get him off, but then she reached up and grabbed one of the beams stretching across the top of the arbor, holding herself up as she continued to ride him, raining kisses on his face. "Love you," she told him. She said it again and again until he came. He buried his face against her neck as he cried out, staggering to the side of the arbor, his knees buckling. He slid down onto the bench and held her in his lap, still inside her as she sat straddling him, slumped against him. For a long time they just held each other, whispering words of love and endearment … something else that was different this time.

After a while Buffy sat up to face him. She seemed to be studying him, memorizing the lines of his face with her eyes and hands. He caught one of her hands in his and kissed her palm. "God, that was incredible," he said.

Once upon a time such a comment would've sent her fleeing. This time she only smiled, joyful and a little proud. "Definitely no holding back there." She looked around at their surroundings. "And hey, look! The arbor survived."

"Now that's some quality craftsmanship," he said. "We'll have to give kudos to Xander." At her wide-eyed expression he smiled, even as a little stab of pain jabbed his heart. "Joking, Love."

"No, I was just imagining the look on his face. I bet he'd do that goldfish thing." She mimicked his mouth opening and closing and his eyes about to pop out of his head. Spike barked out a laugh and rested his forehead on her shoulder as he chuckled and she giggled. He stayed there long after their laughter subsided, tracing his fingers up and down her spine, basking in her presence.

She began to shiver. At first she thought it was him, then he realized he'd gotten her sweater off her at some point and she was topless in the chilled night air. Her sweater lay on the ground out of reach. But when he'd thrown his coat earlier it had landed on the bench on which they sat. Spike grabbed it and draped it over her shoulders.

"Thanks," she said.

"You're sure you don't mind?" She gave him an admonishing look, and he sighed. "Yeah, I know. Just a coat."

Buffy nodded, but her nose wrinkled up. "And a smelly coat at that."

"Uh, yeah. Sorry 'bout that. It's been boxed up in the school basement. Kinda musty. Could probably stand to be cleaned."

As he spoke she examined its folds. Her fingers appeared through a set of gashes that were undoubtedly claw marks. She waved them at him.

"Okay, yeah …" He picked at a hole made by an arrow -- or possibly a bullet -- and frowned, defeated. "It's seen better days. Maybe it's time to think about replacing it."

"I hear Bloomie's is having a clearance on coats."

"Well there you go, then. We'll go shopping."

She grinned, and he realized he'd make himself over entirely if it would make her smile like that. Then she leaned forward and rested her forehead against his as her fingers traced abstract patterns over his chest. He tangled his hands in her hair and pulled her close for another kiss, but just as they connected the back door flew open and irritated teenaged girly feet stomped out onto the back porch.

"Buffy!" called Dawn.

Buffy and Spike both groaned. She sat up. "Yeah?"

"Giles is back and he brought two more Potentials. Where the hell are we gonna put 'em?"

Buffy blew out a frustrated sigh and looked at Spike. Then a light bulb seemed to go off. "The basement," she told Dawn.

Spike frowned. "Uh, Pet, I don't think that's such a good--"

She put a finger to his lips to silence him. "And tell Rona to tell our other roomies that they'll all be sleeping down there, too!"

"Oookay … but where's Spike gonna be?"

"Excellent question," he muttered.

Buffy looked at him like the answer was obvious. She kept her eyes locked on his as she answered Dawn. "He's with me."

Spike blinked at her as this new development sunk in. His throat grew tight. He swallowed and had to look away.

"Dawn?" Buffy called when no answer came from the back porch.

"Fine," Dawn said at last. "Whatever. But Spike, no smoking upstairs!"

Grinning like an idiot, Spike nodded. "Whatever you say, Nibblet," he called back.

"Good. And you guys better get dressed and get in here if you want to move his stuff up tonight, 'cause the new girls are tired and I'm not doing it!"

Buffy looked down at her bra, and Spike stifled a laugh. Couldn't really deny the naked part. "We'll be right there," Buffy told her. They both listened until they heard the door slam shut.

"One down," said Spike.

"Yeah, for now. Give it another five minutes and I'm sure the whole house will know."

Again Spike just stared at her as this sunk in. The whole house. That included Xander, Willow, Giles…. "Well," he said, finding his voice again. "We should get going if we don't want to miss Xander's fish impression."

Buffy smiled, and planted a quick kiss on his lips before sliding off him. She shrugged off his coat and pulled on her sweater as he did up his jeans. She smoothed her hair, then her skirt, and turned to face him. "How do I look?"

Looking her up and down, he smirked. "Like you just got shagged and liked it."

She smirked back. "So do you."

His smirk bloomed into a smile, but it was short lived. He looked down at his feet as something occurred to him. Something he didn't want to think about. Not now. Dammit, he was starting to be happy. He wasn't under any curse, he was allowed to be happy. And God knew she deserved to be. Still, they couldn't afford to forget. "You sure about this, Love?"

A crease appeared between her eyes, marring her happiness, and he already regretted asking. "So, how long's it gonna take before you stop doubting this is real?"

He shook his head. "Not what I meant."

"Then what--"

"The First, Buffy. It's not done with me yet. Much as I want to, I'm not sure you sleeping next to me is such a good idea."

Her face darkened as she took this in. But she shook her head. "It's not gonna run our lives like that."

"I'm talking about endangering our lives, Pet. This isn't about control issues."

"No."

"Buffy …"

"Spike, do you love me?"

It was a rhetorical question, he knew. He answered it anyway. "With everything that's in me."

She nodded. "It tried to make you kill me before, in that cellar. You couldn't do it."

"I came close."

"But you didn't. And you won't. It can't make you kill me, and I can stop you before you hurt anyone else."

He leveled a gaze at her. Wanted so badly to believe she knew what she was doing. "That's a lot of faith you've got in us, Pet."

Her eyebrows shot up as she considered this. "Can't really have the love without the faith." She shrugged. "At any rate, I've gone too long without either. But I've got you now, and I won't let the First take you from me again." She held her hand out to him.

He grabbed his coat, slung it over his shoulder, and took her hand. "Right back at you, baby," he promised, and let her lead him inside.

***

End

A/N the second: I wasn't gonna do one of these -- either a SOTD follow-up or a post GiD fic -- but adjrun went and inadvertently issued a challenge over at RJP to capture the heat of S6 while showing the character growth of S7, which got me all inspired. Don't know if I accomplished it, but I had fun trying, and I needed to practice writing the sex anyway. Hope you enjoyed it.