Spike knew leaving town would be much easier if he was significantly less drunk—but he wasn't about to let a few inconsiderately placed tombstones or the fact that he was lost in his own cemetery get in his way. He wasn't stopping, wasn't looking back. He couldn't put himself through the pain that was Sunnydale, California, any longer.

Maybe, if he was lucky, he'd just pass out and wake up on fire.

"Spike! Spike, stop!"

Spike froze for a second when he heard the Slayer. He almost turned around, but then he remembered almost every conversation he'd ever had with her. They never turned out well for him. It would be a speech about how they were "wrong" together—how he was wrong—or a punch in the nose. Maybe both. He kept walking.

Spike wasn't sure exactly what happened, his drink-addled brain struggling to put anything together in a coherent way. He'd heard the Slayer call his name a few more times before he'd fallen face first onto the ground. He tried to push himself up, but there was a weight on his back, preventing him from doing so. After a moment, he realized he couldn't move because Buffy had him pinned. He frowned. "Did you tackle me?"

"You wouldn't stop," Buffy said, sitting on him to keep him against the ground. "I need to talk to you."

"Hard to talk with my face in the dirt, Slayer."

"Promise you won't run off if I let you up?"


"This isn't one of those things were you say you won't do something, and then do it anyway, and then when I say 'Spike, you promised you wouldn't do that,' you get all 'yeah, well, I'm evil.' You're not gonna do that, are you?"

Spike rolled his eyes, knowing Buffy couldn't see his face. "I won't go anywhere until we've talked."

Satisfied with his answer, Buffy got back to her feet, letting Spike stand again. He brushed himself off, and Buffy noticed he was carrying a bag. "You're…you're leaving."

"Yeah, I am."

"Is it because of me?"

His vampire constitution mixed with the physical shock of being slammed to the ground had managed to sober Spike slightly. At least enough for him to speak full sentences. "You know, Buffy, not everything is about you." He pointed a finger at her. "I've never been one to put down roots. Just had enough of this bloody Hellmouth, is all. Not as fun as it looked in the brochures."

Buffy didn't buy his explanation, but didn't feel like arguing the point. "So what, that's it? You're just going to leave me?"

"Leave you? You left me. Just ran off with—with your kittens."

"I never remember specifically telling you we were over."

Spike blinked. "Huh?"

Buffy sighed. "I'm…I panicked. Getting my memories back really threw me."

"And made it so you couldn't get away from me fast enough."

"No! That wasn't it at all!"

"What, you didn't wake up, remember how much you hate me, and run off in disgust?" Spike asked with a sneer.

"No!" Buffy exclaimed again. "I know that's what it looked like, and I'm sorry. I…I don't hate you."

"But you don't love me."

Buffy steeled herself, pushing her fears away. She was the Slayer. She had faced demons, a hellgod, even death. She could face her own emotions. "Yes. I do."

Spike gaped at her, his mouth opening and closing a few times before he managed to ask, "You do?"

"I told you I did. Told you over and over again, if memory serves." The corner of her mouth curved in a half smile.

"But…you…your memories…you…"

Buffy reached up, placing her hand against his cheek. "Do you know why I ran? It wasn't because I don't love you. It's because I do. I was so happy with you, and when my memories came back, I thought that was something I could never have. I remembered my duties as the Slayer, and my relationship with Angel, and…and I thought I couldn't take the risk again."

"But you're here now," Spike said, taking her hand from his face and clutching it tightly. "Are you willing to give us a try now?" His heart clenched as it waited for her answer.

"I'm scared, Spike," Buffy said honestly. "I'm scared about where this can go, and of what will happen if I open myself up to someone else again. But I think…I think I need this. I need something in my life that lets me be something other than the Slayer. When I'm with you, I'm just Buffy, and I…I need to be just Buffy sometimes."

Spike regarded her for a moment, his elation at what Buffy had told him slightly numbed by the fear that she'd take it all back. "Do you know what you're saying, pet? Who you're talking to?"

"Yes." She laughed nervously. "God, this is frightening."

Spike smiled softly at her, gripping both her hands. "I won't let you fall again, Buffy."


"I promise." He smiled at her. "And that's not in the 'I'm lying 'cause I'm evil' way either."

Buffy laughed. "I love you."

Spike's grin spread, brightening his whole face. "I love you, too."

Buffy took his hand and walked with him to his crypt.

Buffy trembled as Spike lit the candles around his bed. She knew she shouldn't do this, shouldn't let things go any further than they had already, but at the same time, she knew she couldn't go anywhere but forward. Losing her Slayer memories had reminded her of what it had been like to just be Buffy. She didn't want to lose that part of her again. The Slayer had died to save the world. Buffy deserved a little something for herself.

Spike came up behind her, wrapping his arms loosely around her waist, causing Buffy to jump. "Nervous, pet?" he asked, breathing in the scent of her hair.


"I know a lie when I hear it." Spike pulled her closer. "You're not a blushing pseudo-virgin this time. What's wrong?"

Buffy turned in his arms, looking into his eyes. As daunting as the prospect was, she knew what she needed to do. "I want you to bite me."

Spike froze, staring at her. "You want to run that one by me again?"

Buffy softly traced his cheekbone with her finger. "You heard me." Buffy felt the last of her trepidation fade away. She knew Spike loved all of her—Slayer and Buffy—and she wanted him to know she loved all of him, too—man and demon. She pressed her lips against his ear. "Come on, baby. I want to feel your fangs inside me." She nipped at his earlobe. "Show me your sexy bite."

Spike shivered, her words going straight to his groin. He decided then that even if the chip did go off, he didn't care. Any amount of migraine would be well worth a taste of her sweet blood, her willing flesh. "I want that too, Buffy. I want it so much."

Buffy tilted her head, sweeping her hair to the side, exposing the tender column of her neck. "Then take it."

As tempting as it was to Spike to take her up on her offer right then, he wanted to do this right. He wasn't optimistic enough to think that Buffy would make letting him bite her a regular thing, and he didn't want to blow what could be his only chance by jumping straight to the fangs. He gave her neck a gentle lick before pulling away, smiling at Buffy's look of confusion when he did so. "Not quite yet, kitten," he told her. "Want to be inside you in another way first."

Buffy smiled back at him, deciding that's what she wanted, too. She took his hands, walking backwards to the bed and leading him along with her. Once there, she slid up to the pillows, lying down and watching Spike through hooded eyes.

Spike sucked in a deep, shuddering breath as he watched her, spread out on his bed, bathed in near-ethereal light. She was a vision—his golden goddess. "Buffy, I love you."

"I know. Now come here and show me."

"Are you sure about this?" Spike asked, wanting to make sure one last time that this was really what she wanted.

"Yes. I trust you, William."

Hearing those whispered words meant even more to Spike than hearing her declarations of love, and he swore to himself that—even without a soul—he would never do anything to make her regret placing that trust in him. He gave her a slight nod, letting her know that he understood the weight of her words, before joining her.

Buffy lay in Spike's arms, completely sated, a small smile tugging at her lips. She reached up, running her fingers against the red puncture wounds from where he had bitten her earlier. When she'd asked him to bite her, she'd expected him to be rough, to take her like a demon. Instead, he'd surprised her, showing her caring restraint—and love—with his every move. It had been amazing. So much more than she ever could have imagined.

Suddenly, she realized precisely where he had bitten her, and she rolled her eyes.

"You bit over Angel's marks."

Spike shrugged. "Well, yeah. Couldn't have some other vamp's marks on my girl."

"Who said I was your girl?"


Buffy smiled, shaking her head. "Kidding, Spike."

He managed to look relieved and glare at the same time. "Not bloody funny, Slayer."

"It was a little. I liked seeing your eyes get that wide."

"And they say I'm the evil one," Spike grumbled.

Buffy took his hand, placing it over the red, marred skin of her neck. "I'm your girl now, Spike. These prove it."

Spike ran his fingers over them, his touch making her shiver. "Buffy, I know that I have a habit of doing some well, really dumb things, and that I tend to bollocks everything up a lot, but I won't even let you down, pet. I promise I'll do everything I can to be what you deserve."

"I know, Spike. And you are. What you did—for Dawn—when I was gone, the way you treated me when I came back, the way you treated me tonight—you've proven to me that you can be something more than a monster. I told you earlier that I trust you, and I meant that."

Spike knew there were tears in his eyes, and he cursed himself for always being such a git when it came to love. "I won't let you down, Buffy. I swear on everything I am, everything I can be, I won't."

Buffy pressed his head against her chest and kissed the top of his hair. "I know, baby."

Spike let the steady rise and fall of her breathing lull him to sleep.

"Is Buffy back yet?"

Tara looked up at where Dawn was peeking over the banister. "No."

Dawn sighed. "Spike better bring her home tonight. I know they like to sneak off to his crypt after patrol and do things that my young mind should not even begin to contemplate, but…"

"They'll be here," Willow said. "I talked to Spike. He said he'd keep her out long enough to let us set up, and then he'd bring her home. No patrol hanky panky." Willow shook her head, trying to clear those thoughts from her mind.

There was the sound of a key in the door, and everyone froze. Dawn ran from the stairs to the living room, joining the others. Buffy walked into the house, Spike not far behind her. She walked into the living room, frowning when she saw the decorations. She whispered to Spike "So this is why you made me come home. I'll get you later." Then out loud, to the rest of the group, "I thought I requested no more Buffy birthdays."

"Aw, come on, Buff. You're twenty-one. That's milestone," Xander said.

"Yes," Anya agreed from his side. "You can drink now. Legally."

"But the bad birthday tradition…" Buffy whined, visions of apocalypses dancing in her head.

"I say it's high time we break that tradition," Giles said.

"I'm with Giles," Willow replied. "No badness tonight. Just friends and…" She smiled, shaking a small, wrapped box. "And presents."

Buffy's eyes lit up then. "Oooh. Presents. Presents are good." She plopped down on the couch between Willow and Tara. "Can I have the presents now?"

"Whatever the birthday girl wants," Willow replied, handing one to Buffy.

Spike watched as Buffy opened her gifts from her friends, a playful glint in her eyes. He turned to Giles. "Sometimes I wonder if maybe not all that spell wore off."

Giles smirked. "She does still seem to have that young girl squeal down pat."

Spike nodded, chucking to himself as Dawn blamed her homemade present on Buffy's refusal to let her get a part time job. Buffy hugged her sister, telling her anything from her wonderful. Spike smiled, feeling a warmth spread through his long-dead body at the sight of his girls. He'd do anything for the Summers women, and he made sure every day that they knew it.

"You really love them, don't you?"

Giles's almost-whispered question startled Spike. "Yeah, I do."

"I didn't approve of you and Buffy at first—still don't really—but I think, in a way, you're good for her. You make her smile. I…I hadn't seen Buffy really smile in a long time."

"All I want is for her to be happy."

"I know." Giles paused. "But if you hurt her…"

"I know the drill, Watcher. But don't worry—I hurt Buffy, and I walk into the next sunrise myself."

"Good. Save me the trouble." Giles gave Spike a smile just warm enough to be cordial, but that also let Spike know without a doubt that the other man was entirely serious in his threats.

"Spike, come here! Look at this—Xander made me a weapons chest!"

"I helped with the varnish," Anya said.

Spike gave Giles a nod, then went to Buffy, kneeling beside her. "There's slots for my daggers," Buffy said with a big smile. She jumped up, hugging Xander tightly. "You're the bestest best carpenter friend ever."

Xander chuckled. "Thanks. Glad you like it."

"Good craftsmanship, Harris," Spike agreed.

"Nice to know I'm good at something," Xander replied with a smirk. He hated to admit it, but when Spike wasn't trying to kill him, the guy wasn't half bad.

"So is there cake?" Buffy asked, getting into the birthday mode despite her earlier protests. "The birthday girl wants cake."

"I'll go get it," Tara said. "Willow, come help me with the candles?"

"Great," Dawn muttered as the two witches went into the kitchen. "Now it'll be forever until we see any baked goodness…"

"I'll go in there and supervise," Anya said with her usual bright grin. "Make sure they don't start having sex and let the ice cream melt."

Buffy leaned against Spike, letting him hold her loosely around the waist. She kissed his cheek before looking around the room at her friends—her family. She smiled, contentment washing over her.

It may not be Heaven, but it was certainly the next best thing.

That night, Buffy lay in her bed with Spike beside her. "Definitely the best Buffy birthday ever," she said, a sleepy, dreamy expression her face. "I got to midnight without and destruction or mayhem."

"Well, there was a bit of mayhem during the charades incident…" Spike replied.

Buffy groaned. "Could we please not talk about that—ever, ever again?"

"Suits me just fine, pet," Spike replied. From beside his head, came a loud rumbling purr. "I think Larry agrees, too."

"That's Frank."

"Whatever." Spike was quiet for a moment, then spoke again. "I never gave you your present."

Buffy rubbed against him. "I thought that was my present."

"No, that was just me taking advantage of a slightly tipsy recent twenty-one year old," Spike replied.

"Oh," Buffy replied with a giggle. "Well, it was definitely to my advantage, too."

Spike got out of the bed, despite Buffy's protests, and went to his duster across the room. He reached into the pocket, then came back to the bed with a small, black velvet box. "Here."

Buffy opened it, tears springing to her eyes as she saw what was inside. She took out the small silver and garnet ring, similar to the one she had given to him. Inside was an inscription, responding to what was on his ring.

Never forget. Love, William.

"Do you like it?" Spike asked, a hint of nervousness in his voice. Buffy handed it back to him, and his face fell. "You don't…"

Buffy shook her head. "I do. I…" She sniffed. "Put it on me, you big idiot."

Spike smiled then, relief coursing through him. He kissed her left hand softly before slipping the ring onto her finger. He knew the symbolism of the act, but Buffy didn't protest. She wore his mark on her neck—she may as well wear his ring, too.

They lay back down, Buffy resting her hand on his chest, regarding the ring. "Thank you, Spike. It's…it's beautiful."

"I was afraid you wouldn't like it," Spike admitted. "Thought it might be…I don't know, too much of a commitment thing for you."

"This is a commitment thing, Spike. You have total-commito Buffy." She playfully poked his chest. "You're stuck with me, mister."

"I can think of worse fates."

Buffy smiled. She kissed Spike's chest gently once before settling down and closing her eyes. "Love you," she murmured as she drifted off.

"Love you, too," Spike replied. "Always."

That's the end. There is no more. Well, of this fic anyway. I have lots more plot bunnies, threatening my life if I don't listen to them and get to writing. (Anya was so right about the bunnies…)

Leave a review and let me know what you thought. Or you can write me an email. I love getting email. It makes my day. -

Also, I wanted to apologize for how long it took me to post the final chapter of this story. I've had it done for a while, but first this site wasdown, and then I had computer problems and couldn't get to my files. Sorry! Hope it was worth the wait.