Buffy jumped at the shock of sound that greeted her on her first step into Spike's place.

"You guys know that surprising a slayer is never a good thing, right?"

Only a jumble of laughter met her claim and she was guided straight away to cake and presents, everyone seemingly in a rush for her to celebrate her birthday. And within an hour they were all out the door—her mother, Giles, Ms. Calendar with a very happy smile on her face, a cranky Cordelia gripping the arm of an uncomfortable Angel—sans hand—Willow and her new date, Oz, and last but not least, a beaming Xander being led by a rather forceful Anya. They were carrying an overnight bag as they followed the others out into the brisk night.

Spike slammed the door closed behind them, then moved a heavy cupboard behind it. Buffy raised a confused brow and waited impatiently for his explanation.

"Only Peaches could crack through that one. Not taking any bleeding chances. Tonight, the Slayer is off duty!"

Buffy grinned and launched herself into his arms, her legs winding around his lower body like she had done the first time they'd been together, though this time was slower, less impulse driven and stamped with the approval of love.

When their lips finally met it was like an explosion of memory and experience. It was the culmination of years of miss-match and misunderstanding.

Buffy was through being lost. In his lips she found so much: safely, security, wealth, knowledge. But most of all, in Spike she found love. She found a vampire who struggled against his nature to be worthy of love. He struggled against his third slayer to prove his worth.

All of her loved him. The Buffy who tauntingly held her slender neck out to him while he sat chained and starving in a tub—loved him. The Buffy who craved his presence over and above her friends when they ripped her out of Heaven—loved him. The Buffy that beat him to a pulp and left him to greet the sun in a dirty alley—so loved him. Loved him so much it almost hurt to not touch him. She tried to make him see it all with her lips, know her heart by the way her flesh soothed him.

Buffy's body slid down Spike's slowly, sensually as she wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him to her with so much more emotion than he had ever been used to. Her tongue licked his at a leisurely pace, feeling the heat of her mouth cool against his. The way he kissed her made her body burn, made her tremble in want and frustration that he wasn't inside her quick enough.

But that wasn't what it was about tonight. Tonight was her birthday and she had promised him something. Had been looking forward to it for months and on too many occasions had almost given in. When Spike let his lips softly fall from hers, Buffy felt like she'd been stampeded by a herd of angels. So light, yet beaten with his kindness, with the purity of his love.

"Promise I'll be everything you deserve, Buffy. I'll go to the ends of the earth to be what you need."

The declaration was a shock. Buffy stepped back and felt fear creep up inside her, felt the ever-present tears push at her throat to make her weak.

"What are you talking about? You're already everything I need. I don't want you to change to be better for me. What makes you think it isn't me that needs to change to be deserving of you? You never beat me up and left me to die."

She'd finally revealed it to him, the insecurity that came with being both Buffy's at once. She saw that he understood within a second. She'd avoided talking about what had happened when she'd left him, hadn't told him that she knew everything. That she had become whole.

His sudden look of guilt made her gasp.

"Buffy, I'm a bad rude man. I don't deserve you. I said you belonged in the dark because I was afraid of what I would have to do to stand in the light. I'm not afraid anymore."

His meaning almost shocked her to her knees. "Are you talking about your soul?"

His uncertain nod made her feel sick.

"No! Stop it. How could you let me do this to you?"

"Buffy, what? You didn't—"

"You're good, Spike! You saved Giles's life. You gave Xander a place to belong and be safe. You gave me back my life; you healed me. Your heart is so big, Spike. Why do you think you need a soul? To prove to me you're good?"

Another of those nods and Buffy couldn't help but fall to the floor and cry, remnants of old broken Buffy finally realising what she did to the man she loved.

"Please don't do this. I love who you are. What you've done. Having a soul couldn't have made you any more perfect. You did it all on your own. You're demon did it all on its own. A soul has nothing else to offer you, Spike. Can't you just keep being who you are and love me?"

It was a moment like when he'd first spied her alive on her stairs, that feeling of awe as he watched the one he thought never to see again come back to him.

"How did it happen?" His eyes were filled with tears, letting him just watch her hoping and waiting with an ache in his heart.

"After I saw you with Anya I went to Giles. He took me on the quest in the desert. You know, like the night you got the bot?" She couldn't hold back the giggle as he immediately looked to the floor and put his hands in his pockets. Her hands itched to touch him, and her arms ached to hold him. "You never knew, but that first time I went was because I thought I'd lost the ability to love. My guide told me I was full of love and that death was my gift."

His eyes met hers in an alert urgency, fear obvious in their shine.

Buffy nodded. "She said that death is my gift again. Last time I died to save Dawn. This time, they gave me you."

She was going to get high on that look. Every time he shot her with awe, she was going to float.

"That's not all," she warned against his smile, sighing happily as he finally took her into his arms and squeezed her as tight as all worthy superheros could. She whispered the secret in his ear, feeling comfortable for the first time with Willow bringing her back from the dead. Buffy had been given life four times: by her mother, by Xander, by Willow and then finally, by Spike. He may not have inspired her breath as the other three, but he had made her heart beat and forced her to open her eyes to the glare. And now she had the gift of immortality—the gift of belonging forever to the one who deserved it the most.

Buffy hadn't been prepared for his shaking body. She already felt weak with happiness, so when his knees gave out she couldn't hold them both up. They landed on the floor with Spike crying into her neck.

"Ssh, " she murmured, stroking his back even as she fought to keep her own eyes dry. "I love you, Spike. This Buffy, and the Buffy you left behind. All of me belongs to you. I want to do what we talked about. Please?"

"Are you sure it's what you want, pet?"

"What are you? Crazy vamp? This is so what I want it isn't even funny. Besides, you didn't even give me a birthday present." And she levelled him with a pout.

"Is that my lip?" he asked with a narrow fascination.

"Could it be anybody else's? You gonna get it?" She squealed as he took her, mashing his mouth against hers even as she angled them back. His body moved over hers to push her into the carpet, his lips nibbling and rubbing over hers as her tongue added a slick wash over their flesh. She sucked his tongue into her mouth and feasted hungrily, feeling it all as his hard body made her ache to feel his skin.

As his tongue swiped over her teeth, her body began to fidget, to almost hum beneath him as her fingers found the edges of clothing that needed to be so gone. He let go of the suction on her mouth as she tore his t-shirt over his head, bracing himself against the floor as he lifted himself up slightly and her busy fingers released the zip on his jeans. A little shimmy, a bit of grunting and he was naked—gloriously hard and ready.

Buffy was already sliding off her shoes, scratching the itch on her back as she wriggled against her skirt and then Spike was ripping her top down the centre. As his lips latched around an eager nipple, Buffy clung to his hair and ground her pelvis into the hard column of his cock. Damn it, they just weren't aligned right. She could feel the slow seep of his anxiety to feel her rubbing into her skin, and she wanted it lower, needed him to slip against and inside her.

So, she moved. Forcefully dragged him up and wound her legs around his waist, directing him straight into the comfort of her body. She sighed as he slipped against her, the ride smooth and slow, never allowing her eyes to miss any of his wonderful expressions as he grasped it all. This Buffy. His Buffy. Forever.

He stilled inside her, breathing hard against her throat as he took it all in.

"I can't believe this. This is really happening?"

He began to move inside her in time to her affirmative nod, the happiness engulfing them both as Buffy kissed every inch of his skin she could reach.

"Yes. It really is."

The build-up was different this time, more intense maybe for knowing what was to come next. Two sets of fangs had laid claim to her throat, but neither time was it what she wanted. She was not quite so naïve as her younger self, not believing the honour of being chosen unless love came with it.

This time, it was beyond honour. Was beyond the purest form of love. Beyond them as she felt the smallest prick in her throat, felt his cool lips settle around the penetration, and her head and heart buzzed with the sense of bliss she felt. She could feel Spike's tongue as he gently lathed the skin, encouraging the blood to flow without him actively sucking on it. Her pussy tightened around him, feeling the gush of her blood as he pulsed against her walls. They'd barely raised an energetic sweat this time, but the intensity broke cold prickles on her skin.

And then she felt it. Felt every element of herself, felt the vulnerabilities of her lover as he joined his existence to the duality of hers. Felt his soul as he merged his essence—completed his journey. Like it was always supposed to have been, though she'd been too wounded, damaged to see it. And he'd been too scared to change for it. Tried to take the easy way, only for the difficulties to mount. A second chance had brought understanding and knowledge all round.

And then he came, the cold spurt of him making her muscles release the tension and milk him avidly.

Her look of awe made him float.