Chapter Ten

She'd not quite forced her stumbling steps to reach home before he caught up with her, seizing her in quivering arms and kissing apologies into her hair. Buffy wasn't in any rush to pull away, she could wait to face the thing that had nearly killed her for a few more minutes while she filed away the smell and feel of him. It was a pity he could tell she was crying—even if it was the great body shaking sobs that clued him in.

She clung to the leather of his coat as she delayed delving into a truth she didn't want to know. Not really. If she was the other woman, then she'd deal, because being held tight in his arms felt more right than being wrong. Felt like something she should fight for rather than give up. But betrayal hurt much more than she'd expected. She never thought it would be something she'd have to face this soon in her life.

Within a minute of the embrace, Buffy realised she was finding it harder to breathe. Having that automatic body function deprived for the second time so soon after the first, she was beginning to think she could develop a complex.

"Spike!" she gasped, feeling the pain in her heart as it spread to her lungs.

Buffy could feel the grit of sorrow on her face as she ducked her head in an attempt to hide. But one of the fingers on a hand that she loved so much slipped along her jaw and lifted her chin, making her see that her eyes weren't the only ones that shimmered.

"I'm sorry, Buffy." And strangely he was. He felt a true glimpse of what it must be like to have a soul and was ever grateful he didn't have one. If this was the kind of pain he'd be stuck with every day for the rest of his existence, then he didn't want a bar of it. Sure, he really preferred to not go through another scene like the last anytime soon, but daily torment he could do without.

"I heard her, Spike." A hard edge entered her voice—an edge that was pure bravado and self-defence. "I heard what she said. That you lied. What about, Spike? And who were you lying to? Her, or me?" Tears of frustrated expectation were again sliding down her cheeks, her nose throbbing and her throat all seized. But this wasn't something Buffy could allow herself to avoid. As much as she didn't really want to know—didn't want to know about HER—there was much experience that told her the dangers resulting from ignoring certainties.

Spike did not look like a man keen on broaching the subject. He looked over her shoulder, searching hard for something that could alter perception so he didn't have to go through this. He'd saved Buffy from Dru's bloodlust—saved her from being hurt—and was on the verge of losing her for good. What did he do then? If he told her the truth, would she still want to know him? Would she still need his lips to kiss her goodnight or would she wipe at them in disgust?

He could choose to tell her nothing. Let another lie pass his lips and come back to bite him on the arse. He didn't want to lose her, but if he did, what then? If he told her the monumental lie that had presented him with the perfect cover to get close enough to kill her and her friends, told her that he'd fallen hard and changed his desire from one of death to life, would she still allow him close?

He didn't think she could. Not as the Slayer. Maybe Buffy could have forgiven his deceit—if she really loved him. But the Slayer would have to punish him, and the worst possible way of doing that would be to withdraw her affections and shut him out of her life. He had no answer to what he would do then. He hadn't completed any kind of transformation toward good, was still reeling from falling for the common enemy of his kind. But he'd been testing himself, trying to hold back on the killing. Well, bloody hell, not really, but he'd been thinking about it. And had cut back. Only one a night—and a quick death, not one as brutal as in his past life. Not one who'd been his plaything for the night—no more chase and consume. Now it was feeding for the sake of it, but becoming something he was getting closer to believing was wrong. Would whatever process he'd begun come to a screeching halt as soon as the damning words fell from his lips and she discarded him completely?

One look at the shadows developing beneath her eyes, her skin pale for the loss of blood, and he knew the choice was not in his hands. Whatever happened after, it was time now to be honest—to be himself. To be Spike. If she couldn't be with him after, well, one step at a time would get him either comfy on the Hellmouth or completely out of the place.

"Pet, can we go somewhere to talk?" He still held her hand, even as she looked warily at the two of them entwined together before squeezing him in what he could only interpret as terrified clinging.

"We can talk at my place," she told him quietly, taking two steps in the direction of her front porch before realising that he wasn't moving. She didn't speak again as she stared at him, hoping the urgency wasn't quite showing.

"Not sure I should, Buffy. Think after this you might not appreciate me having unlimited access to your home."

He was serious, she could tell. And it made her stomach feel all tight and flamey, making cold shivers beat and tickle against her skin.

"Are you having an affair with me?" Buffy couldn't hide the vulnerability she felt, her voice cracking with too much emotion. God, this pain wouldn't stop, not unless he told her it was a mistake and that other woman wasn't his legitimate girlfriend.

Spike looked shocked at his question, then pensive. "Never thought of it like that, but in a way, I guess I am."

Buffy yanked her hand free and backed up toward her house, pain obvious in every wobble of her lip. "How could you do that to me? I thought you l—" She slammed a lid on that line, refusing to bring herself closer to not recovering this blow. If he didn't know, if he didn't suspect…

"I do love you."

Her face was on fire as she stared at him stunned, and then the sobs erupted from deep in her throat as she cursed the weakness of her knees when he was around. He lifted her with grace, and carried her around to the back of the house and cradled her in his arms while he sat on the seat in the garden. It was as private as he was going to get—not wanting to risk her hating that she took him into her house to learn the awful truth about a monster with her in his heart.

"Buffy, I did lie to you—and you wouldn't believe how sorry I am about that—but not about Drusilla. That was more a slip of the mind I guess. I didn't not tell you on purpose, I just forgot about her as soon as I saw you." Spike grinned nervously, his teeth biting his bottom lip while a brow quirked higher. "She was a mite upset that I'd left her for you, I guess, but that's not what she was getting at, luv."

Buffy beat down the panic that threatened to burn her throat with bile. So much already and he hadn't even told her the information she'd requested. What lie had he told? Why, it was looking like the one big fat lie about his hobag betterbe-ex wasn't even the start of it. She was no closer to understanding the cause of her near death experience than she had been before Spike followed her and promised explanations.

The grief in her expression wasn't alleviated even a little with what he'd shared so far and Spike sighed deeply, gathering strength from the fact that she hadn't removed herself from his lap or his touch yet. His arms tightened around her and he looked off passed her shoulder, gaining distance and courage by not seeing the pain he was sure to inflict reflected in her eyes.

"I'm a bad, rude man, Buffy. I was dragged to this place kicking and screaming by my sire—Drusilla, the mad bird you unfortunately met back at the crypt. She was hellbent on reuniting with the family, convinced she'd find Angelus and our unlives would go back to being hunky-dory. Never bloody knew it wasn't, you know? I didn't want to come, but I've been devoted to her for over a century and like the whipped fool I am, I gave in and here we are." He could feel the pressure against the circle of his arms as Buffy tried to push away, could feel the increase in her temperature as she fought an internal battle not to stake him, was his guess. Whatever it was, he was grateful that she hadn't yet broken free and he could finish his tale. It wasn't going to paint pretty pictures for him, but at least he was telling it and not some other interfering wanker that didn't know the full truth.

"It didn't seem so bad a move when I found out the Slayer was here guarding the Hellmouth."

He very clearly noticed the second she stopped breathing, hoping that she would begin again as soon as he rushed in with the rest. "Still, wasn' in any hurry to seek you out. Had my own decisions to make, my own thoughts to sort out. When I met you and your mates in the graveyard…it wasn' intentional, yeah? I wasn't looking for a fight, not right then. Was following, just out of interest. When I helped, wasn't even planning on eating any of your friends. Then Darla gave me an out, a way to be there and look good as well as give me an in to you."

Ah, there it was, the air sucked back into her lungs and the vibrations of her body increased. It broke something vulnerable inside that she was crying and he couldn't stop the need to crush her against his chest and compound the problem with apologies.

"You were going to kill me? So Angel was right?" She didn't act like a chit who just heard her boyfriend had plotted her death. She didn't move away as one would if they feared for their life.

The desperation to never let go was filtering through him and seizing his fingers, causing bruises where he gripped her hard. "I'm a monster, Buffy. Killing slayers is what I do. What I'm known for."

She gasped in horror. "You've killed other Slayers?" And then her wet forest green eyes accused him with all the sadness he'd never been expected to react to. While such weakness in a human always made Angelus laugh, to Spike it reminded him of the moment his mum had caught onto the truth of what he was telling her, what he wanted to share with her.

"Two." The admission he was sure sealed his fate. How could he come back to be anything worth looking at now that she knew what he was and all he'd done before meeting her.

"Why haven't you done it yet?" She searched him deeply, finding something he wasn't sure about but feeling relieved it kept him where she was for now. "You're soulless; there was nothing in your way. I totally trusted you and fell for you. You could have killed me eighty times over. Why haven't you?" The repetition didn't quicken his answer and when it came, Buffy both melted and wished she could take it back and never have to hear it.

"Because I found things in you and your friends I thought I could never have." The tense hunch of his shoulders was enough to herald the world that he was uncomfortable with revealing such a weakness, and that he really didn't want to elaborate. Buffy seemed to settle in his arms, though, and he felt the prickle of tears.

She stared at him for what seemed like hours, the night growing around them and greeting all the routines of its arrival. "You've never been liked before?"

Spike startled, opened his mouth to deny it but knew. No more lies or he could guarantee a brutal end to this heartfelt bare-all. "No, not really."

And she kissed him.

"I like you," she whispered bravely against his lips, trusting her heart and knowing that she could be wrong and end up dead tonight. It was a risk. Every night she wandered around it on her own, prepared with nothing but a pointy stub of wood while some evil demon could take her out whenever one came along that was stronger than her, bigger or just more prepared. She could live each day in fear that a decision she made was wrong, that she was the sole reason people continued to die in this town, or she could just believe in herself and take whatever happiness passed her way.

Spike made her happy, and though he had no soul, he's shown her a great deal more about himself and the way he could love by protecting her and being honest when he could have taken the easy way out.

If admitting that he was with another girl while messing around with Buffy was taking the easy way.

"So, this Dru? She's out of the picture?" Eager eyes watched his and Buffy felt a light inside lit to a powerful flame as he nodded his affirmation.

"Completely," he voiced in wonder, his lips being teased by the presence of hers barely a breath away. "She knows how I feel about you."

She wasn't going to press, already having heard it once—probably only by accident. She could wait longer, determined to give Spike all the time he needed to prove himself to her friends and Giles. She had a feeling that a soul wasn't as big a deal as Angel made out. If Spike could change his whole world around for her without one, then was she really supposed to be impressed by Angel's mediocre efforts with one?

She could feel an eyeroll coming on and to prevent an immersion into Angel annoyance, she snuggled deeper into Spike's arms, feeling his affection in the unconscious efforts to breathe as well as his tight hug.

"Spike?" Buffy made a decision, ignoring the implications if she was wrong. No way did she believe Spike was still planning to kill her. Not even an evil vampire filled with hate could sustain this level of intimacy with just the desire to kill her to fuel him.

No trace of her decision had passed through to him yet, his shoulders stiffening for the rejection Buffy suspected he felt sure was coming his way. He was so gorgeous, all wounded and unhappy at the thought of everything between them being irretrievable.

"Come into my home, Spike." Buffy bit her lip as his awestruck gaze bathed her in happiness.

"Buffy?"

He didn't move until she'd moved upright, linking their fingers and leading him to her back door. She opened it, and slowly dragged Spike through it. Progress to her room was slow, eyes locked as they trod each step carefully. Buffy tugged him down fully clothed onto her bed and quickly positioned herself for healthy and happy vampire snuggles.

"Spike, I really like you."