Chapter Eleven

There'd been no kiss in her little girl room. Spike laid back the length of her plush bed, holding her tight, and knew he'd never been this close to anyone in his entire life. And all without a kiss or a caress. It felt a lot like how he'd expect Heaven to feel, this giddy sense of comfort. This loving sense of fulfilment. And just like the git he was, he felt the urge to test its validity—to seek the end of something that made him feel so special and wanted if it wasn't truly right.

"Buffy?" he asked, his voice hesitant but hopeful. "You sure this is what you want, luv?"

Buffy giggled, Spike's eyes widening as he looked at her in amazement. Watched her as she propped herself up on her elbow and looked down into his awestruck face. "Spike! I just found out my boyfriend—who I really, really liked a lot before I found out he was a cheating, lying yet adorable soulless vampire—is a soulless vampire. Of course I'm sure this is what I want." Her smile revealed so much of her tender heart, her eyes betraying her sincerity of feeling for him, and all he could do was stare at her in wonder. The simple ecstasy of it crackled on the air around them.

But then he felt the doubt seeping back into his body with the flashing images of her friends and watcher in his mind's eye. His eyes clouded as sadness consumed him. "Don't expect your mates will be half as forgiving or welcoming as you, pet."

He looked down at her comforter and missed the fear that cast a shadow over Buffy's face. Then determination swept it away as her mind was made up.

"They'll be fine." A heavy pause. "We just won't tell them." She avoided his eyes, knowing that she should be seeing a look of censure in them at her behaviour, but suspecting immense relief instead. Buffy could feel the undercurrent of hope and knew that she was making the right decision, even if it provoked derision when everyone eventually found out. But he needed a chance, and she wasn't ready for her friends to judge her fairytale and bring it to an early and less happy conclusion.

Angel's smug face when she told her friends the truth about Spike's lack of soul—and his original plan to take her down—made her feel petulant and fiercer in her need to protect the relationships Spike had formed with her friends.

"And…well…I have to admit it would be funny to see Angel explode from the inside. He's all 'my soul makes me so great. I am the one true soulful vampire; Spike is an imposter. Pick me, Buffy. Pick me!'"

Buffy's attempt to impersonate the brooding whiney voice of the Angel she'd been getting to know was hysterical and Spike couldn't help the small puff of a laugh that escaped his lips.

"Bloody brilliant. You should go into acting, pet."

She looked him up and down with a glint of mischief breaking through the seriousness. "I'd give you a run for your money, blondie."

"Oy! I'll have you know I was being perfectly…'m not gonna get away with that, am I?" he realised with a pout. She'd be onto every evil action now, leaving him totally buggered.

Buffy shook her head, even as amusement kept her smile in place. He was evil—and had been viciously so not so long ago. She couldn't expect him to take up the honesty train completely overnight. That didn't mean she didn't have standards—just that she'd cut him some slack as he moved up to meet them.

A shy searching look and Buffy let her head fall to his shoulder, her hand free to trace slow, light circles over his abdominals. Her fingers stroked over the bump of each muscular ridge, her body thrumming with electrified tingles as quiet breaths seemed forced through Spike's lips. Lids heavy with a desire that wasn't so new since meeting him, Buffy let her eyes close and followed the internal lustiness. She kept her hands innocent even as her mind explored the obscene.

"So, are we okay now? You're all free of insano vamps and duty, etcetera?" Buffy could feel his nod of affirmation against her cheek, his chest moving with the action. Her next words left him rigid, though, but Buffy was too absorbed in her imagination and where their new understanding of each other could lead to. "And you're soulless, though all with the good, right? No eating of the population with a pulse and helping me defend the Hellmouth against those vamps?"

His nod this time was slower, affected poorly by the sudden kick of what this choice would mean for him. It was one thing to start feeling a little peculiar in his belly when he drank his victims down, completely another to recognise it as guilt and give it up in the name of love.

It wasn't really an argument. He had Buffy in his arms right now after expecting her to shove him to the curb. He'd been a lucky bloke and it wouldn't do now to risk it all with her discovering his secret little pastime. So yeah, he was going cold turkey off the happy meals.

He could rip someone's head off about it later.

He watched from the shadows as she led one of the Slayer's friends into the dark. The door of her place was left open, the weakened body slumped against the doorframe as he struggled with a satiated smile and a quickly abandoned attempt to reach out to her. Darla's lip curled in contempt, her demon's eyes glaring at the boy who just wouldn't take the hint. He was useful for some things, it was true, but he'd not yet learned the subtle art of disappearing when she'd had her fill.

"Sweetie." Her voice dripped with saccharine, more than a hint of her impatience for him to be gone in the forceful shove of him out her door. "You really should be getting home. You do have school tomorrow, right?" She tilted her head, knowing that it showed her off to a lovely advantage. He may not be the best toy she'd ever had, but he was sure fun for now. His connection to that frustrating little slayer added to his marketability no matter how annoying his tiresome flirting grew to be.

"Oh. Yeah. I guess." Jesse stared at her unblinkingly for a moment, his eyes dazed and unfocused as the blood made a sludgy trek through his veins.

He swayed drunkenly on his feet and swerved sharply once he lost the support of the building's solid structure. He fell, laughing hysterically as he struggled back to his feet. The sloppily dressed teen missed her flash of irritation as he stumbled again and finally rolled her eyes.

"Guess I took a bit too much this time. Better stay at home tonight and rest up. If you don't replenish your supplies then you are of absolutely no use to me. Understand?" She grabbed his chin and forced him to look her in her amber eyes, her loathing plain for anyone not half drained and drowning in lust to see.

Finally he blinked and instead of rearing back in horror at the monster less than an inch from his face, he grinned, a look of relief and desire making rapid imprints on his features.

"Don't think I can do that, baby." His voice was slurred, his body heavy on his legs as he smirked and looked her curves up and down. He was going for sexy; she thought he was pathetic.

"Look, as much as I don't care if your organs shut down from the loss of blood, I'm not ready yet for your superfreak friend to come bashing down my door. Be a good little stray and scat." She said it like 'boo', obviously thinking she still had enough menace to make him wet his pants, but instead he lunged forwards and latched onto her lips with an amorous kiss.

"Ewwwww, can't you take no for an answer?" A violent push sent Jesse careening against the wall of the next building, his head cracking on the bricks as he slumped down them and flopped on the ground unconscious. She felt such revulsion that her body shook, yet her gaze wandered almost immediately to find another hassle she didn't want to have to deal with.

"If you're planning to stalk me to death, at least be original about it."

Angel fell away from the shadows, his moves slow and calm as he casually walked up to his sire and one time lover.

"You planning on leaving the boy there?" He stared at her, his eyes soaking up the blonde beauty that had rejected him and his soul while he purposefully blocked out the very real existence of the Slayer's friend passed out through injury and loss of blood.

"Believe me, it couldn't have happened to a dumber geek." She turned her back and made to leave him, showing such disdain for his presence that it made his jaw clench and his hands squeeze into tight fists.

"I need your help." The words were out before he could think them out thoroughly, and he cringed at his stupidity when she laughed uproariously. She was beautiful when she laughed—as evil and dangerous as she was at any time, the radiance of her smile always stunned him. It explained so much about him—his attraction to Buffy for one—and he was momentarily startled speechless.

"Why Angelus," she purred as she turned and began to stalk him, her fingers reaching out and walking up his arm to rest with a pat on his chest. "Whatever could I help you with?"

He couldn't miss the malicious glint that challenged him, couldn't suppress the growl that rumbled beneath his breast for the pleasure of her touch. It had been so long, too long since she'd cast him out, rendered him homeless and without family to love and provide for. He'd been a good provider—bringing home the bacon on a viciously regular basis. He felt a momentary pang of disgust before shirking it off and finding her again.

"I need you to help me find out what Spike's up to." His lips were tight as he watched every flicker of emotion on her face. She was an expressive woman, yet usually she settled on derision and flirty, two ends of the spectrum while she pursued her prey.

He'd expected her to refuse. Instead she looked confused which quickly changed to intrigued.

"Why, I thought our baby boy was all shiny like you. Has he been naughty?" Her smile was so infectious, so stunning that Angel often felt she'd inspire a man to breath, counteracting the undead part of his curse.

"Well, I don't know for sure," Angel admitted bashfully, but envy churned in his gut until he could barely stand there without committing violence. The little creep had stolen his life, had slipped in when he wasn't looking to take over his mission and pinch his girl. "I might not have the proof, but I know Spike. You know Spike. No way is he telling the truth. Can't you ask Drusilla?"

Darla waved her hand dismissively at that option. "That fruitloop hasn't said a thing that made sense in over a hundred years. I doubt I can decipher her babble now if my life depended on it. Which it doesn't." A slow disturbing grin spread over her face and consumed Angel in its glory. "But I have an idea." She stepped to the side and they both took in the crumpled form of Jesse. "Meet my own little pet spy. He's got an in with the Slayer. I shouldn't have to promise much for him to do exactly what I want. Lucky for you the boy is so desperate for me that he'll do anything I wish."

Angel cringed. He could feel the weight of his guilt settle heavily on his shoulders, but could feel the futility of his presence in this place even more. Buffy wouldn't need him if Spike were to stay by her side. She wouldn't need his soul, his muscle, or even his affection. It hurt even more that because of him, the biggest mistake of their family, Buffy didn't even want Angel. He'd never been last on the list before. Even soulful the Powers wanted him. Had expectations of him.

Still, his soul rejected he allow his sire to use this human. Angel felt the pain of it as it ate away at the thing in him that fought against evil every day. One more look at the brunette and he closed his eyes, stubborn and selfish need making up his mind. There were always casualties in war.

"Do whatever you need to. I'll be in touch."

And with the swish of his coat he was gone, not even watching as Darla turned her back on her fucktoy and headed back inside.

Jesse didn't even moan as Xander came out of hiding, the fear and shock making him shake violently as he heaved up his friend and dragged him to safety.