¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤ Lightly She Steps ¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

The following morning she woke up well rested and feeling much better about the whole thing. She actually didn't think yesterday had been as bad as she had thought during its various events. It had worked out for the best, helping to eliminate a dark cloud and allowing her to see the sky behind it; that was never a bad thing. She jumped out of bed and grabbed a towel, opening the door silently as Willow was still asleep and sliding out into the hall taking her to the bathroom.

She turned the knob and pushed the door open, stepping into the room and then halting as her eyes met the surprised ones of Spike. Her mouth fell open by its own accord, as all of him was on display. And he was dripping wet. She realized she was staring at the pure avidness of his torso, bandage free and without a scar in sight, and forced her gaze back into his.

"Don't you lock the door?" she got out and he raised one shoulder in a shrug.

"Didn't think anybody was up."

"Well... I'm very much up."

"So I gather," he smirked. "You're not blushing, are you?"

"Does Giles know you're in here?" was all she could think of as a retort.

"This is the one room I actually feel at home in this place, he wouldn't be petty," Spike replied. "Besides, I'm only taking your advice, love. Bloke can't exactly blame me for that," he added and now she did blush.

"Yeah, well, hurry up and finish, please," she said, taking a step back and pulling the door shut with her.

Her heart was positively pounding and she leaned against the wall, feeling frail all over. Well, now she knew one thing that sure hadn't been all in his imagination. She felt absolutely absurd, though. It wasn't normal for her to feel as though she could throw herself over him if he'd only look at her a certain way. She didn't enjoy it.

On the other hand, she did. It made her feel sexy and desired and strong. Not good at all.

The door opened and she jerked slightly. He stepped through it, towel wrapped around his hips. She swallowed, smiling forcedly.

"All yours," he said.

"Thanks," she replied, catching herself watching him walk away and hurrying in through the door, slamming it shut and locking it.

She checked twice that it was actually bolted and then she turned the shower on. Getting undressed her skin was so sensitive that the touch of her own fingers seemed to send her blood boiling, her nipples hardening almost painfully and she closed her eyes as she stepped under the running water. And all she had to do was give him a sign and he'd let her claim him.

Buffy! she reprimanded herself.

No, she knew she couldn't do that to him.

This day seemed to turn out a lot harsher than the previous.

There was the sky, there was the moon, and she had no choice but to hide from all its glory. It was cruel, it was.

She dried herself off with defeated movements.

This so sucks, she muttered in her head, wrapping the towel around her and hesitating before she opened the door and stuck her head out through the slit she had created.

All was clear.

She slid outside and continued into the guestroom, closing the door behind her with her heart in her throat.

Is this how it's gonna be now? she wondered. I avoid him just to make sure I don't...

She shook her head at herself.

Or he doesn't, she continued the thought, thinking of last night and the kiss he had been able to make her share just by touching her.

She felt like crying, but held the tears back.

You can't, she told herself. Not with him. Not with him.

She got dressed, brushed her hair, and joined the others for breakfast.

She frowned when she entered the living room.

"Where's Spike?" she asked casually as she had a seat at the table.

"He had to go," Willow replied, handing her the bread.

"He did?" Buffy wondered, taking a roll and passing the bread to Xander.

"Yeah."

"Did he say why?"

She barely noticed that she got all eyes on her at that.

"No, he just had to go," Xander was the one who replied. "But while we're on the subject – what happened between you when you shared your brains? Honestly."

She looked innocent, pouring herself some coffee.

"What do you mean, 'happened'?"

"What made him do the big one-eighty? Go the heart-o-bleedy? You've got to have done something to him. What was it?"

She swallowed the piece of roll she was chewing with a smile.

"I didn't do anything."

"You must've done something," Giles remarked and she raised her eyebrows.

"I didn't. Maybe it's the goodness of my nature that rubbed off on him, made him see the big errors of his ways. I honestly don't know," she finished with a look at Xander. "You're not gonna join in?" she then asked Willow, who merely gave her the strangest smile and went back to reading the newspaper.

¤

"He's in love with you," Willow stated half an hour later as they were making the bed of the guestroom, and Buffy's eyes met hers instantly. "Isn't he?" Willow added when there was no further reaction from her friend and Buffy nodded. "You could've told them that."

"How could I have told them that?" she asked, sitting down on the half-made bed.

"You believe him," Willow said and Buffy's head turned to her with a miserable expression, making the Wicca sit down beside her, placing an arm comfortingly around her. "But if he's on our side, then that's a good thing. Just look at what he did yesterday. We never could've pulled it off without him."

"I know," Buffy said. "I know," she repeated, this time it coming out as a whine as she buried her face in her hands.

Willow observed her for another moment, then asked:

"What do you feel?"

Buffy took her time searching for the right words, then mumbled:

"Evil."

"What?" Willow asked, smiling.

"I can never feel what he feels, Will," Buffy answered, lifting her head and the miserable being even clearer. "How could I? So what am I supposed to say to him?"

"You tell him the truth, that's all he can expect from you," Willow said and Buffy buried her face in her palms again.

"The truth," she murmured.

Willow eyed her disheveled appearance and then she asked gently:

"Do you like him, then?"

Buffy paused before looking briefly at Willow, and then she nodded unnoticeably. Tears started falling after it and she leaned into Willow, hiding her face against her shoulder as Willow wrapped her arms around her in a hug.

"Oh," she said comfortingly, stroking her hair. "It's okay," she said, but Buffy's sobs merely grew louder at that. Willow couldn't help but smile, holding her friend closer. "It's okay."

"It's so confusing," Buffy sniffled.

"I know confusing," Willow smiled, patting Buffy's head. "It'll be alright."

Buffy held her friend tighter at that.

¤

Spike brought the lighter to the piece of paper in his hand. Its corner began to glow and then caught fire. He put it with the others in the trash can. They were ashes now. Soon all of them would be. Her face disappearing into the soot. He had drawn her to try and get her out of his mind, but now the wall holding her was coming down. He couldn't look at it without feeling its wrong.

He grabbed the mannequin and threw it into the hole in the wall leading to the tunnels, leaning with his hands against the stones, closing his eyes in frustration.

"I know I asked for a fireplace, but this isn't bohemia," Harmony's voice stated behind him.

He had completely managed to block her out. Now he turned to her. She was looking into the can with a disliking frown.

"What's going on here?" she asked.

"Redecorating," he replied.

"Without me!" she exclaimed. "I'd like something yellow and orange, like a warm summer theme with maybe something coral..."

"Harm," he interrupted her, approaching her and she blinked, looking quizzical. "You need to go."

She furrowed her brow.

"Where? Do I have to guess again, 'cause you know I hate that."

"No," he said gently, having her focus on him. "It's over."

"What is?"

"This."

It took another moment for her to get it, and then she gaped with indignation.

"You're breaking up with me!"

He kept down the biting remark he almost replied with and instead he nodded.

"Well!" she said, turning around with her hair flying into his face before stalking up to the chest holding most of her belongings.

She opened the suitcase next to it before leaning forward and grabbing an arm's full of clothes.

"You can just regret this for the rest of eternity for all I care," she stated, throwing the clothes into the suitcase and diving into the chest for more. "You think, after all I've done for you, supporting you with the Slayer business and always sticking up for you when demon's are all oh-he's-batting-for-the-good-guys and playing your stupid sex games, that you won't regret it, you've got another thing coming. You'll miss me."

He kept down the smirk, trying to feel sorry for her, but finding it too difficult and so he merely exited up the ladder. He considered closing the trapdoor, but discarded it. A familiar scent filled his nostrils and he turned his eyes on the door, his head tilting slightly to the side as his gaze met Buffy's.

"Hi," she said tentatively.

She must have just stepped inside.

"Hi," he replied with a slight smile.

How he had hoped she'd show.

"Everything okay?" she asked. "You... just left."

"Everything's fine," he answered. "Just had this thing I needed to do."

"Oh. And you did it?"

"Taken care of."

"And did I mention I hate it when you smoke inside, and that cheap scotch you buy – yuk!" Harmony's voice rang from below.

Buffy's eyebrows rose.

"Quarreling?"

"No, no. She's always loud when she packs, helps her think."

Buffy smiled a little.

"Going somewhere?"

"Yes, she's leaving Sunnydale. I told her I can't protect her from you anymore. She's scared for her life... or what you wanna call it."

"And another thing," she now yelled. "I think you should see someone about this obsession you have with the Slayer! It's not healthy! Especially since you can squash her about as much as you can squash a spider – which is not. Look at this place! Webs everywhere. I'm glad I finally get to leave without having to feel sorry for you! And, f.y.i. – you can take that ugly thing you call a coat and shove it up your..."

Spike kicked the trapdoor shut with a strained smile.

"She seems very clear-headed," Buffy nodded.

"You don't like my coat?" he asked, surprised.

"No, I like it!" she assured, checking herself and smiling again. "I mean, I do," she admitted. "But you do have a lot of webs," she added and his smile softened. "And an obsession?"

"Don't think it has anything to do with you, love, I've had that for decades."

"Charming."

He smirked.

"Look, these past few days have been..." Buffy began, but the trapdoor was pushed open and Harmony's eyes widened at the sight of her, at first with clear fright, and then sudden dismay.

"Wonderful," she huffed, climbing up. "Guess I shouldn't be surprised, should I?" she added with a glare at Spike, before turning to Buffy, asking: "Heard I was leaving?" Buffy raised her eyebrows. "Fine," the vampiress stated, getting into a very questionable fighting stance. "I have to warn you, I've been practicing."

Buffy bit back a smile, turning her eyes in Spike's. He, on the other hand, couldn't hold his amusement back.

"Harm," he said, as he concluded Buffy didn't want to make herself part of this situation. "The Slayer's here on business, not to pick a fight."

Buffy cocked one eyebrow at that and he smirked slightly, Harmony's eyes going suspiciously from him to Buffy.

"What sort of business?"

His gaze met the Slayer's, and he wasn't sure what he could see in her expression.

"The settling-of kind," he answered Harmony, Buffy smiling unnoticeably.

"Sure, I'll get out of your way, just came up to grab a candle stick that happens to be mine," Harmony said, slipping past Spike, stopping as she reached Buffy. "I just have to say I really appreciate your not staking me, I think I've more to accomplish then living in a tomb with that," she said, giving Spike another glare at the last word. "And also, I've always admired your hair. Do you use a special kind of shampoo?"

"Harm!" Spike growled and she shrunk back before grabbing the candle stick in question, made out of porcelain and shaped as a rather elaborate unicorn, Spike feeling gratitude to be rid of the thing, and then she moved back to the trapdoor, disappearing down it with one last furious look at him.

"I'm taking the tunnels!" she called up. "Don't even think of following me, even when you realize what you've done. It's too late. I'm out of your life, Blondie Bear."

With that she was gone, and the Slayer and the Vampire faced one another again, silence reigning for a short while until Spike asked:

"Want a drink?"

"After 'Blondie Bear'?" She looked thoughtful for a second, then finished: "Yes. Please."

He smirked; going into the nook he called a kitchen. He grabbed two glasses and the whiskey bottle he kept there and rejoined her where she had taken a seat in the armchair. He poured her some of the liquid, handing her the glass before doing the same for himself. They glanced at each other, but neither said a toast as they brought the glasses to their lips. Buffy had a sip, making a face at the sting of the alcohol. Spike swallowed the whole of the contents down in one swoop and grabbed the bottle again.

"Spike..." she said, but he shook his head a little.

"Slayer, we really don't have to..."

"No, we really do. I really do," she disagreed and he rested his eyes in her for a long moment, before he put the bottle back down, his glass refilled, and leaned back slightly in wait for her to continue. "Now I'm not sure what I wanna say," she mumbled, looking down at the drink in her hands.

"You started it off well enough before. 'These past few days...'," he reminded and she smiled a small smile, bringing the whiskey to her lips once more, sipping it, making another face and having her gaze back in his.

"It's weird how they feel like a dream, isn't it? It was so real when we were in the middle of all of it," she said and he nodded. "Sure taught me a lesson," she mumbled. "Or was that you?"

He smiled crookedly and she returned it, having another taste of the whiskey before holding the glass up, having a look at the amber-colored fluid.

"How cheap is this, exactly?" she inquired.

He furrowed his brow.

"It's decent enough," he replied, offended.

She smiled, raising her eyes to his face. The way she looked at him soothed away any harm her words might've caused, but he didn't return the smile until she said:

"Bad joke."

"What would you have me treating you to?" he wondered, smile still present.

"I didn't come for a treat," she replied, putting the glass down and turning her gaze back in his, finding him squatted down before her.

She felt a surge of careful need when she took in his hands, knowing how tenderly they could touch her, and how powerfully they could entice, convince. She clenched her jaws together, pushing the urges back down.

"What did you come for?" he asked silently.

"You said it yourself – the settling of business."

"Business?"

"The defining of business, then," she said. His smile faded and she swallowed, wanting to stop, but knowing that he needed to hear this; and that she had to say it. "What you did, you didn't just help save me, you saved them. You saved Dawn."

"I didn't..."

"I believe in you," she stopped him and he stared at her, slowly straightening himself up and she stood as well. "I've seen the good in you. I've felt it. And I want it with me."

"What're you saying?"

"Right here, right now – a clean slate. That's all I can offer you."

"Join the Gang? Fight the good fight? Alongside the witch and Apeface?"

"Alongside me," she said.

He eyed her for such a long time that she began to grow uncomfortable, his gaze always seemed to see exactly what was moving in her soul and it made her feel the need to fidget.

"Is that all you want?" he asked and she tensed slightly as he took a step closer.

He noticed it, his eyes unrelenting now. She hesitated, but finally answered:

"No. No, it isn't." She paused, holding his gaze. "I do want you," she then said. "But you love me." He furrowed his brow. "You love me," she repeated simply, turning and heading up to the door.

"Buffy," he stopped her and she looked back at him.

"I can't stay," she said at the nearly pleading expression he wore. "Spike, I don't love you," she added, barely able to say the words since she knew how they would cut him.

And she could see it, his face saddening itself into something not far from innocence.

He was William once more.

She reached for the door handle, and his stance shifted itself into being all Spike; something fiercely self-assured coming over him as he held her gaze before he said:

"You will."

She watched him for a short moment, but then she had to smile, shaking her head just a little at him as she stepped out through the door, wondering what the fates would throw at her next.

A herd of fire-spouting dragons? A nest of Master vamps? A spell that turns people inside out? Whatever it is, bring it on. I'm ready for it, she thought. I am so ready for it.