A/N: Another thank you to Slaymesoftly for beta-ing! And a huge thank you to everyone who has read the story. Thank you for all your reviews, support, and encouragement! I hope you enjoyed reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it. I really can't believe it's been almost two years since I started it. And I can't believe it's actually finished. :)
By summer, they had moved in together.
It hadn't taken much effort to move Buffy's things once they decided to do it. She'd already gotten rid of a lot of unnecessary junk when she and her mother had moved from L.A. And most of the furniture she had now was left in what was being turned into the guest room, so there really wasn't much to move at all. Joyce seemed genuinely happy for her, but Buffy could tell her mother was going to miss her being in the house. It was true that she had been in it less and less, but being out of it completely was another thing entirely.
She and Spike had also gotten a different place. It was larger, and closer to campus and to her mother's. It was also a little nicer. But more importantly, it felt like a permanent place, not just a passing-through place. Much as she had enjoyed spending time at Spike's, the apartment had also been Spike's. This place was theirs.
But the whole process had been a bit strange for Buffy. Once, when looking at apartments, she'd been struck at just how grownup she felt. She was looking for a place to live, making major purchases, and moving in with someone she intended to stay with for the rest of her life. It was a new chapter.
Spike had been interested enough when they went to see apartments together. They had both agreed on getting a different place. But going shopping for furniture was an exercise in frustration at first. Spike didn't seem to have an opinion at all. She'd sensed that he was trying to be sweet and let her pick things, but she finally said that even if he didn't care about the color of the couch, he had to sit on it, too, and surely he had to like one better than the other.
Buffy had also said that since he was more or less paying for it, she expected him to have just as much say in what they bought. It was permanent stuff for both of them. He'd been more attentive after that. Though she had learned not to bring him every time she went out, instead only asking him to come after she narrowed things down and it was time to make decisions.
The one thing Spike had put his foot down about was the glass kitchen table she liked; he said that they couldn't have sex on it. After considering his point, Buffy started looking at other tables.
Spike had told her about his 'legitimate' money. Buffy supposed it was legitimate, though odd. At any rate, it wasn't illegal, because you could totally call dibs on buried treasure. Getting the gem had been his main reason for digging under the city—apparently the rest was just a bonus. Not long after they got back from L.A., he'd taken her to see it, as promised.
Buffy crossed her arms. "I am not going down there."
"Don't be a sissy. It's perfectly safe."
Buffy dubiously looked down at the jagged hole cut in the stone, which was revealed underneath the rock he had just pushed away. "Nuh-uh," she said. "Changed my mind."
Spike set his lantern down on the uneven floor. "It's not even a three foot drop. You just crawl in. I told you we'd have to get a little dirty."
"I've already gotten dirty. We've walked like half a mile through the sewers. And you didn't mention we would practically be spelunking! Didn't you say you just blasted through it?"
"I blocked that off a long time ago. Couldn't have anyone else findin' things."
Buffy bit her lip, tapping her fingers against her elbow. "You promise this comes out on the other side?"
It had come out on the other side, of course. Buffy wasn't claustrophobic, exactly, but she hadn't liked the idea of getting stuck down there. What if something caved in? But the hole in the floor had opened to a small passageway that got even smaller as it went on. It was uncomfortably close, but it eventually led to a large chamber. In the sharp light of the electric lantern, she could see the glint of gold.
Buffy had walked around, looking at things and sometimes touching them, while Spike slipped several small items in his pocket. There was a good amount of stuff down there. Not a ton, but a good amount. Lots of gold coins and chains, and a few larger, historical looking things, like a crown and scepter. Spike had mentioned that he'd left most of the unique things alone. No one questioned the odd bit of gold, but someone might start asking where he'd gotten something legendary-looking, even in the shady places he sold things at.
"Okay, I don't get it," she said, bringing up something from their previous conversation. "How did having this make you work? Why not just live off this and do whatever you want?"
"Did that for a while. Few years, actually. And I went through—well, more of this than I'd like to admit. Sort of like those blokes that win the lottery and blow it, yeah?" He picked up a gold chain. "Decided I needed somethin' to pad it with, make it last. And to keep up with how I was living."
"What did you do for money before?"
"Just stole it. Enough to get by on, get what I needed. Hard to do that and stay in one place, though. It's different when you're always moving. Also harder to get enough these days with what people carry on them."
"Vampires don't have the patience for credit card fraud?"
Spike snorted. "Also, doin' things was fun. Get paid to do what I like."
Buffy sighed. "It's sad that that makes sense. But that's what they used to tell us on career day—'Find what you like to do, and then find a job that pays you to do it.' But why didn't you tell me about this?" she asked, gesturing around.
"Had to make sure you didn't want me for my money," he said, deadpan.
"I did tell you when it came up. We'd never talked about money and really livin' together before."
"Yeah, I guess. But if this is like your nest egg for eternal life, I don't want to make you spend it."
Spike slipped the chain around her neck. "You're worth spendin' it on." Then he smirked. "Still not spendin' all of it on you, though."
She and Spike had fallen into an easy routine of training during the afternoon and patrolling at night. They used the room at the Magic Box, and Buffy had moved all of her Slayer stuff from her mother's house. The training things went back to the Magic Box, and the rest of the weapons went under their bed. She and Giles never sparred anymore, but they did do focused exercises that were more about muscle control than strength.
Sometimes one or two of the others would come on patrol, but most of the time she and Spike were alone. Everyone had gotten used to the idea of Spike. Even Giles seemed more or less resigned to their relationship. He didn't go out of his way to avoid Spike, and they managed to have mostly cordial conversations when they did speak.
There had been some debate, however, about what to tell everyone about Spike's ability to be out in the daylight.
"I have to tell them something, Spike," she said. "I think they're going to notice eventually."
"Well, you do go out during the day."
"Yeah, but I don't advertise. It usually works out. Not too many vamps about at high noon. And I stay out of the demon section of town."
"Look, I do get you not wanting a bunch of people to know. But I don't think we can avoid telling them. Are you just never going to be seen with me until after sunset?"
"Wasn't seen with you at all for a while."
She rolled her eyes. "And look how well that worked out."
"Do you remember what happened last time someone found out that I had this?" he asked, pointing to his foot.
"Sorry, but I just don't see Willow coming after you with a scythe."
Finally, they had agreed that Buffy would tell her friends that Spike could go out in the sun because of something magical and vampirey, and that was that. That was all they really needed to know. The exact how of Spike being out and about during the day wasn't important. And Buffy did understand his reasons for keeping it secret.
Giles knew about the gem, and that was enough for Spike as it was. Buffy suspected he halfway considered it some sort of vampire failure that two Watchers even knew he had it to begin with.
Giles had also been researching some information related indirectly to her prophecy. It was a project he had started after their defeat of Angelus. He had been reviewing the Watcher Diaries and looking at the Slayer numbers, so to speak.
"You must realize, Buffy, that there are great periods of time that we simply have no accounts for," he said, absently turning a page. "The Council itself is relatively young, compared to how long the Slayer has been in existence, which may very well predate the written word. Additionally—"
Buffy cleared her throat.
"My point being that there is no definitive record of how old the oldest Slayer was. However, the oldest one on record was in her mid to late thirties. It's quite interesting, actually. She lived in India in the seventeenth century. She was something of a rogue, and killed any and all Council members who approached her."
"Why didn't they send someone after her?"
"Until the advent of modern technology, the Council's most powerful weapon was the Slayer, which was why training the girls early was the established practice. But the head of the Council at that time chose to leave her alone, since by all reports she was slaying vampires and demons with much determination and success. It's actually a topic that's debated every now and again—whether he was negligent or enlightened."
"The Council wasn't even originally in Europe," Giles said, looking back at the open book with interest. "It tended to locate itself in the area with the highest level of civilization. However, the English claimed the power of the Slayer as rightfully theirs during the Crusades. At one point, there were actually two Councils who fought each other for control of…"
He had gone on for a bit after that. But the point was, if she was going to be the longest-lived Slayer, it looked like she had more than a few years going for her. Possibly much more, since there was no complete record of the Slayer line. So what if she had to slay for the rest of her life?
It would be a long one, and she wouldn't be alone.
Buffy was officially through with her first year of college. She had just been by the campus to sell her books and get the scores for her finals. She passed with good enough grades, but had come in just under the allowed number of absences, due to her 'car accident' and subsequent hospital stay.
The afternoon was hot but dry, and Buffy put her sunglasses on as she walked to her car. The campus really did look very pretty today, but she was still looking forward to not coming here for a while. Well, not coming here for class. She'd still have to swing by at night and patrol. And she knew the fall semester would come soon enough.
She had been thinking about next year, though. Maybe after it, she would take a break until she could choose a direction to go in. Or maybe she'd only end up doing two years of college at all. There wasn't a particular field she was interested in, and she couldn't think of what type of career she wanted. Maybe just a job would be fine. She had enough to do already with being the Slayer. And it wasn't like she had to worry about saving for retirement. She just needed enough for now. And, well, if she did end up as a seventy-year-old Slayer, she would have no problems with having her young, hot boyfriend take care of her.
Buffy reached her car and unlocked it. She drove out of the parking lot and away from campus, stopping at the grocery store. There were only a few things she needed to pick up, and she was quickly at the register. Buffy handed the clerk her bankcard.
Next semester she was going to look for a job somewhere on campus, though—something to make a little money of her own. She could get some general experience and just do something part-time.
She made it out of the store with only one bag, though she'd bought a hanging plant on impulse to put on their balcony. If she could keep it alive, maybe she'd get some more. A little balcony with brightly colored flowers just seemed like a nice idea.
When Buffy got to the apartment complex, she took her things out of the car and made her way to their door. Spike was home, so it was unlocked.
When she stepped in, Spike was microwaving something in the kitchen, and the TV was on. Buffy set the groceries down.
"Hey." The door shut behind her. "I'm home."