Four months later

"Have you ever considered not celebrating your birthday?" Spike asked into the curve of Buffy's neck, basking in her heat and scent. "Seeing how we ended up with wall-to-wall vomiting?" He was lying on his side, head propped up on one hand, the other hand resting on Buffy's bare waist, fingers tracing idle patterns on her skin. He felt as snug as a bug in a rug, spooning her like that.

"Nuh, this was a good one," Buffy said cheerfully, leaning against him and pushing her feet deeper under her flowery covers. "Nobody got killed, cut, drugged or woke up evil. Okay, we could have done without the whole food poisoning thing, but hey, that tea Tara whipped up took care of that. Plus, I got to see your friend Clem beat Anya at Monopoly. Trust me, it was a great party. Better than great."

Spike nibbled on the enticing shoulder before him, scraping blunt teeth lightly over soft skin that shimmered golden in the light of twenty-one burning candles. "Party isn't over yet," he murmured, his voice sultry. He rocked his hips lightly.

"Don't you ever get enough?" she asked, but there was laughter in her voice.

"What can I say? 'S part of my sinister vampire charm," he quipped, but then he grew earnest. "I'll never get enough of you. Never."

"How do you know?" Buffy asked, matching his seriousness. She turned around until they were lying face to face. "You fell out of love with Drusilla. After a hundred years. Not that I'm complaining or anything. And Cecily. You loved her."

"I did," Spike agreed.


He leaned forward to kiss the tip of her nose. "Love you more."

"Why?" she asked. "I mean, how do you know?" It wasn't that she doubted his words, but there were times when she simply didn't get it; she'd never asked for this power over him. . For a long time she'd thought he only loved her because she was unattainable or because she beat him up a lot. Some twisted vampire thing that had nothing to do with real human love. And now? She was attainable and no longer beat him up – well sometimes she did, but only during training – and yet, he was still here, as annoying, vulgar and full of it as ever. Well mostly. When he wasn't the most sentimental and romantic guy under the sun… er, moon.

"I just do." Spike reached out and brushed a wayward curl out of her face, managing to look smug and smitten at the same time. "You know, Xander asked me the very same thing."

"He did, did he? And when did you two get close enough to have such a personal moment?" She caught his hand and threaded her fingers through his.

"120 years ago."

"What did you tell him?" Buffy asked, genuinely curious. She'd always marveled at how quickly Xander had come to accept un-chipped Spike in their midst and later in Buffy's arms, jibes notwithstanding.

"See, I never got to answer him, cause those stupid Watcher gits turned up. Truth is, I couldn't have answered him even if I'd wanted to."


"Got me thinking, though. Now, promise me you won't laugh."


He grimaced. "Minx."

"Come on, Spike. Spill."

"See, when I was mortal and in love with Cecily it was all very romantic and everything, but if she'd condescended to notice me I wouldn't have had a buggerin' clue what to do with her. You know, the whole pure love deal has its drawbacks." He touched a languid finger to her lips, then trailed it down her chin and throat, and lower still, causing her breath to hitch.

"And Dru?"

"Brilliant sex," he answered promptly. "Loved her too, but completely lacking in the 'pure' department. Not that I missed that. Cause, you know—"

"Evil," she finished the sentence for him, her mouth twitching slightly.

"Exactly." He grinned, but then he grew serious. "Don't get me wrong, Buffy, I know I still am. Evil. Sometimes. It's not something you can turn on and off from one day to the next."

"You're doing fine," Buffy assured him, meaning it.

"That's cause of you. And your stupid friends. You're all insane, you know, trusting me."

"They're your friends too, and yup, big with the insanity."

That remark elicited a smile half incredulous, half besotted and all William. Buffy grabbed his neck and pulled him into a sizzling kiss.

She pulled her head back and looked into his dark blue eyes. "You haven't answered my question, though. Why, Spike? Why me?"

"How many women do you know who can whip an evil creature like me into an upstanding white hat and be a fantastic lay at the same time? I'd be a fool not to love you."

Buffy wrinkled her nose. "Is that supposed to be a compliment?"

"What can I say," Spike said, grinning wickedly, sliding his hand between her thighs. "I'm a bloody awful poet. What did you expect?"

They sank into each other's arms, oblivious to the three hooded figures who floated away, unseen, unheard, and very satisfied with their work.


Authors' Note: We would like to thank all our readers who diligently sent feedback to spur us on, especially those who pestered us for updates. Sorry it took us so long.

Special thanks go (in no particular order) to Liz, Mikelesq, Ladycat, Kimi, Laura, Nmissi, Mr. Estepheia and many more, who beta'd or just had an open ear (or Instant Messenger window).

We will send this off to be beta'd once more, and then I will convert it into an ebook, so people can read it on their PALM pilot. I hope to have a downloadable file in a few weeks time. It will be available at my site (see my profile).

Thank you for your patience and your continued support.

Marcee & Estepheia