Disclaimer: I own nothing, sadly, so don't sue me, pretty please!

Summary: After Life Serial, Spike finds out Buffy's been working somewhere... When he tries to help, they stumble into something else. Spuffy deliciousness and fluff, with a teeny tiny bit of angst and plot thrown in. Enjoy!

~Kitten


-1-

"DAWN! You're going to be late for school again! Get your ass down here!" Buffy finished making the sandwich for Dawn's lunch, muttering to herself. "If she doesn't get down here, I swear to God-"

"Din't know you were religious, pet," a husky British voice said from behind her. Buffy didn't even bother turning around.

"Spike. Couldn't pick a less flammable time of day to bother me?" She slipped Dawn's lunch into a bag, finally turning around. Dawn was still a no-show, so she stomped over to the staircase.

"I'm serious Dawn! If you aren't down here in ten seconds I'm coming up there and hauling you out half-dressed!" Spike marveled at the volume that girl could yell at.

"She'll get down here," Spike said calmly. Buffy waited the aforementioned ten seconds before bellowing again.

"Dawn! Get the fuck down here!" Dawn's hurried steps were suddenly heard.

"I'm coming!" she cried. She sounded scared, and Spike had to admit he was a bit too. He'd never heard Buffy talk like that. He liked it.

"I'm sorry! I couldn't find my shoes," Dawn said, racing down the stairs. Buffy handed her the lunch bag as she dashed out the door.

"If you get another detention, you're grounded for a month," Buffy threatened. Dawn nodded as she ran towards school.

"Well that was interesting," Spike commented, leaning against a wall. "Din't know you talked like that, Goldilocks."

"Apparently you don't know much about me, Spike," she snapped, then frowned. She didn't really want to be mad at Spike; it was just so easy to be. He was always so nice to her, even though she knew that was just so he could get closer to getting in her pants. She sighed and ran her hand through her hair.

"I know your favorite color is red," Spike murmured. "I know you hate when Dawn gets anchovies on her pizza. And I remember from that spell Red did years ago that you taste like honey when I kiss you. And I know you're not really mad at the Bit."

"She's had detention three times this month," she said, looking up at him. "She's always late. Her grades are terrible, and on top of all that, Social Services called me yesterday." Spike's jaw dropped.

"They're taking her away?" His heart was breaking.

"They're 'concerned'," she said, air quoting. "They're going to keep an eye on her school records, and inspect the house soon. And they said that if I don't get a job that sticks, they'll send her to my dad."

"Over my dead body," Spike said. Dawn had told him all about the Summers patriarch.

"Your dead body can't do anything about it," she said. "Maybe it would be better if she went with him. At least she'd be taken care of."

"Buffy, you take fine care of her," he said, taking a step towards her. She instinctively stepped back. His jaw tightened and he took another step. Her back was to the wall, leaving her with no way out as he cornered her.

"What do you want, Spike?" she demanded.

"To talk, Slayer," he growled.

"We did talk," she said, walking up the stairs. "You can let yourself out, right?" Spike chased after her, stomping up the stairs. Buffy slammed her bedroom door behind her, and Spike went to rip it open. However, the huge metal crucifix that she had hung on her door smacked him in the face, sending him recoiling back into the wall.

"Bitch," he growled. Muttering every curse he knew, he slinked away and out of the house.

"Buffy, do you want to go Bronzing tonight?" Buffy's best friend, lesbian, and witch Willow looked up at her friend hopefully.

"Can't," Buffy said. "I, uh, found a job today, and I've got to work tonight."

"Ooh! Where?" Willow asked excitedly.

"That all-night diner on 10th St," Buffy answered. The diner she mentioned was a dive, close to the docks, and frequented by disgusting dockworkers and fishermen. No one reputable ever stepped foot inside.

"Why there?" Willow asked, wrinkling her nose.

"It was the only place that would hire me for swing shift," Buffy said, shrugging. "I have to patrol at night, and I'd like to be home to send Dawn to school, and sleeping sometime would be nice."

"But it's only temporary, right?" Willow asked.

"It's for as long as it needs to be," Buffy hedged. "Look, I've got to go; my shift starts in an hour." She turned and headed out the door. Willow was concerned, but she didn't say anything. Since Buffy had been back, she'd been so worried about everything, money, the house, Dawn's grades and school attendance. If this job helped, Willow would keep her mouth shut about it, even though Buffy was way better than Flo's 24-hour diner. She just hoped Buffy wouldn't get hurt working there.

Spike took a long drag on his cigarette, walking down a dark alley. The strip club he liked wasn't exactly on Sunnydale's main drag, so it took a little detour to get there. But it was worth it. The girls were always the best, and there were few demons, so he was unlikely to get into a fight there. Plus they had good booze, and had he mentioned the girls? With a nod to the doorman, a big black guy named Terrence, Spike ducked into the dark club. He hung near the back, giving a wave to the bartender. He took a seat at his usual table, looking towards the center stage.

There was a new girl dancing. Lovely. Long blonde hair cascaded down her back as she writhed against the pole in the center of the stage. Her g-string and bra were both black and stood in sharp contrast with her creamy skin. She wasn't tall, but that was aided by at least six-inch heels. Her back was to him, so all he could see were her perfect, shapely legs and a fantastic ass. She reached for the pole, swinging around as the bartender brought Spike his usual. He took a long drink as she turned to face the bar. And then he choked.

"Buffy," he breathed. He barely recognized her, but she was definitely his Slayer. She was wearing about two pounds more makeup than usual, and her hair was curled and teased. Then there was the fact that he'd never seen her in so little clothing. She turned toward him, reaching for the clasp of her bra. She must have seen him, because she froze, one hand still behind her back. Spike couldn't handle it anymore, so he stood and turned away. Smacking a bill on the bar, he stalked out, fuming.

"What the bloody hell does she think she's doing?" he ranted. She didn't need to be in a place like that. Not his girl, his Slayer. She was better than that; she was far above dancing for dollars from lecherous men. Men who probably copped a feel when they paid her. Men who she didn't fight back against. She was his Golden Goddess, his Buffy. And she was taking off her clothes in some dank, dirty pub. He roared in anger, frustration, and utter heartbreak. Shifting into Game Face, he threw his arm at a wall, shattering the brick with his fist. He felt bones break, but the pain was far less than the one that was gripping his cold, dead heart.

God, he'd seen her. He'd been there, watching. How long had he been there? Had he seen her entire dance? God, he was probably drooling as she took off her clothes. And he was most likely busting a gut over the name she'd picked for herself. Honey Gold. What the hell was she thinking when she'd come up with that? He told her when he'd kissed her during Willow's spell that she'd tasted like honey. And he was always ranting about her golden locks. My Golden Goddess. Maybe it was her subconscious talking when she'd taken the job at the bar. She knew that Spike went to strip clubs, because hello, he was a perv. You work at a strip club, what does that make you?

"You okay, Honey?" one of the other dancers, a woman named Trixie, asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Buffy said. "Uh, there was just- this guy I know was here."

"Ooh, yeah, that's hard," Trixie said. "He a friend of yours?"

"Yeah, we're close," Buffy said absentmindedly, pulling on her jeans. She snapped out of her trance, realizing what she'd said. "I- I don't mean that the way it sounded. We work together, um, a-at my other job."

"Hey, babydoll, you don't have to explain nothin' to me," Trixie said. Buffy turned to smile at the woman, then realized Trixie was naked. Blushing furiously, Buffy turned back around, grabbing her coat.

"See you tomorrow," she called, ducking out the back door. Her first day was done, and surprisingly, it wasn't as demeaning and humiliating as she'd thought. She wasn't crazy about the lap dances- she didn't like being that close to strange men- but the on-stage thing was okay. She could just kinda zone out, stop thinking. No one existed, she was just dancing around. She even zoned out during the lap dances, picturing someone else's hands, cold as ice, touching her. Someone else's breath, smelling like liquor and smoke and leather and a touch of cinnamon. Someone else was murmuring in her ear, telling her she was beautiful, perfect, effulgent. Ice blue eyes stared at her as she ground into a hard body.

God, you're stupid, a little voice in her head murmured. He was there. He saw you. And he walked away.

"Spike?" she asked, walking a little ways down the alley. Her vampire- Not yours! Her inner voice yelled. The vampire was slumped against the brick wall, cradling one hand against his chest. The hand was bruised and bleeding.

"What happened?" she asked, kneeling at his side. His unfocused eyes were staring at the wall opposite her. She looked to see the hole in the wall. "Oh," she said. "Spike? You there?"

"Why are you doing that?" he asked, very, very quietly.

"Why am I doing what?" she asked, examining his hand. "Spike, I think this is broken."

"It is," he said absently. "Why are you working there?"

"I have to," she said quietly, resigned. His eyes snapped to life at that, glaring daggers at her.

"Someone holding a gun to your head?" he asked sarcastically. "You're better than that, Buffy."

"Yeah? Maybe I'm not," she said, pulling a tissue out of her purse and wiping away the blood on his hand. He yanked it away, grabbing her chin with his good hand.

"You're above that," he growled. "You don' need-"

"I do need," she cut in angrily. "Tell me something, Spikey. Where the hell else am I going to make $500 a night? Huh? Where am I going to be able to make that kind of money? Working at a diner? A store?"

"We could find you a place-" his desperate face was heartrending.

"We can't do anything," she said. She stood, stepping back from him, and he climbed to his feet as well. "There is no other place, Spike. There's no other place where I can make enough money to pay all the bills, put Dawn through school, put food on the table, and still be able to fight as the Slayer."

"Luv, I can get you money," he pleaded. "Please, don't go back there."

"Are you telling me what to do?" she said, her eyes hard. "I'm sorry; I thought you were Spike, not Angel."

Spike slapped her, hard, with his injured hand. He cried out in pain as the bones re-broke against her skin. She gasped, her hands flying to her face.

"I'm sorry, luv, god, I'm so sorry," he said as soon as he realized what he'd done. Buffy's face hardened and her fist flew forward, connecting with his jaw and sending him flying.

"Stay the hell away from me, Spike," she said. "Don't come near me, or you'll end up a pile of ash." He lay in a heap near the place she'd found him. Ignoring his pain, which she'd been worried about before, she turned on heel and took off towards home.

The next day was uneventful. Willow had asked about work, Buffy had lied, and Dawn had actually gotten to school on time. When Buffy went to the club that afternoon for her shift, the boss told her she was one of his most promising girls.

Great, just what I want to be: the best stripper in town, she thought sarcastically. She'd danced more than the night before, not wanting to give any lap dances.

"Hey, Honey," the boss, Barney, said, walking through the dressing room. He was probably the only man on earth that could walk through a roomful of naked women and not cop a feel on one of them.

"You got a request," he said. "Guy wants a private show."

"What's the guy look like?" asked one of the other dancers, Buffy couldn't remember her name.

"Billy Idol-lookin' guy. Pale," he said.

"I can't," Buffy choked out.

"You can't?" the boss asked. "You will go out there and dance. The guy laid down a grand to see you, and only you. He said he'd wait all night if he had to so he could see you. So you will go out there and do whatever the hell he wants."

"Yes, sir," Buffy said, ducking her head and walking out the door. She was wearing an extremely tight and low-cut black dress today and strappy stiletto heels. When she stepped out of the dressing room, she immediately saw Spike. He was sitting at the table he'd been at last night, his chair pulled away from the table. She slipped quietly over to his table, standing in front of him and staring at her shoes.

"You paid for a dance?" she asked quietly.

"Luv, you don' have to," he said. "I just wanted to talk to you. And I din't want anyone else paying for a dance."

"If I don't dance, my boss will come over here and ream me," she said, moving to sit on his lap. "So do us both a favor. Shut up and don't pretend you aren't enjoying this."

She moved on top of him, pressing her back to his chest and grinding her ass against his groin. She turned so she was facing him, letting him get a full view of the way her dress clung to her breasts for dear life. She writhed astride him, throwing her head back so she didn't have to look him in the eye. He looked like someone was killing him. He wasn't touching her. The hand he'd injured yesterday hung limply to the side as his good hand gripped the table with splintering force. She focused on the feel of his body underneath hers. She felt the hardness of his chest, the firm muscle of his legs. She didn't feel the insatiable hardness of his arousal.

"I would have thought this would make you hard," she murmured, still grinding against him.

"This isn't how I want you, Buffy," he said. "This was never the way I wanted to touch you." Buffy stopped then, looking him full in the face.

"Buffy, please, let me take you home," he pleaded. He looked close to tears. "You don't deserve this. To have men- Please, luv, I can get you money if you need it. Jus'… not this. Please, never this."

Buffy's eyes welled over and hot, tragic tears fell down her face. Spike's arms finally moved around her, pressing her to him in a tight embrace.

"I'm sorry," she sobbed, pressing her face into his chest. "I didn't know what else to do. I can't do this by myself."

"You're not by yourself, luv," he said. "Pet, all you had to do was ask. Please, let me take you home."

"Please," she begged, standing. She took his hand, leading him to the dressing room with her. She didn't change her clothes, just grabbed her jeans and tennis shoes and threw them into her bag. Spike didn't take his eyes off her, even though there were a half-dozen mostly-naked women around him. She turned back to him, and he slipped off his duster. Wrapping it around her shoulders, he led her out of the dressing room and towards the door.

"Where the fuck do you think you're going?" her boss yelled grabbing Buffy's arm and spinning her around. Buffy let her fist fly, shattering the man's nose.

"I quit, you bastard," she snarled, her tears still falling. Spike wound an arm around her shoulders, towing her gently towards the exit. The music was thudding in her ears, giving her a splitting headache. She nearly cried in relief when the cool night air washed over her outside.

"C'mon, pet," Spike murmured, taking her hand. "I'll take you home."

"I can't…" she started. Spike turned and looked down at her. Though, in her heels, she was only a couple inches shorter than him.

"I can't go home dressed like this," she said. "Willow- they'll ask questions."

"'Kay," he said. "I'll take you to my place so you can change. Is that okay?"

Buffy nodded, and Spike turned around again, this time heading for Restfield Cemetery. Buffy walked close to him, curling into his side. She reminded him of a little girl at that moment: scared and looking for comfort. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her in close. Once they'd gotten out of the main part of town, Buffy paused to take off her shoes, holding them loosely in her hand. Barefoot, the top of her head barely came up to his shoulder. They walked slowly to Spike's crypt, still holding onto each other. It was the closest he'd ever been to her, and he was basking in her nearness. She smelled like vanilla and honey.

Spike's arms were so solid around her. Like nothing could get at her when he was holding her. And he smelled so good. He smelled divinely male, but it was distinct, not the generic musk her other boyfriends had. As they approached his crypt, Buffy didn't want to let him go.

"Go on in, luv," he said. "I'll wait out here while you change." Buffy nodded, a little shocked at his chivalry. She stepped inside the crypt, dropping her shoes on the floor. She pulled her dress off over her head, dropping it in a heap on the floor. She pulled on her blue jeans and t-shirt. Sitting on the floor, she started to pull on her tennis shoes.

Spike listened carefully for sounds inside the crypt. Vampire hearing came in handy every once in awhile. He heard the rustle of clothing, and the sound of her sitting down. Then he heard her heartbeat speed up, and her breathing coming in short, sobbing gasps. Opening the door, he took in her form on the floor, sobbing into her hands. He knelt next to her, drawing her close to him.

"Shh, sweetling," he purred. "It's all right."

"What am I going to tell my friends?" she asked, throwing her arms around his neck and crying into his shoulder. "What am I going to tell Dawn? The way they'll look at me…" She broke down again.

"You'll tell them you were doing what you thought you had to," Spike said gently. He shifted so she was sitting in his lap, his arms cradling her close to him. "They'll understand. An' if they look at you wrong, I'll eat 'em. Give me a headache, but I'll do it."

Buffy laughed weakly, her tears subsiding.

"There we go," he murmured, brushing her hair away from her face. "Stop cryin' now, luv. You're breakin' my heart."

"I'm sorry," Buffy said. "God, I'm so sorry for everything."

"You've got nothin' to be sorry for, pet," he said. "You din't do anything wrong."

"How can you say that?" she asked, pushing back from him. "You couldn't even look at me."

"I left yesterday because I was angry at myself, luv, not you," he said. "I should have been there, realized you were in trouble. God, Buffy, all the things I said about wanting to save you when you fell, and I din't even notice you were drowning." Buffy's tears started all over again, and Spike pulled her back to him, smoothing her hair down under his hands. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head, rubbing her back with one hand.

"You shouldn't… I don't need you to take care of me, Spike," she said.

"If I don', who's going to?" he asked rationally. "You saved the world, your bloody stupid friends, your kid sister, and my arse so many times, but when was the last time anyone did anything for you without asking anything?"

"You're not asking anything?" she countered. She pulled back to look him in the face. "You aren't doing this because you want to get in my pants?"

"I told you that wasn't the way I wanted you," he said. "I love you. I'll keep sayin' that till you get it, girl. And for the record, no, I don't want anything from you."

"Then why do you keep saying that you love me? And why are you helping me?" she asked.

"I tell you I love you so that you'll know it," he said, brushing his hand over her hair. "You need to know that there's someone who loves you, Buffy. I love you because I do. There's no reason for it, I just do. and I'm helping you because if you'd stop bein' so damned prideful for one bleedin' second, you'd realize you actually need the help."

"I'm so sorry, Spike," she said, pressing her hands to her eyes. "I'm... I'm just- I can't do this."

"You can, luv," he said. "Look, I can' really help you make the Bit go to school- I couldn't even make her be on time- but I can help with the money stuff."

"I don't want you to steal from people to pay my bills," she said sternly. "I'll find a job somewhere else."

"Would you be opposed to me paying your bills with money stolen from people who died a hundred years ago?" he asked, brushing away the remnants of her tears. Her makeup was smeared over her face, her eyeliner everywhere.

"What?" she asked.

"Well, see, there may have been a rash of bank robberies at the turn of the century," he said. "And the money from said robberies may be in a bank in Zurich in my name."

"How much money are we talking about here?" she asked. "I mean, aren't those kind of banks reserved for Donald Trump-type people?"

"Enough money to keep you and Dawn in new shoes every day for the rest of your lives," he said.

"Then why do you live in this hell-hole?" she asked, gesturing around her to the dank crypt.

"Because I like this hell-hole," he replied. "And I don' really like that whole vampire-livin-better-than-humans thing. I'm a demon, luv. I'ma act like it."

"So the Big Bad can't have a decent sofa?" she asked, smiling. Spike couldn't take his eyes off of her when she smiled.

"The crap stuff's just up here," he said. "You should see the downstairs. It's quite posh."

"Posh," she said. "God, you're a dork."

"Hey!" he growled. "Take that back."

"No, dork," she said, wiggling in his lap. Spike's arms around her kept her grounded to him. Sitting in his lap now, fully clothed, she could feel the way his body was responding to her. He's a freak. He doesn't get hard when I'm half-naked on top of him, but he does when I'm wearing more clothes than a nun.

"We should get you home," he said quietly, one hand rubbing a small circle on her back. Buffy nodded, climbing slowly to her feet. She held out a hand to help him up. He took it, gathering her discarded work clothes once he was standing. Buffy shivered as she watched him. He slipped over to a box next to his refrigerator, grabbing something small and slipping it into his pocket.

"Put the coat back on, luv," he said. "Don' wan' you gettin' sick." She bent to retrieve the duster from the floor, pulling it over her arms.

"It's a bit big on me," she said, turning for him to look. The duster hit the ground at her feet, and the sleeves went far past her wrists. She looked like a child wearing her daddy's coat.

"You're adorable, you know that?" he said suddenly. She laughed, the sound like bells in his ears.

"I'm glad you think so," she said, turning to the door. They walked out together, Spike holding her bundled-up dress and shoes in one hand and her hand in the other. They walked towards the Summers residence in silence, both a little in awe of what was happening. Spike couldn't believe she was actually letting him be this close, Buffy couldn't believe that after everything the last couple of days he could still act the same around her. His behavior hadn't changed a bit, even though he knew this deep, dark secret about her now.

"You'll always be the same to me, Buffy," he said quietly, as if reading her thoughts. "I'll always look at you the same way. You're still my Slayer."

"Thank you," she whispered. "You have no idea what that means to me right now." They'd come to the porch of her house. Spike sighed, holding her clothes out to her.

"Do you want to come in?" she asked shyly. "I just…"

"You just what, pet?" he asked, quirking his head to one side.

"I don't want to be alone," she murmured. "I just- will you just stay with me till I fall asleep?" she looked up at him hopefully. "If you have something to do, I get it. I'm being really selfish and needy right now."

"I'll be here till you throw me out, pet," he said, opening the door for her. Peeking inside the dark house, Buffy slipped the duster from her shoulders, hanging it on the coat rack. Everyone must be asleep.

They moved quietly upstairs, their footsteps barely making a sound. Buffy pushed open her bedroom door, leading Spike in by the hand. He set her clothes down on her dresser, turning to her expectantly.

"I changed my mind," she said. Spike schooled his features not to look heartbroken.

"Will you spend the night?" she asked, so quiet he wouldn't have heard it if he was human. A slow, ecstatic smile spread over his lips.

"Of course, pet," he said.

"I think I have something you can wear to sleep in," she said, knowing he usually slept naked. "I bought them for Xander's birthday but then found something better, so I never gave them to him." She pulled out a pair of flannel pajama pants and handed them to him.

"Whelp never wore them did he?" Spike asked, taking the pajamas from her gingerly.

"No one wore them," she said. "No, scratch that, I think I wore them once." Spike barely resisted the urge to hold the pants up to smell her scent on them.

"You can change in here, I'll go into the bathroom," she said, grabbing her own pajamas and padding out of the room. She slipped quietly into the bathroom and changed her clothes. When she walked back to her room, she knocked softly.

"Yeah," Spike murmured. Opening the door, she saw him, sitting cautiously on the side of the bed, which he'd turned down for her. He was shirtless, and he gave those pants more justice than she had. She was wearing a teeny tank top and shorts.

"You sure about this, kitten?" he asked, running a tentative hand through his hair. This loosened the gel somewhat, making his platinum-blonde curls escape their confines.

"I really don't want to be alone," she said, moving to the bed. "If you don't want to, you don't have-"

"I won't leave you alone, sweetling," he said, reaching for her hand. She gave it to him, letting him pull her into the bed. He settled in next to her, close but not touching her.

"You can touch me, you know," she whispered, scooting back so her back was pressed to his chest. He slid an arm around her, pulling her hips back towards him.

"I just din't want to push anything, luv," he said.

"Why do you always do that?" she asked quietly.

"Do what, pet?" he asked.

"Every time you say something, you end with one of those nicknames I tell you never to call me," she said. "Like pet, and luv, and sweetling."

"You forgot kitten," he said. "I dunno, 's just what I do."

"I like it," she said. "I know I say I hate it, but I don't really. So long as you actually do know my name."

"Buffy Anne Summers," he said. "And your birthday is January 19th."

"How do you know that?" she asked.

"I pay attention, kitten," he said. "I have a remarkable attention span."

"Yeah, sure," she said. "This coming from the guy was going to kill me on Saturday but ended up attacking parent-teacher night and getting clobbered by my mom."

"I got bored," he said defensively. Buffy laughed, the motion of it tickling his chest. He pulled her closer to him, so every inch of her back was touching him.

"Go to sleep, attention-boy," she said, yawning broadly. "I'm tired."

"Sleep, sweetheart," he said, running a hand over her hair. He rubbed her arm, then down to her side, then her hip and the top of her leg. Within moments he felt her breathing even out, and he knew she was asleep. The tension had eased out of her face, leaving her looking blissfully innocent. In moments, she had transformed from hardened warrior to a normal young woman in need of comfort and protection.

"I'll keep you safe while you sleep, kitten," he whispered in her ear.

-TBC-