Author's Note: This chapter is brought to you by my new tattoo.

When I started this series, one of my intentions was to use it to get away from my attachment to third-person limited, and experiment with different storytelling styles. That didn't happen in the first three parts, but you'll soon see how this one differs. I understand that it may be difficult to follow, but if it's really driving you crazy, say so in a review and I'll consider adding dialogue tags and such.

You know what's driving me crazy? Spike and Faith! I wish they'd just kiss already.


"Dammit!"

"Easy now, pet. You don't want to break another controller."

"How did you get so damn good at this? Have you been sneaking in here and practicing when I'm not home?"

"If that's a problem, you might try locking your door once in a while."

"Or I could just do that thing with the crosses and the garlic."

"Then you'd have to go back to single player mode. Come on, let's give it another go. Best of eleven."

"Only if you stop playing Xiaoyu. You always play the girls."

"Right, and I see you favoring the fellows, but I don't judge."

"…Ha. Gotcha this time."

"Oh?"

"Crap."

"Hm."

"I was thinking."

"From time to time I enjoy a spot of that too."

"You and me should get naked."

"Just like that? Aren't you even going to start by passing me notes in class, then? You Slayers never know how to flirt."

"Hey, if you wanna give me jewelry or something first, feel free."

"Haven't you been warned about this? If you bed vampires they turn on you."

"So screw the jewelry and give me an Orb of Thesulah instead."

An automated voice was counting down the time that was left for the game to be resumed. It stopped at three as the screen went black in obedience to the remote control.

"You know that spell?"

"Yeah, but don't flatter yourself, it's not for you. Angel likes it when all his friends know how to put him in his place."

"Bloody ponce. You'd think the around-the-clock moping program was precaution enough."

"Hey, I can't figure this out—where did that Nina chick come from? Is she really his girlfriend, or is she just helping him mope?"

"Both, I think. She's here? We should show her around."

"Why?"

"Angel would hate it."

"Whatever. I already kinda gave her a tour yesterday. She's pretty chill. Said she'd draw me a new tat if I showed her where she should go to get hers."

"Oh, lovely."

"What?"

"I said that's lovely."

"You said it all sarcastic. What's your problem? Don't like ink?"

"It's for kids, is all. And minions. Ow. Ow. Fine, have it your way, tattoos are the pinnacle of civilization. But skin like yours really doesn't need pictures on it. And why should wolf-girl trust your opinion on the local parlors, anyway? You didn't get that scribble in Cleveland."

"Not that one, no."

"There's another?"

"More than."

"Where?"

"You'd be seeing a couple right now if you paid attention when I had that great idea about taking clothes off."

"…You're really serious."

"Spend a few years surrounded by butt-ugly women in orange jumpsuits, and your libido won't leave you alone for a damned long time, trust me. What's your pleasure?"

"Buffy wouldn't like it."

"Uh, newsflash? Buffy's in New York and, oh yeah, not the boss of you."

"Hands to yourself, Slayer. I won't lie to her. Once she found out, and believe me she would find out, she'd be after me with a Super Soaker full of holy water. I've had a nice holiday away from the wrath of the white hats and I don't fancy returning."

"What, she's gonna tell you it's against the rules for you to get some? Okay, that would kind of make sense if she ever planned to spread for you again, but—"

"It's my choice, not hers."

"Then what the hell is that about? Keeping yourself pure for her? Let me guess, you haven't touched another woman since you got your soul, just in case."

"Well. That's not really—"

"Oooh. Who was she? Some chick you rescued from the LA bump-in-the-nights? 'Oh handsome stranger, how can I repay you?'"

"Look, Buffy and I may have gone our own ways, but the fact remains that we have a history, and you were a friend of hers. And a rival of hers. And it seems a sodding unlucky victim of hers, too, so there's too much baggage for the carry-on as it is. You don't want to add me into the mix. Whether it's warranted or not, she'll be jealous, and that's not pretty."

"Yeah, but—"

"Actually, it is pretty…"

"Spike, you dumbass, are you gonna let B and her neurosis du jour decide your whole life? If she can't make a clean break, time for you to get scrubbin' on it. I'm making this really easy for you. Step one: take me for a ride. Step two: fucking enjoy it."

"We're done talking about this."

"Man, I was done with it as soon as you said her name, but you're still not getting' the point. Buffy's over. Say it with me. O-ver."

Without the light from the television, the room had gone too dark to be comfortable to human eyes, but the lamps within reach of the couch remained untouched.

"Have you ever been in love?"

"Have you ever not? Christ. Might not kill you to spend a few hours not caring about making some woman happy."

"…"

"…Shit, that's not what I meant to say."

"You know, I think I like you better when you're embarrassed."

"I'm not embarrassed. I'm pissed off."

"I'm sorry, pet. Truly. There's never been anyone like Buffy in my life, and there never will be again."

"If you think I'm trying to be your next Buffy, we're gonna have to take this from the top."

"No, and I'm not looking for a next Buffy. But you're more than welcome to be my next Faith, if you've any use for me outside the bedroom."

"You're missin' out."

"Can't say I'm not dreadfully curious about that secret tattoo of yours."

"Yeah, for all you know I've already got your name on my ass."

"Oh, fantastic! I'll get yours on my chest, with a wee little dove and a sunburst, and tell everyone I've seen the light."

"Maybe then she'd take you back. If the light didn't eat you up first."

"And I told you once that I wasn't waiting on her taking me back. You don't believe me?"

"Nah, I get that. Eternal devotion, right? Always hers, whether or not there's a reward coming for it. Hey, you know who that reminds me of?"

"Not quite, pet. Does this look like brooding to you? I'm still prepared to have a bit of fun here and there."

"Sure."

"Now who's sarcastic."

"Hey, all I'm sayin' is, if I had an immortal lifespan ahead of me, I wouldn't want to spend it hung up on some girl whose entire relationship with you was based on her vampire fetish."

"Vampire fet—you think she—you've got one hell of a—"

"I don't blame her. Girl's got a devil inside. Slayer thing. Only, her devil's got mine whupped this time. You know how many vampires I've screwed? Nada! And you won't even help me even the score. That's cold-blooded for real."

"The timeless art of seduction, presented by Faith."

"I always wondered, do you guys go into the fang-face when you come?"

"That's right, and then we shoot fire from our ears."

"Nina would tell me."

"Oh, don't go female-bonding with her, now. If anyone in your spooky social circle has a vampire fetish, that's the girl."

"Why do you say that?"

"She can do better. She knows it."

"Would you cool it with the Angelphobia? It's not like you're gonna prove your point if you just mutter enough."

"That's not what I mean. He doesn't love her. It's no way to live, and if she's got a speck of sense she knows what she's got is an addiction, just like Cowboy Finn did once upon a time. Ha! She's love's bitch. Get it?"

"Yeah, and how 'bout Cowboy William?"

"Not all addictions are bad."

"You're unbelievable!"

"I was an evil vampire with a sodding chip in my brain. What else did I have to live for?"

"…Tell me this. What if I had nothing to live for? What if all I wanted was to unwind with you for a few nights before the Hellmouth took me to my early grave?"

"Not a fair question. You're young, Faith. You're strong, you're gorgeous, and you've got a white picket fence and two as-of-yet-unbroken game controllers. You don't need an undead playmate."

"Fuck you."

"What?"

"Get out. I'm tired of your face."

"Oh, that's grand. I say one thing you don't like and suddenly you're the untamed shrew?"

"You can get out of my house or I can get my crosses out. Now, Spike."

The lights in the living room never did go back on that night.