Epilogue – And They Lived…

It was early evening. Buffy, Willow and Dawn were sitting around the research table at the Magic Box, trying to determine the identity of the latest 'big bad' to arrive in Sunnydale. It had been almost two months since the Slayer and the man who was now her new Watcher had returned from London.

"So," Buffy said, looking at the two other girls, "you guys think this demon I saw last night was a, uh, 'Chamorro' something or other?"

Dawn nodded and glanced at Willow who looked up from her laptop, bobbing her head up and down with obvious enthusiasm.

"Uh huh," the Wiccan replied. She leaned over Dawn's book and pointed to a black and white drawing. "Here, this guy, a Chermaya demon. He's all lumpy and scaly with this big horn on his head—ooh and the funny ears—just like you described." She pushed the book across the table to Buffy. "See?"

The Slayer's brow furrowed slightly as she examined the picture. "Yeah, I guess that's him. He looks a lot different in person—you know, bigger. But yeah, I think it's him all right."

Willow turned back to her computer and began typing. After a minute, she paused. "This Chermaya demon sounds like a real meanie from what I can find on the data base. It kinda likes to rip off its victims' heads—arms and legs, too, for that matter. You better have Spike go with you on patrol tonight."

"Yeah," Buffy replied, "he pretty much comes with me every night, anyway. He's really taking this Watcher business to a whole new level."

Willow smiled knowingly. "Oh, for Spike, going patrolling is like, you know, a date. He just likes being with you, that's all."

"Plus he's majorly protective," Buffy added.

"Yeah, but that's a good thing!".

Dawn leaned forward, resting her chin in the palms of her hands. "You're so lucky, Buffy," the teenager said, looking dreamily at the ceiling. "Spike's like—so cool. And he's so in love you." She glanced at her sister. "You totally don't deserve him," she added with a smirk, "but I'm still happy for you."

"Where is Spike, anyway?" Willow asked. "Thought he'd be here by now."

"Maybe he's at his beach house," Dawn suggested. "God I love that place! And Spike promised I could have a party there nex—"

"He what?" Buffy asked, eyeing her sister sternly.

Suddenly nervous, Dawn remained silent for a moment. "N—nothing," she said finally.

"Yeah, well, I'll stop by there, before going to the cemetery." Buffy paused thoughtfully. "But I think he might be someplace else."

* * *

She'd been right. Spike wasn't at the beach house, but she'd found Xander and Anya there. The couple frequently visited Spike's new home, much to the annoyance of the former vampire. It had started with them coming to the housewarming party that Buffy had forced him to throw. After that, there'd been reason after lame reason for them to show up there. The real reasons though, in Buffy's opinion, were—for Xander—Spike's big screen t.v., and—for Anya—the fact that the house had cost an obscene amount of money. And of course, there was his Jacuzzi…

Whenever the couple stopped by, Spike tended to leave the house after what he considered to be a polite amount of time—five to ten minutes. Buffy smiled as she reflected on the way the former vampire grumbled about his unwelcome visitors. She couldn't help but think that part of him was really pleased to finally be accepted. Nobody thought of him as evil anymore. No one questioned his motives.

The sound of grinding gears interrupted her thoughts. A week before, just hours after getting her driver's license, Buffy had bought a sporty little Honda CRV. Although Spike had warned her not to, she'd decided to purchase one with a stick shift—because they were supposed to be fun to drive. Gritting her teeth, she downshifted again, wincing at the resulting screeching sound.

Upon reaching the cemetery, Buffy put the CRV in park. The car seemed to grumble as she shut off the engine. The Slayer patted the steering wheel. "Be nice," she said, admonishing the vehicle. "I'm getting better."

She then hopped out of the car and headed for the place she'd originally assumed Spike to be—his old lair.

* * *

The crypt was peaceful. A retreat. Sometimes Spike just needed to get away—from life and the living.

He sat on the stone sarcophagus, chewing on the nicotine gum Buffy had bought for him the day before. Reaching into the pocket of his new leather coat, he took out two more pieces and shoved them into his mouth. It just wasn't the same; what he would've given for a smoke!

He chomped harder. The things he did for love. His one last vice out the door. Was he turning into the Slayer's whipped puppy? Damn, he hoped not. But of course, he'd always been love's bitch… He chewed even harder, with so much force that he thought his jaw might break.

The Slayer was great, there was no denying that, but her friends were another story. He could tolerate Willow and Tara, but Xander and Anya? He'd never liked them when he was a vampire and he saw no reason to start now just because he happened to be warm and breathing. Sod that! And they were always coming over—like tonight! He shook his head with frustration.

They were so nice to him now; it was weird. Some days he felt like he just couldn't handle it.

So he came here—to his old lair. It was familiar and dark. It still felt more like home to him than the expensive piece of oceanfront property he'd purchased on the advice of Emily's lawyer. He looked around the crypt and took a deep breath. Yes, it still felt like home.

Suddenly, his senses started tingling. She was coming. He pictured her walking at her usual brisk pace—a Slayer's pace—through the cemetery. He started counting down from twenty. "19, 18, 17…" He had it down to a science. "…14, 13, 12…" He pictured her newly shorn hair, bouncing just above her shoulders, a style he hated, but had held back from criticizing because she so obviously loved it.

"…7, 6, 5…" She was almost there. "…3, 2, 1." Then with the usual lack of ceremony, the door burst open and Buffy walked in. She stood near the entrance, smirking and cocking her head to one side—a mannerism she'd obviously picked up from him.

"I thought I'd find you here," she said, a playful look in her eyes.

"Yeah well." Spike shrugged. "What can I say? Old habits die hard, I guess."

Buffy walked over to the sarcophagus and hiked herself up to sit next to him. She looked at her surroundings and smiled. "This place does have a lot of memories," she said. "Some of them, I'd even call—happy."

Spike draped his arm around her shoulders, a gesture that was now so natural. "Very happy memories," he murmured. "We can still…" he looked at her with a familiar glint in his eyes, "make some more."

The Slayer pulled away. "Oh no," she said, shaking her head. "I've got a new 'Big Bad' to find. A 'Chamorro' demon."

Spike frowned. "Uh, do you mean 'Chermaya'?"

"Oh yeah, Chermaya—that's what Willow called it." She smiled. "Wow, you're such a knowledgeable Watcher guy now. I'm impressed!"

Spike looked worried. "Those are nasty buggers. Hard to kill, too. They've got this really tough scaly skin that's—"

"Okay, okay," Buffy interrupted, "enough with the show of knowledge. Wil's already filled me in on the what's what."

"Right," Spike said, sounding put off.

Buffy hopped off the sarcophagus and headed for the door. "Better get moving."

"Hey, wait," Spike said, rising to his feet.

Buffy spun around and gave him her 'hurry up—I'm action girl' look.

"I've, uh, got your back—remember?"

She broke out into a smile. "Yeah?"

His eyes met hers. "Always."

In several long strides, he went to the door and politely opened it for her. Buffy looked at him sharply, opened her mouth as if to say something, but just shook her head and walked by him.

Spike took a final look around the interior of his old lair, reflecting on the dark existence he'd left behind; in pursuit of a seemingly unattainable object, his course, once evil, had been completely turned around. He then stepped out into the cemetery and breathed in the cool night air, letting it fill his lungs. As the heavy crypt door swung shut behind him, he hastened to catch up with the girl who'd unwittingly led him down a path he would've never chosen on his own.

Ten steps ahead of him, Buffy stopped, turned and waited until he'd caught up to her. His chasing days were over—at least where the Slayer was concerned. He shot her a crooked smile, then together, they headed out into the night.