It was nearly an hour before they made it back to Spike's apartment. Willow had been eager to show both her parents her dorm room for the very first time, so Buffy and Spike had stayed for the grand tour. Now they were in the hallway, outside his door, and Spike was trying desperately to get the key in the lock. Normally it was an easy task, but with Buffy so close beside him, he couldn't stop his fingers from shaking.
"Need a little help?" she asked, after his third try.
"No, I got it." And somehow he managed to shove the key in the slot and open the door.
He stood back and ushered Buffy inside. He inhaled a sharp breath. Just what the hell did he think he was doing? Why had he brought her back here? Getting close to Buffy again was only going to leave him with a broken heart. Then again, his heart was pretty broken already, and he didn't really think there was any way he could keep himself away from her for much longer. Better to just bite the bullet and get on with it. The distance between them was driving him crazy.
Spike entered the apartment to find Buffy standing in the middle of the room, idly giving the place the once over. She'd seen the whole thing before, so he knew she was just trying to distract herself. Anything to keep from looking at him.
There had been that moment, back at the cemetery, when he had seen her – the real her, the old her – come out for just a second. In that moment, she had been everything he had remembered; alive, vibrant, passionate. He had wanted her so much. If Willow hadn't have been there with them, the deed would already have been done by now and they'd be basking in the afterglow.
Spike reluctantly closed the apartment door. The brief moment of awareness that had passed between them back at the cemetery was gone. Now everything just felt awkward again.
"You did the right thing, you know," Spike began, desperate for something to say.
"You think so?" she asked, finally looking at him.
"Yeah. Imagine if somebody'd told you that you had to stop slaying at that age. You wouldn't have taken it all that well, would you have? It's just better to let her have her way. 'Cause there's no workin' it out of her system. Once a slayer, always a slayer."
"She's not a slayer."
"Might as well be. It's in her blood. It's in yours too."
He heard Buffy's heart rate increase, and he thought she was getting ready to argue with him. But she didn't say anything. She just looked about the room again and changed the subject. "So," she said awkwardly, "what do we do now?"
That was a damn fine question. Spike didn't have a clue. He knew what he wanted to do, but he was afraid; which was absolutely ridiculous, but there it was. He was afraid of opening up to her again, afraid of trusting her, of letting himself believe that she loved him. The thought terrified him. What if he trusted her and she failed him? What if it was all just a lie? Would he be able to live with it? Would he ever be able to recover? He'd spent the last nineteen years trying to cobble together some kind of life for himself. It wasn't much, but at least he had his pride. Could he really let her in again, and risk what little he did have?
"Spike?" she prompted, when he didn't answer. "Are you sure you want me to stay here? I can find a hotel. It's not a problem."
"No, of course I want you to stay. There's no reason not to. You're already here, after all."
That strained awkwardness came over them again. Why the bloody hell couldn't he just get up the nerve to do what he wanted? Why couldn't he just give himself permission to trust her, the consequences be damned?
"Um, well," Buffy broke the silence, "I think I'm gonna go take a shower then." She looked herself over. "I am completely covered in vamp dust."
"From that one little vampire?" Spike snorted. "That was nothin'."
"That wasn't just one little vampire," she protested. "He was kinda chunky. I must be covered in at least a quart of vamp dust."
"Yeah, whatever." Spike finally moved into the room. Now that they were bantering, teasing each other, it was easier for him to move around. He suddenly felt a lot less self-conscious.
Spike went to the fridge and pulled himself out a packet of pig's blood. He was surprised when Buffy followed him.
"You think I'm getting rusty, don't you? You think I don't know how to slay anymore."
Spike smirked at her seductively, as he looked her up and down. "I think there are a lot of things you don't know how to do anymore."
Buffy's skin turned a shade paler, and Spike's grin grew wider. Ah yes, he'd forgotten how satisfying flirting with Buffy could be.
"I still know how to do lots of things," she countered. "It's just like riding a bicycle. They say you never forget."
"Yeah? Well I saw you tonight at that cemetery, and I'd say, some things you do forget. And if you can't slay anymore, well then you probably can't—"
"What? I was going to say ride a bicycle anymore. Get your mind out of the gutter Slayer."
As soon as he said the word "Slayer," he saw her retreat into herself just a little. Why did she hate that word so? Was she that desperate for him to call her Buffy? Would that single concession really make such a difference between them?
"Well, I guess I'm gonna go take that shower now," she replied quietly, as she turned to walk away.
She stopped, her back still to him. She refused to move.
"I'm sorry Buffy. I'm sorry for keeping you at arm's length. For not letting you in. It's been a helluva nineteen years. Haven't had much reason to trust anyone; least of all you. Just, didn't want to get hurt again, that's all. I'm sorry."
He could see her small form trembling slightly, and all he wanted was to reach out for her and pull her into his arms. She didn't speak. She didn't do or say anything. She just stood there, silently trembling.
He heard a racking sob escape her throat, as she finally turned to look at him. She wasn't crying, but her eyes glistened with impending tears.
"I wasn't trying to punish you," he said, "by withholding affection. I was just trying to protect myself. That's all. I love you Buffy. I always have and I always will. It's only you Buffy. It's only ever been you."
Her eyes scrutinized his, searching the depths of his heart and mind for the answer to some unspoken question. "But you don't believe me, do you?" she finally asked. "You don't believe that I love you."
"I wanna believe. More than anything."
Buffy nodded ever-so-slightly. Slowly, she closed the distance between them, never breaking his gaze. When she was mere inches in front of him, she lifted up on her toes and kissed him softly on the lips.
Spike's whole body froze in shock. If she had violently grabbed him, pushed him down on the kitchen counter and mounted him, he couldn't have been more stunned. Buffy had never kissed him like this before.
No. That wasn't true. She had kissed him like this once before. Just once. The day she had realized that he had risked his life to protect Dawn; the day she had come to him as the Buffybot. That day, she had kissed him just like this; as if her heart was overflowing with emotion and she was completely incapable of stopping herself.
Before Spike could regain his composure, Buffy pulled away. She stared up at him with eyes full of love and longing and regret. And for the very first time, Spike believed it. He believed all of it.
Suddenly, there was no doubt anymore. He could see Buffy's soul laid bare before him; nearly twenty years of pain and loneliness reflected in her soft, hazel eyes. He was torturing her by denying her feelings, by holding her at bay. It was eating away at her. The way it had eaten away at him, when their roles had been reversed, all those years ago.
But unlike Buffy back in the day, Spike wasn't full of self-loathing. He had no desire to take out his anger and frustration on anyone. He didn't want to punish Buffy. He wanted to love her. More than anything in the entire world. It was all he had ever wanted.
Before he could respond, Buffy took a retreating step. "Well, I guess that's that," she said, her voice breaking slightly.
She turned to walk away, but Spike couldn't let her go. He reached out his hand and grabbed her by the arm, pulling her back around to face him. A split second later, he pulled her flush against his chest and kissed her passionately.
Buffy seemed startled at first, as if she couldn't quite believe what he was doing. But it didn't take her long to melt into his arms and start kissing him back.
Spike could have spent the rest of his life kissing her. He'd forgotten just how sweet she tasted, how soft her skin was, how seductive her sighs. He was drowning in her all over again, every sense completely consumed by her. All he wanted was Buffy. All he wanted was to prove to her that he still loved her.
Spike didn't know how they made it to the bed. He had absolutely no recollection of the journey. But suddenly, there they were, standing beside it. After she had started kissing him, everything had become an incomprehensible mass of sensation and emotion. Feeling her body pressed against his again, after so long, was achingly painful. Every fiber of his being was screaming at him to just strip her bare and take her, but his heart wanted more. His heart wanted to savor their coming together. It had been too long.
He felt Buffy's hands skimming the flesh beneath his t-shirt, and the next thing he knew, the shirt was lying in a heap on the floor. Feeling her hands against his bare skin did something to him, and before he knew what was happening, they were tearing at each other's clothes.
Spike tore Buffy's blouse in two, rending it right down the middle. She didn't seem to notice or care. She was too busy working his belt open. She was wearing a long skirt and Spike knew all he had to do was push her down on the bed and hike it up around her waist. But that's not what he wanted. He didn't want part of her. He wanted all of her. He fought desperately to keep himself under control. He was harder than he'd ever been in his life – nineteen years of celibacy could do that to a man – but he wanted this to be right. He would hold out for as long as he could.
While Buffy worked the buttons on his jeans, Spike tore her skirt right off her waist. Now, all that stood between him and Buffy were a few flimsy scraps of lace.
Spike felt the last button on his jeans give way, and suddenly Buffy's hand was wrapped around him intimately. Spike let out a hiss of pain and dragged her hand away. "Not yet luv," he rasped through ragged breaths. "I'll never make it."
Buffy willingly relented, running her hands up his chest and pulling him closer, kissing him deeply. Spike allowed his trembling fingers to divest her of the last of her clothing, before he pushed his jeans over his hips and kicked them off his legs.
Now they stood there together naked. Holding each other, caressing and kissing, trying to heal the wounds that had been open for so long. Finally, after all this time, there was nothing between them. They loved each other, and for the very first time, they were going to make love.
Spike pulled back for a moment, trying to give Buffy some time to breathe, but she didn't seem to want any. She kept kissing him, moving her mouth over his chest and his neck, desperate to taste him.
"Buffy wait," Spike said, as he literally put her at arm's length.
She looked up at him, her eyes full of pain and confusion. "Please don't stop," she pleaded. "Please, not now."
"I've no intention of stopping, luv," he said, as he lovingly stroked her hair. "Don't think I could even if I wanted to." He let his eyes drift slowly down her body, her beauty suddenly overpowering him. He quickly looked back into her eyes and recomposed himself. "Before we do this, I just thought you should know that, I do believe you Buffy. I should never have doubted you. I never will again."
And then, before she could answer, he pulled her close again and kissed her. He heard a small, contented sigh escape the back of her throat and his heart swelled with joy. He had waited so long for this. He had honestly never thought it would happen. Now he knew what Buffy had felt when she'd been in heaven, because that was exactly how he was feeling now.
Buffy pulled Spike down onto the bed, never breaking contact. He was instantly overcome by the feel of her beneath him; her long, lithe body stretched out against his. Even though his body was supposed to be room temperature, his skin was on fire. He burned everywhere she touched him.
It was with great difficulty that Spike dragged his lips away from hers and began to scorch a trail of kisses down her body. He suckled at her neck, kissed her breasts, worshiped her skin with his tongue. There was so much of her he wanted to reacquaint himself with. He wanted to take his time, savor every last moment of it, but Buffy wouldn't allow it.
Desperately needy from the attention he was lavishing on her body, she grabbed at the back of his hair, pulling him up to kiss him again. "I want you," she breathed softly against his mouth. "Now. Please."
If there was one thing Spike couldn't resist, it was a plea from Buffy. He let his mouth linger on hers, as he gently pushed apart her thighs and settled himself between them. He felt like he was going to burst, and it took every ounce of his self resolve to keep himself from coming right then and there.
Spike heard her gasp, as he slowly pushed inside. His eyes rolled back into his head and he completely lost himself for a moment, so enraptured by the feel of her surrounding him. She was so hot, so tight. He felt like he had disintegrated into a pile of smoldering ash, the second he had entered her. It took him a moment to regain awareness. When he was fully conscious again, he realized that he was already moving inside her, and that she was moving with equal force against him.
They kept a steady rhythm, neither one wanting it to end. But it had to end. There was no way they could keep this up forever.
Spike inhaled sharply and forced his muscles to relax. He needed to make sure that Buffy found her release before he sought his own. He concentrated on his movements, making sure to put pressure on just the right spot with each thrust of his hips. It didn't take her long to crash over the precipice. And a few seconds later, Spike finally allowed himself his own release.
When their breathing had finally slowed to a normal pace, Spike pushed himself onto his back and gathered Buffy up against him. He could tell that she was on the brink of sleep; her heart rate had slowed and she was snuggled contentedly beside him. He was a little disappointed actually. Leave it to him, to want to talk after making love. What kind of poncey, nancy boy was he anyway?
Spike looked down at Buffy and stroked her hair. He knew the answer, the kind that was in love with Buffy.
Spike leaned down and placed a small kiss atop her head.
Buffy sighed contentedly in response. "I love you," she whispered.
"I love you too, pet."
"Buffy. Say, 'I love you too, Buffy.'"
Spike smiled in spite of himself. "I love you too, Buffy."
"Good. Now we go to sleep," she said sweetly, and he remembered all over again why he loved her so much.
Spike tightened his hold on her and finally closed his eyes. It was the best night's sleep either one of them had had in nineteen long years.