AUTHOR: Kevin A. Poston (Fojiao2)
DISCLAIMER: I own none of the characters used here and am not profiting by them at all. They are the sole property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and anyone else Joss okays.
SPOILERS: Up through "Older and Far Away" (Season Six)
SUMMARY: Spike can't speak because of a bet with Buffy, but it just allows her to hear his heart even clearer. Unrepentantly sappy and mushy!
DISTRIBUTION: Appears on Isabelle's CARNAL SINS page now [Yay!]--anyone can take it, just inform me at fojiao2@linuxfreemail.com
FEEDBACK: Any you can spare--your words are my bread and butter.
DEDICATION: This is for Lisa Y. Drexel, because her "Bet" series of stories were just wonderful. And I want to thank David Lynch for making the word "Silencio" have a power that I'll never really get over.

While she wouldn't admit to enjoying the time she spent with Spike, Buffy had to admit that there were some things she liked doing with him. There was the thing she wouldn't talk about and which made her blush just to think about, of course. There was fighting. There was patroling. It was even okay drinking with him as long as they didn't indulge too often. But best of all was betting.

They wagered with each other all the time. About who could kill the most vampires in an evening. About who could leap the highest and do more flips before landing. About who could keep the bleach in their hair the longest before washing it out (a secret almost as embarrassing as the sex thing). Even about who could climb the tallest tree in the cemetery, jump off without even bothering to cushion the fall, and then walk away with the fewest bruises. Needless to say, it was the type of thing they did when a long patrol turned out to be vampire-free and they were both bored.

But Buffy enjoyed betting with Spike. Because it had rules, definite boundaries she could use to hem him in. It was one of the safest ways she could be around the sexy vampire, so naturally she used it to her advantage. Spike never welshed on a bet, never refused to abide by whatever torture came with a loss. Buffy couldn't say the same. It might have been unfair, but it was hardly the worst of the little cruelties she dealt out to him. He never called her on it and she continued to get away with it. Though secretly, she knew that she owed Spike 342 kisses and a backrub. Maybe she'd let him collect in her old age.

Spike always came back for more, of course. Wagering was one of the first things he did when Buffy returned to life, in an attempt to get her to display some real emotion. He bet her that he could think of more people who loved him than she could think of those who loved her. He began with Dru, of course, but she disqualified that, since she'd been there the last time he'd seen Dru and knew that that particular relationship was dust. So he said "Dawn," and Buffy had to
accept it.

She returned with "Willow." He nodded and tried not to let her see his panic. He'd suddenly run out of people. So he unhesitantly began to invent a string of women he'd slept with during his long trip from Brazil to Sunnydale.




"Um. Angel."

Spike grimaced. "The twin sisters, Luba and Esperanza. I'll count 'em as one."

"Are you sure all these women love you?"

"It's what they were screaming all night, Slayer," he responded. "I was too polite to question it."

Buffy gulped at that. Only days back from the dead and she'd already started to notice that Spike was a lot sexier than he'd been before. Why was that? "My mom," Buffy said, giving him a hard look. "She counts."

"Oh well, in that case, my own mum. She loved her boy Will, she did."

Buffy's eyes wandered. "Dawn."

"Didn't I take that one?"

"She loves me, too."

"Given. Let's see--what was her name? At that rest stop in Bakersfield? Oh, yeah--Sandy! Tried to stow herself away in my car, that one. Just crazy about me."


"Lydia." A questioning eyebrow from Buffy. "That girl from the Watcher's Council, when they came to test your worthiness to fight Glory? She snuck back to my crypt while her mates were sleeping. Bit of a wild one, but it was good to hear my name screamed in an English accent again."

"Riley," Buffy growled at him.

"Oh! Fairly wounded I am! Halfrek," Spike said, deciding to throw in a real name just for the hell of it. She'd never find out who Halfrek had been to him, not in a million years.

"Um . . . Tara?"

Spike blinked. "If you say so, luv. Next, I'll say Liza. Of Lambeth." He knew Buffy would never catch the literary reference. "She's long gone now, but I yet had her heart while mine still beat." Then he grimaced. "Bloody hell, you got me talking like a Victorian again."

Buffy suddenly seemed very lost. She wanted to say Anya, but she was trying to be honest here. Love? Not really. Faith put more emotion in one of her letters from jail than Anya did toward Buffy. Desperately she said, "My-- my father!" They both frowned at that one. "Okay, okay, I'll say Anya. She certainly seems to care more than Dad."

"There you go, Slayer, I knew you'd think of another one! Me, I have tons of other selections. Why, there's-- there's--" He blinked and looked at her in wonderment. "Cor, Slayer, I can't think of another person that loves me. We're tied!" He paused for a moment, then caught her eyes again. "Unless you can think of one more person. That'd put you over the top."

"Um. Can I say the rest of the world? 'Cause I died saving them?"

"Nope, sorry. You failed to collect 12 apostles before exiting, luv, so the world doesn't notice." He tried to keep his banter going, pushing the words past the lump in his throat at the thought of her sacrifice. His anger at a world that bloody well chose to ignore the sacrifice of such a strong, beautiful, incomparable sun ruby of a girl pretty much removed his sadness.

Buffy was panicking now, showing some definite emotion. Faces kept flashing through her mind, and she kept reviewing them and rejecting them for the word "love." Now that she reflected on it, it was amazing how many enemies she could recall, all with the mental word "hate" stamped across their faces. Maybe she should have bet Spike on the number of enemies she could think of--but then again, that might not be such a good idea after all, considering how many people Spike had pissed off in just the few years she'd known him. Imagine who he could dredge up from a century of being annoying as hell! But thinking of him had given her the answer she sought. Spike loved her! Of course! She looked up, just about to say his name, when she caught the expectant look in his eyes. So. This had been his plan all along.

Before she knew what she was doing, she growled out, "Spike," as a warning.

"Spike!" he shouted, jumping up. "One other person who loves you! Dammit, Slayer, I guess you beat me." He had his arms lifted dramatically, then his entire figure slumped. "So I'll have to patrol for the next three nights all on my lonesome. Ah, you play for high stakes, Slayer! You're a killer at these wagers."

Buffy rose from her seat in his crypt and dusted her pants off. "Yeah, I guess so," she said, her anger having melted away. "So I'll see you in a few days." And with that she left, smiling to herself.

Now they were both months away from that initial wager. They were entirely different people than they'd been then. Their intimacy had grown, but at the lack of their friendliness. Buffy felt a definite pain when she considered that it had been months since she could talk like that with Spike, just have a conversation that didn't end in tears or violence or a panicky need to run. They still had their wagers, but that was about as comfortable as she got around him these days. At least with their clothes on.

Now she was patroling on the evening after her birthday party--the day after she was freed from the party. She thought of it as the first real day that she was 21. All grown up now, she thought. So why is that the last thing that I feel? I'm not in control of anything in my life. How will I get through the next few years on my own, much less the rest of my life?

As if on cue, she heard Spike's voice over her left shoulder. "Can I help you, pet?"

Buffy closed her eyes and stood in place. "No. No, I'm doing fine. I have to get home soon, I promised Dawn I'd be back on time."

"No worries there, I didn't mean to keep you. I just wanted to say thanks."

Trust him to surprise her. She spun around and glared at him. "What?"

She caught him in the middle of taking a drag from his cigarette. He was as beautiful as ever in his dark clothes and the grey shirt he wore on her first night at Doublemeat Palace, like a well-dressed Greek sculpture that had decided to leave the museum and check out the cemetery. He couldn't quite look her in the eye. "Well, I didn't get to say this at the party. But I saw what you did. When that wanker Xander brought wanted to get you a drink, you could have easily told him yes. It wouldn't have meant a thing, really, but you knew it'd hurt me something terrible. And you didn't. So I just wanted to say thanks. Because I don't think I say that enough. Thanks." He put his palm to his forehead. "Cor, I'm starting to babble like Red now." Spike then stayed quiet, trying to see how his words affected Buffy.

Buffy let out a deep sigh. "Oh, Spike, why do you have to do that?"

"Do what, luv?"

"Act all sweet when I'm trying to figure out the ways you're BAD for me. Where's all that 'You belong in the shadows with me' talk now?"

Spike snorted. "That's still true," he said. "Just not the kind of thing I thought to bring up tonight. Unless you're in a mood to join me in the crypt?"

"Ah-ha!" she said, pointing at him. "That's the Spike I know. The one with the mouth! God, y'know, out of the HUNDREDS of problems you have, the biggest has to be that smart mouth of yours! We might not have half the difficulty we do relating if not for your mouth! Like that morning after--" Suddenly her voice caught. Spike was completely immoble and silent. This was the first time she'd spoken of that morning to him, and he wasn't going to interrupt her now.

Buffy spoke through a voice obviously on the edge of tears. "I-- I was so close to staying. And then you have to make that STUPID remark about 'the only thing better than killing a Slayer.'" She had to stop, then tried to continue, knowing she'd never be able to say this again and wanting to get it behind her. "It didn't have to end that badly. None of this needed to go as badly as it has. But you can't make it work. And I won't. So why the hell should we continue?"

Spike felt his legs go numb and almost dropped, but years of working through pain and other injuries helped him keep his footing. His eyes reflected a deep injury, though. "Cor, Slayer. Can't you just go back to threatening to stake me?"

"You just can't shut up, can you?" she said, a few tears already spilling down her face. "Why not? What does it take?" Suddenly a thought sparked in her, and she looked hard at Spike. "Spike! I'll BET you can't shut up for even a day."

The vampire looked back with a new flame of hope burning in him. "It's a wager you want, Slayer?" he asked. Thank God for old routines they could fall back on! "Why not tell me the stakes?"

"Everything," Buffy said. "I win and you give up. I don't care how you FEEL, you just don't get to act on it. You leave me alone forever."

"And if I win?"

Buffy's throat was so tight she could barely croak out a reply. "I'll try," she said. "I'll tell everyone that we're going out, let them infer what they will. And you and I will actually work at this THING we have." She shook her head, trying to clear away the tears. "But for stakes this big it has to be more than a day."

"No arguments here," Spike replied. "How about this? I will stay silent until the day you BEG me to speak again."

Buffy stared at him. NO WAY was he going to be able to do that. And have her beg? Was he giving her an out? Ready to accept defeat? A small part of her hoped not. "You'd do that?"

Spike nodded. "That and more. You never have really believed that I'd do anything for you. And I've just been waiting for you to really challenge me, luv. Now I get to show you what I can do with a little inspiration." He took three large steps forward, his right hand extended. "Do you accept?"

She took his hand and they shook, solemnly, both looking at the interlocked hands. She heard him whisper, "I love you," then he looked up. He mimed a zipper being drawn across his lips, then smirked at her. He had to actually tug his hand out of her own--something told her that she might not get to touch him again for some time.

But Spike appeared joyful, with a laugh almost ready to burst from him. He actually had a bounce to his step as he turned and walked back to his crypt.

Buffy watched him leave, then suddenly looked to her watch. "Dawn!" she squeaked, and set off for her house at a dead run.


TO BE CONTINUED--three more chapters, no more.