TITLE: SILENCIO (Part Four) [The End]
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!
FEEDBACK: I want to thank everyone for their kind and enthusiastic reviews. Yes, please, give me any and every bit of feedback you can, my ego needs to be drawn up from the dry well of reality on a daily basis.
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.

By the time Buffy reached Spike's cemetery she could hear the sound of battle: bodies being thrown against tomebstones and even blades clanging. She took off at a dead run toward the sounds and arrived in time to see Spike fighting three demons by himself, with two dead demons lying at his feet. Spike was wielding a longsword in one hand and a shortsword in the other, using the long one for its reach and the short one to block incoming blows. The demons were a foot taller than Spike, dressed in leather armor and using broadswords. Their faces were ant-like, with huge pincers at the front of their lozenge-shaped heads, but the rest of them looked humanoid enough. As Buffy watched, Spike swung up and cut an antenna from one of the creatures while its sword clanged against his shortsword. The demon instantly lost its balance and seemed much more confused. The vampire took advantage of that and leaned in to take off its swordhand with his short blade. He then brought the longsword forward and skewered the demon, having to leave the blade in the body as he dodged the advance of the two remaining demons.

Buffy rushed forward and launched herself in the air, bringing both feet down on a demon's head. It went down like a bowling pin and she used its confusion to tear both antennae off its head. The monster flopped around as if it had suddenly gone blind, dropping the sword and any thought of attack. She grabbed the head, careful to avoid the pincers, and twisted until it snapped off. She then looked up in time to see Spike jump two feet in the air and bury his shortsword between the gigantic eyes of the last demon. It squealed and fell to the ground beside its dead brethren.

Buffy was picking herself up from the ground when one of the demons that both Spike and Buffy had assumed was dead picked itself up and loped in her direction. Her back was to it and the thing moved in complete silence. From thirty feet away Spike saw it move, but there was no way to bring it down for sure from his position and he couldn't shout a warning to Buffy. But she was standing next to a tree. He quickly pulled his switchblade from his duster, flicked it open, and threw it at the tree beside Buffy, missing her face by ten inches. She spun around to look at Spike, and he motioned frantically to the monster approaching her. She turned to see the ant-headed demon dragging a broken leg but advancing steadily, its sword just rising to cut through her. She looked the thing up and down, then from a standing position brought her foot up to slam into the demon's pinching face. The force of her kick knocked the head right off its shoulders, and the body dropped.

Spike looked around for any other combatants, then approached Buffy. He gave her a silent nod of gratitude, still full of seriousness and bloodlust. She just shrugged, then considered the move he'd made to kill his last demon. "Have we ever played basketball?"

Wondering where the hell that subject came from, Spike shook his head.

"We should try sometime," Buffy said. "I usually don't have any competition at things like that. You could probably give me a run for my money." She looked up at Spike, and he was smirking and raising his eyebrows suggestively. She snorted. "Not like that, you perv!" But she didn't lose her smile. In fact, she took his arm and leaned into his chest while they walked back to his crypt. On the way she talked about how her day had been, about the impact his little notes had had, and the plan for the next day's assault on the Nerds of Doom. He expressed his customary disgust that she had to work on a Sunday, but she just shrugged: it was the way things
were. She was lucky that she got Saturdays off. He agreed with her about his position as official car thief for the Scoobs--after all, hadn't he secured the Winnebago
for their run from Glory? But he made her understand that he could come to her house rather than require them to come pick him up. She nodded.

When they reached his crypt Buffy found his door kicked open, barely hanging from one hinge, and the bodies of three more ant-headed demons inside. It looked as
if his battle with them had started here and then carried out into the rest of the graveyard. Spike seemed much more upset at the state of his crypt, which really
looked no more wrecked than after one of their marathon sex sessions. Just thinking about that, and the fact that they hadn't indulged in it for more than three weeks,
caused a delicious heat to flow through Buffy. Maybe not tonight, because she had to get her sleep. But tomorrow? After taking out the Nerds of Doom a suitable
release of tension might be called for.

Spike certainly didn't seem to be in a sexy mood. The frantic gestures he was making over his turned-over fridge were as close as he could come to shouting these days. Her heart went out to him at that moment. This strong, brave man--and she didn't hesitate to think of him as a man--was held in a prison of her own devising. He could break it at any moment if he chose, if he just stopped caring for one minute. But that wasn't Spike. He couldn't turn off his feelings, even if they were feelings that he didn't like, even if they were feelings that put him through hell and changed his entire unlife. So much of her life was about suppressing what she truly felt, about putting her own cares aside to fulfill her duty. She was a good soldier in that respect, and not a day went by when she didn't dream of the day she'd be released from that duty. How would it feel to live like Spike, to be a warrior instead of a soldier, a predator instead of "part of the team?" It would be freeing in one way, sure, but she'd also be a slave to her emotions. She'd seen what that had done to him, the indignities and torture Spike had put up with--was still in fact suffering--in the name of love. She had to admit that she never would have done it. If Angel had treated her with just a drop of the cruelty she'd dealt out to Spike her own feelings would have dried up and she'd have moved on. But then, she was a soldier, a worthy part of society: a human being. Spike lived on the periphery, existing by the laws of the jungle, allowing instinct to substitute for a conscience, a wild boy raised by wolves. There was no safe place they could meet and really share a life. She'd read Kipling's THE JUNGLE BOOK when she was little and knew that it didn't have a Disney ending. While Mowgli came in from the jungle for a while, he eventually returned to it rather than try to fit into a society that was insane compared to the clear rules of jungle life.

All this thinking had carried Buffy out of the crypt, so that she now stood looking up at the stars, her arms wrapped around herself. Spike came up from behind her and put reassuring hands on her shoulders, turning her to face him. His face was an open question.

Buffy asked what was uppermost in her mind. "Will you ever speak again?"

He responded by pointing to her. Of course. She held the key to his prison of silence, but it was a key that would free more than his tongue. (Ooh, bad Buffy, don't think about his tongue. Or what it can do.) She'd have to admit things to her friends and admit them to herself as well. It would mean an end to hiding, the ultimate risk of her heart and soul. God, facing Glory had been child's play compared to this! Why didn't she ever get the easy fights? Rather than think further about this, she buried her face in Spike's chest and wrapped her arms around him. He hugged her as well, his hands making slow circles on her back.

The feeling of her warmth in his arms was indescribable. Not one day in his century-plus affair with Dru matched this. He sometimes wondered if Buffy thought he compared her to Dru, but in fact there was no comparison. He found more bliss in one of Buffy's hugs than the decades of cold congress he'd found with vampire lovers, and sex with Buffy was like being bodily transported to paradise. No wonder he couldn't stop thinking about it when he was around her, and let those stupid remarks slip from his mouth constantly. Well, at least he used to. He had a feeling that his time in the cage of silence would give him a lot more control over that in days to come. And he had to believe that there would be days to come, that he and Buffy would get past this and eventually be open and caring with each other, no matter what obstacles arose. He had to believe this because to admit anything else was too painful to contemplate. If Buffy was a champion at denial, then he was at least a gold medalist in that event himself--it was one of the reasons he understood her so well.

Finally Buffy pulled away. She couldn't quite meet his eyes, knowing that they would entreat her to stay. "I have to get home," she said, and Spike merely nodded. "Can you take care of--?" She waved her hand in the direction of the pile of five corpses.

Spike smiled and made a swooping gesture with his hand, indicating that he'd dump them in the river like usual. She understood. She had gotten very good at understanding his pantomiming, enough that she'd continued asking very big questions of him and he kept giving her poignant answers. Still with her head turned down she waved, said, "Bye!" and made her way back home.

The next evening Xander's car pulled to the curb a block away from the house they sought on the other side of Sunnydale. Willow sat next to him while Buffy and Spike took the back seat. As they neared their destination Buffy and Spike held hands, unseen by anyone in the front. One final squeeze from both of them and then Spike was out of the car.

He knew the mission. He was to take the van and bring it back to Xander's car, at which point they'd sneak in and take the SuperNerds out. Sounded easy. They all knew it wouldn't be so. Even Harris had looked happier when he knew that Spike was going into the house with them. He knows I might be useful as cannon fodder, Spike thought. The vampire himself was more than a little nervous about what these childish fools might be hiding in their lair. Going against magic required one kind of resolve, going against technology required another. Facing a combination of both put a nasty new spin on the sour feeling in his gut. At least his blood supplies in the fridge hadn't been disturbed last night, and he was full of blood and power at the moment.

He knew that their enemy had sent those demons to his crypt last night. He didn't know why they wanted him out of the way, but he'd had a wonderful time dispatching their little attempt. Sending eight demons was usually a large threat--sending eight Apiana demons, especially to a vampire with his experience, was just a joke. He'd figure out their game after he defeated the whelps.

He crossed three lawns and then his target was clear: the black van that he'd seen on that night Buffy got drunk with him. Spike crept up to it and found no infrared detection system. He popped the door lock no problem, but once he sat in the driver's seat he got his first shock. Twin spikes shot from the seatback, driving through his torso where his kidneys were. Painful, sure, and he was now leaking blood into his new shirt and his lap, but not even debilitating for him because they hadn't broken any bones. Still, it proved that there were booby traps in the van, and this might not be the only one. He reached under the dash for the wires that would allow him to hotwire the van--and did not find them. He would have liked to have bent down under the steering wheel to see what they'd changed in the vehicle's wiring, but there was a little impaling to consider. He thought frantically. These three wankers were a combination of brilliance and amazing stupidity. The spikes they used would have taken out almost anyone, even a demon. So they wouldn't be stupid enough to--

He checked the sun visor, and sure enough, the keys were there. He started the van up, one hand on the wheel, and got another gift from the auto's owners. Electricity arced up his arm, causing his entire body to jerk and spasm. It seemed to last about forever, but in fact only shocked him for ten straight seconds. They weren't kidding around, these blokes! Spike's teeth were rattled, his hair slightly smoked, and large burns covered his arm and torso, but for the most part he was okay. He looked himself up and down to make sure some small part of him wasn't on fire, because vampires combusted like a bag of dry leaves. Reassured, he put the van into first gear, made sure not to turn the headlights on, and turned left onto the street. In a minute he was at Xander's car, deciding to park the vehicle nose-to-nose.

Now for the hard part: getting out. Pulling himself off the spikes and out of the van was easier said than done, mostly because there was a steering wheel in the way. From his position he didn't have the best leverage to tear the steering column out. Maybe Buffy . . .

Just as he was thinking this Buffy and the two Scoobies came up to the passenger window. "C'mon," said Buffy, "Let's go."

Hmm, how to say this? Even more difficult, how to mime it? With no options left, Spike turned on the cab lights in the van, making his situation very visible.

Buffy clamped both her hands over her mouth to keep from shrieking. There were two horrible iron spikes sticking out of his gut, and blood was literally pouring out of him. But Spike gave her a reassuring smile and waved it away, signing that it was nothing. He did put her hand on the steering wheel and made motions like he wanted her to pull it, though.

Of course! He couldn't get off the spikes! She yanked the van's passenger door off, discarding it next to where Willow and Xander stood, then grabbed the steering wheel with both hands. Bracing a foot against the doorframe, she tore the entire steering column out of the floor and tossed it behind her. Spike grinned at her and slowly eased himself off the spikes, jumping down from the van with no problems. Now Xander and Willow could see that he was wounded and stood in shock.

Spike, very businesslike, just took off his duster, ripped his shirt off himself, and used it as a makeshift bandage around his torso. He held up the duster against the light from a streetlamp, seeing how it came through the two large holes in the back. This seemed to really disgust and anger him for the first time, and he had to be restrained from rushing off to kill the Nerds of Doom by himself.

"No," Buffy said, speaking above a whisper but trying to stay quiet. This close to him she saw that he'd also sustained some burns, yet they weren't slowing him down. "We can't have you going in there while you're hurt. We don't know what we'll be facing inside, so we'll need you to guard the exterior in case they get past us. Can you do that?"

Pouting, he nodded his head. He put his duster back on and instantly looked more like himself, rather than the gang's personal wounded vampire. There were so many layers to him, Buffy thought, each one a cloak to hide something different. A woman could spend a lot of happy years just getting to know every facet of his personality. Sweeping these thoughts aside, Buffy turned to face their destination and her team fell in behind her.

Fighting humans brought new requirements to the Scoobies. Buffy carried a sword, mostly because her skills could find so many uses for the thing. Willow carried a crossbow in her arms and another slung around her back, since they'd be as useful against regular opponents as against vampires. Xander carried a 9mm Browning Automatic, more for show than actual use, but his soldierly instincts were known to come into play in the middle of battle and it was best to have him armed. Spike carried his own dangerous self, his hands already clenching and feeling the imaginary throats he could twist with them. And across town, in the house on Revello Drive, Tara was maintaining a protective barrier around herself, Anya, and Dawn, should the Nerds of Doom try to attack them through that avenue. Buffy highly doubted that would happen, but she never forgot the lesson Angelus taught her when he used her need for a showdown to lead her away from the library, an action that had gotten Kendra killed and Giles tortured. That was not going to happen again.

When they reached the house, Spike stood in the driveway while Buffy and the two Scoobs went around the back. A part of him hoped that the Nerdy Three would somehow slip past Buffy so he could give himself a nice headache pounding some sense into the wankers. After waiting five minutes it seemed he got his wish. The pathetic losers snuck around the house in the darkness exactly along the path Buffy had taken inside. When they reached the driveway, however, they were struck dumb by the absence of their vehicle.

"The van!" Warren shouted, then turned to Andrew and slapped his head. "Where'd you leave it?"

"It was right there, I swear!" Andrew protested.

Jonathan was the first to spot the vampire as he stepped out of the darkness, his duster swinging about him like batwings, wearing the most bloodthirsty smile the boy had ever seen. His blue eyes sparkled with menace in the yellow glow from streetlights and he wasn't saying a word as he advanced on them. Jonathan began to slap his co-conspirators until they paid attention to him. Then he pointed at the approaching form.

Warren gaped. "Spike!" he shouted. "He'll kill me! We-- we have to get out of here! Jonathan, prepare your teleportation spell! Andrew--we need something big summoned. Pull out all the stops. Make sure no one's alive to follow us!"

"I-- I--" Andrew stammered, fumbling in a pouch at his waist.

"Do it!" Warren shouted.

Spike noticed the boy reaching into a pouch for something. Before he could get there, he saw the wanker lift the thing up and say a few words in Greek. Oh bloody hell! Spike thought, recognizing the thing in his hand and breaking into a run. It's a dragon's tooth!

Andrew jabbed the tooth into the lawn beside the driveway. Spike arrived just in time to dive onto the ground over it and bowl over both Andrew and Warren. He'd found some time ago that if he tried to hurt himself, but his momentum happened to hurt humans around him, that his chip wouldn't go off. He referred to it internally as Bowling for Poofters.

But his gambit hadn't incapacitated either young man. They both scrambled up and ran toward Jonathan, who was standing in a circle pre-cut in that side of the lawn and already starting to chant. Spike would have loved to have gone over and broken up their little party, but he was already facing the first of the warriors to erupt from the dragon's tooth.

It was as he expected. It was a short human skeleton dressed in ancient Greek armor, which meant a chestplate and helmet with a shortsword and small roundish shield. Not a terribly frightening opponent, but Spike knew that when he brought it down there'd be two more after that, and four more after that, and sixteen more after that. The geometric progression would become very frightening very soon. Maybe when Warren had said to leave no witnesses he hadn't meant "destroy the town," but that was exactly what would happen if Spike didn't get that dragon's tooth out of the ground.

The short skeleton was already facing off with Spike, darting its little sword toward him, then it decided to charge. Leaving itself completely open, Spike merely ducked under it, grabbed the spine with both hands, and tore the thing into two pieces. He threw the torso one way and the legs the other and dove for the dragon's tooth, his fingers digging into the earth it was slowly sinking into. But two pairs of skeletal hands dragged him off it, and when he was thrown down by the two new skeletons one of them didn't hesitate to dig its sword into his gut, exactly where he already had a wound. As if the pain from that electrocution hadn't been enough! He started to miss the days when the greatest pain he felt was from his own chip.

If that wanker put another hole in my duster, Spike thought to himself, I'll feed him to a kennel. He grabbed the blade buried inside him and yanked it out of the skeleton's hand, then took it by the hilt and pulled it from his gut. He swung it hard to the right and lopped off a skeleton's leg. The one on the left now brought its own sword to play, and hacked away purely defensively as he got back to his feet. Once he was standing the advantage was all his once more. He lopped off both the thing's arms and let it run around uselessly kicking him while he took his captured shortsword and dug into the ground around the dragon's tooth. He'd gotten it in and was starting to lever the tooth out of the hole it was burrowing when he heard a brief *woosh* behind him and instinctively ducked his head. The blade that had swung for his head still took some hair, but that was all. It seemed the one-legged one had grabbed the other's sword. In total frustration, knowing that he was just ten or twenty seconds from victory if he concentrated on this, he swung out, intending to tear apart the one with the sword. Unfortunately, he got both skeletons, his fist smashing through the chest of one and shattering the spine of the other.

And suddenly there were four fresh skeletons standing around him, three swordsmen and a javelineer. He looked up in despair--and that's when he saw Buffy come around the corner of the house.

Buffy was amazingly tired and a little out-of-focus, but she was ready to fight. As soon as she and Willow and Xander had entered the house's basement they knew that they had fallen into some kind of trap. And she should have known it would be a temporal kind--that was the favorite method of these three wastes of life. Any attempt to go back up either of the two staircases that led out of the basement caused that person's subjective time to slow to a crawl--meaning that it could take hours to put one's foot up one step. And those not on the staircase could do nothing but sit and watch their friend trapped like a fly in amber. Finally, Willow came up with the brilliant idea that the device causing this effect had to be somewhere inside the time bubble with them. Since they had nothing but time ahead, they searched the entire basement from floor to ceiling, looking in every corner and shadow, and finally came across a tiny glowing thing like the one Buffy had found attached to her sweater on that day she'd attempted to return to classes. They used every weapon they had to destroy it but nothing worked. Xander became so frustrated that he picked the thing up and threw it into the time field on the staircase. They heard a tiny explosion immediately after and Buffy tried the stairs. When they turned out to be regular stairs they all raced up and breathed the night air with relief.

But they hadn't expected it to be night. According to their subjective time--which they'd all counted by their digital watches--they'd spent a day-and-a-half in the basement with no food or water and very little sleep. Xander and Willow were pretty much wiped out, but when Buffy heard the sound of swords clanging in the front yard she figured that time had been traveling differently outside. And she instinctively knew that Spike was in trouble. So she picked up her sword and ran to the front, only to see the Nerds of Doom standing in a glowing circle preparing some sort of spell. As they were the most lit thing in the yard, she rushed toward them.

Meanwhile, in the shadows of the front lawn, Spike was being dragged off the dragon's tooth by the three skeletons with swords. He looked helplessly at Buffy racing toward the Nerds and saw that the javelineer had noticed her as well. Seeing where she intended to arrive, the thing was already lifting its javelin and preparing to throw. The vampire could barely believe it: he'd been ten seconds from victory, and now not only was he in trouble, but Buffy was about to be killed. He was out of options. He dodged an incoming sword, shook a skeleton off his right arm, and shouted, "BUFFY! DUCK! NOW!"

Buffy grabbed Warren and was pulling him out of the circle when she heard Spike shout. She instantly hit the ground and a javelin flew through the space she'd been in half a second before. It buried itself in Warren's chest, and he pitched forward into the circle without a word. Buffy stared at the two remaining"villains" and noticed something interesting. While Jonathan was horrified to see Warren killed in front of them, Andrew looked down at the body with an expression of pure satisfaction. If Spike had seen the same thing he'd know why the demons sent to kill him had been so ineffectual; Buffy merely filed the information away for future pondering. Before she could drag the living guys from the circle their teleportation spell activated and everything within the circle disappeared.

"Buffy! Get over here!" she heard Spike shout again, and was already moving when the thought hit her: Spike's talking. But if he hadn't warned me I'd be dead. The implications of what his shouted warning must have meant to him washed over her but she couldn't really think about it. A walking skeleton in brass armor was menacing her in the driveway. It punched her with a weak skeletal fist, and she responded by knocking its head off with a single punch. The ringing sound from its helmet was very satisfying after just watching two foes escape. Then she was able to see that three more skeletons with swords were holding Spike down.

"Don't destroy these things, Slayer," Spike said. "Toss 'em around if you like, but if you break 'em we'll be up to our ears in more."

"I already killed one," she responded, approaching cautiously. One of the skeletons noticed her and stepped onto the driveway boldly, its sword ready to meet her own.

This left Spike with just two combatants, and he had no more time for niceties. He launched himself from the ground and grabbed one skeleton by the arm. He tossed it thirty feet behind him, onto the next lawn, and popped the head off the one left to menace him. "Just don't kill 'em all," he told her, dropping to his knees by the dragon's tooth, once more grabbing the sword he'd jammed next to the tooth. He had to dig it further into the ground, but once more came into contact with the tooth and was levering it back up. "Keep 'em off me and I can end this in ten seconds."

She whipped her sword forward, trying to knock the skeleton's sword out of its hand. Instead she removed its entire arm. The thing then dropped to its knees and tried to grab the sword with its other hand. "They aren't very tough," she commented. "What's the threat?"

"They don't have to be tough," Spike grunted, using all of his strength to pull the dragon's tooth up. "Kill these four and we'll have sixteen. Kill them and we'd have 256. Kill THEM and the math gets kinda scary."

"Wow," she said, watching the skeleton rise again and wave its sword at her. She dropped the point of her own sword and leaned on it. When the skeleton appoached she put out a foot and kicked it to the ground. When it staggered up she kicked it down again. The night was just starting to get fun.

Spike wasn't quite so amused. He felt some muscles tearing in his abdomen as he brought the base of the tooth out of the dirt, but he didn't stop. He kept straining until the dragon's tooth popped out of the ground and flew up to land on the driveway at Buffy's feet. Spike cried out, "Destroy that thing, pet! Use your sword or whatever, but mash the thing into pieces!"

Buffy brought her sword down on the 8-inch-long fang, splitting it. Instantly the skeleton in front of her disappeared, as did the one that had been approaching Spike from behind, having returned from its trip to the other yard. She then ground the tooth's remains under her booted heel until it was powder. Spike, meanwhile, gave himself a much-deserved bit of rest.

By the time Xander and Willow made it to the front yard they could see Buffy re-applying Spike's shirt as a bandage to deal with his new wounds. He was able to stand, however, and anyone could see the tenderness with which Buffy helped him put his duster back on. The Scoobs looked at each other in wonder, then back at Spike's bent posture with suspicion. "What's going on?" Xander asked.

Spike smirked at him. "I got a bleedin' hernia, Harris, what's it look like?"

Willow's mouth dropped open and Xander pointed in alarm. "You're--! You're talking again! Buffy, did you beg--?"

"Nah, nah," Spike said, waving off any accusations. "I lost the bet, whelp. Slayer wins, like usual." He breathed a long sigh. "Still, I have my devilishly handsome face, that's sure to get me through this."

Buffy chuckled. "Same old mouth on you, huh, Spike?"

She couldn't see his eyes in the lawn's shadows. "Yeah, that's me, luv. Born a loser and I'll die a loser." She didn't detect the sadness in his voice, as she suddenly rushed forward to meet Xander and Willow in the driveway, pointing to the circle and telling them everything that had happened and what Spike had explained.

Willow was especially fascinated to hear about the dragon's tooth, since it was something she'd only read about, and wanted every detail. Buffy didn't often get a chance to describe monsters shorter than her, so she was happily engaged in describing the skeletons' armor when she looked around. "Hey! Where'd Spike go?"

Xander pointed. "Back toward the car. I guess he didn't want to wait for a ride. Looked like he took losing that bet really hard."

Buffy's eyes went wide and she spun around, trying to see Spike in the darkness of other yards. "That idiot!" she said. "He doesn't think--? Why would he--? Dammit!" She slammed a powerful fist into her palm, making a smack that was heard for blocks. Both Willow and Xander stepped back in alarm. She looked at them with eyes on the edge of panic. "Uh, you can get home all right, right? I'll catch up later."

"Where ya going, Buff?" Willow asked, though she knew as well as Xander did.

"To get my man," Buffy answered simply.

"Your MAN?" Xander erupted. "That's a vampire, Buffy, he's not a man! He's a thing that kills men!"

Buffy gave him a hard look that would brook no argument. "Jeez, Xander, how many times does he have to save my life before you catch a clue?" With that she spun around and sprinted into the darkness.

Three houses away Spike was slowly making his way across the nicely-mown grass, not really caring where his feet were taking him. Buffy was alive. The world would go on. But his own world had just gotten a serious hitch. She hadn't forbid him from feeling, but now he could never act on it. Looks like being neutered once wasn't enough for the world--it wanted a second chance to rob him of everything that made him want to leave the crypt in the evening. Maybe he wouldn't leave it anymore. Too bad it'd be hours until sunlight. Maybe he could find a bonfire somewhere to throw himself into.

Spike was so caught up in thoughts of his end that he was completely unprepared for the attack from behind. Buffy tackled him at the thighs, tumbling them both onto the grass. They settled themselves with him on his back and her straddling him. She was careful to sit on his pelvis so she wouldn't hurt the wounds on his abdomen. This meant she had to stretch out on his torso to get face-to-face with him, a position neither of them minded at the moment.

"You're not going anywhere, mister," Buffy growled through a smile, then locked her lips to his for a deep kiss.

Spike actually broke away first. "B-Buffy!" he exclaimed. "You're welshin' on the bet!"

"Yep," she said, in a copy of her undead boyfriend's smirk. "Not the first time, and not the last. It was just a game, Spike. And I'm a little tired of games, aren't you?"

His response was to wrap his arms around her and pull her into another kiss, rolling them both over so that he was on top. When he allowed her to breathe he continued to stare at her face, pulling a few strands of hair out of the way so he could see her more clearly in the streetlights' illumination.

Buffy giggled up at Spike and the look of awe dancing in his eyes. "You're allowed to talk now, Spike," she said. "Don't you have some terrible line to ruin this tender moment?"

"Nuh-uh," he replied. "I've learned my lesson, pet. If we're going to TRY to make this thing better between us--and I assume we are--" Buffy gave a solemn nod to his questioning countenance--"Then you're not the only one who'll have to change. I'll be pulling my share o' the load, and that includes shuttin' my damn mouth when you think it's best."

Buffy reached up and caressed his face, her heart overflowing once more for her silly vampire. Maybe he could come in from the wild and live a civilized existence after all. Just as long as he didn't become so tame that he forgot how to take her into the jungle with him and show her the pleasures of the night.

Spike's face suddenly took on that awed expression again and he said, "Cor, Slayer, do you realize--?"

"What, Spike?"

"My voice. It's flippin' beautiful!"

Buffy's laughter could be heard through the night several houses away.

THE END