There were some guys who, when faced by their exes- and by exes, she meant the women they'd led to believe that they were dead and never bothered to call, the scumbags- would have trouble with the little things in life, like, say, eye contact. Especially if said ex had just had much heavenly- Mm, and now she was even beginning to piss herself off with the swooning- sex with her own ex.

But Spike wasn't easily cowed, and his eyes were fixed on Buffy's, his mouth quirked in not-so-kind amusement at the way that he was flustering her. She eyed him coolly, forcefully quashing the butterflies that surfaced from his knowing gaze. "We should talk."

"Again? I think you've said all I needed to hear-" he began, but she cut him off smoothly.

"About this seed thingie, or has that peroxide finally rendered you totally senile?" She couldn't help the warm rush of satisfaction at having gotten one over him, and besides, she had a point. Was his hair always that blond? It looked almost white, and she wondered if it was rougher now. It used to be so soft- well, once she'd combed the gel out with her fingers- and she was just a sex-starved maniac, wasn't she, and it was time to force the lusty wrong thoughts from her mind. "We have an apocalypse on our hands," she said forcefully, more for her own sake than Spike's. And on the one day the two loves of my life decide to show up, even. Perfect. You know, except for that whole part about her causing it. Which she wasn't entirely sure was her fault, even now, or if she'd only been a pawn of a higher power. And damn, being someone else's puppet was pissing her off, nearly as much as Spike's assertions that it was all her fault did.

A dark shadow had crossed his face and faded away almost immediately. "Yes, I remember," he said mock-patiently. "And Rupes and I can have a lovely chat about it."

"You talk to me!" she snapped, then put a hand to her mouth, glancing around worriedly to see if anyone had noticed her sudden bout of possessiveness. Judging from the weary resignation on Giles's face and the smirk on Willow's, she was fooling no one. "I'm in charge," she added hastily. "You know the problem. I need to solve it. We might as well work this out together."

Spike grunted in reluctant agreement. "Fine. We'll talk. But on one condition."

"What's that?"

He wrinkled his nose in distaste. "'ve had enough of your Angel breath. Go take a shower."

For a moment, she nearly smiled, his words recalling the last time she'd seen him jealous and angry and unsure of their relationship. Then she remembered to scowl, irritated at his absurd demands of her when they had a mission so dire. He was acting like a jealous lover, not a compatriot, and what gave him the right to pass judgment on her love life?

But he wasn't. All he wanted was for the woman he had once claimed to love to remove the scent of another man from her body before he came to offer free help with a mess that, Buffy-caused or not, was still hers to clean up. And she couldn't help but feel a touch of sympathy for him in his situation.

So she stifled her snark, managed a smile and said, "Yeah, okay. You got any hot water on this thing?"


"Not bad." She blinked around at his room, decorated sparsely but artistically enough to make it homey despite the pipes and wires and generally ship-type things around it. "Don't tell me the bugs decorated this place."

He laughed. "All me, pet. You know I have a flair for decorating." His tongue swiped his lips thoughtfully. "My crypt wasn't half bad, yeah?"

"Yeah," she repeated dazedly, her eyes fixed on his moistened lips. Oh yeah, she remembered his tongue- crypt!- all too well.

I'm a nymphomaniac, that's what I am. Obsessed with- my god, would he put that thing away already?

She swallowed loudly, turning to the door on the far side of the room. "So, this the bathroom?" It wasn't her fault, really. Spike had always had that effect on her, had been the only man capable of turning her to mush with little more than a gesture. And as hard as she was trying to be standoffish and businesslike, she was already over-sensitized to his presence, caught up in lustful thoughts of him that had no place being there, especially not now. "Um. Is it all set up?"

"Come on in." He led the way, pulling the door open for her, and her heartbeat quickened fractionally. He frowned curiously. "If something's wrong, pet-" He stopped, abrupt. "Oh."

She wondered at that "oh," so unlike what she had imagined his reaction to her attraction would be- arrogant idiot, rub it in, why don't you? Loveyouwantyoustillneedyou- but Spike was already backing away, his eyes fixed somewhere between the bathtub and the floor, and realization dawned. "Spike?"

He shuddered, still staring down at the spot, and she was taken back to those strange days when he'd been a stranger in her home, soul intact but remorse too strong to be of any help, when he'd spend hours standing outside the bathroom with a mask of horror on his face until Dawn would complain and Buffy would have to force him downstairs silently, never daring to say more. He'd never showered when she was nearby, never ventured into that room when it wasn't absolutely necessary.

"Spike," she murmured, moving to stand behind him, and he swung to stare at her with wild eyes.

"Buffy? God, Buffy, I..."

She melted at the weakness, the vulnerability she hadn't seen since he'd reappeared in her life with a ship full of bugs and an unreasonable amount of jewelry on his fingers. "Oh, Spike," she whispered, reaching out for him even as he unconsciously did the same. "Don't you know that I've forgiven you?"

Their fingers touched and the air crackled with electricity, the shock of it freezing Buffy in her place, wide-eyed and suddenly breathless. Spike had no such compunctions, yanking her forward into his arms and spinning her around, his lips crashing into hers and locking her in his embrace, hands already propelling her over to the closest wall. She responded eagerly, helpless as always to his charm, and then they were kissing like teenagers, all force and passion, drinking each other in as though it was their last day to live- and it might just have been.

There were no words, not anymore, and in the fire of the kiss, Buffy nearly forgot herself all over again. But she couldn't completely, not when there was so much more at stake and she wasn't that lost girl who thought of herself first anymore, and it took all she had to pull her lips away from him. Her hands stayed in place, drawing lines down his chest, and she choked out, "I can't."

"Why?" Spike kissed her again, and her knees went weak and wobbly. "Buffy, I-"

"N-No!" she squeaked. He stilled, his lips still resting on hers as she spoke. "I can't. I told Ang-"

"Bugger." He tore away from her immediately, leaving her bereft and needy for his touch. "Was never much for sloppy seconds, anyway."

She flinched, struggling not to revert to old behaviors and pop him on the nose. He was callous as always, but she knew him too well, saw the hurt at her words. "Angel's a victim here, too. Manipulated by the universe itself-"

"Don't give me that bollocks," Spike scoffed. "Maybe- and I'm using the term very lightly here- maybe you're a victim. Once Twangel there started killing people, he lost that distinction."

"He came back from that. For me!"

"And what would he have without you?" Spike demanded. "What would any of us have without you?"

With a strangled cry, she leaped at him again, kissing him breathless. He clutched her tight, and she molded herself against his body, squeezing her eyes shut in a silent prayer for all her responsibilities to fade away and to just enjoy what Spike was giving her. "It's...not...just that," she panted between kisses. "I ...I can't just… throw myself at you. Not now. It's not fair to any of us." She kissed him hard, one last time, before she pulled away, clinging to the towel rack for dear life in an attempt to avoid contact. Contact with Spike was bad, and led to unneeded lustiness and badness. Much badness. "I can't be the kind of girl who jumps from one guy to another. And we have more important things-"

"Yeah," Spike conceded grudgingly, his hands falling to his side. "And we're just a stolen moment, yeah?"

She almost smiled at his old insecurities returned, at the reappearance of Spike over Vampire Watcher-type Hero Golden Boy. There was her vampire, the flawed, screwed up one with more issues than she had battle scars, the one she'd known and trusted and-

She squeezed the towel rack so hard that it cracked in her hand. "Spike, we were never that simple. Never 'just' anything. And I...I meant what I said on the Hellmouth." She'd meant it at first and angrily second-guessed it later when Spike never came back to her, but now, seeing him again, she'd rediscovered that delicious emotion she didn't dare name.

He swallowed, and she watched with quiet wistfulness as his Adam's Apple bobbed tantalizingly. "No, you didn't," he mumbled, and she sighed with sheer frustration at his stubbornness.

"Yes, I did, but now's really not the time, is it?" She gave him a soft smile. "I promise, when this is all over and resolved, we'll talk."

His eyes narrowed. "And Angel?"

"Angel and I will talk, too," she said deftly. "I'm not promising you anything- I can't promise you anything-" She thought guiltily of Angel, to whom she had promised far too much. "-But I hope you'd...after all this…" Her voice trailed off.

He cocked his head expectantly. "I'd...?"

"Work with us. The slayers." His eyes widened, startled, but she barreled on before he could interrupt. "We're going to have a major cleanup on our hands. And..." She ducked her head, glancing up at him anxiously through long lashes. "I'd like you to stick around."

He considered. "I'm not going to wait for you to play eenie meenie miney mo with the two of us," he said finally. "I'll work with you, but I do have needs, you know. Not gonna be a monk for you."

"I know." Her heart wrenched, but she kept it in check, reminding herself forcefully that this was a good thing. She didn't want to jump into anything with either vampire, even if her heart was doing nasty things at the idea of losing Spike to another slayer.

"And there's a nice selection of attractive, dangerous slayers out there who might be into the vampire thing," Spike mused thoughtfully, oblivious to the tension on her face. "That Japanese bird there looked like a spitfire."

Buffy didn't have to force a watery smirk. "She's just your type," she promised, reaching out instinctively to pat him on the hand.

Instantly, they were locked together again, lips fused and Buffy's legs wrapped around Spike's waist as they fell against the far wall of the bathroom. "We need to..." Buffy breathed, her tongue darting out to swipe his lower lip.

"Yeah." Spike let her go reluctantly. "Seems that whole touching thing 'sworking against your big plan."

"Mm-hm." She licked her lips, and Spike's eyes followed the movement of her tongue hungrily. "I'm just gonna..." She gestured at the bathtub.

"Right." He kissed her one last time, slow and languid, and she shook with need for him. The sensation surprised her, so keyed to his body instead of hers- after all, she'd been more than sated earlier that day- that she shuddered at the hint of what they could have together. "You go on then, take your shower." He jerked from her and out of the room with abruptness that might have offended her if she didn't understand it perfectly.

"Thank you," she whispered, pressing a hand to the door. It hummed with Spike-energy- or maybe just the typical thrumming of a ship, Buffy didn't know these things- and she let herself smile at last.

Something had been resolved. It wasn't much, and it didn't change much, but that was the beauty of her relationship with Spike, wasn't it? Those little moments, the stolen ones Spike had dismissed offhand, defined the two of them and what they were to each other.

And if they made it through this apocalypse, she anticipated many, many more of those moments.

'Till the end of the world, Spike. Even if that happens to be tonight.