Author's Note: Righty-ho, haven't been writing for a while. Blame it on writer's block and a certain lack of work ethic. Any rate, this fic isn't all that impressive but sort of me exercising my writing limbs again. I've never done Buffy before and certainly hope my writing is enjoyable if far from perfect. As always, a fervent thank-you to those who read. The following one-shot takes place in the second season during all those school traumas involving Buffy versus her mother-you know, the "Don't you dare fail school, Buffy, I do not want to move again!" It may be slightly out-of-character in its shameless fluffiness. Enjoy!

And oh yes, almost forgot. Don't own anything.


Alone—at last. No company but the silent graves, no witnesses but the carved marble angels. Buffy felt the lump in her throat harden and now she had no heart to suppress it. She dropped to her knees with a dry sob, hugging herself, taking comfort in the cool night breeze on her overheated skin, emphasized against the wet streaks on her cheeks.

"Slayer…"

Buffy didn't need to turn to know who stood behind her, his presence an almost familiar addition to the surrounding night. She was never glad for it but now, hurting as she was, angry passion choked her at the unwanted company.

"Go away, Spike," she said. "You're not wanted."

"That's a laugh." He was smiling. She could hear it in his voice. "'M never actually wanted, am I? Or are you trying to tell me something, round-a-bout, subtle sort of way?"

"Not very subtle if you can guess it."

"You're not as clever as you think you are, Slayer."

"Leave me alone."

She felt his hand on her shoulder. The pressure was strangely gentle. "Don't think so, pet."

Buffy turned in a quick, savage motion, causing Spike to take an involuntary step back. She knew she looked terrible, but seeing the surprise quickly arresting his desire for the usual thrill of battle made her feel worse. She was suddenly seized by the desire to hurt him, to give him the action he enjoyed so much, but she resisted.

"Gonna take me out now, Spike?" she asked, spreading her arms. "Come on, then. Now's as good a time as any."

"Never a wrong time," he said, the words soft and almost careful. There was a keenness in his eyes she hadn't noticed before. "Bad show of it at home, then?"

Buffy's lips twitched violently. "My life has nothing to do with you."

"You're a Slayer, I'm a vampire," he replied easily. "I've a proprietary interest at least."

"Propriety interest in killing me," she said. "Keep your nose out of the everyday drama."

The mention of noses distracted her and she raised her sleeve to the streaming appendage, turning away from Spike in the vain hope he wouldn't notice. It was a shame to sacrifice patent leather, but she was too preoccupied to really care.

Her eyes widened at the handkerchief dangling scant inches from her uplifted arm.

"You have a handkerchief," she said.

"Observant, aren't you," Spike said, circling around until he was no longer reaching from behind.

"You carry a handkerchief."

"Obviously.."

"A hankie."

"Posh, isn't it?" The vampire smiled. "For my sake, don't ruin the leather and take it."

"I can't believe you're offering me your handkerchief."

Spike made a flippant gesture. "If you don't want it…."

Buffy snatched it from him. There was no denying her relief as she blew her nose lustily, the thin cotton delicate on her inflamed nostrils. She raised her head, expecting to see Spike watching her, studying her with that disconcerting intensity he so often yielded to in the presence of his nemesis, but was surprised to realize the opposite. He had turned a little to one side, long arms folded and his gaze dwelling somewhere past the rows of grave markers into the surrounding midnight. Buffy stared at him, taking in his pale, angular features and the alert posture of his long frame. His duster shielded him like a curtain, but the occasional light wind manipulated the leather against him, emphasizing hard lines and lean curves.

"Like what you see, Slayer?"

Spike's voice was soft, neither mocking nor gentle. Buffy glanced away.

"Do you really care?"

"You're young." He ignored her as if he hadn't heard. "I've killed Slayers before, but never this young."

"Guess I'm special," said Buffy.

His head tilted towards her. "Do you think so?" he said. "Or cursed, perhaps?"

Her throat tightened. "Does it matter?"

"Yes," he said. "I know what you're feeling. I know what it's like to disappoint a loved one. It's as if your heart is breaking inside you, little pieces at a time, and you know you can do better only they don't believe it anymore—they don't believe in you anymore."

"What's your point?" Buffy's voice shook.

He shrugged loosely, minutely. "Don't really know," he said. "Thought it worth making, whatever it is."

"I can't deal with this."

The vampire was silent. The girl was shaking visibly and he stepped nearer.

"You're not alone, Slayer," he said. "That's what I'm trying to tell you. You're never alone."

She fell into him then, mindless of the lack of propriety. Her arms tightened around his waist and she hid her face against his chest, her numb senses seeking warmth, needing it in every living pore. Spike made a low noise in his throat as she buried herself against him but he made no effort to extract her. She was impossibly small and a part of him was glad the folds of his coat fell naturally about her. He could still feel her shivering and knew she would find little satisfaction in him, the blood in him being far from fresh.

"You're cold," came her voice, frail and childlike. The vampire had never seen her so vulnerable.

"Haven't fed for days," he said. "Drusilla's not been well."

"You care for her so much," said Buffy.

"That I do, pet." He held her carefully, shielding her from the restless winds.

"I wish—I wish I could help."

"But you can't, and you won't." He gripped her shoulders. "You're a Slayer and I am a vampire. That will never change."

"You don't want it to."

"Not really. But it still remains fact, whether I want it or not."

"Then why are you doing this?" Even as she asked she held him closer, almost as if she were afraid he would leave.

"Because you're the Slayer," he said. "That's reason enough."

It was a nonsensical reply, yet somehow not. Buffy stepped back, self-consciously rubbing at her tear-stained features with savage fingertips.

"I don't understand," she said.

The vampire tilted his head and smiled.

"Every villain has a hero," he said. "It's part of the game, Slayer. When I kill, I kill on my terms. No handicaps on either side. A beautiful, brilliant battle of wills—that's what I like—not a quick win because a little girl's having it out with her mum."

Buffy raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Uh-huh."

Spike snorted. "Where would you be without creatures of the night to pummel and kick every night? Tell me that."

The Slayer energy was beginning to stir again. Buffy knew Spike could sense it from the subtle way he distanced himself from her. She straightened her shoulders and drew in a long, deep breath. A little laugh escaped her.

"Bloody bored, I guess," she said.