New York 2009

The quinoa was not as bad as Buffy had expected; Rae had mixed it with sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, lemon zest, and feta cheese. But the tofu was way bland, the texture unappealing. She did not understand how someone could live on that stuff. Which was saying something. Because she had lived off of English food for the past six years and had done a stint at Doublemeat Palace. So she knew bad food.

Things after dinner were awkward. No one really seemed sure about what they were supposed to do. Hanging out, the three of them, would be way uncomfortable. Buffy was unthrilled to be spending more time with Rae. She was okay as far as Spike's ex-girlfriends went, which was, after all, not that much of compliment. The whole thinnest kid at fat camp thing. But, while she would rather spend time with her than Drusilla or, god help her, Harmony, she didn't want to. Mostly because she didn't trust her. And she didn't want any more ideas about what Spike had seen in her, and she definitely did not want Spike remember them. Besides, Spike acted so weird around her sometimes. He didn't breath. Buffy often forgot that he didn't need to, with the deadness and everything, but when he didn't breath she found it unnerving, unnatural. It was weird and she didn't like it.

But, after dinner Rae said she was tired. Needed to recoup for the craziness of the day before. "Don't worry," she had said with a small smile, "I'll scream is anything attacks me."

She felt awkward, uncomfortable, around Buffy, around Spike. Things were fine when they were actively saving her life, but it hurt to see Buffy and Spike together. Every touch between was a reminder that he had left Rae for this, this love, that, despite everything she had given him, freely and without question, she had not been able to evoke in him. He had needed more than her and he had found that in Buffy and it stung.

She was used to men leaving. Actually, she had counted on it. After Dem and Theo, she hadn't let herself get attached again. Until Spike. Because, with him, things had started to feel permanent. And then they weren't. And they probably wouldn't ever have been, but they would have lasted a little bit longer if Buffy hadn't showed up.

There was nothing that she could do about that now. But she didn't need to be reminded of how easily she was cast aside.

And, she was afraid of overstepping some invisible line in the sand. No matter how much she might want to. To adopt a familiarity that was no longer acceptable. But she wasn't sure where that line was, she couldn't see it exactly, and so she hung back as much as she could, each blunder forward followed by an apology, afraid that she would somehow stumble across the unseen boundary. It was better, she felt, to stay too far away than to wind up to close. That would be ungood for all of them. Buffy could be really really scary, and she so did not need to give her any reason to feel threatened, any need to lash out. Not to mention that she was a little afraid of herself, of what she would do if given the opportunity. She knew that restraint was not exactly one of her virtues. She usually went for what she wanted, consequences be damned. Which is probably how she had ended up in bed with a vampire in the first place. And now she knew that wanted, needed, him again, but the consequences might be too much this time. She had to play it safe, hide away her feelings for him, and hope that they would not betray her. If she crossed that line, there was no going back, and, right now, she needed to be focused on survival, not the urge between her legs.

"Is it alright if we snag a flick, pet?" Spike had asked.

"Help yourself." Rae had shrugged. "You know where they are."

He had asked Buffy what she was in the mood for. "Something mindless. You know, light," was all that she responded. Unfortunately, Rae's movie collection tended to be pretty esoteric. She like those abstract artsy films that critics love and almost nobody else can stand to sit through. He had bloody suffered through enough of them. And she had a lot of sci-fi flims. Rae was writing her dissertation on the postcolonial subjectivity in postmodern science fiction. Or some bollocks like that. Every time she had said it, the title had gotten longer. But he knew that sci-fi never really been Buffy's thing. And he seriously doubted Kubric was Buffy had meant by mindless.

He decided on Alien, not exactly light, but he figured Buffy would dig Ripley, with whole woman warrior, girl power thing she had going, and saying good night to Rae, he and Buffy went back downstairs to the guest room. They watched the DVD on Buffy's laptop, Spike arm around Buffy, she curled into him, the computer balanced on their legs.

But he was only half paying attention to the film.

Rae had not actually gone to bed. He could hear her quietly strumming her guitar, the smell of weed wafting down stairs. If Buffy heard or smelled anything, she didn't let on. But, Spike was alert, almost too aware of her actions.

He was torn. He couldn't help it. He loved Buffy, had fought for and given up everything for her. There was no question about that. It would always be Buffy for him, and he was fooling himself to think otherwise. But he still felt some loyalty to Rae. At least the need to protect her. And that meant from the beasties who were after her and from himself. He had done enough damage to the poor lamb, didn't need to inflict any more. Which meant hurting Buffy. Because how could Buffy not be hurt, how could she not notice that he was acting oddly around Rae? How could she not notice that he was stiffer, not at easy, had exchanged his usually devil-may-care swagger for a tip toe across eggshells. And he hated bloody eggshells—the slightest crack could send the whole tumbling down and right now he didn't want anything falling apart.

Besides, timid was not exactly his style. But it was the card he had drawn, and if he didn't want the whole fucking house of them crashing down on his head, then he better play what he had been dealt.

When the movie was over, Spike untangled himself from Buffy. Rae had been quiet for a half and hour now, and he reckoned it probably wasn't a bad idea to check on her. She had been attacked twice in as many days. Not a promising stat.

"Figure I'll look in on the bird," he said. "Make sure no other beasties have taken a bite out of her."

"Do you want me to come with?" Buffy asked, going for nonchalance, but desperately hoping that he would say yes. She didn't love the idea of him going into her bedroom alone. She didn't want any memories rising to the surface. Actually, under these circumstances any rising at all would be decidedly bad.

He shrugged. "If you fancy coming along, love. Only going up stairs though."

She sighed. "Fine. I guess I'll go out for a quick patrol. Make sure there aren't any nasties in the neighborhood."

"You sure you want to do that alone?" They had gotten into the habit of patrolling together. It was nice. They had each other's backs. Kept each other company.

"I think it's a good idea for one of us to stay here. You know… incase there is another attack or something. Rae doesn't exactly strike me as action girl."

Spike smiled. "She's not. Although she does know to use of pointy end."

"I'll be back in a few, then," Buffy said, ignoring the double entendre, hopping off the bed and slipping on her sneakers. She reached up and kissed him. She didn't want to know what Rae did the pointy end of anything. And she didn't want Spike thinking about it either. "I'll make this one short, just a loop around the block."

She did hope that there was something to kill, though. She had a very strong urge for some violence. After everything that had happened the past two days she needed some serious stress relief. She hated feeling like this. She was exhausted, but completely wired. Killing evil things would help.

So, she pulled on her winter coat and stepped out into the street. She double checked the house number, hoping she wouldn't get lost. She had her cell phone. It was next to the stake in her pocket, but she so did not want to have to call Spike and tell him that she couldn't find her way home.

After Buffy had left, Spike went upstairs. The door to Rae's room was slightly ajar, and he pushed it gently, not breathing. The smell her would be its most concentrated. Its most intense.

The light was still on, and she was sprawled out on top of the bed. She was still fully dressed, which he knew was not how she liked to sleep. But he didn't want to get his hands cut off again, which is what Buffy would likely if she found out he had undressed the other woman. He would wager a whole litter of kittens on that one. With that thought, Austen looked sleepily at him from where she was curled up next to Rae's stomach. She hissed quietly and then went back to sleep.

There was a roach in the ash tray next to Rae's bed, and an empty bottle of wine with one glass. There were also some white pills in a ziplock bag. He couldn't identify them.

So, she had passed out. Spike wondered how much of this shit she had swallowed. Worried for a second about an overdose. Fat lot of good his and Buffy's protecting presence in the house would be if she ODed on god knows what. Just brilliant, he thought. Shouldn't have left her alone like that. It had been selfish of them. He and Buffy had been so greedy for some time together that they hadn't considered the possible consequences. Shouldn't they, or at least he, have known that this would be how she dealed with shit. She was all about the self-medicating.

He stood silently for a few minutes. There were three distinct heartbeats. The rapid beat of the cats, Bronte must be in here too, that meant, and the slower, but steady pulse of a human. Her breath too was the even, rhythmic inhale and exhale of the sleeper. He reached down and touched her cheek, smoothing a tangle of hair from her face. Her skin was warm, but not feverish. His fingers lingered on her cheek for a second before he jerked them away. Good. Her vitals, at least the one's he could check, seemed fine. No need for the emergency stomach pump. Besides, he figured, from what he had seen the night before, it was going to take a lot more than popping a couple of pills for her to be pushing up the daisies.

He turned off the lamp next to the bed and grabbed the wine bottle and glass, bringing them into the kitchen. He would have a little chat with her about this in the morning. Explain to her that offing herself was not part of the plan. See if that had actually been her plan to begin with. Could be that she just didn't know any other way to deal with the pain. Had been on his fair share of benders for the same reason. Because if you imbibed enough, you could numb yourself. If you imbibed a little bit more than that you could pass out and not have to feel a thing.

He left the door slightly ajar, the way he had found it and went back downstairs.

Buffy came in about a half an hour later. She had found something to kill, Spike could tell from the glint in her eye, the flush in her cheek, her nose pink from the cold. She looked so bloody beautiful.

"Happy hunting, then?" he drawled.

"Only a couple of vamps," she said, twirling her stake and then putting it on the dresser. "How's Rae?"

"Passed out. Loaded on wine and pot and pills and god knows what else."

"Do you think its going to be a problem? We don't need her going all Reefer Madness."

Spike shrugged, running his hand through hair, disheveling his curls. "Right now I reckon she's just trying to find a bit of peace, yeah? Self-medicating and all that."

"I so don't need to deal with apocalyptic addict girl. Willow was enough of that to last me a lifetime."

"On the bright side, doubt Rae's going to flay anyone alive anytime soon."

Buffy looked at him grimly. "You know the whole we-still-don't-really-know-what-she-is-capable-of thing?" He nodded. "Yeah, let's not actively try to jinx it."

"Point taken."

She sat down next to Spike on the bed, pulling her hair out from its pony tale holder, shaking it out. "What are we doing here, Spike?" she said tiredly.

"Trying to save the world… again," he added.

"Why does it always have to be us?"

"Because we're superpowered and stubborn and remarkably good-looking, I guess," he smirked.

"No. I'm serious. Like, don't we get a break? I mean, in the stories the heroes save the day and then they get some sort of reward, like knighted or they get to king or find their true love. With us its just all be-kind-rewind."

Spike raised an eyebrow. "You want to be king of the world?" he asked skeptically, "a little Leo, isn't it?"

"I just want my happily ever after. I want to be done with all of this."

"Fraid that's not in your cards, love. You won't be done until your dead or the world is. And if it's you, someone'll just bring you back. We've both been there."

"So, then what do we do."

"Keep fighting, I reckon. Hope that the happily ever coming during and not after."

He kissed her. The tip of her nose against his cheek was still slightly chilled from her patrol, but her lips, her tongue were warm as they welcomed him. He caught his hands in her hair, which he had spent so many years loving so many years yearning for, and her own fingers ran through his curls. She moaned against him and he could smell her arousal as her hands moved from his hair to undo his belt buckle.

"Buffy," he said softly, drawing away from her slowly.

She looked up at him, confused then ashamed. "Oh," she said, sullenly, disentangling herself from his arms. "Not in her house. Of course."

"Shhh, pet," he said kissing her again. "Just need to church mice it, love."

She grinned, "I can handle that."

"Can you?" he replied, his voice silky, caressing the words in a tone that always made her shudder with pleasure and anticipation.

So, as lightly kissed her nipples, a tingling whisper over her skin, and her tongue ran along the length of his cock, and his fingers explored between her legs, and she gently bit where his shoulder met his neck, they were quiet. It was a kind of a game between them. They knew each other's bodies so well, knew where to lick and grab and graze in order to release each moan, each sigh of pleasure, each groan of longing. They teased each other, testing the silence.

Buffy could not help but find it exciting. The forced quiet where there would normally be screams and whimpers and growls of pleasure. The need for restrain and the desire to force him to lose control, to shatter the silence with the insuppressible language of love and lust and need. And, although she would never admit it, even to herself, there was the pleasure of knowing that in this house, Rae's house, Spike was hers. With each kiss and caress she claimed him again and again. Hers. Hers. Hers.

And when he entered him, and she bit her lip to stop the moan that was swelling inside of her, and the bed squeaked, so he rolled off of it, holding her against them, blankets cushioning their fall. After the thud neither of them moved for a few minutes, and then Buffy flipped them over so that she was on top of him, her body rhythmically moving on his cock. He ran his fingers down her back and grabbed her ass, and then one hand was rubbing her clit, sending shivers of pleasure through her as she came, and she arched her body, taking him deeper inside of her. And she felt his body tense, the way that it always did before he came, and his lips parted, but she placed a finger lightly against them, and the waves of his pleasure filled her.

The second time he was on top of her, pounding against her, the sound of his skin colliding with hers and their heavy breathing filling the otherwise silent room. And as orgasms burned through them again, Buffy whispered his name, over and over and over, in a voice barely loud enough for even him to hear. And he, still on top of her, his mouth beside her ear, murmured her name.

When Buffy woke up a few hours later, they were still on the floor, clutching each other, swaddled in blankets. She pulled on a t-shirt and went to the bathroom. When she came back into the bedroom, she kneeled over him. "Spike," she said, shaking him.

"Bloody hell," he grumbled, turning onto his side, his back facing her.

"I'm pretty sure I've said this before," she replied, "but you sleep like the dead."

She shook him again, this time enough to rouse him. They untangled the blankets and through them over the bed before climbing in. His body curler around her, his arm around her (she loved it when he was the big spoon), and he fell back to sleep.

Buffy lay in bed awake a while longer. She could be happy, couldn't she? She was happy now. With him. Even here. Even saving the world. Again. He was right. There probably wouldn't be an ever after for them, so she was going to have to be happy with during. As long as she had him, it could work. As long as neither of them did anything stupid and kept the heroics to a minimum. They would survive this. She snuggled closer to him, pulling his arm tighter around her. And they would be happy during it, and then after, and then in the next during too.

The next morning they woke up early. Rae was already in the kitchen, coffee brewing, the water in the tea kettle near boiling. "I didn't know if you did coffee or tea. So I made both," she explained, a half empty mug of green tea already in her hand.

"Doesn't matter. As long as it's full of caffeinated goodness," Buffy said with a smile and a shrug.

Rae poured a cup of coffee for Buffy and after the tea kettle had shrieked on the stove, she prepared a cup of tea for Spike. "So, what's on the agenda today?" she said brightly, and Buffy hated how cheery she was. Morning people were so irritating.

"Lying low, hopefully," Spike said. "I'm not going anywhere until Mr. Sunshine sets. Buffy what time are your classes."

"Not too early," she said, "but I'm not exactly used to the commute."

"Takes about hour, sometimes a little bit more," Rae offered.

"Which means that I need to leave here by like 10 or so. Great," she sighed. "Is there a butcher near by where we can get some blood? I'm all for vampire hunger games, but not when it's my boyfriend."

Buffy was amazed and a little frightened by the prices in the butcher shop, and the amount that Rae paid for the blood. In Sunnydale they basically gave the stuff away, which was weird because of supply and demand and everything.

"Wow, over priced much?" Buffy muttered as she walked out of the shop with a few gallons of blood. No wonder she couldn't afford Brooklyn and why Rae didn't eat meat. Not at those prices.

Rae laughed. "It's my own deal really. It was part of the compromise I made with myself when Spike, uh, moved in. You know, the, um, the first time." She looked down. "I didn't like the idea of buying blood because of the, you know, whole mistreatment-and-brutal-slaughter-of- helpless-animals thing, so I decided to only buy the blood from heritage meat shops. Which means that they aren't over bred and are organic and raised on small farms not industrial shit pits and are humanely treated and humanely slaughtered, what ever that means, but also means that they cost way way more than most normal, reasonable people would spend on pork and poultry."

Buffy eyed her for a minute. "You strike me as someone who has spent way too much time documentary-ing," she said. It was weird. The woman had no problem sleeping with a married man, but she was willing to spend way too much money just to make sure that pig didn't suffer. During her time as a Slayer, Buffy had come up against all sorts of moral codes, but this girl's was just weird.

They made small talk as they walked back to the apartment. Buffy had another cup of coffee and a bowl of non-fat yogurt, which was, of course, organic, with frozen strawberries and granola, before making the trip back to the Bronx. Spike gave her really specific directions, so she didn't get lost, which was lucky because the NYC subway system was still kind of a complete mystery to her.

She hadn't wanted to leave to go class. But Spike had pointed out if the apocalypse was a'comin' then she better not use up her absences, never knew when she was going to have to skip class because of some crisis or other. And so far today had been thankfully crisis free.

But, she wasn't happy about leaving him with her. She was just going to have to trust him, because god knew she didn't trust her.

Buffy sat through her classes, but not surprisingly, she was pretty distracted. But at least she was there, which meant that she had to be absorbing something, right? After class she walked down to their apartment and was surprised to find the door locked. The doctor must have fastened it after him when he had finally come to. As she was digging through her bag for her key, she wondered how he was doing. She knew he had been hard on him, but he had made her so angry. Doing that to his wife. He had no idea what he was fucking with.

She bagged up the harpies, which were beginning to smell just awful, well awfuller than they had before, and pushed them down the garbage shoot. They probably should have taken care of that before they had left the previous day, but she had never been one for the demon clean up. One reason why she liked vamps so much. No fuss, no muss. Luckily the broken windows had kept air circulating and had prevented the smell from becoming unbearable.

She tracked down her landlord, who gave her a very dirty look when she explained about the windows and didn't seem to buy her story about the three baseballs. He got slightly less prickly when she assured him that she and her boyfriend would be staying a friend's on the other side of town until the windows could be repaired. After she packed up another bag she had brought with her with some more of her and Spike's stuff, she turned off the lights, locked the door and headed back to Brooklyn.

"Do you want to stir or grate?" as Buffy, as she walked into the brownstone, heard Rae asking. The place smelled delicious.

"Stir," he heard Spike say grudgingly.

There was a few seconds of silence before Rae said, "Hey muscles, I know you have the vamp strength and everything, but take it easy. You're going to break my spoon, and that's dangerous for everyone."

Although she was tempted to keep ease dropping (which was a very very very bad Buffy idea), she kinda had to know what was going on. So she walked up the stairs to see Spike and Rae in the kitchen. Rae was grating some parmesan and Spike was stirring a pot on the stove, which was probably the source of the delicious smell. There were two half empty glasses of wine on the counter.

Spike had spoken with Rae after Buffy had left. She had admitted to the pot and the bottle of wine, which she insisted had only been three quarters full to begin with. She had assured him that the pills were only tylenol, and because he had no proof to the contrary, he had to believe her. For now. But he was watching her closely.

Buffy walked up to Spike, "So, whatcha doing?" she said, kissing him.

"Can't stop stirring," he grinned at her.

"I'm done," Rae said, "I'll take over stir duty."

Spike handed her the spoon, and he wrapped his arms around Buffy. "Missed you," he said softly against her ear.

"Glad to see Rae put you to work," Buffy smiled. "Didn't know you had kitchen skills."

"Not so fast there, love. Rae only tells me to do the things she knows I can't bugger up."

Rae flashed him a smile. "What are you talking about, Spike. Risotto stirring is a sacred task, not to be taken at all lightly."

"So, that's what smells so good."

"Figured you didn't want tofu again. It's ready if you're hungry."

"Muchly."

Rae portioned out some of the risotto into two bowls and then drizzled some super green looking stuff over the top of it. "It's sweet corn risotto with some basil oil," she explained. While Spike poured more wine into his and Rae's glasses and poured a glass for Buffy.

"It's delicious," said between mouthfuls. "Really delicious."

Just as they were finishing their dinner, Buffy's phone rang. They all tensed as Buffy sprang up to answer it. "Hey Giles. What's the sitch?"

"I'm afraid I don't have any news, yet. We've made some progress, but I'm afraid I need some more information."

"What do you need to know?"

"I think it might be best if I spoke with, uh, Spike, actually."

Buffy swallowed. "So not what I was expecting you to say. But here he is," she said, holding the phone out to Spike, who screwed up his face in confusion. "He says he needs to talk to you," Buff said with a shrug.

Spike took the phone, "What can I do you for, Rupes?" he said coolly.

"I need some more information about this rather perplexing young woman, and I thought it would be best for you and me to have a private conversation."

"Ask away, mate," Spike said, filling his wine glass and grabbing his cigarettes, "I'll be out on the stoop," he told the girls.

After he left the women exchanged looks. "What do you think they are talking about?" Rae asked.

"God I so wish I knew," Buffy replied.

"Everything?" Spike said, annoyance clear in his tone. "Do you think you could be a bit vaguer?"

"I apologize for not being extraordinarily specific, but I'm not sure exactly what we are looking for."

"Just figured you'd pick on my noggin then? Well, alright then," he paused. "But this little share session, it's not for you, yeah. It's for Buffy. And Rae."

"Understood." Giles swallowed loudly. "I understand if you harbor some resentment toward me given past circumstances."

"You tried to have me killed."

"I thought I was doing what was best for Buffy."

"At least we're singing the same song there, Rupes."

"Well, if it's any consolation, I was wrong."

Spike chuckled. "You know it never gets old hearing you righteous sorts say that. Thought it would, but nope. So you want to know everything."

He told him about meeting Rae, about going out for drinks, and the vampires that had attacked her. He told him what he knew of her history, her diet, her home, her quirks and shortcomings as well as her virtues.

He talked for about a half an hour and he could hear Giles on the other end taking notes. "That's about all I got," he said, lighting his third cigarette. Plus, he wanted to get back inside and fill up his glass.

Giles sighed. "This is going to sound wildly inappropriate, but I am afraid I must ask it, have a theory…"

"Spit it out, then."

"What was, uh, sexual intercourse like with the young lady in question? No details, please. Just if there was anything, uh, unusual."

Spike actually guffawed. "You dirty old wanker," he laughed.

"No I assure you…" Giles began.

"Randy Giles indeed."

"This is strictly of professional…"

"Didn't figure you for the type for the whole Dear-Penthouse-I-don't-usually-write-these-letters-but deal"

"Spike, please attempt to control yourself. This information could be important."

"Fine. Fine. But you are a pervert. Watchers a bit of a voyuer, eh." Still, he told Giles the sense of peace, of happiness, of belonging that had washed over them when he had been with her. "Not that I think it's that unusual," he explained, "but it was, you know. Euphoric."

"Thank you," Giles said, and Spike could imagine him furiously cleaning his glasses. "That information is actually, uh, quite helpful. More than I ever wanted to know about you, but helpful all the same. Just one more thing, another rather personal inquiry, I'm afraid."

"More personal than poking around my sex life?"

"Spike, have you tasted her?"

"Tasted her?"

"Don't be daft. Have you tasted her blood?"

Evil cliffhanger, I know. But I do hope that everyone continues to enjoy this story. I have also begun posting another, much, much shorter story, called "Somewhere on a Desert Highway," which I will also be working on. I would appreciate feedback on either (or both) piece(s). Thanks.