by Sweetprincipale

Author's Note: This is a sequel to " A Model Romance". Please make sure you've read that first, or this story doesn't make a lot of sense. This picks up immediately where the last chapter of "A Model Romance" ends.

Set after "Once More with Feeling", and then goes off canon. For example, in "A Model Romance", Willow and Tara reconcile and Willow doesn't perform the spell that causes the events of "Tabula Rasa" to unfold.

Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincerest admiration. However, this story is all mine.

Part I

"C'mon! It's startin'!" Spike laughed and pulled Buffy into his crypt, slamming the heavy door shut after her.

"It was so nice out earlier. Stupid rain." She pouted, shaking out her hair. "Oh well, not that I mind. I was planning to go in anyway." She giggled and leaned forward, letting Spike's mouth meet hers.

"Say it again." He breathed.

"I love you." She whispered, eyes closed and forehead grooved.

She has trouble saying it. But she means it. That's a damn sight better than the way we've been going on. "It's okay, Luv. If it's too hard to say right yet-"

"I can say it!" She protested, biting her lip. "I- it just sounds strange. And, I mean look who I'm saying it to!" She giggled. "I do mean it."

"I know you do. You're here with me." Spike shoved the cement slab hiding the entrance to the lower half of his crypt. He swallowed down the fears he felt, had to be the brave one tonight, didn't he? He had to act like she wasn't going to turn and run at the last second...

I'm going to go sleep- I mean, have sex- no, I mean make love, with Spike. In his bed. In his crypt. Oh my God, oh my God, ohmygod! Buffy's heart sped up and she knew Spike could hear it. Probably knew it wasn't lust driving her pulse this time. I should run, right now.

Spike used all the swagger he had in the small gesture of tilting his head to the open panel, and stretching out his hand to her. "Ladies first, Luv."

She hesitated. Just for a second. Time to be brave. To live in this world again. To love someone again. Someone who wasn't really meant for this world either, but here they were, two hunters in the night, with rusty hearts and chips on their shoulders. And, oh yes, what shoulders... Buffy grinned suddenly. "Sure it's not booby trapped?"

Spike winced. The last time- no he wouldn't go there. The stupid ways he'd tried to force her into loving him, ultimatums, threats, God... no wonder she's got a soddin' emotional Fort Knox where her heart used to be. He smiled arrogantly for a split second, watching her slide past him. Good thing he was excellent at breakin' and enterin'. "It's safe as I can make it, Luv."

And they shared an uncomfortable look of worry. Anyone could walk in, and only the fact that most people didn't realize that this mausoleum had a "basement" would keep them hidden. And if someone did stumble across them, fighting was their only option. Buffy laughed quietly to herself. That would suit Spike. He liked the fight, the more against him, the better. Probably the only reason he was still alive- well- not dust. He was a fighter, a survivor. And he was helping her remember that she was one, too.

"Erm. Not much in the way of accommodations, really." Spike stepped off the last rung of the ladder and looked around, running his hand through his platinum locks. "Not much for visitors. Never let Bit come down here."

Buffy wrinkled her nose at the pile of skulls adorning the far corner under the ladder. "Yeah..."

"Well, don't be so dainty, all the sudden, Slayer! All of those were here when I moved in. It's only four skulls. What's that, a quiet night's kill for you?"

"Don't be disgusting." She spat, and crossed her arms.

Infuriatin' little thing. And he loved her with all his heart. "I'll clear it up- tomorrow." A flicker of flame, and Spike's silver lighter was creating a soft glowing tide, lighting a variety of pillar candles in various stages of melting that adorned the nooks and crannies and battered wooden chests on the sides of the impressively lush queen size bed. "There? Does that help the ambience, Luv?"

Buffy slowly took off her coat. He was trying, wasn't he? He didn't have much, and God knew it wasn't easy for him to be good and still keep things going, keep himself fed. Vampires could pillage and kill to get what they needed. And he wasn't doing any such thing, he couldn't, but she also believed he wouldn't. Oh, she knew he stole, but he didn't hurt anyone, and he didn't take anything big. "It's cozy." She stepped up beside him. "I- I feel- I don't know, not safe... I feel protected."

"I can make it more secure, if you like." He pointed up to the slab at the top of the stairs. He hadn't pulled it back over the hole, but he knew it wasn't the wisest thing to leave it open, show anyone who might come searching for him that he had another part to his home. But he hadn't pulled it over, yet. The girl had nightmares about bein' buried alive, and you ask her to come to your crypt? The girl had been trapped in her grave, and yet she was supposed to spend every night patrolling grave yards, looking at thousands of creatures clawing their way out of the earth, just had she'd been forced to do herself. He marveled again at her strength, and that she hadn't gone completely carrot-top during this little "adjusting to resurrection" period. "But, no, no that's a bad idea, an' I'm sorry I mentioned it, Pet. We don't even have to be down here, I can move the pillows an'-"

Buffy tilted her head to the side, raising her eyebrows, lips twitching. "Spike? Do you want to stop backpedaling, or are you trying to qualify for some verbal olympics cycling event?"

"I know- this is sort of a- grave. An' it's not the best place to bring you."

"Oh." She nodded knowingly. "No, I don't feel trapped in here. And- you're here. I'm not alone, and trapped. I can get out. I can." Her breathing had deepened, and he hurriedly put his arm around her, drawing her to sit on the bed.

"Yes, yes, plenty of room, Sweetlet. And lights. And I can leave the trapdoor open. Alright, Pet?"

"Yeah, good." She nodded, and squeezed his hand reassuringly. "Thank you. For getting it." For not being like everyone else and treating me like glass, or treating my fear like they're nothing...

"I got it." He responded softly, and leaned in to her again, lips gently nibbling hers, waiting for that sudden blast of courage she got, the one that pushed her out of her shell, and into his arms. "I love you. I'm gonna look after you."

"I know." She murmured, fears fading. The place was just a place. Spike was why she was here. "Close the door. I'm not going to get interrupted by any of your big, stupid poker buddies."


"Positive." She smiled and slowly undid the few remaining buttons on her white over shirt.

Spike pulled the slab back into place, shinning up the ladder and back down like a sailor up the rigging of a ship. He paused as he turned to her. He would have to get the place in shape if she'd be over much. Towels, for one thing, in case she wanted to shower. And the "shower" itself, well, nothing he could do for that. Something besides blood and alcohol in the fridge. Sodas. Maybe a second chair? Let's see if we can get through one night here before plannin' the future.

"I never pictured you for the luxury bed type guy." She smiled, admiring the ornate bed with plush linens.

"Got used to a nice bed. With Dru." He coughed awkwardly. "She was sick for a long while see, and I-" He stopped and cursed himself for bringing up his old love. What he'd thought was love.

"And you took care of her. You're very good to the people you love."

"I did love her. But that was like a drop in the ocean compared to how much I love you." He suddenly closed the distance between them, sitting beside her on the bed. "An' you jus' let me, Buffy, an' I can prove it."

"I know." She whispered, even though she didn't exactly understand how she had managed to cast such a fascination on him, that he would think he could love her more than the woman he'd loved for a century.

"I loved her with the worst part of myself, Luv." Spike read her hesitation. "An' I love you with the best."

She whimpered softly as they moved together, as one, to find each other more fully. He pulled her across her lap, and she wound her arms around his chest and joined them at his back. He groaned and his hand fumbled at his waist, she could hear the slow click and flip of his belt releasing, and then the quick sound of metal teeth opening as he unzipped.

He heard two hollow clunks, her boots hitting the floor. Her fingers, warm and alive, pulling his shirt up, pulling her shirt up, as he helped. He paused in his deep, needy kisses to look at her properly. She's here. With me. In my bed. "You're real?"

"As you are." She giggled. "God, I'm all giggly tonight! It's ridiculous."

"You just need someone to take away the stress, Luv." He gave her quick smirk, and resumed undressing her, his hands a bit too eager and he heard the "ping" of her pants button rolling to the floor.

"Hey! I like these pants!" She huffed, but before he could make any reply, she'd pulled his head back to hers and resumed kissing him. The rest of their clothes disappeared in a few smooth pulls and twists, and she shivered in the candlelit darkness.

Well, of course, you fool, she's alive. It's a big, underground vault, basically, and not what you'd call "heated". And you don't exactly keep a person a warm until you've had time to absorb some of their heat, he berated himself. "Here, Baby." He tugged one side of the covers down. "Let's get you warmed up."

"I'm fine." She shook her head. No way am I getting under the covers of this thing. I bet this bed is still full of Harmony traces. Oh gag...

"No, stop bein' an almighty Chosen One, an' be a girl who needs the basics, like love an' not shiverin' when there's a nice warm bed to curl up in."

He's right. God, I hate that! Oh well, I'm sleeping with a dead guy, and I guess I've got to take what he has to offer. She moved the comforter she was lying on down to the side, and slid her smooth legs under, trying not think so hard, just relax, just be in love. She forced herself to take a deep breath and relax- and inhaled the scent of her favorite brand of detergent. "You use the same laundry soap I do! You use laundry soap!" She seemed shocked, but relieved.

Spike had to laugh at her wide eyed smile. "Reminds me of you." His laugh became slightly bitter as he continued, "I really know how to dish out the pain, huh, Luv? Made sure the last thing I smelled at night, an' the first I smelled in the mornin' reminded me of the thing I wanted most and couldn't have."

She caressed his jaw as it hovered a few inches above her face. "But you do have me now." She pointed out, much more at ease since she knew the sheets were clean and the bed was warm. And she was in love with the man in bed with her. That most of all. "And now I love you." She reminded him, not quite looking at him.

He could have cried, he could have crowed, but he was silent and smiling in the wake of her admission. She's said to me three times now. Three times is one too many times for it to have been a mistake, in my book. That's real, that is. "I love you, too, Buffy." He finally voiced, and stroked his hand softly up her face and down her neck. "This is real, Precious. You get that, right? You come in here with me, in this bed, an' you'll never be rid of me."

"Uh, if I remember correctly, I was never gonna be rid of you anyway, so yeah. I get that." His eyes reflected some concern. Not quite the answer he had wanted, too casual, too resigned. "I know what I'm doing. I want it to be real. Show me it's real. Show me I'm still real." She entreated, hands growing more desperate as she ended her sentence.

"Oh, yes." He breathed. He blazed kisses hard across her silken skin, biting slightly on her tensed nipples and the hollow of her slightly concave abs, down to each hipbone, across her-

"Ohhhh God, yes. Oh, God! Yes!" She arched her trembling slit up into his mouth more deeply, and grasped his hands as they rested on her waist.

"Real enough?" He purred, swirling his tongue over her pink bead.

"I'm letting a vampire convince me what's real. This is so wacked." She moaned, and burrowed her head into the pillow in her ecstasy.

"Well, I'm provin' it to a vampire slayer. If I'm not real- you wouldn't be real, now would you, Luv?"

"Good point." Buffy sat up slightly, looking at him, bathing in the light of his blue eyes. I never think of half the stuff you say." She said in a suddenly more focused voice.

"And you'd like me to stop, wouldn't you? Makin' you think?" He smiled devilishly at her, his chin resting on her mound.

"Just for right now. Okay? The deep thinking takes away the Buffy spasms."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that." His finger found her most sensitive spot and teased it. She spasmed and arched and he captured her wet lower lips again. "Plenty of movement, wouldn't you say, Pet?"

"Spike- Spi-ike." His name a broken sigh on her lips.

"Buffy, my Buffy." An answering sigh.

"Make love to me again?"

"Yes, Baby, yes." Eagerly scaling her, leaving another path of kisses. "I love you."

"I love you. God, yes, I love you." She cried and welcomed her lover into her, grabbing him, pulling him in.

She electrified him, head to toes, literally sending shudders coursing all over his pale body. "What the hell's gotten in to you, Slayer?" He gasped as she grasped him harder, reversing them for a moment, staring into his eyes before she flattened herself to him.

"I love you! I love you, Spike, can't you feel it? Don't you feel how much better it is?" Buffy felt like she'd been woken up, coming out from under a fog. Admitting she was in love inside her head, while he was inside her, had opened her body all the way. Admitting it to herself, to him, out loud, was like sliding the final bolt from the door of her heart and soul. The emotional fortress sprang open, shot her out where she was naked and vulnerable. She was falling now, crashing down... Only to be caught, to be saved from the darkness she'd been feeling. Maybe she wasn't a princess, maybe he wasn't a white knight, but they could save one another. "Don't you feel it?" She demanded again, riding him slowly, her head only a few inches from his, calves twining with his as she lay atop him.

"Feels like heaven." He gasped, staring into her eyes wonderingly, hopeful awe registering on his wide eyes and slightly open mouth as he smiled at her. "Maybe it's not the best choice of words, Luv, but it's the closest I'll ever get to it."

"No, Spike. You're right. It isn't my-my first heaven, but it's still some kind of heaven." She whispered.

"You never say near this much, Luv, when we're together." Spike neatly reversed them yet again, pushing up to his elbows, hands brushing her long locks back. Her eyes flashed with a sudden reluctance, and he hurried to soothe her fears. "I love it. You can always talk to me. Might not give good advice, but..." He shrugged playfully.

"I don't want good advice. I want good sex." She teased him suddenly and milked him hard once with her squeezing softness.

"Ahhh, God, Baby, you'll get it" He grunted suddenly. "But not sex."

"No, you're right. Love. Good love."

His lips found her ear as he pumped slowly in and out of her, rocking her hips deeper into the bed with each thrust. "Y'know I'm not good, Luv- but d'you know that I try to be?"

"You're good enough for me." She whispered, genuinely meaning it. "I'm not saying I'm ready to run around and announce you're my perfect guy- but you're all I want." She blushed. "Why can I say these things to you?" She looked genuinely annoyed with herself.

" 'Cause you don't need to prove anything to me. Already know how tough you are." Spike slid into her a bit harder, making her moan. "Know you're only soft if I earn it." He moved gently again.

"You've earned it." She whispered hoarsely. "You've more than earned it- for now." They exchanged a smile.

"Gonna keep me in line?" He teased.

"Y-you don't need me for that." She struggled to admit it. She visibly winced and closed her eyes. "You would be good- because you love me. I get it."

Spike marveled again. "Not to crush the tender moment, Pet, but did you hit your head when we crashed through that loadin' dock?"


"You went from tellin' me we couldn't last an' callin' me evil, to tellin' me you love me an' I'm good enough for you." He watched her eyes spark and slid into her hard, holding her hips down. "Not that I'm complainin'."

"I didn't hit my head." She confessed with a sigh. "I just- you know I'm not saying you're all pure or something, right? It's just that- I'm not so perfect either. I see that more now. So- you're good enough for me."

"You're settlin' then?" Spike grimaced, but didn't let her speak. He didn't really want to know. "I'm okay with that. I know I'm gonna take care of you and make you happy as I can." He said seriously. " So I guess in my book, you're not settlin' for less than you need, maybe less than you deserve. An' I still get to love you, and you love me. It might be settlin' for you, but it's more than I could ever ask for."

"I'm not settling for you, idiot!" Buffy said angrily. "I- this could never be called settling, Spike. I'm going against thousands of years of slayer training here!"

"I'm going against a millennia of vamp instincts." He countered.

She rolled over, pinning him, trapping him deep inside her, and for a moment they forgot their playful arguing, and the heartfelt conversations that were flowing with their love making, and just let themselves glide along together, enjoying, touching, watching one another.

Spike rested a hand on each of her breasts, soft and warm in his palms, just like he had imagined the first night they were in Cliffside. "I didn't want to love you. I didn't even want to like you. And now I do both." She hung her head, partly in guilt, partly in weariness.

"Here now, none of that." He lifted her chin, and struggled to sit up a bit. "You don't have to be ashamed of it- no one'll ever need to know, Luv, if it's that important to you. Won't have you feelin' ashamed of yourself. You're a hero, Buffy." Her eyes met his, and he knew that she didn't want to be there hero anymore. Not as much as she just wanted to be normal. "You're also a girl. Girls don't always fall for blokes that fit the ideal."

"I'm trying. You know that." She whispered.

"I do. Just give us a chance, Luv." He pleaded.

"I will." She agreed. She slowly rolled off of him, onto her back. Spike stared at her, the tender concern in his eyes magnifying as she slowly ran her hands up her bare arms.

She's trusting me. Look at her, all vulnerable, and soft, in my bed, Spike licked his lips. The lustful hunger merged with the burning love he felt, and cooled into a perfect blend of sweet passion. "I love you." He murmured, moving astride her again. And this time, he was determined to keep her there, under him, letting him do the work, give her a proper thank you for making him feel so good, for confessing her love and letting them try to make this relationship work even when they were back on their own turf.

This was like Angel, only so much better, Buffy thought. Immediately guilt started surging through her. Angel was the one she was supposed to love. But Angel left, and Spike didn't. Maybe it's time you rethought your definition of "supposed to", she thought with an internal frown. And while you're thinking of things to reconsider, ask why Angel without a soul is so awful, and why Spike without his soul is actually a pretty decent guy. Supposed to? Screw that. She never did anything like she was supposed to, hence Giles' prematurely gray hair.


"Mm, Baby?" He panted against her, feeling her resistance shift from low to medium, back to low.

"I love you. I love this. And now that I can say it, it feels so much better. I'm not holding back anymore."

"You were holdin' back before?" Spike murmured. "You mean on sayin' you loved me?"

She nodded. "The last few times."

"Can't believe it, Luv." He gave her a deliriously happy smile. "You actually wanted to say it, earlier?" She bobbed her head once, firmly. "That's wonderful." His smiled twisted, tongue curling in a sudden smirk. "You won't have to hold back this time. An' now that we don't have any neighbors to bother us, I'm gonna do things to you that make you wanna scream it at the top of your lungs."

"I'm not really much for screaming." She blushed. He surged in her, and rocked his hands under her shoulder blades, cradling her back, enveloping her in his muscular chill. "But, I mean, hey, who am I to stop you from trying?" Her eyelids fluttered shut. Damn him. He made her feel so good, all the stupid noises she thought could only be faked by paid actresses were now crashing around inside her, trying to find a way out. But they'd better not, the last thing Spike needs it anymore ego. He's turning me into some kind of stupid sex kitten. And, oh God, do I love this... Her back arched, and her eyes opened. He was smirking down on her, but not in a gloating way.

" Not much for screamin', huh? Only 'cause no one's given you the right treatment, Luv, while you're lovin' them back. Think it has to be a two -way street to work proper. An' maybe scream is the wrong word. I'm gonna make you gasp it, cry it, moan it. Loudly, of course." And he smashed his mouth on to hers, tongue claiming her in the way his hardness was claiming her other opening.

"Prove it." She challenged weakly after he kissed her breathless, boneless, defenseless under him. At least her mouth still worked, she thought in relief. For a second, I thought he might have permanently disabled my lips.

He laughed and nuzzled her cheek. "I will, Sweetheart. Jus' tell me one thing."

"I love you." She anticipated his request.

"An' I love you. But I was gonna ask if you feel like you want it slow, or you want it hard? Both are gonna be good."

She tried to act carefree. Boy, look how easily she was saying it to him. Just to him and Dawn. But that was a start. "Umm." She teased her fingers up his neck, to his hair line, stroking it back and admiring his beautiful face. "Can I have it slow, with occasional bouts of hardness?"

He thrust up into her sensitive upper wall. "Hardness is a given." He teased. "But I know what you meant." He rotated inside her, feeling her stroking him back in a counter rhythm. "Still gonna make you lose control- jus' for a few minutes." He breathed, a sinfully seductive glow in the depths of his eyes.

"Just for a few minutes." She agreed with a hard swallow.

Buffy yawned and stretched as she rolled over, waking up slowly, feeling her leg muscles trembling slightly in fatigue. What was that about? She flexed her toes, trying to soothe the tension in her calves, and her foot brushed someone else's. "Spike!" She cried, bolting up, holding the red sheet to her naked body. Even as she exclaimed, sounding distressed, her face broke into a smile. "Hi." She repeated more softly.

" 'Lo, Sweets." He stretched, too and cracked his knuckles, sitting up beside her. "You take it out of a chap, Slayer. I'm usually good for a few more rounds."

"I think five rounds is plenty." She sank into the cleft of his chest and closed her eyes. "I'm sorry I fell asleep. I really should have gotten home..."

"It's early yet. For us. Must be-" Spike let his vampire senses emerge more fully and felt the level of darkness, the height of the moon, from somewhere inside himself.

"- about 3:00?"

"That's not too bad." Buffy slowly untangled herself from the sheets, shivering, and searching for her clothes.

"Thanks for stayin' for a bit, anyway." Spike was behind her, arms around her slim hips, head on hers. "Think your coat's upstairs. Give me a minute an' I'll walk you home."

"You don't have to do that. Slayer, remember? I kill guys like you?"

"Yeah, but I'm not doin' it to protect you. I'm doin' it so I get 15 more minutes to look at you, talk to you.." His lips pressed her neck and he inhaled sharply, savoring the sweet smell of her skin, a mixture of his sheets, her soap, their sex. "Gettin' a few more minutes to taste you, breathe in your scent..." He lightly flicked her earlobe with his tongue.

She shivered. No one had ever seemed so in to her. Certainly not using words like "taste her, breathe her". Not even Angel, and he was a vampire. Spike was so raw, so passionate, animalistic... and she found the blend of the untamed passions combined with the intense effort to control it absolutely irresistible. She felt herself get wet, and felt him harden along her tailbone.

"Yes, Buffy, like that. Smell you wantin' me again."

"You-" Her eyes widened. "I need a shower."

"What?" He let her go, and she spun to face him.

"I need a shower! Spike, oh my God, we absolutely reek of sex, I-"

He interrupted with a calming palm to her shoulder. "We only know that 'cause we've got the super senses, Luv. No one else is the wiser." He soothed.

"I don't care! I- look at me, my hair's all messy, and I'm all wet- don't look at me like that, I mean in the not yummy way."

"It's very yummy." He disagreed. "You look beautiful. Hair all passion wrecked, thighs wet from where you leak for me, proof of what you do to me, what we do to each other..." His finger trailed expertly between her lips, picking up a long slick ribbon of their combined essences. "You look loved."

"I know. And I'm glad." She shivered into his fingertips, and slowly felt herself lowering back to the bed. "And if it were just me, going home alone- I wouldn't worry."

"But it's your mates, and Niblet?"

"Yeah." She bit her lip. "You don't mind? I'm not trying to 'wash you off' me or anything." She looked at him guiltily.

"Not anymore, anyway." He smiled melancholily. "C'mere. I'll show you what I've got rigged in the way of a shower. You're more than welcome to it. An' I'll head to the dorms tonight."

"Dorms?" Buffy sat back up as he backed away. She had been sure he'd make one more play for her, and part of her was a little disappointed. But no, he wouldn't do that, 'cause you pretty much freaked out about how you look and smell from being with him. Kind of cools a guy's heels. God, Buffy, can't you even date a dead guy the right way? Oh no, you can't. 'Cause slayers don't date.

"Yeah, gonna wash the sheets for us. It's cheaper than the town laundromat. I can go back there now that the Initiative chappies are gone. Sometimes I'd just toss my things in with someone else's get it for free. Never had much to wash."

"You- used to come to the dorms and do laundry?" Buffy gaped at him.

"Only a few times. Not like I care if I get a bit mussed, no one to really look good for. Didn't really have to do much to impress Harm, an' God knows I didn't want to." They exchanged a knowing smile. "You knew her before, right?"

"Yeah. I did." Buffy acquiesced sadly.

"Was she that stupid, or was it the demon?" Spike asked, almost fearfully.

"Before. Always the poster girl for valley girl airhead."

"Thank God. Couldn't live with me'self if I thought a vamp inflicted that amount of gormlessness on her."

"Gor-what?" Buffy asked, following Spike to the hole in the wall (literally) shower.

"Gormless. Means brainless. Daft, stupid. British term. Ask the Watcher, he'll tell you. Would hate to think gettin' turned did that to a person."

"But torturing people with railroad spikes is okay?" She asked, hands on hips. He shrugged, and she sighed.

Spike snapped the water pipe from its jointed hinge, and a stream of ice water attacked their naked bodies. He quickly snapped it back up. "Sure you don't want to wait 'til you're home?"

"No, I can deal with a little cold water." He nodded, with a small frown, a look of "it's your skin, not mine" and turned it back on.

Buffy set her teeth and didn't yelp, but she shivered and scrubbed furiously. She took the bottle nearest her, and Spike's hand batted it away.

"That's my hair gel. Soap's on the left." He stepped under the stream with her and tried to protect her from some of it.

"I-I'm fine." She gasped and pushed him away. He let her subject herself to the ice water, and then watched her gasp and shiveringly shove the pipe closed again. "Towel?"

"Here." Spike knocked a few candles over as he yanked open the chest and handed her one of his three, four if you counted his present from Buffy, black tee-shirts. "I'll get some towels, too."

"You don't have towels?" I so sound like a whiny brat. I sound like Cordelia. Oh, God, please no. "I mean, of course, you don't have towels. Not like you need them, right?"

"Well, cold water doesn't faze me near as much as a human. And not like I'm pressed for time, most days. I can shower and then stay down here and drip dry, or if I do have to shove into my clothes, and be off, I air dry pretty quick." He roughly scrubbed the water from her skin, and wrapped his arms around her. "You alright?"

"Fine. Fine, really." She kissed him as he looked at her with all the softness of a lovesick schoolboy. Kind of cute on him. Big blue eyes, and those pale lips in that sweet smile... Wet. Again. Not in the ice water way. Dammit!

His dark chuckle made her expression go from soft and dreamy to hard and focused. She suddenly shivered and clung to him as she opened her mouth to retort about his gloating chuckle, and stopped. "What's wrong?" He pressed.

"Cold." She bit off.

"Well, sod your pride or whatever it is you're playin' at, Slayer, an' get back into bed with me. I'll warm you up, Luv."

"No, I'm good. Just hand me my stuff." Spike was already shoving her shirt over her head. "Bra!"

"Oh." He looked around for it, and so did she. "I didn't nick it, it's someplace..." They did a quick search of the bed and floor, and found the bra under the pillows. He handed her the rest of her clothes and she put them on over her damp skin, still trembling slightly. Spike tilted his head and put his hand on her back. "You're sure you're well, Pet?"

"I-um, I feel the cold. I didn't feel it this bad." She met his eyes.

"Since you've been back?" He filled in her unspoken words.

"Yes. What's that mean? Am I really broken? I knew I came back with missing pieces, but I didn't think they'd ever come back. Feeling things, noticing things. For real."

"You're healin'." He said simply, and pulled his jeans and belt out from under the bed with one foot, scrounging for another shirt in his battered wooden chest, all the while looking at her. "You didn't used to feel the physical things much?"

"No. That's why I forgot to eat sometimes." She whispered. He swallowed convulsively and nodded, sliding his clothes on briskly, and then turning to her, facing her head on.

"You're healing. That's good." He said firmly. His voice dropped lower, almost threatening. "Don't fight it, Buffy. Stay in this world,with all the soddin' idiots, and the things that make you hurt." His hands cupped her cheeks. " 'Cause I'll be there with you. Fightin' with you, and lovin' you. I'll make you a little tidbit of heaven to tide you over, yeah, Pet?"

She never thought she'd leap into someone's arms. It wasn't very "slayeresque" to go all googly eyed at a vamp, and find the tenderness of his words reassuring and sweet, so much so that she'd literally throw herself into his arms and hug him. "Thanks," she said simply.

"Welcome." He croaked out through creaking ribs. "Ease up, Slayer, got plans for us, an' none of 'em involve fractures." She squeezed him all the more and he wheezed out a laugh. "What the hell. I'll heal."

Pulling back, she took his hand, and let him lead her up the stairs. Through the small windows ringing the upper level of his crypt, she could see it was still dark out, a cloudy, black night, with traces of rain on the windows.

"I'll walk you home." He reminded her, and slid into his duster, checking the pockets for his lighter, cigs, and a few assorted weapons.

"Thanks." She decided not to be her usual ungrateful, defensive self, and turned up the collar of her coat against the rain. Spike frowned and a silent curse formed on his lips. " Now what?"

"Don't even have an umbrella in here." He realized.

"Like I care?" She laughed. "Spike. Me-Slayer. Kill big bads. Not girly girl." She spoke as if speaking to a very dense child.

"You? Not a girly girl? That's a bloody laugh." He chuckled. "Only Slayer I've ever seen kill vamps in heels and mini skirts. What's that make you?"

"Stupid?" She muttered. She stumbled slightly as he seized her arm and pulled her against him as they walked through the grassy, muddy cemetery.

"You're special. An' you are a girl, Slayer, girly or not. You're my girl." He hissed the last words fiercely, and her hand gripped her arm possessively for a split second before loosening. Not smart, mate. Good way to waken the bitch goddess, gettin' grabby without an invite.

But she didn't seem to mind, aside form a roll of her eyes and a heavenward sigh. "Okay. I'm a girl, your girl, you win. But I never patrol with an umbrella anyway, so no big."

They walked in silence for a bit, and Spike lit a cigarette, not caring if it annoyed her. She gave several loud, fake coughs, and he puffed a cloud right in her face. "I'm good, Luv, not a bleedin' saint. I've earned the right to smoke as many fags a day as I want, an' not stoppin' for you."

She was half tempted to make it an ultimatum that he quit, just to make him squirm, backtrack over his rash statement. But she wasn't going to play games now. "Just don't blow it on me."

"That was to make a point, an' I won't." He said, purposely blowing straight down now. They walked another few moments in silence.

They'd been able to spend lots of moments in silence together once they came back, but now- after the intimacy of making love to him, telling him her feelings, waking up in his bed beside him, she felt like she should speak. She caught his eye, and he slid an arm lower on her waist, sighing happily. She relaxed. With Spike, you didn't have to do the things you should do. And somehow, that made it easier to do them. He's right. You are hard to figure out.

"Thanks for walking me home." She muttered as they turned on the last street before Revello Drive.

"Anytime, Pet." Spike said easily. "While I'm here- d'you want to run up an' grab a towel? Any bits an' bobs you'd like to have at my place?"

Buffy slammed her heels in so hard that Spike actually fell forward from the recoil. "We are not a couple! Like that! I don't keep a change of clothes and my toothbrush in your crypt." She spat the last word out as if it stained her tongue.

"Well, no, I didn't think we would!" He locked his shoulders back angrily, facing her. "But I don't have a towel, an' I didn't think I'd be buyin' one any time soon. I was just tryin' to let you know that you could keep some odds an' ends at my place, keep you comfy when you 'visit'!"

"Oh." She watched him angrily light a second cigarette from his first, viciously grinding the butt out under his heel.

"Yeah, well, I get the whole takin' it slow thing. Didn't think the mention of a bleedin' towel was grounds for a screamin' fit." He puffed. They said no more for a moment, standing on some poor person's front walk, having a row, then a glaring contest. "You really are my land mine." He smiled suddenly.

"I know!" She inserted her hand in his. "But you didn't leave."

"No. I won't be doin' that." He looked at her sideways. "Truce?"

"Very yes." She leaned her head into his arm. "I'll bring a towel over next time I stop by." She said quietly.

"Good." Spike whistled softly as they walked, their paces slowing with every step, neither really wanting to separate for the day, maybe for the night as well, but both knowing that for one reason or another, they would do just that.

"And you can always come over and take a hot shower if you want. When no one else is around." Buffy offered. "I know you don't mind the cold, but, hey, a nice hot shower after a night of evil whipping is awesome."

"Well, I'd love to take you up on it, Kitten, but when exactly is it that I could do it? You've got Bit, and the wiccas, plus the rest of the Scoobies poppin' in as they please."

"I guess. But, I still mean the offer. Even if it is kinda one you can't take me up on." She stroked his hand gently as it twined with hers. He squeezed her fingers gratefully in return.

"Y'know- all things considered, Luv, you might be better off havin' me over." He suggested, knowing she'd never go for it, despite its logic.

"You over? You over- night?" She gasped at him.

"Knew you'd love it." He muttered sarcastically. "Well, you have creature comforts here. Proper shower. Plumbing. I don't even have a loo."

"Yeah, I noticed that." Buffy's bladder gave another twinge, and she wanted to take Spike up on his offer right away. It would be so much better to do things at her house. Showers. Warm, as in actually warm, bed, and that lovely modern convenience, indoor plumbing. And she knew it would never work. " But, no. No, we can't. It's not that I don't want to." She confessed heavily. "But we can't."

"What if we-"

"No! Spike, someone would notice."

"Silent, and can climb right into your bedroom window, Luv, done it before." He smirked.

"Yes, you can get in okay. But the- the other things." She blushed.

"When I make you cum?" He grinned wickedly, and her cheeks turned even more crimson. "When you beg me to cum with you?"

"Yes." She said breathlessly, falling helplessly into his eyes, into his sweet, treacle tones, and then catching herself. "Yes, when we're together, someone's going to overhear."

"I can be quiet, Luv. Might be quite a fun game, actually." He ran his fingers up the curve of her spine, and even through her leather coat, her shirt, and her camisole, it felt like he was snagging each and every vertebrae with a cool velvet touch. His voice dropped so low she had to tilt her ear to hear him, and that's when his lips nibbled the words against her. "Might be fun- seein' who can hold out the longest, when we're pleasing each other. Wonder if I could be quiet when you suck me into that hot little mouth." She moaned softly, and Spike tugged her along, her knees like pudding, but still pressed to him as they walked to her house. "Wonder how long you could keep quiet when I push my tongue in between those little pink lips and drink your juices?"

"Oh, Baby-" She let him kiss her, stopping and leaning on a parked car, feeling her insides puddle instantly, picturing them locked in a fierce competition of pleasuring, the added intensity of being discovered if they cried out- and knowing that inevitably, during climax, there would be some sort of noise, no matter how soft.

"You want that, don't you, Luv? Let me in Buffy, and you'll find what a good overnight guest I can be..."

"Stop. Stop!" She shook her head violently as she realized she was beginning to recline on the hood of the car, and that his fingers had left her arm and were now rubbing the wet crotch of her jeans.

"Sure you want me to?" His fingers pushed in harder, and even through the thick seams, she felt his fingers indent her wetness.

"I don't want to- but we have to." She bit her lip, and felt the sharp pain in her belly once again. When you need the person you love inside you, Spike's sultry voice reminded her, echoing in her mind.

"Tell me why, then?" He panted, shifting his hard cock from her, cursing the denim, and the part of him, and her, that was human, for their stupid ideas about appropriate sexual behavior. Would love to take her hard and sweetly, right now, sod whoever's watchin', and even if he couldn't hurt 'em, he'd sure as hell scare 'em if they made a single sound or gave them a half curious glance.


"Dawn? Dawn'd be pleased as punch, Buffy, gotta do better than that." He goaded.

"I don't want to get her hopes up." She whispered solemnly.

Spike's face stung like he'd been slapped. He briefly wondered if all slayers had this power with words, or if you had to love them first. "Get her hopes up?" He repeated dully, eyes stinging, and not just from the leftover smoke of his burnt out cigarettes. "I see." All the death, and aging, and children... just hypotheticals. Even the love, well, she admitted that she didn't think it could last. "I see." He said with more conviction. "I agree with you, then. Wouldn't want her to think- that I was going to be more to her than jus' a babysitter. Anything long term. Close-like." They were nearing her house, and he felt his feet dragging like lead weights were on them. See her home. She does love you, and you do love her. Gotta push on, it's what you're meant to do. To never leave her, even if you can never be with her. Fully with her. His hands sought the comfort of a third smoke, and fumbled inside his duster pocket.

He looks like I cut him. Literally cut him, pained and shocked. Not cut, stabbed. Buffy watched his wrist shake as he flicked the lighter open and then drop it back into his pocket, cigarette still unlit in the corner of his mouth. "Hey, what- did I do something?" She asked hesitantly.

"Not a bloody thing." He groused, and refused to say more. They drew abreast of her house, and she jerked his shoulder hard, forcing him to still his heavy tread.

"Don't shut me out now! You always tell me everything. Even when I wish to God you'd shut up."

He almost grinned, knowing that was true. She hated some of the things he said, true things, pointed things, nasty hints, raw innuendos. And that was part of the fun of sayin' 'em, to brass her off, watch her get hot and bothered. But this wasn't for kicks. "Guess I didn't realize that you were so serious about us not havin' long together."

"Huh?" Her eyes bugged. "When did I say that? I mean, yeah, I'm not saying I see us and a white picket fence, but I believed you when you said all the things in the warehouse." Her voice softened. "That you won't go, and I won't go..."

"Then what the hell was all that about not gettin' Bit's hopes up?" He demanded, hands flying out in exasperation. "That means you don't think this is more than a little foray into the dark, til you get all nice and comfy in this world again, and then you're done with us. An' you can fake it only so long, but you draw the line at pullin' Baby Sis into the charade. You wouldn't mind hurtin' me, but not her. An' I gotta agree with you. You hurt me much as you want, I'll come back, but I draw the line at you hurtin' Bit, too. That's it, isn't it Luv? Did I guess it? You know I'm a good guesser." He snarled in conclusion.

Her fists connected with his jaw and his nose in a one two jab before she could even stop herself. He fell with a spurt of blood and a curse, and she fell, too, on her knees beside him, fists grabbing his lapels and shaking him by his coat. "How could you say that? How could you think it?" She leaned down and kissed him, his stunned mouth open in protest and filled with blood. She wiped her lips angrily and pulled herself back up onto her knees, hands still pressed into his shoulders. "You are so stupid! I told you I loved you! I love you! I thought you got it! I thought you were never going to hurt me again!"

"Whoa!" Whoa, Buffy. Luv, I'm sorry." He forced her hands back and sat up, still so confused, as she poured herself sobbing into his arms.

"I love you! I do love you, and I can't get out of it, and you still think I'm playing a game?" She demanded.

"I don't know, I didn't know, Luv, what to think. When you said not to get her hopes up-"

"That doesn't mean there isn't hope, you idiot! It means it isn't going to be nice and smooth! I don't want her to think I spend a week with you, and boom, we're both magically healed, or good, ready to be the perfect couple, and we're setting up house! That you'll be there each night, and there each day." Her voice faded.

"But I could be-" He began to explain again, for the millionth bloody time, that he wasn't going to do a bunk and leave her.

"I know you can! I'm the one, Spike! I'm the one who has trouble with the loving and the coupleness." She exclaimed, hands falling limply into her lap. "I'm the one."

"It's not like that. I didn't give you much reason to trust me, not at first. I'll work for this." He sat up and wiped blood from his nose and sniffed in.

"Jerk." She swatted him softly on his pectoral, with none of her previous venom. "You know the things I hate most in the world?" She mumbled, still buried on his chest.

"Am I on the list?" He asked with a hint of amusement.

"Not right now." She shook her head, and he let his lips brush the damp hair, dark with water, starting to dry and show some golden highlights. "I hate evil creatures who hurt innocent people who, for the most part, are just trying to get by. I hate men who leave once you trust them. And I hate that I fell in love with you. I hate that I can't do anything the way I'm supposed to. I can't be normal. I'm not even good at abnormal." She sat back on her haunches suddenly, and wiped her reddened eyes, staring him down. "So when I say I love you- it will never be a game. Am I clear?"

"Crystal, Luv." He said softly. They sat for a moment in silence, him resting on his rear, hands out flat behind him to prop himself up, and she sat listlessly on her haunches, worn out with the emotional strain of the week. "My poor girl." He whispered, straightening up, reaching for her. "It hurts you that much, Buffy? To love me?"

"Yes." She hissed. She watched his brow crease, and his jaw set.

Can't let her be in pain. What do I do? Never had to do this. God, why do I pick these loonies? Spike cleared his throat to form what he hoped, what he could choke out, would be an escape for her. He froze, having no idea what in the world to say, because he couldn't leave her, nor could you turn love off or on like some bleedin' switch in your heart.

He never got to speak. Buffy shoved him down again, ferociously. "Don't you dare try to be noble, Spike. Just- just don't leave. And don't stop."

"Never stop lovin' you." He assured her, gentle pushing her back, beginning to sit up. "Is there something, anything I can do? I'm flummoxed, Luv, an' I don't have an idea in hell what the right thing to do is."

"Neither do I." She sighed. "I just know you have to be patient. I can't rush this. You can't just jump into life with me like a normal guy and a normal girl. There's hope, Spike, but it's kind of in critical condition."

He nodded thoughtfully. "I hope you know know one thing, Buffy."


"That you an' me? We're the right thing. I believe that." She shook her head skeptically. "Okay, 'right' isn't a good fit, but I can't think of a better one. We're- we're the best fit for one another. You see that?" She remained obstinately silent. "We're good together?" He tried again.

"I'll buy that." She gave him a half-grin.

Spike nodded once more, and lazed to his feet, pulling her up after him. "Let's get out of the side lawn then. See you to the door?"

She shook her head regretfully. "I'll say goodnight here." She whispered. Spike wrapped his strong arms around her and swept her off her feet, bending her back with a passionate, probing kiss that made her ache all over, body begging for more of him.

"I love you." He released her.

"I love you, too." She informed him gravely. "Remember it."

"Oh, don't. Don't you act like it's so easy. How many soddin' times did I tell you the same thing before you believed me?" He put his hands on his hips.

"Yeah, but I'm me." She let out a stifled giggle. He closed his eyes and let out a long breath of annoyance. "I love you. I do." Her tone sobered, and she gently kissed him as she gently caressed his face.

"I know. An' I know it hurts you to do it. Hurts me when you don't. I feel like a right selfish git, but I can't stop myself, an' think I'd die if you stopped. An' I know, I know-" He held up a protesting hand. "I'm already dead."

"I'm not planning to stop." She let him walk a few more steps with her, pausing a few feet before the front steps.

"Nor am I, Luv." He kissed her once more, and watched her slog up the stairs, shoulders bowed. Tired. Hurting. But in love. Like him, like how he'd felt. She let me into her heart. She's jus' gotta find a way to let me into her life. And then it won't hurt anymore. Not like this. "I love you!" He called, a little louder than he should have. Buffy whirled, nearly clattering off the front steps as she spun on her slick boot heels. "That's right. I love you. And you'll see, Buffy, how well we can fit together, two unrealities in a real world." He strode closer to the stairs, pausing at the bottom. She stood a few steps up, glaring at him when she wasn't looking around furtively.

"Spike!" She hissed.

"Oh, I'm leavin'. You had a good point about Bit, and not rushin', not pushin'. But I just wanted you to know something." His grin suddenly flared to life, eyes dark and gleaming, arrogance and confidence on every line of his smirking face. "I waited you out before. I can do it again."

He took the two steps in a spring, kissed her hard, leaving her breathless, and dropped back down. "Goodnight, Luv." He warbled as he strode off into the fading night.

"Goodnight, Spike." She whispered softly. He turned and smiled broadly over his shoulder, and she knew he had heard her speak.

He winked, and walked away whistling, super keen hearing also listening for the sound of her door opening and locking behind her. She's safe. An' we're gonna be okay. I love her, and I can wait, I can make it work. I can do anything now that she loves me back.

She loves me. She told me she loves me...