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. Includes some canonical events, but with a twist. 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. In "Desire", Spike and Buffy have caught and jailed the "Trio" and therefore many of the tragic events that occurred in the series have changed for the better.

Dedicated to: Lithium Reaper, Hannah the Bloody, Spirited Ghost, Idiosyncratic Delusions, Amiradanielle, Msnycegirl0820, somethinginthewayful, and Good For the Soul.

Direct quotes from songs, shows, or other materials are obviously not mine, but belong to the enormously talented people who created them.

Reviews please!

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

Part XI

Willow slipped downstairs at 6:30. She knew she would be exhausted by the end of the day, and she hadn't gotten much sleep- but it didn't matter. Tara was going to be hers. Hers, hers, hers, permanently, because she loved her, and breakfast in bed was in order.

Her fuzzy slippered feet scuffed noiselessly to a halt at the bottom of the stairs. On the couch, Buffy lay huddled in Spike's arms, head cradled in the hollow of his neck. So peaceful. Both of them serene. At peace- resting in peace. Willow gulped hard. She should be resting in peace, heaven holding her safely- but in the meantime, her softened expression of contentment came from lying in Spike's arms. And that, in a really creepy way, was Buffy's needed reminder of heaven, her heaven substitute. She gave a loud sigh and bustled softly to the kitchen and got leftover pie and toasted rolls- foods she could prepare without waking the sweetly entangled pair on the couch.

Buffy woke up just in time to see Willow smiling dreamily at her as she turned and headed up the stairs with something in her hands. Blinking a couple times, Buffy squirmed- and realized she was cuddled in Spike's embrace. "Crap."

" 'Smatter, Luv?" Spike muttered softly, hands instantly seeking to fondle the warm package he held. Then he opened his eyes. "Oh. Right."

"Willow just saw us."

"That's okay, right? Didn't have my hands in your knickers or anything did I?"

"No! Of course not. And I don't wear 'knickers' under my jammies anyway." She immediately wished she hadn't shared that piece of information when Spike growled and whimpered at the same time- a noise she didn't even know he could make. "Sorry?" She apologized hesitantly.

"Already hard for you all the time." He whispered. "But knowing there's nothing between your hot little puss and me but this little piece of fabric- mmm. Doesn't exactly soothe the savage breast."


"It was breast originally- but that isn't the point. You better get off me, Luv, before I unzip-" he was speaking in a sultry whisper now, "pull your pjs down just over your sweet cheeks, and split you open."

She made a nose between a whimper and a grunt of lust- another sound she was surprised to hear. "Damn, tempting vampire." She muttered and rolled to her knees, sinking on to the floor and peering into his eyes as he remained on the couch. "I'm sorry we can't."

"No. No, it's okay. Don't want Niblet to find us like that. An' the birds are already flyin' upstairs."

"Willow didn't look mad or worried. She actually- looked kinda happy."

"They look- beautiful together." Willow whispered to her lover. Her partner. Her official partner. Her family. "I wish- I honestly do, that they'd- you know. Give in a little?"

"Maybe they haven't." Tara blushed. "I know Spike doesn't have a soul, but he has a goodness in him- whatever you'd like to call it, something makes him good, besides just the chip. Maybe Buffy's afraid that going all the way with him will push him over the edge, like Angel."

"I don't think that's it entirely." Willow chewed her thumb. "I think she's having a hard time with all of us being here, in and out, and Dawn. You know she feels pressure to be responsible, be a 'mom' now. That probably doesn't leave a lot of room for smoochies with Spike, between feeling trapped by her own fears, worried about our feelings on the subject, plus having the house full all the time."

"Do you want to tell her- a-about our plans? That might help her feel better. Know that we're moving on, and she can, too?"

"We'll tell her. Maybe not in front of Spike or Dawn though. In case the conversation drifts into smoochie territory. I don't want Dawnie to hear about that, and I- I can't talk about that in front of Spike. He smirks too damn much. I always feel like he's undressing everything with his eyes."

"Really? Everyone?" Tara blushed deeper, and pulled her covers up.

"Not anymore. Just Buffy." The pair shared a grin. " 'Cause no one sees these beauties but me, right, Sweetie?" Willow nuzzled into the soft bosom Tara was hiding under the sheet.

"Mm, Willow. Only for Willow." Tara agreed with a breathless giggle.

Dawn and Spike were bleary eyed and crashed on the couch, a mug of blood in his hand, a half eaten bagel in hers. "Not enough sleep." Dawn grumbled.

"I know." Spike mindlessly offered his cup. "It helps."

"Coffee?" Dawn reached for it.

"Oh, shit, no, that's blood." He pulled it back, eyes suddenly opening wide. "Slayer! Can a bloke an' a Bit get some coffee?" He shouted up the stairs.

"Make it yourself! I'm trying to find something that says 'I know nothing, but I'm polite, please buy things.' I don't have a lot of clothes geared towards customer service."

"I'll make it, Spike." Dawn pushed herself wearily to her feet, and he followed her.

"I'll come with. Don't want the house burned down."


"Snack pack." He smiled, and she smiled back.

Willow bumped into Buffy as they both headed towards the bathroom. "Hey, Buffy. I-um- I wanted to tell you something." Willow brushed her elbow. "If you're not in a hurry?"

"Nah. Besides, sounds like Tara's drying her hair. What's up?" Buffy mentally went through a list of possible bad things Willow could say, all hinging on catching her and Spike snuggled up on the sofa. That was probably a shock. I mean, Spike on the couch, okay, people can deal. Her with Spike on the couch, looking all lovey-dovey, probably way less dealable.

"Tara and I would like to move out. Around New Year's. Get our own place, together." Willow waited for her friend to squeal or smile.

Buffy felt it all cracking. The carefully glued together image that Spike was trying to help her build- slayer and woman, meshed. " Because of Spike?" She asked softly, hoarsely.

Okay, not the reaction she'd hoped for, but maybe it was coming slowly to the surface, realizations and reasons needed to process. Willow decided to give credit where credit was due. "Yes, the two of you."

My best friend. Leaving me. Taking my other good friend with her. Because they can't accept him. Us. They thought they could. They tried and failed. Her spine stiffened. I don't fail. If I have to die to finish the job- I do it. "Well, that's just too bad, Will." Buffy hissed, voice in a low, violent register that made Willow retreat a step.

"Did you hear that?" Spike abruptly stopped measuring grounds into the coffee maker.

"Hear what?" Dawn yawned.

"Jus' a minute, Platelet." He pushed past her gently and walked slowly to the living room, ear cocked. There was an angry Slayer somewhere. Could smell her blood heating to dangerous levels, hear her voice switch off of Buffy setting and onto something more vicious.

"You couldn't handle it could you? Do you think I'm going to choose if you give me an ultimatum?"

What happened? Buffy brain short out? Maybe it was too much dinner, not enough sleep. Willow shook her head, eyes widening in confusion. "Buffy, we never-"

"No, no one ever! No one thinks I might just do something because I want to. Because I need something, or I love something. I'm not choosing! You don't have to see me with him, but he stays in my life!"

From his place halfway up the stairs, Spike gasped and reeled. She couldn't have said that. Could she? Stop feelin' so bloody lighthearted, you ponce, can't you hear there's a problem, that she's riled?

"Buffy, when I saw you last night-"

"I'm not in the mood, Willow!" Buffy's voice crashed out.

"What's wrong?" Tara appeared from the bathroom, hair half dried and hanging limp.

"What's wrong?" Dawn trotted up behind Spike who shushed her and put a hand out behind him to stop her from advancing.

"I thought you guys supported me!" Buffy's voice flared louder. "Have a double date, do something normal- wh-what? What couldn't you handle? He's not the greatest guy in the world- but he's the greatest guy to me!"

Spike heard the rage giving way to tears, Buffy's sudden stammer and impassioned praise of him pounding in his ears like a call to battle. He began to storm up, so much for discretion and just listenin'. "What the bloody hell is happenin'?"

"A little misunderstanding. Buffy- please listen. And this needs to be private, just you and Tara and me? Please, trust me- it really is a misunderstanding." Willow kept her voice steady. "Buffy- have I ever been one to give you a hard time over guys?"

Buffy took in a deep breath- and then a puzzled look hit her face. "No."

"See?" Willow rolled her eyes. "Panic much?"

"Scare me much?" Buffy rolled her eyes right back.

"What's going on?" Dawn demanded, stomping her feet.

"Come on, Sweetie. Let's go make everyone some coffee and pie real quick." Tara took Dawn's arm. "We'll talk later, I promise." She managed to pry the suspicious teen away, but Spike still stood, the image of sinister protection. She hesitantly reached out and tapped his arm. They both jumped, and she drew her hand away quickly. "Spike? W-would you like some coffee?"

"Uh- yes." He blinked. Someone besides Dawn had touched him. And not in a violent manner. Or a treating the wounded manner. Or a "tying you up because we don't trust you" manner. He was still getting used to that, but decided it was quite good in its way. "If you're okay, Luv?" He checked with Buffy first.

"I'm okay. For now." She gave him a half grin and he slowly walked down stairs.

She chose me. Well- she didn't choose either them, or me. She's keepin' us all. That's my girl.

Willow stood with her arms crossed protectively, while Buffy stood with her hands on her hips in a slowly releasing anger. "What did you mean, when you said it was because of Spike and me?"

Willow took a deep breath. "Don't freak, please. I just saw the way you held hands last night. It's none of my business if you two are making with the smoochies, o-or even if you ever want to. With him. Platonic, or romantic without sex, that's plenty for some people. I've heard-"

"Willow! Stop." Buffy's eyes were widening rapidly. "Don't say- just don't talk about sex with Spike. I'm not ready to handle that." You knowing about it. I'm soo soooooo ready to handle some of it right now. God, I'm soaked...

"Okay." Willow nodded in relief. "Buffy, when I saw you hold his hand last night when he was about to leave, and neither of you wanted to let go- it reminded me of Tara and I."

"Say what now?" Buffy tilted her head and her eyebrows hit her hairline.

"Tara's like Spike." Willow tried to explain.

Great. Another crazy person in my house, and this time it's my best friend. "What the hell is in that sleeping powder Tara made?" Buffy gasped.

"Listen!" Willow blushed and addressed her shoes. "When Tara and I met, I was so happy. I wanted to hold her hand, sometimes I did, but I wanted to do so much more. I wanted to love her, be with her. Show my friends and family that she was my girl. She's like your Spike. You were scared to even hold his hand in font of us. I know what that's like." She swallowed with a tight grin and looked up.

"Oh, Wills. Will, I'm sorry if I made you feel like that!" Buffy took her friend in her arms, understanding empathetically at once. It must have been scary for Willow to show open affection to her lover, it wasn't expected, it wasn't always easily accepted. I so know what that's like. Ooh! Hey- having an empathy- Buffy moment. Yay for humanness coming back online! "I never, ever meant to make you feel-"

"You didn't! No one did, not really. Except me. All of you accepted me right away. And we should do that for you. Of course with Spike, it's a little different..."

"I know, Will. He's gotta a track record. But-"

"But you love him. Yes, you do, Buffy, and I get it." Willow talked over her friend's panicked squeak. "When I see how you two are together, it makes me realize how lucky I am to have Tara. I don't want to move out because I don't want to watch you being with Spike. I want to move out because I want to spend my life with the woman I love. Like- you know- permanently. The two of us starting out on our own, a couple with our own place. Not in the dorms. A new year. A new life. You made me realize what it means to want someone like that, and do something about it."

"Me?" I am full of love. Death is my gift. Again, Spike, the dead man, and me, our love- the two of us together, we did something good? "Spike and I made you realize you want to make some kind of...commitment- with Tara?"

"Yeah. No! It was in there all along. Seeing you just made me do something about it instead of waiting. Please don't be mad, Buffy..."

"I totally took that the wrongest way I could have, didn't I?" Buffy smiled ruefully at the redhead.

"You did the hundred yard dash of wrongness." Willow nodded. "But to be fair, I kinda sprang it on you and screwed it up when I started telling you."

"What am I gonna do without you, Wills?" Buffy suddenly realized what her friends moving out would mean.

"We'll still have your back! We'll Dawnie sit. We'll come over here some nights, and Dawn can stay over with us sometimes, if you ever want the house to yourself. We won't let you down, Buffy, we won't 'leave'. We'll just be slightly- out of the house?" Willow twisted her hair around one finger in a nervous tug before going back to wringing her hands. "If the money-"

"We'll get by." Spike would help out. If she needed him to. Which she probably wouldn't. She could handle things. "You and Tara? Will it be official? With a ring or a ceremony?"

"I don't know." Willow shrugged and a slow smile came across her face. "I don't care. It doesn't matter." Her cheeks flushed slightly and her eyes sparkled with mists of tears. "Buffy. Someone loves me. Really loves me. For myself. And they won't leave. Not even to solve a problem and come back. She stays."

Buffy felt her own eyes well up. "She really is your 'Spike', then." Both of them laughed, and it dissolved into a weepy, giggly, hug, whispered vows of friendship and pledges to always be there, always support mingled with the teary laughter.

"I got laughin' now. And cryin'. Laughin'...while cryin'." Spike stood at the foot of the stairs, ear cocked heavenward. "What the buggerin' hell...?"

"All good. Girls do that. They laugh and cry. The fight's over and they made up." Dawn translated.

"Thank God for my girl-to-vamp dictionary." Spike kissed the top of her head lightly as she stood below him.

"You guys really, really shouldn't do that." Tara repeated for the tenth time.

"I'm not able to hear anything they say, Flower Child, jus' some general impressions." Spike muttered.

"Does everyone have to have a nickname to you, Spike? Is that your way of keeping people at bay, not letting them hurt you?" Tara asked, making Spike jerk his head with a sudden twist.

"No. It's the opposite." Dawn spoke for him, surprising them both. "If he gives you a nickname- he cared enough to think about you, pick out something about you and hold it in his mind. I'm Bit. Because I'm just enough for a snack." She scrunched up her face at him in an impish smile.

"Damn right you are, an' you skive off school anymore an' I'll bloody well have my 'snack'." Spike snarled at her- before kissing the top of her head again. "Would you rather me call you Tara, Luv?"

"No. Not if a nickname is a sign that you care." Tara watched him fumble for a minute. Ha. Called the bluff. He plays it so bad. I wonder how much of "William the Bloody" was an act, how much was just wanting to fit in? Because he doesn't seem like most vampires I've seen or heard about...

Damn smart girl. Insightful and to the point. Remember I quite liked her once- before she helped rip my Buffy from heaven. Oh, God, what's done is done, an' now I've got her. S'pose I can keep tryin' to accept them, if they keep tryin' to accept me. "Well- uh. It's kinda both what you said, an' what Niblet said." The boy, he'd never thought of him as much besides "boy". That wasn't to prevent him from getting close, but yeah, he knew the dislike was mutual, and maybe it was better not to think of him as anything but just another boy, a nameless, faceless, male. Rupert was Watcher and Librarian, his jobs- his failures. He needed to do better about that, stick to Rupes, Rupert, or Giles. And Red- well that was like Niblet. One shining characteristic he'd picked out right away, her fiery hair. It was affectionate.

"You like Tara better?" Maybe some people you called as they were called. Like Buffy. No, even Buffy was his Luv, his Pet. Something prized and cherished. But she was still Buffy.

"I think so." Tara smiled softly.

"Then you're Tara." He smiled back.

He's incredibly handsome when he smiles. He has such human eyes. Human eyes, soft and sharp all at once. No one ever looks past the smirk. She shook her head and laughed. "Okay, let's get them down here. It's time to- oh, Willow! Willow, we're late!" Tara thundered up the steps. Sensitivity or not, Anya in a capitalistic fury was no fun to behold.

"I can't move." Willow whimpered as she and Tara sat curled together at the bottom of the stairs to the second floor.

"Well, you'd better. We're open Saturday at the regular time, so we need to get the shelves restocked." Anya bustled cheerfully around, kissing Xander on the head, patting Giles on the arm, pinching Dawn's cheek (which she hated) and crooning over the haul they'd taken.

"My feet are bloody stumps." Dawn eased off a sneaker.

"They are not. That would be disgusting." Anya said matter of factly. "Come on, everyone, up and at 'em, restocking!"

"What goes where?" Spike and Buffy trotted up the stairs, still seemingly full of energy. Before Anya could direct them, they heard a soft cough.

"Tara, Willow- would one of you like a job? Part time. A few hours?" Giles offered weakly, slumped at the table in the back.

"Oh. Oh, yes, I think I would." Tara looked hesitantly at Willow. "We might need some more money- soon." She blushed.

"We're getting our own place." Willow looked around the store. Oh, it would be so cool to work here. Every day could be just like one big magical orgy- only without the sex, because, you know, eww- but there were so-

Her reverie was cut short by Anya's strident tone. "Giles! You're supposed to consult me! I'm partnered in this store!"

"Anya- we cannot continue to have the entire team come in to help out without compensation. A few hours a week- our busiest nights and weekends- let's hire someone. I have Watcher duties again. We cannot run the store alone." Giles looked at her blearily, speaking with his head sinking on to his chest. "I'm a bloody fool. I don't even like the mall, why did I go last night?"

Anya turned her attention back to business- as if she'd ever left it. "Oh... okay. Saturdays and Friday nights are the busiest. Oh, and Mondays. That's when the people usually come in, looking for antidotes to whatever went wrong on Sunday with the stuff they bought on Saturday. Tara? Willow?"

"I think I'll pass, Anya, Giles." Willow quickly spoke up. She liked Anya a lot more than she used to- but she drove her nuts. She had a ton of standing offers from the tech center on campus, plus some big companies who had tried to "court her" in high school, they were always offering her freelance work.

"I'd love to." Tara nodded eagerly. Those hours didn't sound too bad.

"Could we back up?" Xander had pulled himself to his feet with a weary groan. "Wills? Did you and Tara say you're getting your own place?"

"Yeah. We-" Willow looked at him, standing unsteadily. Her blisters had blisters. Anya better give her all the ingredients for a blister removing potion for free! "We decided-" How did you word this?

"We're taking things to the next step. A p-permanent thing." Tara smiled bashfully.

Shouts of congratulations were offered, hugging and kissing beginning. Spike hung back but cried, "Well done, the pair of you."

Spike shot a look at Buffy. He'd heard the extremely short version of this story, which consisted of "No one's freaking, everything's fine, Tara and Willow are moving out in a month or so, but money's no problem and no- you don't need to worry."

So. Just Niblet and Buffy at home now. Well, well. They'd have to cut their romantic nights short, or maybe, maybe finally, she'd let him in. Properly in, spend the night on occasion. The way boyfriends often did.

Or maybe he'd just have to see her less and less. He sighed and headed towards the alley behind the Magic Box, a place he and Buffy had often sat and pretended to ignore one another, in reality, speaking occasionally, always saying a lot. Just not talking much. He sat on a stack of wooden palettes, lighting up. Here was where she said it. "I can be alone with you here." This was where she'd told him about heaven, begged him, ordered him, to tell no one else. The first real sign he had that they were getting close. Close on a different level.

Buffy watched him leave, nervous thoughts circling in her brain. Oh, I know he wants me to move forward, get on with our relationship. God, we have a relationship- we do. I didn't mean to, but- I'm glad for it, really. When I think about it. This puts a huge crimp in our time alone, in my work- unless I let him be part of the -oh no. Don't say that word.

With a sigh, she decided to follow him outside, leaving the rest as they began slowly restocking and cleaning. "Hey." Buffy sat down next to him.

"Hey, Luv." He smiled and puffed smoke in the opposite direction before quickly turning to face her again.

"Um. I don't know what this means for us." Oh, that sounded dire. "In terms of- time- and... sleep." She blushed, using a less suggestive term since she knew her sister or friends could easily walk in on them.

"I'm still in your life though. That's what matters."

"I love you. I gave you my heart." She swallowed. "Remember?"

"Give me your heart, make it real, or else forget about it." Spike quoted the song they had danced to on their first "date". He touched her cheek lovingly with an outstretched hand. "I do remember, Luv. Gave you mine as well." Nearly a full year before that date, but oh, well, as long as she finally noticed it without one of us gettin' killed- killed again, that's the important thing.

"I don't know what this is going to do, to change, exactly. I mean- oh, for one thing, I have to fill those stupid social services forms out again, saying Willow and Tara won't be there starting in January. And- how am I going to patrol? I can't leave Dawn home by herself. She could stay at the store until late, sometimes. Willow said they'd still come over and -"

"Slayer." Spike said the single word firmly, but softly, a short breath. She ceased to speak. "It won't matter. I won't leave. You won't stop lovin' me, I won't stop lovin' you. Everything will work out." 'Cause I will bloody make it work out or get dusted tryin'.

It would. It would work out, they were all going to work together. He wasn't going to bail. "This world still hurts, you know. It's better now, not so raw and bright. But it still sucks. All the emotions, the hard choices, and trying to understand everyone else when you finally realize that you don't even understand yourself most of the time..." She sighed and leaned against him.

"Yeah. Life's a bitch, and then you die." He flicked his cigarette away, putting his arm around her shoulders.

"And then they bring you back." She sighed ruefully.

"Mm, good times." He grinned cheekily. "We're stuck in this place for a reason, right, Luv?"

"I guess. It won't be so bad. You're right. Everything will work out." She cast a cautious glance at him. "You'll still come hang out with Dawn, come for dinner sometimes?"

"Of course. Why would that change?"

It wasn't going to change. Nothing. That was why she said that. Dense vampire. Nothing was going to change about him and her in the house. He could spend more time there. But he wasn't going to live there. Sleep there. Well, maybe sleep there. But not in her bed, not in her room. "I just wanted to make sure you'd still stop by." She muttered, not looking at him.

Stop by. Not stay. "Same rules apply?" He sighed. "It's no big thing, Pet. Not pushin', not pressin'. In your own time..." He tensed ever so slightly. Poker face in place. Eyes vacant. This is the biggest bluff you've ever played. If she didn't relax this stupid hardline stance about lettin' him in, even after last night, when it almost killed them both with longing to be together but they resisted it... well, he was gettin' very close to the makin' a fool out of himself stage. A bigger fool, his snide inner voice commented, and he told it to flip off.

Knowing Spike wanted her to bend a little, but didn't pressure her for it made all the difference. You really do love to do the opposite of what people expect. So? I'm good with the abnormal. The undead, soulless vamp turns out to be the most perfectly normal lover and partner. Getting killed made me feel at peace, being alive again made me feel dead. Slayers are supposed to be alone and unloved and I've got a kick ass support group in there- supporting me. Really. About everything, everyone. "There's going to be a third bedroom open."

"Mmhmm." Unnecessary breath in. Unnecessary breathe out. "Bit more space."

"I was going to turn it into a guest room."

"Good plan."

" 'Cause, you know, people will probably be there with Dawn until late and I wouldn't want them to have walk home or drive home if they were tired." Buffy made the all too true excuse.


"Or if you ever wanted to stay- I mean during the day, take a nap if you've walked me home..." She hastily ran the words out before her screeching inner-slayer could tell her not to "fix up a guest room for the evil vampire!".

"That's right nice of you, Luv." He smiled at her, looking at her for the first time in a minute. Poor little lost girl. Why so wide eyed, so fearful? It isn't of me. Harmless as a kitten, especially to her and hers. No, it's this fear of bein' in love, bein' fully in love, fully together. What'd those blokes do to that soft, pretty heart of yours that you can't let me in without such pain? "An' you still visit my crypt, of course." He smiled, put her at ease. See, I'm not "movin' in", I'll have my spot, you'll have yours... until you want me with you always.

"You're a good boyfriend. Do you know that?"

"I was tryin' to be. I've got the best girlfriend in all the world."

"I'm not a good girlf-"

"You are the best girlfriend in the universe. I get that, Buffy. I soddin' get what those other assholes did not. You don't deserve to be left, you don't deserve to be pushed, an' you don't need someone treatin' you like you're an effin' invalid. You deserve to be loved, and helped. Fought for. Not fought over. I'm gonna see that you get what you deserve."

"Oh, Spike." She let out a breathy sigh of appreciation and she kissed him, long, and hard, and deep, not caring that they were in public or that her friends might pop their heads out any second.

"Well, where'd they go? There must be twenty more boxes to bring up!" Anya protested to her groom-to-be. "Xander? Did you find them?"

"They're fine." Xander returned from the back room in a slightly dazed manner, with a slightly strangled sounding voice. He'd only wanted to see if they were taking the flattened boxes out to the recycling bins... and instead he got an eyeful of Evil Dead with his tongue down Buffy's throat. Actually, and more sickeningly, Buffy seemed to be the one running the show.

"Then tell them to hurry up!" Anya insisted.

"No. Not -right now." He coughed-nearly gagged- and then spoke again. "I think we should just leave them alone for a little bit."

"I think there's kissing happening." Willow stage whispered. Tara and Anya beamed, Giles covered his eyes with a weary hand and slumped further down in his chair, and Dawn squealed.

"I really, really hate that guy." Xander leaned on the counter.

"But you just left them undisturbed to continue their making out?" Anya clarified.

"Buffy looked happy. Alive and happy." He shrugged. "And Spike didn't seem to be trying anything. So I'm okay-ish. Nauseous, but dealing."

"Everyone get your things. The store is closed. We'll restock in the morning. It's Saturday, so Tara, if you want to start, and Dawn, if you want to come in for some holiday rush help, you can." Anya briskly locked the cash register, and began pulling the ledgers off the counter to take into the back room.

"But- the boxes? The restocking?" Giles rose rapidly, knowing he should have more say in the day to day management of the shop, but not caring if it meant he got to leave and get to bed at a decent hour for the first time in four days.

"Don't push it, Giles." Willow hissed, grabbing Tara's hand and her shoulder bag.

"You just did something very, very nice for those two." Anya looked into Xander's eyes as he helped her lock away some of the more valuable objects. "We're going home. You are going to get positively reinforced until you can't move."

"Oh." Xander blinked. "Oohhhh. I love you, Baby."

"I love you, too." She seized his hand. "We're leaving! Oh, Giles, will you make sure Spike and Buffy don't start having intercourse in the alley? I don't want the shop to get a bad name. Bye, everyone!"

"She has bad brain-mouth coordination." Willow gaped after the pair, Xander shrugging apologetically once, and then running out, hand in hand with his fiancée.

"You don't have to check the alley, Giles." Dawn seemed the least put off by Anya's blunt words. "They won't do anything they're not supposed to do."

"Dawn, what are you supposed to be doing?" Buffy demanded.

"Packing." Dawn said complacently.

"That doesn't look like packing." Dawn sat cross legged under the Christmas tree, reading the new novel Spike had gotten her.

"Tara and Willow are still at the new place. They aren't here to tell me what to pack." Dawn flipped a page.

"I can tell you what to pack. Come on, they don't have much here." Buffy hoisted a box and carried it resolutely up the stairs.

Dawn watched her sister trudging up the stairs and had an abrupt change of heart. "I'll do it. You should go get ready for patrol."

Buffy looked down at her outfit. Comfortable black pants and a tight, warm blue sweater. Socks. "Put my shoes on?"

"Ugh! You and Spike. You should be making the most of your last days of freedom, while you still have a Dawn-sitter in residence. Which I so do not need."

"Yes, you do."

"No, I don't!"

"You tried to heat up left over pizza by putting slices of it in the toaster." Buffy reminded her.

"I was ten!"

"You were fourteen! As in last year!"

"Ah, the sounds of sisterly love." Spike came in through the front door, letting himself in with the key he'd found slipped inside the pocket of the new jeans Buffy had given him for Christmas. After all the others left, and he could thank her properly, he found the key came along with the threat of being staked if he ever used it when he wasn't "supposed to", a vague term that Spike and Buffy understood well. ( i.e. Only come in when it doesn't look like you're here for the sole purpose of ravishing me. )"What's the latest crisis? Can't be homework, you're off until the second."

"Are you taking Buffy out, or just for patrol?" Dawn demanded.

Spike looked at his two girls, frozen in place at opposite ends of the staircase. "Whatever you fancy, Pet. Good win last night. Can spring for dinner and a show, if you're game."

"Just patrol." She said, but he could read her body language. Her subtle shift, the sudden faint tinge of wetness he could smell. Patrol would be quick and hard. Love making would be long and hmm- probably gentle and ravenous by turns. They'd been struggling to find time together, and Spike knew she wouldn't admit it, but the bottom level of his crypt was getting more damp and chilly the further into winter they got. The last night she'd been there, they'd gone to take shower after, and the water was probably just above freezing point.

He had made up his mind. He was going to get enough to get his own place. A room. Angel'd managed a room, the pillock. He just needed one good scheme, get enough to get set up- an' then there would be no more sneaking to the crypt. They'd go to his place. A warm, living place, for his warm, living girl. With an actual shower and an actual loo, an' more than one chair, one towel. And a bed. A new bed, a clean bed, for them. We need a fresh start, both of us, learnin' to be alive again. In the meantime...

"Let's get this place in order, then. We'll leave as soon as the wiccans return."

"You are a bloody, stubborn woman." Spike watched his golden goddess, healthier looking than he'd seen her in the last three years, slowly undressing as she stood by his bed. "We could move this lot upstairs, Luv, it's warmer." He gestured to the pillows and quilt.

"Shh. I wanna be alone with you."

That much was true. He could smell and see the evidence, moisture glistening on her pouting lips. "Then get in this bed and let me warm you up." He growled.

"You're not warm." She teased, but scrambled in.

"You know you're drawn to this cold flame." He reminded her, and pulled her to him, nipping her all over, working his way down. "We could be nice an' toasty at your place."

"Soon." She gasped.

"Soon?" He rested his head on her silken torso and looked up.

"Soon you can be there. Sometimes."

"I'm not worried about me, Luv, I don't mind the cold." He lapped down, spreading her thighs around his head and inhaling her glorious scent. "You gonna let me touch you, Sweetheart?" His fingers teased her wetness out of her hole and smeared it across her delicate nub, before his tongue cleaned it off. She gasped sharply and he smiled. "You gonna let me prove how soft and silent I can be while I make sweet love to my girl?"

"Spike." Another tortured gasp. In a good way.

"Is that a yes, Kitten? Is it a yes, Pet?" He cleaved her opening wide and ravaged her with his long, skillful, seeking tongue.

"When- no -one's home."


"Well-" She blushed, body giving a near climactic heave, "we only ever- those two times."

"And I don't think the hallway and the bathroom floor are good places." Yet, he added inside his head. Waited her out before, wait her out again. Someday every inch of that house was going to be their playground.

"I- ooooh." Words were finished with for the moment as her body went into a spasm and he held her through it, bridging the moment's gap with more oral attention, not letting her rest. "Oh God, you're gonna kill me."

"No. I'm bringing you back to life." His blue eyes burned into hers and he stalked up her, panther-like and sinuous, settling his length against her pouting, shivering chasm without entering her. "You make me alive, Luv. Properly alive."

"You give me that, too." She confessed, kissing him, tracing his pale sculpted lips with her tongue. "All the pieces... you helped me find so many pieces I'd lost."

"Found your trust again? Maybe not all things, but in one things at least, right?"

"Right. I trust you with the important things."

"Your heart?" He slowly pushed himself inside.

"My heart." She rose to meet him more fully, relief flooding through her as he filled her up. Filled up all the empty spaces. He's good at that.

"How about your home?" His voice a low murmur by her ear.

"You have a key." She twisted nervously under him, hips bucking even as her face clouded. Don't ask, don't ask, I can't make a commitment, not like a "living together" commitment. Once they know- once they know, they leave... But he never left. He never, ever left.

"What are you gonna do, Pet, when I spend the night in that guest bedroom? Just a wall between us?" You're pushing, you idiot. I don't care. We've come so bloody far, her mates know an' they don't mind much, she's got herself a day job an' school lined up... I know she can handle things alone. Jus' don't want her to. Wanna be with her. Help her. Why's that make me a bad bloke, thought all girls wanted a man who could commit, says so on the stupid daytime talk shows. I would pick one of the few who doesn't. S'pose that's why I'm so crazy for her. Neither of us fit the soddin' mold.

"Sleep?" She hazarded. Uh. Yeah. Riiiight. You couldn't even sleep with a house full of people when he was downstairs. What are you going to do when there's six feet between you and only one other person- who wants you two together almost as bad as you want to be together. Dawn would probably start lighting candles and putting on mood music every night, just in the attempt...

"I won't sleep at all. I'll be lyin' awake, missin' you, and wishing I could just hold you for a bit. That's all I would do, if that's all you want, Luv." That's pathetic, his demon growled. His inner man, his humanity, disagreed. No. That's sacrificing and unselfish. If I'd been a bit quicker on the sacrificing and unselfish bit last time, maybe I could have saved her.

"No. That's not what I want at all." She bit her lip. I want us to fall asleep in each other's arms every day. I want to get another piece of trust back each day when I wake up to see him still there every morning. "You make me want to give in, Spike, forget all the bad things you did, and I did, that happened to either of us."

"I'm all for that, Pet." He stroked her hair away from her face softly.

"But I can't yet." She lied to herself, to him, knowing it was only one more fear locking her into a lonely place. She knew she was denying herself, from the mixture of fear, worry, and guilt. "It's not your fault..."

He watched her writhing under him, body and brain clearly working at cross purposes. "Shh. It's not your fault either." He sighed deeply and smiled. "I was pushin'. I'm sorry, I told you I wouldn't- until you're ready to be pushed." He bent his head to hers an kissed her hard and deep. I'll make the world fall away for her. There will be nothing but the two of us in this room, inside each other. She will be warm and safe and loved an' I'll be her heaven. He ramped up the force, but not the speed of his strokes, hands involved more and more, touching her, pulling her to him, never taking his mouth from hers for more than a quick second so she could breathe.

It's like losing consciousness- only not, Buffy thought hazily, wrapped in waves of pleasure and closeness to the man she loved. Everything starts to blur, and get darker on the edges- until there's only him and me. And that's all I want. "Spike!" She spoke into his mouth, and he pulled up with a panting,

"Yeah, Luv?"

"You can push."

It took him a minute to replay what he'd said- it seemed like an hour ago, but he knew it had only been an intense few moments. What had he said? I was pushin'. I'm sorry, I told you I wouldn't- until you're ready to be pushed. "You sure 'bout that?" He quirked his scarred brow at her.

Dammit. I even think his eyebrow is sexy now. I'm so screwed. "No, I'm not sure. But if you try it-sometime- I promise not to kill you. Or break your nose."

They shared a laugh that turned into groaning, moaning climax, his mirroring hers perfectly.

"Buffy." He whispered, as they started to pull apart, only to settle themselves into a different type of closeness, a spooning embrace.

"My Spike."

I'm hers. Miracles happen. She's mine. There is a God, an' he takes pity on fools in love, sometimes. "I won't push much." He whispered as she started to drowsily shift against him, seeking his comforting arms to hold her tighter, keep her nightmares away.

"I don't need much of a push." She mumbled. "I love you."

"Well, this is it." Willow and Tara stood on the front porch, a few odds and ends held tightly in their hands.

"This is it." Buffy nodded tightly. A feeling of emptiness was welling up inside her. This house- just me and Dawn- no Mom. No Will and Tara, always around, about to come home, or about to leave, but I knew they would be here eventually. Even as mad as I was- I guess I relied on them for so much. "I'm getting choked up, guys."

"That's good! That's healthy." Tara praised, stepping nearer.

"No, it's not good." Dawn huffed. "You're moving six blocks away, I can walk there!" Her three adult friends shot a glare at her. "Which I won't be doing, unless it's broad daylight, I'm expected, and I call when I get there." She rolled her eyes.

"Thank you." Buffy laughed. "But- this is a big deal. We should do something special." She sniffed in quickly and ran a thumb under her eye. No tears. No tears.

"Yeah, totally. What about tomorrow for lunch? A late lunch, obviously."

"Sure! Or we could go tonight. The Bronze is having some big party." Buffy paused as her sister and two about-to-be-former roomies stared at her. "What? Did I say something stupid?"

"No." All three of them said, very quickly.

"Uh-oh. What'd I say?" Buffy demanded.

"Nothing wrong, it's just- New Year's Eve. We have plans, and so do Xander and Anya."

"And Giles said I could help at the store and then go to a slam at the Espresso Pump with him. Then I'm gonna crash on his couch." Dawn reminded her sister.

"But all that's on Saturday!"

"This is Saturday."

"Oh." Buffy bit her lip. "Missed that one."

"We thought maybe you and Spike would have plans?" Willow asked hesitantly.

"Yeah, we do. We so do. I just- forgot what day it was." She lied, completely unconvincingly. He hadn't mentioned anything. Of course, that could be because she'd done a "commercialized romantic holidays suck!" rant in the middle of the grocery store two nights ago when Valentine's Day gifts were already up and replacing all the Christmas stuff she'd wanted to get on clearance.

"W-we could-" Tara began to make a suggestion, and Buffy stamped on it.

"No! No changing plans. This is a big night. First night in your new place. Starting a new year, new page of your-book of life- together." Buffy hastily dismissed any guilt induced plan changing they might consider. New page of your book of life? Wow. That's almost as good as Spike's "The artifact of our Lord shouldn't even be touched by my unclean hands." bit. A secret smile crossed her face in remembrance.

I guess she does have plans, Willow and Tara said through a glance, and Dawn giggled.

"We should get going. We have to get the bed put together if we want to actually sleep." Willow shuffled her feet awkwardly. Don't blush, it's not like they know you have yummy Tara plans and don't think sleeping will happen...

"I-it was really nice of you to let us have the bed from our room." Tara wrapped her arms around Dawn, who, in spite of her outburst about Buffy's tears, looked pink around the eyes.

"I think Mom would have loved it if you two had it." Buffy hadn't wanted to keep it, and she hadn't wanted to use it as a guest room piece of furniture. Her mom had loved and trusted Willow and Tara, and she would be happy that they were together.

"We're just up the road. You know the place." Willow and Tara had taken a small one bedroom in an old, rambling house that had been converted into four apartments. It was old-fashioned and cheap, but they both loved it, thought it was "charming".

"We have time to work out a schedule of Dawnie-time before the semester starts." Tara had moved on to Buffy.

"I'll miss you so much!" Dawnie bear hugged Willow.

"Me, too!"

So much for not crying, Buffy thought as all four of them teared up to some degree, exchanged numerous hugs and promises and finally, finally, they left.

Dawn and Buffy stared at each other. It feels too much like when Mom died. And we were on our own. "It won't be like that this time." Buffy whispered, putting her arm loosely around Dawn's back. "Spike's going to be around for one thing."

"That's great. But that won't matter." Dawn gave her a brave, strangely satisfied smile.

"I thought you were like, gonna die of Spike withdrawal if he didn't visit every day. Wasn't that you who said that? Or did they build a Dawn Bot and teach it to whine?" Buffy teased.

"I will have Spike issues- so you'd better let him come over A LOT, but I meant, we don't need someone else, Buffy. You don't treat me like a-" Dawn struggled for a word, and changed her explanation, "you treat me like a person. Like a sister. Not a baby or a-a- thing you have to lock up in a safe."

"I never meant to treat you like that." Buffy whispered, holding her closer.

"I never meant to make you feel like you needed to treat me like that." Dawn returned her hug.

"So what are you saying?" Buffy pulled back and peered at her sister.

"That we can do this on our own if we have to. Sisters?"

"Forever." Buffy suppressed her resurfacing tears. "Brat."

"Howler monkey."

"Where do you get these?" Buffy rolled her eyes. "Come on. Let's go eat lunch. The new bed should be delivered soon, and I'm going to fix up the guest room, make it really nice. There's lots of stuff from the attic we could- why are you looking a me like that?"

"Like what?" Dawn rearranged her expression quickly.

"Like you spilled ketchup on my white shirt, folded it up and put it back in the drawer." Buffy put her hands on her hips.

"Do you ever think about making the master bedroom your room? And your room could be the guest room?"

"No." Buffy said with complete honesty. "Why?'

"Because your room is small and Mom's is big. Don't you want some more room? You're the head of the household." Dawn nudged.

"Now I know you did something. I'm the head of the household? So I'm the boss?"

"Not exactly... but you're the oldest. You should have the bigger room." Dawn hedged. My sister is brain damaged. You should have the bigger room, and the bigger bed, so that you and Spike can live her and he can be part of the family. Stupid.

"That would be so much work, Dawn-"

"I'll help you."

"What did you DO?" Buffy cried. Basically calling me the boss, telling me I get the bigger room, offering to help me swap rooms- she'd better not be pregnant or something...

"The bed." Dawn squeaked.

"What about the bed?" Buffy said in a low, urgent voice.

"I changed the order form. Double to queen. I paid for the difference. Well- I put the difference in your account. So- same difference, ha ha." Dawn spoke in a rush ending with a nervous laugh.

"Why? Why would you do that?" Buffy blinked, already knowing, and blushing.

"What if Tara and Willow want to sleep over, or Xander and Anya?"

"A double fits two. My bed is a double and Riley and I-" She shut that sentence down abruptly, blush now moving from pale pink to deep rose. "That's fine. Whatever. But I'm not moving rooms and I don't mind if the guest bedroom bed is bigger than mine. Whatever. Just- let's just go get it fixed up."

"Are you mad at me?" Dawn asked softly.

"No. Yes! Don't do things like that! Is that the real reason you changed the form?" Buffy dropped her semblance of calm.

"No. I thought- maybe someday- far, far away maybe, but someday... you might need it. 'Cause you're with someone who really loves you and wants to stick around. Who loves me, too, and tries to be part of our family. And don't tell me not to say family! I love you both, and I- I like when we're all together. It kinda feels like- our family isn't so empty." She cast an unthinking glance to the wall, a picture of the three of them, her mother and two daughters. A family has been three people as long as I can remember. "I'm sorry I went behind your back. I wanted something to happen, and I guess I thought this might push it along." Dawn spoke to the floor, silently berating herself. When have you ever pushed Buffy that didn't end up making her snap like a psycho freak?

A push. Maybe Spike isn't the only one who can tell when I'm ready. Buffy swallowed her harsher words and moderated her tone. "Please tell me before you 'push', okay?"

"Okay." Dawn nodded, eyes not meeting Buffy's.

"Let's go eat something." Buffy hid her sigh and tried to smile.

Buffy jammed the last strut into place. If it fell apart this time, she made a promise not to touch it anymore until Xander could help her. She turned up the radio, and started fitting sheets to the bed, which was not in danger of collapse this time. Looking at her handiwork with a satisfied sigh, she left to start hauling things down from the attic. The dresser, bed, and mirror were all that filled the room. Mom's room. I'm not letting go, Mommy. Just- starting fresh.

She cast a speculative eye at her room as she passed it on the way to the pull down steps of the attic. It does kinda look like a kid's room. How is that possible? I still have a New Kids on the Block poster! Oh, God, that's so lame. Maybe- maybe I should think about moving over. I'm back in this world, and I'm a little different. Maybe I need something a little different. Maybe I want something a little different.

She slowly drifted into her room and picked up Mr. Gordo, her childhood stuffed animal. With even slower steps she walked to the newly vacated room and hesitated by the bed. Sorry, Gordy. You're awesome and you still get a place of honor, but not next to me anymore. She gently put him on the bare dresser.

"Hey! Buffy?"

"Spike!" She couldn't keep the note of happy out of her voice. Oh, shit. Spike. Alone in the house together- and no one else would be coming home. And there was a new, clean, bed...

"Whoa!" Spike skidded down the few stairs he'd managed to come up, hurtled into by his blonde land mine. "Thought you sounded happy to see me." He laughed, and looked at her panicked expression. "What is it, Pet? You're not mad at me for not bein' here sooner, are you?"

"Huh?" Oh. No, no, not at all."

"It's this New Year's Eve crap, isn't it?"

Memories of past New Year's Eves sped through her mind, each one leaving a different sting, either of loneliness or bittersweet memory for those no longer in her life. "I don't do well with holidays."

"No kiddin'. Neither do I." He shook one hand and Buffy noticed it was carrying a bottle. "Champagne and telly?"

"Oh, thank God." Buffy hugged him. "I don't wanna go out."

"Mmm? You wanna stay in, Luv?"

Her breath quickened, hearing the innuendo in his tone. "Well- I- I'm a mess. I have cobwebs and wood bits in my hair."

"I think you're gorgeous. What do I care what you look like, long as you're happy an' you're with me?" Spike kissed her, insistently, slowly walking her backwards- step by step heading to the second floor.

"Spike! Stop. We can't."

"Why can't we?" He grinned.

"Superstition. Okay? I have- bed issues." She looked deeply embarrassed and then muttered, "My bed- has a curse on it. Don't laugh, or I'll poke you with something sharp and wooden-y." Spike didn't even bat an eye.

"Thought you got a brand new bed." Spike continued to walk her slowly in reverse.


"Stopped in at the Magic Box before coming here. Burba weed. Niblet told me."

"She told you wrong. It's a bed for the guest room."

"I'm a guest, aren't I?" His blue eyes twinkled lazily at her.

She slammed her hands across the doorway. "No." She said without any conviction at all.

"I'm not a guest?" He teased, running his hands slowly along her sides.

"Yes, you are, but-" She moaned when he squeezed her hips, fingers digging softly into her backside. "but this room isn't ready yet."

"Is your room?"

"N-no." She breathlessly leaned into his touch, kissing him in spite of herself.

"Don't I even get to come in, Slayer? See the new pretties?" He wheedled, a boyish pout on his face..

Damn that devil tongue. "Yes, fine- but just don't -" Spike plopped down on the bed. "-touch anything." Buffy concluded with a sigh.

"Too late. Already touched plenty." He smirked and motioned her over. She stood in front of him, just out of reach, refusing to be drawn towards the bed. "You're gonna make me work for this one. I see." He lunged quickly and caught her hand, but only pulled her a few steps closer. "I can wait you out. I can convince you."

Yes, he could. Convinced her of so many things, all of them good, or good for her if not purely and wholly "good". That what she called sex was making love. That he wouldn't leave. That she could trust him. "I know you can. I can't trust myself though."

"You're smart, Slayer. Self-doubt can keep you alive, makes you rethink each step of your battle plans." He gave her a malevolent grin. "It can also get you killed, Luv. 'He who hesitates is lost'."

"So if I hesitate, I'm lost? You're lost?" Her voice suddenly became piqued instead of merely doubting and conflicted. "Make a move? Make up my mind, right now?"

"Whoa, Baby, listen-" Some cliches should be outlawed. Oh, that wouldn't help him anyway, he'd say 'em twice as much for the fun of it.

"NO!" Riley flash backs flooded her mind. The bed- he left her sleeping in it to find someone who "needed him". The hesitation- she couldn't give him the answer he wanted immediately- he left. For good. He'd never once contacted or called her. Never came back. Left her alone when her mother was sick, and her sister was hunted. "Get out. Get out, right now, right now!"

Spike let her push him down the stairs and out, noticing with dread that her face and eyes no longer looked like "his" Buffy. All taut and tense, withdrawn and bathed in cold anger. The door banged in his face, and he could hear her heart thumping hard, almost like knocking to his sensitive ears. She was leaning on the door, must be. An' if I could just reach through this, Luv, and touch you- I'd explain. Take it all away if you let me.

You just flipped on him. And not even for him. At him. Over some loser from the past. God, what are you doing this for? Buffy jerked the open quickly- and found herself staring at nothing. No one.

Instead of being angry, fear and self-loathing were boiling inside her. You made him leave. You pushed him away, closed him out. He stayed with one crazy, evil bitch for a hundred and twenty years or something extreme- and you drove him away in about three months. He was with you for years when he hated you, but you try and love him back and- you fail at loving. See why I hate holidays?

She didn't even try not to cry as she dragged herself up the stairs and flopped onto her bed. Her loser bed, in her kid room. In the "I can't handle my life" room.

"Don't cry, Luv." a muffled voice pleaded. Buffy gasped and got up, hurrying to her window. Spike was looking up at her, perched down by the oak tree. His "stalker" oak tree, where he'd so often waited for her and watched for her, all the while trying to pretend he didn't care about her.


"I know you don't want me in. But I don't leave, remember?" He winked, waved, and leaned back on the tree.

And he'll wait for you there. For hours. He really won't leave. "You don't have to stay." She called softly, pushing up the window.

"I happen to like it here. Beautiful scenery." He smirked up at her.

"You're gonna get arrested! People will think you're a peeping tom!" She hissed.

"Never have before, Luv. But that would be the way my luck runs. William the Bloody, known as Spike, picked up for window peekin', never mind over a century's worth of murder and mayhem." He smiled at her complacently, blowing smoke into the bleak December air.

Walking slowly, unsure why she felt the urge to move, she walked to the next room over, and raised that window as well. When she looked back towards the ground, Spike was gone. "He needs to stop doing-"

"Doin' what?" Spike's voice- along with his body- emerged from the taller points of the oak and he leapt, landing neatly on the roof ledge outside her room. "Thought I'd be all right this way, Slayer." He prowled along the edge, swaggering to the place she now stood. "Technically I am outside." He paused beside the recently opened window and then sank down, to look at her, cocky, bantering attitude melting off. "You don't have to speak to me, Luv. Know I said somethin' wrong. Thinkin' with my- well, not with my brain, let's say. I jus' want you to know I'm not leavin'. 'Kay? Promised you you'd never be rid of me, an' even if you're mad, I'm still sticking' around." He began to rise, to spend his vigil someplace less intrusive.

"I'm sorry for freaking on you." She whispered as he took his first step away.

"Didn't mean to push you so hard, Buffy. I thought you might be wantin' me to, but I've been wrong before." He turned and came back to her instantly.

"You weren't wrong."

I wasn't? And she admits it. Yet another miracle. Spike eased one leg inside the room, straddling the window. "Nothin' bad happens if you let me in your life all the way, Luv."

"Something bad always happens to me. And it'll happen to you, too. If you're with me." Buffy paced to the far side of the room, turning the radio up, idly scanning the stations, not looking at him.

"Buffy- since I met you, I've gotten my back broken. I've been left by Dru. Shacked up with Harmony- an' that's some new form of torture, Luv. I've gotten kidnapped by army nut cases, my head split open an' a soddin' piece of computer technology slapped in it, been tortured by a god- a god, would you b'lieve it, Joyce passed, Bit nearly died, an' you did die. You can't hurt me any more than that. There's nothin' left to take from me but you, an' even if I join up with you, knowin' there's something nasty just itchin' to get me- I'd do it. 'Cause I could be with you. An' you're all I want."

Buffy swallowed around the painful bundle of tears in her throat, and pulled him to her, slamming the window shut behind him, drawing the fluttering yellow curtains against the outside world and all its trickery. "Be here."

"I will. I promise, I will." He stroked her hair back with one strong hand and nudged her chin up with the other. "Listen to me."

She nodded, looking into his eyes, hearing his voice mingle with the music flooding the room.

Hey little girl is your daddy home?

Did he go away and leave you all alone?

"Your mates know. They know 'bout us, an' they don't care. They don't want you to be alone, isn't that what Red told you?"

"Yes. And I don't want to be alone, either. I know I can be, I've got the bloodlines for it", they exchanged an eye roll, "but I want to be with someone I love."

I got a bad desire

"I want that just as much, Luv." Maybe more. I know what it's like to be left, feel like something is fractured and can't be put right.

I'm on fire

"What if I don't know how to love- long term love?"

"I believe you can. We at least have to try. We promised to try." She's a world beater, of course she can do it. It's the ponces she's been with that screwed up the deal.

Tell me now baby is he good to you?

"Other guys didn't seem to think I was worth believing in. Or sticking around for."

Can he do to you the things that I do?

"They aren't like me. I think you're worth anything. Don't you get that?"

I can take you higher

"How can you, though? You don't have a-" Stop saying it. You love him without it. And that's not his fault, you're the one in love with him. If a soul mattered that much, you wouldn't feel like you do. Like you can't let him go.

"I don't need one to feel this, Buffy. I just need you." Blue eyes blazed into her. She knew when he lied, when he spoke the truth. This was true. Impossible, but true.

I'm on fire

With a gasp of acceptance, she wrapped her arms more fully around him, nodding, kissing, clawing up his arms and deeper into his embrace. I'm all he needs. He's all I need.

Sometimes it's like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull

and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my soul

"Do I need a soul for you?" He sucked in some unneeded air. He knew a soul would change him- but it wouldn't make him stop loving Buffy. Angel needed his soul to love her, without it, he couldn't. Since he already loved her an' Bit without a soul, already turned over a new leaf, he didn't figure it'd make much difference if he got one. If she needed it. " 'Cause I'll find some way to get one."

"When you do things like that, Spike? Say things like that?" Her tears overflowed. "I think you already have one. Maybe the demon has it- but it's still in there."

At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet and a freight train running through the

middle of my head

You think I have one? Some kind of one?" Maybe that was why he was so human. Maybe not. What mattered was she thought it made him different. Lovable.

"I think it doesn't even matter. I just want you. I just want you so much."

"You'd love me without it?" He knew the answer, but yet, he always doubted it, wondered if it would change. He'd just never heard it so clearly stated, and he had to ask.

"I already do. I always will." She whispered, and she knew she could never change her mind. If this was the same cursed love, like she'd had for Angel- so be it. But this doesn't feel like that. This feels...better. Not better as in more wonderful, better as in it fits.

Only you can cool my desire

"Just want you. Need you, never leave you."

I'm on fire

Life flooded back to her, when they crashed onto the bed. Hot and burning, full of want, and need, lust, and love. The fire doesn't freeze me anymore. "I love you, Spike." Sometimes the ice is just so cold it burns.

Fireworks went off, the ball dropped, a new year began. It went unnoticed by the two lovers in the house on Revello Drive. Champagne was poured and kisses were given around the world, but on that quiet street, a bottle of the best went rolling off to the side, jarred by numerous bangs as the new headboard was broken in against the wall. As for kisses- the kisses never stopped.

Buffy woke up languidly, puzzled. The radio was blaring. "Music history news for today, January first. On this day in-" She blinked and ignored the radio. Okay. New Year's Day. She was in Spike's arms. That was of the good. Why was she in Tara and Willow's room with Spike? And it was morning- or nearly morning- the light outside the yellow curtained windows was streaky and gray.

Spike spent the night. The realization thudded into her and she sat up. Beside her, he twitched, smiled as his eyes flickered open, and then blinked up at her. "Bright in here." He muttered in a confused voice.

"Uh-huh." She said in a slightly strangled tone. Spike spent the night. In my house. In my bed. Well, not my bed- no,why not my bed? I like this bed. It's a fresh start. It isn't jinxed. Oh, God, admit it, it's not the stupid bed, it's the stupid boys. This boy is damned, but he ain't jinxed. It's a new year, the Buffy Summers love curse is broken. Okay, so my Prince Charming has a major sunlight allergy. Who the hell cares?He doesn't just kiss you and run and he likes evil ass-kicking princesses.

New year, new bed, new situation, new life- new love. Buffy let out a deep, satisfied sigh.

"Buffy? You okay?" Snapped her little mind. And she looks far away again. Dammit. I though we were doing so well... "Do you want me to leave your room for a bit, Pet? Give you some space?" Bloody hell, what was she gazing off into space for? Reminded him of that stupid, glazed look she had when looking in Melissa's mirror. Like she could see heaven.

"This isn't my room." She said in a curiously absent voice, head pivoting to his, a slow smile spreading across her face.

"Well, this room then, the guest room." He sat up beside her, taking her shoulders in his hands. "Luv, look at me. You didn't get up while I was asleep and drink the bubbly did you?"

The smile spread even more, and finally reached her eyes. "You spent the night. You woke up next to me."

"Of course I did, you daft blonde. Have done every chance I get." He laughed in relief and kissed her. "I take it I'm not bein' kicked out yet?"

"No. Can this not be a guest room, or my room?"

"It's your house, Luv." He blinked at her. "Make it a soddin' shootin' gallery if you want."

"It's our room. This is going to be our bed." She had to laugh at his expression. She hadn't know it was possible to widen your eyes that much.

"What?" What?

"Stay if you want. You were right. I was ready to get pushed, I got pushed, and I fell into a very, very good place." She gulped. It was true. She just hadn't expected everything to fall so suddenly, so clearly into place. Suddenly? Hello, where have you been for the last couple years- no wait, don't answer that.

"You did just say I was right, and all that? I'm not dreamin'?" If I'm dreamin' , please God, don't let me wake up from this one.

" Yeah." She shook her head with a sigh. "It might not be 'right' to want this love we have, Spike. But it's all I could ever ask for. It's real. It lasts. It's safe, and warm, and loving. My heaven."

So. She could see heaven. Spike slowly took her in his arms, every moment slowing down, down, until it stilled, and they were face to face. If I move too fast- it'll bursts, it all runs... "Of course I'll stay here. I wanna be with my girls, want to be with you." He kept his voice soft and steady, deadly serious. No room for flippancy or error. They were almost home...

"You're right, Luv. Maybe this, what we have, is all wrong. But this, what we have, is all I could ever want. You said we had- back in Cliffside- before our- first time," his voice a mere breath in her ear, "you said we both had a 'bad desire'. I don't know if you still think it is, but you, Buffy, you are, an' you always will be my only desire. Bad desire, any desire. My heart's desire." He smiled suddenly, cheeks jerking with the effort of suppressing tears, and the catch in his throat.

She looked up at him, and pressed her fingers under his eyes to wipe the invisible tears, and slowly slid her hands softly along his cheeks until they clasped behind his neck. She pulled him back down, on top of her, watching the fireworks explode in his eyes, and the lightening struck grin of realization grace his face. "I don't think it's bad. Not anymore. Your heart's desire? How can a man- with such a good heart- even think that?" She whispered softly, sharing his incredulous grin. " Yeah, I said that. I meant it."

"I believe you." He nodded, deepening their kisses. "Happy New Year, Luv."

She smiled into his eyes. "Happy new life... Love."

Author's Notes:

Thank you to all of you who have read along. I appreciate all the feedback and support I've been given. This part of the story ends here, but I do have ideas for a short piece that shows the continuation of the relationship, so keep an eye out for a possible sequel.

Humbly and Gratefully,