See You on the Flip Side

By Sweetprincipale

A sequel to Sex and Candy. Set during S. 5 At the very end of episode "Fool for Love" and deviates in the midst of it.

Author's Notes: Short, smutty, Spuffy. I do hope you like it, I just needed a little break from my larger projects and thought this would make an interesting distraction.

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

Dedicated to Hannah the Bloody, Lithium Reaper, and Idiosyncratic Delusions

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

Part IV

She didn't sleep. Neither of them pretended that she was sleeping, or that he was. After the extremely intense, body shaking, blood-letting, mind-expanding sexual encounter, they both had severe afterglow. She even wondered if you could have afterglow burns. But once it finally wore off, she got up, and turned of the CD, switching to a classic rock station, and lowering the volume.

He wondered if he should move, but didn't have to wonder for long, because she wordlessly got back into bed, and pressed herself to him, face to face, exhausted and unmoving.

Maybe it's the being dead part. But he could hold perfectly still, stay perfectly quiet, for long stretches of time. He endlessly stroked her hair, which she found comforting and peaceful, and yet with all the efforts- the stroking, the exhaustion, the softer music, the comforting silence and stillness- she couldn't fall asleep.

"I can go again." He finally whispered.

"I'm not up for the hard stuff." She murmured, not meeting his eyes.

"I know soft stuff, y'know. Jus' don't give it to you. Not that I've had much in the way of chances. Or will have." He hastily added.

"Right." She nestled deeper into his arms. Nestled? I'm nestling! Major wiggins. Took long enough to show up, but they'd finally arrived. And then his next words, so normal sounding, chased the worry away.

"Could go get a cuppa downstairs. It's early, but, better than them wakin' up to findin' us in here, all shagged out."

"Good point. Except I don't wanna move." She groaned softly. "You wore me out."

"Which I gotta say, damn proud of. Never managed it on the battlefield, did I?"

"No. But then again, I never wore you out either."

"You put me in a bleedin' wheelchair, girl. That's quite 'worn out'.

"Nu-uh, that was hurting you, not tiring you out."

"In that case, I agree with you. You never managed to wear me out. What can I say? I've got stamina."

"Very yes." She agreed. They exchanged tired grins, and she trailed one hand down experimentally. Huge, rock hard, hot to the touch. "Why is it-"

"Warm? Good blood. And your heat against me. Around me. Soaking me, God, Buffy, do you want to see the slow stuff or not?" Thinking about her perfect peach split open on him was driving him mad.

"Quiet?" Once more with Spike would earn more time put in the "not thinking about my mom" jar.

"I won't even breathe." He smirked.

She almost didn't breathe either. Not because she was trying so hard to be quiet, but because even when he was slow and his touches were soft, it was good. Really good, better than good, better than Riley, no don't think about that, better than anything. Hard, soft, kinky, vanilla, he was a demon in bed. A demon in bed. She started to giggle.

"Fucked your brains loose, did I?" Spike whispered in the curve of her bitten neck. "Gone mad, have you?"

"You're a demon in bed." She giggled with a gasping squeak. "Get it? Get it?"

"An' you're a dumb blonde." He laughed back, rolling her over and and over again, taking pleasure in her warmth, easing in and out of her with relaxed strokes. "Silly bitch."

"Annoying bastard." She kissed him lazily, smile never leaving her face. He traced her cheek with his thumb, a lot of unspoken reassurance in his touch. "Thanks for coming over."

"I was gonna kill you, remember?"

"I know. But I like all the little deaths I got instead of the one being being killed." She joked over all the seriousness.

"Yeah. Gotta say-" No, don't say, don't say, don't say it, shit- "that I prefer it this way, too."

"You- you do?"

"Well- yeah. I mean, look at this. Got everything I could want out of it. Sex, blood, rock 'n' roll." He kept his tone light.

"So- do we have some kind of truce-y thing then?" She asked cautiously.

"Until the chip comes out." A lie. He couldn't kill her. Oh, well, this was good enough. And maybe one day he'd be cured. Because this- this creeping sentiment- had to be a disease. Maybe the chip coming out would make him truly appreciate the violence he'd taken for granted and he could rip the Slayer's little throat out. But as for now...

"When's that gonna be?"

"I don't know." He looked down into the moist green eyes and nuzzled his lips against hers. "Not for awhile."

Dawn came down the stairs, saw who was sitting in the living room watching the morning news, and shrieked. "Buffy! Buffy!"

Spike jumped up, and Buffy, carrying a bag of marshmallows raced in from the kitchen. "What, what is it?" She demanded, eyes immediately traveling upstairs, expecting to see her mother collapsed on the floor or something else horrible prompting Dawn's shrill cries.

"Uh- Spike's here." Dawn pointed lamely to the bleached vamp.

"Oh, bloody hell." He sank back in the chair with a hoarse laugh.

"I know that!" Buffy tossed him the bag of marshmallows and he dumped a handful into the steaming mug beside him on an end table. "Why the screaming?"

"Well, he's a vampire and he's- in our living room?" Dawn said slowly.

"I'm not here to hurt anyone, Bite- Bit." He hastily changed his term of gustatory endearment. Buffy glared daggers at him, but they were less deadly than usual.

"Then why are you here?" Dawn sat down and picked up Buffy's mug, drinking her hot chocolate.

"Hey!" Buffy shook her head. For a mystical ball of energy zapped into a human, they sure did a good job putting in all the annoying little sister pieces.

"Oh. Sorry." Dawn said sheepishly. She watched Spike rise and wordlessly hand her sister his own cup, which she took without question. Okay. Weird. My sister and the vampire, totally hate each other, but they don't mind swapping cooties? It must be a Slayer thing.

"Dawn, listen." Buffy sat down on the couch beside her. "I have to talk to you about Mom."

He paced the kitchen until the little one stopped crying. These hero types. Very dramatic. Liked to assume the worst, didn't they? Nothing was probably even wrong with Joyce. Nothing serious anyway. He hoped. He slowly stirred the chocolate on the stove top. Cuppa for him and Joyce.

"Your Mum's up." Spike announced, entering the room, wincing at the sight of the two tear stained faces. With his sensitive predatory hearing, he could hear Joyce's sluggish heartbeat speeding up. Speeding well up. The girls weren't the only one's who were scared. An' yet, he could almost guarantee that Mrs. Summers would march down the stairs with a smile plastered in place, calm and graceful as ever. Like his mum had been.

"She is? Okay. Okay, we're going to be positive, and brave. Do you understand?" Buffy shook Dawn's shoulders.

Dawn nodded, choking off her tears with a strangled breath. "Mmhmm. I'm gonna get dressed. I'm not going to school, right?"

"Right. Well, maybe in the afternoon, but not the morning. So you can wear your grungy jeans and that stupid monkey tee shirt for right now." Buffy forced a grin.

"You dress so boring." Dawn stuck out her tongue, and stomped upstairs.

Spike hesitantly touched her back, and she jumped. "Sorry." He mumbled. "Made your mum some cocoa. D'you think she can have it before this test?"

"I don't know." Her voice shook. "I don't know anything. I was- I should have looked up stuff. I don't even know what a CAT scan does, except they can see inside your head." She sounded panicky, and for the second time in ten minutes, he handed her his cup.

I'm not destined to drink hot chocolate this morning, he thought, and that was the last clear thought he had. She was in his arms, muffling her tears on his chest. "Shhhh. Brave face, Buffy, gotta be." He patted her comfortingly, awkwardness and hesitancy gone.

"I-I know." She controlled herself with an effort. "I can't be- I have to be strong for them."

"That's right."

"But when I'm alone-"

"You give way all you need."

"Spike-"

"Dawn told me we had an unexpected visitor." Joyce sailed down the stairs, suitcase in hand, brave for her daughters' sake. She threw Spike a bemused smile.

"Mom, let me get that!" Buffy protested, and took the bag.

"Hullo, Joyce."

"Spike. What brings you to my house? In daylight?"

"Ran into your eldest last night after you told her about your trip to the doc." Spike extended his hand with the second mug. "Came to wish you the best. An' since I was here-"

"You made me hot chocolate!" She hugged him briefly with one arm. "That was so sweet. Isn't that sweet, Buffy?"

"Uhhh. Yeah. Okay." She looked skeptical, but Spike saw the smile in her eyes. And he felt sure no one else would. Gotta really know this girl to read her. Sad, really, that he was the only who seemed to have mastered it. Maybe it was because he knew slayers. Or maybe because he knew her as a girl, and as a slayer. Hard to know what a person is unless you get to view both sides, init?

"I think it's very nice." Joyce said firmly.

"I'm just returnin' the favor." He smiled a tight, humbled grin.

"You're going to make someone a good husband someday." She patted his arm, ignoring his yelp that his kind didn't marry, and looked at him sympathetically. "How's the- uh- the girl? Priscilla?"

"Drusilla. She's fine, far as I know." He shot the Slayer an evil glare. She was chortling into her coffee cup. Liked to see her mum get the best of him, with only a few innocent words.

"Well, don't worry. There's someone for everyone." She looked at the mantle clock and hurriedly drank her cocoa. "We need to hurry. My admission to radiology is at 7:30, and I want to be there early in case I have to fill out paperwork."

"Right. Da-awn!" Buffy hollered up the stairs and Joyce clutched her head. "Oh! Sorry, Mom!"

"I'd walk you to the car, Joyce, but- burstin' into flame's a bit of a problem for me." He took her hand firmly. "Best wishes. I'll be waitin' for some good news, yeah?"

Joyce cast a look around, her two daughters bickering over something at the foot of the stairs. "Thank you. I hope so. You- you came all the way over here, in daylight, just to tell me that?"

"Yeah." He shrugged.

"That was very thoughtful. I know you and Buffy don't get along, but I'm sure, deep down, deep, deep, deep down, she appreciates the gesture."

"I'm sure." Spike shared a rueful smile with her. Maybe not so far from the surface as you'd think, Joyce.

"I'm going to the car, now!" Joyce called over the squabbling, which died immediately. "See you soon, Spike."

"Bye, Joyce." He nodded, and she walked out into the sunlit porch, causing him to hastily back away, into the shadows of the hall.

"Bye, Bit." Spike called the younger girl her new nickname unthinkingly. She gave him a watery stare, and he spoke sharply. "Oi. Brave face. You're a Summers woman, your mum needs you."

Her shoulders squared. "Thanks for making the chocolate." She looked at him with flushing cheeks, and darted past him. He called me a woman. He thinks I'm a woman. An adult. He's so cool...

Buffy paused in the dining room, finding her bag, fishing for her keys. "So, um. I'll see you around?"

"You'll let me know what they say, straight away, yeah?"

"Of course." She struggled with a whole frantic buzz of emotions. "Are you going to wait in here until the light gets lower?"

"Yeah, if that's okay. Or I can find my blanket, it's here someplace, I think."

"Stay if you want. For awhile. If you steal anything- you're dusted." She threatened.

"Like I'd have to steal anything of yours." He gave her a smug smirk. "Nothin' of yours I'd want that you didn't already willingly offer up to me. Body. Blood. An' more." He ended the sentence before he could delve into the less tangible things they'd shared. Knowledge. Grief. Memories. Comfort. Exploration. Life an' death, just about.

"Okay." She was leaning into him, as if she was going to- no! No kissing. That was for their strange sexual partnership-thing. Never anything else. "Bye, Spike."

"See you on the flip side, Buffy." He followed her to the door.

Cryptic much? "My Dad says that. Said that. To his college buddies. What the hell does that even mean?"

"What it means, Buffy, is the other side of the album. When it was records instead of CDs, you flipped them over to hear the other songs. That was the flip side. So, I'll see you-" he touched her shoulder, her neck, not caring if it was wrong, "on the reverse side."

"The opposite side of the coin." She muttered, leaning slightly, ever so slightly, into his touch.

"The reflection." Dammit. He did see her reflected in him, in small ways. Small but significant ways.

She smiled bravely, and put her hand on his arm before she pulled away. "Yeah, Spike. I probably will see you on the flip side."

And she was gone, out the door to the sound of Dawn's shouting reminders to hurry. He sighed and slowly collected the brown stained mugs, drinking the dregs of his own cups turned Buffy's, still tasting her lips faintly on the rim.

Riley called the house. The phone rang normally, but it wasn't answered, the machine came on. Everything was fine, back to normal. She was probably in the shower. Yeah, it was only a little past seven, and she was a night owl, not an early riser like him. Well, in her line of work, he supposed that was the best way to be. He headed over, deciding to show up in person, make things right. They should really sit down and talk over the little issues between them, the slight strain that had been on their relationship lately. Face to face. His heart sped up just thinking of that face. Everything would be okay. It had to be, because he loved her so much, and one day, she'd realize that it was okay to let herself love him back. And then he could tell her, confess how much he loved her, to the real her. Not an impostor.

Rage fueled his steps, and he jogged to her house, abandoning his brisk walk. That was the start of this whole problem. He'd made one little mistake and told some monster that looked like his Buffy that he loved her. Now she had the silly idea that he didn't really know her, understand her. Of course he didn't understand her! She was amazing, a goddess, some beautiful, magical creature, and he was just a regular guy. He could never understand her, but that wouldn't matter, because he loved her, and he would be there for her. If she just let him in.

So- who had she let in last night? His jog broke into a full out run.

The cups washed and dried, the telly turned off. He'd found his blanket in the coat closet, neatly folded over a hanger. That'd be Joyce doin' that. But he headed upstairs instead of out. Maybe get a little rest before going back home to face the creature from the blonde lagoon. Maybe she'd assume he'd gotten staked by the Slayer, and would be fleeing to some other part of town. Or better yet, some other part of the country. Oh, if only...

He switched off the radio in Buffy's room and inhaled. If they ever made porn for vampires, it wouldn't be visual. Well, not only visual. It would be scent based. And this room was the equivalent of a hardcore, "banned in thirty eight states", you must be over the age of 21 to enter, feature length film. His cum, her cum, both their juices, both their tears, her saliva, her sweat, her blood. Yes, her blood was there, from where a single careless drop had missed being swallowed, escaped down her neck, down her soft breast and left a tiny red splotch on the sheet.

He actually felt dizzy. Bites during sex were common, but biting someone alive, during, hot, sweaty, forbidden sex, with loud baselines throbbing in time with her heart and his erection, that was new. That was the best high of his unlife. He laughed softly, pulling up the quilt to cover their passion stained sheets. It must've been the best high. He hadn't had a single cigarette all night. And just inhaling this? Smokes paled in comparison.

He picked up one of her soft pink sweaters and held it lovingly up to his face. He wanted to inhale her once more, just the plain, clean scent of her, before sleeping on that fragrance drenched bed. Like cleansing the palette between expensive wines.

The car was gone, but that didn't mean anything. Buffy was an avid pedestrian. If the car was gone, it meant Joyce was gone, and so much the better for their heart to heart chat. Riley knocked softly, and then rested his hand on the knob. It twisted. Unlocked. Good, she must definitely be home.

"Hello? Buffy?" No answer. Maybe she was upstairs. He should wait down here, it wasn't polite to- he paused as he took off his jacket. A faded blanket. With scorch marks on it. Hostile 17. Spike, he corrected angrily inside his head. He was his own man, and he didn't label all demons like that. Even though he hated Spike with all the passion he could ever imagine. Buffy was here, Spike was here, Joyce was gone, Dawn should be in school... He couldn't hurt her, could he? Not with the chip in place. But still- he crept up the stairs.

Spike inhaled once more. Senses buzzed, even with just that little hint of her. How in God's name had he maintained any sort of composure last night, when her naked body was all over him? Oh, that's right. He hadn't. He was furious with himself. He should hurry from this place of confusion- but after one more whiff.

"What are you doing in here?" Riley blurted.

Fuck it! Spike spun and put the sweater behind his back. I'm dead. She's gonna be so pissed. Wait, shouldn't I be worried about the large angry chap in front of me instead of the tiny little girl who's not home? No, not really.

"I said, what are you doing in here? In this house." Riley took in the room with a frantic eye. Buffy wasn't here. Spike was. Her clothes were on the floor, both pillows on the bed looked rumpled. His mind tugged him in two directions. Death. Deception. "I'm asking you one more time..."

"What, me? I was, uh-" Don't tell anyone, they'd said. Do this once and done, they'd said. Don't soddin' get caught, they'd said! Okay, fine they'd never actually said any of those things but they'd meant them! "What are you doin' here?" He turned the tables, mind numbly recalling that the best defense is a good offense. Or was that the other way around? It had never mattered before, because the best thing was always to kill the buggers and leave.

"I'm looking for the girl who's gonna rip your arms off when she finds out you were in her bedroom." Emphasis on the word bedroom. Why was he in here?

"Oh yeah? Well ... me too." He'd gotten a bit tangled there, but that should suffice. Captain Cardboard wasn't much for the thinking. But he was damn quick sometimes- Spike didn't have time to react more than a flinch and half finished move to push the sweater up his sleeve when Riley suddenly lunged down and tore the sweater out of his hands.

"Were you ... were you just smelling her sweater?" Riley gave him a confused look.

He scoffed in return. "No." Well, actually, pretty hard to deny that. And Iowa's about to leap to the right conclusion if I don't cover a little. " Well, yeah, all right, I did. It's a" sexual thing, no don't say that, you nit, "predator thing, nothin' wrong with it. Just- know your enemy's scent, whet the appetite for a hunt." He inhaled again, wondering if the look of rapture was off his face. "Ah, that's the stuff! Slayer musk, it's bitter and aggravating!" And warm and rich, and nowhere near as hot as what you'd smell if you had my nose and were closer to these sheets, mate.

Riley grabbed the sweater and tossed it angrily away, then grabbed him by the lapels and began dragging him from the room. "Out!"

"I've got as much right to be here as you do, Soldier Boy." Spike broke his grip.

"Are you kidding me?" Riley asked incredulously. "Right? You- right, Spike? Are you insane?"

"I just know for a bleedin' fact the Slayer wouldn't mind me bein' here." Spike felt a new kind of hatred growing in him. Jealousy. You have all the time in the world with her, an' you waste it, you blow it, you never try to really see her. I get two nights with her, an' you gotta come in and ruin my little after party. "

"She wouldn't mind you being here? Right. What's a little sweater-sniffing between sworn enemies?" He mocked.

"Your girl in the habit of-" fucking her enemies, kissing them, cryin' in their arms, sharing her blood, her body, her mouth, with her enemies? " buyin' her enemies drinks? 'Cause she spent the better part of last night with me," He couldn't keep the smugness out of his voice any longer, "doin' just that."

Gnawing worry about her safety was replaced by intense worry of another kind. She told me. If she wanted superpowers, she'd be dating Spike. What if she wanted superpowers? Why are both pillows used? Why are her clothes on the floor, not in the hamper? " Oh, sure. 'Cause you guys are such tight pals." The mocking tone was slightly more bitter now.

"Yeah." No! We are not pals, not friends, certainly not romantically involved. I just- can't get enough of her sometimes. An' she's kinda got the problem in reverse. The flip side...

Riley didn't like the confidence he spoke with. But Spike's the biggest, cockiest, bastard I can think of. Of course he can bluff. "That's good. Tell me another."

The boy was goadin' him. And Buffy was gonna kill him. No, no she was gonna give him little deaths. Multiple tastes of sweet release, enough to make you lose count. But he couldn't tell the enormous hall monitor that. "Okay, how 'bout this one? Twice in recent memory, she's had the lover wiccas do a de-invite on the house. Keep out specific vamps. Ever ask yourself why she's never taken my name off the guest list?" Chew on that one, prat.

Why hadn't she? Just because they occasionally worked alongside, killing something together, because they were fighting evil and he just happened to like killing things, didn't mean he had to have a standing invite to enter her home. Her room. Her bedroom. "Because you're harmless."

"Oh yeah, right. Takes one to know, I suppose. Least I still got the attitude." He surveyed the clean cut human before him. "What do you got, a piercing glance? Face it, White Bread, Buffy's got a type, and you're not it. She likes us dangerous, rough, occasionally bumpy in the forehead region." Shit, truths were flyin' from his mouth left an' right, an' any second the one about last night's activities was gonna pop out if he wasn't careful. "Not that she doesn't like you ... but, sorry Charlie, you're just not dark enough."

He felt himself smashed to the blind covered glass of the window, one of the soldier's massive hands holding him in place, hand doing its damnedest to break the ribs (not that he could, he was on Slayer blood. Not much, but it was bloody powerful stuff). He laughed at the boy's enraged expression- until he saw the other hand was on the blind cord. "Easy, easy!"

" Am I dark enough for you now?" He slowly twisted the cord so the plastic slats began to rise.

"Let go of the cord, you wanker." Spike felt a burning beam across his lower back.

"Are you falling for my girl?" Riley snarled, opening the blinds more.

"Bloody pull it back down, you sod, I'm starting to sizzle!"

"Answer me!"

No. He should have said a plain and simple denial. Because, no, he wasn't falling for her. But he hated that this unworthy pretender got her. "You'll never be able to hold onto her. You couldn't even recognize when her polar opposite was stuck in her body." He sneered, watching, and loving, the look of anguish that flickered in his assailant's eyes. At least he knows he screwed up. "You had your taste of dark, Soldier Boy, maybe I just want a taste of light." He leered suggestively. Licked his lips. He even let his eyes drift to the bed, feeling suddenly safe that Riley would never believe anything could happen between the two of them. The more he piled it on, hinted at it, the more he'd run from the truth. That kind did. "I'm the one who knows her." With a herculean effort he broke free and swept into the hall, out of reach of the sun. "But no, I'm not fallin' for your girl. Just happen to like her mum, don't want to kill her just now."

"You don't know anything about Buffy, you never did. I'm the one who knows what she needs."

No more calculating anger, this was the real stuff, unfettered, uncontrolled. "Oh yeah? That's why you're with her at hospital right now, giving her what she needs? Where the bloody hell were you last night, all night, when she fuckin' needed someone to help her?"

"What are you talking about?" He was aghast, confused. "What- last night? Joyce?"

"Don't you know, didn't she tell you?" He thought she would've called him first- but no. No, he had known that she hadn't, he remembered asking her if she want to call Riley. And she had chosen him. For what, not sure, but it had been him all night, not Camo Boy. Oh, hell. You've slipped again, Spike.

"You tell me." This didn't make sense, none of it. She didn't want to let him in, and yet, this wasn't big dangerous stuff. This was life stuff, sick moms, family things. Normal things! Normal things that he was actually equipped to handle, and who apparently spent the night? Spike.

"Her mum's sickly. Buffy took her to the hospital for a bit of prod 'n' probe. Bite-sized one, the li'l Bit, went too." His breathing was ragged from the weight of all the conflicting emotions inside him. And the strongest one, the most basic one, came out. Hurt something, someone. Hurt this human, here, who was responsible for him having to resort to fightin' with words and not fangs and fists. "You know, it's-it's funny her not callin' you about that. I've known since last night." He tilted his head to look at him. "Wonder why she told me, an' not you?"

The punch knocked him head first down the stairs, but he only laughed. Got him good. "You think this is funny?" Riley glared at him, striding easily down to the fallen victim.

"I think it's funny that you didn't see it weeks ago." Spike snarled, glaring back, scooting himself off the ground. A heavy foot sent him back down. "Oh, that's right, manly man, hurt the poor beasty you de-fanged." He mocked.

"Why shouldn't I? Don't you want us dead? Aren't I just doing this world a favor?"

"Maybe the world. Not so much Buffy." He flicked out the statement with a knife edge in his voice.

"Why not? Don't you want to kill her? Huh? Or is something different now? Is there some reason you don't want to hurt her anymore?" Riley dragged him straight up the wall, fists digging into the smaller man's muscular shoulders, slamming him into the wood.

"No reason. Don't want to kill her just now." Spike croaked out. "Key words bein' 'just now'."

"So you still want to hurt her?" Why wasn't he more angry about that? He felt oddly relieved that Spike wanted to kill her. The alternative being too horrible to think about.

"Very much so." He snarled, shaking free. It'd be so much less complicated than finding her company odddly enjoyable. Feelin' some sort of strange bond with her. "But thanks to you, I can't." He paused, both men seething at one another. I don't want to. I know what it's like, with her mum. I know what's comin', the strange prickle in my skin, that somethin' dark, darker than me, is hangin' over her, an' I don't like it. An' she's my equal. She's my match, my worthy enemy an' we've gotten to this odd impasse where I don't think we can finish the job. I don't think- I don't think I even wanna try...

Fear swept through him. He didn't love her. He could not, ever, ever, love such a girl. But there was just this strange little feeling... respect, admiration, likability, mutual knowledge... I've got some odd, damned connection to her. An' I hate myself right now, ten thousand more times than I ever hated her, for feelin' it. But Christ, I do feel it.

The look the pale blonde gave him was raw, regretful, almost scared. Riley didn't understand it all. "I can't hurt her." A gasp of realization. And then anger flared back into the ice blue eyes. Accusing, loathing, knowing. "An' don't you hurt her, either, Soldier Boy." A threat, snarled out so hard and fast, that Riley couldn't retort.

Spike ripped the blanket from the back of the chair he'd laid it on earlier, and bolted from the house, leaving Riley gaping after him.

Buffy paced in front of the examining room, twisting her hands nervously. Dawn was curled up asleep in a chair. They were taking so long. Why were they taking so long? She stared at the door, willing it to open, for the doctor to come out, say everything is fine, and while we were in there, we found what made her hurt and we fixed it. She's all better. You can go home and everything will be just-

An unexpected hand on her shoulder caused her to whirl, see who came to be with her when she was in so much bottled up pain. "Riley." She sighed. Had she really just hoped for someone else?

"Sorry. I heard. I thought maybe you'd need-" me? He didn't say that. But he felt some small reassurance as she hugged him.

"I do. I do. I'm glad." She released him, guilt flushing her cheeks. I should've called him last night. I didn't though, did I? "I just, I-I didn't ... I mean, until we knew what it was..." Lying to him again. But at least she wasn't lying to herself anymore.

"I understand. How's she doing?"

"Well, she just had a CAT scan. I was about to go in and find out. Will you ... sit with Dawn while I talk to Mom? She's in the waiting room."

"Yeah, yeah, you got it." Don't you want me to sit with you?, he wanted to ask, but again, he didn't say that. He watched her set her shoulders and march in, march away from him.

Riley sat, he pondered. He was in charge of the little sister. Grudgingly in charge. When he said he'd be there, he should have been more specific. He should have been there for her, the girlfriend. He didn't mind helping the family, but he wanted to help them, as well. Not just them. He wanted to help the woman he loved.

Who doesn't love me. Dawn says I'm good for her. I'm her freaking vitamin. She wants to cry, she wants the crazy- does she want the dark? Images of Spike in her room shook him to the core. Two pillows. Two voices. Him standing there so at ease next to the pile of her clothes. All her clothes, bra, underwear included. You don't know her. He said it. You admit it to yourself, but you deny it to him. She has a type an' you're not it.

She wants dark? She's gonna get dark. She's had her bites. Dracula. Angel. The Master- whoever all these weirdos were. Maybe that's what I can't understand. Maybe that's what I don't get, why I can't understand her, or how she puts up with Spike. He headed down to Willy's.

Spike smoked. He drank. He slept. He damn near staked Harmony, but refused to talk to her, and eventually the chit left. News. News, there had to be some news by now. For the tenth time that day he got up, put his coat on, turned off the telly, and made for the sewers, planning to take the underground to her. Not to her, idiot, to the news. Just to get the news. And finally on the eleventh attempt, late, late in the day, he didn't just make the attempt, he slowly walked through the grime to get to the Summers' house.

Buffy held it in. She was strong, even in the faces of her friends comforting, their warm and loving embraces, urging her to let go. But she was strong. There was something she could do. Something she had to do. Fight this thing. The shadow, they called it. It wasn't a shadow, a shadow is a piece of darkness, and she wasn't afraid of the dark. She was a afraid of this.

They told her not to be concerned yet. Funny how it wasn't the doctor's mother with a brain tumor - that you don't need to worry about- yet.

Too many battles. They couldn't even deal with arguing over whether or not there might be some magical cure for this thing, because no, she had to fight the thing after Dawn. Oh, and God, she was glad to do it. It was bigger than her, and scarier than her, and it wanted to hurt someone she loved. She choked it to death, visualizing the "shadow" at the same time. "See? Look at me. I can kill you, even if you're scary, and nameless, faster, stronger, silent, and you want my baby sister's blood." You want my mother's life. "Sorry, snakey, you die." And with you, everything like you.

The bite didn't help. Dusting her hadn't helped. He couldn't do it. He couldn't do it, no matter how much he loved her. He got the rush-but he didn't understand any better. Now all he was, was tainted. Now he had to hide it, changing into a turtleneck and hurrying back to the hospital.

Buffy watched, feeling pieces of her dying inside, as her mother told her sister the news. She stayed close, enough to see them hugging, rocking and comforting each other, but far enough so that she couldn't hear them.

"Buffy?" She turned to him, forcing a half smile. "You okay? You look pretty beat up."

She nodded. Try. Try to do this with him. Try to let him in. "Minimal damage of the fighting kind. It's all the other kind." That was the closest she'd get to telling him how bad it hurt.

"Come here." He held out his strong arms, and she walked into him. "It's okay. Just let it out. I'm right here." Please let me get this right, do this right.

"I can't." She sniffled and pulled back. He'd almost had it. Right until he told her to let it out. He didn't get it. She couldn't let it out here. This was not alone. "Not now." She cast a weary glance to the hospital room, trying to explain. "They need me. If I start now ... I won't be able to stop." She willed the tears away, willed him to understand. Don't make me weak just now, not in front of them. He lifted his hand to her face, a look of love and tenderness there that threatened to undo her, break her will and make her cry in earnest...

"Buffy?" Her mother needed her, called for her to join her and Dawn. She turned away from her boyfriend regretfully, wiping her eyes, the traces of her own fear. She didn't look back, leaving him standing there.

It broke every unspoken rule, every unsigned truce, every code in every good or bad handbook. He sat still in the pitch-black house, on the sweetly scented bed.

Her tears didn't begin until she touched the knob of her bedroom door. She was alone now. Now she could cry, and be scared, and no one would see, she wouldn't be letting anyone down.

"Buffy." She choked on a sob and flashed the light on, a stake already in her hand.

"Spike!" Exasperation, annoyance, and a teensy little kernel of relief.

"Your mum. I just wanted to know, an' then I'll be on my way, alright?" Thank God she hadn't been packing a crossbow, only a stake, or you'd be in some vacuum bag b'fore you blink.

"It's bad." Her face crumpled.

"I- Can I do anything?" He struggled not to lose himself in her grief, in his memories.

"No. No, I don't think so." She let her tears fall. She wasn't with someone, not with him. She was with the other side of herself, however that worked out in her tangled mind.

"I'll leave you to it then." He whispered, hesitantly reaching to pat her shaking arm. If I touch her, what's gonna happen this time?

She crashed into him, knocking him flat, sobbing suddenly in his arms as they lay on the floor. "I don't know how to fight it."

"I know, I know." And he did. He kissed her brow, held her little fluttering form close, willing the heartbeat not to speed up any more.

"I can't fight it. I can't fight it, they say it isn't magical, and I can only fight the things I can hit, I can't fight it." She was about to hyperventilate.

"Know how you feel." He said quietly, looking at his useless hands.

He would know. He would know exactly how it felt to be crippled like this, to have a massive power that was completely useless on the one thing you wanted to use it against. To be chipped. "You do know." She stared at him, eyes clearing. "You do know. And you survived."

"You are getting strangely perceptive, Slayer, an' I'm not sure I like it." He sat them up.

"Tell me how you fight it, how to survive it, the- the being- unable to fight."

"I don't know how I do it. Part of it's you." He swallowed. "Not killin' me, though you can."

"What's the rest of it?"

"Sheer bloody stubbornness." He traced a tear swollen eye. "You've got that it in spades."

"What am I going to do?" She whispered. She felt awful. Helpless. She hadn't felt truly helpless in years.

"Stay strong an' carry on." He shrugged. I'm a Brit, I do what I gotta, this would be so much more simple if she wasn't American, used to girly mag advice.

"I like that." She said after a moment.

"Except when you're alone. Then get it out, get it all out as much as you can, to see you through the day when you've got to deal with the rest of the odds an' sods. An' then at night, or when you're alone, you empty it all back out again. Like the sea, Slayer, a tide of tears."

"Stand by for a flood watch, then, 'cause it has been one hell of a day." She sighed. He stood, and she struggled up beside him.

"Right. I'll leave you alone, then." He clutched her hand in his for second and pulled away.

Her fingers wouldn't release. "I am alone. When you're just with a reflection of yourself, you're not really with anyone, are you?"

"No." He said slowly, letting her pull him beside her on the bed. Her wet, warm cheek brushed his cool one. "Buffy, Luv, what is this?"

"I don't know." She didn't know.

"Well, as long as we're both clueless..." He shrugged out of his duster with one free arm, the other still holding her stubbornly unyielding hand.

She cried for a little bit, then they undressed, kissing, softly talking, silent at times, moaning at others, as they soothed each other's worries.

They lay, side by side, face to face staring at one another. Unblinking. Unbelieving. It had happened again. Third time's the charm, but there was nothing charmed about this.

"What is this?" This time she asked, in a deeply puzzled voice, almost a disgusted voice. But yet her hand was still resting on his hip, the mirror image of him, as his hand cupped one smooth golden curve, their arms crisscrossing in the small space between their spent bodies.

As if he bloody knew. Come here yesterday to kill her, end up feelin' closer to her than I've felt to anyone but Dru. Still can't stand her half the time, and yet wanna be with her the other half. An' oddly enough, I think she feels the same. "Well, Luv..." Spike sighed and shook his head, "I think this must be the flip side."

This concludes our drama in four acts. I do hope you enjoyed, let me know if you did.