Should Have Known Better

By Sweetprincipale

A sequel to Sex and Candy and See You on the Flip Side. Set during S. 5, beginning at the end of the episode "Listening to Fear" and goes off cannon. For example, Spike realized that Ben is Glory and vice versa in time to actually put the information to good use, before Dawn was taken, altering the story line.

Author's Notes: Deep, but will be smutty and Spuffy. Had several people tell me they thought See You on the Flip Side needed a sequel, and goodness knows I liked the idea! Hope you all enjoy, read and review!

Direct quotes from songs and shows are obviously not mine but belong to the enormously talented people who created them. This chapter feature I Should Have Known Better by the Beatles.

Dedicated to Hannah the Bloody, Lithium Reaper, Idiosyncratic Delusions, Andrea Fangface, Msnycegirl0820, and jmoran 319

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

Part VII

They said Joyce would have to spend four days in the hospital this time. No trouble there. They appointed him chief lurker, since he was already so good at it, and because he wasn't fooled by that "now you see me, now you don't" crap that Ben and Glory used. "Passions is on in a bit. You want me to wake you?"

Joyce put down her magazine. "Yes, if I nod off. I'm feeling better. You don't have to stay with me all the time."

"I'll go then." He said quickly, and rose. He'd leave the room. But he wouldn't leave the hospital until one of the others was around.

"No, Spike, not like that, I don't want you to go. I'm just worried that you must have things you need to do, too."

I do. Your daughter's tight little body bein' on the top of my list. With everyone circlin' the wagons for one last bout of research, and everyone constantly underfoot here or the house- haven't gotten to take my time with her since the night we "didn't say" we loved one another. That was just two nights ago. And it's too damn long.

But he didn't say any of that. He smiled and sat down once more. "I'm bein' the watch dog, Joyce. An' I don't mind. Think I'm gettin' a taste for the red jello. If congealed blood were a bit sweeter, that's what it'd remind me of."

Joyce continued to smile, but it became more fixed. "I'll make sure we get some for home."

"Oh. No. Just keep the hot chocolate stash full." He grinned back with equal fixedness. The domesticity of the situation choked him at times, threw it in his face that he was getting soft. At the same time, he figured all his heroics in saving Joyce would mean nothing if Ben turned into Glory in the middle of his shift and came to get some bait for a Slayer trap, or a key bargaining chip. He was finishing the job. He wasn't done until he had real and truly "saved her".

"Thank you. Again." She relaxed suddenly. "You were my guardian angel that day."

"Was not." He snorted rudely. "I'm not angelic. Demonic."

She considered this. "I suppose a guardian demon is better than nothing. In some cases it might even be better than an angel! More violent. Sunnydale seems to attract violence, and darkness. I don't know how angels would handle that."

"Your girl does fine." He said half to himself. Touched. Supremely. A guardian demon. Ooh, he could get used to that. Hear that, mate? You've gone off that particular hunt, and now you guard. Protect. Save. Fight to the death for. Yes, he liked the sound of that. And don't whine. You get fed the most rare blood in the universe for your trouble, willingly, lovingly given Slayer blood, taken at the peak of her pleasure. He moved his duster nervously in front of his lap, hoping Joyce wouldn't notice why he did.

"You think my Buffy is an angel?" Joyce beamed at him, looking rather like an angel herself. No, more like a Madonna, one of those pale, peaceful faces under her white bandages and blue bandana.

"Slayer's hell on heels," They joked about Buffy's strange preference for walking over driving quite often, "but there is somethin' right...angelic about her. When she lets it show."

"She doesn't let it show very much. There's always something waiting out there that she has to take care of." Joyce fretted.

"That's what slayers do. And she's the best."

"You don't mind that she has to go and fight, risk her life?"

"No, askin' Buffy not to fight..." He searched for a phrase, "it'd be like taking the air away from her. She's good at it. She loves it. Sometimes she hates what she has to do, but she knows she's gonna help someone, an' she loves that bit."

"You don't seem to try to make her...lean on you." Joyce considered.

"Girl doesn't need me for that. I don't need her to feel less to make me more. Not like that cheatin' swine..." He vamped and unvamped. They found all the nasty little brothel inmates, now just dust in the alleys. The boy was different. Riley'd gone clean away. Buffy didn't want him hurt anyway, and he couldn't, so he tried to let it go. He tried. Never claimed to have succeeded.

"I see." Joyce watched him in silence. She had not liked Angel, instinctively. And he had proven her feelings right over time. She had liked Riley, very much. A kind, gentle boy. A normal boy- who ended up in a vampire brothel. She had assumed normal would be the best thing for Buffy. For a long, healthy life, and her happiness. That was not so. Abnormal and normal had hurt her badly, in different ways.

This vampire- the "bad" one, this one who had saved her life and spared her babies pain- she had come to like him for himself. For his sense of humor, for the way he mourned his lost love, for his poetic soul that came out when he talked about the woman he had loved, for the way he carried a conversation, for the way he treated her daughter- now, not then. No instincts, no presumptions, no snap judgements. It had been several years worth of getting to see him from different perspectives.

She watched him settle down with a crossword puzzle, lips unconsciously wrapping around an invisible cigarette, and blue eyes brightening in a self-satisfied smile when he immediately began filling in the blocks on the page. "You are a very unusual va-person." She consciously corrected herself.

He met her eyes, startled by the soft, reflective tone. "I am." He was. He knew it. Sometimes it shamed him, sometimes he didn't give a bloody damn. More of the latter, these days. He waited for her to critique something, tell him about what in particular made him 'unusual'. He waited in vain.

"So is Buffy." Normal was different to each person, wasn't it? Spike seemed to think of Buffy as normal. As special, even. The main thing was he accepted her, argued with her and teased her, but never seemed to try to change her. What kind of normal life would she lead with a so-called normal man? One of him constantly trying to weaken her, or make himself different to meet her? "So is Buffy." She repeated, mainly to herself.

"Uh- agree that she is. Only one like her in the world." He had to laugh softly at that statement.

"I'm glad she has you." Joyce put her head back and went to sleep, leaving his startled blue eyes unblinking.

"Welcome Home!" Buffy proclaimed, sitting the suitcase down.

"Again!" Dawn tacked on.

"You don't have to fuss" Joyce blushed at all the attention.

"We so have to fuss." Buffy insisted. "Everyone will be over soon. And Spike will be here after dark. Actually... Mom, Spike's gonna be here whenever you're here, unless someone else is."

"I see. Is this because I'm old and weak and feeble, with a faulty brain? Or is it related to that Glory creature?"

"Glory creature. Although Spike is going to give you a 'vampire-checkup' everyday. For awhile. Please?" She trailed off, lips quirking in a hesitant wince.

"So long as I don't have to pay him a co-pay, fine." Joyce sighed. "What about the Glory situation?"

"Not tonight, Mom. Soon we'll tell you. But let's wait until you're a little stronger."

"It's nothing to worry about. Just more weirdness. They still don't know where anything is. Not that I would ever tell anyone, like 'hey, I'm the Key!', but I'm glad I never sat down and got talking to him."

Buffy dropped her hands in exasperation.

"Talking to who?" Joyce demanded.

"What part of 'wait until Mom's stronger' don't you get?" Buffy huffed.

"It was an accident!" Dawn squawked defensively.

"Please, girls! Headache. Not on a morphine drip anymore." Joyce sank wearily down. "Will it kill me tonight if I don't get the full story?"

"No." I hope not...

"Then give me the story in ten words or less and then let me nap until the gang gets here." Joyce smiled, putting her head back on a throw pillow.

"Uhhh. Let me see." Buffy tried to think of the simplest way to explain what they found out. "Intern Ben. Is Glory. Humans forget. Spike knew. Have plan...Almost."

"That was eleven." Dawn pointed out.

"Shut up." Buffy hissed.

"Don't talk to intern Ben. Stick close to Spike. You're making a plan?" Joyce reiterated.

"Pretty much."

"Sounds good."

"Ben?" Buffy gave her most charming smile to the intern.

"Hey. Buffy, right? Is your mom okay?"

"She's great. She starts back to work on Monday."

"That's good to hear. So...uh, what brings you here?"

"Do you wanna go have coffee with me? Tonight after your shift?"

"I- I would love to, it's just that- I have some- family issues to take care of."

"Your issues wouldn't involve your sibling having taken the 'Siamese twin' thing to a whole new level, would it?" Buffy asked sweetly.

Ben looked panicked. "You know? How-"

"You know who I am. Your little gender swap doesn't fool me." Okay, that was a lie. Why was she doing this? She was not stealth girl, she was attack with sharp objects girl. But she would always do what she had to do. And Spike was right around the corner in the hospital hallway. With his hearing, he was able to catch every word. She wasn't in danger, not from Ben. But if Glory turned up- it was just nice to have someone else who would stand a chance of surviving her attack watching her back, and not put any of her friends in danger.

"You shouldn't be talking to me. She doesn't know what I know, but her minions watch me, they know-"

"They aren't here now. We checked." Buffy had. She looked at him quizzically. "If you don't know what she knows- how did you find out who I am?"

"Her scabby little servants. I know what she does. I know what she wants. But the details, no. I can tell when she's coming, and she's not coming yet. But the closer it gets to the ritual..."

"The ritual. What do you get out of it?"

"I stay alive." He laughed bitterly.

"In hell on Earth?"

"Better than dead." He shrugged.

Buffy gaped for a minute. Okay... I guess that's one way to look at it. "What if we can-get rid of her for you?"

"There's only one thing that can get rid of her. The ritual doesn't take place and we both go together- or there's this mystical thing. But she destroyed it, and made sure she killed everyone who might possibly be able to recreate one. You can't get rid of her."

"Well- do you wanna help us try? Because there is no way that ritual is happening." They had another week o so, if Giles, Anya, Willow and Tara had figured out correctly. They were cutting it close, even waiting that long. But they had to wait until Mom was strong enough, until they had some ideas, a plan, and then catching him at work, on his way out- everything took time, until now they had seven days before it came to a show down.

"Look, lady, I know you've got some power, but you don't have anything that can stop her." Ben growled and pushed past her.

Spike's palm pasted into his chest as he came around the corner. His chip fired a short stinging zap, but nothing major, he hadn't wanted to hurt him. Simply stop and give him a good threatening. "So, listen, mate- what happens to her, if you die?"

Ben's eyes widened and Spike smelt his fear.

"I don't feel so good. Did you do- something- to me?" Ben panted, sitting in the backseat between Giles and Buffy as Spike drove.

"Not to you." Spike said grimly.

"We're not trying to hurt you."

"Doesn't seem that way." He panted, looking at them bitterly. His head started to twist, and Spike wished Giles could meet his eyes from the back, but he didn't reflect in the rearview mirror. He and the Watcher had something in common. They agreed it was better to kill this wanker than let the Hellbitch rise. If nothing else worked. There they had a slight disagreement. Spike figured, why take the risk? It could be him or the Bit. The safe bet was to kill the bastard. But the damn "good guy" procedure was to try something else, seemed like bloody near everything else, first.

"Why's he twitchin'?" Spike demanded.

Buffy wordlessly set her crossbow. Spike hoped that Giles had something a little more injurious aimed.

"She- she's not coming. She was, but now- she's isn't." Ben sounded pained and puzzled.

"Do you want her to?" Giles demanded.

"No! No, God, all I have ever wanted is to keep her from popping up! Tell me how. Please." He sounded desperate.

"When we get there." Buffy murmured. Please, God. Let this work. I'll kill him if I have to... I don't want to. Please don't make me... She felt panic rising in her, and she looked solidly ahead of her. Spike turned his profile to her, and winked. Right. Stay strong. Her finger slid into place on the trigger. "You try anything, and you die before she gets her manicured nails all the way through your fingertips."

They walked into the alley entrance of the Magic Box. Buffy went in first, into the training room in the back of the store. "You guys are set up?" She called to Willow and Tara.

"We're ready." Willow had Tara's hand firmly in hers, and a ripply, clear barrier seemed to shimmer in front of them and the four people they were shielding.

"Don't come out. I mean it." Buffy spoke to all of her friends- but looked pointedly at her mother and sister. They had to be there. If they were anywhere else- anywhere she couldn't see them, and Glory got free, or her minions were hunting for a bargaining chip- she knew where they would go. Know your enemies- she looked at Spike and they exchanged an almost imperceptible grin- and keep them close.

Spike wordlessly stepped between the protective barrier and the boy. In his pocket, he had the sphere. He was the least likely to be targeted. A vampire. Something evil, something soulless, and dead, Hellbitch could do plenty to him- but he'd be the last one she'd go for, the least likely one to know what or who the key was. A vampire, the least likely to help the Slayer and her team. Her enemy. So they assumed. He smirked, and kept one hand around the glowing ball, feeling its faint power.

"Tell- me." Ben was doubling up in pain by this time, sweat popping across his brow.

"Show him." Buffy listened to the uptick in chanting from Tara and Willow, watched Xander and Anya sandwich her mom and Dawn more tightly between them.

"Recognize this?" Spike held the golden sphere in front of him.

"Never seen it but-" Ben stood up suddenly, and everyone tensed. "She stopped trying to come through." The pain seemed to have left him.

"Can her minions receive orders when she's not running the show?" Xander called through the bubble.

"Yes." Ben nodded, still getting his breath back.

"Damn." Spike held the globe more tightly. "They'll be on the move soon."

"It repels her when she's trying to come out. But she's still in there. Damn it!" Giles tore off his glasses and paced in a tight line, moving ever closer to Ben. Spike could see the outline of something in his pocket. A large knife or a small gun.

"We have to move." Buffy ordered.

"Give me the ball. As long as I have it, she can't come out." Ben pleaded.

"And when you're not lookin' some extra special worshipper will whisk it away." Spike spat.

"There has to be more to it than that. Repel means to push away, fight against." Willow said, sounding slightly muffled. "Not just to hold in!"

"Buffy-" Joyce looked at her nervously, and Spike noticed that they were circling, pushing Dawn into the center. Dead give away.

"Niblet. Come here." Spike called her to the edge of the barrier. Everyone else exchanged panicked glances, but Buffy looked at him with perfectly calm eyes. Don't worry, Luv. Won't hurt them. But if they're putting her in the midst of a protection sandwich, it's a dead give away who the most vulnerable one is. "You're a Summers woman. We want the strong ones out here."

"M-mom. Come out." Buffy whispered hoarsely. Willow assessed the situation, and she and Tara moved to opposite sides of the training room, walking backwards, inwards, creating a larger bubble, now encompassing all of the players in the scene.

"Gotta be more to this, huh, Red?" Spike held the ball closer to Ben, who didn't recoil, but shifted slightly.

"She's still. She won't be for long though. Look, her minions you can destroy- but you can't kill her. Give me it, I'll keep it on me at all times, I-"

"You don't get the sphere." Buffy said icily. "Giles-"

"I'm thinking. If only we'd ever found a translation of the markings that used to be on it."

"You can't even see the markings, it's so old." Anya pointed out.

Dawn made a short surprised noise, and covered it with a sneeze. Buffy caught her eye, and Dawn pointed to herself.

"Spike, let Dawn hold that for a second." Buffy kept her voice flat. "You tie him up."

"Tie me up?" Ben protested. "What good will that do? You can't tie up a god! She's eventually gonna get out, if you don't just-"

"Shut up." Spike said sharply.

"Baby, what are you doing?" Joyce whispered.

"I can see the marking just fine. But I don't know what they mean." Dawn whispered.

"Dawn- can you 'unlock' it?" Buffy whispered, even more softly. She's a key. Glory wants her to unlock something. This is made by the monks who transfigured the Key into Dawn. Maybe it's a set. Maybe Dawn is the key to several different doors...

"I can try. I don't know what it'll do." Her voice shook.

"It's okay. You don't have to try if you can't." Buffy encouraged.

"I can do it. I'm a-a Summers woman." She echoed Spike's words. "H-Hey, you. What's this ball supposed to do?"

"Separate us, I thought. Maybe it just keeps her down. Whatever- it's better than what's gonna happen if she ever gets loose." Ben snarled, fighting against Spike and Xander who were pinning his arms back.

"It hums." Dawn whispered. "It hums and-" She ran her hands over it lovingly, starting to hum a little herself. Green energy flipped out of the ends of her slim fingers. Joyce and Buffy made worried gasps, and Spike barely held his own in, working with Xander to tie Ben's hands behind him.

"You're gonna have company in a minute." Ben warned them.

"Giles." Spike said one word, but it was like an entire conversation. The older Brit looked at the group of youngsters he loved, at the woman he'd loved for one night and never gotten the courage or the timing right to love again. And the boy. The victim. And he hesitated, hand curled around a knife in his pocket.

God, I'm gonna have to do it, n' get fuckin' knocked for six when the chip goes. Spike slowly reached one hand in his duster for his ever present knife.

"There!" Dawn's gasp of triumph made everyone falter and turn towards her. The Dagon sphere lay in two neat halves, one full of dark shining fluid, the other glowing with light. "Drink." She sounded different, much more calm than they would have thought possible.

Only Spike, with his vampire hearing could know that her little heart was near to bursting. She knows. She's learned from the best. Brave faces on. He felt a grudging admiration slip into his heart, and he sighed. Damn. Soon he was gonna love this little bit, too. That was how it started with these girls. You find one thing to respect or admire, an' next they soddin' own you, heart an' soul- well- whatever he had instead of a soul.

One hand on Ben's head, the other bringing the bowl of the split sphere to his mouth, Dawn tipped the fluid in. Ben hesitated, then drank, like his life depended on it. It probably did. He swallowed it all, looking calm- and then agonized.

The shattering noise shook the ground, cracked the floor, sent training room apparatus, weapons, mats, tumbling everywhere. and all of them fell with the force of it. Spike's first thought was for Buffy, and hers was for him. They locked eyes, and they knew a lot in the single glance. I know I never said it, and now isn't the time. I love you. But I gotta protect someone without superpowers just now. They nodded, and sprang.

He was closer to Dawn, he pulled her down under him, Joyce was closer to Buffy, she took her under her small frame. The shaking intensified, and Willow and Tara, concentration broken, lost the barrier.

Well, fuck. Spike sighed, watching the monstrous, contorted, shadowy form of Glory clawing her way from Ben's heaving body. The boy was still alive, but looked like he'd been vomiting for hours. Prob'ly what it felt like, getting rid of one hellbitch. Giles had his hands on his back, one hand supporting him, the other still wrapped around a knife. Dammit. Yes, let's wait until the eleventh hour, that'll be fine...

"You! You took my Key! And you tried to banish me?" Glory snarled and laughed, advancing on Buffy, skimming the ground, but moving like a human in other respects. A very large, angry, human.

"Oh, what are you gonna do? Glare at me? You're a shadow." Buffy talked tough, getting off of her knees, shoving Joyce further back. Around them, Tara and Willow were regrouping, and Anya and Xander were dealing with another unexpected situation, a pounding at the doors, minions having arrived.

"I may be a shadow, but I still got power, Baby." Glory rubbed her hands again, this time sending sparks dancing across the floor.

What the hell? Why me? Why with my family here, of all nights? Buffy didn't let her fear show. Why hadn't it worked, fully worked? "You might have power, but not nearly enough."

"Oh, I do. Enough to take just one. And it's one of you. One of you three, you all smell the same, but one of you has the energy." The fallen goddess growled, pointing from Buffy to Joyce, and finally to Dawn.

Buffy thought wildly. Something had to work, that mystical relic was the cure, the problem solver. Why hadn't it worked fully? Her gaze met Dawn's, and dropped to her feet. The bowl. The hollowed half of the sphere, filled with light. He'd drunk the other half down. But what do you do with light? You can't drink light, can you?

Stupid monks and their stupid relics, and there's no time for this shit, just kill the boy. Or hellbitch takes one of them away, an' I can't let it happen. Spike hurled himself at the shadow. "You want someone to play with, your ex-highness, come an' get me!"

"It isn't you." She sneered, zeroing in on Buffy. "And it isn't this one, either. The Slayer's got her own power- still- you pissed me off, all year!" A casual wave of her hand, and a bolt of blue stung the air- hitting Buffy square in the chest.

"NOO!" Spike forgot he was never supposed to give way, except in private, always look brave. Just for a second he lost it. Not her. Not my Buffy. He caught her when she fell, still alive, but gasping for air, heart beat sounding oddly arrhythmic. "You better pull yourself together." He hissed at her. "You better pull yourself together now, I- dammit, you're my reflection, my flip side. Half of me goes if you go." He hauled her up in one arm, and then got back to the task at hand, protecting those who needed it most.

Buffy felt like she was fainting. But I can't faint, I'm kinda busy right now. Her mind tried to go black, but instead it filled. Reflection. Light. Shiny things. And the other half. A spiral of a strange relationship, and two sets of figures trapped together. One set of figures chose it. She and Spike. A reflection that made a whole, bad and good, the same but different. One pair did not want to be together, they were no reflection, they were captives, one forced inside the other. One reflection fighting to stay together, the other fighting to be free.

Dawn heard her sister's words as Spike dragged her to stand with him, the two of them protecting her. Buffy looked back, sagging over Spike's arm. "The other half, the other half! She has to look into the light. Human. God. Both have- the other half!" Buffy rasped.

Glory heard as well, and her shadowy smile turned even more malevolent. "It's this one, isn't it? The newest little girl- hey!"

"You touch my baby girl, and I will show you a whole new kind of hell!" Joyce had stabbed one of the training room swords straight through Glory's back. Being a shadow, it didn't do more than cause her pain and distraction, but that was enough.

Dawn moved faster than she ever had in her life. "Yeah! It's me. I'm the one you want!" She snagged the bowl and she knew what to do. Like some part of her had done it before. The bowl melted in her hand, a beam of light leaving the hollow and becoming a shimmering sheet.

Glory looked, she had to, she had waited for so long to see the precious key- and instead she saw her death, her exile, again. Expelled from her human prison by the Dagon's potion, her shadow form was expelled by the Dagon's light.

A nightmarish wail caused the minions, about a dozen who were trading blows and spells with Tara, Xander, Anya, and Willow, to collapse, falling to their knees with answering screams. "You! You little bitches!" Glory's form was unraveling, her hands clawing at the three women in front of her, and then at Ben. Giles pulled Ben farther from her reach. "You bitches! Damn you to-"

The sentence never finished. The light had swallowed up the shadow, and Glory burst with a sizzle of gray, minions vaporizing into the light with her, tiny streaks of darkness flying to her in her final second. And all was silent, except for Ben's strangled gulps as he slowly pulled himself to a sitting position.

"See? You totally have know about other halves to do this stuff." Buffy smiled and straightened up, one arm around Dawn, one on Spike's shoulder.

"Oh, oh goodness, that was- wow. You do this every night?" Joyce sagged, leaning on the sword, and Giles abandoned Ben and rushed to her side, helping her up with a gallant smile.

"Not this big. But yeah. A little." Buffy shrugged.

"That was intense." Xander and Anya hugged, checking each other for scrapes and bruises.

"She was mega scary. Even her shadow was mega scary. She didn't have a chance, not against Buffy." Willow said loyally.

"Bitch shoulda known better." Spike lit up a cigarette, and helped Tara yank Ben roughly to his feet. "No one messes with the Summers women." Spike grinned, and winked at his girls.

Joyce took her daughters home, dropping Ben back off at the hospital. Unlike Spike, he was beyond thrilled at the thought of his other half being gone. Now he could fully be himself.

"Depends on the girl, I s'pose." Spike watched them go. Some suck you dry, take you over. Some just match you so well. "I'm gonna stop at Willy's, get some blood. See you lot around. Good fight." Spike waved and walked off.

"Geez. Nothing phases that guy." Xander helped Giles set some fallen furniture back up.

"He just keeps his brave face on. It's a British thing." Giles insisted. "Oh, Anya be careful. Willow, Tara give her a hand in the shop, would you? We'll take care of the training room..."

He didn't even make a pretense of preparing his couch. He was full of blood and whiskey and he was at home. Home was here now, he reckoned. He climbed the stairs softly, on tiptoe in his thick black boots. Two heartbeats in the same room. Dawn and Joyce. Curled up together in Joyce's room, probably been too scared to sleep at first. Buffy would've comforted them and calmed them.

Now she'd be awake, waiting for their time together. For a chance to let it out with the one person she felt comfortable letting her see her give way. I might jus' have to take some comfort myself, he sighed, seeing again in his mind's eye, for maybe the tenth time that night, a blue charge knocking her back and hearing her heartbeat falter, skip...and finally restart. Even one beat missed out seemed like too many.

He's shaking, Buffy thought, when he gave her his hand in way of greeting. Just a little, but still.

Poor luv, she's a mess, listen to that little pulse zingin' along. Spike let out an unneeded breath. "They both okay?"

"Yeah. Freaked, but coping. I see why you're afraid of my mom now. She stabbed a hell god in the back! That's- that's wicked cool."

"The little one, too, held her ground. She's got spunk." They grinned, sitting next to one another on the bed. "You were perfect." He whispered, pleasantries done.

"So were you." She inched closer to him.

"Glad you're home in one piece." He said gruffly.

"Two pieces." She pointed to his chest. The other side of herself.

It undid him and he hated it for a second. Right before he realized it undid her just as much. "You scared me, fallin' back like that!" He wrapped her up in his arms.

"They were all in danger, and I didn't know what to do- and I never got to tell you..." She clung back just as desperately.

"Shhh. I know you, Luv, You tell me every time you look at me."

They were kissing now, hug having turned from desperate and clinging to desperate, full stop.

Her shirt ripped down the middle of her back, but she didn't care. She yanked his belt through the loops so hard it made a singing sound through the air before landing on the floor. "Thought I might never hold you again." He confessed, clawing into her.

She pushed him to the floor, lips ravaging down his still partially clothed body. "I know." She slurped him into her mouth with one long moan, and then back up. "I need you. I need you." Afraid she'd never get to feel him or taste him again...

"I'm here, Luv, right here." They ripped and tossed and tore until they were naked, his body pinning hers to the bare floor with animal like possessiveness. "Give me all of you, Buffy, an' I'll never let you go." He whispered fiercely.

"You have it, you already have it." She whimpered, hips bucking to encourage his penetration, make him stop rubbing his tip outside her slit without giving her what she wanted.

He crashed into her, forehead to forehead, lips bruising in a frenzy of kisses. "I know you know, but..." She trailed off.

"I understand, you never have to say the words." He whispered heatedly.

"Will it hurt you if I do?" She murmured, looking away, eyes slowly sliding to stare in the distance behind his shoulder.

"I promised I'd never hurt you in here, Luv. Haven't you had enough pain for a lifetime?" He cautioned.

"You stopped hurting me a long time ago." She freed one of her arms and touched his cheek. "But we have a truce, no pain from me. One broken heart each is enough, you're right."

They moved together in silence, building, and building, until she was biting her lips. From the effort of not crying out in pleasure. Or was it the effort of not letting her heart speak?

Doesn't it hurt just as bad not to say it? He began to wonder. "You could never hurt me. An' I could never hurt you. Not now." He pressed his lips to her ear. "I know you know, but, just in case you'd like to hear it- just this once- I do, y'know. Love you." For once in my life, or my death- I'm gonna have it returned. Fully returned. By someone who knows what they mean, who understands with clarity an' sanity, and who bloody well means it back or she'd never say it. You could kill this girl an' she'd die cursin' you out rather than lie. Confidence overtook him, but he didn't show it. He knew her so well, and it made him grateful.

She held him extra tight, all of her limbs wrapping around him, and she waited until he was fully inside, her muscles forcing him to stay still. "It didn't hurt."

"That's good." He murmured softly.

She'd thought it would hurt, but it didn't. It didn't fall into a hollow spot in her heart where there was no answering cry. Of course there would be a response, of course it wouldn't hurt. When like calls to like, and every part of you has a reflection in them. "I love you. I might tell you more than once, though. Okay?"

"Okay." They shared a smile, and began picking up the pace again.

Making love doesn't have to be gentle, or slow, they both seemed to realize. He slammed into her desperately, groans ripping out of him, a look of pleasure so intense it almost seemed like pain.

She dug deep gouges in his back and rear to force him in as far as possible. He hit spots inside that no one else had ever reached, that she'd never let anyone unlock. She knew her family was in the house, and she didn't even care for a blinding second of pleasure. Than man I love, who knows me and loves me back- is inside me and he's about to make me...She screamed into his mouth and told him again.

Finally that dream's comin' true. Glad she left the stake at home though. "I love you, Buffy. God, I love you so much."

"Spike... I love you."

In the dream she'd only wanted him. Now she loved him. In the dream she came to kill him and he was so sick of his torment, the chip, his broken heart, broken life, he'd told her to do it- right before he grabbed her and kissed her, pouring out his confession. Maybe I've got vision- 'cause that was kind of how the relationship went- only it took over a year, dammit, not two bloody minutes in the crypt. Nah- I just know the girl. Refuse to have visions. I'd go barmy, an' I'm done with the crazies.

"Your demon has to come out." Buffy whispered, riding her after burn, still spasming on him.

"Never refuse that. But don't you want me to get you back to the peak again before he drinks?" Spike nuzzled her neck, licking her where he'd bitten several times. He didn't leave scars on this skin. This sweet, smooth honeyed skin. Made him sick to see the other scars on her. Bastards cared about leaving a mark on her, wanting to do it on purpose, or they hadn't cared at all what they did, but they hadn't sealed her up afterwards. He could make a mark on her someday...if she'd like. He could take away the other scars, replace it with one of his own...

Get her back to the peak? "Who says I ever got off the peak?" She finally managed to untangle her mouth and tongue and say something aside from "Oohhhh, God." or "Ohhh, Spike." "You can drink. I just wanted to tell you I loved you that way, too."

"You don't love my demon, Baby, you jus'-" Her teeth sank into his jaw with frightening speed, and left him reeling, certainly made him stop talking.

"Don't tell me that! I love you, both halves, and didn't you see how important it was to have both halves tonight?" She glared- and then kissed him softly. "Sorry. I broke the skin..."

"I don't much mind." Fuckin' fantastic actually. Instinctive, ferocious. Oooh. The demon flashed to the surface, and he smiled at her with his ridged face and his golden eyes.

"I love you." She kissed him, and then lay back, more playful now. Like Spike had taught her. That sex could be passionate and fun, and it could still mean something. "And what do you say?"

"Love you." He growled. Look at her, all splayed around my cock, and looking up at me with saucy eyes. Why had he ever thought she was stuck up? Oh, wait, she was...but not in here, not now. "All of me."

"All of me. You know that big fancy speech you made, about what love is supposed to be like?"

"First time we got on this goddamn ride?" He morphed back into human features with a sharp twist of his muscled shoulders. "Yeah, what about it?"

I remember every word like you wrote it on my skin. "I think you might have said 'when your blood cries out for their blood' somewhere in there...?

That's exactly what I said. I damn near memorized it in the months afterwards, I recited it so often, thinking about her... "I might have said that."

"I said it was lust."

"Could be."

"I was wrong."

"That's a first. You admittin' it, that is."

"I think it's love. Also lust, but with us-" She kissed him softly, "I think it's both."

"I agree." He nuzzled his lips to her neck again, kissed it softly as he moved slowly, deeply in and out of her hot, clasping channel, harder and harder until her felt her walls quiver., At her internal signal, his fangs slid sweetly into her neck, the vibrations of her shaking moans pouring her blood into his mouth with every second she sustained her cry.

"Thank God for Saturday. No school. No work. The shop is closed for the day until the insurance adjuster can come and look at the cracks in the training room floor. I'm not sure how insurance adjusters deal with what they see in Sunnydale, but they probably just get used to making up stuff. Probably in the case of the Magic Box they'll write "earthquake tremor" and everyone will leave them alone, since it is California." Buffy, running on love and a power nap, spoke to the entire household at once.

"Shhh." Spike glared at her as she hopped chirpily down the stairs, still talking a mile a minute. "I'm doin' my quack routine."

"Sorry!" Buffy stopped and watched the ritual that Joyce was trying hard to ignore. He was sitting right beside her as she looked through catalogues, sipped her tea and looked uncomfortable. She had to laugh, because Dawn stood behind Spike, like the nurse to his doctor. You'd almost expect to hear him say "Scalpel. Clamp." and Dawn would "assist." They both looked deadly serious, and her mom just looked... patient and a little embarrassed by the attention.

"All good." Spike let his senses rest.

"How long do I have to have these little 'checks' for?" Joyce looked at him with pleading eyes.

"Until they declare a cure for bad things happening." Buffy declared, and Joyce managed to laugh.

" Fine. I suppose it's for a good reason." A loud chorus of yeses made her smile. "I hear by declare this 'Recovery from goddess beating, store clean up, brain surgery, and amazing acts all around' day. No chores. We order take out. We crash."

"You so should have taken her slaying before this." Dawn hissed as she and Buffy raced for the delivery menu.

"What are you screaming about?" Spike looked up from his book. Passions wasn't on on the weekends, an' he didn't feel like moving. Last night left him oddly energized and knackered at the same time. But they weren't alone, and it wasn't gonna go over to well sneak up to her room for a nooner. Not the same as sneaking up in the middle of the night.

"XANYASGEINGMARD!" Buffy came into the living room, squealing, dancing around like a fool, carrying the portable phone.

"They are? EEEEEEEE!"

"Oh congratulations!" Joyce looked up from her tea.

Spike met Giles' eyes from across the living room. The Watcher apparently got his head on straight after last night. Showed up with roses and a book on magical artwork, an' was sittin' all cozy like with Joyce in the dining room, pretending it was just friendly. Yeah. Right. We'll see how long you can resist her. If I can't- Spike looked at the sisters squealing and bouncing around the carpet, eyes locked on his sunshine- you don't stand a chance in hell. "I didn't get a word. You?"

"Not a word." He confirmed and looked to Buffy again.

"Xan and Anya are getting married!" She repeated at an understandable pace.

"They are?" Giles blinked.

"They are!" Buffy hung up. "He called Willow and Tara already, and the four of them are going out to celebrate. They said we can come if we want."

"Details!" Dawn begged, and Spike groaned, pushing his head back under the paperback spy novel.

"Okay, so, they call, it was all like, gasp-y and scream-y, and I thought 'They're calling during sex!' and I was like 'Ewww, what kind of kink is that?', and then I realized they were both just so happy and yelling, 'cause they're engaged." Buffy took a deep breath, and then blushed. Oh my God. I totally just said " kink" in front of my mom, my Watcher, and my little sister. And Spike. Who's giving me the demon bedroom stare and reminding me of all the deep dark chocolate we can dive into when we're bored with vanilla- and oh God, now I'm drooling over Spike in front of my mom, my Watcher, and my little sister. Great. I survive Glory only to die of a Buffy brain fritz.

"I must say- that's rather- unexpected." Giles cleaned his glasses in his patented avoidance technique.

"Apparently Xan decided he can't imagine his life without her in it." Buffy shrugged, trying to forget the slip she'd just made.

I guess I know how he feels. The thought circled the room. Spike and Buffy locked eyes, Giles and Joyce shared a glance that broke off with a blush, and Dawn smiled to herself as she watched it all.

Must've been all the weddin' talk that did it, Spike decided later. He didn't know whether to stay or go, but it was well after midnight, and the three of them were still sitting in Joyce's room, painting their nails and giggling, rehashing every word from the impromptu engagement celebration that he had opted not to go to.

I should just go to the crypt. Love her an' all, but not like I can't take a night off. Of course, if I take the night off the first night after we said it, she might think I'm lookin' to push away. An' I'm not. Don't particularly like the Scoobies on the Side deal, but the family's nice enough. An' she's the one I wanna stay close to.

He took off his duster. Guess that means I'm stayin'. He sighed with a smile and began to make up his bed on the couch.

He went to the coat closet, like he had countless times in the last few months. Always a set of clean white sheets and pillow stashed on the top shelf next to Joyce's head scarves and bandanas, Buffy's few fashion accessory hats and Dawn's winter wooly cap that she never used because, well, California. And his stuff wasn't there.

Check the basement, the laundry. No dice. Went upstairs to the linen closet to borrow a different set, or maybe his set was up there for some reason.

He passed by Joyce's room, saw the three women he cared about all sprawled out and all wearing their personalities like identity bracelets. Joyce, a calm smile sitting between them, the mother, the graceful one presiding over her two children. Dawn arguing heatedly with her sister, but with a giggle in her voice. The sparkler. And Buffy, spine stiff and eyes direct, was sassing her back, but grinning like a lethal one, could slay you with her smile. Mum. Little Sis. Lover. Goddamn he was screwed, an' oddly enough, very pleased about it.

"Do you want your nails painted, Spike? I'm sure we have black somewhere." Dawn caught sight of him in the hall and giggled.

"You ladies keep on. I'm jus' huntin' up some sheets and a pillow. Mine weren't in the coat closet."

"Oh, I know where they are." Joyce said with one of her soft smiles.

"If you'd be so kind, then, Joyce, I'll go make it up. Or I can toddle along if you lot jus' want a girls' night. No blokes in the house to witness you in cold cream an' curlers."

"Stay." Joyce waved him off with a laugh, and Dawn nodded, Buffy met his eyes and said nothing. Well, nothing out loud. Spike could hear a whole volley of promises and wants in that glance.

"I'll get to it then." Spike poked his head further in the closet. "What shelf, Joyce?"

Joyce's voice was very complacent, calm. "Third from the top. But why bother? Buffy's bed is already made up, and I put your pillow on it in case you prefer that one."

Oh, holy fuckin' shit. Spike whirled to face the trio, keeping well back in the hall, the room no longer safe for him.

"MOTHER!" Buffy rocketed from her seat on the bed, scattering nail polish, which sent Dawn into a chuckling scramble to prevent it spilling all over the bedspread. Spike looked at her, the desire to flee in his eyes, but not wanting to leave her to face the trouble alone. "Mom!" Buffy gasped again, cheeks aflame.

"Oh, Honey. Please." Joyce shook her head, and didn't sound in the least bit threatening. Spike didn't relax, but he didn't leap down the entire flight of stairs as he'd been wanting to. Joyce continued, in the same complacent tone, eyes faintly twinkling. "I'm sure you're just up there, listening to Pink Floyd and talking."

Oh, she's good. She's baitin' me... Damn, no wonder the Slayer has flair. It's not the power, by God, it's the genetics! Spike looked at Buffy, who was opening and closing her mouth like a goldfish. No sound. Also not seemin' to take in any air, so he assumed he'd have to do the talkin'.

But Joyce kept speaking, her smile widening a fraction, but her tone becoming harder. Still so calm, so pleasant- but so serious looked significantly at him as he tried to fumble out a nice, noncommittal response, and it died on his lips. "And if you're 'talking' to my daughter in anything but a loving and respectful way-" She let the threat hang in the air.

What does she think I am, suicidal? Okay, sure I'm a bit mouthy with Buffy, it's our gig. But no disrespect intended. And as for lovin'- well- we're workin' on it. "I swear I will be as respectful as you could want, Mum. I mean, Joyce, I mean, Mrs. Summers." Fuck, look at what she did to him. The Bit was giggling madly into a pillow, eyes dancing at him as she watched him stammer.

"Loving?" Joyce pressed. Respect was good, but her baby deserved better, from her... "conversation partner."

"Yes, ma'am, loving as you could want." Spike swallowed. "As she wants."

"Mother!" You can't just tell Spike to come into my room an "talk" to me. Certainly not talking "lovingly" to me. Buffy was mentally freaking out, blushing so hard, embarrassed beyond words... and Dawn was loving it. So much for being super wise all powerful key girl. She's back to annoying, 'it's so funny watching my sister totally get caught with her hand in the cookie jar', brat sister. Thank God. "Mom, we just-"

It was Buffy's turn to get the hard eyed stare. The stare that still twinkled, and Joyce's smile never left her mouth. Spike sucked in his cheeks and rolled his tongue under his teeth in delight. Never get to see the girl flustered by Joyce, like she does me. Gonna enjoy this...

"Buffy, you've had that bed since you were twelve. I bet the springs are going to go soon." Spike found himself rapidly losing his amusement. Bloody hell, were they that bad? He'd tried to be easy on the furniture- up to a point. And it was only a few springs...But Joyce was still speaking. "There's a nice queen size one on deep discount at the furniture store near the gallery. They're going to deliver it next week."

Oh my God. My mother is insane. Buying Spike and I a bed? Like what, like we're living in here, like we're a couple? So, yeah, he kind of does spend almost every single night in my bed, but... but she's not supposed to know that!

And three-legged turtles are right now breaking the sound barrier with their amazing speed...

"Mom- seriously-" She tried to think of a bluff, a cover up, anything.

"Honey- do me a favor?" Joyce looked at her with a slight tilt to her head, eyes smiling and mouth in soft half-grin. "Actually, both of you."

"Yes, Mom?" Buffy asked with a nervous expression, which was mirrored on Spike's face as he hovered in the doorway.

"Get some new CDs. Pink Floyd every night was okay in the eighties. Not so much now." She chuckled at their gobsmacked expressions. "And don't talk too loudly."

They sat side by side on the floor, neither one of them even wanting to touch the bed with its stupid, tattle tale springs. They could still hear Dawn and her mom hooting with laughter, but they had left the room almost immediately.

"Spike?" She whispered.

"Yes?" He was not in a joking mood. He was in a "bloody thankful not to be castrated" mood.

"You know we have the deal where we don't hurt each other, and only you can kill me, and I can only dust you?"

"Yes, Luv?"

"Can you please do it now?"

"What?" His bows shot up.

"I figure it'd be quicker than me dying of embarrassment."

"Ah. Well, in that case we gotta make it a double. You get two crossbows, an' I'll count off ten paces."

Buffy moaned and put her head on her knees. "She knew! How long do you think she knew for? Why didn't she say anything?"

"You're a grown woman. She didn't want to make you feel ashamed." He touched her arm. "Mortified as I am- think it's dead supportive of her to want you to have the man you choose."

"Oh, she wouldn't be supportive if she didn't like you. She likes you. And I can't even blame it on the thing that was squishing her brain, she liked you before." Buffy shot him a bitter look.

"Forgive me for committing the unforgivable sin of being likable." He smirked.

"You are not likable!" Buffy hissed. "I told you. My mom doesn't have good vampire sense."

"Good thing I like her, then, isn't it?" He smirked all the more.

"Ohhh." Buffy moaned and bumped her head lightly to her knees. "I. Get. Into. Crazy. Stuff. All. The. Damn. Time." She bumped between each word.

"If you wanna do any damage to stop the memories of bein' found out, you're gonna have to hit yourself a bit harder, Luv. Love to offer you a hand, but..." He chuckled and sighed. "I shoulda known better really. Kept comin' up here. It was a risk, an' we knew it. Probably tipped her off last night. Think- with being in love with you- got carried away and I wasn't quiet as usual."

She lifted her head and faced it to his. "Did you just say you're in love with me?"

"No! Did I?" Had he?


"Oh. Bugger. Guess I am." He smiled helplessly.

"There's a difference between just loving someone and being in love with them, you know."

"Yeah, Slayer. Got that in my hundred plus years." They were silent for a minute. He held in his grin. Give her a minute. She always takes a minute longer...

"My mom told me you're the family's 'guardian demon', whatever the hell that is."

"I dunno, Luv, she thought that one up all on her lonesome."

"I guess it means she wants you in the family. That you belong to the family."

"Well-" He stretched and settled back on the floor, "I'm the most screwed vamp there ever was. Tried to use my powers to save my mum. Get a big name for the big violence, and get it all taken away by a tiny little piece a plastic in my brain. Turn out to be helpin' the good guys. Famous for killin' two Slayers, an' now I'm shacked up with my intended third." He closed his eyes and winced. "An' now her mum says I'm the family's 'guardian demon'. Like I'm her bloody protector, a hero."

"You kinda brought that on yourself." Buffy stretched out beside him.

"I know. But now I belong to the family? That's your take on it?" The idea was- not entirely unpleasant.

"Yeah. That's how I see it." She propped herself up on her elbow and looked down on him, giving him a smiling kiss. "Guess it's a good thing I'm in love with you, too."

And this concludes our trilogy. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

Author's note: For those of you who know me well- you know I'm gonna try really, really hard not to write any sequels to this, but that I have trouble preventing ideas from setting up residence in my brain and forcing their way out onto paper. I promise I'll try. But I've got a couple muses -you know who you are- and they stir up trouble. But for now, we'll call this a trilogy, and hope you all enjoyed it!

Update: The Muse won. The fourth part, the piece that creates the Sex and Candy Quartet is called If You're Sure and is posted in its entirety on FF. net.