One way or the other, they were going to kill each other, Spike thought. If not by ripping each other's throats out, then by the intensity of the sex. It had never been that intense for him before. Even without those sips of Slayer blood that heightened the whole experience to an excruciating level, it was still intense. He didn't know why. Something in him responded to her the way it had never responded to anyone else.
Addiction. She was in his blood, his gut.
"Break free," said Drusilla's voice in his head. "Kill her."
Dru was waiting for him to do that. But he couldn't. He should. He knew he should. But he couldn't.
He kept on walking restlessly through the streets near the safe house. Buffy hadn't been able to meet him tonight; her mother was having some sort of do at the gallery and had asked her to attend. His thoughts had left him too unsettled to stay at the factory; he had to move, walk his edginess off.
How many weeks was it now since this mad relationship started? Three? In the beginning, he had told himself it was only until he had enough of her, got bored, got jaded. Trouble was, he wasn't getting jaded, couldn't get enough of it. Was getting even more addicted than before. It wasn't getting better. It was getting worse.
"Love you." He couldn't face that. It was so wrong. "You knew that already. Why would I have come back if I didn't?"
He had known. Ever since she had told him she had come from the future. He had just been carefully not thinking about it.
Because that was his weak point, wasn't it? The place where William and Spike met. Whether he was William or whether he was Spike, it made no difference. He had always wanted to be loved the way he loved. Never had been.
And now here he was loved. By the Slayer. Could it be more wrong?
It was his deepest and most perilous vulnerability. The one that would get him killed. If he allowed himself to respond.
Love the Slayer? It meant giving up his entire existence, doing a one eighty degree turn, helping the Slayer against his own kind. He knew it. In her future, he had done it, become her partner, fought at her side, helped win her battles, like that last one in which she said he had died. Even in the present, she already had him halfway there. By not feeding on people, by not sending his minions against her, he was helping the light instead of the dark.
But the pax required it.
"Find a way around it," said Dru in his head. "You can if you want to."
But he didn't want to. And there wasn't even a 'not yet' about it. He couldn't fool himself about that anymore. He just plain didn't want to.
Love the Slayer? Couldn't allow that to happen. Except...he had a sick feeling he was already there.
He swung around and headed back towards Buffy's safe house. He could work off some of his restlessness on the gym equipment there. Couldn't go back to the factory as irritable as he was. Might find himself snapping at Dru or breaking Dalton's neck for continuing to have trouble deciphering that book that might have Dru's cure in it. Certainly wouldn't find the cure if he dusted the one vamp who might be able to decode it.
Something moved at the end of the street. He stepped away from the streetlight beside him and into the shadow of an alley. It was almost midnight and the streets in this rundown part of town should be deserted. Then he saw who it was and grinned widely. Just what he needed to burn some of the frustration off.
"Peaches! How's it hanging?"
Angel stopped short. "Spike."
"Hear you're all souled up now. How's that feel?"
"You're never likely to know."
"And thank Heaven for small mercies."
"All by yourself," Angel said thoughtfully. "Isn't that convenient?"
Spike grinned. Angel would be working himself up to attacking him. Which was exactly what Spike wanted, since the pax stopped him from attacking Angel. Didn't keep him from defending himself, though. He just had to provoke Angel enough to get things going.
"So here you are in Sunnyhell. Helping the Slayer, I hear. You're good at helping those who don't need helping."
Angel scowled. "What does that mean?"
"Seemed pretty clear to me. Slayer's damn good on her own. Doesn't need your help. Wanna redeem yourself? Go help the people who need help. But you duck that kind of responsibility, don't you?" He had forgotten provocation now, was saying what he really felt. "Get your soul, what do you do? Dump Dru and take off on your own. Hide in a hole, wearing hair shirts and beating your breast. Fat lot of good you are to anybody."
"You...!" Angel swung at him furiously, a powerhouse of a blow. Got him.
Spike ducked it smoothly. His eyes had gone cold and lethal, and he was grinning tightly, a grim, deadly smile that was like a snarl, showing all his teeth.
"You made Dru what she is. You twisted her around, broke her. She was innocent, and even after all the blood and the killings, in a way she's still innocent. You cost her her soul and her mind, and then you dump her like some broken toy you can't be bothered mending, just toss into the garbage."
"There's nothing I can do!" Angel yelled.
"There never is, is there?"
Spike hit him with all his force, anger on Dru's behalf powering the blow. Angel had already been a Master vampire for a hundred and twenty years when Spike had been turned and, as a fledgling, Spike had never had a chance against him. Two decades of being kicked around by Angel had left a powerful grudge. But he could take care of himself. Dru couldn't. Dru was helpless. And, even after a hundred years of neglect, still looking for her 'Daddy'. Still sure he'd fix things for her.
"You just break things. You never mend them."
"Some things can't be mended!"
"Keep telling yourself that. Absolves you of all responsibility, doesn't it? Don't have to do anything if you keep telling yourself that. Just have to sit boohooing in a corner. You were a waste of space as a man, Liam. Wastrel, boozer, libertine fucking the serving girls in your own home. Losing your soul just added torture and killing to the list. Get your soul back, you're still a waste of space. Just a sodding, useless shit."
Angel launched himself at Spike, furious, wanting to wipe him from the face of the earth. Spike laughed. They slammed blows at each other.
A slender figure flashed between the two of them, shoved them both apart. Angel staggered back against a streetlight, lost his balance and had to clutch at the light post to stay on his feet. Spike hit a wall and rebounded off it, snarling.
"Goddammit, Slayer! Things were just getting good! I was gonna rip his head off!"
"No ripping. Back off, both of you." She gave Spike a hard look. "Is this how you keep the pax?"
"He attacked me. I'm allowed to defend."
"You provoked him."
He wiped away the blood trickling from the corner of his mouth and gave her a wide, triumphant grin. "Nothing in the rules against that, pet."
"You're twistier than a snake."
He quirked his brows meaningfully at her. "You should know."
She pointed at a bench a little way down the sidewalk. "Sit. Stay."
He shrugged and flung himself onto it, grinning, resigned to the fact that, now she was here, he wouldn't have a further chance at Angel.
"And you." Buffy grabbed Angel's arm and dragged him some distance along the sidewalk until they were hopefully out of Spike's earshot. "I told you I had a truce with Spike."
"I heard." She frowned at him. "But you were going to attack him anyway."
He looked away.
"Angel, I'm the Slayer. I make the decisions around here. You can't go around thinking you know better than me about everything and overturning arrangements that I've set up."
"He's one of the most dangerous vampires around! Setting up a truce with him is the craziest idea anyone has ever come up with. You have to dust him. It's what he deserves!"
"And what does Angelus deserve?"
His gaze fell. "I'm not Angelus."
"Yes, you are. You're Angel and Angelus. They're both there. It's like the Jekyll and Hyde thing, and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you'll be able to control that part of you."
"I've got a soul," he muttered. "Spike doesn't."
"Seems to do better without a soul than you do with one."
His head jerked up and he glared at her, affronted. "He's a killer!"
"Not any more."
"If you think that, you're a fool! Why are you defending Spike?"
"Shocking as the concept might be, it is possible that there are factors here that you don't know about, Angel, and that I'm basing my decision on them. I'm the Slayer and I make the decisions and if you can't live with that, maybe you'd better leave Sunnydale."
Angel started to pace back and forth on the sidewalk. "I was going to tell you that I am leaving Sunnydale."
He shot her a frowning glance. "You're not surprised."
"Not really." She folded her arms and watched him. "You're looking for redemption, aren't you, Angel?"
"Won't get it sitting around doing nothing. Spike was quite right in what he said. He usually is. If you want to redeem yourself, you have to do something."
"Help the helpless," Angel muttered.
"You can start by taking responsibility for some of the things that you've done. Drusilla, for instance. She's sick. She needs help."
"I didn't make her sick!"
"No, but you can cure her."
"How? Even Spike can't find a cure for her and he's been trying."
"You're the cure." She nodded when he stared at her. "Sire's blood. She needs sire's blood."
Angel's jaw dropped. "Good grief!"
"It will take a while, but if you keep giving her your blood, she'll be healthy again in a couple of months."
"And then what? She'll start to feed. All those deaths..."
"It doesn't have to be that way. You're her 'Daddy'. She'll do anything for 'Daddy'. Even bag it if you tell her to."
"Don't want the responsibility, Angel? Spike's been taking care of her for a hundred and twenty years. Why don't you see if you can be as good a caretaker as he is? Because if you can't, I'd have to think that Spike, without a soul, is a better man than you are with one."
There was a long, vibrating silence.
"What is he to you?" Angel asked at last. His voice wasn't angry, just tired.
"What he was doesn't matter. What he's going to be..." She smiled slowly. "My partner. My friend. We may have been enemies once, but we're not now. I intend to claim him."
Angel's eyes went round and his mouth fell open on a protest. Then he didn't say anything. He could see from her steady, level gaze that she would not be turned from this path. Any objections he might have made, she would already have considered and rejected.
"What's happened?" he muttered in bewilderment. "What's happened to make things end up this way?"
"Too much," she said quietly, then very gently she said, "Goodbye, Angel."
He heard the finality in her voice. He nodded, accepting it. "Goodbye, Buffy."
She watched him walk away, then turned and went back to Spike.
He was on his feet, standing watching her intently, his eyes intensely blue beneath frowning brows.
"You heard," she said.
"Will you let Dru go with him?"
"Yes." He shook his head wonderingly. "Sire's blood. I'd never have thought of that in a million years."
"You don't have to stay in Sunnydale now," she said. "You didn't have a choice before. You had to stay because of Dru. But now you can leave. Go with Dru and Angel. Go anywhere you like."
"Do you want me to go?"
"You should go. It would be safer for you. If you stay here, you'd get caught up in all my battles. You could die. I don't want that to happen."
"Do you want me to go?" he asked again.
"No." She looked at him with her heart in her eyes. "Do you want to go?"
She smiled. He took a step forward so that they were nearly touching. His hand came up, fingers lightly brushing her lips.
"Did you mean what you said about wanting to claim me?"
"Yes, I did." She laid her fingertips delicately on the junction between his neck and shoulder, her palm stroking the fine, supple line of his throat. "Will you let me claim you?"
He had always wanted to claim and be claimed, wanted to belong utterly to someone, have that someone belong utterly to him. Dru had laughed at him when he had suggested it to her. That had been early on, when he hadn't understood how much of a hold Angelus had on her. It had hurt him bitterly when she had mocked him for the attempt.
And now here was Buffy wanting to claim him. And, God, yeah, he wanted it, wanted desperately for her to be the one.
"Yes," he said, very low. "Will you let me claim you back?"
"A bond between a Slayer and a vampire. It's never been done. Might have all sorts of side effects."
"We'll work it out."
One eighty degree turn. When had it happened? How had it happened? He didn't know. Didn't care. He was hers.
He kissed her painfully hard. "I love you."
Oh, and there it was. That look. That look that said she was the center of his universe, that she was cherished, that she was loved.
She caught his face in her hands. "I love you so much, Will."
They kissed deeply, clinging to each other, stroking each other's faces tenderly.
"God!" he said, tearing his mouth away with a gasp. "We'd better get in the house. Otherwise, I'm gonna take you right here on the bloody street."
She laughed against his neck, opened her mouth and sucked lightly at the junction between his neck and shoulder. "There, yes? Right there."
He shuddered violently. "Yeah. Come on, dammit!"
They ran for the flat, tumbled into bed, ripping each other's clothes off.
It was different. Making love, not just having sex. Hands caressing each other tenderly. Bodies twining and coiling and worshiping each other. Little, sharp catches of breath at some particular sweetness that went deeper than the body and caught at the heart.
"Hundred and twenty years," he breathed, "and I never knew it could be like this."
"Neither did I." Her heart was full to bursting. "I never let it be. We've both learned."
His hands dug into her hair, held her head still for his lips to slide everywhere over her face. "Love it. Love you."
"Oh..." There were tears in her eyes. She dashed them away. "I thought I'd thrown it all away. Should have ripped that amulet off you when you wouldn't take it off. Don't know why I didn't."
"Won't happen now."
"It might. It might still." Her hands slid over him, lingering on the strong, flexing muscles of his back, the sharpness of his shoulderblades, slipped around to caress his chest and stomach. "You do believe I love you, don't you?"
His eyes smiled. And, oh, that look of softness, of tenderness. "Yes."
His hands ran down her body from shoulder to knee, kneading everything in between so that she writhed uncontrollably against him. Then he drew her legs up around his hips, making that little side-to-side wriggle that she found so touching, settling himself within her thighs, making himself comfortable. She caught her breath, arcing to him, rubbing herself against him. They both gasped.
"Buffy," he muttered. "Can't wait."
His eyelids were heavy with passion, his eyes almost black from the dilated pupils, all the bones of his face standing out with strain.
"Oh, yes, please."
He came into her with one deep, hard, smooth stroke, going all the way in and just that little bit further. She cried out with ecstasy, clenching around him, her head arching back on the pillow. His head flung back too as he drove into her, shifting a little with every thrust until he found what he was looking for, that one spot of sensitive tissue inside her.
"Oh, yeah..." A groan of a laugh as he moved, hitting that spot now with every thrust, his hips twisting at the end of every stroke so that he hit her clit on every thrust as well. His throat brushed her face as he strained over her. She reached up to suck on it and he gasped, his head dropping helplessly forward to lean against hers, his eyes blind with pleasure and a diagonal muscle in his cheek jumping as his jaw clenched.
Their hips battled, she thrusting up as he thrust down, driving each other relentlessly higher and higher. Their faces brushed. Then his mouth was at her neck, his fangs sliding smoothly into the bite mark already over the vein. Through the thunderbolt of her intense orgasm, she heard him whisper:
"Yours," she gasped, then bit him as hard as she could at the junction between his neck and his shoulder, tasted his blood on her tongue. "Mine."
"Yours," he groaned, surrendering entirely to her, and came, hard, his cock pulsing within her.
Something shifted, like the world moving. Something locked, clicked, into place between them, became absolutely right, absolutely perfect. Every nerve in their bodies fired off, an agonizing rapture.
She came back to herself to find him heavy upon her, his face pressed hard against hers and his lips panting into the curve of her shoulder.
"Oh, God, Spike, that was..."
"Thought I'd dust," he agreed on a shaky laugh and rolled over onto his back, pulling her with him.
She lay upon him, her weight on her elbows beside his head, smiling down at him in the cave made by her hair falling on either side of his face.
"Got you," she said. "Got you now."
He pulled her head down and kissed her. "Had me from the beginning, pet."
"Not what I meant." Her eyes blazed triumphantly down at him. "You can't burn up now. You burn, we go together."
"Won't let you burn," he said at once.
"Exactly." She laughed as his eyes widened. "You die, I die. That's how the claim works, isn't it? So don't die."
"Sneaky." His eyes were alight with laughter and tenderness. "And ruthless. Always have to get your own way, don't you?"
"When it comes to you, yes. No morality when it comes to you."
"Played me from the beginning, didn't you?"
"Yes. Do you mind?"
He pulled her head down and kissed her intensely. "Mind being loved that much? God, pet! It's everything that I ever wanted and didn't dare admit even to myself. William's in heaven."
'Right there with him." He rolled her over onto one side, so that they lay facing each other. "Pax is gone. Claim takes precedence. Have to work out new rules. Rules to get things...our way."
They laughed softly, intimately, arms wrapped tight about each other.
"New era," she agreed. "Our way."
"Heart attacks all around," he said, grinning, and she thought of Giles and the Scoobies, Spike's minions, the reactions of the various demons and whatnot all around Sunnydale. Heart attacks was putting it mildly.
"This is going to be such fun!" said Buffy and laughed in pure delight.
('Her Way' does have a sequel which will be up tomorrow. It's called 'Changes' and it's about the claim and everyone's reactions to it, friend or foe. I hope you will all like it.)