CHAPTER EIGHT ~ Fate, Also Known As Destiny

The front door creaked as Buffy pushed it open with one hand, the other being full of Dawn. The semi-sleeping girl snored loudly as she rubbed her nose on Buffy's shoulder, and Spike grinned at the cute picture the two girls made.

Once all three were inside, Buffy turned to him and whispered, "You can sit down here for a few minutes while I go get her up into her room. I don't think she'll be able to climb up the stairs by herself..."

Dawn responded by snorting again and mumbled into her sister's jacket, "I can so..."

Buffy smiled down at her, then turned back to Spike. "I'm gonna get a shower then I'll bring you down some sheets and you can make the couch up." As she began to climb the stairs, Dawn still attached to her side, she looked to him over her shoulder. "You might want to take one, too." Buffy grinned slyly. "You smell kinda ripe."

Spike smirked and huffed in mock indignation, walking into the living room as the sister's went upstairs. The room was dark, the light from the moon throwing mysterious shadows onto the walls. Spike sat in the chair and picked up the remote, but then decided against turning on the telly. Exhausted, he leaned his head back and shut his eyes, letting sleep overtake him for the first time in days.

A little while later, Buffy came down the stairs, wet hair hanging in her face and arms loaded with blankets and sheets. She stepped off the staircase and peered into the room where Spike sat lightly snoring, and froze.

He looked so beautiful.

She hadn't remembered how handsome he had been, a true creature of the night. The moonlight shone onto his face, reflecting off his platinum hair and giving his skin an ethereal glow that it had lost once he got the suntan. Stuck in her trance, she lost her grip on the blankets and a few of the sheets tumbled out of the Slayer's arms. As she bent over to pick them up, she knocked her head soundly on the side table in front her. With a loud groan, she started to pick up the linens.

"You alright?" Spike asked groggily, startling Buffy and causing her to drop the sheets once again. "I thought I heard you hit into something."

Buffy finished picking up the blankets and set them on the couch, then sat down herself. "Yeah, I'm fine. I'll just have a lumpy head come morning."

Spike smiled and nodded to the stairs. "Guess the shower's free, then?"

"Oh, yeah. All clear." Buffy looked him over as he stood from the chair and frowned at his sweat-stained shirt. "Um, did you happen to keep any of your old clothes? 'Cause I don't think you're gonna want to sleep in that."

The ex-vampire looked down at the wet shirt and sighed. "Nope. Left everything with Clem at the crypt when I left, and some demon thugs came in and stole it all. Poor Clem couldn't protect the place by himself." He looked up at her and grinned. "Though he did manage to save his stash of Country Time."

Buffy let out a small laugh then rose to stand next to him. "Why don't you go up to the bathroom and I'll try to find you some clothes to wear for tonight?"

Spike looked at her skeptically. "You have men's clothing, in my size, just lying around your house? Because I'm not wearing anything that belonged to that Harris git. Once was bloody enough..."

The small blonde rolled her eyes. "They're Riley's old clothes." She raised her hand to stop his oncoming protest. "He left them behind and they're all I've got. Take 'em or leave 'em and sleep naked." Before the leer could settle on his face, she sighed. "Forget I said that. Just take them."

He smirked at Buffy before she turned around and he followed her up the stairs. When they got outside the bathroom door, she faced him once more. "Um... We haven't exactly had a man living in here for a while, so we probably don't have everything you need. But, uh, there's soap and shampoo in the shower, and deodorant in the cupboard. Oh, and an extra toothbrush, but it hasn't been used, so it's not gross. I just bought it in case we had a guest, or visitor, and they had bad breath or..."

Spike grinned affectionately and placed a hand on her arm. "Luv, you're rambling."

Buffy smiled sheepishly. "You noticed that, huh?" She rubbed a hand over her face. "I...I just had a *really* long, long day, and I'm tired, and it doesn't help much that I still have the confusing issue of you." She took her hand off of her eyes and looked back up at him. "I'm sorry. I just... Let me go get those clothes for you. Wait 'til I bring them in here so you can have something clean to change into, okay?"

Spike nodded. "Right, then."

She turned into her bedroom and he went into the bathroom. Closing the door softly behind him, he walked over to stand in front of the mirror and stared curiously at his reflection for a long moment. Finally, he shook his head and looked down at the sink. "Nope, never gonna get used to it."

He turned the 'cold' handle and watched the water pour from the spout. Slowly, he cupped his hands beneath the stream and let the liquid flow over them, cooling and soothing. Spike lowered his face to the sink and splashed the water onto his flushed cheeks. This was all too much for him, though he'd never admit it. Sure, he tried to play it cool. Tried to keep up the infamous Big Bad act that would prove to everyone he was still the badass he was before he least in theory. But even he had to accept that that wasn't who he was anymore. He wasn't an evil, soulless, undead master vampire who wanted to destroy the world. Well, actually, he never *really* wanted to destroy the world. But he *was* evil. And soulless. And undead. What was he now?

Just a man.

Alright, so maybe he was also the first Male Slayer, but all and all, he was just a man. Who happened to be in the house of the woman he loved with all his heart, waiting for her to bring him some nightclothes so he could shower and go to sleep. In her house. With her asleep in the room above him. Not fifty feet away...

Spike sighed and vigorously splashed his face again. Turning off the faucet, he patted his face dry with the small towel hanging next to the sink and began pacing the bathroom floor. Unbidden, thoughts and memories sprung to mind...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

*** "We have to talk." ***

*** "You spoke, I listened. Now leave." ***

*** "I'm sorry. Not that it mattered anymore. But I needed you to know that." ***

*** " *I* wanted something...anything to make these feelings stop. I just wanted it to stop!" ***

*** "You should've let him kill me." ***

*** "I could never *trust* you enough for it to be love." ***

*** "I know you feel like I do. You don't have to hide it anymore." ***

*** "Let yourself feel it." ***

*** "Spike, stop!" ***

*** The rip of the shower curtain. ***

*** The crack of her ribs. ***

*** "Let it go. Let yourself love me." ***

*** "Spike, no...ow, I'm hurt!" ***

*** "I know you felt it...when I was inside you. You'll feel it again, Buffy." ***

*** "I'm gonna *make* you feel it!" ***

*** The pain of her foot kicking him in the chest. ***

*** The crash of his body hitting the sink. ***

*** "Ask me again why I could never love you!" ***

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The pounding on the bathroom door finally shook Spike out of his horrific reverie. He became aware of the fact that he was curled up in the corner of the room, arms wrapped around his knees, though he had no recollection of how he had gotten there. All he could remember was the overwhelming guilt that had engulfed him, without warning.

**Thought the hard part was over... Guess I was bloody wrong. **

All it took was the room. Just being in this room brought in a flood of memories of the horrible atrocity he had committed here so long ago, the worst act he had ever committed in all of his blood-filled years, in his mind. He had worked so hard to get past this. To be able to think about that night without being reduced to a sobbing heap. And sure, the soul was more of a hindrance than help in this respect, but he had thought he worked past that. He thought he was beginning to forgive himself.

**Bloody wrong, indeed. **

"Spike, what's wrong? Why's the door locked?" Buffy's muffled, and apparently worried voice, came through the wood door. When had he locked the door? **Another one of life's great mysteries, ** he thought.

He crawled out of the corner, turned the spigot on, and splashed his face with water to remove the tear tracks.

"Spike, answer me!" Buffy was beginning to sound very concerned. He supposed he should respond in some way, to ease her anxiety. But the words wouldn't come out of his mouth. Instead, he walked over to the door and opened it just as she was about to use some Slayer force to knock the door down.

She stared at him for a second before she spoke. "Why didn't you answer me? I thought maybe you slipped and fell, or something. Because unconscious people don't usually respond to worried pleas, either."

He sniffed quickly, trying to force the tears to stay down, and prayed to the god he didn't really believe in that she wouldn't notice. She did.

"It was nothing. Just, um, washing up a bit, over at the sink. Water running and all...must've not heard you."

Once again, Buffy just stared at him. She didn't believe him. He knew she didn't believe him. But neither of them wanted to talk about what they both knew had actually happened.

She shifted nervously, then slowly pushed past him into the room. When he finally turned around, she had already set the clothing that she had held in a pile on the sink and was turning the faucet on in the tub, studiously making sure that the water was the perfect temperature. **How thoughtful.** He didn't really mind her avoiding the subject, because he was perfectly happy to forget it ever happened, too. He just hoped she didn't actually *hear* him sobbing.

She looked up at him from her spot on the floor, and he couldn't find a trace of derision. Apparently, she didn't hear his uncontrollable weeping. Or she was just too good of a person to comment on it. Either way worked for him.

"So, um...there are your clothes. Like I said, they're not the best, but they're all I have." She glanced down at the floor, and he could tell she was just as uncomfortable as he was. "There are a couple of long-sleeved tees in there, and, um, a pair of flannel pants. And yeah, I know. You don't wear flannel. But you're just gonna have to make due, alright? I have an old pair of Riley's jeans, too, so you can wear them when we go to get you some more clothes tomorrow."

After a long moment of silence, he began to head over to the sink to inspect the garments. Before he reached his destination, however, she spoke up once more. "There's, uh...something else over there, too."

He got to the sink and picked up the clothing. Two gray, ribbed, long-sleeved tee shirts that still reeked of Soldier Boy. She mustn't have ever washed them. A pair of tacky green and blue plaid pajama bottoms. He didn't even want to think of himself wearing those. And leather duster.

*His* black leather duster.

In perfect condition, too. He thought it'd have some burn marks, at least, or some tire tracks from her running it over repeatedly with their SUV.

He looked over at her in wonder. "I know you said you kept it, but...why?"

She shrugged. "Because...I don't know, really. I guess because, it's And I knew you'd come back, eventually. I wanted to be able to give it back to you."

Spike scowled at the coat. "I don't want it."

Buffy frowned. "What? Why not?"

The ex-vampire sighed and leaned against the sink. "Because it's *not* me. Not anymore." He turned to stare into her eyes. "I got that off of a dead woman, Buffy. The second Slayer that I killed. It doesn't represent me anymore, because that isn't who I want to be now. I want to be something better than that."

Buffy returned his gaze. "You *are* something better than that. And you have been for a long while, even before Africa. I just wouldn't let myself see it." She paused for a moment, but continued before he could protest. "Please, take it Spike. *Make* it represent something new...something better."

Spike was once again silent for a moment, staring at the duster. Finally, he nodded, accepting her gift of forgiveness and her acknowledgement that he could change. Could be a man, not the monster who had won this prize.

She rose from her spot next to the tub and made her way to the door. As she turned the handle and began to head out, Buffy looked back at him. "It is you, Spike. And it always will be you. But that doesn't have to be a bad thing." She turned away again and went to shut the door. "I'll be waiting downstairs."

The door shut with a **click**. Spike adjusted the water temperature, turned the shower nozzle on, and took his clothes off. He stepped into the scalding hot stream and let it wipe away his pain. Maybe it would take all the scar tissue along with it.

* * * * *

Buffy quietly opened the back door and walked out into the cool night air. The sky was particularly clear tonight, and the stars were so bright she could see almost as clearly as if it were day. She hugged herself tightly, the small tank top she wore not keeping her very warm, and sighed wearily. She walked the few paces it took to reach the steps and sat down on the porch with a thump. Lazily, she looked around the backyard, not really observing as much as blankly staring, before her eyes returned to the stars that shone above her. Time to mope.

Buffy, by nature, wasn't a brooder. Sure, she wallowed in her share of the self-pity pool every once in awhile, but she didn't like to focus on the bad things of life any longer than was actually necessary. The only exception to that being her most recent resurrection, but even then she wasn't really brooding. More like avoiding.

But right now, at this moment, Buffy was in full-on brood mode. The incident in the bathroom hadn't escaped her notice. Hardly. But she knew Spike wouldn't be pleased if he found out that she had heard his choking sobs earlier. So she didn't mention it. But she did know what his cries had meant, because they had reminded her of her own.

It took a long time before Buffy was able to comfortably walk into that bathroom after the...incident. Even longer before she could walk in without even thinking about it. But eventually, it happened. **So it'll happen for Spike, too... Eventually. **

Sighing in exhaustion once more, the Slayer rested her back on the porch floor and just stared at the stars. She tried not to think, but she couldn't escape the troubles that were bothering her. Before she could fall even deeper into her brood mode, the back door creaked open.

"Buffy, luv? What're you doin' out here? Thought you said you'd be downstairs."

Without even turning to face him, Buffy replied, "I am downstairs. Just downstairs and outside."

"So...what are you doing outside? I don't exactly see any big nasties that need immediate killing, and it's a bit warmer inside..." He nodded to the house, then noticed she wasn't even paying attention to him. Without a word, he sat on the porch and laid down beside her.



"Do you believe in Fate?"

Spike shifted to face her, propping his head up with his hand. "What do you mean, pet?"

Buffy responded, still not looking at him. "Fate? You know, a higher power controlling our every decision, every moment of our lives?"

He laid back down on the porch and used both arms to cushion his head. After a moment of staring at the stars, he answered. "I don't know. Don't like to think that something's controlling me, that I don't get a choice. But in the end, I figure nobody knows." He gave her a sideways glance. "Guess you being a Slayer could prove it exists, right? I mean, I'm thinkin' you didn't actively campaign to become the next teenage girl to fight the evil and die young."

Buffy let out a bitter laugh, causing Spike to frown. "Hardly. God, when I first found out I was the Slayer...well, I did what I always seem to do when faced with something I don't like." She turned her head to look at him for the first time. " I went into *deep* denial."

Spike returned her gaze and chuckled. "Bad habit, that. Know of it myself."

She grinned, then looked back at the stars. "Yeah, but it was more than just denial. I fought it with everything I was. Hell, I even fought it again when I first moved here from L.A. I wouldn't accept it. I couldn't face my destiny. That I was only born to live a couple decades, *if* I was lucky, battle some major evil, ranging from super-old vampires to a hell-god to my best friend, then die just for some other poor girl to take my place. I guess I couldn't fight Fate though, could I? I mean, look at me...I'm here, still the Slayer."

Spike frowned again and stared at her forlorn face. "That's right. You are here. You're still the Slayer. And there isn't anything you can do about it. But just because that's your lot in life doesn't mean that's all you are. You're so much more than just the Slayer, Buffy." Spike sighed loudly and sat up straight on the porch steps, looking out into the backyard. "I told you before, luv. You're *not* normal. You'll probably never get a chance to live the bloody white picket fence, two point five kids dream life. And I'd wager you'd be bored to tears if you ever did. That's just not who you are. You have to let that go, and you'll be happier when you do."

"That's not what I'm holding onto, really. I'm past normal. Actually, I got over that awhile ago." Buffy took a second to sit up as well. "It's the fact that I *won't* let anything have power over me. I'm in charge of me. If there is something out there that controls us all, it makes all the choices and sacrifices I've made seem...insignificant. I mean, it was gonna happen anyway, so I went through all of the drama for nothing." She stared blankly out into the night, and Spike could tell this wasn't the only thing troubling her. "I don't want to be controlled by something, Spike. I don't want my thoughts, and choices, and feelings, to not be real."

"Buffy." She heard the heartfelt concern in his voice and turned to face him. "What's *really* wrong? I know there's something more to it than this. You seemed okay a while ago, when we were sparring. What brought on the sudden gloom and contemplation?"

She laughed, but he couldn't tell if it was sincere or sardonic. "Yes, because I am She of the Consistent Emotions." Sardonic it is. "I was just...thinking."

"I could see that. 'Bout what, though?"

She was silent for a long moment. When he had finally decided that she hadn't heard him, she spoke in the softest voice possible, barely a whisper.

"I should hate you."

Okay. Not what he was expecting. "Yeah, you should. Any specific reason? Or maybe you shouldn't dignify that with a response."

"No, see, that's the thing. There *isn't* any specific reason why I should. I mean, the...thing, yeah. But I've dealt with that. I mean on a fundamental level. You're a, *were* a vampire. I'm a Slayer. It's kinda frowned upon for Slayers to get too friendly with their prey. Not that I was ever really friendly. But, I just *didn't*...hate you, that is. I don't think I ever did. I mean, a lot of the time I didn't harbor any fuzzy feelings towards you. But I never killed you either, even when I had the opportunity. And you never killed me, although I'm sure you truly wanted to."

Spike tried to follow her, but he wasn't doing a good job of it. "No offense, luv, but do you have a point?"

Buffy sighed and turned to look him in the eye. "What if Fate intervened? What if they stopped us from killing each other back then? What if they made us...made *you*...fall in love with me? What if it's been set up since the beginning of whenever that we were destined to be together, and we never really had a choice in any of it? What if it's all just Fate?"

He stared at her for a moment and in the moonlight saw the shining of unshed tears in her eyes. He didn't know whether to comfort her or tell her the truth. Well, he always was one to say it like it was...

"I don't care."

Alright, not the response *she* was expecting. "You don't *care*? You mean, you don't have an opinion on it?"

"No. I mean, I don't give a shit whether or not this was already preordained before either of us existed. I don't care about the why's, or the how's, or when's. All I care about is this..." He took her left hand in his right, caressing her palm with the pad of his thumb before turning to face her completely. "...I love you, Buffy. More than anything I've ever cared about in the history of my being. And whether I came up with this revelation all on my own, or some all-powerful Powers That Be planted the idea in my head...I don't care. Either way, I still love you just the same. And I always will."

Buffy knew that the tears were pouring down her face, but she couldn't seem to care. "I can't hate you, Spike. I won't."

He smiled softly. "Well, that's a relief."

Before he could say another word, she was in his arms, hugging him like she was holding on to dear life. "I did care about you, Spike. I missed you *so* much. You'll never know how much I missed you."

Spike was speechless. He was pretty much unable to make an intelligent thought at the moment, too. All he could think, over and over, was, ** She missed me. **

Buffy finally broke his mantra by taking his face between her hands. "Spike..." Her face was flushed from crying, and her eyes were all puffy and red. She never looked more beautiful to him. "Spike, I..."

Her words were cut off by his lips lightly brushing her own. Softly, slowly, he teased her mouth, nipping gently before tracing her parted lips with his tongue. She tilted her head and opened her mouth more, wanting to deepen the kiss just as much as he did. His tongue slid made its way past her teeth, eager to explore her and to make up for all the time he'd missed.

He knew he shouldn't have cut her off. She probably had something very important that she needed to tell him. But he couldn't help it. He couldn't go even one more *second* without kissing her, without remembering how she tasted. How she felt.

He always had been an impatient man.

The kiss quickly went from being a gentle, tender exploration to being the fiery, passionate kisses they were used to. His hands slid underneath her tank top, lightly caressing the soft skin of her stomach. The touch became stronger, more possessive, as he worked his way up her torso and finally reached the flesh of her breasts. He kneaded them gently at first, then more firmly, and her soft moan as the pressure increased nearly did him in all by itself. She clutched to the fabric of his shirt as tightly as she could, nearly ripping it as she twisted it in her fists. With a silent communication, Buffy lifted her arms into the air and he pulled her shirt slowly over her head, their lips only parting while the top passed her face. He pulled her back to him as quickly as possible, one hand clutching the back of her neck while the other roamed up and down her back, tracing indefinable patterns. She had both hands wrapped in his hair, pressing him to her as closely as possible. Turning them both around, Spike laid Buffy down on the cool porch and leaned over top of her, just gazing at her flushed body and well-kissed lips.

"I love you, Buffy."

Smiling tenderly, he leaned down to continue what they started, when she put both hands flat on his chest. "Spike, wait. Stop."

Looking completely confused, he raised himself back over her. "What's wrong?"

Buffy sat up and found her tank top, putting it back on. Spike laid flat on his back, and sighed in disappointment. This couldn't happen again. Things were different now. She wasn't going to just kiss him and run anymore. She cared about him. She wasn't just gonna use him again.

Was she?

Buffy stood up and walked over to where Spike lay, then reached down a hand to help him up. He took it without saying a word, and she gave him an apologetic smile. "Spike, I want to. I *really* do."


Taking his hand, she pulled him into another hug. He could get used to this. "But...I'm not ready yet. I'm still really confused, and not just about you. Give me some time, okay?"

Smiling widely, Spike nuzzled into her hair and inhaled its soft scent. "Long as it takes, luv. I can wait."

Buffy backed just far enough away to look into his eyes, then reached up to plant a soft, lingering kiss to his lips. "Not too long. Promise."

Taking his hand, she led him through the back door into the kitchen. "Did I mention how adorable you look in plaid?"

Yay!!! Finally, a new chapter! So, *so* sorry it took so long to get it out. Real life stuff got in the way and I just temporarily lost my Muse...for about a month. But hopefully I'll be back on track now and will continue to update regularly. I promise one thing, though: even if the updates are inconsistent, I *guarantee* that I *will* finish this, no matter how long it takes! But for your sakes and mine, I hope it'll be sooner rather than later.

Next up: Spike goes shopping and Xander gets a visitor.