By Sweetprincipale

This is set in my non-canon, but canon-esque series following Uncontrollable and Unmentionable. If you haven't read those first, please do, or this won't read nearly as well or make much sense. Unknown begins a few weeks after the end of Unmentionable, around the beginning of season five.

Dedicated to: ginar369 - who provided immense support this week in particular, Alexiarrose, omslagspapper, Dlillith21, Sirius120, Jackiemack916, Jewel74, Illusera, cavemenftw, rosalea12, kse93, kerry220, jhiz, Alottalove, CailinRua, skeezixx, Juggling, Pickl3lily, Annomonk, .49, DidiSummers, Rachel, Juggler, Nonnikie, arlenedemalk, Mike13z50, and all the anonymous guest reviewers who I can't reply to personally and thank. Your support means so much to me! Thank you. I hope my story is thanks enough for the kindness that you show me.

Direct Quotes are obviously not mine, but belong to the fabulously talented and creative people who wrote them. In this case, some of season five's dialogue will be used.

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


"This is- really awesome." Tara held up the heavy crystal gazing ball from Giles.

"What was that?" Giles bellowed, hand cupped to his ear.

"AWESOME!" Tara shouted back, holding up the ball and nodding eagerly at it.

"You said we couldn't get that. You said it was 'stereotypical'." Xander hissed at Anya.

"Willow is your best friend, she's the one who rants on about stereotyping witches. When I asked if they had a broom, Tara said they had a dust buster for their dorm. Then I got the stereotype lecture again." Anya shrugged and pushed her volume of runic translations wrapped in tissue paper across the table littered with empty cups and half eaten cake. "Happy birthday! You can't return it, I got it on clearance."

"I need one of these! Really!" Tara beamed again. "Definitely a keeper."

"Ooh, let me look at that." Willow affectionately leaned her chin on her girlfriend's shoulder, arms around her waist, cuddling on her. Tara held up the book so she could see better, the picture of contentment, insides warm and surging softly with the feel of Willow wrapping around her.

"I had like- no time- o-or brain cells, devoted to shopping, and I was going to run to the store yesterday, but then with the - the things, and the Chinese pre-birthday dinner-" Buffy babbled nervously, hands clasping and unclasping.

"She means she didn't have a lot of time to browse, but she hopes you like it." Spike plunked a small box wrapped in the art gallery's standard brown paper down in front of Tara. He avoided looking at his lover, who had been agonizing over what to get the girl and hadn't managed to shop, what with school and impromptu confrontations at every sodding turn.

"Uh. Yeah. And that's not the whole gift. That's an appetizer gift." Buffy explained, trying to keep the shocked look off her face.

Tara opened a box of clover and chamomile blend herbal tea. "Thanks, guys." She sniffed it and sighed happily. "Mmm."

"I figured it sounded all white witch flower power crap." Spike snorted. Willow and Buffy glared.

"But we figured you'd love it." Buffy intervened hastily and pressed it into Tara's hands with a sincere smile. All the while she was silently thinking it was nice she'd found someone who could bail her out on occasion, and who still required enough bailing out of his own to be considered an equal partner.

"That's it. We're gifted out. Do we dance some more?" Anya demanded. Buffy twisted a little, a broad smile on her face.

"I think I'm going to have to pass." Joyce smiled painfully. Pounding music, pounding head, greasy food, meds, and light sensitivity combined with the Bronze's effect lighting were causing her more pain than she'd willingly let on. "It was nice of you to invite the old folks out." She bussed Tara's cheek lightly and rose.

No one mentioned that Giles would have been invited, and that no one considered him old. Well- not all the time. "I wanted to have all my family here." Tara said with a gentle smile, eyes clear, with no lurking worry in them.

"I'll run you home." Giles smiled and hesitated before leaning down to press his cheek to Tara's as well. "Many happy returns."

"Thanks for coming." Tara didn't feel the usual urge to pull away from a relative stranger's touch. They were family now. Unrelated, and yet close as anyone had ever been to her.

The younger set waved them off, and then paired off, Willow and Tara, Xander and Anya to the dance floor, and Spike and Buffy hung back at the table.

"Good save with the tea." Buffy smiled crookedly at him.

"Good save with what you said about the tea." Spike kept his eyes trained on the girls swaying together. "Those two. Gonna float away any second, practically got rainbows and angelic harp music comin' out of every orifice. Sickening." He pushed a cigarette into the corner of his sneering lips.

"Liar." Buffy teased, leaning over to him, brushing his ear softly with her warm lips. "You're happy for them."

"Of course I am." Spike admitted huffily, cigarette temporarily ignored. Then the miffed bad guy front dropped as he moved closer to her on the bar stools, and put the smoke back on the table. "In spite of all we've got goin' on, Slayer- I'm pretty bloody happy."

"Me, too." Buffy kissed him and sighed. "Patrol?"

"Then home?"

"Very yes." Buffy gathered her coat and hopped down to the floor as she watched two of her best friends gently lift off the ground, dancing on the air itself. Love will do that to you. "Let's make it a fast patrol. I can't wait to get home."

"Should we install some sort of a deadbolt?" Buffy entered the crypt a little after midnight, and paused at the door, staring at it after Spike shut it.

"Is that some sort of joke? I'll do you for racial slurs, Slayer." Spike shook his head at her and went over to the fridge. "Shoulda stopped at Willie's. Maybe someone oughta mention to the barkeep at the Bronze that a little of the red stuff wouldn't come amiss."

Buffy ignored him, still eyeing it critically. "People can walk right in here. I mean, yeah, we're usually hidden or downstairs, but you could get fried if someone throws the door open while you're sitting up here, watching Passions. And don't tell me you'd hear them coming, because you know you always fall asleep during Geraldo." Buffy ran her hands along the door frame thoughtfully. "Maybe we could ask Willow and Tara to at least install some sort of ward on the ground around it. Something that won't interfere with the anti-Riley spell. Or something that make a really loud sound if anyone comes within five feet of the door."

"What? A big magical doorbell?" Spike chortled and pulled his warmed blood from the microwave and drank it down.

"Not everyone knocks!" Buffy pointed out, pouting at his teasing.

"You sure as hell didn't. You wanna put out a little welcome mat, too? Bowl of nuts for visiting demons who're waitin' around to get the ass kicked off of 'em?"

"This from the vamp who was complaining about counter space two days ago."

"Need to put a board over one of the coffins. Solved." Spike drained the warm fluid fast so he wouldn't have to taste it. "Seriously, Luv, anyone who wants to come in here finds a very angry vamp, or a very offended Slayer, or both at once. No one'd live to tell the tale- or it'd be some unsuspecting drunk lookin' for a place to sleep it off. Either way- no one who'd be a repeat visitor." Spike sidled up to her. "If you're so worried about privacy, let's go downstairs."

"Mmm." Buffy nuzzled her head back under his chin as he embraced her. "Maybe I'm just trying to make sure Xander doesn't walk in on us messing up the chairs again. It'd scar him for life."

Spike inhaled the scent pressed right to his quivering nostrils. Eyes closed, white hands slowly wrapping around her arms. "Then lets do everything downstairs for now- and we'll put some sort of a chain on the hatch. We can tie it down once we're in if we need to. Our own little-" He licked the sweet salt tang of her skin, running slowly up the throbbing vein in her neck, "safe. Where no one gets to us."

"God, so good." She moaned. Being safe was good. Spike doing whatever he was doing to her pulse points? Better.

"I'm just getting started."


"For starting over- this looks a hell of a lot like doing the same stupid things we've been doing." Glory looked resentfully around one of the little used temples of Isis, and stepped over a body of a recently brain-emptied priestesses . "This is a 'pagan' place. I don't think they would have hid it here."

"You needed to eat, Most Beautiful One." Jinx pointed to the mumbling, shaking bodies surrounding them.


"And it is a place of ancient magic. And goodness. Isis was the protector of children, friend to sinners, a devoted-"

"She was the mother of a war god. So good? Maybe, maybe not. Good is 'relative' to these skin bags. These Egyptian bitches had style, though." Glory considered, smiling at the wall paintings and ornate gold trimmings. They made her scowl momentarily. "You can still pay twenty bucks and take a tour of their earthly kingdoms. Stupid humans."

"Your realm is one of pure hell, and so much more worthy of worship." Jinx placated.

Glory spared him a smile. "You're my favorite little scab, you know that?"

Jinx's leprous looking skin managed to change hue as he stammered out something appropriately abashed and grateful. He wasn't given any notice, for there was a relieved, glad cry from behind the altar where priests and mages were using the holy fire for a most unholy purpose.

"We've got it! We've found them!" The chief priest shouted, while the mages exchanged thankful looks. An impatient immortal in a rapidly decaying human vessel had little kindness for anything but results, and good news meant their lives were spared another day.

"Oh, thank - well, thank me." She smirked and rushed forward. "You get to live now." A chorus of sighs broke out. "If we catch them, that is." The sighs vanished.

"They're back in the area of their monastery." One mage explained in a puzzled voice.

"You have to go home sometime." Glory shrugged. "Or at least kill everyone trying."

He coughed uncomfortably. "But- we've been searching for the Abbott and fratres superior all this time and they were always cloaked."

"Not to mention they've been gone for -" One of the younger priests hesitantly began when he was cut off with a snap of blood red talons- and then actual blood.

"You better hope your tongue grows back before we find my Key." Glory turned away from the scrying flames, a triad of ruby pinpoints still dancing in her eyes. "I want to be there. Where they are. Now." Her blood flecked fingertips sizzled with a burst of power.

"Ah. Ah- no, no, please, your Amazingly Powerfulness." Jinx stammered. "The Knights will already be suspicious when they find an entire temple has been besieged by madness. Soon they'll be on our trail."

"So? Kill them." Glory gestured to the babbling, rocking people scattered around the temple floor. "Then no one'll know if they were missing their minds."

"But- when you use so much power, you drain all your energy. All you've just fed on, all you've gained, undone." Glory looked unconvinced. Jinx played his trump card. "You might get to the point where you're too weak to emerge. Your brother would be in control at all times..."

Glory huffed. "Fine! We'll travel in secret, we'll keep all this power bottled up." She snorted angrily. "But if I lose them again..." Her eyes raked across her minions, lingering over the unfortunate party gargling his own blood. She didn't need to finish her threat.


"Once again it falls to three noble brothers to step into shoes too soon left empty." A graying, grizzled figure in a long robe said gravely. Then he smiled sadly. "Still. We welcome you into your offices. Brothers Thomas, Gregori, and Antony, or as you shall now be called, Holy Father, and Fratres Superior." He placed a benediction on all three of the young men, now stepping into such dangerous roles. "Guide well, Abbot."

"As God directs me." Thomas, the gentle leader in the former Abbot's absence, gave the reply.

"Assist our Father well."

"With all our hearts." Gregori and Antony, two of the most skilled brothers, chosen to take the places of Mathias and Vincenzo, rejoined.

"A new era begins. An old battle still wages. Lead and fight in peace and safety."

Many voices agreed, "Amen."

"God, yes, God, yes, GOD! YES!" Buffy's chants matched the thrusting pace of him driving into her, harder and harder.

Spike chuckled. "Can I get a little credit, Luv?"

"No questions- brain broken." Buffy panted and pushed him over on his back, shifting and bucking to keep him inside her.

"Your brain and my spine." Spike griped, but clung onto her hips and slammed her down to his base. His jaw popped and flexed at the rush of scalding juice washing him down, hissed at the tight grip she had on him.

Buffy rolled her head back and looked at the ceiling, eyes fluttering as she rolled and ground herself against him.

Spike's eyes shut, then slitted. All this coppery mass, blonde and honey, with hidden hints of pink... Beautiful. He leaned her back a little and watched her sheath him, swallow him whole. His hand changed places, smooth, cool palm over her taut, trembling abdomen, and the thumb over her tight, pink nub.

Pounding, building up against him, a long wail, a soft wail, desperate fingers suddenly scrabbling for his and they locked together on her side, and at their joining.

"Don't hurt yourself." He groaned once, knowing it was an unnecessary caution.

"Doesn't hurt. Never hurts." She winced as something spasmed inside, and her hips twisted and strained, a long, wracking pulse.

"It's not pain, is it, Baby?" He was suddenly sitting up, eye to eye, a dark, breathless grin on his face as he tangled their thighs together, setting her cross legged around him, a knot of pleasured, fevered, flesh.

"Intense. Feels real. Feels like finally." Finally feel something, inside me, inside my head and my heart and- ohhhh God, right there. "Spiiike." She bit down on his shoulder in her climax, and felt his fingers clawing into her soft skin, without tearing it.

He shuddered under her and into her, making her cum again, a tremor after her quaking release.

Buffy clung to him, draped over him needfully, and he held onto her just as hard, harsh rasps on the nape of her neck, where blunt teeth and cool lips kissed deep and urgently.


"Bloody hell." He agreed.

"We need to take a night off more often."

"Yeah... or it could just be this is what every night at home would be like for us."

Buffy slowly lifted her head. His blue eyes were right there, waiting to engulf her green ones. "You keep saying things like that, I'm going to believe them."

"Good." He lifted her tangled hair off one side of her neck to cool it. "You're s'posed to b'lieve me. I'm not a lying bastard- to you any way." He gave her a small, crooked grin. Her smile blazed, then flickered and mellowed into something bittersweet. "What's that for?" He tilted his chin to her sobering smile.

"I love you. And I'm scared for you." She whispered. "Sometimes I start planning rosy -if completely unrealistic - futures in my head, and then I remember nothing is guaranteed to last. Death lives in this town. How's that for figurative language or something?" She tried to shrug the words into something meaningless. It wouldn't work.

"Hey. I know you're scared for your mum. An' me. I know there's a lot we don't know... maybe we're not meant to know, maybe we're never gonna know." Spike toppled down, let her join him, cradled on top. "I know I love you. I wanna be with you."

Everything was so simple with him. So stupidly complicated, but so simple between them. "This is home. I belong with you."

"You oughta know, 'specially after tonight. Family's what you make it."

Family. She'd had so little of it, and it had been so fragmented when she needed it most. That's why she'd easily fit into the surrogate clan of friends and Watcher. And now Spike. Family sounds all - wholesome. Vampires and Slayers, and passionately declaring your love, screw right and wrong- that's friends and lovers stuff. But family? "I'm your-"

He didn't let her question. Family had been a mother he was so desperate to keep alive that he ended up killing. Family had been blood, drained and shared. Blood meant nothing, no ties, only loyalty when it suited you, and betrayal when it suited them. Family was dark and painful, a mockery of what it should be. "You're mine. Nothing breaks that. Nothing changes it."

"You're mine, too." She agreed wholeheartedly.

There was a pause, both of them silent, not knowing what to say. Until he coughed and started to shift as if to get up. "Maybe that wasn't the best choice of words, yeah?" He mocked himself with a shrug of tight cream-colored shoulders.

"I just- never heard someone say it like that. You know? Not until there's a house and a station wagon and soccer balls-"


"-tripping you up in the garage."

"That's one sort, I guess."

"The sort I'm not going to have." She squeezed his wrist to keep him beside her. "Never would have. No matter what."

"I know I can't give you that." He gave her a small, bitter smile. "But I thought it was about- not backin' down. Not carin' what you are or were or will be. Jus' lovin' each other 'til the show's all done."

Buffy swallowed. "And even after." Another swallow, nodding this time, stroking his arm. "Souls go on forever, right?" It wasn't a question, it was an assurance, phrased like that so they wouldn't think too hard about the meaning behind the words.

"I guess they do, Slayer." Resolutely keeping his voice even.

"So- you're right. About what you said."

Another pause.

Spike cleared his throat. "Well now. Slayer says I'm right. Again. 'Dear Diary'."

"I'm yours." Buffy ignored the playfulness, for the moment.

He agreed, smile less jovial suddenly, smile very happy, but very serious. "You're mine."

They kissed lightly, then harder, once, twice, sinking into something new yet so long wanted.

"Do love you." Spike sighed contentedly.

"You'd better. What with me being yours. I'm not being yours otherwise." Buffy prodded him softly.

"Ah ah, goes both ways. I'm yours, too."

Buffy snuggled to his side, loving the ease of things between them. So serious and so deep, but they could easily put it in a lighter context. Both halves of their beings, satisfied. "Absolutely. Mine to love and - and drive crazy. And rescue from angry moms with heavy weapons."

He laughed, soft and deep, nestling in, with her beside him. "Not so bad is it, Luv? Got you to defend m' honor." He winked.

"I'm small but I'm wiry." She laughed and flexed her slender fingers.

"Mmm, speaking of small and wiry..." He rolled and pinned her suddenly.

"Spike! Stop that!" Buffy giggled as he shimmied down her.

"Make me, Slayer." He winked, and dove, beginning round two.

Two days later...

Joyce blinked and blinked again, hands up to her eyes. "Rupert, turn that down. Turn it off, please." Her voice sounded faintly hysterical.

"Yes, Sweetheart, steady on-oh!" Giles tried to shut the light off and support Joyce, both of which failed. The lamp teetered, and Joyce stumbled heavily into him.

Joyce clutched at her eyes and winced. "It's too bright."

"Yes, far too bright." Giles placated, sitting her on the couch, then rapidly moving to turn off the offending light.

"Don't patronize me." Joyce warned, still pulling away from the source of her pain.

"I'm not." Giles sounded offended.

"Buffy should be doing this, not you." Joyce said with a sudden flare of pique.

Giles turned slowly. "Buffy is at class. After that, she and Willow need to research something. Then she is patrolling. Then she'll be home. If you'd like me to fetch her home now, I can. I know that she'd rather be here, being with you, than researching something in a clunky old book or slaying something evil."

Apology and mulishness took turns on her pale, slightly thinner face. "I know she would." But she doesn't get to choose her fate, anymore than I get to decide whether or not chemo makes me sick today. But certain aspects that we can control... "I don't like having you do all this. All the time."

"Which is why I don't. I take my turn." He sat beside her, taking her hands. "All of us are happy to take a turn, at the store, searching for information, at the hospital. In terms of slaying, Spike patrols alone as needed."

"I know everyone does what they can, but-"

He held up a restraining hand. "But if I had my way, it'd be my turn every day, every time, with you." We grow old and creaky together, you and I. You'll hold my arthritic hand one day. Bring me my bifocals. He smiled slightly. "People who- erm- love each other do this sort of thing. Or so I'm given to understand."

I haven't felt loved in such a long time. Six years, or was it more? Oh, Buffy loved me, but she shut me out so often, and parental love gives and gives. I never expected it to balance out. I didn't expect her to take her father's place- just stay in her own, not go running off, into the night, into trouble. Making me feel so alone.

Her silence worried him. The dosages were higher, building slowly, as the doctors saw what she could tolerate, developed her program. Soon they'd level out, and the treatment regiment would stay the same. Only Giles wondered, as he watched her wincing in pain and seeming dazed at times, if her strength was a downfall. Would they push her body to the limits, was it cracking already? Was it the disease or the cure? The future he'd been shown and it's far more ghastly alternate loomed in front of him when he watched her staring through him.

He touched her arm softly. "Joyce? Darling, why don't you head up for a rest?"

"I was thinking." Joyce mused, as if she hadn't heard him. "We haven't been a couple for very long."

He was puzzled. "No, we haven't."

"You do so much."

You're my wife. Not now. But soon. He blinked away the darker future, and focused on the life he believed in, would fight for. I promised you my love, in sickness and in health. It's not my fault if sickness got a head start. "I do very little." Giles murmured. "Compared to what I would like to do."

"Compared to what others have done..." Joyce gave him a wry smile and a roll of her eyes.

"Don't compare."

"Even if you come out ahead?"

Well." He preened for a moment. "Perhaps a bit."

They shared a smile. Hers faded quickly. "Don't let yourself get burnt out, Rupert."

"I won't."

"I know, but- well, tough times put strain on relationships. I'm not some dewey eyed teenager with her first crush. People get stressed, people feel taken for granted, or like they need more than you're giving, and -"

"Would you like to compare him and I, Joyce?" Giles' smile was suddenly frosty, not directed at her, but at the person who had abandoned her during the first true trouble they'd known, the worry and responsibility of a daughter seemingly going mad, lost to them, lost to bad influences. He leaned forward, eyes hard and a touch dangerous. "Let me tell you something. Real men don't leave."

It came to her later, as the sun was setting, and night fell. The darkness was more comfortable for her eyes and the throbbing seemed to ease. Resting on crisp sheets, starting the day over as it ended, staring at a the dozing man beside her.

Maybe it was the sudden sympathy for someone else who had to avoid the daylight that made everything click in her mind. Or maybe it was the painkillers.

Real men don't leave.

Angel left because I asked him to. The first decent thing he did. Decent to me.

Riley left. He can fight monsters and defend the government, but he can't stay through the summer?

Real men don't leave.

Her sleepy mind swirled and replayed a hushed conversation held in a tiny kitchen.

"You're not a man. You're a-"

"Vampire. Don't deserve her love. Not a man."

Not a real man.

"She an' I have a deal where neither of us leaves, an' that's what I plan on stickin' to... Don't plan on lettin' anything separate us."

But he won't leave.

"Rupert?" Joyce asked urgently.

"Items on the back counter are not for sale!" Giles sat up in confusion, clutching for glasses that weren't on his face.

"What is Spike?" Joyce gave him a somewhat dilated-stare.

"Spike? Dearest, have you taken your medication ?"

"Do you think he's real?"

Giles rubbed his head. "Does this have something to do with that existentialist paper Buffy had to write? Because I already lent her my guide to modern philosophers."

"He won't leave. He's not really a man. But he seems... real." Joyce slowly sank back down, hating the way the room blurred at the edges.

Ah. Giles thought he understood. "Spike is much more than meets the eye."

"He can be so nice." Joyce sleepily mumbled.

"Hrm." Giles looked comically uncomfortable at that statement.

"I hate vampires."

"Ah, yes, that is a valid-"

"Buffy hates vampires."


"Spike is something else." Joyce wearily closed her eyes.

Giles gently laid a hand over her forehead. Burning up. He hastily got to his feet, buttoning up his shirt as he continued to listen to her drifting voice.

"Do you think he'll leave?"

Giles hesitated. "No." I don't just think it. I know he won't. "No, I don't think he will."

"Then that makes him real." Joyce opened her eyes again. "Rupert, my head is swimming."

"I'm not surprised. Your white blood cell count is surging, fighting off intruding cells, repairing-"

"Rupert." Joyce sat up abruptly, slightly green. "Excuse me."

She stumbled out of the room and across the hall. Over the sounds of gagging, she heard footsteps approach, the door knob turn halfway, then stop. Footsteps retreated. She didn't really want to be seen like this anyway.

She didn't expect him to be behind her suddenly, with a respectful little cough. Water ran. A cold cloth on the back of her neck. A soothing little humming sound.

He didn't say anything. He knew not to call attention to the weakness. But he wanted to be there, to be close.

Real men don't leave.

In the midst of the pain and the fever, Joyce was visited by the chilling thought that she wouldn't be around forever, and perhaps that time was coming sooner rather than later.

"I'm glad to know there are men like you." She finally gasped, sitting back when the bout was over.

He smiled slightly. He knew who she meant.

Spike asked the demon he was shaking down the same question he asked all of them now. "You know anything about monks?"


"You know what I mean!" He shook him threateningly by the throat.

"Monks? Priest people? But- from you know- olden times? Aren't they like, extinct?"

"No one fakes that much stupid." He growled despairingly, and twisted the head cleanly, until the vampire's spine snapped, then imploded. "God, Slayer, just for once I'd like to kill something with brains."

"Your people turn 'em, not mine." Buffy sat on the dumpster, kicking her feet restlessly.

"Yeah..." Spike wiped his hands off and spat in the ash. "Prey on the weak and the stupid. In other words, California teenagers. Not me though. Liked a challenge."

"You liked to make messes." Buffy swung herself down. "That's seventeen stupid, clueless looks in a two weeks. If they know something, they're not talking."

"I'm usually pretty good on figuring out when they're lyin', Slayer." He slid easily beside her, leather coat to suede, two hunters at ease in the dark. "Lot longer on the job."

Buffy sighed. "Will was researching when I left. No dice. Of course, it'd be easier if we could tell her what was really going on. She might be able to look for what we're actually looking for."

"Which would be?"

"Good point."

He sighed. "Can't have it all." Spike steered them down another alley. "We haven't hit the warehouse district in a couple."

Buffy groaned. "But there's no 'big bad' right now, Spike. We've been doing this for two hours and we've covered half the town. Evil's a little thin on the ground- and I am not complaining." Buffy rested her head on his shoulder. "When there's real life crap, the less slayer crap the better."

Spike nodded, and they walked a few paces in silence. "Have you seen her yet today?"

"You mean after the hospital? I stopped home. Giles said she was sleeping again." Buffy chewed her inner cheek for a minute. Sometimes if you didn't say it out loud, it didn't seem real. On the other hand if you didn't, it silently rattled around in your brain until you were driving yourself crazy. "He said she had a fever. And she was throwing up."

"I thought she did that on treatment days?"

"Only on some." Buffy started walking faster.

"Fever. Is that common?"

"Giles said it is sometimes. It's those 'flu-like symptoms'. That's from the chemo. The radiation makes her tired. And light headed, and dry mouthed, and then she can't keep fluids down on chemo days."

"When does this all stop?" Spike removed his arm from her shoulders, digging agitatedly in his coat pockets for smokes.

"Radiation stops in a few weeks. Chemo's longer."

"Hate to see her like that." Spike twitched a slim white cylinder into his mouth and lit it with slightly unsteady hands. "Dammit."

"I know." Buffy ran her hands through her hair distractedly. "It hasn't been that long, but it feels like forever."

"You don't know the half of it. Wait until it's months. Watchin' her get weaker an' weaker, paler... In pain all the time. She couldn't even breathe in sometimes when the coughin' got real b-" Spike realized he was muttering angrily away to no one. Buffy had stopped, several steps back, and stared, frozen. Dammit. "Oh, not that Joyce will! Oh, no, Joyce's gonna be fine, Slayer, I was just sayin' how it used to be. Back before they had all this scientific mojo."

"Back in your time." Buffy said slowly.

"Yeah. Round then." Spike said carelessly, and then impatiently motioned her forward. "You wanna use a little of that Slayer speed, Luv? I'm gettin' gray here, and that's no easy job."

Buffy joined him silently, moving at her normal speed, while he walked ahead, shouting back abrasive little comforts over his shoulder.

"She'll be fine! Your mum is gonna be fine. You can look right inside her effin' brain, see the damn thing shrinking down. Fever's nothing. Nothin'!"

"Yeah. Modern medicine." Buffy caught up to him easily, but he barely looked at her. "It's come a long way. You're right."

"Bloody right I'm right." He scowled.

More silent speed walking. Outwardly silent. Inwardly, thoughts were loud and buzzing noisily.

Took Drusilla home to meet his family. He said it ended badly. The way he talks about his mother. The way he talks about illness, weaker, paler, months of it... "Was it your mother?"

"What?" Spike whirled, flaring nostrils, and black leather swinging wide. "Slayer, stop -"

"Was she the one who was sick?" Buffy ignored his demand. He nodded tersely. "And when you went home to see her, with Drusilla..." Buffy swallowed. "She told you it'd be kinder? Or d-did you think it would be more merciful to just end- just end it?"

"Shut your- shut your mouth." Spike's arm flew back, and fell instantly. He wasn't mad at her. Not directly. He wanted to punch something, but not her. "I would never have taken her life. Unless I thought, unless I was clutchin' at straws, thought I could cure whatever hurt her. The way I was cured."

He looked so pained. Angry, miserable, lost, and he turned away from her in a mixture of fury and grief. "You should get home." He left her standing in confusion in the dark, hurrying away from questions he didn't want to answer.

He turned her. He didn't kill her. Well, yeah, he did, but not like- for good. Weirdness.

But Angel and Giles always said when someone turns, they kill their families first. The demon does it, drives them to it. Because the demon wants to be in control of the human, and everything human about you needs to die. What would kill the humanity in someone faster than murdering their family? Killing everyone they loved?

They would never turn them. It'd be too much of a reminder, and vampires have their human memories. Every day you see the face of your mother, and you remember being alive, being human.

She stopped walking dazedly behind him and began to take long, quick strides, determined to catch him.

He wanted to save her. He wanted her to live, not die.

But Spike is special, Tara said that from the first time she read him. Human side was in control whenever he wanted it to be.

Maybe his mom wasn't so lucky.

What would it be like to see the thing you wanted to save turning into something so dark, so demonic?

A flash of Angel's face, replaced with Angelus' sneer. Maybe there wasn't anything worse that watching your lover turn evil, but if there could be something tied for first in the "things going horribly wrong, monsters in people you love" category? Spike and losing his mother had the title all sewn up.

Buffy shivered and wanted his unique warmth. She didn't need to think anymore. She could figure out how that story ended, even without one more word from him.

If I walk fast enough, I won't hear her stupid little voice. Asking me. The horrified tones. The accusation. The sudden disgust.

Soddin' soul. He scratched his chest once, fancied he felt it sting his fingers.

He knew he was lying to himself. This pain had always felt sharp and fresh, no matter how many decades old the memory was. The reason it stung so bad this time was because someone else knew about it. Someone who cared.

She'll figure it out, already has. Oh, she hides a lot under the little airhead exterior.

I know she loves me. Won't leave me. Question is- what's she gonna think of me? Will she look at me the same?

Her hand slid into his smoothly. He jumped and swore under his breath. Buffy smiled slightly. The only one in the world who can get the drop on him. Good thing I'm on his side. Her fingers squeezed his palm, and his hand captured hers tightly in response. "You know I'm as fast as you."

Faster. He merely nodded and exhaled the chill night air.

"It's nice to have someone who gets what I'm going through." Buffy whispered.

He didn't know it was possible to love her more, until that second.

Buffy found herself engulfed in his arms and his kisses. "It's okay, Spike."

"No. It's not." He corrected thickly. "But this is."

One figure crept into the house, turned off the one remaining light left burning, and looked half-grateful and half-regretful to find the other occupant or occupants had already gone to bed.

Buffy raced upstairs noiselessly, and passed her mother's room with a lingering glance, before her eyes became locked on what she could see dimly outlined against the glass of her window.

They needed to be there for Joyce. They needed to be there for each other. No one needs to be alone in times like this. The Chosen One, who had broken the rules and left the lonely path behind, brought both halves of her life together.

Spike wasn't even in the window before his hand cupped her cheek and pulled her to him again. Three minutes apart was too many right now. "Slayer-"


They were silent in the darkened room, with hungry kisses that made her gasp as her lungs cried for air. Clothes fell off and were pulled down, or torn off with such speed it sounded like a rustle of silk instead of the tearing of fabric.

I love you. He pressed his mouth against the apex of her cleavage, let her feel the words, since she couldn't hear them.

"Show me." She whispered, pulling at his shoulders, pulling him up and in, fast and fluidly.

He moved into her hard, but noiselessly, the rising of her ribcage and the biting of her lip the only indication of how much she wanted to cry out. He let out a soft grunt and tangled one hand in her hair, the other up under her shoulder.

Her legs found their way through his, and over, up across hips as her arms laced over his back and her nails sank into his skin possessively.

She didn't change on me. She didn't leave. She didn't even ask. "I will never love you more than I do right now." Spike's voice curled inside her ear.

"Nothing you do will ever make me love you less." Buffy replied.

To be continued...