Author's Notes:

Buffy timelines are all wonky, but I'm setting this one between 'Doomed' and 'A New Man', despite the air dates, since 'Doomed' follows right on the heels of 'Hush' - and 'Hush' is definitely still fall semester. Plus, this way, it makes more sense when Spike complains that the Slayer didn't come to see him off when he moves out of Xander's basement. She really has no reason to in canon, not unless they'd recently shared some kind of off-screen moment. :)


Season Four – 1999

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Spike sat at the bar, nursing his beer. His unlife had taken a turn for the better in the last few days, ever since he'd realized demons made for government-approved punching bags, but he was still good and bollixed.

Neutered. And living in that Harris wanker's basement. Having to purchase quarter from the Slayer and her little pals. It just wasn't right. Not for the Slayer of Slayers, not for the vampire that had terrorized the world for over a century.

And speaking of the Slayer bitch… In she walked, strolling right past him without even noticing him, her ragtag band of rejects trailing behind. Spike caught a whiff of her scent and wanted to work up a good killing rage, but instead his traitorous dick hardened. It had been doing that too often of late. Ever since the witch's bloody spell, the one that had had the Slayer squirming in his lap, kissing him far more passionately than their previous never-to-be-spoken-of kisses.

He drained his beer, wanting to get out of there before she saw him. Spike did not want to deal with her, not tonight. Should have killed her last year, when she was all trussed up and in my grasp. But no, he'd had to be a first class ponce, a right git, and let her off with no more than a kiss. A simple kiss that had haunted his dreams – until the more substantial ones of a month ago had taken its place.

Spike moved away from the bar and towards the door, careful of the crowd, not wanting to set off his chip despite his hurry to evade the Slayer.

No such luck.

"Spike."

"Slayer," he acknowledged, turning to face her.

"Where you off to?"

He shrugged. "Around. Thought I might see what's happening down at Willy's."

"You sure it's safe for you to wander about on your own?" His forehead creased. Was she actually worried about him? She glanced at her friends, who were putting on the dopey party hats he'd eschewed, then back at him with a wicked smile.

Ah. No, the Slayer wasn't worried about him, not one whit. She wanted payback for last year. And with this chip in his noggin, she'd have no trouble extracting it from him.

Bollocks.

"Why don't you stick around, Spike?"

"Hang with the assholes that can't even fake a little terror in my presence?" he sneered. "Thanks, but no."

Her lower lip crept out in a mockery of a pout, and all other thought fled from his brain. He still remembered what if felt like to nibble on that soft flesh, to lave it with his tongue. "But Spikey, it's almost midnight, and we have a standing date, don't we?" The bitch's eyes were cold and contemptuous despite her pleading tone.

"You all alone again, then, Slayer? Still can't keep a boy around to snog? What happened to that Riley tosser you've been on about, he get a taste of the goodies and decide you weren't worth a second go either? That's becoming a real-"

She cut him off with a resounding slap to the face. "I loathe you," she spat. "And for your information, my boyfriend went home to visit his family for the holidays, but he'll be back tomorrow. So looks like you're the only one who can't hang on to a girlfriend – not even Harmony. And how pathetic is that?"

Damn. He'd been feeling like his old bad self for a moment, relishing the hurt on her face and the tears in her eyes, and somehow she'd turned it around and cut him down to size within seconds. The chit was good.

"Touché." Spike turned to leave, but she stopped him with her hand. He stared at her small hand on his arm, perplexed. "You serious, Slayer? You really want to keep up our tradition?"

Buffy shrugged. "Way I see it, my luck's been crap, but you've had a worse year than me. Maybe my jinx is worse than yours."

Leaning in, Spike's voice dropped an octave. "And maybe you just want to keep those other promises we made. The little nasties we whispered in each other's ears under Red's spell." She shivered, shocked eyes flicking up to his before dropping to the ground, her cheeks flaming. "Oh-ho. No forgetting spell after all."

With a visible effort, she brought herself under control. "Yeah, well. Would you want Willow mucking about in your brain?"

"Even less than I want the bleeding Initiative in there," he assured her, and she snorted.

Buffy looked back at her friends, who were dancing now, and Spike wondered what was going on in that noggin of hers. "Do you think we're cursed or something? Doomed to each other's company?" she asked.

"Well, no. All it takes is for you to join your mates and me to go my merry way, and our little tradition is broken."

"Right. Oooh, or I could kill you. That would end it too."

"Who says you'll be killing me? I could kill you."

She rolled her eyes and smacked him on the head. "The pain says. Besides," she continued when he made to protest. "You had your chance last year, you stupid cheater, and you blew it. You wouldn't be able to kill me now even if you lost your leash."

How'd she figure that? Did she think he'd gone soft on her? "Oi-"

"Give it up. I beat you, fair and square, even with the Gem of Amarra. I'm better than you."

"Oh, hell no. That was just a fluke. I get this chip out, I'll show you."

"Uh huh. You wanna go patrol?"

No, he didn't want to patrol with her, not when she'd dismissed him so casually, without even a frisson of fear, not when he should be tearing her throat out, or at the very least telling her to sod off and-

"Yeah, all right."

Bloody hell.

He followed her as she made her way to the little witch, doing his best not to look surprised when the Slayer outright lied to the redhead.

"Spike says he saw a demon, some big stinky thing, over by the mall. I'm going to go check it out."

"Need any help?" Willow asked.

Shaking his head, Spike said smoothly, "Just a Fyarl, all brawn, no brains. The two of us will have no problem with it."

"Cool," Willow replied, not even questioning him, and he had to repress the urge to snort. Trusting idiots. How had this lot survived Sunnyhell so long?

Buffy waved to the boy and his bird, then pivoted and hurried away before the couple could engage her, Spike trailing behind like a faithful dog. He soothed his pride by imagining all the ways he would kill her once he got the chip out, ignoring the way her hair bounced with every step. He wasn't soft, damn it.

They wandered through the cemetery a while, not speaking, until she began to shiver. "You're not quite dressed for slaying," Spike remarked as he lit a fag. Not going to give her my coat. No bloody way. Not even considering it.

"Guess not." She kicked at the ground. "We could go to my place. Watch the ball drop?"

Spike tipped his head, thinking. "Yeah, why not. Nothing else to do, other than hang out in your boy's basement. Nothing going on out here."

"This doesn't mean I like you or anything."

He was not thinking she looked adorable. No, he was thinking that her cold-nipped nose and cheeks were only attractive because they reminded him of the blood pounding through her veins, the blood he would be bathing in any day now. He was most definitely not noticing how glossy her hair looked under the moonlight, or the shine in her eyes. And if you suggested to him that he was looking forward to another kiss, he'd tear your throat out, chip or no.

"'Course not. We have a long-standing tradition of seething hatred, you and I. No amount of snogging will ever change that."

She had that deer-in-the-headlights look again. "Who said anything about kissing?" she squeaked.

"Just… you know. Red's spell. That's all."

Shoulders relaxing, Buffy nodded. "Oh. Right. That's all." They walked in silence until they entered the darkened house,, shooting each other tiny glances the entire way. Spike shrugged off his duster, laying it over the banister as Buffy walked over to the telly and snapped it on, fiddling until she found the countdown.

"I'd offer you something to drink, but… no blood. Or booze. And I don't really know how to make tea, so…" She stood there, shifting from foot to foot, looking everywhere but at him.

"S'all right, pet. No need." Spike perched himself on the edge of the couch, back erect, knees drawn together. And felt like a right wanker. With a sneer, he sprawled out, legs splayed, hands resting in a way guaranteed to draw her gaze. "Looks like we got here just in time," he said with a nod at the telly.

Sixty… fifty-nine… fifty-eight…

"Guess so." Buffy stared at the screen, and Spike could see her mind going a mile a minute. He held his breath as she turned back to him. "You know, you're not such a bad kisser… and I can't believe I just said that. Strike it from your memory."

"Duly struck."

"I mean, you're evil and disgusting, and I don't want to kiss you at all. I have a boyfriend, and he's nice and normal, and not dead, which is so a plus, never mind not being evil."

Spike wasn't listening to her words anymore; instead, he was watching the rapid rise and fall of her chest, the blush staining her cheeks. He rose and closed the space between them, noting with satisfaction how her heart sped up and she shivered. With fear. And something more.

Ten… nine… eight…

"What happens here, Slayer…"

"Doesn't mean a thing," she finished.

Two…

Buffy stepped forward, erasing the inches between them, her hands burying into his hair and tugging him downwards to her mouth, thumbs tracing his cheekbones.

One…

He let his hands rest on her waist as they kissed, and though it was nowhere near as passionate as the kisses they'd shared while ensorcelled, Spike knew he'd be reliving this one for the foreseeable future.

Doesn't mean anything. So I want to shag her. Nothing wrong with that. Fuck her and kill her, just like how many other women in the past. Means nothing, Dru was wrong, he told himself as his tongue traced her lower lip.

Happy New Year!

When she pulled away, her swollen lips beckoned him, and he had to refrain from lunging forward and recapturing them. "So," she said, stepping back, breathless. "Whose year is going to suck more, do you think?"

In all honesty, Spike figured it would be his, but that wasn't how the game was played, now was it?

"Well, yours, obviously." He ran a hand through his hair and added, "I'm off. Evil to plot, your painful death to dream of."

Buffy followed him to the door, thrusting his duster in his face. "Business as usual. And Spike? You ever mention this to anyone…"

Looking down at her, he smirked, "Mention what, sweets?"

"You disgust me," she called after him as he swaggered down the sidewalk.

He didn't look back.