A.N. Hello! Lots of apologies for not updating in eons. Things are crazy on this end, but here is an update. Forgive the mild shortness, we're nearing the end as it is. Thanks for all the reviews, favorites, and follows, they are wonderful and greatly appreciated!

Buffy found it typical that at eight o'clock she left the house carrying two battle axes when two hours earlier she had been hurling pillows across the room at her boyfriend and baby sister. It said quite a lot about her life as the Slayer that pillow fights were rarer for her than the battle axes, and none of it was flattering.

Still. After a painfully tight hug from Dawn, a firm shoulder pat from Giles, and a group hug from Xander, Willow, and even Anya, Buffy was out the door. One vampire and one Slayer flanking her on either side, both carrying their own preferred weapons.

Willow and Xander had knocked on Dawn's door twenty minutes to eight, eyes repentant and hands clutched in worry. It was easy to forgive Willow, Buffy had seen her best friend looking unsure in the Magic Shop, she knew it was more of Willow being stuck in the middle than not wanting to abide by Buffy's wishes that she had tried to protest against the plan.

Even then, Willow had a right to her opinion. It just happened, that in this matter, it didn't matter what her friends thought. It only mattered what she thought. It wasn't nearly as liberating being the one in control as other people often seemed to think.

So they had both apologized, both admitting to more worry than they wanted to. Then there had been a wonderful hug and some good natured teasing and it was all water under the bridge. Or was that a bridge over water?

Xander had been less forthright about being sorry for the way things played out at the Magic Box. He was sorry for having offended Buffy about Spike, it was uncalled for and very much not Scooby friendly. But he was still dealing with all of this and he was never going to be Spike's number one fan.

Still, he only wanted Buffy safe and he really did wish she would come up with another plan. There had been more hugging, more apologies from Buffy that this was the way it had to be, and then an original Scooby members hug. Everything patched back together.

Now, her Watcher, sister, and friends stood on the porch, their arms locked round each other as they watched the others preparing to leave. Dumping their weapons into the trunk, the trio piled into Spike's DeSoto which had come out of hiding for the occasion.

With a harsh beep of the horn, Spike threw the car in gear and pealed out of the drive way, driving toward the Vineyard. It wasn't a silent drive, Spike refused to be denied the right to listen to the Sex Pistols if he was possibly going to go up in a plume of dust tonight. It didn't help that Faith sang along from the back seat.

Buffy would have liked to be less super stressed Slayer and more fun loving before battle Slayer, but it just wasn't happening. She stiffened when Spike tried to hold her hand and couldn't explain herself when he shot her an inquisitive look.

When they got to the Vineyard they headed up the dirt path in a triangular formation. There was no hand holding on the way into battle either. Buffy hoped Spike didn't think it was a personal thing. It wasn't. It was a Buffy thing. It was a we have to go in and defeat something that has a good chance of killing us so I'm not Buffy anymore, I'm the Slayer thing. The kind of Slayer that had felt as if she was turning to stone two years earlier.

Buffy had tried to rectify that with Spike earlier through a send off party of their own after they hung out with Dawn. It had consisted of a lot of kissing, not a lot of clothing, and a steady repetition of 'Oh, Spike." Actually, Spike had promised he had something new they could try after the battle as long as she swore to come out alive. Buffy hadn't thought it was possible they had anything left to try.

It was easy, lying there next to him, their bodies covered in a delicious sheen of sex, to see the absolute worry racing through his eyes. The way he held her close, his hands unable to stop roaming, to stop pressing her closer to him.

She'd tried to be reassuring, soothing, but he wasn't fooled. And she was worried too. If anything happened to Spike- but now wasn't the time to think about that.

They had reached the front of the Vineyard, a few more steps and they'd be out in the open. Buffy turned to her companions, steeling herself to be the Slayer, only the Slayer.

"Alright. Faith, you're going to go in and draw the monks out without getting hit, alright?"

The brunette looked up, her brown eyes bright with the expectation of battle, but the tight lines of her body betraying her own hesitations. "Rabble rouser, got it."

Buffy nodded. "Once they're out here, you and Spike will hack and slash for all you are worth. The more blind monks we are rid of tonight, the better."

They both nodded their understanding. Spike shifted from one foot to the other, his gaze constantly going from Buffy to the Vineyard.

"When the coast looks as clear as it's going to get, I'm going to make a run for it into the Vineyard. I think Andrew's in the second cellar so I'm going to head straight there, then work my way back up and out if he isn't."

There was more nodding.

"If you see the priest, focus on him. As far as we know, that's the one having conversations with the First which means he's probably more powerful than the monks. If he comes in after me, stay out here. One priest I can handle, one priest and a bunch of monks would be odds I'm not in favor of playing. Understand?"

"Got it, Chief." Faith gave a mock salute.

Spike sucked in his cheeks, his blue gaze stuck on the Vineyard before suddenly veering to Buffy. With remarkable speed, he covered the distance separating them and swept his girlfriend up hard against him. His mouth crushed hers, bruising in force, desperate for the connection. Buffy kissed him back, her arms crossing over his back even as she held onto her axes.

He pulled back, putting space between them as if he had never been there at all. Buffy was bereft at the distance. "I love you, Buffy." He said it solemnly, like an oath.

Her heart raced anxiously in her chest. "I love you too."

"And I love you both," Faith said, breaking the moment with all the delicacy of a bulldozer. "Now let's kill these bitches." With a whoop of excitement, she charged for the Vineyard. "Watch out, boys! Faith is back in action!"

"Don't get killed," Spike growled, his and Buffy's attention focused on the Vineyard. Faith kicked open the door and sprung inside.

"I'm pretty good at keeping myself alive," Buffy murmured.

Things crashed inside the Vineyard, the light flickering in the window panes as bodies flashed across it.

"If something happens to you, I'll kill you myself." Spike started toward the opening before the Vineyard.

"Sounds counterproductive. But if something happens to you, I'm dragging your ass back from hell whether you like it or not," Buffy threatened.

"Fucking love you, Buffy." He gripped his axe and ran for the Vineyard as Faith and a horde of monks emerged, weapons clashing loudly.

"Gotta say, I pick the romantic ones," Buffy whispered to herself. She moved to the edge of her cover, crouching down to wait for her moment.