"So?" Willow asked, her face the picture of eager curiosity. "How did things go last night? With Spike, I mean."

She and Buffy hadn't really gotten a chance to talk things over the night before what with Andrew going haywire with his night of freedom and Buffy more or less sneaking up to her room to have time to herself. Now they were cross legged on Willow's floor, as Buffy painted Willow's nails a very becoming shade of green while Dawn spent the evening at her friend Joanie's.

"Fine. It was fine. Uncomfortable, but . . ." Buffy dipped the cap back into the bottle preparing for Willow's next nail.

"Fine . . . okay . . . but if we were going to use more words. If we were going to explain in detail to our best friend how our talk with an ex-loverish vampire now with a soul went, we might use?"

Buffy lifted an eyebrow at her best friend in surprise. "You sound like you think there should be more to tell."

"Buffy. Please. There was major sparkage between the two of you last night. Sparkage that is either good or bad, so spill." Willow blew on the fingers of her left hand to speed their drying.

Buffy's cheeks burned at her assessment. "There was no sparkage. I don't spark with vampires."

Willow rolled her eyes. "Then there was crackling."

Buffy made a face. "Let's stop with the metaphors."

"Then tell me what happened."

"We talked. It was no big." Willow gave her a dirty look, well, as dirty as Willow's looks ever got. "Fine," Buffy surrendered. "There might have been a little tiny sparkage. I mean, it was the first time he really seemed like himself since everything happened. Totally annoying, totally antagonizing, but only after being all not Spike and feeling guilt over his past."

"And you like this new Spike? You really think he's changed?"

It wasn't a skeptical question or a sarcastic one. Willow honestly wanted to know Buffy's opinion of the situation, she was trusting Buffy to form the right judgment. It felt amazing to have Willow's belief in her be that strong. Things between them had been so off for a long time that it was simply wonderful to feel back on track.

"I do, Will. I really do think he's different. When I saw him on the cross that night, I thought no way, because it's Spike and he's been known to make with the dramatic. But he was in pain, real pain, and when we've talked, it's like talking to a normal person, someone who isn't just obsessed with me. I think, if he wanted to, if we helped him, he could be a good person."

Willow smiled at her, a warm smile that made Buffy smile back. "That's good, that's really good. Because we kind of have enough to deal with without evil Spike adding to the mix. I mean, we've got Andrew locked in the spare bedroom and if that isn't an all consuming problem, I don't know what is."

"Ugh. So agreed. And tomorrow, I'll patrol with Spike and if everything goes good . . ." Buffy trailed off, not knowing where she was going.

"He should come here."

Willow and Buffy looked behind them to see Dawn standing in the doorway, her backpack still over her shoulder. "You're home early," Buffy said, unsure of how much her sister had heard.

"If you're serious about Spike being different now, he should stay here, with us," Dawn said, ignoring Buffy's comment.

"We kind of have a full house now, if you haven't noticed." Buffy wasn't sure what Dawn's reasoning was and she really wasn't sure she wanted Spike as her roommate.

"You said you want to help him, Buffy, that if we help him then he can be good. So he should stay with us where we can be there to help him." She had her arms crossed in her no-nonsense pose. For a teenager she was annoyingly stubborn in her resolve.

Buffy looked to Willow for help. She held up her glistening hands. "It's your house, Buffy, it's your call."

Buffy frowned. "I don't know about more male roomies, Dawn, it seems kind of rash to me. Besides, we don't even know what Spike would want."

"Then ask him," Dawn said simply, turning around. "But I think he should come here."


Spike and Buffy stalked silently through the graveyard keeping their eyes open for any of the undead coming out to play. Walking styles aside, the Slayer was anything but focused. Her mind was whirling with Dawn's insistence that they house Spike. It was crazy. They didn't have room for him. If he came, he'd have to stay in the basement.

Buffy was so distracted by her thoughts, that she didn't catch the vampire dashing out from one of the mausoleums. Spike shoved her to the ground, throwing a kick at the vampire as he lunged for the attack. Buffy fell hard on her hip, exhaling sharply from the contact and feeling entirely foolish. After dusting the vampire, Spike offered her his hand.

She accepted, letting him tug her to her feet. "Where's your head at tonight, Slayer? That nasty almost got you."

Buffy frowned, wiping the dirt from her pants. "I know, I'm totally space girl tonight, sorry."

He shot her a sideways glance. "No matter to me, just don't want you getting eaten on my watch. The Scoobies would stake me and probably have a fiesta about it."

She smirked. "Yeah, well, after the fiesta they'd probably just resurrect me, so, no worries."

Spike's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Joking about coming back from the dead now, are we?"

They wound their way to the back of the cemetery. "I've come to terms with it. Moved on, like I said. Like you should too."

"I'm a monster, Buffy. Not sure we do moving on, unless you're telling me the Great Pouf himself has stopped brooding."

She halted in her procession, Spike stopping with her. They faced each other in the moonlight of the night, the wind warm and gentle as it blew against her face. "Angel is brooding, it doesn't have to do with his soul. But you aren't brooding. You're . . . chaos?" Buffy couldn't think of a better word.

A crooked smile tugged up the corner of Spike's handsome mouth. "I think that's about the closest thing to a compliment I've ever gotten from you, Slayer."

"I hate when you call me that," she said offhandedly, sweeping the hair back from her face that the wind had tangled in her lip gloss. "It's my job, it's not who I am."

Spike should his head. "You're wrong. It is who you are. It's where your strength comes from, it's where your stubbornness resides, and it's what gives you the power to love those wankers you call friends."

The butterflies descended upon her stomach. "They mean well. "

"You've told me so before."

"Then you should believe me."

"I would have eaten them, you know? I would have drained them and tossed them aside for you to find. Bloody hell, the number of times I dreamed of killing you? Of bathing in your blood then picking my teeth with your bones?" He stopped and Buffy was speechless, strangely enthralled that he was sharing this part of himself with her.

"I see it every night. I used to dream of saving you. Told you so. But now? When I sleep I spend every nightmare ending your life. Each time more inventive, more horrific. Then I wake up and for the first minute I think I've really done it, really killed you, and I want nothing but to be dead beside you. Then something reminds me that you're alive, probably the sting in my chest from the sodding soul, and it's okay for a moment.

"But that's what scares me, Buffy. What if something in me snaps? We both know I'm not the sanest of the bunch. What if I crack and come after you, do any of those horrible things I've imagined to you?" His voice trembled.

She cupped Spike's face in her hands. He tried to pull back, startled, but Buffy held firm. Her green eyes watched his as she spoke. "That is not who you are now. You have a chance to change all of that. I believe you can change, Spike."

"And if I can't?" His words showcased his vulnerability.

"I'm offering to stand beside you because I believe in you. You always stood beside me."

He dropped his eyes to the ground, but tilted his face toward hers. Buffy edged a millimeter forward, the grass brushing against the heels of her boots. Spike exhaled softly, all leather, tobacco, and oak. Buffy closed her eyes, her hands warm against his cheeks. His lips brushed over hers, she didn't draw back, she couldn't.

She wanted to be comforted. She wanted this to be right.

Spike kissed her, his lips a gentle pressure filled with hope. She pulled his face closer, kissing back harder. His hands settled on her hips, moving her to him until she wrapped her arms around his back. They kissed, truly kissed for the first time. Their lips fusing together with equal passion and feeling.

The kiss went on until Buffy needed to surface for air and the moment was broken. She disentangled herself, drawing in a shaky breath. Spike looked at her sorrowfully. "I'm sorry, Buffy."

"For what?" she asked quietly.

"I shouldn't have kissed you. I guess I can't change every-"

Lifting on to her tiptoes, Buffy met his gaze, warning him with her eyes before she kissed him. His lips were still beneath hers. She pressed herself firmly against him, letting him feeling the steady beating of her heart.

Spike shuddered, then released, his arms crisscrossing over her back, holding Buffy to him as he kissed her, his tongue sliding against her lower lip, parting them to brush deliciously against her kissed back eagerly, trying to put all of the confused emotions she was feeling into the physical act.

The kiss wasn't desperate or sexually frantic like the ones they had shared before. It was quiet and slow, an exploration of territory neither of them had ever imagined they would be in. A true mingling of souls, of fears hidden now made open. Buffy's fingers ran up Spike's hair, disheveling it as she fought to be closer to him. Spike lifted her slightly off the ground, his lips moving over hers in a familiar but slightly different pattern, not the slightest trace of conquest betraying him.

It was quite some time before they finally broke apart. Both too embarrassed to say anything. They stood there, Buffy's hands clasped in front of her, Spike's shoved in his pockets, staring pointlessly at the ground. Eventually Buffy looked up, seeing that Spike's hair was still roughed up, she reached to smooth it back down. He stopped her hand, interweaving their fingers.

A blush heated her cheeks. Twenty-two, a slayer, and a boy could still make her blush. "Your hair, it's all spikey," she said.

Spike lifted his other hand, running it over the back of his head. A smile tilted the left side of his mouth. "That's how I wore it during the 70s."

Buffy squinted her eyes, imagining what a punk Spike would have looked like. He guessed her thoughts, shaking his head. "I'm not sure it was my best era."

She suppressed a smile, "I wouldn't mind seeing it."

His smile was full now. "Eyeliner and all?"

"Well, maybe without the eyeliner."

He rubbed his thumb over her smooth skin. "I'll see what I can do."

A quiet moment passed, both of them lost in their own thoughts. Buffy knew she should have been running and screaming from him, horrified about what had just passed between them. But she didn't feel that way. The weight of the last year had slipped from her shoulders, it lay at her feet, a black mark on her life as the Slayer, but one that could no longer touch her, because the man standing before her wasn't a demon anymore.

Humanity had blossomed in Spike again, ugly and painful, but utterly human. It's what had kept him from eating Andrew, from biting Xander, from attacking Willow, and from hurting Buffy herself. It wasn't the chip. It was the soul.

She knew Xander and Dawn probably wouldn't understand what she was feeling, but Willow did. Willow was the one who had betrayed Tara, she had caused horrific damage to the one she loved. And Tara had taken her back.

It wasn't exactly the same, this thing Buffy shared with Spike. She was picking and choosing which parts of him she wanted to believe were in the man before her. But for the first time in a very long time, She felt almost right. If he could be the man she knew was buried deep in him, then all of the attraction he held for her, it wouldn't be dirty and wrong. It would be right.

Spike raised their hands, cocking his scarred eyebrow at Buffy. "What is this?"

His words pulled her away from her thoughts. Buffy's heart sank a little at having to label this tentative peace. "I'm not sure yet. It's not what it was before, but . . ."

"You don't want anyone to know?" Disappointment filled his words; his fingers moving to release hers, Buffy held on more firmly.

"No. I don't. I want us to figure it out first. Is that okay?"

He looked up at her, guarded questions in his eyes. "Us?"

"Yes. I don't want to hide us out of shame, I want to protect this, until we know what we want it to be. Friends, allies, something else . . ."

Spike drew Buffy to him, propping his chin on her head. "I can't argue with that, Pet. It's about the kindest thing anyone's ever said to me."

"I bought you nail polish." She said. "But the bottle's at home."

"Correction, that is the kindest thing," he teased.

Buffy pressed her cheek against his chest, taking in the silence that was inside. There was no heart beat, no thrum of the blood keeping him alive. There was only silence.

"So do I get the nail polish now or later?"

"God. You're always so pushy," she teased, stepping back.

"And I thought I was a changed man." He smiled.

Buffy's heart flipped over. "Come on, you soulful thing, let's go back to the house."