The kiss, as kisses went, was unexceptional, Buffy decided. She still felt numb, frozen, and there wasn't any fire in Spike as he gently tilted his head and kissed her. The kiss reminded her of Riley more than anyone else - it had his regimented carefulness to it, going this far and no farther. As if the vampire had read a textbook on kissing, one that explained in excruciating detail locations and angles and durations, but hadn't ever actually kissed before. Which she knew for a fact was not the case, so she wasn't sure at all what to make of this.

As the music faded, they broke the kiss, and Buffy dredged her mind for what to say. "Go away" was a good candidate, except that he might take it wrong and go away. "What the hell" was another top contender, but that would lead to Explaining of Feelings, and Buffy had had more than enough of that for one day. She was toying with "let's try again" when, despite all the weird things she'd seen Spike do, he still managed to startle her. The vampire, who had a ridiculous grin on his face, spun around and pumped his fist, hissing "Yes!"

"What the hell?" Buffy exclaimed, her deliberation forgotten.

Spike looked caught out for a moment, then quickly shifted to a glare. "What? I was just a bit, pleased, is all."

"Pleased? Pleased? I can't believe - okay, that was such a fluke, that is never happening again," Buffy snapped. The guy was unbelievable.

"It's the 'stay and gloat' that gets me every time," muttered Spike, looking genuinely crestfallen. "I need to pull an Angel, disappear into the shadows while you're reeling. 's why you always liked him better."

"I - there are so many problems with that. First of all, that was not a gloat-worthy kiss. Second of all, that's not why I liked Angel. And third of all, even without the gloating, you can't kiss like him!"

"Oh, really?" and Spike was at her again, and before she could even think to resist (the movement was quick but not aggressive, no Slayer reflexes kicked in) his mouth was over hers, and he was kissing her slowly, languorously, lovingly, with the kind of exceptional focused attention she'd seen him direct at Drusilla. And he was right, it was like Angel, and for a moment she closed her eyes so that she could imagine she was kissing the vampire she loved instead of the one she hated . . .

. . . and then the lips and hands were gone. Buffy opened her eyes to the sight of Spike doing his best glower while declaiming, "Oh, Buffy, it can never be! You must live life! I'm so sorry! I will never come back!"

"You really think making fun of Angel is the best way to, to do whatever you're trying to do?" Buffy demanded.

Spike shrugged, the grin creeping back on his face. "Not really. Was worth a try though." Buffy suspected the smugness in his voice was due to the fact that (regardless of circumstances) he'd just kissed her a second time.

She blurted out her next words without allowing herself to think about them and change her mind. "So you've done Riley-kiss and Angel-kiss. If I give you one more try, will you skip Parker-kiss and go straight to Spike-kiss?"

As soon as she'd said "one more try," the grin had taken over Spike's face entirely, and before she'd quite finished her sentence, Spike was kissing her again. Nothing of the timidity, this time, expecting her every moment to pull away in disgust; nothing of the gentleness (something maybe of the love, if she'd let herself see it). This kiss was fierce, warring, clashing, unrelenting; fire and ice, a sweetness so sharp it stung, and every inch Spike. She could hear his voice echoing in her head -

Love isn't brains, children, it's blood.

Death is on your heels, baby. You're just a little bit in love with it.

First I'll kill her, then I'll save her.

- and she thought she understood something all of a sudden, but Spike only pulled her closer, kissed her harder, not letting her think, hardly letting her breathe. He tasted like fire and brimstone, like caraway seeds and the bitter metallic tang of blood, and it was the best sort of drug. She clung to him, desperately; lips and tongues and teeth clashed, they grabbed and clung and tore with all themselves. The boundaries between love and hate disappeared, and they were half kissing and half fighting, fighting for love, fighting for life, falling hard and fast with nothing to catch them, and the ground would be hard when they hit it. But for the moment, it didn't matter.