A/N: This fic was written for the EF Tam/Kain auction, based off the prompt "what if Andrew and Spike came back in the middle of everyone throwing Buffy out of her house in season 7". To whomever sent this request: I know I wasn't one of the requested authors, but I hope I did this justice for you. Thanks to Puddinhead for beta-ing "(or however you type that ^_^).

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, setting, etc. are property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Some dialogue is taken from the BtVS episode "Empty places" written by Drew Z. Greenberg.

Not-So Empty Places

Spike sped along Sunnydale's thoroughfares anxious for home. Wasn't as though there were any cops about nowadays anyway, what with most of the town heading for the hills. Seemed the residents of the Hellmouth weren't so oblivious after all. Behind him Andrew clung tightly to his back, nattering away all the while. They'd set out from the mission as soon as it'd got dark again, with information too important to sit on.

Andrew was giving what might have been a heavily stylized account of their recent adventure (as if Spike hadn't bloody well been there) and Spike ignored him as they pulled up to the familiar house on Revello Drive. A sense of relief swept through him. Buffy's house. Home. He cut the engine and swung off the bike, ignoring Andrew as the boy scrambled along after him. He was still yammering, now about how cool Spike looked with his duster swirling about his legs as he strode out into the night. Enough to drive a bloke barmy, that boy was.

Spike had made it about halfway down the walk when he threw an arm out in front of Andrew stopping his motion and his mouth (miraculous, that). Spike frowned, staring toward the house. After a moment he cocked his head toward the front door, listening intently.

"What is it?" Andrew demanded, bouncing a bit on his toes in that annoying way of his.

Spike growled low in his chest. "If you don't shut it I'll pull your entrails out and use 'em for a gag." The threat was no less frightening for being issued in a whisper and Andrew paled, but fell silent once again. Spike crept closer to the house, the boy's steps trailing after him – too loud to his ears, but those inside wouldn't hear a thing. On the porch Spike stopped and raised a hand to press his palm silently to the door. He closed his eyes and listened.

The thing about Vamp hearing was that it was almost like sonar – only without the pinging. Every heartbeat, every breath, every rustle of fabric or scrape across the floor. If it was living or moving he could tell exactly where it was and what it was doing. Just took a bit of concentration was all.

He could practically see the room. Like bloody Daredevil. Blind in name only. Bugger, he had to stop passing time with Andrew, little geek was rubbing off on him.

The entire household seemed to be there, crammed into the too-small living room. They were apparently in the middle of an argument that had been going on for some time, and Buffy was speaking.

"Which is why you have to fall in line!" she said. She was using her 'leader of the troops' voice, which meant it must be serious. "I'm still in charge here."

One of the potentials, Rona, he thought, spoke up caustically. "Why is that, exactly?"

"Because I'm the slayer."

"And isn't Faith a slayer, too?" The girl didn't know when to quit.

"What? Whoa, whoa, whoa," Faith protested. "So not what I meant. I'm not in charge chick. I think B here needs to just...chill out for a little bit, take a siesta or something. But I'm not the one you want." That had apparently caught her off guard,

"Maybe we need a vote... to see who wants Faith to have a turn in charge." One of the girls – that bitch Kennedy who'd wormed her way into the inner circle by taking advantage of Red's mourning – said.

"No," Buffy said firmly. She wasn't having that, and right on her. What right did they have? Come running to her for help and then turn on her like this. And what for? He couldn't imagine anything she could have done in the last day to earn their betrayal.

"Can you hear them?" Andrew whispered from beside Spike, that familiar look of hero worship shining in his eyes. If he hadn't been so irritated Spike might have preened. "That is so cool." The boy was grinning, practically vibrating with excitement. Spike rolled his eyes and made a furious shushing motion. Andrew fell silent, though he had to bite his lip to manage it; Spike didn't care so long as he kept his mouth shut.

Kennedy's voice sounded once more from inside and it seemed as though he hadn't missed anything. "'No', what?"

"No. You don't get to vote until I've had my chance to pal around, you know, get everybody drunk." What was this then? Must have missed something the last twenty-four hours after all. "See, I didn't get this was a popularity contest. I should have equal time to bake them cookies, braid their hair—"

"Learn their names?" Faith snapped back.

Buffy laughed and he nearly flinched at the forced bitter sound. "You're just lovin' this, aren't you?"

"You have no idea what I'm feeling,." Faith said.

But she wasn't stopping this, was she? Spike thought, despite what she'd said earlier about not being their girl.

"Come in here, take everything that I have... You did it before. Did you tell them that? Did you tell them how you used to kill people for fun? Hey, you guys think that's nifty?" Buffy's voice was low, angry, perhaps even cruel. What had they pushed her to, his golden girl, that she would stoop to their level like this?

Giles interceded then, loudly. "Buffy, that's enough!"

Too right it was, but not just from Buffy, from all of them. They were in the middle of a war and they wanted to pull out this shite? Why wasn't the Watcher taking them all in hand?

"I didn't come here to take anything away from you," Faith snapped back, "but I'm not gonna be your little lapdog, either. I came here to beat the other guy, to do right, however it works. I don't know if I can lead. But the real question is...can you follow?"

"So we vote." It was the Principal who made it official, bloody wanker. As if he hadn't caused enough trouble? He was just sore that Buffy hadn't let him carry out his little vendetta. He was lucky to even still be here.

"Wait. Guys—" Buffy cut herself off, panicked. No one came to her aid. He could just picture the crossed arms and closed faces that met her pleading eyes. As if a single one of them had the right to judge.

Buffy spoke again at last, pleading. "I can't watch you just throw away everything that—" She paused, resuming in a firmer tone, a tone of conviction. "I know I'm right about this. I just need a little— I can't stay here and watch her lead you into some disaster."

Someone rose, moved to stand before the slayer. Dawn, he realized as she spoke softly. "Then you can't stay here. Buffy, I love you, but you were right. We have to be together on this. You can't be a part of it. So I need you to leave. I'm sorry, but this is my house, too."

Spike could feel Buffy's disbelief because he shared it. The Bit too?

Right then, he'd heard enough. Standing tall and assuming an arrogant attitude he slammed the door open with such suddenness that, beside him, Andrew squeaked. He cursed the boy for ruining his dramatic entrance but kept on.

The room was just as he'd pictured. Whole house turned out for the witch hunt, perched on the couch, on the low table, on the floor. Except that now all eyes had turned to stare at him.

Spike stuck his thumbs in his waistband, puffed up his chest, filling the whole doorway now he wore his duster again.

"Well, well," he said, "what's this then? Bloody mutiny is it?" His gaze, coolly dispassionate with just the hint of a sneer swept the room, lingering longest on those he knew best. Those who should have known best.

Behind him Andrew was straining to see over his shoulder. "Spike," he whined, "Come on. I wanna see." He hopped a little, trying to catch a view.

Bloody idiot. Could he not see that this was not the time? Spike swaggered inside anyway, reaching behind to haul Andrew in after him.

Andrew looked around at the gathering of potentials, scoobies and other houseguests in confusion. "Hey guys, what's going on? Are you having a meeting without us?" He looked devastated at the thought.

Spike, on the other hand, was beginning to wonder if there hadn't been a reason the old man had been so eager to send the two of them (the least trustworthy in their eyes) out on his little fact-finding mission. Had they been planning something like this all along? He tried to meet Dawn's eyes, but she looked away. Red too, which was evidence enough to him that there had been. They'd been hoping to see their little mutiny through before he and the geek ever got back.

"I thought you weren't going to be back until almost morning," Faith said, the little upstart. And to think he'd almost liked this one. But what she'd said confirmed his suspicions.

Spike's eyes narrowed as he watched her. "Yeah, 'bout that, got done a little earlier than we expected." And sped all the way home. Soul or not, he was a vamp, and he'd just had this itchy little feeling as though he needed to be back. Now he knew why. Bloody ingrates. "Sorry to disappoint."

His eyes sought out Buffy who hadn't said a word since Dawn's pronouncement that she should leave. The poor girl seemed to be trying to sink into herself against the far wall. A sea of accusing faces surrounded her, separating them; Spike ignored them all in favor of the woman he loved. "You alright, luv?" he asked softly.

Kennedy snorted. "Is she alright? She just about got us all killed storming that damn Vineyard."

Oh, so that was what this was all about then. The knowledge did nothing to stem his rising anger. Yes, it had been a risky plan, but they'd agreed that it had been necessary. Had to make a move sometime. These girls were warriors, and they couldn't expect to win this thing by playing it safe.

"That right?" Spike whirled on the bitch, practically snarling. "'S I recall you all agreed that the vineyard was necessary. Talked about what could happen, decided it was worth the risk." Maybe he hadn't been all for it either, but what was done was done. Calculated risk and all. Buffy couldn't be blamed that it had gone bad, he knew that. But the rest of them… typical selfish brats, wanted to do their judging in hindsight, as if Buffy could have known what would be facing them. And these were the hope of the next generation? Not one of them was worthy to lick his Slayer's boots. First would be doing the world a favor if it ended them all.

"Will somebody please tell me what's going on," Andrew interrupted. "Some of us don't have vampire hearing you know." He shot a disgruntled look at Spike.

The room fell silent as Spike glared at each party in turn, daring one of them to say it out loud.

It was Dawn who finally broke the silence. "We decided it would be best for everyone if Buffy leaves."

"Leaves!" Spike and Andrew exploded simultaneously, Spike's exclamation an angry snarl, Andrew's an incredulous gasp.

"It's her bloody house!"

"It's my house, too," Dawn defended.

Spike threw up his hands, taking a single pace to the left and back. "And you're the one's been paying the bills and feeding this lot, are you? Bloody ingrates."

Dawn ignored him, her face becoming a mask of resolve. He hated that look on his Bit. "It has to be this way. She doesn't deserve—"

She cut off as Spike growled, stalking up to get right in her face, leaving her no quarter. "Doesn't deserve?" he asked, incredulous. "You're right, she doesn't deserve a lot of things. Doesn't deserve to be the one girl in all the world to have to worry about monsters and apocalypses instead of shopping and manicures; doesn't deserve to be saddled with an early expiration date; doesn't deserve to work all night fighting baddies and all day slaving at some menial job to make ends meet; and she sure as hell doesn't deserve to risk her life for you ungrateful lot again and again only to have you kick her out of her own home, but it's happened. She's the bloody Chosen One. There's no 'deserved' about it. She's it."

"Preach it, brother!" Andrew called out, reminiscent of a Bible Belt church meeting. Spike silenced him with a scowl.

Faith stepped forward, forcing some space between the angrily panting vampire and Dawn. "Except she'd not the Chosen One anymore, is she?"

Changed her tune right quick, hadn't she? A moment ago she hadn't even wanted the job. Spike snorted. "Yeah, and a bang-up job you've done with that, haven't you? Murder, prison, slinking off to the bloody unknown to brood like Peaches. Yeah, you're a real warrior for the people." For a moment she looked injured before her face closed off once more. Well, good. She deserved it. Give the girl some of her own back, for once. Truth hurt.

"And you are?" Xander asked, suddenly incensed. "You're an evil undead thing, soul or no soul, and you have no room to talk."

"Spike is reformed." Andrew defended. "Redeemed even. Like Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi."

"Shut up, Andrew," Xander snapped. "Why don't you let the grown ups talk now?"

"Leave off him," Spike ordered. He might not be especially fond of Andrew but at least the boy was no traitor like the scoobies.

"Gladly. I'd much rather lay into you. I mean, where do you get off? We're only asking her to leave. For the greater good. You fucking raped her!"

There was a collective gasp from around the room. Andrew might have whimpered, wide eyes fixed with disbelief on his hero.

The room exploded in noise as the potentials who had spent so many weeks living and training with the vampire argued with each other and the scoobies (some who'd known and some who hadn't) about the veracity of Xander's revelation.

"Enough, enough, ENOUGH!" Buffy's voice rang out above the chaos. She had curled in on herself and was covering her ears as she shrieked, sounding more like Dawn in a tantrum than the slayer who had averted five apocalypses at the very least.

The room fell silent and Buffy unfolded herself to stand facing off against one of her oldest friends. Gone was the broken Buffy of moments before and in her place stood an angry Valkyrie, a she-warrior who burned with righteous fury.

"This is about me, not him," she spat, glaring at Xander, her curled fists evidence of the effort it took her not to hit him at this moment. "What happened between Spike and I last year… it's private and, frankly, none of your business. It was bad enough you slandered him to Dawn—"

"Slandered!" he protested only to be silenced by another fiery glare.

She waited until she had the full attention of everyone in the room before continuing. "It was bad enough you slandered him to Dawn, but I will not have you sabotaging his place with these girls. Not after all he's done to help train them." She flung her arm out toward the room of wide-eyed potentials. "What happened between us is between us, and is in the past, and, God, doesn't anybody even care that he went out and got his soul for me? That he sought it out of his own free will, asked for it, endured horrific trials for it, just so that he could be a man I deserved? Not so he could earn me, but so that he'd never again hurt me." When she looked at Spike, her gaze was soft and grateful, almost as if the full impact of what he had done for her was only hitting her now. "Even though a demon shouldn't have even cared about those things. Shouldn't be able to feel at all."

Spike swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat. She got it. She finally, truly, got it. Their eyes shimmered with the beginnings of tears they each refused to let fall as their gazes held. At that moment nothing else mattered, but the two of them and the bond they shared.

In the background Andrew sniffled, drawing a few stares, though not from the central players of the scene. "It's just like that scene in episode four of Firefly where Mal punches that stupid guy for calling Inara a whore. Only without the violence. And all that stuff with the duel." He paused. "There isn't going to be a duel is there? Because I think—"

"Shut up, Andrew!" Dawn, Xander, Willow and Giles barked together without even looking at him, their eyes fixed on the blond couple so obviously sharing a moment. They did not look pleased.

"So-rry," Andrew muttered. "It's not my fault you refuse to see how touching this is. The noble vampire giving up his evil ways, the weary slayer welcoming him—"

"SHUT UP, ANDREW!" the room at large shouted, and Andrew retreated into a corner, pouting. He refused to leave, however, his eyes still glued to the blond couple.

Spike and Buffy had somehow migrated to be within inches of one another. Slowly Spike raised his left hand, offering it to her. She took it with her right, squeezed it before allowing him to draw her even closer.

"Right, well, I've had enough of this. You lot do what you like," Spike said, gaze not leaving that of his love. "But if anyone's to be doing the leaving here it won't be her." They turned to face Buffy's accusers, their accusers, one united front, and Spike's eyes swept the room, daring someone, anyone, to protest. The potentials shifted uncomfortably staring down at their feet. Spike nodded, satisfied. "This girl would do anything for you, everything for you. She's done a great deal more than any single person should ever be expected to, and you should be ashamed for the way you've treated her. You discuss or whatever, but by morning I bloody well expect to find a room full of eager faces ready for their orders." He lifted the hand Buffy had joined with his own, smiling at her softly as he pressed a kiss to her knuckles. "From the best damn general the forces of good have ever had on their side."

Without waiting for a response Spike drew Buffy past the stunned scoobies and gaping potentials and out into the kitchen, where he turned her into his arms and just held her. Alone in the darkness Buffy let out a little half sob, hands fisting in the material of his T-shirt as she clung to him. He whispered reassurances into her golden hair. She was light, she was goodness, she was the best bloody thing this world had ever seen, and oh, how he loved her. Any man would be a fool not to. And for the first time he could recall she didn't argue with him. She'd finally got it, got him. And she wasn't letting go.

In the living room Andrew decided to take advantage of the silence before anyone could say or do something stupid. Well, something more stupid than trying to kick Buffy out of her own house. How dare they? Buffy was like Wonder Woman, Seven of Nine, and Xena Warrior Princess all wrapped into one. Except with smaller boobs. She was their only chance against the forces of darkness. Didn't they understand that? And Faith, well, Faith was just a jealous wannabe. Like how in the X-Men comics Emma Frost was always trying to usurp Jean Grey, only without the boyfriend/husband stealing. Although sometimes the way Faith looked at Spike…

He shook his head to derail that train of thought. Not important right now, especially since Buffy and Spike were tenderly consoling one another in the kitchen right now. His eyes glazed over at the mental picture (he had a very vivid imagination – it was a gift) and he might have drooled a bit before he caught himself. Whoops, distracted again. Anyway, Faith was a cheap imitation who'd never even had friends, let alone a team. And they thought she could lead them? They thought she should?

"You should be ashamed of yourselves," he said. A few girls looked at him, startled, but most were still staring fixedly at the floor after Spike's parting words. As it should be, the traitors. "Especially you." He pointed an accusing finger at the scoobies grouped at the front center of the room. "After all she'd done for you; after all she'd been through." He shook his head. "The tragedy, and the danger, and the heartbreak."

His lower lip quivered as his anger gave way under the weight of sorrow brought on by this horrible travesty against the savior of the world. How many times had she put her life on the line for them? All of them? How many? And still they rewarded her with this. "Shame on you!" he said, wagging his trembling finger as best he could. "Shame on you."

Satisfied with his chastisement of his housemates, and struggling not to ruin his dramatic moment by dissolving into tears, Andrew turned on his heel and stomped up the stairs. Leave them to think about their sins.

"Wow, that was kinda impressive," Vi breathed, once he'd disappeared up the steps. The others looked at her in shock. "Well, for Andrew," she defended herself. And no one disagreed.

The room fell silent. At length Willow took her lover's hand and tugged her in the direction of their room. "Come on, we should go to bed."

Kennedy frowned, looking toward the kitchen. "But—"

Willow shook her head. "No. Leave them be."

"So," one of the potentials ventured uncertainly, "we're not kicking Buffy out of the house?"

"Nope, it was a stupid idea anyway, really." Faith's hands slapped against her thighs loudly as she jumped off the narrow table she'd sagged against. "Well, it's late. I'm out." And without so much as a backward glance she headed off to bed. Behind her she could hear Giles taking charge, instructing the others to follow her example. They had a long day ahead of them. A series of long days really, and it didn't look to be ending anytime soon.

With his preternatural hearing, Spike didn't have to strain to hear what was going on. Everyone seemed to have accepted that the entire night had been a mistake. When Buffy faced them all in the morning she would have their support.

When Spike was sure the last of their houseguests (and yes, it was their home now – he had always been hers, and now she finally wanted him… well, he wasn't going to let go) had finally shuffled off to bed he gently led his tattered angel out of the kitchen and up the stairs. He paused on the landing outside her door, not wanting to leave her, but not wanting to seem presumptuous either. She took his hands in hers and drew him inside. He kicked the door closed behind them, watching her for some sign of how she wanted this to play out.

"You sure, luv?" he asked, casting a glance back toward the stairs and the gaggle of gossiping, judgmental "soldiers" below. They wouldn't approve.

Buffy scowled over his shoulder, clearly taking his meaning. "They tried to kick me out of my own house today. My watcher, my friends, my sister. Tried to kick me out because I don't let them go clubbing and I'm trying to prepare them for the battle to come. I don't much care what they think right now."

He looked down uncertainly and she smiled. "I'm done caring what they think. For always."

He blinked at her, awe settling in as he realized that she meant it. He wrapped his arms about her waist to draw her closer and her arms came up to loop around his shoulders, fingers toying with the soft curls at the nape of his neck.

"You defended me today," she said, stretching upward on her toes.

He swallowed. "Course I did. You feature any scenario in which I wouldn't?"

She shook her head, face tilted up to his. "I wanna thank you." She tried to pull his head down toward hers for a kiss, but he pulled back.


She pouted, settling back on her heels. "Don't you want to?"

He laughed humorlessly, hands gently smoothing up and down her sides. "You know I do, but…" She tilted her head in question and he sighed. He wanted nothing more than to give in, to give her – them – what they both so obviously wanted. But… "You've had a hard day, luv. You're not exactly in the best state. I don't want to take advantage."

A coy little smile took up residence on her lips. "Maybe I want to be taken advantage of," she cooed.

He stiffened against her and she stopped teasing, meeting his gaze. The vixen's smile faded away, her eyes softening into sincerity.

"Spike," she murmured, rising on her toes once more to peer more deeply into his eyes. "I want this, want you. I trust you."

They were the words he needed to hear, had waited for so long, even if he didn't deserve them. He surrendered himself to her then, lowering his head to meet her lips in a gentle kiss. She sighed in pleasure. His arms tightened about her waist, pulling her deeper into his body and reveling in the contact. She was so warm. Their lips brushed together again and again, gentle whispering touches. And then her lips parted invitingly; her tongue teased at his lips, and he was helpless against her seduction. With a groan born of long months of restraint he sank into the kiss, letting his own tongue out to play.

It wasn't long before they needed more. The thin fabric separating their skin was too much, they were too far apart. Buffy tore his T-shirt straight down the middle, shoving it and his duster off his pale shoulders. She took a moment to re-familiarize herself with the feel of his bare chest before shuffling back a reluctant step, arms raised above her head in obvious invitation. He took it, hands slipping beneath the hem of her top and sliding slowly up her sides, taking her blouse with them.

A soft sigh sounded loud in the quiet room. A sigh that had not come from either of them.

They froze.

Spike's gaze traveled up from where it had been fixed on the smooth skin of her flat belly and toned torso as he revealed it inch by inch, up over her shoulder, and toward the bed from which the sound had originated. Buffy turned her head to follow his gaze and gasped, arms falling quickly to readjust her shirt over her midriff.

There, lying on his stomach, feet swinging in the air and chin rested in his palms over his elbows like a teenage girl at a slumber party, was Andrew. He wore a look of dreamy contentment on his face.

"Andrew!" Buffy yelped.

"Oh," the boy waved a hand in a motion to continue, "don't stop on my account." He gave a sudden sniff, looking for all the world as though he was fighting back tears. A moment later he confirmed this by dabbing at the corner of one eye. "You two are just so beautiful. What you have… it's so beautiful!"

It did not escape either of the two super strong beings' notice that he was staring at Spike's bare chest as he said this.

Buffy stepped in front of her man possessively.

Spike leaned forward, arms wrapping firmly around her waist once more. "You sure I can't kill him, luv," he whispered in her ear, too low for the boy to hear.

"Soul," Buffy whispered back.

Spike sighed. "Buggering soul." But she knew he didn't mean it. Her eyes widened as she considered his words and she tilted her head back to look at him in shock. Suddenly realizing his poor choice of words, given the situation, he buried his face in her neck. "You know what I mean."

Buffy laughed softly, reaching one arm up to cup the back of his neck. "I do."

Their gazes met and held, the world melting away once more, and then Buffy was turning in his arms, hands sliding greedily over him, lips lifting eagerly to his. He didn't hesitate to oblige her.

Somewhere in the background Andrew still babbled something about their brave stand against the betrayal of comrades and the strength of their love in the face of overwhelming opposition, sniffling all the while, but Buffy and Spike were too busy kissing one another's cares away to notice.

Tomorrow there would still be danger, and heartache, and all the trials and complexities of far too many people sharing one single family house. The Vineyard still held something that belonged to Buffy, and Spike had important information from his fact-finding mission to share. All of that could wait. Tonight they had each other, and that was all that matteredmattered.