Chapter Nine

By the time Spike had finished his "very rare – bleeding is fine" steak, and Buffy had eaten her meal, she relaxed enough to be curious rather than disgusted.

"So, what do you mean, you didn't hurt her? How do you bite somebody without hurting them? I've been bitten. It hurts like hell!"

Spike reached across the table and, waiting for her to nod permission, tipped her head so he could see the scars on her neck. He grimaced and growled under his breath. "I hope you made a dust bunny out of those morons?"

"Well, the Master... yeah. He's pretty much dusty dust. But Angel—"

Spike's snarl made her flinch back from his hand, staring at him with wide eyes.

"Angelus? That wanker bit you and didn't brag about it?" He snorted his disbelief.

" It was Angel." At Spike's incredulous look, she hurried on. "It was a... a health issue. He was dying and he needed Slayer blood. I tried to feed Faith to him, but she—"

"You allowed him to do it, and he tore you up like that?" Spike seemed genuinely shocked, and Buffy was suddenly ashamed of the scars on her neck. She put her hand over the scar, and said defiantly, "He was dying! He needed my blood. How else could he get it?"

"If I didn't think you'd stake me for it... but since I know you would..." He held up his steak knife and his empty wine glass. "If you want to slice into your wrist and bleed into this glass, I'll be happy to show you one easy way your ex could have got plenty of slayer blood without having to lay a tooth on you."

"I... we... nobody thought of that..." She kept her hand over her scars and tried to remember that night and her panic that Angel was going to die in her arms. Telling herself he'd been so delirious with fever that something as simple as her bleeding into a glass for him probably never crossed his mind, she straightened up and glared at Spike. "You weren't there. You don't know anything about how bad—"

"I know I could take enough blood from you to heal from just about anything, and do it without hurting you or leaving a scar. Or almost killing you... He did, didn't he? Almost kill you?"

Buffy's head bent again as she stared at her hands where they were twisting her napkin. "I... might have needed a transfusion... after... But he brought me to the ER," she finished, raising her chin to meet his gaze. "He wasn't trying to kill me, Spike."

"Didn't try very hard not to, I'll wager," he growled. "Would be just like him, to use you to save himself, then brood about it for the next hundred years."

"So, that girl that you drank from today, did she bleed into a glass for you?"

"Don't be daft. She wanted what I could give her just as much as I needed the blood."

"Your money, you mean." Please mean she wanted your money.

He studied her face for a few seconds, then gave a small, sad smile. "If that's what you need to think, luv."

As the waiter cleared away their plates, Spike said, "So, it's nice and dark out now. Do you want to have a tour of the Strip? No sense coming to Vegas if you're going to go home not knowing anything about it."

Buffy held up one sandal-clad foot and wiggled the four-inch heel at him. "I'm not exactly dressed for hiking," she said. He never took his eyes off her foot and ankle as he replied.

"You can change into something less death-defying, and would you please put that foot down?"

Buffy dropped her leg and frowned at him. "What? It's not like I was flashing the other customers, Spike. I only held it up high enough for you to see my shoe."

He stood up and walked around to pull out her chair. "Sorry, Slayer. Was the Victorian in me coming out. The sight of a dainty ankle has the same effect on me as a bare nipple would on a more modern man."

Buffy laughed. "So, I could flash you a nipple and you'd be fine? But my ankle turns you on?"

He mumbled something she couldn't quite hear, but that sounded suspiciously like "everything about you turns me on." Deciding she really didn't want to know if that was what he'd said, she didn't ask him to repeat it, just nodded toward the elevators.

"Why don't you wait here while I go change my shoes?"

"Alright. I'll be over there at the one-armed bandits."

Buffy returned, having swapped her dressy shoes for flat sandals that looked like flipflops, but were held in place by thin straps. Even when buying shoes to wear to the pool, she'd thought about slaying and gone with something she could run or fight in if she had to. She looked around for Spike, finding him shaking his head at a blonde girl in a very tight dress. He was smiling at her, but clearly turning down another offer from one of the many 'working girls' in the casino. Buffy walked up and deliberately took his arm, ignoring his surprised look and giving the other woman a glare. The woman sighed and stepped back just a bit.

"You could have just said you'd already booked somebody else for the night," she said, eyeing Buffy up and down. "She looks like an amateur. You sure you don't want more of the real thing?"

"He's sure," Buffy growled, standing in front of Spike and pushing the girl away. "And you're an idiot."

"Really?" The rejected donor seemed willing to get right in Buffy's face, and Spike put a restraining hand on the Slayer's arm. "Well, I'm not the one walking around with ugly scars from messing with the wrong vamps," she huffed, pointing to Buffy's neck. She tossed her head and began to walk away. "Like I said, amateur."

Spike threw his other arm around Buffy's waist just in time to keep her from going after the blonde prostitute. He held her tightly until she stopped struggling and said with a sigh, "You can let go. She'll get herself turned and then I'll stake her."

"Do I have to let go?" he asked, whispering it into her ear. "I'm kind of enjoying this – holding back the Slayer from doing in a human, I mean," he added quickly when she stiffened against him.

"Let go," Buffy said, smiling up at him to soften her words. She pulled her hair forward over her left shoulder to cover the scars there. Scars that she knew were barely noticeable to anyone who didn't already know they were there. Spike gave her a little squeeze, then released her.

"They aren't that visible, Sl—Buffy," he said as they began walking toward the exit. "Only somebody who knew what to look for would see them."

"She said they were ugly. You said—"

"I just thought they were attack scars and said it was possible to take blood without leaving a scar. You're the Slayer, luv. Any scars you have are probably well-earned and badges of honor. 'Cept maybe for the one from my idiot grandsire," he added in a mutter.

"I wonder if the ring will help them go away?" Buffy wondered aloud. "The cut Giles made didn't leave a scar."

"Doubt it, pet. They're old and set. Any fading they do is going to be the result of time, not magic."

"Not helping, Spike."

"It is what it is, Slayer. Now come on. Stop worrying about your pretty little neck and let's go see Vegas."

Five hours and four casinos later, they were working their way back to their hotel through the neon-bright night. Buffy squinted against the lights and bumped her shoulder against him. "Didn't you say it was nice and dark out here? I feel like I need sunglasses, and I'm surprised you aren't crispy by now."

He laughed and bumped her back. "It's like walking in the daylight, without the side-effects. Vamps love Vegas."

"I'll just bet they do,' she grumbled, remembering the girls at the casino.

"Let it go, Slayer. Works like that in Sunnyhell too, except in reverse." He held the door for her and shook his head when she demanded he explain. "Tell you later, luv. Right now, I think we might have a situation..." He pointed down a corridor where a man had just dragged a woman into a linen closet. They hurried down the hall, just in time to watch the door close. Buffy looked from her fllpflops to Spike's sturdier shoes and raised an eyebrow. "Got it, pet." He planted one heel against the doorknob and shoved, popping the door open and stepping inside in time to catch the vampire biting the woman. When they could see her face, Buffy recognized the girl who'd called her an amateur.

Spike grabbed the vamp and tossed him to the side, growling, "Don't you know the rules here, wanker?"

"Fuck the rules," he snarled back, standing up and stalking toward Spike. "Go get your own."

Buffy stepped between the vamp and the sobbing girl. "He's got his own," she said with a cheery smile. "Wanna try to munch on me?"

Too used to easy kills, and never expecting to find the Slayer in Las Vegas, the vampire licked his lips and nodded. "Works for me, blondie." He walked right into her first punch, landing on his ass and blinking up at her.

"Did I forget to introduce myself? She's 'blondie', I'm Buffy. The Vampire Slayer?"

Pulling a stake from the holster on her thigh, she leaned down and ran it though his chest without further quipping. She stood up and put the stake away, pretending she couldn't see Spike staring at the exposed skin while she did so.

"Always wondered where you put those things," he said after clearing his throat. Buffy threw him a grin and bent over the still-crying girl, looking at her throat with a critical eye. "Well, now you've got ugly scars," she said. "Better get to an ER and get those looked at. Tell them it was an animal attack. That always worked for me." She let Spike help the wobbly girl to her feet and send her staggering toward the lobby.

"Well, that was just..." She glanced at Spike who was raising an eyebrow at her. "... kinda fun," she concluded with a sigh. He laughed and put an arm around her shoulders.

"Thought for a minute there you were going to pretend you don't get off on fighting and killing."

"I don't! That's you, not me!"

"Nice to meet you, Pot. My names is Kettle."

"Very funny." She stalked toward the elevators and punched the button.

"Come on, Slayer. Admit it. A little violence was a great way to end the evening."

"I'm not admitting anything," she muttered, but she was smiling, and he leaned against the elevator wall and smiled back at her.

The room had been cleaned up while they were out; Buffy commented that usually things like that happened in the mornings, causing Spike to point out that in Vegas, day and night tended to be pretty interchangeable.

"Makes sense, I guess. You know the guests are probably going to be out around dinner-time and later." She went to the window to look out at the lights. When she felt Spike come up behind her, she stiffened automatically. Remembering that they had a truce, she forced herself to relax, but he'd already noticed.

"Still don't trust me at your back, Slayer?" The disappointment in his voice was palpable.

Buffy put her hand on the chain holding the ring and shrugged. "I would if it wasn't for this ring," she said, staring out the window. "But I know how bad you want it. Our truce doesn't include anything about you not trying to get it back."

Spike ran a finger along the back of her neck, letting the chain glide over it as he slid his finger along the silky skin. Buffy tightened her grip, shivering at his touch.

"Would you feel better if it did? If I promised you I wouldn't try to get it back until we don't have a common enemy anymore?"

Buffy looked up at him, tipping her head back to meet his gaze, holding it long enough to read the sincerity there, but not long enough for him to continue leaning forward until he was close enough for their lips to touch. She turned her head, missing the disappointment that flashed across his face when she did. He took his finger off her neck and she moved away, breaking the tension.

"Spike..." She sighed and walked to the end of the window, pulling the drapes closed and shutting out the bright lights outside. "Everything I've ever been taught tells me I can't trust a vampire's word. I just... I don't know, okay? Give me a while." She yawned and looked at the clock. "I need some sleep," she said, almost apologetically. "Will you..."

"I'll be fine, Slayer," he said, throwing himself on his own bed and picking up the remote. "I'll keep the telly turned down to vamp-hearing levels and you can get your beauty rest."

When Buffy emerged from the bathroom, wearing her sweatpants and a tee-shirt, the TV was on, but so low that she couldn't hear it. She nodded at Spike's questioning expression and got into bed, snuggling down in the luxurious sheets and closing her eyes. After a few minutes, her voice drifted out of the pillows.


"Yes, luv?" he said absently, intent on the movie he'd found.

"What did you mean 'it's the same in Sunnydale'?"

"The girls?"

"Yeah. You said you'd explain it."

He sighed and rolled on his side to look at her. "It's the reverse on the hellmouth.

Here, the girls do it for money, but they learn to enjoy it, and the vamps aren't stupid enough – mostly,' he snorted, remembering the one she'd dusted, "to give the girls–or boys–any reason to not want to take their money. In Sunnyhell, it's the humans who pay, and the vamps aren't stupid enough to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. So to speak."

There was silence while Buffy thought about what he'd said. "People want to get bitten? I just don't get it."

"Any time you want to find out why, luv, you let me know, yeah? Be happy to teach you why." He wriggled his eyebrows in an exaggerated leer, at which Buffy dutifully made a disgusted face.

"I've always thought vampires are just like that guy tonight – they can't stop themselves once they've tasted blood."

"You do remember that I've had my teeth on you twice recently, don't you? And you aren't dead yet."

"Well... yeah. But that's cause you stopped..."

"Any vamp can stop, luv. It's just most don't have any reason to."

"But that means..." She broke off, refusing to believe that Angel could have stopped himself before he drained her. "This is making my brain hurt," she finally said, pulling a pillow over her head.

Spike just shook his head and went back to his movie.

Chapter Ten

A phone call to Willow when Buffy woke up provided the information that there'd been some sort of problem at the campus of UC Sunnydale and classes had been cancelled. Students were instructed to remain in the dorms, so Willow's plan to spend a few days with her parents had gone down the tubes.

"I don't think it matters, though. Those commando guys are too busy with whatever's going on to worry about tracking down your friends. Giles called me early this morning to tell me to go home, then he called back and told me not to worry about it. Apparently some demons got loose or something. Anyway, the soldiers started blowing things up and now the real Army is here and nobody knows what's going on."

Forgetting about Spike, now sleeping in his own bed, Buffy began pulling off her pajamas and pulling out her daytime clothes. When she was dressed, she called Giles, trying to talk to him and pull things out of the closet at the same time.

"What do you mean, 'don't come back yet'?" she yelled, forgetting about the sleeping vampire. "If there's something going on, I need to be there." She listened for a second, then glanced at Spike who was peering at her through bleary eyes. "Well, yeah, he did, but I can— I can so drive! I'm just not very good at it." She sighed. "Yeah, yeah. Okay, but we're leaving as soon as the sun goes down."

She hung up and looked over at Spike. "Sorry?" she offered as he sat up, once again giving her a look at his mouth-watering torso. She smothered the wildly inappropriate reaction she was having to seeing the sheets barely covering his lower abdomen and tried to explain.

"Giles says something went wrong inside the lab—it's called The Initiative, by the way—and they had to call in the regular Army to help out the guys who worked there. The Council apparently has heard about it, but didn't know they were already operating here. He said it's okay for m—us to come home, but there's no rush until he figures out what we need to fight..." She paused when he cocked his head at her. "Well, what I need to fight, I guess... if those guys aren't still after us, there's no reason for you to—"

"Wouldn't leave you to fight something by yourself, Slayer," he growled, missing the surprised look on her face as he reached for his pants. "When do we leave then?"

"We can't leave until it's dark. Giles was very... unsupportive... of my driving abilities."

"Tell you what, pet, when this is all over, I'll give you driving lessons, alright? In your mum's car!" he added quickly. "Not mine!"

"Spike, when all this is over, we're not going to have a truce any more. Why do you want to teach me to drive? Or are you figuring I'll just kill myself doing it and save you the trouble?"

He laughed, but sobered immediately. "Nah. The idea is to keep you alive while I figure out how to get my ring back. If I don't let you drive by yourself till I know you can, I won't have to worry that you'll do something stupid and off yourself before I get around to it." He frowned. "Come to think of it, I guess having the ring means you wouldn't die, doesn't it? Well, there you go, then. This is the perfect time for you to take driving lessons. You can't kill yourself. And by the time I figure out how to get my ring back, you'll be good enough at it not to crash into anything bigger than you are." He smiled at her, pleased with his own reasoning.

"Huh." She rolled her eyes and looked at the pants he was holding. "Why don't you go back to sleep? I'm going to run downstairs and get some food and buy something to carry all my stuff back in. You don't need to get up yet."

He shrugged and dropped his pants on the floor. "Alright, pet. Talked me into it. I am still a bit knackered."

"Do you need more blood?" She frowned with what she assured herself was concern for the casino's customers, not for Spike.

He shook his head. "Got some in the little mini-fridge there. I'll be fine. Go have fun before it's back to the daily grind." He flopped back on the bed, put the pillow over his head and became immobile again. The sheets were still barely covering his legs and hips and Buffy took advantage of his inability to see her to take another long look at his body. She realized she'd been staring too long when he lifted the edge of the pillow to peer at her. "See anything you like, Slayer?"

"Sorry," she muttered, blushing from her roots to her chest. "I wasn't... I mean I was, but... dammit, Spike, you're naked!"

"Not quite, but I could be if you wanted—" His hand plucked at the edge of the sheet as if to throw it off.


Buffy used every ounce of her slayer speed to get to the bed before he could get completely naked, yanking the sheet out of his hand and pulling it up to his chin. He put his hand on hers, holding it to his chest. "I don't mind if you look, Buffy. I was just pulling your chain. But if you're going to stare at me like that, there's a good chance you'll see something you don't want to."

From the corner of her eye, Buffy caught the tent beginning to form in the sheet and she blushed again, snatching her hand away. "I said I was sorry."

"And I said I didn't mind, so long as you know what you're doin' to me."

"I don't mean to," she whispered. "I just... I'm not used to worrying about... I mean most vampires... and I never... except for Angel... Gah!"

"I'm not most vampires, Buffy. Never have been, never will be." He closed his eyes, then opened them again almost immediately to glare at her. "And I will never, ever be the same as your bloody ex. Man or vampire." He shut his eyes again and put the pillow back over his face.

Buffy stood beside the bed, biting her lip, then pulled the rest of the covers up over him, frowning when the extra weight didn't make the tent go away. She watched his chest rise and fall as he heaved a sigh.

"It's not going to go away because you cover it up, Slayer. Just get the bloody hell out of here and when you come back it won't be a problem any more. I promise you."

She frowned, then got his meaning and blushed again. Without responding, she turned and grabbed the key, vowing to herself not to return until Spike was awake and dressed.

After a late breakfast while most people were having late lunches, and a walk outside that lasted only long enough for her to decide it was too hot, even for a southern California girl, she did a little more shopping and returned to the room. It was late afternoon by then, and she thought Spike would probably have woken up. The sound of the shower when she entered the room told her she was right.

While she waited for him to come out, trying to decide if she hoped he had taken his clothes in with him or if she'd prefer that he come out wearing a towel, she began packing up her earlier purchases into the small travel bag she'd bought. The sound of water cut off, and after a few minutes, Spike came out wearing his jeans and carrying his shirt, which he quickly pulled on. Telling herself she was not, definitely not, sorry that he was dressed, Buffy smiled at him.

"Good timing," she said, indicating the windows. "The sun's almost down enough for us to leave." She surveyed her small pile of new clothes and sighed. "I'm almost sorry I didn't get to wear all this stuff... I guess I over-bought, huh?"

He laughed as he sat to put on his socks and boots. "Told you to spend the money, luv. Can't complain because you did."

"But I didn't get to wear most of it. It's not like I'm going to have much use for something like this in Sunnydale." She held up a silky green dress that she'd really liked.

"We could always come back," Spike said, not looking at her directly. "When this is all over. Just extend the truce a bit and come back and enjoy ourselves. There's a lot you haven't seen yet... of Vegas, I mean." He snickered when she glared at him.

"It is not my fault that you're an exhibitionist!"

She carefully didn't respond to his opening words, and he didn't pursue it. He put some bills in his pockets, gave her some for her pockets, and stuffed the rest into her bag along with the remaining coins and his extra clothes.

"Don't let me forget to get the bag out of the hotel safe," he said as they walked toward the elevators.

"Don't forget the gold coins... I think I can handle that."

"Never took you for a gold-digger, Slayer." He wriggled one eyebrow at her. "It's a nice look for you."

She rolled her eyes and stepped into the waiting elevator car. Once down, they stopped at the desk and she stepped to the side to wait. "Just get us out of here before they have an apocalypse without me."

Forty-five minutes later, they were pulling out of the underground garage and onto the brightly lit strip. Spike flinched at first, then laughed at himself. "You'd think I'd know better than to be worried about neon burns," he said. He drove normally till they reached the edge of the city, then turned to Buffy with a grin. "Hold on to your hat, luv. Sunnydale, here we come."

Remembering his driving on the way to Las Vegas, Buffy wondered briefly if she might not be happier with her eyes closed, but she kept them open and tried to enjoy the I-could-die-any-minute feeling that was riding with Spike in the open desert. She was surprised to find that the normally chatty vampire actually concentrated on what he was doing, and in spite of the speed involved, she began to feel perfectly safe. He slowed when they reached the outskirts of Sunnydale, asking, "What's the plan, Slayer?"

"Giles's, I guess," she replied. "Find out what's changed since this morning and what we—I need to do to help."

"It's 'we', Slayer. Told you this morning I was going to be there with you." He gave her a sideways look. "Assuming, of course, that you trust me to watch your back and not bite it."

"I trust you," she said softly, "but I don't get it. What's in it for you?"

After muttering about people being dumber than they look, he sighed and said, "Want to be sure that place is shut down, don't I? Besides, can't take you back to Vegas with me if you get yourself blown up or what not."

The update from Giles indicated that there were a substantial number of altered creatures – some mostly human, some mostly demon – that were being controlled by one unusually enhanced soldier that was apparently some sort of cyborg. The hybrid creatures were not difficult to kill, but they didn't stop fighting until they were completely dead. There were stories of body parts continuing to attack long after the body had fallen.

"Sounds like "Terminator" stuff," Buffy muttered.

"One little ordinary human girl took him out," Spike said. "This one has to fight a slayer. Poor sod doesn't stand a chance."

Buffy gave Spike a smile of appreciation and then asked, "So, where do I go and who do I talk to about weapons?"

Her watcher made a face. "Whatever that oaf you were seeing has left of his men is what is providing the information from inside. They are insisting they are the only ones who are capable of taking out the remaining enemy. I believe there may be some turf wars going on among the military staff."

"Awesome. So how do I—" Spike coughed. "—we get in?"

Giles gave her a phone number and directions to a command center.

"Got a better idea, Slayer." Spike waited until she looked at him, then said, "Why don't we go in the way we got out? They won't be expecting us, and we won't have to run around somebody else's rules and regulations."

"That's actually a good idea, Spike." Once again Giles reminded himself to look into William the Bloody's human education and background.

"It is a good idea. Okay, let's go. It's going to take us a while to get in there if we go in the back way. Weapons?" Buffy looked at Giles who shook his head.

"I've no idea, unfortunately. The usual for the demons, I imagine, but I don't know about the hybrids or the monster in charge. I suspect firepower may be more important than anything else. Perhaps something to..." He wandered off, coming back with a small bag. "I believe these may be of assistance." He opened the bag to show an assortment of grenades and other small explosive devices. Taking out the things he knew Buffy wouldn't know how to use, he started to hand the bag to her.

"Hold on there, Watcher," Spike said, taking a piece of plastic explosive from his hand. "This could come in handy."

"You know how to use it?"

Spike shrugged. "I'm old. I know stuff."

"'K then, let's go." Clutching the bag and with a sword hung over her back, Buffy went to the door. Spike looked in the weapon box and took another sword out for himself. Giles watched in both fear and amazement as his slayer went out the door to do battle with a cyborg, one of the world's most feared vampires by her side.


The fan they'd had to get past only a couple of nights ago was still now.

"That can't be a good sign," Buffy said.

"Depends on whose side you're on, Slayer. Could just mean that things are shutting down and there won't be any obstacles."

"Could also mean there isn't going to be any light," she reminded him. "We won't be able to see where we're going."

"We know where we're going. To the middle of the place. Should be able to follow the noise. And I'll be able to see at least a little bit."

Buffy's knees were starting to really complain by the time they reached the area near the labs. Faint light from the emergency lights below made it possible for even Buffy to see well enough to locate the vents leading to the rooms below.

"Incoming, pet," Spike hissed as his ears picked up sounds. Whatever was coming their way was making no attempt to do anything but move fast, and it wasn't long before they could see a small demon family frantically hurrying down the air duct. The little group froze when they saw Spike and Buffy, the mother gathering her children and pushing them behind her. "Harmless, luv," Spike said. "We've got bigger fish to fry."

Buffy nodded and moved over to the side with Spike. "Go on," she said. "You can get out the way we came in."

With whispered thanks, they began to scuttle by. The largest one stopped in front of Buffy. "The big guy. The one who's running things? He's operating off an atomic power pack in his chest. I heard them talking about it. Take that out and he's done for."

"Good to know," Spike answered for her. "Thanks. Now get your family out of here."

Moving more cautiously now that they were approaching the center of the complex, Buffy and Spike communicated mostly by touches and gestures. When Spike's sharper hearing began picking up the sounds of battle, he held up his hand for her to halt. She moved up beside him and peered down into the vacant corridor below. "I don't see anything," she breathed in his ear. "Maybe we should go down now. I'm tired of crawling."

She felt him shake his head, causing her lips to brush across his check and earlobe when she left her face too close to his. His sharp intake of breath made her pull back, but when she moved to put more distance between them, he pulled her against his side where he could whisper back.

"I think we should get as close as we can. We're probably only going to get one chance at the Big Bad. No sense letting him know we're coming..." Before she could retreat again, he licked the shell of her ear and took the lobe gently in his teeth. "Two can play at that game, luv," he whispered when she shivered against him.

"I wasn't—" A hand over her mouth stopped her in mid- denial, and she held her breath while Spike listened again. He pushed her down and flattened himself on the floor beside her. Soon even Buffy could hear the sound of shuffling, but fast moving footsteps.

"Fuck!" As Spike spoke, he rolled over and pulled Buffy on top of him, holding her tightly in place as she struggled against his grip.

"What the hell are you—" She felt rather than heard the first bullets strike Spike's body as the creatures below fired up through the ceiling. She couldn't prevent a gasp as several of the high-powered bullets went all the way through Spike's body and hit hers. She felt his arms go limp as the barrage of bullets overwhelmed even his vampire ability to absorb them. Buffy knew he wouldn't die from them, but he was rapidly losing blood and consciousness.

Fighting off the pain from the bullets that had hit her, she fumbled for the bag of grenades and pulled one out, using her teeth to pull the pin, and tossing it through the vent cover that she nudged up with her foot. She rolled them back against the outside wall of the shaft and covered her head with her hood, wrapping her hands around Spike's head in a futile effort to protect it from the concussion below.

The silence that followed the explosion felt wonderful on her ears, although she wasn't sure if it was really silent below them or if she'd just gone deaf. Getting off Spike's inert body, she crawled over to peer down and saw nothing but body parts, some still twitching, but none holding weapons. The blast seemed to have collapsed the walls, as well as weakening the part of the ceiling the duct ran over, and she moved carefully back to where Spike was lying against the wall, breathing a sigh of relief when she felt the solid floor under her.

Spike was still unconscious and bleeding, lying on his back as he'd been when he placed himself between her and the hail of bullets he'd sensed coming. Buffy bit her lip, then took his hand and pulled it under her shirt where she knew the Gem was doing it's job and healing the wounds she'd sustained in spite of Spike's efforts to protect her. She tried to keep the ring pressed against her own skin while at the same time, putting one of Spike's fingers through it. She lay down next to him and held his hand pressed between her breasts, willing the Gem to do its thing and heal the vampire and her at the same time.

She was listening so hard for any more activity below them, that it took a while for her to realize that she was no longer holding Spike's hand against her skin. In fact, the hand had shifted position and was cupping her breast while his thumb stroked the nipple. Buffy let herself enjoy the sensation for a few seconds, then pulled his hand away.

"How long have you been pretending to be unconscious?" she hissed, trying very hard to sound as indignant as she knew she should be.

"Bout as long as you pretended you didn't know what I was doing," he said, a smile in his voice. He pulled his finger out and tucked the ring inside her bra.

"Think you'll need this more than I will," he said, giving it a little pat in place. "I'm bulletproof, you're not."

Buffy was speechless. He'd had his hand on the ring and was willingly giving it back. She put her own hand over it to reassure herself that it was still there.

"Spike? Wha—"

"You need it more than I do just now, luv," he said as if explaining to a child. "Those weapons can kill you. They can't kill me."

"They almost did!"

"Not sayin' they didn't do some damage... or that I don't appreciate what you did for me, but I wasn't dust. Same thing happens again, you can go on without me and just come back for me when you've kicked cyborg arse." He touched her face with his hand, pushing the hair that had come out of her ponytail back behind her ear. "You would come back for me, wouldn't you, Slayer?"

"I... yes, of course I would, but..."

"Not giving up on my ring, Slayer. Just making an informed decision about who needs it most just now. If they bring out the wooden stakes, we might be having a different conversation."

"You are one very strange vampire, Spike." She was suddenly aware that they were lying side-by-side, their bodies just touching and Spike's hand, which he'd moved from her face to her torso, rested on her ribcage just below her breast. His thumb was just grazing the bottom of her breast as he moved it slowly from side to side.

"St... stop that."

"Why? Don't you like it?" He shifted closer and breathed in her ear. "I think you do..."

"Not the point, Spike!" She sat up and glared down at him. "We have a job to do."

He sighed. "You're right, pet. Time and place, yeah?" He sat up beside her. "But when we're done here, we're going to continue this conversation."

"That wasn't a conversation!" she said, moving forward again and forgetting that would leave him following behind her. "That was you, molesting me."

"Whatever you say, luv." He chuckled as he began to crawl after her, enjoying the way her ass swayed every time she brought a leg forward.

When the next group of half-man, half-demons appeared below them, Buffy had a grenade ready. She dropped it down into the corridor as soon as the group was below them, then she and Spike crawled as fast as they could on hands and knees to get away from the blast zone. This time, they only had to cover their ears for a few seconds, then continue moving toward their destination.

They had to repeat the procedure two more times before even Buffy began to hear sounds of shouting and strife. A glance down into the room where they'd first watched Maggie Walsh in action showed them that it was empty, so they continued crawling as silently as possible toward the sounds. Spike had just held up his hand when the floor under them erupted downward, dropping them into a large open area, almost at the feet of a part mechanical, part demon, and part human creature that looked at them with some disgust.

"What is this?"

"Your worst nightmare, Frankenstein," Spike snarled, going into game face as he rose from the floor.

"My name is Adam. Why should the dreams I do not have be troubled by a small human and an ordinary vampire?"

"Neither one of us is as ordinary as you might think, you ugly bugger."

"And how so? What are you?" It was apparent that Adam was impervious to insults.

"William the Bloody, line of Aurelius, childe of—"

The creature waved its hand for silence. "Spare me the vampire pedigree. You're no different from any of the others in my army. The question is, what are you doing with this human girl and why were you crawling through my ceiling?"

"That's two questions," Buffy supplied helpfully, pulling the sword off her back and letting it hang loosely at her side. Without looking, she flexed her arm and sliced off the head of a demon hybrid that was approaching her from the rear. Spike had picked up a slow-moving cyborg wearing an Initiative uniform and thrown him at the two others approaching from the side.

"Interesting... " Adam said, watching them methodically and successfully defend themselves against a steady stream of his soldiers. He raised his hand and the advancing line of workers went back to what they'd been doing before Spike and Buffy dropped in. "Ultimately futile, of course, but interesting. Perhaps I will keep you around for awhile to study you – once I have cemented my position as the rightful commander of Mother's organization." As he spoke, a body of put-together parts wearing the face of Maggie Walsh shuffled past him carrying a beaker of red liquid.

"Oh my God," Buffy whispered. "Professor Walsh?" There was no reply or even any acknowledgement of Buffy's presence.

"My servants are not easily distracted," Adam said. "Your presence here could present a problem though." He pointed at Buffy. "I do not believe having you here is in my best interest." He studied the dead and twitching bodies around them and seemed to give some thought to what he wanted to do. He then gave a very human shrug. "You, vampire, kill the girl. Perhaps, if you are obedient enough, I will keep you around."

Spike stared from Buffy to Adam, then pulled her across his body in classic vampire bites girl position. He knocked aside the sword she tried to swing at his head and stared into her eyes as he bent her almost to the floor. "Trust me, love?" he whispered, putting his mouth on her throat and growling. Buffy struggled against him enough that he was afraid for a moment that the answer was going to be "no". As he pretended to fasten his teeth on her neck, she whimpered and pushed against him, not using her full strength.

"I hope you've got a plan," she hissed, raking her nails over his face.

"I'm hoping the bloody Gem is still working," he snarled, sinking his teeth into the soft skin on her throat. While the sounds he was making seemed genuine enough, and Buffy's struggles were only partially faked, the bite was as gentle as he could make it without being obvious, and although he held her there until she stopped struggling, he swallowed only enough blood to smear his lips and teeth. When Buffy went limp in his arms, he pulled his mouth away, blood dripping from it, and gave a smirk.

"That wasn't as hard as I'd expected it to be," he said, walking toward the cyborg. He dropped Buffy at Adam's feet. "That what you wanted, big guy?" Spike looked around and sniffed. "I don't expect any of your mechanical monkeys here could have taken down a slayer that easily."

"It was surprisingly easy for you..." Adam's eyes unfocused for only a second as he accessed his database for "slayer". He snapped his gaze back to Spike and grabbed his throat in one giant hand. "Much too easy."

"Plan B, Slayer!" Spike gurgled, flailing his arms helplessly as the cyborg held him at arm's length and began to squeeze.

"On it." Buffy moved straight up, her position at Adam's feet allowing her to reach his torso before he could react. While Spike's snarls and attempts to pull Adam's hand away from his throat gave her a split second to act, Buffy plunged her hand into the cyborg's chest, clutching the warm object sitting where a human heart would be. Using all her strength, she pulled as hard as she could, bracing her feet against Adam's body until the power cell broke free and she flew backwards to land on the floor.

Adam stared from the hole in his chest to the girl holding his source of power. His eyes glazed over and he began to topple, still holding Spike by the throat. He landed with a crash, pinning Spike beneath his mostly metal body. The workers in the large room began to mill around in confusion, those with more demon than human advancing on Buffy, who rolled to her feet and picked up her sword. She began hacking at the advancing but slow moving creatures, wincing when she decapitated anything that was clearly part human.

"Little help?" Spike's muffled voice came from beneath Adams heavy body.

"I'm busy just now, Spike. You're gonna have to wait," Buffy grunted as she took off the head of another single-minded demon hybrid. She was trying to work her way back to where Spike was snarling and swearing as he threw Adam's surprisingly heavy body off, when Riley and his remaining squad members shot their way through a locked door. The remaining leaderless workers turned toward the new arrivals, leaving Buffy to pull Spike to his feet and hand him his sword.

"Time to go?"

"Ya think?" Buffy could see Riley's eyes as he saw Spike's bloody mouth and the blood on her neck. "I really don't want to explain this new neck decoration."

Hurdling the dead bodies between them and the tunnel, they ran at top slayer/vampire speed, ignoring the shouts from behind them. They paused only long enough to leave the remaining grenades and the plastic explosive in a lethal heap. The rumbling explosions behind them leant wings and they were soon past all the places they'd dropped grenades earlier, pausing briefly to decapitate a surviving demon that tried to grab Buffy as she ran by. When they reached the dirt tunnels and felt they'd left the Initiative behind, they slowed their steps.

"Hold up a second, Slayer."


"Want to fix something..." Spike leaned toward her throat, growling when she flinched away.

"Did you just growl at me because I wouldn't let you bite me again?" Buffy's angry eyes were just visible in the fading light from the Initiative tunnels.

"Wasn't going to bite you, you stupid bint." He glared back at her.

"Oh, really? Well what were you going to do, huh?" She put her hands on her hips and glared back.

"I was going to clean it up for you, but you can just keep bleeding now! Go ahead, attract every vamp in Sunnyhell. See if I care."

"You just want an excuse to drink from me again." She watched as he visibly controlled his temper. Her certainty ebbed as she watched his face. "Don't you...?"

"Of course I do! But I'd never—not without your permission." He looked at her, his expression more sad than angry. "Thought you trusted me enough by now that I wouldn't have to explain. My mistake." He turned away and started walking. "Let's go, Slayer. Want to get home sometime tonight."

Buffy watched him walk away, his shoulders hunched under his coat. She raised her voice to call after him. "Does this mean our truce is over?"

He slowed and turned around to meet her gaze as she walked toward him. "Do you want it to be?"

She searched his eyes for some sign, seeing both resignation and hope, but no sign that he wanted to kill her. "I'm not ready to be enemies again. Not yet."

He sighed and relaxed his shoulders. "Don't think I'm ready for that either, Buffy." He reached out a hand, raising an eyebrow for permission before tipping her head so he could see the wound he'd made. "Don't think it's going to leave a scar, pet. I tried not to tear the skin too badly, but I had to make it look good... not that I fooled him, I guess." He dropped his hand and gave an apologetic shrug.

"We tried. It got me close enough to grab his power pack – so it was worth it. No biggie." Buffy tried to look like she let vampires bite her all the time.

"Let me clean it up?" he asked. "Please? It'll heal faster and I'll feel less... guilty."

"Guilty? How does a soulless vampire feel guilt?"

He growled again, and shook his head. "Have it your way, Slayer. I'm evil, soulless, and just looking for an excuse to sip some of that nectar that flows through your veins." He started walking again, paying no attention to whether she was with him or not. "Not everything your ponce of an ex told you about vampires was the gospel truth, you know," he said as he disappeared into the dark tunnel. "Might be true of him, but not the rest of us."

Buffy watched until she couldn't see him anymore then realized how dark it was going to be when she moved away from the lights behind her. "Spike, wait! I can't see!" She hurried forward, only slowing when the tingles on her neck told her there was a vampire nearby. "Spike?"

"Right here, Slayer." He took her hands in his and pulled her into the familiar position behind him. "Hang on."

Without speaking they made their way down the tunnel until they reached Spike's former lair. He paused and removed Buffy's hands from his waist. "Let me light a torch, then you won't need to hang on to my coattails anymore." Buffy stood quietly, waiting for him to take a torch from its holder and use his Zippo to light it. When it had flared up, illuminating the cave, he put it back on the wall and looked around.

"Looks like Harm moved out," he said, gesturing to the bare shelves. "Look, no unicorns."

"I guess you could move back in," Buffy agreed, looking around the much barer room. The shelves and the table were still there, as was the big bed off in an alcove, but it had been stripped of linens and didn't look very inviting.

"S'pose I could," he agreed. "On the other hand, I could also take some more coins and whatnot from that stash up that way..." He pointed toward the treasure cave. "Could get myself a real place to live. Maybe even go back to Vegas and live there."

"You'd leave Sunnydale?" Buffy hoped she was imaging the disappointment in her voice, but the look Spike sent her told her it was a futile hope.

"Any reason why I shouldn't?" he challenged, stepping closer to her.

"Well... I mean your—the ring is here, and you might need—" She stopped and sighed. "No. I guess there isn't." She met the eyes that were now only a few inches from hers. "Not if you don't want to..."

"What I want," he said, "is to kiss you without having to start an argument to do it."

"You mean kissing... without getting into a fight first?" She frowned. "Can we do that?"

"I think we can, luv," he breathed, dipping his head. "I know I can..."

He fastened his lips on hers, waiting until she was kissing him back before sending his tongue out to trace around her lips tentatively. For a moment, neither of them was willing to take the kiss any deeper, not sure of what they wanted, then Spike groaned and put his arms around her, pulling her against his body and deepening the kiss. She stiffened at first, then relaxed and put her own arms around his neck, letting her body sink against his.

When Buffy finally broke away from his mouth, she stayed in Spike's arms, taking deep breaths and trying to come to terms with what she was doing. "So much for the 'heat of the moment' excuse," she said, resting her head on his chest, her voice shaking.

Spike gave an equally shaky laugh. "If you need an excuse, I'll try to come up with somethin' else. Jus' give me a few to get my brain working again."

Her eyes were serious as she looked up at him. "I think my brain has left the building... and it took my common sense with it."

"Ah, don't say that, luv." He nuzzled her hair and planted light kisses all over her face. "It's not so bad, is it? We're not hurtin' anyone. I'm not askin' you to marry me. Just let me... let me love you for a while. Let me show you how good it can be..."

"Spike... don't you think this is taking the truce a little too far?" Even while she complained, she was tipping her face up for another one of what she was already mentally calling "Spike's amazing kisses".

"This has nothing to do with the truce," he murmured as he fell into the soft lips she was raising to his. Buffy's curiosity about what else it could be wasn't answered as Spike's mouth kept hers too busy to ask the question.

This time, the kiss went on long enough for Buffy to feel his cock pressing into her, inspiring a reaction completely different from the one she'd had only a few weeks ago. She eagerly pushed back, wrapping her legs around his hips when Spike lifted her up. She whimpered when she felt him against her suddenly damp crotch, earning a tighter hold and an answering growl. She was losing herself in the sensations being created when he shocked her by raising his head and loosening his hold, allowing her feet to drop to the floor.


"Not quitting on you, love. But this isn't what I wanted – standing up in a dirt cave, or on an old bed with no sheets. Want to do you right, Buffy. Want to make love to you where we can be comfortable and know we won't be interrupted—" As he spoke, he threw his head up and snarled. Furious at the interruption, Buffy whirled around, sword in hand, to face the small group of vampires approaching through the cave entrance.

Chapter Twelve

"Spikie! What are you doing here? Did you think you could get me to take you back? You'll have to beg me, but I might consid—" Harmony spotted Buffy and froze; her new minions ran into her back and almost tumbled to the floor. "What's she doing here?" Harmony sniffed and narrowed her eyes at the wound on Buffy's neck. "Were you killing her, finally? Is that what we interrupted? It's okay. I mean Buffy and I were never like, friend friends. It was only Cordelia who hung out with those losers for a while..."

"No, you babbling twit, I was not killing her. Don't plan on it either, so unless you want to add your dust to the floor..."

Buffy had relaxed, although she still held the sword at her side. "Harmony, I can't let you run all over Sunnydale siring people. Where did you even get this bunch?" Buffy gestured to the rag tag group peering around Harmony and beginning to salivate at the sight and scent of Buffy's blood. They surged forward, only to cringe back when Spike went into game face and gave a blood-curdling snarl that also caused Harmony to flinch. "Touch her, and—" Buffy's hand on his arm interrupted his threat.

"I think I can handle this, Spike," she said. She smiled to let him know she appreciated his backup, but her expression was all Slayer as she faced the small group. He nodded and moved back to sit on the table.

"Have at it, love."

Without Spikes intimidating presence, the fledgling minions, some of which didn't even know there was such a thing as a slayer, charged at Buffy, almost knocking each other down in their eagerness to get to the source of the mouthwatering scent. With no stake handy. Buffy was forced to behead them, swinging the sword from one side to the other until there was nothing but dust and a very frightened Harmony in front of her. Buffy stared at her former schoolmate, sighing when Harmony's eyes filled with tears.

"Just go away, Harmony," she said. "Go live somewhere else. If I catch you back here, you're dust. Get it?"

Harmony sent Spike one hopeful look, which he waved off with a sneer, then nodded. "Okay. I'll go to LA. I'll bet there's a better class of vampires there anyway," she finished with a glare at Spike. She tossed her head and sniffed, but when Buffy started toward her, she gave a little shriek and ran back the way she'd come.

Spike got off the table and put his arms around Buffy from behind. "Let me fix that neck, before we have to fight off every fledgling in the bloody town." Without waiting for her response, he lowered his head and began to lick the dried blood off her throat, taking care not to re-open the already-closed wound his fangs had left. Buffy sighed and relaxed back against him, surprised at how soothing it was to have his tongue licking her. She was so relaxed, it took her a moment to notice that he'd stopped licking and was kissing her instead. He worked his way up to her ear, nibbling on the lobe as he whispered, "I'm sorry I had to do that, love. Never wanted... okay... at one time I did, but not recently. Not saying I don't want to bite you, but not like that. Never meant to do that to you."

"I know," she said, tilting her head up and back to meet his eyes. "I know you didn't." She sighed. "I guess we'd better get back to Giles and tell him what happened."

"Right." He squeezed her tightly then let go. "Quickest way is through there," he said, nodding at the cave entrance. He smothered the torch, then took her hand and led her out into the moonlight. He continued to hold her hand as they hurried through the woods and into town, not releasing it until they arrived at her watcher's door.

Buffy tried the door, then knocked when it turned out to be still locked. Giles opened it quickly and waved them in.

"Mission accomplished, I presume?" He raised his eyebrows at Buffy, who was dirty, but seemed to be fine. To his surprise, it was Spike who answered.

"Slayer did her world-saving thing. Pulled that ugly bugger's atomic heart right out of his chest."

"Spike helped," Buffy said quickly. Her hand went to her throat and she was already mentally rehearsing what she would say about her newest bite mark when she realized she couldn't feel it anymore. "Go Gem," she whispered exchanging a glance with Spike who nodded that it was no longer visible.

"Well," Giles said, not missing the byplay, but not sure what to make of it, "a job well done then." He glanced at Spike, whose coat also gave evidence of hard use and frowned. "And what does this mean for your truce? Shall I rearm the crossbow until Spike has left Sunnydale?"

Buffy and Spike looked at each other for a long minute, her eyes going back and forth between him and Giles. When she didn't say anything, Spike's face shut down and he turned away.

"Right, then. I'll just—"

"You'll just what? I didn't say anything!"

"Too bloody right, you didn't." He whirled back to face her, growling under his breath.

"What the hell did you want me to do?" Buffy put her hands on her hips and glared at him.

"Tell him we don't need the truce anymore." His eyes dared her to do it.

"Tell my watcher I'm going to Las Vegas again with the vampire that almost killed me? He'll have me committed!"

Giles was looking back and forth between them, watching in horror as they got closer and closer while they continued to growl and yell. "Wait? You're going to what?" They paid no attention to him.

"Yeah. I thought you might tell him we just got shot up, almost strangled—oh wait, that was me—and took out the bad guy, so we're treating ourselves to another vacation."

"I can't just say that! 'Hey, Giles, I'm going back to Vegas with Spike, but don't worry, I'll be fine. We don't need a truce anymore'. I was going to work up to it."

"Looked more to me like you were going to try to duck out of it."

"Oh, that's what it looked like to you, huh? Well you're an idiot!"

They were now nose to nose, both breathing hard, Spike's eyes flashing yellow as Buffy gave him her best Slayer glare. Giles was just edging toward his desk, and the stake resting there, when Buffy and Spike leapt together and began kissing in a manner that indicated they had forgotten his existence.

"Oh. Dear. Lord," he whispered. "It's all right. I have scotch... right here... I'll just..." He went into the kitchen mumbling to himself while Buffy and Spike continued the kiss until she paused for air.


"Think he may have figured it out now, luv."

They turned to watch Giles return with a tumbler full of amber liquid. He sat down heavily and stared at them.

"I suppose there is no point in hoping I did not see what I just saw?"

"Uh, probably not. I was gonna break it to you gradually, but somebody got all insecure and—"

"Somebody has been treated like a bloody animal one too many times recently."

Buffy was just opening her mouth to retort, when Giles said, "Oh for the love of God, please do not start arguing again." He stared from Buffy's blushing face to Spike's defiant glare, shaking his head before taking a long swallow from his glass. "Dare I hope that this is some sort of temporary insanity brought on by your recent near-death experiences?"

Buffy and Spike exchanged looks, then he put his arms around her and stared over her head. "Wouldn't say the events of the past week haven't had anything to do with it," he admitted, nuzzling Buffy's ear when she stiffened. "You know it's true, love. We'd never have found our way here without—" He stopped and looked back up at Giles. "But I don't think there's anything temporary about it. Not on my part, anyway. This is what Dru saw when she kicked me out and told me the slayer was all around me. Just took us spending some time together for me to understand."

Buffy tipped her head back to meet his eyes. "Understand what?" Deciding she didn't want him declaring what she saw there in front of Giles, she leaned into him and rubbed her cheek on his chest before adding her own explanation.

"I think maybe all the fighting we do, might be... something that means not really what we want to be doing?" She looked at Giles and said apologetically, "I think maybe there's a reason we've never killed each other – even when we could have. Not that I wasn't trying!" she added when Giles's face darkened. "At least, I thought I was. But..." She shrugged. "We made our first truce way back when Angelus was trying to send the world into Hell, and we... My mom was okay with having him in the house, and I never even thought about having Willow or you revoke his invitation. I knew he'd never hurt her. Or that he wouldn't sneak in one night and kill me in my sleep. I just knew it was... safe."

"If I remember correctly, he did almost kill you – fairly recently. You didn't look or feel very safe then." Giles glared at the abashed-looking vampire.

"Didn't kill her," he mumbled, kissing the top of her head. "Thought I wanted to, but..."

"And you don't think this sudden change of heart isn't a vampire trick to get his hands on that ring again?"

Buffy narrowed her eyes at Giles. "If you think I'm too ugly to get a boyfriend unless he wants something from me, Giles, just say so."

"That's not what I—"

"Really? 'Cause you always said Angel thought helping me was part of his redemption, you asked me if Riley was dating me to learn about the Slayer, and now you think Spike is just trying to get the ring back. That kinda sounds to me like you don't think anybody would want me just for me." The pain in Buffy's voice was real and Giles cringed and shook his head.

Ignoring the snarl coming from Spike, who was stroking Buffy's arms, murmuring in her ear and glaring at him, Giles said, "My apologies, Buffy. I certainly did not mean to imply anything of the kind. You are a beautiful, intelligent and charming young lady who would be a worthy addition to any man's life. It's just that... Angel was seeking redemption when he came here to help the Slayer; Riley was an undercover demon hunter who wanted to capture you for his boss; and now, another vampire – this one renowned for killing slayers..."

"So, she has soddin' lousy taste in men. That's hardly her fault."

"You think I have lousy taste in men?"

"Well," he nuzzled her neck and nibbled on the skin there, causing Giles to gasp. "Up until recently. I'd say it's improved a lot in the past few days."

They smiled at each other until Giles cleared his throat loudly. Buffy turned back to him, the smile still on her face.

"So, anyway, we're going to go back to Las Vegas for a couple of days so I can wear all the pretty dresses I bought and didn't get to wear. I'll call you when we get settled and let you know how to reach me – in case there's an apocalypse or something. And we'll clean out the cemeteries when we get back. "'K? Bye."

Giles could only watch as, with a wave, she followed William the Bloody out into the night. He tipped the glass up and drained it, already on his feet and walking back to the kitchen for more.


Spike's car was where they'd left it at the far end of the parking lot, and their clothes were still in the trunk.

"Are you goin' to need anything else before we leave? Want to tell your mum where you're going?"

Buffy shook her head. "I'll call her from there just to check in, but I don't want her to know what was going on here until I know it's all over. And if I go home to get anything, she's going use those "Mom" eyes to worm it out of me."

He laughed and put his arm around her. "All right, pet. But if she comes after me with an axe because I took you off to Vegas without askin' permission, I'm hiding behind you."

"You were planning to ask permission?" Buffy gaped at him. "Is this another Victorian thing to remind me that you're older than dirt?"

Spike coughed, but shook his head. "No, love, if I was going all William on you, I would have asked the Watcher. He's the surrogate head of the family. The man in charge of your well-being?" He tightened his grip on Buffy as he felt her working up a good tantrum. "Let me finish, Slayer. Would have asked your mum because I like her... and I want her to like me."

Buffy sagged against him, shaking her head and mumbling into his chest, "This is never going to work."

"What? Why?"

She lifted her head to stare into his genuinely surprised eyes. "You do realize that my mom saw me after our little 'dust up' as you keep calling it, don't you? I didn't go home until I was a lot better, but I still had the broken ribs and a concussion. You're just lucky you didn't show up then. An axe would have been the least of your worries."

"Fuck! I didn't think about that. You mean she knows I..."

"Almost killed me and only stopped because of some macho need to beat me fair and square? Uh, yeah, she does. Trust me when I tell you that I have a lot of prep work to do before you show up at the house again."

"Oh." He rested his chin on her head and thought for a moment. "Don't suppose we can convince her it was another one of those tests the Council of Wankers like to use to get rid of Slayers that get too independent?"

Buffy laughed. "Just so you know, she punched Giles unconscious after I killed Kralik. I thought she was going to kill him."

"Surprised she didn't, now that I think about it," he said.

"Well, in his defense, he was very apologetic, said he had no idea they were putting me up against something like Kralik... and she was there when he called the Council and yelled all kinds of British insults at Travers. And he quit his job. Kinda why he's not employed right now... Anyway, it was months before Mom stopped swearing every time she saw him. So, I'm thinking telling her that we have a—" She paused and looked up at him. "I don't even know what to call it. Maybe there's nothing to tell. What would you call it?"

He pulled her into a tighter embrace and peppered her face with kisses until she pulled back and said, "Really not answering my question, Spike."

"Don't know what to say, luv. Don't know what we have. I know what I feel, and I know there's more to it than just the body part that always points toward you—I promise you that. But I've got no idea what's going on in your pretty little head. There's a lot of heat between us. Always has been, probably always will be. But you're young and haven't had the best of luck with men. For all I know, this trip is just your idea of a way to relax after a bad week."

"Spike the stress-relieving vampire?" she said with a wry twist to her mouth. "Is that what you think this is?"

"Something like that, I guess. Not saying it is, jus' saying it could be all it is. I'm there, either way, but—"

"Do you really think I would use you like that?" She pushed against his chest until he let her go so she could back away. "That I would use anybody like that?"

The pain in her voice and the insulted expression on her face had him backtracking with great haste. "Ah no, love. I know you're not like that. But I am bloody irresistible, and I've been pushing pretty hard..."


"Not that you couldn't resist me if you wanted to. Absolutely, you could. Right you are, pet. Got all that Slayer determination going for you, you do. I'm just going to stop talking now..." He opened the passenger side door and stood there, holding it with a hopeful expression on his face. Buffy stared from him to the open door, then sighed and got in.

"We're not through with this conversation," she said, settling into the seat and crossing her arms across her chest.

She didn't hear Spike's muttered, "There's a surprise," as he shut the door and ran around to the driver's side.

With no worries this time about being seen, Spike pulled right up front and let the valet take the car, flashing his fangs at the boy as he instructed him to "treat my baby right." Buffy rolled her eyes and hefted her bag onto her shoulder, hearing the coins clink as she did so. As they entered the hotel, Spike took the heavy bag from her and went to check them in, once again using a combination of hundred dollar bills and gold coins to ensure that they would be properly respected and pampered during their stay.

When they arrived at their floor and Spike put the key into the door of the same suite they'd had before, she raised an eyebrow at him.

"Two beds again?"

He laughed and leered at her. "Don't have to use them both," he said. "I just thought it would be nice to have the space."

They entered the room and it was immediately quiet. Spike closed and locked the door, just to have something to do, while Buffy cleared her throat, her sudden discomfort more than visible. "I'm just gonna..." She gestured at the bathroom and ran into it, using the toilet and flushing it, just to prove she hadn't been running away. She washed her hands and studied her face in the mirror. "What are you doing, Buffy?" she whispered to herself. "Have you lost your mind?"

Suddenly afraid to face the vampire waiting for her in the room with two big beds, she sat on the closed toilet and put her head in her hands, moaning.

"Buffy? Slayer? Are you alright?" Spike rattled the doorknob, but didn't try to open the unlocked door. "Talk to me, pet."

She sighed heavily and stood up, walking to the door and opening it to stare into Spike's worried eyes.

"I'm fine," she said. "I didn't mean to scare you."

He studied her face for a few minutes, then took her hand and led her to a chair, gesturing for her to sit down. He dropped to his knees in front of her, startling her out of her daze. In all the years she'd known Spike, on his knees in front of her was the last place she would have expected to find him. He took her hands and raised them to his lips, then put them gently back into her lap.

"Why don't we go down to the casino and see if we can make ourselves richer? Or, are you hungry? That's it – we'll go get some food into you."

"Don't you want to—" She broke off, blushing and staring at her folded hands.

"Do. Never doubt it. But I don't think you do..." He tipped her chin up to make her look at him. "Let's just go have ourselves a good time for a while, yeah? That's what I promised you. Waitin' won't kill me."

Buffy gave a small smile and shook her head. "Just when I think I know you..."

"You don't know me, Slayer. But you will. I promise you that." He wiggled his eyebrows at her theatrically, and licked his lips, smiling when she broke into a genuine laugh.

"All right, vampire. Let's go. I think you did promise me a good time."

"One good time, coming up," he said, rising to his feet and pulling her up to face him. Instead of the deep kiss she expected when he remained facing her, he just brushed his lips across hers before turning away and walking toward the door. Buffy shook her head and followed him out the door and into the brightly lit hallway.

"Are you trying to get me drunk?" Buffy waved her empty glass at Spike.

"Wasn't tryin to, but it looks like I should've asked you if you could hold your liquor before I started buying you drinks." He leaned back in his chair and grinned at her indignant expression.

"I can hold my liquor!" she protested. "Unless it's beer... beer is bad... Buffy and beer... not mixy."

"Un huh," he said. "Sure you can. That's why you're leaning over there and almost falling out of your chair."

She straightened up, holding herself rigidly. "I am not leaning anywhere. See! Perfectly straight up Buffy, right here." She glared at him, then slumped back and sighed. "I might be just a little, teeny, weeny bit drunk. I dunno. Do you think I'm drunk?"

"I think you're adorable," he said, smiling at her with such a soft expression in his eyes that she blushed. She pushed one shoe off and began to run her bare foot up and down his lower leg, giggling when his eyes darkened and he growled under his breath. Encouraged, she slid down in her chair and moved her foot up to his thigh, stopping only when she ran into an obstacle.

"Oopsy?" She giggled again when his growl deepened, then gave a little "eep!" when he stood up and threw money on the table.

"Let's go, pet. Time to put you to bed."

"Hah!" she said, getting to her feet and almost falling down as she tried to get her shoe back on. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?" Holding herself up by the back of her chair, she raised her chin to give him a challenging stare.

"Think we've pretty well established that, Slayer." He took her arm and half-escorted, half-dragged her out of the bar and down the hall. When she spotted one of the "special" working girls from their previous stay, Spike had to grab her around the waist and carry her, protesting and squirming, into the elevator to keep her from following up on her threat to "teach her a lesson about messing with my vampire."

When the elevator door had closed, Buffy stopped struggling and went llmp.

"You can put me down now," she said, yawning.

"Don't want to," he whispered in her ear, still holding her tightly. She twisted her head around and tilted it to gaze up at him. His arms were wrapped around her torso, holding her back against his body as he smiled down at her.

"Do you love me?" she asked suddenly, then ducked her head and stared at the carpeted floor of the elevator wondering where that had come from.

"Think I might," he replied, trying to hide his shock at her question. "Is that alright?"

"It's kinda... weird... in a nice way," she added quickly. "But weird, don't you think?"

"Prob'ly. But like you keep telling me, I'm a strange vampire."

With the brutal honesty that comes with alcohol having removed all inhibitions Buffy said. "I don't think I love you." She looked up at him again. "But I think I like you sometimes. Sometimes I like you... a lot."

The elevator stopped and the doors opened. Spike swung Buffy up and into a more normal carrying position, one arm under her knees, one supporting her upper body. He didn't respond to her until they got to their door and he had to let her feet down so he could get the key from his pocket. He slid it into the slot, waiting for the click before opening the door. Still without speaking, he picked her up again and carried her into the room, placing her gently on "her" bed. He went back to close and lock the door before turned to look at her.

Buffy was peering up at him with a worried expression. "Are you mad at me because I don't love you?"

"No, love, I'm not mad at you. Wouldn't have expected anything else. It just reminds me of the long road I've got ahead of me." He sat down on his bed and took off his boots and socks. "Why don't you sleep off the booze, and I'll just watch some telly?"

Buffy got up and pulled her sleeping clothes from the still unpacked bag, carrying them into the bathroom to change. She splashed some cold water on her face and looked into her own almost sober eyes. "Go Slayer healing or Gem – no hangover for this girl," she said to own face.

She came out to find Spike, true to his word, stretched out on "his" bed and scrolling through the channel menu. The blackout curtains had already been closed when they checked in and even though it was well into the day by now, the hot Las Vegas sun was only visible as a thin streak against the far wall.

Thinking to herself that he'd have been smarter to get naked, or at least take off his shirt while she was out of the room, she stood beside her bed and bit her lip. When she hadn't moved for some time, Spike glanced over at her.

"It's all right, Buffy. Don't want anything you aren't ready to give me. You'll be worth the wait."

"You don't know that," she said, remembering how little she had in the way of experience. "Angel only... and then Parker... Maybe I'm not worth a second go. Isn't that what you said to me?"

Spike moved so quickly, she never saw him get off the bed; he was just right in front of her almost before she'd finished speaking.

"Whoa – I must still be drunk. I never saw you move." He ignored her and put his hand on her cheek.

"You have never had the love of a good man... and alright, maybe I don't fit that description very well, but those wankers wouldn't know a woman worth having if they fell over her. You know I only said that to hurt you and make you weak. You know that, don't you?" His eyes were almost frantic with fear as he waited for her to tell him that she believed him.

"I'm just saying... maybe you won't think—" Her words were cut off by Spike's mouth as he captured hers in a kiss that quickly reminded her why she was standing in a hotel room with a man vampire! who had been trying to kill her only a few weeks ago. In spite of the intensity of his kiss and Buffy's enthusiastic response, Spike didn't do anything except nuzzle her neck when they finally broke apart.

"Come sit with me," he whispered. "Just watch the telly and relax. There's nothing to worry about."

With a nod she followed him back to his bed, taking the pillows from her bed to put behind her. Spike settled back against his own pillows and extended one arm in invitation. With a shy smile, Buffy nestled under his arm and promptly took control of the remote.


"You didn't seriously think I was going to let you pick what to watch, did you?"

"You hurt my feelings, Slayer. For all you know, I was going to pick a nice, romantic chick flick."

"Right. You never even noticed those porn channels."

"There are porn channels? Here? I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you!"

"You are so full of it..." Finding an old Bruce Lee movie, she clicked on that. "Here. Maybe we'll learn something."

"We're going to watch violence... and bloodshed?" He tightened his arm around her. "Knew there had to be a good reason why I fell in love with you."

Buffy flushed, embarrassed by his ready acceptance of his feelings and his willingness to express them, as well as by her own inability to reciprocate.

"You are so strange," she mumbled as she settled against his chest to watch the movie.

He didn't reply, just kissed the top of her head and leaned back against the pillows. The movie kept them interested for some time, Buffy commenting on different moves and techniques that she recognized, Spike bemoaning the wasted blood being splashed around.

"You know that's not real blood, right?" Buffy said, nudging him in the side when she noticed his eyes changing color.

"Looks real," he said, shaking off his fangs. "Sorry, pet."

"Are you hungry?" Buffy suddenly remembered that, while she'd eaten before they started drinking, Spike had been with her for almost twenty-four hours during which time he'd had only a few sips of her blood and a substantial amount of alcohol.

He shook his head. "I'll be alright. Left word when we checked in to keep the mini-fridge stocked. If I get hungry, I know where it is."

"Okay," she said, snuggled against him and letting her eyes drift shut. "Just so you don't go looking for one of those stupid ho girls..."

Bringing his other arm across her body, he took the remote from her limp hand and turned the TV off. "You have my word, love," he whispered as he let the sun send him to sleep.


Buffy's bladder woke her before mid-afternoon. She remained where she was, enjoying the way Spike was wrapped around her even in his sleep, but eventually she had to get up. Moving carefully so as not to wake him, she moved his arm off her waist and tried to slide out of bed. His hand on her leg stopped her.

"Where're you going?" he said, without opening his eyes.

"To the bathroom. I'm human, remember? And I drank a lot last night... er... this morning... whenever it was. Anyway, I need to pee, so let me go."

"Okay," he sighed, loosening his grip. "Come back, yeah?"

"Yeah," she promised, kissing his cheek. "Why don't you get more comfortable and get under the covers? It's kind of chilly in here with AC going full blast."

She could see when her meaning finally sank into his sleepy brain and the smile burst onto his face. "I'll be right back," she whispered before getting up and leaving the room.

When Buffy came out of the bathroom, bladder emptied and teeth brushed, she could see that Spike had followed her suggestion. His jeans and tee shirt were on the floor beside the bed and he was lying, eyes closed, with a sheet barely covering his hips.

"Exhibitionist," she said as she approached the bed.

"You didn't say how far under the covers I should get," he protested, opening his eyes and grinning at her. "Don't think I heard much past the 'get comfortable' part."

"Figures." She sat on the edge of the bed, staring at his body. She reached out a tentative hand and touched his chest, running her hand over the chiseled muscles there and noting with interest the way his nipples perked up. "Huh. Who knew?" she said to herself, leaning forward and kissing one of them. Spike's gasp reminded her that she was touching the body of a man who had been more than patient with her. From the corner of her eye she could see the tent growing under the sheet, but Spike made no move to touch her.

Emboldened by his stillness, she tugged on the sheet, blushing as she pulled it down until she could see what was holding it up. She glanced up at his face once, then back at his cock, turning her head this way and that as she looked at it. There was a pained groan from Spike.

"You're killin' me here, Buffy. Want you to be comfortable about what you're doing, but..." He reached for one arm and yanked her up to lie on top of him. She couldn't suppress her own whimper when she felt his body flexing under her. Unbidden, her legs fell apart, letting his cock slide between her thighs. Spike's hands tugged on her tee shirt until she pushed herself up enough that he could skim it over her head. It joined his clothes on the floor as he fastened his mouth around one rosy nipple. His left hand kept her hips pressed against his as his right hand ran up and down her side. Buffy arched her back pushing against his mouth and making appreciative murmurs.

When he took his mouth off with a small plopping sound, and pulled her in for a kiss, she gasped as she felt their torsos plastered skin-to-skin. She made encouraging noises in her throat as Spike began to push her sweat pants down her legs, wriggling and squirming to get them off without actually breaking contact with his mouth or body.

He rolled them over, smothering her complaints with kisses as her freed-up legs kicked her pants the rest of the way off. Kissing his way down her body, Spike tried to hit every possible erogenous zone with his lips and tongue, pausing when he got to her neatly trimmed curls to inhale her scent before sending out his tongue to touch her clit lightly. Buffy's muffled shriek and the sudden upward thrust of her hips made him smile. Her arms were over her head, seeking something to hold on to as his intention became clear.

"Hang on, love," he said, using his fingers to spread the moisture around. As he finished speaking, he began to tease her with small thrusts of his tongue, then long licks that sent her hips jerking again. He held her down with one hand on her lower abdomen as he began to show her everything she'd missed from her first two experiences. It took only seconds for him to have her holding the pillow over her face as she tried to muffle the sounds she was making. Only moments later, she shuddered around him, her powerful thighs holding his head so tightly he couldn't have moved it if he'd wanted to.

Spike gave her time to recover, then worked his way back up her body to her mouth. Buffy tried to flinch away from her first taste of herself on his lips, but he persisted and she soon was kissing him back with enthusiasm, surprised to find that she was still craving contact with his body. The head-to-toe skin on skin sensations were almost overwhelming and she writhed beneath him trying to touch as many parts together as she could. When he nudged her knees apart, she complied instantly, sighing when she felt him pushing against her.

"Can't wait any longer, love," he said, as he nudged his way in, a little at a time. "Need to feel you around me..." Buffy's legs came up around his back, her heels digging into his buttocks as she pulled him in. She brought her arms down from where they'd been clinging to the pillows and wrapped them around him. With no worries that she might injure him, she began to move with an abandon that she'd been too shy to use with Angel, and too afraid to indulge with Parker.

As she'd known he would, Spike was her match in every way, thrusting against her and growling his pleasure as they worked their way to a mutually satisfying and loud conclusion.

When Spike moved to roll off, Buffy held him in place, saying, "No. Stay. I... I like this."

Happy to comply, he relaxed and wriggled against her. "Fine by me, love. I could stay here forever." They lay quietly for several minutes, Spike planting light kisses everywhere he could reach, and Buffy nibbling on the skin of his throat. She smiled at the reaction, squeezing him when she felt his cock twitching.

"About that second go, Slayer..." He began to move his hips slowly, making sure to hit all the spots he wanted to hit. Buffy's gasps and whimpers told him he was finding the right spots and he let her guide him as to when he needed to pick up the pace, happy to find that she was as willing as he was to just take her time and enjoy the way their bodies responded to each other.

When she flexed her body and flipped them over, he couldn't control the grin on his face. "Want to drive for a while, do you, Slayer?" He pushed his hips up. "Let's see what you've got."

"Let's see what you've got, vampire," she retorted, planting her hands on his chest as she moved her hips. The ring on its chain bounced between her breasts as she began to move up and own. Spike's hands were wrapped around her hips, holding her in place while he pushed up into her; his eyes went back and forth from her face to the Gem dangling in front of him. When she slowed her motions and began to frown at him, he sighed and shook his head.

"Not planning to take it, love. Wouldn't do that to you. Would never take advantage of this that way." As he got to "this" he pushed up into her and rotated his hips until her expression went back to one of sheer lust.

Putting her slayer flexibility to use, Buffy leaned back, her body arching from where it joined his to where she was bending so far her hair almost brushed against his legs. Spike let go with one hand and sent it running up her body, caressing and stroking her silky skin and touching her with something approaching reverence. He crooned to her, telling her how wonderful she felt and how much he admired and loved her.

Unable to respond the way she knew he wanted her to, Buffy could only make inarticulate whimpering sounds that got louder and more frantic as he put his thumb on her clit and began to rub in small circles that got faster and faster as her mews and yelps increased. She squeezed his cock until he shouted her name and pumped into her until he was empty, then she collapsed upon his chest, gasping as she tried to recover from what she was sure was going to be the best orgasm of her life.

Wrapped in Spike's arms, his hands stroking her back and his soft baritone rumbling in her ear, she went limp, her still legs on either side of his slim hips and his cock still twitching inside her. He finally stopped talking, just holding her and nuzzling her hair. When she didn't move, except to sigh, he asked, "Are you alright, love?"

She raised her head far enough to drop a kiss on his chest, following it up with a deep inhale and another kiss in a futile attempt to hide that she liked his scent as much as he did hers. She felt his chest shake as he chuckled.

"Learning my scent, are you, Slayer? Good predator behavior there."

"I'm not a predator! I'm a... a... defender!" Indignation took over from embarrassment and she raised herself up far enough to glare at him. He just smiled and pushed her hair off her face.

"Whatever you say, love. I'm not going to fight with you tonight."

"Good thing," she said, dropping her head back on his chest and resting her cheek there. She could feel the ring pressing into her ribs as it was squeezed between their bodies.

"Why's that?"

"Cause I don't want to move yet, and if we start fighting or arguing, I'll have to."

"Not on my account you wouldn't. Can stay here for the rest of your life, if you want to. Won't hear me objecting..."

She wriggled against him, feeling his cock begin to swell again inside her. "Won't we get hungry?"

"Not for a few hours," he said, sitting up and pulling her legs around his back. Buffy put her arms around his neck and pulled him down for a kiss. "'K then," she murmured against his mouth, "I'll just stay here till I get hungry."

Without moving their lower bodies, they began a contest in which Spike's cock twitched and moved around, causing Buffy to squirm and squeeze it as hard as she could.

"I can keep this up longer than you can," he whispered in her ear.

"No you can't," she said, settling into a rhythmic pattern of squeezing and releasing that soon had him groaning. He fastened his mouth on her neck and began to suck on the skin where he'd bitten her. "Oh, no fair!" she whimpered, tilting her head to the side. "That feels too good."

"Kinda the point, love." He laughed, then began a soft rumble that soon had her whole body vibrating.

"Oh God! That's... Oh God... I want... Spike! Oh!" She shuddered against him, her face buried in his neck as he held her tightly and shouted her name. He fell backwards onto the pillows and sighed, holding her loosely. Buffy remained lying on him for some time before rolling off to the side. She kept one leg draped over his and one arm across his chest as she rested her head on his shoulder. Spike dropped a kiss on the top of her head, saying, "I don't know about you, love, but I think we've just set some kind of record. Best consecutive shags in a row ever."

"This is some kind of diabolical plan to make me not want to leave here, isn't it?"

"You found me out, pet. It's all part of being evil. Keep the Slayer away from the Hellmouth by shagging her silly several times a day."

Buffy stretched, then cuddled into his side and shivered. "I think it might work," she said, yawning. "I don't think I could fight off a baby vampire just now."

Spike sat up, sliding her gently off his body so he could pull the sheet and blanket up over them. Buffy sighed her thanks and held out her arms for him to come closer. He rolled on top of her, smiling as her arms and legs went around him. "More already? Aren't you the greedy little wench."

She blushed and let her legs fall down to wrap around his legs rather than his back.

"No... I didn't... I wasn't... "

"Wasn't complainin', Buffy. You can wrap those luscious legs around me any time you want. Think you know that, don't you?"

"I just wanted to... I wanted to... to be close to you. That's all." She looked at the drape-covered windows, refusing to meet his eyes, but he touched her chin and made her look at him.

"Can do that any time you like, too." He gazed at her, waiting until the nervous look left her face before saying. "I love you, Buffy. I know you don't love me. Wouldn't expect you to, truth be told. I'm a monster. One of the things you slay every day. I can't forget that... and neither should you. Every minute of closeness you let me have is a gift. And if I ever forget to treat it as such, feel free to stake me on the spot."

She gave a little huff of laughter. "Maybe I should give the ring back – just in case we have a bad fight and you make me really mad. It's hard to apologize to dust and..." She made herself meet his incredulous gaze. "... and I would miss you if you weren't here." She bit her lip and her eyes lost focus as she remembered losing another vampire. "I don't think I could live with that again, Spike. If I had to kill someone I..." Buffy stopped and closed her eyes. "I can't do that to myself again."

Spike was quiet, resting his forehead on hers as he looked down at her shuttered eyes. He kissed her closed eyelids and rolled off to the side, keeping one arm across her body and his mouth close to her ear.

"Think we've wandered away from you getting brassed off at me, haven't we? Thought I'd just have to convince you and your watcher that this is not just a ploy on my part to get the Gem back, but that's not what you're worried about, is it? You're worried that I'll start killin' and you'll have to stake me."

"I can't love you," she whispered, "I can't let myself forget what you—"

"I'm not him, Buffy. I never have been and I never will be. If I thought for one minute, that there was a chance I'd do something like that to you—" He shook his head. "I'd get out of this bed and walk out into the sun right now if I didn't think I could do right by you..."

Buffy raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Are you being a drama queen again?"

He laughed. "Maybe. Little bit. I mean it though. I'd leave Sunnydale before I'd put you in a position of having to do something that might hurt you." To lighten the mood, he smirked and said, ""Course I'd take my Gem with me if I did..."

"In your dreams, vampire." She tried to glare at him, but her lips were twitching. "I might let you borrow it once in while, but it's not leaving Sunnydale." She yawned and snuggled into his side. "I think I need a nap. You promised to show me a good time tonight and I don't want to have bags under my eyes."

"I thought I was showing you a good time," he pouted, closing his own eyes.

"A good time that I can dress up for," she murmured. Her breathing evened out and she fell asleep almost before she finished speaking.

"I can do that too," he said before joining her in some well-earned rest. "I can do that too, love."

The End