Summary/Notes/Disclaimer/Shoutouts: See Part One.
Rating: R for sex and violence (you know, the good stuff).
Part Three: History Lessons
She failed to stifle a yawn as Spike went over the controls for some kind of vampire detector.
"Am I boring you, Slayer?"
"No. Not at all. This is all very fascinating."
"You always were a lousy liar."
"Spike, I can honestly say that you are the least boring Watcher Iíve ever had."
He made a derisive noise. "Like thatís saying a lot." He eyed her suspiciously. "I thought I told you not to stay up all night reading those journals."
"I didnít," she said. "Actually, I couldnít bring myself to read them yet. I just couldnít sleep, is all."
Spike set the device he was holding on the table. "Maybe itís a bad idea for you to read those. I can go through Ďem for you, see if thereís anything useful."
"No," she said. "I want to read them. I think I kinda need to."
He gave her a long, hard look, and then nodded. "All right, pet. Now, pay attention."
"I am! I mean it. Look, Iím all ears. Totally into paying attention mode." She picked some kind of big ray gun up from the table. "What does this do?" she asked, pointing it in Spikeís direction as she looked it over.
"Hey, careful with that," he said, grabbing the weapon out of her hands and checking the settings.
"Jeez," Buffy grumped. "When did you turn into such a grownup?"
Spike didnít look up from the weaponís controls as he said, softly, "Right after you kissed me."
Buffy glanced around the room, anywhere but at him. He sure knew how to leave her nonplussed. "UmÖ"
"Here," he said, tossing the weapon back to her.
"What is this thing, anyway?"
He gave her a devilish grin. "Fun," he said. "Well, as long as youíre not on the receiving end. So donĎt ever point it at me."
"And again I ask, what does it do?"
He came around to stand beside her. "Here, turn off the safety." He flipped a switch on the side. "Now set it like so, and..." he pointed at the practice target. "Give it a go."
She aimed, and pulled the trigger. A laser blast shot out of the gun and burned a hole through the center of the target. "Whoa!" Buffy said. "It's like Star Wars!" She looked over the rest of the weapons on the table. "Hey, is there a light saber? Because if there is, that might have to be my new favorite weapon."
"Wait a few more years," Spike said. "I'm sure they'll come up with one. But here, that's not the best part. Push that button."
She did, and a beam of light brightened up half the room. "Wow," she said noncommittally. "A flashlight. That's handy. And it's a really bright flashlight, too."
"Yeah," Spike said, a bit impatiently, "and it also does this." He stuck his hand in the beam, and it started to sizzle. "Bloody hell," he muttered as he jerked his hand away and cradled it in his other hand.
Buffy turned off the light and set the gun down. "And you did that why, exactly?"
"Thought a visual demonstration was called for," he said through gritted teeth. He looked a little sheepish. "Seemed a good idea at the time."
"Here, let me see." She grabbed his hand, and he sucked air in between his teeth. "Sorry," she said, taking pains to be more gentle as she examined the burn.
"'S all right," Spike said. "See? It's already starting to heal."
Buffy traced a finger over the burn, already fading from a blistered red to a smoother dark pink. She noticed faint scarring across his palm and fingers, straight lines, as if heíd grasped a large knife. No, not a knife. A sword. She grabbed his other hand and examined the palm. It bore identical scars.
"Iíve been meaning to tell you," she said, "that was a pretty cool thing you did."
"What, sticking my hand in the ruddy sunlight? Seems pretty moronic in retrospect."
"No," Buffy said, tracing his scars. "With the sword."
"Oh. That." He shrugged. "Better my hands than your head, right?" When she didnít let go of his hands, he continued. "Um, pet? Not that I mind, butÖ do you want to stand here holding hands all day, or should we get back to training?"
Buffy dropped his hands like they'd burned her, and looked around, anywhere but at him. She retrieved the gun, and pretended to examine it intently. "So, it's like a really powerful sunlamp, huh?"
"UhÖ yeah. It's a new toy. The vamps'll never see it coming. You ought to be able to take out a whole mess of the buggers with a push of that button."
"Kind of a high tech answer to Willow's ball of sunshine spell," Buffy said.
"Yeah, I suppose. Except, you know, this works, and nobody goes blind."
"She never perfected that, huh?"
"Not for lack of trying."
Buffy felt a sudden pang of loss, and she swallowed. Focus on the gun, she told herself. "You're right," she said, "this one is fun." She considered it a minute. "How did they test this, anyway?"
"How do you think?"
Buffy looked back at his burned hand, and tried to imagine how that must've gone.
Spike waved his good hand dismissively. "What's a little burnt flesh if it's for a good cause? 'Sides, it only took once for them to know they got it right."
"Still. It seems they could have found another way to test it without using you as some kind of lab rat."
"I volunteered," he said. "And I don't seem to recall you having a problem when I was the Initiative's guinea pig."
"We kept you away from them, didn't we?" She reset the gun to blaster mode and fired four more shots, cutting the target in half. "Besides, that was before."
She set the gun down. "You know," she said, and looked at him. "Before you became part of the family."
She held his gaze for a moment, and then he looked away. His lips betrayed a half smile, but he seemed to be struggling to keep it from spreading into a full-on grin. He swallowed. "Thatís, umÖ"
"You really were," Buffy said softly. "One of us, I mean. I just hope the others got that, afterÖ"
Spike nodded. "They did." He scratched the back of his neck. "In fact, I think they got it before I did."
"Good," Buffy said, and smiled. She hugged herself as a moment of silence passed between them.
"Anyway," Spike finally said, "I, um, I think that's enough target practice for now. You should get some rest, and I'll go tend my hand. We can meet back here at fifteen hundred."
"Speaking of the Initiative," Buffy said. "You're starting to sound like them."
"Hey! There's no need to insult me, love. That's just how we tell time around here."
"Okay!" Buffy holding her hands up in surrender. "You don't have to get so defensive."
"I'm not defensive."
"Am no--" Spike stopped, and bit his lip. He smirked at her. "You this much a pain in the ass for all your Watchers?"
"Just the ones who take the bait," she said, and walked out of the room. At the door, she paused, and turned around. "Fifteen hundred. That's--"
He rolled his eyes. "It's bloody three o'clock, Slayer!"
"You know, you could have just said that in the first place." With that, she let the doors close.
She smiled as she walked through the corridors towards her apartment. She'd never admitted to herself before how much she enjoyed her verbal sparring sessions with Spike. This new grown-up future Spike wasn't as quick to rise to the bait as he used to be, but she seemed to still know where all of his buttons were. At least that much hadn't changed.
By the time she reached her apartment, she realized just how grateful she was that Spike was here. If not for him, she really would have nothing left. Hello to the irony. He was the only link she had to her home, to her life. Well, not the only link. As she passed through her bedroom on the way to the shower, she saw the journals sitting on her nightstand. She freshened up, and then came back into the bedroom. After staring at them so long she began to feel weird about it, she snatched one up, and carried it with her as she headed down to the cadet lounge for lunch.
Buffy staggered into the training room around three-thirty to find Spike waiting for her.
"Capín Buffy, reporting for duty," she said.
"Got held up. Wonít happen again." She held up two fingers. "Slayerís honor."
"Yeah, whatever," Spike said. "Here, letís get back to target practice." He picked up an assault rifle from the table and brought it over to her. As she reached out to take it, he jerked it back, and looked her up and down. "Are you drunk?"
"Slayer, you smell like a bleeding distillery."
"I might have had a little scotch with my lunch."
"Why? You've never been much of a drinker. Obviously."
Buffy shrugged. "It was what Giles liked to drink."
"Yeah, he also drank a lot of tea. You couldnít have settled for a nice cuppa?"
"The scotch made it easier to read. Hey, did you know Quentin Travers came to my funeral?"
Spike sighed. "Yeah, I did, love. I was there."
"I know. It said that, too. And Angel, and Riley, and Wesley and Cordelia, and Oz. And of course the gang. But not my dad. They couldnít get a hold of him in time."
"Do you know what it said on my headstone?" she asked.
Spike closed his eyes. "íShe saved the world a lot.í"
"Thatís a hell of an epitaph, isnít it?"
"I knew it was a bad idea for you to read those journals."
"No. No it wasnít. I needed to know. Itís good that I know how I was supposed to die." She nodded for emphasis. "But that doesnít matter, because Iím here now. So letís get with the traininí. Target practice, right?" She reached for the gun.
Spike held it away from her. "Why donít we wait until youíre a bit more clearheaded?"
"Iím fine," she said. "Give me the gun."
"I donít bloody think so. In your condition youíre liable to make one of those special bullets ricochet right into my heart. I really donít fancy being turned into a pile of dust just because you canít hold your liquor."
Buffy punched him then, square in the nose. She didnít really know why. Before she had time to think of a reason, her own head snapped back as he landed a left cross to her jaw. She reeled back, her eyes wide with shock. She rubbed her jaw. "You hit me!"
He threw down the rifle. "Bloody hell, Slayer! You hit me f--"
She hit him again, knocking him to the floor. She stood over him. "How come you can hit me? You got rid of the chip, didnít you?"
"No," he said, "just had it modified." He kicked a leg out and swept her feet out from under her. He jumped to his feet and stood over her. "It lets me defend myself. I can fight humans now, as long as Iím not the aggressor." He offered a hand to help her up.
She took it, and kicked him in the stomach. As he doubled over, she flipped him over her. He landed on his feet as she jumped to hers. They began to circle each other.
"Whatís this, then, love?" Spike asked, injecting some swagger into both his walk and his talk. "Trying to see if Iíve still got it?"
"No," she said, and spun around, landing a kick to his head. "Just making sure I havenít lost it."
Spike recovered and feinted with his left. When she fell for it, he spun her around and slammed her face first into a wall, pinning her arms behind her back. "Youíre drunk," he said. "Itís making you sloppy."
"Iím starting to sober up," she said, and slammed her head backwards into his face. As he backed up to grab his nose, she spun around. Bracing herself against the wall, she kicked him with both feet, sending him flying across the room. He crashed into the weapons table, scattering the guns. She ran towards him, leaping into the air and rolling into a flying somersault. Spike jumped up and grabbed her ankle in mid-air. He slammed her down onto the table. She grunted as the wind got knocked out of her. He climbed back up on the table, straddling her and pinning her arms above her head.
"I gotta tell you, pet, this is the most fun Iíve had in a very long time."
"Glad to hear it," she said, and brought her knee to his groin. She wrested a hand free and punched him, then shoved him off of her. He fell on the floor, and she rolled off of the table and on top of him, reversing their positions. They stayed like that for a moment, both of them panting.
Spike started to laugh.
"What?" she asked.
"You know why we never could beat each other, love?" he asked.
"What are you talking about? I beat you all the time."
"Iím talking about a fair fight. Hand to hand. Like this."
Buffy gave him a skeptical look. "Iím the one on top, arenít I? Looks to me like Iím winning."
"Is that right?" He knocked her hands out from under her, and she fell against him. He held her hands behind her back and rolled her over, pinning them there. "Now whoís on top?"
He grinned. "Thatís what Iím talking about. Itís why we canít beat each other. Weíre neither one of us afraid to fight dirty."
"I fight to win," she said.
"I know. So do I." He rolled over again, keeping his arms around her and pulling her with him, placing her back on top. "And Iíd say weíve both still got it." His smirk faded as he looked at her, his eyes taking in every inch of her face. Slowly, he released her, but she made no move to get up. She felt warm. She wasnít sure if it was the scotch, or the exertion, orÖ or the lying on top of Spike. She wasnít sure she cared. Whatever it was, she felt good.
Her hair fell and brushed against his cheek. He pushed it back, tucking it behind her ear. "God, Buffy," he sighed. "I missed you so much."
Buffy studied his face. It looked a little tender in the spots where sheíd hit him, and sheíd split his bottom lip. She thought about the last time sheíd been close to him like this, how heíd been beaten almost beyond recognition by Glory. He still bore a scar from the torture near his right eye. It was barely visible, but once she noticed it she had no trouble making it out. She traced a finger along it, and then she kissed it.
"Shh." She put her finger on his lips to shush him. Gingerly, she touched the fresh cut on his bottom lip. It was nothing compared with the way they had been bruised and swollen before; yet they had felt so soft against her own lips as sheíd kissed him. She wondered how they would feel now. She moved to find out, but he put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her up to look at him.
"Pet, youíre still drunk."
"No Iím not," she said. "I know what Iím doing."
"You sure about that?" His voice sounded rough, almost hoarse. "íCause, if you start this, I donít think Iíll be able to stop it."
As if to emphasize this, his arousal became apparent. Out of nowhere, images of Riley flashed before her eyes. They were followed by pictures of Angel, and then of Cordelia and Wesley, Faith, Tara, Anya, Xander and WillowÖ Giles. And Dawn. They were gone. They were all lost to her. Forever.
Buffy closed her eyes, and buried her face against Spikeís neck. The harder she tried to fight it, the harder she cried. Her entire body shook with each sob, and she clung to Spike, the only piece of home she had left.
He wrapped her in his arms, and held her tight as she cried. He didnít tell her to stop. He didnít lie to her and tell her she was going to be okay. He just let her cry. "Iím sorry," he said once she stopped shaking and her sobs faded to the occasional whimper. "I didnít want this for you."
She rose up to look at him. He looked as helpless as she felt, and he smiled weakly. "Still," he said, brushing her hair out of her face, "I canít say Iím not glad to see you."
She slid to the floor beside him, and rested her head on his chest. "I donít know what I would have done if you werenít here," she told him. "I would have--"
"You would have coped," he said. "It never ceases to amaze me, humanityís capacity for coping with the bullshit thatís constantly dealt them. And your capacity has always been greater than most."
"I donít know about that," Buffy said. "Sometimes, I feel like Iím breaking, and I just want it to be over."
"But you always put yourself back together. You pick up the pieces, and you go on. And you always leave me just a little bit in awe of you."
Again, she raised her head to look at him. "Iím just really glad youíre here," she said. She sniffed, and noticed for the first time the mess sheíd made of his shirt. "God," she said, sitting up and wiping her eyes. "I must really look like a mess."
"Yeah," Spike said. "A beautiful mess."
In spite of herself, Buffy smiled.
Spike got to his feet, and then helped her up. "Come on," he said, "letís go get you clean and sober."
Buffy could smell coffee brewing as she stepped out of the shower. She wiped the steam off the mirror, and studied her reflection. She wondered what it must be like to wake up and find that you donít even have your own reflection anymore. To have lost your life, your soul, everything that matteredÖ and then to not even find comforting familiarity in something as commonplace as a mirror. Did it feel anything like waking up to learn that your entire planet had been murdered? Your people exiled, your home scorched to nothing, your friends and family, everything that youíd given your life for, all gone--and you yourself should have been dead for centuries? For a moment she considered asking Spike. Did he feel this much loss when he was turned? Did he feel this lonely? Did he feel anything at all?
She shook off that train of thought. It was too depressing. No sense in bringing him down, too. Besides, she did still have her reflection. And she had Spike. And, she realized, he had her. Neither of them were alone.
She started to dress, but stopped to examined her bruises. Fresh ones from her bout with Spike mingled with the faded ones from her fight with Glory. Hard to believe it had only been four days ago. Four days, and three hundred and thirty-five years. Thinking about it hurt her head. Or maybe she was just hung over.
She pulled on her fatigues and a tank top, and ran a comb through her hair, then headed out to the kitchen. She smiled at Spike as she sat at the table, to let him know she was okay.
"So, whatís the what with the chip?" she asked. "Not that Iím complaining. Being able to defend yourself? That would have come in real handy when we were being attacked by those knights."
"Yeah, and it would have given you an excuse to stake me." He handed her a cup of coffee.
"Why would I need an excuse to stake you when you gave me so many actual reasons?"
Spike sat down across from her. "You're still all talk, Slayer. If you had so many bloody good reasons to stake me, why didn't you?"
Buffy focused on her coffee. "There's the million dollar question." She looked up at him. "Can I use a life line? Anyway, I asked you first."
"Fine," he said. "After I joined the Council, they offered to have the chip removed. They figured by then that Iíd learned to behave myself enough that I didnít need a muzzle."
"So, what happened?"
"I said no."
Buffy stared at him. "But, you were obsessed with getting that thing out of your head."
"That was before I got used to it." He shrugged. "Anyway, it was nice that they trusted me, but I didnít trust myself. I had too much at stake, and I could lose it all with one moment of stupidity. I, umÖ I kind of learned that lesson when you changed the locks on me."
She winced at this. Sheíd only been trying to get her point across, and looking back, she wouldnít have done it any different; but sheíd had no idea that it would hurt him so much, or make such a lasting impression. Sheíd never realized just how much her invitation meant to him.
"So anyway," Spike said, "they took it out, tinkered with it for a bit, then shoved it back in my brain."
"Do you still need it? I mean, after all this timeÖ"
"Iím still a vampire, pet. I still crave blood, and I still crave violence. Sure, Iíve learned some self-control, but I donít know how long Iíd be able to keep it up if I knew the chip wasnít there to stop me."
"You actually want to be stopped. ThatísÖ itís actually pretty amazing."
"I guess. What I really want is not to have to be stopped. Some days I think Iím there, but others, Iím not so sure. Anyway, I can get it removed any time I like. I guess, on principle, itís sorta like those tokens that AA members used to carry around. It helps me remember what I am, where I started from."
Buffy sipped her coffee, and they both fell silent. She thought about everything heíd just said, and about the last week of her life. How heíd been there, protecting her sister, helping her friends, and fighting alongside her, showing his willingness to die for her. Heíd proven his devotion, in spite of believing she would never love him. And in return sheíd sentenced him to three hundred years of heartbreak. Heíd already come so far by the time they fought Glory, and heíd come so much further since. It was time for him to start getting something back for all of his efforts.
Spike stood up and grabbed his coat. "Iíd best get going, love. Let you get your rest." He started for the door, pulling his coat on as he went.
Buffy got up to follow him. "Spike, wait." He turned around to look at her as he finished shrugging into his coat. She walked up to him, and ran a hand along the collar. "I canít believe you still wear this thing."
He looked down at it. "I promised Nibblet Iíd keep it. She said, Ďdonít ever lose the coat, Spike. I donít care how you came by it, I hope youíll always wear it. The coat is you.í"
Buffy smiled. "She was right."
"Something you wanted, love?"
"Yeah," Buffy said. "You." She looked up at him, and he cocked his head to one side. He looked puzzled. Probably thought heíd misheard her. "I want you to stay," she said. "Here. Tonight. With me."
"Are you sure youíre--"
She put a finger on his lips to shush him. "Iím sober," she said. "Spike, do you remember what you said to me on the stairs? At my house, after I invited you back in, before we went to fight Glory. Do you remember?"
"Of course I remember."
"Youíre not a monster, Spike. Youíre not now, and you werenít then." She shook her head. "I wouldnít have let you back in my house if you were."
"But, Buffy, I--"
"You were wrong," she said. She took his face in her hands and pulled him down to her, and kissed him softly. "That wasnít all you were wrong about." She kissed him again, and he kissed her back, softly at first, a series of soft, sweet kisses, growing in hunger and urgency as she pushed his coat off of him and he pulled her into his arms. She slid her hands up his chest and around his neck, pulling him closer as their kisses finally melted into one long, deep, breathtaking kiss. Eventually she was forced to break it off and catch her breath. As they both stood panting, he rested his forehead against hers.
"You donít have to do this," he said.
"I know. I want to."
"But, if this is out of some sense of gratitude or -- I mean, itís a really grand gesture, pet, but I donít need --"
"Shh." Buffy brought finger to his lips, and kissed his forehead. "I want this, Spike." She looked him in the eye. "I want you."
"I love you," he whispered.
"Stay with me," she said.
"Love, an entire army of pissed off hellgods couldnít make me leave here now."
Buffy giggled as he gathered her up in his arms. She grazed her lips across his cheekbone and along the soft underside of his jaw as he carried her into the bedroom.
They took their time undressing each other, taking every opportunity to become acquainted with the curves and contours of each otherís bodies, exploring first with their hands, and then tasting with their mouths. Spike felt cool and dry to the touch, nothing like the cold clamminess associated with death. He felt very much alive as his every muscle responded to her touch, and as he moved inside her, she felt more alive than sheíd felt in ages.
At last, their passion sated and their bodies spent, she collapsed against him. When they found the energy to move again, he shifted out from under her, and she curled up next to him, her head on his shoulder and an arm across his chest. He wrapped one arm around her shoulders, and stroked her arm with his free hand.
"Tell me about them," she said.
She thought about it, and said, "Iím as ready as Iíll ever be."
"All right. Who should I start with?"
"I donít know. Maybe you should do it alphabetically."
"Starting with Angel, eh?"
Buffy kissed his shoulder. "You donít have to talk about him, if you donít want to."
"I donít mind. Believe it or not, we made up at your funeral."
"I donít believe it."
"Itís true. I mean, the poof and I were never going to be best mates, but we settled our differences."
"Why do I get the feeling that means you two beat each other bloody?"
Spike laughed. "Well, yeah. A bit. Then we went and found some vamps to kill who werenít in love with you, then we went out and got pissed. By the time the sun came up weíd reached an understanding."
"Iím glad," Buffy said. "So what happened to him?"
"He went back to L.A., and ran his detective agency, and kept fighting the good fight. Did you know about the Prophecy of Aberjian?"
"Yeah, well, about twenty years after that, he got his Shanshu."
"Angel turned human?"
"Yeah. With all of the trimmings. Including susceptibility to disease."
"He got sick?"
Spike hesitated. "You sure you want to hear this, love?"
"No," she said, "but keep going."
He stroked her hair as he continued, as if that might keep it from hurting as much. "Pancreatic cancer. Theyíd come up with cures for most cancers by then, but the type he came down with was incurable." He laughed, but it held no mirth. "Those sodding Powers That Be have one sick sense of humor, donít they? They go and make him a real boy, then they kill his wife--"
"Angel got married?"
"Uh, yeah. Cordelia. I was saving her for when I got to ĎC.í"
Buffy sat up and looked at Spike. "Angel married Cordelia? Cordelia Chase?"
"Thatís the one."
She shook her head. "ThatísÖ wow. I never saw that coming."
"It really wasnít that surprising," Spike said. "Theyíd gotten to be best friends, and after he turned human, well, they got to be a lot more than that."
"How did she die?"
"The visions. They eventually got to be too much for her. Her body just gave out. It pretty well destroyed Angel. By the time he got sick, there wasnít a whole lot of fight left in him."
Buffy twisted the sheet in her hands. "Didnít anybody have any happy endings?"
Spike reached up and ran a knuckle down her arm. "You mean besides us?"
She smiled, and lay back down beside him. "Maybe you better move on to somebody else."
"Right. Well, next is Anya. She married Xander. More on that later. After her would be Giles."
"What about Dawn?"
"Saving the best for last, pet."
Buffy smiled at that, and snuggled closer to him. "Tell me about Giles."
"Sure. Um..." He seemed to be searching his memory, or maybe just trying to decide where to start. "Well, he moved back to England after Xander and Anya got married. He left them in charge of the magic shop. I think he felt pretty bloody useless without a Slayer to watch over. He eventually got to be chairman of the Council. He got Faith released and reinstated, at Angelís urging. He died at the age of ninety-two, in his bed, surrounded by the Scooby Gang, with Velvet Underground playing on the turntable. I think it was exactly how he wanted to go."
"I wish I could have been there," Buffy said.
"So did he, love." He kissed her forehead. "Okay, letís see. Whoís next?"
"Oh. Right. Well, as you know, he showed up for your funeral. But he disappeared again after that, and never got back in touch. Iím sorry, pet, I donít know what became of him."
"Thatís okay. I didnít really expect you to."
"Next would be Tara and Willow. The Dynamic Duo. I tell you, pet, once Red got her magic worked out, she was a force to be reckoned with. And when she and Snow White joined forces?" He shuddered. "Who needs a Slayer when youíve got a couple of powerful and pissed off witches around to take up the slack?"
"So Tara was okay?"
"Oh, yeah. She was her old self again after that night. She and Will ended up being together for about forty years, give or take. Willow was the first to go, and after that, Tara just didnít have much will to go on."
"What did they do in the mean time?"
"Willow became a professor at the university. She taught computer science. Tara also became a teacher. She held classes for fledgling Wiccans in the back of the magic shop."
"Anya didnít mind?"
"Hell, no. It was good for business. And that brings us to Xander. Like I said, he and Anya got married. They actually got engaged before we went to fight Glory. They got hitched about six months after that, and had their first born about a year after that. It was a little girl. Three guesses what they named her."
Buffy raised her head. "Really?"
"Aww. I bet she was a cute little Buffy."
"She was certainly a little spitfire. Anyway, Anya took to motherhood like she took to retail, and Xander loved being a dad. They had a half a dozen whelps by the time they were finished. Still, they both found time to join the Council, after Giles took charge. It became the family business. Thereís been at least one Harris in the Council ever since."
"Yay for Xander," Buffy said. "I donĎt suppose you and he ever learned to get along."
"Well, you know, once he got to be a certain age it was just no fun picking on him any more. He couldnít keep up, it was just too easy."
"Hey, I had to have somebody to irritate after you were gone, didnít I? Anyway, itís not like it sounds. Truth is, he and I eventually got to be chums."
Buffy smiled. "I wouldíve liked to see that." She yawned.
"You ready to call it a night?"
"No," she said. "Tell me about Dawn first."
"All right." He smiled. He practically beamed as he spoke of her. "She was a real brave little girl. When she came down from that tower, she took charge. She told us all what you said, about not being afraid to live, and how you wanted us to take care of each other. She made me get up and go hide from the sun. She kept a real close eye on me after that, made sure I didnít try and commit stake-icide or forget that I donít tan. She enlisted the rest of the Scoobies to help her. It went on like that for a few days; then I remembered that I was the one what promised to watch over her, not the other way around. So I snapped out of it."
"Eventually they did get hold of your dad. He moved back home to Los Angeles, and made her go live with him. I drove up every weekend to check on her, at first. Eventually, when it looked like the gang could handle the slaying without me, I moved up there. Your dad kept taking off on business trips, I didnít like her being alone so much. I began doing some work for Angel while I was there. Actually, I think that was the beginning of my legitimization."
"Wow," Buffy said. "Your first job."
"Yeah. Turned out not to be the nightmare I thought it would be. Anyway, we were in L.A. until Dawn graduated, then it was back to Sunnydale. She went to the university there on a full scholarship. She was such a bright little thing."
"What did she study?"
"Ancient religion and archaeology."
"Yeah. She was on a bit of a quest to learn about those monks that put her here."
"She thought she was on to them a few times, but she could never be sure she had the right order."
Buffy thought of her sister on a lifelong quest to learn where she came from and never finding any answers. She buried her face against his shoulder, and sighed.
"Hey, itís not like that was her lifeís work. It was more of a hobby, really. She was curious, but she didnít let it consume her. She actually led a pretty normal life, all things considered."
Buffy sat up, and wiped away a stray tear. "Really?"
"Oh, yeah. Got married, had kids, the whole works. She lived to be a hundred and three. She died in her own bed, surrounded by family."
Another tear slipped down Buffyís cheek. She brushed it away, then turned around to face Spike, so she could see his face as he talked about Dawn. She tucked her knees up under her chin and then said, "What were they like? Her family, I mean. Tell me about them. When did she get married?"
"Right out of college," Spike said. "His name was Kevin Barnes. He was an okay bloke. I figured heíd be good for her when he didnít let me scare him off like the others."
"Spike, you didnít."
"What? I just put a little fear of the Big Bad into Ďem, let Ďem know what to expect from me if they hurt her. Kevin rose to the challenge. I was impressed. The boy had stones. Still, that didnít keep me from having Angel check him out." Spike shrugged. "He came up clean."
Buffy just shook her head. "So, what did this Kevin do?"
"Same thing as Dawn. They met in some kind of archaeology seminar. They were pretty much inseparable after that. They got hitched the summer after they both graduated." He smiled wistfully. "I walked her down the aisle. Needless to say, it wasnít a church wedding."
Buffy pictured Spike in a tux, giving her little sister away to her new husband. The image made her smile.
"They waited a few years to start having kids. Their eldestÖ well, actually, Kevin Jr. would have been the eldest. He died before he was a year old. Crib death."
"Oh God," Buffy said.
"Yeah." Spike swallowed. "I guess I couldnít protect them from everything."
"Itís hardest when there are no monsters to blame," Buffy whispered.
Spike nodded. "Dawn took it real hard," he said. "They both did. It took a couple of years before they were ready to try again. But they did, and thatís when they had Joyce. Joyce Elizabeth, actually. They picked Elizabeth after they found out that Buffy was derived from it."
Buffy smiled. "I had two namesakes? Go me."
Spike laughed. "Anyway, Joyce was the first of the Summers clan to join the Council. Dawn was right proud of her. She was her pride and joy. She looked a lot like you, actually."
He nodded. "Losing Kevin Jr., that was the last of the tragedies for Little Bit. Having Joyce seemed to fill up all the holes that had been left by you and your mum, and the baby. She led a happy, full life. Even though she never stopped missing her big sis."
Buffy picked up his hand and held it. "You really loved her, didnít you."
Spike stared off to the side, at nothing in particular. Finally, he nodded. "She was my best friend. Never had another like her. She was the only one who really knew how much it killed me not having you around." He looked back at Buffy. "'Sides, she was a part of you. Of course I loved her." He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it, then tugged her back down beside him.
"Thank you," she said as he spooned up against her.
"For the history lesson?"
"For being there for her, and watching over her. And me."
He kissed her shoulder. "Itís all I know how to do anymore, pet."
Buffy closed her eyes, and basked in the nearness of him. His bicep as her pillow, the length of his body pressed against hers, his hand resting on her stomach, just underneath her breastÖ it felt so right. Just as right as it had felt to kiss him when sheíd gone to see him in his crypt, after Gloryíd had her way with him.
"I love you, Spike," she whispered.
He didnít say anything. She thought maybe he hadnít heard her. She rolled over on her back to look at him, to see if heíd fallen asleep, but he stared at her in disbelief.
"WhatÖ" He closed his eyes, and shook his head. "What did you say?"
"I said I love you."
He half laughed, then pressed his lips together. "Iím sorry." His voice was breaking up. "I never thoughtÖ I meanÖ" He cocked his head to one side in that funny way of his that Buffy realized sheíd always found adorable. "Since when?"
"Since Glory tortured you, and I saw what you were willing to go through for me and Dawn. MaybeÖ maybe even before that. I was just so scared, and then there wasnít time--"
Spike kissed her, long and deep and true. He seemed to pour himself into it, and she responded in kind, holding nothing back.
After a small eternity, they broke it off. Once Buffy caught her breath, she said, "I thought it was about time I finally said it."
He smiled. "It was worth the wait, love."
A tear slipped down his cheek. Buffy reached up to wipe it away. "I love you," she said again.
"I love you, too," he said, and dove back in for another kiss.
They didnít talk any more that night.
Continued in Part Four: The Late, Great Buffy Summers