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Forgive Me
By Herself

Sequel to Who Am I?; part of The Bittersweets Series

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Will he? Will she?

Author Notes: This is the fifth in the BITTERSWEETS series, following "Who Am I?." The BITTERSWEETS are set in a AU season 6 verging off of "Wrecked."

Dedication: As always, for Kalima first and foremost. Also for the Bitches, and Deborah M.

Completed: January 2002.

Disclaimer: Joss creates, I borrow



One

Presently she's existing
Formerly she was a dead girl
Left alone and forgotten
Trying hard to find something she'd won
Leave her things scattered round her
Practising such restraint
But she'll find you and she'll get you
Even she's not one of God's damn saints

--Holly Beth Vincent, "Revenge"

Buffy came back from downtown in the early afternoon to find him, once more, sacked out in front of the television. Well, at least the Scoobies hadn’t come in and dragged him away while she was out. Meeting her responsibilities. Which in this instance, had actually included picking up Willow’s dry cleaning.

“Making yourself useful, I see,” she said.

Spike waited ten seconds for the commercial to start before acknowledging her. “When’s the next Big Bad gonna show up? That’s what I want to know. I want to mix it up a bit—get your back while you take some screaming foe apart. Need to tear some beastie’s throat out with my fangs. Mind you, the sex and the 250-channel cable here’s great—“

“I’m going to have to cancel the cable.”

“Cancel it!”

“The money’s not there, Spike. We have no income. I’ve got to get all the pipes replaced. And for that matter . . . if you’re going to eat people food at every meal when you’re hanging around here, then ends are not going to meet. I don’t mind bringing in the blood for you, it’s cheap, but another mouth—is another mouth.”

“You and Niblet barely eat anything. Skin an’ bones, you are. Like a bit more flesh on you, for that matter. But all’s I do is finish up what you’d just throw away.”

“Oh, is that how you think of the five lambchops you ate just now? That were supposed to be tonight’s supper for all three of us, not your lunch.”

He examined his fingernails. “Need to keep my strength up. Servicing the Slayer takes a lot out of a man.”

“Whatever. But I’m not rooting for the debut of the next Big Bad. I’ve got to find a job. And when I find it, I’ve got to keep it.”

“Bollocks!”

“Bollocks. What a helpful remark.”

“What you need is a salary from the bleeding Council. Why should they expect you to save the world for free every time? They pay bloody Rupert. Whom you are supposed to be on the blower to right about now, petal, if you recall your promise.”

“I recall it.” She pouted.

The commercials were over; he turned back to the TV. “You get on to them and make them put you on the payroll. Pension, survivor benefits an’ all. Make ‘em pay for the pipe-fitting too, while you’re at it. Don’t imagine they’re not sitting on an enormous endowment, those spooks. Thousand year old secret society—rolling in it. An’ you’re the best slayer they’ve had in yonks, don’t think they don’t know it.”

“How do you know so much about the Council?”

“Made it my business to know. Hush! I think Gary’s about to jilt Lisa here. Go make your phone call, pet. Pubs’ll be open over there in a half hour, and you’ll have missed him.”



God, he was bossy. And thoughtless. Just like a man. They were all the same, dead or alive. In bed Spike might be all my mistress my heart my queen, and making her come twenty times in a night, but the minute he was standing upright in his clothes, he was just where’s the remote, where’s my cigs, where’s something I can eviscerate.

Buffy wandered into the kitchen and stood looking at the five lambchop bones in the trash. He’d gnawed them right down, sucked out the marrow; they were almost shiny. And the greasy frying pan was still on the stove. He hadn’t even put it in the sink to soak. She and Dawn would have to eat popcorn for dinner. Or maybe cold cereal. Far be it from Spike to forgo two packs of cigarettes and buy them a pizza. Not that she liked to think about where he got what little money he had.

She brought her address book and the phone to the counter island and climbed up on a stool. Tried to think what she’d say. The letter she’d dispatched just yesterday wouldn’t be there yet, of course. So she’d have to tell it to him after all, just the thing she’d dreaded doing. No one except Angel would be a less receptive audience. Buffy closed her eyes and tried to picture Giles, in the flat she’d never seen, in a town—Bath, funny name—that she had no mental image of, answering her call. How happy he’d sound to hear her voice. Happy at first. And then what? Suddenly she heard Giles in her head, saying You have no respect for me, or for what I do. Spike didn’t even have the excuse of a soul to make him quasi worthy of her. She was going to go down in the annals as that shameful thing, the slayer who couldn’t keep her hands off the stock in trade.

A cool touch on the back of her neck. She opened her eyes to find Spike bending over her.

“What? What do you want? You’ve already devoured all the protein in the house!”

“Just thought you’d like me to hold your hand while you talk to him, pet.”



“Giles! It’s me, it’s Buffy.”

“Buffy! How splendid. That is . . . is it splendid?”

“Um . . . to hear your voice, yes! How are you, Giles?” She glanced at Spike, who was perched on the stool beside her, turning a cigarette over and over between his fingers. She’d declined the hand-hold, but was glad when he’d not wandered back to the television.

“Muddling along, you know. This and that. What’s the occasion?”

The occasion?” Oh, for this call. Shit, this was it. “Giles, there’s something you don’t know about . . . about me. Since I’ve been back.”

At once, the quality of his silence changed. Buffy thought she could hear it through the line, Giles’ apprehension. In a moment, she knew, he’d be cradling the receiver on his shoulder, taking his glasses off and polishing them. He always did that when he heard something that astonished and disheartened him, and her news would do both.

She tried to plunge on. “At first I couldn’t really deal with it, because there’s sort of been a lot going on here, with Willow and all, and I didn’t want to think about it, you know me, Miss Plausible Deniability of 2001, but . . . um . . . I’ve been advised to tell you about it, so . . . “

“Buffy. Slow down. Please just describe it as simply as you can.”

She froze. How how how could she explain it, and then listen to whatever he would say? Listen to his pained silence? The strength just wasn’t there.

She shoved the phone at Spike.

He tried to push it back at her, but she shook her head fiercely. Then Spike shrugged. “Oi, Rupert. Your Slayer’s come back wrong. Chip doesn’t fire anymore when I bash her across a room.”

Buffy put her head up close to Spike’s so she could catch Giles’ end of the conversation. At first there was nothing to hear, just the silence that had turned from apprehensive to stunned.

Then . . . “Spike? Good Lord—why—why am I suddenly talking to you? What have you done with Buffy? Is she your prisoner? Is this some sort of ransom demand? Or are you just calling to taunt me before you—“

“I said she ought to tell you this herself, but you know how she gets. She’s right here, Rupes. Talk to him, love.”

“Giles, we’re in the kitchen at home. I’m not . . . I’m not a prisoner, or anything.”

“Oh thank God. But—are you quite sure? It’s not a trick? If he’s really holding you hostage, say—say ‘Willow is well,’ and I’ll hang up and phone the Magic Shop at once.”

“Giles, I’m fine. Spike is too busy digesting five goddamned lambchops thank you very much to be doing anything more nefarious. Really.”

Here was where the glasses got cleaned. Then, “So, ah . . . why is . . . in short, why is he there, Buffy? And what was he talking about?”

“I wrote you a letter. I mailed it yesterday. But you won’t get it until next week, I guess.”

“Ah. A letter. And the letter said?”

“Well, it said a lot of stuff about how everything’s different and my priorities have sort of changed, and things are weird and hard, but what it really came down to was that, um, we’ve become involved. I’m involved. With, with Spike.”

“Buffy. Good God.”

All at once her eyes burned; she felt tears gather. “Just please don’t be angry at me, Giles. Spike is worried about me. Because of the chip thing. Showing that I’m not the same as I was. Not human, somehow. And we don’t know what it means, or how to find out.”

Another silence. This really wasn’t a conversation to be having on the telephone. It was a pace up and down the training room not looking at each other but yet aware of every minute glance and expression conversation.

“Giles, please. I can’t stand it when you—“ Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Spike listens to me, and . . . keeps me from . . . from getting lost. Because . . . something’s wrong, and I’m not—I’m not—me anymore.”

She waited, her cheek pressed against Spike’s cool dry one, the phone receiver clammy against the back of her ear.

Through the wire, a sigh. “Oh Buffy. I see I shall have to come back, won’t I?”

Spike grabbed the phone and turned away from her with it. “Hey, before you do, Rupes—get on to those council blokes and tell ‘em their slayer ought to have some bloody remuneration! She’s drowning in debt, threatening to cancel the cable, worried about groceries—we can’t have that, mate.”

Buffy didn’t hear what Giles said, but Spike’s last remark before he put the phone down gave her some clue. “Yeah, well, maybe you should rethink that—what with us looking after the same girl an’ all.”

She couldn’t suppress her smile when he turned back to her. “Spike, sometimes you—“

The knock at the kitchen door cut her off. Buffy shifted the curtain and saw Tara, eyes lowered, standing outside.

“Can I come in?”

“Of course, you—you live here.”

“Well, not really.” She blushed, and looked away. “Hello Spike.”

“Glinda.”

Tara fidgeted with the points of her bodice. “I came to get some things I left here. And to see . . . if . . . .”

Spike stepped towards her. “I’m all right, thanks.”

At this she blushed harder, and tossed her head. “I’m glad. I . . . I didn’t know ahead of time what they meant to do, or I’d have—“

“I know.”

She turned to Buffy, and suddenly her voice was clear and strong. “I think you have the right to love whom you please.” Then the blush came up stronger than ever, and she pushed past them, saying “Stuff’s upstairs, just be a sec’.”

“Well, there,” Spike said, pulling her into his chest, “we’ve got one friend, yeah? And old Rupert’s coming, you’ll like to see him again, pet.”

“No I won’t. You know he’s so worried and angry and disappointed in me now. And he doesn’t want to keep getting sucked back here.”

“Ah well . . .” Spike said, “you and he have that in common.”



Spike bought pizza after all, without even being asked, and the three of them sat in a row on the sofa, Dawn in the middle, and watched television. Just like regular people. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so regular that Dawn was painting Spike’s nails black. Or that she herself couldn’t follow the simple action of the program they were staring at, because her mind was full of dread at Giles’ return, and wondering what Xander and Willow were doing, and whether anybody would call her on the applications she’d filled out that afternoon, and if she could really wait tables again anyway.

Feeling a twinge in her belly, and a familiar warmth, she rose and went to the bathroom. It seemed a little early, but then she’d been too preoccupied to remember to make a note on the calendar, like she usually did. She probably wouldn’t remember to do it this time either. Had Dawn used up all the Tampax again without mentioning it? She rooted around under the sink. Found some. Swallowed a couple of pills against the cramps that bloomed almost as soon as she stood up from her crouch. Washed up.

As she climbed over his legs to resume her seat, Spike caught her hand and pressed a kiss into the palm. She met his gaze for a moment. Cool, assuming, a boyfriend look. Dawn glanced at them, and smiled. A smile like the sun finally breaking through at the end of a long overcast day.

Buffy dropped back into her place and hugged one of the sofa cushions to her lap. She had no idea what the program was about, and didn’t care enough to ask. Tipping her head back, she closed her eyes.



“Right, Niblet. Bedtime.”

Buffy opened her eyes. Had she dozed? The clock showed ten-thirty. Dawn was getting up without protest—something she never did for her. She paused for a moment, then dipped down and kissed him on the point of one sharp cheekbone.

“Sis too,” Spike murmured.

Dawn’s lips felt very warm against her face; the lashes brushed her eyebrow in the briefest of touches that nevertheless made Buffy shiver. “Sweet dreams, Dawnie.”

As soon as she was gone, Spike slid across the empty space between them and claimed her, a hand on her breast, another in her hair. She let him kiss her once, then got up.

“I want to sleep alone tonight.”

He cocked her a look.

“Stay in the house. Just not with me.”

“What am I being punished for now? The lambchops, still?”

“Nothing. Spike—nothing. I just—“

He frowned, then a look of surprise flitted across his face. “It’s because you’re on the rag.”

She started.

“Dunno why you’re so coy. Can smell it on you.” He sat forward, and before she could shift away, took her hips in his hands and buried his nose in her crotch.

“Spike!” She shoved him, and retreated to the stairs.

His eyes had gone witchy with desire. “Don’t turn me out, Slayer. Forget that damn plug you’ve got up there. I’ll drink you all night, won’t spill a drop on your clean sheets. Make you come ‘til you swoon.”

The twinge that began between her legs when he’d touched her was now a flickering in her clit so intense it was almost as if he was there already. “No. No! I’m not letting you drink my blood, Spike! No way. That is just taking things too far.”

He rose and came to her. Movements slow, languid. Put a seductive hand on her belly, brought his lips down to her ear. “Won’t hurt you,” he whispered. “Never hurt you. Just want all of you, is all. Want your taste, want your delicious—“

“NO!” She pushed him back, hard enough to make him stagger, and for a moment the coffee table was in doubt. Then he straightened up, and smiled at her.

“Doesn’t hurt to ask though, does it Slayer? You smell so intense with it. Marvelous. Maybe next month . . . if I’m a good boy.” He picked up his leather, shrugged into it.

“Where are you going?”

“Thought I’d visit the witch, let her kill me.”

He laughed at the small sound she made. “No fear, petal. Just going to Willie’s for a drink. Round of pool. Don’t fancy staying here with your bouquet at my nose and no sniffing allowed.” He opened the door.

“Spike.” Her voice so tiny all of a sudden. “Be ca—watch yourself.”

“Always, love.”



Two

He blew into the kitchen, dropping the blanket he didn’t really need—it was raining—in time to stop Dawn shillyshallying with her lipgloss and missing the bus.

“Sis still asleep?”

“I heard her stomping around before I got up. Went back to bed, I guess.” Dawn thrust her make-up bag into her knapsack. “Did you two have a fight last night?”

“No, princess. Nothing of the sort. Go on, now.”

When she’d left, Spike prowled the kitchen for a few moments, listening to the gurgling of the fragile pipes, the low hum of the furnace, and the dripping gutters outside. He wouldn’t have said no to a cup of tea, but he didn’t want to make a pot and bring it up to Buffy. Not what he had in mind for her that morning. Not the way he wanted to start off.

Spike took the stairs two at a time.



Her eyes, staring at the thing he held, were the size of hubcaps.

“Spike. No way. All the no way that is, or was, or ever will be.”

He pretended to shrug. “I only thought, pet, as you’d been so keen with your little fingers the other night, you’d fancy a chance to—”

She shook her head, staring at it.

“I can’t believe you brought that into my house. Dawn didn’t see you with that, did she?”

He didn’t dignify that with a reply.

Spike. Put that away.”

He pushed it at her. “You put it away. That’s the idea.”

As soon as it was out of his hand and in hers, he threw off his leather, began shucking his clothes. “Don’t say you’re not interested in a bit of a knees up. I promise not to yank at your pretty white string.”

“You are foul.”

Then he brought his laughing mouth right up to ear. “C’mon Buffy. Give it me good.”



“Where did you get this? I mean—where’s it been?”

“Nowhere. Yet. What, you think it belonged to Dru?”

At the mention of this name, Buffy grimaced.

“Nah, I nicked it last night. Little spot of breaking and entering down the shops. Fresh out of the box, it is. Go on.”

“Ugh—“ She waved it off. “Anyway, it’s . . . I wouldn’t think you—“

“Could take it? I’ve took worse. Or better, you might say.”

“Oh God.”

“A lot you don’t know about me, pet.”

It wasn’t even quite as long as Angelus, the thing she was making such horrified, fascinated eyes at, although the thickness was about the same, and everybody knew that’s what really counted. Although it was shaped curiously like, might almost have been modeled off him, with that gentle curve, the only thing gentle about his old grand-sire; which is what had attracted Spike’s notice of it in the first place. Almost made him feel nostalgic, like. Wasn’t going to point that out, though.

Her going into him with her fingers the last time was an amazing mind-fuck too, had awakened patterns of lewdness in his head that shifted and bloomed like a kaleidoscope. It was a good twenty-five years since he’d given it up to another man, and he’d never done the like with a woman before at all. Which he also wasn’t going to tell her.

But he wanted to give it up to her.

He was kneeling up on her bed now, and she stood just out of arm’s reach. Naked like him, but hugging herself as if it was cold in here, which it wasn’t, and like she wasn’t ever going to take the three steps towards him that she would take. He wasn’t a vampire for nothing. He’d tangle her gaze with his and draw her here.

That was it. One foot in front of the other.

He caught her by the waist, turned her around. Seemingly stunned, she didn’t resist him. “There you go, pet. Needs to be snug, but you say if the straps’re too tight.”

She glanced down at herself, and then away, as a blush raced across her chest, up her neck to her cheeks. “Oh my God. I look—oh my God. This is disgusting.” She tried to push it off, then gasped.

“That’s right, love. Works both ways. Little knob inside there, gives back everything you’re gonna give me.” He grinned, grasped the rosy round end of it, pushed down, and watched her start and gasp again.

No way she wasn’t into it, the minx. Pretending to be shocked.

But he could practically sense the synapses in her brain firing as her imagination raced, smell her excitement building; it fed his, made his prick bob, his fangs tingle to come down. The rich sanguine scent she gave off, the sight of her with that apparatus springing from her curls, a golden androgyne goddess from the mists of time. Priapus as a girl. This was going to be good. He suspected, once she got the first taste, that she’d go at him like nobody other than his Grand-Sire ever had.

Spike rolled onto his stomach, looked at her over his shoulder.

“Come on, then. You know you want to stake me, Slayer.”



What, did he think this was funny? Strapping her into this fake prick and laughing at her while she blushed? Did he think this was a little game he was going to control? Had he forgotten whom he was dealing with?

Forgotten what she was dealing with?

“Um . . . Okay.”

She dragged him up, threw him across the room. Spike hit the door with a loud crack; she leapt after. One head-snapping blow toppled him to hands and knees on the rug. She dropped onto his back.

Did he really think she was just going to let him take this lying down?

Now she was interested.

New weapons always were interesting.

She aimed and struck, drove it home with one convulsive motion. Spike shouted, tried to shake her off. She grabbed his jaw, wrested his head up, and bit into his neck. He cried out again, and his thin dead blood flooded beneath her lips.

“Ahhh shit—Slayer—little lube is customary—“

“Make your own, Spike.”

She dug in, clinging to his arched back like an angry cat. This was incredible. Scratched the same itch that punching him did, but scratched it better, harder, meaner. Took her outside herself the way nothing had yet—this wasn’t even sex, it was sheer lunatic aggression, and oh God she needed it, it was perfect. She sawed her hips, he cried out at every thrust, short little protesting cries that called up all her hatred and rage, and now the thing felt like part of her, she imagined she could feel through it the inside shape of him, his guts rippling and clutching and screaming. There was no difference between the thing and her own clit, every move she made in him reverberated through her like the blow-back from a shotgun blast. This was filthy great! By time his channel got slicker—blood, or what sort of spume, she didn’t know or care—she’d already come three times, but each orgasm made her stronger, hotter. Sweat dripping, gluing her to the cool armature of his back, she made a pattern of bite marks on his shoulders that welled up with red like freakish lipstick kisses. Spike had his head down now, he was grunting and thrusting back at her, uhn, uhn, uhn. Fine, let him screw himself on the thing, but when he tried to hold them up on just one hand and grab his own prick with the other, she yanked his arm up and back until he howled.

Did he think she was just some girl? Or that she’d forgotten who he was? What they were to each other?

This was electric, his body, her body, resonating like struck gongs. It was hell and degradation, agony and torment. It was what they were both built for. It was his idea, so he must have wanted it!

She was a monster now, they were two monsters coupling like monsters and it was hideous and obscene and right.

She sunk her teeth into his nape, deep, deeper, filling her mouth with his salty blood, letting it run out at the corners and drip down his neck. Punishing him, beating on him with her fists, while he lowed and shook beneath her, her mount, her beast, her cunt, and it all just built and built and built, spiraling, dizzying, the uncontrollable shaking loathing fucking gnawing madness until—

implosion

—lightheatsensebloodskinthrustsweatsound—

—moremoremoremoremoremoremoremoremore—

—no more—

—nothing.



The pain, when he came back to himself, was everywhere, radiating out from the core of his body. He couldn’t exactly locate the pleasure, although there must have been some, because he was lying in his sticky drying cum on the rag rug. His neck and upper back from shoulder to shoulder were laid open, in ragged overlapping bites that oozed and stung as he tried to shift himself. Her hair and cheek were stuck to the wounds; her weight on him dead, and the thing still lodged inside, a cold merciless instrument, impaling him, stirring his guts to nausea.

“Buffy,” he whispered. “Buffy . . . love . . . come back to me.”

“Huhhhnn . . . .”

Fucking hell— Don’t move yet. Shit . . . slowly. Pull . . .it . . . out . . . slowly. Christ. There’ll be my innards with it.”

She was up on hands and knees now, still straddling him, but God what a relief to have her off! Have it out. His broken skin seethed. He wanted to roll over, but that wasn’t an option—not for a day or two. He could feel her looking at him, surveying her handiwork, but he didn’t open his eyes.

Then her little voice. “Jeez.” And she was up on her dainty feet; he felt the few steps she took on the board floor through his aching bones. Heard her fumbling with the straps, and then the thing hit the floor beside his head. Another few steps, and the door shutting, and he was alone with the ongoing sound of the rain.



He was shaking, weak as a kitten as he dragged himself out of her room. He supposed she was in the other bathroom off the witches’; didn’t question that as he ran the bath hot as he could stand. Almost yowled as he slid into the water and every hurt place on his body screamed.

The experiment not quite what he’d anticipated.

He’d wanted her to make free of him.

Wanted her to be wild. So they’d be wild together, for a little while.

Hadn’t expected that merely strapping her into the thing would cause the door to her inner blast furnace to fly open and the fires to come roaring out. Not prepared for that much hatred. Or the depth of her self-evisceration. Her horrible negation, of him, of herself, of the progress he’d thought they’d made. The distance between sexual pleasure and any kind of reconciliation between Buffy and life . . . between Buffy and him. Stupid. But then, he’d always been stupid about her. Imagining he could kill her like he’d killed the other slayers. There was no other like her. Then that he could love her like a man. And worst folly of all, that anything had really changed because she’d wept in his arms, and kissed him and called him William.

The water seeped into his cuts; they stung and throbbed, and he, stung, throbbed with grief at what he’d attempted and how he’d failed and been punished.



Went back to her room for his clothes. No sign of her, although he could still sense the signature of her menstrual blood in the air; she was somewhere in the house. The clock showed it was short of half ten. How had despair made such a complete invasion in just two hours? The same rainstorm still sluicing the windows, Dawn barely into her second class of the morning.

Gingerly, he knelt to retrieve his jeans. Bending over was too painful. She’d given him the rogering to end all rogerings. Behind him, the bedroom door opened. He glanced over his shoulder.

There: his queen, his tormentress, his conquistadora. Wet hair slicked back off her face, wrapped in a white towel. Cheeks and eyelids pale. Pale lips parted.

“You’re all torn.” She came up behind him, laid a finger without weight on his nape. Looking as if she had no idea it had anything to do with her. Pale concern in her eyes. “I can put some Vaseline on . . . it’ll feel better.”

“Bites’ll knit up on their own,” he said. His head so close to her belly, he could smell it again, the stirring sanguinary center of her, and hastened to rise.

She looked up at him. Something so blank in her face, it made him shudder.

“I’m sorry.”

Two empty words that floated in the air before her lips, connected to nothing.

He thought on this for a moment, wanted some anger to rise against it, but what else should he have expected of his dirty little scheme? Of her, in her condition? Stupid.

“No, pet. I suited you up, you played the game.”

Once more he reached for his trousers. Buffy threw herself across the bed. The towel fell open, and there were her pretty breasts, her belly and her sex. A woman again. Everything pink and fragrant from the bath. He eased himself into his jeans and turned his back on her to zip the fly.

When he glanced back, she’d parted her legs, and one indolent hand lay on the inner thigh.

He longed to walk out the door, leave and never come back, but found himself instead approaching her. Cripes, he was so predictable. No pride when a woman was in it. Well, the woman. Which was her now.

Looking right down at her uptilted impassive face. Unable to help himself, to refrain from dropping a kiss on each rosy clean nipple, on the small curve of her stomach, on the hand that rested still against her thigh, a mysterious gatekeeper, neither friend nor foe. The aroma of her pussy, the blood, went to his vanquished head like wine; he waited to be pushed away, and meanwhile looked his fill.

Her hand didn’t move. Her breath quickened, the thighs settling further back.

He spotted it then. “Where’s your little string, love?”

“Do what you wanted to do.”



Oh, it was terrible. His love and acceptance and worship were terrible to her. They must mean she was unfit for any man but a demon, because it took a demon to know her. He did thoroughly know her. Knew just how low and corrupt she truly was. She’d tried for years to deny what she was—pretended she could slay, fulfill her destiny, and still be a nice girl with a regular life.

It was a delusion.

She threw back her head, closed her eyes. Didn’t want to see the beast while she let him have his depraved way with her.

But she would feel it, everything he was about to do. Vamp out, grab her hips and latch on like a leech. Wasn’t this almost his final triumph? It lacked only the bite. The kill. But perhaps those would come in a few minutes, when he lost the semblance of control. He was, after all, what he was. Fitting that it be there, and not the neck—right for the Slayer who fucked the monsters she was meant to kill.

His hand stroked her leg, softly from the crux of her hip to the knee, up and back, up and back. Lulling, hypnotic. His head was pillowed on her other thigh. He sipped at her, tongue lapping far up inside, but so softly, as if she was made of some gauze that might tear at the least pressure.

Pointless, really, of him to be so delicate. Wasn’t she already torn?

And pointless for her, to think she’d get her quietus this way. He was too strong for her, still.

Each stroke of his hand up her leg laid her a little more open. His swallowing was a small steady sound, like a cat drinking milk. After a while, like a cat, he made a low steady sound in his throat. The sound seemed to sink her further into the pillows, further into her knowledge of herself, the demon’s unclean mistress. From stroking her leg, his hand moved to cup her mons, the thumb flicking softly across the wet clit that already stood up ready for it.

Why, she thought, resist this anymore?

She shivered under his fingers, his steadily lapping tongue.

Too late for anything else, after all.

The demon adored her.

Feed him.

Her breath caught, and the shiver beneath his moving thumb spread out through her to her toes and finger’s ends. He raised his head off her thigh for a moment, and their gazes locked across her recumbent body.

“This is heaven. My heaven.”

She stroked his damp hair through her fingers, and gently bent him back to his place. After all, why shouldn’t he have a brief taste of it too?



When he stopped at last, she felt as if roused from a stupor. Coming back from far far away to open her eyes and find him sitting cross-legged, looking at her in the grey nonlight of afternoon. Sound of rain still rattling in the gutters, and the hollow quiet of the house.

He’d kept his promise: not spilled a drop. No traces on his face, except the expression, sated, content. Not what she expected, still, despite the quiet with which he’d taken her: where was the gloating possessor? A tiny panicked voice deep inside her stilled mind cried out What have you done! Given over your blood, your blood!

But it was such a tiny voice. Buffy sat forward, touched the marks on his shoulders, open, red and angry.

“You are so patient with me.” Touched the places on his neck where she’d sunk in and not let go. “Why are you so patient, Spike?”

He shivered and turned from her gaze.

“Someone has to be.”



Her expression confused him; there was something of Dru’s madness in it, and something else that was too ancient to shine out of the eyes of a twenty-year old, even the slayer, that filled him with pity and revulsion.

She made a gesture at his waist. “Show . . . show yourself to me.”

He knelt up, undid his belt buckle, his fly. She stared, contemplative. Of course he was hard and aching.

This time, taking him into her mouth, she knew just how to please him. He’d never, in all his years, he thought, had a better seeing to. From this hollow-eyed creature who was half-way out of this life anyway, and the other half consumed with sadness. Who had raped him and somehow didn’t know it. Of course he forgave her. Forgave her with all his might.



Three

“Now I know you’ve got a full house working, ‘cos of what’s on the table, and what’s in my hand. I keep count, Little Bit. That’s how I win.”

Buffy came into the kitchen and set the bags down on the counter. The rain was still sluicing down. When she’d gone out to the market, everything looked flat and grey and out of place. She’d tried not to speak to anyone, or look into anybody’s face. Without being asked, Spike had given her money; offered to go with her—it was already dark—but she told him Dawn shouldn’t come in to an empty house. Glad of her demurral when she spotted Xander framed at the beer cooler at the end of one long aisle, and hid herself behind a pyramid of Libby’s Creamed Corn until she was sure he’d gone.

“Spike. Don’t teach my little sister how to be a card sharp.”

Dawn rolled her eyes. “Buffy. You never let me do anything. Besides, this is educational. Math is involved.”

“Yeah,” Spike said. “It’s a useful life skill, innit, Slayer? Knowing how to play a friendly game like a gentleman. Stand the Niblet in good stead when she goes off to college.”

“Oh, as if you were ever a gentleman.”

“He was, though,” Dawn said. “I mean—when he went to Cambridge, he—“ She stopped. Spike’s stare had dropped to forty below. Hey, Buffy thought. She could look at Dawn like that, but he wasn’t supposed—

“How would you know about that?” Spike said. His voice steel-tipped. “Not from me.”

Buffy said “Cambridge? As in Cambridge University?”

“I . . . I don’t know . . . didn’t you tell me?” She fidgeted with her cards. “I thought you did.”

“You’ve been prying into my box. My locked box.”

Buffy said, “What box?” and Dawn said “No!” and Spike, leaping up from the table, said “Fucking hell, you miserable child, you broke into my box!”

“I didn’t, I didn’t,” Dawn cried, “it was an accident!”

Spike turned his back on them, his shoulders heaving, and let out a roar that made both girls jump. Grabbing up a stake from the junk drawer, Buffy scrambled to get between him and her sister. Behind her, Dawn broke into fear-struck sobs. Spike came around then; Buffy expected to see his vamp face and had the stake half way into position before she saw only William, looking uncertain and angry.

“There’s some things kiddies aren’t meant to see.” He addressed this to Buffy, like a plea. “And my box is full of such.”

“What is this box?”

“My mementos. My history. Mine and Dru’s. Mine and An— . . . I’ve brought it with me everywhere. It’s not meant for anybody’s eyes but mine.”

“Well then what’s it doing in my house? Keep it in your crypt where it belongs.”

“But the crypt’s all broken up.” Dawn sniffed, and wiped at her eyes with the heel of her hand. “Willow and Xander and Anya wrecked it the other night and burned all Spike’s stuff. He almost couldn’t get the box at all. Willow blew it at him out of the fire with magic, it knocked him out, I thought it had killed him. And—and—and—I swear, Spike, I took it upstairs like you said to, and then it fell open when I was trying to put it down. I’ve only got one arm now, it was heavy. The lock was broken. All the stuff fell out. So . . . so I saw some of it. Just a little. While I was picking it all up off the floor.”

Spike said “Oh bloody fucking Christ you stupid girl!” and Buffy said “Wait a minute, you left the house without telling me and went to the cemetery?” and Dawn said “I couldn’t help it!”

Buffy rounded on Spike. “I can’t have this! I can’t have this in my house—you, your filthy influences—your devices—! Now how the hell am I going to wash her mind out with soap? I’ve got to wash mine!”

“Buffy, love, listen—“

“Get out! Get out of here this minute!”

“Spike, really, I didn’t see anything—just a few envelopes, pictures—I swear I didn’t open—“

“Out! I should never have permitted— You’ve crossed the line. Get out!”

I’ve crossed the line—? I’m the one covered in your bloody—“

Shut up and get out!”

“All right, fuck you then. Let me get my blasted box and I’ll go. See if I save the Niblet’s hide or yours ever—“

“Dawn,” Buffy said, “open the kitchen door, please.”

Dawn was sobbing again, chanting “Don’t do this don’t do this don’t do this stop fighting—!”

Dawn. The door, unless you want to see a Spike-shaped hole in it.”

“This is how you serve me, bitch, after everything I’ve done for you an’ her! God all mighty, what does it take, woman? What does it take to get you to stop hating me?”

“OUT.”

The sound Spike made when he hit the back porch boards face first was drowned out by the crash when Buffy slammed the door. She grabbed the little notepad out of the same drawer that held the stake, and began at once to chant the words handily written out on it for just such an emergency, the spell that would bar him from the house. Sobbing and wailing, Dawn followed her from door to door of the house as she sealed them all against him. “It’s not his fault. It was an accident. Why are you being so mean to us?”

Buffy rounded on her. The sight of Dawn’s tear-streaked near-hysteria made her wild. What had she done, allowing this undead demon to influence her sister, to inject her young mind with his taint? “Us? Us? You and Spike are not us! Spike is not us with anybody in this house! Do you hear me!”

“Buffy, he’s my friend—! He took care of me when you were gone, and . . .and I thought now he was your . . . that you two were . . . it’s not fair!”

“Life’s not fair. Get used to it.”

“I knew you’d say that! You’re such a flaming bitch!” Dawn took the stairs two at a time, and Buffy practically flew up after her, catching her bedroom door before Dawn could crash it shut in her face.

“Give me the box. And everything in it. You may not have it in your room.”

Dawn drew herself up. “No.”

“What did you say?”

“I said no. It’s not yours. If I give it to you, you’ll destroy it, and then—“

“Dawn. If you ever want to set foot outside this house for the next three years, except to go to school, Give. Me. The. Box.”

Her face crumpled. “Take it! I don’t know you anymore! You’re crazy!”

There it was on Dawn’s desk, the size of a small footlocker, dented and singed. Buffy snatched it up and stalked out with it, while once more the house shook with the reverberations of a slammed door.

*******

The box. As soon as she was in bed, lights off, the house ticking and creaking to itself as it did in the night, and the muffled sound of Dawn’s sobs still echoing in her ears, Buffy could think of nothing else. What was in it? What had Dawn seen, which she could never unsee now? Mementos, he’d said. What sort of obscene mementos would a vampire keep? One as obsessed and perverted as Spike

She didn’t want to look. Didn’t want too much information forced upon her: it was bad enough that she’d gone so far with him just knowing what she knew already. The memory of what she’d permitted him to do this afternoon filled her with loathing—what had she become, that she could let him drink her, and luxuriate in it! Him! She’d seen him brag and gloat over his past kills. Two slayers. Two. Seen him attack people, seen him feed. Always known he was unclean down to the marrow of his bones. Soulless. And yet she’d managed somehow to put all that out of her mind, and allowed him close to her. Allowed him all the way in.

I knew the only thing better than killing a slayer would be f—

Oh God oh God oh God what have I done?

She threw back the covers. Switched on the lamp. Too much information? There could never be too much information—she owed it to herself to know what he really was, so she could remember, every moment, why she was never going to make that mistake again. Never let him into the house, never let him into— She pulled the box off her dresser, spilled its contents across the floor. She would rub her own nose in his muck, she would shiver with the shame and horror of what she’d indulged herself in. And then she’d turn her back on it for good.

She spent little time with the musty black silk stocking or the doll’s head, its yellowed porcelain cracked although it was wrapped up in a twist of newspaper that was itself forty years old. Knew whom they belonged to.

A three inch square of linen, yellowed too, came beneath her fingers. It was stiff with dried blood, the spots faded to a light brown. A record of some act of violence so old as to seem almost benign: whose death did this commemorate? Only he knew.

The earrings startled her for a moment by their forgotten familiarity. Hers. The pair she’d been wearing the day she died. Buffy wondered if he’d taken them from her corpse by stealth or if someone—Willow? Dawn?—had given them to him. It didn’t seem important now, except that she didn’t want him to have them. She tossed them onto the dresser top.

Glanced indifferently at the little volumes of poetry. The Poetical Works of Keats was marked inside as being given on Prize Day at Harrow School, for excellence in Latin translation, 1870, to William______. So that was the full name of the man—a boy, then—whom Spike now impersonated. She sounded the syllables on her tongue, not saying them out loud. Dead for a hundred and twenty years.

A photo fell from one of the volumes: two boys in boater hats and pale soft tweeds, their smooth adolescent faces creased into affected frowns of disaffection, posing beneath the trailing branches of a willow. One wore little spectacles on his nose, held a book with a finger thrust between the pages to keep the place. She didn’t recognize Spike in either of them, and nothing was written on the back.

Bundles of letters, smaller and squarer than she was used to seeing, tied up in string. Addressed to that same William at an address in Cambridge, in two or three different feminine hands. Pale brown ink, the same color as the stains on the square of linen. Something told her they weren’t love letters. She set them aside unplumbed.

Another picture she plucked from the jumble showed a group of young men not much older than the first two, standing outdoors against the backdrop of an old stone building, formidably gothic. So odd, none of them bareheaded, none without a coat and cravat, all looking so serious, like men twice their age. Members of Magdalene College, 1873. Clipped to this was a piece of yellowing parchment that Buffy didn’t need to read Latin to see was William’s degree. She squinted at the faces, but wasn’t sure which one was Spike. None looked definitely like him. Perhaps it was the fellow standing second from left; or it might be the one in the front row of kneelers, fourth from the right. Or neither. They all looked so antiquated.

A flat cardboard box of the kind stockings were sold in in the 1940s yielded up more photographs, but these were all of Spike and Drusilla. Buffy never could get over the oddity of vamps’ unchanging faces down the decades. The daguerreotype reproduced in one of Giles’ books was just like the Drusilla she first saw talking to Angel in that playground across town . . . and here she was again, and again and again, usually looking out of time, or at least rather out of fashion. Conforming only to her own idea of herself. Unlike her, Spike kept up. When they’d won a dance marathon in New Orleans in 1925—Buffy gaped at the oddity of that, the shiny cup and the fistful of twenty dollar bills they held up, grinning before the camera—his dark hair was slicked back from his bony forehead, and a slim dark moustache rode the line of his upper lip. For the next twenty years he’d stuck to pinstriped suits. The cut of them, the shapes of the hats—hats!—he wore low over his brow changed gradually with the years, but his face was always the same, whether he and Dru were posed against the running board of a car like Bonnie and Clyde, or captured in one of those four-for-a-quarter strips you got at amusement arcades. Leather—a motorcycle jacket straight out of The Wild Ones—made its first appearance around 1950. After that, he was every shade of punk the last half of the century offered, while Drusilla reverted more and more to the clothes of her own grandmother’s youth. There were lots of Polaroids they’d obviously snapped of each other over four decades, backgrounds murky with suggestions of rumpled beds containing corpses, or cobble stoned alleys, ditto.

In the bottom of the box were a century of train ticket stubs; a confetti of colors, languages, shapes. Buffy stirred through them idly with her finger tip. He’d been pretty much everywhere that had trains, except Australia and Black Africa.

Beneath the stocking box she found two carved wands, like short chopsticks, lashed together with an intricately knotted tress of dry black silk.

He’d murdered her, that girl in China. Sought her out, killed her, and stripped off not just a lock of her hair, but the very ornaments she’d used to bind it up. His trophy.

At least Dawn wouldn’t have known what to make of that.

What trophy would she find of the other, the one in New York?

The next thing that came to hand: an oval wooden frame, the glass shattered into a spider’s web, held a discolored photo of three hollow-cheeked girls in the stiff poses of long ago. Buffy saw they were just teenagers, although it seemed odd to call them such, when they were so very still and decorous, their strangely greased-looking hair severely parted in the middle and drawn down over their ears. Dressed in identical high-necked frocks, unsmiling, arms clasped around one another’s tightly-laced waists. They all had the same air of patient melancholy, and the same hawkish nose, and so must be sisters. In a brown velvet case that looked like some sort of wallet, Buffy discovered another picture, this one apparently on glass. It was silvery and hard to see until she held it just so under the lamp. A young man, seated, a woman standing. Solemn, almost blank faces. Both in black clothes up to their necks, down to their wrists. The man wearing a clerical collar. The woman with that same nose.

Spike’s nose.

The family he’d ripped to shreds.

There was more, but she’d seen enough. Began heaping the things back into the metal box. Thought of burning them, releasing the dead victims held there by their captured images, erasing the gloating record of Spike’s triumphant wickedness. The Chinese slayer’s hair, she thought, she’d keep until Giles came. They could make a proper ritual of it together, something suitable to the terror and waste of her death.

When she’d swept everything back into the box, one item remained. A discolored envelope bound tight round and round with a pink velvet ribbon so pale it was almost white. First she tried to dislodge with her fingers the tight knot that showed her Dawn hadn’t penetrated this far, anyway. Then, with a rush of anger, snipped through it with her cuticle scissors. Fuck him and his privacy. Fuck him for what he’d made her do. Made her feel.

The envelope disgorged three postcards, faded sepia images like she’d seen sometimes in the antique shop on Main Street, the points of their corners broken off, the French name of the photographic studio stamped in gold at the bottom.

She blinked at them, unable at first to comprehend what they showed, and then taking them in all at once with a rush like a boot to the gut, so she choked and coughed. Even with eyes squeezed shut, the images remained indelible: Angel, no—Angelus, seated before a studio backdrop, in a suit of evening clothes over a pale waistcoat, a cravat with a pin in it, top hat set rakishly back from his forehead. Holding a cigar in one enormous hand, and the other arm curled possessively around a slim young man. A young man whose fairish hair curled over his forehead, whose chin was tipped saucily up. A young man who wore nothing at all but a floppy white shirt open halfway down his chest. Who was seated, obviously bare-assed, straddling Angelus’ left knee. Whose erection, barely concealed by the shirt draped over it, was gripped tight in Angelus’ fist.

Who was Spike.

The second picture, a sort of mirror image of it: Drusilla, in just her corset and black stockings, on Angelus’ right knee. Staring out of the last century with that mind-melting look of hers, full of melancholy madness, lascivious pain, and awareness of her sire’s hand holding the lips of her cunt open to the camera’s eye.

On the third postcard, it was the three of them. One straddling each leg, arms draped over his shoulders, facing the shutter with the bold expressions of seasoned whores, and Angelus’ eyes burning out of the photograph, owning and defiling and devouring everything his gaze touched.

Buffy made it to the waste basket on the other side of the room before she vomited.



Four

He was pretty drunk when he started the fight at Willie’s, and not much less so an hour after he’d been pitched out into the alley. Even so, everything that ached before roared twice as much now. When he limped into the Seven-Eleven for cigarettes and another beer to cool his mind, it was close to half-three, and he didn’t expect to see her, of all people.

But there she was, staring into the ice cream freezer as if it was the Delphic Oracle, the frozen steam rising around her fingers.

The misery rising off her like the rime. All surface, all soul, she was. Out at the dead hour of the night, looking for solace in sweets. Pathetic. He grabbed a couple cans of Guinness and took them to the counter.

“Two packets of Marlboro.” He pitched his voice low so she wouldn’t hear, and thought he’d made good his escape, until a quick plucking at his sleeve stopped him at the door.

“Spike?”

He turned. “Glinda.”

Tara gave him one of her side-long looks, flashed a too-brief smile, and subsided into quiet.

Bloody hell. “Everything all right, pet?” Of course it wasn’t all right, because if it was, the witch wouldn’t be here conducting a mind meld with Ben & Jerry.

“Is everything all right with you?” she said. “Buffy send you out for . . . uh . . .”

“Some midnight beer and smokes? No, she did not.”

“Oh.”

“No, my little petunia, I’ve joined you in the Heartbreak Hotel. A hotel which, unfortunately, has no physical address. So I wander, lonely as a cloud, until sun-up when I shall no doubt catch on fire because I just don’t bloody care enough to stay in out of the California sun.”

Shit. He really was drunk.

Tara eyed him for a moment, then started to go out and held the door open behind her. “Good thing I’m alone in a double, then.”

He followed her back to the dormitory. Watched silently as she pulled the curtains closed over the dark windows, and draped beach towels over them for good measure before she made up the empty bed. “I have an early class, but you can hang here all day if you need to.”

“No one’ll come here?” The witch.

Tara shook her head. The sadness poured off her.

“Want a Guinness?”

Another head shake.

“Care if I smoke?”

She shrugged. Took off her jeans and climbed into bed in her teeshirt and panties. Spike removed his leather and stretched out on his bed, lit a cigarette. He’d have liked to take off his shirt, which irritated the bites that weren’t closing up fast enough to suit him. But even after Tara switched off the light, that didn’t seem appropriate. Anyway, he didn’t want her to get a glimpse and wonder.

He could hear her breathe. She was pretending to be asleep, and not fooling him for a minute. He finished his smoke and lit another. “I’m sorry,” he said into the dark. “You were a pretty little pair of cooing doves.”

“She broke my faith. Broke my heart.”

“You’ll get over her, pet. In time.”

Nothing but time, and he’d never get over her. Never get past her.

“I don’t want to get over her.”

Can’t think of anything but her. Bloody broken doll. Broken things are dangerous. Sharp edges will cut you.

“Well, take her back then. S’probably suitably chastened by now.”

“I . . . I don’t think I trust her.”

Oh, that was the magical word, wasn’t it? Without it, you were nowhere, heap up the love any way you liked.

Of course, his girl didn’t love him, AND, after today, he was afraid to trust her. Not when every couple of hours some force he didn’t understand hit her reset button. So, double-whammy.

Better off before, he thought. Better off when she was just dead. Both of them. Better off.

*******

Had to get the box out of the house. As long as it was here, she didn’t trust Dawn not to look for it and find it . Or let Spike back into the house so he could find it. God damn him, now he’d destroyed her confidence in her own sister’s loyalty. His evil spread out from him in a hundred subtle fingers, tainting everything it touched.

What he’d made her do. Her body shuddered at the memory of it, tongue curling away from the sensation of his skin in her teeth, that fake thing strapped to pelvis. Ugh.

But where to take it? Then it occurred to her. Tara. Tara was still her friend, Tara wouldn’t turn her down. I think you have the right to love whomever you like.

Yeah, Buffy thought, And I can refuse to love whomever I like, too. That unclean beast.

Tara would keep it for her in her dorm room while she waited for Giles to arrive

. . . and Giles could decide how best to dispose of it. Probably he’d want to send it to the Council for their archives, which would be fine; just so she never had to see it again, just so it would never fall into Dawn’s hands ever again.

She meant to take the box around to the university as soon as Dawn left for school, but then the phone started to ring and in quick succession she was booked for three interviews for jobs she didn’t want. She could try to talk her way into waiting tables at the IHOP out by the freeway, clerking at the Gap, or making lattes at the Espresso Pump. By time she’d shown up in person and ruined her chances for all three, it was dinner time. Dawn refused to eat what she fixed, or talk to her, or even look at her, and decamped to a friend’s house as soon as Buffy picked the plate up from in front of her.

With the box under her arm, Buffy knocked at Tara’s dorm room door. There was no answer, and just as she decided to swing by the library and see if she could find her there, Tara spoke through the door.

“Who’s there?”

“It’s Buffy. I was hoping you could do me a favor.”

“Oh. Buffy.”

The door remained closed. She frowned at it, then lowered her voice and said, “I’m alone. I mean—Willow’s not with me, or anything.”

“Oh—I didn’t think . . . wait a sec’.”

When she opened the door, Tara’s cheeks were red, and she didn’t meet Buffy’s eyes.

“If this is a bad time—“ Buffy said.

“No no. Come in. Sit. Tea? Cocoa?”

“No thanks. I . . . Can I put this down here?” She set the box on Tara’s desk. “I was hoping you could keep this for me. Just for a few days. Until Giles gets here.”

“Giles is coming back?”

“Um . . . yes. In a couple days, I think. I’m going to give this to him, but until he gets here . . . .”

“Oh.” Tara glanced at the box, but made no move towards it.

“It would really be a help to me. Actually, could you do a spell on it? Make it . . . harder for anyone to find?”

“Who’s going to be looking for it? Is it dangerous?”

“Dangerous? No! I wouldn’t ask you to keep anything that was dangerous. But Dawn . . . might be looking for it, maybe. I’d prefer she not get her hands on it again.”

Tara’s expression seemed to hold a demand for some further explanation which she was apparently too polite to voice.

Blushing, Buffy said, “It’s Spike’s. Things that were Spike’s, but which really shouldn’t be allowed to fall into the wrong hands, not again anyway, so until Giles gets here, I was hoping you’d—“

“I think you n-n-n-need to give Spike’s box back to Spike.”

“Uh . . . what?”

“It’s not yours. It’s not Giles’. It belongs to Spike. It’s important to him.”

Buffy had to put the heels of her hands against her forehead and press before she could bring herself to answer.

But before she could speak, Tara said, “Yes, I’m sorry, I’ve talked to him.”

“Oh shit. You’ve talked to him.”

“I’m not taking sides. I’m sorry you two aren’t getting along. I just think . . . it’s not yours to dispose of.”

“He spoke to you.”

“Not about . . . I mean, I don’t know what you quarreled about. I don’t know anything, really. Just that he was unhappy about you, and worried about his things.”

Buffy grabbed up the box. “Okay. Coming here, big mistake. Going now.”

“Oh. Well . . . I hope no hard feelings?”

“Tara. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s nothing around here but hard feelings. You can find any soft ones anywhere, hang onto them, because they’re rarer than hen’s teeth.”



When Tara closed the door on Buffy’s back, Spike stepped out of the closet.

“I’ll be getting out of your hair now, pet.”

“I . . . I’m sorry. I couldn’t just take it from her and give it to you. You understand that, don’t you?”

“Perfectly. It’s fine really. I’ll just catch up to her, tear her head off her shoulders, and when I’m done devouring her blood-drenched heart, I’ll have my box back again, and bob’s yer uncle.”

Tara put out a hand to touch his leather-clad arm, but he was already gone.

Vampires, when they wanted to, could move so fast.



Plan B, which was really more like Plan X, so far down the continuum of her preferences did it fall, was to secret the box in the Magic Shop basement amongst all the other junk, and ask Willow to do what she could spell-wise to keep Spike out of the shop. Which would mean admitting that she’d made an atrocious mistake about Spike and having to listen to them all express their relief and ask her what the hell she’d been thinking to let him touch her in the first place. Not to mention encouraging Willow to do magic when she was supposed to be abstaining. Although if Dawn hadn’t exaggerated, she’d done some in the cemetery the other night, so wasn’t exactly on the wagon anyway.

She jogged through the warehouse district and took her usual back ways through the alleys of Sunnydale’s downtown. The rear door of the magic shop was in view at the end of the alley when Spike stepped out from behind a pile of pallets and sent her sprawling on her face with a blow.

He was on her, snarling, before she could spring up, grinding her face into the grit. Flailing, she got in a kick that freed her to roll, and came up with her boot in his face. But the next moment he’d slammed her against the wall, his hand flattening her throat against the brick so that black spots flashed and popped in her field of vision. Yellow eyes and fangs glittered in the ambient light, and there was nothing human there, no communication beyond the wounded lion’s ravening.

Struggling to get in one breath, one blow, Buffy suddenly found herself on the ground again, gasping like a caught fish, and Spike three yards away, pacing with fists clenched, vamp face gone, and—was it?—the gleam of tears in his eyes.

“I can’t do it! Can’t fucking hit you , can’t kill you! Everything about you hurts me, Slayer! It’s beyond the fucking chip, it’s you, you merciless cunt! I love you and it hurts me!”

Dragging in breaths, she stared at him, holding her aching throat. He turned his back, started to stalk off, then spun around to face her again, still keeping his distance. Stake in hand, she scrambled up and circled him in the direction of the fallen box. He turned with her movements to keep his eyes on her.

“I want to go from you. No matter what I do, you’re cruel to me. I could stand it before, when there was no question of having you, but since . . . I can’t stand it anymore. Set me free, Slayer, so I can go.”

“What do you mean? Who’s holding you? Not me! Go!”

“I promised you I’d not abandon little sis. Gave my word.” His glance broke from hers. “An English gentleman’s word . . . not given lightly.” Found her eyes again. “Release me from it. Release me, so I can leave here and try to forget about you.”

An English gentleman’s word. The black spots that had cleared a few moments ago marched back across her vision. Was he crazy? Was everybody?

Cruel to me.

She’s always been cruel to him, of course. Even when he was helping her. But he was a vampire. And it was easier that way. Anyway, it meant nothing, because they were nothing to each other.

Spike’s here because he is my lover.

Buffy. Do you think that’s wise?

Oh, his mouth against hers . . .

She blinked, trying to clear her eyes. A terrible humming was in her ears now, just as loud as when he was choking her, and her heart seemed to have swollen up to fill her chest and press itself up into her throat. What was this? What was happening to her?

She sniffed, blinked the tears back. Tears? When? “I don’t care what you do. Only . . . only Dawn needs you.”

“So what?”

“But she’s lost so many already . . . .”

“So does everybody, Slayer. I’ve taken a fair few thousands out myself in my time. Better her heart’s destroyed early, like yours is. Better all around. Release me.”

The humming inside her ratcheted up. Dawn weeping and wailing, following her through the house, plucking at her arm. It’s not fair! And. Up on the tower, blood dripping from her toes. Then her mother, splayed out lifeless on the sofa, and at the same time telling her not to come back if she walked out that door. And. Angel. Waiting for daybreak on the hill, while she pleaded with him, weeping, not to leave her, not to hurt her. I can't breathe, Will. I feel like I can't breathe. The alley disappeared, the voices and faces and all that hot salt water swirled around her, rising and rising, consuming and pulling her under.

“I . . . I’m not cruel.” Her voice sounded to her like a child’s, and she wasn’t sure he heard it at all; she couldn’t really see him anymore, everything was thick and she was drowning, trying with all her might to cling to that one tiny spar of not cruel.

Then she did see him, because he was up close to her, although she’d not been aware of him moving. He didn’t touch her, but it was as if he opened her with his hands and pushed each word he spoke inside, so she could not refuse to hear them.

“I am in love with you, Buffy. I don’t need a soul for that, or a beating heart. I’m ready to fight alongside you, and fight for you, and fight with you if I have to, the way a man and a woman fight. But I’m done fighting you. I can’t do it anymore. It’s not what I wanted you for. Keep my fucking box. Give it to Giles, pick me apart like I’m just some specimen. Think of me as a thing. Whatever you have to do, Buffy, to forget that there was a man who knew you and wanted you and was strong enough for you and didn’t quit you until you’d broken him. I thought you were finally finding your way to me, but I was wrong. You don’t know who you are or who I am, or else you wouldn’t treat me this way. And you won’t find the answers in that fucking box. But it’ll be all you’ll have, so keep it. I consider myself released.”

He was gone, and she was left awash in her terror and sorrow. Disoriented in an alley—why did this keep happening to her? Her not-cruelty wasn’t a spar after all, she’d been mistaken about that, it was a floe of ice, hard to cling to and getting smaller and smaller all the time in the boiling sea she’d fallen into. It bobbed and rocked and melted as she grasped it and there was no comfort there. Another lie.

Didn’t Spike always tell her the truth?

“Buffy!”

She hadn’t realized she was sitting on the ground again until she glanced up to find Anya standing over her, holding a broom.

“I thought there were a couple of cats going at it out here,” she said, indicating the broom. “So I came out to break it up.”

“Cats?”

“But it was you. You were making such an odd noise. Such a loud, odd noise.” Anya offered her hand, and Buffy let her drag her to her feet.

“I’m sorry I reminded you of cats,” Buffy mumbled. She scrubbed at her eyes, and knew she had mascara smeared all down her face. Not that it mattered. Everything was too late. She’d remembered at last who she really was, but it was too late.

There was the box. She picked it up.

“Cats aren’t bunnies,” Anya said with a philosophical shrug. “Why don’t you come inside?”

“Anya . . . “ Buffy stumbled behind her, and realized that she’d broken the heel off her boot. “Am I . . . I’m not . . . would you describe me as cruel?”



Five

Alone in the back of the shop, she changed her shoes, washed her face in cold water. Her skin was abraded where he’d forced her down, but she couldn’t bring herself to care about that. She was still trembling all over with caring about too much else, so many of the things that had seemed impossibly far off and not to do with her since she’d come back were terribly important now, and she couldn’t grasp them all. She was disconnected from everybody who was important to her. Spike’s words echoed in her head, as the sensation of his body against hers, his mouth on her mouth, echoed in her flesh. The way he looked at her when they fucked, you couldn’t get that for the asking, not just anywhere. She’d stopped crying, but little sobs still came over her like hiccups. In the front, Anya was cashing out and getting ready to close. She heard Xander come in, but Anya didn’t mention her presence. Then they were gone.

She had to find him, give him back his box. Because she wasn’t cruel, and she wouldn’t rob him of his keepsakes, all the things he’d faithfully held onto, this creature who’d claimed to spend his whole un-life in the present tense. The box held obscene things, images of the slain, blood-stained relics, stolen lives. But it wasn’t for her, Buffy who was Buffy again, to commandeer it. Buffy wouldn’t do that, not to Spike who’d defied his nature to be good to her sister, to her mother.

To her.

Hefting it under her arm, she went out the way she’d come in. Carried it first to Willie’s, where she went up to the bar, a humble supplicant, and asked if Spike had been seen there, or was expected. “Tell him I want to give him back his box.” She glanced down the bar, at the skittish vamps and demons sitting there slouched over their drinks, and pitched her voice to them as well. “If any of you see Spike tonight, tell him—“

Went to the other bars where demons hung out. Looked in on Spike’s regular poker game, spoke to the players who gaped at her out of their misshapen faces as they stuffed kittens up their sleeves and under the table. Went to the Bronze. The box dug into her hip as she carried it, but she ignored the dent it made in her skin. Knocked on Tara’s door again, told her. Spike’s box was his, and she would give it back. As soon as she could find him. Oh, where was he? Told the clerk at the stores where Spike got his smokes, at the liquor store. Told the laundromat attendant. Went to his crypt, saw the door yawing open, the inside a shambles of broken odds and ends, and the remnants of the bonfire, a heap of char still smoking a little despite yesterday’s rain. All her anger at her friends for what they’d done here came back afresh, and her eyes stung as she looked the scene over. Evil as he’d been, he’d not deserved that. He’d not deserved any of it.

But then, they were only trying to look out for her, the Scoobies. Like they always did. So many mistakes, but all from love. Love that cut so many ways.

She rested there for a few minutes, hoping he might be watching her from the shadows; she said her little speech out loud for his ears, but the whole cemetery was quiet, the trees whispering to each other in the night breeze. They whispered in every cemetery in Sunnydale, as she traversed them all, softly calling his name.

It was the deadest part of night when she walked back up Revello Drive, clutching the box now to her chest, so she could smell its odor of fire and rust and drying paper. She was tired out from her rounds, and from crying, but most of all from bearing the weight of his accusation.

Buffy was a nice girl, before. Not cruel.

Come back wrong.

As she walked up the path to the front door, Spike stepped out from behind the tree, the one he always hid behind to watch for her. A cigarette bobbed on his lip; he didn’t remove it before speaking.

“Got the message. Give it over then, and I’ll be on my way.”

She tried to meet his eyes, but he wasn’t going to allow that now. He dragged on the cigarette.

“There’s . . . there’s something I took out of it. It’s in the house. Wait while I get it.”

He shrugged, followed her to the porch, and sat on the steps. He’d never looked at her.



When she came down again she saw him through the screen. The box was open beside him, and he was holding some object in both hands, looking at it in the yellow light that spilled out of the front door. She couldn’t see what it was, but he held it quite still, and seemed to be concentrating on it, as if some truth about it would come to him through his fingers.

She opened the screen door with a scree, but he didn’t glance up. Now she was standing at his shoulder, she saw it was the oval picture of the three girls.

“William’s sisters.”

For a moment that felt far too long, she thought he wasn’t going to acknowledge her at all, and her throat tightened into a hard ache.

Then he sat up a little straighter and sighed. “Yes. My sisters.” He touched a fingertip to each in turn behind the shattered glass. “Here’s Arabella. Sophronia. Jemima.”

“You killed them.”

“No. I was the oldest, at twenty-seven, and the last of mamma’s children to die.”

He pronounced the word, so odd coming from Spike, with the emphasis on the second syllable.

Still looking at the picture, he said “Bella and Sophie had the consumption for so long, it was almost a blessing when they went. Sophie in February, and Bella in July of ’78. Sophie was at the seaside, papa’d sent her there hoping she’d rally, although there really wasn’t the money for such stuff. I didn’t get to say goodbye to her. And Jem . . . my little Jem. We lost her early in ’79, she was just seventeen. The traffic in London, the fog, you can’t imagine what it was like in those days. No order to it at all. They told mamma that Jem never knew what hit her, never suffered. I don’t know if I believe that, though. It’s what people liked to say. A hackney cab, it was, coming sharpish round a corner on Oxford Street. The wheel caught her skirt. After that it was just mother and me. My father had taken a chill, the previous spring, after sitting up all night with a sick parishioner. He was gone in three days.”

“William’s father.”

Now Spike looked up at her. Distant, hard, the glitter of his eyes in the dim light. “You have this notion, Slayer, I don’t know where you got it, that the vampire is not the person. It’s not true.”

“It is true. Giles says so. All the books say so.”

“It’s comfortable for you lot to think so. Just like its comfortable to say my sis didn’t know anything when she was dashed against the pavement. But ask a real vamp, get the real story. I’m not merely a demon who took over William’s body, his memories. I’m William turned into a demon. What I was when I was alive, I still am, and Spike’s layered on top of that. So it’s quite a different thing. Quite a more complicated one. It’s the same for every one of us.” He paused. “Your Angel too, of course.”

She closed her eyes as tight as she could, trying by main force of will to deny his words, to deny those poses she’d seen, Angelus and William the Bloody, flaunting their lascivious connection before the camera’s unblinking eye one night in a Paris photographer’s garret. Their depraved faces the same ones she’d looked into, confided in, covered in kisses.

But she’d never been able to stop loving Angel. Nothing she ever heard about him, even from his own lips, could stop her.

She knelt beside Spike. Put a hand on his shoulder. He flinched away, and then she remembered—how had she forgotten?—the bites she’d inflicted there.

“Was Jem your special one?”

“Of course.” Spike’s voice was thick. Still wouldn’t look at her, eyes fixed on the wooden oval in his hands. “Little Bird.”

She noticed then that his accent was different: smoother, softer. It had changed, she realized, when he first pronounced those three mellifluous, old-fashioned names. She moved out of her crouch, swinging her legs around to sit beside him on the steps. Half-expected him to jump up and depart, but he only tucked the picture back into the box and felt around in it for something else.

“I’m sorry I tried to take all this away from you.”

“Did you read her letters? She wrote me such pretty prattling letters, when I was away at school, and up in Cambridge. I was the alpha and omega for her. Never lasted long enough for it to be anybody else.” He took out one of the bundles she’d not examined. Held them for a moment up to his nose. Extracted from the middle of it another photograph, showed it to her. A serious-faced little girl of seven or eight, framed in her long fairish hair, wearing a white pinafore over a dark dress.

“I’m sorry I got between you and Dawn. I know you mean a lot to each other . . . things I wasn’t around to know about. I shouldn’t have tried to interfere with that.”

He dropped the packet of letters and stared into the open box for a short time, then shifted and felt in his pocket for cigarettes. Buffy noticed the quick grimace he made when he moved; sitting was painful.

He opened the velvet-covered box that held the delicate cabinet daguerreotype.

“Wi—your parents?

“Their engagement portrait. They were married in 1852. Papa held a small living at a suburban church that was never very well attended. He was too High for the neighborhood.”

“I have no idea what that means. I assume not that he was stoned all the time.”

“No. It’s not important anymore.”

“And your mother?”

“She was unlucky. Lost everyone she had. After I met Dru, I never saw her again. She was expecting me, that evening . . . and I did not come.” He paused, and for a moment his lips moved, but she couldn’t make out what the word might be. “I was afraid I’d lead Angelus to her. I knew what he’d done to Dru’s people. But then Darla wanted us to go to the Continent, and I was able to sneak back on a Sunday evening when my mother was at church, and steal away my things. Got her little maid of all work to let me in, and then didn’t have the heart to kill her. God knows what she told mamma when she came back. I don’t know when my mother died, or where or how.”

“Oh Spike. I . . . I’m so sorry.”

Spike tossed the picture into the box and slapped his hands down on his thighs. “Yeah, well, I’m not. Because had I not been vamped by Drusilla, I’d have had a miserable, shabby genteel life, and coughed my lungs out like my sisters before I was much older. I’d certainly never have traveled the world. Never had any good balls-out fun in the night air. Never would’ve even lost my bleeding cherry, I was such a saddo.

“Whereas instead of that grim fate, I’m immortal, I’m strong, I’m bloody good-looking, and I’m smart—I’ve outfoxed all your attempts to finish me off, right?—and I’ve experienced the ecstasy of a consuming, unreasonable passion with a ravishing, engrossing, unreasonable woman who never bored me, not once. I’m the luckiest bloke out, I am. Can’t no one touch me.” He tossed his spent cigarette away and lit another. “So, Slayer. Where’s the last bit you went inside for? I’ll have it now.”

All along she’d had them tightly squeezed in her fist. She held her hand out to him. “Here.”

Spike looked at the golden hoops, linked together, and made no move to take them. She moved her hand a little nearer. “Go on, Spike. They belong in your box just as much as Jem’s picture, and Drusilla’s stocking, and—“

“And?” He lit the cigarette, and in the flare of the Zippo she saw his eyes were still closed to her.

So she said it. “And Wu Xia’s hair.”

He took a long drag of the cigarette, and then picked the earrings off her palm. His fingertips icy against her sweaty skin. He turned them between his fingers, so that the yellow light sent glints and gleams off their surface.

“You an’ Rupert take custody of that. Do what’s fitting with it.” Putting down the cigarette, he unhooked the hoops from one another, and turning to her, fixed them into her lobes. His touch was sure, and calm, and very cool. “Never thought,” he murmured, “they’d get to go back where they belong.”

While they’d been talking, the air had changed. The chill of night starting to give way to the softer air of encroaching daybreak. Buffy got to her feet. “Spike. Come in to bed now.”

Again there was a moment when she thought he’d refuse her, and the back of her eyes burned. But he closed the box, hefted it as he rose, and took the hand she held out to him. She was careful, as she started to pass through the door ahead of him, to turn at just the right moment and repeat her invitation, so he could pass smoothly in.



Six

In the kitchen she helped him out of his shirt, and gasped when she saw the marks she’d left on his skin. Spike wouldn’t meet her eyes, but he let her apply unguent and bandages to his neck and shoulders while he drank the blood she’d warmed for him out of a glass.

Of course she thought of the night when she’d bandaged Angel’s wound in this same room. Yesterday she’d have been sure the girl who’d done that was someone else, not her, that it was another of the denatured memories, emotionless, they’d somehow stuffed into this reanimated head. In the last couple of hours, like a fog lifting, the feeling that her inner joins were faulty had begun to dissipate. The same girl who’d been with Angel in this kitchen, was here with Spike now. All that had elapsed since then was still painful, but not an unbridgeable chasm anymore.

There was such relief in this. Still, she couldn’t pretend she’d not done what she’d done. As she fixed the last bandage, smoothing the tape under her fingers, she murmured into his ear. “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

Spike tipped his head back, so for a moment his cheek was pressed against hers. Then he drained the glass.



“Shall I make tea? Something to eat?”

He shook his head. His expression was still wary, but instead of avoiding her, as he had on the porch, she noticed how he followed her with his eyes as she moved around the kitchen putting things away.



In her room, he set the box down on the floor by her bed, and rose right into her waiting kiss. She whispered into his parted lips. “What would you like? Guaranteed cruelty-free.”

There was a pause. Then he whispered back. “Whatever you fancy, pet . . . as long as you look at me all through. Want to see you seeing me.”



“I wish I had some candles,” she said, turning off all the lights but the one by the bed where he was already stretched out. “Would you be more comfortable on top, or . . . .”

With a laugh, he caught her around the waist. “No, my queen. Climb up. Give us a kiss first. Give us two.”

As she made love to him, barely moving except to flex around him inside, looking down into his eyes, smiling at him so he would smile too, Buffy thought of the other men she’d had. Not of the aftermaths, but just of the moments like this one, when she’d ridden them and seen them and loved each one thoroughly in the moment. Angel, after he’d taken her maidenhead and before she’d taken his soul, had lain on his back and smiled at her while she explored him. At last she’d lowered herself, with shy gingerly movements around her soreness, onto his cock for a second round, while he squeezed her hands in his massive ones. Parker had looked so beautifully glassy-eyed and innocent from this vantage, and Riley had had a particular indulgent, libidinous look he kept for the times when she rose and fell on him, hands on his shoulders, gazes locked. She could allow all these bittersweets to press right up against her, to tease and lick and nip her like puppies. They were Buffy’s memories, and she was Buffy.

Buffy found again.

They’d none of them been right, those men, and they’d left her.

Whereas Spike was right in a category of rightness she’d not known existed until tonight, and he would not go. She’d caught him in time.



It was late afternoon, and Dawn would be returning from her friend’s house. They’d have to get out of bed soon, dress. But not just yet.

She’d asked, and he’d shown her, told her about, everything in the box. She knew now that the square of blood-dappled linen marked not a kill, but his sexual initiation at Angelus’ hands, shocking and brutal and ecstatic by turns. She’d blushed as he described it, then murmured, “I don’t know why I was surprised. . . . He’d told me, not that, but what sorts of things he’d done.” She knew he kept the stocking to mark Drusilla’s erotic thrall over him, though it was severed now, and the cracked doll head as a remembrance of her madness. That the trophy of the Chinese Slayer commemorated not just his triumph over her but his attainment at last of Dru, after twenty frustrating years of being kept from her by Angelus. He explained how for two decades all his Grand-Sire had permitted him to do was mind her, clean up her various messes, keep her out of Darla’s hair. How he’d not been allowed to bed Dru—but was often there in bed while Angelus had her. Had them both, turn and turn about. Made to watch while he damn near turned Dru inside out . . . made to hold her down while Angelus gave her to strangers he’d met in the streets, men he’d eviscerate after they’d spent all the spunk that was in them . . . made to go down on her until his face ached and she’d fainted away and allowed no release until Angelus fucked him on his knees. He told it all not to hurt her, but because she’d seen those postcards, and was ready, at last, to hear all the truth. She seemed to listen with her eyes, which were huge, and which she kept bravely fixed on his as he told the story.

“Ask me now, pet, because we won’t speak of this again,” Spike said, when he saw her eyelashes dip and her lip quiver.

“Was . . . was it always rape?”

“No, love. And even when it was . . . after the first time . . . it wasn’t. What it always was, with Angelus, was complex.”

He told her that the boy in the boater hat and spectacles was William, standing on the riverbank beside his best boyhood friend, who’d died the next year of typhus, aged twenty-one.

“My God . . .” Buffy said, touching the picture with reverent fingers, “everybody you ever cared about . . . .”

“Why do you think I didn’t fight my Dru when she found me in that alley?”

“What were you doing in that alley, anyway?”

He didn’t answer. Truth-telling was necessary, and even pleasant, but there was no point going too hog wild with it. Still thought he’d given Cecily what she deserved, silly cow, and at least he’d seen to it that she hadn’t died a virgin.

But there was no need to tell Buffy about any of that. He’d give up Wu Xia’s hair to please her, but didn’t intend to tell her the provenance of the duster, although she’d asked if he’d kept anything of Nikki’s. No way was he giving that up, would feel naked without it. Anyway, wouldn’t do to let Buffy think he’d gone too tame. She seemed different now, easy and glowing like he’d never known her, but the last few weeks had taught him well not to get too relaxed around her. This sweetness now didn’t mean that they weren’t still Slayer and Demon. Eventually, Spike thought, they might yet fight to the death. His death. Or hers.

“How long have we got before the Niblet’s expected?”

“An hour, hour-and-a-half, probably, because she’s always late. Which I really need to speak to her a—“

Spike put a finger to her lips. “Buffy. There’s something I want you to do before we get up.”

His solemnity touched her at once; her expression darkened. “What?”

“Want you to fuck me.”

“Didn’t we just, all afternoon—“

“No, I mean, with—again. Properly.”

“Oh.” She flinched, and dropped her eyes.

“You didn’t get rid of it, did you?”

“No. No, it’s—But wouldn’t it hurt you?”

“Wouldn’t ask if I didn’t want it. Please, Buffy.”



Standing with her back to him, she felt his hands tremble as he tightened the straps, and couldn’t tell if it was with nerves, or desire. For her, it was almost all nerves. Why did he want to do this? Was it another example of his endless macho, trying to prove to himself that he was tough?

“Spike, maybe we—“

He turned her to face him on the bed, and slicked the thing up with a handful of lube. Glanced up at her face, and then at her belly, and smiled a small tight smile. “Still think you look gorgeous with that on. You’ve got no idea. Come on.”

“How . . . how should I do it—?”



He was so different in this aspect. Presented with his back, Buffy felt almost as if he was brand new to her. The way the hair grew on the nape of his neck, and the neck itself, surprisingly slender and vulnerable. She dotted kisses between the bandages, ran her tongue down into the dip between the shoulder blades. Traced the spine with just the tip of her tongue as he sighed. His skin was so white; he smelled, as always, of leather and cigarettes. Without perspiration, he had so little scent of his own; sometimes she missed getting a snootful of funky male musk. After a fuck, his cock gave her back her own scent, slightly transposed. Even so, his asshole, which she’d never given any thought to before invading it the other night with her fingers, still frightened her a little as she moved towards it with her mouth. She’d never done this before, with anyone.

He was clean there, as everywhere. The skin was reddened, still a little swollen, but it didn’t look as bad as she feared. When she kissed it, poking her tongue a little way in, he thrashed and groaned.

She started. “Oh! I’m sorry—!”

“No, don’t stop—God, your sweet mouth—!”

He went on murmuring while she licked him, and slipping a hand underneath, she found his cock hard and straining. She worked it in her tight grip the way he liked, and hoped he would be content with this, and not ask her to do the rest.

Then he turned onto his side, and peered down at her along the line of his body. “I’m ready. Lie behind me. That way we can—“

She crawled up alongside him. Uneasily aware of the thing springing from her that seemed to poke every which way at once. “Like this?”

“That’s right, pet. Now give me just a little—ah! Wait a bit . . . it’ll go easier if you put your—“ He brought her hand around again to his cock, held it in his while she stroked his length. “That’s good, Buffy. That’s good love. Now, a little more. A little more—wait, you be still, and let me—“

“Are you sure this doesn’t hurt?”

He worked himself back on it until they were spooned together. Then Spike was still, breathing around it, letting it settle.

She could feel his burgeoning excitement feeding back to her through the thing that connected them. Her clit quivered and swelled where it pressed on her. When he turned his head they could look at each other, and kiss.

“That’s good, I’m all full. Now move a bit, pet. Just enough to please yourself, will suit me.”

She began a soft rocking, and as the device did its work on her, pressed herself closer to him, buried her face in the crook of his neck and thrust one leg between his. The whole thing still felt odd and unnatural, fucking turned inside-out somehow, and lonely to have him turned away from her. But she liked feeling his trust in her, his pleasure. His cock filled her hand, and his still covered it, guided its movements.

“Good, Buffy. This is good. What I wanted.”

She raised her head and took the kiss he had ready for her. In his eyes she could see that he was thinking, as she was, of what she’d done to him yesterday, and of what Angelus had done to him long ago. But there was more to it than that: he just liked it, the way she liked having him inside her. That made it easier. She could do this, it was just another way to make love to him.

She realized, as she moved against him, that she’d had two men whose strange connection began before her own grandmother was born. We’ve come full circle, Buffy thought, my demon lovers and me, and didn’t know if that was good or bad or how it made her feel, except that the idea brought out a blush in her whole body.

Spike must have felt it, because he chuckled, and said “You’re so warm,”

“Spike? Do you forgive me?”

“Hush pet. We’re doing this now. Ah . . . just there, that’s good my queen, keep moving . . . just . . . like . . . oh God, you’re hitting it . . . ”

This, she supposed, was all he was going to say about her transgression, but it was enough. She and Angel had forgiven each other with fewer words than that. He rocked back against her, his cock jumped in her hand, and he began to come. Riding the vibration of his climax, she wriggled and spent, clinging to his back.

As soon as he was still she withdrew and wrenched the thing off. It only had two modes: in play or in the way. “Don’t leave me alone back here.”

Spike turned to face her, pulled her into his arms.

“That was lovely. You’ll be pretty damn great at that soon, with a bit of practice.”

“Spike . . . don’t make me.”

“You liked it, pet. I could tell.”

“I like it better when you’re inside me. You know, boy and girl stuff. Instead of

. . . boy and toy.”

“You just haven’t had enough experience yet.”

“Haven’t had enough yet of something,” she agreed, touching his cock that soon stirred obligingly in her palm.

He slid his hand in between her legs.

“Need more kisses, too,” she murmured.

And so they began to do it all over again.



Of course she’d have to talk to Giles, to her friends, find the way to put those pieces back together. Rebuild the fallen bridge to Dawn. Still had the mystery of the chip to solve, and a living to earn. Had to visit Angel. Let him see that things were getting better with her. Tell him why.

The world with all its confusions and uncertainties and choices was going to crowd in on her again, very soon now.

But for now, in bed with Spike, she knew what she wanted, and there was nothing to stop her having it.

Downstairs, the porch boards creaked, and Dawn’s shout reverberated through the house. “Buffy, I’m back!”

Spike paused in mid-thrust. “Slayer. You remembered to lock the bedroom door?”

~Finis~