He’d never expected to last this long. Always thought he’d go down fighting; that’s what he’d told Buffy once. And he had gone down, many times. Thrown from a tower. Battling for his soul. And even after he’d given up the fight to save the bloody world, they’d brought him back to do it all over again. Facing down that horde of demons had to be the definition of insurmountable odds.
But he’d gotten back up again. Battered, bloodied, and bruised, but still in one piece.
And that was giving him a surprising amount of trouble.
The last several days had passed in a blur, a cloudy haze of alcohol and bad dreams. He’d eaten when Illyria had forced him to - she’d found the rumbling of his stomach ‘unpleasant and distracting,’ she’d said. He thought her motives might be more magnanimous than she let on, but she’d never admit to it, of course. He was glad she was there, though - he didn’t mind her bluntness, and she was company that didn’t require much in the way of conversation. The two of them spent countless hours playing video games or watching mindless telly. Still, he could only keep the memory of what happened at bay for so long, replaying it all again and again in his mind
When he closed his eyes he could see Angel standing at the fore, sword in hand, still hoping to slay the dragon. The thing had come at him, all fiery breath and talons, and Angel had sprung at the last moment, climbing up its scaly legs and mounting its powerful neck. He drove his sword in once, twice, three times, till he finally pierced its heart. With a screeching cry that made them all cover their ears in pain, they’d watched as the thing toppled to the earth. It was so large it took half of the demon army with it, crushing them under its massive weight. Angel was nowhere to be seen.
The dragon lay there in a heap, oozing a thick black blood that pooled at their feet and made their boots stick to the surface. But the thing blocked the alley, slowing the enemy forces considerably. One by one the demons that were left crawled over the hulking carcass, and one by one Spike, or Illyria, or Gunn took them out. That is, until Gunn had dropped to his knees, too weak from loss of blood to go on, but still trying to raise his weapon. Spike had dragged him off to the side, placed his own body in front of him, and gone on fighting. He’d looked over his shoulder once, and felt a pang when he saw that Charlie boy had dropped his sword. But then the last demon had crawled over the fallen beast, distracting him, and Spike had heaved a sigh of relief.
It had been Angel.
He wasn’t sure whether it was day or night when the knock came at the door. Spike looked to his companion, but she never glanced up from the screen. Probably wasn’t for her, anyway. With effort, he stood and made his way to the door.
And there she was. He didn’t even feel surprised. She looked so much smaller than he remembered her. Her hair was lighter. Her skin more bronze. And she didn’t look surprised, either.
“So it’s true.”
Even her voice seemed smaller.
“So it is.” He couldn’t seem to find any other words, and hung onto the door so he wouldn’t fall over.
“Can I come in?” He stood aside and waved her in to his flat. After closing the door and turning around, he found her staring at Illyria. And Her Highness, having finally found something more interesting than Crash Bandicoot, stared back.
Illyria stood gracefully and stepped over the coffee table in one swift motion. “I sense power from this female. Very old power, though not nearly as ancient as mine.” Spike heard a note of possessiveness in her voice.
“This is Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.”
“Buffy,” Illyria said. “He speaks your name in his sleep, after he drinks that poison.” Buffy blushed, but said nothing. Illyria’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Your power has also been diluted.”
Buffy bristled. “I prefer the term, ‘shared,’” she said. She turned towards Spike. “Aren’t you going to tell me who Seven of Nine here is?”
Illyria cocked her head and regarded Buffy curiously. “I do not understand this reference.”
“She’s ... Illyria. She’s ... hard to explain. But she helped us, in the battle. The one ... “
“The one you neglected to mention to me. Along with a few other things, like the minor fact that you aren’t a big pile of dust like I thought.”
He stood there, caught in her gaze, which was filled with sure, righteous anger, and was suddenly certain that every decision he’d made in the last year had been wrong. Or maybe not. First time she sees him, and this is the reaction he gets? What did he expect - that she’d run into his arms? It stung more than he thought possible, that he’d been right after all; she didn’t really seem to care.
“How long have you known I was alive, Buffy?”
She looked away guiltily, and hesitated before speaking. Wasn’t expecting that one; now he had her off balance. Good.
“I don’t know. A couple, a couple of months, I guess.”
He nodded, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back against the wall. It felt solid behind him, and that was good. “Andrew. Told him to keep his trap shut, but the boy’s not exactly known for his discretion, is he?” Buffy just stared at him. “Been too busy shaggin’ your boyfriend to pick up the phone, then?”
Her eyes darted around the room, looking everywhere but at him. Illyria continued to observe them from a distance. He waited, for the fist or the angry words, or the sight of her back as she slammed out; he wasn’t sure what he would get at this point. But when she finally looked him in the eye, all she seemed was ... tired.
“That thing, with him? It's over. Look, it’s obvious that coming here was a mistake. I thought I could help. I thought we could ... I don’t know what I thought, but I should have known better. Me and the big thoughts, not mixy.”
“Buffy ... “
He had no idea what to say to that. They just stood there staring at each other until Illyria finally broke the silence. She stepped forward, looking distressed, her hands clenching and unclenching at her sides.
“You speak in circles, saying nothing, and yet your emotions roll off of you in waves which fill this tiny box. I am stifled. I cannot breathe! I wish to do more violence.”
Buffy and Spike looked at her, then back at each other. Buffy spoke first. “Works for me,” she said.
Spike shrugged. “Yeah, all right. Let’s go.”
Illyria strode ahead of them, looking surprisingly not out of place in this section of LA. Her blue hair, skin tight leather, and platform boots fit right in. Buffy, on the other hand, felt really out of place.
And it wasn’t because of her outfit.
She and Spike walked next to each other, but they were nearly silent, except for the occasional directions he gave to Illyria. She noticed that their steps were perfectly in sync; she wondered if he noticed, too. Finally, she could take the silence no more.
“What’s her story?” She nodded towards Illyria, who had stopped for some reason, head cocked bird-like, listening.
“Her story ... “ he sighed. “It’s a long one.”
She waited for him to continue, but he didn’t. It wasn’t like Spike to be so closed mouth about, well, anything, and she was about to ask him why when she looked up and saw a muscle in his jaw twitch. She followed his gaze to where Illyria had been standing; standing there now was a slender girl with long brown hair.
“What are you doing, Highness?” Spike asked quietly, walking up to the girl.
“I thought those nasty old vampires might find me a tastier snack,” she said with a wink and a sweet smile.
“So you’re acting as bait, then.”
“Sure am. But don’t you worry Spike, because I can take care of myself.”
“Fine, but I’d rather you didn’t talk like her, if it’s all the same to you.”
Buffy watched in surprise as her entire demeanor changed back to the Illyria she’d first met, though her physical appearance remained that of the girl - young woman, Buffy mentally corrected herself. “Very well. My other persona may be too threatening; I believe this appearance to be more likely to attract a vampire attack.”
Spike nodded and she wandered ahead again, meandering slowly this time, her arms clasped behind her back.
“Did I mention it was a long story?” Spike asked.
“Yeah, I see what you mean. That’s quite a talent. All things to all ... vampires.”
Spike looked alarmed. “No! We weren’t ... she had a thing for Wesley.“
“Wesley? Giles heard that ... is he really dead?”
Spike ran a hand over his face. “Yeah. So is Charlie ... Gunn. Another bloke, worked for Angel. Good man, he was. Both of ‘em, and they went down fighting. And we lost ... “ Spike looked up towards Illyria. “Well, we lost a lot,” he said, voice trailing off so she could barely hear him.
We. It was strange to hear Spike talk like that about anyone else but her, and he seemed genuinely upset about losing these people. “God, Spike. I’m sorry.” When he didn’t say anything, she asked, “What about Angel?”
He rubbed the back of his neck. “Disneyland?”
“You think this is funny?”
He let out a humorless chuckle. “No, pet. Angel’s fine. Was the big hero and all. He had some people he had to see to, after, and he’s seein’ to ‘em.”
“People? Must be a girl,” she said.
He looked over at her, finally. “Could get you in touch with him, if you want,” he offered.
“No,” she said, “I just wanted to know if he was okay.”
Up ahead, Illyria screamed.
He watched in awe, never got tired of watching her fight. He’d already staked several vamps, while Illyria had torn the heads off a few more. Now, he had to put a hand on her arm to hold Blue back when she started to head back in. Not a good idea to intrude on the Slayer’s territory, unless she asked you to.
“Need some help, love?”
“Nah, I’m just playin’ now.” She spun, ducked and took out the last one.
Buffy was flushed and breathing hard when she turned back to them. “Well that was fun,” she said with a smile. “Good work. You too, Illyria.”
Illyria regarded her with an expression that Spike had come to recognize as admiration. “The fiends who would cause fear in others, they quake in fear before you,” Illyria said.
Buffy smiled. “And you, your technique was ... original! Not the most efficient method of slayage, but hey, points for creativity and style.”
Illyria looked from Buffy to Spike. “I observed you and Spike fighting together. It is as if you were made for it.”
Buffy began to blush. “Yeah?” She smiled at Spike. “Was kind of like old times, wasn’t it? Us fighting together?”
“Always were a good team.” He shrugged. “I thought.”
“Me too,” Buffy said, taking a step towards him.
“I wish to leave.” Illyria turned abruptly and began to stalk out of the alley.
Spike started after her. “Wait a minute, Highness. Where you goin’?”
“The two of you, your feelings. They pulsate around you as if to move the air, like a drum beating in my head. I cannot bear it. It causes me renewed feelings of grief for Wesley.” Her voice was anguished. “Why does this happen?”
“Because you cared about him,” Spike said softly, stepping towards her. “You miss him. It’s gonna happen for awhile. Feelings were always there - just rising to the surface now. It happens.”
“I hate them, these human emotions forced upon me. I want to forget! I want all memory of him to be washed clean from my mind.”
“Do you really, pet?” He knew the feeling. Also knew it didn’t work that way.
She stared at him for a long moment. “No. I feel ... I feel the need to be among his possessions. I wish to go there now.”
He nodded. “Not a bad idea. And call if you need anything. You remember, I showed you how to use the phone, right?”
She regarded him cooly. “I am a god,” she said. “I can recall how to operate the telephone.”
He smiled. “Right.”
She started down the alley, then turned back for a moment. “I wish to express appreciation for your understanding.”
Despite the emotional scene with Illyria, or maybe because of it, they were half-way back to his apartment building before she got up the nerve to speak.
“I felt bad for her. Illyria.”
Spike sighed. “Yeah, doesn’t understand what she’s feelin’. Makes it even harder, I guess.”
“At least she can go to his place, feel closer to him. Maybe that will help.”
“It does, a bit.” He glanced over at her quickly. “When you ... I used to go to your place, watch the Niblet. Helped a bit.”
“I’m glad it did,” she said softly, “I wish that I'd had something of yours.” This was just so wrong. He was here, right in front of her. And they were just walking down the street like nothing had happened. She should throw herself into his arms. She should have done that the minute she saw him. But he hadn’t even told her he was back, and she just couldn’t do it.
They had stopped walking, and Spike stared down at the pavement, shaking his head. “Oh hell, Buffy. I was just scared. Scared out of my bloody mind, that if I showed up on your doorstep, it wouldn’t much matter whether I was dead or alive. This way, I could always remember the last time I saw you, when you said ... well, you know what you said.”
They had stopped near a building with large stone steps, and she walked over and sat down on one of them.
“I’m just never going to get this right, am I?”
“What are you talking about?” He sat down next to her.
“Me. Us. Relationships in general. No matter what I do, it’s never good enough. I loved Angel too much, Riley too little, and you too late.”
“You all like to put me up on this pedestal, don’t you? But no one can handle the real, messed up, me. Look, I know I’m difficult. I know I’m closed off. But it’s not like any of you are the perfect examples of emotional health yourselves. You all said you loved me, but none of you were willing to try to be with me. Not really.”
Spike stood up quickly and spun around to face her. “How can you say that to me? Compare me to them? I loved you when you treated me like dirt! I loved you when I had no hope of ever having you love me back. I followed you around like a bleedin’ puppy dog for years. I ... “
“Yes, you did. You put up with a lot, and you loved me for a long time. You loved me until I started to love you back, isn’t that right Spike? And then you got scared and pushed me away. Oh, you said you loved me for who I am, faults and all ...”
“Well, apparently that only works from a distance. I’ll just fly back to Europe so you can preserve your perfect, soft focus memory, all right?”
“Forget it! It’s all shot to hell now!”
Buffy stood up and brushed off her jeans. “Well, I guess that means I can stay, then.”
She’d been full of piss and vinegar when they’d been out on the street; in her element then. But now, back at his place, she’d gone all shy and awkward again. His bed seemed to be the only thing in the room, and they were both trying hard not to look at it.
“Want a beer or something?” He walked over to the refrigerator and opened it.
He looked back over his shoulder and gave her a sheepish smile. “Otter?”
“A world of ewww, thanks so much. But that’s okay, I’m good.”
He grabbed a bottle of beer and popped the cap. “Have a seat,” he said. She had to move the video game equipment out of her way in order to find room on his lumpy sofa.
“So ... “ He sat down beside her and took a long draw on his beer.
She grabbed it out of his hand and took a big swig. “Blrrgh!”
“You’re damn cute, that’s what.” He let his eyes move over her body. Might as well find out right now if that was allowed. He was happy to find it was.
She smiled. “Glad you still think so.”
“Was there ever any doubt?”
The smile faded a bit. “Well, when you never even bothered to ...”
He groaned and fell back against the sofa. He could feel her staring at him for what seemed like minutes but was probably seconds. And then she sighed.
“Well, this really isn’t how I imagined this would go,” she said, and he could sympathize. Surprisingly enough, his own thoughts on the subject had never much progressed beyond his silly romantic fantasies. Didn’t dare to go further than that. And even that had now been ruined.
He took another pull on his beer and ran a hand through his hair. He needed a haircut. “Yeah. Me neither.”
She shook her head, then looked at him intently. “This isn’t how I thought this would go,” she said again, her voice soft and sad this time.
“How did you think it would go, love?”
She smiled a little, embarrassed, and when she spoke her voice was a bit too loud, her humor a bit too forced. “Well, sitting around awkwardly on the sofa never once came into play, I can tell you that!” He continued to stare at her, simply because he couldn’t look away, and she grew a deeper shade of red. “There may have been running and ... and embracing involved.” She looked down at her hands. “Possibly in slow motion.”
Well how about that - the Slayer had some silly romantic fantasies of her own. And damn if he didn’t want to make every one of them come true. “You’re full of surprises, Slayer.” He realized then that they had both leaned in toward each other, that she was very, very close, and that they hadn’t yet touched. He reached out to skim his hand over her hair, and then his knuckles brushed her cheek. She shivered and closed her eyes for a moment. “Feel kinda like I’m movin’ in slow motion right now,” he said.
“We have been, for a long, long time,” she said.
“Bloody right you are.”
“And this bed is too small.” She shifted her position to try and relieve a cramp in her leg, accidentally kneeing him in a spot that was so not good.
“Sorry!” “S’alright. You can kiss it better, if you like.”
She giggled and rolled on top of him. “Seriously. What are you of all people doing with a single bed?”
“Well, to tell the truth Goldilocks, didn’t exactly furnish the place myself. Still, wasn’t really in need of more till just lately.”
“Oh, please,” she said, rolling her eyes. “You’ve been celibate all this time? Gonna try and sell me some swamp land in the Sahara next?”
He pulled her tight. “Never said that. Not in the habit of entertaining guests here, is all. And what do you care, seein’ you were busy flittin’ around Italy with that immortal piece of Eurotrash?”
She licked a trail from the base of his neck to his ear, and bit, hard. “I care. And let’s not start that again,” she said, as he let out a groan, “or no more of this.”
The thread of conversation was lost, then, as his hands traveled to all sorts of interesting places. Despite her teasing, the size of the bed forced a certain economy of movement that she had discovered she loved. Not that she minded when they completely missed it the first couple of times, but it was good to know that their passion could be also be distilled down into these small movements, where the slightest change of position or a shifting of weight from here, to there, made her heart race and her body throb.
Spike sat up, pulling her with him, and in one smooth movement she was settled atop him, pulling him in, legs wrapped around his back. They both gasped and she began to move, but he held her in place with his hand, flat against the small of her back.
“What are we doing?” She whispered - she wasn’t sure why.
She looked down to where they were joined together, and her body clenched around him. His answering groan sent shivers north and south. Her skin rose in goose bumps in the warm room. It was a wonderful cycle of sensation as she quivered around him, and every reaction from him sent another frisson of pleasure shooting through her.
And then he was holding her face in his hands, looking into her eyes, and all the feeling she saw there was almost too much to look at.
“Oh, God. Spike.”
He was waiting, she knew. Holding back not only his body, but the words that wanted to tumble out of him. Somehow she knew that he wouldn’t say them again until she had.
“If I tell you I love you, will you promise to believe me?”
His answer was something between a laugh and a moan, but in there somewhere she thought she heard a ‘yes.’
“I love you, Spike.”
His mouth covered hers, and now they were completely entwined, tongues and arms and legs wrapped around each other’s. She shattered around him, and then, finally, he found his own release.
“I love you, Buffy. Love you so much.”
“So, I was thinking that once I kick Andrew out, you can move in with me and Dawn. You don’t think we’ll be setting a bad example, do you? Maybe we could get you your own place. If you’re helping me with the new slayers, then we can petition the council, which is pretty much Giles at this point, to give you a salary. Maybe something’s available in my building. What do you think?”
He watched her lovely profile as she lay on his bed, arms behind her head, chattering away about their future. Dream come true for him, it was. Which is why he couldn’t quite believe he was going to say what he was about to say.
“I think that I don’t much fancy working for Giles, love.”
She turned towards him, her mouth a little ‘o’ of surprise, and he couldn’t help but lean in and kiss her.
“But, Giles is way over in London, we hardly ever see him. And otherwise you’d be working for free which isn’t fair to you.”
He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Would still be taking orders from a bloke who tried to off me not so long ago.”
She moved in closer. “There was a time when you and I were trying to kill each other.”
Spike smiled. “Well then, maybe in a few years I’ll learn to love him, too.” She slapped him playfully. “Til then, I say, no thank you, pet.” He kissed her, sat up, and swung his legs over the side of the bed.
“You’re not coming with me, are you?” she asked his back.
“This place is paid up for a year. And I’d feel bad, leavin’ Blue all on her lonesome.” He looked back over his shoulder. “We could get a bigger bed...”
“I did this, this whole share the power thing. I need to follow through.” She got up on her knees and pressed herself against his back, wrapping her arms around his neck. “You can bring her with you, I don’t mind.”
“Why won’t you come with me?”
He could feel her hot tears in his hair. Her body was tense, trembling slightly as she tried not to cry.
“Oh, bugger.” He took one arm and pulled her around and across his lap. “You know I want to be with you, it’s just...want to see what I’m about, what I’m worth on my own for a bit.”
“Spike, I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think... “
“I know, pet. But since I got all souled up, haven’t really been on my own, have I? First, it was your mission. Then Angel’s. Both of you got to save the day, and that’s only right.”
Her face was tear-stained. “So, you have to avert an apocalypse before you can be with me?”
He pulled her closer, kissing the top of her head. “Already with you, love. You think you’re gonna to get rid of me, now? Just want a little time to figure out what I want to do, who I want to be. But whatever that turns out to be, it’s gonna be with you.”
She lay her head against his chest. “Well, I suppose it’s not the greatest idea to immediately move in together, anyway.”
“You could write me mushy love letters.”
“I could indeed. E mails, too.”
“Phone sex.” She giggled. “We’ll visit each other a lot, right?”
“Scads of frequent flier miles. Intense, haven’t-shagged-you-in-a-month sex.”
She reached her arms around his neck and brought his mouth down to hers. “Mmm, we’ll just take it slow then.” She demonstrated with a kiss.
“Slow is good.”
“If we went any slower we’d be in reverse.”
“No love, not reverse. Just ... “
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