The words filtered through the fog, the feeling of warm fingers running up and down his arms. He felt himself shiver.
The scent hit him, and his mind sighed in contentment. Buffy....
'It's alright. I'm here.'
And God, she was. Her lips brushed soft kisses over his face, traced his cheekbones. Her thumbs smoothed his eyebrows.
'Wake up. You don't have to hide anymore.'
He whimpered, and the fog started to thin, his golden goddess breaking through like the sun, burning the cold mist away.
He caught sight of her hair flowing around him, felt the tips brushing his chin. Her lips fell on his again, gentle as rain. His eyelids fluttered.
'There you go. Come on, Spike.' Her whisper came to his ear, before her gentle nibbling did.
The fog slowly rolled away, under her skittering fingers and light kisses. She felt him draw breath against her, his lips part under hers. His hand drew up, gripping the back of her neck and tangling in her air, and his mouth flowed into hers, sipping from her lips as gently as she had from his.
She settled on his lap, trembling with the same desire he did. Her mind spun, screaming for oxygen, but she didn't care. When he pulled back, forehead resting against hers, she almost moaned at the loss.
"I'm sorry..." he muttered, hugging her close, as if she was going to leave.
She didn't respond, simply let her fingers play with the wild curls of his ungelled hair.
He swallowed, and spoke again.
"The chip....Buffy, it's gone...."
"Shh..." She pressed a kiss to his lips again. "I know. I was the one who told Willow to take it out. It was killing you."
He stiffened in surprise, pulling back to look into her eyes.
"You didn't tell me....?"
She shook her head, watching his reaction.
"I didn't want it to trouble you. Not until you got better."
"But what's to keep me from..."
She cut him off again, another kiss.
"No one can be your leash, Spike. Only you can. I'm sure you'll stumble a few times. But I'm here for you. We all are." She pulled him close again. "It would kill me to have to stake you. Please don't make me."
He shook his head.
"I won't. I'll try...." he trailed off. "But I've killed now. That girl. Warren."
She sighed softly, leaning fully against him.
"And that was wrong. You know that, right?"
He nodded, closing his eyes.
"I know it. But I can't feel bad for killing Warren."
"I know...." She kissed him again, clinging to the back of his head, and all talk was forgotten in gentle sighs and roving hands and crashing pleasure.
The Bronze was nearly full, the mass of sweating and sex-charged humanity swirling around him. Buffy was on patrol, and Spike was on a mission. Sitting alone in a darkened corner, he'd kept an eye on her since she arrived, her dark hair pulled back away from her face, watching her blonde friend flirt and dance, confident and shameless, with a little envy.
She was wearing tight jeans and a midriff she was uncomfortable in, dressed to kill, nervously accepting the few invitations to dance she'd gotten. Halfway through the night, her friend had left, a man on her arm, though she'd begged her to stay. Her own dancing had stopped soon after, and she gathered her things and her courage, and fled the club.
Spike paid and followed, keeping to the shadows, stalking. She walked with her head down, gripping the strap of her purse tightly, not meeting the eyes of anyone she passed. She was vampire bait, the way she moved, the way she kept to herself, avoiding passerbys with practiced ease.
The streets soon got quieter, the groups and couples thinning out until she was the only beating heart on the sidewalk. He moved closer, senses reaching out, slipping a hand into his duster pocket.
She suddenly stopped, looking up, turning her eyes over the dark street, as if she knew what was about to happen to her.
He moved forward, soundless, and leapt from the shadows. She flew back, screaming, tripping on the curb and falling on her butt in the road.
But his hunt wasn't for her. The two fledglings that had been creeping up behind her were both stupid and slow. He only took one hit, a meaty fist to the nose, before both were blowing in the wind.
Her eyes were wide and locked on him, looking at him as if he were the devil himself. She remembered. The silvery scar on her neck remembered too, this leather clad beast attacking her in the alley.
But she was frozen in fear, her hand still gripping the purse strap as if it were a lifeline, shaking.
He slowly tucked the stake back into his pocket, and held out his hand to her. When she didn't respond, he knelt, resting on his toes, watching her.
"I'm sorry," he said, tilting his head slightly. She blinked.
"I'm sorry I hurt you. You didn't deserve it."
Her eyes widened even more, but her courage was returning to her. She pulled her legs back under her, and stood shakily.
He didn't move, not wanting to frighten her.
"I thought I'd killed you."
She swallowed, looking around the deserted street, before responding.
"I s-stayed a night in the hospital."
He nodded slowly to himself, looking down.
"I thought maybe you would have learned, though, walking home at night." He looked back up at her.
He saw a bit of anger flash in her eyes.
"I didn't have a ride."
He chuckled slightly, and rose. She took several hasty steps back.
"Hurry on home. Nothing will bother you."
She looked down at the dust she was standing on, then back at him. She drew up her chin.
"Thank you." Before she turned and fled down the street, full tilt.
He smiled a bit, and followed, silent, the only sound her tapping shoes on the sidewalk. When she was safe behind her door, he returned to his own, and the comfort of his lover's arms, feeling a little better about himself.
Author's Notes: So sorry this took so long everyone. I kinda lost my love for this fic near the end, but you know what? I think it turned out pretty good. I hope it doesn't suck. I'd like thank all of you for the encouragement and support throughout this thing. And margin for the courage, if fleeting, to write that semi-sex scene. And of course, my beta, Fleisch, who's stuck with me even though I have a tendency to disappear for a month or so without sending her anything. Thanks to everyone at TWoP, and Crumbling Walls. And to my brothers, Merrec and Lucavex, who kept prodding and prodding me until I finally finished this. Now, on to my new fic, To Suffocate in Sand and Blood. I hope you all enjoy it as much as you did this one. Thank you so much.