Futurefic....say two years from now, give or take.
Rating: Strong PG13. C'mon, I'm not that graphic! But yeah, some sexual imagery.
Spoilers, none, but let's assume Spike cleared up that little problem he had with insanity.
A/N: If in Boston, I highly recommend the Brooklyn Lager at the Bukowski Tavern. And yes, they really do play the Sex Pistols.
Many thanks to Cindy and Chen for helping me whip this thing into shape!
Buffy had been to New York when she was a little girl. The skyscrapers were still etched in her mind, giant buildings stretching toward the stratosphere, trying desperately to touch the clouds. But this city seemed warmer, more open. A perfect place for her sister to go to school, she thought to herself as she ambled down the sidewalk. Interviews at Suffolk and Boston College had drawn the two out of their western corner of the country, and the colleges with the brick facades and bustling students had lured them toward the east.
An icy knot tightened in the pit of her stomach at the thought of his name. He'd left two years prior without even saying goodbye. Perhaps the ill-placed stake in his chest and heated fight leading up to it didn't help. It had been a nightmare of a spring She'd said things she didn't mean. Confusion reigned supreme and the Big Bad had nearly killed them all. And for a brief moment, she'd thought Spike had been one of its minions. She'd only missed once before. Her stake usually struck its target with unwavering accuracy. Thank god she'd missed on that evening as well.
But the damage was already done. No amount of tearful apologies could mend the rift that formed between them. Any thread of trust they had shared had been unraveled that evening. In the end, he had proved himself the loyal ally. And she didn't deserve it. One moment of doubt and the last vestiges of their friendship had been destroyed. Even now when she closed her eyes, she could still see the pain mingled with betrayal cloud his eyes as she'd pulled the stake from the bleeding wound in his chest.
After that, he'd help out with patrol from time to time, quietly fighting the good fight only to slip back into the shadows when she wasn't looking. Over the next few months, he'd helped out less and less until one day he had vanished all together. No goodbyes, no note, no dramatic exit. Just an empty space in her heart where the vampire once had been.
The weeks grew into months, and before she knew it, two years had nearly passed. She'd lost track of him, but he was never far from her thoughts. Every once in a while, she'd pass through Willy's to listen for any shred of gossip, anything to give her hope that he was okay. New England. The stories always seemed to point to that corner of the country.
And now she found herself walking down the street of the Back Bay searching the crowd for a familiar face among the nameless hoards of businessmen and music students that swarmed around the shopping district. A chill had whipped off the Charles and she snugged the collar of her coat tight around her neck. Unfortunately, her gloves were back at the hotel. With Dawn safely tucked on campus for the weekend of recruitment goodness, Buffy had found herself with time on her hands for a little sightseeing.
It didn't take long to hear about the rogue vampire that roamed the city at night. A soul, the locals had all professed. The monster had a soul. This vigilante kept to himself while ridding Boston of nasties one beast at a time. Boston was notorious for its ghosts and goblins. It had been a hotbed of activity even in the colonial days. Faith had been called to battle the forces of evil in the city before she'd fled to California. She'd left a void in her exodus, and Buffy wondered what monster had willingly chosen to fill the gap. He was a wraith, nothing more than a fairy tale. Many knew of him, but few could actually describe the vampire. Another urban legend to share over a beer.
The sun was a faint smudge on the western horizon, it's last rays of the day hidden by concrete and steel. Rush hour droned on, and an endless stream of autos snarled the narrow roadways. Bankers with briefcases tucked under one arm and countless Berklee students with guitars or trombones strapped to their backs streamed past as they headed home for the day.
Her feet began to ache. So much for stylish and comfortable. A subway train roared beneath her as she crossed a bridge spanning the tracks below. She wasn't going to find him that way. She needed information. And maybe a soda. Bartenders always seemed to know the most obscure trivia. Perhaps she would strike the mother lode and find one well versed in vampire hunters.
Taking a left, she hiked up the hill toward the hotels ringing the convention center. Even in the distance, the neon called to her. Dead Authors Club, the sign flickered in a blazing red. Fate, irony, or whatever. She had to go in. If he was going to be anywhere, he'd likely turn up in dive like that.
The outside was painted red and the sign "Bukowski Tavern" spread across the doorway. It was still early in the evening, and the bouncer's stool was empty. The throbbing bass from the stereo reverberated on the glass door, and her heart leapt into her throat as she entered the long, skinny bar. The Sex Pistols blasted from the speakers. Anarchy in the UK. It wasn't her style of music, but she'd heard him play it enough times to recognize the song. Funny how even music could stir up such visceral memories.
The bar was practically empty. A pair of barflies swilled bottles of Pabst at the bar while a group of music students huddled over pints of microbrew at one of the tables. A little waif of a bartender with purple hair nodded her head in time with the music while snapping a piece of gum between her jaws. "What'll you have?" she asked in a thick New England accent.
"Diet Coke," Buffy answered with a start as she was drawn from her reverie. Nothing but the hard stuff for the slayer.
"Pepsi okay?" the barkeep asked.
"That's fine," the slayer absently replied, digging in her pocket for money.
Setting a glass filled with ice on the bar, the bartender cracked open a can of soda and filled the glass before saying, "That'll be a buck fifty."
Buffy pulled two dollars out of her pocket and set them on the bar beside the glass. That's when she saw him. A shock of platinum hair contrasted against the matte black of the far wall. He sat by himself at the furthest table from the door. A half-empty pint of something amber and the remnants of hamburger cluttered the tiny table in front of him. A cigarette smoldered in an ashtray, its tendrils of smoke dancing around his face as he turned the page of a well-worn paperback. In his other hand, he clasped a mug. Blood. Even at a distance she could see the viscous crimson on the lip of the ceramic cup after he absently took another sip.
She nearly dropped the soda on the floor. Thankfully he hadn't noticed her. Obviously engrossed in the novel, he didn't even look up. Abandoning her drink at the bar, Buffy took a tentative step toward him. He looked different. Wary, exhausted. Dark circles rimmed his eyes, and a fading bruise fanned out over his left cheekbone. His hair was a little longer than she remembered, unruly as ever and curling at the ends without any sticky gel to tame it.
Their eyes met at the same moment. She recognized that same incredulous stare and puzzled tilt of the head from somewhere. A staircase from years before perhaps. Neither could speak. Breaching the silence, Buffy tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and nervously licked her lips before finally managing to say, "Hello, Spike."
His hands twitched on the table. Spike reached for his cigarette and took a quick drag before returning it to the ashtray. Exhaling the smoke, he nodded and said coolly, "Slayer."
For the first time in years, she felt like an insecure schoolgirl. She'd cried over him, raged, screamed, then finally accepted his absence. In the back of her head, she'd dreamed of what she'd say if she were ever so lucky to run into him. But here she stood in the back of a smoky bar with outdated punk as her soundtrack unable to find her voice. She wanted desperately to apologize for her past, but she couldn't. Instead she heard herself asking, "How've you been?"
"Been better," he answered as he pulled himself to a stand and gingerly limped over to the bar and handed the bartender a wad of bills.
"Anything else, Spike?" the girl asked.
Shaking his head, he answered, "No, pet, I'm good. Tell Jimmy if he needs someone to cover the bar Sunday night to give me a ring."
Without even looking back, he slowly ambled toward the door favoring his right leg as he made his exit. He zipped up his jacked and jammed his hands in the pockets. Buffy rushed to catch up, "Hey, you're hurt!" she said.
"Observant as ever I see," he sneered, pushing the glass door open and stepping out into the darkening night. "Nastier breed of demon in the city. They grow 'em bigger here. A Fyarl got a taste of me last week. But don't worry; it'll heal. Always does."
Now she was getting angry. Not used to the cold shoulder - it stung being on the receiving end for a change - she followed him to the sidewalk. "So, what," she began, "we cross paths, trade a few war stories, and then 'hasta la vista, see you later, Buffy'?"
Spike let out a noisy sigh and turned to face her. His lips formed a tight line. There had been a time in the past where he'd have followed her anywhere like a devoted little stray. But not tonight. He'd changed, and for a split second, she saw herself reflected in his cold eyes. Walled off and distant. She knew the role well. Mastered it, at that. "Yeah, without the melodrama, I suppose so," he answered and continued his trek.
"Spike, wait up!" she called out, trying her best to keep up as he headed down the sidewalk. "You can't just walk away like that."
He stopped and spun on one heel to face her. His eyes burned with cloaked fury, dangerous and ready to ignite at any moment, flickering yellow before retreating with a single blink. "Watch me," he spat in response, and that indignant little furrow between his eyebrows grew more noticeable "Been round this block one time too many. Not in the mood for another round of Kick the Spike. So why don't you do us both a little favor, Slayer, and go back to California. Forget that you ever saw me."
With that, he turned his back on her and headed across the busy street. She dodged a speeding taxi and sheepishly waved her thanks as the cabbie muttered angry Russian curses out the open window. The vampire weaved through traffic, oblivious to the countless cars around him. Buffy had no idea where he was headed, but she wasn't going to pass on the opportunity. He didn't try to stop her, but he made no effort to engage with her as he headed toward the underground T station.
Digging into his pocket he pulled out a dollar bill and handed it to the attendant behind the scratched plexiglas booth and retrieved the subway token before heading toward the turnstiles. He turned to his new shadow. "Look, Buffy," he said with a sigh, dropping the token in the slot and passing through the gate, "I can't go back to what I was. I'm not your bloody lap dog anymore. A lot of things have changed. I've changed."
She pulled out her own dollar as well. Grabbing her own token she rushed through the turnstile after him and followed him down the dingy stairs. "Well then, why don't you try and explain it to me," she demanded.
When he reached the bottom of the stairs, Spike came to an abrupt halt and waited for her. The muscle in his jaw clenched for a moment as though he was trying to keep from answering. Finally he said, "I tried. And what did I get for it? A hunk of oak in my chest. You were right. The Hellmouth was killing me, so I got out. I wish things were different," he paused, looking away for a moment before regaining his hard edge. "I wish for a lot of things. But it isn't my bloody birthday. They aren't gonna happen."
The tiled floor was slippery. An unseen layer of grime clung to their surface. The mournful wail of a street musician's harmonica echoed in the cavernous hallways. She could barely hear him over the cacophony of chatter as commuters rushed past. This wasn't the right place to be starting this argument. But it was better than the years of silence. "Don't you think I've made wishes, too?" she asked following him to the platform. She weaved though the mass of bodies and followed him toward a waiting subway car. Raising her voice over the din, she added, "I've made mistakes, Spike. A lot of them. If I could take them back, I would."
He queued up with the other commuters and boarded the rear car with her in tow. It didn't take long for them all to pack in like an overstuffed can of sardines. The air was hot and stale, every seat and most of the aisle were occupied. Spike grasped the overhead steel bar while she grabbed the rail running over the top of a seat. "That's easy to say, Slayer," he said. "But the truth is: you never trusted me. Soul or not. I suppose trust and all that rot really is for old marrieds. Something we weren't. I did you a favor, Buffy. I left before whatever mess we called a relationship burned and consumed us until there was nothing left. Should've listened to you a long time ago."
"So why won't you listen to me now?" she pleaded. "It's gotta be more than chance that I ran into you. God, Spike, there hasn't been a day when I haven't thought about you."
The train came to a stop, and voice announced the station over the speakers. One mob of people exited and another quickly took their place. Spike stared at the floor for a second before answering, "Don't make this any harder." A plea more than anything else, whispered so only she could hear.
The doors closed, and the car lurched forward with a jerk. Buffy stumbled a bit and slid into him. Immediately his arm wrapped around her waist and kept her from falling. His hand found that spot in the small of her back. The one that made her feel safe in his embrace. Their eyes locked for a fleeting second, and for a moment she thought she could see all the way to his soul. Funny how she hadn't really looked before. His tough façade did little to hide the quiet vulnerability behind those pale eyes. But then again, that costume never was that believable.
"It doesn't have to be," she said before reaching for a rail and pulling out of his grasp.
Speechless, his Adam's apple bobbed once in silence. His features softened and he was about to say something until his gaze shifted and his attention was drawn to the other side of the car. Leaning forward, his lips caressed her ear. But instead of gifting her with a gentle kiss, he whispered, "Please tell me you were a good little girl scout and packed a stake."
"Kinda goes with the whole slayer package," she quipped back as she started to twist her head around to get a glimpse of what he was staring at. "Never leave home without one."
"Don't look," he instructed, his hand went to her chin to keep her from turning, "Vamps. Three of them, over by the door. The big one's been trouble for a while. Up for a quick slay?"
A little smile danced across her lips. At least they could still work together. That hadn't changed, and it was a start.
"Thought you'd never ask."
The car squealed to a stop, and the occupants flooded into the T station. Quietly Buffy slid the stake tucked in her coat pocket into her fist. From the corner of her eye she saw Spike do the same. They kept their distance as the followed the trio of vampires up the stairs and outside. They slipped into the shadows, ducking down a winding back alley lined by weathered bricks. At least these idiots had the foresight to head to a less populated area before the summary dusting.
"They went that way," Buffy said, pointing her stake toward the far end of the square.
He tested the weight of the stake, flexing his hand around the wooden shaft as he nodded toward their opponents. "This shouldn't take long," he noted. "You go round the dumpster, and I'll herd them together."
"Sounds like a plan," she said. "Let's do this before they buy a clue."
"Got your back as always, Slayer."
Two halves of a whole, they struck with tandem fury. The first vamp was nothing more than a cloud of sooty dust before the other two could even raise a game face. It didn't take long for all hell to break loose. A roundhouse to the chin and Spike went careening into the wall. Hobbled with an injured hip, he wasn't nearly as fast as usual in a fight. He went one way, his stake skittered the other.
"Figured we'd run into you, traitor," the taller vamp spat at Spike, kicking the stake even further out of reach. "Who's the girlie girl? Some slayer wannabe?"
Wasting no time, Spike scrambled to his feet and drove his fist into the vamps jaw. Spit and blood went flying across the alley. "No, you stupid, git," he said through clenched teeth. "She *is* the slayer."
Responding on cue, Buffy joined the melee. "I'm shocked," she snarked. "I thought my reputation preceded me. Don't they teach you anything around here?" She answered with boot and fist, pushing the would-be attacker further down the alley and into his fellow cohort. But the vamps were fast. Not too shabby for a pair barely out of their fledgling years.
Fighting only made the vamps angrier. They threw themselves at Buffy, and she felt a gush of blood flow when a fist connected with her nose. Stars danced around her head, and she felt like she was going to vomit. Her limbs felt limp like a rag doll's as she felt herself hit the pavement. It took a lot to knock her out, but apparently this vamp was looking to have his have his one good day.
Before she could get to her feet, strong hands pinned her wrists to the ground, and she tried desperately to break free. But this one was strong. Heavy at that. The beast easily shook the stake from her hand and straddled her hips. She couldn't move. Couldn't breathe. Her vision swam in front of her.
The vampire's breath was fetid, cold against her neck. She trashed back and forth. That stupid thing wasn't going to bite her. It wasn't supposed to end this way. She didn't have a death wish.
This was it. Buffy felt the prick of fangs of against her neck. A scream started in throat. But the final bite, the one that would kill her never came, and the weight was lifted off her body. Opening her eyes, she was met by a cloud of dust and Spike standing over her, a stake firmly in his left hand.
She lay there for several moments on the brink of hyperventilation as she caught her breath. Finally she sat up and acknowledged her hero. "Thanks," she said between panting gasps for air. "The other one..."
Cinder coated her skin, and she could taste the charred dust spread out on her tongue. It made her sick to her stomach. It tasted like death. Always did. What she needed was a hot shower and a cup of tea. Quickest way to chase away the inevitable filth that came with slaying. Her body ached everywhere and she tasted copper as she felt a stream of blood start to drip from her nose. Too stunned to move, she rested in the alleyway, willing the breath to fill her lungs.
"You okay?" a concerned voice called from above, an open palm reaching toward her.
His hand was smaller than she'd remembered as she accepted his offer and pulled herself to a stand. Brushing the dust off her jeans, she finally answered as she tucked her stake in the waistband and nodded, "Think I'll live."
"You're hurt," Spike said, wiping the blood from her lip with the pad of his thumb.
Goosebumps rippled across her skin, a chill racing down her spine at the contact. "Amateurs," she minimized, trying her best to hide how sore she really was. "Besides, you've made me bleed more than that and I walked away unscathed."
Okay, so joking about their past scuffles probably wasn't the best way to strike up a conversation. It opened up a raw wound, she could see it in his eyes, the way his shoulders slouched a little forward, how the aggressive bite to his voice quickly faded. "Yeah, well..." he stammered, struggling to find the right words. "Not something I'm particularly proud of."
Spike turned away and took a step back toward the main road. He let out a sharp wince as his hand went to his hip. "You're not the only one who wants to take back past mistakes," he managed to say with a sigh.
"Why do we keep doing this?" Buffy asked, not quite ready to follow him.
Slowly turning, he answered, a puzzled look spreading across his features, "Do what?"
Her hands flexed nervously, grasping for something she couldn't quite find. "This," she tried her best to explain. "Dwell in the past. We can fight side by side no problem. Always could. But the moment we try to talk, one of us is running away. I've had my share of being avoid-y girl." Great, now she was babbling. Nothing like a little mindless chatter to make the situation all the more awkward. "What I'm trying to say is: I'm sorry. Sorry for hurting you, sorry for not trusting you. I know it doesn't mean much now. The proverbial damage is already been done, but I just wanted you to hear it."
He worried at his lower lip. She'd seen him do it time and time again - the nervous habit that slipped through the big bad guise and gave away his true self. "C'mon," he said, the closest thing to a détente she'd heard all night, "let's get some ice on that nose of yours before it swells up like a balloon."
They walked in companionable silence, ambling along the red-bricked lined Freedom Trail toward the North End. Tourists and locals alike made the trek northward. Lines had already formed outside the countless restaurants and bistros with hungry patrons in search of respite. Cars weaved through the narrow streets, and the smell of garlic filled the air. Good thing vampires weren't really repelled by the pungent aroma.
A few of the locals waved to him as he led her down a narrow road not much wider than an alleyway. Brown brick apartment buildings lined each side. The tiny neighborhood seems thousands of miles away from the roaring chaos of downtown. A comforting quiet filled the street. The sounds of a baseball game from a static-filled radio filtered down from an open window, the roar of the crowd unmistakable. A cat darted out from the shadows.
Digging into his front pocket, Spike pulled out a key and opened the door. He quickly gathered his mail and ushered Buffy up the narrow stairway to the top floor. Apartment 4B. His home. A little basket sat at the foot of his door, a checkered cloth napkin covering its contents. He retrieved the gift and smiled as he peered inside. Fresh bread and a mason jar filled with blood that brought a smile to his face.
With a turn of key and a flip of the lights, he entered his apartment, limping over to the dinette to set the basket on the table and his coat over a chair. Buffy stood at the threshold for moment, a little anxious to take the next step.
"There's no magical lock on the place," he said drawing her from her reverie. "Come in, Buffy."
"Right, no lock," she answered with a nervous giggle. With one step, she entered once again into his world.
Understated, the apartment gave away so much about a man she barely knew. Everything had its place. The walls were bare, no pictures to tell a story. A well-worn rug much like the ones adorning the lower level of his crypt covered the hardwood floor in the living room. A tiny TV stood silent watch in the corner. CD's littered the coffee table - The Kinks, Chieftains, Elvis Costello. Heavy curtains covered the windows, and fragrant candles crowded a scuffed end table. Comforting scents - sandalwood, patchouli - brought pleasant memories of time gone by flooding back. This was Spike's home, a life he created for himself. It was his and his alone.
"Spike," she said, "you live above ground."
That irritated little furrow between his eyebrows started to deepen, the one she'd seen numerous times. "I'm a vampire, Slayer," he answered with a frown, "not a bloody sewer rat."
Her cheeks flushed. She'd done it again. "Sorry," she sheepishly conceded. "Foot meet mouth. Again." Trying her best to change the subject before she dug that hole a little deeper, she added, "Your place, it's nice."
"Thanks," he said limping to the kitchen. He grabbed a dishtowel and headed toward the freezer. "The landlord's cutting me a good deal. I do a little maintenance and patrol around here, and he lets me have the flat for a song. Couldn't afford it otherwise."
"So he knows you're a vampire?"
He filled the towel with ice as he answered, "Yeah, he doesn't seem to have a problem with it. Guess the neighborhood had a pretty bad vamp problem a few years back. Suppose he's happy to have one on his side for a change."
While he busied himself in the kitchen, Buffy couldn't help but check out her surroundings. Draping her coat over his, she studied the items on his table - an old newspaper, an empty mug, a ballpoint pen, and pack of matches. The basket called to her and she pulled back the cloth and read the hand-written card tucked beside the jar of blood.
He returned with the makeshift icepack in hand. Caught in the act, Buffy dropped the napkin with a start. Not sure what to say, she asked, "Spike, who's Maria?"
He answered her with a chuckle, his eyes framed by laugh lines she forgot he'd had. "That would be Mrs. Andretti in 2A," he elaborated.
He'd moved on. She could feel her hopes deflate by the second. "Oh," was all she could say in response.
"Don't be jealous, pet," he soothed. She could never really hide her feelings from him. "She's eighty-three. I take her rubbish out. Now about that nose of yours."
With a gentle touch, he brought the icepack to her face. Buffy tried her best to suppress a wince as it made contact with her bruised face. Instead, she covered his hand with hers and held it to her face. "Thanks," she whispered.
Spike withdrew his hand as though something had scalded him. The icepack fell to the floor with a thud, and ice cubes scattered everywhere on the floor. Clearly flustered, he dropped to a crouch to retrieve the mess. "Dammit," he muttered more to the floorboards than anything else, "I told myself I wouldn't do this.'
In a flash he was on his feet again and heading toward the kitchen, the ice cubes discarded in the sink with a clatter. He paced with caged energy as she followed him.
"Do what?" she asked.
He braced his hands on either side of the sink. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and answered, "This," he stumbled. "You. I told myself I was over you. But seeing you, touching you, it brings it all back. Believe me, it was so much easier when I could pretend I hated you."
"Would it be better if I left?" she asked from the doorway.
He shook his head before the tough-guy accent that so defined Spike the Big Bad yielded to something else, something more refined, something that she couldn't quite describe. With a hoarse whisper he answered, "I don't want to say goodbye again."
She stepped into the kitchen, her heels clicked against the linoleum tiles. Reaching out, she placed her hand on his back. At first he stiffened at the touch, but didn't pull away. "Then don't," she answered.
Slowly he turned to face her, his face awash in conflicting emotions. Confusion, uncertainty, desire. Again he raised his hand to cup her face. She leaned into his caress. His palm was cool against her skin as he delicately stroked the curve of her lower lip with his thumb.
His jaw clenched and he pulled abruptly away. "I can't," his voice wavered. "I don't want to hurt you again."
Reaching out, Buffy took his hand in hers. "You won't," she answered with a kiss to the center of his palm. "I trust you, Spike."
He opened his mouth to say something, but instead let his actions speak for him. Leaning forward he placed a kiss on her lips. He tasted like tobacco and hops, a comforting reassurance that he hadn't changed that much. It wasn't the crushing kiss that laid claim to her body like she'd been accustomed to. This one was gentle, tentative. His lips were moist on her neck. Spike still knew how to reduce her to a pile of mush Her hands tangled in the hair at the nape of his neck, and she drew him closer, her lips parting to invite him to explore further.
All they'd ever done was dance. But tonight she was willing to let him lead and set the pace.
She let out a little moan as he stopped his ministrations. She smiled her approval as his eyes wandered toward the bedroom. Without saying a word, he laced his fingers in hers and led her down the narrow hallway, the amber light from a lamp in the living room lighting their way.
Pale moonlight filtered through the gap in the curtain, though his face remained hidden in shadow. With a gentle touch, his fingers played with the buttons of her blouse until the shirt fluttered to the floor. He took his time becoming reacquainted with her body. His thumb swept the strap of her bra off her shoulder, nipping little kisses followed in its wake. He did likewise to the other shoulder before easing her back onto the bed and unhooking the front closure.
His tongue dipped into her mouth before he tugged at her lower lip with his teeth. The tips of his fingers traced lazy circles on her belly, and her skin prickled with goose bumps in response. "I dreamt of you," he whispered in her ear. "Holding you, making love. But I thought I'd never see you again."
"I'm right here, Spike," she answered as she stroked his cheek. "I'm not going anywhere."
Her hands wandered across his broad shoulders before trailing down his back to tug at the hem of his t-shirt. He shivered at her touch as her fingers slipped below fabric and crept along his skin. He was still ticklish right below his ribs, and Spike couldn't suppress a gasp as her fingertips found that secret spot.
She hiked his shirt up, coaxing him to remove it. The faint scar in the middle of is chest stood out in the darkness. She'd given it to him. It was taut and puckered beneath her touch. She half-expected him to recoil. Instead, Spike relaxed beside her and let her continue her quiet exploration. They lay together in the darkness, reveling in the delicate silence that surrounded them. No apocalypse to thwart. No demons to slay. They didn't need words. They forgave each other with their mouths, their hands, their bodies.
Somewhere between the soft caresses and gentle kisses, the rest of their clothing had made it to the floor. Her jeans had knocked over an unlit candle on the nightstand, and his rested against the closet door.
"Are you sure?" he asked with a whisper, his eyes seeking approval before taking the next step. One painful mistake, and it lingered for years.
She wanted to erase the past and start fresh. She was ready to trust him. "Three thousand frequent flyer miles of sure," she said with a smile. Drawing him close, she emphasized her choice with a long, passionate kiss.
In the past she'd pulled and clawed, taken what was hers. But tonight, it wasn't about games. It was about reconnecting. Healing past wounds. For the first time, they made love - slowly, reverently, their bodies conveying everything they couldn't manage to say with words. Skin on skin, soul against soul they moved as one, sharing dance where only they knew the tune.
Slowly she felt it build within, taut like a drawn bowstring ready to snap at any second. The past didn't matter. Only now. Her fingers twined with his, and her breath quickened with ragged gasps. Opening her eyes, Buffy sought out his gaze and wrapped her legs tighter around his body. She came with a shuddering sigh and pulled Spike with her over the edge, arching her body into his as he buried his head against the angle of her neck.
They clung to each other as the last whispers of their climax faded away. She savored his embrace as her heartbeat gradually slowed. This was normally her cue to kick him in the head and make the mad dash to the door, virtue fluttering all the way home. But this time when he rolled onto his back, she snuggled closer and let him wrap his arms around her. It felt right. But then again, it always had.
The muted sound of a car alarm echoed in the distance, and she could mark time to the rhythmic drip of the faucet in the bathroom. They wouldn't solve all of their problems in one night. That would take time. But they were headed in the right direction. Until then, she longed for a life less complicated, but one that included him.
"We'll be okay," she whispered against his chest. His lips brushed the crown of her head in response. And for the first time in her life, she believed those words.