Rating: Either a hard R or a mild NC-17.
Summary: "Let them remember the cranky, badass, annoying vampire. It was for her to remember the man he'd grown into."
Spoilers: Takes place shortly following (and during -- *basement scene alert!*) the series finale.
Archiving: If you already archive my fic, don't ask, just take. Otherwise, just give me a heads up and let me know. I like to know where my work is.
Disclaimers: Do we still need these since Joss gave us blanket permission to write fic? Anyway, he created 'em. I'm just finding it impossible to stop playing with 'em.
A/N: Much thanks to hold_that_thought and sunbrae for the betas; to Mr. Whedon for being such a diabolical genius; and to Mr. Marsters for being Spike's true soul.
Once everyone was admitted who needed to be, the rest of them walked over to a Denny's. Faith stayed behind. To keep an eye on the girls, she said, not for Robin. She said. Kennedy also hung back, figuring Willow could use some alone time with her friends.
Grand Slams all around. Cheerful talk of an optimistic future continued over coffee and sodas as they waited for their orders. Giles suggested that they start some kind of Slayer academy. Xander could build it, as long as they gave him time to get used to swinging a hammer again. They could all teach and train and research. Robin could… well, principal. Whatever that entailed. Buffy wasn't ever really sure, beyond the disciplinary part. Dawn called dibs on heading up the research department. Andrew declared himself drama coach.
Buffy listened, and smiled, and laughed along. Mostly she reveled in everybody getting to just… be. It had been a long time. Way too long. She couldn't shake the feeling that it was all wrong somehow, though. Not just because of… of who wasn't there. They shouldn't be in a Denny's in Oxnard. They should be at the Bronze. Or at her house. Or the mall. But none of those places existed anymore.
Nobody mentioned their dead, at first. But after twenty minutes went by and everyone's food remained untouched, it became pretty clear that nobody had much of an appetite. The chatter faded. They started to fade, too.
Andrew started it. "Hey, do you guys know how they do that?" he asked as a waitress walked by with an onion blossom. "Spike told me that they do this thing with ice water where they… oh, but, he told me not to tell anyone he knew that." He glanced at Buffy. "Sorry."
She managed a smile. "It's okay."
After several minutes went by in silence, Giles sighed and took off his glasses. "We all lost people today."
"Yeah," said Xander, "we can either let it be the big white elephant at the table, or we can talk about it."
"I vote talking," said Willow. "'Cause, unhealthy ways of dealing with grief? That way lies badness."
"Right," said Buffy. "Good. So, maybe we should all say something. Who wants to start?"
Another awkward silence reigned until Dawn spoke up. "Amanda was going to ask Daryl Hanson to prom. She said she decided potential Slayers shouldn't sit around waiting to be asked."
"Good philosophy," said Willow.
"I should have married her," said Xander.
"Amanda?" asked Dawn. Off Xander's look, she said, "Oh."
"If you want to talk shouldas," said Buffy, "I could probably give you a run for your money."
Xander smiled at her, and nodded. "I just hope she knows -- knew how much I loved her."
"We were back on again, you know. The eye patch really did it for her."
"She was an excellent kisser," said Giles.
Xander looked at him, as did everybody else at the table. He coughed and straightened up. "During that amnesia spell." He picked up his glasses and started to give them a thorough cleaning. "We were engaged, after all."
"See?" said Willow, appropriately sheepish. "That spell wasn't all bad."
"No." Dawn giggled. "Remember Spike in that dorky suit he stole? How it had Randy written inside and he thought that was his name?"
Xander grinned. "Randy Giles. Like father, like son, it sounds like."
Giles smiled. Then he met Buffy's eye. "I should have given him the benefit of the doubt."
She nodded. "He understood why you didn't. Anyway, we're not doing shouldas, remember?"
Buffy straightened in her seat and tucked her hair behind her ear. "So, Xander, did you ever find out what Anya's deal was with bunny rabbits?"
"Nope, that's gonna remain one of the eternal mysteries of the universe."
Willow laughed. "Remember when she dressed in that Easter Bunny costume for Halloween?"
"Yeah, 'cause it was the scariest thing she could think of."
They were talking again. Laughing. Buffy tried to keep up, but it felt like they were all waiting for her to take a turn and say something. She didn't know what to say. That they didn't know him like she did? She didn't think he'd want them to. Let them remember the cranky, badass, annoying vampire.
It was for her to remember the man he'd grown into. They didn't need to know about the sweetness he was capable of. The tenderness. The unfathomable love and loyalty he'd given her. And there was a giant crater back in what used to be Sunnydale that could testify to his goodness. His heroism. She didn't need to tell them about that.
They wanted to talk shoulda? She had a whole list of those. Shoulda told him sooner. Shoulda made him believe it before she left him there. Shoulda opened up to him earlier. Shoulda made more time.
Shoulda known there wouldn't be any more time for them after the apocalypse.
But they couldn't let themselves think that way. Had to stay focused. Had to stay hopeful. Had to believe that there would be a next time.
The others went on about three -- four? -- years ago. Thanksgiving. The day he'd first come to them, after the chip. But she was stuck on last night, when she had gone to him.
Had she known? Had he? She had only gone to be with him, to talk, to sleep in his arms again… but the way he'd looked, standing there in the moonlight… the way he'd looked at her…
She moved first. Told herself it was for luck as she climbed up on the table that stood between them, but as soon as he joined her there, she knew it was more than that. So much more. She wanted to tell him… tried to make herself say it, but the words wouldn't come. So she tried to say it with her eyes as she looked into his. With her fingers as she traced the lines of his face -- the scar over his eye, the hard edge of his cheek, the soft curve of his mouth.
He brushed his fingers through her hair. "Goldilocks," he whispered.
"Okay, you do know that's not my real hair color, right?"
His lips curled up in a smile. "I'd noticed. But I'm not exactly one to scoff at the magic of Clairol." The smile touched his eyes and made the skin at the corners crinkle. She had to touch those, too.
And they were gazing into each other's eyes again. It thrilled her, made her feel completely naked even though they hadn't touched each other's clothing. She knew he could see her, all of her, exactly as she was, and that he loved what he saw. She could see him, too. A good man, loving and decent, who'd gotten lost on a really long and twisted detour. But she'd found him. It had been easy, once she'd been willing to look.
He touched her face, cupped it in both hands, and kissed her. It was a sweet kiss, relatively chaste. Soft. She'd forgotten how soft his lips could be. She was just remembering when he broke it off. He drew back and looked at her with a sad little smile.
"Sorry 'bout that."
And she pulled him back to her. This time he kissed her with all of the fire they'd tried to pretend they lost. Their arms wrapped around each other. She held him close, closer, until her entire body from knees to chest was pressed against his, and it still wasn't enough.
She leaned back onto the table, pulling him with her. He went along, eagerly at first; but then he braced his arms against the table. "No."
"Spike, it's all right."
His eyes dipped down to rove over her body. His desire for her was plain on his face, in the tautness of his muscles… not to mention his jeans. Still, he shook his head. "Not like this." He got down from the table and paced a few feet away.
"O-kay." Buffy sat up, smoothed her clothes, and took a deep breath. Then another. And another and it wasn't working and why did these souled vampires always have to be so goddamn noble? Another breath. "If you just wanna--"
He scooped her up in his arms, cutting her off with a kiss. He carried her over to the bed and set her down, then he sat next to her. "If we're gonna do this, we're gonna do it proper."
She raised up to look him in the eye. The earnestness she saw there almost killed her. Reaching a hand up, she played with a lock of hair at his temple that wanted to curl. Then, running a finger down his cheek, she smiled. "Okay."
He smiled back and caught her lips in a slow, languid kiss. Everything he did to her was slow, achingly and painstakingly so. He stopped touching her only long enough to let her peel off his shirt. Then he pushed back her jacket, trapping her arms and leaving them that way as he unbuttoned her blouse, one button at a time, tasting the skin that each one exposed. When he got to the last one he blew a soft breath on her abdomen, making her shiver. One more button at the top of her pants, then the zipper. Buffy thought the anticipation alone might make her come.
Suddenly he sat up, stripped her of her shirt and jacket, and pulled her onto his lap. Another deep kiss, and she grabbed him, held him there as long as she could stand, unable to get enough. Her own hands and lips wandered as he worked on getting her bra off, then her pants; then his hands worked her like putty as his mouth continued its magic. They took an eternity, tasting each other again as if for the first time. Savoring. Her fingers traced the patterns the moonlight cast on his back as his tongue found her breast. She let her head loll back. "Spike."
She felt him smile against her skin. "Too bad Angel can't smell you now."
She shoved him off of her and onto the bed, but his eyes held a mischievous glint that doused anything within her that threatened to spark into true anger. "You're gonna pay for that," she said, straddling him.
He smirked at her. "Promises, promises." He shifted beneath her, grazing her with the rough cotton of his jeans. Buffy gasped. The time for slow and soft was over. She grabbed hold of his fly and tore it open. Tugged off his jeans, then looked down at him, naked and ready, and reconsidered.
She raised up on her knees at the foot of the bed, out of his reach, and waited. For a moment he watched her watching him. Then his eyes narrowed. "Well?"
She placed her hands on her chest. Slowly, she moved them down, rubbing them over her body. Spike's mouth fell open a little and his tongue flicked out as his head tilted to one side. "What's this then, Love?"
"Payback." She wiggled a little, and he fell back against the pillows.
"God, Buffy, what are you doing to me?"
Giggling, she decided to take mercy on him. Dropping to all fours, she crawled over him, and bent to graze her lips across his inner thigh. He shuddered and let out a moan. She tasted every inch of him from that spot to the base of his cock, and when she kissed that he almost bucked beneath her. "Oh, God, yeh," he croaked. Then, "No."
She looked up at him. "No?"
She quirked an eyebrow. "You sure?"
She crawled up him then, but still took her time, licking and nipping at the hard muscles of his stomach and chest as she went. When he could reach her he tangled his hands in her hair and drew her mouth to his. "Please," he said again, whispering against her lips. "I just want to be in you."
The sweet simplicity of his request made her smile, but the love and the smoky sex in his voice turned her on right then more than anything. With one hand she touched his face, touched a finger to the tip of his tongue as her other hand guided him inside her. They both gasped as they got used to each other again. His eyes fluttered shut and his mouth went slack when she began to move on him. She closed her own eyes. His hands clasped her face, and she felt his lips brush her eyelids. "Buffy, open your eyes. Look at me."
She did. She looked into his eyes as they rocked together. They were kind of a silvery blue-gray in the moonlight. Full of adoration. She could gaze into those eyes for the rest of her life. She just hoped that would be more than the next few hours.
She had to close her eyes again to shut out that thought. She sat up, dug her nails into his chest as she rode him, until he sat up, too. One arm snaked around her waist. His other hand roamed, caressing her every where it could reach as his mouth worked the sweet spot at the base of her neck. She moaned. "Spike…"
"Buffy," he answered. "Love…"
She wrapped an arm around his neck and grasped his hand in hers, intertwining their fingers. They met each other's eyes again, and it struck her that they were dancing. She changed the rhythm, made it faster, causing him to make a sound somewhere between a gasp and a groan as he buried his face against her shoulder. She let go of his hand and held onto his shoulders. Tried to steady her breathing. Tried not to cry out. If she screamed like she wanted to, she'd wake the whole house.
He turned them around suddenly, gently laying her on her back as he tilted her up so he could drive deeper. She did cry out then. She clutched at the sheets, the mattress, him -- anything to keep her from floating away. So close. So close…
He leaned down, and thrust his tongue into her mouth as he thrust hard into her. Buffy screamed against him, wrapping her arms and legs around him, pulling him deeper, holding on as something at her core snapped and exploded. Taking him with her. With a grunt, he broke off the kiss and rested his forehead against hers. She heard the chains above his bed rattle, and looked up to see him clutching them in his fist, pulling against them as he pushed into her. With a creak of metal, a link snapped. Spike collapsed against her, panting, out of breath despite his claims that he didn't need any. Buffy pushed his hair back from his forehead and placed a kiss there.
For a long time they just lay there, a tangle of limbs, still connected. Stroking each other, lovingly and lazily. Regaining their breath and the ability to speak.
"The things that you do to me," Spike said after a while.
Buffy smiled. "Mutual."
"Do you really think we're gonna win?"
"I know we are."
He raised up and returned her smile. "That's good enough for me." He shifted his weight off of her. "Should probably rest up. Big morning, apocalypse and all."
"Good idea." She turned on her side so he could spoon up against her. But instead of lying down, he called her name. She looked at him. He opened his mouth to say something, but instead he just looked at her, intently, as if trying to memorize her face. She reached back and stroked the back of her fingers down his cheek. "I know," she told him. "Me too." He nodded. She coaxed him down for another kiss, and his lips lingered against hers, like he was afraid it would be the last. Finally, he lay down next to her. They didn't say anything else. There was nothing -- and yet everything -- left to say.
Wrapped in Spike's arms, Buffy drifted off to sleep and dreamt of blue-eyed grandchildren.
"He let me drive his Harley once." Andrew's voice cut through her memories. "Just for a block, and, I had to go really slow. But it was cool." He nodded at his own story. "Spike could be nice sometimes."
"He was a jerk," Buffy grumped.
Everybody looked at her, both surprise and agreement written on their faces.
"Okay," said Xander, "I'd be the last person to dispute that, but it's not the typical eulogy for a guy who just saved the world."
"Do you know what the last thing he did was? He argued with me. I told him I love him, and he argued with me! What the hell is that?"
Everybody looked down at their plates. Nobody had an answer.
"He had to know." Buffy wiped her nose. "Idiot."
Dawn reached up and brushed Buffy's hair behind her shoulder. "Yeah. But he was your idiot jerk."
Buffy laughed at that. Then the grief hit her. Damn. She so didn't want to do this in front of everybody. Dawn pulled her into a hug, and they clutched each other until Buffy got it under control. Then she sat back, grabbing a napkin to dab her eyes. Andrew and Willow both did the same.
"I think… I think I touched his soul."
"Wow," said Willow, a little breathlessly. It had been a long time since anything had wowed her, or any of them, like that. "What was it like?"
"Beautiful." She pictured him at the end, tried to find the words to describe him. "He was…" A word occurred to her that she'd heard once in poetry class. "Effulgent."
"Excuse me," squeaked Andrew, getting up from the table. He blew his nose loudly as he headed for the bathroom. Everybody else sat there in silence, each of them lost in their own thoughts.
"So," Willow said at last, "where were we thinking of putting this new school?"
"If you say Cleveland," warned Xander, "I'll force you to look at my eye socket."
"Ew," said Dawn. Buffy wrinkled her nose to concur.
"Yes, well." Giles reached for his coffee. "It was just a thought." He took a sip, then set it back down. "In all seriousness, perhaps I should consider getting back into retail. Or perhaps wholesale? I know this supplier in Vegas who's looking to retire…"
Only the beginning.