A Pirate's Life For Me by Addie Logan

ReviewsRating: NC-17

Summary: Post Blood Ties. As the Slayer, Buffy Summers is certain she hates the vampire Spike. But when an enchanted book pulls her into a world where she's Lady Elizabeth Summers, trapped on the ship of famed pirate William the Bloody, things start to look a little different…

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Chapters 16-20

Chapter 16

Spike stood for a moment, in shock. He'd been with Elizabeth…no… Buffy . He'd been with Buffy, and they'd been…

It was over. The sense of loss he felt was acute, tearing at him from the inside. He'd had the woman he loved in his arms, and now she was gone, running from him—running from what they'd had.

Without thinking, Spike went after her, out of the Magic Box.

And into the sunlight.

As he began to smoke, he heard a high-pitched scream, and then felt arms wrap around him and pull him until they stumbled backwards into the shop.

"Spike…you think maybe you could get the hell off of me ?" a familiar, male voice grunted from beneath him.

Spike got up, dusting himself off. He looked down to see Xander on the ground, wiping his brow. Xander had just saved him? Maybe they were still in Bizzaro World. He held his hand out, helping the other man up. "Um…thanks."

"Yeah, well, I didn't feel like having to clean your dust up from in front of the store," Xander muttered, letting go of Spike's hand the second he was upright.

Suddenly, Spike felt something hit him, and looked down to see Dawn clinging to him. "You scared me, running out there," she said.

"Sorry, nibblet. Where your sis and I were, I could go out in the sunlight. I guess I just forgot that I'm not really supposed to do that." With those words, Spike felt an overwhelming sense of despair fill him. He couldn't go out in the sunlight anymore, and he'd wager that he no longer had a heartbeat. He'd never thought he'd really care about those things, but now that he couldn't give them to Buffy anymore…

And Buffy had run into the sunlight. Back into her world, a place where he couldn't go.

"I have to go," Spike said, pulling away from Dawn. "I have to…" He needed to get away. He couldn't go after Buffy, and he wasn't even sure that he should. His mind was racing, his thoughts everywhere.

"Are you okay?" Dawn asked, her big, soft eyes looking too much like Buffy's for Spike at the moment.

He looked away. "Yeah, I'm… I have to go," he said again before hurrying out of the Magic Box, this time using his usual sewer exit.

"Well, he was acting weird," Xander said. "Even for Spike."

Anya shrugged. "Well, a few minutes ago, he was hanging out on a pirate ship after just marrying Buffy. Now he's here, and she ran away. Gotta be disorienting."

" Marrying Buffy!" Xander exclaimed. "When did that happen? And why didn't you tell us?"

"I didn't tell you, because it was the end of the book, and I knew they'd be out soon," Anya said. "But it was a nice little ceremony, even if Rupert was drunk the whole time. You conducted it, Xander."

Xander's exclamation of "I what!?" managed to drown out Giles muttering, "Well, I'd have to be drunk if Spike and Buffy were getting married."

"You conducted the ceremony," Anya said, patiently, as if speaking to a child. "Or the version of you in the book anyway. See, he was Spike's first mate, and…"

"Spike's first mate? What sort of insane book is that?"

"He…or you…whatever… Anyway, that Xander was his first mate and William made him captain, so he married them." Anya frowned. "I'm not sure that ceremony was entirely legal. I mean, they were out of England, so I don't think they needed to post the banns, but…"

"Of course it wasn't legal! It was in a book! This is all insane!"

"Um, you guys? Do you think maybe we should check on Spike and Buffy?" Tara asked, everyone turning to face her as she did. "I…I mean, they have to be reeling from what just happened to them."

"Spike won't want company," Dawn said. "He'll be drinking, and possibly breaking stuff. But I'll go see if I can find Buffy."

"Okay Dawn," Giles said. "And have Buffy contact us later, would you?"

"I will," Dawn said with a nod before leaving the Magic Box.

"How did they get out anyway?" Willow asked. "I didn't do a spell…"

Anya shrugged. "The book was over."

*** *** ***

"Buffy! You're home!"

Buffy stopped in front of the stairs as he mother came rushing towards her, enveloping her in a hug. "Yeah, I'm home," Buffy said, weakly returning the gesture.

Joyce pulled away from her daughter. "Mr. Giles said you were trapped in a book? With Spike?"

"Yeah."

"I've heard of a lot of weird things since we moved to Sunnydale, but… Are you okay, Buffy?"

"I need to lie down for a bit, okay?"

"Sure, honey. Let me know if you need anything, all right?"

"I will."

Buffy walked up the stairs and to her room, sitting down on her bed. She knew she should be happy to be home, happy to be back with her family and friends. So why did she feel this way? She felt empty and lost, the pain welling up inside her almost unbearable. She hadn't felt this way since…

Since Angel moved to LA.

She picked Mr. Gordo up off her pillow, holding the stuffed pig as she curled into a ball on her bed, tears spilling from her eyes before she could stop them. Something inside her was screaming for her husband, for the man that she'd pledged herself to for all eternity, and the pain of knowing there was no real person to answer that need tore her apart.

She closed her eyes, but all she could see was William, looking at her with so much love. But none of that was real, that it all had been the product of a fantasy. She didn't have William, and she never would again.

Buffy barely registered the knock on her door right before Dawn peeked her head in. "Buffy?"

Dawn watched her sister for a moment, noting how her only movement was from the sobs wracking her body. "Do you want to talk about it?" Buffy was silent, staying curled in a ball on her bed. Dawn's thoughts were drawn back to not so long ago, when Riley had left. Buffy had been upset then, too.

But she hadn't been this upset…

Dawn sat beside Buffy, reaching out tentatively to touch her arm. "What happened, Buffy? Why did you run out of the Magic Box like that?"

Buffy's only response was to cry harder.

"Spike tried to go after you. He ran outside and…"

Buffy sat up suddenly, her eyes wild. "It was sunny out there! He…oh, god …"

"No! He's okay, Buffy. Xander pulled him back in."

Buffy's shoulders slumped forward in relief. "He shouldn't have done that."

"Xander?"

"No! Spike! He shouldn't have…he shouldn't have run after me like that."

"He seemed upset, too, Buffy."

"Well, of course he was," Buffy said, her tone suddenly bitter. "If you were a vampire, and you'd just been forced to be all lovey-dovey about a Slayer for days, wouldn't you be bitter, too."

Dawn frowned. "Buffy, I don't think that was it. He looked…sad. Sorta like you do now, only with less hysterical sobbing." She cleared her throat. "Anya said the two of you got married…in the book?"

"William and Elizabeth got married."

"But you were William and Elizabeth, right?"

"No. Not really. It wasn't…" Buffy doubled over, clutching her face in her hands. "Oh, Dawnie, none of it was real! I was so happy, and so in love, and then it was all taken away from me. I lost the man I loved."

Dawn wrapped her arms around Buffy, trying to soothe her. "But Spike is still here. I'm sure he went back to his crypt. You could…"

Buffy pulled up, shaking her head. "No. I…I can't. Spike can't love me, not here. He's…he's a vampire. He doesn't have a soul. He can't love me. The book only made him think he did, and now he'd…" Buffy's voice trailed off into another fit of tears.

"But…but he loved Drusilla. You know he did, Buffy. Couldn't it be possible for him to love you now?"

"No! It was just the book. He can't love me outside the book."

Dawn managed to meet her sister's eyes. "Do you still love him?"

Buffy said nothing, but the flash that Dawn saw in her eyes was all she needed to know. Buffy fell forward, and Dawn held on to her, trying her best to comfort her sister.

*** *** ***

Spike sat in a chair in his crypt, whiskey bottle in hand. He'd been taking one long drink straight from the bottle after another, hoping that it would dull some of the pain.

It didn't.

Over and over again, the memory of watching Buffy run from him played in his mind. He remembered the look in her eyes when she realized where and who they were, and knew what she had to be feeling.

Hate. Loathing. Disgust.

He knew she'd be angry at herself as well as him, but knowing Buffy and her holier-than-thou attitude, she'd quickly make it all about him. She'd dismiss all the whispered words of love, all the passionate touches, and go back to hating him with a blind fury.

Just like she had after that bloody engagement spell…

Spike took another drink from the bottle and sneered. Who was she to think that she was better than him? That she hadn't felt it just as strongly as he had? Self-righteous little bitch , always assuming that no soul meant no feelings. Wasn't his fault that her Great Ponce of an ex had been a bland, emotionless wanker.

The door to his crypt slid open, and Spike looked up sharply, blinking as he wondered if his eyes were playing tricks on him. "Buffy?"

Buffy willed herself to keep her distance from him. She wasn't even sure why she'd come here, knowing that it couldn't possibly go the way she wanted it to go. He wasn't going to sweep her into his arms and love her the way William had. But Dawn had encouraged her, told her she had to go talk to Spike now, before too much time had passed. And honestly, she wanted to see him. After everything that had happened between Elizabeth and William, being separated now hurt, even if she knew that things weren't the same.

"We have to talk," Buffy said, pulling herself up straight.

Yeah, Spike had seen this coming. Now it would be time for the threats. If you tell anyone about this, I kill you, etc. "Save it, Slayer," he growled. "I have no desire to hear a sodding thing that comes out of your mouth."

Buffy's lip trembled at his harsh words, but she refused to start crying again. Instead, she surveyed the litter at the bottom of his chair. "You've been drinking?"

"Well, yeah. Had to get the Buffy taste out of my mouth, didn't I?"

Buffy felt like she'd been hit. She'd known that he'd be cold to her now that they were back in the real world, but this… "I hate you," Buffy said before turning and running from the crypt.

"Yeah, mutual!" Spike yelled back. Spike glared down into his whiskey bottle before throwing it against the wall.

á

Chapter 17

Spike stood for a moment, in shock. He'd been with Elizabeth…no… Buffy . He'd been with Buffy, and they'd been…

It was over. The sense of loss he felt was acute, tearing at him from the inside. He'd had the woman he loved in his arms, and now she was gone, running from him—running from what they'd had.

Without thinking, Spike went after her, out of the Magic Box.

And into the sunlight.

As he began to smoke, he heard a high-pitched scream, and then felt arms wrap around him and pull him until they stumbled backwards into the shop.

"Spike…you think maybe you could get the hell off of me ?" a familiar, male voice grunted from beneath him.

Spike got up, dusting himself off. He looked down to see Xander on the ground, wiping his brow. Xander had just saved him? Maybe they were still in Bizzaro World. He held his hand out, helping the other man up. "Um…thanks."

"Yeah, well, I didn't feel like having to clean your dust up from in front of the store," Xander muttered, letting go of Spike's hand the second he was upright.

Suddenly, Spike felt something hit him, and looked down to see Dawn clinging to him. "You scared me, running out there," she said.

"Sorry, nibblet. Where your sis and I were, I could go out in the sunlight. I guess I just forgot that I'm not really supposed to do that." With those words, Spike felt an overwhelming sense of despair fill him. He couldn't go out in the sunlight anymore, and he'd wager that he no longer had a heartbeat. He'd never thought he'd really care about those things, but now that he couldn't give them to Buffy anymore…

And Buffy had run into the sunlight. Back into her world, a place where he couldn't go.

"I have to go," Spike said, pulling away from Dawn. "I have to…" He needed to get away. He couldn't go after Buffy, and he wasn't even sure that he should. His mind was racing, his thoughts everywhere.

"Are you okay?" Dawn asked, her big, soft eyes looking too much like Buffy's for Spike at the moment.

He looked away. "Yeah, I'm… I have to go," he said again before hurrying out of the Magic Box, this time using his usual sewer exit.

"Well, he was acting weird," Xander said. "Even for Spike."

Anya shrugged. "Well, a few minutes ago, he was hanging out on a pirate ship after just marrying Buffy. Now he's here, and she ran away. Gotta be disorienting."

" Marrying Buffy!" Xander exclaimed. "When did that happen? And why didn't you tell us?"

"I didn't tell you, because it was the end of the book, and I knew they'd be out soon," Anya said. "But it was a nice little ceremony, even if Rupert was drunk the whole time. You conducted it, Xander."

Xander's exclamation of "I what!?" managed to drown out Giles muttering, "Well, I'd have to be drunk if Spike and Buffy were getting married."

"You conducted the ceremony," Anya said, patiently, as if speaking to a child. "Or the version of you in the book anyway. See, he was Spike's first mate, and…"

"Spike's first mate? What sort of insane book is that?"

"He…or you…whatever… Anyway, that Xander was his first mate and William made him captain, so he married them." Anya frowned. "I'm not sure that ceremony was entirely legal. I mean, they were out of England, so I don't think they needed to post the banns, but…"

"Of course it wasn't legal! It was in a book! This is all insane!"

"Um, you guys? Do you think maybe we should check on Spike and Buffy?" Tara asked, everyone turning to face her as she did. "I…I mean, they have to be reeling from what just happened to them."

"Spike won't want company," Dawn said. "He'll be drinking, and possibly breaking stuff. But I'll go see if I can find Buffy."

"Okay Dawn," Giles said. "And have Buffy contact us later, would you?"

"I will," Dawn said with a nod before leaving the Magic Box.

"How did they get out anyway?" Willow asked. "I didn't do a spell…"

Anya shrugged. "The book was over."

*** *** ***

"Buffy! You're home!"

Buffy stopped in front of the stairs as he mother came rushing towards her, enveloping her in a hug. "Yeah, I'm home," Buffy said, weakly returning the gesture.

Joyce pulled away from her daughter. "Mr. Giles said you were trapped in a book? With Spike?"

"Yeah."

"I've heard of a lot of weird things since we moved to Sunnydale, but… Are you okay, Buffy?"

"I need to lie down for a bit, okay?"

"Sure, honey. Let me know if you need anything, all right?"

"I will."

Buffy walked up the stairs and to her room, sitting down on her bed. She knew she should be happy to be home, happy to be back with her family and friends. So why did she feel this way? She felt empty and lost, the pain welling up inside her almost unbearable. She hadn't felt this way since…

Since Angel moved to LA.

She picked Mr. Gordo up off her pillow, holding the stuffed pig as she curled into a ball on her bed, tears spilling from her eyes before she could stop them. Something inside her was screaming for her husband, for the man that she'd pledged herself to for all eternity, and the pain of knowing there was no real person to answer that need tore her apart.

She closed her eyes, but all she could see was William, looking at her with so much love. But none of that was real, that it all had been the product of a fantasy. She didn't have William, and she never would again.

Buffy barely registered the knock on her door right before Dawn peeked her head in. "Buffy?"

Dawn watched her sister for a moment, noting how her only movement was from the sobs wracking her body. "Do you want to talk about it?" Buffy was silent, staying curled in a ball on her bed. Dawn's thoughts were drawn back to not so long ago, when Riley had left. Buffy had been upset then, too.

But she hadn't been this upset…

Dawn sat beside Buffy, reaching out tentatively to touch her arm. "What happened, Buffy? Why did you run out of the Magic Box like that?"

Buffy's only response was to cry harder.

"Spike tried to go after you. He ran outside and…"

Buffy sat up suddenly, her eyes wild. "It was sunny out there! He…oh, god …"

"No! He's okay, Buffy. Xander pulled him back in."

Buffy's shoulders slumped forward in relief. "He shouldn't have done that."

"Xander?"

"No! Spike! He shouldn't have…he shouldn't have run after me like that."

"He seemed upset, too, Buffy."

"Well, of course he was," Buffy said, her tone suddenly bitter. "If you were a vampire, and you'd just been forced to be all lovey-dovey about a Slayer for days, wouldn't you be bitter, too."

Dawn frowned. "Buffy, I don't think that was it. He looked…sad. Sorta like you do now, only with less hysterical sobbing." She cleared her throat. "Anya said the two of you got married…in the book?"

"William and Elizabeth got married."

"But you were William and Elizabeth, right?"

"No. Not really. It wasn't…" Buffy doubled over, clutching her face in her hands. "Oh, Dawnie, none of it was real! I was so happy, and so in love, and then it was all taken away from me. I lost the man I loved."

Dawn wrapped her arms around Buffy, trying to soothe her. "But Spike is still here. I'm sure he went back to his crypt. You could…"

Buffy pulled up, shaking her head. "No. I…I can't. Spike can't love me, not here. He's…he's a vampire. He doesn't have a soul. He can't love me. The book only made him think he did, and now he'd…" Buffy's voice trailed off into another fit of tears.

"But…but he loved Drusilla. You know he did, Buffy. Couldn't it be possible for him to love you now?"

"No! It was just the book. He can't love me outside the book."

Dawn managed to meet her sister's eyes. "Do you still love him?"

Buffy said nothing, but the flash that Dawn saw in her eyes was all she needed to know. Buffy fell forward, and Dawn held on to her, trying her best to comfort her sister.

*** *** ***

Spike sat in a chair in his crypt, whiskey bottle in hand. He'd been taking one long drink straight from the bottle after another, hoping that it would dull some of the pain.

It didn't.

Over and over again, the memory of watching Buffy run from him played in his mind. He remembered the look in her eyes when she realized where and who they were, and knew what she had to be feeling.

Hate. Loathing. Disgust.

He knew she'd be angry at herself as well as him, but knowing Buffy and her holier-than-thou attitude, she'd quickly make it all about him. She'd dismiss all the whispered words of love, all the passionate touches, and go back to hating him with a blind fury.

Just like she had after that bloody engagement spell…

Spike took another drink from the bottle and sneered. Who was she to think that she was better than him? That she hadn't felt it just as strongly as he had? Self-righteous little bitch , always assuming that no soul meant no feelings. Wasn't his fault that her Great Ponce of an ex had been a bland, emotionless wanker.

The door to his crypt slid open, and Spike looked up sharply, blinking as he wondered if his eyes were playing tricks on him. "Buffy?"

Buffy willed herself to keep her distance from him. She wasn't even sure why she'd come here, knowing that it couldn't possibly go the way she wanted it to go. He wasn't going to sweep her into his arms and love her the way William had. But Dawn had encouraged her, told her she had to go talk to Spike now, before too much time had passed. And honestly, she wanted to see him. After everything that had happened between Elizabeth and William, being separated now hurt, even if she knew that things weren't the same.

"We have to talk," Buffy said, pulling herself up straight.

Yeah, Spike had seen this coming. Now it would be time for the threats. If you tell anyone about this, I kill you, etc. "Save it, Slayer," he growled. "I have no desire to hear a sodding thing that comes out of your mouth."

Buffy's lip trembled at his harsh words, but she refused to start crying again. Instead, she surveyed the litter at the bottom of his chair. "You've been drinking?"

"Well, yeah. Had to get the Buffy taste out of my mouth, didn't I?"

Buffy felt like she'd been hit. She'd known that he'd be cold to her now that they were back in the real world, but this… "I hate you," Buffy said before turning and running from the crypt.

"Yeah, mutual!" Spike yelled back. Spike glared down into his whiskey bottle before throwing it against the wall.

á

Chapter 18

Spike wasn't sure why he'd agreed to do this. Personally, he'd thought his plan of chaining Buffy up until she agreed to listen to him would work just fine, but Dawn insisted that would get him, at best, a punch in the nose, and he'd be damn lucky if that was all.

So instead he was standing on the Summers ' front porch with flowers. Dawn had said he had to be romantic. Give Buffy flowers. She liked that apparently. He had to prove he was in love with her by being romantic… Spike took a deep breath, feeling the air hit his dead lungs. He could do this.

Buffy threw the door open then paused in shock. "Spike?"

"Um, hi, Buffy," he said, his tone reminding her scarily of a teenager on his first date. "I, um, brought you these." He thrust the roses forward.

"Thanks," Buffy said warily as she took the bouquet. The last time she'd seen Spike he'd been drunkenly yelling at her. Now he was bringing her flowers? What was he up to?

"Buffy, honey, who's at the door?" Joyce asked, coming in from the kitchen.

"It's Spike," Buffy replied. "With…roses…"

"Oh, how nice," Joyce said with a smile. "Come on in, Spike." She took the flowers from Buffy. "I'll go put these in water."

When Joyce had left again, Buffy faced Spike, her arms crossed. She wanted to run to him, to beg him to hold her the way he had when they were Elizabeth and William, but she wasn't about to open her heart just to get it broken even more. Instead, she kept her stance defensive, kept her guard up. "Why are you here?"

"To bring you the flowers. Oh, and to ask you to go out with me tonight."

"Go out with you? Like on a date?"

Spike shuffled his feet. "Yeah…If…if you want to."

"What about what you said before? In your crypt?"

"I'd been drinking," Spike said. "I wasn't thinking clearly. Didn't mean any of it." He met her eyes. "Just like I know you didn't mean what you said either."

"Spike, I don't…"

"Spike! What a pleasant surprise!"

Buffy and Spike both turned to see Dawn bounding down the stairs. "Uh, hey there, nibblet. Just came by to try to talk your sister here into going on a date with me."

"Really? That's so sweet. And romantic. Buffy, don't you think so?"

Buffy glanced between her sister and the vampire, who were now standing side by side. "I think you've both gone a little insane."

Dawn rolled her eyes. "You should go. You need to get out of the house more anyway." She grabbed Buffy's jacket from the coat rack and thrust it at her before all but pushing her out the door.

"Dawn, what are you …" Before Buffy could finish her sentence, Dawn had guided Spike out, too, and was in the process of shutting the door.

"You kids have fun!" Dawn called right before the door closed and the lock was bolted.

"I…she…I don't have my keys," Buffy said with a frown.

"They'll let you back in later," Spike said, offering Buffy his arm. "Are you coming with me, pet?"

Buffy eyed his arm skeptically for a moment before accepting it. "This better be worth the trouble, Spike," she muttered as he led her off the porch.

Back in the house, Dawn smiled brightly, barely able to contain her excitement as she saw the pair walk off together. Things were going perfectly. Just like she and Spike planned.

"Where's Buffy?" Joyce asked, walking back into the living room.

"She's out with Spike," Dawn said happily. "On a date."

"A date? With Spike?" Joyce asked, surprised. "I guess that would explain the flowers…"

"So he did bring the flowers, huh? Roses?"

"Yes… Dawn, do you have some part in all of this?"

"Just a little. Isn't it wonderful?"

"I'm not sure 'wonderful' is quite the word…"

"It is, Mom. Trust me. Spike is a totally great guy, and Buffy loves him a whole bunch. They'll be such an awesome couple!"

Joyce frowned, thinking about the reasons why she'd wanted Angel out of her daughter's life. Spike should invoke the same feelings in her. It would be her daughter getting involved with another vampire… But she couldn't seem to find the same dislike she had for Angel. Maybe it was because Buffy was older now, and Spike seemed more like someone her own age as opposed to the letch áshe'd felt Angel to be. But still, the general idea of her daughter dating a vampire didn't sit right with her. "I don't want to see Buffy get hurt again," Joyce said.

"She won't. Spike totally loves her, too. He'd do anything for her, I know it."

"I just…I wanted Buffy to have a normal life, with someone…"

"Um, Mom?" Dawn interrupted. "Your kids are a mystical Key and a vampire Slayer. Normal isn't happening. Come on, let's pop some popcorn and watch corny movies on Lifetime."

Joyce glanced out the window once before following her youngest daughter into the kitchen.

*** *** ***

Buffy looked down at the spread in front of her. "We're having a picnic. In a cemetery. Could you possibly be any creepier?"

Spike clenched his jaw for a moment, trying to keep himself from snapping at her. Dawn had said over and over that he had to be nice to Buffy, no matter how much of a bitch she was being. He hated this whole thing. He felt anxious, out of place, even though he should feel right at home there in Restfield. "Have a seat, Buffy." He gritted his teeth. "Please."

Buffy gave a dramatic sigh. "Fine." Spike started to walk off, and she sat up straighter. "Where are you going?"

"Just here," he said, kneeling by a tombstone and pulling a bottle of champagne and two glasses from behind it. "Drink?"

"God, yes," Buffy replied as Spike sat down and poured her a glass. She downed it almost as soon as he handed it to her, and Spike quirked an eyebrow.

"Thirsty, kitten?"

"Yeah. Another?"

Buffy drank the second glass quickly, too, coughing as the bubbles threatened to go up into her nose. She hoped the alcohol would help to calm her frazzled nerves and twisting stomach. Being this close to Spike was sending her into overdrive. Her mind and body were both a wreck, her emotions sent into turmoil. She wanted to be with him again, wanting things to be like they were in the book.

"You look really beautiful tonight, Buffy," Spike said softly. Dawn had told him to compliment her, but he didn't have to force this one. It was true. Bathed in moonlight the way she was, she looked almost ethereal.

Buffy looked up at his words. He was looking at her so intently, so much like William… "Spike, I… Demon!"

"Demon?"

"Over there!" Buffy said, pointing.

Spike jumped up, turning to see a large, snarly beast coming right for them. "Great, a ludash demon. Just what we needed," he muttered, falling into a battle stance. Buffy stood beside him, the look of the Slayer back in her eyes.

The fight itself was over quickly, the ludash no match against Slayer and vampire. However, Spike knew the aftermath would not be something so easily dealt with…

Buffy tried in vain to shake off the green goo that covered her. "You've fought these things before, Spike?"

"Um, yeah."

"So you couldn't have thought to maybe toss out a warning like, 'hey, Buffy, punch it real hard in the stomach, and it'll explode into green slime?'"

"Sorry… I forgot about that little part." Buffy glared at him, and Spike added, "But you killed it, so that's a good thing, right?"

"When it gets me dripping in demon guts, no." She turned around, walking off.

"Wait!" Spike called, going after her. "Where are you going?"

"Home. I need a really, really long shower."

Spike tried to ignore the images that immediately conjured in his mind. "Buffy, I know tonight was a bust, but…"

Buffy stopped, turning around on her heel. "Look, I don't even know what you were trying tonight, but it's not going to work. We're not in that damn book anymore. We're in the real world, and here, we're not in love. So no more flowers or moonlit picnics, okay? Just…just stay away from me."

Spike looked down at her, tilting his head slightly, and the pain Buffy saw in his eyes made her heart break. "Buffy…luv…you can't really mean that."

"I do, Spike. It's what's for the best. At least…at least until we can get rid of whatever weirdness that book stirred up."

"Buffy, I can't do that. I can't stay away from you. I love you."

A part of Buffy wanted to believe that. She wanted Spike to love her more than she could ever even admit. But she also knew that it couldn't happen. "You can't love without a soul," she spat at him.

Spike took a step back. "I loved you in the book. I didn't have a soul then either, and I loved you."

"The book made you. It was just…part of the script."

"No! Dammit, Buffy… I love you. And not because of some stupid book. I love you because you're you. I can stand here and look at you covered in slimy demon guts and still think you're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. You're all I think about, all I dream about. You're on my mind all the bloody time! You're everything to me, Buffy. Everything."

"Stop it! Just stop it! You're a vampire—a soulless vampire. You can't feel that way for me. You can't. Just let me go." She turned around and started to walk away again, not wanting Spike to see the tears that were forming in her eyes.

He ran after her again, grabbing her shoulder. "Buffy, please…"

"Leave me alone."

"I can't. You have to listen to me. You have to believe."

Buffy grabbed his hand from her shoulder, throwing him off her. When he came towards her again, she struck, punching him hard enough to knock him to the ground. He looked up at her in shock, blood coming from his nose. Buffy's hand went to her mouth as she saw what she'd done. "Spike…I'm sorry. I'm so sorry…"

He reached out for her. "Buffy…"

It was too much. She wanted to believe that the love he said he felt for her was more than an after effect of the book, but she couldn't. She knew that would only get her hurt again. "I'm sorry," she said again before running back home.

Spike sat in the grass, wiping the blood from his face.

Apparently the romantic approach wasn't going to work with Buffy after all…

*** *** ***

Buffy pounded on the door to her house until her mother finally opened it. "Honey, what happened?" Joyce asked as she looked at the tear-stained face of her slime-covered daughter.

"I don't want to talk about it," Buffy said. "I just want to take a shower." She pushed past her mother, running up the upstairs to the bathroom and slamming the door.

Dawn came in from the living room. "Date didn't go well?"

"She was crying and covered in slime," Joyce replied.

"Oh. Yeah, those would be bad signs." Dawn sighed. "I guess Spike and I are going to have to come up with something else."

"Dawn, I want you to stop meddling in your sister's life."

"But, Mom! I'm not meddling! I'm helping."

"I really don't think you are, sweetheart." Dawn started to open her mouth to speak again, but Joyce didn't let her. "I know you're trying, and you just want Buffy to be happy, but things are not going to work out between her and Spike. They're too different to ever have anything real."

"She loves him, Mom. I know she does. And it's breaking her heart that she thinks she can't be with him."

"Honey, you're just too young to understand. Being in love isn't that simple."

"I'm not too young!" Dawn snapped. "I'm what, a few thousand years old?"

"Dawn…"

"No! I'm going to bed."

"Dawn, sweetie…"

Dawn ignored her mother, storming up the stairs and slamming her bedroom door behind her.

*** *** ***

Buffy could hear her mother and Dawn fighting downstairs, and though the words were muffled, she knew it was about her. It reminded her too much of when her parents had fought all those years before.

She turned on the water as hot as she could stand it, discarding her ruined clothes before stepping into the shower. She sighed as she felt the slime washed from her body, closing her eyes and letting it all rush down the drain.

She knew Spike had genuinely tried that night, and she couldn't help but feel bad for him. He had done the best he could, she was sure, but, seeing as he was who he was, he hadn't been able to quite get it right. Still, she'd been touched by the gesture, even if she didn't want to admit that to him.

But that wasn't what mattered. Whatever was going on in that bleached head of his now, it was only temporary. Some sort of hangover effect from the book. He'd gotten so used to loving her as William that he thought he still did now that they were back in Sunnydale. He'd be over it soon, and then where would that leave her? Dumped yet again? She couldn't go through that, not now with so many other things weighing down on her.

Knowing that didn't make her stop longing for him. She wanted to go to him, pretend for a little bit longer. She wanted to be wrapped in his arms again, even if it was just for a moment. She wanted to feel what she'd felt as Elizabeth, that all-encompassing love that she knew she'd never have to doubt.

Buffy sunk to the bottom of the shower, her tears falling even long after the water had grown cold.

á

Chapter 19

"Welcome to the Magic…" Anya stopped in mid-sentence when she saw who'd just walked in. "Oh. It's you, Spike. Well, you're not really a customer, so you don't get a greeting. All you do is steal our burba weed."

"Yeah, whatever. Gotta ask you a question," Spike replied.

"About our merchandise?"

"After a fashion, yeah?"

Anya nodded, understanding. "About the book."

"You guessed it. You know anything about how it works?"

"Sure do. I read the instruction manual," Anya said with a chipper smile. She liked when she could be helpful with information.

Spike cleared his throat, looking around to make sure none of the other Scoobies were present. "Did it…did it make the Slayer fall in love with me?"

"I don't think so," Anya replied. "Technically, it should've pulled all the characters from Buffy's psyche, even yours, since she was the woman and therefore the sort of 'default' setting."

"So Buffy's psyche made me the love interest?"

"Yep. It could've been a glitch since you both have such strong personalities, but I don't think so."

"And…and the way we were with each other…"

"You mean the hot, nasty sex or the mushy stuff?"

Spike raised an eyebrow. "Anya, did you read that book?"

Anya shrugged. "Of course I did. Someone had to keep track of you guys, and everyone else was all weird and squeamish about it." She leaned in and whispered conspiratorially, "You know how those humans are."

"That I do," Spike said with a smirk. "So the book? Did it…"

"Make Buffy love you? I don't think so. And really, if she was completely resistant to it, it should've taken the story in another direction. Made her end up with Riley or Angelus or something. And is it just me, or is it rather interesting that both of them ended up in bad guy roles? I mean, your psyche had something to do with it, but ultimately, it was Buffy's fantasy, and in it you're the great love and her exes are…well, pretty disgusting."

Spike blinked. He hadn't thought of that. "Yeah, that is, um, interesting. So all that stuff that happened between us, it wasn't just the characters spoutin ' off?"

"No. The book doesn't work like that. All it did was take what the two of you already felt, what you already had on your mind, and twisted it to fit the plot of the book. But it didn't create much of anything out of thin air, and it certainly didn't create the feelings. Emotions that powerful can't be made by magic. That's why love spells tend to go wonky. Real love can't be faked."

"That spell Willow put on us a while back certainly did a damn good job of it," Spike replied.

Anya snorted. "Oh please. You two were probably in love then, too. Are we done here? Some real, non-thieving customers just came in."

"Uh, yeah. That's all I wanted to know. Thanks, demon girl."

"You're welcome. And if you ever get any money, please, come back." She gave him a wide, plastic smile.

"Yeah, I will," Spike muttered, heading towards the back exit.

*** *** ***

Buffy decided she really needed to start listening to the weather reports. If it said eighty percent chance of rain that night, then dammit, she should skip the patrol. Or at the very least, wear a raincoat.

But she'd had tension she needed to work off, and she'd foolishly taken that twenty percent risk that she'd get through the night dry.

She hadn't. She wasn't even through the first cemetery when it had started, and now it was pouring so hard that she fully expected an ark to come sailing by at any moment.

She could barely see with the way the water was falling in her eyes. And to make matters worse, apparently all the vampires had paid attention to the weather report and stayed indoors.

It was time to go home. Only home was a lengthy walk away, and she was cold and wet. Spike's crypt on the other hand was quite close.

"No," Buffy told herself. "You can't go there."

But her feet were already walking, ignoring what her mind was saying. It had been two nights since their "date," and she'd deftly avoided him, despite her sister's constant urgings that she do otherwise.

She stopped at his door, knocking before she could stop herself. She swallowed when he opened it, staring up at him with wide eyes.

"Slayer?"

"It's…it's raining."

"Do you want to come in and dry off?"

Buffy nodded, and Spike was half tempted to tell her too sodding bad. After the way she'd acted on his failed attempt to bring her on a date… But that wouldn't exactly get him the girl, and he was smart enough to know that. He stepped back. "Come on in, then. I'll get you something dry to put on, yeah?"

Buffy stepped into the crypt. "Okay."

Spike disappeared into the lower level, coming up a few minutes later with a handful of very pink clothes. "Sorry. These are Harmony's. I…all I have are jeans and t-shirts, and they'd be too big for you to be comfortable."

Buffy wrinkled her nose a bit at the idea of wearing Harmony's clothes, but the desire to get out of the soaking wet things she was currently wearing won out. "Thanks," she said, taking them from him. "And um, where is Harmony?"

"Kicked her out," Spike said with a shrug.

"When?"

"That first night we came back from the book. Couldn't sleep next to her after…" Spike stopped. "I have some hot chocolate I could make, warm you up good. How about I do that while you get dressed, yeah?"

"Okay, sounds good," Buffy said. Spike nodded and went into the kitchen area, keeping his back to her as he rummaged around over there.

Buffy was surprised at how considerate Spike was being. He hadn't made a single smart assed comment since she'd shown up, instead doing everything he could to be accommodating, without any questions. She looked down at the hot pink track pants and t-shirt with a glittery unicorn that she was holding now and made a face. Maybe having her wear these things was his way of tormenting her…

She slipped off her wet clothes, noticing that Spike continued to keep his back to her. She surprised herself by feeling disappointed. Didn't he want to see her naked? Or maybe he'd seen enough of her and didn't care to again… She sighed and put on Harmony's clothes, trying to shake off the creepy feeling they gave her. "I'm decent," she said once she was dressed.

Spike turned around, unable to keep from grimacing at the sight of the very shiny unicorn. "A little scary, though."

"Hey, you're the one who gave me the things to wear."

"I'm thinking maybe I should've just given you one of my t-shirts. That shirt's just bloody wrong."

Buffy smirked. "Unicorns have never exactly been my style." She gestured to one of his chairs. "Is it all right if I sit down?"

The Slayer was asking for permission to sit in his house? Spike really hoped he could take that as a sign that maybe she liked him more than she'd wanted to admit and not that she had suffered brain damage from slipping out in the rain or something. "'Course." He took the two mugs of chocolate he'd just prepared and carried them over to the living room area, handing one to her before sitting down in the other chair.

Buffy took a sip of the drink, then glanced around. "Did you get some new furniture?"

"A little. I've been finding what I can, trying to piece together a decent looking home. Got a real bed downstairs now."

Buffy couldn't help but blush at the thought of Spike's bed, and she wanted to kick her inner-Elizabeth for that. "Where were you sleeping before?"

"On the sarcophaguses. But Harmony kept complaining." A sour look went over Buffy's face, and Spike cursed himself for his stupidity. Why had he said that? He wanted to woo the girl back into his life, and talking about his former was not going to do that. It was bad enough he'd had to give Buffy Harm's clothes…

"You know, Spike," Buffy said, taking another drink of the hot chocolate. "You really didn't have to kick her out because of me. I mean, I'm certainly not going to be getting any use out of that bed with you. No point in you being alone."

Spike heard a bitterness in her voice, and hoped her words had been motivated by a jealous need to lash out more than anything else. "I kicked her out because I didn't want to be with her anymore, Buffy. Not like I was making room for you." Buffy glared at him, and Spike quickly backpedaled. "Didn't mean that how it sounded. I want you, Buffy. You know that. Nothing in this world would make me happier than having you in my bed. I just meant…"

"I know what you meant," Buffy snapped. "Wouldn't mind another go at the Slayer, but it's not like you'd want me around for long."

"What? Are you completely daft? I want you for bleedin' forever! All I was trying to say was, whether you still wanted to be with me or not didn't mean anything when I threw out Harmony. Wasn't makin' room for you in the bed because you're already there with me anyway, in my heart. Can't sleep next to another woman. Can't sleep next to someone who…who isn't my wife."

Buffy tightened her grip on the mug she was holding to keep it from hitting the floor. "I'm not your wife."

"No? Look me in the eyes and tell me you don't feel like my wife—and that I don't feel like your husband."

"Elizabeth and William got married, Spike. Not us."

Spike jumped up, and his mug did shatter against the stone floor, making Buffy jump. "Would you stop with that? Bloody stubborn woman! We are William and Elizabeth. Just because the book made us act a little differently didn't mean we weren't the same people. You ever pay attention to what we said to each other then, pet? There wasn't much of it couldn't be applied to our lives back here."

"It was just a script, Spike. Just words that the book made us say."

"No. I talked to Anya today, luv. She read the instruction manual. Seems the book can't create love if there isn't any there to begin with. Something about the emotion being too powerful to be made by magic. Elizabeth loved William because you love me."

"That's crazy! And you certainly didn't love me, so…"

"I bloody well did! I've been in love with you for, well, soddin' never forever it seems these days. I loved you long before we got sucked into that book. Haven't you noticed? Haven't you seen how I've been changing? How I've been trying so hard to help, to be good? It's for you, Buffy. Because I love you."

Buffy set down the mug of hot chocolate, no longer trusting it in her shaking hands. "How…how can you? You don't have a soul."

Spike grit his teeth, forcing himself not to snap at her. As much as it stung, he knew she had her reasons for thinking that way. His grandsire had done quite a number on her… "I don't need a soul to love you, Buffy. What I feel for you, it goes deeper than any soul. It's in every bit of me, ever fiber of my being. I love you with everything that I am, with all of my unbeating heart. I married you on that ship, Buffy. I pledged to love you until there was nothing left of me, and I meant it. You are my soul. You're what makes me feel alive."

Buffy stared up at him, tears in her eyes. No one had ever said anything like that to her before, even Angel. And she was almost sure she could see the love shining from him. It would be so easy to believe, so easy to let herself fall into his arms. But the fear was still there, a dark stain on her heart. "I…I can't, Spike," she said, standing up. "I want to, but I can't."

Spike took a step closer. "You can, Buffy. You can love me. I won't let you down. I'll be the best man I can be, and all for you."

"But what if your best isn't good enough? You're evil, Spike. You don't know right from wrong."

"I bloody well do! Just because I've never cared doesn't mean that I don't know . I know killing's wrong. And it's not just because the chip would zap me either. This chip stops working tomorrow, and I carry on just like I have been. You know why? Because I love you too much to ever hurt you. I'd dust first."

"What if you get tired of me? What if I'm not enough, and…and you leave me. Then what?"

"Won't happen."

"How can you be so sure of that?"

"Because I'm not them, Buffy. I'm not the sort of man who leaves."

"You kicked Harmony out."

Spike gaped for a moment at that. "I… Bloody hell, woman, that was Harmony . What about the hundred plus years I stayed with Drusilla, even when she flaunted her relationship with Angelus right in front of me? That doesn't tell you anything?"

"I don't know, Spike! I don't know! It's all too much, okay? I don't know what I feel. I don't know what you feel."

Spike's facial expression softened. "We love each other, Buffy. We do. Please, kitten…"

"I need…I just need time to think. Sort everything out. Can you give me that?"

Spike closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. She was being so difficult… He opened his eyes. "Yeah. I can give you that."

"Thank you. I think the rain's slowed down a bit, so I'm going to head on home. I'll bring you these clothes back later, okay?"

Spike rolled his eyes. "Burn the bloody things."

Buffy gave him a small smile. "I just might." She picked up her own clothes, wrinkling her nose as the dripped on the floor. "You have anything I can put these in?"

"Yeah. Just a second." Spike went over to the kitchen, coming back with a black garbage bag. "Here."

"Thanks." She dropped her clothes in except for her tennis shoes, which she put on, frowning as the squished when she walked. "I'll see you around, okay?"

"Don't take too long to think, please Buffy?" he asked, his tone softer than she was used to. He gave her a heartbreaking smile. "I'm not exactly known for my patience."

"I know. I'll…I'll try." Buffy gave him a small smile before leaving the crypt, walking out into the now-light rain.

á

Chapter 20

Buffy took off Harmony's clothes as soon as she got into her bedroom, wadding them up and throwing them in the corner. She stared down at the damp pile, wondering if Spike had ever taken them off of the blonde vampiress. The thought made her stomach turn.

She heard a soft knock on the door and looked up sharply. "Buffy?" her mother called from the other side.

"Yeah, Mom?"

"There's pizza downstairs if you're hungry, sweetheart."

"I'm fine. I think I'm just going to turn in for the night."

"Are you sure? I know you're usually really hungry after patrol…"

"It wasn't a very busy night, with the rain and all."

"Oh." A pause before Joyce spoke again. "Can I come in?"

"Just a minute. Let me get dressed." Buffy grabbed a pair of flannel pajamas from her drawer, in the mood for something warm and comforting. She put them on quickly, then called to her mother. "Come on in."

Joyce opened the door slowly, coming in the room almost tentatively. "I feel like I never come in here anymore."

"I'm barely in here anymore," Buffy replied.

"You haven't changed it much since we moved in," Joyce said, looking around.

"I like having something in my life that stays the same."

Joyce smiled softly at her daughter, tucking a wet strand of hair behind Buffy's ear. "Are you sure you're not hungry? If you don't want pizza, maybe we could get something else? It's late, but there's some drive- thrus …"

"I'm fine. And what's with the Mom overload?"

"I just…I love you, Buffy. You know that, don't you?"

"Of course I do. And I love you, too." Buffy frowned. "Is everything okay? Did…did something happen? Are you still sick?"

"I'm fine, honey. I had a check up today, and everything's going as well as the doctors hoped. They got it all, and the doctors say my recovery is going very, very well. It's just… I keep thinking about how close I was to being gone from the lives of my girls. There's so much we wouldn't have been able to do, and I…" Joyce stopped, wrapping her arms around Buffy in a fierce hug.

Buffy felt tears pricking her eyes as she returned her mother's embrace. "I know. I don't know what I would've done if…"

"Shh. I'm here now, and I'm not going anywhere. Not for a long time."

Buffy looked up, though she kept her arms tightly around Joyce. "I love you, Mommy."

"I love you, too, baby." Joyce kissed Buffy's forehead. "You're all cold and wet. Would you like some hot chocolate?"

Buffy blinked, thinking back to when Spike had offered her the same thing a short time before. He'd been taking care of her… "I just had some. Thanks, though."

"You did?" Joyce asked with a frown. "Where?"

Buffy pulled away. "Spike's."

"Was he helping you patrol?"

"No. I went alone tonight. It just started raining, so I went over there because it was closer than home. And he gave me some dry clothes and hot chocolate."

"Oh. Well, it's good to know he does actually drink it."

"Huh?"

"Oh, I give it to him to take back to his crypt with him. He likes it."

"You give Spike hot chocolate?"

"Yes."

"When do you do this?"

"He comes over here," Joyce replied. "We talk. You didn't know that?"

"Uh, no. What do you and Spike talk about?"

Joyce shrugged. "Different things. He's a very nice young man."

Buffy suppressed the urge to giggle insanely at Spike being described as a "very nice young man." "I just never thought about Spike coming over here. It seems so odd…"

"Not really. He told me I remind him of his mother. I think they were very close. Besides, everyone needs a little mothering now and then."

Buffy lowered her head slightly, glancing upwardly at her mother. "So you, um…like Spike?"

"As someone to share a cup of hot chocolate with now and then, yes. As a boyfriend for you, I'm not so sure."

Buffy looked down at the floor. "Me either."

"Is this because you were in a romance novel with him?"

Buffy looked up sharply. "You knew it was a romance novel? Did they actually tell you that? I mean, you're my mom, and… ew ."

"Well, they didn't exactly tell me, but when I asked Rupert what book it was, he started stammering a lot and polishing his glasses. That was a bit of a tip off."

"I guess the book was part of it," Buffy said, looking back down. "But Spike said tonight that there's this instruction book, and it says that it creates things based on feelings you already have, so I had to really be in love with him, not just thinking I was because of the book."

"And are you?"

Buffy's answer was barely audible. "Yes."

Joyce felt herself torn in two different directions. Buffy was obviously hurting, and the last thing she wanted was for her little girl to hurt. But on the other hand, she wanted something other for Buffy than a vampire. Although Riley had been human, and he certainly hadn't done Buffy any good… Joyce had been firmly against the idea of Buffy being with a vampire when it came to Angel, but looking back on it now, she saw how much of that was just not liking Angel. And she hadn't. Not even when she had thought he was simply Buffy's history tutor. He had looked at her daughter in a way that the mother in Joyce had rebelled at.

Spike looked at Buffy like she was something wonderful, a treasure. And the tone in his voice whenever he talked about her… He was bright and handsome, both things she'd wish for Buffy to find in a boyfriend. And he was always well-mannered, at least around Joyce, which was very high on her list. The way she saw it, a young man should always be respectful to his girlfriend's mother, and bonus points if it didn't seem forced.

Honestly, other than the whole undead issue, Spike was exactly the kind of man Joyce would want for Buffy. She supposed if it meant Buffy was happy, she could overlook that one thing…

"I think you should follow you your heart, Buffy."

Buffy blinked, gaping at her mother for a moment. "Huh?"

"If your heart is telling you to be with Spike, you should. Yes, in an ideal world, I'd prefer my daughter not to be with a vampire, but…" Joyce let out a deep breath. "Life's too short to not be with the person you love."

Buffy felt a lump rise in her throat, her mother's words hitting her hard. She was the Slayer. She'd known from the beginning that that came with an expiration date. Even if you lived to be a hundred, life was short. When there was a very good chance you wouldn't see thirty…

"I need…I haven't decided yet," Buffy said.

Joyce squeezed Buffy's hand. "Whatever you decided, sweetheart, I'll support you."

"Thanks, Mom."

"If you change your mind about being hungry…"

"I'll come downstairs."

Joyce smiled. "Okay. Good night, Buffy."

"Night, Mom."

*** *** ***

Buffy couldn't sleep. Her eyes didn't seem to want to stay closed, and all she could do was stare up at the ceiling.

And think about Spike…

She could feel the walls crumbling around her heart. What Spike had said to her tonight, coupled with her mother's acceptance of any relationship that could exist between her and the vampire, had done so much to warm her towards the idea. Was it actually possible that it could work? Could she be in love and not have it end tragically? Buffy had never known love and happiness to go hand in hand. Every man she'd opened even part of her heart to had hurt her.

Maybe it was because she hadn't given it to the right one…

Was it na´ve to believe that? Was it better to be jaded, to know the pain love caused and shield yourself from it?

But she was shielding herself now, and it still hurt.

She rolled over, grabbing the phone and dialing a number from memory. After several rings, a tired male voice answered.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Xander."

"Buffy? It's three in the morning. This better be an apocalypse…"

"No, sorry. World's not ending. Is Anya there?"

"Um, yeah. Why?"

"I want to talk to her."

The confusion was obvious in Xander's voice. "Okay…"

A few moments later, Anya was on the phone. "Buffy? Why in the name of all the hells are you calling me at this hour? Xander said you said the world isn't ending, so I don't see why this couldn't wait for normal business hours."

Buffy decided it was best to cut to the chase. "Spike said you told him the book can't make people fall in love."

"It can't. Is that why you're calling?"

"Yes."

Buffy could hear Anya's heavy sigh on the other end of the line. "Look, it's late, so I'm going to cut this short. The book didn't make you fall in love. You are in love. It's obvious to anyone with eyes. Go have him give you orgasms, and let me get some sleep."

Buffy heard Xander's loud exclamation of, "What! Don't tell Buffy to get… those from Spike!" followed by an "ow!" "What was that?" Buffy asked.

"Xander said something stupid, so I smacked him. Being tired makes me cranky. But according to the instructions, you love Spike. Really, I don't care what you do with your life, but personally, I think you'd be much less bitchy if you had some good sex, which I'm positive Spike could provide. I mean, have you seen the size of that bulge in his jeans. If I didn't have Xander…"

"Anya!" Buffy and Xander exclaimed in unison.

"Ow. Both of my ears hurt now. Anyway, is that all you wanted?"

"Yes. You can go back to sleep now." The only response Buffy got from Anya was the click of the telephone, followed by a dial tone.

The voice that had been telling Buffy that being with Spike was wrong kept getting quieter and quieter. He was a vampire, and that had been a problem with Angel. He didn't have a soul, and she couldn't pretend that didn't bother her.

But he loved her. And she loved him.

Life's too short to not be with the person you love…

Buffy jumped out of bed, changing her clothes quickly. She crept down the stairs and out the front door. As soon as she had it locked behind her, she took off in a run, ignoring the driving rain that was hitting her. One thought ran through her mind over and over again, kept her going.

She had to get to Spike.

Suddenly, she felt herself stopped by something in front of her, and she looked up into feral yellow eyes.

"Well, lookie what we have here, boys? Seems like someone thought it would be fun to take a jog through the cemetery at night."

Buffy sighed as the three vampires circled her. Where had these guys been when she was looking for a fight? She didn't have time for them now, not when they weren't the vampire she wanted. She put her hands on her hips. "Look, I'm not in the mood. Can we do this some other time?"

The vampire in front of her smiled, his fangs glistening in the moonlight. "Sorry, sweets. I'm hungry now."

"Fine. If that's the way you want it. We'll just have to be quick about it."

"Uh, Ralph, she ain't scared. This is the part where they're usually scared."

"That's because I'm not the one who's about to die," Buffy replied, pulling a stake from her waistband. She pushed back, driving it into the heart of the vampire who had just spoken without as much as a glance in his direction.

"Ralph!" the third vampire exclaimed. "She just dusted Leroy!"

Buffy quirked an eyebrow. There was something slightly disappointing about a vamp named Leroy. Not that Ralph was any better… But there wasn't exactly time to dwell on it now. Or even bother with the punning. She was a Slayer on a mission after all. She turned and staked the vamp who had just lamented the death of Leroy.

Ralph's eyes widened. "You're the Slayer."

"Hey, he catches on! Are you gonna run now?"

Ralph grinned. "Nope. I'm gonna kill myself a Slayer."

"Hate to break it to you, Ralph, but that's not how this is going to work."

Buffy raised her stake, only to have Ralph swipe at her with his meaty hand, knocking her down into a puddle of mud. She looked down in disgust. "Ew! And I was going to meet someone, too. You better hope he'll still want me if I'm all muddy…"

"You better hope he'll still want you when you're all dead."

"See, Ralph, we've had this conversation," Buffy said, getting back to her feet. "I'm not the one who isn't walking away from this." Ralph struck out at her again, but Buffy ducked beneath the blow, coming up to hit her mark with her stake. She dropped the piece of wood to the ground and ran through Ralph's dust.

Spike's crypt was in sight. Just a little further…

She stopped when she got to the door, taking a deep, calming breath before pushing it open and walking inside.

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