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 21-23

Chapter 21 

Spike heard the door of his crypt slide open. He frowned, grabbing a sword that was leaning against the wall before going to the upper level. Usually when something came looking for his blood, they were a little louder than this, but maybe it was a stealthy demon…

He stopped when he saw who was standing there, the sword sliding to the ground with a loud clang. Buffy was staring at him. He could hear her rapid heartbeat, could see the fear in her wide, green eyes. The silence was heavy between them, and he felt like he had to say something—anything—before she bolted.

"You're all muddy."

Spike winced as soon as the words left his mouth. That wasn't exactly the way to make the girl want to stay…

"I got in a fight with a vamp. He pushed me down. His name was Ralph."

"Ralph?"

"Yeah. And there was one named Leroy, too. There was a third one, but I didn't find out his name. Just staked him."

"Oh."

Silence fell again, Buffy's nervous rambling doing nothing to ease the tension between them. She glanced between Spike and the still open door, and Spike knew what was on her mind. He could sense her inner conflict, could see the tense way she held herself. "Don't go. Please, Buffy…don't go."

"I wanted to see you, but…I'm all gross now."

"I don't care about that. Jus' making an observation, was all. You wear mud very well, kitten. Make it look beautiful."

"I don't…"

"I have a shower downstairs," Spike said quickly. "Well, not really a shower so much as something I rigged with a pipe, but it works. Could clean that mud right off. It's cold water, but…"

Buffy glanced back at the door again, the rain coming down as hard as it had all night. She had come here because she'd wanted to be with him, had been drawn to him. If she tried to run now, she knew she'd only be pulled right back. Spike had her heart, whether she'd wanted to give it to him or not. She walked towards the door, only to shut it before turning to face Spike again. "Okay."

A relieved grin broke out across Spike's face. "It's downstairs. Come on."

Buffy followed him into the lower level of the crypt. It was dark, and she reached out, grabbing hold of Spike's arm.

He stopped at the feel of her fingers against his skin. "Can't see, pet?"

"No."

"I'll get some light. Wait here for me?"

Buffy nodded, too nervous to speak, knowing that his vampiric senses would allow him to see the gesture. As she felt Spike leave, her nervousness rose towards panic levels. She was standing in the dark in a vampire's crypt. It went against every bit of her Slayer training. But then Spike was back, carrying with him a large candle that was just enough to let her see what was right in front of her.

"It's over here, kitten," he said, taking her hand and leading her to the "shower." He set the candle up on a ledge, then turned on the water. "Should be enough to rinse the mud off."

Buffy self-consciously wrapped her arms around herself. "Can I have something for when I finish? No more of Harmony's clothes. Just…maybe a towel?"

Spike smiled. "I can do that. Be back in a few minutes, yeah?"

"Okay…"

When Spike was gone again, Buffy stripped off her wet, mud-covered clothes and stood under the running water, goosebumps rising to her skin as the cold water hit her. She tried to work quickly, wanting to rid herself of the mud as quickly as possible.

Spike got a towel from nearby, but stayed in the dark, watching Buffy as she rinsed herself off. He knew she'd most likely prefer him to be a little less voyeuristic, but even the few days that they'd been apart had been too long, and he missed the sight of her body.

Besides, how could he possibly miss the chance to get an eyeful of wet, naked Buffy? Add cold to that, and he was damn near in heaven.

Buffy tried to turn off the water, only to bring the cold water down on her harder. She yelped, jumping back. "Spike!"

He stepped out of the shadows then, turning off the water. "Here, luv," he said softly, handing her the towel.

"Thanks," Buffy replied, her teeth chattering. She wrapped herself up in the large, fluffy towel, desperate to get warm again.

Unable to keep himself away from her, Spike walked up behind her, rubbing her arms through the towel. Even with his lack of body heat, his nearness alone was enough to warm Buffy up. "Come on, pet," he said softly. "Let's go somewhere to talk."

He started to lead her back through the dark, but Buffy stayed put. "I still can't see."

Without a word, Spike lifted her off her feet, Buffy's arms immediately going around his neck. He smiled to himself at her acceptance of his help. He carried her to his bed, gently sitting her down on the edge. "Just a moment and I'll get some light in here for you."

Slowly, the room became more illuminated as Spike lit the candles he had around his bed. Buffy glanced around, taking in the seemingly mismatched décor of the room. The area around the bed was quite clearly a crypt, but the bed itself was lush, large and inviting. She felt safe there, as if it were a haven in this place of death.

She looked up at Spike, realizing how much the room fit the man. Even in death, there was warmth. Comfort. She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "I came here to talk to you."

Spike gave her a half smile. "Figure you didn't come just to use my shower."

Buffy looked down at her hands. She could do this. She was the Slayer. She could be brave. "I think maybe I'm in love with you."

"Maybe?"

Buffy glanced up slightly. His eyebrow was arched, his expression outwardly stern, but with a hint of amusement under it. "Probably?" Buffy said, her voice rising.

"Try again, pet."

"Definitely?"

The smile that had been threatening for the past couple of moments finally broke on Spike's face. "That's more like it."

"And…and you still love me, don't you?"

Her vulnerability now reminded Spike of Elizabeth, and he realized then how much she'd been the girl beneath the Slayer, desperate for and scared of love at the same time. He moved slowly, careful not to spook her, and knelt in front of her, taking her shaking hands in his. "I love you, Buffy. Don't need a soul to tell me you're a dream come true. You let me in now, I won't let you down. I'll be a man for you. Can't be a man like William, with a beating heart, but I can do the best I can."

His words surprised her. Buffy had feared that he wouldn't want her now that he was back to being a vampire, but she'd never thought that he'd be afraid that she wouldn't want the vampire. Not because of that anyway. She pulled one of her hands away from his, caressing his face. "I don't need your heart to beat as long as it's mine."

"Oh, it is, kitten. It's all yours. Forever."

"Mine's yours, too. It's a little worse for wear, but…"

Spike pressed a soft kiss against her lips. "I'll treasure it, sweetheart. Won't let it break again."

He pulled back slightly, and Buffy met his eyes, holding her gaze steady with his as she unwrapped the towel from around her, letting it fall to the floor. She could see Spike's eyes darken, even in the soft candlelight, and it made a shiver run up her spine. She crawled backwards up the bed, resting up on the pillows, waiting for her lover to pounce.

She didn't have to wait long. Spike was on top of her at a speed beyond anything a human could've been capable of, his mouth and hands seemingly all over her as he caressed her into a fevered arousal. Buffy clung to him, wondering how she'd ever thought she could deny herself this. Spike made her feel something that no other man ever had, stirred a fire deep within her soul. Right or wrong didn't matter anymore. She was passed that point. She needed him now. She needed him always.

Spike reveled in the new level of intensity his vampiric senses brought to this act. In the book, Buffy had smelled and felt wonderful. But now… He was surrounded by her, drowning in her. The scent of her arousal beckoning to him, Spike slid down her body, resting his head between her thighs. He closed his eyes for a moment, breathing her in. The desire was rolling off of her, and it was because of him.

He lowered his mouth, smiling at the way Buffy's hips shot off the bed at the first lick. He wasted no time finding her clit, his tongue moving over it rapidly as he plunged two fingers inside her, pressing them against the spot he knew would make her scream. He could tease later. Now was about imprinting himself on her skin, burning himself into her very soul until she could never try to reject him again.

Spike grew harder at every scream that he ripped from her throat, every whimper that fell from her lips. But he kept himself in check, wanting this to be about her. He'd get his pleasure soon enough, but not until he'd driven her wild. She reached down and took hold of his hair, wrapping the curls around fingers hard enough to hurt, but he didn't pull away, didn't stop. He only sped up his movements, pushing her closer to the edge.

Buffy came with a near-primal scream, her fingers pulling so hard that Spike was surprised his hair wasn't coming out in clumps. He felt her fall slack against him, but he still didn't stop. Buffy gasped, her hips bucking. "Spike…I can't…" she said, her voice hoarse.

He ignored her, moving his tongue over her as fast as he could. Buffy clawed desperately at the comforter, her eyes rolling back in her head. He hadn't stopped since he'd started, and her last coherent thought before she fell apart again was that there were definite perks to being with a man that didn't need to breathe…

Spike licked her slowly, bringing her back down before looking up at her, a smug smile on his face. "Pleased with yourself?" Buffy asked, panting.

"Should I be?" Spike asked, though his cocky tone belied what he thought the answer should be.

Buffy didn't disagree. She'd thought he'd been amazing in the book, but that… "Yeah, as a matter of fact, you should," she said, in too good of a mood to bother arguing the point.

Spike gave her a quick kiss between her legs before standing up, shedding his clothes as fast as he could before settling his body over hers. "Gonna let me in, kitten?"

Buffy replied by locking her legs behind him, pulling him down so their hips were flush against each other. "Yes. Spike…yes." She reached between them, and Spike hissed with pleasure when he felt her hand wrap around his cock. Buffy kept her eyes on his as she guided him inside, both vampire and Slayer crying out in unison once he was fully sheathed in her warmth. She moved her hands up and down his back, caressing the rippling muscles as he thrust in and out.

"This…this feels right," Buffy whispered, tears shimmering in her eyes.

"It is right, Buffy. This'll always be right. Never…never do anything to make it wrong. Can't lose you," Spike said, his voice rough with emotion. Buffy responded by pulling his mouth down to hers, needing to kiss him, needing to be even closer.

As his thrusts got harder, their combined movements more frantic, Spike pulled up, looking back down at her. Buffy saw his eyes flash yellow, and knew he was fighting to keep his demon reigned in. She thought about what he'd said before they'd started this, his concern over no longer having a heartbeat for her, and decided she had to do something for him, to show him it was all right. Having him now, inside her, she knew he was the same man she'd been with every time in the book. This was her Spike and her William.

He was her husband.

She needed that bond with him, needed it to be here what it was in the book. And despite her plans under Willow's spell the year before, a legal wedding ceremony with a vampire wasn't exactly in the realm of possibilities. Besides, she needed more than that. She needed to be his, for him to be hers. She needed assurance, both for him and herself.

She needed to know he'd never leave, never break her. She needed him to know she could accept that outside the book, he was a vampire.

She pushed up slightly on his chest, halting his movements. "Spike…"

He looked down at her, brow furrowed. "Buffy? Do…do you want me to stop? Have you changed… "

Buffy pressed a finger to his lips, silencing him. "No. None of that. I…I want you to claim me."

Spike's eyes widened. "You want me to what ?"

"I want you to claim me."

"Buffy…pet…do you know what a claim is?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Duh, Spike. I wouldn't ask you if I didn't know what it was. I do pay some attention to my Slayer training. A claim's a blood bond between mates. It would bind us together. Right?"

"That's the simplified version."

"And…and it would be like a marriage?"

Spike pulled out of her and rolled over to the side, despite the extreme protest his body gave at that. He couldn't respond to her request rationally when he was buried inside her heat. "That what this is about? You want what we had in the book and think this is the only way to get it?"

"Not really." Buffy rolled over, looking him in the eye. "Well, maybe a little. But I…I want to be your mate, too."

"You do realize this is a forever thing. Once a claim's in place, that's it. Tied to each other for all eternity."

"I know. I want forever, Spike."

And he did, too. More than he could ever tell her. But the idea that Buffy would really want that from him was something in the realm of unbelievable. Ever since she'd shown up that night, he'd been expecting her to run off, and now she was asking for this? It was too good to be true. All Spike could figure was that she was caught up in the moment and didn't know what she was talking about. "No vampire's ever claimed a Slayer, pet. And vampire-human claims are rare. Usually, the vampire turns the human."

"We could be the first."

"Buffy, I…"

"Please, Spike. I need this."

"It's forever, Buffy…" he stressed again.

"That's what I want! I told you that. I already pledged myself to you on that ship, Spike. In my heart, I'm your wife. But I'm still scared. I can't help it. I need…I need assurance."

"And that's why you want a claim? Proof that I won't go away?"

"More than that. I need you. I need you to be a part of me."

"You already are a part of me, Buffy," he said softly, pushing her hair back from her face. "Nothing can change that."

"So let's make it official. I know what I'm asking for, Spike."

Spike gave her a sad smile. "Can't, luv. Chip won't let me. Claims require a bite."

"I know. But…but I think the chip would let you. It…it wouldn't be an act of violence. It would be an act of love."

The temptation was strong. Too strong. He couldn't turn her down. Even if she was wrong, and the chip turned his brain to a sticky paste, he couldn't stop himself from taking what she'd offered. The demon in him wanted it as much as the man, if not more. This would make her his. Nothing could take her away from him ever again, not even Buffy herself. It would be forever.

Just like William had promised her

Spike moved back over her, positioning himself at her entrance. Buffy guided him in again, the determination on her face never wavering. Spike tried to move slowly, to savor the moment, but her talk of a claim had brought the demon too close to the surface. His bones shifted, his eyes now a feral yellow. He drove into her body with a near-bruising force, shaking Buffy to her very core. She clung to him as she tilted her neck, giving him access.

"Take it. It's yours," she said, tightening her grip on him.

Spike snarled, the demon in almost full force now. The woman he'd chosen as his mate was offering her neck to him for the first time. And he was taking.

He lowered his head, sinking his fangs into her with a gentleness that surprised Buffy. The demon didn't want to rip and tear her. It wanted to love her, the same as the man did. The slice of his fangs against her skin brought her nothing but pleasure, and she cried out in orgasm as he drank from her neck.

"Mine," Spike growled, licking the wounds. As he spoke the words, the scars left by other vampires in the past faded away, leaving only Spike's marks.

He pulled away as he felt the fluttering of her internal muscles slowing, his human face slipping back into place as he met her eyes again. "You need to complete the claim, pet," he said. "Can you do that? Can you bite me?"

Buffy lunged forward immediately, biting hard enough for her human teeth to draw blood. Spike's hips jerked and spasmed as he let go inside of her, filling her. "Mine," Buffy said , licking the marks she'd made. She pulled away from his neck and watched with satisfaction as Drusilla's marks faded as well. He was hers now.

Spike rolled over, pulling her with him. He held her close, still nestled in her depths. They were silent for a long while before Spike asked her what was running over and over again in his mind.

"Any regrets?"

"No. I feel…calm. Like I did back on the island. Things are back the way they should be."

Spike felt relief wash over him at her words. "They are, kitten."

"Although you know we're going to have to find a new place to live. I mean, as nice as this place is, it's still a crypt. And I don't want us to live with my mom. Not with all the loud, rowdy sex I plan on us having."

Spike blinked. "You want us to move in together?"

"Well, yeah." Buffy frowned. "Don't you?"

"Of course! I just…I didn't think you would."

"We're mated, Spike. I need you here. Besides, it's not a good sign for a marriage if you're living in different places."

"No, guess it isn't. I…I can't believe this is real. Keep expecting to wake up, you know. Yesterday you were pushing me away and now we're mated? What changed, luv?"

"Had to let myself let you in. I knew tonight I couldn't fight it. And I didn't want to try anymore. It was making me miserable."

"And you're happy now?"

"Yeah. I am." Buffy nuzzled up to his neck, giving the bite marks she'd left a long, slow lick.

Spike shivered, a deep growl rumbling through his chest. "Hope you weren't planning on sleeping tonight."

Buffy looked at him, her expression making him growl again. "Come on, vampire. Show this Slayer what you've got."

 

Chapter 22

Buffy woke up feeling content for the first time since she'd been pulled from the book. She looked beside her, smiling at the sight of Spike there. Her lover…her husband…her mate .

She felt different now that the claim had taken place, as if Spike was really a part of her. She could feel his presence, a warm tingle on the edges of her mind. And his love… She could feel that so strongly it almost overwhelmed her. It seemed strange to her that a soulless creature could feel so much, but she'd never doubt it again. Spike's love was strong, and more real that anything she'd ever known in the past.

His eyes opened slowly and he smiled as soon as he saw her. "Good morning, luv," he said, his voice husky, making her tremble.

"It's definitely one of those," Buffy said, snuggling closer to him.

Spike chuckled. "Glad to hear it." Then he gave her a small pout. "No kiss then?"

Buffy responded by grabbing him and pulling him against her lips, kissing him hard. Spike groaned, wrapping his arms tightly around him. When she finally pulled back for air, Buffy grinned. "How was that?"

"Nice start, but I think we could do a little better," Spike replied, rolling her over so she was pinned beneath him.

"So is this how I'm going to wake up every morning?" Buffy asked.

"Will be if I have anything to say about it."

"You have lots to say about it," Buffy promised, reaching up to run her hand along his sharp cheekbone.

"Good," Spike replied, leaning in to nuzzle against the marks he'd made on her neck the night before. Buffy shivered at the contact, her whole body responding to the nearness of her mate. "I hope you know," Spike began, moving his lips up to her ear and whispering hotly, "that I have no intention of letting you out of this bed all day."

Buffy couldn't help the moan that escaped her in response. "Sounds… god, that sounds good."

Spike nipped at her earlobe. "Mmm hmm. I thought so, too."

She pushed gently on his chest until she could see his face again. "But after sundown, we need to go out, okay?"

Spike frowned. "Where? Patrol?"

"No. Though that probably wouldn't be a bad idea… We just…we need to let the others know what's going on."

"You want to tell your friends we're mated?" Spike asked in surprise.

"Well, yeah. I mean, they're gonna notice when we can't keep our hands off each other. And Giles will probably know that these aren't just any bite marks I'm sporting. But also, I need to tell my mom. I can't wait days to tell her her oldest daughter is married."

Despite the fact that getting out of the bed with Buffy sounded like one of the most unappealing things ever in Spike's book, he was thrilled by the idea that she wanted to go public with their relationship. Even with the claim and her talk of wanting to move in with him, he was afraid that she wouldn't want to admit what they had—at least not how serious it was. "So we what, go tell your mum, then call a Scooby meeting?"

"Yeah. Is…is that okay with you? I mean, if you don't want it getting out that you're mated to me, then…"

"What? Why would I not want people to know that?"

"Well, you're already unpopular enough with the demon crowd. This would make it worse."

"Sod them. Any demon tries to harass us, I'll just kill it. Besides, whether we announce it or not, sweetheart, they're gonna know. That's part of a claim. Every demon out there is going to know you're my mate." He snaked his arm behind her back, pulling her against him. "And I'm damn proud of that."

Spike's mouth descended back to her neck, nibbling and licking the marks, and Buffy let herself be swept away in his arms.

*** *** ***

"Oh god, Spike, I'm nervous. Maybe this isn't such a good idea. Maybe we should just go." Buffy turned around, starting to walk off her front porch.

Spike grabbed her arm, pulling her back. "Uh uh , Slayer. We already decided we're telling your mum. And I got out of a nice, comfy bed—complete with naked mate, I might add—for this, so we're going through with it."

"But what if she's not okay with it? I mean, last night, she told me I should be with the person I love, but…"

"Your mum said that?"

"Yeah."

"And she knew that was me?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Yes, doofus. Apparently she likes you or something. Anyway, what if she didn't mean it? Or what if knowing I've been claimed by a vampire freaks her out? Or…or what if she's mad we didn't invite her to the wedding?"

"Buffy, kitten, we got married in a mystical book. We couldn't have invited her if we tried. And as for our 'wedding' last night, I don't think that's exactly something you would've wanted your mother there for…"

"Okay, good points there. But…but there's still the claim. She could wig."

"She could. Or she could be incredibly happy for us. How about we go in and find out, yeah?"

Buffy took a deep breath. "Okay. But keep in mind we might have to make a break for it."

Spike chuckled. "I will. But I think it'll be all right." He kissed her forehead. "Joyce just wants you to be happy, pet."

Buffy swallowed, taking her keys out of her pocket. She opened the door, stepping into the foyer. "Mom? Dawn?"

Joyce came in a few moments later. "Buffy? Where have you been all day, I…" She stopped when she saw Spike step inside behind her daughter. "Oh," she said, a knowing look on her face. "I see."

"Mom, Spike and I have something to tell you. And Dawn. Is she here?"

"She's upstairs," Joyce replied. "Why don't the two of you take a seat in the living room, and I'll get her."

Buffy and Spike went into the living room, sitting on the couch. Buffy couldn't believe how nervous she was at the thought of a conversation with her mother. All she could think about was what if Joyce freaked out at the idea of Spike placing a claim on her. Would her mother be able to handle that she'd willingly allowed a vampire to bite her? Would that make her change her mind about accepting Buffy's relationship with Spike?

Spike took her hand, caressing it with his thumb. She felt a wave of calmness wash over her, and she realized it was coming from him. She reached up with her free hand and fingered the marks on her neck. "Is that coming through the claim?"

"Yeah." Spike brought her hand to his mouth, pressing a kiss against her skin. "It's going to be all right, luv. I'm right here."

"I love you, Spike."

"I love you, too."

Joyce came into the living room, Dawn bouncing behind her. "Are you two together?" Dawn asked, running in to sit on the couch next to her sister. "Is that your news? Is it?"

Buffy couldn't help but smile at her little sister's enthusiasm. "Yes, as a matter of fact it is."

Dawn squealed, jumping up to give both Buffy and Spike a hug. "This is great! I knew you two would get together! You're just too perfect a couple not to be! This is the best thing ever!"

"There's a little more," Buffy said. "Mom, you might want to sit down."

Joyce's eyes widened a little. "You're not pregnant, are you? Wait, vampires can't have babies—can they?"

"No, and, um, no," Buffy said.

Joyce sat down in the chair by the couch. "What is it? Dawn, sweetie, calm down." Dawn pouted, flopping back on the couch with her arms crossed.

"Spike and I are, well, we're, um…we're…"

"We're mated, Joyce," Spike supplied, seeing Buffy's difficulty with the word.

"Mated?" Joyce frowned. "I'm sorry, I don't understand."

"Sounds like something you'd hear about on the Discovery Channel," Dawn said, her comment making Buffy blush.

"It's a vampire ritual," Spike said. He tried to think of the best way to explain it to Joyce, and decided to go with the simplest. "It's like a marriage."

"A marriage? You're married to my daughter?"

"In a manner of speaking."

"We were married in the book," Buffy said. "I…I wanted that back. And a claim is what a vampire has in place of a marriage."

Joyce's gaze fell to the marks on Buffy's neck for the first time since Buffy and Spike had come in. "Buffy, are…are you a vampire?"

"No, Mom. I'm not." She gave her mother a small smile. "You didn't have to invite me in, remember?"

Joyce placed a hand against her own neck. "But…"

"The bite was part of the claim," Spike said, his gaze pointed down, unable to look Joyce in the eye.

"Spike, I don't believe I like the idea of you biting my daughter."

"Bet Buffy liked it," Dawn muttered.

"Dawn!" Joyce exclaimed.

"What?" Dawn replied. "Haven't you ever seen a vampire movie? The women are always all swoony when they get bitten by the sexy vampire guy."

Buffy's face reddened further as she and Spike stared at the floor together.

"I don't know about any of this," Joyce said. "I want you to be happy, and if you love Spike, then I can accept you being with him, but bites? Claims? And marriage! I would've liked you to have finished college first."

Buffy looked up. "I am going to finish college. Spike won't stop me from doing that."

"And where are you going to live? This is awfully sudden, Buffy. You haven't planned any of this."

"I know, but…we were going to look for an apartment together," Buffy replied.

"Where? And how will you pay for it?"

"I have money," Spike said. All three pairs of Summers eyes turned to look at him.

"You do?" Buffy asked.

Spike shrugged. "Well, yeah. You can amass a nice little fortune in a century if you play your cards right. And I do mean that in a very literal sense."

"You gamble?" Buffy said with a frown.

"I'm not sure that's a trait I like in a son-in-law," Joyce said, her expression eerily similar to her daughter's.

"I can quit," Spike said. "I have a nice little nest egg saved anyway."

Buffy crossed her arms in front of her. "If you have money, why were you always conning it out of us?"

Spike shrugged. "It was fun."

"Jerk!" Buffy exclaimed, smacking him hard on the arm.

"Oi! That was before. Not like I'm going to do it anymore."

"I think we're forgetting the important issue here," Dawn said loudly. "Spike and Buffy are married. Hey, does that make you my brother-in-law?"

Spike shrugged. "I suppose."

"That's totally cool! I've always wanted a big brother." Dawn shot Buffy a look. "I know it has to be better than having a big sister."

"You are such a brat," Buffy replied.

Joyce sighed heavily, bringing the attention back to her. "Spike, I like you. You're…the nicest vampire I've ever met. And I would've been fine with the two of you dating for a while, at least until Buffy was done with school, but…"

"That wouldn't have been enough, Mom," Buffy cut in. "I know it seems sudden to you, but it isn't to us. We had a whole relationship in that book. We were stranded together on an island for who knows how long. We fought for out lives—and our love—time and time again. And we were married. I pledged myself to him forever. To be with Spike out here in the real world, I had to have all of that again. I couldn't have him be my husband one day and my boyfriend the next. It would've broken my heart."

Joyce looked back and forth between the two blonds sitting on her couch. Their hands were linked together so casually that she wondered if they were even aware of it. It looked like a natural state for both of them, as if there was a connection between them that had to be made physical somehow. And while it would take some getting used to, she could understand what Buffy was saying. "How…how permanent is this claim thing?"

"It's permanent," Spike said. "We're bound. Forever."

"So I guess you're sure this is what you want, Buffy?"

"Positive." Buffy gave Spike's hand a gentle squeeze. "I love Spike. And he loves me. After what we've shared, what we've been through…I couldn't live any other way."

"I won't hurt her, Joyce," Spike said. "Vampires fiercely protect their mates. Buffy is the most important thing in the world to me. Her safety and happiness come before all else."

"And this doesn't change her in any way? No offense to you, Spike, but I don't want my daughter to be a vampire."

"I'd never turn her," Spike said, the conviction in his voice startling Buffy. "I don't want a demon. I want your daughter. Exactly the way she is. The bit the Watchers' Council feeds the Slayers about the human being gone completely from a vampire, that's not true, but it does change a person." He swallowed hard. "I've…I've seen it. I'd never do that to Buffy. I'd dust first."

"They're happy, Mom," Dawn said. "And they love each other. I told you that days ago."

Joyce sighed again. "I can't say I'm completely over the shock of all of this, but…" She stood up, holding her arms out to her daughter. " Congratulations, honey."

Buffy's smile lit up her entire face as she jumped up and embraced her mother. "Thanks, Mom."

"You, too, Spike," Joyce said as Buffy moved out of her arms. Spike moved tentatively, and Joyce pulled him into a hug. "Welcome to the family."

"Thank you, Joyce."

Dawn jumped up, bouncing in place. "This is so awesome!" She hugged both Buffy and Spike again. "I have to call all my friends and tell them my big sister married the coolest guy ever." She ran up the stairs, the door to her room slamming shut moments later.

"I think she likes you," Buffy said with a smirk.

"Yeah, sorta gathered that, ducks."

"So did you two have any plans tonight?" Joyce asked.

"We stopped by the payphone on the way over here to call Giles," Buffy said. "Scooby meeting—to break the news."

"I keep telling her we should do it some other way," Spike said. "Possibly write them a letter from Siberia."

Buffy elbowed her mate. "Shut up, you." She turned to her mother. "He thinks they're going to stake him."

"They better not!" Joyce exclaimed. "I wouldn't appreciate someone staking my son-in-law."

"Thanks, Joyce," Spike said.

Joyce let out a deep breath. "I know you two already had the wedding, and I don't even want to think about what that claiming ritual entailed, but…would you let me throw a reception for you at least? It wouldn't have to be anything big. I just…well, I'm your mother, and I want to have something. Show off my newly-married daughter?"

Spike and Buffy shared a look. Spike nodded, and Buffy looked back at Joyce. "Sure. Just tell us when and where, and we'll be there."

"I can set something up at the gallery Sunday. Save me from having my house full of people."

"Sounds lovely, Joyce," Spike said. "Thank you."

"Well, you better get to your meeting," Joyce said, stepping back slightly from the couple. "Would you like to come over for dinner afterwards?" She looked quickly at Spike, as if suddenly remembering something. "I don't have any blood. But I can keep some in the freezer from now on. For when you visit." Joyce turned to Buffy. "You will be visiting, won't you?"

"Of course we will!" Buffy said. "You'll get sick of us, I promise."

Spike rested his hand on Joyce's arm. "We'd love to come to dinner. And don't worry about not having any blood. I can enjoy a human meal, too."

Joyce smiled. "Okay, good. Although I'm afraid I don't have much in the house. I need to go shopping. I was just thawing some chicken wings when you showed up, but I could…"

Spike's eyes lit up. "Those would be fine."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Spike will be plenty happy with that, Mom. Believe me."

"All right. Then you two meet with Buffy's friends, and I'll make dinner." Joyce hugged Buffy again. "See you soon, honey."

"Okay." Buffy held on to her mother a moment longer. "I love you, Mommy."

"I love you, too, Buffy."

*** *** ***

Buffy stood with Spike on the porch, her fingers laced with his.

"See, kitten, that went well. Nothing to worry about at all."

"Yeah, it did." Buffy looked up at him. "I sorta wish it hadn't."

"Why's that?"

"Because we blew all our luck. I'm starting to think maybe your letter from Siberia idea isn't so bad after all…"

Spike turned her to face him, putting his hands on her shoulders. "Listen to me, Buffy. It may take some time, but your friends are going to accept this."

"What makes you so sure?"

"Because I'm in your life now, Buffy. We're mated. Nothing can change that. If they want to be in your life, too, they're going to have to learn to deal with that."

"But what if it's too much for them? What if it makes them hate me?"

"It won't, kitten. I promise you. Your mates love you."

"Are you positive?" Buffy asked, her voice small.

"Would I lie to you?"

"Probably."

Spike arched his eyebrow. "When do I lie to you?"

Buffy frowned. "Actually, now that you mention it, you tend to be more like brutally honest."

"See?" Spike said. "I'm quite trustworthy. You know, for being evil." Buffy chuckled. "Knew I could get a laugh."

Buffy kissed his cheek. "Let's get this over with. The sooner they know, the sooner we can get on with our life together."

"Then let's go, pet."

 

Chapter 23

The others were already there when Buffy and Spike walked into the Magic Box. Their eyes all turned towards the couple as soon as they came in, and Buffy felt herself fill with cold dread. Never in her life had she been less excited at the prospect of talking to her friends.

"Ooh, you're here," Anya said, breaking the short but awkward silence that followed Buffy and Spike's entrance. She came around quickly from behind the counter and went to Buffy, dropping something in her hand. "I found this when I was cleaning earlier. I think it's yours."

Buffy's eyes grew wide as she saw what it was, a smile spreading over her face. "It's my… How?"

Anya shrugged. "Must've fallen out of the book. I thought that's what it was, from the description I read, and I figured you'd probably want it."

"I do! Thank you. It means so much to me to have it back."

"What is it?" Xander asked, trying to look over from the table without getting up and see what Buffy had.

"It's my wedding ring," Buffy said softly, staring down at it.

" Your what ?" Xander asked, leaping to his feet. "Why on earth do you have a wedding ring?"

"Xander, I told you Buffy and Spike got married in the book," Anya said.

Xander replied with a wild look in his eyes, "No. No! You said William and Elizabeth got married in the book. And that wasn't real. That ring looks real to me. Why is that ring real?"

Buffy looked up at Spike, then slipped her hand in his for support. "That's why we wanted to talk to all of you. See, that marriage in the book, well, um, it felt real to us. So we found a way to make it real here, too." She took a deep breath, deciding to make telling them like pulling off a band-aid. "Spike claimed me."

The only sound in the room was that of Giles's glasses shattering as he whipped them off his face so quickly he accidentally flung them to the ground. After a moment, Xander spoke.

"What the hell is a claim?"

"It's a special kind of bite in which the vampire makes a mate his for all eternity. It's very rare, but is viewed throughout the demon community as a sign of eternal devotion," Anya replied, sounding very much like a demonology encyclopedia.

Xander, however, did not like the answer. "You bit her? You bit Buffy?!" he screamed at Spike. "You bastard!" He lunged at the vampire, knocking him to the ground and hitting him in the face.

Buffy didn't hesitate. She grabbed Xander, throwing him off of Spike. "Stay away from my mate," she said, her voice almost a growl.

Buffy knelt down beside Spike, helping him up as Anya went to Xander. "That wasn't very smart," the ex-demon told her boyfriend. "Attacking a claimed mate like that is just asking for trouble. If you'd put Spike in enough danger, Buffy could've killed you."

"Giles! Do something about this!" Xander said, pushing himself up without the help Anya that was offering. "He's done something to Buffy that has made her into a killer."

"That's not what I said!" Anya protested. "You twisted that."

"There's nothing I can do, Xander," Giles said, his tone cold. "What Buffy has done can never be undone. It's a mistake she will have to live with for a very, very long time."

Buffy turned slowly towards Giles. "Mistake?" she said softly. "Giles, please don't…"

"Do not ask me to approve of this," Giles said.

"But…"

"No!" Giles snapped. "You are the Slayer. What you have done is…well, I don't think disappointing is quite strong enough of a word."

Tears were forming in Buffy's eyes. She'd known she'd meet with resistance, but the way Giles was talking to her now… "Giles…"

"I can't…I can't look at you right now," Giles said, before walking out of the shop, the door slamming behind him.

Spike wrapped his arm around Buffy, pulling her to him and letting her cry on his chest.

"Don't touch her," Xander snapped.

Spike's eyes flashed yellow for a moment as he fought to reign in his demon's reaction. "Don't tell me not to touch my mate. She needs comfort right now."

"Oh, and like you can give it to her? You're the reason she's hurting right now," Xander sneered.

"Me?" Spike snarled at Xander. "You're the one hurting her, you git."

Xander's eyes narrowed. "When Buffy comes to her senses, you're dust. Come on Anya, we're leaving."

"No, I'm not," Anya replied. "I have inventory to do. Besides, I think a claim is very romantic, and I'm going to be supportive of Buffy and Spike." She crossed her arms in front of her. "That book was a beautiful love story, and I for one am quite happy to know that their love is still strong."

"Fine," Xander replied, angrily, storming out of the Magic Box.

Buffy turned her head away from Spike's chest, though she kept her arms wrapped tightly around him. "Willow?"

Willow was sitting at the table, frowning. "I don't know, Buffy. You and Spike…that just seems wrong to me. And he's bitten you? I don't get that."

"I love him," Buffy explained.

Willow stood up. "I'm sorry, Buffy. I'm just going to have to have some time here. I need to think about how I feel about this."

Buffy nodded, not sure of what to say. She'd wanted Willow's support, but at least she wasn't condemning it quite the way Giles and Xander had. "Okay."

"I'm heading back to the dorm. Tara?"

Tara glanced between Spike and Buffy and Willow. "I'll catch up in a minute, okay?"

"Sure," Willow replied. She gave Buffy a quick glance before walking out.

Tara got up then, slowly approaching the couple. "I…I just wanted to let you know that, um, your auras…together… They're…they're really beautiful."

Buffy felt her eyes tear up again, although this time for a different reason. "Thank you."

"From me, too, Glinda ," Spike added. "Thanks."

"They'll come around," Tara said. "Or at least Willow will. She's just…surprised, I think. But I'll talk to her for you. I can see how much love you have for each other. It's brighter than I've ever seen before."

Buffy broke away from Spike to hug the other girl. "Thank you. That means a lot to me."

Tara nodded as Buffy pulled away. "Congratulations. Really."

"My mom's throwing us a reception at her gallery on Sunday. Can you be there?" Buffy asked Tara. She looked over at Anya. "You, too."

"I'll be there," Tara said. "And Willow will be, too."

"I'll show up," Anya said. "Can't promise Xander, though. He's being a jerk. Although I might be able to blackmail him by telling him he can't have any orgasms from me unless he does."

Buffy smiled slightly at that. "Thanks for the thought. But if he doesn't want to be there, well, I'd rather he wasn't."

Anya put her hand gently on Buffy's arm, a move that surprised the Slayer. "I'm sorry. About him. He just…he doesn't get it. I've stopped trying to talk to him about these things. He doesn't like thinking about me as a demon. But I am sorry for you and Spike. A claim—it's a big thing. You shouldn't have any pain associated with it."

"Thank you. Both of you," Buffy said. "It's nice to know I still have friends."

"Your mom's throwing the reception? Does that mean she took it well?" Tara asked.

"She wigged a bit at first, but she's accepting it," Buffy said. "She didn't like the biting thing."

"That's because she's never been bitten by a vampire during sex," Anya said. She leaned in and whispered to Tara, "It's very erotic."

Tara blushed. "I…I bet," she said, looking down. She glanced up a little then, although she couldn't quite look at Spike directly. "I should go catch up with Willow. Start that whole working on her thing."

"All right. Thanks again for your support," Buffy said.

"I couldn't not support you," Tara said. "Not with what I can see."

"Still means a lot," Spike said. "To me, too. I know how important Buffy's friends are to her. Don't much care for driving a wedge between her and them. Not that I'd really mind if Xander decided to move to Siberia on a permanent basis or anything, but I don't want Buffy to be hurt."

"I can see that," Tara said. "Your love for her radiates from you. I'll explain it to Willow. She should understand. This just took her by surprise. And we'll see you at the reception."

"Okay. Have a good night, Tara," Buffy said.

"You guys, too," Tara replied, smiling at the other three before she left.

"I'm going to go do some work," Anya said. "I'm angry with Xander, and working makes me feel better. Not quite as much as sex, but I don't want him touching me right now."

"I'm sorry. For causing trouble between you and Xander. I didn't mean to do that," Buffy said.

"You didn't, Buffy," Anya replied. "Xander did. He's the one being a total dumbass."

"Still, I…"

"Don't finish that sentence," Anya said. "Buffy, in all my years as a vengeance demon, do you know how many wishes I had to grant for a vampire's mate? None. Not a once did a woman who had been claimed by a vampire, be her vampire or human, require my services. Like I said earlier, vampiric claims are rare. But if they're made, they're taken very seriously. If Spike has claimed you, then I know that he loves you, and he will do everything in his power to make you happy. Xander's your friend. He should be happy to know his friend is going to be loved that dearly for the rest of her existence. It's a cause for celebration, not anger and threats."

"I…I'm feeling really bad for being kinda bitchy to you for the past couple of years," Buffy said.

"Eh, don't. I'm bitchy to you, too. It's how we relate. Now are you going to stand here all night, or can I go count my money?"

"We're going to have dinner with my mom," Buffy said.

"Good. Call me with the time of the reception later?"

"Sure. When my mother sets one," Buffy replied.

"All right. Bye now," Anya said with a bright smile before walking off to the back of the store.

"I'm sorry that didn't go very well, sweetheart," Spike said softly. "I can feel how much you hurt through the claim."

"I expected that from Xander," Buffy said. "And I can't say I'm all that surprised by Willow's reaction either. I think Tara's right about her coming around soon anyway. But Giles…" She fought back the fresh onslaught of tears that threatened to break. "I disappointed him, Spike. I didn't want to do that. Not ever again."

"Hey. Listen to me. If anyone here should be disappointed, it's you. What he said to you tonight, that's now how you talk to someone who's like a daughter to you. Look at your mum. It bothered her a bit, yeah, but she accepts it because it makes you happy. And she trusts that you can make this sort of decision about your own life. Giles should give you the same courtesy."

"I don't know, Spike, I just…"

"Are you having second thoughts about this?"

Buffy's eyes went wide. "What! No! Please, don't think that. I don't regret what we have, Spike. I never will." She opened up her hand, where she'd kept the ring tightly inside since Anya gave it to her. "Put this back where it belongs?"

Spike nodded, her request and adamant defense of her choice to be with him making him choked with emotion. He took the ring from her and slid it on her left ring finger. "I love you, Buffy Anne Summers."

"And I love you, too, William whatever-the-rest-of-your-name-is."

Spike chuckled, then kissed the top of her head. "Ready to go to your mum's then?"

"Yes. Let's get out of this place."

*** *** ***

Joyce was finishing dinner when Buffy came into the kitchen. She opened the cabinets, getting out a ziplock bag before taking it to the freezer and filling it with ice.

"Who hit Spike?" Joyce asked as she figured out her daughter was putting together an ice pack.

"Xander," Buffy said, wrapping a towel around the baggie of ice. "Gave him a black eye. Spike says the ice won't really do anything for him, and his vampire healing will take care of it soon enough anyway, but I feel like I have to do something."

"Of course you do, honey. He is your husband after all."

Buffy smiled. "Yeah, he is. Oooh!" She put the ice pack down on the kitchen island. "Anya found my ring!"

"Your ring?"

"Yeah. My wedding ring, from the book. Anya found it when she was cleaning up in the Magic Box. I don't know how it got here, but I'm so happy it did." Buffy held out her hand for Joyce to see.

"Oh, honey, that's lovely," Joyce said, taking a good look at the emerald.

"Spike told me it was almost as beautiful as my eyes," Buffy said.

"Spike sounds like he has quite a romantic streak."

"He does," Buffy said. "At first I thought it was just the effects of the book, but now I know it's more than that. At night, when we were on the island, he'd recite me poetry until I fell asleep."

"That it. He's a keeper," Joyce said with a teasing smile.

Buffy giggled. "He is, isn't he?"

Joyce regarded her daughter. There was a spark back in her eyes that she hadn't seen since before they'd left Los Angeles. Buffy looked…happy. "Yeah, he is. Now go take care of his eye while I put dinner on the table, okay?"

"Okay." Buffy picked up the ice pack and walked out of the kitchen, feeling much better than she had when she'd left the Magic Box. The rejection of three of her friends stung, but she could survive. They'd come around, or they wouldn't. She stopped in the doorway of the living room for a moment, watching with a smile as Dawn talked to Spike animatedly about the reactions of all of her friends when she'd told them her sister had gotten married. Buffy knew then that whatever happened with Giles, Willow, and Xander, she'd still have people who loved her. Her sister. Her mother. Her husband.

She'd still have her family.

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