“Do you have everything?”
“Dunno,” Spike replied from his position on the bed. “You’re the one who packed, luv.”
Buffy rolled her eyes at him good-naturedly. “Well, you watched me. Besides, it only makes sense for us to take one bag since we’re staying together.”
Spike felt a sense of awe, to have gone from being nearly homeless, having no real place of his own, no one who cared—to this. To have a place, even if it was only defined by where Buffy was at the time. To have, in some sense, what he had always wanted—requited love. To be—very nearly—content.
It wasn’t something he had ever expected to have.
Of course, it didn’t feel quite settled yet. There was still more to be done; Spike had gotten used to having some sort of purpose the last few years, whether that was winning Buffy’s heart or saving the world. What did a hero do when the damsel’s heart was won and the world seemed to be going along merrily without him?
It was a puzzling question, and one he hadn’t had much time to think about, what with the cheerful chaos of the holidays. Spike knew he had time—time to decide, time to figure out what his purpose was going to be in this new life he’d been given. As Buffy had said, this was the time for him to rest.
And to that end, he and Buffy were getting away for the couple days before the Council’s big New Years party.
Now that Buffy had decided to take a more active role in the new Council—out of self-defense, she liked to joke—attendance at an affair like this was mandatory. Spike was to be her date.
While Spike was happy enough to be squiring Buffy to some fancy party, it felt a bit strange after standing on his own for so many months. That and the last woman he had been escort to was Drusilla years before.
Though he’d never tell Buffy, being her date felt as though he was going backwards. As though he’d gone from being a Champion to being the Slayer’s date.
Not that he wasn’t grateful for the chance.
“Didn’t say it didn’t make sense,” Spike replied. “Merely said you would know if we didn’t have everything.”
Buffy smiled at him coyly. “Well, I don’t plan on either of us needing much in the way of clothes, but you’ll need something formal to wear for the party.”
“How formal we talking?” Spike asked suspiciously.
“Jacket and tie at the very least,” Buffy replied. “And I’m voting for a tux.”
Spike made a face. “Do I have to?”
“No, but I could promise something nice as a reward,” Buffy replied. The look in her eyes left no doubt as to what that reward might consist of.
Spike tucked his tongue behind his teeth. “Is that right? Do you think I might be able to get a preview, luv?”
Buffy leaned down to meet Spike’s lips. “I think that might be possible,” she murmured, a hairsbreadth away. Soon, there was no space between them at all. Buffy’s hands were fumbling at buttons, never mind that they were supposed to be leaving for their hotel reservations. And never mind that Giles still had a houseful of people. They’d had no privacy for the last week, and were desperate for time alone.
The door flew open just as things were getting truly heated. “Okay, impressionable minor here,” Dawn snarked.
“Impressionable minors need to learn how to knock,” Buffy said, not bothering to move. “So why are you bothering us?”
“Andrew’s supposed to be on his way,” Dawn said. “I just thought you might want to know so you can leave before he arrives.”
Buffy sighed and pushed herself up, exchanging an exasperated look with Spike. Both of them were getting rather tired of being interrupted constantly. “What’s it matter, Dawnie? We’re still leaving today, and we won’t see Andrew again until New Years Eve.”
Dawn crossed her arms over her chest impatiently. “Do you really want to be around for Andrew gushing over you and Spike getting back together?”
At that reminder, Spike shot off the bed, suddenly full of energy. “Let’s go, Buffy.”
She raised an eyebrow. “I thought you kind of liked Andrew.”
“Maybe I do a bit,” he admitted. “But do you really want to be here for ‘Spike, the Champion, has finally reunited with his true love, Buffy the Vampyre Slayer?’”
Spike did a very creditable impression of Andrew, which had both Buffy and Dawn giggling. “Good point,” Buffy acknowledged.
“And exactly what I’m talking about,” Dawn said. “You should appreciate my sacrifice here, because if you’re not here to listen to it, guess whose ear he’s going to be bending?”
“We appreciate it, Bit, for certain.” Spike hefted the single suitcase. “And we’d best get moving.”
They trooped downstairs, Buffy and Dawn leading the way, talking about plans for the party, the dresses they would wear and how they would do their hair. Spike was half-listening, half-ignoring the women.
When they reached the lower level, Buffy and Dawn were called away by Willow, who wanted to consult with them about something. Spike paused in the entryway, waiting for Buffy. Giles poked his head out of his study. “Spike? Do you have a minute?”
Spike frowned. He and Giles had come to a wary tolerance over the last few days. Spike accepted Giles’ authority, especially when it concerned the world-wide resources of the Council and such. Giles had accepted that he and Buffy were now together and there wasn’t anything he could do about it.
Part of their agreement was that they didn’t converse much. It was easier on both of them that way.
So it was odd now that Giles would call him into his study for a private conference. “Yeah, I think I have a bit of time before we leave.”
Spike followed Giles back and took a seat in the leather chair across from his desk. Instead of going to sit behind the desk, the chief Watcher chose to lean against the top of the desk rather close to Spike. “I wanted to discuss your role, Spike.”
Spike frowned. “Look, Rupert, you know that Buffy and I—”
“I’m not talking about Buffy,” Giles replied. “Whatever you or she might think, it does not always have to do with her.” When Spike smiled wryly, Giles continued. “I wanted to discuss what role you might play with the new Council.”
“What makes you think I’d want a role?” Spike returned sharply.
Giles’ shoulders moved in a slight shrug as he stood, beginning to polish the lenses of his glasses. “I don’t expect you do,” he replied. “In fact, I’d be greatly surprised if you trusted me enough to want to work for me in any capacity. Nevertheless, I will tell you what I told Buffy. While it is no longer imperative for you to be intimately involved in fighting on a daily basis, you have a wealth of knowledge that would be a shame not to utilize.”
Spike leaned back, considering. “What are you thinking?”
“We’re building a training facility in Bath, near headquarters for the coven,” Giles explained. “Basically, it would be a location to train both Slayers and Watchers, with an emphasis on actual fieldwork. A beginning place for Slayers and a finishing ground for Watchers.”
“You’re going after practical knowledge rather than books,” Spike said. “And you want the Slayer an’ me to be a part of it.” It was a novel idea, and tapped into what he and Buffy were best at. While neither of them were stupid by any stretch of the imagination, action was their forte, and their medium.
Giles nodded. “In essence, yes. I feel it is wise to use what resources we have, and to use what lessons we’ve learned from Sunnydale.”
Spike sighed, running a hand through his hair. “I dunno, Rupert. This is—”
“I’m not asking you to make a decision today, Spike,” Giles said evenly. “Take your time. The position will always be open for you.”
Whatever Spike might have said, it was interrupted by Buffy, who stuck her head into the study. “Spike, if we’re going to avoid Andrew, we have to get going.”
“Right, then,” Spike said, standing. “Better go.” He looked back towards Giles. “I’ll let you know on New Years Eve,” Spike said. “You’ll have your answer then.”
“What was that all about?” Buffy asked as they got into the car that Giles had placed at their disposal for the next few days.
Spike frowned as he turned to meet her eyes. “Rupert didn’t talk to you ‘bout this?”
Spike realized that Giles had asked him to make a decision on his own, apart from Buffy. That he had been, in fact, treating him as a man with the right to do as he pleased. “He’s asked me to take a job with the Council, training Slayers. I thought maybe you’d—”
“I didn’t talk to Giles at all,” Buffy was quick to assure him. “Not that I don’t think you could do the job, but I thought you would want to figure it out on your own.”
“I do,” Spike said quietly. “I need to, Buffy.”
“I think I knew that, which is why I didn’t say anything about it.” Buffy reached over and took his hand. “What are you going to do?”
“I dunno,” Spike replied. “Somethin’ like this—maybe it would be right for now. Restful, like. Don’t think I want to be in a position to lose friends again, Buffy, ‘least not for a while.”
“And the girls we would be training, Spike?” Buffy asked gently, since it was something she had thought deeply about. Losing so many baby Slayers in the cavern below Sunnydale, as she and Faith had affectionately termed them, had cut her more deeply than she was able to put words to. Knowing Spike as she did, Buffy did not believe it would be any easier for him.
He shook his head, kind of impatiently. “I dunno, Buffy. But ‘m goin’ to need to find somthin’ to do. I can’t just keep relyin’ on you, pet.”
“Spike, I don’t mind.”
“That’s not the point.” His tone was sharper than he’d intended. “Buffy, I need to be my own man.”
Buffy frowned. She had no idea where the heat in his voice was coming from. And she was fairly certain that she hadn’t done anything to ask for it—for once. “I didn’t say you shouldn’t be, Spike.”
He heard the hurt in her voice and sighed deeply. It wasn’t Buffy’s fault that he was feeling at loose ends. “I’m sorry, luv. I’m being unfair to you. ‘s just—”
“You’re on vacation,” Buffy said firmly. When he glanced over at her in surprise, she smiled, but the look in her eyes left no room for argument. “I know you feel like you have to figure out your life right now, but you’re on vacation. We are going to enjoy our time together and relax. You can be grouchy after that.”
Since in the past, Spike had always been the one who thought Buffy was taking herself too seriously, he had to chuckle. “Relaxing. Check.”
“Although,” Buffy said thoughtfully. “If you did take the job Giles is offering, we would be working together, and that would be nice. But it’s completely up to you,” she hastened to add. “Don’t let me influence your decision one way or the other.”
“Yeah,” Spike said, annoyance shifting to amusement. She was right of course. There was definitely something to be said for working with your girlfriend every day.
Their hotel room was nice; the bed was huge. And really, that was the only thing that mattered.
In fact, Spike and Buffy had just begun to make use of all the charms of a king-size bed with no interruptions when a knock came on the door. “Ignore them an’ they’ll go away,” Spike muttered, not pausing in his ministrations.
Buffy, who was busy getting herself reacquainted with Spike’s lips—and enjoying every moment—was inclined to agree. “Absolutely,” she panted as his hand slipped down a little lower. Spike was always a considerate lover.
She was just beginning to pull an arm out of a sleeve when the knock came again, more insistently this time. “We’re not here,” she muttered as Spike fumbled with her bra clasp.
The voice that came through the wooden door was like cold water. “Buffy! Spike! I know you guys are in there. It’s an emergency.”
Spike collapsed on top of Buffy with a deeply put-upon sigh. “’m goin’ to kill him.”
“You can’t,” Buffy replied, resigned to the interruption. “You have a soul.”
“Don’t care,” Spike replied petulantly. “This was supposed to be our vacation. We were promised.”
“Apocalypses wait for no one,” Buffy said apologetically, giving him a quick peck on the lips. “On the other hand, if the world’s not ending, you can watch me kick Xander’s ass.”
At the next knock on the door, Buffy called out, “Just a minute. Geez.” Hastily buttoning her blouse, she headed over to the door, noting that Spike was deliberately not making any move to get off the bed.
Xander raised his hands in surrender at the expression on the Slayer’s face. “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
“The world had better be ending, Xander,” Buffy replied, not amused. “You know that this was supposed to be our vacation.”
The other man looked past Buffy to see Spike reclining on the bed. “I know, and I feel really bad, but we’ve got a situation, and you two are the only ones Giles said could handle it.”
“I’m goin’ to kill him,” Spike snarled. “If this is some scheme to get me—”
“No scheme!” Xander said quickly. “Although I do understand why you’d think that. It’s just—we’ve got a Slayer coming in from the States. Somebody needs to meet her at the airport.”
“Andrew can meet her at the airport,” Buffy said flatly. “I’m not leaving my vacation to play babysitter.”
Xander chuckled nervously. “Yeah, see, that’s just the thing. Andrew was the one who was supposed to escort her in. She left him in New York.”
Spike sighed, already resigned to the fact that their vacation was going to be put on hold—if not canceled altogether. At least it wasn’t an apocalypse. “What do you mean she left the boy in New York?” he asked patiently.
Xander, realizing that he wasn’t going to be summarily killed, sat down on the available chair. “I guess she decided that she didn’t want to be escorted to London by Andrew, so she ditched him in the airport. Then, Andrew spent so much time looking for her that he missed the flight, which she was already on, since he’d made the mistake of letting her hold on to her own ticket. And, of course, he waited till now to call Giles.”
“Did someone make sure Andrew got a ticket home?” Buffy asked, easily able to imagine Andrew completely beside himself at what he would surely view as a dereliction of duty. He was usually so good at picking up Slayers too.
“Giles is taking care of it,” Xander assured her. “It’s just—well, apparently this girl is something of a delinquent.”
“No kidding,” Spike murmured.
“And he thought maybe you two would be the best ones to pick her up,” Xander finished in a rush. “I mean, since you guys are, well…” He trailed off, realizing how much trouble he could get himself into.
“I was never a delinquent, no matter what that weasel Snyder thought,” Buffy said huffily.
“I was.” Spike’s lips twisted in a wry grin. “So let me guess. This is a bit of a test to see if we can handle ourselves in the years to come training young Slayers.”
Xander shrugged. “I don’t know about that, but he did think that you would be able to maybe awe her into submission. Oh, and I’m supposed to tell you she has purple hair.”
By the time Spike and Buffy made it back to the hotel, one of their precious days off was pretty much gone. The young Slayer hadn’t been all that difficult to locate, but her flight had been late. She had been appropriately chagrined in front of Giles, but Spike rightly guessed that they were going to have a lot of trouble with that one. Her parents hadn’t been able to send her off quickly enough, especially after she got into a fight with a boy in school and broke his nose.
As Buffy had commented, they were lucky that was all she’d broken. “That one’s goin’ to be the death of Giles,” Spike said.
Buffy snorted. “I doubt it. He’ll probably foist her off on one of us. ‘Here, Buffy. You know all about being a delinquent. Why don’t you handle her?’”
Spike chuckled. “You’re most likely right, pet. I imagine he’ll find some way to not have to deal with her. And if that’s what we’re in for—”
“What?” Buffy challenged, pushing him back towards the bed, advancing on him slowly. “You ready to quit on me now?”
“Did I say that?” Spike smirked. “Was goin’ to say that if it was goin’ to be like that, takin’ care of baby Slayers could get interestin’.”
Buffy pounced. “So you’re going to take the job?”
“Mostly to be close to you, but yeah. Might be kind of fun for a while.” Spike didn’t let her keep the upper hand for long. She was soon underneath him, a position that Buffy wasn’t at all unhappy about. “We’ll have to practice sneakin’ off, though.” He gave her an evil grin. “That would be even more fun.”
Buffy flipped them again, straddling his waist. “Just like old times,” she agreed. “But better.”
“Much better.” Spike suddenly grew still under her hands, his blue eyes meeting her own with an intensity that Buffy remembered well. “I love you, Buffy.”
“I know,” she replied. “I love you too.”
Hours later they were catching a breather, Buffy’s head pillowed on Spike’s chest. The love-making had been the sweeter for the long period of separation. That, and it had been the first time the two of them had actually made love.
It had been everything Spike had hoped it would be.
“This is nice,” Buffy murmured. “I’m thinking maybe we could just never leave. Stay in this room forever.”
“Okay,” Spike agreed sleepily. “Although, ‘d like to go back to L.A. sometime.”
Buffy stirred herself enough to meet his eyes. “L.A.? Why?”
“Retrieve some things I left, check up on Connor. Feel like I owe Angel that much at least.”
She could hear the left-over pain in Spike’s voice, and knew that it would always be close. He’d lost too much to be unmarked. So had she, for that matter. “Would you want company?”
“With you? Always,” he replied, smiling. “I still miss them, you know.”
“I know.” Buffy turned to press her lips to his bare chest. “We always miss them.”
Spike’s arm tightened around her. “Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, you know, Buffy. No matter what it took to get here, this is where I want to be.” He sighed quietly, hating the truth even as he said it. “Even if my only job was to be with you.”
Buffy raised herself up so she could look him in the face. “Spike, that would never be your only job. You’re a Champion. It’s kinda like being a Slayer. You can take a break, but that’s not something you can leave behind.”
She shook her head. “You’re the guy, Spike. You’re the one who saves the world and lives to tell the tale. The one who just keeps going no matter what. That used to annoy me, but now I’ve realized that it’s one of the things I love the most about you.”
“Was a time I didn’t think I could go on,” Spike confessed quietly. “Just knew I had to find you, tell you what had happened. Angel was the Champion, you know.”
Buffy laughed softly. “So are you, Spike. The world can always use another Champion. For my part, I’m glad it’s you.”
And, for the first time in a long time, Spike didn’t feel quite so badly about surviving, not if it meant living to fight another day at his Slayer’s side.