Part One: Tender is the Night
It was another evening in Sunnydale.
Buffy Summers glanced up, eyes going wide as a flying vampire soared over her body and crashed into the headstone behind her before imploding into a thousand spectacles of shimmering dust.
“Nothing like cuttin’ it fine, eh pet?”
She snickered. Typical that he would find that funny. “Next time, how about a little more cutting and a little less fine?”
Spike shrugged, dazzling her with one of his patented smiles. It was damn near impossible to resist, yet she managed admirably. “See,” he retorted, running a hand through platinum strands, “we’ve already run into a problem. I can’t do anythin’ without being fine.”
“Yeah, yeah. You bloody well love it.”
Buffy pouted. “Either way,” she said, “you effectively managed to dust our only competition tonight. It hasn’t been this slow in…ever.”
“You call that competition?”
“You must understand, when I say competition, I mean saving grace from boredom.” She sighed. “This sucks.”
At that, Spike didn’t bother trying to argue, which annoyed her because he was pretty much her only challenge these days They were definitely in the quiet before the storm. And what a quiet it was. With only a few vamps on the move and even fewer willing to present themselves as targets, there was little to be done outside of looping sweeps.
Not that Buffy wanted to patrol, per se, especially when there were more pleasant ways to spend her nights right now. But there were several fundamentals every slayer had to acknowledge at one point or another. And, as Spike loved to point out, she got irritable if she went too long without hitting things. There were aspects of herself that were too Faith-like for comfort.
Things had been uncommonly quiet on that front as well. Two weeks had passed since the creepy-crawly box confiscation thing had gone awry, and nothing more had come of it. Silence disturbed her—made her feel like she wasn’t looking in the right place. At least when something was screaming, she could defend herself. And while he would never admit it, Spike was concerned, too. While, true, he had made habit of following her on patrol since they’d put a label on their relationship, he was becoming more protective of her. Not allowing her to get too far from sight while they wrestled up the few baddies that decided to pick a fight. Buffy never mentioned of it, of course, and he would deny it if she did. She knew that he knew that she could take care of herself.
Also, his worry was incredibly sweet, but she wouldn’t mention that, either.
“Has been bloody slow,” Spike agreed.
“Just means something big’s coming.”
He perked an eyebrow. “How you figure?”
She shrugged. “Just seems more likely. Besides, that’s what usually happens.”
“Really? Hmmm. Never noticed that. Even with your brooding ex and the Acathla nonsense?”
Buffy gnawed on her lip thoughtfully, brow furrowing. There were so many aspects of that entire affair she purposefully had attempted to forget. “No,” she answered. “But that was because Angel was sending henchmen after me. Big diff.”
“Wanker couldn’t even plan an apocalypse properly,” Spike decided good-naturedly, wrapping an arm around her waist to pull her against him, nuzzling her hair. “We done here, love, or do you wanna take another sweep?”
She had to resist the urge to melt into him, still unaccustomed to a boyfriend who was so touchy-feely. There had been a time where Angel hadn’t seemed determined to keep touching her, too, but after Angelus and Acathla, she’d gotten used to being part of a couple in the most distancy-sense possible. “Nah. We’re done.”
“These vamps are right inconsiderate. Gettin’ us all worked up only to bail before the big finish,” Spike said with an eager smile. “Leaves a bloke all…unsatisfied.”
Buffy tried to mask a grin with irritation, but his lustful gaze did her in. “Sorry,” she said. “No playtime tonight. Homework. Besides, I think Mom wanted me in early.”
Spike sighed. “History?”
He winced. “Sorry.”
“Not nearly as sorry as I am.”
Wordlessly, they fell into step in the direction of Revello Drive, Spike taking her hand. He did that a lot, too, and she liked it.
“You’d think being the Slayer would come with certain privileges,” Buffy continued. “Like not having to go to school and having a steady paycheck.”
“Poor baby,” Spike cooed, and brushed a kiss across her cheek. “If you want, I can eat your teacher.”
She pretended to consider it. “Nah,” she decided. “Education is probably a good thing.”
“That’s just rot they tell you to keep you from dropping out.”
“Hey. Impressionable youth here.”
“Just letting you know now so you’ll be prepared when you become disillusioned in ten or so years.”
“Let me live in my delusion.”
“’Course, pet. Whatever makes you happy.”
Buffy tossed him a coy glance. “Well,” she said. “I do have some English homework, too. Granted it’s fairly easy, but I bet it’d be even easier if—oh say—someone helped me out with it.”
Spike smirked and cocked his head. “I suppose,” he said, “for the good of your education and all things literature. What’s the assignment?”
“Paper on Lord of the Flies. Ever read it?”
“Can’t say that I have. When’s it due?”
“Thursday. I know what to say and all that stuff, but it’d help if…” She gazed off thoughtfully. “Actually, that might be a very bad idea, all things considered. Get us alone and give us a room and—”
“I’ll be a good boy. Promise.”
She narrowed her eyes.
“Well, I’ll try.”
A brow perked.
Spike’s shoulders slumped, and she would have laughed at his crestfallen face were she not lamenting the oh so inconvenient truth that enclosed areas plus her horny boyfriend equaled no study. “You can chain me up?” he offered.
“Mmm…a chained up Spike in my room.”
“Never said it was your room, now did I?”
“No,” she agreed, giving him one of her patented sultry looks that he claimed on a nightly basis should be outlawed. “But where else would I need any chains?”
“Oi now!” he protested. “I’m a demon. I’m supposed to be evil. What’s your excuse?”
The sultry look faded into a grin as she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him into her. “Guess I’m just under the influence.”
“You’re gonna be under somethin’ in a minute.”
Buffy giggled before kissing him. “Better not,” she murmured. “Really…homework.”
“Right,” he replied huskily. “Well, at least let me get you home.”
She narrowed her eyes.
Spike pulled back, hands going up. “Completely innocent. I won’t ravish you on your lawn.”
“Oh, yeah. Like it’s never happened before.”
The most ridiculous innocent look overcame him. “Can’t imagine what you mean,” he replied, his lips twitching until the memory of that night two weeks ago chased away his poker face. “Okay. Right. That one time. And it was your fault.”
“You came after me in your nightie. That provocative skimpy little—”
“Skimpy?! It is so not skimpy.”
“Kitten, it was all lacy and see-through and your tits were so lonely. My mouth had no choice, see. And you weren’t wearing knickers.”
“You’ve told me not to!”
“And you started listening to me then? Face it, Slayer, those nighties are made for one reason and one reason only. To drive yours truly out of his mind. To get your boyfriend to crawl on his hands and knees to make sure every…itch is satisfied.” He dragged his tongue over his teeth, which wasn’t fair because he knew how much she liked that. “What’s a bloke to do?”
Two could play at that game. Buffy switched from defensive to pouty, which happened to be one of his weaknesses, thank you very much. “My mother could’ve been—”
“Hush now. You loved it.”
“That tree was hard.”
“Tree wasn’t the only thing hard. Made you scream good enough.”
Buffy smirked. “I’m doing nothing to stroke your ego. You hardly need the encouragement.”
“You know it.”
Spike merely smiled at her, tightening his hand around hers as her home came into view. “You sure there’s nothing I can help with, pet?”
“Not unless your last name is Golding and you wrote a controversial novel that managed to wheedle its way into my English curriculum.”
He winced. “Sorry, no can do. Last I checked, I’m just Spike.”
“I suppose I can accept that.”
Spike snorted and pulled her to a stop. “It’s hard being you,” he murmured into her ear, planting mocking lovebites up and down her throat. It was amazing. Despite all they had shared, he could still ignite the fire within her in mere seconds. “No vamps to kill, no unhinged slayers to fight, no time to shag your incredibly shaggable boyfriend.”
Buffy couldn’t help but smirk. He just liked saying the b-word in reference to himself, and being the softie she was, she couldn’t help but find it absolutely adorable.
And as much fun as it was making out with him in her front yard, there was unfortunately homework to be had, and in mass amounts. Teachers and Sunnydale High didn’t seem to grasp that senior year was not meant for actual work. “Really, Spike, I gotta go,” she told him, forcing herself to pull away. “I’m already two assignments behind in algebra and if I don’t get that book read and written about, I’m as good as dead.”
“Right.” A whispered kiss across her lips. “Wish I could help, love, but math and I are—”
“In your diluted version of the English language, yes.”
She snickered. “You’re one to talk.”
“You still studying Roman history?”
“Yeah. We’re about to Vespasian, now.”
“Ah. If memory serves, he’s the bloke that coined the infamous: ‘Vae puto deus fio’ before he kicked it. Lemme know when you get to Marcus Aurelius. Gotta admire a git who persecutes a bunch of holy people.” When she just stared at him, Spike shifted and glanced away in a manner that made him positively the most endearing thing on two legs. “What?”
“You’re so cute.”
He scoffed. “Am not.”
“Are too. With your big ole brain that you hide behind questionable judgment.” Buffy seized advantage of his mock-offended expression to worm into his arms again, resting her head against his chest. She chuckled when he immediately drew her nearer. “Of course, it’d help if you were the responsible type who told me to go do my homework.”
“I second that. And yet, it needs to be done.” With great reluctance, Buffy tipped upward to plant a brief, however heartfelt kiss on his lips before stepping out of reach. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Better believe it,” he answered with a grin. “Same time, same place. Oh, and Buffy?”
She turned, her heart leaping even though she knew what was coming.
“I love you.”
Buffy couldn’t stop her grin if she tried. “I know.”
Spike remained stationary until she was no longer in sight.
It was amazing. This was amazing. This everything that he suddenly had.
So much had happened since the night they’d made this official—the night she’d kicked Angel to the curb right before hopping into Spike’s bed. He had told her that he loved her then, and repeated it every night thereafter. Buffy had not said it back yet, but there were times he could swear he felt it with the way she looked at him. Smiled at him. Kissed him. And especially when she got down on her knees and—
Yeah. This was perfection. And it was his.
His. Buffy Summers was his.
It was bizarre, being this content, but he found he liked it very much. Still, Spike was hesitant; he didn’t want to surrender himself to unbridled happiness—he knew far too well how quickly it could be ripped away. But it was hard. It was so hard. He was here, he had the woman he loved, and it was he who got to kiss her goodnight. Every night.
There was no bloody doubt—the unlife didn’t get any better than this.