She honestly didn’t want to deal with them tonight. The questions, the jibes, the accusations. The way Xander looked at her like a criminal when she told him that she wouldn’t be taking Spike to the basement. That his chains would hang empty for at least one more night.
There was no way in hell she was going to shackle her vampire up in a dark, danky basement where the First’s henchmen could break in and steal him away. Sorry, no. She hadn’t risked her life and more to save him only to have him vampnapped again. She hadn’t risked everything to keep him from further torture only to throw him aside like something shameful.
And while that explanation alone should have been satisfactory, Buffy knew as well as anyone that it wasn’t the real reason.
The real reason was the way he’d looked at her when he’d realized that she wasn’t the First. When he’d smiled into her eyes and fought to keep from breaking down. It was a moment they’d shared on more than a superficial level—a moment that nearly transcended human experience. A moment so thoroughly singular, but so significant for what it meant.
Buffy hadn’t let herself worry about him. The few nights that had passed since he was taken were restlessly spent attempting to fall asleep to the sound of her radio. To a television blaring. To anything that would drown out her thoughts. She hadn’t wanted to consider what she would lose if he died. Everything she hadn’t said that night in the basement.
There was absolutely no way she was letting him out of her sight. Not tonight and probably not tomorrow—never again, if she had her say.
“We’re staying in my room,” she called downstairs, her arm tightening around Spike’s waist. “Alone.”
“Scandalous,” Spike gasped into her ear. She grinned in spite of herself. He knew, despite the situation, just how to make her smile. “What will the kiddies think?”
“That you’re a wounded vampire and—”
“An’ it’s your duty, as the vampire slayer, to nurse me back to health?”
She smirked at him, helping him across the threshold. “Let them guess,” she replied. “I don’t care. I didn’t just rescue you to toss you into the basement. They can deal with that.”
Spike hissed in pain as she released him, settling on the mattress. He looked so out of place in the room that was formerly her mother’s, and for a fleeting instant, Buffy was entirely grateful that she’d had the presence of mind to replace the mattress over the summer. She’d done her best to make the room her own, but so many years of conditioning hadn’t thoroughly eradicated the ‘Momish’ presence that overwhelmed her each time she settled in to sleep.
“I’m still expectin’ to wake up,” he said, though his words were cut off with a raucous cough. “I had a few dreams about escapin’. About you comin’ for me, an’ lookin’ at me the way you did. An’ I always woke up. An’ then you’d be there…only it wasn’ you. It was her. That other…the bloody shapeshifter.”
“The First,” Buffy supplied softly, shedding her jacket. “This is real. I promise.” She stepped forward until she was standing between his legs, her fingers curling around his wrist as she raised his hand to her face. “If I wasn’t real, you couldn’t touch me. The First is all ghosty, remember?”
A wealth of emotion flooded Spike’s eyes. He nodded numbly, his fingers grazing her skin with familiar intimacy, and something that had started as a simple gesture suddenly became momentous.
And if that wasn’t enough, the knowledge that she could have lost him just as easily as she’d found him cut her to the bone. So much had already changed this year—she felt she had aged centuries in just a few months. That the girl behind their destructive love affair had finally become a woman, and she was ready to open her heart to him. She was ready to make the sacrifices she’d been too cowardly to consider the previous year.
Only Spike had come back with a bombshell, and it was a whole new ballgame. The task of forgiving him for the bathroom incident had surprised her for how naturally it came, especially when compared to the near-impossible task of forgiving herself. The attack that had prompted his leaving had been nothing more than a physical reaction to the emotional distress she had put him through during their relationship. And while the memory of it hurt, nothing could wound as much as the look in his eyes when he realized what he’d done. When she realized what she had pushed him to—how horribly she had ruined everything.
She’d forgiven Spike long before he returned. And she’d wanted to tell him—and would have—had Dawn not been in her weekly bout of danger. By the time she’d summoned the courage to return, he had seemingly vanished.
The soul had changed everything. The soul had made her realize it was more than a simple matter of him forgiving her, and commencing the healing process. What he had done for her had rattled her world, and it hadn’t taken long to realize that in order for them to work, she needed to do more than forgive.
She needed to make penance. Needed to earn his love, rather than tell him the past was forgotten. There were miles to go before her debt was repaid.
“Somethin’ get you?” Spike asked, trailing his hand down her arm. “You’re all…Christ, Buffy, I’ve never seen you so—”
She blinked and followed his eyes. He was staring at a particularly nasty bruise the Uber Vamp had left on her shoulder. “Oh. It’s nothing. I just got a little bumped around, is all.”
“You had to kill that thing to get to me.”
“Hey. You should’ve seen me on night one.” She offered an awkward smile and lowered her hands to the clasp on his jeans. “Besides, it was worth it. Taught the girls a valuable lesson.” She paused. “And I got to you.”
Spike glanced up. “I…I din’t—”
“I don’t think you know exactly what I went through when I saw you were gone. I just…we were so close, you know? We were so,so close.” Buffy drew in a deep breath, then slowly lowered his zipper and tugged his jeans down his legs. She deliberately ignored the way his erection sprung out at her, though she couldn’t help the thrilled rush that she could affect him like that, even when he was injured. She needed to prove to him that she cared. That she cared about him, and not only what he did to her.
“Buffy…” His voice was strained. “What are you…”
“I’m just trying to help.”
A long, dry chuckle rumbled through his throat. “’F this is your definition of helpin’…”
“This wouldn’t have happened to you if I had been faster.” Buffy glanced down. She felt self-conscious, even if she was still fully clothed. Kneeling before him as he sat naked and wounded on her bed. His face was bruised, but full of love and wonder—so much that, for just a second, she found it hard to breathe.
Penance wasn’t something that Spike was looking for. He’d forgiven her already.
“Buffy, you couldn’t’ve known—”
She met his eyes once more, releasing a deep breath. “I should have. I-I should have uncuffed you, and let you help us in fighting off the Bringers.”
“An’ if they’d triggered my trigger?”
“I would have dealt with it.”
“You say that now—”
“I would have fought for you, Spike.” Her vision blurred with tears, and she glanced down again before she lost it completely. “You bet your ass I would’ve fought for you. It just never occurred to me…but God, it should have. You were given that trigger by the Big Bad, and then the Big Bad was there. I should’ve—”
“You did everything you could.”
“Buffy.” His voice was calm; a soothing call of reason that she’d missed more than she cared to admit. A hand closed around her wrist, his other tilting her chin upward until she met his eyes again. “I’m here. I’m right here. You got me back before that sorry caricature could do any permanent damage.” A wicked grin crossed his face. “’Less you wanna feel out the goods.”
She flushed. “I’d love to.”
There were no words to describe the stunned look on his face.
“But…when it happens…I really need you to know that it’s because I…because I care about you. And not because I need a walking vibrator.” God, the tears were coming back with a vengeance. “I don’t think I realized how much I was…when you were gone—”
“Hey, hey, hey.” The next thing she knew, she was curled in his arms. For all her life, she’d never felt so secure. “I’m right here, sweetheart. I’m right here. An’ I’m not goin’ anywhere.”
Buffy shivered, her fingers tracing a prominent bruise on his breast. “I got you hurt.”
“You din’t.” He shrugged and forced a smile. “I’ll be right as rain in a few days, sweet. Jus’ get me some fresh blood an’ I’m all set.”
She stilled at that, an idea springing forward almost the second that his words fell to silence. And before she could chicken out, before logic could counter desire, she blurted, “Would slayer’s blood help?”
For a long minute, the room was drowned in silence.
She knew the answer—she’d been the Slayer for eight years; of course she knew that slayer’s blood would help. Slayer’s blood was a treasure trove for vampires. The few that got close enough to the blood of the Chosen passed down tales of its powers that oftentimes reached mythical proportions. She knew that her blood carried a prevailing aphrodisiac for vamps—furthermore, she knew how good a bite could feel when prompted by the right emotions.
She also knew that a drop of her blood would go further in healing Spike than all the pig’s blood in Sunnydale.
With that, Buffy sat up in his lap, her body shivering as his erection caressed her crotch, even through the thick layer of denim that separated her flesh from his. “I want you to do it,” she murmured. “I want you to bite me.”
His eyes glossed over and fell, almost reluctantly, to her throat. There was a look on his face that she’d never seen before, and despite the dangerous implications, it did little more than turn her on. Her body had burned for his for so long; now that she had him in her room, now that she had nearly lost him, she needed him to know just how much he meant to her. Just how much she feared she loved him, and had loved him all along. Even as that soulfully soulless criminal-turned-Samaritan—she no longer cared what it made her to love him. Buffy loved Spike, and she was determined that he knew it before they fought the big evil. Before the First had a chance to strike back.
“I can’t,” Spike breathed at last, forcing his eyes away. “You don’ know what you’re askin’.”
“Yes, I do.”
“I did it for Angel. I’m not a novice, Spike.”
A shadow crossed his face, as she knew it would with the mention of her ex. “You loved him,” he said softly, near inaudible, as though anything louder would instigate a shout. “I can’t—”
“Angel tore my throat out, practically. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it was done because he needed it.” She paused. “He needed it. I was a willing donor, yes, but I didn’t necessarily want to give him my neck. He needed slayer blood. Slayer blood would help you, too. A-and I’m guessing that the girls downstairs, even though they haven’t been tapped yet, have something in their blood that would—”
“You want me to—”
The idea of Spike sinking his incisors into another girl’s throat had her seeing red. “No!” she practically barked. “No. I want to do this for you. I want to feel your fangs inside me. I guess…” The awed look was back, but did little more than make her feel thoroughly self-conscious. “I guess you were right all along. I do need a little monster in my man.”
“Something’s changed,” he said slowly. “You’ve changed…jus’ since I was…”
“You were gone,” she replied. “This isn’t about liking men who hurt me. This isn’t about repaying anything. But I want you better. I want to show you what you mean to me, ‘cause I obviously haven’t been apt in that department since…well…ever.”
Spike’s eyes were still narrowed skeptically. “You sure I’m not dreamin’?”
“Things have changed. You were gone.” A trembling sigh escaped her lips, her fingers skimming the bruise on his chest once more. “I told myself I wouldn’t chicken out the next time I had you alone. If I ever got a chance again to tell you—”
“The Firs’ wasn’ gonna kill me, luv.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Yes, you did. You’d know it, Buffy. God, you’d know it before anyone.” He pressed his lips to her brow. “I feel you, sweet. I’ve felt you for so bloody long. I knew when you were hurtin’, even when I was across the world. I felt everythin’. Dunno how, exactly…an’ maybe I dreamt the bulk of it, but you’re in my system, an’ I felt you. Drove me even more outta my mind than I already was.” He paused meaningfully. “You’d’ve known it if I was gone.”
She sniffed. “That doesn’t change anything.”
“I want you to bite me. I need you at full strength, and this is the best way to do it.”
He shook his head, his fingers skimming the bruise on her shoulder. “You’re hurt. You need your blood for you.”
“I’m not gonna hurt you. I’m through doin’ that.”
“You won’t hurt me…no more than I’ve hurt you. But I’m done doing that, and now I’m telling you to drink.”
There was another long pause, then his shoulders sagged in resignation. “You know what I gotta do, then?” he asked as means of formality; of course she knew. She knew exactly what he needed to do. One of their conversations a year ago, after a particularly intense lovemaking, had somehow gotten on the subject of vampiric bites, and the various degrees of pain versus pleasure. In order for humans to feel no pain, he’d said, they had to be sexually aroused at the time of the bite. The bite, then, would intensify orgasm and drown out any potential pain.
Spike had spent a good month after that conversation asking her for permission to bring his fangs into the bedroom. She had, of course, rebuked the notion. Allowing him to bite her took trust, and she didn’t trust him. Absolutely did not trust him.
Only she had, and the knowledge had scared her out of her mind.
“I know,” she acknowledged with a nod, lowering her hands to the hem of her top and lifting it over her head without hesitation. Stripping for him while sitting in his naked lap was unexpectedly nerve-wracking. It hadn’t been a year since they were last together, but for all that had happened, it might as well have been lifetimes.
When she looked up again, she caught Spike staring at her lace-clad breasts hungrily, though with reservation that she had never seen before. As though the slightest touch would cause her to vanish—would force the reality around him to melt, and he’d find himself back in the cavern where she’d rescued him.
He released a ragged breath, raising a hand to finger her bra strap with near reverence. “Buffy,” he gasped. “God, is this real?” He met her eyes, his own shining with tears. “I never thought…what I did to you, an’ you’re still…you’re here with me. You’re…Christ, tell me this is real.”
Emotion overpowered her again, and she forced a nod. “Everything we were talking about,” she said, “and everything else…it’s over. I’ve forgiven you for what happened in the bathroom.” He looked up sharply at that, his face stark with disbelief. “And it wasn’t as hard as forgiving myself…for everything I’ve done to you. You went through so much, and I was a monster. I was a complete monster.”
When he protested, she knew it was more out of loyalty than actual objection. “You weren’t—”
“Yes, I was. And you didn’t do anything to me that I hadn’t done to you.” Buffy heaved a deep breath and looked down, her eyes suddenly glued on his erection. Even with everything that happened, he remained locked in a position of wanting her. It was just as exhilarating as it was frightening—knowing that she had that much power over him had gone to her head once before. She wouldn’t let it happen again. Never, ever again. “I can understand if you don’t want to forgive me yet—”
“I already have.”
Her heart raced. Though she had realized it earlier, there was nothing comparable to hearing the words. “Oh?”
“I love you. That has never changed. Not once.” He rubbed her arms adoringly. “What you went through last year…I can’t begin to bloody imagine. An’ I wasn’…I wasn’ what you needed, even if I wanted to be.”
“I din’t act like a saint, Slayer. We both know that.”
There was no sense in protesting. He was right. They both knew better.
“An’ even with everythin’,” he continued hoarsely. “I’ve never loved you more. Never. God, I thought you were an angel when I realized you were real tonight. I thought…your face. You cut your face.” He brushed his lips across the cut on her cheek, and his kiss rippled through her body. “Are you sure you wanna do this?”
There was no need for clarification. If she hesitated, he might deny her. “Yes.”
“You give me permission to touch you?”
He nodded and motioned for her to stand. “Take off your trousers, luv,” he murmured, his voice purposefully tempered. His left hand, however, wrapped around his erection.
It was rather empowering—disrobing before him as he stroked himself. Her eyes sized up his cock like a woman starved, and for the first time since she crawled from the grave, she felt something akin to pure adulation pump through her veins. When she’d been with him before, she had tried to ignore him and the pleasure he gave her just as much as she reveled in it. Now, with her feelings for him burning her nerves and firing a song in her heart, she was completely encompassed in warmth.
Her bra was the last thing to go, and she heard him inhale sharply when her breasts were finally bared.
“You’re even more beautiful than I remember,” he murmured. “Come here, sweetling.” He scooted back on the mattress. “On my lap, like before.”
Buffy worried a lip between her teeth and nodded, straddling his thighs. She edged forward until her pussy lips grazed the underside of his cock, and released a deep, heady sigh. “I’ve missed you,” she whimpered, barely aware she was speaking. “I’ve really missed you, Spike.”
He offered nothing but a nod, as though anything else would cause him to lose all semblance of control. “Are you sure you want this?” he asked, brushing her hair over her left shoulder so that the right side of her neck was bare. “Last chance, kitten.”
Spike’s eyes fluttered shut and he murmured something unintelligible under his breath, his right arm wrapping around her waist as his other hand slid between them. “I’ve missed you, too,” he said softly, his fingers gliding over her sodden folds. He paused at first contact, then rumbled a long moan, his brow falling to her shoulder. “Christ, you’re so wet.”
Buffy swallowed hard. “Told you I want this.”
“I jus’…” He inhaled sharply and slid two fingers inside her, stretching her further than she’d been stretched in more months than she could count. “I jus’…bloody hell, sweetheart, I never thought I’d be here again.”
Her eyes watered. “Me, neither.”
The insertion of his fingers into her body was like coming home after years of wandering through wilderness. He spread her pussy lips wide with his thumb and ring finger, his hand sliding against her exposed flesh with such aching familiarity that she nearly broke down. She caught herself before her eyes flickered closed, and instead shook her head, determinately meeting his gaze and holding.
No more hiding.
“You’re tight, baby,” Spike whispered, his brow coming to rest against hers. His face was bruised and swollen, but God, she’d never seen him look more beautiful. If anything, his wounds were a sign of his strength, and her admiration for him became even more potent. “You sweet li’l…has there been anyone else, luv? Since us?”
Buffy shook her head desperately, her hips bucking against his hand. “No,” she gasped. “No one.”
“You din’t try to find someone to erase what I did to you?”
“Couldn’t. I could never, Spike. Not when you were…oh God!”
His thumb found her clit and began massaging her tenderly; rubbing her distended flesh with expertise only he had bothered to master. Small shards of pleasure prickled through her body. It had been so long—so long since she allowed herself to feel. So long, even, since she’d sought satisfaction at her own touch, simply because she felt she didn’t deserve it. Now Spike was with her. He pinched her clit lovingly as his mouth fell to her throat, planting a series of ardent kisses up and down a column of waiting flesh.
“I love you,” he rumbled, and she saw a fresh river of tears flood his eyes. “I’m so sorry. God, Buffy, I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you like that. Never meant to…I wanted to kill myself so many bloody times jus’ for makin’ you cry. Makin’ you hurt. I was never s’posed to be the one to hurt you, luv. I was never s’posed to—”
He shook his head ardently, his fingers thrusting deeper inside her. “No.”
“I hurt you.”
“I hurt you, too.”
“I was never s’posed to hurt you. I love you. I love you so much, an’ I still hurt you.” His thumb was rubbing her clit speedily now, and her body raced toward an ignition of sensation. “An’ now—”
“I love you.”
Buffy stifled a moan and took his face in her hands, forcing his eyes to hers. “I love you, too.”
Staunch astonishment first, then an impassioned moan followed by a flash of ivory. His fangs sank into the milky flesh at her neck, and she exploded into orgasm. The walls around her came tumbling down and the world dissolved. His fingers continued thrusting within her with gentle slowness, telling her how much he loved her without words. He supped on her like a man starved, mewling his pleasure into her skin as his mouth became demanding. Buffy’s past experience with vampires and bites had led her to believe that there would be savagery, but there was none. Where others had torn at her throat, he bit her with a lover’s touch. And even as he drank her, he poured himself into every movement. She felt his love flowing into her through the power of touch, and her inner walls collapse entirely.
He handled her as though she had been touched by the Sacred, all the while pushing her boundaries aside—deconstructing the barriers she had carefully placed around her heart. Pleasure came in waves; there had been nothing at all like this feeling. Nothing. Nothing like thoroughly belonging but maintaining herself. Being a part of someone else but remaining confident in her individuality. He rubbed his cock against her, moaning in need, and finally releasing her throat.
“Did you mean it?” he asked softly, his voice oddly controlled. Buffy forced her eyes upward, meeting his that burned with need, offsetting his mouth that was smeared in red. The sight shouldn’t have aroused her like it did, but she couldn’t help her body’s response. “Please tell me you meant it. I couldn’t bloody bear it if you were playin’ me. I couldn’t.”
“I meant it,” she gasped, nodding. “I meant it. I love you.”
Spike stared at her for a minute longer, then his face crumbled and he dissolved in tears. “Oh, Buffy…”
She dropped her head to his shoulder, wantonly rubbing herself against his aching cock. “I need you,” she pleaded softly. “I’m sorry. I told myself I wouldn’t do this—that I wouldn’t ask—”
The next thing she knew, Spike had her pressed against the mattress and under him, staring down at her as though he had only then regained his sight after decades of darkness. He stared into her eyes for long, endless minutes, then growled in surrender and smashed his mouth to hers. It was a kiss that she had been waiting for her entire life, it seemed—a kiss that sealed the past and opened the future. He imbued her with understanding and peace with the knowledge that their personal worst was finally behind them. The world might be falling apart, but things with them—things with Buffy and Spike—were finally where they were supposed to be.
“I’ve waited so bloody long to hear you say that,” Spike whimpered after their lips broke apart, the love in his eyes making her insides tremble. “You can’t know how long I’ve waited.” He whispered a kiss against her chin, his mouth moving southward sluggishly. A cool hand cupped her right breast, puckering her nipple between eager fingers. “Christ, you’re even more gorgeous than I remember.”
Buffy flushed. “You said that already.”
“Sayin’ it again.” He dropped a kiss against the mark on her throat, then began edging down her body, suckling and nipping a wet path to her breasts. “I never thought I’d be here again. Never thought…I…”
She offered a watery smile, her nails dragging a sensual path down his forearms as he laved her nipple with his tongue. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Not goin’ anywhere,” he repeated, almost absently, before continuing his path down her body. When his face was finally perched between her thighs, he wasted no time delving his tongue deep inside her pussy, his fingers capturing her clit and rubbing her with softness that guised his need.
“Fuck, you taste even sweeter than I remember.” He shivered hard against her. “I’ve missed you so bloody much.”
Spike’s teeth skimmed sensually against her sensitive flesh as his fingers massaged her swollen pearl, his mouth pulling away just slightly. “You have no idea how I’ve dreamt of this,” he murmured. “Memories of you haunted me. Bloody well tormented me for the first few weeks. I thought I’d dust jus’ from rememberin’ how warm you are.” He cupped her pussy deferentially. “Rememberin’ how you taste. Rememberin’ how you moan for me.”
As though on cue, a long whimper tore through her throat, and she arched her hips toward his mouth. A small smile played across his face. “You want me, baby?”
Buffy nodded furiously. “Yes! Yes, please!”
“Where do you want me?”
Her hands flew to her thighs, framing her pussy for him. “Here,” she begged, her skin tinting with red even at the suggestion of what she was asking. “Please!”
Spike’s grin widened, and he plunged his tongue inside her tight, wet hole, his groan ringing over hers. “You taste divine,” he purred, his tongue lapping hungrily at her slit.
“’m never lettin’ you go again,” he swore ardently. “Never, Buffy. You hear me?”
“I love you too much to do this half-bloody-arsed again. We do this, we do it all the way.”
She nodded, choking a sob, and thrust herself brazenly against his face. He grinned and stole licks from her slit, purring in satisfaction before leaving her to his thrusting fingers as his mouth sought out her clit.
“Oh yeah,” he murmured, his tongue tapping her hypersensitive bundle of womanly nerves. “You’re mine.”
“Oh God!” she cried, arching off the bed. Her fingers wound through his platinum locks, holding him to her as she rode his mouth. Her body was on the verge of another mind-blowing orgasm—so close. But she didn’t want it like this.
She wanted him inside her. She wanted his eyes above hers, his mouth within kissing distance. She wanted him sharing her pleasure. And as though reading her mind, Spike gently withdrew his mouth from her pussy. He flashed her a wicked grin and, with a parting kiss to her clit, began a slow prowl up her body.
When his face was just above hers, his cock sliding against her wet folds, a bolt of actualization jolted through her. Dear God, this was really happening. A few hours ago, he had been chained to a stone wall, bleeding and abandoned. Now he was with her, his body surging with new energy, and he was entirely hers. There was nothing between them, now—nothing that kept them from each other.
Her issues were either resolved or gone, and somehow, even with all the damage she’d done, she hadn’t managed to lose him. He was still with her, still loving her, and somehow she knew he always would be.
“Buffy?” Spike prompted her softly, smiling when she grinned and brushing his lips over hers. “Is this okay? I don’…I can’t without…you…”
She nodded and thrust herself against his erection without shame. “Yes,” she hissed in pleasure. “Yes, please.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Her face brightened with a smile and she cupped his cheek. “Spike…”
His cock sank inside her, and her body locked with completion. “Oh, my God!” she gasped, digging her nails into his forearms, her eyes squeezing shut. With as much as she thought she had prepared herself, nothing could have readied her for this feeling of rediscovery. This. Dear God, this was what had been missing. The feel of him within her, thrusting slowly into her as he murmured a wealth of sweet nothings into her ear.
It was so different. So different, but the same. The past was colored with pain—they hadn’t made love as much as fucked each other senseless, and it wasn’t for lack of effort on Spike’s part. He’d wanted so badly to love her with his body the way he loved her with his words, but she hadn’t allowed it. She hadn’t wanted to know how good it could feel without the pain, because pain blocked her from thinking it was real. That anything she had with Spike could ever be considered real.
She’d given him more power tonight than she had realized, and the figurative meant more to him than the literal. She knew it. She knew it for the endless awe in his eyes, the gasps that tore through his lips, the sensual slip and slide of his flesh from hers. Her body was burning, and Spike only nursed the fire. His fingers pulled at her nipples, his mouth laved the bite mark on her throat, his cock drove steadily into her pussy, and she was locked on sensory overload.
The love she felt now only intensified their union. She felt as vibrantly as she ever had.
“Christ, baby,” Spike gasped, his voice heightened by a particularly sharp thrust. “You’re so tight. So bloody tight.”
“I haven’t been with anyone since you,” she reminded him, though the words sounded bland and inadequate. There was no way shecould have been with anyone since him, and though she wanted him to know it, she lacked the poet’s skill to put her thoughts into anything but action.
“You feel so good. So good.”
“You do, too,” she agreed with a long moan, clenching her muscles around him the way she knew drove him mad.
There was something hauntingly beautiful about him like this. He gasped again, his mouth dipping to capture a nipple between his teeth. She caught a burning in his eyes that she knew well—a telltale sign that his control was slipping. That his desire to pound her into the mattress was overcoming his need to love her sweetly. While she was more than familiar with a Spike who lost control in bed, she’d never allowed herself to know him the way he’d needed her. She wanted to encourage him to let it go, but there was something sacred about this.
“Never like this before,” he sighed, his cock sliding rhythmically in and out of her passage. “Not before. Not even with you. Feels like…God, what you do to me.” His mouth returned to her throat, slipping a hand between them. His balls slapped her ass with every thrust, rasping grunts tearing through his lips. His fingers settled over her clit and began massaging her rapidly, his eyes glued to her face.
“I love you.” She watched his fangs descend, and the waves crashing over her intensified. “I love you so much.”
“I love you.” Her eyes flashed. “Bite me.”
A muscle in his jaw ticked. “No.”
“You don’…oh fuck, Buffy, you don’ know what you’re—”
Spike’s eyes widened and it was over. His fangs slid into her healing wound, and she exploded around him. Absolute ecstasy tore through her, and she was left with a pure sense of endless lucidity. Actualization surrounded her, and she knew then that she had been touched by the ecclesiastical. Her vampire was thrusting madly into her, her blood in his mouth, and this was it. She knew without fault that there was nowhere else she’d belonged.
In Spike’s arms, she was in the only home she’d ever known. In Spike’s arms, she regained Heaven.
“Mine,” he rumbled into her ear. “You’re mine, Buffy. Forever.”
His eyes widened in astonishment; he’d clearly expected her to rebuke the notion. To deny the possibility that she could belong so wholly to a vampire. To deny him something that meant so much to him, and had, over time, come to mean just as much to her. And it was only when he saw she was serious that he released a rapturous cry and spilled himself deep within her, his arms closing around her and holding her to him.
The world vanished for a few seconds. When she came back to herself, she was holding Spike in her embrace, her hands caressing him absently as he wept.
“Never,” he whimpered. “I’ll never let you regret it, Buffy. I promise you.”
She smiled and brushed a kiss across his brow. “I love you,” she replied softly, and he trembled harder. “There is nothing to regret.”
Nothing at all. Not now. Not when, finally, their path was the same.
That was the way they remained the rest of the night. Curled in each other’s arms, surrounded by the scent of their lovemaking. His cock remained locked within her body, needing that connection. Needing to feel the veracity of one another. Needing to know, above everything, that what they had was real at last.
That was it, then. She had reached her penance.
And they rested.
He’d told her to get her to leave the cavern. To leave him below the earth as it sank into the Hellmouth. To keep her from sacrificing herself at his side.
God, she could kill him for it. Angel first for getting angry and leaving. Leaving when he realized that his grandchilde had claimed—what Buffy assumed—was the prize at the end of a long tunnel to redemption. Only instead of pardon, he’d expected her to run back into his arms.
Once he achieved humanity, he’d said. Once he’d Shanshued.
Then he’d seen the mark on her throat. It took a few minutes, but after convincing the ranting vampire that she’d wanted it—that she loved Spike and that Angel’s chance with her had flown out the window—he’d huffed and puffed and given her mate the necklace that essentially signed his death certificate.
As the world fell down around them, Spike had looked at her and said, “I’ll find you. I promise.”
But there would be no finding. There would be no tearful reunion. The pain in her body was only second to the screaming of her heart. The way he’d looked at her, so full of love, so willing to make a sacrifice that should have belonged to another.
Now she was in some motel in the middle of nowhere, listening to the sound of her heartbeat and trying to ignore the screaming in her head. Her face was crusted with dried tears, and every time she closed her eyes, she saw the serene look on his face as he was blasted away from her.
He had died loved, at least. He had died loved.
And while it was little comfort to her aching heart, she had to be thankful for at least that much.
A hand brushed over her forehead, followed by the familiar caress of a lover’s kiss. “Sweetheart? Are you awake?”
When she didn’t hear anything for a few minutes, she consigned herself to the sad reality that her mind was playing tricks on her. That was, until, she heard a very real sigh, and someone settled next to her in bed. “Let’s jus’ hope I wake up before you do,” he said softly, draping a hand over her waist. “’Else—”
That was it. Her eyes flew open and she twisted in his arms, the world falling away from her when she met the deep, loving azure of his eyes. “Oh my God,” she gasped. “Am I dreaming?”
Spike smiled gently and shook his head. “I told you I’d find you.”
“I…” There were no words. There were absolutely no words. Spike was real—he was actually with her. Just hours before she’d watched him die with a sunbeam through his chest. She’d watched him. And now he was here—now he was with her, and she was at a complete loss.
It was no use attempting to hold in her tears. Buffy broke down completely, her body wracking with long, hard sobs. And immediately, his arms were around her. His true, real, sturdy arms. He rocked her back and forth gently, murmured how much he loved her and how sorry he was that he’d left, even for a little while.
“How?” she demanded raucously. “How?”
“I told you.”
“How long has it been?” Spike kissed her forehead, then her cheek, then pulled back to stare into her eyes. “How long have I been gone?”
Buffy shook her head and buried her face in his chest.
“How long, sweetling?”
“It was…” God, she was shaking so hard. “It was today.”
There was a long, incredulous pause. “Today?”
“I was…it was today?”
“How long was it where you were?”
Spike began to answer, then paused and smiled softly. “Longer,” he said. “A whole bloody lot longer. Fuck, I was begging the Powers to bring me back for what seemed like centuries. They told me that you’d moved on. That years had passed. That…” He paused and released a steady breath. “They did everything they could to talk me out of it. Said I was a bloody loose cannon an’ they weren’t prepared for me. That I’d jus’…I’d taken what they were s’posed to give to Angel. But I’d earned it. Fuck, I’d earned it. They even told me I’d earned it. I gave up sodding everything an’ they…they jus’…” He trailed off helplessly, his arms hugging her tighter with a sweet sigh. “My sweet girl.”
Buffy was at an absolute loss. The day had started a hundred years ago—she’d awoken in Spike’s arms in a town that no longer existed. She was in Spike’s arms again, only he’d been dead. He’d been dead, and he was back.
“What did they give you?” she asked hoarsely, her eyes drained of tears. She touched him everywhere—felt him everywhere—her eyes and hands trying to convince her mind and heart that it was all right now. The past few agonizing hours were over, and he was with her again. “You said they gave you something they were supposed to give Angel. What…?”
There was a long beat, then he broke into a soft smile. “I earned it,” he said gently. “They questioned me forever. An’ I’m not talking a sodding interview—the questions would occasionally be years apart. They stilled time, I s’pose. Stilled it for them. It was a part of the test, you see. The last question was…what if I came back an’ you were pregnant an’ married an’ happy…an’ would I ruin that.” He paused, a pained look fluttering across his face. “I said no. That, if that were the case, I’d jus’ wanna see you. Make sure you were happy, like they said. An’ then they said I passed, rewarded me, an’ sent me here.”
Buffy blinked and swallowed hard. “A-and…what did they give you?”
He was quiet for a long minute. Then, slowly, he wrapped a hand around her wrist and pressed her palm to his chest.
He was warm. He was warm…and she felt it. She felt it under her fingers. She felt it as vibrantly as if it were her own. The slow but oh so real cadence of his heartbeat. Beating for her.
Spike was human. Oh God, Spike was human.
“Shanshu prophecy,” he said, though she knew already. “After everythin’ was over…they gave it to me. Only…they made me stronger.”
“Than a vampire.” He paused. “Strong as you.”
“They made you…”
“They made me someone you could be with.”
Buffy’s eyes fluttered shut. She was beginning to feel lightheaded. “Oh. Oh.” And then, from nowhere, her eyes flooded again, and she broke with a fresh incursion of tears. “You were gone,” she gasped, tightening her arms around him as she let loose her grief. “I was there and you were gone.”
“I’m here now, sweetling.”
She shook her head. “You can’t leave me again. You can’t.”
“I’m not goin’ anywhere.” She felt his fingers at her throat, rubbing the claim mark he’d given her months ago. “You’re mine, remember?”
Small shivers raced through her body. There was no way she could ever forget.
“You’re mine,” he said again. “Now an’ bloody always.”
“The claim is still—”
“Better bloody believe it.”
“Doesn’ matter what I am now. What I was when I claimed you marked you as mine. That wasn’ the demon, luv. My soul took up the demon. Fuck, the demon was yours from day bloody one.” He shrugged, though she could tell, as she calmed, that he was making light of a complicated matter to ease her. “See?” He turned his head, revealing the bite mark she’d given him just last night.God, just last night. And it looked as fresh as ever. He’d explained, after she bit him, that claim marks remain visible forever. Hers would just as a vampire’s, and he was happy to bear it.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” she whispered.
Spike smiled. “Made a promise to a lady.”
And then he kissed her. It was supposed to be reassuring, but became passionate and needy. She felt him growl into her as his fingers tugged at her t-shirt—one of the many she’d stolen from him in the past few months. And as he parted her legs, rubbing his denim-clad cock against her pussy, it hit her completely. Thoroughly.
He was with her. He was really with her. And they had what slayers couldn’t have.
They had a future.
Buffy hadn’t thought she had tears left, but her eyes were determined to prove her wrong. And as Spike slid inside her, locking them together intimately, she knew not to doubt. The few hours without him were over.
“I love you,” he whispered against her lips, his eyes shining.
She tugged his mouth down for another kiss. “I love you, too.”
And she was determined to show him, every day, just how much she meant it.