Setting Up House

Rating:
Total Chapters: 22

What if the second social worker actually paid a visit to Buffy and Dawn after the incident in “Gone,” and Dawn and Spike convinced Buffy to set up house with Spike? (Eventually, it’s a bit of a crossover fic with AtS.)

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Thank you: Extra special thank you to enigmaticblues for beta-ing the final chapters of Setting Up House. It was quite an undertaking as she had to read the first 15 chapters before reading the new stuff, so I’m so incredibly grateful!
Original dedication: This story is written especially for Aimee B., who believes in me! If you’re still out there, I hope you like the conclusion to your story. Sorry it took me so long to finish.
New dedications: And finishing this story, I realized how much I miss my friends from fandom who are less involved now. . .we had some wonderful times, chatting about BtVS and life and everything, learning to design websites (all those geocities sites before hosting domains), in some cases meeting in person, and creating awesome Spuffy and fandom art and writing before LJ and tumblr! You guys will always be in my heart. So this story is also dedicated to my original Spuffy and fandom friends. . . the ones from the beginning. . .Rachel, Thia, Rhonda, Lyssa, Jenn, Roxy, Yani, Natalie, Leigh Anne, Mia, Ali, and Aydin.


 

First, Make a Plan

“Please.”

Dawn’s big blue eyes contain a note of desperation that I’ve come to recognize even though she’s managed to keep it from her tone of voice. I recognize it because I see it reflected in my own eyes every time I’ve looked in the mirror since Willow and the others brought me back from death.

I glance at Spike, tucking a strand of my now short blond hair behind my ear and mentally kick myself. After all, he just goaded me in the kitchen a few days ago about the way my hair bounces or something.

Spike’s equally blue eyes glint back at me. “So, pet, what’ll it be?”

I take a step closer to Dawn and sigh. When had I started feeling so disconnected? When had I started feeling like I didn’t have a family anymore? My mind races back in time, but I can’t pinpoint an exact moment.

Before I realize words are coming out of my mouth, I hear myself saying, “Okay” without a trace of anger or resentment. Dawn squeals with delight, bouncing and flinging her arms around my neck for a brief instant before dancing back to her original spot. Then, I add, “But there are going to be some rules.”

Spike smirks at me. “There always are with you, Slayer.”

Planting my hands on my hips, I shoot daggers at him with my eyes. “That’s because you don’t have any boundaries unless I set them for you.”

He catches and holds my gaze, jamming his thumb in the waistband of his jeans. “Whatever you want to think to make yourself feel better.”

I ignore him and flick a finger out. “One. This does *not* mean that you and I will share a bedroom.”

“So, I’ll be sleeping with Dawn.”

Dawn lightly punches him with her unbroken arm. “I got the bed; you got the floor, Mister.”

I roll my eyes. “Willow will be moving in with her parents for a while. She mentioned it to me last night.”

“Good,” Dawn says, cradling her cast in her left hand.

“Just until this mess is straightened out. Besides, even though her parents are pretty much oblivious to her life, I think she could use some chicken soup and home loving to help her adjust to losing Tara and staying off the magic.”

“Do you think they’ll get back together?” Even though Dawn is obviously angry at Willow for almost getting her killed and breaking her arm, she still loves the idea of Willow and Tara. . . her ideal of love and romance, and she misses Tara a lot.

I stroke her shoulder. “I’m sure they will. They just have to sort some things out. Sometimes that just takes time.”

Spike interrupts our sisterly moment, “So, that’s the only rule, huh? Think I can handle that.”

Raising my voice again, I continue, “Rule number two. No blood in the kitchen refrigerator.”

“No blood? What the hell am I going to eat?” A thoughtful expression colors his features. “Of course, if I can have hot running blood anytime I want, I won’t have to worry about. . .”

“No!” Dawn and I protest together.

Spike opens his mouth to make another comment, but before he can unleash the words, the doorbell rings.

Dawn jerks a little in surprise. “Shit! They’re here!”

“Rule number three. No cussing in front of the social worker. I had a hard enough time getting rid of Mrs. Whats-her-name. . . you know, the last social worker that stopped by.” I glare at Dawn and Spike. “No thanks to either of you.”

“Hey, now,” Spike protests. “I tried to help; I can’t help if the bint got the wrong idea.” He raises a finger at Dawn. “And the Bit here was just exercising her right to be a bit of a grump after what happened with Red.”

“Right.” Dawn nods. “I’m prepared to do better this time. And it’s a different social worker, so we can make new impressions. I really, *really* don’t want to go live with Dad.”

“Could have fooled me,” I murmur under my breath as I shake my head and hurry to answer the door as the bell rings a second time. I turn my head to give the eager pair a final warning as I grasp the doorknob. “Be good.”

Straightening my shirt over the waistband of my skirt, I fling open the door, plastering a huge smile over my face. Although the smile feels more than a bit forced, the grin allows me to bring a happier note into my tone of voice. “Good morning!”

I try not to grimace at the social worker standing on my doorstep. Taking a deep breath, I meet his steel grey eyes with my green ones and extend my hand in greeting. The social worker’s large meaty hand nearly swallows my fingers against his palm, and I have to remind myself not to squeeze too tightly when he purposefully hangs onto me a little too long. After all, I am supposed to be “a meek little girly girl” as Willow once told me back in high school.

“Welcome to our home, Mr., er. . .”

“Helmunde is my name.”

There’s no other word for him. Mr. Helmunde is huge. He’s over six foot tall and almost as wide, but he’s by no means overweight. The muscles in his arms, legs, and neck look like they might pop out of his shirtsleeves, khakis, and collar any second.

His clothes are almost too neatly pressed, and his skin is paler than Spike’s. Still, his flesh is warm, and he walked up the sunny sidewalk from his surprisingly tiny car, so he’s definitely not a vampire. His nose is narrow and pinched, and it doesn’t quite fit on the broad expanse of his face. A set of the smallest glasses I’ve ever seen perches over his hard eyes.

He pushes his way through the door before I have a chance to invite him into the house, his large frame coming more in contact with me than I would like.

Mr. Helmunde stops short in the small foyer by the staircase and surveys Dawn and Spike without moving to let me around him. He bends his head forward and studies his clipboard, roughly flipping a few pages. He clicks open his ballpoint pen and jots a note on the paper.

I still can’t see what’s going on, and Mr. Helmunde’s not moving any time soon. I resist the urge to shove him forward and squeeze up next to my sister, stuffing my hands in the back pockets of my skirt. Ever the polite hostess, I ask, “So, would you like something to eat or drink? We have soda and juice and milk if you like. And I think we may have some protein bars left over from when my friend, Xander, went on the Atkins diet a few months ago. And you can come into the living room and take a load off. I’m sure you’re tired from all the running around to different houses all day.”

Continuing to click his pen open and closed, Mr. Helmunde regards me with an “are you insane, lady” look. Ignoring my offer of hospitality, he states, “First of all, I’d like you to begin by telling me who the hell this young man is, why Dawn’s arm is broken, and why Dawn is living under the care of such a young woman as yourself.” Before any reasonable amount of time has passed, he demands, “Well. Is anyone going to explain this to me?”

I step forward and try to peer at the papers on his clipboard. Talking over the sharp noise of the pen, I attempt to explain our situation, “Well, sir, I think the paper work should say that I’m Dawn’s older sister even though I look younger. I mean, I know I look young; I get carded all the time. Well, not to say that I drink a lot. . .often. In fact, I rarely do. . . drink. . . except when I’ve had a bad day or something.”

Mr. Helmunde raises his thick black eyebrows at me, and Dawn nudges me, so I finish weakly, “And our mom died last year?”

The beefy social worker “You still haven’t told me who this young man is.”

I blink. Young man? There is no young man here.

Sighing, Spike opens his mouth, “I’m her boyfriend.”

Somehow even though that was the plan, I still feel uncomfortable with the idea. To settle the fresh butterflies in my stomach, I remind myself that Spike took care of Dawn all summer while I was gone. . . that he had kept his promise to always protect her. That’s what we were doing now.

“Yes,” I pipe up, feeling Spike’s eyes flicker to me in surprise at my acceptance of his words. “He is.”

Mr. Helmunde starts writing with even greater vigor, simultaneously asking, “Do you really think you should be dating someone so young?”

Oh, shit. These social workers are tough. When will they get with it and realize it’s the 21st century. . . that people live together and raise children all the time without being married? Doesn’t matter that Spike is over a century older than me. He certainly doesn’t act his age. . . or look it.

Spike’s voice takes on the defensive tone that he always uses when one of us verbally attacks him, “Um, I don’t really see how you can make that judgment. . .” He catches the alarm on my face and backs off. “. . . sir.”

I didn’t think Mr. Helmunde’s muscles could bulge anymore, but now he’s flexing them, and his face is turning various shades of red. “It certainly is my business. It’s against the law for someone *your* age to date a minor.”

Dawn’s half-hiding behind me now, but she interjects, “Buffy’s not a minor.”

Mr. Helmunde’s color immediately drops to pink. “Oh, you’re Dawn’s sister’s boyfriend,” he says, more to himself than anyone in the room. He rather dramatically draws a line through the lines he’s just written and keeps scribbling this new information down. “Still.” He gives Spike and me a disapproving look. “That’s a little questionable. Exposure of *that sort* might have a negative impact on impressionable minds.”

Spike flares. “Look here. Dawn’s not a little chil. . .” My hand falls on his forearm, and he stops, startled by my voluntary touch.

Luckily, Mr. Helmunde ignores Spike’s edge and seems to notice only what he wants to notice, no matter how skewed it is.

A beeping noise fills the air as Mr. Helmunde’s writing. Dawn and I look at each other and around the room to see what might be going off. For all we know, it could be any one of several things like the smoke alarm, my pager, or some sort of magical alarm set up by Willow or Tara to protect the house.

Mr. Helmunde reaches for his hip without taking his eyes from his clipboard. Not even glancing at the beeper in his hand, he says, “Looks like you’ve lucked out for a few more hours. I got an emergency. I’ll be back to check the house to see if your story checks out.”

“Um, check out our story? What will you be looking for?” Dawn asks innocently, and I’m glad she’s the one who’s voiced a question.

The social worker manages to offer my sister a small smile, albeit a patronizing one. “Well, if I told you that, it wouldn’t really be a check, now would it?” Without another word, he turns to leave. Pausing in the doorway, he throws back, “Think about it.”

The door slams behind him. Dawn, Spike, and I stare at the closed door.

“Wow,” is all I can manage.

“He’s a nit,” Spike mutters with just as much fluency as me.

I nod, a giggle in the back of my throat at the irony of how screwed we are. “Definitely. A big ole jerk person. . . with beady little bird eyes.”

“Can you imagine him and his wife in bed together?”

Dawn and I make faces at Spike.

“Gutter brain,” I fire at him.

“What?” Spike protests. “You gotta admit that the git was ugly.”

“A git with a funny name. Isn’t Helmundes a type of mayo?” Dawn asks with an expression of such pure sincerity that Spike and I dissolve in laughter.

We are so screwed.

Epilogue the Second

Three More Months Later

Spike gently pushes aside my now long hair and kisses my neck as I stand by the mirror and slide my earrings through their respective holes. I can’t help but giggle.

His lips hovering over my skin, he asks, “What’s so funny, love? Ticklish?”

“You don’t have a reflection.” Maybe I’m getting used to his lack of reflection now.

“Kind of like I’m invisible.”

My breath catches in my throat, and I shiver at the memory of the time when I was invisible. . . such a freeing experience. Well, before the whole almost disintegrating piece, but the unseen sex was kinky. My mind starts going all kinds of places, but I manage, “Kinda like.”

Spike and I haven’t actually taken our intimacy to that level since he came back, and I’m not sure why. Part of me knows that he’s still struggling with the soul even though the night terrors have lessened and the haunted look in his eye isn’t as prominent as often. I still catch him staring off into space, caught up in some thought or memory that he doesn’t always share.

The other part of me thinks that some of the reason is me, too. I mean, Spike went and got a soul. My therapist says that the depression I’ve had makes me see myself in a negative light, but I don’t know. I struggle to see how I’m worthy of him now. I understand the logic of the situation, but the emotional side. . . not so much. Look how I’ve treated him in the past. One speech to Angel doesn’t make up for years of insults and doubts and pushing him away. So I beat myself up. . . metaphorically that is.

I don’t tell Spike. I don’t want him to feel guilty for something that isn’t his fault and I’m a little afraid he’ll try to take care of me when I’m supposed to be taking care of him. It’s something I have to take care of myself. My therapist is working on this with me, and we’re making headway.  But how do I break through the barrier that’s in place between us now?

I miss the intensity of our passion, and I know when we do. . . find our way back to physical intimacy again, it will mean so much more than it ever did before.

“Penny for your thoughts,” he whispers against the skin close to my ear.

Who’s lost in space now?

Back in the moment, I find myself turning to him, our faces so near that we’re almost touching. With deliberate slowness, he caresses my cheek and then traces my lower lip with a cool fingertip, his eyes alive with a burning flame. He kisses me with tenderness and confidence, and I follow his lead as he deepens the touch.

He pulls away with such abruptness that my heart doesn’t even have time to react. He leaves his forehead against mine and softly says three words that he’s said in the past.

“I love you.”

His voice carries no trace of sarcasm, desperation, arrogance, or self-hate. . . only his most vulnerable emotions and something akin to trust.

He doesn’t wait for me to respond and kisses me again, and this time, his hand finds the small of my back, and he pulls me forward so that my body is pressed against his. My hands land on his upper arms, and I stand on tiptoe to return the passion in his ministrations. Jets of desire rocket over my skin and dive deep inside until they almost consume me, and I long for something more than just kissing.

Unwilling to break our connection, my hands blindly find the hem of his T-shirt and discover the bare skin beneath. He allows me to free him of the cloth, and I manage to somehow lose my blouse before backing him toward our bed. He sits and then willingly falls back as I climb atop him. Leaving a trail of small kisses up his abdomen, I find his neck and press my lips against the hollow of his throat, lingering there so that he lets out a low moan.

He flips me onto my back then, and he teasingly runs his fingers over my collar bone, down to my breast, and over my stomach to plunge beneath the waist of my jeans. He thumbs open the button and pulls the denim down to grasp my hip. His touch leaves me breathless, and my back arches of its own accord. He pulls me up, locking his lips with mine. All conscious thought dissipates as his bare skin finally contacts mine. I feel a flood of relief as if I’ve found my way home, and Spike trembles and lets out a low moan.

In what has to be the world’s worst timing, the phone rings.

Spike and I both freeze.

Without thinking, I grab for the receiver on my nightstand. Spike strokes my foot, hitting a sensitive spot as I say, “H-hello.”

“Miss Summers?” The voice is utterly unfamiliar.

“Yes? I mean, yes, that’s me. Well, there’s my sister. She’s a ‘Miss Summers,’ too. I’m Buffy. Buffy Summers.”

Spike lifts a questioning eyebrow at me. I shrug in response. He returns his attention to massaging my foot. He’s interrupting my focus, and I am tempted to kick him.

“My name is Eva Allen. I’m one of the regional managers at the California Department of Social Services, and I’m calling to extend an apology.”

“An apology?” I sit up straight in bed, and Spike follows my lead. He can probably overhear the conversation with his vampire hearing.

“Yes. We recognize that both of the social workers we’ve sent to your home to check on your sister’s living conditions have been. . . How can I say this? Unprofessional.”

“Uh huh.” That’s putting it mildly.

“You should know that they are both on extended leave. We take these things very seriously, and again, I’m sorry for your inconvenience.”

Wait. I know Doris was a real social worker, but. . . The words slip out of my mouth before I can stop them, “So, uh, Mr. Helmunde. He’s a real social worker?” Now both Spike’s eyebrows are raised at me. I mentally slap myself. So stupid. Eva isn’t saying anything now. Great. “Hello?”

“Yes, he is a real social worker. Why do you ask?” Eva sounds wary.

“Oh, n-no reason. I just, um, was worried about his son, Billy. . . if he’s on leave.” May as well throw it all out there.

“He told you about his son? Well, see there is more evidence that he. . . Our social workers shouldn’t be sharing personal information about themselves. I’m sorry about that. That will be added to his file.”

“So, uh, you just called to apologize?” There’s got to be more to this.

“Well, no, actually. I’m also calling to inform you that I will personally be coming out to your home to inspect it and make sure it’s a fit home for Dawn.”

Crap. “When?”

“It will be an unscheduled drop in next week.” She sounds much sterner now.

What do I say to that? “O-okay. We’ll be here.”

“All right. I will see you then. Goodbye.”

I hang up without returning the goodbye, shoulders sagging in defeat. “What are we going to do?”

Spike takes my hand, playing with my fingers, and I can tell he’s picked on enough of the conversation to understand. “We’ll make it through. Now that she’s back, we’ll have Red do a background check on Eva to make sure everything is on the up and up. And if she checks out, we’ll handle the inspection. No problem. I think we got the home set up going just fine now. We won’t have to worry about condoms and emptying bottles.”

“Or hanging up your clothes.” I smile at him. “What do you think happened to Mr. Helmunde?”

Spike is quiet for a moment. “I think, pet, that the Watcher’s Council may have replaced him with a golem when he left for that emergency. Remember?”

“Makes sense. Guess we’ll never know for sure.” I lean back against my headboard while Spike lounges on his side next to me.

A heartbeat or two passes, and then, his eyes shine with a mischievous glint. “About what we were doing before. . .” He trails off, letting his fingers skim over my hip, and my brain happily settles back into the world of sensation.

A loud and eager sounding voice resounds from the bottom of the stairs, “Buffy! Spike! Are you guys coming? Time to patrol!”

Damn it!

Spike actually grins at me as he pulls away, and I want nothing more than to ignore our summons and continue our rediscovered carnal urges. What if we can’t find it again?

However, he doesn’t seem to want to go with my plan and doesn’t seem to have my anxieties. He scoops up his shirt, tugs it on, and tosses me mine.

I mock glare at him, get dressed, tug on my boots, and check my hair out in the mirror. My mane is a mess, so I hastily run my fingers through the strands and tug them into a low bun. That’ll have to be good enough.

“At least you’re not wearing heels,” he comments as he snags a couple of my stash of wooden stakes.

“I learned my lesson.”

Spike opens the door and motions me out, kissing my shoulder and swatting my behind as I go by.

My heart is thumping with emotion, and although I want to address his earlier declaration, I decide to keep it light, “Tease.”

And then, louder, I call, “Coming, Dawnie!”

* * *

“Dawn! Go!”

“Hurry up, pigeon!”

Spike bear hugs the thrashing vampire from behind and then takes a step back so that the vamp is off balance and his arms are pinned to his sides. The dirt-covered fledgling tries to kick but can’t without falling further into Spike’s trap.

Dawn darts forward from where she’s been watching Spike and me wear out the newbie in his funeral suit and tie. I like when vamps are buried in ties. Ties make slaying easy. Grab a tie, stake a heart.

Giving her stake a little toss to attain a better grip on the wood, she stands to one side of the still struggling vamp, brings her arm back, and thrusts the stake into her target’s chest, grunting with her effort. When he explodes in a ball of dust, she squeals and does this little move that could somehow be called her touchdown dance. . . not that I watch a lot of football.

“Dawn, watch with the shrieking,” I remind her as we move away from the scene of the staking. “We talked about this.”

Spike slings a brotherly arm around my sister in a triumphant moment, and she grins up at him. “Nice one, pet. You’re getting good at this. Buffy better watch her back. Someone might be taking over soon.”

I smile at the easy camaraderie they’ve created since Spike started feeling mentally and physically better. I’m also happy that we almost found a different kind of camaraderie before this patrol.

“Let’s not get too confident. It’s only her second vamp.” I bend to scoop up Spike’s stake and flip it to him. He catches it easily with his free hand. “And she’s only practicing on the heart. . . not the actual fighting part.”

“You make me sound like I’m a surgeon. And third!” she reminds me. “Don’t forget my date! I staked my date on Halloween.”

Spike adds, “Oh yeah. You did, didn’t you?” He raises an eyebrow at me, and I melt a little inside. “Don’t get any ideas, pet. . . not that you haven’t threatened it before.”

I give him a little smirk. “Help me with the laundry, and you won’t have to worry about it.”

Spike rolls his eyes. “Bringing up the bloody laundry every chance you get.”

Contrary to what I originally thought when Spike moved into our house, he is amazingly good at cleaning clothes and always manages to somehow get out all the stains. . . blood, dirt, grass with random household chemicals. I like to tease him that in all those years as a vampire that he had to learn to improvise. I can’t picture Spike in a Laundromat, but he must have sometimes gone. He really is very hygienic for a vamp.

We start walking toward the cemetery exit, weaving between tombs and headstones. Spike finds my hand, and his touch is so comfortable that I marvel that I didn’t always feel that way. He gives me a single look, and I wonder that he can send a wave of desire through me just by the light in his eyes. . . the same light as earlier this evening. The nightmares and flashbacks are lessening, and the pain of his past is receding. I just hope that Dawn and I have helped with that.

Dawn walks backwards in front of us. “Now that the baddies are all dusty, are we going to see Willow and Tara?”

Willow and Tara just got back from England where Willow trained heavily with Giles and with Hanna and her coven. I’m eager to see my best friend, so I can hug her and catch up. I’ve missed her, and I know Xander has, too. Anya and Xander are still broken up, but Anya remains close with the group and is hosting a welcome home party for the two witches at the Magic Box. More than once, I’ve thanked her for helping Spike, which I can tell pleases her.

“Only for a little while. You have school tomorrow.”

This is why Spike and I are training Dawn. . . actually, it was Spike’s idea. We’re trying to get her ready to go to school on the hellmouth. Xander’s been giving her little nuggets of advice based on our adventures, many of which I kept from her when we were growing up. She likes to pick on me about them, especially about the time I was a rat, an experience that now has a whole new meaning since I’ve experienced flashbacks with rats in them.

The slump in Dawn’s shoulders tells me that she’s less than thrilled that summer break is over. “Oh yeah. Back to hitting the books in a non-demon fighting way.”

“Math. I don’t miss it.”

* * *

The Magic Box bell rings the familiar sound, announcing our arrival. The warm lights illuminate the shop merchandise and the walls of books, and the faint smell of vanilla overlaying some form of incense beckons us inside. Absently chewing the end of a pencil, Anya is bent over the shop financial books on the counter by the register, her blonde curls in a short ponytail. Xander is bringing mugs of steaming-something-warm to the back table, which is piled high with large, ancient looking tomes. Tara is curled up reading in one of the chairs, earbuds in her ears and her hair a soft curtain as she thumbs a page in one of the books.

Willow is standing to take one of the mugs from Xander. She’s the first person to look up when the bell chimes. Dawn scampers in first, and I follow. As soon as Willow sees us, she sets aside her coffee mug, emits a giddy sound of joy, and runs toward us, grinning like we haven’t seen each other in years. Well, it has been a long time. Her whole demeanor is lighter and somehow stronger. . . kind of like Spike’s. I just hope it’s real and not something that she’s hiding behind like I did.

She tightly squeezes Dawn and then pulls back, putting one hand on either side of Dawn’s face. “It’s so good to see you, Dawnie. I have to apologize again. I’m so so sorry.” Before my sister can respond, Willow takes a step back and assesses Dawn’s arm. “How’s your arm?”

Dawn manages a smile. “Better. Arm’s still unbroken. . . see?” She holds up the previously broken arm.

“A-and you don’t need anything else like surgery or physical therapy?” The little worry groove between Willow’s eyes appears. She knows Dawn got her cast off a while ago, but she still feels so much guilt.

“No. And the slaying is helping it get stronger.”

After getting the okay from the doctor, I’ve also been having her lift weights to strengthen her arms.

“Slaying?” Now Willow’s confused expression finds me.

I nod. “She’s becoming a regular Scoobie.”

Taking a sip of what smells like coffee, Xander approaches. “And I’m teaching her about high school.”

“All the dirty little secrets you guys have!” Anya calls from her post. She sounds a little jealous. Then, she adds, “Don’t touch anything, Dawnie!”

Dawn doesn’t react to Anya’s regular pronouncement anymore, and neither does anyone else.

Willow’s concerned face doesn’t change. “What secrets?”

Swaying back on her heels with her hands in her back pockets, Dawn is eager to show off her knowledge, “That Buffy was a rat. And that you fell in love with a demon-robot guy.”

“Xander!” Willow gives her friend a glare. “You better not have told her about. . .”

Xander grins. “You singing and me being terrified of clowns when all our nightmares were coming true? You better believe it!”

“I was more thinking about the time that you channeled your inner hyena. At least you didn’t eat the principal.”

Xander shudders. “Thank god.”

A huge smile on her face, Dawn is looking back and forth between Willow and Xander like she’s watching a tennis match.

Tara slips her arms around Willow’s waist from behind and rests her chin on her shoulder. I knew they were back together from what Giles told me, but it’s nicer to see Willow and Tara in person with the P.D.A. “Watcha talking about?”

Willow’s hands cover Tara’s hands as she gives the blonde witch a sideways glance. “Stuff from a long long time ago.”

“Embarrassing stuff,” Xander adds. He smiles over the rim of his mug before he takes another drink.

“How are you guys?” I keep it generic because I don’t know where Willow and I stand despite the heart to heart we had after I got back from Los Angeles.

She and I managed a phone call or two while she was in England, but she was really distracted by her treatments and lessons. All I know is that she sounded happy to hear from me, that she and Tara were doing better, and that she was really tapping into the depth of her powers while also maintaining a healthier balance in her use of magic.

Willow suddenly realizes something, and she moves from Tara and drags me into a hug reminiscent of the one she just gave Dawn. “I’m so good, and I’m so happy to see you.”

I close my eyes at her familiar embrace. “We need to catch up.”

“Yes,” she agrees.

I step back. I decide to save the social services business until later. “You and me? Espresso Pump tomorrow? I have the day off from work.”

“Sounds great. By the way, Giles sends his love.”

“How is he?” All I know is that Giles promised me that he’s coming back for Thanksgiving, and he’s staying at Casa Summers.

“Staying in England for now. He’s still helping reorganize the Council. You know Quentin stepped down, right? Well. . . more like he was asked to resign.”

“That’s surprising but of the good.”

“Right? Giles is getting a lot of pressure to take over, but he is resisting so far, which I don’t blame him. The system’s so messed up.” Willow turns to Spike, who is hovering behind us, surveying our greetings. “So, Spike.”

“Yeah?” He sounds hesitant, and I can tell he’s still a little awkward with his new role in the group. He’s not been sure how to take Xander’s more ready acceptance of him into the inner circle since he returned from Africa.

“Heard you got a soul now.”

He shrugs and sounds uncomfortable. “Well, yeah.”

“And that you did it for yourself. . . at least partly.” Willow’s expression is soft. “Well, I just want you to know that I know how hard that is. . . to make changes for yourself. It’s easier to do it for someone else, but I really think. . . well, what I’ve learned is that you have to make them for yourself, too.”

He gives her a small smile as if realizing for the first time what they have in common. “True.”

Xander claps his hands and changes the conversation’s direction, “Hey! Isn’t this supposed to be a party?”

“Right!” Dawn exclaims, glancing around. “Aren’t there supposed to be streamers and balloons. . . and maybe party favors?”

“Or at least some food; I’m starved,” I add.

“Well, actually,” Tara speaks up, “We have a new demon-y thing to research. It’s why we have the pile o’books on the table.” She points to the back of the shop.

We start to head that direction, and I can’t help but feel a happy glow inside. “Hey! Wouldn’t be a party in Sunnydale without some evil afoot!”

“Am I allowed to help?” Dawn sounds like an enthusiastic puppy.

“Of course!” Xander motions her forward.

I casually lay my stake on a shop shelf, and Dawn and Spike follow suit.

“Hey!” Anya shouts. “Watch where you put the stakes. Can’t have customers finding those, and you don’t know how much work it takes to keep the shelves straight!”

Xander scoops the errant stakes up. “I got them, An.”

“Thank you. At least someone understands the importance of running a tight ship. It’s all about the little details.” Anya’s eyes sparkle at him. Then, she inserts, “And there’s food in the basement fridge. Tara and I cooked up some finger sandwiches and veggie dip. And there are some alcoholic beverages, too. But not for Dawn.”

“Yum, sandwiches,” Dawn comments, ignoring the alcohol piece. “Did you make the ones with cucumbers?”

“Just for you.” Anya wrinkles her nose like she thinks Dawn is about four years old, but I can tell the affection is there.

“I got it,” Spike says, obviously using this as an excuse to get away from the amicable company. He’s through the basement door and down the steps before I can offer to come, too.

I pursue him down into the darkness, my boots quietly clumping on the stairs.

I spy him as he opens the refrigerator and a curve of light spills across the room, and I use the luminance to find and flip on the light switch.

As light floods the crowded space, I blink away the orange and red while my eyes adjust. “Watcha doin’?”

Spike shuts the fridge. “Truth? Just needed a bit of a break from the joyful Scoobie reunion.”

He’s used a similar line before, but this time, I’m taking it a different direction. “You know that you belong now, right?”

He ducks his head and runs a hand over the back of his neck. “Sometimes it doesn’t feel real.”

My heart aches for him, and I reach out and touch his bare forearm. “Hey. I get that.” I don’t relate exactly but can put myself in his shoes. . . something I’ve gotten better at over the last several months. Plus, being a Slayer hasn’t exactly always made me feel like I belong with the rest of humanity. “You know, we need to revisit earlier.”

Spike waits, but his eyes find mine, and I see how nervous he feels. “What about earlier?”

“What we were doing before the phone call.” I run my fingers up his arm. “What you said. . . . I didn’t get to. . .”

Spike’s gaze moves toward the shelves full of inventory, and he cuts me off, his voice heavy with emotion. “Look, Buffy, you don’t need to placate me, and I definitely don’t need any grand gestures. I’m content with what I have. . . what we have. It’s all a bloke could ask for.”

I feel tears coming up, but I force them back. I hate that he feels like he can’t want more. . . that he still thinks he has to hide his feelings behind the heat of sexual intimacy. I have to tell him that we’re way beyond that. I trace gentle circles on his shoulder. “Hey. You didn’t let me finish.”

I pause, taking a finger and turning his head to me. I force him to make eye contact and see how naked he feels. I hope he can see that I feel that way, too.

I could make a speech, but instead, I kiss him gently and then say the words I never thought I would say but that now feel so right.

“I love you, too, Spike.” For real, I love you, and I’m not just starting to kind of fall in love with you. I’m *in* love with you. Please believe me. Okay, so my brain insists on a speech, but at least I didn’t say all that out loud.

A weight seems to dissipate from his body, and he pulls me into his arms before I can say or do anything else. Instinctively, I jump up, my legs going around his waist. He stumbles forward so that my back is pressed against the basement wall. He kisses me hard and with such fervor that I can’t catch my breath, and I don’t mind in the least. Thoughts go out the window, and I’m lost. . . lost in his lips and touch and. . . oh god.

He pulls back first. “Can we get out of here?”

Wordlessly, I nod, my heart hammering.

He tugs me by the hand, and we virtually fly up the stairs, party food forgotten.

Heads shoot up as we land back on the main floor of the Magic Box. Spike holds fast to my hand but lets me do the talking.

“I *just* remembered something.”

“What?” Willow asks in confusion.

Xander wisely stays mum.

My frontal lobe desperately tries to kick in gear, and I try not to sound too eager. “Um, one more vamp that’s rising tonight. Gotta patrol.”

Scooting her chair back, Dawn stands, clapping closed the book she’s been perusing. “I’m ready.”

I shake my head, with probably way too much vigor. “No, Dawnie. Stay and research. Spike and I. . . we got it. Willow, do you mind taking Dawn home after?”

Willow is starting to get it, and she and Tara exchange knowing glances. They made the same excuse not so many months ago. “No problem.”

“And Dawn?”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t stay too late. I’ll be up early to take you to school in the morning. Xander is picking us up.”

“I know.”

“See you soon, Bit.” Spike offers as I pull him toward the exit.

My sister beams at him. “Yes.”

As the door closes behind us, I hear Anya announce, “They’re going to have sex, you know. I used to. . . have a lot of s. . . .”

Where to go, where to go. “Where should we go?” I ask Spike, pausing under the street lamp and not letting go of his hand.

He strokes the back of my hand with his thumb in a familiar gesture, and I am beyond grateful for the adoration, love, and loyalty in his eyes. “Let’s go home.”

His three simple words fill me with more happiness than I ever imagined.

* * *

“So, pet, we still have it.”

“We do, don’t we?”

A few seconds pass as I try to catch my breath and as we lay in a heap of tangled arms and legs on our bed, sated from renewed coupling at long last.

“Wait.” I prop myself up on one elbow and survey the vampire who has an extremely satisfied smile on his face. “What do you mean?”

His index finger traces a light line between my breasts, and I inhale sharply as the sensation sends my senses into another tail spin. “This. Honestly, I was a bit worried.”

“You? Worried?” I get him back by straddling him and trailing my own line of gentle kisses over his well-defined abdomen.

I’m rewarded with a soft growl, a chin lift, and closed eyes. “Yeah. Wasn’t about you though.” His eyelids part again, and he runs his hand through my hair before cupping the back of my head. “Was about whether it would be the same with a soul.”

“And?” I’m definitely curious about his answer.

He flashes a grin at me. “Was better.”

“Good.” I examine his face with the light of happiness and satisfaction in his eyes. “How so?”

“Dunno. Maybe because we waited so long.” He appears thoughtful and then, “But maybe it’s because I know that you love me.”

“Without a doubt.” My long hair surrounds us as I kiss him on the nose.

“Without a doubt, what?”

“I love you.”

His lips find mine, and my skin brushes his again as he pushes up. His more than healthy enthusiasm makes me want to tell him how much I love him every chance I get.

Then, I pull back as I put something together. “Did you. . . I mean, you. . .  you never had sex when you had a soul before?”

He looks like a little kid when he shrugs, a half-chagrined, half-impish smile lifting his lips. “Nope.”

I can’t help myself and tease, “Oooo, William was a virgin!”

“Hey, it was the time period. I was saving myself. . . for someone special.”

“No brothels or prostitutes?” I keep my questions light, but inside, I’m touched. I know what he and I have done has been far from chaste, but somehow his confession makes tonight more special.

He’s serious. “Not for me.”

The back of my fingers find his cheek. “This was. . . is special to me.”

He places his hand over mine and then brings it around to kiss my wrist and palm. I tackle him then, and we lay there together for several minutes, my head on his chest and his arms lose about my waist.

I muse at how far he and I have come together. Both of us have changed so much. . . been through so much. I’m amazed at where we ended up. I’m proud of him. . . proud of us for working through things together and not giving up on one another. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a relationship quite like that.

“Thank you,” he whispers into my hair, disrupting my thoughts.

“For what?”

“For believing in me, for helping me get through these last few months.” He gently rubs my lower back.

I nuzzle his chest in response. “Thank *you* for. . . everything.” I can’t bring myself to list all the sacrifices Spike has made for me. There are too many, and I don’t want to diminish the magnitude of what he’s done. . . what a vampire has done to change and grow and be there for me. . . for Dawn. He truly is unique, and I’m starting to appreciate just how lucky I am. We’re an unusual pair. . . a Slayer and a vampire, and while I’ve been here before with a different vampire, somehow, Spike and I make more sense. We know the ins and outs of one another better. . . we get one another.

We contentedly cradle each other for several more minutes.

Then, Spike breaks the reverie. “You know, love. We should probably pick up the mess we made downstairs. Dawn’ll be home soon.”

I giggle. “We’re good at making messes.”

He matches my amusement with a chuckle. “We are, but at least we didn’t bring down the rafters this time.”

“Being that this is where we live, that would have been very bad.”

“Right, but anytime you want to. . . you know. . . with another abandoned building. . .” He grips my bottom.

I give a small yelp and playfully shove his arm. Then, sighing, I pull myself up and slide off the bed to put on some sort of covering. “I have to wait up for Dawn. . . and I’m still hungry.”

“All part of parenting a teenager.” He extricates himself from the sheets with more grace than me and tugs on his jeans and his crumpled T-shirt.

“Right. I’m still figuring out this parenting thing.” I poke my head through the top of my blouse. “Somehow you did a brilliant job of it last summer.”

He heads out the door, but his words trail behind him. “I made a promise to a girl.”

Surprised at the sudden gratitude I feel for social services and Dawn and Spike’s crazy idea for us to live together, I smile and follow him downstairs.

The End.

9/27/15

 

Hope you enjoyed this fic! I started writing it 10 years ago and then wrote chapter 16-22 in September 2015 after doing a re-watch of season six and seven during some health-related resting this summer. I fell in love with Spuffy all over again and decided to finish this fic for the 10th anniversary of Seasonal Spuffy on LJ. Thank you to everyone who is still out there that loves this pair as much as me. *hugs*

And this is the song I listened to over and over in thinking about the ending to the story.

 

For some reason, it reminds me of Spuffy.

 

When life leaves you high and dry

I’ll be at your door tonight if you need help, if you need help

I’ll shut down the city lights,

I’ll lie, cheat, I’ll beg and bribe to make you well, to make you well

When enemies are at your door I’ll carry you way from more

If you need help, if you need help

Your hope dangling by a string

Ill share in your suffering to make you well, to make you well

Give me reasons to believe,

That you would do the same for me

And I would do it for you, for you

Baby I’m not moving on

I love you long after you’re gone

For you, for you

You would never sleep alone

I love you long after you’re gone

And long after you’re gone, gone, gone

When you fall like a statue

I’m gon’ be there to catch you

Put you on your feet, you on your feet

And if your well is empty

Not a thing will prevent me

Tell me what you need, what do you need

I surrender honestly

You’ve always done the same for me

So I would do it for you, for you

Baby I’m not moving on

I love you long after you’re gone

For you, for you

You would never sleep alone

I love you long after you’re gone

And long after you’re gone, gone, gone

You’re my back bone, you’re me cornerstone

You’re my crutch when my legs stop moving

You’re my headstart, you’re my rugged heart

You’re the pokes that I’ve always needed

Like a drum baby don’t stop beating

Like a drum baby don’t stop beating

Like a drum baby don’t stop beating

Like a drum my heart never stops beating

For you, for you

Baby I’m not moving on

I love you long after you’re gone

For you, for you

You would never sleep alone

I love you long after you’re gone

For you, for you

Baby I’m not moving on

I love you long after you’re gone

For you, for you

You would never sleep alone

I love you long, long after you’re gone

Like a drum baby don’t stop beating

Like a drum baby don’t stop beating

Like a drum baby don’t stop beating

Like a drum my heart never stops beating for you

And long after you’re gone, gone, gone

I love you long after you’re gone gone gone

–“Gone, Gone Gone” written by Gregg Wattenberg, Derek Fuhrmann and Todd Clark

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