Two Roads Diverged in a Wood by Darkrivertempest

1. 1 by Darkrivertempest

2. 2 by Darkrivertempest

3. 3 by Darkrivertempest

4. 4 by Darkrivertempest

5. 5 by Darkrivertempest

6. 6 by Darkrivertempest

7. 7 by Darkrivertempest

1 by Darkrivertempest
Author's Notes:
Yes, I will be returning to my other fic, Omniscient very soon. It will be short, only a couple of chapters. Also, this won't get too grahic because most of it is based in reality of several different vacations I took. Title is from the Robert Frost poem, Road not Taken.
They were lost.

It was night. And raining.

There was also a noxious smell emanating from the passing woods making her eyes water.

Buffy rubbed her forehead and sighed heavily. She was cramped in the back seat of Xander’s tiny Dodge Omni with her least favorite person in the world, and she had a sleeping bag pushing against the back of her head, causing her to practically kiss the headrest in front of her. Why on earth she had ever agreed to this camping trip with Xander and Willow she would never, ever know.

~*~

She’d figured it would be a great summer break get-away before she, Xander, and Willow started their senior year in high school, a time to reflect on where she was headed in her life. She’d accounted for the fact that she would be a third wheel, and so was totally surprised when Xander announced that he would be bringing the bane of her existence, William ‘Spike’ Pratt, along on their little expedition. Once that was discovered - as they were packing up the rusty bucket Xander called a car - she tried to back out gracefully, saying she had a couple books left to read from her summer reading list and should really be helping her mother at the gallery.

That earned her a disgusted look from Willow, who knew she never studied unless there was a gun to her head. Xander looked hurt at the fact that his cousin could instill such loathing in one of his best friends, so he glared at Spike and suggested he should patch things up with Buffy, and apologize for whatever was causing the rift between them. Said blond moseyed over to the trunk of the car, threw in his gear, and slapped Buffy on the backside.

“Forgive me, pet?” He smirked at the outrage plastered across her face. “I’m not the big bad wolf… `less you want me to be.”

“You bastard!” she ground out. “If you think I’m gonna forgive you for taking those naked pictures of me in the shower, you’re seriously deluded!”

His cousin’s eyebrows shot up towards his hairline. “You have pictures of a naked Buffy? In the shower? Since when?” He grimaced as Willow punched his arm.

“Remember that weekend thing we all did `bout three years ago - that Halloween festival in a godforsaken backwater little town?”

Xander nodded, recalling the fun they had all been having until that last night, when Buffy had just glared at everyone and everything. He had figured it was just her time of the month causing her be so moody.

“Yeah well, princess here was takin’ a shower before puttin’ on her fairy wings. I couldn’t resist!” He laughed unrepentantly, looking over at a fuming red Buffy, as he waggled his eyebrows. “Kept her in my spank bank for many a year, mate.”

She gaped at him. “You dirty pig!”

“Oink, oink, love.”

“I am not going, Xander.” The petite blonde stamped her foot. “I refuse to breathe the same air as this - this… filthy, evil, disgusting thing. Forget it!” she yelled at her sheepish friend.

Willow was visibly upset. “Come on, guys, that’s in the past. Can’t we just make with the gooey marshmallow happiness we usually have on these trips? I mean, it’s our last one,” she murmured, tears misting her eyes.

Guilt hung around Buffy’s neck like an ironclad noose. It was indeed the last trip they would take together; each of them would scatter like leaves after graduation. Willow pulled out the wobbly, pouty lip she knew would get results, along with a big sniff.

Buffy sighed in resignation. “Fine. I’ll go,” she muttered, glancing at the decidedly wicked smile Spike gave her.

~*~

The trepidation she’d had when starting on the current trip was increased tenfold as they tried to maneuver over the soggy road that lead to their campgrounds. She’d been stuck in the back with Spike for what seemed like forever, and her butt was aching from feeling all the bumps and ruts in the road due to the car having little in the way of shock absorbers. Leaning her head against the window, she closed her eyes, weariness finally getting the better of her.

“You can lay your head in my lap if it’ll help, pet,” Spike said quietly.

Glancing at him, she then darted her gaze to Xander and Willow, who were fighting with a map and each other about which fork to take to get where they were going - which could be Hell for all she knew. Looking back at Spike, she shrugged, seeing nothing but concern motivating his suggestion. Slowly, she laid her head on his leg, never flinching when he gently draped his arm across her upper body, giving her a slight pat before she closed her eyes.

It was some time later when the rocking motion she felt was not from the car. It was Spike, shaking her to wake up because they’d finally arrived at the spot reserved for their tents. Sitting up, Buffy groggily pushed her hair out of her face.

Spike smiled at her and touched her cheek with a finger. “You drool.”

Horrified, she glanced down at his pants leg to see a wet stain spread around a small area, moaning as she hid her flaming face from his view, mumbling her apologies.

“’S okay, pet. I’m used to women droolin’ over me.” He grinned and opened the door to let the cool air in, her heated glare making his smile even wider. “Move along, time to set up and get some nosh,” he said, holding out his hand to help her out of the tightly compact car.

Muttering under her breath about how much she hated him, she grabbed Spike’s hand and slid out from the backseat… only to find herself ankle deep in mud. “Ugh! Xander, are you sure we’re in the right place?” The rain had stopped sometime during her nap and now everything was just a big mud-pit.

The brunet was busy trying to get from the car door to the trunk, so he didn’t hear Buffy’s question. Grousing about how his boots sank in the soft ground every time he moved, he snarled when Willow giggled at his actions, telling him that he looked like a puppet on marionette strings, as he made sucking noises that were rather obscene every time he lifted his foot. Buffy felt laughter well up inside of her and couldn’t hold back a chuckle when Xander held on to the bumper to keep from falling face first into the muck.

“Maybe you should take off your boots; it’ll help,” offered Willow, showing her now mud covered bare feet as she traipsed around the car in quick order.

“Maybe you should help me unload all this stuff,” Xander said petulantly, irritated that his girlfriend got around better without her shoes.

The redhead stuck her tongue out at him and moved to help him when Spike stepped in and starting unloading the gear. “Nah, mate. That’s what we strapping young men are for,” he said motioning for Willow to go with Buffy and scope out their spot.

She nodded her thanks and squished her way to Buffy who had taken off up the hill. They arrived to a flat piece of mud, a fire pit on one side and a picnic bench on the other, surrounded by woods. Both girls groaned at the sight. Roughing it in the wilderness was not high on their list of things to do before they died.

“Tell me why, again, we agreed to do this?” Buffy muttered.

“It’ll put hair on your chest,” Xander huffed out, dropping some of the gear at their feet.

The girls looked down at their bosoms and then to Xander. “Um, ewww,” they said with a grimace, while Buffy went on to ask, “Do you really Willow to have a hairy chest, Xander?”

Xander looked at a smirking Willow – who was playing with her boobs and murmuring how hairy they were going to be by the end of this trip - and recoiled. “Okay, scratch that. No fur-covered boobs on Willow. Like `em fine as they are; nice, creamy, rosy-tipped,” he mused aloud.

“Ahem!” The redhead blushed.

“Why is Red playin’ with her lovely jigglies?” Spike joined them, dropping his load of gear on the ground. “Did I miss somethin’?”

Buffy snorted with laughter and shook her head. Moving away from the scene, she began searching for something. Not spying what she wanted she started to panic a little.

“Oi, Goldilocks, you goin’ to help with the setup?” Spike yelled over to her.

Grumbling, she turned around and yelled back across the clearing. “I will, in a minute!”

“Why not now?”

She said something unintelligible.

“What?”

“I have to pee first!” She yelled so loudly that it echoed, her own voice coming back to mock her.

The guys started to snicker, but Willow elbowed them both. “Stop. It’s serious when a woman has to use the bathroom and there’s none to be had. It’s not like you guys, being able to write your name in the snow and all,” she griped.

“Brat,” Spike said good-naturedly and pulled on her red braid. “There’s a loo back down the hill a bit. Can’t vouch for the sanity of it, but it’s better than nothin’.”

Calling over to Buffy, the pig-tailed girl motioned for her to follow, trekking their way down the hill in the muck with a flashlight, praying they wouldn’t get lost.

They saw the white square building a short distance ahead of them, but the stench got to them first. “Oh my God,” Buffy gagged.

“Ditto,” Willow agreed.

Braving the situation, they crept into the doorway marked ‘Women’. There were yellow lights flickering off and on, the light bulbs not having been changed in months. Flies, moths, and all kinds of buzzing insects swarmed past their heads and alternately perched on sinks or bathroom stalls with no doors. Trying hard not to think that the flying little monsters could get tangled in their hair, the girls stepped a little further in, holding their noses.

Something they didn’t care to identify had made a nest in the first toilet stall. The second was no better, having something slimy dripping off the seat. By the time they got to the third stall, Buffy’s gag reflex kicked in. “Move, I’m gonna hurl!” she yelled as she passed her friend and ran to the toilet, where she proceeded to empty her stomach into a cavern below that was dug out to hold all the waste.

“Um, Buffy? You might want to come out of there… real slow,” Willow whispered.

“Huh?” Buffy looked at her, wiping her mouth on her jacket sleeve.

Willow put her finger to her mouth in a shushing motion and then pointed towards the ceiling. About five medium sized blobs hung from the rafters and occasionally one would move.

Frowning, she looked at Willow in confusion.

The redhead mouthed a word that sent chills up Buffy’s spine. ‘Bats’.

Turning as white as a sheet, she grabbed Willow’s hand and backed quickly out of the building, tearing into a run once they cleared the smell-infested area. “I still have to pee!” she whimpered.

Unfortunately, they were running in the opposite direction of their camp and further into the woods. They only noticed their mistake when the road disappeared from the left side.

“I think we’re lost,” Willow muttered.

“What was your first clue?” Buffy wheezed after all her running.

Her friend glared. “I think we should turn around.”

“I don’t think I can go any further without peeing my pants. I forgot to go before we left.” Buffy panicked and danced around, trying to keep her bladder from bursting.

Willow laughed and shook her head. “Guess you never listened to your parents when they told you to go to the bathroom before starting out on a trip, did you?”

“Not helping,” the blonde ground out.

“Maybe there’s something back up the road that’s not as-” She gulped. “Dirty.”

They started walking back the way they’d come and luckily happened across a port-a-john that seemed to have never been used. It was blessedly clean, free of insects, and Buffy sighed with relief as she hovered over the seat, relaxing her cramped bladder muscles.

“Must’ve been forgotten by a construction company,” Willow mused outside.

“Thank God for construction companies,” Buffy muttered.

“Feel better?” Willow asked as she exited the little stall.

“Much!”

“Good. Then my turn.” Willow entered and quickly closed the door behind her. A sigh of relief floated through the air.

“I don’t think we should tell the guys about this little gem,” Buffy said when her friend emerged from the port-a-john.

“Neither do I! Personally, I think they should get poison ivy on their nether regions from having to squat in the woods.” Willow spoke from personal experience, having done so at a summer camp one year, and been miserable the entire time after that.

They found the road and followed it back to the car and then up the hill to the campsite. The guys had been busy while they’d been on their little adventure, as the tents and cooking gear were already set up, and Xander was trying to get a fire going.

Hearing footsteps, he looked over his shoulder and spied the girls. “Ladies, dinner will be served shortly.”

Not seeing the bleached menace, Buffy asked, “Where’s Spike?”

“Went to the john. Thought he might find out what was keeping you.”

A loud yell rang out at that moment and they could hear something crashing through the underbrush. “Get these fuckin’ buggers off me!”

They watched as Spike ran up the hill with his jeans barely pulled up and waving his arms around his head. Apparently he’d found the bats. Finally rid of the winged rodents, he stopped short at the sight of the girls and glowered.

“Where the hell have you two been?”

“We decided to explore a little after our bathroom experience,” Willow replied, giggling. She was trying to keep from laughing too much at the spectacle that Spike presented, as his hair was askew, curls drooping everywhere. His jeans were only just hanging on his slim hips and his eyes had this wild look about them.

Buffy had no such reservations, as she laughed heartily at Spike, little snorts escaping here and there. “You should see yourself,” she managed between chuckles.

“Sod off,” he muttered before he buttoned his jeans and moved to help Xander with the cooking.

The girls grinned and followed him over to the fire pit, sitting on the chairs they’d brought, warming their hands with the roaring fire, watching as the clouds cleared somewhat, the stars twinkling here and there.

There was only one condition for the trip - if the guys got to pick what they would do, then they had to cook the entire time. It was a dubious prospect, but worth it, since neither Buffy nor Willow could boil water to save their life. When the guys had chosen camping, the girls had agreed without really considering all that would go into roughing it in the woods for a few days. Now they both silently agreed they would never do it again.

Watching as Spike rolled potatoes in aluminum foil and dropping them into the hot coals at the bottom of the fire, both girls turned and observed Xander as he set steaks on the grill wire he’d brought with them. When he handed them mugs of hot cider, they thanked him profusely.

“I think we should always let the guys pick the vacation, if we get this kind of treatment.” Willow blew across the hot surface of her drink, then took a tentative sip. After several moments of silence, the thought crossed her mind that this was probably the last vacation they would be taking.

Willow was going to college after graduation and Xander had a carpenter’s apprenticeship set up. Spike would no doubt go back to his father’s in London, as he’d graduated the year before, being older than the rest of the group, where he would look for work. She expected he would spend the summers with his mother, Xander’s aunt, in Sunnydale, before really settling down. Buffy was a bit aimless in her future goals, but Willow got the sense she would head towards college anyway. She sighed again and sipped some more of her cooling cider.

An hour later, having eaten delicious steaks and mouth watering potatoes with butter, they finally got the marshmallows out and started roasting them. Xander’s marshmallows usually caught fire and drizzled to nothingness because his attention was focused on Willow and their conversation, hers doing much the same thing. They’d finally admitted their feelings for one another a couple of years ago and had been inseparable ever since.

Buffy sighed and watched the two with a little bit of envy. While she was not one of the cool kids at school, neither was she part of the unpopular crowd. Stuck in the middle, she hadn’t dated much and it was starting to wear on her. Oh, she’d a few crushes throughout the years, but nothing even remotely serious.

“They’re a good pair,” Spike acknowledge quietly, popping a bit of the melting sugary sweet in his mouth.

Shifting over on the log so he could sit next to her, Buffy nodded and smiled. “Yeah, they keep each other sane and grounded. It’s always been that way, even growing up.”

He noted the wistfulness in her voice. “And why is it that your name isn’t tattooed on some lucky bloke’s arm?”

She shrugged. “No one’s ever asked me out.”

Snorting in disbelief, he tilted his head to study her. “I find that very unlikely.” When she sent him a hard glare he went on. “You mean to tell me you’ve never been snogged?”

“Of course I’ve been snogged!” she hissed. “Or kissed… er, made with the smoochies,” she floundered. A bright flush crept up her chest to her face, all the way to her lying tongue.

“Oh, yeah? With whom?” he challenged, not believing her one bit.

“Umm, there was… uh, Riley, and… umm, Parker.” She paused; trying to think of actual boys she might’ve pecked on the cheek.

“And when did those little snogfests happen to take place, hmm?” he taunted.

Buffy chewed on her bottom lip. “Fifth grade?”

Spike was too stunned to laugh; he just sat there with his mouth hanging open. “Are you takin’ the piss, or what?”

Her head hung in mortification. “No,” she muttered. When she heard nothing from him, she continued. “We would all play tag at recess and I always ended up catching one or the other. Now that I think back, I think they really hated being caught. At least by me. They actually liked it when Diane Alban caught them.”

“I really hated Diane Alban. She was always so bitchy - even then,” Willow piped in.

“God, she was such a skeeze. Everyone thought she was a hooker. It didn’t help that my mom told me - at a young age, mind you - that a hooker was a female werewolf,” Xander admitted.

Laughter erupted at the thought of the genial brunet believing that prostitutes were female werewolves. “I was an impressionable youth,” he muttered among the mirth.

“God, mate! You actually believed that tripe?” Spike laughed, tears in his eyes.

“Shut up, Captain Peroxide,” Xander growled.

Laughing along with everyone else, Buffy was glad the focus was off her for the time being. If she knew Spike, however, he would bring up the subject again, and she desperately didn’t want to remember that time in her life. She was about to suggest the telling of ghost stories when thunder rolled in the distance.

“Uh, not again,” Buffy groused, looking to the sky for the lightening that followed. “You set up the tarps under the tents, right Xan?”

“Umm… about that-” Xander hesitated. “Ours kinda ripped.”

“Kinda? How does a tarp kinda rip? Where did you think you were gonna sleep if it rained?” Willow asked with eyebrows raised.

“Looks as if we’ll be bunkin’ with you lovely ladies,” Spike grinned.

“What?” both girls screeched.

“It’s a six person tent, Willow,” Xander grumbled. “It’s not like you’ll be cramped.”

“Oh God, I can see it now,” Buffy moaned. “They’ll snore all night and then drive us out with their unearthly smelling farts.”

Thunder rumbled again and closer than before. A big, fat raindrop landed on Buffy’s nose. “Great. Well, let’s get inside, then.”

The guys went to their tent to gather their sleeping bags, while the girls situated their own bags on the left side of the tent, leaving enough room for the men on the right. They zipped all the screened windows shut and stowed their flashlights and the little weather radio in a duffle pouch near the door.

Xander opened the tent flap and was about to enter when Willow screeched, “Take off your boots! They’re muddy!”

“For Pete’s sake!” he yelled. “It’s starting to rain and you want us to take off our shoes?”

“Now, mister, or there’s no entry. Comprende?” his girlfriend warned.

“Fine.”

Xander and Spike shucked their shoes and fell into the tent, ass first. “There. Happy?”

Willow and Buffy eyed the pair. “No, but it’ll have to do.”

The girls had already changed into sweats and tank shirts, crawling beneath the covers of their makeshift bed of connected sleeping bags and blankets, when the guys started taking off their shirts.

“Oh, wait a darn minute there!” Buffy said in alarm. She’d seen a bare-chested Xander, but Spike was another matter.

“What?” Spike asked, eyeing the girls, his soaking black t-shirt half way over his head.

“This is not a clothing optional tent, buster,” the blonde said sternly.

“Never said it was, pet. However, I am not sleepin’ in wet clothes. I planned on changin’ into dry sweats, but if you have other ideas…” Spike leered at Buffy, leaving her flustered at the image he was creating.

“Hardly,” she huffed.

“Don’t know what you’re missin’,” Spike suggested, as he pulled his t-shirt the rest of the way off and flung it down on the tent floor with a wet plop.

“Stop it, guys.” Xander glared at Spike. “I don’t know about you, but I’m dead tired and your pushing each other’s buttons is not helping. Let’s just get changed and under the covers, okay?” He looked over to the girls. “Could you listen to see how bad this weather is going to be or how long it’ll last?”

Willow reached over, pulled out the little yellow radio and switched it on, trying to get a signal. Finally, with her arm stretched over her head, she was able to get a clear signal and the voice started describing the weather for their immediate area.

“Now the forecast for the Whiskeytown Lake and Shasta Bally region including surrounding areas. A high-pressure front will move in from the north creating storm conditions, which will last through the early morning hours. Heavy rainfall is expected and there is a flood warning for Shasta and Trinity counties. Stay tuned to NOAA, All Hazards Radio, for further developments.”

“Rain,” Buffy mumbled. “All night long.” Even Spike agreed with her dour mood just as the first drops hit the tent roof.

Settling on their side of the tent, Spike and Xander turned off the lantern they had burning, pulling the covers over their shoulders to get comfortable and wait out the storm. It wasn’t long before Willow heard her boyfriend snoring.

“Figures,” she said sleepily as she and Buffy crowded together to keep the chill – caused by the damp air – away.

The rain started to fall in earnest now, the wind picking up as the downpour was so heavy it sounded as if it hit upon a tin roof, its noise deafening.

“Oh, bugger it,” Spike growled. He was thrashing about in his sleeping bag, trying to crawl over his still sleeping cousin.

“Hey!” Xander said groggily and got a knee in his chest for his troubles.

“Sorry, mate,” the lanky blond said absently as he finished moving away from Xander to the middle of the tent. “Roof sprung a leak over there. Mind your head.”

“Huh?” Xander’s sleep filled gaze turned to the roof and he got a face full of water dumped on him. “Gah!” he spluttered.

The girls couldn’t help but giggle as Spike crouched at the foot of their air mattress. “Spare a bit of room for us, ladies? It’s a bit wet over there, as you can tell.”

“You’re joking, right?” Buffy glared at him.

“Give a bloke a break, will you?” he ground out in exasperation. “I’m knackered, I’m wet, and all I want is a dry place to lay my head. Not goin’ to try anythin’, least of all with you!” He winced as he realized what he’d just said. That’s far from the truth, you prat, he thought.

Pursing her lips, Buffy affected an air of deceptive calm, even though deep down she hurt. Knowing normal guys didn’t want her, she wondered why it stung so much that her mortal enemy didn’t either. Could life get any worse?

Apparently it could, as the soggy guys edged in around her and Willow, their cold bodies making them shiver from the chill.

Willow had no problem snuggling up to Xander, once she got used to his temperature, and soon they were both fast asleep as the rain gentled a bit.

Spike and Buffy had a harder time drifting off.

“Just a bit of a cuddle, love? I’m freezin’ my arse off,” Spike managed through chattering teeth.

Sighing in irritation, she kept telling herself that his comfort didn’t matter, that he was obnoxious, rude and so many other things she couldn’t think of at the moment. That lasted all of five seconds, until his ice-cold fingers found hers and linked them together.

Even as the chill stole up her arm, it brought along with it a tremendous fire that took her breath away. Oh, God no. Not Spike. Not bane-of-my-existence Spike, Buffy thought, groaning to herself. She’d never felt anything like that before and it didn’t bode well for her peace of mind.

Something suspiciously akin to sympathy wound its way around her heart as she felt his frame shake. “Come on, then,” she acquiesced quietly. She pulled her covers up and he slid in next to her, the heat from her body already warming him.

They lay facing each other in the inky blackness, tension high. “I’m gonna turn over. No funny business, Spike,” she warned, sleepiness stealing the edge from her words.

“Still say you don’t know what you’re missin’, love,” he chuckled softly. Then, he breathed out an Oof as Buffy’s elbow landed on his sternum.

“Go to sleep, Spike,” she mumbled, sleep already claiming her.

He watched her as she drifted off, counting himself lucky to have such an unusual girl in his arms. Sure, she was pretty in an unconventional sort of way, not a beauty by classical means, but it was her spirit that drew him towards her, despite their rocky relationship.

He’d always been attracted to her, since they’d all began those little trips seven years earlier, with their parents. Buffy had been the odd one out, since her mother had often gone on global shopping trips and left the girl to her own design, her father long absent from the scene. Buffy had been allowed to spend summers with Willow when her mother was gone, and they’d all gotten along famously, until that Halloween weekend when Spike couldn’t help snapping a few shots of the woman he had longed for, for so many years.

Being a photography major, he’d taken several shots of Buffy that weekend; some in black and white, others in color. But one he’d taken had stolen his heart and he knew he would never be the same.

Following her into the woods, much like the one they were in now, he kept a discrete distance until she’d found an old stump to sit on, pulling out a small bag of grain and pouring a little of its contents into her palm. She’d sat there for what seemed like hours, quiet and still, until a small doe had approached her tentatively.

Observing her from a thicket downwind of the deer, he’d focused his long-range lens on her, snapping pictures as quietly as he could. The deer, having eaten all of the grain, had allowed her to pet her nose and she’d smiled widely. Spike had to have shifted in the brush, because the doe had scented him and taken off, so he stilled and waited for Buffy to spot him.

She’d never looked in his direction, and instead pulled her knees up to her chin, watching the sunset in the cool October air. The twilight had played over her soft features and brought out the highlights in her dirty blonde hair. Spike had focused once more on her and gasped when he’d looked into her eyes. They were the saddest and yet wisest he’d ever had the chance to look upon. His heart had been irretrievably captured.

And now, as she slept next to him - unaware of his yearning - he wished he could look into her eyes again. He couldn’t fathom why anyone wouldn’t be attracted to Buffy and her gentle spirit. Hell, even animals loved her; she was so peaceful and unassuming.

Slowly, as not to disturb her, he lifted her head and slid his arm under it. She didn’t move, so he then wound his other arm around her waist and pulled her closer to him, spooning with her. He sighed heavily and nuzzled the hair at the nape of her neck, inhaling her scent.

“I would love you, if you let me,” he whispered longingly in her ear, knowing she wouldn’t hear him in her slumber. He felt sleep stealing over him, snuggling closer to her warm body before he drifted off completely.

He never noticed Buffy’s slightly opened eyes, or the tears pooling in them.
2 by Darkrivertempest
Author's Notes:
As I said before, these are true events that have happened to me! I honestly can't make this silly stuff up! If you read, please review, it really makes my day!
Buffy burrowed deep under the covers and opened one eye to see the state of their tent after the raging rainstorm.

It was barely past dawn and no one else was awake as she surveyed the damage. The right end of the tent where the guys had started out the night was dripping, the little screen window open to the elements.

Through the mesh screen, Buffy could make out a woodpecker at the bottom of a tree, pounding away for its breakfast.

She was startled from her inspection by a loud snore from Xander, who happened to be laying half on Willow, half on the floor. Willow was in much the same position as Xander, smacking her lips and murmuring funny sounds into Xander’s shirt.

She smiled softly and then scooted back, only to come to a dead stop when she backed into something hard. She looked down at her arms and realized that Spike had wrapped his arms around her in a protective gesture. She listened to his soft breathing and prayed he was still asleep. She lost that hope the next second as his grip tightened.

“Buffy,” he whispered near her ear and she froze.

As gently as she could, she extricated herself from Spike’s embrace and rolled over to face him. She could at least deal with him if she were face to face with him.

His eyes were still closed, as he seemed to be reaching for her in his sleep. She inched away from his hands but he caught her off guard when he started nuzzling her throat and murmuring nonsensical words of affection.

“Buffy, so beautiful…get lost in your eyes…you smell like the forest after it rains…beautiful Buffy, my Buffy,” Spike breathed into her neck, nuzzling as if he was trying to crawl beneath her skin.

Buffy closed her eyes and was lost to the sensations Spike’s actions were causing. She leaned carefully towards his head and inhaled deeply of his platinum locks, smiling with delirious giddiness. He started nipping her jugular and she stifled a giggle, trying not to squirm from the ticklishness of the act. No one had ever kissed her like this. No one had even touched her like this.

His hands started moving down her arms to her hips and pulled them towards him, grinding his erection against her thigh and whimpering. Buffy went into sensory overload.

“Spike,” she whispered in his ear, trying not wake up Willow and Xander. She tried pushing his hands away. He whimpered louder and she tried to wake him again.

“Spike, wake up!” she whispered a little louder and shook his shoulder.

He startled awake and looked into her fearful green eyes. “Buffy?”

She smiled shyly and tried to move away from him, but he caught her face with his hands.

“Stay,” he pleaded, longing plain to see in his eyes.

“I…” Buffy started but was silenced when his lips pressed against hers desperately.

“Please stay,” he whispered against her lips.

“I have to use the bathroom,” she grimaced as she heard him chuckle.

His hand trailed down her thigh and lightly tapped her firm ass in mock irritation. “Go on then, off to the loo.”

She smiled hesitantly and scooted herself away from his disturbing body. She pulled back the flap, looked once in his direction and then was gone.

As she started walking, Buffy traced her lips with her fingers, smiling every once in a while. Spike was really messing with her peace of mind and she would need to seriously back away from him if she was to keep any shred of her heart intact.

Absentmindedly, she followed the trail back to the port-a-john that her and Willow had come across, sloshing her way through the heavy mud in Xander’s boots.

She didn’t fully gather her thoughts until she had made it back to camp and sat at the picnic table, watching the sunrise over the treetops. She heard a rapid clicking and searched the area for the noise, finally settling on the tent as the source of the sound. There she found Spike sitting in the doorway taking pictures of her in all of her rumpled state. She scowled.

“What are you doing with that?”

“Taking pictures, luv. What did you think I was doing?”

“All I can think of is when I was in the shower and you decided to take a few porno shots,” Buffy huffed as she turned away from him, leaving nothing but her back to photograph.

“You know what? Those were tasteful photos I’ll have you know. Actually won me a couple awards with them,” Spike pointed out.

“Oh my god, I can’t believe you showed those pictures to people,” Buffy moaned in embarrassment.

Spike had made his way over to the picnic table and sat down on the opposite bench. “Here, you bloody prude,” he ground out as he laid several black and white photos in front of her to look at.

Buffy cringed and started to look over the incriminating pictures, her temper receding as her mind finally took in the actual photos.

“These are…me?”

The shots were silhouettes of Buffy’s figure in the shower behind a beveled and frosted shower door. One arm was raised above her head as she washed her chest and hips in one picture. Another showed both arms raised to her head as she washed her hair. There were no discerning body parts to be seen, no suggestive arrangements to leer at. Just a nice hourglass figure in black and white posed in graceful positions. Even she would have to admit they looked classy.

Buffy looked up to see Spike watching her and she blushed. “I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions. But please, next time, ask me…don’t just start taking pictures of me without my permission,” she pleaded.

“Does that include this one?” he asked as he pulled out a faded and worn picture of Buffy from his jacket pocket. He laid it in front of her and she gasped.

“How did…” she said in awe as she caressed the worn paper. She remembered that evening well. The lake had been peaceful and the doe was more than obliging as it let Buffy pet her soft nose. When the grain was gone and the doe had taken off, she had just sat and enjoyed the falling twilight and felt at peace for a few moments in her life. She had never heard Spike’s camera shutter nor even realized he was in the area. She had just closed her eyes and felt her spirit lift.

“This is me, Spike…this is…really me!” she said fervently, her smile so bright even though tears misted her eyes.

Spike grinned. “This is how I see you, luv. I always carry this with me. If I’m feeling a bit down, I just pull it out and have a look. Lifts my spirit, it does.”

Buffy’s eyes shot to his. “Really?”

“Hey guys, got coffee going?” Willow mumbled from the tent, breaking the mood.

“No, but I’ll start up the nosh,” Spike called to her. He glanced back at Buffy and found her gone from her seat, rifling through the cooler for the coffee and bottled water.

Willow and Xander then appeared looking quite bedraggled. Xander’s hair had shaped itself into a mohawk and Willow looked like she had stuck her finger in a light socket.

“Great look, guys!” Buffy laughed at their mutually grumpy expression.

“There is no making fun of the Xan Man before his cup of java,” Xander mumbled as he scrubbed the sleep from his eyes. “That was one hell of a night!”

Willow still hadn’t woken up completely and she was slightly snoring as she leaned against Xander’s shoulder while they sat on the bench. Buffy moved to wake her but Xander stopped her. “Let her sleep. With me snoring in her ear all night, it’s a wonder she got any sleep at all.” Buffy smiled and nodded, moving to start boiling the water.

After a rousing breakfast of pressed coffee and FastShake blueberry pancakes, the group started getting dressed for the day ahead. Spike had brought a large container of water to wash with and Buffy had indulged washing her hair with honey shampoo. She was blindly reaching for a towel when one was laid over her head. She stood still and let the person towel-dry her hair, pulling it up into a turban when they were done.

“Thanks for that,” she murmured to Spike. He smiled tenderly and pushed a stray strand behind her ear. “Welcome, luv.”

“Oh, you can’t make this stuff up! I can’t believe this…” they heard Xander yell from the tent.

“What’s wrong, mate?”

Xander slung both his and Spike’s duffle bags out of the tent. He dug around in them and pulled out the underwear. “They’re soaked. And it’s just the shorts, nothing else. How do these things happen?”

“No way!” Buffy and Willow both exclaimed.

“Oh yes way, look!” Xander pointed to the bags and the girls bent to take inventory.

It was true. Most all the clothing was dry except the underwear, bizarre as it may have seemed. “Guess we’ll have to string a line and let them air dry,” Willow offered.

“Uh, not hanging my knickers out for the world to have a gander at, Red,” Spike countered.

“Oh, like there’s anyone around?”

“Gentle Ben and Smokey, maybe even Yogi,” Spike supplied.

“Bears? You think bears are going to eat your ‘knickers?’” Buffy snickered.

“Oi! It could happen.”

“Hey! Only my swimming trunks are dry enough to wear,” Xander groused. “Who’s for boating then?”

“Definitely! I haven’t been canoeing in years!” Willow said excitedly.

“Guess that settles it. Canoeing it is,” Spike grunted as he strung a line between two trees and begun hanging his soggy underwear, Xander following behind him.

“But I swear Red, if one piece of my kit goes missing…” Spike threatened.

“I’ll have Buffy buy you some banana hammocks,” Willow teased. Spike gaped at the giggling girls and actually blushed.

“Mental picture SO not what I wanted,” Xander said disgustedly.

“Yeah, with you there mate,” Spike grimaced and moved to change into his trunks inside the tent.

An hour later and they were all headed towards the park rental office to purchase time for boating. Two canoes for four hours should have been enough. At least, it should have been.

The guys had decided to pair up and take out the first canoe. But, as soon as they had the long monstrosity hauled down the beach and idling in the water, Buffy and Willow jumped in and started rowing off towards the middle of the lake.

“Oi! You dozy bints! Come back here with our boat! We worked our arses off to tow that down there! Come back!” Spike yelled to no avail at the retreating girls, their laughter carrying across the lake.

“Thanks for the help with ‘our’ boat, guys!” the girls yelled back and continued paddling.

“Let’s get em’,” Xander challenged. “Oh they’re gonna regret that little stunt,” Spike agreed.

They started pushing the second canoe towards the beach and then stopped when half of it was in the water. “Wait, one of us has to get in or it’ll capsize if we both try to get in while it’s in the water,” Spike explained.

“Right, I’ll get in first, I’m heavier,” Xander said as he walked on the small deck above the boat and slowly lowered himself to sit on the metal bench in the back, paddle in hand.

Spike had one leg slung over the end that was still on the sand tried hoisting himself over.

“Wait! Shift your weight! Shift your weight!” Xander yelled trying to keep balance on his end.

“I am shifting, doughnut boy!” Spike yelled back as he slung his other leg into the boat. He glared at Xander as they sat there in tense silence. “I have to get out and push, damnit.”

“I swear if we catch up with them,” Xander started but never finished his sentence. He was tossed head first into the water as Spike got out to push the canoe further into the water. His life jacket made him look like a floating fishing bobber as his legs flailed around trying to get purchase on anything solid.

Spike pulled him out of the muck at the bottom of the lake, laughing himself silly. There was seaweed-like plants clinging to him and silt down his shorts.

“I hate you,” Xander ground out as he spit a pebble at him.

“Oi, spew your venom on the chits that stole your boat, not me,” Spike said, wiping the tears from his eyes.

“Fine, c’mon then, lets try again.”

It took two more tries before they were finally able to push off from the shore, both of them soaked from the dunkings.

The girls had been enjoying themselves, having gone around the lake several times while the guys floundered with their boat. They watched the proceedings with great amusement and even garnered laughter from the passers-by on the shoreline.

“Think they’ll catch us?” Buffy wondered aloud.

“Not if we’re quick,” grinned Willow.

They watched as the guys rowed with much fury and little coordination towards them. They calmly paddled away from them having mastered a comfortable rowing technique that got them where they wanted to go in short order. Apparently this incensed Spike and Xander.

“Tip em’! Tip em’!” Xander yelled as Spike tried to land his paddle in their direction. All they got was a lone oar floating a great distance away from them. Buffy and Willow just laughed loudly and rowed away, blowing kisses from their hands and waving.

“Arrgh!” Spike roared and lunged, leaving Xander alone in the canoe. Which was enough to tip him backwards.

“Oh shit!” was all he was able to get out before he went under.

The girls dissolved into hysterical laughter and a roar was heard from the shoreline. All the spectators were bent double with laughter at the boy’s antics. Two orange life jackets floated in the middle of the lake, a capsized canoe between them.

“C’mon mate, lets get this rig back to shore,” Spike panted as he tread water and pulled the canoe.

It took them an hour and a half to tow the boat back to shore where a ranger just stood and watched them in silent amusement. “Nice swim?” he questioned.

“Lost my shoe,” Xander huffed as he moved slowly through the clay and sand bottom. He watched as a snake slithered its way through the cattails and past his leg. He turned three shades of white and faltered.

“Oh no you don’t, mate!” Spike yelled as he drug Xander up the shore and deposited him in the grass.

“I’m gonna kill them, that’s all there is to it. Dead, chopped into little pieces, axed,” Xander muttered incoherently.

“Don’t think you mean that, do you boy?” the ranger asked as he bent over the prone men.

Xander audibly gulped. “Hehehe, no sir, not at all.”

“Good. Hate axe murderers as much as I hate pyro’s. Just remember that,” he advised and moved away.

“Way to go, mate. Keep your gob shut,” Spike said as he hit Xander’s arm.

“They’re still out there, aren’t they?” Xander asked as he tried to sit up.

“Yup. And we still have an hour left on boating,” Spike offered.

“Hmm, really?”

“Yup.”

“Something a little sturdier, you think?”

“Such as?”

“How about a paddle boat? It’s wider, no oars, faster, harder to tip.”

“It’s an idea.”

“I say we go for it. We’ll tip em’ for sure this time.”

“But will they give us another boat?”

“They have to, we paid a deposit.”

“Sure, let’s go.”

At this point, the crowd on the shoreline wondered who was the more foolish, the boat rental shop or the men. They watched as Xander and Spike paddled furiously towards the girls once more.

“Uh oh, here they come again,” Buffy warned.

Willow smirked. “Let them come, not like they can catch us in that old junk heap.”

The guys looked winded from having to paddle so much to get so little speed. The boat tilted on Xander’s side because he was heavier and Spike’s paddles barely reached the water causing Xander to be the one doing most of the paddling. It was also causing them to go in circles.

“Going nowhere fellas?” Buffy and Willow taunted.

“Oi, you come here you bossy chits!” Spike yelled to them across the lake.

There was a surge of bubbles that suddenly erupted near the girl’s canoe and it startled them. “What the hell was that?” Willow said as she peered over the edge.

They looked as a rather large catfish surfaced and then dove back down, grazing their boat. It was enough to tip them off balance. “Oh shit!”

Both girls fell side ways into the water bringing the canoe with them, knocking Buffy on the head.

“Buffy!” Spike yelled and dove off the paddleboat, swimming towards the girls.

That left Xander swimming in circles trying to get to the girls. He finally gave up and dove off the boat and started swimming towards Willow who was trying to tow the canoe with her to shore. He reached her and helped her pull the overturned boat through the sludge and onto the beach. They turned to watch Spike drag an unconscious Buffy with him to the jetty.

Xander helped pull her up and tore off her life jacket checking for breath. She was breathing, just out of it from the blow to her head. Spike crawled onto the jetty deck and cradled her in his lap.

“C’mon love, open those eyes for me, please,” he begged. He felt the lump on the back of her head and winced at how large it was.

“Spike?” Buffy whispered.

Spike pulled Buffy closer and kissed her forehead. “S’ok kitten, got a goose-egg on the back of your noggin is all.”

She smiled and started to laugh but it brought a flash of pain. “God my head hurts.”

“You’re lucky we don’t fine your asses!” the ranger yelled from his boat as he towed the forgotten paddleboat into dock. “Don’t plan on renting a boat from here…ever again!”

“Fine by me,” Willow muttered as she helped Buffy to her feet.

“Oh god Willow! You’re…you’re…well, let’s just say your hair matches your skin now!” Buffy gasped looking at a completely sunburned Willow.

“Hate to say it, but you too Buffy,” Willow pointed out as she took hold of her arm. The girls looked like veritable lobsters.

“Didn’t you put sun block on before we left camp?” Xander asked

“Apparently we didn’t Xander, by the looks of us,” Buffy groused.

The journey back to camp was slow going, the girls feeling prickly the whole way. If they stopped too long they froze in that position.

“God, what I wouldn’t give to be slathered in mint chocolate chip ice cream right now,” Buffy mused as she fanned herself.

“I’d give a lot for that, luv,” Spike whispered in her ear, out of range from Xander and Willow who were walking ahead of them.

“You’re still a pig Spike, you know that.”

“Oink, bloody, oink.”

“Oh man, you’ve got to be kidding me!” Xander moaned.

“What?” Spike questioned as he caught up with his cousin.

Xander just gestured towards the campsite and laughed in that hysterical way people do when they’ve gone through too much.

The guy’s underwear was strung out all over the ground, some ripped, some bearing the brunt of whatever the intruder was rooting around in. The spare tent was ripped to shreds and the cooler was over turned.

“Looks like Yogi did make an appearance,” Willow said in a small voice.

“Well, we still got the one tent, right?” Buffy offered.

“Not sure how safe it is though, pet,” Spike said as he crept towards the tent flap.

A low grumble sounded from the tent and the group froze. It became louder and chirpier, as if someone were having a conversation. Spike stepped slowly up to the flap and pulled it back.

Three raccoons tumbled out and scurried into the forest, dragging some of Buffy’s pink socks with them.

“Hey! Those are mine!” she yelled starting after them before Spike could catch her.

“Now, now pet. You’ve got some to spare, let em’ go.”

“But,” she spluttered.

“Raccoons can carry rabies. Best not see if they go Cujo on your ass, luv,” Spike explained.

“Ugh.” Buffy grumbled and crossed her arms. “So what now?”

Surveying the mess that was left of the camp, Spike ran his hand through his messy locks. “Don’t know pet…don’t rightly know.”
3 by Darkrivertempest
Author's Notes:
Ghost story is from the Chris Woodyard book, "Haunted Ohio." It is a great read and there are 5 books so far in the series. I highly suggest them for spooky reading!
Willow winced as Xander gently spread aloe vera on her taunt shoulders. “Sorry hun,” Xander apologized. Willow just nodded mutely and closed her eyes against the burning pain that enveloped her body. She was sure Buffy was doing no better after hearing a loud whimper on the other side of the camp.

After they had returned from the disaster they called boating to find their camp a mess, Xander and Spike immediately started putting things back in as much order as they would go. The guy’s underwear that had not been pulled down were now dry and they moved what was left of their stuff into the girl’s tent, seeing as their own tent had been ripped to shreds by something.

The girls hadn’t bothered to help, they could barely move with the massive sunburns they were sporting. They both sat on the picnic bench and watched as the men packed everything up and set the camp aright. Then Xander dug around at the bottom of the cooler and pulled out a bottle of clear aloe vera gel.

Spike had offered to put some on Buffy’s back and shoulders while Xander helped Willow. Neither girl protested because it hurt to move their lips. Instead, they just barely nodded and followed their respective healers to a secluded area on each side of the massive tent.

Spike helped Buffy gingerly sit on the tiny stool in front of the folding chair he had set up. As he sat behind her with his bottle of the ice-cold gel, he could see the start of angry red welts peppering her small back. He put his palm near her skin and could feel the heat radiate off her blistering skin in waves. He grimaced and knew what he was about to do would greatly pain her.

“Need to put your hair up, love. Got any clips?” he asked near her ear.

She startled with his closeness but recovered. “In my bag in the tent. You’ll have to get it, I don’t think I can move much.”

She felt him get up and cross to the tent, his movements causing air to buffet at her distressed skin. She cringed and whimpered in pain. Stupid, was all she could think about. As in, how stupid was she to think about boating without sun block. Thank god Spike was being somewhat tolerable about the whole thing. No sarcastic remarks about how blond she was, nor any slaps on the ass or crap like that. To be honest, if he did that, she would have found the strength to haul off and deck him with the way she felt right now.

She felt him return and he gently pulled her shoulders back towards him. He then took a handful of her hair and twisted it lightly to lie against her head while he applied the clip that made her hair stay put. “Gonna have to untie the top, pet…if you want me to get all the affected area,” Spike said softly.

“Go ahead,” Buffy said, just as softly. She didn’t have the strength to argue about being decent.

Spike’s mouth suddenly went dry as he pulled the knots that held her shirt up. Either she didn’t want to bother with being decent because she was in so much pain or…well, any other thought was ludicrous as he surveyed her bright pink flesh. She was bent over legs and rested her head on her knees. For a short girl, she had very long legs he noticed.

“This will probably sting at first, love, but it can’t be helped,” Spike explained hoping she would forgive him for hurting her.

She closed her eyes in resignation and sighed. “I know, it’s ok, really.”

Instead of putting the gel in his hands to warm it up, he just started slathering it on her back, knowing the coolness of the gel helped in pain relief. She gave a whimpered moan but didn’t move. She decided, after much thought, that she needed something to take her mind off of the pain. And what better way than to get Spike talking.

“What are you going to do once we get back to Sunnydale?” she asked quietly.

Spike stopped his ministrations for a moment but then resumed after looking at her closed eyes. “Hadn’t thought that far ahead yet, pet. S’pose I’ll visit with mum a bit more then figure out what I want to do. Got a couple of leads on photo jobs, maybe they’ll turn out.”

Spike was schooled in England and visited his mother during the summers. He had finished his schooling the year before the rest of the group had, so he was actually looking for work. Where that work would be was still up in the air and she had to repress the urge to ask him to stay here in the states. Her feelings for him were increasing in confusion with every touch, every word he uttered. She was striving to keep her heart safe and if he was going back to England then she’d rather know sooner than later.

“Aren’t you going back to London?”

This time he stopped and looked her in the eyes. “I changed my mind,” he whispered.

That was not a safe answer. She gingerly sat up, the gel already working to loosen the tightness of her skin, and pulled the straps of her top together behind her neck to tie them. Buffy grimaced with the task but murmured her thanks to Spike as she started to head into the tent.

“Buffy, please…” he called to her before she pulled back the flap. She waited for him to continue and he went and crouched before her in the doorway. She watched him warily, like a frightened bird with a cat nearby.

He reached out to caress her cheek, the gel still coating his fingers. He rubbed as much as he could into her skin with one hand and then started with the other, cupping her face in the end. He gently brought her forward, nose-to-nose, always mindful of her sensitive skin.

“I want to stay because,” he breathed against her lips.

“Because?” she answered dreamily. This was bad, this was so seriously of the bad Buffy thought.

“Because I found something worth staying for, something I’ve wanted for a very long time,” he murmured as he pressed soft kisses against her cheeks, eyes, nose, and finally lips.

“A job?” she wondered aloud, her mind having gone completely to mush as Spike peppered her face with kisses.

Spike softly chuckled and rested his forehead against hers. “Not yet, but…”

“Aaarrgghhhh!” Willow screamed. “That’s freakin cold!”

Spike closed his eyes in frustration. How hard could it be to tell the girl he loved her? Every time he had tried, one thing or another seized the opportunity to intrude. He looked back at Buffy who had retreated into the tent and sighed. Knowing she needed her space and probably some sleep, Spike started gathering supplies for that evening’s dinner, grumbling about the timing of the future Mr. And Mrs. Harris.

That evening, after a meal of hot dogs and campfire mac and cheese, Spike pulled out the marshmallows…along with bars of chocolate and graham crackers. “S’mores anyone?”

The girls were visibly drooling at the mere thought of chocolate and marshmallows, Xander not far behind them as he smacked his lips in anticipation.

Several burnt marshmallows and sticky fingers later, Buffy offered an idea as they sat around the campfire, the twilight falling fast. “How about some ghost stories?” she asked in a spooky way.

“Oh yeah, really creepy ones too!” Willow squealed. Xander heartily agreed and nominated Spike to be the first to start.

Spike cleared his throat and began in an ominous tone. “Back in the 1860’s, in an area much like this one, a group of settlers had gathered for a community log-burning. By nightfall, so many log fires were burning that the cleared area was as bright as day.”

Spike stood up and slowly walked around the fire telling the tale, adding just the right inflection where it was called for. “The jug was passed, the fiddler fiddled like the very devil himself, and more logs were heaped on the huge fires. Everyone took turns poking the logs to keep them burning quickly. There was so much laughter as the sparks shot into the night sky like fireworks or showered down on the workers,” he said with a sweeping of his hand towards the night sky.

Buffy had wrapped her arms around herself feeling a chill crawl up her spine and she shivered.

“One young woman,” Spike continued, “in a red plaid shawl took a pole and worked together with the young men, her cheeks glowing scarlet. Someone called her name and she turned, still holding her pole to the blaze. Suddenly, the huge pile of logs shifted and rolled over onto her!”

A collective gasp issued from the group sitting on the chairs as Spike went on.

“Everyone scattered, and when they looked back, swatting the cinders from their eyes, they young woman lay screaming, her hands trapped beneath a pile of burning logs. By the time the men heaved the logs off her arms, she was unconscious. Everyone gasped at the horror that lay there, for the hardwood had burnt white-hot.”

The girls covered their mouths to keep from gagging. Xander just whistled low and said, “Wow.”

“The doctor shook his head when he saw the blackened stubs of charred bone,” Spike said with a grimace. “He asked someone to boil oil. The wrist stumps would have to be cauterized after he amputated. He cut off the young woman’s hands halfway between wrist and elbow. Holding his breath against the stink, his assistant carried the hands into the forest and dropped them into a rotten tree stump. By the time he returned, the doctor was wiping his saw on a rag and replacing it in his bag. Weeping women covered the now dead woman’s sooty distorted face.”

Willow leaned closer to Xander and he in turn, pulled her into a gentle hug, mindful of her burn. Buffy drew her arms closer to her body and she shivered a little more. Spike decided to sit down for the rest of the story and so sat next to Buffy, doing the same thing as Xander.

“After that, the horses would shy and rear as their riders passed that rotten stump. As the horses ran with their nostrils flaring, a stench floated after them – something like burnt sausages,” Spike said as he pulled Buffy closer.

“Other travelers, riding watchfully through the forest at night reported being clutched at the throat or knees by an invisible attacker. When they tried to seize the arms of the ghostly strangler, they grasped only air. Others claimed that when they walked through the darkened forest, a cold hand smelling of burning flesh, slipped into theirs. Some scoffed at the witnesses but they still avoided the forest path.”

Xander snorted in derision. “No way that stuff is true.”

“Well, travelers would do well to avoid that area today. It’s still said to be haunted by a pair of disembodied hands that grab at the ankles or neck – blackened hands that twitch their way through the forest like charred spiders,” Spike intoned as he made creepy crawling fingers towards the group.

Willow squealed when Xander ran fingers up her back and she smacked him. Buffy laughed but soon stopped as a wave of nausea overcame her. “Oh god,” she muttered.

Laughing at Willow and Xander, Spike turned to see Buffy’s eyes, glazed over in what was probably a fever. “Buffy, love? What’s wrong?”

“Don’t know,” she chattered. “I’m so cold.”

“Bollocks! Was hoping you wouldn’t get it that bad, pet,” Spike said, worry edging into his voice as he pulled her closer.

She was getting dizzy and she had to grasp hold of his shirt to keep from falling as he pulled her up and was directing her towards the tent. “Get what?” she mumbled, her vision hazy.

“Seems you have sun poisoning, Buffy. Have you ever had it before?” Spike asked as he started peeling her layers of clothes off. He needed to cool her skin and this was the quickest way to do it.

“Is she ok?” Willow asked in a small voice from the tent flap.

“Grab the medic kit, if you will Red,” Spike said, not really answering her question.

Willow quickly did as she was told and Xander followed her into the tent, where Buffy was curled into a ball of chills and pain.

“She’s got a fever from the damage done to her fair skin. Surprised you haven’t got the same Red,” Spike pointed out.

“I wore a longer sleeved shirt,” Willow answered, confirming the reason her sunburn wasn’t as bad as Buffy’s. Buffy had worn only a tank top and shorts, while Willow had worn Capri’s and a mid arm sleeve length shirt.

“Need to get her fever down, the medic kit has ibuprofen in it. Grab a bit of water, mate,” Spike instructed Xander.

After all was said and done, there was nothing to do but wait it out. Spike lay down next to Buffy and pulled her into his embrace, Xander and Willow having fallen asleep long ago. She whimpered in her sleep and he loosened his grip from the pain he must be causing her.

Instead she rolled over and snuggled into his chest and he was left stunned by her actions. He was even more stunned when, in the midst of her feverish ramblings, she said something that he grasped hold of with his heart and refused to let go.

“Love you Spike.”
4 by Darkrivertempest
Author's Notes:
A little more Spuffy... and OMG, fishing? You can only guess what will happen when these people go fishing!
That night had been the hardest Spike had ever tried to sleep through.

Buffy had quieted long into the night, her fever breaking and her restlessness becoming a peaceful slumber. Spike had placed his lips on her forehead and was relieved that, even though her skin was still somewhat warm to the touch, her fever had broken. She was still curled into Spike’s embrace, her clothes damp with sweat.

That had been only half of the worry. The other half, would she remember what she had said during her delirium? He wanted her to remember, needed her to, and he prayed she would. A great deal of his future lay with this little woman sleeping beside him and he hoped hers lay with him.

She snuffled and groaned into Spike’s shirt. “Mmmm, thirsty,” she said thickly, her throat parched.

“Here Buffy, you’ll need to sit up a bit,” Spike encouraged her as he handed her a bottle of water.

She gulped the water as if she had been traveling through the desert. “Woah, ease up there, ducks. You’ll drown if you keep drinking like that,” Spike admonished her.

She took a gasping breath as she finally stopped gulping the fluid. “Sorry, just so thirsty,” she apologized. She gave him back the bottle and looked at her surroundings.

Xander and Willow were out cold on the far side of the tent, lying haphazardly all over each other. Xander was softly snoring and Willow must have been having a dream, for every now and then she would giggle and move her legs like a dog being scratched behind his ears. She smiled awkwardly and lay back down beside Spike.

Spike had propped up his head on his left hand and just watched her in the darkness, making out small grimaces from the moonlight that had shone into the tent. “In pain, love?” he asked.

“A little, but not as bad as before. Have I been much of a pain to take care of?” Buffy asked quietly. She hated being a burden to anyone.

“Course not, don’t be daft,” Spike said, a little too harshly. He winced at the sound of his voice but wanted Buffy to understand that he’d take care of her, no matter what.

She glanced over at his insistence that she wasn’t too much of a bother to care for and she softly smiled. “You have such a way with words of comfort, you know?”

“You’re just too delirious to appreciate the true value of the man who now lays before you,” he half joked. He wondered if she knew even half of what he would do for her, but decided to keep silent on the matter because, even now, she was tiring again and her eyes drooped.

She turned her head and graced him with a full smile, at least as much as she could without making her face hurt too much. “I know your value, Spike…I’ve always known,” she murmured as she drifted off to sleep again.

Spike grit his teeth and had to physically restrain himself from shaking her awake to hear her explanation for that little tidbit of information. She was soon in a deep sleep and he was wide-awake to ponder the ramifications of all that had happened in the last 24 hours.

He didn’t fall asleep until somewhere near dawn and even then it was light and restless. He was rudely awakened by a kick to the back of his head from Xander’s misstep. “Oi, watch it mate!” Spike grumped.

Xander glanced down at what he had stepped on. “Oh sorry, Spike…gotta go!” he said as he quickly left the tent. Spike rubbed the back of his head and moved to get up and get the coffee going. However, that was more difficult than he thought, as Buffy had draped herself over his chest and legs sometime during the night.

“Oh sweet lord,” Spike muttered as his erection sprang to life. It didn’t help that Buffy’s knee was situated right at the juncture of his thighs, her bare foot caressing his calf in an unconscious gesture of intimacy. He needed to wake her up or move her, one of the two so he wouldn’t embarrass himself or upset her.

“Buffy, love…” he said softly in her ear, pulling her arms from where they lay on his chest.

She groggily opened her eyes and looked straight at him, all traces of the fever gone from them. “Hey handsome,” she whispered. Without thinking, she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, then rolled over gently to get up off the bedding.

Spike touched the cheek she had kissed. She had never kissed him of her own free will and it was a heady thing. He couldn’t let her just walk away after that. “Buffy, I swear, if we were alone,” he started.

“What would you do? Ravish me? That would prove difficult, seeing as I have a semi-blistered body,” she said impishly as she put on her flip-flops to go outside.

“We’re going to have to talk about this, love, and soon,” Spike sternly told her, standing up himself, forgetting that he was sporting a raging hard-on. Buffy looked immediately to his groin and she licked her lips. He quickly moved to stand in front of her, lightly grasping her shoulders and leaning in close to whisper words across her sensitive skin.

“Do you have any idea what you do to me, Buffy?” his eyes pleaded with her to understand.

“What do I do to you?” she challenged.

He grabbed her small hand and brought it to his erection, making her grasp its length in a tight grip. “This,” he hissed as she slowly moved her hand up and down his shaft. “This is what you do to me, have done to me for so long,” he groaned.

“How long?” she murmured, never taking her eyes off of his hard stare.

“Since I first saw your sweet face, angel. I was so lost, couldn’t bring myself to touch your innocence. But the more I saw you, the more I craved your soft touch. I waited for any word that might say I was worthy enough to grace your presence, but I became impatient, as we grew older,” he explained, caressing her face with his fingertips.

Buffy was stunned into silence at his admission. How long had they known each other? Buffy could barely comprehend the devotion this man apparently had for her. Was this the reason she never really felt the compulsion to date any of the men at school? Was this why she never felt comfortable around men except for Spike and Xander? Xander was like a brother to her, yes, but Spike…Spike was something else entirely.

“But why did you never tell me?” she whimpered, tears gathering in her eyes.

“I wanted to love you from afar Buffy, I swear I did…I tried so hard,” Spike managed, her tears causing him to get all choked up. “Guess that didn’t work so well.”

Buffy’s heart lurched painfully in her chest at his words. “You love me?” she whispered, the tears now falling down her bright pink cheeks.

Spike finally grasped that he had said too much. The cat was out of the bag now, and there was no going back…not that he’d even want to at this point. He stopped Buffy from stroking his eager shaft and stilled her hands. He then pulled her face close to his and looked deep into her eyes, forcing her to accept the truth of his words.

“I have loved you since I first clapped eyes on you. I fought it, I did.” He bent to rummage through his coat and pulled out the worn picture, showing it to her. “This? This is when you stole my soul, wishing I could follow you to where yours would fly. I want to go where you go, see the things you see, be all that you need,” he said fervently.

“I…I don’t know what to say,” she cried as she tried to back away from his admission. She couldn’t handle going from the nobody that lurked around the school halls to being someone’s everything in the blink of an eye. “I can’t do this, I can’t!” she said and rushed out of the tent.

“God damnit!” Spike swore softly. He ran his shaking hands through his blond locks and sighed heavily. This trip had turned into the biggest mistake of his life so far and he’d compounded the error by telling Buffy the long hidden truth. He carelessly shrugged on his boots and headed out of the tent to find the loo…or something good to aim at.

He left behind a very bewildered, barely awake Willow who just stared after him. Xander popped into the tent with a steaming mug of coffee and just looked at her. “What was that all about?” he asked.

Willow smiled crookedly and sipped her coffee. “Seems our little Spikey has been keeping a few secrets of the really devastating kind to himself and now Buffy is fully aware of them.”

“What? Did Spike put those nudie pics online or something?” Xander asked and got an earful of how dumb he was.

“No doofus! Spike has major crushage on Buffy, has for years it seems. And I wager she has it for him too. Just they’re too stubborn to admit it to each other,” Willow explained.

“Spike has it for Buffy? Really? How bad?” Xander said in amazement. Willow had decided that Xander wasn’t too dumb, just really unobservant.

“Bad,” was all she would say. “As in the big ‘I do’ sort of way.”

“Woah, that’s bad,” Xander agreed. “Glad we weren’t that foolish,” he offered referring to himself and Willow.

“Yeah, we’re paragons of noticing the truth,” Willow said sarcastically. “It only took us,” she looked at her watch, “oh, only 17 years to finally realize that we would fit together like a puzzle piece.”

Xander sniffed in disdain. “Fine, but I say we at least wizened up and got with the program.”

“True,” Willow acknowledged. “Now if we could only help Spike and Buffy…” Her mind was already going a mile a minute with ideas to help the lovelorn pair.

“How about fishing today?” Xander offered.

“Fishing? Only if you set up an umbrella to keep the sun off Buffy and me,” she countered.

“Not a prob. Besides, I’ll find a shady spot to set up…less sun that way too.”

“We’re not going on a boat are we?”

“Are you kidding? They won’t let us near the docks,” Xander said with exasperation. “I mean, it’s not like we tried to drown you or ourselves.”

Willow giggled and pecked him on the cheek, heading for the tent door. “We really need to help them Xander. He loves her so much, I almost started crying when he said it.”

“Spike said he loves her? Oh god, it IS bad!” Xander said in mock horror.

She slapped him on the arm and stepped out of the tent into the fresh air of the forest. Spike was sitting at the picnic table, staring out into the woods and Buffy was nowhere in sight. ‘Oh joy, this will be fun,’ Willow winced to herself.

“Well here goes nothing,” she muttered under her breath as she sat down at the table in front of Spike. He glanced at her and gave her a small smile. “What’s up Red?” he asked though she knew he didn’t really want to know the answer.

“I think we need to talk, Spike,” Willow said as if a parent to a child, and she watched Spike visibly cringe.
5 by Darkrivertempest
Author's Notes:
Dedicated to MidnightGirl as I got a laugh at her image of 'Love Doctor' Willow. However, I think Xander may have been more of the 'Love Doctor' in this chapter.
“If you don’t want me to scald my private parts, you’ll take the coffee,” Xander said in exasperation to Buffy.

After the little scene in the tent, Xander had grabbed a cup of steaming coffee and headed in the direction Buffy had gone, while Willow talked with Spike. He was surprised he had any of the liquid left in the cup after tripping several times in the underbrush. Once he found her, sitting on a fallen log with legs curled up into her body in a protective gesture, he thrust what was left of the hot liquid in her face commanding that she take the cup. The first time she ignored him. The second time, he wasn’t so polite.

“Damn it Buffy, get your head out of the clouds and take the fucking cup!” Xander grimaced at the tone of his own voice.

She cringed and took the mug, wrapping her cold hands around it to warm them. “I should never have come on this trip,” Buffy whispered.

“Why? Because of Spike? I thought you were made of sterner stuff, Summers,” Xander asked as he climbed on the log and sat behind her. He sat with his back against hers in an old gesture that they had developed over the years when talking about difficult subjects.

“Maybe I’m not, you haven’t really looked,” she offered lamely.

“Buffy, just cause I’m with Willow doesn’t make me dead, you know,” Xander admonished. “Hell, if I wasn’t with Willow I’d be borrowing a line from Spike and trying to ‘shag your brains out.’ You’re a damn attractive lady and I’m surprised you don’t have guys lined up out the door.”

Buffy snorted in disbelief. “Why is it suddenly I’m attracting the attention of men I had never even thought about in that way? Did I grow a third boob or something?”

Xander chuckled and relaxed when he felt Buffy laugh a little too. “Now that’s something that even Willow couldn’t hold up to,” he pointed out and she laughed a little more.

“In all seriousness though, I think Spike has had it bad for you for a long time…long before I even accepted you were gonna break a couple hearts,” he offered. He felt her pull into herself further as if to escape the truth of the matter.

“How come I never saw it then?” she asked. After all these years of being with the group, this was the first time Spike had let anything slip that he had feelings for her. If he was so all consumed with longing, or lust, or anything, wouldn’t it have shown before this?

“Spike has always kept a reign on his emotions, even as a kid. Guess it’s a by-product of being the kid of a British professor,” Xander explained as he began tossing pieces of broken bark into the clearing. “At get togethers, Uncle Giles would say things like ‘Make sure you properly thank your host and cause them no undo stress in caring for your needs.’”

“You’re kidding? Could a child really understand any of that?”

“Apparently Spike did. The guy was an adult, even as a kid. I’ve never seen his control slip much…except when his parent’s got divorced and around you sometimes,” Xander confirmed.

“Around me? Again, why did I never see it?” Buffy asked.

“You never watched him the way he watches you. Once you were introduced to the group, he followed your every movement. I teased him about it a couple times, told him he was acting like a stalker and that if he was jonesing for you so bad that he should say something. He got this look in his eye the one time and said ‘Mate, sod off. When I want her to know, she’ll know.’ Apparently he wants you to know now,” Xander clarified.

“Ah, yeah, I know now,” she sighed.

“Is that a bad thing, Buffy?” Xander asked as he turned a little towards her. “He’s a great guy who’s had a rigid life. Had to, it kept his heart safe, I feel. Well, at least that is his reasoning, I imagine. It would have been mine too, come to think of it.”

“Mmm, maybe. He told me about the pictures, even showed them to me. They’re actually quite tasteful and, if I didn’t know it was me, very beautiful,” she said in a wistful tone.

“You do know he sees you that way, don’t you? And you’re avoiding my question. Is it so bad to like Spike, even just a little? I mean I know he can be such a pain in the ass sometimes, but it’s a defense mechanism that he’s had for a long time.”

“That’s the problem, Xander. I don’t think it would ever be just ‘like’ with Spike. I feel…no, I know it would be an all-consuming passion with him. There are no half ways with Spike; it’s all or nothing. I’m afraid of losing myself in that, cause I could love the man so very easily with no thought to myself,” she said, reveling to Xander more than she would ever admit.

Xander grinned to himself, glad she couldn’t see his reaction, for she would surely wipe away the smile he had from his face. She had it bad for Spike too, if her confession was any indication. Now, how to go about getting two stubbornly self protected fragile egos together? Xander threw another piece of bark into the clearing and pondered on how to do this.

“Promise me something, Buffy,” Xander began.

“I’ll try,” she conceded.

“Give him a chance. The man has rarely looked at another woman since he’s known you, that should say something. He loves you, that much is certain. Let him show you, prove to you, that he can be trusted with your heart. Think you can do that?” Xander asked peeking around her shoulder at her solemn face.

“I hate you, you know?” Buffy grumbled.

Xander smiled and knew she would do as he asked. “Yeah, but it’s a love hate thing, right? Love me when I’m wrong, hate me when I’m right.”

“No,” she corrected. “I love to hate you!”

They laughed as he pulled her off the log and into a tight hug. He pulled back and looked her in the eyes. “Everything will be ok, I promise.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Xander Harris. I still haven’t forgiven you for what you did to Mr. Gordo,” she said as she walked into the clearing and back towards the camp.

“Damn pig, how was I to know he’d fall apart in the washer?” he muttered to himself.

“What was that?” Buffy yelled back.

“Nothing!”

************************************************************


“Spike, we need to talk,” Willow said as she patted his clenched hands.

“No offense Red, I’d rather be alone right now,” Spike said between gritted teeth.

“Well, see, that’s the problem. You’re always alone,” she said as she watched Xander take a mug of coffee with him into the woods.

Spike’s gaze followed him as well and he huffed. “Bloody lucky if she doesn’t douse him in the brew. And,” he continued, “I’m not always alone.”

Willow turned her attention back to the man who was clearly suffering in front of her. “How long have you loved her, Spike?”

Spike grimaced in pain and stared off into the woods. “Since I first saw her, Red. Since I looked into those sad, lonely eyes. Since she kissed my knee after I scraped it when bloody Xander forced me to learn how to use that god-awful skateboard. Ever since she held my hand when mum left dad. Is that a long time?” he mused.

Tears gathered in her eyes. “Oh Spike, you’re what every girl dreams of when she’s little,” Willow whispered.

He gave her a sad smile. “Not every little girl, Red.”

She nodded silently. “I think she’s afraid in all honesty. Afraid you’ll be like her dad. You won’t will you? You know, up and leave?”

Anger flitted across his face. “How could you even ask me such a thing, Willow?”

She knew she’d hit a sore spot if he called her by her given name. “I didn’t think you would…strike that, I know you wouldn’t. Just wanted to make sure is all. She’s the closest thing I have to a sister, Spike. I want what’s best for her.”

“So do I Red, so do I. Even if it isn’t me,” he said, his voice catching on his last words. “I know she deserves better than me, but I would like, just once, to be the reason she had a smile on her face.”

“Sweetie, if I have a clue…and I do you know…you’ll be putting more than one smile on her face,” she said in a hushed tone.

Spike narrowed his eyes at the woman his cousin was ga ga over. “I smell a conspiracy, Red.”

“Now, now…you’re starting to sound paranoid,” she said with a mischievous grin.

“Willow…”

“Shhh. My lovely, but sometimes dense, Xander went to find the beautiful, but terrified, Buffy. He’ll straighten things out, I’m sure,” she said with confidence. She glanced at his still clenched hands and tried to pull them apart.

“Oi, what you doin?” Spike said as she pulled his left hand into her grasp, studying the palm.

“Reading your palm, gotta problem with that?” she said in irritation. She was a burgeoning astrologer and palmist, so she practiced on everyone that she could literally get her hands on. That usually included her friends and family.

“You’ve done this before you cheeky bint, nothing new since last time,” Spike muttered and finally gave up his hand to her perusal.

“I’ve gotten better,” she murmured absentmindedly. She frowned a bit and traced one of the lines on Spike’s palm with her finger. “Your heart line is thick and deep. It means you’ll never waver in your devotion to a loved one, whether in thought or in deed. It also means you love intensely and continuously.” She looked up into his eyes, rapt with attention.

“Go on,” he gulped audibly.

She peered harder at his hand a smile slowly grew until it overcame her whole face, lighting up her eyes. “You’ll have one marriage, and see here?” She pointed to two vertical lines and one diagonal line that ran across the main deep one that he assumed was his heart line. “This indicates you’ll have two sons and one daughter.”

Spike pulled his hand out of her startled grasp. “Not nice to tease a man, Red.”

“But I wasn’t…” she started but stopped as she watched him get up and walk towards the path Xander had taken. “Stupid, stubborn man,” she said to his retreating form.

She was about to call out to him again when she heard a muffled scream, some laughter, and then she watched as Xander was unceremoniously tossed out of the woods…without Buffy.

“Rude much!” Xander yelled into the forest, dusted himself off and approached Willow, who was still sitting at the picnic bench.

“Hey beautiful,” Xander said and gave her a bone-melting kiss, then nuzzled noses together with her.

“Buffy?” she questioned as she returned his hug.

“Yup,” he nodded with a smile. He looked towards the path the other two had taken. “Spike?”

“Yup.”

“Good. Now we wait…and nudge when it’s needed, agreed?” Xander asked.

“Yup.”

“Ready for fishing?” he asked as she leaned into his embrace.

“Yup.”

“Do you say anything other than ‘yup’ anymore?” he said as he nuzzled the spot just under her ear.

“Yup,” she giggled. She then proceeded to tell him, in graphic detail, what else she could say…and do.

“How long do you think they’ll be?” Xander breathed heavily.

Willow wound her arms around his neck and sighed. “Oh I’d say at least an hour,” she murmured in his ear.

“Thank god!” he groaned as he pulled Willow with him to the tent promising her that he would make good on all that she had whispered
6 by Darkrivertempest
Author's Notes:
Ok, so Zoe complained that they haven't shagged yet. Well, fine then... here you go. May it be 'shaggy' enough for you! LOL
“That was a little much, wasn’t it?” Buffy asked with an eyebrow raised in Spike’s direction.

“Bloody clumsy fool stepped on my foot!” Spike groused in return. “He’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

Buffy snickered and silently nodded. Xander was as sweet as could be, but he was clumsiness personified. And, she was kinda shocked when he offered to pay her to stay in the woods so he and Willow could have some alone time. She declined the money but assured him that she would definitely stay out of hearing range. What she didn’t count on was the subject of much discussion following her into the woods.

Spike looked at a nervous Buffy and gave a long-suffering sigh. “M’not gonna bite pet, less you want me to,” he said with a waggle of his eyebrows. He relaxed when he heard her giggle.

“It’s nothing really, just…well. I just flipped out a little and, well, I’m sorry about that…truly,” she explained quickly, her hands fidgeting. “I mean, it’s not everyday a girl like me hears that she is loved by someone,” she whispered looking directly into his eyes.

“What do you mean a girl like you? Bloody amazing you don’t have blokes lined up down the hall and around the corner,” Spike said in amazement, slowly inching towards her.

Buffy noticed his movement but stood her ground. If she was going to hold true to her promise to Xander then she needed to start somewhere. “That’s what Xander said, about the guys I mean.”

“Too right. What makes you think you’re not desirable? What bastard dented that lovely self possessed confidence your known for?” Spike ground out getting closer till he stood right in front of her.

Buffy teared up and diverted her gaze. “Angel,” she whispered.

An evil looking smirk overcame Spike’s face. “Ah, the bloody pouf Angel.”

Buffy frowned in confusion and swiped her tears away. “You know Angel?”

Spike grimaced and nodded. “He and I used to be mates back in the day. He dated this crazy bird Dru, who by the way tried getting into m’knickers, but he never knew.”

“But, how long did you know him?” Buffy eyed him warily.

“Lets find a spot to sit down, I need to tell you some things…things that I’ve done,” he said quietly, tugging on her hand.

He pulled her in the direction of the log that Xander and her had been sitting on. Once it came into view, she scrambled away from Spike and perched herself on the log, facing him. Spike approached her slowly and laid his hands gently on her thighs, watching her for any signs of disapproval. Seeing none, he gently nudged them to each side and settled himself in between her legs. She watched him like a hawk and relaxed when he stilled, moving no further.

“This okay, pet?” he questioned, lightly rubbing his knuckles up and down her thighs.

It was hard to concentrate with him doing that. She reached down to still his hands, but he caught them and held on. “Um, yeah, fine,” she answered shakily. “So, about Angel?”

“Angel,” he muttered. He brought the fingers of one hand up and placed them palm-to-palm with his left hand. He heard her swift intake of breath and smiled to himself.

“I’ve known Angel longer than you, luv,” he said absentmindedly, curling his long fingers around her shorter ones. “I also know he has a perchance for ‘little girls and boys’ as it were.”

The stroking of his fingers drew her into a sensual haze and she had to concentrate to hear what he was saying. “Little kids?” she said thickly.

Spike watched her eyes glaze over as he fondled her fingers, weaving his own in and out, doing nothing more. “How old do you think Angel is, Buffy?”

She frowned, trying to think back to what he had said to her at the time they knew each other. “Isn’t he around your age?”

Spike cupped her face and stared into her eyes. “Love, he’s much older than I am. He just looks young. Allows him to lure kids in, to teach them about so-called ‘love.”

“How do you know about this?” she whispered fervently.

Spike said nothing, letting Buffy draw her own conclusions. She searched his pain filled eyes and gasped when she realized what Angel had done to him.

“Oh god, no!” she whimpered and covered her mouth before she screamed. She shook with hatred and grief, for lost innocence, for injustice.

Mistaking her shock as hatred for him instead of grief, he recoiled from their position and started inching away. “Think I’m dirty now, do you?” he spat out.

She was startled by his abrupt withdrawal from the closeness they were sharing. “What? What on god’s earth would make you think that?” She reached for him with trembling fingers, but he stayed out of reach.

“Can’t hide your revulsion, pet!” he nearly shouted. “I’m nothing but a used heap of refuse to you, something you can’t even think to wipe your feet on! Do you have any idea what that does to me? The one person I thought would understand what I went through… what you went through!” he roared, tears coursing down his cheeks, finally breaking from the strain of unrequited love.

“I found out what he did to you, and I was so hateful I couldn’t stop myself,” he continued, pacing in front of the log. He didn’t notice that Buffy had slipped down and was slowly approaching him.

“What couldn’t you stop, Spike?” she asked quietly.

“I mean it was one thing to…to…to violate me, but it was another to dare touch such beauty as yours,” he reasoned to no one, never hearing Buffy’s question.

“What couldn’t you stop Spike?” she asked louder, laying a hand on his shoulder.

He spun around and stared at her, a lovely, frightening mess. His curls had come lose from the hands he had repeatedly drawn through his hair. Tears still coursed down his sculpted cheeks and his eyes were red rimmed. He breathed heavily and finally crumpled at her feet, clutching her middle. He laid his head against her abdomen and whimpered, begging for her forgiveness.

“Sorry, so sorry. I didn’t mean to…I swear!” he mumbled over and over.

She looked down at the platinum head and started to stroke his hair. “It’s ok, William, tell me,” she gently pleaded.

The ‘William’ broke him. “I killed him. It was an accident, though, I swear. Magistrate’s put it down to vehicular manslaughter and gave me two years probation with time served. That’s why I haven’t been back for two years, Buffy. I had to stay to serve the time.”

Buffy tightened her hand in his hair. It explained everything. Spike not showing up for two years for their group vacations, Xander being evasive about his cousin’s whereabouts, the physical and emotional changes in Spike. She looked down at him again and sighed heavily. “I believe you, Spike.”

Spike stilled against her. He hesitantly looked up into her eyes. Her eyes, her lonely sad eyes. Did he put that sadness there? He extricated himself from her grasp and stood to face her. “I’m just sorry he touched you and I wasn’t there to stop him,” he sobbed.

Buffy laid her cool palm against his hot cheek, rubbing away the tears that still fell. “He didn’t touch me that much before I figured out what he was thinking about. Gave him a, ahem, crotchful of touching. Mostly with my foot,” she smiled softly.

“He…he didn’t...” Spike heaved, clutching his chest.

“No, cause funny thing…I just somehow knew that he wasn’t the one for me,” she smiled a little more. She now knew that this wonderful man would do anything for her, love her like never before, make her smile all the days left to her.

Spike was in a haze and tried to respond as he watched Buffy lean up and press a soft kiss to his trembling lips. “I love you,” she breathed against his lips.

He moaned and deepened the kiss, burying his hands in her soft hair. “I don’t deserve you,” he murmured against her temple.

She laid her forehead against his, looking deeply into his astoundingly blue eyes. “No, Spike, I don’t deserve you. If I had any clue about your feelings for me, we could have avoided this self imposed silence and hurt. Cause I think I’ve felt the same for just as long as you. But fear of being rejected by the one you love is such a powerful deterrent. Promise me you’ll always tell me what’s on your mind and what you’re feeling, yeah?”

He nuzzled her cheek with his sculpted one. “You sure about that? I could say quite a few things right about now,” he said huskily.

She laughed as he tickled her neck with his breath. “Like what,” she murmured as she closed her eyes and fell into the sensations he was creating in her.

“Like, let me stay with you, always. Let me be the reason you smile, just once. Let me be a craving in your soul, like you are in mine. Let me be an ache in your chest that you can’t remedy because I am the only cure. Let me be the drug that you are addicted to,” he whispered across her skin, punctuating every thought with a languorous kiss to some part of her face.

By the time he had finished, Buffy was panting heavily and clutching him for support. “Already done, all of them,” she whimpered.

He groaned and backed her up against the log, grinding his hips into hers, tongues dueling for supremacy. “Such a sweet torment,” he sighed against her lips, licking and nipping them till they were plump and red.

“I’ve been called many things but never a torment,” she said as she smiled coyly up at him.

He raised one eyebrow and leered at her. “Then the men are either blind or daft idiots,” he reassured her.

Daring to be brave, Buffy trailed her fingers underneath his shirt and across his belly. His grip on her tightened as she circled his navel with one finger, his muscles clenching beneath her touch.
“God Buffy! Much more of that and I won’t be able to stop touching you,” Spike said, his voice little more than a groan of need.

“What if I don’t want you to stop?” she whispered.

Spike gulped audibly. “Your playing with fire… one that has burned too long and bright,” he warned.

“Then burn me, mark me as yours,” she demanded in a voice that was low and husky.

It was almost impossible to quiet the squeak of surprise when he grasped her by the arms and pushed her harder against the log, his warmth seeping into her veins. Spike growled softly and kissed her, hard and fierce, his hunger for her clearly evident. He rocked his hard length against her core and she wrapped her arms around his neck, returning his kiss with equal hunger.

Spike brushed his thumb over the hard aching tip of her breast and Buffy ceased to think. Spike struggled to unhook her bra, his hands were so unsteady and without practice. His only consolation was that Buffy was as desperate as he was, so she didn’t notice. Finally he was able to unhook the offending garment and he pulled up her shirt to toss it away.

He stared at her bared breasts and looked his fill. Her breasts were not large, but they were high and firm, topped with a large nipple colored in rich pink. His mouth watered and he lowered his head towards the inviting bud. He laved the nipple to a peak, gently at first and then with increasing force. Buffy panted and curled her fingers into his hair, holding him to her chest while he suckled.

“God you taste like ambrosia,” he breathed around her nipple.

She chuckled to herself. “I’ll take your word for it.”

She inched her hands up under his shirt until he tore it away from his body and flung it over to join her shirt in a pile on the ground. She uttered a deep intake of breath and her eyes glazed over. He was perfect, like a sculpted David statue…cool, hard planes covered his trunk. His six-pack abs quivered slightly when she touched them and she smiled. She leaned forward and kissed his flat nipple watching it peak slightly. She heard his heaving breathing and reached up to tweak the nipple to a higher peak. He growled and pushed her back against the log, the bark scraping her now bared back.

“Let me cover the log,” he whispered in frustration as he bent down to gather the discarded clothes. He laid them on the log and he then settled her more securely in his embrace. His hands then started to flutter down her stomach to the apex of her thighs. “Damn jeans,” he muttered unbuttoning the restrictive material.

Buffy giggled at his impatience. “Let me help you,” she said as she shimmed the jeans off her hips and tossed them to the side with a flick of her foot. His breath caught painfully in his throat as he looked over the slim shapeliness of her body. Her skin was still slightly pink from the sunburn, but other wise it had started to turn into a golden hue all over. Her long slender and faintly muscular legs begged to be wrapped around him and he practically drooled. He caught the wicked gleam in her eyes as she hooked her thumbs in the waistband of her panties and tugged down. She then flung the sodden cotton in his face and he breathed deeply of her scent.

His hungry gaze settled on the neat triangle of golden brown curls at the juncture of her beautiful thighs and he groaned. There lay heaven and he shook with the need to bury himself in her warmth. He nearly spilled himself when she traced the outline of his erection through his jeans with her nimble fingers. “I want to see,” she pleaded.

He removed his jeans, not having bothered to put on any underwear as he had stormed from the tent. He sprung free into her waiting grasp and she made a large ‘O’ with her mouth at the size of him. He felt so hard yet the skin was silken smooth. She tentatively stroked him and was a little startled as he cursed and pulled away from her.

“I’ll be finishing this dance before you start to enjoy it if you keep doing that, love,” Spike said between clenched teeth, removing her hand from his aching length.

He saw confusion and a little fear as he pulled away but then it was replaced by that glazed look as he stroked his fingers over her stomach and slid it between her legs. Buffy felt his long fingers stroking her so intimately and it had her thrashing and bucking up into his hand.

“God Buffy, you’re so wet for me,” he said in a horse and unsteady voice.

“Only for you, but are you only going to talk about it or are you going to do something about it?” she challenged in a thick voice.

He growled fiercely and poised himself at her entrance. “Wrap your legs around me love,” he instructed Buffy, and she wrapped one leg and then the other around his trim waist.

“A gentle ride at first,” he panted.

“Now where would be the fun in that?” she muttered and used her legs to force their bodies together, impaling herself upon his hard length. She echoed his startled gasp and for a brief moment the pain of losing her virginity stilled her passions. She shifted slightly and her passions returned with a rush.

Spike started to move and she clung to him, quickly adjusting to meet his thrusts. She clawed her way down his back and clutched his tight and firm buttocks to push him deeper into her. A tension started to build within her and she trembled, afraid of its strength.

“Spike,” Buffy cried against his shoulder. “Please.”

“Don’t fight it, love, give in… come with me,” he pleaded in desperation.

Buffy began to shatter as waves of delight and pleasure flowed over her, his thrusts growing harder and deeper. He roared her name as he spilled himself into her warm depths. They clung to each other, panting and fervently kissing each other as if the other one would disappear.

“Love you, god, how I love you,” he whispered against her temple.

“Stay, always stay with me…love you so much,” she whimpered.

“Always, never leave.”

She snuggled deep into his arms and sighed in contentment. She placed a small kiss on his chest above his heart and smiled as she heard him sigh.

“Buffy, can I ask you something, love?” Spike said hesitantly, mindful they were still joined and loving every minute of it.

“Of course,” she murmured sleepily.

“Be my wife,” he whispered.

She smiled against his chest and said just as softly, “Yes.”

And lo, there was much rejoicing.
7 by Darkrivertempest
Author's Notes:
So Happy Birthday to Katin! (Zoe, bless her cotton socks!) I hope you enjoyed this little vacation horror story. The poem of course is by Robert Frost. Please leave a review, they feed my inner psycho. And yes, Zoe, the oozing is for you! LOL
“Oh god, Willow!” floated to the blond pair emerging from the forest.

Buffy stifled a giggled and looked at Spike, his hair in a disheveled sexy state. They had made love twice more before deciding to join the others, allowing for their own love play. Apparently two hours wasn’t long enough.

Spike gave her a shushing motion and pulled her back onto the path in the woods. “Make a racket, love, see if that’ll get ‘em to tone it down a bit.”

“Hmm, let me think…” she mused. Then, without warning, she started running towards the tent on the other side of the clearing yelling, “Bees! Oh my god, bees!”

She circled the tent and heard muffled screams and loud voices, watching a half dressed Willow and nearly naked Xander tumbled out of the tent door. Several stages of deep blush covered their bodies and Willow looked thoroughly loved. Xander kept a tight grip on what looked like one of Spike’s tee shirts around his bare ass and he was panting heavily.

“Bees? Where bees?” he asked in confusion at a laughing Buffy. She was bent double and tears were dripping down her face.

“Oi mate! Tell me, please, that’s not one of my tees,” Spike yelled, coming up the path.

Xander looked down to his middle and back up at Spike. “Want it back?” he offered, looking as if to take the shirt off.

“God no! Burn it, I know I’ll need to scrub my eyes for a bit after this image,” Spike groused.

Willow had ducked back into the tent and now returned wearing a tank and some shorts, looking quite embarrassed. “Anyone for fishing?” she ventured, trying to turn the subject from Xander and her to something more constructive.

“As in killing the worm for bait fishing?” Buffy said in a queasy voice.

“Is there any other kind, pet?” Spike said as he absentmindedly rubbed his hand up and down her arm in a comforting gesture.

“Yeah, there is actually. There’s fake lures, ummm…I used bacon as a kid,” Buffy pointed out.

“Well considering I’m not allowed to touch the stuff, bacon’s out for me,” Willow said.

“I think there’s a couple fake lures in my tackle box. Just let me get decent and we’ll head on out,” Xander said as he ducked into the tent.

“Ha! That’ll be the day mate…you’ve never been decent in your life!” Spike laughed at a frowning Xander.

“Ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black,” Xander grumbled from the tent.

After everyone was dressed and the gear gathered, the foursome headed back to the notorious lake to the fishing dock. No one had asked Buffy or Spike anything about what happened in the woods as Willow and Xander were too caught up in post coital bliss to notice them much. Which suited Buffy fine. She wanted to keep this to herself for a while, it was new and she was going to be someone’s wife after school. She knew what others would say if they knew, so she decided to keep it under wraps except for a select group of close friends.

Watching Xander and Willow ahead of them, Spike slyly grabbed Buffy’s hand and caressed the top as they walked, swinging their arms together every now and then. He watched her blush and smile to herself and he was happy. Happier than he had ever been in his life because he was the reason for her smile. She tightened her grip on his hand and threaded her fingers through his.

“I know this is kinda sudden, but this being senior year and all…would you go with me to my prom?” she asked in a small voice, watching his reaction.

He looked over at her and grinned fully. “Woman, you just said you’d be my wife. I think I can handle a prom on short notice.”

She smiled and nodded, but a shadow crept over her. “What about school, Spike? You’re going back to London, right? And then, after school?”

He leaned over and kissed her funny little nose. “About that…” he started.

“Well?” she said when he didn’t elaborate.

“Still love me if we were poor?” he questioned, watching her intently.

She scoffed and waved him away. “That’s a stupid question. Of course I’d love you. I’d love you if you lived in a cardboard box, ate Spam everyday, and mumbled to yourself all day long. Silly Wabbit,” she said with a laugh.

He stopped her then, and pulled her to him, threading his fingers through her soft hair. “Well that’s a relief pet, cause I don’t know want I’m gonna do about that BMW that’s sitting my drive way at home.” He licked his lips and focused on her eyes. “Got me a house already, love. Nice cars, job with National Geographic, long vacations…” he faltered when he saw tears brimming in her eyes.

“But you said…” she wondered.

“I know,” he muttered. “Knew this was my last chance to reach you, Buffy. Was gonna sell it all if you didn’t want me. I had to know.” He tasted her lips and she responded by wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him closer.

“You’d give up everything for me?” she husked.

“What good is it if I don’t have you?” he whispered against her ear.

“Good answer,” she grinned and kissed him thoroughly.

“Bout freakin time,” Willow muttered under her breath to Xander, casting a glance back at Buffy and Spike entwined with each other.

“Did you see the massive hicky she has on her shoulder? I swear my cousin has fangs,” Xander said good-naturedly.

“Ahem! Would you two like to get a room or shall we just throw you in the lake to cool off?” Willow shouted back to the oblivious pair.

The couple sprung apart and blushed furiously. Buffy smoothed her shirt down and quickly walked away from Spike who was sporting a raging hard on. He rubbed the back of his neck and followed her towards the others and they all resumed their walk.

“Sheesh, you’d think three times would be enough,” Willow teased a shocked Spike.

He just stood there like a gaping fish. “Sound carries,” Xander confirmed his suspicions.

“Yeah, it does,” he said waggling his eyebrows in Willows direction. “Oh god, Xander! Pull my hair and smack me like I’m your bitch!” he imitated in Willow’s voice.

“Oh my god!” Willow said, mortified.

“Yup, that’s who you called for.” She punched Spike hard on the shoulder.

“Oi! I was calling on my own goddess, here… no need to take it out on me.”

Willow huffed away and Xander nodded to Spike in a smug, totally male way. ‘Oh yeah’ he mouthed.

They finally reached the dock and started to settle the gear when the park ranger appeared. “Not gonna cause any trouble again, are you?”

Spike gave the man a flippant salute. “No sir, not us. We’re good little campers, aren’t we mates?”

“Wise ass,” the ranger muttered. “If I catch you messing around again I’m throwing you out of the park, got it?”

They all nodded silently and watched him leave slowly in the ranger truck. “Yes, sir…right away, sir…fuck you, sir…kiss my lily-white ass, sir,” Spike gestured after he was out of sight.

The trio laughed at the unrepentant Spike, wishing they could say that to the ranger’s face. They settled into their chairs, Spike and Buffy on one side, Willow and Xander on the other.

“Ugh, that is so gross,” Willow complained as she tried to squish the wriggling worm on a tri-hook. It was a vicious looking thing with three sharply barbed prongs. She impaled as much of the worm as she could on the hook and washed her hand in the lake water.

Buffy quickly hooked a squiggly green plastic lure on her simple single hook and prepared to cast out. “Have you done this before love?” Spike asked as he watched her take aim.

She looked at him over her shoulder and smiled. “Yeah, but give me plenty of room to cast…I tend to take up a lot of space when I do that for some reason,” she said sheepishly.

Spike should have really taken more than a couple steps back. As she drew back to cast, she landed a hard and fast punch to his slender nose. “Arrgghhh!” he gurgled in agony. Blood started oozing down his face and Buffy was trying to stop it with her jacket.

“Oh god, I’m so sorry,” she kept repeating over and over. She made him tilt his head back so the bleeding would slow. After about five minutes, and much snickering from the peanut gallery, the bleeding stopped and he touched his tender nose.

“Powerful right hook you got there, hon,” he said in spite of himself.

“Sorry,” she murmured and laid a cool hand against his cheek. “I’ll make it up to you…later,” she whispered with a smirk.

“Worth the pain then, love,” he agreed.

“Arrrgggh!” howled Xander, clutching at his back.

Apparently Willow had tried to cast out and instead snagged Xander’s back with the hook. Spike ran over and peered at the hook deeply embedded into Xander’s flesh.

“Get it out! Get it out!” Xander yelled trying to clasp the elusive line and hook.

“Easy, mate, easy,” Spike soothed trying to work the barbed prong lose from his shirt and back. “This is gonna fucking hurt,” he warned as he yanked hard and pulled the tri-hook free…along with bits of shirt, blood, and skin.

A deafening roar sliced the air as Xander paled and fainted…next to an already fainted Willow. “Those two would never make good doctors,” Buffy observed as she leaned down and patted Willow’s cheek. “C’mon, wake up sleepy head.”

“King Triton’s after me!” Willow startled from her faint.

“You watch entirely too much ‘Little Mermaid’ for a woman your age,” Buffy laughed. She pointed to Xander as Spike pulled up his shirt to have a better look at his back. “Might wanna put some alcohol on that while he’s still out.”

“Good idea.” Spike rummaged around the first aid pack they always took with them and found some alcohol pads. He opened one and swabbed the wound, which had stopped bleeding.

“Jesus Christ!” Xander shouted as he struggled to stand. “And here I thought the hook was painful… damn!” he said in a shaky voice. He turned to find three faces laughing at him. “Shut up,” he muttered.

“I promise not to cast to close to you next time, sweetie,” Willow offered as an apology.

“Yeah, well… next time.” He soothed her ruffled feathers and they sat back down, considerably further apart now. “Try again. Flick your wrist and depress the button to let the line out.” He demonstrated the proper way and handed back her pole.

Willow looked like she was going to do the perfect cast…until she swung her hand and let the pole go, flinging the expensive gear out deep into the lake. No one said a word.

“Umm…” Willow grimaced.

Laughter roared all around her and she turned to see the group doubled over. At least no one was mad at her…this time.

“I’ll just sit and watch…see? My spectator face is firmly in place,” she said as she plopped down in the chair next to Xander and watched as Buffy composed herself and prepared to try and cast again. Spike stepped well out of the way this time. Too far out of the way.

The dock was situated on top of a high levy with the lake on one side and a grassy rolling hill on the other. Spike felt himself falling and yelled as he went down. “Buggerin fuck!”

Buffy turned to show Spike her cast and saw him fall backwards…down he went, rolling down the hill, bumping every nook and cranny he came across. She ran to the edge and watched him land at the bottom all spread eagle and not moving. “Spike!” she yelled and dove head first down the hill, rolling and hitting everything just as he did.

Willow and Xander glanced over the edge noting the two figures at the bottom that were now embracing in a passionate kiss and they sighed. “You or me first?” Xander asked gauging the distance from the top to the sandy bottom. Willow didn’t give him a choice as she pushed him over the edge.

“As…you…wish!” Xander yelled all the way down, mimicking Wesley in the ‘Princess Bride.’

“Oh my sweet Xander!” Willow laughed and followed him down.

The group lay at the bottom of the hill laughing and panting. “We gotta do that again!” Xander said as he started back up the hill.

After about an hour of rolling down the hill like kids they decided to call it quits and pack up their gear. They were covered from head to toe in grass clippings and dirt, and they loved every minute of it…until a shadow loomed behind them.

“That’s it! Out! And I’ll issue a warrant for your arrest if I catch any of you near this place again!” the irate ranger yelled.

“But,” Buffy started

“No, that’s it! We’ll have to spread sand along the bottom of the levy again, wipe up the blood on the dock, try and find that fishing pole, and I just saw a raccoon scamper away with pink socks. Now enough is enough. Pack your gear and get out!” he roared and pointed to his back seat motioning them to get in.

The drive back to the campsite was quiet as the group thought about all that had happened on this little journey. The ranger dumped them unceremoniously at their tent and waited for them to pack everything into the car and followed them as they made their way from the state park. No body had said much of anything and Buffy lay her head on Spike’s shoulder as she watched the sunlight filter through the forest as they drove by.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” Spike mused aloud.

“Huh?” Buffy said sleepily.

“It’s a poem by Robert Frost, pet,” Spike said quietly, kissing the top of her head.

“What’s it about?”

“Life choices, at least that’s my interpretation,” Spike explained. “A person is faced with two roads in life, and no matter which road he travels on, he will always look back and wonder ‘what if I choose a different path in life?’ Would I have been happier? Would I have more money, great power? Would the grass be greener on the other side of the fence? All these things usually go through a person’s mind at the end of the road.”

Buffy nodded sagely. “Recite the poem for me?” She yawned and snuggled deeper into Spike’s embrace and her eyes started to drift shut.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.”

“It would be interesting, in a way I suppose, to see where each path led us before taking it,” Buffy mumbled quietly.

“Mmm, yes indeed.” Spike continued with the poem.

“Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Spike peeked down to see if Buffy was asleep and found her eyes closed. They had all been through a rough week but he wouldn’t have changed a thing, not one bit of it. He watched the scenery go by and the relaxed a little more once they hit the highway back to Sunnydale. Willow had conked out and her face was plastered against the window, no doubt drool making its way down the glass. Xander concentrated on the road and hummed to himself now and then.

“Spike? Am I the road less traveled?” Buffy whispered near his ear.

“Yes, love. And you have made all the difference.”


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