Out of Reach by Noelle
Summary: Goes AU from “Wrecked”. After an explosion, Buffy is left with no long-term memory. Until her memory comes back, she needs to learn what it is to be a slayer, and why she feels so drawn to the blond vampire.
Categories: General Fics Characters: None
Genres: Angst, Romance
Warnings: Sexual Situations
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 9 Completed: No Word count: 25006 Read: 6402 Published: 10/03/2011 Updated: 01/12/2013

1. Chapter One by Noelle

2. Chapter Two by Noelle

3. Chapter Three by Noelle

4. Chapter Four by Noelle

5. Chapter Five by Noelle

6. Chapter Six by Noelle

7. Chapter Seven by Noelle

8. Chapter Eight by Noelle

9. Chapter Nine by Noelle

Chapter One by Noelle
Author's Notes:
This is a story I began for seasonal_spuffy on Dreamwidth. Thanks to my betas Carla, Andrea & Sharon for their great work. Any mistake are mine.
Chapter One

Two cold hands spread her thighs apart, baring her to his lust-filled gaze. He wanted her; she knew it. That didn’t change the fact that this was wrong. This couldn’t be happening, not again. She tried closing her legs, tried to will herself to find his touch undesirable.

“No,” she murmured, knowing she wasn’t using an eighth of her full slayer strength against him.

He chuckled, his breath tickling her inner thigh. “Your ‘no’ sounds a lot like a ‘yes’, pet.”

All her protests died as his head descended, kissing along her inner thigh. Reaching his destination, he placed a kiss on her already slick opening. She refused to admit that his mouth could do things to her she’d never experienced, even as she pulled his head closer to her aching sex. His tongue circled her throbbing clit, and she cried out. She was sure her erratically beating heart was a dead giveaway, letting him know she liked this a lot more than she’d have him believe.

“Oh, God!” She bucked her hips, fucking his face, needing more.

Stopping for a minute, he stared unabashedly into her eyes, taking her already labored breath away with a look of fierce desire. He inserted two fingers into her pussy, pumping them in and out a few times before sucking her clit into his mouth once more. Her hips lurched off the mattress at the contact.

Buffy woke with a start to a loud banging. She looked around quickly; assuring herself she was, in fact, alone in her own bedroom. With a groan, she realized she had been having a sex dream. A sex dream about Spike. She was even more disgusted to find her fingers still buried in her pussy, just waiting to scratch the itch dream-Spike had created.

“Buffy?” Dawn called out to her from the other side of the door. “Is everything okay in there?”

Buffy blushed. Thank God her door had been locked. “Fine, Dawnie,” she called back, finding her voice. “Just had a bad dream. Going back to sleep now!”

She held her breath until she heard her sister moving down the hall away from her door. Pulling her hands out from under the covers, she looked at them angrily, as if they had betrayed her. Damn that stupid vampire. A cold shower was definitely in order.

After she showered and dressed, she found Dawn and Willow downstairs in the kitchen. There was an aroma lingering in the air that smelled suspiciously of cheese and peanut butter. Willow looked as worn out as Buffy felt, but at the same time in better spirits than Buffy had seen her in since Tara had left.

“What’s up?” Buffy asked, taking a seat at the counter next to Willow.

“Dawnie was just generously scrapping her latest creation so we could grab some dinner together. Wanna come?”

“Yeah, Buffy, you should totally come,” Dawn agreed with a big smile. “It’ll be fun.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I really should patrol.”

“Come on, Buff, even slayer’s gotta eat,” Willow reminded her. “You can patrol after dinner.”

“U-unless there’s some big bad you’ve gotta take care of?”

“No!” Buffy responded quickly. “No, no big bad. Dinner’s a great idea.”

Dawn squealed girlishly, happy to have the attention of her sister and their housemate. “I’ll just run and get my jacket.”

“This’ll be good,” Buffy told Willow when Dawn was out of earshot. “I think Dawn needs some quality time with us.”

Willow smiled. “Yeah, definitely. It’ll be just like old times.”

They sat in silence waiting for Dawn to return, both too wrapped up in their own lives to notice the other.

*****


Dawn bounced happily between the two older girls on their way home from dinner. She’d done most of the talking all night, trying desperately to fill the awkward silences. Buffy wasn’t the same these days, they all knew why and were waiting as patiently as they could for her to get some of her old fire back. Willow appeared to be taking her breakup with Tara hard, so even though they were supposed to be taking care of her, Dawn found herself doing her best to take care of them.

“You guys uh, wanna watch a movie?” Dawn asked hopefully as they walked through the front door.

“I’ve really gotta put in some slayage time tonight, Dawnie. Sorry.”

Dawn didn’t think she looked very sorry. Distracted, maybe, but not sorry. “Okay, what about you?” she asked Willow. “I think The Breakfast Club is on tonight. Popcorn, candy, and Molly Ringwald?”

“Uh, actually, I was gonna see how Amy’s adjusting.” Willow looked nervously at Buffy. “Unless you need me to stay home with Dawnie.”

“Hello, teenager in high school here!” Dawn reminded them. “I so do not need a babysitter!”

“Are you sure?” Buffy asked. “I could call Anya and Xander to come keep you company.”

“I’m sure.” Dawn plopped down onto the couch, crossing her arms over her chest. “You guys are coming home tonight, though, right?” she asked meekly.

“Yes!”

“Of course!”

Dawn seemed happy with their simultaneous assurances. She picked up the remote, not sparing them a second glance as they walked out of the house.

*****


Buffy carefully avoided his cemetery. She really didn’t need to run into him tonight, especially since she still had a dull ache between her legs from her dream this afternoon. So far she hadn’t seen a single vamp and that, was doing nothing to take the edge off. She needed to fight something, anything to distract her from the unwelcome thoughts and images crowding her mind.

What the hell had she been thinking? Oh, God, what would her friends think if they ever found out? She shook her head with conviction. No, they could never know what she’d done in that deserted building with their enemy. They wouldn’t understand, hell, she didn’t even understand. She didn’t need to understand because it was never. Gonna. Happen. Again. Best all around if she just forgot about it entirely.

Right.

She smelled the smoke before her slayer senses alerted her of his presence. Ignoring him, she kept walking in the direction she’d been headed. One more cemetery, and she’d go home. She really needed to start spending more time with Dawn.

“Avoiding me now?” he called out to her, stopping her in her tracks.

She spun around, glaring at him. “Hardly,” she scoffed. “Slayer, remember? I have a job to do.”

Spike flicked the cigarette, sauntering up to her and as usual, invading her personal space. “Know all about it.” His hand ghosted down her arm. She shrugged him off. He sighed, shaking his head. “Didn’t take your normal route tonight.”

“I don’t have a normal route,” she lied.

“Right.”

Buffy really hated it when he sounded that way, like he could see right through her. “What do you want, Spike?”

“I think you know what I want, Slayer, ‘cause you want the same thing.”

She tried her best to look disgusted, but her panties dampened all the same. She wanted to punch him in his smug, stupid vampire nose. “What I want is to finish patrolling, so I can go home to Dawn.”

Buffy turned to leave but Spike was quicker, around and blocking her way in an instant. “We both know that’s a lie,” he told her. “Know you’ve been thinking about last night just like I have.”

“Please! Why would I want to remember something so—so—“ Amazing. Incredible. “Gross!”

Spike raised an eyebrow at that. “That’s not what you were screamin’ last night, love.”

“Whatever happened last night, there is no way it’s happening ever again,” she told him, crossing her arms.

Spike pouted. “Why not?”

“The first on a long list being that I left Dawn home all alone last night.”

“Is the bit okay?” he asked, not sounding very concerned. There was no way Buffy would be so calm if her sister was in danger.

“Well, yeah, but that’s beside the point. I forgot about her, Spike. Something could have happened to her-“

“But it didn’t. Not really seeing the problem here.”

“Yeah, you wouldn’t,” she muttered under her breath, pushing past him. He grabbed her arm to stop her, and she instinctively swung, landing a hard punch to his cheek.

Spike staggered back, but didn’t fall. He had the nerve to chuckle. “I’m sensing a repeat performance here, love.”

“Stop calling me that! There will be no repeat anything.”

Spike was there again, pulling her up against his body, rubbing his erection into her stomach. “I know you want me, Slayer. Know you want me just as much as I want you.”

“No,” she murmured, a lot like she had in her dream. Her panties got wetter just thinking about him going down on her.

“Yes,” he whispered back to her before his lips crashed down onto hers. She gave in, her arms wrapping around his neck.

“Can’t,” she gasped in between kisses. “Not…out here…in…the open.”

Spike rubbed himself against her again, letting her feel how aroused he was. “Crypt’s too far away,” he told her, his fingers moving to unbutton her jeans. “Never gonna make it.”

Taking her small frame into his arms, he moved them to a nearby tree that would give them the most privacy available in the open cemetery. Getting lost in him, Buffy quickly forgot that anyone could happen upon them at any time. She let him push her jeans past her hips, as she fumbled with freeing him from his own.

Not wasting any time, Spike thrust into her. Propping himself up on one arm as he rocked his hips slowly, he worked on exposing her pretty, perky breasts. Bunching her shirt high on her chest, he moved aside her lacy bra, taking a nipple between his teeth. She sighed, arching her back into his touch. He needed to show her this wasn’t just a fuck for him. He loved her, and one of these days she was going to realize it.

*****


The next night, Buffy avoided the cemeteries all together. Starting out in the alley behind the Magic Box, she worked her way through all the alleys in Sunnydale’s downtown district.

No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t stop thinking about Spike. Did she actually like the things he did to her? No, no way. Maybe. Okay, she might like the things he could do to her, but that didn’t mean she liked that he was the one doing them.

Either way, she really needed to stop obsessing over the blond vampire. She wouldn’t waste another minute thinking about the things he did with his hands, teeth, or tongue…

No. That kind of thinking was never helpful. She needed to concentrate on slaying. She hadn’t slain anything in two nights, and she was feeling all kinds of restless.

As she approached the back of the bank, she heard a commotion, some sort of rustling. It was long past banking hours, and the alley should have been vacant. She pulled her stake out of her jacket pocket, ready to kick some serious vamp ass.

“—you said I could push the button!”

“Nuh-uh. He definitely said I could push the button.”

Buffy stood a little shocked by the scene in front of her. Was this an actual bank robbery? Weren’t those guys a little too dweeby to be robbing a bank? Two of them looked like—

“Jonathan?”

The three nerds stopped bickering and spun around.

“Warren?”

“Shit, it’s the slayer,” the third, a yet to be identified blond, whined.

“This has nothing to do with you, Slayer,” Warren called out to her.

It took Buffy a minute before she noticed the van they were standing next to. The same van she’d seen at Xander’s construction site. She put her hands on her hips. “You’re my pain-in-the ass stalkers? Following me around, playing jokes on me?”

“We’re your arch nemeses…es,” Warren told her, more confident than he had any right to be.

“Seriously?” Buffy asked, holding back a laugh. They couldn’t be serious. “And who’s this guy?”

“Andrew. I, uh, summoned the flying monkeys that attacked the high school.” Buffy still looked confused, even after he clarified, “During the school play?”

“It’s Tucker’s brother.”

“Whatever!” Buffy shouted, shutting them up. Only a few minutes with them, and she was developing a serious headache. “Why don’t you guys take your creepy little van, and get out of here before someone gets hurt?”

“Only one in danger here is you, Slayer,” Warren threatened.

“You do know what a slayer is, don’t you? She with the strength to kick the asses of little nerds?” Buffy tucked the stake back into her pocket. She clearly wouldn’t need that to fend them off.

Warren signaled to his two partners in crime, who took off for the van. “Wouldn’t come any closer, Slayer,” he warned, backing up toward the van.

Buffy rolled her eyes. Would it really be so wrong to rough him up a little? She advanced on him slowly, directly behind the bank when he jumped into the back of the van. She realized too late what Warren was holding in his hand as the van peeled off out of the alley. Turning, she tried to run to escape the impending blast.

*****


The pungent stench of disinfectant hit Buffy’s nose long before she opened her eyes. The odor was oddly familiar, but she couldn’t for the life of her connect it with any particular place. The sounds around her were muddled, like she was submerged in water. Her hand felt heavier than she thought it should. She felt so weak, only managing to lift a finger off the bed she was lying in.

Someone took her hand and she squeezed back as hard as she could, her strength already increasing. Opening her eyes, she saw people rustling around her. She looked around the unfamiliar room. The walls were a bland, neutral color. The bright lights hurt her eyes, so she closed them again.

When she opened her eyes again, someone was standing over her repeating the same word over and over. She tried to focus on what the woman was saying. Bunny? Buddy? Buffy? No, that couldn’t be right. Her voice came out hoarse when she tried to respond; her throat felt like it was on fire. Someone else quickly shoved a glass of water into her hand and instructed her to drink. The cool liquid rolling down her throat felt incredible, so she tried again.

“Where am I?” she croaked.

“Buffy, my name is Dr. Stevens, and you’re at Sunnydale Memorial Hospital.”

Buffy turned her gaze from Dr. Stevens to the bed, the gown she was wearing, and the machines she was hooked up to. She was in the hospital, but she couldn’t remember why she was there. She wracked her brain, because she had to know this, but came up empty. Having no other option, she asked the doctor.

“You were in an accident,” Dr. Stevens told her kindly. “You’ve been unconscious for three days due to swelling around your brain. I have to say, you’re healing a lot faster than anticipated, but we’re going to keep you here for observation.”

A young girl rushed to her bedside once the doctor left the room with a promise to check in later. “Oh, Buffy, thank God you’re okay,” she gushed, throwing her arms around Buffy in a crushing hug. “We were all so worried.”

“All?”

“Everybody’s here. We sorta set up camp in the waiting room.” The girl took her hand, squeezing it lovingly, relief coursing through her body.

The girl continued with a story that Buffy didn’t have the strength to listen to. An older man rushed in just as she was about to ask the girl to let her get some rest, relief also evident on his face as he embraced her.

“How are you feeling?”

“Like I fell off a skyscraper. What happened to me?”

He took off his glasses and began cleaning them with a cloth from his pocket. “It seems there was an explosion while you were out patrolling three nights ago.”

“What do I…can I have a mirror?” The effects from her accident were starting to scare her. These people obviously knew and cared for her, but she couldn’t put together how she knew them. Maybe, if she saw her own face it would all come back to her.

He left the room and came back with the requested mirror. She took a deep breath before holding it in front of her face. A tiny gasp came from her mouth as she took in her appearance. The entire right side of her face was bruised. Tiny scratches covered her skin all the way down to where the gown fell on her chest. She pulled it down a bit to see more purple bruises covering her milky skin.

“It’s not so bad,” the brunette girl said in a tiny voice. “You know how fast you heal. You’ll be all better in no time.”

Discarding the mirror onto the bed next to her, Buffy looked at the girl. She stared so long that the girl grew uncomfortable, but Buffy still couldn’t put a name to her face. She repeated the action with the man before realizing with growing frustration that not only couldn’t she remember who they were, she had no clue who she was.

“Are you…are you my father?” she asked. Somehow she knew that wasn’t right, but she wasn’t sure how she knew that.

“What? Buffy, no. That’s Giles.” The girl exchanged a worried look with Giles.

“Dawn, why don’t you go find Willow and Xander. They’re going to want to know that Buffy has regained consciousness,” Giles suggested.

Unsure, Dawn looked at Buffy, who smiled her approval. “Uh, sure, okay. I think they went down to the cafeteria.”

Giles took the seat Dawn vacated, looking at her with worry in his eyes. “I’m going to assume it’s not only me that you can’t recall.”

Frustrated tears burned her eyes. “No,” she admitted. “I’m trying so hard, but I don’t even know who I am.”

“Dear lord,” Giles muttered under his breath, trying to come to terms with the fact that his slayer would be at her most vulnerable until she regained her memory.

After alerting Dr. Stevens, who assured them that memory-loss, was not uncommon in cases of severe head trauma, Giles filled her in on only the most necessary information. She was introduced to her friends and sister, whose faces all expressed a perfect mixture of relief and concern.

Over the next two days, Buffy’s body continued to heal itself at an amazing speed. Dr. Stevens and the nurses commented on her miraculous recovery, and she had a feeling they were surprised she survived the explosion at all. She wanted to ask her friends more about the night of her accident, but they seemed to be avoiding the subject.

Buffy was released from the hospital on the sixth day. Giles and Willow assured Dr. Stevens that Buffy would be taken care of at all times. They were dismayed to learn that Buffy’s memory loss could be permanent, but had hope she would heal as quickly in that department as she had physically.

Like much else, her house felt familiar to her, but it was as if she was seeing it for the first time. She wandered from room to room on the first floor, looking for anything that would jump-start her memory. Nothing was working. Not the pictures on the wall or the mantle, not her bedroom, or the other two on the second floor.

Buffy took Willow up on her offer to rest. The redhead, her best friend apparently, helped her get changed into sweats and comfortable in bed. Willow’s movements were erratic, like she was nervous about something. She kept wringing her hands in front of her.

“We live here by ourselves?”

“Yep, it’s just us and Dawnie,” Willow confirmed with a tense smile.

“Where are our parents? I mean, we seem a little young to be living on our own with a teenager.”

Willow cleared her throat, obviously uncomfortable with her questioning. “Why don’t you just get some rest? We can fill you in on all the details later, okay?”

Buffy wasn’t satisfied, but nodded anyway. She tried to sleep, but it was early evening and the California sun was still shining brightly through her closed blinds. After trying unsuccessfully for an hour, she kicked off the covers and made her way down the hall. The smell of something delicious woke up her hungry stomach, propelling her down the stairs toward the aroma. She stopped close to the bottom, eavesdropping on a conversation being had about her in the dining room.

“She needs to know. We have no idea how long her amnesia will last, and we cannot leave the Hellmouth unguarded.”

“I’m on board with the guarding of the Hellmouth, Giles, but are we sure Buff’s cleared for slayage? She’s not looking too spry, if you know what I mean.”

“Xander does have a point,” Willow agreed. “We could take over patrolling, like we did this summer.”

“I’m sure Spike would help out,” Dawn inserted with a mouth full of food.

“No! No, Spike. We’ll be fine on our own without the bleached menace,” Xander insisted, angrily.

“As loath as I am to request Spike’s help for anything, I have to agree with Dawn,” Giles said with a sigh. “He’s the only one whose strength is comparable with that of a slayer.”

Buffy stepped out from her hiding spot to address the room. “What’s a slayer?”

Five pairs of eyes stared back at her. Giles directed her to have a seat, cleared his throat, and then began telling her the most insane story she was sure she’d ever heard. Not only were vampires and demons real, it was her sacred duty to slay them every night. Her face must have given away how ridiculous she found it all.

“I know this can’t be easy to learn, but it is true,” Giles assured her. “Six years ago I was sent to Sunnydale to act as your watcher, and you’ve been slaying ever since.”

“I don’t feel like a superhero. I mean, seriously? Look at me. I’m tiny,” she argued as she tucked into her third slice of pizza. “This stuff is amazing. So much better than hospital food.”

“Once we get back to training, I have no doubt you’ll realize just how strong you truly are. Until then, you should rest to regain your strength.”

“So you’re staying then?” Dawn asked Giles hopefully.

Giles assured with a kind smile and a hand on her shoulder her that he was in fact, staying.

“Staying? I thought you said you were my watcher. Wouldn’t you have to live around here to ya know, watch me?”

“Yes, quite right, but I returned home to London a few weeks ago. I’m sure you were doing just fine in my absence, but with the current circumstances I’ll be remaining here.”

Willow jumped up, still jittery. “Why don’t I go find Spike and catch him up to speed on the uh, situation. I’m sure he’s gonna wanna know Buffy’s okay.”

Xander snorted and rolled his eyes as Willow left the house. Buffy watched the reactions of her other friends at the mention of Spike. Giles didn’t look as annoyed as Xander, but he didn’t look pleased either. Anya, who had been silent for most of the conversation with the exception of inserting blunt and mostly inappropriate comments, had no reaction at all. Dawn smiled with a dreamy look on her face.

“Who’s Spike?”
Chapter Two by Noelle
Author's Notes:
Thanks for the reviews on the first chapter! I appreciate you taking the time to comment on my stories. It does wonders for my muse :)



Thanks to my wonderful beta's Andrea, Carla & Sharon! Any mistakes are mine alone.
Chapter Two

The next morning Buffy woke early.  Or maybe it wasn’t early for her, she couldn’t be sure.  The clock on her nightstand told her it was seven.  She wondered why she didn’t have to get to a job.  She might, but she was pretty sure the others would have told her about a job.  Did she get paid to be the slayer?  She had so many questions she needed answers to.

Glancing around the room she saw pictures of her friends and family.  She got out of bed to inspect her closet and dresser.  It seemed like she had good fashion sense, at least she hoped so.  Deciding some things should come to her naturally; she took out underwear, a bra, jeans, and a sweater.  She chose a pair of brown boots from her closet to complete the look.

“Not too bad,” she said out loud to herself.  Finding a makeup bag on her bureau, she added a bit of lip-gloss to put some color on her pale face.  Her stomach gurgled, and she wondered if she was always this hungry or if it was because she’d been fed through a tube for the better part of the past week.

Dawn greeted her with a bright smile as she entered the kitchen.  “You’re up early.  Are you feeling okay?”

Buffy nodded, taking a seat at the counter.  “I could use some breakfast though.”

Dawn looked guiltily at the empty milk container in front of her.  “We didn’t really make time to go food shopping this week,” she explained.  She quickly ran to the refrigerator, looking for something to appease her hungry sister.  “I could make you some eggs?”

“No, I’m okay.  Got any juice?”

Dawn poured her a glass of orange juice and put a bowl in front of her for dry cereal.  They ate in silence for a few minutes before Dawn moved her empty glass and bowl into the sink.  “Xander should be here any minute to take me to school.  I don’t want to leave you, but Giles thinks I’m going to fall behind if I keep missing class.”

Buffy took a sip of juice, barely glancing at Dawn.  “It’s fine, really.  No biggie.  I’ll still be here when you get back.”

Dawn grabbed her bag from the stool next to Buffy, giving her an awkward side hug.  She tried not to take it personally when Buffy didn’t return the hug.  She told herself that Buffy just needed time to adjust; her memory would come back any minute now.  Sadly, Dawn knew that probably wouldn’t make much of a difference.

*****


Buffy snuck out the back door, needing a moment to breathe in the cool evening air.  She took in a deep lungful of air, exhaling slowly through her mouth.  It was too much.  All day everyone had been handling her with kid gloves when she was supposed to be this strong, powerful woman.  They were constantly hovering over her, making sure she was all right.  She didn’t feel all right at all.  She felt completely lost.

“Getting to be a bit much in there?”

Her head popped out from where it had been nestled between her knees at the unexpected company.  He took one last drag from his cigarette then tossed it into the grass before taking a seat next to her.  “They can be a bit overwhelmin’, the lot of them, huh?”

Buffy inhaled the familiar smell of his leather jacket.  It was comforting, weirdly enough.

“I know you.”  It was more of a statement than a question.  She eyed his bleached hair.  “You’re Spike.”

Spike tilted his head, staring at her in disbelief.  “Yeah,” he finally drawled.  “How could you—?  I thought you—you’re not supposed to remember.”

“I don’t, not really.”  She shrugged.  “Xander said something about Spike having bleached hair,” she trailed off.

“Are we close?” she asked, looking at him.  “I feel like we’re close.”

Spike raised a brow, giving her a smirk that looked sad to her.  “We’re a lot of things, pet, but close isn’t one of them.”  He stood, telling her, “Came to see your watcher.  He around?”

Buffy nodded and watched him walk into her house.  She couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to it than Spike was letting on.

Taking one last deep breath, Buffy followed Spike inside.  She found him in the dining room, already deep in discussion with Giles and Willow.  None of them noticed her entrance, if they did, none of them acknowledged it.  The air in the room crackled with tension, both from the intensity of the conversation and Spike’s presence.

“What’s going on?”

Three heads turned to look at her.  Standing up straight and squaring her shoulders, she came to stand next to Spike waiting for someone to fill her in.  Giles and Willow shared a look, not sure how much to tell their amnesiac slayer.

Spike rolled his eyes.  “Went back to the alley and found tire tracks under the ash from the explosion,” he told her.  “Think you might’ve seen the wankers who did this to you.”

Buffy’s face scrunched up in confusion.  “Wankers?”

Giles glared at Spike.  “It’s an English slang term.”

Ignoring the look from Giles, Spike turned his attention to Buffy.  “Yeah, you know, Slayer.  Idiots.  Morons.”

“Oh, right.  Guess ‘wanker’ isn’t in my memory bank.”  She closed her eyes, trying hard to remember the night of her accident.  Frustrated when nothing came back to her, she shook her head.  Fighting tears, she swallowed the lump in her throat and faced her friends again.  They would never stop treating her like an invalid if she didn’t toughen up.  “I still can’t remember anything about that night.”

“Don’t worry Buffy, I’m sure your memories will come back when you least expect it.”  Willow gave her a sympathetic look.  “You shouldn’t try so hard to remember.”  Turning her attention back to Giles and Spike she said, “Tomorrow I’ll go over to the alley and see if I can figure out what kind of car the tires belong to.”

“I’ll be on my way then.”

“Wait!”  Buffy grabbed Spike’s arm, the contact sending a bolt of electricity through her.  The look on his face was unreadable as he shook her off of him.  She tried to keep the hurt out of her voice.  “Where are you going?”

Before Spike had the chance to answer her, Giles was standing next to them.  “Spike will be patrolling in your absence.”

“Shouldn’t I go with him?  I mean it is my job.”

“No,” Spike growled.

Giles saw the pained expression that crossed his slayer’s delicate features.  He glared at Spike for the second time in a matter of minutes.  “Not tonight.  Tomorrow we’ll go to the Magic Box and see how much of your training you can recall.”

As Giles was speaking to her, Spike strode out of the house, slamming the front door behind him.

*****


For a weekday, the Magic Box was much busier than usual.  As customers floated around the store, Buffy and Giles trained in the back room.  Giles was impressed to see how innate Buffy’s strength and coordination were.  She might have been a little rusty at first, but picked up quickly.  He had no doubt she’d be ready to patrol again with one more day of training.

One thing that saddened Giles to notice was how unusually quiet Buffy was during their session.  Whenever they trained in the past they would talk, whether it was about mundane, everyday occurrences or the latest threat.  Giles had hoped getting Buffy back into her routine would help her to remember, but when they took a break she was still a stranger in his slayer’s body.

While they were in the training room the Scoobies trickled into the shop one by one.  Willow showed up first after her last class of the day.  Dawn came next complaining about a huge math test she would need Willow’s help to study for.  Xander arrived after work looking uncharacteristically spiffy in a suit.

Buffy took a seat on the stairs leading up to the loft.  It didn’t go unnoticed by the rest that she chose to sit there instead of taking one of the empty seats at the main table.

The front door chimed, signaling another customer’s entrance to the shop.  Anya looked up from the cash register where she was finishing a sale.  The incoming blonde customer waved at Anya and kept moving until she reached the rest of the group.  She headed straight for Buffy, but stopped as if just realizing Buffy would have no clue who she was.

“I’m so glad you’re okay.”  The woman’s voice was soft and gentle and immediately put Buffy at ease.

“I-I’m sorry.  I don’t remember.”

She quickly gave Buffy a hug.  “Oh, no sweetie, of course you don’t.”  She pulled back.  “I’m Tara.  I, um, used to live in your house.”

Buffy smiled at the soft-spoken woman.  It was refreshing to interact with someone who wasn’t on edge around her.

“I’m sorry I didn’t come see you sooner,” Tara said, looking down.  “I thought it would be better to give you a few days to take in everything.”

“I appreciate that.  Things were hard at first, but they’re getting better,” she fibbed.  Some things were getting better, but it still felt awful being a guest in your own life.

At the main table everyone had resumed what they were doing before Tara walked into the shop.  Willow’s face was flushed, and she seemed to be trying the hardest not to look in Tara’s direction.  She looked up when she realized Giles was waiting for her to continue their discussion.

“Oh, right.  I’ve been reading a few books, and I think I found a spell that might work to get Buffy’s memory back.”  Willow beamed proudly.

Until Tara bit out a harsh, “No!” wiping the smile completely off Willow’s face.

Xander kept his gaze on the tabletop, and Dawn had her nose buried in a textbook while Giles cleaned his glasses.  Tara looked away angrily, her mouth set in a thin line.  The air in the room crackled with tension, and Willow looked near tears.

“I’m just trying to help.”

Before Tara could retort, Giles stepped in.  “We’re all trying to help, but I remember all too well the last time you used a spell to alter someone’s memories.”  Giles intentionally avoided looking in Tara’s direction, which also looked like he was trying to avoid looking at Buffy.  Willow’s face flamed a bright red in embarrassment.

“Is that how I lost my memory?” Buffy exclaimed.

“What?  No!” Willow denied.

“Buffy lost her memory naturally,” Giles intervened.  “And she will regain it the same way.  I know that’s not the answer we want, but unfortunately it is the reality of the situation.”

An awkward silence enveloped the room, and it aggravated Buffy not to know the obvious history behind Willow and Tara’s disagreement.  Buffy had mixed feelings about the spell herself.  On the one hand they were in a magic shop—a shop Giles owned, so clearly they did this kind of thing often.  But on the other, she wasn’t very comfortable with anyone messing with her mind like that.  Luckily, the decision was made for her before she had to speak up.

Xander was the first to break the silence by asking Giles and Buffy how their training session had gone.  Giles smiled, happily conveying how well she did and told them she should be ready to patrol the next night.

“Good for you, Buff.”  Xander smiled at her encouragingly.  “Someone should let Spike know he’s off the hook.  And by someone, I mean not me.”

“Maybe Spike should go with me,” Buffy suggested.  Xander looked ready to protest, so she quickly added, “I might be rusty when it comes to actually killing things, a-and he could watch my back.”

Giles thought it over, obviously not wanting to agree with her, but rationally seeing the benefit of Buffy having a strong ally her first night back out on patrol.  He nodded his agreement.  “Tonight I’ll take you out to the cemeteries while Spike is patrolling.  You can watch his technique and, perhaps engage in some combat yourself.”

*****


Spike was avoiding them like the plague.  The only time they caught up to his hurried pace was when he stopped to fight.  The cemeteries were crawling with vampires tonight, and Spike was finding it extremely therapeutic.  Being around the slayer who wasn’t his slayer was driving him mad.  She smelled and looked exactly like Buffy, but the way she acted was completely different.

Giles was speaking to Buffy from behind him, critiquing his fighting skills.  It was more than a little distracting.  He was so busy taking his anger and frustration out on one vampire that he completely disregarded the other until he heard her shout his name and then felt dust littering his back.  He quickly dusted the one he’d been fighting and turned to find the slayer with a stake in her hand and a bemused expression on her face.

“Oh my God!” she exclaimed.  “That was so cool.”

Spike rolled his eyes, turning and walking away from her.  He knew without looking that she had her hands on her hips when she called out to his retreating back, “No need to thank me for saving your life!”

That got a smirk out of him.  So there was a little spunk in her after all.  He fixed his face in a stony expression before calling back over his shoulder.  “Didn’t need your help.”

She scoffed, running to catch up with him.  “Like hell you didn’t.  You had no idea that vampire was behind you.”

“Yeah, well, if you and your watcher would pipe down maybe I’d be able to hear something other than you both prattling on like a couple of school girls.”

“I’d hardly call it prattle,” Giles replied, catching up to them.  “I was merely providing helpful suggestions to Buffy for when you two are out here alone tomorrow night.”

“Don’t know why I bother,” Spike grumbled under his breath.

Giles cleared his throat.  “I think you’ve seen enough for tonight, Buffy.  I’m sure Spike won’t mind us turning in now.”

“Don’t mind it a bit,” Spike agreed.  “Should get your rest, slayer.  You’re gonna need it.”

The idea of going home so soon after her first slay since the night of her accident was unappealing, but she couldn’t think of a good reason to stay.  “Okay,” she said finally.  “I’ll come to your crypt at sunset.”

Spike nodded curtly at them before they took off in separate directions.

*****


Buffy showed up at his crypt ten minutes before sunset.  She was anxious and more than ready to patrol.  Not only did it mean she got to use her super speed and strength, but she also got to spend alone time with Spike.  That was like an added bonus.

Out of everyone she’d met since her accident, Spike was the only one she felt a connection to.  When he was around, her body tingled all over.  It wasn’t just the vampire senses she had learned about the night before; it was something completely different. 

Unfortunately, Spike was the only person around her who seemed to want nothing to do with her.

Buffy considered knocking, but it didn’t feel right so she opened the door and let herself into his crypt.  She called out to him when she didn’t see him inside.  There weren’t a ton of options as to where he could be since the sun was still hovering over the horizon, so she looked around, finding a hole with the top of a ladder sticking out of it.

Climbing down the ladder, Buffy found herself in what seemed to be Spike’s bedroom.  He was standing by his bed shrugging on his duster when he noticed her arrival.

“You’re early.”

Buffy’s cheeks burned.  “Only a few minutes.”  She looked around the bedroom, noticing quite a few empty liquor bottles littering the floor.  His bed was messy and unmade, a book haphazardly placed on the sheet.  “You read?”

“Don’t sound so surprised, love.  I’m not as dumb as I look.”

Her cheeks flamed an even darker red.  “No, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Yes, you did.”

“Okay, maybe I did,” she admitted.  “I’m just surprised is all.  When Giles and the gang told me about vampires, I never pictured them lying in a bed reading books.”

“Never was one for conformity.”  Spike grabbed a pack of cigarettes off his night table and motioned for her to lead the way upstairs.

*****


They walked in silence most of the way through the cemetery.  Every now and then his arm would brush against hers or her shoulder would bump into his arm, and a little jolt of electricity would crackle between them.  It took every ounce of strength she had not to act on the insane impulses she had that would surely just embarrass her.

There were much fewer vampires out that night than the night before.  The lack of physical activity was doing nothing to ease the awkward tension between the pair.  Buffy thought she might scream, if only to break the silence.  Finally, she settled on asking him a question she’d been mulling over since the previous night.

“Why do you do it?”

Spike looked up, surprised by the sound of her voice.  “Do what?”

“Last night you said, ‘Don’t know why I bother.’  I’m just not sure I understand why you do.  Bother, I mean.”  She took a breath to calm her nerves.  “From what I’ve been told vampires are all grr argh.  They’re evil, and they certainly don’t help the one girl whose job it is to kill them.  You don’t seem ev­—“

“Hey!  I’m perfectly evil.  Got all sorts of nasty ideas.”

“Right, so you’re what?  The evil vampire who helps the slayer?”

“It’s a long story.”

“We’ve got all night.”

They stood facing each other, staring each other down, each waiting for the other to relent.  In the end Buffy held out the longest.  Spike sighed, lighting a cigarette and taking a seat on a nearby headstone.

“Used to be one of the evilest vampires around.  Whole reason I came to this God-awful place was to kill you.  Then a bunch of bloody soldiers stuck a chip in my brain and everything changed.”

“What kind of chip?” Buffy asked, taking a seat on the headstone across from him.

“Behavior modifying kind.  Can’t harm a soul without the damned thing frying my brain.  Took a little bit before I realized it only worked on humans.”  He took his seat again, lighting up another cigarette.  “See, it’s the fight I really love.  When I found out I could hurt demons we formed a strained alliance of sorts.”

“And now?”

“Now I’ve got a promise to keep.  Last summer when—“ Spike searched her face for a flicker of emotion at the mention of the previous summer.  When he found none, he continued carefully.  “When things got hard, I promised you I’d look after Dawn.  Seems like the Niblet could use some more looking after, with you not being at your best and all."

Buffy nodded and looked down at her feet.  She wanted to ask Spike so many other things, but couldn’t form the words.  She knew he would be honest with her, but maybe she’d had enough honesty for one night.
Chapter Three by Noelle
Author's Notes:
Make sure you read Chapter Two first, I'm posting them both today! As always, a huge thank you to my beta's Andrea, Carla & Sharon!!
Chapter Three

Spike was surprised to arrive at the Magic Box before Buffy for their nightly patrol.  It was three days since she’d first joined him on patrol, and she was regaining her footing quickly.  Not that he expected anything different; slaying was in her blood.  Staking vampires was as instinctual to her as drinking blood was to him.  It was just part of who they were.

Striding in through the back door, Spike was glad to see only Giles in the shop.  He’d had just about enough of the Scoobies and their disapproving glares.  Besides, he had a bone to pick with Giles, and he’d rather not do it in front of the others.

“Seems Buffy’s running late,” Giles informed him.  “She and Dawn spent the day at the mall doing some holiday shopping.”

Spike completely ignored him.  “What else haven’t you told her?”

“I beg your pardon?” Giles asked, looking thoroughly confused by the abrupt change in subject.

“Have you told her anything at all about her life before?”

Giles glared at him, not liking his tone.  “I don’t see how that is any of your concern.”

“It wouldn’t be any of my concern if you didn’t send her off with me every night.  What, you think we just walk around in silence?  You think she’s not asking me all sorts of questions.”

Giles obviously hadn’t thought of that.  He’d assumed if Buffy had any questions she’d direct them to him, and he’d decide how much truth to tell her.  “What has she asked you?”

Before Spike could respond, bell over the shop door rang, and Buffy, Xander, and Anya walked through.  Noticing the tense body language, Buffy walked over to stand next to Spike.  It bothered Giles to see that Buffy clearly felt more comfortable with Spike than anyone else.  Maybe, it hadn’t been his best idea that they spend so much time together.

“What’s going on?” she asked, looking up at the two of them.  “Did something happen?”

“It’s nothing, pet.  Just havin’ a talk with your watcher,” Spike assured her.

“Okay, well, I’m sorry I’m late.  The mall was a zoo, and it took us forever to get out of the parking lot.”

“No worries.  I’m sure the whelp’s terrible driving didn’t help.”  He ignored Xander’s protests to the contrary.  “All set?”

Buffy said good night to her friends who watched her exit with Spike’s hand on the small of her back, leading her out the back door.

“They’re chummy,” Xander observed, not sounding at all happy.

“Yes, quite,” Giles agreed, sounding as bothered as Xander.

 *****


Hours later they’d only come across a handful of vampires.  It was still relatively early, but Spike decided it would be best to walk Buffy home and finish the night by himself.  Buffy wasn’t too happy with the idea, but she didn’t argue.  Truth be told, she was worn out from the hours she’d spent shopping all day.  Dawn had dragged her from store to store in search of the perfect Christmas gifts for their friends.  Fortunately, their time and effort paid off, and they were able to find something for everyone.

Buffy had even suggested they buy something for Spike, which was obviously unexpected from the look on Dawn’s face.

Rounding the corner of Revello, Buffy felt Spike stop suddenly like he’d heard something.  She hadn’t heard anything, but didn’t have time to wonder because in the next second Spike took off running.  She ran after him, as they neared her house she heard what he must have seconds before, a girl screaming.

It was close to two in the morning, everyone in her house should have been fast asleep by now.  Running up the front steps and through the open door, Buffy and Spike looked around to see where the screaming was coming from.

“Willow!  Help me!”

They flew upstairs, and Buffy peeked into Dawn’s room before following Spike into the master bedroom.  Dawn was flat on her back on the floor with a demon on top of her while Willow lay unconscious against the wall.  Spike threw the demon off Dawn, crouching down to make sure the teen was all right.  Buffy didn’t hesitate, looking around for a weapon while delivering a series of powerful punches and kicks to the demon’s head and midsection.

“Go lock yourself in your room,” Spike ordered Dawn, making sure she was out of the room before turning to help Buffy.  She saw his face shift for the first time since her accident, and it didn’t faze or frighten her one bit.  He threw the demon backward, straight into Buffy who hopped onto its back.  Thrown off balance, the demon didn’t have time to lash out before Buffy snapped its neck, dropping to the floor with a thud.

“Buffy?” Dawn called out from her bedroom.

“It’s okay, Dawn.  You can come out now,” Buffy called back.

“Thank God you came home early,” Dawn cried, running into her arms.  “I was asleep, and then I heard Willow yelling, so I came in here, and that demon was attacking her.”

Willow groaned from her spot on the floor, reminding them of her presence.  Slowly regaining consciousness, she opened her eyes and sat up against the wall.  “What happened?” she mumbled, still disoriented.

“That’s what we’d like to know,” Spike replied harshly.  “Why the hell was a Turba demon attackin’ you?”

Willow looked insulted.  “It’s not like he told me before he chased me into the house.”

Spike didn’t look satisfied with her answer, and Buffy wondered what he was thinking.  She was the slayer.  Demons probably attacked her home pretty often.

Buffy saw Dawn off to bed while Spike dragged the body out of the house.  She was standing in the kitchen with two hot cups of tea when he came back.  He was reluctant to sit with her, but finally relented after she pouted—couldn’t let perfectly good tea go to waste.

“Why don’t you stay here tonight?” she offered.

“Don’t think that’s the best idea, Slayer.”

“Why not?  We have no clue why that Turban demon attacked.  There could be others.”

“Turba,” he corrected.  “And you’re perfectly capable of handling it on your own.”

“I know that, but I think Dawn would feel a lot safer knowing we’re both here in case something happens.”

Buffy knew she had him when she mentioned Dawn.  He got this protective look on his face and nodded.  She couldn’t help the twinge of jealousy that he was staying for Dawn and not her.

 *****


“Hey, Buff,” Xander greeted, entering her house as she walked down the stairs.  “Are you aware that your front door is broken?”

“Demon.”  She turned to yell up the stairs, “Dawn, Xander’s here!”

“Demon?” Xander asked, following her into the kitchen.

“Yeah, Tur-something or other.  Coffee?”

Xander nodded, and she poured him a cup.  It was good to see Buffy moving around so naturally in her house only a little over a week after her accident.  “Everyone okay?”

“Willow took a nasty blow to the head, but other than that everybody’s fine.”

“Morning,” Dawn greeted, bounding into the room.  She rushed around the kitchen, grabbing a banana and a bottle of water.  “Buffy, I think Spike left his duster here last night,” she said, noticing the item draped over one of the bar stools.

“Spike was here last night?”

“Actually, he’s still here,” Buffy said, nonchalantly taking a sip of her coffee.

“He’s what?”  Xander’s eyes practically popped out of their sockets.

“Shh!” Buffy scolded.  “He’s in the basement, probably still sleeping.”

Xander sat there gaping until Dawn pulled on his arm.  “C’mon, Xand, I’m gonna be late.”

Xander allowed Dawn to lead him away from the kitchen, out the front door, and into his car.  He didn’t speak until they were well on their way to the high school.  “I know Buffy’s not herself right now, but what was she thinking letting Spike stay at your house all night?”

“What’s the big deal?  He slept in the basement.”

“That’s not the point!  He’s a vampire, Dawn.  Why can’t you Summers women remember that?” Xander asked, exasperated.

“Spike saved my life last night, Xander.  He’s my friend, and he cares about me.  So what if he’s a vampire?”

“So what?”  He laughed humorlessly.  “So what, she says.  Vampires are evil, you know that.”

Xander stopped the car in front of the school, turning to look at Dawn.  She gazed back at him, an expression of pity on her pretty young face like he was the one with the problem.  “Spikes not,” she told him with conviction before stepping out of the car.

 *****


Buffy waited around impatiently for Spike to come up the basement stairs.  She sat down to watch television, but soon became restless.  Willow was still locked in her room, probably nursing a bad headache, and the house was eerily quiet.  Buffy went from room to room, looking for tasks to busy her.  After washing the dishes, making her bed, and taking a shower he still hadn’t emerged from the basement.

Spotting a hamper full of dirty laundry, Buffy decided it was as good a time as any to do a load of wash.  It was pure coincidence that the washing machine was located in the basement.  She quietly made her way down the basement steps and found Spike passed out on the cot.  A sheet hung dangerously low on his slim hips, his naked torso exposed to her wide eyes.

Blushing, she averted her gaze and moved to the washing machine.  Now, that she was this close to him, she wasn’t so sure it had been the best idea to go down there.  He’d see right through her flimsy excuse and probably be angry that she was invading his personal space.  For whatever reason she was drawn to him, but the feeling was very clearly not mutual.

Turning away from the machine after she had started a wash, she jumped back, releasing a small yelp at the sight of Spike sitting up against the wall watching her.  He chuckled at her reaction.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Sure you didn’t.”  He fished in the pocket of his discarded jeans for his pack of cigarettes.  “You always do your laundry when somebody’s sleeping down here?”

“No!  I mean, I don’t know.  Maybe, I do.”  She looked down sheepishly.  “I was bored upstairs by myself.”

He lit his cigarette, uncaring whether or not it bothered her.  “Nobody home?”

“Dawn’s at school, and Willow’s still in bed.”  Buffy walked over to his cot, gesturing to the space next to him.  “Can I?”

Spike nodded, pulling the sheet tighter around his hips as she sat down.  “Red’s not doin’ so well after last night, I take it?”

“Red?  Oh.  No, I guess she’s not.  She must’ve hit her head pretty hard.”

Spike scoffed at that, but didn’t comment.

“You don’t like her.”

Spike exhaled a cloud of smoke.  “’S not that.  I’m not fond of her messin’ around with the magic is all.”

“I met a woman at the Magic Box.  Tara, I think her name was.  Who is she?  I was getting the sense she’s not fond of Willow and magic either.”

“Not that I’m privy to the inner goings-on of the Scooby gang, but I believe that had to do with a memory wiping spell Willow cast a couple weeks ago.  We all lost our memories for a while there.  Tara used to live here with you girls, but she moved out that night.”

“Do you…do you think Willow had anything to do with me losing my memory?” Buffy asked, her eyes trained on the pillow she’d taken into her lap.  Her fingers clutched at the pillowcase nervously.

Spike put his hand over hers, stilling her fingers.  “No, I don’t.  This time it wasn’t magic.”

She wasn’t sure if that made her feel better or worse.  If it had been magic, there might have been an easy solution, easier than say, waiting around for her memories to return. 

Sensing her mixed emotions, Spike lifted her chin until their eyes met.  “We’ll find out who did this to you, Slayer.  And when we do, let’s just say I wouldn’t wanna be in their shoes.”

Buffy gave him a small smile.  His face was so close to hers, it wouldn’t take much effort to reach up and kiss him.  His lips looked so soft and inviting, and she wasn’t sure she believed that they’d never kissed.  Not when her heart was pounding against her rib cage and her brain was screaming at her to just do it.

Spike cleared his throat, moving his hand from under her chin.  The moment was broken, and Buffy could kick herself for chickening out.  She needed to know why she was feeling what she was feeling toward Spike when their relationship, if she could even call it that, was so strained.

“Looks like I’m stuck here for another couple of hours,” Spike said, breaking the silence.  “Think you got any blood leftover in the freezer?”

Blood.  Vampires drank blood.  Why hadn’t she thought of that?  She jumped off the cot, wetting her lips.  “I’ll check while you…ya know.”  She gestured to his state of undress before turning and practically running up the stairs.

 *****


Buffy arrived at the Magic Box ready to fill Giles in on the demon attack from the previous night.  The shop was empty except for Anya at the cash register.  Buffy couldn’t help but notice that almost every time she’d been in the shop, Anya was at that machine.

“Hey, Buffy,” Anya greeted.  “Giles is downstairs taking inventory.  He asked me to let you know he’ll be up when he’s finished.”

“Thanks.”  Buffy was grateful for the chance to speak with Anya privately.  “Anya, can I ask you something?”

Anya beamed.  “You sure can!  I’ve been told I’m a very honest person.”

“Okay, well, I wanted to ask you about Spike.”

“Go on,” Anya prodded impatiently.

“About Spike…and me.  Is there a ‘Spike and me’?”  Anya didn’t seem to understand what Buffy was asking, so she added, “Like are we more than just patrolling buddies?”

“You’re asking if you and Spike have had intercourse?”  Buffy blushed, but nodded.  “I highly doubt it.  You’re a little uptight and refuse to admit what any woman with eyes can see—that Spike is quite physically attractive."

“I am?  I do?”  Buffy just could not connect her feelings and desires with what Anya was telling her about her past.  She was having trouble ignoring them after only a few days of knowing Spike, how could she possibly have done it for years?

Giles chose that moment to emerge from the basement, closing the door behind him.  “Ah, Buffy you’re here.  I apologize for making you wait, but I haven’t been keeping up with inventory as I should.”

“It’s fine.  It gave me a chance to talk to Anya.  Privately,” she added, looking pointedly at the other woman.

“Why don’t we have a seat?  I’d like to talk to you about Spike.”

Buffy almost laughed.  If only he knew she’d basically spoken the same exact words to Anya only minutes earlier.  “What about him?”

“Xander has brought it to my attention that Spike spent the night at your house.”  Giles waited for Buffy to respond with an explanation.  When she didn’t, he continued, “I’m sure you’re unaware, but Spike shouldn’t be a welcome overnight guest in your house.”

Buffy furrowed her brow in confusion.  “Why?”

Giles had to remind himself that Buffy couldn’t remember all the terrible things Spike had done to them over the years.  She only knew the Spike who helped her fight demons every night.  “Because,” Giles started, choosing his words carefully.  “Because Buffy, Spike is a killer.  It isn’t safe to have him in your house while you sleep—for you or anyone else.”

“But I thought Spike has a chip in his head?  Isn’t it impossible for him to hurt us?”

“Well, yes—“

“And you trust him to patrol with me?  And take care of Dawn?”

“Buffy, I think you’re missing the point here.”

“What is the point, exactly?  That you’ll use Spike when you need him?” Buffy asked, as she stood her ground, her face hot with anger.

“Now, let’s calm down,” Giles urged her, not liking at all the turn the conversation had taken.  “You don’t know Spike as the rest of us do.”  He looked to Anya for help, but she was conveniently preoccupied with dusting the shelves.  “He’s done bad things, Buffy.  I’m only trying to look out for you.”

Buffy squared her shoulders.  “Thank you for your concern, but Spike is not a danger to anyone.  Especially, not Dawn or me.  And I don’t need your permission to have a guest stay at my house.”

Giles sat back in his chair, stunned.  Buffy couldn’t regain her memories soon enough, that was for sure.  The attachment she was developing to the blond vampire was unsettling, and it seemed there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it.
 
Spike sauntered into the room through the back door, looking more smug than usual.  He’d arrived at the tail end of their conversation, hanging back to catch the last of it.  It was a welcome change to see Buffy standing up to her watcher in his defense, but at the same time it was a harsh reminder that this wasn’t the real Buffy.

“Rupert,” he greeted the other man.  Giles ignored him, giving Buffy one last look before retreating behind the counter.

Buffy let out a breath.  For some unknown reason she felt like she’d just done something wrong.  She had no idea why.  She was a grown woman with her own house, and Giles had no right to tell her how to live her life.

A hand on her shoulder pulled her from her internal debate.  “Everything okay, Slayer?”

She turned, gave Spike a tight smile, and nodded.  “Yeah, let’s go.”  She shot one last tense glance at Giles before leading Spike out of the shop.
Chapter Four by Noelle
Author's Notes:
Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read this story and leave a review. I love to know what you guys think, and it really puts me in the mood to write more!! Special thanks to my beta's Andrea, Carla, and Sharon. Any mistakes are mine and mine alone.
Chapter Four

Spike was for once finding himself at a loss for words.

After witnessing the confrontation between the slayer and her watcher, he’d kept quiet, replaying her words over and over in his head. It was nice for one of the damn Scoobies to realize they only wanted his help when they needed him. Never mind that he spent the entire summer caring for Dawn and patrolling with them. As soon as they had Buffy back he was again regarded as highly as a bug they’d squash underneath their shoes.

However, it was annoying that the one person who realized what a short hand he was being dealt was the one person who couldn’t remember a bloody thing. He was under no delusion that if Buffy’s memories were intact, she would be whistling another tune entirely.

It was while he was mulling over these thoughts that she asked him the question. A question he wasn’t entirely sure how to answer. He cursed Giles for not having this talk with her already. She had every right to answers, but was he really the one to give them to her?

Apparently, he was, because Buffy was looking at him, her eyes so trusting, like she knew he wouldn’t lie to her. And he wouldn’t, damn it, because he did a lot of things, but he didn’t lie to her.

“Yeah, pet, you do have parents. Far as I know, your folks split before you moved to good ol’ Sunnydale.”

“Then why do Dawn and I live on our own with Willow? It seems strange that three young women would live by themselves.”

“Not sure I’m the best person to be askin’. I don’t know as much as your mates do ‘bout this stuff,” he told her truthfully.

She looked up at him with those big green eyes, silently pleading for answers. “I tried asking Willow once, but she doesn’t seem to be very comfortable around me. She’s all twitchy. You’re the only person who acts somewhat normal around me.”

“Okay, then. This might be hard for you to hear, but your mum passed on last year. Dunno where your wanker of a father is, but seems he’s not interested in taking care of you or the Bit.”

“I should be upset by this,” she stated, still looking to him for guidance.

“And you would be if you could remember,” he assured her. “You and your mum were tight. She was a real nice lady.”

“You knew her?”

“Not very well, but she was the only one of your lot who was nice to me. ‘Sides Dawn, of course,” he said with a smile.

Buffy frowned. “You like Dawn better than me. Because I’m not nice to you?”

Spike had to laugh at that. “Oh, Slayer, if you only knew the half of it.”

She remained quiet, not sure if she wanted to know the half of it. The fact that Spike appeared to favor Dawn bothered her more than she’d like to admit. She knew it was completely irrational, because she had no knowledge of what her relationship with Spike was like before, but she couldn’t comprehend how any version of herself would be cruel to Spike.

“How’d my mom die?” she asked quietly, needing to say something to fill the silence.

Spike cleared his throat. “Brain tumor.”

Buffy simply nodded, walking ahead of him, letting him think she was wondering about her mother.

*****


It was unusual for Spike to have visitors during the day, so he was surprised when Rupert came to his crypt the next day. Spike was sprawled out in his chair in front of the television waiting for his favorite program to come on. A warm mug of blood and Passions on the telly was how he preferred to spend his afternoons.

“Rupert. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Spike asked snidely.

“I’m sure you’re well aware of what I’m here to discuss, Spike. I’m surprised to find you here, and not overstaying your welcome in Buffy’s home.”

Spike glared at the other man. Hadn’t he gotten enough when he confronted the slayer the night before? “That’s right. Tried to use your watcherly influence on the slayer, but this time she set you straight. So what? Now you’re here to make idle threats?”

“I’m sure you’ll find any threats I make are to be taken seriously,” Giles promised, returning the glare. He’d had quite enough of Spike taking advantage of Buffy’s mental state. “I think it would be best for everyone if Buffy were to patrol alone from now on.”

“Not sure Buffy would see it that way.”

“No, I’m sure she won’t, considering the thrall you seem to have over her.”

Spike scoffed at that. Giles had no clue how wrong he was! Spike couldn’t be a more perfect gentleman around Buffy. Lord knows it wasn’t easy for him to be around her every night and not be able to touch her or tease her like he wanted. “No thrall, mate, just honesty. You should try it sometime.”

“I’m not interested in your thoughts on the matter. Tonight, I’ll tell Buffy you will no longer be patrolling with her. You’d do well to stay away from her, Spike.”

As Giles turned to exit the crypt, Spike couldn’t help but call after him, “Hey, Rupes, if I were you I’d keep a better watch on the witch. She reeks of all kinds of nasty magicks.”

Giles turned to regard him with a look of disdain. First Buffy, now Willow? “Lucky for me, you’re not,” he replied, in a condescending manner, like he couldn’t believe Spike presumed to know what was going on right under his nose.

Spike shook his head, not one bit surprised that Giles wouldn’t accept help from him. A wry smile broke out on his face. How he wished he could be a fly on the wall when the watcher broke the news to Buffy.

*****


The night Giles told Buffy she’d be patrolling without him, Spike made a point not to be in his crypt after sunset. Although he disagreed with Giles’ need to constantly control Buffy’s life, he thought it best for him to take a break from her. In a way he was just as bad as Giles, treating Buffy like she was someone different, just because she couldn’t remember who she was. It felt wrong somehow, to get close to a Buffy who didn’t remember she despised him. If he did get close to her and then she remembered to be her bitchy self—well, he wasn’t sure he could handle that.

Instead, he went down to Willy’s for a few drinks every night. Most nights he could count on running into a few demons who didn’t like him palling around with the slayer. Nothing he couldn’t handle though, and he was happy to blow off some steam.

It took Buffy two weeks to figure out where Spike was hiding out. Before heading out to patrol Buffy had mentioned to her friends that she hadn’t seen Spike in a while, and she wondered where the demons went for a little fun. Xander had mumbled some snide remark, but Anya had helpfully supplied her with the directions to Willy’s, much to Xander’s chagrin.

It was an unusually cold December in Southern California, and Buffy was surprised to see a crowd outside Willy’s. Demons and vampires probably didn’t notice the cold weather she guessed, rubbing her gloved hands together. One of the members of the crowd caught her attention, and she smiled, picking up her pace. It wasn’t until she was closer that she saw Spike was surrounded by four large, horned demons that obviously had the upper hand in the fight.

Breaking out into a full run, Buffy wasted no time tackling the demon that had just thrown a punch at Spike. The other two let out growls, turning to see who would come to the vampire’s defense. She turned on them, getting in a few punches before they were scrambling back inside the bar. Turning back, she was dismayed to see the first demon was long gone; it most likely ran back inside once her attention was diverted.

“What the hell do you think you’re doin’?” Spike slurred at her, angrily. He’d obviously had too much to drink, but she was still surprised by his tone.

She wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Was that some sort of trick question? “Um…saving you?” she offered, taking his arm to help him off the ground.

He swung out, managing to hit the side of her face even though that clearly hadn’t been the intended spot. “Don’t need saving!”

Buffy touched the spot where his fist had just connected. “But—you…you’re not supposed to be able to hit humans!” She looked down at him, confusion written all over her face, as he tried to stand on his own.

“Right. ‘Cept we found out doesn’t work on you anymore. Does it, Slayer?”

“Guess not,” she said, lamely. “Let’s get you back to my house. I stocked up on some blood for you.”

“Don’t need your damn blood!” He wobbled on his legs, stumbling into her a bit.

“I’m just trying to help. The least you could do is accept it.” She smiled when he leaned into her, allowing her to help him get back to her house.

It took them a hell of a lot longer than normal to get back to Revello, but they made it without running into any more vampires or demons. It was relatively early, and although Dawn should have been tucked into her bed because it was a school night, she was up when they arrived. Buffy sat Spike down in the living room with Dawn while she went to heat him up a mug of blood.

“You’re staying here tonight,” she told him before she left. “You’ll never make it back to your crypt.”

“Don’t think that’s the best idea, Slayer,” he said, repeating the words he’d used the last time she asked him to stay.

“You’re in no condition to be judging ideas,” she told him before leaving for the kitchen.

“Where the hell have you been?” Dawn asked, once Buffy was out of earshot. She had her arms crossed over her chest, looking every bit the disgruntled teen she was at the moment.

“Sorry, Bit. Got pissed at the local watering hole is all. No harm done.”

“Yeah right. You’re eye is swelling up like Buffy hit you.” She paused, thinking over what she had just said. “Buffy didn’t hit you, did she?”

Spike chuckled. “Not this time.”

Dawn softened, leaning into him. “You know, she’s not the only one who misses you. You haven’t been around in weeks.”

Spike had only been thinking of keeping his distance from Buffy. He’d completely ignored the fact that he’d be keeping his distance from Dawn as well. “Been a bloody git lately. Trying to do the right thing and all.”

Dawn had a feeling Buffy’s friends were behind Spike’s sudden disappearance from their lives. It wasn’t like him to listen to them, and she had no idea what he meant by ‘trying to do the right thing’. “Whatever. You should totally stay over tonight. Buffy seems lonely lately.”

“She’s got you, hasn’t she?”

Dawn’s face read a mixture of sadness and anger. “Tell her that,” she grumbled under her breath.

Spike didn’t have a chance to respond before Buffy was back with his blood. The conversation with Dawn had done wonders to sober him up. He felt like a real jerk, basically abandoning Dawn, because Giles thought he was taking advantage of Buffy. Since when did he give a shit what that uptight tosser thought? Since never, and he’d do bloody well to remember that.

“Cot in the basement still got my name on it?” he asked, earning him two brilliant smiles from his favorite sisters.

*****


Buffy insisted Spike stayed with them until Christmas. It was only two days before Christmas Eve when she suggested it, and both she and Dawn wanted him to join in on the festivities. With Spike in the house Buffy was happier than Dawn had seen her in a very long time. Although that realization left a bitter taste in her mouth, Dawn couldn’t be more excited for the holiday, even Tara was coming. It felt good to know she’d be surrounded by all the people she loved, especially since this was the first Christmas without their mother.

Spike, however, wasn’t looking forward to the fireworks that were sure to explode once Giles found out about his new living situation. Rather, his temporary living situation, because he certainly wouldn’t be staying much past the holidays. For one thing, the bed in his crypt was a hell of a lot more comfortable than the cot he’d been sleeping on the past two days and for another, it was just unnatural for a vampire to be living in a house, much less the slayer’s house.

Spike was somewhat surprised that Willow hadn’t put up a fight about him staying in the basement. Not that the witch was around very much to notice, much less care. Apparently, Giles hadn’t put much stock in Spike’s warning because she was still off until all hours of the night, coming home reeking of magic. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find it in himself to do anything about it. He’d already given Giles the heads up, and if Giles couldn’t be bothered, well neither could he.

Spike came up the stairs for his afternoon mug of blood to find Buffy standing at the sink, staring off into space. When he’d gone to the freezer to take a bag of blood then taken a mug from the cupboard and she still hadn’t noticed, he asked, “Everything okay, love?”

Buffy jumped at the sound of his voice, caught unaware that she had company. Turning to him, she shook her head sadly. “I have no clue what I should be doing right now.”

After setting his mug in the microwave, he gave her a curious look. “Not sure I catch your drift there, Goldilocks.”

She was grateful that he turned his attention back to the microwave, so he didn’t see the blush creep into her cheeks at the nickname. “It’s Christmas Eve. Shouldn’t I be doing something? Everyone’s coming here for dinner, and I don’t have anything to do. Do I even know how to cook?”

“Don’t have much knowledge in that department, but I do know you made a damn good meal few Thanksgivings back.”

“I did?”

“Sure did. Even whipped your own cream.”

Buffy’s brief smile quickly turned into a frown. “Okay, then why isn’t anyone letting me do anything?”

“Preaching to the bloody choir,” Spike muttered bitterly.

“Giles is coming over later with catered food. I feel so useless stuck here all day. It’s Christmas. It’s supposed to be a joyous holiday, but I can’t even remember what I’m supposed to be happy about.”

Spike’s unbeating heart went out to her; she looked so lost. Ironically enough, she had no idea she felt exactly the same way before the accident. “No harm in making a little something for dessert, yeah? Sure there’s something around here you can whip up before your mates arrive.”

Buffy beamed, as Spike took his heated mug out of the microwave. “I’ll go find Dawn and ask her where we keep the cook books. Thanks!” she exclaimed, embracing him in a tight hug before bounding out of the room to find Dawn.

Spike stared after her. It was the first time they’d touched since before her accident, and he was embarrassed to admit, even to himself how much he missed it. Even though he desperately wanted his Buffy back, a part of him wished she would act a little more like this Buffy, the Buffy who didn’t think twice about embracing him or welcoming him into her home. No, he wouldn’t mind that one bit.

*****


Alone in the basement, Spike smoked a cigarette, reveling in what would most likely be his last opportunity to be alone that night. Willow had only just recently come out of her room, ready to celebrate a holiday she wasn’t meant to, and Giles and the rest of the crew were due any minute. He inhaled deeply, wondering just what the hell he was doing. Celebrating a religious holiday with people who despised him? If he didn’t know any better he’d think he was starting to act domesticated.

Good thing he knew better.

Spike looked up when the basement door opened and closed and tiny feet hurried their way down the steps. “Looks like I’m not the only one wanting a bit of alone time before the troops arrive.”

Dawn made her way to the cot, sitting beside him. “Actually, I don’t want to be around when Giles gets here, and Buffy tells him about you.” She made a face. “I’m so sick of everyone getting on our case for being friends with you.”

Spike smiled at the young girl. “Thanks, Niblet.”

“You’re like the only person who makes Buffy happy these days. The two weeks you weren’t around she walked around like a zombie. Why am I the only one who sees that?”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to defend me. I don’t care what they think of me.”

“No, it’s not okay. It-it’s like this assembly we had in school. On bullying. If you don’t say anything you’re just as bad as the bullies.”

“You think I’m being bullied?” Spike asked with a laugh, choking on the smoke he’d been exhaling.

“Well, yeah,” she said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “By Giles and Xander.”

“Don’t think when they were putting those assemblies together, they had vampires in mind. Don’t worry about me, all right? I can take care of myself.”

Dawn rolled her eyes. “I know. Besides, I’d rather be down here with you than up there.”

Spike stared sidelong at the teen. The last few days, he tried to make himself as scarce as possible, but he had noticed her various moods. She was angry, sure, but wasn’t that normal for a teenage girl? He knew things weren’t great before Buffy’s accident, and the memory loss couldn’t be helping things. Now that he looked back, Dawn seemed to be most angry when he and Buffy were around each other. Couldn’t be because she didn’t like him, because he knew she did, and she’d gotten over that silly crush ages ago, so—

The realization hit him like a troll hammer to the head. Dawn was jealous. Not of his attention toward Buffy, but the complete reverse. You’re like the only person who makes Buffy happy these days.

“Things’ll get better, Bit. Once big sis gets her memories back. You’ll see.”

Dawn didn’t look convinced. Probably because even he knew it was a lie.

*****


Dinner had gone off without a hitch for the most part. Buffy’s oatmeal cookies were a hit alongside Tara’s apple pie and Anya’s store-bought fruitcake. Gifts were exchanged with smiles and laughter. It warmed Spike’s cold, dead heart when Tara handed him a gift. He knew he’d always liked her.

It wasn’t until Spike removed himself from the happy group to the front porch for a cigarette that Giles finally approached him. “Took you long enough,” Spike goaded. “Know you’ve been waiting to have your say all night.”

“I thought I made it clear that you were to stay away from them.”

Spike exhaled with a nod. “That you did. Might’ve been wise for you to share that bit with Buffy. I did like you asked. I stayed away. She came looking for me.”

“And you had no choice but to move right in,” Giles replied, sarcasm dripping from his words.

“Well, no actually, I didn’t. Was pissed out of my mind that night,” he admitted with a shrug.

“I’m not playing games with you, Spike.” Giles’ tone implied just how serious he was. “I find it rather suspicious now that Buffy’s lost her memory she wants you to be a part of her life.”

The words were like a knife to Spike’s gut. He couldn’t argue with that. It was the truth, no matter how much it hurt like hell. “No worries then. I’m sure as soon as her memories return she’ll kick me right to the curb.”

“I have no doubt of that. Why not make it easier on yourself and Dawn for that matter, and stay away now?”

Spike flicked away his cigarette butt, standing close the other man. He had to look up a little, but he did so with confidence, his tone just as serious as Giles’ had been a moment earlier. “Soon as Buffy and Dawn tell me to leave, I’ll be gone, but not a minute before then.”

As Spike walked away he idly thought that Giles could just stake him in the back before he made it to the front door. He wouldn’t put it past the watcher to do what he felt necessary to protect the people he cared for. When he made it through the front door without exploding into dust, he thought it must be a Christmas miracle.
Chapter Five by Noelle
Author's Notes:
Sorry for the delay in updates. I was having a bit of writer's block, but I hope it's passed, and I hope to have another chapter out shortly. Thanks to everyone who's still keeping up with this story, and taking the time to review. Reviews are food to my muse's soul!! As always, a huge thank you to my beta's Andrea & Carla!! Any mistakes are mine and mine alone.
Chapter Five

Buffy crumpled onto the couch next to Spike after her friends left. The day had been long and busy, and she was completely exhausted.

“Nights like this make you miss the peace and quiet of slaying, huh?” Spike joked, his attention still focused on the holiday special lighting up the television.

“No, no. Not at all.” Buffy exhaled deeply, turning to look at him sheepishly. “Oh, God, yes,” she admitted. “I know they’re my friends and I’m supposed to be happy to spend the holidays with them, but I’m so tired. I feel like I could sleep until New Year’s.”

“Don’t need to tell me. Only reason I agreed to join your happy little feast was for you and Dawn.”

“Well thanks.” Her cheeks heated up in the annoying way they seemed to when he was around. “I’m glad you did.”

Spike drew in a deep, unnecessary breath, finally turning his gaze away from the television to look at her. “Much as it pains to me admit this, pet, you and your mates used to be thick as thieves.”

Buffy scrunched her face in confusion. “What as…huh? I thought we were the good guys?”

“Yeah, course you are.” He paused, considering how best to explain it to her since he clearly wasn’t getting it right. “All I’m sayin’ is you all used to be real tight. Plenty of group hugs and slumber parties I bet.”

“What about us?” she asked, refusing to meet his level gaze.

“What about us?” he countered, a little annoyed that she wasn’t grasping the information he shouldn’t care about enough to share with her.

“Okay this is going to sound crazy, like lock me up in the loony bin crazy,” she warned, giving her a minute to collect her thoughts. “When I’m with my friends they still feel like people I just met. There’s no hint of familiarity, even though they are clearly a huge part of my life, if the pictures in this house are any indication. But with you it’s different. You know how people say something’s on the tip of their tongue? Well it’s like you’re on the tip of my brain, as disgusting as that sounds. When I’m around you it feels like any second I’m going to remember something.” She waited a minute for Spike to respond, but all he did was stare at her. Shaking her head to clear away her jumbled thoughts, she broke the silence. “I told you it was nuts. Apparently we don’t even like each other.” She let her voice drift off, looking up at him from under her lashes.

“Ours is a long and sordid past. One I’m much too knackered to get into with you.” Grabbing the remote, he returned his attention once again to surfing through channel after channel of overplayed holiday programs.

Buffy didn’t push him, but she was growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of information she had about her own life. She could easily explain away her interest in the vampire. Good looks aside, he made her feel as though she were on the verge of remembering something. But she knew that wasn’t the only reason she chose to spend time with him. She felt something else when he was around—something that had nothing to do with her brain.

They sat together in silence, neither paying much attention to the television they were pretending to watch. Buffy shifted on the cushion, curling her legs underneath her and subconsciously moving closer to him on the couch.

Spike cleared his throat, craving a cigarette, but finding himself unable to move from his spot next to her. “Don’t make a fuss,” he started, turning toward her and finding they were much closer than he realized. “But I got you something.”

Buffy beamed. “You did? What is it?”

Spike rolled his eyes. She looked like a kid on Christmas morning. “Told you not to make a fuss. It’s nothing special. Just saw it and thought of you.” He pulled a small box out of nowhere and handed it to her. It wasn’t wrapped—because vampires don’t wrap presents—but she couldn’t have cared less.

Buffy gasped as she held up what had been inside the box. “Oh, Spike, it’s the sweater I ruined last week.” She’d learned the hard way, trying to get demon blood out of a green sweater with bleach was not the right approach.

“Not the same one, but pretty damn close.” He caught her gazing at him with a look of astonishment so he couldn’t help but add, “It’s nothing. Really. Didn’t even pay for it.”

Buffy smiled, knowingly. “Right, because you’re evil,” she joked, because he reminded her of it often enough.

“And don’t you forget it.”

Setting the box aside, Buffy wrapped her arms around him, embracing him tightly. “Thank you. I love it,” she said, as she breathed softly against his neck.

Spike slowly returned the hug, inhaling the familiar scent that was so uniquely his slayer. In the past month, Buffy had touched him more than she ever had before. It was almost like the time Willow cast the spell to have her will done, except this time he was under no illusions of what was reality. Pushing rationale aside, he let himself enjoy the feeling of Buffy in his arms.

He felt her soft lips graze his neck and didn’t have time to protest before they latched onto his. Her kiss was tentative as she waited for his reaction. Not strong enough to deny what was already happening between them, he returned the kiss with fervor. It had been much too long since he’d felt her lips on his and this time it was different. She was really there and not just trying to lose herself in him.

Buffy grabbed the red dress shirt he wore, bringing him down on top of her as she leaned back into the couch. His body covered hers, careful not to crush her small frame with his larger one. Their lips only broke momentarily for her to quickly pull air into her lungs, smashing back together as soon as she had her fill. Her tiny hands traveled between his two shirts, feeling the hard muscles of his back. She didn’t dare be any bolder; afraid he would change his mind.

His name, a breathy moan from her lips, reminded him of just what exactly was happening between them, what he was weakly allowing to happen. He carefully pulled back, hovering above her on an elbow. She slowly opened her eyes, confusion marring her pretty face. Eyes closed, he shook his head, feeling like a real asshole. He was the one who knew better.

With a sigh he murmured, “Sorry,” and moved away from her to the other side of the couch.

Buffy sat up, self-consciously smoothing her hair down, and righting her skewed top. “What are you sorry about?”

“We just can’t all right?” He stood, casting her one last apologetic glance. “See you in the morning.”

Buffy stared at his retreating back, puzzled by his abrupt shift in mood. She’d tried so hard not to scare him off, knowing full well that he was more than a little reluctant to let anything happen between them. Buffy was now frustrated more than ever, so she turned off the television and marched in the direction of her bedroom.

*****


That night Buffy dreamed about Spike. They were fighting in an abandoned building, and soon they weren’t fighting anymore. Suddenly, their lips were fused and she was riding him against a column right before they crashed through the floor. The dream felt so real she woke up gasping for breath with an ache between her thighs.

She glanced around her room, trying to regulate her breathing; thankful the vampire sleeping two floors below didn’t have a clue what she had just been dreaming about. A blush crept into her cheeks as she replayed the dream in her head. Could that really have just been a dream? It certainly didn’t feel like a dream, but she had no way of knowing other than asking someone, and she had no clue who she could possibly ask.

Sleep eluded her for the rest of the night, but she didn’t leave her bedroom, too afraid to run into Spike. She knew the moment she saw him she would blush furiously, giving away how incredibly uncomfortable she was feeling.

A little after eight, she heard Dawn in the bathroom then rushing down the stairs, but she didn’t move from her bed until the delicious smell of bacon invaded her nostrils. Her stomach grumbled hungrily, driving her into the bathroom for a cold shower.

Damp hair pulled back into a messy bun at the nape of her neck and dressed casually in a velour tracksuit, Buffy finally made her way into the kitchen. Dawn was sitting at the island, a full plate of eggs, bacon, and pancakes in front of her. Spike was leaning against the counter across from her, a mug of blood in one hand and a piece of bacon in the other. Both of them turned to look at her as she entered the room.

“We tried to wait for you,” Dawn admitted, a look of guilt on her young face. “But we didn’t want it to get cold while you were in the shower.”

“It’s okay,” Buffy replied, focusing on Dawn, and hoping Spike wouldn’t pick up on how fast her heart was beating just being in his presence. “Is there any more for me?”

“In the oven,” Dawn told her, already on her feet and making her way to the reserved plate of food. “Spike helped me make the eggs,” she chattered, placing the plate in front of Buffy, who had moved to sit at the island in the seat next to the one Dawn had vacated. “I suck at not breaking the yolk.”

“Well, thank you both. It smells delicious.” Buffy dug in voraciously, keeping her focus on her food, refusing to meet the gaze of the vampire staring at her.

Dawn practically skipped out of the kitchen, calling back to them about Christmas morning parades on the television and opening presents by the tree. Buffy wanted to run after her. For the first time since she lost her memory she couldn’t stand to be in the same room as Spike. She focused on finishing her breakfast, hoping he would take the hint and follow Dawn into the living room.

Unfortunately, he did just the opposite.

“Sleep well, pet?” he asked nonchalantly, trying to start conversation.

Buffy nearly choked on the bacon she was chewing. “Uh. Yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

Spike cleared his throat as if to give himself one more second before saying, “Listen, Buffy. About last night—“

Buffy jumped up from the stool, needing to be as far away from the conversation as possible. “It’s cool. I completely understand,” she told him, even though she didn’t.

“You do?” he asked, skeptically, never one to let something go.

She ran water over her dish before placing it in the sink. “Uh huh.” She closed her eyes, needing a moment before she could look at him, but it was worse when she did. Why couldn’t she stop picturing him naked? Her imagination was more than likely being too generous anyway. It just wasn’t possible for anyone to look that good.

“Maybe it’s best I don’t stay here anymore.”

Buffy snapped her eyes open to look at him. “No, Spike. It’s fine. I’m fine.”

Spike frowned, tilting his head to the side in a way that she found incredibly sexy. “You don’t seem fine, and you shouldn’t be walkin’ around uncomfortable in your own house.”

Why did he always have to be so damn perceptive? “Okay, maybe this morning was a little awkward,” she conceded, “but last night, that was totally my fault. I promise it won’t happen again.”

Spike’s protest died on his lips as Dawn entered the kitchen looking thoroughly annoyed. “What’s taking you guys so long?” she demanded, hands on her hips.

Buffy was grateful for the interruption and hoped Spike wouldn’t want to continue the conversation later. “Sorry, Dawn. We were just about to join you.”

Dawn didn’t miss the pointed look exchanged between the blonds before they followed her out of the room.

*****


It was a few days after Christmas, and Dawn was upstairs getting ready for a day out with Tara when the blonde knocked on their door. Although Buffy had only seen Tara twice since the accident, there was something about the other woman that made her feel secure. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially given that they weren’t the closest of friends. Buffy invited Tara in to have a seat on the couch while they waited on Dawn.

“You look good, Buffy. How have things been?”

Buffy shrugged. “Fine, I guess.”

“Spike’s still living here?” Tara asked, noticing the Zippo lighter among the clutter on the coffee table.

“Much to the disapproval of just about everyone,” she confirmed with a nod.

Tara picked up on the annoyance laced in Buffy’s words. “I’m sure they’re just trying to get used to your new, uh, friendship.”

“It doesn’t feel new,” Buffy replied quietly, looking down at her hands.

“Buffy?” Tara knew she shouldn’t prod her confused friend, but something inside her was telling her Buffy needed someone to talk to.

Buffy glanced around, making sure they were still alone and not in danger of being overheard. Not quite meeting the other woman’s gaze she said, “I feel, I don’t know, closer to him than anyone else.” She peeked out from under her lashes to see how Tara was responding to this new development. To her credit, Tara was doing a good job of not looking totally shocked. “I know it seems crazy…”

“No, sweetie, it doesn’t. He’s been here for you.”

“Yeah,” Buffy agreed. “He really has been, but it’s not just that,” she trailed off, not sure how much she should divulge. Tara waited patiently for her to continue, and Buffy did if only to fill the silence. “I’ve been…there’ve been…dreams. Well not so much dreams. More like one dream, really.”

Tara didn’t need to ask the nature of the dream. Buffy’s pink cheeks gave that away. “Oh,” was all she could say before Dawn came barreling down the staircase.

Buffy had to give Dawn credit. The girl had great timing.

In her hurry to get out the door, Dawn nearly crashed into a weary looking Willow. They both righted themselves, a little thrown off balance by the almost collision. Willow and Tara made eye contact briefly before Tara quickly averted her gaze. She moved from foot to foot, nervous under the redhead’s stare. Buffy and Dawn couldn’t think quickly enough to alleviate the awkward encounter.

“Tara,” Willow finally said. Her voice was strained, like someone who had been out all night. “Wh-what are you doing here? Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, just picking up Dawnie.”

Dawn perked up at the mention of her name. “Yes! We’re spending the day together.”

“Shouldn’t you guys get going?” Buffy asked after a few more seconds of tense silence had gone by, trying to hurry along the scene playing out over her threshold. “Don’t wanna miss that movie.”

“Buffy’s right,” Tara agreed. “We really should get going.” Tara and Dawn moved out of the doorway, reversing positions with Willow.

“Right. It was really good to see you,” Willow said as Tara moved past her.

Tara looked back at Willow with a tight, barely there smile then she was gone, hurrying down the walkway behind Dawn. Willow sighed, closing the door behind her before turning toward Buffy.

“I, uh, was out with Amy. I guess we lost track of time,” she hastily explained.

Buffy knew she didn’t know Willow as well at the moment, as she ought to, but the way Willow refused to meet her eyes was concerning. “Lost track of time ‘til eleven in the morning?” She tried not to sound suspicious, but apparently not hard enough, because Willow’s tone turned defensive.

“We got breakfast. No biggie.”

“Sure. No biggie.” Buffy nodded and smiled, not wanting to provoke the other woman further. “You’re probably really tired. You should go upstairs and rest.”

“Yeah, I could use a nice long nap followed by a nice long bath right about now.” Willow barely spared a backward glance before she was moving up the stairs.
Chapter Six by Noelle
Author's Notes:
A big thank you to everyone who is keeping up with this story, as well as to my beta's Andrea & Carla!! Any mistakes are mine and mine alone
Chapter Six

“Any real witch would know the Wiccan New Year’s in October, not December,” Willow grumbled from her seat at the round table.

“Shh!” Anya hissed, glaring at Willow. “You’re supposed to be helping, not driving customers away!”

Willow rolled her eyes, looking around at the handful of customers who were perusing the various items on sale in the Magic Box. She scoffed at one guy who had a book of—what else? —love spells in his hand. “That guy wouldn’t be able to pull off a spell, even if he had all the right ingredients.”

“Yeah, because you’re the expert on that lately,” Anya muttered sarcastically before hurrying away to help the customer they’d been discussing.

“Hey!” Willow protested to her retreating back. “What's that supposed to mean?”

Xander cleared his throat, looking up from the book he’d been pretending to read during the exchange.
“Well, Will, you’re spells have been known to go a bit wonky a time or three.”

Willow frowned. “A few spells go wrong, and everybody forgets about the ones that went right.”

“No one’s forgotten anything,” Xander assured her with a kind smile.

Willow lifted her lips in a tiny smile; so tiny it would’ve been missed if he hadn’t been staring at her. Xander’s smile disappeared as quickly as hers had, and he wondered what was going on with his oldest friend. She had been much quieter than usual lately, and he attributed the change in behavior to her break-up with Tara. The fact that Spike had seemingly taken up residence in the house she lived in couldn’t be doing anything to alleviate the stress Willow had been under recently.

His line of thinking was brought to an abrupt halt as Buffy and Giles entered the main room from the training area. Buffy stretched her arms over her head, smiling at them in greeting. Willow barely noticed them though, her attention diverted to the front door where Dawn had just entered with Tara in tow. No one missed the look of panic that crossed Willow’s face.

No one had much time for greetings before Anya rushed over, more than happy to be giving them all assignments. She and Giles were expecting a rush of customers for their New Year’s Eve sale, and they’d all been recruited to help out.

“Dawn will be behind the counter with me,” Anya started, looking at the younger girl. “We don’t want to tempt your inner Bonnie-sans-Clyde, so you can take orders and wrap gifts.” Dawn’s eyes were downcast at the mention of her previous indiscretions, but she nodded her acquiescence. “Xander, you and Buffy can do any heavy lifting we need, like bringing up more stock from the basement. Willow and Tara, you two can use your knowledge of witchcraft to help customers, and more importantly, persuade them to buy things!”

Neither of the witches looked happy with their job, but Anya didn’t give anyone time to disagree with their assignments. She led Dawn away from the group, already filling the girl in on what she’d be required to do. Tara moved away from the small group quickly, planning on keeping as much distance from Willow as she could.

Buffy sank down into an empty chair, pouting. “I wish I hadn’t let Giles talk me out of patrolling tonight.”

“Giles is standing right here,” he reminded her. “And missing one night of patrol won’t kill you.”

“I might die of boredom though,” she muttered.

“I’m sure Anya can find some task for you if you’re that bored.”

Buffy was up and out of her seat before Giles finished his sentence. “Uh, no. I’m sure I can find some way to keep myself busy. Oh, look,” she said, already walking away from the table. “That lady looks like she could use some help lifting that incredibly heavy looking box…”

Giles smiled, happy to see Buffy beginning to act more and more like her old self. He took the seat Buffy had vacated next to Xander. “It’s driving me mad that we haven’t been able to get a single lead on who could’ve done this to her,” he told the other man.

Xander pushed away the book in front of him. “No one saw or heard anything other than the explosion that destroyed any evidence that could’ve led us in the right direction. No surveillance cameras in the alley…I mean, c’mon a bank really should have them…and without Buffy as a witness, the helpful men and women of the Sunnydale police force have pretty much stopped working the case.

“What more can we do?”

Giles sighed, taking off his glasses. “I’m afraid there isn’t much we can do. If this was an attack on Buffy, they’ll be sure to strike again, and this time we’ll be ready.”

“Or we can hope it was a nice, normal bank robbery gone wrong?” Xander asked even though he knew better.

“Not much that goes on in Sunnydale is normal,” Giles reminded him. “Especially not where Buffy is concerned.”

*****


“Don’t these people have lives?” Buffy groaned, leaning her tired body against a bookshelf. “They should be somewhere else, doing something New Year’s Eve-y.”

“Fortunately, they’re not,” Giles told her with a bright smile, more than happy with the turnout. “Anya and I would like to thank all of you for helping tonight.”

“Yes,” Anya agreed from behind the counter. “You all helped me and Giles make lots of money.”

Buffy couldn’t suppress her giggle at Willow’s eye roll.

“Yes, and to show our appreciation, pizza’s on us,” Giles offered, taking a few twenties out of Anya’s till. Anya didn’t look happy, but for once kept what she was thinking to herself.

“Are there even any pizzerias open this late?” Dawn questioned, coming out from behind the counter where Anya had kept her prisoner all night.

“There’s one by the college,” Willow told them. “Buffy and I used to order from them on nights when we’d stay up late slaying and studying.” She stood to give Giles the information and help him place the order.

Xander made quick work of plugging in a radio and put on some party tunes before flipping the ‘open’ sign on the door to ‘closed’. He instantly regretted not locking up when Spike came sauntering through, exhaling a cloud of smoke right into his face. Spike paid no attention as Xander went into a coughing fit, strolling past him and into the shop.

“Spike, you came,” Dawn noticed happily, a big smile on her young face.

“Yes, Spike, you came,” Giles repeated, not an ounce of joy on his much older face. “How lucky for us all.”

Spike ignored the jab. “Yeah, well, not a whole lot goin’ on out there tonight. Staked a few vamps ‘fore I headed down to Willy’s. Tried to get some info out of a few blokes I know ‘bout what happened to the slayer. Either they don’t know a bloody thing, or they’re not talkin’.”

“That was very…helpful…of you,” Giles replied, sounding as though it pained him to admit.

“Yeah, ‘t was, wasn’t it?” Spike shot back, looking very happy with himself.

“You’re just in time for some pizza,” Buffy interrupted them.

“Good, I’m starving. Could probably eat the delivery boy, I’m so hungry.” He smirked, cutting off Giles, who was undoubtedly about to reprimand Spike. “Calm down, Watcher. Don’t get your knickers in a twist. We all know I couldn’t eat him, even if I wanted to.”

By the time the pizza arrived there were only fifteen minutes left until the New Year. Everyone had wound down from the busy day and was enjoying their pizza in various locations throughout the shop. Buffy, Willow, and Xander were seated at the round table, laughing about how upset poor Amy had been to learn Larry was not only gay, but had also been eaten by a giant snake. Of course, Buffy couldn’t remember any of those things, so Willow and Xander were gladly filling her in. Dawn was seated on the counter, happily watching the others enjoying themselves for what seemed to be the first time in a long while. Giles and Anya were finishing up paperwork in between bites of pizza, and Spike and Tara had found themselves seated on the steps closest to the front door.

Spike and Tara were busying comparing notes on living in the Summers’ household. Spike chuckled when Tara told him about the ridiculously long showers Dawn took, making him glad he didn’t shower in the morning.

“So,” Tara began, her voice quieter than it had been seconds earlier. “How long have you and Buffy been sleeping together?”

Spike choked on the pizza he’d been swallowing, garnering the attention of everyone in the room. He glared at the blonde as she slapped him on the back. She gave him his beer, which he promptly used to help swallow the food lodged in his throat.

“What did you just say?” he croaked, intending to sound more threatening than he was able to at the moment.

Tara smiled. “You heard me.”

“Are you daft?” he asked, still trying to deny what she obviously already knew. From the look on her face, he knew she had him figured out, and his voice reflected the defeat he felt. “Who told you that?”

“You just did,” she told him, and he didn’t know who he wanted to throttle more, himself or her. “But I’ve had my suspicions for a few days now.”

Spike took a swig of his beer, wishing he had something a bit stronger. “Care to elaborate?”

“I’m not sure I should be telling you this, but I think Buffy remembered…whatever happened between you two.”

Tara watched the disbelief play across Spike’s sharp features. “Did she…did she tell anyone else?”

“No. She doesn’t even know if it’s an actual memory or not.”

“Why didn’t she tell me?”

“I-I think she was confused and wasn’t sure who she could talk to.”

“If she didn’t tell you it was a memory, how’d you figure it out?” Spike asked, looking at her with a hint of suspicion in his blue eyes.

“I put two and two together. Nobody else wants to admit it, but she’s been closest with you since the accident. After she told me…I figured subconsciously she remembers.”

Tara felt sorry for Spike. He looked so torn. Then he said the last thing she expected to hear from him.

“You have to tell Giles.”

Tara furrowed her brow, not sure she heard him correctly. “What? Spike, no.”

“And why the bloody hell not? Her watcher, and her doctors, they should know she’s startin’ to remember.”

Tara looked around to make sure they weren’t drawing attention and found Dawn staring at them inquisitively. Hoping to put Dawn at ease, Tara smiled her way before answering Spike. “Do you really think Buffy and not the one sitting over there with no memories, would want Giles to know about this?” She felt bad when she saw how insulted Spike looked, but he needed to hear her out. “I’m not saying you two being together is anyone’s business, but do you want Buffy to get her memories back and stake you for telling everyone?”

Tara was right. It wasn’t his secret to tell. Maybe he would’ve threatened to tell her friends before all this, but not now. Not when she couldn’t begin to grasp the significance of telling. “What do we do then?”

“I’m assuming since Buffy didn’t know it was a memory that you two haven’t been…you know…since the accident?”

“What? No, of course not,” Spike answered before grumbling, “’S not even really Buffy.”

Tara was surprised by the sadness laced through his words. She was beginning to think she’d seriously underestimated the way the vampire felt about her friend. “Of course she’s really Buffy. She’s just not the Buffy we’re used to.”

“Don’t really see the difference.”

They both looked up as Xander fumbled with the radio, changing the station to one broadcasting the countdown. Dawn hopped down off the counter, joining Giles next to the table where her sister and friends were seated. Only a minute and counting left until the stroke of midnight, and Spike knew they’d all be wishing for the same thing.

*****



“Three, two, one! Happy New Year!” Buffy chanted along with her sister and friends. She pasted a smile on her face as Giles embraced Dawn, placing a fatherly kiss on the top of her head. Xander embraced his fiancée for a much steamier kiss, while Willow glanced briefly, sadly, toward Tara.

Buffy sat rooted in her seat, unable to keep from staring at Spike as those around her celebrated. She knew she couldn’t just get up and kiss or even hug him. For one thing, he wouldn’t appreciate it anymore than her friends would. Although, maybe it would help Spike’s case if they knew how furiously he’d been refusing her advances.

It probably wouldn’t make a difference.

The party didn’t last much longer. Both Giles and Dawn tried unsuccessfully to hide their ever-growing yawns. Giles didn’t want to be rude and Dawn was trying to appear older because she could so stay out late with the adults. In truth, it had been a busy day for everyone with the exception of Spike, and they were more than ready to call it a night.

“Better get going ‘fore Niblet here turns back into a pumpkin,” Spike teased, and Dawn glared at him as only a teenager could.

Buffy hugged Tara, wishing she’d been able to spend more time with the other woman tonight. Tara returned the hug, hoping she hadn’t just majorly violated her friend’s trust, but knowing even if she did, she did so with the best of intentions.

“Need a lift home, Tara?” Xander asked, not wanting her walking home by herself so late.

“If you don’t mind that would be great,” she accepted with a smile, more than grateful for the offer.

“Ready to go, Dawn?” Buffy asked her sleepy sister, whose nod was accompanied by a yawn.

Spike followed the sisters out of the shop, calling over his shoulder, “Coming, Red?”

Willow stuffed supplies she’d gathered earlier in the day into her large purse, before hurrying to catch up with her housemates.

*****



The walk home wasn’t long, but the crisp January night was cooler than usual, and as usual Dawn hadn’t dressed properly. Spike could feel the girl shiver when she brushed against him. Without asking, he draped his prized leather duster over her lanky frame.

“Thanks, but I don’t want you to be cold,” she told him, half-heartedly because she was already much warmer.

“Vampire,” he reminded her, lighting up a cigarette. “Don’t get cold.”

She made a show of waving a hand in front of her nose. “Human,” she mimicked him. “Can definitely get lung cancer.”

Spike chuckled, taking another inhale. “Sorry, bit. Promise if you do get the big C, I’ll turn you, alright?”

“Ew.” She hid her smile from him because she secretly liked that he wouldn’t mind having her around forever.
Chapter Seven by Noelle
Author's Notes:
A humongous thank you to brutti_ma_buoni for organizing letsgetitdone. This chapter wouldn't exist if it wasn't for her! Thanks to ellievanna for the gorgeous banner!! Thanks to Carla for the beta!
Chapter Seven

Two weeks after the New Year, Giles decided it was time to inform Buffy of her financial difficulties. It wasn’t something they’d discussed since she’d come back to them, and the situation was growing worse with each passing day. Giles had tried to help out as much as he could, but paying for two households (one with a freeloading – and unwelcome in his opinion – vampire, no less) was starting to deplete his savings.

Buffy stared at the mounds of paperwork splayed across the dining room table. She wasn’t so far gone that she didn’t know the meaning of bills and debts, and memory or not, she was overwhelmed. She was a college dropout with no skills she knew of that didn’t involve the business end of a pointy stick, and she was overwhelmed.

“I–,” Buffy cleared her throat, looking up at the older man. “What am I going to do?”

Giles’ smile was tight. It was bittersweet that even with no recollection of him, she would still look to him for guidance. “That’s up to you, Buffy. You could, for instance, get a job.”

Spike chose that moment to enter with a mug of blood and a mug of hot chocolate in each hand. “She’s already got a job,” he stated, placing the hot chocolate in front of her. He remained standing off to her side, speaking to Giles, “Doin’ a bloody fantastic job savin’ the world, with no thanks in the form of compensation comin’ in from the sorry group of wankers you call The Council.”

Giles sighed, running a hand down his face in an attempt to calm himself. What Spike was saying wasn’t wrong, as much as it pained him to admit it. But The Council held no love for Buffy, and as much as he’d like to see her rightfully compensated, it just wasn’t going to happen.

“What a brilliant idea, Spike. Why didn’t I think of that?”

In a moment of uncharacteristic self-control, Spike let that one pass.

“Okay, so I get a job. No biggie,” Buffy broke in, trying to ease some of the tension in the room by sounding confident. “I’m sure I’m good at something other than slaying.”

Spike shook his head. “She gets a day job, and she’ll be tired and unfocused at night,” he said, still speaking to Giles as if Buffy wasn’t a part of the conversation. He kindly left out the unspoken and she dies part.

Buffy shifted in her seat, so she could see Spike better. “I’m the slayer. Do I even get tired?”

“Other than nay saying, do you have any realistic suggestions to offer?”

“I can get some money.” He pulled a wad of cash he’d clearly tried–unsuccessfully–to smooth out and threw it down on the table. Giles picked it up, looking unimpressed by the amount. “I can get more.”

As much as Giles didn’t like Spike trying to help, he hated the way Buffy was looking at Spike like he was her knight in shining black armor. “And where, pray tell, did this money come from?” Giles sat back in his chair, clearly expecting an answer that would wipe the look from Buffy’s face.

“Nowhere bad.” Spike sighed, rolling his eyes when the watcher continued to stare at him. “Nowhere too bad, anyway,” he amended. “Nobody died if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“That was precisely what I was thinking.” Giles pushed the money back across the table. “It’s not enough. Buffy needs a reliable income if she wishes to keep this house.”

Buffy stood up from her seat, pushing the chair back so abruptly it fell to the floor. “First of all, Buffy’s right here. And Buffy will be getting a job. End of discussion.” She couldn’t help but smile a bit at the way the two men fell abruptly silent at her outburst. Spike picked her chair up for her, and she sat back down. This time he slipped into the chair to her right.

“What else?”

Giles cleared his throat. “There is also the matter of CPS. We’ve held them off as long as we could, but the case worker who has been assigned to you and Dawn is very anxious to meet you.”

“When will this case worker be coming?” Buffy asked. She couldn’t help but be alarmed that someone so important would be judging her when she wasn’t at her best.

“Friday night at six.” He glanced at Spike. “I trust I don’t need to tell you to make yourself scarce?”

"Don’t need to but did anyway,” Spike grumbled back. He knew how important this meeting would be for Buffy and Dawn–probably more than Buffy herself realized.

Giles turned his attention back to Buffy. “You’ll have until Friday to find some sort of employment. That’ll be important to the case worker.”

Buffy nodded, the weight of the situation settling on her already overburdened shoulders. Giles seemed to sense how overwhelmed she was and with a promise to talk more before Friday he left. Spike picked up the forgotten wad of cash and handed it to her. “I want you to have it. Know the old Buffy wouldn’t have taken it, but you seem to have a bit more sense than her, yeah?”

Buffy forced a smile at the mention of her “former” self. “Yeah,” she agreed, taking the gift he was so generously offering. She released the proverbial breath she’d been holding the entire time Giles had been there. “Where the hell am I gonna work, Spike?”

Spike couldn’t help but laugh at the sudden change in her mood. “Dunno, pet, but your prat of a watcher has a point. Gonna need to show some proof of employment to the bint from CPS.”

“I think I’m hanging out with you too much ‘cuz I actually understood that,” she teased him.

He growled at her–which she found oh so adorable–so it didn’t exactly have the desired effect on her. “Don’ worry, Slayer. ‘Ve got an idea.”

*****

Spike’s idea turned out to be a good one. Once the sun set, they dropped Dawn off at The Magic Box to finish her homework while they patrolled. Instead of going on their usual route, Spike led her further downtown until they were outside The Bronze.

It was still too early for partygoers, but there were a fair amount of drunks littering the bar stools, and even a few people sitting at the tables eating. Buffy looked around, wondering why he’d brought her there.

Spike looked back at her, noticing she’d stopped walking. “This way, love.”

Buffy followed him under the staircase to a back office she hadn’t noticed on her initial perusal of the place. Spike knocked on the door, opening it a few seconds later when a gruff voice yelled for them to enter. The voice didn’t exactly match the person it accompanied. Buffy was surprised to see a man in his early forties, a little on the thin side with graying hair, sitting behind the desk that took up half the room. The man immediately stood when he saw who was paying him a visit.

“Spike! What brings you here this time of day?” he asked, perspiration already forming on his brow.

"Wanna introduce you to someone.” Spike gestured for her to come closer. “This ‘ere is Buffy Summers, and she’ll be the best damn waitress you ever had.”

The manager looked Buffy over, clearly trying to figure out if she was a vampire or not. He must’ve figured if she was a vampire, she used a lot of self-tanner because he finally asked, “You wanna work here?”

Buffy shrugged. “It’s as good a place as any, I suppose.”

Spike rolled his eyes. Maybe he should’ve given her a few pointers on how to behave at a job interview. Not that he had any firsthand experience himself. “She needs a job, and she can hold her own.”

The manager eyed her figure appreciatively this time. “All right,” he agreed. He extended his hand to her. “I’m Charlie. You can start tomorrow at three.”

Buffy beamed, walking out of the office. Spike didn’t follow right away. Instead he moved closer to Charlie, a murderous look on his face. “Don’t let me catch you lookin’ at her like that again, mate.”

Charlie shrank back, nodding furiously and stuttering his acquiescence. He had a feeling that he had no clue what he’d just gotten himself into. 

*****

Buffy was practically bouncing on the balls of her feet as she and Spike headed away from The Bronze. She felt like one of those weights had been lifted off her shoulders. She was finally beginning to feel like she was actually living her life instead of just filling in a space until the “real” Buffy returned. She was the real Buffy, and like it or not, her memories might never return. It’d been long enough since her accident that it was looking like a real possibility.

Buffy smiled up at Spike, who was looking at her strangely; most likely because of the amount of energy she was exerting just walking. She’d heard his parting words to the manager, Charlie, and she couldn’t help but be pleased. Spike wasn’t as indifferent to her as he’d like her to believe. Maybe she could use this newfound knowledge to break down whatever walls he had put up between them.

“So,” she started, just as they’d reached their first cemetery. “Tell me about this Bronze place.”

“It’s jus’ about the only decent place in town—for humans anyway,” he added as an afterthought. “Normally you and your chums hang ‘round there often. Not so much these days…”

His voice trailed off to a dangerous place. Keeping the conversation going, so he didn’t have a chance to dwell, she asked, “How’d you know that Charlie guy?”

“Guy like me doesn’t have to do much to get a reputation. Much as you and the rest of the Scooby gang like to think otherwise, people do notice the weird shit that goes on in this town. An’ we just happen to be around when all the weird shit’s going down.” Spike took out a cigarette, stopping midstride to light it. “Anyway,” he continued, exhaling a cloud of smoke. “Saved Charlie from meetin’ a nasty fate while back, so he hooks me up every now an’ then with booze an’ wings.”

“And now a job for me,” she added, following as he began walking again. “I’m sure Giles’ will be happy to hear I’m gainfully employed.”

Spike snorted. “Yeah, he’ll be just delighted.”

“Do I detect sarcasm?” she teased, knowing full well he was being sarcastic.

“Your watcher’d rather set himself on fire than be grateful to me for a thing.” Spike tossed his cigarette to the ground, stomping on it a little harder than necessary.

“That bothers you.”

It wasn’t a question, but he responded anyway. “Well, yeah. Would be nice to get some appreciation every now and then.”

“I appreciate you.” Buffy boldly looked up at him, wanting him to know that she meant it. She did appreciate everything he’d done for her since she’d woken up in that hospital bed. He helped her slay and take care of her sister, and she had no idea what she’d do without him.

And it hurt that he’d never take her words at face value because she wasn’t really Buffy.

Spike looked at her for a moment, wishing more than anything that he could take the words coming from her mouth seriously. But he couldn’t. Not when any minute she would remember and squash any hopes he dared to have. Not wanting to hurt her, he gave her a sad little smile and said, “Thanks, pet.”

Buffy sighed. “I know you don’t believe me, but you’ve been here for me. And Dawn. And now you helped me get this job, which I might totally suck at, but it means something. It has to.” She said the last bit more to herself than to him.

Spike chuckled. “If you say so, Goldilocks.” He fingered one of her blonde curls for a moment before thinking better of it and withdrawing his hand. Coming back from wherever his mind had just drifted, he started off again. “C’mon, Slayer. Let’s see if there’s anything to beat up tonight, yeah?”
Chapter Eight by Noelle
Author's Notes:
This chapter was posted for season_spuffy fall 2012. Thanks to Carla for the beta and ellievanna for the banner!!
Chapter Eight


Buffy’s first day on the job was far from perfect. Charlie had given her the three-to-nine shift, which worked out perfectly, allowing her to make money and be out in time for some after hours slaying. Her slayer strength and agility proved to be both a blessing and a curse though. She was able to carry more than the other waitresses, but when a particularly irritating customer got on her nerves she accidentally. crushed his drink, sending shards of glass flying in every direction.

Customer service was going to take some getting used to.

Overall, it had been a decent first night. Spike had shown up a little after sunset and, nursed three beers waiting for her to get off. She’d caught him watching her more than once, and each time she’d feel a little flush of excitement sneak up her neck.

“That your boyfriend?” Vicky, the other waitress on shift, had asked her while they were waiting behind the bar for their drink orders.

Buffy had blushed knowing full well that Spike could probably hear every word of their conversation. “No! No—definitely not my boyfriend.”

Vicky had just shrugged in response. “Do you know him? ‘Cuz he’s been staring at you ever since he came in.”

“Uh, yeah. He’s kinda my roommate.”

Vicky had given her a strange look; obviously in disbelief that Buffy lived with him and didn’t take full advantage of it, before taking her drinks and moving along to deliver them.

Of course it didn’t take Spike long before he brought it up during patrol.

“So I’m your roommate now, am I?” he teased her with a smirk.

Buffy cursed her damn cheeks for heating up whenever she was around him. “I knew you’d hear that,” she grumbled. “I thought it was better than ‘he’s my slaying buddy, who also happens to be a vampire’.”

Spike chuckled. “Yeah, spose so. Looked like you did good tonight. Any wankers stiff you on a tip?”

As Buffy began to tell him about a big tip she’d made, Spike was struck with the realization that they were having an honest to God conversation, talking about her day at work like they were friends or even a couple. How many times had he wished for this very thing, and he felt like an ungrateful sod now that it was actually happening. How much longer was he going to be able to keep her at a distance if things kept progressing as they had been?

Fortunately, he didn’t have much time to contemplate because Buffy had spotted some vampires heading their way and was off running. Spike followed, holding back from jumping into the fray. He watched her, amazed at how naturally it came to her. How fast she’d been able to bounce back and pick up as though nothing had ever happened.

And then he was back to thinking how gorgeous she looked in her element. How painful it was for him to be around her after what they’d done. How he couldn’t stay away if he tried.

*****
Friday afternoon came quicker than anyone expected. Buffy had worked both Wednesday and Thursday and would be returning for a shift on Saturday. She was quickly getting the hang of the waitressing business and, found that she liked the job more than she thought she would.

Giles hadn’t been thrilled to hear where she’d found a job and, was even less thrilled that Spike was the one who had helped her acquire it. He thought her caseworker would find something wrong with her working in a nightclub, but Buffy considered herself lucky to have found something so quickly.

It was a few minutes before sundown when they heard the knock at the door. Dawn was at the dining room table, the picture of an innocent all-American teenager doing her homework with a healthy snack. Buffy was busy triple and quadruple checking that the house was immaculate, not a weapon or ounce of magic supplies in sight. Spike had just shrugged on his duster and, was about to shout his good-byes. All three froze staring at each other, waiting for someone to make the first move.

It was Spike who regained his composure first, gesturing with a nod for Buffy to answer the door. She took a deep breath, plastered a smile on her face, and opened the door. On the other side stood a woman in her mid-fifties, clipboard in hand.

“Ms. Summers? My name is Doris Kroger, and I’ve been assigned to your case.”

Buffy shook the older woman’s hand. “Please, come in. We weren’t expecting you for another half hour.”

Doris gave her a tight smile. “I try to get to all my appointments as early as possible.”

“Of course. How—punctual—of you.” She extended her arm, inviting Dawn to join them in the foyer. “This is my sister, Dawn,” she introduced, wrapping an arm around the taller girl. “She was just finishing up some homework—like she does every night before dinner.”

Doris looked down at her clipboard. “It says here you have someone else living in the home with you. A Willow Rosenberg? Is she here?”

"No.” Buffy shook her head. “She’s a student at the university and, spends a lot of time in class or at the library.”

"In the library on a Friday night?” Buffy couldn’t tell if Doris was impressed or didn’t believe her.

“Yep. That’s Willow. Smartest gal I know.”

After a few more questions about Buffy’s accident and how she was recovering, Doris’ attention turned to Spike, who had quietly escaped to the living room. He was sitting in one of the chairs, fingers tapping nervously on his knees. He looked like he was contemplating whether he could get away with leaving, now that the sun was low on the horizon or if that would arouse more suspicion. He wouldn’t get a chance to bolt though because Doris had zeroed in on him, alternating looking at her clipboard and Spike.

“Ms. Summers, I don’t have any record of another roommate living here.”

Buffy tried not to look as alarmed as she felt. She didn’t know whether to lie or tell the truth. This woman could pop in on them at any time it seemed, and with Spike living there, there was a good possibility of him being around when she did. Thinking on the spot was not one of her strong suits it seemed because the next thing she knew she was blurting out, “It’s sorta a recent development.”

Spike and Dawn looked equally surprised by her response. Dawn’s surprise quickly turned to a mixture of amusement and glee. Doris stared at her expectantly, waiting for her to elaborate.

“This is my boyfriend—“ Buffy stopped short, realizing there was no way she could tell Doris she was dating some guy named Spike.

“Buffy’s boyfriend, William,” Dawn supplied, coming to her rescue. “William Pratt.”

“Right—William. Af-after my accident, he moved in with us. To help out,” Buffy explained. She looked at Spike pointedly. “Will, honey, say hello to the nice lady from CPS.”

Spike did as she asked, refraining from shaking her hand so that she wouldn’t notice the lack of warmth. He was having a hard time wrapping his head around the charade he was now a party to. If Giles hadn’t staked him before, he was surely going to now.

Buffy invited Doris into the living room, and they all took a seat. Over the next half hour, the caseworker questioned them on the living arrangements, Buffy’s employment and other topics that she assured them were routine. After gathering all that information, Doris asked to be left alone to speak with Dawn privately.

The minute they were alone in the kitchen, Spike rounded on Buffy. “What the bloody hell was that?”

Buffy barely flinched. She had been mentally preparing herself for his backlash ever since the words tumbled out of her mouth. “I had to tell her something!”

“An’ that’s what you came up with?” Spike paced anxiously in front of her, keeping his voice down, so they weren’t overheard. “Bleedin’ hell, Slayer. I’m dead. Where the hell am I gonna get an ID card to show this bird?”

Buffy had the good sense to look sheepish. “I guess I hadn’t really thought it through. She put me on the spot, and I remembered Vicky thinking you were my boyfriend and, how she totally didn’t believe that you were just my roommate, so neither would this woman—“

“Breathe, Slayer,” Spike interrupted, wiping a hand across his face. “We’ll havta talk to your watcher and see what he can come up with.”

Buffy knew as well as he did that this wouldn’t go over well with any of her friends. They had a hard enough time with Spike staying in the house, and now he would be acting as her live-in boyfriend. Yeah, they were going to have a cow, and she really wasn’t in the mood to deal with that any time soon.
Chapter Nine by Noelle
Author's Notes:
Thanks to Carla for the beta and ellievanna for the banner! Sorry these chapters have been shorter, but I'm going with what my muse gives me, and shorter is better than nothing in my opinion :) Thanks for the review I love knowing that you think!!
Chapter Nine

“I’m sorry. I couldn’t possibly have heard you correctly. You did what?”

Buffy had prepared for this moment. Spike couldn’t stop complaining about how royally she’d screwed them. So she’d practiced in front of the mirror. She’d gone through every single possible way this conversation could go. Or at least she thought she had. Because not one of those imagined conversations ended with Giles doubled over laughing hysterically.

She couldn’t take her eyes off the older man. It was like a gruesome car accident that you just couldn’t look away from. She didn’t have a clue what to do. She’d never even seen Giles laugh before (that she could remember), and she was pretty damn sure he shouldn’t be laughing now.

“What’s so funny?” she demanded, hands finding their way onto her hips.

Glasses off, Giles wiped away a tear that was leaking down his cheek. Once he had composed himself, his expression quickly turned from one of hysteria to exasperation. “What isn’t funny about the situation you’ve so willingly put yourself in? If I don’t laugh I fear I’ll have a stroke.”

“It’s really not that bad, Giles—“

“And not only is Spike your pretend boyfriend but my pretend son as well? Do I look old enough to have a son his age?!”

Buffy smartly chose to keep whatever opinion she had to herself. “Mrs. Kroger asked how we met, and it just came out. C’mon you have to admit it works out pretty perfectly.”

Giles crumpled into a chair. “How so?”

Buffy rolled her eyes, like it should be obvious to him. “You’re both English.”

Giles scoffed. “There are plenty of English people in California, and I don’t happen to be related to any of them.”

“Well it was the best I could think of on the spot,” she admitted, taking a seat across from him. She placed her arms on the table, looking up at him with the most innocent face she could muster. “That’s not all.”

“What else could there possibly be?”

“Spike needs a driver’s license. And a green card.”

Giles chuckled humorlessly. “Anything else?”

Buffy shook her head carefully. Giles had taken the news a lot better than she’d predicted, and she still wasn’t sure he’d fully absorbed all the information she’d told him yet. “And before you go after him with a flamethrower, it wasn’t Spike’s fault. The woman got there more than thirty minutes early—before the sun went down.”

“Which is exactly why he shouldn’t be living with you in the first place,” Giles argued, growing angrier at the mention of the bane of his existence.

“He looks after us, Giles.”

“You’re the slayer, Buffy. You shouldn’t need a vampire to look after you. You’re more than capable of doing just that and much more.”

“I’m not the same old Buffy. I don’t know what her problem was with Spike—“

“Everyone’s problem with Spike is that he’s a ruthless killer, who’s tried to kill us all at one point or another.”

Giles was relieved to see Buffy pause at his words. Up until then no one had wanted to be that blunt with her about anything, much less the vampire she seemed so inclined to trust. “But,” he continued with a sigh. “It won’t look good to Mrs. Kroger if one day you have a boyfriend living with you and the next you don’t. So it looks like we’re stuck with him for the foreseeable future.”

“It won’t be so bad, Giles. You’ll see,” she promised him in a much smaller voice than she’d had just moment ago.

Giles managed a reassuring smile. He was quite certain nothing would be all right until Buffy had her memories back. He shuddered to think what that Buffy would do once she found out she had invited a cold-blooded killer into her home. Maybe then she’d put an end to their problem once and for all.

*****


Buffy was back at the house long before Spike came up from the basement. Even though she wasn’t particularly hungry, she made herself lunch just to give keep busy. What Giles had said about Spike bothered her. She was well aware that none of her friends liked Spike, but she’d assumed it was because he was a vampire. And sure, killing was kinda a given where vampires were concerned, but she’d wanted to believe that Spike had given up killing long before he’d met them.

Apparently she’d been wrong.

Although she wanted to know more, she’d been too afraid to hear anything more from Giles. Was she putting herself or Dawn at risk by having Spike around twenty-four/seven? It didn’t seem possible. Spike had been with them for weeks now and, hadn’t tried harming a single hair on either of their heads. Much to her annoyance he’d been the consummate gentleman, and he had no reason she could see to be putting on such a grand act.

Buffy tensed when she heard a boot on the basement steps. Mentally berating herself for letting what Giles had said get to her when she knew it was all in the past, she tried to look as normal as possible.

Spike entered the kitchen noisily, heading straight to the refrigerator for his “breakfast.” “’Lo, pet,” he greeted her, pouring blood into a mug and throwing it into the microwave. “How’d it go with the watcher? Should I be hightailin’ it outta town?”

“He actually took it a lot better than we thought he would. I think he’s lost it.”

Spike looked at her with one of his heart melting, stomach dropping head tilts. “How so?”

Buffy giggled to herself. Yeah, the father and son thing was so not a stretch. “He started hysterically laughing.”

“Yeah, I’d say he’s outta commission. Doesn’t rightly know what to do with you these days.”

When Buffy didn’t respond, Spike brought his mug to the counter and sat down next to her. “Don’t worry, your watcher’ll flip his wig sooner or later. Pro’lly caught him off guard is all.”

Buffy nodded, not really hearing what he was saying. She was too busy summoning up the courage to ask, “You’d never hurt us—me or Dawn—would you?”

Spike sighed, knowing full well he had the watcher to thank for the sudden change in the slayer’s mood. Bringing a hand up, he twirled a lock of the hair he loved so much around his finger. “Not a bloody hair on your bloody head. What’s brought this up?”

She ignored his question and, kept going with the questions that were floating around in her head. “But you used to want to? Before this happened to me?”

Spike stopped playing with her hair, turning her so that she was looking into his very serious face. “Been a long, long time since I thought about hurtin’ any of you,” he promised although Giles was quickly making his way to the top of that list.

Buffy gave him a smile, though he couldn’t be sure she believed him. Looking at her, he wasn’t sure why he was working so hard to keep her at arm’s length. It’d been months, and there wasn’t any indication she remembered any more today than she did the day after the accident. She was finally looking at him the way he hadn’t dared to hope she ever would, and here he was acting like old Nancy boy William yet again.

Didn’t make a bit of sense—That much he was sure of.

Dawn chose that moment to enter the room looking for a snack and, a reason to escape the studying she’d been at all morning. Grabbing a bag of cookies and a glass of water, she jumped up onto the counter and began digging into her snack.

“When’s Spike moving upstairs?” Dawn asked around a mouth full of cookie crumbs.

Spike’s head snapped up to stare at the teenager. “What’re you on about?”

Dawn swallowed, taking a sip from her water. “Well, duh. You don’t think Mrs. Kroger would believe Buffy lets her boyfriend sleep on the tiny cot in our basement, do you?”

“And just where are you suggesting I move to?”

“Buffy’s room, obviously,” Dawn replied with a dramatic roll of her eyes.

“Not happening, Bit. I can move some stuff upstairs for when the bint comes around, but don’t think she’ll be wantin’ a sleepover.”

“Ever hear of unannounced visits? You heard her say she could show up at any time. Like say, during the day when you’re downstairs sleeping?” Dawn couldn’t believe she had to spell it out for these two. They were so lucky to have her around.

Spike opened his mouth to continue with his protests when Buffy beat him to it. “She’s right. What if Mrs. Kroger comes over during the day? I can’t keep her out of the basement without it looking suspicious.”

Spike looked at her like she’d grown three heads in the last twenty seconds. She couldn’t possibly be suggesting he move into her room with her. It was one thing for him to sleep in the basement but actually sleeping next to her—well, a man had his limits.

“No bloody—“

Buffy gently placed a hand on his arm. “You promised you’d protect her,” she reminded him softly so that Dawn couldn’t hear.

Spike hung his head in resignation. She had him there. “Till the end of the bloody world,” he grumbled, not regretting the promise for a second. “I’m sleepin’ on the floor though.”
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