A New Day by Joyful Dayz
Summary: Sequel to “To Wed a Vampire”. It follows directly after the events in that story. It can be found here: To Wed a Vampire. Previously, Spike and Buffy have wed vampire style, quadrupled their powers, and have new hope for the future. This fic is an alternate end of Season 7, with spoilers thru "Chosen" twisted and shuffled to suit me. Rated mild R for vague sexual situations and violence.
Categories: General Fics Characters: None
Genres: Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: To Wed
Chapters: 12 Completed: Yes Word count: 43211 Read: 21238 Published: 11/10/2006 Updated: 03/23/2007

1. Chapter 1 - Giles by Joyful Dayz

2. Chapter 2 - Dawn by Joyful Dayz

3. Chapter 3 - The Scoobies by Joyful Dayz

4. Chapter 4 - The Potentials, et al by Joyful Dayz

5. Chapter 5 - Nice Kitty by Joyful Dayz

6. Chapter 6 - Angel by Joyful Dayz

7. Chapter 7 - Mini Mutiny by Joyful Dayz

8. Chapter 8 - Spike's Girls Past and Present by Joyful Dayz

9. Chapter 9 - With This Ring by Joyful Dayz

10. Chapter 10 - The Turok-Han by Joyful Dayz

11. Chapter 11 - Closing the Hellmouth by Joyful Dayz

12. Chapter 12 - Tomorrow is a New Day by Joyful Dayz

Chapter 1 - Giles by Joyful Dayz
Author's Notes:
Single quotes are thoughts.
Thank you LadyForAsh for Betaing.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, am not associated with anyone. I simply delight in Spike and Buffy’s joy, and how they finally get together after her waywardness. No copyright infringement is intended.
A New Day


Chapter 1 – Giles

Later that morning, Spike stepped off the porch and into the sunshine. He marveled at the change his ‘life' had taken in the past few hours. Dogged determination not to give up had been the only driving force in his existence for years. Crushing guilt, despair, and hopelessness had mellowed into joy and hope for the future with Buffy's simple, "I love you."

Arms slightly spread; he closed his eyes, tilted his head back, and gloried in the feel of the sun's warmth caressing his body. After several moments of silent bliss, he straightened, wondering at the fact that his demon wasn't shivering in fear of the sunlight, but enjoyed bathing in it just as much as his soul did. ‘Perhaps I'm finally becoming integrated, beginning to accept myself for what I am,' Spike thought as he walked downtown, and stopped in at the City County building.

Across the street, a dark haired man, newly out of the hospital, stopped short as he was helped into a car. Staring in disbelief at the bleached blond man, he asked his ride to take him to Revello Drive.

Some time later, Spike left City Hall and turned into the local bank; and down the street a red headed woman stopped short and goggled in astonishment.

Xander burst through the front door into Buffy's living room and shouted, "I just saw Spike! Or Spike's twin...and he didn't burn, no spontaneous !poof! and pile of dust in broad daylight! How can that be?"

Willow hurried in several minutes later, querying, "Since when is Spike a Daywalker?"

"Huh?" said Xander, turning in surprise towards Willow. He'd been glaring at Buffy because she had merely answered his frantic question with, "I'll explain later. I need to talk to Giles first." Then she had changed the subject, asking Xander how he was feeling, and saying how glad she was to see him. She'd refused to comment more about Spike, and had turned silently back to sharpening stakes when Xander brushed aside conversation about himself, persisted in asking about Spike, and questioning why Giles got top billing.

"Daywalker, what's that?" queried Xander as Buffy gave Willow a silent greeting of a smile and nod of her head.

"A vampire that can walk in daylight without burning," Willow informed him, rolling her eyes, and thinking, ‘Obvious, much?' Willow was thoughtful as she focused on Buffy, ‘She didn't answer my question...why?...she seems different. It's almost as if she's found new inner strength. I wonder what's going on.' Sitting down next to Buffy, Willow continued to observe her curiously.

"Well?!?" demanded Xander of Buffy. When she still didn't answer, he continued, "What is this, some new slayer mentality, where you get to ignore us at your leisure?" He didn't much like this new attitude in Buffy that couldn't be cajoled into whatever he wanted her to do.

"I'll tell you both later," Buffy repeated, and walked off to gather laundry, leaving Xander and Willow staring at her back in surprise.

-----

Buffy was sitting on his cot, folding clothes when Spike bounded down the stairs. His black duster flared out behind him, and she noticed that underneath he was wearing a familiar red silk, button down shirt open over a black Tee with black jeans.

Kneeling down in front of her, Spike took Buffy's left hand in both of his and slipped a ring on her finger. Looking up at her beseechingly he asked, "I love you, will you marry me?"

Buffy stared in surprise at her hand, then back at Spike.

"Just say yes, and make me the happiest man on earth," he pleaded.

Buffy cracked a grin, "Wow, déjà vu!"

"Yeah, it's one of my fondest memories. I just couldn't resist reliving it," Spike smirked.

With a brilliant smile, she cried, "Oh, Spike, of course it's yes!"

They both burst out laughing, and Spike stood up, pulling Buffy into his arms, reigning kisses over her eyes, cheeks, and jaw before stopping at her lips.

"It's beautiful, Spike!" Buffy said, holding her hand out at arms length and admiring the stunning diamond solitaire. How did you afford it?" Money was always short in their household, its origins always of interest. While Buffy didn't openly charge him with obtaining it by nefarious means as she would have done in the past, the hint of an accusation was still there.

"I have money, love, always have had. Interest adds up over a hundred twenty some odd years. Just never bothered having it transferred to the States." He shrugged, "I told you I could get money last year, tried to help you, but you acted like anything I gave you was tainted."

"I thought it was. I'm sorry for always assuming the worst, Spike. Forgive me for all my thoughtlessness and cruelty." Her lower lip jutted out, threatening to tremble. ‘Gah, I'm going to be doing a lot of apologizing to him in the near future.'

"Hush now. It's all in the past. You'll let me help from now on?" he whispered, planting kisses down her throat as he told her about his other errands that morning. Past wounds no longer mattered. He was sorry he had brought it up.

"Yes Spike, anything," she murmured as he pulled her neckline aside so he could nuzzle her shoulder and upper chest. She leaned her neck to the side, baring the mating scar for his seeking lips.

"That's what I like to hear," Spike leered at her, as he toppled them onto the cot, folded clothing falling unheeded to the floor.

-----

That afternoon, Buffy called her Watcher at the Magic Shop. "Spike and I need to speak with you in private, Giles. Please come over when you're finished there." She hung up, leaving Giles wondering at her sudden formality, and worrying about why she hadn't elaborated over the phone. He decided he'd better not wait until he finished inventory. When her Watcher arrived on the doorstep, Buffy smiled enigmatically and led him to the basement.

Spike stood up from the cot as they descended the stairs, and invited them to have seats. He studied his fingernails and asked with seeming casualness, "What do you know about Vampire Mating Rituals, Rupert?" He glanced up when Giles inhaled sharply but didn't answer immediately.

Giles stared at Spike with dread blooming inside him for a moment before replying, "Enough to know that they are very powerful, and very dangerous."

Spike nodded. He'd suspected that the Watcher wouldn't be completely in the dark about them, though knowing the ‘Council of Wankers,' they probably had it all wrong. Instead of explaining, though, he said bluntly, "We've mated. We have each other's powers."

Dread deepened into fury in Giles' breast. ‘What have they done? Buffy couldn't possibly know how deadly that ceremony was. How could this have happened again?' He despaired. ‘Another vampire, only this time, they've mated, there's no going back, no recourse.' Giles jumped to his feet and rushing forward, grabbed Spike's shirt front with both fists, "What!?! You selfish git! You put her life in danger, you..."

"Hands off, wanker!" Spike backhanded Giles, swatting him away like a fly to pitch up against the far wall. "I did no such thing. She loves me. It was safe." Jaw muscles flexing, Spike scowled at him, disgusted that Giles thought he'd endanger his Slayer.

"Giles," Buffy interceded, stepping between them and putting her hand on his chest to effortlessly hold him back when he jumped up and lunged at Spike again. "Did you hear him? We have each other's powers! And on top of that, our strength has quadrupled! This will be a great help in fighting those uber vamps and Caleb!"

"Buffy, you don't understand! In this desperate time you could have been left powerless, or worse! You could have been killed! You both could have died!" Giles shook with rage, pushing against her restraining hand.

"I do understand. Giles, listen to me, we didn't die. These desperate times are one of the reasons we did it. Spike explained the requirements and the risks to me beforehand." At Giles' continued cold stare, Buffy's gaze also turned frosty. "I love him. Get over it, Giles." She turned around and stomped up the stairs.

Giles turned back to Spike. "You Risked HER LIFE!" He lashed out, roaring by the time he finished. Then, Ripper in control, he suddenly turned cold, and ended in a deceptively soft tone voice, "I just may have to finish what Wood started, to keep her safe from you!"

Spike's eyes chilled to ice. His face stilled into a deadly mask. A shiver ran down Giles' spine. He wondered if it might have been more prudent to just do it rather than warn him. He hadn't seen that ‘William the Bloody' expression on Spike's face since the vampire first came to Sunnydale.

Giles took an involuntary step back; then sank onto the cot when the back of his knees hit it. Spike leaned over him and quietly, tonelessly said, "You can try. But make no mistake, Rupert. When I want something, I do whatever it takes to get it. Whatever. It. Takes. I wanted Buffy. I turned away from evil for her, became a white hat for her, when that wasn't enough, I won my soul for her. I would give my life for her. Now that I have her, I will do whatever it takes to keep her. Do not get in my way." Spike turned his back on the watcher, and with a flare of his duster, strode up the stairs.

Giles sank back against the wall, removed his glasses and polished them so vigorously that they snapped in half at the bridge. With a sigh of frustration, he slipped them into his shirt pocket, wiped his forehead, and then slowly followed the others up the stairs into the kitchen.

Buffy was alone, chopping vegetables at the counter. Giles snagged her arm as she passed to the refrigerator, and said in a low voice, "He's dangerous, Buffy."

She rolled her eyes, "Of course he's dangerous. Warriors are. A good thing, too, or we'd be in worse trouble than we are right now."

"Buffy..." Giles persisted. "He threatened me." How was he to get through to her the gravity of what she'd done?

Buffy looked him in the eye and asked evenly, "Were you threatening him?"

Giles glanced down momentarily, silently admitting that his own threat had been a factor, then looked steadily back into her eyes, and stated, "I'm frightened for you."

Buffy's face softened, and she said, "There's no need to be. He'd never hurt me or anyone else for that matter, unless he had to in fighting for the cause. You do realize, Giles, that he now has my dedication as a Warrior of the Light?"

At his continued silence and hard stare, she exclaimed, "We didn't just get each other's powers, and four times'd the ones we already had in common; we also got each other's personality strengths and commitments...Oh, Giles, I'm so happy. Please accept us. We'll be marrying legally. I wanted you to be the first to know, and to give me away. Please?" She batted her eyes pleadingly at him, her lower lip quivering slightly, and he deflated.

"I haven't done a very good job of keeping you safe in the past, Buffy. I'm trying to make up for that." Too little, too late; a silent voice taunted him that his resistance was futile.

Buffy studied him for a moment, thinking of his part in Robin Wood's mess of an assassination attempt. "Don't try, Giles. You can't keep me safe. I have to do that for myself, now. Please don't attack Spike again. I don't have time to worry about whether or not you're going to betray me. I desperately need you on my side."

Giles sighed, rubbed his forehead, and felt for his glasses, momentarily forgetting that they were sitting broken in his pocket. "Can't you see how reckless it was, Buffy?"

Buffy nodded soberly. "It may seem reckless to you, Giles, but it wasn't, not really. I know how I feel. I never would have done it if I wasn't sure. There wasn't any danger."

He admitted to her that his threat to Spike had been spoken in the heat of the moment, and was pointless, anyway. He couldn't kill Spike now without killing Buffy as well.

‘It's certainly true that there will be no killing of one without the other,' thought Buffy. ‘We'll both see to that. We're together now in life, we'll be together in death.' She realized that her devotion to Spike had gone through the roof. ‘Huh, it seems like I caught his sense of dedication in the mating.' Then her mind left morbid thoughts of mutual death, and her face lit up as she started telling Giles about her new abilities and senses.

"You have no idea how great it is. I can feel when others are near now, not just vampires - but demons, people, animals, anything. I can actually see in the dark! I can sense emotions; think how much that will help with my fighting strategy! It is kind of ooky, how I can smell everyone now, but oh, my hearing! I can hear your heart beat! I can hear the conversations in the upstairs bedrooms! I'll have to work on not hearing those..." Buffy looked pensive for a moment, then shook her head and continued, "Nothing can kill either of us now that can't kill both of us! And our strength, you have no idea!..."

‘Why, I haven't seen her this animated since she was a new Slayer, before Angel hurt her and she became cynical,' Giles thought, as Buffy continued babbling.

"I can't wait to show you how much stronger and faster we both are. You've got to come watch us train...oh, and our healing! Giles, you won't believe this..."

Giles watched in shock as Buffy picked up her knife from the counter and sliced her palm. Before he could voice his instinctive protest, the cut sealed itself. As Giles gaped at her hand, Buffy continued more calmly.

"I can feel a new sense of determination. Nothing will stop us now. We won't stop until we find a way. We will win this fight." She looked into his eyes, willing him to see that it was so.

Giles softened, his dread lessening, and to his surprise, a feeling of hope infused his heart. "All right, Buffy. I can see your point. We have much work to do, checking the extent of these new abilities...learning how to use them to our best advantage..." and he walked off, his mind filled with the necessities of research.

Spike stepped through the back door into the kitchen. "One down, three to go," he murmured, as he put his arms around Buffy, pulling her close and kissing her upturned lips.

Tbc...
Chapter 2 - Dawn by Joyful Dayz
Author's Notes:
Thank you so much to LadyForAsh and Kayt Arminta for betaing.
Single quotes are thoughts.
Chapter 2 - Dawn

"I have to tell Dawn, Spike, before Xander and Willow get her all upset, thinking I'm keeping secrets from them...ahh..." Buffy gasped, as Spike nuzzled the scar on her neck, and his hands started wandering. Swatting his hands away, she frowned at him determinedly, "It needs to be now, Spike. Stop distracting me, or she'll get an earful from them."

"I'll be there with you, yeah?" Spike leaned in again to kiss his way up her neck to her jaw line.

"No." Pulling back, Buffy looked earnestly into his eyes to ask him to understand, to not be hurt by her refusal.

"I've never really explained to her what happened between us last year. I couldn't bear to. You were gone, and it hurt too much to talk about you... fearing that I'd driven you to it...not being able to believe you'd done it even if I had... fearing you'd never come back. I would have broken down in front of her. I couldn't do that. I had to be strong for her. I just couldn't talk about it. Now it's biting me in the ass. She doesn't understand. All she's ever heard is Xander's side of it, not mine or yours. I need to make that up to her."

"God, Buffy, I'm so sorry for all of that, I'll never forgive myself." Spike's face crumpled in grief in remembrance of ‘hurting the girl'.

"No, Spike, no William, no," Buffy hushed him, kissing his eyelids as tears escaped. "Listen to me," she whispered, "I'm so very sorry. I'll never forgive myself for hurting you. For using you. For breaking you. For being too cowardly to own up to my feelings for you...please stop, baby," and tears slipped down her cheeks as well.

Spike looked into Buffy's eyes and smiled sheepishly. "Couple of right sorry sods we are," he chuckled. She nodded mutely, and feathered a kiss to his trembling lips.

Just then the front door banged open as Dawn arrived home. "Anybody here?" she called.

"I'd better go before Xander spills the beans," Buffy whispered him a last kiss and ran upstairs.

"Hi, Dawnie, come up to my room. I have something to tell you," Buffy quickly ushered Dawn past a group of chattering potentials that were coming down the stairs, all discussing Daywalkers, what it could mean, and clamoring for answers from Buffy.

With the door locked, Buffy sat on her bed with Dawn. "How was your day?" Buffy stalled.

"Same old same old," shrugged Dawn, and beckoning to the locked door with her thumb asked curiously, "What's going on with them?"

Sighing, feeling dread for the upcoming talk, "Oh, they're just trying to figure out what I haven't told them. I wanted to tell you first," Buffy wished she had just started in, instead of waffling.

"So? Tell me already." Dawn shook back her long brown hair and looked expectantly at her sister.

"Dawn. You know I love Spike, right?" Buffy bit her lower lip, still hesitating.

"I figured as much these past few weeks. Though I don't see how you can after what he did," Dawn scowled and folded her arms. ‘After what he did...leaving me high and dry after being my anchor when Buffy was dead, telling me he'd always be there, making me believe he'd always be there, then dropping me flat when Buffy came back to life...and on top of all that, he hurt her and then disappeared completely.'

Looking stricken, Buffy said, "I never told you about it. I'm sorry. It just hurt too much that I had driven him away. I couldn't talk about it."

"YOU drove him away? What he did..." Dawn started, jumping up and pacing back and forth, working herself into a rage.

"No, Dawn. Listen. Last year I dragged through life. All I could think about was the peace I had lost in losing Heaven. I was so very tired before I died. I felt dead after I came back. The only time I felt alive at all, was when I was with Spike. And so I used him to make me feel alive. He loved me, and I used him. I broke his heart, and told him I couldn't ever love him, when I already did; I was just too stubborn and afraid to admit it, even to myself. I told him ‘no', and ‘stop' when I meant ‘yes'...said no with my mouth, but jumped him at the same time...said ‘no' even as I attacked him. Oh God, I beat him up repeatedly. He put up with it, trying to help me, trying to heal me, and all I did was destroy him..." Buffy's trembling voice broke down completely as she burst into tears.

Dawn stared at Buffy with surprise and disgust; then slowly sank down onto the bed. So...this made sense. This explained a lot of things over the past year. Little Miss Perfect Slayer wasn't so perfect after all. In fact she had a lot to answer for.

Buffy sniffed and hiccupped, wiping her nose on the back of her hand. "That day, a demon had hurt me, and I meant ‘no', but after all my no/yes's in the past, Spike didn't realize it. He broke, and tried to make me admit that I loved him. When I got through to him that this time I did mean ‘no', he was horrified at what he'd tried to do. He turned and ran out. That's when he left Sunnydale, and went to Africa to win his soul."

Face reddening with returning anger, Dawn jumped up again, hands on hips, and glared at Buffy, for she had mourned the loss of Spike almost as much as Buffy had. She'd mourned the loss of their friendship, of his support. She had missed his snarky humor, his stories of the many things he had seen and done during his life, and his help with her school work. Most of all she had felt betrayed by him. She had loved him, and he had hurt her sister. "Why didn't you tell me when he came back, so I could make up with him? How could you just leave me in the dark that way? You knew how much I loved him, and how much it hurt me to think that he tried to rape you!" Dawn cried.

Buffy sighed and looked down, studying her hands. "I don't know why. I've just been so distracted with The First, that I haven't been able to think about anything else."

"As always, I'm the last one you think about," Dawn pouted. "Things never change." Sitting back down, she folded her arms and laid her head on them. ‘They never change. What's the use in thinking they ever will?' She moaned to herself. When Buffy touched her shoulder, she jerked away and stood up to walk over to the window and look out.

Buffy closed her eyes and said softly, "I'm sorry I never told you, Dawn. I'm sorry I let you think the worst of Spike." She felt shame at how she'd let her sister treat the man she loved; and that she'd closed her eyes to Dawn's pain over the situation as well.

"I've wronged both you and Spike. He loves you too. It's hurt him to be estranged from you. I've seen the pain on his face when he looks at you. Please, Dawnie, I'm trying to change. I've been a bad sister since Willow brought me back, but I was trying way back then, too. I tried to be strong for you, to not let you see how much I was hurting, because I was afraid that you'd think I didn't want to be here with you. I love you, and I did want to be with you. It was the rest of my life I couldn't handle, couldn't stand.

Reluctantly, Dawn walked back to the bed and sat down. ‘Idiot sister,' she thought. ‘Always thinks she has to be the strong, silent type.' Relenting, she put her arm around her dejected sister, "Well, OK, I guess. You've always sucked when it came to talking about your feelings. You do realize you owe me big time for this, don't you? I'm thinking major shopping spree here to win my forgiveness."

Buffy snorted and laughed, relieved that Dawn was talking forgiveness, not retribution, and not screaming at the top of her lungs, "Get out, get out, get out!"

Dawn continued, "From now on, you let me into your life. Tell me what's going on with you! You're hurting both of us when you shut me out. There's no need to be strong for me. We'll be strong for each other."

Buffy nodded. She wasn't used to letting Dawn read her the riot act, but she guessed she deserved it. Dawn was growing up. She'd brought Dawn upstairs expecting childish outbursts and recriminations, and instead got a mature response. A load lifted from Buffy's shoulders. Perhaps now there were two people that could help her carry the burden of life as a Slayer. She smiled tremulously, and stroked Dawn's hair, "Thank you, Dawnie, I'll need your strength."

Dawn nodded emphatically, then returned to the former topic, and seethed with resentment. "Why did Xander have to tell everyone, anyway? He didn't even get it right, and it wasn't any of his business! He ruined my relationship with Spike, because as usual, you didn't even tell me about it!" Dawn's face crumpled into a pout again.

Sighing again, Buffy rubbed the back of her neck, and admitted, "Xander has never been unbiased when it comes to Spike. But in fairness to him, I never told him the whole story, either. I've never told anyone before," Buffy doubted she'd ever get around to telling the rest of them. ‘It was in the past, and like Dawn said, none of their business, anyway. If Spike and Dawn can forgive me, they're the ones that matter.'

Dawn brooded about that for a moment, until a new thought occurred to her, "Why, you took me to Spike for protection right after it happened, and I ended up with Clem because Spike was already gone!" Dawn looked at Buffy in surprise as she realized that even then, directly after Spike had attacked her, Buffy had still trusted him to keep her safe. ‘I'm going to have a long talk with Xander,' Dawn vowed to herself.

"Yes. Even then I trusted him. Why it took me so long to admit it, I'll never know."

Buffy looked so heartsick that Dawn let her resentment fall away and she laughed and hugged her. "Because you're an idiot. But you finally left denial land and love Spike. Things will be better, right? You'll be happy now?"

"Things are better, and I am so happy! I have so much more to tell you, Dawn, and the rest is really happy!" Buffy's countenance changed to one of joy. "Spike and I have mated. That means getting married vampire style. We're going to be married legally, too."

Dawn's eyes grew big and her mouth dropped open, for a moment caught with the thought, ‘Whoa, big change from last year's "sleeping with a vampire you hate."' Seeing Buffy's hopeful look, however, she squealed and hugged her again. "But how can a dead guy be married legally?"

"Well, as legally as possible. He has some computer whiz contacts that inserted him as a descendant of himself in the birth records in England awhile ago. He already has a current birth certificate and driver's license. And I always thought planning wasn't his strong suit. Sometimes he amazes me." Buffy shook her head. "Anyway, our problems with Social Services are over! With Spike and I married, and financially OK - did I tell you he has money?!? They won't be able to interfere anymore, and you can have your shopping spree!"

"But that's not all," Buffy continued as Dawn bounced on the bed, squealed and ‘wahoo-ed.' "When a vampire mates, if they both truly love each other, their physical abilities are doubled and doubled again, and they gain the personality strengths and defenses of each other as well! Likewise, though, if they don't really love each other, they get the other's weaknesses instead, so you have to be sure before risking it. Anyway, we're both much stronger now, have each other's senses, and are really hard to kill..." and Buffy shared her joy with her sister; her sister who had loved Spike even before she did.

Later, placing her hand on Dawn's forearm, Buffy asked, "Do you need to hash things out with Spike?" She surprised herself by realizing that just because she and Dawn had made peace with each other; it didn't necessarily mean that all was well with Dawn and Spike. ‘Since when did I become all ‘insight girl'?' Shaking her head at herself, she realized that this could be a new facet of her personality, one likely from Spike. He'd always been ‘insight vamp'.

"Yeah, I guess I do." Dawn said, eyes narrowed, as she realized that she wasn't quite ready to set aside all her anger with him.

"After you're finished beating him up, will you send him up here and go get Xander, Willow and Anya for me? We need to tell them, and I'd like you to be here with us when we do. Is that OK? I'm a teensy bit nervous. I think I'll sit here for awhile and hyperventilate." Dawn giggled, nodded and squeezed Buffy's hand before leaving.

‘Now comes the baptism by fire,' thought Buffy. ‘I've always known deep down that Giles would be objective, that he could be brought ‘round eventually, and that Dawn loves Spike too, so would forgive him; but Xander and Willow? Xander especially. He's so rigid in his hatred.' Buffy thought back to the past, how she had been so worried about her friends' opinions about her and Spike, that she had never given the relationship a chance. Now their reactions, while if negative, would hurt her and make her sad, they made no difference in how she would live. It was interesting how "peer pressure" was no longer a deciding factor in her life.

-----

Dawn ran down to the basement, her steps slowing and finally stopping at the bottom of the stairs when she saw Spike sitting on the cot, watching her warily. ‘Ah, little bit,' he thought. ‘Will things ever be right between us again?' He missed the days when Dawn had trusted him. He even thought nostalgically of the dreadful days when Buffy was dead, because Dawn had loved him. Every time he had seen Dawn since his return, his arms had felt empty, aching. He regretted being so caught up in trying to save Buffy last year that he had let his relationship with Dawn languish. Perhaps if he hadn't neglected her, she wouldn't have hated him when things turned arse up.

He stood as she slowly walked towards him, staring him in the face. ‘Do I dare to trust him again?' She wondered, ‘Do I even want to? When he was with Buffy, he didn't have time for me at all. It was like the past summer never existed. And in the end, he had hurt Buffy. On the other hand, I've been totally miserable not trusting him, there's a Spike shaped hole in my life...but he so doesn't need to know that.'

She looked somberly into his face, her eyes sad, and blurted out, "You left me, Spike. When Buffy came back you dropped me like a hot potatoe. It was like I never existed for you." Dawn was appalled that she had immediately accused him of ignoring her instead of hurting Buffy, but it had just burst out. She sank down on the cot, hiding her face in her folded her arms. ‘I might as well cry out loud what a selfish baby I am,' she thought in despair. ‘And crap, I just told him about the Spike shaped hole.'

"Ahh, niblet, I'm so sorry I made you feel that way." Spike gathered her in his arms and onto his lap. Tears overflowed both sets of blue eyes. "Didn't forget you, babe. Buffy was in so much pain that I stupidly put all my efforts into helping her. I thought you'd be fine since she was back; that you needed her, not me. Saw she was desperate, and idiotically thought that I could help. I was useless. She wouldn't take my help, had to heal herself. I only ended up hurting her, and you." In his pain, he rocked them both back and forth.

Initially Dawn sat awkwardly in his arms, mortification at her outburst and hurt over his neglect stiffening her spine. Slowly the ache in Dawn's chest eased as he held her, though, and she relaxed into his embrace. Who knew it would still feel so good to be rocked like a baby, as her mother had done when she was alive. His love surrounded her. She realized that he hadn't forgotten her in his lust for Buffy, like she had thought. He'd seen Buffy's pain, and had tried to help. She may have gotten lost in the shuffle for awhile, but she guessed she could forgive him for that.

After indulging herself in his hug for awhile, Dawn looked up into his face, and smiled tremulously, "I'm happy for you and Buffy. I knew she'd come around someday. No one could resist you forever. I guess I'm happy for me, too. I finally have my big brother back!"

Spike laughed shakily, exhaled raggedly, and embraced her tightly. "I'm so glad to have my lil sis back!" He kissed her on the top of the head.

Dawn felt she still had to warn him, though. She pulled away and added, "She may not deserve it, but don't you hurt her again. If you do, just remember, you still sleep!" She harked back to when he'd first returned with his soul, and she'd threatened, "You sleep, right? You vampires sleep...you hurt my sister at all, touch her? You're going to wake up on fire." Dawn frowned at him sternly.

Laughing, delighted with her fierceness, he responded, "I'll never hurt the girl again, niblet, promise." Pulling her in for a last hug, he sighed, "Ahh, it's so good to have you back in my arms; I've missed you so bloody much."

Tbc...
Chapter 3 - The Scoobies by Joyful Dayz
Author's Notes:
Thank you so much to LadyForAsh for betaing.
Thoughts are in 'single quotes'
Chapter 3 – The Scoobies

Dawn and Spike walked companionably up the basement stairs together, and entering the kitchen, Dawn called out, "Xander, Willow, Anya, can you come up to Buffy's room? She needs to talk to you." When the potentials followed them up to the second floor as well, Dawn blocked the way with a fierce expression. "Later," leaving a bunch of astonished girls behind her as she shut the door in their faces. "Well!" huffed Kennedy, "Is little Dawnie channeling big bad Slayer now? Since when has she had the balls to do that!" They milled around the hallway indecisively for a few moments before settling on the stairs to wait.

Spike took up guard position, his arms folded, and back against the door with an inscrutable look on his handsome face. He had no doubt that this was going to be ugly. He'd burnt too many bridges in the past. Demon Girl should be all right with it, Red was iffy, but the whelp held grudges, and was too prejudiced to accept it with any grace. Spiked hoped Xander didn't attack Buffy, or he'd have to hurt the wanker. It was a given that he'd attack Spike. He'd be ready.

Dawn stood next to Spike with her arms folded to lend him support. Spike nodded his head and smiled softy at her, silently acknowledging what she was doing and thanking her. His love for Dawn shone openly in his eyes for the first time since he had returned with his soul, and she felt warmed, ‘Home after a long exile.' With a small grin, she nodded back.

Buffy paced the room nervously. Despite herself, and her newfound confidence and determination, she had a queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach, and her color was paler than normal.

Xander, Willow and Anya sat on Buffy's bed. "Have you decided to tell us what's up with Dead Boy Jr.? Why he's suddenly Dead Boy Daywalker?" snipped Xander in an ornerier tone than he had intended. ‘It's about time she brought us up to speed,' he groused to himself. ‘Since when does she make us wait ‘til she tells Giles and Dawnie, for crud sakes?' He had a bad feeling he wasn't going to like the answer to that question at all.

"Yes," replied Buffy. "I have a lot to tell you. Please don't interrupt me until I'm finished and have explained it all to you." She eyed Xander sternly. Turning on her heel, she figured that she'd be really lucky if she had a chance to get it all out before he exploded.

He raised his eyebrows then said out of the side of his mouth to Willow, "This must be bad, big with the badness." Though he tried to joke about it, something told him it really was bad.

"Xander, I'm serious," Buffy turned back to him with a gimlet stare.

"Right, sorry. Sheesh," he muttered.

‘Oh God, oh God, oh God...Stop it Buffy,' she chided herself. ‘I can do this, I can do this...' Glancing at Spike, she was strengthened by his unwavering love and support. Cool. She could actually feel him projecting that love and support. Exhaling heavily, she started. "When a vampire mates, or marries, if there is true love between them..." Continuing, Buffy repeated to them all she had told Giles and Dawn.

Willow's eyes grew large, her mind jumping forward to the obvious conclusion. ‘So Buffy's finally come out of the closet about Spike. I never thought she'd admit her feelings for him, let alone act on them.'

She focused her eyes into "aura seeing mode", as Tara had taught her. Willow didn't use it much, because every time she did, she was reminded of her dead love, and it was too painful; also, it seemed a breach of privacy. She needed to see if Buffy had been turned, though. Buffy's aura was normally a bright yellow. Now it was shot through with red, and flared towards Spike, but there was no "vampire black". She was still human.

Back when Spike was soulless, his aura had been black, like every other vampire she'd ever seen, except Angel, who's aura was black shot with red. After Spike's return from Africa, Buffy had told them he now had a soul. Willow had peeked, and seen that Spike's aura had changed, had new red streaks running through the black. Looking at Spike now, she saw yellow, red and black all surrounding him, and flaring towards Buffy. ‘Wow, it's as if they've melded,' she thought, surprised.

‘Better check magic, too, just to make sure she isn't under thrall or some other spell.' A new ability of Willow's that she had learned during her time with the Coven in England, was that she could "look into someone" and sense the presence of magic. She no longer needed to speak the spell out loud or use magical paraphernalia to help her. ‘Nope, no magic. Seems she's all there, and acting under her own will.' Slipping back into normal vision, Willow glanced at Spike, and saw him studying her. Outrageously, he gave her a half grin and winked! It was if he knew what she'd been doing, and was amused. Grinning back sheepishly, she shrugged her shoulders.

Willow thought back over the past several years with Spike and how he had changed since first coming to town. Even back in the beginning, when he was truly scary and evil, there had been something about him.

He'd told her she was ‘absolutely biteable,' and had somehow increased her self-confidence even while threatening to kill her. She'd been mourning Oz leaving her, so sure she was undesirable; and he'd tried to comfort her, told her she was desirable, was bitable. He'd given her the choice of turning her or not. At the time she hadn't appreciated the offer at all, but realized now what a huge compliment that was from a vampire's point of view.

Even when he was trying to bite her, he had charmed her into saying, "Maybe we can try it again in a half hour," before she'd come to her senses. All in all, even when he'd been evil, specks of kindness had snuck through. Willow had an "Ah hah! moment". Chipped Spike, instead of simply having someone else kill them, had fallen in love with Buffy, and had begun to help them.

Again, instead of leaving town after Buffy died, he'd patrolled with them and had taken care of Dawn; even though there was nothing left in it for him. After she'd brought Buffy back, he'd let Buffy beat her frustrations out on him. Apparently they'd resolved the attempted rape issue. Now he'd come so far as to fight for and win his soul. ‘Everyone is giving me a second chance after trying to destroy the world. He's helped save it. He deserves another chance, too.'

When Buffy paused to catch her breath after expounding on all the added strengths, protections, and senses a vampire and his mate gained, Xander cut in, "What does all this have to do with Spike not poofing in the sunlight?"

"Spike and I mated, Xander. I walk in the sunshine, therefore, so can he." That caused an explosion of exclamations and questions.

"I knew it! It's been obvious that you two are still in love from the moment he came back from Africa! See, Xander, I told you they've been sniffing around each other, and would be having sex again soon!" announced Anya, smiling triumphantly. The Slayer would be ever so much more pleasant to live with now that she'd be getting some good orgasms. Spike would see to that. He was excellent at taking a girl to happy land. ‘Shoot,' she thought rather less triumphantly, ‘So much for getting him to take me, there again, though.' She lapsed back into silence, wondering where her next orgasm would be coming from.

Willow, a look of wonder on her face, said, "You're both four times as strong? You have his senses? You can't be killed by whatever can't kill him, either? Wow! That is so cool!" And just like that, without another word or explanation, Buffy had Willow's blessing.

Buffy hugged her with a huge surge of relief running through her, feeling like best friends again for the first time in years. "Thank you, Wills. I love you," she whispered. Things were going to be OK after all. She wasn't going to lose Willow.

Willow grinned and hugged her back. What were best friends for, if not to support each other?

Xander, however, looked thunderous. Feelings of betrayal crushed his chest, and he thought despairingly, ‘She's done it again, chosen a demon over me! No one will ever love her as I do, but she can't see that. She'll never learn that demons only hurt you! This is it, this is the end.' Over and over in his head ran the thought, ‘this is the end.'

Aloud, Xander barked, "What!?! Mated with him! He's an evil, undead thing! What's the matter with you? He's beneath you!" Catching sight of the fresh scar on her neck, "He bit you, I'll kill him!" he cried and before Buffy realized what he was doing, Xander had rushed Spike with a stake raised high.

Spike gave a resigned sigh, then moving so fast his hand was a blur, knocked the stake to the carpet. Grabbing Xander by the neck, he lifted him in the air and slammed him against the door. Feet dangling off the ground, Xander's outrage abruptly turned to terror. Spike spoke softly, with deadly intent, "As you value your life, don't try that again, you bloody little drama queen." Then he dropped Xander, who slid down the door and landed in a shaking heap on the floor. Turning his back on him, Spike crossed the room and settled on the edge of the dresser, folding his arms, and looking moody. ‘God, I do not need this,' he thought.

Buffy recovered from the shock of Xander attacking Spike, and leaned over him. "Xander, listen well. I love Spike. I've loved him for a long time. I just didn't dare tell you. Spike is not beneath me. Neither is he evil anymore. He's a warrior for the Light, just as I am. He's just as dedicated to fighting evil as I am. Do not, I repeat, do not attack him again."

"He doesn't deserve you! He'll never be able to make his murders go away! He can't bring all those people back! Don't you understand? He's a demon!" Xander paled as he realized who else was in the room and what he had shouted. Anya looked stunned, hurt. Xander looked pleadingly at her, "You're different; you aren't a demon anymore." He felt sick as her face hardened into impassiveness, but thought frantically, ‘I can't think about Anya right now, I have to make Buffy understand.' Turning back to her, "I just want what's best for you, Buffy. I want you to be happy. He'll hurt you. How can he not? You remember how he tried to rape you last year after you broke up with him," Xander protested, looking around the room for support. Incredibly, in his eyes, all faces were closed against him.

Seeing Xander looking at her with disappointment, Willow put on her resolve face and spoke up. "Xander. I killed two people and tried to destroy the world. You all are giving me another chance. Doesn't Spike deserve one, too?"

Xander looked doubtful. "You can't compare what you did with what he's done. Warren deserved it! And Rack!?! That drug dealing warlock pervert, the world's a better place without him! And you didn't destroy the world; you listened to me and stopped."

"Spike not only didn't try to destroy the world, he's helped save it, more than once," Willow persisted. She wondered why it had taken her so long to realize that.

Spike looked at Willow in surprise and smiled his thanks for her support. "You have a head on your shoulders, Red; unlike some frigging idiots in this room." He glanced mockingly at Xander with a quirked eyebrow.

Xander ignored him and pressed on with Willow. "You killed two people, Wills, he's killed thousands!"

"Alexander LaVelle Harris! I've killed thousands, and you're all giving me another chance. Stop being a hypocrite!" Anya exclaimed, glaring at him with hands on her hips.

"Aun, you're not a demon anymore! And he tried to rape Buffy! How can you all just set that aside and say, ‘give him another chance!?!'" He cried desperately.

Spike growled and stepped forward, and an outraged Dawn tried to jump in, but Buffy shook her head and they backed off.

"Xander, I never told you what really happened back then. I was not innocent in that attack-No it's true!" Buffy emphasized, putting her hand on his chest and holding him to the floor when Xander tried to jump up and interrupt.

Leaning back, she muttered, "It doesn't matter anymore, anyway. We've forgiven each other. I was too proud and tired that day to talk to you about it, and was in denial about my responsibility in the mess. Those are failings of mine," she sighed, thinking of all the times over the years that she could have made things easier for Spike, if she hadn't been too proud; had seen things impartially and been fair; hadn't just been too tired to explain; too tired all around.

An idea flashed into Xander's head. He turned to Willow, "Is this another one of your spells gone wonky, Will? Yeah, that must be it; that explains everything! We've got to figure out how to reverse it! Where's Giles?" Xander looked around, then got up and started to open the bedroom door to go in search of him.

"I did not cast a ‘wonky' spell, Xander, I didn't cast any spell! I'm not that kind of witch any more!" Now Willow was hurt and indignant. "I can't believe you said that!" She pouted at him.

"OK, sorry, Wills...if you didn't do it, maybe a vengeance spell then. Did you make a wish to a strange woman with a medallion, deadboy?" Xander demanded desperately, trying to find a reason, a way out of this crushing of his most hidden desire, the hope that someday Buffy would really see him.

Spike merely growled, shook his head and muttered, "Berk. We don't have time for this, Slayer."

A headache had begun pounding behind her temples, and Buffy wondered if it was any use trying to reason with Xander, but she thought, ‘I've got to try. In the past I'd have given it up as a bad job - wait, in the past I didn't try at all. I will make him understand. I will not give up on him. I need him, too. She continued softy now, putting her hand on his arm, "I'm so happy with Spike, Xan. Please accept us. We're going to have a human wedding, too." Looking over at Willow and Dawn, she smiled and added, "I never thought I'd get a real wedding with a white dress!" then back to Xander, again, "and with me married, and no longer having financial problems, we can keep Dawn safe from Social Services. You're one of my best friends, I love you...I need you...I don't want to lose you. Please."

Studying the sincerity in her face, Xander realized that he wasn't going to change her mind. It was a fate accompli. There was nothing he could do about it. He also realized that if he didn't accept him, this time it wasn't going to be Spike that would be rejected. It would be him.

Resignation filled Xander's heart and he looked around the room. This was his life. They were his life. He couldn't give them all up to stand on principle against Spike, and they did have a point about the second chances Willow and Anya were getting. Buffy was lost to him. Sighing, he said, "O.K. Buff." Then glaring at Spike, "I'll be watching you though, if you ever hurt her, you're dead...-er." He added, looking confused for a moment.

Surprisingly, Spike didn't mock him. He merely nodded, and said mildly, "Fair enough."

Buffy hugged Xander and he hesitantly hugged her back, relieved now that he'd given in. How could he bear to lose her completely? ‘But I'll still be watching, you, demon boy,' he repeated to himself. She deserved at least that much from him, for him to be on guard.

Willow brought up something that was bothering her, "How can you two get married, with Spike being dead for over a hundred years and all?" She started wondering if she might be able to facilitate things with her computer skills, thinking Spike might have to find a records counterfeiter, wincing at the legal ramifications. She surprised herself with how quickly she had become a real supporter of them.

"It's all taken care of, red." Spike said, the right side of his lips curling up into a smirk. "I've been ‘legal' for the past three years. I had the necessary paperwork prepared after your little ‘My Will Be Done' spell. I decided right then that someday she'd be mine for real." He looked with smoldering eyes at the center of his world, remembering his despair when the spell ended and he realized that Buffy wasn't really in love with him. He'd been stunned, as horrified as the Slayer was, but his horror had been that it was all a spell, and not reality. He had tried to deny it to himself, had actually believed his self-delusion for awhile, but that was when the world had started to revolve around Buffy.

"Wow," snarked Xander, "who knew you could plan so far ahead without cocking it up?"

Spike smirked, and said, "Never underestimate me, whelp. When I want something, I don't stop until it's mine."

For a moment remnants of the old exasperation with Spike arose within Buffy, and she recalled Angel's original warning to them so long ago, ‘that Spike was worse than other vampires. When he set his mind to something, he didn't stop until everything in his path was dead.' Apparently that included his own evil self. She studied him, considering, and said, "I never had a chance, did I?"

"No, love, that you didn't," he replied, pulling her close to him, wrapping his arms around her and leaning down to kiss her soundly. Her tone of voice had alerted him that he'd best move quickly, or he'd be in trouble with her.

Buffy's incipient exasperation faded. How could she be mad at him for making her so happy? Not to mention, for giving her great new powers. Nevertheless, she pulled back and protested to Spike, "But you hated me back then."

"Never said I was logical, pet, just determined," he smirked again.

"And on that happy note," Buffy quipped, "let's go and tell the rest of them about our big news." Buffy smiled as she put her arm around her vampire, and they left the room to inform the potentials and the others of the upcoming nuptials, and of their new hope in fighting The First.

Tbc...
Chapter 4 - The Potentials, et al by Joyful Dayz
Author's Notes:
Many thanks to LadyForAsh for the great beta job
Thoughts are in ‘single quotes’
Disclaimer: I own nothing, am not associated with anyone. I simply delight in Spike and Buffy’s joy, and how they finally get together after her waywardness. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 4 – The Potentials, et al.

Reactions to Buffy's news were mixed with the potentials. Xander settled into an arm chair to watch the show, impassive on the surface. Privately, he hoped they'd make such a stink that Buffy would rethink her union with Spike. Ignoring the "true love" that was required to make the spell work in the first place, he just wanted it gone. He wished he'd known about this yesterday, so he could have talked some sense into her.

Anya was still annoyed with him and gravitated to the opposite side of the living room, enjoying the spectacle and frequently adding her opinion on whatever was said nearby. Glancing at each other in unspoken agreement, Willow and Dawn mingled, keeping their eyes open and watching for any trouble spots in case Buffy needed some help.

Kennedy was outraged by the news. Her dark eyes flashed as she gestured emphatically, "He's a vampire, for God's sakes! We slay vampires, we don't lay them!" Xander smirked, "Ha! Truism! A girl after my own heart!" then, seeing Dawn glare at him, he subsided back into silence.

Vi stood off to the side, rubbing her forearm and looking vaguely worried. She'd never really gotten over Spike vamping at her neck and bruising her arm on their first patrol. ‘Easy on the eyes, yes, but he's scary.' Her arm ached every time she looked at him. ‘How can Buffy trust him enough to love him? How does she dare to?' She listened to the others uncertainly. Would protecting the potentials and defeating The First still be Buffy's first priority; and now Spike's as well? Or would they focus on each other? She wondered what would happen to them all now.

Rona smirked and commented in an aside to Amanda, "See, I told you they were hot for each other." Amanda had missed Buffy and Spike's first training patrol with the girls, not yet being identified as a potential. Rona had told her all about the electricity, the touches and flirting that Buffy and Spike had traded back and forth that night. "Office romances," remarked Rona sarcastically, shaking her head and making her dreadlocks swing, "bad idea, they never turn out well."

Since Amanda and Dawn had fought a vampire together, and Amanda had officially become a potential, Buffy and Spike hadn't been together much around them, so she hadn't been sure she believed Rona's gossip. Now Buffy's babbling about boys and mixed up feelings for them, when she and Buffy had first met in the school counselor's office, made more sense to Amanda. Buffy was in love with the ultimate bad boy; a vampire. Watching Buffy closely, Amanda twirled a strand of her long brown hair absently, wondering at this new development and what it meant for them all.

Kennedy stamped around glaring, muttering opinions on the stupidity of some Slayers, letting themselves be seduced by sexy smiles and buff bodies and foretelling impending doom, until Willow took her and some of the others aside.

Several other Potentials, those with crushes on Spike themselves, thought it was "wicked romantic." Around the room excited conversations broke out discussing the new powers of Buffy and Spike, how awesome it was that a vampire really loved her and how amazing the mating spell was. Speculation about how had she dared to take the chance at all, and general prattle about the hotness that was Spike ran rampant through the room.

Giles heard everyone gather from the den where he kept his lap top (he had reluctantly given in to the computer age recently), and the few salvaged textbooks from the explosion that had destroyed the Council of Watchers. He had been researching mating rituals, refreshing his memory on the known specifics of them. Entering the living room as Buffy began her announcement, the Watcher observed his charges and their reactions. He started worrying that some of them might start looking for their "very own vampire" and groaned.

Giles decided he'd better make sure that Buffy got across to them that Spike was unique, and not to think they'd be able to find the same, or they'd wind up drained. Shaking his head, he worried about teenage girls being so impressionable. This was a potentially dangerous response to Buffy's news. Reaching for his missing glasses, Giles reminded himself to get them replaced in the morning. He noticed Willow talking to a group of potentials, and ambled over to listen.

"Has he turned her?" Kennedy demanded. When Willow shook her head, Kennedy continued, "Well then, she must be under thrall!"

When that suspicion was also negated by Willow, Vi asked timidly, "How can you be sure?" She hadn't thought of Buffy being turned or under thrall, but agreed with Kennedy. It was a good explanation for her actions.

"I checked when she first told us. I can see auras, and can also tell if someone is under magical influence. She's herself, and her self-will is intact," Willow explained confidently.

"Can Spike do thrall?" Amanda asked. "Giles said it's really rare." She shivered at the thought of living with a vampire who could cause you to see things that weren't there and make you act against your will. Looking pleadingly at Giles, she wordlessly asked for reassurance.

Willow answered before their Watcher did. "Spike's sire, Drusilla can, and does. Spike told us once that he never bothered to because he didn't feel it was fighting fair, but I thought I'd better check it out just in case."

Kennedy cut in impatiently, "Can we get back on topic here? If she's not turned, and isn't under thrall, how could she do this? He's a vampire!" That was the bottom line with Kennedy. ‘How could Buffy have fallen for a dead, murdering, blood sucking thing?'

Willow told them some of Buffy and Spike's history, how their relationship over the years had slowly progressed from arch enemies--that never managed to kill each other despite many chances, to reluctant allies, to friends, and finally to lovers. She told them how from the very beginning, there had been something different about Spike, how he was not only more powerful, but also had an uncanny understanding, even empathy that other vampires didn't seem to have. He had a sense of fair play that was unusual, and hadn't had someone else kill them when he was chipped and couldn't do it himself. She explained Spike's transformation over the years, and that he had sought his soul voluntarily.

Giles decided Willow would do a better job of damage control than Buffy, and determined to have her talk to the potentials as a whole. Buffy would probably have just said, "Don't kid yourselves. There aren't any more like him. Don't even try it," and expected them to obey her just because she said so. They'd understand and listen to Willow, someone that had been there but wasn't Buffy, and Willow could explain why they mustn't look for what Buffy had found. It just wasn't there to be found.'

Giles stepped in and told them that he suspected that the chip was the only reason Spike and Buffy had eventually fallen in love instead of killing one other. Spike refused to have someone else kill Buffy when he couldn't do it, and hostilities had eased between the two when Buffy declared that she wouldn't slay a helpless Spike. He explained in more depth about the advantages and dangers of the mating. Slowly the girls' faces relaxed and became more accepting.

‘Impressive that Willow thought to check for turning and thrall,' the Watcher thought. He'd known enough about the ceremony to realize that they weren't an issue, because of the true love requirement. ‘I'm surprised that Willow could, and did investigate them on her own without a lengthy spell, though. She's shaping up into a formidable ally. I'll have to be sure to utilize her more in the future,' Giles contemplated.

Meanwhile, Andrew beamed at Spike and Buffy, and hugged them exuberantly. He led the "wicked romantic" delegation, rambling on about how he must record ‘this most historic union'. He took a solemn posture, with one arm raised to the square, index finger pointing towards the ceiling, and gazed off into the distance. Importantly, he announced, "I must record and archive...the ‘Chronicles of the Greatest Vampyre Slayer of all time...and her consort, the Great, White, Vampyre Warrior!'"

Ignoring Xander's snickers and eye rolling, he started gathering video equipment and computer discs. When no one else was watching, though, Buffy noticed Andrew gazing at Spike with a lost look, and whenever he wasn't busy ‘recording for posterity', he sat quietly in the corner, staring pensively into space.

With narrowed eyes, Dawn pulled Xander into the hall and confronted him. "You're not helping anything with your sarcasm, Xander." Scowling at him angrily she demanded, "And why did you tell everyone about Spike attacking Buffy last year? You didn't even get it right! You ruined my relationship with him over lies!" She glared at him with a reddened face and an expression that threatened she'd start shouting at any moment.

Xander straightened up defensively. "I may not have known all the details, Dawnie, but there was no excuse for what he did! You were a little girl with a crush on him. He was dangerous, you had to be warned! Everyone had to be warned!"

"I was not a little girl! I can take care of myself, thank you very much. Spike helped me get through Buffy's death more than the rest of you put together. Tara tried, but Spike understood. He was going through the same pain I was. Spike spent time with me, we comforted each other. You destroyed that with your finger pointing! You acted twitchy around me the whole summer Buffy was gone, avoiding my eyes when we were together, not coming over to the house. As if you blamed me for what happened to Buffy," she concluded.

"No," Dawn scoffed, "you weren't worried about me, you were just jealous! It wasn't any of your business! From now on, keep your big nose to yourself!" She stomped off back to the living room to listen to Willow's talk with the potentials.

Xander was frozen in place for a moment, stunned that Dawn had called him jealous. So what if it was true, he still couldn't believe she'd said it out loud. It was his dark little secret, no one else was supposed to even know about it. ‘Besides, it was immaterial. They'd still needed to be warned,' he thought in self-defense. ‘Whether Buffy had some fault in it or not, Spike had still attacked her.'

Xander shied away from the other truth Dawn had spoken. He had been uncomfortable around her after Buffy jumped from the tower. He was ashamed that he hadn't done more to help Dawn when Buffy was gone, but he hadn't been able to get past the feeling that even though it wasn't Dawn's fault, Buffy had died to save her. Xander followed Dawn morosely back into the living room, conscious for the first time that he'd failed them both that summer, and had allowed Spike to move into the position of trust that should have been his.

Faith had stood stock still during the explanation, her eyes gradually narrowing, expression slowly turning from astonishment to envy. Inside she fumed, ‘B gets the best of everything while I still end up with leftovers! Spike and new superpowers? That is just wrong.' She pulled Spike aside a few minutes later, and whispered heatedly, "If you wanted a slayer playmate, why choose B? I would've treated you better than her any day of the week! I'd never be ashamed of you!" She fumed silently, ‘Unbelievable! B, with her Holier than Thou attitude doesn't deserve the sizzling Big Bad! She'll never appreciate his finer qualities.' Her look turned sultry, "and I could've made you scream with pleasure every night!"

Spike smiled slowly, and tongue in cheek, said, "Could you now?" But then he shrugged and continued, "Sorry, pet. To get the goodies, there'd have to be ‘true love' between us. Awkward little requirement, that. It's why vampires hardly ever mate. How can they be sure the other truly loves them? For if not, the ceremony ends up offing them both rather than giving them extra power."

Faith looked up at him with a pout on her full lips for a few moments, then leaned into him and ran a finger down his shirt front. She murmured in a silky voice, "Given time, we could've made it work. Now you'll always have to wonder just what you missed," and she turned away, hips swaying provocatively, to made a grand exit through the front door.

Faith kicked, punched and stabbed out her fury at Buffy's new powers and winning Spike on the hapless demons she met that night. In her berserker rage she even took out a Turok-Han. That calmed her down and she began to think clearly. Angel had taught her to be content with the life she was given. It was a good one, and there was no use in envying what someone else had. She'd learned first hand that that led to the dark side. If she could dust uber vamps without enhancements, she was doing just fine. Faith, the Other Vampire Slayer, returned to her bed before dawn with a measure of peace in her heart.

Principal Wood had been standing next to Faith during Buffy's announcement. His expression slowly hardened from disbelief to fury. Of all the disappointments and disillusionments in the past few weeks, this was the worst. He cornered Buffy as soon as she finished speaking and said tightly, "You're consorting with the monster that killed my mother...and another of your kind as well! You've betrayed them!"

Buffy paled at his attack, but shot back, "I've done no such thing! We have increased strength, new powers; better odds in fighting whatever The First throws at us! I've told you before that he's on our side, Robin. You know ‘the cause' comes first with Slayers. They'd both have done the same thing I did, given the same circumstances! Now the cause comes first with Spike, too!"

He refused to accept that. Grabbing her forearms, he retorted, "He's a monster. He'll betray you in the end. Why can't you see that?" He then added as a side argument, "and there's no way my mother would have mated with him."

Spike shook his head as he gazed after the departing Faith, and turned away. He ignored the conversations about himself that buzzed around the room. Ever since his turning, he had inspired excitement and lust in women. When he was on the prowl, he had used it to his advantage to get the tastiest treats, but at other times, he'd ignored it. He was a one woman man. His attention focusing on his love, he overheard her confrontation with Wood and saw the gobshite put his hands on her.

Bursting into game face, Spike manhandled Wood out through the kitchen to the back door and into the yard. Picking the larger man up by the back of his shirt, Spike threw him against the side of the house. "So I've killed two Slayers, have I, dickhead? Two that the Council of Wankers knew about! Think about that, and keep your hands off my woman! As for Nicky, she and I danced with the best of them. I wouldn't be too sure she'd have rejected me, were I you."

Then, picking Wood up again and holding him close by the shirt front; he added very softly, "I'm not going to have to worry about you, am I?" Lips pursed, Spike stared into Wood with deadly intent. "Hmm? Do I need to be looking over my shoulder and wondering where you are?" His gold eyes burned into brown ones. "Courtesy of your mum, I've already given you the only pass you're going to get from me."

Spike let go of him and Principal Wood slowly backed away, brushing off his clothes, and rubbing a newly bruised shoulder. "No. I learned my lesson; you taught me well. Your back is safe with me." Then he changed tacks, and added in his silkiest voice, "I do believe that I'm thankful that you just killed my mother, though, and didn't try to seduce her, didn't defile her. Someday Buffy'll be sorry that she trusted a monster, and someone will have to be there to pick up the pieces."

Spike roared and lunged at him, but Buffy had just walked out the door. Stepping between them and looking sardonically at Spike, she said, "Can't I take you anywhere without you getting into a fight?" Spike retreated silently to lean against the side of the house, a sulky expression on his face. Then to she turned to Wood, "Can I trust you or not, Robin? Are you, or are you not on our side? I need you, I need every able bodied warrior I can get. I don't, however, have time to worry about whether or not you're going to attack Spike again in revenge. Nor for that matter, to worry about you constantly baiting him."

Robin sidestepped the baiting issue. ‘It's inevitable that we'll snipe at each other now and again,' he thought. Looking at her hard, he said, "I'm on the side of good, the side against The First, and as long as that's your side, I'll be on it. Like I just said, I'll not go after him...but I can't say he'll do the same for me." He stared challengingly at the vampire for a few moments.

Spike said nothing, just looked at him with such a menacing expression as he lit a cigarette that Wood became nervous, turned on his heel, and slipped back inside the house. He'd be watching closely to see if the Slayer was in truth still good, or if the vampire had subverted her, and they'd switched sides. And what was that about having killed just two slayers that people knew about, anyway? He went in search of Giles to see if he could shed any light on the subject.

Inside, Wood drew Giles aside, and asked if he could speak with him privately. Nodding at Willow, Giles left his Potentials in her capable hands, and led Robin into the den, closing the door.

"What is it, Robin?" Giles folded his arms and asked, though he had a pretty good idea what Wood had to say.

"What do you think of this abomination? How could she have done this?" Sputtered Wood, sinking down into a chair and holding his head in his hands. "How can any good come of it?"

Sighing, Giles said, "I think I'd better call Xander in for this discussion. I imagine he has the same questions you do." He walked to the door, and seeing Xander already looking his way, motioned him in.

Once inside, Xander looked questioningly at Wood; then sank to the floor into a sitting position. Knocking the back of his head against the wall several times in frustration, he closed his eyes and asked, "Well, Giles? What pearls of wisdom shall we hear from you tonight?"

"You've both heard the story from Buffy. I just want to tell you that as much as I hate to admit it, what she says is true. I've been researching in the pitifully few books I have left, and online as well, to learn all I can about the mating ritual. In both places, multiple references state that the dangers are real, but that the payoff is also real. Buffy and Spike do have each other's powers, I've seen them, and personality strengths, and commitments, and the powers they had in common beforehand have been quadrupled in strength. Buffy has Spike's determination to win in the face of insurmountable odds. Spike really is committed to the Light now. There is no doubt. I have nothing more to say, other than I'd appreciate any help I can get in figuring out how we can use this to our best advantage." He sighed again, and rubbed his forehead.

"Fine. I'll bow to the inevitable," Wood said. "I just have one more question. When I accused Buffy of consorting with the monster that had killed two Slayers, Spike said to me, and I quote, ‘So I've killed two Slayers, have I? Two that the Council of Wankers knew about!' When the Watcher didn't answer, he demanded, "Well, Rupert?"

Looking old and tired, Giles admitted, "I don't know. There are a couple of Slayers that just disappeared during the past hundred years that neither their Watchers, nor the resources of the Council were ever able to locate. One day a new Slayer would simply turn up, thereby letting the Council know that the previous one had died. If Spike was responsible for their deaths, that only makes him more formidable than we ever knew, and makes no difference now. He's on our side."

Robin Wood and Xander Harris glanced at each other; then left the den quietly with much on their minds. Xander was in shock at the idea that Spike may have killed four Slayers rather than the two they'd known about. He grimaced at the many times he'd taunted Spike...pretty stupid of him, chip or no.

Wood and Harris both felt resigned to the union, but each privately vowed to continue vigilance regardless, for Buffy's sake. After all, Spike was a vampire. In their hearts, what more needed to be said?

Xander's brow furrowed as a thought occurred to him. ‘There was someone else who would be interested in what Spike had done; an old friendly enemy. He'd want to be warned as well, it was only fair to clue him in,' thought Xander, planning a quick call to Los Angeles.

Tbc...
Chapter 5 - Nice Kitty by Joyful Dayz
Author's Notes:
A/N: Many thanks to LadyForAsh, for betaing
Thoughts are in ‘single quotes’
schmoop warning
Chapter 5 – Nice Kitty

Out in the yard, with Wood out of the way, Spike relaxed his guard and started pacing back and forth. Throwing his arms in the air, he groused, "Am I going to have to fight every man in your life for you?"

Buffy laughed, "Well, maybe except for Andrew. The way he was looking at you tonight, I think I may have to fight him for you."

Spike snorted, and good humor restored, grabbed her and covered her lips with his own. Thrusting inside her mouth, he began purring as her eager tongue met his.

"Hmm, nice kitty, verry nice," Buffy teased, petting his hair.

Spike's purrs turned into rumbles, "Watch it, missy," he growled, his voice deepening and his eyes darkening. He nipped at her throat playfully. "Or this kitty may just take a bite out of you."

Buffy shrieked, tore off indoors and ran up the stairs laughing, with Spike chasing close behind.

Closing Buffy's bedroom door by slamming her and himself against it, Spike vamped, and licked her neck with his raspy tongue. His body pressing against hers from head to toe, he murmured, "Want you so much, baby." Alternately teasing her jugular with tiny scrapes of his fangs, and then sucking the blood to the surface, he formed small love bites up the line of her neck. Buffy shuddered heavily, arousal spreading through her from neck to core, and her head fell to the side, giving him easy access. "Have to be quiet," she panted, "too many people around to let go..."

"We can do quiet," he said, and swinging her up in his arms, laid her gently on the bed. Every time her moans threatened to get too loud, he covered her lips with his own, unconsciously nicking them with his incisors. He gloried in the taste of powerful Slayer blood, and in his excitement, accidentally sliced his own lips.

The tang of Spike's blood hit Buffy's taste buds, and suddenly both their lives flashed between them. Lovemaking was forgotten as they each saw the heart and soul of the other, their feelings for each other, their dedication to the welfare of humanity, and the routes they had taken to get there.

Buffy saw for the first time Spike's entire journey, from a good, mild mannered and timid man, to an unruly, defiant fledgling tortured and betrayed by his vampire family. In horror, she felt everything Spike had gone through during his early years, understanding for the first time Spike's antipathy towards Angel. She saw his devotion to Drusilla, and how he had taken care of her through the years. Buffy also felt his heart break when Drusilla returned to Angelus. She was with Spike as his eyes started veering towards herself, though it would be a long time before he realized his heart had turned away from his sire.

She looked down through decades of violence and mayhem as a feared and deadly Master Vampire with a yen for Slayers that nevertheless had a secret kernel of kindness inside him. She saw him captured by a secret government agency, endured the agony of his torture, being chipped, and escaped only to starve with him as he discovered he could no longer feed.

Spike never gave up, though, and he stayed alive, unlike most vampires. Instead he had turned to his favorite nemesis, the Slayer, for help, and Buffy felt shame at their treatment of him. She saw that they had been all too gleeful over Spike's downfall, cruel even. It wasn't a pretty picture of the supposedly righteous Slayer and her Slayerette pals.

She felt his transformation from a beautiful monster that gloried in killing Slayers, to one that not only didn't want her dead, he switched sides in the demon world to actively fight for her safety. Ultimately he fell in love with her. He had become a chipped lovesick vampire that wore his heart on his sleeve. He was drowning in her.

She felt his despair as he realized the hopelessness of loving a Slayer. He knew Buffy would never love him back. She felt only hatred and disgust for him, but he would not leave her. His feelings were tender, though, and when she or her friends hurt him, he lashed back. Afterwards he'd feel even worse, but he stayed. Whether she knew it or not, whether she'd ever accept it or not, she was his. Her family became his family. The Slayer was his to kill...or not. His to keep safe...His to help in any way she'd let him. No other beasty would ever touch her, or they'd answer to him.

Buffy felt first hand his grief and despair when she had dived off the tower, and realized that only his promise to her to keep Dawn safe had prevented him from walking into the sun. She shared his later joy at her return to life, and his simultaneous rage with the Scoobies for messing with magic and bringing her back, for pulling her out of Heaven.

Buffy lived his joy when she first shagged him, and then his desolation the next morning when she knocked him back down. She suffered with him his pain at her treatment of him, but felt the determination to give her what she needed, what she deserved, that kept him with her.

She saw his side of it when he attacked her, how at first in his mind it was just their usual foreplay, with her acting "the reluctant". Then it turned into their brutal game, his turn this time, for all the times she had attacked him. She watched his actions become desperation to make her admit that she loved him, and she felt the demon's horror when he finally realized that he had hurt her, had harmed the woman he loved, the girl he had promised he'd never hurt.

She was with him on his flight to Africa in search of a legend and his fight for his soul. She fought the battles with him, experienced the pain, the burns, the feelings of revulsion as insects crawled over and throughout him, and his agony as his soul returned.

She felt his soul's horror and guilt as he realized what the demon had done with his body. With a shock Buffy realized that Spike's kills continued to torment him. He'd told her, but she hadn't understood the reality of it. ‘How do he and Angel live with it?' she wondered with anguish.

Buffy experienced Spike's return to Sunnydale, and how The First had tormented and manipulated him, driving him crazy, appearing to him as herself, Drusilla, Spike himself, and others. She felt the trigger for mayhem being created, saw how The First activated it, witnessed his new kills and subsequent pain as he realized what he'd done yet again. Finally she lived its de-triggering through Wood's assassination attempt.

She grieved with Spike over dusting his mother, and observed him sparing Wood's life after he had tried to kill Spike. She saw the great dark warrior that had given up everything for her, that won his soul for her, damning himself to an eternity of guilt over those he'd killed. He even went so far as to mate with her, thereby to knowingly make her calling, "Warrior of the Light," his calling.

Spike saw Buffy as a sad, confused child; sure that her parents' unhappy marriage was in some way her fault. Her parents had fought about her frequently, each blaming the other for her problems and misbehavior. She had worried that somehow, she had caused her father to leave, because she wasn't a good enough girl. She got in trouble and into fights, skipped class and burned down schools. She was crazy enough to think that she saw vampires, and was the "Chosen One" whose destiny was to kill them. He felt her devastation when her father left them. He was the first man in her life, the first to leave her, the first of every man in her life to leave her, until Spike.

He experienced her all encompassing wonder and joy in first love with Angel, and how Angelus had wounded her heart when he hadn't loved her without a soul. He watched in sorrow as her innocent, youthful radiance was extinguished, leaving a saddened woman behind. He saw how it broke her when she had to kill the newly resouled Angel to save the world, and felt the additional damage to her spirit when Angel left her for good. He lived with her building walls around her heart, learning to live alone even while surrounded by friends and family.

He ached with how she had longed to be normal, had tried to have a normal life with an ordinary man, and how she despaired when she had finally accepted that a normal life, and a normal man, was not to be hers.

He felt her attraction to himself over the years, and watched her unconscious and conscious suppression of it. It wasn't proper, wasn't right, and yet he felt how every time Spike turned up in town, she was secretly glad to see him, feeling exhilarated, at the top of her form; challenged like never before. He watched as she impulsively let him get away when she pulled the ring of invincibility off his finger, and felt her subsequent guilt, knowing that he'd be killing more people. He witnessed Buffy berating herself for putting Spike's added spice to her life ahead of the safety of others, and felt her harden herself against him for the next time she saw him.

He wept again to see her sacrifice her life to save her sister and the world, and shed tears for them both as the resurrected Buffy reinforced the walls around her heart to protect herself from being hurt again, thereby causing them each more pain. He felt first hand her feelings of flatness, of still being dead, even though alive again, and how the times when she was with him were the only times she felt anything at all.

He saw her try to recapture feeling through kissing him, shagging him, beating him, and her frustration that he would no longer hit her back. He saw how she felt that she was vile, that she must have come back wrong because she hated life, and would beat on him, trying to provoke him into doing the same to her. He felt all her fears and insecurities through the years, how she let her fear of rejection by her family and friends influence her behavior towards Spike, finally convincing herself she could only live by being strong and leaving him.

He suffered her jealousy at seeing him bring a date to Xander's almost-wedding, and her pain when she saw him with Anya, even though she had told him to move on. He lived first hand her confusion, disbelief, and finally her horror and rage at his attack. He saw her bring Dawn to him for protection afterwards, and her desolation when she realized he was gone. He felt her discomfort and pity when he came back seemingly insane, her bewilderment and fear that he had sought out his soul on his own, and on top of that, he had done it for her. He sensed her worry for his new soul, and that she had felt she must protect it from herself.

Finally, he felt her joy in loving him. He witnessed her blossom from an emotionally traumatized, hardened and exhausted warrior, into a glorious Champion of the Light that would defeat The First Evil's plans in her time. There was no stopping her now.

They lay on the bed staring in astonishment at each other, exhausted by the emotional overload. Nothing would ever be the same again, for now, they truly knew each other.

Buffy got up and led Spike over to the mirror. He stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her, resting his chin on her shoulder as they looked dazedly into each other's eyes. Rocking her gently from side to side, Spike studied their entwined reflections. He'd almost forgotten what he looked like. It was good to see himself again. The Slayer fit his body perfectly, was the ideal size for him, but more that that, she fit him perfectly. Their strengths and weaknesses complemented each other, and he loved her flaws as well as her virtues. She was his true mate in every way.

Leaning back into the comfort of his arms, Buffy gazed in wonder at the mirror. She wasn't alone; she could see him wrapped around her. They looked good together. But not only could she see him, she could see into him. She finally understood him, and realized that here was a warrior whose heart was so valiant, that he could change not only his own destiny, he could change the world.

Skin tingling with newfound sensitivity, Buffy's thoughts turned from the sublime to the sensual. She felt the rigid length of him pressed against her backside. In the past, when he had done that, she'd been aware of only a hard ridge, now it was defined. She could feel it pulsing, could even tell where the bell shaped head was. ‘How is it that it pulses, when he doesn't have a pulse?' She thought irrelevantly. Her head fell back onto his shoulder, and his face shifting again, he slid his fangs into her throat from behind. An explosion of heat burst within her, and teeth bared, Buffy frantically jerked her head further to the side, straining for his neck.

Chuckling, Spike slipped his teeth from her neck, and licked the tiny wounds. Letting go of her, and touching his tongue sensuously to his upper lip, he crooned, "Why, Goldilocks, what big teeth, you have...all the better to bite me with." He backed over to the bed, beckoning to her with his hands and taunting her with a fanged grin. "Here kitty, kitty, kitty! Nice Pussy."

Buffy growled and dived for him, shoved him down onto his back and jumped on top. Spike laughed with delight as her teeth tore into his throat, and they took up where Vampire/Slayer visions had previously interrupted them.

Later, lying sated in each other's arms, they compared how the blood images had differed this time around. "Did you know our lives would flash before our eyes like that the first time, Spike? You didn't warn me when I asked you before we mated."

"No, pet. Knew we'd feel something...you always get a sense of the other when you drink someone, like you did with that effing Drac. I didn't know the visions would rock the world after we mated. Rather personal, it was, I won't be telling anyone else about it. Imagine that's how it is with everyone." He lazily trailed his hands over her. This time, instead of experiencing each other's whole lives, they'd simply drowned in each other's lust, overwhelming feelings of love, and the luscious taste of ‘mate'.

"Some day I'll off that craven bugger for trying to steal my woman," Spike frowned, remembering how Dracula had come to town and made a play for Buffy.

Arching into his wandering hands, she murmured, hoping to distract him, "Oh, leave Dracula alone, Billy boy, you got the girl in the end. He's not worth going after."

Spike's caresses turned to tickles as he protested being called Billy boy. "Where do you get off with such a poofy name, Buffy wuffy?" He retaliated.

She laughed, wriggling away from his tormenting fingers. "O.K., O.K., no Billy boy. But I had to think of something that Drusilla didn't used to call you. I actually like ‘Will', just don't want to bring her to mind every time I say it."

Spike cupped her face with his hand and smiled tenderly at her, touched that she wanted to have a nickname for him. For so long she'd been hard, ever since Angel had hurt her. It was a wonder to see her softening again. "Will's fine, love. It doesn't remind me of her. My heart and mind are filled with you."

Then he proved that his tenacity hadn't been lost in the mating by returning to his previous grievance. "The bat boy was aware I'd staked my claim on you when he tried to elbow his way in, Buffy. He knew he was taking his unlife into his hands. Let him get his own Slayer. Stay away from mine if he values his neck. We know each other from way back. Drac knew you were mine or I wouldn't have been in town."

Buffy hackles rose and she scowled fiercely at him. "I wasn't yours then, Spike!" If anyone's, I was Riley's. And I resent you saying I belong to anyone, I belong to myself!"

He soothed her with caresses and soft kisses over her body, whispering, "Yes Slayer, you belong to yourself. But you are also mine, just as I am yours. I may not have been yours back then, but in my heart you were mine, and gypsy boy knew it."

Looking stubborn, she asked challengingly, "So why didn't you dust him back then?"

"When I realized he'd bitten you, I went looking for him; but he'd already left town. Between the two of us, he knew he was in trouble, and you were my first priority. Until I had you secured, I couldn't be bothered with chasing him around the world to hunt ‘im down. Besides, you handled him beautifully. I knew even at that time, that you didn't appreciate it when I stepped in and tried to save you. Independent little puss, you are. Want to save yourself.

She wrinkled her nose at Spike impudently over his independent little puss remark, then cocked an eyebrow and pursed her lips with a look suggestive of him. "Until you had me secured? That's cold."

With a smoldering look he cupped her breast and breathed into her neck, "There was nothing cold about it, pet. I was burning for you." While kneading gently with his hand, Spike touched his tongue to her neck at the juncture of her shoulder, and traced her jugular line up to his mark, sucking there as she arched into him.

Hackles calmed, she moved languidly beneath him, but continued to look vaguely disgruntled, and he capitulated, knowing instinctively what she was really objecting to. "Fine, pet. I won't go after him; but if he ever shows his face around here again, you can bet we'll have words."

Buffy smiled, relieved at having averted another fight, and ran her fingertips down his chest and back up, then wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him close, and whispering against his lips, "Actually, you were mine back then. I just wasn't admitting how much yet. I knew that you were mine to slay, or not; no one else's." She saddened, looking deep into his blue eyes, "You always had more insight into both our feelings than I did."

He kissed her softly and tucked her head into his shoulder, folding his arms around her comfortingly. "You've caught up with me, sweetheart."

Drowsily, Buffy nodded, feeling relief that she would no longer be the clueless wonder about her feelings. Then, thinking back over the shocker of life visions they'd shared that evening, she was also glad that she wouldn't have to wade through their pasts every time they got fangy. She had a feeling that would happen rather often. She remembered biting him several times in last year's frenzy, but never hard enough to draw blood, and she hadn't let him bite her. ‘Who knew fangs were so erotic, anyway? No wonder vamps have such an oral fixation.'

Wrapped in each other's arms, they drifted slowly into sleep, letting go of the world and its problems for a few hours.

-----

Upon hearing Buffy's door slam closed, Xander turned away from the phone in the master bedroom. Angel's friend and co-worker, Fred, had told him that Angel wasn't in Los Angeles. He and Wesley were in Rome following a lead on the reemergence of The First and the upcoming apocalypse. At least they had been last night. Wes had called in to report that out of nowhere, Angel's head had jerked up, a look of shock on his face. He'd vamped out and roared, "He's dust," and had run off, leaving Wesley clueless as to what was going on. He'd taken with him a powerful, potentially dangerous artifact. Wes had called Fred to see if she'd heard from Angel. She hadn't. On consideration of Xander's news, she figured that Angel would be showing up in Sunnydale at any time.

Tbc...


Additional A/N: I’m sorry for the delay in posting this chap after telling several people it was coming last week. A gatecrasher, Buffy fangs, tried to force its way into the story. I finally satisfied the interloper by promising it that I’d write a fang story later. J
Chapter 6 - Angel by Joyful Dayz
Author's Notes:
Many thanks to my beta, LadyForAsh.
Thoughts are in 'single quotes'.
A/N: Chapter 6 deals with my Season 7 Bangel issues. I’ve used a few of my favorite sentences from “End of Days” in this chap. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 6 - Angel

At three o'clock in the morning, all was quiet at the Summers' home. Xander stood at the sink in the dark kitchen and reflected on his good fortune. Now that Spike had moved upstairs, Anya and he had taken over the basement. They'd claimed that it made more space for everyone else to have them out of the way. He realized that no one was fooled, but he also knew that Buff, Wills and Dawnie were glad for their happiness.

Xander had spent the majority of the day following Anya around with a hangdog expression, apologizing to her for his stupidity and thoughtlessness, and begging her to give him another chance. "With all the second chances going on around here, can't I have one, too, Anya, please?" His entreaties, claims of undying love and big sad brown eyes had finally moved her. She had decided that he'd groveled enough, and had led him downstairs for "makeup sex."

It had been so long since he'd been able to lose himself in her sweet body, he'd almost forgotten the wonder of it. Xander shook his head at his idiocy in walking out on his wedding last year. He swore that this time around he wouldn't panic and run, wouldn't take her for granted. This time he'd appreciate what he had. Something, at least, had come right of the farce that was Buffy and Spike. Anya had agreed to try again.

Looking out the dark window into the street beyond, he was aware of the deep silence in the house. It was unusual. Most of the time someone was up and making noise. The potentials had finally fallen asleep in their sleeping bags on the living room floor, Faith had moved in with Willow, as Dawn wasn't about to let her sleep with her, and Dawn had taken several of the newer potentials in with her. Buffy had assigned her the job of orienting the new potentials to the situation at hand as they arrived in town, and she enjoyed being their mentor until they inevitably gravitated to the other potentials. Wood had stayed late talking strategy with Giles, and he, Andrew, and the Watcher were bedded down in the den. Andrew had been heard to thank the Heavens that he was quit of Xander's snoring, and all was peaceful.

Suddenly a powerful engine roared up the street, and Xander's heart stuttered. He had a feeling he knew who was about to arrive. Rona woke up and looked out the window in time to see a black Viper's engine and lights shut off and a tall dark and handsome, grim faced man get out and stomp up the walk. She called the others over to see and potentials crowded around the front window, admiring him and his car, speculating as to who he was as he stormed towards them. At the door, instead of knocking, he slammed it open and yelled, "Spike!"

Xander appeared in the doorway, took one look at Angel's face, and regretted that he'd wanted him to come. He'd never seen Angel looking so deadly. ‘Dawn was right. When will I ever learn to keep my big nose out of other people's business?' He berated himself. Now that he and Anya were back together, he wished he hadn't been such a buttinsky, and he dreaded this screwing things up between them. ‘I sure hope none of the girls ever learn that I called Los Angeles and tried to tell Angel, even if he had already sniffed it out on his own. They'll all be mad if they find out.' Nervously he asked, his voice cracking faintly, "Hey, Deadboy Sr.", you soul having?"

Angel brushed passed him without a word or a look in acknowledgement, and shouted another challenge, "SPIKE!"

Xander quickly gathered the potentials, Andrew, Anya, and those coming from upstairs together and herded them all up into Willow's room. He put Willow in charge, and told her to keep them there. "We need to let Buffy handle this on her own," he said, becoming more and more worried about the cold expression on Angel's face. When he tried to round up Giles, Wood and Faith as well, they informed him they'd stay downstairs in case they were needed.

Confused, Wood asked what was going on, and Xander explained that Buffy's ex, Angel, a.k.a. Angelus, had arrived. Angelus was just about the only vampire known to be worse than William the Bloody, and was his grandsire. Angel had been cursed with a soul over a hundred years ago, and now fought for the good guys, but where Buffy and Spike were concerned, who knew what he'd do? "And I thought he should be informed. Big mistake." Xander rubbed his eye patch. He was getting a monster of a headache.

Wood shook his head incredulously. Buffy and yet another vampire...unbelievable. This he had to see. He was learning more about the Slayer than he had ever wanted to know. Watching the drama from a safe distance, he murmured to Xander. "You called and told him?!?"

"No, I just tried to. He already knew. Sensed it, I guess," Xander watched glumly as Angel attacked Spike. He winced as Angel hit the banister, worrying about potential damage and upcoming home repairs.

Buffy had run down the stairs ahead of Spike, her heart pounding. She really wished that she'd found the time to tell Angel before he turned up on their doorstep. ‘What was I thinking, ignoring his likely reaction?' She wondered ruefully. Buffy silently admitted that Spike had filled her thoughts; there hadn't been room for anyone or anything else the past day. Thanks to her thoughtlessness, there could well be collateral damage here tonight.

Spike had tried to get her to stay upstairs, saying that Angel was his problem, but she wouldn't hear of it. He bounded down right after her. At first sight of Spike following Buffy from her room; Angel vamped, roared, and launched himself at the blonde vampire. Spike snorted and pursed his lips sardonically, dodging to the side so fast that Angel missed him and slammed against the banister. Buffy suddenly had visions of her house falling down around their ears, so she picked Angel up by the nape of the neck, and tossed him back out the front door. "You are not going to destroy my home, Angel. We'll talk outside," she said firmly, following Angel and Spike out the door. Wisely, the rest of them stayed in the doorway.

Outside, Angel ignored Buffy, stood up and lunged again for Spike. This time, as Angel connected, Spike grinned and slugged him in the jaw. Angel flew back against the pillar of the porch, splitting it lengthwise. Buffy yelled, "Hey! What did I just say?" and picked him up again, tossing him away from the house and towards the street.

Following, Spike turned back to Buffy and complained, "Stop it Slayer, this is between Captain Forehead and me!" Turning back to Angel, he ground out, "Give it up, peaches. She's mine. What is mine, I keep!"

Spike's inattention had given Angel enough time to punch him solidly in the nose as he turned back. In the past, that hit would have sent Spike flying fifteen feet backwards. Now it didn't even snap his head back. Angel belted him again and gaped in astonishment as Spike just stared at him grimly.

Angel's fangs had slashed Spike's hand when he first struck Angel, but the wound was now sealed and Spike punched him in the stomach in retaliation for hitting him in the face. As Angel, winded, doubled over forwards, Spike slammed his elbow down on his shoulder. Angel crumpled to his knees, and Spike gave an uppercut to his chin that had him flying out into Revello Drive.

Angel sprang up and launched himself at Spike again. Spike grinned tauntingly and toyed with Angel by cuffing him lightly with alternate fists, slamming Angel's face aside and forcing him to stagger backwards with each hit. Angle tried to retaliate, but his swings missed as Spike twirled and landed a roundhouse kick to the chin that had Angel flying back into the street. Banging his head on the asphalt, Angel was stunned long enough for some sense to prevail and he stopped rushing Spike long enough to speak.

Game face coldly angry, he slipped into a rarely used Irish brogue. Glaring at Spike, Angel barked, "Ye endangered the lass's life, you selfish gobshite! Ye'll die slowly for that."

Spike's good humor abruptly faded, and his face shifted as well, his upper lip curled in a deadly sneer. He didn't bother answering the accusation. It didn't deserve an answer. He hadn't endangered her, they were sure or they never would have mated, and the stinking bogtrotter should have known that. Scornfully mispronouncing Angelus, he merely asked, "Oh Ho, is Angel-us pushin' at the gates? Wassa matter, ole man, did I poach on yer goods?"

Angel saw red, and charged at him again, roaring, "She's mine!"

Buffy's patience abruptly snapped and she entered the fray. Flashing in front of the rushing dark haired vampire, her fist slammed into his nose, knocking him yet again back into the street, this time slamming into the Viper. "How dare you?!" She demanded. "You gave up any claim you had to me when you left me!"

Sitting up, his face melted back to human and Angel stared at her, stunned. Buffy had never before hit him when he had a soul. Standing and walking back to them, he wiped the blood from his nose and said miserably, "It tore my guts out to leave you! I did it so you could have a normal life. One I couldn't give you. I didn't leave you so Captain Peroxide here could step in. Never would I leave you for Him to take my place," he grated out angrily.

Also looking human again, his blue eyes cold as ice, Spike stood back and moodily watched the exchange. As much as he hated it, he knew Buffy needed to find closure with Angel. He reined his jealousy in with an iron will and didn't interfere.

Buffy's face had softened as Angel told her about how leaving had torn him up, but hardened again with his last sentence. "You don't seem to get it, Angel. You don't get to choose who takes your place. That's my choice. You'll always have a place in my heart, but you left. I had to move on, several times. In the end, I thought love was beyond me, lost to me. Spike healed me, Angel. He taught me the joy of love. What I've found with him is beyond anything I could ever have imagined." She smiled tenderly over at her lover, her mate.

Spike felt a burst of sunshine in his chest, and thought he just might dust from the intensity of it. He was sure vampires weren't built to withstand such joy. He gave her a blinding smile, unable to maintain his usual cool demeanor.

Angel, however, was filled with pathos. "Why didn't you at least warn me, Buffy?" He implored. "Spike and I are family." Expelling his breath on a harsh sigh and rubbing his hand back and forth over his head, he finished, "I felt it as it happened."

‘Whoa, the duffer is upset! He just mussed his do,' Spike wordlessly mocked. He was surprised at himself for being able to hold it in, and smirked silently. Much as he hated having Angel trying to interfere, the thought of him feeling the mating brought an evil smile to Spike's lips. Finally, finally the old poofter knew how it felt to have his woman taken away. Spike was almost taken aback that the "mating and merging" hadn't wiped out his hostility towards his grandsire, but it was still there.

Buffy didn't look at all happy to hear that Angel had felt the mating. "I'm sorry, Angel. We didn't plan it ahead of time. We couldn't warn you. And ewww, you felt it? Talk about invasion of privacy." Buffy shrank from the thought of Angel sensing her and Spike at that incredible moment. It wasn't any of his business. Then she frowned again as she realized that her own senses were now extended the same way. She'd be feeling "family" just as they did. And if Angel had felt it, then Drusilla certainly had. Sighing, she determined to keep her eyes open for yet another threat.

"Besides," she continued, "you'd just have tried to stop us, and it wasn't your decision to make, Angel. It was our love, our choice. We didn't risk ourselves or endanger each other. We wouldn't have done it if we didn't know; if we hadn't been sure."

Angel regarded her silently for a few seconds, and then muttered with brow furrowed, "I always thought that I'd be the one joining with you." ‘It was my right, after all,' he thought. ‘Buffy was my reward for fighting the good fight. Whistler waived her as bait to get me to come on board with the Powers back when she was a new Slayer.'

Buffy stared at him incredulously. "Did you, Angel? Really? When your other half doesn't even pretend to love me?" Buffy folded her arms and looked him steadily in the eye, challenging him to remember the chaos Angelus had loosed on her and her loved ones.

He brooded for a moment before mumbling, "I was working on it." And he had been, just hadn't found a way to get around his demon yet. He'd contracted with the mages at Wolfram and Hart. They'd been researching and experimenting on the mating ritual without success ever since he had moved to Los Angeles.

Buffy continued to stare at him, wordlessly demanding that he admit the truth. Incredibly, she could feel what Angel was thinking, then shook her head, confused. ‘Now why did I think I knew his thoughts?' She'd never understood Angel's thought processes.

Angel's gaze finally dropped and he silently admitted defeat. The dream had been doomed, after all. His demon neither knew, nor had any use for love. He hadn't found any way to circumvent that. Stupid requirement, he'd sure like to get his hands on the mage that created the spell. According to W&H mages, though, "true love" was apparently the only power that could make the ritual do anything at all. And now it was too late. There was no way to reverse the thing. Spike had the right of it, she was his. Reluctantly accepting the inevitable, he hugged her and murmured, "Welcome to the family, Buffy. If you ever need me, let me know. I'll be here in a flash."

Buffy beamed and hugged him back. "Thank you, Angel." ‘Whew, that went better than I expected it to,' mentally wiping her brow, she was relieved that the situation hadn't turned deadly. It easily could have. She was surprised that Spike had been so patient with Angel. The "Old Spike" very well may have provoked him into having to be dusted.

Glaring at Spike, Angel ground out, "If you ever..."

"Yeah Gramps, I know," Spike cut in. "If I ever hurt her, I'm dust, yada yada." Spike slouched against the porch with his hands in his pockets, staring at Angel moodily. On the inside though, he was crowing exultantly. ‘This time I got the girl; and this one you'll never steal from me.'

Nodding resignedly, Angel turned back to Buffy and took a large amulet that sparkled with a sunburst of diamonds on a platinum chain from his pocket. He held it up to her.

"I can already tell you, I have nothing that goes with that," quipped Buffy, looking blandly at the gaudy ornament.

"It's not for you," Angel stated. "Wes and I uncovered it in Italy. It may help against The First. Apparently, when worn by a souled champion, it has purifying or cleansing powers, or," looking whimsical, "possibly scrubbing bubbles." He shook his head slightly and continued, "In any case, it's very powerful, but also very dangerous. I was going to offer to wear it for you during the last battle, but I guess you don't need me now that you have Spike," he finished rather bitterly, looking at her questioningly.

Buffy smiled, hugged him again, and thanked him for the offer, but said that she needed him gone. She needed him to go back to LA and run a second front against The First in case she went down.

Angel nodded and looked over at Xander standing in the doorway. A shrewd look crossed his face, and he thought, ‘the boy needs a lesson in staying out of Aurelian business.' Aloud he enquired blandly, "Fred said you called for me, Xander. What did you need?"

Gulping, Xander looked frantically back and forth between Buffy and Spike. Buffy's face darkened forbiddingly as she realized just why Xander had phoned Angel. Spike started to laugh. ‘This should be good,' he thought.

"Oh, uhhh, nnnothing, now, Angel. My question is all cleared up." Clearing his throat, Xander smiled nervously, hoping that Buffy would let it slide.

Spike and Angel exchanged small nods and smirks. Angel turned to Buffy, and nodding solemnly this time, handed her the amulet. Climbing into the Viper, he was gone.

"What was that all about, Spike?" Asked Buffy irritably. She didn't like not knowing what was going on between the two vampires. It was too dangerous to just ignore it. They could both be deadly, champions or no.

"Family business, love. I'll tell you later," and he turned towards Xander.

Buffy eyed the quaking brunette grimly and asked with deceptive blandness, "Tell me, Xan, why does this situation remind me of when you took it upon yourself to let everyone know that Spike had attacked me?"

He knew he was caught out, and didn't even try to pretend otherwise. Walking outside towards them to plead his case, Xander babbled, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It was stupid of me. I thought he should know. I didn't think of him coming here with blood in his eye. And I didn't tell him anyway, he wasn't there, and he already knew, so no harm done, right? Right?" He repeated when Buffy didn't answer him, merely glared at him stonily.

Spike just grinned and folded his arms, leaning against the porch rail. He didn't need to settle with the idiot. Buffy would do a fine job. At the worried look on Xander's face, he erupted with a belly laugh, enjoying the spectacle of the wanker caught in the backlash of his big mouth.

Buffy continued to stare daggers at Xander. He started in again. "To use Dawn's words, I'll keep my big nose to myself from now on, I promise. Come on, Buff, say something..." He looked at her beseechingly.

"Do not ever try to cause trouble for me again, Xander," was her only response, her expression flat and hard. Then turning to Spike, she took him by the arm and marched past Xander and back inside the house, demanding to know what was going on with him and Angel.

Xander shivered, thankful that very few people had witnessed his humiliation, well-deserved though it was. He stared after them silently, wondering how the Slayer had come to look so much like William the Bloody.

Inside, Spike touched the side of her face and smiled as he escorted her upstairs. He lowered his voice so that no one but Buffy with her enhanced hearing could make out what he said. "Granddad told me that he acknowledged and accepted our mating. Family comes first with vamps, love. He also let me know that the whelp had tried to interfere in Aurelian business, and that he supported me."

"How could you tell all that from just a nod and a smile?" Buffy murmured back, astonished. She hadn't had a clue about any of it. In fact, she'd been afraid that they were agreeing to meet later to battle it out.

Spike kissed her lightly on the lips as he closed the door of their room and responded, "We've always known what each other feels, love. It's not exactly mind reading, just "knowing". From the very first time we met. No matter how furious we were with the other, how much we hated each other, we've always been connected." He shrugged, "It's just the way it is. I don't know why, it seems to run in the family."

"So why didn't I pick up on it, if I have your perceptions, now?"

"It doesn't work like that. I can't read between him and Drusilla, he couldn't read between Darla and me. You probably have your own connection with the poof now, yeah? Did you get a feel for what he was thinking as he spoke to you?"

She looked at him, surprised. "I thought I was imagining it." So, all that about trying to get around the love requirement of the mating spell had come from Angel, she surmised.

Spike grinned at her suggestively, "You know how I feel, yeah? You got the perceptions between us, puss. What am I thinking right now?"

Buffy paused, looking into him, and the moment lengthened and stretched between them. She reeled under the urgency of it and raced him to undress and get back into bed.

Tbc...
Chapter 7 - Mini Mutiny by Joyful Dayz
Author's Notes:
A/N: Thank you so much, LadyForAsh, for betaing.
‘Single quotes’ are thoughts.
One of the things that really bothered me about Season 7 was how everyone except Spike betrayed Buffy. Forgive Faith for turning to the dark side and trying to kill Buffy? Kick Buffy out and follow Faith? Seeing their non-forgiveness of Spike, I doubt it, especially not Dawn. I toyed with the idea of having everyone (minus Dawn) betray Buffy over her relationship with Spike, but I’m happier if they don’t, so in my world it doesn’t happen. The potentials didn’t know either her or Faith very well, so it would have been in character for them. This was as far as I was willing to go in that direction.
Chapter 7 – Mini Mutiny

The next morning was a chaos of wedding preparations. Buffy had awakened early, full of plans for the next day, when Spike had arranged for the local Justice of the Peace to marry them. She dragged him down to the kitchen where Willow was making a pot of tea. Spike suppressed a pleasured moan and wrapped his arms around Buffy as she plopped down on his lap. He smiled as he remembered her enthusiasm in planning their wedding the first time, during Red's ‘My Will Be Done Spell'. He'd thought all the fuss was silly, but had considered it a small price to pay to enjoy having her firm bottom wriggling happily against his danglies, making them decidedly less dangly.

He'd had to wait several years for it to happen again, but here he was, finally enduring the same blissful torture. His eyes flashed back and forth between blue and gold as he suppressed the desire to dip into her throat - and other delectable places. Luckily for his sense of dignity, no one noticed his discomfort, and he forced his thoughts back to wedding preparations.

Since Buffy had let it slip that she'd have liked a fancy dress and seating arrangements to squabble over, he had regretted that their real wedding, the mating, couldn't have been a fancy one. But vampires didn't do public weddings, and there was no way he was inviting the masses to a mating. Spike was determined to make her "human wedding" special for her.

"Oh, I bought a Wedding Planner our first time around and wrote down a bunch of ideas. I wonder where it is," Buffy said, shifting positions and eliciting a groan from Spike. She glanced at him and caught a flicker of gold in his eyes. Comprehension dawning on her face, she grinned and nipped him quickly on the lips.

"You still have it?" Willow asked curiously, oblivious to the tension building between the two. "I'd have thought you'd chuck it the moment the spell was over; and by the way, sorry again about that spell."

Buffy smiled slyly, shifting her weight again. "No worry, Wills, it's just a fond memory now. I never threw anything away that had to do with Spike. You'd think that would have given me a clue, but nooo, I was Queen of the Clueless. I'll go look for it now." She jumped up and ran toward the stairs, pausing partway to glance back and throw Spike a little smile as he crowded close behind with, "I'll help."

Locking the door behind Spike, Buffy laughed teasingly and whirled away from his reach. She found it hard to believe she was planning her wedding for real. Granted, it was a one day whirlwind prep before The First launched his next salvo against them, but she was actually planning her own wedding! ‘I must be dreaming, or maybe under another spell...things just don't turn out so happily for me,' she thought with dawning cynicism. Spike caught her up in his arms and vamped, tossing her down on the bed with a laugh. Buffy forgot her pessimism in a wash of heat.

-----

Later, after breakfast, Buffy flipped through the wedding planner, discarding most of her old plans as juvenile or unrealistic in her present world, but chuckling fondly at the memories they brought her. Dawn, Willow and Anya were anxious to help with the planning, and Buffy had thankfully included them, finding that she wasn't very interested in seating arrangements after all. Spike covertly passed Dawn a roll of money to make sure the arrangements could be done right. His instruction that the three of them all buy themselves bridesmaid dresses had Dawn whooping with excitement.

Xander noticed the exchange and quipped, "Wow, Captain Peroxide passing the dough rather than pinching it? Are we in the Twilight Zone or something?" To Xander's disappointment, Spike didn't rise to his bait, having other things on his mind. He was drowning in the happiness on his woman's face. He just couldn't get used to seeing it there.

Spike took Buffy by the hand, raised it to his lips, and said, "How'd you like to go shopping, sweetling?" She gave him a blinding smile and threw her arms around his neck. "Why, darlin', you surely do know how to make a girl happy!"

Spike's eyelids dropped to half mast. Pulling her flush against him and studying her intently, he agreed quietly, "That I do, lamb." He bent to taste her lips, savoring her, resisting his own need to devour and consume. Then, pulling her more tightly into his embrace, Spike abruptly decided resistance was futile, and the shopping trip could wait for a couple more hours.

"Eww, get a room again, would you?" Dawn protested, diverted from her debate with Willow and Anya about the wedding dinner and the merits of going "all chocolate". Anya looked up interestedly, and he reluctantly loosed Buffy.

Walking outside into the sunshine, Spike paused, turning his face into the sun and enjoying its gentle warmth. ‘Mmm,' he thought, ‘I could stand here and soak up rays all day. How have I lived so complacently in the shadows for so long?'

"Come on, Mr. Sun Worshipper. Shopping, remember? Must hurry, the ‘Call of the Mall' is upon me," Buffy urged, pulling him over to his Desoto, where she stopped short in surprise. "Why, Spike, you washed your car! I hardly recognize it." Buffy walked around the battered old auto, staring with admiration at the sparkling windows, unblacked for the first time in her memory, garbage cleaned out, interior vacuumed, exterior waxed.

Spike ducked his head and grinned shyly. "A bride should have a nice ride," was his only explanation. Smiling in return, she kissed him softly on his full lips. "My Big Bad is a romantic. Thank you."

The drive through town saddened Buffy. Her good mood dampened, she noted that a few months ago, the streets would have been bustling with shoppers. Teenagers skipping class had been sipping sodas and gossiping, and mothers pushing strollers watched children playing in the park. Now the few people she saw wore frightened expressions on their faces, looking nervously around as they hurried along. Shadows flitted between buildings, and questionable beings lounged on street corners. Litter blew, pushed along by the wind. Several stores were closed and shuttered. Sunnydale had an unkempt and forlorn feel.

They stopped first at the floral shop. With many of the town's residents gone, demand for flowers was non-existent. The wizened little florist packed vases into boxes as she spoke with them. She promised wedding flowers for the next day at an exceptional price, as long as they took what was on hand. Spike and Buffy were happy to do so. "The poor things will just go to waste, otherwise," she mourned. Shaking her head, she hauled a bucket of lilies into the back room to begin arranging them. As they left, they heard her mumble, "Pshaw, wedding flowers with one day's notice! What has the world come to?"

Finding a wedding gown was even easier. The Bridal Shop was deserted, the door left hanging open. Much of its inventory was missing from the show room, but a back room was filled with formal wear, and unbelievably, Buffy found what looked like the very dress she had admired during her abortive engagement with Spike. She studied herself in the mirror and considered whether or not it was still in style. Spike's blue eyes darkened so dramatically though, and he looked so passionate with suddenly flared nostrils, hooded eyes and pursed lips, that she sighed happily and wrapped it up to take home while he found a severe black tuxedo that suited him.

Buffy smiled with approval as he left a scrawled note and payment on the shelf under the counter, in case the shop owner showed up later. Spike shook his head at himself for feeling the need to pay for the gown and tux. Another side effect of the mate and merge he assumed; a rather poncy one, but he had no inclination to ignore it.

Back in the car, Buffy turned to Spike with a worried frown, "I don't have a ring for you, Will. What am I going to do?" She rubbed the bridge of her nose, trying to ease the incipient ache forming there.

Reaching over and lifting her into his arms, he replied, "I don't need one, pet. Marrying you is more than enough." Spike was pleased that she wanted to give him a ring, but was aware that there was no way she could afford one, and he knew better than to offer to pay for it.

"No," Buffy pulled away and folded her arms adamantly, "I have to find a way to get you a ring. No husband of mine is going without one. I want every woman in the world to know you're taken!"

A slow grin bloomed on his face and he straightened out in his seat. Stretching his arms up and then lacing his fingers behind his head, he kicked back cockily and smirked, "Jealous, babe?"

"What!?! Conceited much?" Buffy cried indignantly. "No way!" Then looking into his mocking eyes, she admitted, "Oh, all right. Now that I'm no longer avoidy girl, yeah, jealous. Don't think I haven't noticed how other women's eyes follow you wherever you go! And, Mister Smarty Pants, you'd be wise not to stir up that jealousy!" She glared at him warningly.

Spike laughed, raised his hands in front of himself defensively, and pretended to be cowed. "O.K., O.K. sweetheart, we'll figure out a way for you to buy me a ring." He wondered what she had that they could hawk for a wedding band. Perhaps he could put some cash in a shoebox somewhere in the house, arrange for her to find it, and pretend that it must have been Joyce that left it there...hmmm.

Her face lighting with sudden excitement, Buffy exclaimed, "I know! I'll trade in the claddagh ring Angel gave me! Do you think it's worth anything?"

Spike was surprised with her choice. "I'm sure it is, Buff, but are you sure you want to do that?" He looked at her seriously, not wanting her to ever regret buying him a wedding ring. "Maybe your mum left a stash somewhere," he added innocently. "We should check it out."

It was Buffy's turn to look at him sardonically, seeing what was on his mind. "Mom didn't leave a stash, Spike. After you left last summer, Dawn and I cleaned the whole house from top to bottom."

Still worried about her regretting selling Angel's ring later, he continued, "Well then, maybe we should trade my skull ring, instead."

"Absolutely not! You gave it to me, I'm keeping it forever, and how do you even know I still have it, Spikee?" Buffy drawled his name slowly, frowning at him suspiciously.

Spike quirked an eyebrow at her. The only other time the Slayer had called him ‘Spikee', she'd been seriously annoyed with him. He humorously remembered her birthday last year, when the whelp had shown up with a date for Buffy, and Spike had threatened to eat him. She'd called him Spikee while railing at him about it. In spite of claiming it was a joke, it hadn't been funny at the time. The Slayer was his, and no puling human was taking her away from him. He suspected that if she'd pursued a relationship with the boy, he would have proven he was still evil by arranging for an accident to befall "poor dainty Richard". Luckily she hadn't, and he hadn't been put to the test.

Spike smirked, "You just told Red this morning that you never threw anything of mine away, remember?" When she continued to stare at him with narrowed eyes, he shrugged, thinking, ‘If she gets brassed off at me for eying her trinkets, so be it. It helped the niblet at the time.' Looking at her blandly, he said, "The bit and I took a gander at your jewel box a few times when she was depressed and grieving for you. It cheered her up to try on your pretties."

That stopped her short. "Oh...well anyway...of course I want to trade the ring Angel gave me and not yours. Like you just said, I keep everything of yours!"

Pleasure rushing through him, Spike silently marveled at her new ability to admit her feelings for him. He pulled her in for a quick snog. It soon erupted into flame and Spike lost his train of thought, pushing her back into the seat and pulling her under him as fire raced through him.

Buffy gloried in her new tactile sensitivity, the feel of his soft lips caressing hers, his tongue thrusting and stroking. His weight covering her and pressing her into the seat had her shivering, and she instinctively molded her body to fit his. His erection surging against her, the rough texture of his hands roaming over her back, and his silky skin covering firm muscles as she slid her hands underneath his shirt thrilled her. She wanted to drown in his emotions as well, and almost succumbed to the temptation to bite him. With a great surge of will power, she broke away and commanded imperiously, "Home, now! Before the jeweler leaves town with everyone else! You can bet he won't leave his inventory behind, like the bridal shop owner did."

Sitting up and running his hand shakily through his hair, Spike nodded regretfully, and ran her home to get the ring, then on to the jeweler's to make the trade.

Afterwards, he stopped at the mall and escorted Buffy into Victoria's Secrets. When she glanced at him questioningly, Spike flashed an eyebrow at her, and said, "We're here to buy you some pretty things for me." He curled his tongue up to touch his upper lip and regarded her with hooded eyes. She laughed and waded into lingerie shopping with enthusiasm.

Back at home they made last minute plans, and Buffy laughed and cried with delight to see the transformed yard.

At breakfast that morning, she had mentioned in passing that she'd always wanted a garden wedding, except that since her mom had died, she'd had no garden. By the time Buffy and Spike returned from their shopping expedition, Xander had paid a visit to the local nursery, and he and the Potentials had planted a veritable paradise of flowers and shrubbery. Faith had even cajoled Robin into helping, and the two warriors had strung fairy lights through the trees.

Anya indignantly informed Buffy and Spike that they had had to pay full price at the Hilton. "Their excuse was that three quarters of their employees had left town and they'd have to work all night to get the baking done in time. They had no appreciation of the fact that with the state Sunnydale is in, they were lucky to get our business at all!" Anya's eyes flashed with irritation, giving the impression that the hotel had insulted her bargaining skills by not giving them a price break.

On a happier note, she, Willow and Dawn described the wedding buffet they had planned for after the ceremony, and how they had chosen a ‘Chocolate Decadence' theme, as one of Buffy's few weaknesses was chocolate. She and Spike shared a private vision. She dipped him in chocolate, and he retaliated by dunking her in hot wing sauce. They intrigued the others with their laughter and heated looks, but wouldn't explain.

Remembering the disaster of Anya and Xander's wedding that wasn't, the girls had decided to have a garden buffet afterwards instead of a dinner at the hotel's restaurant with prearranged place settings. Everyone would be happier choosing their own seats. Buffy agreed; she wasn't big on formality, anyway.

-----

After Buffy and Spike had left that morning, Xander had sat down with Dawn and planned how to make Buffy's garden wedding dream a reality. Dawn brought out Spike's currency roll and offered to foot the bill, but Xander declined. He wanted to do this on his own. A quick trip to the local nursery, and he came back loaded down with flowers and shrubs of every description. But when he had approached the Potentials about helping him plant them, Kennedy had balked. "Forget it. I'm not lifting a finger for them. It's disgusting that she's boffing a vampire."

The rest of the Potentials milled around uncertainly, and Xander's face darkened, with mixed feelings evident in his expression. ‘As much as I want to agree with the snotty little twit, I recognize jealousy when I see it, being something of an expert on the subject.' He opened his mouth to retort, but Faith, who was sitting nearby, beat him to the point. She turned to Kennedy and asked astutely, "Been bitten by the green eyed monster, have you?"

Kennedy indignantly denied that. "Gi'me a break! He's a filthy vampire!"

"And a really hot number, too, wouldn't you say? Although, since you don't swing that way, the sticking point must be that she's ramped up her Slayer powers several notches," Faith concluded, eyeing the potential shrewdly.

A tell tale flush crept along Kennedy's cheeks. "It's not right that she gets even more power! Wasn't just being a Slayer enough for her?"

Faith took pity on her and said, "I have to admit that I was a bit peeved at first, too, Ken. But last night I dusted an uber vamp without superman speed and strength, so normal Slayer power does just fine."

"We don't even have normal Slayer power," muttered Kennedy. "How are the rest of us supposed to survive the upcoming fight? We might be strong for human girls, but we're no match for uber vamps. We can barely handle bringers!"

A chorus of agreement and nods came from the rest of the potentials.

"Giles and Willow will figure something out," Faith answered complacently.

That offered little comfort to Kennedy, even though Willow could accomplish pretty much anything in her eyes. "But will there be time for them to figure anything out? That's the problem. Buffy and her lover boy should be here planning! Just look at them, they're out shopping today, instead of preparing for The First." Shaking her head with disgust, she continued, "and instead of doing something constructive, we're supposed to plant flowers for them? Faith, you should be leading us, not her. It's obvious she's been subverted by Spike. Don't you all agree?" Kennedy stared fiercely around at the other potentials, willing them to side with her.

Xander stood immobilized in shock that they had a potential mutiny on their hands. He scanned all their faces to see who agreed with Kennedy. He saw a few shake their heads in obvious disagreement and while the others looked unsure, he thankfully didn't see any clear support for her.

Faith broke into the awkward silence with a forceful, "Nuh uh," and shake of her head. She'd worked through this last night, and had no doubts now. "No way. B's in charge here. She's the senior Slayer. Her mating with Spike gives us all more chance of surviving, not less! We should be glad that she was able to finesse the vampire mating ritual, not hold it against her. Don't you think for one minute that she's not fully aware of us at all times! And now they say that Spike's just as committed. On top of that, they both have superman strength! How can you not think that's a plus?"

Kennedy mulishly said nothing, not ready to give in, but inwardly she admitted that perhaps envy did have a part in her feelings.

"There's nothing Buffy could do this morning to get ready for The First. I for one don't blame her for trying to get her mind off it for awhile. Giles says there's nothing we can do right now to help with research. So in the meantime, you all need something to distract you too, for a bit, now don't you?" Faith picked up a container of flowers and looked each of them in the eye.

Kennedy looked doubtful, but the others all nodded thoughtfully. Yes, they could use something to keep them all busy today, to keep their minds off the thought that they'd likely be dead in a few days. Those potentials that still had reservations about Buffy's mating tended to look to Faith for direction, and she had all but told them to help Xander. They picked up shovels, spades and flats of flowers and asked Xander where he wanted them to start.

"Fine. What do you want me to do?" Kennedy acquiesced sulkily and before long the yard had been transformed into a lush garden. Xander flashed Faith a smile of gratitude for averting the crisis. After directing each girl where to start with the garden's makeover, he and Faith exchanged a few words. She would alert Giles to Kennedy's outburst.

-----

Giles had spent the day researching. He was beginning to despair at ever finding the secrets of the amulet. Perhaps they'd just have to enchant their weapons with strength and power, and hope for the best. He had reluctantly given the others permission to prepare for the wedding, as he only had so many books, and they'd all been gone over several times. Faith had led a salvage operation to find abandoned computers from nearby homes and businesses, but had been unsuccessful. Apparently they were high priority items and people had taken them along when they left town. He was using the only available computer, Willow having taken hers with them on the wedding preps.

Faith came in and warned him of Kennedy's attempted insurrection, reminding the Watcher that he hadn't had Willow give her speech to the whole group of potentials. The minute she walked in with Dawn and Anya, he called her aside and they called a break in the gardening long enough for their meeting. They answered general questions and then opened a discussion focused on giving reassurance, telling facts about and dangers of the mating, explaining how now Buffy and Spike were both primarily committed to the potentials and defeat of The First; dealing with envy and fear. They let the potentials vent and examine their feelings. Afterwards, Willow and Giles conferred, agreeing that it had been therapeutic for the girls.

-----

Upon Buffy and Spike's return, Xander didn't tell them about the mini mutiny, as he thought of it. With a new sense of discretion, he left that up to Giles. He just told them that the newly landscaped yard was their wedding gift, and an attempt to say he was sorry for being such a busybody. Spike nodded, silently accepting the apology and forgiving the boy's past insults, for he had made Buffy happy. Buffy wiped tears from her eyes and hugged Xander, whispering, "Thank you, best friend."

Anya, Willow and Dawn looked back and forth between them, and Anya put her hands on her hips and asked, "Alright, Busybody Harris, what did you do this time?"

Xander cleared his throat and said, "I've done a lot of things over the years. It's time I made up for them, don't you think?" He smiled sheepishly at Spike and Buffy and they nodded and smiled back, not mentioning his latest faux pas.

Tbc...
Chapter 8 - Spike's Girls Past and Present by Joyful Dayz
Author's Notes:
Thanks to LadyForAsh for her hard work as my beta.
Spoilers for “End of Days”.
‘Single quotes’ = thoughts
Chapter 8 - Spike’s Girls Past and Present

Later that evening, Spike and Giles sat in the den, ostensibly to discuss enhanced powers and mysterious amulets, how they might be used to best advantage against Caleb and the Turok-Han, and where to find a nest of them. Giles had to talk fast and hard to convince Spike to stay behind when Buffy went out to confront Caleb in his winery and find out just what it was that he had of hers. Spike was drinking heavily, trying to dull his worry over not being with her when she faced the evil preacher again. Intellectually, Spike knew she should be able to handle Caleb with her own new strength and speed, but emotionally he was crawling out of his skin, needing to back her up.

Giles had had another reason for wanting Spike to stay behind that night, however. He felt that Buffy didn't need to be told about Kennedy's attempt to get Faith to take over, it would only hurt her. He'd decided that Spike, however, should be warned on the off chance that Kennedy made more trouble. Spike disagreed with Giles. "Yeah, it'll hurt her, but she'll be royally pissed if we don't tell her. If there's one thing the Slayer hates, its being ‘protected for her own good'," said Spike. "I'll tell her later tonight, when she'll have a chance to cool off before confronting the little air head."

Giles shook his head and furthered his side of the argument. "Buffy has enough on her plate right now. She doesn't need to worry about popularity contests..."

"Can't really hide it from her anyway, she'll just pick it out of my head," commented Spike with a shrug.

Giles looked intrigued about their mental communication and had begun a new question along that line when Principal Wood walked into the room. "Mind if I join you?" He asked mildly, taking a seat and pouring himself a drink.

Giles, good manners at the fore, hesitated then said, "We're in the middle of a strategy session, and are rather busy at the moment, Robin."

Wood ignored Giles' declining to invite him into the discussion and Spike's silence. He slouched in his chair, stared into his shot glass a moment, then looked up and said, "So, Spike. Tell me about killing two slayers that the Council knows about. According to Giles, here, there were two more that just disappeared during the past hundred years; no trace of them was ever found. You kill them, too?"

Giles had started to protest more strongly against Wood interrupting his discussion with Spike, but the Watcher in him was intensely interested in this subject, and he leaned forward to listen. ‘I'd have gotten around to asking Spike the same question eventually, probably after the present crisis is over...but then again, that might have been too late,' Giles privately conceded, so he settled in to learn what he could.

Spike considered Wood for several seconds with hooded eyes. Emptying his shot glass and refilling it, he finally decided that it would make no difference at that point if he answered. He'd known this was coming anyway, ever since he'd let his rage at Wood touching his woman loosen his tongue, and with a small nod, he answered shortly, "I did."

In spite of having suspected the answer beforehand, Giles gave a startled sigh, exclaiming "Dear Lord," and collapsed back into his seat. Years of misjudging Spike, of not taking the extent of his deadliness seriously, of slighting him, and allowing Xander to abuse him flashed through the watcher's mind. A vampire with four slayer kills? Unheard of.

"Why didn't you tell anyone you'd killed them? Isn't that some kind of big achievement in the vampire world? Wouldn't it have made you Big Man in the Vamp Camp, the Slayer of Slayers?" Wood prodded with deceptive calm.

Spike looked affronted and stood up. Walking over to the door, he rested one shoulder against it and folded his arms. Staring at the Principal with a cold expression, he answered in a seldom heard upper crust British accent. "Contrary to popular opinion, Teacher, my ego does not need constant stroking." He quirked an eyebrow, and somehow managed to give the impression of sophisticated disdain despite wearing black denim and work boots.

Robin smiled thinly, thinking, ‘There he is again, the Victorian gentleman that made an appearance when I tried to kill the monster.' He felt a small sense of satisfaction in being able to provoke Spike into an uncharacteristic reaction.

‘Fascinating,' thought Giles. Spike's offended, and his human origins break through. ‘If we live through this apocalypse, and if he ever forgives me for abetting Wood in his slaying scheme, someday I'd love to discuss his life with him, and how and why he reinvented himself.'

Spike shook his head slightly, realizing he'd revealed a part of himself that he'd rather not have, and continued in his usual more coarse voice, "Was content to let the world think that Angelus was the Biggest Bad. I knew I'd offed four Slayers, that was enough for me. Never was interested in pomp and circumstance. Besides, attract too much attention from the Watcher boys, and they don't leave you alone. Constantly send out wet teams after you. Had to rid myself of several of those over the years as it was. I wasn't interested in lookin' over my shoulder all the time...wanted to be able to enjoy my unlife."

A shiver ran down Giles' spine as he realized that mistreating and underestimating Spike was one of the most dangerous mistakes he'd ever made. Giles had always assumed that Spike's impulsiveness made him predictable, that he couldn't stick to a plan, and was therefore less formidable. He recognized now that he'd underrated Spike's resourcefulness and had completely misjudged his motivations. Spike's inexplicable sense of fair play and his love of a challenge were likely the only things that had kept any of them alive before Spike had fallen in love with Buffy. Giles thanked the Lord that he was now firmly on their side.

Not having been in Sunnydale during the early "Buffy" years, Robin wasn't concerned with any of that. He'd been searching for Spike around New York then, though he hadn't known exactly who he was looking for at the time. He just wanted to get to the heart of the matter at hand. "What did you do with them? Why didn't anyone ever find them?" he asked as Spike sat back down and settled into a brooding silence, showing no signs of continuing his explanation.

"The past is dead. Let it rest in peace, Wood." Spike emptied his glass again with one swallow and slouched back onto the couch, contemplating the bottle, and how long its contents would last.

As the atmosphere in the room became oppressive, the principal pressed further, "I get it Spike, you're one of us now, but are there any more of them we should know about?"

Spike snorted and shrugged, "I've tracked down eight Slayers during my time, Teach; killed four of them." Then smirking at the other two men with a quirked eyebrow, as if taunting them, he finished with, "mated with one."

Wood flushed angrily, but neither he nor Giles rose to that challenge. Spike fell silent again, staring moodily into the bottom of his glass. Rupert's curiosity got the better of him, and leaning forward with clasped hands, he entered the conversation for the first time, "What happened to the other three?"

Spike glanced up at Giles and answered musingly, "I've always been drawn to Slayers, Rupe, ever since Angelus first told me they exist. "Ah, Slayers..." For a moment he paused, his lips curving upward, then continued with, "They give an edge to life that's lacking in regular folk. It's...exciting to fight them, fun to trade barbs with them, they're just plain ‘good times'. Basically, ordinary people have always just been food. Never was much of one for the preliminaries, either." He shrugged his shoulders again and frowned, "Didn't care for Angelus and Dru's ‘torture hobby.' Your average Joes were rather boring unless there was a mob of them that I could wade into with fists and fangs."

"But Slayers now..." Spike drifted off in memories for a few moments; then surprised them with another short burst of sophistication before lapsing back into street language. "I've always been rather proprietary about them." This time Spike hadn't seemed to notice his change in enunciation and vocabulary. "When I was able to find one, the Slayer was mine, to kill or not to kill. I've dusted a good number of other vamps for trying to horn in. There's one right now that hadn't better show his face around here if he values his neck," Spike's face flattened into the menacing expression that Robin was beginning to associate with William the Bloody.

"Oh? Who's that?" Asked Wood, glad now that he hadn't made a serious play for Buffy, as he had seriously contemplated doing before being distracted by finding out who Spike was. She was definitely William the Bloody's woman, and he didn't want that look focused on him again.

"Dracula. Tried to add Buffy to his harem awhile back. Slayer caught me at a weak moment, and I promised her I wouldn't hunt him down. Seems she isn't enamored with being fought over." He flashed a quirked eyebrow at them again and smirked, reminding Giles and Wood that he'd tussled with both of them over her in the past few days. Then in an aside to Giles, he added, "I could've told the Slayer that staking him wouldn't work, but to go for the head. His gypsy tricks couldn't have gotten around losing that."

Giles settled back thoughtfully. Spike was a resource he hadn't considered at the time. He could have been a big help against Dracula. As he knew the older vampire and his ways, Spike might even have managed to dust him for good if they had enlisted his aid, ‘or vice versa', an insidious voice in his head whispered. With what he knew about Spike now though, the Watcher doubted it.

Returning to their former topic, Spike continued, "Dru never approved of my thing for Slayers. When I'd suggest a little hunting trip, she'd say, ‘Now don't be greedy, my William, leave some for the other children. You've had sufficient.' Then she'd cock her head to the side like she was listening, get all serious and say daft something like, ‘Beware the sunshine, lest you drown in it.'" He snorted, "I laughed at the time, but she was right. I guess Miss Edith told her..." After a few silent moments he mused, "I never did tell Dru about the other two...but she knew."

Robin had been staring at him expressionlessly, trying not to let the vampire see how unnerved he was with Spike's impassive recital of his past. ‘My poor mother; no wonder she lost to him.' He wasn't familiar with Miss Edith, though, so asked who she was.

Giles filled in, "Drusilla is prescient. She often attributes her predictions to one of her china dolls, Miss Edith, or claims that the stars tell her."

Spike shook his head thoughtfully and continued, "Anyway, Drusilla would periodically follow Darla off to pay homage to ole' Bat Face."

"Ole' Bat Face?" Wood asked again, confused. He'd thought he had researched Spike's history thoroughly since The First had appeared to him as his mother and told him that Spike was the one that killed her. He realized that there were still a lot of details that he'd learn only by association with Spike. It was a chilling thought, associating with his mother's killer.

"The Master," Giles explained when again Spike didn't answer. "Darla's sire, head of Clan Aurelius before Buffy slew him. He was so old that his looks had deteriorated into permanent demon visage, hence ‘Old Bat Face'."

Sighing, Spike added morosely, "Peaches is clan leader now, since he dusted Darla before Buffy croaked the Master."

After a slight pause, Spike continued with, "Every now and then Drusilla would hare off to visit the Master or just dance away following the stars. I wasn't interested in toadying to the old bat, so refused to go along. I'd get bored while she was gone and search out the current Slayer. With the three that lived, Dru came back and dragged me off before we finished the dance," and Spike slumped down, closed his eyes and started snoring, refusing to acknowledge any further questions. His respirations slowed and eventually halted as he slid into genuine sleep.

As Giles quickly made notes on this new information and insight into the Slayer of Slayers (Wood's title was apt), Robin stared wordlessly at Spike. Realization of his situation settled over him with a chill. How had he thought even for a moment that he had a chance against the Master Vampire that had killed not only his own Slayer Mother, but three other Slayers as well; even if the demon had been hampered by the trigger? It had been pure suicide. His hubris had very nearly gotten him killed. In fact, it was amazing that Spike hadn't killed him, and for the first time Robin entertained the possibility that what they claimed was true, Spike had changed. Perhaps The First had appeared to him out of fear; fear that Spike could make a difference. The Principal gave his good nights to the Watcher, and left for his home. He had a lot to think about.

-----

Soon thereafter, Buffy returned, bearing a mystical scythe that she had pulled from the stone under Caleb's winery. Spike awoke just before she opened the door, as if he could sense her presence even in his sleep. Giles figured he probably could.

Buffy told them how she had "King Arthured" it from the stone. She'd discovered it in the basement after beating Caleb to a pulp in the chamber upstairs. She'd been distracted from returning to finish him off when an ancient woman who called herself the Guardian walked into the room. Last of a long line of Watchers of the Watchers, her kind had been around as long as the Shadow Men, who had become the first Watchers. The Guardians had tried to help the Slayers down through the ages. The old woman had explained that the scythe was the historical weapon of the Guardians, made and hidden centuries ago, to await the "Slayer of the Last Days," when it would be crucial in her fight against the ultimate evil. Sadly, Caleb had suddenly jumped down the hatch, completely healed from Buffy's beating. He'd broken the Guardian's neck before she could tell Buffy any more about the scythe and its powers.

Buffy had ultimately been able to kill Caleb with the scythe, but turned to Spike uncertainly. "It worries me that he healed so fast. It was every bit as fast as you and I do now. If The First can give his servants that kind of power, we may still be in trouble. If something should happen to me Spike, please, you must continue..."

"Not an option, lamb," Spike interrupted. If something happens to you, it'll happen to me. I'll only be around as long as you are."

Buffy put her hands on her hips and glared at him impatiently. "Spike, I feel the same way, but the stakes are too high. One of us may be killed. The other has to carry on long enough to stop The First. Besides, I realized something when I met the old woman, eventually I'll grow old and die! That's just a few years away by your standards! You can't die so soon!"

Spike stood up and tried to put his arms around her to comfort her. "Sorry, pet. No can do. It's just the way it is with mates. We live together, we die together. If nothing else, the survivor dies of a broken heart after the other goes; least wise, I will."

Stepping away from him, she exclaimed, "My God! How could you have done that to yourself? We've chopped off your lifespan! Why didn't you tell me? I never would have done it if I'd known that I was killing you years before your time. How can I bear that?" Buffy paced agitatedly back and forth.

Spike snagged Buffy as she strode past him, and folded her into his embrace, holding her there when she would have broken away again. "T'wasn't an issue with me, love. Even without the mating, I wouldn't have lived through another of your deaths. I not only can't live without you, I won't."

"Buffy, you needn't worry about it, anyway," said Giles. "In my research I've discovered that you won't get any older. Human women who mate with vampires don't age. Apparently that's one of the strengths they gain from the spell. What's not clear is whether you would have aged before the mating. I've also found that the Slayer demon is akin to the Vampire demon. No slayer has lived as long as you have. Theoretically, would a slayer grow old? Or would she live immortally as long as she wasn't killed, as a vampire does? It's unknown."

Buffy stopped struggling in Spike's arms and stared at Giles, not sure how she felt about that. It'd take some thought. Before mating, she would have despaired at the thought of having to live forever as a slayer. Buffy knew she would have had a full measure of the death wish that Spike had once claimed all Slayers possessed. She had a sneaking suspicion that even if all slayers were immortal, the Council would never have told the girls themselves; too much power there, or perhaps too much pathos, depending on the Slayer's state of mind. "I won't age and die?"

"That's correct," said Giles, smiling at her.

Turning to Spike, she asked, "Again, why didn't you tell me? I've been worrying and worrying about it!"

"Didn't know about it. If I ever did hear, I'd forgotten. Never have worried much about immortality. Like I said before, t'wasn't an issue. I'm not living through your death next time. Spike suddenly couldn't contain his joy at Giles' news, and whooping, swung her up in his arms. His vamp face broke through, and eyes flashing gold he roared with exultation. Twirling them both around several times before setting her back down and hugging her exuberantly, his face melted back to human. "We'll be together forever, love! So long as we can keep the nasties from getting a piece of us, we're together forever!" he laughed, giving her a hard smacking kiss on the lips. ‘She's as immortal as I am. I have her for eternity! Even without turning her!' His demon roared again internally. "Suddenly I find I do care about immortality after all," he rejoiced. Not for the first time in the past few days, he wondered how he'd gotten so lucky.

Buffy laughed joyously with him, and when she staggered dizzily, Spike steadied her with gentle hands and a tender expression.

"Yes, I think I could get to like this immortal thing after all," she replied smugly, smiling up into his brilliant blue eyes, fingertips tracing his eyebrow, cheekbone, and lips.

Grinning whimsically at their antics, Giles recognized the love there, and surprised himself by feeling happy for her, for them even. He'd felt a momentary twinge of apprehension when Spike had changed to demon visage, but Giles recognized the love even in that fearsome countenance. He sat down suddenly, having difficulty processing the fact that he was happy, not just for her, but for them!

-----

Spike and Buffy took a quick spin through the graveyards after their discussion with Giles. As they walked along, Spike told her about Kennedy's idiocy, as he called it.

Buffy surprised him by brushing it off. "I'm not surprised," she said. "Faith's had more time to get to know them than I have. She doesn't have the same responsibilities I do, so can afford to be more fun. I'm just surprised Faith backed me up, and didn't go along with her." Buffy shrugged, "I don't have time to worry about it. Thankfully it sounds like Kennedy didn't get much support, so that should be the end of it," and for the Slayer, it was. Spike decided privately he'd keep his eyes open.

Buffy was much more interested in trying her new scythe out on something. They didn't have much luck finding anything, though. Faith and the potentials had patrolled earlier that evening while Buffy was busy with Caleb.

Then, gliding smoothly out of the shadows, an eerie, dark haired beauty came to a halt in front of them. "What have you done, my prince? Oh, my sweet Willy, you've drowned in the sunshine." Drusilla looked mournfully up into his eyes and touched his cheek.

Buffy growled at seeing her mate's sire touch him, and Drusilla's attention turned to her. Eyes flashing yellow, her face morphed into that of a demon, and she roared back, lunging forward with fangs and claws bared. Buffy smiled grimly and hefted the scythe threateningly. The ho bag was history.

Spike stepped between them, in front of Buffy but facing the other vampire and implored, "Dru, please. Don't make us dust you."

Stopping mid lunge, she asked uncertainly, hands fluttering, "You still love princess, pretty Spoike?"

"Yes, Dru. Please. Just go," he asked sadly, holding his hands up as if to ward her off and standing determinedly between them.

Mood switching quickly to petulance, she stamped her foot and demanded, "How could you let yourself be seduced away from mummy by the sunshine? Miss Edith warned you time and time again. I'm very cross with you!"

"Drusilla, I wasn't seduced away from you. You left me, and eventually I moved on," he said, trying to reason with her, even though from over a hundred years of experience, he knew logic was useless with his insane sire. How was he going to get her to leave without them having to kill her? He knew intimately how Buffy had suffered for slaying Angel, and he prayed to a long neglected God that he wouldn't have to do the same with his sire. But if she continued to attack his mate, that's what he'd do without hesitation.

"I was going to come back, you know I always come back," Drusilla pouted now, lower lip quivering like a child trying not to cry. She'd foreseen this possibility long ago, but still it had been a shock when she felt the mating. Her William had always been so devoted. He took her back no matter what she did or how she strayed.

"It's too late, Pet. You were right about the sunshine. She's glorious," and looking back at Buffy for a moment with a face filled with awe, pronounced, "She's my destiny."

Buffy's smile was blinding as the truth of that statement rang through her. She had quivered with indignation throughout the foolish conversation. But Spike had suffered through her meeting with Angel in silence, so she had guessed she could make it through his with his crazy ex. She was glad she had done so, to be rewarded by having him say something so profound and moving.

Drusilla thought back to when he was a fledgling, and he had said the same of her. Even then, though passionately and sweetly spoken, she had known that she wasn't his destiny, that her "bravest knight in all the land" was meant for other things. She was only keeping him safe until his time came.

Looking deeply into his eyes, and once again placing her hand on his cheek, the prophetess vampire intoned, "The Light is your destiny. Even so. For you, sweet William, I shall spare the sunshine," and she turned away. Drusilla rejoined the shadows, dipping and swaying in dance while singing mournfully,

"My Dark Prince is no more,
He drowned in the Light,
He took up her Fight,
He'll dance with the Dark
Nevermore, nevermore,
He walks in the Light evermore..."

As her presence faded from their senses, Spike turned to the Slayer hesitantly, "Buffy, I..."

"It's O.K., Spike. Angel's in my heart and past, Drusilla's in yours. They take nothing away from what we have together."

He swept her into his arms thankfully and kissed her; then they turned towards home and sleep, for tomorrow was their wedding day.

Tbc...
Chapter 9 - With This Ring by Joyful Dayz
Author's Notes:
A/N: Thank you so much, LadyForAsh, for betaing!
Thoughts are in ‘single quotes’
I’ve paraphrased a few sentences of the dialog from “Touched” and “Chosen” in this chapter. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 9 – With This Ring

The next day dawned bright and sunny. The garden was fragrant with multicolored blooms, and lights twinkled in the trees. The florist had delivered massive flower arrangements, bridal and bridesmaids bouquets, and boutonnières on her way out of town. Spike's payment had financed her flight. Buffy looked around happily, but wondered in the back of her mind if something wasn't bound to go wrong. After all, if her wedding day followed the pattern of her birthdays, a disaster was waiting to happen. Spike caught her worry, and sent reassuring thoughts her way. Chagrined, Buffy attempted to dampen her anxiety. She didn't want to spoil the day for him; he'd worked so hard to make it perfect for her.

The Justice of the Peace, the Honorable Horace Greenwell, arrived safely and confided to Spike that he was leaving town after the ceremony as well. "Sunnydale is just too unsafe now days," he said, eyeing Clem uncertainly. The loose skinned, floppy eared demon had arrived directly after the Judge. Spike clapped Clem on the shoulder and said, "Your Honor, this is Clem, my best friend and best man. Clem, meet his Honor, Justice of the Peace, Greenwell." Spike grinned devilishly at the Judge's dismay. He still felt a thrill when confronted with fear, and prejudice irritated him enough that he wasn't above toying with it.

The sweet tempered Clem smiled and shook the man's hesitant hand. Seeing the apprehension on Greenwells' face, Clem kindly told him that he had a skin condition. Embarrassed, the Justice cleared his throat and nodded. He clasped his hands behind his back, rocking on the balls of his feet, and longed for the ceremony to be over so he could be gone.

Soon Clem was laughing and greeting everyone exuberantly. His arrival had distracted Buffy from her worry, and she hugged him, asking how he'd been. "Fine, fine. I've been staying with my cousin up in San Francisco the last little while, until things settle down and get back to normal here," he answered.

Dawn squealed and flew into his arms, catching him up on all the latest happenings, and teasingly commiserating with him that there weren't any Cheetos or popcorn chicken here today. He'd just have to make do with chocolate. Being a junk food lover, Clem assured her that he'd find plenty to keep himself satisfied.

The Potentials crowded around and begged him to show them his scary face again. One night Buffy had taken them to a demon bar to prepare them for future encounters. She'd wanted them to understand that they were in a dangerous place, and to be prepared for anything. She'd had Clem flash them an aggressive face. He'd frightened them all with green and purple snakes exploding out of his face from nowhere, hissing and snapping angrily, popping eyes, blown up whirling ears, and roars. Afterwards, they'd likened it to the thrill of a good spook alley or amusement park ride, so Buffy's objective hadn't really been met. Now they all begged him for another look.

Glancing over to make sure the Justice of the Peace's attention was focused elsewhere; Clem obliged the girls with a quick display. They jumped back and shrieked happily, enjoying the thrill as if they hadn't known what to expect. Laughter rang throughout the yard.

Only Kennedy refrained, scowling and commenting to Rona about how silly they all were. Rona usually agreed with her, so Kennedy was surprised when she just laughed and said, "Silly's a good thing right now. We need something to take the edge off and Clem's a good escape."

Working up her nerve, Vi asked, "Why do you make that face? What's it for?" Even knowing he was friendly, she was cautious around him. His red eyes made her uncomfortable.

"I call it my ‘hunch back face'," Clem smiled at her, trying to make her feel more comfortable. He had the senses of a predator and could smell emotions, but not the temperament of one, and always felt sad when confronted with fear. His fanged grin didn't reassure her much, however.

"Why? You don't hunch," questioned Amanda. She liked the big floppy demon, and wanted to get to know him better.

Sensing her feelings, he grinned happily at the prospect of making a new friend and explained, "You know how a cat hisses when it's mad or scared? How it hunches its back with its tail sticking straight up and its fur standing on end?"

"Yeah," they all nodded. Several of them had seen cat fights, or cats confronting dogs. Those who came from cities where animals were kept tamely on leashes thought of Halloween pictures of hissing black cats. An angry cat was pretty impressive.

"Same thing, really," continued Clem. "It's my kind's defense mechanism. The face is pretty useless in a fight, unless they have you in a clinch tight enough for the snakes to get them. It's good as a scare or surprise tactic, though. It startles them long enough to give you time to run away." He waggled his eyebrows at them and they all laughed.

-----

Spike and Buffy's wedding went off without a hitch, though there was one surprise. Buffy looked radiant in her white wedding gown and veil. Spike's heart felt so full, he thought he might expire on the spot, watching her walk down the aisle on Rupert's arm. Standing at Spike's side, Clem beamed. He remembered Spike's pain all last year and his despair just before leaving town, and marveled at how his friend had been able to turn things around.

Buffy and Spike spoke their vows with joy in their hearts, promising to love each other and honor their callings through eternity. Most of those present didn't understand the significance of the ‘eternity' part, and the couple was content to leave it that way. They exchanged gold wedding bands, and as their lips met, waves and flashes of power and red and yellow light erupted from them and washed through the garden, stunning those in attendance.

"Holy Moly, what's that!" cried Xander as Dawn and the potentials jumped up, crying out in consternation. Faith and Robin bounded out of their seats, automatically assumed fighting stances and scanned the garden urgently. Andrew dove under the covered table that was serving as a makeshift podium, pulling his Honor down with him. Willow stood, looked around and extended her senses, searching the area to find the source of the power. She was astonished when she saw that it was from Buffy and Spike. Anya answered Xander's query with, "My word; that was mating power!" She stared in surprise at the newlyweds.

Spike, Buffy and Giles were all as startled as everyone else, not having expected a repeat light show from the Mating Ritual. Buffy called out several times; then finally had to whistle to get their attention. She calmed them all down by saying, "It isn't anything to worry about, guys. Apparently the Vampire Mating Ceremony approves of our human wedding; it was just a do over of what happened when Spike and I mated."

The pandemonium quieted to wondering whispers at her explanation. After that display, none there were inclined to question the union, though Kennedy accepted it grudgingly, and Robin did so with reservation.

Spike and Buffy signed the wedding certificate, and the Justice of the Peace used his laptop to duly record the information online afterwards so that he didn't need to return to the Court House. He was especially anxious to leave town now, after seeing the fireworks. With the marriage recorded electronically, all was legal and tidy. ‘Just what kind of people did I join in holy matrimony, though?' he wondered. ‘A vampire mating ritual?!? Vampires aren't real! And even if they are, they can't go outside in daylight, can they?'

He didn't know. He'd seen some pretty freakish looking people lurking in the shadows around town the past few weeks, some of them had even looked monsterish. One of the odder looking of them was right here today as the best man. ‘Red and yellow waves of light and...pressure...heat...power? Maybe they're all witches and warlocks, though magic isn't supposed to be real, either!' Or maybe it was just a clever light show, and they wanted everyone to think it was magic. Whatever, they were weird, and he wanted to be gone. Horace refused refreshments, hustled out to his car, and drove away.

Buffy tossed her bouquet into the crowd and Anya surprised herself by catching it. She hadn't even been going to try for it, and suddenly it was in her hands. Everyone cheered, Xander at the forefront. She smiled hesitantly and buried her face in the petals to sniff their fragrance and hide her uncertainty.

Andrew took charge as the wedding photographer and gloried in the importance of his role. He ordered everyone about to place them picturesquely and appropriated the bouquet from Anya, insisting that Buffy must be holding it in the pictures, but that he'd give it back to Anya afterwards. He even used a tripod so that he was in several of the portraits. When Buffy had had all she could stand of formal pictures, and commanded, "Andrew, enough!" he continued taking candid poses and videos, proclaiming how much she and Spike would thank him later for the memories.

After the wedding toasts were given, Spike glanced over the abundance of chocolate and noted dryly, "I reckon I'm lucky you all didn't find, or (looking over at Willow with arched brow) mojo chocolate champagne for the toasts."

"Oh, I didn't think of that!" cried Dawn, and she turned eagerly to Willow, could you have done that?"

Spike groaned and Willow shrugged, then shook her head and laughed with the others. Buffy fed Spike a bite of cake for the traditional cake cutting picture, but that was it for him as far as ‘chocolate decadence' went. She, on the other hand, planned to indulge in a sample of everything, for once not concerned with fat or calories.

The newly wedded couple glanced at each other and laughed when they saw that the groom on the cake top had red paint on his lips, dripping artfully down from one side of his mouth to his jaw line. They remembered how Buffy had suggested doing that when she was planning their wedding during Willow's spell.

"Who's the artist?" Spike asked, holding the bride and groom up beside his face and flashing fang with a grin. Dawn raised her hand, giggling. Setting the cake topper back in place, he took off after Dawn in game face. She squealed and ran laughing through the crowd. Spike eventually caught her, and lifting her high in his arms, swung her around, then lowered her and growled playfully into her neck. She laughed delightedly.

Buffy smiled indulgently, Giles shook his head ruefully, and many of the young girls present looked on wistfully. There was so little laughter and silliness in their lives nowadays, they missed it. They envied Dawn's relationship with Spike, and hoped that they'd be around long enough to form a friendship with him.

Xander and Robin frowned disapprovingly. A vampire chasing you, and having his fangs at your throat was no joking matter.

Anya rolled her eyes at them and said, "Oh lighten up, you two. Things will be deadly serious again by tonight. You won't have to put up with their happiness for long." She took each determinedly by the arm and marched them off to the buffet table.

Looking at each other over her head, they grinned sheepishly and shrugged, not surprised at having similar opinions of Spike once again. Turning to the food, they settled their thoughts on their stomachs for the next while.

The wedding buffet was set up grandly at the back of the garden, chocolate wedding cake, tiny chocolate milkshakes to drink, a chocolate fountain with assorted fruits, marshmallows and sponge cake to dip, chocolate cheese cake, double chocolate chunk cookies, chocolate mints, chocolate covered nuts, it went on and on. In deference to Spike, who was not a chocolate fan, there were also buffalo wings, blooming onions, and beer. Those were all a big hit with the other men there. Giles stood guard vigilantly over the drinks to make sure that no one underage snuck anything alcoholic. He impassively handed out sodas to the teenagers complaining that they needed something to drink that wasn't chocolate.

Pausing while filling his plate, Xander put an arm around Anya and pulled her in for a quick kiss. "I'm glad we can enjoy our own happiness now, Auny, rather than just putting up with someone else's." He smiled down at her and softly pressed his lips to hers again.

Anya smiled with delight, warmed by his spontaneous display and pet name. She wasn't used to feeling cherished, not even before he had bailed on her at the alter. When she had given in to Xander's entreaties the day before yesterday, she'd promised herself that she wouldn't hope for anything more than being orgasm buddies. Xander wasn't capable of more, she had warned herself. This time she'd protect her heart from being broken.

With his small gesture, though, optimism crept into her thoughts. ‘Perhaps things will be better this time around. So far he hasn't even told me off for not being tactful.' For all of her scolding herself to be careful, to wait and see, Anya's heart filled with hope for the future.

Standing next to Anya and Xander in line, Wood looked away from them and around the yard until he sighted Faith. He hadn't ever seen her in a skirt before; it showed her long legs to advantage. She'd been studiously ignoring him all day. He considered her probable reason, and shaking his head, decided they needed to talk.

Sipping her milkshake and eyeing the well laden buffet table with satisfaction, Willow commented, "The Hilton did us proud in spite of three quarters of their employees having left town." Dawn nodded in agreement, her mouth full of chocolate cheesecake. She didn't think she'd ever tasted anything so Heavenly. She mentally planned her next foray into bliss. ‘Fudge covered chocolate cream cake, here I come!' She thought, exhaling an "Mmm," and smacking her lips.

Anya, nibbling on a few chocolate dipped cashews, responded bluntly. "And well they should have done us proud, considering the huge fee we paid them," she nodded emphatically to emphasize her point.

Giles watched his charges overindulge in a chocolate frenzy and shook his head, polishing his new glasses and worrying about upset stomachs later that evening. He'd better make sure they were stocked up on antacid.

-----

Festivities over, everyone helped with the clean up. Unstringing lights from the trees, Faith and Robin exchanged a private smile at the thought of how she had convinced him to help put them up. After reporting ‘the Kennedy Incident' to Giles the day before, Faith had sauntered up to him with a smile, "So, Robin, what'cha doin' this morning?"

He'd looked down at her, thinking what a beautiful young woman she was...such big soulful eyes and lush lips, not to mention the rest of her. "Not a lot. Giles has gone back into research mode. I guess I might as well go home for awhile, I could use a shower."

"Can I cadge one there, too? I really need to get away from the maddening crowd for a bit," Faith asked, her brown eyes entreating.

"Sure," answered Robin agreeably. He totally understood her need for some peace and quiet. The sheer number of people in the house was unnerving, but that most of them were teenage girls, who couldn't decide from one minute to the next whether to erupt in giggles or whimper in fear made it even more unsettling.

-----

Fresh from the shower and clad only in a towel, Faith stalked Robin with pleasure on her mind. Eyes sparkling, lips glistening temptingly, she walked with swaying hips, up so close to him that her breasts were centimeters away him. She took his hand and laid it against her cheek. "It's been awhile. Am I out of line?" she queried, closing her eyes and nuzzling into his hand.

"Aren't you a Spike fan?" Robin asked uncertainly, startled that Faith was coming on to him. She hadn't shown any interest in him previously. Unless he was mistaken, her eyes had followed Spike. Nevertheless, he was unable to resist running his other hand over her shoulder and down her arm. ‘So beautiful,' he thought.

"Nah, vamps are B's kink," Faith whispered with a small smile, her eyes half closed, her lips slightly open invitingly. "I'm not into cold comfort; I prefer some warmth in my man. You a Buffy fan?"

Lowering his head to brush his lips over hers, he answered, "No. Like you said, she has a vamp kink. I much prefer a woman who appreciates a hot man." He straightened up and smirked at her and she laughed. "Oh I do, I appreciate this hot man a lot," and one after the other, she flicked open the buttons on his shirt.

He pulled her into his arms, kissing her with urgency, and they fell backwards onto the bed. Her towel dropped unheeded to the floor.

Later, tracing a hand languidly over his well muscled pecs, Faith casually mentioned, "So, I noticed some Christmas lights in B's basement this morning. Help me string them in the trees for the wedding tomorrow?"

He laughed and hugged her. "Anything you want, babe."

-----

Now, taking the lights back down, Robin attempted to query her about the brush off, but Faith just smiled and moved on to another tree, leaving him with his mouth open. When they met again at the last tree, Faith smirked and said, "Sorry if it seemed like I was blowing you off earlier, I was just, you know, trying to blow you off."

Robin stared coldly at her and answered, "You know what? I figured that one out all by myself."

Wrapping a string of lights around her arm, Faith grinned and said, "Once I've been with a guy, I know just about all I need to about him. After all, men are only good for one thing." She cocked an eyebrow, challenging him to respond.

Turned off, he replied expressionlessly, "What a bleak way to live your life. I feel sorry for you." He started to turn away, but Faith grabbed his arm and swung him back.

"Well don't bother. It's the way of the world." She stared at him, good humor forgotten.

"Oh, that's nice to know, for a second there I thought it was more of that defensive isolationist Slayer crap." And Robin told her that there was a whole world out there that she knew nothing of, and that a lot of the guys in it were pretty decent.

They bantered back and forth about shifting priorities and who was prettier, her or him, and who had the best skills and who needed more experience. Finally they laughed and agreed that if they made it through the upcoming fight they'd give it a try between them. Parting with a smile, they each thought that they had something to look forward to for the first time since they could remember.

-----

During the clean up Spike's patience lapsed and his hunger for Buffy reached the boiling point. He growled to Giles and Willow, "We need to get something from the house," and grabbing Buffy's hand dragged her off. His excuse was so flimsy that everyone within hearing smiled and Xander laughed and gave a wolf whistle, but Spike ignored them. Buffy smiled back at them and shrugged as he hauled her off behind him. When Spike pulled her around to the front yard, Buffy asked what he was doing.

Answering her with a light peck to the lips, Spike swung his bride up in his arms and carried her over the threshold into their home. The froth of her white gown and veil trailed behind them and Buffy's heart tripped. She smiled up into his deep blue eyes with the fulfillment of a dream that since being called as the Slayer, she hadn't thought she'd ever see. ‘How does he know to do these sweet little things?' she wondered happily. She hadn't even thought of him carrying her over the threshold today, so he couldn't have gotten it from her mind.

Up in her room, Spike locked the door, and with difficulty restrained himself from ripping her wedding gown from her. He positioned her in front of the mirror and carefully pulled the pins from her hair, drawing the veil away and letting it drift to the floor. Her golden hair fell in waves around her shoulders, and he nuzzled into it to feel its soft texture against his face and savor its apple blossom scent.

Moving around behind her, with trembling fingers he carefully undid the tiny buttons down her back, kissing each bit of skin he uncovered. Drawing the gown slowly down, he shook with excitement and his face shifted at the sight of the shocking red lace demi bra, camisole and thong he had bought her the day before. "How'd you hide this little bit of sin under all that white virtue, baby?" He asked with burning amber eyes as he cupped her breasts from behind.

Buffy just laughed breathlessly, unable to form coherent words. Watching her body exposed inch by inch in the mirror as her handsome husband touched and kissed her had her writhing with heat. He slowly slid her camisole down, unfastening the bra as he went, sliding her thong down until all joined her gown, where it had pooled around her feet in a ring of satin and lace. His lips and tongue traced a path along with each movement of his hands.

Buffy shuddered with sensation, visual and tactile, as she watched the fully clothed Spike wrap himself around her nude body, tasting her from head to toe. Her knees buckled, and she grasped his shoulders to keep from sliding to the floor.

Spike lifted her over her clothing and carried her to the bed, laying her gently down and following to cover her with his body, to continue their loving there.

Tbc...
Chapter 10 - The Turok-Han by Joyful Dayz
Author's Notes:
Thank you LadyForAsh for betaing.
Violence warning this chapter. I own nothing, am affiliated with no one, I simply like to play with Buffy and Spike.
Chapter 10 – The Turok-Han

Spike and Buffy with scythe in hand, made a trip to the school that evening as soon as the sun went down. They were hunting uber vamps, and felt the school was likely the best place to find them, since it rested over the Hellmouth. Giles accompanied them to study their new strengths and powers as they fought.

Willow and Dawn settled into research mode, continuing to try to learn anything available about the scythe and amulet, and their potential powers. Clem was spending the night with them before returning to San Francisco in the morning, and Dawn pulled him into the research session. Comfortable with each other again, Faith and Robin took those potentials that didn't have sick stomachs to patrol the streets and graveyards.

Andrew sat with his head over the toilet bowl; sure he'd have to spend the night there. It had been so long since he'd had beer that he'd shown no discretion at all, vying with Xander to drink the most. As the more experienced drinker, Xander won hands down, though he didn't feel a lot better than Andrew did at the moment.

That left the hung over and overindulged to the dubious nursing skills and tender mercies of Anya, who scanned the miserable creatures unsympathetically and pronounced, "You've all poisoned yourselves and deserve your fates." She scooped Xander and Andrew up and manhandled them out the door, telling the rest of them, "the three of us are going to the hospital to scrounge nausea medicine and Tylenol for tonight, and dressing supplies for after the big fight. Many of you will be dead or dying then, instead of just feeling like you want to and we'll need all the supplies we can get."

As Buffy and company arrived at the school, the lights went out all over town. The folk at the power plant had finally fled. That left searching through the halls and rooms of the school in the dark, but other than the stray ordinary vampire, easily dusted, their search was in vain. Buffy marveled again with Giles about her night vision. Turning to Spike she commented, "Man, you vamps really have an unfair advantage there."

He replied with a smirk as he glided silently through the shadows, "Predators have a lot of unfair advantages, love; speed, strength, heightened senses, night vision, stealth. You're the supreme predator yourself now." Not commenting, Buffy silently admired the wiry strength and smooth grace of her own supreme predator as he stalked his prey -- other predators.

They finally found success in the basement, where they disturbed a nest of Turok-Han that had set up camp to the side of the Seal. Twenty of them looked up as the three entered the room. The uber vamps grinned confidently, sure that here was an easy meal. Giles backed into a corner with a flame thrower in case he was needed. He knew he'd have no chance with stake or sword. They'd already determined that crosses and holy water were useless against the uber vamps when Buffy had fought one a few weeks ago. After the beating she'd taken initially, and the difficult time she'd had killing that one, Giles was anxious to see what difference their increased powers made. Buffy and Spike took up positions in front of him and the battle began.

Spike stepped up to the first one and attempted to slice through its neck with his sword. The blade shattered on vertebrae and it roared with pain but kept coming. Dodging aside from its grasping claws, he grabbed his battle ax and swept it cleanly through the neck. The dust flew and the other vampires stared in shock for a moment before howling with rage and attacking in force.

Buffy staked the next one, but the stake wasn't strong enough, and shattered on its breastbone. It lifted her and threw her against a wooden beam, splintering it. "You broke Mr. Pointy!" She exclaimed as she stood up, and hefting a six foot section of the beam, rammed it all the way through the uber vamp, causing a cloud of dust to fly. Grabbing her scythe, she slashed and staked her way through them. The scythe worked wonderfully. With her new strength and speed she was able to slay them as easily as she had done modern vampires with regular slayer strength.

Meanwhile, with the ax in one hand and a sword that Giles had spelled with strength in the other, Spike spun, kicked and hacked his way through the ancient vampires. A huge grin on his game face, he whooped and hollered and generally enjoyed himself.

Buffy laughed at his foolery, and relaxed into it. She admitted for the first time since her ill fated "want, take, have" night with Faith so long ago, that she could have fun while slaying. Spike had brought life back into her calling. Laughing and whooping herself, she finally understood his love affair with violence.

"You've ruined me, William the Bloody!" She yelled while kicking backwards to knock a vamp flying, swinging the scythe to chop off a reaching arm and staking a third with the wooden point on the backstroke. "I'll never again be a stuck up tight ass with no sense of fun; pouting and whining and feeling the burden of my slayerness!" When she and Spike were immersed in the blood vision, she had witnessed first hand Spike and Faith's interaction during Faith's body swap. She finally knew for sure what had happened between them.

Spike laughed with glee at her reference as he toyed with another vamp by using its face as a punching bag. He quipped back, "Told you, Slayer, that you were missing out on all the fun in the work place! Fists and Fangs, there's nothing like them!"

After giving the prehistoric vampire a few more satisfying cuffs, he sobered. "Not much of a wedding night for you, though, lamb, I'm sorry," Spike added as he punched his fist into the Turok-Han's chest and ripped out the heart. It stared in shock at him as he crushed its heart in his hand; then finally dusted as he shrugged and thrust his stake into the pulped mass.

"I had my wedding night this afternoon, babe." Buffy replied as she swung the scythe and smoothly chopped another one in half across the abdomen. As the two halves sprayed blood and internal organs, they crawled towards each other, and she sliced the head off. It dusted. "Tonight will be frosting on the cake."

Giles was feeling rather ill after observing the pair's tests to see what it took to kill the Turok-Han. They were enjoying the investigation rather too much, in his opinion. "Get with the program, you two, quit playing around and be serious," he chided. The ancient vampires were frighteningly hard to slay. Luckily the mated duo was up to the task.

Giles was amazed at the speed with which they moved. At times they actually blurred as they twisted and turned, vaulted and somersaulted, attacked and feinted. The power behind their punches and kicks was astounding. He shook his head as Spike kicked a vamp across the room and it slammed against the wall fifteen feet above the ground. The Watcher was reminded of Glory and the power behind her blows. Spike followed the vamp and kicked it again as it slid down towards the floor. His foot slammed all the way through it into the wall behind. That took a moment to untangle himself and Buffy laughed at his predicament as the skewered Turok-Han tried to bite him. Spike solved his problem by twisting its head off and freeing himself as the dust settled.

"You'll have to start wearing wooden shoes, Spike, if you're going to stake them with your feet," she laughed.

He just growled and threw back, "Yuk it up, Slayer." Diving into a somersault Spike avoided another vamp that was swinging at his neck with a sword from behind. Jumping up, he vaulted to where he'd dropped his ax and sent it spinning through the air to take the head off the uber vamp that had been threatening his.

Where ordinary slayer strength hadn't been sufficient to stake a Turok-Han hard enough to pierce bone and enter the heart without great difficulty, Giles noted that vampire-mated-slayer strength was. Ordinary stakes and swords weren't strong enough though, they tended to shatter with the force needed to cut through the primordial vampires' sternums. He and Willow would have to spell their entire weapons cache to do the job.

Giles was glad he had joined the Coven himself for a refresher course in magic when he was in England. When they had called him, he'd been reluctant, telling the witches there that he was past spell casting, but they had convinced him that he'd need it here when he came back. They were right. He saw that the sword he had enchanted for Spike was working adequately, though not as neatly as the scythe. Its makers and enchanters exceeded his own level of competence. It was unfortunate there was only one of them.

When there was one Turok-Han left in the room, Buffy pulled Spike aside. "Flame it, Giles," she said. "I want to know if that will kill it." Giles nodded and turned the flame thrower on it. The uber vamp burst into flame and roared in agony, but didn't dust; instead it charged him. Just as Spike and Buffy stepped in with scythe and ax to finish it off before it could grab the weapon from Giles, it suddenly disintegrated into a pile of ash. So, they did burn, though not as quickly as modern vamps. That seemed to be the way of it. With the exception of religious icons, basically the same things killed them; it was just a lot harder to do.

The trio left the basement discussing all they had learned that night. They didn't notice the dead Caleb standing on the Seal and glaring angrily at them as they walked away.

-----

Giles decreed that they'd better charm all the regular weapons not only with extra strength, but with added power in each thrust or slash. Buffy and Spike were well able to handle the uber vamps. Faith's strength should be adequate with enhanced weapons, but everyone else would be in trouble. Giles hoped Willow and Dawn had come up with something in their research. He and the two girls had a long night ahead of them, for Buffy had decided that tomorrow was to be the showdown with The First. They weren't going to give it any more time to prepare. They couldn't count on it not having seen their fight tonight, and thus knowing about their mating.

Worrying about the potentials, all with latent slayer strength, but not the actuality, Buffy suddenly had an idea. Her ancient Slayer weapon was filled with power. She and Faith could both feel it thrumming through it. She had a powerful witch at her side. Willow could harness the scythe's power, and every potential that could be a Slayer, would be a Slayer now.

After a moment of stunned surprise, Giles exclaimed, "That's outrageous, it flies in the face of everything...and it's bloody brilliant!" He and Buffy began discussing the possibilities. Activating the potentials would give them all a fighting chance against the Turok-Han. The first chance Giles had been able to see for the potentials, they needn't be unprotected after all. Spike listened quietly for a few minutes, and then simply said, "Magic always has consequences. Always."

Buffy turned to him with a frown and asked, "What do you mean? Don't you like my idea, Spike?"

Looking grim, he reiterated, "I mean just what I said, Slayer."

Buffy pouted at him, looking crestfallen, and Spike slipped his arm around her and continued, "It's not that I don't like your idea, pet. Like Watcher said, it's bloody brilliant. But magic always has consequences. Consider them before you mojo on such a massive scale."

Giles looked thoughtful and said, "Yes...having two Slayers in the world weakened the Chosen Line enough to allow The First to start this war...what will turning all potentials into Slayers do to it?"

The Watcher continued to hypothesize. "If we activate all the Potentials, will there be enough magic to call a new Slayer when one is killed? With all the Potentials made Slayers, will there be new Potentials called so that there even is someone to be chosen? Will the new Slayers receive full strength? We don't know very much about the Slayer Demon. Is it perhaps a huge single essence with unlimited resources?...Unlimited seems unlikely since having just 2 Slayers wreaked havoc. Is there one single demon that inhabits Slayer after Slayer, or are there many who can occupy each new Slayer as she is called, as there are many Vampire Demons? And if so, how did having two Slayers at once weaken the line?"

"We need to do some extensive research into the nature of the Slayer Demon before attempting this," Giles concluded with frustration, "and there isn't time for that. We don't know what the consequences would be. We'll have to try to find out the fast way, from Beljoxa's Eye or the Coven. Hopefully one of them will have some insight."

As soon as they arrived home, Giles and Buffy had a quick conference with the other adults. Willow and Dawn turned their research prowess towards "slayerizing the masses" as Buffy called it. Giles made a call to the Coven and asked them to look into it; then he, Buffy, Spike and Clem left to confer with Beljoxa's Eye. Buffy and Spike went to provide protection in the ever more dangerous streets of Sunnydale, and Giles asked the other demon to accompany them because he felt it would be quicker to have Clem open the vortex, in case Spike's soul interfered with the process.

Clem chattered continually as they walked along. Inside he was an accumulation of nerves. He'd left town last week to avoid finding himself in a situation like this. If only he'd gone right after the festivities, he'd be well on his way back to San Francisco by now, he thought. ‘But it was sunset by then, and I was worried about being out alone after dark. Look where that got me; out with the Slayer at night, confronting big scary eyeballs. Great. Just Great.' They arrived in the alleyway that housed the vortex to Beljoxa's Eye without incident, but Clem balked at slicing his own palm. "I'm a little squeamish at the sight of blood you know," he said sheepishly.

"Look away then, mate," said Spike gently, and he took the other's big hand. Clem turned his head away as the vampire raised it to his mouth. Spike's fangs emerged just long enough to make a small slash in the other demon's palm. Clem jerked, and a couple of snakes hissed, but he stood quiescently as Spike closed Clem's fist around the cut and squeezed a few drops of blood onto the ground. "Go on then, you can do it," Spike encouraged him.

Clem flung his bleeding hand out and cried "EK'VOLA MOK'T BELJOXA DO'KAR!" With a blinding flash the portal opened and the four of them pushed their way into the windy vortex.

"Well, who have we here?" asked the giant eye dryly as they struggled up to it, hair blowing and clothing flapping. All smaller eyes on its surface studied Buffy and Spike intently. "So, Slayer, you found a way to negate your disruption of the Chosen Line."

"Huh?" questioned Buffy, clueless.

Staring at Beljoxa's Eye with narrowed eyes, Giles asked more eloquently, "What do you mean?"

"You did it without knowing it would heal the rift? Interesting; by mating with the vampire, you have moved out of the Slayer Line and into the Immortal Line. What appeared to be an irrevocable breach has been sealed. The Chosen Line is stable again."

"So Slayers aren't immortal, after all," concluded the Watcher.

"That is correct. Why have you interrupted my meditations?" Inquired Beljoxa's eye.

"And again I say, huh?" Buffy asked with hands on her hips, impatiently this time.

"I'll explain it after we finish here, Buffy," murmured Giles, turning back to the eye.

Shrugging, she said, "Fine. We came to ask if you know whether anything bad will happen if we activate all the Potentials into Slayers. As they are now, their chances are zilch in the upcoming fight against The First Evil."

The eye shuddered in its holder, all eyes closing for a few seconds; then opening to glare at them with blood red sclera. Are you trying to destroy the Chosen Line yourselves?!?" The Eye slammed them psychically as well as audibly. "Two Slayers weakened it. A multitude? Be gone from me! Such folly needs no answer." The wind in the vortex built up until they were literally blown out through the portal back into the world. It snapped closed behind them.

Holding their aching heads and groaning, they picked themselves up off the ground and dusted off. Buffy said despondently to the others, "So, we're back to square one, I guess. How do we protect the Potentials?"

"We'll spell the weapons. Maybe the Coven will have an idea as well. I'll call them again when we get back," answered Giles as they walked home through the dark streets with throbbing headaches, slumped shoulders and leaden feet. Not even Clem could think of anything cheerful to say.

"Giles," asked Buffy, anxious to hear something positive. "What did the Eye mean by saying that I've healed the breach? That's something good, at least, right?"

Giles automatically entered his instruction mode to answer. "Yes, Buffy, that is actually very good. When the Master killed you, a new Slayer was called. Then when Xander brought you back to life, two living Slayers caused a rift in the Chosen Line, weakening it. That weakness allowed The First Evil to start the war. When you died the second time, the rift was healed, but Willow brought you back, and destabilized the line again. As long as there were two Slayers, the Line remained strained. When you mated with Spike and became immortal, that evidently moved you out of the Slayer Line into the Immortal Line, and the strain was eliminated. The rift is healed, and the Chosen Line is stable again."

During her Watcher's explanation, Buffy had rapidly moved through surprise to a flash of anger again with Willow for pulling her out of Heaven, to unexpectedly feeling hollow and lost. "So I'm not a Slayer anymore?" Buffy asked in a small voice. As much as she'd wished not to be one before, it was a part of her. She'd been the Slayer for seven years and felt a yawning hole open up inside of her at the idea that she wasn't one anymore.

"Yes, you are still a Slayer, Buffy." Giles reassured her. "But now you're more than a Slayer, and no longer have their limitations. You're immortal; you won't grow old and die. It's a separate line, with its own responsibilities in its service to the Powers."

Comforted with the thought that she was still a Slayer, Buffy planned to continue slaying. She knew nothing of being an Immortal. She figured she'd just continue on as before, and if the powers wanted something specific, they'd let her know.

Spike, however was not comforted. "You can't mean that jackass, The Immortal that has tormented Peaches and me down through the years is in the service of the Powers?" He cried, outraged.

Giles cleared his throat, "Yes, well, there are a few bad eggs in every line, I'm sorry to say, though I'm not sure that tormenting the Scourge of Europe could be considered bad."

Spike glowered at him. Just thinking about that immortal wanker made the souled vampire feel extremely testy. "If he's not bad, then why didn't he dust us way back when? He could have, several times over the years," demanded Spike, finding it hard to believe that his old nemesis was a member of a line of warriors for Good.

Feeling impatient, Giles chided, "Consider, Spike. You and Angel were both fated to become Champions for the Light. It wouldn't have furthered the cause of Good to kill you, now would it? On the other hand, The Immortal upset you, kept you off your stride. Perhaps distracting you from wholesale slaughter and provoking you into fighting him instead, were ways that he tried to minimize the damage you did while you were evil." Giles was surprised that Spike hadn't picked that up for himself. The vampire was usually more astute in sensing the motivations of others.

Spike subsided into irritable grumbles, but didn't make any more vocal protests. He didn't like The Immortal's methods, but Rupert's assertions made sense. Spike guessed he had been too emotionally involved to see that possibility. It was a strategy he might have used himself against someone who couldn't be killed but needed to be hindered, he admitted silently.

Buffy put an arm around him and sent comforting thoughts his way, having seen what The Immortal had put him through over the years. She'd have a thing or two to say to the arrogant jerk if she ever met him, and as she'd be around a good long while, she imagined that she probably would meet him eventually.

The phone was ringing as they entered the kitchen. Dawn, Faith, Robin, Andrew and the Scoobies crowded in to hear what they had found out. Nodding to them, the Watcher picked up the receiver and said, "Giles here." He paled and winced at whatever the person on the other end of the line was saying, then answered, "Are you sure, Althea?...but what could she do?...that's not very much to go on...Alright. I'll let them know. Thank you, and please thank the seers for their extra work tonight. Good bye."

As the others looked on anxiously, Giles hung up and removed his glasses, polishing the lenses before returning them to his face. He sighed, and said, "The Coven's seers have confirmed what Beljoxa's Eye told us. They have seen a vision of a reality where we activated the Potentials, and used the amulet to kill the Turok-Han and close the Hellmouth." He glanced significantly at Spike, and then continued, "We appeared to win the war. In making all the Potentials into Slayers, however, the Slayer line was depleted. No new Potentials or Slayers were called as the old ones were killed. Eventually the entire line simply died out. In that reality, The First had won by seeming to lose."

Tbc...
Chapter 11 - Closing the Hellmouth by Joyful Dayz
Author's Notes:
Thank you LadyForAsh for your beautiful beta job!
Sorry for the delay in posting this chapter. My internet’s been down this past week.
Thoughts are in ‘single quotes’
Chapter 11 – Closing the Hellmouth

Giles' announcement sent a round of shocked inspirations and groans throughout the room. Buffy closed her eyes and sighed in resignation. She'd been afraid something like that was coming after the Eye's violent reaction. "I figured as much, what with Spike's consequences of magic," she shook her head in frustration and glanced at him sourly. "Darn. It was such a good idea, too."

Noting Buffy's scowl at the vampire, Giles rubbed his temples against the headache forming there. "Yes, well, I'd say we're lucky that Spike brought up the consequences of magic, or we may well have won the battle, only to lose the war."

Buffy continued to look sulky. Spike said nothing, just stood at the back of the group with arms folded, facial expression grim.

"So what's the plan, then?" asked Faith dispiritedly as she sat cross-legged on the floor, resting her head in her hands. Her casual self-assurance that all would work out in the end was being strained by this new disappointment.

Willow cleared her throat and said, "Well, Dawn and I have found a couple of things. Like Angel told us, the amulet is supposed to "cleanse impurity" when worn by a souled champion. We couldn't find out how it does that, but at least we found other references that it does. Uber vamps are impure, right? So it should somehow take them out of the equation. Also, the scythe can be used to extend its own properties to other weapons."

"So we can give all our weapons the strength, sharpness, and power of the scythe. That's good," commented Giles. Then, giving Spike another indecipherable look, he continued, "The seers also confirmed that the amulet kills Turok-Han. Apparently it focuses sunlight and burns them, though it didn't activate in time to save a number of the new Slayers in the alternate reality. The seers saw as well that the amulet closed the Hellmouth there. It destroyed the whole of Sunnydale in the process, however. Althea informed me that the other reality didn't utilize the Key. She said we have all we need to defeat The First Evil without destruction and bloodshed by using all three: the Scythe, the Amulet, and the Key."

"The Key!" Buffy cried in surprise. "I thought Dawn's keyness was gone! Could they mean a different Key? No? Well, I'm not risking her! She's not going!" She turned to Xander, "I need you to take Dawn, Xander, and go...ow!" she said, startled out of her frantic babbling. Dawn had moved to stand directly in front of her sister, stare down at her blandly, and kick her on the shin.

Folding her arms and frowning at Buffy sternly, Dawn said, "You can't baby me any longer, Buf. I'm past the age you were when you became the Slayer...I'm going."

Buffy frowned back at her. "No, Dawn, you're not. I can't lose you, and I won't be able to concentrate on the fight if I'm worried about protecting you."

Dawn didn't back off, "You can't stop me. If you go without me, I'll just get there on my own." They glared at each other, but eventually Dawn stared her sister down.

Shrugging and turning away, Buffy finally said, "Fine. But if you get killed, I'm telling."

Willow looked into Dawn, focused, and said, "Dawn has come into her power, Buffy. Fifteen seems to be the age when we do it. You were called at fifteen, and my power manifested then as well."

"What does that mean; she's come into her power?" Buffy looked back and forth between Willow, Dawn and Giles. "What does that mean!" She demanded when no one answered the first time.

Spike put his arm around Buffy and hugged her to his side, willing her mind to calm and find peace. She frowned at him irritably. "Don't you try that thrall stuff on me, mister! I'll be as hysterical as I want!"

"Hush, sweetheart," he murmured to her as the other people in the room focused on him suspiciously, "Not trying to control you, just bring you some peace." He kissed her softly on the cheek.

"Humph," she pouted, resenting that he thought she needed to calm down. Buffy noted with interest that Spike's gaze had focused on her lower lip. Slowly a seductive smile formed on her lips and she felt her panic slide away.

"Yes, I can feel it again now," said Dawn, breaking the couple's absorption in each other. "I felt the power back when Willow cast her ‘Finding Spell' and it glowed on me. It's why I thought that I was the Potential. I've been wondering why I felt like I had power but wasn't a baby Slayer."

"Ah honey, why didn't you tell us?" Spike asked. He pulled her into his other side and hugged her too, regretting that she'd been torturing herself in silence about it. He berated himself that he hadn't realized that she'd be saddened by not being a Potential. After all, she was blood of the Slayer's blood; of course she'd want to be able to fight, to make a difference in the world like Buffy did.

Dawn shrugged. "It was embarrassing. The spell glowed on me, and for a little while I was the new Potential...then I wasn't," she muttered. Pulling away and walking over to the window to look out, she remembered again her shock as the Bringers attacked Amanda instead of herself. Her disappointment had been crushing as she realized that she wasn't like Buffy after all. For an hour or so she'd been able to step out of her older sister's shadow, had thought she shared Buffy's destiny. It had been a heady experience while it lasted.

Spike hugged Buffy back to his side again and nodded towards Dawn. "She'll be all right, pet. I can tell. Can't you? Focus, feel for power." The niblet's power was a shining green that pulsed through his senses.

Reluctantly Buffy conceded that yes, she could feel it too; now that she looked for it. "How is that, anyway? Why can I feel it?" She asked, concentrating on the "pulsing green pressure"? that surrounded her sister.

As Giles rubbed his chin and shook his head uncertainly, Spike answered. "I've always been able to sense power; might be a legacy from Drusilla, maybe the Master. Neither Angel nor Darla could ever feel it, but Dru could always tell. She used to say that Miss Edith favored them, or the stars spoke to them, or some other nonsense, but what it all came down to was, they had power."

Focusing on Dawn himself, Giles sensed that she did have a great well of power inside her. She'd have to be trained in the ethical use of it, whatever it was. He could see now that she had far more of it than any witch he'd ever met, though it didn't feel like a witch's power. It was different. Wondering why he'd never sensed it before; he decided that when all this was over, he'd have to take her to the Coven for want of a better place to teach her. She was the Key, her entire being was magical. He should have suspected she'd come into that power some day.

"But what can she do without having to die to stop it? How will her power keep her safe?" asked Buffy, not entirely satisfied with Giles' assurances from the Coven. How could they know that Dawn would be safe?

"I'm not sure, Buffy," Giles answered. "But notice that Althea said, ‘without destruction and bloodshed'. If Dawn has come into her power, perhaps she can control it. Althea's words were, ‘the Key is key. When the time comes, she will know what to do.'"

Dawn hugged Buffy and turned away with a little smile of satisfaction. She finally had an important job. Even if she didn't know what it was. She was the Key, and she was key to their victory. For the first time in her life, Dawn was glad to be herself; instead of thinking her entire existence was lame. Even without being a Potential, she was important. "I'll be in my room meditating," she told Buffy, and climbed the stairs. She needed to see if she could figure out in private what she'd need to do when the time came, and how to control her power.

Spike diverted Buffy from worrying after Dawn as she watched her little sister climb the stairs by asking, "So, Watcher, why the funny look when you mentioned the amulet earlier?" He'd waited to bring the subject up until the Key business was settled, not wanting muddy the waters with two issues at once.

Buffy looked back and forth between her Mate and Watcher, surprised. She hadn't noticed any looks passed back and forth. Granted she'd been focused on Dawn at the time, but had expected that she would be more observey now, what with having Spike's ‘personality pluses' and all.

Giles looked at him hard, considered what he knew of Spike down through the years, his loyalty and determination, and decided that the vampire had the right to know, that he'd react appropriately to the information. "In that reality, you sacrificed yourself to save the world. You died closing the Hellmouth with the amulet."

While everyone in the room looked at Spike in shock, he simply nodded and asked calmly, "and Buffy?"

"She lived," answered Giles mildly.

"Good," was all that Spike said. He folded his arms and leaned against the wall, satisfied.

Buffy shrieked again, "What! No way!" She turned and glared at Spike.

He rubbed her forearms soothingly and said, "That was there, love. This is here. We're going to do it another way here. We can make things turn out differently, yeah?"

Buffy sighed and looked up the stairs again to where Dawn had gone. She wasn't convinced that either of the people most important to her would be safe, but didn't know what to do about it. She guessed none of them were safe. She did know one thing, however. If Spike died in the Hellmouth tomorrow, she'd die with him.

After some discussion, Giles decreed that Willow would use the scythe to enchant their weapons once they arrived at the school in the morning. Not knowing if the spell was permanent, he wanted it to be freshly cast when they fought. Next their attention turned to the amulet and how it had delayed activating in the alternate dimension, giving the uber vamps time to kill several new Slayers.

Xander scratched his head thoughtfully and said, "It focused sunlight to burn the vamps? Like a magnifying glass focuses light to burn paper...but where did it get the sunlight? How did it do it from down in the Hellmouth? Wouldn't be any sun down there."

Anya chipped in at that point, "Mystical objects can focus elements without being in direct contact with them. Vengeance demons' amulets do that."

"Really?" asked Giles interestedly. "We'll have to discuss Vengeance amulets sometime."

Anya beamed. Giles was finally starting to realize that with her thousand years of experience, she had a lot of valuable knowledge. She was a good resource. ‘No more rolling of Giles' or Buffy's eyes or shushing by Xander whenever I mention my demon past.' She wiggled happily in her seat. Her future was looking up.

"Of course!" Giles cried as he made the connection in his mind from Xander's and Anya's observations. "Good job, you two!"

Now it was Xander's turn to grin and wriggle happily.

"A magnifying glass focuses the light immediately, but it takes a few seconds for the paper to get hot enough to burn, so the amulet activated immediately upon entering the Hellmouth, but it took awhile for the focused sunbeam to penetrate through the school and into the cavern..." Turning to the witch, he instructed, "After you spell the weapons, Willow, keep in touch with Buffy telepathically." Focusing now on his Slayer, he continued, "when you are all in the Hellmouth, Buffy, let Willow know. Once everyone is in place, Willow, blow a hole in the roof of the school, the floor of the library and through the basement floor into the Hellmouth, allowing light to enter there immediately. Spike, move into the light wearing the amulet, and hopefully it will kill the vamps before they can kill anyone else."

Everyone burst into excited conversations. They finally had a chance to protect the Potentials. Willow demurred that she wouldn't have to blow holes through the school, which could injure anyone else in the area. While in England, she'd used teleportation to refine her control of her power, and could now move sections of the roof, ceilings, floors, etc. outside in a much tidier manner than just blasting holes.

Giles approved, and they all went to bed and tried to get a few hours of sleep.

-----

Finally behind locked doors, Spike and Buffy lightly traced each other from head to toe. He savored the warm silky texture of her skin, lips following his hands to once again taste every inch of her body. Buffy memorized the cool velvet of Spike's skin over steely muscle, imprinting the glory of it forever on her soul. Quiet sighs soon turned to impassioned moans; he thrust inside her and slid his fangs into her throat at the same time. They exploded in fireworks as Buffy returned his caress by drawing blood at his neck, and their love washed over each other.

Along with Buffy's joy in his love, Spike felt her fear for him since Giles had revealed that he'd sacrificed himself in the other reality. "Don't fret love. If either of us dies, I won't rest until I find you again," he vowed.

Buffy looked deeply into his soft blue eyes and returned the promise. "Neither will I. Nothing can keep us apart." Arms and legs wrapped around him, as if defying anything to take him from her, she eventually relaxed enough to slip into slumber.

Spike kissed the top of her head and watched over her as she slept, wondering yet again at how his dreams had come true, and of the miracle that she loved him. Finally he dozed off. As his breathing slowed and stopped, Buffy woke up.

She gazed tenderly at him, lightly running her hand over the arm he had flung across her as he slept. She remembered his persistence through the years, how he had refused to give up on her even when things looked hopeless, and thought with a melancholy smile that with the both of them now the kings of stubborn, they should win simply because they refused to lose. Settling back into sleep, she reflected, ‘whatever happens, it will all be over tomorrow.'

-----

The next morning they all arrived early at the school and made their way to the library. Willow sat in the middle of the room holding the scythe. They placed the rest of their weapons in a circle around her, edges pointing inwards towards the scythe. Everyone formed a larger circle around the weapons. Willow focused her witch's sight on the scythe and the power within it. "Great Slayer Weapon, we beseech you to share your mighty gifts with the poor unworthy weapons that surround you, that they might assist you in defeating the Turok-Han, the legendary foe of the Slayer," she intoned, and felt the scythe's willingness to do so. A wind whipped around her, her hair turned a blinding white, and light erupted from the scythe, flowing out over the weapons in the circle. They glowed momentarily, and then the light died. Willow's hair returned to red, and she collapsed to her side, smiling.

Kennedy rushed to her side and supported her back into a sitting position.

"You OK, Willow?" Buffy asked with concern.

Willow laughed and nodded that she was. Handing Buffy the scythe, she said, "Go on; get everyone in position."

Buffy nodded and stationed Giles, Dawn, Wood, Xander, Anya and Andrew around the school at strategic points in case anything tried to escape from the Hellmouth during the fight. They each had their enhanced weapons, swinging them experimentally, and marveling at the improved edges and balance.

"Go on, Sweetie. I'm fine," Willow told a hovering Kennedy.

Buffy carried the scythe and led Spike, Faith and the Potentials, all with enhanced weapons of their choice, to the Hellmouth. Slicing their palms and letting blood drip down onto the Seal of Danzibar they opened the Hellmouth, and filed down into an immense cavern. Looking over a cliff into a huge pit, they were stunned by the thousands of Turok-Han that crowded below, preparing for attack. Those at the top of the cliff pulled back in shock and horror. The reality was worse than they had imagined. They had no chance against those masses if the amulet didn't work.

A great bellow ascended from the pit as the Turok-Han roared at the sight of the invaders. The monsters rushed forwards, leaping up the cliff with incredible speed to attack the Slayers and Potentials at the top. Hastily, Buffy silently called to Willow that they were in place. Suddenly a shaft of sunlight flowed down into the cavern through new holes in the ceilings. Spike jumped into it and a concentrated beam of light struck him, then flashed out through the amulet and around the cavern, lashing at the uber vamps that were clambering over the edge. Even as the battle started, every ancient vampire burned instantly to ash as it was struck. The humans were left untouched.

In the upper levels of the school, Bringers attacked those stationed there. The scythe enhanced weapons sliced through them easily, seeming to give those that wielded them instant fighting expertise. Anya killed one that attacked Andrew, and with the confidence of wielding an enhanced weapon, he entered the battle beside her.

Andrew had expected to cower in a corner until something killed him, and could hardly believe that he was actually swinging a sword against Bringers. He'd always considered himself a lover, not a fighter, had never even learned how to fight, but now his arm seemed to wield the sword instinctively. He spun and flashed through the masses that attacked him and Anya. Noticing another one that was coming up on her from behind, Andrew swung his sword, lopping the Bringer's head off before he could slice into Anya's back.

In the Hellmouth, the beams started ricocheting down into the cavern, burning the vamps that hadn't made it over the edge yet. As the shafts of focused light hit the walls of the crater, they blasted holes where they hit, and everything around them began to shake and tremble. The walls, ground beneath them, and ceiling above all started cracking, and falling debris threatened everyone.

"Get everybody out," Buffy called out, and Faith herded everyone out of the basement, then gathered the rest of them from the upper levels of the school, where the Bringers all lay dead. In the confusion, no one noticed that Dawn was not with them as they climbed into the bus and took off, the ground shaking, buildings swaying and threatening to fall.

Back in the Hellmouth, Buffy ran over to her vampire and cried frantically, "Come on, Spike! You've done enough, we can..." she reached out to pull him with her.

Lifting his arms to hold her off, Spike said, "No lamb, I have to finish it. I have to clean up; I can feel it." Sunlight shone through every particle of his being as the amulet shot beams of light throughout the Hellmouth, burning the last of the uber vamps as they tried to flee. None of them made it past the sunlight into the rest of the school. Standing firm amid the chaos around him, Spike laughed and said, "I want to see how it ends."

"OK," answered Buffy, now strangely calm. Taking his outstretched hand, she prepared to see the end with him. "I love you."

Looking deeply into her eyes, he answered smilingly, "Thank you, pet. I Love you, too." Flames burst from their entwined hands as they gazed at each other. The rumbling and crashing intensified. Large chunks of mortar, plaster, ceilings and walls began to fall about them.

"No!" cried Dawn, running into the chamber and standing near the edge of the cliff. She glared back at them and shouted, "I'm not losing you again!"

"Dawn! Get back! You're supposed to be with the others!" cried Buffy. She tried to pull Spike with her up to Dawn, but he was immobilized by the light continuing to stream through him, his head now thrown back, looking up into the shaft of brilliance that struck him, flowed into the amulet, and out to flash around the Hellmouth.

Standing at the edge of the pit, Dawn sliced her palm with a knife, and let blood drip down over the rim. Concentrating fiercely, she willed, ‘Hellmouth, Close. Miss those I love.' There was a sudden massive explosion, ripping the school out of the ground around them. The First Evil roared with rage, its incorporeal demon form flying through the chamber, charging at the three, only to futilely flow through when it would have hit them. Then, everything that had exploded upward, imploded back into the pit. The essence of The First was pulled in with it and disappeared.

Shaking with reaction from The First's attack, Dawn ripped a strip from her blouse and bound her hand, staunching the blood flow. As the dust settled, smooth empty ground lay where the Hellmouth and Sunnydale High had been. The earthquakes stopped. The rest of the town stood intact. She turned back to see Buffy and Spike standing in the open looking around, stunned that they hadn't been blown up, crushed, or at least buried during the explosion and its aftermath. ‘How had they all gotten from basement level to the surface?' Buffy wondered.

Spike glanced down at his amulet. He took it off and held it up to the light, noting that it no longer sparkled. The gems were clouded and cracked. Sliding it into his pocket, he thought that the Watcher might be interested in it. In any case, its cleansing days were finished.

Buffy took Spike's right hand and compared the healing burn with the matching one on her own hand. "My God, Spike! If we hadn't mated, you would have burned along with all the uber vamps when that amulet activated!" She grabbed his shirt front, hid her face against his chest and shuddered at the thought of losing him so soon after finding him.

Spike wrapped his arms around her and held her close, running his hands up and down her back, kissing the top of her head and inhaling her sweetness. "I know. I would've been vamp flambé. You and the bit saved my life, Slayer. Many thanks." He smiled down at her.

Giving him a quick hard peck on the lips, she returned, "Any time, Vamp." Then she turned towards Dawn and ran over to her, inspecting her from head to toe for injuries. There weren't any. "How did you do that, Dawn? Why weren't we killed when everything blew up?"

"I don' know, Buf, I'm the Key. I open and close portals to other dimensions." Dawn shrugged, a crooked smile lighting her face. "I just willed the Hellmouth to close, and told it to miss us."

Buffy shook her head in bewilderment as she looked around again. "But for you to close a portal before, one of us had to die."

Dawn arched a brow at her sister. "The last time I wasn't in control. This time I was." She didn't know how to explain that she had just known, deep inside her that this time all she had to do to close the Hellmouth, was spill a few drops of her blood and tell it to close. She had also known that it would all be over when she stopped bleeding, not when she died.

Buffy grabbed Dawn's forearms and shook her. "But what if the earthquakes hadn't quit? You could have been killed!" She was having a hard time getting past the fact that Dawn had knowingly endangered herself.

A new maturity and patience in her demeanor, Dawn answered, "I knew they would stop. But in any case, I wasn't going to lose you again in closing a portal. That's my job. One way or another, this time I was closing it." Then Dawn grinned mischievously and added, "Besides, you don't need to hog all the world save-age to yourself. It's about time you let me in on the fun."

Chuckling at the offended look on Buffy's face, Spike said, "The niblet has a point there, Slayer."

tbc...
Chapter 12 - Tomorrow is a New Day by Joyful Dayz
Author's Notes:
Thank you so much, LadyForAsh for betaing.
Many thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed my stories. You have no idea how much I appreciate you!
Thoughts are in ‘single quotes’.


This chapter's and the story's titles were inspired by "Gone With the Wind". Being a lover of the happy ending, I didn't care much for the story line, but I do like how even in the face of her own foolishness, and the consequences of that idiocy, Scarlett O'Hara didn't give up, but declared, "Tomorrow is another day." "Tomorrow is a New Day" could have been Spike's motto. His persistence paid off for him in the end. (Especially in fandom, where he gets the girl!)
Chapter 12 – Tomorrow is a New Day

As the earthquakes ceased, Giles brought the bus to a stop and turned back to look for Buffy and Spike.

Finally noticing that Dawn wasn't with them, Xander yelped, "Where's Dawnie?" He felt a shiver of trepidation run through him. Buffy had given him the responsibility of Dawn's safety, and he hadn't even noticed her absence in his relief at finding Anya safe and sound. She'd been regaling him with how Andrew had saved her life, and he hadn't been able to think of anything else.

Everyone looked around as they belatedly counted heads. Many of them were wounded, but other than Buffy and Spike, only Dawn was missing.

"Where'd she get off to?" Asked Willow worriedly, looking up from healing the claw slashes on Kennedy's arm. She scanned the bus again, sorry that she hadn't noticed either, that Dawn wasn't with them. "I knew she was going to try something Key wise at the Hellmouth. Why didn't I keep a closer eye on her?" Willow questioned herself guiltily.

Frowning, Kennedy raised her arm towards the witch and groused, "It wasn't your fault, Willow." Resentful that Dawn was diverting Willow's attention away from herself, she continued, "She wasn't your responsibility. You had other things to worry about. The flighty little thing should have gotten herself on the bus, instead of disappearing and making everyone else worry about her. At the very least, Xander should have watched out for her."

Willow looked at her new girlfriend sadly, noting again her self-absorption. Thinking about Kennedy's words and actions over the past few weeks, she silently began doubting that their relationship could last. Without further comment, Willow turned back to her healing.

Satisfied that Willow's attention was back where it belonged, Kennedy relaxed and closed her eyes. She planned to keep Willow well occupied in the future. ‘There's no need for her to return to the Coven, like she's been saying. She's more powerful than any of them already. What more could they teach her? Willow may as well make me her career,' thought Kennedy complacently, imaging with a smirk just how she'd do the convincing.

Arriving once again at the schoolyard, everyone sighed with relief as Buffy, Spike and Dawn walked towards them through the barren spot where the high school had stood that morning. They'd been reassuring each other that the trio were safe, but inwardly had feared the worst. Glancing around the empty schoolyard, Giles said, "I don't understand. What did this? Was it you, Dawn?"

Dawn held up her bandaged hand, smirked and answered, "Yup."

"We'll tell you all about it once we get home," Buffy stated tiredly, putting her arm around Dawn's shoulders and walking towards the bus.

Giles looked over at the vampire that was following silently behind his girls, eyes scanning the area alertly as if still guarding them. "I'm glad to see that you made it, Spike." Giles held his hand out in a gesture of reconciliation and friendship.

Spike glanced down at the Watcher's outstretched hand, and then looked up to study his eyes and found the sincerity there. He accepted the first offer of friendship from a Watcher to a vampire in known history, and shook Giles' hand. "Thanks, Rupert," he replied simply.

The ride to Revello Drive was quiet. Everyone's eyes turned towards the deserted streets of Sunnydale, assessing the damage and rejoicing that the town was still standing despite the earthquakes. Occasional shingles and bricks littered the sidewalks. Several windows had shattered and a number of fallen trees and branches lay in the streets. There were new cracks in sidewalks and roads, but all buildings stood intact. Sunnydale would survive.

Back at home, everyone celebrated that not one single person among them had been killed. Potentials bounced around the room, excitedly telling each other of their first encounters with vampires, and generally exaggerating their prowess during the short fight. Giles called them to order, and while bandaging wounds, everyone took turns filling each other in on what had happened in their respective corners of the battle and closing of the Hellmouth. Conversation eventually turned to what they were going to do next.

"The first thing that must be done," Giles announced, "is return those Potentials to their families that have them. Many of you don't, I know, and we'll form a Boarding School for you in London on the Council grounds there. I hope that even those of you with families will be able to come there to train. We'll start a scholarship program and inform your parents that you've been nominated to attend."

He turned next to the Key. "Dawn, it's essential that you accompany us to England as well, and that you go to train with the Coven. They'll be able to help you learn about your power, fine tune your control, and teach you to use it responsibly."

She nodded, "Right. Then the next time I need it, I won't have to wing it like I did today." Dawn's mind filled with all she didn't know about being the Key. It would be good to go where they could help her find out, and also teach her to protect herself from those who might want to use her for their own purposes.

Buffy looked at her little sister sadly, knowing that she wouldn't be going with Dawn to the Coven.

Spike caught Buffy's look. "We can go visit the bit any time we want, pet," he reassured her softly. He smiled proudly at Dawn; his little niblet was growing up into a powerful, assured woman.

Buffy nodded wistfully. A chapter of her life was ending. Dawn wouldn't need her every day anymore. She felt like a mother whose child was growing up, leaving home and going away to school.

Giles continued, "I'm going to reform the Council. There are a few Watchers left alive throughout the world. We'll rebuild. Things will be different this time around, though. The new Council of Watchers will value its Slayer, not take her for granted or think of her as property. The new Slayer/Watcher relationship will be more of a partnership than previously.

The Council will listen to her opinions and instincts. Slayer dreams and premonitions come from the Powers. That is something the old Council ignored, to its detriment. Had they been working closely with Buffy, instead of being estranged from her, they might have been prepared for The First's attack, and could have survived. The new Council will also pay each Slayer a salary, Faith, so that you can live without worrying about finances."

Buffy and Faith nodded approvingly. If Giles implemented his plans, the new Council would be a help, rather than a hindrance to the Slayer; and a Salary, woot! Having to worry about money had made both their lives much harder.

Looking now at Andrew, Giles commented, "I'm impressed with Anya's reports of your courage during the fight, Andrew. You have an innate ability to summon demons, which suggests that you may also be a latent mage. Courage and magic, along with your intelligence and research capacities make me feel that you may have the makings of a Watcher. Would you care to go to England with me, to train and find out?"

Andrew jumped up, whooping excitedly, grabbing Giles' arms and dancing in circles around him. Giles disengaged himself with a grimace, "I see you still have some growing up to do, young man. Watchers display a dignified demeanor at all times."

Settling down immediately and assuming a pious expression, Andrew said, "Oh, I'll grow up very quickly, Mr. Giles, indeed I will. I can be so dignified." He nodded emphatically and flashed a beaming smile around the room, ecstatic that he had earned the Watcher's trust and was being given the chance to make something of himself. ‘If only Jonathon could see me now!' he thought excitedly, then saddened as he realized that Jonathon would have seen him now, if he hadn't succumbed to The First/Warren's lure and killed him.

Willow spoke next. "I'll go with you to the Coven, Dawnie. I need to return and finish my training with them." She and Dawn smiled at each other, feeling linked and close again for the first time since Willow had gotten caught up in black magic the year before and had tried to turn Dawn back into green energy.

Dawn nodded; relieved that she'd have someone with her at the Coven that she knew. She was surprised to realize that she could trust Willow again, that she felt like a friend. Dawn hadn't expected to ever be able to even like her, let alone trust her again.

"When you and Dawn have completed your training, I hope that you'll both come back to work with me at the Council," Giles said. "We'll need the strong magic and research skills that you both have."

They looked at each other and nodded again, happy to have an interesting and important future laid out for them.

Kennedy frowned and whispered urgently to Willow, but with every sentence, Willow just shook her head again. She was going to the Coven to finish her training.

Giles turned to Faith next. "You'll be needed in Cleveland, Faith, to guard the Hellmouth there. Is that acceptable to you?"

"Sure, thing Watch," grinned Faith. "Robin and I have already talked about it, and he's going to go with me, and look into educator openings there." She glanced at the principal, smirking.

"Actually, Robin," Giles said, clearing his throat, "I was hoping that you would consent to accompany Faith to the Hellmouth as her Watcher." Everyone gaped at Giles as he continued, "You have all the necessary skills, as well as the instincts and needed personality strengths of a Watcher. You're familiar with the demon world, and are a strong warrior in your own right. You're a scholar, so you'll know how to research when required, and you were raised by a Watcher, so you know the life and the sacrifices that must be made."

Faith frowned, "I've had bad luck with Watchers, Giles. They either die on me or go Darth Vader. Besides, I don't need a Watcher anymore. I can take care of myself."

"I regret your past experiences with Watchers, Faith, but every Slayer needs the support and help of one. I have every confidence in Wood that he'll make you an exemplary Watcher. With the revamped (Spike smirked at the word) relationship, believe me, you'll be glad to have him with you. Having a Watcher will extend your life span considerably."

Giles studied them as they turned to look at each other again. He caught a glimpse of their budding relationship. It was unconventional, forbidden, but Faith was of age, and an experienced Slayer so she could handle herself; and Giles was convinced that Wood could handle her, as well. The new Head of the Council of Watchers decided to ignore their personal relationship. Perhaps they would even find happiness together, something that was rare for either Slayers or Watchers.

Robin and Faith studied each other for a few moments, and came to an unspoken understanding. They smiled. Turning to Giles, Robin embraced his new vocation, and answered, "I would be pleased to be her Watcher."

"Good," stated Giles, satisfied. "I'll contact you from England with specifics when the Council is up and running, and send you copies of what references are still available."

Xander hugged a smiling Anya to his side and announced, "Aunnie and I are going to Las Vegas to be married." Amid cheers and congratulations, he grinned sheepishly and continued, "I can't put her through the torture of another engagement, so it'll be tomorrow. Will you all come with us? Then you can go on to England or wherever from there."

Everyone agreed that was a great idea. Anya smiled, "Thanks, everyone. We'd love to have you. Afterwards we're coming back to Sunnydale to settle down, have lots of sex, and lots of kids."

They smiled at each other through the mixed laughter and squeals of "TMI, TMI!" from the teenagers present. When things quieted down again, Xander declared, "I'm going to rebuild the high school. Again. This time for good. With no more Summers women around to demolish it, it should stay put." Buffy and Dawn both stuck their tongues out at him as he laughed and waggled his eyebrows at them.

"If you two ever change your minds about Sunnydale, there will always be places waiting for you at the Council," Giles remarked.

Anya elbowed her fiancé in the side, and said triumphantly, "See, I told you they'd want us! Giles finally sees our value to him!"

Surprised, Xander rubbed his ribs and nodded his appreciation, while blushing at Anya's bluntness. "Thanks, we'll keep that in mind should the delights of ol' Sunnyhell ever fade."

At last Giles turned to Buffy and Spike. "Will you two come with us to London and help us reform the Council? Your skills and knowledge will be invaluable to us."

Buffy and Spike conferred for a few moments in a mixture of thoughts, images, and murmurs too low for anyone else to hear, then turned back to Giles with arms around each other. Buffy said to her former Watcher, "Sure Giles, we'll help you get set up; then Spike and I are going to take a world tour. I've always wanted to travel, you know, but never thought I'd get the chance. I always figured I'd be glued to a Hellmouth. We'll slay where we're needed, and learn our new roles as we go."

"We'll always be available to you as consultants should you need us, though," added Spike. He cocked an eyebrow at the Watcher's surprised reaction, guessing his thoughts. Giles had expected that the pair would stay with him in London and continue on much as before. "After all, Rupert," Spike smirked, "tomorrow is a new day, a new world. We Immortals need to find our place in it."

"Huh? Immortals?" asked Xander, looking confused. Willow looked intrigued for a moment, then her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open in astonishment, as she grasped the reality of what Spike had just announced.

Giles shook his head at the vampire's turn of phrase, and a flurry of questions erupted around the room as everyone demanded explanations. Buffy cringed at the clamor and shot a mildly annoyed look at her prankster of a mate. Spike just laughed, pleased that he'd gotten a rise from them all.

-----

Later Spike stood on the back porch with his arm around his love, enjoying the beautiful reds, pinks and golds of the sunset, and how they streaked iridescently through the darkening azure of the sky. He admired the inky black silhouettes of the trees against the glowing heavens, and thought of how that scene paralleled Buffy and himself. The brilliance of the Slayer had joined with the black of a Master Vampire to form a picture of unsurpassed power and beauty. The beginnings of a poem stirred in his heart. Out loud, Spike sighed, "Life is good."

Buffy turned to him and replied archly, "Oh I wouldn't call it exactly good."

He pulled her close so that the warmth of her body infused him, quirked an eyebrow at her and questioned, "Well then, what would you call this life we have?"

Smiling brightly, Buffy, reached up to murmur her reply against his lips. "Effulgent."

The end.
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