Locking the basement door behind her, Buffy stomped down the stairs to where Spike was sprawled across his cot, lounging against the cement wall. She folded her arms and stared at him, still disgruntled at finding him and Faith there, casually flirting and smoking together. It had been a shock. For the first time, Buffy had recognized the possibility that she might lose him to someone else, to another slayer. She didn’t like the feeling. She was used to being the one with the power. For all her insistence that she didn’t care about him, her eyes were suddenly opened. She’d been lying to herself and everyone else. She did care, a lot. She couldn’t lose him, not now.
Spike looked at her silently for several seconds, face expressionless, but his blue eyes glinted. He imagined the shit was going to hit the fan. ‘Slayer doesn’t want me, but no one else can have me either, is that it? Well, might as well get this over with.’ He raised an eyebrow, and said mildly, “What is it, pet?”
‘Bad idea, Buffy. What were you thinking, coming down here to confront him? Relationship talks and Buffy, not at all mixy.’ She almost turned around and walked back up the stairs. But no, it wouldn’t do any good to ignore it. That’s what she’d been doing for a long time now. She’d learned the hard way that problems didn’t go away by hiding from them. They only got worse. If she didn’t want to lose him, she had to do something; and Faith would only hurt him in the end, anyway. Scowling, she said, “I need to warn you about Faith. She’s a predator; uses men and then discards them…she has her eye on you.”
Astonishment flashed through him. ‘She’s jealous! Not only that, but she’s admitting it! I bloody well can’t believe it!’ Playing it cool, Spike pursed his lips, and replied, “Uh Huh. Well, you needn’t worry about me, sweetheart, because my eye is on you.”
“…I just don’t want her to hurt you, like I did,” she whispered, lower lip trembling slightly, a blush creeping along her cheeks as she looked down in embarrassment. ‘Idiot, idiot girl. Why did I do this?’ She’d just handed Spike his big chance to get revenge for all the times she’d rebuffed him in the past. Buffy felt herself shriveling up inside.
With Buffy’s words, hope awakened in Spike’s breast. If she could admit her feelings for him, there was a chance. Could he open himself up to her rejection again, though? He’d told himself that this time around he’d shield his heart. This time he wouldn’t let her stomp it into the ground with her ‘hot today in private/cold tomorrow in public’ mood swings. But Spike was love’s bitch, always had been, and always would be. He couldn’t watch her wilt with embarrassment and do nothing. He hesitated, and then asked, “Buffy, do you love me?”
Looking pole-axed, she stammered, “What? No...no...maybe.” ‘What was that!?!’ she railed at herself. ‘I thought you were going to take the bull by the horns, not waffle around again!’ But it was just so hard. Every time she’d cared for a man it had turned out badly. Buffy was ashamed to realize that for all her bravery in other areas, when it came to love she was a coward. She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered miserably.
‘Poor baby, still not sure she can do this,’ Spike realized. He guessed he’d better help her over the hump. After all, that was his chosen lot in life, helping the Slayer. Standing up, he put his hands on her forearms, stared intently into her eyes, and said, “If you don’t love me, I’ll stand by your side and fight with you to the bitter end; but if you do love me, we have a better chance of making it through this war, together.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked in confusion. Whatever she had expected from him after her stammering and stuttering, this wasn’t it. How could whether or not she loved him make a difference?
He took her hand and pulled her down to sit beside him. Smiling whimsically, he said, “You can marry me.”
Impatience replaced the confusion on Buffy’s face. “Spike, we don’t have time for this...” Of all the rash, exasperating things Spike had said in the past, this took the cake. How could he think of getting married at a time like this? Where had that even come from?
“Shh.” He quieted her by placing a finger on her lips. With a gentle look in his eyes, one she hadn’t seen much of in the past, mostly, she admitted, because she hadn’t been willing for him to be gentle, he said, “Love is the greatest power there is, Buffy. It crosses all boundaries, even that between good and evil. Long ago, a vampire mage found a way to make love work for evil. The vampire wedding, or mating ceremony has great power; but we rarely marry, because it’s so dangerous. If their love is true, during the mating his strength becomes hers, her strength becomes his, and then their combined power is doubled again making each four times as strong as before, because the whole is stronger than the sum of its parts.”
Buffy raised her eyebrows, looking intrigued but skeptical. “Get out…” Well, she wasn’t research girl, but she’d never heard of such a thing. Was Giles aware of this? Would he have told her even if such a thing were possible? No, of course he wouldn’t have. He wouldn’t have thought to. Wedding a vampire just wasn’t done.
Spike brought her attention back to him by lightly caressing down her cheek with his knuckles. “But that’s not all, love. Your healing powers would become mine; mine, yours, and then each would double again as well.”
“Spike…” Buffy began, but again Spike put his finger to her lips.
“Wait. Nothing that can’t kill me could kill you. You couldn’t be drowned or killed in a fall again, by being drained of blood, by a broken neck, or die of a bullet wound. I couldn’t be burned by sunlight, a cross, or holy water. In fact, nothing that can’t kill both of us could kill either of us. Barring a wooden stake through the heart or decapitation, I can’t think of much.” Spike shrugged, “Guess they could douse us with gasoline and torch us, but it wouldn’t be fast.”
Buffy’s eyes widened, her mouth dropped open, and she jumped up excitedly, then paused as he continued.
“You would gain my vampire senses: acute smell, hearing, eye sight, feeling when someone is near, sensing what another feels: fear, pain, hate, desire, love. I would gain your Slayer instincts...”
“Spike, this could make a huge difference, we’d have a chance!” Unable to stay still any longer, she threw her arms in the air and began pacing back and forth, hope shining in her eyes. “Uber Vamps look out! Here comes the Uber Slayer!” Bouncing with pent up energy, excitement rolling off her in waves as the possibilities raced through her mind, she exclaimed, “I wonder if I’d be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Super Slayer to the rescue!”
Chuckling, Spike almost let himself be distracted by her animation and beauty. ‘She’s adorable!’ But he forced himself back on topic. He had to tell her all of it, the dangers as well as the pluses. “That’s not all. We would also gain each other’s personality strengths. You’d get my determination to win, no matter what the odds or the cost. I’d get your dedication to the mission, but…if you don’t love me, we can’t do it.
Stopping short, she thought grimly, ‘Of course there was a but, there was always a but. It had seemed too good to be true.’ “What do you mean we can’t do it? We can’t even try it to see if it works?”
Just as grimly, looking fierce and deadly, Spike gave her the buts. “If one partner’s love isn’t true, then they gain each other’s weaknesses instead of strengths. Get it?”
A chill running down her spine, Buffy contemplated that for a moment. She folded her arms, and rubbed them, as if trying to warm herself. “You could be slain by anything that can kill me. I couldn’t go out in the sun or touch a cross, holy water would burn me.”
“Yeah...” he said. “Think of what would happen when the first beasty that crossed our paths found out. Soon as word got out, they’d all be after us, best time to bag themselves a slayer to notch their belt, and get rid of the thorn in their side that is me at the same time. Add to that the fact that our physical strength, healing, and all our senses would shrink to the human norm…then on top of all that, we’d get each other’s character weaknesses instead of strengths. We wouldn’t survive long enough to write our wills, never mind anything else.” He sat silently, watching her, gauging her reaction. Wondering if this was the end of it. There wasn’t much likelihood she’d take the chance; actually, from her point of view, he guessed she’d be foolish to.
Her thoughts spinning, Buffy finally said, “This power, it’s from the dark.” For the moment she avoided the main issue of whether or not she loved him, turning instead to a side matter.
“No, the power of love is from the light, the dark just makes use of it.” Preternaturally still, he continued to watch her, for once not breathing, reminding her of what he was, and what she wasn’t.
The Slayer summed it up with, “I’m not a vampire, how do we know this could even work?”
Looking resolute, he replied, “Cross species mating has been done before. It works, trust me, pet. So, the question of the day is, do you love me?” It was the question of the year, of the century even, and Spike suddenly regretted asking at all. ‘Sodding milquetoast! Imbecile! Wanker!’ He was going to have his heart crushed again, he knew it. He didn’t know how he’d survive this time.
Buffy made up her mind and took the leap. She was done with being a coward, or at least done with not admitting that she was afraid. Slowly, hesitantly, she said, “It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s that I don’t dare to.” Her voice was low, having to force the words out.
Spike’s world stilled. He realized the Slayer was admitting a weakness; not something she usually did. He wanted to understand why she had this penetrating fear, why it had always stood between them, why she’d never told him before. Instead of barraging her with all the questions that teemed in his head, he asked the one that kept repeating itself, letting her decide what he was asking, “Why?” and dreading what he knew was coming. ‘Angel. It always comes back to my sodding grandsire. Will I never be free of his shadow?’
Turning away and folding her arms again, she confessed, “Every man I’ve ever loved has left me; every man, even my father.” Turning back, and looking earnestly into his eyes with hers full of unshed tears, she stressed, “I can’t lose you, Spike. Not only couldn’t I bear it, but we need you in this war! No matter what I feel, or want, or think, I need to put the world above it, ahead of all of it. We’re on the front lines. If I lose you, I don’t think we’ll win, I don’t even think that I’d care that we lost, and I couldn’t bear to have that on my conscience.”
Frustrated, Spike jumped up. His eyes flashing gold, he grabbed her shoulders and shook her, each phrase getting louder. “Buffy Anne Summers, I am not your father; I am not that git Finn; and I am bloody well not Angel!” he roared. Then more calmly, eyes cerulean blue again, “I gave up the world for you! You are my world! I will never leave you!”
“And your soul? Is it safe with me?” she asked quietly. Fear of a repeat “soul-ectomy” was one reason she’d kept her distance from Spike since he had returned. When Spike had been soulless and evil, she’d eventually found the strength to step back. Granted, she now felt that that had been a cop out on her part, but still, she’d been able to do it. Spike with a soul, though, made her heart break to see him crazy with guilt. His beautiful broken face and tortured eyes tormented her dreams, and she agonized over his poor breast where he had tried to ‘cut the spark out’.
Warmth settled in her belly every time she saw him, her knees got shaky and she felt breathless. It had been too risky. With Angel she’d been able to play at being platonic. After all, it had been sweet with him, but not earthshaking. Earthshaking was Spike. After literally bringing the house down their first time together, she was surprised they hadn’t turned the town into rubble and ruins every time they touched, every time they’d let themselves go in each other’s arms. She hadn’t been able to take the chance that he’d lose his soul.
She was sure a de-souled Spike wouldn’t go Angelus on her, but he had risked his life for it, and she couldn’t do that to him. On top of that, if she were ever forced to kill him, it would destroy her from the inside out. She just couldn’t kill the man she loved again. She’d barely survived it the last time. So she’d hardened herself against him, and done her best to stay away.
Spike’s frustration melted away and a soft light entered his eyes. Stroking her hair, he whispered, “I loved you first without my soul, Buffy. I fought and won it for you. Angel had to be cursed with his, so it isn’t really anchored to him. My soul is my own, I won’t lose it, baby.”
“Oh.” With a nervous laugh she asked, “Are you sure?” A step closer, her hands itched to lay claim on him once again. “’Cause if you’re sure...” She jumped into his arms, her body shaking and her heart pounding. “I love you, Spike!” And she breathed her relief into the crook of his neck.
His world started turning again as his wounded heart healed. Spike’s most desperate and unattainable desire was realized. Buffy loved him, and better than that, she no longer denied it, not to herself, not to him. Face alight with joy, he kissed her passionately and murmured against her lips, “Will you marry me?”
Buffy gasped, “Yes, Yes,” as her lips pressed harshly against his. She could hardly concentrate on what he was saying, as lightening streaked through her from head to toe. One question burned in her head, ‘How could I have been so stupid as to throw this away, to throw him away?’
Drawing her over to the cot while raining kisses over her face and neck, he murmured, “Here’s what we do. At the height of passion...”
That got her attention. Buffy pulled back in surprise. “The height of what?”
Quirking his eyebrow, Spike smirked: “Yeah, sweetheart, the height of passion. It is after all a Mating. Eye lids lowering to half mast, nostrils flared, he pulled her so close against his body that she could feel how hard he was. “Just before climax,” he murmured, “I say to you, ‘I’m yours.’ You repeat it back to me; afterwards we say in unison, ‘Heart, Body, Blood, We are One.’ Then, as we come, we bite each other and drink.”
Buffy had been sinking into a sensual haze, but at the mention of biting, she jumped back in alarm, and cried shrilly, “Wait...WHAT!?!” ‘Bite him! Let him bite me? Ugh no!’ Then, looking into his smoldering eyes, she let herself be calmed. In spite of herself, she felt a wave of arousal run through her. It was a vampire mating. Of course there was biting.
He touched her cheek softly, “Not enough to sire you, my love, just enough to join our blood, as our hearts and bodies are joined; and the transformation takes place. Remember, bite me hard, so that you draw blood and can drink.”
“OK, we bite each other, but drink? When Dracula bit me, he made me drink his blood. I saw the darkness within me, and tasted the darkness in him. I’d rather not see that again. Will I?” She looked apprehensively into his eyes.
“I highly doubt either of us will notice, pet. We’ll be too caught up in other sensations,” Spike smirked suggestively, curling his tongue to press it against his upper teeth, and placing his hands at the small of her back to pull her hard against him. Sobering, he stated, “It’s imperative that we drink, love; it’s an essential part of the spell.” Again Spike was motionless, studying her, patiently allowing her to come round on her own. In the back of his mind, he wondered if she’d back out because of the blood issue and her past with it.
Searching his face, Buffy finally capitulated with a sigh. “Fine; bite and drink.” She guessed the taste wasn’t that bad anyway, just salty. It was the thought of it that bothered her. “So...no fancy dress, huh? No wedding dinner to fight over seating arrangements?” She still occasionally daydreamed about the beautiful white gown she’d admired in the store window, when under Willow’s spell and in love with Spike for the first time. And it seemed a shame to miss out on arguing over who sat where at the wedding dinner, it had looked so fun when Xander and Anya had done it. Buffy’s lower lip thrust out as she thought about it.
He was tempted by her pouty lip into leaning down and capturing it between his teeth. Nibbling softly, he answered regretfully, “No, sweetheart, just us. Together.”
“Well, OK, but if I end up a vampire, I will really bite you!” she groused, playfully nipping at his throat.
“You won’t.” Spike laughed, but his demon roared. Sire her? ‘She’d be with me forever!’ That was the demon’s deepest desire. To keep her for eternity. If only she’d be herself afterwards, but as she’d be evil, there wasn’t much chance of that. It would likely be a repeat of his mother’s turning. No, he’d decided long ago, he’d love her to distraction for the remainder of her life, and let the future bring what it would.
Buffy had a sudden thought and frowned, “Did you marry Drusilla?”
Spike’s face shut down, his arms dropping away from her. “No. Drusilla’s insane.” He didn’t elaborate, for that said it all. She hadn’t been capable of real love, thanks to Angelus’ torturing her into madness. He’d spent over a hundred years picking up the pieces of Dru after that wanker had finished with her.
With a slow, remorseful smile for wounding him, Buffy leaned into Spike. Reaching up and taking his face between her hands, she pulled him down to her lips and gently kissed him. He relaxed gradually and they sank onto the cot...their caresses becoming more fevered, more intense...they joined and joy flooded through them as they became one. Eventually the pressure between them neared its peak and they whispered their vows. Spike’s face shifted, incisors elongating, smoothly slipping into her jugular and drawing her sweet blood into his mouth. An intense wave of pleasure shot through her, and without another thought, she clamped her teeth onto his neck, biting down and drinking as they shuddered together.
Red and yellow light washed over them, then streaked around the room, slowly dissipating. Waves of power pulsated through them, stunning them as awareness of the world fell away, leaving only each other.
Suddenly every touch was intensified, their awareness of each other strengthened, until they’d be able to feel each other anywhere. Not just, ‘Hey, slayer or vampire, there;’ not even ‘hey, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Spike the Master Vampire, there;’ but a deep inner awareness of Mate, the other half of Self. Where before they’d been able to pick each other out of a crowd, now, half a world away they’d be able to sense one another.
Later, lying in his arms, Buffy marveled at how well she could see in the dim basement. The colors seemed brighter, the air more clear. Everywhere she and Spike touched tingled with new sensations. She could feel the very texture of his skin beneath her fingers, smell the tantalizing ‘essence of Spike’ under the tobacco and leather.
There would be no more ‘cow towing’ to others’ finer sensibilities. She wasn’t going to be separated from him again. For whatever time she had left, she’d have Spike. Stroking his bicep she stared into his eyes, and exclaimed, “I love you! It’s been so long since we’ve been together, and I’ve missed you so much, sweetheart...I want to wake up in your arms every day for the rest of my life. Being Dawn's guardian, it needs to be legal. Will you marry me again? Human wise?”
Heart overflowing with joy, Spike began kissing her again. This was more than he’d ever dared to hope for. “Yes! God, yes!” He could hardly believe his good fortune. She wanted him openly, in the face of all opposition, in the light of day! ‘No hiding this time, no lies, and she called me sweetheart!’ He couldn’t ever remember her giving him a pet name in affection, nor could he remember ever feeling so happy. “Guess you’ll get that white dress and we’ll be able to fight over seating arrangements after all,” he grinned down at her.
“Yeah,” laughed Buffy, and she flipped over and stretched out on top of Spike, glorying in the feel of him. From breast to toe where she touched him, every nerve ending buzzed. She nuzzled into his neck, “Mmm, you smell delicious. I never noticed before. So...you’ve been able to sense my desire all along?”
Stroking his hand up and down her back, he murmured, “Mm hmm,” and what torture that had been. Clear back to the beginning, when she’d been a perky fifteen year old, the ‘Essence of Slayer Desire’ had tormented him as they fought each other. He had delighted in dreaming of killing her with pleasure prior to draining her. It had been a real chore keeping those fantasies from Drusilla. Dru may have been one to stray but turnabout was not fair play with her.
For the first time, Spike found it easy to use some tact, and kept those thoughts to himself, simply allowing his hands to range further. He wondered if this was a new-fangled mating skill from Buffy; the ability to keep his mouth shut. If so, he decided to reserve it for special occasions. Grinning privately, he reflected that it was too much fun inciting reactions in others to use freely.
Curious to see if Spike’s ‘love’ sense matched her memory, Buffy lifted her head and asked another question, “How long have you known that I love you?”
“Since the night I stood up to Glory for you,” Spike answered, sitting up and lifting her across his lap. Power thrummed through him, it was no effort at all to lift her. ‘I’m going to like this new strength thing,’ Spike thought as he kissed the top of Buffy’s head.
“Then why didn’t we do this sooner?” she pouted. ‘So much time we wasted, or rather I wasted, when we could have been loving. He knew even before I jumped from the tower! Maybe I wouldn’t have had to die at all, if we’d mated before the Glory fiasco.’ Resentment budded in her heart for having to go through that, when it could all have been avoided.
Spike nipped her lower lip and her developing bitterness in the bud, with “Until you could admit that you love me, your love wasn’t strong enough. The Mating would have done us in. Tonight was the first time you even came close to telling me; the first time you’ve given me the feeling you’d ever tell me.” His voice trembled with suppressed tears. He didn’t deserve her, he was beneath her. How had he gotten so lucky as to win her?
Nodding, Buffy was silent for a few moments. Studying his beautiful face she was thankful that she had finally given up her fear, and embraced her love for him before it was too late. Her gaze strayed past his full lower lip, down his neck, to his sculptured chest, then, back to his neck in surprise. “Your bite, it’s already healed!” she exclaimed.
“But it scarred,” she murmured, running a finger along the length of it. Buffy smiled wickedly as he arched into the touch, his eyes drifting closed. She ran her finger over the scar again, feather light, holding back a giggle as he moaned.
“They’re Mating Bites, love, they’re permanent,” Spike said, his voice caressing her as he repaid her attentions by touching his tongue to the new scar on her neck that overrode and obliterated the older ones beneath it.
A shiver traveled down Buffy’s spine in response. As she traced her fingers down his sculptured chest, she noticed light coming through the small basement window. A new day was dawning. It was time to rejoin the world. Slowly they dressed each other, kissing each patch of skin before covering it up; missing each bit as it was hidden.
Smiling against her neck, Spike whispered, “Lets go watch the sunrise, pet. It’s so beautiful...like you are; daybreak always was my favorite time of day, it’s been over a hundred years since I’ve seen it.”
They climbed the stairs and walked outside to watch the sunrise in each other’s arms.