Author's Chapter 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.


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