Tears Of Crimson Regret
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Title: Just Pretending…
Author: BloodyTearsOfLife
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: All characters belong to the Joss, he just let’s me play with them.
Summary: A visit from the social workers and Dawn’s created a nice mess for Buffy to clean up, with the help of Spike of course. Takes place before ‘Tough Love’.Written for Ariel Dawn.

Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5

Chapter 1: The Dilemma

A/N: This is written for Ariel Dawn, because not only is she a fabulous beta (yes, she did beta this), but also an awesome friend and really deserves this. She wanted a fic where Spike and Buffy had to get along for Dawn’s benefit, so here it is…well, the first chapter at least. Also, a special thanks to Copykween, who looked over this and gave me honest feedback. Thanks for helping me fix my Buffy. ;-)

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Sometimes, she really, really, needed to think things through, and learn to control her mouth. She’d been so nervous at the thought of what might happen to her that the words had come tumbling out, kind of like vomit or something, with no way to take them back, not that she would want to take vomit back, because eww...

Gah! Sometimes she wished she just knew when to shut up. Her mouth seemed to talk her into more trouble than she could handle, and this time might definitely take the cake. No, make that absolutely take the cake.

Buffy was SO going to kill her.

Dawn cringed as she imagined her sister’s reaction to the bit of information she was going to have to tell her. She thought Cujo was scary but the rabid dog had nothing on her sister when she was royally pissed off, and pissed off she was going to be.

But they could handle it, right? It wasn’t like they didn’t save the world from impending apocalyptic doom every other Tuesday; this was almost nothing compared to that. Buffy could deal with this. It was just a matter of presenting the information in a good light. Try to make Buffy see the bright side of it.

Since her big mouth had dug her grave that morning, Dawn tried to think of a way to tell her sister with the least amount of damage possible. By the end of the school day she was a fidgety ball of nerves, because no matter which way she looked at it, the results were the same.

Buffy was SO going to kill her.

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Dawn stalled as long as she could, but there was no avoiding it; she was going to have to eventually go home. Hiding out in the public library as long as was humanly possible before being ushered out by one of the grouchy librarians had been her method of escape for the afternoon. Anything to delay going home.

Buffy was going to find out one way or another and knowing Buffy the way she did, she would rather hear it from her sister than from someone else, and that was the only reason Dawn even found herself standing on the sidewalk in front of her house.

Her feet had seemed to turn into lead as she neared the front steps. The rubber soles of her sneakers making the wood groan under her feet as she stepped up. The noise was seemingly louder than normal in the not so surprising eerie quiet that enveloped the block as the sun began to set.

Somewhere between making progress between the last step and the front door, the planks of wood had grown an adhesive and Dawn stood rooted to the spot. Buffy was on the other side of the door, possibly waiting for her, either for dinner or, worst case scenario, already knowing Dawn’s secret and was waiting with a long list of possible punishments, maybe even with a butcher knife or something equally scary.

Dawn wasn’t sure how long she stood there, her mind swirling with all the possibilities, when a grip on her shoulder startled her out of her thoughts. She gave a shriek and flailed around, trying to get away. She gave another squeal of panic as she found herself falling over and a strong grip on her arm was the only thing saving her from face planting into the porch.

"Dawn?" Buffy called out, squeezing her arm.

Dawn let out a nervous chuckle as she stood up and tried to refrain from looking like a deer caught in headlights.

"Buffy! Hey! I didn’t know you weren’t home," she gulped, her eyes darting around nervously.

"Scooby meeting. I picked up Chinese," Buffy explained swaying the bag in her hand. "Where have you been?" she asked frowning, but brushed past Dawn, already retrieving her keys from her pocket to unlock the front door.

"Oh, you know, at Janice’s, doing the whole buddy-study thing. Mr. McCafferty has been loading up on us so we went dutch on the homework thing," Dawn rambled with another giggle.

"Cool. Are you feeling okay? You’re a bit more babbly than normal," Buffy observed, looking back at Dawn as she held the door open.

Dawn gulped. So here was her chance. She could come clean, confess it all right now, and get it over with. Or, she could wait until they’d stuffed themselves full with Chow Mein goodness, which was always guaranteed to put Buffy in a good mood. Coward, thy name was Dawn.

"Yup," she answered, popping her ‘p’, holding back the urge just to blurt everything out. "I’m just hunky dory, maybe a little bit too much caffeine, or candy, or you know, I haven’t eaten since, like, lunch, maybe it’s food deprivation," she offered, nodding her head.

"Uh huh, sure," Buffy replied with a skeptic look. "How about you go and put your stuff away and wash up while I serve. And while we’re curing your ‘food deprivation’ you can tell me what’s up."

Dawn was quick to agree and shot up the stairs. The sooner she was away from Buffy, the less of a chance she had of spilling the news that she was sure was going to start World War III.

While she did throw her bag into her room, she promptly locked herself into the bathroom and began taking her time washing her hands, going as far as using that little manicure brush of Buffy’s, and repeating the whole process at least six times.

"Dawn! Dinner, now!"

Buffy’s shout had the brush flying out of her hands where it landed in places unknown. She quickly dried her hands on a towel. Unlocking the door, she fully expected to find Buffy on the other side impatiently tapping her foot, and let out a sigh of relief when she was met with nothing.

She tiptoed down the stairs, skipping the second to last step that squeaked, and rounded the corner into the dining room. Buffy’s back was facing her and Dawn couldn’t help but gulp as she took in the rigid set of her sister’s shoulders.

Dawn sat down opposite her sister and carefully examined her food. From the looks of it, something had upset Buffy and it didn’t hurt to double check that there was no obvious poison in her food. Not that you could visually detect over half the types she knew of, but it didn’t hurt to be cautious.

She hesitantly spooned some food into her mouth, feeling Buffy’s eyes watching her the whole time. Finally, Buffy began to eat and the two ate on in silence for a few minutes. Just enough time to let Dawn relax. Maybe she was wrong and Buffy didn’t know anything. Studying her plate again, she did realize that Buffy’s favorite dish wasn’t present and maybe that’s what had ruffled her feathers.

"So, anything interesting happen at school?"

Or maybe not…

Dawn looked up at Buffy’s neutral tone that translated into ‘I’m pissed as hell but I’m not going to let you know until I’ve beaten it out of you’.

"It was, you know, school. Nothing interesting," Dawn answered nonchalantly, as she tried not to fidget under her sister’s stare. So something definitely had happened in the ten minutes that she’d locked herself in the bathroom. She just wished she knew what.

"Nothing interesting at all?" Buffy continued to press.

"Not really," Dawn mumbled as she shoved another spoonful of food in her mouth.

"You sure? No surprise visit from the social workers where you didn’t just happen by chance to tell them something?"

"Umm…." Dawn gulped, her throat feeling very dry. She was so dead if the look in Buffy’s eyes told her anything.

"Dawn, spill, now," Buffy ordered, leaning back in her chair, crossing her arms, and glowering over the small space that separated the two.

"All right, so maybe some social workers came and maybe they started asking a lot of questions and maybe I just got a bit nervous and fidgety and babbly. You know how I get. And the two of them kept whispering and I just knew they were thinking up some elaborate plan to take me away because they didn’t like me and so I got all worried and scared and panicked and my mouth just opened and it happened."

"What happened?" Buffy asked, her words clipped.

Dawn shifted in her seat. "Well, I kind of, might of, sort of told the social workers… you-got-married-to-Spike," she rushed out in a single breath, giving a little whimper.

Buffy blinked. Married? Had Dawn really said married? To Spike?

"You want to run that by me one more time?" Buffy requested, but her eyes were wide, meaning she had understood perfectly what Dawn had said.

"I didn’t know what else to say! It was really early in the morning and it was the first idea that came to me and before I could convince my mouth it shouldn’t, it just blurted it all out and then I couldn’t take it back because they were already scribbling on their clipboards and whispering again and please, please don’t let them take me," she pleaded, tears beginning to gather in her eyes.

A sigh punctuated the silence and Dawn looked up to see Buffy’s mouth in a thin line, her eyes closed. If she didn’t know better Dawn would say Buffy was meditating but she could see the signs of anger in her sister’s body language.

"Please Buffy, don’t let them take me away," Dawn began to plead again, fear churning in her gut at the thought of being ripped away from the last of her family. "I know that I’m not doing as good as I use to but I can do better. I will do better. But please Buffy, don’t let them take me."

Buffy gave another sigh and got up, moving to sit next to Dawn. As much as she’d like to give reign to the anger she could feel inside, she needed to assure Dawn first, and then do the anger thing. She held her sister as she cried, running her hands through her hair. The fear her sister was feeling was the same thing that gripped her all the time, the constant worry that somehow, someway, she’d lose Dawn, whether to Glory, or now, Child Protection Services. They were just going to have to deal with the situation as best as they could.

"Dawnie, I’m not going to let them take you away," she promised as Dawn quieted down.

"I’m sorry," Dawn mumbled against her sister’s shirt.

"I know."

"How did you find out?" Dawn asked as she sat back up and wiped her face with her sleeve.

"There was a message on the machine that me and ‘my husband’ needed to make an appointment to see your principal," Buffy answered with a slightly amused smirk but there was still underlying anger in her tone.

"Oh. So… you mad?"

Buffy forced herself to let go of her sister and clutched her balled fists to her side. "Of course I’m mad Dawn! You lied first off, and now they all think I’m married, to Spike of all people!"

"I just…I didn’t know what else to say that would make them think that everything’s okay," Dawn explained, her eyes meeting Buffy’s again.

"And that’s what sprouted my instant husband?"

"Well, they just asked if they felt like I was missing out on anything or if I was being cared for good enough and I kind of let Spike’s name slip and when they asked me who he was, that was the only thing I could think of."

"Why is it that you guys always have me paired up with Spike?" Buffy whined with a pout. "Are you all trying to tell me something?"

"He’s pretty cool as far as vamps go," Dawn answered with a smile. "I mean, I would be completely happy if a vamp like him was in love with me."

"But see Dawn, that’s the problem. Spike is a vampire, and I’m the Slayer. Sworn enemies, not destined to be happily ever after," Buffy countered back. Why was she even having this conversation?

"Angel was a vampire, so what’s the difference?" Dawn asked but then rushed on as Buffy began to protest the whole ‘soul’ thing. "I know, he has a ‘soul’," she mocked. "But why does that really matter? I mean, in history class we’re studying the Holocaust and people with souls are a million times worse than Spike. I mean, people are killing and doing worse things every day, and they all have souls."

Buffy frowned. She’d never really thought about it like that before. It had always been soul equals good, black and white, no gray areas.

"Do you hate me?"

Dawn’s serious, but out of place question threw her for a loop, putting her anger momentarily on hold.

"No! How could you even ask me that?" Buffy questioned, taken aback.

"Buffy, I’m not exactly human. Well, I am, but I’m also the Key, whatever that is. Who knows if I have a soul? I was a mystical ball of energy for millions of years. Just because they magiced me human, doesn’t mean they included a soul," Dawn said with a grim stare.

"What are you talking about? You have a soul!" Buffy replied emphatically.

"But what if I didn’t? Would it make a difference?" Dawn asked, her whole persona changing from geeky teen to something different, something wise.

"No, you’re my sister, no matter what," Buffy said, grabbing Dawn’s hand, her mind flashing back to when she found Dawn at the hospital and proving to her they were really sisters.

The two were silence in their own thoughts a moment before Dawn spoke up again.

"The way I see it Buffy, Spike doesn’t have a soul to lose so what’s the big? Yeah, he’s a vampire, but he’s a cool one. And he loves you. And you trust him. I know that. Or you wouldn’t let him take care of me and mom."

Buffy clenched her jaw. Okay, so yeah, it was true. There was no way she would have left the two most important people in her life in Spike’s hands if she didn’t trust him marginally. She had to admit that Spike had changed a lot since they’d found him starving on the footsteps of Giles’ apartment. He’d done good since then, helped them out, and then there was the mess with Glory. He’d put himself on the line to protect Dawn, to protect her secret. He could have sold them out, but he didn’t, because it would have broken her, it would have killed her, the not so pleasant Buffy.

Boy, did growing up ever suck. Buffy gave a pout as she realized she was really going to have to accept that the world wasn’t black and white like she wanted it to be. There were shades of gray and Spike had just happened to land himself right smack dab in the middle. The stupid vamp went against everything she was taught. It messed up her whole system.

"You know, you’re going to have to talk to him and tell him," Dawn reminded, bringing back the conversation to where it had originally started.

"Don’t remind me," Buffy grumbled at her, the anger returning to her voice.

"Is it really that bad?" Dawn asked, her face earnest. "For it to be Spike?"

"Yes Dawn, it is that bad. He’s the most annoying, irritating person ever. And now I’m might be forced to pretend to be married to him."

"Right, like you absolutely hate the way you guys bicker," Dawn tossed back with a disbelieving look. "I may be a dumb kid but even I can see when there’s chemistry, and you two could probably fuel a nuclear bomb."

Instead of commenting on Dawn’s appraisal of what was between her and Spike, she cleared her throat and got back to the subject at hand. "So what exactly did you tell the social workers?"

Dawn gave a sheepish smile. "Just that you two were recently married, and that he’s been helping out, but nothing else. My mouth froze up after I realized what I’d said."

"And what did the social workers say about it?" Buffy asked.

"Actually, they seemed pretty happy about it. I heard one of them whisper that maybe you were serious about keeping a good family structure for me and that the marriage showed how you were being responsible," Dawn answered eagerly. Why she’d forgotten that smidge of information earlier, she didn’t know. But now that she was over being scared and Buffy wasn’t pummeling her, the whole situation seemed better and she could think.

"Huh?"

Dawn continued on as if she hadn’t heard her sister. "And I’m guessing that if I told them I was lying, they’d probably mark a check in the bad column against you. Maybe…maybe this can work to our benefit then. I mean, if you and Spike pretend to be married, just for a while, maybe we can convince the social workers I’m really okay here and then they’ll leave us alone?" Dawn suggested.

Buffy stared at Dawn, not sure if this really wasn’t all something she’d plan ahead but the anxious look in her eye told her that wasn’t the truth. Honestly, the plan wasn’t that bad of an idea, not that she’d ever admit it. All Buffy knew was that she couldn’t lose Dawn. There would be no way to fix her if she lost Dawn; and much like her mother had been, Dawn was everything to her now, all she had left.

"We’ll see. I’m going to have to talk to Spike before we decide anything," she said with a glare as Dawn began to smile. "But don’t get your hopes up," she snapped at her sister quickly, wilting her smile and letting her know she still wasn’t happy with her. "I’m going to do what needs to be done, even if pretending to be married to Spike is the only way we’re going to convince the social workers that you’re not lacking here then that’s what we’re going to have to do. Because I’m not losing you Dawn. I’m not going to let them take you away," Buffy said.

"Thanks Buffy."

"Now, about your punishment…"

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Chapter 2: The Proposal

A/N: Much love to CopyKween for doing a read through and helping me out and of course to Ariel for betaing. And a big thank you to those who read the last chapter. The feedback was just awesome. :-)

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The cemeteries were quiet that night, making Buffy actually wish for some action. The evening with Dawn had proved trying and now she could do with working away some of the tension, some of the anger.

She was so unbelievably angry with the whole situation. As if her life wasn’t as messed up and crazy as it was, now Dawn had thrown her a huge curveball in the form of an impromptu marriage to Spike.

Spike!

Like the whole fake marriage wasn’t enough, no, it had to be to the biggest pain in the ass she knew. She was just so frustrated with it all.

Underneath all that anger, she was so tired. Tired of everything, of having to do her duty because she had to. It was always just something else she had to do to keep things going, to make things work. It was tiring. If she wasn’t saving the world, then she was trying to keep together the shambles that was her life.

With the lack of vampire activity around her, Buffy stomped her way towards Spike’s cemetery to try and find the bleach blond vampire.

A twig snapped to her left, causing her to still and become aware of the slight tingling sensation on the back of her neck. Who else would be following her on patrol?

“Spike, get your ass out here,” she ordered, crossing her arms.

“Fancy meeting you here pet,” he drawled as he emerged from the bushes, a smile gracing his still battered face as if she hadn’t just caught him spying on her.

“You know, the whole stalker boy routine is getting pretty lame. Normally, I’d just tell you to buzz off, but we’ve got to talk.”

“Alright love, I’m all ears,” Spike replied and then hoisted himself onto the nearest tombstone.

It hit her then how awkward this was, for her at least. Buffy paced a few steps back and forth trying to figure out how to approach this. She’d been so certain earlier and now that she was face to face with him, she wasn’t so sure. There was something about Spike that completely unraveled her sometimes.

Spike tilted his head as he took in the Slayer’s demeanor. She looked a bit tired, lacking the usual fire she normally had. Her eyes looked hauntingly hollow, so much so that it sent a chill down his spine.

“How are you?” she finally asked, giving him a weak smile to cover up the awkwardness. It was the first time she’d seen him since the whole ‘Glory torture Spike’ session and the mess with the Buffybot. Not to mention the not so spell induced kiss.

“I’ve been better and I’ve been worse,” he answered, giving her a smile, but his face was still a mass of bruises, his right eye still swollen.

“Did your ribs set okay?”

“Slayer, I’m fine. Now tell me what’s got you all in a tizzy and wantin’ to talk to me,” he said, leaning towards her, his brows drawn together in a frown.

“Dawn.”

Spike’s eye grew wide and he began to scan the cemetery. “Yeah Slayer, but dawn’s not for a couple more hours,” he replied back as he continued to scan the cemetery and use his senses to see if anyone was around.

“What are you talking about?” Buffy asked, hands on her hips, staring him down as he hopped off the tombstone and came towards her. She began to take a step back but then stopped and held her ground, tensing as Spike leaned in closer.

“Slayer, we’re out in the open. You really want to be talking about whatever it is you want to talk about out here? ‘Specially if it has to do with…”

He left his sentence hanging but there wasn’t any doubt to whom he was referring to. Buffy cursed herself. She hadn’t thought twice about talking to Spike out in the open, but then the vampire seemed to be two steps ahead of her sometimes. She really hated him for that; she hated him for thinking more of her sister’s safety than she did.

“Fine, your crypt it is,” she fumed.

Buffy turned without another word and while she didn’t say anything to encourage Spike, she felt him fall into step beside her, his longer legs easily keeping up with her quick, angry stride. They hadn’t set more than two steps inside his crypt and had the door shut when Spike started firing questions.

“Dawn? Is she okay? The hellbitch didn’t…”

“No,” Buffy cut him off, laying a hand on his arm to reassure him. The wild look in his eyes was wigging her. “Dawn’s fine. She’s at home, hopefully sleeping. Unfortunately, Dawn’s big mouth seems to have gotten us into a bit of a situation.”

“Us?” Spike questioned, trying not to react to her warm hand still resting on his arm.

“Apparently today the social workers paid Dawn a visit,” Buffy began.

“And that involves me and you how?” He internally smirked as he saw Buffy’s eyes lit up with anger as he pushed her. There was his Slayer. He probably shouldn’t be pushing her buttons like he was, but Spike couldn’t help himself. Buffy’s suddenly quiet manner earlier wasn’t like her.

“I’m getting there, don’t be so impatient,” Buffy snapped, removing her hand but leaning towards him.

“Right, because you’re the perfect picture of patience,” Spike mocked.

“A lot better than you. Now if you would just shut up for once I could tell you what Dawn did!” she all but yelled, again leaning closer to get into his face.

“Fine Slayer, lay it on me, I promise to be extra good,” he leered at her, curling his tongue behind his teeth. God, she was gorgeous when she was pissed. They were nose to nose and Spike could feel her warm breath against his skin, his body already remembering how it felt to have her lips on his. Every muscle in him was tensing to see how Buffy would let this play out.

“Dawn told them we were married,” she growled out as if it were all somehow his fault.

Spike’s sudden bark of laughter startled Buffy and she gave a jump, moving away from him. His rumbling baritone laughter echoed in the quiet crypt as he held onto his sides, trying to control his mirth.

“What are you laughing at?” Buffy snapped.

Spike peered at the Slayer and took a deep breath, trying to regain composure. “Oh come on love, you can’t say this isn’t all a bit comical? I mean, Red did the mojo last time to make us married and now the Nibblet’s gone and done it. It all has a certain irony to it,” he said with a smirk.

“Fine, it’s ironic. So what? I don’t think you’re getting it. Dawn told them we were married, to each other,” she repeated, motioning between the two of them.

“You sure the witch hasn’t been casting spells?” he asked suspiciously.

“Nope, this was all Dawn’s doing.”

“You sure pet? This isn’t some elaborate plan to get your hands on my hot, tight body?” he teased.

“As if! Like I would…” Buffy trailed off, her anger getting the best of her and she barely resisted the urge to smack him. “You know what? Forget it. Forget it! I so knew the plan would never work. I don’t know why I told Dawn I’d even try. It’s not like I want to pretend to be married to you or anything. That’s it. Dawn’s going to be taken away from me. I knew that you would never care enough to--”

Spike’s sudden grip on her arms caused her to pause and glare up at him.

“You are the last person that should ever be thinking or saying that Slayer,” he snarled in her face. “It’s not like these bruises got there themselves.”

Buffy failed to respond, letting the quiet of the crypt intrude on their exchange. They both stiffened waiting for the other to speak.

He was right, absolutely and completely right. And it made her hate him just a bit more. How he could see straight through her and his blunt, assessing manner was unnerving as hell sometimes, particularly moments like this.

Still, Spike was loyal to the end. He’d proven that with Glory. He was the one pain in the ass that would never leave, even when she threatened to dust him. She knew he’d be there. She knew she could depend on him. She knew she could trust him.

She touched her hand to her temple. God, her head hurt. Everything Dawn had said swirled in her head and now added with her own thoughts, it was just a bit too much to take at the moment. Taking a deep breath, she pulled all her thoughts and tucked them away for later, when she was alone.

Buffy took another deep breath, forcing it out her mouth and using those calming techniques Giles had been so keen on teaching her.

“Now pet, what’s this plan of pretending to be married?” Spike asked curiously.

“Dawn told the social workers that we were married,” she simply said.

“Yeah, I got that part Slayer.”

Buffy pulled her arms out of his hands none too gently and balled her fists by her side.

“Maybe all that peroxide had damaged what little brain you have left Spikey, because apparently you aren’t getting it,” Buffy snapped, taking a step closer to him so they almost touched. “Dawn told them we were married, as in you and me, ‘til death do us part married.”

“I’m familiar with what marriage is pet. I don’t think either one of us forgot Red’s little spell, or would you like me to refresh your memory?” he asked, his full lips stretching into a lazy smirk.

For a few seconds Buffy was lost in memories of those lips and how they felt on her own, and on her neck, and… She shook herself free of the memory to find Spike staring down at her lips, only a few inches away.

“No thanks, I’d rather keep my dinner down,” she replied, taking a few steps back from him. How did she even let herself get so close to begin with? She couldn’t help but notice the flash of pain that crossed his face before he closed himself off and moved back away from her another few inches, not saying a thing, the muscle in his jaw giving a little jump beneath that bruised flesh.

Spike turned away from her, standing in front of one of the sarcophaguses, his hands digging into the cool stone as he wrapped his hands around the edges.

“What do you want Buffy?” he asked, his voice sounding distant.

Buffy had never heard that tone from him before and she wasn’t sure exactly what it was without looking at his face.

“Look, this was Dawn’s idea, not mine. The social workers think we’re married and the only way to keep them thinking that is if we pretend to be married. Our idea is if we can pretend well enough they’ll think Dawn’s doing good here and leave us alone.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?” she questioned. “Just like that? No questions, no complaints, nothing?”

“Do you want me to complain?” Spike growled as he whipped around, his hands reaching behind him still holding on to the sarcophagus, the stone digging into his palms keeping him grounded.

“Well, no, but I didn’t expect you to agree either,” Buffy admitted with a frown.

“I’m not going to fight if that’s what you’re expectin’.”

“I didn’t think you’d go along with it at all, not to help me.”

“I’m not doing this for you, I’m doing this for Dawn.”

The words stung and she didn’t exactly know why, but they did hurt, and for a second, Spike saw the flash of pain behind her eyes.

“Buffy, I--” Spike started, but Buffy cut him off.

“No, you’re right, this isn’t about me, this is for Dawn,” she stated, trying to keep her voice neutral but failing, the bitter edge to her voice was apparent. “Just umm… come by the house tomorrow and we’ll figure out everything.”

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She was angry. Angrier than she remembered being when she first headed out the door that night. Spike’s words had hit hard. She wasn’t certain why they hurt and the fact that they did, bugged her more than she liked to admit. Why should she care what Spike thought?

“I’m not doing this for you, I’m doing this for Dawn.”

There it was again, the little dig. It was for Dawn, just like everything else had been lately. Had to do this for Dawn, and had to do that for Dawn. When was anything going to happen for her? It wasn’t that no one was concerned about her, because they were, but they also had their own lives and were wrapped up in each other. Everyone was paired off, except for her, and well, Giles, but he didn’t count.

Buffy was so far into her inner musings that she didn’t feel or hear the vamp creep up behind her until his body slammed her into the ground, just the proper distraction she needed.

“Oh, you are so going to regret that,” she mumbled, before swinging her head back and cracking the vampire in the face. She took the opportunity to roll him off her and climb to her feet. She let the vamp get to his own feet before taking up a fighting stance.

There were no words, no witty repartee, just a rain of blocks and punches, kicks and counter attacks. She took out all her frustration and anger out on the vamp until he was a bloody mess and then she staked him, turning her head away from the violence she’d unleashed on him.

Buffy fell to her knees, clenching her eyes shut to stop the tears that threatened to fall. She tightened her hand around her stake, the pain helping her to stop from breaking down. It was so tempting, so tempting to just break, to fall apart, but she couldn’t, she wouldn’t.

With a deep breath, she got up and hurried home before she could think more on what she had just done.

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Sleep found Buffy that night in a series of dreams, mostly involving Spike and a tux, and the removal of said tux. By four am, she was blearily eyed in an effort to stay awake. She didn’t know which was more frustrating, having the dreams, or that she couldn’t do anything about them.

Oh but she was itching to.

Her skin was flushed and she’d thrown off the covers to help cool herself down. She reclined against her headboard, trying to get her mind to concentrate on something other than her last dream, which hadn’t been anywhere near PG-13. She could still vividly recall the way it felt to have dream Spike trail his tongue across her neck, her chest, and downward.

Buffy gave a growl of irritation and thumped her fists against the mattress. She would not think about Spike.

Do not think about Spike.

She repeated the line over and over but still felt herself sway as sleep began to pull at her. She was helpless against it as her tired mind drifted off.

She opened her eyes to find herself surrounded by mist. She stepped forward and walked directly into the spray of water coming from a showerhead. Letting the water glide over her back, she let out a sigh.

She almost screamed as hands settled on her naked shoulders. She was cut short by the tingles at her neck letting her know who it was. His large hands smoothed down her back, gently kneading the muscles there. She couldn’t help but sigh again as he worked the knots in her back. His hands felt like heaven and paired with the hot water, she couldn’t be more relaxed. Which was the only reason she hadn’t resisted him as he raised back her arms and wrapped them around his neck.

His arms came around her waist, hands resting on her stomach as his thumbs rubbed circles into her soft skin. His hands slowly slid upward, inch by inch, making her breath catch in her throat at his feather light touch. He cupped her breasts gently, thumbs barely brushing her nipples, causing them to stand at attention.

Buffy gave a little mewl and pressed herself into his hands, wanting more, arching her head back and to the side, giving him access to her neck. His lips were velvety soft against her skin as he peppered kisses up and down her neck, his hands continuing to toy with her breasts, but never rushing. His movements were slow and measured, as if he knew what every touch would do to her.

One hand left her chest and glided downward, his fingers dancing along her hip, skirting the area that she wanted him to touch the most. As he continued to string her along a few moments longer, Buffy decided she’d been passive enough and with a quick twist, she turned and pushed against his chest, knocking him against the wall that was suddenly there.

She did take a moment to look at him though. He was all sleek muscle, his white skin slightly flushed with the heat of the water. He was breathing hard, all muscles tense as he waited for her to do something. She locked eyes with him and for a moment forgot to breathe.

They were crystal blue, surrounded by thick black lashes. His normally slicked back hair was a riot of curls and she had the sudden urge to tangle her hands in it. Making quick work of the space between them, she did just that. She took handfuls of that utterly soft hair in her hands and pulled him down towards her, finally doing what she’d been denying herself all night long and kissed him.

His lips were softer underneath hers than she remembered, and she took a moment just to be content with how they felt under hers, but soon it wasn’t enough, she needed more. They both mutually opened to each other, tongues clashing as they both fought for dominance, his hands grabbing onto her hips and bringing her flush against him. He gave a groan as she let go of his lips but it turned into a moan as she nibbled down his neck, giving the place where his pulse should have been beating extra attention.

Suddenly Buffy found herself slammed up against the wall, staring up into amber eyes, her breathing coming out faster as he held both of her wrists with one hand above her head, stretching them on just this side of pain. Spike nudged his way between her thighs, using his free hand to lift up one of her legs to wrap around his lean hips and brushing his cock against her folds, making her shudder in pleasure.

Spike stared into her eyes as he grazed his cock against her again, watching as her eyes closed and her breathing sped up. He licked along her neck, feeling the blood pump beneath the surface. Buffy knew it was dangerous, letting him get so close, but she couldn’t bring herself to stop him and instead wrapped her other leg around him, bringing him closer to her.

There was no warning. One moment Spike wasn’t in her and the next moment he was, pushed in so deep, the sudden sensation causing her to cry out. He filled her completely. He shifted his footing, only his hips pinning her to the wall keeping her up, his free hand latched onto her hip.

She opened her eyes to see him still staring at her, amber eyes gone now. He only held her gaze a moment before starting a deep thrust, the pain and pleasure of it rolling her eyes back into her head and lolling her head against the wall. Her arms went free as he let them go to grab her other hip, and she wrapped them around his back, nails digging into the smooth skin, but it only spurred him on. His thrusts were deep and fast, almost if they started down from his feet and went upward; it took her breath away.

She was close, so close. There was a fine tremor that raced down Spike’s back, telling her how close he was too. He kept rhythm even as he paid equal attention to her breast and neck, lavishing both with love bites.

Spike shifted her hips, his cock rubbing against a new spot and making her give a loud moan.

“Spike,” she mumbled against his lips before capturing them, only pulling back when she needed to breathe.

She was on the edge, just a moment longer and the whole night would be worth it.

Close…so close…

“Buffy,” Spike whispered against her cheek, his voice sending a shiver down her spine.

One of his hands let go of her hips and moved towards where they were joined. She was on the brink of explosion and he was about to give her what she needed.

So close…

“Buffy! Buffy! Wake up!”

Buffy sky rocketed straight up in bed, on the edge of arousal, and stared into the face of her younger sister.

“You better hurry up or you’re going to be late,” Dawn warned her before flouncing out of the room.

Buffy flopped back down on the bed and fought the urge not to cry.

Damn Dawn…both of them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Chapter 3: Following Orders

A/N: Thanks to CopyKween for doing a read through and to Ariel for betaing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy was feeling less frustrated by the time she made it out of the shower. She wasn’t entirely happy with the situation but there was no way she was going to go walking around all day like that. She wouldn’t have survived. It was bad enough she was dreaming about Spike, but to have a dream go that far and then not finish, it was torture.

It turned out that her little bout in the shower didn’t really help; all through her morning classes she found herself distracted and consequently, was reprimanded more than once by her teachers when she didn’t have a clue as to what was going on when they called on her. She was glad when her last class ended at noon and swung by the Espresso Pump to grab a cup of coffee before heading for the Magic Box, where hopefully a large, dusty tome that Giles liked to call a book would occupy her mind.

She entered the shop to see Anya attending to some customers while Giles sat at the table, book in hand.

Buffy plopped down in a chair, catching Giles’ attention.

“Oh, hello Buffy. Did you sleep well last night?”

“What? Huh? I slept fine. Why?” Buffy asked with a frown.

“Well, I figured with this debacle with Glory you weren’t sleeping well. Or perhaps even having prophetic dreams?” he inquired, almost hopefully.

“No. No slayer dreams,” she answered smoothly, even as she began to slightly panic. Could her dreams about Spike have been slayer dreams? That they were…destined to happen? No way. Make that a big no way.

She cut off that line of thought even as she remembered that Spike was due later at her house so they could figure out their ‘marriage’. Her life was turning into a nightmare, that was the only explanation.

Buffy gave her arm a little pinch in hopes of waking herself up and only succeeded in possibly giving herself a bruise. She was very much awake. She gave a little pout before looking back up at Giles, who once again had his nose stuck in a book.

“Have you found anything new?” she asked hopefully.

Giles dragged his eyes up to look at her and heaved a sigh. “Unfortunately, not yet. I do have a set of volumes coming in that I hope will give us more information. Until then, I’m reviewing our previous searches to see if something was overlooked.”

“So nothing really for me to do?”

“I’m afraid not. Unless you want to look over a few books?” Giles offered.

“I think I’ll take a rain check. I’ll just be in the training room.”

Giles waved her off with a knowing smile before resuming his place in his book.

Buffy wasted a few hours in the training room, only stopping every now and then to guzzle down some much needed water. When she looked back up at the clock, she saw it was a little after three and decided to call it quits. Dawn was due home soon and they needed to talk before Spike got there. And she desperately needed a shower too.

She grabbed her stuff and shouted a goodbye to Giles before slipping out the back door and jogging home. She arrived there to find her house exactly the way she had left it that morning, no unwanted guests lingering about. Dropping off her bag in her room, she headed for the bathroom.

It was as she was coming out of the bathroom, wrapped in nothing more than a towel, that she felt the tingles on the back of her neck. Her mind flashed back to her dream from the previous night and her thighs gave a slight tremble.

Suppressing a growl, she tried her luck and called out to the only vampire she knew could possibly be near her house. She was answered with the sound of fists pounding on the front door. Buffy had half a mind to let Spike sit outside, but then she remembered that she needed him for her plan to work.

Forgoing the clothes she wanted to put on, she rushed down the stairs and opened the door. Standing there was an overly warm Spike, smoke rising from his ragged blanket. She stood back to let him in, but he did not move. Silently he looked up at her, staring at her in desperation, begging her to invite him in.

Buffy huffed a sigh. It was now or later. “Come in Spike.”

The barrier keeping Spike out dropped and he rushed past her into the house. She closed the door, keeping the deadly sunlight out.

“Thanks pet,” he said as he pulled the blanket off himself and tossed it on the banister, smoothing back his hair. It always amazed her how much a difference a day could make; his battered face was looking better than it had the last time she’d seen him, the swelling had finally gone down and his bruises were beginning to fade to that sickly yellow color.

Spike must have noticed her state of undress, because he looked up at her, a question forming in his head. His eyes locked with hers and Buffy found herself back in her dream. She couldn’t help but give the tiniest of gasps as a cloud of arousal settled around her, her abdominal muscles tightening in remembrance. She was standing practically naked in from of him. She tried to cover her embarrassment up the only way she knew how.

“What are you doing here?” she snapped at him, her arms clenching around the towel, Spike’s eyes following her actions.

“You said to come by. I’m just followin’ orders,” he answered, his voice a low rumble.

“And since when you do ever do that?”

“Oh, I’m very good at followin’ orders when I want to,” he purred, taking a step closer to her, his tongue curled behind his teeth.

Buffy shook her head, brushing away his comment and the image her mind conjured up. “Whatever. I didn’t think you’d be here until later. You do realize it’s daylight out?” she questioned, death gripping the towel. She so needed clothes, like five minutes ago.

“Why Slayer, I didn’t know you were concerned for my well being. I’m…touched,” Spike drawled, his eyes continuing to rake over her form.

Rather than be disgusted, her body flushed as she was caught his gaze again, his eyes darkening, even flickering with amber. She shut her eyes when her dream came to the fore again, but it did nothing to help. She needed clothes; she needed to get away from him.

“I’m not, concerned that is. And there will be no touching of you, of any kind either,” she rambled. She felt rather than saw Spike take another step closer to her, the lapels of his coat almost brushing her.

“So you were thinking about touching me, were you?”

“In your dreams,” Buffy mumbled.

“No, more like in your dreams love,” Spike shot back as he took a step towards her.

Buffy suddenly found herself pressed against the door, trapped by Spike’s body. The tingling sensation intensified as Spike leaned in closer towards her, his body covering hers, hands braced on the door on either side of her as he inhaled a deep breath along her neck. She should be pushing him away. Why wasn’t she pushing him away? Her brain knew why but her body didn’t.

Goosebumps rose up on her skin as Spike laid the gentlest of kisses against her neck, her heart beating frantically underneath the skin. When he was met with no resistance, he continued to do so, making his way down her neck and along her collarbone.

Buffy reasoned that there really was no logical explanation for what happened next. He was being slow and gentle and all her body wanted was the Spike from her dreams that had taken her hard and fast.

Her hands were tangled in his hair before she could stop herself and she smashed her lips against his, catching his cry of surprise. Spike was still for only a fraction of a second before returning the kiss, one hand spanning across the small of her back while the other cupped the back of her neck.

His kisses were hard and demanding. It was if he was drinking her down, his tongue tracing the curve of her lips before delving in further. The sensation of his cooler tongue against hers made her moan and her hands tightened in his hair, dislodging the curls that were kept in place with gel.

The world slid away as Spike slammed her against the door with his hips. All she could feel was Spike’s mouth on hers and his hands that seemed to be everywhere at once, first sliding down her neck, and then tracing gently down her arms, her chest, playing along the line of the thin towel, fingers dipping down to tease her. His lean hips dug into hers along with the hard bulge that was pressed against her abdomen.

The slow throb that was building inside her grew stronger and she was filled with the need to feel more of his bare skin. Her hands left his hair and trailed down his torso, coming to rest on the waistband of his jeans. Her hands wrapped around his waist and began to pull his shirt up, which didn’t get her too far with his duster in the way.

It was at the same moment that she was tugging at his shirt that she felt the cool air hit her exposed skin as Spike loosed the towel from around her. It was the proverbial splash of cold water.

Buffy immediately froze and pulled back as if burnt, harshly pushing Spike back and knocking him down. She desperately clutched the towel around herself as she stared down at him in horror, even as her body urged her to continue what she had just stopped.

Spike stared back at her, trying to form words but finding it impossible to do so. His chest rose and fell with his harsh breathing and his eyes were dark, never straying from her. He never made a move to get up, just sat there and waited for her to do something.

The threat that was waiting to sprout from her lips was stopped by the sound of footsteps on the front porch. Instead, she gave Spike a death glare before flying past him and up the stairs to the safety of her room, where she closed the door with more force than necessary and locked it.

Her body was shaking as she rested against the door, whether from unfulfilled desire or from anger and embarrassment, she didn’t know, possibly both. Below, she could hear the door open and Dawn greet Spike enthusiastically, her high-pitched chatter growing fainter as she assumed they left the foyer to enter the kitchen.

Buffy took a deep breath, trying to regain her composure. She quickly and mechanically got dressed, her thoughts flying a mile a minute. Why had she even let Spike get that close? And why did she let him kiss her? There were too many unanswered questions that she wasn’t sure that she even wanted to know the answer to. All she could do was try her best to pretend it didn’t happen and make sure there were so no repeat performances in the future.

Checking herself once over in the mirror and deciding she looked presentable, she grudgingly unlocked and opened her door, forcing her feet to walk out and down the stairs. Her earlier assumption proved correct, Dawn’s bag was thrown haphazardly against the stairs, and she could hear her sister's distinct chatter coming from the kitchen, punctuated every now and then by a low rumble.

Buffy closed her eyes and steeled herself. She could do this. She was the Slayer. Walking with more confidence than she felt, she made her way towards the kitchen, hovering in the doorway.

Dawn was seated at the counter munching on an apple while Spike was bustling around the kitchen as if he owned it, his body moving with ease and familiarity. His ever present duster was hanging off the back of Dawn’s chair and his shirt seemed to have shrunk a size as it molded against his body as he did the simple task of opening the freezer and shuffling through its contents.

Spike, ever conscious of her presence, looked over and locked eyes with hers before she had an opportunity to back out of the kitchen. He glanced briefly at Dawn, who seemed to become aware of Buffy too, before returning to what he was doing.

“Buffy, Spike’s here! Oh! And he’s making dinner,” Dawn exclaimed happily.

“Really? I didn’t know he knew how to cook,” Buffy replied, cautiously taking a step into the kitchen, wary of how Spike would act, but doing her best to act if nothing was amiss.

“Duh, he knows how to cook. How could you be alive as long as he has been and not know how to cook,” Dawn answered back with a roll of her eyes.

“It’s not that hard to work an oven Bit. Don’t tell me you don’t know how to do that?” Spike grumbled as he placed the frozen lasagna in the warming oven and set the timer.

“I do!” Dawn pouted. “I just always forget to set the timer and then I get distracted.”

“Well, how about you go distract yourself with your schoolwork?” Spike suggested as he began making a salad.

Dawn opened her mouth to argue, but a stern look from Spike had her pouting and walking out with heavy steps.

Buffy looked back after Dawn and was amazed to see that she was indeed grabbing her school bag and sitting down at the table to do her homework even as she mumbled under her breath. She turned back to see Spike pull down a cutting board and a bowl.

“You don’t have to do that,” Buffy said, feeling slightly flustered as Spike continued chopping the vegetables instead of immediately confronting her about what had just happened between them.

“I know,” he answered quietly, not lifting his eyes up at her.

The tension was thick in the room and Buffy broke it with a tiny sigh. The little shouldn’t-have-happened-make out session was going to hang between the two of them until they dealt with it. There was no way they were going to fool Dawn if they kept this up.

“Spike, about earlier…I didn’t…” She broke off, not really sure what to say.

“You didn’t mean to? Yeah, figured as much,” Spike filled in as he gave the salad one last mix before putting the cutting board on top of the bowl and sticking it in the fridge, pausing to put the knife in the sink before rounding on her again. “Way I see it,” he started as he stepped towards her, “Might as well get use to it, ‘specially if we’re going to pretend we’re married, wife.”

With those parting words, he pressed a kiss to her cheek before walking out of the kitchen and into the dining room, a satisfied chuckle trailing after him.

Buffy stood, stunned in place, the ramification of the situation hitting her full force.

She was going to be pretending to be Spike’s wife!

She was still thinking about how they were going to work out the legal situation that she hadn’t given any thought to what the more intimate parts of the deal would be. How far was she really willing to go to keep Dawn? Of course, she’d go to the ends of the earth to protect Dawn, but having to put up with Spike might just be it.

Letting out a weary sigh, she turned towards the dining room and watched for a few moments as Spike sat with Dawn at the table, helping her with her homework. The ease at which they interacted with each other showed that this wasn’t the first time he’d helped her.

She didn’t hear what Spike said but it made Dawn laugh and Buffy couldn’t help but smile. It had been a while since she had heard Dawn laugh like that. It was almost perfect. The only thing missing was…her mom.

Buffy could feel the prickle of tears and turned away from the scene, walking out the back door to sit on the porch steps.

She sat for a long while, thinking about everything and nothing at the same time. Her mind floated over many things. About her mom, and the situation with Dawn, and how Spike was going to fit into it all, and how she felt about Spike. The last topic confused her the most.

Spike was a vampire. She had done the vampire thing before, and it didn’t turn out good. But in an odd twist of fate, she’d been maneuvered into marriage with said vamp, not once, but twice now. The world just loved making her life difficult.

She was attracted to Spike. She could admit that to herself and there really was no way around that one, it was just there. She guessed the real question was how far did that attraction go and where would it land her in the end. There was no way of knowing. She just knew that her relationships usually ended badly.

There was that niggling little voice in the back of her mind that almost sounded like her mother that told her that this time could be different but it was drowned out by the voice of experience. It told her not to get more involved with Spike than need be, because to do so would be bad, very bad.

The niggling little voice was also telling her that what Spike said earlier was right. If she and Spike were going to pull off this ploy, she was going to have to get use to him at least marginally touching her and rein in her urge to hit him every time he said something stupid.

After her little stunt earlier, she didn’t think she’d have a problem stomaching Spike touching her, her body seemed to enjoy that, maybe a little too much; no, the problem would be making herself stop from letting it go farther than was platonic, and not getting into situations like the one earlier.

She hated Spike, right? But the truth was she couldn’t fully answer yes.

Her life was really turning into a mess of things, and she hadn’t even touched on the topic of Glory and Dawn being the Key.

One problem at a time Buffy, she told herself.

She finally conceded that if she was stuck in the current situation with Spike, she would at least try to be civil with him, which would probably only work as well as her trying to be normal, but it didn’t hurt to try.

The back door opened and closed. Buffy knew who it was before he even spoke and it was then that she realized the sun had already set. A wry smile played on her lips as he silently took a seat next to her. There was a click of his lighter and a puff of smoke as he exhaled.

She peeked out of the corner of her eye to find him looking straight ahead, but she could see the flicker of his eye glancing over her as well.

“Dawn still working on her homework?” she asked.

“Probably. Either that or she’s standing at the window, spying on us,” Spike answered with a smirk. “She’s getting rather sneaky. Don’t know whose influence we can blame that on,” Spike jibed, tapping her arm lightly with his elbow and Buffy gave a small smile.

“You were right, about me having to get use to it,” Buffy said suddenly, turning to look at him though her eyes were wide. She really hadn’t meant to say that.

“Was I now?” Spike replied with a raised eyebrow, leaning towards her.

“To some degree,” she added quickly as Spike's smirk of triumph lingered on his lips. “If we’re really going to do this for Dawn, there can't be any mistakes. I can’t lose her Spike,” she admitted quietly, staring down at her hands.

“Look Buffy, about last night, when I said…”

“Is that dinner I smell? It smells great,” Buffy rushed out, standing up and practically running into the house before Spike could say more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Chapter 4: Spike's Secret

A/N: Thanks to CopyKween for helping me with the details and to Ariel for fixing my boo-boos. :-)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dawn kept up the conversation with Spike throughout dinner, which was okay with Buffy. She was perfectly content to eat without any interruptions. Once they were done, Dawn dragged Spike off to the living room, leaving Buffy behind to collect dishes, a scenario that the slayer was perfectly happy with.

Depositing the plates in the sink, Buffy put away the rest of the food and then began filling the sink with hot soapy water. She listened with half an ear to Dawn analyzing the movie in the living room while she washed the dishes. Buffy took her time scrubbing every inch of each plate, anything to procrastinate and keep from going into the living room.

Finally with nothing left to stall her, she ventured into the living room, where Spike and Dawn were both comfy on the couch. Catching sight of the stake that was sitting on the front desk, she thought of one thing that would get her out of the house.

“Spike, you mind staying with Dawn while I patrol?” she asked when Dawn paused for breath during her analytical rant.

“I don’t need a babysitter!” Dawn whined instantly.

“Come on Bit, I’ll teach you that card trick you were askin’ about,” Spike placated the teen as he got up and disappeared into the kitchen.

“No gambling,” Buffy ordered, looking at Dawn as she slipped on her jacket and checked her pockets for weapons.

“Don’t have any money anyways,” Dawn mumbled.

“Not too late Slayer,” Spike called out to her as he came back in, holding a deck of cards in his hands. “I’ve got things to do tonight.”

“Like what?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Nothin’ that concerns you,” he answered back, not giving anything away.

Buffy laughed as an idea occurred to her. “What? You got a date or something?” she asked half jokingly.

Spike tilted his head. “Yeah, something like that,” he replied and sat on the couch.

Buffy stared at him a moment longer, waiting for him to elaborate and when he didn’t, she mumbled a few choice words and slammed her way out the front door. She stomped to the nearest cemetery, never for a moment thinking about why she was so angry. She pummeled through her first couple of vamps before marginally calming down.

Spike had a date!

And why was so she angry again? Because he was suppose to love her, right? So why was he going out with someone else? Oh, he hadn’t said it was a female but she just knew that it was. So much for Spike loving her! And why was she so oddly disappointed by that?

She worked herself up into a bout of righteous anger and took it out on any vampires she found.

After an hour or two, she’d worked out most of her immediate anger and now just had the small burning rage that she was waiting to unleash on Spike. She made it home in record time and opened the front door to find Spike already waiting for her.

“Nib’s already up in bed. Night Slayer,” Spike said before dashing out the front door and walking down the street.

Buffy stood stunned in place, again.

Had Spike really left and hadn’t even tried anything? It was too strange, even for him. He had to be up to something.

Running quickly up the stairs, she checked in on Dawn and saw that her sister truly was asleep. Debating about what to do, Buffy figured that Dawn would be okay by herself for a few minutes. She’d just go see who Spike was meeting and then come straight back home.

She slipped back out of the house and followed in the general direction in which Spike had disappeared. There was a possibility that he’d already out walked her. She decided she’d try for about 15 minutes for calling it quits.

Picking up her pace, she saw a flash of white ahead. She jogged closer and saw that it was Spike walking a few yards ahead of her. He didn’t falter in his step or making any sign of sensing her. She dropped back a couple more feet just to ensure he didn’t pick up on her presence.

Looking around, she was surprised to see that they were around the back of the local courthouse. There were a few stray cars still in the parking lot and she hid herself behind one. It was a little closer than she’d like but it was the best she could do. She watched as Spike knocked on one of the back doors of the courthouse and waited a moment.

The door creaked open and a man popped his head out, looking at Spike and scanning the area around him. They spoke in low enough tones that she couldn’t hear their conversation. They didn’t speak long before the man handed Spike a folder and received a roll of money in return.

Trying to figure out what could be in the folder, Buffy almost missed Spike slipping back into the shadows and continuing on his way. As quietly as she could, she began tailing after him, doing her best to blend into the shadows as easily as he did.

She walked behind him for only a little while longer when she realized where they were headed: her mom’s gallery. It was a modest building about half way between the main strip and the warehouses.

Funny, she hadn’t really given much thought to what would happen to the gallery now that her mom was…gone.

Spike seemed to be very familiar with it though, and he easily navigated his way towards the back alley, where a truck with a small trailer was waiting for him. Buffy positioned herself as best she could without being seen and still be able to hear what was going on.

The driver’s door of the truck opened and an older man hopped down. There was nothing memorable about his features; he was rather average.

“It’s about time you showed Will,” the truck driver yelled at Spike, his eyes darting around the mostly darken street. “You know I don’t like being caught out here at night for very long.”

“Sorry mate, something came up. You have any trouble?” Spike asked, removing a set of keys from his coat and opening the back door. He slipped inside and soon the loading door rolled open, Spike standing at the side using the chains to hoist it up.

“No, no trouble,” the driver answered as he opened the back of the truck, his eyes darting around the street every now and then.

“Good,” Spike replied. “Let’s get these crates inside and then you can be on your merry way.”

The two quickly moved the crates, Spike handing the man a white envelope before patting him on the back and sending him away. Once the truck was out of sight, Spike turned in her direction, shaking his head as he pulled out his cigarettes and lit one up.

“Might as well come out Slayer,” he called out as he exhaled a puff of smoke.

Buffy uttered a little curse as she stepped towards him. She was pretty shocked by all that she had witnessed so far. She’d been so wrong about what he was doing.

“How long have you--”

“Known you were followin’ me?” Spike interrupted. “Since the courthouse.”

“No,” Buffy said, shaking her head. “How long have you been doing…this?” She waved in his direction, the direction of the gallery.

“Helping with the gallery?” he supplied, looking slightly abashed. “Since my chip,” he finally answered and Buffy blinked her eyes at him. “Your mum told me about the scare with that mask a few years back, you know, the one that made all the zombies? Anyways, she was worried it’d happen again and asked if I’d be willing to check in on the shipments for anything out of the ordinary. Surprised she didn’t ask Rupes to do it.”

“And what did you get out of all of this?” Buffy asked with suspicion.

“A nice cuppa whenever I wanted, and a small monthly cut, just enough to keep me in blood and smokes,” he answered with a glare, his body tensing up.

“Right, like I’m suppose to believe you didn’t milk it for all it’s worth. You just took your little cut and that’s it,” Buffy sneered back at him. This new information was testing a lot of her thoughts about Spike and she was reacting the only way she knew.

“You’re bloody right I did!” Spike hollered back at her. “Joyce was a right nice lady. Wouldn’t have ever crossed her like that. I respected your mum. She was a tough bird. She dealt with you after all.”

“What’s that suppose to mean?”

“That you’re a down right bitch sometimes,” he said as he dropped the lit cigarette and crushed it with the tip of his boot.

“Oh, like you’re a saint,” she spat back.

“You ever wonder what’s keeping you and Dawn afloat?” he asked unexpectedly, rushing at her, fists clenched at his side, stopping well within arm’s reach. “You don't give this place a second thought, probably think the money just magically appears in your bank account.”

The back alley was quiet as Buffy processed what he had said.

“You mean you…” she began, her eyes growing wide.

“Yeah, that’s right. I’m the one putting the dosh there. I’m the one running this place and putting the money in your pocket.”

Buffy felt the air leave her lungs and her knees were suddenly shaky. She reached out a hand and rested it on the wall of the building to steady herself.

“I don’t get it. Why didn’t Mom ever tell me anything?” she mumbled more in thought than at Spike. It hurt her a little bit that her own mother hadn’t been able to tell her about the part Spike was playing in her life, because of the way she’d react, when all he was really doing was helping.

“Knew you didn’t like the idea of me hanging ‘round,” Spike answered and she could still hear the anger in his voice. “So it was just between me, her, and the Bit.”

“Dawn knew?”

“Of course, that girl is a sneaky little rascal. Found out when I came over to talk to your mum. She has a knack for eavesdroppin’.”

For Buffy, this new discovery was just another thing to mess up her perceptions. It was yet another decent deed that Spike did that had nothing to do with her. The excuse that Spike was only doing good to get into her pants was no longer holding up to scrutiny. He’d never told her about helping her mom or had rubbed in it her face. He had never told her that he was the one running the gallery and saving her and her sister from becoming poor.

“Why?” she asked suddenly.

Spike look uncomfortable and turned away from her.

“I have my reasons,” he answered over his shoulder as he started walking into the back of the gallery.

Buffy rushed up to him, twisting his body and forcing him against the wall; Spike was unable to do anything but let her. His jaw was clenched as he looked at her and she couldn’t help but notice the oh so bitable muscle cord in his neck that was pulled taut, begging to be played with. It took her a second to catch his eyes again.

“Why?” she repeated.

“Fine, I’ll tell you. You're not going to like it and that’s not my problem,” he snarled at her before taking a deep breath and looking away. His voice was softer when he spoke again. “When your mum started getting sick, me and her had a talk one night. I promised her I’d take care of you two if anything happened to her.”

She was dumbfounded. She would have never believed Spike to make a promise like that to her mother, and actually keep it.

“Spike…” she started in a rush, but she didn’t know what to do or say. “Thanks, for both me and Dawn,” she said quietly, staring down at the ground, loosening her grip on his coat but not letting go.

“You okay with this arrangement then?” he asked, watching every detail of her face for some sign of what she was feeling.

“I’m not sure,” she answered honestly after a moment. “I mean, for the past couple weeks I didn’t even know about it. I didn’t even think about it. Guess that goes to show how responsible I am.”

“Nah pet, you’ve just had a lot on your mind.”

The fact that Spike was trying to console her softened any anger she had at him.

“But I guess it’ll will work for now, if you’re going to be my ‘husband’. You have to have some source of income,” she teased.

Spike’s smile on his face set something aflutter inside Buffy. He looked so earnest and boyish, at least for the moment. She knew all that could change when he opened his mouth.

“Speaking of our little arrangement, we still need to work out the details,” Buffy said after a moment. While she was reluctant to do it, it had to be done.

“Right, back to business,” Spike murmured. “Look, I’ve got to go over this stuff in here. And you left the Nibblet alone,” he quickly added when Buffy was about to protest and she turned away guiltily. “Head back home and I’ll be there once I sort through this lot.”

“Okay.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy was reclining on the couch, thinking about the entire situation again while waiting for Spike. She really didn’t know what to make of it all. Spike had been helping her mom for the last year or so, without telling her. He’d also been supporting her and Dawn for the last couple weeks, again without saying a word to her. All of it didn’t go with the Spike mold she had in her head. As much as she’d like to say he had all this planned, she knew he didn’t. Spike was a lot of things, but he wasn’t a planner; he was too impatient for that.

It still amazed her that Spike had kept quiet about helping her mom for as long as he had. The Spike she had drawn up in her head would have been running to tell her that he was helping her mom out first just to annoy her, and then later to try and get something out of it.

The only conclusion she could draw was that maybe she really didn’t know Spike and had made assumptions about him too quickly. Maybe it was true and he had changed. She knew she trusted him. Dawn had already made her face that hard fact. She wouldn’t have even contemplated their plan if she didn’t trust Spike to some degree. He'd earned her trust the day he let himself be tortured rather than give up Dawn to Glory.

“…I couldn’t live, her being’ in that much pain…”

The world wasn’t painted in black and white like she wanted it to be, and she had to accept that.

When she started getting sleepy and there hadn’t been any sign of Spike yet, she went upstairs and changed into a pair of decent pajamas before resuming her position on the couch. She knew Spike would eventually show up; there was no way he would stand her up.

She wasn’t sure when she nodded off but one moment she was staring at the television and when she opened her eyes again, the room was dark and a figure was hovering above her, the outline very familiar to her.

“Spike?” she mumbled, not sure if she was dreaming or awake, her lack of sleep from the previous night taking its toll.

“Yeah pet, didn’t mean to be so late. Let’s just get you up to bed, we can talk later,” he whispered, gently scooping her up into his arms.

Having fallen asleep without a blanket, Buffy found herself shivering and she burrowed against Spike, tucking herself as close to him as she could. She didn’t even remember them moving and was surprised when she was suddenly placed down on what she assumed was her bed.

“Okay kitten, you gotta let go so I can leave,” Spike said, trying and failing to pry her arms from around him.

“No,” she groaned, tightening her grip, her sleep addled brain only registering that it felt nice to be cuddled up to Spike. “Want you to stay.”

“No, you don’t,” Spike argued.

“Yes, I do,” she countered back, and a tug from her end had him losing his footing and falling on the bed.

Spike found it rather comfy, finding his head pillowed on her bosom. And hey, who was he to do otherwise when the Slayer clearly wanted him to stay with her?

“Why do you still have clothes on?” she asked confused as her hands met his duster.

“I could get them off if you let me go for a moment,” Spike answered.

Buffy looked at him then, her bleary eyes only half open.

“Okay, but only if you come back.”

Spike reassured her he would and he slowly slid off the bed when she let go. There really was no question about what he was going to do. True, he’d be taking slight advantage of the situation, but then again, he was evil after all. And it wasn’t like he would allow anything serious to happen. He preferred his bits just how they were, undusty that was, and letting things go too far would get him dusted. He’d just have to make sure Buffy kept her clothes on until she was more coherent.

Not paying the Slayer any mind, he quickly pulled off his duster and his shirt. He then tossed off his boots, leaving them next to the pile of his clothes. He turned back towards the bed and climbed in. Buffy immediately latched onto him, sliding underneath the covers with him, pressing herself against his side. Even though her shirt separated them, Spike could feel the hard points of her nipples against his chest, her heat soaking into his skin.

This was turning delicious indeed.

Buffy hummed a noise of contentment when he wrapped his arm around her and slid his hand underneath her shirt, letting it rest on the smooth skin of her back. Her arm was flung across his bare chest, burning a path of warmth across it, his body immediately reacting to her touch.

“I should have kissed you earlier,” Buffy mumbled, as she lifted her weary head and opened her eyes just the tiniest bit.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” she breathed against his skin before pulling back to look at him. “Thank you.”

“For what?” Spike asked, curious at to what Buffy was talking about.

“For taking care of me and Dawn,” she answered. She began to lean forward, lips pursed, her eyes fluttering shut. Her lips were almost touching his when she slumped against him unconscious, a soft snore emitting from her body.

Spike gave a small snort of laughter as he pulled the blankets up and around them.

“You’re welcome,” Spike quietly whispered, kissing the crown of her head.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Chapter 5: The Morning After

A/N: Big thanks to Copykween for helping me out and to Ariel who is the best beta ever.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Morning found the Summers’ house quietly the next day. Dawn hastily fumbled for her alarm clock when its shrill ring filled the room. School was the devil, but apparently she had to do it, not literally, only figuratively. 'Cause literally...ewwww. Now that she thought about it, school probably wasn't really the devil, however, she thought the principal was pretty shady…

The ring of the alarm clock sounded again and she smashed her hand against it, trying to shut it off. Finally sitting up, she found the right button to push, ending the ringing in her ears. Dawn waited a moment to see if Buffy was up, and when she didn’t hear anything, she made a quick sprint to the bathroom, taking advantage of its emptiness.

After using all the hot water she felt necessary, she got dressed and headed down to the kitchen. The fact that she found it empty didn’t startle her. Her sister was still getting use to the whole getting up early thing. She gave Buffy another ten minutes of sleep while she chugged down a glass of juice and ate half a bowl of cereal. Deciding she’d given Buffy enough time, she quickly ran up the stairs.

Dawn opened the door to her sister’s room, ready to yell at the top of her lungs for her to wake up and came to a dead stop at what she saw. Spike and Buffy were in bed together, Spike curled protectively around Buffy, both sound asleep.

The wave of jealousy she felt at seeing one of her crushes with her sister was squashed by the happiness she felt at two of her favorite people being together.

Holding back her squeal of joy, Dawn backtracked out the door. She tried to close it as quietly as she could but there was nothing to stop the loud click of the latch, which woke Buffy up with a yawn, and sent Dawn dashing down the stairs before she could be yelled at.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy couldn’t remember ever sleeping better in her entire life. No nightmares, no dreams, nothing but peaceful sleep. She was wrapped in a cocoon of warmth, a strong arm wrapped around her making her feel safe and secure. It was perfect. There was nothing that could have made it more perfect, except for the need to use the bathroom to go away.

It was as she was lacing her fingers with the hand on her stomach that she froze, all thoughts of the bathroom flying out the window. Her eyes popped open as her heart sped up.

A peek under the blanket showed a hand with a set of chipped black fingernails and there was no doubt in her mind who was in bed with her. A little part of her sighed in relief that it wasn’t some random stranger; the other part of her was panicking. How had she gotten into bed with him in the first place?

It slowly came to her in bits and pieces, waiting for Spike on the couch and falling asleep, him carrying her upstairs when he showed up, her refusing to let him go and how she had literally pulled him on the bed. The last part made her blush in embarrassment. She vaguely remembered making a deal of letting Spike go if he came back to bed, and so there he was, in her bed, just like she wanted. She couldn’t remember much else after that.

Buffy then became aware of other things, like the way his nose was resting against her neck and the way he held her tightly towards him, like she would disappear if he let go. His body fit perfectly against hers, apparently better than she would have thought, realizing that something very hard was pressed against the cleft of her bottom, something that sent her heart racing and made the room seem just that much warmer.

This was not good.

What was it that had woken her up? The door, more specifically, the door closing. Oh god! Dawn had seen them, together, in her bed!

This was SO not good.

Buffy was trying to carefully extract herself from the bed and Spike’s grasp when she looked over her shoulder at him. Not only was Spike in her bed, but he was also apparently naked. The shock sent her flying and she fell off the side of the bed, taking the blankets with her.

“Buffy?” Spike’s sleep filled voice called out, making her stop scrambling in the tangled ball of sheets.

She found the edge and carefully peeked out to find Spike's face close to hers, having moved from the middle of the bed to the side.

Spike was like a dream, stretched out along her bed, his head a mess of curls that was begging for her fingers to run through them, his eyes only half open, still heavy with sleep. His alabaster skin glowed lightly with the soft light that crept from under the closed curtains. If he was worried about being naked in front of her, he didn’t show it. He was like a lounging cat with not a care in the world. The sheet that she hadn’t managed to pull all the way off was pooled around his waist so she couldn’t see all of him, not that she needed to, because that would be bad, very bad.

Buffy quickly averted her eyes and used the blanket to block most of her view of him, instead focusing on the eyes that were silently laughing at her. She could feel her anger rising and she latched onto it.

“Spike!” she snapped in a harsh whisper. “What are you doing in my bed? And why are you naked?”

“Well, was sleepin’ until you decided to nick the blankets. Now get your arse back up here so we can go back to sleep,” he said, but he said ‘sleep’ in a way that made her think of anything but sleep.

“Are you crazy?” she questioned as she worked on untangling the blanket from around her. “Why would I get back in bed with you?”

“Because you’re my wife,” Spike answered with a leer, wiggling his eyebrows at her, managing to arouse and piss her off in the way only he could.

“Only in the pretending to be sense.”

“Fine, have it your way, but you were singin’ a different tune last night,” he commented, stretching out his body and causing her eyes to drift downward where the sheet was still covering him.

Then his words penetrated her haze.

“What? You mean you, me, with the…and the…” Buffy spluttered, blinking at him, her mind conjuring up some very convincing images.

Spike used her moment’s distraction to pull the blankets back, hauling her up with them.

Buffy ended up sprawled on Spike’s bare chest, laying half on top of him. The feel of him under her made her close her eyes and she fought the urge to give a little moan when his hand pressed on the small of her back, forcing her closer to him and trapping one of his legs between hers. The positioning was awkward and Buffy wiggled against Spike, trying to get more comfortable, and in doing so, the hard line of his hip rubbed against her center. She gave a loud moan, her arousal perfuming the air and drawing a growl from the vampire under her.

She braced herself on his chest, the muscles clenching underneath her palms. Spike’s own evidence of arousal was firm along her hip and she couldn’t help but give another little wiggle, watching his reaction. His jaw went taut, the muscles in his neck cording tight as his eyes rolled close.

It was intoxicating, the overwhelming sense of power she felt.

Buffy gave another wiggle or two, each time increasing the pressure. She’d never done this before but soon found a smooth rhythm, gaining some pleasure in return as she ground against his hip.

“Oh god, Buffy,” Spike gasped out in a broken voice.

The sound of her name had her stopping cold. What was she doing?

Her pause made Spike buck his hips, causing a shudder to run through her body. Her body responded on autopilot and she took back up her rhythm. She really shouldn’t have been doing this, but she couldn’t stop. It was like she had no control over her body. It was so focused on the pleasure that Spike’s body was producing that there was no room for thought.

She looked up to see Spike’s eyes open, a dazed look in them. He was panting right along side her, his body craving release just as much as hers as it moved in sync with hers.

“Buffy?” Dawn’s voice came from the other side of the closed door.

Her name being said earlier hadn’t stopped her, but this time it did. Buffy scrambled off of Spike, taking some of the blankets with her once again. Her breathing was harsh, even to her own ears, and she backed up from the bed until her back hit the wall. Spike watched her with wide eyes, still prone on the bed.

“Yeah Dawnie?” she called out with a shaky voice, her body quaking with need.

“I don’t want to interrupt anything, but I just wanted to let you know I’m leaving to school now. Have fun, bye!”

“Dawn, nothing’s--” Buffy began but she could hear Dawn already running down the stairs and then the front door opening and closing. Buffy tried to look anywhere than at him, but her eyes were magnetically pulled to him, just like her body had been.

Spike was breathing hard, fists clenched at his side. He could see Buffy’s pulse thumping at her neck and her heartbeat was like a live pulse in the room. Her arousal still hung heavy in the air and if he could have licked the air, he would have; instead he pulled in one deep lungful after another, his erection throbbing harder each time.

“Buffy,” Spike said softly in a low rumble, noting with a satisfactory smile as she closed her eyes and a shiver ran through her. “Come on love, I know you want this.”

“No, I don’t,” Buffy argued, even as her body protested. How could she have let this happen again? She could not get involved with him; she could not be with Spike. It was…wrong.

“Please kitten. You were so close. I can make it so good for you.”

She couldn’t. It was bad, and wrong. Spike was a vampire, a vampire without a soul.

“Spike, I don’t know what the hell came over me, but it’s not going to happen again, ever. So whatever you might be thinking is going to happen, it’s not. What happened earlier was a mistake, one that will not be repeated. You got that?”

“Right,” Spike drawled sarcastically. “Whatever you need to tell yourself pet. Now I’m knackered. Had a busy night,” he noted with a smug smile, making Buffy’s breath stop, a thought occurring to her. “So either finish what you started or give back the blankets and go,” he continued flippantly. Oh, he knew he shouldn’t be pushing her buttons, but he was hard, pissed off, and had no way to relieve either one.

“Oh I’ll give you back the damn blankets,” she huffed as she threw the blankets at him, making sure he was still covered up before tackling him. She dug her knees into his ribs while pinning his wrist on either side of his head and giving them a painful squeeze.

“Oi Slayer, no damagin’ the goods,” he teased but there was a slight tightness around his eyes. He knew his comment was going to set her off, he just didn’t know exactly what her reaction would be. That’s why he liked her so much, bloody unpredictable.

“There will be damaging if I want to. Spike, did anything happen last night?” Buffy prompted, giving his wrists another squeeze.

“What do you think pet?”

“I think I’m looking at a vampire who’s about to become a pile of dust.”

He was honesty shocked for a moment. He didn’t think Buffy would outright accuse him of taking full advantage of her, that she would think that low of him. Spike stared at her for only a moment before shaking his head, a look of anger appearing in his eyes that surprised her.

“Nothin’ happened. You really think I’d do somethin’ like that?” he asked in disbelief.

“Spike, you’re a vampire, not exactly all with the moral compass having.”

“That’s not something I do, ever. Not to you, not to anyone,” he said quietly but there was still a fine line of anger in his voice.

“And I’m suppose to believe you?”

“Do you see me pressin’ you to finish what you started earlier? And if you’re that concerned, check under the covers.”

“What?” Buffy blinked at him.

Spike just gave her a look, daring her to do it.

Slowly, she rose up and lifted the edge of the covers, just to reveal the line of his leg. What she found wasn’t his bare skin but his worn pair of black jeans.

For the first time, Buffy felt slightly ashamed of herself. After everything so far and what she’d accepted last night, she shouldn’t have been accusing him of anything like that.

“Spike, I…” she started, letting go of his wrists so she could cradle her arms around herself.

“Yeah, whatever Slayer, now get off me,” Spike ordered.

“What?”

“I said get off me,” he ordered again.

The look in his eyes was something that Buffy never wanted to see, and never directed at her. She did the only thing she could think of that would take it away and kissed him. While his lips were as soft as ever underneath hers, they remained unresponsive and she pulled back after a moment.

“Get off,” Spike growled at her, his eyes fierce, glittering with held back anger.

Buffy didn’t know how she did it but she moved herself off of him, her eyes never leaving his. Spike was the one that finally broke the gaze as he got off the bed, grabbing his stuff from the floor and heading towards the door.

“Guess you can’t keep a guy interested after all,” he remarked with a sneer before closing the door behind him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy knew Spike hadn’t left the house. The tingles that danced across the back of her neck let her know that. She was still sitting on the bed where Spike had left her, the last line he’d said repeating in her head. Maybe it was her fault all the guys in her life left. It wasn’t like any of them were still around to prove her wrong. Other than Spike that was, but she seemed to be doing a good job of getting rid of him. That’s what she wanted, right? She wanted Spike gone?

As much as she would have wished it true before, deep down she knew she didn’t. For whatever insane reason, Spike helped make her life work. She hated that she had to depend on him, but she knew that without him their plan to keep Dawn would never work, and she definitely didn’t stand a chance against Glory without him.

Why had she agreed to Dawn’s plan again? It just seemed to be messing her up more than it was helping.

So Spike was in her life, period. There was no way around it. He was a friend.

A friend whose bones she’d tried to jump twice now. She really needed to stop doing that.

She flashed back on the look in Spike’s eyes that morning and she couldn’t help but flinch. Even Spike didn’t deserve what she’d said to him that morning, but there was nothing she could do about it now.

With a heavy sigh, Buffy gathered her things and took a quick shower. When she went back to her room for clothes, she realized she really needed to do laundry. Gathering the clothes around her room, she put them in a basket and began the trek downstairs to the basement.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the shadows of the darkened basement, Spike leaned against the wall, a cigarette hanging from his lips, smoke curling into the air. The cool, damp air was getting rid of Buffy’s scent that clung to him like a second skin.

“Bloody bitch!” he yelled as he threw his cigarette and punched the wall. Slumping down on the floor, Spike licked what little blood there was on his knuckles and cursed.

She toyed with him, played with him. She was driving him bonkers. One minute she was kissing him for all he was worth and the next she couldn’t push him away fast enough. He shouldn’t be surprised, it was what he’d grown to expect from her.

Overhead, the pipes gave a small groan and then there was the sound of running water.

Buffy was taking a shower.

The pants that had loosened where suddenly tight again, even more so as Spike took a deep breath, her scent still clinging to him. The idea that Buffy was just two floors above him, taking a shower had him reaching for his belt and zipper, retching both open. He easily fell into his own hand and he took up a leisurely pace as his mind mapped out Buffy’s body naked under a steady stream of water.

With her scent around him, he could almost imagine that it was her hand wrapped around him, bringing him off. So lost in his fantasy, Spike didn’t give any thought to being caught. When the pleasure swept over him, he erupted onto his shirt, giving a strangled moan.

“Buggering hell,” he complained when his head cleared, pulling off his shirt and cleaning himself off as best as he could. His pants had survived but his shirt was going to need a wash. He rolled it up into a ball and left it on the floor. Getting up, he sat down on a pile of boxes, his duster beside him.

He had just finished lighting up another cigarette when the door to the basement opened, Buffy appearing at the top of the stairs. Her brows were drawn together in thought as she came down and it wasn’t until he spoke that she gave a small jump and turned to look at him.

“Washing away the evidence?” he asked, noting the basket of clothes she was holding.

“There’s nothing to wash away,” she answered, trying not to look at him.

“Glad you finally got that right,” he mumbled.

“Where’s your shirt?” Buffy asked as she began to load clothes into the washer and went about adding soap and detergent.

Spike debated telling her the truth just to see her reaction. He finally decided against it. “It got dirty.”

“Bring it to me. I’ll wash it,” she added without turning around.

Spike stood studying her a moment. When she turned to look at him, offering a small smile, he figured this was her idea of an apology. It was lousy but it was more than he’d ever gotten before. He wanted to call her on it but when he got wind of the laundry detergent that plagued his dreams every night, there was no way her could pass up the chance for him to have his shirt smell like it. Crushing the cigarette under his boot, he grabbed his shirt off the floor and walked towards her, placing it in the washer with her clothes.

“Thanks pet,” he said, taking a step back from her. As much as he wanted to be mad at her, she just had to look at him and it all melted away.

“Nice knuckles,” she commented with a guilty smile as she closed the lid of the washer.

“Was a bit angry. The wall seemed pretty receptive to it.”

“I bet. You hungry?” Buffy asked hesitantly.

There it was, the peace offering.

“Could do with some food,” Spike finally answered.

Buffy gave him a tentative smile and then the two began making their way upstairs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


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