A Chip, A Trigger, A Soul . . . And My Heart

by Spiletta42

A Chip, A Trigger, A Soul by Spiletta42


BtVS Spuffy


Rating: T™©


t

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Warnings: Includes canon events and elements from season seven, such as torture, mind control, and dialog pertaining to the death of Nikki Wood.


Categories: Ship, Het, Drama, Romance


Pairings: Buffy/Spike (Spuffy)


Characters: Buffy Summers (primary), Spike, Dawn, Xander, Anya, Willow, Giles


Spoilers: Seventh season through Lies My Parents Told Me, particularly Showtime.


A/N: I usually stick pretty close to canon, but here I make a slight departure, starting with an alternate ending to Showtime. This is less of a fic, and more of an overgrown spuffy-centric episode tag. Written at the request of Anne Rose, although I'm not quite sure I got the assignment entirely right.


Credits: Thank you to Anne Rose for betaing her own gift. Research credits include the Buffy Dialogue Database, The Watcher's Guide Volume 1 by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder, The Watcher's Guide Volume 2 by Nancy Holder with Jeff Mariotte and Maryelizabeth Hart, The Watcher's Guide Volume 3 by Paul Ruditis, and transcripts at buffyworld.com. Screencap used in the graphic obtained from Welcome to Thunderdome, part of the Freeze Frame Network.


Disclaimer: Since Mutant Enemy respects its own property, I will do the same. This universe belongs to the great and powerful Joss.


A Chip, A Trigger, A Soul . . . And My Heart


The Turok-Han was dust in the wind. Big check in the slay column.

Buffy had given the potentials just what they needed to see. Lesson delivered. She surveyed their newly de-terrified faces with satisfaction, and drove home the moral of the story with the pointy end of a speech.

She'd won the battle. That didn't suck. Her growing band of houseguests would live another day. Non-terrified potentials might even be useful in the fight. They had a lot to learn, but tonight they'd seen what a slayer could do, and that yes, they could face what was coming. She felt pretty good about that.

Yet her victory was lacking in the icing department. The First still had something that belonged to her: Spike. No problemo, she'd get him back, even if she had to kill every last Bringer in Sunnydale to do it. Come to think of it, thinning out Sunnydale's Bringer population would be of the good anyway.

She set out for the cave.


-x-

Buffy froze. Spike hung from the wall, battered and bloody, and from the look on his face he expected not rescue, but more badness. His eyes settled on the knife in her hand, not on her face.

He called her a figment.

If he recognized her at all, he didn't trust his eyes. No doubt more of The First's handiwork. Messing with Spike's head was like its specialty, and she hoped one of the guys had a clue about how to put a stop to it. Brainwashy trigger removal wasn't up her usual alley.

Bringers -- or possibly the neandervamp -- had carved symbols into Spike's chest. He'd been beaten. Tortured. And he looked it. He looked as bad as he had the time Glory had tortured him. Maybe that's what was tugging at her heart -- memories of how he'd suffered to protect Dawn, even before the soul-having.

She tried to shake off her reaction. After all, what had she expected? The First was evil, and its minions were pretty handy with a knife, for eyeless guys.

She cut him down in silence, not trusting her voice when he touched her shoulder and her throat did the lumpy thing. The look in his eyes . . . it didn't exactly help her out with the lumpy-throat situation.

Spike leaned on her as they walked home, and not because he wanted to cop a feel. The First had hurt him. They slipped in the back door, and she made some effort not to wake the potentials, but whispers and inadequately muffled giggles proved that plane had left the runway.

The chains dominated the basement wall. Spike headed for them, but Buffy paused. Chaining him to a wall hardly seemed the best follow-up to a rescue.

"Spike, no."

He kept his back to her, his hand resting on the chain. "You can't leave me loose, pet, I can't be trusted."

"I'll get the guys working on that."

"And in the meantime?"

Buffy opened her mouth to answer, not that she really had an answer, technically, but was interrupted by a fresh outburst of giggling from upstairs. She cast a glance at the ceiling.

"Maybe the herd could do with some thinning," Spike said.

She offered a weak smile. "It would be nice to use my own bathroom without needing to take a number."

For a moment they both tried to hide behind the gallows humor, then Spike's eyes met hers, and she could see his fear. "You believed in me, Buffy, that's what got me through. I don't want to repay you by slaughtering your friends."

He wasn't wrong. The First's trigger meant that Spike was dangerous to the people she loved, and her feelings for him didn't change that. So, if he was staying here, and she really couldn't see another alternative, then she had two choices: chain him up, or play babysitter.

Babysitter it is, she decided. She crossed the room and laid her hand on his shoulder. "I'm here to help, Spike. Get some rest. I won't let you hurt any of them."

"No offense, luv, but you look as if you could use some rest yourself." He turned and raised his hand to her cheek, gently tracing one of many cuts she'd earned fighting the neandervamp.

She shrugged and tried to ignore the tingly feeling that spread from his touch. "No big. Sleepless nights and speedy healing are all part of the slayer package."

"I remember." The longing in his soft voice tugged at memories best ignored. Now was not the time to revive old habits.

"Spike -- "

"Sorry, luv, I was just . . . " He shook his head. "Forget it."

They sank down onto the cot, side by side, careful not to touch, and leaned back against the wall. The relief at having defeated the neandervamp was sinking in. Plus, she had Spike back. More muscle. That was her reason for needing him, or at least that's what she'd told the guys. But she had to admit, to herself anyway, that was only partly true. More muscle probably wasn't the secret key to defeating The First. It was something else that she needed from Spike.

"I was using you. Before. Back when we -- back then." She glanced at him. "We can't go back to that."

"I wasn't suggesting that we should."

"We're different people now," she said. "I know that's something people say all the time, but it's true, for us."

"I get it, pet, it's over. Don't need to dwell on it."

"Maybe, but . . . " She caught his eye. "I was going through something before, something dark. I got through it, and I've changed; I'm probably still changing. But, you, well you got your soul back. That's huge. It's like, before, I only knew part of you. I want to get to know the real you."

He studied her face. "What are you saying?"

"I don't know," she admitted. "But, the last few days, I've . . . missed you."

He chuckled and looked a bit pleased with himself. "Is that so?"

She shrugged. "So it seems." Her heart beat faster at the admission, and the urge to run away nagged at her. She wasn't ready to face a relationship with Spike. Her feelings were just one problem too many in the middle of an apocalypse. But if she retreated now, made an excuse and went upstairs, then she'd have to chain him to the wall, and she couldn't be that cruel. "We should sleep."

"Probably."

Sleep. Great plan. Only the narrow cot made sleep less of an escape than her inner panic called for.

"Look," Spike said. "If you'd rather go upstairs . . . " He reached for the chains.

"No," she said, probably too quickly. "You'll get more rest without those."

"And what about you?"

"I'm not really all that tired," she lied. "I'll just . . . " Her eyes fell on the shelf under the window. " . . . go through those boxes, I've been meaning to -- "

"Buffy." He caught her arm as she went to stand up. "Take the cot, and I'll take the floor. We both know I've had worse."

"If The First triggers you, I think we're better off with me between you and the stairs."

"You're probably right there."

They stared at each other in silence for a long minute.

"We're being silly," she said. "Just lay down and get some rest. This doesn't have to be a thing."

They both stretched out on the cot. Buffy lay stiffly on her back, while Spike turned onto his side, facing the wall instead of her. She knew he wasn't asleep, but she went along with pretending that he was. The giggling upstairs made her wonder if the potentials ever slept at all. She welcomed the sound. They hadn't done much giggling the night before. Fear had kept them silent, if awake. Now it was a gigglefest.

Potentials giggling, neandervamp dusty, and Spike safely home -- not bad for a night's work, and she finally felt like she had a handle on what was coming. Buffy let it all sink in, and drifted off to sleep.


-x-

The next day passed in a tired fog, although Buffy felt rather cheerful about it. She didn't fall asleep during a single counseling session, and by the time she went home, she had a pretty good plan for some quality training time with the potentials.

Spike played a major role in her plans. Some of these girls had never seen a vampire, and it was about time they did. According to Anya's sources, they had a little time to breathe while The First regrouped. But breathing, while important, wouldn't get them ready to face an apocalypse. They needed some serious training, and lectures in the basement didn't really qualify.

A demonstration was worth a thousand lectures. The outing let them get up close and personal with their own instincts, and also gave Buffy the chance to show them how a vampire's nature could work to their advantage. At her request, Spike charged at her, the full force of his own momentum throwing him backwards onto the ground when she stepped out of his way and let him collide with a tombstone.

In a moment, she had him pinned, stake ready, hand at his throat, thighs straddling his prone body. Dangerous memories clamored for attention, but she continued the lesson. Her message delivered, she let her eyes meet his and noticed his grimace of pain.

Concern and guilt -- more so the latter, she decided -- settled her focus on Spike. She tried to lift his shirt, wanting to check his injured ribs for herself.

He stopped her, his hand closing around hers. Warmth spread from their joined hands, oblivious to Spike's entire lack of body heat. Her heart sped up and she shivered, aware of their positions as he moved beneath her.

She fought the urge to shift ever so slightly, to lean down and taste his lips, to let her fingers enjoy the planes of his rather well-toned body . . .

"That's hot," Rona said, snapping Buffy's attention back to her surroundings. Whatever had just happened, the girls hadn't missed it.

She climbed to her feet, pulling Spike up after her. With a sigh, she pushed aside her jumbled emotions. They had a lesson that needed continuing.


-x-

"It's over with Spike," Buffy told Dawn -- and herself -- as they walked home, just as she'd firmly and repeatedly told a completely baffled Amanda earlier that day. But as the conviction in her voice increased, the confusion in her heart grew doubly fast.

"I know," Dawn said. "You've said that. More than once, actually, which makes me wonder if that's how you really feel about it."

Buffy studied her sister. "Well, yeah, I do feel something for Spike, and he has a soul now. It makes me curious."

"About what it could have been like?" Dawn nodded. "I get that."

"Maybe it's more than just curiosity," Buffy admitted. "There's sparkage. But sparkage isn't always of the good. Sparkage can lead to badness, and complication. I so don't need complication right now."

"Because our lives are completely complication-free right now," Dawn said. "Boring even."

Buffy smiled.

"I guess what you need to think about is if there could ever be anything between you and Spike. Anything real."

"Well, with the soul-having, it wouldn't be like before. Probably not, anyhow, and it wasn't all bad even -- " Buffy's face grew hot as a few of those not-bad moments played in her memory. "It was wrong before. I used him, and I was the one with the soul."

"It wasn't all your fault, Buffy. He tried -- "

"There's no excuse for what he tried. None. But when we were together, before that, we spent a lot of time in the gray area -- dark gray, like shale -- and that wasn't Spike's fault. For a vampire, shale area makes the line kind of hard to see, if it even still -- that's how it happened. And that's why he went and got his soul back."

"For you," Dawn said.

Buffy nodded. "Last year, I was shut down emotionally. You know that, and at least with Spike, I felt something. Our relationship -- well maybe that word choice lacks something in the accuracy department -- but that's what made me figure out just how messed up I was."

"You could have talked to one of us -- "

"I talked to Tara."

"Oh."

"She was so understanding, and I didn't deserve it. It was like I wanted her to yell at me, to tell me I was wrong. Instead she said it was okay."

"That sounds like Tara."

"She was wrong, though," Buffy said. "I was messed up, and everyone suffered for it. If I'd been on my game, I'd have shut Warren down in half the time. I would have noticed Willow struggling with the magic, and you wouldn't have had to resort to shoplifting toothbrushes just to get my attention."

"That wasn't all your fault, Buffy, you came back from the dead. It couldn't have been easy."

"It wasn't, but the point is, I let my own stuff get in the way of the important things. Now, with The First raising the stakes, I can't afford to get sidetracked like that again. My Spike issues have to wait. I have to focus on the slaying."

"But wasn't that the problem before?" Dawn asked. "You shut down, and pushed your emotions aside?"

Buffy froze. "Yeah."

"Then wouldn't doing that again be a bad thing?"

"All-slay Buffy does miss some pretty important stuff." Buffy kicked a rock and watched it skip along the sidewalk. "I told Kendra once that my emotions were total assets. I guess squashing them isn't one of my better ideas."

"You have to be honest with yourself," Dawn said. "I'm not sure a relationship with Spike is the greatest plan, but if you feel something for him, you shouldn't bottle it up."

"I guess I need to face whatever it is that I have with Spike."

"I don't want to see you get hurt," Dawn said. "You need to be careful. But lying to yourself isn't going to work, either."

They'd reached the kitchen door. "No time like the right now."

Dawn wished her luck, and Buffy thought she heard her mutter something about fire as well. Half excited by her decision, and half terrified by it, Buffy descended the basement stairs.


-x-

Buffy crossed the basement and sank down onto the cot beside Spike. "We need to talk."

"You've got a captive audience, pet."

She looked at him for a moment. "Oh, right." She stood up again to fetch the key, freeing him from the chains. "Spike, I -- " Nothing more came to mind. She didn't have the slightest idea about what she wanted to say.

He studied her, apparently content to wait until her brain engaged.

"Last night," she said. "I said I wanted to know the real you. I -- how about a cup of coffee? Or it doesn't have to be coffee -- "

"Coffee?" He studied her in the dim light. "If you're trying to ask me out, pet, then I can save you the case of nerves, seeing as I'm still in love with you, and haven't made much of a secret of it. We're a bit past the awkward first date stage, though."

"It can't be like before."

"No," he said softly. "It can't. To be that close to you, and still not -- no, it can't be like that again."

"So we have to do this right," she said. "Whatever that means."

"I'm not sure there is a right way, luv. Different circumstances for different people and all of that."

"Maybe not, but before -- "

"That was the wrong way."

"Yeah."

"Drusilla liked me to bring her rats. With the morning paper."

She watched him try to hide a smirk. "Another excellent example of the wrong way."

"I figured." He reached out and took her hand. "Buffy."

Her eyes met his and her heart beat faster as he closed the distance between them. She knew that if she let him kiss her, all sorts of bad habits were bound to come whooshing back, but she couldn't quite rouse the proper amount of worry.

"I suspect the right way . . . " He took her face in his hands, and his lips feathered against hers as he spoke. ". . . includes something like this."

He'd kissed her before, but never like this. Never so softly and gently. Her stomach fluttered and tried to switch places with her heart, which seemed to have taken a break from beating properly.

He pulled back and smiled at her. "Did I get it right?"

"Oh yeah." She smiled. "Now about tonight's patrol . . . "


-x-

"You're going to have to accept this, Xander. Not because he has a chip, or even because he has a soul. It's because he has my heart, and that's the important part here. This is -- "

"He also has a trigger," Xander said. "Or have you forgotten that? Doze off in his arms, and all the First has to do is give a jingle and your oh-so-important heart's a shish kebab."

"The boy's got a point, luv."

"So we find a way to fix it. I'm not expecting to go skipping through the tulips singing tra la la, I know things are tough, but I am asking you all to accept my decision. Spike and I are together."

Xander sighed. "He's killed people, Buffy."

"And who here hasn't?" Anya asked. "This is Buffy's decision, and we don't have to like it. She's going to do what she wants anyway, so I don't see the point in debating it."

"Thank you Anya, I . . . think. Anyway, we can deal with the problems. I just thought you guys should know."

"Oh don't get me wrong, Buffy," Anya said. "I think what you're doing is idiotic, I'm just not deluded enough to think that you care about what we have to say about it."

"It's not that I don't care," Buffy said. "It's just that -- "

"It's just that you've made up your mind," Xander said. "Which I'd respect, if I wasn't so worried that your love life might turn us all into midnight snacks."

Spike snorted. "Because you're such a nummy treat."

"Enough," Buffy said. "What would be helpful now is ideas about deactivating the trigger, because I'm not wild about needing to keep my boyfriend on a leash."

"Don't be so fast to knock it, Buffy -- "

"Anya!"

Buffy rolled her eyes as Xander and Anya started to bicker. The productive portion of the discussion, if there'd been one, was over now.


-x-

Buffy turned from the refrigerator, aware that Willow had followed her into the kitchen. "You were quiet in there."

"Yeah, I know, it's just that -- I want to be supporto-gal, but Buffy, are you sure? Things with Spike -- before -- I think there are a lot of issues there, and everything's so hellmouthy right now. Is this really the best time -- "

"That's exactly it. I can't afford to shut off my emotions, it'll lead to mistakes. I keep telling these girls to trust their instincts, and I think I need to follow my own advice."

"Well, maybe, but what about the future? Do you really think it can last with Spike?"

"Maybe I don't see fat grandchildren in our future, but he's in my heart, and I can't ignore that. I need to be honest with myself right now, and the future? I'll deal. But before that, I need to make sure there even is a future."

"Which brings up the important issue, again. We still don't know what to do about Spike's trigger. There could be consequences, bad consequences -- "

"I know there's a half-empty, but we're taking it slow. We haven't -- this is about being honest with myself, not about dropping my guard to enjoy Spike's washboard abs. Look Wil, I know you're worried, and quite frankly yeah, there's a lot that's totally worth worrying about, but we'll deal. We always do."

"I suppose," Willow said. "Just, Buffy, if things get . . . complicated, don't be afraid to talk to me?"

"I promise," Buffy agreed. "I'm all about the emotional honesty this time."

"Good. That's good." Willow opened a cupboard and rummaged around for a box, which she held out smiling. "Want some? Chock full of nutrition-free cookie goodness."


-x-

Honesty helped. Too bad a super-sized serving of honesty wasn't the key to defeating The First. Having things out in the open didn't change much, but it did end the stress of fighting her own emotions, and that was most definitely of the good.

Xander didn't give her too much grief, although he continued to aim plenty of snide comments Spike's way. The others were supportive. Not of the relationship itself as the be-all and end-all of fairy tale romances, but of her decision to face her feelings.

Giles returned, and his mutterings on the Spike situation were kept to an almost tolerable minimum. He decided to take the potentials out to the desert to meet the spooky rasta-mama slayer, and she didn't argue. Increased bathroom access was totally of the good.

Then Spike's chip malfunctioned.

The government flower shop was no help, probably. Or maybe they'd sent an entire squad of chip repair specialists flocking to Sunnydale. It was hard to tell.

If Spike died -- she wasn't going to let that happen. The Initiative had drugs that would help, and they set out to visit what remained of it. Seven years of slayage, and she'd never smelled a stench like that, but it paid off. Riley sent help.

Help came with a decision, and Buffy went with her gut. She had them remove the chip. It would only go flooey again in a few more years, and who knew if the government would be willing to help then. Besides, Spike could hardly become the man she knew he could become with a muzzle jammed in his brain.

She needed him to have free will. The gang was less than wild about the news.

"First," Xander said. "I'd like to go on record as objecting to the whole chip removal plan. But since it's a done deal, I do have an idea about the trigger."

"That's great," Willow said.

"Great may be overstating it," Xander said. "See, I'm not sure that it's the safest plan, and it's also not really complete."

"Explainy?"

"We trigger him," Xander said. "Ourselves. If we do it enough, in a situation where he's trapped and can't do The First's bidding, the effectiveness might wear off."

"Like a deconditioning," Willow said.

"Perhaps once his conscious mind is aware of the trigger, he'll be able to gain control over his subconscious," Giles said. "It's worth a try."

"Or maybe he just goes crazy and kills us all," Anya said.

"Or there's that," Dawn said.

"Only one problem," Buffy said. "We don't actually know what his trigger is."

"Yeah," Xander said. "That's the part that's not complete."

"But it's a start," Buffy said. "Wil, think there might be a magic way to make the trigger all revealy?"

"Research mode," Willow said. "I can start with -- "

"Actually, I know of something that might work," Giles said. "A Prokaryote Stone. It may not be easy to get hold of one, but I'd say the situation calls for almost drastic measures."

Buffy knew from the way Giles was now cleaning his glasses that the situation he referred to had less to do with The First, and more to do with her relationship with Spike. Oh well, if it got the job done faster, it was worth a little flack from Giles.


-x-

"You're going on a date? With the bloody principal?"

"It's not a date, Spike, I need to find out what he's up to."

Spike's mood improved a bit. "So the bloke's dirty?"

"Maybe. Or possibly under the influence of The First. His office is right above the Hellmouth, and we did see him in the basement with a shovel."

"Well that can't be good. There's plenty to dig up in that basement that's best left buried."

"That's why I'm going."

Spike didn't look entirely sulk-free when she left him, but Buffy refused to let her love life interfere with her slaying. He'd deal.

Wood, as it turned out, was both not-evil and pretty good in a fight. His mother had been a slayer, and he had some skills. That meant one more soldier on the side of the good guys. Buffy even got a nice dinner out of it, albeit cut short for a rescue mission when Xander's date proved to be exactly his type. All in all, well worth a touch of jealous vampire.


-x-

Buffy came in through the disaster of a kitchen, making a pretty good effort not to notice the mess.

"Giles wants to see you," Dawn told her. "Dining room."

She found Giles, Xander, and Wood gathered around the table. "Dawn said -- why the tragedy masks?"

"We've just learned something that I hesitate to call useful, given the circumstances, but could prove, and again I hesitate -- "

"Giles!" Her heart pounded as she feared for the safety of everyone she knew who wasn't currently in the room.

Xander sighed. "Spike killed Wood's mother."

"Oh God."

"Twenty-five years ago," Xander said. "But Giles just confirmed it."

"The slayer in New York. I didn't even think -- " She turned to Wood. "I'm sorry."

"I want him dead." Wood clenched his fist where it lay on the table. "I want to kill the thing that killed my mother."

"I'm sorry for you loss," Buffy said. "But I don't have time for personal vendettas. That thing you want to kill doesn't exist any more."

"That's what your friend Giles has been telling me. He thinks there's a way to settle this, and it might actually hurt The First, so I said I'd hear him out. That's what we were discussing when you arrived."

Buffy turned to Giles. "What's the plan?"

He explained.

"That's crazy!" She turned to Wood. "It'll get you killed."

"Maybe."

Buffy studied Wood's face. His lack of concern tickled her suspicion bone. "We need some insurance. A way to stop this if . . . if the plan goes east."

"Is there someplace in this garage where Buffy could hide?" Xander asked. "You might appreciate some backup if, say, Spike tries to rip out your throat."

"Wouldn't work," Buffy said. "He'd smell me."

"Vampires," Xander muttered.

"Once the trigger's been activated, I doubt he'll have sufficient presence of mind to care," Giles said. "We'll leave Spike with Robin, and once he's had time to begin the process, we'll double back."

"I'm so not loving this plan," Buffy said. "It's deeply dangerous, and -- "

"And it's the best chance to remove The First's influence over Spike," Giles said. "As long as the trigger remains, we're all living with a time bomb."

Buffy sighed. She hated the fact that Giles was right. "Okay, we'll do it. Did you get the prophylactic rock yet?"

"Prokaryote Stone," Giles said. "It arrived today."

"Good," Buffy said. "Let's do it."


-x-

The next night they left Spike in a garage full of crosses, alone with Robin Wood and an mp3 of an old British folk diddy.

"This has to be done," Giles said. "The alternative would be far more difficult."

"Alternative?"

"If Spike were to remain under the influence of The First it could become necessary to kill him. I considered taking the matter out of your hands -- "

"You considered?" Buffy whirled around in front of Giles. "You considered betraying me like that? Giles, you're the one person I need to be able to trust, no matter what."

"Well I didn't do it," he said. "I've seen you trying to face your emotions lately, and I felt I owed you the same sort of honesty. Naturally I'm concerned about the situation with Spike, but I find that I respect your judgment on the matter."

"Thank you," Buffy said sincerely. "I understand your misgivings about Spike, really I do, but he can be a good man. I want him to have that chance."

"Then he'll have it," Giles said.

They walked along quietly for a few minutes, and Buffy tried hard not to check her watch. She wanted to turn back. Ten minutes was a long time.

"Five years ago you were forced to make a choice, with Angel, and you made the right decision. The fate of the world rests with the slayer, and you've proven time and again that you understand what that means. But I also know how much it hurt you, with Angel. I don't want to see you go through something like that again."

"I stabbed Anya through the chest."

"Yes, I believe she's mentioned that."

Buffy paused, all levity gone, and she met Giles' gaze. "If I have to, I will. I'm the Slayer, and I understand what that means. If I have to, for the greater good -- but I'd much rather not." She looked away, and swallowed. "Is it time to head back yet?"

"Yes, I think we'd best do that. If Wood loses perspective, well then he's quite likely to get his throat ripped out."


-x-

Spike won. For a moment Buffy thought he'd kill Wood if she didn't stop him, but then he turned to the computer and played the song again. Nothing happened.

Buffy let loose the breath she hadn't noticed herself holding and opened the garage door. "Free will reestablished?"

He looked up, surprised. "So it seems."

"Good." She smiled a little. "I prefer my men chock full of free will."

"So, I take it you planned all of this?"

She nodded, and followed his gaze over to where Giles was helping Wood to his feet. Her boss definitely looked worse for wear. She cringed.

"I suppose I should go make nice," Spike said.

"That's probably a little easier in the saying than the doing. It might take him a while, with the forgiving."

"I stopped before -- Oh, his mum. That bit was real, then?"

"Afraid so." She laid a hand on his arm. "I'm sorry I had to lie to you, about -- "

He shrugged. "You had to, luv. It was worth it."

Relief that the gamble had paid off flooded through her, and she stretched up to kiss him. "Definitely."


-x-

Wood grudgingly accepted her thanks, and Buffy decided to completely ignore the fact that he'd probably meant to kill Spike if he'd gotten the chance. She was too busy to hold grudges.

Buffy's spider-sense told her that an end was coming, and that it wouldn't be easy. She took the time for a quiet evening with Spike, one last calm before the storm, a chance for a little mental vacation before the hellmouth's annual springtime cry for attention.

"Buffy, you really think this is a good plan, both of us leaving the house unguarded while Red's away?"

"No," she said. "It's really not. That's why we aren't."

"Then what's with the picnic?" Spike nodded at the basket she'd packed. "Not planning on taking that down into the basement, are you? Because even a blooming onion can't compete with the growing stench down there."

"We're going up on the roof," she said. "Bringers show up to attack, and they won't know what hit them. Yet we're still out of range when Rona locks Andrew in a closet while fighting over the last Hot Pocket."

"Like the way you think, luv."

The roof, while a touch slanty, provided the desired privacy. Buffy lay in Spike's arms and looked up at the stars.

"Ever wonder what's up there?" Spike asked. "If there's such a thing as aliens?"

"Hey, as long as it's someone else's job to fight them when they attack, I'm happy."

Spike chuckled. "You're gonna do it, you know."

"Fight aliens?"

"No, win this fight against The First. Make the world a better place."

"How do you know?"

"I know you, Buffy. Maybe better than you know yourself, and I know what you are. You're the one."

"Yep, I'm the chosen one. Got the tee shirt and everything."

"It's more than that," he said. "I know slayers, and you're different. You're one Hell of a woman. The First doesn't stand a chance."

She smiled, because the way Spike said it, she believed it. And as she thought about what was coming, she knew that was the key. Believing that it could be done, just like she'd told the girls after she'd slayed the neandervamp.

"In some ways I feel like I've already won." She stretched up and kissed him, letting her hand slip under his tee shirt to explore the cool sculpted muscles of his stomach. "I'm already enjoying my spoils."

Spike chuckled and maneuvered her closer still, his hands sending shivers through her.

"I love you." Her eyes met his, and she realized she hadn't said it before.

He studied her silently for a long moment. "Yes, I think you really do." He smiled, looking truly happy for the first time in, well, since she'd known him, really. "I love you too, Buffy."

She kissed him again. Whatever the next few weeks held, she'd deal, because maybe love didn't conquer all, but it sure put the power of evil in perspective.



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This transformative work constitutes a fair use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Buffy the Vampire Slayer™©, Angel™© the Series and related properties are Registered Trademarks of Mutant Enemy. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, May 2006.