Other Enemies

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This story picks up where ĎEnemiesí in Season Three ends.

Prologue

Angel couldnít believe that she was telling him she that it was over. He stared at her, not truly processing what she was saying. Time? She needed time? "Are you still my girl?"

Buffy paused and turned to stare at him, fighting the urge to rush into his arms. "Always," she replied in a sad voice.

"Then why?" He moved to stand before her. "Buffy, you told me to do what I had to do."

She shook her head, tears welling despite the pep talk she had given herself before she started this conversation. "Doing what you had to do never meant sleeping with Faith. You had SEX with her, Angel!"

"You think I wanted her!?" Angel shouted. "You think I would have done that if there was any other way? Buffy, I havenít had any other woman except YOU since my soul was restored to begin with and Faith is absolutelyÖ"

"Just stop." Buffy held up a trembling hand and she knew that he could see that her tattered heart was there on her sleeve. "I canít do this, okay? Watching you pretend to be bad and knowing that you can be intimate with Faith but not me..."

"Because I did NOT enjoy it. I wasnít content. It ripped me apart inside."

"Whatever the reasons," she continued. moving toward the door as she spoke. "I canít handle it. I canít just forget it or the things you said to me while you were Ďpretendingí." Buffy made sarcastic quotations with her fingertips to emphasize the last words.

"Why do you say it like that? I was pretending. It was all a lie." Angel snapped. "I did what YOU told me to do. I begged you to come up with another plan."

"Itís over." Buffy shook her head, trying to make her voice sound stronger than she felt. "Too much damage has been done to ever go back."

"Iím not going to let you do this!" he shouted, reaching for her. "I love you!"

"You can love me. Just love me from afar." With that Buffy turned, leaving Angel to stare after her long after she had walked out the door.

**

Part One

Giles swung a fist at Buffyís face, fully expecting her to block it and propel him across the room. Instead, the blow hit her hard in the mouth and she stumbled over her own feet. He grabbed her quickly, before she fell and held her at armís length. "Where is your mind, Buffy? Thatís the third time Iíve connected and Iíve tripped you up a dozen times."

Buffy tossed his arms off of her shoulders and shrugged. "Are we done yet? Iím bleeding. Thatís a good time to quit."

They had been training for over an hour and Giles had promised himself theyíd stop as soon as the sun went down but the sun had been down for at least half an hour and with each passing second he was left feeling more unsettled about her current abilities. She wasnít sparring well at all and apparently needed the workout. "Are you all right, Buffy?"

"I was until you tried to give me a concussion," Buffy snapped.

"I attacked with the same force than I usually use." Giles handed her a tissue for her bleeding lip, concerned about her carelessness. "I donít think you should patrol tonight. With Faith being bad andÖ"

"And you arenít my Watcher anymore." As soon as she said it she was sorry. Buffy saw Gilesís face darken and he looked away. "Iím sorry, Giles. Iím lobbying to get a coveted seat on that Cranky Bitch Board that Cordy founded."

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked and following her closely as she stomped to the study table in the middle of the library.

Buffy shook her head and waved a hand. "Nah. I appreciate it but Iím fine. Just kindaÖ"

"This has something to do with Angel and Faith, yes?" Giles wasnít fooled and Angel had told him what had transpired with Faith.

"Canít pull anything over on you." The Slayer grinned. It was a fake grin but she tried to seem sincere for Gilesís benefit. "It has everything to do with Angel and Faith."

"If itís any consolationÖ" Began Giles in an apologetic tone.

"Itís not," she interrupted. "Nothing could console me. Ever. What he did was wrong on so many levels."

Willow hopped into the room toying with her backpack strings, grinning from ear to ear. She glanced from Giles back to Buffy and said, "OhhhÖBuffy has a face that screams for chocolate." Hefting her satchel over her shoulder, she dug around for several seconds and pulled out a king size Hershey bar.

"Okay, this is a start at consoling me." Buffy greedily unwrapped the candy bar and shoved several blocks into her mouth. "Want some, guys?"

Giles winked at Willow as they both shook their heads no. He busied himself for several minutes at the card catalog and then turned back to the two girls holding up a calendar. "Oh dear."

"Oh dear?" Willow raised an eyebrow, knowing what that Ďoh dearí probably meant. "What is it this time? Trolls, another feasting, mass killing, virgin sacrifices ohÖor is it something worse?"

"Worse," he replied with a sigh. "Buffyís monthly cycleÖnext week."

"Oh dear." Willow put a fake gun to her head, pulling the trigger. "A Slayer with PMS."

Angel paused outside the library door, listening to Buffyís laughter wafting through the hallway. He hadnít seen her in a few days and it had been ages since heíd heard her laugh. There was a nagging in him to turn and leave because Buffy had made it clear that she didnít want to see him. He had a mission though, she n know what was going down. It had the potential of becoming something nasty. Mustering courage, he pushed the doors open.

Buffy stood quickly and grabbed her jacket. "I gotta go change and patrol, guys."

Angel caught her arm as she started past him. ĎBuffy, somethingís happening down by the docks. A shipment for the Mayor and if he gets itÖ"

She glanced at his hand on her arm and said, "Donít touch me."

His grip only tightened. "Damn it, Buffy, listen to me. Itís a special potion that he drinks andÖ"

"I said donít fucking touch me, Angel. And I meant it." She yanked free and turned to look at Giles. "Iíll go down to the docks after I change clothes and get this potion."

"You shouldnít go alone, Buffy." Giles quickly glanced at Angel. "Youíre awfully distracted."

Xander walked in and smiled. "Whoís distracted?"

The Slayer grabbed his hand and said, "Yay, Iíll take Xander with me."

"And where are we going, Buffy Buff? To a stake-out." He laughed at his own pun even though no one else did. "Ouch, tough crowd."

"We are going where Angel isnít," she replied, glaring holes into the vampire.

Xander laughed and saluted Angel. "Good-bye, oh devil child. I wonít be seeing you when I get to where I donít know Iím going."

Once again, Angel was reduced to watching Buffy walk out on him. Turning to glance at the remaining two people he remembered that there had been something else on his mind when he came into the library. "Giles, I wanted to discuss some things with you. Is this a bad time?"

"No time is a bad time when it comes to discussing Buffy." Giles nodded toward his office.

"I didnít say it was about Buffy."

"You didnít have too."

**

"So spill it." Xander smiled at Buffy as they walked toward the docks. He had accompanied her to her house where she showered and changed into tight leather hip huggers and a barely there tank top that left her stomach exposed.

"Spill what." She moved her slayer bag from one arm to the other, trying not to like the way Xanderís eyes roamed over her.

"Why you look like a version 666 Britney Spears clone." He pointed at her outfit. "Not that Iím complaining. But, Buffy, you look evil."

Buffy grinned and cocked her head to one side. "Maybe Iíve turned over a new leaf. Iím a Slayer. I can be a bad ass. Maybe I should look the part."

"Why does every bad ass in this town think that leather is the clothing of choice? Cotton and even some polyester is oh so much more comfortable while torturing people." What Xander wanted to do was get her to open up and since he didnít really feel like making her mad enough to scream at him, he was using the humor angle.

Giggling, Buffy prissed her hips a little. "Cotton doesnít make me look nearly as sexy."

"Please?" Xander laughed. "Youíd be sexy in a potato sack. I dreamed once that you were wearing one and we were in this grassy field and there were daisies and...oh...did I say that out loud?"

Even though she knew Xander liked her, had always like her, Buffy blushed a little. An uncomfortable silence followed and she let her mind wander. Angel was jealous of Xander. Not just the fact that he got to be in her life, but because Xander was a mortal and could do stuff. Sex stuff. The next thing Buffy said shocked even her. "Xander, do you want to have sex with me?"

He stopped walking and turned to look at Buffy. They had just made it to the docks and so far there wasnít a sign of trouble. Unless you counted what Buffy had just said to him. "Uh, I thought that was obvious three years ago."

"Then letís have sex. Right here, right now." She put her bag down and looked up at him.

"Buffy, stop goofing around. Faith is probablyÖ"

She grabbed his face and brought his mouth down on hers, forcing her tongue into his mouth. While they kissed, she moved a hand to fumble with the zipper of his pants.

Xander pulled away and grabbed her hand. "Okay, Iím probably going to regret this for the rest of my life Ö but you are not going to use me to get back at Angel."

Buffy rolled her eyes and said, "Who cares what my reasons are as long as you like it."

"I donít like it, Buff." He shook his head and picked up her bag. "Now, letís go get this potion and then Iím going home to bang my head against the very cold shower door."

Stung, she whirled around. The smart-ass remark she was about to make died in her throat when she heard voices. At the far end of another pier there was a boat just pulling up and Buffy could make out several figures waiting for it to dock. Motioning with her hand, she indicated that Xander should follow her back the way they had just come.

The other dock had several abandoned boat sheds on one side, providing a shelter that would be perfect to hide in. Ducking low, Buffy and Xander zig zagged their way through several crates and under some cables, finally making it to their destination unnoticed. Buffy slipped through a crack in the wood and pressed herself against the wall. From inside, theyíd be able to sneak right up behind the people at the far end and use the element of surprise to their advantage.

She calculated what all she had in her Slayerís bag and whispered, "Do you have a stake?"

"Yeah." Xander replied, standing beside her. "There are an awful lot of them Buff. MaybeÖ"

"Just stay behind me and stake anything that moves." She made her way against the wall, staying on the small space of wood between the wall and the water. There were a few boats housed here and there, but they all looked as bad as the shack they were in. Buffy felt the wood give in a few places and shook her head. If she fell through then their cover would be blown.

She was about to tell Xander to go back when someone made a noise inside the shed. Her body went on instant alert. They werenít alone and that was as bad as falling through. If she had to fight in the flimsy shack any hope they had for a surprise landing would be shot to hell and back.

"Pssst, Buffy, over here," a voice said in a low whisper.

Squinting, Buffy could make out several waving figures on the other side of the shed, away from the wall. From the shape of their shadowy forms, she realized it was Giles, Willow, and Angel.

"Cavalry," Xander said. "I donít have to panic now."

"Be quiet," she shot back, making her way slowly toward them. When she was a few feet away, Buffy angrily said, "What are you guys doing?"

"We were worried," Giles replied and put a hand out, finding her shoulder. "We were afraid that youíd get into more than you could handle with just Xander aiding you."

"Iím a big girl."

"And Iím offended," Xander added. "Granted, I have been known to flail instead of kill but I can still help out."

Willow quieted them with a subtle clearing of her throat. "Movement at twelve Ďo clock."

The broken boards of the boat shed allowed them to see flashes of movement through the crack. By now the boat had docked and Faith could be heard shouting orders at several vampires.

"Whatís the plan?" Giles looked at Buffy even though he couldnít really see her clearly.

"Stake them, take the potion, kill Faith." Buffy shrugged. "Sounds simple enough."

Angel could see perfectly in the dark and was studying Buffyís face closely. There was a dark hatred etched into her features that he had never seen before. Her mannerisms and gestures were very out of character and he didnít know what to make of her clothing. "I think we need a better plan."

"I think you need a tan," Buffy shot back at him. "As soon as she gets the potion in her hands, Iíll kick through the side wall over there and go at her. You guys follow me and jump on anyone who isnít Faith. Sheís mine. Is that better?"

"Not really," the vampire replied. "But I guess it will have to do."

Faith yelled again, reminding everyone that she didnít have all night and someone yelled back they the potion was being brought up right then. Several minutes passed and finally Faith said, "Thanks, guys. Iím sure the Mayor appreciates it."

"Now!" Buffy ran at the wall, leaped high and used both feet to shoot through the soft wood. Tucking so she wouldnít land flat on her back, she rolled to a stop just behind Faith, who had turned to look at what had caused the commotion.

"Son of a bitch, B." Faith grinned. "I was hoping you could make it and lookÖyou broughtÖ."

Buffy was on her feet before Faith could even finish her sentence. Her eyes locked on Faithís and she lunged. Faith tried to sidestep but Buffy anticipated that and met her head on, knocking the bottle Faith carried from her hands.

Behind them, Giles had successfully staked two vampires and was having trouble with the third. Xander and Angel were engaging in a fistfight with four others and Giles tossed his vampire into that mix, surrounding the five between him, Angel and Xander.

Willow had used most of what was in her super soaker to chase off a cluster of vamps who had gathered near the boat when she saw Giles toss his attacker. She dropped to her knees and yanked open a large bag filled with balloons. Grabbing two, she chucked them into the middle of the vampires that Xander was holding at bay with a cross. Almost immediately, they began to smoke and scream. The straggling vampires who were approaching Willow again, took one look and ran.

As soon as the Holy Water rendered them immobile with pain, Giles staked the vampire that had given him such grief as Xander and Angel dusted the remaining four. He turned and looked at Buffy and Faith who were launching kicks and punches at one another so hard and fast that he cringed at the sound. Neither were holding back.

"We better stop them," Angel said.

"Do you really want to get involved in that?" Xander asked.

"They need to do it. Weíll stop them before either gets hurt." Giles shook his head and watched the dueling Slayers.

Faith landed a punch on Buffyís jaw that made her spin in a half circle and hit the side of the boat shed, practically going through the wall. She pretended to be addled and waited for Faith to grab her. When Faith made her move, Buffy kicked back off of the wall and made them both fall the ground. With the wind knocked out of her, Faith rolled onto her back and Buffy straddled her, grabbing her head and banging it back against the ground.

Crying out, Faith reached out and grabbed a long metal pipe out of some debris and took aim at Buffyís head. The blond caught the pipe and forced it down onto Faithís throat, pushing with all her strength as Faith pushed against it.

"This is it, Faith," Buffy snarled, bringing her face within inches of the other girls. "You ready to burn in hell?"

Swearing, Faith glared at Buffy and hoisted her off of her using every last ounce of her strength. She wrestled the pipe away and swung it. "You go first."

Buffy leaped over the pipe and then ducked as Faith swung higher. Buffy moved quick, lunging and tackling the girl in the midsection and sending them crashing through a pile of crates which was the only thing that stopped them from going into the water.

The bottle of potion that Faith had been carrying had rolled to a stop just a few feet away and when Buffy saw it, she rolled and grabbed it. Faith rolled along behind her and shot to her feet, delivering a kick to Buffyís ribs. "B, donít fuck around. Put it down and Iíll fight you for it."

The blond Slayer stood, massaging her side and smiled at Faith. "Is this what you want?"

"Give it to me," Faith replied. "Just let me have it and weíll call it a night."

"Are you calling a truce?" Smiled Buffy.

"Yeah, B, do I need to take off my white panties and wave them around?"

"Not unless you want the stink to kill everything living for miles." Buffy tossed the bottle from one hand to another. "I donít accept your offer, Faith."

When Faith took a step toward her, she slammed the bottle against the side of the boat, forcing the end to shatter and the contents to spray all over the dock. The strong stench of alcohol permeated the air and Faith threw her hands up. "Goddam it all! B, that was imported scotch from France. The Mayor is gonna kick my ass."

Buffy turned and narrowed her eyes at Faith. "You donít have to worry about that."

In her hand, she still clutched the neck of the bottle, and the end that pointed out was jagged and sharp. In an instant, Buffy swung and drew the glass across Faithís abdomen. The other girl clutched her stomach and brought her bloodied hand back up. Buffy brought it down again, this time slicing into Faithís arm.

Faith cried out in shock and fell backwards. "Buffy, no."

"Go to hell." Buffy lunged for her again but Angel caught her arm. "Let go, Angel! Iím finishing this!"

Angel knocked the bottle out of her hand and shook her. "If you kill her, youíre no better than she is. Sheís still a human being."

Outraged, Buffy brought her knee between his legs and shoved him to one side. "Thatís fucking priceless, Angel. You screw me and spend months trying to kill me but you screw her and save her life."

Giles had pulled off his jacket and was holding it to Faithís stomach. He turned and glared at Buffy. "Shut up, Buffy. Now! Willow, call 911."

Faith struggled to sit up but Giles pushed her back. "Donít move."

Buffy watched and threw her hands in the air. "Giles, thatís Faith. She deserves to die. In case you havenít noticed, sheís on the other team now."

Giles shot to his feet and grabbed Buffy by the shoulders, shaking her. "You know what can happen if you take a human life. Faith is living proof of that. You would have killed her if Angel hadnít stopped you."

"Youíre damn straight I would have. If youíll get the hell out of my way, Iíll finish." Buffy tried to push past Giles but Angel was back on his feet and he shoved her so hard she hit the ground on her ass.

"If I have to restrain you, I will," the vampire said in a tone that sounded just like Angelus. "Now stay there and donít move!"

Buffyís foot shot out, sweeping him off of his feet and she used the opportunity to run. She ignored their calls and ran as though her life depended on it. If Faith didnít die, sheíd probably press charges against Buffy and that terrified the Slayer. Nothing about jail sounded pleasant.

Someone had given chase, but as Buffy scaled fences and ducked through alleys theyíd given up. It was probably Xander. Either way, she could hear the wail of sirens in the distance and it caused a blind panic to rush through her body. She had almost killed Faith. She still wanted to. And her friends were not on her side.

She had pretty much decided to hole up in the Masterís old lair when she realized that she wasnít even armed. Her bag was still sitting on the dock and she was absolutely defenseless. Still running, she changed her course and decided to sneak into her house to get at least a few things until she could find out if she was going to jail.

Slowing to a jog, she looked behind her as she approached her house. Buffy didnít see the man on the sidewalk until she ran into him, knocked him down and landed on top of him. "Ooomph, sorry Mister."

"Slayer!" Spike grabbed her and rolled, pinning her on the front lawn. "Didnít anyone ever tell you to watch where youíre going. You never know whatís gonna pop up." Her legs were on either side of his waist and he ground his hips into her crotch, letting her feel his erection. "Like that for instance. It popped right up."

**

"Ewww, Spike! Get off!" Buffy struggled to free herself and finally head butted him in the face. When he groaned and rolled off of her, she jumped up and kicked him between the legs. "What the hell are you doing back in town?"

"What the fuck was that for?" he yelled, clutching his dick, which felt like it had been broken in two. "That bloody well hurt."

"Well, donít be rubbing any part of your body on me and it wonít happen again." She started to walk away but Spike called after her.

"You donít have to worry, Slayer. You disabled the fucking thing." He struggled to his feet and went after her, walking with a bowlegged limp. "I need to talk to you."

"Not now." Buffy unlocked her house and hurried up the stairs.

Spike followed her at a much slower pace and stepped into her room. "Is this your bedroom?"

"Go away," she said absently, throwing a few pieces of clothing into a bag and whipping out a stake. "I donít have time for this."

"Are you leaving?" he asked, still massaging his crotch, which throbbed like the devil.

Buffy glanced at him and rolled her eyes, tossing the stake into the bag along with several other slaying tools. "Yes, get out of my house before I stake you."

"Where are you going?" Spike unbuttoned his pants when Buffy turned back towards her closet.

When Buffy looked again, Spike had his manhood exposed and was messing around with his balls. Turning every color of red she screamed, "God, Spike! Are you crazy!?"

"No. Iím trying to fish my left nut out of my ass hole where you kicked it." He snapped. "Look at it, you bruised little Willy."

"You named your dick?" Buffy had dropped the clothes she had when she saw what Spike was doing and bent to pick them up. "You realize this diminishes any respect I had for you."

"Women name their things, I can too." Satisfied that it wasnít falling off, he delicately stuck it back into his jeans and moaned while he zipped his pants. "If I didnít need your help, Iíd jam a stake up your ass for this, Slayer."

Buffy zipped her bag and slung it over her shoulder. "Promises, promises. Iím leaving. I hope I donít see you soon."

Spike chased her down the stairs and caught her arm on the sidewalk in front of her house. "Listen Slayer, I came back for a reason and youíd be wise to hear me out. Or Iíll.."

"WHAT IS IT?" she shouted. "And hurry up, Iím about to go to prison for the rest of my life so I have to get the hell out of dodge."

The blond vampire took a second to digest that and said, "Well then, this works out beautifully."

"How so?" She anxiously hopped from one foot to the other, keeping her eyes peeled for the cops or Gilesís ancient car. "Does your train of thought have a caboose? God, get to the point!"

"I need you to come with me to Mexico. There is a vampire down there who has taken Drusilla hostage and if anyone can kick his ass, you can." Spike nodded toward his car.

Buffy stared at him for several seconds then pinched him on the arm. When he yelped out she said, "Apparently you arenít dreaming. So I must be."

Spike smacked her hard across the face and replied, "Does that feel like a dream? Druís gone and youíre going to help me get her back."

Buffy balled up her fist and slammed it against his jaw. "When Hell freezes over."

Spike looked past her, up the sidewalk and smiled. "I bet Lucifer is investing in central heating."

The Slayer spun and saw Angel and Xander heading toward her. Swearing, she glanced back at Spike and said, "I fucking hate you and if you pull anything Iíll kill you."

"Just stay away from my dick and weíll get along just fine." Spike opened the door for her and ushered her in, quickly going around to his side of the car.

Angel and Xander had broken into a run when they saw Buffy talking to Spike and were almost to the car when Spike gunned the engine and took off. Angel pounded a fist on the trunk and shouted, "No!"

Xander watched the big black car careen around the corner of Buffyís street and listened until the sound of the engine had faded. "Okay, that was Spike that Buffy just left with, wasnít it?"

"Yes." Angel had turned and was walking up the sidewalk toward Buffyís house.

Xander followed and shook his head in disbelief. "I warned her about leather. Weíd better call Giles."

**

"SLOW DOWN!" Buffy screamed, bracing herself for impact as Spike raced up behind an eighteen wheeler. She had been on her knees, digging around for the seatbelt when Spike took the exit onto the highway.

"Shut up, pet." Spike yanked the wheel and passed the big rig, honking his horn angrily at the driver. "Fucking pillock, he was only going eighty! On the interstate!"

The Slayer fumbled with one strap of the seatbelt and swatted him angrily on the shoulder. "Whereís the other end to this seatbelt?"

"There isnít one."

"NOW YOU TELL ME!" Buffy spun around and crossed her arms angrily. "Iím dizzy from looking for it! I get motion sickness."

"Thatís what I was hoping." Grinned the vampire. "I hope you have to retch and when you do it in my car, Iím going to have another reason to kick your ass."

"Why do you suddenly need a reason?" she fired back. "I hate you, you hate me. We could pull over and go at it right here."

"Donít fucking tempt me, luv," Spike chuckled.

"Okay, you need to get a few things through that thick skull of yours. Assuming it is still thick after all the bleachings." Buffy raised a hand and started counting on her fingers. "Number one, I am not your luv. Two, Iím not your pet. Three, donít even address me at all because that means Iíll have to talk to you. Four, I call the shots on this mission and five, donít even look at me."

Still laughing, Spike looked at her. "Is that it, pet?"

"I hate you."

"I have a few things to say too. One," He held up his fingers. "I call the shots on this mission because Dru is MINE and two, Iím not your lap dog Angel, so you DO NOT tell me what I can and canít say. Three, brace yourself baby, because anything I can do on this trip to annoy you will be done as often as I can remember to do it. LUV."

"Prison looks better and better." Buffy chewed her lower lip and glanced at the inside of his car. "This is the dorkiest car Iíve ever been in,"

"Dorkiest?" asked Spike, clearly aghast. "Why do bloody American insist on ruining a perfectly good language. Do you know what a dork is?"

"You?" Buffy asked.

"A dork is a whaleís dick." Spike passed several more cars and stayed in the far lane so he could speed.

Buffy wrinkled her nose and said, "Like I said, you?"

"The damn swelling on my dick just may make it Shamu sized by the morning." he growled.

"In your dreams," she shot back.

"It would be your dreams, Slayer." He flipped on the radio and Buffy cringed as Billy Idol filled the car.

"I wonder how much it would hurt to fling myself from this car?" she mumbled out loud. She actually contemplated it when Spike started singing ĎWhite Weddingí at the top of his lungs and horribly off key.

Not quite an hour later, they pulled to a stop in front of a gas station and Buffy stepped out of the car, stretching her cramped muscles as Spike began to pump gas. She saw him staring at her and said, "What, Spike?"

"I was just wondering what the hell got hold of you? Youíre all bruised and scraped up." He actually felt bad for her because she had to be aching.

"I didnít tell you?" she asked sincerely.

"No." Spike shook his head.

"It must not have been any of your business then." She smiled and walked past him, toward the station.

"Bitch." He muttered under his breath and watched her sail across the parking lot. "Pretty women are always such bitches. And pretty Slayers are even worse."

**

Giles moved the phone from one ear to another. "Can you repeat that?"

"Sheís gone, Giles," Xander repeated. "We saw her leave with Spike and it looks like she took some clothes with her."

"Good God," replied the watcher. He glanced down the hallway and saw Willow coming out of the emergency room with Faith. "With Spike you say?"

"For the third time, yes." Xander glanced at Angel who was pacing a hole in the rug. "They left over an hour ago and I kept trying your house. It was luck that you called here."

"An hour!" he exclaimed. "Xander, you should have ... never mind. Listen, Faith is fine. She took quite a few stitches but Willow and I beat her to the police and said that weíd seen her fall off the boat."

"So Buffy isnít in any trouble?" Xander gave Angel a thumbs up.

"Faith didnít even try to name Buffy as her attacker." Giles rubbed the bridge of his nose. "So there is no legal trouble. But if sheís with Spike, Iíd say sheís in a world of trouble."

Willow paused with Faith behind Giles until he hung up the phone. "Giles, is something wrong?"

"What?" He turned and looked from Willow to Faith. "No, no. Things are fine. How are you, Faith?"

"Five by two," replied the Slayer. "Normally itís five by five, but I think four broken ribs, a broken nose and over fifty stitches affects that."

"Indeed." Giles offered a small smile and extended an arm. "Willow and I will take you to your house. Are you absolutely certain you donít wish to stay overnight here at the hospital?"

Faith glanced at the Watcher and the redhead nervously. "This is the part where I have to ask why youíre helping me?"

"I donít need to remind you that the fact Iím fired has done nothing to make me less involved in Buffyís affairs. I was your Watcher too. Briefly. And I feel an obligation to help you." He took her arm and led her down the hallway. "Believe it or not, Faith, youíre quite easy to grow fond of. You remind me of myself at your age."

"No way." Faith smiled.

"Way way." Willow grinned as she took Faithís other arm. "Giles used to conjure demons and get into fights and he even smoked and wore jeans."

"Damn, G!" Faith laughed a little and then cringed at the pain. "Iíd like to see that."

"Yes," Giles smiled back as they reached his car, hoping that his gentleness was helping get through to Faith. "Iím sure Ripper will surface sooner or later." **Like if Spike hurts one hair on Buffyís head.**

After Willow and Giles had taken Faith to her dingy motel room and helped her into bed, they headed toward Willowís house. Giles explained that Buffy had apparently left with Spike, leaving Willow speechless.

"I know, Willow." He shook his head when he saw her brush a tear off her cheek. "Iím worried about her too."

"What do we do now?" she sniffled.

"Well, we try to figure out where theyíd be going. What is happening inside Buffyís head to cause such recklessness?" Giles pulled to the curb in front of Willowís house and stopped. "Thank you for being so nice to her. I certainly hope that she begins to realize that working with us is not as bad as she seems to think."

Willow nodded and patted Giles on the arm. "Faith got to see a side of you tonight that you usually only reserve for Buffy. You were like a dad to her. The mayor canít compete with that. And as for Buffy, sheís Buffy. It has to be okay."

**

"Damn it, Spike," Buffy snapped, eating the last of her chocolate cake. "I have a name. Iím Buffy. Donít call me Slayer."

"How do you eat so much, Slayer?" he shot back, angry that she had made him stop so she could eat. "Where do you put it?"

Sipping her coke, she motioned for the waitress. "Could I get a refill on soda and some french fries to go?"

The waitress nodded and headed off. Spike shook his head and sipped his coffee. "I canít afford to have you work for me."

"Excuse me?" Buffy opened her eyes as wide as theyíd go. "I donít work for you. I think Iím working WITH you and since I have a title, Iím the boss."

"What title do you have?" He set his cup down and allowed the waitress to fill it again. There was still a good three hours of night and he wanted to stay awake to make it count.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer." She grinned as soon as the waitress stepped away.

"William the Bloody sounds better. It doesnít confine me to one victim like Vampire Slayer. It subtly implies that Iím just bad as hell." He laughed when her face fell. "Fine, weíre partners. But as a manÖ"

"You suck even worse." Buffy handed him the check. "And have all the money."

He snatched it and rolled his eyes. "Eighteen dollars and all I had was coffee."

"And good company. You canít put a price tag on that." She stood and grabbed her bag of french fries, tossing in several packets of ketchup. "Iíll see you in the car."

When Spike emerged a few minutes later, Buffy was on the pay phone. He lingered for several minutes in front of his car, eavesdropping, but trying not to let on that he was doing it.

"Willow?" Buffy said into the receiver. "No, Iím fine. Listen, howís Faith?"

Willow was sitting on the edge of her bed, expecting her mother to charge in and ask her what she was doing on the phone at this time of the morning. "Sheís okay, Buffy. Giles and I took her home and sheís going to be fine. Are you with Spike?"

"Am I going to be arrested?" Buffy glanced at Spike. "Hang on, Will. Spike, why are you listening to my phone call?"

Spike scowled at her and yanked his car door open. Then he got back out and grabbed Buffyís bag of fries off the hood and emptied them on the ground. He pointed at Buffy and said, "Youíre a bitch."

Willow listened to the silence and said, "What are you doing, Buffy."

"Trying to decide the best way to kill Spike," she replied honestly and watched him sit back in his car, leaving the door open. "Jail, Will? Am I going to be wearing an orange jumpsuit and flip flops any time soon?"

"No. We all said she fell off a boat. Listen, Buff, you need to come back Ďcause AngelÖ"

"Angel isnít in the picture," snapped Buffy, glancing over her shoulder. "Let him take care of Faith."

"He already is," Willow said in a low voice. "He called me from Faithís tonight after I got home and thanked me for helping her at the hospital."

"Fucking bastard," Buffy cried. "I knew there was more to it than he said."

"Buffy, what are you doing with Spike?" asked Willow, her concern evidenced in her tone.

"Iím helping him defeat some bad ass who kidnapped Dru. Iíll be home soon." Buffy paused and added, "But if I donít make it homeÖI love you guys."

She hung the phone up before Willow had a chance to reply and walked around to Spikeís side of the car. She looked down at the fries that he had scattered all over the parking lot and put her hands on her hips. For a few seconds she didnít make a move and then she spun and slammed her fist into the side of the restaurant several times.

Spike jumped out of the car and grabbed her arm, swearing as blood poured out of the back of her hand. "Bloody hell, dumb ass. If you wanted more fries all you had to do was ask."

"Spike Ö" She flung herself into his arms and burst into tears.

Aghast, he let her cling to him for several seconds without touching her at all. His hands were up in the air like heíd been told to Ďstick Ďem upí by the cops. When her sobs showed no sign of letting up, he lowered one hand and patted her on the back like she was contagious. "Get a grip on it, luv."

"I hate Angel," she sobbed. "I hate him."

Using his other hand, Spike fished a napkin out of his pocket and handed it to her. "Here, blow your nose and letís leave before someone calls the cops."

He led her to her side of the car and helped her in, pulling an old shirt out of the floorboard and wrapping it around her hand. The vampire shut the door and shook his head, mumbling. "Sheís the Slayer. Sheís the fucking Slayer and here I am mopping up her blood when I should be having it all for dinner. I can not believe my luck. Or this." He looked down at the front of his pants, which had become tight across his erection. "I *am* a fucking dork."

Once he got into the car he dared a glance at her. She had drawn her knees to her chest and had her head leaned against her knees, cradling her hand. "Do you need to go to the hospital."

"No," she whimpered. "But maybe you can stop again and buy some bandages and stuff."

"Well, why the hell not? Iím not trying to get somewhere," he growled angrily and gunned the engine. "Letís find a pharmacy next to a liquor store because I can tell Iíll need it."

**

Spike glanced skyward as he drove faster and faster toward Mexico. He hadnít realized how much time theyíd wasted at the liquor store and the pharmacy. Reaching for his bottle of Jack Daniels, he accidentally grabbed Buffyís thigh and pulled his hand away quickly.

"Are you looking for this?" Buffy asked, holding up the bottle in her unbandaged hand and taking a big swig.

"I thought I made it clear that it was MINE." He snatched it and took several swallows. "Do you drink often?"

"No. Lass time I did it I almoss got ateup by a shnake." She slurred her words, obviously tipsy, and flailed her arms out wide to indicate the size of it. Her left hand hit Spike right in the face. "A big deeeemon shnake."

"Well, this time youíll be eaten by a big demon vampire if you touch my liquor again." He shoved her hand away and stuck the bottle between his legs. "We better find shelter for the day."

"Thereís hotelsís all over Shouthern Cafornia." She rolled down her window and tried to lean over him to roll down his. "Whoo, itís hot."

"Get the fuck on your side of the car." Spike shook his head while he pressed his fingers to her forehead and shoved her back into her seat. "I was thinking more along the lines of parking the car in a warehouse somewhere and sleeping like babies."

"Shrew that." Buffy smacked him on the arm. "I need a shower and beds and carpets and Öwhere did I put the bottle?"

"Youíve had enough!" He wagged a finger at her then scratched the side of his face. "Hotels, huh? If I had known how much this was going to cost me I would have hired someone cheaper."

"I done already tole you that you didnít hired me." She turned quickly in her seat and began to dig around for the bottle. "I just had it right here in my hand. Did you think it fell out the window when I rolls it down?"

Rolling his eyes, Spike handed her the bottle. "I realize youíve eaten enough to feed a family of gypsies tonight, but someone as small as you is going to get sick if you keep drinking."

In response, Buffy downed what was left in the bottle and tossed it out the window. "Got any more?"

"No." He was about to say more when flashing blue lights appeared in the road behind him. "Fuck! Itís the cops."

"Uh oh." She jumped to her knees and glared out the back glass. "Hows can you see nothing with it so black?"

"Slayer, please?" He slowed down and pulled off the side of the road. "I have to pull over and if you value your life at all then sit your arse in that seat and act less like an idiot."

"Yous shouldnít be so mean. And whatís an ARSE?" Pouting, she turned away and glared out the passenger window, getting all the way up on her knees and facing completely away.

"YOU are an arse." Spike swore again and fished the paperwork on his car out of the glove compartment. When he turned back the officer was waiting for him to roll down his window. "Not a word, luv. Iíll chop off your tongue."

"Can I see your license and registration?" asked the young cop. He let his flashlight roam into the car as soon as Spike had the window all the way down.

Smiling politely, Spike handed him the paper work and said, "Why have I been pulled over?"

"Something came flying out of this car and hit my car," the officer replied, looking carefully at Spikeís picture and back to him. "This doesnít look much like you."

"I bleach my hair." He shrugged, thinking about scalping Buffy for throwing that bottle. "And I hit something in the road a few miles back, it's possible that whatever it was flew into you."

"I see." The cop leaned into the car and looked at Buffy, who was still staring out the window, but now she was rolling it up and down and leaning in and out. "What is she doing?"

"Itís my sister, see, and Iím taking her to a special institute for kids down in Mexico." He yanked Buffyís pants and planted her firmly in the seat and she grabbed his arm. "Sit still now, hon, while I take care of this."

"Is she challenged?" The cop squinted at her and she bit Spikeís hand. "Bless her heart."

"Owww, yes, and if you donít mind, I prefer to call her retarded." Spike yanked his hand loose and shot Buffy a look.

"Well," The cop glanced at Buffy again and sighed. "Youíd best get back on the road with her. Poor thing. You go on and weíll just forget this happened."

"Thank you." He reached to start the engine but the cop stopped him.

"Why is there blood on your shirt?" He shined his light back to Spikeís face.

"I hurted my hand." Buffy slurred, leaning over Spike and staring up at the officer. "See? Can I play with your nightsticks?"

Spike grabbed her arm as she reached for the club strapped to the officerís hip. "No, pet. Get in your seat, NOW."

The cop smiled at Buffy. "She can talk?"

"Yes, isnít she a laugh riot a minute?" Spike tried to pull her without being obvious.

"Spike, do you wants me to tell him how you beated me and hurt my hand when I asked for food?" She looked back up at the policeman, grinding one of her elbows into Spikeís already aching crotch. "Heís is so mean and bad to me. He poured all my food on the ground even though he knew I want it. And heís going to cut my tongue clean off if I talk."

"Donít listen to her." Spike reached into the back of her pants and yanked her panties up into her crack, giving her a massive wedgie.

She flailed into her seat, squirming like mad and started screaming, "Get it out! Get it out!"

Spike shook his head sadly. "As you can, sir. The sooner I get her south of the border the better it will be."

"You take care, then." The young man patted the side of his car and took his hat off. "And Iíll pray for your sister."

As Spike pulled away he growled, "Someone better pray for her."

"You didnít have to do that," she cried, still struggling to pull her panties out of her backside. "That hurt."

"Not half as bad as getting kicked in the balls, almost getting arrested and having to put up with your ass." He slammed his fist onto the steering wheel and let his face morph in anger. "And now we have to find a room because the sun will be up in no time. Weíre barely out of Sunnydale and you have to show your ass non-stop making it impossible to make any travel time. Itís not like I can just travel anytime you know. My time is limited to night time and YOU canítÖ"

"SpikeÖ" she said, rolling her window down again.

"Leave the fucking window alone. Youíre the reason we got pulled over to begin with. Itís no wonder you drove Angel back into being Angelus. You could drive the sanest man alive.."

"SpikeÖ." She moaned again and grabbed her head. "Can we pull over?"

"Oh you have to piss now?" His eyes blazed yellow and he licked one of his fangs. "Too fucking bad. While you were drinking like a fish you should have thought about the fact that there are no port-o-potties on this manís road trip. Weíll stop when I have to piss which will be never."

"Oh, Spike." Buffy clutched her stomach. "I donít feel too good."

"Serves you bloody-fucking-right." He laughed as loud as he could and turned on the radio to drown out her pathetic whimpers. When he spotted the exit ramp and several hotel signs, he cut across two lanes and drove quickly down the almost circular off ramp. Even he felt a little dizzy when he stopped at the red light at the bottom. He shut off the radio as he waited for the light to change and finally glanced at Buffy. "Where do you want to stay?"

The Slayer looked positively green and he knew for sure she was suffocating because heíd suffocated a million people. He shoved his door open and pulled her out into the road. "Fucking breathe, Buffy!"

He felt her convulse and turned her so he could look at her, thinking if he could SEE the problem he could fix it. Gripping her under the armpits, Spike shook her hard. Then he saw the problem. Buffy vomited all over herself and the front of his clothes. As soon as she did she burst out crying for the second time that night. "Itís not my fault. I was choking."

Too stunned to do anything, Spike held her at an armís length and wondered if he would be able to save Dru without the Slayer. He had never wanted to kill anyone so much in his life. "How do you get choked just sitting in the car doing nothing?"

"I donít know, but I did." Buffy put her arms on top of his, which were still holding her off the ground by her armpits. "I didnít mean to, Spike."

He shoved her into the car and yanked off his coat before he got into the driverís seat. "I told you not to drink. I said it fifty damn times."

"Spike." Buffy sat up and looked at him. "You just called me Buffy."

"So?"

"So I think you were worried about me." She looked surprised by the thought.

"Donít kid yourself." He yanked the car into drive and hurried toward the first hotel he saw. When they pulled to the front he removed the red shirt he was wearing and left his T-shirt on. Using the over shirt, he wiped the front of his jeans and glared into the car at Buffy. "Youíre undoubtedly decaying on the inside. You stink."

"You suck," Buffy replied sleepily.

Slamming the door, he walked quickly toward the office, painfully aware of the rising sun. While he filled out the paper work and made small talk with the clerk, he realized that the Slayer had been right. He had called her Buffy and he had been worried about her. Nothing in his lifetime had ever scared him as much as seeing her a sickly greenish blue color. Furious with himself, he thanked the lady behind the counter and hurried out to his car.

"Slayer, are you asleep?" He nudged her as soon as he had parked on the side of the hotel that the room was on. "Wake up and get your things. Weíre here."

Buffy didnít stir at all so he put his finger under her nose to see if she was breathing. He felt hot air and bit his lower lip. She had apparently passed out. Wondering if it would hurt terribly to fry himself in the sun, he walked to her side of the car and hoisted her over his shoulder. Buffy groaned a little but didnít move otherwise.

He fumbled to unlock the door as the sun rose completely, making the flesh on the back of his neck begin to smoke. Moving faster, he got the card in right and leaped into the room. "Damn sun. And damn alcoholic Slayers who smell like shit."

Instead of tossing her on the bed, he moved into the bathroom with her and sat her on the toilet. Buffy immediately fell to one side so he soaked a washcloth in cold water, hoping to wake her up.

"Wake up!" He tapped her several times on the head and raised an eyebrow. "Not a fucking thing has gone right for me since the first time you came into my life so why should this?"

Lifting her off the toilet, he gently laid her in the floor and reached to turn the faucets on in the garden tub. When he felt like it was warm enough, he leaned back over the Slayer and pulled her boots off, smiling at her Scooby Doo socks. Getting her pants off proved to be quite challenging and he almost gave up and tossed her into the water fully clothed but they finally slid over her hips. Several more tugs had them over her thighs and he looked down at her. "What kind of woman wears socks with cartoon dogs on them and satin panties?"

Spike straddled her then and put his hand behind her head, lifting her enough to slide her tank top over her head. "And no bra." He licked his lips and looked her over. She still had her panties on and she was breathtaking. If he had breath to take heíd die right then. Her flesh was creamy smooth and she had faint tan lines over her chest that indicated a bikini. Her breasts were full and ample with nipples that had grown hard from the coolness of the room.

Shaking his head and forcing himself not to tweak one of the rosy nubs, he hooked his thumbs into the elastic waistband of her panties and slid them over her narrow hips. There was a white patch just below her belly button in the shape of a heart and he figured that she probably put something there when she sunbathed because most people didnít get white tattoos. Before he put her into the tub he took time to notice that she wasnít a natural blond.

Buffy stirred a little as the cool water lapped at her skin. "Cold."

He immediately turned on the hot water and let it run while pulling his own clothes off, keeping a close eye that she didnít drown. Hissing from the heat of the water, he stepped in and sat across from Buffy, watching the way her skin glistened with moisture. "Sheís bloody perfect. Little bitch."

Reaching into a basket full of exotic soaps, he chose lavender and quickly soaped a rag. He bathed her gently, marveling at the tightness of her skin and the muscles that were evident only when touched. She looked so soft and delicate, but when he ran the soapy cloth over her legs, he could feel her power. After he had washed her face and upper body, he pulled her against him and she nestled her face into the crook of his neck. Almost instinctively, her legs wrapped around his waist and she hugged him. Spike swallowed hard and quickly washed her back while she was in this position. His erection was painfully screaming that he was only inches away from a mortalís naked opening and he hadnít had one in a hundred years.

As soon as she was rinsed, he stood with her still hugging him and her legs still around his waist. He stepped out of the tub and grabbed a towel as he headed into the bedroom. Wrapping the towel firmly around her as he held her by the king size bed, he yanked down the cover and quickly positioned her under it. He pulled the heavy comforter all the way up to her chin and turned quickly.

In the bathroom once again he drained the water out of the tub and turned on the shower using only cold water. "Fucking Slayer. I could have taken you just now."

He massaged himself gently, thinking about how wonderful it would be to bury himself inside of her and make her scream his name. Yanking harder he yelled out and looked at his bruised cock. "I couldnít have taken her. The fucking thingís still broken."

Spike sat down in the shower and let the water beat him on top of the head for a long time.

**

Buffy felt certain that when she opened her eyes, a car would be parked on her skull. A car with a loud, loud radio. She felt above her head first, arms stretching to see if she felt anything connected and finally had the courage to open her eyes. "Ow, my head."

Spike glanced over at her and muted the TV. "I was just about to wake you up. I was hoping the TV would do the job."

Startled, she rolled over and looked at Spike. "What are you doing in my bed?"

"Who paid for it?" He clicked the power switch and the room went silent. "I should have ordered cable channels with the room. Iíve been watching infomercials for an hour. Who knew that ..."

"Spike, where are my clothes?" She had looked under the cover and closed her eyes, dreading the answer.

"Hopefully on their way to a land fill where they belong." Spike stood, not embarrassed by his own nudity and walked toward the window.

"You tossed my clothes? And you got in my bed naked? With me naked?" Buffy sat up and glared across the room at him.

"Iím so proud of you, luv. You figured it out without flash cards." He hissed as a small patch of sunlight hit him and moved away from the window, going into the bathroom and pulling a robe off of a hanger. "Now, why donít you put this on and go get our clothes out of the car."

"What happened between us last night?" she said seriously.

Seizing the opportunity to annoy her as promised, he put his hands on his hips and tried to look hurt. "You donít remember?"

She shook her head and then rammed her fingers to her eyelids. "Spike, my head has a time bomb in it. Can you just tell me?"

"I canít believe you donít fucking remember." He sat beside her and pulled her hand into his, kissing her swollen knuckles. The bandage had come off and he couldnít get more out of the car because of the sun. "You said I was the best youíd ever had. You were definitely the best Iíve ever had."

Stunned, Buffy forgot her headache. "Youíre lying."

Spike shook his head, wondering how long he could keep up his game before he laughed. "No, baby. It was amazing."

She stared off into space for several seconds, trying not to cry and finally asked. "Did I disappoint you?"

Baffled by that response, he shook his head. "No. Why would you think that?"

"Angel told me I was bad." Buffy ran her hand through her hair and glanced around the room. "I canít believe I tried so hard to do it with Xander last night just so I could remember it and feel good knowing I got back at Angel and now I canít remember."

"Xander!?" He couldnít hide his laughter. "Are you desperate? Or just plain mad?"

"Shut up!" Buffy snapped and began to cry, pulling away. "Iíve only had sex once before you and that was a horror movie and I canít even remember this time. I wish I was dead."

Spike didnít know what to say. He had assumed that she was very sexually active. The way she dressed and how confident she was didnít convey that she was practically a virgin. He took her hand again and shook his head. "I was joking, Buffy."

Her head jerked up when he said her name and she stared at him. "Joking?"

"Yeah." Spike wiped one of the tears on her face and said, "You passed out in the car and I brought you in and bathed you and put you to bed. Nothing happened. I stayed so far on my side of the bed you were practically in bed alone."

She glanced at her hand, which he was caressing. "Why would you do that? You bathed me?"

"You puked on me."

"Oh God." Buffy had never been more mortified in her life or more angry. She yanked her hand free and moved further across the bed. "How could you lie like that? Spike, I just told you stuff that was private because I thought weÖ"

"Iím sorry. I thought you knew I was lying." He actually felt bad for the stupid bint. "It was a joke."

"Well, as usual, the jokeís on me." She snatched up the robe that he had gotten from the bathroom and shoved her arms through it. "I hate you so much it hurts inside."

Spike watched her stomp across the floor and yank open the door. Luckily he wasnít in the sunís path so he leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes. "It is going to be a long miserable night."

**

The silence in the car was so loud that it was deafening. For the hour that theyíd been on the road, Buffy had sat slumped in the passenger seat with her arms crossed over her chest, not acknowledging a single thing that Spike said to her. To his credit, he had asked her questions about school and her mom, but the Slayer stared straight ahead every single time he said anything at all. He didnít even hear her breathing. Giving up he switched the radio on, scanned several stations and tapped his fingers to the beat on the steering wheel when he finally settled on something.

Without looking his way, Buffy leaned forward and turned it off. She wanted to have silence so she could figure out why she was so upset that he lied to her. And why she was even more upset over the fact that they had NOT had sex. Was there something so wrong with her that no one wanted her. Not even Spike?

Spike flipped it back on and continued his steady drumming.

Sighing, she turned if off again, still not looking his way. Sighing louder, he flipped it back on, turned the volume louder and began to sing along to a Beatles tune. Spike sang it as loud and obnoxiously as he could, leaning toward her so he was practically in her ear.

"HEY JUDE, DON'T MAKE IT BAD, TAKE A SAD SONG AND MAKE IT BETTER. REMEMBER TO LET HER INTO YOUR HEART, THEN YOU CAN START TO MAKE IT BETTER."

Buffy turned her head slightly, glaring at him with so much force he felt it without looking back at herÖ then she lifted her foot and kicked the radio halfway through the dashboard.

Spikeís jaw hit his chest and he could not believe that she had the nerve to damage his private property. The radio made an evil hissing sound and clicked itself onto tape mode, blaring Billy Idol singing ĎRebel Yellí. He cut his eyes over at Buffy and said, "You wouldnít dare. Thatís sacred."

With her arms still crossed, she raised her foot and aimed at the radio again. He caught her by the ankle and gripping it tightly, pulled her foot into his lap. "Give me your other one," he snapped, pointing at her other leg.

Still acting like a zombie, she stared straight ahead. Spike lifted his left leg and pinned her foot under it then grabbed the fleshy part of her thigh above her knee, pinching it hard. Screaming, Buffy brought her other leg up and gave him a charley horse as hard as she could. He yanked the wheel and let her leg go so fast it surprised even him.

As Buffy turned to shove both legs back in the floorboard she mumbled, "Wuss."

"Speak a little louder, luv." He looked back at his crumpled radio; which was apparently still working on tape mode just fine. When he got no reply, he smiled, admiring how bold she was. "If youíre scared to repeat it just say youíre scared to repeat it."

"I said youíre a wuss." Her voice had no inflection and sounded quite bored.

"Iím a wuss?" Chuckling, he smiled in her direction. "Letís see, Iím a dork and a wuss. Anything else?"

"Every single bad name I canít think of because my head hurts too much." The same tone was used but this time she looked at him. "Youíre horrible."

"Iím a horrible dork wuss. Be careful, Slayer. If you keep using your imagination for such witty remarks, I may think you like me." He pinched her on the cheek and picked up the chorus of ĎMony Mony.í

Buffy lifted her foot again and slammed the radio all the way through the dash, crunching it against whatever metal was behind it. "And youíre singing SUCKS more ASS than anything Iíve ever witnessed."

Spike clutched the side of his leg to keep from hitting her and pulled off onto the shoulder of the road, not realizing that there was a guardrail or a curb. He hit both still going at least thirty miles per hour and slammed his brakes. Appraising the situation, he figured that there was quite a bit of damage on the passenger side of his car and the frame was probably warped, but it wasnít totaled. "Are you okay?"

Buffy had braced herself and turned to look at him when the car sputtered and went dead. "I take it back. Your driving sucks worse ass than your singing. You are a complete moron."

"Thatís it. Get out. Iíll save Dru on my own. Iíd rather have Holy Water put into a water gun and shot up my ass than work with you one more minute." He pointed out the door and stared at her. "Iím not waiting all night. Get out and get yourself back to SunnyHell because this joy ride is over."

"Joy ride?" she shouted. "If this is your idea of joy, Iíd pay to see your idea of ecstasy."

"Ecstasy?" Spike grabbed her chin and forced her to face him, bringing his face within inches of hers. "I could show you a thing or two about ecstasy. Might make you get rid of that big ass chip or your shoulder. Iím good enough to do it without a whole lot of effort."

"Ego much?"

Spike moved away before he gave in to the desire to kiss her and tried to start the car. **She is STILL the fucking Slayer no matter how brave and cute she is.**

The car made a strange clicking sound and he tried several more times before he allowed reality to set it. "You broke my dick, my radio, and now my car. All thatís left now is my heart."

"I can stake that. No breaking required." Buffy was fighting to regain and maintain normal breathing after being convinced he was going to kiss her and tried not to show her disappointment. Not knowing what to do with herself, she tried to open her car door but the car was pressed firmly against the guardrail. "If you will let me out on your side, Iíll be on my way."

"Weíll be on OUR way. I have to call a wrecker and YOU have to figure out a way to reimburse me for what has been the most expensive twenty-four hours of my life." Spike opened his car door and extended a hand. "My lady?"

"Iím not your luv, pet or your lady. And why donít you stop being so fickle. You want me here, you want me goneÖyouíre an imbecile." She took his hand and let him pull her from the car. "Although, none of those are the worst things I can be called."

"They are the way I mean them." He shrugged and ducked into the car, tossing her bag into her arms and grabbing his own.

"Prick." Hanging her bag over her shoulder, she poked out a thumb.

Spike grabbed her hand and clutched it in his own. "What the hell do you think youíre doing?"

"Hitchhiking."

"Like hell you are. Thatís dangerous and YOU are sticking with ME." He twined his fingers through hers and pulled her in step beside him as he led her the way they had been heading. Spike started talking again and rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand while they continued walking. "Weíll get yet another room and Iíll call a wrecker. You know, traveling with you has slowed me down to a crawl."

Any comeback Buffy could have thought up was snuffed out and the only thought that filled her head was the fact that he was holding her hand as they walked.

And it felt nice.

**

"Why are you still here?" Faith was groggy when she finally woke up and glared across the room at Angel. "Did you spend the night?"

"Yeah. I was worried." He walked into the bathroom and filled a cup with water before he returned to the bedroom. "The sun came up before I knew it. I figured Iíd just stay."

"Yeah, because anything is better than dying, huh?" She took the water and looked at it in her hands. "The sunís down now."

"And Iím still worried." He sat on the foot of the bed and shook his head. "Iím sorry that you got so hurt. Buffy wasÖ"

"Right." Faith shrugged. "She was right. I do deserve to die. I mean, I came here and couldnít stand how good she had it, how good Giles allowed her to have it because my own Watcher kept me on a leash. I hated her. Buffy sounded all perfect and good when my Watcher talked about her and I knew there were comparisons even then."

"Thatís natural though, Faith." Angel stared around the dingy room and finally back at her. "I mean, thereís supposed to be only one and itís pretty damn hard to make your own name when sheís already made such a name for herself. Buffy is big news. Sheís amazing."

The Slayer shoved her hair out of her face and pressed gingerly on her stomach. "And she has amazing aim."

"Since Iíve felt it more than once, I agree." He chuckled and looked at her closely, letting his smile fade. "You could have everything Buffy has, Faith. You could have friends here and a wonderful Watcher and most of all, you could have Buffy helping you."

"Iíve already had everything Buffy has." She shrugged. "You were much better than Xander."

He didnít know what to say so he stood and walked slowly across the room, picking up a prescription bottle that sat on top of her TV. "These are the pain pills from the hospital andÖ"

"You love her so much it makes you blind to how much like me she really is."

Nodding, Angel handed her the bottle. "All I see is Buffy. All I ever see is Buffy. I love her."

"She needs that. We all do." Faith opened the bottle and popped a pill into her mouth, smiling up at Angel. "Is there anything else?"

"Just that Iím sorry. I feel responsible for what happened to you." He picked up his coat and started for the door. "And I think that if you really thought about it, youíd see how much youíre needed on our team. We wouldnít use you as a gopher. Youíd be an equal, not someone to pick up our imported liquor. Youíre good at what you do, Faith. Itís not right that your so good for someone so bad."

"Youíve talked more right now than Iíve ever heard you talk."

"And I hope youíve listened more than youíve ever listened before. Giles left his number by your phone, so did Willow." He turned the doorknob, then paused. "You are still just a human, Faith. And no one can understand that or appreciate it more than another human. The Mayor wonít be a human much longer. You should think about that."

For a long time after he left, Faith did think about it. She thought long and hard about it and when she finally did sleep again it filled her dreams. She dreamt that she was on a white horse, riding it slowly through an orchard filled with apple trees and butterflies. Buffy was there wearing a long white dress and she smiled as Faith approached.

"You know, if you touch a butterflyís wings they die?" asked the blond, catching a butterfly on the tip of her finger and bringing it to flutter against her cheek. "Itís not very easy, is it?"

"Whatís not easy?" Faith asked, still sitting on her horse and looking down at Buffy.

Buffy moved her hand quickly, making the butterfly take fight and stepped closer to Faith, rubbing the horseís muzzle. "Being who were are. We have roots and wings. Roots that keep us tied down and wings the make us want to fly."

The Slayer on the horse nodded her head and leaned low, putting her hand on top of the other girls. "Itís worse when youíre alone, B."

"No." Buffy shook her head and looked back at Faith with tears in her eyes. "Itís worse when you do fly and someone touches your wings and you die."

A low growl could be heard in the distance and Buffy stepped away. Faith tried to get off the horse and follow her but tree roots had jutted through the ground and weaved around her legs as well as the horseís legs. "Help me, Buffy." she cried.

The blond hung her head and began to sob. "Only you can stop it. Iím the one flying now and youíre the one with roots. You can make a difference here and I canít."

The Horse that she was straddling shifted under her and when she looked down at it, she saw that it was the Mayor she was sitting on top of. The horse had vanished. He was staring up at her as the roots began to tug them both into the ground.

The dark haired Slayer screamed when she saw that his teeth had become razor blades.

The scream died when he ripped her throat out.

Faith shot up in bed and put her head in her hands, trying to stop shaking. It was clear now. This was her chance to prove that she was every bit as good as Buffy and save the world on her own.

And she had to do it without Buffy.

**

Buffy shook her head when the waitress offered her desert. Her stomach had flip flopped for the entire meal and she honestly doubted it would stay down. Instead of eating like she had the previous night, she had chosen toast and soup with ginger ale.

They had taken the first exit on foot and Spike used a pay phone to call a local towing service. She had listened to him grumble about the charges and about her destroying his radio for at least a solid hour before he finally insisted that she needed to eat. After he saw her safely seated inside the twenty-four hour truck stop/restaurant with a menu and made sure to threaten her for fifteen minutes about staying put, he went to find his own dinner. Buffy had made sure to threaten him just as fiercely about not taking a human life and his answer was to tell her that she was "thick as pigshit."

The Slayer was relieved to be alone for at least a little while with her thoughts. She wanted time to berate herself for being saddened that she hadnít slept with Spike. And for reacting to him ALMOST kissing her like someone who was starving for any form of unbridled passion. **Unbridled passion? I need a life.**

Buffy had to admit that sparks flew every single time they got within inches of each other. Hateful sparks, but sparks nonetheless. There had been a few times in the car that she had completely let her guard down and forgot all about him being the same old Spike, like when he had bandaged her hand. She couldnít fathom why she was suddenly so attracted to him. There were times that she completely forgot who he still was. Like now.

Sighing, she fished a quarter out of her pocket and trudged toward the jukebox, hoping to find a song to make her feel worse than she already did. She was halfway there when a burly trucker stepped into her path and blocked her. "Excuse me?" Buffy held up her hands and started around him.

Grinning with yellowing crooked teeth he said, loud enough for the rest of the room to hear, "Little lady, youíre body is like a temple."

"Iím sorry, there are no services today." Smiling apologetically, she tried to get past him again. When he stuck out his belly and several of his pals whooped and hollered, she turned and went back to her seat.

The large trucker followed and stood next to her booth. "Is this seat empty?"

"Yes, and this one will be if you sit down."

"Now donít be so hard to get. I know a lot lizard when I see one." He shoved himself into the booth and leaned forward.

"What the fuck is a lot lizard?" Buffy sneered.

"A truckstop whore. A hooker that goes around knocking on trucks until someone invites her inside the rig." He offered her a greasy hand. "My name is Garret."

"My name is GONE." She stood, grabbed her purse and started past him, straightening her shorts and halter as she went, trying to ignore the fact that he followed her.

"Youíre a little cock tease arenít you? You donít come in here dressed like that unless you want some action. Do you want some action?" Garret pushed her back against the wall, lifting her feet off the ground like she weighed nothing and pressed against her.

"She doesnít, but I wouldnít mind some action, bloke." Spike walked up beside them, nodded toward Buffy and said. "Her cockteasing aside, sheís still a lady and youíd be wise to show her respect before I show you just how active your night can get."

"You fuck off." Garret turned his attention back to Buffy and made a move to kiss her.

"Are you dead from the neck up?" Spike grabbed him and yanked him back, gripping his neck. "Or are you just all mouth and no trousers. You want action and here I am."

"Spike, letís leave." Buffy had pulled free and was glaring at the two men.

Garret wrestled with Spikeís grip but the vampire was far more powerful and bent him backwards over the table, pressing his neck until the man struggled to breathe. The blond flashed a smile at the man and whispered, "How does it feel to know youíre going to die?"

"SPIKE!" Buffy couldnít believe that he was doing this, in front of at least fifteen people so she grabbed his arm, trying to pull him with her. "Forget about him. He isnít worth getting into a FIGHT over." She threw the last part in for the benefit of the onlookers. They didnít need to know Spike was a killer by default and could very easily make good on his threat.

He angrily knocked her arm off of him, underestimating his own strength and Buffy tripped over a chair that had been turned over when the trucker pinned her to the wall. She thudded to the ground, but Spike was only interested in the obese trucker.

Getting back on her feet, she turned and stormed out of the building hoping against hope that the cops would come and shoot the vampire and the trucker. Buffy hated herself for forgetting momentarily that he was still a demon. He WAS a demon and had just proved that loud and clear. She broke into a run when she got on the road, heading toward the hotel room he had gotten them just a few blocks away. Spike had given her one of the keys and she fished it out of her pocket and let herself in.

As fast as she could she packed up her bag and headed back towards the door. Spike opened it just as she was about to. "What are you doing?"

"Duh, obviously Iím leaving." Buffy held up her bag. "Are you dead from the neck up too?"

"Iím dead all over and no you arenít leaving. We had a deal." Spike made a move towards her and she backed away.

"Donít you come near me. Iím going home and you can go to hell."

Moving to block the door, he looked at her closely, struck by how beautiful the flush on her face made her. "At least tell me why."

"Why?" She shouted, shaking her head in disbelief. "Did you kill that man?"

"No, luv." Spike sighed and shook his head. "I just scared him until he pissed himself in front of his friends."

"And are you aware that your psychotic side shoved me down inside the restaurant?" She pointed at the ugly mark on the side of her leg that was already beginning to bruise.

"Bloody hell! Iím sorry! I didnít Ö" He took another step but she held her hand up.

"Iím sorry too. I overestimated you and thought you werenít just an average vampire. A fucking cold-blooded killer. I thought you wereÖ" Buffy trailed off as images of herself trying to kill Faith flashed through her mind. SHE had almost killed someone out of angerÖthe same reason Spike would have killed the truck driver. And she didnít have a demon inside of her. Her eyes welled with tears and she shook her head, biting them back.

"Buffy, that man deserved to be humiliated the way he was humiliating you." He shouted. "He disrespected you."

"You disrespect me all the time."

"I donít mean it though." Spike paced in a small circle and shrugged. "Please believe me when I say that I only wanted to embarrass him, not kill him"

Buffy relaxed a little. Maybe she hadnít overestimated him after all. Normal vampires wouldnít apologize. Normal vampires wouldnít have an intelligent conversation with her, or bathe her if she puked on herself. "You still shouldnít have done that."

"He should have taken no for an answer."

"Oh, like YOUíD take no for an answer!"

Spike moved toward her again and put his hands on her upper arms. When she looked up at him he lowered his lips to hers, slowly massaging her mouth open and letting his tongue probe the hot moisture. He felt her gasp, tense up and then give in, allowing her tongue to mate with his.

This was it. The moment that Buffy had anticipated ever since Spike led her to believe they had slept together. She allowed him to penetrate her senses along with her mouth and arched into him. Her bag dropped to the floor and her arms found their way around his neck, pulling him even closer.

It lasted forever but not long enough. Spike pulled away but Buffy kept her arms around his neck. He stared into her eyes for several seconds and finally whispered, "Tell me no."

Her heart raced and her breathing was heavy as she shook her head. "No."

Spike pulled her arms away from his neck and stepped away. "See? I can take no for an answer."

Confused, Buffy shook her head. "You misunderstood me. No, I wonít tell you no. Spike, Iím telling you yes."

Spike didnít know how to take what the Slayer had just said to him, "Donít fuck around with me."

"But I want to fuck around with you." Buffy moved back into his arms and began trailing kisses all over his neck and ear.

He shoved her away angrily and paced further into the hotel room. "I know what youíre doing, Slayer. Youíre going to get me all horny and then shoot me down."

"No, thatís not it." She followed him closely and touched his arm. "Please?"

He felt the heat of her hand through the sleeve of his shirt and tried to imagine how hot sheíd be on the inside. If he did this with her, it changed everything. If he did this then there was no way heíd be able to carry out what he had started. Heíd never be able to take her to Mexico and do the things he had agreed to do.

Buffy watched him as he stared anywhere but at her. When it was apparent he wasnít going to answer her, she turned and lifted her bag. Saying nothing, she opened the door.

Spike hurried across the room and pulled her back in, closing the door behind them and locking it. He took the bag from her shoulder and tossed it into a chair before finally meeting her gaze. "If we start this, we WILL finish it, Slayer. I donít care if you change your mind half way. There is no turning back if you donít tell me no now."

Buffyís answer was to begin tugging her halter over her head quickly. Spike caught it before she had it all the way over her head and slowed her down, removing it himself. As he pulled it over her head, he lowered his mouth to hers and slowly brought the shirt up over her raised arms. When he tossed it aside, he backed away and looked at her closely, letting his fingertips brush across her bare chest. "There is nothing I wonít do to you, luv. But we arenít in any hurry."

Spike stepped closer and pulled her to him, letting his hands massage her back while he nipped at the soft skin on her neck. He felt her tugging his shirt out of his jeans and let her unbutton it. Buffy pushed it over his shoulders and off his arms and brought her mouth to his bare chest, using her blunt teeth to tug his nipples into hardening. Her hair wound around his fingers as he gripped her head, bringing her mouth up to his.

While they kissed, he began to walk forward toward the bed, lifting her with him. When he felt it behind her, he spread her gently back and pressed himself on top of her, never breaking the lip lock. Her legs opened invitingly and he could feel her heat through her shorts and his pants and it made him weak all over with anticipation.

He rolled his weight to one side and brought his mouth down to kiss the valley between her heaving breasts. His tongue trailed a slow pattern until it finally swirled around her nipple and he took it into his mouth, worrying it until she cried out. Smiling, he offered the same treatment to the other one and moved a hand lower, to massage her leg.

Buffy cried out in pain when he gripped the bruise she had gotten when she had fallen. He sat up a little and looked at her leg, shaking his head. "Iím sorry."

"Itís okay." She was terrified that he was going to stop.

Spike gently ran his fingertips over the mark then moved lower so he could kiss it. His gentleness surprised Buffy and she watched as he trailed his mouth slowly over the length of the bruise. He met her eyes and held her gaze for several seconds before he lifted her leg and removed her shoe. Even though her other leg wasnít bruised he kissed it all over before taking off her remaining shoe.

Moving so that he was on his knees between her legs, he lowered his mouth to her stomach and Buffy bucked upward. He caught her hips in his hands and found the button of her shorts; using his teeth to yank them open. As soon as they were unzipped he slid them as low as he could and followed their descent with his mouth.

Buffy wanted her shorts all the way off. He was sucking the skin over her pelvic bone and she couldnít handle it. The anticipation was making her shake all over. She wanted to be completely naked so he could do what he was doing a little lower. He brought his hand up to her breast and she caught it, "Spike, please? I canít take it any more."

Grinning, he stood and pulled her shorts and panties all the way off and slid her to the edge of the bed. Kneeling on the floor, he pushed her legs open and used his fingers to open her inner folds.

Buffy sucked in her breath when she felt his tongue brush across her clit. He did it only once and moved to suck on the inside of her leg. Almost screaming in frustration, she put her hands over her face to keep herself quiet.

Spike saw her and chuckled silently before he moved back to her inner thigh and sucked her swollen nubbin into his mouth. She lifted her ass off the bed and rocked against him saying his name under her breath. He stopped sucking and began to flick his tongue rapidly back and forth, bringing it across her aching center with as much pressure as he could.

Moaning, she grabbed a handful of the cover and squeezed it when he put one of his fingers inside of her, working it in and out quickly. A pressure began to build and she struggled to hang onto her senses. Her other hand was in his hair and when he sucked at her again, she exploded. Any last strand of reservation she had broke and she cried out, giving herself completely to the orgasm that shook through her and the man who had caused it.

When she finally opened her eyes and looked for him, he was standing over her, watching her closely. Spike was aching for her but he was also terrified that if he took her, he wouldnít be able to keep the vampire inside him at bay. The demon would emerge as he got off and he may not be able to stop himself from biting her.

"SpikeÖ" Buffy sat up on the edge of the bed and leaned her head against his stomach, kissing him just below his belly button.

"No." He pushed her away and admitted his weakness. "I might not be able to control it."

Buffy knew exactly what he was talking about because Angel had said the same thing when theyíd slept together. But Angel had been able to control it because he had a soul. The thought of being bitten scared her, but it paled in comparison to the fear she had that he wouldnít finish. Standing, she kissed him on the lips and unbuttoned his pants, tugging them as far as she could.

She watched him kick off his shoes and step out of his jeans and marveled at how perfect his body was. He looked like one of the Greek gods that were chiseled in stone and on display at her motherís gallery. Muscled and lean, his flesh was tight and pale. Buffy trailed her fingers over the washboard of his stomach and let her gaze move lower, to his erection.

Her forehead creased when she saw the dark blue bruise that covered a little of his inner thigh and balls. Dropping to her knees in front of him, Buffy cupped him gently and kissed the bruise on his leg.

Spike moved to pull her back to her feet but she shook her head, "You kissed my bruise."

Taking his balls gently into her hand, she massaged, testing their weight and enjoying the power she had as he squirmed a little and leaned against the bedpost. No idea what she was doing, Buffy kissed him softly and pulled back, taking his cock into her mouth. His body went absolutely rigid and she was afraid sheíd hurt him. She was about to stop when he put his hands into her hair and she knew it was all right.

She had never done what she was doing right then, but she had sneaked one of her motherís books once and remembered reading about how to satisfy a man orally. Buffy gripped his shaft and used her tongue to circle the tip, concentrating on the head. She alternated between sucking it and pumping it; letting his reaction urge her on.

Spike leaned his head against the bedpost and closed his eyes. Her mouth was so hot he felt like he was on fire. Heíd gladly burn alive if it felt this good. She brought him so close he almost lost himself right then so he urged her to her feet. "Not yet."

He pushed her back on the bed and pinned her arms above her head with one of his hands. The other hand reached between her legs and he pushed a finger into her, making sure she was still wet. Seeing that she was, he positioned himself at her opening and slowly pushed his hips forward.

Buffy raised her hips to meet him, forcing him into her quicker. She cried out as her body fought to accommodate him and pulled her arms free, hugging him against her so he couldnít move. His mouth found hers and they joined intimately in two places. He didnít try to move, he could tell that she was damn near virginal.

Finally, Buffy dropped her hips and urged upward into him again. Spike began to pump his hips to the rhythm of her breathing, moving faster the harder she breathed. He had never imagined that anyone could be so tight and hot. Losing the will he had, he began to feel demon emerge as she called out and wrapped her legs around his waist. Her walls clamped down on him and he exploded with her, shooting his cold load into her hot passage. Fully vamped, he growled against her ear and continued to thrust until he had emptied himself completely.

The growling emanating from Spikeís throat made the wave of pleasure Buffy was riding crash against the shore and she braced herself. The inside of her thighs were still constricting and she could feel him inside of her becoming soft. She grabbed his arms, saying nothing but not moving him unless she had to.

He fought. His mind screamed at the demon trying to push it back but the demon continued to fight for the vein in her neck. **NO! I wonít do it.** Spike couldnít move, the demon held him there and he dueled with it inside of him.

Buffy could feel how close he was to biting her and she felt a blind panic. If he bit her then sheíd be forced to fight back. "Spike, please donít."

At the sound of her voice he defeated it, pushing his human face to the forefront. He relaxed and pulled her into his arms. Spike had never, ever been able to stop himself once the hunger overcame him during sex but this time he had. Nothing about that made sense. He had been convinced heíd bite her and sheíd half kill him.

Buffy laid against his chest, feeling the coolness against her hot face. She was too shocked to say anything at all. The control he had just shown gave her a new respect for him. Once the demon emerged it was an exhausting struggle to push it away without satisfying it and she knew that. He was physically stronger when the vampire emerged but it made him practically incapable of conscious thought. It filled him with a need that rendered him helpless. Giles had explained that, Angel had explained that and sheíd read it a million times.

Spike hugged her to him and tilted her face, kissing her deeply. When they broke apart he whispered, "I was right."

"Right about what?" She asked, leaning on her elbow and admiring the angle of his jaw.

"Well, when I let you think we had sex yesterday, I said you were the best Iíd ever had. Even though it was a lie at the time, I never doubted you actually would be the best." He smiled. Blushing, Buffy started to look away but Spike caught her and forced her to look at him. "Donít ever doubt how perfect you are, Slayer."

"I was right too." She playfully winked at him.

"Right about what?"

"You arenít just a demon." Buffy kissed him softly.

"Careful, Slayer. I might think you like me." Spike ran his thumb over her lips and tried to think of something that he could compare her beauty too. She was undoubtedly the most beautiful woman heíd ever seen.

"You **might** think I like you?" Buffy sat up and moved to straddle his waist. "I must be doing something wrong then."

"Keep doing it wrong then." Spike put his hands behind his head and smiled up at her. "As long as it keeps feeling so rightÖ"

She was happier than she had ever been when she impaled herself on his hard shaft. Nothing mattered to her except then and now and she completely forgot about everything else that had ever happened. Buffy was flying.

**

Giles was startled when Faith walked into the library that morning. He had just gotten off the phone with Angel, who had beaten Willy half to death trying to get a location out of him. When Willow had told them that Buffy was helping Spike rescue Dru, the Slayeretteís went on instant alert, trying to pin down where Dru may be.

"Faith, hello." He met her halfway and took the large box she was carrying from her arms. "You shouldnít be out and about yet."

Smiling, the Slayer lifted her shirt and pointed at her almost healed stomach. "Go, go Slayer healing."

"Ah, yes. I sometimes forget." Giles put the box on the desk and offered her a smile. "Iíd be lying if I said I wasnít both curious and scared of what might be in this box."

"Books of Ascension." She opened the box and pulled out several leather bound books. "All of them are here."

Giles took the book she handed him and stared at it in disbelief. When he looked back at her he saw the eagerness on her face and smiled. "You are an extraordinary girl."

She shrugged but couldnít hide her enthusiasm as he patted her affectionately. "Itís no big. But look, Iím not itching to get caught helping you guys out. If the Mayor ever found outÖ"

"What does he think happened to the books?"

"I told him Buffy cut me up and took them. He was pissed but he isnít really worried. He says you guys canít stop him even with the books." Faith glanced behind her when the door opened and Xander and Willow walked in. "Whereís B?"

Willow saw the books on the table and squealed. "Those are the Books of Ascension arenít they?"

"Yeah." Faith tried not to enjoy it when Willow and Xander wrapped her in a tight hug, squeezing the living daylights out of her. "Gee, guys. Youíll make me blush."

"Youíve saved us!" Willow bounced away and picked up one of the books. "I knew you had it in you."

"Thanks. I think. Whereís Buffy?" She looked back at the door. "I really need to talk to her."

"HmmmÖ" Xander looked at Giles who gave the go-ahead and he quickly explained that Buffy had skipped town with Spike.

"Fuck!" Faith threw her hands in the air. "Guys, I had a dream about her."

"DetailsÖí Xander smiled. "even minor onesÖwhat color were her panties?"

""Not that kind of dream," Faith laughed.

"Oh, well anytime she visits my dreams she isnít wearing anyÖunless they are edible andÖ" He raised an eyebrow and stopped himself. "Sometimes I just say stuff like that toÖuhÖshock you guys. Itís not true though." When they all gave him a Ďyeah rightí look, he turned and bolted from the library.

"A dream you say?" Giles looked back at Faith. "Possibly a portent?"

Faith began to give him the details while Willow leafed through the books. When she had finished, she said. "What do you think it means?"

Giles had taken off his glasses and looked over at Willow. "Several things are possible. Obviously the biggest message being that you are here and can aid us and she canít. But the smaller message, the one with her having the wings and leaving is unnerving."

"Road trip, Giles," Willow offered. "Sheís out of townÖonly she didnít fly."

Shaking his head, he shoved his glasses back on his nose and said, "No. Iím afraid this dream may be a warning that she isnít coming back. Sheís flown for good. We must find her soon."

**

Buffy awoke to the shrill sound of a phone ringing. She felt Spike reach across her to get it and listened as he discussed his car with what was apparently a man from the garage. Exhausted, she tuned them out and closed her eyes. The conversation lasted several minutes and by then, Buffy was asleep again.

Spike leaned back over to hang the phone up and looked down at her. She was breathing deeply and had her hand resting against the side of her face. Guilt was the only thing he felt. He had to tell her the truth and get her the hell away from him before he became so addicted to her that he couldnít let her go. Once she knew the truth, she would be more than willing to leave.

He closed his eyes and thought about the night they had just shared. Before she went to sleep, curled against him, she had whispered, "Donít be gone when I wake up."

"Iíll be here." He had kissed the top of her head and held her as sleep greeted her.

Spike hadnít been asleep at all. He had stayed awake, listening to the rhythm of her heartbeat and the contented sighs that escaped her every so often. Sometime before dawn, she had woken up and he had taken her again, faster and with more force than heíd previously used and she had matched him with her own force. The demon didnít even bother emerging that time, apparently it realized that he had too much on his mind for it to penetrate.

"SpikeÖ" She tossed sleepily and rolled into his arms.

He had to get her away from him. She was far too vulnerable and had trusted him completely. That trust wasnít something he had planned on. Nor had he planned on experiencing the closest thing to Heaven heíd ever see in the Slayerís arm.

Hating himself for what he was about to do, he shook her awake. "Rise and shine, pet."

Her eyes opened halfway and she shook her head. "Waking me up is a bad thing."

"Is it?" He asked, smiling because her hair was sticking straight out on one side making her even more desirable.

"Unless youíre waking me up because you decided you canít stand another second of not kissing me." Buffy yawned and stretched, exposing her breasts.

He looked away and fished his jeans off the floor. "Uhm, we need to talk."

"Spike?" Buffy sat up and caught his arm, fearing what he might say. **Please donít let him ask me if I heard the dulcet choir of pretty little birdies or bells ringing. Or tell me I proved that I had a lot to learn about men. Donít let this happen again.**

He paused and turned to face her, not prepared for the wave of anxiety that rushed through him. "I want to give you money and send you back to Sunnydale."

"What!?" Buffy moved closer, pulling the cover around her. "But...we had a deal, right?"

Pulling courage from the pit of his stomach he quietly said, "I lied to you."

"About?" She felt her knees began to shake and figured he was about to laugh in her face and throw insults at her.

He looked at his hands, which were lying in his lap clutching his pants. "Dru wasnít kidnapped. Sheís holed up a few miles south of Tijuana with a bull fighter who calls himself Diablo. Heís a vampire and he has a fucking army of men around him all the time. I tried to kill him and couldnít."

"I gathered that." Buffy was still shaking, not wanting to think about leaving or the pain in her gut that was telling her she should before he finished his story.

"Thatís not all. Slayer." He looked at her then and had to force the words out. "Dru never took me back. She allowed me to hang around and do things for her but she never forgave me for working with you. I begged her last week to leave Mexico with me and start over and she agreed on one conditionÖ"

"Go on." She swallowed hard and tried not to admit she was jealous of his love for Dru.

"The condition was, I get you to Mexico somehow andÖ" Spike closed his eyes. "help her torture and kill you."

"And Diablo?" Buffyís voice conveyed her hurt.

"I was going to let you kill him first." Standing, he pulled on his pants, lifted his duster off the floor and pulled his wallet out. He took several one hundred dollar bills and tossed them on the bed. "That should get you back with a little extra for your trouble."

"My trouble?" She glared at the money on the bed and shook her head. "I think I have a right to say something about this."

"Okay." He sighed and faced her, expecting her to cuss him like the dog he was.

"First off, this money can be shoved up your ass." She grabbed it and tossed it off the bed. "Youíve just succeeded in making me feel like a truck stop whore. Your paying me for my servicesÖ"

"No, Buffy." He ran a hand through his hair. "Iím paying you to leave."

"Why?"

"I canít take you to Mexico."

"Why not?" She fired back, angry that this was happening. Angry that she couldnít have one second of peace without something going wrong.

"Why not?" Spike sat on the bed and looked at her. "Buffy, last nightÖ"

"Was perfect and you had to ruin it." She ran her hand through the tangles in her hair and said, "I wanted a Ďmorning afterí that was as special as last night."

If she had wanted to cut him to the bone, she had succeeded. Spike looked at her briefly and pulled her into his arms. "Baby, I canítÖ"

"Canít or wonít?" Her voice was muffled because she had buried her face in his shoulder. "I have another option."

"What?" he asked, massaging her neck.

"When is your car going to be fixed?" Buffy sat up and looked at him.

Spike cringed when he saw that she was crying. "By this time tomorrow. He had to order aÖ"

"You brought me this far, Spike. Itís only fair that you take me the rest of the way or take me home yourself." Buffy put her hand on his cheek and kissed him gently. "And you have until this time tomorrow to decide where weíre going. You can go to DruÖor you can come with me."

**

After Buffy gave Spike her ultimatum, she left his lap and locked herself in the bathroom. She stayed in the shower until the water ran cold. Her mind raced with unanswered questions that she had hoped to mull over and eventually answer but after spending over an hour in the water, nothing was resolved. She hadnít spoken to Spike again and he had pretty much stayed away from her. Using the hairdryer that was attached to the wall of the bathroom she styled her hair pretty and put make-up on, glad that she had been vain enough to pack that before she fled Sunnydale. And that she had accidentally packed the outfit she had on.

When she had dressed in a black mini skirt, a midnight blue velvet tank top and knee boots, she exited the bathroom and looked at Spike. "Iím going out for a while."

He glanced up from the paper he was reading and was rendered incapable of speaking by how beautiful she was. Finally finding at least one word, he cleared his throat and said, "Where?"

"Out." Buffy started past him and said, "Donít wait up."

Spike caught her arm before she made it to the door. "Slayer, where are you going?"

"Thereís a lot of OUT, out there. Thatís where Iíll be. Iím tired of this room and REALLY tired of the company." Yanking free, she grabbed her purse. "And Iím hungry."

"Do you need some money?"

"Are you a bank? Spikeís Savings and Loans. Your motto could be: You donate blood or fuck me and Iíll toss money at you if I donít kill you." Her feelings were still hurt over the fact that heíd thrown money on the bed and made her feel like a slut after she mistook what they did as something special. She had mistaken sex for making love.

"So weíre back to this then, luv? Snide remarks and childish banter?" He shook his head and smiled sadly. "I was wrong, nothing can knock that chip off your shoulder. Not even a good tussle beneath the sheets."

More pissed than she had ever been, Buffy turned and stomped out of the room. It was only after six PM and the sun hadnít set yet. She felt like sticking her head back in the room to yell Ďneener neener, you canít come out í but figured just leaving might hurt him worse. It wasnít even like she had a plan. All she knew was that she had to get the hell away from him before she confessed that the mere thought of not being with him was destroying her inside. When had this happened? And why!?

Resolved to not think about it, she quickly ducked into a McDonaldís and ate stuff that sheíd have to jog twenty miles to work off. By the time she had finished, the sun was beginning to go down and she checked her watch, wondering how it had become seven thirty so fast. Buffy amused herself by walking along the sidewalks of the town, staring into windows and wishing she wasnít who she was. If she hadnít been a Slayer - no, she couldnít think like that because she was a Slayer and this was her lot in life.

She was so engrossed in staring at an outfit she would love to buy that she didnít notice the group of college aged guys who walked past her. One turned and came back, tapping her on the shoulder. "Hi, are you new in town?"

Buffy turned and looked up at the young man. He was extremely good looking, blond hair, blue eyes and solidly built. She figured he was the classic jock type. "Uh, no. Iím just passing through."

"Well, my name is Pat. If you have nothing planned for the night, thereís a new club opening a few blocks away. Thereís absolutely nothing else to do in this town." Pat grinned and pointed up the road.

Buffy could see several other young people heading toward a neon sign. "Iím only eighteen."

"Youíre in luck. Youíll have to wear a really ugly bracelet that screams no alcohol, but you can get in. I bet you wonít even be carded." He looked at her closely. "I didnít catch your name."

"Oh sorry, I forgot to throw it." She sighed. "Rough day. Iím Buffy."

"Well, Buffy. Feel up to some fun? Itís a cure all for a rough day." Pat extended his arm in an old fashioned manner and the Slayer shrugged.

"What the hell. Iím young, healthy and on the road with no one that cares what I do. Iím game." Buffy took his arm and walked beside him to the club that proclaimed itself to be ĎThe Jungleí.

As predicted, the bouncer looked her up and down and ushered her in without even asking for her ID. That was really good because she would have been embarrassed to pull out her Sunnydale High student card. As soon as she got inside, several guys called to Pat and he excused himself. Buffy ambled toward the bar and dug into her purse again.

"Whatíll you have, sweet thing?" Asked the bartender.

She glanced at the bottles of liquor on the wall and contemplated rushing to the bathroom to vomit but she said, "Just a coke, please?"

With her drink in her hand she stood on the outside of the dance floor, watching several couples and wishing she was at the Bronze. There was a slow, sad song playing and people were snuggling everywhere she looked. Regretting her decision to go to the club, she sat her glass down and turned to leave.

Pat was behind her, smiling down at her. "Would you like to dance?"

**

Spike had walked for over an hour looking for Buffy. The sun had finally set and heíd been all over the place. Swearing, he leaned against the side of a car that was illegally parked and ran a hand through his hair. He had a sinking feeling that she might have left town without so much as a goodbye. Pulling his cigarettes out of his shirt pocket, he lit one and took a deep drag. Several pretty girls came by dressed in Ďcome fuck meí clothes and he raised an eyebrow when he heard the word Ďclubí. Wherever they were going was most likely the kind of place that Buffy would find appealing. She did frequent the Bronze. And she had been wearing her own Ďcome fuck me clothesí. **If anyone touches her Iíll kill themÖand her.**

The club was in a large colorful building decorated with a bad jungle inspired motif. Spike wondered what the morons who designed it would think if he told them that heíd seen better art on the side of trains. Everywhere he looked there were palm trees and various jungle animals painted on the walls. It seemed more like a zoo than a club. A childís eye view of a rain forest. A blind child. He hated it and was walking toward the bar to get plastered when he heard her familiar laughter.

Spike turned to see Buffy on the dance floor surrounded by several boys who were bumping and grinding into her. Overcome with a jealousy like he had never felt before, he stormed onto the dance floor and grabbed Buffy by the arm. "Come with me."

"You didnít say please, Mr. No Manners." Rolling her eyes, she allowed herself to be pulled to an empty table but she refused to sit down. "What is it, Spike? Iím trying to have a nice time. You make that impossible."

"Would you sit?" He pulled the seat out and motioned toward it.

"If I want to sit I know how to do so." Buffy narrowed her eyes at him, hating him for looking absolutely delicious in his black shirt and leather pants.

"Why do you have to be such a bitch?" He grabbed her arm and tried to force her into the seat, but she pushed him away from her.

"Is there a problem here?" Pat walked up and glanced from Buffy to Spike. "Buffy and I were about to have a dance."

"Is that right, mate?" Spike asked. "Who the hell do you think you are?"

Pat extended a hand and smiled. "My nameís Pat."

Spike laughed out loud and looked the boy up and down. "Pat? Is that short for Patsy?"

"Haha, funny guy?" Patís smile faded. "No, actually itís short for Patrick."

"Are you Irish?" Spike asked. "Cause Buffy stays away from Irish men. She brings out the worst in them." To Buffy, he added, "Angel was from Ireland if you recall."

"Spike!" Buffy could not believe he just said that. He HAD to bring Angel up! "Could you possibly control how much of an ass hole you are for three seconds?"

"OneÖtwoÖthree. And perhaps I should warn him about your temper and the way you say one thing and mean another!" He looked toward Patrick, trying to think of something to tell him. "She eats like a horse. You better have an extra fifty in your wallet because she eats her weightís worth in one sitting."

"Iím warning you," Buffy told him in a threatening voice. "And I donít say one thing and mean another. Youíve obviously confused me with yourself. Hello? Did you have a brain fart? Who lied about this trip? Hereís a hint..of the two of us it wasnít me."

"Who ran off before we could discuss it? Who ran off so she could nance around and flaunt her wares? Didnít last night teach you anything?"

"Which part of last night? The part where you almost killed someone for treating me the way you always do or the part where you gave an emmy winning performance that made me let my guard down?" Seething, Buffy shook all over.

Spike shoved his hands on his hips and shook his head. "No. Oh no. Who instigated it, you aggressive little trollop. Donít you dare try to play that card becauseÖ"

"Iím aggressive!? YOU started it with this fake ass road trip! You knew where it would lead."

"Itís leading to me killing myself is where itís leading to. Iíd rather impale myself ass first on aÖ"

"Donít give me any ideas, Spike, because you are about to put the final nail in your coffin." She pointed her finger at him.

He grabbed it and held onto it. "Any time you feel froggy, jump on over and weíll see what the hell happens. Two steps and youíll be in my face. Youíd jump off a lot faster than you jumped on."

"Did you mention a dance, Pat?" Buffy, yanked free from Spike and took Patrickís hand. "Donít mind him. Heís my brother and heís an idiot."

"Heís your brother and he speaks with an accent?" Pat didnít look convinced, heíd never seen such a display in his life. "But you donít speak with an accent."

"My family hates him so they sent him away to boarding school." She tugged him toward the dance floor. "He lives very much in the eighties so forgive him for thinking that itís hip to be square."

Spike watched as the other man pulled Buffy into his arms and she put her head against his chest. He glanced past her and saw a woman standing alone on the other side of the dance floor. Straightening his shirt he walked toward her, making sure he bumped into Buffy and Pat on the way. "Excuse me. I see a living masterpiece who needs to be worshipped."

Buffy tried not to blatantly gawk at Spike as he walked up to the pretty brunette with a beautiful skimpy red dress on. She watched out of the corner of her eye as the woman smiled and took Spikeís hand, walking out onto the dance floor. Their bodies pressed together perfectly because the girl was almost as tall as Spike. He put one hand on her waist, under her long silky hair and traced her face with his other, talking to her. Buffy cringed when the girl leaned close to Spikeís ear and whispered something, causing the vampire to smile in Buffyís direction.

Buffy assessed her own clothing and realized that she looked immature and bland compared to the vixen that Spike was dancing with. She tilted her head back and smiled up at Pat. He lowered his mouth to her ear and said, "Would you like something to drink?"

Getting drunk didnít appeal to her but neither did watching Spike practically making love to the woman who now had both her arms around his neck and was grinding into his hips. Nodding, she let him lead her toward the bar. He chose a peachy drink for her called Sex On The Beach and she drank half of it while she watched Spike run a hand up the womanís backside, smirking in her direction. When he saw the mixed drink in Buffyís hand, he excused himself from the chick that was hanging on his neck like a cheap tie. The woman was a vampire and repulsed him with her offers of sex, but she did in a pinch.

He stalked up to the Slayer and took the drink from her hands. "You arenít old enough to drink this and Iím sure the bartenderÖ" He shot the man behind the bar a look and handed him the drink. "would be very upset to know that heís supplying a minor with alcohol. Iím sure the management would be just as upset."

"Hey, she ainít wearing no bracelet," the bartender said. "And I sold it to her date."

"She doesnít have a date! Heís not a date heís a dork! A Patsy-boy." Spike glared at Patrick and then at Buffy. "Luv, are you finished here because I think it would be best to leave before you make me madder than I already am."

Laughing in his face she scoffed the idea. "You think Iím worried? Who put whom in a wheelchair? Who kicked whose ass all over Sunnydale AND who the hell came to who when they got all scared about the end of the world? Once again..of the two of us.."

"Your mouth is going to get you into a lot of trouble." His tone was even, not conveying any emotion. "Letís go now before you irreparably damage what little chance you have of staying in my good graces."

"I am going to stay here, away from your graces, until Iíve danced enough." Buffy started past him then turned back toward him and added quietly. "And, to be brutally honest, I plan on dancing horizontally with Pat later in case you were wondering."

"The hell you will." Spike came within inches of her face. "If you dance any which way with anyone here at all it will be me or so help meÖ"

"You wonít do a damn thing, Spike. You wonít hurt me or my DATE because you need me to get Dru back." She hurt her own feelings by admitting what she knew was the truth. He had used her and would use her right up until the moment she died.

Spike gripped her face roughly and sneered, "You little idiot. I donít need you because of Dru. I need you because I cannot stand the thought of being without you for one more second. Howís that for brutal honesty?"

Buffy was stunned. He had clearly not insulted her just then and she wasnít sure she had heard him right. Before she could reply, Pat stepped toward her and said, "Okay, is this guy really your brother? Because this isnít Alabama and we donít go for that incest stuff here."

"Pat, go away." She didnít take her eyes off of Spike. If he had meant what he said; then she would probably die from happiness right then. But if he didnít meant it she had to know so she could die of a broken heart. When Pat left them alone, she said, "Spike, where are we going tomorrow? Mexico or Sunnydale?"

"Letís dance." Clenching his jaw, he glanced toward the dance floor and grabbed her hand. How was he supposed to answer something like that when he didnít even know what he was feeling about the Slayer?

She let him lead her into the crowd of couples who were dancing slowly to a Sarah McLachlan song. Buffy recognized it and cringed, thinking that absolutely nothing could be worse than hearing a song that said exactly what sheíd like to say.

let me surround you

my sea to your shore

let me be the calm that you seek

oh and every time I'm close to you

there's too much I can't say

and you just walk away

Spike held her so close her could feel her heart pounding against his chest. He listened intently to the lyrics that were playing and closed his eyes, leaning his head on top of hers. It was true. Every time he got within inches of her he wanted to tell her that he felt something. Something very real and something that heíd never be able to admit. Even if she wasnít constantly running away from him, he didnít have the nerve to tell her what was on his mind.

and I forgot

to tell you

I love you

and the night's

too long

and cold here

without you

Buffy wondered if what she felt for Spike was love. Was she really stupid enough to feel anything for another vampire after all she had been through. Then again, was she stupid enough not to realize what every fiber of her being was screaming that she felt something. Surely it was impossible to fall in love with someone so fast. Especially someone she hated. Something that her mother often said popped into her mind, ĎThere is a thin line between love and hate.í

I grieve in my condition

for I cannot find the strength to say I need you so

oh and every time I'm close to you

there's too much I can't say

and you just walk away

He tilted her head, looking into her hazel eyes and trying to see one spark of hope there. Or longing. Or an invitation so he could say what was on his mind. Spike stopped himself when he saw her confusion and what he perceived as anger. Buffy was a mortal and there was absolutely nothing he could offer her. It would be wrong to try to lie to her and himself about what he was. He was still a demon and she was the Slayer. But how could he deny it any longer? It was as real to him as the song.

and I forgot

to tell you

I love you

and the night's

too long

and cold here

without you

"Buffy, I want to tell you somethingÖ." He brushed his lips over her forehead and started to say it when a scream echoed over the last notes of the song. The Slayer spun in the direction of the scream and couldnít believe her eyes.

"You sure can pick them, baby." Spike drawled and looked at what used to be Pat.

The thing that now stood wearing the clothing Pat had worn was about to rip the throat out of the lady who Spike had danced with. Buffy wrinkled her nose and said, "Well, heís going to save me the trouble of killing her so he canít be too bad."

"You were jealous. And uhÖshe isnít human." He pointed as the vampire inside the woman emerged and the two demons clashed.

"Oh great. You would choose to dance with a vampire as opposed to asking me. Do you have any clue how that makes me feel? I am not a vampire and if youíd rather dance with a vampire thenÖ.youíre a racist pig."

Disbelief clouded his face and he stared at her. How could she feel threatened by someone who couldnít hold a candle to her. "Youíre going to be the death of me. If my blood could boil Iíd sizzle. And now isnít really the time to discuss this, in case you havenít noticed your lucky charm over there is growing a horn out of the back of his head. Luck of the Irish."

Buffy glanced at her surroundings trying to find a weapon. The jungle motif was a lifesaver because she saw a machete hanging over the bar and sprang into action. Spike watched her with total awe as she flipped onto the bar, snagged the big knife and dropped down behind Pat.

His admiration was eclipsed by rage when Pat spun and leveled Buffy with a punch to her perfect, beautiful face. The Slayer stumbled and regained her footing but by then Spike had tackled the creature, beating his head against the concrete floor. "You" bang "donít" bang "ever" bang "hit her."

Patís head exploded, covering both Spike and Buffy with a foul spray. Satisfied, he stood and wiped his hands on his pants. Buffy was staring at him with a dazed expression wondering if he realized that he had morphed into his demon face in front of everyone. She glanced to her left at the female vampire who had skanked herself all over Spike. Turning the knife carefully so that the wooden handle faced outward, she rammed it through the womanís chest and wiped her own hands as she dusted. "I think that worked out poetically."

"You WERE jealous." Spike shook his head and hoped that he was conveying how much he liked the thought of that through his grin. His had regained control of the demon and as quickly as it came it was gone.

"Like you werenít?" She smiled and then looked down at herself in disgust. "Beheading wouldnít have been so messy. You have to think of things like that."

"All I could think about was the fact that he hit you. And danced with you." Spike picked up the machete that had fallen onto the floor and severed Patís head. "Just to be sure. And maybe, Slayer, I was hoping for another chance to bathe you."

"Maybe I can remember this one." Buffy smiled and took his hand, tingling from head to toe.

"Oh, I have no doubt we both will." Spike tugged her out the back exit and hurried away before the eyewitnesses in the club overcame their shock and realized what had just happened.

**

The walk back to the hotel was traveled in comfortable silence. They both hurried, due to the fact that the goop covering them was rancid but most of all, they both realized what was going to happen as soon as they got back to their room. Buffyís mind raced, screaming at her that he may be lying about what he had said to her. But her heart screamed that if he was lying he wouldnít have tried to pay for her to go back home. There was a remote possibility that heíd meant every word of it and the Slayer meant to find out.

Spike cast a glance at her before he unlocked the door. The fact that heíd been interrupted before he could say what he wanted to say made him believe that he wasnít meant to say it. Someone had made it crystal clear that he wasnít entitled to feel anything for the fascinating girl who looked ravishing whether she was covered in vomit or whatever it was that was making him wish he couldnít smell. Anyway he tried to rationalize, it all boiled down to the same thing. He was falling in love with her and he didnít want to. Spike wasnít even sure if he could fall in love. At least not the way she deserved to be loved. Whatever he felt left him powerless to think beyond how much he wanted her.

Buffy wondered what he was thinking for about the fifteenth time since theyíd rushed out of the club. She was tempted to ask him but instead, she let her hormones take over and followed him to the bathroom. As much as she looked forward to getting rid of the permeating odor of death, she was more excited at the thought of surrendering to the lust she felt.

He leaned into the tub and realized that it was too small. Far smaller than the one heíd bathed her in. Spike turned to tell the Slayer that theyíd have to use the shower instead but couldnít make any words comes out. She was already completely naked. The flesh that had been hidden under her clothing was unmarred. The only indications of what had happened was the spattering on her legs and face, other than that, she was perfect.

She smiled, moving past him into the shower stall. "Iíd rather shower instead of wait for the tub to fill. Iíve never felt ickier."

"Youíve never looked more lovely." Spike watched as she flipped the water on and stepped under the powerful spray. "Bloody hell, you make me feel Ö."

Peeking through the steam that was already forming she said, "Are you going to join me or watch me?"

"I could watch you for hours, pet." His gaze traced the curves of her perfect body until his cock almost ripped itself out of his pants. "But right now Iím thinking joining you is the only course of action that is acceptable or sane."

"Youíre sane? Since when?" Smiling, she watched him undress and really looked at him. Not embarrassed or unsure like she had been the night before, she visually explored his body, drinking in every single detail that was made clearer by the sharp florescent lighting of the bathroom. Apparently aware of how much she enjoyed ogling at him, he stood before her, unsheathed of his clothing and willing to let her look all she wanted to.

When she couldnít take it anymore, she motioned for him and Spike walked the short distance to the shower. When he stepped under the water, he moaned at the heat and turned more cold water on. "I donít know how your skin hasnít fallen away from the bone if you always boil yourself like this."

Buffy reached around him and turned on more hot water. "I was in here first so I get to set the temperature."

"Thatís not very fair. It should be equal." He smiled at her as he slipped a hand behind him and turned the hot water completely off.

Buffy screamed as the ice cold water hit her in the chest. She turned the hot back on and shook her head. "And you call me not fair?"

"Mostly I just call you annoying." He brought his lips to hers and silenced her reply before adding, "And beautiful and irritating and wonderful and infuriating and sublime and-"

"You better stop while itís at equal parts offensive and endearing." Buffy leaned against him, kissing the soft skin of his neck. "Iíve thought about this all day."

Smiling over the top of her head he whispered, "I know, luv."

Moving back so she could face him, Buffy tried to look offended. "How do you know?"

"Let me show you how I know." Slowly, Spike trailed his tongue around her lips before he deepened it to a kiss. He felt her weaken against him, her tongue becoming the only strong part of her body while it danced against his. He wanted to devour her, drink in her scent, her juices and her spirit but he pulled back, leaving her breathless. "Itís all I could think about all day, too."

"Stop thinking and just do it." She tugged at his erection.

"We really have to work on your restraint you know? I mean, itís always a rush with you and a woman needs to be wet beforeÖ"

Buffy grabbed him and brought his mouth back to hers, silencing him with a kiss again. Sliding his hands down her backside, he gripped her behind the legs and pulled her up the wall, bringing her to eye level.

She wrapped her legs around his hips and stared into his blue eyes, wondering how she could keep toeing the line between love and hate before she completely fell off and landed on one side or the other. "I want you inside me."

"Slayer, maybe you should listen to me for once and let me get you ready." He began to lower his hand between them, intending to bring her off but she bucked and impaled herself on his cock which had followed her up the wall like a hungry puppy.

Growling and afraid she would hurt herself, he started to slide back out but could feel how wet she was. Moving his mouth to her neck, he slowly rocked against her and felt her use her heels to urge him faster. Her need for aggressiveness was as evident as her moisture so he abandoned the thought of being thorough right then and slammed into her, burying himself to the hilt.

Buffy cried out as her throbbing clit was crushed every single time pistoned into her. The familiar pressure began to build and she dug her nails into his shoulders, holding on to keep him from stopping. Spike caught her mouth in his and increased his pace, pounding her against the wall and making it impossible for her to thrash as much as she wanted to. She broke the kiss and screamed his name as she came against the force of his final strokes.

Spike felt her tighten and spilled himself, sinking with her to the floor of the tub where they stayed joined with her straddling him. It was a tight fit but one that he didnít mind. He clung to her, feeling her heavy breathing on his neck and closed his eyes. He was about to ask her if she was ready to move to the bedroom when he remembered that he had wanted to bathe her again. For both their sakes. This time nothing would stop him from doing exactly what he thought about the last time heíd bathed her.

Helping her to he feet, he held her under the spray of water wetting her hair again. She smiled up at him as the water sheeted over her and he was overcome with how much he wanted to just hang onto her. Instead, he reached for the shampoo and quickly soaped her hair, massaging his fingers against her scalp and neck.

Completely relaxed, Buffy sighed and leaned against him as he washed her hair. If there was such a thing as contentment, which she had seriously doubted up until that moment, then this must be it. She had never felt such a release or such joy. The water pounded hard against her back, massaging just as fiercely as he was massaging her head and she let herself be swept away in the moment.

Satisfied that her hair was squeaky clean, he moved her under the water to rinse it and reached for the wash cloth. He soaped himself while she rinsed and then reached over her, repositioning the shower head so he could rinse while he washed her body. Tilting her head, he kneaded against her neck, wiping away any traces of what had happened at the club. Any anger he had felt for her, any resentment over what she made him feel, traveled down the drain with the vanilla scented soap.

Her lust renewed as he brought the soapy rag over her breasts, gently squeezing and tweaking her swollen nipples. He seemed to realize it and continued doing it, moving closer and kissing her and slathering his chest with the soap from her body. Still kissing, he moved his hand lower, washing her stomach and finally dipping between her legs briefly.

Buffy surged against him like she had been shocked. Spike chuckled and turned her, soaping her back. She felt him drop to his knees behind her and squealed when he gently bit the unsoaped cheek of her ass. Laughing a little louder he turned her and ran the soapy cloth over her legs, lifting her feet to wash them. Still kneeling, he caught her eyes in his and put the washrag between her legs rubbing it back and forth. He covered all the hidden flesh, reaching all the way through her legs to get every inch of her.

Spike stood, pulling the shower head back around so she could rinse. He backed away and watched as the soap slid away and revealed her shining tan skin. Kneeling again, he pulled one of her legs over his shoulder, cupping water in his hands and splashing it up against her to make sure all the soap was gone. Satisfied that it was, and unable to wait any longer, he lifted her other leg over his shoulder and buried his face in her mound.

Buffy clutched the handrail that ran along the back side of the tub. It was there for handicapped people and she had never been more handicapped in her life. Her legs were on either side of his head with her feet resting against the shower door and his fingers were digging into her backside holding her against his face. The water from the shower was pounding against her hard nipples and she felt convinced that she was going to spontaneously combust as his tongue wormed itís way around the center of her body.

He lapped away at her juices as her hips began to undulate against him. Nipping and tugging at her clit, Spike managed to work his fingers around to manipulate her opening, rubbing back and forth across it and barely dipping into it. Her legs tightened on his head and he increased the pressure.

Buffy kicked the shower door off itís tracks as the most powerful orgasm she had ever had seized her and rocked her senses. Spike glanced over his shoulder and caught it before it could crash inward on the them. "Shit, Slayer! Youíre dangerous."

"Bite me."

"I just did." He smiled and helped her stand while he clung to the glass door, wondering if he could repair it. Spike glanced down at the track that ran along the edge of the tub and then up at the one that ran along the top of the stall, both were badly bent.

He was about to complain when Buffy took his dick into her mouth and he lost his grip on the door. It fell back and noisily crashed against the sink. Spike didnít even hear it because all of his senses had merged into one and all he could do was feel the heat of her mouth.

She wasnít as slow as she had been the night before instead she latched onto him without any reservation, intent on making him feel as good as heíd made her feel. Rolling his balls in her palm she swallowed as much of him as she could and tightened her grip before she let him slide back out. Buffy continued to experiment, listening to his urgings when she did something that he particularly likedÖ.which seemed to be everything. Being with him wasnít strained and she wasnít embarrassed by her lack of knowledge because he seemed more than willing to teach her and hadnít made her feel inferior at all.

Spike couldnít take it. No one had ever warmed him the way she did and it wasnít just her mouth. Something about her warmed him on the inside and it was the inner warmth that satisfied him the most. Finally letting himself go in her mouth, he pulled her up and held onto her. Buffy wrapped her arms around him and he clung to her under the water and forgot about everything but that moment.

The water cooled and Buffy shivered against Spike. "Ohh, Iím freezing."

He brushed the hair off of her forehead and reached for a towel, wrapping it around her shoulders and running his hands over her arms to warm her. "Letís go to bed."

"You read my mind." She hurried into the other room and jumped under the cover, leaving him to worry about the door that had fallen. Buffy heard him swear and say something about Ďdamn Slayersí and she couldnít hide her laughter. "You caused it. You should have known better."

His reply was muffled and she could barely hear him because he was trying to straighten the metal tracks. "How could I have known?"

"What did you think I was going to do?"

"Well, what I didnít think was that youíd become a human wrecking ball."

Buffy giggled and looked up as he walked into the room wearing a towel. "Thereís nothing in here I can destroy."

"Do I detect a hint in there?" He flopped on top of her, over the cover and stared down at her. Her face had a glow to it that he hadnít seen before.

"Yes, you certainly did."

"Bloody hell, baby. Your sexual appetite is even bigger than your appetite for food."

Buffy narrowed her eyes and asked, "Are you complaining?"

"Absolutely not." He started to get under the cover but realized she was holding it tightly against her. "What?"

"Iím hungry." She looked at him intently and shrugged. "I worked up an appetite."

Sighing, he glanced at the clock and shook his head. "I wonít complain this time. Because Iíve worked one up too. BUT, I fully intend to pick this up where we left off when we get back."

"When YOU get back." Buffy yawned. "Iím tired."

Grumbling, Spike pulled his jeans out of the closet and rifled through the dresser for a shirt. "You better make this worth my while."

"You better not come back without french fries."

**

Giles woke with a start when he heard his telephone ringing. He sat straight up in bed and turned quicklyÖso quickly he fell to the floor with a thud, banging his knee. "Buffy?" he cried when he wrenched the phone off his night table.

"Hey Giles," she said cheerfully, pulling Spikeís shirt around her. "Did I wake you?"

Ignoring her small talk, he asked, "Where are you? Are you okay?"

"In a hotel a few miles from the Mexican border. And Iím fine." Buffy hadnít realized how good the sound of his voice would be. "How are things there?"

"How are things here?!" Giles shouted, unable to contain his anger. "Iíll tell you how things are here. Your mother is on her way back from her business trip even though she hasnít succeeded in obtaining the grant she was after. Willow and Xander were attacked tonight and would have died had it not been for Angelís quick thinking and Principal Snyder is threatening to expel you. Again. And to be perfectly honest, Iím not pleased with what youíve done at all."

"So I gathered," she said dryly. "Look, Giles. I left because I couldnít deal withÖ"

"Yes, Buffy. Iím very familiar with your penchant for running away when you canít deal with something." He was shaking with anger and concerned that he couldnít make her understand how much he wanted her safely home. "Iím afraid this time though, I have to insist that you come back immediately. I didnít speak out against you the last time you took a flight of fancy because I knew you were hurting. However, this timeÖ"

"Howís Faith?" she interrupted, not interested in hearing him yell at her any more.

"Are you honestly concerned about her well being or yours?" Giles glanced at the clock and shook his head, wondering what she was doing at four a.m. in the morning. "Sheís fine and are you still traveling with Spike?"

"Yes." She fought the urge to tell him she was actually having a little bit of happiness for a change. "Listen Giles, Iím really sorry about all the stuff that happened. I donít know how to justify itÖ"

"Because you canít, Buffy. And you should know that Faith has had a change of heart and is secretly working with us again to stop the ascension." Giles pulled himself out of the floor and moved back to his bed.

"WHAT!?" shouted the Slayer, absolutely livid. "You canít trust her."

"We were wrong about her, Buffy. Just like I was apparently wrong about the fact that I could trust you. Youíve disappointed me more than Iíve ever been disappointed before."

"Well thanks a lot, Giles." She bit her lower lip as the tears began to fall and glanced up as Spike came in with several bags.

Giles continued, "I donít mean to hurt your feelings, Buffy. Iím just flabbergasted at your behavior. Iím worried about you. Spike isÖ"

"We were wrong about him too. I have to go."

"Wait," Giles called. When he didnít hear her hang up he added, "When are you coming home?"

"Hopefully soon. And I really am sorry." She put the phone back on the hook and walked quickly into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

Spike raised an eyebrow, put the bags on the table and quickly knocked on the bathroom door. He turned the knob and realized she had locked herself in. Wondering how to handle that, he said, "Are you okay?"

Buffy washed the tears off her face and choked out a reply, "Just a minute."

"Who was on the phone, Buffy?" He balled a fist, bracing himself for her to say it had been Angel.

"It was Giles." She sniffled and blew her nose on some toilet paper, trying to regain her composure.

Relieved, Spike turned and fished several items out of the bag. He may as well surprise her now instead of later like heíd planned. Using his cigarette lighter, he lit two candles and put them on the end table then opened a box of donuts and put two on a paper plate beside the candles. He stared at it for several seconds before he remembered the coffee. After he added that to the table, he was satisfied. The last thing he did was open a road map he had bought. Unfolding it and refolding it several times, he dug a pen out of the bag and wrote something on it quickly.

Buffy glared at herself in the mirror and remembered Spikeís first ever words of comfort. She sniffled again and said, "Get a grip on it, luv."

Spike heard her unlock the door and quickly turned the lights off. He met her halfway and watched her face light up when she saw the candles. "BuffyÖ"

Grinning, she stared up at him and said, "Spike, why have you put donuts beside the bed?"

He handed her a small brochure that had been lying on the desk. It advertised a continental breakfast consisting of a bagel or donut and coffee. "Well?" he asked.

"I still donít get it." Buffy shook her head and stepped toward him. "But I like it."

He pulled her into his arms and whispered, "I owed you a morning after."

Fighting fresh tears, all she could say was, "Awww."

He kissed her softly and held her to his chest, terrified over what he was about to say and even more terrified over what her answer would be. "Iíve also decided where weíre going."

Buffy stepped away and sat on the edge of the bed. If he said what she was afraid heíd say then sheíd rather be sitting when she got the news. "Okay."

He squatted in front of her and handed her a map. "Buffy, please understand that I have to follow my heart."

She didnít look at the map in her hands, instead she looked at him and tried her best not to get on her knees and beg him not to go back to Dru. "I understand."

He couldnít hide his smile as he shook his head and took the map from her, folding it to make it more apparent. "Can you please play along here? Do I have to do everything?"

She took the refolded map from him and looked down at it. Buffy froze as she registered what she was seeing. There was a heart drawn around Sunnydale and a little stick man with fangs standing beside it. Shocked, she looked back up at him. "OhÖI never thoughtÖ"

"Neither did I, baby." He shook his head and moved his thumb to catch a tear that had escaped her eye. "I guess you grew on me. There have been timesÖ a few timesÖ during this trip that Iíve felt a little fondness for you."

Buffy smiled and put her arms around him. "Iím a little fond of you tooÖsometimes."

"I havenít forgotten what you did to my radio."

"I havenít forgotten what you did to my fries," she said. "Speaking of whichÖ."

Standing up, he pointed at the donuts. "Look, SlayerÖ I did the best I could. No one at that bloody truckstop was willing to cook anything because they donít like me."

"I guess not, Spike. You tried to kill one of the regulars. I imagine they frown on that."

He picked up on of the donuts and handed it to her. "Here, you can have breakfast in bed."

"Oh, I intend to." She took it and tossed it back on the table and grabbed Spike, shoving him on the bed.

For hours, they touched and felt. Giving and receiving pleasure so many times that they finally collapsed into each other's arms, exhausted. She landed with her back facing him and he spooned against her, kissing her on the back of the neck and tasting the salty sweetness there. Buffy snuggled back against him. "Spike, are you sure this is what you want? It won't be easy."

Knowing she was right and knowing that he didn't care about that, he replied. "I never liked Easy Street. Too boring. Are you sure?"

Sighing and almost asleep, she mumbled something barely audible and Spike wondered if she realized what she'd just said. Her breathing deepened and she was sound asleep before she could hear his reply. "I love you too, Slayer."

**

"Absolutely not." Spike shook his head and tossed their bags into the trunk. The car had been repaired as well as could be expected, but still boasted an ugly scratch down one side. It had set him back about five hundred dollars, but he figured heíd gladly total it if it led to the same thing. Time in Buffyís arms. "There is no way in hell I will do that."

Buffy put one hand on her hip and pointed at the car with the other. "Look at it, Spike. What could I possibly do that you havenít already done?"

"First off, youíre crazy." He slammed the trunk and walked to where she stood, looking gorgeous in denim shorts and one of his shirts. When she wasnít naked, he liked her in his clothes and he especially like her in his Billy Idol T-shirt. "Second, youíre a woman and this is a MANíS car. Not a toy and not something for little girls to play with."

"Neither are two hundred year old vampires but I still played with you." Smirking, Buffy stood her ground as he motioned for her to open the passenger door and get in. "And, I donít think I like the way you stereotype me as a bad driver without even riding with me."

"I rode with you, luv. All night last night and most of the day." Spike opened the car door and tried to push her in. "You destroyed the shower, you broke a table and that was with ME under you. If you had the power of my car under that fine little ass of yours weíd both die."

Sulking, she let him move her into the car and shut the door. Buffy felt a rush of nostalgia as she glanced around the familiar interior. The only difference was that this time, she wanted to be traveling with him and she wanted to savor every single minute of being alone with him before they arrived back in Sunnydale. The night theyíd shared had been the best night of her life and as promised, Spike had given her a morning after that most women could only dream about. She had woken in his arms and he slowly and completely worshipped her body even better than the first time. She remembered the arguments theyíd had in the car and smiled when her gaze rested on a new radio that had obviously been replaced.

Mumbling, he sat behind the steering wheel and followed her gaze. "Donít you even contemplate it. That damn thing cost a fortune. If you kick this one in I will personallyÖ"

"Do nothing." Buffy grinned and slid across the seat, kissing him.

Cupping her jaw, he massaged the side of her face as her tongue met his. The feel of her mouth made him weak all over and he doubted seriously that heíd do much of anything if she did destroy the new radio even though it had a CD player. But, he still felt the need to be manly so he pulled away and said, "Just because we shagged doesnít mean Iíve lost my edge. If you value your leg attached to your body then keep it in the floorboard where it goes."

Buffy giggled as he failed at trying to look deadly. "SpikeÖ"

"What?"

"Where was your edge when I did it the first time?"

Spike turned and started the car, growling low in his throat. "I donít like you."

"Liar." She snuggled against him briefly and then turned and watched the hotel fade behind them.

"What are you doing?" He glanced into his rearview mirror to see what she was looking at. "Did you forget something?"

"No. Iím remembering every last detail." She looked back at him and bit her lower lip. Part of her wanted to tell him that she was scared of what would happen when they got back to Sunnydale. She was even tempted to tell him to go anywhere but there but she couldnít do that. Her obligation was still very real and Buffy knew that she was wrong to even think about not returning but she knew for a fact that there would be hell to pay when she got there.

"Slayer, are you listening to me?" Spike glanced at her and then back at the road. He had been trying to hint for her to open the glove compartment and look at what heíd bought. As soft as it made him feel, he had wanted his own reminders and something besides a mental snapshot of the hotel. While he had tried to convince the cook at the truckstop to cook Buffy some fries, he had bought Sarah McLachlanís CD Surfacing because it had that song they had danced to on it. It also had another song that made him want to vomit but he bought it anyway.

"What? Oh sorry." She shook her head and tried to smile. "What were you saying?"

"Whatís on your mind?" If something were bothering her, heíd rather hear it right off instead of having her think about it for hours and then address it.

"Nothing."

"If only you could lie as good as you shagÖ" Spike forced a stiff chuckle and tried to make light of the situation even though he was afraid she was going to tell him something he didnít want to hear.

Buffy shrugged and moved closer to him, putting one arm around his shoulder and the other on his leg. She laid her head against him and whispered, "Iím just thinking about home."

"Is that all?" He wanted to ask where she stood with Angel but couldnít bring himself to say that name in her presence. If she wasnít already thinking about the idiot then why the hell would he want to force her too. "I donít like the quiet, luv. Talk to me or sing to me."

"If I start singing youíll kick ME in." She laughed and relaxed a little, for his benefit and hers. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"You asked me that last night, baby." The sound of her laughter was far more musical than anything he would find on the radio. Spike massaged her leg with one of his hands and quickly kissed the top of her head.

"Did I?" Her forehead creased in confusion and she sat up to look at him. "I donít remember that."

Spike looked at her out of the corner of his eye. That wasnít all she had said right before sheíd fallen asleep. The Slayer had told him she loved him. "You asked me and I made it clear that this is what I want. You think I care what any of your chums are going to say?"

"Spike, it isnít just that." She sighed and tried to figure out the best way to say that she had tried to kill another Slayer and everyone was pissed at her already. Couple that withÖher in this couple and it spelled YIKES. "Stuff happened. Look, letís forget about it."

Realizing that she apparently needed to say something important, he pulled off the side of the road and turned to face her. "What Ďstuffí happened? Iím not driving until you talk."

"Iím not talking until you drive." Buffy wished that she hadnít even brought it up at all. What if he asked her why she wanted to kill Faith? How could she explain that it was because she had slept with Angel? Would it change things if he knew how cold-blooded she had been?

"You are absolutely the most annoying person I have ever met. And believe me in two hundred years Iíve met some annoying people. I was sired by one!" Spike didnít want to lose his temper but his desire to know what she was hiding was getting the better of him. He had a right to know the full story before he went back with her.

Buffy moved to her side of the car and crossed her arms. "You are absolutely the most annoying vampire I have ever met. And I know your sire!"

"Damn you, Slayer. Spit it out."

"Damn you, vampire, no."

"Buffy..."

"SpikeÖ"

"Stop repeating me!" he snapped. "You brought it up and I mean to find out what it is. What are you trying to tell me?"

"I donít want to talk about it now." Buffy looked at him intently and tried to reach past him to start the car.

He caught her hand and tried to get a handle on his anger by admitting his fear. "Have you changed your mind about us?"

She looked at him quickly and shook her head. "No, never. Spike, Iím sorry you even thought that. Itís justÖthings might change if I tell you."

Spike pulled her back across the seat and made her look at him. "This isnít how weíre going to start this trip. Donít make me have to wonder whatís going on because Iíll probably be wrong and take it out on you."

"Everyoneís mad at me at home." Buffy took a deep breath and blurted out everything. "Thereís a new Slayer, because Dru killed Kendra. Well, her name is Faith and she came to town all big and bad and crazy and then she wound up killing a human and got even crazier so she went to the bad side. So, the night that you found me leaving town I was running away because I tried to kill her. I attacked her. Stabbed her. But sheís alive and apparently back on our team. Watch me while I donít cheer and all my friends probably despise me for being a cold blooded killer even though she lived. And Giles is madder than you can believe because I ran away again and left my duty againÖandÖthatís pretty much it."

Spike raised an eyebrow and wondered if she was going to faint from lack of oxygen. He quickly dissected what she had told him and said. "Okay. You tried to kill a human being?"

"Yes."

"And you thought that would bother me becauseÖI value human life so much?" He looked at her with confusion. "Why would I care?"

"Itís not that you care. Itís the fact that when we go back togetherÖas in USÖthings are already so bad thatÖUSÖwill make it worse."

Spike smiled and took her hand. "Us against them. I love the possibilities. And Slayer, donít hold back on me again. Anything else?"

Buffy looked thoughtful and then nodded her head yes. "The Mayor of Sunnydale is going to have an ascension on Graduation Day. Youíll be there just in time forÖ"

"WHAT!?" Spike stared at her in disbelief. "An ascension?"

"Apparently heís going toÖevolve intoÖa thing." She shrugged. "Does that make sense?"

"It makes perfect sense and I just happen to know exactly how to stop one." The vampire grinned and tweaked her nose. "That should lessen the blow of US."

"Only if you use that knowledge for good." Buffy smiled, finally calm.

"Violence is violence, baby. Whether Iím doing it to humans or demons Iím happy either way." Pulling her even closer, he whispered, "Iím happy with you."

"Clone that thought and multiply it by one thousand." She kissed him slowly, rubbing her fingers through his short blond hair as she did. Her fear was replaced by an overwhelming sense of happiness and Buffy knew that Spike had the key to unlock everything about her. He was her anchor and could calm her quicker than anyone. **If this isnít love then Iíd rather have whatever it is.**

When she moved away, Spike grinned and licked his lips. "We need to have these little spats more often."

"Youíll get no argument there."

"Slayer, I want an argument there!" He grinned even wider. "So we can kiss and make-up."

Buffy finally laughed. "Donít worry. I still have unresolved issues that start with you tossing my fries and I also recallÖalthough hazy at bestÖthat you called me retarded. There will be massive kissing to make up for all that."

"Those were pretty big deals. I probably need to make those BODY kisses, yes?"

"Itís a start." She kissed him again and pointed to the keys. "We also need to start home. I figure if we drive non-stop, weíll get there around midnight. I was looking at your map. Can you believe we only made it this far? It felt like a million miles."

"Well, yeah, luv. You forget how many stops we had to make." He didnít acknowledge that she wanted him to drive, instead he covered her mouth with his and ran his hand under the T-shirt she had on. "We may as well make this stop count."

"Should I argue here or just give in?" Buffy giggled as his cold fingertips brushed her ribcage.

"Do you really want to argue?"

"You just said that you wanted an argument, Spike. Make up your mind," She moved her hand into the collar of his shirt and ran it downward, opening several buttons.

"You have to know what is and isnít worth fighting for." Spike quickly tugged her shirt over her head and lowered his mouth to her chest.

Buffy tossed her head back as a current shot from her chest and landed between her legs. No, she wasnít going to argue. Hugging him against her breast, she let him unbutton her shorts and slide them over her hips. She let go long enough to kick them into the floorboard and when she was finished, he had moved to the middle of the seat.

Unsnapping his pants quickly, Spike motioned for her, afraid that if he didnít get some release right then he would pop. His body had been wound tight and he had to work out the tension that had come with the worry over what sheíd say. As she moved toward him he grabbed one leg and pulled her to straddle him, embedding himself in her core. Buffy tried to hold him close but he quickly pushed her as far back as he could, giving himself room to stroke her as she bounced.

It didnít take long for both of them to give in and go over the edge. Pulling his hand back from between her legs, he latched onto her waist and pulled her into his embrace. Still locked together as one, Spike listened to her heartbeat begin to slow again, wondering if she knew that he felt like his own heart could beat with hers.

"We should go," she whispered after several minutes had passed.

Nipping her neck and jaw he said, "Open the glove box."

She slid off of his lap and turned the latch and peeked inside. A compact disc fell out and she glanced at him in awe. "When did you get this?"

"Last night. Thatís the right one isnít it? The song we danced too? I heard it on the jukebox while I was at the truck stop and they had it for sale in the convenience store area." He took it from her and quickly opened it, sliding it into the CD player. "You like her, right?"

"I like you more." Buffy couldnít believe how thoughtful he was any more than she could believe that he had remembered the song. Her emotions were overflowing and she didnít doubt one bit that she would die without him.

"Careful, Slayer. Youíll give me the big head." He grinned as ĎBuilding A Mysteryí began to play. That was a good song because it said the word vampire in it.

"Please, like you arenít already egotistical."

"Thatís not the one I was talking about." Leaning his head to one side, he laughed as she glanced at his hardening cock.

"Weíre never going to get there." She shook her head as he pulled her back into his arms.

**

They got there at almost one in the morning. Buffy asked him to drive past the school just to see if Gilesís car was there. They saw his heap parked beside Ozís van and Cordyís car a few spaces away. Feeling sick to her stomach, she sat in her seat even after he had parked and gotten out. No part of her wanted to face everyone at once. She had wanted to be able to do it individually.

Spike realized she wasnít with him as he started toward the school so he walked back to the car. He opened the passenger door and glared down at her, extending a hand. "I think me going in alone is a bad plan."

"I think either of us going in is a bad plan." She took his hand as she got out and clutched it as they walked toward the door that led through the stacks. Buffy could feel her blood pressure already rising as they got closer and she paused so she could contemplate running.

"It has to be done, Buffy." Spike hugged her briefly and opened the door, motioning her inside. "US against them. Iím right here."

She swallowed as she heard Giles saying something about their phone call and then started to rush back out when Angel asked if she had sounded okay. Spike urged her forward and she stepped around the stacks. In her most cheerful voice she said, "Hey guys! Did I miss much?"

"Buffy!" Angel started for her as Spike stepped out and took Buffyís hand. His eyes went to their twined fingers and he stopped dead in his tracks. "Heís changed her. Sheís a vampire."

Xander grabbed a crucifix and leaped up from the desk. His eyes were wild as he held it in front of him and pushed Willow and Cordy behind him. Giles couldnít believe what he was seeing. He watched, too shocked to move, as Buffy began to walk down the stairs. If it was true, he honestly thought he would die. Oz stood slowly and reached instinctively for the stake he had been whittling. Of all of them, he was the least attached so he made up his mind to do it before anyone else had to make the decision.

As soon as Buffy cleared the bottom step, Oz attacked her despite Willowís cries of protest. The Slayer hadnít been expecting him to do that so he caught her off guard and rammed the stake into her shoulder. Crying out, Buffy backhanded the boy to get him off of her and he landed back against the table. She cringed when she saw the stake sticking into her flesh several inches.

Spike had been one step behind Buffy and when Oz jumped her he lost the grip he had on her hand. Xander seized the moment to ram the crucifix inches from his face. The vampire recoiled and then shoved him away roughly so he could get to Buffy. Angel beat him to her and had leaned over, trying to see how badly she was injured. Spike grabbed him by the back of his coat and tossed him away from her before turning back to her himself. "Are you people daft!? Sheís no more a vampire than Angel is a man!"

Buffy cried out as she tried to pull the stake from where it was lodged between her breast and shoulder. Blood soaked the front of the Billy Idol shirt she was wearing and dripped into the floor. "Spike, get it out."

"Hang on, baby." He stared over his shoulder at the people in the room. "Could you possibly get some towels or something before she bleeds to death and I HAVE to change her?"

"Get away from her." Angel had picked himself up off the floor and was heading back toward them. "Spike, Iíll kill you if youÖ"

"Angel, let him help her!" Willow grabbed her sweater off the floor and quickly crossed to where Buffy was doubled over crying. "Here, Iíll use this to stop the bleeding when you pull it out."

"Deep breath, Buffy." Spike waited until she inhaled and grabbed the stake. When he had a good grip on it, he closed his eyes and yanked it free. Willow moved quickly to cover the flow of blood and he nodded at her, taking the sweater himself. "Thank you."

Everyone stared at them as Spike hugged Buffy against him, kissing the top of her head. Cordelia broke the silence finally. "Sheís back. Can I please go home now?"

"Buffy, whatís going on?" Xander ignored Cordy and stared at his friend. The same friend heíd die for any day of the week. "If you arenít a vampire Öare you brain dead?"

Giles finally realized that she was very much alive and moved to where she was. His gaze met Spikeís and the vampire stepped back a few inches, allowing him to check her injury for himself. He ripped the sleeve of the T-shirt, cringing as Buffy hissed in pain and shook his head. "You need stitches."

"No. Iím okay," Buffy replied, clearly trying to sound better than what she was. She stared around the room at her friends before she looked up at Giles. "I know that Iíve got a lot of explaining to do and believe me, I want to get it over with as soon as possible, but right now I want to go home."

"Absolutely not." Giles shook his head and stared back at Spike, motioning at him and then Buffy. "Whatís going on with you two?"

Reddening, she shook her head. "WeÖuhmÖbecame friends."

"You screwed Spike?" Cordy blurted out. "My god, Buffy, I thought I was easy!"

"Is that what happened?" Giles stared at her intently and got his answer when she looked away. He moved his hands into his pockets to keep from striking her. "Dear god."

"Fuck, Buffy!" Xander cried. "Did doing it with a vampire once not teach you anything?"

Spike pointed his finger at the gangly boy, still pissed about having the cross shoved in his face. "You shut up before I..."

"Donít threaten him." Angel glared at his childe. If it was true, if he had been with Buffy he would kill him even though he knew the consequences for killing your own.

"Look at you taking up for the whelp! You swinging that way lately, Angel?" Spike grinned at his sire. "I guess you donít care where you stick itÖoh waitÖthatís right. Youíre hung like a wet noodle. Even if it did get hard you canít do anything with it, can you?"

"If you put your hands on her, SpikeÖ" Angel stepped toward him, ignoring the hand that Giles held out to stop him.

"I put a lot more than my hands, Angel. Imagine that since thatís all you can do." The blond vampire stepped toward Angel and Buffy moved between them.

"Knock it off, both of you. My sex life is not open for discussion." She was shaking with anger and humiliated to her toes.

Angel stared down at her and his rage grew when he saw what her perceived to be indifference. "Buffy, does he know that you only did it to get back at me for sleeping with Faith?"

Spikeís head shot up and he shook his head. "Bullshit."

Xander came to stand beside Angel and grinned gleefully, happy that he had something to add. "Oh, it isnít bullshit. She tried to get me to have sex with her before she almost killed Faith and I wouldnít."

"Xander!" Buffy ran a hand through her hair and glared at him. "Youíre an asshole."

Spike stared at Buffy for several seconds and tried to remember what it was she had said to him. It was after he had led her to believe that theyíd been intimate. He blocked the sounds of the bickering around him as he recalled it, ** I canít believe I tried so hard to do it with Xander last night just so I could remember it and feel good knowing I got back at Angel and now I canít remember.** The people in the room were so caught up in their own shouting that no one noticed as Spike left the way theyíd come in.

"You donít have a right to tell me anything, Angel. In case you havenít noticed Iíve moved on!" Buffy screamed at him, seething with anger. "You thought I was a vampire! That should show you what you know."

"He could have killed you. Did he bite you?" Angel knew for a fact that if she had sex with him she would have been bitten. He grabbed her by the shoulders and tried to check her neck for marks so he could believe it.

Buffy shoved him away from her and shook her head. "Donít you touch me again. Spike isnít the same as he used to be. He knows how to stop the ascension and is willing to help us. Tell them, Spike."

When Spike didnít reply, she turned and looked for him. Oz spoke up and said, "He left right about the time you called Xander an asshole."

"What?" Buffy turned to go, but Giles caught her arm.

"Let him go, Buffy, and be glad I donít go after him and stake him myself. How dare you behave so capriciously? Do you have any idea what could have happened?" He shook her, not caring about the hole in her shoulder. "Do you?"

"Giles, her arm is hurt." Angel stepped between them and pushed the librarianís hands off of Buffy. He tried to look at her wound for himself, but she pulled away.

"I have to find him," she cried and then looked at Xander. "You caused this."

"I didnít sleep with Spike." He shrugged. "But maybe if I had taken you up on your offerÖ"

Unable to stop herself, she slapped him across the face and backed away up the stairs. "I didnít have to come back. I didnít even want to come back, but I did. None of you know what happened or who he is."

"He isnít a who," Willow chimed in. "Buffy, heís a what. Sorry, Angel."

"Síok." Angel shrugged and looked up at where Buffy stood on the top step. He had decided to accept the fact that she had slept with Spike, but knew from experience that Spike could be very aggressive with women. "Are you okay? Did he hurt you?"

Buffy glanced behind her at the emptiness of the stacks and shook her head. "Not yet. But if I donít find him it will kill me."

**

Spike gunned the accelerator as soon as he saw the library door swing open and Buffy came rushing out. He wanted her to see him leave and know that she couldn't stop him. Before he pulled onto the road, he rolled his window down and tossed the CD out the window, wishing he had time to run over it. Fuming and feeling a stronger ache in his chest then anything he'd ever felt before, Spike barreled through the streets of Sunnydale faster than he'd ever driven...trying to get away from the pain of loving the Slayer and the realization that he'd been a game to her. **She fucking won, didn't she? She played it really fucking close to her chest. And who better to use to get back at Angel. Damn her! And damn me for falling for it!**

He hadnít planned on leaving his heart and mind behind with Buffy and no matter how fast Spike drove, she was catching up to him. Her scent still lingered in the car, he could still hear her laughter like she was sitting beside him and he could still taste her on his lips. Spike still loved her and he knew he would until he killed her. Half an hour out of Sunnydale, he made up his mind to go back and do just that and he turned his car around. If he couldnít have her then heíd be damned if heíd let Angel have theÖwellÖnon-satisfaction because he couldnít have her either. No one would have her because as long as he loved her, she belonged to him.

Parking his car a few streets away so she wouldnít hear, Spike walked quickly toward Revello Drive. He eased against her house and looked up at what he remembered was her bedroom and saw the light on. Hooking his hands in the trellis that ran up the side, he quickly scaled it, thinking it would be almost romantic if he wasnít climbing up there to rip her heart out like she had done his. He leaned against the shutter beside her window and froze as he heard the familiar voice of his sire.

"Buffy, please," Angel was saying from inside her bedroom. "I canít let you make this mistake. I know youíre mad at me and I know I hurt you but..."

"It isnít even about you!" Buffy replied angrily, packing more clothes into her bag. She was intent on getting to Mexico because her biggest fear was that Spike was heading there to be with Dru. "Itís about me and how much I love him."

**She really loves me! Me, not him!** Spike thought, feeling an enormous rush of emotion that almost caused him to lose his balance and topple off the roof. He regained his footing and leaned closer to listen.

"You donít love him, Buffy!" he shouted, quickly unpacking everything she had placed in the bag when she turned away from her suitcase to get more of her belongings. "Youíre letting your anger at me confuse you. I donít know what happened while you were gone but donít be fooled by it. You canít fall in love in less than a week!"

"You told me you loved me the moment you saw me! You specifically said that to me. So which is a lie?" She threw her things at the vampire when she saw that he had emptied her bag. "Damn it, Angel! Leave my clothes alone."

Spike narrowed his eyes and dared a peek into the room. **Clothes? He better not be trying to get her into bed.** He saw the Slayer packing a bag and quickly moved away before he could be seen. Scratching his head, he wondered where she was going.

Angel blocked her from her suitcase and knocked it onto the floor. "Are you honestly willing to leave your loved ones here to fight the ascension without you?"

"I donít know, okay!?" She shoved him out of the way and sat on the edge of the bed, burying her head in her hands. "All I know is that Iím dying inside and he hasnít even been gone two hours. Angel, I canítÖ"

Angel moved to comfort her as she began to cry but she pushed him away. Maybe if she was alone, she could figure out what she was going to do. "Just leave."

"No." He shook his head and pulled her chin up so he could look at her. "Sex can be misleading, Buffy. You can mistake the physical act for something deeper when all it ever was Ö was a good time. Not love."

"It was more than that! God, Angel! You think I donít know my own feelings? I felt it more when we werenít even making out. I felt it just lying in his arms. I was happier there than I have been my whole life." She couldnít believe that she was being so honest with Angel. Especially since she hadnít even been honest with Spike about her feelings. "And now heís gone and probably doesnít even realize how much he means to me."

**I love you, Slayer.** Spike grinned and wished that Angel could spontaneously combust from a broken heart. He was tempted to run in, kiss the Slayer in front of him and shag like the energizer bunny until Angel staked himself in misery and from a hard on he couldn't do anything about.

Angel closed his eyes, trying not to notice his own tears that threatened to spill. He thought that he would never be hearing her say these things about another man and it killed him inside all over again. "And what about us?"

Buffy heard the hurt in his voice and looked up at him. Her heart ached for his pain and his loss but she couldnít sacrifice her happiness for him anymore. "I never, ever expected not to need you anymore, Angel. For so long my life revolved around you and I was content to exist that way but I wasnít living. Being on the road with Spike showed me something new though. He challenges me and makes me feel alive."

"And I didnít?" Angel hung his head. "I tried, Buffy. I tried to be everything you could want. I love you so muchÖ"

"I know. I know you do and Iíll always be grateful for it." She stood and laid a hand on his arm in hopes that she could dull the sting of her words. "But I canít help what I donít feel anymore. Iíve tried to feel it and Iíve tried to make it feel right but, Angel, too much has happened."

"Iíve hurt you so many times but none of it was ever intentional." He took her hand in his and stared at her for several minutes. "Is this it then? Thereís nothing I can say to change your mind?"

"Iím sorry." She shook her head and pulled her hand away. "Iím not going to leave, Angel. Iíll stay until the ascension is over. But if Spike hasnít come back by then Iím going to find him."

"If he cared about you at all heíd still be here." Angel knew those words would hurt her but he had to do something. He couldnít just give in and let her screw her life up.

Spike had heard enough. If Angel kept running his mouth then the Slayer may start to believe his garbage. He moved through the window quickly and glared at his sire. "You want to go by yourself or do I need to show you out, Angel?"

"Spike!" Buffy moved toward him, visualizing wrapping her arms around him but he fixed her with an icy glare and she stopped. The elation she felt to see him again was replaced with worry over how long heíd been listening and what he thought of what heíd heard. Or what he thought about Angel being in her bedroom.

Angel glanced from one to the other and said, "Iím not leaving her here with you."

"Iím not giving you a choice, Peaches." Spike pointed at the window. "Either youíll go now or youíll go later with a few bruises. Either way, youíre leaving."

"Angel?" Buffy looked at Spike the entire time she spoke to Angel. "I want you to go. Please?"

"No, BuffyÖ" the vampire pleaded. If he left her alone with Spike then things would happen. Spike would either kill her or love her and Angel didnít know which one would hurt him worse. "Let meÖ"

"GO!" she shouted angrily. The fresh tears that had begun to flow blurred her vision but she kept staring toward Spike.

Angel shook his head and stormed to the window. He would go all right. And heíd find the house key that Buffy kept hidden outside and come right back in. When he got one leg over, he looked back and said, "Spike, if you do anything to herÖIíll kill you."

Spike moved with lightning speed, shoving Angel out the window and pulling it down. He locked it quickly and looked back out. Angel stared through the glass and the blond vampire gave him a deadly smile and blew a quick kiss before he slowly lowered the blind.

Buffy sobbed quietly behind him, but Spike didnít turn to face her. Hearing her cry was bad enough. There was no way he could watch her cry. Collecting his thoughts, he said. "I tried to leave and..."

"You did leave." She was so shattered by that simple fact that she had trouble saying the words. It came out sounding like an accusation while she meant it as a calm admission of defeat.

He turned to face her slowly and clenched his jaw. "Do you want to hear what I have to say? I CAN leave if you donít."

She tried to compose herself and whispered, "I want to hear you."

Spike glanced at the floor and continued. "I tried to leave and I wanted to leave but I couldnít. I came back because I wanted to kill you." Buffy sobbed loudly and made a break for the hallway; convinced he was going to attack her and make her fight him to the death. He had her around the waist before she made it halfway and quickly slammed the door, pinning her to it face first. "I thought you wanted to hear what I had to say!"

"Let me go," Buffy cried, trying to break the grip he had on her. "Iím not going to fight you."

"Will you hold still!?" He let her go when he realized she wasnít going to stop wiggling and put his palms against the door over her head to keep her from opening it. She yanked the knob several times before she turned and looked up at him. He grinned and said, "Are you finished yet, luv?"

"What do you want from me?" She realized that he hadnít made a move to hurt her but she couldnít relax. "You want to kill me?"

"I said I wanted to kill you. Past tense." Spike stared down at her, wondering if she knew how much it hurt to see her cry. "Pretty much all I want now is to kiss you."

Buffy swallowed hard as she searched his face for any sign that he was lying to her. When he didnít break into a sarcastic grin or add anything else to his comment, she shook her head. "You left me."

"Iím sorry." His expression remained the same and his eyes never wavered off of hers. "I am so sorry I left you."

She started past him again and he lowered his arms, pinning her on either side of her waist but not touching her. "SpikeÖ"

He slowly moved his hands to rest on her hips and quietly said what heíd been thinking for days. "Buffy, I love you. More than I can stand and even more than you can imagine."

"You love me?" Repeating it made it finally register and she was too stunned to move. **Oh, please let this be real. Donít let it be a dream.**

"I love you." Spike raised his hand and gently ran it under her eye, catching her tears. "Donít cry."

"I have to," she whimpered and let the emotions that had been bottled up fall freely.

Spike clutched her against him as she wept and finally lifted her in his arms, depositing her on the bed, stretching out beside her. He wasnít interested in making love to her right then. He wanted to hold her. She had told Angel that she felt happy in his arms and he meant to see her happy. Pulling her to his chest, he closed his eyes, trying not to recall how much it hurt to have her run from him. "Buffy?"

She sniffled and said, "What?"

"You never have to be scared of me, baby. Ever."

Buffy sat up and wiped her eyes so she could actually see him. "I know."

"Donít forget it either." He brought her mouth to his.

She kissed him briefly and pulled back. "I love you, Spike. Iím not just saying it because you did. I honestly mean it."

"I know." He winked at her and tried to pull her in for another kiss.

"Donít forget it either."

"Slayer, can I please get a kiss? Iím dying here!"

"I canít do just a kiss." She shook her head and moved to unbutton his shirt.

He caught her before she had opened two of the top ones and shook his head. "No, your arm."

"Is absolutely not as important as how much I need you." She moved astride him, grinding her hips down against his to prove to both of them how much he wanted her.

"Your mom?" he asked as she nipped at his neck. Nothing about Joyce catching him in bed with her daughter appealed to him. She had used an ax once and that was when he had his clothes on. He could only imagine what a mother would chop first if they found a naked man with their kid.

"Giles said she should be home by early morning. She had to layover in Texas because she missed a connecting flight somewhere. She was put on stand-by." Buffy sat up and tugged her shirt off. "Can you shut up and take me now?"

"Bossy little bint, you are." He slowly and delicately traced his thumb over the area where Oz had staked her. It wasnít bandaged and he could tell that her enhanced healing capabilities had taken over. It wasnít a gaping wound anymore, but it was still nasty looking. He sat up and kissed her, pulling her hips as far into his as he could.

Buffy felt his erection and moaned against his mouth, needing him so much it hurt. Within seconds, she had pulled his shirt completely off and was struggling to get his pants undone. His own urgency made him move her to her back so he could pull off her shorts and he had them over her hips before she even hit the bed completely.

He dropped between her legs and rained kisses all over her dark curls before he dipped his tongue inside. Her heat engulfed him as he licked her slowly and deliberately in all the spots he knew made her crazy. The first time they had been together had been more of an experiment but now he knew exactly where to touch her and didnít need to be urged. He found a comfortable rhythm and concentrated his efforts just off to one side of her clit. Within minutes, Buffy bucked upward and cried out his name. "Oh, Spike. Donít stop!"

Angel stood on the other side of her bedroom door. He had let himself in with the spare key that Buffy had shown him the first night heíd stayed in her room because of the Three. He had been ready to shove the door open and check on them when he heard her shouts of obvious pleasure. He only lingered long enough to commit the sound to memory and imagine her saying his name before he turned and walked slowly down the stairs. Buffy deserved to feel what she was feeling right then but Angel would have gladly gone back to Hell if he could make the man with her anyone but Spike. Anyone at all.

Spike yanked his pants down and joined her, gliding slowly into her tight channel and finding her mouth with his. As he rocked slowly in and out of her, he leaned to her ear and whispered, "I love you so much, Buffy."

"Donít ever go," she whispered and gripped him tighter with her legs, moving her hips faster against his. Nothing else was happening in the world right then. All that mattered was the love she felt and gave.

"Never." He moved a little harder and brought one of his hands to her breast, tugging roughly on her nipple. She surged again and he could feel her orgasm begin. Spike watched as her face flushed with ecstasy and she cried out. Seeing her come pushed him over the edge and he gripped her thigh, yanking her upward to meet his thrusts. The demon never emerged as he released himself and his moans were as loud as hers had been.

Spike lost her to sleep just moments later and he smiled. **Mortals!**

**

Joyce arrived home just after seven that morning amidst one of the worst thunderstorms she had ever seen. There were bags under her eyes and all she could think about was the fact that Buffy had run away again. She had tried unsuccessfully to contact Giles from the airplane and her heart ached for her child and the man who had been obligated to take care of her at first but then bound by his affection for her later. All that the Watcher had told her had been that Buffy left because she tried to kill Faith. He hadnít told her where she may have gone or even how she had gone.

Like any mother, she had been frantic, trying to reach out her senses and feel whether or not Buffy was hurt or hungry. Or suffering. Or dead. There had been a brief moment on the plane earlier that night when she had been convinced that Buffy was experiencing heart breaking pain and Joyce had given in and cried along with her. As she stepped onto the porch of her house and noticed that the door was ajar, another wave of hysteria threatened to strike and she dropped her bags and stepped inside.

Picking up an umbrella that sat beside the door, Joyce slowly walked through the living room, holding it like a bat. She almost screamed when she heard something clatter in the kitchen, but she bit it back, thinking about how brave Buffy would be in the same situation. Braced for a fight, she leaped into the kitchen.

Spike turned from the sink wearing nothing but boxer shorts and a T-shirt and carrying a tea kettle. He saw Joyce poised to hit him and tossed the tea kettle high in the air. It came down hard and hit him right on top of the head, showering him with cool water. Fumbling fast, he caught it before it hit the ground. "Oh, bollocks! And ow!"

"Spike!" Joyce lowered the umbrella and smiled. She was actually pleased to have a distraction. Even if it was in the shape of a vampire. "What are you doing in my kitchen?"

"Getting a concussion?" He grinned back and rubbed the top of his head. "Actually, I was attempting something simple like boiling water, but itís clear now that I should give up."

Still grinning, Joyce took the kettle from him and ran water into it. "Let me guess? Youíre having more love trouble and you need some of my hot cocoa to fix it."

"Close." He sat on a barstool and watched as she pulled out mugs. "I was craving coffee, just something about the rain makes me want coffee, and my love life couldnít be better. As usual, I am totally and completely loveís bitch."

"Same girl?" she asked as she sat across from him.

"No. Someone new." Spike cocked his head to one side as thunder echoed through the house and the wind made a ghostly moaning just outside the kitchen door. He loved the music of natureís fury.

Pulling her sweater tighter, Joyce glanced nervously out the window and wondered if Buffy had a jacket wherever she was. "What is this new girl like?"

"Sheís likeÖ" He licked his lips as he searched for the words and finally said, "Well, sheís like that thunderstorm out there. Fierce and powerful with winds capable of moving the hardest heart. And just like that rain out there gives life to so many thingsÖshe gives life to me. When that thunderstorm breaks later and the sun shines again, thatís her smile and thatís all the warmth I need. Sheís my world, my reason. We havenít been together long, but I already know that nothing will ever change the way I feel. Sheís the one, Joyce. Sheís my girl. I love her in ways that I never imagined possible. And she loves me. The real me. I donít have to be anyone else with her."

Joyce looked at the handsome vampire across from her in awe and then dug through her pocket for a tissue as the tears began to fall. "That was beautiful! Sheís a lucky girl. Iíd love to meet her. I wonder if Buffy will ever fall in love and be loved like that?" She sobbed loudly and shook her head. "I love her so much and sheís missing. I donít know where she is and-"

"Uhm, Joyce?" Spike glanced past her toward the doorway. "Sheís found."

Buffy was rubbing her eyes sleepily as she glanced at her mother and her lover, wondering what they were talking about that would make her mother so upset. Surely Spike wouldnít have blurted the news that they were a couple. She stepped into the kitchen all the way and Joyce grabbed her, crushing her sore shoulder against her. Buffy didnít mind though and hugged her mother just as tight. "Iím sorry, Mom. I know I should have called you, but I didnít have your number at the art show and I thought that -"

"Oh my god! Youíre safe, baby! Thatís all I care about." Joyce held her at an armís length and examined her face, trying to read her thoughts and make sure she was indeed okay. Buffy was wearing a white tank top and she gasped when she saw blood begin to seep through the fabric just above her daughterís left breast. "Youíre hurt!"

"Damn!" Spike swore and stood, quickly grabbing a roll of paper towels. He moved the strap of Buffyís shirt to one side and covered the wound, gently applying pressure. "Joyce, do you have a first aid kit?"

Joyce turned quickly, yanking it off the top of the refrigerator. When she looked back her daughter she froze. Spike had his arm around her and she was gazing up at him with so much love that Joyce felt it all the way across the room. She had never seen her daughter look at anyone that way. As she watched, Buffy reached up and cupped Spikeís cheek, telling him something in a soft voice, and the vampire kissed her forehead and nodded.

Spike saw Joyce watching them and smiled. "You wanted to meet the girl Iím in love with. Joyce, this is my thunderstorm."

*~*~*

A while later Spike and Buffy sat side by side on the sofa watching as Joyce walked up the staircase. Neither spoke for a long while, then they looked at one another with wide eyes. Buffy burst out laughing and Spike finally grinned, muttering Ďbloody hellí. She stood, walking into the kitchen where she poured herself a glass of soda and took a sip, shocked at how dry her throat had gotten during the entire conversation with her mother.

Spike leaned against the counter, watching her. "I can not believe she accepted it just like that," he said, and snapped his fingers for emphasis.

"I can not believe she asked you where you planned on staying and you said in my bed!"

"Well, she asked me! And she said it was fine."

"Sheís just glad Iím not dead. Give her time to think about it and sheíll change her mind."

"I donít think so, love. She told you that she finally gets that youíre an adult now. Youíre about to graduate and go to college and she knows that weíre-"

"Iím telling you sheís going to hear us making out and absolutely freak."

"Weíre not going to shag in your mumís house."

"What? Were you asleep when I jumped your bones earlier? It happened in my room? Made me scream about ten times?"

"I wonít do that while your mom is here and especially after she said I could stay with you." He took one look at Buffyís face and gave her a wicked grin. "But we have my car and there are quite a few hotels and cemeteries and alleys and all kinds of naughty places I can show you around town."

"Fine." Buffy pouted. "But I fully intend to sleep naked."

His eyes narrowed. "Donít even think about it."

"If youíre going to tempt me-"

"Iím not going to sleep naked."

"Just being in the same room with you tempts me. I happen to be crazy about you." She blushed prettily at that admission and turned, putting her glass in the sink to hide the color in her cheeks.

Spike moved around the island and put his arms around her. "I happen to be crazy about you, too."

"You better be. Youíve pretty much spoiled me for anyone else."

He growled a little. "I damn well better have."

"I like this jealous thing." She kissed him, the sighed a little. "These next few days will be awful. Hell, the next few weeks, months probably. Weíve got the ascension and the gang hating BOTH of us and -"

"Iíve been hated before and the ascension will be stopped as of tonight if youíll let me help."

"I donít think youíre prepared for the-"

"Darliní, nothing is going to run me off. Not even you."

"Ooooh, you called me Ďdarliní and you kinda growled it. As if you needed some other way to make my knees weak."

He pulled her against him and whispered, "I havenít even begun to show you all the ways."

"Wanna get started?"

The floorboards creaked overhead and he rolled his eyes heavenward, cursing whatever the hell had caused him to suddenly develop manners where Joyce was concerned. "No, vixen. But you just wait til the sun goes down and we get out of here."

*~*~*~*

The setting sun went unnoticed that evening. Everyone arrived unannounced at five oíclock. Faith gave Buffy a wide berth and the rage that Buffy felt at seeing her indicated that the darker haired Slayer was wise to do so. Giles gave the very tense crowd a rundown on what he had discovered in the Books of Ascension and they all listened quietly while he droned on and on. Spike finally cleared his throat and started to speak when someone knocked on the door again.

It took everything Spike possessed to not let the demon in him surface when Angel walked into the room, finding Buffy with his eyes and gazing at her. Ignoring him and the smile that Buffy gave her ex, Spike continued, "As I was saying, Watcher, what you found out is all well and good, but itís a lot of words and a waste of time. The act of ascending means Ďto riseí. It happens in cycles and can only happen during an eclipse. This mayor bloke needs to be prevented from Ďrisingí, literally, during the eclipse thatís going to happen at graduation."

"How do you know this?" Giles asked, crossing his arms over his chest. "And why should we should trust anything you say?"

Willow had been flipping through the books and made a muffled sound that sounded like a cross between Ďahaí and Ďdamní. Giles glanced at her. "What was that, Willow?"

"Heís right." Willow held the book over her head, waiting for the man to take it. When he did, she studied Spike closely. "How *did* you know that?"

"Dru tried to help a demon like your mayor ascend once. Had to chain the bloody wanker up and bury it until it was all over."

"Could have gona all day without hearing about her," Buffy mumbled.

"At least sheís not here, love," Spike told her, nodding toward his sire. "Could have gone all day without *seeing* him."

Angel couldnít hear Buffyís reply because Joyce walked into the room carrying a tray full of sodas and two mugs of blood. She held one of the mugs out to Spike, then patted him on the shoulder, muttering something to him about saving the day. Standing a little straighter, Angel watched as Joyce approached him with the remaining cup of blood. He accepted it, even though he had eaten earlier in the day. "Thank you," he told her, but the only response he received was a glare. The grin on Spikeís face was not something he missed.

Buffy moved to sit next to Spike, twining her fingers through his. "So, thatís all there is to it? To stopping the ascension, I mean?"

"Well, no. You have to make sure he canít see the eclipse at all because then heíll start the change into the ascended demon and break the restraints. And you canít hurt the fuckers. Uhm, sorry Joyce. You canít hurt the *things*. They eat spiders and all kinds of stuff to make themselves impervious to harm, but you can make them sick. Germs can hurt them."

"He does do a major wig when it comes to washing his hands or wiping down surfaces," Faith interjected. "He takes a ton of vitamins and prescriptions, too."

Spike nodded at her. "Whatever makes their physical body immortal obliterates their immune system. A common cold would probably do him in within minutes."

Buffy glanced at Willow. "You remember that weird flu that I had a while back when I was in the hospital? Do you still have the vials of it that you stole and is it still active?"

"That was OUR secret." Willow looked like a guilty deer who had been caught in headlights. "And damn good thinking, Buffy."

"I have been known to surprise people," Buffy said with a smile.

"I agree, baby," Spike took a drink of his blood and spilled a thick drop down his chin.

Without thinking, Buffy reached up and caught the trickle before it could drip and he absently sucked it off her finger. The disgusted sound that Xander made snapped them both back to the present and Spike shifted away from her, but Buffy shook her head and pulled him back down. "Look, guys, I know this is a shock and it came out of nowhere. Believe me, Iím as stunned as you are, but Spike and I are a couple. Deal with it."

"Itís wrong," Xander said, his eyes hard as he stared at Buffy. "I hate Angel. You know I hate Angel, but at least he has a soul and -"

"And he can lose it." Spike held up his hands. "I donít need a soul to love her."

Giles rolled his eyes and tossed the book onto the sofa next to Willow. "Vampires donít love."

"According to your books," Buffy told him. "According to those same books, Watchers donít love either. Itís not allowed and it doesnít happen, but I donít doubt that *you* love me."

The Watcher had no response for that. He opened his mouth, then closed it again. Joyce stepped forward and put her hands on her hips. "Well, I have given them my blessing and as Buffyís mother what I say goes."

"You do get that heís a vampire, right?" Angel asked her.

"Did I not just serve him blood?" Joyce snapped. "And did I not just give you the same? Pot. Kettle."

"Heís *evil*. There is a distinction." Angel said.

"Iím well aware of it." Joyce stood a little straighter and stared at him. "I think all of us in this room would assign Jenny Calendarís face to that distinction. If Spike being evil means that he takes care of my little girl the way that Iíve seen him take care of her then Iíll accept that and Iíll encourage it. If he just happens to be one of the Devilís own then God knows the reasons I wonít question it. None of you need to."

"Joyce, surely you can-" Giles began.

"Sheís happy," Joyce continued, ignoring the man. "For the first time in forever, she is laughing and she is smiling and she is *happy*. If any of you question that or try to take that away from her then you arenít the friends you thought you were."

"Not everything that makes you happy is good for you." Faith shrugged when all eyes turned to her. "Iím just saying."

"You would know. You took a lot of pleasure in killing humans, didnít you?" Buffy shot back. "You had a huge happy."

"Faith has a point," Angel snapped at Buffy. "You just donít want to hear it."

"No, I really donít. I refuse to have morals preached to me by someone who has none and Iím not going to fight with you, Angel. Iím not." Buffy took Spikeís hand again and stood. "Weíre going to lure the mayor out, capture him, and do what Spike said. Weíre going to prevent him from rising."

"And how do you propose we do that?" Giles asked, his exasperation at the entire situation evidenced in his tone. "Shall we send him an invitation?"

"Where have you been? Iím going to inject him with the flu!" Buffy exclaimed.

"We got that part. It was the how that weíre unsure of." Angel pointed out.

"Oh, easy. Faith is the bait. Iím going to put her in the hospital." Glaring at the other girl, Buffy dared her to object. When she didnít, Buffy added, "And Iím going to enjoy the hell out of it."

"Absolutely not." Angel shook his head and protectively moved toward the Slayer in question..

"No, itís okay." Faith allowed him to pull her to her feet, but held her ground. "Itís a good plan."

"Youíre barely even healed from the last time she attacked you." Xander moved to her other side, crossing his arms over his chest as if daring Buffy to try to cross him as he turned to glare at his best friend. "No way, Buffy."

Buffy shrugged. "Fine. You guys can depend on her and these books to defeat the mayor. Iíll take mom and Spike and leave town because I donít trust her and I donít want to watch all of you die."

"Weíre doing it her way." Faith muscled through the two men and took her jacket off, handing it to Angel. To Willow, she said, "You may want to get that flu, Red. Something tells me this wonít take long."

Willow nodded. "Xander, drive me to my house."

"This is so stupid!" Xander protested, staring back and forth between the Slayers.

"Go," Angel told him, studying Buffy. "Weíll keep her under control."

The minor annoyance that Buffy had felt for most of the evening gave way to full blown anger and she spun on her heel, stomping up the stairs to her room to keep from pounding her aggression out on her ex-boyfriend. She was reserving it for Faith. She knew that Spike was following her and she quickly undressed, changing out of her dress and into a pair of tight workout pants and a form fitting tank top. She didnít speak as she yanked a brush through her hair and pulled it back into a severe ponytail and shoved her feet into her sneakers. As she headed back toward the door, Spike caught her arm and pulled her around to face him. "What?" she snapped.

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

"I have to get ready."

"Donít fight her while itís so personal, Buffy. Youíre going to get hurt."

Buffy scoffed. "Like that tramp could *ever* hurt me."

"She already did, love. Hurt you to your core."

"What?"

"She slept with your sweetie bear and you canít get past it."

"He is not-"

"Thatís not the point. I have a problem, a very big problem, with the fact that you are still so bothered by it."

"I am not bothered by it, Spike, Iím not. Itís not even about what she did with Angel. Itís about the fact that I tried and tried and tried to be her friend and she threw it back into my face! She slit my throat a million times. Sheís evil."

"*I* am evil, love. Sheís a messed up kid."

"You have no idea who she is! You donít know her! Donít you dare start defending her, too!" Buffy started around him, but he grabbed her arms. "Let me go."

Spike shoved her backwards causing her to land on her backside on the bed. "Stay there."

"Iím not-"

"I mean it!" he yelled, pushing her down again when she started to stand. "Youíre cooling off while we wait on Willow."

"No, Iím going to go pound her skull in and then Iím going to take a shower to get the skank off me and then Iím going to -"

"Stop it." Spike sat down next to her. "Why arenít you mad at him?"

She had started to rise again, but stopped suddenly. "What?"

"You told me all the hideous details in bed this morning. Iím not trying to hurt you, baby, but I have to say this. He could have had Ďtroubleí getting it up for her ... if you know what I mean. He could have stalled her, told her anything. Donít let him tell you that he *had* to shag her. Last time I checked ... the fate of the world doesnít rest on a good shagging, but it would probably be a hell of a better place if it did." He had attempted to make her smile with that last bit, but failed. He watched as she bit her bottom lip. Sighing a little, he said, "Itís just easier to imagine him doing it for noble reasons and put all the blame on her, innit?"

After several seconds, she nodded. "You can stop getting into my head any time you want."

"I donít want to. Ever. Look, before you go down there and rip that girl limb from limb I want you to remember that sheís a Slayer, too. Sheís a fucked up whack job who shagged your ex boyfriend and killed a few people and refused to make nice with your Scoobies, but sheís also someone who lost her Watcher, lost her family, and may not know how to play with the other puppies."

"Killing the other puppies is a far cry from not playing with them."

"Sheís here trying to help you all right now."

"So she says." Buffy stood and paced the length of her room.

"Why is it so easy for you to forgive me for trying to kill you and your friends, but not her? You expect them to accept me the same way theyíre expecting you to accept her. Why donít you make the first step? Show them how itís done."

"Fine! I get the point. Iíll shake her hand before I break every bone in her body." She told him as she began shoving a few of the shoes that she had packed in her suitcase into her closet.

"Not good enough, pet."

She turned and looked at him. "Okay, okay. Iíll talk to her. Alone. With no fists involved."

"Now donít you feel better? Calmer?" Spike walked across the room and hugged her. "Weíre going to stop the mayor, stop the ascension, and go away for a long weekend when you get your diploma, okay?"

"Where?"

"Mexico?"

"Damn it. Now Iím less calm."

"Just playiní, love. I was thinking Vegas."

Everyone was shocked to see a happily laughing Buffy skipping down the stairs a few minutes later. Faith pushed away from the wall and squared her shoulders, but Buffy moved past her and into the kitchen. Spike paused next to the raven haired Slayer and nodded toward the kitchen. "Why donít you go talk to her, love?"

"I donít think so," Angel replied for her.

"Itís okay." With her back straight, Faith ignored everyoneís curious stare and joined Buffy in the kitchen, expecting a knife in the gut. She was shocked to see the other girl sitting on the counter eating an oatmeal creme pie.

"Want one?"

"Poisoned?"

"Nah. Thatís too easy."

Faith accepted the pie and bit into it. "Damn, thatís good. Should I think of this as my last meal?"

"No." Opening a box of Oreo cookies, Buffy bit into one and held the bag out. "Okay, down to business. Do you want broken ribs, a stab wound, or your face mangled? I can do all of the above if you want. At no extra charge."

"I want to help you tie him up so please donít get me admitted. I want him to know that I helped you. I want to be there when it all goes down."

"Call it self preservation, but my gut makes me think you might try to sabotage us and ruin our plans at the last minute."

Faith ate the rest of her cookie. "You donít have any reason to believe me and I never did a damn thing to make you feel like you could, but Iím telling you that you can trust me on this, B. Iím asking you to please give me a chance."

"Why?"

"Because when you gutted me like a fish on that pier your friends stepped up and helped me and I figure that means I owe the good guys one."

"You owe *them* one. Youíll be working with *me* and I tried to kill you."

"I slept with your boyfriend. Itís not like I didnít have that coming. And I am sorry about that. I really am. For what itís worth, he kept making excuses why we needed to wait Ďtil later and I kept doubting that he had actually lost his soul. I was going to stake him if he didnít make with the proof. And to me, cheating on you was all the proof I needed. He did stall me though, for over two hours. Looking back, I guess he was hoping Iíd give up and he wouldnít have to do it."

Buffy studied her closely, trying to see if there was any indication on her face that she was not being sincere, but the girl met her gaze with unblinking eyes. The tear in Buffyís heart that had been the result of Angelís infidelity was sewn shut and she felt herself lay to rest the agony that she had dealt with since she had learned of the betrayal. Finally, she nodded at her. "Okay."

"Okay." Faith stood and nodded at the back door. "Should we get it done?"

Buffy followed her out into the backyard, shocked that no one accompanied them. With less than five blows, Faithís nose was broken, her lip was split open, her eye was swollen shut, and there was an insanely deep gash on her forehead from a ring on Buffyís finger. Satisfied that it would be enough to lure the mayor to her bedside, Buffy massaged her hand and nodded back at the house. Faith entered first and when they walked into the living room, Joyce voiced her shock and ran to grab paper towels, but Buffy gently explained that the more blood the better it was.

Xander volunteered to drive Faith to the hospital and after a short debate, everyone agreed that it would be okay as long as he stayed well out of sight once he delivered her to the emergency room. Spike and Buffy followed in Spikeís car with the flu virus that had been stolen from the hospital so many months before. Willow, Angel, and Giles drove to Angelís mansion to secure as many chains and locks as they could find and then they were meeting Oz at the hospital to use his van for the transporting of the mayor. Angel changed into a suit, the same one he had worn to the prom, just in case he needed to pose as one of the mayorís lackeys.

When they arrived at the hospital, they found Spike parked in the far corner of the lot, but Buffy wasnít with him. Giles inquired about her and Spike said, "Sheís scoping out the place. Getting her needle ready and all that rot."

"I see."

Forty minutes of uncomfortable silence passed and Buffy emerged, looking incredibly different in scrubs and glasses, with her hair pulled back in a bun and hidden underneath a colorful surgical hat. She had a mask hanging around her neck with a stethoscope and badge on the front of her scrubs. Giles shook his head. "You do know that this is highly illegal, yes?"

"So is sticking wood in dead people. I just had to listen to some old guy cough in the waiting room and he kept farting while he did it. I can scratch out medicine as a field of interest at college." Buffy wrinkled her nose. "Theyíre spraying Lisol all over the emergency room by order of the mayor. Heís about fifteen minutes out. When he goes in to see Faith, Iím going to be behind the curtain and shoot him up. Xander has dressed up like an orderly so when the dipshit gets sick, weíre going to wheel him around the back and weíll come out the double doors behind the kitchen."

"He never travels alone," Angel reminded her. "What about his entourage?"

"Weíll think of something."

"This plan is really half cocked," he replied. "We should have a plan b."

"We do. Running is always plan b." Buffy shrugged and glanced down at her watch. "I have to go back inside."

Spike had gotten out of the car when she approached and he reached out, pushing her glasses up on her nose. "Just watch your back and be careful, pet. Keep your eyes open."

Buffy kissed him, then headed back to the hospital. Once inside, she entered Faithís room, picking up her chart and scanning it. Faith grinned at her, then motioned her behind the curtain when the mayor could be heard in the hall. Buffy pulled the needle from the pocket of her scrubs and pushed a little of the liquid from the tip the way Willow had instructed. Standing completely still, she watched their reflections on the blank television as she listened to the conversation.

"Did that darn little Slayer do this to you, Faith?"

"No, it was vampires."

"Well, that will all change when Iím in charge. How bad is it?"

"I think they want to keep me. Can you do something about that? And can you see if I can get something to eat and something for the pain?"

They mayor motioned to his cronies to go out and find the things that Faith requested and that was Buffyís cue. She waited for the two men to leave and emptied the syringe into his neck. He gasped and turned, looking at her with wide eyes, his skin already paling. Xander stepped forward, covering the mayorís mouth with a cloth that had been liberally doused with chloroform. Buffy and Faith worked together to rid the limp man of the jacket and shirt and put a hospital gown on him as well as a mask and the glasses Buffy had worn to hide his identity. Xander left with the hampered down wannabe demon within minutes, heading down the hall at a casual pace, the cloth firmly in hand just in case he needed it again.

Nodding at Faith, Buffy followed a second later, waiting around the corner for the wounded Slayer, who could be heard telling the mayorís helpers that he had gone to find a doctor and that he was angry that she had not been given dinner. After another few minutes passed, Buffy was beginning to feel uneasy and was about to turn back when Faith flew around the corner, grabbing her by the arm. "Letís go. I knocked one of them out and put him in the bathroom."

They raced down the hall and leaped into Spikeís running DeSoto, which was waiting by the back door.

The van was already long gone.

*~*~*~*~*

Buffy looked down at the piece of paper in her hand for the millionth time. A chapter of her life was over. No, an entire book had been finished and the paper in her hand and the memories in her head were all she had left of high school. It shocked her how sad it felt to walk away from Sunnydale High for the last time and know that sheíd never attend as a student again. They had watched the eclipse during graduation, which Spike had been able to witness since it blocked out the sun. Angel had stayed behind at the mansion with Faith to guard the mayor, who was locked away in the basement, bound in chains, facedown on the ground.

Things were still tense between Spike and the gang. Willow was closest to accepting him, but things were looking up. At graduation, Giles had dropped his itinerary and actually thanked Spike when he had picked it up for him. Then they had made small talk about eclipses and the moons cycles and werewolves, which had excited Giles because Spike knew a lot about the moon. Yes, Buffy was willing to accept any sign as a positive one, even if the conversation had bored her to tears.

Now Buffy sat alone in the kitchen while she drank a soda and waited for Spike to return from the butcher shop. Next to her sat two large suitcases and a big cooler full of ice. Her makeup bag was sitting on top of the suitcases and another bag was nearby, full of sandals, flip flops, purses and belts. Spike would freak when he saw all the luggage. She had packed light last time. This time she would be prepared for anything.

Finally, the front door opened and she heard Spike call her name. "In here," she replied.

He came into the kitchen and raised an eyebrow. "Are we ever coming back, love?"

"I dunno. I was thinking we may as well enjoy my summer off. I have a feeling my schedule will be grueling in the fall."

"Whatever you want." He placed his bags of blood in the cooler and shut the lid. "Did your mom get off okay?"

"Sheís headed for the art show in Detroit and she gave me this shiny cell phone so she could keep dibs on me." Buffy held up a pink phone. "Iím so excited. Faith swears that sheís going to patrol and keep everything under control and my dad gave me ten thousand dollars so-"

"We donít need your money. Save it. Buy yourself a car or something."

"But I thought that I could -"

"Did I happen to mention to you that my bank account is not exactly small?"

"Spike!" Buffyís nostrils flared. "You bitched me out over an eighteen dollar dinner. You made me stay in a twenty dollar roach motel. All you did last time we travelled was whine and complain about money and you drive a piece of shit car!"

"Hey!" Spike growled. "That car is a classic. Smooth lines, handles like a dream, and Iíve got an emotional attachment to it."

"Oh, did your precious Dru put her precious ass in it?"

"As a matter of fact she did, but thatís not why I love it so much. I gave *the* Sid Vicious a ride in that car once."

"Who?"

"Oh, this trip is going to be all about educating you."

Buffy held up her diploma. "I have a shiny piece of paper that says I am educated, ass."

"Our first stop is going to be at the music store. Weíre stocking up." Spike hefted one of the suitcases.

"Just so long as weíre clear on what Iíll do to the radio if I donít like it."

"We can just stay here." Spike threatened. "I donít much like your threats."

"My mom *is* gone."

Spike lifted his scarred eyebrow. "For how long again?"

"Three weeks."

"Right then." He dropped the bag and tossed the Slayer over his shoulder. "Road trip can wait. I think I was supposed to show you a few ways to make your knees go weak."

"Gah, you just did!"

-Finish