From Nothing


by Saber ShadowKitten
PG-13 Version



Part Ten




Spike was terrified. Buffy had left over an hour earlier to go on patrol, leaving him with the others. He was seated at the table, books spread out over the surface. Some of them were about vampires, but most were psychology books. Titles such as Child Abuse and Neglect, Post- Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and Sexual Abuse glared up at him.

His eyes flitted nervously from one person to another. Willow was over at the large PC, using the Internet to get the most up-to-date medical journal references. Xander was across from him, using a laptop in a similar fashion. The girl named Cordelia, who he found out was Xander's wife, was going through the books on the table, as was Giles. The taller man, Ethan, had disappeared upstairs with the dog, Angel. Giles had commented that Ethan was a painter, and that he worked mainly at night while the group was present.

Clenching his teeth together, Spike tried to force away the feeling of terror that was coming over him. He knew, logically, he had nothing to fear from the people in the room with him, they would have staked him the moment the Slayer had left if they were going to kill him. But that didn't stop the feelings that were bombarding him. Fear, love, hate, pain, confusion, anger, sadness, jealousy, guilt. All of these emotions were rolling through him for the first time since Drusilla had died, and he was terrified they'd overwhelm him, that they'd drive him insane. He wished that he could go back to the blankness, back to feeling nothing.

"Spike?" He jerked his head to the right. Willow was standing there, a concerned expression on her face. He quickly moved his head and saw that the others were watching him, too. He felt trapped. He felt like a bug under a microscope. He felt like he was losing control. He wanted that feeling of nothing to come back more than anything at that moment.

"Spike, are you ok?" Willow asked. He saw her motion to the others with her hand, and they went back to work. He looked up at her, not realizing there were tears streaming down his face.

"Are you ok?" she repeated, her voice soft and compassionate. Spike shook his head no. He had no reason to hide the truth. Maybe she could send him back to the blankness. "Do you want me to get Buffy?"

Buffy. The Slayer. The woman who'd been caring for him these past few months. She wanted to help him, not hurt him. She had treated him like a person, not a plaything. She had cared that Drusilla had gone, created a beautiful figurine of his black queen, had hoped that he had been happy with her. She cared about him. He nodded his head.

"Ok, I'll get her," Willow said. She walked over to the telephone and quickly dialed a series of numbers, then hung up. She then turned to the others. "Hey guys, why don't we call it a night?"

"You won't get an argument from me," Xander said, shutting off the laptop.

"Do you want us to put these away?" Cordelia asked, piling a few books up.

"That is quite alright, Cordelia," Giles said. "We shall get them tomorrow."

"Come on, Cord, let's skeedaddle before they change their minds," Xander said, putting his arm around Cordelia's shoulder and leading her towards the stairs.

"I shall go rescue Angel from Ethan," Giles told Willow, then he, too, went up the stairs.

Willow walked back over to Spike and started straightening the books. "Buffy should be here in a few minutes, depending on where she is in town. I figured everyone was making you uncomfortable, that's why I sent them packing," she told him. "I'd leave you alone, too, but I promised Buffy you wouldn't be left by yourself. It's too dangerous, even here at headquarters."

Willow was correct, he did feel less threatened now that she was the only other person in the room. He rubbed a shaky hand over his face and he found it wet from the tears he hadn't known he'd shed. He let his hand drop to his lap and closed his eyes, waiting for Buffy to arrive.



*****



"Will you die already," Buffy growled, as she ducked under the vampire's meaty arm and kicked the back of his knee. She'd been fighting with this particular vampire for ten minutes, and she was nowhere close to dusting him. Not that she hadn't tried. In fact, there were several stakes sticking out of his fleshy body. However, none of them got far enough past the fat to puncture his heart.

"I have nothing against large people," Buffy grunted, while trying to knock him to the ground. "But large vampires are another story."

The vampire didn't have any real fighting skill. He used his enormous sized arms to constantly try and grab her or punch her. Buffy continuously had to dart out of his reach, all the while kicking or punching him in the face. She had learned rather quickly that he felt nothing if she hit him anywhere else.

Her eyes darted around the desolate street where she'd met the obese vampire. Patrol had been hard, the number of vampires out searching for Spike or fighting amongst themselves, for the same reason, having increased. She'd already dusted close to ten, including a three-vamp tag team that had left her sore and bruised. Then she had gotten the page and had been on her way back to the bookstore when Porky had attacked.

"Bigger stake, need a bigger stake," she muttered, her foot lashing out and clipping him across the jaw. She darted away from him, jumping over a short wall to try and find any wood. The vampire came after her, slowly but surely. She hopped back up on the wall, using the advantage of height to smash his nose with her fist. Then she leapt to a nearby table, then another and another, keeping the irate vampire behind her as she searched for something to end the fight.

Buffy's toe kicked something as she landed lightly on the next table surface, and she watched as the small, white object skidded to the edge. Bending, she scooped it up and let out a small, evil chuckle. "Hey, big guy," she called, turning to face the vampire who was weaving his way between the tables. She waited until he was almost upon her, then flipped over his head to land on the table behind him.

Without pause, she struck a match from the little, white book and dropped it down his shirt. He let out a scream as he began to burn. She lit a second one, tossing it into his hair, then a third as he swung around and tried to either grab her or put out the flames. She smiled at him, then flicked the match at his chest. The flame caught on his shirt, and soon the entire vampire was burning.

She then leapt straight up, landing on the edge of the building's overhang, and watched as the vampire disintegrated to ashes. Because of his size, and the fact that the metal tables were bolted to the cement, he couldn't thrash around and light anything else on fire. Some of the metal became blackened, but no permanent damage was done.

Buffy looked at the matchbook in her hand, then pocketed it. With a final glance at the ash pile, she walked along the edge of the building until the end, then dropped down to the street. Five jogged minutes later, she entered the bookstore and went down the stairs.

"I'm here," she called as she descended. "Sorry it took so long. It's been really busy out there." She came into the room and only saw Spike, Willow and Angel. "Where'd everyone go?"

"I sent them home," Willow explained, then gestured to Spike.

Buffy nodded imperceptibly and walked over to the silent vampire. He was sitting at the table as she'd left him, eyes closed. Crouching next to his chair, she reached out and laid a hand on top of his knee. "Spike?"

Spike opened his eyes and looked down at her, and she could see dirty streaks on his face where he had wiped his tears, the ink from the print of the books having come off on his hands. He reached out and clasped the hand on his knee.

"Are you alright?" Buffy asked quietly. He shook his head no. "Do you want to go home?" He nodded. "Ok. Wills, can you give us a ride?"

"Sure," Willow replied, picking up Angel.

"Thanks," Buffy said. She straightened and sifted through a few books on the table, choosing a few to take home with her. Then she held out her hand to Spike. "Come on, let's go home."

*****

"There you go, all clean," Buffy gave Spike a lopsided smile, and set the washcloth on the night stand. She tucked her leg under her and got more comfortable on the bed. Spike was leaning back against the pillows, which were propped up on the headboard, and was clenching and unclenching his right hand on the sheet next to him. "Feeling better?"

Spike started to nod his head, then changed his mind and shook it no. "Too much, huh?" she asked, reaching out to brush her fingers along his left forearm. He nodded and looked down at her moving fingers. "It's ok that it was. No one expects you to suddenly be Mr. Happy-Vamp."

He shrugged and she frowned at him. "Don't go all male on me, Spike," she told him. Spike raised his head and gave her a quizzical look. "What I mean is, don't worry if you feel overwhelmed or sad or angry or anything at all. I'm just glad that you are feeling."

Buffy removed her fingers from his arm and leaned forward to brush them against his cheek. "I'm just glad that you're back," she told him softly. Tears started to fall from his eyes at her quiet statement, and, without hesitation, she moved up so her back was against the headboard beside him and pulled him into her arms. His head rested against her breast, his left arm went around behind her as his right circled her in front, so he was half-twisted as he hugged her tightly and silently wept.



*****



Cos my heart is broken in pieces
Yes my heart is broken in pieces
Since you've been gone

It seems in a moment,
You're whole world can shatter...

Spike could hear Buffy's slow, steady heartbeat beneath him as the tears fell down his cheeks. She was gently running her hand over his head, whispering soothingly to him. He didn't understand what was going on inside of him, or why she would want to comfort him, but he was glad that she was there.

He was holding onto her like a lifeline, soaking up her presence and caring, as the things he hadn't felt in so long bubbled forth. Memories hit of the night Drusilla had died, the night he fell into the abyss of nothingness. He wept for her, for himself, for the unfairness of her death. She had bent down to pick a flower and didn't see the broken fence. If she had only turned in the opposite direction to show him her prize, he wouldn't have had to witness the stunned expression on her face as the fence piece embedded in her heart, or hear his name tumble from her lips as she turned to dust. Nor would he have had to see the white flower fall silently to lay atop of her ashes.

His arms tightened around Buffy, and she responded in kind. "Shh, it'll be ok, Spike," she soothed, laying her cheek on his head. "Everything will be ok."




Part Eleven




As the weeks passed, things changed around Buffy's house, but not too much. Buffy gave Spike the run of the place, allowing him to set whatever schedule he liked. She had been surprised, at first, when he chose to still sit with her in her office as she worked, or when he silently volunteered to help her pick orders. He also chose to eat when she did, drinking his cup of blood while she ate her own meal.

During that time, Buffy had read so many books, she could be an expert on the various types of abuse and other traumatic experiences. Spike had nightmares from time to time, causing him to thrash in his bed loud enough to wake her. Without pause, she would go to his room and climb into the bed with him, holding him as silent tears coursed down his cheeks, until he fell back to sleep. Other times, he would seek her out for comfort, curling up next to her on the couch at night or interrupting her work for a hug.

She'd found him in front of the glass case where her original figurines were housed one day, and she watched from the doorway as he put one hand on the glass and stared at the figurines of Drusilla. She left him alone shortly thereafter to grieve, and later that day he seemed to feel better, even going so far as to give her one of his unique smiles by pressing his teeth slightly down on his bottom lip.

Communication, however, was still a problem and it frustrated Spike to no end. He wanted to talk to Buffy, to ask her why she was helping him, to tell her what was on his mind. He wanted to laugh out loud when she put the safety lid on the cup out of habit before handing it to him. He wanted to tell her about Drusilla and how happy they'd been, about how she died, about how much he loved the figurines Buffy had created.

He also wanted to tell her about his lack of bloodlust and debate with her why he had no desire to hunt or to feed other than what she provided. He had his theories -- he'd only fed once a day in so long, his body didn't need more; he'd forgotten what it felt like to want to hunt; he didn't want to do something that would anger Buffy - but none of them could he tell her about because he couldn't speak or write.

One night, when the Slayer had gone on patrol, he'd been watching television and almost smacked his head for being so dumb when he saw a woman communicating using sign language. He'd dug out the phone book and found the page which announced classes in American Sign Language, then showed it to Buffy when she got home.

She had called and enrolled them in the beginner's class the day after he'd shown her the listing in the Yellow Pages. Both luckily and unluckily, there was a class being held at night. Luckily, because Spike was a vampire. Unluckily, because of all the other vampires still out looking for him. Her nightly patrols were now made in teams of three due to the rise in the number of vampires coming out to Sunnydale searching for the elusive living statue.

They both found that they were lightning-fast learners, having advanced from the beginner's level to the intermediate in the few short weeks they'd taken the American Sign Language class. It was mostly due to the fact that Spike really wanted to communicate with Buffy, and she wanted to know what he had to say equally as much.

Since learning how to communicate with each other, their relationship slowly began to evolve from a care-giving one to more of a friendship. Spike was able to tell her about his nightmares, he didn't dissolve into tears for no reason, and he didn't feel the need to hold onto Buffy like she was his only link keeping him sane.

However, that didn't stop them from hugging or snuggling together on the couch when they watched television. He spent his days with Buffy in the office, but now he helped her rather than just sat there. When she was working on things he couldn't help with, or she went to meet with the others because of some demon or other problem, he'd work-out in the basement, relearning to fight. Sometimes they would spar together -- he knew she would let him win at times - or he'd watch her practice on a dummy.

The only thing she didn't allow him to do was leave the house unaccompanied. And when he did go somewhere with her, they always got a ride with one of her friends. She explained how dangerous it had become, and she made him promise to stay inside.

"Willow talked to Angel today," Buffy said, running the comb through his wet hair. That was the one thing that had stayed constant. Each night after he cleaned up, she would comb his long hair for him. She'd share things about her past, things no one else knew about, and once they'd learned some sign language, he had returned the same. "He's been in absentia for so long now, I was actually starting to get worried."

‘In absentia?' Spike spelled out. ‘You know Latin?'

"Some," she replied, shifting so she could see his hands better. "Hang around Giles and Willow long enough and you will, too."

‘What did hair-boy say?' Spike asked.

"Angel," she emphasized, tugging on his hair. "Thinks he knows why you can't talk. He'll be coming up here tomorrow night."

Spike pretended to shoot himself in the head in reply.

"Are you going to be nice to him?" Buffy asked.

‘No,' he replied.

"Can you at least pretend to be nice to him?" she sighed.

‘Will you give me something if I do?' Spike asked.

Buffy arched her brow. "What do you want?"

Spike shrugged and gave her one of his smiles.

"Well, then your answer is maybe," she replied. "As long as it doesn't involve me wearing only whipped cream..." He turned his head and looked her over from head to toe, then licked his lips. She flushed, then forced his head forward again. "Don't even go there, buster."

‘Chocolate syrup?' he suggested.

Buffy's flushed face became even redder.



*****



‘I know what I want,' Spike told Buffy the next night while they were sitting in the kitchen eating dinner.

"What you want?" Buffy asked, using her hands as well as speaking aloud. She had learned that using sign language while speaking made it easier for her to pick it up, plus it allowed her a way to communicate if she ever met anyone who was hearing impaired. "For what?"

‘Being nice to jerk-off,' he replied, using the universal, crude hand gesture.

"Spike!" she scowled. "Do that again, and you aren't getting anything!" The bell rang and she stood. "That's Angel, now behave."

Spike followed her out of the kitchen, signing as he walked. ‘Not unless I get what I want.'

Buffy only saw part of his words. "What?" she said, reaching for the doorknob.

‘Not unless I get what I want,' he repeated.

"I have to answer the door, Spike. I don't have time to argue with you."

She opened the door and put on a fake smile for the dark-haired vampire standing on the other side. "Angel, hi."

"Hi," Angel replied, entering the house as she stepped back. "Hello, Spike."

Spike waved mockingly and Buffy hit him. ‘What?' he asked her innocently.

"Don't give me ‘what'?" she scowled at him. "You know exactly what."

‘Who me?' Spike said.

"Yes, you," Buffy replied, closing the door. She turned to Angel. "Sorry, Angel. Spike's being an obnoxious prick. You know how he is."

"That I do," Angel said, smirking at the peroxide-blond.

Spike flicked them both off, then stalked back to the kitchen.

"Hold on a minute, will you?" she asked Angel, then went after Spike. As she entered the kitchen, she said, "What's up with you? Angel's here to help you talk."

‘I want to go out,' Spike stated.

"What?" Buffy asked, confused.

‘Out. Of the house,' he signed. ‘By myself.'

"No."

‘Yes.'

"Spike, it's too dangerous," Buffy said.

‘I'm not a baby,' Spike replied.

"I know you're not," Buffy said. Neither of them noticed Angel come into the doorway. "But it's still too dangerous. I've told you how bad it's been these past few weeks. Everybody and their vampire's uncle has come to Sunnydale looking for you."

‘I'm sick of being in the house,' he told her. ‘I won't be nice to Angel if I can't go out.'

"That's blackmail," Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. Spike shrugged. "No deal."

‘Then no nice,' he replied.

"Grr," Buffy growled, throwing her hands in the air. "You are such an idiot. Do you actually think I'm stopping you because I get off on it?"

‘Like you care,' Spike signed.

"Of course I care," she stated, moving until she was standing practically toe-to-toe with him. "That's why I don't want you to go out. I spent all this time getting you back to your somewhat- normal self, I care about you too much to lose you."

‘You mean it?' he asked.

"Mean what?" she said.

‘You care for me,' he answered.

Buffy could actually read the insecurity in his eyes, plus a little something more. A soft smile replaced the peeved frown on her face. "Yes, I do," she replied, both with her hands and her voice.

‘I...,' Spike paused, dropping his hands to his sides before starting again. ‘I care for you, too.'

Buffy's smile grew. "I'm glad."

‘I still want to go out,' he said, giving her his unique smile.

She shook her head and sighed. "Fine. But we'll go somewhere together. And if I decide we have to leave, we leave, got it?"

‘You win,' Spike replied. He reached up and brushed his hand across her cheek, then signed, ‘This time.'

Angel cleared his throat, and both their heads jerked to where he was standing. "Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt," he said.

‘Right,' Spike signed, clearly not believing his sire. He could almost feel the waves of jealousy coming from the other vampire. With a wicked glint in his eye, he reached down and put his hand on the small of Buffy's back, as she turned to face Angel, in a proprietary gesture.

"You didn't," Buffy replied, frowning slightly when she felt Spike's hand on her back. "So, how are things in La-La Land?"

"Rough," Angel said, glaring at Spike. "Guess where all the vampires are stopping over on their way to Sunnydale in search of ‘la estatua vivo'?"

"I take it you've been busy," she commented, moving to clear her dishes from the table. She almost ran into Spike on her way to the sink. "Sit down," she hissed at him. Then added in a louder voice, "Angel, why don't you take a load off?"

Angel and Spike both sat at the kitchen table as Buffy put her dishes in the sink. "Willow has been trying to reach you for weeks," she said, continuing the conversation as she returned to the table. "We were starting to worry."

‘I wasn't,' Spike signed.

"Drink that and be quiet," Buffy told the blond, handing him his plastic blue cup. She saw Angel hide a chuckle, but she chose to ignore it. Her cat came into the kitchen to investigate the newcomer, took one sniff at Angel, then turned around and left again.

"Yeah, I've been extremely busy," Angel replied to the earlier comment. "I'd get up, dust a dozen or so vampires, the crawl back into bed only to do it again the next night."

"Same here," she said, watching as Spike finished his meal. She didn't like the mischievous gleam in his eyes over the rim of the cup. "I thought they'd give up by now, considering the last time Spike was out and about was on Xander's birthday. Why would they still be after him?"

Spike handed her his cup, then replied to her question. ‘I'm cute?'

She rolled her eyes. "You wish."

"When did you two learn sign language?" Angel asked.

"We started three-four weeks ago," Buffy replied, adding the cup to the pile in the sink. "It was so nice to stop playing Twenty Questions."

Angel looked at Spike. "Do you still want to relearn to speak?"

‘Yes, dummy,' Spike replied.

"He said yes," Buffy said, giving Spike a look.

"How come I get the feeling that's not all he said?" Angel asked, glaring at Spike. Spike shrugged.

"Because we know him too well," she answered. Then she signed to Spike, without speaking, ‘Be good.' He gave her a thumbs up sign and one of his unique smiles, which made her trust him about as far as she could throw him. "So, what's this magical potion that'll get Fabio talking again?"

Angel didn't bother to hide his chuckle. "And here I was thinking he looked more along the lines as one of the Nelson twins."

"The Cinderella twins?" Buffy asked, grinning. "They sang ‘After the Rain' and ‘Love and Affection,' right? I think I have that tape somewhere. They were really popular when I was ten."

Spike gave her another rude gesture, which only made her laugh. "Sorry, sorry, my bad." She cleared her throat. "Go ahead, Angel. Enlighten us with your wisdom."

"Vampires don't breathe," Angel told them.

Buffy gave him a strange look. "And?"

"To talk, you have to breathe," the dark-haired vampire explained.

"Duh," Buffy smacked her forehead. "Giles is going to kick himself for not realizing that."

Angel turned to Spike. "You need to purposely inhale, then talk as you exhale."

‘Can't be that easy,' Spike signed.

"He says it can't be that easy," Buffy translated.

"It probably isn't," Angel said. "But that's how vampires talk. We just get so used to it over the years, it becomes second nature to inhale before speaking."

"Do you want to try it?" Buffy asked Spike.

Spike started to tell her yes, then changed his mind. ‘Not with Angel here.'

Buffy nodded, understanding. "Ok. Well, I gotta patrol. Care to join me, Angel?" she said, giving a pointed look to the older vampire.

"Sure," Angel replied. He rose and followed her out of the kitchen, but not before smirking at Spike. "You can fill me in on what's been happening up here. I feel like I've missed a lot."

‘Pillock,' Spike spelled out, glaring at his sire's retreating back.



*****



It wasn't that easy. Spike glared at the cat, who was acting as his audience. The cat stared right back at him. The vampire then inhaled, opened his mouth, and exhaled. Not even a squeak.

Frustrated, he threw himself onto the couch in the living room and grabbed the remote. Flicking it on, he rapidly flipped channels until he found the History Channel, then tossed the remote on the couch beside him. He liked to point out the mistakes to whoever would listen, be it Buffy or the cat.

He heard the front door open and turned his head to see Buffy and Angel enter, happily carrying on a conversation. He narrowed his eyes at the sight, then turned back to the television.

"Hi Spike," Buffy said, coming into the living room. "Having fun?"

‘I want to go out,' he signed.

"What, now?" she asked. He nodded sharply. "But don't you think...," she trailed off when he glared at her. "Ok, let me go get cleaned up. Cornerstone's is the only place open...well, except for the Bronze, but we're not going there."

Spike nodded and she turned to Angel. "Looks like we're going out. Will you call Willow and tell her to spread the word? I'd rather as many of us be there as possible, just in case."

‘Does everyone have to go?' Spike asked her.

"Yes, or you don't go," she answered. "I'll be right back."

"Ok," Angel replied. Buffy left the room, then the dark-haired vampire looked at Spike. "I hope you realize how much trouble she's going to for you."

Spike stared at the flickering television screen, studiously ignoring him.

"If she gets hurt, I will personally stake you myself," Angel told him. "But only after I torture you for days." He turned and left the room.

Spike turned off the television, then stood and went to his room. Closing the door behind the cat, who had followed him, he inhaled and tried one more time to speak. It didn't work.




Part Twelve




Spike knocked on the door to Buffy's bedroom, having changed his clothes after conferring with the cat. He hadn't been out in so long under his own power, other than to class, he was nervous. He pulled on the dark-green, mock-turtleneck, which was tucked into a pair of black jeans, then knocked a second time.

"Come in!" Buffy yelled from behind the closed door.

He opened the door and entered the room. Buffy was pulling on a pair of thick-heeled boots while trying to slide a patterned vest over her shoulders and reach for a necklace on the night stand. All at the same time. He tilted his head to one side and watched until she straightened and gave him a goofy grin. "What's up?"

Spike held out his hand, showing her the comb and hair tie. "You can pull back your own hair, you know," Buffy told him, patting the bed.

‘I like when you do it,' he signed after handing her the items. ‘And I can't see in the mirror to be sure I look good.'

"You'd look good with a bag tied around your head," she replied. "And that had to be the dumbest thing I've said in awhile."

‘Yes,' he agreed. ‘But you are blond...'

"Very funny," she said, thwaping his head with the comb. "Rule time. Number one, don't go anywhere alone."

‘Even the little boy's room?'

"You're a vampire, you don't use the john," Buffy replied. "Now, be serious, or we aren't going anywhere. Rule number two, you do what I say without question. If I'm not there, Willow is in charge, then Xander. Hopefully, nothing will happen, but this is Sunnydale, so I'm not expecting a miracle."

‘You're taking the fun out of going out,' Spike signed.

"Tough," she said. She pulled his long hair back and fixed the tie at the nape of his neck. "It's either my way, or I invite Angel to stay overnight and we watch wrestling on pay-per-view."

Spike pretended to choke himself, falling backwards so he was half on her lap, half on her bed. She rolled her eyes. "Come on, Rapunzel. Let's go."



*****



Cornerstone's was packed, as usual. A deejay was playing rather than a band, and the mixture of adults were dancing or drinking to the good music. Willow, Xander and Cordelia were sitting at the group's normal table, chatting amicably, when Buffy, Spike and Angel arrived.

"Hey gang," Buffy greeted, taking a seat. She shed her coat, as did Angel, and tossed it on the pile behind her, then indicated for Spike to do the same. "Anything interesting happening?"

"Ethan was here a little while ago," Willow said with a mischievous grin. "He was hitting on Amy."

"Let me guess, he had a sudden desire for cheese," Buffy said. Willow nodded.

"I'm going to get a drink. Anyone?" Angel offered.

"I'll have another Mud Slide," Willow replied. "Thanks, Angel."

"Can I get a Coke?" Buffy said. Angel nodded, and she turned to Spike. "Do you want anything?"

‘Bloody Mary?' Spike spelled out, giving her a smile.

"You're terrible," she replied. "He'll have a Coke, too."

‘With rum,' he added.

"With rum," Buffy translated. Angel left to get the drinks after shooting a glare at Spike.

"I take it Angel didn't help," Willow said to Spike.

‘You think?' Spike replied. Buffy smacked him. ‘What?'

‘Be nice, or we go home,' she signed, glaring at the blond vampire.

‘I am being nice,' he said.

‘Be nicer,' she said, then turned to see her three friends watching them. "Sorry. Spike says that Angel told him what he had to do, but it's hard."

‘I did not say that,' Spike signed.

Buffy grabbed his hand and squeezed it punishingly. "But he'll get it sooner or later."

Spike kicked her under the table. She turned looked at him in shock, and he yanked his hand away. ‘Don't do that! I'm not a baby!' he signed rapidly, his hands moving sharply in exclamation.

"Then stop...," Buffy started to say, but he stood abruptly. "Where are you going? You know the rules."

‘Screw your rules,' Spike replied. ‘I'm two hundred years old. I can take care of myself.'

"Keep it up, and we're going home," she hissed at him, her eyes darting to her friends, who were staring at them with great interest.

‘No,' he stated, then walked around to the other side of the table to Willow. He gestured to her, then out to the dance floor.

"Uh, sure," Willow said, sliding off her chair. She arched her brow in question at Buffy, then Spike pulled her out onto the dance floor.

"Ooh, I'm going to strangle that vampire," Buffy growled.

"I don't think it would do any good, Buff," Xander commented. "Seeing as he doesn't breathe."

"Xander, shut up," Buffy told him. Angel came back with the drinks and, as soon as he set the Coke down in front of her, she grabbed the other one out of his hand and downed it in four large swallows.

"Um, Buffy," Angel said. "That had the rum in it."

"No shit, Sherlock," Buffy scowled at him, then turned to watch Willow and Spike dancing together.

"I take it I missed something," Angel said, looking at Cordelia and Xander.

"Lover's spat," Xander informed him.

"We are not lovers," Buffy hissed at Xander. "Spike's acting like a jerk."

"You expected him to act differently?" Angel asked.

"Don't start with me, Angel," Buffy warned, then stood. "Watch Spike, I'll be back."

She turned and pushed her way through the crowd away from the table and the dance floor. Once she got to the ladies room, she went inside and up to the mirror. She took several calming breaths and tried to figure out what was pissing her off more -- Spike's attitude...or the fact that he was dancing with Willow.

"Cut him some slack, Buffy," she told her reflection. "He's way, way past the age of adulthood, and he's been treated like a dog for years. Let the guy have some fun and stop talking to yourself in the mirror."

She rolled her eyes at her actions, checked her hair and makeup, then went to rejoin her friends. She was glad that she learned to somewhat hold her liquor. A single glass wouldn't do anything to her, but any more and she'd be useless, and that was a bad thing when one was the Slayer.

At the last minute, Buffy by-passed her friends and went over to Spike and Willow. She tapped the redhead on the shoulder. "Mind if I cut in?"

Willow returned the smile Buffy gave her as she stepped away, then the hacker left the dance floor. Buffy looked at Spike, who was standing with his arms hanging loosely at his sides. He had a hurt look in his eyes and was clenching his teeth.

"I'm sorry," she began. "I was treating you like a baby and you're not. So I'm sorry."

After a moment, Spike nodded and signed, ‘I know you want to protect me, and that you care, but...'

"But I don't have to coddle you to do that," she finished. "I know. My bad. Just be careful, ok? I kinda like having you around."

‘I like having me around, too,' he replied. Buffy giggled. ‘Dance?'

"I'd love to," she said.

Spike took one of her hands in his, then slid his other hand around her waist to her lower back. He began moving in a simple step from times past, relaxing for the first time since they'd left the house. He wouldn't admit it to her, but the nervousness he'd felt earlier had grown the further away they got from the house. His anger at her was more displaced fear than actual ire.

With her heels, Buffy was only an inch or two shorter than him, so when he pulled her closer as the music changed to a slower beat, they were almost literally cheek-to-cheek. She had a small, content smile on her face; a face he looked into every day and had memorized every nuance of each expression she made.

He loved to watch her, whether she was working or making dinner, training or sitting with him in front of the television. He loved it when a little frown would appear between her brows when she was puzzled over something, or the way she'd bite her lower lip as she paid attention when he explained what the History Channel got wrong. He loved it when she'd come back from her first patrol, flop down on the couch next to him, and wiggle her feet in his face, expecting him to massage them. He loved when she stood in front of the open refrigerator for what seemed like hours, staring into it as if it held the answers to the universe. He loved it when she'd scream bloody murder when she saw a spider no bigger than a pea.

He loved her.

The realization struck Spike like lightning, and his head jerked back slightly. He met Buffy's questioning look with wide eyes and swore he felt his heart pounding in his chest. He loved her. He loved Buffy.

"What is it?" she asked.

Spike shook his head, silently telling her that nothing was wrong. Then he did something he hadn't done in over six years.

He smiled.

It wasn't much, just the corners of his mouth turning up, but the effect was as if he'd found the cure to the common cold. Buffy's eyes grew huge and she stammered, "Spike, you-you're smiling." Then a large smile crossed her own face and she squealed in delight, taking her hand out of his in order to throw her arms around him. "You're smiling!"

If anything, his smile grew, as he wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly to him. They were causing a small spectacle on the dance floor, but he didn't care. All he cared about was how good she felt in his arms.



*****



"Thanks for the ride, Wills. G'night," Buffy said, before closing the passenger door. She waved at her best friend as the jeep drove away, then turned to Spike. "Well, smiley-face, I don't know about you, but I had fun."

‘Me, too,' Spike signed, as she punched in the keycode.

The gate opened and they walked up to the front door in companionable silence, then Buffy repeated the action on the front door. Neither of them noticed the dark sedan that slowly drove past the house as they went inside.

Spike shed his coat and tossed it on a chair as he went over to the stereo in the living room and turned it on. Buffy gave him a curious look as she removed her own coat, but grinned when he held out his hand in an invitation to dance again.

It must be love, I'm feeling
This must be love
Oh this must be love, I'm feeling
This must be love

She giggled when he twirled her under his arm, then pulled her back against him. That small smile was still on his face, and she wondered what could have put it there. She wasn't going to ask, however, instead she was just going to enjoy the fact that he was happy.

It must be love, I'm feeling
This must be love
Oh this must be love, I'm feeling
This must be love

He picked her up slightly, so she was barely on her toes, then launched into a fast step that didn't fit with the music what-so-ever. The twinkle in his eyes indicated that he was laughing inside and her laughter-filled squeal of his name, as she wrapped her arms around his neck, only seemed to egg him on further.

Happiness is something
I never thought I'd feel again,
But now I know
It's you that I've been looking for

He spun her in a quick circle, then stopped abruptly. He gently lowered her down to her feet, and began to slowly sway to the music. With one hand, he pulled her arm from his shoulder, then captured her hand so they were in the classic dance position once again.

And day by day
More and more
I know what you think,
You've heard it before

Spike's eyes turned a deeper shade of blue as he met her gaze, and Buffy felt her breath catch. He moved the hand holding hers until her palm was pressed against his heart. He then released her hand to bring his up and brush her cheek with his fingers.

Don't tell me I know
But this feeling inside my heart,
You know I'm never letting go
'Cos I think that...

Those cool fingertips ran down to her lips, outlining them lightly, as he stared intently into her eyes. Her heart was pounding wildly in her chest as his head lowered, his hand sliding around to cup the back of her head. Her eyes fell shut at the same time his lips met hers, and her fingers curled around the front of his shirt in an unconscious reaction.

It must be love, I'm feeling
This must be love
Oh this must be love, I'm feeling
This must be love

Tender, gentle, questioning, exploring. His lips moved over hers with sensual grace, causing her whole body to tremble. She opened her mouth under his seeking caress, and he coaxed her tongue into a new dance altogether.

Words can only say so much
It's hard to express
The things you do to me
You're everything I could ever dreamed you'd be

When they finally broke apart, Spike brushed his thumb against her lower lip, then stepped away from her. ‘Goodnight, Buffy,' he signed, before leaving her standing, stunned, in the living room.

It must be love, I'm feeling
This must be love
Oh this must be love, I'm feeling
This must be love

Buffy slowly raised her fingers and put them to her lips. They still tingled from his kiss.




Part Thirteen




Buffy sat on the basement stairs, silently watching Spike as he worked out. He was shirtless and bathed in a sheen of perspiration, as he focused intently on what he was doing. It had been awhile since she'd seen a vampire for longer than her usual stake and move on, and she'd forgotten that the water in the blood they drank to stay alive caused them to sweat.

His hair was tied at the nape of his neck, then fell in a single braid that ended mid-waist. When he swung around to back-fist the practice dummy, it flew out behind him, reminding her of the Japanese Anime movies she used to watch. He followed the move up with a left cross, then blocked as if his opponent were attacking.

She noticed a squeeze bottle, with his name crudely written on it, sitting on a stool near the stereo. She'd given it to him to fill with blood for during his workouts, and she remembered when he asked her for a permanent marker and to write his name on a piece of paper. She'd done so, then she watched from the kitchen doorway as he gripped the marker in his left hand like a stake and slowly copied each letter from the paper onto the side of the bottle. It had been both heartwarming to watch and to realize the thoughtfulness behind his action. It would not have been pleasant for her to grab the wrong bottle and end up with a mouthful of blood.

Spike was getting better, stronger, and more sure of himself. She watched his leg lash out in a hard side-kick, followed by a quick back-kick, then a ‘stake' to the heart. Soon, he'd be able to defend himself against fledglings without problem, perhaps multiple ones if he was angered enough. She grinned when he flicked the practice dummy off, his own version of banter, then let loose with a flurry of punches to its face and torso.

Buffy was impressed with one move he made, and she mentally jotted it down to perhaps use herself. He went to back-fist the dummy with his right fist, then pulled it at the last moment to ‘stake' the dummy underhanded with his left. In a normal fight, the opponent would have flinched his head back, and would automatically bring his arms up to block, leaving his heart unprotected for a killing strike.

"Very impressive," Buffy called out, and she giggled when his head whipped around in surprise. "Up to going against a livelier opponent?"

‘Are you up to having your cute butt kicked?' Spike signed back, after setting the stake down.

She stood and descended the rest of the stairs. "I don't think it's my butt you should be worried about. And did you just call it cute?"

‘Maybe,' he answered. ‘If I did, what are you going to do about it?'

"Kick your cute ass," she replied with a wink. The squared off with each other in the open area of the basement, both dropping into similar fighting stances. "Ready?" He nodded. "Then let's do it."

She made the first move, a high kick towards his face, which he ducked under, then darted closer for a quick jab to her stomach. Buffy blocked his move, and soon they were sparring in earnest, the Slayer not pulling back as much as she normally did. She wanted him to have the practice against a fighting opponent, rather than flattening him within a few minutes.

However, all fights must come to an end, and ten minutes later, she swept his legs out from under him and pounced. Straddling his waist, she brought an imaginary stake to his heart. "Give?"

Spike's hands moved up to grip her hips as he nodded, pushing her lightly off of him. She frowned, wondering what he was doing, then a slow flush spread across her features as realization hit her. "Um, is that a stake in your pocket?" she asked in a breathy voice. "Or are you just happy to see me?"

The look he gave her was part exasperation, part pure embarrassment. He squeezed her hips, indicating he wanted her to move, but she shook her head. Putting both hands on either side of him, she instead leaned forward until she was almost nose-to-nose with him. "You kissed me last night," she whispered. "Now it's my turn to kiss you."

Surprised blue eyes met hazel before Buffy angled her head and initiated their second kiss. She felt his hands tighten on her hips as she brushed her tongue over his bottom lip. His mouth opened under her asking and the kiss deepened, sending her heart pounding madly in her chest.

Spike turned them suddenly, and she was on her back with him pressed intimately between her legs. Their tongues wove erotically together, sending tendrils of electricity down to her core. Her hands encircled his back, her fingers running down his sweaty skin, as her pulse raced under hers.

Then he abruptly stopped, rolling off of her to lay on the floor, his eyes closed and his hands clenched into fists. Confused, Buffy sat up and looked down at him. "Spike?"

‘I'm sorry,' Spike signed, not opening his eyes.

"Sorry? Why should you be sorry?" she asked, completely lost and equally as aroused.

‘Don't want to...,' he paused. Then he admitted, ‘Scared.'

"You're scared?" Buffy said, reaching out to lay a hand on his chest. "There's no reason to be afraid. I want this, I want you. Unless you don't want me..."

Spike opened his eyes at the same time he moved her hand. ‘Does this feel like I don't?'

She grinned. "That could be a stake. Eep!" She suddenly found herself on her back again, a teasing and extremely aroused vampire looming over her on his knees.

‘You want to find out?' he asked, his lips curled up in a small smile.

Buffy sat up far enough to wrap her arms around him, then pull him back down to the floor with her. "Oh, I definitely want to find out."



*****



Spike ran his hand lightly up and down Buffy's arm, his eyes not focusing on anything in the darkened bedroom, as his thoughts turned introspective. They had made love several times, starting in the basement and ending up in his bed, where the tiny blond was curled against him, asleep.

Never in a million years did he think that he'd have sex with a Slayer, let alone fall in love with one. But here he was, lying naked in bed with Buffy, and loving every second of it. When he told her he was scared earlier, it was the truth. He was afraid that he'd be inadequate, that he had forgotten how to make love to someone along with everything else he no longer remembered how to do. He was afraid to take that step, to move their relationship past friendship, to move from that safety to the unknown.

He placed a soft kiss on her brow, wondering what her feelings were. He knew she cared about him, trusted him, shared things with him no one else knew. He also knew she reacted enthusiastically to his touch, gasping and moaning and calling his name in equal abandon as he pleasured her. But, when she awoke, would she regret what happened? Or would she turn to him and profess her love? He highly doubted the second would occur, and was scared that it would be the first.

He still marveled at the fact that he was having all these thoughts and feelings. For so long he'd been violent and fearless, caring for no one but Drusilla and himself. She'd been as strong and vicious as he had been, until the mob in Prague ambushed her and almost killed her. Then he learned what fear was, but it had been mixed with rage and ended in the blood and death of the townspeople who'd hurt her.

When he had returned to Sunnydale after Drusilla had told him off, he'd been depressed and jealous, the fear that she'd really leave him not too prevalent in his mind. He knew, deep down, that she wanted her equal back and it took that trip -- and a spot of violence - to bring that knowledge to the surface. Then he'd gone back to Brazil and showed her that he was every bit the man and demon he'd always been.

For two years, they caused the streets of the countries they visited to bleed. And then suddenly, Drusilla was gone, and his world had disappeared. He literally became nothing without her, everything he'd ever felt vanishing behind a blank wall. He'd become a plaything for other vampires, used and abused for whatever they pleased. He didn't care, didn't react, didn't feel anything that happened to him, and eventually he'd forgotten how to do anything but follow the commands that were programed into his brain by simple repetition and action.

Then one day the abuse stopped, and caring and comfort took its place. The melodic voice of the Slayer had drifted through his silent mind, tugging on him, urging him to break through the wall of nothing. But it wasn't until she held the perfect figurine of Drusilla directly in front of his eyes -- eyes which saw everything but reacted to nothing - that he was brought out of the blankness and finally grieved.

As the months slowly passed, there was no rage, no violence, no bloodlust as his feelings returned one by one. There was only caring and grief, fear and happiness, plus a smidgen of jealousy when his sire had been around. And now there was love. Love for the woman he held in his arms.

Spike moved until Buffy was on her back, with him laying on his side, tracing her face with his fingertips. Her eyes fluttered open, then she smiled shyly at him as he brushed them over her lips. Leaning forward, he replaced his fingers with his mouth, intent on showing her his love through his actions since he could speak no words.

His hand danced down beneath the sheet, caressing her soft skin. One of her hands came up to weave into his still-braided hair, holding his head to hers as the kiss deepened and intensified.

Then the phone rang.




PG-13 Version

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