No Big Deal


by Saber ShadowKitten







"Hi, Spike," Joyce greeted, looking up from the art magazine she was perusing as the vampire entered the kitchen. She had insisted on a 'no knocking required' policy and Spike was able to come and go as he pleased. He had a tendency to come over often to sit and chat with her about anything and everything, especially about her daughter. Joyce had the strong notion that Spike was in love with Buffy, although he would never admit it. Too bad she didn't know what her daughter's feelings for the blond vampire were.

"Hello, Joyce," Spike returned the greeting. He set the paper bag in his arm on the counter and started to unpack it. "Were you able to get that Russian thing?"

"The Czar Matryoshka dolls?" she clarified. He nodded. "Yes. I got them for a steal. They'll go wonderfully with the paintings from that period."

"You know, after the years I've been alive, I've never been there," he commented. He opened the bag of marshmallows and poured them into the tupperware container. Then he grabbed a few off the top and popped them into his mouth. "We almost went, Dru an' me, on my birthday one year. We were in China and it was just a hop away, but Dru wanted to come to the states instead."

"Your birthday?" Joyce said. "I don't ever think you told me when it was."

"The twenty-second of June," Spike replied. He put the container into the cabinet, along with the new cannister of hot chocolate mix and the packets of Kool-Aid he'd purchased. He closed the door, then began to fold down the bag.

"That's on Saturday," she realized. "Why didn't you say anything?"

Spike shrugged. "It's no big deal."

"No big deal? Of course it is," Joyce corrected.

He gave her a humoring smile. "Whatever you say, Joyce. I have to get going. The Slayer has a test tomorrow in Earth Science and I promised to make rounds for her."

"Ok, goodnight," Joyce said. He gave her a small wave, then left. Closing her magazine, she looked thoughtfully at the closed door. Then she reached for a pad of paper and a pen and began to write.

*****



"Does everyone have their assignments?" Joyce asked the group in her living room.

"I got the cake," Willow said.

"Music," Oz replied.

"I have the, er, refreshments," Giles said.

"Munchies," Xander added. "But I still don't know why we're doing this."

"Movies," Buffy said. "And we're doing it because it's Spike's birthday. Didn't you get the memo?"

"He's had, what, three million of them already?" Xander said. "Why does he need a party?"

"Because I say so," Joyce told him. "Now, we only have today to get everything together. Tomorrow, all of you need to show up before eight. Buffy..."

"I know. Keep the birthday boy far away until nine," Buffy said.

"Then we're set," Joyce said. She smiled at everyone. "Let's get to work."

*****



"Look out!" Buffy yelled, then cringed when the demon she and Spike were fighting landed a good hit on the blond vampire, sending him flying back into puddle of muddy water.

The short, Pepto-Bismol pink demon whirled to her and she wrinkled her nose once more in disgust. It came at her with its slimy arms extended. She spun and kicked it across what she hoped was its face, but since there was a definite lack of familiar features, she wasn't too sure.

Spike splashed out of the puddle and launched himself at the creature from behind without warning. The two went down, narrowly missing knocking Buffy down with them in the process. "Slayer, find something to kill this thing," he growled, pulling his fist back and punching hard.

"Right," Buffy said, searching the area of the park they were in. Spying an old, rusty trash basket, she ran over to it and pulled off the rim, then straightened it. "Spike, catch!"

She threw it towards him and he caught it in one hand, then jabbed it straight down into the creature's neck. The creature began flailing in futile effort to free itself, but Spike held on until it stopped moving altogether. The vampire climbed to his feet with a small groan. "Bloody hell."

"What is it?" Buffy asked, concerned for her partner-in-slayage when he put his arm around his waist over a large rip in his t-shirt.

"I think that thing's slime is venomous," Spike hissed, his face scrunched up in pain.

"Oh crap," she said, hurrying to his side, but not touching him. "Come on, your place isn't that far from here."

Five arduous minutes later, Buffy kicked in the front door to Spike's apartment and quickly ran down the hall to the bathroom. She turned on the shower full blast, adjusting the temperature setting to luke-warm. Spike stumbled into the bathroom, his face paler than normal, and lurched forward. Buffy jumped out of the way as he fell over the rim of the tub, cracking his head on the opposite side. He slumped into unconsciousness.

"Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit," Buffy chanted. Too worried to even bother with the possibility of touching the venom herself, she grabbed the back of the collar of his shirt and pulled him back out of the tub and onto the floor. She winced when she saw the large gash across his forehead and his slack features. Quickly, and without thought to her sensibilities, she stripped him out of his clothes.

"Damn it, Spike," she cursed, staring at the large, purplish gash running across his stomach. It was bubbling slightly from the venom, the blood underneath a blackish color as it burned. "Why did you have to get hurt? This is not how I pictured keeping you away from my house until nine."

Glad to have her Slayer strength, she put one arm under his knees and the other under his shoulders, then picked him up. Clothes and all, she stepped into the shower with him. Angling their bodies, she made it so the spray ran directly over his stomach. The wound hissed and steamed, and Spike's head lolled off of her shoulder to hang back limply.

Using the wall for support, Buffy slid downwards until she was sitting on the floor with Spike in her lap. She let go of his legs and carefully lifted his head back to her soaked shoulder, then grabbed the soap from the wall dish barely within reach. The water ran into her face as she roughly used the soap to clean the wound. She was glad he was unconscious for that part, because she'd feel even worse than she did if he was screaming in pain.

She let the shower rinse the soap away and saw that the bubbling had vanished, and the gash was simply bleeding. She quickly ran the soap over as much of the rest of him as she could, glad that the venom didn't seem to have affected him anywhere else. She let the soap drop onto the floor, then used the wall and the side of the tub to push herself upright again, Spike still in her arms.

"Ok, this is good for the glutes and thighs. Jeez, Spike, you need to cut back on the blood bags," she muttered as she got her feet under her. Leaving the shower running, she stepped out of the tub and went down the hallway to his bedroom. Carefully, she laid the wet vampire on his bed, then returned to the bathroom to shut off the water and grab some towels and the first aid kit.

"This is not going to work," she said, her clothes dripping from the impromptu shower. Dropping the towels on the bed by Spike's feet, she toed off her shoes while studying the blond vampire. After ascertaining that he was still truly out of it, she stripped out of her wet clothes, toweled herself dry and began to root around through his drawers for something dry to put on.

She dressed in a pair of boxers and a green, button-down shirt from his closet. Then she returned to Spike's side and gently toweled him off before starting to bandage the gash on both his stomach and his forehead. Spike did not move the entire time.

When she was done, she picked everything up and returned to the bathroom. After putting the first aid kit on the sink, she hung the wet towels and her clothing over the shower bar, then picked up his clothes and the one bloody towel and dropped them into the tub. She filled it up partway with water and left the items to soak. She'd deal with them later.

Buffy returned to the bedroom and really noticed for the first time that Spike was wearing absolutely nothing. A rosy flush slowly crept up her cheeks at the same time her heart rate accelerated. She hadn't told anyone, not even Willow, but she had a serious case of the lusties for the blond vampire. She also was on the verge of falling in love with him, not that she'd ever admit it.

Over the past three years he'd been helping, she'd gone from putting up with him to looking forward to seeing him. He was still arrogant, cocky and full of himself; but he had a soft, hidden side that rarely came out. Once, she had been up all night studying for a mid-term exam and he had surprised her with a pint of her favorite ice cream and a six-pack of Jolt cola after he'd done patrol for her. Another time, she'd watched without his knowing as he got a cat out of a tree for an elderly lady, and then had blushed when she'd given him a plate of cookies in thanks.

Deciding she'd better put his more personal parts under cover before she had a heart attack, she leaned over him and pulled the dark comforter over his lower half. She sat down on the edge of the bed near his side and gently ran the back of her fingers over his cheek. "Spike," she called softly. "It's not good to stay unconscious for so long."

When he didn't stir, she sighed and reached for the phone on the night-stand. After dialing her house, she went back to running her hand along his cheek in an attempt to rouse him.

"Hello?"

"Mom, it's me," Buffy said into the phone.

"Buffy, where are you? It's way past nine," Joyce said on the other end of the line.

"We had a little run-in that ended with ouchies," she replied.

"Are you ok?"

"I'm fine, but Spike's a bit on the unconscious side."

"What happened?" Joyce asked, concern in her voice.

"He got clawed and the demon thingy had some sort of venom. We made it back here before he collapsed and hit his head on the tub," Buffy explained. "Looks like the party's gonna be a wash."

"Well, we can always have it another day, the important thing is that he's alright," Joyce said.

"Yeah," she agreed. "Can you put Giles on, please?"

"Sure, honey, hold on," Joyce replied.

"Hello?"

"Giles, Spike got clawed by some pink, slimy demon and he said it was venomous. I washed the wound out and everything, but I need you to find out if he's going to be ok or not," Buffy said.

"Is there anything else you can tell me about the demon?" Giles asked.

"It was really short and had no face," Buffy replied.

"I shall get right on it," Giles said.

"Thanks. Call me back here at Spike's," she said.

"Very well."

Spike let out a low groan at that moment. "He's waking up, Giles. Research fast." Buffy hung up after Giles said goodbye and turned her attention to the injured vampire. "Spike, can you hear me?"

"Stop shouting," Spike said in a pain-filled voice.

"Sorry," Buffy whispered.

"S-ok," he said, opening his eyes into slits. "Are you wearing my shirt?"

"I kinda got wet," she said with a half-grin.

"You are aware of the fact that wearing a man's shirt is the ultimate turnon?" Spike mumbled.

"I think I read that somewhere," Buffy said, a blush staining her cheeks.

"Just wanted to make sure," he said, his eyes falling shut again.

"Spike, you need to stay conscious," she told him, reaching out and brushing her hand over his cheek. "You may have gotten a concussion when you banged your head on the tub."

"I would love to see what you look like riding me wearing only that shirt."

"What?" Buffy gasped, not believing her ears.

"What of it, luv? Feel up for a quick shag?" Spike asked. "I know I'm up for it."

"You want to have sex with me?" she said in a high squeak.

"No, I want to make love to you," he corrected quietly.

"Spike, I think you hit your head too hard," Buffy said quickly, trying to get her reaction to his words under control. "This is me, Buffy, the Slayer, the girl you don't like, remember?"

"I don't like you, Slayer," Spike said, his voice low and soft.

"Oh," she said, disappointment hitting her.

"Buffy, I love you."

Buffy was so startled, she slipped off the side of the bed and landed on the floor with a thud. "You love me?" she asked with the same high squeak as moments before.

"For a long time now," he said.

"Oh." Her eyes were huge as she stared at the side of the night-stand. Spike loved her. Spike loved her. Spike loved her. Spike loved her!! "Holy shit."

The phone rang and she answered it without moving from her position. "Hello?"

"Buffy? It's Giles," Giles said from the other end of the line. "The demon was remarkably easy to find in-in the Compendium of..."

"Giles," Buffy interrupted.

"Oh, right," he said. "The Marshikin's venom burns open skin wounds and seeps into the victim's, er, bloodstream, causing them to speak what's foremost on their minds until the-the venom bleeds out of the victim's system."

"Will they remember what they said?" Buffy asked.

"Most likely not," Giles replied.

"Oh. Ok," she said.

"Be careful, Buffy," Giles said. "Spike is liable to have violent thoughts foremost in his mind, especially since he is-is injured."

"You don't know how wrong you are," Buffy muttered.

"Pardon?"

"I'd better go," she said. "Thanks for the quick work."

They said goodbye and she stood to hang up the phone. She looked at Spike's peaceful features, then turned and fled from the bedroom.

*****



Buffy was on her two-hundredth lap around the coffee table in the living room when there was a knock on the door. Frowning, she went over and looked through the peep-hole, then opened the door. "Mom, what are you doing here?"

"I just felt bad about Spike being hurt on his birthday, so I brought over some of the party things," Joyce said. Xander, Willow and Oz entered the hallway loaded down with boxes and bags.

"Hi Buffy," Willow said cheerfully. "Since Spike couldn't come to the party, we brought it to him."

"What are you wearing, Buff?" Xander asked. "Are those Blondie's boxers?"

"Um, guys," Buffy said. "This is really great and all, but Spike's comatose."

"No, I'm not," Spike said from behind Buffy, causing her to jump around, startled.

"What are you doing up?" Buffy said, glad to see that he was wearing a pair of running pants.

"I'm answering my door, what does it look like?" Spike replied. He looked her over from head to toe. "You look ravishing in that outfit. Mind if I take you in the other room and-"

"Ha, ha," Buffy interrupted. "Very funny. Oh look, my Mom's here. And Willow and Xander and Oz. Hi guys."

"Hello, Joyce, it's always a pleasure to see you," Spike greeted. He gestured for everyone to enter. "Willow, Oz, the same. Xander, get lost."

"Hey!" Xander protested. The things each of the friends were carrying were set on the small dining room table.

"Ignore him, Xander," Buffy said. "In fact, everyone ignore everything that comes out of Spike's mouth. Please."

"Do you want me to stop talking, Slayer?" Spike asked. "I can think of other things I wouldn't mind doing with my mouth instead."

"Spike," Buffy hissed, hitting him on the shoulder as the others stared at him. "Shush. Go back to your room and put a shirt on or something."

"I'd rather you come back with me a-"

"Go." Buffy somewhat forcefully pushed him in the direction of his bedroom. With a chuckle, he left the room and she slumped in relief. "Guys, I think you should go. Spike's been affected by the demon's venom and is delirious. Very delirious. So you should go. Now."

"Well, at least let us wish him a happy birthday," Joyce said.

"I don't think that's a good idea," Buffy said. "I think you should leave."

"Trying to get me all alone, luv?" Spike asked, re-entering the room with a t-shirt in his hands. He winced as he put it on. "Ouch. That fucking hurts. If that thing wasn't dead, I'd happily go out and rip its disgusting body to pieces. Cor, I haven't done that in a long time. I remember, one night, Dru, Angelus and I came across this couple-"

Buffy interrupted him yet again. "We so don't want to hear about it."

"What if I want to tell the story?" Spike scowled at her.

"Mom, say your 'happy birthday' and go, please," Buffy begged.

"Who's birthday?" Spike asked, looking from person to person.

"It's yours, brain trust," Xander said.

"I hope nobody cares if I tear the boy's tongue out and beat him with it," Spike said casually.

Xander ducked behind Willow, who was staring at Spike in confusion. "Spike? Do you really want to hurt Xander?"

"All the bloody time," Spike replied. "He is so fucking annoying. I don't know how my sire put up with the whelp. Soul or not, I would have boxed his ears in the second everyone's back was turned."

"Spike!" Joyce snapped. "You apologize to Xander right now."

"Why should I?" he asked, confused. "Normally, I'd do whatever you said, because I respect you and you remind me of my mum. You listen to me and don't treat me like a bloody nuisance, like everyone else does. I really love you for that."

"He means it, Mom," Buffy said to a stunned Joyce. "The venom in his blood is making him say whatever's on his mind."

"I see," Joyce said. She walked over and gave Spike a careful hug. "You're a good boy," she told him quietly so the others wouldn't hear. "Even if you are decades older than me."

"Thanks, Joyce," Spike said, hugging her back. "That means a lot to me."

"Happy birthday," Joyce told him as she stepped back.

"Do I get gifts?" he asked with a little boy's excitement.

"Wait, Buffy," Xander said. "You mean that bleach-head will say what's on his mind, no matter what we ask?"

"Xander," Buffy warned. "Don't even-"

"Hey, Spike. Tell us what you really think of Angel," Xander said to the blond vampire.

"I think he's a trotting sod who wouldn't know his thumb from a cock shoved up his arse," Spike replied, looking through the stuff on his dining room table. "He's still a sexy son-of-a-bitch, though. I wouldn't mind getting a leg up on him, for old time's sake."

"Um, eew," Xander said. Buffy hit her forehead with the palm of her hand and whimpered.

"I know he wanted to give you a good seeing to," he continued, opening the cake box. "Just to put you in your place...ooh, cake." He stuck his finger in the frosting, then licked it off. "Devil's food cake, my favorite."

"I figured it was," Willow said. "Well, not that I think you wouldn't like the other stuff. But I couldn't say angel's food cake with a straight face when I pictured who it was for. Not that I don't think you deserve angel's food cake..."

"Willow, you cute, babbling sprite," Spike interrupted. "Whatever you got would be fine."

Spike went into the kitchen and Buffy quickly pounced on the break. "See guys, he's not all there. You heard what he said to Xander. And he called Willow a babbling sprite! You should leave before he says something worse."

There was a crash in the kitchen. Buffy gave the others a startled look, then ran out of the room towards the noise. She found Spike sitting on the floor clutching his stomach, a broken plate scattered around him. He looked up at her, his teeth clenched together, a yellow glint in his eyes. "Fuck, Slayer, I 'urt."

Buffy crouched by his side and pulled his arm away from his stomach. The light blue of his t-shirt had a reddish-black line of blood seeping into the material. "Great. Come on, back to the shower with you," she said, putting her arm under his shoulder and helping him to his feet.

"Are you going to take one with me?" he hissed out.

"No," Buffy replied firmly. They exited the kitchen and headed towards the bathroom. "Sorry, everyone, but the party is definitely over."

"Ok, honey," Joyce said.

Buffy didn't wait to see if her mother or the others said anything else. She hit the light in the bathroom, then closed the door behind them. She released Spike, who leaned heavily against the sink, and went over to the tub and pulled out the clothes soaking in it. They ended up in a wet pile in the corner and the drain was opened to empty the pink-tinged water.

"Slayer, make it stop," Spike whined. "It bloody 'urts."

"I know it does," Buffy said. She turned to him and saw that his face was once again paler than normal. "Don't you dare pass-out on me again."

She helped him take his shirt off, wincing as he winced. The bandage across his stomach was soaked through, more black than red because of the venom. Carefully, she pulled the taped gauze from his skin and dropped it in the waste basket. "Oh, Spike, this looks nasty."

"Kiss it and make it better," he said between clenched teeth.

Buffy couldn't help the corners of her mouth turning up. Deciding to be daring, she went up onto her toes and, being careful not to brush against him, pressed a quick kiss to his lips. "Now, take off your pants," she said, a devilish twinkle in her eyes.

"Cor, Slayer, now I want to slam you up against the door and shag you until we both collapse," Spike muttered, pulling the ties on his running pants. "I 'ate bein' 'urt."

Buffy blushed and returned to the shower. She turned the water on, adjusted it, then turned on the shower. "Ok, use the soap and really wash the gash good," she instructed, turning to face him. "I'll-Spike! You-you-you...you've got a happy!"

He rolled his eyes, his hand pressed over the wound on his stomach. "No kidding, Slayer. I always have a bloody hard-on when you're around."

She put her hands to her cheeks and partially over her eyes. "Spike, get in the shower."

"Yes, dear," he replied in a nasal voice.

When she heard the curtain close behind her, she dropped her hands and quickly went to the sink. She turned on the cold tap and splashed her face, trying to cool down her heated skin. He was so very...not small. She knew at that moment, if he wasn't hurt, she would gladly spread her legs for him to screw her right against the door like he wanted.

A loud snarl echoed in the bathroom and she winced. She did not want to know how painful the injury really was. It hurt her just to hear the combination snarl-whimper emanate from behind the shower curtain. Grabbing a clean towel from beneath the sink, she dried her face off.

"Slayer, fuck," Spike gasped. "Help."

Buffy dropped the towel onto the sink and pulled the shower curtain partially aside in an instant. Spike was leaning against the wall, slowly sliding downwards, his eyes squeezed shut and an un-natural greyish tone to his skin. The gash in his stomach was freely bleeding black, steaming blood, staining his skin as it ran down the front of him.

Without hesitation, she climbed into the shower and aided him to sit on the floor of the tub. "I'm sorry, Spike, this is going to hurt lots," she told him apologetically as she grabbed the soap from the floor. She half-straddled his legs, the shower spray hitting her in the back of the head and over her shoulder to hit his stomach. Gritting her teeth together, she began rubbing the soap over the injury.

Spike howled out in pain, his scream echoing in the room, ripping into her heart. He had his hands clenched together so tightly, his blunt nails drew blood as his fingers dug into his palms. Tears of sympathy began to fall down her cheeks as she continued to scrub at the wound, unnoticing of the fact that the bathroom became silent save for the running of the shower.

When the area washed away clean and only red blood came from the gash, she dropped the soap and raised her head to see Spike unconscious again, his head lolling forward, his chin to his chest. "What a horrible way to spend your birthday," she said, reaching back to turn off the water. "It's almost like mine."

With a lot of maneuvering, she managed to get him out of the tub and onto the floor. Then she stripped out of her wet clothing and added them to the ones on the floor. She toweled herself off, then him, and retrieved the first aid kit still on the sink. She re-bandaged the wound, as well as the one on his forehead.

"Well, I hope everyone went home, or they're going to see naked Buffy carrying naked Spike down the hall to the bedroom," Buffy said to herself.

Her luck was good, no one was in the apartment. As earlier, she set him gently on the bed, pulled the edge of the comforter over his lower half, then dug out another pair of boxers and a shirt. She yawned loudly, suddenly drained from all the activity. Her eyes drifted to the opposite side of the large bed, then back to the unconscious vampire.

"Screw it," Buffy said, then rounded the bed, after shutting off the lamp on the night-stand, and climbed in. She sighed happily at the comfortableness of the bed and snuggled down into the pillow. A few minutes later, she drifted off to sleep.

*****



"Now this is right interesting," Spike said quietly. He was laying on his side, arm propping up his head, and looking down at Buffy.

Buffy opened her eyes and met Spike's questioning gaze. "Hey. You look conscious."

"And I'm not normally?" Spike said, a small smirk playing over his lips.

She glanced at the clock on the night-stand, then returned her eyes to his. "Last night you sure weren't."

"I have a silly question. What are you doing in my bed?" he asked.

"Duh, sleeping," she replied. She wondered if the venom was still effecting him or not. "Um, Spike?"

"Yes, ducks?"

"Do you...how do you feel...about me?" Buffy asked.

"Is this a trick question?" Spike replied, narrowing his eyes slightly.

Well, that answered her question about the venom. "No. Never mind," she told him. "How's your stomach?"

"Peachy," he answered. "Now tell me what it is you want to know."

"Spike, it's nothing," Buffy said.

"Slayer," Spike said. "Answer me."

"Stop being annoying," she said, glaring at him.

Spike's nostrils flared and his eyes seemed to darken as he stared down at her. "Slayer, do you have any stakes on you?"

"Why?" Buffy replied, frowning slightly.

"Because you're more bloody beautiful right now than I've ever seen before," Spike said just as he leaned down and kissed her.

His lips were cool and firm against hers. Her breath caught and her eyelids fluttered shut as he drew her into responding. The kiss was almost exactly like her fantasies, only better, because it was really happening. Her hand went around the back of his head to urge him to continue and she felt the brush of his tongue against her lower lip.

Acquiescing, she opened her mouth and allowed him passage. His tongue plunged inside, caressing hers, pulling her into playing in return. Her heart was pounding in her chest, the material of the shirt she was wearing became stifling as her skin heated up, all because of the kiss. If he asked, she'd enthusiastically strip out of her clothing and allow him to have his wicked way with her, as long as he promised to kiss her like he was doing.

When he broke away, she let out a breathy, "No," and tried to pull him back to her. Spike chuckled and pressed a brief kiss to her lips, then pulled away again to meet her gaze steadily.

"I take it that was ok?" he asked quietly.

"Yes," Buffy replied shyly. If she hadn't fallen before, she was head over heels now, all because of one kiss.

"Good," Spike said. "I've been wanting to do that for a bloody long time now."

"I know," she said.

Spike frowned. "How do you know?"

"Oh." Buffy gave him a small grin. "You told me last night."

"I did?" he said, clearly perplexed. "I don't remember that."

"The venom made you do it," she told him. She giggled. "You told Xander that you didn't like him in a nicely graphic manner."

"I take it that's not all I said?" he prompted.

"Um, no," Buffy replied. She started to blush and dropped her gaze. "You, uh, told my Mom that you loved her like your own Mom."

"Well, I do," Spike said. "But that's not what's making you blush."

"You may have...kinda...told me the same thing," she said slowly.

"That I loved your mum like my mum?"

"No," Buffy said.

"That I loved you like my mum?"

"No," she sighed.

"That I loved you like your mum?"

"God, you are so dense," Buffy said, scowling at him. "You told me that you loved me, period."

"Er...," Spike trailed off, a faint blush coloring his cheeks. "I did, did I?"

Hurt and disappointment coursed through her. "But I didn't pay any attention to it. It was the venom talking, not you. I mean, why would you love me? That'd be like Xander and Angel actually getting alo-"

Buffy was cut off when Spike pressed his lips to hers once again. His tongue invaded her mouth, forcing hers into battle. One of his arms crossed over her to support his weight as the kiss became more passionate. She mewled in the back of her throat, her hands going up to grip his biceps, as their mouths clashed.

When he broke off, she had to suck in a ragged breath and her heart was pounding as if she'd ran a marathon. He had a small smile on his face as he stared down into her eyes.

"It's true," he said softly. Then he rolled away from her and got out of bed. Before she could form a coherent sentence, he had grabbed a pair of boxers out of his dresser and left the bedroom.

*****



"What are you doing?" Buffy asked, standing in the doorway of Spike's kitchen. She noted that he had cleaned up the broken plate from the previous night.

"Making you breakfast," Spike replied, cracking another egg over a frying pan on the stove.

"Yesterday was your birthday, you know," she said, not moving from her spot. "Mom tried to throw you a party."

"I take it that's what the things on the table were for," he said.

"Yeah," Buffy replied. "Uh, do you want your present from me?"

He shrugged. "Up to you, pet. I don't normally celebrate my birthday."

"Well...here." She held out a folded piece of paper. "Happy birthday."

Spike set the frying pan on another burner and turned off the flame, then walked over to her, the fresh bandage across his stomach a white slash over the dark color of his boxers. He took the paper with a curious lift of his brow.

Buffy watched him as he read what she had written, trying to hide her smile. When his startled gaze shot to hers, she let it break out across her features. "I'd like to see anyone else top that gift."

"There's no bloody way," Spike told her, then slid his hand into her hair as he bent his head to kiss her.

The piece of paper with the words "I love you, Spike," fluttered to the ground and went half-under the small shelves along the kitchen wall as the kiss grew more passionate. Later, Joyce would find it during the Day After Spike's Birthday Brunch and she would carefully smooth out the wrinkles and fold it back in half before adding it to the pile of opened gifts with a smile on her face.

She suspected Spike would never say his birthday was no big deal again.



End