"I'm gonna take a walk, guys," Buffy said, brushing the sand off of her as she stood. "Make sure the fang gang hasn't made off with any of the smoochers."
"‘K, Buff," Xander replied, raising his can of soda to her. "Yodel if you need us."
Buffy rolled her eyes and left Xander, Amy, Willow and Oz at the beach party one of the clubs on campus was hosting. The weather was nice, not too cool for April, and the mixture of students, fresh air and the ocean made for a pleasant Saturday night. She hadn't had too many of those recently, what with her Slayer duties increasing due to some sort of astrological mumbo jumbo Giles tried to tell her about.
Walking close to the water, she glanced over the couples making out in the sand, casually looking for unwanted guests. Not finding any of her undead foe, she continued down the beach away from the revelers with a sigh. She loved her friends dearly, but the beach was a place for romance and she was sorely lacking in that department. Angel had been gone for almost a year now and, although they saw each other every so often, it wasn't the same. She wasn't the same.
Certainly she had tried dating again, but she quickly found that normal boys - human boys - were either put off by her strength and attitude, or she hurt them because of her strength and attitude. One guy she dated ended up with a broken hand because she squeezed it too hard during one of their few and far between make out sessions. It also didn't help that she had to interrupt dates or cancel at the last minute to run off and save the world. Or they'd be interrupted by her partner in slayage and she'd have to run off with him to save the world. She never got a call back after that would happen.
Briefly, she wondered where Spike was that night. "Probably cozying it up with my mom again," she muttered under her breath. For some reason, the blond vampire had bonded with her mother. More often than not, she'd find him at her house, the two of them acting like Chatty Cathys. It was annoying. More because he never seemed to want to just talk with her like that than because she didn't like him. She did like him, in a sort of ‘you watch my back, I watch your back and we'll insult each other as often as possible' kind of way.
Buffy came to the sand dune that separated the public beach from the private one and started to turn around to head back when she heard that familiar British accent coming from the other side. Frowning, she climbed carefully up the dune as three younger voices joined his.
"Tell us the story again, Spike," she heard a little girl say.
"Are you sure you don't want a different one, Julie?" Spike's reply floated over the dune.
"The Daggin one," a younger boy said.
Curious, Buffy kept silent as she crested the dune. The porch light from the house illuminated the beach and what she saw down below her made her grin. She quietly sat in the sand and wrapped her arms around her knees, watching as Spike helped three children to build a sand castle. The kids looked like siblings, all with dark hair and sandy clothing. She estimated that the little boy was around three and the other two around six or seven.
"Yeah, like Paul said, the Dragon one," the older boy echoed.
"I think you can tell it as good as me, Jason," Spike said, pushing the wet sand together to form a tower. "Considering I've told you three this story every night for the past week."
"Please," Julie begged.
"Pwease?" Paul joined in, clutching a sodden blanket in one hand.
"Oh, very well," Spike sighed dramatically. Buffy watched as the children bounced happily, then went back to work on the sand castle. "Once upon a time, back when good little children didn't ask for the same story every night..."
"Hey, that's not how it goes," Jason interrupted. "Do it right."
"Do it wight," Paul echoed.
"Once upon a time," Spike began again. "There lived a beautiful princess high up in a castle on a hill. She had hair that looked like gold in the sunshine and hazel eyes that showed every emotion that she felt. Many people loved her for her beauty and charm and wit, but none of them knew the true princess. For she had a secret."
"What was it?" Julie asked, becoming enthralled by the story despite having heard it many times before.
"The princess," he continued. "Was the Dragon Slayer."
"And she was the only one who could do it," Jason said.
"That's right," Spike agreed, building up the wall to the sand castle. "Many other knights tried to slay the dragons, but she was the only one with the strength and skill to succeed. But, back then, princesses weren't suppose to slay dragons. They were suppose to go out on dates with potential princes, hoping to find true love."
Buffy was becoming as enraptured with the story as the children were as he continued. "Now, because the beautiful princess was the Dragon Slayer, she didn't have time to search for her true love. She had also been gifted with magical powers that made her strong and able to wield her sword, and many of her suitors were frightened off by this. Her mum told her that she should not worry, because she would know her true love instantly when she looked him in the eyes. So, the princess tried not to be sad, but her close friends knew she was, knew that she wanted a true love of her own. "
Spike paused and carefully built a draw bridge over the moat around the sand castle, then went on. "One night, the princess learned where a new dragon's cave was located, and she headed out with her sword to slay him. She arrived at his cave and called to him to come out and fight her. ‘I am the Dragon Slayer,' she said. ‘I have come to slay you so the citizens of my town can be safe from creatures like you.'"
Paul was now laying on his blanket, watching Spike with sleepy eyes. Both Julie and Jason had stopped helping with the sand castle and just sat listening to him. "Now what the princess didn't know was that this particular dragon was in love with her. He had followed her each night she went out slaying, always ready to help her should she need it. When the dragon saw her standing outside of his cave, he was sad because it was her duty to slay him and she would never return his love.
"He came out of his cave, his ridged head lowered and said through his sharp fangs, ‘Fair princess, before you slay me, may I ask one thing.' The princess looked at the dragon as if he were out of his mind. Dragons weren't suppose to act friendly, they were suppose to be mean and eat people. She didn't know that the dragon had stopped eating people long ago, when he fell in love with her. ‘Yes,' the princess finally replied. ‘What do you wish to ask me?'"
Spike began to detail the sand castle as he continued. "‘Please, beautiful princess, may I have one kiss before you slay me?' the dragon asked. Now, the princess was not dumb, but she was very kind- hearted. Sword at the ready in case it was a trick, she walked over to his lowered head and gave him a soft kiss upon his ridged brow.
"Then, before her very eyes, the dragon turned into a prince. The princess was amazed. ‘Dragon, how did you do that?' she asked. ‘It was not me, but you, princess,' the dragon prince said. ‘Your kind heart allowed you to look past my ridges and fangs to kiss me. And the magic of my love for you must have turned me into a prince,'" Spike said, adding a plastic straw flag to one of the towers.
"The princess did not know what to say. The dragon, who was suppose to be her mortal enemy, was in love with her. And he had turned into a prince because of this! The dragon prince stepped closer to the princess and, as she met his blue eyes, she fell instantly in love. Her mum had been right. A smile blossomed on her face as her heart filled with happiness and the dragon prince was surprised when she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him again!"
Finished with the sand castle, Spike turned and smiled at the two barely awake children. "‘What was that for?' the dragon prince asked. The princess smiled at him and took his hand. ‘Dragon, I am in love with you, too,' she said. The dragon prince's smile lit up the night as he took her in his arms and spun her ‘round and ‘round. Then, hand in hand, they went back to the castle high on the hill and lived happily ever after."
Buffy watched as two adults walked up to the small group from the house as the story ended, and Spike greeted them. "Hello Martha, John. Did you have a pleasant night?"
"Yes we did," Martha replied as she picked up Paul. "Thank you so much for watching them again."
Spike shrugged. "It was no problem," he replied, helping Jason to his feet. John picked up Julie and headed for the house.
"Bye, Spike," Jason said. "Will we see you this summer?"
"I think that can be arranged," Spike told him. The boy nodded and followed his dad. He turned to the mother. "Have a safe trip home, Martha."
"We will," Martha replied. "Goodnight."
"‘Ni-" Spike was cut off by the little girl running up to him and throwing her arms around him.
"I'll miss you, Spike," Julie said, hugging him.
"I'll miss you, too, Julie," he replied, hugging her back. "Now, it's time for princesses to be in bed."
"When I grow up, I'm going to be a Dragon Slayer, just like in your story," she told him, then turned and scampered back towards the house.
Buffy continued to be silent as the family entered the house. She saw Spike turn and face the ocean, his hands hanging loosely at his sides. The porch light shut off and the beach was bathed in shadows, the only illumination coming from the half-moon.
She studied him, wondering why she never realized that he had such a soft side. It was obvious that he liked the children, and not for a quick meal, either. And that story he told was so sweet. If only she could find a prince as easily as the princess did.
Standing, she silently walked down the dune and over to him, being careful not to step on the sand castle. He must have been deep in thought, because when she put her hand on his arm, he jumped around, his fangs flashing as he struck a defensive position. "It's just me," she said, holding up her hands in mock surrender.
"What are you doing out here?" Spike grumbled, relaxing his fighting stance. His yellow eyes seemed to be glowing against the dark night.
In response, Buffy took a step closer and stood on her tip toes, then kissed his ridged brow. As she lowered herself down, his face melted back to its handsome human mask. He stared at her in surprise, his blue eyes reflecting something she'd seen but never paid close attention to before. Then, it clicked. The story. The dragon. The Dragon Slayer.
The dragon who was in love with the Dragon Slayer.
A kind of mushy feeling started to run from her toes upwards as that realization hit her. She couldn't explain it away if her life depended upon it. So, instead of bothering, she went up on her toes for a second time, her hands on his shoulders, and kissed him. Right on the lips.
She felt him start, inhale sharply and then his arms went around her waist, pulling her close against him. His lips were cool and firm under hers as she let him deepen the kiss. A tingling sensation replaced the mushy feeling and her hands slid around his neck, bringing her all the more closer to him.
The kiss could have only lasted seconds or hours, she didn't know. When they finally broke apart, she could only stare at him, his blue eyes fathomless as they met hers. After a moment, a tiny smile crossed her lips and she asked quietly, "Does the princess have a name?"
Spike looked confused for a second, then she would swear that he blushed as he averted his eyes. "Uh, you heard that?"
"Every word," she replied. "Well?"
"The princess? Does she have a name?" Buffy repeated.
Spike's eyes returned to hers and he grinned. "Buttercup."
Buffy arched her brow. "Princess Buttercup, the Dragon Slayer? Does that make the dragon the Dread Pirate Wesley?"
"Of course," he said, taking her hand in his and leading her back up the sand dune.
"Has anyone ever told you that you're weird?"
"And lived? Only you, Slayer," he answered with a cocky smile as they reached the top of the dune. "Going to have to fix that little oversight..."
"Spike," Buffy interrupted, turning to face him. "Shut up and kiss me."
"As you wish, Buffy," Spike replied with a wink as he pulled her into his arms. "As you wish."