Spike and Buffy entered the Bronze, hand in hand. Music was pouring out onto the street and adults and teens alike were crowding into the already packed club.
Spike had been teaching Buffy to dance for the entire Fall semester. He swore it was fate when he received a flyer about a theme night at the Bronze.
The two had dressed in clothing from the original period in history. Spike dug the outfits from a trunk held in his storage locker. He had entertained Buffy with stories about the times as they shifted through the trunk’s contents.
Spike was dressed in a two piece suit, with a white shirt and tie. On his feet were shiny black shoes. Buffy wore a skirt and blouse combination, with a scarf tied up in her hair. She wore patent leather shoes.
Joining similarly dressed patrons, Spike led Buffy to the dance floor. Music was blasting from the speakers and they fell into step easily.
"This is fun," Buffy said as Spike spun her around the floor.
"Glad you’re enjoying yourself, pet," Spike replied.
After an hour of dancing, Buffy needed a break. Spike left her at a table and went to get her a drink.
"Hey, Buffy!" Willow said as she walked up to the Slayer.
"Willow!" Buffy smiled brightly. "Have a sit down."
Willow slid into a chair across from her friend. "I saw you dancing. You’re really good."
"I had a good teacher," Buffy said. She wiggled her brows suggestively.
"Buffy! You…and Spike?!" Willow exclaimed. "We knew you two were dating from the incident in the hospital, but you’re doing more?!"
"What can I say? I have a thing for vampires," Buffy replied.
"Did someone call me?" Spike said, coming up behind his love. He set her drink on the table, then took a seat. "Hello, Willow."
Willow stammered a reply. "Hi S-Spike."
"I won’t bite," Spike said with a gently smile to the hacker. "You’re too sweet."
"Who are you here with?" Buffy asked, rescuing her friend from her lover’s charms.
Willow blushed an even brighter red.
"Willow?" Buffy prodded.
"Giles," came the whispered answer. Only with their superior hearing were Buffy and Spike able to discern what she said.
"Giles?!" Buffy exclaimed. "You’re getting jiggy with Giles?! How’d this happen?"
"He asked and I said yes," Willy said shyly. She looked around the crowded room. "He’s around here somewhere."
"You think he would have told me…wait a minute! Of course he wouldn’t tell me. He only tells me to train harder or when some baddie is trying to kill me," Buffy said.
"Any ‘baddies’ on the schedule for this week, luv?" Spike asked, an amused grin on his face.
"Nope. Calendars free from evil this weekend. I only have to put up with you," Buffy answered.
"Very cute, Slayer. You’re a laugh a minute," Spike said, wryly.
"Maybe I should become a comedian. Either that or a shrink, so I can examine my own head for wanting to be with you."
Willow listened as the two bantered back and forth, her head moving in time with the zingers.
"H-hello, Buffy…er, Spike," Giles said as he approached the table.
"Giles!" Buffy said. She kicked out the extra chair. "Have a seat! We were just talking about you."
"Now why do I find that disturbing?" Giles asked with his normal dry wit. He took the proffered chair.
"Anything that comes out of her mouth is disturbing," Spike said. He earned a swat from Buffy.
"Yes…well, quite," Giles said. "How were finals?" he asked, changing the subject.
"I got an ‘A’ on my philosophy final!" Buffy gushed. "So did Spike!"
"Very good, the both of you," Giles said, nodding to Spike. He still didn’t trust the vampire, but Buffy seemed to know what she was doing. But then again, he said the same thing about Angel and look where that led.
"Thanks. We are picking up our final report from psychology class on Monday," Buffy said.
"What was it about?" Willow asked.
"Oh, we had to report on what we learned from our project. I wrote that I learned how to balance a budget, how to spend Spike’s money and what to do if we split up," she replied. "Very enlightening."
The music started another lively tune and the two couples returned to the dance floor.
"You really think we’d split up?" Spike asked as they danced.
"It’s always a possibility," Buffy said.
Spike frowned at her. "What brought this on?"
"It was just an assignment, Spike. I had to cover all angles."
Spike mulled over her statement as theme night continued.
Spike lay in bed the next day, staring at the ceiling. He couldn’t get what Buffy had said out of his mind. *What did she mean, it’s a possibility? I thought everything was going great. Granted, I’m a vampire and she’s the Slayer. But still…*
Spike sighed and reached for a cigarette. He inhaled the smoke deeply, letting it curl into his dead lungs. Buffy would have his hide for smoking in the bed. Anywhere in the condo, for that matter. She was on a real health kick.
He thought back over the assignment for their Family Living class. It was simple enough. Choose a partner or stay single. Prepare a budget and answer the questions posed for each week at the end of the handout. Nothing too difficult. Nothing that said they’d split up.
Then he remembered the discussion about whether to be a married couple or lifetime partners.
"Bloody hell," Spike swore as he thought about that night and every subsequent night they worked on the project. Buffy had always seemed to distance herself from him as they worked, physically and emotionally. She usually left after they finished for the evening, barely pausing to say goodnight.
As he crushed out the remainder of the cigarette into an ashtray, Spike realized what he had unintentionally done.
He’d broken Buffy’s heart.
"Hi Will," Buffy said into the phone. "How are things with Giles?"
"Good. We’ve been researching the recent comet activity and their effects on Sunnydale," Willow said excitedly.
"Only you and Giles would be excited about researching," Buffy said. "A match made in geekdom heaven."
"Should I be offended?" Willow asked.
"Nah. I think it’s cool. You and Giles that is. I always wondered if there was something beating under all that tweed for you."
"Really? Do you think so?"
Buffy laughed at the hope in Willow’s voice. "Yeah, I do. I saw the way he looked at you at the Bronze. Let’s just say, the Watcher is watching you."
Willow sputtered a reply and Buffy could see her friend’s blush. "Not to change the subject. Actually, it is to change the subject. How are you and Spike?"
Buffy sighed. "Ok, I guess."
"I don’t know. I’ve just been feeling down lately. Ever since we started our Family Living project, I got to thinking about that whole ‘a Slayer rarely lives past her teens’ thing. I mean, I’m 20 now, so I am definitely tempting fate."
"But you did die once, already. You know…with the Master."
"Thanks for reminding me," Buffy said sarcastically.
"Sorry," Willow replied.
"’S-ok. Don’t mind me, I’m just acting wiggy. New subject."
"I need your help," Spike said upon entering the library.
Giles jumped and spun around, shielding Willow who was seated at the computer. "Goodness, you scared me."
Spike sent him a cheeky grin. "I have that effect on people."
"Er…y-yes. What did you say you wanted?" Giles said.
"Help, Watcher. I need your help. Yours too, little hacker," Spike said, smiling at the red-head.
"With what?" Willow asked, smiling back at Spike. *He’s not so bad. When he’s not trying to kill us, that is.*
"IneedhelppickingoutaringforBuffy," Spike said swiftly. He thrust his hands in his pockets.
"Pardon?" Giles asked.
Spike looked down at the floor, shifting his weight from one foot to another. "I need help picking out a ring for Buffy."
Willow’s eyes widened as Giles’ mouth dropped open in shock.
Spike glanced up at the duo when he received no forthcoming response. "Well? Are you gonna bloody help me or not?"
"Y-you’re gonna propose to Buffy?" Willow asked in a breathy voice.
"Do you have a problem with that?" Spike said, frowning.
"No," Willow squeaked.
"Is that wise? T-to propose, th-that is," Giles stuttered, completely caught off guard.
Spike closed his eyes and ran a hand through his peroxide blond hair. "I don’t know. This whole psychology project got me thinking, and I realized I broke her heart."
"And you think by giving her a ring, all your worries will vanish?" Giles asked snidely.
"Yes. No. I don’t know, dammit!" Spike yelled. "All I know is that I love her and I don’t want any ‘possibly’ in our relationship!"
Willow and Giles exchanged puzzled glances as Spike started to pace. They spoke quietly to each other before Willow turned to the agitated vampire.
"What can we do to help?"
Spike was set. Willow had gone with him to pick out the ring while the Watcher kept Buffy occupied. Now, he only had to pick a day to give it to her.
"Just whatever you do, don’t give it to her on her birthday," Willow warned as they walked home from the mall.
Spike snuck into Buffy’s bedroom in search of her diary. He knew she kept one, because she’d mentioned it once. He only had about twenty minutes to find it and get out before Buffy came back from patrol.
It was sitting out in plain sight on her nightstand. Surprised that she’d leave something this personal out for her mother to read, Spike picked it up and turned to the date he wanted, no needed, to know about. Buffy birthday, 1998.
I had this horrible dream. I was in the Bronze, and Willow was sitting at a table next to a monkey with a little hat. I ran into my mother, who asked me if I was ready, then dropped a saucer. I found Angel and he started to walk towards me when Drusilla attacked, staking him. I had just reached out to him when he crumbled to dust. Drusilla then wished me a happy birthday.
Maxi-wiggins time! Mom dropped the saucer, just like in my dream. This is so not good. I better go tell Giles.
The entry ended there. Frowning, Spike turned the page to read the next entry.
Angel is gone. I woke up this morning, expecting to see him next to me. But he was gone.
Angel is gone. I mean gone, gone as in lost his soul. And it’s my fault. I did it. Me. At the docks the other night, when he was about to leave to take the Judge’s arm far away, he gave me a claddagh ring identical to his. He told me he loved me. And now, he’s gone.
And it’s all my fault.
Spike lay on the floor in the living room, once again staring up at the ceiling, cigarette dangling from his mouth. After he’d finished reading the two entries surrounding Buffy’s birthday, he brought it home with him to find out what happened in the following months when Angelus was with Drusilla and him both at the factory and at the mansion.
What he had read startled him and, at the same time, made him love the Slayer even more. She’d been through so much in such a short period of time. No wonder Slayer’s rarely lived past their teens.
And with all the evils she faced every night, she may not live much longer.
Which made any time that he spent with her all the more precious.
"We need to talk," Spike said without preamble as Buffy came through the door.
"I don’t even get a hello?" Buffy asked, hanging her coat on the rack. She dropped her bag of slaying equipment on the floor beneath it.
Spike was sitting on the couch fiddling with an unlit cigarette. "I’m serious, Slayer."
Buffy looked at him quizzically, then sat beside him on the couch. "Shoot."
"Tell me about that day," Spike said. He looked up from the cigarette and into her eyes. Pain, regret, confusion, love and other emotions flitted through them.
Buffy stood, her face pale. "Which day are you talking about? There’s been so many," she said, trying to dodge the question.
"You know what I mean, Slayer. We’ve been dancing around this issue like fools for over a year now," Spike said. "I think it’s time you tell me what happened that day…with Angelus."
Buffy crossed and uncrossed her arms, looking anywhere but at Spike. Finally, she walked over to the drawing she did that fateful semester they met for the second time. Staring at it, but not really seeing it, Buffy began to speak.
"Did you know that we found the ritual to restore his soul? Willow was attempting to do it in the library when they were attacked by Drusilla. And because I, like a fool, rushed out to meet Angelus, Kendra was killed, Giles was taken, Willow was put in a coma and Xander got his arm broken."
She paused for a moment, inhaling deeply before letting it out slowly.
"They thought I did it. Killed Kendra, that is. So I ran. I met up with you and struck a deal the next night. Then I learned from a demon named Whistler that I had to stop Angelus from opening Acathala. I retrieved the blessed sword from the library, got expelled, learned that only Angelus’ blood could re-close the portal, and set off to the mansion," she said.
"You know what happened next. You jumped Angelus, then I started to fight him, after he was able to pull the sword from Acathala. We fought and I won. I was ready to plunge my sword into Angelus and get rid of the demon once and for all. But then…"
Buffy stopped speaking, choking up. What happened next was still very painful, even though she’d found love once more.
"But then Angel got his soul back. Willow recursed him. Just as Acathala opened his big mouth," she chuckled hollowly. "I had no choice. I sent him, Angel, to hell."
The room was silent. Buffy wiped at the tears coursing down her cheeks. She didn’t want to turn and see the pity in Spike’s eyes.
Spike, however, was feeling anything but pity. His undead heart felt like it was being gripped by some invisible force. Reading about the events from her diary was nothing compared to hearing Buffy explain to him what happened. And he knew how strong she really was to be standing in front of him today.
Spike stood and walked over to the Slayer. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he pulled her back into his arms. "I love you, Buffy," he said quietly. "I love you so much."
"So, what classes should we take during Winter semester?" Spike asked Buffy, leafing through the course catalog. It was three weeks after the night Buffy told Spike what occurred at the mansion and they were gearing up for the coming term.
"Have you decided what you want to major it?" Buffy asked. She was laying on the floor, feet in the air, an open course schedule in front of her.
"I’m going to major in Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer," Spike grinned foolishly at her.
"Cute," she replied. "I still can’t decide what I want to major in, and it’s technically the end of my junior year."
"What are your choices again?"
"Art, psychology, philosophy and physEd."
"Do you know what you want to do after you graduate?" Spike asked.
"If I live that long, you mean?" Buffy sighed. "I have no idea. I always have to remember that my sacred duty comes first, and everything else second."
Buffy giggled. "Well, not everything. Just career wise. I’ll probably end up as a waitress at Bucky’s Fondue Hut."
"I have a better idea," Spike said. He leaned back and stuck his hand in a pocket of his jeans.
"Than Bucky’s Fondue Hut? I’m all ears."
"After you graduate, why don’t you choose me as your career?" he said, leaning forward in his seat on the couch.
"You? As what, your personal maid?" Buffy said skeptically. "Your Renquist?"
Buffy’s head shot up. Spike was biting nervously on his lip, the other hand held out a jewelry box towards her.
With trembling hands, Buffy took the box from Spike’s hand. Opening it, she found a simple, marquis cut, diamond solitaire.
It was beautiful.
It was perfect.
Buffy looked up at Spike with tears in her eyes. "Do you mean it?"
"Of course I bloody well mean it!" Spike said abruptly.
With a silly smile at his outburst, Buffy held out the box to him. "Put it on me?"
Spike’s eyes widened at her request. He fell to his knees on the floor in front of her, and, with shaky hands, took the ring out of the box. Buffy offered her left hand and Spike slid the ring home.
He held onto her hand, gazing at the ring firmly ensconced on her small hand. Spike then bent forward and kissed Buffy gently on the lips. "I love you, Slayer."
"I love you, too, mortal enemy of mine," Buffy responded, turning over and pulling Spike to her. "I love you, too."