Part One, Part Two, Part Three
The chip hadn't fired. Spike barely remembered the bite, but he could be certain he would have noticed if the chip had fired. Even lost in the moment before the stars burst and the world exploded, sucking hungrily on her ripe breast as he'd pounded inside her, the fangs an unconscious hangover from a century with a girl who liked to be bitten - well even then, you notice having your brain electrocuted.
The fear on Buffy's face should have been entirely predictable, but it couldn't not hurt. Seconds ago Spike had been luxuriating in the sweaty afterglow and though he'd known it couldn't last, wouldn't last, was too good to be true... he'd hoped. One tiny revelation later and she was wriggling out from under him, struggling to sit up, arms automatically covering her naked chest, heart going as fast as it had when she'd been riding him.
"You bit me," she said a third time, as if waiting for him to deny it.
"I didn't mean to hurt you, love, I swear. It was a sex thing, yeah? Erotic, not... Last girl I went with was a vampire, y'know?"
The Slayer, already flushed with sex, blushed crimson. Pretty as a picture and Spike could feel himself hardening, despite the way she looked away from him, hands twisted in the bed sheets. "Your. Chip. Didn't. Go. Off."
"No." Spike reached out for her hand but she snatched it away. He held his own up in that universal gesture of truce. "I wasn't trying to hurt you - maybe it knew that?"
"That's bullshit. What the hell have you done?"
"Nothing!" Spike reached for her again and she shrank back. As far away from him as possible without actually putting a dent in the headboard. For the vampire who had spent years wishing this Slayer might show him even a hint of fear, it was a depressing thing to see his wish finally granted. "Stop that! You can't think I'd ever hurt you."
She met his eye then, glared with drunken fury. "I can still kick your ass, you scrawny little vampire."
And there was his girl. Spike managed a tiny smile as he soothed. "There you go, then. Everything's just as it should be."
"Your chip didn't go off!" Her voice was climbing to waking household pitch but Spike didn't know how to calm her, didn't know what to think his own self. Two minutes ago his brain had been stuck in a loop of 'Buffy let me shag her' - there wasn't the wattage left to deal with this new revelation. "It's intent," he tried, "or something. I wasn't feeding."
"Don't you fucking lie to me!"
In all her drunken ranting, and in all the 'more, faster, harders' that had followed, in fact in two years of close acquaintance, Spike had never heard Buffy use the F word. He had to bite his tongue to keep from mentioning it now, focus on the important point.
"I'm not lying."
"It went off when you hit Tara, and you weren't trying to hurt her. It went off when you hit that guy you thought was a vampire. It doesn't go by what you think"
"Well I don't know! Bleeding thing didn't come with an instruction manual. I haven't touched it, Buffy, haven't even thought of wanting rid of it. Not since long before you died."
"Then it's broken, and... Oh God..."
The damn of rising hysteria burst, one deep, shuddering breath and Buffy was sobbing again. This time, cringing away as she was, Spike didn't dare put his arms around her.
"Hush, love," he murmured. "It'll be okay." Spike had a sinking feeling that it wouldn't but one thing at a time and he couldn't think of the dizzying implications of the sex and the biting while there were tears. The tears, at least, were fixable, ninety percent vodka and Spike had seen enough of drunken humans to know he could have sat her down to watch 'Bambi' and she'd be bawling like the world was ending. "Go to sleep, I'll bet you'll not even remember this in the morning."
"It's okay. It's a fluke. It's... something. It's okay."
"It's a curse! I sleep with people, then I have to kill them. I'm like that black widow woman."
"That's not true. Soldier boy's not dead, is he?"
Well, Spike thought, that was a consoling argument. But it turned out the Slayer didn't want him bringing it up because she thumped him. A sloppy kind of hit that left less of a mark on his bare chest than her earlier caresses but she made up in quantity what was lacking in quality, until she was flailing at him with uncoordinated rage. It was a stage of drunkenness Spike was very familiar with and just how he liked his meals - stupid enough not to freeze up in fright when they saw him, conscious enough to put up a fight, and a lovely second hand buzz when he finally fed. He let the girl wear herself out though it was hardly a conscious decision, distracted as he was. Her breasts were exposed again, now she'd found another use for her fists, and jiggled temptingly with every impact. Spike wished - though the word was hardly strong enough - that he'd never bitten, that she'd never noticed, and they could be warming up for round three right now.
When she started flagging Spike didn't give her time to regain the earlier distance, pulling her tight against his chest to coddle and soothe. For a few moments she let him, sniffles fading away to gulping breaths.
"I'm done now. You can let go of me."
"Okay," Spike agreed, not moving a muscle. But apparently the Slayer had sobered up enough to not be entirely oblivious to these things.
"Would you go?"
The Slayer sniffed loudly, snuck a hand between her face and his chest to swipe at the tears. Spike snagged a spare piece of materials from the hordes of doilies and throws floating around her over-soft bedroom and she had a thorough, though ineffective, go at cleaning her face.
"I have noticed you're not moving, Spike, I'm not completely brain-dead. I'm just... I don't know what's wrong with me."
"Vodka," Spike explained succinctly. "And tequila. My fault, love, sorry."
"Yeah, it's the drink." Buffy agreed uncertainly. She caught hold of Spike's hands and peeled them away from her body, dragged the quilt around her until she was halfway to decent again. Which was a shame, in Spike's opinion, but this time at least she seemed to be collecting herself rather than shoving him away.
"I don't want to stake you, Spike."
That was something of a revelation for the vampire. He realised the tears weren't just the vodka, or self pity or shock. Some of them were for him. And there he could help, reassure with words that weren't meaningless.
"And I don't want to be staked. You see how we're in agreement here? I don't know what's going on, I haven't- I didn't instigate any of this and I don't ever want to be your enemy again."
"They all say that. Then before I know it you'll be stringing goldfish and telling my mom I'm a slut."
Spike blinked. Decided he was best off not knowing. "Well not me."
"Well we won't ever know, will we? Because now I have to stake you."
"Now? Well that's... That's not so bad. I've had a good innings, ending on a high note, all that jazz." Spike wasn't quite sure if he was joking or not. The Slayer had never looked less of a threat, it was hard to quail at the thought of your imminent demise when your proposed killer was huddling under her bedding, blotchy with tears. But he knew his girl, and the steel that ran through her, how her hand never hesitated when her precious humans were at stake. If she decided he was a threat to mankind then he was as good as dust already. And it was true enough, there were worse ways to go. "Fantastic high note, by the way. Best shag I've ever..."
He trailed off at a threatening sniff from the Slayer. "For God's sake. Please don't start crying again. Anything but that."
"But I don't want to stake you!"
"Well don't, then. I won't give you reason, I swear."
Buffy snorted at that and Spike conceded a fair point. He'd long ago accepted the chip as immutable fact and didn't himself know now who he might be without it. "Then have Willow fix it. Or soul me up. Anything, pet, you say it and I'll do it. I'll leave town, anything."
Buffy's eyes lit up with those last words and Spike could have bitten his tongue because if there was any promise harder to keep than not doing anything stakeworthy it would be stay away from Buffy. But she looked marginally happier and so he wasn't going to take it back.
"You'd leave, really?"
"I'd rather you staked me, personally, but yes. You want me to go and I'll go." The dazzling, grateful smile she gave him was quite a payment, though maybe not enough to keep him going the rest of his undead existence. Spike grabbed her hips and pulled, until she was lying flat next to him. "But sleep on it, okay? Just... just a little while." She stiffened as he slipped an arm around her, but a few minutes of the touching going no further and she relaxed into his embrace. A few minutes more and the vodka finished its work, sending Buffy to sleep.
Spike hadn't intended to follow the Slayer into sleep but he must have done, because when he woke she was leaning over him, dressed now in T-shirt and track bottoms.
"Hit me," she demanded.
And just like that the night came back to him. Couldn't have been more than a couple hours since she drifted off, still dark outside, but it looked like that Slayer constitution had caught up with the alcohol. The girl hovering over him was all business, no trace left of last night’s tears, all the walls rebuilt. When he didn't immediately comply she prodded him and half heartedly Spike punched her shoulder. He thought for a second about faking the pain that didn't come but he was far too slow, while he was still considering the pros and cons of dissembling, the Slayer sat on the bed with a sigh.
"Not a fluke, then."
"You really didn't know, did you?"
Spike shook his head. "Not been killing, if that's what you mean."
"Have you hit anyone? I mean... was it working?"
"Punched the whelp a while back. It was working then, still remember the bleeding headache."
"When was that?"
"Day seventy-nine," the vampire answered automatically. "I mean, when you were... before you..."
"Yeah. Well it's stopped." She managed to meet his eye then, and added pointedly: "You said you'd leave."
So he had. Of all the stupid things to promise. But then Spike hadn't ever expected to be trying to cheer up a Slayer, weeping at the prospect of dusting him - who knew what might come out of his mouth in those unlikely circumstances. His head had been pounding, with alcohol, the heady smell of sex, confusion and the helplessness brought on by her tears.
"It'll be light soon. You need to go away. Far away."
Not like he hadn't heard that before but this time it hurt, that she couldn't be bothered to show even a tiny bit of regret about that. Arms folded, face determined, he knew there was no point arguing with her. But regret would be nice.
"You're glad about this, aren't you? Rather have me out there killing people than here being in love with you."
"No!" She glanced away, ran a hand uneasily over the crumpled bedspread. "I don't know. That chip was all kinds of wrong."
"And here's a nice neat conclusion to last night's mistake," the vampire concluded bitterly.
"No! Jesus, Spike, I thought that was what you wanted."
"To screw you? Because, well yeah, but I was angling for more."
"To get the chip out."
"Well I guess things change."
"Guess they do. Now get moving before the sun comes up."
She spoke harshly but Spike was all out of anger where his girl was concerned - he'd seen all too well how fragile that hard shell was. Not so long ago - even after he'd fallen in love with her - Spike would have considered it a privilege to be the one to break it. Careful what you wish for, as if he hadn't learnt that lesson too well already. He'd wished long and hard to be rid of that blasted chip and was now hollow at the thought of feeding again. Fresh human blood, that would never lose its attraction, but the thrill of the chase seemed an empty high compared to the night he'd had and never would again. And he'd have traded both - the hunt and the sex - just for the chance to stay here. Not even right here, in her sex scented bed, just nearby.
"Maybe Willow could fix it."
"She doesn't even know how it works." Buffy tightened her arms around herself defensively. "Please don't do this, Spike. Just go."
"I'd fix it, if I could. I'd put it back so I couldn't bite people. Do you realise that?"
"Well that's just twisted," said Buffy flatly.
"Was you that twisted me."
She didn't deny it, didn't say anything at all, turned her head away and didn't look as he got out of bed. Spike didn't even have the heart to poke fun at such maidenly modesty. He pulled his jeans on, knew he'd have to before she would look at him again, sat down next to her to begin the complicated business of lacing up his boots.
"Doesn't have to go this way, you know," he said when he'd finished, not without a touch of bitterness. "You could always try trusting me."
"I can't." Harsh again, but she added softly: "With myself I could. I do. But not... I couldn't stand the let-down, Spike. Don't you understand?"
He really didn't. To Spike's mind, caution was what took the fun out of life, or unlife, but he understood she wasn't about to change her mind.
"If you really love me, Spike, you won't drag this out, and you won't come back."
That was just low. The one thing he simply couldn't argue with. Spike abandoned his rather crusty T-shirt on the floor of her bedroom and slid on his duster. Then he left.
Buffy checked nearly every cemetery in Sunnydale that night, looking for something. A fight, a distraction. The ultimate evil that could finally take her down for good.
Spike had been added to the long list of things for which Buffy grieved, and like every new blow over the last two weeks, it felt like the last she could bear. Even drunk, the Slayer had never fooled herself into thinking Spike could be the solution to any of her life problems but he'd been a refuge, an ear she hadn't felt obliged to lie to. Someone who hadn't moved on since she died. And how she wished she'd never touched him.
It was a silly kind of logic and on some level Buffy knew that. The sex and the chip weren't cause and effect. He'd have found out sooner or later that the thing wasn't working and who knows who might have died with that discovery - better this way, but it didn't feel like it. It felt like Buffy's fault, punishment for not learning her lesson with Angel. And now Spike was roaming America doing unspeakable things that were also her fault and not here watching her back, breaking up the monotony of patrol with his asinine comments. Making her feel something, even if it was just irritation at his constant presence. She didn't, couldn't, let herself dwell on what he'd made her feel yesterday. Those memories, already fuzzy with liquor, were locked in one of the many boxes in Buffy's mind that she never intended to open again.
So stupid, pathetic, that Spike could be the straw that broke the camel's back but Buffy was already half buried by the straw, struggling with every fight to find a reason to win. There were no fights tonight; Sunnydale was dead. Buffy had to content herself with double checking every last haunt until she was tired enough to think about going home.
The house was in darkness when she returned, long after midnight. A tiny relief. Automatically she glanced at Spike's tree, even as she chastised herself for the mental labelling of her back garden, but the vampire's favourite stalking spot was empty and the cigarette ends that littered the ground underneath were old and sunfaded. So Buffy was a little surprised when she flicked on her living room light and found Spike standing in front of her, offensively cheerful.
Not very surprised. She should have known it was too easy. All the times the last two years she'd wished Spike anywhere but Sunnydale and he'd stubbornly stayed, getting under her skin - Buffy hadn't really believed he was gone. She had been mentally preparing herself for the day she'd have to stake him, worrying that she'd find herself lacking. With Angel it had been a stark choice - him or the world - and it wasn't until then Buffy had found the strength to finally end him. Spike, she knew, wasn't here to end the world or even end her. It would have been so much easier if he had, if he'd wanted a fight tonight he would surely have won. Mechanically she raised the stake in her hand but the words that came out weren't the threat she'd intended.
"You promised me."
Spike grinned broadly. That infectious smile that Buffy rarely saw, devoid of sarcasm or lechery. A happy smile, as if this was all good fun and in a flash of anger Buffy wondered if it would really be that hard to stake him. She obviously cared more about his hide than he did.
"Stopped to fill the bike up just outside of San Francisco," he started conversationally. "Some tit with a frigging ponytail called my hair girly, can you beli-"
"No! Spike, don't you dare. I don't want to hear."
"Just listen. So I punched him, obviously, and..."
Spike carried on talking but Buffy didn't catch the rest because she's stuffed her fingers in her ears and started to hum. It wasn't the most Slayerly move she'd ever made, but Buffy was beyond caring. She couldn't bear one more death on her conscience and shutting out the whole world had been looking like an attractive option ever since she'd been dragged back into it. What you didn't know for sure couldn't haunt you for the rest of your miserable existence, right?
Spike was still grinning, looking very much like he was trying not to laugh, and for a second Buffy managed to really hate him. The first moment in quite a long time. He was enjoying this, coming back here after he'd promised to leave and rubbing her nose in the evil that was him.
Strong fingers wrapped around her wrists and attempted to remove her hands from her ears. A brief scuffle followed, an unworthy little scrap for two creatures of myth and legend. Spike won by default when Buffy gave up, freed one of her hands to punch him. Spike took his bloodied nose with grin still firmly in place, held up his hands pacifically.
"... and my chip went off," he finished, before Buffy could find another way to silence him.
"My chip still works. No stupid bikers on the menu for old Spike. Though for the record, I wasn't going to kill him - and he really was just asking for a smack in the mouth. It's not like I ran straight out to bite someone, I-"
Buffy held up a silencing hand and, for once, Spike actually stopped talking. A lot of careful thought went into the next syllable out of Buffy's mouth.
Spike pointed to himself, an exaggerated gesture for the very young or the very stupid. "Pathetic has-been vampire that can't bite people." He seized her hands, swung her around and Buffy was too bemused to resist. She'd been bracing herself for the next Bad Thing, hadn't unbraced since she'd sobered up or maybe longer, good news was taking a while to filter through. "I've just hit everything human between here and 'Frisco and let me tell you it's given me one hell of a headache." And brain damage, judging by the stupid grin, and it must be catching because Buffy's mood was lifting while she was still struggling to make sense of what he was actually saying. She tried to tell herself she should be objecting to that cheerful confession of random violence but somehow she didn't.
"I don't understand," she admitted eventually.
Spike shrugged. "Me either. Ask the Army. But it works; I'm still harmless as a kitten."
Another time that might have raised a sceptical eyebrow - handicapped, yes, but Spike had never been completely clawless. This time Buffy let the exaggeration fly past.
"It didn't work on me."
"Told you it was a fluke. I don't want to eat you." And there was the smirk Buffy saw so much more than the smile. "Well," he added suggestively, "not in any way that would hurt."
"Maybe I'm not human." It was a sensible deduction and Buffy had said it aloud before all the ramifications had hit.
"Well you're not, are you?" said Spike reasonably. "You're a Slayer. And I think you're missing the point here. You, sweetheart, just lost your excuse for running me out of town. So I'm staying, you got that? Deal with it."
That last was said with a defiant little lift of his chin and Buffy couldn't say she was sorry. But right now she was in the grip of a whole new fear.
"It worked on me before I died. I'm not... I came back wrong."
"Bollocks." Spike seized her shoulders, Buffy batted him away half heartedly and the hands soon returned. "You're here, livin' and breathing, see?"
"Your chip works on everyone but me. It wasn't the chip at all. Willow didn't bring me back right."
"That's such poppycock." Spike kept a firm hold and Buffy couldn't find the will to get away from him. He put his face so close to hers she had no choice but to look. The sappy grin had vanished, blue eyes searching hers with an intensity that was hard to see. "You smell the same, taste the same. If you weren't you, believe me I'd know. Hell, Buffy, you still think like you - there's nobody else with such a talent of leaping to the worse possible conclusions. It's a stupid lump of silicone, it doesn't know anything. I know."
"But nothing. Get the witches to check it out if you don't believe me. You're just the same girl you were, only a bit sadder, and there's nothing inhuman about that."
But I feel wrong, Buffy nearly said. Except, right this second, it wasn't quite true. She couldn't, shouldn't be happy that Spike was still here, but it felt awfully like she was. It had been a while, she couldn't be sure, but there was a fluttering in her stomach very different from the hollow, aching depression of the last few weeks. Being Buffy she regarded that feeling with suspicion.
"You're not making this up, are you?"
"No! I wouldn't- Okay, you know what? I would. Be for your own sodding good. But I'm not. It works. Get your little techno-wicca to check that out too, if you like. No eating people for me."
She couldn't be happy. Spike had been a permanent headache that could only get worse now he'd finally gotten a taste of what he wanted. But he was smiling again and Buffy had to fight the inclination to smile back.
"You're completely insane, I hope you know that. I don't know what the hell you're so happy about - you used to like biting people."
Spike shrugged again. Let go her shoulders and flopped onto the sofa. "Here I am, here you are also. I reckon I've got my priorities straight."
"I'm not sleeping with you again."
To her surprise that made not the slightest dent in Spike's good humour. "Fair enough."
"I mean it, Spike. I'm glad you're still... y'know... but that doesn't mean... I can't get involved with you - I don't want to. I was drunk and I didn't... I don't-"
"Slayer! I heard you already, I get it. But I have heard it once or twice before, so you'll excuse me for not giving up all hope."
He winked at her and Buffy gave up her little internal struggle and smiled at his ridiculous optimism. There'd be trouble ahead, most certainly, but for now she smiled. Spike pulled a silver hip flask from the depths of his duster and waved it at Buffy.
"So, Slayer, fancy a drink?"
There'll be a one shot Season Two fic coming up later.