Title: John and Buffy                                                                                      Prompt: Long Lost LoveSummary: It's ten years after the events of NFA and Buffy is at peace with having lost both vampires in one final battle against the forces of evil. She's slipping in a little early Christmas shopping while in Cleveland to visit Dawn and help out the local slayers.

John and Buffy

"I'm sorry!"

"Excuse me!"

The two package-laden people apologized simultaneously, then laughed.  Buffy lowered her armful of boxes and said, "No, it was my fault. I wasn't paying atten—" The man she'd run into cocked his head curiously, waiting for her to finish her sentence. When it became obvious that she wouldn't or couldn't continue, he smiled and shook his head.

"No, no. I'm sure it was my fault. I get so carried away at this time of the year. I should have stopped several 'must have' toys ago."

Buffy stared. The face, the voice, the tilted head, the eyes... oh God, the eyes...

"Miss? Are you alright? My clumsiness didn't injure you did it?"

"Spi— William?"

The man frowned and his face drained of color. "My name is John," he said slowly. "John Smith."

"I... I'm sorry," she stammered. "You just look so much like— but it's not possible, of course. I mean, you're clearly hu— not him." She exhaled hard and straightened her shoulders. "I am sorry. You reminded me of someone I used to know. My mistake."

She whirled and ran as quickly as she could while balancing a large stack of boxes.  It wasn't until she reached a less crowded part of the mall that she heard the footsteps pounding behind her. She put on a burst of speed and had just made it through the first set of doors when she caught her foot on the rubber matting and stumbled. Slayer balance and training kept her upright, but her packages went flying.

As she'd worried they would be, the pursuing steps belonged to the man she'd run into. He was gasping for air and wheezing, dropping his own purchases and leaning forward, hands on knees, trying to recover from chasing what he was sure was the fastest woman on the planet. 

Buffy had given up – collecting her boxes into a pile away from the automatic doors and sitting down with her back against the wall. She watched as the man – John Smith – kicked his own things out of the way of anyone going in or out. He walked over to the wall Buffy was leaning against and slid down until he was sitting beside her. He took a couple of experimental breaths, then spoke.

"You know me," he said. "You think you know me – and you ran away."

"I'm sorry. You know who you are, and I don't. I thought you were my... friend... that I haven't seen in a very long time, and I... I just..." She raised her eyes to his. "I couldn't bear that you weren't him. So I ran away."

"Very mature of you," he said. "And stupid."

"Excuse me?"

"I'm an amnesiac," he said flatly. "As far as I know, I was born ten years ago when I came to in a hospital and was told I'd been in an explosion.  You're the first person I've ever found who might know who I really am – and you ran away. What if I am your... friend? Don't you want to know?"

"You can't be him," she said, leaning her head against the wall and shutting her eyes. "He's dead... in more ways than one."

"I think I looked pretty dead while I was unconscious," he said. "They showed me pictures... looked like a bloody corpse."

Buffy noticeably flinched.  "Where..." She swallowed hard and tried again. "Where did this happen?" 

"Los Angeles. What was left of it, anyway. Seems there was some kind of event that nobody really knows how to explain. I was one of the casualties."

"What are you doing in Cleveland?" She felt rather than saw his shrug. 

"Had to go somewhere, didn't I?"  They sat in a surprisingly comfortable silence for several minutes. Eventually, with just a trace of uncertainty in his voice, he asked, "So what's the verdict? Could I be this... friend... you thought was dead?"

"Stop saying '... friend...' like that."

"Isn't that what you said he was? Or was he more? Is that why you're crushing that box? Because he was more than a 'friend' and you're afraid I'm not him?"

Buffy dropped the cardboard box she had been mangling, and sighed.  "He was. More. Much more.  But he died thinking he was just a friend." She rolled her head toward him. "He didn't believe me when I said I loved him."

"And why's that?" He could have been asking her the time of day, but his hands were clenched into fists.

"I waited too long," she said. "I waited until he was dying and he didn't believe me."

"So, you watched him die, then. You know for sure he's dead." The disappointment in his voice was palpable.

"I did. Well, I mean technically, he was already dead. Had been for years, but he burned up right in front of me." There was no sound from the frowning man at her side. "And then he came back and didn't tell me. And then he died again. In LA. Ten years ago."

There was silence, then John heaved his own sigh. "Bloody brilliant, this is. I find someone who might know who I really am, and she's mad. Totally crackers."

Buffy snorted. "You don't know the half of it."

"So," he continued as though she hadn't interrupted, "disregarding all the crazy stuff, what are the chances I might be this... dead, not dead, dead again man?" He slid his eyes to the side. "Did I get that right?"

"Almost. Dead, undead, dead, not dead, dead again. I think that covers it."

"I'm fairly certain I don't want to know... But would you take a hard look and just set my mind to rest?"

Buffy nodded. "Yes. Yes, of course. But you can't—" She rose to her knees and studied him, turning his face and holding his chin with her hand. She ran her eyes from the light brown curls on his head – mixed with some gray at the temples, she noticed – to his knife-like cheekbones, sensuous mouth, and back to the blue eyes that were studying her just as hard. She traced the scar on his eyebrow with a trembling finger. Pulling him to his feet, she stepped even closer, noting where her head came, just to his chin in her flat shopping shoes.  She stepped back and ran a knowing eye over his body, the broad shoulders, narrow hips and flat stomach.

The clothes, Dockers and an Oxford cloth shirt under a fleece jacket, were things Spike wouldn't have been caught dead in. They were all wrong, but the face and body were all right. More than all right. She caught her lower lip in her teeth and put her hand on his chest over the heart she could feel beating there.  Unaccustomed tears filled her eyes and she blinked rapidly to contain them.  Involuntarily, her hand went to his cheek and she cupped it, rubbing her thumb softly over his skin.

"Miss?  Do you know who I am, Miss?"

"Buffy," she said, her voice trembling. "My name is Buffy.  And your name is William."

He squeezed his eyes shut and blew out the breath he'd been holding.  "Thank you.  Thank you, Buffy."

Buffy allowed her hand to drop to her side. It was taking all her energy just to maintain her composure; she had very little left for conversation.  She swallowed the lump in her throat, licked her lips and said, "Wha... what do you want to do now?"

He shrugged. "I want to go somewhere, buy you dinner, and learn everything you can tell me about who I am... or who I was. Not him anymore, am I?"

"Not in a couple of very important ways," she agreed with a tight smile.  "Fine, let's find a place that isn't in the middle of a set of doors and... talk." She reached for her purse. "I just need to make a phone call."

"My apologies. Of course you have people waiting for you. A family? A husband? It was very inconsiderate of me." He clenched his fists again and straightened his shoulders.  "However, I would like to see you again. To talk about my previous life."

Buffy smiled at him as she punched a name on her phone. "No husband. And I'm staying with my sister and her family. Trust me when I tell you that she'll be fine with it when I tell her why I won't be coming right home."  She stopped, her eyes going to the boxes he was picking up. "But you—" she gestured at the pictures on the boxes.  "Do you have... children? Someone who is expecting you home?" She bit her lip, hoping he hadn't noticed the hitch in her voice.

"Oh, these?" He laughed. "No. These are for the ungrateful wretches who live with my landlady.  She doesn't seem to be capable of saying 'no' when asked to take in a niece or nephew, or grandchild."

"Oh." Buffy's face relaxed. "So, you aren't married, then?"

His face clouded. "Can't say I wouldn't have liked to have had someone in my life all these years, but not a fair thing to ask, is it? Saddle a woman with a bloke who, for all I know, may have been a serial killer before he—"

Buffy couldn't muffle the hysterical laugh that burst from her throat, even when she saw the fear in his eyes.  "I'm s...sorry," she gasped. "I'm really sorry. It's just...." She shook her head and took a deep breath. "It's just funny that you would pick that example." She cocked her head at him, and frowned. "I wonder.... Never mind."  She realized that Dawn had been saying, "Hello? Buffy? Are you there? What's wrong?" for some time, and snapped her attention back to the phone.

"Dawn! Hi. Listen, something's come up.  I've run... literally... into... into somebody I think we might know.  I'm going to go have dinner with him and try to figure this out."  She listened briefly.  "No. No, I'll tell you all about it when I get home, and, Dawn...." She glanced at John. "It's possible I'll have somebody with me, so leave some lights on."  She flipped the phone shut and began to gather up her boxes.

"Do you want to drive, or should I?"

"I'd be more than happy to drive, luv. But shouldn't you be more careful about jumping into automobiles with strange men?"

Buffy gave him a long look and grinned.  "I don't have to worry about things like that quite as much as some women do."  She waved her hand at his puzzled look. "It's one of those things I'll be explaining later." She walked to the automatic door and waited for it to open, preceding "John" out into the crisp air.

"This way," he said, leading her to a rather ordinary Honda sedan.  He popped the trunk and put his purchases in it, raising his eyebrows at her.  "Best to keep your boxes out of sight too," he said. "There's plenty of room."

She nodded and piled her own purchases into the empty side of the trunk, then walked around to the passenger door and opened it.  She slid into the seat while John opened his own door and put the key in the ignition.

"Not worried about going with me? You're sure?"

Buffy shook her head and smiled. "I don't think you'd hurt me.  I trust you."

"Bloody stupid if you ask me..." he muttered. "You don't know anything about me."

"I know you won't hurt me," she said with utter confidence.

 

                                               

 

Buffy skirted around the purpose for the meal for as long as she could. She told him about Sunnydale, saying that she'd had to leave because of a giant sinkhole. She said she was an instructor in a private school for girls and that she was in Cleveland because some of her former pupils had requested her help with a problem.  She chatted about Dawn and her husband, Martin, and their two daughters.

"I'm their favorite aunt," she said proudly.

"If I understood all this interesting, but not at all relevant to what I need to know, information, you are their only aunt."

"Well, yes, I am. But—"

"Why are you stalling, Buffy?"

"Because... because I'm really enjoying this. Seeing you again – even if you don't know I'm me, or that you're you, or...  Anyway, when I try to tell you about who you are, you're going to remember that you think I'm crazy and then you'll dump me at my car – if I'm lucky – and...."  She stopped for breath and smiled at him. "I'm sorry. You're right. You took me out so that you could learn about who you are, and I'm—"

Her hand was tapping nervously on the tablecloth, and he covered it with his, stilling it and bringing a small gasp from her.

"First thing to get straight is that I think you're beautiful and charming and I would be more than happy to take you out to dinner any time you'd like.  You don't have to earn your way."  He moved his hand from hers and smiled.  "Now, if that's settled, why don't you start by telling me about us? Start with who we are to each other and leave the crazy stuff until we've sorted that out?"

Buffy nodded and took a deep breath. "Okay. Here's the condensed version: we didn't like each other at first. We were... sort of enemies. And you had a girlfriend you'd been with for a really long time.  But your life changed... a lot... and you started to hang around with me and my friends, and help me out sometimes. And you... you..."

"Fell in love with you?" he prodded gently. "Can see how that could happen."

"Yeah. Well, you know how it is... you work with somebody, spend a lot of time with them, feelings... Oh God. I'm using your words."  She made a face. "I'm sorry. I thought you were losing your mind at the time, but they really do make sense."

"So, had to coax you a bit, did I?" 

Buffy choked on another laugh that wanted to be a sob.  "You might say that." She reached out and put her hand on his arm.  "But you were right. I came to understand how much you loved me, and to trust you to help me protect Dawn—"

"Protect Dawn?"

"Um, yeah. Later with that stuff.  Anyway, I was... away... for a while, and you stayed in Sunnydale and helped my friends take care of Dawn and patro— and keep up with my work. And then I came back, but I wasn't happy and I took it out on you, and we had this amazing sex, but we didn't like each other very much while we were doing it, and then... bad things happened, and you went away and when you came back, you were really different and you were the only one I could count on, and then you..." Her eyes flew to his.

"And then I died?"  His expression was carefully neutral as he parroted back to her what she'd said earlier.

"And then you died," she whispered. "And you didn't believe me when I said I loved you, because I'd waited too long to do it.  I just... I always thought there'd be time for it later, you know?" Her eyes pleaded with him for forgiveness for an offense he couldn't even remember.

He put his hand over the one still resting on his arm. "I'm sorry, Buffy."

She gave another broken laugh. "Not your fault," she said. "I'm the one who wouldn't admit how much you meant to me until you had no reason to believe it was true."

"And now we get to the explaining," he said, squeezing her hand before taking his away and letting her withdraw it. "If you saw me die, how am I here? Could you have been wrong? Maybe you thought I was dead, but I'd gone into the coma?"

She shook her head. "I would never have left you there if there'd been any chance...." She looked up at him. "Do you trust me?"

He tilted his head and studied her anxious face.  "As much as I would any other slightly barmy stranger who tells me I'm dead."

"Fair enough.  Do you trust me enough to go somewhere with me? Where, if we get lucky, I can show you something?"

"Show away, pet."  He stood up, leaving a couple of large bills on the table to cover the bill.

           

                                               

 

Chapter Two

 

"This is what you want to show me? Other dead people?" He stared around at the dark cemetery, frowning.

"Kinda. Let's just go for a walk and see what happens, 'k?"

Shaking his head at himself, he allowed her to lead him along the deserted drive through the graveyard. He was grateful for the almost full moon, which lit up the paved lane as well as the tombstones and mausoleums on either side.

"Here we go," she said cheerfully, sitting on a bench and pointing at a new grave. "Cross your fingers."

"Considering where we are, I'm thinking I'd be better off crossing two pieces of wood."

"Oh, good idea! Here, you hold this." Buffy opened her bag and handed him a large cross. While she was at it, she pulled out a stake and placed it in her lap. She could feel his eyes staring holes in her and hoped he wouldn't bolt for the car before she had an opportunity to show him that she wasn't completely crazy. The silence was becoming more and more uncomfortable; when Buffy saw the dirt of the grave collapsing in on itself, she breathed a sigh of relief.

"Show time!" She leapt to her feet and stood beside the grave. She heard John stand up behind her, and his strangled "What the hell...?" when the first hand broke through the loose dirt.  "Watch and learn," she said over her shoulder. "But stay back there."

Buffy waited until the fledgling vamp had squirmed his way most of the way out of his grave before quipping, "Hi there! Need a little help?"

His bloodcurdling snarl and his lunge brought a frightened "Buffy!" from John, but at a gesture from her, he remained where she'd left him. When Buffy was sure that he'd had time to see the fangs and distorted face on the new vampire, she staked it and turned to see his reaction as the dust fell back to earth.

She was pleased to see that, while he was clearly bewildered and shocked, he didn't appear to be more than reasonably frightened.

 "That was unexpected," he said, his voice steady, but his eyes darting around the area.  "Are there more?"

Buffy shrugged. "New ones? I don't know. But it looks like this guy had a welcoming party.  Get behind me," she added, moving so that the wall of a mausoleum was at her back as she faced the three approaching vampires.

"I'm not leaving you to face those... things... alone. What do you take me for?"

"I take you for a very brave, but normal human who needs to stay out of my way so I don't have to worry about you," she snapped, stepping forward and smiling her best aging cheerleader smile at the snarling vamps.

"Sorry, fellas. You're a little late. Your buddy won't be joining you."

They looked at the empty grave and the mocking girl holding a stake.

"Slayer!"

"Dust!" Buffy replied, impaling the first charging vampire.

She slipped in between the remaining two attackers, staking one in the back as she went by. Instead of turning to attack Buffy again, the last vampire leapt at John, pinning him to the wall.  John brought up the cross Buffy had given him, pressing it to the vamp's face and buying a few precious seconds. Seconds in which Buffy covered the distance between them in one leap, grabbing the vampire and lifting him over her head before tossing him into a tombstone, head first.

"Are you okay?" she asked, touching John's neck to reassure herself that he hadn't been bitten.

"Nothing hurt but my pride," he said. He held his hand out. "Mind if I do the honors?"

Buffy hesitated, then handed him the stake. "Just push it into his chest as hard as you can," she instructed, standing close enough to take over if the vampire stirred.

She needn't have worried. He drove the stake with perfect accuracy, grunting with effort as it went through the vampire's chest. He stood, staring at the dust floating to the ground and taking deep, shuddering breaths. Buffy stepped closer and gently took the stake from his hand.

"Let's go," she said. "I think I can finish telling you about your life now."

           

They sat in the car, Buffy twirling the stake while John tapped his hands on the steering wheel.  With a curse, he started the car and peeled out of the cemetery, driving without asking Buffy where she wanted to go.  He pulled into the parking lot behind a small bar and said, "I've got a feeling I'm going to need a drink before this night is over. Do you mind?"

"Wouldn't be the first time I've watched you drink," she said, opening her door and getting out.  A snort was the only reply as he waited for her to precede him into the bar.

When he was working on his second tumbler full of Jack Daniels, and Buffy was sipping a glass of white wine, he leaned back in the booth saying, "Alright. You showed me there are things I've never thought were real, and you showed me why you had no reason to worry about getting into a car with a strange man... " He stopped and gazed at her with admiration. "You could break me in half, couldn't you?"

"Uh... yeah?"

"Good to know," he said, tipping his glass at her. "Not a good idea to make the lady angry."

Buffy paled a little, but decided there were more important things to share than their physical history. When she just sat, her fingers twirling her glass and her eyes on her hands, he sighed and leaned forward until she glanced up at him.

"Come on, luv," he said. "How bad can it be? You've shown me there are such things as monsters—"

"Vampires," said Buffy. "Those were vampires."

"Alright, vampires. Does that specificity mean there are other kinds of monsters?"

She nodded. "There are. Demons of all sorts, werewolves, witches... but that can all wait until later. I promised to tell you about you."

"You did. And I'm still waiting," he reminded her.

"Have another drink," she said, waving the waitress over. "I think you're going to need it."  When he had instructed the waitress to leave the bottle, Buffy began.  "Your real name is William Pratt, and you were born in London, England... in 1851."

 

Forty-five minutes later, the bottle was on its way to being empty and John/Spike/William was slumped against the wall of the booth, staring at his hands.

"I've killed people?" he whispered. "With these hands?  I've tried to kill you?"

"Well, you probably used your fangs as much as... I'm sorry. Same thing, I guess. They're just as dead. Yes. You lived for over a hundred years as one of the most feared vampires in modern history."

"How could you bear to be around me? How could you let me touch you?" His eyes flew to hers. "Why didn't you kill me?"

"Did you miss the part where we tried to kill each other several times?"  She reached across the table and touched his stricken face.  "We're both killers. You killed my kind, and I kill yours. Well, not yours now, but yours before..." She sighed. "This is so complicated. And I know I'm doing a lousy job of making you understand... "

"I understand that I was one of those creatures... those monsters... for longer than I can imagine being alive."

"You were. But you also changed. The chip started it, but mostly you changed for me.  Because you loved me. You changed and you fought for good and you saved the world from the First Evil."  She shrugged and gave him a sad smile. "I guess now I'll never know why you didn't want me to know you were back. Why you didn't at least call me and tell me you weren't a pile of ashes at the bottom of a crater."

She stared at him with damp eyes. "I grieved, Spike—John. I grieved for a long time... and I didn't need to. I would have understood if you wanted to stay in LA with Angel."  She made a face. "Okay, that's a lie. I will never understand why you stayed with Angel... or why he wanted you there. That's just really...." She waved her hand in the air. "It must have been some weird vampire family thing."

"Wish I could tell you, pet. But I've got no clue who this Angel guy is or why I would have stayed with him rather than chasing after you.  I'm sure you're much prettier than he was."

Buffy snorted a laugh. "Well, he was pretty good-looking...."

They exchanged smiles; John's somewhat lopsided as a result of the amount of whiskey he'd consumed in such a short period of time.

"So, now wha?" he asked, his words slurring just enough to bring a sharp glance at his bleary eyes.

"Now, I drive us back to the mall. Pour you into my car and take you home with me."  At his suddenly more alert look, she blushed and added, "Not, home with me like... I just meant, you shouldn't be driving and Dawn has another room...."

"Never thought you meant anything else," he insisted, his disappointed face putting the lie to his words.

"Of course, you didn't," she snickered, standing up and leaving some money on the table.  "Let's go, John Smith. It's getting late."

He managed to make it to the car without stumbling too badly, turning his keys over to Buffy without complaint.  She pointed to the passenger side and he obediently got in and fastened his seat belt.

"Why did you choose John Smith?" Buffy asked as she was guiding the car out onto the almost deserted streets.  "Why not something more interesting or unique?"

He shrugged.  "Was gonna go with 'John Doe', on account of that's what they'd been calling me while I was unconscious, but my therapist talked me out of it."

"Therapist?"

"Hey," he said defensively. "When you don't know who you are or where you came from, or how to make a living, or.... you have issues, alright?"

"I never thought of that," Buffy said, wonder in her voice. "How did you manage to make a life for yourself?"

"Had bloody good people helping me," he said.  "They saw to it I got papers so I could get a job, worked with me to see what I could and couldn't do.  Most things, turns out, are hard-wired in after a while. Didn't need to learn to drive a car again, or to shave.  Things like that.  Just needed to figure out what I might want to do to feed myself and then find a place to do it."

 

When she pulled up in front of Dawn's nice suburban home, Buffy was relieved to see that there were still lights on.  Fumbling around in the dark with a drunken man stumbling after her wasn't how she wanted to end her evening.  She got out and waited for John to pull himself erect.

"Can you do this?" she asked dubiously as he swayed in place. It was obvious that the whiskey was hitting him harder now that he'd had time to relax.

"'Course I can," he announced. "I'm a fuckin' vampire and I've got more lives than a cat.  Lil' bit o' whiskey can't slow me down."  As he spoke, his knees started to give out and Buffy caught him just in time.  "You're very strong," he observed, leaning on her and resting his head on her shoulder. "An' you smell good."

"No smelling," she ordered. "Just try to walk so I don't have to completely carry you to the door."

With Buffy doing most of the work, they managed to stagger to the front door, which opened immediately.

"What the hell are you doing bringing home a drunk...." Dawn's voice faded as she stared at the man peering at her through bleary eyes. "... Spike?"

"So 'm told," he mumbled. "Not sure I believe it, but tha's wha Miss Buffy here says."

Dawn shook her head. If John had needed more proof that Buffy had told the truth, her sister's calm reaction to seeing someone she'd thought was dead weighed heavily in her favor.

"You're not surprised to see me?"

Dawn shrugged. "I'm not surprised you're drunk," she said. "Let's get him to bed and you can tell me what's going on," she added to Buffy as she led the way down the hall to the guest rooms.

"I like your sister," John stage whispered to Buffy.

"You always have," she replied, steering him through the door and onto the bed. He toppled face first onto it and was snoring before Buffy had finished taking off his shoes.  She pulled an extra blanket from the chest at the foot of the bed and covered him, touching the top of his head briefly as she straightened up.  She jerked her head to the door, following Dawn out of the room and closing the door behind her.

Dawn went straight to the kitchen and grabbed the coffee pot. "I had this going, just in case," she said, pouring them each a cup.  "So, what's going on? Where did you find him and why doesn't he know who I am? He's not that drunk."

Buffy sipped her coffee and filled Dawn in on the events of the evening.  "There's still a ton a stuff I haven't told him, but he's got the basics.  I'll call Giles in the morning and see what he knows about mystical comas and amnesia."

"What makes you think it's mystical? Maybe he really was in an explosion and got whacked on the head."

"Dawn, he's human. That didn't happen by accident."

"Good point." Dawn stood up and yawned. "I guess we'll figure it out in the morning. Which is, by the way, already here." She pointed to the kitchen clock and waved her goodnight.

Buffy listened to the sounds of her sister's normal bedtime routine, then to the silence that fell over the house.  She got up to go to her own room, but was unable to resist taking a peek at John/Spike.  He was sleeping "like the dead" she thought with a small giggle as she studied him in the faint light coming from the hallway. He'd rolled over onto his back and was sprawled across the bed, the blanket she'd so carefully put over him now tangled around his legs.  Buffy entered the room and gently pulled the blanket out.  She stood, holding it, and stared at the face she'd never thought to see again.

Acting on an impulse she couldn't have explained, she spread the blanket over John, leaving one corner turned back. She slipped off her shoes and slid onto the bed beside him, pulling the blanket over them both.  Telling herself she was only going to stay long enough to assure herself that he was alive, she curled up beside him and allowed the sound of his regular breathing to lull her to sleep.

 

Chapter Three

She woke slowly, conscious first only of the arm around her waist. Then she realized she was draped over another body – a male body.  Without opening her eyes, she groaned, repeating the sound when the body she was resting on shook with soft laughter.

"Not where you expected to be, then?" came a voice that contained a very familiar mocking tone.  She opened her eyes to see John smiling at her. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but what are you doing here?" His eyes, although alert, were still bloodshot from last night's drinking and he squinted against the morning light coming in the window.

"I'm sorry," she said, shifting away slightly and trying to sit up. "I didn't mean to fall asleep here, I just wanted...." She looked at his arm, still resting across her waist and preventing her from sitting up all the way.  "This is how we spent our last night together – just sleeping, with our clothes on, holding each other.  I just..." She shrugged. "I'm sorry," she repeated. "I had no right to take advantage of your... condition like that."

"Like I said, pet. I'm not complaining. Been a long time since I woke up next to a beautiful woman."  He took his arm off her waist and pushed the hair out of her face. "I don't mind it at all."

"Well, you should," she grumbled. "I had no right to treat you like that."

He laughed again. "I don't know that much about what I was like as a vampire, but I can't believe I ever objected to finding you in my bed."

"No," she said with a small smile. "No, you never did."  She shook herself and stood up, saying briskly, "But that doesn't mean I had a right to do it."  She walked to the door and peered out before slipping into the hall and down to her own room.  She looked longingly at the bed, then the clock, and sighed. She grabbed some clean clothes and headed for the bathroom, hoping she could shower herself awake.

 

Buffy put on some sweat pants and a tee shirt before heading for the kitchen to start another pot of coffee.  Her hair was still wet from the long shower she'd taken and she knew she looked a mess.  When Dawn walked in, yawning and nodding in approval when Buffy pointed to the coffee, she raised an eyebrow at her sister's appearance.

"So, because he's not really our Spike, you don't mind if you frighten him away?"

Buffy winced. "Do I look that bad?"  Before Dawn could answer, another voice chimed in.

"You look just fine, luv. Or, you would if I could actually see out of these things." He rubbed his still bloodshot eyes and pointed at the coffee pot. "May I?"

"Oh, of course. Here." Buffy jumped to her feet and pulled a mug from the cupboard, filling it and handing it to John.  "Sugar? Milk?"

"It's fine like this," he said, inhaling deeply before putting it to his lips. "Thank you. I'll just wake myself up a bit more, and you can give me my keys so I can get out of your hair."  He turned to Dawn. "Want to thank you for your hospitality, Mrs... Dawn. I apologize for my state last night. I'm sure I didn't make a very good impression."

Dawn shrugged. "It's not like it's the first time I've seen you drunk," she said, studying his face for any sign of recognition, sighing when it was obvious she was unfamiliar to him.

He grimaced. "You said something about that last night, too." He looked at Buffy. "You didn't mention that I was some sort of sot in addition to being all evil and whatnot."

Buffy exchanged a smile with Dawn. "In the overall scheme of things, your drinking was pretty far down the list of 'things Spike does that he shouldn't'."

"Not finding that as reassuring as you might think, pet," he muttered into his cup. He tipped his head up and gulped the rest of the hot liquid, put the cup in the sink and turned to look at Buffy again.  "Keys?"

"In my purse. I'll get them. Your car's back at the mall, though. We came here in my car, remember?"

He groaned. "Bollocks. That little bit of the adventure slipped my mind.  I'm sorry – means you have to take me back to the mall, doesn't it? I'm sorry, Buffy."

"It's no problem. Really.  Just let me get some shoes on and grab a jacket."

While she was gone, Dawn stared at John until he squirmed. "What?"

"Nothing. It's just.... There are things I want to say to you, and it's pointless because you're not really... you."

"What kinds of things?"

"The most important is – don't hurt her again.  I was there when she found out that you'd been back and died again without ever letting her know about it.  The first time you died to save the world, she could handle the grief because she was so proud of you. It helped, you know?  But then, to find out that you were back and didn't want to see her...." She glared at him. "You had no right to hurt us—her like that. No right, Spike!"

"Us?"

"We were friends. You were,... well, okay, I did threaten to set fire to you for... but I wouldn't have done it. I loved you, dammit! Maybe not like Buffy did, but I loved you. You were... my family. Sort of.  And you didn't care enough to let me know you weren't dead."

He cocked his head in a familiar manner.  "That wasn't me, luv," he said softly. "It was who I used to be, but I can't speak for him. I'm barely finding out who he is—was—and have no idea what he's done that I need to apologize for.  I expect it's quite a bit; some of it to people long beyond being able to accept my regrets for what I did to them."

She sighed. "I know. I know. I didn't mean to rag on you like that. I'm really glad to see you – even if you don't know who I am or who Buffy is."  She stood up and hugged him briefly. "Come back any time, Sp–John. You're always welcome here."

Buffy came back, pulling her jacket and jingling her keys. "Ready to go?"

"All set.  Thank you for the hospitality, Dawn."

"Just remember what I said," she replied.

 

"So, what did she say that you have to remember?"

"She was reminding me not to be a wanker where you're concerned," he admitted, sending a sidelong glance at her profile.  "Seems I have some sucking up to do before I'm in anyone's good graces."

"You don't have anything to apologize for. You aren't... aren't Spike anymore, and you're not responsible for things he did."

"If he—if I did anything to hurt you, I want to apologize. I've known you less than twenty-four hours and I already know that you deserve the best a man has to give.  If I didn't give you that... "

Buffy pulled into the almost empty mall parking lot and stopped next to his car. She stared straight ahead, ignoring the hand he was holding out for his keys.

"You gave me everything you had to give," she said, staring at the steering wheel as if it was going to argue. "We weren't... we weren't always good to each other. And sometimes that was as much my fault as it was yours." She turned to face him, adding, so low he had to strain to hear her, "But that last year... we were good that last year. We took care of each other, and you were... you were my main support system. You've got nothing to apologize for."

"Alright, pet. If you say so." He took his keys and put his hand on the car door. "Am I going to see you again?"

"Oh God! I hope so. I mean, if you want—"

"I want. I want very much. And not just because you can tell me more about my previous life." His warm gaze made his meaning very clear.

Buffy blushed and nodded. She scrabbled through the mess in her console, coming up with an old envelope and a pen. She wrote out her full name, address and all the phone numbers he might need to find her. "Here. I'll always be at one of these numbers. The first one is my cell phone..." He pulled out his own phone and entered her numbers while she watched, then tucked the paper into his shirt pocket and patted it.

"Are your packages still in my trunk?"

She shook her head. " No, I got them out last night, just didn't take them into the house yet." She grinned at him. "You really don't remember much of last night, do you?"

"Remember waking up with you in my arms," he said. "That's good enough for me."  He got out of the car and leaned in the door. "I'll call you later, Buffy."

 

Buffy drove back to Dawn's, her mind whirling as she tried to make some sense of the past few hours.  As soon as she'd retrieved the packages from the trunk and carried them to her room, she picked up the phone and placed a call to the UK.

"Giles? Listen, something's come up. I need you to do some research for— That is not funny. I do too value research. I just don't want to be the one to do it." She listened for a few seconds, then broke into whatever Giles was saying. "Giles, stop a minute and listen – Spike is alive. I mean alive, as in human. Uh huh. Of course I'm sure. I think I'd know— No, it isn't a demon plot. He was in a coma after the battle in LA. When he woke up, he was human but couldn't remember anything about who or what he was.  Yeah, yeah, I told him.... It went about as well as you might think... better, actually. He handled it pretty well – except for the whole getting drunk part.  Uh huh. I'm going to see him again tonight, I think."

She listened again, and sighed. "I need for you to see if you can find out what happened to everybody.  I know we already did that, but we've got more resources now than we did back then. If Spike lived, then we don't know for sure that everybody else died. Maybe Wesley, or Angel—" She almost growled into the phone. "I don't want to discuss that again. I'm just saying that somebody else might be out there, all amnesial, and we need to find them.

"No, I'm not looking for Angel. But I owe it to him to check it out. Just in case.... And I want to know what happened to Spike. First he's burnt to a crisp, then he pops out of the amulet and is a ghost. Then he isn't a ghost, but he dies again anyway. And now we find out that he didn't dust, he got turned into a human man. Seems to me this is stuff the Council needs to know about."

She nodded silently, until she remembered that Giles couldn't see her. "Of course it would be better if Spike could tell us, but he can't. Not unless he gets his memory back... "  Her eyes lit up. "Oh, really? Yes, that would be great.  Okay, call me as soon as you know something.  And, Giles? Thanks."

Buffy hung up and turned to find Dawn staring at her.

 "Come and eat," Dawn said, turning away.

 

After breakfast, Buffy went to meet the slayers she was working with and spent the rest of the day with them, planning their strategy for taking down the vampire clan that seemed to be positioning itself to take over the city of Cleveland. Buffy tried to stay as hands-off as possible, only contributing information based on her years living on a more active hellmouth and having to deal with potentially world-ending events on an annual basis.

She kept one hand in her pocket a good bit of the time, caressing her phone and hoping to feel the vibration that said she had a call coming in.  When the meeting broke up and she could leave, she tried to convince herself that she wasn't disappointed that it hadn't rung all day.

She went back to Dawn's, played with her nieces for a while, and then excused herself to take a nap. She gazed at the bed in which John had slept, but it was obvious that Dawn had cleaned up in there and she decided it was pointless to sleep on the newly made bed.  Setting her phone to go off at dinnertime, she undressed and slid under the covers, closing her eyes and drifting off to dreams of long nights of inventive sex and days of sparring in the back of the Magic Box with Spike.

She woke up to the sound of her phone vibrating against the nightstand beside the bed and fumbled for it.  "Hello?" her voice was roughened with sleep and she tried again. "Hello?"

"Buffy?" She hadn't realized she'd been holding her breath until his voice came over the speaker. "Did I wake you?"

"Um... yeah. Sorta. But I was going to wake up in a few minutes anyway. I was just catching a nap."

"I'm sorry, luv. I put off calling you as long as I could stand it, but I'm a weak man."

"I checked my phone all day," she admitted softly.

"Ah, if I'd known that, I would have called earlier."

"I wish you had," she said.

"Next time, I'll follow my instincts." He paused, then gave a short laugh. "I don't know why, but this all feels very strange.  Did we always talk to each other like this?"

Buffy giggled.  "Not hardly. We spent most of our time bickering and yelling at each other. We saved the... the affectionate stuff for apocalypses and... like that."

"Oh good." She could hear his sigh of relief. "I'm not sure how long I could keep this up."

She giggled again. "Yesterday? When you told me I was stupid for running away? That was more like my Spike. If I was doing something dumb, you—he would always call me on it."

"I'll remember that. When Buffy's being stupid, tell her so."

"I wouldn't make a habit of it," she said, her tone chillier. "You might not like the reaction."

"Don't worry, luv. I haven't forgotten that you could break me in half if you wanted to. I intend to keep my "Stupid Buffys" to those absolutely necessary." She could hear the grin in his voice and smiled in spite of herself.

"Well, we'll see if human you has more impulse control than vampire you," she said with a giggle. "I'm betting... not!"

"Oh, you're on, missy."

There was a moment of silence before he asked, "May I see you tonight? Or do you spend all your evenings sitting in cemeteries?"

"Not all of them," she said. "I'm just a visitor here. There's a whole houseful of slayers whose job it is to keep the vamp numbers down. Not my job anymore."

"So last night was just for my benefit?"

"Pretty much. I figured it would be easier to convince you if you'd seen an actual vampire than if I just showed how strong I am and then tried to explain it."

"Good thinking. I already thought you were daft, telling me I used to be a vampire would have done it for sure." He laughed and continued, "What time shall I pick you up then?"

"Whenever you want to. Where are we going?"

"Out to dinner, maybe some dancing? Whatever you want to do, luv. I just want to see you again."

"Oh. Okay. Well, how about you pick me up at..." She took a quick look at the time, "... six-thirty? That gives me time to take a shower and fix my hair."

"Alright, luv. I'll see you at six-thirty. Till then."

 

Chapter Four

Buffy rushed to the bathroom, determined that when he picked her up she would look better than she had after a day of shopping and a night of little sleep.  When he knocked on the door, she was waiting, make-up on, hair shiny and smooth, wearing a plain black dress that managed to seem demure and sexy at the same time. With her heels on, she was able to smile directly up into his eyes.  Eyes that seemed thoroughly riveted on her.

"Bloody hell," he breathed, never noticing the way she twitched at the familiar oath.  When he continued to stare, she began to blush and dropped her eyes to his tie.  She focused on that until he took a deep breath and said, "Knew you were a beautiful woman, but I had no idea..."

"So, I cleaned up okay?" Buffy smiled, now sure of herself in the face of his obvious admiration.

"I think you could say that," was his wry response.  He took her hand and raised it to his lips, brushing them across her knuckles as he said, "Didn't mean to embarrass you, luv. I'm sorry."

"Never apologize for telling a woman she's beautiful," Buffy said with another smile.  "You clean up pretty good yourself."  She was being truthful as she got her first look at John/Spike in a good suit that fit him as if it had been tailored just for him.  It occurred to Buffy that she had no idea what he did for a living, and that he might actually be wealthy, in spite of the car and his renting space to live.

"Are you two through slobbering all over each other? 'cause I'd like to come in, but it's a little too sugary in here for me."  Dawn's words preceded her into the foyer. She eyed John with approval and nodded.  "Definitely a step up from the leather and jeans," she said with a smile.  "It's about time you grew up."

John raised an eyebrow at Buffy. "Is there something I should know about the way I used to dress?"

"Nothing that can't wait until dinner," she said, handing him her coat to hold while she put it on.  "Don't wait up, Dawnie."

"Wasn't planning to," she replied. "I need my sleep.  You kids have fun." She watched them walk out the door, then closed it against the chilly air.

 

John had made reservations in one of Cleveland's better restaurants, and it was clear from the way he was received that he wasn't a stranger there. They were led to a small table, close to the dance floor, but somewhat isolated from nearby diners.  Buffy was no stranger to nice restaurants and good food, but there was no question this was one of the best places she'd ever eaten.

The conversation ranged from stories about Sunnydale and Buffy's high school days, to John's description of finding himself in a rehabilitation hospital with no idea who he was or how he got there.  Buffy was careful about how much she shared with him about his life as a vampire, worried that he would not be able to handle it when he found out more about his life before the chip. However, after his initial, alcohol-fueled disgust at himself when she'd first told him what he used to be, he seemed to be surprisingly all right with it.

"I don't remember any of it, and you tell me I changed after I got that chip, so there's no sense making myself all crazy and broody over something I can't change."

"Wow. That is so.,. sensible."

"Not something you expect from me, I take it?"

"Well, not really, no... I mean, not that you couldn't be very sensible, but it was usually accompanied by a lot of sarcasm and mocking that made people so mad they didn't even notice that you were really making sense." She peered at him over her wine glass. "Does that make sense?"

"In your world, I guess it does." He grinned when she looked indignant. "Ah, I see I've still got it."

She relaxed into a laugh, her glare softening into a fond stare. "I imagine you do," she said, tipping her glass toward his. "Here's to finding out." She was afraid she might have been too bold, but he just smiled back at her and tapped her glass with his.

"Here's to finding out," he responded, his eyes warming her from head to toe.  There was a moment of uncomfortable silence before he shook himself and said, "Although, I've got to admit, the more I find out about this Spike character, the harder it is to understand what you saw in him... or what of him you see in me.... Aside from my obvious good looks, of course."

Buffy laughed and nodded her head. "Trust me, sometimes he's right there just crying to get out."

He laughed with her, then sobered immediately. "Sometimes I wish he'd stop trying and just do it."

"Do you?" she asked, suddenly serious. "Because if you do...."

"If I do? How could I not want it? Do you know what it's like to be missing... I started to say almost 30 years of my life, but it's a bit more than that, isn't it?"

"It is. A really, really big 'bit more'. The question is, are you happier now than you were then?"  She titled her head and smiled at him sadly. "They aren't all going to be happy memories."

He reached across the table and took her hand. "How can you ask me that?  Do you think I can't see you wince when I say or do something that reminds me of the Jo–Spike who loved you?  The Spike you loved?  How can you think I wouldn't want to remember?"

Buffy nodded. "I'm sorry. I thought I was hiding those little stabs of memory better than that. I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable."

"Doesn't make me uncomfortable, pet. It just makes me wish I wasn't hurting you when it happens."

Buffy gave him a dazzling smile that was mostly sincere. "Hey, Slayer here! High pain threshold, been there, broke that, tough skin—"

"Soft heart."

She shook her head. "Don't kid yourself, John. That's got a pretty thick skin by now too. I'm known in some circles as 'The Ice Queen'."

Instead of arguing with her, he held out his hand.  "Alright, Icey-baby, can I interest you in a dance?"

Buffy stared at him dubiously, but told herself he wouldn't have asked if he didn't know he could dance. She took his hand and let him lead her to the floor for a very respectable cha-cha.  They danced, more or less successfully though several songs with Latin rhythms, until the band went into a slow, romantic ballad.

"It's about bloody time," he grumbled, pulling her into his arms and beginning to move gracefully around the floor. Buffy gave herself up to the feel of his arms and the music, allowing him to hold her as close as he wanted to and to guide them through the other couples on the floor. Her heels put her just where she could rest her head on his shoulder and brush her cheek against his from time to time. Their steps got slower and slower, until they were just standing near their table, swaying to the music.

"Buffy?" John's voice was hoarse and strained.

"Yes?" She lifted her face to find his only inches away, his eyes never leaving her lips.

"If I don't kiss you right now, I think I'm going to explode."

"Oh. Well, we can't have that," she whispered, rising a little higher on her toes. "That would be mess—" He brushed his lips across hers, then brought them back in a soft, longing kiss that drew an involuntary whimper from her throat. The sound brought an answering groan from him and a deepening of the kiss that might have gone on much longer had the song not ended and another couple brushed against them as they left the dance floor.

With an embarrassed laugh, they broke apart. Spike's hands dropped to her wrist and held her lightly.  He took a deep breath and nodded his head at the table.

"I suppose we should sit down again."

"Probably," she answered, making no attempt to move away.

"Because, if I were to invite you to come home with me, it would very wrong. I'd be taking advantage of your feelings for someone I'm not anymore, and—"

"And if I went with you, I'd just be using you to make me feel—"

"And we're better people than that," he said firmly, pulling out her chair for her.

"I'd like to think so," she replied primly, sliding into her chair and glancing back over her shoulder.  The lust on his face would have been frightening, if it hadn't seemed so achingly familiar.  "On the other hand...."

"If we're both willing, and our eyes are open..."

"Race you to the car," Buffy said, throwing her napkin on the table and grabbing her purse.

"No fair! You have super powers!" He threw several large bills on the table and followed her to the coat check.  "You're cheating," he murmured into her ear as he put the coat over her shoulders.

"Are you complaining?" She twirled away from him. "It's not like I'm going to start without you."

"If you did, could I watch?" He wiggled his eyebrows at her and she giggled, then sobered.

"Are you sure you don't have your memories? 'cause that sounded an awful lot like something Spike would say."

"It's something any bloke would say, luv. Trust me."

 

They made it all the way to the car without kissing again, but once inside, they moved toward each other without discussion, their lips connecting with a sense of almost desperation.  Freed of the constraints put on them by the restaurant being a public place, they fell into long, wet, tongue tangling kisses that soon had them both panting and running their hands over each other's bodies.

Showing how very much he was not Spike, John tore his mouth away, gasping, "Not here.  My place."

Buffy threw a longing glance toward the back seat before remembering how old they were now and nodding reluctantly. "You're right.  We shouldn't do this here."

He started the car, taking a moment to glance at her face, frowning at the sadness he could see there.  He pointed the car toward his home and leaned back against the seat as he drove.

"Are you having second thoughts?"

"Wha—? No. No, of course not. I'm sorry. I was just... distracted... for a minute."

"By...?"

"Nothing." She smiled at him and patted his arm.  "Memories. Good ones. That's all."

"Look, Buffy... I know I'm not him, but..."

"You're you. And I... I like you. I'm not comparing. Really, I'm not." She took a deep breath and decided to be totally honest with him. "It was just the stuff about watching was so very, very Spike, and the not wanting to do it right that second, no matter where we were, was so very not Spike.... It threw me, that's all."

"I wish I could be him, luv. I do. But all I know about him is what you've told me. Wouldn't be right to pretend, would it? To start dressing differently and behaving differently just because it would make me more like him?"

"No. I don't want you to pretend anything... But what if I told you Giles – I told you about Giles, didn't I? What if I told you he might have a way to get your memory back? If it's a mystical thing, and not just 'cause you got hit on the head one too many times?"

"I'd say as soon as I've shagged you silly, I want you to call him."

"Tomorrow," she promised. "It's late over there now. And he just started looking into it today."

John nodded as he pulled into a tree-lined driveway and parked in front of a large garage.

"Here we are," he said, unnecessarily. "If you're going to change your mind, do it now."

Buffy exhaled the breath she hadn't even been aware she was holding. She reached for his hand and put it to her cheek, smiling when his thumb automatically stroked the skin there.

"I know you're probably thinking I'm just a slut—" She put her fingers to his lips when he went to protest. "No, it would be a fair thing for you to think. You just met me and you've only got my word for it that we ever meant anything to each other.  But, here's the thing... in my line of work, I never know if or when some vamp or demon is going to get his one good day. I've learned not to put stuff off for later. Sometimes 'later' doesn't come, you know? I... I want you. I think I'd want you even if I didn't know you used to be Spike... although I might have been a little more patient and ladylike about it," she admitted with an embarrassed shrug. "But maybe not. I don't know. All I know is that you want me, and I want you, and a girl with my life expectancy isn't in a position to put it off just to seem less slutty."

He pulled her hand to his own face and kissed her palm. "You could never seem slutty to me. More like a gift I don't know what I did to deserve." Without further conversation, they got out of the car and Spike guided her toward a door set in the side of the garage.

"I have my own entrance," he explained, opening the door and holding it for her. "Means I don't have to parade you past the landlady and her nosey passel of kids."

A short hallway led to a few stairs leading down to a pleasant, comfortable-looking living room.  Spike took her coat, throwing it over a chair and pulling her against his body. Proof of his remaining interest was pressing into her hip as he dipped his head and murmured into her mouth, "Now, where were we?"

 

 

Buffy melted into the kisses, whimpers of need escaping occasionally as his hands began to roam her body and his breath came faster and harder. When he suddenly scooped her up and carried her into his bedroom she gasped, then giggled.

"If you're going to spoil my romantic gesture by pointing out that you could have carried me don't bother. It already occurred to me. Just let me hang on to my illusions of masculinity, yeah?"

"How about if I hang on to your masculinity?" she purred, dropping her hand to caress him. A strangled groan was his only reply as he pushed into her hand. He walked straight to the bed and fell down on it, rolling as he fell so that Buffy was on top of him.  His hands slid up her legs and he murmured in appreciation when he found she wasn't wearing panty hose. His hands skimmed past the lace at the top of her thigh-highs and began stroking the silken skin of her inner thighs.

"Too many clothes," Buffy gasped, squirming around until the bulge in his trousers was firmly lodged between her legs.  In spite of her words, she made no attempt to get off him and get undressed, just continued to rub herself against him and enjoy the muttered obscenities coming from his mouth.

Her dress was soon rucked up to her neck and his hands quickly unfastened her bra so that he could hold one breast as he breathed compliments for the way she felt to him.  The other hand tugged the dress down so that he could reach the zipper, which was soon opened. He rolled them over, holding himself above her with his arms as she shimmied out of the dress and bra. The expression on his face as he took in the sight of Buffy, with lips kiss-swollen, hair mussed and wearing nothing but a black thong and black stockings was worth the temporary loss of his cock pressing against her.

Buffy used her time away from his body to begin unbuttoning his shirt, but she grew impatient and ripped it open, remembering only too late that this wasn't actually Spike and it appeared to be a very expensive shirt.

"Oops?"

Instead of responding verbally, he threw the ruined shirt on the floor and yanked the undershirt over his head. Buffy's hands were already on his belt buckle and zipper, managing to get them both undone at the same time. She pushed his trousers down his hips, barely noticing the boxers that went off with them.

John's mouth was now on one breast and his hand was pushing her thong down one leg.  When Buffy pulled him toward her and arched into him, he shook his head, groaning, "Want to make it good for you, luv. Want to take my time, make it last... "

"Next time," she said, wrapping her legs around his hips and pulling him down flush against her body. His cock seemed to find her without any guidance from either of them and he was soon sliding into her. Their sighs of mutual pleasure and contentment were the only sounds to be heard while their bodies got reacquainted. Very soon, they were moving together in a rhythm that was timeless and yet seemed new and wonderful.

It wasn't long before he was crying her name as she shuddered under him and they collapsed together with satisfied sighs and light, affectionate kisses. He rolled to the side, pulling her with him until she was in the same position in which she'd woken up that morning. Although this time, he had both arms around her and was absently stroking the skin on her back.

"Well," he said finally. "That wasn't exactly what I'd planned, but I've got to say, it was probably the best shag of my life." He glanced down at her smirking face. "Was it always like that with you?"

Buffy shook her head. "No... well... yeah... the first time we usually... but then we always slowed down and... and took our time.  One time we went for five hours straight."

"You do remember I'm human, right?"

He sounded genuinely frightened and Buffy hastened to reassure him. "It was just that one time. We were mad at each other and neither one us would...  Okay, not stuff you need to hear, I guess.  The point is—" She sat up and stared into his eyes. "The point is, it's been almost twelve years since we...  I couldn't help it. I just wanted you so much – and I didn't hear you complaining."

"Fuck, no! Not complaining. I don't know when I've wanted a woman so badly, or had someone want me like that. It's just a bit much to get used to, is all."

"So," Buffy said with deceptive mildness, "have you had a lot of women in the last ten years? Since you got out of the hospital, I mean." She was twirling her fingers around one nipple, noting that it hardened immediately.

John went very still, his apparently excellent survival skills causing him to chose his words very carefully.

"Didn't know about you, did I? Right this minute, I'm having a very hard time understanding how I could ever have forgotten you, but the truth is I did. So, yeah, there've been some women in my life. Don't expect there will be any more after this... but I can't pretend—"

"You don't have to. I had no right to ask that. It's just that the idea of you..." She stopped talked and glared at him. "I'll bet that was one of those things you didn't have to learn, wasn't it?"

"No more than I had to learn to breathe," he admitted. "Seems like it came naturally to me." His voice couldn't hide a trace of pride.

"Hmmph!"

"So, then, Buffy. You've been a nun, have you? Just spending all your time working to save the world and mourning my old long-gone self?" His tone was light, but his grip on her tightened just slightly.

"I hate it when you make sense," she grumbled. "And no fair. I thought you were dead.  Really, forever, not-coming-back-again, dead."

"And I didn't know you even existed, except maybe as a really, really good wet dream..."

"You dreamed about me?"  She sat up and stared down at him, hope battling distrust in her eyes.

He shrugged. "I sometimes dream about a woman who comes to me at night and rocks my world.  Wouldn't have known it was you until... but now... I'd say my body remembers you just fine."  He moved her over until she was sitting on his hips and his newly stiff cock. "Now if your friends can come up with a way to bring my brain up to speed..."

Buffy rubbed herself against him. "Didn't you say something about making it good for me? And taking your time...."

"That was my plan," he murmured, leaning up to take one nipple in his mouth. "Got a bit sidetracked, didn't I?"

"Your plans never work out the way you want them to," she gasped, pushing into his mouth. "Not where I'm concerned, anyway. Get used to it..." Her voice trailed off in a moan as he turned them and put her on her back, his mouth following her breast down to the mattress.

"Rather get used to this," he said, releasing her nipple to kiss his way up to her mouth. "Want to spend the rest of my life getting used to this..."

"That works too. You can start now."

The End.

 

Title: A Happy Life, To Go, Please

Summary: Buffy has accidentally run into a shanshued Spike, only to find he has amnesia and no recollection of her or his former life. They are attracted to each other immediately (duh!). This ficlet is set six months after they've begun dating.  The prompt was "coffee shop".s

 

A Happy Life, To Go, Please

 

Buffy ran her finger around the rim of her latte cup.  "So, that's the deal. The coven thinks that Willow should be able to break through whatever mojo is keeping your memory locked up." She glanced up at him. "If it is mojo. They won't know until we get there and they can read you."

 

John broke off a piece of a chocolate muffin and handed the rest of it to Buffy. He took a bite, washing it down with coffee and taking his time responding to her. "Why do I get the feeling you don't want me to do this?" he said finally. 

 

Six months of daily (and nightly) contact with John, as well some residual personality traits that still said "Spike" to her, had sharpened Buffy's ability to read his face and body postures. She put down her cup and placed one hand over his.

 

"I want to be sure that you want to do it," she said carefully. "It's... it's been good, hasn't it? These past few months?  We've been good?"

 

"It's been bloody amazing," he agreed quickly, turning his hand over and holding hers tightly.  "I don't know when I've ever been so happy... "

 

"I don't know when you've ever been so happy, either," she whispered. "I... I like seeing you happy." She squeezed his hand. "I just don't want it to go away if... when you get your memory back.  What if... what if you aren't happy anymore?"

 

"Buffy... I..." He shook his head. "Why wouldn't I be happy?"  A shadow crossed his face.  "Don't you want me to remember? To remember you... us?"

 

"Aren't we an 'us' now?" Her eyes held on to his, trying to say without words how important the relationship they were forging was to her.

 

"Bloody hell, yes! How can you doubt it?"  He lowered his voice when the two other customers nursing their cups of overpriced coffee glanced their way.  "How can you doubt it?" he repeated in a quieter tone.  "But that's not going to go away just because I remember us from before..." He tilted his head and studied her worried face. "Is it?"

 

"I don't know," she said. "I just don't know.  What if you aren't happy when you get your memories back and remember what it was like to be a vamp? What if you don't want to be human? What if the reason you never called me was because you didn't love me anymore when you popped out of the amulet? What if—"

 

"Buffy," he interrupted, ignoring the other customers and moving to her side of the table.  He knelt in front of her, still holding her hand and wrapping it in both of his.  "I can't tell you how I'll feel about being human. I've got no idea. Would I like to have the stamina to make love to you for five hours without letup? I suppose I would. Is that worth giving up being able to take you to the park for picnics on nice afternoons? Or thinking about someday making a family of our own?" He shook his head. "I seriously doubt it."   He sighed and stood up, pulling her to her feet and into a loose embrace.  "And, as far as not loving you – I'm pretty sure that's not possible. I loved you then, I love you now, and I'll love you when I can remember loving you then."

 

Buffy's eyes were brimming. "But... but you didn't come to me. You didn't even let me know you were alive. How can I—"

 

"I don't know why I didn't call you. I don't know why I didn't jump onto the first jet leaving LA and find you.  I don't know why I stayed with a man – a vampire – you tell me I hated.  I don't know any of those things."  He shook his head and pulled her closer, letting her rest her head on his chest while he nuzzled her hair and murmured too quietly for the interested onlookers to hear.  "Maybe I didn't believe that you really loved me and was afraid to find out I was right.  Maybe I thought you'd be better off without me. I don't know any of those things."

 

He pushed her away from his chest and tipped her head up until their eyes locked. "I just know that all the demons and witches in the world couldn't tear me away from you now, and there's no way getting my memories back is going to change that."

 

"I love you," Buffy said, blinking rapidly. "I love John, I loved Spike, and I'll love whoever you turn out to be when you can remember."

 

"I believe you," he replied. "I believe you and I'm not worried about what will or won't happen in the future. We're forever, Buffy. Together or apart, we're forever."

 

"Forever," she echoed, reaching up to kiss him lightly.  They stared into each other's eyes a minute longer; satisfied with what they saw there, they broke into smiles.

 

"So," Buffy said, sitting down and grinning at him. "Are you going eat your half of that muffin?"

 

The End

 

 

 

 

Title: Made for Each Other

Prompt: soulmates

Summary: Set in the AU future where Buffy has encountered a shashued, amnesiac Spike (John) many years after the end of NFA, and has fallen in love with the man who has no memory of her or his previous life, this fic takes place after they have decided to head for England and the Council to try to get John's memories back. Giles is a bit edgy about the whole thing, not sure that he believes in the Shanshu or the ultimate harmlessness of the strange man Buffy and Dawn are so sure is Spike reincarnated.

 

Made for Each Other

 

Buffy stepped out of the long tube leading from the plane to the receiving area and scanned the waiting crowd.  She felt John step up behind her and smiled at him over her shoulder.

 

"Nervous?"

 

"Should I be?"  He smiled back, but she could see the tension in his face, and she reached for his hand.

 

"No," she said emphatically. "If you change your mind, it's fine."  She finally spotted a frowning Giles working his way toward them and added under her breath, "And if anybody gives you a hard time, you let me know."

 

"Can take are of myself, love," he said, giving her hand a squeeze and meeting the suspicious eyes staring at him over her head. 

 

Giles's gaze flicked right past Buffy and focused on John's bland stare.  After giving Buffy a token hug, he held out his hand and said evenly, "How do you do... John. Buffy has told us all about you."

 

"Is that true, pet?" John asked, resting his other arm across Buffy's shoulder. "You've told them all about me?"

 

"Behave," Buffy hissed, poking him in the side with her elbow.  She watched Giles narrow his eyes and sighed.  "And you, Giles. We've talked about this. He isn't Spike. He doesn't remember being Spike. And if catch you or anybody else trying to blame him for anything Spike did a gazillion years ago...."

 

"Quite right, Buffy. My apologies," he said, releasing John's hand. "I promise to limit myself to blaming you only for things you do currently.  At least until we get your memories back."

 

"Fair enough," John said, flexing the fingers of the hand Giles had been clearly trying to evaluate for supernatural strength.  "And I promise not to blame you for anything I only know about because Buffy told me."

 

Buffy stared back and forth between them, rolling her eyes. "Well, this is going so well, I can't wait until he has to meet Xander."

 

Without further conversation, they followed Giles out of the airport and into the small school van.  Once they were settled in and on the way to Slayer/Council Headquarters, Buffy and Giles limited their conversation to catching her up on the important events that she had missed while on vacation in the US.  John gazed around with wide eyes. Knowing, intellectually, that he'd been born in this country and knew parts of it quite well, did nothing to make him feel less of a stranger.

 

"You okay?" Buffy broke into his thoughts.

 

"I'm fine, love. Just feeling like a bit of a tourist, is all."

 

Giles frowned. "Nothing feels familiar then?"

 

"Trust me," John said, giving Buffy an affectionate leer.  "If meeting Buffy couldn't bring those memories back, a few buildings aren't going to do the job."  Unspoken, but understood by all three was the "... if shagging Buffy..." that John had swallowed at the last second.  She gave him a small smile and shook her head at his innocent expression.  "What?"

 

"Nothing," she said, rolling her eyes.  "Nothing at all."

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

Willow and several women Buffy didn't recognize were waiting at the entrance to the big building when they pulled up.  Behind them, Buffy could see two girls she recognized as slayers.

 

"Welcoming party?" she said with a glare at Giles, who had the grace to look embarrassed.

 

"We didn't know what to expect," he mumbled. 

 

"Oh, I'm sorry," her voice dripped with sarcasm. "I thought I told you it would be just me and the man I'm dating.  You know, the man who has died at least twice helping me or Angel  save the world.  The one who doesn't remember anything about any of that?"

 

Giles responded stiffly as he opened his door. "I'm well aware of what you think you've brought to us, but you could have been under a spell, the First Evil may have found a way to become corporeal, Spike could have lost his soul somewhere along the line—"

 

"Spike without his soul was just as trustworthy as he was with it," Buffy snapped. "And after this many years as a slayer, I think I might have noticed if I was sleeping with a vampire... again."  She turned her back on Giles and, taking John's hand, walked up the steps to greet Willow with a hug.  "I hope you aren't going to be a pain about this too," she said when Willow returned her hug but kept her eyes on the man behind Buffy.

 

"No," she whispered in Buffy's ear. "I'm sorry about all this.  He just refuses to believe—"

 

"He doesn't want to believe," Buffy said aloud, pulling John up beside her.  "John, this is Willow. She's been my friend since I was fifteen, and she's a very powerful witch."

 

John held out his hand and clasped the one Willow extended. "I'm so very pleased to meet you," he said, squeezing it gently. "Buffy has told me so much about you, I feel as though we are already friends."

 

Willow smiled back at him and put both her hands around his. "I'm sure we will be," she said, still holding his hand.  She flushed when he raised an eyebrow and gave his hand a little tug.  "Sorry, I just—"

 

"Did you find out what you wanted to know?" he asked, trying to keep the irritation from his voice.

 

"I'm sorry." Willow released his hand and apologized quickly.  "I didn't mean to be rude, but I can't usually get an aura from someone that easily and I didn't want to pass up the chance."

 

"You can't? I thought you were all powerful?" He gave her a hard stare.

 

Willow started to squirm, then remembered who she was.  "Sympathetic, earth magic isn't my strong suit," she said, standing up straight and looking him in the eye. "But you give off a very powerful vibe. I had no trouble getting it."

 

"Okaaaay," Buffy broke in. "Can we have all this aura reading stuff somewhere else besides the front door?"

 

"Of course, sorry." Willow gestured and the other women and girls backed up into the open foyer.  As Buffy and John stepped in, the two slayers shook their heads and relaxed.  "No vamp vibes," the redhead said. 

 

"I could have told you that," Buffy growled, sending the girls into a quick retreat, now that there was no threat.  "This is really starting to get on my nerves."

 

"It's alright, pet," John put his hands on her shoulders and spoke into her ear, although his words were directed at Willow and the women studying him in an impartial manner. "Let them figure out I'm not a threat. If half what you've told me about the things that you've all been through are true, I can't blame them for being cautious."

 

Smiling, one of the younger witches stepped up to Buffy's side and spoke to John. "Thank you for understanding," she said.  "Would you mind...." She held out her hand, and after a second's hesitation, he took it.  While they gazed into each other's eyes and the witch let her magic flow between them, Willow explained, "Nancy is one of the best we have at earth magic. She can sense auras like nobody's business."

 

"Thank you," Nancy said, smiling at John and releasing his hand. She glanced behind them at Giles and Willow, but addressed her comments to the pair in front of her. "Your aura is very unusual, but there's nothing demonic about it. You have an old soul in there, and...." She hesitated, casting another glance at Willow.  "... and your aura and Buffy's... they're meshed.  They blend in a way I've only seen once or twice before in my life.  And those were much older couples.  People who had been married for fifty years or more."

 

John put his arms around Buffy and pulled her against his chest. "If you're sayin' we belong together, I think we're well on our way to figuring that out," he said. "But it's nice to hear it confirmed."

 

"Are you sure about that?" One of the other witches stepped closer and studied them.  "They've only been together for a few months, haven't they?"

 

Nancy nodded and pulled the other woman closer. "See for yourself – if they'll let you," she added, meeting Buffy's suspicious eyes. "They have the combined auras of people who've been together for... well, I don't want to say 'forever' so I'll go with 'a very long time'."

 

Buffy and John were soon in the center of a murmuring group of very excited witches, all studying them intently.  They stood quietly, Buffy's body tense within John's soothing arms, while the friendly, smiling women circled them, nodding and laughing softly. 

 

"Enough," Giles finally broke into the love fest. "What's important here is that he is what he says he is, and not a threat to anyone in this compound."

 

"Actually, Giles," Willow contradicted him.  "This is important. For them to have such a strong connection after only knowing each other for a few months... it's pretty special."

 

Giles heaved a sigh and nodded.  He extended his hand to John. "Let's try this again, shall we?  Welcome to the Council Headquarters, John. My apologies for doubting you and," he turned to Buffy, " for doubting you, Buffy. You've always been right about Spike – I should have trusted your instincts this time."

 

John nodded. "You wanted to protect her, I can't fault you for that. There was no way for you to know—"

 

Giles shrugged. "There was, actually. I faulted her for something similar many years ago – for trusting you and becoming so close to you that I thought she was losing sight of her mission. I was wrong then, and I am wrong now. Whatever is between you and Buffy, it's deeper and stronger than what would be normal for most couples. It's stronger than distance, or death, or – it would seem – resurrection. I'm very sorry."

 

Buffy relaxed and leaned against John's chest. "So, we're all good, then? I don't have to worry that somebody's going try to stake the love of my life when I'm not looking?"

 

She felt John's arms tighten around her. "The love of your life?" he whispered.

 

"If that works for you," she whispered back, tipping her head back to meet his awed eyes.  "I'm pretty sure that's what they're saying about us.  I think you're stuck with me."

 

"Wouldn't want to be stuck anywhere else," he murmured.  Ignoring the still watching people, he kissed her until they almost forgot where they were. Only the steadily increasing throat clearing around them finally broke the kiss.

 

"Damn!" one of the slayers said. "I think I could see their auras that time."

 

"I think that was just the heat," Willow said, fanning herself.  "But Buffy probably wants to show John where her room is. I'm sure they want to rest up after the long trip."

 

"Right," Buffy said, blushing and moving away from John. "That's just what we need to do. Rest up. Just as soon as we get to my room. " She grabbed John's hand and her suitcase, pulling him toward the stairs.  "It's just up here on the next floor..."

 

The small group at the foot of the stairs watched them go with varying degrees of envy and admiration.  The teenaged slayers sighed.

 

"It's like something out of a novel."

 

"Like they're sou—"

 

"Don't say it."

 

"But..."

 

"Do. Not. Say. It."

 

"Fine. I won't say it. But I'll be thinking it." The redhaired slayer tossed her ponytail and stomped away to find the romance novel she'd been reading when Willow called her to help guard the entrance. Her companion gave a shrug and followed her down the hall.

 

"They probably are, you know," Nancy said softly.  "Those auras didn't get like that overnight. Or by accident.  Somebody or something means for those two to be together." She looked at Giles's pensive face and patted him on the cheek. "Give it up, Boss. She was going to find him sooner or later. Just be grateful he's a good-looking man and not some kind of hairy, slimy demon."

 

 

The End

 

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