Chapter Nine

It was a beautiful night. The moon was bright, the skies were clear, and the air was just crisp enough to make the blood pump a little but faster.

Buffy loved patrolling on nights like this. You can't beat the exhilaration of the hunt while gliding through silent cemeteries, sensitive the most minute movement in the distance. On nights like this, she enjoyed being the Slayer.

And man did she need it. On the heels of the Lowell House fiasco last night, Buffy had a strong urge to kill something. Was that an unhealthy way to deal with problems?

She paused, considering the question. Nah. Evil things need killing, and if she finds it therapeutic, well, that's just a big plus in the Slayer column.

Minor moral quandary resolved, Buffy continued her patrol.

"Hello, Dearly Departed Alice Vincent," she read off the tombstone, before turning her eyes to look at the newly risen fledgling, "wake up on the wrong side of the coffin today?"

The vampire snarled and leaped forward. However, her foot was still stuck in the ground and she tripped, falling flat on her face. As she lay there, struggling to rise, Buffy crouched beside her, debating to stake now or later.

"No good punk teen," snapped Dearly Departed Alice, "can't you help an old woman when she's down?"

Buffy rolled her eyes and pulled her up. Alice Vincent stood there a moment, dusted herself off, checked her hair, muttered, "I knew my daughter would bury me in plaid, I just knew it," then charged Buffy.

Buffy stepped to the side easily. "I have to agree, plaid is definitely not your thing," she commiserated, "I mean, what happened to the classy black dress?" Buffy dodged another clumsy attack. "Though I don't think black's your color either. Personally, I'd say you were a summer."

"Could you just be a good girl and stand still?" Alice lunged and tripped again. "Damn hip replacement."

"Though I can't tell what would suit your complexion better, blue or green. What kind of foundation do you use?"

"Mary Kay, Ivory 200," she paused, "and would you stop nattering and let me kill you?"

"Sorry, doesn't work that way, Alice," Buffy staked her without moving from her spot. "Welcome to Wonderland."

The vampire did that little pause-while-being-dusted thing before collapsing to the ground in ashes. Buffy shrugged and pocketed the stake. That was a lame quip, but with a name like Alice she couldn't resist.

Whistling "A Very Merry Un-Birthday", Buffy continued patrolling. And then stopped at the sound of a highly unwanted familiar voice.

"Now that was a pathetic fight, luv," Spike said as he emerged from the trees.

"What are you doing here?" Buffy's eyes narrowed. "Were you following me?"

"Contrary to popular opinion, the world does NOT revolve around you. This is a graveyard, remember? I live in one, you know."

"Yes, you live in one across town."

Spike ducked his head. Oops. She wasn't supposed to remember that. Deciding that any back tracking would make him look even stupider, he forged ahead. "Slayer, we need to talk."

"About what?"

Spike gave her his patented you-know-what-I'm-talking-about look. "About everything."

Buffy leaned against the now doubly departed Alice's headstone. "Spike, I know you think we have some kind of relationship, but - "

She trailed off as he just LOOKED at her. Like he could see right through her and knew she was being all avoidy and was willing to wait around until she stopped being all avoidy. She flushed and looked away. "It's just that.."

He was beside her now, pulling her into his arms. "It's just what? You can't deny something's going on. Something confusing, maybe, but ignoring it won't make it go away."

"Seems like a good start to me," she muttered.

"Do you really believe that? Listen, would it be so bad if we tried to see if there was anything there? We're married, luv. Why can't you give it a chance?" he whispered into her ear.

So tempting. Buffy relaxed and leaned back into him. Mmm, nice. For a moment she could pretend that they were just two lovers trying to fix a misunderstanding. That she was no different than the girls down her hall back at the dorm. They cuddled for a moment, as Spike murmured promises about what they could do. Slowly his lips trailed from her ear down her jaw line and tickled her throat.

Her throat. Her neck, exposed. Exposed to Spike. To a vampire. Buffy yanked herself from his arms. She wasn't like the girls down the hall. And he wasn't just some cute college boy.

"We can't."

"Why the hell not?" Spike demanded. And it had been going so well, too.

"Vampire, Slayer. Slayer, Vampire. Do I need to draw a diagram?"

"Depends what they're doing in the picture."

"Ugh, no. Get your mind out of the gutter. Spike, we can't be together. Maybe if this was some alternate reality where we're not, you know, mortal enemies, but it's not."

"We are together. We're married, Mrs. William Montgomery."

"That was a spell," she insisted. "A spell caused by a somewhat drunk, petulant friend who was in a bad mood. That isn't a relationship, that's an accident."

"Then why did we say we were in love?" Spike challenged. "Anya tells me Willow's spell only made us get married. There was nothing in it about love."

"Marriage equals love, they go together. And what were you doing talking to Anya?"

Spike smirked. Was that jealousy he detected? "She thinks I'm a fellow former demon and that we ought to stick together."

"Former demon. Nice way of saying you're currently neutered."

Spike tried not to snarl at that crack. Instead, he gave her a little leer. "We both know I'm not neutered." Buffy turned red and stared at the ground. "And we're getting off track. People don't have to be in love to get married. Hell, in my day that was almost unheard of."

"What are you getting at?"

"Maybe Red's little spell made us admit to something already there."

"Sorry, but I think I'd know if I, ick, actually loved you."

Now that hurt. "You might if you gave it a shot. But you're too uptight to even give it a chance, aren't you?"

"It was a spell, Spike. Stop reading into it. That's only going to lead to badness."

"But you were happy, weren't you? I mean, not just surface happy but the real kind."

Buffy didn't answer. In fact, she started walking away.

"Because I know I was." Spike winced as that came out. That's the ticket. Sound like William the Bloody Awful Poet. And he did so well with Cecily.

Buffy stopped. Huh. Maybe the pathetic poet left inside was on to something. Who knew? Encouraged, he continued talking.

"And spells aside, why did you kiss me? Glare daggers at any girl I flirt with? Let me punch Riley? More importantly, why are you still listening to me?"

Buffy didn't respond for a moment. Spike was worried that she was just considering the best way to make him a truly neutered vampire. But in the end, all she said was, "You're a vampire."

"And you're the Slayer. Have any more excuses?"

"It's not an excuse. It's a reason."

"That's not good enough."

"It'll have to be." She started walking again.

"All I'm asking for is a chance, Buffy. Not a commitment. Just give whatever we have a chance. If it turns out you're right and this is the biggest mistake of the century, then I'll go along with the divorce and make no fuss about it." Spike hated himself for the almost pleading tone in his voice. He wasn't sure if it was love he felt for her, but he damn well knew he wasn't going to let her go without a fight. Vampires don't give up claims that easy.

Buffy stared at her shoes. Toes are a bit scuffed, probably should clean them a little, she thought almost giddily. In another part of her mind, bad brain whispered, Spike called you Buffy. He almost never does that. And he did that in a really sweet and tender voice. And for once, moral voice and logic voice were in agreement.

"I'll think about it."

With that, she finally exited the scene.

Spike ran his hand through his hair, trying to figure out if he won this bout, lost, or tied. On the other hand, this probably worked better than Anya's original suggestion. For some reason he didn't think a speech about interlocking bodies and matching parts, followed by 'please remove your clothing now' was the way to Buffy's heart. That would have definitely gotten him staked for sure.

Unfortunately, Anya was his only source on the inner workings of the female mind at the moment. For some reason, he doubted Drusilla's idea of a good gift was the way to woo Buffy. Hopefully Anya had some better ideas than a doll holding the still warm heart of the shop keeper.

At least Buffy had said maybe. That gave him more leeway than an outright no, right? With that thought, Spike went off to find an ex- vengeance demon for some lonely hearts help.