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With the Jaw of an Ass

Buffy and Spike entered the Magic Box to find the gang at the research table. Xander drew his hand out of a donut bag and glared at Spike. Dawn set her pen down on her homework, and Willow and Anya pushed back from their spell books.

Xander swung on Willow. "Why are they holding hands?"

Willow's lips bulged noncommitally. "I didn't do it."

Xander climbed to his feet and stepped toward them. "Buff," he intoned flatly, "I don't know why you're holding hands with fangless here, but are you all right?"

Buffy withdrew her hand self-conciously, and Spike shook his head and sighed.

"It's not a spell," he said.

"Shuddup," Xander snapped. "Buffy?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "This isn't just Spike, I mean ... he's from the future."

Willow said, "Future Spike? From when?"

"I'm back two years," Spike replied. "Want the results of the next World Cup match?"

Xander nodded and sat back down. "So you have to hold his hand, because he's from the future. Makes perfect sense."

Spike leaned on the table toward Xander. "I've had this year's quota of shite from you already. Keep those ugly lips zipped, goatboy."

Xander bit his lower lip, glaring back at Spike. His eyes shot to the others, who looked back at him with mixtures of gravitas and sympathy. He opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it, and lunged up toward Spike.

Buffy cried out, too late stop him.

Spike took a half-step back and blocked Xander's attack, turning it to the side and using his own weight to impel him forward. Xander staggered around, got his bearings and swung a fist. Spike ducked and drove a left hook into Xander's ribcage. Xander let out a gutteral groan and bent double. He slowly sank to his knees.

Buffy gripped Spike's shoulders and forced him away.

Willow and Anya stood over Xander, helping him up and soothing him. His eyes bulged as he tried to force air back into his diaphragm. "Y-your, ... chip," he sputtered.

Buffy frowned. "That's right, what about your chip? You're not even in pain."

Spike fished out his cigarette pack and lipped a smoke. "No more chip, Love. You're going to have it removed next year, as a matter of fact. Would've killed me otherwise. I'm Samson with shoulder length hair, now.

"So mind your manners from now on," he told Xander.

Xander was back on his feet. "Where's a stake?" he gasped, looking around. "Don't we have a lot of stakes somewhere around here?"

"As if you're man enough to deliver it," Spike spat.

Willow put a timid hand on Buffy's shoulder. "You did that, Buffy?"

She grimaced. "Uh, no. Some later version of me did, so go hassle her."

"Oh look," Anya said, "you're confusing Xander."

Xander was stepping back and forth, from the cash counter back toward Spike. He mumbled angrily under his breath. Anya's words made him pause. He threw himself back into his chair and said, "Let's hear it. And give me the 'for dummies' edition."

Buffy told them the whole story, leaving out the romance with Past-Spike.

Afterwards, Dawn was the first to pipe up. "So Spike, do you and Buffy hook up in the future?" Her eyes were lit with excitement. "I bet you two are like, some sort of romantic slaying duo - love by day, slaughter by night. I love that!"

Spike regarded her with a pained expression. Buffy started to say something.

"Are you, like, my brother-in-law?" Dawn went on. "Prob'ly you guys don't actually get married, I mean how could you, but you're together, right? Cool that you can have each other to lean on, watch each other's back and all. So are you my brother in law?"

Spike grinned at her enthusiasm. He was about to say yes, then the image of Buffy came to him unbidden. Her words - Ask me again why I can never love you - resounded in his mind. His grin faltered, and he cast down his eyes to examine the toes of his boots.

Buffy told Dawn that no, he wasn't her brother-in-law. Also, shut up. She waved her hand in front of Spike's face. "Hey, you in there?"

"Hmm?"

"You zoned out."

"I have a soul," Spike said.

"What?"

Buffy looked sidelong at the gang.

"What'd he say?" Xander asked.

"I have my soul back," Spike repeated. Buffy knows, and now all of you should know too."

"That's awesome," Dawn breathed.

"H-how?" Willow asked.

"I already knew it," Anya stated smugly.

"What, so he got a soul in some curse," Xander scoffed. "Big deal. It's not like he didn't do all those murders over the years. He should want to die now."

Buffy gave him a hard look.

Spike's eyes shifted over each of them, falling finally on Buffy. He squared his shoulders uncomfortably. "Can't. Sorry, I can't ... not right now."

He turned and hurried out the front door.

Xander snorted. Willow shook her head at him and Dawn slapped his arm. Buffy hesitated a moment, then went after Spike.

"Buffy, wait," Xander cried.

Spike ran blindly through the night, sprinting past houses and leaping over cars. He sped through the entrance of Restfield cemetery and continued past dozens of gravesites, finally collapsing in front of one to pound the earth. Deep sobs wracked through his chest and heaved his shoulders. "Not - not good enough," he hiccupped, "Beneath ... her."

His fingers tore grass and clawed at the dirt underneath. He became aware that tears ran down his face. He smiled ruefully.

"Monster," he whispered.

Buffy caught up to him. She tugged at him and he let her pull him up to his knees, holding out his arms in a gesture of finality, wanting her to do it to him, what she does best. Stake me, he wanted to say.

Buffy filled his arms with herself, wrapped her arms around him tightly and pressed her face to his. Spike, surprised, felt his stomach quiver, and his arms dropped. He found them moving of their own accord, embracing Buffy in return.

He cried harder - dammit - touched to the core by Buffy's willingness to be near him, to hug him. He was ashamed and humiliated, which made him cry more.

"Shh," Buffy soothed, running her hand up and down the length of his back. "Okay, Spike. It's okay."

He burrowed his face into the hollow of her throat, seeking escape. Protection. Rivulets from his eyes wet strands of her blonde hair.

"Nuh," he protested, "I - I'm bad."

"Shh."

"No. I'm ... really bad. Shouldn't. Touch you."

But he held her tighter.

Buffy stared out at the darkness, at a loss. This wasn't Spike, not the familiar Spike she knew. This was someone human, and she didn't know what to think or what to do.

She tried to piss him off. "Spike, stop acting like a drama queen. Don't be a baby."

He yanked his head back, rubbed his eyes with a fist and scowled.

Maybe pissing him off was a mistake, Buffy thought.

"A ... drama queen?"

"I was just -"

"I am bad. A monster!"

Buffy stifled a laugh. He was like a boy declaring his manhood. She looked at his sparkling eyes, his clenched jaw, his anguished expression and the thing that hit her was not that he looked boyish, or dramatic. He looked so hot!

She leaned in to him and gathered his pouting lower lip into her teeth, biting him ever so gently. He jumped lightly in surprise, then submitted, returning the kiss. He moaned, and Buffy's mouth vibrated in electric tandem. She felt his hands at her hips, pulling her closer, felt his lips release her and wander down her neck, felt him linger at her throat. She shuddered with delicious fear and a swell of sensation made its way up and down her spine. She gripped his shoulders ferociously, intent on pulling him back. In betrayal herr arms pulled him in closer, and Buffy raised her chin, discarding all caution as she invited Spike to do his worst, knowing he wouldn't tear into her, but not knowing it either.

Spike bit her. His teeth teased her lightly and he nipped her neck, then returned his lips to hers and they locked together, tongues intermingling and dancing, invading.

Forty yards away, Past-Spike's eyes burned as he watched them, murdering future Spike in his mind. He delivered a backhanded blow to Buffy after he was done with future Spike, and she hit the ground sniveling.

"You snogging trollop," he sneered as she begged forgiveness. "No," he refused her, shaking her pleading arms off his leg. "After seeing you with him you're nothing, you're dead to me."

But Spike, she would reason, that was you. I love you now and forever.

He bit his knuckle and pondered that. The bint was making good sense. She couldn't be blamed since, after all, it was him she longed to snog. The solution should not include a beating for the Slayer. Still, he couldn't allow the present circumstances to continue.

"There's room enough for just one of us in this town - er, time," he mused aloud.

Past-Spike watched future them go at it, and he recalled what future Spike had said. "So, neither of us are good enough for her, eh?" A humorless smile clenched the cigarette he held his lighter to. He puffed it to life then then dragged deeply on the fag, snapped the lid back on the lighter and put it away. He blew smoke at them then spat on the ground bitterly.

"So. This means war, now, doesn't it?"

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