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Bonding

Spike stared blankly at Buffy's basement wall. Sleep was out, so he sat on the cot Buffy set there for him as his mind played tricks - he kept envisioning that he was facing the First again, burning to a cinder while smirking like an idiot.

Time dragged. Sunrise was several hours away. Perhaps I should like a little walk outside, he thought. "Or perhaps I'd like a drink," he said aloud. "Yep. That would be more likely."

"You always talk to yourself, or is it a soul thing?"

Buffy came down the stairs. A smile tugged at Spike's lips as he noted her 'yummy sushi' pajamas. "What're you doing up?"

She sat down on the last step. "Couldn't sleep. Since you're awake, I just wanted to thank you for… well you know, stopping me back in the cemetery. I shouldn't have…"

He grinned. "What would you have done if I were asleep?"

"Staked you."

"Ah."

He watched Buffy's face scrunch as she tried to express herself. "Look," he said, "no need to thank me. You shouldn't blame yourself for what happened anyway. I know I'm devilishly handsome - and I lost the stick I beat girls off with."

Buffy's eyes lit up with mirth. "If you want, I'll get you another."

"Girl or stick?"

She shrugged.

Spike said, "I was kidding when I said I was a gorgeous beast."

"No, you said you were devilishly handsome." She peered at his bare chest. "Do you shave your body, or is it naturally hairless?"

Spike cupped his pectorals in outrage. "You're peeking at me!" he chuckled. "And by the way, you're a gorgeous beast too." After a pause he followed, "A

gorgeous woman, rather."

"Thanks," she answered awkwardly, feeling the mood descend. "I don't shave my chest, either."

"No need to lie. Some women have pituitary problems, that's all."

She snorted angrily and Spike raised his hands. "Kidding."

He reached for his cigarettes than thought better of it. "So," Buffy said, "you never answered Dawn earlier. Just what are we-to each other-in your future?"

"Your future too, Luv. We ... had lots of sex!" After he said it Spike looked away, feeling like he could have said it better. "Uh-you liked it," he went on.

Buffy let it go. "So why'd you stop me tonight?"

"Oh. Well, you're going to break it off with me after your Captain Cardboard shows up. He'll have a wife, and you'll be ashamed of what we got." He shook his head and huffed, "Women."

"Riley gets married?"

"Yeah. She and Red are going to be email pals."

Buffy pondered this. "Willow and Riley's wife are friends."

Spike said, "You told Willow and Dawn they shouldn't resent her. So you see, it's all your fault."

Buffy rose and went to the cot. She motioned for him to move aside to give her room to sit. "I only said it to be nice. I didn't mean it."

He laughed. "You know all this now, eh?"

"Unless I go absolutely nuts in the future."

Spike snaked his arm around her waist, unsure what her reaction would be. She rested her head on his shoulder, and he suppressed a triumphant smile. "This is our love nest, isn't it?" He patted the cot. "We have a go on this thing the very night before I died."

She lifted her face from his shoulder and looked at Spike. He squeezed his eyes shut, recognizing the familiar taste of foot in his mouth. Solemnly he smacked his skull against the wall.

"Ooh, don't do that," Buffy cautioned, running a finger down his cheek.

"No?"

"You may crack the concrete. I don't need problems."

"Now my bloody head hurts."

"Good." She kissed his cheek.

He lightly bumped his head against hers. "How's that?"

Buffy rubbed her head. "You have a rock for a head. Don't do it again."

"Sorry," Spike said sincerely. He met Buffy's eyes and for the first time he noted a difference between this Buffy and the one he knew. The eyes were the same green hue, but what was lacking were pain, defiance ... rage. His Buffy's eyes sometimes registered an emptiness that was frightening. They could appear loaded with fire, and not passionate fire - the kind of flame that burned unpleasantly, that scorched away all tenderness and caring. He recalled the fights he had with future Buffy. Exchanging roundhouse kicks and haymaker punches. That bint could make him totally mad with anger. This Buffy seemed light and carefree, had a sense of humor. She was more childlike than the burned-out Slayer who engaged in mutual rape with him in a disintegrating house. This Buffy was soft, vulnerable. Almost afraid. He wondered what she feared. Perhaps she feared him?

She squeezed his hand. "You seem different. I feel safe with you."

"Mmm, thanks."

"Can I sleep here tonight?" she asked timidly. "It's okay if you don't want me to. I just thought… never mind."

Spike held her back. "Wait for an answer before you skitter away."

"I get nightmares," she told him. "I don't get much sleep."

He made more room on the cot for her. "By all means. This is your house. Sleep. I'll watch over you."

She lay beside him and Spike gathered the top sheet over them. He brushed the top of her head with his lips, taking in her aroma, strawberry scented shampoo along with the faint but sweet musk of her skin.

"What kind of nightmares?" he asked.

"Just ... memories of when I was in hell."

Spike frowned. "You mean dreams of hell? You said memories."

She looked sideways at him. "You must know. I went to hell, and Willow pulled me out. Don't you know that from the future?"

Spike sat up and felt struck by a blow.

"What is it?"

Spike shook his head.

XxXxXxXxXx

Past-Spike watched Willow and Tara sleep from his perch in the tree outside their window. He crept along a bough until he could reach out and slide the pane upward. There was little sound and the Wicca lovers remained in slumber. He lightly hopped into the room and tiptoed to the bed.

He slid his hand over Willow's mouth and whispered, "Wakey wakey, Red. I need a favor."

Willow blinked at him and he withdrew his hand. "Are you Spike-Spike, or future Spike?"

He gritted, "I'm the Spike. The one you'd better listen to."

Willow nodded. "But it's not evil, is it?"

"Research. You'll cast a spell. Okay?"

She nodded. "It - it isn't evil, is it?"

Past-Spike gave her a hard look. "This copy of me that's walking around needs to be stopped."

He waited as she sneaked out of bed and moved to the closet. "I - I have to get dressed."

Spike glanced at the slumbering Tara.

"I won't wake her," Willow whispered. "I promise."

He left the room and she dressed quickly and joined him in the hall. quietly. Past-Spike was in the hall.

"This is between you and me," he hissed.

"Right."

They went downstairs and out the front door. "Where are we going?" Willow asked.

"The magic Box. Say, do you have a key?"

"We all do."

"Good. We need the right book."

"Okay, but we'd better be out before Anya gets in. And - and we have to leave it as clean as we find it."

"Yeah, yeah." Spike tucked a cigarette between his lips and lit it. "By the way, anything you want?" he said. "Since your doing me a good turn an all."

Willow shrugged. "Let's say you own me one."

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