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To Bear One's Crosses

The door to the basement creaked as it opened and Tara cringed. She tiptoed down the stairs, careful not to make more noise. She nudged Spike's shoulder, mindful of the sleeping slayer.

Spike's arm instinctively tightened around Buffy and his eyes snapped open. "What's the matter, luv?"

Tara looked at her feet. "Xander doesn't trust you."

Spike raised his scarred eyebrow. "That's news?"

Tara looked up. "He called, uh… Angel. Willow says that's not a good thing. She said that you'll be upset."

Spike rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "How long do I have 'til the great poof is here?"

"Um, he's here n-now." She smiled sheepishly at Spike. "We just found out when… w-well, when Angel and Xander c-came in."

"Isn't it daylight?"

"Y-yes. Angel did the s-same thing you do."

Spike nodded and glanced at Buffy. "Stall them luv? I'll wake the slayer and come straight up."

Tara hesitantly agreed and went back upstairs.

Spike smiled down at Buffy as she clung to his chest in her sleep. Why couldn't my Buffy be like this? he thought. He kissed her eye lids and a smile played at her lips. Spike nuzzled her cheek and kissed the side of her mouth. "It's time to rise, Buffy," he whispered in her ear.

Buffy buried her face into his chest. "Ten more minutes."

Spike flipped them. "Tired?" He kissed her forehead and rolled off the cot. "Okay then, I'll let you sleep, but his Grand Poofiness is here, I must hop to his beckon bloody call or he'll brood. I can't do that to the others... except Harris."

Buffy sat up and palmed her eyes. "Let him, Dawn will kick his ass."

Spike paused, his arms above his head and the hem of his shirt obscuring his vision. He cocked his head. "Could it be? Buffy Summers not singing the praise of Peaches?"

Buffy shrugged defensively. "What? Can't I think he's annoying? I dated him for goodness sake!"

Spike pulled his shirt over his head and kneeled in front of Buffy. leaned forward and ran his lips against the side of her mouth. "Yes, you're allowed. I was a little surprised is all. Last I saw you and him together, you two were trying to get an up close and personal lesson on reading lips."

"When was that?" Her brow furrowed.

"Well... it was in the future, but it..." He sighed.

Buffy ran her fingers through Spike's soft curls. "I'm not her, I'm me, and me isn't planning on kissing Angel... ever, ever again. Not when you're still here."

Spike stared at her in awe. He brought his hands to her face and kissed her. He rested his forehead against hers. "Thank you." His words were barely over a whisper. "I love you, Buffy."

Buffy pulled back and looked at Spike sadly. "Spike, I can't say it back… I'm sorry, I-"

Spike brushed his lips against hers, stopping her. "It's okay. I know you don't love me." Spike caressed Buffy's cheek with his thumb. "When I say I love you, it's not because I want you, or because I can't have you, it has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness and your strength, I've seen the best and the worst of you, and I understand with perfect clarity what you are. You're a hell of a woman. You're the one Buffy."

Tears welled in Buffy's eyes. "What if I don't want to be the one anymore?"

Spike smiled sadly. "We all have our crosses to bear, some heavier than others. Buffy, let me help you bear that weight. Just let me love you."

Buffy collapsed into Spike's arms, his shirt balled in her fists as she cried into his chest.

Spike rocked her on his heels as he rubbed her back and whispered softly in to her hair. "S'okay Buffy. I'm here. Always here."

The door to the basement opened once more, this time Angel came charging down the stairs. "Spike, what did you do to Buffy?"

Spike craned his neck to glare at Angel over his shoulder. "Sod off. Nobody down here needs or wants your poofy arse around at the moment."

Angel grabbed the neck of Spike's shirt and with a vicious yank tore Spike and Buffy apart. Angel let go of Spike, letting the force of the pull propel Spike into the wall behind him.

Buffy stared in horror as Spike's body hit the cement wall with a strength that would break a human. The cement cracked and Spike slumped to the ground. Buffy looked up at Angel, confused.

Angel knelt next to Buffy. "Are you okay, Buffy? What did Spike do to you, did he hurt you?"

Spike spit blood from his mouth and stood on slightly shaky legs. "Didn't hurt her, you berk."

Angel spun to his feet and faced Spike. "You did something. Buffy was crying." Angel stepped towards Spike menacingly.

Spike ran his tongue over his teeth and swallowed the rest of the blood in his mouth. "Comforting count as some sort of abuse in your book?" Spike matched Angel's step, his eyes flashed from blue to yellow and his fangs elongated as he went to half game-face.

Angel, with less control over his demon, slipped into full game-face and he growled at Spike. "You're a monster, Spike. You cause pain, not cure it."

"May be a monster, but at least I aspire to be more." Spike closed his eyes, his fangs retracted and when he looked at Angel again his eyes were blue. "I wanted more, I chose. You'd still be preying on kiddies and nuns if not for that gypsy curse."

Angel shot forward and tackled Spike and they hit the floor together.

Spike shoved his forearm under Angel's chin, holding his snapping jaws at a safe distance. "Bugger," he hissed. "More aggressive now, aren't we? Must've hit a sore spot."

Angel pounded Spike's ribs with hammer blows, spewing saliva in his fury.

"Stop it!" Buffy screamed. "Angel, get off him."

Spike desperately gasped air into his lungs, unable to taunt without it. "Right," he rasped. "It's time I finish this."

He pinched Angel's nose with his free hand, partly to humiliate but also to distract him as he maneuvered his feet. Shifting both hands to Angel's shoulders he pulled him down while bending his knees and levered Angel's body upwards above him. As Angel groped for a handhold he flipped him hard overhead. Angel's head smashed into the same wall he had bounced Spike into, and he dropped in a heap. Spike spun around onto his knees and nailed Angel's head with swift, slashing punches. He hopped to his feet and kicked Angel savagely in the stomach.

Angel folded in on himself. He lifted pained eyes to Spike. "Good kick," he huffed with effort. "Maybe ... you do have a soul."

Spike wiped his mouth. "I am a monster, Angelus. Don't think my soul will stop me from killing you. I'd just as soon leave you to be vacuumed up. Buffy's the only reason you're not dust."

"Your soul would allow you to kill Angel?" Buffy's eyes stayed fixed warily on Spike.

He sank down beside her on the cot and rubbed his bruised face. "He's the one taught me to kill, turned me into one of him. Having a soul makes me want to kill him more."

Buffy nodded. She stood up. "Let's head upstairs. I'm sure the living room has been made vampire-friendly."

She and Spike headed up the stairs. Angel slowly rolled to his feet and slapped dust from him. Buffy paused at the top of the stairs.

"You coming?"

Angel nodded bleakly.

In the living room Willows was talking to Tara. "I .. I'm really, really sorry, Tara. B-but I, I have to help … this guy with, um… science and history. I'll be back as soon as possible, I promise."

Tara eyed her cautiously. "Can't you put it off?"

Xander spoke up. "Yeah Will, look - there's a scooby meeting. Don't tell me homework's more fun than demony Hellmouthy stuff."

"I promised the guy I'd help him. Gotta go."

Dawn shrugged. "A promise is a promise."

Anya said, "From the look of Angel and Spike, this is going to be good. Go on, Willow, we'll let you know how it turns out." She reflected momentarily. "Buffy's life is like a soap opera."

Buffy snapped, "I am not a crappy soap opera. Passions is a soap opera, right Spike?"

Spike cleared his throat. "Mmm, daytime drama."

Anya laughed. "Spike watches soaps?"

"Let's get on with it," Angel said.

Spike dropped into the a love seat. "Get on with what, oh mighty hair-gelled one?"

Angel ignored him.

Buffy sat on the couch next to Anya, and Dawn moved from her armchair to sit between Angel and Spike, to ensure a safe distance.

She smiled sweetly. "So, how did everyone sleep?"


Willow knocked on Past-Spike's crypt door before she slipped in. "Spike?" she called. "Hey Spike, I have the stuff for the spell."

Past-Spike climbed up from the lower level. He didn't smile. "Let's get on with it then. The sooner that bugger's control over Buffy is gone, the better."

Willow set out the magic supplies. "You sure about this? I mean, something might go wrong. Someone might can get hurt."

Spike hopped up onto his sarcophagus and crossed his legs. "No one's going to get hurt, Red. Just work the magics."

"Fine, but if something goes wrong - and it can, believe me - I'm blaming you." Stupid vampire, she thought. I hope this works.

Past-Spike lay back and crossed his arms in classic Bella Lugosi. "Wake me when you're finished."

Willow grumbled silently, but sat on the floor and lit incense and four candles. She arranged animal bones, runic stones and the Orb of Thesulah then started chanting.

"Quod perditum est, invenietur,

Not dead, nor not of the living,

Spirits of the interregnum, I call

God, bind him, cast his heart from the evil realm."

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