Disclaimer: They're Joss's, not mine. That's just silly.

Notes: Just a little glimpse

Fine, Love

by Spencer

'Five nasty demons hanging out in a Sunnydale graveyard. Boy, what a surprise.'

Buffy grunted as her roundhouse kick sent the last of the big black slimys flying backwards into a pointy wrought-iron fence. It landed with a rather sickening squidgy crunch as the black metal bars tore through its abdomen. As the slimy black demon dissolved into a puddle of slimy black goo, the Slayer turned to flash a triumphant smile at her patrol partner, only to find him sprawled motionless on the grass.

"Spike." The name fell from her lips as a gently concerned endearment as she knelt beside his dazed form. The free compassion was hardly what one would expect to hear between Slayer and vampire, especially this Slayer and this vampire, yet it felt entirely natural.

She wasn't surprised. She had seen it all along. He had tried to be so casual, so sly, but she had seen anyway. She'd noticed the sudden pauses in the family room, when the Scoobies would all be gathered, teasing or planning, and the regular pattern of snide remarks from the corner of the couch would fall silent. She could see the blank expression, the mask to hide the pain. A few minutes and all would be normal again, smoothly accented insults twice as cutting to make up for lost time. Then on patrol, one minute she would see him kicking demon butt, and in the next he would slow, lose focus, and get a royal beating until he either snapped out of it or she came to his rescue. Yet, he still came with her, and he still joined the Scoobies every chance he got. Even when something was very wrong and he was clearly hurting, he stayed by her side.

Glancing around to be sure the last of the baddies was really gone, she settled down onto the grass to wait. Spike was lying on his back, gazing blankly up toward the starry sky. His normally frozen blue eyes were glazed, and his entire body was stiff and completely still. Buffy knew better than to try to move him or touch his head, since that was where the pain centered, so she sat, still and quiet, keeping watch and waiting for the spell to be over.

The wait was not long. Within a few moments the bleach-blonde vampire slowly began to blink. His rigid muscles relaxed, and his still somewhat glassy eyes wandered to find Buffy's. He made no attempt to move, but simply lay there, staring up at her. Finally, she thought he had recovered enough to break the silence.

"Are you okay?" She knew it was a stupid question, but she hoped that placed in such a compromising position he would offer the truth.

"Fine, Love."

Or not.

He grinned cockily, though noticeably lacking the usual conviction, and began to lever himself up on his elbows. Buffy slid a hand behind his back to steady him as they both climbed back to their feet. The graveyard was now deserted, save for a few wayward bats and the hungry moon.

Spike swayed slightly as they stood and felt Buffy's arm tighten protectively around his waist. For a moment he held perfectly still, not wanting to move and feel the absence of that warm arm, he had so missed their nights together, but another sharp pain sliced through his head, rudely interrupting the moment. When his eyes came back into focus he found Buffy very close, staring at him intently.

"Well, it looks like you got the last of 'em, so I'll just be heading back to my crypt." With a swipe of black leather he was striding back across the trimmed grass with grim determination. He would not put more troubles on the Slayer's shoulders. Not this time.

"Spike, wait." He didn't.

She caught up anyway. He kept walking. He was fine as long as she didn't use that tone of voice. He hated that tone of voice. He couldn't say no when she used that tone of voice. "Spike, please." Damn her.

He slowed and stopped, then turned calmly to face her. She knew. He could see it in the concerned way she looked at him, the worry in those big doe eyes.

"Is it the chip?" He glared, then sighed and looked away. No use hiding now, she'd only get angry and decide the truth was worth beating out of him.

"I don't know, Pet. It's not as sharp and fast as the chip, more like my whole head's on fire." He shook the offending appendage for emphasis, "But I don't know what else it could be."

"How long has it been happening?"

He thought about it, but really couldn't pinpoint the exact time, only that his first thought had been to tell Buffy, and his second that he couldn't tell her no matter what. So much for that plan. "A couple months, maybe? I'm sorry, Love, I really can't remember."

Buffy nodded, though he wouldn't look at her. She ducked a bit and used her shorter build to catch his downcast eyes and draw them up.

"We'll fix this, Spike. I won't let anything happen to you."

He nodded, a bit dumbstruck by this display of . . . what, friendship? Loyalty? Love? He knew better than anyone the great weight Buffy carried, and truly hadn't wanted to burden her any further, but he also knew that wasn't his biggest reason for keeping his problem a secret. A part of him was still convinced that if he revealed his weakness to the Scoobies they would laugh, or even rejoice at his possible demise. He had, after all, caused them nothing but trouble for years. Even Buffy, he often thought, would be secretly relieved to find him dusted, yet here she was, promising to protect and even fight for him. A lump he had long thought forgotten rose in his throat.

Buffy smiled, a look molded of understanding, humor, and something he desperately wanted to believe was love, and headed back the way they had come as Spike stood frozen on the spot. After a few steps she turned and gazed over her shoulder, one eyebrow arched gracefully in query as a hand perched on her jutted hip.

"So, you coming or not?"

It was all Spike could do to give another nod and start walking. As they patrolled side by side a wondering grin began to grow across his face. He glanced down at the incredible girl beside him. Maybe things would work out after all. Who knew? If she could manage to save him, surely the World had nothing to worry about. He grinned. Yes, if anyone could do it, he knew it would be Buffy.