"Go on a date with me." The voice is unexpected, the words even more so, and Buffy blinks in surprise and peers out the passenger window of Cordy's convertible to see if the words are directed to her.

Spike Pratt, resident bad boy and Hottie To Avoid is still standing there, staring at her with weary impatience. "Go out with me," he repeats, tapping sloppily painted black nails against the side of the window.

"Okay, I think you skipped a few steps here," Buffy informs him. "First there's the casual flirting in the halls, then the holding of books and hanging at the Bronze, and then you march over to the girl and ask for a date. Got it?" She chances a glance at Cordelia and is pleased to see that the other girl looks even more stunned than Buffy feels.

Spike's brow furrows. "No. I'll pick you up at eight."

"Okay," she says automatically.

When people ask her about it, she'll claim that it had been Cordy's surprise that had decided her, that anyone who can startle Cordelia deserved a chance. But at that moment, she isn't thinking about Cordelia at all, or even what people might say.

Spike just looks particularly lickable today. And she doesn't know what to expect, which is reason enough in itself.

She's ready for something different.

He shows up half an hour late, of course, and she's annoyed but unsurprised at it. After all, Spike is a delinquent, and he has a reputation to live up to.

"Is that your new boyfriend?" Dawn asks enviously, her nose glued to the window as Spike pulls up on a motorbike. "He's way cooler than Riley."

"He's suspended for smoking once a month," Buffy says absently. "Riley graduated and went off to the army to save people. No comparison."

There really isn't. The first time Riley had come over to pick her up for a date, he'd offered both her mother and her flowers, had thrown around the word "Ma'am" a lot, and had promised to have her back by eleven. Spike bangs on the door, mumbles '"Lo, Joyce," and pulls her out the door with no goodbyes at all. Buffy's glad that her mother doesn't see the bike until they're already out the door, or the night might have been over before it begins.

"Helmet?" Spike offers, and then nimble fingers are smoothing down her hair and closing the catch of the helmet before she can protest.

"But...my hair-" she manages to sputter, reaching to touch it self-consciously. He doesn't need to know how long she had spent on it, but there are some things that she can't abide by, and helmet hair is one of them.

Spike rolls his eyes. "Stop being such a girl, Summers. Get on."

"No!" She eyes the bike with a mix of anger and trepidation. "You can't just...order me around like this. And I'm not riding that thing. I've seen how you drive!"

They'd done Driver's Ed in the same shift, and she still remembers clinging to Willow Rosenberg in terror as he maneuvered their car with wild twists and shaky turns.

He shoots an irritated look at the sky, as though pleading for patience. "C'mon, Summers. That was two years ago."

"If anything goes wrong, I'm going to sue," she mutters sulkily, climbing on behind him. He takes off with a roar, and she flings her arms around him, hanging on for dear life.

He has improved, or maybe he's just better with a bike, because she stops worrying after only a minute or two and loses herself to the sheer exhilaration of speeding down the streets with a pounding in her ears and the wind in her face, nothing in her world but the bike and Spike.

"That rhymes!" she shouts giddily, tightening her grip on him. He feels lean and muscled under her hands, more compact than Riley, and she can feel every breath he gasps in as they speed up in a shaky rhythm to her own hammering heart.

"You're an odd bird!" he calls back, and they're both laughing and Buffy thinks that she might just have fun on this impromptu date, after all.

That tentative hope is dashed the moment they glide to a stop in front of the Fish Tank, the one club in town so skanky that Buffy's never even thought of going inside before now. She stumbles off the bike and stares at Spike in disbelief.

"Stop pouting, your hair's fine," Spike informs her, unclasping the helmet and threading his fingers through her hair. It feels nice, but she isn't deterred from her horror.

"I'm not going in there."

Spike let's out a long-suffering sigh. "What now?"

"What now? What now?" Her voice is rising steadily in pitch and some of the people hanging around the outside of the club are staring. She can't bring herself to care. "Look, I don't know what game you're playing. I don't know if someone paid you to take me on a date, or...or sleep with me and humiliate me, or if you're just doing this for your own sick pleasure, but I'm not going along with it anymore. Look at me!" Spike does so, as does their rapt audience. They all seem appreciative. "Do I look like the kind of girl you take here?"

"She really doesn't, man," one guy calls out.

Gaining confidence with every word and the bewilderment building on Spike's face, she barrels on. "I'll play your game. I'll go out with you. But it's going to be on my terms, not yours," she announces primly. "You should have realized that when you asked me out."

"Tell him, B!" Faith Lehane shouts out from somewhere near the front door. Buffy flushes, grinning a little at the support, even if it's coming from a girl who's always made her uncomfortable. She waits expectantly.

Spike scratches his head, looking somewhat thrown. "I...uh...you want to go?"

"Yes, that was the point here."

"Okay." And is it just her imagination, or is his tone almost apologetic?

They're back on the road in minutes to the background hooting and catcalling of their audience, and Buffy can already say with certainty that she's never had a date quite like this.

"By the by," Spike tells her when he stops the bike in front of the beach. "This isn't a game or a bet. I asked you out because I wanted to go out with you."

She's momentarily stunned by this admission, too surprised to follow him as he heads out into the surf.

"But...but why?" she demands, finally taking off after him. "You just woke up in the morning and said, 'Hey! Buffy Summers! She's totally my type- except blonde, and short, and from a different crowd-'"

"And talks too much," Spike continues, "And complains about everything-"

"I do not complain about everything! And I tried out the motorcycle, didn't I?"

He laughs softly, and she stares at him, transfixed by the way his face gentles and his eyes warm. When the annoyance and gruff 'tude fades away, he really is beautiful, and it's enough to make her melt.

She moistens her lips nervously, leaning in-

-And he lifts her into the air and hurls her into the surf.

She tumbles into the water, surfacing and gasping for breath. "Are you insane?" she shouts. "Do you know how much these shoes cost?"

He shrugs, his eyes dancing with laughter. She glares at him. "And what if I couldn't swim, huh? What if I'd drowned?"

"Calm down, Summers," Spike drawls. "You're two feet in."

"I hate you," she hisses, her hands running across her blouse. Nothing handles water damage worse.

Her head shoots up and a smirk blooms across her face. Nothing except leather, that is.

"Ah!" She mock-trips suddenly, stumbling backward into the water again. "Spike!"

He runs to her immediately, concern darkening his features. "Buffy?"

And with one careful swipe of her fallen leg, she sends him toppling face-first into the water.

He gets up, scowling, and she beams. "Wow, those pants are probably going to be bitch to get off," she notes haughtily.

He leers at her just as she realizes what she'd said and drops her head in mortification. "Feel free to give me a hand with that, pet," he says in a low, rumbling tone, and she squeals with outrage and splashes him furiously.

He smirks, reaching deep into the surf and emerging with a handful of wet sand.

"You wouldn't dare!" she gasps, eyes wide.

"Wouldn't I?" And he lets it fly, smashing directly into her blouse.

"Uh-uh. You're so not getting away with this," she decides. Unexpectedly, she leaps onto him, sending him wheeling backward into the wet sand just beyond the water line.

Then they're both rolling around in the sand, shoving handfuls of it down each other's back like it's snow, mashing it into each other's hair and clothes and shoes. Buffy's laughing breathlessly, and even though she's shuddering at the thought of how she must look and wondering how Spike has gotten her to act like this so quickly, those thoughts are drowned out by the sounds of their laughter and gasping and mock threats.

She sits on top of Spike's stomach, holding up a handful of sand victoriously. "Say you give up," she pants, moving it toward his mouth threateningly.

He stares up at her, mouth tightly closed into a smirk. "Say it!" she demands, shaking her hand in warning. "Say- oh." There's a hardness poking into her, getting harder with each movement. "I...uh..." She swallows nervously.

Maybe guys like Spike expect...that on the first date. She hasn't really thought of anything beyond heavy petting- well, not in context of this date, anyway- but for the first time, she realizes just how far they are from civilization and how little she really knows Spike.

"I...I don't..." She's stuttering like an idiot, and she bites back her next words in frustration. She's Buffy Summers, dammit! The first day she'd put on a bra had also been the first day she'd begun self-defense lessons, and when Gage Petronzi had made a move on her earlier this year, she'd made sure that the whole school had known that she could stick up for herself. Spike doesn't scare her.

He sighs, rolling her over onto her back and lying back down beside her. "Relax, pet. Perfect gentleman, yeah?"

She closes her eyes with relief. She really, really doesn't want things to end with Spike with a fractured wrist. "Thanks."

"Yeah, well..." He turns his head to toss her a grin. "I know better than to harass Buffy Summers. You might scratch my arm really hard or summat."

"Hey!" she says hotly. "I could do a hell of a lot more! I'd scratch out your eyeballs, maybe, or-" She catches the tease in his eye two sentences too late. "Or you're messing with me," she finishes sheepishly.

"Something like that." He turns his head to stare up at the cloudy sky, and she follows suit, enjoying the stillness of the steady surf below them and his steady breathing beside her.

"You did this all wrong," she tells him finally, scooting over a bit so they're nearly touching.

His hand dances over her arm almost unconsciously. "Yeah?"

She nods. "First dates are supposed to be all organized. You're supposed to do something casual, something standard, like the Bronze or pizza or a movie. You don't terrorize a girl, take her to the bad part of town, and then dump her in the ocean."

"So you didn't have fun?" he sounds disappointed, and she edges closer.

"I did," she admits. "I am. But...we barely know each other. This is…weird."

"Uh-huh." His hand moves to run through her hair. "So, Miss Buffy Summers, what would you like to know about me?"

She considers. "I don't know. Um…do you have any pets?"


"Did you really once break a freshman's arm for asking Drusilla out?" she wonders. The rumor had been flying through school for almost a year now, outliving Spike's relationship with the girl.

He doesn't flinch. "No."

"Oh." She's relieved and kind of disappointed at the same time.

"I broke his arm for attacking her at the Bronze," he says calmly, his fingers still running idly through her hair.

"Oh." She darts a nervous glance at him. "So…uh…you and Dru…?"

"Over." He doesn't sound very happy about it, but he doesn't sound upset, either. "She moved on. I did, too. We…uh…" He darts a cautious look at her that she doesn't understand at all. "It was probably for the best."

"How many girls have you brought here?" she blurts out, and immediately buries her face in her hands, blushing crimson. Spike is right. She really does talk too much. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have-"

"Just you, pet." He's laughing at her again, and she swats at his head with a sand-encrusted hand.

"I hate you." She sticks her tongue out at him.

He grins. "Okay, Summers. I won't answer your questions anymore, then." He blows her a mock kiss. "I'd hate to offend you again."

She narrows her eyes at him. "You pretty much offend me with your existence," she informs him.

"Really?" He waits expectantly, his hands stilling in her hair.

"No," she admits readily. "Not when you're not…you know, ruining things. Sitting in the gym during cheerleader practice to ogle the cheerleaders. Smoking right outside the window so we're all choking on secondhand poison. Scrawling words all over lockers."

"Hey," he protests. "I only ogle you!"

"Really?" She perks up, then her face darkens as she considers it. "Liar. You show up whether I'm there or not."

"Yeah, well, if I'm there already-"

"Pig!" She bangs her hand against his arm.

He laughs with that gentle amusement that makes her stomach all shaky. "You've always been my favorite."

"Fantastic. Don't I feel all objectified," she grumbles.

He strokes her cheek. "You've been my favorite since I pulled your hair on the playground when we were four and you knocked me over and pulled mine back," he tells her. "Had quite the crush on you in grade school."

"Y-You did?" She swallows. "I didn't know."

"I kept it quiet." Spike tweaks her ear, grinning when she squeals. "I was good at admiring from afar when I was geeky little William. Not so good anymore."

"I liked geeky little William," Buffy says softly. "He was sweet."

"He was no one." Spike looks away, and it's her turn to call his attention to her with her fingers in his hair, wondering at the sadness in his eyes. She's never seen Spike like this, introspective and unsure of himself. Not since he first became Spike and returned to school with an ever-present smirk and an utter disregard for others.

But that Spike isn't all here tonight, and that realization has transformed the night into something…meaningful.

He opens his mouth to speak, and then appears to rethink it, returning with a leer. "Oh, I can be sweet, too." He pulls himself up and leans in…

"Wait!" she yelps, pushing him back.

He smirks, but it's a bit puzzled and more than a little hurt. "If you insist, love."

"No, it's not…" She swallows. "I want to kiss you," she says hastily. "Like...really. But I'm all gross and sandy and it's all your fault, anyway, because why would you turn me into a human sandman if you were planning on kissing me? That's just...inconsiderate!" she finishes, nodding feverishly. "Of both of us!"

"I don't care about that." And then he's brushing his lips against hers, sandy face to sandy face, and it's kind of perfect even though it's also totally gross. And she finds that she doesn't care, either. Well, not much, anyway.

And then Spike moves away and coughs up sand, and she redefines it again. "Spike..."

"You're right," he agrees hoarsely. "My place is just a few blocks away. If you want to..."

Her eyes narrow.

"This isn't a ploy to get you in bed," he assures her, amused again. "My uncle's there now, anyway, and as much as Ethan would actually encourage it, I have no desire to do anything within his earshot.

"Besides," he murmurs as they stand, his hot breath in her ear. "I don't need cheap ploys to seduce you."

Her legs turn to jelly, and she wobbles against him helplessly. He swoops down to kiss her again, a chaste kiss that's almost worth the dirt that comes with it.

He checks his watch as they climb onto the bike. "It's already eleven. Do you need to...?"

She can hear the reluctance in his voice and it heartens her. "Nah. Mom hasn't been feeling well lately. She'll be drugged to sleep by now with cold medicine," she assures him.

He pauses mid-step, turning to eye her in concern. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah." She doesn't want to talk about it, but he doesn't seem ready to let it go. "It's probably nothing. Mom isn't…she keeps brushing it off like it's nothing. And maybe it is. But there've been things- bad things- before, and if it isn't…"

He wraps her in a loose embrace as she chokes back fear and dread. She doesn't cry, not now, but he's supporting her, and she thinks it might have been okay if she did.

"Real Buffy doesn't quite measure up to four-year-old Buffy, does she?" she whispers raggedly in his ear.

He kisses her cheek. "Took some time for her to come out. But she's just as I remember."

They take off into the night, carelessly spreading noise pollution everywhere the bike goes, and Buffy can't help but recapture the same glee that had overtaken her earlier. She kisses him breathlessly on the back of his neck, tracing the shell of his ear with her tongue and laughing when the bike swerves.

"Fuck, Buffy!" Spike shouts, but she continues her onslaught on his ear and lowers her hands to trace his thighs thoughtfully, running long nails across the length of them and nearing his…

The bike comes to a short stop outside a standard suburban home just a few blocks from her house and Spike jumps off, yanking Buffy to him and crushing her against the closest tree. Their lips fuse again, this time deeper and faster, and Buffy can feel Spike grinding against her every time their tongues touch. He pounds her harder and faster until she's choking back shrieks and fire starts to build within her, higher and higher and higher until she can't breathe, too caught up in need…and then it explodes, and she's crying out into his shoulder as he growls in completion.

He sags against her. "For the record, you seduced me," he informs her primly. "Stole my innocence, you did, love."

"What innocence?" she retorts, but it lessens the sting when she nuzzles his neck affectionately. A sudden fear crawls up within her. "Oh, god. You don't think I'm easy, do you? Because I'd really never do that and it was all the motorcycle- there must be something with girls and motorcycles-"

"Hey." He kisses the top of her head. "Trust me, nothing will ever convince me that you aren't difficult." He locks up the bike and heads for the door, leaving her sputtering behind him. "Coming?"

She glares at him, manages a polite smile for his uncle, and stalks after Spike up the stairs. "I'm so not the difficult one," she mutters.

"Well, you can't have it both ways, can you?" he asks genially, leading her to the bathroom. "Hang on, let me get something for you to wear. I'll put your stuff into the machine."

She rolls her eyes when he returns with a shirt and shorts. "So the rumors really are true. You don't own anything that isn't black."

"It's doubtful," he concedes, pressing his lips to her brow.

She smiles up at him. "It suits you."

How she can go from hating him to- to liking him so rapidly is a mystery to even herself, she muses as she scrubs herself clean. But there's something so compelling about him, about that wicked smile and gentle eyes, and she knows instinctively that she can't give it up just yet. Tonight is Big. Tonight Matters. And though she'd never entertained the thought of Spike like *that* before- well, okay, she had, but not seriously- she's certain now that this date might change everything.

And by unspoken agreement, they both know that they can't end it yet.

She towels off and pulls on Spike's shirt, sighing with pleasure at the soft, clean cotton. She's taken cleanliness for granted.

She's taken a lot for granted.

Spike is in the bedroom beside the bathroom, clean and changed and engrossed in a novel that looks quite a bit longer than your standard Playboy. She snatches it from him, reading the author's name in a sing-song voice.

"Dos-to-yev-sky?" she finishes, her eyes wide. "Oh my god, Spike?"

He watches her warily. "What?"

She beams smugly. "You're just a big ol' nerd, aren't you?"

"No!" His shout is loud and offended...and clearly lying.

"You're a nerd!" she giggles joyfully. "Spike, the toughest, scariest guy in school, is also a brain! A brain! A...uh-oh."

She tries to dodge, but it's too late, and he has his fingers twitching around her midsection before she can stop him. "Oh, you're going to pay, Summers," he growls, and then he's tickling her sides with a vengeance, muffling her laughter with his lips and batting away her hands as she goes for him.

He finally lets her go when she's gasping for breath, silent tears of laughter running down her face, and they both fall to the ground in a heap.

"You're impossible," Spike whispers, tracing the curve of her cheek.

She counters with a cheeky smile. "You love it."

"Yeah, I do." He captures her lips again, and her eyes flutter shut with no complaint. "Love that laugh."

"Mm," Buffy agrees contentedly. "I'm kind of fond of yours, too."

"Love these lips, too. And this hair. And these eyes."

She snuggles into his arms, sleepiness finally overcoming her. "Go on."

He barks out a laugh. "Buffy..." He sighs her name like a prayer, and she closes her eyes, loving this...never wanting it to end. "Buffy, I..."

Everything fades away, and when she's next alert, she's on Spike's bed, being shaken gently to wakefulness. "Buffy?"

She blinks. "What...what time is it?"

Spike sighs apologetically. "It's almost six in the morning. I would've let you sleep, but your mom..."

"Oh, god. She's up in half an hour!" Buffy sits up, suddenly wide awake. "I am so screwed."

"Not yet," Spike promises, handing her her clothes and heading out. She dresses quickly, pulling Spike's shirt on over her top after some brief contemplation, and hurries downstairs.

Spike's uncle is fast asleep in front of the television, and he doesn't move when they open the door.

"No motorcycle?" Buffy asks disconsolately as Spike leads her down the block. It's more sensible to walk and not wake up the whole neighborhood, but she's not ready to let go of the night, and the bike has been their one constant.

Plus, it's really, really fun.

"Next time," Spike promises her, and she can hear the insecurity in his voice, the uncertainty that she'll want the same.

She pouts, linking their arms. "You'd better." And the startled glance he shoots her and the way he kisses her breathless is enough to make her heart sing.

Everybody's talking about them the next day, Cordelia having informed the entire population of the Bronze that Buffy was out with Evil. No one dares ask her what had happened, not even Cordy- that would show too much interest and Cordy never acts too interested- and Buffy walks through the halls with an enigmatic smile on her face that doesn't seem to want to die down.

She doesn't speak to Spike at all, not even when he passes her in the hall and they exchange significant glances packed with vulnerability. It isn't time yet, not until the end of the day.

It's her turn, she knows, so when they finish classes, she makes her way across the school entrance to where Spike is standing with Angelus and Faith. "Go on a date with me," she demands, and he turns, startled.


She raises her eyebrows at him. "I'll be waiting at six. You better bring the bike."

He smiles, and she can tell from his friends' expressions that it's an extraordinary sight even to them. "Wouldn't miss it for the world."