Spike sat slumped in his chair, listening to the rain rattling against the small, high windows of his crypt. It was night but he had no desire to leave his home in search of company or conflict. He wouldn't melt in the rain but he liked the feel of wet, clammy clothes as little as the next man. He had blood, beer and a TV. Running a bit low on smokes but he could make it through to the end of this storm.
He did feel a twinge of loneliness though. Truth be told, ever since he'd been turned, he'd been with someone. Losing Angelus, Darla and finally Dru had left him adrift. Friends had been notable for their absence when he was human; having them had been an unexpected benefit of being a vampire. Now he was reduced to hanging round the Scoobies, on the outside looking in, never belonging, never really welcome.
The door slammed back, bringing a gust of rain wet wind into the room and interrupting his melancholy musings.
Spike didn't even bother to turn his head. Only one person he knew ever made an entrance that way and he wasn't going to give her the satisfaction of jumping out of his skin.
"Evening, Slayer," he drawled. "So nice of you to -"
The swirling air brought him her scent and his nostrils flared, as he tasted blood. A second later, he was by her side, catching her as she slid down the wall, one hand pressed to her stomach, blood seeping out and staining her clothes.
"Show me," he said urgently.
She shook her head weakly, gasping with pain.
"Need to stop the bleeding," she whispered raggedly. "Give it chance to close."
Spike went to one knee, scooped her into his arms and stood effortlessly. Striding over to the sarcophagus he used as a bed sometimes, he laid her down on the tangle of blankets, smoothing them as best he could.
"Did you kill it?" he asked. "Don't want it following you to finish the job."
Buffy's eyes sparkled with anger and she struggled to sit up.
"If you're saying I'm putting you in danger, I'll go," she rasped.
Spike shook his head in disgust. "Lie still and stop being a ninny. Just asking is all. If I'm up to my eyes in band aids, don't want to be attacked."
She looked at him and nodded reluctantly. "It's dead," she said. "Unless that species can survive losing a head..."
"Well, I have heard of some..."
"And several tentacles."
"And three of its four legs."
Spike looked down at her, his hands busy peeling back her clothes to get to the wound. "You did all that, it's dead, but if you were top of it that much, how come it was able to get close enough - hey, that looks nasty. Bleeding lots."
"Stop drooling!" she snapped but it lacked her usual edge.
Spike stepped back and drummed his fingers against the edge of the bed. "Save your energy for healing," he advised her quietly. "And tell me what did this. It looks like a claw, not a weapon."
Buffy reluctantly eased back on the antagonism. It had distracted her from the pain but it was a little unfair to expect Spike to suffer the equivalent of a tantrum - though she realised, surprised, that he would oblige her in that, as in anything else. Now that was a distracting thought.
"It was a big demon, blue tentacles, each with a razor sharp claw - " she began.
When she finished describing her attacker, Spike stared at her, a frown creasing his smooth forehead.
"That's not good news," he said finally.
He turned and vanished for a few minutes, coming back with a bowl of water, a fairly clean cloth and some bandages. Buffy let him give her some rudimentary first aid and settled back to rest a little. "O.K.," she said quietly. "Care to finish that thought?"
Spike leaned over her, planting his hands on either side of her head. Buffy felt a wave of dizziness as she looked up into his intense blue eyes. There was no anger, no devil in them now. They were concerned and he looked apprehensive. Spike? Scared? Buffy felt a quiver deep down that had nothing to do with the way Spike's mouth was hovering just above her own.
"Buffy? Be brave for me, honey?"
Honey? Enough was enough. Buffy planted her hand on his chest and heaved him out of the way, pulling herself up and swinging her feet round so that she was sitting, not lying down. It cost her but it was worth it. You faced Spike as an equal at the very least or he just...well, he took advantage and you started to play with thoughts that you had no business thinking. "This isn't a hospital soap, Spike. Spit it out."
Spike huffed then said bluntly, "You're dying, slashed by a Camiorr demon. You've got about an hour to live."
Buffy felt numb with shock, then rallied. "I'll get to Giles. He'll look it up, find the antidote."
She began to stand but Spike reached out and gripped her arm, his face full of concern. "No need, love," he said seriously. "I already know what it is...but you're not going to like it."
Buffy stared at Spike in patent disbelief. "I'm dying - or you say I am - and you expect me to believe that the only chance I have is if I - oh, it's too gross." She looked at him hopefully, waiting for him to flash her that irritating grin and admit that it had been a joke, tasteless and inappropriate, just the kind he probably liked.
Spike gave her back look for look and growled with frustration as the stubbornness in her eyes began to solidify. "This is your life we're talking about, Slayer. I've told you often enough how I feel about you." Buffy glanced away swiftly, unable to face the naked emotion in those ice blue eyes. "How can you think so little of me that you'd think I'd lie about this?"
"Because you've lied
tricked me before, Spike!" she said angrily.
"Because you've manipulated me, made me think, made me feel - "
"I don't give a bugger about that and neither should you. You're dying in front of me and you won't listen to reason. I'll ask you one more time; will you do as you're told or not?"
As ever, Spike's mouth was his worst enemy...when he was using it to speak with anyway. Buffy stiffened in outrage at his dictatorial tone and headed for the door, bent over and moving slowly but not looking back.
Spike cursed under his breath, grabbed a candlestick, came up behind her and hit her hard on the back of her head. As she collapsed bonelessly to the stone floor he shook his head ruefully. She'd never forgive him for doing it, or herself for letting it happen. But he'd rather she was alive and angry than dead and well, dead.
Picking her up again, he took her downstairs this time and tied her to the bed. Better get that out of the way first. She obviously wasn't going to do this willingly and that left him no choice.
Buffy stirred and woke. As soon as she opened her eyes she was greeted with an exasperated sigh from Spike. "Couldn't have stayed out just five more minutes, could you?" he muttered. "Bloody typical."
Buffy gasped as she pulled at her wrists and found that she was handcuffed to the bed. Drawing her feet up to kick Spike, she quickly discovered that Spike was possessed of more than one pair of cuffs. Resolving never, never to ask why he had them, she settled for giving him the look Giles used on her sometimes. It queried silently and put the person on the receiving end in the awkward position of fumbling for words to reply with, when they weren't always sure of the question.
Spike knew perfectly well what Buffy wanted to know and rarely lost his self-possession. Arching an eyebrow he said simply, "You've still got your kit on so don't go assuming ravishing's on the cards."
Buffy's silent, dignified response to waking up chained to Spike's bed crumbled as images of being ravished by Spike flooded her imagination. Now that was too much. She was only human.
"Why not?" she said through gritted teeth. "I'm wounded, I'm dying and you're obviously reenacting one of your Dru inspired sex games. Can't say much for your timing."
Spike threw up his hands and paced around the crypt. "I specifically tell you you're safe and you go and bring Dru into it! Women!"
"Then why the cuffs?"
Spike was there, suddenly, inches away from her face. She felt surrounded by his scent, hypnotised by his eyes.
"You knew what you had to do to live and you wouldn't. I can accept you not being with me, I can let you choose not to kiss me, to love me. But I can't let you choose to die. Not again. You can do what you want to me, Buffy, but you can't die on me again."
He stepped back, biting his lip, his fists clenching at his sides and she wished, for a fleeting second, that her hands were free so she could pull him back to her.
"So you're going to force me? Even though it makes me sick to even think of it?"
He cast her a glance of sheer surprise that she even had to ask. "Yes, Buffy, of course I am. And you know it. Drop the act, forget the pose. It's just you and me here, now, tonight. No Xander with his prissy disapproval, no Willow looking all wide eyed, no boyfriend's memory to be loyal to. Just us. I want you. You know it. What you know as well is that you want me. No; don't argue with me or I'll gag you until I need your mouth free. I'm a vampire, remember? I sometimes think you forget that -"
"It's what I can't ever forget," she replied fiercely. "And you forget who I am. The Slayer of vampires. Slayer. I kill vampires. It's who I am, it's what I do."
He let her finish, then smiled at her slowly, the clean lines of his mouth drawing her eyes. She'd kissed him twice under a spell. Now every time she focused on his lips, all she could think about was how it would feel to kiss him because she wanted to.
"As I was saying," he drawled, his husky voice arousing her more than any caress from Riley's hands ever had, "I'm a vampire, Slayer, I can hear your heart race, your breath quicken. I can almost hear you beginning to drip when I get close to you like this. I can sure as hell smell it all over you. It's like a cloud of honey surrounding you and I want to lick every drop from every part of you. You can't hide from me. You never could and that scares you. You do right to be scared - but you're not frightened of me."
"Skip the pop quiz on Buffy's brain," she said scornfully, making a supreme effort to stay calm when every word flicked her imagination like a teasing feather. "Say I do feel something. It's just sex. You're sexy. OK. I admit it. But there's more to love than that."
"It'd make a nice start though," he murmured wickedly.
Buffy paled and shuddered as a wave of pain swept through her, wiping out her growing arousal, if only for a moment
Spike's face changed dramatically. "I'm a stupid git, trying to seduce you, when you're - "
"I am not dying!" Buffy gasped. "All right. You've made your point. I need the antidote. I need you. But only because I want to live. Don't get your hopes up that it means more than that."
Spike smoothed the hair back from her clammy forehead, his hand shockingly, deliciously cool. She moaned and leaned into the caress almost unthinkingly.
Spike reluctantly turned and walked away. He came back with a knife, the edge on its long blade glittering in the candlelight. He held it up in front of her and said, "Ready?"
She nodded and he slashed downwards in one smooth motion.
Spike winced as the knife bit deep into his arm. Tossing the knife aside, he got onto the bed and straddled Buffy.
"Take off the cuffs," she said in a whisper. "I promise I'll do it."
He shook his head. "No time, love, and besides, there's something I didn't tell you."
"What?" she said in a panicked whisper that was all she had strength for.
"Shut up and swallow."
He slipped his hand behind her head and pulled it up, pressing her mouth against his skin, feeling her warm mouth on him. Hesitantly, tentatively, she began to lick and suck at the blood that welled up out of the wound. He flexed his arm, keeping the blood flowing, knowing that she had to take in more than a mouthful or two. He was afraid that she would gag if he fed it to her too fast but he didn't want to make her endure this any longer than she had to.
As Spike's blood entered her mouth, Buffy began to retreat within herself, closing her mind to what she was doing, to the copper salt taste that seemed so familiar. Spike's hand tangled in her hair, his palm curving round her head protectively. His arm didn't tire, didn't move. He held her perfectly positioned to feed on him.
Angel. She flashed back to him feeding on her. It was the wrong thing to remember. The intensity of that moment had surpassed their one time as lovers. Now she was feeding off Spike and the erotic memories were spilling over her body like cool water on a hot day. She tingled, she burned and finally she tore her mouth from his flesh and gasped for air.
Spike had been watching her intently. Now as her head jerked up, their eyes met. Her lips were smeared with blood. His blood. Her eyes were wide, a pulse hammered in her neck. In his eyes, she was utterly desirable.
Knowing what he knew, Spike tried not to respond but it was beyond him not to taste her, just a little.
Bending down he began to lick the blood from her mouth with slow laps of his tongue, like a cat with a bowl of cream. Only when her lips lay bare of blood but glistening from his tongue did he kiss her. As his lips took hers, Buffy pulled frantically at her restraints. Spike felt her struggles and without taking his lips away, he ran his hand along her right arm until he reached the cuff. With one pull, timed to work with her own efforts, he snapped the link that held her. After he had done the same for her other hand, he reluctantly abandoned her mouth and slid down her body until he could reach her ankles, kissing her flesh where he could.
When she was free, Buffy pushed herself up and they knelt, facing each other, eyes wild and hungry.
"What is this?" said Buffy desperately. "What's making me feel this way?"
Spike swallowed, still tasting blood in his mouth like rich wine. "It's the side effects of the poison. Forgot to tell you; it's used as an aphrodisiac in some circles. Have to make sure you've got a vampire handy of course or things can get a little...heated before you die. And you being a Slayer, well, vampire blood isn't just blood, not to you."
Buffy's eyes closed for a second as she fought with the desire that hammered at her senses.
"Dracula. I drank his blood...I saw things..."
Spike nodded. "I'll bet you did," he said hoarsely. " Won't get that from me...but there's something else I can give you."
Buffy leaned closer, sliding her hands up his strong arms, and cupping his face.
"What?" she whispered seductively, flickering her tongue over his neck and nipping at his flesh with sharp teeth.
Spike sighed. Being noble was so little fun, he couldn't think why it was so popular.
Buffy's head and the candlestick met again, with predictable results.
The next time Buffy woke up fully, she was in Spike's arms and he was trying to knock on Giles' door without dropping her. The door opened as she began to struggle.
"Spike! What happened?" said Giles, throwing the door open wide as he saw who Spike was holding.
Spike strode in and dumped Buffy on the sofa. "You weigh a ton. Ever think about a diet?" he said, massaging the feeling back into his arms.
Buffy glared at him and then looked confused as the memories flooded back. She had woken up once or twice on the journey from the crypt but it was all hazy.
"Did you drop me? Twice?" she asked indignantly.
Spike rolled his eyes. "Yes, Slayer, I did. Awfully sorry and all that," he said with bitter sarcasm. "Had a bit of trouble fighting off the hordes of vampires who thought it was too good a chance to miss, you being helpless and all."
Buffy took in the bruised face, skinned knuckles and torn shirt. "Ah. That would be a sorry then," she murmured apologetically.
Giles interrupted. He had finished cleaning his glasses, he had visually checked that Buffy had no missing limbs. Now he wanted details.
"Will someone please tell me what's going on? Buffy, are you wounded? Do you need attention?"
"Nothing you'd care to provide," muttered Spike.
Buffy raised herself up on one elbow. "If someone didn't keep hitting me over the head with a candlestick, in a pitiful attempt to play Clue without a board, I'd be fine."
A moment later she regretted her attempt to lighten the mood. Giles' face darkened ominously and his lips tightened. With an interrogative tilt of the head and a raised eyebrow, he waited silently for Spike to reply.
Spike shrugged and moved away so that he had a clear path to the door. It was instinctive but the implication wasn't lost on Giles.
"Your girl got slashed by a Camiorr demon. You know about them? Course you do, you being a Watcher and all. But she wasn't a sensible little Slayer. Wouldn't listen when I told her she was dying. Didn't want to know when I explained about the cure. So I took matters into my own hands."
Vampires moved fast but Giles surprised even Spike by his speed. He crossed the room and grabbed Spike by the throat, slamming him against the wall.
"Yes," he whispered, his eyes searching the vampire's face. "I do know about Camiorr demons. All about them. If you took advantage of Buffy in the aftermath of her recovery then I'm going to stake you, right here, right now."
Spike had been resisting temptation all night. Suppressing the cruel urge to ask Giles if he was angry or jealous, he simply stared back with a sneer.
Giles took this as answer enough and began to tighten his grip on Spike's throat.
Buffy felt as if she'd done this many times before. Dragging herself off the sofa she took hold of Giles and yanked him away from Spike.
"Stop it," she said forcefully. "Spike, just tell Giles what happened - no don't bother. The mood you're in you'll probably start with the handcuffs."
Spike gave her a look of disbelief and howled, "Are you trying to get me staked then, Buffy?"
She grinned at him and his spirits lifted. She was feeling better. Good.
"Sorry. Again. Giles," she turned to her Watcher, placing her palm against his chest placatingly. "Spike didn't do anything. I tried to leave because I wouldn't feed from him and he knocked me out and tied me up. He slashed open his arm and I drank. He didn't force me. I was close to the edge and I knew I had to, by then. When he took off the cuffs, I well, I tried to -" her voice faltered.
Giles said awkwardly, stammering a little, "I-I know what you must have been feeling, Buffy. I assure you, no blame attaches to you."
"It doesn't to Spike either," she said earnestly, holding his gaze. "He just knocked me out - again, and brought me back here. Safe and sound. Apart from a mild concussion."
Giles looked at Spike who was leaning against the wall, rubbing his throat rather moodily.
Buffy had a flash of insight and stepped back, heading for the bathroom and leaving them to resolve their issues. Besides, she really wanted to wash and tidy up. She might have just nearly died but that was all the more reason to look good now she was going to live.
Left alone, the atmosphere curdled with embarrassment and neither man seemed inclined to break the silence.
Finally Giles sighed. "Drink?" he asked. "I seem to recall you being rather fond of my single malts."
Spike grinned with relief and nodded amiably at his former landlord. "Sounds good to me."
"So fond, in fact, that you drank them all, leaving me with the dregs of a bottle of banana liqueur that's almost as old as Dawn."
"And you haven't got more in since?" said Spike in disbelief. "Bloody hell, Giles!"
Giles smiled back. "It just so happens that I located a rather nice 18 year old Macallan in the local liquor store. I think this calls for a toast."
Filling two glasses with generous measures, he passed one to Spike and raised his own in salute.
"To...restraints and restraint," he said quietly.
Spike and he shared a look of complete understanding, before turning away from each other abruptly.
Spike downed his drink in one, causing Giles to shudder in horror at the disrespect, and made for the door.
"I'll push off now. You take a look at the wound. Might need a better bandage than the one I put on. Thanks for the drink."
Buffy emerged from the bathroom, looking around for Spike. Giles was sitting by the fire, glass in hand, looking pensive.
"Where did -"
"He went home," said Giles quietly, studying the way the firelight sparkled as it touched the crystal glass and the clear amber liquid within it.
"Oh," said Buffy blankly.
"I'm not sure you realise how lucky you are, Buffy. A human with that poison in them would have been dead in under an hour. You were right to mistrust Spike initially I suppose, but it's incredibly fortunate that you went to him for assistance and that he knew what to do. It's even more incredible that he didn't, well, we don't need to go into that."
Buffy perched on the edge of a chair opposite Giles and gazed into the fire, welcoming its warmth. "I know," she replied. "Drinking his blood was, well, eeww comes to mind but that's the least of it. In my mind, it's like the ultimate poison itself. It's what would make me -"
"There's no question of that," said Giles quickly, leaning forward. "If you're worried about being turned -"
Buffy shook her head, still staring into the flames. "No. I know that won't happen. It's just, Giles I wanted him so much. I don't know what's happened to me."
Giles frowned. "I explained; it's the poison. It would have been the same whoever was with you, or if no one was. Very awkward of course and I'm still amazed that Spike didn't umm -"
"Didn't let me rip off my clothes and his and have hot, wet, wild sex?" said Buffy in a hard voice. "I came this close to making Spike's dreams come true and the only reason I didn't was Spike himself."
Giles rubbed his forehead. "It could be that the instinct for self preservation overcame his natural desire to, well -"
"For God's sake, Giles!" Buffy flared. "Stop tiptoeing around it. And if you think he was scared that I'd stake him afterwards, well, you don't know Spike very well. Or me."
"No," said Giles in a whisper. "But Spike knows me extremely well. If he had done that to you, I would have staked him."
Buffy stood up and faced Giles, her eyes flashing with anger. "It wouldn't have been your decision to make, Giles! You can only protect me so far. Some things are private."
Giles looked at her with a dawning suspicion. "Sit down, Buffy," he ordered. She set her lips stubbornly and remained standing. "I said, sit. You're still recovering and you're paler than I like to see you."
Buffy rolled her eyes and obeyed him, folding her arms across her chest and looking defiant.
Giles took a deep breath. "Spike didn't do anything untoward, so this whole discussion is meaningless. I won't give you any empty promises but if I ever do feel the need to stake him, I'll try and discuss it with you first. And I will bear in mind that tonight at least, he saved your life.
"However, what troubles me is that I'm sensing your feelings for Spike are changing and the events of tonight are the least of your worries."
Buffy swallowed and looked into the fire again. Speaking softly, she said, "Giles? How long do the effects of that stuff last?"
Giles shrugged. "I don't know exactly. Your being the Slayer tends to make most poisons less effective. But it's simple enough. You're not trying to rip my clothes off, so I'd say it's out of your system."
Buffy's head twisted and she gasped at his dry tone. "Giles! I would never -"
"Oh, yes you would, Buffy," he replied grimly. "With that devil's brew in your veins, you wouldn't think twice, believe me."
She absorbed his words and looked at him. "You've seen someone die like that, haven't you?" she asked with a dull certainty.
Giles nodded, looking away from her concerned face. "I'd rather not discuss it, but yes, I have. There was no tame vampire to save her. She died horribly, screaming and clawing at - "
His voice broke and he stood abruptly, walking over to the bottle of whiskey and splashing some into his glass. He returned to his seat and took a large gulp.
Buffy shook her head. "I'm sorry," she said simply.
There was a pause and then she went on, "So, Giles. It's out of my system but there's just one problem."
"I still want to rip Spike's clothes off."
"Oh my God."
Giles rose again and grabbed the bottle. This time he took it back to his seat with him.
Spike reached the cemetery gates and made for home. The rain had stopped now and the slowly warming earth was releasing its scent. Here in the graveyard, Spike felt drunk on the odours of old blood and bones. The dust of the vampires he had slain a short time ago seemed to hang in the moist air, coating him with death. He grinned, his fangs flashing briefly at the memory of the fights.
The first had been easy enough. One on one, a fairly good fighter but nothing he couldn't handle. It had left him a little tired but he had picked Buffy up and continued to walk quickly. Word must have spread. Maybe someone had watched the fight and seen who was lying unconscious on the ground. Just before he left the cemetery, three of them appeared. This time, they had a plan. Well, two of them had one, anyway. While their decoy spent the last few minutes of his life getting his face pulverised by Spike's fists, they had scooped up Buffy and were sneaking away with her.
The instant they touched her, they were marked for death. Spike felt protective towards few people but those he had chosen to shield had, like it or not, a formidable ally. The combination of outrage and frustrated lust that was still crackling through his body was deadly. Spike waded into them and literally tore them apart with a savagery that went beyond the normal, even for a vampire. When he had finished, his hands were so coated with blood that he had to use the water from a vase on a grave to sluice them clean before he could pick Buffy up again.
Cradling her to him possessively, he kissed her lips and felt her respond even as she sank back into oblivion. There were other vampires lurking in the shadows but no one troubled him again. He was holding their death in his arms.
With a savage grin, Spike reached the door of his crypt and kicked it open with a booted foot. It felt good. No wonder Buffy did it so often.
Giles stared at Buffy in shock and then bit his lip. "Buffy, I'm going to be frank with you. This situation you find yourself in, attracted to a vampire for the second time, no don't look away when I'm talking to you." Buffy flushed but met his eyes. "It's not unheard of, believe me. Over the centuries, several Slayers have been seduced by their prey. And they all paid the price. They died at the hands of their lovers. Even worse, some were turned and were killed by their successors."
Buffy shuddered at the thought of fighting a vampire with Slayer training - and at the thought of such a fate for a Slayer's body and soul.
"Your situation is different of course, in that both of the vampires you have been involved with are, in various ways, harmless." He paused, then said in a cold voice, "At least for the most part."
The shadow of Jenny hung between them, chilling the air.
"I'm not in love with Spike the way I was with Angel," she offered, trying to excuse herself to this man whose face was set in bleak lines of suffering.
"No," said Giles. "You're not. Angel was your first romantic love. As long lasting as candy floss and as sickly sweet. You were a girl, and innocent. He was forbidden to you and of course that made him so tempting that I believed you weren't to be trusted near him. If he hadn't left when he did, I might have made sure he left forever."
Buffy felt tears stinging her eyes. "You think, when we knew what would happen that he, that I would ever have done that again?"
Giles smiled at her coldly. "Come out and say it, Buffy," he said, mimicking her words to him. "Do I think that you would have given into a Slayer's urges and mated with your prey? Again? Knowing the consequences? I'm really not sure. But I've never been certain that sex with you would necessarily have triggered that, not so elusive, moment of perfect happiness second time round. And I was sick of waiting for Angelus to return so I could kill him for what he did to my Jenny. For everyone's sake, Angel had to leave. And I'm glad that he did."
Buffy was sobbing now, tears pouring down her face. Her wound, the experiences she had endured had left her emotionally defenceless. "You never said, you never told me how you felt."
"Should I have had to? He killed my girlfriend. I'd say hating him was a given."
"That was Angelus!"
"That's the only reason I let him live as Angel. But I'm not as rational as you think, Buffy. Seeing that face grated on me, tortured me. Now you want Spike. At least if you take your pleasure with him, we won't have to worry about the world ending. But if that chip malfunctions, what then, Buffy? Will you kill him? You'll have no choice."
Buffy stood up, her mouth twisted with her attempt to hold back her tears. "Giles, why are you saying these things to me? Why are you being so cruel?"
Giles looked at her and seemed to see her distress for the first time. Standing, he reached out and hugged her. Buffy leaned into his embrace, her tears soaking through his shirt. He patted her back and murmured to her comfortingly, then eased her away. Drawing her with him, he went to sit on the sofa.
"I'm sorry to have hurt you, Buffy. But I said nothing that I haven't wanted to say for a while now. You think I haven't seen what's been developing between you and Spike? I'm your Watcher, remember. I know you and, for my sins, I've made quite a study on William the Bloody, too."
Buffy reached out for Spike's empty glass and wordlessly held it out to Giles. He allowed her a single measure and watched as she drank it and the colour returned to her wet cheeks.
"So, you think I should just tell Spike to go away?" she said hesitantly.
Giles looked at her. "He wouldn't go," he said bluntly. "He's in love with you. He'd die for you. You're bound to him. Together you've formed an alliance that has the Watcher's Council spinning like a top and tearing their hair out in frustration. They've never seen anything quite like it and that's never popular with them."
Despite the emotionally charged atmosphere, Buffy couldn't help giggling at that. Giles looked at her in surprise and then relaxed, giving her a reluctant grin in return. "I never thought I'd be grateful to Spike, but the way Quentin is foaming at the mouth, well, it wipes out a few grudges I hold against him."
"But it can't cancel them all," said Buffy, serious again. "He's still the Spike who's killed countless humans, no matter how many he's saved by working with us. They don't cancel out. This is people we're talking about."
"I'm glad you can see that, Buffy. But, to be fair to him, since the chip, I've seen signs of change for the better. I'd hesitate to say he was rehabilitated. He's a vampire and he'll always be a vampire. But he's learned, as Angel did, that he can be a vampire and exist without killing."
"Well, he gets a bit on edge if he doesn't kill anything," Buffy said apologetically.
"I think he's chosen the perfect address if he needs demon fodder," said Giles dryly.
Buffy hesitated then decided that it was time to come clean. "Giles, there's something you need to know about Spike. You said, 'if the chip stops working'. It already has in one way."
Giles looked at her, stunned. "Spike is killing again? Buffy, this is intolerable! You should have warned me, we're all in danger -"
Buffy shook her head slowly. "No. Spike still can't hurt humans. The chip is working perfectly. But he can hit me. You were so busy focusing on him not raping me that you've ignored the hitting over the head bit."
"I-I assumed he had paid the price with one of those headaches he gets."
"No. I just found out a few weeks ago. I hit him. I do that too much, you know? He lost his temper and hit me back. I think we both froze, waiting for him to go all ouchy but nothing." She smiled ruefully. "I couldn't believe it. I made him hit me, over and over until I finally accepted it."
"That must have been nice for him," Giles murmured.
She gave him a quick glance. "You're saying I wasn't being fair? I never am with Spike. But that's our problem. Point is, he could attack me now, he could have turned me tonight, he could have done anything. But he didn't."
Giles looked at her with sympathy. "You're worried about what this means, what you've become?"
Buffy sighed. "No, I had a word with Willow and Tara. I hated making Willow go through it all again; she's still so guilty about bringing me back but I had to. It seems I'm still 100% human. Just off the spectrum as far as the Initiative's toy is concerned. I must have bits of other dimensions mixed in or something. Doesn't matter; they tell me there's no other side effects."
"Even so, I want to look into this myself," Giles said firmly. "You're absolutely certain that Spike is safe?"
She nodded. "I made him hit Willy to test it," she confessed. "He could be faking it but why?"
"Well, I really don't know what to say. This goes beyond anything in my experience. I think I preferred the old style vampires, myself," Giles said, a little wistfully.
"But this still isn't a 'my blessings on you both' speech is it?" said Buffy, looking at Giles with pleading eyes.
Giles stood and paced, polishing his glasses so hard that Buffy cringed, waiting for them to snap. "It can't be," he said finally. "I'm a Watcher. Hating vampires is in my blood, it's my raison d'etre. Treating Spike as I do, as a person, not a thing, is a bigger concession than you realise. But I don't believe he's any danger and he is ...different."
Buffy squirmed a little. "I can't believe I'm having this conversation with you, Giles."
"A few months ago, you wouldn't have been able to. Now you're an adult, just as I am. We can meet as equals, Buffy. Do you really think adults don't discuss sex? Do you think it's an activity reserved for your age group and under?"
"Whoa, Giles," said Buffy hastily. "I have a feeling you're going to say something involving my mother and chocolate and then I'll have to curl up and die."
Giles smiled. "I promise I won't. In return, never, ever tell me what you want to do to Spike's incredibly monotonous wardrobe again."
Drinking the smooth single malt had given Spike the taste for more. Not that he had anything approaching the rarefied heights of Giles' bar. Unearthing a bottle of, well, something alcoholic, the label had faded and tasting it didn't give him any clues, he took a long swallow and flung himself down on the blanket covered slab. It still had some of Buffy's scent clinging to it and he began to think over the events of the evening, a smile curving his lips. It faded as he despondently wondered if that were the last time he'd ever get so close to her. Not like Red was likely to cast any more spells and somehow, he didn't want to trick her into his bed. That had been the main reason he'd held off earlier. Not mercy. He had none. Pride.
It wasn't going to keep him warm in bed though. Cursing as he felt desire rip through him again, he moved away from the bed and its tormenting, arousing scent.
Buffy waited until the following night to visit Spike. She wanted to think things over a little and her wound needed time to heal. She tried to pretend that it was just a visit to say thank you, but her patrol was the shortest on record and her jacket bulged with a small package that she'd shoved in there to leave her hands free to fight.
Taking a calming breath, she put her hand on the crypt door and pushed gently. As she walked through, she groaned inwardly. Spike had a visitor.
Clem looked up eagerly as he heard the door close.
"Buffy! Haven't seen you for a while. Come to join us?" His face fell as he took in the glances that Spike and Buffy were trying hard not to exchange, then brightened as the romantic in him grasped the significance. "I should go," he said hastily. "Got so much to do back in the lair."
Buffy was too well mannered to fling open the door but she was tempted. Spike was equally tempted but decided that it would do Buffy no harm to realise that he wasn't going to drop everything for her.
"Sit down, Clem. You've only just got here," he ordered.
Clem dithered, glancing between the two as if looking for clues.
"Yes, sit," said Buffy gently, smiling at him. "I didn't mean to interrupt. I'll come again another time."
"Or you could join us, you know," said Spike losing patience with the games.
"Join you?" said Buffy, taken aback. She'd never really spent time with Spike when they weren't arguing or killing things. The idea of socialising, well, it was weird.
Spike grinned at her, an eyebrow lazily lifting in an unspoken challenge.
"It doesn't involve kittens does it?" she asked suspiciously.
Clem laughed, relieved that they weren't going to fight in front of him."Afraid not. This is our regular TV night. I haven't got one, so Spike tapes me some shows in the week and I come round to watch them."
"Shows?" said Buffy, a dawning horror gripping her.
"Ah. Well, what can I say? I'd -" she caught sight of Spike's face which looked somehow hurt and finished, "love to."
Clem beamed and reached for the remote.
An hour later, Buffy was in an agony of impatience. She had ended up sitting next to Spike on his sofa. The springs were mostly missing and she had found herself inexorably sliding towards the middle. So had Spike. It was impossible to avoid touching him and she found she didn't want to try.
Turning her head to ask Spike a question about one of the characters, in a desperate attempt to make sense of it all, she found that her face was inches away from his. The crypt was full of shadows and Clem, who seemed to be slightly hard of hearing despite ears larger than some satellite dishes, had turned the volume up so high that even sitting a few yards away, Buffy and Spike could talk without being overheard.
Forgetting her question, she looked at him for a long moment. His face was serious, his eyes watchful and guarded. Sighing, he broke the silence and said softly, "Last night..."
"Yes?" she murmured.
"I've never felt so - " his voice trailed off.
"So - what?" hissed Buffy, trying not to give in to the urge to shake it out of him.
He shifted round to face her, sliding one arm along the top of the sofa. If it moved downward just an inch, it would be resting on Buffy's shoulder. She found that she was sitting upright, her back straight enough to make a deportment teacher swoon with admiration. It still didn't bring her shoulders in reach. Buffy discovered that anywhere Spike was touching her, which at the moment was the front of her knees, had suddenly become an erogenous zone. Amazing. Knees were the new G spot.
Spike looked frustrated. Buffy felt insanely glad that they were sharing that at least.
"I can think of a dozen words," he said. "None of them seem to cover it all though."
"Are you sorry you didn't get to satisfy your curiosity about what it would be like with me?"
Spike twisted his mouth in a rueful smile and glanced away, then back at her. "Sorry doesn't begin to describe it. I should get a bloody medal for stopping you."
"So what made you? Giles thought you were scared of what would happen afterwards, getting staked, I mean." Buffy knew she was needling him but she was curious.
Spike looked genuinely surprised. "Way I felt last night, I was wondering if I'd been cut by one of those Camiorr claws myself. Wouldn't have let much of anything stop me, least of all that. I stopped because I've waited for you this long, I can wait a bit longer. I want you to come to me, to admit you love me. Then I'll make the way you felt last night seem like a candle to the sun. You'll burn, Buffy and I'll be the only one who can -"
"Smooth on some after sun?" said Buffy dryly.
Spike glared at her then burst out laughing. "I get carried away around you, love. You bring out the poet in me."
She smiled. "Not the animal? Shame."
Spike growled, a throaty purr, deep and totally inhuman.
"That better?" he said, cocking an eyebrow at her and smiling as he saw her flush.
Buffy gulped and looked around. "Umm...where's Clem?" she said.
Spike turned his head and saw the door close quietly. "Think he got tired of pretending not to be paying attention and buggered off. Want to leave now you're all unchaperoned?"
"I'm out of here if you don't turn that TV off."
Spike stood, walked over to it and clicked it off. He toyed with the idea of kicking it into silence but dramatic gestures have a price and that wasn't one he wanted to pay. He needed that telly to keep him sane.
The silence was a shock after the blaring voices and music but it was soothing too. Instead of awkwardness, there was a calm inevitability about what happened next.
Spike walked over to Buffy and held out his hand to help her up. He'd done that after fights and his grip had been strong and reassuring, but with no overtones or significance. Tonight, it was different. As she put her hand in his it was a commitment, recognition of a bond.
He pulled her up and towards him, locking his hands behind her neck.
"Going to give you a chance to escape the monster," he whispered. "One chance. If you're still here when I open my eyes, you're mine."
Letting his hands slip to his side, he shut his eyes and stood there, relaxed and patient.
Buffy hesitated. They hadn't talked, they hadn't said anything, set guidelines, made promises...Maybe they didn't need to. When they talked, they fought. She didn't want to fight Spike, not tonight. She looked at him. His eyes were still shut. He must know that she hadn't moved away. When would he reach out for her?
Buffy smiled as she realised that he would stand there for as long as it took for her to make up her mind and give him a signal. He wasn't rushing her and despite his words, he was leaving it to her to set the pace.
It was all she needed to know.
Stepping forward she kissed his eyelids softly. As she did, she felt his arms wrap around her fiercely. His eyes snapped open and they were blazing with hunger. Without a word he kissed her, their bodies tight against each other, straining to get even closer. Buffy's senses were heightened to the point where she was conscious of every movement, every caress.
This was no meeting of young lovers, sweet and tentative. The Slayer and the vampire belonged in a different world. They had danced together for years, teasing and taunting, in rhythm and faltering, as the music changed. Now they were about to bring the dance to an end.
As the kiss deepened, they began to pull at each others clothes, needing to have nothing between them, no more barriers, even thin cotton and silk.
Spike took hold of the hem of Buffy's top and tugged it up over her head then bent to kiss her breasts. She reached behind to unhook her bra and let it fall away, then slid his shirt off his back. She ran her hands under his t shirt, touching muscles she'd slammed her fists into so many times. Now she caressed, explored and finally exposed his chest, using her strength to simply rip the shirt off him. The package she had brought contained a new one so she didn't think he'd mind. Spike wouldn’t have objected if every item of clothing he owned was reduced to scraps as long as Buffy kept touching him like this.
They worked on each other's jeans for a second, fingers fumbling with buttons and zips. Buffy slid her hands down the front of his jeans and was rewarded with a shuddering gasp from Spike and a stab of anticipation for her.
Realising that it was faster if they took off their own jeans, they stepped back for a moment and finished undressing.
Finally naked, they stood looking for a second, still in silence, and then Spike fell to his knees in front of her.
There was nothing of the supplicant in his action. It just brought him level with her hips. He slipped his hands round her bottom, cupping her flesh, his fingers digging into her.
Then he made good his promise to lick every drop of honey from every part of her.
Their shadows merged and twisted on the crypt walls as the candles flickered and guttered. There were words now, whispered and screamed as they urged each other on or begged for release. There was tenderness; soft kisses raining down like blossom falling from a tree in spring. There was passion as they tore at each other with fingers and teeth, Spike never giving in to the urge to change, even as his climaxes took away all sense of self, even as he cried out her name.
And finally, there was peace and subdued laughter, as they rested on the bed and talked, tracing patterns on each other's skin with teasing fingers, wrapped in a golden haze of satiated pleasure.
Then the crypt door slammed open and a man entered, flanked by two guards, one armed with a cross bow and one with a tranquiliser gun.
He surveyed the scene in front of him, a look of disdain and revulsion contorting his features.
As Buffy and Spike began to struggle free of the covers, identical looks of shock on their faces, he said calmly,"Kill the vampire, subdue the girl. Do it now."
Buffy looked at Quentin Travers and saw their death in his eyes.
Time slowed to a crawl inside the crypt. Buffy had heard nothing after the words, 'kill the vampire'. They filled her with panic and fury so intense that her body responded the only way it knew how.
It looked for someone to kill.
Buffy fought most nights and yet could go weeks without being seriously challenged. She was too experienced to get over confident; even the newest vampire could surprise you, but it was unusual for her to have to draw on the reserves of strength that lay at her core. Now she reached for that strength, felt it simmer and burn within her blood.
Even as she assessed the threat to her lover and herself, she began to move. Her eyes swept across the three men. The greatest risk to Spike was the crossbow, to her the gun. Travers was an unknown quantity but his hands were buried in the deep pockets of an overcoat and she was willing to bet that he had a gun and a stake at the least.
Crossbow man it was then.
The intruders had surprised them but surprising a predator can be counter effective. Poke a sleeping cat. It will not stretch languidly before ripping claws across your hand. It will strike without warning, without thinking. Three men were facing two people who had the ghosts of a thousand kills at their backs. The only possible advantages the men had were Buffy's reluctance, and Spike's inability, to kill humans.
As Buffy slid off the sarcophagus and moved swiftly across the room, towards the man with the crossbow, the element of surprise shifted to work for her. She was still naked, her golden hair falling around her face, both relaxed and invigorated from making love with Spike. She was a stunning sight and the man faltered as she glided towards him looking like the incarnation of a savage warrior from the past. Which wasn't far from the truth.
As he fumbled with the crossbow release, trying to aim past her to where Spike stood, she kicked at his wrist. Reflexively, he squeezed the trigger, sending the bolt, by a fluke, directly at the vampire. Spike twisted away, the bolt grazing his side, leaving a shallow furrow in his flesh.
The man never got chance to reload. Teeth bared in a ferocious smile, Buffy grabbed his weapon and snapped it in two, flinging it away from her. Her foot scythed upwards and caught the man below the jaw. She felt no pity or regret when she heard the crack as the bone shattered. He went down to his knees, crying out in pain and clutching at his face.
Spike, like Buffy, had concentrated on the threat to his beloved more than the one to himself. As she moved, so did he. Allowing her to pass in front of him and fully aware of his limitations in a fight like this, he began to move backwards, heading towards his weapon chest. Getting wounded on the way was irritating but he hardly felt it. Three swift steps and he was at the chest. Using his heel, he kicked up the lid and risked a swift look inside. Perfect. Snatching up a throwing knife and blanking his mind, he threw it unerringly, not at the man holding the gun, but at the weapon itself.
The chip wasn't entirely fooled; it triggered belatedly, inflicting an intense stab of pain. But the knife had not faltered as it left his hand. The gun, with its drugged darts, was knocked out of the man's hand and sent spinning away.
Buffy's peripheral vision exceeded the norm and she registered the fact that the gunman was now unarmed. She pivoted past a motionless Travers and used her momentum to drive another kick into the remaining guard's stomach. He collapsed, winded and with several cracked ribs. Buffy wouldn't kill but she had no qualms about inflicting pain. The Council had come for Faith several times when she was around. She knew what they were capable of and she had no reason to trust them on her own behalf.
With his guards defeated in less than twenty seconds, Travers should have been fearful. Instead, his face was mask like, bland and unconcerned.
Buffy cocked her fist as she moved in front of him but hesitated. He was elderly and he hadn't drawn a weapon yet. He smiled at her indecision, the mask shifting to reveal triumph and she remembered his hands. As he began to withdraw them from his pockets, her own hands shot out, gripping his wrists so hard that she felt his fragile bones shift under the pressure. Digging into the nerves in his wrists, she forced him to uncurl his fingers.
"Got any more cuffs?" Buffy asked Spike, keeping her eyes locked on Travers as she held him immobile.
"Well, no, there's a limit to how many a bloke needs to keep around the place, love," said Spike. "But there's plenty of rope."
"Good. Do this one first. But take his coat off before you tie him up. I want to see what he's got in there."
"Can we get dressed after that, then? Because you look a little chilly."
Buffy looked at him and then herself and gasped in shock as she became aware of her nudity. Moving faster than she had in the fight, she dragged Travers over to Spike, snatched up her scattered clothes and vanished into the shadows. Spike was completely unconcerned about his lack of clothes and grinned happily at Travers as he gently but firmly gripped his wrists.
"How does it feel to have made the biggest mistake of your life then, mate?" he asked in a solicitous tone. "You've really pissed her off and believe me, that's never a good idea."
Travers stared over Spike's shoulder, expressionless again. Only a faint twitch of his lips betrayed his emotions.
Buffy and Spike, now dressed and armed, looked at their three prisoners. The two bodyguards were sullen and quiet, one through choice, one through necessity. Travers was also silent but his malicious eyes never strayed far from Buffy.
"What do we do with them?" Buffy asked in disgust. She had been enjoying herself for the first time in ages when they had spoiled everything. Not to mention the fact that every thirty seconds or so, she remembered that Quentin and his thugs had seen her naked. It wasn’t a pleasant thought. Maybe she should have killed them. That had to be extenuating circumstances.
Spike walked over to the dart gun. Picking it up, he weighed it in his hand. "How about you use this on the gatecrashers so I don't have to worry about them doing anything tricky? I'll stay here and you can go and fetch Giles. I have a feeling he might want to see this little lot."
Buffy grinned and took the gun from him but Travers finally broke his eerie silence. "A renegade Slayer deserves a Judas for a Watcher. Just who do you think told us about your unnatural liaison with the demon? It won't save his job; his incompetence and lack of control over you has gone too far but -"
"Shut up," said Buffy scornfully. "Nothing you can say would ever make me doubt Giles."
She sent darts into the flesh of the guards, watching as they lost consciousness within seconds. Spike sauntered over and rolled up their eyelids. "Seem to be out for the count," he reported. "Might be as well if you kicked them though to make sure. Aim for the knackers and no one can keep from moving."
"I think they're really drugged," Buffy said hastily. The primitive and wholly human desire to inflict pain on those attacking her and her mate had drained away. She felt a little shocked at the emotions that had boiled up inside her. Turning to Travers, she asked sweetly, "Ready for some of your own medicine?"
He glared at her. "I have a weak heart. If you use that on me, I could well die."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Be still my beating - oh, you just said that, didn't you? I could knock you out the old fashioned way instead. There's a really useful candlestick around here somewhere."
"Why won't you listen to me, girl? I am telling you that your Watcher betrayed you."
"Maybe it's because you keep calling me 'girl' when you should be calling me, 'person who means I have a job'"
Quentin looked amused. "You are one in an unending line of tools that my organisation makes use of as we see fit. Don't flatter yourself that you're of any real or lasting significance in the world. Your job might be; you are not."
Buffy kept her temper with an effort. "Is that the world that wouldn't exist if I hadn't saved it five or six times?" she asked pointedly. "Because, I don't know, don't want to sound vain or anything, but I'd say that made me marginally more significant than a dried up, power hungry old man who's lost his grip on his tool."
Behind her, Spike snickered. "Did I say something that's funny if you're from Gilesland?" Buffy asked him suspiciously.
"Yep. Tell you later, pet." Preferably when you're not gripping my tool, he added silently.
"Oh. Well, whatever."
Travers lost patience with their flippant lack of concern. "You are a travesty, a poor excuse for a Slayer. You have betrayed your calling, not once but twice now by your dalliances with those you exist only to slay. You are willful, disobedient and disrespectful."
"Knew there were many good reasons for loving you, my sweet," said Spike, a slightly menacing smile on his face as he listened to Travers insulting Buffy.
Buffy laughed. "Giles was right," she said. "You really are foaming at the mouth aren't you? Does it bother you that much that Angel and Spike have greyed things up in your black and white world? They're not the only ones either...look at Clem."
"Slayer, I'm deeply wounded," said Spike, "Never thought he was more than a friend. Just goes to show how blind I am."
Buffy rolled her eyes with mock exasperation. "He is a friend," she said. "But he's also a demon. And he's on my list of people I never want to have to kill."
"I'm on that list, too, right?" asked Spike.
"You seem to have snuck on it somehow, don't ask how."
Spike grinned, then sobered."So, you going to push off and fetch Giles?"
Buffy took his hand and pulled him over to the far side of the crypt, out of earshot."I don't like leaving you with them. Suppose someone else comes? It's funny Travers brought just two people to take us out. It's deeply insulting on one level but it's also suspicious. He knows how well we can fight."
"I can't, not humans anyway," Spike pointed out. They were still holding hands and he pulled her close for a swift kiss, resting his head against her shoulder for a second. "Knowing that I couldn't help you nearly killed me. I hate this chip."
She smiled at him."You did fine. We won, didn't we?"
"Suppose so." Spike didn't sound wholly convinced.
"I can prove what I say, " called Travers. "Inside my coat, a letter from Rupert..."
Buffy shook her head in disbelief and walked over to the coat, slung over the back of the sofa. "Which pocket?" she asked tersely.
Travers smiled calmly. "If you just reach inside the right hand one, you should find it. It sets out his disappointment in you, his plans to kill this Spike creature. I think you'll find it illuminating."
"I think I'd find it to be a forgery but I'm not sticking my hands in there. This coat is giving me the wiggins somehow."
"Want me to take a look?" offered Spike.
Buffy looked at the thinly disguised anticipation flitting across Travers' face. "That would be a 7.6 on the no scale. Let's see; he came armed with weapons for humans and vampires. What's the other element? Magic. I'm betting there's something nasty and spell covered in there. Think we'll let Will and Tara check it out."
Spike shrugged. "Works for me. Just don’t bring Xander. This night’s been ruined enough.”
Buffy gave him a look but let it pass and headed for the door. As she reached out to open it, it swung towards her. She stepped back swiftly, reaching for the stake in her pocket. "Giles!" she exclaimed with relief.
Giles ignored her and pushed past to stare at the three bound men and Spike. Looking at Travers, he said sharply, "Why is the vampire still alive?"
Travers allowed satisfaction to settle over his face like scum on a pond. "An oversight that I'm sure you can remedy, my dear fellow. After you untie me of course."
"Of course," said Giles pleasantly, stepping over to where Travers lay.
As Buffy looked on in horror, he took out a small knife and slashed at the rope binding Travers' wrists, freeing him in seconds.
"What the hell are you doing?" shouted Spike, striding towards Giles, who was on one knee beside Travers, cutting the rope that bound his wrists. "That wanker just tried to kill us! He's not safe."
Giles stood and swept his hand across Spike's face in one smooth movement. The vampire fell back a step and looked at the Watcher in disbelief, one hand going up to his bloodied lip.
"Be silent, vampire," said Giles coolly. "Or I'll cut out your tongue before I stake you. I wonder if it would turn to dust when the rest of you does? Be interesting to find out."
Buffy choked and looked around her wildly. "Giles, something's wrong, this isn't you. Why are you behaving like this?"
Giles seemed to notice her for the first time. "You should really pay more attention to what's right under your nose, Buffy. But they say that love's blind, don't they?"
Buffy frowned, trying to think, to concentrate. Not for a moment did she doubt Giles. He was either affected by a spell or playing a deadly game with Travers. Either way, her trust in him was as deep as her love for her mother had been. On the chance that he was fully aware of what he was doing, she decided to play along. If he was enchanted or possessed, it wouldn't make any difference, so she couldn't really lose.
"I've seen you turn into a drunken, drifting excuse for a man, if that's what you mean," she said bitterly. "I got you your job back, when you were reduced to being a shopkeeper, remember?" A quotation swam to the top of her mind and she laughed scornfully. "Who was it who said the English were a nation of shopkeepers?"
Giles automatically opened his mouth to answer her and stopped himself, covering the action with a hasty polishing of his glasses. "You'd do well to be more respectful of the country that has worked for centuries to guide, train and protect the Slayer line. But respect isn't a quality with which you're terribly familiar, is it Buffy?"
"Oh, I can respect a lot of qualities, Giles. Loyalty and trust being two. When I give those to someone, I never ask for them back." She let that hang in the air for a second before continuing, a mocking smile curving her lips. "Of course, since you stripped me of my powers and almost got my mother killed quite early on in our relationship, that's not really a factor between us, is it?"
Spike was far from certain what Giles felt about him but he knew that the Watcher loved Buffy deeply. No one who had been at the foot of Glory's tower when the sun rose and illuminated Buffy’s lifeless body, could doubt that. The scene being played out rang false to him, though Travers was lapping it up. It took him no longer than Buffy to guess at the possible causes. Buffy's equally improbable taunts and useful hints allowed him to guess at her strategy. He grinned inwardly. Time for a good taunting, was it? Well, if something had turned Giles evil and he was due to be staked in moments, he could at least have some fun before he dusted.
Spike opened his mouth to join in but Travers, who had been listening to Giles and Buffy's verbal sparring, a smug smile on his face, stepped forward, raising his hands theatrically. "Now, now! I see that you weren't exaggerating in your letters, Rupert, she really is out of control, but we don't have time for this. The ritual needs to be performed at midnight and that gives us very little preparation -"
"'Ritual'?" asked Buffy sharply. "What ritual? If you two think you can force me to do anything, you've forgotten who you're dealing with. I can break you into little pieces in less time than it takes me to put my lipstick on in the morning."
Travers looked at her with disdain and dislike fighting it out for first place. "There's an old saying, my dear Slayer," he said, his voice dripping with condescension. "About there being more than one way to skin a cat? Well, I don't have a cat around to demonstrate, but I do have your charmingly freakish sister at Mr Giles's shop. She's going to make a fascinating study subject for some of our more advanced students of mystical beings back in London. Unless you cooperate, in which case, I might just forget her rather unusual background."
"If you hurt Little Bit, I'll tear this chip out with my bare hands and come looking for you, Travers," Spike said quietly, his appreciation of the game vanishing and worry creeping in. "And when I do, I'll snap your neck like a dry stick. You're not to my taste though; so don't worry about being bled dry. I'd eat rats before I'd drink from you."
Travers applauded ironically. "You've slept with her now, vampire. You can drop the concerned act. I've just spent half an hour with the young girl. She's annoying and tiresome; you couldn't possibly care what happens to her."
"Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't," said Buffy tightly. "But I do and I second everything he just said. Dawn's been through enough and I'll never forgive you for adding to her trauma."
She was looking at Travers but Spike sensed that her words were aimed right at Giles. He winced. If it turned out that Giles was just pulling a fast one on this git, he was going to pay for this little twist. Buffy had that, 'we are not amused' look on her face.
"So," said Travers. "Shall we adjourn to the Magic Box?" He was as calm as if he were inviting them to afternoon tea.
"You still haven't told me what this ritual is for," said Buffy, folding her arms across her chest and glaring at him.
"Oh, did I not? How remiss of me. To put it very briefly, we need a new Slayer. You're incorrigible, Faith's just not the kind of girl we like to have around...so we've decided to take matters into our own hands."
"You're going to kill us both?" Buffy said. "Are you hoping for one, maybe two new Slayers who'll jump through your hoops?"
'No, no, my dear. Too chancy. As you point out, we're not entirely sure what will happen in the event that you both die. In your case for what, the third time? You couldn't even do that part of your job correctly, could you? Trouble. You've been trouble from the start, never listening, never -"
"Quentin," said Giles quietly but forcefully. Travers paused and rubbed his eyes for a moment, composing himself.
"As I was saying, we want to have a fresh start. There'll be no more of this random selection of Slayers by some unseen agency. A highly talented researcher on my personal team has devised a way to strip you both of your powers. You will remain alive; we'll make sure of that. Don't want your deaths to complicate matters. Why take chances, hmm? We will then bestow the powers on a suitable candidate. We have several in mind; we just need to weed them out. The less successful ones, well, they'll have to be eliminated of course. So, no need for you to fight us. You've spent a lot of time wishing you could be normal I believe. Here's your chance."
Buffy tossed her head and stared at him angrily. "And Spike?" she asked. "Do I get to keep him?"
"I really can't allow such an obscenity to continue. He dies tonight, I’m delighted to say. Rupert agrees with me totally on this, don't you?"
Giles smiled slowly. "I'm as likely to spare you, Spike, as I am to share a drink with you," he said.
Quentin nodded eagerly. "Do it now, Rupert, I want to see William the Bloody turn to dust. One for the record books, eh?"
Spike and Buffy shared a surreptitious look of relief at the confirmation that Giles was still Giles. Spike wondered how much that whiskey cost. Maybe he'd give Giles a bottle when this was all over, as a memento. Or steal it, anyway. No point in wasting money...unless maybe it came in miniatures?
Giles casually pulled a stake out of his pocket and gave Buffy an enigmatic look. Buffy floundered for a second but Spike came to her rescue. “So, it’s a staking is it?” he demanded indignantly, moving away from Giles as he advanced towards him. “Kill the poor vampire who can’t hurt anyone anymore, the vampire who saved your sorry life more times than you’ve got laid?” Giles glared at him. Spike had a feeling that was a genuine glare. “ Who helped you out when your pal Ethan turned you into a demon? Not to mention that time that other, evil vampire had you by the throat and I set him on fire when we were patrolling? Good times, lots of them. And now you’re saying it’s all over, end of the line for Spike?”
Travers began to look puzzled. Spike was grinning by the end of his plea for mercy and he and Giles were still several feet apart as Giles was making no effort to close in on Spike but was simply matching his steps. As suspicion flared in Quentin’s eyes, as Spike reached the door of the crypt, as Buffy began to grin and relax, the situation was shaken like a kaleidoscope and the pattern shifted.
“It was a trick, wasn’t it?” screamed Quentin, his calm vanishing as he realised the extent to which he’d been fooled.
“A trick? Not exactly,” said Giles reflectively. “I’d say it was more akin to pest control.”
He turned to Buffy and Spike, who were now standing together. “I must offer you both my apologies for distressing you. Though, I must say, you played up beautifully. Now, if you’ll just open that door, Spike, I think there are some people –”
“Giles!” shrieked Buffy, who had let her eyes wander to Travers. “Stop him!”
Travers lunged for his coat and reached into the right hand pocket. He didn’t pull out a letter. He pulled out a small box, made of some dull grey metal. On the lid was an ornate sigil. Travers set the box down and flicked open the lid, just as Giles reached him.
It was too late. The box was about the size of a box of kitchen matches but as they watched, a hand appeared, scrabbling for a grip. It took hold of the side of the box and began to pull. With a sickening noise of grinding bones and a stench of decomposing flesh, a demon appeared, bursting through the box and expanding swiftly, muscles ripping, skeleton re aligning. He howled in pain, long arms wrapping around his misshapen head. The arms dropped and he looked around, panting, a grey tongue hanging out of a mouth that seemed too full of teeth for it to fit in. He was big, he was ugly and he looked dangerous.
Buffy sighed with relief. Finally, something she could kill.
Giles grabbed Travers roughly and began to pull him away from the demon. “Banish it before it kills us all, you fool!” Giles cried.
“Kills all of you, is more accurate,” Travers said in a gently chiding voice. “And thank you for the suggestion.” He twisted his head round and called out, “Ragrathnil, do my bidding and kill all in the room but me.”
The demon crouched and sprang towards the two unconscious guards. Travers realised his mistake and began to shout counter orders but it was too late. The demon’s jaw widened impossibly, and a swirling miasma of sickly yellow light flooded out of his mouth. Tendrils of the light shot out to grip the arms of the man who had wounded Spike. He was inexorably dragged towards the demon’s maw. The light ate away at him from within and in seconds he had stretched and thinned, bones and flesh dissolving and merging with the light. He was captured and consumed so quickly that Buffy had barely had time to reach for a weapon.
Travers finally managed to attract the demon’s attention before he attacked the second guard. “Not them, you stupid creature, the others!” He gestured wildly round the room. The demon hesitated, swinging back and forth as it chose a victim. Giles clung onto Travers, determined that if he was going to be demon food, Travers was coming along too.
Buffy gripped her sword, thankful that Spike kept a varied assortment of weapons in the crypt. Not as many as Giles of course but then, few people did. She circled round, trying to draw the demon’s attention but she froze when Spike began to talk. “Is that really you, Rags?” called Spike. “Haven’t seen you in ages. Hanging round with a dodgy crowd, aren’t you? Not like you to be working for the humans.”
The demon paused and swiveled to face Spike. “Spiikkke?” he growled, his jaw clicking upwards abruptly.
“You know this demon socially?” asked Buffy in disbelief, keeping her sword at the ready.
Spike smiled, walking casually over to a chair. “Oh, Rags and I go back a ways, don’t we mate?”
The demon nodded, spattering green slime on the walls as he did so.
“Do you want me to put him on the list next to Clem, then?” asked Buffy brightly.
The demon turned to her, his back to Spike. His eyes looked confused but he began to move towards her, snarling, and starting to open his mouth again. Spike neatly beheaded him with a two handed swing of the axe that had been leaning against the side of the chair.
“No need, pet. We hate each other,” he said cheerfully.
Giles tightened his grip on Travers, who was now staring aghast at the demon’s corpse and muttering incoherent curses.
Buffy looked down at the demon. “I wanted to kill it,” she said through clenched teeth. “You demon hogger!”
Spike shook his head wearily. “Most girls would be all, ‘Oh, Spike, you’re my hero!’” he pointed out. “But me, I get the weird one who nags me for saving her from going all squishy.”
Buffy pouted then relented. It had been a nice swing of the axe. “Is it, like, just going to stay there? Because I’m thinking, hard to avoid tripping over it.”
Spike shook his head. He bent and picked up the box and placed it on the demon’s chest. It was interesting to watch. Like a film running in reverse, the demon got sucked back into the box, leaving a faint smell behind and some smoking gobbets of slime.
Spike closed the lid and brought his booted foot down hard. The metal crumpled and the box vanished. “Tidy enough for you?” he asked with a grin.
Giles spoke up. “Buffy, could I trouble you to open the door? There are some people out there who need to take care of the loose ends and finish the er, cleaning up. They’re waiting for my signal.”
“Leaving us time to discuss some things?” Buffy said in an ominous tone of voice. “Like ruining my night off, putting Dawn in danger, not to mention something so embarrassing that I’ll be blushing about it when I’m old and wrinkly.”
Giles looked momentarily intrigued, then coughed as Buffy’s gaze intensified. “I suppose that’s got to happen, yes. I’ll explain everything.”
She opened the door and peered out into the darkness. “Travers is all insane and gibbering. Now would be a good time to take him away,” she called.
“Thank you, Miss Summers,” said a quiet voice. An elegantly dressed man stepped out of the shadows, followed by a woman and a small child. They walked towards her and paused at the threshold.
“May we enter?” he said politely.
“Not my home,” said Buffy. “You need to ask him.”
Spike appeared by her side, his arm wrapped around her protectively. “You friends of Giles?” he asked. “Not got a grudge against vampires or any nasty pointy bits of wood on you?”
The man smiled. “I have no ill will towards you, Guardian and Protector.”
Spike frowned, his head tilting slightly in the gesture that Buffy had always found strangely appealing. “Don’t know what you’re on about mate, but come on in.”
The strange trio walked into the crypt and glanced around. The remaining guard was still unconscious by the wall. Travers was staring blankly into space, his mouth slightly ajar, his hands clenching and unclenching in his lap, as though he was strangling something small and helpless.
Giles moved forward to greet the newcomers. “You heard it all?” he asked.
The man nodded, his face somber and distressed. “You warned me, Rupert. I should have taken more notice. I placed too much importance on your less than amiable relations with Travers. It coloured my judgment. You are considered something of a rebel, you know.”
“Giles is a rebel?” whispered Buffy to Spike. “I’ll never understand you English guys.”
“I’m sorry,” said Giles. “Where are my manners? I haven’t introduced you all.”
“Oh, he’s a rebel,” Spike whispered back. “See? Got no grasp of proper etiquette.”
Giles cleared his throat and waved at Spike and Buffy. “As you may have gathered, this is our Slayer, Buffy Summers and her,” he gulped and reached for his glasses, then stopped himself. “Her – partner, Spike.”
Spike’s face was indescribably gleeful as he relished Giles’s discomfort.
“And I’m honoured to introduce Miss Amy Ward and her Watcher, Elizabeth Stanton,” Giles continued. The girl bowed her head politely and her Watcher smiled.
Giles saw Buffy look at the small child with shock and carried on hastily before she could ask any questions, “And this is, I think I’m safe in saying, the new head of the Watcher’s Council, Andrew Carlton.”
The man nodded his head. “I called an emergency meeting of the Circle as soon as Travers left for the airport. After I explained your fears and the actions I had already taken, we used up the discretionary fund for the next two years, and hired a private jet so that we could get here ahead of him.” He smiled. “Most enjoyable. Every word he said, all that went on in this room from the time he entered, was heard by us as we waited outside, and the people back home. I received their unanimous vote of support just before Miss Summers called to us.”
“Really?” asked Giles curiously. “Is that some form of spell based on the Runes of Talmac? I never quite managed to master them.”
Andrew Carlton threw back his head and laughed, the lines of strain vanishing from his face. “Oh, Ripper, how you’ve changed!” he said. “Your Slayer is quite correct; you’re not a rebel at all. No, Travers is bugged and we have a link up that allows us to receive the signal from the device, that’s all. He had a fortuitous visit to the dentist that allowed us to implant it in his tooth. Very reprehensible, I know but I think it worked for the best. Don’t you ever read your e-mail? I did tell you about it.”
Buffy reflected that the Council was still as high handed as ever. She didn’t trust them much, no matter who was in charge. “Giles,” she began, “I have questions, lots of them but, tell me, Dawn’s safe isn’t she?”
“Perfectly safe,” said Giles. “Quentin’s thugs grabbed her and brought her to the shop but they didn’t hurt her. While Travers was ransacking my shelves for the ingredients he needed for his ritual, I managed to reassure her secretly. She’s as good an actor as you are. She screamed beautifully and managed to give Quentin quite a headache.”
“That’s my Little Bit,” said Spike proudly.
“I told Travers to go on ahead, that I would follow when I had finished my preparations. He left a third guard at the shop but it didn’t take me long to overcome him. He’s bound and gagged in the shop basement, with Xander and Willow on guard. Tara and Anya took Dawn home, where I imagine she’s eagerly waiting to see you.”
Buffy sighed with relief. “So, isn’t six or seven a little young to be a Slayer in training?” she asked, smiling down at the small girl.
The child frowned at her. “I’ve been training since I was four,” she said sternly. “I’m not a baby, you know.”
Buffy gave Elizabeth Stanton a helpless look. “I, uh, didn’t start till I was a lot older,” she said to Amy apologetically.
The girl looked horrified but was too polite to comment.
“Travers tried to make me believe that you’d been writing to him, complaining about me,” Buffy said with a laugh. She stopped and frowned. “You hadn’t had you? Because I’ve been working really hard training these last months, you know.”
Giles looked slightly embarrassed. “As a matter of fact, I’ve sent some splendidly scurrilous accounts of your conduct to Travers. He’s heard all about how you neglect your patrols to consort with Spike, how you’re encouraging Willow to experiment with the dark arts, how you don’t floss daily -”
“Giles!” said Buffy, laughing. “You are so going to suffer next time we train together.”
Giles smiled back at her, then sobered. “Anyway, I hesitated to mention my plans to you. It’s not like you’ve ever been terribly interested in the politics of the Council. Quentin’s irrationality has worsened since we last saw him but it was so gradual that it was hard for those around him to appreciate it. When I got wind of this plan of his from Elizabeth, I knew he’d finally gone too far. Amy is one of the candidates for your replacement but there are four other girls as well and you, well, you heard his plans for them.”
Buffy shivered but didn’t comment, unsure if Amy had appreciated her potential fate. “I don’t get it though. If Faith and I are out of it and the next in line are all fresh out of kindergarten, who fights the demons until they grow up? It doesn’t make sense.”
“It makes sense, girl,” hissed Travers, stirring from his apathy. “Not all the candidates are this young and I wanted to experiment, see just how much difference it made if there was no Slayer. Do you think you alone fight? There are scores of my people, all over the world battling demons and –”
“They’re not your people anymore and they never will be again,” said Andrew with a cool finality. “You have betrayed all that the Council stands for. You are correct that in the fight against evil, there are many warrior - but there is only one Slayer and she is utterly necessary as head of the armies of light.”
Buffy was a little taken aback at this description but decided that it was nice to be appreciated. Sure, she got respect from the local vampires, but that wasn’t exactly the validation she craved.
“So, why did you bring Amy and her Watcher along?” asked Buffy. “Wasn’t it a bit risky?”
Elizabeth and Andrew exchanged glances. Andrew smiled at Buffy and said, “ Amy is my niece, my late sister’s child. I felt that I wanted her close by in case Quentin’s supporters – and he has some – decided to use her against me.”
“But as we’re here,” Elizabeth broke in, “ I’m sure Amy would be terribly thrilled to watch you slay, possibly join in some of your training sessions, that sort of thing.” She smiled kindly at the little girl. “We mustn’t get too carried away with the holiday spirit and fall behind.”
Buffy gave Giles a desperate, pleading look. He shrugged helplessly but said, “Possibly, this being the Hellmouth, it might be a little too hazardous for Miss Amy to actually patrol but I’m sure Buffy would give her a daylight tour and let her use the training facilities at the shop.”
“Well, yes, I suppose so,” said Buffy trying to seem pleased about babysitting being added to her duties.
Spike had been studying Travers intently. “So what’s happening to this joker, then? You’re not going to just let him go are you?”
Carlton shook his head. “We have no intention of that. Travers is dangerous. His final fate will be decided by his peers. Until then…”
Carlton took out a thin necklace, and walked towards Travers. Quentin’s eyes widened in horror and he began to scramble away across the floor.
“Would you hold him still?” Carlton asked Spike politely. Spike stepped behind Travers, hauled him to his feet and gripped his arms firmly. Carlton said, “By the powers of the Council, I am authorised to bind you with this charm. It will be removed so that you may hear your sentence in full possession of your mind.”
He pulled Travers’ shirt away from his neck, exposing his throat, and then casually dropped the necklace over Travers’s head. As it settled against him, Travers began to scream. The necklace lay still for a second and then there was a faint sizzling sound, that grew louder and louder. The necklace sank into Travers’s flesh, blood trickling down to stain his white shirt. The flesh closed over the chain, leaving an inflamed ridge of scar tissue.
Buffy looked away, sickened and hoping that Amy wouldn’t have nightmares. She peeked at the child and saw that she had a slight smile on her face and seemed totally unconcerned. Of course, Travers had planned to kill her, but still…
Giles spoke quietly to Buffy. “That charm has taken away all of Quentin’s will. He cannot think or act independently until it is removed. A mental straitjacket of sorts. It will let them get him home without any problems.”
“That’s horrible!” Buffy said.
Giles raised a quizzical eyebrow. “And what he planned to do was not? How many people would have died because of his frustration at being nominally in charge of a woman who stands and acts alone and refuses to be subject to authority?”
Buffy shook her head. “I guess. But, Giles?”
He looked at her enquiringly.
“I do listen to you, you know.”
Giles smiled and said, “I know you do, Buffy.” And then do whatever you planned to do in the first place, he thought, amused and long resigned to his Slayer’s independence.
As the crypt emptied of people and peace descended, Spike and Buffy had chance for a few hurried words in private.
“Buffy, this didn’t turn out quite as I expected.”
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s nice to have a quiet night in, now and then.”
“How about we try again tomorrow without the company and all that?”
Buffy grinned and murmured, “Passion without ‘Passions’? I’m in.”
She walked off to help Giles haul up the guard who was still blissfully sleeping. Spike watched her, his face losing its hardness, his eyes wistful.
“You love her,” said a voice.
Spike turned to see the appraising eyes of Andrew Carlton studying him frankly.
“You think I can, do you? Being evil and all?” he responded slightly bitterly.
“Evil is as evil does.” Carlton replied enigmatically.
He turned and walked away swiftly. Spike frowned, wondering why he had called him Buffy’s, what was it, protector? Well, he couldn’t argue with that.
Andrew Carlton’s thoughts were a combination of surging elation and apprehension but he had no intention of sharing them. Yet. It still lacked six months to the night the prophecy had foretold.
There was plenty of time before the Slayer needed to know about –
“All ready, here,” called Giles.
Carlton smiled and left the crypt.
Buffy lay on her stomach, her hair loose and tangled, still slightly damp with sweat. “I am finished, through,” she moaned. “This is harder work than fighting demons.”
“That’s because you don’t train for this sort of activity,” Spike said solemnly. “Uses different muscles. I mean –” he ran one finger over the curve of her bottom and around the top of her thigh, “you don’t use these muscles much when you’re lopping off limbs or stabbing with stakes, now do you?”
His finger thrust unerringly into her as he spoke and he felt her arch upwards, pulling him in deeper. She clenched teasingly, trapping his finger for a second, then gasping as he replaced it with his cock, still hard, still hungry for her after several hours of making love.
As he slid deep then withdrew, in a maddening rhythm that had her fingers clawing at the sheet beneath her, Buffy allowed herself to respond with a total lack of thought for consequences or appearances. This was Spike and he knew her as no one else ever had. She didn’t have to pretend to be someone she wasn’t or to rein in her strength for fear of hurting him. If she wanted more, and she did, oh God, yes she did, he was ready for her, inventive, imaginative and uninhibited.
She was surrounded by a love so deep that it almost scared her.
She always lost those she loved.
Spike lay still, watching Buffy sleep. She had stayed all night with him. He would have staked himself rather than admit it but the trust she showed by sleeping in his bed meant more to him than her kisses did. Not that he was complaining about the kisses. A smile that was pure male curved his lips and he stretched lazily, glancing down at the scratches on his body. Buffy played rough – but if kisses left marks, he didn’t think a square inch of him would be left bare. He wasn’t complaining.
The covers slipped off her shoulders as she began to wake and he reached out to pull them up, shielding her from the cool early morning air of the crypt. His arm was white against her honey golden flesh and he decided that they were like the sun and the moon, endlessly circling. Now, impossibly, they had come together and he wondered about the consequences.
Buffy had spent the previous day with Amy and Elizabeth and enjoyed it more than she imagined. The little girl’s precocious solemnity had dissolved along with the seven-scoop ice cream mountain Buffy had treated her to. She had been amused by Buffy’s toned down descriptions of her less apocalyptic adventures and had reduced Xander to a wheezing heap on the floor when he jokingly offered to be her sparring partner but refused to bother with his protective suit.
Buffy had delivered them back to the shop just as Giles and Andrew Carlton walked in, having spent the morning interrogating a docile and compliant Travers. Buffy thought that Giles looked tired. His eyes rested on her with a kind of desperate bewilderment for a second, before he smiled and began to tease Amy about her day in Sunnydale.
Some time later, as she walked over to fetch a particularly ugly idol for Anya, who needed to wrap it for shipping to someone in Kansas, Buffy overheard Giles ask Carlton, “So, you will return before the time? To allow us chance to –?” He caught sight of Buffy and stopped abruptly. She smiled, grabbed the statue and took it to the counter, her face smooth and unconcerned. Giles wasn’t fooled and he wondered just how long it would take her to get it all out of him after Carlton left. Perhaps Spike would distract her…
Buffy left the crypt in the early morning and looked around the cemetery curiously. She had been there in the daylight before of course, but not often. It looked so different with the sunlight brazenly exposing the hidden and turning black ground magically into smooth green grass. She wished that Spike could share this morning with her, could see the transformation of his home. She shrugged. Maybe he wouldn’t like it. Truthfully, she felt sometimes that the sun was too bright, the night the time she came alive. She lived in two worlds and wondered if one day, she would be claimed by the darkness or if she would turn her back on it.
It was too good a morning to be gloomy. Buffy made her way through the gravestones, back to her family, her thoughts lingering on her lover, sleeping now where her body had lain. Overhead, the sun shone, and high in the sky, each crater clear and distinct, the silver moon shone steadily too, bathed in reflected radiance as it contentedly shared the daytime sky with its ancient rival.
Book Two: The Demon Inside Me
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