The graveyard was swarming with vampires tonight, all freshly risen, all eager to taste Slayer blood after learning that one of them had nearly drained her the night before. Buffy felt herself grow stronger with each kill as if she was absorbing their power as their bodies disintegrated. Her movements were smooth, assured, her body responding to every challenge without hesitation. Spike had been fighting by her side but she was having so much fun that he gradually eased out of the conflict, leaning against a tree and watching her thoughtfully. As the last fledgling was dusted he went over to her, applauding ironically.
She flushed, tossing her hair back. “Okay, I know. They were easy kills.”
He shook his head. “They were still dangerous. You did well.” He bent his head and kissed her, loving the way she responded. After a fight like this, she lost all her reserve, overwhelming him with the intensity of her passion. He held her close, burying his face in her shoulder, turning to nip at her neck, making her shiver with arousal.
Suddenly she pulled away. “What’s up, love?” Spike asked.
“I hear someone.” Buffy looked around and began to run towards a nearby crypt, Spike at her heels. The cries of pain filled fear were beginning to die away as she reached it. A vampire held a young girl pinned against the stone wall. Buffy felt an odd sense of deja vu and realised that the vampire and his victim were mirroring what she and Spike had just been doing. The all important difference was that the vampire was tearing the girl’s neck with his fangs, not kissing it, feeding greedily, carelessly. He raised his head as he heard them approach and Buffy relished the spark of fear in his eyes as he recognised the Slayer. This was no fledgling, foolishly seeking to prove his strength. He had fed and that was enough. Thrusting the body of his victim into Buffy’s arms to slow her down, he darted into the shadows.
Buffy’s lips thinned. “Spike,” she said flatly.
“Right.” He sprinted off after the vampire, following the scent trail of fresh blood through the darkness.
Buffy looked at the dying girl in her arms, regret and guilt flooding her. “If I’d been just a little quicker –”
She sank to the floor, cradling the girl’s head in her lap. The girl sighed out a final bubbling breath and died, her eyes still shut as if the monsters would vanish if no one was looking.
Buffy was still on the ground when Spike came back. She looked up at him, tears glimmering in her eyes. He nodded in answer to her unspoken question and reached out a hand to help her up. Sliding the girl gently to the ground, she took it and stood up.
“We have to go and tell someone –” she began, dreading the phone call she would have to make to the police, blurting out the bare details of a young girl’s death in terse, concise words before hanging up in the middle of their inevitable questions. She paused and looked at Spike. “What’s up? Did he hurt you?”
Spike was staring at his hand and she realised that it was coated with blood, as was her own. With a shudder, she bent to the grass, using it to clean her hand as best she could. The vampire had shredded the girl’s throat as she struggled and blood had sprayed out. It wasn’t usually messy when a vampire fed and Buffy wondered how much blood she had on her clothes.
She got up again and saw that Spike was hunched over, holding his wrist. “Spike?” His head twisted slowly around and she saw that he was in game face, golden eyes glinting, lips pulled back in a snarl.
Buffy did not flinch. “Spike,” she said again, softly, firmly, holding her position.
“Want to taste it.” His voice was plaintive. “Smells like you.”
Buffy’s mouth twisted as she guessed at his conflict. Fresh blood, carrying with it the heady scent of fear, mixed in with her own scent which would be brimful of violence and arousal after the fight... a cocktail so tempting that the demon within Spike had surfaced to feed, like a shark at a shipwreck.
As she watched, he raised his hand to his lips and she saw him start to lick it clean, growling softly as he tasted human blood for the first time in months. Her thoughts were chaotic. He was harming no one by his actions and no matter how much he thirsted for blood, the chip prevented him from hurting anyone – but she felt deep sorrow that he should be acting like this. He had changed so much it was easy to forget what lived within him.
Spike felt her eyes on him, looked up and saw her shocked face. He squeezed his eyes shut in pain, his demon face melting away as she watched. When he opened his eyes again, they were blue, filled with an aching regret. She stood still, not knowing what to say, and watched his face grow cold. Wordlessly, he turned and left her, moving so fast that when she tried to follow him, he was already out of sight.
Buffy felt the hot tears begin to slide down her face as she went to report the girl’s death.
Spike had recovered his outward composure by the time he got to the demon bar. His mind was full of confusion but his voice was steady as he asked for a whisky and sat down to drink it in a quiet corner. It burned his mouth and throat, washing away the taste of blood and he felt a mixture of relief and regret. The blood had tasted so sweet, so potent. It had left him feeling whole, cemented the fragmented parts of his personality that the chip had smashed apart. But it had hurt Buffy to see him taste it and that turned it bitter in his mouth. He wondered, distantly, if she would ever speak to him again; ever see him as a friend. Had he lost everything in those few seconds? He felt anger rise within him. She didn’t understand how it felt to live as he did. It was like a sighted man spending his life in the dark, like drinking nothing but water after tasting wine. Blood was not simply nourishment for his kind; it was a distillation of every dark desire in every rich, hot droplet. Blood was life and to the undead, there was nothing more precious.
A group of vampires came in and he realised with sour amusement that Buffy hadn’t dusted every fledgling in town after all. They swaggered to the bar, drunk with the thrill of a few kills, thinking themselves at home in this new world. One of them noticed Spike and nudged the vampire closest, whispering in his ear. Both began to laugh and Spike sighed. What was going to happen next was so predictable that his jaw ached with the desire to yawn. Yes, here he came, right on cue.
“You’re the Slayer’s pet aren’t you? How does that feel, lapdog?”
Spike stared at him and took another sip from his drink.
“Hear she nearly got bitten the other night but you came to the rescue like a cute little guard dog.”
“Did you now,” Spike said, his tone polite yet bored.
“So, what I want to know is why you think you can come in here like you belong with us?”
“You want to make me leave?” Spike asked mildly. The missing word, ‘try’ hung in the air.
“Oh, you can stay,” the vampire said magnanimously. “But you got to tell me one thing. You’ve offed two Slayers – or so you say- why are you sniffing round this one instead of making it three?”
“A good question,” said Spike. “And one that only someone with the guts to ask it should hear the answer to.”
He beckoned the vampire close and motioned for him to put his head down. Spike whispered in the vampire’s ear for a second and then sat back, a grin spreading over his face.
“Really?” said the vampire, grinning back. “I never would have –” He paused and looked down. A stake was firmly wedged in his heart.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Spike drawled. “Did I forget to say that if I told you, I’d have to kill you? My mistake.”
He stood up, brushing aside the dust that soiled his coat, and looked at the handful of silent vampires who had learned that immortal doesn’t mean invulnerable. “Anyone else like to ask me any questions? I’m feeling in a sharing mood tonight.”
He waited while heads were shaken slowly and then left, burying his hands deep in his coat pockets to hide their trembling.
Buffy made the call from a pay phone and stepped away. She had to go home and shower. Finding Spike was important but going to him reeking of blood wasn’t going to help. It was a good plan but it was ruined when she reached her house to find Spike waiting in the shadows.
“Slayer,” he said calmly.
“Spike. I was just going to –”
“Save it, Slayer. It’s over. I’ve shown us both I can’t trust myself around you. So, best if we stay away from each other. Think we both knew this past week’s been strictly short term.”
“That’s silly,” she blurted out. “The chip –”
He threw his head back. “Oh, that’s rich. You think you’re safe because of the chip? You don’t say you trust me because I love you. Guess that proves my point, doesn’t it?”
“I do trust you! But the chip’s there as well. I’m just saying you don’t need to worry.” Buffy felt confusion and misery spread through her body and she shivered. Spike’s presence by her side had become part of her life even before she’d admitted she loved him. She couldn’t imagine him going away.
Spike took two steps and punched her face, not hard, but hard enough for the chip to trigger under normal circumstances. Buffy put her hand up to her cheek and watched as Spike stood quite still, obviously feeling no pain.
“The chip doesn’t work on you now, Buffy,” he whispered. “Didn’t you ever wonder why we could get up to some of the things we’ve been doing without it triggering?”
Buffy blushed as she realised what he meant. “I let you do it,” she said. “It doesn’t count.”
He arched an eyebrow. “You’re not as kinky as all that, Slayer. You got a kick out of experimenting but by the end you were begging me to stop and I don’t think you were playing.”
“So, are you telling me that you’re killing again?” she asked, her voice shaking as she imagined his body exploding into dust, his eyes imploring or full of hatred as her stake pierced his heart.
He stepped forward and grabbed her shoulders. “No! Don’t look like that! I’m not, I swear. I went out, picked a fight with some loser in a bar. Hit him hard enough that he didn’t get back up and came this close to joining him on the floor, it hurt so much. Chip works fine. Just not on you.”
“I have to find out about this,” she muttered, turning towards the house, her eyes blind with tears.
He reached for her again. “Buffy – I’m sorry. Sorry I couldn’t –”
“I’m sorry too, Spike,” she said, her voice breaking. “But not for the same reasons as you.”
She left him standing there, a puzzled frown on his face. After a moment, he turned and walked away, head down, shoulders slumped.
When Buffy arrived at the crypt two nights later, Spike was too drunk to stand. He watched her approach, a smile plastered on his face. It slipped as she back handed him hard, knocking him out of his chair.
“S –slayer? What the hell?”
Her foot drove into his ribs and he curled up into a ball, whimpering slightly. Rolling her eyes as she took in the bottles strewn around the crypt, she knelt beside him and forced his eyes to meet hers, her fingers digging into his chin. “I’m ready for you now, Spike,” she said. “You always said once that chip was out, you’d come for me. I saved you the walk.”
He shook his head, trying to clear it, focusing on her with some difficulty. “But that was just talk,” he protested.
He felt her contempt and a flame of anger kindled deep in him, burning away the alcohol and the pain, giving him the strength to stand and look into those scornful, beautiful eyes. “No. I meant it. I think. Haven’t wanted to for a long time though. You know that.”
“Maybe I can change your mind.” Her fist landed in her favourite place; his nose. Blood started to drip down his face. He put a hand to the source of his pain and studied the wetness.
“Going to lick that up too, Spike?” she taunted. “Going to show me what a disgusting little blood sucker you are?”
He shook his head, bewildered and hurt. “No. I’m not. Listen, Buffy –”
“Sorry. All done talking.”
Fists. Feet. Nails and teeth. She used them all on him and it took him a while to realise that the tears were pouring down her face as she methodically took him apart. When he saw them, he reached up and laid his hand on her for the first time, cupping her cheek and letting the tears trickle down onto his hand.
She stopped then, mouth working as she tried to hold back the sobs that were forcing their way out of her. Slowly, he touched his wet hand to his torn, bleeding lips, eyes locked on her face.
“A Slayer’s tears,” he said hoarsely. “Shed for a vampire’s pain. There’s a first.”
She shook her head wearily. “I cried for you before this, Spike. When I came to find out what you’d told Glory and you looked as bad as you do now. I kissed you, I walked away and I cried as I left.”
She sighed and pulled him up, ignoring his moan of pain as his body protested the sudden movement. “Let me help you downstairs.”
She got him onto the bed, brought him some blood from his supply and watched him drink it. Then she turned to leave.
“Hold it, Slayer. Think I’m owed an explanation.” His voice was hard but Buffy met his angry gaze calmly, arms folded across her body.
“And I think I was owed the truth. Guess we’re both going to have to learn to lower our expectations.”
“You’re mad because of what I did, that girl’s blood –”
“No! God, how stupid are you? You’re a vampire, Spike. That blood was your food for decades, it called to you and you listened. It didn’t hurt the girl, you didn’t even try to feed off her, or attack me. You’re in control, totally. I trust you with my life.”
“Then what the hell was all this about?” he said, his voice low and dangerous. “Because I really don’t appreciate the return to form.”
“I wanted to make you see it and I knew you wouldn’t listen. You didn’t once try and hit me back, didn’t once go into game face. Doesn’t that tell you anything?”
He shrugged. “Seems like a funny way to tell me you love me.”
“Trust you, Spike. Not love. I never said I loved you.”
His head tilted as he considered her. “Now, we’re getting to it,” he remarked. Pushing up so that he was sitting he looked at her bleakly. “Buffy, you’re pissed. Want to tell me why with your mouth, not your fists?”
She jerked her head to the side, studying the wall of the room intently. “Buffy.” His voice was compelling, the effect somewhat spoiled when he started to cough, holding his ribs and wincing.
“You didn’t tell me.”
‘Tell you what? About the chip? It didn’t make any difference. I found out I was still chained up, knew I wasn’t going to have the Scoobies baying for my blood, so what difference does it make? Even if it had stopped I wouldn’t have killed anyone. I still want to, a bit, but it’d mean losing you. Not worth it. So what’s your problem?”
“Me! What about me?” She was shouting now, her voice rising with her anger. “You can’t hit humans. You can hit me. Do the math. There’s something weird going on with me, a spell, a curse or something and you didn’t care enough to tell me! Willow found out why, it’s because of the spell she used, but you didn’t know that.”
He looked at her, his mouth open. “Oh,” he said as enlightenment finally came. “That.”
Buffy screamed incoherently, frustration spilling out. “I hate you and I never want to see you again,” she said with a stunning lack of originality. “You were going to leave me, just like they all do, for a stupid, stupid reason. I trusted you –”
“Not to hurt you?”
“Not to leave me,” she said. “Not to ever leave me, ever, no matter what I did, no matter what was best for me, for us. I trusted you.”
He thought for a moment. “No. You insulted me.” He lay back and rolled away from her. “Get out, Slayer.”
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