By Mint Witch
RATING: PG-13, this chapter.
DISTRIBUTION: Previous chapters at http://www.geocities.com/cxyzjacobs/btvsfic/chrisindex.html
DISCLAIMER: Joss is my type-monkey; I keep him chained under my desk. Naughty, Joss, no touching!
NOTE: This one goes out to www.headtilt.com and the lovely people who share it with us. And thank you's galore to Canada, my lovely beta; Miss Spank aka Kimi, who won't even recognize this from my angsty babbling about it weeks ago; and Jen, who helps me shop when I'm avoiding my fic demons.
FEEDBACK: If I didn’t want it, would we even be here?
PREVIOUSLY: Spike gets collared (Yum). Buffy invites Spike to live out a Ramones song. Xander remains unhappy with Buffy’s life choices. Fun with cutlery. Dawn runs away to dance with suspicious hippies. Buffy’s got a Brachen beau. Golf balls from Heeeeeaven. Some walking and talking. Xander gets over it (kinda) and Anya takes pity on his poor fragile self. Buffy and Dawn exhibit surprising new skills and scare the piss out of our Spikey. Awww, poor Spikey! The cruel sisters point and laugh. How mean!
10. Closing Time
Spike raised his head at her comment. Ten bucks on what he would do next.
Yup, there he goes: left eyebrow, head-tilt combo, hold, hold, aaaaand... he lands it. The crowd goes wild! Yes Jim, Team Vampire will definitely be taking home the gold this year.
“What?” He sounded faintly defensive. Maybe that’s because she was staring. There should be a website, www.spikeeybrowporn.com. Gah. Buffy shook herself out of head-tilt hypnosis and pointed to the mess on the battered kitchen island.
“What are you doing?” Spike had pulled everything out of the bag from Willie’s and lined each item up like a macabre solitaire game.
“Selecting my entrée, Slayer.” He raised and dropped the eyebrow again, before returning his attention the grisly menu laid out the counter. Engrossed in the decision making process, the vampire sipped at a glass of the scotch that had mysteriously appeared in her home. Or not so mysteriously, considering where Spike had gotten the blood. Willie probably raked it in as Sunnydale’s sole purveyor of demonic delicacies.
Buffy shuddered. The bags were far more disturbing than actual blood. A Slayer got used to blood, gore, and slices of skin flapping unpleasantly in the breeze, but those small, sterile packets were creepy. If the fluid were blue, those bags would be dead ringers for the hot/cold heat packs she kept for contusions and sprains, and ew!
This train of thought led inevitably to wondering if one could just stick the whole bag in the microwave to warm them or if it would explode like Dawn’s attempt at instant eggs. A whole different kind of Gah! going on there.
“It’s blood, Spike. B-l-o-o-d. Just pick one before it curdles on the countertop.” Gross, icky, bad! Buffy had a sudden image of the vampire version of cottage cheese and nearly lost her cookies. This is what happened when one dated vampires: a whole dimension of badness that far surpassed human boys with a penchant for peanut butter and potato chip sandwiches.
“Just blood? Just blood!” Spike picked up a squishy sample and shook it at her, a deeply offended expression on his face. The eyebrow twitched madly. “This is the good stuff, Slayer. A-1 prime, best grade plasma, fresh from the campus blood drive. You don’t just dump this in a novelty mug and suck it through a crazy straw.
“For example,” he examined the neatly lettered label on the packet in his hand, “this is a 22-year-old male, no STD’s, tested positive for marijuana, with traces of alcohol in his system. Probably from a kegger the night before.” He frowned and set it down. “Would clash with the scotch, though. Save it for buffalo wings.”
The vampire chose another. “Now, this one is a sprightly young co-ed: 18, vegetarian, clean as a whistle.” Spike pursed his lips appreciatively and set it aside for dinner, as he returned the losing contestants to their bag. The bag went into the vegetable crisper until next time.
Buffy shuddered. Salad was definitely not going to be served with dinner anytime soon.
“That’s sick, Spike.” She frowned thoughtfully and picked up the winning donation. “Who labels these things, anyway? ‘Cause this is disturbing in so many ways.”
Shrugging, he snatched back his meal. “Don’t know, don’t care.”
“Then how do you know for sure? It could be anyone’s blood; some junkie looking for drug money, or a homeless person.” Visions of bag ladies thumped on the head and drained by an evil nursing assistant danced through her head.
Spike rolled his eyes. “Vampire, pet, remember? One, I would know,” he poured the blood into her Pyrex measuring cup and raised it to his nose, eyelashes fluttering as he inhaled. “And two, Willy is well aware that I’d get him for cheating me.”
As satisfied as a sommelier, Spike placed the cup in the microwave and turned to face Buffy.
“Oh, really, soul-boy? And before you were chip-loose and fang-free you woulda what, tickled him to death?” She snorted, arms crossed and challenging.
“Chip didn’t give a good goddamn about property damage, luv.” An evil smirk propped up the corners of his mouth like quote marks emphasizing the difference in species, as if she could forget. “Can of petrol and a match and Fwoomp! No more Willy’s Place.” He chuckled at her appalled stare. “Not to worry, pet, got no plans to firebomb the git.”
“But…” Buffy sputtered, searching for words. He had a soul now; didn’t that make him different, better, not evil? “How could you even think of that? It’s---”
“Evil?” Spike stalked towards her, smirk wiped away. “I’m a vampire. I’ve spent five times my original life being a vampire, and I will continue to be a vampire until I’m dust. Vampire. Evil, soulless thing. Remember?”
His arms shot out, trapping her against the cabinets as his voice lowered to a rumble. “You don’t get it, do you? You never once understood.
“The chip’s not what kept me on a leash, Slayer. It was never the chip.” One hand stroked down her arm to her hip, and grasped the lead still looped around her waist. He tugged, pulling her tightly against his own slim frame. “It was you. Always you.”
Hands slid and wandered, stroking skin and silk and gabardine. She shuddered under the teasing, her arms unfolding of their own accord to fasten around him. He made it so easy to forget, his wicked tongue trailing up her neck to the point of her cheek. Buffy moaned, even as he whispered bitter truths in her ear.
“Sent hit-men after you once. Coulda done it again,” his hands grabbed her ass and he pressed against her. Buffy’s head fell back at the sensation, silently pleading for more, “and again, and again, until one of ‘em finally got you good.”
The movement of his lips against her skin was intoxicating. She was sucked under by the sound of his voice, the meaning of his words lost beneath waves of frustrated desire.
And suddenly he wasn’t there. Buffy almost fell, her knees buckling at the abrupt loss of support. She gasped and leaned heavily on the counter until her head cleared, irritation chasing away weakness.
“Damn it, Spike!” He grinned a little, but pretended to ignore her, his attention ostentatiously focused on programming the microwave.
He spoke without turning around, feeling a little smug, but not enough to risk a stake through the heart for gloating. “Call your Watcher, pet.”
“Don’t wanna.” She glared at his back and pouted, chin dangerously pointy. “Besides, it’s probably like, midnight there or something.”
“It’s after midnight here, but full morning in the Motherland, Slayer.” Spike didn’t bother to do the math, instead extending his awareness of night, pushing his senses against the boundaries of his nature. Somewhere within there was a vibrato twanging, and his demon cowered at the onrushing sun, counting down hours, minutes, and seconds.
No watch or clock could tell the truth of time. It wasn’t about the soothing tick of wheels and gears, or a blinking electronic display. Time was divided into darkness and light, safety and danger cycling endlessly through years and decades of un-life. Hunt and feed, sleep and dream, constellations of predators emerging with the moon and retreating before the sun since time immemorial.
Impatience with the Slayer made Spike’s words sharp. She should feel it, she should know the rhythm as well as the creatures she hunted, if not better.
“Rupes is probably on his second cuppa by now. Call him before he for leaves to do whatever Watchers do when they’re not watching.” Tweedy prats.
“And you would know this how?” Buffy still sounded sullen.
He squashed down his irritation, but a sigh escaped. “Lived with ‘im, didn’t I? Just get on the horn.”
Spike rescued his dinner while Buffy dialed. The magic of modern technology in the form of McBlood distracted him from her voice, while he wrestled with the urge to brood.
He felt as if there thousands of invisible eyes watching him, a constant itch on the back of his neck. In his more paranoid moments, he was certain these invisible observers were sitting in judgement, waiting for him to fuck up, wondering how he could return to the scene of his crime.
Certainly Xander was on the jury, ready to stake him at the first lapse. And yet, the episode which had most recently put him on the carpenter’s shit list felt nearly inconsequential, a grain of sand among infinite others. The horrors he had performed, the gore and terror of over a century, eclipsed a single moment of mad desperation on tile.
No, despite his melodramatic re-entrance, what he’d tried to wrest from Buffy didn’t weigh nearly so heavily on his new soul as all that had preceded it. Babies haunted him, coal miners and their families, bodies impaled for the sensual pleasure it gave his demon and his demon bride. He had constructed elaborate tableaus of terror in his time, disdaining to feed even. He and Dru, Angelus and Darla; they had made death their craft, dynamic performance art of the most self-indulgent kind.
And the worst part, the part that really stung, was that he increasingly suspected he hadn’t been any better at that than he had at poetry. Spike was a dilettante, and a poor one. No wonder they had sneered, and Dru had left him. William was bloody awful and had never gotten any better, even at being a demon, just more ostentatious with each Slayer, like a spotty adolescent smoking in the boy’s room.
So it was all for nothing. He’d killed and maimed and reveled in blood for nothing. All that death, empty and meaningless and useless and he was still the git in the corner, knobby kneed and trying too hard. It was funny, in a morbid way: thousands of bodies heaped upon his conscience, just because he was a middle-class wannabe who couldn’t rhyme for shit.
Spike finished his blood and rinsed out his cup, then wandered into the living room to sprawl on the sofa. Buffy’s voice skittered across the surface of his attention, and he closed his eyes wearily.
It never failed to amaze her how a transatlantic phone call could be as clear as if Giles was in the same room, but whenever she called Xander, his voice seemed to come from the bottom of a well. A very deep well.
Buffy made a mental note to swing by the telephone company on her next patrol. Demonic activity was more likely than technical failure in Sunnydale.
His voice on the line had been reassuring, soothing her jangled nerves. She’d reported the events of the past few days in an urgent babble, her words tumbling over themselves like unruly toddlers, but she couldn’t seem to slow down: “so while Dawn making a little extra money isn’t a bad thing, since I still can’t afford to giver her an allowance, it’s a little weird-- dontcha think?”
Maybe if she talked fast enough, he wouldn’t notice the Spike parts of her ramble. There was no telling if he’d still think it was funny, and she couldn’t see his face over the phone to give her a clue. Giles could be unpredictable that way, and the soul bit was bound to bring up lots of… stuff. Issue-y stuff, involving torture and leather pants, and the last time she’d been involved with a vampire.
The moment of silence on the line stretched like taffy into several moments. Buffy was seriously considering hyperventilating when Willow’s voice came on.
“Buffy? Giles is cleaning his glasses really hard, and I think he may be going into catatonic shock. So I thought maybe I should take the phone for a minute, so you didn’t think he was dead or something.”
“Oh.” Should she repeat the whole story or just move on to regular Willow-phone-call type conversation? Except that there was nothing regular about talking to Willow, anymore, for obvious reasons. “Ummm. So how’s it going?”
Willow laughed, the sound darker and sadder than it used to be. “I’m fine, couldn’t be better, if you don’t count horrible guilt and suicidal depression. But, hey, other than that, everything’s peachy. One day at a time, et al.”
“That’s good. You sound better.” God, this was awkward. They hadn’t spoken a half dozen times since Giles had taken her to England. Buffy was totally on board the ‘love, give, forgive’ train, but really, what could she say: Oh hi, how’s it going, seen any good movies recently? And hey, how ‘bout those Mets, huh?
“Spike’s back,” she blurted, and mentally kicked herself. Hippie vampires, golf balls falling from the sky, and Hell-god prophecies, and that’s all she could think of to say? Talk about Freudian.
“Oh.” There was a noisy slurp and chew over the line, proving Spike right about it being breakfast time in Bath. “So are you shtupping him again?”
“What? No! Maybe. What’s shtupping?” A muffled howl from the living room caught Buffy’s attention and she peered around the corner to see Spike doubled over with laughter.
“You know: boinking, banging, doing the nasty.” Willow’s voice was clinically interested, as if she were curious but not particularly invested in the answer either way. It was vaguely comforting compared to Xander’s reaction. “Because that’s the only thing I can think of that would make Giles get a drink at 9:30 in the morning.”
“He’s not mad is he? Because no, no nastiness here! Well, not much. Yet. Although, the knife thing was pretty nasty, but in that good tingly way, not in a bad scary way, except you know, knife.” Great, babble on Buffy. She should just change her name to Brooke and bring the metaphor to life. Or was that a simile?
Willow gave her a respectful moment to contemplate sinking into the floor with embarrassment, before responding. “I think that was a TMI, but since it made no sense, I’ll pretend I didn’t hear any of it, okay Buff?”
Giles voice interrupted from the background, and there was a muffled exchange that she couldn’t quite make out. “Sorry, Buffy, but we’ve gotta go. Giles says he’s not upset, but ‘do be careful’” Willow sounded exactly like the Watcher for a second, “and he’ll see what he can find. We’ll call you later, okay?”
“Oh, okay, sure.” Buffy was nonplussed as they made swift good-byes. What was so urgent that it outranked the Hellmouth, anyway? She indulged in a little more self-castigation: that wasn’t fair, but it was hard. She was used to Giles dropping everything when she needed him, and hadn’t yet gotten out of the habit. Nine months did not six years of habit break.
She hung up the phone with exaggerated care, laying the receiver back into its cradle as if it were glass. Her hand lingered on the plastic, eyes blank and introverted.
Spike watched her wander into the living room from his place on the sofa, his own eyes wary. It was hard to tell if the conversation had gone well, and he didn’t quite know what to make of her talking to the witch.
“You okay, pet?”
Buffy lowered herself onto the floor next to the couch and let her head rest against his thigh without answering. The events of the past three days spun dizzily in her brain, and her stomach suddenly felt as if she were riding the Tilt-A-Whirl at the fair.
It was just too much all at once, especially after the summer of peace she’d been having. Now suddenly it was back to business as usual, and she wasn’t ready, hadn’t studied or even gone to class. Buffy needed time, but time was what she didn’t have. Instead she had Spike, and two new pieces on the board with unknown agendas, and prophecies, and an angry Xander, and a little sister with more mood swings than an entire ward of manic-depressives.
Her Watcher was watching a witch, not her, and Willow was her friend so she wasn’t allowed to resent that, was she? But still, it felt like another betrayal, another usurpation of her place. Her dad had gotten himself a new family, with shiny new kids who didn’t burn down schools; Riley had his perfect Kevlar wife with a mission to match; Angel had replaced her with Faith, swapping out the old Slayer for a shinier, faster model with better handling. Even The Powers That Be had chosen Kendra, and then Faith, over the damaged original.
How soon until Spike did the same, and dear god where had that thought come from? Despite his claim, he hadn’t come back to her unencumbered. It may not have been a wife, but the soul cast a shadow, tugging him away from her. It was easier when she’d thought that he’d turned to Anya: Buffy could just add him to the list. Easy when you’ve done it countless times before.
The fragile identity she’d pieced together over the months was cracking along familiar fault lines, the glue that held her together turning brittle. Her hand crept up Spike’s thigh, slipping stealthily toward the familiar opiate of his flesh.
Gentle fingers trapped hers, capturing her hand. “No, pet, not like this. Not when you can’t see me.”
Buffy’s eyes flew up to the vampire’s, and the hurt regret in them shattered the last vestige of her control. Sobs beat their way up her throat, bursting from her mouth with cries like wounded birds. It burned.
“No!” Buffy hiccupped, resentfully, as tears finally escaped down her cheeks. “I’m not okay, and it’s all your fault!”
He lifted and tugged, pulling her up until she was nested against his lanky body, arms wrapped tightly around her shoulders. Buffy wailed into his chest, gasping, hands fisted in the material of his shirt as she shuddered and cried.
“Shhh, luv, I’ve got you, let it out.” Spike stroked her hair and let her bawl, holding her together so that she could fall apart. “That’s it, pet, just let it all out.”
She sniffled and muttered. “I’m getting your shirt all snotty. Gross.”
“It’ll wash.” She could feel him trying not to laugh, a muted rumble in his chest. “Now then, what’s this all about?”
Buffy sighed, somehow not as mortified as she thought she would be. “Nothing. Everything. Not enough sleep. Willow and Giles and stuff.”
“Oh, yes, of course. That makes it perfectly clear.” Stupid vampire. How dare he be mocking and sarcastic when she was obviously having a complete breakdown. She thumped him on the chest, and realized with a start how very girlfriendy that was. Buffy sat up, straddling Spike, and stared at him, brow wrinkled.
“What?” He stared back, expression waxing from boyfriendy to worried.
Her mouth opened and closed silently, as she searched for words. Oh god, revelation. Bad, bad revelation. Riley. Oh my god.
“What? Buffy, you look like a gaffed fish. Speak woman!” He shook her, hands cupping her shoulders. “What are you thinking?”
“Oh god.” She stared at him in horror, her mind comparing and contrasting a million different moments. “This is what Riley wanted. Why couldn’t I do this with him?”
He looked at her and cocked his head. “Do what? Get his shirt all snotty?” He laughed at her dumbstruck nod. “I dunno, Slayer. Do you?”
“It’s gonna sound stupid, but I think it’s because he used starch. And ironed.” Okay, maybe it was a dumb revelation, but epiphanies didn’t have to make sense. “I mean, it’s kinda hard to really let go with someone, when you’re afraid of messing up their nice outfit, you know?”
Spike chuckled and sat up, pushing her off of his lap. “Honestly, Slayer, I do know. I also know that it’s time for you to tuck in, before this evening becomes any stranger.”
“Don’t wanna.” Her lower lip pushed out, and she pouted at him through her lashes. “I wanna have The Talk.”
“No talk. Talk later.” He scooped her up, ignoring her halfhearted wiggle of protest. “Sleep now, before you become completely incomprehensible and I’m forced to kill you for my own sanity’s sake.”
She yawned in response, relaxing as he carried her up the stairs in pleasant boyfriend fashion. This was good. Buffy’s thoughts slowed and she let herself be dumped on her bed.
“Good night, Slayer.” Cool lips rested against her forehead and her eyes fluttered open.
“Good night, Spike. Sorry I got you all grody.”
He laughed and kissed her hard on the mouth, and was gone.
Buffy yawned again, and struggled out of her clothes without getting off the bed. Pulling the covers over her, she set the alarm and snuggled into her pillow.
This was normal. Strange and unnatural, but it felt normal. She was asleep in seconds.
Continued in 11. The Future