Then he realized what it was. Teenagers.
He changed course to go round the back, and was not too surprised to find Buffy sitting, rather hunched, on the back porch. She didn't see him for a moment, staring off longingly into the back yard as if looking for escape routes. From inside, there was a shriek, then a flurry of giggles. Spike winced, lighting a cigarette. At the sound of the cigarette, Buffy's eyes widened, and she looked up at him as if he were a ghost. Cool Face, he reminded himself, Cool Face, but even he could see she was trying not to smile. "Suppose the crime rate dropped while I was gone," he commented, padding noiselessly closer.
There was a burst of giggling from inside the house, and Buffy was the one who winced. "Don't be too sure of that."
He paused at her feet, tossing the cigarette away. "Victim or villain?"
She nodded at the house. "Won't know till I get the bills." He sank to his knees on the step in front of her, and she stopped breathing. "You were gone..." Her voice trailed away as he looked down at his hands on her knees, pushing them apart, sliding his hands up her thighs, then to her face where, she realized, he must be able to feel how flushed she'd suddenly become. Damn. He was eight inches away, and she could feel him already, as if there were a charge between them.
"Hey, Buffy...?" Tara called from the kitchen. Spike recoiled as if he'd received a shock. Tara glanced out the window, and paused at what she saw; Spike, one hand running through his hair; standing stiffly several feet from the porch, and Buffy, glancing guiltily over her shoulder. She stepped out the door and looked at Spike. "Oh, hi, Spike." She looked back and forth from one to the other. "Another cramp?"
"Uh-- well-- she had something - in her eye--" He glanced at Buffy, as if he expected her to confirm this. "Uh, yeah, terrible. Hay fever. Little bits of... things. In. The. Air. Horrible." Evidently this concept was best demonstrated by flapping one hand in the air, as if to disperse all the rapacious little bits. "But. It's, uh, gone. Gone." He added helpfully, as if Tara hadn't been paying attention, and the situation required note-taking or something. "Trees." He looked accusingly at one. "Nasty things. Grr." He shuddered, which would have been more effective if he hadn't done it like a big, wet, dog. He checked to see if the story had any chance at all of working.
Tara smothered a smile, not certain she wanted to give up teasing Spike. "I could get some ice?"
"No, that's okay." Buffy interrupted. "Uh, SpikeŚ"
"Spike!" Dawn shrieked, and then jumped, ambushing him in a hug that made him stiffen in surprise. She'd never hugged him before. He waved his arms in the air, at sea, while Dawn clutched him in a death grip around his middle. "I'm so glad you're back." She looked up at him with cat's eyes of adoration. "Can you show my friends your vamp face?"
He looked at Buffy for approval or confirmation, and was relieved to see she was amused rather than irritated. "Uh, that's up to Buffy." He gave Dawn a stiff pat on the shoulder, as if she were radioactive. "And her lawyers."
Dawn gave him another squeeze that threatened to rearrange his internal organs, and then sighed deeply and retreated. "Did you bring me a present?"
"Not till your birthday." Is it today? He mouthed desperately at Buffy, who gave a tiny conspiratorial shake of her head.
"Huh." Dawn grumped, but she wasn't upset, and Buffy stamped down a momentary spurt of jealousy. Where did that come from all of a sudden? Dawn looked from Spike to Buffy, and then smirked. "I guess you two want to be alone." With that, she was gone, missing the way Spike's jaw dropped at her departing back.
"What? Huh? How? You told her?" He shook his head. "I... wanted to." He muttered. He could only imagine the way she'd handled it.
"I didn't tell her." Buffy said. "She figured it out on her own."
"She..." He scrubbed his hair with his hands again. "And Tara?"
"I told her."
"You...?" Spike shook his head again, and Buffy blushed so red that it almost hurt. Oh, God, here it is, she thought. Oh, God. He stared at her, so pleased that he wasn't even aware how young it made him look. Buffy found herself suddenly confronted with a discomfiting glance of what he must have looked like as a human, all fuzzy and so happy he was flustered by it. He opened his mouth and closed it a few times, blinking rapidly. It was rather disturbingly charming to see him so happy, and not have it be prompted by something major, like her returning from the dead. On the other hand, it was rather scary to be thinking of Spike in boyfriend terms, as if he were Ordinary Guy. She wasn't sure she was quite ready enough for that particular milestone.
"When... ah... did you tell her?" Spike asked gruffly.
Oh, God. She sank down on the top step of the porch, glancing behind her for witnesses. If she'd found any, it would have meant postponing the Talk that she most emphatically did not want to have. She patted the wood beside her, and he plopped agreeably down next to her, much the way Dawn had. "I asked Tara if she would check why... you could hit me." She said quietly.
"Ah." He said, equally quiet. "And?"
And, she thought. And how to phrase it? I was using an excellent excuse for what we were doing, and now that's gone, and the only thing's that changed is I have to find another one? Why do I have to look at you and see the past five years? Why don't I just see you?
She looked at him, and tried it. What was there to see? Of course, there were the looks -- the face that was not half so vivid as the one she saw in private; the lithe body, the intelligent eyes. What she didn't see was problematical; the torture he'd endured in order to save her the pain of losing her sister; the comfort after her mother died; the fact that only he saw clearly she was drowning after she came back. That list entitled him to something, and she wasn't sure just what it was.
"Well... And...." She had to swallow, then. "That was after..." She swallowed again. "After what happened in the alley." How could one atone for that? How could one make amends for deeds with words? "I thought there was something wrong with me, because you and I...." She took a shaky breath. "Because there had to be something wrong with me, because... You and I, that's what I thought. Because I thought if you could hit me, it was the same reason why you could..."
"Yeah," Spike whispered wearily. "Sure."
"Because... because I'm the hero, I don't kill people. I thought I killed her. That girl. I..." She swallowed harshly then, her eyes tearing up. "I thought I killed her. I really did. I couldn't bear it. I mean, if I had been better, I would have known I hadn't, but everything was wrong, so that was...that was... I thought you were wrong, too. I thought that was just one more wrong thing. And then Katrina. It was one thing to hurt myself... or you. But... she was... She didn't deserve that, and it was my fault. And you tried to talk me out of it, so it seemed to me that you were bad, still, and that so was I because...." She blew out her breath, pausing to compose herself. "Because I... Because if all I wanted was you then, not my friends, not anyone else..." She covered her mouth with her hand. "And then Tara..." She looked at him, then looked down, so ashamed of herself that she couldn't meet the vampire's eyes. "There's nothing wrong with me. There's some little cellular changes, but that's all. Nothing. So I don't have an excuse for..."
"For beating me up." Spike supplied.
"Yes." Buffy whispered. "Tara thought, at first, that I was talking about you beating me up."
Spike gave her a humorless little laugh at that. She bit her lip. "I have to go inside..." She brushed her behind off, from the dust on the porch, and quietly went inside. He sat still, staring off into space without a thought in his head. He heard her rattling around in the kitchen, cupboard doors banging open and shut. He took a very deep breath, not knowing precisely what to do. Had that been an apology or not? He felt not too different than he had at the time. He knew she'd been tortured; but even he hadn't realized how bad it was. It had seemed to him at the time that she'd been closer to the grave than he himself was, and that was like saying that one was closer to celibacy than a virgin. Now he knew it for a fact, and he wondered again where in the hell her friends were. She was self-destructing before their eyes, and what did they notice? Not a damn thing. She'd had to pull her closest friends aside to tell them, although he got a certain amount of satisfaction out of the fact that Dawn had twigged to something, but not too much, he hoped, at her age.
He got up and silently crossed the deck, peeking in the kitchen door. She was bustling around the kitchen, chin determinedly set, doing nothing more productive than moving one Kool-Aid pitcher from one counter to the other. When she saw him she lost he grip on the one she was holding, sloshing the viscous red substance all over her front. She looked down, Kool-Aid dripping off her hands. "Great." She said, far too sarcastically. "This stuff never comes out."
"Uh, then better go change it."
"Yeah." Not meeting his eyes, she slipped past him. He tossed a dish towel on the drying mess on the floor, and ran over what had just happened in his head. The pained revelation on the back porch, followed by the retreat in the kitchen. She'd plastered over all that pain with that cheerfulness she presented to her friends, and he was suddenly nervous. Very nervous. He sidled down the hallway, peering into the living room. No one really noticed him; Willow was asleep on the couch; and Tara and Dawn were curled up together in one chair. Another woman was partially visible on the far side of that armchair, curled up against another chair. Nine or ten girls were scattered in an abstract pattern of sleeping bags on the floor, riveted to the television. He slipped past them and up the stairs, gliding on the balls of his feet, a trick he'd picked up that made one practically inaudible. Vampire silence had little to do with the supernatural, and everything to do with practice.
He got to Buffy's door, and hesitated at the threshold for a second, realizing it was only the second time he'd entered her room through the door. He opened it and stepped in.
It was a tie who was more startled; Buffy, who had tossed her stained sweatshirt aside, and was holding one in front of her; or Spike, when she stared into his face, and slowly lowered the shirt till she was standing before him, bare to the waist, and as still as a statue. This lasted till they heard the soft footsteps on the stair. Buffy reached for him, shoving him toward the bathroom, and stuffing her arms and legs toward holes in the shirt. She closed the bathroom door almost all the way, and leaned against it.
The footsteps came up the stairs, stopped for a second, and then came to her door. "Buffy?" It was Tara.
"Yeah?" She and Spike were pressed side by side against the wall, he with his front pressed against the wall, hands spread, she with her hands jammed into her pockets. She could feel his eyes burning into her, could feel the air heating up between them.
"I'm going to take off now."
"Oh... Okay. I'll be down in a minute." She stepped out into the room, gesturing to Spike to stay where he was.
"Okay. We've only got two pizza left."
She waited. Spike froze in the doorway of the bathroom, his eyes locked on her. She tried to avoid those eyes. She was afraid of what she might see in them. She waited, not breathing, for the footsteps to go back downstairs, and finally they did. When she was sure Tara had gotten to the foot of the stairs, she tentatively raised her eyes to Spike's.
Two steps brought him to her, as he took her jaw in his hand and kissed her till her breath was gone. There was no sense to that kiss, nothing at all, coming out of nowhere, pushing them across the room to the wall, where he pushed himself between her legs and pressed her so hard that she gasped. There was one moment for air, then she took his face in both hands and pulled him back to her, twisting, turning, searching, till it got far too serious, and she had to push him away.
"You don't want me to stop." Spike whispered back, illustrating his point by finding her neck and nibbling his way down it with such attention that her knees shook.
"There's people down there."
"We'll be quiet."
"I can't be quiet!" Buffy blurted, earning her a sloe-eyed look from Spike, even as he slid his hands under the sweatshirt, and filled his hands with her breasts. Gold sparks danced in front of her eyes, and all sorts of muscles trembled with anticipation. Two days of deprivation made it all but impossible to resist, especially as he slid down her body, his mouth cool against her flesh, shockingly so against her nipples. He wrapped his arms around her thighs, kissing her bellybutton, hooking the waistband of her sweats with one finger. "Spike," she whispered.
Oh, but this is unfair, she thought. He worked his way back up to her mouth, pinning her hands above her head, then leading them to his neck. Do whatever else, she thought, but it was his kisses that made her weak in the knees, and that was saying a lot. "Girls downstairs," she breathed.
"We're upstairs," he countered.
"I'm noisy," She protested weakly. One of his hands returned to her breast, and every nerve ending in her body felt like a plucked guitar string.
"You won't be." Spike took her hand and drew it to his crotch, part appeal, part demand. She watched his face as she pressed against him, watched his lips part and his eyes drift shut. They sank to their knees behind the bed, Spike lowering her onto her back with one hand, settling on top of her, between her legs, with another Spike motion she was adding to her list; the wriggle he did, the slightest shift from side to side as he settled himself on top of her, the slow slide on his weight on top of hers. He peeled her sweats and panties away from her body with one hand, freeing one leg and sliding one finger between her legs to find her so wet she was almost embarrassed. Almost. He ripped his fly open, not helped by the fact that she was pulling him down at the same time, shoving his shirt up, trying to find his skin. Except for one of her legs, and his pants shoved down, they were both fully clothed, and she felt as if the clothes around her were abrading skin that suddenly seemed painfully sensitive.
There was no room or time for speed, or noise, so he shoved inside her, slowly, pushing inside her with an endless motion that took her breath away as he pressed forward, a long smooth curve that went so far he finally couldn't go any further. He found room where there didn't seem to be any, burning inside her. He whirled his hips, and Buffy lost the ability to breath. She could feel it beginning already, as he withdrew, pulling slowly past what felt like every nerve ending in her body, scraping every sensitive one of them, taking centuries, taking her breath with him, shuddering with the effort it took to stay in control. He came back again, slower, harder, taking forever, dropping his head with the effort, going as far as he could, and then probing further, tearing a loud gasp from her. He clapped a hand over her mouth as her eyes widened, her hands clawing at the leather of his coat, her body already starting to shake, replacing his hand with his mouth, muffling her gasps with his tongue, murmuring into her mouth. Then he pulled back again, slamming back into her hard, muffling her gasp with his mouth as she stiffened under him, doing it once, twice, three times more...
Every muscle she had seemed to tighten and hold, then, locked into endless reverberations, while she tried not to cry out. Caught squarely between the impulse for explosion, and the need for repression, she grabbed his shirt with both hands and buried her burning face into his chest, rocking under him and around him, half afraid it wouldn't end, half afraid it would. She drifted back to herself, to find herself terribly sore, and Spike panting into the floor boards next to her shoulder. She was almost too weak to kiss him.
Oh, God, she snapped back to alertness, what was that? There's a roomful of girls downstairs. Spike lifted his head wearily as he felt her stiffen, somewhat amused. He picked up her wrist and pointed out her watch.
Ten minutes. At first she just glanced at it, then her jaw dropped. Ten minutes? "How can you have a slow quickie?" She demanded.
He shrugged, which was quite a feat considering their positions. He shifted off of her, and watched as she scrambled to her feet, hopping as she ran to the bathroom with one leg of her sweatpants on, one off. He rolled over onto his back, and put himself to order, wincing a bit. I have muscles you've never even dreamed of, he reminisced dreamily, even as he flinched a bit. It felt like she'd bit him again, too.
She came dashing out of the bathroom, but he jumped to his feet and intercepted her at the door with a kiss that made her sag against him. She bit his lip and he eyed her with the ultimate weapon, that dropped-chin-sloe-eyed look. "You're all flushed," he whispered. "All over," He added.
"Stay here," she ordered, but before she could open the door, he grabbed her again and kissed her with soft lips. "Five minutes, okay?" Then she leaned forward and kissed him back. "Go out the window, okay?"
He smiled a bit at her caution, but he plopped down on the bed agreeably. If he had his way, he'd just be climbing in the window in a few hours anyway.
Buffy tumbled down the stairs on bare feet, to find herself greeted by a calm Tara in the kitchen. "Sorry," she said weakly. "Kool-aid accident."
"That stuff, it's dangerous." Tara agreed. "You want me to come back?"
"Yeah, that'd be great." Buffy wondered precisely how flushed she was. "They're still eating? I thought you said there were two pizzas left."
"Well, you know how it is." Tara said dryly, just as Spike sauntered far too casually into the kitchen. "Some people are just insatiable..." Spike grinned at Tara, and Buffy suddenly felt the need to verify the pizza situation herself by picking up the box and shaking it. "...with pizza." Tara finished.
"Terrible stuff," Spike agreed blandly.
The witch glanced from one to the other, and made her escape. Buffy watched her go. "Hello, Child Protective Services."
"You were quiet."
"No, I wasn't."
Spike examined his fingernails. "Yes, you were. Maybe it's just that if felt so...." He smirked at her, which should have irritated her, except her knees were still trembling.
Willow popped her head through the kitchen door, looked from one to the other. "Oh, pizza, good, we still have one."
"Think we'll need more?" Buffy asked worriedly.
"How are you doing, Will?" Buffy asked.
"Oh, I'm perky." Willow assured her. "Caffeine is a many-splendored thing. It's just I'm hoping if I stuff them enough, they'll get all full and sleepy."
"Really?" Spike perked up instantly. He nodded to himself thoughtfully. Willow rolled her eyes at Spike Plotting, and retreated to the living room.
"Oh, nothing," he said casually. He picked up the pizza box, took two steps to the kitchen door, and pitched it toward the garage. "Darn. Guess we need to get some more."
Buffy shook her head at him, amused in spite of herself, but the amusement disappeared fast as he stepped up to her. "I volunteer. Wanna ride?" She nodded mutely, wondering where they could find some deserted place to park the car. Somewhat distracted, she went down the hallway and beckoned to Will.
"We had a little pizza incident, Will. We're going to get more."
Too easy, Buffy thought, trying to convince herself she was a bad person for remembering abruptly the dimensions of the DeSoto's seats. She was so tense with anticipation that at first she didn't notice anything unusual about the old car parked in front of the house.
Nothing unusual about it at all, except for the big green demon leaning casually against the passenger side door.
Continued in Chapter 25