Which was both a very good and a very awkward thing, because it meant he and Red were the only conscious people in the room. They’d long since stopped pretending to watch TV, and were lying on either side of Buffy, staring straight ahead. Spike decided to let her break the silence.
“Do you love her?” Willow asked finally.
He tilted his chin sideways. “Red, you know the answer to that. It’s been a long time since I didn’t.”
“Yeah.” More silence, then, “I believe you.”
“Big of you.” He smiled a little, to take away the sting of the sarcasm. She rolled her eyes apologetically.
“Sorry. It’s just that, well, you know. Love isn’t my thing these days.” She took a deep breath. “People say they ... love ... other people, and then ‘poof’! They’re gone.” She threw out a hand to illustrate her point; they both stared at the brief shower of gold sparks that trailed out of her fingers. “Sorry,” she said again, and tucked her hand beneath her.
Spike jerked his chin again. “No need.” He paused to formulate words; what he was about to say was a hell of a lot more important than any poem he’d ever write. “Willow. I’ve loved two other women in my life. One was a soulless demon, and the other one ...” He tried to find a phrase that fit Cecily. “Well, the other one was, too. Just hadn’t stopped breathing yet.” He laughed humorlessly. “Doesn’t quite equip me to deal with the Slayer, now, does it? I’m a bit at sea.”
Willow studied him intently. There was a bit of the old perceptive sweetness in her gaze. “Tell me this, Spike,” she said. “If there was no chip in your head, what would you do?”
“Are you asking me if I’m a White Hat, Red?” He closed his eyes. “’Cause I don’t know.”
“No,” she said. “It’s not that. I just want to know ... what you feel for Buffy. Is it the electricity talking? Or is this forever?”
“Bloody hell.” He shook his head at her in frustration. “How am I supposed to figure that out? This is all I know: every day she was dead was hell for me. And I’ll bloody well stake myself before I’ll swan off to L.A., or jump a sodding helicopter to bleedin’ Brazil, just because she doesn’t love me back. She’s in my arms, and I’m gonna run with that. I’m not going anywhere.” He blinked at Willow. There were tears in her eyes. “Oh, come on, Red,” he said. “Don’t get weepy on me, now.”
“I miss Tara.” Just saying the words made Willow well up again. “Spike?”
“Did you ever feel like you’d screwed up your whole life for good?”
He raised his eyebrows. “Come on, witchlet. Look who you’re talking to. Have you ever been tied up in Rupert Giles’ bathtub, forced to drink pig blood through a straw?” He snorted. “You’ve got a ways to go before you hit bottom.”
“Doesn’t feel like it.”
“Yeah.” He thought for a minute. “But it’s amazing how much you can fix, just by wanting to.”
Buffy didn’t budge as he carted her off to her own room and tipped her carefully onto the bed. “Come on, luv,” he murmured, and shook her gently. “Gotta get you out of the leather pants, at least to sleep.”
“Mm. What time is it?”
“Time to sit up and let me peel this off you,” he said. “Blondie, how do you move in this stuff?”
“Bitch, moan,” she said sleepily, and obligingly tilted her hips so he could slide the pants down and off. “Like you’re complaining. You’ve been checking out my ass for years.”
“Slayer occupational hazard, luv.” He shrugged her out of her jacket, keeping her torso upright with one arm around her waist. “Can’t blame the evil undead for getting their jollies off a fresh little morsel like you.” He hooked a fingernail accidentally in the fabric of her tank top and swore under his breath. “’Specially when they’ve got so little time to enjoy the view. Generally speaking.” He let her go, and she sank back onto the bed with a little sigh of pleasure that went straight to his gut. Bloody hell, he had it bad. He sat down beside her and started to unlace his boots.
“Spike?” She couldn’t believe she was about to ask this, but there it was. “You really loved Dru, right?” Yep, she’d really opened a can of worms now – the minute his shirt was off, he did a Linda Blair in her direction.
“Yeah. So?” He stepped out of his jeans.
She swallowed hard, glad the room was dark. Personal questions were easier to ask when you couldn’t see the other naked person and they couldn’t see you. “So – tell me about her,” she said. “I’ve only seen the evil psycho bits. Why did you love her?”
“There’s a question,” Spike said, and flopped down next to her on his back. “Well, first of all she turned me, and so there was a sort of Mum thing going on. Knew a lot more than I did. Older, wiser, that whole bit. And then, she was always sort of ... breakable. Or seemed it, anyway. Moody. A bit off.” He paused. “’Course, she was evil,” he said, trying for matter- of-fact. “We all were. But she could be sweet, too. And like a little girl. Easy to please.”
“When she wasn’t killing people, you mean.”
“Well, yeah. And the bipolar thing kept things fresh, I guess.”
She rolled to face him, looking absurdly young and open in the faint light from the window. “You keep saying you love me,” she said. “Why do you, Spike?”
“What is this, a whole night of sodding Twenty Questions?”
“I’m just asking, that’s all.”
He sighed. “Well, then.” He put his hand over his eyes, then, because it seemed like an evasion not to look at her, brought it back to his side. “This is hard to explain. When I was a man, I was just a man. Not good, not evil. Decent sort, but not particularly strong or noble. But if I’d chosen those things, I could have become them. With me so far?”
“Mm-hmm.” There was a faint crease between her eyebrows. He wanted to smooth it away, but he didn’t dare move .
“Then I became a monster,” he said. “A process I didn’t ask for, or understand, or even really want at first, but it’s not like you can say ‘Stop, don’t, go back’ once it’s done, right?” He shook his head. “And once you’re not a man any more, there’s suddenly a whole list of adjectives that can never apply to you. ‘Noble’ and ‘good’ are pretty much at the top of that list.”
“So. Why did I start to love you?” His lips curled sardonically. “Maybe because you were what I couldn’t be anymore. Had friends I could never have. A family I wasn’t supposed to want. So bloody heroic and beautiful and ... blessed ... that when you’re something like me, it hurts to look at you.” His hand started toward hers, then paused on the comforter between them. “But now,” he said. “Now, it’s a million times worse. You went away, I thought forever, and you don’t know how many times I thought about just walking out into the next sunrise and leaving bloody California for the vultures to pick over. And now you’re back, and the gilding’s off your armor, Blondie. Something dark behind those pretty eyes that goes straight to my gut.” He looked suddenly angry. “Who the fuck knows what makes a connection, anyway? Half the time I want to beat your head against the wall.” He smirked at her, but his eyes were bleak and intense. “There it is, Goldilocks. Take away the poetry, and I don’t even have words for what I feel for you.”
It was so quiet in the room that Buffy could hear the next-door-neighbor’s radio. Tuned to light rock, as always, currently playing Chris DeBergh’s solitary, long-ago Top Ten single. I have never had such a feeling/Such a feeling of complete and utter love/As I do tonight./Lady in red/Is dancing with me/Cheek to cheek ...
“What is it about 80’s pop?” she said aloud. “You were alive in 1880 – was it the same? Kinda syrupy, too dressed-up, but sweet anyway?”
He looked surprised, then smiled at her. Flash of William. “The Victorian Age was all about sweet, pet,” he said. “Skirts on the piano legs, corsets, the kind of rhyme-y metered poetry I was no good at. The people, though – that’s another story. Mean as poison under all those ruffles. Every smile you saw could cut you in half.”
“Hm.” His hand was still lying between them, and Buffy laced her fingers through his without knowing quite why. “You were wrong about one thing,” she said quietly.
“What’s that, pet?” Lazy tone, a sneer playing at the corner of his mouth. Ready to be tough at a moment’s notice. Buffy felt something tear loose in the middle of her chest.
“You said a vampire couldn’t be noble,” she said. “And I know one who is.”
“Well, yeah. Bloody Angel. Soul and all that. He’s kind of an exception, luv.”
“I’m not talking about Angel.”
He tried to yank his hand free. “What the sod are you talking about, then?”
She wouldn’t let him go. “You protected my sister with your life,” she said. “You stood up to Glory. You patrolled with my friends all summer. You saved me.”
“From Sweet?” He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “Someone else would have, if I hadn’t.”
“No one else tried. You did.”
His senses were screaming, Danger, danger! So much on the line here – this night, this room, this bed – the three inches of space between their bodies like a fault line. Would it shift together, or apart? Depended on what he said, what he did. The big monster part of him wanted to fight. The man wanted to run. He closed his eyes, then opened them again. She was looking straight at him, seeing right through him. He squeezed her hand helplessly.
“I don’t want your gratitude,” he said.
“Too bad. You’ve got it.” She inched closer to him. He recoiled.
“And I don’t want sympathy from you. You think I feel regret? You think I’m toothless?” The air was electric enough to make his hair stand on end. If she came any closer, he might start to cry.
“Spike.” She seized his forearms, hiked herself across that last two inches of empty space. “I can’t give you words like you give me, okay? There’s only one poet on this bed.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“Taking what I want,” she said, and crushed her mouth over his.
Their first night together had been wild and mad. Their second had been slow and sweet. Now, here they were on the Tilt-a-Whirl again, using up their third ticket, and Spike felt his world drop out from beneath him.
He’d had no idea what the Slayer was capable of. Until now.
She rolled him onto his back and pinned him with his arms over his head. “Don’t move,” she warned, and set her mouth on the inside of his elbow. He felt her hot little tongue, the silky sweep of her hair all around, and groaned as she raked up his arm to his shoulder. “You like my neck, right?” she demanded. “Give me yours.” Those blunt, even little teeth – every orthodontist’s dream – dug in just below his ear. If her hand hadn’t come up to cover his mouth, he would have howled.
“Yeah, go ahead and struggle,” she said into his ear. “I like that. Big, bad vampire with his big, bad cock. I’m going to take you for a ride. Don’t you dare move your hands, goddamnit,” she snapped, and sank her teeth into his earlobe. “You wanna know what I feel like doing? What I want? What I’ve been thinking about for the last year and a half? Well, sit back and enjoy the show.” She was straddling him, squeezing him, the only barrier between them a pair of high-rise white cotton bikini briefs. “Fuck this,” she said, and ripped them off. The next second, he was inside her.
“God,” she said, pulling herself up to her knees and rolling her head around on her neck. “Oh, God, you feel so good going in.” Her eyes were glittering, her hair a mess around her face. She collapsed back over him, kissed him hard, rubbed her little belly and breasts over his, kept that stripper rhythm going with her hips. “I remember,” she whispered. “The summer the A/C went off. I was fourteen. Used to sneak ice cubes out of the freezer.” She jackknifed up again and let her body bend back toward her ankles, graceful as a calla lily. “Ran them all over my body. Felt so good. You make me feel like that, like there ought to be steam coming up between us.” Back down on top of him again, running her fingers lightly from his wrists to his shoulders, teasing his sides, twisting his nipples. Back into the backbend, her hair brushing the soles of his feet, her hands gripping his knees as she rode him. She felt so long and wet and tight that he thought he’d pass out There were sounds coming out of him that he didn’t recognize, sounds he’d never heard before.
She sank even further into her bend, grabbing at his ankles to steady herself. The moonlight illuminated her from thighs to pussy to flatly- stretched abdomen, throwing her upper body into shadow. He could see her body grasping at his, rolling him around, squirming and arching and opening and clutching. He couldn’t keep still. It was all he could do to keep his fangs sheathed.
She came up for air, panting, wild-eyed, drawing great shuddering breaths that he could feel in his cock. Their eyes met. Time stopped.
“Okay,” she whispered after what seemed like a very long time. “Okay.” His sex machine was melting around him like ice cream in August, Spike thought. Even her insides seemed softer. “You can let go now.”
They met kneeling on the center of the bed, without ever having come apart. He could have tucked the top of her head under his chin, but he tipped her head back so he could keep looking at her. “Shh,” he whispered, and they sank into slow motion.
So soft. So slow. So quiet. Buffy could hardly breathe. Were they moving? Did they need to? She couldn’t look away from those blue eyes, so quietly electric. In thrall. He’s got you in thrall.
“Here,” she breathed, and tipped her head to the side. Blonde hair shimmered over her right shoulder. Beneath the bare skin she offered him, the most powerful life force he’d ever known tried to hammer its way out. She smiled at him. “Go ahead.” Her eyes fluttered closed.
Bloody, fucking hell. Spike stared at that porcelain neck as if it itself had grown fangs. What the fuck do I do now?
The air was heavy and silent. Buffy’s nightstand clock seemed barely to tick. Her fingers were linked behind his neck, her body continued its lazy, barely-perceptible suction against his, and that bare length of throat gleamed out of the darkness like an invitation that had come to the wrong address.
The monster inside him was jubilant. He could feel his eyes flickering yellow. Even William was tempted – if you looked closely enough, there were two tiny pearl-colored imperfections, about an inch apart, already marring her skin. Dracula. No, Angel. How easy it’d be to obliterate that hated brand with his own. And he was so hard he was in physical pain.
He bent toward her. Brushed his lips over her pulse. “Easy,” he whispered. “Not tonight. Easy now.”
He closed his eyes and fell over the edge with her, feeling more like a human man than he had in centuries. The last thing he felt was Buffy’s fingers linked with his.
Continued in Chapter Five