By Jericho TGF
There was more to not having an extensive wardrobe than just convenience; it also left a lot of room for other stuff in your luggage. Things that Buffy shouldn't go anywhere without, like her stake, some other small weapons, and the means to fix up the smaller cuts and bruises that were bound to pop up when a person had a sacred duty that included the nightly killing of demons and such. Just because they were supposed to be on vacation didn't mean that Spike didn't want to be prepared for any contingency. And it was good he was, as Buffy's suitcase was stuffed to the gills with nothing more dangerous than an eyebrow pencil.
Women, he thought. Could live for a bleedin' month with what she's got in that bag o' hers...except for one small thing. The Slayer wouldn't last five minutes without what I brought along. Good thing she's got me lookin' out for her. Always knew we'd make one hell of a team. Literally.
Lowering himself on the bed, he started to fix up the gash at her hairline. "Wanna tell me what happened in there, Buffy?"
Wincing at the sting of the alcohol he was dabbing on her forehead, Buffy said, "I just finished with my shower. I grabbed a towel and wiped down the mirror, that's when I saw her. A woman...standing behind me. I spun around, but there was nobody there. When I turned back to the mirror, I saw...blood. It was all over me, draining from a wound at my neck." As if checking again, making sure it wasn't real, her hand came up to massage her throat. "Next thing I knew, I woke up and you were there. Oh, and earlier, when I was using the phone, I felt another one of those cold drafts like in the lobby. Really not thinking it has anything to do with the heating."
Spike finished cleaning the gash and stuck a small Band-Aid over it to keep it clean while her Slayer healing took care of the rest. He looked into her eyes and saw her fear. It wasn't something he was used to seeing.
"You said it attacked you?"
Buffy frowned, thinking back. "Well, no, not exactly. I said I think it attacked me. I don't actually remember anything between seeing myself in the mirror and when you shook me awake."
Spike nodded a bit and a small smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. "Uh huh."
When Buffy told Spike what had happened, she expected some sort of reaction. Something Spike-like, maybe 'lets go kill her dead' or 'bint's gonna be wishin' she hadn't messed with us'. She was vaguely disappointed and more than a little confused at his decided lack of affronted anger. It irritated her.
"That's it? That's all you can say? 'Uh huh'? Spike, I just told you-"
There's the girl I love, he thought as he interrupted her, glad to see her spark come flooding back. "It's just a ghost, pet. Not surprisin' really, this...affront to architecture is a hundred and a half if it's a day."
Irritation turned to full blown astonished frustration. Buffy leapt down from the bed and started to pace in front of the now amused and relieved vampire.
"Just a ghost?" she asked, livid. "Are you kidding me? You do remember the last time we had a visit from the ghostly masses, right? Frat house, ground shaking, vines growing out of the floor. Ring any bells?"
"Actually, pet, if you remember, those weren't ghosts. They were apparitions. Whole other ball of wax, that."
"And this is so much better because?" She paused in her pacing just long enough to toss him an aggravated glare. She wasn't thrilled by his attitude, even less by his smile. "Well?"
"Well, because contrary to superstition - and the occasional crackpot loon - ghosts can't hurt you."
Buffy threw up her hands. "Hello? I was knocked out in there. I'd say that theory of your needs some work, Spike."
"You weren't knocked out, pet. You knocked yourself out. Saw the smear of red stuff on the sink, myself. I'm guessin' you saw what the ghost wanted you to see and panicked, passed out, fell, and beaned yourself. Ghosts can't hurt you. They're a sad lot, ya know. Pathetic really. Parlor tricks, luv, that's all it was. They play with your head, but they can't hurt you...unless you do the girlie girl routine and faint your way into a concussion."
Mouth hanging open at the slight, she just stared at the vampire for a second in complete disbelief. She finally shook her head to clear it and tried to focus on the matter at hand.
"Okay. So it's a ghost that can't hurt me. Doesn't mean I want to be spending my only off time in like...forever...shacking up with Casper's less-than-pleasant relative. I don't happen to enjoy sharing space with dead people."
Spike raised an eyebrow and gave her a look. She waved a hand dismissively, saying, "You don't count. You're undead. And as we both know, I spent way too much time with the undead."
Smiling widely, sensing that she had finally started to calm down, he reached out and pulled her toward him. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he inhaled her scent. It thrilled him. Tantalized him. That Buffy allowed the contact, allowed him to share her life with him, humbled him as little else in the world ever had. He rested his forehead against her chest, content in her nearness.
"Fortunate thing that is, too, luv. Just think about how much you'd be missin' without me to spice up your life. Not to mention, you've been much easier to live with now that you've finally got some monster in your man."
She tried to be mad, she really did, but his tongue started to do very interesting things with her collarbone and she just didn't have the resistance for his special brand of affection. Plus, she knew what he just did. Spike saw she'd been freaked by what happened and had stirred her anger to get her over it. The fiend.
"We still have a - mmmm." Buffy moaned when his cool mouth moved up her neck to the spot behind her right ear. "That feels good." She twined her fingers in his hair, forgetting for a second what she was going to say. His chest vibrated with a rumbling chuckle.
Pulling his lips away for a second, he asked, "Still have a what, pet?" His hands roamed up her sides to cup her breasts as he waited for her answer.
"Huh? Oh, right. Spike, let go." To focus her mind she had to push him away and take a step back. She hated to, but it had to be done. And he was just too adorable when he sulked at the hand slap. "Problem. We still have a problem."
Spike sighed for appearance sake but let go of her grudgingly. "And just what would that problem be, exactly? Besides the fact that your standin' way over there and I'm here on this nice, comfortable bed all alone."
"Focus, fang face. Remember our less than alive but all too lively visitor? Well there's the problem. I'm the Slayer. I kill demons, I don't do dead people."
"Happy to hear it. Not as happy about your apparent reluctance to do undead people." Spike lay back on the bed and wriggled his hips suggestively. "Come on, baby. Why don't you get over here and do me?"
She fisted her hands at her hips and glared at him. "Shut up, Spike. I need to know what to do to get rid of our spectral friend. Am I going to have to pull a Bill Murray/Dan Ackroyd on it or what? 'Cuz I'm really not prepared for that kind of thing."
He looked at her blankly, blinking once, and she rolled her eyes. "What is it about vampires? Do none of you keep up with pop-culture? Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd...Ghostbusters? Catchers of the ghosts?" She shrugged and gave up when his expression didn't change. "Never mind. It's not like I have those cool power packs or containment thingies anyway."
"Buffy, there's not much you can do. Not tonight anyway. You could call the Watcher tomorrow, see what he's got stashed in those moldy books of his. Ye old ex-librarian is probably just dyin' for a chance to wow you with his intellect and usefulness. Most likely got some kind of cleansin' ritual tucked away in a corner somewhere."
She stared at him, mulling it over in her head. If he was right about the ghost, there wasn't a pressing need to take care of it right away, as long as it stayed out of her way, anyway. Pouting, she grumbled at him. "Don't like ghosts. They're creepy."
He barked out a laugh. "That from the mighty Slayer that strikes fear in the hearts of all my kind and the legions of hell besides. How...un-Slayerly of you, luv. Now haul ass over here and lemme have a nibble of that lip o' yours. You know how I love it when you're all pouty. Makes me feel manly."
Buffy smiled and walked into his embrace. Kissing him deeply, she tried to figure out why she hadn't told him everything. She had kept silent about the thoughts that had infiltrated her mind when she saw herself in the mirror. 'Kill you like he killed me.' That's what she had thought. That and more. But they weren't her thoughts; they had felt foreign and wrong in her head. For the life of her, she couldn't understand why she didn't tell Spike about it. When she'd tried, in fact, she had felt...fear. A clutching and choking fear. It had kept her silent.
The problem with fear is that it gives enemies a weapon to use against you. And enemies have enough weapons without adding to them. She pulled back from a mind blowing kiss and looked into his questioning gaze.
"Spike, have you ever been here before? To this house, I mean."
"Yeah, right," he laughed. "Don't think so, pet. And if I didn't love you so bloody much I wouldn't be here now. Flounce and frill inn't exactly my bag. Why'd you ask?"
Buffy's heart was in her throat and her stomach fluttered - and it had absolutely nothing to do with ghosts or phantom thoughts. It was the first time since she'd been chained up in his crypt with his demonic ex looking on that Spike had told her that he loved her. And while unforgettable, that particular memory didn't exactly fill her with warm fuzzies. This time, though, it was amazing.
"Buffy?" She was staring at him like she'd never seen him before and she hadn't answered his question. "You still in there, pet?"
Starting slightly when he shook her gently she asked, "Huh? What?"
"I asked you why you wanted to know if I'd ever been here before. You sure you dinn't whack that head of yours harder than you thought?"
Still dazed, she just gave him a goofy smile and shook her head. "No, Spike, my head is fine." What was it he had said about the ghost? Mind games and parlor tricks. That's all it was. It was nothing. Of course he hadn't been here before. And, please, was she really going to listen to some strange voices in her head? Not hardly. Not when she had fantastic, real words to listen to.
"You love me. You just said you love me."
"That's it." Spike pushed himself off the bed and swooped her up in his arms. She was so surprised she just let out a small squeal and gripped his shoulders instinctively.
When he spun and laid her back against the pillows on the bed she questioned him. "Wh-what are you doing?"
"You're gonna rest. You're actin' off, Buffy, and I don't want it said that I can't take care of my woman."
"Okay, hold it right there. First, your woman? What is this, the nineteenth century? Don't think so, pal. Second, I'm not acting weird. Spike, you just told me you love me. That gives me a happy. A big happy."
"Are you daft woman? You know I love you. Hell, you've always known."
Buffy traced a hand down one chiseled cheekbone and smiled tenderly. "Knowing and hearing...way different. And hearing? Better. Much better."
Spike turned away from her and rubbed the back of his neck. Suddenly somber, he muttered, "Wouldn't bloody know about that, now, would I?"
Staring at his back, Buffy's heart broke a little when she saw the proud vampire...proud man with his shoulders slumped. "You're right. You wouldn't."
He didn't want to hear it. Whatever platitude she was going to offer, he just couldn't listen to it. He'd been patient. Hadn't pushed. Hadn't made any other sweeping declarations or tried to prove himself to her. All he'd done was be there. It went against everything he was, but what he was would always take a back seat to the force of nature that was Buffy Summers.
Jumping off the bed as if he'd been scalded, he moved to leave the room. Her hail was the only thing that stopped him. He hated that she had that kind of power over him. She called; he jumped into action...or, as in this case, stopped his actions. It was humiliating. Whirling back to her, he was going to snarl out his frustration. Until he saw her expression, he was going to take her head off for torturing him like she did.
Her expression stopped him.
It was so strange seeing her uncertain, confused, and a little scared. He also thought he saw something else but didn't know what it was. It was new, that much he was sure of. Almost like resignation...but happier.
Buffy took a deep breath and plunged in. "You ruined my plans, you know. There was going to be dinner. A good dinner. I wanted it to be special. Perfect." She snorted derisively. "Shoulda known. Perfect non-slaying related activities are not to be allowed in Buffy-world. Now I have a ghost that wants to play with my head and a vampire that wants to play with everything but my head. Only one of those two is a good thing. Spike, come sit down."
Moving cautiously, unsure of where this monologue was heading, Spike returned to the bed and slowly lowered himself on it. Buffy's large eyes pinned him and the force in her gaze wrapped a steel band around his chest and squeezed.
"I wanted to come here for a reason. I wanted a nice quiet place, maybe some romance, so I could tell you...I love you."
As soon as she said the words, it was her turn to stare in amazed fascination at the expression on Spike's face. She had never seen anything like it. First there was the surprise, which quickly fell to the largest smile she'd ever seen. And his eyes, first wide in disbelief, now glowed bright with pleasure. She started to squirm under the intensity of his gaze as he searched her face and saw truth there.
"Um...say something. Please."
In a low voice husky with emotion, he said, "Again. Say it again."
Smiling, she reached out for his hand and repeated herself. "I love you."
That's all Spike needed to hear. No other words were necessary. He moved so fast he was just a blur to Buffy's eyes. Before she could blink, he had wrapped his arms around her and was lowering his mouth to hers. He mumbled, "I love you," over and over, not even aware that he was speaking until the drone of words stopped when his lips touched hers.
Sinking back into the soft mattress, all thoughts of ghosts long gone, the Slayer and her vampire showed each other without words what they had told each other with them.
In a dark corner of the bedroom, unseen to the two lovers, a shadowy glimmer of energy hovered malevolently in the shadows between the wall and armoire. Glowing with fury, it undulated and pulsed eerily as it watched the abomination.
It was not to be borne. The defiler would pay, and now, too, would his whore.
Slipping out of the bed, careful not to disturb the sleeping Buffy, Spike reached into the pocket of his duster and pulled out his cigarettes. He couldn't sleep - doubted he'd be able to for quite some time given the astounding turn of events he had been gifted with. He paused just long enough to close the bedroom door partway before going to sit on the couch in the living area.
As he lit a smoke and stared out the large window next to his seat, his thoughts went around and around on the whole Buffy's in love with him bit. He couldn't help grinning like a poof every time he saw her in his head, admitting that to him. What a night.
They had made good use of that bed afterwards, too, until Buffy had finally drifted off, exhausted and spent, after a couple of hours. Spike was glad he'd gotten that nap earlier, or he wouldn't have been able to keep up with her. As it was, she showed him muscles he never knew she had...and it had been amazing. It's not like they hadn't had sex before, they'd been going at it like wild things for four months, but this was different. It was the first time he really felt like she was letting him in...when she was letting him in.
Even after everything, and denying all physical laws, he hardened at the thought.
The ghost, though, that hadn't been pleasant. He didn't like seeing Buffy scared. It was wrong, like against the natural order of things. But he'd tried to explain that as inconvenient and irritating as ghosts were, they were harmless. It was true. They were.
He just hadn't told her that it was possible...improbable but possible...that it hadn't been a ghost.
The Slayer could deal with whatever it was in the morning. And if, in the unlikely event that it was something more, Spike would stay awake and keep watch, make sure nothing nasty popped up for a taste of his woman. And that's what she was. As much as Buffy didn't like the label, she was his woman. Just like he was her man. It wasn't old-fashioned or sexist. It was elemental, basic and pure. She belonged to him. He belonged to her. Eventually, he'd explain that to her. Just so there was no misunderstanding about what he was to her, he'd explain.
For now though, he played sentry. And he replayed the scenes in his head over and over. In his heart, the cold, dead heart of a vampire, he felt warmth.
It was dark, so dark. The lights from the house drew her in, pulled her forward. She was holding something heavy and Buffy looked down in surprise, seeing the shovel that was clutched in one filthy hand. She wondered how she got outside the house. She wondered why she was dressed so oddly. And what was with the shovel?
Fear, she felt fear. It was pushing her, driving her forward to the sanctity of the house. Picking up her voluminous skirt in her free hand, Buffy ran. She ran and she didn't know why. Was she running towards something? Away from something? What the hell was going on? It didn't matter, though, she ran as if her life depended on it.
There was an inhuman howl that rent the air and Buffy spun around, eyes blindly searching the darkness behind her. She saw nothing but knew, without a doubt, that whatever it was that had made that scream of anguish would be coming after her. She didn't know why or how she knew, but it was truth.
So close to safety. She had to keep moving. Dropping the shovel to ease her flight, Buffy gathered up her skirt in both hands, cursed the odd shoes she was wearing - small boots of some kind that pinched her toes unmercifully - and raced toward the welcoming beacon of her home.
Again that vicious snarl tore into the night, but this time there was less anguish and more unadulterated rage. Pure and hot it hung heavy on the air. Buffy's heart skipped a beat even as her steps sped. Almost there, almost there. It became her mantra as she ran.
Finally, blessedly, she made it to safety and slid the bolt home on the back door of the house. Chest heaving, breathing labored, she leaned against it weakly. She was safe. The doorway was a barrier to this creature that hunted her. Somehow she knew that. It calmed her fear and straightened her spine.
Pulling herself together, Buffy walked calmly down the long hallway, passing the kitchen on her right, heading toward the living room. She came to an abrupt halt when she passed in front of a mirror hanging on the wall. Staring at her reflection, Buffy was stunned. This wasn't...her mind was telling her...she didn't remember the face that was reflected back at her. It was only familiar in the vaguest of senses and she couldn't figure out where she'd seen it before. It wasn't her face; that much was sure.
The name floated into her brain. It seemed right somehow. The woman she was looking at, the woman that was standing where her reflection should be was named Miranda.
Buffy turned away in a daze of confusion and continued down the hall, accepting the absurdity of everything without question. She slipped into the water room behind the stairs, wanting to clean the dirt and grit from her hands. It wasn't proper for a lady to have such deplorable hands. Cleanliness was so very, very important.
Frowning at the archaic thoughts, Buffy poured water into a ceramic pot on the small counter and dipped her hands in. Grabbing a coarse and unpleasant block of what she believed was soap, she scrubbed and scrubbed until her hands were finally clean.
Drying her hands on a hanging towel, she made her way to the living room. As if nothing unusual had happened, as if she hadn't just fled from some unknown evil stalking her, she picked up her embroidery ring. Without conscious thought, her hand started to work the needle through delicate fabric and dainty flowers appeared as she stitched.
It was so surreal, so natural but not, as if she was walking through memories that weren't hers, but were. Buffy didn't question it; she just did it. She was stuck. Knowing something wasn't right, knowing she was misplaced somehow but completely unable to do anything about it, she just acted out the scene.
There was no warning. No prickly sense of impending doom. One minute she was sitting on a settee, calmly stitching, the next she had leapt to her feet when the large picture window in the living room exploded inwards, tinkling glass shattering and flying everywhere.
Terror clutched at her throat as she stared in horror and confusion at the creature that had burst through the window. It was a vampire in full game face, snarling and vicious and completely intent on his quarry. There was recognition, a painful and shocking recognition. Spike. The vampire was Spike.
"H-how?" The voice wasn't hers, neither were the words, but she spoke them. "Y-you should not be able...you were not invited. Devil's spawn. What evil is this that you can come here into my home?"
The vampire tilted his head and stalked closer. Predator hunted prey. "Foolish woman. In this house, I need no invitation. Your time has come, Miranda. Plans have changed. Your own actions dictate the course I take. It could have been...no. I shall not give thought to roads not traveled. You will die."
He was on her instantly, fangs descending with evil intent toward her throat. Her struggles were as ineffective as a moth's in a spider's web. Soon she felt the stabbing pain, felt her blood well and drain from her neck. The monster was not gentle. Ripping at her throat, flesh tore and mangled under his sharp incisors.
It was beyond pain, beyond torture. She was beyond fear.
Dying, she felt herself dying. He was draining her, and revulsion turned her stomach when she heard his thirsty drinking. He was in ecstasy, a painful yet naked yearning. It disgusted her, even as she died. Still there was no fear, only rage. Fury at this demon, this child of Satan, this thing. This was not supposed to be the way it happened. She was not to be food for the dark one. It could not be.
The last thought she had before breathing her last was an oath. He would pay. Upon her last dying breath, she swore the vampire would pay the ultimate price. And demons will tremble at her wrath.
Opening her eyes to the dark ceiling above her, she lay there, getting her bearings. He wasn't beside her; she could sense it. When she smelled the burning tobacco on the air, she knew he had gone into the living area to smoke.
Slipping silently from the bed, she padded on bare feet to the bag in the corner. Power and energy coursed through her veins. Reaching into the duffle bag without looking, her hand closed on the weapon she needed. Standing, hiding her arm behind her back, she went in search for Spike.
He was standing at the large bay window in the room, his back to her. She smiled to herself. This would be easier than she had thought. Moving quietly, she walked up behind him, her hand tightening on the weapon behind her.
A whisper of sound had Spike spinning, ready to throw on his game face if danger threatened. He breathed a quick sigh of relief when he saw Buffy standing there, moonlight from the window caressing her skin like glowing silk. He smiled.
"Startled me, pet. What are you doing..."
His words trailed off when he looked into her eyes. Her large brown eyes.
"What the bloody-"
"Abomination." It was Buffy's voice, but it was not Buffy. "Devil's spawn. You will finally pay. Now is the time for you to feel my wrath."
Her hand shot out, stake moving towards his heart. Spike was too shocked to do anything to defend himself.
As he watched in surprised horror, knowing he was going to die but unable to stop it, something happened. A glowing blue orb of light flared between him and the girl in front of him. It slammed into her and sent her flying, tossing her several feet away.
Her body collided forcefully with the door to the suite and she seemed to hang there for a second, confusion and disbelief in deranged brown eyes - eyes that should be tawny and light and pure - before she dropped, unconscious, to the floor.
Reaction to what he just witnessed had his chest heaving in breaths he didn't need. His eyes were wide in fear and surprise as he crossed the room to where Buffy lay, knocked out, in a heap by the door. Dread pooled in the pit of his stomach when he realized that his worst dreams had just been realized.
A flash of color caught his eye and he stood there, staring at the door, as blood red letters appeared before him. It was a message for him and he didn't like what it was telling him. Staring at it with a harsh expression of absolute determination, he read what was being written.
"You will die, Vampire. You and your whore will taste my fury. I'm coming for you both."
Bending down, not taking his eyes away from the door, Spike lifted Buffy and cradled her to his chest. Whatever had taken over her body had been cast out. He was sure of that. Just as sure as he was that it wasn't a ghost. Rage not at the threat to him, but at the threat to Buffy, brought the demon inside him forward and he snarled low in his throat in warning.
"You don't need to come for us, bitch, because I'm coming for you. And your fury is nothing compared to what I'm gonna do to you if you harm a hair on this girl's head."
The words faded under his gaze but still he stood for long minutes, until he was sure that that thing was gone. Shaking off his visage, he glanced down at Buffy, tenderness and fierce protective caring in his eyes. He strode over to the phone with her in his arms and sat down in the chair next to it.
Not willing to let go of her yet, he shifted her slightly to free his arm before grabbing up the phone and dialing. When he heard the person on the other end pick up and mumble a sleepy, "Hello?" he spoke in a serious and intense voice.
"Giles, we have a problem."
"S-spike? Do you have any idea what time it is?"
Spike ignored the question. "It's in the house, Rupert. A haunt. And it's not happy about my presence."
Still foggy from sleep, Giles hadn't quite caught on to the meaning behind the vampire's somber words. "Yes, well, so few of us are."
"Watcher, listen to me! Now's not the time for petty slights. It's a haunt and it's pissed. And it took over Buffy's body to try to kill me."
"Wh-what? A haunt? Are you sure?" Giles had popped up in bed and grabbed his glasses off the end table next to the bed.
"Seein' as I had a front row seat to my attempted dustin', yeah, I'm sure. We need you here. As soon as possible. And you might want to bring Red, we could use her talents as well."
"Yes, of course. We'll come right away. Spike, can you get out of the house until we get there? It would be best if you could leave until we arrive."
"Doubtful. I don't know the bleedin' area and the sun will be up soon. I'd rather not do the haunt any favors by gettin' dusty searchin' for a safe house."
"Good point. Where is Buffy now?"
"Right here, unconscious. And that leads me to the next problem. There's somethin' else here, Giles. I'm not sure what. Could be another haunt, could be somethin' completely different. It...well, it stopped the haunt from killin' me, but I have no idea why or even if it could do it again."
Giles sighed deeply at the news. "Oh for the days when you were our biggest foe. Listen, Spike, haunts can be particularly unpleasant and they're not concerned with causing trouble only at night. Be careful. Be very careful. We'll be there as soon as we can."
"Right then. Be quick about it."
Spike hung up the phone and leaned back in the chair, wrapping his arms around Buffy. He would need to wake her up soon and explain, but he wanted to hold her for a second first. He brushed a strand of hair off her forehead and stared down at her face. Bathed in moonlight, she was ephemeral in her beauty.
Nothing, certainly not some dead bint bearing a grudge, was going to threaten her and continue to exist. No how, no way. Pressing a kiss to her forehead, he sat and thought about their next move.
Continued in Chapter Three