All About Spike

Chapter: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13

Haunt of the House
By Jericho TGF

Chapter Three

Regaining consciousness with a nifty, mind-shattering headache for the second time in the same night wasn't exactly in the norm, even for the Slayer, whose life was way beyond anything remotely resembling 'the norm' to begin with. With complete disregard to the constraints of normalcy, however, Buffy's aching head and body dragged her mind out of the dark recesses of numb oblivion once again and she slowly became aware of her surroundings, even before she cracked open her eyes and peered around.

She knew without looking, for example, that unlike the incident earlier, she wasn't lying on the icy, tiled floor in the bathroom. She was being held in strong, familiar arms, pressing into a hard, muscled chest. Essentially snuggled up on Spike's lap. She also knew where she was, in a general sense anyway. The scent of lavender was familiar; she'd noticed it when she first entered the Dalton Suite hours ago. Buffy didn't know...nor did she particularly care...if she was in the bedroom or living area. Her head hurt badly and her body felt too bruised to bother with wondering.

She was plagued by memories of a dream that had seemed all too real and tormented by a reality that seemed anything but real. In the dream she'd had her throat viciously ripped out by a monster bearing the countenance of the vampire she had so recently pledged her love for. Reality was worse. She had watched from inside herself as she stalked Spike and tried to stake him, completely helpless to prevent it from happening. Then, to add to the wonder that was her wicked fun 'vacation', something else - something less than pleasant - blasted her across the room. All in all, Buffy wasn't having the best time.

She lay there, feeling confused and guilty and a little scared, and just tried to get her head to stop spinning.

Spike, who had been unable to let go of her after calling Giles, knew the minute she had started to regain consciousness but kept silent, offering nothing but the support of his embrace. Hearing her heartbeat quicken and breathing alter slightly, he could tell she was awake, if not completely aware. She'd been...not possessed really...inhabited...and she'd want answers eventually. Spike had very few to give her.

One of the differences between the vampire and the Slayer was simply that where Buffy would demand reasons and understanding, Spike simply wanted retribution. He couldn't care less why the haunt was targeting them. He couldn't care less about identifying what that thing was that saved him. He wanted payback. He wanted Buffy safe. Not necessarily in that order.

When she finally felt coherent enough to attempt speech, her voice came out in a dry, ragged whisper of sound.

"So," she murmured, keeping her eyes closed for the time being, "I'm thinking either we need to revisit the issue of you working on that 'ghosts can't hurt you' theory...or really not ghosts we're dealing with."

"Not ghosts," he told her with a resigned sigh. He would have preferred to slide into the subject slowly but he should have known she'd be straight to business. Perhaps he was being a bit over protective, but he was concerned about that last smack to the head she had taken, and he wanted to make sure she was okay before she hopped back into that cavalry saddle of hers. "How's the noggin', pet?"

Snorting in sarcastic amusement was out of the question with as much pain she was in, so she settled for cracking her eyes open and glaring at him balefully. "Attached. If they're not ghosts, what are they?"

"At least one of them is a haunt. Don't know 'bout the other, the one that introduced you to the door in flyin' fashion." Buffy rolled her eyes at his colorful commentary and a corner of Spike's mouth quirked in response before he continued. "Short of divine intervention, which I'm thinkin' bloody unlikely, your guess is as good as mine. Nothin's scrambled in there, is it? You're okay?"

"Not ghosts. A haunt. Kind of a fine line there, isn't it? Like the nonexistent kind?"

"Not really, luv. More than just semantics, trust me. How bad are you hurtin'?"

It was an odd cadence of conversation, but he couldn't be dissuaded from his concern for her. Ever since she had come back - had been brought back from the dead - his entire existence revolved around guaranteeing that she stayed back. Well, that and that nothing happened to Nibblet, or any of the Scoobies for that matter. Unfortunately, she wasn't one for easy dissuasion, either.

"Damn it, Spike!" There was irritation and frustration in her voice. "Let me worry about my head. I'm fine, okay? It's sore, but I'll live. Which is more than I can say for you if you don't tell me about the damn haunt."

As soon as she said it, she regretted it. She wanted to call the words back, swallow them whole, but it doesn't work like that. For all the times she'd threatened to stake him - empty threats and posturing, but a habit - this was the first time she felt guilty about it. Even though she was no more serious now than she had been in the past, the events earlier had changed the rules, altered their relationship, even though it hadn't been her, really, that had been responsible.

Buffy's wide-eyed and guilty expression answered any questions he might have had about just how much she would remember while the haunt had been in control of her. She remembered almost staking him. If it were under any other circumstances, he would have been greatly amused by the amazingly accurate 'landed fish' look she had going on. As it was, he was too bothered by the idea that the careless banter and empty threats between them that he enjoyed so much had been tainted by the malicious entity in the house.

No way he was going to let a dead bint with an attitude problem have that much influence on the relationship he had with Buffy.

Burying his concern behind a sardonic sneer, he raised a brow and grinned at her. "Haven't been able to off me in the past, pet. Hell, you even had some assistance from our non-living annoyance du jour, and yet here I sit. Still undead and lovin' it. So you'll have to forgive me if your ever-amusin', if oft repeated, threat and swagger routine doesn't exactly leave me tremblin' in my knickers. Now, once more for the slow learners, how do you feel?"

To say she was surprised by his nonchalant dismissal of what had happened would have been an understatement. No. That's not quite right. Spike had a tendency to be very dismissive of things related to his own well being, it was only when it came to things that could put a crimp in her or her family's aliveness that he dropped the sarcasm and derision and got straight to business. It was one of the things she loved about him. It still surprised her that he was so...forgiving...about almost getting staked. By her. More or less.

She was left feeling oddly put in her place, like he had just given her a 'take care of yourself before you take care of business' lecture. But strangely enough, she was also relieved. Things were still okay between them. Haunt or no haunt, things were still 'same old, same old' between her and the vampire she loved to tease and taunt. That was good. As long as she didn't think about that dream she had, things were good.

She tried to wiggle out of his grip, he held her firm. She could have used her Slayer strength if she felt like it - she didn't. Finally, she just sighed dramatically and rolled her eyes again, playing along with the fiend that cared so much about her. "I'm a little sore, and can't say that ghostly...or, er, haunt possession is tops on my list of things to try ever again, but super healing powers should have me good to go in no time at all."

He just smirked at her, pleased that she had given in so quickly, and pressed a quick kiss to her forehead before letting her finally wriggle away from his embrace.

Sitting next to him, a much better position for focusing on the matter at hand, she said, "Okay. Lets leave the unknown knock-Buffy-across-the-room thing out of it for now; we'll deal with that later. Haunt versus ghost. Give me the skinny. Or...whatever you give a person that's all about the information. Spill it. What do you know?"

"Told you before about ghosts, haunts are different. Both dead people - or what's left of dead people - but where ghosts are harmless and pathetic, haunts aren't. They're nasty buggers, often with right big chips on their shoulders about some such rot that happened when they were alive." He paused and sighed, trying to figure the best way to describe the difference.

"See, pet, most ghosts don't even realize they've become members of the see-thru club. Those that do are too busy trying to find a way to move on to cause harm, they try to interact with the livin' world and all manner of interestin' things can happen - like the mind tricks and stuff I told you 'bout. They're perfectly harmless, sometimes even playful - if more than a little annoyin'."

"Playful, right. Doubt many of the people they 'play' with would see it that way, but okay. And haunts? Not big on the play, I'm guessing."

"Not hardly. Basic difference between the two, haunts know they're dead. They know it and they're mightily pissed off. They don't want to move on. They want to punish the livin' for their...condition. Or, in this case, apparently, the unlivin'. And they can. Don't really know why they're able to do what they do, but you've seen a small piece of it."

"So, they're like...what? Poltergeists with purpose?"

Spike chuckled despite the seriousness of the situation. "Yeah. I s'pose you could say that. A not so pleasant purpose, but yeah. And they're powerful. Right nasty to deal with, lemme tell you. Anger management issues and what not. Don't rightly know why this one's all hot and bothered over little ol' me, but I seem to be the focus of its fury."

"And ya know? Surprisingly easy to imagine you could bother the dead just as effortlessly as you bother the living."

She was teasing him. Good sign. He liked that.

"Hey now! No pickin' on the vampire, thank you very much! Bint's bearing a grudge against yours truly and I've no idea why."

Buffy stared off into space for a minute, trying to decide if she should tell him about her dream. She didn't really want to think about it. It had been horrible. But if she was right, and it wasn't so much a dream as it was a view into the past, than she had the answer to why. He deserved knowing.

"I might know why. I think she was killed by a vampire."

Raising a brow, he turned his head to stare into her serious eyes. That was not good news. "Bloody hell. Do I want to know how you know that, pet?"

"Probably not, but you need to. I had a dream, except I don't think it was just a dream. And, ya know...Slayer dreams - big on symbolism, small on warm fuzziness. This one was particularly not happy. I was in this house, downstairs in fact, sitting in the front room. A vampire crashed through the window and killed me, except it wasn't me. I think it was a woman named Miranda, who, thanks to the wonders of the supernatural and some serious rage issues, is currently working the haunt gig in this house."

She could have stopped there. She almost did. Just thinking about the rest, the true horror of her experience, sent wave after wave of nausea rolling over her. In the end, it was the desire to get it out, to tell the one person who would really understand, that kept her talking. "I felt him bite me, like I was part of her. He ripped at my throat; drained me."

Buffy had no idea that shudders were wracking her slight frame, making her tremble. The viscous memories, the pain, the sounds of her flesh tearing under sharp teeth, the smell of her blood flowing freely out of the wounds, all had her struggling with her composure. Still, she spoke. "When I woke up, I watched from inside myself, saw me...her...walking up behind you with a stake in my hand. I knew what she was going to do. I couldn't stop her. I felt her rage, her hatred of you, and all I could do was watch. She was...happy...about the idea of staking you. She felt justified and redeemed. It was sick. It was awful. And then she...well, you know. Spike, there's something else. The vampire that crashed through the window...it was you I saw in my dream. You killed me - her."

She was staring at her clasped hands. There was no way she could meet his eyes right now, not after that. Buffy knew she'd upset him, heard his quick intake of surprised breath. Considering that he didn't need to breathe, it told her just how much he was affected by what she said. She was completely unprepared, however, for his response.

His game face surged forward and he leapt to his feet, growling ferociously. "I BLOODY WELL DID NOT! That...bitch! I had nothin' to do with her death, Buffy, I swear it to you. I told you I'd never been here before. I meant it!"

His mind was spinning and he was struggling to keep a lock on his rage. It wasn't working. He wanted nothing more than to rip the room apart, tear and bash and smash everything that had anything to do with this place.

The haunt had gotten into Buffy's head, made her see things that weren't true, made her live through something that he never wanted her to experience - a first hand glimpse at the demon in him, the demon in all vampires. He saw the effect it had on her. It clawed at him, adding fuel to his fury. Not to mention the haunt almost staked him. Bad in and of itself, but inconsequential compared to Buffy's trauma. He was as enraged as he'd ever been.

The worst part, he had no idea how to convince her that he had nothing to do with this Miranda person's death. And he couldn't believe Buffy could go through what she went through and still look at him without staking him on her own.

Buffy watched him stalking cagily in front of her. Back and forth, back and forth, pacing angrily. He was full into the bumpy forehead and fang look, and it surprised her just how not bothered by it she was. This was the man she loved. Still loved. Sure, he was a vampire. He was even soulless. But he had an amazing capacity for love, and he understood kindness and loyalty. When he had fallen in love with her it had changed him forever, and now, well...maybe he wasn't like any other vampire that had ever existed before. He was still evil; just...he had redirected the evil towards other evil things. And good done by evil is still good.

Buffy herself was a shade of gray that was unique to humans, was it any wonder that she could accept Spike as a shade of gray unique to vampires? Was it any wonder she loved him?

"I know you didn't, Spike. I never thought you did. Well...okay, so I more than wigged to the tenth degree when I first saw you crashing through that window, but in my mind I knew it wasn't really you."

That got his attention. Gold eyes flashed with feral intensity and hope as his head snapped around and pinned her with questioning fire. "What? You knew? Not that I'm complainin', luv, but how? Sounds like the bint did a wicked head job on you."

She smiled at him and stood up, walking up to him and wrapping her arms around his waist. He was trembling, she could feel it. Whether in rage or fear of her response, she didn't know.

"She tried to. Apparently not wicked enough. I'm the Slayer. A Slayer that's been dead not just once, but twice. The mind games and parlor tricks are so not a good, but I'm not that easily manipulated by the unseen masses...or, well...mass. And, hello? Not just pretty, here. Smart, too. I know something that she obviously doesn't. William the Bloody didn't come to this country until the 1960's. Miranda was killed in this house in the late 1800's, if the clothing was any indication. I'm not even sure you were a vampire when she was killed. The dream was very not good, but I know it wasn't you. No more than it was really me that tried to stake you."

Wrapping his arms around her, he felt the band that had been painfully squeezing his chest let go. He shook off his game face and pulled her body into a tight embrace, resting his chin on the top of her head. "Well, well. Look at the little scholar, rememberin' her history and what all. I'm impressed, pet. Maybe you're not a natural blonde after all."

Pulling back just enough to give her arm room, she punched him in the stomach and grinned mischievously before pressing a quick kiss to his smiling mouth. "What can I say? Giles taught me well. I did all kinds of ultra fun research on the evil you back when you were actually a scary vampire." Sighing dramatically she said, "Of course, now you're hardly more threatening than a fuzzy little kitty cat."

Neat thing about vampires, they have that cool growl thing. Spike made good use of it, rumbling in her ear, heat and desire pooling between his legs, hardening him. Thoughts of ghosts and haunts faded away as their teasing stimulated him. It had always been like that for him. When it came to Buffy, their verbal sparring had always been the sweetest foreplay. "Better watch yourself, luv," he snarled playfully, "even the fuzziest kitty has claws. And I know just how and where to use mine."

So saying, he pressed his spread fingertips into her stomach, under her shirt, and flexed his hands. She felt the blunt edges of his nails pressing into her flesh and she gasped in surprise and hunger as he dragged them up to her breasts slowly and seductively. Cool fingers danced gently over her nipples and she swallowed convulsively, but he drew back and stepped away from her, the passion in his gaze being replaced by purpose.

"Better not start that just yet, as I don't fancy another of those soddin' Buffy impersonations the haunt is so bleedin' good at without bein' prepared a bit better than we are right now."

Practically panting at just the simple touch, Buffy shook her head to clear it, then grew grim as duty intruded on her moment. "Right. Hey, can the haunt do to you what she did to me? I think I should know if I'm going to turn around and find a pissed off you-looking haunt with a yen for making you dusty. She could have you stake yourself - and I have no intention of taking you home in a baggy."

"Your concern is touchin', but no. Vampires are immune. She can't get into my head. It's a soul thing, I think. How haunts make a connection. They don't seem to be able to affect creatures without souls. Not like that, anyway. Good thing, too, as I'm not the only one she's after. According to the thoughtful head's up she provided, she's got her sights set on both of us now."

When she questioned him, Spike told her about the message on the door. Then rolled his eyes when she was more upset at being called a whore than being targeted by the haunt.

"Oh, this bitch is so gonna pay. She has the nerve to call me a whore? Don't think so. It's not my fault she was all alive and stuff in the Victorian prudish age of high collars and long dresses. Not like she hasn't been around for the changing times. Well into a new millennium here, buy a clue. People my age have sex - rings and ceremonies not withstanding. It's not a bad. Sure, the vampire thing is a bit unusual...but still. I am in no way a whore."

"Of course you're not, luv, but I think you're missing the point."

"I really don't think I am, Spike. Got the whole 'she's coming for us' bit just fine. Let her. I can take her. And now, she's gonna get taken and get payback. I'm nobody's whore."

"Actually, Buffy, that's the problem. You can't take her. She can't be taken. Not by us, anyway."

Buffy stopped ranting and looked at him, curiosity and concern etched on her face. "What do you mean?"

"You said it yourself, woman. You don't do dead people. There's a very good reason for that. No body to be done. Haunts are dead. We don't have the proper tools. Best we can do is stay outta her way. And as she's targetin' us, even that's gonna be a bitch."

"Okay, so we leave. Pack up and go. If it's you that has her all upset and stuff, we leave, she goes back to being nothing more than a cold draft in a big house, right?"

"Love to, can't. Sun's gonna be up in a little while, and we don't know the area. I don't remember seein' many protect-the-vampire-from-spontaneous-combustion places on our way here. I'm stuck."

"No. You're not. We are. We're a team, Spike. And it's not just because she's after both of us. We're a team. We fight together, we stand together. That's just how it is."

Walking quickly over to the phone, she didn't notice his expression. She didn't see how her words, spoken so casually and with so much honest conviction, affected him. He quickly reached up and swiped at his surprisingly moist eyes, not wanting her to see how her belief in him, in them, made him go all poof-like.

"If you're thinkin' 'bout putting in a call to the Watcher, don't bother, pet. Did it already. Him and Will are on their way."

She was surprised. Very surprised. "Oh. You did? Oh."

"Yeah. 'Bout and hour ago, now. I figured it would be a good idea. Called him while you were doin' the knocked unconscious nap time. Giles has all those books, may as well put them to good use. Also figured Willow might come in handy, powerful little witch that she is."

"No, Spike, that's fine. That's good. I'm just surprised, is all. You're not exactly known for calling in the cavalry, even when you need help."

Shrugging in embarrassment, he said, "Yeah, well, it's not just me that needs help, now, is it? Don't take risks when it comes to your safety, luv. Makes me a team player, even if it is against my nature. You White Hats are good for the rushin' to the rescue, may as well make use of it when we need it."

"It'll take them a while to get here. How much trouble do you think we're in, in the meantime?"

Spike thought about it and frowned. "Well, it'll take a while for the haunt to come after us again. There are limits to its power. We may get lucky, too, it may not be as strong the next time around. It has to recharge, so to speak, or it won't be able to do much more than give you a shiver."

Buffy, curious, interrupted him. "Can't you feel the cold drafts?"

"Well, yeah. I mean, I'm a vampire so temperature doesn't really affect me, but I can feel changes in it. It's just, those icy drafts are the haunt - or ghost, they do it too - trying to make contact with you. Touchin' you, so to speak. Feelin' you out. She won't bother tryin' that with me, she knows I'm a vampire. Knows there's nothin' she can do to affect me."

Under her breath, she muttered, "Good. Don't have to worry about a haunt getting her hands on my man. Good to know."

Spike raised a brow and slid a sly grin her way, not commenting on the 'her man' part. He doubted she had any idea of what she was really saying. It was instinct, but it was a nice instinct. Gave him hope that one day he could explain that whole 'belonging to each other' thing without worrying about her staking him for it.

"So, this thing has to recharge," her voice interrupted his thoughts. "That's good. That gives us time. We can do something with that."

Now that was something he didn't like the sound of, Buffy going all intense and thoughtful. "What's goin' on in that head o' yours, woman?"

Playing it off with a wide-eyed look of pure innocence, almost making Spike laugh in the bargain, she just smiled slightly and said, "Well, there's breakfast. It's almost 6:30, and there's that nifty room service. I'm hungry."

"And you're not tellin' me everythin'." Narrowing his eyes, he searched her face, trying to guess at what was going on behind the tawny eyes he loved so much.

"Well...lets just say, we have a haunt that we know is trying get us up close and personal with the flip side of that life coin, right? But there's something else here, too. Something that had a vested interest in making sure you didn't get all dusty. Something powerful enough to send me crashing into a door several feet away. Normally that would be one of those 'not boding well for Buffy' things, but I wasn't myself at the time and it kept you from getting staked, so I think I can forgive whatever it was."

At his suspicious and vaguely concerned look, she rolled her eyes and spelled it out for him. "Something protected you, Spike. We need to find out what. We need to find out why. We need to find out if they can do it again. There's something going on here, and it's more than we've seen so far. I can feel it."

"Oh, bloody hell. You can 'feel it'? Great. You get a cramp; suddenly we're both on poltergeist patrol. Fan-fuckin'-tastic. And just how do you expect to do...whatever it is your suggestin' that I know I'm not gonna like? You have heard the term 'borrowin' trouble', right, luv? Well, it sounds to me that that is exactly what you're dabblin' in here. Sure, somethin' plowed into the haunt. Saved my ass, it did. Doesn't mean I want to invite it in for tea, find out what its ulterior motives are. Could be worse than what we've got on hand already."

Shaking her head emphatically, she thought about the possibilities. "I don't think so. I think it's something that might just be able to help us." Thinking back to her dream, she remembered something else that had bothered her at the time.

"He was punishing her."

Coming completely out of left field, Spike could only stare at Buffy after that comment.

"I completely forgot. The vampire. I...she was outside of the house at night. She had a shovel in her hand. I heard, behind me, it was him; I'm sure of it. I heard him howl. There was...pain in it. Anguish. Something is off, Spike. Don't you see? When he killed her, when he came into the house, she was surprised that he could get into the house, but she wasn't surprised at him. She knew him. Not only did she know what he was, she knew who he was. She had done something, Spike. Something that made him come after her. He said something to her - I can't remember what. But I know it's important. It may be the key to everything. He didn't just kill her, he was punishing her for what she did."

"And this is important to us because..."

"What if Miranda isn't just a haunt because she's mad at vampires for killing her? What if it's something else entirely?"

"I'm not followin', luv. What difference does it make?"

"I'll tell you what difference. We have to deal with this thing on our own for the next several hours. That's a long time. We have no weapons, nothing useful to use to fight it off. It can get into my head; it can kill you. Ducks doing the sitting thing are cute and all; doesn't mean I want to be one. We can't leave. We can't just sit here and wait until it comes after us again. All we can do is find out what really happened when she died. We do that, maybe we'll have a chance to do something. I don't know what exactly, release her maybe. Or at least we'll know what's going on. In my experience, most humans don't think of vampires as anything more than Hollywood storytelling, or a metaphor for...metaphorical things. This woman - over a hundred years ago - she knew. And that's just not normal. I'm in no way keen on finding out if third time's the charm with Buffy deceasedness, and I'm certainly not letting her turn you into a demonstration for a vacuum cleaner infomercial. We need to find out what happened. We need to find out what that other thing is, too - the thing that stopped her from staking you. And we need to do it quickly."

Sighing he sunk down into the couch and leaned back, resting his head against the cushions and staring at the ceiling, which was even now growing lighter at the coming dawn.

"So your sayin' we find out what really happened, find out what that other thing in the house is, we may just live to see the sun set tonight. Right? That is what you're sayin', isn't it."

Plopping down with a significantly higher level of enthusiasm than he was showing, she leaned into him and nodded. "Exactly. I don't see any other way. Sorry, Spike, it's a part of the Slayer package. I was born to be a solver of impending death problems. I'll admit, this is a new one on me, as I'm dealing with the already dead, but I'm programmed to be Slayerly. Can't help it."

"Can't help it, she says."

Mumbling to himself, he knew he'd eventually give in. What choice did he have? The only plan he had was to wait for Giles and Willow to show up, but Buffy was right. They were sitting ducks. He knew that. It's just this whole information gathering thing wasn't what he was about. He was a fighter. A brawler. This was so...passive. He hated it. But he'd do it. He'd do it because it may just help him keep her alive. Give me a cemetery in good old Sunnyhell any day. Give me a good Bovleaur demon, or a Rohmlix, or a few dozen vampires. This...this is just bloody wrong. One thing's for sure, next time I get her to go away for a weekend, we're gonna be doin' it my way.

"You know," he finally said, "if you'd listened to me to begin with, we'd be in a nice motel in San Diego right now, recoverin' from a night of dancin' and debauchery. No haunts or mysterious glowin' blue orbs of power anywhere to be found."

"Yeah, yeah. And I'm never gonna hear the end of it, am I?"

"Not bloody likely. How do you figure on findin' out all this stuff, anyway? We've got nothin' right now."

"Well, we'll start with the breakfast, I really am hungry. Then, when it gets later, we're going to go and talk to Ida, see if she knows anything about the house. As old as it is, there's probably some historical information lying around. We'll take it from there, I guess. We'll figure it out as we go along."

Spike tossed an arm over her shoulders and pulled her to him, inhaling her scent and nuzzling her hair. She turned her head to kiss him gently before pulling back and staring into his eyes.

"I love you, Spike."

He melted. He was such a poof. In that moment, if she'd asked him to dive into a pool of holy water, he'd be stripping off his clothes and going for a dip. He'd do anything for her. He'd die for her. He lived for her. He belonged to her. Until the dusty end, his world was her world.

The haunt would rue the day that she made the mistake of threatening Buffy's safety. It didn't have to be like this. If she'd left them alone, none of this would have happened. Now, however, Spike was going to destroy her. He was going to strip away the last shred of existence from her, and do it gladly.

"I love you, too." Swooping down, he captured Buffy's mouth in a serious kiss. "Order me some bacon and eggs, would you, pet?"

"Sure." Getting up, she paused before picking up the phone and turned back to him, a curious expression on her face. "Spike, why is it you eat more than blood, anyway? You're the only vampire I've ever met that eats like a teenager, instead of eating the actual teenager. Of course, there's the chip, but still. You eat food. Why is that?"

Spike thought for a minute, smiling to himself. He didn't really know why, but he liked food. Always had. Used to drive Dru nuts. She never understood it. Even Angel, souled poofta that he was, never ate normal food. He was unique. In more ways than one. "Don't rightly know, pet. I just always have. Most vampires don't have a taste for the stuff, what with the difference in the taste buds and all, but that never really bothered me. I like food. It has...substance."

Buffy just shook her head and grinned playfully. "You really are one of a kind, fang face."

"You too, blondie."

"Peroxided pest."

"Fashion victim."

She laughed out loud at that one. "That from a man with a serious case of Billy Idol envy. Good one, Spike."

Blowing her a kiss with a sexy, devilish gleam in his eye, he watched her butt as she turned and picked up the phone.

Something flickered in the shadows of the room and he just barely caught it out of the corner of his peripheral vision. Turning his head with vampiric speed, he caught the glimmer of energy hovering in the darkness. It was small and dim, but he knew what it was. Without alerting Buffy, he vamped out and bared his fangs silently at it. It was a warning. A deadly serious warning.

The haunt apparently took the message, for the time being at least. Spike knew she would. She wouldn't be strong enough yet to do much of anything. Watching intently, the vampire saw it sink through the floor, leaving the room. Unfortunately, it looked as though the haunt was more powerful than he had thought. She shouldn't even be able to show herself so soon after the energy she expended tonight.

They didn't have as much time as Spike had originally thought. The haunt would be coming again. And soon. Bloody hell.



Continued in Chapter Four

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