Spike found himself frequently accused of many things. Being contemplative wasn’t often one of them.
Why that was, he wasn’t sure. Possibly it was his haircut. Or his accent. Or the fact that surviving as an undead antihero for over a century required you to be more agile than your garden-variety philosopher.
Then again, maybe it was just the leather coat.
In any case, here he was, having another conversation with himself. This was a habit he’d had ever since his bad-poetry days; he’d square the two sides of his brain off in opposite corners, lob in the question at hand, and send his head into a silent ping-pong match. The effort involved in this internal debate made him look faintly befuddled. Dru, bless her black heart, had referred to the process as “monkey chatter.” Spike preferred to think of it as his own method of scientific inquiry.
Presently he was sitting cross-legged on the top of his crypt. Passions was on, but he wasn’t watching. He had Things On His Mind.
Buffy again, mostly.
“A man can change,” he’d told her, and wanted to believe it himself, even though the moment the words were out of his mouth he’d braced himself for her smackdown. The fact that he’d seen it coming hadn’t lessened the sting. Then again, considering the events of the past seventy-two hours, maybe he had to start taking those insults of hers with a grain of salt.
If he was, in fact, an “evil, disgusting thing,” she hadn’t been running the other way. She’d looked the monster full in the face … and everywhere else … and hadn’t so much as flinched.
What did that make her? That’s what Spike wanted to know. He hadn’t given it much thought until now – he’d been too intent on his chosen battle, on stepping on her heels until she couldn’t walk away anymore and forcing her to show her hand. And he’d got what he wanted, hadn’t he?
He’d gotten in at least one good lick of his own, to pay her back for that “thing” comment. You came back wrong. He’d expected her rage. He’d gotten horror instead, horror and a kind of big-eyed hopelessness. He hadn’t meant it, really, not that way, but she’d believed him. All he’d done was put words to her deepest fears. “You’re wrong,” she’d said, over and over, but her face was full of despair.
That had panicked him. He’d wanted her angry, not sad. He’d hit her again to snap her out of that wounded empty place, and then she’d set her little jaw and started whaling on him in earnest. That was good. He liked fighting with her.
Honestly, he thought it would end there, like it usually did – they’d hold each other off for a while, eventually she’d get pissed and he’d drop his guard and she’d kick his ass, and she’d stomp off in righteous fury, trailing Slayer pheromones behind her that he could smell in his sleep. He’d gotten lucky with that comment. He’d hit a nerve.
You haven’t come close to hurting me, she’d spat.
Afraid to give me the chance? Afraid I’m gonna –
And then, the Plot Twist, the Big Shocker.
He’d kissed a bunch of different Buffys before. Sad Buffy. Pissed-off Buffy. Engaged Under-a-Spell Buffy. Singing Buffy. He’d never tasted Desperate-to-Shut-Him-Up Buffy before, however, and she was a whole new Slayer.
For a minute, he just basked in the memory of the kiss, the memory of her plastered against him, diving into him. Shoving him away, sending him careening across the room hard enough to crack plaster when he hit the opposite wall. Up against him the next second, on his mouth and in his brain and using her knees around his hips to literally crawl up his body. Never in a million years would he have imagined it happening like that, and yet there she went, a little blonde Roman candle of a girl, bottled-up repression walking around on two legs until he, the lucky idiot, finally said the one thing to pop her cork and set her free.
He couldn’t remember how his pants came down, how her skirt came apart. But he could still see her face as she came down on him, and it gave him chills – an open-mouthed, dropped-jaw, glazed-eyes look of sheer disbelief and awe.
The moment he’d never thought would happen. And the funny thing, the best thing, the thing he was sure Little Miss Summers hadn’t thought to consider in the three days she’d been avoiding him: she’d offered him her neck, and he’d never shifted into game face.
All that blood, beating so near to the surface, rising and falling under the satin skin like the leaping river of life itself. Calling to him, to the monster in him: taste me, take me. Spike, the slayer of Slayers, had waged a brief mental war with William the Bloody Awful Poet, who’d never won so much as a game of chess in his brief, doomed life.
And William had triumphed. Amazing. Bloody terrifying. He’d taken his disdainful Cecily in his arms and fallen through the floor with her, strong enough to kiss that silky neck from ear to pulse to collarbone and bury himself in the Slayer’s velvet crossroads without venturing so much as a pointy tooth in her direction.
Did that mean he was more man than monster? Spike had no idea.
But it wasn’t himself he was worried about. He was what he was. The question of the day, again, was: what was she?
And why did he feel so bad for her?
He watched her for two days and discovered the following: nobody in that house ate anything but peanut butter and ramen noodles, the washing machine was broken, Willow was apparently under house arrest. Dawn was using the broken wrist as an excuse to skip school and spent the better part of her days on the deck, looking sulky and doodling aimlessly on an art pad with her good hand and a red pen. Buffy herself went grocery shopping, hauled clothes to and from the Laundromat, went into a cleaning frenzy that made Spike tired just watching, and spent a lot of time being grim and silent. Tara arrived with chicken soup and teen magazines for Dawn, but couldn’t be coaxed inside. Small sisterly arguments about sweater ownership and bathroom rights were conducted periodically. Dawn, the more vehement of the two, generally won.
Buffy had rows and rows of braided garlic hung inside her windows. That made him laugh. She’d be better off cooking with it. Smelly vegetables weren’t going to keep him out of her life, not if he wanted to be there.
And he did – oh, he did. But he wasn’t making the first move, not again. She could bloody well come to him.
She missed Giles. He could tell. Whether she missed him or not, he couldn’t say.
Amy Madison showed up late on the third day, asking for Willow. Buffy didn’t let her in. There was a brief altercation, consisting of magical threats on Amy’s part and mild physical violence on Buffy’s. The witch didn’t look good, Spike thought. Thinner than she’d been – drawn and strung-out looking, with lank hair and shaking hands. Another one of Rack’s specials. Willow was lucky she had real friends.
Spike saw her at the window during Amy’s argument with Buffy, small and white-faced. Poor Red. Hard not to feel for her, even considering the circumstances … until he looked at the cast on the Niblet’s wrist. Then he had to wonder why Buffy hadn’t thrown her into the street. Not like she and Willow were all snug like they used to be. Probably that wide, wide streak of Slayerly duty shining through. They all had it, Slayers, but Buffy’d gotten more than her fair share.
Duty. Valor. Honor. Three of the best things about her. If he was honest with himself, he’d admit that he didn’t want anything to be wrong with Buffy.
He wanted her to love him. But he wanted her.
She showed up at the crypt early that evening, looking as sullen and imperious and ready for a fight as she ever had. Spike could think of four or five snarky things to say, but he kept them in reserve and merely shot her a questioning eyebrow. She wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“I need a favor,” she said, rather sulkily if you asked him. “There’s Chinese food in it for you.”
Spike, enjoying himself, elevated his other eyebrow and said nothing. Buffy scowled.
“Dawn and Tara are going to the movies tonight,” she said. “I have to patrol. And Willow …”
“Is home alone,” Spike supplied. “You want me to witch-sit?”
“It’s not like you’ll have to do anything,” she said. “Mostly she’s been in her room. Normally I wouldn’t even ask, but –“
“Afraid that Rat Girl might come back?” he said, then mentally kicked himself. Her eyes sharpened.
“Can’t help what I see when I’m passing through,” he shot back. “You want me to keep an eye on Red or not? Where’re the Butt Monkey and his demon bride, anyway? Too busy picking out flowers to baby-sit?”
“I’m asking you, not them.” That temper was sparking, he could tell. “But now that you mention it …”
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist,” he said lazily, and watched her eyes flash. “I’ll play a few rounds of gin with the witchlet, I don’t mind. General Gau and I have had a good thing going for a long time now.” Deliberately, he turned his back on her and started for the door. “Don’t stay out all night, pet. I’d hate to be stuck at your place all day with the sun up.”
Was that sound he heard as he closed the door behind him Buffy grinding her teeth? Oh, he hoped so.
“Hey, Red,” he called up the stairs, but didn’t get a response. Shrugging, he headed for the cartons on the kitchen counter. No blood in the fridge, naturally. No booze, either. He should have brought his own. Next time, he’d remember.
Forty-five minutes later, he remained unconvinced that anyone was in the house with him. He headed up the stairs and paused at the landing. “Willow?”
She was in her room, but she didn’t answer him. “Hey there,” he said. She turned around and flicked him a glance. She looked awful.
“Spike,” she said, and turned away again.
“There’s food downstairs.”
He gave her thin frame a quick glance. “How long since you ate?”
“What do you care?”
“I don’t, much,” he said. “Just curious. Not filling out that sweater like you used to.” Did that get a smile from her? Her face was in shadow, and he couldn’t tell.
“I haven’t been eating,” she said finally, after a long silence. “I haven’t wanted to. Haven’t needed to.”
He didn’t say anything. After another long pause, she spoke again.
“I can’t taste anything,” she said. “I can’t smell anything. I can’t feel hot and cold.”
“That magic,” he said awkwardly. “Rough stuff.”
“It’s the best thing.” Her voice was dreamy. “Makes everything so much brighter. Warmer. Better.”
“Until you look like your friend the rat,” Spike said. “See her this afternoon? She’s a wreck. Runny nose, shaky hands, dirty clothes. Used to be a pretty girl.” She didn’t answer him, and finally he backed out of the doorway. “Chinese food downstairs if you want to say hello to the General,” he said, and closed the door behind him.
Buffy’s door was ajar. Glancing back to make sure Willow wasn’t watching, he slipped in and flicked on the bedside table lamp.
His Slayer was a tidy soul at heart, he decided, scanning the spare, pale little room. Or maybe she just wasn’t into decorating these days. He seemed to remember more stuff, more pillows and teddy bears and clutter, back in the Time of Riley. Now, there was just the bed, its linens in military order, with a framed print behind the headboard and a couple of Joyce’s floppy straw hats on another wall. He’d bet cold hard cash that the witchlets had decorated this room, and that Buffy hadn’t changed a thing since Resurrection Day. Another indication that things were way wrong … was no one seeing this but him?
There were photographs tacked up all over a bulletin board by the desk. He walked over to study them, mostly snaps of a happier, younger Buffy and Co. You’d be hard-pressed to recognize the finely drawn bundle of angst she was now as one and the same with the smiling, apple-cheeked innocent in the photos.
Without wanting to, he thought of that first post-Resurrection night. Haunted eyes and bloody hands. He’d had nightmares about his coffin for more than twenty years – the stuffy space, the darkness, the smell of death, the poisoned air. Was Buffy still waking up underground? No wonder Xander and Willow couldn’t look her in the face.
His gaze fell to the open notebook on the desk. The sheet was blank but scored with heavy grooves from whatever she’d written on the previous page. Curious, Spike fished a ball of paper out of the wastebasket by the desk and smoothed it out.
Dear Mom, Buffy had written.
When you and Dad split up, you told Dawn and me that you didn’t love each other any more, but you still loved us. Then you stayed and Dad left. I used to lie awake and wonder: if he really did love us, why wouldn’t he stick around?
But then Angel left for L.A., and I started to think maybe Dad was telling the truth after all. After Riley, I was sure of it – that men can love you and leave you in the same breath, and mean both things just as much.
I miss you so much. I need you so much. You’re gone and Giles is gone and I’ve got this big question I can’t ask anyone that’s driving me crazy: What do you do when you think it’s wrong but you hope it’s right, and you can’t just put it off because he’s throwing around that word you associate with leaving, but he isn’t going anywhere?
I don’t know what I’m going to do. No matter what, it feels like the wrong thing, and I’m so lonely I could die. Sometimes I think even the wrong thing is better than feeling so goddamned cold all the time.
Most of the time, I just wish they’d left me in the ground. One of the only things that keeps me going is knowing that you must be in that place I left. No more migraines, ever.
I used to wish I could bring you back. Now I just hope you’re watching over me.
Love always, Buffy
Spike started to crumple the paper up again, then stopped himself, folding it neatly and tucking it into an inside pocket of his jacket. For a second or two he just stood there, staring at the happy photos of that earlier Buffy. Then he jammed his hands grimly into his pockets and started downstairs.
He and the Slayer had to talk.
He was on his fourth cup of hot chocolate when Buffy finally came through the door, hollow-eyed with fatigue. There was a smear of something blue and slimy on the front of her skirt. He handed her a paper towel and pulled out a chair. “Cocoa?”
She took the cup he handed her but set it down without drinking. “Thanks.”
“Rough night?” He gestured to the blue smear, and she rubbed absently at it with the paper towel.
“Don’t know what it was. Horns. Crusty eyes. It killed easy.”
“Good to know.” He nudged the cocoa a little closer to her. “Drink up, pet.”
“What’s in it?” She sniffed it suspiciously. He sighed and rolled his eyes.
“Cynical little bit, aren’t you? Here.” He took a gulp and handed her back the cup. “Satisfied?”
“You’re still in the house, aren’t you?”
That was better, just part of her standard nastiness, something she’d said without thinking. Spike bit back the retort he was dying to sling at her. “Buffy,” he said. “Why haven’t you been to see me? I’ve missed you.”
She looked up, startled. Being straightforward wasn’t part of his standard MO. “Why would I willingly seek you out, Spike? Didn’t we already have this discussion? Like, a million times?”
He didn’t drop his gaze. “Can we drop the usual bullshit, please? I’m trying to say something here.”
She blinked. Pass up two golden opportunities to bite back at her? This wasn’t the Spike she knew and … well, anyway. “Okay,” she said. “Say it, then. But hurry up. I’m tired.”
“I know you don’t love me,” he said. “That’s old territory. But I do love you, and I’m worried about you. You aren’t taking care of yourself. You’re not happy.”
She stared at him, suddenly glassy-eyed. More rattled than he’d care to admit, Spike plowed ahead.
“You’re not talking to anyone,” he said. “Not Xander, not Willow, not Anya, not Dawn. They’re all part of the problem you can’t discuss. And you’re not talking to me anymore, either.”
She was still frozen. He figured he’d better hurry up and say his piece before she went for his liver. “Listen,” he said urgently. “You don’t have to promise me anything. You don’t owe me anything. But I want to take you to bed again.” That got her attention, he thought with savage satisfaction as her eyes jerked up to his. “Even if it’s only to take your mind off everything else,” he said. “Even if you really do hate me. I don’t want you to be alone.”
She stiffened, swept her hair out of her face, glared at him. “Are you offering to fuck me out of pity, Spike? Because you know what you can do with that kind of … generosity.”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” he said, quietly enough that she had to lean forward to hear him. He was looking straight into her eyes. “I want to be with you. Not out of pity, not out of sympathy, but out of the love I have to give. That’s all.”
They sat and stared at each other across the little table for a long time, neither one moving, the cocoa congealing in the cups between them. Buffy’s stubborn little chin was high, her eyes flinty. But then her lip trembled – once, twice – and the stone set of her face began to crumple. “Oh, God,” she managed to gasp, and then the tears came.
Once before, he’d held the Slayer while she cried, folding her little body into his and absorbing into himself the hot salt of her grief. The first time, he’d been angry, angry enough to kill her, and she’d completely disarmed him. Now, he picked her up – she was so small! – and carried her into the quiet dark living room, over to the recliner where he used to sit and drink tea with Joyce. The chair swallowed them both into its soft dark womb. He gathered Buffy closer and smoothed the hair back from her face. “You’re so beautiful,” he whispered. “You’re so bloody strong. You cry for everybody else but you. You break my heart.”
She pulled back from him for a minute, studied him with those big liquid eyes, shook her head. “William,” she said shakily. “Just when I think I’ve got you figured, you break out the poetry. What am I going to do about you?”
He touched her mouth with his. Soft, soft, so soft, like snowflakes melting over cinders, one by one by cool silent one. Brush, brush, brush, sip. No pressure. Okay, well, maybe a little.
She was moist and flushed from weeping, and the vampire part of his brain couldn’t help but think – blood, blood, blood. The rest of him was marveling at her heat against him, a human coal against the body he had to warm with borrowed life. It was as if the tears had melted her a little, as if she were not a solid form at all but some slow-moving liquid like glass. Not glass, though. Bloody stainless steel, more like.
He smoothed her up and down with his hands, as if sculpting her. She burned against his palms. Holy Christ, she was hot. Dru had been cool … Harmony, too. Until Buffy, he’d never been this close to a human woman. He ran his hands up under her shirt and took her gasp with his mouth.
“Upstairs,” she said. “Upstairs. Hurry.”
He squeezed everything he could reach, one last time, and scooped her up. He could have floated up the stairs.
“Quick,” she ordered once they were on the bed. “Quick, come here, hurry …”
“Hurry?” He grinned down at her. “Not a chance.”
Oh, God, it was happening again. Thirty minutes ago, anyone who insinuated to Buffy that she’d be shagging Spike again tonight would have gotten either laughed at or pounded on. Wasn’t going to happen, EVER again, no way, no how, and certainly not because he’d offered her cocoa and told her she looked unhappy.
And. Yet. Here they were, in the bedroom she’d slept in since moving to Sunnydale, sprawled over the top of one of Grandma Summers’ knitted afghans. The afghan had some stories to tell, Buffy reflected. It had probably seen more action than Grandma herself.
If tonight was anything like her last sexcapade with Spike, the afghan would be pretty damn shocked. As Buffy herself had been. Her night with Angel had been pretty touchy-feely; not what Buffy would call exactly kinky. And it was a sure thing that Riley had never done any of that stuff.
Congratulations, Buffy Summers, she thought to herself. Somewhere along the line, you’ve acquired a sexual imagination. And then Spike put his hand between her legs, and she didn’t think any more after that.
He felt so good, like the cool side of the pillow in the middle of a bad dream. One muscled arm was under her neck; his leg was thrown over one of hers, and he was studying her with a thoughtful little half-frown as he touched her, as if he’d never seen a woman quite like her before. His long artist’s fingers were slow and sure and felt as if he’d just dipped them in cool water. Against them, she could feel her own heat lapping and building and sucking at itself. A big part of her wanted to grab him and take him and get the waiting over with. Another big part of her liked the wait.
He kept touching her, his fingers like salve soothing away a burn that keeps coming back stronger. His lips were traveling over her forehead, her cheeks, her eyelids. He bent his head and licked the perspiration from her neck. “God, you’re burning up,” he muttered. “I can feel you – there’s a furnace beneath your skin. How can you live with so much heat?”
“Please,” she gasped, because it was too much – the burn between her thighs, the soft sexy words, the all-too-experienced nibbling just beneath her ear. “Just do it, okay?”
He laughed against her skin. “Patience, Slayer,” he said, and slid two fingers inside her. “We never stopped for breath the other night. I want to take my time now.”
“What are you talking about?” she snapped irritably, arching into his hand. “You don’t breathe, you idiot. And are you forgetting that it took all night?”
“More than one road to Rome, princess,” he said, and drove another finger into her. “Why start the trip all over again, when you can just keep driving instead?”
She snarled at him, but her heart wasn’t in it. She was almost there, almost to the top of the hill, and if he kept doing that … thing … with his thumb …
“Oh, God,” she said, and took the jump with her eyes open, staring straight into his. “Oh, Jesus, Spike.”
“Keep going,” he urged her, and before she could blink he’d dragged her up the hard muscled length of him and slid her effortlessly onto his lap, replacing his fingers with his cock before she’d registered the loss. His hands clamped around her hips, lifting and settling her until she took up the rhythm herself. “There you go. Oh, bloody hell.”
It’s not size with a vampire, she thought fuzzily, still in free fall and only dimly aware of his hands on her breasts. It’s … endurance. Oh, Christ.
“There you go,” he was murmuring. “There you go, Buffy, there you go. You’re going to cut me in half, you’re so bloody tight. Oh, fuck. Fuckin’ A.”
“Kiss me,” she gasped. “Kiss me again. Please?” And then she was underneath him, and everybody stopped talking in favor of the Big Body Slam, the brutal strain and yearn and grind of raw elemental sex that didn’t change the fact that his lips on hers were unbearably tender.
Eventually, he shifted his weight to one side, for which she was grateful – even if he didn’t need to breathe, she did. Buffy reached down and flipped Grandma’s afghan over the two of them, and they lay companionably for a few minutes, listening to the light rain that had started sometime in the middle of their own personal storm. Finally, Spike broke the silence.
“Willow’s in the house,” he said. “Might be hard to explain in the morning. Do you want me to leave?”
Silence hung heavy in the room. Buffy felt him shift, as if he were about to get up. Oh, for God’s sake, Buffy, have some balls about this, she thought, suddenly irritable with herself, and grabbed his arm.
“No, of course not,” she said, and kept hanging on even though it was hard to meet his eyes. “Stay. Please. I want you to.”
“Right, then,” he said, and swept her back against him. In seconds, she was dreaming.
Continued in Chapter Two