By Jane Davitt
Part of The Sense Series
Buffy gasped for breath as the rain saturated the air around her. Water clogged clothes pulled at her, weighing her down with invisible hands. Strands of hair were plastered across her face and she clawed at them, spinning around to get her bearings in a world that contained nothing familiar.
As though taking pity on her plight, a bolt of lightening struck, and for a second the night became day, an eerie day with strange shadows and starkly lit shapes of tombs and trees. Buffy knew where she was now. The darkness returned and she turned, slowly, reluctantly, to look at the crypt that lay a short distance behind her. The door was open and a figure stood, silhouetted against a soft glow, leaning casually against the wall.
"Always said you didn't have enough sense to come in out of the rain, Slayer." She stood still, a pitiful, bedraggled sight, and his mocking tone softened. "Oh, get in here before you drown and I have to give you the kiss of life."
"You can't," she retorted, beginning to splash towards him, resigned to the fact that any port in a storm was more than just a saying on a night like this. "Vampire, remember?"
"Well, I could just kiss you then," offered Spike as she came level with him.
Without hesitation, her hand flashed up to punch him. He moved faster than she had thought possible and her fist smacked against his open palm instead of his nose. He closed his hand around hers for a moment and then released it, waving her into his home with a sardonic smile on his face.
Buffy stepped inside, water pooling around her as soon as she stood still. Spike pushed the door shut and looked at her. She was shivering but he could tell that she was thinking about something. Glancing up at him she said, "You could block me any time I hit you. Why do you let me hurt you so often?"
His lips twitched in a rueful smile. Taken her long enough to figure it out, but now it had happened he almost wished he'd let her hit him as usual. "I couldn't always move fast enough. You are the Slayer, after all. But, yeah, sometimes, I just let you."
Her mouth twisted in disbelief and she frowned. "I don't get it."
"You'll catch your death standing there in wet clothes," he said, avoiding her question. "I'll get you something to change into."
"If you think I'm stripping off in front of you, you must be mad."
Spike allowed himself a brief, shining vision of Buffy doing just that, her lithe body revealed in a series of tantalisingly slow movements as she peeled the wet clothes away. Shaking his head to dispel the image he shrugged. "Suit yourself. Just don't get offended if I don't ask you to sit down. Place is a mess, I grant you, but it's a dry hovel." He glanced at the puddle around her feet and added, "Mostly."
He sauntered away to his chair and threw himself down, long legs hooked over the arm of the chair, the warm candlelight turning his hair to burnished gold. Buffy swallowed, the clothes a clammy unwelcome presence.
"Spike?" she ventured.
"Towel would be nice. If it's not too much bother." She couldn't help the edge that crept into the last words. A trickle of moisture had just run the length of her spine and it reminded her of the time a bug had crept inside her shirt and driven her to hysterical yelping as she tried to shake it out.
Spike stood and walked away from her, climbing down into the room that lay beneath the crypt. Buffy waited, not wanting to track water over the floor. Joyce had let her get away with a lot but bad manners weren't on the list. Spike wasn't gone long but he was empty handed when he returned. He wandered back to his chair, after flicking on the television, and said casually, "Down you go. Should be something there that fits." He arched an eyebrow at her. "Go on then, I won't peek." His face became serious. "I promise."
Buffy stripped off her coat and shoes, leaving them by the door. She gave him a suspicious look as she squelched past but his eyes were fixed on the television screen and he ignored her.
She hadn't been in this room for months. She looked around curiously. A bed filled most of the space, pillows heaped at the top, still holding the shape of his head. It was covered with a thick red quilt that looked as if he'd hastily spread it flat while she waited. She smiled at the thought of Spike tidying up for his unexpected visitor. A table held a small collection of books but her eyes were drawn to the upright wooden chair in the corner. A towel. A thick, fluffy towel. She picked it up and began to rub at her hair and then paused, looking at what lay beneath the towel. Was he serious?
Spike's fingers were drumming on his knee nervously. He had muted the television, unable to bear its clamouring inanities. He had promised not to look and he didn't intend to break that promise, but he could hear her movements and imagination supplied what vision could not. A few yards away, Buffy was in his bedroom getting undressed. That was enough to make every sense heighten, every inch of his skin tingle with anticipation. From the moment he had seen her, standing there, sleek and soaked, he had been hard. He was aching now, a relentless throbbing that drove him like a whip. His teeth bit down on his lip, the pain distracting him from his thoughts. Striving for a measure of calm, he found instead that his fingers had moved to the source of his discomfort and were stroking it rhythmically. Cursing, he stood up and froze. Buffy was in front of him, damp hair tucked behind her small ears, wearing what he had left for her. She was flushed and a pulse beat fast in the hollow of her throat.
"I assumed, I mean, if you don't mind me borrowing them -" she said.
Spike swallowed. She was wearing his clothes and she had never looked so desirable. The black t shirt clung to her curves, the cool air of the crypt making her nipples erect, clearly visible through the thin cotton. His red shirt hung down in graceful folds, framing her body, the scarlet matching her lips. She had rolled up the sleeves and her wrists looked deceptively fragile and delicate against the wide cuffs. His black jeans were too big. They had slid down until her hips caught them and he caught a glimpse of her stomach as she raised her hand to her hair, fretting over the tangles. Her flesh looked warm and soft, as soft as a kitten's stomach and he wanted to touch and taste her, craving it, thirsting for her.
"You're welcome," he said huskily.
Buffy looked at him doubtfully, wondering if he was laughing at her. She supposed she looked ridiculous in his clothes but she couldn't have stayed in her wet things a moment longer. She breathed in deeply and realised that the clothes hadn't been laundered. She didn't know how many clothes Spike owned, but these were fresh from him, redolent with a scent of leather and well, Spike. Not smoke - he seemed to have stopped smoking now - and not sweat, as vampires didn't. It was a comforting, reassuring smell but why had he -?
Suspicion flared and she walked to him, grabbing a fistful of his shirt and sniffing it. It smelled of fabric softener.
"Tell me that you didn't just get changed and let me put on your old clothes?" she demanded.
He gulped, looking down into her furious eyes. "Thought they'd be warmer," he said weakly. "Body heat and all that."
She slid her hand up inside his shirt, laying her palm flat against his chest. Spike gasped with shock and arousal so sharp that it was painful. "News flash," she whispered, eyes glittering. "You don't have any heat."
His eyes narrowed and his lips thinned as instinct took over, quenching caution. "Care to wager on that?" he whispered back.
Buffy snatched her hand away as she realised what she'd done. Spike could feel the imprint of every finger on his chest. He wondered hazily if she had branded him as a cross would have done, if he would find her mark on him when he stripped to sleep. His hand swept around in a lazy arc to capture her trespassing fingers and she stood very still as he brought them to his lips and paused. She expected him to kiss them but he brought them to his cool cheek, letting them rest there.
"You warm me," he said with devastating simplicity. "Like stepping into the heart of the sun when I'm this close to you. Pain and death for us but we hunger for it."
Buffy stared at him, her fingers held gently against the sculptured contours of his face. "Fine," she said. "I'm a human hot water bottle but I still want answers."
He flinched as her sharp words shattered the moment and she felt a pang of guilt. Then she realised that her bare flesh - her undies had been soaked - was next to fabric that a few moments ago had been rubbing against him, and outrage mingled with arousal.
"Why the clothes? Why the hitting?" she demanded, her words harsh as she struggled to keep calm.
"You really want to know, Slayer?" he said, his voice rising. He turned and walked away from her, leaning up against the wall, his face shadowed. She reached out as though protesting the distance between them and then let her hand fall to her side. He carried on, his voice full of bitter self mockery. "I let you hit me because you can only do it when you're close to me. It's worth it just to feel you make contact, if only for a second." He pushed away from the stone and walked towards her again, the familiar, hip rolling slouch of the Big Bad, his face hard, his mouth sneering. "You know that, too. You hit me for no reason, no provocation. You like to feel your hands on me."
"No!" she protested, holding her position as he came close, refusing to back away. "I hit you because you deserve it."
"You hit every boy who asks to kiss you, Slayer? No wonder they're not exactly hammering down the door to ask you out."
Her eyes closed to hide the hurt that swept through her and he felt a savage joy that he knew her well enough to be able to sense her vulnerabilities, followed by shame that he couldn't resist exploiting them.
"And the clothes," she said quietly, raising her eyes to his unflinchingly.
He admired her courage and her stubbornness and rewarded her with the truth. "I want your scent on them. I want you to smell of me. When you're gone and I put them on, it'll be as though you're holding me, touching me. It's not much, but a little of you goes an awfully long way, Buffy."
She rubbed her arms, her face a mixture of distaste and desire. "That sounds kind of weird, Spike."
"But it's got you all hot and bothered, hasn't it, now? You ever think about what comes with the vampire package? Ever really think about what enhanced senses mean? No, 'course not. All you care about is the spot marked 'X'."
"That's my job!" she replied, stung by his words.
"Well, when you're hunting, you need to know your prey. I know your scent; I could pick it out of a hundred people, a thousand. You wear perfume sometimes and it cloaks it, but tonight, fresh from the rain, it's all I can do to keep my hands off you." He took hold of the t shirt she was wearing, and brought a fistful of soft fabric to her face, baring her stomach as he did so. "Breathe in, Slayer. Recognise it? That's the scent of your target. Know it. Remember it. When you lie down to sleep tonight, don't shower first. Sleep with my scent on you."
Her hand folded over his and wrenched it away. She was breathing deeply, raggedly and her eyes were glazed. "I will not be marked by you," she said through gritted teeth.
"Then go home and lather up, sweetheart. Wash me off you, scrub that soft skin rosy until you're all squeaky clean - but next time you get close to me, you'll remember this smell. You and me. Together. Smells sweet, doesn't it?"
She shook her head slowly, sadly. "I can't do this, Spike," she whispered. "I just can't keep on -" She turned and ran to the door, pulling on her boots and grabbing her coat. Spike watched her go, hope on his face. He had caught her last words, breathed rather than spoken.
"I just can't keep on pushing you away."
When he woke the next evening and wandered upstairs, he found that she had collected the damp clothes he had left near the door. In their place were his clothes, neatly folded. He picked them up, expecting them to reek of detergent. His eyebrows rose as he realised that her scent lay thickly on them still. He picked each garment up and finally held the black t shirt to his face. It had to be his imagination but it still felt warm.
"I slept in it," said a voice. He turned and saw Buffy standing behind him in the shadows. "And then I brought them back with me still in them."
"And that would be why you're standing there stark naked, would it?"
"Can you think of another explanation?"
He was moving towards her now, eyes gleaming, busy hands stripping off his own clothes as he walked. By the time he reached her, he was down to his jeans. By the time they made it to the bed, the only thing he was wearing was her.