By Carolyn Claire
Nights are long and dark and a little creepy on the Hellmouth - especially when you're a slayer.
Many thanks to Julia for invaluable beta assistance
It felt amazing, even sensual, letting the hot water cascade down her body, sluicing away dirt and sweat from workouts in the back yard, tension and tightness from worry and planning. She leaned forward a little, palms flat against the cool tile, and raised her chin, tilting her head back to let the sharp needles of spray sting her neck, her shoulders, the tops of her breasts. Heaven--or, at least, as close as she got to it lately. Blinking a little in the mist, she looked up speculatively at the showerhead--a deluxe, handheld Waterpik 6+ model with eight different paths to enchantment on its dial. She called the 'pulsating' nozzle 'Ramon'. But not tonight. Tonight she was too tired, too distracted by the weight of responsibility that wouldn't rinse off her slender shoulders. And, sometimes, at this time of night, especially at this time of night, she could be interrupted by--
"Feel good, pet?"
--that voice. Even now, so long after the fact, she felt goosebumps prickle at the combination of that voice and this room. A chill went through her, though the hot water continued to flow, unabated.
"Scrub your back, maybe?" She could hear the sneer in his voice, dripping honey and sarcasm, as she reached to turn off the spray, all pleasure in her brief, solitary moment spoiled. She squeezed the water out of her hair, then paused, took a slow breath, and snapped the shower curtain back.
He was leaning against the sink, naked, of course--he was always naked, in here--his arms crossed nonchalantly over his chest. He looked her up and down slowly, knowingly, leering at her like a customer at a peep show.
She glanced down at herself quickly, then straight up into his eyes--defiant, cool. "See anything new since last time?"
"Oh, you'd be surprised at what I've seen." He snickered, a dirty, ugly sound. Disgust rippled through her at the images his words brought to mind--an evil voyeur, her least guarded, most intimate moments; she quickly cut that thought off at the knees.
She stepped out onto the bath mat, jaw tight, chin lifted a little, and gestured toward the folded towel on the counter next to his bare hip. "If you're not busy doing anything important--and you're not--would you mind handing me that towel? Oh, wait," she smirked, "you can't."
"Afraid you'll have to come and get it yourself, love," he drawled, unfazed, and reached down to touch his rapidly filling erection. He stroked himself slowly, laughing low, as Buffy approached and resolutely did not snatch the towel quickly off the counter, but, instead, picked it up, shook it out, and wrapped it casually around herself as though the source of all evil weren't touching itself lewdly in her bathroom while staring at her wet, nude body.
She returned his head-to-toe, assessing look and sneered a little, openly unimpressed. "Well, gee, it's been swell, let's not do it again sometime. Bye." She picked up a hairbrush from the tangle by the sink, turned her back on the leering apparition, and walked away to sit on the closed toilet lid and brush her hair.
He grinned. "Oh, you don't want me to go." She didn't look at him. "You know you don't. Not me. Not the man of your dreams."
Buffy looked up at that, eyes wide and incredulous, and he laughed. She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Oh, please. The what? In your dreams."
"No, in yours, pet. Time you faced that--long past time." He walked toward her slowly, his hand working himself faster now, pulling in earnest. "What have I been telling you? I'm what you want. I'm what you look for in your men, what draws you to them--the darkness, the danger, the thrill that makes you wet, makes your insides ache." He stopped in front of her, the red, swollen head almost at her eye level, impossible not to look at. He was breathing hard now, panting the way neither he nor Spike needed to, eyes glazing over, mouth dropping open a little. "It's me you've been fucking, me you can't wait to get your hands on again. I'm here, love. You can have me. I could make it so easy...." He gasped, and his hips jerked forward, white bursts of phantom ejaculate arcing toward Buffy sitting frozen, horrified.
She broke, bolted up and through his insubstantial form and, fumbling a little with the lock before dropping the hairbrush, through the bathroom door. Towel clutched tightly around her, she turned toward her room, hesitated and finally ran for the stairs. On silent cat feet, she sped down and around the corner, through the dining room and kitchen to the basement door, slipped through and closed it softly behind her. Gasping, she stood there for a moment on the top step, shaking, heart pattering, stomach doing flip-flops of revulsion that made her breath come even faster.
It wasn't real, and yet it was. No threat to her in its incorporeal form, and yet it threatened everything she loved, everything alive. And it came to her as Spike, over and over again--in the kitchen, in her bedroom, and, most awfully, in the bathroom, where she still had to think clean, busy thoughts to keep her mind off the past, where she couldn't help remembering. It was tempting some nights to forgo the pleasures of hot water and cleanliness and privacy when that thing might be on the other side of the curtain, leering, waiting, calling out to her with--
--that voice, the one she most wanted, and hated, to hear. A soft scuffle of sheets from downstairs, and then, more loudly, "Buffy? Are you all right?"
She stepped slowly, lightly, down a few stairs and half-knelt to see down into the basement. He was leaning up a little, shirtless, sheets falling in ripples around his lower body, looking up at her. His skin was pale in the light through the little transom window--probably streetlight, too late for moonlight--and his eyes were shadowed, though they shone a little as he moved.
She descended a few more steps. "I'm, I'm okay. I just wanted...." She stopped, not knowing what she wanted.
He sat up a little straighter. "Something happen?" She could see his worried frown now, as she got a little nearer, as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. His voice was so warm and concerned, so different from the thing's upstairs and, yet, so much the same.
"No. Nothing important." She became suddenly aware of the towel she was wearing, and the clothing she wasn't, and blushed. "Just wanted to...check. On things. Down here."
"In a towel?" She couldn't tell from his voice if he was more confused or amused. She walked the rest of the way down the stairs, feeling silly, and watched him watching her.
"It was handy. Could I, um, sit here, with you, just for a little while?" She regretted it the moment she asked but couldn't face the thought of going back upstairs just yet. There was still her bedroom. She shivered a little as she perched on the edge of his bed.
Spike seemed to see it. "Of course. Here." He pulled the sheets a little more tightly around himself and reached toward his feet for a blanket. It occurred to her then that he was as naked under his sheet as she was under her towel, and her heart rate spiked again, just for a moment.
He turned back to her with the blanket in both hands and wrapped it around her, frowning. "You had a visit."
She nodded. "Yeah."
"What as, this time?"
She shook her head and sighed. "You so don't want to know."
He searched her face, still frowning, concerned, but he didn't ask. "Bastard's cunning like that, knows just what will get to a person. Disturbing."
She nodded. "I guess. More like annoying, really." She sighed and shifted, a little uncomfortable, and a trickle of cold water dribbled from her half-brushed hair, down her back and onto the edge of the blanket.
"Picks its moments, too, doesn't it?" He half-smiled at her wet, tousled head.
She imagined what she must look like and grinned a little as she touched her tangled hair. "Think I'll start a trend?"
"Undoubtedly. Towel?" She blinked at him for a moment and then, realizing what he meant, looked down and tugged one end of her towel free from under the blanket. He reached in carefully, gently, took the offered corner in one hand and, as she held firmly onto the blanket, slipped the damp towel free from beneath it. The soft, nubby terrycloth slid across her bare skin in a rough caress, and a bloom of heat rushed lightly up from her chest. She looked down again, a little flustered, and readjusted her blanket, then jumped almost imperceptibly when she felt him pick up a handful of her hair and began to rub it with the towel. He stilled, waiting. After a few seconds, she gave a tiny nod, and he resumed drying her hair, toweling it with gentle strokes and brisk rubs as she sat motionless on the edge of his bed and stared at the opposite wall.
He cleared his throat. "Not doing much for the do, here. I have a comb, somewhere...."
She smiled. "Never mind, s'okay."
He talked as he worked, inconsequential things meant to reassure her, keep the moment light. She didn't really listen, but instead just let the cadence of his voice, the gentle, melodious rise and fall, the lilt of his accent, wash over and past her like background music. The rubbing became massage-like, and she relaxed into it a little, enjoying some human contact, even through a towel, even from non-human hands. She was touched so infrequently these days, hugged so seldom, caressed, never. She had forgotten about touch, somehow, had put its healing power out of her mind, not let herself think about how human it was to need it, want it, how necessary it was to anyone's wellbeing, to hers. She warmed and softened, her eyes dropping to half-mast as endorphins danced through her system. So good, touch. So sorry when it stopped.
"That's better." Spike released her hair, letting it fall back softly onto her shoulders as he pulled his hands away. He looked around, at a loss, damp towel held awkwardly, obviously unwilling to stand and find a place to put it. Seeing Buffy's hand reaching toward him, he handed her the soggy cloth, then looked into her face and stilled. Her gaze meshed with his, her eyes drowsy, unblinking, as she passed the towel into her other hand and dropped it negligently onto the floor behind her.
Spike opened his mouth, closed it, tried again. "Buffy, I didn't mean to--"
"I know you didn't."
He was close, just inches from her shoulder, and she could feel his breath, the breath he didn't need, tickling her skin. He'd forget, when he became emotional, angry, excited, that he didn't need to breathe. She leaned in a little closer and reached to touch his hair, trailed her fingers down the side of his face, his neck, onto his shoulder. She kept her touch light, tickling, the way his breath touched her, as she slipped her hand behind his neck and pulled him toward her, just a little--gently enough that he could easily disregard it, or pull back, even, if he needed to.
He didn't. "Buffy," he whispered, concerned, hesitant, but wanting her, too. She could hear it, see it. "This isn't--"
"It isn't." She looked into his wide eyes. "Please."
"Buffy," sighed against her lips, yielding, soft as his kiss, melting and deepening as he slid both arms around her, pulling her close. She moaned a little at his touch, grasped him fiercely as she opened her mouth under his, turning them together and pulling him down on top of her. With one hand, she pulled the blanket free from between them, her fingers skimming over his skin, her feet slipping under the sheet, sliding it away as she twined her legs with his. His touch made her dizzy, left her skin singing like a high-tension wire as it satisfied its touch-hunger against his. And his voice, she was surrounded by his voice--murmured in her ear, licked across her mouth, breathed over her body like song, like prayer, saying her name, saying things that healed her more completely than even touch could. His voice--
"That's it pet, just like that. You know how I like it."
--growled from near the stairs, hard and cold and dirty, everything she didn't want, knew she didn't want, could never want. She squeezed her eyes shut, squeezed Spike a little too hard. He tried to raise his head and look into her face, but she wouldn't let him.
"What is it, love?" Concerned, caring, so warm.
"Don't, don't stop. Just...talk to me. Talk to me," she whispered, and hid her face in his shoulder.