Category: action, comedy, drama, a little light B/S flirting - the works
Characters: Spike, Buffy, Giles, and sundries
Spoilers: S5 (early)
Disclaimer: All characters from BtVS are owned by Joss Whedon etc etc
Summary: Spike crashes Buffy's yoga class, but gets more than he bargained for.
Author's note: OH MY GOD - I finished it. I have been working on this for absolutely ever and it's finally over!!! I only have time to write in the hour or so that my baby son sleeps during the day, so I hope it's comprehensible, and you'll have to forgive any spelling mistakes etc. This piece started out as a short story, and grew, and grew...to the point where I got totally sick of it, then it dragged me back in. So, at last, here it is, for your reading pleasure (or lack thereof). Write me if you like it, but don't expect a follow-up straight away - I think I'm going to have a little lie down now...
Copyright E. Marney 2001
At first glance, it looked rather like Cousin It was reading - the blonde curtain of hair obscuring the face, puddling over the pages of the overlarge book, hands up on either side of the head. The growling 'argh' noises.
Rupert Giles tilted his head and allowed himself a little smile.
"Er - perhaps you're trying a bit hard." His eyes narrowed. "I say, you're not chewing your hair again are you?"
With a melodramatic sigh, his student swept her hair up off her face and gave him a look of distaste.
"Maxi gross, Giles. Anyway, it gives you split ends."
"Mm. Well then, perhaps we could return to the text..."
Buffy crossed her eyes, then took in Giles' face. Her expression turned apologetic.
"Sorry - just can't seem to get this stuff stuck in my brain. I feel like I'm back in school learning trigonometry or something." She stretched and sighed again. " I still haven't even worked out all the characters' names..."
Giles pushed his glasses up and tried to look encouraging.
"As I said, Buffy, maybe you're trying a bit hard. The 'Mahabharata' isn't completely straightforward - it's a very old piece of religious history. It's less about the story than about the themes and understandings that the various scenes illustrate."
He looked up to confront her best blank stare.
He tried another tack.
"What I mean is, it's a bit like a fairy story or a fable - it's often meant to be metaphoric."
Buffy unkinked her neck and squared herself at the manuscript again.
"So...there's like, a moral at the end?"
"Sort of." Giles leaned forward in his chair, pushed his cup of tea to one side of the coffee table and angled the manuscript towards himself. They were hunkered down in Joyce's living room, an arrangement not only convenient but warm. Rain pelting the eaves outside made Buffy grateful for internal heating and the fuzzy throw rug over her knees. She gestured to the windows.
"God, I can't believe that English people put up with weather like this all the time. Why don't they just leave the country?"
"Actually, quite a lot of them do - hence me, here." Giles' glasses were balanced on his nose, and he glanced at Buffy meaningfully before returning his gaze to the text. "Now, sorry to distract you, but this piece here - where the Pandava brothers take refuge in the castle Maya..."
Buffy applied herself to the book again.
"So, what - they named their house?"
"Not really. Maya is the world - this reality, what we see around us. Except in Vedic philosophy this reality is only an illusion."
Buffy grimaced. "Oops - now you've lost me again."
Giles tried to explain. "Well, the yogis believe that this world is only a dream - that our attachment to it is what prevents us from seeing the reality of Brahman, the Universal Soul or God. Material possessions, wealth, our physical bodies - none of this is the truth."
"So...the only truth is God?"
"Basically yes." He raised his cup and took a quick sip of lukewarm tea. "If we seek to liberate ourselves from earthly things, to find God - or Brahman, or cosmic consciousness, or whatever you choose to call it - we have to reject the illusory nature of this world. We have to reject Maya."
His student frowned in confusion.
"But the Pandava guys take refuge in Maya."
"Well. they're rather like gods, and they're hiding from other gods, so they're trying to disguise themselves."
"Oookay." Buffy tried to look knowledgeable. "So...this world and human life are illusions, and illusion is bad, and that's the opposite of God-life, which is true and real..."
Giles nodded encouragingly. "Mm - you're getting the idea. But nothing is 'bad' - not even the illusion of this false world and the cycle of human life. In Upanishadic philosophy, everything is both good and bad - everything serves a purpose. Remember the god Krishna and the battle?"
Buffy nodded slowly. "..and he showed that guy what he looked like, and he was the whole spectrum from dark to light."
"Exactly. God is perfect balance. Only when our understanding of one or the other side of the spectrum is too predominant do we fall into confusion. What is it?"
Buffy's contemplative expression darkened. "I'm just thinking - that's what vampires are, right? The dark side of the spectrum."
Giles raised his eyebrows - she could be unerringly correct sometimes. "Yes - you've hit the nail on the head. Vampires chose the endless cycle of human life and death, called samsara, when they chose immortal life in this world. They reject real life and choose the illusion of life."
Buffy blinked her eyes to clear the visions of all the vamps she'd met and killed. And others she hadn't. "Mm." She shook herself out of it and looked out the windows. "Well, I guess I managed to work out the meaning of life before the rain stopped, huh?"
Giles looked up and sighed. "I think you could probably write your own book of philosophy before this rain ends." He took off his glasses, leaned back into his comfy chair. "I suppose I should contemplate going home. I think that's enough for one afternoon."
Bufy smiled and closed the giant manuscript with relief. "Hey, you don't have to rush off, you can wait out the rain here. I can make us hot chocolate. We have marshmallows - yum."
Giles met her smile with his own. He was always entertained by Buffy's split-second transitions - one moment voicing mature Slayer opinions, the next expressing an almost child-like enthusiasm. "Thank you. I'm very tempted, but I think I should go. I don't want to nod off on your mother's couch."
Buffy shrugged, to remind him that her mom was absent - and that, anyway, it wasn't like Joyce wasn't used to the Scoobies' odd ways. "In that case, I hope you've got your raincoat."
Giles rose and began gathering his stuff. "And you have yours, I trust. Is patrolling in this weather altogether wise?"
"If the vampires would just dissolve in the rain I wouldn't have a problem," she quipped.
'I was actually thinking more of non-magical things - pneumonia, for instance."
He looked concerned, so Buffy tried to reassure him. "I'll be fine, Giles." She assumed her best 'strong and confident' pose. "If I stay out too long the rain makes my hair frizz, so I'll just do a quick pass and call it a night. But I have my class first anyway."
"Ah yes - I'm glad you've taken my suggestion on that. Deborah is a good teacher, and it's good for your training."
Buffy looked at him slyly. "Yah - and Deborah's a sweetie, huh?"
Giles was too distracted to take her meaning. "Yes, she appears to be very centred. She's been training Iyengar style for some time now, apparently."
"Hm." Buffy nodded, and contemplated a bit of mischief. Matchmaking, she decided, was totally acceptable as long as no one tried it on her. And Giles was sooo in need of some female company. Deborah was single, cute, and eminently dateable. The whole thing just needed a bit of subtle direction -
"Now, contact me if you need any supplies for your patrols," Giles interrupted her train of thought. "I know you're running low on crossbow bolts and I've ordered some - they should be delivered to the shop on Tuesday."
"Oh, yeah. Sure."
"And, er, enjoy your class." He fumbled his coat, books, keys, and an au revoir wave as he bundled out the door.
"See ya." Buffy smiled; it always amazed her that her Watcher was such a sweet guy - but such an uber-nerd.
Then it was just her and the rain outside. She sighed - the house was incredibly quiet with her mom away. Joyce, with Dawn for company, had gone to LA to see a medical specialist. Buffy didn't want to think about it. She shook her head and stood abruptly - time to change for class.
Half an hour later, it was quarter to seven, the rain had eased, and the light was nearly gone. Buffy, rolled towel under one arm and black PVC raincoat folded over the other, was letting herself out of the house. She turned to leave the porch - and bumped straight into a lean, black-clad body.
"Goddamnit Spike!" She was angry at herself - she'd thought that the odd feeling in her stomach was a reaction to night falling and vamp time coming on.
"And hullo to you too." Spike did his best to look indignant, but couldn't sustain the effort, too pleased with himself for catching her off-guard. He leaned forward conspiratorially, rain sprinkling off his jacket. "You know, here's a tip - you're not going to be able to kill anybody with that old towel."
"Well, duh, Bleach Boy." Buffy rolled her eyes. "Maybe you noticed - not actually on patrol yet. But for you -" she smiled acidly, " - I'll make an exception."
Spike cast his blond head around at an invisible audience. "Ah, see how she thinks of me?" Then he snagged her disgusted stare again. "Ta, princess, but can we take a raincheck on that? Got stuff on - you know, evil things to do, diabolical schemes and all that."
Buffy gave him an extravagantly bored look. "So, this conversation - going where exactly?"
Spike had been looking rather chuffed with his own witty repartee, then remembered the reason he'd come over - to ask a favour. Now he had to do some fast backtracking without losing his cool. Bother.
"Well, er, actually I was hoping you could help me out with something. If it's not too much trouble."
Now his expression was grudgingly placatory. "I need to get some stuff from the magic shop and I was hoping you could help." He picked at his fingernails grimly - the whole situation was ridiculous, she wasn't going to help, and the entire thing was already making him feel...put upon.
Buffy, mouth open to rebuff, suddenly took in his dejected pose, and felt like she was the one being mean. Which was stupid. Why oh why, she thought, do I keep cutting this guy a break? This vamp, I mean. For some reason she had to keep reminding herself about that sometimes. It was like, sometimes Spike could be almost nice, and then he'd turn around and be such a pain in the ass. Which in a lot of ways was a very human trait. It made relating to him all the more confusing. She sighed.
"And why, exactly, can't you get this stuff yourself?"
Surprised to hear the note of conciliation in her voice, Spike looked up. "Well, er, I tried to go in, but it appears I've been barred. Old Tweedman seems to have magicked the place up the wazoo."
Buffy raised an eyebrow. "That wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that you've been sneaking in and stealing Old Tweedman's stuff, would it?"
Spike looked indignant. "It's not stealing - it's product liberation."
"Yah, right." Buffy cast her eyes heavenward, and sighed again. "Well, I might be able to help you -"
"Great!" Spike looked very pleased with himself.
"-but I can't do it just now. Can't I get whatever it is in the morning and give it to you tomorrow night?"
"Actually no." Spike's face fell. Then he tried his best pleading expression, which came out looking rather strained. "Can't you pick it up tonight? You've got a key..."
"Yeah, I do - but I have to patrol, and right now I have a class."
"No you don't. You're on holidays." He looked at her suspiciously, like she was trying to fob him off.
"Yes, Spike, I do - it's a yoga class. And if I don't get off this porch soon I'm gonna be late." She tried to angle around him and move off, but he kept getting in her way.
"Look, Slayer, I'll never say this again - please." Now his expression was positively pathetic.
Buffy tried to look stern. "Spike, I can help you, but not just now, okay?" She edged off the porch and down the steps with the disgruntled vampire trailing her.
"Come on, it'll only take a minute..."
She tried walking briskly. "Look, this class will be over in an hour and a half, so what do you need?"
"An hour and a half! Can't you leave halfway through or something?"
"No! What's the biggy anyway?" She looked at him warily. "What's this stuff for?"
He was matching her stride for stride, coat-tails swinging behind him. "If you must know, I need some ingredients for a spell." A grudging admission.
Her glance was curious. "Since when do you do magic stuff?"
Spike looked irritated. "Since every bloody demon in the Northern hemisphere found out where I live. They all keep showing up on the doorstep, saying they want to fight me." He rolled his eyes, and had to quicken his pace to catch up. "Apparently, I've become a popular challenge."
Buffy flashed him an impish look. "Gettin' a rep, huh?"
Spike made no attempt to look modest. "I've always had a rep, Slayer - you only just found about it." Then he sighed. "Anyway, it's becoming a bloody nuisance. And now they've started showing up during the day - and if it's alright with you, I'd sleep more soundly in the knowledge that I won't have a gaggle of try-hard demon wanna-be's breaking in and giving me a terminal suntan."
"I sympathize. Really."
"Hah bloody hah." Spike was almost loping now, and it felt like they'd traversed half of Sunnydale. "For bollocks sake, would you slow down?"
"Nope." Buffy stared ahead unrepentantly. "I told you I'll be late if I don't hurry."
They were almost there anyway - the Sunnydale Community Centre loomed up ahead. A squat, sprawling modern building, the large windows on the left were lit brightly from within. A few figures could still be seen wandering up the entrance ramp.
"So what is this, eh? Slayer Sewing Circle?"
"I told you, Spike, it's my yoga class." And this conversation, Buffy thought grimly, can be my warm-up, 'stay calm and relaxed' exercise. Deborah was always telling her that she needed to work on that.
"Oh yeah - I heard that people really go for that noncy New Age stuff in California." They were almost at the bottom of the ramp now, walking along the concrete path that led to it, and Spike was peering around at the participants of the class as they made their way inside. A slim blonde girl in a leotard top and trackpants seemed to have particularly grabbed his attention. Buffy noticed and stopped marching abruptly, and Spike walked straight into her.
She redirected his gaze, clicking her fingers in front of his face. "Earth to Spike - look, it's been fun chatting and all, but it's time for you to leave. Like, now."
His expression was miffed. "Well, I like that. 'Spike, you've been a complete gentleman, and now I'll be totally rude and tell you to sod off', is that it?" He eyed the blonde girl again and grinned slyly. "I might just stick around and join the class..."
Buffy's face changed to deadly. "You're kidding, right? Look, I said I'll get the stuff for you and I will, now GO."
"But I've got no other pressing engagements - I might feel like doing a spot of yogging, or whatever it is..."
"Absolutely not!" Buffy hissed. People walking up the ramp were watching them now. " Spike, if you don't leave before I count ten, I'll -"
"What? Stake me right here in front of the whole class? And how will you explain that? - 'oh, he just got enlightened and burst into ash'?"
Buffy looked like she was ready to unleash hell. "Spike, this is the last-"
"Hi, Buffy - did you bring a friend tonight?" It was Deborah, the instructor, standing at the top of the ramp and making her way towards them. She was a petite woman, in a dark top, sweatpants and jacket, with a long mass of curly red hair. Her face, with high cheekbones and a light dusting of freckles, was smiling warmly to include them both.
Buffy smiled tightly. "Oh hi Deborah. No actually, my friend was just -"
" - asking if it would be alright for me to join on such short notice." Spike had turned away from Buffy to face Deborah, smiling straight at her. Buffy looked at him aghast - then she noticed something else. Spike had lost his usual attitude of glowering menace. His eyes had locked onto Deborah's, and his face was open, relaxed, friendly; his body had straightened perceptibly, and there was something about him...it was as if the full force of his vampire charisma was emanating from him in waves. He looked - almost glowing, with vitality and energy, something Buffy had rarely seen, except perhaps at the height of their brawls. It was like a lightbulb had gone on inside him. Buffy had read about and had some first-hand experience of the vampire 'glamour', but was generally immune to it, and had certainly never seen Spike switch it on like this, to pass for human. Deborah seemed enchanted, and somewhere in her brain Buffy grudgingly registered that Spike looked sexy as hell.
"Well of course it's not short notice. New people are always welcome - I'm Deborah, by the way." The red-haired instructor looked pleased, almost a bit confused, and Buffy realised that Deborah had a vague sense of something being not quite right.
Spike extended his hand to shake. "And I'm William. Pleased to meet you - Buffy speaks very highly of you."
"Well, that's good to hear."
Buffy was staring daggers. "Actually 'William', I didn't think you were coming to the class. You're not quite dressed for it, are you?"
Spike ignored her, concentrating on Deborah. "I'm sure it'll be fine, won't it Deborah?"
The instructor perused his black outfit. "Well, I don't know about the jeans..."
"Oh, I'll be right - stretch denim, y'know, marvellous stuff. Modern technology, and all that -"
"Yes well, there's some spare training pants inside if you've come unprepared. You should come in though - I think it's time to get started." She turned and started heading up the ramp.
Spike's grin followed her, until Buffy grabbed his arm and pulled him around - hard. "What do you think you're doing? This is SO not happening -"
"Oh come on - what do you care? It'll be fun -"
"It most definitely will not be fun!" Buffy hissed. " I get a brief hour and a half of not-thinking-about-slaying time each week, and vamps are not welcome!"
Spike leaned down to her, their noses almost touching, his eyes shooting sparks. "Well, fortunately, it's not your welcome that I need." Then he spun around and loped up the ramp to the classroom.
Buffy stood fuming for a moment, watching him go. "I should have dusted him a long time ago..." Then there was nothing to do except follow his lead.
Inside, the room was lit warmly by lamps, and the smell of incense was strong. The floor, bare varnished timber glowing softly, was well occupied by about a dozen students of varying ages - Buffy recognized Sherri, a teenage girl in braids and glitter nailpolish, and Tony, an older man who sometimes assisted Deborah. The rest of the students, most of whom Buffy knew on a first-name basis, were arranging themselves and their mats at even distances around the room. There was no sign of Spike, so Buffy walked to the corner to collect her mat, and tried to find a position somewhere in the middle of the group, close to the wall. She set her things down, took off her sweater to reveal a leotard top and sweatpants, and assumed a crossed-leg position, closing her eyes and trying to calm down. How could she have let this happen? It was so like Spike - wangling his way into places where he wasn't welcome. She tried to breathe deeply and release some of the tension she felt, letting the soft background tabla music, and the sounds of people moving and talking quietly before class, wash over her. When she opened her eyes, she felt slightly better. And then she saw him - sitting in lotus position, elbow on one knee and hand propping up his chin, lazily perusing the room - about two mats distant, on the opposite side of the class. Right in her line of vision. She glared at him to console herself.
Spike ignored her, and stretched back on the mat, supported on his elbows. There was a guy with dreadlocks on his right, who looked like he was pretending to meditate, and a girl, with a long dark plait and a nosering, to his left. New Age hippies - good grief. He caught the girl's eye as she unfurled into a limbering-up posture.
"Nice ambience. This is a busy class, eh?"
"Yeah." The girl smiled and stretched her legs. "Deborah's a great teacher. This your first class?"
"Actually, yes. I'm a newbie." Spike grinned at the application of such a title to himself.
"Well I hope you like it. I'm Yensha." The girl extended her hand and Spike leaned over and shook it. "Your hands are cold - you should warm up a bit before we start. And, um, you might want to take your socks off."
"Oh yeah - right." Spike quickly divested himself of his socks, and tossed them on top of his duster, which was piled with his boots behind him. It felt a bit strange - no coat, no shoes, and the loose warmth of the black sweatpants instead of his usual jeans. He felt vaguely exposed. And all the humans - he hadn't socialized with them like this for a long time. The Bronze was different - it was a mixed crowd, and he didn't tend to go too much for chit-chat anyway. He looked around again and realized with surprise that, unlike most of Sunnyhell, this seemed to be a vamp-free zone. What the hell was he doing here? He'd started this mainly because he was bored, and it was so much fun teasing the Slayer. Now he felt rather out of place. He looked over at his nemesis, who was stretching over one leg. She was resolutely avoiding his gaze, and he realized that he'd done it again - pissed her off against his best interests. Still, she did look rather easy on the eyes in that leotard...
"Can everyone come into lotus please? I think we're running a bit over time, so I'll just do a short breathing exercise to begin." Deborah was at the front of the room, cross-legged on her mat. The class obediently folded itself up into meditation positions and quietened. "Okay - we'll start by taking deep, long breaths into the mid-section, and releasing slowly to the count of four. At your own pace, inhale..."
Buffy took a long breath, and released gradually. Behind her lashes she watched Spike faking it on the other side of the room. Nuts. Oh well, too late to worry about it now. She exhaled again to the count of "he'll-get-it-later", and started to feel a teensy bit more relaxed. At the moment Spike was behaving himself, and hopefully things would stay that way.
On the other mat, his eyes closed, Spike felt a little like he was hyperventilating. He'd forgotten that it took such an effort to breath - and the resultant assault on his heightened senses was overpowering. He could hear heartbeats, and peoples' breathing, heavy and deep. And the smells... He could smell the sweat of the people beside him, the tang of that little girl's nailpolish, the strong scent of the incense, a waft of deodorant - and the lilting smell of vanilla, which he knew was the Slayer. His nostrils flared. This was making him feel a bit dizzy. It took quite an effort of will not to surrender to the Change. He straightened, clamped his eyes shut, and concentrated hard.
"With each breath, you are becoming more relaxed, more focussed. Feel the rise and fall of your diaphragm - concentrate on your body's energy." Deborah's voice was low and hypnotic. "Now, please link your fingers out in front of you, and raise your arms above your head. With your final releasing breath, open out to the side. Very good. Alright, we're going to start with some floorwork, so keep your seat balanced, and fold down over your crossed legs to my count - one, two, three, four, five. And hold."
This was more like it - a bit of activity. Spike let himself flow into a deep bend and felt a satisfying stretch along his spine. The next sequence followed a pattern that the other students seemed familiar with - come up, extend one leg, stretch down; rise, change legs, stretch down; then both legs out, folding over, chin to knees. Hey, this was easy.
"Okay. Leave the right leg where it is, and grasp the big toe of your left leg in a pistol grip with the first fingers of your right hand. Now bend at the knee, lift you leg around your shoulder, and position your ankle behind your head."
Position your - hang on just a minute...
Buffy pretzeled herself into the posture - called "Eka Pada Sirsasana" - and was then at leisure to watch Spike struggle. For a dead guy, she thought, he was remarkably limber - just a little stiff in the hips. In his favour though, he did have that whole long'n'lean thing happening... Watching him tangle himself up into the left-leg position, she noticed that he was more flexible on one side than the other - something she filed for future reference. Never knew when such info would come in handy. It was always like that with Spike - yoga classes together one night, major fisticuffs the next. The thought made her giggle, and she nearly rolled over backwards by mistake.
Yeah, yeah - laugh all you want, bloody smartypants. The next posture, which involved balancing on one arm and one leg while extending the opposite leg over your shoulder, was equally difficult, and Spike was worried that he was going to break a sweat. Hm - that could be messy. It wasn't actually achieving the postures that was hard - it was holding them that got him undone. He let himself fall back onto his ass again, and then heard a soft voice behind him.
"Don't make such a struggle out of it. Just try and relax."
He looked about to see Yensha, balancing perfectly and extending one slim leg above her head. She didn't appear to be straining, had her eyes closed in fact, and was barely breathing hard. Spike cocked one eyebrow. "S'easy for you to say."
Yensha came out of the pose, like a spider repositioning itself. "No, it's not easy for me either. But I'm not at war with my body, which helps a lot." She smiled at him. "You need to relax, William - just concentrate on your breath and go with the flow."
Spike didn't think it was an opportune time to tell her about the general non-breathing situation. It didn't seem quite fair, however, that he should be at such a disadvantage - and to a bunch of humans. It was a bit more than his vampire pride could handle. He looked over at Deborah, who was demonstrating the next posture - another balance, called "Vasisthasana", which looked equally vile. Ah, bugger. Come on, this wasn't impossible. It really just required a bit more concentration...and a smidgin of inhuman agility. Spike shook out the tension in his shoulders and let his eyes lose their focus. This involved a delicate touch - to let the Change flow through him, allow it loosen his joints and heighten his awareness, without showing on his face. It required a certain strength of will. The familiar sensation of relinquishing a measure of control to the demon began to flow through his body; it felt hot and sweet, like brandy. Spike closed his eyes, revelling in the new energy, and began easing himself into the pose.
Buffy was concentrating hard on maintaining her balance when she sensed the tingle in her gut. She manoeuvered herself into a push-up position, then lowered to her knees as she looked around. There could only be one source - she narrowed her eyes at Spike, who appeared to be deeply involved in keeping one leg raised while balancing sideways on one arm and one foot. His eyes were closed, and his face was pale and intent. But no bumpiness. Strange.
"Congratulations everyone - you've all worked really well so far." Deborah was returning to her mat at the head of the class after assisting a few students with the last posture. "I'd like you all to lay down now in corpse pose, and take a few relaxing breaths before we start the next round of asanas."
Corpse pose - how appropriate. Well, it was a relief to play dead for a moment - he could do that without any trouble at all. But Spike was still feeling the intoxicating vamp-energy running through his system, like an electric current sizzling under his skin. Between that and the workout, he was almost fidgetting on his mat. Somewhere in the pit of his stomach though his instinct had flared - something felt strange. Something he'd missed...something he should remember...but he couldn't put a finger on it, he was concentrating too hard on keeping his human visage.
"Take a final breath, roll to your right, and sit up please." Deborah was standing now, and had laid a folded blanket to one side of her mat. "I'd like you to pair up for the next posture - we'll be doing a forearm balance and then, for those of you who'd like to attempt it, we'll be doing a new asana called 'Vrschikasana', the Scorpion. I'd like one person to try the pose, and their partner can spot them, and then switch over. Remember, just go to your limit, and use a blanket to cushion your head."
And now would be an excellent time for a little chat. Buffy snagged a blanket and marched over to Spike, who had just turned to the dark-haired girl to his left. She eased between them, maintaining a polite smile.
"Hi. Mind if I cut in?"
Spike raised an eyebrow. "Well, actually Yensha and I were -"
"Oh, but remember you promised you would help me with this?" She turned to Yensha with a sweet expression. "Really - he did promise. You don't mind do you?"
"Oh - sure." The dark girl looked almost disgruntled, but swallowed it. She had no lack of partners in any case.
"See - I even brought a blanket." Buffy grabbed Spike's arm and manoeuvered him back onto the mat. As she billowed the mat down one end, her voice became low enough for his ears only. "Laying it on a bit thick aren't we, William?"
"You can talk." Spike looked miffed at her abrupt disposal of his intended yoga partner.
"Yeah whatever. Nice pants."
They glared at each other for a moment, then Buffy remembered that they were supposed to be doing something. She knelt down on the mat and patted the blanket. "You first."
Spike just gave her a death stare.
Buffy sighed. "Oh come on - it's easy. Here." She pulled him down to face her. "Put your arms there and there, then go up on your head to start with."
Spike gave her a wary glance, then, with a quick look around the room, began following instructions. With a neat smooth lift he raised his legs, then concentrated on balancing on his head. It was comfortable enough, he discovered, for him to talk back. "You know, you don't have to be so snotty about things all the time. No reason why we can't be civil to each other occasionally."
Buffy was standing beside him, one hand near his ankles in case he tipped over - which was unlikely. "Yeah, well you started it."
"God, are we going to go over that again?" He was starting to overbalance, and flexed his biceps to correct.
Buffy sighed. "Oh forget it. I just - well, this is my only break-time, you know? Wait, don't tense up or you'll fall. Now lift your head off the mat, look forward, and start bringing your feet down backwards, towards your head."
"Give it up, Slayer - there's no R'n'R in the job, you should know that." Hang on - this required a bit more concentration. He grimaced with the effort of controlling the position. "Am I doing this right?"
Buffy was watching, fascinated, as the hem of his t-shirt rolled down to reveal a toned expanse of abdomen. "Hm? Oh, yeah. Now just keep your weight distributed evenly - use your shoulders."
Spike was focussing on the edge of the mat, feeling the strong stretch in his back and arms. Suddenly a pair of small feet came into view and he felt a light touch on one leg. He noticed, distractedly, that Buffy was wearing pale pink polish on her toenails.
"Okay - you've got it. Now come out slowly."
He unfurled gradually, going back the way he had come into the pose, until he was upright on his knees on the mat. "I don't know why you have this obsession with maintaining a 'normal' existence." Buffy dropped down in front of him. "Hate to be the one to break it to you pet, but Slayerdom and 'normal' just don't mix." He shrugged to soften the remark.
"Yeah, well, tell me about it." Buffy couldn't help looking a bit depressed at the whole idea. "But you know, you could be a little nicer...I don't know. Less..."
She made a face. "...annoying."
He grinned at her. "Well, where's the fun in that, eh?" He patted the blanket. "Your turn."
They swapped positions on the mat, and Buffy neatened her ponytail in preparation. Hands down on the blanket, she looked up at him suddenly. "Just remember Spike - you're here on my good graces, so behave." Then she tucked her head under and rose gracefully into a headstand.
"Yeah, yeah - I've been a good boy, haven't I?" It looked like she'd had plenty of practise at this, so Spike stayed on one knee, one hand ready in case she got the wobblies.
"Maybe - but don't tell me you haven't been tempted." Her voice was a little muffled, and from her position she couldn't see Spike checking her out, eyebrows raised appreciatively. Oh, he'd been tempted alright...he gave a low chuckle.
"Nothing." He tilted his head to watch as she began lowering her feet and arching her spine. "I said, 'maybe a bit'. Can't help my nature."
"Yeah right, I forgot - it's your dharma," she said sarcastically. She stopped talking to concentrate on her balance - one leg was a bit unstable. A little to the right... There - she could feel the tips of her toes touching her hair. Perfect.
Spike looked on admiringly. She really was pretty good, for a human. "I'm impressed, Slayer - truly. So what's your next trick?"
Buffy was feeling the strain now and shifted back into headstand, preparing to come down. She felt oddly pleased with the praise. "For my next trick, I - wait a sec. What was that?" The tingle in her stomach was back. She came down too quickly and lifted her head to stare at Spike.
"Hey - don't look at me!" He was standing with hands outspread, taken aback - and no game face. Then he straightened. She was right; that same sensation he'd felt earlier... They stared at each other.
"You felt it too -"
"- during the relaxation thingie, yeah. Only I thought it was me."
"I thought it was you too."
Buffy tried to settle her breathing around the flutters in her stomach. She looked around the class - Deborah was down the front on their left, helping Sherri. On their right, Yensha was perfecting her Scorpion pose, her dreadlocked partner standing to one side. But something was wrong...
"That girl -"
Then Spike felt the realization hit him - what he couldn't place before. "My name - Slayer, she knew my name. I never told her -"
They looked over at Yensha again, and Buffy worked out what was wrong with the picture. The girl was balanced evenly on her forearms, feet touching her head - and given support by another set of arms, which had grown out of her torso.
As they watched, yet another set of arms began emerging, splitting the fabric of the girl's leotard. And her skin was mottled - becoming nacreous, dark. Her body was changing...
Buffy and Spike exchanged a look. Trouble.
Around them, the class became aware of the creature metamorphosing in their midst. People began hastily backing away - someone let out a shriek. And all Buffy could think was - why now? why here? why ME?
But of course it wasn't her at all. The creature that had called itself Yensha, and now looked like nothing so much as a giant metal scorpion, swivelled its head in their direction. It's mouth split open into a sickening, impossibly-wide grin, leaking ikor onto the mat, and spat out a greeting.
"Well met, William."
"Oh great." Spike barely had time to roll his eyes before the thing reared up and lashed out towards him with the spiny appendage that it's legs had been. Mats, blankets, and students scattered. While Spike concentrated on jumping and retaliating, Buffy started pushing people out of the way, towards the door.
One of the people she was herding turned, and Buffy found herself face to face with Deborah. The red-haired yoga teacher looked completely flabbergasted - and not a little frightened.
"What on earth is this? Buffy -"
"Deborah, just get everyone out, okay? Let Spike and me deal."
"Spike..? I thought his name was 'William'? And what is this -"
Buffy cut in quickly. "Look, there's no time now, I'll explain later. Just keep everyone away. And if you really want to help, find Rupert Giles for me. Oh, and I'm really sorry about the class." Then she pushed the door of the room shut, and ran back to help Spike.
Which was no easy task, as it seemed that he was getting his butt kicked. The scorpion-thing had just cracked him across the face with one arm, then sent him sprawling halfway across the floor with another. Buffy hauled in, hoping for the element of surprise, with a series of kicks and punches. But the thing was fast, and hard - it was like punching iron. And all the damned arms - push one away, duck under another, and there was a third one taking a swing at you. Buffy felt a painful impact to her stomach and found herself rolling across the floor, to collide with Spike, just as he was getting up.
"What the hell is this thing?"
He still looked a little winded. "Katsu demon. Nasty - watch out for the tail, it's toxic." He shook his head. "Should have seen it coming..."
"You brought this to my yoga class! Spike, you -"
He gave her a look. "Yeah, look, can we skip the lecture and go straight to the 'kill the demon' bit? I - " He cut himself short to dodge a swing, and was then promptly blindsided into the wall by a powerful arm. The demon had moved up on them, and it looked like it had grown even larger. It reared up, and spread its arms, letting out a grating roar. What voice it had left was like the sound of fingernails on a blackboard.
"William the Bloody! Demon-killer - I challenge thee. Rise and fight!"
Spike had his head low, was still trying to shake the ringing out of his ears. He peered up at the demon, unimpressed. "Okay, enough with the 'thee-ing' and 'thou-ing' already." He straightened, squared his shoulders, and gazed up at the thing's mucus-dripping head. With a shiver, he let his game face take over. "Let's play."
Buffy watched as Spike turned into a blur of action, using the wall as a springboard to rain blows high to the demon's head, spinning and weaving to avoid the excess of arms, then trying a few well-placed kicks to its back. His attack was strong, but for all the good it was doing he may as well have been standing still. When he took another heavy blow to the chest, which snapped his head back like a rag doll, Buffy decided that it was time to even things up a little.
"Hey! Hey you - with the bad teeth. I knew you were too good for the intermediate class -"
It was enough to catch the Katsu demon's attention briefly, and gave Buffy the chance she needed. She threw a stray blanket over its head and upper arms, then aimed a bevy of punches at what looked like the soft underbelly. It was still kind of like punching wooden boards, but it seemed to have a little more give. Spike had recovered enough to take her lead - dashing in to kick deep into the thing's midsection, then jumping out of the way as it lashed out repeatedly with it's blade-tipped tail. They were thrown together briefly, between alternating attacks.
"This isn't working, Spike, it's too strong." For all her training, Buffy found herself breathless with effort.
"I know. We can't kill it like this - we're just pissing it off."
"So - what?"
He looked at her. "I need a weapon. A sword. It's the only thing that'll cut through its armour."
"And this sword is..?"
"..in the magic shop."
Buffy gave a long-suffering grimace. "Of course it is. Where else would it be?"
"Well I tried to tell you -" Spike was suddenly whacked hard in the back, which sent both him and Buffy sprawling.
This was getting out of hand - Buffy made an executive decision, hauled herself and Spike up, and pushed him towards the door.
"Go for the sword. Run. If I'm guessing right, this thing is going to go after you anyway, but I can buy you a bit of time."
Spike looked at her. "Buffy, you can't -"
"Just go! I'm only making a diversion - I'll follow you when the demon does."
Spike looked at Buffy, glanced at the oncoming demon, looked at Buffy again, torn - then nodded his agreement and bolted for the door. The Katsu demon reared up and shrieked as it watched its prey fleeing. Buffy turned to face it.
The creature's eyes, mere black slits, glistened in her direction. "This is not your concern, Vampire Slayer."
Buffy squared off, and took a fighting stance. "It is now." The she launched her attack.
Spike, meanwhile, was running his guts out. The dark streets were quiet - the sound of his bare feet slapping the damp asphalt was vaguely disconcerting. He'd felt bad leaving Buffy back at the community centre, but this was a better plan, he had to admit, than being batted around like some kiddie toy. He slowed, and glanced about to get his bearings. The Magic Box was close now. Buffy was good, but not that good - he didn't know how much time she'd bought him.
Not much, as it turned out. The whole 'full frontal assault' thing hadn't really worked for her - all she had to show for it were sore knuckles and some wild bruises. Now she was concentrating on keeping herself between the demon and the door. Which was proving to be a rather painful experience. The last blow caught her upside of her cheek; she grabbed the demon's arm, but there was another one there to whack her in the small of the back. Ow - totally not fair.
"I come here.." Punch "..for a little relief.." Whack "..from the usual routine.." Kick "..and what do I get?" Thump "..goddamn vamps and demons!" The last kick sent her off-balance, and skidding along the floor. Unfortunately, it was the break the creature needed - it blasted the door off its hinges with one powerful swipe of its tail and charged outside, skittering down the ramp past a handful of shrieking students.
"Oh boy." Buffy gave a quick sigh, then bolted after.
There it was. The picture window of the Magic Box loomed large, and Spike almost fell against it, trying to recover. He looked through the glass, and he could see it - that bloody Englishman had the sword on display, right there, up above the counter. The metal of the long blade gleamed tantalisingly. Now he just had to get in. He heaved his weight against the door, and the lock gave with a satisfying wrench, the door swinging back smoothly. Spike grinned, and pushed forward - and came up against an impenetrable, invisible barrier. His grin disappeared. He tried again - zero effect.
"No! No, no - not now. Come on -" He threw himself at the barrier a few more times, but he was just hurting his shoulder. His invite had been withdrawn, and he was stuck outside. He roared with frustration, and then let his head droop.
A strange chittering sound echoed behind him. He knew what it was - he raised his head, straightened and turned. The Katsu demon had risen to its full drooling height, and stood weaving back and forth like a cobra. It made a guttural clicking noise, having finally let go of its power of speech. Spike stepped away from the shopfront, and flexed his hands into fists. No allies, no weapons - no boots. He allowed himself a bitter smile. He always loved a good fair fight.
Buffy tumbled around the corner just in time to see Spike and the demon launch themselves at one another. The fight was expanding out into the street - Spike was using whatever he could lay his hands on as a weapon, and the Katsu demon had just blasted a metal garbage can into the air, making Buffy duck in a hurry. The ferocity between them was scary. Still, it wasn't exactly even-stevens - Spike seemed to be wearing a fair bit of punishment. He whirled into a combination of kicks and punches, then copped a blow which sent him tumbling into the gutter. There was no sign of the sword, Buffy noticed. She looked at the magic shop; the door was open, so why..? She gasped, belatedly remembering their conversation - 'Old Tweedman has magicked the place up the wazoo'. Spike couldn't get in. But she could.
"Buffy!" Spike saw her out of the corner of his eye, but he was too focussed on beating off the demon. It looked like she was heading for the shop, thank god, so he assumed that she'd worked out the problem. Good - he was too busy fighting for his life. A solid whack sent him off balance. Damn, this thing was really tenacious - and OW, that really hurt. He staggered back, his hand on his side. It felt sticky...with a sinking feeling he realized that the Katsu demon had taken a slice of him with its tail. So he now had a healthy dose of poison in his system. Well - this whole evening was turning out just super. He sighed, and ducked another swing.
Buffy edged around the two combatants, following the line of the alley wall, then ran for the door of the Magic Box. It was dark inside - she stumbled down the stairs and started looking around for anything resembling a sword. What if it was out the back? Giles had piles of junk everywhere out there, finding the sword could take all night. She cast her eyes over the displays of herbs, books and stuff dangling from the ceiling. The whole place was ordered chaos... Then she saw a glint of metal, up high. A long blade with a flat undecorated hilt. That could be it. She vaulted up onto the counter and reached for the sword. It was..just..there.. Her fingertips brushed the edges of it, and Buffy wished fervently that she was two inches taller.
"Can I help with that?"
"Argh! Giles don't do that!" Buffy recovered from her fright and craned her neck around to see her Watcher standing on the inside of the counter. He must have come in through the back.
"Here, let me." Giles pulled a stool over and stood on it to grasp the sword's hilt and pull it down. Buffy jumped off the counter. Great - the cavalry had arrived.
"So Deborah managed to find you?"
"Yes, she filled me in - large demon transforming in the middle of her class and so forth .."
"How did you know -"
"Well. I recognized her description of the demon, and then I just followed the, er, trail of destruction, as it were." He smiled - then they both turned at the sound of clattering rampage outside.
"You better give this -"
"- to Spike, yeah, good call." Buffy took the sword and hefted it into the air. "Hm - nice."
There was a yell from out front.
"Okay, give me a minute. "Buffy grinned at Giles, then ran towards the noise.
What the bloody hell was she doing in there? Making a sword from scratch? Spike dodged an arm, then tried a volley of return punches. The Katsu demon just shrieked and reared up. He didn't seem to be making much of an impression. He glanced around desperately for a weapon, anything, and saw a metal garbage can lid in the corner. He dived for it, and managed to get it up in front of him in time to deflect a lash from the demon's tail that would have split his face neatly down the middle. In fact it sliced an edge off the metal lid - his shield wasn't going to hold up much longer. Spike decided to go proactive, used the shield to heave forward and hopefully push the demon off balance. Unfortunately it didn't work. He found his own push returned, felt himself thrown backwards, and made painful contact with the alley wall. The next thrust saw him almost on his back, with nothing but a garbage can lid between him and a full weight of green-slime-drooling demon.
"Hey!" The sound of Buffy's voice made the Katsu demon look up briefly. But it wasn't going to be distracted now - it's prey was almost within it's grasp. Spike needed more than a diversion this time.
"Spike! - heads up." Buffy turned the sword, then laid it down and pushed it. It slid to within a few inches of his position - there for the taking. If he could reach it.
About bloody time. With an inhuman effort, Spike let out a roar and pushed the demon off him. Not enough to free himself - but enough to get one arm loose, reach down, and grab the hilt of the sword. He swiped at the demon awkwardly, but still managed to make contact with it's shoulder, and heard the blade sink through the demon's armour with a satisfying thunk. The creature screamed and rose abruptly, so abruptly that the sword hilt was nearly wrenched from his grasp. He tightened his grip though, pulled the sword free, and stumbled to his feet.
Now this was more like it. Spike twirled the blade in a short arc, to get a feel for it. But he didn't have time to fool around - not with the poison in him. He stood for a moment, sword in one hand, shield in the other, and let the demon enrage itself. The creature shrieked and charged him, and in a smooth series of practised moves he parried through it's midsection, stepped neatly to one side, and sliced it's head clean from it's body. Like a vamp getting dusted, the whole creature dissolved instantly into dark green slime before it even keeled over. The resultant column of mush splattered unpleasantly all over the place as it hit the asphalt.
"Ew." Buffy wrinkled her nose - well, that was pretty disgusting. She wandered over to Spike, who was looking kind of tired out. "Hey, nice sword-stylings there, Demon-killer."
"Ta." He tossed his garbage can lid away, and nudged the mossy puddle with one bare toe. "Bit of a mess, but it got the job done."
Buffy grimaced at the pile of slime. "I guess this is your basic bucket-and-mop type situation."
Spike glanced at her. "I'd be thinking more along the lines of a good hosing, actually." Then his hand went to his side, and he winced.
"Hey - are you okay?" Buffy looked at him, concerned.
"Feeling a bit wobbly." Spike took a step towards her, and his knees buckled. Buffy grabbed his arm quickly, and noticed the wet patch near his ribs. Her eyes went wide.
"Spike, you're bleeding."
"Yeah - and I really need a cigarette.." His face was turning ashen.
"Right, nicotine fix later - let's get you inside." Supporting him under one shoulder, and using the sword as a crutch, Buffy walked the vampire as rapidly as she could towards the shop. Giles was standing in the doorway.
"Are you alright? What happened?"
"I'm not sure. Help me get him inside."
Spike was feeling nauseous, but he could still manage a rejoinder. "Alternatively, I could just expire here on the steps."
"Oh yes - sorry. Spike, come inside."
Between the two of them they managed to man-handle the injured vampire into the shop, down the steps, and onto the research table. Spike held one hand to his side protectively, and leaned on his other arm. He was starting to shiver, which Buffy didn't think was such a great sign.
"Spike, move your hand and let me see..." She propped his protecting arm onto her shoulder to keep it out of the way, and lifted the hem of his t-shirt. There was an obvious rip in the fabric, which was now sodden, and a large gash stretching from under his ribs on one side, and curving up and around to just beneath his shoulder blade. Buffy winced at the sight of the wound - ugly. The bleeding had stopped, but the skin at the edges of the cut was fiery and infected-looking. It made a contrast to the rest of his paleness. Spike had closed his eyes, and winced and jerked back when she touched the wound. Altogether not good. Buffy's eyes narrowed.
"The demon got you with it's nasty little tail, didn't it?" she said. Spike just nodded, concentrating hard on not passing out. "Giles - Katsu poison. Know anything about it?"
Giles was peering at the wound with a frown. "Actually, yes. You know, I think I have something for that..." Then he turned and headed for the back of the shop.
Buffy moved Spike's arm to a more comfortable position on her shoulder, and tried giving him a cheery smile, which he was in too much pain to return. She put her supporting hand tentatively around the front of his waist, to help him balance on the table. "You know, you're lucky - you're probably in the only place in town with a remedy for Katsu poison."
"Great." Spike winced, and tried to lift his head. "What about my cigarette?" His grin looked distinctly lop-sided.
"Right, here we are." Giles had returned with a glass jar of weird-looking aqua coloured powder. "This has to be mixed up into a paste and applied to the wound. It should provide some relief, but he'll still be rather ill for a day or two."
"Fine. Let's do the pastey thing."
Giles frowned. "Well, normally it's mixed with holy water..."
Spike shuddered. "Yeah, well, I'd love to, but that stuff always makes me break out in a rash."
Buffy pursed her lips. "Better skip the holy water. Can we use normal water?"
"I suppose so, given the circumstances. Give me a moment." Giles disappeared again, and Buffy heard a clattering as he rummaged for utensils out the back. He returned with a shallow bowl and a small glass of water, and began mixing the remedy.
"Okay." Buffy scooped some of the blue-green goo up with her fingers, and looked at Spike. "Now hold on, cos I'm guessing this is going to hurt."
He nodded, and closed his eyes. Buffy took a breath, and smeared the mixture into the wound. Spike hissed in pain and grabbed hard onto the edge of the table. A second dose made him screw up his face and turn his head away. Giles took up support position, and when it became clear that the vampire was about to tip off the table, he settled him down onto one side. Buffy winced sympathetically, but continued smoothing paste into the wound until there was none left, then she covered the area with a clean cloth, and tied a neat bandage. Spike looked too out of it to care.
She wiped the stuff off her fingers and looked over at Giles. "Now what?"
"Er, I think that's all. He just needs rest. Buffy, what were you two -"
Buffy sighed. "Sorry Giles, but it's a long story - can we do it later? I guess we have to get him back to the crypt. He should be okay there." Then she thought of something else. "Or he will be...if you can help out with something."
Giles raised his eyebrows, then shrugged in baffled agreement. This evening had been strange already, he may as well add the finishing touches.
An hour later, Buffy was making Spike comfortable on the couch in his tomb. He still looked pretty average, but he seemed settled now. She could hear Giles speaking Latin outside as he circled the place with salt, mandrake, mistletoe, dragon's blood powder, and a few other goodies. It didn't hurt, and she did have Spike to thank for defeating the demon, after all. The demon that he'd brought to Sunnydale and... oh, whatever. She was too tired to care. She positioned a chair next to the couch, and laid out some bits and pieces she'd managed to get for him - a packet of blood from the hospital, a mini-bar bottle of bourbon, the tv remote, and a pack of Morleys. She'd rescued his boots and duster too; she piled them at the foot of the couch.
That was it, then. She glanced around and picked up her coat, and Giles'. Time to go.
"Hey - Slayer." His voice was muffled, but Spike's eyes were open - blearily. Buffy walked over and folded a corner of the blanket back from his face. Spike's grin was wan, but had a trace of his usual spark. "You can come and clean up here every week if you like."
"Yeah, you wish." Buffy made a bemused face. "If you can still make wisecracks I guess you'll pull through okay."
"Might even make it to the next yoga class." Spike said weakly.
Buffy gave him a look. "Don't get me started... Gotta go now - see you round, I guess." She hefted the coats and headed for the door.
"Buffy - thanks."
She turned around, and saw Spike, propping himself up. They smiled at each other, but it was over in an instant. Then Buffy nodded her acknowledgment, and walked out the door.