All About Spike

The Perfume of Kismet
By Gwyneth Rhys

It's the seedy diners Spike likes best. Open later, fewer people in the wee hours, and the waitresses, the fry cooks, and all the rest of the lowlife nightlife have more meat on their bones. Always makes for a good dessert after the meal. Every city has lovely greasy spoons, but Los Angeles... Los Angeles is his favorite when he wants to slum it. Better than New York, because in LA they eschew the pretentiousness of uptown hipster chic and stay true to their scummy roots. Except for the Hollywood types, that is. The places the cognoscenti make trendy, well, that's another matter entirely. Spike avoids those because it's too easy to be noticed.

He doesn't come to LA often enough. Such a sweepingly huge city, so anonymous and with so many places to wander and feed, to hide. To just lose himself and forget, if there's something to forget. Not the busy, closed-in way New York feels. After all, New York is an underworld paradise. Competition there is rough. In LA, vampires are figurative, so the real ones are kings of all they survey.

As Spike walks around a corner, spying the run-down café he's looking for, he hears commotion in the nearby alley. It could be just a simple mugging, in which case he can eat both the victim and the perpetrator. Ah, but then he'd ruin his appetite for chicken-fried steak, pancakes, and eggs. Or maybe it's demons, in which case he can always have a spot of violence in a well-matched fight. Those lovely people at Wolfram & Hart had given him the skinny about LA's rather diverse demon population. A lot of fun could be had for a bloke like him. Spike saunters over to the alley with a spring in his step.

He liked them, those lawyery types. Surprising, really, but they had a sort of verve he appreciated, an unapologetic glee at their own evilness. After everything he'd been through in Sunnydale, it was refreshing to experience such unabashed wickedness. And of course it's always nice to have your way paid in full. The Lilah bird... a nice piece of work, that; he could sink his fangs and his dick into her. He has a feeling she wouldn't mind a bit. Maybe even more fun would be that precious little gem called Lindsey. Mmm mmm. Spike imagines Lindsey has depths of depravity he hasn't even begun to plumb. But later, later. Once he's put a little distance between them and him, so they won't retract their payment schedule.

In the alley are two meorea demons going to town on some helpless little human. He tries to decide whether he should join in the fun, but then he gets a glimpse of just what the demons are attacking -- a tiny blonde he'd never thought to see again anywhere, least of all here. And she is not fighting back. Not giving in, either, but simply struggling against them, showing no trace of her power. Spike pivots to land a kick on one demon, but decides at the last minute not to. These things, if he recalls correctly, have some very nasty tarsal pincers on them, pincers with paralyzing venom that immobilizes their victims so they can suck the bones out. Really not what he wants right now. Spike wonders what that venom would do to someone with slayer strength. Should he wait and see? But she looks so helpless. This shouldn't hit his soft spot, but concern worms its way under his skin; he reluctantly shoves forward and dodges one of the demons, then grabs her hand.

Buffy doesn't move, though. She's probably more stunned at seeing his face than by the blows the meoreas have landed on her. There's a mark on her chest that shows she's been nicked by a pincer; suddenly she wobbles. Just as Spike starts to say something, Buffy faints. Slinging her over his shoulder, he makes a run for it, the meoreas hot on his heels. But they lumber and are no match for Spike's speed, even laden with an unconscious slayer. It's not like bringing a zonked-out girl back to the Chateau Marmont, however, would be even remotely out of place, so he doesn't bother to try to wake her up.

Slayer strength apparently doesn't help her get through the effects of the venom any faster. He watches Buffy as she sleeps. It would be so easy to kill her now or to drink until she's incapacitated, then feed off her until he tires of it. Fuck and feed forever. Slayer blood is a cocktail unlike any other. Yet curiously, he can't bring himself to do it. For a reason he can't pinpoint it's far more fascinating to watch her. He'd taken off her wretched waitress uniform when they arrived and sent it to be cleaned; dressed her in a t-shirt he'd called down to the desk for. Then he'd called Wolfram & Hart to see just how long this lovely expense account would run, ask a few questions about the events without giving too much away. Lindsey was so terribly helpful. If they won't continue to pay for his luxury stay, then he'll just kill one of the neighboring guests and run it up on their account, so not really a problem. Spike truly loves this life.

Finally Buffy wakes, startled. Immediately she tries to leap out of bed but can't, still immobilized by the venom. "Eehhhhh," she groans, putting her hand to her head. Then she spies him across the room and tries to leap out again.

"Trust me on this, third time won't be the charm," Spike says quietly.

"Wha--" It's as if she can't get her mouth to move.

"Just relax. It's all right." Of course, she would never do that. Poor thing must be terrified right now. He inhales the air with relish.

"How did I... what am I doing here?" Her voice is like sandpaper, all gritty whispers and wheezing breaths.

"Rescued the damsel in distress."

"Why?" Buffy snaps.

"Oh, well, you're welcome." He makes his most hurt face.

She closes her eyes, "You know what I mean. Why would you rescue me?"

"Just seemed the thing to do at the time. Say, do tell -- why are you in LA, and why are you working at a seedy diner in the bad part of town? I'm sure it's a must-hear tale."

Patting her hands over her body, she panics. "You took my clothes off, you bastard."

"Ah, don't worry, your virtue's still intact. Didn't even hardly glance."

"Why can't I move?" All she can do is stare up at the ceiling, her voice that raspy monotone.

Lighting a cigarette, Spike chuckles a little under the drag. "Nasty venom in those meorea pincers. You got a tiny taste of it. Would have thought you'd get over it faster than the average bint, but apparently not."

"And you just happened to be there, is that it?"

"Actually, I was on the way to dinner." That was met with a scowl. "Oh, not that kind of dinner. Keep your knickers on. Dinner at what I would guess," he tosses her name tag on the bed by her shoulder, "would be your cafe, Anne."

Buffy stares listlessly at the tag, her eyes filled with a quiet agony. The corners of her mouth turn down, and for a moment Spike thinks she might actually cry.

"Why are you here?" she snaps. So cute when they try to turn it back around to you.

Wagging a finger, he says in a sing-song voice, "Uh-uh. I want to know why you're here first. See, I have this little theory."

"Shut up, Spike. I don't want to hear your theories." She turns away.

He barks out a laugh. "Part of my theory has to do with why I'm here. See, someone was asking me a lot of questions about Angel's death. Till then I'd had no idea you'd killed the bastard. Yet what do I spy months later but my nemesis Buffy Summers gone all Betty Boo-Hoo, waitressing at some dive in a large, anonymous city, not fulfilling her slayerly duties. And Angel's gone. Oh, the pathos."

"Shut up. As soon as I can make you, you're going to shut the hell up."

"When last I'd left, he was about to run you through. Yet in the end, you won." Spike points a finger at her and smiles. "And good on you for that. Because if you hadn't, neither of us would be here." There isn't a lot of thrill in taunting the girl so much, because he can understand that kind of hurt. Knew far too well what it was like to watch your life being torn to shreds before your eyes. Still. She is the slayer. He rises from the chair to stand at the edge of the bed. "Why, Slayer? Why hate and torture yourself over doing the right thing?" He'd thought she was smarter than that.

Turning her face away, she clutches weakly at the sheets. But his question surprises her. Buffy would never believe he had understanding in him. Admittedly he doesn't show it to humans, but still, it's there.

"Everything you thought you knew about him was wrong. He was far, far worse than you could ever imagine. Killing that teacher and scaring the Little Rascals is a step down on the reputational ladder. Fact is, I don't think he showed you even a trace of his old self, because none of you would be alive if he had. I wager he'd just forgot over all that time how to really terrorize." He gazes out the window, lost in a memory, then shakes himself back to reality. "Angel wasn't like me. Very meat and potatoes fella. All work and no play. 'Hide from the slayer, hide from the angry mob with the torches, don't go near the sunlight.'" Spike fakes a yawn. "So dull. Large with the torment, but no style."

"He told me about what he did to Drusilla. It sounded then like he was pretty big on the style. I saw how he set up Giles with Miss Calendar's... body." Her voice is positively dripping with disgust.

"Ah, that was nothing. Most of the time, he'd just pick a place, mow through it, leave someone living so they'd be haunted by the horror. Same MO, all the time, no imagination, no fun. Good eating, but still -- a little garnish with the meat and potatoes is a good thing now and again."

There is nothing for her to do but hate him more now -- this kind of talk will only fill her with killing rage. Love blinds you because it's fuzzy and rose-colored; hate brings clarity. Instead of anger, she grows quiet, and he lights another fag, just letting her build it up.

He softens his voice. "So, what is it? You kill him because you have to, blame yourself because he showed his true colors, and then you run off hoping that maybe life will deal you a fatal blow and it will all be over? No one understands your terrible sacrifice?"

"Something like that." Her lower lip trembles. "My mom told me never to come back. After she found out." It's almost as if she blames him for that.

"That's a bitch, I'll grant you. But I doubt that's why you're really here. It's all about the poof."

Oddly, she isn't angry or pouty. "I know. It was only the soul that made a difference. Everyone likes to remind me of that. Like somehow what he really was underneath it makes him not worth how I felt."

That tortured bit of syntax confuses Spike for a moment until he sees what she's saying.

"The thing you forget -- because you fell in love with him as he was -- was that he never wanted that fucking soul. The man you knew didn't even really exist. He was created because Angel had to create him to survive." Spike stops, acutely aware of how close to the bone he's getting right there. His own persona that he worked so hard to create is not information he wants to give to Buffy.

"He was real." Her voice is unyielding, wounded.

"That's not my point, but whatever." Spike goes back to the chair and sprawls loosely across it, swinging his foot back and forth. "So I'm right. Basically, you're here to torture yourself because you killed the man you loved, because you did your job and saved the world at great sacrifice, because your mates just won't understand how terrible it all is... It's so movie of the week. Never thought of you as so pathetic."

She can't even muster the energy to get riled. "And you're here because, what? Dru got over her case of the hots for Angel? She decided you were worth shagging again because he was gone?"

It's fun to be goaded. Spike's always loved a good sparring match.

"Actually, found out something rather interesting about your boy." He goes to the suite's lounge area and pours himself a whisky from the bar. "There I was down in southern Mexico -- lovely places, you know, in Yucatan -- and Dru was a might huffy with me for teaming up with you. Ran away, came back, ran away again, came back. Then one day, what to my wondering eye appears but a fresh-scrubbed associate of a law firm, briefcase in hand, with a proposition for me. Seems they'd heard about what happened in Sunnydale, not to mention my relationship to Angelus and to the Slayer. Whom, I might add, they have lost track of even with their considerable resources."

"Why would a law firm want to know about all that?" He's piquing her interest, but she's doing a good job of hiding it.

"They're evil," Spike answers with delight.

It's not quite a laugh that escapes her lips, but something like it.

"Really. They represent evil, among their many clients. Got a staff of seers, one of whom has apparently foreseen something rather significant regarding Angel. Oh, they won't tell me what, or even admit it's true, but it's pretty clear your boy has a role to play in the future and it affects their interests. Doubt he's gone for good."

Buffy bites her lower lip. Do girls even realize how hot that is? Spike wishes he could be the one biting it, and that thought arouses him just a bit. Right now he'd like to lick every inch of her body.

"He's dead."

"Well, there's dead and then there's dead. Got no proof and no idea what their issues are, but they're running scared of something and Angel's looming large. Maybe even you, but that's a bit fuzzier." He sips his whisky. "That's my story -- they invited me to LA, all expenses paid, luxury digs of the stars, just for a few days of interviews and some delightful conversation with a few junior partners."

"What did you tell them about me?"

Spike snorts in derision. "Didn't tell them a thing, you arrogant twat. The world doesn't revolve around you."

Her head snaps back as if she's been slapped. Clearly no one has ever talked to Buffy like that. She sets her face in a scowl, and Spike can tell he's in for a bumpy road ahead.

"Angel's not coming back. Whatever you think you know, it's not going to happen. I saw... I saw it. And even if he could... what if it turned out wrong? Whatever came back could be even worse."

"You don't believe me? I'm wounded!" He slaps his forehead. "All I know is what I heard between the lines. And I heard a lot." They glare at each other, daring.

"So even with your fancy hotel and expense account, you just happened to slum it at some crummy diner in the bad part of town and this--" she waves her arm across the bed, points at her chest "--was an accident."

"You've discovered my weakness. I love food. And -- the sort of people you find in the less chi-chi parts of town make for a nice full-meal deal. Best of all, few people notice the corpses round there."

"You're a pig." But there's really no bite to her voice, she sounds almost resigned.

"Maybe, but I'm the pig who saved your life."

"I'm not sure anymore how good of a thing that is."

"Enough with the self-pity, Pet. Christ. This isn't you. May not know you well, but I know you enough to know this is just wallowing." He'd thought that information might help her, but the way she lolls her head sideways, staring at the door, makes him wonder. Of course she wouldn't be able to carry much more when she was already stuck with the weight of the world. She is as fragile and sharp as broken glass.

"Yeah. It is." Her calm agreement is somehow worse than the whimpering, shambling act. "But don't you think I've earned the right to wallow? I'm seventeen. I've averted two disasters -- one where I died, and one where I had to kill the man I loved. What gives you the right to tell me I don't deserve to wallow?"

It's easy to laugh when everything humans feel is a source of mockery. But he can remember what it was like to feel that way, once, in a distant universe. He's still so bruised from Drusilla's contempt that it softens his usual reactions. "Nothing at all, Slayer. Nothing at all."

There's a long silence where Spike turns on some music and amuses himself with the suite's amenities. Then he hears her voice from the bedroom, sad and weak. "Where did you get this shirt?"

He comes to stand in the doorway. "The thing about places like this is you can ask for anything. Wait'll you try the fluffy white robes in the bathroom. Hell, wait'll you try the bathroom. It's fucking palatial."

"Spike." This time he moves all the way inside the bedroom. "Thank you. I just... I don't get it. The why."

"Dunno." He looks at his hands, the blue veins under his translucent skin that hold no life. "But I've been thinking about destinies a bit, what with the seers at the firm and all. Starting to believe it was supposed to be like this. I mean, why didn't we ever kill each other, all the chances we had? Must have been a reason; neither of us is that lame."

Buffy tries to sit up, but can't quite. Spike lifts her up, fluffs the pillows underneath so she can sit up. The blood wafts around his nostrils; he flares them out to catch more of her scent. He dreams of biting her sometimes. Even after all this time away from Sunnydale, he's haunted by how close he was to it. In his dreams he is consumed by her almost as much as he consumes. They are not dreams he can ever share with anyone else.

"That is a crock of shit," she gripes once she's comfy.

Plopping down in the chair, he laughs. "Language from the slayer!"

"It was a mistake. We just failed because we made mistakes."

"Mmm. Not so sure. See, with Dru gone walkabout, I started pondering fate. Kismet. Predestination, if you will. That things are meant to be -- she was meant to be gone, I was meant to talk to Wolfram & Hart, to wander the city. Of all the diners in all the towns in all the world, he had to come to mine. Must be a reason, don't you think?"

She hmphs.

"Ah, come on, you're taking all the fun out of it." But he gets serious and leans forward intently. "Always wondered why you threw away a perfectly good weapon and told me you didn't need it that first fight. Even though you knew I'd killed two slayers. And I ask myself over and over why I never killed you every sodding time I had the chance. There are reasons for everything, Buffy. We just don't always know what they are until we spend time on them."

What he expects is scorn, but she doesn't deliver. Instead she passes a hand weakly over her forehead and asks, "Do you think what happened to Angel was predestined? Do you think what I had to do was fated?"

It pierces his heart. He can't believe how tender his feelings are for her right now. "I don't know. But maybe, yes. And why you and I didn't kill each other -- we were supposed to be around to fight him. The Powers That Be needed a strong defense off the bench."

"Powers that be?"

"Watcher hasn't informed you about that, eh? Well, Educating Buffy can wait. Think I should send down for some food for you. Very haute cuisine, the room service here. Won't be your mum's chicken soup."

"I can't believe you're doing this." She fidgets. "All right. Food would be nice. Soup food."

"Your wish is my command."

He orders room service. It will be a bit, he warns her, and goes off to take a shower while she sleeps some more. The tubs and showers at hotels like this are Spike's closest shot at heaven. When he comes back out she's still dozing, so he sits quietly in the chair until the waiter knocks. Spike is an extravagant tipper when he's in the mood, and he gives the boy a wad of cash and asks for some blood. The boy is not even remotely surprised by this request.

When he wakes Buffy gently, Spike is touched by her unguarded beauty as she shifts into consciousness. He watches while she eats her soup: the way her throat moves with her swallows, how her lips curve around the spoon. It hits him that he wouldn't mind having those lips curve around his cock that way, or watch her throat move as she swallows his spunk. Or see her mouth open wetly as she comes for him, over and over, while he devours her pussy. Ripe fruit should be eaten before it spoils.

Unconcerned with how tense it will make her, Spike sprawls across the foot of the bed, lighting a cigarette and leaning up on one elbow. Buffy glares hostilely.

"How long did you plan to keep up this charade, anyway?"

"It's not a charade." Pout. "I don't know. I can't go back there."

"Because you did your job?"

"My mom and I..." She gulps in a sharp breath. "No one... I can't face them."

All Spike can muster is a scoff. "Mums always act like that when they're in shock. Doesn't mean anything. Your mum loves you; she's probably sick with worry. Can't imagine what the watcher's doing. Must be going mad looking for you."

"I doubt it." She throws in a raggedy little sigh for good measure.

"Boo-hoo." Even his provocation can't rouse her ire. She really has lost the feeling for it. Can't blame her, though.

"Will you stop saying that? And you know what? None of these crappy, boring, evasive stories answer my questions, Spike. Why did you bring me here and why didn't you kill me -- or keep me around to drain me?"

He does love a forthright girl. Spike picks a piece of tobacco off his tongue and gestures at her with the cigarette.

"As I said -- don't really know. I suppose... you intrigue me. Never spent time with a slayer before. Just called the fight and killed 'em. Now you and I are best pals, it amused me to talk instead of snap your neck."

"And just maybe you'd also get to know where I'm weak and vulnerable, and kill me later when you've stopped being amused and intrigued."

"Oh, touché!" God, he's taking a shine to her. He's known from the beginning she was light-years beyond the other two, but Christ, she just gets better and better all the time. "All right, here's the truth. It's fun and different." Sitting up, he shifts closer to her feet, but she doesn't move. "I've lived an awful long time. Coming up into the third official century, you know. And there's a certain... rote to your existence as a vampire. Not complaining, mind, but it gets a bit repetitive. Something different comes along, it reminds me how much fun unlife can be. Acathla was different, Dru leaving is different. That adorable, slithery little snake asking me to live it up in LA was deliciously different. So how could I resist something as astonishing as saving the slayer?"

"Right, you're such a good Samaritan."

"Christ, Summers!" he laughs. "You always this hard on your friends?"

"You're not my friend." She shifts in the bed, trying to move away from him. But he reaches out and puts his hand on her foot, and she doesn't flinch at all.

"No, I reckon I'm not." Sighing heavily, he shakes his head and laughs again, bitterly. "You wouldn't lower yourself that far. You thought the only reason I came to you was because my girlfriend was 'a big ho' as you so kindly put it. But you were wrong. We worked together because we needed to. Maybe that doesn't make us bosom buddies, but I understand some things about you no one else ever will, and we have more in common than you'd believe."

Instead of arguing, she seems to relax a little. "So what? It doesn't matter."

"Matters to me."

There are a thousand questions in her eyes, and even though she refuses to ask them Spike can see her resolve melting.

"I know what you think you are."

"Pray, what's that?" he asks sarcastically.

"You think you're important. That because you killed two slayers and helped me defeat Angel, you're important. That this makes you important. But you're not."

"Lash me with your harsh words!" He rolls his eyes, makes a face. But it disturbs him, how easily she gets at the things underneath that Spike rarely thinks about. "Maybe I'm not, but this worthless vamp still saved your life."

The silence feels eerie; there is a different kind of tension in the room now. He gets off the bed and touches her arm, dangling the key to the weekly rental hotel room he's taken out of her bag. He can't believe she's staying there. "Look. Sun's down again. You rest some more, and I'll go round that shithole of a room of yours and get your clothes. Bet by the time I'm back you'll be ready to dance, and then I'll take you home when you can stand on your own. How 'bout it?"

Buffy nods and slides back under the duvet.

He drives through the LA streets watching the nightlife start to unfold around him, glittering people in the glittering city. Despite his offer, Spike doesn't want to help her get gone. It would be easy to chalk up the desire for company to his pain at Dru's unhappiness with him, but that isn't what drives this. The truth is he's always been vaguely fascinated with the little bitch. Something indefinable makes her different. Even the other slayer, the one who'd helped put him in the wheelchair, didn't have that something. But it wouldn't do to spend so much time thinking about it. They were supposed to hate each other; certainly she hates him and that's as it should be. He's the weak one here.

This is just a reminder of what she's lost, how far she's had to go to save the world. And no one else knew her sacrifice, only Spike. He wants to ease it for her, but nothing he can offer would help. Buffy doesn't want to be helped, especially not by a monster she loathes.

The room is Spartan and sad. If he'd had a heart, it would crack at just how low she's brought herself. That she's done it willingly makes it far worse. Sodding Angel didn't deserve a girl like that, the fucking bastard. He digs around for her clothes, most of which are sad, as well -- sloppy, thrift-store worn, nothing like the threads she wore back in Sunny D. A few things that must have traveled with her look suitable so he grabs them, as well as the practical cotton bra and panties, since Buffy will have been wearing the same underthings for too long now. She's so tiny the clothes roll up to fit neatly in his pockets.

When he gets back to the Marmont she is already sitting up, feet on the floor. Her golden legs gleam in the amber light of the table lamp.

"It's as far as I've gotten," she says without a word of greeting. Spike tosses the clothes next to her.

"Take your time. Not in a rush."

For a long time she stares at the floor. "I still don't get it. Why you wouldn't kill me or feed on me."

All he can do is sigh loudly. "If you don't get it by now, you'll never get it. You keep looking for ulterior motives. Haven't got any."

Wobbling, she stands up from the bed and he catches her under the elbows, then walks her slowly to the bathroom. "Could draw you a bath, yeah? Make you feel better?"

"It would, actually." Spike parks her on the edge of the huge tub and starts the water. When he turns back to her, he notices the way she's looking at his arms. A flinty desire to preen sweeps through him. She is still a woman, after all.

"Little worried about you drownin', but I'll leave you to it. Holler if you start to slip under, eh?" The clothing he places neatly on the chair.

While she's in the bath he calls down to the room service fellow for his blood. Three fresh packets right from the bank, O pos, all very nice and simple. Much as he prefers a good kill, he knows he'll have to hold off on that while she's his guest. The thought makes him laugh. Probably thinks of herself as his hostage. He stands out on the terrace and looks out at the city below for a while, then goes back into the room and turns up the stereo before throwing himself on the bed. For a few minutes he drifts in half-sleep, enveloped in the smell of her that lingers on the sheets, until he hears the door open.

Buffy is there above him, filling his vision. She sways a little. The V of her top exposes the violently red wound where the meorea's pincer had injected the venom. The hot water has left her skin flushed and lovely, the blood high. Aromatic and rich. Then she does the strangest thing -- she touches his biceps, moving her fingertips up and down as if testing the texture of his skin, and says quietly, "Spike. I don't want to go home just yet."

For once in his motormouthed unlife he is speechless. It would be nice to think it's an overture, but he knows it's not. There's nothing sexual about her touch, it's merely desperate and longing. He is the closest facsimile of a friend she's had for possibly months. The only thing that stands between her and the void.

They sit together on the edge of the bed, silently, tentatively.

Eventually he says, "How 'bout a drive then, instead? Isn't this your old stomping grounds? Show me some of the city -- you can just sit in the car. Beautiful night out, still hot. "

"Yeah. That would be nice." Her voice is so dispassionate, though, he wonders if he's made a mistake. Then she looks up at him. It's like winter sunlight -- weak and washed out, but still there inside her.

They head up Laurel Canyon for a while, the night filtering through the rolled-down windows. The smell of eucalyptus trees and night-blooming flowers carries through the car. Even though she doesn't want to talk, Buffy gives him as much of a travelogue as she's capable of. He thinks it should be appalling to drive around with her, that he should be ashamed, but there's a feeling of familiarity now. This would make Dru howl with laughter. It would have made Angel do something else entirely.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Ever heard that?"

"Yeah." Her voice echoes hollowly. "Do you think we could find a place I could get an iced tea or a diet or something?"

They drive around some more and pull into a fast food place; he gets fries and she gets her drink before they continue driving up and up through the hills.

"I never really got to the place where I thought he was my enemy," Buffy says eventually, and she sounds so small and hopeless. "Even at his worst, even when I knew I had to kill him."

"That was your problem. He always saw you that way."

"He got his soul back. Just before I killed him. And he died thinking I was his enemy."

Christ. So that's really it. There is the beating heart of her misery. He looks sidelong at her, the distant way she stares out the window, how loosely she hangs her hand outside in the warm night air. "Probably knew you loved him. As long as he wasn't Angelus, he'd be all soulful and gooey with love. Trust me on this."

"What was he like?"

At first Spike is nonplussed by this question. Can't imagine what she believes she'll hear. But then he understands what she needs -- a past. Fill in the blanks. If he tells her, maybe she can let go of the blame, because she'll really know once and for all that soul boy was a facade.

So he talks as they drive, spilling his ugly history, feeling strangely humiliated by his connection to Angel. She directs him to a pullout far in the hills.

"So you grew up round here? This was your home?" he asks as they park.

"Yeah. Beverly Hills, anyway."

"Ooo la la. Posh."

"Well, not so much for us, and then I totally blew it after my folks separated and the slayage started."

"Yeah, killing will wreck anyone's social life."

They look at each other for a heartbeat and then both start laughing, though he's sure Buffy has no more idea why they're laughing than he does. He helps her out of the car to go sit on the ground at the edge of the hill. The city looks alive, the lights undulating below them, the rhythm of LA's strange life beating in its paved arteries. He's waiting for Buffy to tell him this is too freaky for her, to ask to go back, but she doesn't, just watches the lights. Spike can feel the heat of her body inches away; her blood intoxicates him.

"Were you a bitchy little Rodeo Drive rich kid?"

"Probably. Hard for me to remember. It seems a world away."

"It is, now."

Silence descends again, but it doesn't feel awkward.

"It's customary for people to say I don't want your pity." There's a faraway cast to her voice. "That's what they always say in books and movies, anyway. But I do. Want pity, I mean."

Spike could absorb her pain, drink it in like a fine liqueur. He's moved by it in a way he hasn't been moved by anything in one-hundred and twenty years, except for the rare sad voice of a singer or two, and he wants to give it to her, that pity, for everything she's had to go through when she had no choice. "It's yours."

Nearly an hour goes by before she reaches out awkwardly, tentatively with a jerking arm, and touches his shoulder twice, lightly. Then they go to the car, but he doesn't turn over the engine, waiting instead for her signal. He's in uncharted territory and is so unfamiliar with the human rules he's almost incapacitated.

Nothing happens though, so Spike turns to her and says quietly, "I've been thinking a lot about fate." Buffy's face is as silvery as the moon, her eyes the dark craters, and he can fall in if he's not careful.

Fingers skate over his arms, then along his chest and she lets him pull her close, so close. The blood is no longer just a perfume, it's pounding under his hands and lips as he devours her with starving kisses. He waits for the blow he's certain will come, but instead she twists her fingers in his hair and thrusts her tongue halfway down his throat.

They claw at each other as if they're each downing and trying to pull the other out from the undertow. When she runs her fingers up under his t-shirt, he realizes this isn't just a game anymore. She's as deadly serious as he's ever seen her in battle. Pushing the seat back, they roll over into the back. Old cars are still the best for sex, no doubt about it.

It's been a little while since he's had sex with a human, and he'd forgot the honeyed warmth of it. No human could ever be like this girl. Her strength is astonishing, the way her arms grip his, her steel legs curled tight around his arse. Sliding her jeans down and pushing her shirt up, he traces his lips across her bare skin, over the wound, along the arc of her neck. It's minutes before he gets enough of his senses back to realize she's slid his own jeans down almost to his knees.

He could plunder her, a pirate to treasure, but instead stops abruptly and asks, "Was Angel your first?"

A little tilt of the head, the eyebrows raised, a flash of irony and amusement. "My only."

The game changes again. Her rules. The way she kisses him leaves him dizzy. It had never occurred to him the girl could have been a virgin before that. He teases her clitoris with fingertips, the head of his cock, so she'll be ready for him. As often as he'd wanted to in the past, as deep as he searches now, Spike can't find even the slightest fragment of a desire to hurt Buffy. The only feeling he wants for her is pleasure. Her shuddering sighs tell him she needs it. Spike moves slowly, easing into her as she folds herself around him. Words flash through his memory: "To kill this girl, you have to love her." Maybe he will do neither, but in this moment he is her slave.

Spike watches her face to make sure everything's all right. Her lips are parted and wet, eyes closed, chest rising and falling with her excited breaths. Hands skitter over his skin, never stopping in one place, roaming as if to memorize his shape and texture. It makes him shiver. Finally he is inside her all the way. Her hips rise to meet his, lower, rise again; he is imprisoned by her arms and legs and he never wants to leave.

The firm, ripe roundness of her tits thrills him, and he sucks her nipples hard, harder, then her lip, then her neck. It doesn't seem to bother her when he runs his tongue along those mysterious scars. Recalling that Halloween night when he had her beneath him, Spike knows it was not unlike this. At the time he hadn't fancied biting her right away, rather, he wanted to savor it. Feel her pulsing and heated, writhing and slick under his hands and mouth. Now that he is truly inside her, Spike realizes he is making the same mistake.

The heat of her passion is so succulent and he breathes in the air that comes from her open lips. She gives him breath. Faster and faster they move together until he can feel it all convulse inside him, cascades of pleasure that leave him rubbery and sagging like a piece of stretched elastic. At last she opens her eyes and stares intently at him. Imagining Angel no doubt, the only thing that would put her here in this situation. Only... she does see him, knows him, understands why they're here.

It's because he's the not-Angel. What Buffy needs more than anything is a monster, but one as far removed from her lover as possible. A vampire, strong and dangerous, not sensitive and soully and her knight in tarnished armor. Spike is swept by her desires, carried away by the darkness inside her she doesn't even know she has.

Spike doesn't need a not-Drusilla; he has no passion for self-loathing or blame. But he does need to be reminded he is worthy of more than scorn. How strangely Buffy gives this gift to him. Mysteries always bloom at night, in these small, deep spaces.

Now is the time he would kill his conquest. Instead he kisses Buffy's face tenderly, down her neck. She holds on to him. The sun hints at rising, the sky coloring deep purple.

"Let's go back to the hotel," she whispers.

On the terrace Spike stands in the shadows and smokes yet another cigarette. He enjoys daylight when it's not right on him, and the city looks so different in the light -- the brown haze that layers over it like frost makes everything assume a dun color. In the bedroom Buffy is sleeping off their morning and noon and early afternoon, still a bit weak from the poison.

They'd come back to the room that morning and she had taken off her clothes slowly, confidently, no shyness at all. Watching him with each movement, her eyes never once straying, as if challenging him. Spike couldn't get his own off fast enough. He's always believed that undressing while someone watches is the greatest of intimacies, more than the simple act of sex. Most of his fucking outside of Dru has been quick and half-clothed. Buffy should feel so much more vulnerable with him, her enemy friend, yet she opens herself frankly. Spike loves Dru, oh, he loves her with all his erstwhile heart, but right now he is enraptured by this strange girl he's invested so much effort in for so very long.

In the back of his mind it itches, a voice that cautions him to take the girl home and stop this lark, but he can't quite make himself do it. He's always been weak-willed where women are concerned. He stubs out the cigarette and goes back inside, parking himself in the overstuffed chair to watch her sleep.

Occasionally she would look at him so funnily while they made love. Like a kind of gratitude that could never be shown to him any other time. But in sleep her face is full of worry, all the muscles taut with dreaming. Bad, dangerous dreams of that bastard who's caused their lives to collide.

After a while Buffy wakens and rubs her face, then smiles. "I heard you singing, before. I like your repertoire. Don't hear guys sing Aretha much at all."

He just smirks. "Called your diner again. Told them you were still sick. Oughtn't you be getting back, though?"

"I suppose." The unspoken ludicrousness hangs between them like the smog outside the room.

Pulling back the covers, Buffy opens her legs and stretches her arms out along the pillows. Spike is hard already; he swiftly pulls off his jeans and crawls up the bed towards her, running his tongue from her feet all along her legs, up to her stomach, her neck. They kiss forever until he moves to her breasts.

A mapwork of tiny scars criss-crosses her body; he tests and tastes each one with his fingers and tongue as she tells him their history. Except one. Buffy turns away and stops talking when he asks after the one on her neck. He knows who put it there. Not the how, though. Pushing her legs farther apart, he buries his face in her quim, slides two fingers inside her and works his magic for a very long time. No matter how he adores his dark princess, there is nothing like a human girl's cunt with that blood pulsing and heating and swelling beneath the soft tissue. By the time he finishes she can scarcely breathe and is covered in a gleam of sweat. Most of all she's forgotten her sadness, just for now. Curiously, her satisfaction makes him happy.

With her mighty arms and legs she flips him over and rides above him, fucking him so slowly and confidently he would scarcely believe it's the girl he picked up mere hours ago. It goes on and on through the night, the day. Sometimes he pushes as many of her buttons as he can, just to make her react. Spike loves it when she hits or slaps him. Buffy's strength and her anger make him feel so good, so... complete.

Spike orders in extravagant meals from room service and feeds her champagne and strawberries, even though Buffy reminds him she's underage. He just scoffs. No one who's saved the world from two apocalypses should be denied champagne because of age. At times he thinks of hunting, but he hasn't really desired the kill these few days. Buffy satisfies a different hunger.

When Buffy decides to take another bath, Spike follows her in, rudely joining her without acknowledging her privacy. It doesn't bother her, apparently. She allows him to tend her wound, to lean her over his arm while he runs water through her silky hair. This trust is fleeting, Spike knows, but so is his tenderness, and they don't speak of it.

They fuck, slow and slippery, because she says "this tub is too incredible to waste on mere bathing." He loves how her skin looks in the darkness, wet and shimmery with the patterns of water and oils as she straddles him, legs wrapped around his hips, head thrown back. His arms hold her fast, his mouth moves from breast to breast, and he's inside her so far he can't remember ever being anywhere else.

What he likes best is how little she talks. Everything is kept close to the vest, she speaks only when she has something to say. She knows they will be foes again and is taking a sabbatical from hatred for just a while, enjoying this strange truce. Spike has always been a talker, so he chatters enough for both of them.

When she's rested each time he comes back for more. Spike wants to teach her everything, all the depravity and the holiness. In her desire to shed her recent past, Buffy is his willing pupil.

When late afternoon arrives, Buffy picks up her cleaned and pressed uniform, puts her work clothes on again, and takes back her key. Purposely, he realizes, she's chosen daylight so he can't take her home. They've gone at it so often, he aches everywhere.

"I can come back after work." Her eyes are hopeful and sweet. Girlish. "How long are you going to be here?"

"Not long. Sure the lawyers are wondering what the bloody hell I'm doing on their expense account." He really ought to kill another guest and stay. God only knows how long he can keep her on the hook. Such enjoyment is so rare.

When she steps forward and presses her body against his, it's as if he's been backhanded across the jaw. Spike is aware -- where he is, what he is doing, and with whom.

He can see it in Buffy's face, the look he must be wearing himself. An alien tenderness and affection for each other. They are connected. The warmth in her shines as bright and golden as topaz. She moves her slender arm to touch his face gently.

Vamping out, he grabs her hard and sinks his fangs into her neck. God, the taste of slayer blood. It pounds through him, strong as thunder. He tries to keep control, to not go all the way, but it's like a fist has closed around Spike to squeeze the resolve right out of him. Buffy collapses in his arms, her hands flailing limply. Finally she comes out of the paralysis, swinging her left up under his chin, knocking him backward. Lands a roundhouse kick to his stomach and flattens him against the wall, her hand covering the wound on her neck, blood seeping between her fingers. Tears spill across her cheeks and her face is contorted with rage and shock.

"You son of a fucking bitch. How could--"

He laughs and devamps. The two of them stand there for a frozen eternity, her eyes filled with dazed hatred.

"If you ever come near me and mine again, I swear to god, I will kill you this time." Little deadly fists clench and unclench; the tears pour forth. She grabs up the items she's dropped.

"Don't you worry, Luv. Next time we see each other, you won't have time to even think about revenge." Spike wipes the blood from his lips, licks his fingers.

The rage is palpable. Over her shoulder she says in the coldest of voices, "This never happened."

"Already forgotten," he answers hollowly, but she is gone, the room echoing with the slam of the door. It's as if his life is being drained from him again after all these decades. Spike feels weak and slow, like he's moving through water as he tries to light a cigarette with shaking hands.

It's not like it's a sacrifice to make the bitch leave. Not really any sort of sacrifice at all.



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