Sequel to What's It To Be?; part of The Bittersweets Series
Summary: Domestic life with vampire.
Author Notes: This is the seventh in the BITTERSWEETS series, following "What's It To Be?" The BITTERSWEETS are set in a AU season 6 verging off of "Wrecked."
Dedication: As always, for Kalima first and foremost. Also for the Bitches, and Deborah M. With thanks for Kalima and Mustang Sally
Completed: April 2002.
Disclaimer: Joss creates, I borrow
Your star couldn’t shine
—“Need,” Picture Center
The vampire’s mistress wore a turtleneck sweater to keep private the marks of impassioned kisses on her throat. The vampire’s mistress was seen at the meat wholesaler’s on the edge of town, buying blood in bulk. The vampire’s mistress was often dreamy-eyed, and when called back to the moment, would blush and stammer. The vampire’s mistress yawned in the middle of the afternoon. The mouth of the vampire’s mistress always looked a little swollen, and she laughed more, although her friends were often not quite sure what she was laughing about. The vampire’s mistress was improving her pool game. The vampire’s mistress had very little use lately for tampons. The vampire’s mistress often sat with her legs crossed and one foot hooked around the other ankle, but when she walked there was a swing to her hips that was new. When the vampire’s mistress went out in public, men stared after her, and women asked her what her perfume was.
The vampire’s mistress didn’t wear perfume.
When she opened the door, the air smelled of beeswax and of the rose heads floating in a bowl of water, and somehow also of the hush. The room was like a side chapel in a cathedral, all little flickering candles and shadows and stained glass. The sleeper made no sound at all, but she knew he was there.
Buffy approached slowly, and leaned over the sleeper with caution; if startled in the wrong way, he could be savage. She reached out and tugged gently on the black cover.
His face revealed, the sleeper stirred.
“Spike? Wake up now, okay? I want to air the room out before the sun goes down.”
He didn’t raise his head from the pillow. “I wasn’t asleep.”
“I know, just resting your eyes. ‘Never admit weakness in front of the Slayer,’ that’s the code, right?”
She’d let him look after the changes to her mother’s former bedroom, which was why it was as much like his old crypt now as the master bedroom of a craftsman house could be. Spike had actually had the windows replaced with dark stained glass in a pattern of sapphire, emerald, and ruby. Even at its brightest, the sun could do no more against that than set its tints aglow as if they were alive. Really, Buffy thought, admiring the effect of the slanting rays of late afternoon, it was pretty. Certainly unique. None of the other houses on Revello had anything like it. Or anything, probably, like the new curved iron bedstead either, an impregnable fortress of crenellations just made for bondage games, or the little trunkful of toys stored under it, or the massed array of tapers and votives Spike kept constantly burning.
Her mother would certainly not recognize the room anymore, in its new guise as an altar to Weird Undead Mating Practices.
She went to the window, turned the catch. “C’mon, up. I’m going to open these wide.”
Suddenly he was at her back, the cool naked length of him pressed close to her, one hand cupping her chin and his mouth at her ear.
“I am up. And you are going to open wide . . . .” His other hand was already under her dress, and she felt his thick erection against her backside. She gasped, her whole body pulsing with the electricity of his touch. It took nothing for him to stir her into heat, just the sound of his voice might do it, the merest idea that he might touch her.
“Open for me, Slayer. Open.” He lifted one of her thighs, so her knee rested on the windowsill, and the cooler air suddenly reaching her soaked pussy was like a refreshing breeze on a humid day. His cock rubbed in the cleft, and she pressed back against him, desperate to be taken. She wanted to touch herself, to touch him, guide him inside, but Spike laid his hands on hers and held them to the window frame. He spoke again into her ear. “One-eyed Jack will find his own way. Meanwhile I’ll hold your dainty deadly little hands . . . do you know I love your hands, Slayer?” He brought her right one to his mouth, sucked one by one on the fingers, slowly, the way his cock went on rubbing slowly in her wet channel, never entering her, but catching her clit at the end of each rolling stroke.
Sometimes she wondered if this wasn’t a sickness: were other women like this, so crazily repeatedly responsive? She felt like one of those trick birthday candles that doesn’t go out no matter how persistently you blow on it.
“Spike, I need—“
“What do you need?”
“Aren’t I here, pet? Aren’t I all around you?” He drew more tightly against her, his arms laid over hers, his face alongside hers, so she knew he could see her blushing excitement, her struggle. As all the while he plowed the channel without entering, and her clit throbbed.
“I had a dream about you just now,” he murmured in her ear. “Shall I tell it you?”
“Yessss—tell me.” She had to touch herself, had to make something happen, but he gripped her fingers, kept them where they were on the window frame.
“In this dream, I was Spike, and you were the slayer. But it was a long long time ago, and we were . . . I don’t know where exactly. A long gallery in some grand house, with gilt mirrors all along one wall, and great tall windows along the other that let the moonlight in to gleam on the parquet. There was no light except that silver moonlight. And we’d stalked each other all up and down that house for hours, fought little skirmishes, but nothing big. Not yet.”
Over and over the velvety head of his cock touched her clit, and she wanted desperately to seize it, to hold it in her fingers and rub it there until she melted into sobs of pleasure. She was tensed now, quivering from the friction between her thighs and the tickle of his speaking breath against her ear, and the languorous, insinuating way he talked.
“You were getting tired though, in this dream. Tired from trying to track me through a hundred rooms, and your clothes were making you tired, because you were dressed like the girls used to dress when I was young, when they were going to a ball, to dance. There must have been a dance going on in this house, because sometimes we heard music, very far-off tinkly music. Tight-laced you were, and all that rushing and feinting made you pant.” He licked her ear. “Like you are right now.” His left hand let go of hers, slipped down to her thigh to push her knee a little further along the windowsill, opening her up just a little more. She groaned, and whipped her hand down, but Spike caught it before she could touch herself. “Listen, my mistress. I’m telling you my dream. You were dressed for a ball, but your hair was starting to come down, and the flowers in your bodice were wilting from the salt of your sweat. We fought all up and down that long mirrored gallery. I could see us both in the mirrors. Me with my bumps and fangs, and you . . . you falling to your knees, struggling for breath. I thought I’d won, I grabbed you and yanked you up . . . .”
“But then I surprised you. Did I surprise you, Spike?”
“Always, my queen.” He squeezed her fingers, brought them back to the window frame.
She wriggled. “Spike, put it inside me.”
She didn’t see him smile, but she could feel it. “What? Put what inside you?”
“Your . . .” She hated when he made her do this. No: she loved it. “Your cock.”
“Hush, I’m telling you my dream. Listen. So I yanked you up, your stake was gone, your neck bared to me, the perfume of your skin and your blood filled my senses, and in the mirror I could see the tears pouring from your eyes. And that’s when the surprise came. You pleaded—“
“For my life?” She spat the words, and stiffened. She was ready to end this, to wrench herself around and strike him.
“No. You pleaded for your sex. You lifted your skirts . . . “ And here he hiked her dress up higher in the front, “and you brought my hand down
. . .” He moved her hand with his, their fingers interlaced, and brushed them against the curls of her mons, “and made me feel how wet you were. You said you did not want to die intact, without knowing pleasure . . . you begged me to make you a woman before I drank you.”
Buffy shuddered all over. Spike brushed her fingers lightly against her clit, and for a moment they touched also the wet velvet head of his prick. “Oh God. Oh God.” The words escaped her before she could stop them; she flushed and bit her lip, but it was too late. Spike’s cock, nestled tight against her, gave a little jump.
“That’s just what you said, in my dream. You wept and begged me to take you, and the petals of the flowers you wore dropped one by one to the parquet. I had such a cockstand as I’d never had yet, and you spread your little hand against my trousers and asked me to get it out and give it you.”
Buffy could no longer feel her one leg that held her up, or the other braced on the windowsill; all she felt was the throb of her pussy, the lips distended around his cock, his body wrapped around hers and his words winding into her ear. Everything else was gone. She closed her eyes, just listened and felt.
“You shivered, in my dream, just like you’re doing now, and your corset creaked as you sank to the floor. I lifted up your heavy skirt, and all the foamy petticoats underneath, and there were your white stockings, and your chemise, but you wore nothing else, and when I parted your thighs, your quim was soaked and gave off such a scent it made me forget my blood hunger . . . .”
She pushed back against him, her head rolling on his shoulder. “Please . . . .”
“That’s right, my queen, you said please, you submitted yourself to me completely, and I held your knees and pressed them back and went into you. Went in where no one had been yet. You writhed and cried, until you saw yourself in the mirrors, saw yourself tumbled on your back with your skirts all everywhere and me on top of you, between your white thighs Me grinning down at you all fangs and ridges. That made you quiet, fascinated, you watched, you moved under me, fucked me back—“ As he said this, Spike grabbed her hips, tilted them a little, and was suddenly inside, sheathed to the hilt. Buffy gasped, bracing herself with her outstretched arms on the windowframe. This was so good. So good to be filled up finally, to begin that deep sucking movement. Yet it wasn’t enough, not yet.
Spike was still speaking. “The tears still came down your cheeks. You looked at me and your lips moved but no sound came out. I was as far up inside you as I could possibly be. You clasped your sweet little arms around me, and your legs, and rocked up to meet me. I heard your breath sawing between your lips, and the crinkling of your heavy satin skirts as I crushed them, and far away that music playing for the people who danced. We danced. Every move I made, you matched. You clung to me and shuddered and sighed, but I knew you were sad because you already missed your life.” His hand, which had been on her thigh, bracing it, moved now to her clit. The lightest brush, once, again, again, just the tips of his fingers, and she arched her back, pushing back at him. His mouth touched her nape then, and slid along and up, kissing beneath the ear, tugging on the lobe. He cupped her jaw in his hand, and she caught a whiff of herself from his fingers.
“You begged me to fuck you harder . . . and I did . . . but you would not ask me for your life. Instead you offered me your neck.”
“I—oh my God—“
“You offered me your neck, and I saw there was nothing of you I could not have, and knowing that brought me off so deeply I lost my senses. When I found them again . . . .”
“When I found them again, you were sitting on my chest with the stake in your hand. The triumph in them made your eyes flash and sparkle. You waited only to be sure I knew how you had bested me, before you harvested the heart you’d already taken from me. The stake pierced me and . . . I felt entirely satisfied. —But you—the real you—woke me up before I died.”
She sagged then, and nearly fell before he caught her. “Oh God, Spike . . . you . . . you still fantasize about killing me.” There was a fluttering in her chest that made her cough. She could not deny that his narrative—every word of it—excited her. How often had she brought herself to orgasm with him by imagining his bite at the moment of spending? It was her guiltiest bedroom secret, the one thing, of all the filthy things he’d taught her, that really made her ashamed. She tried to push him away, but made no resistance when he swung her up in his arms.
“No my queen. Not a fantasy. It was a dream . . . an interesting dream.” He carried her to the armchair in the corner, where she let him arrange her in a favorite position.
Impaled once more in his lap, she leaned back against his chest, indolent and almost feverish, while he caressed her, his hands moving from her breasts to her belly to her spread thighs and the sex stretched open around his engulfing prick, as if she was some fine instrument he was playing. He brought his fingers, wet with her own nectar, to her lips, and she sucked them.
“It wasn’t a dream about killing you . . . or you killing me . . . .”
“No . . . ?” She didn’t believe that, or that it was a dream either, an innocent emanation of his subconscious, but still she traced the motions of his hands on her body with her own, warm over cool, and clenched herself fervently around his cock. Reached down to touch the stem of his cock, to gather the balls into her hot palm. He was kissing her now, her shoulders, back, neck, wherever he could touch. Shifting a little, threading one arm around him, she brought a breast within reach of his mouth. He caught her right nipple in his lips. She watched him intently as he worried it, mouthed the areola with gentle teeth. I saw there was nothing of you I could not have. Kissed it like another mouth, and met her eyes. His full of ardor.
“No . . . don’t you understand it? It was so clear to me. It was a dream about the ecstasy of perfect surrender. Perfect . . . delirious . . . surrender . . . . yours to me. Mine to you.”
He strummed her clit, and she spread her thighs even wider, bracing herself on the chair arms, her gasps coming faster now.
Surrender. Surrender. It might be about that.
Or else, she thought, right before the climax swam up to engulf her, it was about how neither of them could ever really transcend what they were. That all this sinking into one another, all this mutual display of trust, would still end in them being vampire and slayer.
Still end with her stake in his heart.
Sunday dinner was over. Tara and Buffy were almost finished with their coffee, and Spike was peeling an apple for Dawn, sheering off the bright green skin with his knife in one unbroken loop, to her smiling admiration. This was the fourth Sunday in a row that they’d gathered for this meal, a real cooked one with meat and vegetables and a dessert that didn’t start out frozen, so in Buffy’s disjointed life it was beginning to feel like a tradition. Xander and Anya weren’t here, but they’d been there last Sunday and probably would come next Sunday.
Xander still wasn’t happy about Spike’s presence, but he was learning to deal, and Spike seemed not to want to give him a hard time. She’d spoken to Giles on the phone while she helped Tara cook. Later on she’d patrol, like almost every other night, but now and for the next couple of hours she was free to bask in the feeling that she was almost a normal person again, with her family around her.
Her dots were all connected.
Dawn took the long peel Spike passed across the table, and tipped her head back to dangle it slowly into her mouth. Buffy watched Spike watch her sister: did her exposed throat tempt him? If so, there was no sign of it in his expression; he looked at Dawn, when he wasn’t giving her the brotherly smirk-of-knowingness, with a quiet, avid affection, as if she was too good to be true.
Tara said that this was how Spike looked at her, too, but Buffy knew it wasn’t. His gaze at her was full of far more fire and mystery, amusement and abasement and conspiracy. Sometimes his eyes taunted her that he knew her all through, that she could not fool him and shouldn’t try, that she loved him because they were a pair: two beings straddling shadow and lapsing always towards the dark. And other times she saw nothing there but the most abject gratitude, as if she’d hauled him, in the nick of time, away from some terrible debacle.
And right now, glancing away from Dawn and catching her eye, he just looked straight at her, a clear, unflinching look that made her feel seen and . . . safe.
Safe in the vampire’s regard.
He carved a slice out of the denuded apple in his hand and held it out to her, impaled on the point of the knife.
She took it, wet and slippery in her fingers, tart and winey on the tongue.
The next slice he offered to Tara, who accepted it with a half-lidded smile.
Buffy wondered sometimes what there was between Tara and Spike. She knew they talked to each other, because they always stopped when she came into the room. Which should have made her feel paranoid, except that nothing about Tara could evoke that feeling. Tara was completely benign. And she knew that Spike had cut way back on his TV watching because he was reading more—books that Tara lent him. Maybe that was all they talked about, in which case, she wasn’t really interested anyway. Books had always seemed pretty slow to her. Okay if all you wanted was something to put you to sleep.
Although she did like the way Spike looked when he was reading and smoking, the rangy ease of his body while he concentrated on the page. Once in a while she’d ask him to read to her, but only for the sake of the sound of his voice.
When they were bringing her things from her old room to their new one, he’d come across the volume of poems Angel had given her. Sonnets from the Portuguese. “Here’s a splendid book,” he said, clearly surprised to find it among her possessions. He opened it, and she saw something go dull in his eyes when he spotted the inscription.
“You’ve never even tried to read this, have you?”
“S’not really my speed,” she said.
“The great poof should’ve known better.”
“Did he read much poetry when you were with him?”
Spike only snorted, and tossed the thin volume into the box with her others.
At the table now, Dawn finished the last bit of apple peel and started to get up.
“Wait—don’t go yet,” Buffy said. “Spike, I’ve got something for you.”
Dawn dropped back into her chair. “At last!”
She’d had the presents for a couple of weeks already, waiting for the right moment. First she’d thought to give him them when they were alone, but then it occurred to her that Dawn would feel cheated if she did that. And then she’d tried to get Spike to tell her what his birthday was—perhaps, she’d reasoned, if that was close, it would make a good excuse—but he’d laughed at her for asking, and when she pressed him, said dead men didn’t have birthdays, because they never got any older.
So now, while they were all together with the bowl of fruit on the table and the scent of coffee hanging in the air, was as good a time as any.
Buffy got the packages out of the sideboard drawer where she’d hidden them, and put them on the table in front of Spike.
For a moment he just looked at the two oblongs wrapped in a plain paper of midnight blue, with silver ribbon, and then up at her, standing at his shoulder. A question in his eyes.
Dawn leaned across the table, grinning eagerly. “Open your prezzies, Spike!”
He took the first one in hand, hefted it. “What’s the occasion?”
Before Buffy could answer, Dawn said, “We’re not poor anymore! Presents for everyone! We already got ours.”
Spike couldn’t have failed to miss the heaps of booty Buffy had bought her sister and herself since the money came in.
He glanced at Tara. “This from all of you?”
She shook her head. “Buffy consulted me, but . . . .”
“What are you waiting for?” Dawn said. “Open open open!”
Spike smiled at her, and pulled off the ribbon. Buffy had never seen him unwrap a gift before: he barely tore the paper, which somehow surprised her. Lifted the lid off the box with something akin to trepidation. “What’s this?” Parted the tissue paper. “Slayer, what have you done?”
Buffy realized she was holding her breath.
He didn’t lift it out, just stared at it, and as the seconds ticked by she began to fear she’d chosen wrong.
Then he took it from the box, held it in his hand. The silver frame—a very simple one, with a wide chased border, chosen in an agony of indecision after she and Tara had combed through what seemed like hundreds in three different high-toned shops—suddenly seemed like a horrible affront. Wrong wrong wrong. She’d kept the wooden oval that had held them before, even preserving the shattered glass, in case there was some reason she didn’t know about for his being attached to it. But now she thought she should never have taken this upon herself at all. He’d be angry that she’d gone into his things again without asking permission.
Dawn broke the silence. “Let us see! Don’t you like it?”
He looked up at her then. “They’d have been all covered in confusion, my sisters, to find themselves in such a grand setting.” He traced the edges of the silver frame with his fingertip.
“I’m sorry! It’s just, I thought, rather than being hidden away in that box, you could put them somewhere where you could see them all the time, like, I dunno, the mantelpiece, or the bedside table, or—“
“—but if you hate the frame, I could take it back, there was this other one—I told Tara maybe we should have gotten the other one, only—“
“You’re babbling, my queen. The frame is beautiful. Does my darlings proud.” He threaded an arm around her waist and squeezed. Looked up at her, and at Dawn and Tara, an almost sheepish pleasure in his eyes. “I didn’t expect this.”
“Open . . . open the other one.”
Spike handed his sisters off to her, and took up the second package. Buffy examined again the sepia image of Arabella, Sophronia and Jemima, their unsmiling old-fashioned faces, so composed and patient. Knowing what she did about them, she couldn’t help but see death in their faces, although she didn’t know if they were already ill when the photograph was taken. 1876. These girls had posed in 1876, and were dead by 1879, and Spike was their brother William. He always spoke of what killed the two eldest as ‘consumption,’ and this usage struck her as more fanciful than real, as if to say they’d died of broken hearts, or melancholy, or home-sickness. Spike described them as merry girls, full of laughter, liking to sing, but it was difficult to credit that description with the decorous silence of their portrait. Thin arms wound around one another’s tiny waists as if to anchor themselves against some unseen gale. Jemima was in the middle, designated thereby as most precious. She alone showed a hint of a smile, but perhaps it was merely the shape of her mouth that suggested it. Like her brother, she had a rather protruding lower lip.
She was so absorbed by those hollow-eyed girls that she missed Spike’s first reaction to the other present.
“Oh love . . . this is . . . .”
His eyes shone, as he looked from her to the pictures in the double frame. Her portrait was on the left, and one of her with Dawn on the right. They were posed in the greenhouse at UC Sunnydale, amidst flowering tropical trees and sun that made their hair and eyes sparkle, made Buffy’s bared shoulders glow.
“Tara suggested it,” Buffy said. “You’re not so easy to think up presents for.”
Tara has listened to her worry the problem over for days—what to give Spike that wouldn’t be stupid or redundant or just not very special. She’d even known someone at the university who was eager to take the shots and did a much more interesting job of it than the photographer at the mall could boast, and for less money, not that that mattered anymore. They were flush.
“Do you like ‘em?” Dawn was now pressed in on Spike’s other side, hanging over his shoulder. “Aren’t we cute?”
Spike was drinking them in, and didn’t answer right away.
Then he looked up at Tara, and spoke in a low intimate voice. “You’re a good little friend to me, Glinda.”
Tara colored up and murmured something Buffy couldn’t catch.
“So you like these?” Buffy asked.
“No, I hate them. Hate them with all my black heart.” He squeezed her about the waist. “You’re so good to me.”
Suddenly, they realized they were alone. Spike pulled her down into his lap, embracing her with his face in her hair. She held him, feeling the reverberation of her own pulse against his still, solid body.
She blushed. “I’m really not—“ He had no idea how often she betrayed him in her thoughts, how often she went back over their convoluted history, trying to understand how things could have changed so between them and not quite able to grasp it, how her feelings for him could nonplus her, make her think that she’d fallen off the edge of the world and never would be a good person again. Even as she couldn’t imagine loving anyone else, not anymore, the way she loved him. Only Angel, forever removed as he was, burned so brightly for her. But she saw now that she’d loved Angel as an ignorant girl does, with a pure, desperate, simple love that saw nothing besides him. She wasn’t that girl anymore, couldn’t love that way, even had she wanted to. Spike she loved as a conflicted, lust-ridden, apprehensive woman, her satisfaction mixed with bitterness and doubt. She needed Spike’s daily sexual alchemy. Needed the reflection of herself she saw only in his eyes. Needed the foundation he laid, minute by minute, for her to walk forward upon. But the thing would not lie smooth in her mind, no matter how she turned it round and round.
She never spoke of this to him. She wanted him to feel at home in her house, in her arms. Wanted to be able to feel, with him, like a woman. A woman who could keep her man.
And after all, he was the one who’d reconciled her to life again.
Being alive still felt weird, even when it wasn’t downright painful; she had to start off each day by wrenching her attitude back into the right groove: it was good to be here. Not good still felt like the default setting. But Spike held a chunk of happiness in his hand and was constantly breaking pieces off and feeding them to her; pieces that dissolved deliciously on her tongue and left her always hungry for another and another.
She’d not yet found another source for that. Maybe there wouldn’t be one.
Slayers weren’t supposed to be happy.
Giles had never said so, in so many words, but she’d figured it out on her own.
“You’re not good to me?” He looked into her eyes for a moment, then seemed to take pity on her and dropped his gaze, fixing it instead on the placket of buttons on her blouse, which he began to undo. Parted the edges and kissed the point of each breast through the thin lace of her bra. “You’ve got me fooled, then.”
Oh, he made her feel helpless! Her body sang for his. She tipped his head back and fastened on his mouth.
Whispered, when the kiss broke, “No fooling, Spike.” It was never easy for her to say she loved him, not since that first time, in bed before Willow’s spell. She seldom said it directly; more often like this, making herself understood by more oblique means. Spike, on the other hand, told her all the time, straight out; Spike’s talk was full of ripe endearments and bawdy compliments and commentary about her. She couldn’t bring herself to call him anything but his name. ‘Spikey’ occasionally, but never without an edge of facetiousness to it, even now. Sometimes, in the depths of passion, William. But nothing else.
“I know it, my queen. Know it right well tonight.” He curved one hand around the orb of her breast. “The pictures are just the thing.”
“I’m so glad.” She covered her hand with his hand, and for one minute, enclosed in his gaze, feeling his touch light her up somehow from the inside, Buffy felt perfectly alive.
“There’s one other thing would please me immensely.”
The seriousness of his face made her heart hammer. “What?”
“I fancy one of us together.”
“Us together . . . ?” A sudden dismay filled her.
How surprising it was to her, the force with which she did not want to give him what he asked for. She’d never had a picture taken with Angel, but that wasn’t it. Her reluctance had a far more basic feel to it, like the primitive peoples who believed their selves would be stolen by the camera.
She glanced back at the photos on the table. William’s sisters. She’d retrieved them from Spike’s box one evening when he was at his poker game. That one picture had seemed to her to hold the key to who he was, an unfortunate young gentleman who’d known unbearable loss, and in the end was robbed also of his soul. The vampire who, even soulless, was still replete with memory and humanity. Now she wondered how the hell she could’ve ignored the hoarded photographs of Drusilla that outnumbered those family mementos by the hundreds. Never were those two caught together when Spike wasn’t touching, holding, kissing, groping her. Looking at her as though she was the rarest and most delightful jewel. He’d adored Drusilla completely, his partner in every sort of bloodlust, violence, and depravity. He’d adore her still if not for . . . . There’d been nothing else for Spike but Drusilla and the pleasures of the kill.
A century of those images proved that out, against one of those three dead girls. Who were lucky, perhaps, to have died before their brother could have turned on them, raped and ravaged them.
This was the man she’d abandoned herself to.
Before she could marshal her expression, she saw him take it in. His hand dropped from her breast. “Never mind, my queen . . .”
“Spike, I . . . .” She didn’t know what she was trying to express. Her mind rebelled against all its thoughts.
“Shouldn’t have asked . . . photographs are so permanent. It’s enough, what you’ve given me here. More than enough.”
She brought her mouth down to his again. Her heart fluttered when she kissed him, and the sudden rush of moist heat in her groin made her squirm. He couldn’t fail to be aware of that—to smell it. But his mouth barely moved beneath hers. “Let’s go upstairs,” she murmured. “We have time before we patrol.”
He shook his head.
“There’s no moon tonight, they’ll be out in force. Don’t want you all jelly-legged before we get there.”
She began to protest, but he was already firmly doing up her buttons.
“Want to change your boots first? Then let’s go.”
Since Giles had gone away again she’d trained hard with Spike. In the back room of the magic shop, and, just after dusk, in the warren of alleys that gave off from it, she practiced tracking and killing him. Adept as she was, he still found ways to surprise her.
Some of them scared her.
Because she could not anticipate them.
Because they reminded her too vividly of when he was not her friend.
Once in a while he killed her.
Then hauled her to her feet, saying, “That wasn’t good enough. Now let’s do it again.”
There was no lover’s talk while this went on. He was all business. Hard, game-faced, unsmiling.
Most nights they patrolled; almost every time, they slew.
He kept her at it. Took it far more seriously than she had for years. As if he had something to prove to the whole demon underworld.
Once, when he was goading her into another round of sparring, she heard him mutter, “Gonna make you unkillable. Even if it kills me.”
They’d start at Restfield, the furthest cemetery out, and work their way through all the graveyards to the south and east. He was quiet as they walked, and lacked his usual swagger. Kept his hands in his pockets, didn’t even light a cigarette. She fretted for some way to call him out of his funk, short of promising what she’d just refused.
“Spike. Tell me a story.”
“What story?” His voice was dull.
“Tell me about—“ In her head, she ransacked his box again, glancing at and tossing aside the images she’d seen. “—about Paris. In, when was it? 1881?” She glanced at him then, saw him wince.
“You don’t want to hear about that.”
“Yes I do. What was it like? What did the women wear? Did you drink—“ she struggled for the word, “what is it—absence?”
“Absinthe, darling. Yes.” He sighed. “William had always wanted to go to Paris, you know. But he was always frightened of it, too. Nice clergymen’s sons went there, of course, but they pretended it was purely to see the glass at the Ste Chapelle, and the gargoyles and the Louvre. They stayed at nice safe English pensions, ate all their meals at the table d’hote, because,” here he pitched his voice high and broad, like some fussy old lady, “of course the real French cooking was just filthy my dear, all that oil, terrible.” He gave off a laugh. “But William never got there. I never saw it in the sunlight.” He sighed again, and his hand came out of his pocket and curled around hers. “Still, I’d argue that Paris is best at night. It really is all its cracked up to be. I wish I could show it to you, my queen.”
“Well, unless they open a branch of the hell mouth under the Eiffel Tower, I’m not going to be flouncing off to France. Go on—tell me about gaslight Paris.”
“I didn’t see much of it that time in ’81. Angelus kept me on a very short leash. I was a fledgling then. In Coventry most of the time.”
“Coventry? I thought you were in—“
“It’s an expression, Buffy. Never mind. Anyway, I hadn’t the right clothes yet.”
“What do you mean?”
“You were nowhere—couldn’t go anywhere worth going—if you didn’t have a proper suit of evening clothes, boiled white shirt, pumps. I hadn’t any sort of kit in ’81, and Angelus was in no temper to introduce me to his tailor. But when we’d worked our way back there again, fifteen years later—ah, then! That was a time! The black silk top hat I had was a wonderful thing. Hung onto it for decades, I did. Wore it again a great deal in the sixties.”
“What happened to it?”
“I gave it to a hippy bird in San Francisco who admired it, round about 1967. She looked charming wearing it and nothing else but her red hair down to her hips.”
“I don’t suppose it was much good to her after you’d killed her.”
“Didn’t kill her. Sometimes, believe it or not, I just like to fuck a woman and leave her be, replete with glad memories.”
“Huh. Funny how you always only tell me about the ones that got away.”
Spike paused, and something flickered in his eyes that made her curl her fingers around the stake in her pocket.
“I don’t tell you what I know will make neither of us happy, pet.”
“And it’s perfectly true that some women are too splendid to deprive the world of. Sometimes even Angelus would do the same. I expect he learned that from me. When we were in Paris, that second time, 1896, he was crazy for an opera girl. Reckon you don’t know about that, do you, pet? Kept her for half a year, from rainy November to the soft nights of May. Kept her very well, too.”
“What’s an opera girl?”
“Ballet dancer. In those days, operas had dance sequences. Hordes of little ballerinas trooping across the stage between the singing bits. Young things, barely pubescent, poor … being an opera girl was next door to being a prostitute. They all had patrons, protectors, as they were called—for that, read married blokes needing a bit of fluff on the side, or wild rich boys from the Jockey Club who were the despair of their mammas back at the old chateau. Of course, in Paris in those days, a woman could make quite a good thing out of being a horizontale, if she kept her wits about her.”
“And you say Angel—“
“Round the twist he was about his Fifine. Bitty blonde she was, with plump cheeks and big eyes and a wobbly little chin. If she was sixteen it was all she was. Dumb as dirt, and illiterate, but she could float like a fairy and had a smile that could kill in its way just as surely as my own. He kept her in a flat we’d, ah, inherited from a fellow with no more need of it. He couldn’t get enough of her. He drank from her, of course—not at the neck, not with the costumes she had to prance in every evening—but from the thigh. Kept her just off balance enough to never forget whom she belonged to, but not enough to prevent her dancing. Mostly. Those girls were always swooning and falling over, nobody remarked on such stuff—they were half-starved, most of ‘em. Angel made sure to feed his—he’d take her to Brasserie Lipp after every performance and stuff her full of sausages and sauerkraut and beer. She could eat like a coal heaver, that girl. An’ every morning I’d come in at dawn and hear them going at it behind closed doors. He’d roar while he had her, and she liked it, she’d roar back and laugh. She was too naïve to know there was anything unusual about Angelus. She liked it all.” He chuckled. “Honestly, she was a sweet little thing. She’d sit on Angel’s lap and coo to him in her pretty French—it all sounded pretty, mind you, even when she was talking about stuff that would make a stevedore blush—and he’d just smile an’ smile at her. An’ she was lucky to have him instead of someone who’d give her the clap one night and a bun in the oven the next.”
A whole quiverful of questions presented itself to her stunned mind; when Spike paused to light a cigarette, she chose one of the less pointy ones. “Where was Darla?”
“There’d been a falling out in Vienna that autumn. She’d gone off. She did that sometimes. She always found him again, or he’d find her.”
Buffy realized she was more fascinated than repulsed by all this new information about Angel; it was all so long ago and far away they might have been talking about his great great grandfather, or a movie he’d seen that she hadn’t. It was still difficult to wrap her head around the idea that Spike, who was strolling beside her, looking young and handsome, really had been and seen and done all these long ago things he described. Six years into slayering, she ought to be used to this kind of thing—she’d met plenty of vamps and demons far older than Spike. Christ, beside Anya, Spike was a toddler.
“So what were you up to, in your silk top hat, while Angel was with his opera girl?”
“I used to like to go to the Ba-Ta-Clan and see Jane Avril dance. Good company—could always make friends there, or other places like it. Sometimes I’d go to a place I found out, an atelier where the people lay about all night and smoked opium. That was a nice new taste in the sang. On the whole, I made a lot of friends in Paris that winter. Some even were left to tell tales about me come summer.” He grinned. “Some. A few.”
“And did you take Drusilla around to all these places?”
“I’d have liked to. I did later. We spent the years of the Great War in Paris, me an’ Dru. But at that time—she’d trotted off with Darla.”
Buffy squinted at him. “Ah. You were lonely, weren’t you? Angelus wasn’t paying any attention to you anymore, and Drusilla was gone. You were used to looking after her and then you had no one who needed you.”
“Found plenty who thought they needed me. Beautiful ladies an’ lovely lads both. Did just fine.”
“You were afraid you’d never see her again. But Angel wasn’t interested in going looking for them, and he wouldn’t let you go alone. Or maybe you dreaded meeting up with Darla when you didn’t have Angel there to back you up.”
“Slayer. Goddamnit when did you get to be so clever?”
“So what happened to Fifine?”
“There were bits of poor little Mam’selle Fifine strewn from garret to cellar of that house. After that we found it better to leave France. We spent the summer in Odessa. But I didn’t mind so much.”
“Because for once it wasn’t my fault we had to scarper. And because, if you must know, Drusilla was back, and wanted a lot of soothing which I was quite happy to provide.” He glanced up. “Ah, here we are. Restfield.”
“Even though Angelus wouldn’t let you have her.”
He paused, let his cigarette drop and stubbed it out. “He couldn’t stop me caring for her, though. Made me happy just to have her there. Of course I wanted to possess her. But I didn’t need to possess her in order to love her. She was my princess from the moment I first saw her.”
“And did she love you back, do you think?”
He began to walk past her, into the cemetery. She caught his arm. “Spike. Did she love you, your princess?”
“Of course she did. Eventually. Not nearly what I did her. I always knew that. But I was her wicked darling Spike, though she never did stop longing for Angelus, even though he wasn’t ever really good to her. That’s what you an’ her have in common, my queen.”
This threw her; she stood planted while he walked on into the cemetery. Then she sprang after him.
“Oh no! Don’t do that. It’s not fair!”
He spun around. “It happens to be the truth. And it’s just as fair as what you were doing just now—trying to make me say Dru never really cared about me. You’ve never believed in us, you still think vampires are incapable of real love.”
“No—I don’t, I—how can you say that?”
“’Cos it’s true. You want to hang onto that idea, all evidence to the contrary, or else you’ve got to admit to yourself that you’ve only ever loved vamps, and only ever been properly loved by vamps, and then where does that put you? You’re still trying to pretend you’re a regular girl. Who just happens to be The Chosen One. Give over Buffy, I know you’re not at peace.”
His words chilled her. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t fair that he should understand things about her that she didn’t want to understand herself! “Spike . . . no.”
“Yes. It’s all right, though. Vampires understand love, pet. What else have we got? Not work, not children, not religion. It’s either hate, or it’s love, we’ve got an intense need for one or the other, else we die of the eternal tedium of existence. Vampires know how to celebrate passion, attachment—the senses. They’re what we’ve got, and we work them to the hilt. You think I lived a lie with Drusilla for twelve decades because she didn’t love me as deeply as I loved her? Newsflash, Slayer—that’s the way with every couple, that ever was or ever will be. Love’s never equal. An’ it’s always better to be the one who loves more. Always. The one who loves more gets more. More desire, more pain, more ecstasy.” He spread a hand against his chest. “I’ve always had that good fortune. It’s my great talent. I had few others, but I don’t complain.”
“Bloody hell—!” He leapt towards her. She feinted, and in that moment the enormous vampire looming behind her fell under Spike’s thrown weight. Buffy spun and staked it just as he leapt out of the way.
There were more; the conversation was dropped for fighting, and Spike became almost giddy with it. Not for the first time, Buffy decided he enjoyed slaying far too much.
Or maybe that was another thing he knew, that she was still trying to deny.
Even as she concentrated on taking the vampires out, part of Buffy’s mind stayed fixed on what he’d said; fixed like a live butterfly on a pin. Thoughts fluttering but no real movement going on at all.
One of the problems, not the biggest maybe, but still pretty troubling, of having boyfriends who counted their ages in the hundreds, was that they knew so damn much, and they knew they knew it, so arguing with them was an uphill battle.
By midnight, the word, or whatever it was, seemed to have gone out amongst the vampires. They traversed most of the big cemetery on the south side of town and saw nothing.
In a memorial grove where the breeze tossed the treetops, Buffy pushed Spike against a poplar and went up on tiptoe to kiss him.
“Are you still sore at me?” she whispered.
“I never was.” She could just see the contours of his face in the starlight that penetrated the shadowy grove; his eyes reflected a gleam.
She continued to whisper. “This is a nice shady spot. Why don’t we have a picnic?”
“We didn’t bring anything along to eat.”
“Are you sure?” She took his hand and pressed it between her thighs; knew he’d feel how drenched she was right through the cotton crotch of her jeans.
“Mmm. My favorite pudding.” He dropped to his knees at once, and began undoing her fly when she heard a sound.
“Sssh! Wait. What is that?” She stepped back from him. “Stay here, I’ll check it out.”
She crossed the grove. The sounds coalesced as she neared into those of feverish necking. A pair of young men were secreted on a stone bench beneath an ivy trellis. They looked, by the clothes they’d half-shucked, and their youth, like maybe they were from the university; she saw a shape beneath the bench that might’ve been a knapsack. She’d run into her fair share of gay cruisers in the cemeteries of Sunnydale over the years; her warnings to them about the perils of the night seemed to go unheeded. Still, she wasn’t about to disturb these two. No need, since the place was deserted otherwise.
Buffy started to back away.
Her foot came down on Spike’s instep, and he caught her shoulders. “Ah ah ah,” he murmured, right against her ear. “Can’t you smell them, pet? Like us, they’ve just killed. And now, like us, they think they’re gonna spend all that heat in a lovely fuck. Except that they’ve already had their last go together, though they don’t know it.”
When she’d finished with them, panting with the exertion of the desperate fight they’d put up, she discovered the shape under the bench she’d mistaken for a knapsack was the remains of their meal. A young man, drained and dead.
Nothing to do for him; they left the body there to be found in the morning and started the walk home.
Buffy slid her arm through Spike’s. “So, who were they?”
“Who was who?”
“Those last two I just took out.”
They’d fought all out, as a team, defending each other. When she’d finally dusted one, the other, seeing his lover explode into ash, roared in raw anguish; it had taken all her skill, and considerable back-up from Spike, to finish him off. “They were tight, those guys. Vampires in love, like you said before. So I can’t help but wonder, what was their complex past, their passionate story—“
“Shut up. They were vermin.” He dropped her arm.
They passed beneath a streetlight, and she could see him clearly now. His face was hard, closed.
“I’m not having you go soft, Buffy. Giles heard you say such things, even in jest, he’d be apoplectic. Vampires are evil predators. That’s all you need to think about them. Forget about Angel—he’s the exception, one in a billion. And forget me, too. If I didn’t have the chip—which is the only thing that lets me begin to be worthy of you, Slayer, not that I am the least bit worthy of you—I’d have gone on trying to kill you—for the love of my princess, who wanted me to—until I won, or you did. That’s what it always is with vampires. Your death, or theirs.”
“Jeez, Spike. You don’t have to tell me.”
Don’t I know that there, but for the happenstance of a piece of silicon, might’ve been you. Making love to your Drusilla over the recumbent body of your kill. As you must’ve done, thousands of times.
Hell, haven’t I seen the pictures?
The chip could fail. It could fail at any moment. Computers went on the blink all the time. He wasn’t like Angel. If there was nothing physical to hold him back . . . . If that happened, what would his love mean then? Would it restrain him?
“I do have to tell you, because apparently you’re slipping. Into a lot of dangerous speculation.”
“I can’t help thinking,” she said, her voice quiet. “Having you around, it makes me think.”
“Buffy. You think yourself into hesitating because you’re too busy wondering about the poignant backstory of some filth that’s out to slash your jugular, I’ll—“
For a second she thought he was going to strike her, and she raised her fists. Then she was caught in his arms, so hard that her feet left the ground.
“Don’t you dare . . . don’t you dare let them get to you. It’s not going to be a measly sodding vampire that takes you from us again.”
As he crushed her mouth in a devouring kiss, as she threaded her arms around his neck and her legs around his hips, kissing him back just as hard, she understood that she needed him, and he was good for her, not in spite of what he was, but because of it. Who else but a demon, an old enemy, full of years and darkness, could be the true intimate of such a Slayer as she was? Who else understood what she faced, what she feared, what she must always always always do? What human lover could ever really accept that? What other man could have the strength to let her be so strong?
The Initiative might as well have made him for her. Their sole gift to the slayer they’d tried to destroy.
Still holding her up, his mouth still on hers, Spike wheeled around and pressed her against the pole. Her whole body felt like liquid light; she twined around him while he wrestled with their clothes, “Just tear it, Spike—tear it—“ and then he was inside her, and she gasped.
“Oh God, it’s never—“
“Never what, Slayer?”
“Never not good with you. Oh, Spike . . . .”
Here she was getting fucked by her vampire lover beneath a streetlamp on the corner of Elm and Grove in the middle of the night, with the light high above her head making little zap-zap noises, and the sawing of her breath loud in her own ears. Brought back to life again in Sunnydale, to slay, and do this. Spike’s face was pressed into her neck, he emitted a humming against her skin that worked her clit like a vibrator as he filled her. She snuffed hard at the moist air that smelled of his leather and dewy grass and her own excitement-charged sweat, and clenched everything she had around him.
This was hot, and awkward, and desperate, and kind of painful, and absolutely necessary. They’d done it like this the very first time, but the position was all that occasion had in common with now. She’d still believed then that she was better than him, that he had no thoughts or feelings she needed to take into account. She’d not yet found out that he held the secret of her life’s renewal in his gaze. Spike raised his head. “See me, my queen.”
She locked eyes with him. That was all it took to make them both come.
See me, my queen. This was something he said a lot. She’d already figured out that it was part of his personal sexual incantation. He always shot harder and longer and somehow more helplessly when he could look into her eyes at the same time.
I’m not like all the others.
She splashed her face with water, then leaned in close to the bathroom mirror. The edges of her nostrils twitched as she looked at herself. Tired as she was, she still thought she looked pretty good, better certainly than any time since her resurrection. The women’s magazines all said that sex helped your complexion. Now that she was getting it every day, she realized how much she needed it every day. Usually more than once. Other women, she suspected, weren’t so needy that way. Were they? She thought of Anya . . . but then Anya was an ex-demon, and used to a different standard. She wondered what Tara would say about that. Although poor Tara wasn’t getting any now, so it would probably not be a good idea to remind her.
Sex and death . . . they were always grouped together in psych class. In biology class too, although you’d really think it would be sex and life that got enclosed together in the parentheses. Faith used to talk about how the slaying got her horny, and she’d pretended not to know what she was talking about. As if there was something shameful about the mere fact of wanting that release.
Well, she’d only barely done being a virgin then.
The virgin of Spike’s twisted dreams.
She’d had no idea yet of what her body could do, or require. She didn’t yet know the appetite of the Slayer inside her. And she didn’t even really know Buffy in those days. Buffy was not such a nicey-nice girl blending in with the other nicey-nice girls as she’d wanted her to.
You are one nasty filthy fuck, Spike had whispered to her once, and she’d shivered all over with lascivious pride.
Again she saw that last pair of vampires in her mind’s eye. Why had it felt like cheating, to surprise them in the midst of their lovemaking? Before she’d realized what they were, she’d thought how sweet they looked in each other’s arms, two young guys kissing like they meant it.
When it was over, the air heavy with the dry acrid smell of vampire dust, Spike had knelt for a moment, still in game face, beside the cold victim. He didn’t touch it, but she thought he would have if her eye wasn’t on him.
“Spike, don’t! He’s—gone.” She’d almost said empty.
And he—she was sure of it—had almost snarled.
It was still early when they encountered a group of young vamps, making no effort at stealth, swaggering through the cemetery near Spike’s old crypt, whooping and roaring and leaving a trail of beer bottles in their wake.
“Bloody hell, get a load of those nutters. Don’t they know where they are?”
There were seven of them; Buffy made short work of three—drunkenness made them clumsy, it was almost too easy—and she saw Spike out of the corner of her eye take care of two more. The sixth, a big hulking thing, occupied her a little longer, and when he’d disintegrated, she looked around for Spike.
He had been right behind her a couple minutes ago, but he wasn’t there now. Sounds of a scuffle led her around behind the crypt. He had the last vampire expertly pinned against the mausoleum wall. She was just in time to see Spike bite into her neck like it was a hunk of steak. She heard the crunch, and saw the creature’s face over Spike’s shoulder, mouth and eyes wide open in shock. A monster face, but piteous, somehow, even so, in its struggling. The sound of his sucking, matched by the vamp girl’s terrified mewl, was loud in the graveyard’s empty air. Her gorge and anger rose together—she shoved Spike aside hard and staked the vamp.
“Hey—! I’d’ve done that—!”
“You kiss me with that mouth?”
Spike stared at her, licking the remnants from the corners of his lips.
“All’s fair in war, pet.” He shook off the bumps. “She’s just a demon. We’re out here to kill the demons, remember?”
“But that’s human blood you drank!”
“It’s vamp blood now. And she’d have been on your back in another second if I hadn’t grabbed her.”
“You can’t drink from other vampires! It’s the same thing as killing people by proxy!”
“Buffy. Her prey is already dead. She didn’t kill at my behest. What difference does it make if I have a taste before I take her out?”
“What dif—? Do I really have to explain this to you, Spike? After all this time? Siphoning the blood of innocents out of an undead third party doesn’t make it any less atrocious! You can’t turn slaying into some sort of weird blood laundering scheme!”
“The blood of innocents? Who died and made you the fucking poet laureate?”
“You took pleasure in hurting that vamp girl, I saw that, she was so frightened—and you were feasting on her. And it was human blood you took out of her. She wasn’t living on pig blood! Shit.” A headache began behind her eyes, and she realized her emotions had dropped the moorings of reason altogether.
“Jesus Christ, woman, you’re the Slayer! What do you care if that bint was frightened! Don’t you think a few of the thousands of vamps you’ve done for were frightened too? What of it?”
She struggled to pull the whole thing together, even as she wished she’d just not pursued that noise around the corner of the mausoleum. Because the moment she seemed sure of one thing, ten questions popped up around it. Why did she feel so sick inside when he said ‘just a demon?’ Why did the idea that he might hate what he was make her feel so sad and crazy? Why did this whole thing—slaying, and him helping her do it—seem all at once so fraught with ambiguities? Either vampires were evil or they were not. If they were—and she remained sure they were—they needed killing, and what difference how?
Angel . . . her heart’s darling . . . well, he had a soul, which ephemeral incomprehensible thing made him, not an ex-vampire, of course, but one who transcended the category. He did not need killing, not anymore. Nor did he take pleasure in it. Angel did what he had to do, but he didn’t take the scenic route.
Spike did not transcend the category. Spike had no soul.
And yet she’d never killed him, despite numerous opportunities, and she would not kill him tonight.
He was her best confidant, her suitor and sex-maker. He held the only happiness she had any access to now. A thought which made her feel sadder than she had since the early days of her unlooked-for new life.
“That’s not the issue! You can’t be ingesting human blood, Spike. In any way. Not and still be with me.” There. That was a certainty. She’d hold tight to that, come what might.
“I’ve had yours. Sipped it right out from your—”
“That isn’t my life’s blood, for one thing, and it was sex, and—Oh God—I am never letting you do that again!”
When he started to speak again, she cut him off.
“Spike. Just. Shut up. I can’t be doing this now.” She turned her back and stalked off.
But he grabbed her arm and jerked her around. “Don’t you walk away from me when I’m talking to you, Slayer!”
His hand tightened, he jerked her in close, and suddenly she was looking into glittering yellow eyes just inches from hers. He growled before he spoke. “Vampire, remember? Big hungry demon inside. Look at my true face, pet. You like it well enough when I’m fucking you, but it’s not there just to make you hot.”
A deep shudder took her, she felt it pass through her body, freezing her to the spot, and disperse into the ground. For a moment she thought she might vomit. “Let go! You disgust me!”
She threw a punch that sent him sprawling, and stood over him, trembling all over, stake upraised.
“Goddamnit woman, what do you want from me? You think I don’t know the difference between dead blood and the real stuff? I’ll fucking show you—!”
Then he moved, so fast she couldn’t register the moment in which he was no longer lying on the ground, and before she understood what was happening the stake was gone, her hands were caught and held in an iron grip, and she was bent back over a tombstone with his fangs at her throat.
Okay—he’d let her go now with a shove, and a disgusted reminder that she must always have her weapon at the ready. That’s what he did, the few times he bested her at sparring.
It was in that moment when she relaxed against him, ready to regain her footing . . .
. . . that he bit her.
She cried out as he fastened on her neck, her blood leaping into his mouth from her torn flesh, but at the same time the shiver that was a prelude to climax, and somehow better than climax, began at the point where his fangs penetrated her, and took her whole body in a seismic quiver. She gasped, her head flooding with memory, her cunt twitching and pulsing, and her legs jerked—but not into a kick. She wrapped them around his hips. Yes. God—yesyesyesyesyes.
Then all at once she was looking into his face. Seeing it slide back into its smoother form, except that the blue eyes were as ruthless as the golden ones. He stared at her for a moment that seemed very long, and when he cuffed her hard across the cheek, she wasn’t prepared for that either, and spun off the stone to land on the grass.
He was upon her, pinning her wrists to the turf, before she could draw breath. “You stupid cunt! You . . . stupid . . . bloody . . . complacent—! You’ve lost all respect for me, haven’t you? How dare you—how dare you—”
Then he hit her again.
“Fight! When there’s a goddamn ravening vampire at your throat, you fight, Slayer!”
He shoved up and regained his feet. Stood towering over her, and she looked up at him from her bed of grass, not just aroused, but curiously relaxed and contented, too. Found a little smile forming on her lips. This was funny really—he was funny. His stupid machismo.
“C’mon, Spikey, knock it off. This is all because I said no about the picture of us, isn’t it? You’re sore about it, so you’ve decided to bite the girls and make them cry.”
He froze, his hands dangling, and stared at her with an expression of such bewilderment that she wanted to laugh, even though part of her mind was screaming No no no, this is serious! He’s got a belly full of somebody’s fresh blood—and he just bit you! Hard!
Still smiling, she picked herself up.
“I trust you. I know you won’t hurt me. Isn’t that what you wanted? For me to trust you, and love you? Doesn’t this prove it better than some picture?”
Spike stepped back, and kept backing up even as she came towards him. The expression on his face now was unreadable. It was as if he didn’t know her, didn’t know what they were doing there together.
She put a hand out to touch his chest, but he jerked away.
He shook his head. Kept backing up, and shaking his head, warding her off with hands upraised.
“Spike. What are you doing?”
“Fuck me—! This’s gone too far!”
The next time she saw him he was certainly sober, but his clothes and hair smelled drunk, and everything about him denoted the heavy languor of hang-over. She almost stumbled over him, on her way in from solo patrol at midnight. Dawn had forgotten to leave the porch light on, and he wasn’t even smoking, just sitting huddled in a pool of shadow on the top step.
“Spike. Where have you been?” Relief shot through her like a bolt, and for a moment she was almost dizzy. She heard her voice do that weird wavery thing that happened when she was on the edge of being overwrought. Her hands tingled to make contact, but she didn’t know which she wanted to do more, strike him or stroke him. Her eyes burned with the approach of tears.
“For four days?”
“A lot of thoughts.”
“A lot of beer, you mean.” She paused, waited. Then, “I looked for you. Every night. No one had seen you. I was worried.” She paused. Took a breath, then decided to chance it. “I was angry. And hurt. That you’d just go off like that. After you said you’d never leave me. Spike. I was scared.”
That was it.
She hit him.
His head snapped back, but he took the blow without protest.
“I almost didn’t come back at all.”
She sat down beside him, careful to keep a fair few inches between them, until she knew what was going on.
“So why did you?”
“I guess I just don’t love you enough yet.”
He looked right into her eyes, and in the moonlight she saw the inarticulate, irrational abyss of his devotion. Knew that it was the only thing in him that could outmatch even the bloodlust. Maybe because it sprang from the same source? Was it the demon who adored her, or William? Was there even any meaning in trying to parse that out? Probably not.
A warmth suffused her from the core of herself, mingling with her anger, diluting it. She put a hand on his arm. “Spike . . . .”
“I knew the first time I saw you that you’d be the undoing of me, somehow or other. That’s all right. But what I don’t want—won’t have—are you listening, Slayer? I won’t be the undoing of you. What you did the other night—what you let me do—”
“Oh Spike.” She stopped, considered for a moment. “I slew seven since the other night. Every single one I saw. I didn’t hesitate. None of them got away.”
He didn’t acknowledge this. “Don’t forget that I’m just like all the others. Keep me in my place, Buffy. Don’t you trust me too much.”
She slid her fingers down his leather sleeve, and touched the back of his hand. Slowly threaded her fingers in with his. “But I have to trust you. It’s what you wanted, and you can’t change the rules now. It’s too late now for me to do this any other way.”
“Buffy . . . .”
“Spike, tell me. I’ve never asked you this before. Why do you love me?”
He started. Let out a short bark of a laugh. “Why? Because you’re Buffy Summers.”
“That’s the same reason you’d have given four years ago if I asked you why you wanted to kill me.”
“Well . . . it’s like this. It is the same thing. What I wanted to extinguish then . . . what I cherish now . . . is that powerful thing you are.” He paused, and his eyes closed for a moment. “You made me. . . aware of myself like no one else had done yet. Not those other slayers, and not Dru. I wanted your attention. You made me uneasy with what I was. First I thought I wanted to conquer you. Figured if I could kill you that bad feeling would go away. Then it turned out I wanted—wanted the opposite of that.”
She tried to keep her face impassive. “So . . . you stuck around . . . like a thorn in my side . . . ended up doing some selfless things . . . and finally you even won me over. You’ve even grown enough of a conscience to go off on a bender when you thought you still had it in you to hurt me. But do you think you’re a good man now, Spike?”
He showed her his slow, hot smile. “I’m your man, Slayer.”
Right. Of course. What other answer was there?
She saw him then as he was the other night, all fierce and silvered in the moonlight, not as a man, but as a wolf. A half-tamed wolf that some force had spelled into human form, imbued with human intelligence. That wanted to be a man without entirely understanding what that meant.
A wolf that was entirely hers.
She could train him to contain his appetites, and he would, not because he accepted the absolutes of right and wrong in his own mind, but so he could please her. So he’d be allowed to remain by her side. To exercise his persistent, passionate, lupine love.
He was a very intelligent wolf, very biddable. He might struggle against her at times, but in the end he’d always show her his belly. He didn’t really want to be the alpha. All she’d have to do was teach him.
The comfort in this idea was insidious. Spike stood before her still resplendent in the murders he’d done. Just as the wolf was resplendent in his fur and fangs, the gore of his prey dripping from his jaws.
Anywhere else, the logic of her reasoning would not hold.
But this was the Hellmouth, and she was the resurrected Slayer. Her destiny, which she could not walk away from, was about doling out pain and death. She couldn’t bear to be alone in that anymore. She needed her fierce fervent wolf beside her. His loyalty and his strength.
Otherwise she’d just be too lonely to stand it.
She rose and started for the door. Counted to herself as she went. Felt the tug of the invisible lead—yes. Here he came. In another moment he was loping behind her up the stairs, towards the bedroom.
No questions asked.
Later on, in the dark, she said, “Spike, what will you do when I’m gone?”
“Where are you going without me, my queen?”
“I mean, after I’m dead.”
“Whatever got to you would’ve killed me first. That’s how it’ll go next time.”
She cuddled closer to him then, pressing one leg between his, and tucking her head under his chin. She loved how their bodies fit together, he was just that much bigger than she was that she felt girly with him, but not dwarfed. Sometimes, like now, the illusion he created—of being a boyfriend just like other women’s boyfriends—was so perfect, so three-dimensional and fleshed-out and convincing, that she could almost forget they’d both had to perish and rise again to be here together.
“I might not be killed. I might just die. I might have a car crash, or a household accident. Lots of people die every year from household accidents.”
“I really should make a will. I’ll leave my body to science—science, mind you, not magic. And I’ll leave you to the next slayer. My executors will pack you off to her with a note pinned to your shirt—‘A Legacy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ You’ll protect her while she’s still raw, teach her how not to get killed in any of the more stupid ways, and make sure she’s not lonely and scared at night, like I used to be, alone in my bed with the whole weight of the hellmouth pressing down on me. You’ll hold her . . .”
“Like this,” he murmured.
“ . . . like that, and kiss her breasts . . .”
Spike traced the shape of a star on each nipple with his tongue.
“. . . and her belly . . . “
He moved down her body, leaving a curlicue trail of cool moisture on her skin.
“. . . and her . . .”
“Say it, my queen. Say the word.”
“No—mine. Spike . . . mine.”
She spread her thighs wide for him, but he teased her with nothing there but more kisses, each on a different spot, and too soft to ignite her, until she began to groan.
“Spike . . . !”
“Why should I do all that for the next slayer? Don’t know her from Adam. Or Eve, I should say.”
“Because that’s what a legacy is. You’d really be doing it for me. Spike . . . do it for me.” She pushed his head down. God, she’d missed him. Four days without him were a punishment almost too much to bear. Although she knew he’d not intended to punish her, but to spare her. She’d not let herself believe he was gone for good, but even so, she’d lain awake each night and churned with wanting him.
He pressed his open mouth against her, wrote their names with his tongue on the tight hard point of her clit, letter by letter, as she squirmed. Then whispered, “That’s all very well for you to say, Buffy. But there isn’t going to be anybody else for me after you. You’re my last.”
“Spike, now you don’t.” But she loved the idea that he would die for her, that he would not want to live anymore without her. Liked to make this kind of prattle with him in the dark, in bed.
“If I bollix things up so badly as to survive you, I’m gonna stretch myself out on your grave and wait for the sun to come up. My dust’ll be your comforter.” He slipped two fingers inside her, crooked them a little and found the good place inside; pressed on it until she bucked and wriggled. “But that’s not going to happen, because I’m not going to survive you. Buffy, promise me something.”
“If I die to save you. Promise me you’ll leave the hellmouth. Go and find yourself some nice fellow in Montana or some such, with a good heart beating in his chest and live tadpoles beating in his jism, and marry him and make babies and leave the slaying to someone else.”
She let out a thin laugh. “Spike, you know I can’t do that.” She sighed. He liked the silly prattle too. “I’m never gonna be wife-and-mother-girl. And we should stop talking all this morbid romantic nonsense. It gets us all excited, doesn’t it, but it’s stupid.”
He laughed then too; she both heard it and felt it, because his head was resting on her thigh, and his fingers were inside her.
“Yes pet . . . but what am I, really, except morbid romantic nonsense? S’all I’ve ever known or been.”
She heard the sadness in his words, and wanted to dispel it. “Forget about it, Spike. I’m so glad you came back. You know that, right? I was miserable while you were gone.”
“Didn’t go away to make you want me more. Needed to do right by you, Slayer. Thought maybe I wasn’t.”
“I know, my lover. Come inside me now.”
He took her from behind, lying on their sides. Buffy had left the closet door ajar, and she could see herself in the mirror there, her pussy opened around his invisible cock and her clit moving beneath his invisible caressing hand.
He dropped kisses on the back of her neck, on her ear and cheek, and when she turned her head, on her mouth. This wasn’t one of his nights for filthy talk—he was in a worshipful mood, almost reverent. Between kisses, he told her he loved her.
After a little while she withdrew and turned to face him, threw a leg over his hip and guided him back inside. “Like this is better.”
He nodded, pensive, his pale eyes concentrated on her face. He looked sad, like he knew things he couldn’t tell her. She kissed him, wanting to kiss that look from his face.
Later still, when they were spooned bonelessly together, Spike at her back, he said, “Willow was right.”
“When she was trying to break us up. She knew you wouldn’t stay with me long, if we couldn’t do this.”
“It’s me being hard for you that you love. It’s me in your cunny that you love. It’s me adoring you and serving you that you love. But you don’t love me.”
All at once her cheeks were burning. Why? “Spike . . . no. Don’t—”
“It’s all right, my queen. It’s as it should be. It’s . . . what I’m used to.”
She was quiet for a time, long enough that she thought he might be asleep, his cool pulseless hand curled around her breast. Death and the maiden. Except I’m death too. But what I’m not is that skank Drusilla. She only taught you to be a cringing dog. To sit up and snap at the scraps she threw you.
You. You’re not a dog. You’re my big bad wolf.
She sat up and switched the bedside light on. Shook him. When his eyes opened, she pushed the hair off her neck and showed him the still puffy, pink-and-white scar where he’d bitten her four nights ago.
“Open it. Rip it open again, Spike, and drink from me. Sate yourself.”
“Slayer— Buffy . . . what the . . . ?”
“I can’t have this be like it was with the others. I held so much back from them, and what did it get me? You’re right—the one who loves more gets more. Well, you’re gonna have to wrestle me for that title, because I want it. I want it even if it means you feed off me every day. If that’s what it takes to make you know what you are to me, I’m happy . . . happy . . . .” She knew she was going to cry, and tried not to. Not just yet.
He stared at her, his face, for a moment, a perfect blank.
“Come on, do it. I want you to.” She leaned closer, spoke in a fierce whisper. “I want you to. There’s nothing of me you can’t have.”
“Oh pet . . . .”
Then he put a hand out and touched the tender place on her throat. “I’d like that. Fuck no, I’d love it. Love it with a mad passion. My God, I . . . .” His eyes closed then, and she could tell that whole scenarios of blood ravishment were blooming in his mind. Then he shook his head, and looked at her again. “But you know it wouldn’t be good for us, Buffy. And I don’t just mean because I might kill you.” His hand moved through her hair, smoothing it. She pressed herself into his caress. “I’m not going to do it.”
She was relieved, and also terribly disappointed, and then the tears spilled over in wild sobs, and he pulled her into his arms.
“But you could—! You could—! I’d let you—!”
“My queen, I know it now, I know it. Ssssh.”
His bite formed a permanent scar, a twin to the one she already bore on the opposite side.
She concealed them, her twin marks, behind scarves, collars, her hair. The pleasure these fixed kisses gave her was not for others to know about. It was deep, visceral, private.
Private like the doubt she could not dismiss with every vampire she slew.
Private like the frisson of desire that took her at the sight of her lover’s game face.
At odd moments she traced their shapes lightly with her fingertip, and let memory suffuse her skin with heat.