When morning light finally broke, she crept downstairs to check on him. She found him sleeping, curled beneath his duster, the TV still on but muted, and an oddly contented look on his face. She watched him for a long minute, listening to the voices in her head tell her what a fool she was for letting him anywhere near her or her family. But she didn't feel foolish...she felt...what the hell DID she feel? Powerful. Yeah, that was one thing. The way he responded to her, the way he hungered for her made her feel more powerful than all the dusty vamps and averted world-endings of the last few years combined.
But there was something else.
She stood at the foot of the sofa, noting with surprise that he'd bothered to remove his boots before lying down. Well, perhaps he hadn't actually been raised by wild beasts after all, despite all the interesting sounds he'd made last night when he...oh, let's not go there.
He was awake then, and looking at her. So still, his face, as if carved from the finest marble. Her breath caught in her throat when he spoke.
"Spike. Sleep well?"
He didn't answer. He'd only really been asleep for a few minutes, just long enough to dream a sweet dream in which she was touching him again, only this time his wasn't suspended from the ceiling, and she was allowing him to touch her back.
"You need to get downstairs before the sun starts blazing in here. I don't have time to vacuum up your dirty ashes before I leave for class, and my mom has strict rules about leaving dusty vampires on the carpet." Her words were bracing, but her smile was sweet.
"Yeah, as in basement, as in you, as in now."
"How 'bout I just borrow a blanket and toddle on back to my crypt instead? Don't mean to reject your kind invitation, but, really, luv, I'm fairly certain Butch won't be around. He's no bigger fan of the sunshine than I am. Besides, I'm half-starved."
"Don't be an ass, Spike. I'll stop back at lunchtime and bring you some blood. In the meantime, get some sleep. You'll need it."
"Yeah?" He waggled his eyebrows at her. "More plans for me, darlin'? Can't get enough of the trussed and helpless thing, eh?"
She didn't bother to blush. That was one of the things that was nice about her relationship with Spike...she didn't have to pretend that she was remotely innocent. Riley--now HE was big into the whole sweet and almost-virginal routine, and was not a happy camper when she let that mask slip, which she had been doing far too often lately.
She walked around the sofa to stand at his head, so that he was looking up at from an acute angle. Gently, she ran her hand through his blonde curls, then grabbed a handful and yanked sharply. Leaning down low, she looked directly into his eyes. He didn't look away.
Her hair fell on either side of his face. Her scent was of sleep, and dreams, and the soft cotton nightgown she wore was very thin.
"I mean that tonight we're taking out Butch and the rest of his gang, assuming there are more of them." She grasped his hair more firmly and darted toward him, capturing his full lower lip between her teeth and sucking it into her mouth.
He lay frozen on the sofa, except for the sudden and extreme hardening in his pants. She released him all at once and turned to go. He stopped her with his words. "Buffy?" She looked back at him. "Have a nice day, luv."
He had been quite deeply asleep when she'd left the mug of microwaved blood at the top of the stairs for him. By the time he awakened and found it, it was cold, but he didn't want to risk startling her mum or the kid by showing up in the kitchen to nuke it again, so he drank it that way. Besides, he'd often wondered if the waves of radiation did something funky to the blood...destroyed something he needed from it.
Late in the afternoon, the slamming of the back door awakened him again, and he listened intently to hear who had entered. It was Buffy, accompanied by the school-boy. Joy to the friggin' world.
They were arguing. Moving from room to room, often just out of earshot. He crept up the stairs to listen at the cellar door.
"I'm just saying that I wish you would have told me where you were going last night. I waited up for you for hours."
"Look, Riley, I said I was sorry. I meant it. Now drop it, please. I have things to do"
"I told you. There's a new vamp gang in town. Spike and I are taking them out tonight. In the meantime, I need to shower, and make dinner for Dawn because Mom is working late again."
"Yeah, that's another thing. Why are you and SPIKE working together on this? Why can't I help you take these hostiles out?"
"I told you that too. Spike has a history with the leader of this group. He knows his MO, and besides, this vamp is gunning for Spike. I need to take care of it."
"The vamp is gunning for Spike and you need to take care of it? I don't get it, Buffy, why the hell don't you let Spike deal with it by himself? What's the worst that could happen? Spike gets dusted? Now, THERE'S a loss."
Spike couldn't hear her answer because she didn't have one. He did hear Riley moving across the floor. Then: "Come on, Buffy. At least let me shower with you. We haven't made love in almost a week. I need you."
"Yeah, well, I need some stuff too."
"I know. How about this--I'll let you do whatever you want, OK?" Even at a distance and through the door, Spike could hear the tone of condescension in his voice. Simperin' prat.
"Don't do me any favors, Riley."
"Come on, Buffy. Please? I'll even...you know...go down on you if you want."
"Like I said, Riley, no favors. Don't knock yourself out on my account." Spike could hear the anger and humiliation in her voice. "You should just go now. Call me tomorrow or something. I gotta get moving."
Spike heard her start up the stairs. He heard Riley sigh dejectedly and slam out of the house. He heard the shower two floors up turn on. And then he sat down on the steps to think.
The phone began to ring just as she stepped out of the shower. She let the machine pick up.
"Buffy, it's me. I'm staying over at Carrie's tonight to study for Algebra. I called mom already--she's ok with it. See you tomorrow."
Ok, well that was one less thing she needed to worry about.
The entire time she had been in the shower, her thoughts had ping-ponged back and forth between her latest argument with Riley and the fact that there was a vampire waiting for her in the basement. AND the fact that the vampire in the basement made her feel better about herself than Riley did. How could that be?
But now she was dressed and had some time to kill. Since she didn't have to cook anything nutritional for Dawn, she could make with the junk food, and maybe catch the news while she and Spike worked out a plan for tonight.
She stood in the kitchen, in front of the cellar door, undecided. After all, he WAS a guest and she should probably knock, but that just seemed silly. Still...
The door flew open in front of her and he stepped out, holding the empty mug.
"Thanks for the snack, pet. What's the plan for this evenin'?"
She looked at him sharply, expecting to see his usual suggestive leer. It was absent.
"Um...thought I'd eat something, then maybe we could talk about it--that sound ok?"
"S'fine. You didn't by chance bring anymore of this, did you?"
He walked to the sink and began washing out the mug.
"Um, yeah, in the fridge."
"Ta, luv." He turned to look at her. "How much do I owe you?"
She was mesmerized by his very normal, relaxed demeanor. "Huh?"
"The blood, ducks. How much do I owe you for the blood?"
"Oh. Oh, don't worry about it...it's nothing...it's..." WHAT the hell was she babbling for?
"Right, then. 'Preciate it. Now, could I trouble you for a shower?'
"A shower. I know, you probably think all us vamp-types enjoy bein' down an' dirty an' all---but I've never fancied stinkin' up the place, an' after last night..." He didn't finish. He just looked at her. And she wasn't embarrassed, and she wasn't ashamed, and it was just OK. Just really OK.
"Upstairs. You can use the guest bathroom, last door on the left. There should be towels and stuff."
She watched him walk out of the kitchen, and heard him climb the stairs, and tried not to think about him after that. She tried really, really hard.
He came down the stairs a short time later to find her flipping between Headline News and
Entertainment Tonight. The sky had finally darkened enough that he didn't need to avoid the living room picture window, so he joined her.
He smelled clean. Not that he had reeked before, but now his skin and hair had a fresh scent that was extra-appealing.
She looked at him.
"I'm goin' out back to have a smoke, alright?"
Her eyes narrowed. "Did you smoke in our basement? I'll KILL you if you smoked in my house!" Why was she suddenly so pissed at him?
"No! I haven't had a cig all day, cross my dead, unbeatin' 'eart." He looked at her with as much sincerity as he could muster.
"OK. Go ahead, but make it quick. We need to plan."
He stood on the back porch, dragging hard on his cigarette. The time had come. He ground out the butt beneath his boot heel and made his way back through the kitchen.
"OK, Spike, let's figure this out. What do you remember about this Butch vamp that we can use?"
She looked up at him. His eyes searched her face so intently.
"Before we start with the game plan, luv, I need to say something."
She had a sinking feeling that she wasn't going to be pleased by whatever he had to say.
He joined her on the sofa, without an invitation.
"Look, pet, I heard you and Soldier Boy this afternoon. I heard what he said to you."
'You heard? ALL OF IT?" Her humiliation came crashing back in on her, and her first instinct was to take it out on him. "You sneaky, eavesdropping, filthy...after I saved you last night...after I...after I let you stay here to keep you safe...how DARE you?"
He let her sputter to a stop. Then, still looking intently into her face, he began.
"First of all, I THANKED you for saving me, I'm MUCH OBLIGED, more than you know, BELIEVE ME. An' what happened after, well, frankly, I haven't really let myself think about it too much--afraid it'll turn out to be some sort of wanker fantasy of mine. An' as for the other, I apologize for the eavesdroppin.' I DO know the difference between right and wrong, but I have to tell you that my sneaky ways aren't really the trouble you should be addressin' here, luv."
"Oh, and I suppose you're going to tell me what problems I SHOULD be addressing?"
"Well, for openers, there's the little matter of the boyfriend who doesn't have half the brains God gave cabbage."
"Shut the fuck up, Spike."
"I will not." She saw the surface of his face ripple slightly, and bright yellow sparkles shot across his eyes. She realized that he was genuinely enraged.
"What the bleedin' hell is wrong with the poncey prat anyway?" He began to mimic Riley's patronizing tone. "I'll let you do anything you want. The sod will LET you? He'll LET you?!?
The pillock should get down on his bleedin' knees and thank whoever it is he prays to that you take the time to LOOK at him!"
She was surprised. And strangely grateful.
"Buffy, tell me you don't allow that fool to make you feel badly about yourself? About what you need?"
Suddenly, she felt her lower lip begin to tremble. Great, Buff. Burst into tears, why dontcha? That oughta be good for a chuckle or two.
The sight of her hurt feelings seemed only to fuel his rage. "BLOODY HELL!!!"
Suddenly, he was up and pacing, swinging his arms around to punctuate the longest, most graphic string of curses she'd ever heard.
"Doesn't he KNOW? Doesn't he CARE? For pity's sake, there you are, out there, bein' a student, a big sis, yer mum's been sick, savin' the world right an' left, takin' time out to rescue MY sorry ass...although I don't suppose he'd be much impressed by that...and he can't find it in his heart to love you like you need to be loved...what a waste, what a sinful waste of a beautiful woman..."
He stopped. He'd gone too far. He hadn't meant to let his own feelings for her get tangled up in his diatribe against Riley.
"Sorry, pet." He came to sit down beside her on the sofa. "Didn't mean to get all worked up. My point--an' I DO have one--is that you mustn't let him make you feel dirty about what you need. He's the one with the problem, not you. An' you sure as hell shouldn't be goin' about lookin' for thrills in the darker corners of our fair city. You'll get yourself hurt, an' then where will we be?" His smile was tender, but the golden sparkles had not yet left his eyes.
She stared at him in wonder. Her brain was in serious danger of shutting down completely.
"Buffy. Luv. Whatever it was that happened with us last night, whatever that was about for you, you shouldn't have to come to me for it. You should be able to go to him."
"I can't." And now the tears fell. "He doesn't want it. He can't handle it. He's got all these ideas about what sex...what it's supposed to be, what it's not supposed to be. He always wants it to be romantic."
Spike slapped his own face in his frustration. "That soddin' git wouldn't know real romance if it reared up an' bit off the head of his dick."
Something about that image made Buffy begin to giggle. The last of the tears squeezed out of her eyes and down her cheeks as she held herself and rocked back and forth. Spike relaxed a bit.
Finally, she stopped. "Oh, Spike, thank you. Thank you for not making me feel dirty and disgusting because I don't want it always to be about flowers and moonlight. And I'm sorry about last night."
"Sorry? Pet, you've nothin' to be sorry about. My god, do you KNOW what you did to me? Nearly twenty-four hours later and my balls are still achin'--in a good way." Now the evil grin that she had grown used to was back. The moment had lightened considerably.
"We should get going."
"Yes, pet, but one other thing."
"Hmmm?" She was slipping on her boots.
"Did I hear that idiot prat say that he would consider goin' down on you--like it was a special prezzie or somethin'?"
Buffy winced at that. It hurt to know Spike had heard it, but they were well beyond pretense now.
"Yeah. What can I tell you? It's not his thing."
Spike reached out and grabbed her tightly by the shoulders, forcing her to meet his eyes.
"He's a fool, Slayer. Any man in his right mind--any monster, for that matter--would jump at the chance to please you that way. I know I would." There was no smirk on his face. He was deadly serious.
She didn't answer for a long moment. "Well, honestly, I've never really understood what all the fuss was about...I mean..."
He dropped his hands from her shoulders and fell back onto the sofa. "Lord, pet, then no one's ever done right by you, have they?"
"I don't know, Spike. How would I know?"
He shifted his glance to her face. She was looking at him with the same curious, intent expression she'd had the night before.
"Maybe sometime you'll let me show you?" It was a shot in the dark, and if he'd had any breath, he would have held it.
"I don't know, Spike...I'm very big with the confusion right now."
He sat up and turned toward her again. "Right, then. We should get a move on." He stood and reached for his duster. She grabbed his hand before he could move away from the sofa.
"Thanks, Spike. I feel better."
His eyes had reverted to their human shade of blue. His smile was sweet, but his words burned through her body.
"I want to make you feel more than better, Slayer." He leaned closer. "I want to make you feel things you didn't know were humanly possible. I'm very good, you know. Had decades to perfect my technique." He showed her the point of his tongue peeking from between his very white teeth. "Never had any complaints."
All the blood that had been swishing about in her brain made a beeline for parts south at the sight of his tongue and the sound of his words. She was paralyzed.
"But now, luv, we've got a mother-ugly little vampire to track. Although I believe I may take half a mo' to thank Butch before you dust him." He picked up his duster and stalked out of the room, leaving her vibrating on the sofa, one boot still in her hand.
Continued in Chapter Four