By Barb Cummings
Sequel to A Raising in the Sun
the time they left Xander and Anya's place, a fire truck and a brace of
police cars had arrived on the scene, and the parking lot was alive with
strobing red lights and the garble of police radios. At least the
car alarms had been turned off. Several towering, husky firemen and
a pair of officers were herding the bystanders away with soothing stories
about gas mains and methane build-up and explosions which were all under
control now and everyone please return to your homes.
So they'd done just that, Willow and
Tara on foot, Buffy taking Spike up on his offer of a ride. Dawn
had met them at the door, woken by the motorcycle's roar, and despite the
lateness of the hour insisted upon exercising her rights as resident vampire
medic to House Summers.
"Spike, sit down!" Dawn's voice,
peremptory and commanding, echoed down the hall.
"Not until you let go the sewing kit,
Hawkeye. Contrary to popular opinion, I do possess working nerve endings."
Buffy paused in the bathroom doorway
and bit her lip to stifle a laugh. Spike was backed up against the
laundry hamper, glaring at Dawn, a force to be reckoned with in pink flannel
pajamas, who was facing him down with equal determination and an extremely
large and deadly-looking needle strung with coarse thread. The counter
by the sink was littered with bandages and adhesive tape and tubes of burn
ointment. Buffy hadn't the heart to tell her sister that the ritual
was probably pointless; Spike was immune to infections and healed even
faster than she did--and a good thing, considering how prone he was to
getting himself beaten to a pulp.
Still, Dawn obviously enjoyed fussing
over Spike as much as Spike enjoyed being fussed over. Let them have
their fun. Besides, though his face wasn't too bad--the duster had
shielded it from the worst of the Harrier's light--the burns across the backs
of his hands were all crusty and oozing in the center and dark angry red around
the edges. The sight of them made something inside her squirm, despite
knowing perfectly well that he'd taken far worse injuries in the past, and
weathered them alone and helpless... maybe Spike was due a little pampering.
"Come on, Spike, you do too need stitches!"
Dawn was deep into stubborn mode, hands on hips and lips pressed together.
"Your guts are practically hanging out. You could get--" She
cast about for something sufficiently dire. "Peritonitis! I've
been reading up on this. I think I want to go to medical school."
"Consider your dedication to humanity
commended, Snack-size," Spike interrupted, "but, in case you hadn't noticed,
somewhat inhuman here, and I don't recall volunteering to be your personal
experimental cadaver. No stitches without brandy. Lots and lots
Dawn's eyes narrowed. "It's for
your own good. Buffy, tell him to--"
Buffy bent and gave the long gash across
the rippling musculature of Spike's stomach a cursory examination.
The crimson furrow intersected the white-on-white traces of half a dozen
older scars, oozing a sluggish trickle of red where Dawn's cleaning the clotted
blood away had opened it up again. Someday we'll have to compare
sexy wounds. The Harrier's blades had parted pale skin and underlying
tissue with laser-like precision--deep, but it hadn't quite penetrated
the layer of muscle. "Sorry, Dawn. Distinct lack of visible
guts. Have to vote with the vampire minority here." She snatched
up Spike's shirt, currently wadded up on the counter, and headed out into
"Love, you don't need to--" Spike
made as if to follow her out, only to be blocked by Dawn. He stuck
his head out into the hall and yelled after her, "Oi! I need that!"
"Oh, come on, live dangerously!
Wear a nice plaid!" Buffy yelled back, waving the shredded t-shirt
at him. Honestly, you wouldn't think an immortal would get so attached
to clothes, especially a t-shirt that was one of a set of a dozen clone-brothers.
Entering the kitchen, she turned on the cold water in the sink and dumped
the shirt in--it was a complete loss; the Harrier's blades had left it
in tatters all across the front, but if there was one thing she'd learned
in her career as Slayer it was that throwing away bloodsoaked rags was
an invitation to trouble. People always took it the wrong way.
She watched the blood swirl Psycho-style
down the drain and wondered idly what police forensics would make of it.
Victim has been dead approximately a hundred and twenty years, and really
likes garlic wings . She sluiced the shirt under the faucet and
frowned; there was something off about the weight of it. Something
in the pocket--whatever it was Spike had been trying to hide last week?
Her questing fingers met chill metal amidst the wet folds of cloth.
Cigarette case? No...
Half an hour later, Dawn had reluctantly
downgraded her plans from major surgery to first aid, and shuffled yawning
back to bed. Buffy had traded her own worse-for-wear clothes for
a white terrycloth robe and retired to her room to recline on her bed, legs
crossed demurely at the ankles and the copy of Fitzgerald Spike'd given
her propped open in her lap. She left the door ajar--an open invitation,
if someone chose to accept it.
Spike materialized in the doorway,
his duster thrown over his shoulders and his alabaster skin gleaming in
the lamplight--a slightly shopworn angel with shabby black leather
wings. He was sporting a neatly taped bandage around his lean
middle, and both hands were swathed in gauze and redolent of burn
ointment. He propped an elbow against the doorframe in a stiff
parody of his usual grace, wincing a little as the motion pulled at
his wound, and looked around the room uneasily. "Er... where'd
you put my shirt, pet?"
Buffy assumed a big, perky, helpful-girlfriend
smile. "That old thing? I tossed it."
An expression of mild panic crossed
Spike's face. "You didn't--" He stopped. Noticed the
pair of old-fashioned wire-rimmed spectacles in her hand. Closed
his mouth with a snap. Buffy held the glasses up, dangling them from
her fingers by one earpiece. "Looking for these, Master William?"
"Oh, bloody hell," Spike growled,
stalking over to the bed and snatching the glasses. Buffy giggled
and scooted over, patting the mattress, and he dropped down beside her with
a disgusted snort, examining the lenses for damage.
"I found them in your shirt pocket
when I was rinsing the blood out. You really are out a shirt, by
the way, unless the ventilated look is in among the fangy set. What
are they for? I mean, the trophy coat is squicky yet understandable,
but trophy glasses? We're getting a little fetishy here."
"No." Spike held the glasses
up to the light, drew a deep breath, scrunched up his face as if he were
expecting a firing squad to open up at any moment, and slipped them on.
"No way!" Buffy sat up and got
onto her hands and knees, peering into his eyes. "You need glasses?"
She'd run into vampires who wore glasses before--that librarian guy for
one--but Spike? Glasses were the antithesis of Spike. Giles-y
and bookish and definitely un-hot. Except... except when they were
perched on that aquiline nose, emphasizing the arch of those incredible
cheekbones and the depth of those luminous blue eyes and providing a scholarly
counterpoint to tousled platinum hair and all those lean ropy muscles...
"Uh." Oh, God, he's hot. Indiana Jones hot. Buffy
realized her mouth was hanging open and closed it before her tongue
could loll out. "I mean, you need glasses. You really,
really need glasses. What happened to superior vampire eyesight?"
Spike looked testy. "Brilliant
for spotting a moving target at five hundred feet in the dead of night.
Doesn't do bugger all for your ability to read fine print. And I
don't need glasses. Dalton, he needed glasses; blind
as a bat he was. I'm just a touch far-sighted. Do fine without
'em." He folded his arms across his chest--definitely sulking now.
"Dunno why you're so surprised. Cecily didn't give you the full and
pathetic run-down on the life and times of old William?"
Buffy clamped her lips down on a smile
and settled down at his side again. When Spike started talking about
William in the third person it generally meant his ego wanted soothing.
"Cecily lost me somewhere around the point your Aunt Letitia lost her husband."
"Good place for it. Auntie was
a miserable old bat. Uncle Charles was well out of it."
She had to ask. She wasn't sure
she wanted to know, but she had to ask. "Did you kill them?"
Spike cocked his head. Spike-head-tilt
with glasses was possibly even more meltworthy than without. "Could
you be a bit more specific, love?"
"Your family. After you got turned.
His breath escaped in a hiss of leashed
annoyance. "No. Why should I have? Dad died when I was
fifteen, and my Mum outlived me by a good twenty years. Died in her
bed." Back to being William in the first person, Buffy noted.
His eyes glinted behind the oval lenses, lost in time and distance for a
minute; then the glint went vicious. "Ask about the wankers at that
party and it won't be such a touching story. That's one bit my official
Council biography's got right."
"Party?" Obviously Cecily
had been just about to get to the good stuff.
"The one I went to on the night I died."
Spike was watching her as he always did when he laid the horrors of his
past out on the table for her, measured regard in his ice-blue eyes--would
this be the confession that sent her packing? "Didn't go well.
A week later I earned my nickname right and proper. Railroad spike
through the head, nice and slow. One after the other. Among
other amusements. Roger last, so he could see what was coming to him.
He'd screamed his throat bloody by the time he died. Angelus was proud
of me." A wry twitch of his lips. "First and last time, I think."
"Oh." She swallowed the bile
in the back of her throat--not at the description of the carnage, but at
the dreamy satisfaction in his voice as he described it. "You know,
I keep thinking we've done this part. You tell me something awful,
I react with shock and horror--and it never gets any easier, hearing this
His eyes were drinking in her face
as if every nuance of her expression was his life's blood. Anger,
horror, even revulsion he'd take in stride; it was her contempt that would
break him. Buffy's fingers closed pre-emptively over his forearm,
feeling the quiver of muscles even through the leather. "Which is
good, I think. The day I start treating Spike's Tales From The Crypt
like a Sam Raimi movie is the day Ward starts worrying about the Buffy."
Spike looked down at the five small
fingers making half-moon indentations in the leather of his sleeve.
"Did you know, I've told you the story of my life a hundred times?"
Without meeting her eyes he reached over and enveloped her hand in his, turned
it over, his thumb caressing the lines of her palm. He took nothing
for granted with her. Probably better he should--she was still in the
business of killing his kind, after all. How many times would they repeat
this ritual in their lives? "Over the summer. Every pathetic detail.
Tried telling you all different ways. Always came down to a bourgeois
git with delusions of social grandeur and a portmanteau full of bad verse."
A bitter smile chased across his face and was gone. "Sometimes it's
a bloody sight easier to talk to you when you're not really here to listen.
And then I'd get past the story of my life and into the story of my death,
and it'd hit me after a while... I haven't done anything. I
came, I saw, I killed--story of my unlife. That's what I am--what
I'm here for. I'm a killer. Creature of sodding darkness.
Ought to be enough, oughtn't it?" There were hairline cracks in his
voice. "There shouldn't be this... this wanting more, like I was still
that poncy little twit I got shut of a hundred and twenty years ago."
His canines sharpened and his eyes went golden for a second. "I got
more, didn't I? So why's it not enough anymore?"
"I don't know." Buffy laid her
head on his shoulder, the scuffed and battered leather cool beneath her
cheek, and felt the tension in his body start to ease, fiber by fiber.
"But I'm glad it's not. A pretty smart guy I know told me once
that just because I was a killer, that didn't mean that a killer was
all I was."
Spike's arm shifted to accommodate
her weight, curling round her waist. She felt his intake of breath,
his chest rising and falling in perfect unison with hers, the cool, supple,
inhuman vitality of his body against her own. This close, his angelic
face and Elgin marble body revealed subtle flaws: the ghostly fretwork of
old scars that even vampire healing left as evidence of battles lost and
won, the netted laugh-lines at the corners of his eyes, the nicotine stains
on his fingers (but not his teeth; did going fangy and back again get rid
of them? Or did he just use a good toothpaste?) No pure, cold,
Anne Rice marble perfection, this undeath of his--a body that, however strong
and fast and impervious to damage it might be, still got hungry and hurt
and horny, needed exercising and shaving and flossing between the fangs.
Somehow the imperfections just made him more achingly beautiful--knowing
as she did that she'd put some of the lines on that ageless face.
"I want to hear it, Spike--the story
of your life, I mean. From you. And the Tales From the Crypt?
I need to hear this stuff. Angel and I--we never talked about...
what he did, not really. I thought it wasn't important--he had a
soul, you know? Why would I need to know all that icky old stuff that
would never come up again?" She managed a laugh of sorts. "And
I'm not a very talky person. You may have noticed."
"I've gotten the suspicion off
and on." Spike dropped his head with that look which meant he'd have
been blushing if he were still capable of it. "Not a lot to tell about
my human life, really. And dull enough it can wait until you're not
already about to fall asleep." He shifted uncomfortably, stuck one
gauze-swathed hand through a Harrier-made slit in the front panel of his
duster and wriggled his fingers. "Getting to be more hole than coat.
P'raps I can get Will to waste a bit of the old mojo fixing it up.
Though I'd've thought she'd be less apt to waste it after running out the
Buffy allowed the change of subject
without comment. "She seems to have a lot to waste." Willow's
mysteriously-restored magic nagged at her; things that seemed too good to
be true usually were. She debated telling Spike of Tara's fears that
Willow would never recover her magic, but Tara'd given her that information
in confidence. "Just let Wills hold it together until tomorrow night,
that's all I ask." She began playing with the lapel of his duster,
curling the point up and unrolling it again. "I know I wasn't making
with the master plans out there tonight, but I wish she hadn't zapped that
thing. We could have found out more." Her fingers brushed across
his bandaged stomach in a tentative caress. "You gonna be in shape to
not hit people tomorrow night?"
"Yeh, I'll be there." Impossibly firm
muscles tensed and relaxed again under her touch and Spike looked down at
himself. "Didn't even feel it at first. Sodding things were so
sharp I could have lost my head and never dusted for not noticing."
"It was willing to kill Xander to get
to Anya." Buffy nibbled on her lower lip. "So the extra credit
question is, is it coming back, and is it bringing friends? Are we positive
this was one of the good guys?"
Spike's cheeks hollowed, and he pulled
his lighter out of the duster pocket and played with it for a moment before
stuffing it back in. "It'll be back. Thing about demons, pet,
good or bad... we're not complicated. We've got a job and we
do it, and it doesn't much matter what's in the way." One corner of
that expressive mouth quirked. "'S one reason the pure ones can't
stand us vamps. Too much humanity left in the worst of us, all those
petty desires and conflicting emotions--affection and jealousy..."
He laughed, short and sharp, and pressed his free hand to his midriff.
"You ever stop to think, pet, that pure good's got as little use for mercy
as pure evil? What could a bloke who never does wrong ever understand
of we poor sods who do?"
Buffy winced as if it were she whose
gut had been sliced open. Faith, staring at her with pain-filled eyes.
"You got no idea what it's like on the other side..." Even
when he wasn't trying, Spike threw up unpleasant truths like stones from
a plowshare. It struck her that she'd already made the choice she'd
been pondering earlier in the evening, walked through Door Number Two without
a glance at the curtain where Carol Merrill was standing now. This was
becoming the heart of her life, these moments alone with Spike, bathed in
the glow of candles or the harsher illumination of tungsten filaments.
She could be the Slayer alone, but this was what allowed her to be Buffy,
gave her strength to battle the league of mundane foes that awaited her outside
the boundaries of their charmed circle. "Tonight, with the car? That
was...I don't want to say this like I'm giving you Snausages or something,
but--you did good, Spike. I was proud of you. Well, except for
the axe thing, that could have used some work."
His hand sifted through her hair, honey-dark
against the white of the gauze, twining the tawny locks around his pale
fingers. He smiled, a self-deprecating light in his eyes. "Ah,
the heroism bit. Well, pet, I know you get off on it. Even when
you're supposed to be on strike."
"Well, yeah." With some effort
she kept the smile from her lips. "Suppose you're telling me you
don't? How many of my kind have you saved, Spike?"
He pulled back, deep suspicion in his
eyes, shoved his glasses higher on his nose and stared at her. "Would
the answer be 'Not enough?'" he asked.
Buffy nodded. Oh, he so deserved
this. "Mmhmm. And they just keep coming, don't they?
And some part of you wants it. Not only to make me happy--but because
you're just a little bit in love with it."
Spike jolted back against the white-iron
curlicues of the headboard with the look of a man upon whom a horrid and
seductive truth had been sprung. Payback, Spikey! He
blinked, momentarily speechless, then sputtered, "You incredible bitch,
how long have you been waiting to say that?"
She smirked, slipping her hand beneath
the duster and splaying the fingers over his silent heart. "Awhile."
His eyes had the most incredible expression,
regret holding wonder at bay. "Not like I cared deeply about her,
love. Don't give me credit I'm not due."
How carefully she had to pick her words.
"No... but you cared about saving her. It's something."
Spike snorted. "It's perverted."
Turning in the circle of his arm, she
raised her hand to his cheek, tracing strong bones and the sandpaper roughness
along his jaw--incipient 5:00 AM shadow. "So you're perverted.
I like my vampires a little kinky that way, you know?"
Lips met parted lips, warm and cool
together, touching, tasting--so soft for such a hard man, that luscious mouth
of his. Spike nuzzled along her jawline, nipping at her earlobe.
"How about other ways?"
"Out of curiosity, do you ever think
of anything but sex?"
"Not while you're around." He
cupped the impressive bulge in his jeans with his free hand and leered at
her. "Nurse Buffy, I've got a swelling. Wanna kiss it better?"
Buffy poked him in the stomach.
Spike yelped, but if anything it appeared to increase his enthusiasm.
"Do not tell me this is the fun kind of pain."
He didn't laugh--probably it would
have hurt in the non-fun way--but his eyes were dancing. "Nah, but
it could lead to the fun kind." His hand cupped her breast, cool
confident fingers kneading the soft flesh before giving her already-alert
nipple a firm pinch. The hand dropped away and she yearned after it,
all tingly-warm, calling his fingers back to tweak and tease. Spike
callously ignored her imperious little whimper and reached for the book
lying on the coverlet beside them. He flipped it open, cleared his
throat, and began to read-- not, for once, squinting and holding it at arm's
I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell
And by and by my Soul return'd to me,
And answer'd "I Myself am Heav'n and Hell"
She listened, happily mesmerized.
He could get her off with that voice alone, rich and rolling, raspy with
a century's worth of too much booze and too many cigarettes.
Heav'n but the Vision of fulfill'd Desire,
And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,
Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.
Buffy reminded herself that Dawn was
asleep just down the hall, and Willow and Tara might get home and walk
upstairs at any minute, and letting her hand wander down to Spike's fly
was just asking for trouble. She'd always been a troublemaker.
God he looked hot in those stupid glasses. Oops, there went
the buttons. No wonder, with the kind of pressure they were under,
day in, day out, poor things, set the impossible task of restraining not-so-little
Spike, ready to stand up and do his duty for Slayer and country. Wasn't
three hours of sex in a day enough for anyone? Obviously not.
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?
Let's find out! One, two, oh, way more than three...
Spike started to take his glasses off
and set them on the nightstand, but Buffy reached up and laid a hand on his
arm. "Leave them on, William." As her golden head descended upon
him once more, Spike leaned back on the pillows with a happy groan and a
grateful wonder in his eyes, as if she'd given him an unexpected gift.
She looked up one last time, eyes sparkling. "And keep reading."
Dawn Summers sat at the kitchen
table, drawing figure eights with her spoon in her cereal and trying to decide
exactly how pissed off she was at her sister. Not allowed to sit in
on the summoning. Not allowed to go to Anya's shower. Buffy
was totally over-reacting to the shoplifting thing. It was bad enough
that she was persona non grata in Sunnydale Mall; grounding her from everywhere
else was beyond the pale.
Not pissed off enough to tell
Mrs. Kroger that Buffy was dating a guy who thought he was a vampire--no,
that would be going entirely too far, and get Spike in trouble. On
the other hand, that edifying scene she'd caught a glimpse of through the
crack of Buffy's bedroom door, before Buffy had slammed it behind her in their
morning race for the bathroom--Spike, dead asleep with a sated smile on his
face, wrists still lashed securely to the iron headboard with what looked
suspiciously like a pair of her sister's underwear--that had possibilities.
Not that she'd actually tell
The Kroger that Buffy was engaging in bondage fun with a vampire (or anyone
else) a mere twenty or thirty feet from her impressionable younger sister.
That way lay a one-way bus ticket to L.A., and Joyce Summers hadn't raised
any dumb children. But letting Buffy think she might was another
In the midst of her internal
debate, Spike ambled into the kitchen, decked out in mostly-buttoned jeans
and little else, all sleepy purry stretches and bed-head. Someone
needed to explain to Buffy that cleaning out a drawer for her demon lover
wasn't particularly productive if he wasn't given the opportunity to put
anything in it. Dawn studied him critically; if the way he was moving
was any indication, the gash across his stomach was healing nicely beneath
the bandages. Move over, Noah Wyle.
"Hullo, Bit." Spike wandered
over to the refrigerator, ran a hand through his unruly hair, and hung
on the door, gazing into its depths as if he could read omens in the disposition
of leftovers. "You look peaked." An uneasy thought appeared
to strike him. "Didn't keep you up, did we?"
"No." Dawn weighed the
decorative advantages of a shirtless Spike wandering around the house against
the disadvantages of having to fight someone even more hair-obsessed than
Buffy for the bathroom of mornings. Tough decision. "Mrs. Kroger's
coming over after school and I have to sit through the big Shoplifting
Is A Cry For Help speech. It's like, I've got it already, okay?
Stealing's bad. I'm not gonna do it again. So what's their
damage? My language comprehension's at college level, they have no
clue what my life's like, and getting all Grover and Ernie to explain to
me how I feel is the height of lamitude."
"So far as authority's concerned,
it's not enough you don't repeat your sins--you've got to suffer for 'em.
Hence the lecture." Spike pulled out the remains of the experimental
macaroni-hotdog casserole and sniffed at it. His eyes lit up.
Dawn nodded. "And ketchup.
Gives it kick." She started to scowl at her cereal, reconsidered
and turned on the puppy eyes instead. Spike was a sucker for the
puppy eyes. "I did suffer. Still suffering. Big time,
paper bag on the head suffering."
Spike set the casserole dish
on the kitchen island, fetched a spoon from the silverware drawer and dug
in. (Spike was, Dawn often felt, the only person she knew who had any
sense of culinary adventure.) "Wankers, the lot of them, but--"
He gestured with the spoon between bites. "Wages of getting caught,
Pidge. Fair cop, innit?"
Dawn rolled her eyes.
"Yes, Mr. Undead Citizen Of The Month."
"Next time you'll know better."
She shot him a conspiratorial
grin. "Not to get caught?"
Spike winked at her and laughed.
"Got it in one. Look, pet, been thinking about it, what aside from
nicking stuff might give you that feeling you're looking for..."
He had? "I can't wait
to hear this one."
"...and doing a naff job of it
since most of what I come up with I'd have to use your guts for guitar
strings if you tried it and flense anyone you tried it with--but there's
always killing things to cheer a chap up on a rainy day. Could show
you a few moves. If I can talk your sis into it, anyway. You're
old enough to kick a little arse, and it's not like I could hurt you by
Did that mean what she thought
it meant? An entry into the elite Scooby patrolling circle?
Self-defense lessons beyond what she could scrounge spying on Buffy's training
sessions? Realizing that a delighted squeak wasn't exactly the reaction
of a mature woman of the world, Dawn repressed her impulse to bounce up
and down in her seat. Cool, calm, collected. A second later
she burst out, "Omigod, that would be so cool! Can you teach
me that thing where you just go snap--" She demonstrated graphically
with both hands-- "and break their necks like a stale Dorito?"
"Absolutely!" Spike paused,
visibly reconsidering. "Er, well, p'raps not right off. Not
a big supply of necks to practice on, once we've used up Harris. But
eye gouges, kicks in the balls, that sort of thing..."
"Spike, you are so great!"
Dawn leaped out of her chair, sending it screeching across the kitchen
floor, and gave him an enthusiastic hug. Trepidation hit her like
a cold wave. "Buffy's not gonna go for it. She's going to think
it's too much fun or something--she even grounded me from Anya's dumb old
"Let me handle your sis."
Spike smoothed Dawn's hair away from her face affectionately and his expression
went serious. "But you've got to give me something to work with,
Platelet. That means no larking about or having The Kroger on.
Nod 'n smile and pretend like they've nailed your psyche to the wall with
darts of incisive analysis, even if they're spouting utter bollocks."
Dawn nodded vigorously.
"Got it. I'll be so non-recidivism girl. Buffy will think
I've been replaced by Pod Dawn." She would have pressed for further
details of the neck-breaking thing and possible demonstrations, but at that
juncture Willow and Tara appeared, juggling backpacks and overflowing book
bags, and the kitchen erupted into the normal chaos of House Summers on
a school morning. Dawn flung herself back into her chair, twining
her feet around the legs to defend her claim in the face of potential squatters.
"Are we completely out of orange
juice?" Willow asked, ducking under Tara's arm and burrowing into
the terra incognita of the vegetable drawer. "And what happened to
my Raisinettes? Did Hurricane Buffy blow through on a post-slay binge
again, because they most definitely said 'Willow' right on the box, and--"
"Might have been Spike," Dawn
pointed out, excessively helpful. "He eats like a horse too."
Spike looked affronted, but as his mouth was full, any attempts at a snappy
comeback were momentarily thwarted.
"Check behind the milk,"
Tara advised, stuffing a handful of granola bars into her bag. "Dawnie,
do you have a ride, or--"
"There's nothing behind the milk
but pig's blood. Oh, wait, here they are. But no OJ, and a
day without orange juice--"
Spike perked up. "Hand
that out, would you, pet?"
"Yeah. Megan's mom's picking
me up." Mrs. Kendall, fortunately, had not gone into overprotective
parental meltdown over The Incident, probably because Megan hadn't been
involved, for once--or maybe having an elder daughter currently sporting
lumpies and fangs made her a kinder, more tolerant person where merely human
peccadilloes were concerned. Yeah, right.
"--is the kind of day we get
until the next Social Security check arrives." Buffy came trotting
down the stairs in full war paint and Office Drag, fixing her conservative
gold stud earrings and displaying every sign of pre-interview jitters.
"And don't even say it; I didn't have enough money with me when I
stopped by the store to get everything on the list. I had to leave
the Minute Maid melting in the magazine rack on the way to the checkout.
I'm never going to be able to show my face in the frozen goods aisle again."
She turned and fixed a gimlet eye on Spike, who was in the process of reaching
over Willow's shoulder for the pig's blood. "How much of that stuff
do you drink a day, anyway?"
Spike froze with the carton half-way
to his lips, looking alarmed, faintly guilty, and puzzled as to what exactly
he had to be guilty about. "Two pints, give or take," he said
cautiously. "Sometimes three. More if I'm mending."
Buffy said "Hmm," in the
disapproving tone she used for any subject connected with The Budget, the
one that made Dawn feel like a traitor for shooting up three or four inches
in the past year and thus taking up valuable space, food, and new clothing.
"If you're going to be over here twenty-four hours a day, I've got to plan
for it. You're not going to be living solely on Dawn's radioactive
Spike fished around in his
back pocket, pulled out a handful of crumpled bills, and laid them on the
countertop. "Blood and orange juice all round. Knock yourselves
Tara gave him a grateful smile.
"Thanks--we can stop by the store on the way back from--"
Buffy grabbed Tara's wrist before
she could take the money. "You know we can't take that, Spike."
“We can’t?” Tara asked. “Why?
It’s not counterfeit.” She picked up one of the bills and examined
it. “Is it?”
Spike's jaw set in concrete.
"Not asking you to support me, Slayer."
Buffy's eyes went slitty.
"I have no intention of supporting you, but I'm not taking your money, and
you know perfectly well why."
A deep throaty growl and a burst
of vampire speed put the two of them were nose to nose. "No woman
of mine's going to be put out keeping me in blood and beers--that's the
Behold the male ego in its natural
habitat. Dawn hid a grin behind her hand as icicles formed in her
sister's eyes. Way to go with the convinciness, Spike.
"That would be 'job' as in 'bank job?'" Buffy asked sweetly. "I'd rather
be put out than put away."
There was a knock at the kitchen
door, and Lisa peered cautiously through the blinds. Dawn stood up,
scooped up the last few spoonfuls of cereal and reached for the door, mindful
not to open it far enough to let the morning sun in. "Lise!
Does your mom know--"
"Hey, maybe I could do a water
to blood spell or something," Willow said, eyes lighting up at the prospect
of magical usefulness like Spike's at the scent of curry. "Or water
to orange juice. We'd never have to shop again." Tara, who'd
taken advantage of Buffy's distraction to slip Spike's money into the petty
cash cookie jar, shook her head and made a throat-cutting gesture.
"No, I didn't tell her we were
getting you," Lisa whispered. She looked nervously around,
expecting hidden cameras, perhaps. "She just thinks I'm riding with
Megan." She inched one hand through the door and held out a square
envelope with a wreath sticker on it. "I just wanted to drop this off
"If you really want to make
yourself useful, Will, magic me up a tunnel from the basement to the sewers.
It's bloody annoying making a mad dash for the nearest manhole."
"Really? I could--"
"NO!" Buffy and Tara shouted
at once, as Willow raised a casual hand and an ominous underground rumble
shook the house on its foundations. Spike, looking rather shaken
himself, mouthed "Joking!" at Willow.
Megan's pert and over-mascara'd
face appeared below Lisa's in the gap of the door. "Dawn? Was
that, like, an earthquake? Are you--" She caught sight of Spike.
"Oh. My. GOD!"
"I can get you a mop to go with
that tongue, if you want," Dawn said acidly. "The floor needs
washing." She took the card from Lisa and handed it over to Spike.
"Look, Slayer, if you won't let
me look after you, at least let me look after myself!" Spike and Buffy
looked to be a hair away from either kissing or punching each other, having
taken their argument from zero to sixty in five seconds flat. Spike
diverted his attention from the Slayer stare-down for a second to give
the card a puzzled look, which he then turned on Lisa.
"It's a Christmas card,"
Lisa squeaked. "Because of saving my life and all."
Spike looked from Lisa to the
card and back again, a little startled, and, Dawn suspected, far more pleased
than he was about to let on. After an awkward silence he nodded.
Out at the curb Mrs. Kendall was honking
her horn for them to hurry. Lisa gave Spike a watery smile and ducked out.
Megan remained in the doorway, gazing at Spike with the adoration she usually
reserved for guys with staples in their navels, until Dawn shoved her bodily
out into the driveway. Willow and Tara followed them out, arguing
earnestly over whether or not an off-the-cuff tunnel spell would have resulted
in the sewer backing up into the Summers' basement, and set off down the
street towards the bus stop, book bags banging at their sides.
"How do you live in that
house and not, like, absolutely die?" Megan asked.
Did Megan absolutely
have to undermine her noble resolve at every opportunity? Dawn
gave the eye-roll another workout. "It's a constant struggle.
Geez, Megan, he's not only my sister's boyfriend, he's your sister's
ex. Generational issues much? Plus, smoker. He probably
kisses like sucking an ashtray."
Megan tossed her hair and giggled.
"Ooh. So maybe I should take up smoking. With one of those,
you know, long holder thingies?"
Dawn reflected cheerfully as
they trotted down the driveway that soon she'd know how to snap Megan's neck
like a stale Dorito. Not that she would; that, she reminded herself
with a pious giggle, would be wrong. But it was sure fun to think
about. Spike might be right about the rainy day thing after all.
"Did she buy it?" Buffy stood
on tiptoe at the kitchen window, pulled the curtains back and pressed her
nose to the pane, craning to see the curb where Dawn was sliding into the
back seat of the Kendalls' Aerostar. Radiant bars of sunlight striped
her face like Harrier's blood and made a corona of her hair, pricking out
every errant strand in molten gold. He didn't miss the sun much for
himself, but he loved to see her limned in fire like this. His battle
maiden. Pick me, Chooser of the Slain.
"Hook, line and sinker."
Spike pulled a clean bowl out of the cupboard, rummaged around through the
three or four half-full boxes of cereal on top of the fridge for the revoltingly
healthy and vitamin-enhanced one Buffy claimed to favor, and filled it
to overflowing. "Now I'll convince you, you'll give grudging permission,
and Bob's your uncle. Here, stop flitting about and eat." He
appropriated a chair and dropped into it, slid down on his tailbone, and
took a gulp of his blood. "We'll have to be careful, pet--the Bit's
smarter than the two of us put together, and if she suspects we're playing
her instead of her playing us--"
"Hellmouth hath no fury.
Right." Buffy let the curtain fall back and stepped away from the window,
diminishing in two paces from Valkyrie to potential office help. This
wasn't his Slayer, this buttoned-down mouse in the sensible shoes and the
skirt of old-lady grey--not the warrior, not the woman. It ate at
him to see her like this, all her fire damped in the service of fitting in.
Buffy Summers should never have to fit in; she should be sashaying through
the world in designer clothes and deigning to allow it to conform to her
She strolled over to his
chair, spun round and dropped down on his knee. Against him was one
place she fit in perfectly. Both hands came to rest on his shoulders
and worked down his chest, massaging his pectorals, fingers dancing across
the ticklish spots on his ribs till he shivered. Her lips brushed his
ear. The warmth of her breath took his away, and all the perfume and
deodorant in the world couldn't wholly mask the rich musky female scent of
her courses. His Slayer after all, beneath the clever disguise.
"Now. Where were we?"
"Five seconds away from ravishing
you on the kitchen table. Spikey wants his Slayer snacks."
Spike ran a hand up her inner thigh until his fingers encountered a barrier,
gratifyingly damp already. Nylons. Interesting texture, that,
when circled against very sensitive skin just so. She melted
against him, stormy eyes half-lidded and rosy lips half-parted, and he
felt the surging pulse of her blood all around him as her hips arched into
his. He pulled his hand away. "But eat your brekky first."
Buffy pouted and smacked him on the
shoulder. "Jerk. I was going to skip breakfast. Anya
said I was gaining weight." She pushed the cereal away.
Spike dragged it back.
This was familiar territory, though Dru's refusal to eat had generally
stemmed from illness, ennui, and a fear of invisible blood-dwelling giraffes
infesting her liver. "Good. You could stand another five pounds."
He gave her rump a cheerful slap, which, to his interest, did not set off
the chip in the slightest. Possibilities there. "Eat up.
Can't live on vampire jizz."
"Gack. Like I can eat anything
with that image in my head." Nonetheless she curled all kitteny in
his lap and let him pour milk for her and didn't argue until half the cereal
was gone. For all her protests of independence, Buffy liked her cosseting
once you talked her into it. A droplet of milk threatened to spill
and her little pink tongue darted out to catch it, running over the smooth
bowl of the spoon until it was clean enough to eat off of. Spike shifted
to ease the pressure on certain delicate portions of his anatomy, and Buffy
gave him a sly look from beneath her lashes and popped the whole spoon
in her mouth. “Mmmmmmm,” she said, withdrawing it with agonizing slowness.
“I meant where we in the... discussion."
"Oh. That." He ran a fingernail
along the back of her knee, enjoying the sensation of her ass wriggling
against his crotch. "You were being completely unreasonable."
His hand came up to trace the curve of her jaw with a finger, tipping her
head up to meet his eyes, and he injected a coaxing note into his voice.
"Love... can't you let me take care of you, just a little? I was good
at that once, though you might not think it to look at me now. This
chip's made half a man of me, but I could still do my bit if you'd let me."
Her fingers stilled on the button
she'd been toying with, and she tore her eyes away from his, seeking refuge
in the patterns of spilled cereal on the tabletop. "Spike... stop
it. Please." She met his gaze again, the sunlight bringing out
tawny flecks in the grey-green depths of those big beseeching eyes.
Her warm little palms flattened to his chest, stroking the taut muscle.
Beat me, whip me, rip my heart out and stomp on it--only keep touching
me while you do so... "You don't know how tempting it is
when you say things like that to--to just throw up my hands and fall into
your arms and let you take care of it! I hate living like this!
I suck at money, and interviews, and--I've got to draw the line somewhere,
Spike. Decide when I'm going to look the other way and when I'm going
to bust your chops. Especially with this thing with Dawn. And
until I can figure out something better, the line's at my threshold.
Stolen goods, stolen money, and anything bought with stolen money, not invited."
"Swindled money all right?" Buffy
banged her forehead into his chest with a groan. "Teasing, sweetling."
He buried his nose in the shining mass of her hair, still warm from its
passage through sunlight. It would save them all a great deal of aggravation
if she'd give in, but he suspected that some small part of him, the part
that connected, however briefly, with small Chinese girls intent on killing
him, and took secret perverse pride in pulling complete strangers out of
cars, would have been forever disappointed if she had. "But look here--if
I come up with honest dosh, you'll have to take it, pet. No excuses.
I'm yours. And I take care of the people I belong to."
"Deal." Far too quick and
pat an agreement; didn't think that was a possibility, did she? The
eldest Miss Summers was in for a surprise. William the Bloody was nothing
if not stubborn. She went all serious on him then, as he'd gone on
Dawn, bending her head to press kisses to his collarbone. "Spike--don't
ever think that chip makes you half a man." Her voice muffled against
his skin, the words vibrating from her lips and into his chest as if she
would instill them directly into his heart. Buffy circled his waist
with both arms, interlacing her fingers across his spine. "It forced
you to find out how much more than a killer you are. It's why we're
standing here. Sitting here. Whatever. Without it one of
us would be dead by now, and not coming back. If Riley ever shows his
face in Sunnydale again, I'm going to give him a big smooshy kiss." At his
irate rumble Buffy looked up with an impish grin, the point of her chin digging
into his chest. "All right. Just for you I'll make it a hearty
"Wear rubber gloves," Spike grumbled.
"You don't know where he's been. About this grounding thing for Dawn,
love, I think it's wearing on her. If..."
Buffy's hands immediately
stopped the lovely things they were doing to his back muscles. She
sat back and folded her arms, one eyebrow climbing for her hairline.
dawned. "She's playing me, isn't she?"
"Like a trout. I
just had the most horrible thought."
"All those times I put one over
on Mom--was I really putting one over on Mom?" She gave an exaggerated
shudder. "That way lies getting drummed out of the rebellious teenagers
union. I've gotta book; my interview's in half an hour. Do
you want to hang here today?"
"For a bit, but I won't be here
when you get back, most like. Things to do." He bestowed a
kiss to her brow as she hopped off his lap. "I'll do the manhole
dash and see you tonight."
Buffy grabbed her purse and the car keys, gave
her reflection a last spit-check in the side of the toaster, and dashed
out the door. Spike sat at the kitchen table, deep in thought, finishing
off his pig's blood and macaroni-hotdog surprise while the tame whine of
the SUV's engine died away down the street. When the only thing audible
outside was desultory birdsong, he went upstairs. Things to do, indeed.
shower and a leisurely toss later, he wandered back into the bedroom.
It was starting to look like a room again, very slowly--the single book
on the bare shelf had been joined by a magazine or two, lipstick and eyeshadow
and face cream jostled together on the dresser, and a Gettysburg of clothing
lay strewn about the floor near the closet, victims of Buffy's compulsive
search for the perfect outfit. She'd left the blinds drawn for him,
and the room was dim and cavernous, still redolent of Buffy and blood and
sex. Spike took a deep breath, all the way down to the bottom of
his lungs, and held it: essence of Buffy to tide him over, at least until
the next time he had to do something stupid like talk.
He wandered around the room for
a minute, a deep thrumming growl of content rolling around inside as he picked
up little bits of Buffy, examining them, setting them down. He imagined
them migrating insensibly over to the crypt, a slow invasion of girly scents
and textures trooping past a counter-invasion of Racing Forms, bottles of
Guinness, scuffed up motorcycle boots and fugitive copies of Swinburne he'd
deny owning. It pleased him, this image of their living spaces insinuating
themselves into each other, a long-distance house-fuck. He prowled
naked through the rest of the house room by room--a predator thing, leaving
his mark in the subtle disarrangement of bric-a-brac in his wake. His
territory, now, his pack, his pride in more ways than one.
At last he returned to Buffy’s
bedroom and pulled on his jeans and boots again. He started to grab
his glasses from the nightstand, where they’d eventually ended up, and
hesitated. Very good, falling asleep to her soft feminine snores
and the lovely heat of her body wrapped around his. Infinitely better
waking up to the painful-pleasant stretch of his arms still bound overhead,
and the pressure of her warm little fingers closing possessively around
his cock, which had woken well before he had. Not as good as waking
up to her every morning, but before he could make that particular fantasy
a reality, he was going to have to do something about Buffy's stubborn refusal
to take anything from him. Until then... he folded the glasses carefully,
got up and put them in the empty dresser drawer, a placeholder for things
He picked up his duster from the bed
and shrugged into it. Damned if he'd let her support him. He
had his pride back again, and seeing as it was she who'd resurrected it
from the ashes, she could bloody well deal with the consequences.
Spike galloped downstairs, taking the steps two at a time. Home, and then
for a sewer-crawl; if possible, he wanted to retrieve the trank gun.
Vague plans which had been bubbling since L.A. were beginning to coalesce
into something which might actually be a good idea.
There was a first time for everything.
Continued in Part 25