All About Spike - Print Version
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The Yellow Rose of Sunnydale
By VicNoir

Title: The Yellow Rose of Sunnydale
Author: VicNoir
Disclaimer: none of these characters belong to me. No infringement intended.
Feedback: love it, live for it,gimmegimmegimme at VVKS326@aol.com
Time-frame: season five, around the time of "Checkpoint"
Rating: NC-17



Chapter One

They could here the twang of a steel guitar from the alley. The Bronze was hosting a Western Weekend, and Friday night found the Scoobies dressed up for a hoe-down.

Xander, in particular, looked spectacular. He wore a scarlet western shirt, complete with heavy white embroidery and a bolo tie. His jeans were held up by belt that sported a silver buckle the size of CD case, and the spurs on his black-and-white pony-hide boots jingle-jangle-jingled when he walked. He wore his twenty-gallon hat--white, of course--on the back of his head in a friendly manner. All in all, he looked not very much like an authentic cowpoke headed into town after a long, lonely week on the range.

The rest of the gang wore only slightly more subdued outfits. Willow and Tara were decked out in early 80's vintage prairie skirts and ruffle-y, high-necked blouses. Anya had chosen a truly hideous pumpkin-orange square-dancing dress, with a skirt and petticoats that flared so large that she had to walk single-file down the alley-way.

Buffy's attire had been inspired by a late-night viewing of an old episode of "Gunsmoke." Taking her cue from Miss Kitty, she wore her hair curled and piled high on her head, with a few strands dangling down to frame her face. A red satin bustier peeked out from beneath a sheer black bed jacket trimmed with marabou feathers, and her skirt was made of black lace. She wore old-fashioned button-up boots and fishnet stockings that flashed below the hem of her skirt when she moved. To finish the look, she had painted a small, black beauty mark high on one cheekbone. She looked very much the part of an expensive courtesan of by gone days--Miss Kitty would have been proud.

It seemed that the Bronze had gone all-out for this special occasion. Swinging saloon doors had been installed, and sawdust covered the floor. Bales of straw were stacked around the perimeter of the room to provide extra seating. As the gang stepped through the doors, the band onstage swung into a rousing version of "The Yellow Rose of Texas."

"And let me be the first to say--YeeHAW." Xander surveyed the room with a grin, his toe already tapping to the down-home beat. They made their way over to a table near the back.

"This isn't as bad as I th-thought it w-would be." Tara looked apprehensive, but she pretty much always did.

"See, Honey, rednecks aren't so bad...I mean, not that everyone here is a redneck, or anything. I'm sure that most of the people here are just pretending to be ignorant and closed-minded and married to their cousins...um...who wants a drink?" She and Xander took refreshment orders from the group and headed for the bar.

Buffy shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "I wish I'd worn something else--this corset-thingy is killing me."

"It's not a corset, it's a bustier--and you look great. You make a very convincing prostitute." Anya flashed her a smile of encouragement to go with her words.

"Thanks, but next time I think I'll go more with the 'Queen of the Rodeo,' and less with the 'Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.'"

"Oh. My. God." Willow had returned with several beers tucked beneath her arms.

"What's the matter, Honey?" Tara's brow wrinkled with worry.

"Look over there at the other end of the bar." They looked.

"That's...it's...is that?"

"It can't be--no way."

"Yes. That's Spike. I can tell by his defiant slouch and by the way his jeans bulge out there in front."

"ANYA!" Xander had also returned from the bar. He handed a soda to Buffy.

They all turned to stare at the figure across the room.

He stood with his back to the bar, leaning against it, in what Anya had accurately described as a defiant slouch. In place of his usual black denims, he wore a pair of very faded, very soft-looking blue jeans. Below them was a pair of old and scuffed cowboy boots, and above them was his perennial black tee shirt. He wore his ever-present duster, but on this night it looked different somehow--as if it belonged on a bandit of the old American West. The finishing touch was the black leather hat he wore pitched low over his eyes.

Buffy gulped, audibly.

"He...he looks kind of like Clint Eastwood in that movie--what's it called?" Willow looked around at her friends for help.

"A Fistful of Dollars?"

"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?"

"The Outlaw Josie Wales?"

"Yeah, all of those. Except Clint Eastwood isn't blond, and he's always got that stubble on his face, and he smokes a cigar"

"And he's not an evil, undead, creature of the night." Xander hadn't yet fully recovered from Anya's ability to identify Spike by the bulge in his pants.

Buffy tore her eyes away from the disturbing sight as the band launched into a slow song that was heavy on the weepy fiddle. "Dance with me, Xander." She glanced at Anya. "OK?"

"Yes, he can dance with you. But he won't pay you for sex. He gets that free-of-charge from me, and I won't have him wasting his hard-earned cash--"

"OK, Honey, we get the idea." He planted a kiss on Anya's cheek and escorted Buffy to the center of the dance floor.

Spike had noticed the Slayer and her ever-present group of friends the moment they'd entered the bar, but he made no move to join them. He knew that his presence would not be welcomed during recreation hours, though his fighting ability came in handy enough when the Scoobies were in a tough spot.

He lit a cigarette and watched as Buffy and Xander made slow circles in time to the music. Then his attention was distracted by the spectacle of a very drunken young man, built like a linebacker but dressed like a rodeo star, shoving his way towards the dance floor. He had Willow by the wrist and was dragging her along behind him

"I wanna dance with the lil' lady! "

The over-sized lunk pulled the redhead to edge of the dance floor, wrapped his muscle-bound arms about her and lifted her off her feet, delivering a wet and drooling kiss to her face at the same time. The witch struggled frantically in his arms.

Spike looked over towards the table where Willow and the rest had been seated. It was empty. Then he stretched up to his full height, searching the crowd for Buffy and Xander. He could see them, deep in the throng of dancing couples, but they were too far away to do Willow any good in her present predicament.

Sighing, Spike stubbed out his cigarette and pulled the brim of his hat a bit lower over his eyes. He walked through the crowd, hands in his coat pockets, seeming not to notice the way that others stepped aside before him, automatically giving him the right of way.

When he reached Willow and her loutish dance partner, he stood in front of them for a few seconds, watching in amusement as the witch sputtered the beginnings of a spell in the drunk's face, only to be cut off in the middle by another sloppy kiss.

"Ah, mate? Why don't you put the girl down now...I think she's had enough of your kind attentions for the moment."

The drunk turned toward the sound of Spike's voice and looked down at him, never releasing his hold on Willow. "Who're you s'posed ta be? Fuckin' John fuckin' Wayne?" He laughed loudly at his own joke and squeezed Willow 'til she squeaked.

"Look, mate, you're bruisin' the lady. Why don't we see if we can't find you another partner--someone in your own weight class, perhaps." Spike's voice remained friendly enough, but a fine wire of tension flowed through him.

"Fuck off, you fuckin' faggot. I wanna dance with the girl."

Willow had stilled her struggles and was watching the interaction between the bully and the vampire with growing alarm. Spike took half a step forward and his voice dropped a few notes into a threatening growl.

"Thing is, you bleedin' behemoth, the girl doesn't want to dance with YOU. Put. Her. Down." He paused for emphasis. "Now."

"Oh. All right. I'll put her down" As the drunk released Willow, he cocked a huge fist and with the force of all his weight behind it, swung directly at Spike's head.

Spike dodged the blow neatly, which completely overbalanced its deliverer, sending him sprawling forward and crashing through a table that was--luckily--unoccupied. There he lay, unconscious. Spike tipped his hat in Willow's direction and was about to make his exit when Buffy appeared on the scene.

"What the hell...? Leave it to you, Spike, to ruin a perfectly enjoyable evening. And what did you do to that poor guy, anyway? Is your chip malfunctioning or something? 'Cause if it is, we'd better take this outside where I can stake you and not make a mess on the floor."

Spike looked down at the sawdust under his boots and then back up into the Slayer's angry face.

"Sod off." He pivoted on his heel and stalked back towards the bar.

"Buffy--" Willow had regained her equilibrium and had her hand on the Slayer's arm.

"Oh, God, Willow, tell me again why I don't dust that loser."

"Buffy, Spike didn't do anything. He...he was trying to help me. That guy," gesturing toward the unmoving lump lying amongst the broken table parts and smashed glasses, "was pawing at me and Spike was just trying to get him to let me alone. The jerk took the first swing. I don't think Spike even took his hands out of his pockets."

Buffy's face dropped. "Oh. Well. That's different then. I suppose I should...I mean I guess I ought to apologize..."

"Why? Has the Blond Bloodsucker ever apologized to you for trying to kill you all those times?" Xander had appeared from out of the crowd. "Where did Anya and Tara go?"

"Oh, Anya had to pee, but she needed help with the whole petticoat thing. Tara went with her. Here they come." Anya and Tara had emerged from the ladies' room and made their way over to join the group.

"What happened, Honey?" Tara bit her lower lip and looked at the drunk guy on the floor.

"Nothing. I just got manhandled by a cowpoke. Let's get another drink."

"You coming, Buff?" asked Xander as they turned away.

"Yeah, I'll be right there." She was staring at Spike's back as he hunched over the bar. She watched as the bartender set a shot-glass down in front of him. He didn't move to pick it up.

With a resigned sigh, she walked over to where he was standing and presented herself to be insulted. She figured she deserved it.

"Spike."

He didn't acknowledge her. His profile was a sullen pout.

"I just came over to say...I mean, Willow told me what you did and I...what I mean to say is, I'm sorry."

He glanced at her for a moment. Then he turned back to the bar and stared into his shot glass.

"I shouldn't have gone off on you like that. It's just that I've been so stressed out lately--you know, with the whole Glory thing--but I shouldn't take it out on you and will you please turn around and look at me when I'm talking to you?"

He turned to face her and she saw the corner of his mouth rise in the beginnings of a smile. "S'all right, Slayer. Think nothin' more about it." He turned away again and in one quick motion downed the shot of amber liquid from the glass.

She sighed in frustration. It wasn't any fun when he didn't want to play. "So that's it? That's all you're gonna say to me?"

He glanced at her again in a weary way. "Sorry, Slayer. Bit off my game tonight. Don't feel much like the usual banter."

The band had returned from a break. The strains of some vaguely familiar ballad floated through the air. Spike lifted his head to listen and a slight smile touched his face. Then he looked down into her eyes and in a voice she'd never heard him use, he asked, "Care to dance?"

She wasn't sure what it was that made her nod her head. Perhaps it was the haunting melody or the strange, quiet way about him that she didn't recognize.

She followed him to the dance floor. The tune was a waltz and the band played it as an instrumental--no vocals to accompany the sweet, sad music. Spike held her very lightly and moved with surprising grace.

His touch on her skin was disturbing and the silence between them was too electric for comfort. She decided to try inane chatter. "I'm surprised to see you here, Spike. This isn't exactly your kind of music. And what's with the hat and boots?"

"Hmm...you think you know me so well, Slayer? I'm a complex character. My soul has many layers."

"Your soul has zero layers." When he didn't respond, she tried again. "What's the name of this song? It sounds familiar, but I can't place it."

"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."

"Huh?" She pulled back a bit and stared at him.

"The song's called I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. By Hank Williams. Hear that melody line? The man was a bloody genius."

"Oh." She racked her brain for something else to say. "He WAS a genius? You mean he's...?"

"Dead. Yeah. But don't worry, Slayer, I didn't have a hand or a fang in his demise. Wasn't even in the country then."

"How'd he die?"

"Alcohol poisoning. Back seat of a car, on his way to a concert. Twenty-nine years old."

"Oh." He was behaving so strangely and she was growing more uncomfortable by the moment. Then she heard him begin to sing, very softly, directing his voice down the back of her neck. It vibrated there, causing a sweet shiver to bloom over the surface of her skin.

"Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I'm so lonesome I could cry

I've never seen a night so long
When time goes crawlin' by
The moon just went behind a cloud
To hide its face and cry."


His voice was husky, with a rich, throbbing quality that made her breath catch in her throat. She inhaled deeply and steadied herself.

"What's wrong with you tonight? You're all...weird." Geez Buffy, articulate much? OK, the song's almost over. Get a grip. She pulled away slightly for a better view of his face.

"You're concern is right touchin', pet. It so happens that tonight is an anniversary of sorts for me."

"Yeah? What are you celebrating?"

"Mmmm...not sure celebratin' is the right word...although I used to celebrate it. Dru an' I used to have us a time." He paused and stared over her head at something very far away. "It's the one hundred and twenty-first anniversary of the night I was turned. An' here I stand, dressed up like Roy Rogers, dancing with a Slayer. How the mighty have fallen."

She wasn't quite sure how to respond to his revelation. She chose silence. He dropped his head low over the back of her neck and began to sing again.

"The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I'm so lonesome I could cry."

The music ran down and the band began another slow tune.

"You still miss her a lot?"

"Who? Dru? Well, we WERE together for-bleedin'-ever...but I guess it's not her I miss so much as..."

"So much as what?"

He sighed. "You wouldn't understand, Slayer. No reason to worry your pretty little head over it, either. Although, as I said, I'm charmed by your show of concern."

"Don't patronize me, Spike. So you're lonely. You think I don't know what that feels like? You think you're the only one who stands apart, different from every other creature on the planet? So, you're a chipped-up vampire, and that makes you a lonely vampire. I'm a Slayer, and there's only one of me--unless you count that lunatic in the L.A. County Jail--so I think maybe I can relate."

She was surprised by the heat of her emotion on this topic. His expression mirrored her surprise, and she felt him tense. Then pulled away from her.

"Where are you going?"

"Out for a smoke."

"Spike, you smoke in here all the time."

He ignored her and kept moving towards the exit.



Chapter Two

She watched as he moved through the crowd and out the swinging doors without so much as glance back.  She looked over her shoulder at her friends, who didn't appear to be missing her too much, and then followed him out of the bar.

She wasn't sure why she followed him. Her foremost emotion in his presence was irritation, so it was hard to say why she felt compelled to pursue him at that moment. It was only in the space between heartbeats, in that tiny place she reserved for the absolute rock-bottom truth, that she ever admitted how much he affected her. But it's so wrong, whined her conscience. Yeah, it's wrong. But it's true, answered something else much more basic and primitive inside her.

The narrow street and alleyway entrance were deserted. It had rained a bit, and the glow from the streetlight was reflected in the slick, black asphalt. She stepped into the alley, expecting to see him leaning against the wall, lighting up a cigarette. He wasn't there.

Instead, she encountered three guys, wearing what appeared to be matching Lone Ranger costumes, complete with masks and toy six-guns on their hips. They were huddled together around something that she couldn't quite make out in the dim light. They broke apart suddenly at her approach, and she could see that they had been taking turns with a small straw and white powder on a mirror. She stopped, uncertain of what her responsibility was in this situation--after all, she was the Slayer, not the Sheriff.

"Hey, baby...com'ere...wanna a little taste?" One of the Rangers beckoned, his eyes bright behind the mask.

"Umm...no thanks, just passing through." She tried to squeeze around them, but they blocked her path.

"Aw, come on, that's not very polite...and you look like such a FRIENDLY girl." The same guy, so obviously the leader of the group, grabbed her elbow and pushed her back against the wall.

Damn it! Why did I follow him out here? Now somebody's gonna get hurt, and it's all Spike's fault.

She decided to try charm before violence. "Look, guys, I appreciate your generosity, but I really just want to get by. Be nice and let me go, OK?"

"But don't you want a little taste first? Make you feel really good...make you wanna party all night!" A second Ranger had her by the other arm and was staring down the front of her bustier.

"Nice outfit." He looked up to meet her eyes and leered. "How much?"

She realized instantly that he wasn't asking the price of the costume. Her temper flared, and then it was knees to groins all around, with a couple gut-punches for good measure. When all three were down and groaning on the ground, she made sure to smash the mirror and grind the pretty white powder into the dirt for good measure.

Then an eerie sensation of been-here, done-this came to her, as she heard someone clapping from the end of the alleyway. His face was in shadow, but she could see the red end of a lit cigarette and the outline of his duster and hat as he slouched against the bricks.

She stalked over to him. "A little assistance would have been nice."

He snorted. "Since when do you need help takin' out mortals? Besides, you know I couldn't touch 'em without a firestorm startin' in my skull."

"Still, you could have a least--oh, forget it. Just...get away from me." She turned to go and his hand shot out, gripping her wrist.

"What's wrong, Slayer? Not havin' a good time at the hoe-down?"

She sighed. "I was having a fine time until those coked-up frat-boys decided to make with the mauling. What is it with you males, anyway? What does it take to get you to keep your hands to yourselves?" She looked pointedly at where he was still holding on to her.

He dropped her wrist and shrugged. "What did you expect, pet? Go about lookin' like a whore, men will treat you like one." He stubbed his cigarette out beneath his boot and crossed his arms, waiting for her stinging retort.

"Welcome to the twenty-first century, Spike, where a woman should be able to walk around dressed any way she wants without getting assaulted."

"SHOULD bein' the operative word here, ducks." He shrugged again. "Not sayin' it's right. Just sayin' it's true."

His words were the echo of her earlier thoughts, albeit on a different subject. But the way he was looking at her made her think that perhaps he meant something else as well. She stared at him until she realized that she was staring at him, then she stared at the ground instead.

"Where are all your little friends, Slayer? Gone home to bed?"

"No, they're still inside." He tilted his head and gave her a quizzical look. She stammered, "I...just came out for some air...guess I ought to go back...they'll wonder what happened..."

"Right. Well, off with you then. Mustn't let a good party go to waste."

"I...you're not...?"

"Me? No. Had enough of the down-home fun an' frolic for one evenin,' although it was divertin' enough." He searched his pockets for his cigarettes and came up with an empty pack. Grimacing, he crumpled it and tossed away into the shadows.

She frowned and was about to rebuke him for littering when he continued in an almost dreamy tone. "Always wished I'd traveled to the Americas sooner. I'd have made one hell of an outlaw, don't you think, luv? The scourge of the Old West--Jesse James, Billy the Kid--all a bunch of nancy-boys compared to the Big Bad." He quirked a smile at her.

She rolled her eyes, but couldn't help the answering grin that split her face.

"Must say, pet, I do like your outfit. Bit of Miss Kitty?"

"How did you know that?"

"Ah, well, since I've been cursed with this soddin' chip, I've watched quite a lot of that Nick at Nite. Most of it's rot, but a good episode of Gunsmoke is hard to beat."

She realized that they had begun to walk--to stroll, really--down the street and away from the loud tinkle and twang and the bright lights emanating from the Bronze. It felt strange to be having a real conversation with him, as if he were a friend.

"I always thought I should have lived in another time, too. But I'd like to go back to the roaring twenties--you know, flappers and bathtub gin and the Charleston."

He pushed the hat that covered his brow back a bit and surveyed her. "Yes, Slayer, I could most definitely feature you as a jazz baby." His smile made her drop her eyes. "Although you want to be glad you missed the thirties. Starvin' babies and the rise of facism...not my favorite decade."

They had reached a corner convenience store and stopped beneath the bright fluorescent lights. He had intended to buy cigarettes and maybe some beer. He had the beginnings of a plan in the back of his head--a plan that didn't have much chance of success--but a bloke had to try, didn't he?

Then the door flew open and three vampires charged out into the street, blood dripping from their faces and fangs.

Buffy had been lulled into a relaxed state by the gentle meander of their conversation, and by Spike's mellow demeanor, so different from his usual edginess and sarcasm. At the sight of the vamps she snapped into attack-mode, reaching for the stake she had tucked into her garter belt before she left her house that evening.

Foolish enough to devour a convenience-store clerk and two customers in a heavily populated area, but not foolish enough to stand around and let the Slayer and a known murderer of his own kind finish them off, the vamps made a run for the cemetery--Spike's cemetery.

Torn between giving chase and checking for survivors, Buffy finally went with her humanitarian instincts. She needn't have bothered, as the three within the store were no longer among the living. The alarm behind the counter had been activated and they could hear sirens in the distance. Spike paused long enough to nick a pack of Lucky Strikes on his way out the door.

As they sprinted toward the cemetery, Buffy wished she'd worn something a bit more...supportive. She could feel herself bouncing all over the place, and she could sense that Spike noticed it as well. She steeled herself for the inevitable snide comment that never came.

They hit the gates at top speed. Without bothering to actually speak to one another, they instinctively split up and began circling the perimeter in opposite directions. Twenty minutes later found them face to face in the center of the cemetery, no vamps in sight.

"Well, pet, it seems we've lost them--or they've lost us, lucky sods."

"Hmm...I found where they rose from. Three fresh graves near the back. We'd better separate. You take the north side of town, I'll take the south. Let's meet in front--"

"Half a mo', luv. Do you really fancy scamperin' all about town lookin' for these blokes? They've already fed. Now they'll be lookin' to hook up with whoever turned 'em an' party a bit, if I know the newly risen. An' I do." He tore open his new pack of cigarettes and slipped one between his lips. "They'll be back here before sunrise, lookin' for shelter. We can take 'em then."

"What do you mean, WE can take them? You'll be sound asleep in your crypt by then, if I know you. And I do."

"I'm hurt, Slayer. What kind of gentleman would leave a bird...I mean, a lady such as yourself all alone and at the mercy of whatever beasties might wander by?"

"Oh, I don't know, Spike--the same gentleman that threatened to rip my heart out and feed it to me only a few months ago?" She said it sweetly, but it stung.

"Fine, Slayer. Have it your way. Be a silly bint--an' a dead one for all I care." He swung away from her in annoyance, and was stopped by her voice.

"Hey! Where's your hat?"

He turned back and ran his hand through his hair, making it stick up at odd angles. "Must've dropped it somewhere." He shrugged.

She took a step nearer. "That's too bad. I liked it. Made you look dangerous."

He favored her with a tight smile. "I AM dangerous, Slayer. You'd do well to remember it."

"Oh, yeah, I'm trembling in my vintage boots."

Then he was next to her, bending over her, and tracing the tip of his finger over the outline of her lips. It tickled. "Would you like me to make you tremble, pet?"

Whoa, where did that come from? "Um, let's just stick to business here, Spike." She swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat and backed away.

He took a long drag off his cigarette and crossed his arms over his chest as she sat down with her back against a tombstone.

"So...um...what d'you want to do while we wait?" She watched as a slow smile spread over his face. Right. Walked straight into that one, didn't you, Buff?

"Mmm...what do you say to a friendly game--of cards?" He produced a deck from the pocket of his coat with the grace of a magician.

She rolled her eyes and laughed at him. "I'm not huge with the strip poker thing, Spike, but nice try."

"No? Well, luv, there are other games that are nearly as divertin' an' they don't involve the loss of clothing."

"Yeah? Enlighten me."

He paused for a moment and looked at her speculatively. "How 'bout this? We play a hand and winner gets to tell the loser a story. Loser has to sit still an' listen."

How bad can that be? A story...sure I could listen to a story. Probably another tale of the exploits of William the Bloody, but what the hell? It'll pass the time.

"OK, Spike. I haven't played poker in a long time, so I hope you're prepared to do most of the talking...oh, do we need a theme?"

He stepped back and spread his hands apart, gesturing toward them both. "Do you fancy the obvious?"

"What? Cowboys and Indians...I mean, Native Americans?" She looked around guiltily, half-expecting to see Willow pop up and give her a disapproving glare. "Sounds good--but no scalp-age, please."

"Right then." He settled down at the opposite end of the grave and expertly shuffled the deck. Neither of them gave any thought to the impropriety of playing games atop someone's eternal place of rest. "Cut the cards." She did so and he began to deal.

The first hand reminded her why she avoided card games in general and poker in specific--she sucked at it. He beat her with three of a kind.

"All right, luv. Guess I'm up to bat, so to speak. Comfy?"

She leaned her head back against the tombstone and shut her eyes. "Yup. Entertain me."

If her eyes had been open, she would have seen the mischievous glint in his, and the hungry angle of his smile as he considered her. Drawing on all his powers of creation, he lit yet another cigarette, and began his tale.

"Well, you see, there was this town, deep in the heart of Texas. Folks called it Sunnydale."

She peeped at him and grinned. "How stunningly original."

"Hush, pet. Anyway, in this town there lived a girl...a woman really...a...a lady of the evening. Name of Buffy. And she was famous, for in all of Texas, there was no one who had ever..."

His voice wrapped itself around her mind and she began to see a picture of the dusty little town of Sunnydale, and a picture of herself as she would have looked if she had lived there. She settled herself more comfortably against the hard stone and let his story take her far away.



Chapter Three

Then the meaning of his words sunk in and her eyes flew open. "A lady of the evening? A whore? I'm a whore in this story?"

"Now, Slayer, the deal was that the loser had to sit upon her pretty arse an' listen--or are you wrigglin' out of it now you know it won't be a fairytale?"

His eyes challenged her. Biting back a rude retort, she settled back against the stone with a resigned grimace.

"Right. Anyway, as I was sayin', this Buffy bird was famous 'round those parts for two things: bein' an accomplished...er...courtesan, an' a dead shot with a pistol. Kept her town tidy of bandits an' black-hats, an' ran the finest brothel in the state."

"She was a young chit--just a bit older than you, Slayer, an' looked rather like you too--all big, sad eyes an' pretty gold hair"

"I thought you said I had stupid hair?" She couldn't resist taunting him.

"Mmmm...it's grown on me some."

"Oh." She wasn't sure how to respond to that.

"So this other Buffy--who didn't prattle on near as much as you do--owned an' ran a whorehouse--fine, big house, it was, all red velvet draperies an' satin sheets..." His voice had taken on that dreamy quality again, and she peeked at him through half-closed eyes. He was staring over her head into the distance.

"But she'd retired from the actual servicin' of payin' customers. She'd been at it from her early teens, you know, an' didn't much fancy the male gender anymore. In fact, she'd grown just a bit cold in her mind an' heart, what with havin' to be the law in such a wild country--always lookin' for the evil in those around her. The black-hats all knew good an' well to steer clear of Sunnydale, lest they wanted a bullet between the eyes or through the heart."

"An' life went on fine like that for a bitthe brothel makin' good money an' the streets quiet an' safe for all the nice families about--'course most of the church-goin' prigs didn't care too much for the local Madam-slash-gunslinger, but they liked how she kept the town from bein' overrun by bandits an' such, so mostly they let her be."

"But, the thing was, Miss Buffy had a secret. An' she knew, in her heart, that someday it would be her undoin'."

"Seems that a few years previous to the time she came to Sunnydale, our Miss Buffy had herself a run-in with a real black-hearted rogue--took her body an' her love an' then left her broken. He was an outlaw an' a murderer, but she loved him. In the end, she forced herself to hunt him down an' send him to hell...but it twisted her spirit to do it."

Angel...he's talking about Angel. Buffy felt a small, searing pain in her gut and silently cursed Spike for bringing such a hurtful memory into the tale. But she didn't protest, didn't ask him to stop. Some part of her wanted to hear his perspective on the mess that was her love life.

Spike had sensed the change in her and ceased talking. She felt rather than saw him move closer.

"Go on, Spike."

He paused for a moment longer, then continued.

"She tried an' failed to love another...a soldier with the U. S. Cavalry. But the bloke couldn't stomach her chosen professions--had more of a problem with the gunfightin' than the whorin', in fact--an' left her to go massacre natives in another territory."

"So there the poor bird was, alone an' lonesome in a dusty little town just north of the border, wonderin' if she'd ever feel love again. She knew in her heart of hearts that what she needed was a bit of outlaw in her man, but she couldn't reconcile that need with what she considered to be her duty, so...Got so she resented the sounds of merrymakin' all around her in her own home."

"What was it called?" She opened her eyes and looked at him.

"What was what called, ducks?"

"The brothel...it had a name, right?"

He stared at her, his eyes drawn to the way the dim light, as it shifted and slipped between the breeze-tossed leaves above, caught the few strands of hair around her face and made them glow.

"The Yellow Rose. It was called the Yellow Rose."

She gave a little smile of satisfaction and closed her eyes again.

He cleared his throat and squeezed his hands into fists of frustration. The scent of her flesh and the blood pumping beneath it was having a singularly potent effect on him this night.

"So...anyway...there came word one day that a fearsome bandit was on his way in from the hinterlands. He was known far an' wide for his cruelty an' murderous heart, an' he'd heard of Sunnydale, an' the Yellow Rose, an' he'd heard of Miss Buffy, an' he wanted to see for himself this little chit who had vanquished so many of his kind."

"What was his name?"

Her unexpected query startled him. "Er...you're just brimful of questions tonight, aren't you, luv?"

"His name?"

She stared into his face and read his discomfort. She knew the name of the outlaw--she had a strong sense of the direction of the story in general--but she wanted to hear him say it.

He waited a beat, and then lifted his face as it creased into the sardonic grin that he used to hide real emotion. "His name was Will Blood."

She smiled again and nodded. "The Big Bad."

"You've no idea, pet."

She laughed low, under her breath. The sound of it started a shudder that enveloped him, making it difficult for him to continue.

"Go on."

Taking a deep, unneeded breath to steady himself, he turned to her. "I think it's time for another hand, don't you, Slayer?"

She made a small pout of disappointment, but accepted the cards after he cut them and began to deal. This time her hand was better: three of a kind and a pair. She took no further cards and watched as he studied his own with a scowl.

"Time to raise the stakes a bit, pet. What d'you say?"

A wave of something--uncertainty? fear?--washed over her. "I told you, Spike, Buffy doesn't do strip games."

"You insult my creativity, luv. I was thinking more along the lines of a little role-playin'."

"Huh?"

"You know, act out the story a bit. You like my story, don't you?" He had leaned closer, and she caught the scent of cigarettes, leather and danger.

"It's--it's very...unique."

"Good. So if I win this hand, then I get to continue. An' I get to simulate a bit of the action, so to speak." He saw the alarm on her face. "No worries, pet. You want me to stop at any point, you just say the word."

She paused to consider this. "What if I win this hand?"

"Then you get to continue the story, an' perform it, if you fancy that."

She glanced down at her cards and wondered.

"Scared, Slayer?"

"Of what? You? In your dreams, Blondie."

"Then let's have at it. I call."

They threw down their cards simultaneously, and Buffy gasped. He had a straight flush, ace high.

He must have known...

His eyes sparked at her and she felt that fear again. Some part of her knew that it wasn't him she was afraid of, but herself. She watched as he gathered up the cards and then reached into his coat, pulling out a flask and drinking deeply.

"Storytellin' is thirsty work." He offered her flask and she almost took it, then shook her head.

He began again, and she tried to settle herself against the tombstone but was unable to find a comfortable position.

"Hmm...where was I? Ah, yes, the outlaw Will Blood, ridin' into town to find Miss Buffy an' test the legend, so to speak.

"It was a hot day, like a lot of other hot days, when word came that Blood was closin' in. Folks deserted the streets an' shops in droves, leavin' the place wide open for the battle they knew was comin'."

Buffy took a deep breath and forced herself to relax. The louder voice in her head told her that she was still completely in control of the situation. The quieter voice, from somewhere else inside her, just laughed.



Chapter Four

"Miss Buffy stood behind the bar at the Yellow Rose. She poured herself a shot of bourbon an' tossed it back. She watched the clock, feelin' his approach. As it struck five, he pushed through the swingin' doors and stood there, lookin' like a column of thick, black smoke."

"Mmm...poetic."

He gave a small snort. "Sorry, luv, got lost in the moment." He cleared his throat. "Blood approached the bar, removin' his gun belt as he moved. He laid it down across the bar an' leaned forward. He spoke just one word: 'Whiskey'."

"Miss Buffy's hand tightened on the pistol she'd tucked into her skirt and said 'Mister, we don't serve your kind here. You'd best head out the way you came'."

"The bandit didn't answer her, just kept starin' into her eyes. Miss Buffy found that she wanted to obey him...wanted to do anythin' he asked..."

"OH, PLEASE! This was a pretty decent story until you turned it into...I mean, come on, I would SO not do that..."

He moved with sudden speed to lean over her, drawing her gaze into his. His eyes were nearly black in the darkness, the pupils dilated, leaving only a very slender circle of iris. She found herself captivated by the tiny, almost microscopic gold specks that appeared and disappeared within that rim of blue. Her breath caught.

"Give me your hand." She wasn't sure if he was speaking in his own voice or that of Will Blood, but she offered her hand up automatically, clenched in a fist. He used both his own hands to pry her fingers open, and then placed a soft kiss in the center of her palm, holding his lips there as his tongue made small circles against her skin.

A shiver raced up her arm and spread over her flesh. She felt her nipples harden against the scratchy laces at the front of her bustier, and a delicate throb start up between her legs. He lifted his head and began to speak.

"Miss Buffy had never met a bloke like this Will Blood. When he kissed her hand, all thoughts of killin' him or runnin' him out of town vanished from her pretty head. She wanted nothin' more than to throw herself over the bar at him, an' beg him to take her upstairs to her soft bed, an' do filthy, unspeakable things to her..."

Buffy's other hand made sharp contact with Spike's face and he released her to rub at his cheek. "OW! What the hell was that for?!?"

"That was for turning the story into your wet dream." She grabbed the deck of cards that lay on the grass, shuffled and cut them. "Here. Deal."

He took them from her, but his mind was still filled with images of satin sheets at the top of the stairs at the Yellow Rose, and he stared at the hand he had dealt himself without comprehending.

She asked for two more cards and was amazed to receive two kings from him--two kings that matched the two she already held. "OK. Whatcha got, Spike?" He dropped his cards in front of her and she crowed. "Ha! Three of a kind? Loser."

He flinched. The lingering taste of her salty Slayer-ness on the tip of his tongue had made him forget to cheat.

She was gathering the cards as she began to speak. "Miss Buffy slowly raised the pistol in her hand 'til it was even with the face of the bandit. He looked at her from under his silly black hat and froze. 'You have until the count of three to turn around and walk out of here, Will Blood. If you don't, I'm going to stake...er...shoot you through the heart'."

Spike looked up and saw that she had Mr. Pointy poised and at the ready. He felt a tremor of fear, but held his ground. "Heard tell of your bravery, Miss Buffy. Too bad it's all for show."

"WHAT? What did you say?" Her eyes narrowed as she felt her temper rise hot in her chest.

"You heard me. Easy enough to follow your callin' an' do what comes naturally. Harder to admit your feelin's when they're not in line with your way of thinkin', inn'it? That takes real courage, an' I'm the fool that knows it."

She closed her eyes and swallowed, trying to ignore the voices in her head that were having a shouting match. One declared very loudly that she should stake him into the ground, and the other, which had suddenly grown much more insistent, and was urging her to drop the damn stake and leap into his arms.

He leaned in a final time and hissed at her. "Coward."

Her eyes flew open and her mouth moved of its own accord. "Miss Buffy leveled the pistol at the bandit's chest an fired a single shot." At the same moment, she lunged at him with a rather amateurish stabbing motion, and struck just below his collarbone with the stake, mere inches from his heart.

He flew backward and she landed on him, straddling him. She withdrew the stake and watched in horror as blood welled in the wound. His head had fallen back in the grass and his eyes were closed.

"Spike? Spike, I'm sorry...but you shouldn't...I mean, why'd you have to...?"

He raised his head and looked at her, saying nothing. She dropped the stake and reached out toward the place where she had injured him, noting that the bleeding was slowing as quickly as it had begun.

Her voice trembled. "Miss Buffy jumped over the bar to where Blood was lying in the sawdust. She ripped open his shirt to check the damage." He heard his tee-shirt tear from collar to waist. "It was just a flesh wound, and way off from where she'd been aiming. Blood had been lucky, because at that range she could easily have dusted...um...killed him. I wonder why it went crooked like that--I was sure--SHE was sure she'd been aiming at this heart."

She tore away a strip of fabric from his shirt and pressed it to the small hole in his chest. He tensed with pain. "Serves you right for trying to take advantage of me, Cadaver Boy." Then she leaned over and kissed him before the stupid voices in her head could begin debating the rightness of it.

The sensation of pain that had been radiating from his chest fell away, and he could feel nothing but her lips as they nibbled at his, seeking something--what? Forgiveness? He gave it without reserve and deepened the kiss.

She pulled away and grinned at him. "Blood is unconscious at this point, Spike, so HOLD STILL." She returned to kissing him. He let his lips fall open and felt her tongue slip beneath his. He concentrated hard on not returning the caress.

Her hands began to wander over his chest, avoiding the wound. She trailed them up and down his sides and across his thighs, stopping to squeeze and knead the muscles there. She was amused by his struggle to remain limp and unresponsive.

Then she stuck out the tip of her tongue and began tracing the crevices of his ear. He groaned and tensed.

"Stay still, cowboy, or this story's over."

"For pity's sake, Slayer, I'm not made of stone, you know."

She reached down and pressed her hand against the large bulge at the crotch of his jeans. "Coulda fooled me." She giggled into his neck as he stifled a moan.

This wasn't how it was supposed to go. His plan had been to win every hand, by cheating if necessary, and seduce her before she realized what was happening. That she had beaten him at poker had been a surprise. That she had tried to dust him had been a shock. That she was lying on top of him, groping him eagerly, with no apparent intention of stopping...well, that's just a bleedin' wonder, inn'it it, mate?

She pulled her face out of his neck and began whispering in his ear.

"Miss Buffy could tell that Will was waking up. He began to take shorter, quicker breaths, and his face got all flushed. Of course, he was human, so I'll give you a break if you can't pull that off."  Her hands returned to his chest. "Miss Buffy ripped away the rest of his shirt and undid his trousers."

Her hands mimicked the sense of her words, tearing Spike's tee-shirt away completely and fumbling with his belt and buttons. Once his flesh was exposed, she slowed her hands, bringing them back to his face and neck with feather-like touches.

"Hold still! You're not completely awake yet!"

"Like hell I'm not!" But he forced himself to remain motionless, save for the involuntary twitching and jerking that occurred below his waist.

"Miss Buffy began to kiss Will's face to make him wake up and get with the program." She accompanied her words with small, sweet kisses across Spike's brow and down his cheeks. With each touch of her lips, he felt his heart swell 'til he wondered which would burst first--his chest or his cock.

She had begun to lose her train of thought. The extremity of her arousal was distracting enough, but now the affection for him that she had buried beneath many shovel-fuls of denial was clawing its way to the surface. It was a warm feeling that, for some reason, made her want to cry.

Her hand wandered down his chest, tracing the outline of his musculature, pausing to pinch and roll his nipples between her fingers. She heard his teeth grit together when she did this, so she did it again, harder.

"Buffy..." His eyes were screwed shut and his voice was a rasp that revealed his struggle to remain still.

"That's MISS Buffy, to you, you filthy outlaw." Her hand paused in its journey downward to play with the line of downy hair that began just beneath his navel. "Then...finally..." She paused for five long seconds. "Will woke up."

With the violence of an unbroken bronco busting loose from the gate, Spike clutched and flipped her onto her back in one convulsive movement. His hands were in her hair, forcing her mouth to his. She locked her arms around his neck and let him take everything she had to give.

When, after nearly a minute, he gave her respite to breathe, she gazed up into his face and laughed. "Hey, you're supposed to be wounded, remember?"

"Sod that." He kissed her again, slowly this time, exploring the warm recesses of her mouth in minute detail with the tip of his tongue, his hands unsnarling from her hair to slip down her shoulders and pull the chiffon and marabou feathers away from her flesh.

He kissed his way down her neck, stopping ever so often to suck and nibble at a particularly sensitive area. Through a haze of sensation she wondered how he knew where to find those places where the nerve endings were extra-close to the surface of her skin. Then he reached the top of breasts, still covered in red satin, and the areas of higher function in her brain began to shut down, like lights switching off in a skyscraper from top to bottom.

He pulled away from her to throw off his coat and what remained of his tee-shirt, and when he returned his hands went immediately to the laces that held her bustier closed. Working quickly, he loosened the confining garment and slid it down, exposing her breasts to the cool air and his equally cool hands.

Her nipples hardened to rose-colored knots at this touch. She felt his body shift downward and braced herself, knowing that when his lips touched her skin she might do something embarrassing. When his mouth closed over one nipple she fought the urge to cry out and lost. He was smiling against her skin and then she didn't care anymore because he was sucking and biting and his hand was at her other breast, making her blood thrum and throb in her veins.

He brought himself up to his knees and began searching for the hem of her skirt, fumbling through the folds and layers of lace. "Bloody hell, Slayer, it's a bleedin' maze down here" Finally finding his way through, he dragged one hand up her thigh, savoring the feel of her skin beneath fishnet. He noted with approval that she had chosen a garter belt and stockings over pantyhose, and paused there to snap the elastic against her flesh. He grinned at her when she jumped and then dipped his fingers to very lightly trace the outline of her silken panties.

Her breath caught in her throat and her hips rocked upward of their own volition. His fingertips teased softly at the surface of the fabric and when she whimpered he pressed just slightly downward, allowing the moisture that was quickly pooling there to be absorbed by the silk. Her shudder in response begged for more, but he became occupied in detaching the stockings from the garter-belt. Seconds slipped by as he struggled and snarled the fishnet, until finally she popped up into a sitting position and slapped his hands away.

"Sorry, pet...bit out of practice." His expression was sheepish.

Having released the stockings from the snaps and rolled them down her legs, she pondered the wisdom of removing her boots, inwardly groaning at the thought of all those little buttons. Her senses told her that sunrise was still a couple of hours away, but she was wary of being less than prepared should the vamps they were waiting for make an early appearance.

Seeming to read her mind, he ended her inner discussion by grabbing a handful of her thigh and knocking her backward with a playful push. "Leave the boots, luv--but mind where you dig the heels at the critical moment." She giggled up at him and stuck her tongue out, and then nearly bit it in two when his hand returned to remove her panties, carefully easing them down her legs and over the boots.

Her body was rigid with anticipation as he dragged his fingers slowly up one leg to her knee and back down again. Then up it went again, this time farther, closer...then back down. Again, and this time his thumb brushed her curls softly and she lifted her hips in supplication. Finally, he brought his fingers to her center, sliding them upward into hot, swollen flesh, and she turned her face into her own shoulder to keep from screaming.

He was lying next to her then, nibbling at her ear while his fingers made soft explorations below. Each time she sighed or shuddered, he paused in his movements, as if to memorize what had caused the reaction.

She felt his fingers at her opening and pressed forward slightly in a mute attempt to urge him inward. Gently and with extreme precision, he entered her, probing deeply and at the same time folding the heel of his hand upward to make contact with her clit. She lost control momentarily, thrusting against his hand and nipping wildly at his face.

"Shhh..." He encouraged her to lift her head, and he slipped his other arm beneath her neck and pulled her close. He began thrusting his fingers into her with a steady rhythm, and her hips rose up to meet each movement. He stopped, his hand still buried in her, and flexed his fingers firmly into the small cluster of nerve endings that lay deep inside her. A ball of light exploded behind her eyes when he did that, and a ball of heat threatened to incinerate his hand. Every muscle in her body tensed and felt herself approaching the point of no return. He quickly disengaged his hand, the loss of which caused her literal pain, and reached up to caress her abdomen with slick fingers.

"Nooo!" She pushed at his hand, her body aching for its return. Instead, he slid his arm out from beneath her and repositioned himself between her legs. His fingers spread wide her outer lips and he devoured her. She had time to wonder whether it was possible to have a seizure from an excess of pleasure before the first spasms of her orgasm overtook her and she no longer cared if she lived or died.

He propelled her through it, ruthless in his determination to wrench every last shudder and throb from her body, not letting it up until she sobbed for mercy and pulled weakly at his hair. Only then did he soften his assault, sliding his tongue deftly around her raw clit, teasing it until she began to feel the tension build again.

With a supreme act of self-discipline, she yanked his hair hard enough to make him look up at her. "Come here." Her voice was low and edgy with promise and he obeyed her. Returning to his place next to her, he again buried his face in her neck and fought the demon that threatened to emerge.

Her hands trembling, she reached around behind him and tugged at his jeans. He lifted slightly, allowing her to slip them down his hips. The scratchy lace of her skirt scraped against his cock and he groaned in discomfort. Then her soft, strong hands found the shaft and he felt a growl building in his chest. Down, pillock, or you'll ruin this for the both of us. He occasionally found that addressing his demon as a separate entity allowed him more control over it, but it was not to be the case this time around. He felt her squeeze his balls and roll them sensuously between her fingers, and a snarl escaped before he could master it.

She froze at the sound, staring into eyes that glowed yellow. He fought to keep his human features front and center, and succeeded for the moment.

"Sorry, luv--strong emotion--strong sensation--provokes the beast in me. You...you can stop if you like." He closed his eyes when he said this. She couldn't help but be impressed with his offer, but couldn't bring herself to stop. Instead, she leaned forward and sucked his lower lip between her teeth.

His eyes popped open at that, and his fingers found either side of her jaw. He held her there, trapping her face as she trapped his lip. Her hands began to move again and he wondered if he would last.

Then she was sliding down his body and when her warm breath caressed the head of his cock, he knew he was in trouble. "No, Buffy...oh, god..don't..." She slid her tongue beneath the foreskin as one hand pumped the shaft and the other tickled the tightening flesh at his balls. "Bloody FUCK! I can't..." And he couldn't, his hips thrusting upward as he exploded into her mouth, his hands wresting huge hunks of sod from the grave they were lying across. She gulped several times as his seed shot into her mouth and splashed over her lips and the soft skin of her face, and then continued to lick and nibble at his foreskin as he returned to the earth plane. When she realized that her caresses were on the verge of causing pain to his now acutely sensitized nerve endings, she pulled away with a final kiss and crawled up to snuggle in the crook of his arm.

He stared into her face and wracked his brain for some remark that wasn't 'I love you.' She delighted in this very obvious struggle: the smart-mouthed vampire at a loss for words.

Finally, he composed him self enough ask: "Right there in the sawdust, Slayer?"

Grinning at him, she replied: "What can I say? Miss Buffy's a big ho'."

They lay there like that, talking nonsense for several minutes. Buffy was as relaxed and happy as she had been in weeks. Experience should have taught her that it couldn't last.

Voices approaching.

Vampires?

Worse.

Scoobies!



Chapter Five

She was up like a shot, rearranging her clothes and grabbing for poor, discarded Mr. Pointy. It took her a few seconds to realize that Spike wasn't moving.

"What're you DOING? Get UP, get DRESSED, they're COMING!"

"Aww, let 'em come--why should you an' I have all the fun?" He smiled at her, curling his tongue under his teeth and cocking one eyebrow. She was amazed to see that he was hard again.

"GET UP!"

"I AM up!"

"AAARRRGHHH!" She very unceremoniously grabbed him by the most convenient handle available and yanked him to his feet.

"HEY! Easy with the delicates!" Their voices were little above stage whispers, but they sounded loud to her ears.

"Shut up and go home. Just stay there until I come for you...I mean, until I get you."

"Right, pet." Still grinning like a moron, he gathered up his coat and cigarettes and made a none-too-hasty retreat in the direction of his crypt.

Buffy slipped behind the nearest large tree just as Xander, Anya, Willow and Tara came upon the grave that she and Spike had so recently defiled.

"Oh, now that's just...can everyone just say it with me? EWWWW!" Xander stared down at the expanse of grass that spread away from the tombstone. Two large clumps of sod had been torn from the ground. There was a deck of cards--several of which were sticky and slippery with blood and some other whitish, fast drying substance--splayed out across the grave, and a pair of red silk panties hung from one arm of the cross at the top of the stone.

"Oh, that's so disrespectful." Willow's face was a study in disapproval.

"Oh, I don't know...wouldn't bother me if people got busy on MY grave...I mean, just because I was a decayed corpse with no orgasms in my future, doesn't mean I would begrudge them to anyone else."  Anya shrugged and slid an arm around Xander's waist, making a mental note to get in as many orgasms as possible before death came for her.

Tara giggled. It was such an unexpected reaction from her to the scene before them that they all turned to stare at her, which caused her to immediately bite her lip and look remorseful. "Sorry. I w-was just thinking that it looks like s-somebody lost a game of s-strip p-poker."

"Yeah, well, whatever--let's just find Buffy and get out of here before"

Buffy took a deep breath and stepped out from behind the tree. "Here I am, Xander."

"Whoa. Speak of the Slayer." Xander looked at Buffy and noticed that she seemed a bit...disheveled. Not that his brain actually came up with that word. "Where've you been?"

"Oh, you know, the usual. Big slayage all around." Her voice was unnaturally bright.

Willow also noticed Buffy's general state of disarray. "Are you OK? I mean, when you disappeared from the Bronze, we were worried--not that we think you can't take care of yourself, or anything."

"Nope, I'm fine. Just hanging out, waiting for some vamps to show so I can get with the whole sacred duty thing..." Great, Buff, babble much?

"Ooooookay...well, if you're sure--"

"Yup, I'm sure. So if you guys want to head home..."

The three vamps in question chose that moment to burst from the bushes about ten yards from the group. They barreled towards the Slayer and Scoobies, looking hungry.

Tara, Anya and Willow fell back a few feet, fumbling for the stakes they had tucked into various parts of their attire. Buffy and Xander stepped up, taking the brunt of the assault.

Buffy took the smaller one first, landing several good punches and a kick to the balls before dusting him with a particularly graceful arc of her arm. It was then that she realized that her stockings were still rolled down around her ankles, and she was wearing no underwear. She looked around in a panic, hoping she hadn't flashed her friends.

Xander was having more of a struggle with the largest vamp, and the middle-sized guy was busy trying to decide which of the three female Scoobies would make the best appetizer.

Tara chose that moment to be heroic and went for the vamp, stake drawn. He clobbered her easily, and went in for the kill before Willow could scream for Buffy's help. That's when Spike, still wearing his tattered tee-shirt, lunged onto the scene out of nowhere and took out the demon with round-house high-kick to the head. Wrenching the stake from Tara's terrified grip, he dusted the creature.

Between them, Buffy and Xander had made short work of the largest vampire and were in time to see Spike finish the third. Then they stood about for a moment and looked at one-another.

"Um--thanks, Spike." Willow was genuinely grateful. That was the second time he'd come to the rescue in one night.

"Don't mention it, Red." He offered his hand to Tara and pulled her to her feet.

"Wh-what h-happened to your sh-shirt, Spike?" Tara stared at the vampire's chest. It glowed like white-gold in the dim light, and the healing wound just below his collarbone stood out like neon.

"Oh...er...nothin' pet. Just a bit of a tussle with--"

"A demon! He had a fight with a demon, right, Spike?" Buffy looked at him pleadingly.

"Er--right. A demon. Big, nasty bloke. Took a piece right out of me...would have made me his supper if it hadn't been for the Slayer here. Right, Slayer?" His face was serious, but his eyes twinkled at her. She turned away from him pointedly.

"OK, well, I'm beat. What d'you say we all head home?" She tucked her stake back into the waistband of her skirt and started walking toward the gates, hoping that the others would follow. They didn't. They were too busy watching Spike gather up the playing cards from the nearby grave. Not realizing he had an interested audience, he paused to scrape off the now-hardened ejaculate from the surface of several cards, and to lick the blood from one or two others. The sound of Xander's gagging stopped him.

"Spike, you are SO beyond disgusting."

"What? It's my own blood, inn'it?"

Willow looked horrified. "Spike, were you playing cards...and...and other stuff on some poor dead person's final resting place?"

"Wasn't MY idea to do it here, Red, it was--"

"Despicable! Gross and...and despicable and you should be ashamed of yourself, you disgusting, filthy demon." Buffy took a deep breath and looked everywhere but at Spike. "Let's go, guys." She took Xander and Willow by the arms and began dragging them along with her. Anya and Tara followed obediently behind.

"But who was he playing with?" Anya stopped and looked back over her shoulder to watch Spike disengage the panties from the tombstone and stuff them into the pocket of his duster.

"He was probably playing solitaire, if you know what I mean." Xander was highly amused by his own joke.

"But the panties--"

"NeverMIND! Let's just GO!"  Buffy's tone brooked no argument.

At the gates, Buffy let go of Willow and Xander. "I...uh...I should probably do a final patrol just to be safe. I'll see you guys tomorrow, OK?" She couldn't quite meet anyone's eyes.

"Uh, yeah, OK. Are you planning on going back to the Bronze tomorrow night? You know, for the rest of Western Weekend?" Willow looked hopeful. She had found that she rather enjoyed the countryfied atmosphere, once she had gotten used to it.

"Um..maybe. I'll see. I'll let you know tomorrow, OK?"

"OK. 'Night."

Buffy watched as the Scoobies moved down the street and around the corner. Then she took off, back into the depths of the cemetery, absolute fury firing her feet.

She slammed into his crypt to find him seated on the tomb that served as his bed, dabbing at the last of the bloodstains on his chest with the wadded up remains of his shirt. He glanced up at her casually and cast the rag aside, reaching for his cigarettes.

"Thought you were headed home, pet. Come to hear the rest of the story?" He leered at her and lit the cigarette, taking a deep drag and exhaling through his nostrils. It always got to her, somehow, when he did that.

She shook off the little electric spark of attraction and glared at him. "No, I did NOT come to hear the rest of your LAME story--"

"It was your story, too, luv, or have you conveniently forgotten that bit?"

She took a breath to steady herself. "I came to tell you that you'd better keep your mouth shut about...about what happened tonight if you know what's good for you. And you can forget about it ever happening again, too." She took a step toward him in what she hoped was a menacing fashion. "Got that?"

"Oh, I see how it is. Feelin' a bit ashamed, are we? A trifle dirty? No need, Slayer. What happened tonight was perfectly natural--"

"Natural? There's nothing natural about you and me...doing what we did. It was awful and disgusting and I can't believe I let you--"

"You LET me? Hate to contradict an' all, pet, but you were right there with me, just as aggressive...just as passionate..." He'd slid off the tomb and was approaching her, his voice dipping into a seductive growl. "I quite fancied that little noise you made just before you came. Like to see if I could hear it again..."

She felt her face flush and told herself it was shame and revulsion and anything but arousal. She had no explanation for the sudden dampness she felt between her thighs; shame and revulsion so rarely made her wet herself. She was deeply, monumentally confused, and the voices that had been bickering in her head all night had chosen this time to shut up completely, leaving her with no internal guidance whatsoever.

He was inches away and closing. She chose to go with the simplest response and punched him soundly in the jaw. He fell back and snarled.

"Not fair, Slayer, you can play rough an' I can't--or maybe I can, if you like it well enough..." He made a move toward her and she countered with a kick to his gut. When he straightened, she held her stake in her hand.

"Back off, Spike. I almost dusted you once tonight. I won't miss twice."

His eyes widened in surprise. She meant it. He automatically covered his hurt with bravado.

"You're a moody bitch tonight, Slayer. One moment you're crawlin' around in my trousers, the next you're threatenin' to stake me. What's a poor vampire to think?"

"I don't care what you think, except for this: it ends here. Don't come near me again." She felt something in her chest contract painfully when she said those words, and ignored it. "Are we good? Do you get it now?"

She watched as the playful smile on his face turned to stone. "I get it, Slayer." He turned his back on her and clenched his fists. She weakened for a moment.

"Spike..."

He didn't turn. "Get out. Don't come back." His voice was gravelly, barely within his control.

She turned and stalked out of the crypt. Only when he was sure she was gone did he allow his shoulders to slump. Mindlessly, he reached for the bottle of bourbon he kept behind the tomb. He stood in the open doorway and stared out at the sky, chugging the brown liquid in large, coma-inducing gulps.

"Have you ever heard a robin weep
As leaves begin to die
That means he's lost his will to live
I'm so lonesome I could cry."




Chapter Six

It was after ten the following evening when Buffy pushed through the swinging doors and into the crowd at the Bronze. She had traded in her Miss Kitty get-up for a pair of jeans and boots, and blue and white checked shirt. Willow hailed her from a table near the bar.

"You're late."

"Yeah, well, I got into it with Dawn about hanging out with her friends on street corners after dark. I keep telling her that this is a Hellmouth, not the set of Dawson's Creek, but..." She let her voice trail off as she gazed about the bar, looking for...NO! NOT looking for Spike. Looking for her friends, of which Spike was not one.

"Where is everybody, anyway?"

"Oh, Tara didn't come. I think she kind of got her fill of all things Western last night. Xander and Anya are over there." Willow gestured in the direction of large, noisy knot of people clustered around a mechanical bull. Buffy turned just in time to witness some poor cowpoke get thrown from the bull into one of the surrounding bales of straw. "I haven't seen Spike."

"Spike? Who said anything about Spike? I certainly don't care if Spike shows up tonight--in fact, I hope he doesn't. I hope I never see him again. Ever."

Willow looked at her quizzically. "Oooookay. Um...wanna drink?"

"Yeah, a drink would be of the good."

"Be right back." As Willow rose and moved toward the bar, Buffy settled back into her seat and tried to not stare at the door. She heard the crowd over by the mechanical bull give another shout--it seemed to be the main attraction of the evening. Glancing toward the bar, she saw that Willow was deep in conversation with a classmate she had happened upon, so she got up and wandered over to where Anya and Xander stood.

Just as she reached the group, another brave soul was tossed into the air and hit the floor hard.

"Hi, guys. What's up?"

"Hey! It's the Buffster! And looking all Annie Oakley, too."

"Oh, Buffy, look! See? All the young men are taking turns riding the bucking machine, and they keep getting thrown off and suffering mild but very amusing injuries! Isn't it great?!"

"Yeah, Anya, it's great. So, are you gonna take a turn, Xander?" She poked him playfully in the ribs.

"Um...I'm thinking 'no' on that one, Buff, but thanks for asking."

"No, Buffy, I won't let Xander ride the bucking machine. He'd only get thrown off, and maybe he'd rupture something important, and then it could be DAYS before we could have sex again, and I'm on a very tight schedule, you know. I've calculated the exact number of orgasms that it is humanly possible to achieve before my estimated time of death, and we can't afford to lose a day--"

"OK, Anya, we said we weren't going to talk about that here, remember?"

Anya shrugged and went back to watching the riders fly off the bull.

Buffy's back was to the door, but she knew the moment he entered. She struggled not to turn.

He was wearing the same jeans and boots--a bit more scuffed and lived-in-looking--but his duster was thrown over his bare back and chest; he'd never bothered to don another shirt.  His hair was wild and uncombed and he had a nearly empty bottle of bourbon in his hand, his third of the evening.

The crowd did the sensible thing and parted instantly as he stalked to the bar. The aura he gave off was well beyond his usual 'don't fuck with me, mate' vibe and deep into 'looking for trouble and if I can't find it, I'll be happy to make some' country. As he reached the bar, he threw back his head and chugged the last the bourbon.

"Barkeep. More a' this. Now." His tone was guttural, but his words weren't slurred.

Willow watched him for a few moments, then joined her friends.

"Um...I think we might have a problem, guys." She gave a worried glance back toward the bar. "It's Spike. He's drunk."

Xander spun around in delight. "Oh, but I LIKE it when Spike's drunk. He's a riot--reminds me of a Benny Hill sketch."

"Um...I don't think he's that kind of drunk, Xander. He doesn't look very cuddly and slurry and pathetic tonight--more, um...dangerous, actually."

"Hey, bonus. If he makes a move, Buffy's finally got a good excuse to stake his demon ass, right Buff?"

She didn't respond. She was watching Spike closely and fighting off major guilt at the sight of him. The result of her rejection was considerably beyond what she'd expected.

The crowd surrounding the mechanized bull gave another roar, and he looked over in their direction through narrowed eyes. Retrieving the fresh bottle that the bartender had handed him--against the rules and probably the law, but no one was arguing with Spike this nigh--the approached them, his stride steady and sure and full of bravado. Buffy wondered how he could drink so much and stay standing, much less in such apparently perfect control.

"Evenin' all." He looked at Xander and Anya and Willow--and right through the Slayer.

"Uh, hi, Spike. Whatcha up to tonight?"

"Oh, you know, Red. The usual...lookin' for cheap thrills."

It was a direct shot at Buffy, but she pretended not to hear it.

"Spike, why don't you take a ride on the mechanical bull? Bet you could beat the champ."

"Uh, Xander. I don't think that's a very good--"

"Oh, come on Willow, it'd be fun for old Spike." Xander's eyes were filled with an evil twinkle.

"What are you natterin' on about, Harris?"

"The bull, Spike. The champ over there was able to stay on for almost fifteen seconds. Bet you could beat that without even trying." Xander gestured toward a lanky youth in the corner who looked as if he'd wandered on off the range just moments before.

Buffy spoke up. "Spike can't ride the bull, Xander--" Wrong thing to have said. Way wrong. Spike's glare stopped whatever further words she might have uttered.

He stripped his coat off and thrust it at Willow. "Hold this for me, Red." Setting his bottle down on a nearby table and pushing his way toward the front of the crowd, he reached the bull just as the current rider flew off backwards, narrowly missing several spectators.

Buffy watched in bemusement as his climbed astride the machine. As it began to rock and roll, she couldn't help fixating on the way the muscles of his arms, back, chest and abdomen shifted and stretched as he held on, and the way his nipples looked almost purple against his white flesh. Her mouth went dry and she found herself clutching her own arms hard enough to leave marks on her skin.

"Wow...he's good. He's very, very good." Anya said this without looking away from Spike's undulating form.

"Yeah, well, it's not fair. He's got all that stupid vampiric strength...that's cheating."

"Then why did you suggest it in the first place, Xander?" Willow smirked at him.

"Well, I didn't think he'd actually...and YOU said he was drunk, so I thought..." Xander looked uncomfortably uncomfortable.

Buffy tried time and again to look away. The seconds seemed to drag by, and still he held on, riding gracefully, not even tiring. The crowd began to chant. Ten seconds, then twelve. Fifteen--he'd beaten the champ, and still he rode. Twenty seconds, twenty-five. At thirty seconds, the bull began to wind down. When it stopped, he swung off to the cheers of the crowd.

He pushed his way back to them, grabbing his bottle off the table and drinking deeply from it.

"Thanks, Red." He took his coat from her and turned to Xander. "Your turn, Harris."

Xander's face paled visibly. "Uhhhh..."

"Xander, you don't have to ride that thing. Not everybody here has something to prove." Buffy looked pointedly at Spike.

"No? Thought a challenge had been laid down--but if the whelp's too weak..."

"You want to challenge somebody, Spike? I'll ride the stupid thing." Buffy set her soda down, untucked her shirt from her jeans and rolled up her sleeves.

"All right, Slayer, if you feel you must--but how 'bout we make it interestin'?"

"What did you have in mind, Spike?" Her tone of voice held a warning.

"How 'bout this: if you're thrown, we continue...what was begun last night."

She glared at him and glanced around at her friends. They looked at her flushed face and then looked away.

"Fine. But if I'm not thrown, I get to keep your coat."

He looked as if he was about to protest, then shrugged and handed the coat back to Willow.

"Fair enough, Slayer--it's a wager." He stepped aside and bowed with exaggerated courtesy as she passed by him and into the crowd.

She was the only female to try to tame the beast that night. The spectators grew quiet as she climbed aboard and the bucking began.

Taking a deep breath, she locked her hand around the grip at the front of the saddle and tried to stay relaxed and focused. Her training held up well, and she found herself riding easily, anticipating the movements of the machine.

Spike never looked away. Glancing up at him, Willow could see admiration in his eyes for the tiny form on the bull.

The thirty seconds were over quickly. The bull ran down and she dismounted to the sounds of cheering. She sauntered over to where Spike and the others stood.

"Game, set and match, William." He flinched, hating to be called that wanker name.

He grabbed the duster form Willow and thrust it into Buffy's hands. A tight, unreadable smile touched his lips. "Well done, Slayer." With those words, he spun on his heel and stalked back through the crowd and out the door of the Bronze.

They were silent for several seconds.

"Well, that was...interesting." Xander stared at Buffy, wondering what the hell had just happened.

"Um...who needs a fresh drink?" Willow tried to do the spritely thing, and failed miserably.

"Uh, guys? I think I'd better go after him. I mean, he's had a lot to drink..."

"Buffy..."

"No, Xander, let her go." Willow gripped his arm to quiet him. Buffy was already moving toward the door, slipping the duster on as she walked.

The streets were as deserted as the Bronze had been crowded. She walked slowly, in no hurry to face the showdown that was coming. She felt like a gunslinger at high noon, except in this case, it was high midnight. She wondered if this was how Miss Buffy felt when Will Blood rode into town.

Get a grip, Buffy, that was just a story...just a lame story Spike made up to get you to--

To what? To let down my guar
d? Worked real well, didn't it?

The walk to the cemetery had never seemed so long and yet, when she finally arrived there, she felt as if she needed more time. For what, she wasn't sure. She had no idea what was about to happen--no plan, no intention beyond facing him.

The door to the crypt stood open, and candlelight streamed from within. He lay on his back atop the tomb, one arm drawn over his eyes, the bottle of bourbon clutched in his hand. He didn't appear to be aware of her approach.

"Spike?"

Without moving, he answered. "Why're you here, Slayer? Come to gloat?"

She took a step toward him. "No, I...I'm not sure why I'm here--except to give you back your coat. I...I never meant to keep it..."

"It's yours now. Took it off a Slayer. Only fittin' it should go back to one. Always knew you'd end up with it eventually--figured you'd take it when you finally staked me."

"I'm not going to stake you, Spike. You should know that by now."

"Yeah, I know. Make's me feel all warm inside, too. Does my self-esteem no end of good to know that I'm not even important enough to you to dirty your Mr. Pointy with." He dragged his arm away from his face and sat up, looking at her blearily. "Keep the coat, Slayer. I won't have it back from you--not out of pity." His face hardened. "And get the hell out of my lair."

"Are we all done feeling sorry for ourselves yet? 'Cause it's mighty unattractive, Spike."

"Sod off, Slayer."

"Nope. Won't. Guess you'll have to make me."

He stood up suddenly, smashing the bottle against the tomb in his haste and shattering it. He stared down at the broken glass in his hand and then looked at her. He took an unsteady step forward.

"What's the matter with you, Spike?" She watched as he wobbled a bit, and then fell to his knees. "Hey--when was the last time you ate?"

"Mmmm...don't rightly recall...maybe yesterday morning before sun-up..."

"You're such an IDIOT. Not even you can drink that much on an empty stomach--you've poisoned yourself. Any second now, you're gonna puke and pass out."

"No one's askin' you to stay an' witness the festivities, Slayer. Toddle on home now, show's over. Let me suffer in peace."

"Yeah, well, I don't think so. Come on, up you go." She slipped one strong, slender arm around him and heaved him back onto the tomb. "Do you have any blood in the fridge?"

"Nope. Fresh out." His eyes had rolled back in his head and his speech had slowed and begun to slur. And Xander was missing it.

"OK, well, I think I know where to get some. I hope. I want you to stay here...don't do anything else stupid, OK? I'll be back as soon as I can." She covered him with the coat and looked at him for a moment.

Why am I doing this? He's just drunk, like he's been a lot of times before. He'll recover. It's not like he can die of alcohol poisoning, like that singer--what was his name?

"Hank Williams." Spike mumbled the words, now nearly unconscious.

She jumped a bit, startled. Great, now he's reading my mind.

She sighed and pulled the coat up a bit closer around his chest, letting her hand linger. A sweet smile touched his face. She grinned back at him and placed a soft kiss on his brow before leaving the crypt and then the cemetery, a Slayer in search of blood for a drunken vampire.



Chapter Seven

As she jogged across town toward Willy's Place, she mentally smacked herself silly for what she was about to do. She knew it wouldn't be long before word got around the demon community that the Slayer had been seen buying blood. It was bad form and it was also dangerous. It could leave her open to ridicule, and part of her power was based on her rep as an unyielding persecutor of the undead. Being seen purchasing blood would be a giveaway that someone or something unholy had invaded her life.

She needn't have worried about it, because Willy's was dark and locked up tight when she finally made it to the front door.

Damn. Now what?

She briefly considered calling Xander to see if he had any leftover blood from Spike's time as his houseguest/prisoner, but realized that since he and Anya had moved into their new apartment, chances were good that they'd not stocked up on the O-neg recently.

Then she thought of calling Giles, but decided that the necessary explanations were not worth it--especially since she doubted that he would have any blood on hand either.

Which left her with two possibilities: rob the hospital's supply of plasma, which she just didn't feel up to at the moment, or give Spike some of her own blood. She stopped still in her tracks at the thought of that. Letting him drink from her...OK, that 's just too...too what? Exciting. NO! NOT exciting--gross. Too gross. Much, much too gross.

Repetitive much?


But she didn't have to let him actually drink from her to give him blood, did she?

She made an about-face turn and headed back the way she had come.

***********

The door of the crypt was still open when she approached, but she could see no candlelight. She entered quietly, allowing her eyes to get used to the blackness.

Spike was no longer resting on the tomb where she had left him. His duster remained there, wadded up into a ball, so she assumed that he hadn't gone far.

Then she saw the trap-door that led to the lower level of the crypt lying open on the floor, and a soft shaft of light beaming upwards from the opening. Carefully, not wanting to awaken him if he were sleeping, she made her way down the stairs.

She found him slumped in a corner of the cave-like room, his head clutched in his hands.

"Spike?" No answer. It appeared that he had passed out in that position.

She walked over to him and set down the covered travel mug she'd been carrying since leaving her mother's kitchen. Self-consciously, she adjusted the sleeve of her shirt over the bandage on her wrist.

He began to stir. Knowing that she'd never make it back up to the first floor without his seeing her, and suddenly desperate to escape his notice, she fled backwards into the shadows.

The scent of the blood in the mug assaulted him, rousing him from the sweet dreams he'd been having into a world of supersonic hangover and raging hunger.

He reached convulsively for the mug, draining two-thirds of it in a single long swallow. Then he dropped his head backward against the wall and let the blood begin it's restoration.

He was still for a total of four seconds before his eyes popped open. He stared down into the mug in his hand and then licked the corner of his mouth, where a single crimson drop nestled.

"Slayer?"

It was a whisper, but so full of wonder and pleasure that it shot right through her.

She hadn't realized that he would know it was her blood. She'd planned on lying to him, telling him that she'd bought it for him at Willy's. She was amazed that he could sense it--amazed and strangely pleased.

She watched as he slowly raised the mug to his lips again and just as slowly drank from it, savoring it in small, luscious sips. From her vantage point, directly across from him, he looked as if he had discovered a new flavor of heaven.

He finished the blood and set the mug down, but not without licking clean the outer rim. It was then that she noticed the huge bulge that had appeared in the front of his jeans. Dropping his head back against the wall again, his hand wandered down to his crotch and he took hold and squeezed savagely. He whispered again: "Buffy..."

Suddenly, the air within the lower level seemed a bit too thick for her to breathe properly, and her head began to swim. She willed herself to look away from him as he unbuttoned his jeans and took the length of his cock in his left hand. There was just enough light to make out the single crystalline dropped that formed at the tip when he squeezed it again.

She watched, fascinated, as he picked up the mug and ran his hand around the inside, collecting the remaining droplets of her blood. He then smeared the residue over his shaft and head, moaning low as he did so.

His hand began to pump and she discovered that her hips were moving in rhythm with his own. He paused for a moment and pushed his jeans down to his ankles, bending and spreading his knees a bit and giving her an excellent view of his balls, which had deepened in color and were pulled tightly against his body.

He was pumping again and his movements gained momentum. She heard a low, chanting growl begin in his chest and realized that he was repeating her name in rhythm with his strokes.

She squeezed her thighs tightly against the throbbing that had begun in her center. She saw his body go stiff and taut and he gave a deep groan as he came, shooting splashes of white all over his own abdomen and chest. She licked her lips as she watched it pool there.

His posture relaxed, he reached down and began to massage his balls, his eyes still half-closed.

Her legs had begun to cramp, both from the crouched position she was holding herself in and the pressure she attempting to exert on herself in order to hold her arousal in check. She tried to shift her position silently, but his eyes snapped open and he inhaled deeply, catching her scent.

He hurriedly stuffed himself away into his jeans and found his feet. "Slayer? Buffy! Come out now, I know you're there." Then he caught sight of her and moved reflexively toward her. She shrunk away from him instinctively.

"Enjoy the show, luv?" He reached for the pack of cigarettes and lighter that rested near where he'd been seated on the floor.

She stood slowly, wanting to bolt but knowing that her legs would never carry her as far as the stairs.

"Never had you pegged for a voyeur, Slayer. An' I'll ask again, did you enjoy it?"

She opened her mouth to say...what? She knew he could smell her arousal, so what was the point of lying?

"I...didn't mean to...I was going to leave and then..." She suddenly felt very ashamed.

"An' then what? You became mesmerized by my tossin' off? Shoulda spoke up, pet. I'd have given you a front row seat any time you asked." She realized by the way he was dragging hard on the cigarette and avoiding her eyes that he was at least as embarrassed as she was.

She took a step forward and nearly fell when her knees wouldn't support her. Instead of draining away, as it might be expected to do under the circumstances, her excitement had only increased in the last few moments.

"By the way, luv, thanks for the blood. 'Preciate the gesture, even if I don't completely understand it."

"What's to understand? You needed the blood, I had some to spare--besides, it was the least I could do."

"Mmmm...again with the pity, Slayer? Can't blame you, I guess. I HAVE been actin' the pillock, haven't I?" He stubbed out the cigarette with excessive force. "Well, I do believe I've gotten it all out of my system now. No more moonin' after the Slayer for me--it's a new day for old Spike, in a manner of speakin'."

She watched him carefully and ventured a dangerous question. "Who are you trying to convince, William, me? Or yourself?"

His eyes glittered at her. "I've asked you not to call me by that poncy name, Slayer."

"Yeah, I forgot. You prefer...Will Blood?" She took a step toward him and it was his turn to drop back defensively.

"What're you playin' at, Slayer?"

"Hmmm...think I liked it better when you were calling me Miss Buffy."

She watched a series of emotions flash across his face: disbelief, suspicion, hope, and finally lust contorted his features, before he molded his expression into the customized sardonic leer that suited all occasions.

"That an invitation?"

"Sounded like one to me."

"You'll forgive me if I don't entirely trust it. Last night you said you'd stake me good an' proper if I as much as smiled in your direction again"

'Yeah, well, that was last night." She stood looking at him expectantly.

"Where's your Mr. Pointy, then? Got him tucked away, I'll bet, just ready to do me in the moment I--"

"The moment you what? Come on, Spike, make your move. I won't wait all night."

He dropped his head to stare at the floor, then shrugged resignedly before reaching out for her. His hand locked over her sore wrist and she squeaked in pain.

"What's this?" He pulled away her sleeve and stared at the bandage.

"It's nothing. It'll be fine in a few hours."

His eyes were on her face. "Why, Slayer? Why're you doin' this?"

"I wish I knew. Does it matter?"

"It matters. Don't want you...won't have you...out of pity, or some misplaced noble urge to be kind to the poor maimed beastie."

She grabbed his other hand and placed it firmly on her breast. He could feel that her nipple was stiff beneath the fabric. "Miss Buffy doesn't do noble, Will. Thought you knew that."

His hand tightened over her breast and they fell against one another. Buffy could feel that he had hardened again and dropped her hand to caress the bulge. "How is that possible? It's barely been two minutes."

"I signed up for the standard-plus package when I was turned. Includes extra-sharp olfactory and auditory, as well as zero refractory period. Comes in quite handy..." He grinned at her as she dissolved into giggles. The sound of her laughter, especially laughter he had provoked, was almost his favorite music. Almost.

Their lips came together still smiling and he snaked his tongue out to lick at her. Her hands found their way around his neck and they moved against one another convulsively.

The heat that had been building in her since she'd watched him stroke himself while chanting her name threatened to overtake her completely, and she began tearing wildly at the buttons of his jeans. He grabbed her hands to still them and she looked into his face with desperation.

"Now. Gotta do it NOW."

"Why the rush, luv? It'll be that much sweeter if we take our time."

"YOU take your time. I can't wait."

He swung her up into his arms and carried her over to the mattress that lay in another corner. It was old and stained, a relic from his dump-scavenging days. "Sorry about the dirt, luv. Wish I had finer digs--"

"Shut up and fuck me."

"Slayer! Such language...an' just for that little outburst..." He dropped her unceremoniously onto the mattress and backed away, folding his arms over his chest.

"SPIIIIKE!" It came out in a breathy whine.

"Hmmm...I think perhaps it's time for more of the tale of Miss Buffy and Will Blood. What do YOU think, Slayer?"

She lay there and glared out him.

"Right then. Let's see...oh, yes...when last we left our lovers, Miss Buffy had just given Blood the blowjob of the century right there in the sawdust of the Yellow Rose--"

"Of the century? Really?"

"Indeed, pet. Nearly blew the bleedin' top of my...of his...head off."

She smiled, very pleased with herself.

"An' now, as he came back to his senses, Blood realized that they were in a fairly precarious position--all sorts of vulnerable to any passin' townsfolk." Spike came to sit on the edge of the mattress. He took one of Buffy's hands in his and caressed with a soft, teasing touch.

"An' so he suggested to Miss Buffy that they retire upstairs. She agreed an' helped him to his feet. As he was human, the bullet wound continued to be a bother." Buffy's eyes were drawn to the pale pink mark below his collarbone that marred his otherwise perfect expanse of skin. She reached up and touched it, and he hissed at the heat of her fingertips.

Then he leaned over and unbuckled his boots, and rose to strip his jeans from his body. Kicking them off, along with his boots, he stood before her entirely nude.

She allowed her eyes to travel up, down and around him at their leisure, pausing at his pelvic region for a well-deserved rest. Her own hands were busy unbuttoning her shirt. He returned to sit near her on the mattress.

"When they finally reached Miss Buffy's room, she took a few moments to pour Blood a drink before proceedin' to dig the bullet from his flesh. Hurt like a bugger, but he took like a man." Spike helped her remove her boots and began to ease her jeans down over her hips.

"Once the wound was cleaned an' bandaged, they got down to business"

"Business? Did money change hands? How much?"

"You're spendin' far too much time in the company of that bint Anya, luv."

He brought his mouth to hers and thus intercepted her answer. His lips were everywhere on her face and neck as his hands sought the flesh at her waist and hips, grinding her against him.

"Ah, Slayer...now I've got you, I'll not let you go...gonna make you mine...gonna make you come sooo hard..." His whispers made her turn her face away and blush.

He pulled back a bit and looked at her in amusement. "Oh, now you're bashful? Whatever happened to 'shut up and fuck me'?"

"Must have been Miss Buffy talking."

"Well, then, let's see if we can have her back again." He kissed and licked a trail from her jaw to the spot between her breasts, then cradled one in his hand and lifted his face to look into her eyes. Holding her gaze, he gently pinched and rolled her nipple between his thumb and forefinger. She arched herself against him and muttered "Oh, fuck..."

"There she is!" With a chuckle he took the nub between his lips and tormented it, nibbling at it and then flicking his tongue against it with ever-increasing speed. When he felt her shudder beneath him, he sucked the entire nipple into this mouth and pressed it hard between the flat of his tongue and his palate. The fingers of his hand teased at her other breast.

Her body began to twist against him in a mute plea. He released her breasts and began moving downward, his nibbles transforming into bites as he reached the place where her thighs connected to her body. Realizing belatedly that he had morphed, he looked up at her with golden eyes, his fangs poised above her flesh. Her own eyes were still shut tight.

Shaking off the game face, he turned his attention to the tiny puncture wounds he had left, sucking at them gently. She whimpered with frustration and thrust her hips upward.

"Tryin' to send a message, pet? 'Fraid you'll have to be a bit more clear in your directions...pretend I'm an idiot--I know! Pretend I'm Harris..." She lifted her head and looked at his face framed by her thighs. He stuck out his tongue and wriggled the tip of it just a centimeter above her dark curls, cocking one eyebrow and grinning unashamedly.

"Shut up and suck me."

He paused long enough to let out one shout of laughter and dropped his mouth to her flesh. His hands spanned her abdomen and hips, holding her down and thwarting her attempts to thrust against his face.

He was mercifully direct in his ministrations, finding her clit immediately and setting a rhythm with the strokes of his tongue that drove her nearly instantly to the brink of orgasm. Pausing only to slide two fingers deeply inside of her, he deftly drove her over the edge.

Her hands crashed down on either side of her as her thighs locked around his head. The contractions built upon one another, coming faster and sharper. Her fingernails bit into her palms and her toes curled reflexively.

Then the spasms began to ease a bit and he redoubled his efforts. She could feel his fingers swirling and massaging inside of her and his tongue pressed directly against the tiny bundle of nerve endings, and it was enough to send her into a second orgasm before the first had completely ended.

There was nothing but red behind her eyes and she could hear a far-away thumping in her ears. Consciousness was slipping away and she found she didn't care, so long as his mouth and hands remained where they were.

When she was still, he lifted his head slightly, not breaking contact, and searched for her eyes. They were closed and her face was slack. Her lips were parted and a tiny drop of drool had begun to form in the corner of her mouth. Smiling tenderly, he disengaged himself and moved to lay beside her, using his thumb to wipe her mouth.

Her echoing cries had filled the basement of the crypt and they rang in his head like the voices of a choir. He stroked her hair and listened to her breathing, patiently waiting for her to awaken so that he could fuck her into unconsciousness again.

Finally, her eyes opened to slits, and he waited to hear what her first words would be.

"Meanwhile, back at the ranch..."

He laughed until he thought his heart would break from it, holding her tight all the while. She watched with a languorous smile of satisfaction on her lips as he wiped the tears of mirth from his face.

"Slayer, if I tell you...if I tell you that I...what would you say if I told you..." He suddenly couldn't meet her eyes.

"Shhh..." She pressed a finger to his lips and then replaced it with her mouth.

Her own body completely relaxed and at peace, she became aware of the urgency of his need. As she kissed him, he began to rub himself against her and to rumble deeply in his chest. Something about the controlled menace in his growl excited her again, and her hands searched for and found the rounded musculature of his ass, pulling him more tightly against her.

"Buffy, I--"

One of her hands made its way from behind him to slip down between them. The first touch of her fingers on his cock made him flinch with pleasure that was almost painful in its intensity. When she began to stroke him, his demon fought to burst forward.

"Wait, luv, I won't be able to hold out if tease me like that."

"Mmm well, we can't have that, 'cause Miss Buffy REALLY wants to fuck you bad."

At her words, he nearly came in her hand. Pushing her fingers away, he mounted her, leaning on one forearm and staring raptly into her face. With his other hand, he guided the head of his cock to her slick opening and then sunk into her, falling forward from his knees so that their pelvises met and married.

It was as if some cosmic electrical circuit had been completed. Everything stopped around them. Even Buffy's heart skipped a beat or three.

In that moment, somewhere in the woods nearby, a coyote caught scent of their coupling and lifted its head to howl.

Across town, Giles grimaced in his sleep and turned over, fitfully.

Xander, who was engaged in screwing Anya for the fifth time in twenty-four hours, lost his erection.

Together in their bed, Tara and Willow snuggled closer with sudden smiles of satisfaction on their sleeping faces.

In L.A., Angel froze in his tracks, which happened to be on the way down a dark alley, and Gunn and Wesley crashed into him. When asked why he'd stopped, he had no answer.

Somewhere in the South American jungle, Riley Finn was overcome by a wave of nausea, which caused him to vomit directly into the face of his Commanding Officer.

In another--less pleasant--dimension, a large and formidable demon was gripped by a fit of rage and despair. It lifted its clawed fist and shook it at a red and swirling sky before plunging its talons into its own gut and disemboweling itself.

And in a place that is no place, the Powers that Be paused for a moment to reflect on the beautiful balance created by nature, as light was fused with dark.

Deep within the crypt, Spike and Buffy's faces held identical expressions of awed amazement. Neither had moved since Spike had entered her--there was no need. Where their bodies were connected there was such a sensation of sweet, radiant pleasure that neither of them could bear to break the spell.

They remained frozen in place for one long minute. Finally, Buffy let her hands, which had been locked around Spike's neck, travel lightly down his back to grip the cheeks of his ass and press him forward, even deeper into her.

The sensation of sliding inside of her broke the nearly catatonic state he had achieved, and his eyes glinted with gold. He pulled out and thrust again, making sure to grind his pelvis tightly against her vulva. Her hands clutched at him spasmodically, and on his third thrust her body shattered into her third orgasm of the evening.

When her muscles bore down on him, enclosing him completely, his demon emerged. He fought it back, wanting this first time with her to be just the two of them. He had a strong feeling that there would be plenty of opportunities later to introduce her to his other side.

He rocked back and forth with shorter strokes, easing her down from the heights of pleasure.

"What's wrong? Why don't you..." She ran out of air before she could finish her question.

"Afraid, luv. Scared outta my bleedin' wits, as a matter of fact." He looked away from her face, but never ceased his short, tantalizing thrusts.

She understood instantly. "It's all right, lover...I've...I've got you. Be...just be. It'll be OK, I promise."

He returned his gaze to her face and saw acceptance there. Then she tilted her head, baring her neck to him.

The gesture was enough to send him sailing over the edge. He began to thrust wildly as shudders of pure bliss assaulted his body. His beast came forth and he was able to control it enough to very gently pierce the flesh of her throat and drink shallowly there as he shot spurt upon spurt of his seed into her.

Each time he crashed into her, she let out a breathy groan of low, animal delight. When his fangs touched her skin, she joined him in his climax, sending her blood surging into his mouth and down his throat.

They were still all at once, as if a switch had been flicked off. He lay heavily on her, still buried in her, and her legs were entwined with his. Her hands were knotted in his hair, holding his mouth to the quickly healing wounds at her neck.

The morning found them like that.

She shifted beneath him carefully. He slid off of her with a mumble and a groan, and she lay there for a moment, contemplating the universe. Then she rose and began to dress, stopping to cover his naked form with one of the less ratty blankets she found piled in the corner.

The candles had burned to near-nothingness and gloom ruled the space around her as she finished dressing. Her watch told her it was after seven.

She left him with a kiss on his cold brow.

*******

The walk home through sunlit streets was magical. She felt as if she were floating, and wondered if he would feel the same upon awakening. She wondered what he would think about in his first moment out of sleep and then she remembered something: the look on his face when he told her that he was afraid to lose control in her presence.

He'll think I left him...

She was about to turn back when she spied an early-bird street-vendor opening up his wares on the corner. She sprinted over and perused his offerings.

Candy? Fruit? Lame. A card? Lamer. What would I write? "Thanks for the life-altering spiritual experience, I'll be back to fuck you again tonight"?

Then she saw it. Perfect.

She paid for the gift and began to jog back toward the cemetery.

**********

It was late afternoon when Spike swam the last few feet upward to consciousness. His first thought was of Buffy and his second was the realization that she was gone.

The joy that infused him when he remembered the early morning hours was made bitter by his certainty that he would never see her again.

He sighed deeply and wondered if the sun was still up. Then something on the mattress caught his eye. He reached for it and stung his fingers on the thorny stem. Then he brought the perfect yellow rose to his face and inhaled deeply of her promise to return.

END