Chapter Two (2/9)
She nodded and continued walking. She was a full two blocks away before the vampire who had been keeping pace with her emerged from the trees and fell into step at her left.
“I’m sorry, pet,” he said with apparent sincerity.
“You oughta be,” she muttered. “I spent most of my lunch time today convincing him that you…and then you show up and tell him you were there last night. Now he thinks I was lying to him.”
“Whose side are you on?”
His full laugh brought a small smile to her face. “Didn’t know I had to choose one, but if I do, you know it’s yours. Not that tin soldier’s.”
“Well, if you’re on my side, you’ll stop doing things that annoy my boyfriend.”
“Why? Annoying the big git is one of the few pleasures left to me, innit? Why would you ask me to give that up?”
“Because that ‘big git’ could still dust you. You can’t fight him, and he’s still strong and he still knows how to use a stake.”
“Worried about me, are you?” His voice was softer and uncomfortably reminiscent of the heated whispers of the night before.
“Right. No problem then.”
“Alright, luv. I’ll be careful. I was just windin’ you up.”
Her sigh of relief didn’t go unnoticed and he studied her out of the corner of his eye.
“I’m not a fashion expert, but I think I preferred last night’s ensemble to this one.”
Buffy blushed and tugged on her sweatshirt, but refused to look at him or acknowledge the leering laughter in his voice.
“That for my benefit?” he asked. “Cause if so, I’ve got to tell you that covering the goodies isn’t gonna keep me from wanting them. Not now that--”
“I said ‘Don’t’. Don’t talk about it. Don’t think about it.”
“Can’t do that, pet. I can try to keep my mouth shut, but not think about it? Not possible. Can’t think about anything else.”
“Are you tryin’?”
“An’ how’s that working out for you?”
“Just fine,” she said stiffly. “I’ve completely forgotten about it.”
“Is that so?” He pivoted in front of her, causing her to run into his chest. Before she could back up, he caught her arms and dipped his head to nuzzle her neck. “Prove it.” His lips fastened on hers, refusing to let her ignore them and their softness. When she surrendered with a small whimper in the back of her throat, he sent his tongue out to meet hers.
They kissed until Buffy’s knees began to give out and the vampire was holding her to his body with a grip that her mind refused to stop comparing to Riley’s only human arms. Summoning every scrap of will power she had, Buffy straightened her legs and pushed on his chest until he let her go.
Forcing her recalcitrant knees to cooperate, Buffy stepped out of reach and began backing away. She avoided looking into Spike’s face, grateful for the darkness that made it hard to see the expression on it, as she continued to back away, shaking her head silently.
She heard Spike give an explosive sigh; then he said in a more normal voice, “Alright, Slayer. Not gonna beg for it. Come on, then, I’ll walk you home. “
“If I didn’t need Riley take me home, what makes you think I need you to do it?”
“Because, unlike the enormous Boy Scout, I know you don’t need me to see you home. I’m doing it because I want to spend a little more time with you, not because I think you can’t take care of yourself.”
At a loss for any more articulate reply, and unwilling to remind Spike that Riley wanted to spend time with her just as much as he did, Buffy resumed her interrupted walk, taking side streets and strolling through small parks instead of taking the most direct route. She took great care not to walk close enough to Spike to accidentally brush against him as he paced beside her, providing encouraging commentary when she had to stop and stake two newly turned vampires lurking in one of the parks.
Confident that the stakings justified her decision to take the long way home, Buffy pointed in the direction of Revello Drive and began to walk more briskly. They were silent, each lost in their own thoughts as they hurried through the dimly lit streets. As they approached her own block, Buffy felt Spike drop back and she turned a questioning look on him.
“Am I going too fast for you?”
“I think you have company, love. Looks like a goodnight kiss is out of the question.”
“I wasn’t planning a goodnight kiss!” she huffed.
“Well, I was,” he said, touching her gently in the small of her back. “But guess somebody else had the same thought. Goodnight, Slayer.”
Without another word, he melted away into the shadows, leaving a puzzled but relieved Buffy to continue alone. As she neared her house, she saw Riley’s car and realized why Spike had decided not to come all the way with her.
“Vampire has more sense than my boyfriend does,” she muttered, wondering if she could stomp right past Riley’s car without acknowledging his presence.
Which she might have, if the man in question hadn’t stepped out and called her by name. With a sigh, she stopped and turned towards the car, making no attempt to appear glad to see him.
“What is it, Riley? Is there something wrong?”
“You mean other than it took you about four times as long to get here as it should have?” he muttered. “I waited for you to call me, and when you didn’t, I went looking for you.”
“Excuse me? Were you timing me?”
“No,” he sighed, tossing something into the car. “I wasn’t timing you, I just know how long it should take to get here and I expected you to call me a good thirty or forty minutes ago. I was worried about you, Buffy,” he finished softly.
Biting back the comment she wanted to make about how her nighttime activities didn’t always allow her to keep to a schedule, she edged closer to the car and peered in to see what Riley had dropped inside. She caught a glimpse of night vision goggles before Riley stepped between her and the car.
“Were you spying on me too?”
Unaware of his own motions, Riley flinched back from the small woman glaring at him from the sidewalk.
“No. I always have those with me. I just used them to look down the street. I thought I saw something following you--”
“And what did you see?”
“Nothing,” he admitted. “Whatever it was, it must have realized you were the Slayer and changed its mind.”
“Probably a good decision,” she said. “I’m not really in the mood for having my progress towards my bed interrupted.” She put her hands on her hips. “Which brings us back to – what are you doing here?”
“I… I just thought…I wanted to be sure that you… Why do I have to explain why I might be worried about you? You’re my girlfriend. You know, the girl who’s supposed to enjoy my company?”
Even as her conscience told her that she was being a bitch and unreasonable, Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes.
“Riley…I’m the Slayer. I could walk to the store for milk and end up taking two days if I run into a... a mini-apocalypse or something. I know you mean well. And I understand that you worry, and I think it’s sweet. I do. But I can’t live my life trying to remember not to do things that are going to make you worry. I would have called you as soon as I got in. I swear.”
“So, taking so long to get home had nothing to do with Spike? You didn’t stop to see him on the way home?”
Buffy stared at him, only the knowledge that to deny it would be only technically the truth kept her mouth shut. Instead, she tried to reason with him.
“Riley, about Spike…” She sighed and rubbed her upper arms. “The thing is…”
“The thing is, you’ve been spending more time around him than you do me. You can’t possibly need his help that often.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and carefully avoided responding to his blatant jealousy.
“What I was going to say,” she said through tightly clenched teeth, “is that with this Glory skank looking for her long lost key all over the place, I need the extra backup. She’d never think to look in Spike’s crypt for my mom or Dawn, and if she does, he’s probably strong enough to stall her until they can get away.”
“And you trust him to do that for you? Are you crazy? He’s a vampire! He can’t be trusted. That chip is the only thing keeping him from tearing their throats out.”
Buffy shrugged and shook her head. “Spike’s never lied to me or broken a promise. And he’s never tried to hurt my mom or sister – even though I never had his invitation revoked. I don’t think he’d hurt them, chip or no chip.”
“He kills slayers! Isn’t that what you told me? That he’s known as ‘the slayer of slayers’? And yet you trust him to protect your family.” His voice dripped disbelief.
Buffy squirmed uncomfortably. “Well, yeah, he does… he has… killed two slayers. But he likes to do it in a fair fight. He’s not going to come at me through my family like An- “ She coughed. “Another vampire might.”
“Have you forgotten that when he thought he had the chip out, he tried to bite you?”
Buffy flushed as she remembered how it felt to have Spike’s body pinning her the floor while his fangs grazed her throat.
“That would have been a fair fight. I never said he didn’t want to fight me anymore. I said he wouldn’t come at me through my family. He…he likes my mom and Dawn. And they like him. It’s got nothing to do with Slayer/vampire stuff.”
“I think he wants you. That’s why he’s helping. If he can't have you one way, he'll have you another. That’s why he isn’t trying to find ways to kill you. I can’t believe you can’t see it.”
“Riley—“ Buffy bit her lip and tried not think about how she’d reacted earlier to Spike’s kiss. “This…this helping isn’t anything but another truce between us. He gets an outlet for his violence, and I get backup muscle. It’s nothing but a business arrangement.”
“Well, I don’t like it. Business or not, I’m just as capable of helping you as he is.”
Buffy opened and shut her mouth, shook her head in disbelief, turned wordlessly and walked to her front door. She opened the door and slammed it behind her without acknowledging Riley’s presence again. She gave her sleepy mother an apologetic wave as Joyce peered out to see what had made the loud noise.
“Sorry, Mom,” she whispered. “How do you feel?”
“I feel fine, Buffy. I told you, the headaches are gone. Is that Riley’s car out there?”
“Did he bring you home? That was nice of him.”
“He did not bring me home – he was spying on me to see how long I was going to take to get home from where I told him goodnight.”
“Oh. Why would he do that?”
“Because he’s an insecure jerk? I don’t know, but if he keeps it up I may just make sure he does see something he doesn’t want to.” Buffy’s voice trailed off to an angry mutter as she joined her mother at the top of the stairs.
“Meaning that he might have seen something?” Joyce said, giving Buffy a shrewd look. “What might have he seen? Spike?” With a laugh, Joyce turned away from her speechless daughter and went into her bedroom.
“Goodnight, Buffy,” her voice floated back as the door closed on the still-frozen slayer.