The story begins here.
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. Only the lame plots and dialogue herein are mine.
Notes: Set in version of S6 that is so AU it's nearly angst-free. Buffy either didn't die at the end of S5 or was happy to come back. Everyone gets along, more or less, at least until someone gets a really nifty notion.
Rating: R, barely
Thanks: to keswindhover and revdorothyl for the beta, not to mention coming up with the plot bunny in the first place. Because I'm still editing, some of this will be unbeta'd, so I am wholly to blame for any errors. And thanks to itmustbetuesday for the comm, and because her name prompted me to think of a title at last.
The Sex Factor
Thursday, Day Two of the Tour
Buffy woke up disoriented. Last night had been even more of a whirlwind than usual. Not the patrolling, which had been downright boring, but the after part. On the way to his crypt, Spike acted like he was planning a long, slow evening, maybe even watching a movie before they got to the inevitable heavy breathing and moaning. But when they'd stepped inside, he'd looked around and hustled her down to his bedroom before her eyes adjusted to the dark. Several hours of frantic breathing and extremely loud moaning had followed, and she remembered kicking at something and hearing it shatter on the floor. She'd been exhausted when she finally fell asleep, and hadn't even checked to see what she'd destroyed this time.
I'm not complaining. It's just that it usually it takes a good fight and a kill or two to get either of us worked up to that point.
Next to her, Spike was waking up. This was always an amazingly long process for someone with his dangerous unlifestyle. She wondered how he'd managed to avoid being staked in his sleep for so long. Maybe he only slept this soundly after she'd tired him out.
After the long progression from snorting to yawning to stretching, he rolled over and blinked at her. "Morning. How's my girl today?"
"I'm fine, but I think something went crash in the night." She sat up and looked around. The remains were scattered all over the floor. "Something green. And kind of slimy. What was it?"
Spike stared blearily at the mess. "Buggered if I know. Not Kermit. A moss-covered, three-handled, family gredunza?"
"It's your place, Spike. You're supposed to know what you leave lying around." She yawned. "I don't see my clothes or boots anywhere."
She started to get out of bed to look, but he pulled her back. "Too dangerous, love, with all this broken crockery. You'll cut yourself. Let me—ow!" He hopped on one foot, landed on another shard, and tried to lift both feet up simultaneously.
Buffy noted that this worked about as well for vampires as it did for any other biped. She crawled over to the edge of the bed and looked down. "Are you okay?"
"I'll unlive. And I found both our jeans and one of my boots."
He pulled himself up on the bed and started wriggling into his pants. He lifted up one foot and examined the sole. Peering over his shoulder, Buffy saw the cut was already closing. She lay back and pulled on her own jeans. By the time she was done, he was crouched back on the floor and using a large book and a big knife as a makeshift dustpan and broom. In a minute, he had most of the bigger pieces up.
"Stay where you are, love. Still a lot of small pieces here."
Buffy noticed the recently-destroyed green whatever wasn't the only new thing in the room. "Where'd you get this bedspread?"
There was a long pause. "Goodwill," he said at last.
"Really? It looks brand new. And very, very red." She tried to sort out the tangled bedding and found a couple of very plush pillows caught in the folds of a sheet. If he's been stealing again, the least he could do is shoplift attractive merchandise.
"Here, you go love." A boot sailed toward her. "I'm keeping an eye out for the other one."
Buffy zipped her jeans, pulled the boot on, and wriggled the toes of her other foot. "I suppose I could borrow one of your shirts and hop home." Then something else caught her eye. "Hey, I recognize those candlesticks. They've been sitting in a corner of the Magic Box for months."
"Yeah, well, I thought a few new things would brighten the place up. Cheer you up a bit." His voice was muffled. He tossed her another boot.
Safely shod, Buffy stood up and went to look for her shirt. A moment later, she found herself nose to nose with a blue woman who was waving way too many arms, some of them holding very nasty objects.
She yelped and jumped back. "Damn it, Spike! What's that horrible statue doing here? It gave me the willies in the Magic Box. Stuck in that corner, it's worse."
"Uh, not really buying it, you see. Anya needed the space so she let me have these things on approval." He stood up, on both feet now. He'd found his other boot. His expression was odd as he looked at the blue woman. "Not fancying her much in situ."
Buffy felt a chill that had nothing to do with the fact that she was still topless. This isn't right. There's something he's not telling me.
She stepped carefully around the bed and spotted her shirt on a neat pile of skulls. Didn't those all used to be tumbled in a corner? She realized he'd come to stand next to her. She touched a blood-red candle. "Isn't it a little too Anne Rice? Spike, what's really going on here?"
"Thought you'd like it." As he pulled her close, she saw the pleading in his eyes and heard it in his voice. "Just trying to make things better for you, Buffy. I swear."
And when he says it like that, I swear he's telling the truth. "Okay." She pushed him away, but gently, and reached for her shirt. "I've got to go home and get ready for work. I'm running late already. See you tonight?"
"Yeah. Okay. You'd better hurry."
"You'd better hurry?" He's usually trying to talk me out of leaving, and he never worries about things like getting to work on time. She finished dressing and left him scraping the last of the nasty green pieces into a corner. So weird. He's trying to redecorate, but he doesn't even bother cleaning that up properly.
As she reached the main room of the crypt, she heard the scraping stop abruptly. Curious, she waited, keeping as quiet as she could, and heard footsteps moving away. He was going down the tunnel that led to the sewers.
Maybe he's just taking out the garbage. While she waited to see if he returned, she looked around and noticed there was something very strange about the upstairs too. Where's his TV? And his fridge? They weren't worth enough to bother selling, and he hadn't been robbed, because in their place were more candlesticks and creepy statues, and someone had tastefully arranged yet another collection of skulls on top of one of the sarcophagi.
He is so very definitely up to something. There was no sound of returning footsteps either. Where is he going this early in the morning? She was about to climb back down to the bedroom and have a closer look around (well, at everything but the blue woman, who she'd seen too much of already) when her phone rang.
"Good morning, this is— Giles! How are you? When are you coming back?"
"I'm afraid not until next week at the earliest. But, Buffy, I have some news that may affect you—"
Spike climbed up the stairs from the cellar of the Magic Box and opened the door to the shop. "Anya, I have a bone to pick with you! Maybe a whole skeleton." He stopped as he took in the sight of three very dejected Scoobies sitting in various exhausted poses.
"Tough time the in the hell town last night?" he asked with more sympathy than he'd intended.
Willow lifted her head off the table. "It was the kind of fun that isn't."
Tara was wiping at a green spot on her skirt. "That purple one knocked me down on purpose, I'm sure of it. Twice. Willow, do we have any spells to get rid of grass stains?"
"I wish I had a spell to get rid of every one of those Warthogs."
"Maindepeste is one of the most unreasonable people I have ever met." Anya was looking for something in the desk. The process involved lots of opening drawers and slamming them shut. "I can't believe he's trying to renegotiate a contract after signing it in blood and sacrificing a goat. That's in incredibly poor taste. And there is nothing wrong with their accommodations. They're in the nicest cemetery in town, and I got him a group rate."
Tara's brow furrowed. "Was it really a good idea putting them in mausoleums? I know they don't seem to mind the cold much, but won't Buffy patrol there?"
"Not in Park Lawn," said Anya. "It's closed to new interments."
"Yeah." Spike pulled up a chair and sat on it, and then kicked another into position so he could put up his feet. "Anything there that hasn't risen by now is guaranteed yeast-free." He looked around. "Where's Harris?"
"Giving Dawn a ride home on his way to work," said Willow.
He frowned. "You kept the Little Bit out damn late."
"I know." Tara looked guilty. "But her Spring Break is starting, so she can sleep in every morning. And the youngest ones actually liked her and kind of listened to her. Even Felix. She was the only one who could talk them out of trying to climb the tower, and it's a lot more rickety than I thought. And they really liked their toy Dagonspheres, at least until the lights went out and they started throwing them at each other."
"And at us," said Willow. "Which was a distraction I didn't need while I was trying to keep the older ones from trying to sneak off to go drinking and dancing. Who told them about the Bronze anyway? And why are you here, Spike? Did anything go wrong with the Buffy distracting?"
"Nothing except she wanted to know why I'd redecorated my crypt. Which was a bit of a poser, since I didn't know I had. Anyone here care to tell me what happened to my telly, not to mention a pint of nearly fresh blood? And the fridge it was sitting in?" His gaze landed on Anya. "It wouldn't have anything to do with the poncy red velvet bedspread I seem to have acquired? Or the five-foot tall baroque candlesticks? Or—"
Anya waved a dismissive hand. "I had to do something with it, Spike. The sarcophagi, bones and chains were all fine, but your place needed more of a feminine touch. And I made Xander haul the TV, fridge, and comfy chair down an empty tunnel. They didn't give the right impression. You can have them back after the tour. I even sealed your collection of Soap Opera Digest in one of those Rubbermaid containers before we packed it away so it wouldn't get wet or eaten by rats."
"If a bloody awful statue of Kali, which is guaranteed to give even me nightmares, is your idea of a feminine touch, I feel a bit sorry for Harris. And, by the way, not only doesn't it look like her, it isn't even anatomically correct. Not enough arms."
"I know." Anya looked miserable. "I got it with an allotment of idols a while back, and it hasn't moved at all. I thought it could at least make itself useful."
"Well, I hope you didn't want whatever that moss-covered thing was."
Anya jumped out of her chair. "The Pan? What do you mean, whatever it was?"
Spike didn't move. "By the time I noticed it, it was a thousand bits of crockery on my bedroom floor. Which cut my feet, ta."
Anya's voice rose to a shriek. "That was reputed to have aphrodisiac properties!"
Spike smirked. "Well, pet, if it's any consolation, I think it did."
Tara interrupted. "Stop it, you two. We have bigger worries."
"Yeah, like whatever that was the goblin dropped in my hair." Willow stood up. "I'm going to take a shower and then try to stay awake in class."
"But we were going to review the menu for tonight!" Anya went back to her desk and waved a piece of paper. "I have to make sure the grilled rats won't be delivered cold again, and with all those hobgoblins to feed I have to pick up lots of milk. And I still need someone to go to the airport and pick up that order of live scorpions they're delivering this afternoon."
Tara patted Anya on the arm on her way out the door. "I'll do it after Sociology. But are you sure you don't want to reconsider and serve something else? Because I don't like the idea of Felix getting his paws on scorpions."
"They're not on his diet sheet." Anya was trying to force cheerfulness back into her voice. "We just have to keep him away from them."
"Yeah, because that worked so well with the snakes you served as appetizers last night." The door slammed behind Willow, frustrating Anya's attempt to assign more chores.
"Okay, Spike, then you can—" Anya whirled around, too late. His chair was empty. She sat down in it and stared at her list, uttering a sound that she would have denied was a whimper. It just sounded awfully like one.
Buffy swung her sword, trying to clear an escape route, but it was no use. There were dozens of them. Hundreds. Maybe thousands, and they were all attacking her. Waving both arms now, she tried to flee. Running was impossible in the sucking mud under her feet, but at last she stumbled away, pulling herself out of the boggy bottom onto a less sinky part of the sink hole.
Only a few of the mosquitoes had followed her, and a few slaps with her deadly Slayer aim got rid of most of those. Still, she felt oddly like crying. I don't feel like this because Spike didn't show tonight. I don't, I don't. It's just a reaction to the mosquito bites. Maybe I'm allergic or something.
Spike's night vision would certainly have come in useful in this dark pit, far from the streetlights of Sunnydale. There was only the moon to light her way, and its beams barely penetrated into this pit. The mud here wasn't as deep as the boggy spot where the mosquitoes swarmed, but that just made the ground more slippery. Her boots kept trying to scoot off in opposite directions, a definite disadvantage to a Slayer stalking a demon while holding a very sharp object.
She caught a flicker of movement in the corner of her eye. Something was definitely moving a few feet to her right. It didn't seem to be advancing though, so she tried to turn carefully and relatively slowly. Speed wouldn't be an asset if it led to a very rapid landing on her butt.
She inched forward and the thing lashed out, sending forth narrow, twig-like appendages that stung as they hit her arm and face. She brought down her sword, and it hit something big and hard with a force that jolted up her arm. She'd barely penetrated it.
But at least she could see the appendages that had attacked her. They weren't just twig-like. They were twigs, which were attached to branches, which were attached to a fallen trunk. A fresh gust of wind started them moving again and she backed away before they hit her again.
"Good work, Buffy," she muttered to herself. "You just slew a dead tree."
Something squelched a few feet away. She raised her sword and whirled around to face the dark figure behind her. "Aggh!"
Unfortunately, her feet had penetrated the mud deeply enough to find a slick layer of clay, and while the sword went up, she went down.
Fortunately, the demon she'd encountered also slid in the slime and started sliding into the hole she'd just climbed out of. "Bugger!"
"Spike?" She crawled over to him and pulled him away from Mosquitoland. "Why didn't you say anything? I could have hurt you."
"Saw you stalking something and thought I could help take it by surprise." He struggled to a sitting position. "Don't see or smell anything. What was it?"
"A tree?" He spotted the dangerous oak and sniggered.
"Well, its branches sting! And before the tree, there were mosquitoes!" She stuck her sword into the mud until it hit clay, and then leaned on it, hauling herself upright. "Like thousands of teeny little vampires. Really annoying ones. I've been bitten all over."
"And that's this vampire's job." He was standing too now. They clung to each other for support.
"Biting or being annoying?" She remembered she was angry with him and shrugged off the hand that was trying help her keep her balance. "Speaking of annoying, I thought we were supposed to meet at your crypt a few hours ago. Where were you?"
"Just had a bit of an encounter with some of the things that crawl in the night. Didn't get your message right away. What are we doing here anyway? Not the place I'd choose for a romantic tryst."
"Says the man who has skulls piled up in his bedroom." She looked for a way up and out of bug territory. "I told Willow about the new demon in town, and she said it might be here because of the sink hole. You know, evidence of recent mystical activity."
"The only recent activity here was a tunnel collapsing a couple of weeks ago. Been avoiding that bit of the sewers for over a year because some tree roots were tearing up the walls. Nothing mystical about it." He found a spot where the ground hadn't sunk very far yet and, with a boost from her, managed to climb out of the hole. "And what new demon?"
"Giles called it a Worm, but it sounds more like a dragon or a great big snake to me." She grabbed his hand and let him pull her up the slope. "What is it with this town and big snakes anyway? But this thing can shapeshift, so it could look like anything."
"That narrows the search a bit. Balls!" He slipped over an uneven patch of ground and almost fell. She threw her arm around him just in time to keep him upright. There was a streetlight up ahead, and they staggered toward it together, holding onto each other like a couple of drunks.
"So Giles got wind of this Worm?" he said after a minute.
"Yeah. One of Council's psychics had a vision."
"You went out there because of something one of those twits said? I can think of a lot better reasons for mud wrestling with you than that, love."
She giggled. Now that they were away from the mosquitoes, it did seem funny. "The Council gives us useful information, sometimes."
"Yeah, right. Like the last three tips they sent you."
They'd reached the street. She decided she liked the ring of their boots on asphalt a lot more than the squish of their footsteps in mud. Electric lights were even nicer. I am not a country girl. "Well, the 'winged menace' never arrived, unless they meant the hornet's nest Dawn found in the backyard, and I'm pretty sure that there's no herd of minotaurs anywhere in the neighborhood, but there really was a ghost."
He grinned. "Yeah, I was there when Willow and Tara had a chat with him. Nice bloke."
"Okay, so their precog has been low on the cog lately. But I have to at least try to find this newbie."
"All right, we'll turn over a few rocks then." He still had his arm around her, and now he kissed her muddy cheek. "Don't mind taking a few long walks with my girl." The next kiss landed on her ear. "What else did Rupert have to say?"
"Just that it snacks on big animals, like cows or horses. And it's searching for some kind of power center thingie. Oh, and you can kill it with one blade to the brain and another to the heart." She lifted the weapon she held in the hand that wasn't resting on his hip. "So this Slayer is going nowhere without her sword."
"Should impress the blokes at the office."
That hadn't occurred to her. "Well, maybe I shouldn't take it to work. I know! I'll hide that nice long dagger you got me for Valentine's Day in my messenger bag."
"My girl has a plan." He stopped and turned her to face him. The next kiss found her lips. "And so do I. It involves taking you back to your house and washing off all this mud, finding something to take the sting out of those bites, and then finding a way to make you forget all about them."
She let her sword hand drop and snuggled into his chest. This is nice. He's even acting kind of normal for him. It was silly to worry just because he did some really bad interior decorating and because he was a little late tonight.
Something was crawling over her hand. Ick, there's always a fly in the ointment or a mosquito from a sink hole. She moved to brush it away.
They jumped apart, staring around. Something skittered on the street. Buffy remembered she was holding a sword and slew.
He knelt to look at the remains. "Can't tell what it was now, other than a member of the genus bug. A bit of overkill, there love."
"Better overkill than underkill." She was brushing herself off and feeling her hair, terrified there was another one somewhere. "And it was a scorpion. I saw it!"
"A—" She thought she saw comprehension cross his face. But he only said, "Not likely around here."
A memory resurfaced. "Spike. When you got here, you said you'd had an encounter with some things that crawl in the night."
"What? Oh, yeah, that." He was speaking a little too quickly and not meeting her eyes. "No, that was a bit bigger. And it just wanted the twenty it loaned me last week."
He's lying again. She looked at the very squished thing on the street. "I'm sure it was a scorpion. Why would there be scorpions in Sunnydale?"
He seemed to think about that one for a moment. "Why not?"
She had to admit he had a point.