Author: Holly (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Timeline: Following Graduation Part II. Summer before Season 4
Summary: A rampaging demon sends Buffy down south, where she finds help from a most unexpected source.
Warnings: Explicit sex, language
Genres: Romance, Comedy, Drama, Action
Disclaimer: The characters herein are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. They are being used out of respect and admiration, and not for the sake of profit. No copyright infringement is intended.
Distribution: The usual suspects can go ahead and take it; you know who you are. To the unusual suspects: if you like what you see and want it on your archive, just let me know where it's going.
Author’s Note: Thank you guys so much for your enthusiastic response to the chapters I’ve posted thus far!
A little, however important disclaimer: I based a character in this chapter, Franklin, off a man I met in Natchez. I do not intend to paint him as a caricature…his dictions, accent, even the scenario he describes are EXACTLY as the man I met. I merely wished to take an especially mortifying/hilarious incident that happened at Oak Hill (as some of you have guessed, it’s a real place…and “Daniel” is based on its real owner) during breakfast. I mean no offense to anyone, and am in no way a racist. Please just take Franklin as a character and not a social comment, and understand he would not be in the chapter had I not met the man off which he’s based in real life. In a conversation following breakfast, “Daniel” told me and Kimmie he was surprised, “Grandma hadn’t fallen out of her chair!” You’ll know the line when you read it.
My thanks again to my betas.
Once asleep, there was very little in the world that could stir Spike to consciousness. A side-effect of having too much energy throughout the day—or night, as the case may be—perhaps, but a fairly predictable trait to anyone who knew him well. Periods between sleep were filled with violence, destruction, and shagging—it only followed through that once he crashed he crashed entirely.
Therefore, he found it rather surprising when a telling twinge of the Slayer's bedsprings had him instantly alert. The girl was awake. Though his head remained bowed and his eyes fastidiously shut he knew she was awake—if not for the movement, then definitely for the way her heart began pounding the second the morning reminded her what had transpired the night before. The second she recalled her roommate. The second she twisted to ensure he was still resting on the floor where she'd left him.
Spike smothered a grin, knowing she'd anticipated awaking with either two puncture wounds in her throat or a vampire cuddled up behind her. Both ideas were the very height of temptation, but the greater pleasure was in the wait. The suspense. The hunt.
Buffy would be his. This was now a certainty, upgraded from the realm of fantasy to a place where dreams became tangible. Buffy would be his…if only for a little while. If only until the spell around their extremely special circumstances shattered and shoved them back into the reality they were both desperate to escape. Before they parted ways, he would know how her pussy tasted. He would know just how snugly she fit his cock. He would know the delicious little sounds she made—whether or not she was a screamer. He would know her.
Yesterday, that would have satisfied him. Today he feared it wouldn’t be enough.
Spike had never been one for flings. Sure, after Dru dumped his arse he’d taken his revenge by fucking the brains out of several extremely willing, scantily clad floozies, but it hadn’t made him feel any better. Rather the opposite—every time he walked away from a passionless encounter, whatever life usually thrived in his dead veins had completely drained. He wasn’t the sort of vampire—the sort of man—who thrived on sex for the sake of sex alone. Taking pleasure in pleasure was only half the fun. And while a thoroughly physical being, the greater part of him needed to feel a connection. Needed to feel…
Dru had never cherished him. She’d been grateful and affectionate, playful and wicked, but never loving. And though he’d longed for something else, it had, in his mind, been enough.
It wasn’t now. He wanted more.
He needed more. Which was why a fling with the Slayer would only somewhat satisfy him. The need for connection was stronger than he’d anticipated; Dru had seen it, of course, and he knew what she’d call it. But it seemed too ridiculous, too impossible, too impulsive, to give his feelings for Buffy any such declaration.
But then, Buffy had been with him for nearly two years now. She’d been with him ever since he saw her dancing in the club; saw the gritty look of determination on her beautiful, haunted face. Ever since he witnessed her sacrifice everything for a world that could not love her back.
Yes. God, he did love her. He loved her in a way he’d never loved any woman. Not Cecily. Not Drusilla. No one. Not as an ideal. Not as something he wished to see but could never fully translate. He loved her with his entire self, even the small part of him that had always been reserved, untouched, unwanted by Drusilla—and the small part combined with his whole cast a supernova of understanding over his shaken reality.
He loved her as an equal.
Dru had been right. Christ, she always was, but this was something different. The vision she’d had of the forked path and Spike’s chosen walkway—it had been more than foreseeing the future; she had likewise betrayed the past.
Perhaps this was where he’d been destined to come all along. Dragged across time by a woman who wouldn’t fully love him. Kicked in the head and shot in the heart over and over so he’d know salvation when he saw it. So he’d become enraptured the second he saw her dancing. So he would know, even without recognizing the power of such knowledge, how she would change his entire existence.
It was wrong. Vampires and slayers walked a thin, fine line, and fuck knew he’d always been obsessed with them. But perhaps there was an explanation for that, as well. If this was for what he was truly meant.
There was a broken beauty in the wrongness of their relationship. One he hadn’t realized until now.
Strange revelations to have while sleeping on the Slayer’s rented floor, but that didn’t make them any less true. And he knew he’d have her. He’d have the pleasure of her body. He’d know the taste of her blood.
Yesterday it would have been enough, but yesterday he hadn’t known he loved her.
Today he did.
And while shagging Buffy would unmake his world, it wouldn’t satisfy him.
He wanted forever.
Another telling whine of the bedsprings silenced his thoughts completely. The soft pads of her feet brushed the rustic stone floor as she leaned over him, her soft, delicate scent overwhelming his senses. How a woman so strong could smell so sweet, he didn’t know, but he wanted to fill his lungs with it. With her heavenly aroma. With the pureness of Buffy.
He didn’t move. Curiosity ebbed him; he wanted to see how she’d act if she thought him asleep.
Her hand brushed his shoulder. “Spike?” she whispered again, squeezing him softly. When he failed to stir again, she sighed and drew back. “Oh boy. I so am not looking forward to explaining you to Daniel.”
Who the bugger was Daniel?
“All right. I’m—ummm…going to shower.” Buffy took another step back. “I don’t know why I’m talking to Mr. Living Dead Guy, but I am.” A pause. “And, on the off chance that you can hear me, if you do anything evil while I’m showering, it’s the dust-buster for you.”
Spike killed a grin. She was too damn cute for her own good. Not that the idea of peeping at her naked glory wasn’t tempting—fuck, it was too tempting for words. The visual alone had his cock twitching. And though he wasn’t one to follow a moral code, he would respect her privacy. For now.
Tomorrow might be a whole new ballgame.
His conviction to remain a gentleman didn’t make the shower any more endurable. The entire time the water ran, images of naked Buffy assaulted his sex-starved mind. Buffy dripping. Buffy soaping. Buffy’s beautiful breasts flecked with drops of water. Buffy’s bare quim aching to be touched. Her soft skin. Her firm body. Her legs wrapped around his waist as he fingered her clit and readied her, pressed her against the wall and pried her vaginal lips apart with his cock.
Fuck, his imagination really hated him.
A roll of steam announced her return to the main room, soft, cautious steps crossing the floor. When he stole a peek, he saw she was again wearing the over-sized t-shirt in which she’d greeted him the night before, only this time lacking a panty-line whenever the smooth cotton pressed against her bare thigh.
He swallowed. Hard.
Bloody hard, that’s right.
Her hair was wrapped in a towel by means he was certain only women knew how to perform. She hesitated, turned her head in his direction, but ultimately decided to leave him alone and took a seat instead upon the mattress, her back to him.
God, he was so aware of her. Every hot little breath she took echoed in his lungs.
“Okay,” he heard her say. “Okay. Better get this out of the way now.”
A second lapsed before he had an answer. Buffy picked up the telephone and began to dial.
“Giles?” A pause. Some groggy mumbling and a few could-be words reached his ears, but nothing more. “Yes, I’m aware that you’re two hours behind me. Well, sorry for interrupting Watcher Beauty Rest, but I’m not sure when I’ll be near a phone again today, and I wanted to play catch-up. You know—on the demon I’m hunting for you?”
The line fell silent. “Yeah,” Buffy continued smugly. “That’s what I thought. I do have some stuff to tell you. I’ve seen the Reaper…he does nothing for me, I promise, but I’ve also seen him in action and we’ve scored correctly on the pop-quiz thus far. The demons and whatnot he’s taking are definitely not of the willing. No, Giles, I saw it happen. Massively creepy, like full loss of bodily control. We’re talking definite tractor-beam here.”
Spike couldn’t remain silent any longer. And all things considered, he felt he’d shown remarkable patience thus far, not to mention will-power. He popped his head over the mattress. “Thankfully,” he said loudly, “the Slayer has a trick or two up her sleeve to keep poor defenseless beasties from being dragged off against their will.”
Buffy whipped around so fast her towel-turban collapsed. “Shut up!” she hissed.
“What? Embarrassed to be heard with me?”
Unsurprisingly, the watcher went from groggy to alert in a flash. “Is that Spike?” he squawked. “What the devil is Spike doing in your room?”
“The girl’s slipping,” Spike boasted. “Letting a vamp crash in her quarters? I think you’ve been too soft on her, Rupert.”
Buffy glared daggers. “He’s helping me,” she said into the phone, her voice shaking with surprised anger. “I ran into him a couple nights ago and we’re…working together.”
“Buffy, need I remind you that this is Spike we’re talking about?”
“Don’ think so,” Spike replied. “Seeing as I’m right here an’ her eyes are connected to her head.”
“Good Lord. I’m flying down there immediately.”
Buffy’s eyes widened and she flew to her feet. “No!” she screamed. Then, wincing as the effect of her exclamation bounced off the walls, continued softer, “No. No, I have it under control. Spike’s not doing…well, he’s helping me. Yes, Giles, helping me. We trailed the Reaper last night and everything went…no, I have not lost my mind! Look, if Spike so much as glances at my neck, he’s toast. Or, more appropriately, dust. But for now he’s helping.” A pause. The watcher’s voice had dwindled in volume once again, though Spike could still hear his erratic flapping even if the words weren’t decipherable.
“Giles, I’m hanging up the phone. No, he slept on the floor, not in my bed. God, perv much?” Buffy sighed, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. “Yes, of course I’ll be careful. Stake under my pillow, looks at me crossways and he’s gone, yadda yadda yadda. Bye, Giles. Bye. Bye.”
It was amazing the phone didn’t shatter under the force of her slam.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Buffy snapped.
God, she looked amazing. Wet hair. Brilliantly angry eyes. Cheeks red with fury. Chest heaving.
Spike waved a hand. “Evil, pet, remember? Like to stir up trouble wherever trouble can be stirred.”
“He’s going to pull a massive wig and rush down here and then…” She glanced away quickly, almost embarrassed, and in doing so confirmed what he’d known since last night.
Buffy might be alone, but she wasn’t lonely. Not anymore.
And she didn’t want anyone to interrupt them; she knew, even if she didn’t confess it to herself, where their relationship was going. She knew the floor wouldn’t be his bed too much longer, because she wanted him under the covers. It was why she stood before him in nothing but a t-shirt and no knickers to protect her delicate femininity. Why she didn’t bother throwing an arm across her chest, where her nipples saluted him through the thin cotton.
She knew he’d see it all soon—taste it all soon. She knew where this was going just as sure as he did.
The only question remaining was simple: what did it mean to her? What, if anything, did she want? Certainly not another relationship, seeing as she and the Great Poof had just parted ways, and there was little chance she’d ever give thought to another vampire—especially Spike—in the long-term sense.
But maybe she would. Just maybe. They were so alike. So desperate for affection. So wanting of love. Of the sort of love that didn’t disappoint. That didn’t run off in a blink. The sort of love that lasted.
Buffy had thought she’d had it. He had, too. But they hadn’t.
Not with Dru. Not with Angel. Those two were meant for something else; they’d served their purpose.
Buffy was meant for Spike. Even if she didn’t know it, even if she never acknowledged it, it was something he knew with absolute certainty. Creatures such as they were meant for passion, meant to be molded with love, and meant to love with every aching fiber.
There was no telling if Buffy would ever realize it.
No telling if this would be a fling that would ultimately torture Spike with longing and regret, or the start of something greater than the two of them had ever dreamt.
She might let him into her bed, but would she let him into her heart?
Spike knew if he could touch it, just once, he’d have his answer.
Though Buffy didn’t feel any more comfortable about speaking with strangers than she had yesterday, she felt she owed it to herself as well as Daniel to give it a shot. Furthermore, she could use the time away from Spike; it was more than obvious the blond pest wasn’t going to let her out of his damnably sexy sight anytime soon.
She’d never had so much trouble falling asleep in her life. It wasn’t like she hadn’t before let a vampire sleep on the floor beside her bed, but the past incidents with her first love couldn’t hold a candle to last night. Not when she possessed the mind of a woman rather than an idealistic teenager. There was nothing fairytale about Spike and therein lay the appeal. He was real in ways Angel had never been. Her love-struck eyes had believed Angel devoid of fault, and because of her naïveté, she’d been slammed with heartache beyond measure.
Spike was all flaw and beauty. She saw him in ways she’d never before imagined.
Whatever resistance she had left in her was quickly melting into nothing. The way his mouth had worshipped hers left little to the imagination as to how well he’d worship the rest of her. And the way he looked at her last night…there was something beyond lust. Something beyond the way he undressed her with his eyes. Something she never thought she’d see in another man.
Something she never thought she’d crave.
Her mind was too jumbled, her thoughts too tantalizing to be left alone. If silence cushioned her imagination, the images plaguing her would only become more graphic. Better to attempt socializing.
Besides, she was famished, and denying herself Daniel’s cooking for the sake of her faltering social skills had lost its appeal. With Spike in town—in her room—there was little need to remain under radar. Add the fact that the Reaper had definitely received the memo regarding her presence and it no longer mattered whether or not all of Natchez knew the Slayer was in town.
The breakfasty smells that greeted her upon sneaking through the back entrance rivaled the previous day’s in terms of mouth-watering deliciousness. It was a few minutes past eight-thirty, thus the meal had already commenced. And though she felt more than a little awkward traipsing in, especially after her quick escape the day before, her growling stomach accepted no excuse.
The crowd around the formal, exquisite dining room table had expanded overnight. Edith and her elderly friend, Olivia, were still present, this time accompanied by a relatively attractive middle-aged man and a friendly-looking blonde. At the head of the table nearest the entrance sat a young black man, and Daniel a couple seats down. There were two unclaimed plates along the wall.
Daniel glanced up in surprise. “Anne! Good morning.”
“Hello there!” Edith added brightly. “We didn’t know whether or not to expect you today.”
Buffy offered a small, shy smile and nodded. “Yeah, ummm…well, yesterday was a…little weird for me. I’ve never traveled…you know, far from home before without a parent or legal guardian nearby. Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry!” Daniel admonished, leaping to his feet to pull out the chair beside him, which she took gratefully. “Have a seat. We have French-toast soufflé, eggs, sausage, and fresh fruit.” He indicated the buffet along the wall. “Grab a plate and make yourself at home.”
“We were just discussing which houses to tour,” Edith said helpfully. “This is my son, Joshua’s, first vacation in…well, goodness…”
The blonde next to the middle-aged man offered an answer, though the mouthful of French-toast soufflé translated her response to, “Tphsch yearsh.”
Joshua pouted. “That is a gross exaggeration.”
“The California trip doesn’t count,” the blonde countered, swirling another bite of French-toast in a pool of syrup. Then she met Buffy’s eyes. “Not to be blatantly forward, but you might want to get some of this before I clean it out.”
“Noted,” Buffy replied, rising to her feet and seizing her plate. The march to the buffet was brief but awkward; she felt thoroughly on display. It didn’t help that her stomach was growling loud enough to be mistaken for a small lion. However, conversation resumed within easy seconds and quickly took off without her—which was fine from where she sat. Nice people these might be, she was here for the food.
Every few seconds her mind drifted back to the vampire she’d left in her room. The vampire who had leapt into the shower the second she announced she was going to investigate the breakfast table. The vampire who was probably naked at this very moment. Naked with water streaking his sculpted, lean, muscular body. Naked with his long, perfect fingers running along the length of his cock. Would he imagine her as he touched himself? Would her name be the one—
Buffy whirled around quickly. Everyone was staring at her.
“I—umm…” She blushed and gestured to the sausage. “Just debating if my figure can handle the…ummm…calories. Sorry.” Hurriedly scooping eggs and soufflé onto her plate, she made a beeline for her seat and quietly resolved to keep her mouth shut until she was on the safe side of her bedroom door.
As though sensing Buffy’s discomfort, Edith turned to the man at the head of the table. “Franklin, is it?” she began nicely.
The man nodded gruffly but didn’t reply.
“Where did you say you were from?”
Daniel blinked in surprise. “You’re from Natchez?”
There was a pause. “Well,” Joshua said slowly before turning to his female companion. “At least when I go on vacation, I get out of town.”
“Kicking and screaming,” she muttered.
“Is your wife coming down?” Daniel asked, his voice somewhat strained.
Franklin shook his head, shoveling a spoonful of eggs into his mouth. “We was up late,” he said. “Got a call from the place an’ had to ‘ead out. I don’ tink she gonna be down t’day.”
Buffy frowned. So did the rest of the table.
“Well, that’s…” Edith’s smile sprang back with amazing resilience, though perhaps not as bright as before. “What is it you do, Franklin?”
“I’s a funeral home director. We gots a call las’ night ‘round four. Some t’ree hundr’d pounder croaked.” Franklin rolled his eyes. “Dey’s gots in a fight right outside the house. Somefin ‘bout who got the ODB records.”
“ODB?” Edith repeated, still smiling.
“Don’t ask,” her son warned.
“They’s gonna fight at the funeral,” Franklin predicted. “Like the people las’ week. Big fight on the lawn. Gramma lost her teef in the casket.” He blew out a deep breath. “I tell you, I love you white folks. It’s all in an’ out.”
Buffy couldn’t help herself; she pointed her eyes downward and giggled. Judging from the sudden snickering epidemic, she wasn’t the only one finding it difficult to keep a straight face. Perhaps it was fate, then, that before anyone could summon words with which to follow Franklin’s revelation, the floor began to tremble with rolls of thunder. Thunder in the form of heavy-booted stomps and the crash of the front door, trailed by the hiss of sizzling vamp-skin and a colorful tapestry of British curses.
Buffy’s eyes fell shut as her stomach sank. Great.
“What the hell?” Daniel demanded, leaping up only to be forcibly shoved back into his seat. No way was she going to let her host encounter a vampire inches away from bursting into flames.
“That’s…umm…did I mention I…” The Slayer trailed off awkwardly, deciding the better route was to intercept the party-crasher before he could waltz inside. This conclusion, however, was reached a beat too late; slayer-speed had nothing on an ego-centric vampire. Before her feet could cross the dining room threshold, a blanket-covered Spike shadowed the doorway, sporting a cocky grin.
“Mornin’, love,” he purred, then directed his attention to the roomful of gawking observes. “Mornin’ all.”
“Spike!” Buffy hissed through her teeth. “What the hell are you doing?”
He shrugged and carelessly cast the blanket to the floor. “Tummy was makin’ all sorts of rumblies, an’ you said the bloke could cook.”
The bloke in question was suddenly at her back. “And who is this?” Daniel asked with strained politeness.
Damn ground. It never opened up to swallow someone on cue. Buffy fought off a groan, forced a smile to stretch her lips, and turned. “This is…umm…William.”
“William,” Daniel repeated, unimpressed.
“William?” Spike echoed in disgust.
“William.” Buffy nodded. “I…uhhh…ran into him. We’re old…friends. I had no idea he was in Natchez, but…he is and we…uhhh…reconnected.”
At that flimsy excuse, Edith’s son snickered. Loudly.
Daniel looked as though he’d barely heard her. His eyes were instead locked on the rumpled blanket. “Is that Jenny’s comforter?”
Spike perked a brow. “Jenny?”
“She owns the Mellan House,” Buffy explained hotly.
“Thought we were at some dive called Oak Hill.”
“We—I are. Or am. Jenny lets Daniel rent out a room at her house for his B&B.”
“Though perhaps not anymore,” Daniel said, glowering at Spike. “Anne, I understand you…meeting old friends, but—”
“He has a skin condition,” Buffy interjected quickly, threading her fingers through the vampire’s. As though touching the skin in question would lend her story credence. “He can’t…be in the sun. Or let it touch him. Or even look at it.”
“Well,” Spike began, but he was cut off by an angry glare before he could contradict her. “Right.”
A throat cleared from the table. “So he runs around outside under blankets?” Joshua asked.
Olivia, Edith’s bad-tempered traveling companion, muttered something which, while not decipherable, didn’t sound particularly flattering.
“Well,” Daniel continued, his eyes clearly telling her he’d like nothing more than to throw them both to the curb. “Just…in the future, if you run into…old friends…please let me know before you decide to invite them over.” The courtesy and helpfulness he’d exhibited the previous day had vanished, and should circumstances be different, the pang of loss consuming her chest would have been much more potent. At that second, she couldn’t decide which fate was worse.
“I don’t plan on running into—”
“’S her room, innit?” Spike demanded, very much uncaring whether or not anyone ever talked to her again. He tossed an arm across her shoulder and steered her possessively into his side. “She’s the one fronting the cash, mate.”
Daniel’s eyes flared. “I don’t appreciate—”
“Sp—William.” Buffy patted Spike’s chest with a loud, artificial laugh. “It’s still Daniel’s house, and we’re his guests. Or I’m his guest.” She met her host’s eyes and pulled her best wounded puppy look out of storage. It was something she hadn’t had to utilize in a while, as Giles hadn’t given her grounds. She just hoped it worked as well on fussy gay men as it did on bumbling watcher-librarians. “I’m sorry, Daniel. Really. William just…it was late last night when we…and I didn’t think.”
A long beat passed. Buffy couldn’t remember the last time she’d ever been waterlogged in shame—probably during the whole Angel’s-back-from-Hell-and-I’m-hiding-hi
The idea bothered her more than it probably should.
“Okay,” Daniel conceded. He was ostensibly unhappy but seemingly willing to accommodate. “I’ll go get another plate.”
“No need,” Spike replied, bored, moving toward the unclaimed seat on Buffy’s other side. “Looks like this one’s free.”
“That’s for Franklin’s wife,” Daniel objected heatedly.
“An’ now it’s for me.”
“She not gonna be down anyway,” Franklin said. “We was up late.”
Spike nodded and motioned demonstrably. “Well, there you go.”
Daniel’s eyes narrowed. “That’s not the point—”
“Don’ rightly care.”
Another inward groan. Clearly, her vampire didn’t intend to make things easy. Though perhaps, after the phone conversation with Giles, she should have expected as much. It surprised her when Daniel didn’t say anything—rather aimed another glare at Spike’s uncaring face. The whole table sat silent as he picked up a plate and wandered to the breakfast line-up.
“Smells good enough,” Spike granted as he built a mountain of eggs, surrounded by sausage and topped with three pieces of the French-toast soufflé. The ground still refused to swallow her—not even when the vampire plopped beside her and proceeded to dump half the contents of his plate onto hers.
“Not enough meat on your bones, love,” he explained before reaching for the syrup. “Eat up.”
“Yeah, an’ I can still hear your stomach growlin’.”
Everyone was staring at her. At them. Buffy decided not to argue, but she did send Spike a furious enough glance that he would know, in no uncertain terms, how much trouble he’d be in once they were alone. And damn all if the irritating twerp didn’t have the audacity to grin and wink at her. He knew exactly what he was doing. He knew it, and he was having the time of his unlife.
This was so not the time to feel a tingle of arousal, but she did.
Oh God, she did.
Spike’s grin broadened as though sensing it. Without warning she felt thoroughly naked.
Another throat cleared, this time Edith’s. Buffy guiltily tore her eyes away and glanced up, but the woman was studying the vampire with the look of one determined to salvage what had been, until Spike’s destructive appearance, a pleasant morning. “So,” Edith said with false interest, “where do you know Anne from?”
Spike stuffed a handful of sausage into his mouth. “Who?”
“That would be me,” Buffy muttered.
“You’re Anne?” He blinked at her. “When’d that happen?”
“You’re rooming with a guy who doesn’t know your name?” Joshua demanded. He might be the only person in possession of a pulse who was enjoying his morning. “Well…that’s…special.”
Spike’s grin turned predatory. “I spent the night calling her somethin’ else, if you catch my meaning, mate.”
And that was it. The proverbial it. The final straw. Buffy didn’t even realize she’d been operating on such a short fuse until she kicked herself away from the table. “Would you come with me, please?” she demanded, seizing Spike by the ear before he could object. She didn’t release him until they were precariously near the back door.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” she demanded, her voice set in a furious stage whisper. “Are you trying to get me kicked out?”
“Don’ see what the problem is, kitten,” Spike replied innocently. “Can’t a man enjoy a meal in peace?”
“I don’t know. Does that man want to be around to enjoy his next?”
“Why, Slayer, din’t know you were offering.”
“Does it matter to you that I like these people?” Buffy snapped. “That up until twenty minutes ago, they liked me, too? You dragged Daniel’s comforter—”
“Jenny’s comforter,” he corrected.
“Sorry,” Spike replied dryly. “Next time I’ll go up in flames. Jus’ for you, sweetheart.”
“I don’t understand why you had to come up here at all.”
He shrugged. “I was hungry. Din’t drink a drop yesterday an’ solids help the cravings. I reckoned you wouldn’t want me biting your new chums.”
The admission had her anger deflating much quicker than she would have liked. An unanswered question was suddenly satisfied—a question she hadn’t had the courage to ask for fear of the answer. Spike lacked a soul to hold him back from hurting those around him, and inviting him into her life invited the people around her to his fangs. She’d wondered how many people he’d drained since coming to town, and how many more would be put in danger because of her. Only now he was telling her his presence in the dining room was a means to keep his craving for blood from overcoming him…and though it might be a line to pacify her—though it probably was—it did its job.
“Okay,” Buffy said, calmer now. “Okay. But that still doesn’t explain why you were such an ass.”
Spike shrugged again, thoroughly unrepentant. “Jus’ being myself,” he replied. “Don’ pretend like you don’t like it…I know better. You can’t hide from me, love.”
A grin tickled her lips. Anger was dangerously close to depleting entirely. Damn him.
After all, if she couldn’t hide from Spike, how was she supposed to hide from herself?
Something told her she didn’t want to know the answer.
The town was quiet. Absolutely quiet. No buzzing. No inner fire. Nothing. After a thorough sweep of every corner and crevice Natchez had to offer, Buffy finally conceded and began the long walk back to the Mellan House.
Where Spike was waiting.
The advantage of having a severely sun-allergic traveling companion—though when Spike had become a traveling companion, she didn’t know—was the ample time provided through the day for serious introspection. How within the time-span of forty-eight hours, he’d gone from a pain-in-the-ass to the vampire crowding the floor of her rented room. The vampire who suddenly embodied forbidden-fruit in every delicious sense. The vampire whose kisses sparked a fire deep within her belly—stronger than any she’d ever before felt, and more terrifying for that very reason. The vampire with whom she desperately wanted more time, if only to discover where their relationship was going.
The vampire she couldn’t touch the way she wanted. Not without conceding something she’d needed to believe, no matter the futility.
It didn’t feel wrong. She’d felt many things in kissing Spike, but not one had been wrong. There was no wrong, there was only this desperate want of something she didn’t wish to name.
It’s wrong. Therein lies a world of hurt.
And hurt was something she very much wanted to avoid. One heartache had nearly destroyed her; another would finish the job.
So she couldn’t travel that road with Spike. No matter how much she desired it, she couldn’t. End of story. Next question.
Could try to at least sound convinced, Buffy thought grumpily. This is my mind, after all.
She wasn’t surprised to find Spike pacing when she returned to the room. He’d been cooped inside for hours as she scoped the town, and she knew she wasn’t imagining the relief which melted from concern when his head whipped up. He’d been worried about her.
“You were s’posed to be back thirty minutes ago.”
She shrugged. “I’m back now.”
“Yeah? Tinglies go off, or did you jus’—”
Buffy smiled and held up a small plastic sack. “Went shopping.”
Spike’s frown remained in place until a sniff confirmed what she’d brought home. Then his eyes changed, fierceness fading to a soft shimmer, fortified with awe and gratitude. He glanced from the bag to her face and back again before stepping forward, a small, almost shy smile tickling his perfect lips. “You brought me blood?” he asked gently, reaching for her offering.
“Well…” She shuffled awkwardly. There had been no way to predict his reaction, but his tender appreciation had her moved beyond reproach. “You mentioned you hadn’t had any and since we’re practically in a barnyard, it wasn’t hard to find a butcher shop.”
Spike inspected the contents. “It’s pig’s?”
Buffy arched a brow. “You didn’t expect me to lift it from a hospital, did you?”
“Would’ve been quite a gesture, kitten,” he retorted, tossing her a rakish grin.
“I think bringing you blood in the first place is gesture enough.” She exhaled deeply, relieved at his teasing. Teasing she could handle. Teasing felt normal. The tender look on his face demanded serious reflection, and she was all used up on her daily quantity of deep thoughts. “That piece of crap blocking Daniel’s drive is your car, isn’t it?”
Spike scowled. “Oi!”
“Call it like I see it.”
“She’s my best girl, that car. Don’ bloody knock it.” His eyes sparkled as his fangs descended and tore into the first of five plastic blood-filled bags. And to her horror, the look on his face did nothing to disgust her. Rather every nerve in her body was suddenly ablaze and electric sparks shot directly to her clit. God, she was so screwed. If Spike’s demon turned her on there was little hope in salvaging her heart from this escapade.
“I…uhhh…well.” Buffy quickly glanced away. “I need to change…we have reservations at King’s Tavern.”
“At what now?”
“King’s Tavern. It’s a place…haunted…I dunno. I didn’t feel any Reaper vibes on my tour around town, and since King’s Tavern is supposed to be haunted, I figured we’d head there and see if anything…uhhh…” She met his eyes again. “Occurred to either one of us.”
Spike arched a cool brow. How he managed to look so delicious with a blood-ring around his mouth was beyond her. “This a date, Slayer?”
“You’re taking me to a fancy joint. Tryin’ to seduce me?”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “You wish.”
At first she thought she’d said something wrong. He looked at her strangely and without humor, tilting his head, the soft burn in his eyes sparking new flames which struck cords deep she didn’t know her body possessed. Then he was moving forward, wiping his mouth and forcing the demon back, his human face falling over him; a dream come to life. The bag in his hands disappeared; before she could think to question him, her cheeks were cupped in his palms and he was kissing her.
God, he was kissing her. His lips flirted with her, loved her, sang wordless songs until she couldn’t help but sigh against him—couldn’t help but allow his tongue to wander into her mouth. He tasted wonderful—dangerous. Hints of cigarettes and the metallic twang of blood tickled her tastebuds. Flavors that should have repulsed her but only made her want. He was so real. So thoroughly real. No secrets lingered in his past, nothing that would surprise her. The monster was just as present as the man; not two entities but one. One rolled together, a faulted but somehow perfect package. He kissed her with desperation she’d never before tasted. As though her kisses were what granted him life.
Yes, she’d wanted this. Since last night. Since her mouth had explored his on Longwood’s lawn. She wanted to know him without motive.
She’d kissed him before to save his life. One taste had made her an addict.
“Fuck,” Spike agreed, sucking intently on her lower lip. “Yes…I do.”
Intelligibility abandoned her altogether. Buffy’s head fell back, every inch of her dangerously close to melting completely. “Ahhh…”
“I do,” he repeated as his mouth nibbled a wet path down her throat, hands following suit. His left hand found her breast without warning, palming her reverently and exciting her nipple with a few masterful strokes of his thumb. “I do wish it, Buffy. Want you now. Want you open an’ begging for me.”
“I wanna spread you apart,” he murmured, his wandering mouth traveling further southward. “Wanna play with your quim. Wanna see where you’re soft.”
His right hand delved between them and pressed at the apex of her thighs, which fell apart without struggle.
Spike sighed. “You’re so hard everywhere, aren’t you?”
“You’re one to talk,” Buffy retorted. Her own hand itched to explore the hard confines of his erection, but she remained immobile—frozen by nerves or arousal or some bizarre combination of the two. At the moment, she barely remembered her own name.
A chuckle. “Naughty girl.”
“But you are. So hard everywhere. So bloody firm. But here…” His palm grated against her pussy. “Here you’re all woman. Soft. Pink. Wet. Wanting me so bad. Don’ you, Buffy? Tell your Spike how bad you want him.”
Words scratched at her throat. Yes, she wanted him now. Wanted him fiercely. Wanted him beyond knowledge of what it meant to want. What it meant to possess or be possessed. She wanted Spike everywhere. His hands in her hair, his mouth between her legs, his tongue around her nipples, his fingers strumming her clit, his cock sliding against her lips, his body against hers. She wanted it all. She wanted everything. A whirlwind of sensation had her falling until she was certain she’d crash against the floor, but when she opened her eyes she was still standing.
Still on both feet.
And the world waited outside. The world with its Reaper. The world with its consequences. The world with its damned reality.
With its truth of what she was. What he was. And what they were to each other.
From where the strength came, she did not know. One second she teetered on crashing onto the mattress and the next she had returned to herself. Her hands braced against his shoulders and shoved. The second air hit her lungs she was flying. Moving across the room in a blaze, collecting weapons, changing clothes, burning the ground until there was nothing but the echoes of her heavy strides.
“We gotta go,” Buffy said, cheeks burning. She couldn’t meet his eyes. “We gotta…”
“Got the keys right here.”
His voice was devoid of emotion. As though their encounter meant nothing.
But she knew better. She didn’t know how, but she knew.
Which was why she couldn’t meet his eyes. Resistance would melt and she wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready to be hurt again. She wasn’t ready to chance it. Not now. Her heart couldn’t take the risk—and risk was written all over this. All over Spike. A huge all-sales-are-final risk, and if she gave in she’d be handing herself over to a world of hurt.
It was safer to keep her distance no matter what she wanted. Thus Buffy moved robotically at his side as he led her to the Desoto. Though she wished to speak, she bit her tongue. Though she wished to touch him, her hands remained steadfast at her sides. There was nothing to do but go through with dinner and hope the night would improve.
Or better yet, change her mind.