I'm glad everyone's enjoying this so far--thank you for the lovely feedback! And now, on to part two:
Set post-Sanctuary (season 1 of AtS, coinciding with season 4 of BtVS).
Buffy's just been sent from Los Angeles by Angel in the wake of Faith's reawakening, attempts at revenge, and baby steps towards redemption. Being dismissed isn't high on the list of things that makes for a happy Buffy, but fortunately there's always patrol for getting rid of tension.
Note: This one, for length purposes, will have to be split into two posts. There's a link to the second part at the bottom of this entry.
Whispers in a Dead Man's Ear (2/8) (Part 1)
It wasn’t all that rarely that he found the Slayer stalking through his neck of the headstones; once a week or so, she would convince herself that he was up to something dastardly, drop by, disabuse herself of the notion, and flounce away after taking a swipe or two at his manhood. It was a habit, bordering on becoming a tradition.
Therefore, it really didn’t rate as a surprise when he caught sight of her storming through the cemetery, righteous indignation trailing her in a cloud that he would swear he could tilt his head and visualize. Cheeks flushed, hand tightening on her stake until her knuckles shone a brighter shade of white than her sweater, hair bouncing off her shoulders and into her face; she was a vision, a study in fury, and he knew in an instant that his night wasn’t going to be the simple blood and telly affair that he’d planned.
It was just as well, really; given a choice between wallowing in his own self-pity or rubbing the Slayer’s nose in whatever insecurity he could suss out that night, he’d take the latter every time. The Initiative may’ve taken his fangs, but they hadn’t gotten all of his bite, and there was still no one quite like the little gnat of a Chosen One on which to use it.
“Well, well, look who’s back from the city, an’ looking the worse for the trip,” he drawled, stepping out of his crypt and onto the grass that surrounded it. For all that he liked baiting her, those little feet were lethal weapons when it came to his door, and with the soldiers still trooping about at will, he rather liked the protection. “What’s the matter? Angel not greet you by running towards you through a field of daisies?”
“I wasn’t there for that, Spike,” she spat angrily, casting what he was certain was a longing glance at the wood-covered entryway to his home while digging a viciously deep gouge in the ground beneath the impractically pointed heel of her boot. He was suddenly very glad for the Pavlovian training that had saved his door. “And how did you know where I was, anyway?”
Spike merely smirked at her, raising a brow. “Demons don’t reveal their sources when it comes to Slayer comings and goings; suffice it to say that we’ve got ourselves a network, an’ leave it at that.”
Buffy crossed her arms and leaned back against a marble statue. “Is that the same network that kicked your pale, scrawny butt into the alley behind Willy’s after they’d already beaten it purple? ‘Cause if it is, they’re developing a potentially fatal case of loose lips.” Her smile was gleefully malevolent.
“Don’t know what you’re on about,” he scoffed, even though he was certain he’d managed to give himself away with his startled fidgeting. Not for the first time, he resolved to track down every denizen of Willy’s from that night and stop only when he was scraping their gore from his boots.
“Tell me how you knew where I was, and I’ll tell you where I heard the tale of Spike’s headlong tumble into Willy’s dumpster,” she promised. “I might even know enough to point you at a butt to kick…”
“You’d facilitate violence in such a manner? Slayer, your Watcher would be appalled.” Spike took a step forward, grinning. “I, on the other hand, am very impressed. Was your boy that told me, when he stopped by to make sure Sunnydale was safe from my brand of horror on his way to deliver more boxed constipation to the good people of the fair Hellmouth. How peddlin’ that garbage doesn’t count as evil…” he finished, shrugging. “Now, your turn.”
“Heard it from a demon. Big nasty thing… there was a lot of snot. And claws.” Buffy shuddered. “Green and brown, cranky, and he seemed to think whaling on you in the bar was the highlight of his week, given how excited he was when he was telling his friend about it.”
Spike sighed dramatically. “Didn’t tell me you’d run into him on rounds,” he grumbled. “There anything left for me to kill?”
“Yep. I only killed his buddy; Big ‘n Gooey’s all yours for the smashing,” she chirped. “The gooier the smashing the better, if you please. He ruined my new pink jacket.”
“By all means, let my avenging of my stature in the demon world pale in comparison to the sanctity of Lady Buffy’s accoutrement.” Spike turned to leave, then spun on his heel, cackling gleefully. “Wait a bloody second here. Let him get away, did you? Aren’t you a touch on the young side to be losin’ your game?”
“I’ve still got my game,” she countered defensively. “Unlike some not-breathing-but-still-present people I know. And besides, it was hard to chase him down. I was all out of breath from the laughing at the thought of you smooching pavement.”
“Least something’s been near my lips as of late, even if it was rigid and unyielding. Oh, wait… you’ve got your soldier. Damned if you just don’t beat me on this, too.” He gave her a wicked leer. “And then there’s Tall, Browed, and Broody. Surely you didn’t walk away from your pillar of eternal metaphorical flame without a little parting gift.”
“Oh, I got something for the road, all right,” she grumbled under her breath.
“What’s that?” he asked, inclining his head towards her.
“I said, ‘Shut up, Spike,’” she answered, stalking away from him.
“Now, now, ‘s not right to lie, Buffy. Surely your mum taught you better. An’ I clearly heard you say you ‘got something for the road, all right.’” He took one long stride to two of her shorter, more furious steps, keeping pace easily. “Don’t need to be lookin’ over my shoulder for dear ol’ grandpapa, now do I?”
“That would be a no. And why would you care, anyway? Even if he was back, he wouldn’t be coming to you; I’m sure he’d be too busy trying to find Drusilla.” She stopped and whirled on him, eyes flashing fire.
“So what did he do to piss you off, then?” Spike asked casually, careful to mask his hurt. He knew all too well that letting an enemy know they’d scored a direct hit was never advisable.
“How do you know he pissed me off?”
Spike stared pointedly at her for a long moment, eyes shifting from her agitatedly tapping foot to the hand locked in a death grip on her stake to the face that was the picture of barely-restrained rage. “Couple of reasons,” he said finally. “For one, you should never play poker, because your bluff’s for shit. Come stormin’ round hell-bent for vamp dust, an’ it’s not hard to know someone’s thrown a spanner in your works. Particularly when it looks like you might’ve sat on it as well.”
“Clever. And the other reason?”
“Two options for the both of you in any given get-together, an’ if you didn’t wind up in each other’s laps, only one other kind of fireworks you two could generate.” At her blank stare, he went on, “’s like I told you, ‘you’ll fight, an’ you’ll shag, an’ you’ll hate each other ‘til it makes you quiver’?” More of the same blank stare, though it was quickly transformed into a mystified glare by Spike’s resonating growl. “God, why do I even bother with the lot of you? Share a little bit of insight, and it runs right over top of your heads. Bet if I’d stuck it in bottles of hair product, you both would’ve absorbed it nicely.”
“Are you trying to send me over the edge? Because, hello, have stake, will pokey,” Buffy reminded him, waving the pointed wood in his face.
“Oh, bugger off. If you were going to stake me, you’d’ve done it when you first came tromping up, rippin’ up the lawn. So go on, out with it; tell Spike what the big mean wanker had to say.”
Buffy glowered at him, putting her hands on her hips. “Fine. Whatever. As long as it’ll shut you up. He told me to get out of his city. There, happy?”
“Did he now?” Spike asked, sure that he was completely unsuccessful in twisting his gloating smirk into anything more innocuous than exactly what it was. “Seems only fair, given you sent him packin’ from here.”
“I did not!” Buffy answered, indignant, cheeks flushed. “He left for our own good. Avoiding temptation.”
“’s that right? Guess he’s just… noble that way. Course, avoidin’ temptation’s probably hard after centuries of givin’ right the hell into it.” Buffy’s frown simply prodded him on, and he splayed one hand over his heart. “It all sounds terribly romantic. Byronic, even.” He dug in his pocket for his cigarettes, tapping the pack against his hand. “No, wait… that would be moronic. Silly me, always confusin’ the movements.”
“I hate you,” she grumbled in answer, kicking at his foot.
Spike dodged easily, dancing back out of her path. “Why, Slayer. I’m touched you go to all the trouble.”
Buffy rolled her eyes, crossing her arms over her chest. “Please. Like you don’t hate me, too.”
“My, don’t we flatter ourselves,” Spike chuckled. “Look at you, all puffed up. As a matter of fact, I don’t. ’s too much effort. ‘s all I can do to find you annoying.”
“Uh huh. And these yearly side trips to Sunnydale are, what? Evidence of a fond and long-lasting devotion to the scenic potential of small-town USA?” Buffy’s arched brow clearly indicated that she considered herself the winner of their little competition. “Face it. You want me.”
“Dead. Key word, that,” Spike added. “An’ not that I feel like pokin’ holes in your tragically overinflated sense of self—except actually, yeah. That’d be nice, too. Consider me pokin’. Regardless, first time I came here was for the Hellmouth; you were just a sideshow to the curin’ Dru main attraction. An’ the third was for the Gem; had sod-all to do with you.” Spike leaned back against a headstone, assuming that arrogant, elegant sprawl to which his limbs seemed inured. “So you see, all signs to the contrary, you’re not the center of my world.”
Buffy eyed him skeptically. “Say I give you one and three as being about someone or something that was else. You have to give me two and four, though. No wiggling there. Those were full-on, out for blood, ‘drink you down and use your bones as toothpicks’ destination vacations that were all about me.”
“Well, yeah,” Spike admitted, mischievous grin in full effect. “Man gets bored, spoilin’ for a fight, wants to let off some steam; who better than an old enemy for it? Besides, you make the rage cathartic; no one can piss a bloke off faster than you. ‘s quite a skill.”
“Whatever,” she shot back, looking away.
“Brilliant argument, that. The hair toss really takes it over the rhetorical edge. Nothing more I can say in the face of such eloquence, so I think I’ll just toddle on off and drink myself into a depressive stupor, if it’s all the same.”
“No.” Buffy flushed as Spike looked at her quizzically. “You can’t just… leave. You might be up to something. An evil something. I think I should keep an eye on you.”
“Right. I might, what? Pick an errant rose from some old lady’s prize rose bush, ruin the Garden Club’s week? Or maybe I’ll step on some budding entomologist’s prize find an’ make him cry. Good job that you’re protecting the world from me.”
“Oh, you’re not bitter.”
Spike arched a brow. “Damn right I’m bitter. Try gettin’ knocked out and wakin’ up in some wonky white room in a lab, having everything you are stripped down to nothing and getting turned into some sort of governmental house pet that can only maim your own kind. Would make a saint bitter.”
“Well, it certainly doesn’t do anything to enhance your personality.”
“By all means, then, let me free you of the affliction of my presence, your highness.”
Buffy put her hand on his arm, stopping him. “Potential evil, remember? Where you go, I go.”
“And this has nothing at all to do with your ex pulling his ‘LA belongs to me’ trump card, paper cutting you with it, and sendin’ you back here to lick your wounds, right? And it especially has nothing to do with Sergeant Upright and the fact you probably want to work out any residual nasties before you go visit with him, yeah? Wouldn’t want him to see anything less than a picture-perfect little princess, would you now? So you come here, play Bait the Spike, an’ go on home all exorcised.”
“Shut up, Spike.”
“And again you wound me.”
“Enough of this; just do your worst. It’s not like you could really do anything anyway. God, were you always this infuriating? I’m sure I would have killed you if I’d known you were this… ugh.” She threw up her hands and took a few steps away from him, heading further into the cemetery grounds.
Spike chuckled as he called after her. “You would’ve tried, and you would have failed. Which you did, repeatedly.”
“So did you,” she reminded him, throwing him a pointed stare over her shoulder.
“Guess we’re at a stalemate, then, given my unfortunate condition and your ‘don’t kill the fangless puppies’ stance.”
This time she turned fully around, rolling her eyes dramatically. “If anybody could change my mind, Spike, believe me that it would be you.”
“Yeah, yeah. Block of wood, whittle whittle, stabby stabby, and you can brush me off your pant legs. An’ yet here I am in all my bad-as-I-can-be glory with nary a stab wound in sight. So let’s dispense with the threats an’ get on with whatever it is I have to do to get you to leave me be.”
“Arrrgh.” The sound Buffy made was as close to a growl as a human could get. “I was leaving. You’re the one who kept after me!” She stormed back towards him. “You don’t have to do anything. Is the concept of standing there and maybe even listening just lost on you? I don’t need you to say anything; I don’t even want you to. I didn’t even want you around. I just wanted to stomp around and stab things and grumble and then go home. And then I come across you heading out into the night—”
“Wasn’t heading anywhere. Was standing on the doorstep of my crypt and came out into the grass to keep you the hell away from my door.”
“You think I believe that?” she asked, not waiting for his answer before continuing her rant as if he hadn’t spoken. “I come across you gearing up to do who knows what and now I have to babysit the formerly evil and very very dead. So could you just do your corpse impression while I do what I came here to do?”
Spike put his hands up in surrender. “As you wish. Silent as the grave, coming up.”
“Thank you. Now come on.”