DISCLAIMER: We know they're Joss', right? Which really is a shame, because most of the time, we're so much nicer to them than he was.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Spike and Tara took Buffy to the high school where she got a glimpse how they lived, while the Immortal called Wolfram & Hart for assistance in waking her...

* * *

She was stopped from chasing after Tara by a cool grip around her elbow.

“Leave it,” Spike warned.

Turning back to him, Buffy met the blue menace of his gaze with narrowed eyes. “Do you really think I’d hurt her?” she asked. “I just want to know what’s going on.”

“And she’ll tell you.” His fingers weren’t moving, though she suspected that if she tried to break free, Spike wouldn’t fight it. “You might have your own Tara back in your world, but this one’s mine. And if she’s askin’ for time, there’s a reason. I’m not goin’ to have you buggering up her head.”

Mine. He could have said almost anything else after that; all Buffy heard was Spike’s claim for a woman.

Who wasn’t Buffy.

It made her heart hurt.

Her prolonged silence and immobility eased the threat in Spike’s eyes. What replaced it, however, was equally as startling.

“Why do you keep doin’ that?” he asked, his voice a nonplussed whisper.

“Do what?” Buffy’s query matched his volume.

Slowly, Spike uncurled his fingers from her elbow, his hand dropping to his side as he took a step away from her. “Look at me like…” His teeth snapped audibly shut, his jaw working as if he had to physically bar the words from coming out. “You don’t hate me,” he finally said, and his volume had returned to something resembling normal. “The things you’ve said. The fighting. The poetry. You know me when a Slayer knowing a vampire in those kinds of ways shouldn’t be natural. Not if that vampire isn’t named Angel, at least.”

The bitterness in his last statement was so like her Spike that Buffy had to look away or risk him seeing much more than he already had. “It’s natural if you spend years fighting next to each other,” she said. She wandered over to the bookshelves, pretending to be interested in the assortment of books. When she recognized so many of the authors as Spike’s favorites, she hid her small nostalgic smile. “There’s only so much conversation two people can have while they’re waiting for fledgelings to rise. And you like to talk. A lot.”

“But not to you.” His heavy footsteps warned of his approach, and Buffy turned in time to be pressed up against the bookshelves, his lean body hard against her softer curves. It would have been simple to maneuver away from him, but there was one indisputable fact that stopped her. She didn’t want to.

His darkened eyes settled on her mouth for long seconds before drifting downward, noting the proximity of their chests, the angle of her hips toward his. “And here it is again,” Spike murmured, but Buffy suspected it was an observation for his own sake, not hers. “A vamp might begin to think you want me like this.” Dark lashes lifted suddenly, pinning her just as effectively as his body. “So quid pro quo and all that rot, Slayer. Why don’t you hate me?”

What could she say?

“You saved the world.”

“You counted the days I was dead. Like it mattered.”

“You loved me.”

“Because I love you.”

Oh, yeah, those would go over real well. This Spike didn’t want the truth. He had enough of his own truth to deal with, without adding hers to the mix.

“Maybe because Tara isn’t the only one who sees the man inside the vamp,” she finally said. “I might not be as quick on the uptake as your girlfriend, but I saw it. Eventually. And it’s kind of hard to hate someone when you know what’s motivating him isn’t necessarily a violent soul.”

Her answer, as vague as she could make it without actually lying, still managed to intrigue him, and he remained motionless, regarding her for so long that Buffy was tempted to pinch him just to see if he was still with her. “Point of fact, pet,” he eventually said, though he didn’t back away. “Tara’s a lesbian, and last time I checked…” Deliberately, he thrust his hips against hers. Buffy’s eyes widened at the arousal she didn’t expect. “…I’m not a girl.”

“But…” This time, she did push him off, slipping out so that she could stand freely in the middle of the room. She’d never been able to think clearly when he touched her. “Aren’t you two…together?”

He followed her eyes to the bed, then back at her with an amused quirk of a brow. “Shagging, you mean? No. Which part of lesbian was so hard to understand? Because if you want another---.”

She cut him off mid-rude gesture. “So what are you, then?”

With a sigh, Spike shook his head, crossing to where he’d dropped his coat and digging around in the pocket for his lighter. “Not that it’s any of your bloody business,” he said around the cigarette he stuck between his lips, “but she’s my partner. Just like every other demon in the joint has a human partner.” He sucked hard, and then exhaled loudly so that the smoke curdled the air. “Only difference is, I’m not actually shagging mine.”

This was part of the whole commune arrangement that didn’t make sense to her. “What the hell is this place?” Buffy challenged. “I’ve been around the block enough now to know the demon equals bad math isn’t always right. But this…”

Marching over to the door, she yanked it open, stepping out into the hall and the sounds of life that filtered from other regions of the basement. “You’re hiding. On top of the Hellmouth. With humans you’re supposed to eat! Where’s the rightness of that?”

She stood there, defiantly, hands on her hips while she waited for Spike’s explanation. With a growl around the cigarette hanging from his lip, he marched out and grabbed her arm, pulling her none too delicately back into the room and kicking the door shut with his heel.

“Are you off your nut?” The cigarette he now held between his fingers scattered ash around the floor as he gesticulated with his words. “Unless you have a death wish I don’t know about, you’d best keep your gob shut around here, Slayer. The others find out who you are, and there’s goin’ to be chaos. It’s bad enough you spooked Tara. The other won’t be nearly so nice about it.”

Her arm was tingling where he’d touched her, and Buffy rubbed at the sore spot his grasp had left. Spike didn’t even seem aware that he’d hurt her, if only mildly, and she wasn’t about to say anything to let him know that his chip hadn’t worked on her since she came back from the dead this last time. “Fine,” she said, deliberately pitching her voice lower. “I’ll be the perfect, other dimension, houseguest. As long as you tell me exactly what I’m seeing here.”

Taking one last drag on his cigarette, Spike stomped over to the bookshelf and ground it out on a dusky glass tray, marred with ash burns. “You’re seeing survival,” he said. “We can’t feed, the humans can’t fight. What we’ve worked out is the only way we stand a chance against Adam and his half-breeds.”

“You’re…all chipped?” At his curt nod, she frowned. “OK, I can see the advantages to humans having demon bodyguards, if things are that bad with Adam. But what does teaming up with a human do for you?” she asked. “You can’t bite them.”

“Can,” Spike corrected. “When it doesn’t hurt.”

She snorted. “Last time I checked, that was never.”

“Yeah? And when was the last time you had a vamp bite you in the middle of a fuck, pet?” His crude language was accompanied by his tongue curling behind his teeth, flecks of gold dancing in his eyes. Deliberately, Spike let his gaze drop first to her neck, and then over her body, drawing a shiver and an automatic response that had Buffy squeezing her thighs together.

“Or maybe you do know,” he continued. His voice was almost a purr as he advanced back to face her. “Would explain why you’re not afraid of me. Some vamp got his fangs into you good and proper, didn’t he? Taught you how to want him, how good it can feel on the other side of the pain?”

He was getting off on the teasing. Standing as close as he was to her, Buffy could feel the bulge of his jeans brushing against her stomach, saw each flare of his nostrils as he breathed in her arousal. She swallowed, though that did nothing to lessen the slow speeding of her heart.

“I told you why I wasn’t afraid of you,” she ground out. “And you told me you weren’t sleeping with Tara.”

“I’m not.” Slowly, he tilted his head, as if he was weighing each of her words. “At least, not in the way you’re thinking. She and I have a different arrangement. I don’t get my blood from the tap.”

Her eyes flickered to the shelves and the microwave mostly hidden by the candles and books. Spike never looked away from her.

“But that’s just me,” he went on. “The rest of ‘em, they do it the old-fashioned way.” Almost as if he was moving in slow motion, Spike reached forward and ran a fingertip along Buffy’s jaw, trailing down the side of her neck as he spoke. “When you’re hungry and you’ve had to set to begging for blood, you’ll do about anything to get a bite.”

He didn’t stop at her neck. His palm grazed further, downward, sculpting the curve of her breast.

“Human body’s a marvelous thing, you know.” Buffy had no idea when Spike’s voice had gotten so low, rumbling from somewhere deep inside his chest. “Didn’t take us too long to suss out that if a body’s excited enough, pain becomes pleasure. Can’t kill ‘cause that crosses a line, but to feed…”

She was mesmerized by the sight of his tongue darting out to lick his lower lip, but Spike’s attention was riveted to the path of his hand, skimming over her nipple and onto her abdomen.

“But how’d it get that far?” she whispered. “I mean, you were fine on the bagged blood we gave you at Giles’.”

His head snapped back up, his hand jerking away. Anger replaced the hunger in Spike’s glittering eyes. “Maybe in your world,” he sneered. “But in this one, the only thing I got from you and Rupert before everything went to hell was the door slammed in my face. Swallowed my pride, but all you cared about were your bloody yams.”

“I…what?”

“You heard me. I asked for your help, and you said no. The Initiative boys picked me up again that night because you lot were too busy stuffing your faces to bother with your do-gooding, and I didn’t see the light of the moon again until you tried takin’ Adam down a couple months later.” He kicked at one of the extinguished candles on the floor in his haste to get away from her. “That quid pro quo enough for you, Slayer?”

* * *

They stepped out of the crowded club into the blessedly cooler night air. “He’s screwing with us, you know,” Angel said at Spike’s side. “The bastard’s probably sitting at home right now, laughing about sending us on a wild goose chase.”

Spike had been thinking the same thing, though in a lot less polite language. “So we head back there and tear his bloody head off,” he announced. As he started to head for the car they’d rented, though, Angel’s hand shot out and grabbed his arm. Spike looked back at him with a frown. “Tell me we’re not, and it’s your bloody head coming off first.”

Lifting the bag they’d carried inside the club to look for Buffy, Angel shook it slightly, the Capo audibly rolling around inside. “Let’s take care of the first head on our priority list,” he said. “Then we go---.” He stopped, his low brow furrowing as something obviously sprung to his mind.

Spike waited for him to continue speaking, but when it didn’t happen right away, he stuck his hands into his pockets and scowled. “That’s your constipated, ‘I’m having an epiphany’ look. Either spit it out, or I’ll go take care of the wanker myself.”

Angel ignored the gibe. “I was thinking, we’re on the Immortal’s turf here. What we need is to get him on ours. And since we have to deliver the Capo to the Wolfram and Hart offices anyway, I say we start using some of our pull. A demon like that, there’s no way Ilona doesn’t know who he is.”

“Who’s Ilona?”

“Head of the Rome office.” His mind made up, Angel walked to the car, leaving Spike to rush to match his stride. “I talked to her on the phone when we were setting all this up. We…bonded.”

“Which is code for you tried to charm her and she didn’t hang up on you in the first two minutes.”

“As a matter of fact…” Yanking open the back door, Angel tossed the bag into the back seat, not noticing the force of his throw made it roll across the leather and against the opposite door. “…we talked about a lot of things. Wine. Art. Opera.”

“Great,” Spike muttered, sliding into the passenger seat. “Someone with an even thicker stick up her ass than you.”

* * *

The rushed lilt of Ilona Costa Bianchi’s words was lost in Spike’s fascination with the relationship between her tiny dress and her not so tiny breasts. Must be magic, he finally decided. It was the only explanation for why she wasn’t busting out all over.

When she began walking away from them, though, heading for the elevator, the fleshy jiggle was enough to break him from the spell and catch her final words.

“…can discuss it in the morning,” Ilona said, pressing the button to go down.

Spike had been paying enough attention to know that Angel had yet to give any specifics about Buffy. All he had said was that they needed the office’s aid, and already she was giving them the brush-off. He dug his heels in, prepared to fight, when Angel beat him to the punch.

“Our friend could be in grave danger,” he said. He stretched his arm across the closed doors of the elevator, barring Ilona from getting on when it opened. “You can’t send someone else to meet with this client?”

Ilona smiled, shoulders lifting in a noncommittal shrug. “Any other client, perhaps. But when the Immortal calls and asks for my assistance, I have no choice. I must go.” She brightened as if coming up with a brilliant idea, unaware of the quick glance between the two vampires. “You come with! The Immortal, I am sure he would be pleased to have such charming resources at his command. This problem of his, he believes it will take a creative solution. Could be fun, no?”

“This…problem,” Spike said carefully. “Don’t s’pose he said what it was, did he?”

The elevator doors swished open, and Ilona smiled pointedly at the arm Angel still had blocking the way. As soon as he dropped it, she swept inside, gesturing for them to join her. “With the Immortal, there is only ever one problem,” she said. A crimson-tipped finger pushed the lobby button. “Amore.”

 

To be continued in Chapter 5