DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss', of course. And the chapter titles are courtesy of Robert Burns.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: The Scoobies are on their way to Scotland to help the Council with a demon they've unleashed, with Spike along for the ride...
The touch was feather-light on her shoulder, and she shifted in her seat, trying to get away from it. "Don't wanna," she mumbled. What she wanted was to escape from whoever was trying to rouse her, to return to the warm dreams that promised easy answers and soft kisses, and so twisted her body away from where the voice had come, encountering a hard wall that she proceeded to bury herself against. The veil of sleep began to cover her again, and Buffy felt herself falling, lost in a cloud of black while faraway scents began to tickle her nose. Mmmm, leather, she thought drowsily...
It was louder this time, the grip harder, and this time, the Slayer batted it away, her forehead creasing into a frown as her lip jutted into a pout. "Said to wake me when we got there," she argued sleepily. "All nice and comfy here."
She felt the vibration under her cheek as it rippled across her skin and down her spine, waking her body with icy tingles before becoming audible to her ear. "Have to remember that," she heard. It took a moment for the baritone to register, but when it did, Buffy shot straight up, suddenly awake, suddenly alert, and suddenly staring into Spike's amused blue eyes.
"Have a nice nap, luv?" he asked, and, this time there was no mistaking the chuckle in his voice, or the curl of his lip as his tongue ran along the edge of his teeth.
Her head turned to see Willow on her other side, the young redhead's gaze wide. "Does this mean we're there?" Buffy asked, as calmly as she could, deliberately sliding herself away from any further contact with the vampire, ignoring his laughter as it floated to her ear.
"Just about," Willow replied. "Colin said it's around the next bend."
The witch nodded toward the driver, and Buffy's gaze shifted forward, noting the Council guy who'd been at Spike's crypt chatting with Tara in the front seat. Well, more like chatting at her. She seemed to be doing everything she could not to fall asleep in front of him. Poor thing, the Slayer thought. She's just too nice to say no.
When they'd landed at the airstrip, deciding who was going to ride with whom had taken longer than anyone had anticipated, since both the Council guys accompanying them insisted that Buffy had to travel with Spike in order to protect the rest from the vampire. "For the last time," she'd argued. "He. Can't. Hurt. You."
But they hadn't listened, and it had been up to the rest of the gang to divvy up the remaining seats. Xander, Anya, and Giles filed into one car, while the rest of them piled into the second. As Buffy had squeezed into the back, placing herself next to Spike at the Council guy's---Colin's---request, she was grateful that she had listened to Travers' limitation to one bag per person. The trunk of the car had been absolutely tiny, with barely enough room for their luggage as it was, and with the interior just as small, the option of placing any extra on the floor was out of the question.
She had fallen asleep almost right away, the gentle rocking of the car and the complete absence of light outside making it inevitable. All her protestations on the plane about needing rest had been in vain, because no matter what she'd done, Buffy couldn't get comfortable, all too aware of Spike's presence, her body betraying her with its own desire for some type of physical activity. It had taken ages for her adrenalin to ebb, and by the time it had, the vamp's incessant whistling was doing everything it could to keep her awake. She hadn't called him on it, but the young woman couldn't help but believe he'd done it on purpose, choosing the most annoying way possible to drive her crazy without actually stepping out of line. Stupid vampire.
Purposely ignoring the male presence at her side, Buffy leaned to look out Willow's window, wondering how it was possible it could be even darker now than when they'd landed. "Where are we?" she asked, her brow furrowing. "How come I don't see any houses or streetlights or anything?"
Behind her, Spike snorted. "You're in the middle of bleedin' nowhere, pet," he drawled. "Welcome to the Highlands."
Her eyes widened as they rounded a curve and the sudden scratching of tree branches across the window sent a dull screech throughout the car, startling her into jerking backward and landing quite effectively against Spike's chest again. "I thought they drove on the other side of the road in England," she said slowly, easing herself away from him.
"They do," Willow replied.
"So, if they drive on the left side, how come we just hit something on the right side?"
"Actually, we're on what we consider a B road here in Britain," Colin offered from the front. "And in a rural area such as this, they often go down to just one lane."
"One lane?" Buffy repeated in alarm. "What happens if a car comes from the other direction?"
"There are passing areas to pull into, to allow oncoming traffic to go by without barring their way," he explained further. "But, in an area such as this, it's actually quite rare to utilize them."
"And people wonder why I don't drive," the Slayer muttered.
"Here we are!" Colin announced, easing the car to a gentle stop.
"And here is...?" Buffy murmured, peering out into the night sky, trying to discern anything other than the big, black, blobby things that seemed to loom on the horizon.
As he lifted the hand brake, the Council member turned around to smile at the two girls in the back seat, doing his best at the same time to ignore the blond vampire in the corner. "This would be Dall Rath." He stiffened as Spike laughed, a short bark of derision that hit the windows in serrated edges, only to bounce back and fill the small space of the car. "Pardon?"
"Please tell me it was already named that," the vampire asked, leveling an azure gaze at the other man that made him shrink back in disquiet.
"Actually..." he stammered, "...we...the Council...named it. It was unknown until we came along."
When Spike shook his head and rolled his eyes, Buffy frowned. "What's so funny?" she demanded. "Dall Rath sounds like a perfectly normal-sounding name. Well, for being in a foreign country."
"Oh, it's a bloody great name," he replied. "As long as you don't speak Gaelic." His gaze returned to Colin. "You wankers have a twisted sense of humor."
"Why don't you let us be the judge of that?" Buffy asked. "Or is this just another story you're going to hold back on telling me?"
He hesitated for only a moment. "Seems your bosses have decided to drop us off smack dab in the middle of what they've dubbed, 'Blind Luck.'" He couldn't help his smile as her eyes widened and she turned to stare at the driver in disbelief.
The Watcher blushed, pulling his keys out of the ignition as he hastened to open his car door. "We really must be getting inside," he rushed, avoiding the stares of the three girls as he got out and scurried to the rear of the vehicle.
"Knew I should've jumped from the plane," Buffy said under her breath, sliding across the seat to exit the car behind Willow. She had half-turned to help Colin with the bags when she was stopped by her friend's soft gasp.
"Oh, my," the redhead breathed.
"What is it...?" she started to ask, only to have her own jaw drop as her hazel gaze fixed on what had captured the other girl's attention.
She had seen them in books, watched them in movies, but none of that quite prepared Buffy for the sight of the castle that now loomed in front of them, its weathered stone walls rising in august majesty to melt into the night sky. It didn't seem to end; in either direction, a low wall stretched in gentle curves to surround what looked like an inner building, a square block with twin towers that were crumbling from disuse. There were few windows, and what were there consisted of small, tiny squares devoid of glass, blacker even then the heavens overhead, and for a fleeting moment, she wondered if anyone was actually at home.
Spike watched her reaction in amusement, swinging his bag over his shoulder as the three girls just stood in silent awe. "Don't be goin' all rosy on me now, Slayer," he drawled as he sauntered to her side. "If they're just renovating this place, it's goin' to look a helluva lot prettier on the outside than on the in."
"I'm afraid he's right," Colin offered as Buffy turned a curious gaze back to look at him. "It most definitely lacks some of the...amenities I'm sure you're accustomed to." The sweep of headlights across the path gave the Watcher the diversion he was so desperate for, and the group watched as the other car came to a halt.
"Where's Giles?" Buffy asked as Xander and Anya emerged from the vehicle.
"That's right, you were asleep," said Tara.
"We dropped Giles off," Willow added. "He's not staying here with us."
"Yes," Colin interjected, cutting off the Slayer's words before she could start. "Unfortunately, accommodations are rather limited here at Dall Rath, and since we already have one Watcher on site, it was decided Mr. Giles would stay at a bed and breakfast in the local village. No need to worry. He will be here during the day to help organize and research and such."
"So who's the stuffed shirt we've gotten saddled with this time?"
She could see his blush, even in the darkness. "That would be me."
"OK, am I the only one here dying to paint his face blue?" Xander asked as he approached the group, the enthusiasm in his voice belying the exhaustion in his shoulders.
At their confused frowns, Anya rolled her eyes. "Braveheart," she explained. "That's all he's been talking about since somewhere over Greenland."
"Ah, the film, of course." Colin grew thoughtful. "Actually, you might find it interesting to know that it's highly unlikely William Wallace ever painted his face for his battles, although Pictish warriors were reported to paint their bodies---."
"And as fascinating as the history lesson is," Buffy interrupted, "I'm freezing my Slayer tushie off here. You think we might, maybe, move this inside?"
"Right. Well, then." Colin slammed the trunk closed and tossed a quick smile toward the girls. "Onward and upward."
"Lemme guess," Buffy said, as they stood in blackness and listened to the Watcher stumble around. "Lights are one of those extra amena-thingies that the castle's short on."
"Well, not lights per se," the Englishman replied. There was the distinct sound of the flick of a lighter, and a tiny orange flame illuminated his face as they watched him reach for a candelabra that stood on a nearby table. "More like a...centralized power system."
"But if there's no power, how is there heat?" This came from Willow, and there was no mistaking the anxiety in her voice.
"Ah, well, that's a...very good question." His hand tremored slightly as he lit each of the wicks, but his mouth remained closed, looking for all intents and purposes that he was done speaking.
"Which deserves a very good answer," Buffy prompted.
Colin cleared his throat. "Well, as this is a very old castle, and we were really only in the beginnings of our renovations, there isn't any central heating in place yet. However," he hurried as he saw the looks of indignation spread throughout the group, even in the flickering candlelight, "we have equipped the bedrooms with their own space heaters and plenty of blankets for sleeping. The great hall, which is located behind us, has a large fireplace that will be stoked throughout the day. That is where we see most of your time being spent...researching, meeting, eating, and the like. When you're not out trying to find...what got out," he finished awkwardly. He began walking down the corridor, his heels clicking on the stone floor. "If you'll follow me, I'll show you your quarters."
The dull orange from the tapers bounced against the crevices in the walls, refracting the light into eerie shadows across the Scoobies' faces as they tagged after the Watcher. At the end of the hall, Colin pulled open a heavy door to reveal a narrow, spiral staircase. "The wing we've renovated is just above us," he instructed. "There are three bedrooms prepared for you, two doubles on the first floor---."
"I thought we were on the first floor," Buffy interrupted.
"You're in Britain now, pet," Spike said from behind her. "And here, this is the ground floor."
"And the second floor is really the first floor?" she queried, unable to mask her confusion as she glanced back at the vampire for confirmation.
"You got it." He grinned. "Ain't life grand?"
"Yes, well, like I was saying," Colin continued. "There are two doubles on the first floor and a single on the second that have been readied for your arrival."
"Just three rooms?" asked Xander. "How does that work? I mean, there's one for me and Ahn, one for Tara and Willow---."
Buffy's eyes widened. Of course there were only three rooms. The Council hadn't wanted Xander and Anya to even come so why would they make anything ready for them? Crap. "And one for me and Spike!" she hastened to finish, meeting her friend's perplexed eyes with a guileless smile. She was not going to have his feelings get hurt just because Travers couldn't possibly understand his contribution to the gang. "Because they need me to keep an eye on him, to...make sure he stays out of trouble."
The vampire watched as the color jumped into the Slayer's cheeks, her anxiety in keeping up her pretense that Harris was a useful member of the fold causing her heart to race as she buried herself in the lie. Not that he was going to argue with keeping up the charade now, not if it meant sharing sleeping arrangements, having her within arm's reach, where all he had to do was turn around and see her whenever his unbeating heart desired.
"Oh, yeah," Spike added. "Apparently this is my punishment for pretendin' to jump ol' Colin here. Council blokes don't trust me not to eat the lot of you." His cerulean gaze flickered down to meet Buffy's hazel one, her surprise at finding an ally in the vamp lifting her eyebrows just ever so slightly.
"But we know that's not true," Xander argued.
The young blonde shrugged. "And since when does that make a difference with the Council?" she said lightly. "Besides, it's no big. You guys take the doubles and I'll have the single." She laughed. "It's not like he's going to be in my bed or anything. Plus, he doesn't get cold so I get all his blankets. I'm going to be just fine."
"Um, what about b-b-bathrooms?" Tara asked.
Spike laughed. "In a castle? They don't have heat and you think you're goin' to have a walk-in bloody shower?"
"There is a toilet on the first floor for communal use," Colin explained. "We ensured that almost right away."
"But what about washing up?" Buffy shifted the weight of her bag in her hand as she stared at their supposed leader. "I mean, I'm hardly expecting to be able to take a bubble bath, but things are going to get pretty rank around here if we don't get to shower some time in the next three weeks."
"Each bedroom is supplied with its own tub and toiletries, and we have made arrangements for the woman we've hired to do the cooking to also fulfill your water needs for any bathing you wish. Of course, it'll have to happen during the day when she's here. At night, we will be pretty much left to our own devices."
"In our room?" she repeated.
Spike grinned. This was getting better and better. He had to remember to add Quentin Travers to his Christmas card list. The man just made his undead lifetime.
She deliberately avoided his gaze as she cupped her hand around the flame, making sure the candle didn't extinguish before she could light the other wicks. "OK, we're going to have some ground rules here," she said. "And the first argument you make about them, I'm going to stake you and say to hell with the Council and this stupid demon they let out."
"Sure, pet, whatever you say." Spike lounged against the wooden headboard of the bed, legs stretched out in front of him, hands folded behind his head. Actually, rundown castle or not, the room wasn't bad, definitely a step up from the crypt, not that he cared about that sort of thing. Furnishings were sparse---the bed, the screen that cordoned off the corner for a dressing/washing area, the ornate wardrobe that now housed the contents of their luggage---but the walls had character, carvings made into some of the stones as if to provide permanent artwork for its occupants to enjoy. The sconces were, if not original, then very nearly, the tarnishing of years of exposure only adding to their rustic charm as they swept into a curlicue that housed the tapers. The renovations had even gone so far as to include glass in the small, high window, so that some of the Scottish chill could be kept at bay.
She turned to finally see him and pursed her lips. "Off the bed," she ordered. "That's rule one. Bed equals Buffy's. Got it?"
He smiled as he swung his legs over the edge of the mattress and stood. "Obviously, you got it," he drawled. "Where do you expect me to sleep?"
"You get the floor."
"Figures," he muttered, glancing down at the worn stone.
"Rule two. Buffy takes a bath, Spike leaves the room."
He folded his arms over his chest. "What if Spike doesn't want to leave the room?"
"Spike gets staked."
"Why do I think all my questions are goin' to get answered with, 'Spike gets staked?'"
"Because they probably are."
"Do I get to make any rules in this little scenario?" he asked.
His teeth clicked together. "Then maybe Harris and I should have a little chat," he said, and took a step toward the door.
She had moved before he could even blink, grabbing his arm and whirling him around to face her before he could get any closer. "I told you not to tell him," Buffy said.
"And I haven't," he retorted, "but if you're going to be such a bitch about this, then I don't see any reason why I have to play nice."
"I'm not---." She bit back the words, feeling the familiar rush that fighting with Spike always gave her, and gritted her teeth. "Fine. You can make a rule. One rule."
She still hadn't let go of his forearm, and Spike glanced down at the delicate curl of her fingers around his flesh, noting with satisfaction the white of her fingertips as she held him firm. Her anger was a solid thrum against his skin, and when his azure gaze rose back up to meet hers, there was no denying the darkening of the irises, hazel almost completely swallowed by the black of her pupils. "Only need one," he finally replied. "But you're not goin' to like it."
"That's a big shocker. Since when is there anything about you I do like?"
"Oh, I dunno. You seemed to be OK with me while we were playin' cards. It was only the after bit that pissed you off."
"That's because for a while there you were almost acting human."
"Funny, I could've said the same thing about you, pet."
Her grip tightened on his arm as Buffy fought to control her anger. "What's your rule, Spike?"
His platinum head tilted as his lip curled. "Only one way I can get a good sleep," he said. "And that's if I sleep in the buff...Buff."
Her hand jerked back as if burned. "Oh, no!" she exclaimed. "You are not going commando in my room!"
"Our room. And too bad. That's my rule."
"You take your clothes off," she threatened, "and I will stake you."
Spike chuckled, and took a step toward her, inhaling deeply of the scents that were rising from her skin. "See, that's where I think you're all talk," he murmured, blue eyes sweeping over the flush of her face, stopping for a moment on the curve of her lip before lifting back up to meet her gaze. "'Cause if you stake me, your whole deal with the Council gets shot to hell, and your mum doesn't get the help she so richly deserves, and it'll be...all. Your. Fault." He watched as the doubt began to creep into her brow, the tiny lines etching themselves in shadow. "But, just for you, I'll forgo my one rule. Let you have a trade instead."
"What do you want?"
"I am not sleeping on the floor!"
"Didn't say you had to, luv." He knew he was pushing it, could see the fury glittering in her eyes, but the prospect was just too delicious not to put forward. To be honest, he had no idea how she was going to respond. If she was smart, she'd beat him within an inch of his undead life and put him in his place, or at least, what she considered was his place. But...and his palms itched as he drank in the aroma of the sweat that was pouring from her body, not visibly but in those dark, private areas that he had only dreamed of. Even if Buffy never admitted it, there was no way he was wrong about what being around him did to her. Could be all she needed was a little persuading.
"You can even have all the blankets," he offered. "Not like I need 'em. Hell, I'll sleep on top of them if you want. That way, you don't have to worry about tainting your precious Slayer skin with mine."
It was all he could do to hide his surprise when she answered. "And you'll stay dressed?"
"I'll even put on more clothes if you want."
"And you won't say a word to Xander and Anya?"
"Cross my heart and hope to not get staked."
"And if anyone asks, you say you slept on the floor."
"Curled up at your lily-white feet."
"I can't believe I'm agreeing to this," Buffy muttered as she turned away.
Spike smiled. Neither can I, luv, he thought. Neither can I.
Her eyes refused to stay closed, and Buffy stared at the shadows that were cast by the candles she'd insisted remained lit. Oh, look, she thought. There's a vampire. And that one's a stake...and, oh, that one kinda looks like Principal Snyder. She grimaced at the memory. Definitely need some sleep, she decided. When I'm playing Guess-the-picture with the shadows on the wall, it's definitely past my bedtime.
It wasn't like she wasn't warm enough. True to his word, Spike let her have all of the bedcoverings, laying on his side on top of the uppermost comforter, effectively tucking them around her like a cocoon. He wasn't even facing her. She could feel his hard back against her shoulders, the curve of his buttocks against hers. OK, that last part wasn't quite so distinct, not with four blankets between them, but still, she could tell he was there, and that it was unquestionably not his front that was pressing into her. Which was good. Except for the fact that she still couldn't sleep.
I shouldn't have slept in the car, she grumbled. That's my problem. I'm just not tired enough. Plus, unfamiliar bed. That doesn't help. What did she do when she couldn't sleep back home? Oh, yeah. She slayed things. And the only undead thing she could get her hands on at the moment, she unfortunately needed to keep alive for the time being, so that pretty much killed that idea. Shit. Sighing, Buffy closed her eyes, hoping one last time that they'd stay like that until morning.
To be continued in Chapter 5: Up in the Morning Early...