DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss', of course. And the chapter titles are courtesy of Robert Burns.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: The Scoobies have arrived at Dall Rath to discover limited accommodations, leaving Buffy and Spike forced to share a room…

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Chapter 5: Up in the Morning Early

Jet lag was a bitch in high-heeled shoes who insisted on tap dancing on his skull, and nothing Spike could do would get rid of, or even ease, the dull ache behind his eyes, or the blanket of needles that wrapped itself around his still wakeful body. Of course, the fact that he was still awake probably had more to do with the sleeping Slayer beside him than an eight-hour time difference---not that he was complaining about that aspect, not in the slightest---but it didn't mean he had to like what flying long distances always did to him. They couldn't have been digging around in Mexico or something, he grumbled to himself as he shifted his hips yet again in an attempt to get comfortable. At least that's on the same bleedin' continent.

His one small consolation was that Buffy had had just as much trouble falling asleep as he was, although her slow, even breathing now indicated that she had finally managed to succeed. He knew she hadn't slept on the plane, but her stubborn need to fake it had meant he could watch her unmolested, reveling in the graceful curve of her cheek as she rested her head against the seat, consumed by the lines of her legs as they stretched out before her.

Those same legs now pressed against his, indirectly of course, through too many soddin' blankets, but there nonetheless. At some point in the past half hour, Buffy had rolled over so that now her front faced him, her warm breath an erotic tickle on the back of his neck, an unnerving rhythm of in and out that beat in time with the throbbing in his cock. OK, so that was reason number three for his own current wakeful state. How in hell he ever thought he could handle being in such close proximity with the Slayer without being driven around the bend from the torture was beyond him. Stupid git, always thinking with the wrong head.

Although there was still no indication of light from the lone window, Spike knew that it was approaching dawn, the demon within long since practiced in sensing the sunrise. The candles had burned down quite low, leaving the room in an earthy dusk that prompted memories from long ago, and he decided then and there that if he wasn't going to sleep, he might as well get up. Most likely, the Slayer and her little friends would want to go exploring later in the day, and since even Scottish sun was deadly to him---even if it did so rarely poke out its head this time of year---that would leave him with plenty of time to catch up on rest.

The bed creaked as he swung his legs around, his boots hitting the stone floor with an audible thud that seemed to reverberate through the stillness of the bedroom. When the tiny moan came whispering from behind him, Spike froze, daring to glance over his shoulder to see if Buffy still slept. If he woke her up now, she'd be in a bitch of a mood with a yen to take it out on the nearest body…namely, his…and the thought of a pre-breakfast beating didn't exactly appeal.

Her lashes were dark against the shadow of her skin, and he felt his mouth soften as his gaze swept over the arc of her brow, the fine bone structure that was the sculpture of her face. How was it possible she was even more beautiful in repose? Actually, that answer was simple. Sleeping was the only time she wasn't looking at him in either distaste, anger, or frustration. Sleep softened her, made it possible for him to fantasize that she could ever house positive feelings for him. Sleep was a time for dreams.

Spike let his shoulders flatten against the mattress, his right leg swinging back up to the bed so that he lay on his back, head turned so that he could just watch her for a few more stolen moments. The gentle movement of her eyes beneath her lids told him she was dreaming, and the soft curve of her lips meant that it was a good one, something that brought her pleasure, something that…

Unbidden, his hand stole up to brush a stray lock of hair from her cheek, the lightest of touches as his fingertips flitted across her skin. It was automatic, an impulse he doubted he could've stifled even if he'd wanted to, but though he instantly started chastising himself for such idiocy as to actually touch the Slayer in her sleep, Spike's simple gesture was rewarded with a satisfied groan from the back of her throat as she turned just ever so slightly into the touch. His slight frown was immediately replaced by a quirk of his lips, and he let his fingers stay, the tips tangling in the golden tresses while his thumb began gently stroking her cheekbone.

The urge to kiss her was overwhelming, but that was one impulse the vampire knew he couldn't indulge, not if he wanted to make it to breakfast without having to go down in a dustbag. But he could watch…and he could touch…and he could pretend, for just a few seconds, that she was actually his…

"Mmmm," murmured Buffy, eyes still closed, still adrift in slumber. She began moving her head against his hand, allowing herself to be petted like some sleeping tigress, encouraging it further when she turned to rest her cheek more fully in his palm, sighing as she did so. "Riley…"

His body froze, the illusion shattered, and Spike's lips pursed as the other man's name hung between them. Of course. Dreaming of the boyfriend. What else could he have expected? Although, he guessed it could've been worse. She could've said Angel.

As carefully as he could manage, the vamp disengaged his hand from her hair, drawing it back as he slid himself off the bed. Her reaction to his absence was immediate, her eyes opening, blinking in vague confusion. Spike glanced at her over his shoulder as he strode to the wardrobe. "Sorry 'bout that," he said, voice crisp and matter of fact. "Didn't mean to snap you out of Soldier Boy slumberland."

"Wha…?" Buffy frowned, sitting up as she rubbed at her eyes. "I wasn't dreaming about Riley. Least I don't think so."

"You said his name, ducks. If that's not dreamin', I don't even wanna know." He kept his back to her, taking his time to pull out a clean t-shirt. He didn't want to look at her, didn't want to see the disgust on her face. There would be enough of that in the weeks to come; no reason to subject himself to it now if he didn't have to. "You should go back to sleep," he added. "It's still dark outside. Others won't be up for a couple hours yet."

"What're you going to do?"

Spike shrugged. "Thought I'd do a bit of explorin'. See what passes as a castle these days."

Buffy watched as the vampire reached over his shoulders, grabbing the cotton of his shirt to tug it over his head, exposing alabaster muscles that looked as if they'd been carved with the most delicate of chisels, before tapering down to the slimness of his waist, disappearing beneath the waistband of his jeans with promises of even more glory. Her eyes widened. Knowing the blond vampire was strong was one thing; seeing the evidence in the sculpture of his muscles was something else. Even Riley, with all his commando training and obsessive workout routines, didn't look like that. Wow.

Shoving the blankets off, the Slayer swung her legs around, setting her bare feet down on the stone, only to yank them back with a small squeal. Cold. Freezing. Should've packed slippers. "Mind tossing me some socks?" she asked. "'Cause these little piggies are not getting out again without cover."

Spike glanced back just in time to see her shove her feet back under the covers, and frowned. "Don't tell me you're gettin' up," he said. "You just fell asleep."

"I'm your leash, remember? You go wandering around, and the wrong somebody sees you? You're going to end up getting swept under the rug, and I'm going to get yelled at by Travers. So, hand me socks, because it is cold out there."

"Don't need a fuckin' babysitter," he muttered, but got them anyway, turning to toss them to the blonde on the bed, his annoyance shining in his blue eyes.

Were it not for Slayer speed, Buffy would've missed them, the sight of Spike's bare chest---ohmigod look at those pecs---taking her by surprise. Just as nice as the back, just as…She could feel her mouth open, and quickly snapped it shut, tearing her gaze away to concentrate on getting her socks on, the simple action suddenly the most important thing in the world right now. Naked Spike bad, she scolded herself. Stupid annoying vampire, remember? Can't even duck when someone tosses chocolate at him? And you've got a boyfriend…a cute, attentive, breathing boyfriend. Emphasis on breathing. Even if he's not quite as…

Spike saw the sudden rise in color in Buffy's face and tilted his head as he watched her become too absorbed in the minutiae of putting on her socks. Now what the hell had spooked her so? he wondered. Unless she just remembered her dream. He rolled his eyes, turning back away to slide the fresh shirt over his head. If she brings him up again, I swear the silly bint won't have to stake me. I'll do it myself.

It was better when she stood up, no more cold toes, no more naked Spike. Life could return to normal…well, as normal as it was going to get being stuck sharing a room with a vampire in a castle in the middle of Scotland. Actually, considering how her life usually went, this didn't seem so out of the ordinary at all.

"Did you have anything specific in mind?" she asked, ignoring him as she brushed past to stand before the wardrobe. "Or are we going to be all Stanley and Livingstone and just wander around?"

His eyes narrowed as he watched her extract a sweater and jeans from her side of the wardrobe. "Interesting analogy, Slayer," he drawled. "Which one do you want to be?"

"Why?"

"'Cause Livingstone disappeared."

She smiled wickedly, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye as she strode to the screened-off portion of the room. "Then I want to be Stanley."

He couldn't help his grin. "Stanley's the one who found him."

"Figures," she snorted from behind the divider. "That's not any different to you and me now. You get in trouble, I get you out of it."

"Yeah, 'cept when he found him, he didn't go back." He could hear her changing, saw the clothes drop to the floor, and resisted the urge to slide his body over so that he could steal a peek behind the panel. When she emerged, pulling her hair out from underneath her collar, he added, "They went off exploring together 'til Livingstone died."

"Even more of a reason for me to be Stanley." She picked up her shoes and perched herself on the edge of the bed. "You get to be the one who dies."

"Already dead, luv."

"You never answered my question, though."

"There was a question in there somewhere?"

Buffy sighed, rising to her feet. "Where did you want to go exploring?"

"There's only one place in castles worth explorin'." His smile was wicked, his blue eyes dancing. "The dungeons."

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When the candles went out the first time, Buffy realized that she had never been placed in such utter blackness before, the complete absence of light chilling as it sucked in around her. The sounds of Spike reaching for his lighter echoed in the narrow corridor, magnifying to proportions she knew were unrealistic, and she found herself holding her breath, doing everything she could not to add to the eeriness of the small space.

"First thing we tell that new Watcher," the vampire said as the wicks caught the flame, "is he needs to go and buy some bloody torches."

"I think this is the first time I've ever been glad you smoked," Buffy commented as she started walking down the corridor again. She poked her head through an opening to her left, her brow wrinkling into a frown. "When we were driving in," she asked, "did you see these hollow hills Giles was talking about?"

"Didn't see much of anything," he drawled, trailing along behind her. "Too dark." And too busy looking at you, he added silently.

"I'm just wondering if we're going in the right direction. This place is a maze down here." She stopped, looking back at him, noticing how the flickering candlelight made the planes of his face seem deeper, his eyes darker. "Maybe we should head back."

"What's wrong, Slayer? Afraid some big nasty's goin' to jump out and bite you?" Fuck, why did he do this to himself?

"Nooooo, more afraid of missing breakfast because we've managed to get ourselves lost."

He rolled his eyes. "Always thinkin' with your stomach." He brushed past her, holding the candles in front of him as he swept the light across their path. "And we're not lost."

"And you know this because…?" She scurried to catch up with him, the absence of the illumination sending shivers over her skin.

"Because we've gone in one big circle." Spike nodded toward the staircase that stood before them.

Buffy scowled. "Well…shit." Glancing back over her shoulder, she began tapping her foot against the stone. "How did we do that?"

"I believe it's called four right turns." He tilted his head, watching her consternation. "Ready to go back?"

"I was only half-serious," she murmured, and turned to look at the vamp with a small frown. "From what we've seen, can you figure out what's got the Council so uptight about this place?"

"You're askin' my opinion?" There was no hiding the incredulity in his voice.

"You're the only one down here other than me. And since I already know what I think…"

"Then, nope. I've got no idea what's got their knickers all in a twist."

"And double-shit," Buffy muttered. "Why do I keep feeling that the Council's just playing us?"

"Not to have it soundin' like I'm on their side and all," Spike said, "but maybe we should give them a chance to explain everything. We are kinda jumpin' the gun here by goin' off on our own."

She smiled, and he realized that it was the first genuine smile she'd given him since playing cards on the plane. "And William the Bloody decides to join the team!" she exclaimed. "Now that is something I wish Giles could've seen."

"I am not!" His glare was furious, brows knitted together, as flashes of gold speckled in his eyes. "You take that back!"

"Next thing you know, it'll be you and Xander as patrol buddies." She laughed as she brushed past him, a silver tinkle in the musty air. "And Willow will be asking you to help on spells." She stopped halfway up the stairs, grinning back at him. "I bet if you asked Giles really nicely, he'd even get you a white hat."

"Now that's hittin' below the belt, Slayer," Spike growled, his own feet stomping up the stairs after her. Not a fuckin' Scooby, he thought. No matter how much I love the girl.

*************

Waking early wasn't nearly as difficult for Colin as he suspected it would be for the rest of the group; his two day stint in Sunnydale had not given him nearly enough time for his body clock to re-adjust itself, whereas the Slayer and her friends were still running eight hours behind. It was probably just as well. The woman from the village---why could he never remember her name?---never arrived before eight, which would ensure that the vampire would be firmly ensconced in his room upstairs, hiding away from the sunlight, and no uncomfortable explanations would have to be issued. As it was, Colin himself was being held responsible for supplying Spike with his food, making the necessary trips into the local butcher to retrieve the blood they'd requested be available on a regular schedule. Under no circumstances did the Watcher want the vampire to even think about looking for dinner elsewhere.

He understood Buffy and the others believed Spike when it came to the effectiveness of the government chip in his head, but until he saw it for himself, Colin was going to play it safe, carrying the bottle of holy water in his jacket pocket at all times just in case there was a recurrence of what had happened in the Sunnydale cemetery. It still gave him shudders to consider how close he'd come to actually being attacked, even armed, and the thing that bothered him most about it was that the Slayer had just stood there and let it happen. Quentin Travers was one of Buffy Summers' staunchest supporters within the Council---contrary to what Colin knew Rupert Giles believed---stating that she was one of the strongest Slayers they had been privileged to train in decades. But the young woman's rather curious relationships with those around her made her weak in this Watcher's perspective, and he fully intended to keep a close eye on her.

The sound of laughter captured his attention, and Colin halted in his path to the great hall, watching as the door to the dungeons flew open and Buffy herself came bouncing up. She spotted the Englishman right away and tossed him a bright smile. "Mornin'!"

His mouth opened to respond, and then froze as the platinum head appeared in the doorway, a thunderous scowl on the vampire's features. "Told you to take it back!" Spike called after her retreating form, boots thudding heavily on the stone floor as he marched after her.

Slowly, Colin's mouth closed, the lines deepening in his forehead. Yes, will most definitely keep an eye on her, he thought. And Spike as well. Most peculiar…


To be continued in Chapter 6: Duncan Davison