DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss', of course. And the chapter titles are courtesy of Robert Burns.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy and Spike have gone exploring through the hole the Council made between this world and the Otherworld, only to have her get attacked by something from the underground stream that runs beneath the castle. Spike intervened, saving Buffy, but got hurt in the process…
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Huge hugfuls of thanks to angstchic for her hard work on beta'ing this chapter for me. Well, she always beta's, but with as much work as this one needed, she really outdid herself this time… :)

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Chapter 8: Here's to Thy Health

He was still unconscious. In spite of the number of people who had trekked in and out of their room over the past half hour, Spike remained down for the count, stretched out on a blanket on the floor, torso bared as Buffy went to work cleaning out the bite mark on his side. In the corner, the old-fashioned tub was brimming with hot water, the screen having been pulled away when Duncan had filled it, just waiting for her to slip in and clean herself off. Right now, though, her priority lay in getting the vampire taken care of.

No one had been more surprised than Buffy when she'd turned down all offers of aid, insisting she was all right on her own and that her tiny room couldn't afford too many visitors at one time. She'd even argued with Giles about debriefing on what had happened in the dungeon, telling him in no uncertain terms that it could wait until Spike came around so that the vamp could explain what he'd seen as well, since he was the one who'd really been attacked there, not her. That actually hadn't gone over very well.

"If there's a threat in the castle," he'd lectured, "we need to be completely aware of its capabilities in order to protect ourselves."

"Did Colin put the barrier back up over the tunnel?" she'd asked.

"Well, yes---."

"Then the threat's contained, and debriefing can wait until Spike wakes up," she'd replied, and that had been that.

But it wasn't just that, because she couldn't for the life of her figure out why she was feeling so damn protective of the stupid vamp in the first place. Though she'd only gotten a glimpse of it before it had disappeared back into the water, Buffy knew from the size of the mark on the vampire's side that whatever had bitten him was huge, at least twice his size, and wondered for what seemed the bajillionth time since dragging him out why on earth he had gone after it. What was it he'd said down by the stream? That he hadn't had a choice because it was coming after her? That made absolutely no sense whatsoever, and as soon as he decided to wake up, she was going to ask him about it again and again until she got an answer that she understood.

Sitting back on her heels, Buffy looked down at the oblong injury that now marred the alabaster flesh of the unconscious vampire, her gaze sliding irresistibly upward over the defined muscles of his chest. Twice in one day, she thought. I've known Spike for how long without seeing him naked, and now I get it in double doses. Her eyes widened in alarm. No, not naked, she quickly amended. Just semi-naked. Big---no, make that huge---difference. A huge world of difference. And before she could stop herself, her eyes had traveled back down, halting at the still-buttoned waistband of his jeans, the thought---I wonder how huge---popping into her head as if an eensy weensy devil Buffy was whispering in her ear.

Bolting to her feet, the Slayer jumped away from him as if burned, darting around the furniture until the bed stood safely between her and Spike. Not good to be considering body parts of a male who wasn't her boyfriend. Squeezing her eyes shut, Buffy concentrated on inhaling deeply, deliberately summoning a picture of Riley to her mind. OK, this is good. Six feet plus of corn-fed Iowa goodness. Broad shoulders, goofy grin. Not a vampire. And most importantly, not Spike.

When she'd managed to hop on the Spike-is-a-hotty express, Buffy had no idea. It had to have been simply because she'd just spent the better part of the last hour touching him, taking the time to clean his injuries and having to stare at the tight definition of his abdomen without having to listen to him make snarky remarks about her or her friends. Why her acknowledgment surprised her, though, was another matter. She'd certainly learned during Willow's little spell last year what the vampire felt like under his clothes, the memories of their constant groping and kissage still managing to bring a blush to her cheeks. Truth be told, if she was one hundred percent honest with herself, she'd have to admit to even having a couple semi-naughty dreams about the blond vamp after that---before she'd hooked up with Riley, that is---so noticing him now was only natural. Especially given their current circumstances. Sharing a bed with someone, albeit platonically, was bound to stir up thoughts of compatible body parts, even if neither of one of them had any interest or desire in taking it any further. It was just…human nature.

With her rationalization tucked firmly away, Buffy's attention came back to her own body and the sickly reminder of how her top was clinging to her stomach. Glancing down, her nose wrinkled as she plucked at the blood-soaked fabric, hearing the audible squelch as it separated from her skin, and looked up longingly at the steam arising from the tub in the corner before returning her gaze to the unconscious vampire on the floor. "Spike," she said, testing to see if he'd respond only to be met by his deathly stillness. "Spike," she repeated, a little louder this time, but again…nothing.

Never letting her eyes leave his inert form, Buffy stepped around the bed to the edge of the tub, dropping her hand to allow her fingers to trail across the surface. The immediacy of the sensations was almost orgasmic, the heat creeping up her flesh in prickling waves, reminding her all too vividly that she hadn't bathed since leaving Sunnydale. She bit her lip. It couldn't hurt to just hop in for a few minutes, to get the top layer of Scottish dust and vamp blood off her skin, her patient looking for all intents and purposes to be out of it for a few more hours at least. Just to be safe, though…

"Spike!" It was almost a yell this time, but no way was Buffy going to get naked in front of the blond vamp if he was just going to wake up in the next few minutes. And still…not a whisper of a movement.

She'd never gotten undressed so quickly or so quietly in her life. Sliding herself into the tub, Buffy's eyes fluttered closed as the heat engulfed her, drowning her in goosebumps, lapping with tongues of fire against the coarse curls between her legs and sending tremors of electricity shooting up her inner walls. Though the numerous cuts and scratches on her calves stung briefly from the contact with the water, the slight pain was inconsequential compared to the bliss that rolled over her skin everywhere else, all the strain housed within her tiny form evaporating with the steam. She couldn't help the sigh of pleasure that escaped her throat. Not even sex with Riley felt as good as this.

As she stretched herself out, the Slayer's eyes opened to stare up at the ceiling, noting the lengthening shadows that the single window was playing across the stone. I'm going to have to light some candles soon, she thought, twisting slightly to see the tapers at the other end of the room, and frowned when she saw her towel sitting on the bed. Crap. Forgot to grab it. I better make this quick then, especially since I didn't put the screen back, either.

Buffy sighed. Gotta be the jet lag starting to catch up with me, she reasoned. My mind's just not working as fast as it usually does…

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The first thing he became aware of was the tightness of his jeans as they stuck to his thighs, the wet denim closer than a second skin as it cinched into his hips. Automatically, Spike grimaced, reaching for the button to undo the fly, only to wince in pain as needles erupted along his side, causing his lids to shoot open as the clarity of his recent injury rooted itself in his memory. The darkness surprised him, although the fact that he was stretched out on the stone floor did not. Bitch probably just dumped me here and then went off gallivanting with her little pals, he groused, rising gingerly to his feet as his hands finished the path to his jeans. Don't mind the pathetic, chipped vampire; he'll fend for himself.

Getting out of the pants without sending waves of pain through his body was another matter, and the entire exercise took Spike too long to accomplish, all the while muttering under his breath about ungrateful Slayers. It was only when he finally stepped out of them, kicking them gracelessly into the darkness, that he heard it, freezing in his stance as he paused to listen. Complete silence, and then…

There it was, the incredibly gentle exhalation of someone's breath. No, not someone. He knew that smell, even mingling as it was with the aroma of heather soap, and if he concentrated, he'd be able to distinguish the unique rhythm of her particular pulse, thrumming into him with velvety pads. That wasn't just someone. That was Buffy.

Fuck, Spike muttered to himself, and immediately began squinting into the darkness, trying to command his eyes to adjust to the lower light level faster so that he could find his pants and get them back on. There was only one answer to the question of what the Slayer would do if she woke up and found him naked in front of her. Spike would get staked faster than he could blink.

Except the light wasn't cooperating by getting any better, the stone walls sucking up what little illumination there was to wrap him in a cloak that threatened to suffocate him. No choice but to try and find his way in the dark, which meant orienting himself in some way so that he could get to the bleedin' wardrobe and his dry clothes without breaking his damn neck. Stop and think, he thought, picturing the layout of the room in his head. Thank god there wasn't much furniture to navigate, just the tub and such behind the screen in the far left corner, the wardrobe near the door, and the bed somewhere in between. Now, assuming Buffy was asleep on the bed and that was coming from somewhere behind him and to the left, that would make the wardrobe somewhere straight ahead of him…

"Fuckin' hell!" he yelled as his shin slammed into the side of the bedframe, pitching him forward onto the mattress as he grabbed at his leg, the shooting pain through his side as he did so only adding to his irritation. Bloody bed's in the wrong place.

The splash of water hitting stone was unmistakable, and Spike realized exactly where his error had been. She's not in the bed, he thought, his head swiveling around toward the sound as he straightened, his mouth instantly salivating. She's in the bath…

"Spike?"

Her voice was still slightly groggy, but he could hear the anxiety edging it, the distinct dripping as she sat up echoing against the carved walls. The images came unbidden to his mind's eye…golden hair plastered against the elegance of her shoulders…nipples erect from the cooling temperature, poking out from the bathwater the water coursed down to the tub's surface…It was only when he felt himself harden did he silently curse his overactive imagination. Great. How in hell was he going to get out of this one?

"Right here, Slayer." His tone betrayed nothing, solid assurance as if everything were completely normal and not all cocked to hell. "Guess we forgot to pay the light bill."

The long silence that followed sent his brain racing, trying to concentrate on anything other than thoughts of a naked Slayer just feet away. Everything failed, especially when he realized that her heartbeat had been gradually quickening, driving against his flesh in a maddening rhythm that reverberated down his spine, straight through to the head of his now rock-hard erection.

"You're not…lying down anymore," Buffy finally said.

"Not that the floor isn't delightfully comfy, but we had a deal, pet. And I do my best recuperating in bed."

"How do you feel?"

The query was unexpected. In the darkness, Spike tilted his head as he pondered why she would ask, why in light of the current circumstances she would go to the bother of finding out. "It hurts, but I'll do," he said slowly.

There was another pause, and then he heard the unmistakable sound of her laughter under her breath. "Guess it's kind of silly to keep on pretending I didn't fall asleep in the bathtub, huh?" she said.

"Just a tad," he replied, relaxing with his own chuckle.

"OK, here's the deal. My towel's on the bed. Where are you?"

In deep shit, he thought, but said out loud, "You know that big bang that pulled you out of dreamland? That would've been me hittin' that same bed."

"Oh. Crap." Silence. "I don't suppose you'd go back where you were lying down?" she asked.

"Well, considerin' last time I tried finding my way 'round, I found the bed when I was aimin' for the wardrobe, I'm goin' to say, probably not the best idea, or next thing you know, I'll be in that bathtub with you." He almost groaned out loud from the prospect. Wet Slayer, pressed against him, sliding up and down…This was doing nothing in making his hard-on go away.

"If you're at the bed then, maybe you could get me my towel," she suggested. "Can you find it?"

It took only a moment of blind groping to locate the terry. "Got it."

"You think you could throw it in my direction if I keep talking?"

"It's not brain surgery, pet. Think I can suss out where you are enough to toss a bloody towel."

"Hang on." He heard more splashing as she stepped out of the tub, the soft tread of her foot followed almost immediately by her sharp hiss as her bare flesh met the cool air. Immediately, the vision of her standing there, lithe limbs gleaming, reaffirmed his arousal. "OK, I'm ready, and I'm talking, and I'm waiting for you to throw---." The quick flick of his wrist was followed almost instantly with a sodden splash.

"Oh. Sorry, luv."

"It's all right," Buffy replied, audibly fishing around in the bath to drag the towel out, water spattering across the floor as she did so. "As long as I'm no longer playing Blue Lagoon here, I think I can handle being wet for a little longer while we find the lights."

"I don't suppose you thought to bring up one of those torches the Watcher got?" Spike asked, taking time with his words. Please say yes, he thought desperately. With his lighter still in his jeans, they were goin' to have a merry old time of it if she said…

"…No. Sorry."

Not as sorry as I am, pet.

"Look, Buffy, there's something I've got to tell you---."

"Can't it wait? I'm freezing here." There was no mistaking the chattering of her teeth as she spoke. "I just want to get some light so I can find my clothes and get warm again."

"It's about the light---."

"Oh, unless you don't want to play Blind Vamp's Bluff 'cause it hurts too much to move," she rushed, as if she'd all of a sudden remembered his injury. "You're not bleeding again or anything, are you?"

"No, and it doesn't---."

"You just wait there," she ordered. "I'm pretty sure I can find the door."

She began walking as she spoke, the dripping following her as she edged her way toward the door, but had only taken a couple steps when the sound changed, no longer the wet suction of her toes sliding across the stone. No, this one was softer, muffled, still wet, but most definitely not the floor. Shit.

"Spike." Her voice was low, and the vampire strained to hear what she was doing, only to come up with nothing other than not walking. "Please tell me you're still wearing your jeans."

"Well," he said with a sigh, "that's what I've been trying to tell you."

"How long were you going to just stand there in your underwear?" she demanded. "And thank you soooo much for sticking that image in my head."

He knew even before he said it that it was a mistake. "Who said I was wearing underwear?" Her sharp gasp pushed him onward. "Look," he said, "my jeans were wet, and bloody uncomfortable, and how in hell was I supposed to know you were asleep in the soddin' tub? Weren't you the one who said, 'Buffy takes a bath, Spike leaves the room?' If you were goin' to change the tune, least you could've done is taught me the new words."

"The only tune I'm interested in right now is Another One Bites the Dust," she said through gritted teeth. "Now. You're next to the bed, right?"

"We've already established that, Slayer."

"Grab a blanket and wrap yourself up in it."

He grimaced, shaking his head at his own stupidity. Fuck. He should've thought of that before this whole mess got started in the first place.

"Are you decent now?"

In spite of the tension in the air, Spike chuckled at her choice of words. "Let's just say I'm covered," he replied.

"OK. I'm going to walk over to the door now---."

"Why bother? You've got my jeans. My lighter's in the front pocket."

He heard her fumble with the fabric, and felt the adrenalin surging through her veins as the rhythms of her body pulsed into his. Well, even if nothing else, he knew he could wind her up. He seemed to be very good at that.

The single flame was enough to guide Buffy to the candle sconces on the wall, returning light to the small room, casting flickering shadows across the carvings as she turned to look back at him standing by the bed. The wet towel clung to her curves, but Spike could feel her shivering, see the goosebumps raised along her arms.

Pulling the blanket tighter around him, the vampire strode to the bedroom exit. "You need to get some clothes on, warm yourself up," he said. "I'll wait in the hall 'til you're through." Glancing back as he opened the door, he was met with Buffy's frown, her eyes riveted to the floor behind him, and he lowered his gaze to see what captured her attention so.

"I thought you said you were OK," she said.

"I am---."

"Then why are you bleeding all over the floor?" She stepped forward, grabbing his arm through the blanket and jerking him back. "Wrap the blanket around your waist and lie down," she ordered, returning to the side of the tub to get water and a cloth. Spike did as he was instructed. "Now you know why I didn't want you on the bed," she joked and knelt at his side.

Her touch was surprisingly gentle, and the vampire watched in silence as she cleaned up the re-opened wound. "Look, Slayer," he started.

"I'll make you a deal," Buffy interrupted, and he noticed she was careful not to meet his eyes. "In order to make this arrangement just a little bit easier to live with, let's say we forget about what just happened here and chalk it up to a learning experience, OK? I'll try and forget all the commando imagery, and you forget about me falling asleep in the bathtub."

"And what's got you wanting to play nice-nice all of a sudden?" he asked, his voice a mere murmur, blue eyes almost black in the dim light.

She shrugged. "Maybe the fact that I'm sitting here, staring at where some water demon tried to take a bite out of you, and realizing that you probably saved my life down there." She threw him a quick glance. "That, and that I don't want you to say anything to Giles about the bath sleeping thing. He gets a little weird about me and water ever since my death by drowning."

Spike's lips curled into a smile. "It's a deal."


To be continued in Chapter 9: Yon Wild Mossy Mountains