DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss', of course. And the
chapter titles are courtesy of Robert Burns.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy has found a dead body out on the mountain, while Xander and Spike have made an alliance to keep an eye on Duncan
As he laid there staring up at the ceiling he couldn't see, Xander was grateful for his girlfriend's ongoing paranoia about sleeping with lit candles in the room. This way, she couldn't see the grimace that distorted his even features and he didn't have to see the animation that bubbled her voice.
"He went to Oxford, you know. They wanted him at Cambridge, but he turned them down because he didn't think their curriculum was challenging enough. Smart move, I think..."
" and did you know, he has never left the UK? Of course, you'd never left America until this trip, but that's a little different considering that this country could pretty much fit in California. I just think it's amazing how cultured he seems when he's never taken the time to travel. That doesn't stop him from learning the languages, though. He told Willow that he spoke six different ones, and then they started babbling away in French, which, if you think about it, really isn't fair. I mean, I speak about a zillion demon languages but do I get to take any credit for that? Noooo."
"I just can't believe he doesn't have a girlfriend. He's so good-looking, and well-spoken, and he's not even gay or anything---."
The sharpness of his tone made her stiffen, and Xander felt her turn her head in his direction. "What?" she asked, oblivious to his peevishness.
"Is it possible to just maybe save the Duncan Davison lovefest until tomorrow? You know, for when we're not trying to sleep."
"Oh, sure, of course. G'night."
He heard her make that little noise she always did as she settled down to sleep, not quite a sigh with just a hint of a moan, and let his own eyes flicker shut, grateful for the silence. He may love her to death, but sometimes the talking thing got just a little too much, especially if it was nonstop gushing about a guy who wasn't him.
He was almost asleep when he felt the first touch on his thigh, that firm pressure that was sure indication of Anya's desire for sex, growing more insistent as it traveled to the waistband of his sweats. It jerked him instantly from the shadows of the dream that had already started to flit across his mind's eye, and when he felt her fingernails scrape across his stomach as they slid underneath the thick elastic, Xander reached out and grabbed her wrist. "You're kidding, right?" he asked, amazed. "You are not thinking we're going to have sex."
"Why not? I'm awake, you're awake, I'm horny, you're---."
"Flabber with more than just a touch of gasted that you're even suggesting it!" Pushing her hand away, he sat up and leaned over to reach for the flashlight on the nightstand, flicking it on to swing it around and aim it in his girlfriend's face. If he'd had any doubts as to her excitement, the color in her cheeks and the sparkle in her eyes, not to mention the fact that she was busy pulling her top over her head, dispelled them with a fast shove.
"Is it because you're still jet lagged?" she queried as she climbed over to sit on his lap, straddling his hips as she began pulling at his t-shirt. "Because if you are, that's OK. I'll do all the work. All you have to do is lie there."
With his one free hand, Xander batted her fingers away, leaning back to place the flashlight between them, directing it into her eyes. "How do you expect me to be in the mood when you've just spent the last half hour talking about the hired help like he's the second coming?"
"Don't tell me you're not in the mood." She wriggled against his hips, her lip caught between her teeth. "Little Lavelle seems plenty awake to me."
Mentally, Xander cursed the overactive hormones of twenty-year-old males and tried desperately not to think about his growing excitement as Anya proceeded to slide her hands up inside his shirt, leaning down to begin nibbling at his neck. Using the flashlight that was now trapped between them, he squinted and nudged at her chest, trying to break the contact, the beam that was now faced at him alternately blinding him as it swept across his face. "Hard evidence aside," he said, "the fact that you're only in the mood right now because of Duncan does not make me a happy Xander. I'd prefer for us to make love when it's because you want to be with me, not because you've been daydreaming about flipping burgers with the cook."
"Oh, my god," Anya said, sitting back up to look down at him. "You're jealous."
"And can you blame me?" He propped himself up on his elbows. "At least Dracula, I kinda understood. But this guy "
" is totally a non-threat," she finished. "OK, so maybe my timing wasn't the best, but you're the one I want to be with, not him. Otherwise, I would've volunteered to walk back with him to the village and jumped him along the way." The last was said in jest, but Xander tensed anyway at the sudden image of his girlfriend straddling Duncan in the middle of the heather. Anya shook her head, rolling her eyes as she took the flashlight from his hand and returned it to the nightstand, climbing off his hips at the same time. "How about we just cuddle?" she said, drowning them in darkness yet again. "Sometimes, cuddling can be just as fulfilling as having sex, albeit not quite as much fun. And this way, you don't have to worry about me inadvertently calling out another man's name in the throes of passion."
"Not helping, Ahn."
She slapped at his chest as she rested her cheek against it, burrowing herself into his side. "Lighten up, Xander. I'm just kidding."
He listened as her breathing slowed, the palm of her hand warm against him, her hair tickling where it feathered against his cheek. Non-threat, huh? Her protestations aside, Xander wasn't so sure. The timing was not a coincidence, too off to not be something more. Or maybe he was just being insecure. Wouldn't be the first time. Maybe this Duncan guy wasn't up to anything after all.
Except Spike didn't like him either, and if Xander knew anything about the bleached vampire, it was that he was very rarely wrong in his instincts. There may be a world of wrong in everything else about him, but when it came to his assessment of people, unfortunately, Spike was usually right on the money.
Buffy grimaced as the squeak from the door reverberated down the corridor, freezing in mid-motion as she peeked through the crack to see if it had disturbed her injured roommate. From her vantage point, she could see that he was still lying on the floor, pale shoulders almost golden in the candlelight that flickered within, but whether or not he was asleep, she couldn't tell as his head was turned away from her, lost in the deepening shadows of the room. It was really late, or rather, really early, and she'd put off coming up to bed for as long as possible, dallying over her cold food in the great hall, playing in the weapons cache, until exhaustion threatened to render her useless for even navigating the narrow stairs. Even now, she was fighting back the yawns as she pushed at the door some more, opening it just enough to slip inside before latching it firmly shut again.
Before taking a step further, the Slayer slipped off her boots, knowing the hard heels would clatter against the stone, and began tiptoeing toward the bed. Don't wake him up, she thought. Don't have the energy to deal with Spike right now.
"Appreciate the sentiment, pet, but don't be quiet on my account."
She stopped, glancing over at the blanket, and saw him watching her, one arm now tucked behind his head, stretching the line of muscles down his side in a glorious curve that seemed to accentuate the definition of his chest. The bandages on his side were still white, which meant the bite hadn't bled anymore, and she allowed her own gaze to dart back to his face, taking in the wry amusement that twisted his mouth.
"So, are you really feeling better, or did you just change the dressing so that I wouldn't give you hell again?" she asked.
"Why don't you take a look at it up close and personal-like, and see for yourself?" The dare tinged his voice in red, and Spike found himself swallowing as his mouth suddenly watered at the thought of her hands on his bare flesh. It was bad enough he was already responding physically at the scent of light sweat that emanated from her skin; anything else, and he'd never get any sleep tonight.
"Let's do us both a favor and say I take your word for it this time," Buffy replied, and dropped her boots onto the floor. It was then that she noticed the screen in the corner, and frowned, hazel eyes darting back to the blond vamp on the floor.
He shrugged. "Got bored," he said. "Figured you'd rather not have a repeat performance of the bathtub incident and moved it back so you wouldn't have to bother with it when you got in."
"Oh." Her face softened. "Thanks."
"So, you smell like you've been fightin', Slayer," Spike called out as she stepped to the privacy behind the screen. "That mean you've already bagged your beastie and I missed all the fun?"
"No, it means I was playing with some of the toys down in Colin's arsenal," she answered. "For being such a geek, he sure has good taste in weapons."
The soft swish of fabric hitting the floor was enough to bring Spike to a sitting position, the strain across the front of his jeans lessened by being more upright. "I can't believe you took Rupes out on patrol and made me cool my heels here," he complained. "If there was something out there, I could've sniffed it out for you."
Buffy emerged from the rear of the screen with a tiny line wrinkling her brow. As his eyes drank in the sweats and t-shirt combination, Spike found himself wistfully wondering what she would look like in one of his, the black hem stopping at the top of her bare thigh, her scent mingling with his so that whenever he wore it afterward, he would smell of her.
"How'd you know Giles went with me?" she asked.
He broke himself from his reverie. "Harris said so."
"You talked to Xander?" There was no hiding the alarm in her voice. "I thought we had a deal---."
"And we do, so long as you keep up your end of it." His mind raced, trying to come up with some plausible excuse for the young man to have been in the room, kicking himself for letting it slip already. An absolute doddle, he'd said. Right. As long as he stopped letting himself be distracted by his own libido, or by Buffy's mere presence, or by the way the candlelight picked out the gold in her hair, or the scent of her skin Fuck. What was it he'd been thinking about again?
"Patrolling was a bust anyway," she was saying, and Spike inwardly thanked her for moving on with the conversation, releasing him from the need to explain an awkward situation even further. "Well, except for the dead body. That'll probably be useful. It had the same bite marks on it that you've got."
"I don't remember there bein' any water around here on the Watcher's maps," he mused with a small frown. "'Cept for what's underneath the castle, that is. You're sure they're the same?"
"With as much hands-on experience staring at your chest as I've had to do lately, yes, I'm pretty sure they're the same." She turned away before he could see the blush that crept into her cheek. Damn. That had sounded way more sexual coming out of her mouth than it had in her head. She could only hope Spike hadn't noticed.
He had. The satisfied grin lifted the corner of his mouth as he rose to his feet, stuffing his hands into his pockets. "And here I thought you didn't care," he joked.
Desperate for an air of nonchalance, Buffy rolled her eyes, climbing onto the bed and under the blankets. "Get over yourself, Spike," she said, avoiding his face as she rolled over onto her side and away from his lithe muscles and arrogant smile. She waited for his weight to settle behind her, steeling herself to his nearness while thankful for her own exhaustion; at least it wouldn't be hard to fall asleep this time.
It never came. After a full minute of staring at the wall and waiting, she rolled back over to see him standing there, head tilted as he watched her in the bed. "What's up?" she asked.
"Deal's a deal, Slayer."
"I know. So get in. I'm not stopping you."
"Actually, you are."
Exasperated, Buffy sat up and sighed. "OK, I'll bite. How exactly do you come to that conclusion? I'm on my side. I even invited you in. Sounds like non-stoppage to me."
"There's not enough room for me. You're goin' to have to get out." He couldn't restrain his chuckle of amusement as her jaw dropped.
"Are you kidding me?" Her hazel eyes flashed. "There was plenty of room last night for both of us."
"That was before I got this," Spike replied, pulling a hand out to indicate the bandage on his side. "If you don't want blood on the sheets, only safe way for me to sleep is on my back."
"You could sleep on your other side."
He shrugged. "Tried that while you were gone. Ended up pulling it open and bleedin' like a stuck pig."
"So you did change the bandage."
"Never said I didn't."
Buffy's face fell. Crap. As much as she hated to admit it, he was right. Her gaze scanned the narrow bed, the mental measurements she kept repeating refusing to change, and realized there was no way they were going to be able to repeat the same arrangement from the night before. The bed was just too small for two if one of them was lying flat, not without some major body draping, and there was absolutely no way she could let that happen. Double crap.
"Fine," she finally grumbled, grabbing the blankets as she rose from the bed. "You win. I'll take the floor."
"Y'know," Spike said as he stepped to the edge of the bed, "I kinda like the sound of that. Don't get to hear that out of the Slayer's mouth that often. You win." He nodded. "Got a nice ring to it."
Wrapping herself up in her blankets, Buffy settled herself onto his makeshift space on the floor, turning just in time to see him crawl up the bed, deliberately covering as much of the mattress as he could, casting a sly smirk back at her as he reached the head. "Don't get used to it," she warned. "You should be plenty healed by tomorrow night not to get away with this again."
"Then I should probably enjoy this while I can," he replied, blue eyes never leaving hers as he crossed his ankles, camouflaging his erection from her sight while at the same time propping himself up on his elbows. "Night night, Slayer," Spike drawled. "Don't let the bed bugs bite."
As she buried her head into the thin pillow, all Buffy could hear was the vampire's deep laughter rumbling throughout the room.
He had to give her credit. In spite of the cold, or the fact that she couldn't contain the chattering of her teeth, Buffy was sticking it out on the floor with the same determination that had always made her the most interesting of all his adversaries, and Spike felt his pride swell at the thought of the young woman's strength. That's my girl, he thought, even if she wasn't. It was just another of the reasons he'd fallen in love with her in the first place.
Still he frowned into the dim light as he listened to the evidence of her chill. It had been at least forty-five minutes and she was still awake down there, her yawns tiny reminders of her current state, and he knew it was because of the cold that permeated the room. She wasn't going to be of any use to anyone if she didn't rest. And the fact of the matter was, it was eating him alive knowing she wasn't comfortable.
He knew she heard him, heard the faint catch in her breathing as she recognized his voice, but after a minute had passed with no response, Spike found his irritation beginning to needle. "Slayer," he repeated, louder this time, his voice edged with impatience.
"What?" It was muffled through layers of cotton, but still clear, the fact that she was wide awake honed in annoyance.
"Stop bein' such a silly bint and get your ass up here."
That got her attention. "What're you talking about?" Buffy said, sitting up.
Her skin was pale, the shadows deepening under her eyes, and Spike felt his exasperation dissipate. "We both know you're not sleeping," he said softly. "At least up here, you don't have the draft and the mattress'll help keep you warm so you can get some rest."
"I thought you wanted the bed," she said warily.
"No reason we can't share so long as you're willing to curl up into my side." He saw her eyes widen, and hastened to add, "It's not anything to get yourself fussed about. You don't think I know you'll stake me if I even lay a finger out of line? Give me a little credit for self-preservation instincts. Besides, I've got a chunk outta my side and my bloody jeans still on. Hardly much of a threat."
She wanted to argue with him, to tell him to go to hell and just stick it out on the floor, but the possibility of warmth and most importantly sleep called with a siren's voice, urging her to accept his offer and just pack it in. What could it honestly hurt? It was only for one night, she reasoned, and Spike was smart enough not to let anything happen that might get him seriously hurt, more so than Nessie had already inflicted.
"Fine." Her voice was resigned, and he saw the slump in Buffy's shoulders as she struggled to get to her feet with the blankets still around her. In a flash, he was up and at her side, using his good side to help support her as she tripped her way to the bed. He could feel her confusion and felt his resolve weaken. This wasn't about winning. This was about need, and when Buffy collapsed onto the bed, a tiny sigh of relief escaping her throat, Spike found himself hanging back, watching as her face softened. Her need. And he was being a selfish bastard in even considering otherwise.
"Where are you going?" Buffy asked as she saw him turn away from her.
"I'll be right as rain on the floor," he said, glancing back at her. "You go ahead and get some sleep."
Their eyes locked, and she felt an unfamiliar pang of compassion for her unwanted roommate. "No reason for both of us to be miserable in the morning," she countered softly, and carefully edged herself as far to the edge of the mattress as she dared, the unspoken invitation there between them like a velvet gauntlet on the floor.
The flare of hope straightened his shoulders, and though Spike knew she was only offering out of that sense of fairplay he never quite understood, he didn't care, grasping the lifeline she extended with a duck of his head as he moved to the other side of the bed. Easing himself onto the sheet, his muscles tensed as Buffy tossed the blankets over the both of them, pressing her body stiffly into his as she laid her head down on his shoulder.
The scent of her hair filled his nostrils with heather, the light within the room suddenly more golden, and he had to physically restrain himself from reaching up and stroking the tendrils that curled against his cheek. For such a small thing, she was warmer than he'd ever imagined, a living flame that threatened to extinguish him with its heat, and the arm she rested against slowly curved to follow the line of her back, touching but not, a feather away from a real embrace but distant enough to not get him staked. His other hand gripped the sheet, as if by holding on he could ensure she wouldn't vanish, and he listened to the rhythmic cadence of her breath, feeling it pulse against his bare chest in a steady assurance that ripped forth every protective instinct he had. Infinitely better than the floor, he decided. No bloody comparison.
In spite of her reservations, the familiarity of ice against her cheek brought a whirlwind of memories to Buffy's inner eye, and she couldn't help but flash on the countless times she'd fallen asleep on Angel's shoulder. It was the same, but different, the touch lighter leaner, the scents of leather and smoke pervading his skin even in spite of recently being washed. There was no sense of being overwhelmed that she sometimes got with Riley. Instead, she felt matched, her body fitting into Spike's almost too well, and though there was no mistaking his tension as he held himself rigid beside her, it was oddly comforting, slowly easing her own stiffness until sleep actually seemed like a possibility and not some farfetched dream. Her eyes fluttered shut. This was workable. This was probably not the smartest thing she had ever done, but, this was nice.
As her breathing slowed and she slipped into slumber, Spike allowed himself a sigh of contentment, his muscles relaxing back into the mattress. Regardless of what happened over the next few weeks, he was going to be returning to the Hellmouth knowing one thing. For one glorious, too-short night, he had held bliss within his arms, and her name was Buffy
To be continued in Chapter 11: Fickle Fortune