DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss', of course. And the chapter titles are courtesy of Robert Burns.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy found a dead body, Xander made a deal with Spike, and the female Scoobies seem infatuated with Duncan. Meanwhile, Buffy and Spike have reached a truce regarding the bed and his wound…

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

Chapter 11: Fickle Fortune

There had been dreams. Though the details now escaped her, the sensations remained…rhythmic rocking…humming, a low, masculine rumble…the tang of salt on her tongue as it slid against something smooth. She woke, parting the veils of slumber, to find herself cocooned beneath the blankets, her face buried in the curve of Spike's neck, her hand splayed across his chest, her leg bent and draped over his thigh. The pressure of his cheek resting against the top of her head was mirrored by the weight of his arm across her back, and his fingers curled around the line of her pelvis as if to hold her in place. For those few moments when she floated between sleep and consciousness, Buffy savored the peace that seemed to infuse her body, relaxing it against his in a semblance of normalcy that had been missing from her life for years.

He felt the change within her body, the breathing that quickened just ever so slightly as she awoke, the tiny sighs that escaped her throat, and knew she was waking, wondering just what her response was going to be when she did. As for himself, Spike had only been alert for a minute or so; up until then, he had been lost in a more restful sleep than he'd had in ages, dreaming of playing pool with the Slayer, leaning over her as he taught her how to line up her shots, guiding her hand as it curled around the cue. It had really been a shame he had to wake up.

Now, though, the question remained as to what he should do. She was up, but what was going through that blonde head of hers? Was she aware of just how much of her was touching him? God knew, he certainly was. For that matter, was the fact that he held her more intimately than when they'd fallen asleep going to turn him into stake fodder? She wasn't moving, but that didn't mean she was actually enjoying it, that she wasn't at that very moment contemplating the best way to get rid of him once and for all, so, rather than have to face a rejection that would most likely shatter his blissful mood, Spike loosened his grip on her hip, allowing his hand to slip down to the mattress, offering her the escape she had yet to ask for and desperately hoping she wouldn't take it.

In all honesty, she didn't want to move, but Buffy did so anyway, pulling back slightly as she retracted her leg. When her gaze flickered up to his face, she saw him watching her, and blushed. "Sorry," she murmured, and slid from under the blankets, rising to her feet and stretching in the dim morning light that filtered through the window. Just like the day previous, the floor was ice beneath her, and silently she thanked whatever god last night had reminded her to go to bed with her socks on.

Spike frowned. "Sorry for what?" Apologies from the Slayer were the last thing he was expecting; she'd done nothing wrong. Carefully, he propped himself up on his elbows, still mindful of the wound in his side, and watched as she did everything to avoid his steady gaze.

"For the…getting too comfortableness, and the…leg touching, and…" She smiled weakly. "I'm not usually that big on the body drapage. Not that I'm against it or anything. Just that I'm usually the drapee, not the…draper. And this is probably waaaay too much information, so shutting up now."

"Oh." His brow eased as his tongue ran along the inside of his teeth. Just how aware was she of what she'd just admitted? he wondered. She couldn't be, and not still be standing there, finally looking at him, staring like she was genuinely apologetic. "But you slept, right?" he couldn't help but query, unable to hide the concern from his voice.

Buffy was quick to brighten. "Oh, yeah," she affirmed. "We're talking forty winks and then some. In fact…" She took in an exaggerated deep breath. "I'd venture to say my jet lag has officially skedaddled."

The knock at the door stopped Spike from replying, and he watched as she quickly strode to answer it, a spring in her step that had definitely not been there the previous day. She may not say the words, or admit to the implications, but there was no denying their shared night together had given her the rest she'd needed, or that his presence had actually contributed to her present state of relaxation. What exactly that meant was still up in the air, and as he carefully raised himself into a sitting position, he realized that for the first time, he actually believed he stood a chance with her.

"Hey, Will," Buffy chirped as she opened the door.

The redhead's smile was bright. "Didn't want you sleeping through another meal," she said, stepping into the room. Her face froze as, out of the corner of her eye, she caught the sight of a semi-naked Spike in the bed, as in under-the-covers in the bed, and her eyes widened as she glanced back at her friend. "Did you…have a good night?" she asked. "Not that you wouldn't have a bad night, but with the patrol, and the…" Her gaze slid back to Spike. "…vamp sitting…I was just…wondering, you know…was it…good?"

"The best," the Slayer replied. "I finally got exactly what I needed."

Willow's smile faded, to be replaced by a tiny line between her brows as she began to gnaw at her lip, and it was all the vamp could do not to laugh out loud. Buffy was oblivious to the impression she had just given the witch, walking over to the wardrobe as if she didn't have a care in the world, and his blue eyes danced as he met the redhead's gaze.

"What about you, Spike?" she asked. "Did you get some quality healing done?"

"You know me, Red," he drawled. "Can't keep a good vamp down."

"You look a lot better today than you did yesterday, Will," Buffy commented as she pulled out a pair of jeans. "You obviously got more sleep."

"I think the time zone thing finally caught up with Xander and Anya, because we didn't hear a peep out of them all night." Her frown deepened. "Unless they were using some sort of gag as a sexual thing, in which case, no, they haven't adjusted, and I really have to stop this train of thought before it crashes from the imagery that is now running through my head."

"What about Giles?" The Slayer didn't even look back as she crossed the room to the screened-off corner. "He here yet?"

"No, not…" The breath caught in her throat as Willow saw the t-shirt Buffy had been wearing get tossed over the top of the screen, and heard the chuckle come from the vampire on the bed. "…yet."

"We found a body last night." The sweats found their way over the t-shirt, only to slip and fall to the floor on the opposite side. "It looked like it was attacked by the same kind of thing that took a bite out of Spike, so we're going to go out and take a look at it in the light to make sure." The sound of a zipper being pulled up preceded Buffy's emergence from behind the screen. "Wanna come?"

"As much as I'd love to play Quincy," Willow replied, "I can't. According to Colin's schedule, Tara and I are supposed to be on ritual research."

"Am I on that schedule?"

"You and Spike are supposed to be investigating the dungeons some more." The redhead's gaze flickered back to the vampire.

"Well, that's not happening. Not as long as he's still the English patient." As she reached for her boots on the floor, Buffy looked at her roommate. "You going to come down for breakfast or do you want me to bring it up here?" she asked, slipping them on.

"No reason I can't be social," he said, tossing back the blankets. "Anything's got to be better than bloody solitaire for hours on end."

"Do you need help with the bandages?" she offered.

He shook his head. "It's healed up enough so I can manage myself, thanks."

"Well…" She pulled her blonde hair up into a tight ponytail as she headed for the door. "See you downstairs, then."

As Buffy disappeared into the corridor, Spike's lips curled into a smile at the confused green gaze of the witch. "Need somethin, Red?" he asked, affecting an air of innocence that he knew would only perplex her further.

"Ummm…no. Nothing. No need for me." She hastened after her friend. "See you at breakfast."

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

As much as he didn't like not being onsite with Buffy, Giles had to admit the comforts of the bed and breakfast more than made up for his injured pride. Granted, the excessive floral prints that decorated the Victorian cottage reminded him all too much of his nan's tiny house when he was growing up, and the British predilection for net curtains still managed to amaze him, but the house was calm and cozy, with a hostess who had proven at the previous day's breakfast that her sterling reputation for her baked goods was more than well-deserved.

As the warm scents of fresh bread wafted through his open door, Giles heard the distant ring of the telephone, followed almost immediately by the murmur of Ibbie MacDonald's voice as she answered it. Must remember to ask Colin about mobile phones for the gang, he thought. They could surely come in handy, seeing as they are out in the middle of nowhere with no other connections to the outside world.

"Mr. Giles?" Her voice drifted from the bottom of the stairs, and the Watcher stepped out to look down at her upturned face.

"Yes?"

"Telephone."

"For me?" He couldn't keep the surprise out of his voice. "Are you sure?"

Ibbie's blue eyes crinkled as she smiled. "Fairly. My other guest is a woman."

He couldn't help but frown as he picked up the receiver. There weren't any phones at the castle, and the only other person to have this number was Joyce; he'd called and left it with Dawn when he'd first arrived. I do hope nothing is wrong, he thought worriedly before saying, "Hello?"

"Mr. Giles?"

A woman. Not Joyce. "Yes, this is Rupert Giles."

"I didn't think I was going to catch you. I wasn't sure when you'd be leaving to join your friends."

Whoever she was, she was Scottish, which narrowed his options even further. "I'm sorry. May I ask who's calling?"

A dog barked on the other end, and he heard the woman fumble with the phone. "Billy!" she called out. "Get away from that bin!" More fumbling, and then, "So sorry, what was that again?" When he repeated his query, she laughed. "When you live your entire life in one place, you forget that not everyone automatically knows who you are. I'm Fiona Davison. My nephew Duncan---."

"Oh, yes, of course. What can I do for you, Mrs. Davison?"

He was only half-listening as he noted the older woman's instructions, scrambling halfway through for a piece of scrap paper and a pencil to write down the specifics, wondering why exactly the young cook had dispensed his particulars to his aunt. When he replaced the receiver, his hostess appeared out of nowhere, smiling up at him with an affable grin. "Is porridge all right again?" she queried. "I've made some fresh scones to go with it."

"That would be lovely, thank you." He squinted at the scrap of paper in his hand. "I don't suppose you could show me how to get to Rectory Road after breakfast, could you?"

Ibbie's eyebrows lifted. "You need to go see Fiona?"

He nodded. "Apparently, Duncan forgot something when he left this morning," he explained. "She's asked me to take it to him."

"That boy would forget his own head if it wasn't attached," she commented as she turned to head back into the kitchen. "Always has his head in the clouds, that one."

Giles trailed after her, sliding the paper into his pocket as he walked. This was going to make him late, he knew. He just hoped Buffy would wait for him to arrive before going out.

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

"And you're certain they're the same marks?"

Buffy rolled her eyes and sighed. "For the last time, yes. They were the same the first time you asked ten minutes ago, and they're still the same. I'm beginning to wish I'd taken a camera just to prove it." She watched as Colin scribbled some more notes onto his writing pad. "Look, as soon as Giles gets here, we'll go and you can check out Grandma for yourself."

His pen stopped, and the Englishman looked up to gaze at the young woman, a small frown worrying his brow. "Grandma?"

She shrugged. "She looked like a grandma. You know. Old. Wrinkly. Funny smell. Except that was probably the whole being dead thing, but you know what I mean."

"Were there any other distinguishing marks? Scars, perhaps? Or unusual facial features?"

"To be honest, I kind of got distracted by the bite," Buffy admitted. "But we can check it out when we go see her." She glanced over at the closed door of the great hall. "I wonder what's keeping Giles. He said he was going to be here right after breakfast."

"I'm sure he'll be along shortly." Colin chewed at the end of his pencil as he slowly closed his pad. "Why don't you help Willow and the others with the research until he arrives? I have some…business I should really attend to."

"Research?" Her nose crinkled. "I was thinking I'd go wait by the body for Giles to show up." Even babysitting corpses was better than research.

The Watcher rose to his feet, his pad tucked beneath his arm. "I understand you're accustomed to…being your own Slayer, so to speak," he said, choosing his words carefully. "I can even appreciate your…ability to lead. But, I really don't think it's wise to go out into the countryside without Mr. Giles or myself to accompany you. There are perils you may not expect, and if you should get lost…" His voice trailed off, blushing at the smile of amusement on her face. Another tactic, perhaps, he thought. "If you're not eager to aid in the research, then, I think it might be a good idea for you and Spike to go take another look in the dungeons. Not to venture into the tunnel, of course, but merely to scout around, see if you find anything of note that we might have missed."

"OK, let me get this straight." Her hazel eyes twinkled as she tilted her head, leveling her gaze at the Watcher. "You don't want me to go out in the beautiful albeit cold sunshine because of the potential danger involved, because you'd rather I go poking around in a dark, smelly dungeon that's most likely the home of a really big water demon that just yesterday tried attacking me. Is that what you're trying to tell me?"

Colin's blush deepened. "Well…yes," he admitted, then hastened to add, "Only until Mr. Giles arrives, of course."

Buffy stood up. "OK. I was just checking." Glancing around at the empty room for Spike, she said, "I wonder where he took off to."

"I believe I saw him leave with…" Damn it, why could he never remember that boy's name? "…your male friend when the girls went to help Duncan wash up."

Her head whipped around. "He left with Xander?" She didn't wait for a reply, but instead bolted for the door, allowing Colin to quickly grab his pencil and scribble onto his writing pad. Xander. There. He wouldn't forget again now.

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

"For someone so worried 'bout his girlfriend getting too cozy with another bloke," Spike said, folding his arms across his chest as he watched the other man pull open another cupboard, "you don't seem too fussed about leavin' her alone with him."

"She's not alone. She's got Willow and Tara with her, plus Buffy and Colin are right in the next room, so I'm thinking, all's safe on the Anya front." Xander glanced over at where the vampire lounged against the doorframe. "And, just so you grasp the concept, you're supposed to be my lookout, which usually entails actually going and looking out, as opposed to watching the guy you're supposed to be doing the looking out for."

Spike shook his head. "This is a bloody waste of time. The man's not goin' to be hidin' his secrets in the soddin' linen closet."

"It's called being thorough. He comes in here all the time. Who knows what he may have tucked between his perky colors and fresh whites?" All of a sudden, his hand jerked back, and he hastily stepped away from the cupboard, causing his partner to straighten.

"What is it?" Spike asked. "You find somethin'?"

Xander glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. "Spider," he finally said, his voice clipped, the hand he'd just removed rubbing across the top of his thigh like he was trying to wipe something from it. "Just a…big…hairy…creepy spider."

The vamp chuckled, relaxing back against the door. "You ready to pack it in then? Or do you fancy another round? Maybe the pantry this time. No tellin' what's lurking in with the Weetabix."

"Ha ha, very funny. If you didn't want to---."

"Hey, guys." Buffy's sudden appearance cut Xander off in mid-sentence, and she smiled brightly at the pair. Too brightly. "Whatcha doing?"

"Towels," Spike offered, much to the relief of the other man in the room. "Thought I'd get us some extras, seein' as how someone used up all the ones we had yesterday…" He let the words trail away, quirking his lips as he gazed down at the blonde beauty.

"Yeah," Xander jumped in. "I was just showing him where Duncan's keeping everything."

"Chuck me one, would you?" the vampire asked, his smile widening at the alarm that spread across Xander's face, his brown eyes darting back to the cupboard he'd just moved away from.

"Actually, we don't have time for that," Buffy said. "Giles isn't here yet so Colin wants us to do some more poking around downstairs."

His eyes danced, irises darkening, and there was no mistaking the lean of Spike's body as he looked down at her. "Just…poking?" he said. "Thought you said I wasn't fit enough to be doin' any more…poking down there just yet."

It was only then that Buffy realized what exactly she said, and she hastily backed away from him, all too aware suddenly of the curve of his arms under the black t-shirt. "It's only until Giles shows up," she defended. "And we probably won't find anything anyway. And if you don't want to come, you don't have to."

"Oh, no, I think I most definitely want to…come, pet," Spike drawled. "I'm always up for a bit of the rough and tumble." He glanced over at Xander. "Toss me a towel anyway. No tellin' what'll happen when we get down there. Might end up taking another swim in the stream."

"Because I'm going to push you in myself," Buffy muttered. Only the vampire heard her, and she quickly stepped back into the hall and away from his mocking gaze.

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

Perhaps it will be better outside, Colin thought, staring at the display on his phone as he scurried to the front door of the castle. He had been warned about the intermittent receptivity here in the Highlands, and truth be told, he really hadn't considered that he was going to need the mobile all that much. Of course, now that it was urgent, the blasted thing couldn't find signal if its life depended on it. Which it probably would because he was going to throw it against the wall in about two…

Ah, he thought as he stepped into the cool air. That's better. The bars on the LCD jumped, indicating full capabilities, and Colin quickly pressed the pre-programmed number, lifting the phone to his ear as he glanced nervously behind him. It wouldn't do for any of the others to see him, and he fervently hoped Mr. Giles wouldn't show up in the middle of his call. That might be difficult to explain.

It was answered on the first ring. "Hello?" came the brisk female voice.

"Quentin Travers, please."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Travers is in a meeting at the moment. Can I take a message?"

Colin cursed his bad luck. "Most definitely," he rushed. "It's rather critical that I speak with him as soon as possible. This is Colin, Colin Sadler. I'm the Watcher assigned to the Dall Rath excavation---."

"Oh, Mr. Sadler. I have instructions to put you right through in the event you rang. Please hold."

As he heard the faint click on the other line, he exhaled loudly, grateful for at least one thing going right this morning. Between attempting to keep some sort of rein on the Slayer and ensuring the witches didn't discover more than was necessary, Colin was beginning to wonder if requesting this mission had been folly on his part. He had little field experience, and absolutely none that involved young, headstrong women. It was going to take all his training to keep the project on schedule…


To be continued in Chapter 12: Death and Doctor Hornbrook