DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss, of course. And
the chapter titles are courtesy of Robert Burns.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: After wounding the kelpie on patrol, Buffy and Spike returned to Dall Rath, where Buffy finally gave in to her attraction to Spike.
When hed been human, being an Englishman in Scotland was begging for trouble; for some reason, the bloody Scots were still a little miffed about the whole Bonnie Prince Charlie debacle, conveniently overlooking the fact that they had lost their bid for independence in the soddin eighteenth century. So, considering Angelus barmy notion of keeping a low profile, Spike had never really spent a great deal of time in the northern country prior to the Councils recent holiday offer. It was just as well. Most of the time, the place was colder than a witches tit, with a local menu that left a lot to be desired---outside of the actual locals, that is---and if a vamp wasnt interested in the scenery, there wasnt a helluva lot left.
Not anymore. As of last night, Scotland was officially Spikes favorite place on this entire planet, for one simple reason; the Highlands had given him Buffy.
Well, not given, he quickly corrected as he stared up at the stone ceiling, hands folded behind his head. Not like anyone could ever actually own the Slayer. More like offered a place at her side. In her bed. In her.
OK, so not actually in her yet. But after feeling her come apart around his fingers, hearing those satisfied little sighs she kept making while shed slept on his shoulder, Spike didnt doubt that that would soon be rectified, that tonight after the ritual, the pair of them would continue their little dance to its natural conclusion, and that once they got back to the Hellmouth, Buffyd be dumping her little Soldier Boy faster than he could say, Bite me. God, did he want to be there to witness that. Serve the smug bastard right.
Hed only seen her briefly today, when hed woken as she was heading down for breakfast, but he wasnt fussed about it, the fact that hed drifted back off, not fully waking until well past mid-morning, more than enough reason for her not to stay there. After all, she had a job to do. The Slayer couldnt very well be lollygaggin about when evil was afoot.
Spike snorted. She was goin to turn him into a bloody Scooby yet, he thought, he could just feel it. Already thinkin in terms of afooting evil, and helping out, and wait a minute . He frowned. He was goin to be seein a helluva lot more of those little friends of hers, which meant she was probably goin to make him treat them nicer. The witches were a bit of all right, and Anya was an ex-demon so at least interesting to talk to if a little long-winded, and it wasnt like he hadnt actually lived with Rupes for a while there Maybe it wouldnt be such a tough gig after all. Provided he didnt end up throttling Harris. That might be bad. Buffy probably wouldnt like that much.
Tossing his legs over the side of the bed, Spike stood and stretched, feeling for the first time since getting attacked in the dungeon that he was finally mending properly. The wound didnt hurt any longer, though if that was due to actual healing or his flying good mood, the vampire didnt know. Didnt really care, for that matter. What mattered was the final result, and the result was he felt good.
And hungry. Time for a trip downstairs.
More than anything, she wanted to be upstairs right now, not sitting here staring at another of Colins flow charts, wondering just how much longer he was going to discuss the trail he and Giles had uncovered on their early morning excursion out on the mountain. After hearing about her encounter with the kelpie the previous evening, the Watchers had gotten excited about the possibility of catching it alive for the purposes of further study, taking notes about where shed been so that they could go out after breakfast to see if they could track it down. Hello! shed wanted to shout at them. Am I the only one who remembers the Initiative last year? Youre supposed to kill the demon, not study it. Especially if its eating the local population.
Calling all pots, calling all pots, came a small voice in the back of her head. This would be the kettle speaking. Spikes a demon, too, and youre doing a lot more than just studying him.
Buffy scrunched down in her seat, her pencil doodling aimlessly across the top of her notepad, hoping no one would see the blush that suddenly heated her cheeks. A lot more was an understatement. Though shed certainly thought about the possibility of maybe kissing Spike---especially after his little game out on patrol---shed not really considered that it might go any further than that, or that shed wake up from her dream wanting him so badly that she felt hollow without him in her arms, or that his mere touch would feel like ocean waves breaking over her skin powerful, exhilarating, and most of all right.
The hardest thing shed had to do was leave him there this morning on his own. When shed woken, her first response had been to look up at him, and she found herself caught in the pale craftsmanship of his still face. It wasnt perfect---the nose was too big, his brows too heavy---but that only added to its beauty, and the urge to trace the line of his cheekbones with her fingertips had been irresistible. Her touch had been feathers across his skin, because, though she wanted him awake, Buffy didnt have the heart to disturb him when he looked so peaceful, settling instead to watch him for the few moments she was allowed.
It was only when she remembered Willows wake-up call the previous day, and the look on the redheads face when shed seen Spike in the bed, that Buffy scrambled to her feet, hurrying to get downstairs before someone showed up to see the definite lack of a pallet on the floor, or the semi-naked vampire asleep where the Slayer shouldve been. She couldnt really use his injury as an excuse anymore, and though she held no regrets regarding her choice, she wasnt ready to have it out in the open with her friends just yet. After everything that had happened with Angel, she didnt think another vampire boyfriend was going to fly too high with Giles and the rest of the gang.
Just as shed been about to walk out the door, Spike had stirred, calling out her name in a fuzzy rumble. Buffy had stopped, turning to see his blue eyes blinking groggily at her, and smiled. Go back to sleep, shed said, returning to the side of the bed to pull the blankets up around him.
Not tired hed mumbled, and made a half-hearted attempt to grab her wrist as it brushed past his face.
Uh huh, yeah, right, shed said softly. His eyes had flickered shut again, and she couldnt resist leaning over and brushing another kiss across his lips, feeling him smile in contentment as her mouth lingered on his.
No. Definitely no regrets.
But that didnt mean it was going to be easy. There were so many things to consider how the Scoobs would feel about Spike being one of them when it hadnt been that long ago hed tried turning them against each other Giles disappointment that she was pursuing another relationship with a vampire. And what about Riley? Everyone thought they were marvelously happy, even if she knew it wasnt completely true; what would be their reaction to find out she was messing around with Spike behind his back? No, she was going to have to talk to Spike, to convince him they needed to keep this thing between them under wraps until they got back to Sunnydale. Then, she could officially break it off with Riley, and bit by bit, integrate the vamp into the Scoobies so that when it came out about them sleeping together, it wouldnt be a major shocker.
And it wasnt as if he was going to have wait very long. Though Colin and Giles hadnt found the kelpies body in their trek, they had discovered significant amounts of blood, indicating that it was wounded quite badly, so both Englishmen figured it was just a matter of time before the demons dead form actually turned up. Which meant after the ritual was done tonight, theyd be packing up and home in less than twenty-four hours. Even Spike could wait a day and a half couldnt he?
A sharp poke in her ribs caused Buffy to jump, straightening in her chair as she dropped her pencil onto the table, and she turned to see Willow nodding toward the Watcher at the head of the table.
I was asking, Miss Summers, Colin said, carefully enunciating his words as if speaking to a child, whether there were any other details from last night that youd like to share before we break for lunch.
As she watched her best friend silently mouth, Sorry, Buffy settled back in her seat, swiveling her attention back to the meeting at hand. Not that exciting a story, she said, shaking her head. Demon run. Buffy chase demon. Buffy trip. Demon get away. Pretty straightforward stuff.
I still dont understand why Spike didnt go after it, Giles asked.
Youll have to ask him that, she replied. I told him to, but he listens to me about as well as Dawn does.
Well, you were hurt, Willow offered. And you said you couldnt even walk last night. It probably wouldnt have been very smart to just leave you out there.
Buffy glanced at her friend curiously. Yeah, thats what he said, she mused. But I still think it was a cop out. He couldve caught it in no time. That thing had my knife sticking out of it, it was leaking blood all over the place, and with that bell harness, there was no way he couldve lost it in the dark.
The table went silent as everyone in the group turned to look at the Slayer, and she felt herself grow uncomfortable under their stares, her skin crawling as her gaze flicked from person to person. What?
Bell harness? Giles prompted.
Yeah, thats how we heard the kelpie in the first place. Her cheeks flushed. Did I forget to mention that part?
Uh, yeah, said Xander, and turned to the Watchers. If it had a harness, does that mean its got a rider out there roaming around, wondering where his friend Flicka is?
Doubtful, Colin replied, his brow furrowed. Kelpies are notorious for being untamable.
Wait a minute. The group stopped as Willow reached forward to grab a book from the middle of the table, thumbing through it quickly until she found the page she wanted. According to the legends, putting a harness on a kelpie is how you control it, that while its wearing one, it cant hurt humans or do the luring to the death thing. That you can even ride them. She frowned. Of course, its supposed to be an actual work-em-ride-em sort of harness. Not usually the musical variety. What did the one you saw look like, Buffy?
Well, it was kind of goldish, although I guess that mightve been the moonlight, but it definitely had this shiny, metallic aspect going for it. Oh, and it had the bells. It was quite pretty, actually. She laughed. Spike made this joke about it when we saw it, something about being there with bells on Her voice trailed off, her smile fading. But I guess you had to be there to appreciate it.
Well do more research this afternoon, Colin said firmly. See if we can find anything about this---.
The clearing of a throat behind them cut off his words, and the group turned to see Duncan standing just inside the door to the kitchen. So sorry to interrupt, he said. But lunch is ready. Would you like it now, or would you rather I wait?
Oh, now is fine, the Watcher said and began wiping down the white board behind him.
Tara jumped to her feet. Ill help you bring things in, she said with a smile as she scurried to Duncans side.
Me, too, said Willow, followed almost immediately by Anyas own exuberant offer.
Xander glowered as the three girls left the room, leaning forward to address Buffy quietly. How long do you think he was standing there? he whispered. Do you think he heard anything?
The Slayer shrugged. I dunno. Does it matter?
His brown eyes widened. Does it matter? he repeated. How can you ask that? Were sitting in here talking about demony things. What happened to our Slayer code of silence?
I didnt realize we had one, Buffy laughed. And actually, we were talking about horsey things, so I think its OK.
But what do we really know about this guy? Xander pressed.
Well, we know he can cook, which is what hes supposed to be doing, remember? She was about to continue when the door to the hall opened, and Spike came sauntering in, lips pursed in a whistle.
Mornin, all, he said, and let his cerulean gaze settle on the remaining female in room as he ignored his normal safe chair in the corner and crossed to her side, pulling out the seat Willow had just vacated to straddle it himself.
Its lunchtime, Spike, Xander said, oblivious to the tension in his friend as she suddenly became interested in her pencil. So technically, no longer morning.
Is for me, he replied, and tilted his head to look at Buffys profile. Hows the foot doin? Feelin better? His voice was softer, his concern for her plain to see, and she felt her fear rise in her throat, a hard lump that blocked off all but the smallest passage of air. Crap. She wasnt even going to be able to look at him without giving everything away. How in hell was she going to keep this under wraps with him so near?
Fine, she said, too brightly, busying herself in straightening her pad and the books in front of her. Gotta love that super Slayer healing. When she felt his boot nudge the side of hers, she hesitated only briefly before pressing back, allowing the tip of her shoe to run along the side of his foot before curling itself for a lingering moment around his ankle. Cant look at him, she thought desperately. Xander will know for sure thats something up. I just hope Spike gets why.
When she saw him lean toward her, his arm rising to lie across the back of her chair, Buffys brain screamed out, Too much! Theyre going to know!, and she leapt to her feet, her chair skittering behind her. I think Ill just go help Duncan and the others, she said out loud, and practically ran for the kitchen door, leaving behind a frowning Spike and a furious Xander.
Shes a bit skittish this morning, the vampire commented as he slowly turned to face the other man. Sadler been playing with his flash cards again?
It was as if he hadnt even spoken. Did you see that? Xander hissed. All four of them, in there like his own Stepford harem. Hows he doing it?
The young man rolled his eyes. Duncan, remember? Mr. Magneto? The reason were playing at I Spy?
Weve got to do some more digging on this guy, Xander continued, keeping his voice down so that the two Watchers at the end of the table couldnt hear him. So I was thinking, when we all go into town this afternoon, you come down---.
Youre all going into town?
Yeah. Colin cant find some of his supplies for the ritual tonight so when he said he was going to check out the local market for substitutes, Buffy suggested---.
It was the Slayers idea? He couldnt keep the surprise out of his voice. Though he hadnt expected her to be Little Miss Cheerleader about the changes between them, being left out in the cold hadnt crossed his mind either.
Yeah, she said she wanted to call Riley, find out how her mom and Dawn were doing.
And the fun just kept on coming. The muscles in Spikes jaw twitched as he turned his darkened gaze to stare at the closed kitchen door. Asking after her family made some sense, but not the calling Soldier Boy part. What exactly was she playing at? Running almost as soon as he showed his face making excuses to be out of the castle during the day, knowing he couldnt follow not even looking him in the eye when hed asked after her ankle. OK, the footsy thing had been nice but still
He slumped in his chair, folding his arms over his chest as he ignored Harris continued prattling. Something was going on with Buffy. And if it involved Finn, it couldnt be good for Spike.
Youve got it?
Spike sighed, looking at Xander in annoyance. Its a bloody waste of time, he said. According to the Watcher, were goin home tomorrow anyway. Whats the point in goin after the cook, other than the fact that hes a prat and probably deserves a good roughin up?
Its a contingency plan, Xander replied. In case we dont end up going home. Or maybe, hes evil and secretly plotting to mess with the ritual. Dont you think we should know that before we, you know, actually do the ritual?
If hes so soddin evil, why are we even still here? Spike countered sarcastically. Bugger couldve poisoned any one of us at any time. Well, you lot, anyway. And you were the one who pointed out the advantage to bein the cook when youre tryin to kill your enemy, remember?
I just said, maybe hes evil, he defended, then hurriedly stepped away from the vampire as Buffy and the others rounded the corner of the corridor, approaching the pair where they stood by the front door of the castle.
Ready, Xan? she asked, carefully evading Spikes probing stare.
The young man nodded and held the front door open as the girls and Watchers filed out, leaving Spike alone in the castle, his blue eyes blazing. His mood was blacker than his t-shirt, all remnants of his good humor entirely banished by the Slayers continued denial in acknowledging his presence. When shed returned with lunch, shed deliberately opted for a different seat, only answering him with the most perfunctory of responses whenever he spoke up, barely bothering to look him in the eye when he did address her directly. Shed been the first to excuse herself from the table, but when Spike had tried to follow, hed been stopped by an impromptu interrogation on the part of the Watchers, as they inquired into the events of the past night to get his perspective on the whole matter.
He was so pissed off at her cavalier attitude that he almost told them what the highlights of his night really were, how Buffy had practically jumped him in his sleep and how hed gotten her off without even having to go as far as to properly shag her. It was only remembering the look in her eyes when shed kissed him---that first, proper kiss---that stopped Spike, forcing him to stay in his seat while hed answered their questions as quickly as possible.
It still didnt seem feasible he couldve misinterpreted her thoughts so badly; hed given her an out and shed refused it. And the signals her body was sending certainly didnt match the Ice Queen persona shed adopted since coming back into the great hall for lunch. Shed spent the entire meal in a heightened state---heart racing, the slight sheen of sweat on her forehead---and though at one point their eyes had met, it had been fleeting, with it impossible for him to read her thoughts in light of the distance she forced between them.
None of it made sense, and with Captain Cardboard thrown into the mix
With one last glance at the closed door to the great hall, Spike snorted and went stalking toward the stairwell, his boots loud against the stone floor. Bugger Harris plan, he thought. Not goin outta my way and riskin a bloody headache when were not even goin to be here tomorrow. The way my brains goin right now, Id be halfway to killin the wanker before Id get a word out of him anyway. The thought actually made him hesitate for a moment at the bottom of the stairs---could be a good way to get out my anger---but it got shoved quickly aside as practicality returned. Cooks not worth it, he decided, and stomped up the two flights to his room.
His face was thunderous as he shoved open the door, and he was two steps over the threshold before he saw the man rise from the bed. Who the hell are you? Spike barked, blue eyes quickly scanning the grizzled face and portly form.
I was looking for Spike, the man said, his Scottish accent so thick the vampire almost didnt recognize his own name. I was told this was his room.
Yeah, thats me. He folded his arms across his chest. That still doesnt tell me who you are, mate.
The man motioned toward the still-open door. Do you mind? he asked. This would be better if we were private.
Without turning, Spike reached with his foot and kicked the door shut, the slam echoing through the tiny room. Now, he said, you goin to tell me what this is about?
The man smiled. My names Hornbrook, he said, all signs of his accent gone. And Im here to offer you a deal
To be continued in Chapter 17: Open
the Door to Me