DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. And the chapter titles are courtesy of Robert Burns.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: The Scoobies have attempted unsuccessfully to close the tunnel to the Otherworld, and Colin is still protesting his ignorance of the Council’s true intentions…

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

Chapter 19: My Highland Lassie

Colin watched as Giles laid the blankets out on the floor. “This really isn’t necessary,” he said. “Where exactly would I run?”

“It’s not about you running,” the older man said, straightening the corners so that they were square. “It’s about you trying to get into contact with the Council behind our backs.” His hand extended, waiting for the pillow that sat next to his impromptu roommate, his jaw tense. “At this point, I’m not certain what you might try to pull.”

“I understand you have reason to…not trust me,” Colin said slowly, handing over the cushion. “But I assure you, I’m not interested in seeing anyone get hurt. That’s not why I became a part of the Council. And neither is this…theft of demon artifacts, if what Spike says is correct.” He waited as Giles settled himself onto the floor, his fingers worrying his own sheets. “Do you…believe Spike?” he asked.

“Buffy does, and for now, I’m trusting her judgment.”

Slowly, Colin extinguished all but one of the candles at his bedside before sliding his legs beneath the blankets. “About Buffy,” he began, and then stopped when he saw Giles sit up to regard him with barely disguised anger.

“We are not having this sleepover for you to sit there and complain about my Slayer all night,” he retorted. “Nor do I wish to hear any more overzealous assertions regarding your innocence. I understand you have issues with Buffy, but the facts of the matter are, not only does she have an amulet you yourself admit could only have come from a Council member, but she ran into Hornbrook herself on his way out. So anything you might have to add or refute is pointless because I’m not going to listen to you anyway.”

“But…” He bit his lip as he caught the menace in the other man’s eyes, the silent warning steeling the air between them. The sensible thing would’ve been to drop the issue, to just lie back in the bed and pray that things would be better in the morning, and that the Slayer wouldn’t hurt him too badly when she found out what he knew about the first witch. But sensibility always lost the battle with curiosity in Colin’s head, and he barreled forward. “I don’t understand the relationship between her and Spike,” he rushed. “She’s been very…protective of him ever since we arrived. And did you see how angry he got when he thought something had happened to her during the spell? I thought he was going to rip my throat out.”

Giles sighed. “You’re reading far too much into Buffy’s actions,” he said. “She’s merely trying to keep the project focused. And as for Spike, well…” His voice trailed off. He actually had no response to that. There seemed no logical reason for the vampire to be concerned with a Slayer’s life, especially one he’d attempted to kill on more than one occasion. “He’s probably just concerned that if something were to happen to Buffy, the project would get cancelled and he wouldn’t get paid,” Giles finally said, only half-believing his own explanation. “I’m sure it’s nothing more than that.”

“I wish I could be so sure,” Colin murmured, and laid back, staring up at the ceiling. “Spike’s just so…volatile. I suppose I fear what might happen should something actually happen to Miss Summers.”

Giles rolled over onto his side, baring his back to the other Watcher, doing his best to ignore the continued observations that were coming from the bed. The implications of what Colin was suggesting were more than he was prepared to deal with presently; with the failure of the ritual and the added issue of the Council’s interest in the harness, there was more than enough at hand to worry about without conjuring additional specters to haunt his sleep. It was probably all nonsense anyway. Surely, if something was going on, someone other than an easily befuddled Watcher would’ve noticed?

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

“You mean you really didn’t see anything?” She felt the slight shake of Tara’s head against her chest and frowned, her fingers playing absently with a tendril of her girlfriend’s hair. “I don’t know how you couldn’t. It just seemed so…obvious.”

“I was too worried about you,” Tara replied. “But if you want, next time we do a spell with Spike and Buffy, I’ll ignore you completely and pay all my attention to them.”

The redhead smiled as shook her head. “Stop teasing,” she said. “I don’t know. Maybe I imagined it.” There was a moment of silence, and then Willow’s face lit up. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “Did I tell you about the bed?”

Tara frowned. “What bed?”

“Yesterday, when I went and got Buffy for breakfast, Spike was in the bed.” She waited triumphantly for her partner to respond.

“But…he was hurt.” She lifted her head to gaze at Willow. “Buffy probably let him sleep on the bed because of the whole almost-got-eaten-by-a-kelpie thing. He did save her life, you know.”

“Well…yeah…” The witch frowned and physically deflated. “And I guess there were blankets on the floor. She could’ve slept down there, I suppose.”

The corner of Tara’s mouth lifted in amusement. “Why do you seem disappointed by the possibility that nothing’s going on between Buffy and Spike?” she kidded gently.

“I’m not. It’s just…I was so sure…I mean, there were signals. Maybe not huge blinking green lights right in your face kind of signals, but signals, nonetheless.” She sighed. “It’s gotta be this Scottish weather,” she complained. “That’s why I’m so off my game. First the spell goes kaplooie, then I can’t shake this totally harebrained idea about Buffy and Spike.”

“Could be the water,” Tara suggested. “They say when you travel you should always be careful about drinking the water.”

Together, the two witches laughed softly, but as they snuggled down into the blankets, the image of a furious Spike hunched over Buffy flashed across Willow’s inner eye, and she bit her lip, staring into the dimly lit room even as she felt her lover’s breathing ease beside her. I didn’t imagine it, she repeated to herself. I couldn’t have. Maybe tomorrow, she could feel Xander out, see if he noticed anything was off. After all, he’d been watching the whole thing from the outside. If something was going on, he would’ve seen it.

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

“I’m telling you, Ahn---.”

“I don’t want to hear it, Xander. I’m tired. Go to sleep.”

“But I’m serious---.”

“And I think you’re being ridiculous. It’s nothing. Go to sleep.”

“Maybe---.”

“For God’s sake, Xander, if Buffy and Spike aren’t complaining, I don’t see why on earth you are. Now. For the last time. Go. To. Sleep.”

The young man pursed his lips, fighting to keep the words inside, while at the same time, doing everything he could not to move and exacerbate the situation. But it was like pink elephants, and within a minute his toe had twitched, sending excruciating bolts of pain up the top of his leg. “I’m telling you, Anya, my foot really hurts!” he exclaimed and felt her roll over, sighing as she buried her head beneath her pillow.

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

They had been the last to leave the Watcher’s room, answering their questions until Buffy had audibly yawned in front of them, not even bothering to cover her mouth as she gazed steadily at the pair of Englishmen. Their exit had been hurried after that, and it was all she could do to stifle her giggles as they climbed the stairs to the floor above.

Now, though, standing just inside her own room---our room, she hastily corrected---all sense of merriment had vanished with the near-silent closing of the door behind her. She couldn’t hear him, but Buffy knew that Spike stood just a few feet away, probably watching her, most likely waiting for her to make the first move. A truce had been reached this afternoon in the dungeons, and though she held no doubts about what she had done---either then or the previous night---an awkward quiet had settled between them, panicking her pulse so that it pounded in her ears.

“I hope for Giles’ sake that he doesn’t snore,” she joked, wishing that her voice didn’t sound so loud in the small space, or that it hadn’t done that little squeak thing at the end that she hated so much. “Not everyone can be as lucky as me and have a roommate who doesn’t need to breathe.”

“If I were Rupert, I’d be more worried about being bored to death,” Spike commented, his own voice just a little too jocular for his taste. “Betcha Sadler does a bleedin’ flow chart to explain their new sleeping arrangements.”

She laughed, in spite of the tension, and felt the familiar prickle on the back of her neck as she felt the vampire near. Her Slayer senses had been strong before, but now, in light of her decision and the recognition of her growing feelings for him, they were on hyperdrive, Spike’s every movement amplified across her skin so that discerning his presence was as comparable as breathing. Instinctive. Unconscious. There.

“Buffy…” he murmured, and she glanced back, saw him tilting his head as he watched her, blue eyes unfathomable in the dim light.

“And here I thought talking was going to make things easier,” she said softly.

“Do you want me to…sleep on the floor?” Even as he asked, Spike was wishing that he hadn’t, that he had the balls to just grab the Slayer by the horns and take her to bed. She wanted him---he could smell it on her---but he could also sense the anxiety seeping from her pores, the nerves that were stampeding through her veins, and refused to shatter what little confidence they’d already established just to satisfy his own impulses. That’s a first, he thought wryly, and waited for her to respond.

It took her only seconds. “No,” Buffy replied. “That would be kind of…silly, wouldn’t it?” Her eyes widened as she remembered her fear from that morning. “Oh!” she said. “But we’ve got to make it look like you did. Just in case, you know, Willow…or someone…for breakfast…”

“Right.” The vamp nodded, glancing past her to the bed before letting his gaze flicker to the floor. “Appearances and all.”

They worked in silence, operating in tandem as Buffy first laid out the sheet, then stepped back to watch Spike scatter the blankets haphazardly across it. “So that it looks slept in,” he explained at her raised eyebrow.

She just nodded, standing there, the pallet separating them in more ways than one, and felt the moment expand, lengthening into discomfort until she suddenly wished she were anywhere but in Scotland at the moment. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard; sorting out their miscommunications this afternoon was supposed to have paved the way to…Her brow furrowed. To what? What exactly was she thinking was going to happen now? No riding off into the sunset; she’d pretty much nixed that by making him wait to tell the others until after they were home. Sex? Was she really ready to be that person, even if it was against Riley…even if it was with Spike?

Except maybe she already was.

“You’re going to need some more shirts if we’re stuck here for much longer,” she finally said, gesturing aimlessly at his chest. Oh, that’s good, she thought. State the obvious.

He glanced down at his chest for only a second before looking back up at her. “Is that how you’re thinkin’ of it?” he asked quietly.

“What?”

“Bein’ stuck here.” Pause. “With me.”

“No,” she said automatically. “I told you this afternoon---.”

“And this is now.” Spike looked pointedly at the bed before sliding his gaze back to her drawn face. “Saying the words is one thing. Doin’ somethin’ about them is another.”

It was a dare---both of them knew it---but this awkward, end of first date feeling that Spike had had since leaving the Watcher’s room was beginning to wear thin, his desire to get everything out, in the open, on the line, suddenly his only purpose.

Buffy’s shoulders straightened, eyes narrowing. “And you expect me to…what?” she asked. “Throw myself at you and beg you to make love to me?”

He couldn’t help his smile. “Not that that doesn’t have its own appeal,” he drawled, “but no. Unless, of course, that’s what you want. In which case, I’m certainly open to the idea.”

“What is it you are expecting?” Her tongue darted out to lick her suddenly dry lips. “What is it you want?”

“Easy. You.” Slowly, Spike stepped forward, ignoring the blankets on the floor between them, closing the distance so that he stood just in front of her, their bodies not touching but only inches apart. “Even if it means I just get to hold you all night.”

His words pricked the bubble of her tension, deflating it with an almost palpable sigh, and Buffy felt the first relaxed smile of the night curl her lips. “Somehow, I never pictured you as the model of self-restraint, Spike,” she kidded, letting her hands stray to the hem of his shirt, tracing the narrow line of flesh between it and the waistband of his jeans with the tip of her finger. “But…thank you. Even if I’m not…you know…totally convinced it’s going to be necessary.”

All the heat of her body seemed to be focused on the half-inch of skin that ran along his abdomen, and Spike felt his own flesh begin to swelter, his cock hardening even as he lifted his arm to brush back a tendril of hair that had fallen over her cheek. “Just don’t be spreadin’ the word,” he said with a smile. “Big Bad’s still got a reputation to protect, you know. Even if the one I already have is shot to hell.”

“It’s not my fault you get yourself beaten up by dangerous chocolate demons.” She glanced up at him through her eyelashes, barely able to conceal her amusement. “Speaking of which---.”

“No,” he said firmly, cutting her off, both of his hands coming up to rest on her shoulders to push her gently away. “I’m not tellin’ you what happened.”

“Aw, c’mon,” she coaxed, and pushed back within the circle of his space, fingers curling through his belt loops to tug his hips against hers. “It’s got to be a good story. Don’t you want to share?” She could feel his arousal then, pressing into her hip bone, and sensed her body responding in kind. Stupid head, she thought. Doing too much thinking. I should’ve just been listening to what my body’s been saying all along.

“Not for all the blood in China,” he shot back.

Buffy frowned, jutting out her lip in a pretend pout. “Fine,” she said. “Be a party pooper.” Releasing her hold on his clothing, she turned and walked to behind the screen. “And just for that, holding is probably all you’re going to get tonight,” she called out from behind the divider.

Spike shook his head, a wry grin twisting his lips as he heard her begin stripping from her damaged clothing, the soft swish as the fabric hit the floor a sultry promise he knew she was deliberately baiting him with. Getting involved with the Slayer was going to be the death of him, he just knew it, but at least it was going to be a helluva ride.

Pulling his own t-shirt up over his head, the vampire rubbed at the spot on his chest that had been exposed by the burn before fingering the frayed edges of the cotton itself. “How much longer do you think we’re goin’ to be here?” he asked.

“No telling,” she replied. “Willow’s the one with the moon schedule. We’re going to have to figure out what went wrong tonight, fix it, and then do the spell again so that we can close off the tunnel for good.” As she stepped out from behind the screen, the sense of relief for having gotten past the awkward first few minutes warmed her body, and she smiled to herself. This was better. Talking about business with Spike for some reason made sense. It felt…normal. “Why are you asking?”

“’Cause I think you’re right about me needin’ more shirts,” he commented dryly, and tossed the singed tee aside, watching as she walked over to the bed and climbed in. “Don’t suppose I could talk you into pickin’ some stuff up for me next time you’re in what passes for a shop around here?”

Her smile was wide. “You trust me to do that for you?”

It had been an off-hand request, made only because he knew bloody shopping hours in Britain meant no way could he make it out himself, but suddenly, seeing the unexpected glee on Buffy’s face, Spike began to worry about what exactly he’d just let himself in for. Slowly, he pulled off a boot, eyes narrowing as he surveyed the young woman on the bed. “Yeah, but nothin’ Harris would wear,” he warned. “And nothin’ with a print. Like my black.”

“Black’s boring.”

“Black’s classic.”

“How about a kilt?”

His gaze was level, but twinkled in mirth. “Don’t even think about it.” He pulled off his other boot. “Or you’ll be the one wearing it.” His lips quirked, the image of wrapping the Slayer in tartan suddenly showing up in his head. “Although that might actually be fun.”

“So I can get one?”

“No.”

He was halfway around the bed when he caught Buffy staring at him, and stopped, tilting his head as he looked down at her. “What?” he asked.

There was no mistaking the slight blush that came to her cheeks, or the way her eyes kept darting from his legs to his face and back to his legs again. “You’re…wearing your jeans,” she finally said. It was a bold question she knew, but she’d felt his arousal, understood how short the rein on his control actually was; as unsure as she was as to how quickly she herself wanted to proceed, she didn’t want to make things worse by denying him what he was probably expecting at this point. Or was he? He could’ve pressed the issue at any point, and hadn’t. Was she just reading too much into this? No, she decided. Just do it. Get it over with. It’s not like you don’t want him, too. That way, it’s done, it’s out there, and…Crap. She hated being confused.

“Yeah,” Spike replied slowly. “And you’re wearing your sweats.”

“I just thought…seeing as we’ve…” Buffy rolled onto her side, propping her head up with her hand. “I guess…I didn’t expect you to wear them to bed anymore. You said…that first night, about…not...And it’s not like you have to worry about getting cold or anything,” she finished with a rush, suddenly flustered and wishing that she hadn’t brought it up in the first place, not if it was going to make her feel like some silly sixteen-year-old.

His tongue tapped against the inside of his teeth as he regarded her. “How much sleep were you plannin’ on getting’ tonight?” he asked softly, his voice a gentle rumble.

Her pulse began to race as the image of a naked Spike pressed against her suddenly overwhelmed her inner eye. “Slayers don’t need a lot of sleep,” she replied. “I’ve had years of going without.”

“These come off and you won’t be getting any.”

“I can handle that.”

Taking the last few feet in just two long strides, Spike settled himself on the edge of the bed, twisting to look at her. There was no mistaking her arousal---if her heart beat any faster, he was sure it would leap from her chest---and god knew he wanted it, but the earlier awkwardness, even if it was now mostly gone, had told him one thing. She needed this to be slow. Baby steps. Which was fine by him as long as they were all forward.

“You don’t have to do this,” Spike said, and let his hand drop to rest lightly on the blanket, feeling the outline of her leg beneath the layers.

“Do what?”

His gaze was dark as he surveyed her flushed face. She was going to be thick about this. OK. Try again.

“This thing between you and me,” he started, “it’s something I’ve been…” What? How could he phrase this without sounding like a pansy or giving too much away? “…aware of, for a bit now. Not seein’ something specific there, mind you. More like, knowin’ it was something I…wanted. That it would be…good. Us.”

He’d started kneading the muscle of her calf through the coverlets, and Buffy felt a warmth begin seeping up her leg as she sat, rapt in his words. This side of Spike---the quiet, reflective side---was not one she was accustomed to, though he’d presented it to her more than once already on this trip, and she was finding herself mesmerized by his voice, wondering how she could’ve missed this aspect of the vampire for so many years. Was this something Drusilla had seen? She almost hoped not, wanting to believe that it was Buffy that was drawing it out of him. Foolish and romantic, she knew, but there, nonetheless.

“But I also know it’s kind of blindsided you,” he continued. “So I know it’s goin’ to take you some time to…adjust. You’ve got…” Fuck, he really didn’t want to say the name, but god knew he had to. “…Finn to consider, and your friends, and I want you to know…we do this at your speed. I mean, yeah,” and the twist of his smile showed her he was only half-kidding about the next, “I’d love to get crackin’ and spend the night shaggin’ you senseless, but there’s nothin’ sayin’ we have to do it now, not if you’re not ready for it.”

Releasing his grip on her leg, Spike slid himself to the head of the bed so that he sat next to her, pulling her against him with a firm circle of his arm, feeling her hair tickle his chest as she rested her cheek against it. “We’ve got all the time in the world, pet,” he said. “So…when you’re ready---and I mean you, not when you think I am ‘cause that’s pretty much a given already---you just let me know. I’ll be there with bells on.” He stopped, frowning. “I’m goin’ to have to stop sayin’ that now that this thing with that harness has come up, aren’t I?” he asked ruefully.

Buffy chuckled softly, the relief at hearing him let her off the hook suffusing her body with a heat that softened her muscles. “How come you know my head better than me?” she quizzed. “I’ve been sitting here, all wrapped up in these boyfriend/girlfriend issues---.” She felt him stiffen beneath her cheek and pulled away, gazing up into his face. “What?”

“You said…” He shook his head. “Never mind. Not important.”

She resisted when he tried to pull her back against him. “No, really, what is it?” she pressed.

The cock of his head stripped the mask from him, leaving behind the wide-eyed disbelief of a small boy who’d just been offered the gift he never thought he’d get. “It’s just…you said…boyfriend/girlfriend.” His voice threatened to crack, but he cleared his throat, returning to his confident façade with his next words. “Took me by surprise, is all.”

“Oh.” Buffy’s eyes darted to the curve of his lower lip before rising to meet his again. “Is that…bad?” she murmured, leaning in toward him.

He shook his head, watching in mute fascination as her mouth met his, lips gently pressing in a tender kiss that caused his grip to tighten around her, pulling her slight form into his embrace as their tongues lightly explored the other’s. It ached of unspoken desire, but as they parted, and Spike could look down into the Slayer’s face, he saw the gratitude buried in the hazel depths of her eyes and knew he had done the right thing, even if it meant they would both be dreaming of unfulfilled promises…that is, if either of them even managed to fall asleep.

As she snuggled down into his shoulder, Buffy’s arm wrapped around the vampire’s torso, pulling him closer as she breathed in deeply of his scent. “I don’t know,” she murmured, letting her eyelids flutter shut. “I think you’d look cute in a kilt.”

His chuckle echoed through her cheek. “Don’t even go there, pet…”

 

To be continued in Chapter 20: A Rosebud by My Early Walk