DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. And the chapter titles are courtesy of Robert Burns. The various poems from which Spike quotes are “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron, and “On the Night of the Full Moon” by Audre Lorde.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Colin has come clean with Buffy, informing her that the witch who had done the original ritual was kidnapped and is now dead, while Duncan has overheard the lot and has decided to do something about Hornbrook. The Scoobies have gone into serious research mode to discover more about the harness and the ritual…

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Chapter 22: Blythe Have I Been on Yon Hill

The point of her chin rested on the back of her hands, boring into the flesh as she stared at the book on the table in front of her. She was supposed to be reading, but her brain was refusing to cooperate, focusing not on the text before her but instead conjuring up memories of disconnected phrases that announced Spike’s feelings for Buffy louder than anything Willow had ever before witnessed from the vampire.

gilt limbs beckoning in lambent sway

climbing, clambering, clawing to merit basking within the verge

my aurora of the night

He didn’t know she’d seen it. When he’d returned from filling Xander’s tub, Willow had ignored the book’s presence on the table, watching out of the corner of her eye as Spike noticed its displacement, hesitating to pick it up, finally relenting as he tucked it into his hand before ambling back to his corner seat. Not one word had been said. It was just as well. She wasn’t sure she was capable of a coherent thought after reading the poem’s fragments anyway.

When Buffy had come back from her search outside, Willow’s distraction had worsened, watching the pair as they so studiously ignored the other. Once she looked for it, the signs seemed so obvious, especially from Spike, and the young witch found herself wondering how long the vampire would be able to hold off on letting Buffy know the depth of his feelings for her. He loved her, that much was certain; his every movement broadcasted it if someone took the bother to pay attention. His eyes were constantly following the blonde, not always straight-on, sometimes only out of the corner or covertly through his lashes, but always there, as if by letting her disappear from his sight she would somehow disappear altogether. It was even in his body---sitting, standing, didn’t make a difference---his muscles responding to each movement from the Slayer as if they were both dancing to some silent tune only the two of them could hear.

While there was no mistaking the veracity of Spike’s feelings, the most disconcerting aspect of watching her best friend that night lay in Willow’s growing dread that the vampire’s feelings might not necessarily be unreciprocated. Buffy had talked about a spark, but if the redhead was pressed, she would’ve called it a forest fire that surged between the pair, blazing in flames so high that it was a miracle the others didn’t see it as well. If the Slayer didn’t love Spike now, she wasn’t far off. And Willow was afraid that if she found out for herself what was going on inside her heart, Buffy was going to wig. Big time.

They were out on patrol together right now, leaving the others to continue with the research in the great hall, and the young redhead wondered if Spike was planning on giving her the poem while they were out. After dinner, Willow had watched as he’d slid it out of his book and tucked it into his pocket, unaware that anyone knew what he was doing. She’d caught the whistle under his breath as he’d sauntered past, and ever since, had been stuck on the what-ifs and ohmigods tumbling about her head.

“Are you ready to go to bed?”

Tara’s voice was a gentle murmur in her ear, and Willow smiled as she shifted the weight on her hands to look at her lover. “What gives you that idea?” she asked quietly.

“Because you haven’t turned a page in half an hour,” came the amused reply. “That’s usually a pretty good sign that no reading is actually getting done.”

Willow glanced at the two Englishmen who still sat in rapt leisure at the end of the table. “Giles?” she prompted, waiting for him to look up before speaking further. “I’m beat. Is it OK if we go up now if we promise to be up extra early?”

“Of course,” he assured. “It’s been a busy day for us all. No reason to wear ourselves down unnecessarily, since we can’t attempt the ritual again for a few days anyway.”

“Are you staying over again?” she asked as she stood. “Are we going to see you at breakfast?”

Giles glanced at Colin before speaking. “Yes,” he replied. “Though probably only for tonight. I’ll most likely resume sleeping at the B&B tomorrow.”

Closing the book she’d been reading, Tara rose to her feet, cradling the tome in her arm as she waited for Willow to join her. “I’m not too tired yet,” she explained to the Watchers. “I’ll finish this upstairs.”

The two girls strolled from the great hall, hand in hand. It wasn’t until they were almost near the stairwell that the redhead spoke up. “There’s something I’ve got to tell you,” she said quietly. “But you’ve got to promise not to say a word about it to anyone.”

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

They stood at the crest of the hill, gazing down at the deserted valley below. If it wasn’t for the constant presence of Spike at her side, Buffy would’ve said it was the dullest patrol she’d ever had in her five-plus years as a Slayer. Just like it had been that afternoon, not one thing looked out of place in the silent Highland countryside; not one creature had poked its head out to announce its presence. It was very much as if they had stepped back in time, to an era where they were the only two living things on the planet. Well, she thought ruefully, one living and one unliving, that is.

There had been few words spoken since they’d left Dall Rath, but the silence was far from uncomfortable. Instead, it was as if they didn’t need to speak, treading through the heather as their eyes scanned the earth for untoward signs of demon activity, with only the occasional comment made between them. Buffy had never known Spike to be so quiet---the vamp always seemed to have something to say---and she was dying to ask what was so obviously on his mind. But fear of shattering the still accord that had bound them as they stepped through the moonlight checked her tongue, and she found herself making only the idle remark as the hours passed.

“I’m pretty sure we’re not going to find anything,” she said, glancing up at his immobile face as he looked down into the dale. “We should probably head back so we can get a good night’s sleep and start fresh in the morning.”

“You in a hurry?” he queried softly, not meeting her eyes, instead lifting his own to stare up at the stars glimmering in the velvet carpet of the sky. “Nice night. Seems a shame to waste it.”

Watching the light reflect off his pale skin sent shivers down Buffy’s spine, and she found herself reaching up to trace the shadow of his cheekbone, fingers slightly trembling as the angles curved beneath her touch. The act took him by surprise, and Spike responded by turning into her touch, gazing with fathomless eyes at the softness of her mouth before sliding up to meet the silent wonder in her own aspect. They held like that for a long moment, each caught in the marvel of the other, before she smiled and slowly lowered her hand.

“Not like I’ve got a curfew or anything,” she joked. “I should probably take advantage of being reasonably responsibility-free while I can.”

Sliding his duster from his shoulders, Spike laid the leather out on the cold ground before settling himself down on its edge, automatically reaching up to offer her a hand in joining him. It was a curious gesture, more gallant than she would’ve expected from the vampire, but Buffy took it, storing it away in the growing file of previously unknown Spike facts that she was keeping in the back of her head. Pretty soon, she realized, she was just going to have to toss the whole thing away; with every passing day, he was destroying all her pre-conceived notions as to what to expect from his behavior. In a very much good way.

“I picked up some clothes for you today,” she said as she nestled into the curve of his shoulder, plucking at the cotton of the long-sleeved shirt he wore before smoothing it over the plane of his abdomen. “I’ve decided it’s time you experimented with color.”

“Thought I told you to get me black.”

“And one of them is black,” she countered. “It’s just the other two…aren’t.” She felt his head shake slightly, his chin brushing across the top of her head. “You don’t have to wear them if you don’t like them. I just thought, you know…we’re in this whole trying new things out phase…but you don’t have to. I’ll understand.”

She heard him sigh, and wondered why he did that, made all those little noises and did all those little quirks that made him seem so much more human than other vampires. She was sure he didn’t even realize he did it; it was as much a part of who he was as the bleach job or the black nail polish. The question of whether or not she should bring it to his attention lingered somewhere in the depths of her mind, but Buffy knew already what its answer was. No. It would probably make him self-conscious about it, and the last thing she wanted to do was make Spike uncomfortable around her, wondering if she was measuring every little thing he did or weighing every little word. Even if sometimes she was.

Though his arm curled gently around her back, there was a tension in the vampire’s muscles that had been present throughout most of the evening, his body a tightly coiled spring just waiting for the trigger to set it free. At first, Buffy had attributed it to patrol, but now, with the absence of any danger, lying here with her in the heather, it seemed misplaced, and she bit her lip, debating if she should bring it up. Not like she herself wasn’t a little wound up, but at least she understood where that was coming from. Was it possible Spike was having doubts about everything? No, she immediately thought. That’s silly. He’s the one who suggested we stay out here, and he’s the one who’d said he’d wait as long as necessary for her. He’s also the one who turned down your offer for sex last night, a little voice said in the back of her head, and she felt her pulse began to accelerate as the first niggles began to press into her confidence.

“Not too cold, are you?” His voice was low, his words almost inaudible, a shade of worry darkening his tone. “If this is too much for you, we can go back.”

“No,” Buffy replied, and snaked her hand across his chest to snuggle it under his arm, giving him a little squeeze as she did so. “Unless you do.”

“No,” he repeated, and tightened his own grip around her.

They were engulfed in silence, and though there was nothing strained or uncomfortable about it, after several minutes, Buffy began to wonder just what was going on, why he’d suggested they linger on the mountain when they could just as easily be cuddling like this in the warmth of their tiny bed. She was about to open her mouth to make that suggestion when she felt his muscles tense beneath her cheek, as if steeling himself to speak.

“’She walks in beauty, like the night, of cloudless climes and starry skies,’” Spike murmured, each word dripping in honey as he stared up into the void above them. “’And all that’s best of dark and bright, meet in her aspect and her eyes.’”

She sat up, hazel eyes wide in delighted surprise. “Okaaaay…” she said, and felt her mouth curl into an unexpected smile. “What was what? Is that poetry?”

He stole a glance at her before returning his gaze above him. “Yeah,” he replied, his voice suddenly rough. So much for romantic gestures, he thought, furious with his own failing. Work up to this all bloody night, and as soon as the words come out of my mouth, she bolts. “Don’t look so shocked, Slayer. Not like I just pulled a knife on you or something. Just…got caught in the mood, is all.” Lay still, he reminded himself. Don’t get up and run or she’s goin’ to know for sure that this bugs the hell out of you.

She saw his fingers begin clawing into the heather at his side, the muscles twitch in his jaw as he clenched in some unseen determination. “I didn’t know you knew poetry,” Buffy said, deliberately softening her tone. “It…caught me off-guard.”

“Why? Because it means I like to read?” Spike’s lashes were dark against his cheeks as he closed his eyes, desperate to block out the assumed scorn he envisioned on her face. “Eternity lasts a bloody long time, pet. Can’t spend all of it fighting and killing.” Should’ve just kept my mouth shut, he raged. Gone back to the room and forgotten about the whole thing. Even better I didn’t try dragging out the rubbish I wrote. She’d be laughing until next Tuesday, then.

“You know,” and her voice was a husky caress across his skin, “I once pretended to know all about Emily Dickinson just to get this guy in high school to notice me. Our date ended up at a funeral home.”

He opened his eyes, unable any longer to fight the desire to see her face, and met the appreciative awe shadowed in her smile. It wasn’t disgust or disdain, and it wasn’t anger, and so maybe her first response had been one of shock, but hadn’t he spent the last three years cultivating the Big Bad image for her and her friends? What else could he have expected?

Spike’s muscles relaxed, teeth parting from the grind in which he’d been holding them. “Dickinson’s not too bad,” he admitted, adding with a wry smile, “For an American.”

Buffy’s brows lifted, and she folded her arms across her chest in mock-defense. “And I suppose you could come up with better?” she dared.

He shrugged. “Just like what I like,” he said noncommittally, rolling onto his side to face her. “You want American? I can do that.” His eyes glittered in the moonlight as he recited, his voice dripping down her spine.

And I would be the moon
spoken over your beckoning flesh
breaking against reservations
beaching thought
my hands at your high tide
over and under inside you

and the passing of hungers attended, forgotten.

She was mesmerized. There was no other word for it. Lost in the black pools of his eyes as the words almost oozed from his lips, leaping across the chasm that separated them to slice through her coat…her clothing…reaching inside to stroke with satin fingers across her skin. Inside her chest, her heart was pounding in a vociferous rhythm that threatened to overwhelm the pair of them, and she had to balls her hands into fists in order to contain the trembling.

“You win,” Buffy breathed. “Way better than Emily Dickinson.”

Spike chuckled. “Thought you might like that one.” His hand reached out to begin caressing the arch of her bent knee.

“Who wrote it?”

“Bird by the name of Audre Lorde. Ask Red. I’m sure the Wicca knows all about her.” Trailing upward, the vampire’s fingers began kneading the tension of Buffy’s thigh, inhaling the musk of her arousal as he did so, and watched as she chewed at her lip. The effect the bit of poem had had on her was stronger than he’d expected, and he almost wished he could remember the rest of it, to see what type of visceral response it would evoke in the Slayer. Maybe it was time for the other test…

Slowly, Buffy uncurled her legs, stretching herself out while she twisted her body around to spoon against him, his hips nestling against her, her head resting on the powerful muscle of his bicep. Even as his other arm snaked across her stomach, drawing her closer, the sigh of satisfaction that escaped her throat was audible to both of them, and she chastised herself for doubting him earlier. Too many years of negative conditioning. And Spike was getting the brunt of it, if only in her head. She was going to have to be careful about that.

“What’s this?” he asked, feeling the lump pressed against her side.

Buffy reached into her pocket and extracted the cell phone that nestled there. “Giles went and bought phones for us today,” she explained, holding it up for him to see. “So that we’re not cut off from everyone in case of emergencies or anything.”

He pretended to sulk. “I didn’t get one.”

“And just who would you be calling?” she teased, twisting her head to look back at him with a smile.

“I know people.” Her elbow in his ribs told him she knew he was kidding, and he smiled as he pulled her closer, nuzzling his nose in her hair. “Have you had a chance to call your mum yet? Find out how she’s doing?”

“No. I’ve been meaning to, but I can’t get the time difference straight in my head for some reason. And if I call her in the middle of the night, she’ll have a fit. I just know it.”

“Well, it’s six or seven there now,” he explained. “If you’ve got signal on that thing, why don’t you do it now?”

“You wouldn’t mind?”

“’Course not.” Spike’s eyes danced. “I like your mum, remember?” He watched as she sat up, peering at the tiny screen on the phone before she pressed a button. His eyebrow lifted. “You know how to dial internationally?” he asked, incredulous.

Her blush was obvious even in the moonlight. “Giles programmed all the phones with our home numbers,” she admitted. “He said he was worried about the charges of all these calls ending up in Japan or something.”

There was a moment of silence, and then Spike heard the faraway treble of Joyce’s voice through the phone. “Hi, it’s me,” Buffy said, and then proceeded to launch into the back-and-forth conversation that was so typical of the Slayer and her mother, punctuating her words with the occasional giggle, the odd story, but focusing primarily on the elder’s ongoing health issues.

Concern had been the mitigating factor in making her decision to accept this project from the Council, but listening to her speak now, Spike could sense the fears she had been hiding from them all begin to seep away, gradually replaced with a growing calm as her mother’s words eased the worry away. Though he was deliberately choosing not to listen, the vampire couldn’t help it when the sporadic piece of conversation broke through, and found himself wishing for Buffy’s sake that she was back in Sunnydale right now, having hot chocolate with Joyce, instead of having to deal with whatever mess the Council had created. The pair of them deserved it.

He felt her go rigid before the words came out of her mouth. “No, really, Mom, you don’t have to do that,” she sputtered, and then glanced wildly at Spike as her head ducked, switching the phone to her other hand and the ear farther away from him, making it more difficult for the vamp to hear the other end of the line. “Hi,” she said quietly, and when he heard the responding baritone, Spike’s own muscles tensed in kind.

Finn. She was talking to Finn.

There was no real reason for him to be upset. Buffy had made it more than clear that when they returned to the Hellmouth, she was going to break it off with the bloke. But now…seeing her turn away from him in the face of conversation with her so-called boyfriend…Spike’s body flashed between hot and cold as his nerves ran rampant across his skin, the sudden taste of blood in his mouth as he bit at his cheek, struggling to contain the words he so desperately wanted to shout out loud.

“No, no, it’s not bad,” she was saying. “Cold.” Pause. “She what? Oh, I am so going to kill her when I get back. Thanks for putting a stop to it.” Longer pause. “Really? That many, huh? No, it’s great. You’re being a huge help…Yeah, miss you, too.”

As soon as the words fell from her lips, Buffy froze, hating her mouth for going into automatic mode, her head whipping around to see Spike visibly stiffen as he sat up. Anger gleamed in his eyes, but under it, obvious even for her to see, burned the hurt, hauling him to his feet even as he yanked his coat out from underneath her seat. She didn’t even hear Riley on the other end as the vampire forced his arms into the leather, but when he turned his back on her to begin marching away, she mumbled a quick apology into the phone and covered the mouthpiece with her hand.

“Where are you going?” she demanded, jumping to her feet.

“Don’t let me interrupt,” he said coldly, his pace not slowing, not even bothering to look back. “You probably want some privacy and all.”

Oh, no, she thought. He’s not getting off that easy. In a short burst of speed, she’d darted after him, grabbing his arm even as her hand came away from the phone, forcing him to stop and face her. “Don’t do this,” Buffy hissed. “I didn’t mean it. You know that.”

Spike’s eyes flickered down to the phone and the open receiver. She wasn’t even aware that it was currently uncovered. Sucking at his top teeth, he regarded the flush in her face, heard the racing of her heart. She believed that, trusting him to take her word for it that what he’d heard---I didn’t mean it---was true.

But Finn had heard it, too.

“Let’s just get back to our room, luv,” the vamp said slowly, making sure his words were clear even if he didn’t raise his voice. He watched as she raised the phone back to her ear, carefully choosing her next words as she said good-bye to the man on the other end, her voice deceptively light even as she locked gazes with the one in front of her.

“It was just habit,” Buffy explained as she slid the cell into her coat pocket. “I’m sorry. I wish you hadn’t---.”

He cut her off with a kiss, both hands holding either side of her face as he lowered his lips to hers, sucking and nibbling hungrily at her mouth even as his tongue swept across hers. His. Not Finn’s. It was his touch she was responding to. It was his body she was now pressing herself against, trying to pull him closer, ignoring the fact that this was the first time he’d dared to kiss her so outside the confines of their room. Buffy wanted him. And he didn’t want her to forget it.

It was over far too quickly, leaving her breathless, but instead of pulling completely away, Spike rested his forehead against hers, closing his eyes as he breathed in her scent. “I’m the one who should be apologizing here,” he murmured, and his mouth rained tiny kisses across her closed lids. “Me and my bloody over-reacting.” She hadn’t stopped him, hadn’t pushed him away, had responded by kissing him back with a fervor that spoke of her own hunger…and nothing else seemed to matter anymore, not if he could have her…not if he could be the one to make her smile, or to sigh with such contentment.

As they began walking back to Dall Rath, Buffy leaned into Spike, her hand catching his, entwining their fingers, and felt his thumb trace lazy circles into the soft pad of her palm. “Don’t suppose you know any other poems?” Buffy asked softly, and caught his smile out of the corner of her eye. Good. Everything was going to be OK. Disaster averted.

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

Returning the phone to its cradle was automatic, which was a good thing for Riley because, all of a sudden, none of his muscles seemed to be working, locked in a rigor mortis that began to claw at his gut. He didn’t even hear Joyce come up behind him until she’d passed before his line of sight.

“That was a nice surprise, wasn’t it?” she asked lightly, oblivious to his discomfort as she crossed the room with the bowl of popcorn to sit next to Dawn on the couch.

“Yeah,” Riley said gruffly. “Nice.”

“She didn’t say how much longer they were going to be, did she?” Joyce questioned, shaking her head. “I can’t believe I forgot to ask.”

“No, she didn’t.” Maybe he was wrong. Maybe he hadn’t heard what he thought he’d heard. After all, she was in Britain. There were bound to be lots of men with English accents around her.

“Betcha Spike’s not in a hurry to come back,” chirped Dawn. “When Buffy was packing her bag, he told me he got in this huge fight down at Willy’s. I just hope he remembers to bring me back a souvenir, like a kilt or bagpipes or something.”

Or maybe not.

He didn’t even hear the ensuing argument between mother and daughter. The only thing he could hear were those eight awful words.

Let’s just get back to our room, luv.

Our room. Spike. Buffy. Our room.

“Where are you going?” Joyce called after him as she watched Riley grab his jacket and head for the door. “I thought you were going to stay and watch the movie with us.”

“Can’t,” he replied. “I just remembered. I’ve got some…business to take care of.” As he slammed the door shut behind him, his lips thinned as he almost ran down the front path. Spike. Buffy. Together.

Suddenly, the only thing that mattered to Riley at that moment was to find something undead and beat the unliving crap out of it.

 

To be continued in Chapter 23: Let Not Woman E’er Complain