DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss', of course. And the chapter titles are courtesy of Robert Burns.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy has just told Spike that she loves him…

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Chapter 37: Thine Am I, My Faithful Fair

It was the silence that was most unnerving. For too long, all she could hear was the water gently lapping against the side of the tub, the occasional hiss of a candle flame as it would jump in the chill air, and Buffy found herself holding her breath, hoping that the subtraction of that aural evidence would somehow make it possible to hear his reaction to her words. Not that it seemed that one was coming any time soon. Or it could just be that time had suddenly decided to stand still just so that it could mess with her head. In the Slayer world order, that was always a possibility.

She felt him move before anything, a tiny shift in his weight as his arm lifted from the tub's rim, easing back into the water to curl around her waist, tugging her gently closer against the slick sculpture of his hips. It meant she couldn't look up and see his face, to see what kind of response saying it out loud had garnered, and decided that choosing to not be facing him at this moment in time was not her smartest idea in the world. More than anything, she needed to know what he was thinking about it, and his staying silent was not helping matters any. Her lashes lifted, the urge to pull away extreme. "Spike? You haven't fallen asleep there, have you?" she asked softly, trying for playful and hoping it didn't sound as desperate to him as it did to her. "Still with me?"

"Still here," he replied, almost immediately. The baritone seemed to fill her skull, the words, though low, jostling their way through the confusion of her own thoughts to settle comfortably somewhere around the nape of her neck.

"And?"

His fingertips played absently along the curve of her side. "Thought you didn't want me interrupting you."

Though she thought she could detect a hint of tease behind his tone, his response was not what she had expected. "I'm done. We can now go back to our regularly scheduled interruptions."

That seemed to bring Spike back to life, his other arm lowering to position itself on her hip, deftly grasping them to turn her around in his arms. She could see him then, saw the dark shine in his eyes, and braced herself against his chest, watching as a single finger came up to trace the line of her jaw. "Say it again," he murmured, his gaze caught on the sight of her mouth.

Buffy couldn't help but smile. "Greedy much?" she teased.

"Yeah," he agreed with a matching smile. "I'm a demanding bastard. Now say it again."

The fears she'd momentarily felt vanished. Not a mistake to say it. His joy at hearing the declaration was written all over his face, etched in the strength of his grip. She could relax. "Well, gee, Mr. Vampire, sir," she said in a tone of feigned respect and innocence. "It was kind of hard for me to do the one time. I'm not sure I'm up to a repeat performance. It might be…traumatic."

His finger slid to the pretend pout she affected, tugging gently at her bottom lip. "Best way to get over those pesky trauma issues is to tackle them head on, Slayer. Face your fear. Doesn't that Watcher of yours teach you anything?"

"I'm used to facing my fears with a nice, big, pointy piece of wood in my hand. That scores big points against the intimidation factor."

The gleam that suddenly danced in the azure of Spike's eyes matched the quirk of his mouth as his hand caught hers, sliding it down between their bodies, guiding it to his erection that pressed against both of their stomachs. He chuckled as her fingers curled instinctively around it, only to have the sound choke off, replaced by a low groan as she squeezed, his lashes fluttering closed once only to re-open and stare at her with darkening desire. "There," he said, voice thick. "Problem sorted. Now say it again."

She had grown used to the chill of his body under her fingers, but in the swelter of the bath, his flesh seemed to take on a new life, temporarily infused with a stolen warmth that felt dangerous beneath her touch, the flickering shadows from the candlelight etching him in golden outlines against the shimmering water. Bravado prompted Buffy's hand to slide up the length of Spike's cock, pumping it in one long, languorous sweep, watching as the muscles in his jaw twitched in his attempt to control himself. When she reached its tip, her palm brushed across the velvet head before letting him go for good, and she deliberately widened her eyes as she shook her head. "Nope, not gonna," she dared. "Too hard." With a sly grin, she rolled back around in his arms, reaching for the soap. "Besides, what happened to me washing up? If I don't do that soon here, the water will get cold."

His frustrated growl rumbled in his throat and he reached past her to take the soap from her thin fingers. "Make you a deal then," he said, his mouth suddenly right in her ear, lips snaking along the curve of her lobe as he spoke. "You keep on talkin' and I'll do the washin'." She could almost see the smile on his face. "Think that might take off enough of the burden so that you might be able give it another go?"

Buffy half-shrugged. "I don't know. Only one way to really find out."

Spike returned the soap to the side. "Hair first," he instructed. "Lie back."

Sliding her bottom along the slick porcelain, the Slayer found herself lying stretched out in the tub, gazing up at the platinum head bent over her as the vampire's fingers cradled the back of her head to lower it gently into the water, sweeping it up and over her temples, wetting it with a firm touch that eased away whatever tension remained in her neck and shoulders. Positioned like that, his face was in ebony shadows, eyes lost in a bottomless chasm, and she wondered briefly at his tenderness, how he could be such a contradiction of terms, but more importantly, how she could've been blind to it for so long. Sighing, her eyes fell closed. She didn't need sight to know how incredible this felt.

"So…where were we?" he asked, long fingers entangling in her hair.

"Looking for Chatty Buffy."

"Uh-huh. And have we found her?"

"Yep. She's asking me to ask you, why."

"Why what?" His hands vanished from her head to reappear under her arms, lifting her gently back into a sitting position between his legs.

Buffy opened her eyes. "Why you need me to say it again."

There was a long silence, during which time Spike picked up the shampoo, squeezed some into his palm, and then worked it across his hands before returning to her hair. "Never said this was about me, pet," he said, nimble fingers curling through the tresses, lathering her up as he massaged her scalp. "That's an assumption you made on your own."

"Then---," she started, beginning to twist around to look at him.

He stopped, grabbing her head to turn it back away. "Stop your squirmin'," he ordered. "Or you're goin' to get soap in your eye."

She waited until he started the lathering again. "Since when did this turn into a Buffy therapy session?" she asked.

His hands fell away, dropping to the water to rinse before easing her back into a prone position between his thighs. "It's not," he said, and his voice sounded hollow through the water, far away as he used it rinse away the soap. "I just don't want you to be afraid of the words. I happen to like 'em. And I've got a tendency to use them a lot when I'm given half the chance." Spike smiled. "Or haven't you sussed that one out yet?"

"But I'm not you, Spike," she argued. "I've never been the one to go all big into the insight, or just lay my heart out on the line for anyone to come along and see. That's not my style."

"Anymore."

She frowned, sitting up and swiveling to look at him. "Huh?"

The vampire tilted his head, eyes dark. "That's not your style…anymore."

"OK, lost me there."

Reaching up, he pushed the wet hair from her face, exposing the arch of her cheekbone to his palm. "You forget, luv. I was there for the whole first love deal with Peaches. That was a different Slayer back then. One who did wear her heart on her sleeve. 'Til it got trampled when the prat decided to play the noble card and did a runner for it."

"You weren't there when Angel…left." Her voice was low, her eyes wide, and all of a sudden, the room seemed too warm to Buffy. This was taking a far different turn than she had expected, the levity suddenly vanishing as his blue gaze probed hers.

Spike shook his head. "No," he agreed softly. "I got to see the mess he left behind. That grand scheme where his leaving was goin' to give you the chance to get on with your life backfired as hell, though. Guess he should've thought to leave behind the pieces of you that you might actually need some time in the future."

"I…was OK. Eventually."

His voice was as warm as the orange of the flickering candles. "Because you moved on? Don't forget, I was around when you tried to patch yourself up by shagging that unibrow bloke, and when that blew up in your face, I had to watch as you tried to make everything fit again by hooking up with Captain Cardboard." Sliding himself forward, he bent his legs to accommodate the nearness of their torsos, gathering her face between his hands to pull her closer. Gently, he brushed a kiss over her lips, and then inched back, dark blue gazing down into hazel. "Almost feel sorry for him," he said. "Poor sod's never seen the real Buffy." When she lifted her eyebrows in surprise, he chuckled. "I said, almost."

"I'm not…" Her voice trailed away, realizing even as she said it that it wasn't really true. It wasn't so much of being afraid of the words themselves, as it was being afraid of what admitting them meant. "How do you do that?" she asked instead.

"Do what?

"Make analyzing this…us…me…look so damn easy."

"It's not a trick, pet. It's just a matter of keepin' your eyes open to what's right in front of you."

She let her hands brush over his shoulders, her gaze slipping from his to look down at the smooth splendor of his skin. "I always thought my eyes were open," she said, her voice a low wash over his flesh. "But I never saw any of this coming." She lifted her eyes back up, swallowing down the azure of his. "I don't know if saying it's ever going to come easy to me, Spike. But, I do know that I love you, and I promise to at least always show you that, even if I have trouble sometimes getting out the words."

It was actually more than he'd been hoping for. When she'd turned the tables, making it a game, Spike had been more than happy for the whole thing to be an elaborate foreplay, using the washing as an excuse to touch her. He could feel her growing excitement under the pads of his fingers, but as soon as the conversation had returned to its more serious bend, she had stiffened, pulling away from him whether she realized it or not, and so he had decided to just follow it through. It wasn't meant to be any type of prod, not really, and so hearing her say it again, having that promise now there, a tangible lifeline for him to grasp and hold close, was a gift, and not one he was ready to just pass on by.

"Does that mean you're goin' to start listenin' to me for a change?" he quizzed, pushing her hair back to expose the wound on her shoulder, his accompanying smile a mellow tease.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "That is one horse that really is dead," she said, just as lightly. Grabbing the scrunchie from the side, she dangled it from her fingers, ducking her head as she gazed at him through her lashes. "I thought you were going to wash me. I'm only half done here."

Instead of taking it, Spike wrapped his hand around her wrist, pulling her back to him, nudging her legs so that they stretched out on top of his. "Far be it for me to leave a job half-done," he murmured, extracting the sponge from her grip to dip it down into the water.

When the mesh skated down her spine, Buffy sighed in pleasure, nuzzling down onto his chest so that he could continue the ministrations to her back. Each balmy swipe left a stripe of goosebumps down her skin, and the familiar tingling between her legs only reminded her of his arousal pressing into her abdomen. Bathtime, Buffy, she silently scolded herself. Fooling around time comes later.

Except Spike seemed to have different ideas, gliding the scrunchie over the curve of her ass to rasp across the back of her thigh before sliding in between, delicately brushing against her outer lips in a wave of sensations that made the young woman gasp in surprise, pushing herself up on his chest to look down at him with wide eyes.

"What?" he asked innocently. "Thought you wanted me to wash you. That was the deal, wasn't it?"

"That didn't feel like washing."

"Oh?" The corner of his mouth lifted as he tugged her back down onto him. "Didn't you like it?"

Buffy couldn't help but smile. "I didn't say that…"

"So what're you fussin' for?" His hand returned, this time bereft of the mesh, and slid along the curve of her buttock, downward, easing between her slippery folds to trace the inner lips in warming ice. "Unless you like this better…?"

Her response was an immediate kiss, her lips to his, sucking at the fullness as the whimper rose in her throat, asking for more with that guttural cry than she had with any of the words she had previously uttered. Arms lifted, slid around porcelain shoulders, clinging in wet as her fingers played with the tiny hairs curling at the nape of his neck.

Though her injury was the farthest thing from Buffy's mind at the moment, it wasn't from Spike's, and he interrupted the kiss in order to pull away. She watched in puzzlement as he lowered her wounded arm back to her side, leaving the other in its new nest behind him, leaning forward to run his lips over the healing teeth marks.

"'Til the witches can magic this away for good," he said, answering her unspoken question, "we take it easy on this arm. I'm not havin' you bleedin' like a stuck pig in my bathwater."

"Oh." She seemed disappointed in his response. "So, I guess that means we're back to the plain old regular kind of bath, huh?"

"What gives you that idea?"

"Well, you said, you know, about taking it easy---."

His mouth was on her neck, licking up its side, buried in the hollow below her ear, before she could finish the sentence. "Oh, but I can do easy, luv," Spike murmured into her skin. "You just haven't given me the chance yet."

The tingles that were charging over her skin seemed to multiply as the vamp's hand returned to her hip, cupping her ass as his mouth sucked greedily at the pulse point in her neck. Long fingers seemed to separate, dividing their attention so that his thumb and index remained clinging to her buttock while the other three resumed their careful exploration of the slickness between her thighs, Buffy's moisture mingling with the bath in a slippery coating that allowed his digits easier access to her heat.

"OK," she breathed, breath channeling into shallow pants. "So, about this---." Her voice turned into a squeak as he abandoned the pretense of holding her, his entire hand disappearing under the water so that his fingers' penetration could assume the depths he desired, sinking inside as his lips abandoned her neck for the base of her throat. Instinctively, Buffy thrust back against him, forcing him deeper, raising herself away so that her shoulders separated from him in a small splash.

Whether conscious or not, her movement resulted in a silent offering of her breasts, hardened nipples now only inches from Spike's waiting mouth, and he leaned forward, catching the left between his teeth to nip at its tip. Oh, he could do easy bloody well enough, but the desire to just tell his control to bugger off, to sink his teeth into the delectable flesh of her breast was still very much there, hanging around in the nether regions of his gut. It didn't help when she responded to his little bite with an arch of her back that only drove it deeper into his mouth, and the vampire's eyes glittered momentarily in gold. Easy, he reminded himself, battling back to calm sapphire. Easy. Even if she drives you mad.

With his free arm, Spike pulled her back against him, the delicious feel of her muscles tight against him, breasts flattened to chest as his mouth sought out hers, taking and sucking and exploring with a sultry laziness that choked the air from her lungs. His hand inside her never stopped, and he expanded his penetration to include running his nail across her clit every time he pulled out, leaving it quivering and harder and waiting for more each time it left to bury back in her depths. And it was driving both of them insane for…

More, and not enough, and oh god more, Buffy thought. And the water was wrapping both of them, allowing her to slide up and down the solid mass of his body, his power a promise that she just wanted to grab and devour to keep for herself, but she knew she couldn't, shouldn't, not right to just steal what wasn't hers, even if it was obvious to both of them that they were ready, more than ready, and it would hardly be their first time, but oh, god, he'd said he was hers, and she was certainly his…and what was the point if they didn't…

Though the water had started to cool, the heat pouring from the Slayer's flesh kept it warm, lapping over her back to begin splashing over the rim, dotting the floor in tiny droplets that both were oblivious to. It was when she pulled away, lifting her hips from his, tearing herself from that mouth, that Spike felt the first sense of loss, and stared up at her with eyes that were almost black.

"You're not hurt, are you?" he asked, voice barely a rasp as his gaze went automatically to her injury, his fingers reaching to support her.

Wordlessly, she shook her head. "I know you wouldn't hurt me," she murmured and placed her hands on either side of his face, pulling him closer to run her lips across his forehead…over his brow…down the aquiline slope of his nose.

It was the choice of her words that suddenly fueled the charges that crawled just beneath his skin. Wouldn't…she'd said wouldn't…not couldn't, not like he couldn't because of the chip, but that he wouldn't because he specifically chose not to. The fact that she saw the difference, whether consciously or unconsciously, suddenly meant more than it had hearing her announce her feelings, because it meant…she understood. She got it. It wasn't until now that Spike realized just how badly he needed her to do so.

Her mouth was back on his, gently probing as she lowered her hips back down, her swollen outer lips sliding along his erection to position himself at her entrance. Now, now, her head was screaming, and fought the urge to make it quick, to impale herself on him, driving him deep. Easy, was what he'd said, and if he could do it, so could she.

And he was there, inching his way inside, stretching against her in such a mouth-watering fullness she wondered how she'd managed so long without him. Lean fingers dug into her powerful hips, guiding and holding back as her muscles tensed, straining to complete the motion as swiftly as possible so that she could begin the ride in earnest. It was only when she felt his pubic bone press against her clit, bearing into her, sending thousands of shocks shooting into her pelvis…up her spine…radiating throughout her tissue, did Buffy begin the slide back up, savoring the strength he offered in exchange for the taste of her tongue.

Clinging to him in the water, it was as if the world had fallen down around them, leaving them in a chaotic limbo of arms, and legs, and mouths, and tongues, and it was so wet, and tight, each stroke its own fractured universe of pleasure, never to stop, even as she began to quicken the pace.

His groans of pleasure became growls in her mouth, his nails digging deeper, his thrusts becoming stronger, until Spike had no thought of anything but the moment and the woman above him. When he felt the tightening of her inner muscles around him, the suddenness shocked him to the edge, driving him to a final thrust that slammed into her hips, rocketing both of them into separate worlds as they rode out their orgasms. He broke from her kiss, burying his face in her neck, away from her wound though the scent of it only added to his excitement, and felt the Slayer do the same, murmuring incoherently against his skin as she did so.

When her breathing began to return to normal, Buffy pulled far enough away to gaze down at him, the hazel of her eyes completely overtaken by the ebony of her pupils. "I've got all my pieces back," she whispered. "Thank you."

He was mesmerized by the way the light was dancing in her damp hair and tilted his head to watch it play with the tendrils that clung to her shoulder. "Don't thank me," he said. "All I did was love you."

"Exactly. Without trying to change anything or make me feel bad about me being me. That's deserving of gratitude, I think." Buffy smiled. "Maybe it's my turn to be the one doing some washing here."

This time, he grinned. "Now that," Spike replied, "would be fun."

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

Even through the lessening rain, the hulking shape of the castle was unmistakable, and Riley breathed a sigh of relief that he'd managed to find the place without wrecking the car. Mr. Travers was going to be angry enough if he found out that he'd stolen the keys and taken it out. He wasn't even supposed to be involved in any of this.

Pale yellow gleamed from the windows, flickering to indicate candlelight, and the young man used that as a beacon to direct himself as he pulled behind the other cars. Killing the engine, he stared out through the window, his hand reaching to his side to grab the stake he'd brought with him. Gonna make this fast, he thought grimly. In, dust Spike, out before Buffy finds out. Of course, if Spike was with the others, Riley would just have to keep cover until he was alone. That shouldn't be too long. The vampire was the only smoker in the bunch; eventually, he would have to come outside to have a cigarette.

He'd try inside first, though. Maybe he'd get lucky and not have to wait in the rain to do this.

He heard the murmur of voices as soon as he stepped over the threshold, and crept down the hallway toward them. A lot of them, probably the whole gang, he thought, and stopped when he reached the door, pressing his ear silently to the crack by the hinges in an effort to discern who exactly was inside.

There was Giles…and another English guy, but not Spike, definitely too cultured…and Giles again…and Xander? Hard to tell, the voice seeming deeper through the wall…but then the man laughed, and Riley knew for sure it was Harris. The girls were a jumble, talking over each other, the occasional clink of metal against glass indicating that they were probably eating. It was suppertime, after all.

The conversation was difficult to make out, but if he concentrated, Riley could catch the occasional phrase. It took very little time to actually hear what he wanted.

Spike. Upstairs.

He didn't even wait for the rest, merely pivoted on his heel and made a beeline for the stairwell he'd seen when he came in. One flight, and he stopped, listening carefully for any signs of habitation. When he found none, he was up the next like a shot, and didn't even have to emerge from the twisting coil to hear the low rumble of Spike's laughter come drifting down the hall.

Riley's fingers tightened around the stake in his hands as he crept down the corridor. Wouldn't do to announce his presence. Even with the chip, Spike was smart enough to find ways to avoid him. Probably even hazard a headache to defend himself. Riley had to surprise him; it was his best option for success.

His hand was on the doorknob when he heard her. It was ice across his muscles, her laughter crystalline even through the wall, slicing into his skin as precisely as a scalpel. They were both in there---their bedroom, probably---and they were laughing…and was that water?

Not possible, he thought. Buffy wouldn't do this. Except she had in the past. She'd had Angel. And she was the Slayer. Who knew what kind of vampire baggage came along with that? Riley sure as hell didn't; she never let him in on any of those kind of secrets, stealing out in the middle of the night for a slay when she thought he was asleep, when given the circumstances, she should've been asleep, or at the very least, cuddling with him. Not exactly balm for the old ego knowing she needed more than what he was giving her. And then there was the whole only letting him in so far, just enough to help a little, but not enough to really know, or to have a chance to make a difference in her life.

And now there was Spike.

He swallowed down the bile that burned in the back of his throat. Just go, his common sense was yelling. As long as she's in there, Buffy will never let you near Spike, even if she's against whatever hold he has over her. But he just didn't get it. For some inexplicable reason, she had a blind spot when it came to the chipped vampire, refusing to accept how much of a threat he still was, or how detrimental to the gang it was for him to hang around them. Hadn't she learned her lesson last year when he'd tried turning them all against each other?

There it was again. Laughter. Together. Both of them.

Obviously, she hadn't.

What could be so damn funny? It had been a long time since Riley had heard such carefree sounds coming from his girlfriend; even at their happiest, she'd always seemed so serious. He'd liked that to a degree, but now, hearing her like this, he wondered yet again just how much he'd missed. And what the hell was going on in that room. And there was the water again. If he didn't know better, he would've said it sounded like…splashing.

Common sense was losing. Riley's hand returned to the doorknob, and this time, he squeezed, ready to turn it and then suddenly not wanting to. But when the distinct splash came echoing out, followed almost immediately by Buffy's shriek, he responded on instinct, twisting it and pushing the door open, his eyes darting around the room to settle on the two blonds in the bathtub, both of them naked…both heads whirling to see who had interrupted them…

And two sets of eyes widened, Buffy's muscles frozen in surprise, Riley's locked in horror and shock.

The only one to move was Spike. Rolling his eyes, he grimaced and leaned back against the porcelain, carefully pulling the Slayer who had been straddling him off and over to the side, away from the door. "And they say I've got bad manners," he drawled…


To be continued in Chapter 38: A Man's a Man for All That