DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY:  Buffy and Spike are finding oddities around the cabin, like a stocked fridge of blood and Mr. Gordo perched on the bed, while Giles has woken up, alive but confused, in the presence of two strangers…

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

Chapter 5: Now the Jingle Hop Has Begun

At her request---and wasn’t this weekend supposed to be about her waiting on him and not the other way around?---Spike helped Buffy over to the bed, where she kept turning the stuffed pig over and over in her hands.  Now that she’d told him it was hers, all he could smell was the scent of her on it, a hungry tickle in the back of his throat that made his senses tingle.  He’d been aware of it earlier, but had attributed it to the coppery blood that still hung in the air, too distracted with his raging emotions to properly discern the other odors that clung to the pink fake fur.

It wasn’t just the pig, now that they were being smart about their situation.  Well, smart was probably generous.  More aware of things not quite right was more accurate, he reasoned.  Not that there was anything overtly obvious about the place, but with the suggestion that someone meant for them to be bunking in proper, Spike could smell the lingering effects of eau de Slayer coming at him from every corner.  There, there, and there, almost as if he was swimming in it, with Buffy coating every inch of him, hard and soft at the same time and…

Fuck.  Stupid shower didn’t do anything but rejuvenate his sensory control.  Bitch made it perfectly clear how she felt about the incident on the couch, whether she wanted to believe her body or not, and damn if he was going to let himself fall into that particular trap of playing what if.

Even if the air did smell like fired honey, bubbling away to simmer beneath his skin.

While Buffy was lost in her examination of the toy, Spike’s head tilted, his gaze sweeping the perimeter of the room before falling upon the heavy oak dresser.  The scents were stronger there, more concentrated, and he strode to it, the question lingering in the back of his mind.  Only a moment of eeny meeny miney moe with the small drawers that comprised the top row was required before he pulled out the one in the center. 

His body blocked it from her view, and not for the first time, Spike was glad about his lack of reflection in the mirror that hung over it.  A cornucopia of colorful lace and satin greeted him from the drawer’s depths, and his nostrils flared as the scent proliferated, eyes flashing as they danced over the panties and bras that were strewn haphazardly inside, as if someone had just upended them into it from a basket or another drawer.  Immediately, his fingers lit upon a red silky number, barely there and carrying a perfume that made his skin creep in a yen hinting for more, and stuffed it into his jeans pocket before she could see.  Didn’t know really why.  Just seemed like the right thing to do.  Especially after waking up with his fingers dancing over a lace-covered nipple.

“What’ve you found now?” Buffy asked from behind him.

Picking up a black thong, Spike hooked it on his index finger and began twirling it as he turned to look at her.  “Fancy these must be your unmentionables,” he said with a smirk.  “I’ll bet Soldier Boy never got a gander of this little number.  Something tells me he wouldn’t have been so quick to hotfoot it outta your bed if you’d given him a little peepshow wearing this and nothing else.”  He glanced from the thong, to Buffy on the bed, and then back to the underwear in contemplative appraisal.  “Well, maybe some heels.  Gotta do something to make those little stick legs of yours look longer.”

Her furious blush was accompanied by a vicious throw of the pig at his head, a blow he easily ducked with a chuckle.  “Put it back,” she ordered, waiting for him to comply before pointing at the other drawers.  “Are they all my things?”

It took only sliding a couple open to confirm they were.  Tops, sweaters, trousers, shoes…they practically spilled from the dresser and wardrobe when he opened them, each adding to the consternation of the Slayer until she finally held up a hand for him to stop.  “How is this possible?” she demanded.  “There’s more of my stuff here than I took home for the holidays.  It’s like someone picked up my dorm room and shook it out through a Buffy filter.”   She was shaking as she inched her way to the edge of the bed, her legs swinging around the edge of the mattress, and Spike could smell the heat rising from her skin yet again.

“We’ll have to suss it out later,” he said, kicking the black boots he’d just shown her back into the wardrobe.  “Right now, you need to get some sleep before you’re back on your quest for fire again.”

“I’m fine,” she grumbled irritably, and slapped at his hand when he tried to help her stand up.

“You’re a wreck,” he countered.  “About to become salvage material if you don’t put your feet up.”

“And you care about that exactly why, Spike?”

“’Cause it looks like we’re both in for the long haul on this one.”

“Really?  I don’t see any of your clothes conveniently laying around, or your Watcher suddenly AWOL.”  She passed a trembling hand over her perspiring face, exhaustion creeping back into her voice in spite of only having risen.  “I hate this.  I hate feeling like someone thinks they can just play God with my life and tell me what to do.  I hate being so much out of control.”

For a moment, his concern for the frustration she was venting overwhelmed him and Spike had to cross his arms across his chest, shoving his hands into his armpits, in order not to make a prat of himself by pulling her into a comforting caress.  “It’s only for a few more hours,” he said, deliberately softening his tone.  “Just ‘til sunset and we can head for the road.”

“Oh, please,” she said roughly.  “Like you aren’t loving every second of this.” 

“What?  You think the nightingale gig is my cup of tea, Slayer?  You’re cracked if you think I get my jollies waiting on you like you’re the Queen of soddin’ Sheba.”

Her brows lifted, her eyes too bright from the fever.  “Because remembering how you took care of nutcase Drusilla for a century is purely a product of my fever-addled brain, is that it?”

Now he had to keep his hands tucked away to fight the urge not to punch her, to hell with what the chip might say.  “Totally different and you know it.  Me and Dru---.”

“---endless love, blah blah, give it a rest, Spike.  Do you have any idea how old listening to you moan about losing Drusilla, Queen of the Cuckoo’s Nest, gets?”

His eyes were cold.  “About as old as listening to you wake up wishin’ you had old Angel as a cuddle toy,” he bit out, and whirled on his heel to march for the door.  “Suggest you give that mouth of yours a rest, Slayer, if you don’t want to be hiking it back to the road on your own.”

“Where are you going now?”

Hesitating in the frame, he allowed himself one glance back at her now-flushed face.  “Sortin’ my kit.  A fridge full of blood bags tells me I wasn’t left out of this little equation, even if I wished to hell right now that I was.”

His ill-temper chafed around the edges as he stormed from the room. Bitchy Buffy was back, though he was beginning to suspect it might have something to do with her lingering fever.  It didn’t have to be so hard for either of them; she had proven the previous night that they could at least fake the goodwill needed not to kill each other.  And all she had to do was hold out until nightfall.  Once he got her back to the Hellmouth, he was out of her hair for good, though he wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of telling her that just yet.  Let her stew in her own juices for awhile, he thought irritably as he headed for the loft.  Maybe the fever will burn the bitchy part of her away.

Spike had no doubts where he was going to find his clothes.  The loft was the only room, or space rather, in the cabin that he hadn’t yet ventured into.  Too busy with the Slayer, and too at odds with his own warring emotions to do the recon bit any justice, but that was about to change.  Buffy wasn’t the only one who loathed being waved around like a marionette.  Once the sun was down enough to venture out, he’d wrap her in every piece of clothing she owned and head out for the road.  A place like this couldn’t be that far from civilization.

Under his feet, the floorboards creaked as he stepped into the loft.  It was just as spartanly furnished as the rest of the cabin---a single bed cosseted under the slightly raking roof with a rag rug at its side, a nightstand, an oak dresser minus a mirror.  On the top of the dresser sat a leatherbound book, and Spike frowned as he reached to pick it up.  It fell open to a ribbon-marked page, but he didn’t need to look at the elegant handwriting to recognize it.

“Bloody hell,” he muttered, and closed it back up again, turning it over in his hands to examine the spine.  His fingers caressed the worn spots on the tooled leather, but though the prints matched his exactly, he gained no satisfaction from the knowledge.  It was his, the journal he’d left behind in Brazil when he’d buggered off after Dru’s chaos demon fling, the one remnant of his days as William that he’d consciously kept over the past century.  Nobody knew about it---nobody still living, that is; it was his one secret that he’d defiantly kept in the face of living with Angelus and Darla.  Not even Drusilla had known about it.  He might’ve told her about it in the beginning if she’d asked, but after seeing the possessive nature of Angelus’ family, he’d deliberately held it back, reluctant to let go of the one part of him that nobody could touch.

And now here it was.  Staring back at him just as innocently as that damn pig had looked at Buffy.

Tentatively, he let it fall open again, eyes scanning the fine script as he re-read some of his rantings about Dru.  He frowned when the Slayer’s name leapt out at him, the memory of how strong his anger toward her had been returning to his awareness.  Details of how he’d planned on killing her, how he was going to get the Gem and teach the little bitch a lesson she needed to learn once and for all, were spelled out as clear as day, and he cast a worried glance back at the ladder.  Wouldn’t do for her to see this now; things were strained enough between them as it was.  The last thing he needed was definitive proof for her to stake him good and proper, regardless of his chip status.

Stashing it beneath the corner of the mattress, Spike returned to the dresser and began opening the drawers.  The t-shirts were meticulously folded, and the three or four pairs of jeans carefully laid out.  He snorted.  Someone took a helluva lot more time in putting his gear away, that was for sure.  No way had it been this neat down in South America.  He’d pretty much trashed the place he’d been sharing with Dru before taking off for Sunnydale; if anything, his clothes should’ve been creased or torn from the way he’d left things.

Still…clean clothes were clean clothes, he thought as he began undoing his belt buckle.  And considering the state of his current garb, he wasn’t going to waste any more time thinking about it.

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

All his comparisons to a weakened kitten were starting to make sense to her, and Buffy had to fight the hysterical urge to begin meowing into the empty room.  The fever was back; no way could she begin to deny that when not even the heavy quilt weighing her down could stop the shivering.  Having the familiar scent of Mr. Gordo against her cheek helped with the psychological part of being sick, but the questions his presence raised weren’t doing anything to aid in the emotional.

Someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to try and recreate a sense of home for her, bringing her things from the dorm and populating the cozy cabin bedroom with enough memorabilia to make it seem real.  Too real.  Like someone intended her to stay.  Was that what the accident had been about?  But who could have that kind of power?

Maybe it was a spell.  Magic that was twisting the way her head was working, making her see things that weren’t really there.  Maybe she was actually at home in her own bed at that very moment, and the sounds she was hearing from the other parts of the cabin were just Mom making breakfast.  Pancakes.  Oh, pancakes sounded good.

As if it could hear her train of thought, Buffy’s stomach rumbled, and she remembered the hunger that had driven her to the refrigerator in the first place.  She hadn’t eaten since leaving Sunnydale the night before, but finding the blood had distracted her from her purpose.  No reason she couldn’t go get some of the fruit she’d seen there now, she reasoned, and swung her legs over the side of the bed.

The draft along the floor swirled around her ankles, and Buffy’s eyes automatically searched the floor for her slippers only to come up empty.  Stupid host, she thought irritably.  Remember my black lace thong and can’t seem to pack my slippers?  Talk about a whacked sense of priorities.

She hobbled across the room, her calf stiff from disuse, but not nearly as painful as it had been earlier.  The outer room was empty, and for a moment, she wondered where Spike was but quickly dismissed the thought.  Don’t need him, especially when he’s being all grouchy and mean. 

The memory of just who had started with the spite in the first place was squashed back to a dark corner of her brain.  One where she didn’t have to think about it or acknowledge that it existed.

Her head was in the refrigerator when she heard him speak up. 

“Which part of ‘you should rest to kick that fever’ was so hard to understand?” he said with an annoyed drawl.

With an orange in her hand, Buffy straightened to look over the door of the refrigerator, and saw Spike leaning against the rail of the loft, watching her from the shadows.  He’d been in the process of changing his clothes but hadn’t gotten to his shirt yet, and now his chest and head gleamed in pale splendor against the coal gloom behind him.  His face was half-hidden, all angles and eclipses that made it impossible from that distance to see what he was truly thinking, and Buffy unconsciously frowned at the not knowing.

“I was hungry.”

“You could’ve asked me to get you something.”

Her eyebrows shot up.  “What happened to not liking the Queen of Sheba routine?”

He shrugged.  “Like the bitchy Buffy routine less,” he commented.  As she watched, he stepped to the ladder, descending and sauntering across the living room before she could catch her breath to reply.

They were silent as he reached past her to grab a blood bag, tossing it onto the counter before taking the orange from her hands.  “You don’t have a monopoly on hating this, you know,” he said as he began to peel it.  “You can whinge and moan about not havin’ control ‘til your little Slayer boots are last month’s hot ticket, but until you’ve had a piece of plastic shoved into your brain tellin’ you what you can and cannot do, don’t think for a second I don’t understand exactly what you’re feeling right now.”

A flick of his wrist had the rind in the sink, and he turned darkened eyes back to Buffy, holding the fruit out for her to take.  Her hand closed over the orange, but her gaze was consumed by the barely controlled anger reflected back at her, his jaw tight.  There had been no mockery in his tone, just a resigned gravity quite unlike his usual attitude toward her.  Briefly, she wondered if she’d pushed him too far, and then realized with a start of surprise that the niggle at the back of her head was guilt.

“I never said you didn’t,” she said faintly.

“You never say a lot of things,” he replied.  “Doesn’t mean they’re not true.”

“So…what?  You expect me to be glad I’m stuck here with you?  News flash, Spike.  We don’t like each other.”

“Yeah…”  Quiet, hard, and for some inexplicable reason, sounding the exact opposite of what the word meant.  “’Cept we’re all we’ve got.”

She stared as he turned his back on her, grabbing a saucepan and ripping the top of the blood bag off with his teeth.  Each sinewy stretch made the muscles undulate beneath the alabaster skin, screaming silently at her consciousness until it was impossible to ignore any longer.  He was right, and as much as it made her feel like her insides had been scraped raw, she had to be ready to start putting some trust in Spike if she wanted to get back to her real life intact.  After all, he’d gotten her this far without asking for much in return; she could be a big Slayer and buck it up until they got home again.

Pushing the refrigerator door closed, Buffy leaned back against it and watched as he stirred the blood in the pan.  “What do you need from me, Spike?” she asked quietly.  It was as close to an apology she could manage, and they both knew it.  She just hoped it was enough.

He took a long time to answer.  “Nothin’ you shouldn’t already be doin’ for yourself, Slayer.  You need to kick this bug right quick if you want to be up to par for trekking through the snow tonight.  That means resting.”

She nodded.  “Got it.”

“And whether you like it or not, I do occasionally know whereof I speak,” he continued, his tempo increasing as he began to warm up to it.  “So if I tell you to get your ass in gear, it’d be nice if you actually did it.”

“O-kay,” she said, though she was a little more hesitant with this agreement.

“Maybe try bein’ a spot nicer while you’re at it.”  Now he was grinning, and though her first instinct had been one of annoyance, Buffy could tell that he was only kidding and began to relax.  “Would’ve thought your mum would’ve taught you not to speak ill of the dead.”

In spite of herself, she snorted at his small joke.  “I suppose you think that includes giving you your coat back, because you know, that ain’t happening.”

“Like havin’ me so close to your skin, eh Slayer?”  He smirked as he lifted his mug to his lips, and the knots in her stomach loosened further.  Even fevered, she could do banter.  It was nice to be in familiar territory again.

“I don’t suppose you discovered anything new when you found your stuff,” she said, changing the subject.  She began sucking on one of the orange sections, the juice dribbling down her chin.

There was a moment of hesitation, and then he was reaching out, his thumb catching a stray droplet of stickiness about to escape her chin.  “Only that whoever set us up raided my stash in South America,” he said, and then licked the sweet syrup from the pad of his thumb.

Her skin was tingling where he’d touched her, but she shook it off, forcing herself to concentrate on his words.  “How do you know that?”

“Because what few bits I had in Sunnydale were stuffed in Rupert’s boot.  I highly doubt they took everything to the cleaners to get ‘em pressed and cleaned before depositing them here.”  His aspect was thoughtful.  “I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’m beginning to wish we had your Watcher around to suss all this out.  Rupert would probably already have a theory.”

“He’d probably have two,” Buffy offered, and smiled when he grinned back at her.  “And one of them would probably be in one of those old languages that nobody speaks any more.  Like Latin.  Or Greek.”

His mouth opened, and for a moment, she thought something derogatory was going to come out of it---he just had that snarky look to him---but Spike surprised her by closing it again and simply nodding his head.  “Right.  But, in the meantime, we’ll just have to muddle our way through with our fists and fangs---.”

“Hey!  Still human here!”

“Debatable, Slayer.  But, like I said, we’ll just do what we do best.  We’re both more the physical type anyway, right?”

“Right,” she repeated.  After all, it wouldn’t be the first time they’d had to work together.  If she could do it once, she could do it again.

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

Giles’ eyes were wide as he gaped at the man opposite him.  “Find her?” he parroted.  “Do you mean Buffy?  Is she hurt?  What’s happened?”  Reflex drove him to stand, but the moment his muscles straightened, a stab of pain shot through his midsection, driving him back onto the bed, his hand clutching his stomach.  Through his shirt, he could feel bandages wound around his abdomen, and grimaced against the pain as he rode it out.

“You should really get some more rest, it seems,” the older man said.  “I’m afraid we were rather overzealous in our belief that you would be sufficiently recovered from your ordeal to begin work today.”

“Work on what?” Giles rasped through his discomfort. At least two of his ribs were cracked, of that he was certain, and more probably bruised.  Why he wasn’t in a hospital, he had no idea.  “You still haven’t told me who you are, what I’m doing here, or for that matter, what’s happened to Buffy, and until you do, I’m afraid you’ll most likely find me a little short-tempered.”

“Ah, now this would be the infamous Ripper Giles I’ve read so much about.”  He stuck his hand out, almost gleeful in his admiration.  “Silas Geen.  And our young friend over there is Paul McCallister.”

“Geen.”  He frowned, ignoring the extended hand.  “I know that name.”

For a moment, the bluster faded.  “Oh, you might not, it’s quite a common---.”

“Tanzania.  Nineteen…eighty-six?”  Giles’ scrutiny turned chilly at the other man’s silence.  “You killed your Slayer.”

Silas visibly blanched at the venom in his tone, taking a step back toward the door.  “In retrospect,” he stammered, “I do believe we were too hasty.  My apologies if---.”

“What have you done with Buffy?”  As best he could, he squared his shoulders and tried to look menacing, even if the agony that ripped through his upper body made him feel like vomiting.  But if Buffy was in some kind of danger, he couldn’t just stand idly by.  Or sit, for that matter.  And with someone like Silas Geen involved… “If you try and tell me that the Council has decided to step in again---.”

“Things aren’t what they seem,” Silas rushed.  He was at the lone exit now, his hand on the knob.  “You should…lie down.  Allow your head to clear.  You took a rather nasty blow, I’m afraid, and it was presumptuous of us to assume you’d be ready so quickly.”  He nodded.  “I bid you good day.”  And with that, he disappeared through the door.

Giles watched as the other man sidestepped his way join his partner.  “I suppose you’re a Watcher, too,” he said bitterly.

“Oh, no,” Paul replied.  His voice was soft and cultured, and a nervous smile ghosted on his lips.  “Trained for, yes, but I was…removed from the Academy before completion.  Silas is correct, Mr. Giles.  Things are not what they appear to be.  We mean you no harm.”

“And Buffy?  Do you mean her no harm either?”

Paul shook his head.  “I’m not aware of our situation directly involving your Slayer,” he said.  “She wasn’t…with you…was she?”

It was genuine confusion that shone in the dark depths of the young man’s eyes, and for a moment, Giles faltered.  “Yes,” he answered carefully.  “She was.  In the car.”

His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed.  “But you were meant to come alone,” he insisted.  “Why would you…she should be guarding the Hellmouth, not accompanying her Watcher for a ski weekend.”

The accusatory innuendo made Giles bristle.  “Yes, well, circumstances change.  Her presence was required.  Are you telling me you have no idea where she is?”

“None.  As I’m sure Silas doesn’t either---.”

“Because a man who murders his charge is someone to be trusted,” Giles said, the disbelief in his tone echoing around the heavy walls.  “I’m not prepared to cooperate with Council chicanery, not after what they---.”

“We aren’t with the Council,” Paul interrupted.  “You must believe me.  The Council has no idea of our arrangements, which is exactly as it should be.”

The young man’s earnestness was appealing, in spite of Giles’ better judgment, and he regarded the man with a steady gaze.  “So, this has nothing to do with Buffy,” he finally said.

“No.”

“Your interest lies solely with me.”

“Yes.”

“Then tell me, Mr. McCallister, what is so damn important that you would go to such lengths to guarantee my presence?”

“Redemption, Mr. Giles.”  His voice gained a sudden potency as a gleam appeared in his eye.  “This is about making amends.”

 

To be continued in Chapter 6: The World in Solemn Stillness Lay