DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy and Spike have attempted to leave the cabin, only to be confronted with a magical fence that won’t let them pass and a pair of demons looking for “her”…
At some point in her sleep, she’d rolled over. So, when Buffy’s lids lifted, almost immediately alert as only a full night’s rest could do, the first thing she was aware of was her cheek pressed to the cushion, the weight of the blankets bearing down on her back, and the unmistakable scent of leather clinging like motes to the air. Her body ached, but with the good ache that came from disuse and not from pain, and she stretched beneath the covers, her muscles singing with the burn of waking.
The glow from the hearth shimmered across the floorboards, the flames still strong in spite of the settled nature of the embers. For a moment, the satisfaction it suffused through Buffy’s body made her smile, until she realized that it was all completely the doing of a certain bleached someone. The tending of the fire, the assurance of security…she’d never awoken in spite of the apparent care he’d taken to seeing to the room’s warmth. What exactly did that mean?
The glimmers from the fireplace weren’t the only illumination in the room. On the wall opposite her, vivid sunlight outlined the heavy drapes, peeking through the divided middle to sliver across the floor. Her eyes followed it, then continued the path when it stopped short of the recumbent vampire lying parallel to the couch, widening as she drank in his partially clad form.
He’d fallen asleep on his stomach, tousled curls resting on his left forearm, his other hand weighing down the open pages of a book at his side as if he’d only meant to take a brief break from reading, to steal a moment and rest his eyes from the tiny print squinting back at him. His torso was bare, the black wad tossed casually aside obviously his shirt, but it wasn’t the hewn sculpture of his back that captured Buffy’s attention. It was the scarlet-imbrued score along his shoulder blade, the blood dried and clinging to the ragged edges of the wound, that made her heart hitch into her throat.
Pushing the blankets off, she freed her arm from the bulky encumbrance, reaching out with hesitant fingers to ghost over Spike’s injury. It wasn’t the only one marking him. Now that she was looking, she could see the fading bruises shadowing his side, the torn skin on the knuckles that rested on the book. Was I really that out of it last night? she wondered. How did I not see any of this then?
Though her head was relatively clear now, free of the remnants of the fever, Buffy decided that it must’ve been that which had prevented her from discerning Spike’s state the previous night. Not that she would’ve been worried about him then, anyway. The nice thing about having the vamp as back-up was that he was one person she knew could handle his own in a fight. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t still be concerned about his injuries. He’d certainly gone above and beyond in looking after hers.
Of course, he’d also said something about waking her when he found the hole in the fence. Here it was with the day clearly well on its way on the other side of the cabin walls, and she was only just getting up.
Devil’s advocate reared its horned head. Maybe he tried and you didn’t budge.
A possibility. It had certainly known to happen when she’d been sick before.
Except she didn’t really see Spike as the kind to just give up if she didn’t wake right away. In fact, she suspected he was the sort who’d go to drastic means just to get it to occur.
Well, she was up now. And if Spike could play doctor with her, the least she could do was return the favor.
As she began to push herself up onto her elbows, Buffy saw the tangle of black leather with the blankets heaped at the other end of the couch, and pulled it back to bring it to her face. She inhaled deeply, its familiar aroma slackening the last of the tension constricting her body. That’s it, she thought as she looked down at the worn lapels, caressing the softened leather with almost a lover’s touch. Mom’s getting a last minute request for Santa. Buffy wants a new coat for Christmas.
For now, she settled for sliding her arms back into its sleeves before turning her attention back to Spike.
The first aid kit was tossed casually to the side, as if he couldn’t be bothered with fussing with it too much, and Buffy’s gaze turned to follow her reach for it, even as her right hand extended to set upon his shoulder.
His strike was lightning-fast, strong fingers gripping her wrist and knocking her off-balance as he rolled away from the couch. She was pulled along with him, stopping only when he was on his back, her body stretched out on top of his.
“Well, well, well,” he said softly, his eyes still dark with sleep, his voice rough from disuse. “Thought we might get attacked again, but didn’t figure it would be comin’ from you, Slayer.”
She was convinced she could feel every hard muscle in his body. The leather duster fell around her to drape over the pair, but though it hid his semi-bare body from view, it didn’t prevent his lithe strength from burning through her clothing. A flush crept over Buffy’s cheeks as memories of what it had felt like to be pressed into him---unyielding, powerful, somehow gentle, those hands splayed in the small of her back as he pulled her closer---flooded her veins, and she swallowed in an attempt to regain her equilibrium.
“I’d hardly call it attacking you, Spike,” she said, and wondered if that sounded as unconvincing to him as it did to her.
His grip loosened around her wrist without letting go, his thumb starting to slowly circle over the pulse it found there. “So…is it that you were…playing, with my person then?” he drawled.
“I was…” God, how could he make everything sound so dirty? It had to be the accent. “I saw your cut,” she tried again. “I was just going to clean it out.”
Briefly, his gaze darted to the first aid kit, but he didn’t bother to release her from his hold. “Awfully humanitarian of you. But not necessary. It’s just a scratch. It’ll mend.”
“So why aren’t you letting me go then?”
Dark eyes returned to hers, darker still than they’d been before, and a shiver went down Buffy’s spine. “It’s not like I can stop you from gettin’ yourself up on your own, pet. Maybe the better question would be…why aren’t you the one who’s moving here?”
I am, she wanted to say, because it certainly felt like her skin had taken on a life of its own, moving and throbbing as if it wanted to race away without the rest of her. But he was making too valid a point, one whose implications made her brain automatically shut itself off, and she slowly slid away, separating her body from his, her thigh brushing across the hardness of his hips---it’s the denim! It’s only hard because of the denim!---as she inched herself back to sit against the couch.
He followed her movement with a roll of his pelvis, propping his head up on his fist as he scanned over her upright form. “And here I was hopin’ you’d be your usual stubborn self and do the exact opposite of what I said,” he teased. “Remind me of that next time this comes up again.”
Distance made it easier to think, and Buffy lifted her chin. “There’s hardly going to be a next time,” she said, and began shifting her weight to stand up.
His hand around her ankle stopped her. “If you think I’m goin’ to let you get up and about after finally gettin’ some decent kip, think again.”
“You don’t really expect me to be a lump all day, do you?” She kicked free from his hold, but didn’t rise.
He shrugged. “Not like you have anything better to do.”
“Really? What about getting out of here? Or have we forgotten about that little part of last night’s walk in the woods?”
“We’re not goin’ anywhere, Slayer.” Spike sat up, the smallest of winces furrowing his brow as he straightened his shoulder. “After you passed out, I went out like I told you I would. There aren’t any breaks in whatever magic is fencing us in.”
“But…there has to be. Those demons---.”
“It’s a one-way system,” he interrupted. “Saw it with my own eyes when another of those things came crashing at me through a section I’d just tested.” He held up the hand he’d been sleeping on, and Buffy saw the jagged burns that still adorned his fingertips.
“Is that how you got hurt?” she asked, gesturing toward his back.
Spike nodded. “Just scrapped a bit before I threw it back onto the fence. It got a little toasted after that.” He smirked. “Guess that makes me the eggman, I s’pose.”
“Huh?” Maybe he’d gotten hit on the head, too, because now he was spouting nonsense.
“The eggman,” he repeated. “Because he was the walrus.” He paused, waiting for her to get it. “You know,” he went on, demonstrating with his hands, “‘cause of the…tusks…” Spike’s voice trailed off as he continued to be met by her blank stare, and he shook his head in disgust. “Never mind,” he said, and then muttered, “Bloody ignorant children.”
She held up a hand when he started to rise. “You should still let me clean it out,” Buffy said. “It looks nasty.”
“And like I said, it’s just a scratch. I’ve had worse before, mostly from you.”
“Humor the sick Slayer, Spike. We can’t afford to have both of us under par.”
Crouched before her, his lips pursed as his eyes slid over her, and in spite of her rumpled appearance and way too much clothing, Buffy couldn’t avoid the direct sensation of being naked under his scrutiny. “Don’t seem so sick any more to me,” he said when his eyes returned to hers.
“Oh?” she said perkily, deliberately ignoring his innuendo. “Well, I guess that means I can get up th---.”
His hands were on hers before she could finish the sentence, forcing her to still as she rooted to her seat. “Still recovering, though,” he said. “Which means staying in bed ‘til we’re sure that fever’s buggered off for good. Not like we don’t have time for it.”
It was only then that his earlier words sunk in. Not going anywhere, he’d said. Could he be lying? With a wound like the one he currently sported, she doubted it. And why would Spike want to drag out his imprisonment with her if he didn’t have to?
“You’re sure there’s no way through the barrier?” she asked, all pretenses dropping.
“Swear on the honor of the last boy scout I ate,” Spike replied. “Did two laps just to be sure.” He nodded toward the door, and she noticed for the first time the stack of firewood piled in front of it. “I wasn’t sure how many more of our horny devils were still lurking about, so I blocked up the entrance in case I dropped off. Which I did, apparently.”
“Doesn’t that keep us from getting out, too?”
“And where exactly would we be goin’?” His head tilted. “It’s near high noon, pet, so I’m tucked in for the day. And you…” His eyes fell to her wrist before sliding to her leg where it poked out from beneath the coat. “How’s it feel?”
“Sore,” Buffy said. “Doing that last flip last night kinda hurt. But it’s better than it was,” she hastened to add when it looked like he was going to come closer. “You don’t need to be my crutch any more. I’m more than capable of getting around on my own.”
“Think you might fancy a bath then?”
Her brows shot up as sudden images of a wet Spike filled her head, her hands sliding across his bare chest as his proceeded to run a rough washcloth over her breasts, all hot water and slippery soap and ooo, maybe baby oil…
“Huh?” she said. I’ve got to still be sick. Considering naked Spike can only be the product of a delusional mind.
“A bath,” he repeated. “There’s a nice one in there, and seein’ as how you’ve been in the same clothes for the past couple days, not to mention wrapped up in the duvet and bleedin’ like a stuck pig, it stands to reason you might want to wash up while you’ve got the time.” He stood, standing back as he regarded her. “Can’t say this old nose wouldn’t appreciate it, either.”
Blushing at his frank appraisal, Buffy tugged the leather jacket from her shoulders. Just when she thought she was getting to the point where she’d think Spike wasn’t so bad, he reverted to form and said something truly rude. Thank god. She wasn’t ready to be going down the road where she and Spike actually got along.
“It might be something to consider for yourself,” she bit back. “Not that I’ve got a problem with your arm falling off because you didn’t take care of that cut, but I really don’t want to have to listen to your complaining when it does.”
“That sounds remarkably like an invite to join you, luv.”
It took a second for what he was saying to sink in. “No!” Buffy blurted, and the coat fell to the floor as she rushed to stand. The fleeting notion that Spike could read her mind---even when it was inexplicably daydreaming---made her skitter around the edge of the couch, putting as much distance as she could between them and backing toward the bathroom. “Please,” she added, deliberately affecting a note of disdain. “Don’t flatter yourself, Spike.”
“Don’t need to. Got a nose that tells me otherwise.”
His chuckle followed her into the other room, even after she slammed the door behind her.
He was awake long before the timid knock came to his door, his restlessness a product of both his discomfort from his bruised ribs and having to sleep in his restrictive clothing. “Come in,” Giles called out, and sat up on the bed, his eyes trained warily on the door.
The slipping of the lock echoed into the room, and the door slowly creaked open to reveal Paul in its opening, a food-laden tray in his hands. “Are you hungry?” the young man asked. His tread was hesitant as it crossed the threshold, and he nudged the door shut behind him with his elbow.
“I believe the more accurate description of my current state would be increasingly brassed off,” he replied tightly. In contrast to his words, though, his stomach audibly rumbled as the scent of the bacon filtered to his nose, and he rolled his eyes at his body’s betrayal. “How long am I to be held a prisoner?”
Setting the tray down on the table, Paul jerked back when Giles rose and crossed to him, in spite of the stiff caution that held the elder Watcher’s upper body upright. “You’re not a prisoner, Mr. Giles. You’re a guest---.”
“Who’s held against his will, under lock and key. Please don’t patronize me, Mr. McCallister. I’ve been playing with the big boys for longer than you’ve been out of nappies.” Surreptitiously, his fingers rested on the edge of the table, using it to steady himself without making his weakness too apparent. His torso still hurt like mad, but at least he was mobile now. And if worse came to worse, he’d still be able to take a swing at the younger man if it came down to it.
“Pardon me for saying so, sir, but the lockdown was entirely your own doing.” Paul held himself rigidly, though his cheeks were bright with color. “You were rather…agitated yesterday. It was felt that you would flee, given the opportunity.”
“Bloody well right I’d flee,” Giles muttered. This close, the food was making his mouth water, and he picked up one of the scones resting at the side of the teapot, grateful that he’d at least get a good meal before whatever was scheduled to happen next. After the assurance the day previously that his current circumstances had nothing to do with Buffy, he had lost his temper and railed at the young Watcher wannabe, prompting Paul to go scuttling off to wherever they kept themselves when they weren’t watching over their hostage. The lock of the door had soon followed, and Giles had drifted between sleep and his confused thoughts for the next eighteen hours, waiting for some clarification to his situation to arrive.
And it came bearing clotted cream and strawberry jam. At least clarification was civilized.
“Explanations will be arriving in due order,” Paul continued. “Silas has made arrangements for us to meet with Maria after tea. She’s really the one who can best answer your questions.”
Giles’ chewing slowed as he digested this latest tidbit. Maria. That was a new name. “And who exactly is she?” he queried.
“The reason you’re here,” he said. “It was her deduction that concluded we needed your skills in order to make this entire endeavour succeed.” He gestured to the walls around them. “This is her home. She thought we would all be more comfortable here than in more sterile surroundings.”
“And where is here?” He felt foolish, asking such inane questions, but it felt as if Paul was being deliberately obtuse, prompting the requirement for this absurd interrogation.
“Still in California, if that’s what you’re wondering. Quite close to your accident, actually. We lacked the resources to transport very far away from there.”
His careful choice of words was only clouding the issue rather than clarifying, and Giles’ mind automatically began ruminating on the possibilities. “Tell me,” he said, pouring some milk into the cup before picking up the teapot, “did it not occur to you to simply ask for my assistance in whatever this is? If it’s as important as you suggest, and locality is an extraneous consideration, surely approaching me in Sunnydale would have been infinitely simpler than whatever means you’ve taken to procure my presence here.”
“Silas was of the mind you would refuse, and with time against us, none of us were prepared to take that risk.”
“So instead, you anger me further by endangering Buffy and holding me against my will. Splendid logic. The Council lost a keen asset when they let you slip away.” The sarcasm in his tone was lost the instant the tea hit his tongue, and he almost groaned out loud at the pleasure of the hot liquid coursing down his throat. Real tea, Harrods by the taste of it. What was that he’d thought about this place being civilized?
“Unavoidable, Mr. Giles, and your Slayer’s involvement…unfortunate.” He began backing away toward the door. “I’ll return at teatime. We’ll be dining with Maria and Silas before settling to answer any and all your questions. There are clothes in the wardrobe should you wish to change, and if you find yourself requiring anything prior, the alarm at the side of the bed will summon one of the staff to tend to your needs.”
Being left to his own devices with a steaming breakfast before him, Giles crumpled into the stuffed chair, his countenance introspective as he sipped at his tea. It was just a matter of waiting a few more hours. Whatever plans his captors had required his presence and most likely his cooperation. That was an advantage he was more than prepared to exercise for as long as possible.
Spike’s fingers flicked the water dripping from them at the pan, watching as the hot oil made it spit and dance across the surface. Ready, he reasoned, and picked up the bowl and spoon to begin ladling the smooth circles onto the griddle. From the other room, the distant sound of Buffy bathing was a relaxing charm to his muscles, liquefying his motions to flow with an ease that had been mostly absent since his return to Sunnydale, but it escaped his notice as his thoughts drifted elsewhere.
Part of him was annoyed with himself for falling asleep on the watch. Running into the third demon while testing the barricade last night had made him suspicious that others might by hanging about, and the cabin wasn’t exactly the most safe of environments if any sort of direct attack should take place. Using the wood he’d hauled in for the fire seemed like his choice for blocking the door, and once he’d tended to the injury in his shoulder, setting to continue reading the book he’d nicked from the shelf before had seemed like the surest way to stay awake.
He hadn’t counted on the warmth of the fireplace or the soft rhythm of Buffy’s breathing to lull him into slumber. But he bloody well couldn’t argue with the pleasure at fully waking up with her on top of him. Now that could be a position he could get used to.
It had been instinct when he’d grabbed her, but what instinct it could be that would keep him from hurting her and activating the chip, Spike had no idea. It was almost as if part of him was doing his thinking for him, formulating his moves without his orders to get the Slayer into that particular position, and he had a sneaking suspicion he knew which part it was. Not that he normally had a problem going along with it, but doing so often led to situations he later regretted, the most recent being Harmony, of course.
But Buffy was hardly Harmony.
She had a brain, for one thing.
And a tongue that excelled at wicked, wicked words.
Probably excelled at other things, too. Wasn’t that what Slayer muscles were supposed to be about?
Ah…Slayer muscles…all dynamic, and tight, and ready to hurt at the smallest provocation, and…
And this train of thought was leading him to exactly the opposite place he wanted to be.
Spike shook his head. At least she seemed to be stronger this morning. She moved with the familiar grace of health, and the only scents he could smell on her weren’t of the fevered variety. He’d been lying when he’d snarked about being turned off by her lack of recent bathing; if anything, the combination of her spent blood and her hungry pores was more alluring than nauseous, and though he had to constantly fight with his demon about doing something about it, Spike was learning that he rather liked having her around. And, if his nose was telling him the truth, Buffy was liking it, too. Even through her layers of clothing, the faint musk of her arousal when he’d suggested the bath had been apparent. Too bad she’d turned him down.
As he watched the battered circles begin to bubble, Spike picked up the burning cigarette he’d set on the edge of the counter and took a long drag. He had half a mind to go in there anyway, take a look at the Slayer’s goodies and see just how far he could push her before she’d snap. Maybe pull out the knickers he was keeping in his front pocket to see how she’d react. He grinned. It would be a diversion at least. Without a telly or even a radio for entertainment, he was being forced to rely upon the written word and his own creativity to keep himself distracted. A good fight with Buffy could be enough to keep him going for a day or two while they tried to find a way out of the place.
Bugger. He frowned when he saw the ash from his cigarette sprinkled across the belated breakfast he’d been making. Think the Slayer’s goin’ to notice that.
Briefly, he debated just leaving it. Could make that a game, he thought. See how long it takes her to notice something’s off. And then see how long it takes her to make you as much ash, his other self reminded. Pursing his lips around the cigarette’s end to keep it in place while he moved, Spike used a nearby towel to pick up the edge of the griddle, turning to drop the offender into the rubbish.
It took a lot to startle Spike. One huge advantage of vampire senses was the relative inability for things to sneak up on him. So when he turned to see the dark-haired beauty standing in front of the refrigerator, the surprise that rattled his veins was almost enough for him to drop the pan.
“Bloody hell!” he exploded, his cigarette falling to the floor. “Who the hell are you?”
Her dark eyes dropped to his hands, a delicate brow arching. “You’re making Buffy breakfast?” she queried, ignoring his question. “Please tell me she’s not in bed.”
“She’s in the bath,” was his automatic response. But as soon as the words tumbled from his mouth, Spike stopped, frowning. “Wait. What do you know about Buffy?”
“We go back a long way. As do you and I, Spike.”
His blood chilled at the sound of his name on her tongue, and Spike’s gaze narrowed as he more closely scrutinized the visitor. Dark hair, darker eyes, a delicate European beauty. Now that he thought about it, she looked familiar, but how exactly he knew her, he wasn’t entirely sure.
A dart of his eyes told him one thing he hadn’t been expecting. All the windows remained shut, and the wood he’d piled in front of the door was exactly as he’d left it. Not only had she snuck in under his radar, but she’d done it without going through a single entrance.
“Lemme guess,” he said, leaning to pick up his cigarette, tossing it into the sink before finishing the scraping of the pan into the trash. “You’ve got something to do with our little leaving problem here.”
“Partially,” she said. “I’m just one of many who are interested in the pair of you. Well, I was more interested in Buffy, but I was outvoted on the subject of you.”
“Then shouldn’t you be gabbing at her instead of standin’ around, makin’ me muck up brekky here?”
The look she shot in the direction of the the closed door of the bathroom was telling. “Trust me, I really wish I could. But unfortunately, if Buffy were to know of my presence, something tells me things might get a little…uncomfortable for a while. She’s not exactly known for thinking first, acting later.”
He couldn’t help but chuckle. “No, that she’s not.”
She hated having to get out of the tub, but the cooling water was pruning her skin beyond recognition and Buffy had the sinking feeling that if she spent any more time loitering in the bath, Spike wouldn’t hesitate to come poking his nose in to see what was keeping her. And one of them being half-naked was already one too many, as far as she was concerned. Even if it was better that it was him.
As she pulled the plug, a whiff of something familiar made her hesitate, her head swivelling to stare at the closed door. Pancakes. That was the unmistakable smell of pancakes. Spike knows how to cook pancakes? Or maybe he doesn’t. That would explain the swearing I heard earlier.
There was no doubt in her mind that these would most definitely be evil.
Still, evil or not, they smelled delicious, the aroma making her stomach growl in response, and Buffy quickened her pace, ignoring the twinges in her wrist and leg as she slipped her pants on. A swift flick of the comb through her hair and she felt almost like a new person standing in front of the mirror.
We’ll see who’s smelly now, she thought with satisfaction as she pulled open the door to step into the outer room.
She took only a single hobble before halting in her tracks, surprise mingling with alarm as she spotted Spike lounging against the counter, casually dunking a rolled pancake into a mug of blood. He wasn’t the cause of her concern, though. No, the source of her concern stood by the fridge, her skirt flowing around her long legs, looking very much like she’d never even died.
Except Buffy knew better.
Because Jenny Calendar was long buried, which made this…
“Get away from him, you bitch,” Buffy said tightly, her body readying for a fight though she knew with her head that she couldn’t touch it.
Jenny sighed, looking from the Slayer back to Spike. “Told you she wouldn’t be happy to see me.”
To be continued in Chapter 8: Angels We Have Heard on High…