DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy and Spike have learned that they are being held at the cabin until New Year’s Day, in order to protect a girl named Holly, and neither is happy about it…
He was stoking the fire when she came hobbling out of the bathroom, each stab of the burning tinder making the muscles left exposed by his t-shirt flex in a synchronous dance with the sparks that flew up the chimney. For a moment, Buffy paused in the doorway, watching him as her hand gripped the jamb for support.
In spite of her apparent conviction when she spoke to Spike on the porch, her head was a muddle---too many questions, not enough answers, and between each and every one of them, an annoying bleached vampire who refused to be ignored. She’d meant it when she’d said they had to act as a team on dealing with this; she just hadn’t bothered to mention how impossible it was for her to get her brain around the scenario in such a way that it wouldn’t implode. Of course, if he’d just stuck to his usual obnoxious Big Bad routine, the issue would be completely moot. She could hate him, but do what she had to do to get out of their current sitch and help Giles.
But no, as par for the course, Spike had to upend everything she knew to be true and make her start doubting what she thought had been blatantly obvious.
By being helpful around the cabin.
By not putting up a bigger fight about the Jenny/First/Holly scenario.
By saving her life in the first place.
Stupid, annoying, unpredictable vampire…
She must’ve made a noise because his head jerked around at that last, and for a split second, Buffy wondered if she’d actually said it out loud. “How does that one fire make the whole house so comfy cozy?” she asked brightly, avoiding his too-blue eyes as she started to hobble toward the couch. Change of subject good, she thought. Even if she was the only one in on the change.
“The world didn’t just automatically get warm when they invented central heating, pet,” he replied. “And for someone who claimed to be on the mend, that’s an awful convincin’ Tiny Tim send-up you’ve got there.” Before she could respond, Spike met her halfway across the room, his arm going around her back to help support her, not moving even when she tried to push him away.
“Get off,” she argued.
“You need to be restin’.”
“For now.” His hold vanished when they reached the couch. “Put your feet up.”
“You’re a real mother hen, you know that?” But she complied anyway, staying silent when he grabbed his leather from where it was draped over the opposite arm.
“And here I would’ve said, cock of the walk,” Spike replied. He laid the duster along her outstretched legs, tucking the ends under the sinewy muscles, a battery of firm suggestive touches that scaled down her calves and left her squirming against the cushion. At her feet, he hesitated, his head tilting as if he was lost in ruminations unknown to her, and then, without even a glance back for her approval---because oh boy would she have said something about not going there if she’d suspected what he was going to do---he grasped her ankle and slid the boot away with a liquid speed that left her toes curling in shock.
She couldn’t even ask what he was doing, though the words were right there on the tip of her tongue and begging to be released. Off came the second shoe, joining its mate where he casually tossed it aside, and the draft that suddenly slithered around her soles made Buffy shiver.
“Thought you said the fever was gone,” he accused with dark eyes finally turned to her.
“It is. Just, you know…” She wiggled her toes, desperate for anything that would break the stare he fixed on her, her mouth too dry to be more effective than a few words at a time, her mind racing in wonderment about whether he’d pull his vamp-ometer kissing trick on her again. “Cold,” she finished. I am CaveBuffy. Here me roar.
“Hot, then cold,” she heard him mutter as he wrapped the leather around her feet. “So bloody predictable.”
“What was that?”
“Nothin’.” He was up then, and with a quick survey of the room, headed for the kitchen. “Feelin’ peckish, Slayer?”
She didn’t have to answer---her growling stomach did it for her---and Buffy flushed in anger and embarrassment when she heard him chuckle. “I can cook, you know,” she said sharply. “You don’t have to be masterchef all the time.” But even before she could pull the coat away to swing her legs over the side, Spike was back in her face, cool hands grasping her wrists in an unyielding grip.
“Not from here, you can’t,” he said. “We had a deal, remember?”
“I wish I didn’t.”
“Wishes and horses, pet.”
“Huh? There’s a horse in it now?”
He looked at her in disbelief. “Don’t tell me Mother Goose is beyond the Slayer’s understanding. ‘If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride?’” He waited for a sign of recognition, but, met only with Buffy’s blank stare, Spike shook his head. “Why do I even try?”
When he released her hands, she craned her neck to watch him saunter back to the refrigerator. “So does this mean I don’t get to cook?”
“This means, I don’t fancy you startin’ a grease fire when I’m surrounded by splinters,” he retorted, looking pointedly at the wooden walls and floors. “I was there at Thanksgiving, if you recall.”
“That was an accident. And Giles said those scorch marks came out of the cupboards without any trouble.”
“Yeah, well, take it from the bloke who was actually livin’ there. He was lyin’.”
“And what am I supposed to do? Just lie here and heal?”
She scowled when the weight of the book landed in her lap, his casual aim making the title jump out at her from the cover. Children’s Classic Fairy Tales. “Ha ha ha,” she said under her breath, and gritted her teeth as his answering chuckle floated to her from the kitchen.
Dinner proved to be soup and salad, and as she listened to Spike finish up the dishes, Buffy’s thoughts wandered into the no-man’s land she’d been avoiding since their mysterious guest’s departure earlier that day. She didn’t want to; the prospect of turning her mind to other matters left a gaping hole in her stomach that made her want to bury her fist in something evil and pound it until it screamed for mercy. But it did. And there was nothing she could do to stop it.
Jenny…Giles…the mysterious Holly…not one name didn’t come attached to a headache.
If Jenny really was who she claimed to be, then doing this simple thing she asked was the least Buffy could do. It wasn’t as if it wasn’t already her job or anything, and in the way of karmic paybacks, it was just a small step the Slayer could take to make it up to the teacher. After all, it was Buffy’s fault she was dead in the first place. If she’d only killed Angelus sooner…
Yep. There it was. The headache she’d been trying to dodge by not thinking about Miss Calendar.
The subject of Giles wasn’t any better. Who had him? What did they want him for? Was he hurt? Did he know that she was OK? Jenny had intimated that he’d been targeted by the ones who were after Holly, though how and why, she’d left no clues. But as long as he was breathing, he would be worrying about Buffy, of that she was certain, and she hated not being able to confirm for him that she was all right. Maybe next time Jenny showed up, she’d try and force a little more information from her. Somehow, she got the feeling that there was more than the ghost was letting on.
The facts she’d shared about Holly had been precious few. Female. Wanted by baddies. She had to stay alive until after midnight on New Year’s Eve. No why, no gruesome details of what color the world would be afterward if Buffy failed. Just the general warning that it would be apocalyptic bad. As if the Slayer wouldn’t be able to understand a word she said that had more than one syllable in it.
Now, her eyeballs were pulsing in time with the ache in her head. Crap.
A heavy sigh lifted her chest, and Buffy leaned back against the pillow Spike had brought out from the bedroom, her eyes drifting shut to deflect any more questions she didn’t have answers for. From the other side of the room, the steady weight of Spike’s step approached, and she felt rather than saw him stop behind the couch.
“You all right there, Slayer?” he asked.
“Just spiff-spiff-spiffy,” she replied, her tone so perky it hurt her ears.
Pause. “You’re not goin’ to get all maudlin and start boo-hooing about Rupert and this Holly bird, are you?”
Her eyes flew open at that, to see an annoyed Spike gazing down at her. “What?” Buffy said, her elbows tensing to lift herself up.
“I’m just sayin’, we’ve got the better part of two weeks to spend in this place, and if you’re startin’ in with the waterworks already, it’d be nice to give a bloke the heads-up when it comes so he can get away and do something a bit more entertaining. Like drivin’ crosses into my eyes or something.”
She sat up the rest of the way, the book in her lap tumbling onto the floor. “I’m not crying,” she said with a frown, the obvious assertion banishing her earlier thoughts to the wayside.
“No, you’re dwelling. Which often leads to crying. Hence…the asking.”
“I’m not dwelling!”
“What do you call it, then?”
“Thinking. Very hard. But not just one subject,” she was quick to add when his eyebrows shot up. “Because that would be dwelling. Lots of subjects. Dozens, even.”
“Uh huh. And?”
Spike rolled his eyes. “This swarm of topics rolling around in your noggin. Gypsy girl is one of ‘em. If you’re not dwelling, what’re the others?”
“Oh. Well, Giles, of course.”
“Part of the same subject, if you ask me. Could technically classify as dwelling.”
Pursing her lips into a tight line, Buffy glared at the vampire for a long second before speaking again. Time to start being creative. “I was thinking about the fire and how cozy it made it in here.” Ooo, good. Go with the pre-dinner convo.
Amusement canted his mouth. “Oh, lookie, she’s got herself a whole two ideas in her head. Will wonders never---.”
“And dinner. I was hoping you didn’t use grease in my salad or anything.”
Now it was a grin. “Perish the thought.”
“And toes.” She was on a roll now, determined to wipe that smile off his face if it was the last thing she did. “And my shoes.”
“Because the two just go hand in hand.”
He was still laughing at her, damn it. “And you,” she said, before she could convince herself otherwise. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, she thought triumphantly when his grin faded. Look at the Slayer be all multi-thought-having.
“Speakin’ of hand in hand…” he murmured. His eyes seemed too big for his face all of a sudden, because they were all she could see, bright and glittering and locked on hers. “So…pondering the goings and comings of her new roommate has taken up residence in the Slayer’s brain. Color me shocked and bemused.”
“Not in the way you’re thinking,” Buffy stammered. “Just in the way of how you’re not doing anything I expect. Like…not bitching about being stuck here with me, and…and…taking care of me, making sure I’m warm, and fed, and…” She was too warm now, the leather stifling, drawing out the sweat from her flesh to begin running in tiny rivulets down her thighs. The look on his face was all-too familiar, a leftover from before the chip days, when she was a tasty meal and something for him to watch and survey with the stealth he would need to take her down, but where before it had seemed menacing with intent, now it was…well, still menacing with intent, just a different kind of menacing. More like wo-menacing, all come hither and suggestive…
“Hungry!” she blurted, intent on doing or saying anything that would expel the words sexy and Spike from intermingling so closely in her brain.
It worked. “What’s that?” he asked, solicitude battling confusion as his front slipped away.
“I’m hungry,” she repeated.
“You just ate.”
“So I want to eat again. Is there any soup left?” When he straightened and looked back at the kitchenette, Buffy exhaled as quietly as she could, only then realizing that she’d been holding her breath. Close one. Why was her head doing this to her? It wasn’t right that it kept bringing her back to the same place with Spike. She hated him. She wasn’t supposed to think he was sexy.
Except…OK, maybe she didn’t hate him. Kind of hard to really hate someone who took such pains to see to her wellbeing. Disliked, then.
But was that completely true, too? If she disliked him so much, would she be so willing to side with him against whatever side Jenny was on? Even when they’d teamed up together before, it hadn’t been the same. Buffy hadn’t been alone in that fight. Not before the final blow. Afterwards…yes, but then that had been her choice, not theirs.
Now, it was just her. And Spike.
And she was frighteningly OK with that.
It took a second for her to realize that he’d walked away and was standing before the open door of the refrigerator. “Could do fruit again, I s’pose,” he mused.
A rush of color came to her cheeks as she flashed on the hand of bananas she’d seen on the bottom shelf. “No fruit!” she said too loudly, which merited a quirk of his brow when he glanced back at her. “Chocolate, maybe?” she posited instead, and waited as he closed the door and began pulling open the cupboards.
Her eyes were on her fingers, watching them twist and worry the leather draped over her, when Spike’s muffled “Oh!” drew her attention back in time to see his bleached head emerge from one of the lower cabinets. In his hand was a large cellophane bag, with the unmistakable shapes of pink and white marshmallows clear within its transparency.
“Fancy a cookout?” he asked as he strode determinedly to the fireplace. The glee on his face was contagious, his eyes dancing with a light that Buffy couldn’t help but grin at.
“You are the weirdest vampire I know,” she commented, swinging her legs down from the couch. “Where are my stakes?”
“Pointy enough but too thick.” With a quick snap, he broke a twig from the kindling pile and handed her half when she came and sat down on the opposite side of the hearth.
Buffy grimaced. “It’s dirty.”
“I like my marshmallows soft and gooey.”
“And they will be, once they’re in the flame.” He ripped open the bag with his teeth, a few marshmallows scattering to the floor. “Now stop your whinging and get to roastin’.” He picked up one of the pink candies and tossed it at her. “You get the girlie ones.”
She rolled her eyes, but impaled the marshmallow on the end of her stick anyway. “Like that isn’t totally sexist.”
“It’s not.” Popping one of the white ones in his mouth, his words were muffled as he stuck another through his skewer. “I’m a purist.”
“So sayeth the vampire eating the marshmallowy goodness,” Buffy announced. Her smile belied the sarcasm of her tone, and she revelled in the heat creeping up her limbs from the flames before her. It was almost cozy, if being held prisoner behind a magical wall with a vampire who drove her nuts could be called cozy.
“It’s your mum’s fault,” Spike said. He poked his stick into the heart of the flames, letting the white fluff ignite with a bright orange spark and holding it there while he spoke. “Got me hooked good and proper with that hot chocolate of hers.” He stole a glance back at the kitchen. “You don’t s’pose they stocked us with that, do you?” he asked hopefully.
“Why do you do that?” Buffy said. Carefully, she angled her marshmallow so that it hovered above the flames, its pink slowly deepening in color.
He looked back at her. “Do what?”
“Eat so much people food.”
His frown conveyed just how stupid he thought her question really was. “Because it tastes good,” he said, over-enunciating as if speaking to a child.
Spike snorted. “Well, yeah. It’s not like he was big on the makin’ himself feel good front, pet. All about the self-flagellation, he was. Whatever it took to make his miserable existence even more bleedin’ miserable. You should know that better than anyone.”
When he pulled his stick out of the fire, Buffy’s nose wrinkled at the charred stump still flaming on its end. “Ewww,” she said. “You’re not actually going to eat that, are you?”
“’Course, I am.” Plucking at the black flakes, Spike poised the stick in readiness as the gooey center was exposed, then aimed it unswervingly at his open mouth to gobble it down. His eyes closed in rapture, the groans of satisfaction rumbling from his chest as he sucked on the sugary treat, and his head tilted back as he swallowed, savoring every second of its journey down with a pleasure that was palpable.
Buffy smirked when he finally looked up.
“What?” Spike demanded.
“You look ridiculous,” she replied.
“Do not. Stuff’s bloody marvellous.”
“Oh yeah. Crispy burned marshmallow is the height of haute cuisine.”
Spike set to placing another one on the end of his skewer. “Don’t like it for what’s on the outside, Slayer. You like it for what’s on the in.”
She was thoughtful as she pulled hers away from the flame. “Why haven’t you been complaining more about this set-up?” she asked, not affording herself the luxury of looking at him as she blew on the golden marshmallow steaming in front of her.
“Is complaining goin’ to change it in any way?”
“Then there’s your answer.”
He was gazing at the fire when she stole a peek at him. “That didn’t stop you at Giles’.”
“At Rupert’s, there was always the chance one of you’d break, or screw up enough so that I could get my own way,” he replied. “Can’t really argue too much with magic. Not unless you got the power to make it go away, which I don’t.”
“So, you only fight things you know you can beat?”
“Well, no…” He frowned then, caught in the web of his own logic. “I’ll fight just about anything, if the reason’s right enough.”
She nibbled the corners off the marshmallow, rolling the tiny bits of sugar before swallowing them down. Melted mallow began to ooze over the hardened exterior, and her tongue darted out to lap it up before it fell. “Even if the reason is you’re just bored,” she teased.
The grin he flashed her was brilliant. “Sounds right enough to me.”
The silence that ensued was broken only by the crackling of the fire and Spike’s sporadic groans of euphoria every time he swallowed one of the marshmallows. Too soon, the heat from sitting so close to the flames made Buffy’s skin start to tingle, and she suspected that if she touched them, her cheeks would be awash with fire. As discreetly as she could manage, she began to inch away, trying to find the equilibrium between still reaching the flames with her stick and not feeling like someone was setting a torch to her clothing, her bottom sliding across the wooden floor.
The path she chose set her closer to Spike, and he glanced down at her curiously as he reached for another marshmallow.
“I’m hot,” she offered in explanation.
He made no immediate reply, just swept his gaze over her body, lingering on the swell of her bottom before lifting again to her flushed face. “Carry on like that, pet, and a vamp could start gettin’ certain ideas.”
“Oh, please. Gutter. Out of it.”
“And here I thought I was just joining you.” The reflection of the fire in his eyes made it impossible for her to tell if it was really him, or if his demon was poking its head out, and she stiffened as she waited for the words to follow. “Seems to me that you’ve been the one so eager for all the touchy-feely. Wakin’ me up by pretending to be worried about a little scratch---.”
“And waking me up by groping me doesn’t qualify as the same?” she retorted.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t like it.” His voice was like bitter chocolate, melting and oozing and sucking the air from her lungs, forcing her to respond even when her common sense told her not to. “That mouth of yours might love to lie to me, but your body doesn’t know that language, luv. I didn’t do anything you weren’t already wanting.”
“I don’t want you, Spike.” Tight. Through clenched teeth. As firmly as she could manage to convince them both.
“Thought we were a team, Slayer. Weren’t you the one who put us on the same side not three hours ago?”
Why did it seem like he was closer? “That’s different.”
Was it? He was closer, his head cocked as his tongue ran along the edges of his incisors, and she could smell the sweetness of his breath with every word, the marshmallow scent thick in the air, making it impossible for her to inhale properly. Reason told her he was just doing what he could to get under her skin; after all, annoying the Slayer was Spike’s favorite pastime now that he couldn’t kill one. But was she annoyed? She was hot, and her head was spinning, and every word from his mouth made her want to find some other way to shut him up, but whether that fell in the realm of annoyance, she couldn’t determine.
“Something wrong?” he taunted. “Don’t tell me cat’s got your tongue. I can see it pokin’ out from here.”
“What? Poking? There’s no poking!”
“Then maybe it’s just that you’re still hungry.” Before she could react, his hand curled around hers, pulling her skewer from the fire to draw it to them, tilting it so that the still glowing marshmallow rested against her lips.
They parted automatically, sucking at the sweetness as the melting goo threatened to run down her chin, drowning her taste buds in its luscious delicacy as her eyes locked on his. Buffy’s throat was closed, the uncontrollable pounding of her heart that had sprung from nowhere taking any and all available room, and she rolled the treat around on her tongue just as she’d done with the small morsels from the first, in hopes that she’d soon regain mastery of her body.
He was mesmerized by the movement of her mouth, the tiny slides of her jaw, the throbbing in the hollow of her throat. She felt his fingers tighten around hers, but when his lips silently mouthed her name, Buffy panicked.
Oh god. What am I doing?
Yanking her hand away, the twig fell to the floor as she jumped to her feet. Its snap when she stepped on it boomed in her ears, the only thing louder her instinct to flee, and she grabbed her coat as she stumbled out the front door of the cabin.
To be continued in Chapter 10: It Stings the Toes and Bites the Nose…