DISCLAIMER: Everything but the plot is Joss'. Too bad.
SUMMARY: A new danger has targeted the Slayer as his next prey and Spike is the only one who can tell when he's near, forcing Buffy to stay with the vamp temporarily. Buffy's first night at the crypt led to some interesting dreams...
Pressing herself against the stone wall, she watched his still form on the couch in silence. Even though she'd witnessed Angel on more than one occasion, the complete immobility of a sleeping vampire still wigged Buffy out. No chest movement, the alabaster skin. He might as well be one of those Greek statues...the marble ones...the ones with the impeccably carved muscles...
She shook her head. Enough, Slayer, she thought. You have more important things to be worrying about than Spike's physique, or his strong fingers, or that mouth. Think about this dog problem. Concentrate on that.
Buffy jumped at the sound of his voice, her pulse automatically accelerating. Damn it! Why did dreams insist on leaving their residual crap around while you were trying to function from day to day?!? He hadn't even moved when he spoke; he was still laying there, his eyes closed, looking completely dead. "Fine," she quipped. "Just dandy. You?"
His lids opened, and his appraisal of her was slow and obvious, lingering on the bare midriff that showed under her top before trailing down over the denim that hugged her hips. "It's a little early for me, luv, but somethin' tells me you're not staying down below while I finish my beauty rest."
"It's almost noon. Giles will be here soon."
Spike groaned. "Just what I need. The Watcher on an empty stomach." He rose and sauntered to the fridge.
Buffy watched as he pulled out a fresh bag of blood and reached for a cup. "Eeewww. You're not actually going to eat in front of me."
"Don't like it, Slayer, you know where you can go."
"Like I have a choice, Spike."
"Nobody's got you in chains." He cocked his scarred eyebrow. "Unless that's your thing."
"This is so not the conversation I want to be having right now." Buffy flopped down on the couch, started to reach for the remote, and froze as Spike clicked his tongue in reproval. "You can't be serious. Didn't you get enough last night?"
"I can never get enough Passions---." A timid rap on the crypt door stopped his thought. “Well, who would've bloody thought it? Somebody in this town actually knows how to knock. Come on in, Watcher," he called out.
Sunlight streamed inside as Giles pushed open the door. "Hey!" Spike cried out, dodging the stray ray that hit his arm.
"Oh, sorry." The bespectacled Watcher hurried inside the crypt, closely followed by a breathless Willow. Both arrivals were laden down with bulging paper bags threatening to burst, but the young witch still managed to nudge the door closed with her hip.
Buffy jumped to her feet and grabbed the sacks from her best friend. Peeking inside, she grimaced. "Jesus, Giles. You storing us up for the winter?" She expected one of his quiet sermons about the wisdom of being prepared, and waited for his denial. Instead, she watched as he ignored her comment and walked over to Spike, handing over the rest of the bags. "Giles?" she prompted.
"Did you have a nice night?" Giles asked as if she hadn't said a word.
Buffy shoved the supplies aside. "Hello? I'm in a crypt. With Spike. You do the math." As Giles and Willow sat stiffly on the edge of the couch, she felt the first prickles of alarm on the back of her neck. "What's wrong? What's going on?"
"Actually, nothing. Things are relatively quiet for a change."
Folding her arms across her chest, she began tapping her foot. "Will?"
The redhead shook her head. "All's quiet on the Glory front."
"And the hound thing? Have you guys found anything more out? When am I going to be able to get out of here?"
"Yeah, love you too, Slayer." Spike made it as sarcastic as possible, hoping she didn't hear the truth behind his words.
"We're...not sure. We've discovered some new information---."
"Like what? Anything we can use?"
Willow jumped in. "It's just more of the whole 'I'm a myth' thing. The Hound did get stopped once---."
Buffy's face lit up. "Great! What do we do?"
"It's not quite that simple," said Giles.
"So? We've done hard before."
"Let him speak, Slayer." As much as he loved her, sometimes Spike found Buffy's constant interruptions of what should be a simple conversation annoying.
"Thank you, Spike." Giles' response was automatic in his distraction. "The story isn't actually very helpful. It seems that someone tried using the Hound of Laelaps to catch a fox that was terrorizing Thebes---."
"A fox?" Buffy was trying her best not to laugh, but the image in her head was just too funny. "Like that fluffy little red Disney character?"
"Not quite so cute and cuddly," said Willow.
"Nasty little buggers," Spike interjected. "Ones I've known didn't do the singin' and dancin' bit."
"Anyway," Giles stepped in, "this particular animal was fated to never be caught, so the whole arrangement created a paradox."
"One of those unsolvable problem thingies?"
"Yep." This came from Willow, who continued the story. "So this god, he got really pissed about the whole I'm-going-to-catch-you-No-you-can't thing, so he turned them both into stone. Which is why it's gotta be just another myth, 'cause if it was true, it would probably be someone's lawn decoration and not sniffing around Sunnydale."
"Good point," she murmured, and sank into the sofa. The hope in her eyes faded as she mulled over this new information and Spike felt a twinge of pity for the hazel-eyed beauty. Nothing ever seemed to come easy for her. "Anything else?" she asked, not really expecting an answer.
Giles cleared his throat before speaking. "Nothing concrete. There are several ways for us to approach this. The simplest is to just kill the beast---."
"OK, can we say deja vu? I suggested that already. You shot me down."
"Well, you may not have been completely wrong with that. But, we still have other options at this point, although they aren't quite as attractive as getting rid of the hound entirely."
Buffy looked at Willow. "What about something magicky? Could you and Tara turn him into stone like that god guy?"
"We're looking into it..." Her voice trailed off as her brown eyes sought out Giles', pleading for help.
"I'm afraid that would be a temporary measure at best, Buffy," Giles said, his voice low and soothing. "As soon as the spell is reversed, the hound would be after you again. No, I'm afraid we're going to have to find something a bit more...permanent." He rose, his eagerness to depart apparent in his rigid shoulders.
As if on cue, Willow also stood and smiled reassuringly at her friend. "Don't worry, Buff. Xander and Anya are cracking the books so that Tara and I can look up the magic stuff. We'll figure something out."
Buffy walked them to the crypt door. "Yeah, I know. I just wish..." There was no point in voicing her concerns; both Giles and Willow would do everything in their power to find out what she needed. They didn't need to be worrying about her in the process.
"Oh! I almost forgot!" Willow hurried over to where Spike lounged against his coffin, pulling a small bottle from her skirt pocket. "Tara and I made up this potion for you, just in case."
His brows knitted together as he turned the ornamental vial over. "Hope your idea of just in case lets me muzzle the Slayer when she won't stop nattering on," he said dryly.
"No," giggled Willow. "It's a canine affinity potion. It attunes you to doggy-type things. At least..." Her head ducked in embarrassment. "...we think it does."
"Great. Just love being your guinea vamp, Red."
For the first time since they arrived, Buffy smiled, rushing forward to yank the bottle from Spike's hand. "This is great, Willow! I can't believe you almost forgot to tell us about it."
The young witch reached forward and took back the vial. "Um, it's not for you, Buff," she apologized. "It's just for Spike to use."
"But why? If this can make me tell when that hound is near, I can get back to life as normal."
"It's a very potent brew," Giles interjected. "There's a possibility it might not even work."
"Yeah," added Willow. "The spell was kinda vague about dosages and stuff." She glanced at Spike before leaning in to whisper to her friend, "We're not even sure it's supposed to be taken orally."
"Not inspiring confidence, Red," mocked Spike. He watched through hooded eyes as Willow put down the vial and grabbed Buffy's arm, pulling her to the doorway to stand conspiratorially with the Watcher. Even though they spoke in hushed voices, his sensitive ears caught every word.
"I'm serious, Buffy," Willow was saying. "I can't guarantee what kind of effect it would have on you. At least with Spike, he's got the whole vamp constitution thing going for him to help counteract any of the more...unexpected side effects. And if anything does happen, well, it's just...Spike."
"We need you in top form," Giles added. "It's just a matter of time before we get the answers to fight this hound, and then there's the whole Glory situation..." He left the thought hanging, knowing his charge's sense of responsibility would fill in the necessary blanks for him.
Buffy sighed. Reason told her they were right, but the feelings of her inadequacy were bubbling just under her skin, constricting her throat, turning her rational thoughts to slush. "OK," she finally said. "Whatever you say." She held the door open as Willow and Giles slipped out.
Out of the corner of his eye, Spike watched as a dejected Buffy shuffled around the edge of the room. "If it'll make you feel any better," he said, slipping the vial into the refrigerator, "I probably won't even touch the stuff. Don't really fancy being the Scooby Doo in your little gang."
"Gee, thanks, Spike." She was trying desperately to be sarcastic, but it came out too soft, too gloomy to truly be effective.
"You want to talk about it?" The offer had escaped his lips before he could stop it, and he inwardly cringed. I sound like some bloody ponce, he thought. Slayer's going to think I've gone soft in the head.
"You wouldn't understand."
"Oh, that's right." His platinum head ducked, nodding in sarcastic agreement. Buffy watched as his lower lip curled in, letting his tongue snake along its length before he added, "Guess the chip makes me stupid as well as harmless."
"It's just..." How could she get him to understand? "I've never felt this helpless before." She began ticking off her problems on her fingers as she rattled them off. "I've got this Glory bitch god on my back, and every time I try to fight her, she knocks me on my ass. I've gotta protect Dawn because some monks think, hey, the Slayer saved the world once, she can save it again. I can't even tell my friends about the Key because it'll put them in too much danger, so I get to keep that little secret all to myself. Mom's brain thing is freaking everyone out because no one knows what the hell is wrong with her. And now someone has decided to go Buffy hunting and I'm not allowed to do anything about it. So, feeling pretty worthless over here, Spike, and if you don't mind, I'm just gonna go downstairs and feel sorry for myself for a bit, 'kay?"
Turning her back to him, Buffy had only taken a step before Spike's fingers closed around her upper arm, jerking her back to face him. The muscles in his cheeks were twitching from the set of his jaw, and his eyes were darker, harder, than she'd seen them in a long time. His nostrils flared as he spoke. "Sorry to break up your little pity party, Slayer, but you're preaching to the wrong person," he hissed. "Think you feel powerless? Try being a vampire who can't have a decent human for tea without getting a five-alarm headache. I got a demon inside of me that loves the kill, but since the only thing I can dust are demons, I get to spend most of my time dodging those guys I used to hang out with. And I've spent the better part of the last year trying to get you and your little slaymates to believe that just maybe I might be some help to you, that maybe this Big Bad might care just a little about what happens to your asses. So don't think you're all alone, ducks. 'Cause I'm with you every step of the way on this one, whether you like it or not."
He half-expected her to storm out, to run away from any truth that he might have to say. That was her usual modus operandi. Instead, she flew past him to the fridge, grabbing the potion before Spike even had time to register where she was. "Oh really? Think this makes us equal, Spike? My best friend doesn't even trust me with one of her spells! She'd rather let you play Big Bad protector, than risk that my little Slayer constitution can't handle a side effect or two."
The vampire took a step forward, tilting his head as he said, "You're the one who agreed to this little arrangement, remember? I never asked---."
"Oh, like you're hating this, right?" Shaking her head, she felt her pulse begin to quicken at their familiar banter. "You are so getting off on having all the control right now."
"I'm getting off?" The sneer on his lips flickered into his steel-blue gaze. "Tell me, Slayer...your little nightmare. Think I can get top dollar for those sheets? I know a vampire down at Willy's who gets a hard-on every time you walk into the place. What do you think he'd do if I told him about your little cumfest last night?"
Buffy felt the heat rise into her cheeks. He knew. Somehow...he knew. "You---you---perv!" she spat out. OK, so not her best comeback, but the way her mind was racing, it was a struggle just to maintain control.
Spike clicked his tongue, the anger dissipating as he enjoyed her discomfort, the laughter starting to dance in his blue eyes. "Next time, give a vamp some warning. I know some guys who'd be bloody chuffed to have some bootleg Buffy."
The fire in her hazel eyes blazed. "It was hardly a cumfest, as you so eloquently put it, Spike. For your information, I woke up before you could get me to---." She stopped, suddenly aware of how much she had just given away. Too much. Would he notice?
The air was palpable as the truth hung between them like a pointed sword. For Buffy, the walls seemed suddenly too oppressive, her ex-enemy too close, her lungs themselves betraying her by refusing to function properly. For Spike, though, the admission was an exhilaration, a wave of heat that spread flames through his dead veins. His eyes flashed as the growl he'd been trying so hard to suppress began to surge to the surface, and he took yet another step closer to her.
"No more games!" she barked. "I'm leveling the playing field right here, right now." With one liquid motion, she pulled the stopper off the vial and raised it to her lips.
"Slayer! Don't!" Spike leapt toward her, arms outstretched, long fingers scrambling to get the bottle before it was---.
To be continued in Chapter Four: Under the Spell...