DISCLAIMER: Everything but the plot is Joss'. Too bad.
SUMMARY: Spike and a sick Buffy are being held captive by a mysterious man, while the Scoobies are trying to figure out what happened to them.

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

Chapter 8: Cleansing

Xander kicked at the headstone, trying to dislodge the brown mire that had buried itself in the crevices of his shoes. "Who walks their dog in a cemetery?" he complained. "I mean, do they really think they're providing a service to the residents? That all these flowers need some extra fertilizer or something?"

"I told you to watch where you were stepping," Anya said, grimacing as a tall weed snagged at her sweater. "We're supposed to be looking for clues as to who took Buffy, remember? Unless you think that maybe that was left by the Hound."

Xander shook his head. "Not big enough on the poop-meter. I'm going to say this was left courtesy of something spaniel-sized."

"Well, I don't think we're going to find anything else. The only things I've seen are Spike's cigarette butts."

"Spike's?" He frowned. "Why would Spike be smoking outside so close to his own crypt?"

Anya shrugged. "I don't know, but there's a huge pile of them over behind the Dillard gravestone." She pointed back over her shoulder and watched as her boyfriend crossed the distance, suddenly forgetting his disgust with his shoes.

"I'm thinking these don't belong to our resident undead guy." Xander picked up a smashed butt, sniffing at it before making a face. "These have a funny smell."

"Funny, as in you don't recognize it, or funny, as in yuck?"

"Both. But definitely leaning toward the yuck."

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

It was the heat he felt first, rousing him as it warmed his cheek. Very quickly, though---too quickly really---the heat turned into fire and his blue eyes snapped open to see the first open flame light his face.

"Bloody hell!" Spike screamed, leaping to his feet, away from the stray sunlight that had filtered through the closed curtains, slapping at his face to snuff out the fire before it could spread. The room was south-facing, allowing maximum daylight during the
waking hours, and the skimpy coverings at the windows did little to keep the radiance out. Still, he thought he'd positioned the chair well enough to keep himself safe; leave it to the bleedin’ sun to find a way to get him anyway.

On the bed, Buffy stirred at the vampire's pained yell. It had been a couple hours since her bath; although she'd dropped back to sleep almost immediately afterward, Spike could see that the flush in her cheeks wasn't quite as rosy as it had been, her breathing not quite so labored. The effects of the potion seemed to finally be dissipating.

Oblivious to the pain in his cheek, Spike leaned over, brushing the Slayer's hair back from her brow. Her forehead is definitely cooler, he thought, even if, to me, it still feels like an inferno. A smile pulled the corner of her mouth up, while a satisfied sigh escaped her lips. Rolling over onto her side, she settled back into slumber.

"How is she faring?"

The voice from the doorway caught Spike's attention and he turned to look at the man who stood there. The sunglasses were gone now, revealing ebony eyes that glittered as if from some inner power. Although taller than the blond vampire, time and good living had taken its toll on his formerly trim form. A slight paunch, too fleshy hands...this was a man not used to labor.

"She'll do."

"You appear to have had a slight accident, Mr. Spike," Daymon commented, fingers fluttering toward his own cheek. "Do you need medical attention?"

"It's just Spike, and no, I'll be right as rain soon enough."

Daymon nodded. "Oh, yes. Vampire constitution. I'd forgotten."

"Look, mate, social niceties aside, I don't think you stopped 'round for a friendly cuppa tea, so let's cut to the chase, shall we?"

"You're direct. I like that." He paused, leaning against the jamb, arms folded across his chest. "My business doesn't actually concern you, though. You are...superfluous. My pursuit is for the Slayer, hence Celandia's little...hunt."

The truth began to dawn on Spike, and he nodded, a sneer on his lips. "The Hound is hers."

"Not exactly. She's the caretaker. But your intent is correct."

"And you hired her."

"Well, yes. I wanted the Slayer, she could find her for me." He straightened, turning to go. "I'll send for your...friend later. I trust she'll be better then."

Spike leapt from the bed, lunging for the man in the door. Within a foot of it, though, he was thrown back as he met an invisible wall, the magical barrier erected by the witch. It didn't hurt, but it was an annoyance, and he glared at his captor. "I don't know what your game is, but I think Buffy's going to have a few choice words for you once she's back in Slayer mode. Hell, if you weren't human, I'd take care of you myself."

Daymon stopped, an amused smile lighting his face. "Curious. You really are the most intriguing creature, Mr....Spike," he said before shutting the door.

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

Sitting at the old wooden desk, Giles stared down at the tome in front of him, not really seeing the pages, but envisaging instead the normally lithe form of his Slayer lying in a crumpled heap in the alley. Buffy's disappearance had sent ripples of concern throughout the entire gang, but as her Watcher, Rupert felt the weight of her absence the greatest. She had become so diligent in her training over the past few months; in many ways, he felt as if he'd failed in protecting her from this latest danger. They should've discovered more about the Hound sooner; he should've been stricter with Willow about the affinity spell. Could've, would've, should've. He could berate himself all day; it wasn't going to bring her back any faster.

The jingle from the door broke his reverie and he looked up to see Xander and Anya stroll into the shop, hand in hand. It had been several hours since he'd sent them off, and their casual manner suggested that they'd taken a detour on their way back to the shop.

"Anything?" he asked.

"Not lots," Xander replied. He broke off from his girlfriend, letting her get to behind the counter, while he pulled up a chair next to Giles. He pulled a handful of the butts from his jacket. "Just these."

Frowning, Giles reached for his glasses so that he could examine the find more closely. "They're not Spike's?" Taking a whiff, he grimaced and answered himself. "Oh, no. Definitely not Spike's."

"There was a whole pile of them just a few feet from the crypt. Looked like someone might've been hanging around there for a while." He looked back at the empty store. "Where's Willow?"

"I sent her and Tara over to the rooftop where we saw that woman last night. Somehow, she's linked to the Hound, and since it was most likely magic that got them out of the alley, I was hoping that Willow might be able to detect some residual emanations." At Xander's frown, he defended, "Contrary to what you might think, it's not reaching for straws. The locator spell proved that Buffy's not in Sunnydale anymore, so we have no idea how far they've taken her by this point. We have to be as thorough as possible to ensure getting her back."

"Too bad we don't have one of our own Hounds. He'd find Buffy fast enough."

"Yes, well..." Giles handed the cigarettes back to Xander. "In the absence of our own tracker, could you please take these down to the tobacconist? See if he recognizes them, where they're from, if he's sold any recently."

The young man scowled. "How come I always get the stinky jobs? First dog doo-doo, now this. I gotta seriously rethink my Scooby status."

"Dog...doo-doo?"

Waving a hand in dismissal, Xander said, "Don't ask."

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

The plaster swirled in patterns over her head, but an incensed Celie was blind to it as her thoughts raged in shades of red and black. Daymon had dispatched her to her room, telling her to pack her bags as the truck would be leaving for the airstrip before dinner. They were taking her and the Hound back to the island, whether she wanted to go or not, and she still hadn't had the opportunity to tell her employer the real reason she'd brought back the vampire. Although she had requested to see him, he was refusing all audiences.

The man's a fool, she thought, if he thinks he can contain both the Slayer and her vampire friend without the aid of my magics. It would only be a matter of time before the allies she'd seen at the battle would arrive to rescue their comrade, and if Daymon had his way, Celie would no longer be around to help. He didn't want to hear the particulars of the hunt; his only focus was on the young girl, just as it had been since he first learned of her existence.

Her anger drifted to the blond vampire. She didn't understand why he hadn't given them more of a fight the previous evening; one hit from the men and he'd been down on the floor, writhing in pain. It wasn't as if he couldn't fight; she'd witnessed those skills firsthand. Every previous encounter she'd had with vampires proved that their preternatural strength and prowess made them formidable enemies, yet this one hung around with humans. As their friend?

She had her own plans for him, and they certainly didn't include being his friend. Her nights were still haunted by the screams of her family...the stench of flowing blood...the sheer terror as she clung to her blanket, doing her best not to sob out loud and bring
her to their attention. Twenty-five years had passed since that night, and the horror still shrouded her in pain. Once and for all, she was going to purge herself of the demons, and for that...Spike was going to be her tool...

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

Spike hovered over her, watching as her fingers slowly pulled the pith from the orange slice, the white strands drifting to the top of her blanket, snowing intricate patterns of white lace against the burgundy comforter. Shaking his head, he strode quickly into the bathroom, grabbed the hand towel, and marched back to Buffy's side. "Glad you're not eating like that in my bed," he grumbled. "Joyce needs to give you some etiquette lessons on how to conduct yourself when you're a guest in someone else's house."

Buffy dropped her peels and orange remains onto the towel, wiping off the sticky juice from her hands at the same time. "Why should I be Miss Manners?" she asked. "You said yourself, that guy who hired the witch is the one responsible for sending Cujo after me, so sorry, not feeling very considerate here. He can just deal."

Spike turned his head to hide the smile he couldn't keep from forming. Buffy had woken from her nap more animated than she'd been since first collapsing, with almost no traces of the fever evident in the touch of her skin. In fact, the first thing out of her mouth had been a complaining, "I'm hungry," so he knew she was back on the track to normal. Thank God their captor had left a bowl of fruit at her bedside.

"Maybe he doesn't deserve consideration," he said, "but I bloody do. He's not the one who's stuck being your slopmaster while you scarf down your body weight in oranges."

Playfully, she stuck her tongue out, unable to hide the twinkle of delight in her eye. Bantering with Spike was familiar territory, terrain she was more than happy to traverse while she finished getting over Willow's spell. All her memories were intact; as much
as she'd wished that coming around would just erase them from the blackboard in her head, everything---the hardness of his cock as she ground her hips against him, the salty tang of his skin on her tongue---was etched onto her consciousness, coloring the vampire in shades she'd never associated with him before.

"I'm not a pig. Dog spell, remember?" She gave him a little bark in demonstration, and was rewarded with a blinding smile from her roommate as he glanced at her out of the corner of his blue eyes. Even he couldn't resist her jibe at her own foolishness.

"Still, no telling when we'll get another visit, so if I were you, I'd take it easy. That fruit might be all you get for a while."

Buffy frowned. "Did they leave anything for you?"

Shaking his head, Spike said, "Somehow, I get the feelin' he wasn't expecting a vampire caller."

"Oh." She watched him slouch in the chair, picking at the remains of the black polish on his nails, not meeting her gaze. Their sudden captivity meant that Spike was stripped of those things that seemed so quintessentially him---his duster was back in the crypt, so he had only the black t-shirt hugging his muscled shoulders; no hair gel meant that his usually slick and stiff coif was tousled into little boy curls; and his fingers looked nearly naked without their signature ebony tips. She knew better than to think that this made any bit of difference to the vampire within, but still...

"I'll do for a couple days," he was saying. "Now that you're feeling better, we should have no problem getting back to Sunnyhell."

"What about the spell on the room? Not exactly Queen of the Magic Fair here.”

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Silently, Spike echoed the Slayer's concern, but with her fever out of the way, it seemed like almost anything was possible anymore. "Maybe the Watcher will figure out where they've taken us."

"Giles...yes..." Biting her lip, Buffy took a deep breath before continuing. "How much do they, you know, know?"

He cocked his head. "Don't worry, Slayer. Your horny little secret is safe with me." His tongue tapped against his top teeth as he watched her settle back against the pillows. Although she hadn't yet mentioned her actions during the spell, he could tell that she
remembered more than she was admitting. There was a casualness to her attitude, an intimacy that hadn't been there prior, and he felt the familiar flicker of hope flare in his gut.

Her laugh shattered the newfound comfort between them, slicing through Spike's very core with its brittleness. "Like any of the gang would ever really believe I had the hots for you!"

Before she could blink, he was leaning over her, fists on either side of her hips, holding himself just inches from her face. The laughter died in her throat as she saw that his eyes had darkened to the color of a stormy sky, the muscles twitching in his cheek as he fought to keep his cool. "As long as you don't start believing that, Slayer, I don't really give a damn what the Scoobies think."

Buffy tried to push him away, but the strength still escaped her. "Don't flatter yourself, Spike," she said as harshly as she could manage. "It was the potion, remember?"

"If I remember correctly, Buff," he snarled, emphasizing the shortened version of her name, "your dream happened before your little canine caper, so, sorry, can't use that one as an excuse this time."

"I've told you, I thought it was Riley!"

"Really? Captain Cardboard made you feel like this?" Scooping her hips into his hands, he pulled her body in a clean jerk so that it lay flat before him, the pillows scattering to the floor. One hand traced the edge of her waist, sliding up her torso, over her shirt to the curve of her shoulder, while the other tightened around her buttock, squeezing it, massaging it, using it to pull her pelvis closer to his.

Buffy hissed at the sensation of his hard cock against her, her own eyes darkening with desire, her nipples rising to stiff peaks as he lowered his mouth to her neck, snaking his tongue along the tender flesh to the back of her ear, nipping at the lobe. Goose bumps erupted along her arm and she felt the heat of anger begin to suffuse her breast. "What's the matter, Spike?" she taunted. "Can't take a chance with a girl unless she's under par?"

"You're never under par, luv," he growled against her throat. Closing her eyes, she felt him nibble along its length as his fingers tangled in the honey-colored curls fanned across the sheets, holding her immobile, forcing her to respond to his caresses. "And you still haven't answered my question."

Buffy's mind raced, frantically trying to remember what exactly he'd asked of her. Something about...Riley? She couldn't think straight. God, why was he doing this to her? The bath...he'd been so tender...didn't take advantage...even helped her get dressed again without so much as a suggestive comment. Now...fragments of her dream filtered before her mind's eye, melding with the very real weight of Spike above her...Unconsciously, she spread her legs, allowing him access to the wetness between her thighs without actually vocalizing the invitation.

His laugh was more of a rumble, deep in his chest, and she opened her eyes to see him staring down at her. "Always preferred Action Buffy over Talking Buffy, anyway," he whispered before lowering his lips to hers, searing her in ice as his tongue sank into the sweltering depths of her mouth, savoring her taste.

Her response was automatic, an impassioned silent plea as her hands came up to pull his platinum head closer, forcing their kiss deeper, fingers laced in his curls, exploring the hard curves of his skull. There was no thought now; instinct is what drove her body to entwine with his, hard to soft, desperation demanding she be filled with the vampire's essence. As if of their own mind, Buffy's legs scissored themselves around his hips, the fleeting realization that both of them were still clothed barely registering.

If the Slayer was caught up in the moment, Spike was more than aware of everything that was going on. He'd started this little dance out of anger, annoyance at Buffy for having the nerve to deny her responses yet again, and had only taken it the step further at the mention of her ex's name. He hadn't really expected her to react so strongly, though, and the idea that she'd been looking for an excuse to continue their sex shenanigans had occurred to him more than once, pleasing him to no end.

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

They stood outside the door, feet shuffling but each silent as they waited for the other to make the first move. Absently, they both fingered the amulets Celie had given them to provide safe passage through the spell. "I don't hear anything," the shorter of the two men finally said.

"Probably sleeping," the other agreed, shifting the weight of the crossbow on his hip. "Most likely, the girl's still unwell."

"And vampires sleep during the day." Although their murmurs of agreement were more for their own reassurance than anything else, the men didn't relax their postures as they silently turned the doorknob.

Two sets of brown eyes widened at the writhing forms on the bed. The blond vampire was straddling the young girl, his face buried in her neck, and the moans that were escaping her were unmistakable. They had only one thought between them; their master's assurances that she would be safe had been for naught.

After years of training, their reactions were reflex. In one sweep, the taller man cocked the crossbow and took aim, while the other moved to the side, ready to grab the girl from the monster's grasp. The arrow whished through the air, burying itself in the vampire's shoulder, bucking him from the girl's form as he roared in pain.

Breathing heavily, the Slayer sat up, her eyes wide, dark, darting from the armed men to the crumpled body on the floor. A pool of blood began spreading out almost immediately underneath him, and with more energy than she'd had since the Hound's attack, she leapt to the vampire's side.

"What've you done?" she hissed at the intruders, her thin hands wrapped around the arrow. As she pulled, it slid from his shoulder but in spite of the obvious pain it caused, he didn't make a sound.

"The master wishes to see you," the man with the crossbow said, confused at the girl's apparent lack of gratitude for saving her.

Buffy ignored him, concentrating instead on the platinum-haired vampire. Pressing one hand against the wound, she used her free arm to turn him over onto his back, only to find her breath catching in her throat at the glazed look in his blue eyes. Her head whipped around to glare at the two men.

"Tell your master he can go to hell."


To be continued in Chapter Nine: Offering...