DISCLAIMER: Everything but the plot is Joss'. Too bad.
SUMMARY: The Scoobies are trying to figure out what happened to Buffy and Spike, while Spike has just gotten shot by two of their captor’s guards.

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

Chapter 9: Offering

Her skirt billowed in the slight breeze, a gossamer cloud around her ankles, and her full lips curled in a smile as she watched Willow bend over the remains of the chalk diagram on the roof. Watching her lover’s nimble fingers, Tara felt the dawning of a warm flush between her thighs as unsolicited memories began flooding her consciousness.

“Whoever she was, she was way powerful,” Willow was saying, oblivious to the other girl’s distraction. “And super prepared.

These markings take forever to get right.” She straightened. “Giles won’t be very high on the happy scale, but I can’t get anything here that can help us. What about you?”

Tara shook her head, forcing her concentration to return to the task at hand. “I’m not seeing anything special either.”

“So, basically, we got bupkiss.”

“Maybe Xander and Anya had better luck.”

Willow sighed. “Maybe. I just wish---.” She broke off, kicking at a loose stone. “I mean, my head knows there wasn’t anything I could’ve done, but Mr. Guilt never seems to pay attention to that part of my anatomy.”

Coming up behind her, Tara slid her hands onto her friend’s shoulders, massaging them firmly. “You’ve got to stop kicking yourself on this one, Willow. Whoever they were, they knew what they were doing. You said yourself they got through Spike like he wasn’t even there, and they were all ready for you downstairs. You guys didn’t really stand a chance.”

“I can understand that logic-wise, but feeling-wise…” Her head rolled to one side, both in resignation and as an acknowledgement to Tara’s strong fingers. “…Buffy’s my best friend. If something happens to her…”

“Nothing’s going to happen,” soothed Tara. “Spike’s with her…” She let the thought trail off, realizing that she’d probably said too much, knowing the vampire wouldn’t be happy with her talking about his unrequited feelings for the Slayer.

There was a long pause as each girl played the debate through in her head. Finally, Willow took a deep breath and blurted, “Spike told me he was in love with Buffy.”

Tara exhaled loudly. “Thank goddess! I didn’t know how long I was going to have to keep my mouth shut.”

“Me too!” Willow’s face lit up as she recounted her experience. “You should’ve seen him in the crypt when he told me. He was all ‘bloody hell’ this and ‘soddin’ that, and punching the wall and everything. He imagined this whole scenario where Giles came swooping in and dragged him outside by his duster.” She giggled. “Like Giles would swoop.” Her smile relaxed as she added, “I didn’t expect it when he said you knew. I never thought you two were all Chatty Cathy or anything.”

“We’re not. I kind of guessed. And, to be honest, I think he’d do just about anything to make sure Buffy stays safe.”

Nodding, Willow said softly, “What freaks me out is that I’m beginning to think that maybe Buffy might be on the same love train.”

This stopped the other witch’s massage in mid-squeeze. “You think she’d fall for a vampire? Again?” Obviously, this possibility had never occurred to her. “She just broke up with Riley not that long ago, and you’ve told me what happened with Angel…”

“I know. And it’s not like she’s standing in a bell tower with a loudspeaker saying what’s going through her head. It’s just…a feeling…they have a lot of history, her and Spike. And sometimes I’ve thought, methinks the Slayer doth protest too much.”

Tara agreed silently and wrapped her arm around Willow’s waist, pulling her closer. “Makes our love story seem almost simple in comparison, doesn’t it?” she murmured.

A gentle kiss from the redheaded witch was the only response.

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

The blood had coagulated around the small wound in his shoulder, creating semi-soft ridges where it was starting to scab. Very gently, Buffy’s fingers grazed over the crimson wound, being careful not to set him to bleeding again, yet not able to resist the urge to touch it. Once she’d used the spare towels from the bathroom to staunch the earlier flow, she’d returned him to the bed, this time on his back, and set about to mop the pool from the floor. Glancing down at it now, she knew from experience that it would stain anyway.

“Don’t know why you’re unconscious anyway,” she said out loud, as if addressing the vampire in his present state would somehow wake him up. “It was just an arrow; it’s not like it even got anywhere near your heart.” She waited, her hazel eyes scanning his face for any sign of recognition.

Nothing. She tried again. “C’mon, Spike. It can’t be that bad. Big Bad’s a Big Faker, I think.”

Although her voice sounded cheerful, the worry lines between her brows contradicted that ease. Spike had been unconscious since the two men who’d shot him had left, and now a sickly blue pallor was starting to shade his sculpted cheeks. The deepening shadows under his eyes only contributed to her growing belief that something was seriously wrong. It dawned on Buffy that she hadn’t seen him look this bad since that day he’d shown up at Giles’, begging for help after the Initiative had chipped him; that couldn’t be good.

As if they had a mind of their own, Buffy’s fingers trailed across his chest, tracing the prominent collarbone before skating down his other arm in a feather-light caress. Touching him like this brought forth a surge of memories from the past two days---his icy tongue flicking against her ear…his fingertips barely touching her as he sponged her down in the bath…her thumb gliding over the tip of his hard cock as she pressed against him in his crypt…Even now, the lingering wetness between her legs made it difficult to concentrate on her task at hand.

In spite of how hard she wanted to wish it wasn’t true, Buffy knew she couldn’t ignore Spike’s ministrations to her over the past few days. He had nothing to gain by nursing her back to Slayer-strength; escape was always easier when there was only one person to worry about and, if nothing else, Spike was a survivor. Still…maybe he’d done it because he knew he couldn’t get out on his own, that he needed her as an ally in order to overcome their captors, and had been only simulating the tenderness he’d exhibited in the bathroom to ensure her good will. The bathroom…

Buffy felt the flush creep over her skin as the remembered sensations from the bath drowned her consciousness in sweltering waves of want. This was another truth she could no longer deny, her physical response to the chipped vampire’s presence. In the past, she’d attributed it to her heightened adrenalin levels while they fought; what was it Faith had once said? Something about slaying making her hungry and horny? But there’d been no hostility while he sponged her down, and she’d still found herself irrationally wishing he’d slide out of the those damn black jeans and join her in the water.

Snap out of it! she scolded herself silently, and straightened, stepping away from the bed. Think non-sexy, non-Spike thoughts. As she edged away from his side, the texture of cotton brushing against her bare foot tugged her gaze downward. Spike’s t-shirt lay crumpled by her ankle. In her haste to dress his wound, she’d ripped it off him, tossing it aside, forgetting about it as she waited for him to wake up.

Now, with slender fingers that seemed to have developed a permanent tremor, she leaned over and picked it up. He’d never be able to wear it again; the vampire’s wardrobe staple had nothing holding it together anymore, not now that Buffy had torn it in half. Still one more thing he’d been stripped of since the Hound’s arrival…

Almost without thinking, she raised the rag to her nose, inhaling deeply. This was Spike, the smokiness, the biting tang of the leather, with that underlying aroma of sex that clung to his skin like a lover’s embrace. It was heady, intoxicating, and the young Slayer felt the familiar quickening of her pulse as she drank it in.

The low rumble of a man clearing this throat wrenched Buffy from her reverie, and she dropped the shirt as if scalded, her head jerking up to see Daymon standing in the doorway. It was the first time she’d actually seen her captor, and a small part deep inside her stomach relaxed. She could take him, that she knew. Fighting hand-to-hand, she had no doubt who would be the victor, which was probably why he had so many guys around with weapons. There was still something dangerous about him, though, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on; perhaps if she could just see his eyes behind those sunglasses…

Out loud, she quipped, “Doesn’t anyone in this place believe in knocking? Kindergarteners have more manners than you guys.”

“I believe you should be examining your own etiquette, Miss Summers.” His voice oozed into the room like an oil slick, and it was all Buffy could do not to wrinkle her nose in disgust. “I extended you an invitation that you chose to decline. Where I’m from, refusing your host is considered a grave insult.”

She nodded slowly, her gaze cool and firm. “Funny,” she drawled. “Because where I’m from, we tend to get a little upset about being kidnapped and shot. Makes us a little edgy. Just as a point of reference for you, of course.” This last was said with a coy smile, in spite of the Slayer’s churning gut.

There was a long pause where he seemed to be studying her. “I’m glad to see you’re feeling better,” he finally said. He nodded toward the bed. “Seeing as how…Spike…is still in human form, I assume he’s still alive. Or dead. Or undead, as the case may be.” He shook his head. “I do hate having to deal with the semantics of it all.”

This casual reference to the blond vampire’s worsening condition sent her over the edge, and she took a menacing step toward her host. “No thanks to your goons. I don’t know what the hell they did to him, but I’ve seen starving children in Africa looking better than he does right now.”

Daymon nodded absently. “Yes, that would be the holy water. It’s amazing something so simple can be so effective.”

Her frown was instantaneous. “I don’t know what planet you’re on, but Spike got shot with a crossbow, not---.” Comprehension widened her hazel eyes and she looked back at the vampire’s inert form. “The arrow tip,” she said slowly. “Very clever. I’ll have to remember that next time I’m on patrol.”

There was no mistaking the glee in Daymon’s chuckle. “It’s the customary method utilized by my people. Sometimes, they can be quite ingenious.” He paused, choosing his next words carefully. “You have no reason to fear, Miss Summers. It works quite quickly, although…his pain will be excruciating until it runs its course.”

Buffy’s head whipped around, the blistering light in her eyes glinting dangerously. “When he’s sandbox filler, you mean?” She waited for a response, but got only a noncommittal shrug of Daymon’s shoulders. She plunged on. “You expect me to just stand here and let you torture him? Who exactly do you think you’re dealing with?”

“I know exactly who you are.” His voice was calm, unruffled by her outburst. “You’re the Chosen One. The Vampire Slayer. Which means you should be happy that I’ve alleviated your duty by one more demon.”

“And if Spike was your everyday, run-of-the-mill demon, you can bet I’d have front row tickets to watch the show. But he’s not. And I’m not going to just stand back and let you kill him.” As the words tumbled out of her mouth, Buffy felt the small germ of an idea begin snaking its way into her awareness.

Daymon’s twisted smile revealed his too-white teeth as he leaned against the doorjamb. “I’m afraid it’s too late for that, my dear. You’re really in no position to avert the inevitable.”

It was the Slayer’s turn to smile. “I love this part. See, this is where I get to tell you how you’ve massively fubarred, and all you get to do is stand back and watch while I foil your master plan. You might want to take off the sunglasses, though. I’d hate for you to miss anything.” Very deliberately, she turned her back on her captor, crossing around the bed until it stood between her and the door. “I’ll give you a choice. Door number 1, you win the Reader’s Digest version of what went wrong, or door number two, I just go ahead and save him.” She waited, the anger simmering behind her eyes, more controlled but definitely still present.

“You can’t save him.”

“Can’t I?” Her gaze never left the dark man in the doorway as she climbed up onto the bed. “Tell me, why don’t you come on in? It can’t be because you’re waiting for an invitation; it’s your house.” She paused as if thinking it over, then answered herself. “Personally, I don’t think you can. You don’t seem to have one of those protection-amulet-thingies that your little minions were wearing.” Dropping her voice, she said in an exaggerated whisper, “It’s OK, I have a witch friend, too, so I know all about those.”

“The more you talk, the faster your…vampire dies.” His tone had chilled as the truth of the situation became more apparent to him, and he mentally berated himself for being so rash as to approach the Slayer without the means to actually enter the room. Although he doubted she could really do anything to save Spike, her assurance seemed so definitive he wondered if perhaps there had been something he’d overlooked.

Buffy knew her captor was right, but she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing her flustered. Even in the few minutes since Daymon’s arrival, Spike’s color had worsened, and the first niggle of doubt began to gnaw at her gut. Thank God I’ve got my strength back, she thought, as she slid her hands under the vampire’s arms and pulled him across her lap, cradling his head in the crook of her elbow.

“What you don’t realize,” she continued in that even voice that belied her jittery insides, “is that Slayers and vampires have a very unique relationship. It’s a whole first evil, primitive sort of thing; you probably wouldn’t understand it.” Lord knows I don’t, she added silently. “But what that means for here, today, in this room, I have exactly what is needed to help him beat this.”
With that, Buffy reached up with her free hand and scratched deeply at the base of her neck, drawing just enough blood to stain her fingers. “A Slayer may be strong, but her blood is even stronger,” she almost whispered, and touched her fingers to Spike’s lips.

A moment passed…

…and another…

…and Buffy began to think that she’d figured it all out just a little too late when…

…Spike’s lips parted, his dry tongue lapping at the few drops with agonizing lethargy. His eyelids flickered open, a dull glaze clouding the blue irises, no signs of recognition of where he was or who he was with illuminating their depths, and Buffy had to force herself to swallow the lump that had suddenly risen in her throat.

Dipping her fingertips back into the blood on her neck, she watched as the scent finally reached him, causing his nostrils to flare in hunger. This time, when her hand touched his mouth, he sucked at it greedily, suckling with his last reserve of energy. Awareness seeped back into his gaze, and as it did so, his eyes widened as he tried to pull away.

“It’s OK, Spike,” Buffy soothed. “But I don’t think these few drops are going to do the trick.” Ever so slowly, she pulled him closer, almost embracing him as his mouth began to nuzzle her warm skin. She couldn’t see his face, but she could feel him hesitate before the ridges erupted from his flesh, his teeth elongating against her neck.

Each time felt like the first. The moment when she could feel the tip of the fang hovering over her skin, infinitesimally close yet light years away…then…contact…twin needles piercing the delicate skin…

Buffy felt the familiar surge in her veins as Spike fed from her, sucking at the lifeforce that she hoped would heal him as it had Angel so long ago. It burned with an icy vengeance, ripping across her every nerve ending, electrifying parts of her that seemed dormant outside of a vampire’s embrace. Without realizing it, her eyes flitted shut and she leaned her cheek against his dishevelled curls, her arms tightening across his back, pulling him even closer. The hardening of her nipples almost seemed insignificant compared to the juices now dripping down her thighs. With her breath quickening, the Slayer seemed oblivious to the moan that escaped her throat, or the way the age-old vampire clutched the back of her neck, his thumb resting on the pulse-point that beat so strongly at its base.

In the doorway, an aghast Daymon just gaped in disbelief…

***********

Already the air was starting to cool in the desert, a crisp scent sharpening the senses, and both Celie and the Hound knew that true sunset was on its way. For him, loping alongside his mistress, travelling together through the barren countryside, he was at ease for the first time since arriving in this strange land. He had no quarry to hunt, and the respite was long overdue. Sooner or later, it would begin again; there was always someone to find, something to pursue, and for as long as she was there to tend for him, he would never let his caretaker down.

Her hand rested on the dog’s shoulder as she mulled over her new plan of action. The pilot had been highly receptive to her spell; convincing him that Celie and the Hound were both on his plane had been relatively simple, and she was grateful for the time it would buy her. Daymon would not be fooled for long, and his wrath when he discovered the truth would be great, but…it would be worth it, should she gain the retribution she so desperately needed for her family. How long she had, she had no idea, so she was acting quickly, decisively, reaching for the straw about which she hoped she was not mistaken…

…And the hunt would begin again…


To be continued in Chapter Ten: First Steps