DISCLAIMER: Everything but the plot is Joss'. Too bad.
SUMMARY: Buffy & Spike sought refuge in a cave, only to be captured yet again. Meanwhile, Celie has learned that Buffy & Spike are gone…

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Chapter 14: Caves

“I still say we could take ‘em,” the vampire grumbled.

At his side, a barefoot Buffy gritted her teeth. “Spike. They have. My pants.” As the rapier of the demon behind her brushed against the hem of her shirt, she did a quick double-step, scooting out of its way.

“And I’m tellin’ you, that works to our advantage.” He ducked his head, lowering his voice conspiratorially. “You give ‘em a little flash, distract them, and I go in and knock ‘em about ‘til we get our opening to run for it.”

Her head swivelled to stare at the vamp, her hazel eyes wide. “OK, first of all, ewwww,” she said. “Second, flying kicks, no underwear, not my style. And third, did I mention ewww?” Buffy pulled the shirt closer around her middle. “And, anyway, if these are Daymon’s guys, why are they taking us deeper into the cave?”

Spike watched the three demons marching ahead of them, the torches in their horned hands revealing little but the narrow passage before them. “First time, we got snatched by humans. I think this is a whole new ballgame.”

The Slayer sighed. “Great. On the one hand, we got the Sharks wanting to whisk us away to god-knows-where for god-knows-what, and on the other, we got the Jets leading us into the pit of hell. If these guys start dancing and snapping their fingers, I swear I’m going to blow.”

“That a promise?” His leer was more put-on than real, but somehow the thought of her mouth on his cock seemed more important than anything these demons might have planned.

Buffy glared at him. “This is so not the right time for this conversation.”

Spike shrugged. To be honest, she could do very little now to destroy his good spirits. Her taste still lingered on his tongue, and the memory of her thighs against his cheek was enough to bring back his hard-on. Yes, it was unfortunate they were interrupted, but the vampire had little doubt that they would resume where they left off at the very first opportunity.

As they walked along in silence, it became evident quite quickly that the demons’ lights were not the only source of illumination. The walls of the cave began to gleam with some phosphorescent inner glow, widening to allow the group more room, while the grit that had covered the ground disappeared, revealing a smooth stone finish. The occasional door began to appear along the passage, and the whole thing began to smell of domesticity, even by Buffy’s standards.

In front of her, the demons finally stopped, standing back while one stepped forward to push open a low door. He looked back at the captives, his violet eyes nearly invisible under the heavily horned brow, and barked a few short words.

Glancing up at her companion, Buffy said, “Please tell me you got some of that.”

“Not specifically,” replied Spike, “but somethin’ tells me he wants us to go in there.” Tilting his head to peer into the dark chasm, his lips spread into a smile. “If it makes you feel better, Slayer, it’s not a torture chamber. Just looks like a regular bedroom. A rather posh bedroom.” He glanced back at her. “With an enormous bed.”

She ignored his smirk. “Well, I suppose it can’t be any worse than before,” she said. “Unless these guys refuse to give me back my pants.”

She should’ve expected his response. “Who needs pants?”

“Gutter. Out of it.” With one last look behind her, the Slayer stepped forward and crossed the threshold into the darkness, the blond vampire at her heels.

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

For some reason, the smoke from the fire wasn’t filling the cave. Xander didn’t know if it was because of something magical that the witch had done, or just some geological stroke of luck that was keeping them from getting asphyxiated, but either way, he wasn’t arguing with it. The desert was freezing, and this was the first moment of comfort he’d had since they’d arrived.

The dark witch had been mostly silent since they’d left the ranch. Hanging back, Xander had just watched as she’d seemed to speak with the Hound, then followed along as it loped off into the desert. It had brought them to the mouth of this cave and was currently parked outside, too big to enter.

“We’ll rest here,” she’d said in a tone of voice that meant no arguing.

As tired as he was, Xander was too curious about the witch’s motives to turn his brain off enough to sleep. “You know,” he started, “I don’t even know your name. If we’re going to be all Starsky and Hutch, I should know what to call you. Unless you want to be Starsky. Or Hutch, I’m not picky.”

Her eyes were black pools in the firelight. “Celandia,” she finally answered. “You may call me Celie.”

He nodded. “I’m Xander.” The long uncomfortable silence that followed was only broken by the crackle of the fire. “So…you’re a witch. My best friend is a witch, maybe you know her. Willow Rosenberg?” He waited for a response, but with none forthcoming, he barrelled on. “’Course, you’re not from around here so probably not. Her girlfriend’s a witch, too, but you probably don’t know her either because of the whole not being from around here thing…” His voice trailed off as he realized he was rambling and hoped that he hadn’t annoyed her to the point where she’d do something crazy like the teleport thing again.

“I make you uncomfortable.”

“Oh god yes,” he blurted, then straightened, his brown eyes wide. “No! I mean, no, I always talk this much. Really.” Silently, Xander kicked himself. Way to be smooth, he thought. She’s going to feed you to that dog yet. “So…” he said. “What’s the new plan?”

Celie stared into the fire. “We rest for now and in the morning, you go into the cave and bring them back.”

“That’s it? That’s the brilliant plan?” He waggled his fingers, pretending to cast a spell. “What about the hocus pocus, abracadabra, we’re there? How come I get to go in by myself?”

She didn’t seem to want to reply. “My magic is unsure here,” she finally said. “It’s taking my entire concentration just to control the fire and I’m afraid that if I were to go with you, I would be powerless. No, it’s better this way. The Hound and I will ensure no one prevents us from getting the Slayer and the vampire out.”

Xander glanced back at the dark shadow of the Hound looming at the cave’s entrance. Just who exactly was she trying to prevent from running here? All of a sudden, the fear that he’d made a huge mistake in agreeing to this deal overwhelmed him. God, Buffy, he thought. I promise I will do everything I can to make sure this turns out all right.

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

The door had not been shut for thirty seconds before Spike came up behind her, put his hands on her waist, and bent down to kiss her neck. Although Buffy’s first instinct was to close her eyes and tilt her head to allow his cool lips access, after the initial contact, she stiffened and pulled away. “Don’t,” she said, and began poking around the room.

Spike stuffed his hands in his pockets, watching the young woman look under the bed, pull open the drawers of the nightstand, even peer into the adjoining room. “If you’re worried about getting interrupted again, luv, I think all the little beasties are outside. Well, except for this one, of course.” Tilting his head, the vampire’s lips curled in a smile.

She refused to meet his eyes. “Is it possible you could be more disgusting?” she growled. “In case you haven’t noticed, we’re prisoners. Again. And I don’t know about you, but I just want to get out of here, get home, and forget everything over the past few days ever happened.”

“Everything?” He waited for a response, any sign of recognition from her, but was met with stony silence. The vampire’s jaw clicked shut. “Right,” he said, harsher than he wanted but indicative of his sudden downshift in mood. “So we’re back to disgusting now. Well, thanks for letting me know where things stand. Slayer gets off and Big Bad gets booted. Nice to know some things never change.”

As Spike tried to walk past her, Buffy grabbed his arm. “That’s not what I---.”

He yanked himself away. “Sod off,” he snarled and stormed into the adjoining room, slamming the door shut behind him.

She stared at the closed door, her mouth hanging open. What the hell had just happened here? OK, so maybe she hadn’t been entirely clear, but didn’t he realize that now was not the right time to be thinking about sex? Just looking at him made her mouth water, and if she was going to figure out how to get them out of this jam, she needed her head clear, which meant no hanky-panky. Why didn’t he get that?

“Spike!” she called out. The sound of running water filtered into the room, and Buffy frowned. Shit. He was ignoring her. “Spike!” she yelled, this time a little bit louder. “Don’t make me come in there!” Oh god, she thought. Now I sound like Mom.

A gentle rap behind her diverted Buffy’s attention and she turned just in time to see a white head poke its way around the door. “Knock, knock,” a woman’s voice called. “I’m not interrupting anything, am I? I heard yelling.”

“No, everything’s---.” Buffy stopped, crossing her arms across her chest. Why was she trying to explain anything?

The new arrival floated inside and it was all the Slayer could do not to stare. Everything about the woman was white---long white hair, super-pale skin, an ivory hooded caftan that trailed along the floor behind her. Even her eyes were such a pale blue, they seemed ghostly. “I’m so sorry,” she was saying. “I meant to be here when they brought you in. You haven’t been waiting long, have you?”

“Noooooo,” Buffy replied, taken aback. There was an ease, a friendliness, to this woman that one wouldn’t expect from a would-be kidnapper.

“You look familiar to me,” the woman said quizzically, a tiny line between her thin white brows as she appraised Buffy. “Have we met before?”

“I don’t think so.”

“You haven’t come wandering through here before, have you? I know I know you from somewhere.”

Buffy shook her head. “Considering I don’t even know where here is, I’m going to say…no. Unless this is Sunnydale---.”

The woman brightened. “Buffy Summers!” she exclaimed. “The vampire slayer! Am I right?”

“So much for secret identities,” Buffy muttered. Louder, she asked, “How’d you know that?”

The woman’s smile was genuine. “It wouldn’t be very smart not to know who the local demon hunters are, now would it?” Entering the rest of the way into the room, Buffy’s guest settled herself down on the edge of the bed. “I don’t get many celebrities through here.”

“I’m not---,” and then it dawned on the Slayer, her hazel eyes widening. “You’re a demon.”

“Oh god, where’s my head? I haven’t even introduced myself.” She held out her hand. “I’m Cortina.”

“Hi.” The young woman’s response was automatic, but she stopped herself short, frowning. “Wait. Cortina? You’re not real.”

Cortina laughed. “I’ve gotta remember to give Harvey a bonus,” she chuckled. “Honey, when you’re a demon who wants to have a little privacy, it pays to have a good PR guy.”

Behind Buffy, the bathroom door opened and Spike stepped out to lean against the jamb, his hands stuffed deep into his pockets. He cocked his eyebrow at the sight of the new arrival. “Well, well, well, what have we here?”

The glance over her shoulder turned into a long admiring stare. “Mmmmm, aren’t you yummy…” Cortina commented. Turning back to Buffy, she said, “If that’s his shirt you’re wearing, hon, my deepest apologies my guys found you so soon.”

Spike laughed, a deep smile creasing his face. “Nice to know someone appreciates my charms.”

“I had a vampire for a boyfriend once. Not the brightest bulb in the pack, but an absolute animal in bed---.”

“Spike’s not my boyfriend!” exploded Buffy.

“Oh.” Genuine confusion clouded Cortina’s face. “I thought…Wait a sec, I don’t get it. You’ve got his smell all over you and he’s just dripping in your scent.” She turned to Spike. “And that’s your mark, isn’t it?” the demon asked, gesturing to Buffy’s neck.

The vampire shrugged. “She’s a little thick sometimes.”

Standing, Cortina smiled. “Maybe I should let you two just sort all this on your own. I just popped in to make sure you weren’t a threat or anything.” She stopped, her eyes widening. “You’re not, right? I hope you didn’t come here to kill me, ‘cause I’m really not in the mood to have to get rid of you.”

“No.” The encounter was making Buffy’s head whirl. Cortina looked and acted like a human---even a very nice and funny human---yet she freely admitted to being a demon. For some reason, she even showed some signs of admiration for the Slayer. What would Giles do with this one? she wondered. “We were just…getting out of the cold,” she added.

Mopping fake sweat from her brow, Cortina sighed in relief. “That’s what I figured. Listen, you two get some sleep, take a shower. There’s a gorgeous underground stream just down a bit if you’re in the mood for something a little more exotic. Once the sun goes down, I’ll have one of my guys lead you out to where you can call your friends in Sunnydale.”

“Gee, thanks,” said Buffy. “That’s really…nice of you, but…” She plucked at the hem of her shirt.

“Clothes, of course! Not a problem.” Opening the door, Cortina smiled back at the Slayer, her blue eyes dancing. “But I think you’ll have more fun without them.” She waggled her fingers at Spike. “G’night.”

“I like her,” he said, once they were alone again. “Refreshin’ to meet a smart bird for a change.”

“I’m just glad I don’t have to worry about yet another bad guy,” moaned Buffy as she flopped down onto the bed. “I haven’t been this tired since Xander’s Mel Brooks marathon.”

“Right. Well, you should get some sleep then.”

Propping herself up on her elbows, the young Slayer frowned as the vampire strode across the room. Stop him! her mind screamed. Make him understand what you meant. “Spike…” she started.

He froze, his hand on the doorknob, his blue eyes averted. “What?” His voice was clipped, cold, his anger just barely in check.

“…Don’t you think…Cortina seems nice?” Inwardly, she groaned. Oh yeah, that would make him stay.

“Most Vrolek demons are, Slayer.” He paused, his jaw clicking. “But since that doesn’t fall into your pretty little definition about what a demon really is, you wouldn’t know that, now would you.”

Her temper flared. “I just said she was nice!”

“Well, bully for you,” he snarked, finally meeting her hazel gaze. “Think your Slayer head is going to explode from having to deal with that little tidbit? ‘Cause that might be fun to stick around and watch.”

She jumped up from the bed. “Is it so hard to actually listen to what I’m saying for a change? Here I am, trying to have a calm and rational conversation, and you’re trying to turn it into Bitchfest 2000.”

“Buffy, your real problem is that I do listen you.” There was no mistaking the control---in his voice, in his tightly wound body---and his knuckles were white on the doorknob. “I’ve heard every single ‘evil,’ every single ‘disgusting,' and every single ‘thing.’ For some reason, I thought I could change the song, but you’ve made it abundantly clear that that’s not going to happen. So, this Big Bad’s going off to find our Vrolek hostess, see if she’s got anything remotely alcoholic to get pissed with, and try his damnedest to forget for just a little while that he’s managed to fall in love with the Slayer.” Yanking the door open, Spike was through it and gone before Buffy could blink.

When she did, it was slow and deliberate, as if the act of closing and opening her eyes would somehow rewind the clock. Had he really just said what she’d thought he’d said? It wasn’t possible; it was Spike, of all people. All along, she’d figured it as a purely physical thing; the blond vampire had certainly never made any bones about sharing his attraction to her. But this…

…Spike was in love with her?


To be continued in Chapter 15: The Naked Truth