DISCLAIMER: Everything but the plot is Joss'.  Too bad.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY:  Buffy and Spike have found themselves within the world of the painting, a world that looks suspiciously like 40’s America, with the Slayer and the vampire engaged and living together, both working for a private club in varying…capacities…

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

Chapter 3: East of the Sun and West of the Moon

For a split second, she found herself swept away by the elegance of it all.  The room looked just as it did in the painting…the beautiful young women with their vibrant dresses…the tuxedoed men of varying age scattered amongst them…the brass band creating a heady ambience reminiscent of some wartime movie.  Even the sight of Spike with some burly dark-haired guy lurking in the doorway seemed somehow appropriate, somehow…right.

As she stepped into the club, Buffy felt the eyes of its occupants, men and women alike, turn to look at her, and she unconsciously straightened, holding her head just a little higher, her hazel eyes defiantly staring down the most blatant of the admirers.  It was obvious from the appreciative stares that not only did she look good---something even Spike had attested to, much to her astonishment---but she must have some sort of rep as well, the crowd parting automatically to make room for her to pass without hindrance.  Her gaze immediately lit upon the bar.  She could do this; she just needed a little…alcoholic support.

The bartender seemed to be waiting for the young woman as she reached the counter, an attentive smile on his leathered face.  “The usual, Ms. Summers?” he asked.

Oh my god, Buffy thought.  I have a usual.  Maintaining as calm an exterior as she could manage, she flashed the bartender her brightest smile.  “Sounds good.”  When he turned away, presumably to get whatever it was she’d just agreed to, the Slayer let her eyes return to roaming over the club, assessing both guests and employees.

They were just people, some of them dancing, others talking, but none of them seemingly dangerous.  Not a demon in sight, and with nothing going off on her Slayer radar, Buffy began to wonder if maybe she’d over-reacted about the potential evil about this place.  Maybe it was just a silly spell, some lingering charm on the painting, and once the Scoobies realized what had happened to her, she’d be home faster than she could say, “Bite me.”  All she had to do was put up with a little bit of dancing and people thinking she was engaged to Spike.  How hard could that be?

The sound of a drink being set down behind her brought Buffy back to the bar, and she turned to see the shot glass twinkling up at her.  Well, at least it’s little, she thought ruefully, reaching out to pick it up.  And it’s not like I haven’t drunk alcohol before. 

The bartender waited, watching as she tilted her head back, the clear liquid disappearing down her throat in a delicate gulp.  It was all he could do not to shake his head; Buffy Summers was the only dame in the joint who could handle that kind of shooter and he just knew it had something to do with Spike’s influence.  Lord knew that one could handle his drink; shit, the blond bouncer could handle just about anything.

Nothing could’ve prepared the Slayer for the shock of the liquor as it burned down her throat, stomping down her breath as it sizzled to her stomach.  She could feel the sting of tears in her eyes and blinked once, twice, before lowering her head and the glass.  Hold it together, Buffy, she thought.  This is your usual; you start crying and they’ll know something is up.  Instead, she smiled, a little wavery but endlessly bright, and chirped in a voice just a little too high, “Just what I needed.”

He nodded with a satisfied grin, and turned away as two men approached the other end of the bar.  As soon as she was out of his line of sight, Buffy closed her eyes, feeling the alcohol already starting to take its effect on her system, her limbs loosening, the anxiety in her gut easing.  I can do this, she reassured herself.  It’s only dancing, right?  I’ve certainly done enough of that. 

Squaring her shoulders, the Slayer turned to face the club just as the band picked up its instruments to launch into a loud, brassy number.  Her smile faded as she saw the couples take to the floor, their feet moving faster than she thought imaginable, skirts flying through the air as the women were whipped around and dipped, the energy pulsating against their skins as the beat of the music swept them into a frenzy.  The small of her back pressed into the counter as she leaned backward, and she felt rather than saw the bartender return behind her.

“Get me another,” she murmured, her hand fumbling to her side to push the shot glass closer to him.

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

So far, so good, thought Spike.  Gino’s earlier problem had been solved without any physical interference on behalf of the vampire; a few choice words in the offending gentleman’s ear and everything had been settled within moments, with no one, except for the bird whose “honor” had been sullied, any the wiser.  Truth be told, he was rather chuffed with himself.  Although he definitely missed the actual fighting, knowing Big Bad could scare just as devilishly with only his words was a tremendous boost to his ego.  And the look on the bloke’s face had been priceless.  Even now, two hours after the confrontation, he jumped every time Spike’s resolute face came into view.

The only fly in the ointment was the Slayer.  The vampire had watched as she downed three straight shots, and even across the room, he could feel her intoxication, hear the blood pounding through her veins.  She wasn’t actually doing much dancing; in fact, she seemed to be doing everything she could to avoid the main floor, flirting and laughing with the group of men encircling her at the bar instead.  Occasionally, she’d allow herself be led out for a slow waltz, but every time someone slid his hand down a little lower than was appropriate, or held her just a little too close, Spike’s eyes narrowed, his jaw tensed, and the thunder in his gut threatened to turn his hands into fists.

At one point, Gino leaned over and whispered, “Relax.  She’s just doing her job.  You’re the one she’s going home with tonight, remember?”

The vampire snorted.  “Hardly jealous here,” he muttered, his blue gaze darkening to the shade of storms, riveted on her scarlet form.

The other bouncer laughed.  “Whatever you say, Spike,” he said, but the disbelief in his voice was obvious. 

The thing of it was, the blond vamp didn’t know how he felt.  What Buffy did certainly wasn’t his business…except when everyone thought they were a couple.  In this world, the Slayer was his---how many times had that been made clear to him tonight?---and as much as he didn’t want to admit it, Spike was possessive, hating to share what he claimed with anyone.  When Dru had been so attentive to Angelus during that whole Acathla debacle, it had eaten him up, ripped out his heart to see her fawn all over the ponce, to witness the wanker’s hands on his dark princess’ slender form.  But this is different, he mentally argued with himself.  I bloody well loved Dru, and this is…Buffy

…Except it didn’t feel any different.  The anger was there, boiling under his skin, and Spike could only think that it was because it seemed as if he was being made a fool of yet again, that people were thinking that the woman they believed was his, was only interested in getting as many men as possible.  Well, of course they are, he chastised himself.  That’s her fucking job.  And so, the internal battle raged, back and forth, sending the vampire’s mood into a seemingly endless downward spiral, until finally, even Gino was beginning to feel frightened of what he might do.

When the conductor announced the last dance of the evening, Spike bolted from his post, striding determinedly to the bar and the cluster of men who surrounded Buffy in her chair.  He heard her laughter tinkle in the air, smelled the perfume of her skin, and felt his irritation spread like wildfire.  Reaching past the throng, the vampire wrapped his grip around the velvet of her upper arm, yanking her from her perch.  “C’mon,” he growled.

“Spike!” Buffy cried, her face brightening as she stumbled against his chest.  Steadying herself with an open palm, she turned a beaming face back to the other men.  “This is Spike.  He works here, too.  He’s my boyfriend.”  She swung around to face the vampire again, swaying slightly as she did so.  “And we’re going to get married, aren’t we, Spike?”

He heard someone mutter, “Lucky bastard,” diverting his attention momentarily from the Slayer’s body pressed against his.  He could smell the alcohol on her breath, and wondered when he’d missed her downing more of the shots.  “You’re drunk,” he stated, holding her up firmly with both hands.

The young woman pouted.  “No, I’m a ray of sunshine.  I work here at the Rising Sun, and that makes me a ray of sunshine.  Right, guys?” she asked of the men behind her.  Their vehement nods were the only affirmation she needed, as she looked back up to Spike.  “Oh!  Show them your bumpies!”  Her head whipped around in excitement.  “You’ve got to see this!  When he gets all mad and scary, his face goes all ridgy and he growls and everything.”  Buffy giggled.  “He thinks he’s the Big Bad, but he’s not.  He’s just a widdle puppy, aren’t you, Spike?”

He sighed.  She might as well slap a sign on his back that said “vampire” if she was going to go on prattling like that.  Had to nip this in the bud before it got even more out of hand, but he just knew that pulling on her any harder would set off the bloody chip, and it certainly didn’t look like she was going to come with him of her own accord.  Time to try another tactic…

Leaning over, the blond vamp ran a proprietorial kiss across her cheek, his arm sneaking around to hold her even tighter against him.  “It’s the last dance, Buffy,” he murmured, just loud enough for the others to hear him.  “You always save that one for me.”

“I do?”  Her hazel eyes widened as she looked up at him, then softened as she smiled.  “Of course, I do.  Because you’re my boyfriend.”  She turned to her now-disappointed admirers.  “Sorry, guys.” 

She let herself be led out onto the floor, and melted into his arms as he pulled her into the slow dance.  Spike’s eyes darted to Gino and then the back exit, hoping against hope that Lombardi wouldn’t decide to make an appearance.  Somehow, he had a feeling that employees who fraternized during business hours were at the top of the boss’ not-good list.

As she snuggled against his chest, the blond vamp caught the first whiff of it, the unmistakeable aroma of her excitement.  During their spell-induced engagement back in Sunnydale, he’d certainly learned quickly what she smelled like when she got all hot and bothered, and here it was again, only this time…thicker…more intense…and infinitely more mouth-watering…His own arousal jumped to attention, and he found himself holding her even closer, appreciating the curve of her breast against him, the soft skin of her hand an inferno in his own grasp.

He ended the dance in oblivion, conscious only of her body pressed against his, and was almost shocked when she pulled away and started clapping with the rest of the crowd.  He was about to lead her back to the dressing room when Gino’s hand clapped down on his shoulder.

“Car’s out front,” the other bouncer whispered in his ear.  “Get her outta here.  I’ll cover with Lombardi.”

“Thanks,” Spike muttered, and with a firm grasp on her arm, piloted the Slayer toward the front door.

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

So lost in her thoughts, she almost didn’t hear him as she walked down the hall, her bag swinging against her hip.  “Willow!” he yelled again, and this time the redhead turned to see Riley rushing up to meet her, his wide brow furrowed in worry.  “Are you going to see Buffy?” he said as he reached her side.

She shrugged.  “Probably.  Kinda goes hand in hand with living with her.  Occasionally, we do bump into each other.  Why?”

Reaching into the stack of books in his arms, he pulled out a thick folder and handed it to her.  “She was supposed to pick this up from me today, but she never showed.”  He paused.  “She’s not…mad at me…is she?”

Buffy?  No, not that I know of.”

He let out a sigh of relief.  “She’s just been acting so…weird lately.  I mean, there was that whole I’m-engaged-no-I’m-not thing, which still seems awfully strange to me, and now she’s not showed for two of our meetings.  A guy could start getting ideas, and not necessarily very flattering ones.  I’m not sure my ego could handle that right now.”

“She’s just busy,” Willow assured him.  “I will properly scold her for being so callous about not letting you know, I promise.”

“Thanks.”  Riley smiled.  “This would be a lot easier if I didn’t like her so much.”          

“Relationships and easy only go together in Fabio novels.  Real life is a lot messier than that.  People fight and make stupid choices, but all that just makes the nice stuff much…nicer…”  The redhead’s voice trailed off as she grimaced.  “Sorry.  That sounded way more insightful in my head.”

“Well, thanks anyway.”  Willow watched as the young man ambled away, her face immediately settling into a frown when he disappeared from view around the corner.  She’d been a little worried when Buffy hadn’t shown for psych class, but now, hearing that she’d missed other stuff as well, the witch’s anxiety was growing.  Maybe Giles knew something about the painting, she thought, as she started walking again.  Better call him when I get back from the library…

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

Yep, Spike thought as they stepped out into the cool night air, forties California.  The long black car parked along the curb reeked of the era, as well as the styles of the signs and buildings that decorated the street.  Chalk another one up to the longevity of the vampire.

As soon as the pair emerged onto the sidewalk, a waiting chauffeur opened the back door of the auto, moving back to allow them room to climb into their seats.  “Home, sir?” he queried as Spike waited for Buffy to get in.

Oh, this one oughta be good, the vamp thought, and drawled, “Sure.”

He got in to find the Slayer with her skirts up around her thighs, hands tugging at the sandals that seemed glued to her feet, and Spike found his gaze straying to the nylon-clad curve of her leg as she struggled with them.  “Stupid shoes,” she finally cried out, and thrust them at the vampire.  “You seem to be the expert on everything else tonight,” she said.  “You get them off.”

The movement shoved her dress up even further and Spike saw the chauffeur glance in his rearview mirror at the pair, his eyes narrowing.  Shit, he thought.  Forgot about the reflection business.  Shifting so that he would be out of the other man’s line of sight, the vampire took Buffy’s small foot in his hand and skilfully undid the buckle, sliding the leather sandal from her swollen flesh, causing the young woman to throw her head back and moan in ecstasy.  “Stop over-reacting,” he chided.  “It’s only a bloody shoe.”

“I didn’t see you two-stepping all night,” she accused grumpily.  “There’s no way you can understand my pain.”

“Didn’t exactly see you do much dancin’ either,” he shot back, pulling off its mate.  “You seemed too busy with the flirtin’ and gettin’ drunk and givin’ every bloke in the place a hard-on.”

“That’s my job, remember?  And I thought we were supposed to be going along with this whole magical, mystical, miraculous, momentous, mystifying…”  Her voice trailed off, her brow furrowing.  “What was I saying?”

Spike sighed.  “Go to sleep, Slayer.  Maybe you’ll wake up back in your own bed in good olSunnyhell.”  And I can stop thinking about you every bleedin’ second, he added silently. 

She kicked out at him, catching him just under the ribs.  “You’re cranky.”

“No, I’m tired.”

Buffy’s foot slid down his abdomen, coming to rest in his lap, and her eyes widened as it felt the bulge just beneath the zipper.  “Is that what you’re calling it these days?” she teased, running her arch along its length, using her toes to outline it against his trousers.

Spike grabbed her foot and not very delicately shoved it away.  “Not in the mood for games, Slayer.”

She was on top of him before he could react.  “Not even Twister?” she said before biting at his chin, curling her leg around his.  “Buffy hand on Spike…”  Her hand mirrored her words, sliding between their bodies to squeeze his throbbing cock.

He was tempted to take her up on her offer, to just throw caution to the wind and rip the velvet from her skin, plunge himself into the depths of her wetness and ride her senseless right there in the car.  God knew, she was certainly asking for it.  Trouble was, Spike also knew that as soon as she woke up and remembered what had happened, that the chipped vampire had taken advantage of her drunken state while most likely conveniently forgetting that she was the one doing the throwing here, he would end up on the wrong end of a very pointy stick.  And he wasn’t ready to check out just yet. 

Setting his jaw, the vampire said coldly, “Never knew the Slayer was a horny drunk.  Is that how college boy got into your pants?  What was his name again?  Porter?  Prentice?  Oh, yeah.”  He almost spat out the name.  Parker.”

That did the trick.  Buffy froze in his arms, her lips pursing, the flush creeping into her cheeks.  “Asshole,” she muttered, sliding away to the other end of the seat, pressing herself into the door.

For some reason, that bothered him, but Spike shrugged it off.  “Yeah, well, at least I’m a still-breathin’ asshole, metaphorically speakin’, of course.”

“Just wait until we get home,” she grumbled.  “I’ll give you metaphorical.”

In the front seat, it was all the chauffeur could do to keep from smiling.  These two were always at it, and the passion with which they tackled their relationship---whether it was fighting or making up---wasn’t something he’d seen very often in his forty-five years in this world.  When it came to driving Buffy and Spike around, he was always the first to volunteer; somehow, being in such close proximity to the lovebirds managed to give him an extra spark when he got home to his own wife…

To be continued in Chapter Four:  Cheek to Cheek