DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. 
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY:  Willow has discovered that Spike sent Buffy flowers, Buffy has agreed to see Spike after work, and Faith has recognized Spike as being William ‘the Bloody’ Rook…

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

Chapter 10: Bullet Scars

The ash fell forgotten from his cigarette as he stared at Faith, his eyes narrowed in wary contemplation as red shadows from the neon in the street filtered into the alley and danced across her face.  “Helluva pick-up line you’ve got there,” Spike drawled.  “Can’t say as I’ve heard that one recently.”

“A girl likes to be original,” she said, smiling.  “I don’t see you arguing about it, though.  What is it they’re calling you these days?  Spike?”  Her gaze swept suggestively over him, lingering at his hips before traveling back up.  “I’d love to find out if that one’s true.”

He ignored her entendre, the question of how she knew his identity still demanding his attention, and dropped his cigarette to the ground, tamping it out with the toe of his shoe.  He’d known he’d get fingered sooner or later; he just thought it would be by somebody he actually knew, not some two-bit chippy he’d never laid eyes on before.  That, combined with the fact that she knew what he was going by now, didn’t sit well with him.  Wouldn’t sit well with Ripper either if he knew about it, Spike thought.  “Think I’d like to be put wise to just how exactly you fancy you know me, pet,” he said out loud. 

Faith feigned confusion, lifting her free hand to her chest.  “Now, did I say I knew you?” she said.  “My mistake.  I guess I just got a little jingle-brained being in the presence of the best dropper the Conti family ever had.  That kind of celebrity can really confuse a girl.”

The step he took toward her was menacing, his mouth grim, eyes deadly.  More than one person had turned tail at such an advance, but not Faith.  She merely lifted her chin and smiled at him, waiting for him to respond as she took a long drag from her cigarette.

“You know who I am, then you know you don’t fuck with me,” Spike growled, his patience gone.  “Who are you?  ‘Cause I’ve gotta admit, I’m pretty sure I’d remember meeting a dame like you, and you’re not ringin’ any bells.”  It was his turn to slide a lascivious leer over her curves.  “Least, not the sort that go off inside my skull.”

She laughed out loud then, the smoke drifting around her head.  “Now, if I hadn’t seen the goo goo eyes you were giving B, I might actually think you meant that, Spike.”  She tilted her head, eyes speculative.  “Or do you want me to call you William?  I could do Bloody, but personally, I think that just sounds stupid.”

“Spike’s good.  And you haven’t answered my question.”

“I told you who I am.  And we haven’t met before, so you can stop worrying about trying to place me.  I’ve just spent enough time on these streets to know who to keep an eye out for.  Except you’ve not been around lately, right?  Last I heard, you’d skipped town.  That was…what?  Four?  Five years ago?”

He didn’t answer her, some of his tension easing.  She was telling the truth, that much he could tell at least.  And she wasn’t afraid of him.  Had to give her points for that.  “So, you a pro skirt?  Did you work for Conti or something?”

“Pro…no, not any more.  I’ve been off the streets for a couple years now.  Thanks to Richard.”  Her head jerked back toward the club, but it didn’t distract Spike from scrutinizing her face.  “And Conti never wanted me.  Said I was too common.”

“That’s not the word I’d use to describe you.”

Faith sobered then, taking one last draw on the filter before flicking it away into the darkness, the absence of its scarlet tip leaving her face in shadows.  “You still on the job?” she asked.  “Or are you looking for new employment?  ‘Cause, gotta tell you, seeing you hanging around Heaven does not fill me with sunshine here, sport.  You’ve got a way of dragging death around behind you, and this is one arrangement I don’t want you killing for me.”

So that was it.  It made sense now, and Spike stepped back, leaning against the wall of the club as his head tilted to survey the bravado hardening Faith’s eyes.  She had to have been just a kid when he’d been in New York before, only eighteen or nineteen, but if she was a pro, odds were good that she’d known of him.  He’d been popular among the women, and when Dru had left him, he’d tried burying himself in sex as a means of coping with his rejection, not really caring if he used a professional or just a skirt off the street to get his rocks off.  And now here Faith was, sitting in the lap of Wilkins luxury, and she was just scared Spike was there to fuck it up for her.

Too bad she was right.  He kind of liked her.

“I work for myself these days,” he said, avoiding the direct issue.  “And I don’t plan on bein’ in the city for much longer.”

“I think Angel’s going to be happy to hear that.  Something tells me B’s going to be a little distracted having you around.”

Spike snorted.  “Wanker’s deaf and dumb.  Buffy---.”

“You’re stupid if you think you can underestimate him.”  Faith’s voice cut him off cleanly, cold and hard.  “Angel is his father’s son, through and through.  Fuck with him by messing around with B, and he’ll cut your balls off, Spike.  Just a word of advice.”

“And here I thought you were all about Daddy Warbucks.  Does itty bitty Faith got a thing for keepin’ it in the family?  Probably a good thing he doesn’t have a daughter---.”  He grinned as his hand shot out, catching her wrist before she could pull out the gun she had in her purse, locking her tight in his grip.  “Don’t think that’s a good idea, pet.”

She refused to let the pain of his hold register on her face, staring him down.  “I’m not so itty, and I’m definitely not bitty so I suggest you let me go before I scream.  You don’t want Richard’s men to come out here and break up our little party, now do you?”

Stalemate.  He knew it.  She knew it.  Didn’t mean he was going to let her go, though.

“How did you know my name?” he asked, loosening his fingers without releasing her.

“I told you---.”

“No.  The Spike part.”

The corner of her mouth lifted.  “You should tell your friends they talk too loud.”  At the small line that appeared between his brows, she added, “Richard didn’t hear them.  He was more than a little busy at the time.”

So she’d come out on her own.  And she was offering a deal by keeping his identity to herself for the moment.  He still had a bit of a grace period with his presence around Heaven, and though he didn’t buy her assessment of Angel, she was proving to him that she only had her own interests in mind.  As long as Spike played it straight with her, he didn’t think Faith was going to be a problem.  At least, not until he killed her meal ticket.

Spike’s hand dropped back down to his side, and he stepped away from the wall, passing by her to head to the mouth of the alley.  “Thanks for the tip.  And just for that…” He stopped, head ducking as he looked back at her over his shoulder.  “…I promise not to poke my mug around Heaven again.  Seein’ as we’re from the same neighborhood and all.  No reason for anyone to know William was around…right?”

She took a long time to respond, and briefly he wondered if he’d mistaken her intent, watching as her fingers deliberately played with the strap of her purse.  “I like B,” Faith finally said.  “Don’t fuck this up for her, OK, Spike?”

The emphasis on his nickname was all he needed, and he grinned back at her, teeth gleaming in the light of the streetlamp on the sidewalk.  “Wouldn’t dream of it, pet,” he said, and stuffed his hand into his pocket, fingering the slip of paper he’d already snagged from that Jonathan as he ambled away into the night.

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

She was crazy.  There was no doubt about it.  Letting Spike know where she lived was inviting disaster, but for some inexplicable reason, Buffy didn’t care.  It wasn’t as if he wasn’t a grown man, more than capable of taking care of himself.  He’d proven that this afternoon.  But stunts like the dancing at Heaven would have to stop, regardless of how much either of them had enjoyed it.  She couldn’t let Angel catch on to what was going on if she wanted any success in her plans.

Her heart was pounding within her chest as she darted through the stairwell door, her bag swinging at her side as she rushed down the hall.  It wasn’t quite twelve-thirty; she wanted the few minutes before Spike was scheduled to arrive to freshen up.  Angel had spent the last hour before she left the club with his hands all over her, and the heavy scent of his over-priced cologne clogged her pores, made trying to imagine the promise of what lie ahead next to impossible.

When had his touch turned into something that left her cold? Buffy wondered.  The answer came immediately, startling her in its simplicity.

The moment Spike had pushed the hair away from her forehead, rested his own against it, and told her that she was beautiful.

It wasn’t so much that Angel was a bad guy.  Sure, there was the whole family business, but he’d always seemed to be apart from it, not really interested except when it got in his way.  And when it came to Buffy, he was more than attentive.  Overly attentive, a lot of the time.  Watching her, even when she wasn’t supposed to know he was.  Buying her gifts---lots of them, and the bigger the better in his eyes---that usually ended up stored away in a box unless the situation demanded that she bring it out.  He was constantly telling her how great she was, but his words lacked sincerity to her ears.  She knew that she was just another trophy for him to display, and no amount of gaudy jewelry or expensive dresses was going to convince her that he thought of her in any other way.

Spike was different.  He’d said it that night---god, was it just two days ago?---after seeing her, not the projection that she gave the rest of the world.  And he’d meant it.  That was painfully obvious.

And she’d pretty much been lost from that moment onward.

She was still lost in remembering that moment when she rounded the corner of the hallway, her hand already dipping into her purse for her keys.  She brought herself up short when she saw him leaning against the wall next to her door, left leg bent, a lit cigarette dangling from his fingers.  Immediately, her mouth watered.

“You’re early,” Buffy said unnecessarily.

“So’re you.”

“I was going to clean up before you got here.”

His lips curled into a smile.  “Don’t let me be the one to stop you.”

When she brushed past him to unlock her door, Spike straightened, lifting his hand to run a single finger down the line of her spine, feathering over her flesh through her jacket.  Electric tingles shot down the back of her thighs though there was no contact of his skin to hers, and flashes of what was going to happen once they were both on the other side of her apartment door brought a flush of heat to Buffy’s cheeks.  Her breath hitched in her chest, and she turned the knob with as steady a hand as she could manage, pushing it open and entering without even looking to see if Spike was following.

He would.  She had no doubt about that.

Her apartment wasn’t what he was expecting.  So much of what Buffy presented to the world was polished, the sheen of glamour lending everything she touched an edge of sophistication, that to see the cozy comfort of how she chose to decorate her flat was mildly disconcerting.  It could’ve been lifted from a suburban family home, transplanted to the architecture of Manhattan---cushions almost burying the small couch, classically framed wooden tables at either end, a variety of generic prints on the walls.  A large chest was pushed into the corner, while an assortment of albums and books were stacked haphazardly on a small shelf unit near a nondescript opening to a narrow hall.

Buffy dropped her purse onto the sofa and headed straight for the kitchen.  “Do you want something to drink?” she called out from the other room.

“I’m fine,” Spike replied, and tilted his head to scan the titles of the books.

“Are you sure?  I’ve got some wine.”

His hand reached forward and extracted a thin photo album.  “Only if it’s not a problem, pet,” he called back.

He could hear the sounds of cupboards opening and closing, the clink of glasses coming to rest on the counter, and casually flipped the album’s cover, hefting the weight of the leather as his gaze settled on the picture on its first page.  A young Buffy, fifteen, maybe sixteen, wide smile beaming at the camera.  It wasn’t her face that captured him though, as beautiful and innocent as she was.  It was the visages of the two women with her that did.

Family, obviously.  The three females were in a single file, the oldest in the back, blonde hair carefully coiffed, her generous smile lighting her face.  Then came a kneeling Buffy, and in the front, a gamine-faced ten-year-old sat cross-legged, freckles scattered across her nose, long dark hair plaited into two braids.  The trio was outside, in the sunshine, the unmistakable rise of palm trees in the background announcing for anyone who knew that they were in California.

His finger traced the outline of the picture, his gaze soft.  She seemed so young in the photo, as if she didn’t have a care in the world.  Missing was the sadness that lurked behind the hazel, her cheeks slightly rounder with the extra padding of youth.  It was still her, though; Spike only wished that he could tear the heart out of the bastard who’d stolen that innocence from her.

“I don’t know if it’s any good,” Buffy said as she came into the room, two glasses of red wine in her hands.  “I’m not really---.”  She froze when she saw him standing there, his blond head bowed as he looked down at the album, fear chilling her veins.  “You really don’t have any problems just making yourself at home, do you,” she commented coldly.

“She looks like a real lady,” Spike said.  His voice was soft, and when he turned his head to look at her, Buffy saw the sad glint in the blue of his eyes.  “Is this your mum?”

It took her a moment to respond, but eventually, she nodded.  “And…Dawn.  My little sister.”

His gaze returned to the picture.  “This was out in Sunnydale, right?”

She took a step closer, some of the anxiety that had frozen her dissipating as the empathy in his tone called out to her.  “Please put it away, Spike,” she asked.  “I don’t…just…please.”

He didn’t hesitate at her request, returning the album back to its nook, and then turning to stride toward her in three long steps.  Taking the wine from her hands, Spike set them aside before pulling her into his arms, brushing his lips across her hair.  “Didn’t mean to make it hurt, luv,” he murmured, and felt the shudder pass through her body as she pressed into him, her face burrowing into her chest.  “Won’t ever let anyone hurt you.”

“I’m fine,” she said, her voice muffled against his shirt.  “It was a long time ago.  I’m fine.  Really.”

He didn’t believe her, but if this was what she needed for now, Spike was willing to ignore the obvious and just let her know that he was there for her.  He frowned when she pulled away, averting her gaze as she forced the distance between them again.

“I smell like the club,” Buffy complained.  “You don’t want to hold me when I’m like this.”

“I’m not fussed.”

“Well, I am.”  Her eyes flickered to the hall, to the shelves, and then back to Spike.  “I really was going to take a bath, you know.”

His eyes were dark, raking over her.  “You still can,” he purred. 

“So that you can go back to looking through my stuff as soon as I leave the room?” she teased.  “I don’t think so.”

“So I’ll come with you.”

His suggestion sucked the air from the room around her, vibrating against her flesh as her blood pounded against her skin from the inside out, heating her even in the absence of his touch.  “My bath’s not big enough for two,” she said softly, and found herself wishing that it wasn’t true.

“I’ll just watch then.”  Spike’s tongue darted out, the tip running over the edge of his teeth.  “Not like I haven’t seen you before.”

“And we’ll…what?  Talk?”

“Talking’s always good.  Or I can…help.”

Buffy swallowed, and lifted her chin in hopes that it would belie the anxiousness shivering through her body.  “What were you thinking was going to happen here tonight, Spike?” she asked.  “What did you want?”

His reply was swift.  “Anything you’re willing to give, luv.  Nothing more.  Could be just hearin’ your voice.  Or maybe, if you’d like, I could help you relax.  You deserve that, you know.  You don’t think you do, but you’re wrong.”

“I shouldn’t.”  So faint, barely a breath.  Not the strong Buffy she wanted to be.  “Angel’s---.”

“---not here,” Spike finished.  “This is just you and me.  Like it should be.  Like that first night, remember?”

Like she could ever forget.  Like it wasn’t imprinted in every muscle of her body, shadowed across every inhalation.

She didn’t say another word.  She just crossed to his side and grabbed his hand, leading him toward the hallway and to her small bathroom, only letting him go once they were inside.  Without looking at Spike, Buffy set to running the bath, putting the stopper into the plug before turning the faucet on to as hot as she could stand.  She could feel him watching her from the doorway, but somehow, the fear that she would lose her nerve in doing this stopped her from looking at him, her stomach flip-flopping in unease as it hadn’t done since she was a teenager.  It was silly, she knew.  It wasn’t like it wasn’t anything he hadn’t seen before, just like he’d said.

But the intimacy of the environment, the steam that rose from the water as the level rose in the tub, changed everything, and she didn’t know why.  Her fingers were shaking as she slowly divested herself of her clothing, taking her time to fold them before stacking the items on the back of the toilet, keeping her eyes down as she stripped the stockings from her legs.  What was he thinking? Buffy wondered.  Did he like what he saw?  Was the reality of a bath enough to take the shine from his pretty words, force him to be honest about what and who she was?

“You forgot a towel,” Spike said as she slid her nude form into the tub.

Only then did she turn her head to look at him, knees brought up against her chest in an attempt at modesty.  “Oh.  Closet in the hall.”  When he stepped outside, she hastened to grab the washcloth and soap that rested in the dish in the corner, dropping the flannel into the water to warm it.  Her gaze darted to the doorway when Spike returned, and she held her breath as he crossed to set the yellow towel on the closed lid of the toilet.

“Why’re you nervous?” he asked quietly, head tilted as he looked down at her.  “Are you scared of me?”

Buffy shook her head.  “Scared of me,” she shocked herself by admitting.  “I’m not…like this, Spike.  You must think I’m loose or something.”

He squatted at the side of the tub, forcing their gazes to lock on an even level.  “Nothin’ could be farther from the truth,” he said.  “I think you and me…have more in common than we realize.”  The corner of his mouth canted in wry amusement.  “You were the one who brought up the similarities at Willy’s, remember?  And then at Mickey’s?  You were right.  Don’t be afraid of that.”

She looked away, her fingers flicking against the surface of the water, sending ripples away from her body in semi-circles that flattened out as they hit the sides of the porcelain.  “I’ve never seen anyone move like you did at Mickey’s,” she said quietly.  “Not even the best of Angel’s boys.  How’d you do it?”

Spike chuckled.  “I could be asking you the same thing.  You want to tell me why you carry a gun around like it’s a powder puff?”

He saw the color rise in her cheeks, and though the desire to look elsewhere, to allow himself to drink in her beauty was almost overwhelming, his eyes remained steady.  They only dropped when her slim fingers picked up the washcloth, wringing the water from it before handing it over to him.

“Make yourself useful,” she said with a half-smile.  She kept herself curled forward as he took the flannel, eyes flickering closed as the rough fabric scraped across her shoulders.  Goosebumps erupted along her skin, her nipples hardening in arousal as the thought of his tongue joining the laving distracted her from his ministrations.  Not once had attention from Angel made her feel like this.  Each stroke flamed deep into her muscles, massaging the tension away even as it tightened those in her pelvis.

“Was gettin’ away hard?” he asked, his voice a deep rumble.

Neutral conversation.  That’s good, she thought.  Nothing too difficult.  “I put in my time,” she said out loud.  “Angel was jake with that.”

“Did he see the flowers?”  Part of him hoped the pillock had.  Force Buffy to make some sort of explanation.

“No.  We never left the front of the club.  But it wouldn’t have mattered if he had.  He was so blitzed when I left, he would’ve forgotten completely about it in the morning.”  The cloth trailed down her back, and the moan it elicited lowered her shoulders in acquiescence to his touch.  So lost was she in the fog the heat and coarseness was creating in her mind, she didn’t even notice when it stopped, the washrag disappearing, to be replaced by the tip of his finger.

“What’s this?” Spike queried. 

His timbre betrayed the shift in his emotions, and Buffy froze as she realized exactly what he’d found, mentally berating herself for forgetting even for a second.  “Just a reminder of bad times from a long time ago,” she said stiffly.  Here is where all her secrets, all her attempts at trying to protect Spike from the truth, where he would walk out the door as soon as he realized she wasn’t nearly as perfect as he thought, was going to blow up in her face.

“Who shot you, Buffy?”  She could feel his finger running over the fading scar, the ragged circle low on her left side, and was glad her eyes were closed so that she couldn’t see the disappointment in his gaze.

“I never found out,” she murmured.  “They never…caught him.”

“California…right?”

She nodded.  There was no point in lying.  He’d just see through her anyway.  “It was a long time ago,” she repeated.  “I’d rather not talk about it.”  She held her breath, waiting for his response, feeling the seconds tick by in excruciating lethargy.

“Look at me.”

There was no resisting the draw of his voice, the baritone tugging her chin to turn, lifting her lids to gaze at the dark of his eyes.  “What?” Buffy asked.  “Please don’t make me tell you.  I’m not…I don’t…”  She stopped as he dropped the cloth into the water, his damp fingers going to the buttons of his shirt, undoing them one by one until his chest was exposed to the sultry air.

“You’re not the only one with scars, Buffy,” Spike said quietly, and took her hand to guide it to the whitened tissue that marred his shoulder. 

She knew without having to be told that he wasn’t just referring to the marks on his skin, and felt her heart wrench in sympathy, the sudden irrational desire to hurt whoever had wounded him climbing in her throat.  “Stay the night,” she said.  It surprised both of them.  Though the longing for him to do so had haunted her request for him to come over, she hadn’t actually imagined that she’d follow through on it, not with the potential of Angel looming over them like a black shadow.  But at that moment in time, it seemed like the only thing she could do, knew that it was what both of them needed right then, especially when he lifted her hand to press his lips to her palm.

“I want…”  Asking for the specific was more difficult, and Buffy frowned, swallowing the lump in her throat before trying again.  “Nothing physical,” she said.  “Just…holding.  You know, you…me…arms…”  It dawned on her he hadn’t yet said yes, and the sudden fear that he was going to turn her down flared in her chest.  “Only if you want to, of course.  I don’t---.”

“I do,” he said, and leaned forward, brushing his lips over hers.  “And sleep,” Spike added.  “Don’t forget sleep.”

She smiled, relief relaxing her muscles for the first time since he’d found her scar.  Somehow, she thought sleep might be fleeting, but she didn’t care.  He wasn’t leaving.  Right then, that was the most important thing in the world to her.

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

His back was to the office door when he heard it open, his son’s footsteps muffled against the carpet.  “Is Faith in the car?” the Mayor asked, scanning the latest monthly reports about the club.

Angel nodded, then realized he couldn’t be seen.  “Yeah,” he affirmed.  “She was complaining, but I told her you’d see her back at the penthouse later and that shut her up.”

“Good.”  Turning around, he gazed at his son in cool scrutiny, noting how similar to his mother the young man looked.  “I need you to do a job for me.”

Immediately, Angel’s face fell.  “You’re pulling my leg, right?  I’ve got plans.  I don’t have time---.”

“Do you have time to be dead?  Because if you ignore this, you will be.  Mark my words.”

He was already backing up, edging toward the door.  “Tell me about it in the morning,” he said.  “I’m running late.  I have to…get to Buffy’s.”

The Mayor sighed.  He hated it when Angel lied to him; he knew there was no way in hell his son was heading down to the Village at this hour.  Most likely, he was off to see if he could find that Darla bitch, and though the desire to forbid him from doing so almost ate him alive, he also knew that he’d at least partially won that particular battle, and it might just be better in the long run to let the indiscretion slide.  Marrying Buffy was a far sight more acceptable than a pro skirt like Darla Hoyle, and it wasn’t like he expected Angel to just give up on all other women.  He knew it just wasn’t in the young man’s make-up.

“Get me Wesley then,” the Mayor said.  “I’ll have him take care of it.  Go…do what you have to do.”

Angel brightened at being released from the duty and stepped to the doorway, shouting out to the back of the club.  “Wes!  Get in here!”

It took only a moment for the Englishman to arrive, brow furrowed behind his glasses as he watched the younger Wilkins bolt for freedom.  “Did you need something, sir?” he said.

“Close the door.”  He waited for Wesley to do so, eyes contemplative as he perched himself against the edge of the desk.  “You’ve worked for me for a long time now, haven’t you, Wes?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’re one of my most trusted employees.  Have I ever told you that?”

“Well, there was the pen, sir.  I took that as a great honor---.”

The Mayor cut him off with a wave of his hand.  “I believe it’s time I gave you a little more responsibility in the organization.  There’s a job I need done, not a big one, I hope, but one that’ll help prove your loyalty to the family.”

Wesley visibly brightened, straightening his shoulders as he took an eager step forward.  “Whatever you say, Mr. Wilkins.  Just give me the word.”

“We had a guest at Heaven tonight.  One I need more information on.”

“Oh?  What kind of information?”

The Mayor’s eyes were steady.  “I want to know what his business in town is.  You might’ve seen him.  He’s rather…distinctive.  He actually danced with Miss Summers at one point, I believe.  His name’s William Rook…”

 

To be continued in Chapter 11: While the City Sleeps