DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. 
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY:  Jenny has shown up at Wesley’s hotel, Angel is ready to do something about Spike, and Faith and Spike have reached a semi-truce…

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

Chapter 37: The Lady and the Mob

The journey back to the apartment was cloaked in silence, musings and ruminations from both Buffy and Spike focusing their attention inwards instead of on the twinkling of the night around them or on each other.  So lost in her thoughts, meandering among the questions and doubts that had been plaguing her ever since Lindsey’s proclamation, she wasn’t even aware when the Desoto stopped, lingering in her seat after Spike had exited, automatically taking his proffered hand when he came around and opened her door.

Buffy shivered as she stepped out onto the walk, a seismic floe replacing the control she normally exerted over her muscles, and frowned as she lifted her eyes skyward, noting the gray cirrus wisping before the stars.  “When did it get cold?” she murmured.

His jacket slid around her shoulders in a musky weight that warmed her from the outside in.  “Not much longer before we’re back in the California sunshine, pet,” he said, tucking her hand into his and leading her to the narrow entryway.

When the flash of the streetlight made his cheeks gleam bone-white before vanishing back into shadow, Buffy giggled.  “Because you obviously spend so much time out in it.”

“Lot easier to do undercover when there’s actually cover to be under,” he shot back with a smile.

His jesting reminder of his line of work stifled her natural retort, and she fell quiet again as he led her toward the elevator.  Over the past few days, she’d spent more time considering the reality of the world she pretended to be a part of, and the understanding of just what that entailed was only beginning to crystallize for her.

It was about power.  That had to be Angel’s impetus in ordering the hit.  He was just tired of being second fiddle to his father.  That had to be why he’d---.

Why am I trying to justify him?

But she already knew the answer to that.

Because if she could be so wrong about the man she’d spent the greater part of the last five years with, how could she be sure she was right about Spike after having known him for barely more than five days?

She was only half present when he pulled her into the apartment, and she didn’t even hear him when he disappeared into the kitchen.  She just stood in the foyer, gazing blankly at the shabby room without seeing its accoutrements and not even bothering to shrug out of his coat, until he emerged with butter knife in his hand.

“Well?” Spike prompted.

Buffy shook her head.  “I’m sorry.  What did you say?”

“I asked if you were hungry.  We haven’t exactly been doin’ the three squares over the past few days.”

“Oh.  I guess.”

His head tilted, eyes dark as they regarded her.  “You’ve got that face on,” he commented.  At the curious lift of her brows, he clarified, “The one that says you’re just tellin’ me what I want to hear because you don’t want to say what’s really on your mind.”

“I’m not…I just…”  But how did she say it?  She’d thrown everything away for this man.  She’d told him she loved him; she’d told him she’d leave behind everything she knew to follow him across the country.  She’d broken how many laws to help him?  And yet… the lingering self-doubt clogged in her throat, the words unwilling to crawl out of her mouth no matter how badly she wanted to share the weight of them with him.

Not even when he set the knife down and closed the distance between them, wrapping his arms around her so that her cheek rested on his chest, could she speak.

“Thought this was what you wanted,” Spike said softly.  Her hair coiled around his fingers as he absently played with a loose tendril.  “It’s the only way I can see to take care of the wanker without twistin’ his head off like you asked.  If you’ve changed your mind, tell me, ‘cause nothin’ would make me happier than---.”

“No.”  He thought she was worried about the plans.  “That’s…thank you for that.  You have no idea…I know it’s hard, considering…”  She let her hands steal underneath his shirt, reveling in the sinewy muscles of his back, her breath soft and warm as she exhaled raggedly.  He made it so difficult to keep her thoughts straight when he was this close.  The common sense thing to do would be to step away, but nothing inside Buffy could seem to summon the strength to do so.

His fingers touched her chin, lifting her head to look up at him.  “This about Faith then?  You still fussing about that?”

It was as good an excuse as any, and Buffy leapt at the opportunity to talk about anything but her own failures.  “She’s got it in for you, you know,” she advised.  “Though I thought giving her the ring was a good idea.”  She didn’t even refer to it as her ring; she’d long ago stopped considering it as such anyway.

Spike snorted.  “She’s got it in for Angel more,” he said.  “Figure I’m safe by default.”  His mouth opened as if there was more he wanted to say, but as she watched, his aspect closed off again, the decision to utter something else shuttling the words to the recesses of wherever he kept those kind of thoughts.  “Dame’s had it rough.  Deserves to finally get a break if I can help it.”

“Faith’s a big girl.  If she can handle walking away from whoever tried turning her into a Picasso, then she can handle just about anything.  Which is why you have be careful with her.”

“Thought you two were friends.”

“We are.  But that doesn’t mean I’m blind as to what she can do if she’s pressed.”  This was better.  This was focusing on the here and the now, the problems at hand.  Not her.  Or her jingle-brained delusions about what was right and what was wrong.

A devilish grin creased his features, and slowly he backed her toward the wall.  “Know what I’d rather be pressing right about now,” he drawled.  The heat emanating from his body rippled through hers, his lean hips hard and jutting into her pelvis. 

Her gaze was captivated by his mouth descending to meet hers, and she had to fight the urge to turn her head away at the last minute, guilt rising like bile inside her.  When his lips met hers, though, they weren’t firm like the promise of his form.  Instead, they were soft and supple, coaxing rather than demanding, and she moaned in supplication as her senses took over.  It had to be unnatural, this response she had to him, forgetting all reason regardless of the worries running rampant inside her head.  Was it possible for her body to know the truth?  Was she agonizing for nothing?

“Told Ripper we needed to get a spot of rest,” Spike murmured, trailing his lips across the slope of her cheek.

“This doesn’t feel like resting,” Buffy replied, barely able to breathe as her heart hammered away in her chest.

“Believe I also said something about a bit of relaxation,” he went on, and his blunt teeth caught her earlobe, tugging at it just enough to send a tremor of anticipation down her spine.

“And you know, that’s yet another word I’d never associate with you,” she said.  Her hands came up, twining through the hair that had curled at the base of his neck, effectively pulling him even tighter against her.  “Spike…” she murmured, and gulped as she fought the drowning of her thoughts in his caress.

He didn’t respond, only growling into her skin as he raked his teeth down the line of her neck.

“Spike…”  Louder, harsher, but still not enough to divert him.  This time, his hands joined in his exploration, his palm brushing over the hardened tip of her fabric-covered nipple, causing her to gasp and arch into him, hip to hip, his erection nestling in the cleft between her legs.

“That’s my girl,” he said with a chuckle. 

Another kiss, stronger, two sets of lips parting before they even met as their tongues swirled and explored the hot recesses of the other’s mouth.  It left her shaking, suddenly far too warm as she swallowed down air in a desperate reminder that it was that precious commodity she required for living and not the smoky taste of his kisses that made her hunger so ravenously.  What was it that I had been so worried about? she wondered distractedly.

And then she remembered, and her hands came up, pushing against his chest to force him away.

“Spike,” Buffy said, and this time managed to garner his attention.  When he turned those storm-colored eyes toward her, lids heavy with desire, she felt her resolve crumble.  “This…doesn’t solve…everything,” she managed to rasp.  “This…”  She gestured feebly between them, trying to indicate what exactly she meant when her words failed her.

He knew, just like he always seemed to know, and nodded in understanding.  “Not tryin’ to pretend that it does,” he replied.  Releasing his grip where it had curled into her waist, Spike remained within inches of her torso, fingers rising to sculpt the air around the curvature of her skull, down the flat of her shoulders to hover over her heart.  “You think I don’t know how scared you are?  Don’t know that you’re flyin’ by the seat of your pants here, tryin’ to be all brave-like but not knowing what the hell you’re doin’ because you don’t trust your gut any more?”  His gaze softened as hers went wide, and he smiled.  “I’m not completely blind to what you’re goin’ through, pet.  You trusted one man who you find out isn’t what he seems, and now you don’t know if you can trust me.”

Though it was almost verbatim what she’d been thinking, Buffy still protested.  “I love you, Spike,” she rushed.  “It’s not---.”

“Don’t be a bunny and try to start defending it all away.  I’ve been around too long and seen far too much shit to be snowed by any pretty explanations, even if they do come from the most luscious mouth I’ve ever had the pleasure of kissing.”  As if to accentuate his point, he leaned in quickly and snagged another taste of her lips, not allowing any other part of his body to touch hers though she ached to lean into him. 

“You want to walk, the door is right behind you…” Spike went on when they parted. 

Walk?  He expects me to walk after that?

 “…and I’m not keepin’ you here against your will.  I never will.  Can’t promise I won’t follow, or that I won’t try to do everything in my power to convince you that I’m tellin’ it to you straight, but I’m not Angel.  You don’t have to fret about turning your back on me, and me turning into Mr. Hyde when you least expect it.  What you see is what you get.”

“I know that,” she whispered.  Every nerve in her body tingled, the truth of his words pinning her like a trapped butterfly, netting her though she batted feebly at the strings that caught her, aflutter and anxious not to be released all at the same time.  

“You’re the only one who can decide if that’s enough for you, Buffy.  You and me…something tells me that any road we go down might not always be smooth, or easy.  I can be a right bastard sometimes, and sometimes things come out of my mouth before I’ve had the chance to filter ‘em through my brain.  But I love you.  And there isn’t anything in this world I wouldn’t do for you.  What you and me could have…it would be real.  That…I can promise you.”

No sugar coating.  No sweet lies to try and convince her that he was some savior.  No word that came from his mouth remotely resembled anything Angel had ever said to her.  Where Angel had promised her the moon and the trip there in a gilded cage to protect her every step of the way, Spike pledged that she would always have her freedom to go where she wanted, to choose what she wished, and merely hoped that he would be included in those choices.  How could she not trust a man who did that for her?

Taking his hand in hers, Buffy pulled him away from the kitchen and toward the darkened bedroom.  “I think we better get around to that rest and relaxation you promised Giles,” she said with a mischievous glance back at him over her shoulder.  “Tomorrow’s a big day.  We’ve got to have you in tiptop condition.”

His smirk made her want to giggle.  “So…is it my tip or my top you’re interested in conditioning, pet?” 

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

She had to fight back her smile as she watched him replace the spectacles back on his nose.  “So…do you actually have any glass left in those lenses?” Jenny asked Giles, eyes disingenuous.

He refused to look at her, choosing instead to return his gaze back to the notes before him.  “They get dirty,” he mumbled as an excuse.

“Uh huh.”  Perching herself on the back of the couch, she added, “You do realize this is me trying to be friendly here, right?  I don’t bite.  I’ve even been known to be mildly charming on the odd occasion.  So tell me something.  Why is it that I can’t get you to say more than three words to me at a go, now that it’s just you and me in the room?”

“I’m busy.  Tomorrow’s a big day.  We must be prepared.”  He looked up briefly, meeting her eyes.  “I believe that constitutes ten words.  Satisfied?”

“I guess I’ll have to be.”  Her foot began to jiggle nervously as she waited for him to speak again, but when it didn’t come, she cleared her throat.  “Nope.  Changed my mind.  Let’s chat.  Or doesn’t the all-knowing right hand of Rook like to chat?”

He put his pen down then, and his gaze was cold when it settled on her.  “Let’s get something perfectly clear, Miss Calendar---.”

“I told you to call me Jenny.”

“I am not here to chat with you, Miss Calendar.  And I’m not here to be either your confidant, or Wesley’s friend.  Getting Spike out of this mess and back to California with a healthy Willow in tow is my primary concern, and regardless of the fact that your employer considers you trustworthy, I’m opting to refrain from judgment.  If that bothers you, well, then, that’s your problem, now isn’t it?”

At the mention of the other woman’s name, Jenny visibly softened, dark eyes glowing in pity.  “Your friend is in excellent hands, Rupert.  Wesley wouldn’t allow otherwise, trust me.”

She saw him glance toward the bathroom where Wes was showering, and then sigh heavily, his shoulders slumping.  “I know,” he conceded.  “My apologies.  My temper is…a little short currently.  Perhaps I should’ve joined Faith in that cigarette.”

In spite of his brusque attitude, Jenny’s heart went out to him.  She’d been momentarily taken aback when Wesley had introduced him and Faith earlier, but in light of everything that had happened over the past few days---hearing from her boss for the first time in ages, his odd requests, his protectiveness of the young woman currently at St. Augustus---it made a bizarre kind of sense.  And helping come up with a plan to get Rook off the hook?  If that’s what Wesley wanted, that’s what Wesley got.  She trusted him implicitly.

“You should get some sleep,” she said quietly.  “Like you said.  Tomorrow’s going to be a big one.  And you’ve got a plan now, so that should be some relief, right?”

“Do you honestly believe it will work?”

His gaze was locked on the paper in front of him, but she knew he wasn’t seeing it, that instead he was seeing blood and pale, red-haired women battling for his primary attention.  It was the same look she’d seen behind her friend’s bruises, and her heart broke just a little bit more as comprehension dawned.  “Wesley does,” she said simply.  “And that’s good enough for me.  He doesn’t do things halfway, you know.”

“But…is that enough?”

She waited for him to look up, to witness her waiting for him to see her.  To see that she meant what she was about to say.  “It has to be,” Jenny assured.  “He’s your best chance at success right now.”

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

Standing underneath the spray, feeling it pelt his skin with pincer-like accuracy, Wesley watched the water spiral down the drain, the tiny flakes of the dried blood sloughing from his flesh peppering the porcelain.  Willow’s blood.  Probably some remnants of his own, if the fresh sting of the cuts on his face was any indication.  And though he knew from the most recent call to the hospital that she was recovering well, in spite of not yet waking up, it did as little in relieving the tension from his limbs as the singeing heat of the shower.

If she’d been there, she would’ve hated the plan they’d come up with.  He was convinced of it.  He could just imagine her sitting at the table opposite him, with Giles at her side, eyes flashing in emerald brilliance as she argued its recklessness, trying to convince him to pursue a more rational approach to getting out of their dilemmas.

He’d never admit it to Giles, of course.  Give the other man the satisfaction in seeing him doubt?  Never.

And surely Willow would forgive him on the other side of it all.  Once she was back in California, and Spike was clear, and she had her whole life in front of her to do exactly what she wished.  That would make it all right.

Wouldn’t it?

Having Jenny as support on this was an unexpected bonus.  Her cool head and eccentric ideas had afforded them a perspective that made him more confident in their triumph, and while he regretted that it might cost her her position within the agency if the truth ever came to light, he was grateful to have her on their side.

She’d taken the news of Rook in stride.

“Huh,” she’d said.  “Well.  That sure explains a lot.”

And that had been it.  She hadn’t even blinked when he’d introduced Faith, in spite of the ex-hooker’s caustic evaluation of Jenny’s practical skirt suit that was the norm for the office, and while he wasn’t sure what some of the looks she kept shooting Giles meant, at that moment, Wesley knew he didn’t have the luxury of finding out.

In less than twenty-four hours, Spike would be free.

Or, they’d both be dead.

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

The scent of his blood was making her mouth unexpectedly water, nostalgia made manifest in coppery ambrosia, and the way the viscous fluid clung to his hands looked like the art he brought to each and every one of his jobs.  Each step took him further away, and though she called after him, she could never quite see his face, hidden away in the night’s gloom as if he was deliberately avoiding her gaze.

“William?  Where are you going, William?”

Always just a few steps behind, seeing that smirk he’d toss back at her when he’d catch her voice, his pallor even more spectral under the streetlamps when he passed through the golden pools that spotted the cement.

It was no mystery why she was dreaming about him.  In spite of everything, he would always be a part of her, whether he wanted to admit it or not, and she had always loved the grace and savagery with which he attacked the world, power and lithe energy that made her want to scream in ecstasy, even when it had looked as if he was losing his passion for it.

If he asked, she would allow him back in her circle, embrace him and give him whatever it was he asked.

But he wouldn’t ask.  She knew that now.  Not with the songbird on his shoulder, whispering her secrets and lies into his ear.

Each step that echoed in the empty street tattooed a path into her skin, familiar and yet not, and she hesitated, looking up at the cold stars when their music began to be too loud to ignore.  “Can you hear them?” she asked, knowing he wouldn’t answer.

Except he shocked her this time, stopping to turn and face her, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips.  “It’s the same little ditty they always sing, pet,” he said.  “Don’t know why it always surprises you.”

She was seized by his feral beauty, standing frozen amid the songs echoing inside her skull, silently bleeding from the keen angles of his features. “I miss you,” she said.

“No, you don’t.”

“I miss us.  Don’t you?”

He didn’t answer this time, just stood there and watched her with those deadly eyes, lips curled into his trademark sneer.  Hesitating for only a moment, she stepped forward, reaching out a hand to gently cup his cheek.

“You’ll be the death of me one day, Dru,” he murmured, and his features shifted, smoothing out, becoming broader, darkening…

Her eyes flitted open, and the face was there as well, kneeling at her side, half-hidden by the shadows cast by the moonlight filtering in her window.  She smiled, in spite of her questions as to just how exactly he’d gotten into her bedroom.  “Hello, Angel,” she said.  “The stars told me you were coming.”

He laughed, and for a moment, she wondered if he’d fallen from the skies himself, a fallen succubus deigning to find audience among the mortals.  “How do you feel about coming with me to heaven, Drusilla?” he asked, and held out his hand.

There was no hesitation as she took it, sitting up in her bed.  The bedclothes slipped down to expose her ivory shoulders, the red lace of her nightgown almost black in the darkened room.  “Is this a game?” she asked.  She’d waited a long time for him to notice her, and had done everything she could at the funeral to gain his interest, grateful that that Buffy had been absent for a change. 

The floor was icy beneath her feet as she rose, but the only sensation she was aware of was the branding of his fingers into her palm.

“The best kind,” Angel replied with a nod.  “The kind where I win.”

 

To be continued in Chapter 38: A Faithless Friend