DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. And the chapter titles are courtesy of Miles Davis.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: The road trip to New Orleans continues, after Buffy and Spike share an impromptu kiss at the roadside bar…

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Chapter 6: Blue in Green

Three hours of near-silence was driving Buffy to a desperation that she rarely felt these days, hungry for anything that would provide a distraction from the thoughts that refused to stop spiraling inside her skull, careening in cascades that brought alternating flushes and chills to her flesh. It probably would’ve been easier if Spike would just say something crude or mean-spirited, anything that would remind her of the maddening vampire she knew him to be, but he’d spent the time since they left the bar lost in his own daydreams, his radio tuned to an oldies station instead of the blare of that godawful noise he considered music, offering her only the occasional question when their path was uncertain.

Her lips still tingled from the remembrance of their kiss, and the notion that it hadn’t been entirely a game of make-believe with the vamp lingered like one of those instincts she’d spent the past five years honing. It didn’t make sense, though, for either of them to herald such a response. Spike made no bones about voicing his dislike for her and her friends; there was no valid reason for her to even think that would change now. What made even less sense was that she could in any way be attracted to him. He was evil. Soulless. A monster she was chosen to kill.

Even if at the moment all she could think about was how much she was actually enjoying being in his company.

When she saw the van, then, a dark shadow at the side of the highway, barely discernible in the early night hours, Buffy jumped at the diversion from her train of thought, catching a flash of a man’s pale skin as he rounded the far corner of the vehicle’s rear. “Stop the car!” the Slayer ordered, yanking down her window to stick her head out so that she could get a better look.

Though the DeSoto’s velocity slowed, Spike didn’t stop, frowning as he glanced in his rearview mirror. “What bug’s gotten up your skirt?” he asked.

“Not a bug,” she replied tightly, and grabbed the steering wheel to jerk it to the side. “A van.”

The vamp growled as he reclaimed control, skidding with a spit of stones onto the shoulder. “Killin’ us isn’t goin’ to help Red.”

“That’s a dark van we passed back there.” Her hand hovered on the door handle, waiting for the car to come to a complete halt before jumping out. “You said you smelled her when a van went by.”

He looked at her in disbelief. “You can’t honestly think it’s the same one?” he asked, incredulous. “Do you have any soddin’ idea how big this country is? Odds are it’s just someone havin’ a spot of engine trouble.”

“All the more reason for us to stop. They can probably use some help.”

She was out of the car before he could reply, and Spike grimaced as he slapped at the steering wheel. “Didn’t sign up for roadside assistance,” he grumbled. “S’posed to be driving to New Orleans, havin’ a bit of a lark while the Slayer goes gallivanting around tryin’ to find Red, and then back to the Hellmouth. Simple.” There was a moment, and then he swiveled his head to look at her through the back window, blue eyes sweeping over the golden limbs eerily orange in his rear lights as she strode determinedly toward the vehicle in the distance. “Bitch doesn’t even know anything about cars. What the hell does she think she’s actually goin’ to do?”

There was only a moment of hesitation, and then, with a barely suppressed growl, Spike shoved his door open, sliding out into the cooling night air with a heavy step that gritted beneath his boot. His eyes flickered to the van in the distance, and the dead scent drifting from it hit him immediately, furrowing his brow as he watched Buffy continue to stroll toward the vehicle. She had to know what she was approaching, right? he thought, his own feet carrying him to the rear of the DeSoto, blond head tilting as he regarded the pale form of the other man emerge from behind the van. The lack of a break in her step said she didn’t, though, and Spike involuntarily edged himself forward.

“Slayer!” he called out, his voice shattering the night quiet.

He could hear her exasperated sigh as she stopped, turning in her place to look back at him. “What?”

“You’re barking up the wrong tree here. That’s not the bloke who snatched Red.”

“You said you didn’t see the driver,” she accused.

“I didn’t---.”

“So you can’t know for sure that this isn’t him, now can you?”

“I’m tellin’ you, I don’t think---.”

“Newsflash, Spike. You’re not here because of your brainpower. You’re only here because of your carpower. As lame as that is. Besides, even if it’s not the same guy, he probably still needs our help. He could be broken down or something.”

Before he could reply, Spike frowned as Buffy went flying sideways, wrapped in a full tackle by the now vamped-out man, rolling into the brush along the road in a tangle of arms and legs. He shook his head. “He’s not interested in your help, pet,” he muttered and visibly winced when he saw the heel of her foot connect with the other vampire’s chest, sending him flying back onto the concrete as she regained her footing. Stupid git. Hear me call her the Slayer and attack, instead of turning tail and running like the wind. Deserve to be made mincemeat of.

“You’re not just planning to sit there and watch, are you?” Buffy shot to Spike as she ducked a punch from the newly recovered demon, letting her own hands reach forward to grab her attacker’s ankle. “Because this would go a lot faster if you maybe pitched in a little.” A graceful lift flipped the demon backwards, his face meeting the road with an audible scrape.

“Like you’re pitchin’ in with the driving?” Spike replied, arms folded over his chest as he leaned back against the trunk, his tongue snaking out to trace his teeth as his azure gaze slid over her lithe form. “’Sides, since when can’t you handle one itty bitty vampire all on your lonesome?” The gleam in his eye quickly faded, however, when the side door on the van slid open, allowing three more vampires to emerge into the moonlight, each one seemingly bigger than the one previous. He straightened, senses on alert. “Bugger.”

She wasn’t aware of the additions to the fray until the nearest one sucker-punched her side, bending her torso in a lissome curve as she squeaked in surprise and fell out of their way. Inwardly, Buffy cursed. Her head had been so distracted by Spike, she hadn’t even caught on that the guy was a vampire until it was too late, and now his buddies seemed determined to make her their midnight snack. This is all Spike’s fault, she thought angrily as she jumped to her feet, ducking just in time to watch one of the new attackers go sailing over her head. Just like always.

Concentrate. Battle at hand. Four against one.

Except it could be four against two if Spike would get off his ass and help.

Jerk.

Her fists landed with sickening accuracy, the tension that had been wound throughout her muscles over the course of the last few hours released in a cloud of scarlet anger. Quickly, two of the vampires were knocked to the side, momentarily out of it, and Buffy was left facing the original demon and the largest of his buddies.

“Never thought we’d bag us a Slayer,” the first said, his tongue darting out to lick wetly at his lips.

“And she’s cute besides,” the second noted. At some point, he had pulled a knife from a scabbard at his side and was now twirling it between his fingers, almost nonchalantly as his golden eyes danced over Buffy’s curves. “Think she’s a screamer?” A hungry grin split his face. “I like it when they scream.”

“Are you completely daft?”

The sound of Spike’s voice caught all of their attention as he sauntered to within several feet of the face-off. A stake dangled from his hand, and Buffy caught the glimpse of another tucked inside the back of his jeans, stifling the smug smile that rose to her lips. About time, she thought with satisfaction. Especially since I was beginning to think I’d have to ram a stray twig through these guys’ chests in order to get rid of them once and for all.

“This is the Slayer,” Spike was saying, ignoring her presence to concentrate on the other vampires. “She kills our kind. Very well, I might add.”

“Thanks, Spike,” she chirped, tossing the others a bright grin. Tag team banter. She could do this. Show the vamps a united front. Even if it was with Spike. At this point, it seemed obvious---to her, at least---that the chipped demon had stepped up to the plate ready to hit one out of the ballpark with those stakes in his possession. No way was she going to let on that things might not be completely copasetic between them.

“Though, have to say,” he was adding, “silly chit’s not so bright herself. She fell for the oldest trick in the book. Me and Dru used to pull the same act back in the day. Have to say, though, it usually works better if you’ve got a bird to do the whole damsel in distress act. Blokes are more likely to stop then.” He shook his head in mock disappointment. “Goin’ to have to have a word with her Watcher when we get back to Sunnyhell. Ol’ Rupes is slacking in his training. ‘Course, he might’ve told her and it just didn’t sink in. Like I said. She’s not so bright.”

“Hey!” Her cheerful demeanor quickly disintegrated into anger at his careless flippancy.

“Doesn’t mean she doesn’t know which end of a stake is up, though,” he finished, ignoring her protestation. Before the others could react, the blond vampire had tossed the weapon to the Slayer, his words and attitude distracting the others until it was too late for them to intercede.

She caught it in mid-air, her senses alerting her to the rising danger of the vampires she’d recently dispatched behind her, and Buffy whirled in her place to thrust the stake deep into the chest of the nearest demon. Before the dust could finish eddying around her, she had already turned to stare down the second, mouth set, hazel flaring as she caught a dim flash of platinum streaking past her out of the corner of her eye.

“Insert Stake A into Chest B,” she said, and lunged before he could react.

Two down, two to go, she thought grimly as the demon dust settled about her. She had half-turned to join the rest of the fight when Spike’s voice cut through the air.

“Buffy! Watch---!”

She didn’t even hear the rest of the warning as the knife the second vampire had been wielding sliced across her exposed left shoulder, carving the sinew in the joint with a deadly precision that sent rivers of blood washing down her arm, and Buffy gritted her teeth in order not to scream out from the pain. A vicious kick with her foot connected with his midriff, and she felt him crumple beneath her attack. The glance out of the corner of her eye, however, showed that he was still standing, staggering back to face her, her blood now staining the blade he held ready to use again.

The scuffle of Spike’s own fight happened within the periphery of the Slayer’s hearing, but she tuned it out, her mind shuttling itself back to allow her body to take control, instinctively turning her unhurt side to face her foe.

Another kick, another jab. Duck to avoid his clumsy swing. Roll out of his way. Up. Behind him. And there was his back, exposed and waiting.

The drive of her arm through the muscles and bones that protected his heart was powerful, and it wasn’t until the air before her had cleared of his dust that Buffy became aware of the throbbing in her left side, the stickiness that now forced her tank to cling to her body, the scent of her blood filling her nostrils. For a moment, the world swirled around her, and she took a deep breath, forcing herself to steady the muscles that were already screaming in revolt, before turning to scan the area for the remaining vampire.

Against the van, Spike was plunging his own stake into the original demon’s chest, the glee in the fight shining in his blue eyes. He hadn’t even vamped out, she realized. Bastard barely even broke a sweat. And for what? One measly vampire?

Anger boiled inside her, mingling with the pain and frustration of her thoughts from the past few hours, and she stalked to the blond’s side, her fist shooting out and hitting his jaw before he could even straighten from his kill.

The impact sent him hurtling into the nose of the van. “Hey!” a surprised Spike said, rubbing at his jaw in furious disbelief. “What the bloody hell was that for?”

“You knew he was a vampire!”

“Well…yeah.” His heavy brows knitted together. “Tried tellin’ you it wasn’t the guy who took Red.”

“But you didn’t say it was a vamp!”

Her anger seemed to be coming from nowhere, and Spike felt his own ire begin to fade as he scrutinized the flush in her cheeks. “Since when do I have to be telling the Slayer when there’s a vampire around?” he asked. “You’re the one who gets the tinglies, remember? You should’ve sussed out what he was, soon as you opened that door.” His eyes narrowed. “You’re not short circuiting here, are you? Because inquiring vamps want to know. You were just marchin’ up to him, plain as could be, without even a weapon if I remember correctly.”

“I would’ve found something,” she said through gritted teeth. “That’s what I do.”

“Yeah,” he drawled, and the next was out of his mouth before he could even think to stop it. “I s’pose you could’ve pulled out that stick from your ass to stake ‘em. Without Farmboy around, that’s got to be the only wood you’re keeping around these days.”

Blue met green in a desperate clash, both persons silent as they just stared at each other. A flare of hurt burned in Buffy’s gaze, shock at the venom in his tone mingling with genuine dismay that he would actually say such a thing. So much for my instincts, she thought. He’s the same old Spike. Mean, and hateful, and only interested in whatever’s going to cause the greatest amount of pain. I can’t believe I was falling for that whole I-can-be-a-decent-guy routine.

As soon as the words came tumbling out, Spike regretted them, wishing that he could just scoop them back up and shove them back in, pretend that they had never been said. It had just been reflex, too much conditioning to lash out when she was attacking him, and now it was too late to retract them. He could only stand there and watch the distress brighten the hazel into scorching orbs, a lick of guilt creeping along his spine.

For a moment, Buffy faltered, catching the current underlying the sapphire gazing back at her that brought her earlier questions rushing back to fruition, battling with the conclusions she had only just reached to quicken her pulse, the adrenaline that had been easing through her veins suddenly acting as if trapped within a hurricane. She almost would’ve thought it was…pain? Guilt? But this was his usual modus operandi. Can’t hit her with his fist, so the vamp attacked with words, driving them home with that sickening effortlessness that was his signature. No reason for him to feel guilty about it. That’s just the way he worked.

And then it was gone, lost when he ducked his head to brush past her and toward the car.

“Slay break is over,” he said tightly. “Time to hit the road again.”

He’d meant to go straight for the DeSoto, but as soon as he was on the other side of the Slayer, the scent of her fresh blood assailed his senses, whipping his head around to stare at the wound that adorned her shoulder. “Jesus, Buffy,” he snarled, and was back at her side in a moment, pale fingers pressing against the curling flesh on either side of the gash. He knew she’d been hurt, but she’d been holding herself so well, no indication of pain on her face, he’d figured it wasn’t a big deal. This wasn’t just a cut. This was the fuckin’ Grand Canyon. “If you’re lookin’ for a medal for bravery, think again. Ignoring this only merits one for being completely and utterly stupid.”

“That’s the second time you’ve called me stupid tonight,” she said, and tried to turn around, only to be met by his firm touch on her good shoulder. “What’s next? Dumb blonde jokes?”

He ignored her attempt to rile him, concentrating on the blood that still flowed freely from her injury. Its nearness was intoxicating, and though the back of his mouth prickled from the desire to just press his lips to her skin and suck, Spike thrust the thoughts aside. “Don’t s’pose you thought to pack a first aid kit,” he said.

She frowned. He was taking this worry thing a little far. “Well, yeah. In my line of work, it’s one of those don’t-leave-home-without-it kind of things.”

“Don’t move.”

She didn’t listen, turning around to watch the blond vampire make a dash for the DeSoto, fumbling with his keys to get the trunk open. “What’s the big deal? Slayer healing, remember? If you’re worried about me bleeding in your car, just give me a few minutes. It’ll stop on its own.”

The look he shot her over his shoulder was dangerous. “Thought I told you not to move.”

“You’re over-reacting. I’m fine.”

“Really?” His head was buried in the trunk, and there was a pause as he dropped the sleeping bag that had been in it onto the ground before glancing back at her again. “Have you taken a gander at what he actually did to you?” When she started to turn to look over her shoulder, he barked, “Well, don’t bloody look now! You’ll split yourself in soddin’ two by twistin’ yourself like that!”

She stopped, returning her gaze to watch him pull the small box from her duffel, grabbing it and the bag from the ground and marching back to her side. “Are we having a campout?” she asked blithely. Her head was starting to feel just a little woozy, and she briefly wondered if maybe she’d underestimated the extent of her injury. “I hope you’ve got marshmallows.”

“You’re goin’ to need to lie down while I stitch that up,” he replied. “So unless you fancy gettin’ a faceful of dirt---.”

“Stitches? It’s that bad?”

His eyes were level with hers. “Would I be playin’ Clara Barton if it was just a paper cut now?”

There it was again, hidden within the blue, only not, because Buffy could’ve sworn she could see it shining back at her as true as if he’d said the words out loud. He was worried about her. Worried about the injury that she knew was probably a little more serious than she’d originally envisaged. And yet none of it made sense. How could he go from being so cold and callous to concerned and caring without even batting an eyelash?

Mention of the aforesaid appendage was enough for her to tear her gaze from his, lowering her own lashes to hide the confusion she knew was there. It was maddening how Spike managed to drive what little control she had around him out the window, the mere idea of his eyes enough to send her pulse racing. Or was that the wound doing the talking now? All of a sudden, the world didn’t seem to be making sense, pitching in delicate waves around the corners of her vision before the crimson-tinged black wrapped around her skull.

He caught her before she could crumple to the ground, cursing under his breath as he dropped the first aid kit to do so. Silly bint had passed out from the blood loss, all because she was too damn stubborn to listen to him in the first place. Not that he really blamed her. He probably would’ve done the same if he was in her shoes. They didn’t exactly have much reason to trust each other right now, now did they?

Still, he’d have to stitch her up in a hurry if he didn’t want her dyin’ on him. Rupes would probably be none too pleased if his Slayer bit the dust on Spike’s watch.

Not that Spike would be happy about the prospect either. Far from it.

Laying out the sleeping bag while trying to hold her unconscious form in such a way as not to aggravate her wound proved more difficult than he thought, and by the time Spike managed it, his own shirt was soaked with the Slayer’s blood. The faintest of desires to take it off and begin sucking at the fabric flitted across his brain, but he shoved it aside as he gently stretched her out on her stomach, positioning her arm so that the cut was as closed as possible before kneeling at the bag’s edge, the kit at his side. He had a job to do. Time to buck up and get it done.

For the first time, he hesitated. Though he could see the wound through the sliced material of her tank top, there was no way he was going to be able to work on it without exposing more of her skin, which meant the top had to go, one way or another. His eyes darted to her face, the shallow breathing, her lashes surprisingly dark against her skin. God, she was beautiful, he thought all of a sudden, and then grimaced, shaking his head as if to clear it from the distraction. Back to business. The shirt. If he did this, she’d be pissed as hell when she woke up. ‘Course, if he didn’t, she might not wake up at all. Right then. Easy choice.

Decision made, Spike gingerly grabbed the hem of the top and yanked upward, rending it in half so that each fluttered like butterfly wings to her sides, exposing the tender arch of her spine in a long, clean line to his sight. The beginnings of her summer tan lines marred the golden stretch of skin, and his arousal was immediate, his mouth watering as unbidden images of a bikini-clad Slayer cavorting in the surf danced along his inner eye. The merest of tremors shook his hand as he reached for the kit again. It was probably just as well she was out cold while he sewed her up. Somehow, he had a feeling the distraction of her body---so near, so touchable, and yet, not his to touch---was going to put his stitching just a tad on the shaky side.

But he’d get it done.

He wasn’t letting her get away that easily.

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

The first thing she became aware of was the cool feel of leather across her bare back, a delicious weight that pressed her into the ground, forcing the scents of the earth up her nose to tickle her memory with images from her childhood. It should’ve been hot, she realized, but was surprised that it wasn’t, instead a comforting sheath from the cooling evening breeze.

As her other senses awoke from whatever sleep within which she’d been carried, Buffy’s eyes flickered open, adjusting quickly to the dark of the star-laden sky, the horizon tilted dangerously on end as she blinked once, and then twice, as if that would suddenly right it. Oh, yeah, she thought. Lying down. Makes sense. Ground beneath my cheek, sky over my head.

Except it wasn’t the ground her face rested against, but the slick covering of the sleeping bag Spike had pulled from his trunk. And the memory of what exactly had happened came flooding back in a kaleidoscope of living snapshots.

Her hands came up to shoulder-height, pushing against the earth in order to sit herself up, a sudden burning in her shoulder reminding her of the knife wound she’d sustained from the vampire. Almost immediately, cool hands were on her flesh, guiding her back down, adjusting the coat that slipped from her back, and Buffy realized for the first time that her top was no longer on her body.

“You probably shouldn’t move yet.” Spike’s voice was husky, carrying softly to her ears, and Buffy turned her head to see him crouching at her side. “You’ve stopped bleedin’ but you should wait it out a bit longer so that you don’t open it up again.”

“What…happened?” She was almost afraid of the answer. She’d passed out, she knew that, but beyond the scope of knowing he’d claimed she needed stitches, the Slayer was at a loss for why she was now semi-nude.

“I patched you up,” he explained, and then ducked his head, one hand coming up to worry through his hair. “Couldn’t get to it right with...your top in the way, though, so I had to…tear it off you. Sorry ‘bout that.”

Buffy frowned, glancing down to see the remnants of her shirt lying at her sides. Better not to press the issue, she decided. She was on her stomach, her injury was on her back, Spike didn’t see anything. Plus, for some reason, he’d covered her up with his coat. “How long was I out of it?”

The vampire straightened, long fingers extracting his lighter from his pocket as he reached for his cigarettes. “’Bout an hour. But you should give it another fifteen or twenty minutes before you move, pet. We’ll hit the highway then. You can stretch out in the back so you don’t aggravate it more.”

The tip of his cigarette flared in the darkness, casting his face in crimson shadows before ebbing back into black, and Buffy watched as he turned away. “Thank you,” she said softly, unsure if he’d actually hear her but having to get the words out anyway. When were the surprises going to end? she wondered. Her confusion had returned, the questions tumbling around inside her head, but through it all, the desire to show him her gratitude burned brighter than anything else. She didn’t know why. She’d never been great at figuring out the roots of her instincts. She just knew when to follow them. So this time she did.

The stiffening of his shoulders was all she needed to know that her words had carried to his ears. “Spike,” she called softly, and waited for him to turn back to her before continuing. “What’re you doing?”

He took a long moment to answer. “Looks like I’m smoking a fag,” he finally said.

“No, I meant…you know…with everything…” This was one of those times she wished she was more like her Mom. Joyce always seemed to be so articulate about saying what she was thinking. Buffy must’ve inherited the miscommunication gene from her father. She sighed. “Could you come over here, please?” she asked. “Watching you pace around without being able to move hurts my eyeballs.”

For a second, she thought he was going to ignore her request, watching as he stared over the treeless horizon into nothing. “Mind if I finish my smoke over there?” he asked with a gentle tilt of his head.

Buffy frowned. “Since when do you ask my permission about stuff like that?”

“Since you’re lying there with a few dozen stitches holding your arm in its socket,” he retorted, but there was a teasing quality to his voice that belied the severity of his words. Not waiting for a response, his boots crunched over the grit as he approached, and her eyes flickered to his pale face as he settled himself at the far edge of the sleeping bag, pushing aside the duster that splayed beside her.

“Too high,” she complained. “Looking up at you like that is going to give me a headache.”

“What do you want me to bloody do?”

There was a pause, and then, “You could stretch out next to me. We’d be even steven then.”

If he’d had breath, she would’ve taken it away with that suggestion. Ever since he’d finished administering to her wound, Spike had been fighting back the impulse to cover her body with his own, to feel her heat seeping into his skin, to caress the curves of her hips as they ground into his own. Covering her with his duster, he thought, was the next best thing, because when he got it back, her scent would be all over it. He’d be able to enjoy it all the way to New Orleans then. He’d just have to maybe put up with Slayer comments about wearing the coat in the middle of fucking summer.

And now here she was, saying words he wouldn’t expect to ever fall from the Slayer’s lips, and he was actually sitting back and debating as to whether it was a smart idea or not to do it. The sound of her voice had brought back his erection; would he be able to hide it from her long enough so that he wouldn’t end up as much dust as the other vamps? Did he really care?

“If you’re not going to lay down, I’m going to get up.”

That settled it. Her moving was not a good idea.

Flicking his cigarette into the road, Spike carefully eased his weight back onto his elbows, before lowering himself completely to the ground. Not going to look at her, he decided, eyes focusing on the stars above. That’ll make it easier.

“You’re wearing a different shirt.”

There was confusion in her voice, and he glanced down, frowning slightly as he gazed at the black tee. How the hell did she know that? he wondered. All his clothes looked the same. “Yeah,” Spike said out loud. “The other one kind of took a bath in Slayer blood.”

“Oh.” Pause. “Sorry.”

He could feel her eyes boring into him, and stiffened his neck to fight the urge to turn it and gaze into those hazel depths. Today had been a roller coaster---hell, his life had been a roller coaster ever since she stepped into it---and somehow, he just knew that looking at her wasn’t going to make it any easier to suss out. He just wished he could know once and for all what the hell was going on inside his head. Or hers, for that matter. She’d been hot and cold on him all day, one minute treating him like he was, well, someone, and then the next, back to hammering his face with her fist. He wasn’t sure how much of this he could actually take.

“How long before we get to New Orleans?” It wasn’t the question she wanted to ask, but the other words refused to come to Buffy’s lips, forcing her to settle on idle chitchat while her brain worked around its inability to just confront the blond vamp about what was going on between them.

“Provided you don’t make us stop for any more ambushes,” Spike said, “we should get there some time in the middle of the night tomorrow.”

“I really didn’t know it was a trap, you know.”

“I know.” He chewed on the inside of his cheek for a moment. “So why didn’t they show up on your Slayer radar?” he queried. “It’s not like you to be surprised like that.”

“You’re not going to tell Giles, are you?”

He snorted. “Not bloody likely. Somehow, it’d end up bein’ my fault, I just know it. I’m not givin’ him any excuse to come waltzing around so that he can stake my ass, unless it’s for something I’ve well-deserved and gotten some enjoyment from.” Like shagging his Slayer, he added silently, and then mentally chastised himself as his erection throbbed within the confines of his jeans. Fuck. That kind of thinking’s only going to make this worse than it already is.

As the stillness that settled between them lengthened, Spike began to wonder if maybe she’d fallen asleep again, and debated risking his control by turning to look at her.

“I was…distracted,” Buffy finally said, the timbre of her voice hollow in the cool air.

“By what?” he quizzed. The stars were suddenly interesting again. “The ride since we left the bar wasn’t exactly frolicking with fun.”

There it is, the little voice inside her head squeaked. Your opening. Ask him about the kiss.

“I’m worried about Willow,” she said instead, and shook a mental fist at the little voice. Ha, she thought with satisfaction. Don’t think you can fool me that easy.

Each time she spoke, her breath warmed his cheek, tickling the inside of his mouth with anticipation, reminding him of her proximity as he fought to contain the control she seemed to suck from his flesh by her mere presence. “She’ll be all right,” he said gruffly, and closed his eyes. There. Block it all out. Just wait out the next few minutes until you can get back on the damn road and she’s tucked safely away in the back seat. “Red’ll be all right,” he repeated.

“You’re going to help me…in New Orleans, right?”

“Sure. I know people, got a few markers I can call in. It’ll at least give us the lay of the land, but if that Stella’s sung in a single club in that town, don’t worry. We’ll find her.”

“I’m…glad I’ve got you as an ally in this, Spike.” How’s that? she asked the little voice in her head. Does that satisfy you?

Nope.

“Just don’t be spreading the word on that. I’ve got me a reputation to protect, you know.”

She couldn’t help the giggle that bubbled from her throat. “God, Spike, if your rep isn’t shot to hell already, it’s certainly already got enough bullet holes to make it look like Swiss cheese. I don’t think anything I could say now would make it any worse.”

He should’ve known it wouldn’t be words that broke his resolve. Her laughter hooked into his chest with kitten claws that prickled instead of hurt, too soft to inflict real damage but strong enough to sink into the unbeating muscle and tug with inexorable ease, forcing his chin sideways, the desire to see her face lit up in delight too great to ignore as his eyes met hers.

The darkness did nothing to disguise the bright hazel that gleamed back at him, and though her teeth exposed beneath her smile held their own shine, his gaze was locked on hers, blue drowning in green as her giggles slowly faded.

Nothing else, just her…and him…and you know you want to echoing inside two different heads. Inside her chest, Buffy’s heart suddenly erupted, everything that had seemed so baffling ever since that afternoon exploding into a white fury of simplicity as, without even thinking, her neck began to stretch forward, eyes flickering between the sinking sapphire of his aspect and that full bottom lip.

His met hers halfway, slightly tremulous, definitely unsure, afraid to taste yet hungry to devour. She was the first to part her lips, to sneak her tongue out and taste the nectar of his mouth, her breath shuddering through her body as she fervently wished she wasn’t bound to stillness by her wound.

Her boldness strengthened his resolve, and Spike’s hand came up, fingertips gliding along the velvet underside of her jaw, stopping on the fine point of her chin to pull it gently closer. Hurt, she’s hurt, he reminded himself, but deepened the kiss anyway, ignoring the implications and instead focusing on the pinnacle of her blood rushing so close, her body crying out to his as the scent of her arousal overcame the smell of her injuries.

Buffy was panting when he finally pulled away, the slightest of pouts curving her lower lip as darkened eyes rose to meet his. “I’m…” she started, only to have her breath catch in her throat when the fingers that had been on her chin rose to settle over her mouth.

“Don’t,” he murmured. “We start on the words and somehow we always end up mucking things up.”

She laughed, in spite of the truth in his statement. “That’s because you’re in love with hearing yourself talk, Spike.”

The retort came automatically to his lips, but he bit it back as the realization that she was teasing him tempered the ire that had risen in his gullet. “You seemed to be enjoying it this afternoon,” he reminded her in a guileless taunt, and was rewarded with a faint blush in her cheeks.

“You can be mildly amusing when you’re not being an ass,” Buffy replied.

“Think the same can be said about you, pet.”

“And the kiss?” Time to ask. All the gates were down. Hell, she figured she’d pretty much smashed them by initiating that last caress. What could she possibly have to lose now?

“Which one?”

“Either. Both. You pick.” She wanted to be able to look away, but the draw of blue was too great to ignore, and so she waited, gazing into his eyes, small teeth nibbling at her lower lip.

He seemed fascinated by the play happening on her mouth, and resisted the urge to join her in the biting. “You’re goin’ to think I’m a poof,” Spike warned, his voice a silken rumble against her bare skin.

“It’s better than hating you, right?”

It was meant to be a joke---he knew that was her intention---but the insinuation that she didn’t, that she might in fact be harboring feelings other than loathing caused the hair on the vampire’s arms to stand on end, surprising him with the abrupt wish to hear her confess to more. Sod it, he thought. If she can do this, so can I.

“Bloody spectacular, luv,” he whispered, and drew the pad of his thumb over the line of her jaw. “Both of them.”

And there it was, as much confession as he thought he could do in such a short period of time, hanging there waiting for the Slayer to either dash it to the ground to grind underneath her well-heeled foot or to embrace with even a fraction of the passion she’d shown during the pair of caresses. He scared himself by hoping for the latter; he just wished he could predict which she was going to select.

Buffy surprised him by turning her head just enough to catch the palm of his hand with her mouth. “Thank you for being honest,” she murmured as she pulled away. Her lashes lifted, a small smile curling her lips. “Is my time up yet? Do you think we can get back on the road now?”

The shift in topic was unexpected. “Yeah,” Spike said, and scrambled to his feet, breaking the spell that had woven around them. As he glanced down at her, saw her upturned face looking up into his, he amended his assessment. Not a broken spell, he decided with a tilt of his head. Just…suspended for a bit. She wasn’t running from him. She was just trying to get things back on track.

He grinned. Kind of ironic to think that he was part of that track now.

And the thing of it was…

They both knew it.

 

To be continued in Chapter 7: So Near, So Far