DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. And the chapter titles are
courtesy of Miles Davis.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Anya is beginning to have suspicions about why Halfrek warned her away from New Orleans, and Buffy and Spike are treading new ground in their relationship as he reminds her just what exactly she’s getting herself into prior to their arrival in the Big Easy…
Chapter 8: On Green Dolphin Street
Not talking once they got into the car had seemed like a really good idea at the time. With the sudden shift in their relationship, and Spike’s dangerous promise of things she was only beginning to grasp, Buffy didn’t think she was in any position to try and be all normal girl with the conversation, or banter girl, or even pissed-off Slayer girl, for that matter. What she didn’t realize was that if Spike wasn’t talking, it meant she wasn’t talking.
And if she wasn’t talking, that meant she was thinking.
And thinking plus a confused-slash-uncomfortable Buffy did not add up to kittens and daisies.
It still took her an hour to work up the nerve to get her vocal cords to work. That was exactly fifty-eight minutes after she’d reached the decision that any mental processes that she could achieve at the moment would only serve to heap on the pile-o-rama of tension that was already tapdancing inside her head.
“I can’t believe it’s still so hot,” she finally managed. Inwardly, she groaned. Ohmigod, I’m talking about the weather. Pathetic much, Buffy?
The look he shot her was quizzical, that eyebrow cocked in mild amusement. “That’s because it’s still summer, pet,” he replied. “Time hasn’t decided to do a runner for it just ‘cause you’re stuck in here with me.”
“It’s not so much being stuck. It’s more like…mutual tolerance. Right?”
“Is that what we’re calling this?”
“You. Me. The troika of kisses.” He smiled, his eyes reverting back to the road ahead. “The fact that we both want more of that.”
“Oh.” It had to be a new record for her. From weather talk to making out talk in three sentences flat. Maybe she would’ve been better off thinking instead of talking after all.
“Callin’ it mutual’s all well and good,” Spike was continuing, “but, have to say, the fact that you’re ownin’ up to your share of responsibility here is making me start to get fussed about this mess Red’s gotten herself in.” The look of confusion she shot him caused him to chuckle. “Buffy Summers admitting she’s got a yen for the Big Bad? Sounds like the fifth horseman of the apocalypse to me.”
“What?” Her indignation, in spite of the tease in his tone, caused her to sputter. “I don’t have a yen. Why would you say I have a yen? I am most definitely yen-free. Yen-free Slayer here, at your service.”
The long slide of his eyes over her sweating form brought a flush to Buffy’s cheeks, and she folded her arms across her chest, turning her head to stare down at the map that rested in her lap. Crap. That even sounded double entendre-y to her. Knowing Spike’s passion for all things lewd and lascivious, it was no wonder he was looking at her like something to eat. And not in a bloodsucking kind of way. More in a lay back and spread those---.
It was all she could do not to groan out loud at the sudden sensations that were tingling her thighs as the thought of Spike’s mouth anywhere near her sex effectively skewered all the rational ones she’d been trying so desperately to cling to. Who did she think she was kidding? Those fantasies she’d been so quick to dismiss prior to their little road trip had been brought out in glorious Technicolor at the first kiss they’d shared in front of Fang, and to deny what he was saying now sounded absolutely ludicrous, even to her. Capital Y, capital E, capital N. Any more capital and she’d need to declare herself a state in order to accommodate it.
“No need to get your knickers all in a twist about it, pet,” Spike said, and though the amusement still clung to his voice, there was a somnolent caress to his tone that almost immediately soothed some of the scattered nerves that had escaped Buffy’s control. “Truth be told, as delicious as it sounds to have that gorgeous mouth of yours ‘fess up to what you’re actually feelin’ for a change, I’m not so sure my head’s straight enough at the mo’ to do this particular topic of conversation the justice it deserves. Not to say it won’t happen. But maybe not just yet.”
“So…all that stuff back at the hotel. Does this mean you were just trying to mess with me? Because that is sooo not the way to ensure you make it to New Orleans outside of a vacuum cleaner bag, Spike.”
“Ah, now on that, you’re not gettin’ off quite so easy. Now, on the odd occasion, my mouth has been known to have a tendency to get ahead of my brain, yes. But not back there.” He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. “Meant every word, Slayer.”
The silence that ensued wrapped both of them in heated arms, losing them in the whirlwind of thoughts that rambled through their heads. So many questions…so many bewildering feelings…not very many satisfactory answers. Buffy was grateful for the reprieve he had offered her, but as she sat there, listening to the road whoosh by in a comforting rhythm, part of her mused on the vampire’s implicit confession.
In spite of his earlier bravado, his reluctance to discuss it now---not that she could, not in any intelligent fashion at least---showed her that he was just as rattled by the shift in their relationship as she was, albeit seemingly more in control as to how it affected him outwardly. Spike never seemed to be lacking in the insight department, and the fact that he was withholding those opinions he held so near and dear to his heart was ample evidence for her that this was just as much of a shocker to him as it was to her.
And now she was stuck thinking again. If only…
He was the one to break first. “If you think it’s hot now,” he said, the huskiness that had accompanied his previous words replaced by a more neutral mirth, “just wait until we get to New Orleans.”
Eight hours, two bathroom pitstops---
“Told you not to get the extra five ounces on that Slurpee, Slayer.”
“But they were free!”
“Free does not always equal good.”
“That’s rich, coming from the guy who does his home shopping at the junkyard. Is that this month’s decorating tip from Better Crypts and Graveyards?”
“Just because I nick most of my stuff doesn’t mean I don’t have discerning tastes. Just means I know how to save my pennies for the important stuff of life.” He’d grinned. “Like a lovely, flowing, streaming rush of---.”
“If you don’t want me to ruin your precious leather seats by having an accident, you will not finish that sentence.”
“You’re sure you don’t want me to just pull over? Think that tree’s got your name on it, actually. Oh, wait. My mistake. Just a bit of black rot.”
“Ha ha. Very funny.”
“That one’s leaves don’t look too rash-worthy, though. Your delicate little Slayer thighs should be safe as houses usin’ those. All the conveniences of caveman plumbing, right there at your fingertips.”
“Bite me, Spike.”
“Love to, pet, but something tells me if I did that about now, you’d bust open like some over-ripe tomato.”
---and several states later, Spike was rolling to a stop on the darkened street, the faint sounds of a trumpet filtering through his open window, punctuated by the occasional bark of laughter.
At his side, Buffy dozed in a light slumber, thin tendrils of her hair clinging to her sweat-beaded forehead. She had fallen asleep just before they’d hit the city, and though she had voiced a growing excitement about their arrival while they chatted, Spike didn’t currently have the heart to wake her. She’d see enough once they were settled, he reasoned. In searching for Red, she’d probably be in and out of every cranny the place had to offer just to root her out. Besides…
His gaze softened as it glided over the curve of her cheek, absorbing the relaxed set of her mouth before settling on the visible pulse at the base of her neck. Letting his thoughts stew in the back of his mind while they’d talked today had given him permission to admit at least one thing to himself; for whatever reason, he needed her to be all right, to get what she needed, what she wanted, and right now, what she needed was sleep, time to rest to prepare for the stress of what lay ahead. He wouldn’t be the one to take that away.
Why he felt like this, Spike wasn’t sure. The world’s a more interesting place with her in it and all that rubbish, he thought distractedly, fighting the urge to reach out and brush back the hair that fell over her face. Wanting to shag her was one thing; he knew how to deal with that.
Wanting to protect her was entirely different.
Carefully, his hand dropped to the door handle, easing it open with a slight creak that made him grimace as his eyes darted over to the Slayer. No movement. Good. He’d be in and out before she even knew he was gone.
She didn’t know what wakened her. One minute, she was asleep. The next, her eyes had fluttered open and she had realized the car was no longer moving.
Sitting up, Buffy frowned as she saw the empty driver’s seat, leaning over to peer out Spike’s still-open window. We can’t need gas again, she thought irritably. I swear this thing guzzles like there’s no tomorrow.
What met her eyes, though, was a sight she hadn’t expected to see quite so soon. Sure, he’d told her that they would probably arrive some time in the middle of the night, but part of her hadn’t really believed the vampire. He had a way of exaggerating even the smallest of details to the point of non-recognition, making it hard to know just when he was stretching the truth. This looked to be one of the non-stretchy variety.
A narrow city street lined with a row of darkened buildings, most of them with balconies on their second floors, greeted her. It was difficult to see what exactly they were for---they could have been homes or offices for all Buffy knew---but, from the structure directly opposite the car, the unmistakeable blare of a trumpet coaxed its way into the moonlight, with the rolling bass of accompanying drums following, almost causing the street to vibrate in concord.
It was too late for that to be happening anywhere but at a club, she thought.
Which meant they were there. In New Orleans. Finally.
But…where the hell was Spike?
As she climbed from the car, Buffy grabbed her bag, making sure to slip the stake that had been rolling around beneath her feet into one of its inner compartments. Better to be safe than sorry. If this is one of Spike’s favorite cities, no doubt other demons feel the exact same way.
Outside the DeSoto, the air was pungent, a combination of sticky pastry sweetness, smoke, and raw sewage that the Slayer wasn’t too sure she found agreeable. Eau de Big Easy, she thought. The unique perfume was nothing, however, compared to the heat that rippled visibly in front of her, closer even than it had been in Sunnydale, immediately drawing whatever fluid that was in her skin to the surface. Doesn’t matter about the smell, she grumbled as she made her way to the club door. I can’t breathe in this anyway.
The keys dangled from the demon’s hands, catching what little light was in the bar and scattering it in individual shards across Spike’s cheeks. “I even had someone go in and change over all the sheets,” it said brightly, a too-eager smile creasing its scaled face. “Black satin. Just like you like ‘em.”
“Thanks.” The vampire took the overlarge ring, stuffing his hands into his pockets as he straightened his shoulders. So far, so good. Nobody was acting like they knew what had happened to him in Sunnydale, and as long as this crowd didn’t learn he was working with the Slayer, this little escapade for Red could still turn out to be fun. Just had to make sure he didn’t lose his Big Bad image. Might put a crimp on things if he had to suddenly start defending himself for betraying his “kind.”
“I still can’t believe they changed the name of the street, though,” he said disdainfully. “Whatever happened to taking pride in your history? Totally strips me of my faith in humanity.”
The demon laughed, too loud in its desire to please. “It won’t last long,” he assured. “As soon as someone offs the guy who bought the block, they’ll change it back. Just wait.” His face brightened. “Or you could do it. I can tell you where he lives, where he works. Maybe even sell a few tickets for when you do it. Nobody puts on a slaughter like---.”
Fuck, the vamp thought, as her blonde head appeared at his elbow. This would’ve gone so much easier if she’d just stayed in the bloody car.
Outwardly, he gave no indication of being flustered, and instead turned to gaze down at Buffy. “Thought you were sleeping,” he said, his tone light but slightly brittle.
“I was. And now I’m not.”
The demon watched them with a frown. “Who’s this?” he asked.
Hazel eyes hardened as they swivelled to look at Spike’s companion. “I’m Buffy. Who the hell are you?”
Her gaze swept over his seven-foot frame, taking in the dark red scales and bony musculature. “Huh. You don’t look Mexican.”
“And you don’t look like Drusilla.” Pablo turned back to Spike. “What’s going on here? How come you’re hanging around with…” He stopped, sniffing pointedly at the air before screwing up his face in disgust. “…a human? I always thought you and Drusilla were forever. Don’t tell me you gave her up for…for…for this.”
“She dumped him.”
Spike’s jaw clicked in anger at the interruption, his head tilting to look at Buffy in irritation. She appeared calm, totally at ease considering she had just started them down the path of too-many-questions, and her hands hung casually at her side. He caught a glimpse of the stake she had grabbed in her half-open purse. Bugger. The bitch was going to get them both killed if she kept this up.
“No way!” Pablo’s beady pink eyes went wide, darting between the two blonds, noting the sudden closure over the vampire’s face before returning to Buffy. Obviously, she was going to be the one who was going to spill on the details. “What happened?”
She shrugged. “Chaos demon. I guess that little antler fetish of hers finally got too tempting to ignore.”
In spite of his annoyance, Spike snorted in amusement, catching the twinkle buried in the depths of her eyes before relaxing his guard. Buffy wasn’t stupid. She wasn’t about to start something when she knew they were going to have to rely on his contacts in order to find Red. Better to give the demon the gossip he was looking for and get going, before more awkward questions got asked. If they got the proper story out there now, they could count on Pablo to spread the word so that they wouldn’t have to go through this every time. And she was smart enough to have sussed that out already. Wonder if she’ll ever stop surprising me, Spike thought, draping his arm protectively over Buffy’s shoulder. Here’s hoping not.
“Riiiight,” the vamp agreed. “Turns out, I was the wrong kind of horny for Dru.”
There was a pause. “That still doesn’t explain why you’re with…her.”
Beneath his touch, he felt the Slayer tense, and wondered momentarily if she was going to crack. Hold it together, he thought. Just stay with me here until I can get us out of this.
But she beat him to the punch.
“Since when does Spike have to explain anything to someone barely qualified to be the stick that scrapes the mud from his boots?” Buffy said. Her voice dripped in ice, and when Spike glanced down at her, there was no mistaking the fiery glints flashing in the grey-green depths of her eyes. Ever so casually, she tossed her hair back, inadvertently exposing the column of her neck, the scar she bore from Angel’s bite all of a sudden in full view.
She would never come out and say anything, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t give the rumor mill plenty of ammo to get it started.
Pablo’s gaze widened at the sight of the bite, darting from it, to Spike, to Buffy, and then back to Spike. The question faded from his eyes, to be replaced by the same respect that had been gleaming there when she’d first arrived.
Affecting his best smirk, the vampire hooked his thumb through his belt loop, lowering his head just enough so that his blue eyes glittered dangerously through his lashes. “I’ll get back to you on that whole slaughter business,” he drawled, and began sauntering away, Buffy tucked firmly against his side.
He waited to speak to her until they were back in the safety of the car.
“So, care to enlighten me on that little display in there?” Spike asked, his head tilted, watching her in hungry curiosity as she strapped herself into her seat.
Studiously, she avoided his eyes. “Just because I’m blonde, doesn’t mean I’m stupid,” Buffy said. “It’s not like I haven’t been in a demon bar before. Slayer, remember? Part of the job description.”
“You know he thinks you’re some kind of thrall now.”
“Well, duh. That was the point of the whole hair thing. I’m quippy girl, not flippy girl, in case you haven’t noticed.” She sighed, stretching her neck to the side to work out the stiffness from her sleep. “I saw how he was looking at you, like you were some kind of god or something, and figured that if he was typical of your contacts here, it would probably be better for your image if I looked harmless.” She smiled, finally turning her gaze to look at him. “Besides, that should work to our advantage in the long run. Element of surprise. I can be your secret weapon.”
He had nothing to say to that. Hearing her refer to herself as something that belonged to him---even indirectly---sent an unexpected trill down his spine, and he settled himself back, hand going automatically to the keys in the ignition. Your secret weapon, she’d said. Yours.
He liked the sound of that.
“Did you get what you came here for?” she was asking, and he had to stop himself for a moment to refocus on the here and now.
“Yeah,” Spike replied. “Pablo’s the bloke I called about getting our accommodations sorted.”
“Don’t tell me we’re staying with him.”
“We’re not. We’re staying in a flat he rents out as part of the tourist trade.” At her quizzical stare, he elaborated, “We’re not paying for it, if that’s what you’re fussed about. We don’t have the kind of dosh Pablo usually gets for his places. I just…called in a couple favors.”
“Oh.” She was silent as the car pulled out into the street, staring out her window. “So, it’s not around here then?”
“No,” came the answer. “Faubourg Marigny. Off of Elysian Fields. On a street that now carries the unfortunate moniker of Green Dolphin.”
As glad as she was to finally be in New Orleans, as glad as she was that she was one step closer to getting Willow back, even as glad as she was that she wasn’t going to be cooped up any longer in the stuffy DeSoto with its definite lackage of air conditioning…Buffy kind of regretted that it was dark when they arrived. Though there were some streetlights, Green Dolphin turned out to be more of an alley, very dimly lit, and she could barely make out their destination as Spike eased the car to a stop.
The flat in question was actually a tiny cottage, renovated from disarray to a quaint standard that she was sure the tourists found charming. She as hell sure did. The details were next to impossible to make out, but as Spike fumbled with the keys, muttering something under his breath about “soddin’ too many,” Buffy let her fingers intertwine with the vines that clung to the walls, breathing in the earthy pungence that evoked images of winding roads under blazing summer skies. She waited on the threshold when he finally got the door open, listening to him fumble for the light switch, unable to refrain from giggling when she heard a sharp thud followed almost instantaneously by a, “Bloody hell!”
“You OK in there, Spike?” she called into the darkness. “You didn’t get jumped by a big, bad boogy man, did you?”
She was answered by light, a warm incandescence flooding from the narrow entry, and saw the platinum blond rubbing at his ankle, glaring at the offending hat stand that stood sentry on the other side of the entrance. “Stupid place for it,” he muttered, and then turned on his good foot to turn the lights on in the rest of the house.
It wasn’t what she was expecting. Maybe she’d had delusions of Southern grandeur, pictures in her head from Civil War movies of sweeping staircases and elegant wooden furniture. Whatever the cause, it didn’t prepare her for the ultra-modern décor, the polished black marble floor gleaming up at her in decadent insouciance, the plush white leather couch opposite the fireplace, the chrome and glass accessories scattered throughout the open living area. In the corner, near a set of patio doors that led to a midnight garden, sat a black baby grand piano. Cool air wafted from an invisible source, chilling the sweat that clung to her skin, the barely audible hum of the conditioner underlying the ambience like a throaty chuckle.
Buffy’s eyes widened, her duffel frozen on her uninjured shoulder. It was probably a good thing they weren’t paying for this; no way could this fit into Giles’ modest Watcher budget.
It took her a moment to realize that Spike was no longer in the room, and she pivoted on her heel, skidding slightly against the polish, as she looked around for other exits. A stainless steel kitchen, separated from the lounge by a curved breakfast bar, was empty, as was the surprisingly enormous black and white bathroom just off the lone hallway. That left only one other door, and hesitantly, Buffy nudged it open.
“We got us a little problem,” Spike said, his arms folded across his chest, hands tucked inside his armpits. He wasn’t looking at her when he spoke. Instead, he was gazing at the king-sized bed in the middle of the room, the plethora of white pillows at its head beckoning to the Slayer to come and join them in repose.
“I’m going to guess this is the only bedroom,” she replied, measuring her words carefully. “Unless there’s some secret passageway behind the fireplace or something that leads to another wing that we just can’t see from the road. Because you know, there’s always a secret passage in these kind of places.”
“Bugger,” the vamp said under his breath. “I should’ve been more specific when I called. ‘Course there’s only the one bed. The prat thought I was comin’ in with Dru.”
“So? It’s no big. We’ll just share it.” That made him turn, raising his eyebrows in surprise, and Buffy flushed. “I meant, in an alternating way. As in, I get it, then you get it, then I get it, and then you get it. An every other night deal. There’s a perfectly good couch out there we can use as well, you know.”
“You sure about that? ‘Cause I’ve got no problems with---.”
There was no mistaking his leer. “No. Not going to happen, Spike.”
He shrugged. “Problem solved then.” As he began to brush past her, he was stopped by her hand on his arm. “What? We have to sort out bathroom passes, too?”
Her words were hesitant, the hardness from her previous denial gone. “I…I was just going to say, you know…you can have it tonight. The bed. You’ve been all Driving Miss Buffy for over two days now. This should give you a chance to get caught up on your sleep.”
Her offering was unexpected, and Spike tilted his head, eyes narrowing as he scanned her face. “Thanks,” he said, and slowly reached up to casually brush back a lock of hair that had fallen over her shoulder. He fully expected her to stiffen, to pull away and slug him right before she called him a monster, but for some reason, he didn’t care. He just had to touch her.
She didn’t do any of that. Instead, she just stood there, staring up at him, her normally easy-to-read face suddenly inscrutable to him.
“I’m goin’ to go unload the car,” he said, reluctant to leave her, but knowing it had to be done sooner or later. “Feelin’ a bit peckish, I think.”
“Oh!” The mention of food sparked the synapses in Buffy’s brain to fire, and she frowned. “If Pablo thought you were coming with Dru, does that mean there’s nothing for me to eat in the house?”
“There won’t be much,” he agreed. “Just some basics. But you can run out in the morning and pick up some supplies while I’m sleeping. Plus, I’ll give you the name of a butcher where you can go pick me up some more blood. My stocks are runnin’ low.”
“Oh. OK.” He was almost out the door when she spoke up again. “Don’t plan on getting used to being coddled, Spike. Once you’re fully rested, I fully intend to see you pulling your own weight around here.”
“Well, I plan on pullin’ something…” he responded with a chuckle, and disappeared into the hall. Thank god for English-isms and Buffy’s lack of sense when it came to them, he thought. If she knew he meant he planned on getting to her, he wasn’t sure he’d be making it through the night dustfree.
She was already curled up on the couch, changed from her clothes into shorts and a t-shirt, when he came back in from the car. “That didn’t take you long,” Spike commented as he headed for the kitchen.
“Five years of slaying and sneaking out of the house really hones your dressing speed,” she replied. “You’d be surprised at how fast I can move if I set my mind to it.”
“Promises, promises,” he murmured good-naturedly as he poured out a blood packet into one of the mugs.
“What was that?” she called from the living room.
He knew he didn’t have any real reason to be feeling this way, but somehow, Spike couldn’t shake the sense of domesticity that had settled over him ever since arriving in New Orleans. Well, since Buffy had stood up to Pablo, that is. He’d been so looking forward to prowling around his old haunts, but now, his passions seemed to be diverted elsewhere, his thoughts lingering on introducing her to some of the pleasures the city had to offer. Oh, sure, they had this business about Red to sort out, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t have fun at the same time, did it?”
“Don’t forget to write down the name of that butcher before you go to sleep,” Buffy reminded him when he emerged from the kitchen, his mug of warmed blood cupped in his hand. “And is there a map or something to help me find my way around? Playing Christopher Columbus is all well and good when you’re on vacation, but I don’t want to waste an entire day if I get lost.”
Spike gestured toward a small desk against the wall. “There’ll be touristy rigamarole in one of the drawers. Just help yourself to whatever’s there. You can always ask the locals questions, too. They’re used to it and generally can be pretty friendly about the whole matter.”
Her gaze flickered to the furniture in question before sliding back to him. “You know what I just realized?” she said. “There’s no television. What are you going to do during the day when I’m gone?”
“There is a telly. It’s in the bedroom.” He grinned. “Pablo and I go way back. He knows me pretty well so he made sure I was set up here proper, just the way I like it.” His grin softened. “And since when are you worried about me bein’ entertained outside of your presence, Slayer?”
“I’m not. It’s just…just…” She floundered for a moment, searching for a valid excuse. “A bored Spike will go looking for something to keep him busy,” she declared triumphantly. “And you and I both know that doesn’t always turn out very pretty.”
Spike chuckled. “Got me there,” he admitted. A few steps toward the bedroom, and he stopped, ducking his head to look back at the blonde. She had already stretched herself out, golden hair splayed over the large armrest, hazel eyes dancing over the immaculate furnishings. “And, Buffy?” he murmured, waiting for her to look over at him before continuing.
The fact that he’d used her given name didn’t go unnoticed by the Slayer, and she felt her heart pounding inside her chest as she looked up at him. He was etched in chiaroscuro relief against the walls, a study in shadows surprisingly resplendent. No wonder Pablo had picked this place for Spike, she thought. It suited him perfectly. All black, and white, and hard edges, and plush surprises. “What?” she said, her voice barely a breath.
His words were coated in caramel, his eyes almost ebony as the irises consumed the blue. “Don’t be thinkin’ I’ve forgotten about what I said in the car,” he warned. “There’s a lot for that beautiful head of yours to wrap itself around, but, just so you know, I plan on bein’ there when it does. Just a bit knackered right now, is all. Maybe I’m all mouth and no trousers here, but I don’t think so. Fact is, you and me both know something happened last night and it wasn’t just gettin’ yourself stuck on that vamp’s blade. It was…well…” He stopped, his tongue running over the edge of his teeth while he contemplated his next words.
“Bloody spectacular,” Buffy murmured, repeating the description he’d used when she’d pressed on the exact same issue, her gaze locked on his.
The corner of Spike’s mouth lifted to hear the awkwardness of the slang fall from her California tongue. “Yeah,” he agreed, and turned back toward the hallway, his voice trailing after him. “G’night, luv. Sleep tight.”
To be continued in Chapter 9: Footprints…