DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.  And the chapter titles are courtesy of Miles Davis.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY:  Anya has filled in the Scoobies on what she knows about the voix mortelle, suggesting it’s time for them to go to New Orleans, while Buffy and Spike have slipped from the clutches of the police by disappearing through the tunnels beneath Midnight…

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Chapter 16: Blues for Pablo

More than once, the impulse to stop moving her feet and demand that Spike tell her exactly where they were going threatened to overwhelm Buffy, rising in her muscles with an insidious lethargy that she wanted more than anything to acquiesce to.  She didn’t.  Instead, she matched every step, every hesitation, following the vampire as he wound his way through the tunnels, the splashing of their feet in the ankle-deep water the only sounds echoing throughout the cylindrical chambers.  It was only when he came to a halt before a ladder leading upwards, looking back over his shoulder with a predatory tilt of his head, that she stopped

“We’ve lost ‘em,” he commented.

She noticed then the relative quiet of the tunnel and grinned.  “And it only took ruining my new sandals with gutter spludge to do it,” she quipped.  She looked down, flexing her toes within her shoes, watching the water ripple as the digits moved.  “Nothing like raw sewage squishing between your toes to give a girl that fresh out of the gutter feeling.”

“If you’re quick about it, you can clean up while I grab our things,” Spike said.

“Too bad your so-called friends turned out to be double-crossing bastards,” she said as she reached for a ladder rung.  “I was kind of getting attached to that cottage.”

His hand on her shoulder prevented her from climbing, and Buffy turned to see him frowning at her.  “We wouldn’t be in this mess if you’d left Iris alone, or if you’d bothered to take a minute to ring me first,” he said.  His eyes were dark, and the tight grip he had on her muscle screamed out his frustrated anger louder than any words he might offer.  She shrugged him off.

“I did try to call,” she said, her voice bouncing back hollowly from the cement walls of the tunnel.  “I got a busy signal.  Which reminds me, what did Giles have to say?  Did you tell him what we found out from Pablo?”

It was Spike’s turn to look uncomfortable, and he took a step away from her, long fingers reaching up to run through his hair.  “It wasn’t the Watcher on the phone,” he said.  “And I didn’t get a chance to ring him before I was gettin’ hauled out to save your ass.”

She knew he was trying to distract her by switching the conversation back to her and Midnight, but seeing it only made her more determined to find out the truth.  Letting go of the rung, Buffy turned to face him, arms folded across her chest.  “What did you do, Spike?” she demanded, her tone clipped.

“Thought you trusted me now,” he shot back.  “Or was that little show back at Midnight just because you thought handcuffs might chafe your delicate little Slayer wrists?” 

What had happened here? Buffy thought as she watched the muscles twitch in his cheek.  The vampire was furious and somehow, she suspected that if he’d been chipless, he would’ve been venting that anger with his fists on her face.  All she’d done was ask him who he’d been on the phone with, which shouldn’t have been a big deal unless…

“You called some of your friends,” she said in disbelief.  “After I specifically asked you not to.”

“No, you ordered me not to,” Spike spat.  “And as much as I’m likin’ whatever the hell this is that’s developing between me and you, I am not your own personal Jeeves to order about as you see fit.”

“I didn’t order you!”

His eyebrow shot up.  “Funny way of askin’ then, ‘specially when you consider askin’ usually takes the form of a question instead of a bald-faced statement designed to make me feel like some kind of fledgeling.” 

“Stop making this about grammar one-oh-one---.”

“You’re right.  It’s not.  It’s about respect.  And the relative lack you give me.”

“I don’t respect you?” she queried in disbelief.  “What would give you that idea?”

“Do you not listen to yourself when you talk to people, Slayer?  You practically slapped my hand about wanting to help in finding Red!”

“I told you I trusted you!”

“Only after immediately discounting any contribution I could make while I sat about and twiddled my thumbs, waiting for you to come back.”

She stared at him, perplexed.  “Since when do you listen to me anyway?” she said.

Under his breath, Spike growled, and closed the gap between them, hands on her shoulders to yank her roughly against him.  His mouth slammed down onto hers, tongue forceful as he demanded a response, searching and seeking in a vehement lather as he poured all his frustration and desire into the caress.

She responded instantly, soft body molding to his hard one, moaning in the back of her throat as she matched his fervor with her own.  Each delicious swipe drove her closer, her fingers clutching at his hips as she instinctively ground herself against him.

Her breathing was coming in harsh rasps by the time he pulled away, and she closed her eyes as she felt him lean his forehead into hers.

“Been listenin’ since I bloody well realized I could fall in love with you, pet,” he said.  “And for a lot longer before that.”

His words froze her muscles, staying her reaction to pull away and search his face for duplicity.  Inside the wall of her ribcage, Buffy’s heart pounded, driving her blood through her veins in alternating hot and cold blasts.  Not from the fight, either.  From…oh god, had he really said it?

“You…love me?” she said, except it came out more of a croak, her voice hoarse in disbelief.  She pulled away then, desperate to see his eyes.

He mistook her withdrawal for something else.  “Didn’t say that,” Spike said, taking his own step backwards as the heat from her body suddenly seemed to dwarf the tunnel. He was backpeddling, fervently wishing he could it all back.  “Said I could, is all.  Big difference there.”

“But…you’ve thought about it?”  She hadn’t, not really, except…maybe she had.  Maybe going over and over everything that had been happening between them, watching his every little move especially when he didn’t realize she was, dwelling on analyzing each word that passed through those incredible lips of his, maybe it all was just her subconscious way of working through what conscious Buffy would probably argue was total insanity.  Because she didn’t love Spike.  She couldn’t love Spike.  That was crazy.

So was trusting him with her life.  But she’d done that.  And she was trusting Willow’s life in his hands, as well.

Maybe not so crazy.

“Have you?”  The anger was gone now, replaced with a wariness that coiled his body as if to spring.  His fingers itched to reach out to her, but Spike quelled the urge, stuffing his hands deep inside his pockets as he watched her through his lashes, smelling the rush of adrenaline seeping from her skin like an aphrodisiac to his system.

“Have I what?”

It was somewhere between a guffaw and a snort.  “Thought about it,” he said, and dared to lift his head then.  “Thought about…where this us thing is goin’.”

“Thinking’s never been my strong suit,” Buffy said slowly.  How to talk her way out of this one?  She wasn’t ready for this topic of conversation yet, but then, would she ever be ready?  “Willow’s always been the one behind the brainpower.  Me, I’m fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl.  Follow my nose wherever it leads.”

“And what’s your nose tellin’ you now?”  Spike’s feet moved him closer, stepping without even his awareness, and his eyes glittered in the dim light of the tunnel. 

“It’s telling me…that I really, really, really want to take a shower before we find a new place to stay, because smelling like the Sunnydale dump?  Not the most romantic way to be having this conversation.”  She risked stretching out a hand to poke him in the chest, hoping her joke wouldn’t set off another tirade.

It made him chuckle instead.  All right, so she was avoiding the conversation but she had a point.  Scrambling through the sewers wasn’t exactly how he’d envisaged hashing this out, either.  Spike took another step, grabbing her finger in his fist and lifting her wrist to his mouth, inhaling deeply before letting his tongue dart to lick at the pulse throbbing there.

“Funny,” he murmured.  “All I seem to be able to smell is you.”

All her attention was focused on the square inch of skin on the inside of her wrist that seemed now to house all of her nerves, and for a long moment, forgot what it was exactly they had been talking about.  When reason returned, she smiled and pulled herself away.  “That’s because I’m the only one between the two of us with the non-creepy olfactory powers,” she said lightly.  She turned, tilting her head to look up at the ascending ladder.  “Where exactly is this going to let us out?”

She didn’t even notice that he didn’t look up, his gaze fixated instead by the slender line of her neck as it stretched.  He was telling the truth.  All he really could smell was her, and it was eating him up that he couldn’t just prop her up on the rungs and take her right there.  Though part of him wished he’d just kept his mouth shut, there was another, not so quiet, part of him that was whooping with joy that it was out there.  Hard to avoid what was hanging there right in front of your face; even the insight-challenged Slayer wouldn’t be able to not address it sooner or later.

His cock strained within his jeans, and he shifted his weight to alleviate the stress.  They’d get their stuff, find a nice hotel somewhere, and spend the afternoon shagging before they went and found Red tonight.  Yeah, that was a good plan.  He could back a plan like that.

“I’m going to say, in the alley behind the house,” he said in response to her question, finally glancing upward.  “Provided I didn’t get us turned around in these tunnels.”

“I’m not even going to consider that that happened,” Buffy replied.  “You stay here.  If it’s the house, I’ll grab a blanket so you don’t get all toasty.  If it’s not, well, I don’t know what, but we’ll think about that later.  OK?”

Before he could say anything, Buffy grabbed on to the rungs and pulled herself up the ladder.  He stood back as she heaved the manhole cover aside, allowing the sunshine to stream down inside the dank tunnel, carefully avoiding any unnecessary burns.  She was only gone for a moment, her blonde head quickly poking down inside the hole as she thrust a blanket he recognized from his car toward him.

“Keep quiet,” she said in a low voice.  “We’ve got company.”

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

He was in the kitchen when Buffy slid open the doors from the lanai, humming under his breath as he rummaged around in the refrigerator.  Though she was silent as she slipped inside, their surprise entrance was spoiled by Spike’s furious stomping as he darted past her, the blanket firmly alight over his shoulders as he whipped it to the tiled floor.

Pablo’s head popped over the refrigerator door, pink eyes wider than she had ever seen them as he stood, frozen, staring at the blonds in the living room.

Buffy rolled her eyes.  “So much for stealthy.”

Her voice jerked the demon from immobility, and he came scurrying into the room to greet them.  “Spike!  What the hell happened to you back there?  I was waiting, and then I heard the sirens, and then---.”  His words became a gurgle as Spike grabbed hold of his throat and slammed him into the wall, pinning him there very much like he had the previous night.  “Spike,” he croaked, limbs flailing as he struggled to free himself.  “Man, what’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?  What’s wrong?”  Flecks of amber danced in the vampire’s eyes.  “Let’s just say I get a little brassed off when I get stabbed in the back.  That’s what’s wrong.”

His free hand shot out, his fist slamming into Pablo’s gut, forcing out what little air the demon already had.  “I swear!  I didn’t---.”  Another punch silenced him, forcing him to gulp for air as his scales began to shade to a pale pink that matched his eyes.

“Spike.” 

Her calm voice made him pause before he could hit him again, and the vampire turned to see a resolute Buffy staring back at him. “I’m kind of in the middle of something here, luv,” he said.

“Don’t kill him.”

“Yeah, Spike, don’t kill me,” Pablo croaked desperately, trying to nod his head but failing miserably against the vise of the vampire’s hand.  “Listen to your girlfriend.  She’s a smart one.  She’s with you, isn’t she?”

Spike ignored his captive’s pleas to gape at Buffy in disbelief.  “Are you kidding me?  I’m goin’ to shred this guy into tiny little pieces and feed them to those sewer rats we got so chummy with over the past half hour.  Wanker sold us out to Iris.”

“No, not the rats!” Pablo pleaded.  “C’mon!  I told you what happened after Kimmy dragged me to go see that Ben movie!”

Buffy rolled her eyes.  “I just meant, don’t kill him yet.”  She turned her expectant gaze to the pinned demon.  “Not until I get a shot at him.”

Spike grinned, his teeth catching the tip of his tongue in glee.  “Well, now that’s more like it,” he said, and tossed the demon toward her.

She caught him with ease, and shifted her weight to throw him to her other side, watching in dismay as he fell into the baby grand.  “So much for an encore performance of last night,” she said, striding forward to slam the lid down on his legs where they lay tangled in the wires.

Pablo howled in pain.  “Get your girlfriend off me, Spike,” he whined.

The vampire shook his head.  “No can do, mate.  She’s got you bang to rights on this one.  You pissed her off, you pissed me off, and all because you had to throw a spanner into the works with Iris.”  He shook his head in mock dismay.  “You should know better than to try to fuck with me.  I’m a helluva lot more dangerous than that bitch, and you know it.”

“But, you and me, we go back, old friend, old buddy, old pal.  Remember the good ol’ days?  Remember you and me and Dru and Kimmy and the whole debutante ball extravaganza---?”

“God, doesn’t he ever shut up?” Buffy complained.  She wasn’t even fazed by Pablo’s struggles as he fought to right himself.  “He makes Xander look like Marcel Marceau.”

Spike looked thoughtful, his head tilted as he gazed at their hostage.  “S’long as he’s talkin’, luv, I’m thinkin’ we might be able to get him to say something useful for a change.”

“Useful!”  Pablo latched on to the word.  “I can be useful!  Tell me what you want.  Anything.  Just name it.”

“Tell us about this thing Iris has going on tonight then,” Buffy said.

He immediately stopped his struggles.  “I’m not that useful,” he said, only to yelp as she shoved the lid down even harder against him.

“You’re tryin’ to tell us the Hedda Hopper of the New Orleans set doesn’t know about one of the city’s biggest player’s getting her groove on with this Stella bird?”  Spike snorted.  “You’re a lousy liar, mate.”

“I’m telling you, I know nothing!”

A thoughtful look softened Buffy’s features.  “Some of those sewer rats were pretty big, weren’t they?” she commented to her partner.  “I’d bet they might be able to get him to talk.  Well, before they ate out his tongue, that is.”

Pablo screeched in fright, setting off a cacophony from the hammers inside the piano as he tried to shrink away from the Slayer’s hands.

“Now,” Buffy said casually as she watched him writhe, “let’s stop channelling Sergeant Schultz, and try this again.”  She lifted the lid of the piano slightly, only to push it back down with a greater force.  “What do you know about what Iris is up to tonight?”

“All I know is that it’s out of town,” Pablo wheezed between pants.  His scales had shaded to a washed-out red, a combination of fear, pain, and his brief oxygen deprivation taking its toll on his body.  His eyes darted from Buffy to the lounging form of Spike behind her, watching as the vampire pulled his cigarettes from his coat pocket and lit one up. 

She sighed.  “I think Old El Paso here needs some encouragement,” Buffy said.  “You watch him.  I’m going to go rat-catching.”

She didn’t even get turned around before he was shrieking, “At a swamp!  It’s at a swamp!  Out of town like I said!  Iris told me she was closing Midnight for the night because she wanted to be there personally to watch the festivities.”

“Speaking of tall, blonde, and bitchy,” Buffy said.  “What did she say to you?  Why did she send the cops after us?”

He looked at her as if it was the stupidest question in the world.  “You broke into her club.”

She rolled her eyes.  “I know that.  But why drag Spike into it?  Obviously, she used you to get him down there.  Why go to all the fuss?”

“Been curious to hear the answer to this one myself,” Spike said, and sauntered forward to stand at Buffy’s side.

Pablo shook his head.  “I don’t know.”

The two blonds looked at each other.  “Now, why don’t I believe him?” Spike asked.  Without breaking his gaze from the Slayer, he lifted his hand with the cigarette and placed the burning tip against the scaled demon’s forehead, holding it there as it sizzled, the stench of singed scales permeating the cooled air.

“Ow!  Ow!  Ow!  I’ll tell you!  Ow!  Get it off!”  He glared up at the vampire as he casually stuck the filter back into his mouth, puffing at it with a strong suck before exhaling the smoke directly into Pablo’s face.

“So, I’m going to ask again,” she said nonchalantly.  “Why go to all the fuss?”

The battle between his pain and his fear warred across his features, and his lips pulled back into a snarl.  “If you have to know,” he growled, “she said you two would mess everything up.  She wanted to make sure you were locked up nice and tight and out of the way while whatever’s happening out at the swamp played out.”  He glared at them.  “I’ve told you everything I know.  Can I go now?”

She ignored his plea and turned to Spike.  “I don’t suppose you’re an expert on outlying swamps, too,” she said.

He shrugged.  “Can think of two off-hand.”  His eyes flickered to Pablo.  “Where’s Iris pulling her little party?” 

The demon’s mumbled response prompted another shove of the piano lid and he repeated his reply, barking it in a louder, sharper cry.  “Sira Sommeil, Sira Sommeil.  Are you happy now?”

Buffy looked at her partner expectantly, and smiled when he nodded.  “Yep,” she chirped.  “Much better.”

Pablo’s gaze settled on Spike.  “I guess you outdid yourself this time,” he commented.  “She’s as crazy a bitch as Dru ever was.”

“Hey!”  Indignation sharpened her voice, and her fist shot out automatically, slamming into his unsuspecting face, driving it back against the piano to shatter the frame he was leaning against.  Pablo’s eyes rolled back into his head, his lids fluttering closed, and all his muscles went lax at once.

She waited for a long moment, staring at the unconscious demon.  “Oops,” Buffy finally said.  “Guess that means show and tell is officially over.”  She looked at Spike.  “Do you know what we need to know to get to this whatchamacallit tonight?”

He nodded.  “We need to get out of here before we get any more surprise visitors,” he said.  “No tellin’ how long it’s goin’ to take Iris to figure out we’re not in jail and send her guys after us.  You go grab a quick shower.  I’ll keep an eye on Pablo here and make sure he doesn’t come around and try and sneak away.”

Buffy pivoted on her heel and was halfway across the room before she stopped.  “Just for reference, you’re not planning on killing him, are you?” she queried.  “Not that I’m against it, but he’s not really a menace to us anymore, is he?”

He contemplated the decision for a moment and then shook his head.  “I think it’s better we let him live,” Spike replied.  “He can let the other demons in town we mean business and not to try and fuck with us again.”

She had crossed back to him before he realized it, taking his face between her hands and pulling him down for a hard kiss.  He was startled, but quickly eased into it, letting his hands slide around back to pull her against him.

“We make a pretty good tag team,” Buffy breathed when she finally pulled away.          

His face nuzzled into her neck, inhaling her scent.  “That, we do,” Spike murmured.

The cool line of his cheekbone stroked her jaw as he seemed to burrow into her flesh, and Buffy felt the familiar rise of goosebumps prickle her bare arms, her mouth watering for another of those kisses that seemed to make her forget where she was, what her purpose was.  It took her a moment to realize that the feeling that was swelling within her chest was awe, a stunned wonder at what had just happened with the vampire.

He’d deliberately chosen not to kill Pablo.  His argument about letting him live as an example was a weak one; even she knew that.  And yet, he’d not balked, or questioned her indirect decision.  The ramifications of what that meant spread further than she knew he realized, and she felt one of the weights of worry that had been troubling her dissipate.

Her mouth lifted to his ear.  “Just for the record,” Buffy murmured, her breath warm, tickling the fine whorls.   “I have thought about it.”

She didn’t stay for his reaction, but broke from his embrace to sprint for the bathroom.  It was hard enough admitting the words.  She wasn’t sure she had the fortitude to face the consequences of what it might mean for him to hear them.

He was left with his skin tingling, the heat of her body still warming his.  Slowly, the smile spread across Spike’s face, and he sat down on the still-intact piano bench, leaning against the keys as he listened to the shower start up.  Maybe not so insight-challenged, he thought happily.  Just needs the proper persuasion to face up to it.  Whoever would’ve thought that that persuasion might be me…?

 

To be continued in Chapter 17: That’s What Happened