DISCLAIMER: Everything but the plot is Joss'. Too bad.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy has spent the night in Spike's crypt, while Giles has enjoyed the company of Cortina…

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

Chapter 4: Beneath Thy Power

She watched him as he slid the robe from his shoulders, his back to her, and smiled lazily as he so carefully returned it to its hook on the bedroom door. "Just once, I'd like to see you be so dazzled by my presence that you forget you're British for a minute and leave your robe on the floor like a normal human being."

Giles glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, the twinkle in the blue depths unmistakeable. "And since when do you know so much about being a normal human, o she of the mystical demon realm?" he teased.

Cortina laughed as he slid back under the blankets, draping one leg over his thigh, allowing her skin to brush against the satin firmness of his semi-erect cock. "You live a few hundred years around mortals, and then we'll talk about who knows what."

He stared up at the ceiling, feeling her fingers skate across his stomach. "I believe that's the first time I've thought about that," he mused.

"Thought about what?"

"Your age," he clarified. "The things you must have seen…the history you've witnessed…it's really quite intriguing to consider the possibilities." His head turned, a small smile on his lips. "I suppose it would be far too gauche to ask exactly how old you are."

"Suffice it to say…older than you." Her eyes danced in amusement. "Don't tell me I'm your first older woman," she accused lightly.

His laughter was immediate. "Oh, god, no," he said. "In fact, I lost my…" His voice trailed off, glancing at her expectant gaze before clearing his throat. "Never mind."

"Well, then…" She rolled herself on top of him, straddling his hips, as she sat up. "I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with being your first demon." His blush and the quick ducking of his eyes caused Cortina's jaw to drop in genuine surprise. "Rupert Giles! Will wonders never cease…"

"She wasn't a…demon, per se," he protested. "Just…not human."

Her white hair trailed over his bare chest as she leaned down, hands pressed to his shoulders as she supported her weight, small even teeth nipping at his throat. "Someone's a very bad boy," she murmured, feeling him swell between her thighs.

"Actually, I've been told I'm quite good," Giles replied, unable to hide his smile as he went along with her teasing.

"And we don't have to worry about going into work today?" Cortina asked, her bites travelling across his shoulder to his upper arms.

"No." The air caught in his lungs as her wetness glided over his erection, all rational thought temporarily banished. "Anya…ummmm…I told her…"

"…to watch the shop?" she finished for him, the words no more than breath in his ear.

"Yes." Mustering his last reserve of strength, Giles wrapped his arms around Cortina's torso, flipping her sideways and back onto the bed, his long body pressing her down into the mattress. "We've got all day…"

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

The flames crackled in the fireplace, casting claret-colored shadows across the floral wallpaper of the drawing room, the tiny revenants dancing in solemn glee as he watched her glide across the floor with the silver tray balanced carefully in her delicate hands.

"More tea, William?" she asked, and the familiar lilt of her voice constricted his throat, the barely repressed shivers in his skin escalating to tremors that were difficult to mask. Fuck.

"If I've told you once, I've told you a million times," he growled, refusing to look up into those oh-so-familiar blue eyes. "It's Spike now."

"Hmm, yes, you have." He heard her settle in the chair opposite, the long length of her skirt impossible not to notice as it billowed out around her. "You're certainly in a…curious temper this evening. Do you want to discuss what's vexing you so?"

"Since when is this about talkin'?" he muttered. "Let's just get this on and get it over with."

Her gentle tsk seemed to boom throughout the room, and Spike couldn't help but sneak a look at her out of the corner of his eye. The soft brown hair curling around her temples, just a hint of grey beginning to tinge an occasional strand…the fine lines around the eyes…even the small bend in her nose…it was the details that made it so hard, knowing that it was so close and yet… "You're not even her," he said, his gaze returning to the fire before him, losing himself in its hypnotic power. Don't look, don't look, don't bloody look, he chanted silently. Seeing her face, knowing what he knew…it made the memories of watching Buffy with Daymon at the beginning of the ritual feel like Christmas.

"I've arranged for us to be alone tonight," she said, ignoring his disavowal. "I thought you'd be pleased."

And it appeared in his hands, just as it had every other time, hot and steaming, the rich scent that normally made his mouth water turning his stomach to lead. The sensation of his own heartbeat as it pounded within the walls of his chest---growing all too-familiar---pulsed down his arms, making the fine china rattle against the saucer, and his knuckles grew white as he tightened his grip, wishing and praying that the soddin' tremors would just stop. Relax, relax…and then there it went, the fragile cup shattering in his grasp, the crimson fluid spilling to obscure the tiny roses painted along the edge of the porcelain, his own blood mingling with the drink as the shards sliced into his palms.

"Fuck," he muttered, and reached for the cloth at his side, knowing as he did so that it wouldn't make a difference.

"Now, William, what have I told you about using such language in my house?" Her tone had hardened, and Spike raised his head to look at her, the pain in his hand forgotten, drowning in the celestial shade of her aspect as he found himself rooted to his seat. "I'm afraid you leave me no choice…" The dagger appeared in her lithe grip---again, always again---and he braced himself for the punishment it would deliver, mesmerized by the wont of its arc as it sent splinters of refracted candlelight scattering across the deadness of her eyes…

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

She'd give just about anything for a mirror right now. Don't know what you expect, she chastised herself, running the comb through her damp hair. The vamp's got no reflection; what does he need a mirror for?

Still, if she was going to be spending time at the crypt, Buffy was going to need to get one, along with a couple other amenities to make the place more human-friendly. Maybe some curtains, as she hummed distractedly under her breath. And definitely some decent movies to watch when nothing's on TV. No way am I sitting through any more Passions.

The Slayer giggled. Wonder how long it would take him to notice if she tossed his tape collection out the window? Just had to make sure to do it during the day so that he'd have to wait until the sun went down before he could get them. That might actually be a fun game, and it would keep her Passions-free during hours when their extra-curricular options were more on the limited side.

Buffy glanced at the watch on her wrist. Twelve-thirty. No wonder she was hungry. And Giles was so going to kill her for being late for training. Downstairs, Spike was still asleep, and though she could've used a few more hours of shuteye herself, she knew she had to get up and actually do something with her day. Even if it meant braving the storm that still raged outside.

Going out, though, meant one thing; she had to find her shoes. No way was she in the mood for mud splodging between her toes, probably with vamp dust thrown into the mix for good measure. A quick survey around the crypt told her what she already knew---that her boots were still downstairs---and with a sigh, Buffy headed for the ladder. Not that seeing Spike one more time before she left was a bad thing, she thought. But if he wakes up, I'm going to be screwed 'cause I'll never get out of here.

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

She heard him before her foot had left the ladder, the soft whimper in the back of his throat that hooked into her stomach with icy claws, and immediately Buffy's senses tuned into the blond vampire on the bed, eliminating the space between them in two quick steps, clambering to kneel at his side.

"Spike!" she hissed, hands on his shoulders. "Wake up!" She shook him, gently at first, then with increasing force, watching with growing dismay as he refused to respond. What she wouldn't do to be inside his head right now, to be able to help him fight down whatever it was that was gripping him so. But no. Buffy was stuck on the outside, minus their normal connection, with only her voice and her two hands to get him to snap out of it.

"Spike!" she shouted again, this time lashing out with a quick right to his jaw, mentally noting to apologize to him later for having to hit him. She saw his lids flutter, the frown beginning to furrow his brow, and placed her hands back on his shoulders. "Wake up!"

"What the…?" Spike blinked against the light, scowling. "Fuck, Buffy. I'm trying to sleep here."

"No, you're trying to have a nightmare there," she retorted, sitting back on her heels.

The faint flashes as it started to come back to him caused the vampire's hand to unconsciously clench, and he fell back onto his pillow, closing his eyes in an attempt to clear his head. Don't worry her, don't let her know about the dreams, he thought and quickly focussed his mind elsewhere, anywhere, just as long as she didn't…

They both heard it at the same time, the footsteps softly treading across the floor above them, and simultaneously looked up at the ceiling, as if by doing so, they could see through it and discover who the new arrival was. Correction. Arrivals. Very much a plural.

"You expecting company?" Buffy whispered.

Spike snorted. "One of these days, you're goin' to realize that's a really daft question," he replied, and reached for his pants.

"I don't suppose you have any weapons down here?"

He couldn't help the grin. "Yeah. You."

She rolled her eyes. "How about something pointy?" she asked, but even as his mouth opened to respond, that smirking glint shining in his blue eyes, she held up her hand to cut him off. "You are not about to go there."

Together, the pair ducked into the corner, away from the entrance from above, hiding in the depths of the shadows so that the intruders would be surprised should they come down. "You could be lucky," Buffy murmured. "Maybe they just want to rob you."

"Bloody well hope not," Spike muttered. "Took me forever to nick all that stuff."

The first landed with an almost silent thud, his back to the pair, the weapon in his hands trained on the empty space in front of him. Immediately, the vampire stiffened. Human.

She caught the thought just as she darted forward, foot connecting with the newcomer's back to send him reeling forward. Human meant she was on her own here; Spike's chip wasn't going to help in this kind of fight. Not that it was much of a battle. In the space of a single blink, Buffy leapt over the man's head, landing in front of him as he stumbled to regain his balance, and had wrenched the weapon from his grasp, using it to butt him in the face.

Spike watched as he went down like a rock, his smile automatic as he watched the Slayer reach gracefully for the foot of the second man, yanking him down through the hole and tossing him against the wall like a tightly rolled newspaper, adding him to her unconscious body count. Every move was like liquid fire, executed with deadly accuracy in a grace that made his mouth water. God, he loved watching her fight.

Buffy cocked her head, sliding against the wall as she listened to the remaining tread overhead. Hazel eyes remained locked on the hole in the ceiling, and as two booted feet came to rest on the ladder, she yanked on its side, dislodging it from its placement so that the third intruder came crashing to a heap on the floor before her. One carefully aimed kick, and it was officially Buffy, three…intruders, none.

"Who've you pissed off now?" the Slayer asked as she circled the three men, tying them to the post for interrogation later on.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Spike replied, arms folded across his bare chest. But he knew. And in spite of his efforts to the contrary, he couldn't keep the words from floating across his brain. Bloody Council...

She stiffened as if burned, head whipping around to stare at him, eyes blazing. "The Council?" she said. "What could they…?"

"Bugger," he muttered, ducking his head as he ran lean fingers through his hair. When he tried to step away, though, Buffy's hand shot out, wrapping around his arm in a steel vise, forcing him to turn back and look at her. "Look," he started, "I told him I wouldn't say anythin'…"

"Giles." Her voice was glacial, and he could feel the anger radiating from her in icy slivers. "Why the hell did he keep this from me?" she demanded.

"'Cause he bloody well knew you had enough on your plate without havin' to add me to it!" Spike shot back. "I'm not such a whelp that I can't take care of myself, y'know."

Buffy folded her arms across her chest. "Oh, because you're so good at defending yourself against humans, right?" she said, and shook her head. "Get dressed."

"Why?"

"Because we're going to go see Giles."

He looked point blank at their three hostages before turning an annoyed azure gaze back to the Slayer. "There are so many problems with that, I don't even know where to start," he snarked.

"They're not going anywhere---."

"---not to mention it's daytime---."

"So, we'll take the tunnels." Her jaw was firm. "I have a few choice words for both of you."

"How 'bout you give me mine here and go skip along to Rupert on your own?" Spike offered. "'Cause if I show up there with you, he's goin' to know somethin's up." He paused. "We're goin' to have to tell him about…you know…" He hoped that was enough to convince her not to drag him along. Nothing about this could turn out good if he went.

"You can either get dressed on your own like a good little vamp," Buffy said, "or I'll dress you myself and drag your ass out of here. Your choice." The look in her eyes was immutable as she waited for him to respond, his t-shirt dangling from her fingers.

"Bitch," he muttered, yanking the piece of cotton from her hand. He loved the stubborn bint, but sometimes she got him so mad, he felt like tearing her throat out. And this, knowing how fucked up this was going to make everything, definitely qualified as one of those moments.

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

They were both soaking wet as they stood in front of Giles' door, the rain pelting their skin until it pocked in protest. "Hurry it up," Spike growled from under his steaming blanket, watching as Buffy pounded on the wood for a third time. He wasn't happy about being out in the storm, and this traipsing around Sunnydale was starting to erode his last nerve. You couldn't have been at the shop, could you, Rupert, he thought irritably. No, you had to call in sick, and make me drag my ass over here. Hope you're in there puking your guts out.

Buffy frowned. "You don't think he's too sick to answer the door, do you?" she asked.

"Who bloody cares?" he snarled. "Just get me in there before you have to sweep me in there!"

Biting her lip, she grasped the doorknob, expecting to feel the lock beneath her grip, only to be surprised when it easily twisted in her hand.

Spike pushed past her into the apartment's interior, oblivious to his surroundings as he dropped the blanket to the floor and began stamping out the flames. Buffy's entrance behind him was slower, and she felt her skin crawl as she surveyed the room, the pieces slowly begin to fall into place.

"Giles?" she called, walking past the chair that was knocked askew, eyes glancing at the claw marks that trailed down the wall. The apartment was silent, the only sound audible her own heartbeat, and the Slayer rushed forward, disappearing down the hall.

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

He lay in a huddled heap behind the door, and Buffy had to push against him in order to get inside. Blood stained his forehead, clumping his eyebrows into a sodden mass, and his knuckles were torn, the skin ragged shreds from the blows she imagined he'd thrown. Giles groaned as she rolled him over, propping his head onto her lap, his eyes flickering open to stare up at her.

"What happened?" she asked. "Are you OK?"

"Cortina…" he murmured, and tried to twist his head to gaze over at the bed.

Buffy looked up, around the empty room, before settling her worried eyes back on her Watcher's face. "She's not here," she said. "What happened?"

Her announcement seemed to drain what fuel he had, and the older man slumped against her arm. "They…took her…"

"Who? Who took her?"

"Your bleedin' Council."

Buffy's head swivelled to stare at Spike in the doorway. "How do you know that?" she asked the vampire.

"They left their calling card," he replied, and tossed the weapon to the ground before her.

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

The storm guided the way, carving their path through the city that housed the Hellmouth, offering temptation along the way but harboring no doubt as to where the true bounty lie…or rather, bounties, as the voices called to them in a harmonious unison that was impossible to resist. Through the streets…allowing the wind to carry them…whispering their thrill at the festivities to come.

The trail diverged, splintering between black and white, and for a moment, they hesitated, unsure as to which to follow, knowing that either would be pleasurable but unable to choose which should be first. In the end, they opted for the shorter path, their eagerness overwhelming their reason, and sailed along on the air's currents, their hunger growing, threatening to better their judgment.

They swarmed around the house, dancing with the gales, delighting when the tall blonde rushed from her SUV to the front door, only to follow her in as she struggled to close it behind her. Their glee quickly dissipated, however, as they were greeted with an empty plate, the dwelling bereft of the promised feast. Dismay dissolved into anger, and the uninvited guests began to grumble. They were hungry. They had come to feed. If they were to be denied their treat, then they would have to satisfy themselves with what was on hand.

They followed her into the living room, attracted by her radiance, not as bright as the one they desired but delectable just the same, and, as she settled herself onto the couch, dozens of invisible eyes drank in the sight of their next meal…


To be continued in Chapter 5: Dark Wintry Bed