Cold

Cold

By Kassto

Rating: NC17
Pairing: Spike/Buffy
Summary: Buffy catches cold. Spike mixes the drinks.
Notes: Written for April Ď04 Spuffyficathon. Set: BtVS, season 6, immediately post Tabula Rasa.
Thanks: To ezagaaikwe. Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me. Only the words do.

***

ONE

HE pulled her head back by the hair and dipped one hand in the fountain, not so much splashing but spreading cool water over her face and forehead and the edges of her hair. She gasped and spat water at him and grabbed his arm hard.

"Jesus, Spike, what the hell are you doing? You idiot. Iím all wet." She rubbed at her face with the inside of her elbow.

"Just cooling you down, Slayer. You were getting a bit overheated there."

She went still. He had no right to go there. He shouldnít talk about it. "Speak for yourself," she snapped.

"And you keep your naughty thoughts to yourself. I mean youíre feverish ..."

Her shoulders sagged and she hugged herself. "God, I donít know how the hell I caught a cold. I never get colds. Iím a very, very healthy person."

His eyes smiled a little bit. "Well, pet, much as I would have loved to have infected you with something, this is one thing you canít lay on me. Youíll have to find some human to blame. Iím as pure and germ-free as the driven ..."

"Yeah, the driven dirt. Youíre so sweet and clean."

"I'll have you know I wash a lot, Slayer. I am sweet and clean. Some vamps, you know, you must've smelt 'em -- they're like a dead dog that winos have been pissing on for a week.''

Buffy thought about Spike in a shower with water and soap and started drifting. She gave her head a shake. He was right -- there were many offensive things about Spike, but his grooming wasn't one of them. But God, what was she doing talking with him anyway, after.... she had to get away, clear her head. Having him so close just confused her. This whole day, the last two days, had been insane. First the singing and truth-telling and nearly catching fire. Then -- with the rising music -- sheíd kissed Spike. And something had caught fire then.

But whatís the first thing a girl should do when somethingís on fire? Put it out, put it out. California was high fire risk -- it was ingrained. So sheíd run straight to the fountain, shivering with strange tremors, and jumped straight in. Something else her mother wasnít there to remind her about -- donít walk home in wet clothes. So sheíd caught a cold.

The lunacy only heightened today -- Willowís mental meltdown turning them into a freakís version of the Waltons. God, how lame were Joan and Randy? What a sweet little team they were! In the middle of smacking down vamps, theyíd found time for straddling and a philosophical debate on why they got on so well. How weird was that? It was all Gilesís fault. How could he leave her? Couldnít he see how incompetent she was, how useless they all were? Why did he have to go now? Was she that unlovable?

And now she was back at this stupid fountain again and her sinuses were exploding and her head throbbed, and she needed a hot shower and drugs, with pints of lemonade to wash them down.

And now she couldnít look at Spike because he was standing over her and just buzzing with intense... something... and there was his mouth -- the mouth that had been on hers just 15 minutes earlier, while the lights of the Bronze swam around them and left them in their little pool of dark under the stairs. She remembered how his face had been in half-shadow but the jewel-coloured lights limned the edges of his hair like fire. His eyes had been almost closed and his body so full of tension, that if heíd let go of her, he would have crashed all over the nightclub, smashing and bashing everything in his way.

Everything about him had been taut, except the mouth, which had been supple and demanding and soft, all at once. And the kisses had held her upright but also made her feel like she was tipping and falling and falling. And she couldnít feel like that. Because the last time she fell, every time she fell --someone ended up dead.

But there sheíd been, at the Bronze, right up in Spikeís face, with all her nerve ends screeching "stop" and "go" and "stop" and "go", until sheíd felt like her head was exploding.

Then, all of a sudden, it had exploded. Sheíd pulled away from him and bent double in a mighty sneeze. Heíd taken half a step back, bitten his bottom lip and snorted -- a half laugh. Heíd lifted the hem of his black t-shirt, showing a stretch of pale stomach, and wiped her sticky hands and face. God, how he had done that -- heíd been showing off, showing off his body, wiping her with his clothes while they were still on him, pulling his shirt up and flashing body at her.

So now she couldnít look at him -- his sheer physicality would knock her over and leave her sprawled and grovelling. And how sick and tired she felt, in far too many ways to count.

She was sitting looking at her hands and he was standing over her. "Sorry for kissing you," she muttered.

He took a step backwards. "Whaa....? You think you have to apologise to me for that! It was... it was...." His voice dropped to a whisper. "It was wild, Slayer. Your mouthís where I want to be. I donít want to be anywhere else. Iíll stay there forever."

She covered her face with her hands, embarrassed and frightened. "Iíve got to get home, Spike. NOW...... Look, Iíll talk to you later." She launched off from the fountainís concrete seat, hoping the momentum would get her at least out of his sight before she started to stagger.

TWO

SPIKE took his time, gauging it so he would just catch her at her door, but close enough in case some beastie tried to take advantage. The mood the Slayer was in, though, if some thing did try something, sheíd probably smack it into another dimension while blowing her nose. Snuffling and pathetic, but casually violent, too.

All was not well at 1630 Revello Drive. Despite the late hour, Dawn was snivelling on the back step, the doors were wide open, the lights blazing, and Willow was holed up in the bathroom.

Buffy stomped in the door and rubbed the heels of her hands against her forehead as if that would make everything go away. She couldnít bear it. Couldnít anyone be grown up? Where was Tara? What the hell was Dawn doing up? Pressure built up in her chest and she felt like she might scream or faint.

"Dawn. Get to bed. RIGHT NOW." Her voice was cracking and harsh.

Her little sister flung an elbow at her, her face scrunched up in misery, and hurled herself up the stairs. Buffy heard slow thudding from the bathroom, then the sound of Dawnís high-pitched complaint: "Willow -- I need to go. Open the door."

Why couldnít they just SHUT UP? She collapsed on the sofa and held two cushions over her head, not noticing Spike lurking at the door. "Ah, Slayer.... just nipping home for something."

"What?" she muttered indistinctly, then closed her eyes.

***

"Hey, witchypoo! Out of the bathroom! Get. In five seconds Iíll be kicking the door in."

Dawn wiped her nose on her sleeve. She looked terrible -- face puffy and red. "Thatís right -- wreck the house even more, Spike," she said ungraciously.

"Shut up, Niblet. You lot all need sorting out. Youíre bloody hopeless."

"Well, what are you going to do?"

"Give you all a kick up the bum, thatís what. Canít you see the Slayerís sick? And what do you lot do to help? Sit around snivelling and complaining."

"Youíre no help either. You havenít even been round here for weeks." Under the teenage attitude, she was clearly hurt she hadnít seen him. Spike said nothing. It was too much trying to look after two Summers sisters at once. It was one or the other. And it was the other.

Willow emerged, hiding her face behind her falling hair. "You might as well know that Taraís left me," she said. "Thatís what you do when your girlfriend leaves you -- you hog the bathroom." She spoke with mannered jauntiness, her eyes glinting up from under her lashes.

"Well, kid sis here needs to brush her teeth and have a pee, so itís time to cry somewhere else."

Willow looked up. Her face was a pale mask. She stared at Spike. "And who died and made you Jahweh, Spike? I didnít think Buffy was exactly inviting you round these days."

"At least Iím not fucking with peopleís heads like you do twice a week. Not surprised your girl took a hike. Shouldnít have to put up with that kind of crap."

A fuddled voice reached them up the stairs. "Spike. Donít swear in front of Dawn."

Willow sneered. "Youíre dreaming if you think youíre welcome back in this house. You think youíre pals with us still because of the summer. Well, dream on. You were just convenient. Looked after little Dawnie for us while we got on with the big stuff. Why donít you just go crawl back under the rock you came from?"

She looked levelly at him, registering the hit, then turned and trod off to her room on silent bare feet.

Dawnís mouth fell open. What had happened to the sweet wiccas who had cuddled her in their little clouds of incense and scented oils? Tara was gone and now Willow was..... gone too.

"Fucking bitch," Spike muttered under his breath, then: "Dawn, into bed. Do you want a cocoa?"

***

She opened one eye as he plonked himself at the other end of the sofa. "Got drinkies for you, Slayer," he said, swinging between thumb and forefinger the hip flask heíd taken a detour home for.

"God, no," she croaked. "No whisky. No, no. Not ever again."

"Hang on, hang on, you donít know what...."

"Spike. You didnít see me after our night on the town. There was vomiting. So much vomiting. And then Giles gave me a cheque...." Her eyes went shut again.

"Giles gave you a cheque. Uh-huh. Right. Youíve always been the queen of the non-sequitur, Slayer, and sometimes I can follow those yawning mental leaps, but this one...."

"Iím sick. Donít pick on me. Everyone thinks Iím dumb."

"No picking, just drinking. Donít worry -- Iím not gonna force the strong stuff down your throat. Just a special little potion for a girl with a cold. Hot toddy. Works a treat. Got honey in the cupboard?"

He disappeared into the kitchen and she heard cupboard doors slamming and the jug boiling. He came back with one of Joyceís nice cups and saucers in his big hand. "Take little sips. Itís pretty hot."

She sat up with her knees up to her chin and the little drink balanced on top of them. "Thanks," she whispered. "Youíre being nice." She couldnít look at him but took tiny sips from the steamy cup. The drink was thick with honey and lemon and the belt of whisky sent streams of lazy warmth from her stomach to her head and limbs. "Youíre being very nice."

"So you said, Slayer." He was nearly whispering too. "Gotta get you on your feet. Canít let the nasties think youíre out of action again."

Her mouth tightened and her voice picked up a touch of bitterness. "Yeah, yeah. Gotta keep the Slayer in action. Otherwise everything falls apart. Iíll be up and about as soon as you can shake an axe at me."

"No, no," he said. "íS not what I meant. Just want you to feel better. --- Hey, pass over your foot." His cool flesh was buzzing all over with sensation at them being so close, so gentle, caught in this little secret cocoon on the sofa. What was happening? He had no idea, tried not to second-guess it. Was just playing it by ear.

She pressed herself back against her end of the sofa and tentatively pushed a foot towards him. He unzipped her boot and pulled it off, and the sock after it. He took her hot little foot in his cool hands and squeezed hard around the edges of her sole and she winced at the crampy pleasure of it.

He shrugged off his leather coat, then picked up her foot again, examining the pink toenails for a moment. Then he stretched her leg out, and tucked the sole of her foot against his armpit, grabbed her calf and flexed her leg at the knee, just gently rocking it back and forth. It was a strange thing to do, Buffy thought, but very soothing -- only not soothing as the little rocking motion teased and pulled at her groin again and again. She tried not to shiver too obviously and half closed her eyes.

Spike tried hard not to look at the crotch of her jeans, even though he was facing that way. He knew if heíd had enough blood in his veins, it would all be burning in his face right now. "Buffy," he said, in a cracked voice -- but just as he was about to move closer, she went rigid then folded up in a series of violent sneezes.

"Thereís a box of tissues up in the bathroom. Could you...."

He took longer than she thought. What was he up to? She was so nervous, heart pounding, nose streaming, glad heíd disappeared, but desperate for him back. Down he came and disappeared into the kitchen. There was a sharp crackling sound from the microwave. "Shit!" she heard, and more mutterings and noises.

Finally he emerged. "Mind if I turn some of these lights off? Bit glare-y in here." Both of them were jumpy about what dimming the lights meant. Buffy sat in a little pool of lamplight on the sofa, huddled in her rug, blowing noisily into a tissue. He laid a little bowl on the coffee table and dropped a towel over the back of the sofa, then knelt in front of her, looking her straight in the eye. He smoothed her hair back from her forehead with a firm hand, stroking it back again and again. She was a nervous filly -- needed a firm hand to calm her down. No nervy, tickly little touches.

She felt it too, leaned into the stroke. A song flitted into her head. "I want a man with a slow hand..." Yeah, thatís what she wanted. A firm hand, so she could feel it properly. Be calmed by it. A man...

"Got something else thatís good for a cold. Tried to warm it up in the microwave, but that wasnít the thing. Bloody modern technology -- no use for anything." He turned her so her head was lying against the sofa back and carefully undid two buttons on her shirt, pulling the sides back. "Pinched some of the witchy stuff from the bathroom," he said, half smiling. "Donít worry..."

He dipped his fingers in the bowl of warm, rosemary-scented oil, tipped her chin back and slowly spread it over her exposed throat, rhythmically stroking it into her skin, down the throat to the collarbone, and down further to the breastbone, in the cleavage that her bra exposed. The aroma of the astringent herb rose from her heated skin straight to the olfactory senses, cutting through the muck in her sinuses. One hand slid up the side of her neck and one finger drew a line down round behind her ear, again and again -- an animal stroke, to make a cat or dog close its eyes. Then his firm fingertips were rubbing little circles along the upper ribs above her breasts, pressure points that hurt, then gave in under his touch.

She was limp and heavy-lidded against the sofa back but he could feel, and hear, her heart thudding in her chest. Very slowly, watching her all the time, he slipped the shirt down off her shoulders and gently undid the front catch of the bra. She was bare to the waist now, her eyes squeezed shut and her fingers clutching the sofa cushion under her. Kneeling between her legs, he watched his oiled hands slide up and down her sides, right into her armpits and down to the waist of her jeans, letting her breasts and nipples wait for him, wait for his touch. He caressed her stomach, then slid higher, drawing a bent knuckle round under each little breast, before cupping them, just holding them in his hands. She could barely breathe -- her eyes locked on his face, his eyes following his hands. A spell was being cast -- two bodies, the slide of oiled hands, her shallow breaths, the rosemary potion.

He homed in, holding a nipple between the first and second fingers of each hand, and pulled on them, slowly, rhythmically, squeezing them then letting go, then squeezing them again, in time to her breaths, until they were red and swollen. This was too much. Buffy groaned and arched, and he moved quickly, pressing the heel of one hand hard into her pubic bone, rubbing her clit through the seam of her jeans, rubbing hard and sure, again and again, and then she was gone -- crying out and clutching at nothing, and pulling away from him to curl up on herself, shuddering and gasping.

Spike sat back on his heels, waiting for her. He couldnít believe what had just happened, wanted to take photos in his head to preserve it. My God, sheíd let him touch her like that ....

But something was wrong. He bent over her, tried to unfurl her, find her face.

"Hey, sweetheart, Buffy, where are you? What is it? Iím here..." Slowly she raised her head, pushing him off. The flush of orgasm was draining from her face and neck, leaving her pale and stiff. He reached over and took her face between his hands and leaned in to kiss her, but she shoved him away hard. He banged into the coffee table and a cup crashed.

"DONíT kiss me. DONíT. I donít want you to kiss me."

"Whatís going on, Buffy? Whatís wrong? I thought you.... Didnít you .... I was trying to make you feel..... What have I done wrong?" It was too much, that paradise was crashing down so quickly.

She panted and stared. "Donít TOUCH me. I canít bear it. I think Iím going to be SICK..." Her eyes were too wide and she clutched both hands over her mouth.

He retreated a step or two further, the sick feeling in his gut turning to anger. His cock was throbbing and miserable in his jeans. "Why the hell wonít you kiss me? Nasty, dirty demon mouth. No souls here. Hellish bad breath." Beneath her, of course -- that same sensation of tears turning to fury. Couldnít bear this again. He snatched his coat and slammed the door on the way out.

THREE

BUFFY woke with a slight headache but her nose was clearer and she felt rested and calm. A night in her bed and the sunniness of the new day had pushed what had happened with Spike the night before back into unreality, a little dream sequence resting on a cloud somewhere in her head. She wasnít going to think, either, about Willow, whose door was shut, or Giles, whose plane was gone.

Instead she squeezed grapefruit and made toast for Dawnís breakfast, though mercifully sparing her little sister the Buffybot smile. Today, she would be normal, she would cope, and things of the night would not intervene. She would clean the house, patrol after dinner, then come home to bed.

However the meditative -- or boring, she thought -- nature of housework meant her body betrayed her and drifted back to last night. It remembered his hands on her, his intent expression. His complete attention on her. The way her skin had caught fire under his hands. She found she had stopped vacuuming and had been staring out the living room window for who knew how long, her body running fire inside, her legs pressed together, pressing on that sensation.

It happened again when she was cleaning the bathroom -- found she had stopped wiping, and had pressed her hot cheek against the shower stall, her hands cupping her breasts the way his had. She had to press one hand, then, between her legs, rub the knuckle of her thumb hard along the seam of her jeans, because she needed touch. Never needed it like this before. Sheíd thought the fever had been a cold.

Fresh air. Fresh air would help. She slapped cold water on her face, glugged juice out of a carton and set off, walking fast. The afternoon was cool and still, but still her face burnt. She kept her mind blank, feeling her strong legs move, her body pumping and alive, and sparking, again and again, as her powerful heart drove the blood through her veins.

Walking through town as the sun was setting, she approached the Magic Box, then stopped and crossed the road. Not the company she wanted. A block or so on, a black van was parked. It looked familiar and she approached it cautiously.

***

Half an hour later, she found her hand on the battered wooden door of the crypt, her face bent and expressionless. She pushed it open.

No vampire up and waiting to claim her. Where was he?

She took a few cautious steps inside, and found him, curled up on the tatty sofa, a faded tapestry throw dragging haphazardly on to the floor. It was cold and damp and stank of old cigarettes. She felt her sinuses rebelling, her head aching again.

He hadnít acknowledged her presence. He had one hand over his face, the other stuck deep into the unzipped front of his jeans, though he seemed to be holding on to himself for comfort rather than doing anything. She swallowed, felt a lump rise in her throat. His vulnerability moved her -- sheíd never seen him like this before. Sure, heíd made declarations in the past -- too many of them -- but had always been on top of himself. Wore his heart on his sleeve, but with pose and panache. Now he just seemed like a pitiful boy -- the mad, bad past notwithstanding.

"Spike, you...

"Yeah ... itís sexy old Spike here," he mumbled into the upholstery.

"What? Whatís wrong? I just wanted to..." This was all new ground. Dangerous swampy ground, with who-knew-what on the other side.

"Yeah, Iím sexy and fucked up and all wrong." His voice was muffled and slurred, his face still buried.

"Look, Iím sorry about last night. I just freaked. I didnít know that was going to happen...."

He didnít seem to be listening to her. "Iím all fucked up. Iím broken, Buffy. Fix me. Please." That thought seemed to grow on him, tangling with his hangover. He turned over, pulled his zip down further and gave her a wonky, sexy grin. "Fix this for me, Buffy."

She stepped backwards nervously -- trying not to look down at his hands. "Spike. Itís all right. Iím getting things together. Iím going to ask Willow to move out. I wonít need your help so much now. Not that I donít appreciate your help..."

Great. Didnít want his mouth, his dick, his love or his help. Just useful when she had a fever to burn off, or a demon to fight. He rolled over on his face again and tried to burrow deeper into the sofa.

"I mean -- thanks for helping out with Willow last night. Sheís really... really in a bad place, kind of scary and screwed up, and..."

"Yeah, she nearly even had me scared, Slayer, and that shows how pathetic I am..."

"Oh, and good news too, Spike!"

What could that possibly be? Couldnít be good for him. Giles coming back to slap everyone into line again? Or maybe -- great tweeting choirs of birdies singing -- maybe Angel was coming to visit, to tower, like a tall grim building, over the risen Buffy. Maybe Xander had taken a trip at the construction site and broken his neck....

"....well, I saw the van on the side of the road, parked just up past the Magic Box, and I thought it looked familiar, though last time I saw it I was completely off my face -- thanks again to you, Spike -- and you wouldnít believe what was inside. This incredibly tacky fake leopardskin stuff, all over the walls and even on the ceiling. And these spy screen thingies, and they were spying on the shop. And outside my house! God, what a bunch of perverts! I canít believe it! They must have been at the building site too. And all these monitors and computers and cartoony sort of stuff round the walls..."

She was babbling, she knew, but at least she had a story to tell.

"And there were these posters of Pierce Brosnan and these other old guys up on the walls, which is so weird because I thought only really old women, you know, like my Mom and stuff, liked James Bond, but it was obviously a guy van, but you know, it was really creepy..... but hey, it was lucky too, Ďcause there was this whopping great bone on the floor, and I put a little Slayer power behind it and smish-smash -- well, you would have enjoyed it, Spike.... and," -- she grinned here -- "youíll like this -- there was even a little satellite thing on the roof, and I broke that off so they couldnít do the spying anymore, and you know how youíre always complaining about not having cable -- well, I brought it round here so you can get all the channels you want. Itís hidden outside behind the Mortensí headstone."

He was touched and almost cracked a smile. "Sweet of you to think of me, pet. Donít think thatís quite how satellite TV works..."

"Oh." She was sitting on the arm of the sofa now, crestfallen.

He sighed. "Sorry, Slayer. Being pathetic today. Just the kind of vamp who likes to smack his head against brick walls, and if that doesnít work, just smack it a bit harder."

"Oh," she said again. "And, I suppose, well ... I suppose the brick wall is me. Is it?"

He shrugged, zipped up his pants properly and sat up, staring away from her at the wall.

So caught up in his muddled feelings, he was shocked to find she was kneeling on the sofa next to him, facing him, her fingers touching his lips, then her mouth on his, tentative for only a second, then open and warm and forceful. Lips hard and urgent against lips, tongue sliding into his mouth. His head started buzzing. It was the first time they had kissed since the stairs at the Bronze -- only the night before, but it felt like months ago. Spike shuddered and grabbed her by the back of the head, jamming his mouth against her desperately, rubbing bone and teeth and flesh, grunting down in his chest. She gasped for breath and fell back, retreated to her end of the sofa.

He looked stunned, mouth bruised, ready for rejection again.

"Spike, sorry -- God, I keep saying sorry, itís just that Iíve still got this cold and I canít breathe properly. I know that sounds really gross..."

Holding his gaze, she moved over and curled up in the little patch of sofa between his knees. Her hand went up and cupped his face, slid into his hair. He couldnít take his eyes off her -- as if he could hold her there with his gaze alone.

"Youíre nice to touch," she said tentatively, sliding the hand down over his chest, feeling the tiny bump of the nipple, and his shudder as she passed over it. His look was so open and worshipful that it sent a frisson of fear and adrenalin through her. She was tangling with something powerful here. This wild, dangerous creature was practically sitting in her lap, nearly purring as he allowed her to stroke him. She had disdained him and kicked him and despised him. But now her eyes had opened.

"Sorry I freaked last night. You just kind of blew my head off and Iím not used to that and I ....."

He smiled wryly. "Is that a compliment on my technique, Slayer?"

Her eyes were smiling back at him. "Well, I guess so. Iím not really used to..... well..." -- she struggled for the words -- "....letting go like that.

"You donít know... when I let go, it gets scary. And dangerous. I can kill things, kill people, hurt things."

He was so tender now. "Not with me, pet. Never with me. Never be scared. You canít hurt me by being with me. I can take all you can give. Lay it all on me, sweetness. Iím here."

"And sometimes, sometimes...." It was all blocked up her throat like she was choking on it. "...if I really let go, then I die too..."

He pulled her against him, and rocked her, her face in his neck, ssh-shhing her. She didnít cry, just gulped and shivered. Tension slowly bled away from them because sheíd told him something and heíd understood. Time slowed down and drowsed around them.

Finally, she lifted her head, shy of him again, but grateful and wanting to do right to him. That new feeling of wanting to put herself out for him, and the frightening level of heat theyíd been generating -- what did it mean?

"Spike -- Iíve got to get home to Dawn now. I really have to. Youíre not angry...?"

"No, no. God no. Iím happy. So glad youíve told me things. Talked to me. Didnít think you ever would. Always, always here for you." He was holding her face between his hands, stroking her from her temples down to her jaw. Heíd never been more sure of anything in his long existence, though he knew this was a treacherous path. The shape and purpose of his life had changed so completely in the past two years, that getting what he wanted, with her, just spun his head even more. Extreme existential vertigo. God, and she thought she was in danger from falling...

"Spike. Will you come and see me tomorrow night? Will you?" She sounded like a little girl, scared of being denied.

"What time?"

FOUR

SHEíD never ever been waiting for him before, all those times heíd stood out there under the tree. The world must have turned on its head. He trod on his cigarette end and swung up to the windowsill. He could smell her in there, but couldnít see her.

Before his feet hit the floor, heíd been foot-tripped and found an arm wrapped round his throat, holding him in a rigid headlock. Was this a joke? He had no idea. He kept his voice level. "Miss me, Slayer, did you? I know I donít have a phone but it you were desperate, you could have got a message to me...."

Her hands were impersonal as she detached herself from him and retreated to the head of the bed, where she sat cross-legged in a modest green nightshirt.

He lounged against the window frame, uncertain of the atmosphere." Willow gone? Got her out without any witchery going down?"

"Yeah, sheís gone. Back to the dorm on campus. God, itís so hard to believe, weíve been such good friends." Buffyís voice was nasal with cold again, and dull, as if any kind of vitality sheíd regained had seeped away again. Spike looked at the floor. How selfish was he being, wanting her to come alive again? Was it just for his own benefit -- that if she found a bit of joy, that it could be with him, at his coaxing, in his arms?

The urge in him -- to act, to help, to touch -- had him moving towards her before he could stop himself. He sat on the edge of her bed and arranged his face -- tried to keep things light. Here he was in her girly room with the stuffed toys and the posters. Grown-up weapons chest though, and the make-up was big girlsí stuff.

"Room could do with a bit of an update, Slayer. It kind of dates you -- boy bands, Britney..." It was almost endearing how unrefined her tastes were, as if all her maturity had been focussed into one pinpoint area, leaving the rest of her languishing in childhood.

Her mouth twitched and she poked him with a foot. "Me? Me?! What about the punk hair! That is so last century. You are stuck in the past."

He could do this -- talk crap until the cows came home, keep things light, make her smile. "Iíll have you know this look is a classic. Last me forever. Suits me. I may covet your pretty arse, pet, but youíre not getting me to change my look, dress up like College Boy. Fucking slacks. Sooner die. Again." This was a point of pride. He remembered all too well dressing up for her last year, and what had that got him? A dis-invite. Never again -- he would stick with what he knew. Introduce any more variables, and he was going to seriously lose his grip -- walk out in the sun by mistake or something.

But sheíd latched on to something else. "So you just . . . Ďcovet my arseí, then..." She had tucked her knees under her chin, and was watching him, her face half-hidden.

He leaned an elbow down on one knee, and looked at her sideways -- held himself quiet and his voice even. Only let his eyes talk. This was all about timing and rhythm -- he could watch her, pace himself. Do the dance, stalk his prey -- let her come to him willingly. "Yeah. I covet. I do a lot of coveting. Your pretty arse is on my mind a lot. Not much on telly lately, so havenít got much else to think about. Think about your pretty arse, Ďbout holding it in my hands, and squeezing it and licking it -- havenít let me do that yet, Buffy -- but, you know how my hands will feel, and my mouth, and my tongue..." His words had become low and sing-song, like a snake charmerís.

She blinked and stared, little bursts of heat and adrenalin coiling all through her, as his words crept inside her and wove a spell.

Time to break that spell. She sniffed and snorted, trying to clear her sinuses. "God, Iím still so full of it. Itís disgusting."

He jumped right with her -- suddenly he was a dirty, grinning boy. "I could lick up all your snot and spit and swallow it down...."

"Eeuugh, gross Spike!" She squeezed her eyes up in disgust, then opened them again. "Why the hell would you want to do that?"

" íCause Iím hungry. Need feeding. Slayer stuff -- gimme some." He pushed her back on the bed and lay on top of her, the point of his tongue sliding into her left nostril. She tasted salty. Another lovely Buffy place to poke himself into. His glee left him off guard. In a second he was flipped over, and she had him by the nose. It was in between her teeth.

"Wnnnnhhh! Shhnnnniit!" He twisted her ear hard and she let go. "Jesus. I think I preferred it when you just punched me there." He sat up, massaging his nose and grinned again. Then he leaned over and gently touched her mouth with the knuckles of one hand. "Well, Slayer, now I know weíve both got oral fixations."

"Speak for yourself. I donít smoke and I donít drink. Anymore. No drink anymore."

"But you liked my hot toddy. Get you another one? Clear out the nose? Soothe the throat...."

"Or maybe you could drink it, Spike. Kill your thirst for my bodily excretions." As soon as that came out of her mouth, she blushed hard. She wasnít used to this kind of talk -- and what it suggested that both of them were thinking. Hid her embarrassment by climbing off the bed and rooting about in the weapons chest by the window.

"Looking for something to stake me with, Buffy?"

FIVE

BUFFY pushed and prodded at the elastic holding her black dress in the correct off-the-shoulder position. She applied smoky eyeshadow with a finger tip and brushed her long pale hair straight down over her shoulders. It felt silky on her skin and she tossed it, just a little, as pretty girls with long hair do.

Today was bound to be a bad idea. She went downstairs to her birthday party, where her friends and sister were gathering with presents, cake and a little forced frivolity.

***

Just on sunset, Spike slid in the back door with a six-pack and a big square box. Buffy intercepted him before he was noticed. "Spike, where did you get the black eye? Are you OK?"

He grinned and stepped closer, flicked his tongue at her. "Gambling debt, no big. Come and kiss it better. Yíknow weíre into this sexual healing thing..."

"No, weíre not. What healing! Youíre just..."

He put one hand on her hip. "You look tasty, Slayer. I wanna taste..."

"No, no -- people will see. I have to be hostess.."

He pulled her even closer. "Gotta come out some time," he whispered in her ear. "Birthdayís a good time. I can shower you with... Ďí --- he took her hand and slid it up his thigh, until it was pressed against his bulge -- "....love..."

Buffy slapped at his hand. "Stop it!" She was flushed with embarrassment and turn-on. No-one had ever behaved like this with her before. He was so blatant. And she was appalled at how she responded. They were too close together, lurking still in the corner near the back door where heíd come in. Tara raised an amused eyebrow as she passed.

"Hey. Dead man. Back off -- weíve brought Buffy a date," Xander called over. He looked smug and pushed Richard forward like a livestock prize at a county fair. Buffy shook hands, smiled politely and looked right through him, as she thought about hiding in a cupboard with Spike.

***

"And, you know, Iíve nearly got enough money saved for a deposit on an apartment, which is great because it puts me way ahead of the college students and even though they could probably earn..."

Richard was leaning back against the fridge, telling Buffy about his life. She stood at right angles to him with her head bent attentively, holding a glass of spritzer in folded hands against her breasts.

" .... but Dad said that tech stocks were on the way out, but, you know, Iím just a small-town boy and it looked pretty impressive to me..... Buffy, Iím boring you, arenít I?"

She smiled up at him politely. "No. No. Itís all really interesting. I donít know any of that sort of stuff. Iím sure youíre really knowledgeable and smart -- and sounds like youíve got your life all planned out..." Unlike me. My life is actually unplanning itself right now, whatever is left of it... if Iím still supposed to have a life ... These thoughts created a painful loop and she shut her eyes.

"No, Buffy, no. Youíre way too hard on yourself. Xander told me everything youíve been through lately. And I really admire what youíre doing here -- taking care of your sister, and all the responsibility and having to drop out of college .... Do you like baseball? Would you like to go to a game?"

She felt a prickle at the back of her neck but ignored it. "Baseball! Baseballís good! But I donít know if..."

A hand gripped her arm. " Sícuse me, Slayer, just need a word. Somethingís come up." Spike had his public face on, the sneer-lite, and he yanked her round the corner.

"What, Spike? What?" Was something really wrong? Dawn had been quite "off" tonight. Buffy knew she hadnít taken enough notice -- it was something else to throw in the too-hard basket. But maybe there was other trouble that Spike was wise to. Had there been...?

But no, that wasnít it. His expression was flat and tense. "Makiní a date, Slayer? Sí nice for you. Looks like a nice boy. " He reached out and touched one finger to her hair.

She smacked at his finger impatiently. "God, Spike, donít be rude. I was just having a conversation with him .... he seems really sweet. And Xander and Anya brought him along especially to meet me, and I canít just..."

"Off to a baseball game, then, are you? With a real boy. You got a real type, I can see now -- flannel shirts and faces like potatoes. Real stylish."

His voice was getting flatter and more sarcastic, and when she looked up she saw the anger boiling out of him. She hadnít noticed before how thin heíd got -- great dark holes under the cheekbones, and the cords protruding in his neck, the bruised eye just more shadow on a gaunt face.

He paused. "Got something to show you, Slayer, but I want to do it upstairs, away from all this lot..." He picked up the box from the kitchen island and galumphed up, three stairs at a time. In her bedroom, he pushed the door shut behind her.

The hat was very old but still in beautiful condition. There was a faint odour of mothballs as he lifted it out of the tissue paper. The silk velvet was sheeny black, with a mauve ribbon round the deep crown holding a bunch of black silk orchids at one side. Sentimental dewdrops made of tiny glass beads were sewn on the petals. He set it on her head, letting the wide, voluptuous brim dip down over one eye.

The room was silent as Buffy looked at herself in the mirror. The picture made by the off-the-shoulder dress, her blonde hair and the dramatic hat, made her feel far from her normal self -- made her think of French words like boudoir and others that she couldnít pronounce.

He was behind her now -- she could feel his breath on her right shoulder -- and his hands were round her, his fingers sliding along the neckline of the dress. "Bet little Richardíd love to see you now, love. Bet heíd just wet himself to be up here in your bedroom..." The fingers dipped into the dress and stroked her nipples. "Bet he was thinking about whatís in here... while he was chatting all nice to you..." The fingers stroked and twisted and pulled; then abruptly he yanked down the front of her dress. The picture in the mirror now looked like something from an old-fashioned postcard, though Buffy was too thin to be mistaken for one of those bounteous beauties. The black hat, though, and the bare breasts -- she had never seen herself as an erotic vision before. But there she was, in the mirror, all black and silky velvet and naked breasts, being toyed with by an invisible lover.

Spike knew how to up the ante. These little American girls with their barely-there clothes, they still knew nothing about raunch. Heíd show her what she was, what she could be. He slid one hand slowly up her thigh, pulling the dress with it, until her knickers and pale belly were exposed. The other hand stroked the wet crotch of her pants, then slid underneath the material. He pulled up shiny, wet fingers and spread the sticky stuff over her breasts, wiping it on her nipples. "Bet old Richardíd love a taste of that. Wouldnít he, Buffy," he whispered. "Wouldnít he..."

Buffyís knees were buckling and her body dissolving. She had never been so thoroughly seduced -- seduced through his ministrations but really by watching her own seduction in the mirror. How did he do that? Made her see what an erotic power she truly was.

She was also damned angry. Before her legs gave way altogether, she swung round and smacked him hard in the face. The hat slipped off. "You bastard!" Suddenly tears were running down her face and something was cracking apart inside her. She shoved him hard and he fell clumsily to the floor; her legs tangled in her dress and she was down too. He was rolling on top of her, hard and heavy on her body.

"Buffy, youíve got to be mine. Only mine. I canít bear it..." He was rough and clumsy, wiping his face on her neck, wriggling round desperately to unbuckle his jeans, tug her pants down. Buffy hadnít had sex in a year, Spike for longer. He knew he was big, but she was so wet.... No time for thinking though, because she was pulling him in urgently with arms and legs wrapping round him, hips bucking into him. Synapses exploded in his head as he slid home. He couldnít be gentle or slow. He wanted to fuck hard, fuck all the misery out of both of them.

SIX

BUFFY was wearing tight, white, boot-heel jeans, and a white silk and lace shirt with fitted sleeves that fell out into fluted points at her thin tanned wrists. Two little buttons held the shirt closed over her breasts, and from there the gauzy material draped modestly down to her hips but was easily parted in front by anyone who had the inclination. It was prime groping wear, if she were that sort of girl. She wore high-heeled boots of the deepest darkest red, and an enamelled cross set with fake green and red jewels on a thin leather thong round her neck.

None of this was lost on Spike. He played it as cool as he knew how. What was the uptight little Slayer doing, giving him the hyped up whammy of virginal white and blood red, and him invited and all? What did she think he was? A demon? God, she made him feel like one. Was this what she wanted? Control, control, he was learning that. She was leaning on the pillar in half shadow, watching the pool tables, as he approached her, nervous as a boy on his first date, but hiding it well, he thought. Touched one fingernail to the gaudy cross she wore. "Dressed to kill me, Slayer, I see."

She bit her lip to stop it quivering. "I think it was right here that you told me I should always have my weapon ready."

"Yeah. Then I punched you in your stitches. Right gentleman I was then."

They leant against the pillar side by side, watching the crowd, touching at the shoulder, all anticipation, nervous for the start line. Is this a date? she thought. The word was too formal, too nerve-wracking at the best of times, but with him ... the possibilities seem to stretch out into unknown vistas of carnality and temptation. She should just pretend it was like extended patrol and theyíd gone for a drink. She could be Ms Organised. "I think maybe we should have a dance first, Spike, get the kinks out, and then we could have a drink."

When was the sky going to crack open and fall on his head? he thought. He was holding one small hand in his, his other was curved around her left buttock, holding her firmly against him. His fingertips could barely suppress the urge to trace the cleft of her bottom, to explore, delve in, find little dark places to touch, get to the hot heart of her. Her hand was on his hip, her lips just barely touching his neck -- he could feel her hot breath. He felt sensation wash through him, and collect at his groin. Then his fingertips lost the struggle and pressed hard in between her buttocks, as much as the denim would allow.

She tensed and bit into his neck and sucked hard. He would have a vicious hickey there in the morning. As soon as she let go, he gripped her shoulders hard and whispered in her ear: "Much as Iíd love to fuck you right here on the dance floor, I donít think itís a good idea. Come outside with me. Come on."

He dragged her by the hand, out past the toilets, through the back entrance to the alleyway. Walked her backwards, kissing all the way, until she collided with the side of a parked delivery van, and thrust his tongue further into her mouth, trying to eat her up, get her inside him somehow. He shoved the lacy shirt and bra up out of his way and sucked one nipple hard into his mouth, pinching the other one with his fingers. "Oh, JESUS," she groaned, flailing and staggering against the side of the van but he was holding her with hands and mouth, like she was prey. He grabbed her by one slim thigh and squeezed it hard, then curled her leg up round his hip. "God, I love a girl whoís flexible," he panted.

***

Buffy twirled on a barstool while Spike ordered drinks. Sheíd been to the bathroom for repairs -- combed her hair out, and put on more lipstick, staring at her mouth in the mirror, and touching it with her fingers, to make sure it was still hers.

Outside, a wildness had taken over her. Furious grinding against him -- mouth and chest and hips -- the van behind her back rocking on its wheels. His hand was between them, stroking hard, again and again, along her pussy lips, through the tight white denim. She felt soaked, throbbing and desperate. He was panting at her between the hard kisses: "Fuck, Buffy, Christ, youíre so fucking beautiful, God, fuck, I so wanna be inside you again, feel you sliding round me -- fuck, Buffy, I love you so much..."

Swept away as she was, Buffy was still thinking. "Spike..." she said, pulling away from his mouth, Ďí... my jeans..."

"Christ, Buffy, yeah ...theyíre so fucking sexy... God, you fucking KNOW me ... theyíre so white and sexy and tight and I wanna bite you through them, and eat you..."

"No, Spike, no, I canít .... look, you donít know how long it took me to get them on. Theyíre really tight. I wonít be able to get them off..."

He wasnít sure where this was leading. Stopped and looked at her. She put her hands on his hips and looked up at him. His hair was mussed, his face strained and anxious with sex, his shellac facade all scrunched and discarded. She felt a rush of softness go through her, and knew what she wanted to do. His face between her palms, she closed her eyes and kissed him, lips pressed against lips, and felt the magic of tenderness flow out of her and into him. She felt light as air and full of power.

"Here, Spike," she whispered, and pushed him back against the van, stroked her hands down his chest then placed nervous hands on his bulge, pressing it and tracing the edges with her fingertips. She dropped to her knees and rubbed her cheek against his erection, then her nose, her chin. She was inexperienced, she knew, but how hard could this be? A button, a careful zipping --- actually, very hard, she noted to herself, proud of her own double-entendre. What was this in front of her, this extension of Spike, this solid eager thing in her hands? It certainly seemed to want her -- it drooled and pulsed at her, moving in her grip. Lips, tongue ... she was finding out what she could do. Would it fit in her mouth? Her hands could go round the stem... knuckles brushed against the tightened testicles.

Spike half-stumbled and pulled away. God, what had she done wrong? "Jesus, Buffy.... your pants, your white trousers, youíre gonna get shit all over them, itís filthy out here.." He was pulling his coat off, folding it on the ground for her to kneel on, his cock bobbing awkwardly as he moved.

Then she had him again, in her mouth and hands. Spike seemed to have left town -- for once he was quiet. He was squeezing her head between his hands in time with her sucking, arching his hips at her face, but no words at all.

On the barstool, she crossed her legs. She was still so juicy and slippery inside. Her unsatisfied arousal had spread back into the rest of her body, so her lips, her nipples, her hands, every inch of her, felt absurdly sensitive, her face and neck flushed red.

She watched him -- her lover ... the notion still filled her with little shots of adrenalin, as she thought it -- as he leant over the bar, overseeing the construction of the drinks. When they were prepared to his satisfaction, he slid one along to her, just a tiny glance from his eye sending a shiver through her. "Drink up, Slayer. Look like youíve got a thirst on you ..."

She looked in puzzlement at her glass. Heíd passed her a handle of ordinary looking beer, but sitting under the surface of the drink, inside the mug, was a small pedestalled liqueur glass filled with a dark glowing liquid.

"Jeez, Spike, whatís this? Did someoneís hand slip?" Giving him lip at least put her on an even keel.

"Depth charge. Ordered it specially for you. For us ..."

Uh-oh, that was a slip. Us. It was the first time heíd said the word. Hoped she would let it by without comment, because that would be better than her freezing up or denying. He mentally crossed his fingers.

She obliged him. "Youíll have to explain it to me. Because Iím not getting it. Never been out with a hardened drinker before."

"Well, look at it. Youíve got your light piss-water Yankee beer here in this handle. And deep inside, youíve got this little glass of the fine stuff. A fine, dark, ballsy Drambuie. íS called a depth charge."

"Never heard of it."

"Ah, but you see, it has meaning." He was on the adjoining stool now. " See, look, Buffy. All that watery lager there, thatís California, with the sun and your fluffy airhead boys and girls and malls and beaches and things. And deep inside it is me -- dark, tasty, wicked Spike, whoís the one thing in it worth having!" His eyes danced at her.

She elbowed him in the ribs. "You wish!"

"Hang on, Iím not finished yet. See, itís all about you too. All the light beer is Miss all-American cheerleading Buffy, with the shopping and the shoes and things. And this potent thing inside is the Slayer -- all dark and fiery and dangerous. See? Weíre just the same."

She laughed. "Whatís with the Psych 101, Spike? Never mind dressing like Riley -- youíre starting to sound like him..." This was a complete lie -- there was nothing more opposite in these slithery, scary assignations with Spike than her time with Riley.

He reared back. "You fucking bitch! Take that back!" He growled, picked up her hand and bit her fingers hard. Then he pulled her into his lap, making sure her bottom was sitting tight against his cock, which was already trying to sit up again, in pleasure of her. In her ear, he talked: "Iím much, much better than your other boyfriends -- stronger, prettier, love you more, fuck you better... say it, Buffy, say it, say it, Iím the best..."

She was thrumming with denied sexual release and his words fed straight in to the ache that was centred between her legs but also spread out over every inch of skin. He pressed kisses on her neck and took one nipple between his fingers and twisted it through the silk, and she wriggled and panted in his lap, until the bartender rolled his eyes at them and turned his back. They chugged back their depth charges and kissed it off each other lips.

"Hey!"

The newcomer was ignored. "Hey, Spike!" Then, "Buffy.... Jesus, is that you?" The two heads turned then, the heavy-lidded spacey look they both wore making it very clear to Xander that there was some intense physical connection going on up there on the barstool.

"What the fuck are you doing, Spike? What are your hands doing on her? What..." he huffed himself into speechlessness.

Buffy sighed and closed her eyes while Spikeís hands slithered ostentatiously under her shirt and tightened round her waist, the fingertips sliding down into the front of her jeans.

Xanderís eyes goggled. "Is this a spell? Or is she on drugs? Are you on drugs, Buffy?"

Buffy opened her eyes to a quarter-inch slit. The lights were very glare-y tonight. And Spikeís over-the-top public displays of affection were casting a dreamy little spell around her. "Yeah, I am actually. I think Iíve got this sinus infection -- it keeps gunking up my nose, so Iíve got these pills -- theyíre all different colours. Thereís daytime ones, and then thereís the blue ones that you take at night..."

But Xander wasnít listening to the medical details. "What are you fuckiní staring at, you fucked-up vamp?" Xanderís vocabulary had suddenly shrunk. Exacerbated of course by Spikeís expression -- Buffyís acceptance of his blatant caresses out here in the open, in front of Xander at the Bronze, had tapped a deep well of smugness in him. How could he help it if his face was an open book?

"Harris, get a fucking grip. Fucking leave off. Donít you dare give her a hard time. You know what the Slayerís been doing? Out in the alley, just 10 minutes ago?"

Buffy froze. Well, parts of her froze. Other parts of her kept moving. Her arse, tightly cupped in the white denim, continued to discreetly but deliberately rub and caress the bulge in the trousers of the creature behind her, the one whose arms were wrapped round her middle. And her elbow, as if it had a mind of its own, delivered a swift backward punch into said creatureís gut. Multi-tasking -- she was proud of how many levels she could operate on, all at once, even while tanked up on anti-cold medication.

Said creature jerked, but continued to hold her tight, and rubbed himself against her hard, minutely, side to side, as if they were both moving very slightly to the music. It was like public fucking, only secret and much sexier. His cock, and his heart too, were bursting with the pleasure of this secret, willing caress.

"Just 10 minutes ago -- you know what she was doing, you ungrateful bastard? Out in the alley?" Buffy felt like she was suspended in space -- she had no idea what he was going to say. It sounded though, like he might be suppressing a major chortle. Or a giggle. Sheíd never heard Spike giggle. She didnít know if he could.

"She was saving the bloody world. Again. For all you prats who donít deserve to kiss the ground she walks on..."

Buffy thought Spike was being slightly melodramatic here. Surely Xander could kiss the ground if he wanted to... but then Xander was gone and there would be no kissing of that sort at all.

"Spike. Heís my friend and we were mean to him. I feel awful." But not as awful as she might. She was in a fever for him, and tonight he could do no wrong.

"Donít fret, Slayer. You can kiss and make up tomorrow. Or next week. No, make that shake hands and make up."

She smiled. Maybe, just for a moment, there wasnít anything to feel guilty about. She pulled on his hand. "Letís dance some more."

"Nah. Canít go out on the dance floor in this condition. Gotta hide you in a dark corner. Tickle your fancy. Or you can tickle mine." He grinned wickedly, and tugged her away, two blond heads disappearing into the gloom.

The End

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