Actions

Work Header

These Violent Delights

Chapter Text

Things were weirdly quiet for a while after that, which was unexpected.  

What  was  expected, of course, was that the insanely strong lady-evil would come crashing into their lives on attack-mode and try to find out what they knew about her Key; or alternatively, that something awful would happen to Dawn, or Mom.  None of these things occurred.  In fact, insanely-strong evil-chick basically vanished.  Buffy even went back to see if having a building fall on her had had any effect on her.  She found the place cordoned off with police tape and all that stuff, and the monk’s body, of course, being carted off by the coroner.  As luck would have it, her friendly cop-contacts, Waller and Cortez, were hanging around, and she was able to catch their attention long enough to share some 411.  “Did they find anybody inside?” she asked them in a low undertone as she sidled up close.

“No,” Waller answered briskly, eyeing the building, and frowned at her.  Caught sight of her bruised chin and cheek.  The light of understanding kindled in her brown eyes.  “Were we supposed to?”

“Not necessarily.”  Buffy glanced over at the body bag on the gurney.  “Did they identify monk-guy yet?”

That earned her a narrow-eyed look.  “No.  But there’s a guy flying in from LA; from the Czech Embassy, so I’m guessing he’s a Czech national…”

/Okay, wild./  But it told her a thing or two about the Key, aka her sister.  “Awesome.  Thanks.”  She pulled away, made to melt back into the background.

“No, wait; hang on.  I scratched your back,” Waller hissed.  “What the hell went down up there?”

Buffy rolled her eyes at the cop.  “Nothing you can put in an official report.”

Cortez, clearly newly-enlightened as to the state of things in Sunnydale, snorted grimly, hitched his fingers into his service belt, and stepped off a little.  Glanced away, his expression turned to stone.  Buffy thought she saw at least five new frown-lines around the guy’s eyes and mouth.

Waller just looked stone-faced and determined.  “Ease my mind anyway.”

Le sigh.  “Fine.  Spike and I fought some crazy bitch stronger than five of me.  She’s still at large.  She had monk-dude over there tied to a chair for who knows how long and was beating him up, trying to get him to tell her something.  He died before he could tell us why,” she lied, then shrugged.  “The only reason we even came down here is because a couple nights ago we were tussling with a vamp by the building and a security guy saw us; then I ran into the same security guard in the hospital yesterday, acting all nutzo.  I thought it was suspicious.”

Officer Waller frowned thoughtfully.  “For the record, that sounds insane.”

Another sarcastic snort from Cortez; one that clearly stated that anything and everything that happened in this town was insane, no matter what went down.

“I told you you didn’t want to know.”  Buffy turned to leave.  

“Hey, wait.  You said this woman just beat you and your guy up and then vanished?”

“Well, the building fell on her.  But since she’s not dead in there, yeah.  I’m guessing she’s still out there somewhere.”

The cop looked unhappy about this little tidbit.  “Great.”

Cortez, still standing off to one side, hunched his shoulders and looked hunted.  Buffy started a mental countdown in her head of how long before the guy would retire or ask for a transfer to another city’s PD.  He had wanted to be a cop.  He probably hadn’t so much asked for the supernatural aspect.  

She didn’t think he could hack it.  “The joys of working the underbelly of Sunnydale.  Have a nice day, Officers.”

Waller crossed her arms uncomfortably, but didn’t back off the way her partner was doing.   She  could cut it.  “Uhuh, sure.  C’mon, Ramon.  Let’s go get some Subway.  You look hungry.”

“Yeah.  Like I could eat.”

So, yup.  That guy was so not gonna make it.  

Crazybitch didn’t show anywhere else.  Life went on apace.  Halloween went off without a hitch, between their resident Master keeping the town under wraps, and his threatening his ‘Platelet’ within an inch of her life to stay away from everything that might remotely exhibit behaviors indicating they possessed a penis until she was at least eighteen.  Dawn went to an age-appropriate Halloween party, watched scary movies, drank punch that might or might not have had a little bit of alcohol in it, ate a bunch of sweet food and too much candy, threw up, had a lot of fun and then none, came home, and went to bed for about twelve hours.  

Oh.  And somewhere in there, they also informed Giles and the Scoobies about the incoming big badness and the fight-gone-wrong, and everyone hit the books.  And found precisely nothing about a blonde female monster in a red dress who was stronger than a Master vamp and a seasoned Slayer put together.  After which everyone just kind of sat around looking flummoxed for a while before going back to trying to make the Magic Box a going concern.  

“But, like… how can anything be stronger than Buffy?” Xander asked at one point, clearly stumped as he slapped closed his copy of Sunder’s Compendium.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Xander, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” Giles informed him, and turned away to reseat his own tome in the bookshelves at the top of the weird little ladder-accessed nook he’d set aside in the store for his private, not-for-sale stash.

“Yes, there are.  Like, for instance, the fact that we somehow didn’t get this place open in time to take advantage of Halloween shopping.  Do you have any idea how much  money  we just lost?  The sales we could have made with all the gimmicky ‘oogy-boo-Halloween witches’ nonsense?”  Anya sounded disappointed, if not horrified by the thought.  

“I, too, am terribly let down, Anya, but what’s done is done.  We must persevere despite our losses, and hold our heads high.  There is, after all, a new threat to be faced on the hellmouth…”

“So, um… you guys?”  Jonathan’s tentative voice broke through the sawdusty, paint-smelling quiet of research and redecoration.  

“Yes, Jonathan?” Anya prompted distantly.  Alone out of the group, she was behind the newly-situated counter, determinedly organizing the register instead of skimming through the books.  She had insisted that there was no such being as they had described in any of her vast experience with things demonic, then marched exasperatedly off to help Giles get ‘their magickal front’ off the ground ‘before they lost any more money’, because it was a way to ‘make herself far more useful than poking around in a bunch of inaccurate texts for information that didn’t exist’.

You had to give Anya credit.  When she had an opinion, she wasn’t shy about letting everyone know about it.

Blushing, Jonathan closed his current book, something with a bunch of Sumerian or Akkadian or something stamped into the cover.  “Okay, so, there’s this kid, a couple years younger than us…  He’s still in high school, but he…  He’s really good at summoning.  His name’s Andrew Wells…”  His tone indicated he thought they should recognize the name.  At all their blank looks, he elaborated.  “Tucker’s younger brother?  You know, Tucker who did the hellhounds?  Well, Andrew tried to top him after that.  He summoned those flying monkeys that attacked the school play…”

Buffy searched her mind, came up with a great big blank.  “Flying monkeys?  Like… ‘Wizard of Oz’ style?”

“Yeah, I guess I can see how you wouldn’t remember,” Jonathan put in with a shrug.  “It probably wasn’t a very big deal to you, since you were busy with all the, you know, stuff with that other Slayer, and the Mayor, and all that.  But, yeah.  Uh, these little monkeys, flying around trying to bite everyone in the play and in the audience, to give them, like, supernatural rabies…”

“Sorry.  I got nothin’.”

Beside her, Spike was smirking.  “High school on the bloody hellmouth.  A wonder any of you got a bleedin’ education.  Such as it is in this soddin’ country…”  He lifted a cigarette to his lips, made to light up.

“Spike, I swear by every saint on the calendar, if you light one more cigarette in this establishment I will personally throw you out into the sun and watch you turn into a crisp, and the Slayer be damned.  I just had the place painted.”

Lowering his hand, Spike squinted at the Watcher, disbelieving.  “Like to see you try, Rupert.”

“I’ve magicks on my side.  What do you have?  Brute force is all, you great…”

Buffy laid a hand on her lover’s smoking arm.  “Boys, boys.”  Turning back to Jonathan, she lifted a brow and waited expectantly.  “Why do we need to invite this kid Andrew into the group?  He sounds like a troublemaker.”

“Trial basis?” Jonathan hastened to point out, and shifted anxiously in his chair.  “But, I mean, look at me.  I was a troublemaker, ish, and I’m kind of useful now?  Anyway, better to have me here helping than causing you trouble out there conjuring stuff that adds to your workload.  I figure, same with him, huh?  And besides; if this… whatever she is is bad enough to be able to cause you and Spike together serious bruises and stuff, then why not add more firepower to our side?  We’ve got a pretty good witches’ circle going here.  Adding more mojo to it can’t hurt…”

“Another guy would make it kind of boy-heavy,” Willow complained under her breath.

Jonathan scoffed at that.  “Only if you count the parts.  Andrew is so gay it’s not even funny.  Energetically it would be at  least  adding equal energy.  Not that he realizes he’s gay.  He’s so not out to himself.  But anyway, he doesn’t have to be in the circle, right?  Just hang around to lend mojo.  Trial-basis, like I said,” he went on, eyes back on Buffy’s.  “Here to be useful.  Anya only helps when she wants to, too, right?”

Anya chimed in from over by the counter.  “He has a point.”

“He has several points,” Giles agreed, frowning thoughtfully.  “Best to recruit possible future enemies to our side as allies then to let them run about free and causing extraneous mischief, one would imagine.”

Buffy honestly didn’t care what they did with their little magicks club.  “Fine.  Pick this kid up and check him out.  I’m all for more firepower.  Maybe you can get together and summon some anti-blonde-demon to fight this bitch, or something.  Meanwhile, Spike and I need to find some way to keep a guard on…”  She cut herself off before she said too much, caught Spike’s beetle-browed ‘shut the fuck up, Buffy’ look.  “…On Mom, and I guess Dawn, in case that whole ‘they come at you through your family’ thing is still an issue…”

Giles straightened, looking alarmed.  “You believe that is still a matter of concern, then?”

/Oh, you have no idea./  “I’m not going to discount it.”

Spike vibrated beside Buffy for a sec, then very suddenly hit peak escalation.  “Got to step out for a bit, pet,” he told her, and headed for the door to that one mostly-empty back room.  

/Smoke-break./  There was that one shady spot by the back door there, under that one awning-thing, in the alley.  Buffy had the feeling her guy would be spending a lot of time out there in the next few months, till all this was over with crazy-bitch-chick.  

“Well.  I have the register organized, Giles.  I have to head back to the gallery.  I’d advise you to hire some of these other people on as part-time assistants as well, since they’re always here anyway, or else you’re going to be run into the ground once you open.  You’re going to need all the help you can get; and anyway, I may be your manager, but you’re still going to need sales associates.”  She lifted her head briskly to eye him, picked up a key from the counter, bent over to lock a drawer in the counter below the register.  “Once business picks up, that is.  You can’t be everywhere at once.  And while I enjoy the management and bookkeeping and financial portions of business, Xander assures me that I need to work more on my people-skills before I can be an effective salesperson.”  

“You’re doing great, Ahn.  Mrs. Summers says you’ve even picked up on the whole ‘have a nice day’ thing and you’re making it sound authentic.”

“I still don’t understand why I have to say it,” she complained, frowning in confusion.  “I have their money.  They have their purchase.  What kind of day they have is irrelevant.”

“Just a long cultural tradition of raging insincerity, Sweetie.  Embrace it.”
“Well, I suppose,” she conceded, “if it’s a tradition.”

“There’s my girl.”

Shaking his head, Giles swiveled to regard the rest of their impromptu magicks circle.  “Alright, then.  Who else wants to work here?”

Jonathan, Willow, and Tara exchanged glances.  “Uh…” Jonathan began.

“Um,” Willow echoed, “I have class, and Tara…”

“I…” Jonathan followed.

“Don’t,” Giles put in firmly.  “Welcome to your place of employment as my new shop-boy.  Mind you don’t sell anyone anything out of my personal library.”

“O…okay.”

“I’ll pay you six dollars an hour.  You’ll get the requisite number of breaks, of course…”

“That’s…  Alright.  I mean, can you afford to pay above minimum wage?”

“I wouldn’t offer if I couldn’t manage.  You can start this afternoon by helping to set up the palmistry and tarot corner, since that area’s finished.”

“Okay.”  Jonathan looked flustered, but also oddly pleased to be gainfully employed.  Standing, he walked over to the wall and grabbed up the broom leaning there, started to sweep in that way that said he really wasn’t sure what he should be doing right at that exact moment to earn his keep.

Giles turned his gaze onto the other two witches in the circle.  “Should either of you ever wish to earn monies not accounted for by the college as part of your work-study, ah, financial aid…”

“Of course,” Willow put in, nodding fast and looking kind of cornered.  

“You bet, Mr. Giles,” Tara agreed.  “Anyway, we can definitely help you without needing to be paid.  It’d be fun just to get our hands on the inventory…”

“You’ll keep your graspy little witchy hands off the inventory unless you’re getting paid to handle it,” Anya informed them sternly, and rounded the counter to beckon to Xander in a come-hither gesture.  “Alright, Xander.  I’m ready.  Take me back to the gallery.”

“God, I am so pwned, aren’t I?” Xander grumbled as he followed her sweeping strides toward the door.

“Yeah, you kinda are,” Jonathan called after him.  “Not that I blame you.”

“Nonsense.”  Anya watched Xander as he held the door for her to exit.  “You’re entirely free to date, and have sex with, other people; as am I.  You know you are.  I’ve encouraged you to do it.  The fact that you haven’t confuses me, honestly.”

Xander shot a hunted glance around the room and then sighed heavily.  His mumbled words took on the tone of something that had been repeated many times.  “Anya, you know that has nothing to do with it.  I’d still be pwned, so why bother?”  By the way he stood, he was embarrassed that everyone was witness to this conversation.

Anya eyed him for a second, then shook her head.  “I don’t understand.”  She headed out past him, into the setting sun.  “Maybe I never will.”

“Yeah,” Xander answered, and turned to follow her out the door, shoulders hunched under their gazes.  “Maybe you won’t.”

The door closed behind them.  Silence descended on the room, eventually broken by Jonathan’s low whistle.  “Awkwaaard.”

“I dunno,” Spike put in, returning from his jaunt out back, and carefully closed the rear door behind him.  “Some blokes would love to be in his position.  All perks, no commitment, free to shag whoever he wants to shag…”

Buffy rolled her eyes at him.  “If it was you and me?”

He narrowed his eyes at her and grunted as if from an unexpected impact.  “Well, I’d have to stand it, yeah, since it would be up to you.  But I’d spend every bloody long day fantasizing about killing the other blokes, slow and painful, wouldn’t I?”

The answer surprised her.  She had expected something more along the lines of a kneejerk, ‘Then I’d kill the other blokes for touching you’, not a ‘You’d be within your rights to screw other people’.  “What about you?” she asked curiously, now fascinated by his apparently demonic point of view on the subject.  

His eyes burned on hers.  “Why bother?” he informed her quietly, and drew closer, as if she were some kind of magnet.  “No one else would compare.  Would just be tormenting myself.  Waste of bloody time.  Better to spend my time alone thinkin’ of you than soil myself with some other useless bint.”

/Oh.  God./  “You do know that you’re insane, right?”  Also, note to self to investigate this strange mindset of his further at a later date.  /Does this come from some leftover vamp-nest weirdness, or…/

“Oh, shoot!” Willow broke in, sounding relieved to be able to interrupt, “I forgot to remind them about Tara’s party!”

“Oh, Wil, c’mon…”

Swinging around to pin her girlfriend with a mock-glare, Willow grinned at her all predatory.  “Listen.  You’re not getting out of it, so just deal.  I’m going to celebrate you if I have to drag you kicking and screaming back into the Bronze…”

“Oh, Goddess…  Willow…”

“And everyone’s going to be there to celebrate the awesomeness that is you, right guys?”

“Absolutely,” Buffy chimed in firmly, because, A, she was just as glad as Willow for the change of subject, and, B, she had been planning for this.  She would be damned if they would let this shy girl get away with blushing her way out of this shindig, much less slithering out of the situation with her skewed self-image intact.  “We are one-hundred percent Team Tara on this one, so you’re gonna have to live with being celebrated within an inch of your life.  You have a few days to get used to the idea, so I suggest you get started on that.”

“Okay, I’m going to go hide now.”

“I won’t let you, baby.  No hiding your beautiful face.”

“Wil…”  Tara was flushing like crazy now, and definitely looked like she was ready to crawl under the closest table.  

“Dawn’s really looking forward to it,” Buffy tried, perky and encouraging.  “You’re like her favorite person in the world, besides Spike.  Don’t let her down, okay?”  Emotional blackmail had its place.

Tara’s eyes shot up to meet hers, wide and startled… and then narrowed slightly.  “You’re awful,” she accused.

“I know.  But is it working?”  At Spike’s swift, under-the-breath titter, she shot him a quick elbow to shut him up and tilted her head a little.  “Because I can keep going.  All this time I’m spending with an unscrupulous demon seems to be rubbing off.”

A strange expression passed over Tara’s face.  When it cleared, she smiled; a strangely bright smile that spread, and spread, till it lit up her whole face.  “Yeah,” she whispered, sounding as if she had just come to some sort of weird realization.  “I think it is working.”

/Okay?/  “Good.”  Buffy shot Willow a confused glance.  Willow returned it with a tiny shrug.  

“Alright!” Jonathan put in, stilling with his broom in hand.  “Party on, then?”

“God knows we could use a little frivolity in the midst of all this madness,” Giles pointed out grimly, and hefted a small shelving unit to carry it toward the divination area.

***

“Spike, do you think what’s going on between Xander and Anya is… healthy?”

Leaning back against the brick wall beneath the back awning, Spike eyed her over his Bic, then shoved it back into his pocket and exhaled smoke over his knuckles as he lowered his newly-lit cigarette.  “I think Vengeance doesn’t deserve to put all her self-worth into a relationship with a bloke as isn’t able to treat her right.  And I think Harris isn’t grown up enough to do that, or to know what he wants.  Though,” he went on after a short pause, “this situation might get the sod there faster than if they were exclusive.”  He lowered the cigarette and looked pensive, shrugged slightly.  “S’pose it makes sense that he’d be that bunged up about relationships, given what you say about his upbringing.”  Sapphire eyes rose to meet hers in the overcast of the makeshift sun-cover.  “So yeah.  To be honest, Buffy, I think this is the best way for them to go about it.  Least till he’s figured himself out enough to be worthy of her; and to give her time to decide whether she even wants him to be.”

“Oh.”  A feeling of pervading sadness descended over Buffy, and she moved over to settle herself on a stack of empty crates about a foot and a half from where her guy leaned butt-first against the store’s wall.  “So… when it was you and… Dru, I’m guessing, was that what it was like?”

He froze.  His face twisted, and when he finally moved, it was to flick at the ember on the end of his cigarette with way more force than was strictly necessary.  “Bit different in a nest, pet.”

She knew that tight voice, those held-close-to-the-vest, painful emotions.  “Tell me?” she prompted gently.

He kept his eyes on the ground.  “There’re healthy reasons, like theirs.  Then there’s just…”  He exhaled suddenly, and exasperation flooded the link between them.  “Dammit, Buffy, it’s just bloody well different, yeah?  Everything’s sodding top-down for vamps.  Has to be, innit, or the whole bleedin’ hierarchy breaks down.”  The cigarette corked his mouth for a second, and he sucked, furiously.  Then his hand dropped, and he was talking again, smoke drifting from nostrils and lips, making him look kind of like a humanoid dragon.  “This, what we have here?  Would never be permitted.  Couldn’t be, or a Master, a nest-sire…  They wouldn’t be able to keep control of the vamps below ‘em.”  

He scoffed then, eyes still glued to the ground, and the bitterness in his voice pained her to hear it.  “You have to have the childe lookin’ to the sire with all love, all fealty, or they just run amok… but the sire can’t look at the childe that way.  Sire has to look to  their  sire in the same way; all the way up to the one as runs things.”  His voice had gone low, still, lost its ferocity.  “It’s one-sided, and it bloody well hurts… but that’s what makes you leave, eventually, to go off and sire your own childe so that you can feel loved like that.”

/Oh.  Oh, wow./

Spike’s lips twisted faintly, and he lifted his cigarette again, but didn’t set it to his mouth.  “Probably the only reason we keep on as a species, yeah?  Because if we felt wholly loved by our sires, we’d never need to make childer of our own to make us feel that way, and we’d all just bloody well die off.”  A faint shrug.  “Because if the sire loved the childe the same way as you do in a closed claim, then…”

She got it.  In that instant, she got it.  “Then you can command each other.  You cut each other off from the hierarchy.  You’re not a part of the nest anymore; and the sires, the masters, none of them have any hold over either of you, because the only loyalty left is to each other.”  

As a system, it really sucked for half of everyone involved… but for the continuation of the species, it worked.  What was that Star Trek thing Xander was always quoting at her?  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or something?  

It was straight-up natural selection, like they’d taught her in science classes in high school.  Species survival was selected for over individual happiness, every time.

“Yeah,” Spike agreed, his voice caustic with it.  “And it’s why I didn’t know, love, till we did it.  Why no one knows, yeah?  How it works; because it’s just not fucking done.”  His tones turned sardonic.  “‘Cept, I suspect, maybe with some Master or other here and there, in the past.  Because it’d work well enough if you’re at the top of the food chain.  Wouldn’t interrupt things if you then sired someone, started your own nest.”  He tilted his head thoughtfully at her.  “‘Magine if I did…  And don’t look all worried, Slayer.  I’m not plannin’ on it.  Don’t want the responsibility, do I?  Spent too many soddin’ years takin’ care of my own sire to want to put up with managing a fledge.”

/Oh./  She couldn’t quite hide the relief she felt.  She knew he would manage his own fledge, if he ever made one, much better than these other idiots, but the idea that she might have to stake her lover’s… child if he or she got out of hand—that she might ever have to hurt Spike that way—was anathema.

Knowing eyes glittered on hers, and she knew that was part of the reason he never would.  “Would be mine to do, Buffy, if I ever did, and it went wrong.  Sire minds his get.  Wouldn’t be yours to do away with.”

/Ouch./  That was, if possible, even worse.  To have to watch him dust his own… childe, to save her having to do it…

/Just, no./  

Thank god he never wanted to go there.

The strain on the link between them peaked, and he looked away.  “But if I  did  sire someone,” he went on, lightly theoretical, “it wouldn’t fuck with our bond, because the fledge would look to  me .  Wouldn’t damage my bond with you, because I look to  you , yeah?  The sire doesn’t look to the fledge, so the hierarchy remains intact.”  

She could breathe.  She could.  It took voluntary concentration, but she managed it somehow, through the pain of knowing what…  What being with her cost him.  

He didn’t seem to mind all that much, though; at least on the surface of it.  Being… childless.  As childless as she would always be.  It was just… part of the package, for them to be together.  And maybe…  /Maybe it’s just what’s meant to be, for both of us.  Maybe it’s too much to ask any child, anyway, to live in our world.  To be dragged into the insanity that is our lives./  And besides; not that she could even think that far ahead, but the idea of trying to protect any…  Any human baby…

Not that she could imagine doing… what it took to have one, with anyone not-Spike.  Not to mention, babies were so… vulnerable.  And they were built-in leverage against a Slayer.  /And my life is so automatically insane;  and look how dangerous things are for Mom and Dawn, just being part of my family.  Heck, look how dangerous things are for Wil and Xan and Giles and everyone, just for being my friends!  I should be glad Dad never comes around me anymore, because it keeps him safe./

The idea of introducing a child to her crazy, dangerous life—ever—sounded like the dumbest idea she could ever possibly imagine.  Heck, introducing an unsuspecting, un-consenting baby vamp into the mix sounded like way too much work, so…

/Definitely not a road we need to go down.  At least, not…/  

Spike must have read her whirl of thought and emotion well enough to pick up the drift, for he gave her a faint half-smile, nodded, shrugged with what looked like pained derision.  Then, unexpectedly, he cast aside his half-smoked cigarette to the stained pavement.  It lay there, withered and burning alone.  “Any road, I can command minions well enough, still, if they give me blood fealty.  That bit isn’t bothered by this that we have between us.  And no doubt it would be the same whether the minions were related by blood or no, so I suppose maybe it’s been done before.”  He lifted his gaze to hers, dark with surmise.  “‘S just, no one’s noised about it.  And anyone who’s done it who isn’t a Master’s likely been dusted right off for fucking up the hierarchy, so it never made it into anyone’s annals.”  A mirthless, toothy grin for what they both knew was the incomplete nature of said annals.  “Internal vampire politics, yeah?  Not something we advertise to the boys in tweed.”

There was a longstanding agony in him, still, though, that begged for her touch.  Shoving aside her own confusion, she moved away from her makeshift seat to lay a hand on his taut forearm.  Right now, he was thinking not of a future closed off to them, but a past he had lived, very painfully, for a century, and would never be able to recapitulate, because...  /Oh.  He doesn’t want his own childe because he would never want to… to do that to anyone else./  

She finally got it.  “It can’t have been easy, though.  To watch her… love other people, when you loved her so much…”

He looked away, avoided her eye, but she felt it nonetheless.  “Way of the world, Slayer.”  Pushing away from the wall, he stepped on the still-smoking cigarette, ground it out beneath his boot.  “Any road, she didn’t love any of them, and I knew she loved me as well as she could manage it.  It was just sex with the rest.  Nothing more to it.”  He jerked his chin toward the front of the store.  “Vengeance doesn’t love any of the blokes she shags, either, and she loves the Boy as well as she’s able.  Gives as much of herself to him as she can at mo’.  It’s only, she’s been hurt badly enough she’s afraid to give more and be hurt again.  Can’t trust her heart to him…”  A considering tilt of the head.  “…And it isn’t as if I can blame her.  Harris is lucky.  At least she’s not in love with some other bloke.  He’s got a shot at winning her, with time an’ a bit of patience.”  A tiny, one-shouldered shrug.  “‘S more than I ever had.”

/Oh, wow./  “Spike…”

He lifted his eyes to her, and that one small smile broke out across his lips; the almost shy one.  “Which is fine, yeah, since I got what I wanted in the end.  I struck out on my own, the way I was meant to have done long since.  The way she knew I would.  Found someone who’d love me well.  Didn’t even have to kill anyone to do it.”  He glowed at her for a moment, then sobered.  “Feel a bit bad for her that she gambled and lost the toss, for her part.  Always will.  She rolled to give me up to you in hopes of getting her Daddy back, and instead lost us both, came up empty.  An’ I suppose that’s the way of the world sometimes, but I hate to think of her wanderin’ out there alone in it.”  Buffy felt the tight concern in his voice, in his very being as he said it.  The worry that would always be there, for the sire he had loved and cared for for a hundred and twenty years.  “But it’s not my lookout anymore.  She’s healthy, and she’s a big girl.”

It twisted in her.  “Do you want to go… look her up?  Find her, see if she’s… doing okay?”

A slight hesitation, a flicker of surprise, as if he was shocked that she would be generous enough to offer, then…  “No.  No, Buffy, I think…”  He straightened, firmed up his stance.  “No, I think it’s best I don’t.  I’d like to believe that this thing between us makes me immune, but I’d rather not test it, yeah?  Just in case she can still pull out a sire-command on me.  Because we’re still only guessing, and I just don’t bloody well know, innit?”

/Oh./  She hadn’t  remotely  thought of that… and what a thought it was.  “Yeah.  Ew.”  Also,  no .  Drusilla would pry her mate away from her over her cold, dead, lifeless body.

As if the very thought had given him the jitters, Spike went all spastic.  He started glancing out under the awning, gauging the sun, eyeing her.  And Buffy felt his sudden surge of need-want-yearning.  The need for reconnection.  “Want to get the hell out of here, love?”

As always, he could make her tingle all over with just a look.  She blew out a steadying breath, nibbled on her lower lip.  “You talked me into it,” she admitted, and batted her lashes at him in an attempt to lighten the mood.

He barked a short laugh and held out his left hand, tugging the duster up over his head with his right just in case a stray remaining sunbeam might catch him on the ten-foot dash to the car.  “Mum’s at the gallery till eight tonight, innit?” he asked pointedly.  “Doin’ the Cartright showing?”

/Ooh, you’re so bad./  “You really like to walk on the wild side, don’t you.”

He grinned challengingly and lifted his brows.  “We’re gonna be right at her side all through the next showin’, when she puts up Donavan’s bloody strange stuff from our side of town.  I think she owes us the indulgence of an hour…”

Buffy was still of two minds about her mother showcasing demon art, but she wasn’t going to get back into that one at this stage of the game.  “You just want to live dangerously.”

“Well, yeah.  But not because it turns me on.”  His tones were pointed.  Damn him.

Buffy refused to admit to the fact that he was right.  But he was, as attested to by the pulsing taking up residence between her legs.  Because, yeah, she had developed a certain  thing  in the last half a year or so about the whole thrill of maybe getting caught.  /Not that I’m an exhibitionist, exactly, but…/  But it was kind of a recognizable pattern.  Ish.

One he had in no way missed, the jerk.  “I thought,” she began as she ducked into the car, “um, you wanted to take the time and have the space one of these times to do, you know, that  other  thing…”

Ducking in after her, he shot her a brief, searing look.  Turned away to start the car and guide it around the building, out of the alley.  “Never you worry, Slayer,” he informed her finally.  “I’ve a scene in mind for that other thing.  A well-developed one.  It calls for a certain amount of privacy, yeah, and a lot of uninterrupted time.  And I’ve a plan for that, as well.”

“Oh?”  Just the thought made her all tingly.  “And, um, how…”

His head was in profile as he made a wide turn to the left, but she could still see the instigating smirk on his cheek.  “I’m thinking maybe we should go shopping, pet.”

That threw her.  “Shopping?  For wh…”  The answer to her question hit her very belatedly, and right between the eyes.  “Oh.   Oh .”  And then…  “They won’t let me in.  Not for another year and change…”

The shit-eating grin widened.  “That, Slayer, depends entirely on who owns the shop.  You’ve cred that has nothing whatsoever to do with papered age once you cross the tracks, and you know it.  So.  You let me know when you think you’re ready to do a little  browsing …”  His eyes turned on hers, serious and dark and sparking with bright amber highlights that  dared  her.  “Since you’re the one who’ll be employing what we buy.”

She shivered.  And didn’t answer.  Mostly because she really didn’t think she was capable of speech at all at the moment.

***

Buffy sighed and lay back, sprawling next to Spike on the rumpled, damp bed.  “We have to wash the comforter again.”

“Mmm.”

“Mom’s gonna know we screwed in the house.  It’s like the only reason to do that so often.”  /And I can’t tell her that it’s so not my fault, ‘cause I’m screwing a vampire who’s completely inspirational; just  talking  about taking me to a sex shop to pick toys to use to screw  him , so I lost it and couldn’t help it and had to drag him upstairs to fondle him a little in… places, so that he could also fondle me a lot in… places, and…/

He turned over to nuzzle right into her armpit, because he was a freak.  “Tell her I made you breakfast in bed,” he suggested, muffled.

“It’s nighttime.”

“Supper in bed.”

She rolled her eyes at the ceiling.  “That just sounds suspicious and like there were condiments involved.”

“Hence changing the bedclothes.”  She felt him grin into her underarm.

“Get out of my armpit, you dork.”  She shifted away from him, stuck her palm to his forehead, and gave him a shove.  

He grunted and sprawled back beside her, contentedly eyeing the ceiling.  “Love you, Slayer.  But that print needs to go.  Don’t want those blokes watching me shag anymore.”

Buffy blinked up at the poster pinned over her bed.  She had honestly forgotten it was even there.  She had, after all, mostly redecorated her bedroom long since, bequeathing the better portion of her boyband posters to Dawn in favor of art prints from school, and things like that.  She found she liked the look of the arty stuff on her walls.  They made her feel more grown-up; especially when lying in the arms of her very adult lover (who was sometimes not very adult at all).  But… sometimes she kind of missed feeling like the kid she had never entirely gotten to be, having given it all up.  And now, knowing that maybe she might have gotten to be the baby longer if she hadn’t been made the mystical guardian of an inhuman Key-thing-turned-little-sister, she wondered if she would have redecorated so soon.  /Or, did I even, really?/  If she would have had to be the grown-up one so young; if she would have…

/I should have looked a little closer at  my  room before I left to go trancing around the house that night./  “I kind of want to keep just one reminder that I’m still technically under twenty,” she informed her guy softly, and smirked up at the twin Nelson brothers with their long, blond hair and turquoise electric guitars and too-pretty smiles.  “At least till my birthday.”  She had been way into them in, like, the eighth grade.  Looking at the poster now gave her a happy, even though she hadn’t listened to that particular tape in approximately four years or something.  

“Lads are so pretty I might just look ‘em up and shag ‘em,” Spike opined, grumbling, and narrowed his eyes at the print.  “Soddin’ hair bands.  What the hell did the blokes sing about anyway?”

Buffy smiled and turned her face into his neck.  He smelled like her, and him, and them.  “Mostly love,” she informed him smugly.  “Obsession, breakups, makeups…  All the juicy good stuff.”

He grunted again, trying for dismissive, but his heart wasn’t in it.  “Yeah?  Well, that’s fairly standard fare.”

“And desire that catches you off guard and makes you do the nasty with someone you shouldn’t…” she whispered, and licked his neck.  Gave him a little nip.  

That did it.  He flipped over, proceeded to do some nibbling of his own while she squeaked and squirmed and tried (not really, though) to get away.  “Best kind of desire, that,” he agreed, and trailed his hand down to unceremoniously plunge his fingers into her, taking her by surprise.  

“Nnn, yeah,” she answered, really not sure what she was agreeing to anymore as she arched up into his hand.  “Oh, fuck, please, Spike…”  Sudden, but she was ready for more, and…

“Christ, I love it when you make that sound for me, Slayer,” he whispered, and his hand was gone; and then he was crashing into her, his thumb circling her clit, his hips swiveling impossibly, and oh god, she had been wanting that, because they so hadn’t even gotten that far the first time around, and he was so  good!    So  good, and…

It ended quickly as it had begun, with them panting against each other in the lowering light, the walls and ceiling and their accoutrements now hidden in the gloom.  And Buffy kind of thought maybe there might be a sizable dent in the wall behind the bed.  Not that that was a new thing, and hopefully Mom never came in here and inspected the house for structural damage while they were sleeping at the dorm, or they were so busted.  

“S’pose you’re gonna make me listen to these buggers, then?” Spike murmured, hand under her butt to lift her closer to him, keep himself inside of her.

She obligingly wrapped her lax legs a little tighter around him so that they could turn, sighed contentedly.  “No.  You wouldn’t like their music.  You’d just complain the whole time and ruin it for me.  You’d call ‘em poncy, or pansy, or something else with a ‘p’ in it, and whine about how they harmonize, which is like my favorite part.”

“Mmmf.  Low opinion of my self-restraint, innit?”

She laughed a little into his throat.  “What self-restraint?”

He didn’t dignify that with a response.

After some indeterminate period, they heard the door open and close, the sounds of rustling and voices.  Mom, with Dawn, putting away their coats and chatting about how the showing had been a moderate success, and how Dawn’s evening had gone at Janice’s house.  Spike sighed and drew back to caress her hair back from her face, settled the strands behind her ear.  “Your legs working, pet?”

“Mmm.  Definitely not.”

“Good, then.”  Shifting abruptly away from her, he stripped right out of her body to roll to the side of the bed, and sat up while she was still in the middle of making shocked sounds of protest.  “You stay right here, and I’ll be back in a few ticks.”

She stared after him in amazement.  “Wh…”  

He was already pulling on his jeans as he leaned back to kiss her neck.  She was too with the Jell-O to even catch him, though she made a grab in his direction that failed miserably before he was gone again like a zephyr.  “Got to sneak out for a bit, love.”

“For what?” she demanded, now absolutely suspicious.

“Can’t tell you that, Buffy.”  He grinned at her, curling his tongue in that way that assured her he was up to no good, and ran his lip into his teeth as he eyed her naked body up and down.  “‘S for me to know and you to find out, yeah?”

“Okay, now I  know  you’re up to something.” 

His grin broadened to a serious smirk.  “Well, yeah, but it’s an official something.  The old geezer knows about it; and Mum, too.”

Giles and Mom were in on something that had Spike sneaking away from bed with her to do it?  What even?

Well, not much she could do about it at the moment, unless she could find a ‘get the legs to work quick’ spell.  He was already downstairs making his farewells to the other two-thirds of the Summers clan and heading out the door.  Punk.

She supposed she could take a shower while he was gone, or…

Well, that was the plan.  In a few minutes.  Smiling stupidly to herself, she trailed her fingers up along the smooth skin of the cup of her pelvis and smiled at the oversensitivity.  He’d roughed her up a little in that one spot, pricked her with his fangs when he’d gotten a little excited, early on.  Mmm.  

She could probably masturbate a little and think of what they had just done, or what they were planning on doing, but that sounded both a little tiring right now, and kind of like cheating, since he wasn’t there.  Though, he had said more than once that it wasn’t, and had in fact sort of encouraged her to do it.   “Go on, then, pet,”  he’d said once.   “Sort yourself out.  I’ll feel you across town.  It’ll drive me mad, and you know it.  I’ll be standin’ about with a stiffy and nothin’ to be done about it, and have to come back later and beg you to take care of it for me…”   A pointed little quirk of the eyebrow that invited all sorts of games, though probably he hadn’t meant she should get him all hot and bothered while he was trying to have a conversation with her Watcher about… whatever.   

It wasn’t like she didn’t know what it felt like when he did it.  They’d done it in front of each other before, obviously.  But it was kind of mean, wasn’t it, to…

Something snapped a little inside her head.  /You’re a jerk anyway, wandering off without telling me what you’re up to.  I should… do  something  to drive you nuts, since I’m going nuts wondering what you’re doing without me./  Abruptly decided, she let her hand drift south, brought the other up to her nipple… and bit her lip.  “Deal with it, Spike,” she told the ceiling firmly, and set her mind to thoughts of exactly what she planned to do to him once they got done with their clandestine shopping trip.

She was just getting out of bed a little while later with the firm intent to head across the hall into the shower when he came storming back in, eyes flashing.  She’d heard and felt him coming, of course, his voice clipped as he bade Mom goodnight, put up with the short conversation with her with only about one-third of his usual pleasant, loving patience.  And then he was thumping up the stairs to burst into the bedroom, all glares.  “You barmy bitch.  You almost made me cum all over myself in my soddin’ jeans, right in front of Rupert.  I had to step out back and wank off in the alley.”

/He didn’t think I’d ever actually do it.  Well, guess what, ‘Honey’.  I’m Buffy-unleashed, now.  You’re stuck with the consequences of what you’ve wrought./  Smirking, Buffy purposely bent over in front of him to pick up the towel they’d knocked off the chair earlier in their hurry to make it to the bed.  “Not my fault you left me alone to go do whatever.  I wasn’t done yet.”

He was up against her in a flash and dragging her naked butt up against his jeans.  He had, it must be said, a pretty impressive erection going in there.  Not that that was an unusual state for him.  “Jesus Christ, Buffy, if you want to get revenge on me for keepin’ secrets…”

“Then I think I won.”

He thrust once, hard against her, then let her go very abruptly, so that she stumbled.  “You mad bint.”

“I’m going to take a shower,” she informed him lightly, and straightened to turn and head for the door.  Wrapped the towel around herself, and knotted it firmly at her breasts.  “You want to  come? ” she hinted, leaning hard on the word.  

He definitely would.  Because she had stopped, on purpose, right before they could finish.  Which meant that he had also had to stop.    

She would have known if he’d finished without her.  She would have felt it.  And in a way, it was almost like… she hadn’t given him permission yet.  /And what do you know; this claimy thing comes with all kinds of special extras that weren’t in the literature when we bought stock./

Of course, it also meant that she was more than a little squirmy herself, but she’d take it.  It made for a nice game of one-upmanship.  

It also made for a certain amount of leverage.

She met his eyes, let him see the challenge there.  And what do you know; his hands were shaking.  “Bloody fuck, Buffy,” he whispered, and his voice cracked.  “Mum’s just downstairs.  And if she comes up, she’ll be right on the other bloody side of the wall…”

“Then I guess you better be quiet,” Buffy heard herself answer, and pressed her thighs together involuntarily, because oh my god, it turned her on.  Way too much, probably, for it to be healthy, tempting him to fuck her right under her mother’s nose.  

But it was going to happen quick for her because of that, and because she was already, ah… primed.  And, well, she was pretty damned sure that it would happen quick for him too, what with one thing and the other.  

She felt his internal struggle, and… hell.  He was, after all, a demon.  “Sometimes I still bloody well hate you,” he flared, eyes blazing at her.

“I know,” she told him cheerily, and struck out across the hall.  /Win./

He darted a look and a sniff down the hall like some kind of hunted animal, then leapt after her, helpless to resist.  And the second they were inside he had her against the nearest wall.  “Let go, Spike,” she ordered him calmly.  “I need to lock the doors.”

He was panting.  His entire body was trembling.  It was fantastic.  She felt heady with power as he let go of her wrists, dropped his hands to his sides and glared at her, the picture of maddened desperation.  

She walked right away from him, and watched him over her shoulder as she slowly turned the lock on the inside door that led to Mom’s bedroom.

His hands trembled, visibly, again.  He shoved one into his hair, sending it into wild disarray.  “Fucking hell…” he whispered.

“Lock that door,” she told him firmly.

He fumbled behind him to turn the lock in the knob with numb fingers.  

She stripped off the towel, turned to hang it over the hook next to the shower.  Bent over again to start the water, while he stood dumbly by the door and stared at her like she was insane.  Once she got the water to the temperature she wanted, she flipped the thing over to the shower setting, then turned around and sat on the edge of the tub.  It was chilly on her butt.  “Rub yourself through your jeans.”

He exhaled hard through his nose.  “Oh, Christ, love…”  But his hand was already moving, because she had phrased it as a command.  He gave himself a hard rub, once, twice, glaring at her with eyes blazing.  

“Stop.”

He did, still glaring.  

“Come here.”  

He approached her warily, as if he were nearing some sort of unknown species of vamp-eating lioness.  “What’s this sodding mood you’re in right now, Slayer?”

Shaking her head, she seized his waistband roughly and dragged him into place in front of her, thumbed the button through the eyelet of his jeans… and dragged them down without lowering the zipper.  They scraped him on the way down, making him exclaim in shock.  “Bloody fuck, Buffy!”

She caught his seeping cock before he even had a chance to realize what she was up to, and made it all better while his legs were still trapped together by his jeans, high up on his thighs.  

He made a high, shocked moan when her mouth settled over him, and she immediately pulled off.  “Shut up,” she reminded him flatly, and returned to what she was doing.  

He made a choked noise, and dropped one shaking hand to her head.  

Gripping him just a little too hard so he couldn’t get off, she spent a little time dragging his foreskin up over the head of his cock and mercilessly tickling him underneath with just the tip of her tongue, because it always seemed to drive him completely insane when she played with it; made it swell up and get all heavy under her tongue; and flirted with that one spot just there, at the underside of the head where the skin joined up there.  And because it was what he needed to get off, she came close, and came close, but didn’t touch him there, and worried at the skin with her lips, and tugged, and tickled too lightly; and felt him pulse, and pulse, and felt his needy surges rolling through the both of them, until his knees almost buckled, once, twice… and each time, she squeezed his cock a little harder… and listened to the music of him, groaning with the torture of it.  

Finally, he broke.  “Fuck, Christ,  fuck ; Buffy!  Oh, bloody hell;  please!   Whatever I did, I’m sorry, alright?  What the hell do you want from me?”  It came out in an obedient whisper, but a terribly strained one.   

She pulled off again, to stare up at him.  “I thought I told you to shut up.”  

He stared at her in shock.

She tilted her head, assessing for a moment, and then…  Well, she was feeling pretty needy herself by now.  She’d really, really like him to get her off.  But probably he shouldn’t till he did it for her.  “Take your clothes off.  Maybe I’ll let you come if you get me off enough to make me feel better about this whole thing.”  And letting him go, she stood to step into the shower, leaving him behind to stare at her in amazement.  

It made her feel incredibly slick and swollen and she really, really wanted him, and it was probably really twisted how much she liked this, but then, she already knew that.  They’d played little Dom!Buffy games before this.  It so wasn’t like this was a first or anything.

This was just the first time she’d ever edged him like this.  Usually she was way too merciful for this kind of thing, or she didn’t have the patience.  He was the one who liked to do this to her.  /Not this time, though, buddy.  This time I’m gonna earn that title you always give me, when you call me your queen./  

She was in the shower, luxuriating under the hot water by the time he climbed in behind her.  He just stood there, fists clenching, watching her for a second, like he couldn’t trust himself to speak.  It took her a minute to realize that she’d told him to shut up about three times, and he was waiting for instructions.  “You need to say anything Victorian?” she asked him softly, because it seemed like a good time to.

He eyed her for a second with a gimlet glare, then straightened slowly and relaxed his fists.  Let out a long, slow breath.  “No, mistress,” he whispered.

She shivered at the not-quite-controlled sound of it.  “I like it better when you just say whatever comes to mind.”  She drew her fingertips up between her breasts, feeling all powerful.  “Come here and get on your knees.  I’ve been wanting you for a really long time.”  

He did, and oh, god, the feel of his mouth on her while the hot water cascaded over her body was…  Oh, fuck, it was amazing.  

Also, no one ever mentioned how tough it was to keep your balance while you did this stuff, and maybe they should get some of those assistance bar things installed in here.  

She managed well enough by putting one foot in the soap-well thing and grabbing onto the showerhead deal.  And spent the next however long reminding herself very firmly not to crush the metal pipe closed each time he made her come.  Which he did, three times in a row, struggling each time not to come himself when he felt her go, while she dug her nails into his shoulders, his neck, and told him very softly, over the sound of the spray pounding on his back, “No.  Not yet.  Not yet.”  And listened to him whimper, and squirm against her clit, and moan with desperate need.  

Finally, leaning back with her head against the wall of the tiled shower, she looked down on him kneeling there in front of her all strained; smiled and nodded.  “Now.  Let me see you come.”

He groaned and closed his eyes.  His hand dropped to his now very swollen, very brightly-colored cock.  Probably all the blood he had in his entire body was there, and damn, that was pretty.  It probably hurt him even to touch…

She hissed involuntarily when his hand closed around it.  Yep, it did.  “No.  Not like that.  Get up.”  /You shouldn’t be on your knees anymore.  You’ve done everything I asked you to do./

He rose to his feet, holding himself and watching her warily.  

“Lean back against the wall.”

He did as he was told; proudly displayed before her now with his hand resting lightly on his desperate prick.  Standing there with just his shoulders against the wall, he waited then, just watching her.

“Go ahead,” she told him softly, and held her breath, ready to feel him.

His eyes fell closed when he started.  Hers didn’t, and oh god, he needed this.  So badly.  

It wasn’t going to take him long, either.  A few quick sweeps of his thumb, a few swift jerks.  She was going to have to move quickly if she was going to help.  Accordingly, she let herself enjoy only a couple passes of his hand, watching him rise to the balls of his feet with each one, every muscle in his gorgeous, cut body tense with it— god , he was beautiful—before she moved forward to join him, moved her hand over the top of his.  

He jerked with a startled oath when she matched his rhythm, the shower-heated warmth of her hand a startling contrast, she knew, to his own flesh.  “Buffy,” he whispered through gritted teeth.  

“What am I?” she asked him, staring into his now open eyes, and drew her hand up, gentle and with just exactly the right pressure to make him come.  And flicked her thumb over that spot he loved, at the underside of his cock.

He moaned, low and guttural.  “My queen,” he whispered, and spilled into her hand, a series of several full-bodied, shuddering jerks that resonated through her in a rush from loins to chest to throat.  

Spent, he sagged back against the chill tile of the shower, the black-and-white pattern startling around his flushed-as-a-vampire-ever-got body. “And don’t you ever forget it,” she told him, satisfied, and let him go.

His eyes opened once more on hers, clouded and amazed, as his own hand dropped away.  “All this because I’m keeping a secret, Buffy?”  he asked, quiet and curious.  

She leaned back, let the last remains of warm water slide over her hand, then her hair.  “Maybe.  If you want to rinse off, you better come do it.  The water’s almost gone.” 

He stared at her for a beat before pushing himself off the wall to shuffle over.  She sidled around to give him a turn under the spigot, watched with proprietary pride as he mechanically worked his cock to rinse himself off, splashed a little water here and there in the other nooks and crannies of him, then cursed mildly and slapped the dial off.  Hm.

“Are you upset with me?”

He turned a little to eye her over his shoulder, silver necklace gleaming in the lamplight, then a faint smile quirked the corner of his lips.  “Bloody hell no,” he answered, and shoved the curtain aside to nab the towel off the hook.  “That was bleedin’ fabulous, you mad, torturous witch.  It’s just…”  He shook his head, buried his face briefly in the terrycloth, shoved it over his hair.  When he emerged, he blinked at her in mild confusion.  “Didn’t expect it, is all.”

Buffy seized the towel from his grasp and set about carefully drying his body, taking special care to lovingly attend to every part of him.  She dropped kisses as she went; at the center of his chest, at his belly, on the tip of his cock—he made a little sound at that and jumped slightly, as did the gentleman down under, who rose to the occasion yet again, because he was always happy for any attention—fondled his excellent butt, ran the towel up and down his legs, back and front, patted off his back while he lifted his arms for her, eyeing her the entire time as if she were a museum specimen.  “What?”

He shook his head a little.  “Nothin’.  You know.  Just… still not used to this.”

/Oh./  She knew.  He’d told her, earlier in the year.  Drusilla hadn’t been much for aftercare.  Not that she had really ever been the one to top him, mostly.  He had told Buffy straight up that he was starving for that kind of loving, since he’d had to play a role he didn’t necessarily prefer with his ex, most of the time.  But once in a very great while, she’d done it… and then only because she was pissed off at him.  Not really a sex thing so much as a torture thing, though he’d gotten off on it because it was the closest thing he’d had in all those years to what he’d needed.  But usually, because Dru had been mad at him when it had happened, or because she’d simply gotten bored, or lost track of what was going on, she would wander off and forget that he was chained up or whatever, and left him there to his own devices for sometimes days at a stretch.  And he’d taken it; taken what he could get, just to have this.  To have the semblance of being topped once in a blue moon, because while Spike would and could switch when he was angry, or wanted to have some fun… he mostly really, really loved having a woman push him to his knees and show him who he belonged to.  

But he had paid for it, with his sire.  Sometimes really, really painfully.  And there had never been anything like aftercare.  

Consequently, the first time they’d done anything like this, several months ago, and Buffy had cuddled him afterward and kissed him all better, he’d stared at her as if she were a new and heretofore unknown species of angel or something.  

He’d had no idea what to make of it.  

He’d run away, actually.  Which had, admittedly, totally freaked Buffy out, wondering if she’d done something wrong.  It hadn’t  felt  wrong, being as it was exactly what he’d done with her after he’d played with her that way.  Why would he…

Except, he’d come back a little later, after maybe ten minutes spent smoking and pacing to get his head on straight, and sat next to her, and taken her hand, and explained it.  All of it, if without naming names.  Explained Drusilla and him, and Angelus and him, and that everything, with him, had always been a lot of pain with the pleasure… but never any loving, after.  

And it had absolutely and completely broken her heart to hear it.  

So she always gave it to him.  But she was always prepared for him to freeze up when she offered it.  Or maybe for him to flee, sometimes.  And she tried to do it in slow, small doses, so that it could sneak up on him, because to lave him with too much bounty in that department, the way he did with her after, would surely scare him off completely, no matter how very much he wanted it.  

/Maybe someday you’ll let me give you everything you deserve, without sarcasm or fear that I’ll… step on you./

She really, really hoped he would.  That the perfect moment would come for him after they did the thing they were planning for him.  Because that scene might end up bringing up a lot of stuff for him—old stuff, and recent stuff—and after that, she kind of really wanted to pamper him, if he could let her.  “C’mon,” she told him softly, now, and lightly slapped his rear to get him moving.  “Let’s go back to bed.  We have to, you know, strip it down and stuff.”  She smiled at him.  “And then once we do that, I want to lay you out on it and touch you all over till you relax.”

He shivered visibly.  “Buffy…”

The thing was to combine half-rough cajolery with tenderness till he broke and let himself be completely vulnerable with her.  Because he had started out absolutely without any shields or guards with her, not one mask, as raw as he had ever been, and they both knew it.  She had not kicked him when he was down; not then, and she never would.  He just had to force himself to remember that, every time.  “C’mon.”

He exhaled, sharply, nodded.  “Yeah.”

She went to unlock the inside door, while he wrapped his towel around his waist and stood listening at the hall one.  She toweled off quickly and wrapped hers around her hair, ready to make a naked dash across the hall the minute he told her the coast was clear.  “Alright,” he whispered.

“You better be right about this,” she warned.

“I know it,” he hissed back, “or Mum’ll disown me.”

“Oh, I think at this point you’re golden no matter what we do…” 

“Shut it, Slayer, and c’mon, before one of ‘em comes upstairs…”  Yanking the door open, he made a dash for the bedroom.

Giggling under her breath, she followed him at a run.

“It’s not like she doesn’t know we’re screwing,” she went on as soon as she gained the bedroom.

He shoved the door shut behind her and glared, dragging a hand through his hair again.  It sprang wetly up into a riot of confused, unruly curls, all damp and spritzed-looking and adorable, and she couldn’t help it.  She stripped his towel off and gave him a shove, toppling him backward onto the bed.  

“Oof.  Bloody fuck, love; I thought we were gonna change the…”

“I’m going to kiss you all over, and you’re going to stand it.  Because you’re so damn cute…”

He narrowed his eyes at her, flailing his hands to try to fight her off as she lunged to kiss his nipples.  “I’m not…  Sodding fuck, Slayer…  Cute!  Dammit, Buffy, quit…  Aaah!”  

Jamming a knee hard up against his butt, just behind his very vulnerable balls, Buffy slapped a palm down to the center of his chest to pin him flat.  “Yes, you are.  Now hold still and let me make you feel loved, or I’m gonna get pissed off at you again.”

Subsiding back onto the bed, Spike rolled his eyes.  “Fine.  Mad scold of a woman.”

“Uhuh.  Lay still and let me love you.”

He closed his eyes and sighed.  “Buffy?” he whispered as she kissed around his collarbones. 

“Mmm?” 

“How the bloody hell did I get so lucky?”

She lifted her head and shoved a damp lock of hair away to eye him with what she hoped was a bright, encouraging smile.  “Same way I did.  Tied you up in a bathtub and made you beg for mercy.”

He rolled his eyes.  “Yeah.  Remind me to watch out around you and bathrooms… nnnn… Christ, pet… are you  tickling  me?”

“That depends.  Are you ticklish?”  Which wasn’t a fair question, since she knew he was, at least right there.  

She kind of thought it would be fun to find more places, though.

“Oh, fuck,” he whispered.  It was the voice of a man who knew he was in for a long night.

*   *   *








Alright, so... real talk.  I had that poster over my bed as a young creature of about Buffy's age in approx. the same era. 

The Nelson twins were freakin' cute.  And that album ("After The Rain") was catchy as hell.  Anyone who says it wasn't can fight me.  I still get those damn songs stuck in my head to this day, and it's been like twenty-some-odd years.