When the Ice Has Melted
Bugger! I had her there – for just a second, she was all mine. I know she felt something…
Spike lay on the already cooling stone and stared at the ceiling, idly noting all the cobwebs as he mulled over what had just happened.
I don’t care how much she hurt, or how good that ice felt, there’s no way the Slayer – Buffy – would have let me touch her like that if she didn’t want me to. She’s gonna deny it now – know that, don’t I? But I was there. I felt it. She was there with me for just a minute. And she didn’t stake me after…
Chapter One (1/9)
Buffy stood in front of the bathroom mirror and peered at her back. Yesterday’s painful sunburn was only a memory, replaced by a rich golden tan that she knew would fade almost as quickly.
Who knew being a slayer meant that your body was going to consider a suntan as something to be healed? Somebody should really speak to the Council about that. It wasn’t fair.
She continued muttering to herself about the injustice of having to spend so many of her waking hours in the dark and then not being able to keep a good tan for more than a day or so. No one appreciated how hard it was to find the time needed to keep her sun-kissed complexion.
I guess someday, when I don’t have wrinkles, I’ll appreciate it. Assuming, of course, that I live long enough to worry about wrinkles.
As long as she kept her attention on her skin and the unfairness of living in southern California but having to work to maintain a good tan, she didn’t have to remember the incredibly sexy vampire and the inventive way he’d cooled her off the night before. Resolutely refusing to think about him, or the way her body had responded to his skillful attention, she dressed in clothes that were much more modest than what she’d worn the night before, and went downstairs to eat.
Dawn eyed her sweatshirt and the long, stretchy workout pants and blinked in surprise.
“Last night you went out almost naked, today you look like a nun – if nuns wore workout clothes and Sunnydale U sweatshirts. What’s the matter, did the vamps spend more time ogling than fighting?”
Dawn’s happy snort at her own humor faded as she saw her sister’s face pale.
“Oh my god! Buffy? Did something…bad…happen last night? I thought you said you only saw two vamps and that you dusted them?”
“No, no. Nothing bad. I just felt kind of…exposed, so I’m over compensating, I guess.”
“So, you didn’t have any trouble with anything then?”
“No, of course not. What gives a cranky sunburned slayer trouble?”
“Riiiight…” Dawn’s voice clearly indicated her disbelief, but she dropped the subject and went back to her cereal.
Fortunately, Joyce had already left for the gallery before Buffy left the house, and she hadn't had to face those oh-so-perceptive “mom” eyes. She wore her baggy clothing all day, ignoring the funny looks she got when she attended her only class. When she joined Riley for lunch off campus, Buffy felt she was sufficiently removed from the activities of the night before that she could talk to him without stuttering.
“Isn’t it a little warm for that outfit?” he asked with a bemused smile.
“I got a bad sunburn yesterday,” Buffy explained quickly. “I’m trying to keep the sun off my skin until it’s all better.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. That’s a shame. So, I guess you’re too sore for…”
“For…?” Buffy blinked at him in genuine confusion.
“Well, I don’t have to work this afternoon, and you don’t have any classes, so I thought maybe we’d…”
“You…we… Right! You’re free for the rest of the day, and I’m free and…we’re both free.”
He nodded slowly. “Are you all right, Buffy? You didn’t patrol last night did you?”
“Well, yeah, I patrolled a little bit. I mean that’s what I do, isn’t it? Patrol. Can’t let a little sunburn stop me from doing away with evilness.”
Riley made a face. “And yet, Spike is still walking around.”
“Spike? What’s Spike got to do with anything?” Buffy knew her suddenly high pitched voice was giving away her nervousness, but she couldn’t seem to control it. “I mean, if I had seen him, what would it matter?”
Riley’s eyes narrowed as he watched her carefully. “I didn’t say you’d seen him last night. I said he was still walking around, in spite of living in the same town as ‘The Slayer’.” He made air quotes around her title, causing her own narrowed eyes as she waited for him to continue.
“It doesn’t matter – not really. Except that everybody, including your mother and sister, is way too comfortable around him to suit me, and I would have thought-- No one seems to care anymore that he’s a bloodsucker. Even Xander talks about him like he’s some distant relative that he got stuck with.”
“Xander was stuck with Spike for a while. They were…roomies… until Spike got the crypt. I guess they bonded or something. I mean, they argue and say rude things to each other, but I think they’d miss it if they didn’t have each other to insult. It’s a guy thing.”
“Bonded. With a vampire.”
“Heh,” Buffy gave a weak laugh. “Well, you know, we’ve had more time to get to know… You know what?” she interrupted herself cheerfully. “Let’s talk about something else. Spike is just so…so…not interesting.”
“Except that, according to you, if you wanted a guy with super powers, you’d be dating Spike. Isn’t that what you said? Sounds pretty interesting to me.”
“Oh my god, Riley!” Guilt lent emphasis to Buffy’s protestations. “I just pulled his name out of my butt. I was trying to save your life, remember? Cause you had this stupid idea that I wouldn’t want you anymore if you didn’t have all your enhancements.”
Riley nodded. “Right. And yet, here I am, all unenhanced and you just get more and more distant and less and less interested in spending time with me.”
Buffy paled. Resolutely forcing memories of last night’s inventive and oh-so-satisfying sex from her mind, she smiled gamely. “Sunburn, remember? But, you know, Slayer healing and all that. I should be fine in a day…or two. Why don’t we just make it a date? For…um…Thursday night? Thursday night we’ll go out and then we’ll go back to your place and have…um…do stuff.”
“Do stuff? I was thinking we might make love,” he said slowly, his eyes clouded with suspicion.
“Right! Make love. That’s the expression I was looking for. Isn’t it funny how something can just be right on the tip of your tongue and you just can’t spit it out?” She beamed at him, wearing her best "I’m a blonde” smile and waited for him to relax. “So, Thursday, right? Is that okay?”
“I guess it’ll have to be,” he agreed. “But today is only Monday. I thought you said you’d be healed in a day or two?”
“Just trying to be safe,” she said quickly. She was becoming such a good liar. It was amazing, really. “You know, just in case. I don’t want to be too sore to participate.”
“Right. Well that makes sense, I guess. How about if I help you patrol tonight? It’s been awhile since we did that together, too.”
“Yes. If you aren’t at a hundred percent because of that sunburn, you could probably use somebody to watch your back, right?”
“Oh. Yes. Right. Good…good idea. You’ll watch my back and I’ll just…patrol.”
“You were planning to, weren’t you? If you did it last night, l wouldn’t expect you to skip it tonight.”
“No. I mean, yes. Of course I’m planning to patrol. Just like I did last night when I was still doing an imitation of a Buffy lamp.”
“Were you all right?” His genuine concern snapped her out of her memories of the previous night’s patrol. “Were you able to slay?”
“What? Oh, yeah. It was okay. Kind of ouchie, but they dusted anyway.”
“See? You need me. I can do the staking and keep you from being ouchie.”
Insisting that she’d covered Restfield the previous evening, Buffy managed to steer Riley away from anywhere Spike might be lurking. They went through several of the newer, smaller cemeteries on the other side of town, dusting two fledglings just as they were digging themselves out. Buffy stood back and let Riley do the honors, watching carefully just in case he was overestimating his current abilities. However, even without his enhancements, he was a big, strapping man and his stake went through the vamps’ chests with no problem.
“Don’t think I didn’t notice you watching me,” he said as they walked back to his SUV. “Did you think I couldn’t do it?”
“Of course I knew you could do it,” she protested. “It’s not like I haven’t seen you stake any vampires since… I assumed you could; I was really just…admiring your technique.”
“I don’t want you treating me like I’m helpless,” he growled, ignoring the weak compliment. “Like I’m something you have to protect. That’s not your job.”
“Actually,” she said quietly, “that is my job, Riley. You know this. I’m here to protect. You, my friends, total strangers. Anyone who’s in danger. I was Chosen to keep people safe.”
“That’s a bit grandiose, don’t you think?” he scoffed. “You’re a vampire slayer. An interesting job description, but hardly a sacred calling.”
Buffy shook her head. It was an ongoing argument between them – Riley’s post-Initiative view of the creatures she fought as just some sort of particularly repulsive animals; and, by extension, his insistence that whatever the Council of Watchers used to provide their slayers with the power necessary to fight vampires and demons, it had to have a scientific explanation. Nothing he’d seen or heard about from her or Giles had convinced him differently.
While Buffy stared at him with her mouth open, she felt tingles on the back of her neck. She was already slipping her stake into her hand when she recognized the tingles for what they were and relaxed. She glared in their direction, hoping Spike would get the message to remain out of sight.
“Dumbass!” she muttered as the unmistakable bright blond head appeared, heading in their direction.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Oh, not you, Riley. Sorry! I meant him.” She pointed towards the vampire now walking towards them with that rolling strut that he used when he wanted to be intimidating.
Buffy put her hands on her hips and glared as Spike strode up to them.
“See you brought your own help tonight, Slayer,” he said, giving Riley an insolent stare.
“Yes. I have help, thank you,” she said through gritted teeth. “Why don’t you go back and see what you can find to kill in your own cemetery?”
“It wasn’t as much fun there tonight as it was last night,” he replied with a smirk. “I thought maybe I could find something more to do out here.”
“Buffy? What does he mean ‘brought your own help tonight’? And what’s with the ‘thank you’? Did you go to him for help last night?”
“No, Riley. I didn’t ‘go to him’ for help. He just happened to be there when I was fighting some vamps. You know Spike, he just can’t resist getting into somebody else’s fight…”
The look she sent Spike was suddenly less angry and more pleading – ruining completely his plan to drop innuendos until the dense soldier figured out that something had happened between his girl friend and the vampire he hated. At Buffy’s silent entreaty, he folded and nodded to her before turning to leave.
“Good to know you’ve got someone to watch your back tonight, Slayer,” he said as he moved away. “Take care of that sunburn.”
In a few seconds, he had disappeared into the shadows as though he’d never been there.
“You didn’t tell me you’d seen Spike last night,” Riley said through tight lips, still staring into the direction that the vampire had taken.
“It wasn’t relevant,” Buffy sighed. “And I knew you’d just get all…weird…if I told you he helped me out.”
“So, you lied to me?”
“By omission, I guess. I just didn’t want to deal with this.”
“Your overreaction any time I mention Spike.”
“Spike. That would be the monster with superpowers that you’d be dating if that’s what you wanted.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and blew out an explosive breath.
“And there you are. Making a big deal out of--” She stopped, her inability to continue to lie and her guilt at knowing she was lying – more than he could imagine – preventing her from continuing. “I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I just thought it would be better not to mention that I ran into Spike. I didn’t mean to lie to you.”
He nodded, then pulled her into a clumsy hug as he leaned against the car. “I’m sorry, too,” he said. “I know I’m a bit defensive now. And I really don’t understand why he’s still walking around. Isn’t that your job? Slaying vampires?”
“Not vampires that are currently harmless, who help me protect my family, and who have even helped me save the world,” she said shortly. Riley’s one-note speech was really getting old.
As if recognizing that he’d pushed about as far as it would be wise to go, Riley dropped the subject, instead whispering in her ear about how eager he was for it to be Thursday. When he tried to slide his hands under her shirt, she flinched involuntarily.
“Oh, I’m sorry! I forgot all about the sunburn. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“It’s okay,” she mumbled, embarrassed at his misinterpretation of what had happened, but not inclined to correct him.
Not that she was sure why she had flinched from his touch on her bare skin – only that his hand was warm and unwelcome. With a minimum of touching, she managed to get him to say goodnight and to stop insisting on driving her home “safely”. She wasn’t sure why she no longer wanted to spend all her time with her boyfriend, but she didn’t want him around while she tried to figure it out. Buffy responded to his lengthy goodnight kiss with as much enthusiasm as she could, then quickly disengaged herself and started walking away before he could restart the argument.
“Goodnight, Riley,” she said, waving and walking faster.
“Call me when you get home,” he called after her, miming a phone call when she turned to answer him.
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