Buffy came down to the basement, her back stiff, her eyes hard. “You awake?”
“I can be,” Spike said, sitting up in his cot.
“We’re having a meeting upstairs,” she said. “There’s news from the girl.”
“I’m all yours,” Spike said. He stood up and stretched, his bare torso catching Buffy’s attention in spite of herself. It annoyed her. She’d used to love to touch that chest....
“Right,” she said, her voice dripping with scorn.
Spike glanced at her. “You got something you want to say to me, pet?”
“No,” Buffy said. “Just you might want to put a shirt on.”
“I will in a minute,” Spike said.
“You seem to be getting awfully comfortable down here,” Buffy said.
Spike blinked at her. “I was,” he said. “Until you started the ice queen routine.” Her voice had sounded awfully cold, she realized. “Did I do something to bother you?”
“No,” Buffy said.
“You sure?” Spike said, coming up to her. “You, ah... started sounding a little snippy this morning. You upset about losing your job?” He let that hang for a second before he added, “Or was it something else?”
“What else could it have been?”
He looked coy. “Well. You didn’t seem real happy about finding Faith down here.”
“You seemed pretty happy,” Buffy said.
“She reminded me of something I... once found rather pleasant,” Spike said with a smirk. “I have trouble finding pleasant memories at the moment.”
“Well. Maybe she could help you make some new ones.”
“I don’t think so,” Spike said. “She doesn’t have the right outfit on at the moment.”
Buffy frowned, and a terrible suspicion nagged at her. “You mean when she...” She felt sick. “You know, when Faith wore my body she went to Riley that night. Did you and she–?”
“Nothing that impressive,” Spike said. “We flirted, that’s all.”
“Oh, that’s all,” Buffy said.
“Yeah. That’s all.”
“Well, you two seemed to be awfully cozy when I came down.”
“She came down for a smoke, I bummed a fag,” Spike said.
“Oh, is that what you call it,” Buffy said.
“Yeah, that’s what I’m calling it.” He took a step closer to her. “Are you accusing me of something?”
“Should I be?”
Spike looked up at the ceiling in exasperation. “You know... I’m not sure what your problem is, slayer.”
“Well, given that the last time you chatted up a girl you brutally murdered her.”
“Thanks,” Spike said flatly. “I really needed the reminder.” He turned around and picked up one of his shirts. “Wanna tie me up and have the girls use me for stake practice next? I think we could find some plastic tent stakes that wouldn’t dust me too fast.”
“That’s real rich, coming from you,” Buffy said.
“Buffy,” he snapped, slipping on his shirt. “You don’t really think I’m planning on offing the girl, do you?”
“Maybe not,” she said. “I just know you have a thing for slayers.”
“So, you’re not worried about me offing her, just screwing her?”
Spike blinked at her. “You know, I’m deeply flattered that you’re jealous, slayer. But there’s no need.”
“I’m not jealous!”
“Oh, really,” Spike said. “Seems pretty textbook, to me.”
“Not at the moment,” Spike said quietly.
Buffy felt bad. “I... sorry,” she said. She was going to have to be more careful with her insults toward Spike. She realized she’d just struck him twice below the belt. She was used to their bickering being without sensitive spots. It was more complicated now.
Of course, he was a lot more complicated now.
With a frustrated sigh, she sat down on the edge of Spike’s cot. “Look, Faith is dangerous. I know that’s not something you really feel a need to worry about, but she’s... volatile. She can turn on you, and her morals are... ambiguous at best, and... I suppose I trust her enough, but she worries me, and....”
“Sounds like someone else in this house,” Spike said. Buffy looked up. “Look, evil leaves a stain. No one’s going to trust either her or me just because we slap a white hat on our heads and declare ourselves the good guys. We’re gonna have to prove it, time and time again, and neither she nor I seem to have much patience with it. And yeah,” he said, sitting down on the cot beside Buffy. “I do have a fondness for slayers. She’d probably taste great.”
Buffy laughed in spite of herself.
“A slayer is a slayer. They have an allure for a vampire like me. And you’re Buffy. Love.” He’d said her name in his bedroom voice, and it had the same effect on her as it always did. Her groin twitched and her chest spasmed and she couldn’t help but close her eyes for second. “Let’s just be clear about this for a moment,” he said. “I’m here for one reason, and one reason only. And that’s to help you. If your new soldier needs a few quiet moments in the dank to keep her sanity, I’m not gonna push her away. But as far as letting anyone close to me, I... I’m a bit raw, still, pet. I keep telling Anya to drop it. I wouldn’t let Faith pick it up in the first place.”
Buffy was irritated. “Anya still wants–?”
“Not very loudly,” Spike said.
“And you’re not...?”
“Repeating pretty much the greatest regret of my life that doesn’t involve actual bloodshed? No!” He leaned back against the wall. “Bloody hell, Buffy,” he said, exasperated. “It’s not like it was fun. It was empty. We were both very drunk and... bleeding. And you know, you’re the one who told me not three hours previous to move on.”
“I guess I didn’t really want you to,” Buffy confessed in a whisper.
“It’s sounding like you still don’t want me to."
“I just don’t trust Faith,” Buffy said quickly.
Spike nodded, right. “Do you trust me?” he asked a moment later.
Buffy hesitated, then her face crumpled in confusion. She rubbed her forehead as if she didn’t want to have to think.
“I know you trust me to fight with you,” Spike said. “But the rest...? Is there some part of you still thinks I’m just looking for the right opportunity to screw you over?”
“I don’t think that, I just... I....” She grunted in frustration.
“Look, I know I’ve hurt you,” Spike said. “We both know we’ve hurt each other. Listen, love. You wanna just forget all this, and go fight this war?”
“God, yes,” she breathed.
He chuckled. “Love the look on your face when you’re relieved,” he said. As she stood to go, he went on, “I’m just gonna promise you, Faith’s gonna have to go find her jollies someplace else, ultimately. I don’t have the energy to fall for another slayer.” He looked over at her. “It’s not as if I have a second soul to give out.”
Buffy’s eyes flickered down him, wondering if he meant to say exactly what he said. He did, she decided, but wasn’t requiring her to do anything about it. Which was good, she told herself. She wasn’t up to doing anything or deciding anything or... dammit, she had a war to fight! But... “Thanks,” she said.
“Any time, love,” he said. “I’m all yours.”
Buffy almost flinched as she realized... he really meant it.