Well, that was a picnic. Not. The thought was fleeting, and for reasons he couldn’t quite fathom, accompanied by a chuckle. But really, a good brawl always made Spike a little giddy.
He shoved the dead weight of the Gra’lhak demon he’d just dispatched off his chest, then dragged himself from the muddy pit with a pained grunt. He was sopping wet, bleeding from all sorts of places, and quite possibly filthier than he’d ever been in his entire existence.
Well, apart from that one time in Romania… he thought, shaking his head as he smirked.
After dragging the demon clear of the path that led to the Slayer’s back yard, he peered back through the brush to make sure the Summers women were still none the wiser as to the danger he’d averted, and that the birthday dinner was still in full swing. He supposed in the end it was best that way.
Throwing his torn, sodden shirt into a nearby ditch, he disappeared back into the trees and headed for the nearest tunnel entrance. He so desperately needed to tend to these wounds and get clean, and he knew just the place.
After a lingering look back, he shrugged his shoulders, then dropped down through a concealed entrance and into a narrow tunnel. It had been so long since he’d been this way, and such a crime really, considering the treat that lay just a few hundred feet up ahead.
There was no need for light, no need for the aide of his demon vision, for as he advanced through the tunnel the earthen walls shimmered soft blue beads of iridescence, marking his presence. He grinned as he paused and held out his hand, muddy fingers ghosting along the wall, a glow blooming up in the wake of their passing. The grin faded and he wore a thoughtful look then, because he remembered that one didn’t require heat and a pulse to be "real" in this place. One just had to be. If only everything else could be so simple.
He wondered if the Slayer would ever accept him, if she’d ever see the man in the monster. He ached to know if ever he'd be "real" in her eyes, just like this. A rush of memory made him pause, the cold words “You’re beneath me,” settling in his ear and heart, and he sniffed, dropped his hand, and put the thought out of his head.
Fifty paces on and the narrow tunnel opened up to a small cavern. Spike grinned at the sight of cascading water over at the farthest rocky wall, his eyes then following a blue iridescent vein in that wall as it trailed and cracked and forked at a ledge. Aching to get under that shower of water, he knew that the true prize within this rocky shelter was the healing spring tucked away in the corner, concealed by a pile of boulders. Broad enough to fit five men his size, deep enough to submerge oneself, and hot enough to work out the kinks of a trying battle, this was what Spike needed more than anything.
Anything, but her.
She stood at the site of what appeared to have been quite a battle, not ten feet from the gate of her backyard. A muddy pit (for it had rained all evening), broken branches everywhere and what was clearly a drag-path told her that whatever creature had met it’s end here was large and cumbersome.
Looking back at the house, Buffy flexed and clenched her hands a little awkwardly, a small part of her knowing she should stay with her mother and sister, while a much larger part urged her away to investigate this further. She’d find the players in whatever ruckus had taken place here, dead or preferably, alive. Maybe they had friends. Maybe they had a whole gang of friends. She was certainly up for a good brawl.
Stepping around the muddy pit, she noticed a small bouquet of wild flowers trampled and crushed beside the path. She picked it up and noted the delicate tie around the tender stems, and frowned. Placing them on the post at the back gate, she followed the smooth drag path until she came upon a hollowed out old tree trunk, and in the faint glow of moonlight, noticed the very obvious shape of a rather large boot. A quick inspection revealed the very smelly, very dead body of a…something-or-other demon, and she stepped back and covered her mouth and nose as she frowned. Maybe it was another one of Glory’s hench demons. It wouldn’t surprise her. It was so large, too large for any human to take on, too large for Riley. She noted that Riley would not have lasted a minute with a creature of this size. But he didn’t bare thinking about. He was long gone. So… who saved the day? Who kept this demon away from her family?
Puzzled, Buffy sought more clues, anything that would shed light. She moved aside the broken branches and searched the surrounding bushes until she discovered a near-by ditch. She spotted something and narrowed her eyes, grabbed a broken branch and fished what appeared to be a garment of some kind from the mound of soggy leaves and cluttered rubbish on the opposite bank. Walking to a brighter moonlit spot, she gave it a thorough inspection and her eyes widened when she recognised it.
It was Spike’s shirt.
The material was in bits, shredded in places by the claws of the creature now stuffed into that tree trunk no doubt, the shredded remnants soaked in blood.
And Buffy was taken aback by the sudden well of concern she felt, concern and confusion, and oh god, what if he’s dust?, and why was he here? and why would he do such a thing?
She suddenly remembered the night he’d arrived at her back porch with the gun, intent to kill her for the pain she’d inflicted with her words - to end his misery outright, no doubt. The night he’d offered her a quiet ear and gentle pat on the back in empathy instead.
Admittedly, she was still rather thrown by that simple, comforting act.
Buffy knew that Dawn had babbled to the vampire about the dinner they’d planned for tonight, and she’d fully expected Spike to crash it or ruin things somehow. She hadn’t for a second imagined he’d stand guard. It was… such a selfless act. He didn’t posture on her porch about the battle and saving the day and earning their overdue respect. He just, apparently, quietly dealt with the demon. Except that he either walked away or caught the first convenient breeze out of this world. The Slayer swallowed a rather large lump in her throat and frowned. She needed to know.
She tied his torn, bloody shirt around her waist. It was a gesture that seemed fitting somehow, like a mark of respect to he who was all at once her enemy and accidental ally. Giving quick inspection to the surrounding bushes and clearing, she soon found a short trail through the leaves. Without hesitation she followed it to what appeared to be a tunnel entrance. After a quick look around and a shallow, unsettled breath, Buffy took a step, and dropped into darkness.
The vampire stood at water’s edge and carefully removed his boots, then lined them up neatly at the wall. Working the silver buckle of his belt, he grimaced at the pain that action produced, but soldiered on resolutely in his goal to get bare. The pain in his hands was only partially responsible, he was sure, for his inability to sense (until seemingly much too late) another’s presence close by. Regardless, his need for healing was stronger than worrying over such a thing just then. And it wasn’t as if he was bashful.
His jeans dropped around his ankles with a soft thud of denim and clank of metal, and he stepped out of them and braced the wall, unaware of the soft gasp his actions provoked. Head down in a moment of concentration, the muscles of his back flexing painfully under torn skin - skin that displayed all the vicious marks of battle beneath a soft blue hue - he warned the unwelcome stranger:
“Whatever nasty thing you are, it’s best you turn about and leave. Party for one, I’m afraid. Won’t say it twice.”
Buffy stood transfixed, her wonder at the pale blue light that had lit her way to this cavern quickly forgotten. She couldn’t tear herself away. She couldn’t help but disobey and stand her ground, and feast her eyes on the site of her enemy/ally, standing there in all his glory, baring the marks of combat, marks that spoiled the smooth-as-marble perfection of his back.
No, she couldn’t obey his words no matter that she felt she was indeed one of the nasty things of which he’d mentioned. Because there she stood on that jagged line that separated hatred and desire, the line she so often traversed much to her own torment – stumbling repeatedly from side to side - and she found herself wishing the rest of the world away so that she could just… be.
While her mind swam with myriad things she might say in response to his warning, she didn’t make a sound, and she let her gaze trace the length of his spine and downward, over every ridge and hollow of taut muscle rippling under his skin, down to the most perfectly muscular ass she could ever imagine… And she couldn’t help but remember a certain spell they’d been under, how she’d slipped her hands down to grasp that perfectly muscular ass as he kissed her - kissed her breathless - and how she craved more, craved contact shed of all clothing… how she craved him.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue… She bit her lip hard as she remembered the husky sing-song way he’d murmured those words in her ear that night. That memory coupled with the site before her… sealed any answer to his warning in stone silence.
Spike straightened, still facing the rocky wall, and inspected his aching hands. He could sense that the stranger had paid no heed to his warning, and he regretted having to resort to violence in a place so sacred as this, but he was never really one to go back on his word. Very slowly he turned his head to size up his opponent, but as he caught the all-too familiar form of the Slayer out of the corner of his eye, stilled and murmured low, “You’re no nasty.” His gaze shifting unfocused in the direction of the churning spring, he ventured to the silhouetted figure behind him, “Are you for real?”
Very slowly he turned his head to size up his opponent, but as he caught the all-too familiar form of the Slayer out of the corner of his eye, stilled and murmured low, “You’re no nasty.” His gaze shifting unfocused in the direction of the churning spring, he ventured to the silhouetted figure behind him, “Are you for real?”
That question… there was a tenderness in his voice that she hadn’t heard since Willow’s spell, and it all at once confused and comforted her, and her hands dropped to her sides, seeking purchase at her thighs as if to remind herself that yes, she was real, this was real. Her fingers met the torn fabric of his shirt, and she remembered the thoughts that sent her along this path, remembered the worry. Her eyes darted to the tears and scrapes all over his back, to the tangled, blood-stained platinum locks along the nape of his neck (a place she’d kissed and caressed and quietly claimed as a favourite part of him, once upon a time). And her first thought was simply: Too real.
It was then she finally found her voice to speak, and as she stepped into the enclosure began to untie the shirt, an act that was not lost on Spike – because he was looking at her again - Oh god, he can’t look at me like that. She cleared her throat but didn’t meet his eyes as she slipped it from her waist. “I found this… There was a demon, back there, in a tree trunk, and…”
“One o’ Glory’s boys. Yeah.” Though he was completely taken aback by her presence here, he tried so hard not to show it. She’d… tied his shirt about her waist. Why did she do that? And how is it she stood there so long… lookin’ at me? “One less flunky to do her bidding, at any rate.”
Spike turned away, gritting his teeth as another clump of mud slid into one of the particularly nasty gashes on his lower back. He needed to get into that spring, clean off this stinging mud, clean out these wounds, allow the mystical waters to heal him faster than his own body could. He was tired of hurting. “Look, if you don’t mind, got some mendin’ to do. It’s why I came down here.”
When she didn’t answer, he closed his eyes and let out a breath, then slowly turned to face her, naked, filthy, and ultimately expecting her to bolt.
Buffy stood stock still, knowing she was about to get an eye-full, and yet once again was unable to pry herself away. To her credit, though, she kept her focus at shoulder level, and the only direction her gaze travelled was upwards, to meet Spike’s… And, her breath caught when he fixed that gaze on hers, because whatever element gave this cavern its cobalt glow, it mingled and swirled in the sapphire depths of his eyes.
Spike found himself caught up in her gaze, hopelessly so, and tilted his head slowly as he realised she wasn’t running, and she wasn’t rearing her fist to punch him, and there was no anger whatsoever in her expression, even as he stood there before her completely bare.
That look he gave her, she remembered it well, and it made this entire encounter spin dangerously south, but she let herself feel the desire to allow this continue, because she wanted to enjoy this without the self-loathing. She wanted to savour this. Strengthened by her heart’s admission, she let her eyes roam, and for the first time really, noticed that he was coated in mud, that it clung to the usually smooth lines of his face like a second skin. Mud to his hairline and down, caked in the hollows of his cheeks, clumped in the crevices and rims of his ears, mud about his lips, those full, gorgeous lips, Buffy had a sudden, clawing urge to get Spike into that water and make him clean again, slowly, carefully, inch by inch…
She blinked and swallowed hard, and resorted to the marginal safety of conversation, because she could always rely on Spike for conversation, and if she let her eyes slip any further down his body, then “dangerously south” would be upon her, and good god, one step at a time… So she looked in his eyes again and asked him, “Why?”
And damn him for that tender look, that tender, knowing look, because it had all the power and intensity of his sneer, of his hateful glare, of his injured stare… and since when did she catalogue the many expressions of Spike?
“Because your Mum and the Bit, they were all glowin’ an’ gigglin’ for a party. Didn’t wanna see anythin’ get in the way o’ that. Way your luck’s been lately, there was bound t’be some nasty waitin’ in the shadows. Took care of it, is all.”
He was… taking care of us.
It was a powerful revelation.
She took a step forward and gingerly lifted her hand to his face, and she caught that striking blue gaze as she brushed her fingers up along his muddied cheek and slowly back down again. Her eyes widened for a moment as he leaned into her touch, his own expression one of absolute wonder, and she stored that look right then with all the others. His expression made her feel… impossibly beautiful.
She couldn’t halt the forward motion of her body, the settling of her hand and his shirt between them, nor could she help the soft sound she made when she felt his arousal pressing hard against her hip. Her eyelids fluttered closed and she wondered how it would feel to take him in her hand, how he’d look at her then with her hot fingers wrapped around the cool, solid length of him.
The term “dangerously south” went barrelling forth into the realm of the Antarctic, and Buffy’s mind swam with the implications of her actions, no thoughts, they were only thoughts, albeit thoughts she could never erase. She’d crossed a line and she knew it, for there was no spell to excuse her, no magic words to undo this. She wanted to feel this desire without the self-loathing, and she was given her wish, because self-loathing had left at the earliest convenience.
There was something she needed to say, if she could just not think about his gaze and his body pressed against hers, if she could just find a moment of clarity. And then she felt him shift, and heard him curse beneath his breath, low and husky and delicious in her ear, and she opened her eyes.
For all his years of unliving and loving, Spike had never felt like this, never ever. Never had he felt such a thrall, such an unmerciful, heart-clawing thrall that made every fibre of his being ache with the strength of it. The feel of her body against him, the heat of her breath at his throat, of her hand, that look she’d given him, oh Christ, he held tight the reins of hunger, even though he wanted nothing more but to be closer, to feel more of her, to be inside her.
But she was gazing at him again, and he was stunned once more, because she had tears in her eyes, and so he cupped her cheek with a muddy hand. “Buffy?”
It was the sound of her name from his lips, she’d always felt a shiver when he said it, and now, here, his hand on her cheek, god the words she was looking for were right there, and she felt… safe… so she leaned in and said the words between kisses.
Whispers of the softest “thank you” between each brush of her lips, “thank you” and “I can’t lose them, Spike, I just can’t”, were met with a tender reply as he caressed her cheek and kissed her back, “I know, love, I know.” When she felt his other hand slide up along her back to draw her closer, she gasped and dropped the shirt between them, breaking the moment, leaving them both still and staring, panting quietly, blinking softly, unguarded.
Spike knew it was coming. He knew this wouldn’t last. He braced himself.
Buffy took a step back and kept her gaze firmly locked on his. She wrung her hands together, knowing this would hurt him, though it wasn’t her intention. She hoped beyond hope that he would see it in her eyes.
“They’re… I have to go back to them. I can’t leave them alone for too long. What if…”
The angry jab she’d expected in response never came, and she felt a rush of relief mingle with the myriad emotions swallowing her up just then, because Spike was giving her an understanding nod, even as his heated gaze told her that if she took one step closer there was no chance in hell he’d let her leave.
“What if some other nasty comes callin’? Yeah. Wise, that.” Spike shifted his gaze to the bubbling spring beside them. “As for me, well, I think I’ll stay right here.” The corner of his mouth curved in a wicked sort of grin. “Don’t plan on goin’ anyplace for a good long while.” Looking at her out of the corner of his eye, he winked.
Buffy’s eyes widened.
And he waited.
And she ran.
Not five paces beyond the tunnel entrance, she stopped and leaned back against the rocky wall, and she pressed her hand between her breasts and grasped her blouse as she panted. She turned her head in the direction of the cavern, of the waiting vampire, and licked her lips, tasted him there again as she closed her eyes. She wanted more. Good GOD she wanted more.
She made it home in double time.
Buffy ran up the steps, slammed the back door, stepped into the middle of the kitchen, and closed her eyes. Had she been looking, she would have seen a gaping Joyce and Dawn, frozen in mid-sentence.
“Buffy, what happened? You’re filthy!” Joyce grabbed a dishtowel and ran it under the tap.
Buffy’s answer was a jumble of words. “What? Oh!… Well, there was this demon, and it rained, and the mud, the MUD! Out by the back gate. Yeah. And it was huge. (WOOPS, TMI! Can’t tell them it was one of “Glory’s boys” as Spike called him) But, uh, y’know, musta been looking for uh… racoons! A racoon-eating demon! (LAME!) Cos yeah, by the ditch, and garbage everywhere… and what are you doing?” She blinked at Joyce who was at that moment rubbing away a smear of mud from her cheek.
She remembered Spike caressing her cheek just there and flushed.
“So, what, you kicked some demon ass?” - this from Dawn who seemed entirely uninterested.
“Dawn!” Joyce turned and gaped at her youngest daughter. “Language!”
Buffy answered her question with a half-grin. “No, that was Spike. I was there for clean-up.” God, she wished she was there to see him get all clean and shiny again.
Dawn squeed and clapped. “Spike! See? I knew he’d come! Where is he?” She went straight to the kitchen window, up on her tippy toes and peered through the blinds.
Buffy rolled her eyes.
Wearing a look of motherly concern, Joyce set the cloth on the counter. “Oh Buffy, where is he? Is he alright? Why don’t you bring him in? Is it raining again? He might be hurt. Is he hurt? He could use the bathroom upstairs and get cleaned up. I’ll make hot chocolate.” She turned to Dawn and grinned somewhat conspiratorially. “Dawn, honey, see if we have those little marshmallows he likes. Oh, and do you remember where I put the first-aid kit?”
As Joyce puzzled over where she might have mislaid the First-Aid kit, and Dawn beamed and went to the cupboard in search of little white marshmallows, Buffy watched in quiet amazement. This care they had for Spike, she could never understand it before, but then maybe they were able to see something in him, to really see him, when she couldn’t?
“But I don’t want to leave you alone, cos it’s late and dark and…”
Joyce turned and gave her the teapot stare. “Don’t be silly Buffy, everyone’s here. Mr. Giles and Xander, and Willow and Tara. Now, you go find him, all right? I won’t have anyone out in the rain on a special day like this.”
Buffy’s look was grateful, if a little tearful, and she kissed her mother and went to the door. “I’ll be back.”
She couldn’t remember running as fast towards anything else in her life. She hoped she wasn’t too late.
He sat completely submerged in the bubbling spring, the heat of the water soothing aches, the mystical properties of the water knitting open wounds. And while the injuries and aches on the surface were mending, the ache he felt in his chest only deepened. Because all he could see, all he could feel right then, was her.
He wondered if the elements of the cave had anything to do with her behaviour, and that made him ache all the more, because really and truly, she’d expressed her distaste of him so many a time, in so many different ways. Yes, he was sure, not two steps back up on the surface, in the fresh night air, in her world, and she’d be in her right mind once again.
Shoulda made a better job o’ cleanin’ up my mess, shoudla dragged that demon further, shoulda done a lot o’ things.
But… she kissed him. She thanked him. She looked at him like he was real.
It was the cave.
Suddenly the water didn’t seem so nice, and the magic of the place was lost to him, and he climbed out of the water and threw on his jeans, growling as they dragged up his sopping wet legs. Angrily he did up his belt buckle and with a snarl he kicked away the torn shirt she’d returned to him, and immediately he looked for his duster. But no, he didn’t have it with him, cos I had to be a ponce and dress all fancy, and pick the poncy flowers and hope… and bloody wonder if… if they’d let me in.
Bending, he did up his boots quickly, and he cursed this place and vowed never to return as he swung around to leave…
Only to see her there, at the tunnel entrance, a soft blue glow surrounding her… and she was wearing that same look, the one that told him he was real.
She came back…
Buffy stood there, watching him, not really understanding the nature of his angry display, but having a fairly good idea as to the why of it. He looked so hurt and she wanted to do so many things to help make it better, but settled on just one.
She held out her hand.
What to say, what to say… “Spike… There’s this birthday dinner, and two really annoying birthday dinner-goers who are right now making hot chocolate. There could be marshmallows.”
It took him three long strides to reach her, each one feeling like an eternity, but he took her hand and stared with wonder, and he let her lead him from the cave, and up into the world again, into her world, the place he never thought he’d be welcome.
They passed the muddy pit and went through the gate, but Buffy stopped and pulled him back. She showed him the crushed flowers she’d found and whispered “Thank you,” then hauled him close and kissed him soft and slow, kissed him til his mind went blank.
When she heard her mother open the back door she moaned softly and pulled away, still firmly gripping his hand, and then completely knocked his socks off when, as she looked at him out of the corner of her eye… she winked.
“Coming!” Buffy answered as she tugged him along, but Spike didn’t really register much, he was too gobsmacked by the wicked promise of that wink. She was a natural...
And he fell in love with her all over again.
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