21. Off & On's
Beta's: Mabel_Marsters, Tanit, & Slaymesoftly.
In Harm's Way
Chapter Twenty-One: Off & Ons
Spike had successfully avoided Willow and Xander the night before when they came by for a visit, and Buffy had successfully avoided him during the day by using the same tactic of hiding in her bedroom. The house was quiet, because her mom was working late at the gallery. She could hear Spike moving around his room and wondered what he might be up to. When she heard his door shut, she waited until she was sure he was downstairs before leaving her room, telling herself that she wasn't seeking his company; that she was only hungry.
She was careful going down the stairs, even though she felt great, and was very aware of the mood ring on her right hand. It would be best if she just threw it away, but Buffy liked it and she thought it was sweet that he bought it for her. She'd never tell him that though. Spike could say what he wanted about her moods, but she was sure that mood rings did not work the way people claimed. It was a blue-green color now and she thought it was pretty.
Spike's voice drifted up to her from the kitchen and she quickened her pace.
“May I speak to Eric Young, please?”
Spike leaned on the wall in the kitchen, holding the phone to his ear. He looked different in his light blue collared shirt. He still looked dangerous, but with a softer edge, and he didn't look as pale in the sunlit room as he did when just wearing black.
“Eric? Oh, good, you're home. Are we still on for tonight?”
The cordial tone he was using just didn't sound right on him. Buffy passed him on the way to the fridge and they stared at each other. She tore her gaze away and grabbed a water bottle and an apple.
“Great, I'm just a block over. I can be there in fifteen minutes. Yes. I've been renting a room from...” He smiled at Buffy. “Uh, friends. OK. See you soon.”
“Who was that?” Buffy asked, setting her apple on the counter and opening her water.
The way he was staring at her, with unconcealed lust, made her knees weak. In a low and sultry voice he said, “You look great. Planning on going out?”
The sun was going down, but the kitchen was still warm and feeling warmer by the second. She took a drink and put the water bottle down. “I've got a meeting at Giles' later and then we're going to the Bronze.” With a mouthful of apple, she said, “You didn't answer my question.”
“I've got a meeting, too. I might rent a house on the next street over.”
She paused with the apple almost to her mouth and stared at Spike. He seemed pleased with himself, but for some reason she felt disappointed. It wasn't like she was going to be staying at her mom's house much longer and really, she should be glad that he wasn't going to be bothering her mom.
“I met the family quite by accident and when I found out their place had a basement, I let them know I was interested.”
“Oh. And you are going over to their house, right now?” She couldn't just let him get close to people. What if he hurt them? “I'm going with you.”
It was a ridiculously short ride to the Young's house. Spike hadn't argued with her and he'd even gone upstairs and grabbed her purse for her when he got his coat, which he carefully laid out on the back seat to wear later. He agreed to take her to Giles' place after he had completed his business.
All the Craftsman style homes in this older neighborhood looked alike with small variations. This one was painted a hunter green with white trim and had a white porch with a swing. The small lawn was neatly kept and flowers bloomed in perfectly square sections against the porch. The bright red for rent sign still sat in the front window, reminding Buffy why they were here. She was extremely curious to know how Spike had met these people.
A man in his late thirties opened the door. “You must be Spike. I've heard a lot about you. Come in. I'm Eric.”
She watched in fascination as Spike shook hands with the man, realizing that with the ring on, Spike was warm enough to pass for a human.
“And, is this your girlfriend?” Eric smiled at Buffy.
“This is Buffy. I'd like her to be my girlfriend, but she's too good for the likes of me.”
Buffy glared at the stupid vampire and sat far away from him on the couch when Eric offered them a seat. Before any of them could speak, a blue streak came flying into the room in the form of a small child with long dark hair. She landed in Spike's lap.
“Spike! Are you going to sleep in my room?”
Buffy‘s jaw dropped as she watched Spike ruffle the child’s hair and then gently place her beside him on the sofa.
“No, poppet. I probably won't.”
The little girl put two fingers in her mouth and stared at Buffy. “Daddy. Who's that?”
“That is Spike's friend. Buffy, this is my daughter, Anabella. And Bella, don't pester Spike.”
“'S alright. She's a cutie.”
Anabella got off the couch and stood in front of Buffy. Her big brown eyes never left Buffy's face. “Do you talk funny, too?”
She smiled at the little girl. “No. But you're right, Spike does talk funny.”
“Hey! I'll tell you, Eric, females are always ganging up on me,” Spike said with a mock sigh.
“Bella!” her grandmother called out as she came around the corner. “There you are. Now don't bother your daddy; he's got things to discuss with Spike.” The woman gave Spike a little wave and a smile. “It's nice to see you again. Bella, it's time for your bath. Come along.”
Eric watched the pair go up the stairs and then turned to Spike. “I want to thank you for saving Bella yesterday. I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost her, too.” The man got misty eyed. “I lost her mother to cancer a year and a half ago. We should have moved in with my mom then, but I was advised not to change anything in Bella's life until after she got used to her mom being gone. Since I got my promotion, I've been away quite a bit and Bella spends more time at her grandma's. We thought it was time to rent this place out.”
Buffy's heart went out to the man. “I'm so sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you. We’re doing much better now. We have each other and my mom.” Eric thanked Spike again for saving his daughter and Buffy couldn't fathom how or why Spike would do such a thing.
As Spike and Eric went over details about renting the house, Buffy thought of the little girl upstairs and absentmindedly covered her abdomen with her hands. Soon, she'd have a little one of her own. With her calling, it was very possible that her mom would have to take care of her baby for her. She watched Eric talk and smile, his hands waving around as he gestured, and thought that Anabella was lucky to have such a good dad. Her baby wouldn't be so lucky. Even if Parker was alive, she doubted the jerk would have stepped up and been a man. And she didn't even want to think about the possibility of Spike being the father.
She stood up when they did and was just as shocked as Eric when Spike pulled out a wad of money and handed it to him. “Here is the full six months in advance. I agree to cover the cost of any repairs needed on the home while I'm in residence and if I move before the six months are up, the remaining rent is yours to keep.''
Eric quickly shook his hand. “You've got a deal, but are you sure you don't want to take a look around first?”
They took a quick tour that started with the large basement. It was nothing like her own dreary basement. There was a bathroom, a small bedroom and an open area that was done in pinks and purples for Anabella's toys. Back upstairs, they quickly went through the kitchen and dining room and then up to the second level. Eric explained that the only room that would not be furnished was Anabella's. They were going to make her new room look as much like her old one as possible. They ended the tour outside with the detached two-car garage, which Spike got excited about and led to a long conversation with Eric about vintage cars.
When they were leaving, Spike rushed to Buffy's side and opened the car door for her. Before Spike even got his key into the ignition, Buffy started with the questions. “So, how did you save the little girl?”
“I didn't do that much. Just slammed on my brakes when she ran out in front of my car. Then I brought her to her grandmum.” His smiled as he pulled the car away from the curb and drove off. “The little imp had sneaked out to play while her grandma was busy packing their belongings.”
Buffy had to remind herself that he was a coldblooded killer. He could look as touched and sweet about one little girl as he wanted, but how many others like her had Spike killed over the years? Gazing out the window, she had a more sobering thought. How many young girls were still at risk because he wore that ring, and what was she going to do about it? No matter what he said to her, no matter the gifts he showered her with and no matter how faint worthy his kisses were, she had a job to do.
“Not that I don't think it isn't adorable, but why the pouty face?” he asked her.
“Nothing. I just—you know I can’t let you go around with that ring on, and if you take it off, it's even worse.”
“You have no choice, because the Gem is not coming off.”
She slammed her head against the seat back in frustration and stared out the window again.
“I don't see what all the fuss is about. You don't want me at your mum's, so I'm moving out, I've given you my word that I wouldn't go about offing humans, and I'm staying close so you can keep an eye on me. That last bit, I like the best.”
“I don't want to have to keep an eye on you.”
He shrugged good-naturedly. “That's all right. As long as you let me keep an eye on you. And a couple of hands. Oh, the things I want to do to you with my hands—lips, too.” Spike reached over and put his hand on her bare knee, giving it a light squeeze.
“That's it! Stop the car.” Buffy tossed his hand away from her and scooted closer to the door, slapping at the handle and the window.
Spike swerved and righted the car. “Are you daft?”
“Stop the car or I'll jump out while it's moving.”
He pulled over and frowned as she jumped out. “I thought you wanted to go Giles' apartment?”
“I do, but I'll take my chances walking the rest of the way, since you can't seem to keep your hands to yourself.” Staring straight ahead, she began walking at a brisk pace down the sidewalk lined with big trees. The sun had gone down and she wished that she'd remembered to bring a sweater with her.
He reached over and shut the passenger door, rolled the window down, and then put the car in drive. The car rolled along at a snail's pace, keeping time with her.
“I'm not leaving you out here alone. You're not a hundred percent yet. What if you run into a demon?”
“That's funny, because I just jumped out of the car to get away from a demon.”
She wished he'd just go away. The stitches on her thigh were starting to itch and burn from her exertion and she really wanted to slow down. But he kept with her for the two blocks it took to get to Giles.
Before she could disappear into the courtyard, he called out her name. With a groan, Buffy faced him and wished that she hadn't. The sad little boy face was just too much. “Go away!” she yelled at him, and ran down the walkway, out of his sight. Hearing the squeal of his tires as he peeled away, she hesitated, then knocked on the door.
“Hey, everyone, it's the Buffster,” Xander said when he opened the door. “So good to see you out and about. Come here.”
She leaned into Xander when he hugged her, but caught Anya's jealous glare and straightened up.
“You're late,” Giles said, with a smile. “Must mean things are back to normal.”
With a wave of her hand and a frown, she told them, “Yeah, well, I had to babysit a vampire.”
Giles looked up from the book on his lap. “Was I right? Have you been doing as I suggested?”
Xander looked from Giles to Buffy. “Right about what?”
Buffy ignored the question and addressed Giles. “Um, yeah. You were right, but I just can't...you know?”
All eyes were on her now and she desperately wanted to go back home and crawl into bed. Giles' intense stare, searching out her innermost thoughts, made her very uncomfortable. Willow stood by the kitchen and gazed at her sympathetically, but then her countenance changed. She motioned for Buffy to follow her and she excused herself to get a drink in the kitchen.
“What?” Buffy whispered while opening the fridge.
“How are you doing? Have you been feeling sick?” Willow asked, touching her shoulder.
“I think it's too early for that.” Buffy shrugged.
“Well, take this.” Willow handed her a bottle of pills. “I made these for you just in case.”
Buffy slipped the small bottle into her pocket and popped open her can of Diet Coke before going to the couch and gingerly sitting down. “So, what's the sitch?”
Giles closed his book, put it aside and stood up. “We have a problem and I think it's only going to get worse.” Everyone sat up straighter and he let his words sink in with a pause. “Word's got round that the Slayer was in hospital and that The Initiative is pulling up stakes. Demon activity is up and as much as I despised the military interference, I miss the back up.”
“Well, I'll just have to start patrolling tonight.” Buffy stood up, reading to go.
“No. You need another night to heal. I don't want to put you out in the field too soon,” Giles said. “Tonight, we need to come up with a group plan, so that when you do go back to patrolling we can be of more help. We're going to have to set a strong presence out there to get the message out. The Initiative might be gone, but this is still a Hellmouth guarded by a strong and capable Slayer with a lot of back up.”
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
It was dark, but early yet and Willy's was damn near empty. Spike had come in a few times since he'd been kicked out by angry demons after they found out that he was helping the Slayer by killing other demons. Unless he went in the back for a poker game, his nights at the bar had always ended the same way: with him flat on his arse sporting a few purple bruises.
Tonight however, he sauntered right in the front door and glared at the few demons who growled at him on the way to the bar. He grabbed a stool and took a seat, snapping his fingers to get Willy's attention.
“Look, Spike, I don't feel like cleaning up a mess tonight. There's no poker game scheduled, so you know, scram.”
He threw a twenty dollar bill on the glossy bar. “Just give me a bottle of Bourbon and a clean glass.”
Willy grudgingly took the twenty and put it in the cash register before slapping a glass and bottle down in front of the cranky vampire.
“Hey, Spike, “ a flesh colored, wrinkled demon said as he took the stool next to him. “Long time no see. Too bad there isn't a game tonight. I could stand to win some cash.”
“Hi, Clem,” Spike greeted half-heartedly. “Willy, another glass, please.” He liked Clem, but he talked too much and right now, Spike just wanted to wallow in his frustration with a stiff drink. If he could get Clem busy nursing a drink, he might just stay quiet.
“Thanks, Spike.” Clem poured for them both. “So, how's unlife been treating you?”
“Not so bad, really. Everything is perfect, except for one thing.” Spike downed the liquor in his glass and slapped it on the table for Clem to refill.
“Girl trouble, huh.”
The amber liquid smelled good, tasted good and burned perfectly going down, but he remembered that he couldn't get drunk with the Gem on his finger. After taking a moment to glance around, he slipped it off his finger, stood up and shoved it deep in the front pocket of his jeans.
“You okay?” Clem asked, watching with head cocked slightly.
“Yeah,” Spike said, shivering as the familiar cold settled in and spread to his bones.
Spike slapped another twenty on the bar and Willy snatched it up. “Give me a tall glass of fresh O neg at body temp.”
Willy nodded and went out of sight. He came back with Spike's order, carefully setting it down.
“Still not drinking straight from the source?” Clem asked.
“Nope. I swear, Clem, I'll always be love's bitch.”
“Yeah, I've got women trouble, myself. My old lady has kicked me out. Says I watch too much TV and spend too much time here, losing all our money.”
Spike chuckled wryly. “You do.”
Clem shrugged and went quiet, then sighed.
“I've got room at my place, if you need a place to stay.”
“Really!” Clem said, perking up.
Spike wished he hadn't said anything, but Clem was one of those congenial demons that you couldn't help but like. “Yeah. I'm moving in tomorrow night.” Finding a pen, he wrote the address down on a napkin, saying, “You can have the furnished master bedroom. I'm staying in the basement.”
“Makes sense. You wouldn't want the light to dust you,” Clem said, and then proceeded to grill Spike about the neighborhood, wanting to know where the nearest sewer entrance was and how quiet the neighbors were.
When the low ambiance music changed to Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, Spike turned to see who was at the jukebox. A Polistaz demon started moving around the pool table near the machine with all four arms waving about. Spike went back to his drink, and then rolled his eyes at Clem. He reached into his duster and tossed a couple of quarters on the bar.
“Do me a favor. Go over there and choose a couple of songs that won't make me puke. You know, something hard, something edgy.”
“Sure thing, Spike.”
Clem passed an ugly brown demon with a face that resembled old tree bark, wearing faded blue jeans and a silver studded leather jacket. He glared at Clem and then turned his attention back to Spike saying, “What are you doing here?”
“What does it look like I'm doing, you ugly wanker? I'm having a drink.”
Hearing Spike's loud reply, Willy rushed over, with a towel over his shoulder. “Hey, look, guys, if...if,” he stuttered at they both glared at him. “If you're going to...to...rumble, take it outside.”
They both glared at the bartender and then back at each other.
“You don't belong here, Spike. This is a demon bar, not a traitor's bar.”
Turning back to his drink, Spike grinned. It would be great to get out some of his frustration with a long drawn out fight. He knew without a doubt that the Squaloc demon wouldn't let this go and he looked forward to it. The Lisa Lisa song wound down and Quiet Riot's Cum on Feel the Noize blasted into the air. “What the hell, Clem, I said edgy not--”
A gnarly fist landed on Spike's jaw, causing him to fly off the stool. He jumped up, gingerly holding his jaw and relishing the pain radiated from it. The Gem was great, but much could be said about a fair fight and the motivation a good sucker punch could do for a man's anger. He smirked, knowing that the crazy glint in his not yet amber eyes would freak the Squaloc out, just a bit. Enough to have him take a step back.
“So that's how you want to play this?” Spike asked him, vamping out.
“If you mess this place up again,” Willy stated, “you'll pay for it.”
A growl turned into a shout as Spike charged the demon with his fists flying, landing two good punches. The demon flew back, falling on a rickety table, busting it up into splinters. Spike glanced around and noticed that the place was more populated than when he first arrived. With his hands out, wiggling his fingers in invitation, he smiled at the growing crowd of various demons as Quiet Riot sang about getting wild. “Come on! Anyone else want to have a go?” He was wired and wanted more violence, but as six snarling demons stepped forward and the Squaloc demon got up and came at him, he realized that once again, he'd opened his big mouth without assessing the situation. “Bugger.”
He shrugged and flew at the group, snarling and throwing punches, most of which landed solidly on demon flesh. Spike held his own against the group, until the Squaloc demon got hold of him from behind. It was all over then. He kept his eyes on them, memorizing each one of them as they beat his face in and kicked his shins, knees and even his ribs.
For the umpteenth time since he'd gotten that chip in his head and started “working” with the Slayer, Spike found him self tossed out of a Sunnydale demon bar. He hurt all over like a bitch, but this time, he didn't feel sorry for himself. Pulling himself close to a wall, he grabbed the edge of the window sill and yanked himself up. In order to lessen the pain, he shuffled along the wall, hunched over, until he turned the corner and was in the alley.
Spike winced as he dug into his jeans pocket and slipped the Gem on. “Okay, baby, do your magic.” And it did. It was amazing how quickly things began to heal and it caused him to slip out of game face. He leaned against the wall with a huge grin on his face and was just getting ready to push away and come out of the alley when he heard the music get louder as the door to the bar opened.
“Man,” a male voice said, “I can't believe Willy won't let us smoke in there.”
Another voice said, “I know. California law? We're fucking demons for Pete's sake. We break laws all the time, we don't follow them.”
It was quiet as they lit up, and Spike stood taller, getting ready to leave the alley, when one of them said, “So what do you think about that Government group leaving?”
“I'm so glad things can go back to normal around here, and it will be even better when someone finally offs that stupid slayer.”
“Oh, I know. Heard she just got out of the hospital. Here's hoping she starts patrolling before she's really better. She'll be easy pickin's then.”
“Yeah, cuz when she's gone, the demons will own this town!”
With a snarl echoing down the alley, Spike came around the corner and faced the two vampires. They didn't even have time to react to seeing Spike before he'd plunged a stake into one and then other. Spike put the stake away, cracked his neck and sniffed.
“Took care of that mess. Now, it's time to clean up the bar.”
He quietly slipped in. A few of the patrons saw him and pointed him out to their buddies. The Squaloc demon was standing at the bar, giving Clem a hard time, so Spike stomped over there, ignoring the stares and insults from the others. A demon that he recognized as the one who broke his rib when his hands had been held behind his back stood in his path to the bar. Spike tossed him aside like an empty beer bottle.
“I'm so glad to see you,” Clem told the vampire.
The Squaloc didn't talk, but threw a punch, which Spike was expecting. He ducked and turned, kicking his leg up and landing a booted foot into the demon's fleshy side. It yelled out in pain and called for his friends to step in.
He watched Willy as the cowardly human wisely ducked down under the bar and then Spike turned just in time to see a mob of multicolored demons coming at him. With a gleeful yell, he jumped into the lot of them and demons went flying in every direction. Oh, he had a noble purpose. He had to keep his girl safe from the demon population, even if it meant killing every violent demon in town, but that didn't mean he couldn't enjoy every last minute of death and destruction that he wrought on the wankers.
Spike paused for a minute, when he got his hands around the neck of a demon whom he remembered punching him in the gut earlier. The fear in the demon's eyes did not deter him from his purpose. He told him, “I do love a good fight.” Then, Spike snapped his neck, tossed him to the side and looked wildly around for the next demon he could grab. He could go all night.
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