“I want to know.”
“There’s nothing to know, Slayer. How many times do I have to say it?”
“Until I believe you, or until you tell me the truth about you and that ugly vengeance demon.”
Spike let out a pained sigh.
“Let it go, pet. It’s nothing.”
“It really isn’t.”
Stony silence. The prospects of a birthday shag seemed to be rapidly diminishing.
“I thought only Dru dated other demons? That you were Mr. Faithful.”
Spike shrugged helplessly.
“So you weren’t Mr Faithful. You were fooling around with a vengeance demon?”
His surrender was reluctant, but complete.
“She wasn’t a demon when I knew her.”
“Aha! So you do know her!”
“Thought you’d established that? I thought that’s why we’re having this completely ridiculous conversation?”
“It’s not ridiculous. You two were having a…a…thing. Right in front of me! I’m entitled to know what it was all about.”
“It was about nothing, Slayer. She recognized me – from a long time ago, before I was a vampire. “
“And you recognized her.”
“And it’s ‘nothing’ that you two recognized each other after over a hundred years?”
Buffy turned her back, arms crossed and foot tapping angrily.
“Well, it’s not like we’re humans, is it? Neither one of us looks any older. Some things are different – different hair, different clothes – but we’re pretty much the same as the last time we saw each other.”
Spike ran an angry hand through his hair.
“The night I was turned. The night I met Dru.”
“Aha! So you dumped Ms Veins-in-the-face for Dru. You are a cheater!”
“If you must know, Cecily wouldn’t have had me as a gift! She’s the reason I ran out into the night and fell for a vampire. She rejected me. Told me I was ‘beneath’ her.”
“Oh.” Buffy mulled that over, wondering why the phrase sounded familiar. “Oh! I said that to you once, didn’t I?”
“Yeah. You did.”
“I…I didn’t …did it remind you…was it…?”
“Wasn’t one of the highlights of my unlife,” he muttered, turning away with an embarrassed shrug. “But you didn’t know.”
Buffy was momentarily abashed, but quickly recovered her pique.
“She didn’t act like she thought you were beneath her. She acted like she was interested.”
“Did she? I didn’t notice.”
“You did too notice! Don’t pretend you didn’t. I saw you notice her.”
“She’s a bloody demon and she had us trapped in the house. Of course I soddin’ noticed her!”
“So you admit it. Your ex was in the room and you noticed her.”
“What the bloody hell is wrong with you? Are you just spoiling for a fight? Quit twisting my words.”
He threw up his hands and began to pace back and forth across the crypt – his long strides carrying him from one side to the other so fast that Buffy was becoming dizzy.
“I’m just trying to understand what’s going on,” she said in the calm, reasonable tone used since time immemorial by women determined to prove their partners guilty of something.
She raised her chin and leaned against the sarcophagus.
“But if you don’t want to tell me…”
“I did tell you, you irritating bint. Not,” he said, whirling to point a finger at her, “that it’s any of your business anyway. What do you care about something that didn’t happen long before you were born?”
“Because she was trying to flirt with my vampire, in my house, on my birthday!”
He froze, staring, while her face reflected the panic inspired by what she’d just revealed.
“You’re jealous,” he said softly, approaching her with a predator’s graceful stride. “That’s what this is all about. She made you jealous.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she sniffed. “As if!”
“You are. You’re jealous of a passing flirt from a woman I haven’t given a second thought to in a hundred and more years. You’re jealous, Slayer!”
“To be jealous, I’d have to care.”
“Right. And you don’t. Don’t know what I was thinking,” he purred, moving even closer and invading her personal space. “So, pet, since you don’t care a fig about me, you won’t mind if I meet her later tonight then, yeah? Not at your house, of course. Maybe someplace more…intimate?”
His eyes challenged her. The more she glared, the broader his grin got.
“That’s right, isn’t it? As long as whatever I do with her doesn’t disrupt your birthday party, it’ll be alright with you.”
“Y…yes. No! No, it’s not all right, you…you… cheater person!”
“How is it cheating if we’re not a couple, and you don’t care about me? No skin off your nose, what I do when you’re not around, is it?”
“Keep this up,” Buffy ground out through tightly clenched teeth, “and you’ll be missing your nose.”
“Why are you so brassed off?”
“I told you. She was flirting with you in my house – and you didn’t even stop her!”
Spike threw his hands in the air and turned away.
“Do you even listen to yourself, Slayer?” He whirled back to her. “In the first place, the soddin’ bitch had us trapped in the house. In case you were so busy bein’ jealous that you didn’t notice our little problem – the one that was keeping Harris from getting his friend to a hospital. Wouldn’t have been in anybody’s best interest for me to give her something else to be annoyed about, would it? If I’d had half a brain, I would’ve been all over the flirting back. Probably could have got us out there hours before we did.”
“Ah ha! So you did want to flirt with her!”
“I did not want to flirt with her, goddammit! I’m saying that if I had played up to her a little bit, she might’ve been more willing to let us go.”
“Well, why didn’t you, then?” Buffy’s calm question was belied by the belligerent set of her mouth and the way she kept her hands on her hips.
“Because, I’m in love with an infuriating, stubborn, violence-prone bitch who was already glaring at me just for answering the woman when she called me by name!”
“Did you just call me a bitch?”
Spike shook his head as though to clear it.
“I give up. Have it your way, Slayer. I flirted with an old girl friend right in front of you and all your friends, practically shagged her right there on the living room rug; and I just called you a bitch. Not like it’s the first time, or likely to be the last, but if you want to add that to the list of tonight’s offenses…”
“You wanted to shag her on my rug?” Buffy’s voice was suddenly small and unsure.
“Might as well have. If I’m going to take the fall for it, would have been nice to--”
Buffy’s fist cut off the rest of his sentence, sending him flying backwards to land on his ass on the floor.
“That’s it,” he growled, kipping to his feet and stalking towards her. “You can’t have it both ways, Buffy. Either I’m your boyfriend, lover, significant other – pick your own bloody description – or I’m not. If I’m not, then keep your fists to yourself when I talk about shagging another woman. And if I am, then have the balls to admit it, and admit you were jealous that another woman was looking at me.”
“You’re mine,” she muttered.
“I’m your what?” he countered. “Pet dog? Hired muscle? What am I, Slayer? What gives you the right to tell me who or what I can flirt with?”
“Fine! I’m jealous, okay? Don’t make more out of it than it is. I just don’t share well – ask Dawn. I’m selfish, okay? It doesn’t mean--”
“It doesn’t mean what you want it to mean. I doesn’t mean that I… It doesn’t mean what you want it to mean.”
“And what do you think I want it to mean, Buffy?” He had slipped into what she thought of as his “bedroom voice” and she shivered involuntarily.
“You know what you want it to mean,” she said stiffly, moving away from him. “And it doesn’t. It can’t. It won’t.”
“ ‘Won’t’ and ‘can’t’ – not quite the same thing as ‘don’t’, are they, pet?”
“Let it go,” she said, her shoulders slumping as the fight went out of her. “Just let it go, Spike... Please.”
He studied her face, seeing that he’d pushed as far as he could. He closed the gap between them and gently moved her hair off her face, his hand lingering just long enough to be sure she was through.
“Alright, love. I’m sorry for pushing you so hard. And I’m sorry you thought I might have something going with that ugly bint. I’m a one-woman man – always have been. And I’ve got my woman. Wouldn’t trade her for the world.”
Blushing at both his words and the adoration in his eyes, Buffy turned her head away.
“I’m…I’m…” She raised her eyes and gave him a rueful smile. “I don’t think I can say it.”
He laughed and pulled her into a hug, burying his nose in her hair.
“Wouldn’t expect it of you, pet. It’s enough to know you might be thinking it.”
Just as Buffy was relaxing into the hug – a rare moment of affection and tenderness between them – there was a knock upon the heavy wooden door.
“What the bloody hell---”
“Who’s visiting you at this hour of the night?”
“Somebody who knocks. Know it’s not any of you lot, don’t we?” He turned his head to see her worried frown. “But just in case, pet, you might want to be out of sight until we see who it is.”
Smiling gratefully at his understanding, she moved against the wall and away from the line of sight. Spike walked to the door just as the knock was repeated, and reached for the handle muttering, “Keep your knickers on. I’m coming--” He froze in mid grumble – staring at the woman on the other side.
“Trust me, William, I have no intention of keeping my underwear on – I’m quite expecting you to talk me out of it.”
“This is not a good time,” Spike said through his teeth. He kept an arm on the door preventing it from swinging open any farther than the small crack through which Halfrek was frowning at him.
“You certainly don’t seem very happy to see me here,” she said with just a trace of a sniff.
“What do you want?”
She blinked at him in surprise.
“You really aren’t happy to see me, are you?” She frowned harder and her eyes narrowed.
Spike suddenly remembered that she was now a vengeance demon, and probably not someone he wanted to anger any more than he already had. He softened his expression and dropped his voice into a seductive rumble.
“Of course I’m happy to see you,” he purred, “But like I said, it really isn’t a good time…”
“Well, I just wanted to ask you about that slayer – but I guess--”
“What about the Slayer?” His voice sharpened and he waved one hand behind his back, hoping Buffy would take the hint and get completely out of sight.
“Anyanka said she’s been brought back from the dead. Of course, I’m sure that’s impossible, but---”
“What does a veng—sorry, justice demon care about that? She’s the Slayer and you played hell with her birthday party. Pretty much all you need to know, innit?”
“I had a job to do,” she said. “And, anyway, what was a vampire doing at the Slayer’s birthday party? Shouldn’t you be staying as far away from her as you can?”
“I…it’s complicated, pet. Let’s just say that…let’s not discuss it, yeah?”
“Fine,” she sniffed. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’d forgotten all about me, the way you’re acting.”
He blinked at her, speechless for a moment, before saying carefully, “You do realize, luv, that it’s been well over 125 years, right?”
“But, William…” Her voice took on a more coquettish tone and he groaned inwardly, hoping Buffy had gone downstairs and wouldn’t be able to hear anything. “You told me I was the love of your life – you wrote poetry for me. I thought you would love me forever…”
“You thought that, did you?”
“I did. You have no idea how pleased I was to see you in the Slayer’s home, actually. I followed your career for several years, you know. We’re equals now – well, not in the sense that vampires are exactly equal to justice demons, but more so than when you were a poor poet and I was the belle of society.”
“Nothing personal, luv, but I’ve been around a bit since last we spoke. You remember it, don’t you? I was ‘beneath you’? My sire changed my life. Learned what it was like to be loved back, didn’t I?” He tried to close the door, but her leg was thoroughly wedged in the small opening. Behind him, he thought he detected the clink of metal on stone.
“But you’re not beneath me anymore, William. That’s what I was just saying…You’ve changed.”
“Not as much as you might think, pet,” he said wryly. “Still Love’s Bitch, and still can’t see beyond the woman in my life.”
She frowned. “I understood that your sire is no longer around. That you came back here because she dumped you. Although, Anyanka did bet me that I couldn’t—“ She broke off, but not before Spike caught her meaning.
“So that’s it. You bet demon-girl that you could lure old Spike into a shag and now you’re afraid you’ll lose.” He shook his head and laughed at himself. “Should have known better – some things never change, do they?”
“What difference does it make?” she asked stiffly. “You’d get something you want and I’ll get a chance to see if you know how to use all that vampire stamina and strength. Now let me in.”
“Like I said, Cecily or Halfwit, whatever your name is now, I’m still a one-woman man – and you’re not her.”
“Oh that’s just like you! Pining over your sire when you could be enjoying…”
“It isn’t Dru that’s keeping me from taking you up on your generous offer,” he said, his sarcasm completely lost on the demon pushing impatiently against the door.
“Well, what is it, then? There’s no vampire bitch in the world who can compete with me. It must be another demon…Anyanka said – oh! Is it her? Is that why she was so sure? Is she sneaking out on that human lump to have a fling with you?”
“It’s not Anya. And it’s not Dru. All you need to know is that my heart belongs to someone else now – and where my heart goes, my other body parts tend to follow. So I’m not available. It’s been nice to see you again. Be sure to drop by in another 125 years, yeah?”
His vampire hearing having picked up the sound of angry slayer breathing and furious little footfalls, he tried in vain to get Halfrek out of the way so that he could shut the door. But the demon wasn’t giving up so easily.
“I am NOT going to lose this bet, William. I don’t care who or what you’re mooning over now – you’re going to have me, and you’re going to like it. Now let me in.”
“Let her in, ‘William’.” Spike groaned as Buffy’s voice came over his shoulder. “I want to hear more about this poetry and how she’s the love of your life…”
Halfrek blinked in surprise at hearing another woman’s voice coming from inside the crypt.
“Oh dear,” she said with a cold smile that was so much like her human self that Spike had to take a second look. “This is awkward, isn’t it? Have I interrupted something?”
Taking advantage of Spike’s momentary distraction, she shoved the door open and stepped into the crypt, her smile fading as she found herself facing the slayer whose birthday party she’d ruined.
“Shouldn’t you be home with your sister?” she said haughtily. “I would have thought you’d learned your lesson.”
“I’m kind of a slow learner,” Buffy said, casually trailing Spike’s sword behind her as she circled the demon.
Halfrek eyed the sword, but stood her ground, shifting into her demon mien. “You’ve obviously not learned that you can’t kill me with a sword.”
“Oh,” Buffy said, running her hand along the sharp blade. “I learned that. I’m just wondering what happens to a vengeance demon when her head is cut off. What do you think, Spike?”
“I think I’m heading for Willy’s to get drunk. You two bints try not to wreck my crypt, alright?”
“Just as big a coward as when you were human,” Halfrek sneered. “Leaving me to face a slayer by myself. What kind of vampire are you?”
“The kind that has better sense than to face a brassed off slayer with a sword,” he answered, sidling towards the door.
“Spike.” Buffy’s voice was unforgiving, the command unspoken.
With a resigned sigh, he came back and stood behind her, trying to indicate with his eyes that Halfrek should leave. The demon’s puzzled face wasn’t difficult to read, and without turning around, Buffy said, “If you’re making apologetic faces at her behind my back, I’m going to make you both sorry.”
“Not apologetic, pet,” he said stepping closer, but still out of sword range. “Just trying to help her understand that it’s best if she leaves now.”
“Why? Because I’m here? What would you be telling her if I wasn’t here, huh? Would you be asking her to leave, then? Who would win that bet?”
“Don’t start that bollocks again, Slayer,” he growled, forgetting about the sword in her hand. “Wouldn’t be any different if you weren’t here and you know it.”
“Am I missing something?” Halfrek’s plaintive whine brought their attention back to her. “What does the slayer care about what some lovesick vampire does or doesn’t do?” A speculative look crossed her face. “Unless he…”
“Time to go!” Spike said quickly, darting in front of Buffy and pushing Halfrek towards the still-open door. “Been great catching up like this. Come back and see us again sometime, yeah?”
“William, are you being forced to service the Slayer?” she asked as she was unceremoniously shoved out the door. “If you’re afraid of her, I can--”
He shook his head. “I’m not afraid of her, luv. I’m afraid for you. Slayer doesn’t like to share – even if it’s just an old vamp she keeps around for extra muscle. Just do us both a favor and--”
The sword Buffy had been holding embedded itself in the aged wood beside Spike’s head, quivering there while Halfrek looked back and forth between Spike and the angry girl who had followed the sword and was now wrenching it out of the doorframe.
“Get out,” Buffy said with deadly calm. “Stay out of my house, out of my sister’s school, out of my town…and away from my vampire.”
“I’ll be back for Anyanka’s wedding,” Hallie said, drawing herself up to her full height and staring down her nose at the much shorter slayer. “And if I find out that you’re abusing William, he knows all he has to do is wish for justice…”
Taking a chance that he knew could backfire, Spike put his arms around Buffy and held her against his chest. She stiffened, but didn’t pull away. Over her head, he looked the vengeance demon in the eye.
“I appreciate the offer,” he said carefully, “but if you ever try to harm a hair on her head, you’ll find out why they still call me ‘William the Bloody’ – and it’s got nothing to do with bad poetry.”
She nodded. “Anyanka will know how to find me if you change your mind,” she said as she snapped her fingers and disappeared.
Spike and Buffy remained standing in the doorway for a time – the vampire reluctant to release her as long as she was willing to let him hold her, the Slayer trying to absorb the events of the evening. Suddenly she pulled away and turned on him.
“Uh, yeah, reckon she does, love,” he said cautiously. “I’d tried to throw her off with the ‘extra muscle’ thing, but I’m thinking that sword in the door blew that right away. That, and callin’ me your vampire.”
“I could have my own vampire,” she argued. “It wouldn’t have to mean I was…and what did she mean asking if you were being forced to ‘service’ me? Is that what you do? Are you just…servicing me? I thought you wanted me?”
“Here we go again,” he muttered under his breath before reaching towards her with a hand that she batted away. “You shouldn’t listen to that bitch, love. You know I want you. Don’t I prove that almost every time I see you?”
“How do I know you’re not just doing it because you’re afraid not to? Huh? How do I know that, Spike? Maybe you think I’ll stake you if you don’t …”
Once again she was glaring at him, hands on hips demanding he answer something that he felt should have been obvious. Biting back that undoubtedly wrong response, he said appealingly, “Buffy, Slayer, love of my life…I don’t know what you know about men, but let me make something perfectly clear…Telling one to get it up or he’ll dust? Not the best method for getting what you want. Even with a vamp.”
“So,” she said, appearing to be willing to be convinced, “you aren’t doing it because I make you? You’re doing it because you want to?”
Cursing Angelus and his mouth, and the college boy and his need for notches in his bedposts, Spike edged closer to her, pulling her into his body. “Wanted you even when I was trying to kill you, Buffy. Want you so bad sometimes I can’t wait for you to get here and I have to--”
“Right. Point is, I’ve always wanted you, I always do and I always will.”
Buffy nodded and leaned into him, then suddenly - “Why?”
“Why?” He gaped at her, feeling the evening begin to deteriorate for the second time. “Is this a trick question? You know why. Because I love you.”
“You just said you wanted me back when you were trying to kill me. You didn’t love me then.”
“Didn’t,” he admitted. “But still wanted to shag you before I killed you.”
“So, you wanted to rape me. Is that what you’re saying?”
He stared at her, blinked several times, then dropped his arms and stepped away.
“You know what, Slayer? Let’s just call it a night, yeah? You go home, back to your little slayer bed; and I’ll just go downstairs and get blind drunk. Think we’ll both be happier, don’t you? There is no way I’m getting a shag out of this night – and I’m starting to think I’ll be lucky to escape it in one piece.”
“Are you throwing me out?”
“I’m saying you don’t seem happy with me tonight, so you may as well go home and we’ll start all over tomorrow. Think about it, pet. We’ve done nothing but fight since you got here.” He slipped one hand up to caress her face. “I don’t want to fight with you, Buffy. I want to love you. But I don’t think you’re in the mood for that tonight, are you?”
She shook her head dubiously. “I guess not,” she agreed, turning to leave. “Maybe tomorrow I won’t be so…”
She stopped, her eyes narrowed, and her fists clenched. Spike watched the changes and mentally groaned.
“She’s coming back, isn’t she? That’s what this is all about. Send Buffy away so the ho-bag ex can come back and--”
She was cut off as Spike grabbed her and fastened his mouth on hers. He banded his arms around her, ignoring her angry squirming and muffled complaints. He held her until he could feel her mouth relaxing under his, until her irate squeals had turned to murmurs and her tongue was actively seeking his. Without moving another muscle, he deepened the kiss, refusing to stop until she had completely melted against him. He finally broke the kiss and rested his forehead against hers.
“I thought you wanted me to go home?” she gasped, her arms now wrapped tightly around his neck.
“Changed my mine,” he growled. “Thought of a better way to shut you—to convince you.”
“You were gonna say ‘shut you up’.”
“Didn’t do it. Doesn’t count.”
He was walking her backwards towards the ladder to the lower level.
“Does too.” She bit him on the throat, evoking a heartfelt groan from the vampire.
“Does not,” he responded, dropping his head to bite her nipple through the cloth of her blouse.
She jumped up and wrapped her legs around his waist, hanging on while he dropped gracefully through the hole and into his bedroom. He fell onto the bed, with her still wrapped around his body.
“We’ll fight about it later, OK?”
An hour later they were lying, temporarily sated, Buffy draped over him with her head resting on his chest. She twirled her fingers around his nipple and said in a deceptively sweet voice, “How come you’ve never written any poetry for me?”
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