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Challenge #578 What If I Loved You? Part 1 by slaymesoftly
Chapter Two
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After dodging a phone call from Riley earlier in the day --  “Just tell him you don’t know where I am,” she hissed to Giles who had his hand over the phone’s mouthpiece – Buffy determined she needed to talk to Spike about killing slayers sooner rather than later.  She really didn’t want to be around Riley until she was pretty well healed from what he would undoubtedly view as a close call that couldn’t or wouldn’t have happened if he’d been patrolling with her. That conversation would go much better if she could just brush off the injury with a cheery “I’m already healed up, see?” and an explanation for what went wrong and what she would do differently in the future.
Although she was still very stiff and her side was painful to the touch, she phoned Giles and insisted she was more than capable of walking to Restfield by herself and didn’t need to wait for him to return from the Magic Box. She set off, wondering if Spike would be home and alone. Although she was pretty sure he wasn’t still seeing Harmony, she didn’t actually know that and really wasn’t interested in any confrontations yet. Even with a vampire as lame as Harmony.
She hesitated when she reached to door to his crypt, noticing that both the inner and outer doors were closed.  When pulling on the outer door made her wound complain, she stopped pulling and, instead of barging in as she normally would, knocked on the inner wooden door.  She was just raising her hand to knock again when it was opened by a very sleepy-appearing Spike.  A shirtless, tousle-headed, sleepy, surprisingly yummy-looking Spike. Buffy mentally smacked herself.
He blinked at her blearily for a second, as if not sure who she was, then shook himself awake.
She bit her lip.  “You were sleeping, weren’t you?” He gave her one of his “duh” looks. “I’m sorry. I thought you’d be awake by now.”
“Had a busy night,” he said. “What do you need?”  As he finished speaking, his nostrils flared and he growled. “Why are you bleeding again?”
Buffy put a hand to her side and gave a guilty shrug. “I guess I should have knocked on the outside door, but I didn’t think you’d hear me.”  She pushed gently against her side and winced. “Did I really make it bleed again?”
“Smells like it. You’d best come in here and let me get a look at it.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll just go back to Giles and he can put another bandage on it.”
He shook his head and stepped back. “No, luv. Don’t want you walkin’ around bleeding, even if it is still daylight. I have bandage stuff here.  Anyway,” he added as she reluctantly entered his home, “you came here for a reason, so you may as well tell me what it was.”
“Well,” she started, “I was—”
“Buffy! What are you doing here? Spike, what is she doing here? I told you I’m her nemesis! You’re supposed to protect me from her, not invite her in!”  Harmony had stopped with just her head and upper body sticking up from the lower level.
Buffy narrowed her eyes and moved away from Spike, staring suspiciously at Harmony.  “What is she doing here?  Why did you want me to come in? Is this a trap?”
“Bloody, buggering fuck!”  Spike looked back and forth between the two girls glaring at each other.
“Harm, I told you to stay down there. If you’d done what you were told, the Slayer wouldn’t know you were here.”
He turned to Buffy, his harsh tone changed to pleading. “I’m letting her stay down there until you forget how much you want to slay her.”  At Buffy’s still narrow-eyed expression, he added softly, “I’m sleepin’ up here.” He gestured at the sarcophagus with bed linens and a pillow on it.
“I didn’t ask,” she said, her tight shoulders relaxing anyway. “And what does she mean she’s my nemesis? I didn’t think she even knew that word.”
“Wager she can’t spell it,” Spike said, earning himself a small smile from Buffy while Harmony gave an offended growl.
Harmony’s eyes suddenly widened and she began sniffing the air. “What’s that smell? It smells like... blood. It smells like fresh blood. Did you go to Willie’s and get blood for me, Spike? That is so swe—” She broke off at his growled denial, shifting her gaze to where Buffy was still holding her side.  “Buffy? Are you bleeding? Are you hurt?”  She started to climb the rest of the way out of the hole, her fangs dropping as she stared at Buffy.
“If you even think about it, Harm, I’ll dust you right now.” Spike’s deep snarl halted her progress toward Buffy, who had dropped her hand from her side and was bouncing on her toes in a fighting stance making “bring it on” gestures at her old classmate.  “And you,” he whirled on Buffy. “You just sit down there until I can replace that bandage. Don’t even think about trying to fight that stupid bint.”
“Who are you calling ‘stupid’?”
“Don’t tell me what to do!”
Spike rolled his eyes up at the ceiling. “Give me strength,” he muttered as he stood between them.  Turning to Harmony, he grabbed her by the shoulders saying, “You ‘ve got two choices, Harm. Take your bloody unicorns and leave through the tunnels, or I’ll toss you out the door into the sun. I’ll give you a count of ten.”
Her lip trembled as she pulled away from him. “Why are you always so mean to me, Blondie Bear?”
“Because I’m a bad, rude man. Now get your arse out of here.”
“Well, if I go, that’s it. I’m not coming back again!” She dropped down into the lower level.
“Promises, promises,” he said as he turned to Buffy.
“I can hear you!”
“Nine, eight, seven....” 
There was the sound of scrambling from downstairs.
Buffy smothered a small giggle. “You’re terrible. What an awful boyfriend you are.”
“I’m not her boyfriend. Haven’t been since – for along time. I just gave her a place to stay for a while until she could get out of Sunnydale.” He peered at Buffy. “Nemesis, huh? Old Harm’s moving up on the evil scale.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about. I didn’t even know she was still here.”  She put her hand back on her side. “But, even as dumb and lame as she is, I’m glad I didn’t have to fight her.”
“Let me see it,” he said, forgetting about anything but Buffy and her injury.
She lifted her shirt to the bottom of her bra and stood calmly while he unwrapped the ace bandage and gently pulled the now-bloody gauze off. “Fuck,” he muttered, putting it back and placing her hand on it. “Hold that till I get new packing.”
He went to a small cabinet and dug around, coming back with guaze bandages still in their wrappings.  “Sorry I don’t have any antibiotics, luv, but at least these are clean.”
“It’ll be fine. It was already healing, I just kinda pulled the scab off when I opened that heavy door. See, the bleeding has already stopped.” She peered down over the shirt she was holding up, and she and Spike both stared at the wound, which had indeed stopped oozing. 
“It has. But we’re going to wrap it up again anyway.”
He placed a new gauze pad over the wound, waiting for a few seconds to see if it was going to seep through, then used the bandage Giles had used to hold it in place. With Buffy awake and no longer suffering from serious blood loss, she was much more conscious of how close Spike’s face came to her body as he wrapped the bandage around her. As he finished tucking the ends in, his fingers lingered for a second, just barely brushing her bare skin. Buffy’s surprised gasp did nothing to cover his own soft groan. He snatched his hand back and turned away while Buffy pulled her shirt back down.
Neither one of them made eye contact, Spike staring at the bloody gauze on his floor while Buffy found the walls very interesting. When the silence was becoming more embarrassing than talking would have been, he picked up the gauze, took it to his kitchen and stared at the cardboard box he used for a trashcan.
Buffy cleared her throat and stuttered a bit as she said, “I don’t... really know how something like that works... but if you... I mean not in front of me, cause... ewww... but you have a fridge... and I know my blood is...”
Still holding the bloody gauze in his hand, Spike stared at her with wide eyes.
“Are you offering me your blood?”
“Well, no.... I mean, not exactly. I’m just saying that if you put that in the fridge, I wouldn’t... I wouldn’t ask you why you were doing it or anything....”
“Just when you think you know somebody....” He shook his head and set the now hardening and stiff pad inside his small refrigerator.  He shut the door and stared at it for a few seconds, then turned back to face her.
“So, what was it you wanted, luv? What is so important that you had to walk here when you’re supposed to be resting? What couldn’t have waited until tonight?”
“Well... Giles and I were talking, and then I thought about you, and I wanted to know, and—was I going to see you tonight?”
“Did you think I wouldn’t want to check on you and see how you were doing?”
Once again Buffy found herself confused and looking into eyes that held pain and anger before Spike’s shut them down into a corpse’s lack of expression.  She shook her head and sighed. “I guess I just figured you’d tell yourself you’d done enough – with all the life save-age and then finishing patrol for me. I’m... I’m sorry, Spike.”
He shrugged. “Just didn’t want to see my hard work go for naught,” he said. “It’s not like I care what happens to you.”
“Right. About that....” He raised an eyebrow, waiting.  “See, here’s the thing. The Watcher’s Diaries don’t say much about how or why slayers get killed. They’re just like ‘Susie died and Linda was called’ or some old-fashioned version of that. No explanation for what Susie might have done differently, or what she shouldn’t have done. Nothing helpful.”
“And you came to me because...?”
“Well, you’ve killed two slayers, and... I thought maybe you might have some ideas about what I could have done last night to keep what should have been an easy slay from turning into a near-death experience.  You can tell me what you did when you killed your slayers... or what they did or didn’t do that made it easy for you.”
Spike slumped against the sarcophagus. “Don’t’ want much, do you, Slayer?”
“I want to stay alive, Spike,” she said flatly, watching him visibly flinch at her words before he straightened up and nodded.
“I want that too, Buffy,” he said, holding her gaze long enough for her to read the truth of it.  “What do you want to ask me?”
Buffy stumbled over her words for a second, taken back by his quiet admission and the strange look that accompanied it.  “You... I mean, we’re.... but....”
Spike gave a small grin. “Which of those very articulate questions would like me to answer first?”
“Those weren’t... They were just... Never mind.  Just tell me about the two slayers you fought. What went wrong?”  When he cocked a sardonic eyebrow at her, she mumbled, “Well, not from your point of view, I guess.”
“No, not from my point of view. Was bloody brilliant for me.” He sighed and shook his head. “But prob’ly not what you want to hear.”  He took her elbow and guided her to a ratty-looking couch. “Why don’t you sit down.  No sense aggravating that hole in your side by standing around when you don’t need to.”
Buffy allowed him to steer her to the couch, smiling in thanks when he held on to her arm as she gingerly lowered herself. She briefly touched her wound with one hand, making sure the bandage hadn’t shifted before gazing up at him.  “Okay, I’m sitting. Talky please.”
“Before I tell you about the two I killed, I need to tell you that they weren’t the only ones I’ve fought. Once I’d killed the first one, I thought I was a vampire god and I sought them out when I could. Drove old grandpa crazy, it did. Calling attention to myself like that.  But then he was gone anyway, and the whore left to suck up to Batface, and Dru didn’t care what I did as long as there was blood involved.”
“You fought more than two? Why aren’t you dust?”
“Fought ‘em, but they weren’t ready to go yet, and I wasn’t quite as much of a rock star as I thought I was.  I think I might have had one more, but her watcher shot me with a crossbow and Dru had to drag me away to hiding.  Know that slayer wasn’t up to comin’ after us, but her watcher had balls and he might have done it.”
“So you might have killed three slayers.” Buffy’s voice couldn’t hide her emotion. “And you fought a couple more and got away undusty.”  She stared at him with newly aware eyes. “I knew you were good, but....”
“I am good, luv. Now. But when I met that first slayer, I was just lucky.  She was very young and very tired of slaying every night. Could see it in her eyes and in the way she moved. Not that she didn’t try, did her best—“ He pointed to the scar on his eyebrow. “Gave me this, she did, but her heart wasn’t in it. She looked almost grateful when I had her pinned. Said something in Chinese and then I... I bit her and she was... gone.”
“What about the other one? The one in New York. You weren’t a fledge then.”
“No, I wasn’t. And she was bloody good at her job. Could have danced with her all week. But that last time we met...” His eyes glazed over as he lost himself in memories Buffy wasn’t sure she wanted to know anything about.
“Spike? Earth to Spike?”
He startled and began to pace.  “Sorry, pet. Got lost in memories for a bit. She was something, that one was....” The expression on Buffy’s face snapped him back to reality.  “Not as good you, mind, but good. And not real young, either. She’d been at her job a good long while, I’d reckon. We fought for hours, sometimes I was on top, sometimes she was on top, but when it ended, it was me came out on top, and I could see it in her eyes. That same look that said she was done and ready to go to her reward.”  He sat down beside her and took her hands in his, squeezing them gently.  “Didn’t even bite her. I broke her neck – a clean break – and I saw the light go out in her eyes. Took her coat as a... a—”
“Trophy?” Buffy shuddered as she glanced over to where Spike’s leather coat hung on the back of a chair.
“In her memory. You can call it a trophy if you want to, but I did it to honor her, not to demean her.”
“So, you’re saying both those slayers wanted to die?”
“Not saying they wanted to die – just that when it became inevitable, they were alright with it. They quit fighting. They’d been doing their job for a long time and it was time for them to go to their reward.”
“But I don’t want to die!  So why was that smelly guy almost able to kill me?”
“I don’t know, Buffy. But we’re going to sort it out before you go back out there by yourself again.” He ignored the way she bristled at his assumption that he could tell her what to do and continued, “Could’ve just been bad luck on your part. Or maybe you’re just so bloody good you’ve gotten careless.  But I have a plan.”
“I didn’t ask you for a plan,” she grumbled, pulling her hands away. “I just asked you to tell me how you killed your slayers, so I can make sure I don’t make the same mistakes.”
“Well, unless you’re tired and want to leave your job, you aren’t likely to make the same mistakes.”
“So, what’s the plan, then? If you don’t think I’m ready to just roll over and make some fangy guy’s day?”
“My plan is for you to fight me.”
“Excuse me?”
“Well, you can’t really fight me, fight me, on account of I can’t fight back till I get this bloody chip out.  But we can train together. I don’t think the chip will fire if it knows I’m not really tryin’ to hurt you. Turns out it’s pretty good at reading intent...” His mind clearly wandered off for a few seconds.  “I’d love to know what that’s all about...”
When Buffy shifted impatiently, he went on quickly, “I know you’re good. Faster and stronger than most. But you’ll come across other old vamps, and they might have a few tricks you haven’t seen yet. If you work out with me a couple of times a week, you’ll have a chance to keep yourself sharp and ready for whatever comes along... even if it’s an apocalypse or a Frankenstein monster.”
“I had help for that,” she said, looking down at her hands.
“And help is what I’m offering. The watcher can’t train you the way I can because he can’t match your speed or strength.” He stood up and stared down at her.
“Why would you do that for me?”
When he turned away, she grabbed the sleeve of his shirt and pulled him back, hissing when the movement pulled on her wound.
“Spike? Why would you do that? Tell me.” She let go of his shirt and put her hand on the wound, pressing lightly against it.
He gave a worried frown as he saw where her hand had gone, then knelt down again where he could meet her gaze. 
“Because I don’t want you to die. Don’t want you to even come close to it again. And I’m going to do whatever I can to keep it from happening, whether it’s making you train harder, or patrolling with you to watch your back, or—”
She stopped him by holding her hand up, palm out. “Do I want to know why?”
He gave a rueful smile, grabbed the hand, and brushed his lips over her fingers before she could pull it back.
“I’m pretty sure you don’t, luv. It’s not something I even want to think about, never mind admit out loud. Let’s just go with I’m bored and need to get some violence in my life, yeah?”
She looked at the fingertips he’d kissed so gently, then back at him.
“You know I have a boyfriend, right?”
“Trust me,” he growled, getting his feet and walking away. “I’m only too aware of that.”
“A boyfriend who already doesn’t like you...”
“Aware of that too, although I’m not sure why. I’m the injured party here – the one that got tazed and drugged and chipped. Don’t know where he gets off thinking I’m the wanker.”
“It might... I may have said something... and I totally didn’t mean it the way he took it, but he’s got this complex about Angel, and now that he’s all unenhanced....” She paused and stared into his puzzled eyes. “I think you better keep your distance from him unless I’m around.”
“You expect me to hide behind your tiny little skirts?” He bristled with indignation that rapidly turned to curiosity.  “You said something? About me?  What did you say?”
“Nothing! I just... he was being an ass about getting that chip out of his heart, and he said I wouldn’t want him if he was just a normal man, and I might have said.... and I just pulled it out of thin air.... if I wanted someone with superpowers, I’d be dating... you,” she finished so low a human wouldn’t have heard it. 
She looked away from the grin spreading across his face and stood up.
“I should go now. Giles is going to be worried about me, and I haven’t even told Mom I got hurt yet. I was waiting till I was healed up, but she’s going to wonder—”
Spike had walked back and was standing right in front of her, too close to be comfortable, but not so close that she could seriously object. He tipped her chin up and forced her to meet his gaze.  She narrowed her eyes, daring him to make a big deal of it.  He met her challenging glare, then dropped his own eyes and nodded.
“Right then. Just happened to be the first stronger than normal man that came to mind.”
“Exactly,” she said firmly, confident she was telling the truth, but surprised at how badly she wanted to take the disappointed look off his face.  “Spike... I....” She trailed off, at a loss for what to say to him. He’d as much as told her he loved her, and she’d just made it clear that she wasn’t interested. At least, she didn’t think she was... was she?” 
When she didn’t continue, he sighed and shook his head. “Spike... I... what, pet? What’s left? Reminded me you have a boyfriend and explained away why he doesn’t like me. You shouldn’t be here anyway. Should be at your mum’s resting and healing up. Don’t worry about patrol tonight.” He started to turn away, hesitating when she put a hand on his arm.
“I forgot one thing,” she said softly.
“What’s that then?”
“To thank you for saving my life last night.”  She rose onto her toes and pressed her lips to his, just long enough for it to be a real kiss. “Thank you, Spike.”
He groaned as he put his arms around her in a loose embrace, careful not to put any pressure on the wound.
“You could give a man whiplash, Slayer.” He touched his forehead to hers and visibly inhaled before brushing his lips across her mouth and straightening up too quickly for her to object.  When she didn’t say anything or pull away, he leaned in again. But this time she stepped back, putting a restraining hand on his bare chest, then dropping it before she could get lost in the feel of hard muscles under silken skin.
“No,” she whispered, shaking her head. “We can’t do this. I can’t do this, Spike. I don’t cheat on the man I’m.... dating.”  She winced at having not been able to say “the man I love”, but after giving her a thoughtful glance, Spike nodded and lowered his arms.
“Wouldn’t expect any less of you, Buffy.”
“Oh. Okay. So... I’m just... just going to go now.  Home. To my mom’s house, where I can be lazy for another day or until I don’t have a hole in my side anymore.”  She started edging toward the door, surprised when he rushed to open it for her.  Buffy smiled her gratitude, remembering what pulling on the heavy doors had done to her earlier.
“Thank you,” she said. “That big door was a little much for me today.”
“That was a deep gash you got, Buffy.  Slayer healing or not, you’ll need to take a while to get over it.”
Her smile faded to a less friendly expression. “I can’t loll around forever, Spike. I have classes and a nighttime job to do. I’ll be fine in another day.”
“You can take a few days,” he growled. “I’ll handle whatever evil doers try to take advantage of your little vacation.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll be a Buffy slug for a while.  But you come and get me if something comes up that I need to know about. Especially if it’s a skanky bitch in a tight red dress.”
Her glare stopped the expected piggy remark from leaving his mouth, and with a small pout, he settled for a leer.  Her only reply was to roll her eyes as she walked out into the late afternoon sunlight, smothering a small smile.
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