Note - Thanks to my beta, t_geyer, for her unending patience, perseverance and support. Thanks also to always_jbj who keeps arguing that she doesn't merit a co-writing credit, but without whom I would never have got the basic plotline worked out.
Even being pinned over the kitchen island with a stake to his heart did nothing to lessen the intensity of Spike's scornful glare. "Get a grip, slayer! Why would I be rescuing mom and little sis one minute and then planning to take over the hellmouth the next?"
Buffy glared right back at him as she answered. "I don't know. Because you could. Because you like messing with my head? Like you did when you teamed up with Adam not so very long ago?" She desperately wanted to move. Being pressed between Spike's thighs like this made it hard-. Shit! Difficult! ...Made it difficult to think, her body reacting to him as if their brief 'engagement' had never ended, even if her brain was sending completely contradictory messages.
Spike squirmed under her stake. He could have been trying to get into a more comfortable position, or just as likely, knowing him , he could have picked up on the heat flushing her lower body and deliberately be pressing his...
Oh my God! All Buffy's resolutions not to show any weakness or acknowledge that she might be affected by his presence were gone in an instant and she took a small step back, a grimace of distaste on her face.
As he drawled, "Like there's a brain there to mess with?" Spike slid further forward until his feet touched the ground though his back remained bowed.
They were no longer pelvis to pelvis, but the cargo pants that he wore did less to mask certain reactions than his trademark skintight denim, and against her stomach she could again feel... So not going there... but she couldn't afford to back off any more either.
"I guess it never occurred to you that I messed with your heads because I couldn't do anything else, you stupid bint?" the vampire asked, with an all too knowing and predatory gleam in his eye. "Everything being equal, you know I've always preferred the physical approach."
"Heyyy!" Buffy and Joyce both interjected simultaneously. It was as much of an objection as Buffy could manage, but Joyce spoke up for her. "My daughter may be more prone to gratuitous violence than I might like... and I think we all know at this point that you aren't about to dust Spike, so I suggest you let him stand up properly and put that stake away..."
The thought, 'I'll put mine away when he gets rid of his,' flashed through Buffy's brain but, since she didn't want to be grounded until she turned twenty-one, never made it to her lips.
"...But she is not stupid," her mom continued, "nor is she the servant girl of some soldier from the East India Trading Company or wherever else you picked up that derogatory term."
The blond head dropped in an instant and there was a muffled, "Sorry, Joyce."
Buffy might have gloated more if she hadn't simultaneously been backing off, returning her weapon to her book bag and devoting much of her own attention to her footwear. Finally, she risked a grudging sideways glance at the vampire. Her mom was right. She wasn't going to end his existence any time soon, but it didn't mean she could trust him. Didn't Giles have something to say about that? Something about keeping friends close and enemies closer, not that she had any intention of getting any damn closer than they already had this afternoon. That was just too damn close for comfort. She suddenly realised that her cheeks were flushed again. "You want to help?" she grumbled. "You can help me suss out that train. You can do that vampire sniffy thing."
Buffy turned, ready to head upstairs and change her summery skirt for something more slayage friendly, and was met by one of her mom's less friendly stares. "Not before you apologise to Spike for manhandling him like that and clean up the mess you made on the floor, young lady. And the cost of that mug is coming out of your allowance."
"...Ding a dong dang my ding a long ling long," drawled the DeSoto's antiquated sound system in a vaguely Southern accent, before the spoken word was replaced by a high speed electric guitar riff.
Buffy pressed the eject button before Ministry could get any further. "Don't expect an apology and me putting up with your crappy taste in music all in one day, Spike."
"Tut tut, slayer," Spike replied, pushing the cassette back in and turning the volume up so he had to raise his voice to be heard over it. "You wouldn't want me to tell your mom you were being rude? She might make you apologise again."
"And you wouldn't want me to tell her that you're a skanky perv who gets off on being kicked around. It should have been you making with the 'thank you's, not me making with the 'sorry's."
"Puh-lease... For one thing most guys don't feel the need to express their gratitude to a cock-tease and, for another, no point acting like you're 'The Ice Princess'. As you so eloquently put it earlier," he retaliated with cutting sarcasm, "I can do the vampire sniffy thing. Slayers are built to get off on aggression just as much as vamps, so don't come the high and mighty, at least not until you've changed out of your soggy underwear."
"Eww!" Buffy replied, screwing up her face in disgust. "At least I can keep my hormones under control. I don't go around rubbing your face in it," she spat out in self defence.
Spike had enough sense to keep his response lower in volume than the pounding industrial music. Nevertheless, Buffy's suspicion that the words she couldn't quite make out had been, "More's the pity," left her staring at the paint-smeared windscreen for the remainder of the journey, cheeks flaming, and regretting her decision to make him come along.
It was one of those rare days in Southern California where Spike could forego the use of his blanket. It still wouldn't class as dull, not compared with the heavy rain clouds of home, but, instead of fluffy white sheep, what cloud there was had formed into the thinnest of layers. It could break up any time, but it wasn't as if there were more than twenty or thirty yards to cover between the Fireflite and the train or vice versa.
He was out of the car and half-way over its bonnet, in an effort to get to the passenger door before the slayer could open it, when he felt the first shiver of intuition. He slid the rest of the way somewhat more slowly. Even though he doubted she could remember the days before central locking, Buffy had escaped her side of the car by the time he got there and distractedly re-opened her door, locked it and closed it again.
The softly-spoken query penetrated his preoccupation and when he glanced over to the slayer he found her watching him intently.
"Don't know, pet. Nothing I can exactly put my finger on, just..." He gave a shrug.
To his surprise the slayer didn't give a flippant reply. Instead she stood back slightly, letting him take the lead as they picked their way over silent tracks to the siding where the train had been shunted. He supposed you don't last long as a slayer unless you learn to trust your intuition, so maybe it wasn't such a miracle she was giving him the benefit of the doubt.
With a hand on the diagonally-striped tape that marked the carriage doorway as out of bounds, he inhaled deeply, bracing himself against whatever was the root of this feeling of unease, and he knew . The tape fluttered to either side and he stepped up into the carriage, wondering if God, The Fates, whichever damn Powers might be playing with his existence were having fun yet. Fear tied his guts in knots and stilled his tongue as he prowled halfway along the carriage and dropped into one of the central seats, the ones where the front-facing rows met the back-facing.
Buffy paused in the aisle. "That's it?" she asked, her tone even verging on solicitous though her words alone might have sounded harsh. "Half a carriage and you've seen it all?"
"As much as I need," he told her. Did that sound as hopeless to her as it did to him? Could she tell that he was back in another lose-lose situation? Probably not. It wasn't like he wanted to tell her, he just couldn't afford not to. "You want the good news or the bad news, slayer?"
Buffy rolled her eyes heavenward in that way they all seemed to have and flopped into the seat opposite him. "Start with the good, why don't you?"
Spike gave a rueful smile, lifting just his eyes rather than his head so that he watched her reaction from under his lashes. "Present company excluded, there's only been one vamp on this train in the last week or so."
Her lip curled into something between a grimace of disbelief and a near-snarl, her eyes moving from one taped outline to another, to another. "One vamp? Why? "
"Fun? Because she could? Because she wanted to 'make an entrance'? Because she was hungry? Because she was hurt?" He left a near-imperceptible pause before he made his next suggestion. "...Because the pixies told her to?"
"Because the pixies told her to?"
Buffy's heart skipped a beat in her chest. He couldn't mean what that sounded like he meant, could he? Surely, if he thought Drusilla was back, he wouldn't be sitting there looking like a five-year-old whose parents had cancelled Christmas... Drusilla was like his Angel. Shouldn't he be happy? It wasn't as if she was the one in the family with the slayer fixation. If she was in Sunnydale, she was in Sunnydale for him. If Angel came back to town for her she'd... No, she wouldn't drop everything for him, would she? She might want to pretend. Maybe she even would pretend for a while, but she would always know that she couldn't trust him to be there for her. She would always have it at the back of her mind that he hadn't loved her enough to stay in the first place. It didn't matter if he claimed it had been for her own good. That never really washed. She would always be waiting for the day he decided that she needed another lesson in broken hearts. The knowledge that she hadn't been enough would taint their relationship like a worm lurking unseen inside a shiny red-green apple.
Her eyes met his just for an instant, but in that instant a wealth of communication passed between them. For that moment, Spike wasn't the evil vampire who had terrorised them. He wasn't some monster who just suggested that killing people was fun. He was a guy in pain... and it was a pain she could understand all too well.
"I think I can guess the bad news," she told him with a sad half-smile, "but why don't you spell it out anyway? Just so there aren't any misunderstandings."
"Don't reckon I need to." Spike's eyes flicked up and to the opposite side of the aisle.
Buffy's gaze followed his automatically and she realised that he was right. Drusilla had wanted to make sure they knew exactly who was in town. The blindfolded porcelain doll in the luggage rack couldn't have belonged to anyone else.
"Look," he suggested with an edge of desperation in his voice, "what if I can talk to her? Get her to leave town? Go back to South America or something?"
Buffy felt torn. It wasn't as if the deal was without precedent... but, then, a year maybe two would go by and there'd be a magic shop assistant or a bunch of missing co-eds or a train full of dead people to tell her she'd been wrong. She felt for the guy; she really did. Dumped like yesterday's newspaper, not a word all the while he'd been chipped, so far as she knew at any rate, and then all of a sudden, just as soon as he got rid of the chip, the ex shows up like the prodigal daughter at the will-reading, but no more able to turn off what he felt for her than she could turn off her feelings for Angel.
"I come with you," she stipulated. "And if she hurts anyone..." Buffy waited until he looked her in the eye. "I won't have a choice. You know that, right? I guess I can't undo what she's done here-. I shouldn't-. I mean, even if she's not killing people here, then she's just going to be killing people somewhere else..." She stumbled over her words, caught somewhere in the middle of right and wrong.
The vampire lifted his head, staring straight at her. "Thank you," he told her in a hushed voice.
In anyone else, she would never have doubted the sincerity he managed to convey. She had to remind herself over and over that this was Spike and they were talking about Drusilla... Even if he understood... Even if he agreed now and meant it, that didn't mean that he wouldn't rush to his sire's aid, if Drusilla was in the middle of a hunting spree when they found her... and it didn't mean that she would necessarily blame him if she did.
Nevertheless, if that was how things went, she would just have to stake both of them.
"You think you're going to be able to get her to leave without what she came for?" Buffy found herself asking, partly curious and partly still trying to weigh what was potentially a very dangerous situation. She was a match for Spike. She had never really tried pitting herself against Drusilla, but in a fight she thought she could more than hold her own. If it came to magic... well, she hoped it wouldn't. If she had to face both of them, then she was in trouble. She would find a way. She always did, but it was a battle she would rather avoid.
"I'll have a damn good try," Spike replied with a wide grin, before he pushed himself out of his seat.
Buffy had smiled enough of those smiles after Angel left to catch the fact it was a deliberate movement of the facial muscles rather than a spontaneous response.
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