Chapter 2

They sat alone in the Watcher’s lounge-room, neither one looking at the other. The silence seemed to stretch out endlessly between them. They had been sitting this way for the better part of an hour, ever since the fiercely glaring Watcher had reluctantly left them alone.

Spike had won that particular battle of wills.

After explaining to the Slayer several times what the ritual entailed and answering the few softly mumbled questions she had voiced, Giles had wanted them to “get on with it,” as he’d so crudely and insensitively put it. There had been no way that the vampire would have any part of that deal. After a fierce shouting match that featured furious glares from the men and horrified, if stifled, sobs from Buffy, Spike had finally prevailed and managed to convince the stupid bloody wanker that the Slayer and he needed to be left alone. There was no way he was going to do this ritual with the Watcher taking bloody notes; he also figured that having her Watcher in attendance was the last thing the girl needed to have happen. She didn’t need an audience, and he didn’t want one; the whole situation was just one bloody great mess as far as he was concerned.  So Spike had sent the tweed-clad git packing with very specific orders not to return till the morning, orders that had been reinforced by the slayer’s pleading agreement.

Now he was waiting. Waiting for the girl to talk to him, to look at him, or at the very least to acknowledge his existence. The claiming was not something that Spike had any intention of rushing and he was gonna make damned sure the chit was fully aware of what she was getting herself into. Saving the world or not, a claim was serious, and he didn’t think it would be fair for either of them to go in with any sort of illusions—it was going to be hard enough on them if they both went in with their eyes wide open.

The silence was broken finally by a tiny, fear-filled whisper.  “So this claimy thing, it… it will make us love each other?”  Buffy lifted tear-filled, horrified green eyes to look at him. “Is that what you were saying to Giles earlier?”

“Wha…?  No, pet.  That’s not it.  It can’t make us feel anything that we don’t already feel.  It will bind us in a physical sense and in a sense of duty to each other, but not in an emotional one.”  Spike sighed and tried to think of how to explain to the scared little girl now sitting in the Slayer’s place exactly what the ritual would mean to her and how it was going to affect the rest of her life.  “Because it’s permanent, the claim is something that’s done only by two vampires who love each other and want to bind their existences to each other—the love is already there. What it does is create a strong commitment to each other; my demon will recognise you as its mate, I’ll protect you at all costs, and I won’t be leavin’ you either.  You’re gonna be stuck with me, pet.  ‘m not sure if it will have the same effect on you, what with you bein’ human an’ all.  Vampires who are mated can feel each other’s emotions, know if their mate is in danger or pain or stressed in any way—they pretty much know where the other is at all times.  But …  No, love, it’s not a bloody spell.  It won’t make you love me, or make me love you. It'll bond us, is all.”  

Spike didn’t quite know why it was important to him that the Slayer both understand and be alright with what was going to happen. Well, as alright as she could be, anyway.  All he knew was that the girl was as much a victim in this as he was, and he didn’t want to claim her without her full understanding of the situation. Didn’t seem fair, somehow—although he refused to let himself wonder why he cared that anything about the Slayer’s life was “fair.”

“Ok,” she responded, her voice just the tiniest bit stronger.  “So what else does it do?”

She was actually looking at him now, rather than at the floor or her hands; he figured that that had to be counted as an improvement.

“Don’t rightly know, pet.  Never been mated, or known any that were—vampires can be a pretty mercenary bunch, and there’s not a lot of eagerness to go tying your unlife to somebody else. So pretty much, what I’ve told you is what I know.”  He watched as she digested that information; her face was calmer now, having lost that deer in the headlights look that she had been sporting for the last couple of hours.  After a few minutes, he figured that fair was only fair and the Q&A’s should run both ways, and he soon found himself voicing the question that had been plaguing him since this whole thing began.  “Slayer… ‘s one hellovea story your Watcher has come up with, love, you gotta admit.  What are the chances he knows what he’s talking about?”

Broken from her reverie, Buffy looked up; taking in the vampire’s hopeful expression, she sighed deeply before answering.  “If Giles says it has to be done, then it’s pretty much a given that it has to be done. And something like… well, this… you know, what we have to do?  He would have triple checked and then cross-whats-it-ed, you can be sure of that.  So… yeah, the chances are really, majorly high that he knows what he is talking about.”  She watched the hope fade from Spike’s face and realised that he wanted this no more than she did; the thought was somehow both comforting and strangely insulting, almost like she was hurt by the possibility that Spike wouldn’t want her. Buffy furrowed her brow in confusion over that last thought—where had that come from? There was no time for self-reflection on odd thought processes, though, because Spike had reached his second wind in his attempt at making sure she understood exactly what was being asked of them.

“So… I know that the Watcher went over this about a million times, pet, but… you ‘right with how the ritual works?  I mean… not alright with it… cause I doubt you are. Hell, I know I’m not… But what I mean is, you understand what has to happen, right?”

Buffy looked at him, slightly amused because she was absolutely certain that if he could, he would be blushing.

“Yes, Spike.  I understand what has to happen,” she replied, strangely calm.

“Ok.  That’s good, then.”  Spike cocked his head to the side and looked at her intently for a few minutes before speaking again, this time with a request instead of an explanation.  “Come here, love.”

“What?  What for?” Buffy replied, caught off-guard by his request.

“Cause I’m askin’ you to,” he replied, annoyed, before allowing his tone to soften a bit.  “Please, Slayer.  Will you just come here?”

Buffy slowly advanced across the room, her guard firmly in place as it hadn’t been the whole time that she had been here alone in the room with him.  What did he want?  What was he up to?  If anything—Spike was far from predictable.  She stopped just in front of him, looking down at him warily.  “Ok.  So, I’m here.  What did you want?”

“Take these chains off me, pet.  Please, love.”  He looked beseechingly at her, consciously working every charm he possessed.  “’m not gonna hurt you—I think you know that.  If we don’t do this… well, then it’s goodbye to everything in this soddin’ world that I care about, so you know I’m gonna go through with it. I’m gonna help you defeat Angelus, too.  But this is just damned uncomfortable.  So what do you say, kitten? Please?”

Buffy hesitated a few steps away from him, taking in his pleading eyes and the expectant look on his face, and allowed the gently reasonable voice and logical arguments to wash over her.  Well, she rationalised, I am gonna have to unchain him sometime, if we are gonna…  Suddenly, the full reality of their situation hit her like a blow to the face.  With an indrawn gasp of air, she closed her eyes, swaying slightly before dropping to her knees on the floor in front of him.  “Oh god, Spike.  I… We…”  The concern clearly evident in his eyes and on his highly expressive face blurred as the tears that swam in her eyes overflowed in an inexorable torrent of grief.  A low keening sounded in her ears, and it was quite some time before she realised that it was coming from her.  A quiet, soothing voice broke slowly through her misery and tears, and she looked up through red-rimmed, swollen eyes to meet his obviously concerned blue ones.

“Slayer?  You ok?”  The sight of his powerful enemy huddled in grief on the floor touched Spike in a way he couldn’t quite fathom.  It just seemed wrong, to see her there like that. She was so strong, so capable—the best he’d ever gone up against—and she was on her knees weeping.  The desolation in her eyes when she turned them on him made his undead heart jump, and for the first time he realised just how young the Slayer really was.  Maybe it was leftover from the poncy Victorian poet he had once been, or maybe it was just the “Love’s Bitch” in him that couldn’t bear to see a woman, especially a beautiful one, so completely miserable.  Whatever the reason, the sight of her so totally forlorn was killing him.  He moved to comfort her, struck with the sudden and acute desire to stroke the hair from her tear-stained face and run soft soothing caresses up her arms until the agony currently reflected on her face disappeared, only to be brought up short by the hateful chains that bound him, ineffectual and impotent, to the chair. With a growl of frustration he fought for a moment, shimmying his shoulders and straining against the firmly wrapped chains in a futile effort to break free.  Finally resigning himself to his entrapment for the moment, he reached his hand toward her, stretching his lower arm as far as possible towards the unhappy girl.  “C’mere, love.  Slayer.  Buffy.  Come on, pet.  It’ll be ok.”  He urged her to him and was both pleased and amazed when she shuffled forward to rest her head against his lifeless leg, just in range of his fingertips, and he could finally reach her and stroke her hair as he cooed soft words of comfort.

Eventually, the Slayer’s sobs lessened.  Hiccuping, she dried her eyes roughly with the back of her hand and looked up at the “evil” vampire who had just spent twenty minutes soothing her with his gentle touch and softly spoken words of reassurance.  He returned her gaze, looking deeply into her eyes, his own filled with gentle compassion. In that moment of silent communication, he argued for his cause far more eloquently and effectively than he could have with any number of carefully thought-out or pretty speeches or pleas.  Buffy rose and, without saying a word, walked over to the counter where Giles had placed the key to Spike’s bonds.  She returned to the vampire’s side and carefully freed him from his restraints, then carried the chain and padlock back to the counter and placed them there neatly next to the key.

Returning to stand a few feet in front of Spike, she found him looking at her, his head tilted slightly, and a look of profound wonder on his face.  Buffy drew a deep fortifying breath and, steeling herself against the tumult of emotions that were roiling inside her and threatening to once more reduce her to a whimpering ball of misery on the floor, managed to ask without too much of a tremble in her voice, “So… How do we… I mean, I know HOW.   What I mean is…”

“Shh.  No need to rush that, love.  C’mere an’ talk to me a bit, eh?”...

“Why are you being nice to me?” Buffy asked, a hint of suspicion once more colouring her voice.  “I mean, you’ve spent most of the year trying to kill me, and now you’re being all understanding guy.  Why?”

Spike’s gaze never wavered from hers, intense blue locking with her bruised and swollen green.  “That was different, pet.  That wasn’t personal… was nothing against you.  Was warrior against warrior—fight to the death.  This?!  Well, this is personal. ‘s about as sodding personal as you can get.  And it’s something that is happening to both of us.  Neither of us want this, pet.  But then neither of us particularly wants to see the world end in Angelus’ twisted bloody Blaze of Glory, do we?  So, the way I look at it… you an’ I, we’re pretty much stuck with each other.  An’ as little as I wanna be doing this, I want to be doing it against your will even less.  I’m not sayin’ we have to love each other in order to do this, pet.  But we could at least try liking each other a bit.”  He smiled tentatively at her before ducking his head and mumbling quietly, “Besides, never could stand to see a woman cry.  ‘s not bloody fair using tears against a fella. ‘s just plain dirty tactics.”

Buffy was unable to fight the smile that tugged at the corners of her mouth at the vampire’s shamefully muttered confession.  The gentle compassion he had shown her and his softly spoken admission to being vulnerable to a woman’s tears, along with his obvious devotion to his demented sire despite her recent treatment of him, all combined to make this evil vampire—who was, she reminded herself, responsible for the deaths of two slayers—somewhat of an enigma.  Buffy stepped closer to the wooden chair and its occupant.

“Well... Why don’t you come and sit on the couch, then, and we can talk,” Buffy offered with a sigh.  He was right, after all; neither of them wanted this.  There was no avoiding what they had to do, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t at least try to make a bad situation bearable by being a little less antagonistic towards each other.

“Well, as much as I’d like to take you up on that offer, pet, I can’t. It seems when you drop a bloody great church organ on someone’s back, their legs tend to stop working.”  Spike glared at Buffy for a moment before he remembered that they were supposed to be trying to get on.  Her eyes widening in shock as the realisation of what she had done to him hit home swept away the last vestiges of his resentment—after all, it had been a fair fight, warrior against warrior. Couldn’t expect her to forgive and not do the same himself.  “’s alright, pet.  We were tryin’ to kill each other, remember?”  He sighed deeply before adding, “’s just I’d sooner you’d killed me than left me like this.  Waste of bloody space is all I am at the moment.  Can’t walk… hell, can’t even feed myself.  I’ll mend, I know that, an’ I meant what I said ‘bout helping you fight Angelus… ‘s just that I’ll need some time to do a bit of healing first.”

“I thought vampiress were all with the speedy healing… like me?” Buffy asked, obviously confused. She didn’t miss the flash of pain that shot across his face and through his eyes before he managed to block it, and she wondered briefly if she had caused that as well as his paralysis.

Spike’s jaw clenched in remembered frustration as he answered her very quietly. “Yeah, well, we are, usually. ‘s just… Dru was never much good at remembering to feed me at the best of times… but now, since her precious daddy came back to her…”

“So you haven’t been feeding?”  Buffy looked closely at him, taking in the gaunt features with an almost clinical eye; he had always been lean, but now on closer inspection she could see that he was indeed looking a little worse for wear.  His usually sharp, chiselled cheekbones were more prominent than normal, with deep shadowed hollows below.  His frame, beneath the skin-tight black t-shirt, was a little more angular than she remembered; hints of bone were visible where once there had been strong, wiry muscles. Buffy had fought Spike enough times to know that he was strong and extremely agile, an amazing fighter and a tough opponent; looking at him now, she could clearly see the evidence of his recent debility, and she found that it bothered her more than she would have thought.  “Well, we’ll just have to do something about that.  I’ll go to the butcher’s and get…”  Her voice trailed off as she belatedly realised the time.  “Ok.  Well, first thing in the morning, we’ll get you some blood, and you’ll be better in no time.  Right?”  She gave him an expectant smile and waited for him to affirm that he would indeed be quickly back to full fighting strength with just a little bit of appropriate care.

“Yeah, kitten.  A little blood an’ I’ll be right as rain in no time.  Course, human blood would work a lot quicker than that swill from the butcher’s,” he prodded, raising an eyebrow inquiringly and hoping against hope that he hadn’t just opened his mouth and pushed his luck a little too far.

Rather than answering him verbally, Buffy’s gaze simply grew intent once more, her eyes narrowing as she took in every detail of the man seated before her.  Without a word she turned and walked out of the room, leaving one very bewildered vampire in her wake.

She returned several moments later and handed Spike a ridiculous novelty mug; the overwhelming scent rising from the mug was, however, more than enough to draw his attention away from the silly slogan.  Reaching out with a suddenly shaky hand, he took the proffered mug carefully from her, his eyes fixed on it as he drew it to his mouth.  Spike stared at the contents for a moment, transfixed, before turning his piercing blue eyes on the girl standing before him.

“What did you…?”

“I thought it might help.  You said human blood was better than pig, so I thought maybe… I mean, if you don’t want it...”  Uncertainty coloured her voice; she had been so sure of herself and her decision when she had left the room. But now, with the way he was reacting, she was suddenly not so sure she had done the right thing, and she felt small and foolish under the focus of his inspection.  When his eyes softened and filled with an incredulous wonder, she felt the knot of anxiety that had been forming in her stomach release and dissipate.  Spike’s awed words confirmed to her that she had done the right thing, not only for returning him to the level of strength and fitness they would require from him in the forthcoming battle, but also for building upon the tentative acceptance that was forming between them.

“Don’t want it?  Pet, this is… I don’t know how to thank you.  No one has ever…”

Buffy interrupted his reverent words of gratitude with a gentle smile as she ducked her head in embarrassment at his intense show of emotion.  “You better drink it before it goes cold, then.”

With one last speculative look at the contents of the mug, he brought it to his lips and drank. His eyes closed in bliss as the potent elixir made its way down his throat, filling his body with its power.  He could feel himself healing; feel as muscles atrophied from lack of use filled with a renewed vigour, feel sudden strength course through him as her formidable blood worked its magic to repair the damage done to it by both violence and neglect.

Spike slowly flexed the healing muscles, carefully testing each before tentatively climbing to his feet to rest on faintly trembling legs.  The tremors lessened as he stood still and allowed them to adjust to supporting his weight; with a grateful smile, he took the few remaining steps that separated him from the girl whose blood had freed him from the prison of immobility to which he had been sentenced for the past couple of months.  He gathered her gently to him, reaching down to cup her face and gently lift it until she met his eyes with her own.  “Thank you, Slayer.  Buffy,” he finished, her name falling softly, almost reverently from his lips.  

Spike leaned down and placed a soft, gentle kiss of gratitude against Buffy’s lips. A quiet involuntary moan escaped him as the kiss, which had been meant as no more than a token of appreciation, deepened slightly and her arms came up to circle his waist, holding him fast against her.  The slayer’s softly-breathed moan of pleasure emboldened him, and he ran his tongue gently across her lips in a wordless request, just as parts of him long since neglected made their presence clearly known.  

Her lips parted under his, allowing his tongue access to hers, and he took advantage slowly, just taking the time to taste and savour her. His cock ached with sudden need, and he marvelled to himself that a gentle, chaste kiss could have such an intense and overwhelming effect on him; catching himself, however, he quickly dismissed the thought as merely the obvious result of having finally regained function and of having a soft feminine body in his arms.  Buffy’s tongue slid tentatively along his, asking silently and hesitantly for permission, and in return he allowed the slayer to gently explore, reminding himself all the while that the girl in his arms was still new to such experiences.  He willed himself to patience, even though all he wanted was to rip her clothes off and relieve the throbbing need in his now desperately straining erection.

His hands wandered slowly across her back, one sliding up to tangle gently in the golden mane of hair as the other wandered down to cup the firm yet supple curve of one small round cheek, urging her body closer to him as he further deepened their kiss.  Buffy stiffened momentarily in his arms, and then melted against him as she surrendered to the exquisite sensations being drawn out by his gently exploring hands and tongue.

Without breaking the kiss, Spike caught her up in his arms, holding her to his chest; he smiled appreciatively against her lips as her arms snaked around his neck, holding tightly to him as he carried her carefully up the stairs towards the Watcher’s spare bedroom.


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