Chapter Five of WTIHM

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series When the Ice Has Melted
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Hmmmm This is taking a little longer than I wanted it to. Here’s the next chapter of When The Ice Has Melted. I’m still planning to get one more up after this, but it may not happy until this afternoon if this one takes too long. 

Chapter Five (5/9)

Buffy sank into the chair next to the couch, sipping her coffee and frowning into the cup. After a few deep swallows, she leaned her head back on the chair and kicked her fuzzy slippers off so as to curl her feet under her.

“Tired, love?”

“A little. I’d go back to bed but I’ve got a class later this morning and I probably should try to actually show up for it.”

“You know, when I was a lad, not showing up for lessons could get you a good caning.”

She rolled her head towards him.

“Bet you got a lot of those, huh?”

His expression darkened a bit. “Got my share,” he said tersely, then changed the subject. “Think you could get this tape off me, pet? The ribs are knitting and it’s starting to itch.”

She eyed him dubiously. “Are you sure? Wouldn’t it be better to keep them wrapped?”

He shook his head. “You got them back into place. All I need to do is not fall on a rock or something and they’ll be fine by tonight.”

“Okay. Stand up, then.” She let him steady himself on her shoulder until he was on his feet and not swaying, then she reached for the end of the tape.

“How do you want it?”

“Any way you want to give it to me.”

She flushed, saying sternly, “Do you want me to pull it off fast and hard, or slow and steady?”

“Hmmmmm. Do I want it fast and hard, or slow and steady…might need to think about that for a while. They both have some appeal. What about you, Slayer? Which would you prefer?”

Instead of answering him, she took the end of the tape and pulled it hard, smiling innocently at his pained hiss. As soon as she had the tape free of his skin, pulling hard lost its appeal as the gauze padding protected him from her vengeful tugging. She unwound it as quickly and steadily as she could, pausing when she reached the top and realized it was once again sticking to skin.

“Just do it, pet,” he said when she hesitated.

Buffy glanced up at him, then, tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth, she began to pull, slowly and carefully. Spike remained stoically silent as she peeled off the last layer of tape and dropped the sticky mess into a wastebasket. She cast a critical eye over his pale torso, pleased to see that the only sign of the jagged rib edges were the already closed wounds and some bruising. She ran her hands over them, searching for any sign of unhealed pieces or improperly healed bones.

As she felt around his chest and back, her touch became less businesslike and more tender, her hands lingering on his skin and stroking it softly. It wasn’t until she heard him purring that she realized what she was doing and dropped her hand quickly.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

“For what? I was enjoying that.”

“I know you were; but I didn’t mean to send…to make you…to…”

“…to write checks you aren’t willing to cash?”

She snorted. “I guess that’s as good an explanation as any.”

He tipped her chin up, forcing her to meet his eyes. “Buffy, don’t ever apologize for touching me. I didn’t take it for more than it was, and even if I had, wouldn’t object when you set me straight.”

“Okay, this is just getting too weird. Where’s the disgusting piggy vampire I know and lo—I know so well?”

She looked away and busied herself rechecking the ribs she already knew were aligned and only slightly painful. She stiffened when Spike slid his hands around her in a loose embrace.

“He’s not far, love. You can believe that. All I’m saying is, I don’t want you to be afraid to be near me – or to touch me if you want to – just because you know I’ll always be wanting more.”

Buffy raised her head and glanced at him apprehensively. “Really?”

“Really. Do you think I didn’t notice your little slip there? I know that ‘…know and love…’ is just an expression. I’m not stupid, Slayer. You’d never love a monster. I just don’t want you bein’ afraid to relax around me because you think I might take advantage of it.”

“But you…we…”

“But I already did.” He nodded. “And I’m not going to apologize for it. It was a bloody revelation…and something I’ll never regret. The big git could beat me up every night if it meant I’d get…”

“Spike…”

“Right. Off topic. Alright, I did take advantage of you…once. But that was before…” He shook his head in frustration and started over, his arms unconsciously tightening around her just a bit. “Would never do anything to hurt you, Buffy. Wouldn’t try to take what you didn’t want to give.”

“Oh, okay then.” She tried to tell herself she wasn’t as disappointed as she knew she sounded, even as her body softened into his embrace. His cool breath on her ear sent a shiver down her spine while other parts of her body reacted to memories of what he could do with that breath.

“Doesn’t mean I’m giving up, love,” he murmured while he ran his lips down her neck. “I’m not going to push you, but I’m not going away, either. I’ll be here when you change your mind.”

“What makes you think—” The lips that had been on her neck were suddenly on her mouth and she reacted immediately, falling into another kiss that seemed to go on forever and to reach all the way down to her toes. She wondered briefly if toes really did curl when you got turned on, but resisted the urge to break the kiss long enough to look down at her bare feet.

Before she could forget her determination not to repeat the events of a few nights ago, and before Spike could act on his obvious inability to give her the space he’d just promised, the phone sent them jumping apart.

While Spike looked embarrassed at having been startled by something so mundane as a ringing telephone, Buffy stared at it with mingled gratitude and dismay. Moving quickly, before Spike could reach for her again, she grabbed the receiver and blurted “Hello?” While she waited for a reply, she pushed her feet back into her slippers and straightened her flannel pajama top.

Her mother’s worried voice came over the wire and at her first words, Buffy held the phone out so that Spike could hear.

“Buffy? Are you listening? Is Spike still there?”

“Yes, Mom. I’m listening. We’re listening. You said Riley came by the gallery already this morning?”

“Yes. He was waiting here when I arrived. He was quite agitated and kept insisting that I must tell him where Spike was.”

“What did you say?” Buffy tried to shush Spike’s growls as she waited for an answer.

“I was pretty curt with him, I’m afraid. I told him I was terribly disappointed in what he’d done to Spike and that he would not be welcome in our home anymore.”

“Go, Mom!” Buffy’s voice was echoed by Spike’s quiet “Thank you, Joyce.”

“You’re welcome, Spike. The thing is, he probably figured out that the only way I would know what he’d done was if I’d seen you, so I think he’s probably on his way there now.”

“Okay, Mom. Thanks for the heads-up. We’ll take care of it.”

“Buffy, please don’t forget that Spike cannot defend himself. He’s helpless against Riley.”

“I said ‘we’, Mom. There’s no chip in my head.”

“All right, honey. Just so you don’t leave them alone together.”

“I wasn’t planning to. But I might put Spike in the basement for a few days, if that’s all right with you?”

“Of course. That’s fine. I think there’s an old camp cot down there somewhere and you know where the clean sheets are.” Joyce’s voice hesitated. “But there’s nothing to keep Riley out of the house, is there? It’s not like he’s a vampire and we can–”

“I’m going to reason with him. I’m pretty sure, by the time I’m done, he’ll understand that he isn’t welcome here – and that it’s not in his best interest to come around. If I have to, I’ll call the police.”

“All right, honey. If you’re sure. Tell Spike I should be home around six.”

“Okay.” Buffy paused, then softly, “Thanks, Mom.”

“I like Spike almost as much as you do,” her mother said, with a smile in her voice. “I’m not planning to let anything happen to him.”

“Neither am I,” Buffy replied, a trace of steel in her still soft voice. “See you later.”

She hung up and turned to face Spike who had moved away and was watching her with an inscrutable look on his face. They faced each other, neither willing to make the first move. Finally, Buffy sighed and moved towards the kitchen.

“So much for going to class today,” she said with another sigh. “Let’s go downstairs and see what we can do about fixing it up for you.”

She had already opened the basement door and was partway down the stairs before she realized that he wasn’t behind her. She turned around and went back to the top stair, peering around the corner for him.

“Spike? Where are you?”

When he didn’t answer, she retraced her steps to find him sitting on the couch, his arms crossed and a stubborn pout on his face.

“What?”

“I’m not hiding behind the skirts of a couple of women,” he growled. When Buffy drew herself up and opened her mouth, he added quickly, “Even if one of them is the Slayer.”

“Spike.” Buffy rolled her eyes to Heaven in a silent plea for patience. “Mom is right, you can’t defend yourself.” She pointed to the wad of tape and gauze in the wastebasket. “You’re not hiding behind my skirts, you’re just …just making a strategic decision to lay low.”

“Ha, bloody, ha, Slayer. You’re asking me to hide in your mother’s basement while you guard the door. What does that sound like to you?”

“Like the smart thing to do? Oh, wait. I forgot who I was talking to. Of course you think it’s a bad idea. Because it makes sense, and heaven forbid you should do the sensible thing!”

They glared at each other for a long minute, startled out of what looked like it could be a lengthy standoff by a knock on the front door. Buffy’s eyes flew to the door, then back to the vampire.

“Get your ass down those stairs or I’ll throw you down and retape your ribs later,” she hissed, yanking him to his feet and ignoring his pained yelp. She waited until he’d disappeared into the kitchen and she heard the basement door close before walking to the door where Riley was still knocking vigorously. She pulled it open and stood, arms folded, blocking the entrance.

“What do you want, Riley? I told you I didn’t want to see you for a while.”

“I just wanted to be sure that Spike wasn’t playing on your mother’s lack of common sense to hide here,” he mumbled.

Coming to the Summers’ home so early in the morning was beginning to seem like less of a good idea as, in spite of her pajamas and fuzzy slippers, he came face to face with the Slayer he had once watched take out his whole team of crack commandoes. Buffy’s fuzz-clad toe was tapping impatiently.

“Why would you think Spike was here?”

“He’s not in his crypt,” Riley said before he’d thought it through, “And your mother was obviously trying to hide something from me this morning.”

“You’ve been to Spike’s crypt? And you’ve talked to my mother already this morning? What the hell, Riley?”

“Well,” he said stiffly, “you’re clearly not in your right mind when it comes to that vampire, and I don’t know what Xander’s problem is, but someone has to try to fix this situation.”

“What situation would that be?” she asked with deceptive calmness. “The one that has you thinking that the Slayer’s job to protect innocent victims ends with the ones that have heartbeats and human faces?”

She thought about Spike’s poker buddy, Clem and his relatively harmless friends, and shuddered to remember how many of them had been picked up by the Initiative and then discarded as worthless when experiments showed them to be less than useful as weapons.

“I didn’t think you’d be so interested in protecting this vampire once you knew he had the hots for you,” Riley sneered. “Or, maybe that’s why you’re so willing to take his side against me. Is that it? Your first vampire boyfriend wasn’t a big enough mistake, you want to try it again?”

“That’s enough, Riley,” she said through clenched teeth. Her hands were balled into fists at her side. “This has nothing to do with Angel, or vampires, or how Spike does or does not feel about me. It’s about fairness and the way you’re letting your insecurity about losing your enhancements affect your thinking.”

When he gaped at her, she smirked and said, “Did you think I didn’t pay any attention in class last year? I know stuff.” She let that sink in, then added, “This vendetta you’ve got against Spike has got to stop. I’m not going to let you dust him, and I’m not going to let you use him as a punching bag to make yourself feel superior.”

While Riley continued to stare at the pajama-clad girl blocking his entrance to the house, she added, “And you stay away from my mother and her home, or I’ll put you in a hospital. Is that clear?”

“That’s the same thing you said to me last year when I was going to shoot your vampire ex. Kind of a theme with you, isn’t it?”

“We’re talking about my mother, here, Riley. You know, the one who was hospitalized recently? If I find out you’ve so much as made her nervous, I’ll kill you. How’s that for a new theme?” She stared at him coldly, her threat all the more chilling for the complete calmness with which she uttered it.

He nodded. “It figures that someone who calls herself ‘The Slayer’ would eventually get around to promising to kill me. It’s nice to know where I stand in your life.”

“You think you should come before my mother?”

“That’s just a smokescreen. Don’t think I can’t see through it. This is all about Hostile Seventeen and the way he manipulates you and your family.”

“No, Riley,” she said with surprising gentleness. “It isn’t about that. It’s about you and your unwillingness to give up the Initiative’s black and white view of the sentient beings they tortured and killed, your anger at Spike for getting away and remaining undusty, and your anger at the world for taking away the physical enhancements that were killing you. I’m sorry that being normal has caused you such pain. You’re a good-looking, very bright and athletic guy. I wish you could see that and stop obsessing over what you aren’t anymore.”

“What I’m not anymore, is willing to play second-fiddle to a vampire that you, yourself, told me you’d be dating if you wanted someone with superpowers. Admit it, Buffy. You have a thing for vampires.”

Buffy flashed back to Spike’s speech the night before and took a deep breath.

“Maybe I do,” she admitted slowly, more to herself than to him as her thoughts churned. “I don’t know what it is that gives me my Slayer powers. A slayer’s whole short life is spent fighting evil – all kinds of evil, so I don’t think it’s a demon. But, maybe there’s a good version of a demon inside me that gives me powers, just like a vamp gets when he’s been turned. Maybe what’s inside me can see the person inside the demon and respond to that.”

They stared at each other, Buffy shocked at what she’d just revealed, Riley nodding as though he’d just been vindicated.

“You know, Buffy, there are places where humans can go to get bitten by vamps. Maybe I should check them out and see what the appeal is… Or maybe I should just get myself turned. Would that do it for you?”

“Riley…” She stopped, unable to respond to his threat at first. “Please don’t think that. Don’t even say it as a joke. You know if you got turned, I’d have to stake you.”

“Doubt it,” he said cheerfully. “Then I’d be just like them. You’d be throwing yourself at me every night if I was a vampire.”

“Riley, this is not funny. Getting turned isn’t something to joke about. It happens in this town. All the time. You have no idea how often I’ve had to stake somebody I went to high school with, or who used to be a good friend. It hurts. But I do it.”

“And yet, Angel is living it up in LA, and I’ll bet you Spike is hiding somewhere in this house.”

Buffy stared at him, her eyes filled with fear that was gradually replaced by chilly resolve.

“I sent Angel to hell on the point of a sword, Riley. I was only seventeen, and it broke my heart, but I did it. Those Powers that you don’t believe in brought him back. I thought I’d killed him.”

Riley blinked. “Really? You did? I didn’t know that.”

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” she said with a sigh. “And probably never will.”

“That sounds like a brush-off.”

“It’s just stating a fact,” she said with a sad little smile. “We’re not working out; you and me. I’m not sure what’s gone wrong, but I have a skanky new big bad who can kick my butt, a mother recovering from brain surgery, a kid sister who–” She stopped, suddenly remembering that for whatever reason, she hadn’t yet told Riley about Dawn’s Keyness. She was quietly grateful for that as he repeated his threat to become a vampire and return to claim his rightful place at her side.

“Don’t think that, Riley,” she urged. “No matter how you feel about me, or how angry you are that we aren’t together, please don’t go out and get yourself turned into something I will have to slay. I’m sorry I can’t be what you want me to be – but turning yourself into a vamp isn’t the answer. I’m begging you…”

“Save it,” he said, spinning around and heading down the driveway.

TBC

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/376889.html

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