Chapter Six of WTIHM

This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series When the Ice Has Melted
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Apparently I posted this to my LJ, rather than the community. *sigh* That makes twice I did that. The first time, I caught it before anyone had time to see it. Behind the cut, the last of the three chapters I thought I posted this morning. *sigh* 

Chapter Six (6/9)

Buffy waited until he’d pulled out of the driveway and been out of sight for several minutes before she closed the door and carefully locked it. On her way to the basement, she also checked the rarely-ever locked kitchen door, smiling when she saw that her mother had obviously already had that thought. A sound from the basement brought her attention back to the vampire she’d ordered down there and she mentally prepared herself for an argument with another stubborn man.

She walked down the stairs, halting close to the bottom when she saw Spike standing there to meet her.

“You heard?” she asked unnecessarily. He nodded and ran his knuckles down her cheek.

“I’m sorry, pet,” he said as sincerely as he could.

She shrugged and leaned into his hand briefly.

“Ah, it’s just Buffy’s normal love life. Easy come, easy go. It’s like I would have told him if he’d let me finish, I just don’t have time for a lot of relationship crap right now. I’ve got too much else to worry about.”

“Don’t have to worry about it by yourself,” he said quietly. “You could share the burden. Not just with me,” he hastened to add when she started to protest. “You’ve got your watcher, your friends, people who care about you.”

“The Slayer is alone, Spike. That’s how it always is.” She automatically parroted what Merrick had told her so long ago.

“Not you,” he disagreed firmly. “You’ve got family, friends, it’s what makes you so strong and special. Those ties are what’s keeping you in this world. Use them. Let them help you. Let us help you, Buffy. Let me help.”

“You could start helping by staying undusty – even if that means you have to hide in the basement for awhile.”

“I heard him, you know. He knows I’m here.”

“He thinks he knows you’re here. He doesn’t really know it. And if he tries to come in, he’s going to find out just how much I was holding back when we sparred last year.”

“You can’t stay here all the time just to protect me, Slayer. ‘s not right. You’ve got classes to go to and friends to see. I’ll find some place to hunker down for a while until the enormous hall monitor stops worrying about me.”

Buffy eyed him dubiously.

“Where would you go?”

“Got a bit of dosh left from my last poker game. I’ll just get a room in a motel or something. Somewhere he’s not likely to see me – on the demon side of town.”

The reminder that there was a part of Sunnydale in which enough harmless demons lived that it actually had a name, reminded Buffy of Riley’s threat. She stared at Spike speculatively.

“Do you know of any places where people go to get sucked on? Where somebody could get turned if he wanted to?”

Spike looked uncomfortable for a minute, then shrugged.

“Yeah, Slayer. I know of them. Full of vamps too lazy or cowardly to hunt for themselves. Whores, most of them.”

“Why didn’t you do that when you first got chipped? Instead of starving until you had to come to me for help?”

“Not a whore,” he said shortly. “I’m a lot of things — most of them evil — but I have some pride.”

“People pay for it? What’s wrong with them?” She shuddered and wrapped her arms around herself. “I can’t imagine it.”

“Can feel right good, luv. Done right by somebody who knows what she’s doing it can be bloody addictive for some blokes. Even some women…want to live out their Drac fantasies or something. ”

“Not helping the ooky image, Spike.”

“Sorry, luv, but it’s the truth. People don’t always have to pay for it…unless they’re getting something a little extra with the bite. It’s an even exchange – the vamp gets the blood and the human gets…whatever he or she is there to get. It doesn’t hurt much.”

“I’ve been bitten. It hurts like hell!” she insisted.

His face darkened at the reminder of who had put the marks on her neck.

“Those wankers weren’t trying to give you pleasure. Old Batface was trying to kill you, and the poof was too busy trying to save himself to give any thought to you. If I…” He stopped and started again. “It can be done so that it doesn’t hurt. Trust me on this.”

Buffy’s automatic disagreement never left her mouth as she remembered that she’d slept right through Dracula’s first bite.

“So, Riley could go out and get himself bitten without being killed?”

“He could.”

“Wonderful. Now I have to worry that he’s letting some vamp ho munch on him. Like I don’t have enough drama in my life now.”

She looked around the dark room, searching for the old cot she knew was folded up somewhere. She spotted it and walked to the shelf, tugging on it unsuccessfully until a pale hand reached over her shoulder and halted her efforts.

“Leave it, pet. Like you just said, you’ve got enough drama in your life. I’ll be fine by the time it gets dark and I’ll get out of your mum’s house soon’s I can.”

Buffy sighed. “I don’t want to keep having this argument, Spike. I can keep you safe here. Out there, anything could happen to you.”

He studied her exasperated face for a minute, then stepped even closer, trapping her between the shelves and his body.

“Just answer me one question, Slayer. Why are you suddenly so worried about me? Are you afraid to lose your back-up muscle? Or is there some other reason why my well-being is so important?”

His face was carefully blank, only the wary hope in his eyes giving any indication of how important her answer would be. Buffy squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head.

“Don’t do this, Spike. Not now. I meant it when I said I didn’t have time for relationship stuff. I need to know…I need to know that I can count on you for backup when I need it. To know that you can help me protect Dawn and my mom. Don’t complicate it. Please,” she added softly, touching his cheek lightly before ducking under his arm and moving away.

She ignored the soft growl from behind her, moving towards the stairs. Without turning around she said, “You have to stay here until dark anyway, whether I’m here to protect you or not. You might as well pull that thing out and get some more rest. I’ll bring you another mug of blood before I leave for class.”

After a quick shower and change of clothes, Buffy gathered her things for school and set them by the front door. She was just warming Spike’s blood when the basement door opened and he peered into the sunny kitchen. Moving cautiously around the rays of sunlight, he edged his way towards the safely shaded hallway.

“Where are you going?”

“It’s boring down there. I want to watch the telly,” he pouted.

Buffy didn’t answer, just handed him his mug of warmed blood and walked past him. She picked up her things and watched him settle in on the couch.

“Don’t get blood on the furniture,” she said, finally.

“Wouldn’t do that to your mum,” he said between sips of blood. “Go on, Slayer. Go get an education. I’ll be fine.”

Buffy lingered a minute longer, then opened the door. As it swung shut behind her, she heard his soft, “Don’t waste time worrying about me.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After class, where she was pleased to find that she was not as behind as she had expected, she assured the professor that her mother was now fine and that she would be a more regular student from now on. Her mentally crossed fingers were invisible as she smiled brightly and tried to put Glory and her search for the key out of her mind.

Lunch with Willow and Tara was short, although she did fill them in quickly on the change in Riley’s status.

“I’m sorry, Buffy,” Willow said loyally. “Men are such poopheads.”

Tara seemed as concerned about Spike as she was about Buffy’s lack of a man in her life.

“Is he going to be all right?” she asked softly.

Buffy blinked her surprise, then smiled. So, someone else besides her mom and Dawn liked Spike.

“He’ll be okay. Vampires heal really fast if they get enough blood and rest. Which reminds me, I have to stop by the butcher on the way home. I think we’re out of the stuff Mom was keeping around for him.”

“What are you doing to do about Riley?” Tara continued her concerned questions, leading Willow to ask with a small smile, “Should I be getting jealous of all this concern for Spike?”

“Oh no!” Tara blushed and stammered. “N…no, of course not. It’s just…he’s always been nice to me, and now he’s helping Buffy and…”

While Buffy and Willow giggled at her embarrassment, Tara let her voice trail off.

“You were kidding me, weren’t you?” she said, blushing again.

“We were. But only because you are so adorable,” Willow said, kissing Tara’s cheek. “I know you wouldn’t be interested in Spike – even if you did like men.”

Tara cocked her head at Willow.

“Why wouldn’t I? Not that I am,” she hastened to add, “but, he’s sweet and good looking and super strong; and, okay, the drinking blood thing is kind of a turn-off, but…”

Buffy and Willow exchanged looks.

“Okay, I’ll give you the super-strong, and the good-looking,” Buffy ignored Willow’s surprised twitch. “But, sweet? How would you know he can be swee- I mean, why would you think that?”

“I think it’s pretty obvious,” Tara said seriously. “I mean, I’m sure I don’t get to see it as often you do, but—“

“Why would Buffy get to see it?” Willow looked back and forth between Tara and Buffy, wondering what she was missing. The pink color in Buffy’s face heightened as Tara continued on.

“Well, it’s so obvious how he feels about her. Of course she would get to see his sweet side more than we do.” She looked at Buffy for confirmation, only to find her staring back in dismay.

“It’s obvious?” she squeaked. “How come I never noticed it until—how come I’m just finding out about it?”

“You’ve been busy,” Tara soothed quickly. “I’m sure you’ve had too much to worry about recently to notice, but, yes, it’s been pretty obvious for a while now.”

Willow looked thoughtful. “Now that you mention it, he has been all with the helpful lately. Watching out for Dawn and your mother, helping you patrol… Ohmygod! No wonder Riley wants to kill him!”

“Thanks for that reminder,” Buffy groaned, then sat up straight. “Oh! I didn’t tell you the worst of it.” She quickly filled them in on Riley’s threat to get himself turned or to at least start going to places that he could get bitten. “So, you need to be really careful if he comes to your apartment. Don’t invite him in. Just in case. And watch out for him at night. Try not to let him get you alone.”

“Do you really think he might do that? Get turned just to…to what? What does he think you’ll do?”

Buffy sighed. “He thinks when he’s turned that he’s not going to see me as a snack. That he’ll still want to be my boyfriend, and that I’ll be more interested in him if he’s a vampire.” She shook her head. “I tried to tell him that I stake people I used to know all the time, and that if I could send Angel to hell, he didn’t have a chance, but I don’t think he believed me. I just hope he gets over this before he does something really stupid.”

“He’s got that Y chromosome going for him. I think ‘stupid’ is pretty much a given,” Willow said, leading to understanding nods from the other two women.

Lunch ended with Buffy reminding them again to be careful for a while, and suggesting they all meet at the Magic Box in the late afternoon to bring Giles and Xander up to date.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

She jogged home after her afternoon classes, reminding herself once again about how foolish it was that she’d never learned to drive. She turned into her driveway to see Joyce’s SUV already there, and fear clenched her heart as she hurried into the house. She was grateful to find that her key was needed to open the front door, and even more grateful to find her mother sitting on the couch with Spike and watching Passions.

Neither of them did much besides glance up and wave absently, before going back to paying rapt attention to the activities on the small screen. Shaking her head, Buffy went into the kitchen and began putting away the packages of blood that she’d picked up on the way home. She was just closing the freezer door when she felt Spike come up behind her.

“Do you want some now?” she asked, turning around to find him only inches away.

He grinned at her, and whispered, “l’d love some, pet, but your mum’s just in the next room…”

“Pig!”

“Oink,” he replied happily, reaching around her to remove one of the containers of blood. “Need a bit more of this, if you don’t mind. Pig’s blood doesn’t quite get the job done like the good stuff.”

As he leaned in to take the package out, his face was right in front of her chest. His mouth just barely brushed her nipple when he pulled back, evoking a surprised gasp and a punch to his arm.

“Oops?”

“You did that on purpose!” she hissed. “Don’t pretend you didn’t. I can’t believe Tara thinks you’re sweet!”

“She thinks I’m what?” Forgetting to tease Buffy, he indignantly pulled himself erect. “I’m an evil vampire,” he insisted. “The dozy bint can’t go around saying things like that about me!”

“Yeah, that’s what I told her. I told her you weren’t sweet.”

“Thanks, luv, I—What do you mean, that’s what you told her?”

Buffy giggled as his expression flashed between indignation and dismay. She surprised them both by leaning up to place a quick kiss on his cheek. Before he could react, she moved away from the refrigerator and out of reach.

“Spike, the commercial is over,” Joyce called from the living room.

“Be right there,” he called back, taking his mug off the dish drainer.

Buffy took it and the container of pig’s blood from him, saying, “Go back to your stupid soap opera. I’ll fix this. And then we’re going to the Magic Box. I want you there when I tell them all about Riley.”

He nodded and went back to join Joyce in front of the TV, while Buffy poured out the blood and set it in the microwave. She watched it twirl around, her mind filled with memories of picnics on the lawn, nights spent patrolling together, and parties on the campus of Sunnydale University. Memories of a time when she thought Riley was the one normal man in the world who could accept who she was and give her something close to a normal life.

And here she was, “cooking” dinner for another vampire instead of for a human boyfriend. She sighed and took the cup out, carrying it carefully into the living room and handing it to Spike. Seemingly without intent, her mother moved over so that there was room for Buffy to sit between them. With a resigned roll of her eyes, Buffy sat down and tried to figure out what was happening on the bizarre show that her mother and Spike were so fond of.

TBC

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/377643.html

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