Buffy awoke feeling more tired than she had the night before. She’d slept in bits and snatches of less than hourly intervals. The throbbing of her claim bite matched the throbbing between her legs, leaving her unsatisfied as well as exhausted. If only she knew for certain that her feelings were real and not magically induced…
Yeah, she could admit to herself that she’d always been attracted to Spike – even when he was trying to kill her and her friends. She had two eyes, after all. He was a truly beautiful man – diamond sharp cheekbones; slender yet muscular build; a delicious ass that was a joy to watch as he strode away; and oh, the promise of things to come as he swaggered towards you.
She began to squirm under her covers. Cataloguing Spike’s virtues wasn’t the smartest thing she could be doing when she was already so worked up. Only thing stupider would be going to see him.
“Might as well come in, Slayer, since neither one of us is sleepin’ anything worth a damn.”
“You, too?” she sighed, going to sit next to Spike on the mattress, and running her fingers through his tousled hair.
Adjusting himself surreptitiously under the blanket, he leaned into her caress. “Luv, I could knock down a building with my hands tied behind my back.”
Buffy’s cheeks pinked at the image playing in her pervy little brain. Her breathing grew shallow. “Oh God,” she moaned. “This was a really bad idea.”
“Self control not your strong suit, pet?”
“You wanna see who’s got self control issues, you beast?” The devil gleaming in her eyes, Buffy crawled around the mattress and knelt up next to the vampire. She pressed a series of soft butterfly kisses up the right side of his neck. “I can stop any time I want to,” she purred, crossing his body to reach the other side of Spike’s neck.
Her bite mark had scarred a deep rose pink, and Buffy blew a warm stream of air across it. Self control my ass, she huffed as Spike hissed and arched backwards. “And we all know you’re the king of restraint, right?”
“I can control myself better than you, pet,” he panted softly, gripping the bedding to keep from grabbing hold of Buffy. “Been at it for a long, long time.”
“We’ll see,” she purred. With the flat of her tongue, she licked a broad stroke up the side of his neck, over her claim mark.
The sound of the sheets ripping was drowned out by Spike’s pleasured growl. He grabbed Buffy by the arms and hauled her into his lap, the thin cotton of her sleep pants doing nothing to disguise their desire.
“Little minx,” he ground out, bucking upwards towards Buffy’s heat. “Two can play at that game.” He nibbled and licked gently at his claim mark.
Holy crap! Who cared what the repercussions of a mating claim were as long as it felt like that? Buffy wrapped both arms around Spike’s neck, fully prepared to launch an assault on his lips when…
**Ahem** Joyce cleared her throat, leaning against the door jamb. “I seem to recall mentioning something about separate bedrooms for you two. I wasn’t talking just to hear the sound of my own voice.”
The blonds jumped apart like a couple of teenagers caught necking. Buffy was flushed, and they were both panting heavily, each finding something on the floor absolutely fascinating.
“I know it’s not easy for you two, trying to figure out how much of this is real, but rushing into sex without a single answer is bound to make things harder… um, more difficult in the long run.” Joyce flushed pink over her choice of words, trying to avoid Spike’s raised eyebrow and her daughter’s indignant glare. “I’d say call Mr. Giles now and get as much information as possible before giving in to your urges.”
“Sorry, Mum. Didn’t mean to get carried away.” Spike stole a glance at Buffy, who was busy twisting the sheet in her hands.
“Well, that’s part of the problem. Just thinking about the claim is enough to keep your minds focused on your feelings and is a built-in excuse to let yourselves go at it.” Joyce smiled warmly at both Spike and Buffy. “I was young once and I know what it feels like to get caught up in the moment. I just don’t want you to be sorry.”
“Fine, Mother,” Buffy grumped as she headed towards her own room. “Shower, dress, breakfast and call Giles. What fun, what joy.”
She picked out a white ribbed sleeveless turtleneck to keep Spike’s bite undercover until the time was right. However, a quick look at the vampire in question disclosed an additional problem. Buffy’s bite was glaringly obvious on his pale neck.
“Um, let me make a wild guess here, Spike… you and turtlenecks aren’t mixy things, huh?”
Spike’s fingers drifted towards her mark, a soft smile playing on his lips. “You marked me good and proper, luv. An’ m’not one for scarves, neither.”
“You’ve got to keep it covered until we can talk it out.” Buffy began to panic. “Old eagle eye Giles’ll spot that from a mile away and you know he carries a stake with him at all times. I don’t want there to be any trouble with him jumping to conclusions…”
“It’ll be tricky, yeah,” Spike agreed, “but I think the old duster’ll keep things under wraps.” As an afterthought he added: “He’d probably be more suspicious if I didn’t wear it. It’ll be fine, Buffy,” he soothed. Eventually.
Buffy nodded, and picked up the receiver. The phone call was simple enough. She invited her Watcher over for lunch, telling him it was time to discuss removing Spike’s chip.
Now all they had to do was wait.
The level of tension in the Summers’ household escalated tenfold.
By the time Giles arrived, Buffy was flitting around the house like a moth, unable to light anywhere for more than a few moments at a time. The third time she headed towards the kitchen to check on things,
Spike grabbed her around the waist and attempted to pull her onto his lap. “Settle down, Slayer. You’ve probably lost five pounds from runnin’ back and forth.”
Buffy balked, catching Giles’ eye as she tried to wriggle out of his grasp.
“Is everything all right, Buffy?” Her nervous behavior had obviously worried him. “Any problems with Spike spending so much time around you?”
“No!” she yelped, a little too loudly. “No, no. No Spike problems at all. See?” Buffy pointedly sat down on the couch right next to him.
Joyce kicked open the kitchen door, carrying a fully laden tray. “Soup’s on,” she chirped, setting down mugs of tea, coffee and blood on the table. One more trip brought fresh onion soup topped by a crust of toasted cheese and a basket of fresh rolls.
Spike led Buffy to the table, pulled out a chair and settled her in, and then did the same for Joyce before sitting down, himself.
In-between mouthfuls, Buffy decided to get the ball rolling. “So, Giles… have you figured out a way to remove that awful chip?”
“I’ll see what I can do after lunch. I have a few theories that will hopefully leave Spike’s hand and the chip intact, which would be the best of all possible outcomes,” he muttered, removing his glasses and wiping the lenses absentmindedly with his handkerchief. “Putting the chip into a compartment ring might allow Spike entry into the club without rousing suspicion…” he trailed off, fixating on something nearby.
Buffy noted his furrowed brow. “Spill, Giles,” she demanded. “I’m not liking that expression on your face.” She followed his gaze and noted that her hand had crept into Spike’s, their fingers intertwined. “What? You’re all wrinkly ‘cause of a little finger touching?” Her fingers tightened around Spike’s in a show of… defiance? Support?
“I-it’s not just the fingers, erm… handholding, Buffy,” Giles stammered, obviously trying to hold onto his temper. “All throughout lunch it’s been quite obvious that you and your mother have been overly solicitous towards Spike. She brought him warmed blood three times during the course of the meal, and you – you’re practically sitting in his lap. I’m worried about a thrall…”
”She has a mind of her own.” Joyce glared at the older man. “… and Spike is a guest in my home, same as you. Is it so hard to believe I would show common courtesy to a vampire who…”
“Mom!” Buffy squeaked, catching her mother’s eye with a quick lip-zipping motion.
“Really now, I must object,” Giles insisted. “Keeping secrets from me is never a good thing. If you’re in trouble…”
Spike sat back with his arms folded across his chest. “Really, Rupes. I’m all flattered-like, you thinkin’ I’m such a threat to the Summers women.”
“Do keep out of this, Spike,” Giles snapped, annoyance etched clearly on his face. “I wasn’t talking to you.”
A raised eyebrow was the vampire’s response.
“It’s just that I don’t understand how both of you can fuss so over a soulless vampire. He’s a dangerous creature. You’re the Slayer, Buffy… or don’t you remember? It’s your calling to stake him and his ilk. And you, Joyce… I don’t recall you ever being so accommodating towards Angel.”
Buffy smiled as Spike preened at her Watcher’s words. He really was getting a kick out of all the fuss.
“Well, it’s true. I never thought Angel was right for my daughter. There was just something so…”
“You’re not helping, bloodbreath,” Buffy muttered, slapping lightly at Spike’s shoulder.
Joyce, however, laughed. “Yes, well that does say it all doesn’t it? And Angel's no Spike, Mr. Giles. You’ll just have to learn to deal with it.”
Focusing on the task before him, Giles palpated Spike’s hand, getting a feel of the physical placement of the chip. The skin itself was exceptionally thin, and creating a flap to remove the device would be relatively simple, if messy.
Buffy sat next to Spike, unwilling to leave his side. She held on tightly to his left hand, offering her support. “Are you sure the chip won’t explode when you take it out? You know… do the self-destructo thing like in Mission Impossible?”
She could tell her Watcher was nervous by the way he kept looking at the scalpel and bowls of water on the table. A look passed between mother and daughter; one that said they hoped the house would still be standing when the operation was over.
“I’ll do the best I can, Buffy,” he grumbled. “I’ll try not to let my feelings get in the way.”
Once a topical anesthetic had been applied, Giles got to work. He wore a doctor’s loupe while making the three incisions around the chip. Using tweezers, he gingerly peeled back the skin, revealing the device.
Lacking the working circulatory system of a normal human, Spike’s blood flowed sluggishly from the wounds, allowing Giles the time to locate the chip with a minimum of fuss and mess. Several times he had to ask Spike to remove his head from his field of vision. The blood seemed to call to him – even knowing it was his own.
The chip sparked upon extraction, causing everyone to jump slightly in alarm. Giles quickly dropped the device into a bowl of tepid water, hoping to eliminate the chance of an explosion. When nothing further happened, he returned to Spike’s hand, securing the dime sized flap shut with several stitches.
The women breathed twin sighs of relief. Joyce gently ruffled the relieved vampire’s gelled hair, breaking the lacquered perfection into unruly tufts. “What a little trooper you are, Spike. Want me to kiss it and make it better?”
At the flash in Buffy’s eyes as she moved slightly closer to him, Spike snickered. “Don’t think that’s a wise idea, Mum. Seems the Slayer’s a bit proprietary about her vampires.”
“Oh for…” Giles sighed, rolling his eyes. “Is this the way it’s to be from now on? All happy families?”
Buffy glared at her Watcher, then turned to her mother. “Nobody lays a lip on my vampire except me,” she declared, her eyes widening slightly as she realized what she’d voiced out loud – and then at what she saw:
Joyce’s fingers had strayed from the top of Spike’s head to his neck, accidentally exposing the dark pink scar and bruises to Giles’ attention.
“Is there something you’re not telling me, Buffy?” he asked, his clipped tones betraying his anger and mistrust.
The urge to fold in on herself, or to run, was strong. However, she was never going to get a better opening to bring up the claiming. Buffy took a deep breath and… as if it were perfectly timed, the front door opened to reveal Xander and Willow.
“Hey honeys, we’re home!” He stopped short at the sight of Giles with his hands around Spike’s neck. “You couldn’t have held off on the fun and games until I got here, G-man?”
“This isn’t a laughing matter, Xander.” Giles bristled at the boy’s cavalier attitude. “That bite mark was made by human teeth.”
Xander paled as he came to the same conclusion as his best friend. He strode over to Buffy and pulled her sweater’s cowl away from her neck, exposing Spike’s bitemark.
“You son of a bitch! You swore you’d keep your filthy fangs to yourself,” he spat, shoving Buffy to the side in his haste to get at Spike.
Buffy’s sharp yelp of pain as she collided with the table roused Spike’s demon more than the boy’s words, and he twisted out of Giles’ grasp to go to her defense, growling and gamefaced.
“You keep your bloody hands off’ve my mate, or I’ll rip ‘em off, myself.”
“Buffy, don’t let him hurt Xander.” Willow wrung her hands, remembering just how volatile the vampire could be when riled. “You know he only wants to keep you safe.”
“And Spike only wants to keep me safe. Why can’t anyone see that?”
Red-faced with fury, Xander turned on his friend. “How can you say that, Buff? The last time you let a vamp sink his fangs into you, we almost lost you.”
“What does it take to get through to you people?” Spike threw his hands up in frustration and began to pace around the livingroom. “M’not Angel. I’d never hurt the girl.”
Joyce placed herself between all the warring factions and let loose a piercing whistle. “That’s enough. All of you! This is my home, not the Coliseum. You might think you have Buffy’s best interests at heart, Xander,” she said, glaring at the young man, “but it’s not your place to impose your beliefs on my daughter. She’s already got a mother, and a damned fine mind of her own.”
“But… but… fangs, and biting, and blood sucking,” Xander spluttered. “Should be Slayer and staking – not mating!”
“Maybe we don’t know everything,” Willow soothed, trying for reasonable. “Maybe there’s a really good reason for the…”
Xander was unwilling to listen. “No! No way… and don’t even try to make excuses for the bleached freak. It’s a simple matter of right and wrong, folks. Slayer good, vampire bad.”
“Really, Xander… we need to be reasonable here.” Once again the older man removed his glasses for cleaning, trying to buy himself time as well as to refocus the boy’s attention. “What’s done can’t be undone.”
“You can’t possibly be happy about this, Giles. And Mrs. Summers… I know you have a weak spot for Fangboy, but do you really want your daughter married to a vampire?” Xander reached into his pocket and pulled out a stake. “This is how we deal with vampires. We dust ‘em, not…”
“Finish that statement, you git, an’ I’ll…”
Another whistle from Joyce rent the air, silencing the din. “I’ve had just about as much of this nonsense as I can stand. Xander, if you can’t be reasonable, you’ll have to leave. It’s more important to figure out just what Buffy and Spike have gotten themselves into than to fight about it.”
“I still don’t see the problem,” the brunet snarled, still brandishing his stake. “Aim, stake… problem go poof!”
“Um, Xander?” Willow timidly approached her best friend. “It may be more complicated than that. There are probably serious magicks involved in the claiming bites, and we don’t know what dusting Spike would do to Buffy. It’s not a good idea to be so hasty.”
“You guys can’t do this. For five years you’ve been all gung-ho to kill everything with fangs, except for Angel, and personally? I’d’ve been happy to dust Deadboy no matter what. Maybe Ms. Calendar would still be alive if Buffy hadn’t been boffing the undead. No good can come of starting this up again… especially with him.”
“It’s really not your call, Xander,” Buffy said, softly. “It’s my life, and I have to take responsibility for my own actions. I know you mean well, but…”
“Yeah. But you’ll do whatever you want to, same as always. And we pay for your vampire fetish.” Running his free hand through his hair, he took a deep breath to steady himself. “All righty then. Just don’t come crying to me when it all blows up in your face and the bleached wonder turns on you and someone else ends up dead. C’mon, Will. Let’s get out of here and leave the demon lovers to their own thing.”
Looking over his shoulder, he realized Willow wasn’t following. She stood next to Buffy, wringing her hands, eyes downcast.
“You’re not coming?”
With a half-smile, she said: “Sorry, Xander. I think Buffy can use my help. I-I want to help. And Spike’s been really helpful the past few years. I don’t think he wants to hurt her.”
Without another word, Xander stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him, and Willow burst into tears.