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Big Bad Boyfriend

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“So you’re really going to LA?”

“Like anybody would want to stay here,” Cordelia shrugged nonchalantly as she rolled up another shirt for her suitcase. “Sunnydale is full of losers and wannabes. LA has winners and queen bees. Like me. You know, people who actually matter.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and wondered for the hundredth time just why she’d come to help Cordelia pack. Temporary insanity, she groused to herself, picking at a loose thread on the satin comforter. You heard she was leaving now, and you got all nostalgic for high school, like when everyone was signing yearbooks, and you decided, hey! Why not go get bullied one last time by Queen C of Sunnydale High? One for the road.

That hadn’t really been it, of course. Buffy had wanted to talk to Cordelia for weeks, really, ever since the whole thing with the Mayor. Ever since they’d left high school with a completely literal bang.

Ever since Angel had left. Twenty-three days, to be exact. Not that she was counting. 

Except that of course she was counting. 

Of course she was.

But anyhow, something Cordy had said when they’d been having their celebratory hey-we-averted-the-Ascension pizza had stuck in Buffy’s head, and she hadn’t been able to let it go, not even with her heart all broken, not to mention all the stupid paperwork that going to college seemed to require. 

They’d been talking about college, actually, and Willow had said something mock-jealous about Stanford, which was where Cordelia had planned on going to major in… pre-law? Or business. Something that would have her wearing pantsuits and shoes that cost more than Buffy’s entire yearly clothing budget, attending cocktail parties and probably taking up golf.

“Stanford?” Cordelia had sniffed. “Like anybody goes there any more. I’m going to LA, to become an actress.”

“Really?” Willow frowned. “I thought you hated the drama club. Remember, you--”

“What does the drama club have to do with acting?” Cordelia snapped. 

Willow had looked like she wanted to argue, but Xander, of all people, had shushed her. “Leave it,” he’d said in an odd, quiet voice, and then looked seriously at Cordelia. “I hope it works out the way you want.”

“Oh, I’ll have an Oscar in no time,” Cordelia breezed. “I mean, who wouldn’t cast this?” She’d stood, gesturing down at herself, and then grabbed her bag, heading for the door. “Anyhow, I’m out of here. You guys can all stay here in Sunnyhell with the vampires and the giant snakes and the bizarro lameness.” She’d paused in the open doorway and looked back. “I don’t belong here.”

That had been it. Something about the look in her eyes, the tone of her voice when she’d said that, had struck Buffy as… not right. I don’t belong here.

Here, in Sunnydale? Or here, celebrating with the Scoobies? Or here-- well, it had stuck, was all. And even if most of their shared time in high school had been spent sniping at each other and hating each other and being rivals, there had been moments when Cordelia had been a real friend. Like when Giles had been all stabbing her in the back, Buffy had asked Cordelia for a ride home. And Cordelia had said yes, no questions asked, even though she and Xander hadn’t been a thing any more. And when they’d needed her, really needed her, she’d pitched in -- not without complaints, of course, she’d complained the whole time, but she’d helped. She may have been the bitchiest Scooby, but she’d been a Scooby. Buffy couldn’t just let her leave without saying goodbye. 

Not without knowing what she’d meant with that weirdly-vulnerable parting jab.

Though looking at Cordelia as she surveyed her overstuffed closet, it was hard to believe there was any vulnerability hiding inside her at all. 

“Have you got an apartment all picked out?”

“Of course,” Cordelia said lightly, hands on her hips as she glared into her closet. “A small condo on the beach in Malibu. It’s not a private beach, but….”

“Wow!” Buffy flopped onto her side, propping herself up on her elbow. “Maybe I should stay with you next time I come visit my dad. He’s way up in Sherman Oaks, no beach in sight.”

“No!” Cordelia said quickly. “I mean, it’s really, really small. Like a postage stamp. A really expensive, glamorous postage stamp. You don’t want to sleep on my itsy-bitsy couch.”

Buffy blinked, nonplussed. “Huh. I thought you said you’d sent all that furniture from downstairs ahead with the moving van.” They’d had a leather sectional that was the size of Buffy’s whole living room, but now Cordelia’s front room was practically empty.

“Oh. Um, not that sofa. I took the, um… it was a different couch. A loveseat. From the family room. Really tiny. And hard, too.”

“Oh.”

Cordelia closed her still-full closet decisively. “Well. I’m all packed. Time to hit the road and--”

“You’re leaving your shoes?” Buffy sat up sharply. “Cordelia, what’s going on?”

“Oh, I don’t want those….” Cordelia sighed. “Oh, goddammit. Buffy, can you keep a secret?”

Buffy nodded slowly, watching as Cordelia’s face crumpled.

“I can’t take the shoes. They’re… they’re not mine any more.” She gestured bitterly around the room. “None of this is mine. Or none of it that has any resale value. My dad… well, he made some mistakes. Some big mistakes, on his taxes. The IRS says it’s… the F-word.”

Buffy’s mouth fell open. “Wait, the IRS said fu--”

“No! God!” Cordelia laughed sharply. “Fraud. Fraud is the F-word when you’re the IRS. So Daddy’s in a whole lot of trouble, Mom’s already filed for divorce and shacked up with some guy from the country club, and I…. Well, I don’t get any of the things I was supposed to get. No Ivy League college, no designer clothes, no Louboutins, no leather-upholstered furniture, no connections taking me to the top.” She patted her suitcase. “This is it.”

“Cordelia, I…. Wow.” Buffy stood and hurried around the bed to give Cordelia a hug. Which felt really weird. She hadn’t ever hugged Cordelia before, had she? Of course not. Why would she have? And why had she never noticed how tall Cordy was?

“Hey, no pity!” Cordelia grumbled, even as she hugged Buffy back. “I am totally going to turn this around.”

“I know you will,” Buffy said, feeling weirdly sniffly.

“Ugh.” Cordelia wriggled out of the hug. “Stop crying. You’re going to get snot on this sweater and I can’t afford the dry-cleaning.”

“Sorry.” Buffy sat down beside Cordelia on the bed. “Not just about the runny nose. I mean, I’m sorry I didn’t notice--”

“Well, you had some stuff on your mind. The mayor thing, that Faith chick, your vampire boyfriend….”

“Ex-boyfriend,” Buffy said quietly, feeling the sniffles rise up again. Like they had every one of the twenty-three nights he’d been gone. Not that she’d been counting.

“Wait, what?”

“Angel left. He’s, um, not coming back.”

“Ever? I thought you and Angel were, like, destined or something. I mean, he even rejected me. For you.

“Well, I guess destiny’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” Buffy said, trying for lightness. “He said… he said I should find someone normal.”

“Well, that’s stupid,” Cordelia said forcefully. “I mean, I’m the most normal person you know, and look what happened to me, just because I sometimes was in the same room as you. I got stabbed, and almost eaten, I dated Xander…. I’m lucky I’m still alive.”

“But he has a point,” Buffy earnestly replied. “I mean, I’m a vampire slayer. I shouldn’t be dating a vampire, even if he does have a soul.”

“Soul, schmole. Buffy, can I give you some advice?”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “I guess.”

“You need to stop being a doormat for guys. Angel just spent the last -- what, more than two years? -- leading you on, being all I’m-your-destiny, taking you to the Prom, and then he just bails? I bet you’ve been crying every night, huh?”

Buffy nodded, feeling tears welling up in her eyes again.

“Well, stop it. If he’s not willing to fight for you, then who needs him?”

I need him, Buffy thought, but she nodded.

“Ugh. Seriously, Buffy. Like I told you, when it comes to dating, I’m the slayer. You can’t let some guy just play you like that.”

“He wasn’t playing me,” Buffy protested, stung. “If we’re together, if we, um… you know, then he’s going to lose his soul again. That’s why he left.”

“So he left because you guys couldn’t have sex.” Cordelia’s eyes narrowed. 

“No, because--” Buffy broke off. “It’s not like that.”

“It’s exactly like that. Buffy, if I had a dollar for every guy who left because I wouldn’t put out for their pimply behinds, I could afford to buy back all my shoes.” She frowned, calculating. “Well, most of my shoes.”

“He loves me,” Buffy insisted, feeling queasy.

“Not enough to figure out a way around that stupid curse. I mean, here you have Willow, who’s, like, super-witch, and you had all those books and stuff, but nobody ever figured out a way to fix that? Sounds fishy to me.”

Suddenly it sounded fishy to Buffy, too. “I never, um, never thought about that. But, um, maybe there isn’t a way?”

“How do you know? Has he even suggested someone look into it? Or doesn’t he even want to try? Believe me, Buffy, there are ways and ways to be together. If he didn’t even bother looking, that’s on him.”

“I’m sure he tried everything he could,” Buffy insisted, ignoring the sinking feeling in her stomach.

“All right.” Cordelia turned on the bed, taking both Buffy’s hands in hers. “Looks like nobody ever gave you The Talk. So I’m going to do you a solid here.”

“Mom gave me The Talk,” Buffy laughed nervously. That hadn’t exactly gone too well.

“Not that talk. Here’s what your mom didn’t teach you -- or if she did, it didn’t stick.” Cordelia squeezed her hands. “Buffy, no guy anywhere in the world is worth three weeks of tears when he dumps you.”

Buffy looked down at their joined hands, Cordelia’s pristine manicure -- had she done that herself? She must have, if she had no money -- and her own neatly-trimmed but sorta-ragged fingernails. “I love him.”

“So? He’s gone. You need to get over it and move on.”

“I’m trying.”

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Cordelia dropped Buffy’s hands with a gasp. “Oh, god, I just quoted one of Xander’s stupid movies. I have got to get out of this town!”

“I’m moving on,” Buffy said stubbornly. “When college starts, I’m totally going to date.”

“And you’re going to make the same mistake all over again if you don’t listen,” Cordelia snapped, grabbing her hands again. “Buffy, guys are like… like shoes. Would you spend even a day walking around in a pair of shoes that didn’t fit? Even if you totally loved them, and they were, like, the most gorgeous shoes ever? And you’d found them on a killer sale?”

“No,” Buffy grudgingly admitted.

“And if you try on a pair of shoes that don’t fit, do you spend three weeks crying about them?”

“Depends on the shoes,” Buffy joked.

“No, you don’t,” Cordelia steamrollered on. “You put those shoes back on the shelf and you try on another pair. And then when you find a pair that do fit? Maybe you don’t even buy those. Maybe you keep trying, until you find just the perfect pair, and then even if you buy those shoes, it’s not like you don’t have another three dozen pairs of shoes at home in your closet that fit you just as well. Well, unless your daddy is a total stupid fraud, but that’s beside the point.” She squeezed Buffy’s hands again. “Buffy, you can’t just go off to college and throw yourself into loving the first guy you think is a good fit. You have to try on a lot of… guys, see how they fit, and then make sure they’re not secretly total losers before you hand over your Visa.”

“I’m not sure that’s… me,” Buffy said slowly. 

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “I’m not saying you have to sleep with every big man on campus, Buffy. I’m just saying… don’t fall in love with some jerk who’s not right for you. And believe me, if they’re not willing to put in minimal effort, they’re not right for you.”

“I’m not going to fall in love.”

“Why not?” Cordy blinked, then sighed. “Oh. Because you still love Angel. Buffy, you’ve gotta wash that man right out of your hair. Believe me, he does not deserve your tears. If I were you, I’d be furious. I mean, here you devote your prime high school dating years to this one guy, and then he just leaves? And then he has the gall to tell you what sort of guy you should date? That’s some nerve.”

It did sound kind of infuriating when she put it like that. “I’m sure he’s just trying to help.”

“More like he’s trying to keep you on the hook. Tell me, did he give you some line about how he’s always going to love you? How you’re the only one for him, but he just can’t be with you?”

“No. Well, yes. I mean, sort of, but he was just trying to… trying to….” What the hell had he been trying to do, saying that? Buffy felt anger start to simmer.

“Well, that’s bullshit. That’s the sort of crap guys say when they want to keep you on the line while they’re off playing the field.”

“He’s not--” Buffy stopped short. Was Angel off playing the field? What was he going to do now? Find some other girl to be his destiny? 

“I bet he shows up every now and then, just to make sure you’re still his girl.”

“I doubt it. He said he wouldn’t ever come back.” And suddenly that did make her angry. He had said it was his destiny to help her. How was he going to do that now? Not that she needed the help, of course, but it was the principle of the thing.

“Sounds like he said a lot of things. You know what I would do?” Cordelia bounced on the bed a little in vicious excitement. “I would go out and find exactly what he said I should find. Find someone super normal, someone who’s everything he’s not. And then when he comes strolling on back into town, thinking I was still hung up on him? I’d totally rub the whole thing right in his face. That would totally piss him off.”

“You mean, get revenge?” 

“Well, not like mafia-revenge or anything. But you know what the best revenge is, when some jerk guy does you wrong? Being totally okay without them. Moving on and living the dream. That’s totally what you need to do. That’s what I always do.”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way.” Except it sounded… weirdly good. Not nice, but certainly a lot better than moping around like she had been. Like punching her grief in the face. She’d always been good at punching. And right now, she really wanted to punch something.

Preferably Angel.

Cordelia was still going, on a vengeful roll. “Seriously, Buffy. You lived for this guy for more than half your high school career. You gave him your virginity, gave him your prom, gave him all your good memories of the best part of your life. God, you even tried to kill Faith to save him! And he just leaves? I think you need to teach Angel a lesson.”

Buffy nodded sharply, anger boiling up inside. Cordelia was right. She’d given up everything for Angel, and he’d just walked away -- in the most dramatic way possible, even. Why was she even wasting her time crying? “I think… I think you’re right.”

“Of course I’m right,” Cordelia grinned.

Buffy squeezed Cordelia’s hands back, suddenly resolute. “Cordelia, when you said you didn’t belong… what did you mean?”

Cordela laughed faintly. “Well, you know. Um, I was only… only one of the group because I was dating Xander.”

“No, you….” Buffy trailed off. “Okay, maybe at first. But, I mean, you were one of us there at the end. Fighting the good fight.”

“Well, you know how it is with a divorce. Everything that the IRS doesn’t take gets divided up.” Cordelia shrugged casually. “Xander got you guys. You were his friends first, after all.”

“Well, that’s not how it’s going to work this time,” Buffy said stoutly. “You were a good friend to me, when you weren’t being a total bitch.”

“Really, Buffy? I could say the same thing about you.” Cordelia grinned. “Especially the bitch part.”

Buffy laughed. “So we’re still friends. You may be moving to LA, but I want us to stay in touch, okay? Xander can just deal. You have my phone number. Use it.”

“And you have my cell phone number. Don’t use it, because it’s going to get disconnected any day. Daddy didn’t pay last month. But I’ll let you know when I get a new one.”

“And I’m going to sleep on your tiny, hard couch when I come to LA, because it’s still going to be better than Dad’s place.”

“You mean my nonexistent couch? Turns out that had resale value, too.”

“The floor, then.”

“Okay. But only if there’s not an apocalypse going on. I am so done with apocalypses, and snake demons, and especially vampires.” Cordelia stood, briskly zipping up her suitcase. “And you totally have to let me know how your revenge-dating is going. I expect weekly reports.”

“You got it.” Buffy stood and gave Cordelia one more hug. It didn’t feel weird this time. “You know what? I think I’m going to miss you.”

“Of course you are,” Cordelia said regally. “I’m Queen C, after all. What would Sunnydale High have been without me?” She fumbled awkwardly with her suitcase. “I’m going to miss you, too. But don’t tell anybody. It would ruin my legend.”

“I won’t. Need some help with that suitcase?”

“No, I’ve got it.” And she did, wrestling it down the stairs and into the trunk of an unfamiliar car sporting Cordy’s vanity plate, which looked weirdly out of place on the rusted beater. 

“Nice car,” Buffy said, deadpan.

“Last of my wages,” Cordelia shrugged. “Should get me to LA, at least.”

“If not, you know who to call.”

“Triple-A. I still have a few months of that, I think.”

“Yeah.” Buffy stepped forward for a final hug. “Drive safe.”

“Are you kidding? I’m going to drive as fast as I can. Shake the dust of Sunnydale off my feet and move on.” Cordelia tossed her keys into the air and caught them. “But… I’ll call you.”

“I’ll be here.”

“And no more crying!” Cordelia whirled around and got into her car, quickly. The car sputtered and revved, and finally rumbled on down the road.

“Yeah,” Buffy said softly, watching the taillights fade into the distance. “No more crying.”

Not when she had revenge to plan.

 

Chapter Text

Planning revenge would be easier if bloody Harmony would ever shut her bloody gob.

Spike had only himself to blame; he knew it, but it didn’t make it any easier. He’d come back to Sunnydale freshly single, eager to prove himself, and starved for physical contact. Harmony had been convenient, happy to baby him and fuck him and even speak incomprehensibly to him, just like Dru. It hadn’t taken long for him to suss out that Harmony’s vapid ramblings were a far cry from Drusilla’s cunning madness, that her baby-talk was infantilizing and rage-inducing, and that she was an appallingly vanilla fuck, for a vampire.

Not that he wasn’t taking her up on it, because even vanilla fucking was fucking, and celibacy fucking sucked, but he was starting to get a little bored. The bint didn’t even like chains.

God, he needed to find the bloody Gem of Amara now.

He’d come to think of it as his divorce settlement, the alimony he was due now that Dru had given him his congé -- though she’d forced it on him, in the end, one of her bloody visions. (There was another strike against bloody Harmony -- had any of her demented prattling ever pointed the way to a priceless artifact? Spike was fair certain not, not in the past and not in the future, and it was a damn good thing bloody Harmony had bloody gorgeous tits, or he’d have staked her long since.)

It had started out simply, Drusilla’s vision. She’d been dancing -- she was always dancing, his love -- and she’d frozen mid-step, her foot hovering in midair for several seconds before she’d whirled and spun and slashed at his face, long French-manicured talons digging four deep grooves across his cheek.

“What the bloody--?” he’d begun, but then she’d slapped him across the face, the impact making the claw-marks sting more.

“Liar!” she’d hissed.

“I didn’t say a bloody word!”

“Your heart is lying. It wants the sunshine,” she’d pouted, eyes huge and brilliant with tears.

“Not feeling particularly suicidal, love,” he’d retorted. “More homicidal, in fact.”

She’d looked at him with her huge, huge eyes, still as the corpse she was, until he’d felt uneasy. “There’s still hope,” she’d finally whispered in a voice like the moon. “Treasure long lost, treasure found, a slayer’s blood, like rubies in the sun.”

A flash of an image, the slayer’s face, except not in darkness, or bloody electric light. The slayer’s face in the sunlight, golden and dewy and-- “I’ll kill her for you.”

“Such a liar,” she’d whispered in an aside to the bloody voices in her head.

“I will!”

She’d shied away then, looking at him sidelong. “Do you want the treasure?”

“What treasure?”

“Do you want it?”

He’d sighed then, exasperated. “Depends on what it bloody well is, pet,” he’d groused. “Not exactly hunting for the Holy Grail, me. So what is it?”

“I’ll draw you a map,” she’d said then, sweetly, like he’d not just asked her a bloody question.

“What is it?” he’d repeated.

She’d just giggled in response, the minx. “The Holy Grail.” And then she’d danced away as if nothing had happened.

The next evening he’d awakened to pain, a line of fire being painted across his shoulder blade, and he’d rolled instinctively to face his assailant, only to meet Dru’s accusing eyes, her fingernails tipped in blood. His blood, he realized. She was agitated, fingers trembling and eyes wide and skittish, and he forced down his rage.

“What exactly are you doing, love?” he said, keeping his voice calm through a Herculean effort.

“Drawing you a map,” she muttered sullenly, like a child caught stealing sweets.

“On my back?”

She fanned her hand out in the air, inspecting her fingertips. “It was so lovely and white. A blank canvas. It needed red.” She focused on his face again, eyes narrow. “You need to know where you’re going.”

He glanced over his shoulder at the lines she’d cut before the pain had awakened him. “And just how am I supposed to read a map that’s on my bloody back, Dru?”

“Foolish boy,” she giggled. “Trying to read with your eyes.”

“That is the usual way,” he snapped, and she recoiled, looking hurt.

“Not usual, are we? Not you and I.” She reached up and stroked his cheek with one sharp fingernail.

That had melted him again -- he could never stay cross with her, not when she was trying to turn him up sweet. “Tell you what, love. I’ll send the boys out tonight on a smash and grab, have them knock over a bloody artist’s supply shop. We’ll get you some canvas, some pencils, loads of red paint….”

Her chin stuck out stubbornly. “Don’t want paint.”

“No paint, then. You can use whatever you like -- tea, shit, viscera.” He caressed her face then, his thumb brushing at her pouty lower lip. “Just not my blood and my back. Not when I’m not awake to enjoy it.”

He bent to kiss her but she turned her face away, sullen. “You don’t want me to have the treasure.”

“I’ll get you your bloody treasure, Dru. Draw your map, and I’ll find it for you.” He caught her wrists when she made for his back again. “Not on me.”

She bit her lip then, expression coy. “You always liked my little games before, sweet Spike.”

“Do you want to play?” Spike grinned.

She did.

Spike slept like the dead after, uninterrupted by pain -- though he dreamt of blood-drenched scenery with crucified corpses crying out like crows in the wasteland, and finally awakened to cries in reality. Another of Dru’s toys, he’d sighed to himself, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, and stood naked, prepared to put the latest victim out of his misery -- not the victim’s misery, of course; Spike’s misery, because sodding hell the unlucky bastard had an irritating whine -- and then he’d seen the wanker chained to the wall and stopped in his tracks.

There was his map, all right.

Dru must have drained the fellow right to the edge of death before she’d worked her cartography on his chest and belly, because the cuts were clear and unblurred by drips of blood. Thousands of them, precise and intricate and… familiar. He knew that map. There was the sharp curve and dip of the 101, the broader curve of the coastline, familiar parks and cemeteries delineated in oddly-accurate bruises and contusions. A confident X marked the spot where he supposed Dru’s Holy Grail was to be found -- near the university, if he recalled correctly. And she’d whimsically sunk a pearl-tipped hatpin just over the fellow’s heart, marking a residence he’d been to just twice, but could have found in his sleep. Oh, yes, he knew that map.

Of course it was fucking Sunnydale.

Of course it was.

The dying man was regarding him through pain-blurred eyes, his whimpering stilled. He licked his dry lips hopefully, like he’d been waiting for Spike to awaken. Which he probably had. Dru never had been one for subtlety.

“Leave you with a message, did she?” Spike said brusquely.

The man nodded. “She said…” He coughed, voice paper-thin. “She said you’d set me free.”

“Well spit it out then. Haven’t got all night.”

“She said…” His eyes closed wearily. “Amara.”

Spike’s stomach clenched. “Amara? The Gem of Amara?”

The man’s eyes opened, milky with confusion. “That was it. Amara. That’s all she said.” He pulled weakly at his chains. “Please. For the love of god, set me free.”

Spike rolled his eyes, reached out, and snapped the bastard’s neck.

He’d gone looking for Dru then, but she’d scarpered, not even leaving a bloody note. It took him three days to track her down, and when he’d done he wished he hadn’t, because seeing the love of a century merrily cavorting in flagrante delicto with a fungus demon was a sight he’d never erase from his memory. (Not even mentioning the sound -- the squelching, and the moaning, and Dru's voice over it all -- and the smell.) He’d tossed his things in the boot of his DeSoto, tossed hers out the window -- well, all right, he’d not gone that far, but he had maliciously rearranged her dollies in a way he knew she’d detest, and tossed a few minions out the window -- and set off on the highway, driving north and west and northwest, through Panama and Costa Rica and bloody Mexico, until he’d seen the fucking Welcome to Sunnydale sign -- reconstructed after his last visit -- and barrelled right on through it, imagining it was Dru and the fungus demon and the bloody slayer, set up like ninepins with a few others he felt the world could do without.

He’d put Angel right at the front of his imaginary ninepins, because in the end everything that had happened the last few years had been his fault, start to finish. Him and his fucking hero complex and his fucking soul and his fucking Dru, and…. It was all his fault.

Even Harmony was his fault, in the end. Spike had heard the story from her mouth a dozen times already, how they’d all rallied to fight the mayor, and how Buffy’s boyfriend had taken up the rear guard, except they’d been too late to save Harmony, she’d already been bitten and dragged off by a “loser” (her words) who’d always wanted to “make it with a cheerleader” (also her words) when he’d been alive, but even dead, Harmony had “actual standards” and wasn’t going to “put out” for “some vamp nerd,” sire or no. So while the slayer had been taking on the big bad mayor snake, her rear guard had been falling down on the job of protecting the students, and Harmony had paid the ultimate price.

And somehow, Spike had ended up with the result on his arm. So ultimately he’d been stuck with the bill, as usual. Bloody Angel.

“I always wanted to go to a frat party!” Harmony was gushing now, all smiles and cuddles since she’d gotten her bloody way. “I mean, high school guys were always so lame. They totally didn’t know how to appreciate a mature woman.”

Spike raised an eyebrow. “So we’re here for you to pick up fraternity boys?”

She paused for a moment, then laughed. “No, silly. Why would I want a college boy when I’ve got my very own Blondie Bear?” She hugged his arm to her breast. “I was just thinking, you know, college guys would taste better than high school guys. To eat. I wasn’t thinking about, you know, how they have sports cars and credit cards and know how to treat a girl.”

“Right.”

Harmony apparently took that as actual agreement despite the sardonic tone. "Thanks for taking me out, Spikey. Ooh, maybe we'll run into Willow and you can kill her for me."

"No," Spike said shortly, not wanting to explain yet again just what constituted "laying low" and how killing the slayer's loved ones was not it.

They slipped in the back door of the party, Spike coolly glaring around. What a dismal scene. Shite music, shite people, and what smelled like shite beer. He spared a nostalgic thought for CBGB and the rest of the New York punk scene he'd wallowed in when hunting his last slayer. Pity his latest hunt would have such a pathetic backdrop. He'd not miss a particle of Sunnydale culture when he left victorious.

"Ugh!" Harmony wrinkled her nose. "It smells like pee."

"That's the beer, love. You should drink some."

"Ew. Why?"

"Thought you wanted to be evil." She'd been playing at being the Big Bad when he'd rolled into town, trying to exert dominance over the local vamps, and failing utterly, despite there being a power vacuum, one of the local bigwigs having recently snuffed it.

"I am evil! I'm totally evil."

He shrugged. "Can't be evil if you can't hold your liquor."

She flounced off in a huff, heading towards the kegs, and Spike took the opportunity to prowl the edges of the party. He'd not been out hunting proper since he came to town, and it was refreshing to get to pick out a victim for once. No shortage here. Half the guests were already so pissed they'd barely notice dying.

This was just what he needed. A little fresh air, a little fresh blood… Harmony was always a little more adventurous when she was feeling spoiled, so he could look forward to a good hard fuck after. Maybe even at the party, if he found a likely candidate; he saw no reason to wait on Harmony's mood. As long as they managed not to run into the slayer, everything would be going Spike's way.

*

Everything was going Buffy's way.

She'd met Parker in the cafeteria the first week of classes, and she'd known at once he would be perfect for her revenge plans. He was cute and funny, with big eyes that really looked at her when she was talking, and she knew instantly that Angel would be jealous. Parker read fancy philosophy books, just like Angel. Parker liked to make sure Buffy got home safe, just like Angel. Parker hung on Buffy's every word, just like Angel. But unlike Angel, Parker was human. He didn't have to buy blood from the butcher, he could sit out in the sun on the quad and talk about stuff, and best of all, he wasn't going to go all rampagey after they had sex. He would still be just as awesome the morning after.

Yep, Parker was perfect for rubbing Buffy's awesome normal life in Angel's face.

The problem was… he was too perfect.

Using some random guy for revenge had seemed like a great idea when Cordelia suggested it, and over the rest of the summer they'd kept on talking about it, and it had kept on sounding great. Cordelia was a veritable font of wisdom regarding men, and Buffy now knew more about dating etiquette, bad-boyfriend red flags, and blow jobs than she would ever have imagined she'd need to know. (All theoretical, of course, but the information was bound to come in handy sometime, right?)

Cordy had made Buffy think about a whole lot of what had happened with Angel, and thinking had made Buffy realize that some of what had happened really hadn't been cool at all. Like how Angel had tried to commit suicide at Christmas and been saved by Buffy and the snow, which had seemed romantic at the time, especially when they walked home hand in hand, but now just seemed manipulative and selfish, especially after he'd left her in the end anyhow. Lots of Angel things didn't seem romantic in retrospect, actually -- not when Cordelia shone a light on them. (There had been an hour-long rant about claddagh rings and the cheapskates who gave them instead of actual diamonds.) And so Buffy was more determined than ever to show Angel that she'd moved on, she totally didn't need him, even one hundred and thirty-six days later.

Not that she was counting.

The problem was, Parker was really, really nice. Just super sweet, and earnest, and nice. He seemed completely into Buffy, like he really wanted to be serious, and it seemed… well, mean to just use him for her revenge. She'd been going back and forth with herself for the past week trying to decide what to do. On the one hand, she wanted to show Angel how she was in a perfect relationship with someone perfect, and Parker fit the bill perfectly. But on the other hand, someone who was actually perfect, like Parker, deserved to have a real perfect relationship, not a fake perfect relationship with someone who was still hung up on their ex.

Cordelia had gotten Buffy to admit that, too. It was humiliating, but she had to agree with Cordy that it was no good lying to herself. She was still hung up on Angel, manipulative, selfish cheapskate that he was. And that was just not fair to Parker. So she'd pretty much decided she had to keep looking. She had to find someone who was just perfect enough to drive Angel mad with jealousy, but not so perfect she couldn't dump him with impunity after, because using someone for revenge was probably not a good foundation for a lasting relationship. In fact, she figured that would qualify as a bad-girlfriend red flag.

Still, she'd accepted Parker's invitation to what had turned out to be a very loud, kinda-smelly party, and now she was trying to figure out how to let him down gently without closing the door forever. Sure, she was currently occupied with revenge and getting over Angel, but eventually she was going to be done with both of those, and it would be nice if she could call Parker up then, pick up where they'd left off. But she couldn't just tell him, oh, hey, I'll call you when I'm done getting revenge on my ex.

She was pretty sure that would be another red flag.

The other problem was, if she put Parker on the back burner, she'd still have to find another guy for her revenge. And where was she ever going to find someone else who would be sure to make Angel utterly insane? Someone he would literally gnash his teeth to see her with, someone who would make him regret ever leaving, someone like….

"Spike."

At first she thought she'd hallucinated him, a vision of the creature-most-likely-to-piss-Angel-off. Because yeah, Spike was definitely teeth-gnashing boyfriend material, if Buffy herself were insane, which she definitely was not, even if she might seem so to an outside observer. Angel would literally gnash his teeth if he saw her kissing Spike, so hard he'd need serious orthodontry; he'd spent something like a week lecturing Buffy on the dangers of giving Spike an invite to her house last time -- another thing Buffy had gotten retroactively pissed off about, seeing as they'd only needed a truce because Angel himself had gone all evil. But that didn't really matter, because Spike wasn't there; he was off chaining Drusilla up or something lame like that. It had to be some other guy with platinum blond hair, right?

"Did you say something?"

Buffy turned back to Parker with a carefully-brilliant smile. "Oh, nothing. Just thought I saw an ex of mine from high school."

"You dated a guy named Spike?" Parker looked adorably dubious; he was so nice, he probably hadn't ever run into anyone punk before.

"Oh, no. Not me." Buffy laughed nervously. "Pike. There was a guy named Pike. But, um, we moved away, and that was the end of my, uh, rebel-without-a-clue dating days."

Parker grinned charmingly. "You were a rebel?"

"Only a little," Buffy hedged. "I bought some earrings with skulls when I was thirteen. But it was just a phase."

"Sounds cute," Parker smiled, and Buffy started to melt, before steeling herself.

Revenge, she reminded herself. Revenge first, dating cute guys after.

Buffy glanced sidelong at that blond head again. Pity it wasn't Spike. Now that she'd had a moment to think about it, Spike would actually be perfect for her plans. Angel rage -- check. Didn't care if he got hurt -- double check. Easily disposed of afterwards -- triple check. She could literally just stake him and suck him up in a Dustbuster after, and the world would be a better place, and she could give Parker a call, see what he was up to Saturday night.

And then not-Spike turned his head, laughing at what some co-ed was saying, and her blood ran cold. She knew that profile.

It was Spike.

It was actually Spike, here in Sunnydale.

What was he doing in Sunnydale? He'd promised not to come back, and okay, so he'd broken that promise in less than a year, but then he'd left again, and obviously that meant the promise was back on, he was never coming back, so why was he back? That bastard. She was going to kill him. She was so going to kill him! She was going to stomp right over there, spin him around, say something super witty as she brandished her stake, and then she was going to….

...drive Angel completely insane.

She stared at Spike for a long moment, thinking and pondering and telling her little shoulder-angel to shut up, because shoulder-devil was running this little revenge show Buffy had committed to putting on, and Spike was…. Well, he was perfect.

"Excuse me," she said distantly to Parker. "Gotta see a guy about a guy."

She started to thread her way through the crowd.

*

Spike was just about to coax the pretty half-stoned chains-loving brunette he'd been cultivating off into the darkness for a bit of private fun -- she might not enjoy the endgame but Spike had always loved playing with his food -- when he felt a hard hand on his shoulder, and a second later he'd been shoved face-first into the wall. Hard enough to know just who'd done the shoving.

"Hey!" brunette what's-her-face protested woozily.

"Sorry," the slayer chirped behind him, revoltingly perky. "Has my brother been bothering you? He's not supposed to be out without a leash."

With a sullen mumble about how that was the whole idea, whozit stumbled off into the crowd, leaving Spike pinned up against the wall, the slayer's strong hands twisting his arm behind his back.

"Hello, Spike," she purred, lips close to his ear. "Fancy seeing you here, in Sunnydale. You know, the place you promised never to be ever again. Remember that?" She twisted his arm a little harder. "Good times."

"Sod off!" Spike snarled. "It's a free country. Can go where I like."

"You sure can!" Her voice was sweet as treacle. "It's just that if where you like to go is Sunnydale, that means I get to introduce you to Mr. Pointy."

"You wouldn't," Spike bluffed, knowing she damn well would. "In front of all these people?"

"Half these people are so stoned they wouldn't notice, and the other half would think it was some kind of performance art."

"Yeah, uh, so… where's the fun in that?"

"The fun is…." She shook him roughly. "Never mind that. I have a proposition for you, Spike."

"I have an answer for you. Sod off. Not playing your sodding goody-two-shoes slayer games."

"Not even to hurt Angel?"

Spike froze, glaring over his shoulder.

Buffy pressed closer. "You hate Angel, right? Hate him a lot?"

He bared his teeth. "Hate you, too, bitch."

"Who do you hate more?" Buffy pressed.

Spike didn't answer, just glaring at her impotently. Except not impotently, because between chains-whozis and the way Buffy's tits were pressed up against his back, Spike's cock had chosen now of all times to stand to attention.

"That's what I thought," Buffy went on. "I mean, you only knew me for, like, a year, but you've had two hundred years to hate Angel. So." She shook him again. "How much do you want to hurt Angel?"

"What, trouble in paradise?" Spike sneered, not bothering to correct her math. "Can't say I didn't warn you. Told you you'd never be friends."

She twisted harder. "I didn't ask you for your opinion. I asked you an actual question. How much do you want to hurt Angel?"

He laughed bitterly. "How long do you have to chat?"

"That's what I thought." Buffy glanced around the party, biting her lip. "We need to talk. What say we take this someplace a little more private?"

"Know a smashing motel up on Miracle Mile, rents by the hour," Spike leered.

"What? Oh, ew. As if! I was just thinking, like, outside."

Spike tried to shrug, but her grip was too tight. "Just saying. Nice and private. Could have your wicked way with me."

She shoved him against the wall again, harder. "Or I could just stake you right here."

"Or you could sod off. Wasn't bloody hurting anyone."

"I believe that." Buffy rolled her eyes. "In Bizarro-world."

"Believe it," Spike purred. "Was planning on making that girl you scared off feel bloody fabulous."

"And then killing her."

Spike tried shrugging again. "Details."

"Well, I've got news for you, Spike. The killing spree is over. You're in my town, and you're going to play by my rules."

"Ooh, big talk. You won't be talking so big when I--" Spike cut himself off before mentioning the Gem of Amara. She probably hadn't heard of it, but the Watcher almost certainly had.

"When you what? Do exactly what I say because otherwise it's Dustapalooza?"

God, she was a bitch. He hated her so fucking much. When he had the Gem of Amara, he was going to hunt her down in the sunlight, drain her dry, then do each of her friends the same way before he left to show Dru just who the Big Bad was.

But he didn't have the Gem. Not yet. And much as it galled him, she was right.

He did hate Angel more.

He laughed insolently and let her frog-march him out the door.

*

Harmony just could not believe it. Here she'd been trying to find the perfect guy for her and Spike to eat together, talking to everyone at the party just to make sure (well, everyone cute, because she had standards) and what was Spike doing? Hitting on the slayer!

Oh, sure, Buffy probably thought they were just fighting, but Harmony knew what Spike's face looked like when he was horny and stuff. He was totally turned on! By the slayer! He was doing that tongue thing that made Harmony weak in the knees, and giving Buffy those hot looks that he should be giving to Harmony, and letting the slayer just… rub herself all over him! How gross was that? He'd be lucky if Harmony ever let him touch her again!

Well, okay, she would, but she'd make him apologize first. Or, you know, eventually. Some time when he wouldn't get mad about it.

"Spike, you jerk!" she fumed, stomping her foot.

"Oh, is that guy's name Spike?"

Harmony turned to the cute guy who'd come up beside her. "Yeah. He's my boyfriend." Ooh. How had she missed this one? He just had the prettiest eyes! He'd make a great dinner. And she totally wasn't going to share with Spike, either.

"Oh." The cute guy turned his melty eyes on her, and she melted a little. "I thought Buffy really liked me, you know? But she just left with him. I guess girls really go for that bad-boy look, huh?"

Aww, he looked so sad! "Not all girls," she said sweetly, turning towards him. The party was so crowded, turning brought him right up against her chest. Which was the whole point. "Some of us like nice guys."

He smiled sheepishly. "So, are you a freshman? I don't think I've seen you around before. I know I would have remembered."

"Oh, yeah. I'm totally a college student," Harmony lied.

"What's your major?"

"My major?" Shoot! What was something she could pretend to be studying that would sound impressive. Not English, blah, or math, double blah and hard…. But no, maybe something hard would make her sound better? What was that class all the nerds took in high school? "Physics. My major is physics." His eyes lit up and she congratulated herself on her choice. Plus, maybe he'd notice that "physics" and "physical," like, totally rhymed or something and start thinking about getting physical. She pressed a little closer. "I'm really, really good at… physics."

"Wow! Smart and beautiful. What's your name?"

"Harmony." She smiled at the compliment. Nobody had ever called her smart before!

"I'm Parker. I'm sorry your boyfriend went off with, um--"

"That's okay," she sniffed. "Obviously he doesn't know a good thing when he's got it. And believe me, you really dodged a bullet. I went to high school with Buffy, and you're better off without her. Total loser."

He shrugged. "We weren't dating or anything. Just hanging out." He glanced over his shoulder. "So, can I get you a drink or something? They have beer, um, beer…."

"Beer would be great," Harmony gushed. "Maybe we could, you know, hang out?"

"Yeah," he said, his pretty eyes all warm and sweet and earnest, and Harmony decided then and there that she wasn't going to eat him. Not tonight at least. Tonight she was going to spend time with a nice guy who appreciated her, and later on she would rub Spike's face in it, tell him how much fun she'd had at the party without him, hanging out with a guy who wasn't a total jerk.

That would show Spike.

Chapter Text

Once they'd made it out the door of the frat house, Spike twisted out of Buffy's grip, and she let him, because she could tell she had him on the hook, at least until she could explain her plan. They walked side by side, glaring at each other as they headed off… somewhere. Buffy wasn't really sure where, just that they had to get away from the noise and witnesses.

Actually, she wasn't even entirely sure what the plan was now. She'd gone straight from thinking how Spike would drive Angel crazy to propositioning him, without really thinking too much about the details. Possibly not the best of moves, she realized now, but… Spike was just so perfect for the job. She could make the plan fit the man, as it were. Right?

Just past the engineering building was one of the random installations of outdoor art that dotted campus like pretentious mushrooms, a concoction of concrete arches and rusted metal plates making a semi-private circle; with a meaningful glare at Spike, Buffy ducked under one of the arches and inside. He followed, shoving his hands in his duster pockets as he surveyed the sculpture.

"Should've taken me up on that motel, slayer," he said coolly. "Not exactly a comfortable place for a tête-à-tête."

"We're not here to be comfy, Spike." Buffy kept her voice brisk. "We're here to do business."

"Ah, yes. Hurting Angel." Spike leaned up against a concrete arch. "I gather you have some sort of grand scheme? Do tell."

"Well…." Buffy could feel her face turning red, but she could do this. "Okay, so Angel, um, left. He broke up with me and went to LA. He said I should find someone normal."

"Wanker," Spike said in a bored voice.

She soldiered on. "So anyhow, I was thinking that if he wanted me to find a normal guy so much, that's what I was going to do. Find a normal guy to date and then show Angel how happy I was without him."

Spike rolled his eyes. "What, give him yet another reason to brood? That's what he lives for, pet."

"Oh, shut up. It was symbolic, you know?"

"Right. So where do I fit into this incredibly boring and tepid plan?"

"You don't. Or you do, but the plan has changed. Or… well, I saw you at the party and it was like a lightbulb, you know? You make way better revenge than just some normal guy."

"And what, pray tell, am I to do? Hunt Angel down and torture him in your honor?" Spike started rummaging in his pockets, digging out a cigarette and silver Zippo.

"What? Ugh. No!"

"Help you commit hara-kiri?" Spike popped the cigarette in his mouth.

"No! You're supposed to be my boyfriend!"

Spike froze mid-light, the cigarette slipping from his slack lips. "Pardon?" He caught the cigarette just as it plummeted, staring at it blankly.

"Fake-boyfriend," Buffy amended. "I thought, you know, if Angel saw us being, um, coupley, he'd get really, really mad. Vengeance complete, we go our separate ways, mission accomplished."

He frowned and shoved the cigarette back between his lips. "You're mental," he mumbled around it as he lit up.

"No, it'll work," Buffy insisted.

He took a deep drag on the cigarette. "Define 'coupley.'"

"What?"

"Are we talking holding hands at the cinema? Snogging at a restaurant? Shagging in the alley back of the Bronze?"

"All of the above." Buffy frowned. "Wait. What's snogging?"

"Kissing."

"Okay, yeah, probably. What's shagging?"

He grinned lewdly. "Fucking."

Buffy managed not to haul off and slug him. "Ew! No, definitely not that. We are absolutely not going to have sex." She considered carefully. "But, um, somewhere in between, maybe? Like, I dunno, light PDA?"

"What's PDA?" He was smirking now, the jerk.

"Oh, right, you went to school back in medieval times. Public displays of affection. Punishable by a stern lecture and a note home if a teacher ever caught you at it." Not that she’d ever gotten caught, because she’d never dated a guy who could come to the high school in the daytime, and darned if she wasn’t PO’ed about that now, too.

"Right. And what's in it for me?"

Buffy folded her arms defiantly. "Hurting Angel. Light PDA. Also not being staked right this second."

"Sounds a rum deal, if you ask me."

Buffy tried not to be offended at how disinterested he seemed to be in making out with her, seeing as she totally didn't want to make out with him. "You'd rather fight to the death?"

"Not just this moment," he laughed. "Just thinking there's a flaw in your grand master plan."

"What?"

"This." Spike tossed his cigarette away and stalked over to Buffy, eyes intent, and as he got closer, hands reaching out, she instinctively squealed and lashed out, punching him square in the nose.

"Ow!" He glared at her, pinching the bridge of his nose. "See?"

"What? You attacked me!"

"Was going to bloody kiss you, you daft bint!"

"Well, how was I supposed to know that? You didn't say--"

"So I'm saying. Here I am. I'm going to kiss you now."

He set his hands to her cheeks and leaned in close, eyes glittering, and she tried, she really did, but all her senses were screaming at her, danger danger danger and just as his lips were about to make contact, she ducked away instinctively.

Spike stepped back, face smug. "There. See? Can't even keep up the act for five seconds. You loathe me, I detest you. Angel's not entirely unobservant, despite that Neanderthal forehead of his. He'll see through this charade in an instant."

"We can practice," Buffy stubbornly insisted. "Get used to, um, kissing, and touching."

He raised his eyebrows meaningfully. "Practice?"

"Just business, Spike," Buffy said sharply.

He sighed. "You know, I do have plans. Might not have time for--"

"Cancel them. It's just going to be for a couple of weeks. Just until Angel finds out and comes down to see for himself.” She shrugged. “You can't do anything evil anyhow. I can't let you."

He laughed sharply. "Not helping your case, love."

"No, that's not actually part of the deal. It's just a requirement for you to stay in Sunnydale, period. If you're here and you're killing, I have to put you down. That's my job."

"And what am I supposed to eat in the meantime?"

"There's butchers in town. You can get fresh blood. Pig or cow, take your pick."

He sputtered for a bit, but when Buffy started to go for her stake, he sighed. "You're paying."

"Fine. I'm paying." She silently kissed goodbye the computer she’d planned on buying with the last of her financial aid. All in a good cause, she supposed.

He regarded her through narrowed eyes for a long moment. "And what about you? Am I supposed to just sit back and watch you merrily slay all my friends and colleagues?"

"You have friends?"

He set his jaw. "If I'm to stop killing, then you have to do the same."

"I can't just let vampires run amok."

"It's just a couple of weeks," he sing-songed.

"What if they're trying to end the world?" Buffy countered. "No more Manchester United. No more punk music."

He shrugged. "Well, if you don't want your revenge…."

"Fine!" Buffy shouted. "No killing for either of us until this is done. It won't take long, right? I mean, I'm sure the second they see us together one of my friends will get on the horn to Angel, try to save me from my own poor life choices." Privately, she vowed that if it came down to the world ending, she'd do what she had to, deal be damned… but that's what she always did, in the end.

"Good. I can't imagine I'll be able to endure very much of you."

"Likewise." Buffy folded her arms again. "And don't think I'm not going to enforce that, either. Willow's been working on some lie-detector crystals or something. I'll know if you start killing."

"And I'll know if you're slaying," he retorted. "Got plenty of connections."

"All right then. Do we have a deal?"

They glared at each other in silence, Buffy feeling suddenly nervous. What if he said no? Where was she ever going to find someone as perfect for her revenge plans as Spike?

Oh god, what if he said yes?

Finally, Spike shrugged. "Suppose I can put up with you for a few weeks, if the payoff is Angel thinking I stole his girl."

"I'm not his girl anymore," Buffy said sharply, pain stabbing through her chest.

"I'll wager that's not how he sees it. In his mind, you'll always be his. Angelus never could let anything go once he'd claimed it as his own."

That wasn't how it felt to Buffy. She felt like he'd not just let her go -- he'd thrown her away, with both hands. But if he thought he still had her after that… well, that was worse, wasn't it? "Too bad for him. I'm nobody's girl but my own."

Spike grinned then. "That's my girl!" At her eyeroll, he laughed. "Just practicing."

"Well, practice being less annoying. Is it a deal, then?" She held out her hand, all business.

He reached out, but instead of shaking her hand, he caught it up and brushed a kiss across her knuckles. "Deal," he murmured, his low voice sending her senses tingling. Not in a vampire way, either.

She snatched her hand away hastily. "Well, then," she laughed. "See you tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow," he promised silkily. "We can meet here at sundown, to practice." And then he ducked under the concrete arch and was gone.

And that, Buffy thought dizzily, is how it feels to dance with the devil.

*

That had been an intriguing dance.

Spike ran for a bit, just to make sure the slayer didn’t change her mind about the instant staking, enjoying the cool breeze and the physical exertion and the sheer exuberance of having pulled one over on the slayer.

Oh, he intended to go along with their plan. That wasn’t even in question -- he’d be a fool to pass up the golden opportunity to irritate, fondle, and toy with the slayer with no risk of retaliation. (Well, perhaps a blow or two -- he intended to push the envelope of “light PDA” just as far as he could get away with, and she was a skittish thing, for all her power.) And having the slayer off-duty for a matter of weeks was nothing short of a gift. A gift of time, to be precise.

Time to locate and excavate the Gem of Amara.

And then-- well, then he could do what he liked, couldn’t he?

He slowed to a relaxed walk when he’d cleared the university quad, sauntering down the streets and whistling. And to think he’d been worried about the slayer mucking up his plans!

The lair was still and peaceful when he returned, most of the minions still out foraging for the night. He took advantage of Harmony’s absence to confer with Brian about the location of the crypt they were seeking -- brilliant fellow, Brian. He’d been a civil engineer before he was turned, which is to say turning evil hadn’t actually been all that much of a change, and he’d brought with him a treasure trove of tunnelling knowledge.

Too bad Spike was going to have to kill him later. Loose lips and all that.

They had a good week’s strategy lined up when Harmony finally put in an appearance, storming in like a pink hellhound.

“I can’t believe you just left me there!”

Spike gave Brian a significant look, setting the former-civil-engineer to folding up their maps. “You were having such a lovely time,” he breezed, ushering Harmony off towards his private quarters. “I didn’t want to interrupt your fun.”

“Fun! What do you think was fun about-- Okay, so I was having fun. That’s no excuse to ditch me for the slayer!” She folded her arms and stood at the foot of his bed, tapping her foot impatiently.

“Oh, uh, you saw the slayer?”

“Yeah, she was pushing you around and then you… you left with her!” She pouted. “Pushing you around is my job!”

“Well, I was just trying to protect you, wasn’t I?” Spike took Harmony’s shoulders in his hands. “I knew that after biting Willow, you’d be at the top of her list, right?”

“Well, yeah.” Harmony brightened. “So, did you tell the slayer you’re my boyfriend, and she and her lame-o friends need to stop being mean to me or you’ll eat them?”

“Not as such.”

“Oh.”

“But you’ll be happy to know that the slayer won’t be hunting us down for a tick. Slayer and me, we have an arrangement now.”

Harmony’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of an arrangement?”

Spike grinned. “I’m the slayer’s new lover. We--”

Harmony slapped him.

“Bloody hell! I wasn’t finished yet!”

“You’re supposed to be my boyfriend!”

“Right. First off, we’re bloody vampires. We don’t have bloody boyfriends and girlfriends. We fuck, we fight, we watch the bloody telly, but we don’t sodding date. Stop dressing things up like we’re in a bloody teenage drama on the WB. You and I? We fuck. That’s all we are.” He and Drusilla, they’d been so much more, of course, but calling Dru his “girlfriend” would be like calling the moon a mere rock. He shook Harmony a bit when she started to pout again. “And now we’re not even that any more.”

Harmony’s mouth fell open. “What? You’re dumping me?”

“Can’t dump what you don’t have,” Spike said bluntly, then sighed. “Look, pet, it’s not that you’re not a perfectly good tumble. It’s just that this is too important. There’s far too much at stake. And we’re not just fooling the slayer. We have to fool Angelus. He’ll be harder to--”

“So you’re fooling around with a guy, too?”

Spike gritted his teeth. “Not fooling around. Fooling. Tricking, gulling, bamboozling, pulling the wool over their eyes….”

The light finally dawned. “Ohhhh. So this is all part of a brilliant plan?”

“Exactly. See, the slayer’s gone and recruited me to pretend to be her new lover. Angelus, he’s her ex-honey, and she’s decided that she can make him jealous by flaunting me in front of him.” He snickered at the thought. “Thick as a post sometimes, our slayer. Playing the jealousy card on a two-hundred-year-old vampire.”

Harmony laughed uneasily. “Yeah. I guess trying to make a really old vampire jealous is… kind of lame.” She frowned. “Wait, Buffy’s ex-boyfriend is a vampire?”

“Long story, pet. Thing is, she’s promised not to hunt until this is over. That gives us all the time we need to find the Gem of Amara.”

“And then you kill her?”

“And then I kill her. Right after we show Angelus how perfect we are together.” He grinned, squeezing Harmony’s shoulders. “I can’t wait to see his bloody face!”

“So he is going to be jealous? I thought you said--”

Spike shrugged. “Oh, he’ll be apoplectic. If his heart were beating, it would stop cold. That’s the best part. Sticking it to Angelus and killing the slayer, all in one night.”

Harmony glared at him. “So if this is all fake, why are you dumping me?”

Spike sniffed, testing the air showily. “Harm, I can tell that you drank three beers, kissed… four fraternity boys, one of whom had consumed an Altoid just prior, and ended up eating a fellow who’d had a few too many Jägermeister shots. Angelus is a vampire, and a bloody old, experienced one at that. We’re not just fooling the wanker’s eyes. Have to fool his nose and his bloody instincts, too.

Harmony’s eyes went wide. “I didn’t like any of those guys I kissed! I was just kissing them to see, um, how their blood would taste?”

Spike stroked her arms soothingly. “I’m not jealous, love. Just proving my point. Doesn’t matter how good a show the slayer and I put on. If she’s not feeling it -- if we’re not close to lovers in truth -- he’ll know it’s all a game. He’ll be able to smell it on her. And on me.” He frowned, thinking. “Which reminds me, I’ll have to get the slayer to set up a standing order at the butcher’s. Can’t have Angelus smelling human blood.” He grimaced at the thought of weeks of pig’s blood. All in an evil cause, he supposed.

“So it’s all fake?”

“False as the Queen Mother’s teeth. But I have to play this deep, layers deep, if it’s going to work.”

Harmony smiled then, coyly. “Wow. You’re just so smart, Spikey. Just like, um, Albert Einstein. Except not gross.” She started to back towards the bed, face inviting.

Spike took her by the elbows and steered her in the opposite direction. “And that, Harm, is why you have to find another bed to doss in. Can’t have Angelus smelling that I’m two-timing his one and only.” He grinned. “After all, I’m utterly devoted to one Buffy Summers.”

“What?!” Harmony shrieked as he ushered her to the doorway. “You’re kicking me out? I did all the decorating!”

“And a lovely job you did, too,” Spike said briskly.

Harmony dug in her heels. “That comforter is mine! I stole it myself!”

That was enough. Spike shoved her towards the doorway, stalked over to the bed, and ripped the comforter off, flinging it towards her. “Take it, then. Not as if I need it. We don’t bloody feel the cold!”

Harmony stamped her foot. “The pillows are mine, too!”

In the end Spike was left with nothing but sheets, a trunkful of chains, and a folding screen that was too much for Harmony to carry with her; she said with a sniff of pique that she’d come back for it later. Which was all right by him; he flung himself onto the disordered bed, stretching out to bask in his newfound freedom. He’d have to pick up some more candles on his next outing, possibly some new bedding -- it was true he didn’t need the warmth of a blanket, but he liked the feel of plush satin -- not to mention some spices for his new diet, but all in all, a very successful evening.

He could hardly wait for tomorrow.

*

Tomorrow was going to suck, big-time.

Buffy sat there in the middle of the concrete arches and rusty metal for a long time after Spike left, vaguely stunned at what she had just done, but eventually she noticed how hard the concrete was under her butt and wended her way back to the dorm, grateful not to hear any cries of distress. Had she really promised not to hunt for a few weeks?

She had. She really had. God, she was crazy. Giles would kill her if he found out.

Not that she’d actually been doing all that much patrolling, she reassured herself. With Sunday’s little tribe destroyed and the literal roommate from hell vanquished, campus had been quieter than the grave, other than Willow’s little run-in with Harmony. Which was disturbing, but not exactly a high priority when it came down to it. Right?

And besides, she was totally going to stake Spike when the whole thing was done. That was worth a few weeks of small-fry vamps. Buffy was doing the world a favor, taking Spike out of the killing fields. She totally was.

Willow was sitting at her desk studying when Buffy got back -- on a Saturday night, no less, go Willow! -- but when Buffy came in, she bounced to her feet, eyes alight.

“So, how’d it go with Parker? It happened, right?”

Oh god. Parker! She’d totally just left him at the party!

“Uh, not so good,” Buffy lied. “Nothing… nothing happened. I just don’t think it’s going to work out.”

“Oh.” Willow’s face fell and she sank back into her desk chair, dejected enough that Buffy was a breath away from swearing to go find Parker right that second and invite him to her bed, just so she could dish to her bestie. But no, she’d made a deal. Best to leave Parker out of it completely, or Willow would ask way too many questions.

For a while, Buffy had felt kind of weird, having Cordelia as one of her best friends and Willow, Vice-President and Treasurer of the We Hate Cordelia Club, as her other bestie, but in the end it had kind of worked itself out. Willow was the best friend she could be soft with, gush about romance and the sweet things in life. Meanwhile, Cordelia was the best friend she could be a bitch with, talk about vengeance and sex and… less-sweet things. In the end, it was really nice to have someone she could trust not to judge, someone who didn’t look up to Buffy as a hero, because… well, sometimes it was exhausting, always being good. Always being the Chosen One, the capital-s Slayer.

It was nice to have someone she could be human with.

Willow was still looking at her expectantly; Buffy shrugged, feigning indifference. “I’m sure I’ll find someone who’s right for me soon.”

“I know you will. I’m really looking forward to double dates, you know?”

“I know you are.” Buffy managed to restrain a snort at the idea of a double date with Spike, Willow, and Oz. Talk about awkward! Though… maybe Oz and Spike might get along? They both liked music. Plus, werewolf and vampire. That might be interesting…. Whoa, what the hell was she thinking? They were never, ever, ever going to double date, what with Spike being a killer she was totally going to dust after their agreement was up. Which was just, like, in a week or two. It was almost certainly best not to couples-bond.

“You know, our TA in Psychology is pretty cute.”

“Is he?” Buffy frowned, trying to picture him.

Willow rolled her eyes in frustration. “You remember Riley. You dropped a textbook on his head.”

“Oh. That guy? I’m not sure, um, trying to kill him is a healthy start to a relationship.” Willow was still looking way too eager to matchmake, so Buffy rushed on. “Plus, isn’t there something in the student handbook about teaching assistants and students not, um, fraternizing?” Cordelia had given Buffy a good talking-to about statutory rape -- not an issue any more, thank goodness, but boy could Buffy have used that lecture a couple years back! -- power dynamics, and all sorts of stuff Buffy hadn’t ever thought about before. Her mom had really been lying down on the job in some respects.

Willow clearly hadn’t thought about that stuff either. “I suppose so. But, you know, exception for cuteness?”

Buffy shrugged again. The last thing she needed was another boyfriend candidate right now. “I’ll keep looking. So.” She took a deep breath. “How’s the magic going?”

“Oh, really good! I saw a flyer for a Wicca group on campus, and I’m going to start attending their meetings. There’s one tomorrow night. I can’t wait to learn more spells!” Willow’s eyes were alight.

Buffy flopped down on her bed, affecting nonchalance. “You were talking about some lie-detector crystal thingie you were working on. How’d that turn out?”

“Really good. Though it’s not really a lie detector. More of, um, a promise-keeper.”

That sounded even better. “So, what, you promise the crystal something? And then what happens if you break the promise?”

Willow pulled out a drawer, rummaging. “Wait, let me show you.”

She pulled out a thumb-sized quartz crystal, passing her hand over it and mumbling something in Latin, then pricking her finger with a pin. A drop of blood fell onto the crystal’s surface, spreading out with a faint crimson glow, and Willow held the crystal close to her mouth.

“I swear and promise not to drink Buffy’s milk.”

Buffy rolled over, propping her head on her elbow. “I said you could drink my milk anytime, Wills.”

“Just watch.” Willow went over to the fridge, poured herself a half-glass of milk out of the carton labeled “Buffy,” and drank it down quickly. Then she held the crystal to her mouth again. “I swear to thee I have kept my promise,” she said innocently.

The crystal turned black.

Buffy sat up. “Wow. That’s… that’s really awesome!”

Willow passed her hand over the crystal again, mumbling, and the crystal turned milky-white again. “Thanks! It’s, um, limited, but I’m sure we’ll have uses for it.”

“Let me see.” Willow tossed the crystal to Buffy, and she inspected it. “What was that you said to it?”

“Oh, that was just a memory-wipe. Once it’s wiped, all you need is the blood and the words. I swear and promise, and then you swear and promise, and then it’s on until the crystal gets wiped again.”

“That’s really cool.” Buffy tossed and caught the crystal. “Do you have another one?”

“I, uh, have a few.” Willow’s face turned a little red. “I kind of got carried away. Also, um, there were a couple that exploded. Just a little bit.”

Buffy frowned. That seemed weird, Willow being so gung-ho about promises being kept. Who did she think was going to break a promise to her? But… who was Buffy to argue when it was so convenient?  “Can I have two?”

Willow smiled knowingly. “Of course you can. You can have as many as you want. I can always make more.” She pulled out another crystal and tossed it over.

“Thanks.” Buffy turned it over and over in her hands.

“Whatcha going to use them for?” Willow bounced in her seat again, clearly having her own ideas about promises Buffy might be making or taking.

“Just some stuff,” Buffy said quickly. “Nothing big. I just, um, want to test them out for myself.”

“Okay. Let me know how they work, okay?”

“Will do.” Buffy started to feign a yawn, then got caught up in a real one. “Whoa. Guess I’m tired.”

Willow looked sympathetic. “Well, you did hang out with Parker all week. Sorry he didn’t work out.”

“Yeah, me too.” Buffy quickly tucked the crystals into her purse, right by her stakes. “But, you know, there’s always tomorrow.”

“And the sun’ll come out?” Willow grinned. “Sorry. I have red hair, even if it’s not curly. Annie jokes are mandatory.”

“Yeah, it sure will,” Buffy said absently, gathering her toiletries. The sun would come out, sure enough. And then it would set, and she’d meet Spike. To practice.

Oh god, tomorrow was going to suck.

*

Spike could barely wait for sunset; the sky was still light, tinged with red, when he emerged from a sewer entrance right near the atrocious sculpture, ducking from shadow to shadow until it was dark enough for his skin to stop smoking; he finally darted into the concrete enclosure, patting briskly at his hair.

She was there waiting for him, arms folded, a stake in one hand while the other was clenched in a fist.

"Took you long enough," she sniped.

"Sun's barely down," he retorted. "Unless you wanted to practice kissing a big pile of dust."

"Believe me, I considered it." She sighed then, angrily. "But we made a deal. Plus, I am never going to find anyone else in the world as annoying as you."

"Ta," he growled, stung. Here he’d nearly killed her a good… almost a dozen times, and the worst she could say about him was annoying? He’d half a mind to kill her right now!

She sighed again, and shoved her stake into her purse. "Here," she muttered, holding out her hand.

Spike glared at the twin crystals nestled in her grip. She'd been clutching them so tightly they'd left red imprints in her palm. "What's this, then?"

"Told you. Lie detectors. This way we can tell we're keeping up our end of the deal. Take one."

Spike rolled his eyes and took the larger one. “So what do these do, exactly? Explode if we’re naughty?”

“No, they just turn black if we break the deal.”

“Ooh. Scary.”

“Shut up.” Buffy took a deep breath. “Okay. So, first we have to prick our fingers and get blood on the crystal. Then you have to say, ‘I swear and promise not to hurt or kill any humans, or drink any human blood.’”

“Is that what I’m promising? Seems like a bit more than what we’d agreed.” It was what he’d planned on doing of course, for the sake of the game, but no need to let her know that.

Buffy raised her eyebrows. “You want out? I’m ready to throw down.”

“No, but you have to promise not to hurt, kill, or otherwise inconvenience any vampires or demons.”

“Except in case of apocalypse,” Buffy said firmly.

“Bloody hell. All right, except in the highly-unlikely case of apocalypse.”

“Okay then. You first.” Buffy proffered a rhinestone brooch. “Finger.”

Spike gave her the two-fingered salute as he poked his index finger, letting the blood fall onto the crystal.

“Say it right the first time,” Buffy hastened. “I don’t know how to reset these things.”

“Sod off.” He sighed and rattled off the slayer’s words. “I swear and promise not to hurt or kill any humans, or drink any human blood.” He felt the crystal vibrate in his hand. “This bugger better not explode.”

“Oh, it won’t. Willow said these were the non-splodey ones.” Buffy took the pin back and blooded her own crystal. “I swear and promise not to hurt, kill, or otherwise deliberately inconvenience any vampires or demons, except in case of apocalypse.”

He glared at her. “You added a word.”

“Oh, stifle it. I’m not going to feel bad if some demon decides to trip over my backpack. That’s on them.” Buffy snagged Spike’s crystal, tucking them both in her pocket.

“Well, what if a human trips and, uh, falls onto my fangs?”

Buffy raised her eyebrows challengingly.

“All right, it was worth a try.” On a whim, Spike reached out and caught up the Slayer’s hand, eyeing the blood welling up.

“Hey!”

“Not going to drink,” he grinned. “After all, I promised.” He lifted his own bleeding finger and rubbed it against hers, mingling the blood -- he tingled at the contact, right down to his toes -- and then reached out to paint a bloody stripe down Buffy’s cheek. “Now you do me.” He cocked an eyebrow suggestively.

Buffy rolled her eyes, but she wiped her own finger down Spike’s cheek. “Yay twinsies,” she grumbled.

Spike grinned in anticipation. “All right, then. Formalities concluded, job well done, shall we get started?” At her narrowed eyes, he quickly frowned. “Not that I want to practice kissing. It’s not natural, after all. Utterly repulsive. You and your bloody PDA.”

“You’re telling me. Totally gross.” Buffy sighed. “I’ve never actually been much for PDA. You know? I always preferred my displays of affection to be more private. Though… I guess private also starts with a P? That’s confusing. But, yeah, let’s get it over with.” She made a face.

Spike stepped closer, fury bubbling up yet again at her clear disgust. He hadn’t expected her to be eager, of course, but this had been her bloody idea, after all! She could at least treat him like a partner, like a fellow revenge-seeking compatriot. And so he decided.

He was going to make her eat her words.

He may have been utterly devoted to one woman for more than a century, but Spike had also been hunting women for more than a century, flirting and seducing them away into the darkness -- and when he’d started, it hadn’t been like today, with women owning their sexuality and trying to drag him off into the darkness. No, women of decades ago had been all fenced about by society, hadn’t they? Far harder to get them alone, that was certain, and yet Spike had managed, and it was largely because he had really learned how to kiss. Not just the way Drusilla liked, carnal and single-minded, but the way a skittish, resistant woman liked.

And so he set his hands on Buffy’s shoulders and pressed his forehead to hers, not even approaching her lips, just inhaling the sweet scent of her breath and waiting.

After a bit, she shifted uneasily. “Geez, Spike. What exactly are you practicing?”

“Just getting you used to me,” he said easily, brushing his nose against hers.

“Well, I’m used to you. Get on with it.”

Smiling inwardly, he brushed her lips lightly, just once.

Buffy shuddered. “God, this is gross,” she muttered.

“Your bloody idea,” he muttered back. “Bloody deal with it.”

“Fine,” she growled, and when he took another sip of a kiss, she sighed faintly, and he kissed her again, and then again, until she trembled the tiniest bit, then again but a little bit firmer, enough to really be called a kiss, keeping his lips soft and pliant, and there, she was swaying into it, so he applied more pressure, the tiniest flick of his tongue, and god, she tasted fantastic, like rich whiskey, he slipped his tongue between her plush lips and hers met it, tentative, and she inhaled sharply, and oh yes, he had her, he pulled her closer, until her breasts were brushing his chest, and god her mouth was hot, hot and wet and that whiskey taste was all her, rich and sweet, she tasted like power and he slid deeper, pulsing his tongue against hers and she pulsed right back, a little growl coming from the back of her throat and oh god, he needed more, he kissed her backwards until she was up against one of the concrete arches, sliding his hands around to her arse, and she was clutching at him, fingers tangled in the lapels of his duster and he wanted her, he wanted her so much, he hiked her leg up around his hip and ground into her and devoured her heat and her gasps and her passion and--

He shoved away, stumbling back a few steps. What the hell had just happened?

She was staring at him, wide-eyed and gasping, looking just as shell-shocked as he felt, and then he remembered what was supposed to be happening here, the script he was supposed to be following, and he drew himself up tall and deliberately scrubbed the back of his fist across his mouth, wiping the kiss away.

She glared at him, eyes narrowed, and then turned and spit on the ground.

“That was completely gross,” she sniffed.

“Absolutely disgusting,” he agreed, still trembling.

“How long do we have to keep this up for?”

“Less than a week, I sincerely hope.”

“Ugh. That long?”

“Unfortunately.”

They both fell silent, still staring at each other, chests heaving.

“Well,” Buffy said finally. “I think that’s enough practice for today.”

“Agreed,” Spike said shortly.

Buffy turned away, staring off vaguely at the concrete sculpture. “Same time tomorrow?”

He shrugged, feigning unconcern. “If you like.”

“Well, I don’t like, but… well, we did do the blood-crystal-thingies. May as well see it through. Right?” Her voice was subdued.

He bared his teeth. “I’m sure you’ll do a better job tomorrow.”

That riled her up. “Oh, fuck you,” she bit out, eyes going wide just after, like she wasn’t used to swearing out loud.

“No, thank you,” Spike said coldly, though he could feel a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. So bloody precious, she was.

“That wasn’t an offer, jerk.”

“Good, ‘cause I’m not buying, bitch.”

“Asshole.”

Spike rolled his eyes.“You know, maybe I was wrong. Maybe I do hate you more than Angelus.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, I hate you more than that!”

“Good!”

Spike glared at Buffy for a long time, and he was obviously demented, because he wanted to kiss her again. He didn’t, because… because, but he wanted to. Desperately. Probably because he wanted to kill her so very, very badly? That had to be it.

Buffy finally sighed, eyes dropping. “See you tomorrow, okay? It’s only for a couple of weeks.”

“Yeah. See you tomorrow. Here?”

“Maybe the gazebo? This is kind of… a weird place to hang out.” Buffy laughed faintly. “We should probably look for a better place.”

“I know this motel….”

“Ew. No.” But she laughed, and he laughed, and they were back to cordially hating each other again, heading off in opposite directions, and Spike felt like he’d got his balance again, like the stars were back to their usual orbit.

Except… maybe not all the way back to normal.

What the bloody hell had just happened?

 

 

Chapter Text

Willow was gone when Buffy returned to their room, probably still off at that Wicca club meeting, which was good because tonight was definitely not a gushy-soft-things-friend sort of night.

No, Buffy was in need of a fellow bitch.

She dialed Cordelia’s number carefully, absently noting that her fingers were still a little trembly, even after walking all the way across campus from where she’d… had her business meeting with Spike, which was all sorts of bothersome, but that was why she was calling in the first place, to get advice, because that had not gone according to plan. Not that she’d planned very plannily in the first place, apparently, because in all her vague talk about PDA, she hadn’t ever considered what it might be like to actually kiss someone who wasn’t Angel. Particularly not someone she detested with every fiber of her being.

It had been horrible.

It had been revolting.

It had been… neither horrible nor revolting, actually.

Something was obviously wrong with her.

The phone rang and rang, and Buffy was about to disconnect, since obviously Cordelia was out having a fantastic Los-Angeles-Sunday-night, but then the phone finally connected.

Cordelia didn’t bother with a greeting. “This can’t be good.”

Buffy frowned at the phone. “How do you know? Also, hi, Cordy, how are you?”

“Been worse,” Cordelia said briskly. “I know it’s not good because A, it’s Sunday night, B, it’s hardly past dinner time, and C, it’s you calling. Please tell me the world’s not ending tonight.”

“The world’s not ending tonight,” Buffy said automatically, though she didn’t actually feel too certain. “Also, I’m fine. Thanks for asking!”

“Well, that’s something. How are things going with that guy? What was his name, Porter?”

“Parker.” Buffy lay down on the bed, twisting the phone cord in her fingers. “And they’re not. I--” --dumped him? Never started dating him? Just walked away from him at a party last night and haven’t bothered to call him since? “--I found someone else.”

Cordelia’s shrug was almost audible. “I thought he might not work out.”

“Why not?”

“Buffy, you used the word nice five times when you were describing him.”

“And nice is good.”

Nice is good if it’s part of the package, not if it’s the only thing you can think of to say about a guy. First off, you need something else to fire things up. Second, any guy who’s five-times nice probably isn’t that nice at all. Actual decent guys act like human beings. Men only act one-hundred-percent nice if they’re scumbags out for something.”

Buffy wasn’t going to argue with Cordy about a guy she’d walked away from, even though she was obviously wrong about Parker. “What if they act like scumbags?”

“Then they’re just scumbags.”

“Good to know.”

“This new guy have a name?”

Had Cordelia ever actually met Spike? Would she recall the name? Buffy couldn’t remember, but wasn’t taking any chances. “William.”

“And is William nice?”

Buffy laughed before she could stop herself. “Oh, no. Definitely not.”

“Ooh. Is he naughty?”

Buffy didn’t answer for a long time, just twisting and untwisting the phone cord until she realized she was starting to untwist its curliness. “I kissed him,” she finally said.

“And?”

“There is no and. I kissed him, full stop, end of tonight’s thrilling episode.”

Cordelia sighed impatiently. “And how was the kiss?”

“Cordelia, the last person I kissed was Angel.”

“That does not answer my question.”

“I don’t know,” Buffy said quietly. “It was different.”

“Different, gross and revolting? Or different, toes curled?”

Buffy took a deep breath. “There may have been some slight toe-curling. But I didn’t like it. It felt wrong.”

It was Cordelia’s turn to be silent, for long enough that Buffy started to worry if they’d lost the connection. Dorm phones were iffy.

“Wrong how?” Cordelia finally asked, voice surprisingly gentle.

Crime against nature wrong, Buffy didn’t say. “It felt like I was cheating.”

“On Angel?”

“Yeah.”

“Buffy, Angel broke up with you. The whole point of you even looking at your William -- god, what a lame name, I hope he has at least one tattoo -- the whole point is that you are single and a free agent and you’re going to show Angel that you can be happy without him.”

“I know.” Buffy sighed. “But it’s the first time, you know? The first time that isn’t Angel.”

“Wait, ever?”

Buffy shrugged, even knowing Cordelia couldn’t see it. “I mean, not ever ever, but it might as well have been. The other ones were just… practice. Angel was real.”

“And he’s over.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“You deserve to have something else real, Buffy. It’s insane to think your romantic life began and ended with your high school boyfriend who walked away. Plus, how are you going to ever show up Angel if all you do is keep mooning?” Cordelia was silent for a long time. “Buffy, are you still trying to get revenge on Angel?”

“Yeah,” Buffy said stoutly, wishing she felt so confident. “Of course I am. I am moving on, I am going to be happy, I am going to show Angel Happy Moved-On Buffy, and he can eat his unbeating heart out.”

“Okay, just checking.”

“If I knew where he was it would be easier. He just left, you know? He left Giles a phone number, um, in case of apocalypse, but I’m not going to ask for it. Xander, too, I think.” Buffy laughed. “Actually, I think he gave everyone his phone number but me.”

Cordelia hummed noncommittally.

“But anyhow. Kissing Sp-- William felt weird.”

“But toe curling.”

Buffy nodded reluctantly. “It’s bad.”

“But good. You need to do it more.”

“That’s the plan,” Buffy laughed ruefully.

“Well, I expect a full report. And I do mean full.” A tapping noise came over the line, like Cordelia was drumming her fingernails on the receiver. “No leaving out the good bits.”

Buffy felt her cheeks turning red. “I guess.”

“There is no guess. Do or do not, by which I mean do. And also, don’t ever let on to Xander that I’m still quoting his stupid movies.”

“We’re… we’re getting together tomorrow. Me and William.”

“Good.”

Buffy took a deep breath. “Cordelia, is it really okay?”

“What, for you to be dating?”

“To… to enjoy a kiss, even if it’s with someone I--” hate “--I’m not in love with?”

“Buffy, a kiss is a kiss. It’s either a good kiss or a bad kiss. Sleek or slobbery. Hot or lukewarm. Worry about falling in love with him later.”

Buffy was so not going there. “Okay.”

"So, was it sleek, or slobbery?"

She touched her lips, remembering. "...Sleek."

"And was it hot, or lukewarm?"

His mouth had been cool, but she'd liked it, liked the way he'd warmed to match her as they went on. "Hot. Definitely hot."

"So it was a good kiss."

Buffy wanted to say no, but she knew Cordelia would see right through the lie. "It was good." She hadn't wanted it to stop while it was going on, until she'd come to her senses after.

"Well then. You go kiss your William, and if he makes your toes curl, maybe you need to do more than just kiss."

Light PDA is on the menu, Buffy thought, and oh. What had she meant by that? Kissing, yeah, but what else? What had she gotten herself into?

Cordy apparently took her silence as resistance. "I'm serious, Buffy. Do you know how hard it is to find someone who can kiss? And if they can't kiss, believe me, they're not going to do any better with the rest of your body. Don’t let your William hang out on first base until the inning’s over. You need to let that man try to run all your bases. See if he has other talents."

Buffy was suddenly sure Spike did, but even talking about it was making her feel all squirmy and unsettled. Time to get off that subject. “All right. So, how’s Cordelia doing?”

Cordelia laughed sharply. “Well, I… I got a job.”

“Acting?”

“No, it’s… it’s office work. Invoices and stuff. Bo-ring.”

Buffy laughed. “Boring sounds pretty awesome right now. Some nights I’d definitely rather be filing and typing than dealing with vampires.”

“Yeah, uh, no vampires,” Cordelia said quickly. “A totally, completely normal job working for a detective agency.”

“Good thing you left Sunnydale.”

“Yeah. Good thing.”

“Do you like the people you work with?”

“Sort of? I mean, there’s only two. The one guy, he’s kind of a perv, but I guess he’s mostly okay. The boss is… nice.”

“Five-times nice?”

“Definitely not.”

“Well, I guess you can keep him, then.” Buffy rolled over on her stomach, wincing when something hard dug into her hipbone. She wriggled around and stuffed her hand into her pocket, pulling out the two crystals, holding them thoughtfully up to the light. Crap, she should have given Spike the one with her promise. That would have been the fair thing to do. She’d just been so… ugh about the kissage that she’d forgotten. And then… well, they’d kissed, and she’d forgotten more. At least they were different shapes so she could tell them apart. She’d give him her crystal tomorrow when they…. She drifted off for a moment, imagining meeting Spike at the gazebo, before realizing she’d left Cordelia hanging. She couldn’t even remember what they’d been talking about. All she could think about was kissing and toes and curling and kissing and…. “So, anyone curling your toes?”

“Not lately. But, you know, we can’t all be co-eds gone wild. Some of us have to work for a living.”

Buffy could argue a whole bunch of points there, but it seemed rude. Cordelia really had lived in a world of suck since her dad’s financial SNAFUs. “Well, some of us have Psych quizzes tomorrow.”

“Ooh, the horror!”

“Do you have to be in at eight?”

“No, the, uh, the hours are nonstandard. Mostly late nights.” Cordelia’s breath huffed faintly. “Buffy, are you still hung up on Angel?”

“Maybe-- yeah. I’m working on it.”

“Okay. Um, keep working. You deserve… you deserve better.”

“Thanks.” Buffy twisted the not-very-twisty-anymore cord again.

“I, um, I’ve got to go. Work.”

“Yeah. Okay. Thanks for listening, Cordy.”

“My pleasure. Oh, and call me when William steals second base.”

Not going to happen, Buffy thought desperately, though she immediately pictured herself topless in front of Spike. She shuddered -- in disgust, she tried to tell herself. Total disgust. “I will.”

The phone clicked, and Buffy hung up the receiver, flopping back onto the bed and running her fingers thoughtfully over her lips. It’s okay, she thought carefully. It’s okay that kissing Spike was sleek and hot and good. Cordy said it was okay.

After all, it was only a kiss.

*

Harmony spritzed a whole bunch of minty breath-freshening spray in her mouth on her way into the lair. It wasn’t like she’d been cheating on Spike, of course. It had only been a kiss. One kiss. One really long kiss. Plus, Spike had already dumped her, so it wasn’t actually cheating. Especially since she totally planned on eating Parker, eventually. But it was nice, having someone who treated her like she was as beautiful and fantastic as she knew she was.

She just wanted Spike to think she was waiting for him.

He’d come back to her once he killed the slayer. He’d said so. Or, not said it, but hinted it, and that was good enough for Harmony. Unlike some people, she was actually loyal and devoted to her sweetie.

The tunnel was bigger now; Brian was looking at his maps and directing minions, and totally ignored Harmony when she came in. Which is what he’d always done, actually, but now it was because she wasn’t Spike’s girlfriend instead of because she was Spike’s girlfriend, and so it hurt.

“Where’s my Blondie Bear?” she asked, holding her chin high.

“Big Bad’s taking a breather,” Brian said absently. “In his quarters.”

“Well. Don’t come bother us. We’ll want to be alone.

Brian rolled his eyes, which was, like, super rude, but Harmony was totally the bigger person and just walked off, making sure she swung her butt so everyone would look at it.

Spike was lying on his bed staring at the ceiling, which was weird, but convenient. Harmony posed in his doorway, eyeing him. She could see from the way his jeans fit that he was turned on, too, which was even more convenient. He was probably thinking about her, since he hadn’t gotten laid last night. He’d gotten some new sheets, red satin, and a lot more candles, but the room didn’t look anywhere near as nice as Harmony had made it. He had to have noticed.

“Miss me, baby?” she purred, sticking her chest out.

“What?” He startled, leaping to his feet, then sat back down grouchily. “Oh. It’s you.”

Harmony strutted closer to the bed, swinging her hips. “I just came by to check on you. Make sure you were… feeling all right.”

“Well, bugger off,” Spike said shortly.

Harmony froze in her tracks then, not because of what he said, but because of what she smelled on his breath.

“You kissed her!” she yelped, surprised.

Spike rolled his eyes. “Well, yeah. Told you I was her new lover.”

“Pretend lover!”

“Real enough for me.” He bared his teeth in a nasty grin. “Now sod off.”

Harmony stamped her foot. “You’re so mean!”

“Am I?” He shrugged.

“I don’t know why I put up with--” Harmony broke off, remembering that she was supposed to be all sweet and make him think about what he’d thrown away. “You know, I don’t need you.”

“Lovely.”

“I found a new boyfriend,” she said proudly. “Someone who treats me like a queen.”

“Ah. Gave him a blowie, did you?” Spike cracked his neck, looking all bored and stuff. So rude!

“No! He’s a… a gentleman!”

“You should give him a blowie. Put your best foot forward and all that.”

Harmony felt like crying. This wasn’t going the way she’d planned at all. “You are so mean!”

He shrugged. “Vampire.”

“I bet the slayer doesn’t even know how to give a blow job!”

“Do you really think so?” Spike smiled evilly. “Well then, perhaps I can give her lessons. She can practice on me until she’s got it just right. It’ll be a sacrifice, but I imagine I’ll endure it.”

“You’ll miss me!” Harmony stomped her feet again. “You’re going to come crawling back to me any day now, and I’m totally not going to take you back!”

“Pity.” Spike lay back down on the bed. “Bugger off.” He stared back up at the ceiling, brow furrowed in thought.

“Fine! I’m going to go… go bugger my new boyfriend!” Harmony didn’t actually know what sod or bugger meant, but she was pretty sure they meant sex. Spike would totally be jealous if he thought she was having sex with someone else, right?

Spike laughed. “You do that. Let me know how he likes it.”

“I will! I really, really will!”

Spike didn’t even answer that time, just waved his hand in dismissal, still looking up at the ceiling like there was a really hard math problem written up there. Which was stupid. Harmony could see there wasn’t anything written on the ceiling at all.

And Spike thought he was so smart.

*

Spike was obviously an imbecile.

He’d spent the whole rest of the night after his interlude with the slayer lying about his quarters with a raging stiffy, which was enraging for all sorts of reasons. First off, yeah, the slayer was hot, but she wasn’t all-night-blue-balls hot. Secondly, he’d been presented a solution on a silver platter when Harm had shown up looking for a shag, but he hadn’t taken it, partly because he’d wanted to stick to his plan but mostly because he just hadn’t wanted to shag her, which was appalling. And then, when he’d finally given in to a thorough wank, it had been to images of the slayer’s lips and eyes and her bloody hair, not to images of her bleeding and tormented and dead.

He’d gone mental. Round the bend. He was a fucking lunatic.

He wanted to kiss her again.

He’d managed to sleep after his vastly-unsatisfying release, which was a small favor, and woken in the afternoon to review the dig’s progress with Brian, coming along quite nicely, and then he’d had his spot of stolen pig’s-blood-and-burba-weed, combed his hair a few dozen times, and headed out well before twilight to the bloody gazebo, because he didn’t want to wait until sunset.

Completely mental. A fucking loony. Lights were on, but nobody bloody well home.

She wasn’t there when he arrived, but since it was technically not quite night yet -- the sun was still up, but the gazebo was in the shade of the Foreign Languages Building so he could get to it without even covering his head -- he supposed that was understandable, even though it pissed him off. He passed the time by stalking around the perimeter of the octagonal floor, counting how many paces it took him to a side. He had it down to an art, his bootheel neatly turning at each of the eight corners after four long paces, when she finally arrived, wearing a beige camisole top and jeans. She looked delicious.

Buffy stopped at the top of the gazebo stairs, looking nonplussed. “What are you doing here?”

He stopped mid-pace and turned to her, glaring. “Thought we were meeting here.” What a bitch! When he’d been waiting for a good ten minutes!

“We are. It’s just… it’s not night yet.”

“How very astute of you,” Spike growled.

“I thought we were meeting at-- never mind. Here.” She threw something at him, hard; he snatched it out of the air instinctively, then winced. What if she’d thrown bloody holy water at him? How thick could he be?

It wasn’t holy water, though; it was a crystal.

“My promise,” Buffy said shortly. “You should hang on to it. I’ll hold on to yours. That’s fair, right?”

“Suppose so.” Spike turned the crystal over in his hand a couple times, feeling an odd stab in the vicinity of his chest.

“We have to use them, though.”

“Thought we did.”

“We set the promise. Now we have to prove we kept it. Here, hold it out.”

Spike proffered the crystal.

“I swear to thee I have kept my promise,” Buffy breathed, her warm breath fogging the crystal’s shiny surface. The crystal stayed white.

“Didn’t switch out the crystals, did you?” Spike said nastily, though it did look like the same crystal she’d shown him the night before, down to the flaws in the facets.

“I’m not a cheater,” Buffy sniffed. “Now you.” She held out the crystal Spike had promised to.

“I swear to thee I have kept my promise,” he said, the fervency in his own voice surprising.

Buffy stared at the crystal for a long time, like she was waiting for it to turn black, but it didn’t, and at last she sighed. “Okay. Cool.” She tucked his crystal back in her pocket and Spike dropped hers in the pocket of his duster, the weight feeling oddly significant.

“So I guess we should practice more,” she sighed.

“Only if you want to,” Spike grumbled. “Not looking for bloody charity.”

“We’re partners,” the slayer said grudgingly. “We agreed to this, right? So even though it’s, um, totally gross, we’re in this together.”

“Absolutely vile,” Spike said viciously.

“Really, really gross,” Buffy whispered, walking towards him.

“Utterly detestable,” Spike murmured, eyeing her soft lips as she approached.

“Just so, so--” Buffy tilted her head up and he leaned his down, and their lips met in the middle, cutting off whatever word she’d been about to say -- probably gross, she really had a way with words -- and he sank into the kiss like she was a bloody quagmire.

Except she wasn’t there with him. Oh, she was at first, her lips soft and sweet, that rich whiskey-taste of her heady and glorious, but then she pulled away, hesitant. He coaxed her back to him, tender as veal, but it was just getting good when she flinched again.

“Are you even bloody trying?” he muttered the third time it happened.

“Of course I’m trying,” she said sharply, and then she lunged in for another kiss, and god her mouth was hot, hot and perfect and he twined his tongue with hers, drinking in the taste and the feel of her, sliding his hands down the graceful arch of her back, tugging her hips closer to his until her belly was up against his erection, and he groaned and pressed closer and she squeaked in the back of her throat and pulled back, looking at him with wide eyes like she didn’t even recognize him, and then she shoved him away, hard, and turned and ran.

He ran after her.

*

Buffy stumbled down the stairs of the gazebo and a little ways down the path of the little butterfly garden that surrounded it before she could stop her feet from running. But she knew she was being stupid, she was totally overreacting, and she could hear his footsteps behind her, so she managed to stop, panting and wild in the middle of the gravel pathway.

He caught up to her a moment later, stopping bare inches behind her. “What the bloody hell is your bloody problem, Slayer?”

“I’m sorry,” she blurted out. “I swear I’m trying!”

“You’re very bloody trying!” Spike huffed. “You’re trying my bloody patience, that’s what!”

“I’m sorry!” she moaned again, burying her face in her hands, because it was just too embarrassing.

“What is your bleeding hangup, slayer? I thought this was your bloody master plan. I thought you wanted to get your revenge on bloody Angelus!”

“I do! I just--” Buffy wrapped her arms around herself, still facing resolutely away from Spike. “I’m not supposed to… to like it.”

There was a long moment of silence, and then Spike started to laugh, a low chuckle that pissed Buffy off to no end.

“Stop laughing. It’s not funny.”

“Oh, but it is, pet.” Spike’s hands landed on her bare shoulders, gentle. “And how, may I ask, were you expecting to fool Angelus if you didn’t like it?”

“We’re going to, um, act coupley. When he sees us, he’s going to--”

“Doesn’t matter what he sees,” Spike interrupted her. “It’s going to depend on what he smells.”

“What?” Buffy tried to turn around, but Spike’s hands were firm, keeping her facing away. He took a step closer, so she could feel his chest brushing against her shoulders, his lips close to her ear.

“Got a news flash for you, princess. Angelus is a vampire.”

“Yes, I am aware of that fact,” Buffy snapped. “I had noticed.”

“Had you?” His voice dropped to a low murmur. “And were you also aware that vampire senses are stronger than humans? That things taste stronger, sound louder, smell sharper.” His hands were stroking her biceps, soothingly, except that Buffy didn’t want to be soothed so it just wound her up more.

“Yeah,” she muttered, letting her hands drop to her sides clenched in fists.

“So, if you don’t like it -- if you’re not turned on as all bloody get out -- he’ll be able to smell it.”

“What? That’s gross. And probably not even true.”

“Believe me, love. Vampires learn to trust our nose above all else. Scent tells us who’s an easy mark, who’s got disease in their blood, who’s looking for a tumble. Can tell from across a room if you’re turned on, love.” His hands stroked slowly down her arms to her wrists, fingers lightly circling them. “Doesn’t matter how good a show you put on. If Angelus walks in and you smell like you’re watching a bloody documentary, he won’t bat an eye. He’ll walk right back out the door, secure in the knowledge that you’re still his girl.” He smoothed his fingers down over the backs of her hands, unknotting her fists and then weaving his fingers in, until he could slide them between hers, all laced together.

Buffy swallowed, senses tingling. “I’m not his girl.” She could still feel the path Spike’s fingers had trailed down her arms, goosebumps left in their wake, and her breath was coming faster, she could feel it, feel her heartbeat speeding up to match, and she instinctively curled her fingers around his, holding on tight.

Spike’s lips brushed her ear. “Yeah? Prove it.”

Buffy swallowed, eyes fixed on the path ahead of her. “So, you mean I have to… really? Really?”

He pressed a light kiss to the soft spot just behind her jaw. “Really really.” He kissed slowly down the tendon of her throat. “Don’t worry, baby. I’ve got you.”

And oh, her senses were screaming at her now, a cacophonous chorus, every inch of her drenched in awareness of danger, because he was kissing her throat, a vampire, an evil vampire, an evil vampire who hated her, his lips were on her throat, he could bite her at any moment, and at the same time it felt good, it felt wonderful, the soft pressure of his lips, the flick of his tongue, and oh, those were teeth but blunt teeth, human teeth, nibbling delicately at her deltoid, and she gripped his hands tight, ready to fling him away if he bit her for real, except he didn’t, and she was left holding on for dear life as his lips kept on, brushing the strap of her cami off her shoulder as he kissed down her bicep, then back across her shoulder blade, nuzzling her hair aside to kiss up her spine to the nape of her neck, and then his lips traveled back across to her ear and then to her jaw, the sensitive underside, and up her cheek and she turned her face to meet him, feeling her own lips trembling as she brushed them against his, and then all of her was turning, melting into him, her hands releasing his and sliding up his chest and around his neck, gliding into his hair, and his hands settled at the small of her back, caressing the bare patch of skin between her top and her jeans, and his tongue was on hers and god it was sleek, sleek and hot, everything she’d confessed to Cordelia and more, it was better than good, and she drew him back off the path, out of the lamplight, back behind the gazebo until her back was up against the rough wood and he pressed his body to hers, groaning into her mouth, rubbing his chest against her, and she arched into him, the friction against her breasts making her dizzy, except she had to breathe, she broke away, gasping for air, and he drew back and just looked at her, eyes glittering and unreadable.

“That’s right, pet,” he murmured, one hand coming up to caress her cheek as he continued as if they hadn’t stopped talking to kiss in the first place. “To win this, to get our revenge, we’re going to have to go deep. We can’t just put on a bloody play. You need to have passion coming out of your pores. And I… I need to be covered with you. Drenched in the scent of your heat.”

Buffy looked at him, still panting, wondering just how much light PDA it would take to cover Spike in her scent, to drench him, and just what she smelled like to a vampire, and god, what did she smell like now? Did she smell good? Did she smell… did she smell turned on? How could she even ask?

Except she didn’t have to ask, because he lowered his face to her shoulder, inhaling deeply. “Yeah. Just like that, love,” he whispered into her collarbone. “That’s just the scent we need. Except more.” He pressed his lips sweetly to the hollow of her throat, and it felt electric, and powerful, and good. So, so good, and bad at the same time, and Buffy had to agree. She needed more.

“Then I guess we’ll just have to keep practicing,” Buffy said in a throaty voice she barely recognized as her own.

“If you insist,” Spike groaned, and then his lips were on hers again, and it was so much better than good.

It was perfect.

*

Harmony sighed mournfully. It really was too bad that Parker was human, because if he had been a vampire, he would have been perfect.

She had stormed out of Spike’s lair and off to the little side room she had claimed as her own -- well, there was another vampire who said it was his room, but when Harmony had made up her bed on one side with all her blankets and pillows and pointedly set up the screen as a divider and told him if he touched her Spike was so going to make him regret ever being sired, he’d just sighed all mean and told her to fuck off and had left her alone after that, so it was kind of like having her own room. Anyhow, she’d curled up in her blankets and cried until it was almost dark, and then she’d gotten changed into her cutest bustier and done her makeup and her hair until she totally looked like she’d stepped off the cover of Cosmo, and swept past the lame tunnel crew and out of the lair, because she had a date with her boyfriend.

Spike wasn’t there to see her exit, which made it kind of a waste, but maybe Brian would tell him later.

So anyhow, she’d joined Parker at another party -- that was another nice thing about college guys, they always had parties to hang out at, instead of lame tunnels and boring graveyards -- and she’d made sure he didn’t ask too many hard questions about her, keeping the focus on him, because guys liked that, and also because his first couple of questions about the physics department had been really confusing. Like, did she care if they had the best telescope in California? Or lots of lasers? Talking about him was much safer.

He was so sweet, though. He kept bringing the conversation back to her. Like, he’d been caressing her shoulder in the gentlest way, and he’d noticed her sire’s bite.

“Wow,” he’d said in surprise. “Did you have a run-in with an angry puppy, too?”

“Too?”

“Oh, Buffy had a scar just like that. She said it was a puppy.”

“Oh. Well, you know, she started telling that story after she heard about my scar. She was always such a copycat.”

He shrugged. “Well, I can see why she’d want to be like you.”

“What about you?” Harmony asked quickly. “Do you have any, um, scars?”

“Oh, mine are all psychological,” he laughed.

That was confusing. “Like, on your brain?”

Parker blinked, then smiled again. “Well, my father died last year.”

“Aww,” Harmony crooned. “Poor baby!”

“No, it’s okay. I'm not trying some deep, get sympathy routine. I mean, don't you just hate guys that are all 'I'm dark and brooding so give me love?'”

“Oh, totally. Or, like, guys who get all hung up on their ex-girlfriends and don’t know how to treat their current girlfriends. Those are the worst.”

Parker blinked again, mouth dropping open for a moment before he continued. “I just wanted to say that it was so sad because there was a lot of stuff that he didn't finish. It makes me think about, you know, living for now.”

“That’s so smart,” Harmony gushed. “I mean, when I died -- of course, uh, I didn’t really die, because duh, I’m here -- I was like, wow, I should have totally used Daddy’s credit card and bought that Vuitton purse I wanted.”

“That's great,” Parker said, smiling sadly. “I mean, everybody says they get it. 'Oh, man. Me too. Live for today.' But what they really want is a reason to goof off. Not study for finals.”

“Studying is totally overrated,” Harmony said with conviction.

Another blink. “But you’re in the physics department. You must study all the time.”

“Oh, well, yeah. Of course. But, um, I don’t let it stop me. I still live for now.” Geez, why did he keep wanting to know about physics? Why didn’t he want to know how she got her hair so perfectly shiny and smooth, even when it was humid? Harmony could talk for hours about that science. “So, why don’t you tell me about your major?” she said coyly, leaning in towards him so he could see how awesome her cleavage was. She’d even sprinkled on some glitter today.

Parker smiled modestly. “Well, I declared premed. But I hated it. So I switched to history.”

Ugh. Harmony had hated history. History teachers always wanted to make you do, like, projects with research and stuff. But she smiled and looked interested, because he obviously liked it. “Wow. You must really like, um, dates and stuff.”

He laughed. “No, there’s something amazing about these huge events.  You know, when you dig down into them, they're just about regular people trying to make choices. When you look back at it, it seems like people were swept up in events they couldn't control. But I don't believe that. I believe you have a choice in everything you do.”

He was looking at her with those big eyes, and looking at her lips, and Harmony may have gotten a C-minus in English, but she sure knew how to read guys’ faces, and so she leaned in and gave him what he wanted, one sweet, perfect kiss.

He drew away after, looking shy. “Is this okay? Because I can stop if you want to. It's your choice.”

Harmony set her hand to his face and sighed. It really was a shame that he was human. Why couldn’t Spike have been like this? All sweet and tender and letting her be the boss? But no, Spike had to be all mean and grr and I’m the Big Bad! and sod off! and here was Parker being all sweet and gentle... and so she realized what she had to do.

She ran her hand through Parker’s hair and down the side of his neck, down inside the collar of his polo shirt.

“What are you doing?” he asked softly.

Harmony smiled beatifically, leaning into his shoulder. “Making a choice,” she whispered.

She vamped out and sank her teeth into his throat.

Chapter Text

“Hello, love.”

Buffy turned to greet her lover, her breath quickening at the sight of him in the candlelight. “Hello, Spike,” she breathed, meeting his eyes significantly. His eyes flared just the tiniest bit -- so powerful, the way she affected him! -- and he leaned in for a kiss, just a peck but with such intention behind it that she tingled all the way down to the toes of her boots. It was so hot, she didn’t care that people might be watching; she tilted her chin up and caught his earlobe between her teeth, just enough pressure to let him know she meant business. “You look good tonight.”

“So do you, my love,” he said warmly, kissing her again. His hand lifted to stroke her cheek, her hair, and then down onto her shoulder, and--

She flinched.

Spike stepped away, jaw twitching with ire. “Sodding hell, Slayer!”

“Oh, shut up, Spike!” Buffy buried her face in her hands, frustrated.

They’d been meeting for a week, and Buffy was at the end of her rope. The gazebo had proven to be not private enough for their smoochfests -- not after that first night, when a pack of drunken freshmen had tried to start a fight with Spike that Buffy had barely averted -- and so the next night she’d met Spike at a dusty crypt just inside the gates of an older cemetery, one that didn’t have any space left so they didn’t need to worry about close encounters of the freshly-undead kind. It had given them just the privacy they’d needed, cozy enough once they’d dressed it up with some candles, and after six consecutive nights of Really Serious Smooching, Buffy had figured they were getting somewhere.

Except she hadn’t counted on her slayer instincts.

Kissing they’d managed to get down. If there had been an academic award for kissing, like Phi Beta Smoocha, Buffy would have her golden key already. The kissing was really, really, really, really, phenomenally good.

The problem was, they needed to appear in public as if they were dating. Which was not, Buffy had informed Spike regretfully, just about liplocks.

“Kissing gets you hot,” he’d argued.

“Yes, but everyone knows I am a private person,” Buffy had countered, flushing a little. “We need to give the illusion of intimacy when we’re not kissing.”

“Fair enough,” he’d shrugged. “Shall we start with your tits?”

“No!” she’d practically shrieked, hands coming up to cover her already-covered-by-clothes bosom.

“Oh, you’d like me to leap straight for the clitoris?” he’d laughed, waggling his eyebrows in a way that said he had some stupid joke she didn’t get.

“Try touching my shoulder,” she’d said firmly, if a bit faintly. “You know. You touch my shoulder, I look at you like I’m melting, you look at me like you wish you were touching, um, those other parts.”

He’d looked at her, eyes dark. “Rather touch your other parts in the first place.”

“Spike. We can lie about a lot of other things, but nothing will ever convince Willow and Xander that I am letting you touch my boobs in public. They will immediately start trying to figure out what spell I’m under. That is not the effect we are going for.”

Spike had pointedly looked at her chest then, the jerk. “The girls look like they’re on board. Or do they always stand to attention like that?”

Buffy had crossed her arms over her annoyingly-sensitive breasts. “Focus, Spike.”

“Oh,” he’d crooned towards her chest. “I am very focused.” His eyes had dropped to her crotch, nostrils flaring in that gross-vampire-sniffing-way that was starting to feel… less-than-gross.

“Asshole,” she’d squeaked.

“Bitch,” he’d muttered.

And that had been the end of that discussion, because Spike had lunged at her and she’d lunged at him and they’d ended up Frenching against a dusty sarcophagus until it was way past her bedtime. Thank god she didn’t have an eight o’clock class like Willow.

The kissing part was going really, really, really, really, phenomenally well.

That was part of the problem, really. They’d get together to practice, and they’d start off with the kissing, for, um, review purposes, and by the time they’d established that yes, kissing was still a thumbs-up, all sorts of other things were… up, and Buffy couldn’t settle into the easy intimacy they were trying for. Especially not with her hackles already pre-raised by the mere fact of him being a vampire. Spike would try the simplest of things -- a shoulder caress, or a stroke across her waist -- and Buffy would freak.

Which was the exact opposite of easy intimacy. Really, not what she wanted to portray.

Spike was trying very hard to be patient -- she could tell, because he hadn’t tried to kill her yet, which was kind of amazing for an evil, short-attention-span-theatre vampire -- but seriously. It was all his fault. He was the one who had to go and mention her breasts and, um, other specific parts, and now that was all she could think about. His fingers would stroke, and her extremely-unhelpful brain would extrapolate, and before she could stop herself she’d flinch as if he’d actually leaped straight for her… nethers.

She’d kind of talked about it with Cordelia, in a very roundabout way, and Cordelia had been depressingly blunt.

“Jeez, Buffy. Let the poor guy get to second base. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it, too.”

She would.

That was actually the problem.

Actually, Buffy had been imagining it way too much. Except every time she imagined it, there was that moment of truth, when he finally actually saw second base, or second bases, AKA her breasts, and… well, they weren’t big. And if her mom was any indication, they weren’t ever going to get big. And guys liked big breasts. Didn’t they? She was pretty sure they did. And if Spike really liked big breasts, and he saw her breasts and they didn’t live up to his expectations of breasts, she was just going to have to stake him to assuage her embarrassment. Which would set her back literal weeks in the revenge department. (Parker was obviously a lost cause after all. He hadn’t called her once since the party-gone-Spike. She hadn’t even seen him in the cafeteria or on the quad. He’d probably found some other nice girl who would never, ever abandon him at a party to go plan smoochy revenge on an ex with an evil vampire. Not exactly fair, but Buffy was used to her life not being fair.)

Cordelia had not been helpful, either. “For god’s sake,” she’d snapped. “Just let him feel you up already. There isn’t a straight guy alive who is going to turn down nipples. Who cares what size they are? They’re breasts. If a guy is seeing breasts, he’s happy.” And then Cordelia had gone off on a weird tangent about ghosts and detachable penises. Well, maybe she hadn’t actually said penises, but she’d talked about detachable parts, and that was where Buffy’s sad, twisted little brain had gone. Whatever was going on in LA, it wasn’t pretty.

But anyhow, what if Spike cared about breast size? Of course, Drusilla had been kind of less-than-Buffy in the chestage department, if she recalled correctly from that time she’d threatened to stake her, but Buffy also wasn’t a cray-cray vampire, which might make all the difference.

If Spike laughed at her smaller-than-average breasts, she was going to die of embarrassment. Also stake him. And then die again. There would be dying and stakeage and dying and zero revenge… age. Not. The. Plan.

But the shoulder thing… wasn’t working either.

Spike had started pacing after their latest crash-and-burn, and Buffy couldn’t blame him. All they had been trying to do was a practice night at the Bronze. Buffy out with her friends, Spike entering all unawares, instant sparkage and chemistry that the Scoobies couldn’t help but be concerned about and report to either Angel or Giles. Easy peasy, Buffy had declared.

“I’m sorry,” she said, grouchy. “I can’t help it. You’re still evil.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “As if the evil isn’t what gets you hot.”

“It isn’t!” Buffy protested. “It’s just… well, I’m not used to you touching me.”

“Well, get used to it!” Spike snapped. “I have evil plans to get back to.”

“Not in my town.”

“Fuck you.”

“Likewise.” Buffy still didn’t feel comfortable dropping F-bombs left and right, but Spike sure deserved them.

“You wish.”

Buffy didn’t bother to respond to that low blow, because she was already strategizing. “Maybe it’s like the frog thing.”

Spike’s eyebrows shot up. “Frog thing? Kinky.”

“Oh, shut up. No, I mean how, um, if you wanted to cook a frog or… maybe a lobster. I don’t want to cook Kermit.”

“Point?”

“No, it’s like a saying. How if you want to cook a lobster, or a frog, you just start them off in cold water, and then slowly heat it up. The water comes to a boil gradually. By the time they figure out something’s wrong, they’re cooked.”

Spike grinned, leaning up against the sarcophagus. “Sounds terrible. Much more humane to just kill them up front.”

“One, I cannot believe the word ‘humane’ just crossed your lips. Two, it’s metaphorical.”

“Ah.”

“I’m just saying, maybe I need to get used to the heat.”

“Uh… yeah?”

And Buffy did it. She leaped off into the abyss, no turning back, make-or-break, god she hoped she didn’t need her stake tonight. She was crossing the Rubicon.

She whipped her shirt off over her head.

Spike’s eyes got all glassy as he stared at her breasts. “Huh.”

“I just turned up the heat,” Buffy said stoutly, resisting the urge to cover up. She was still wearing her bra, after all.

“Huh,” Spike said absently, still staring.

Buffy set her hands on her hips. “Something wrong?”

“What could possibly be wrong?”

“They’re not…. You’ve probably seen better.”

Spike shrugged, still looking at her chest.

“They’re too small,” Buffy said softly.

“Are they?” Spike replied. “Let me check.”

And his hands curved around her breasts, stroking her through the fabric of her bra, and Buffy tried not to keel over.

“Are they okay, then?” she whispered, feeling half-broken already.

“You’re mental,” Spike muttered, thumbs flicking at her nipples through the fabric. “Of course they’re okay. Take your sodding bra off.”

“Why?”

“Just take it off.” He bent and pressed his forehead to her sternum so she was left staring at his neatly-slicked-back hair. “Please.”

She closed her eyes and reached behind her back, flicking the double hooks open.

He let out a gusty sigh, his hands scooping up under her bra and tugging it off and tossing it aside and oh god oh god oh god his fingers on her skin were… she had to… she whimpered, actually whimpered, and it was so embarrassing she almost punched him in the nose and ran out of the crypt just then.

Except he whimpered back.

That had definitely been a whimper.

“God, Slayer,” he whispered brokenly into the space between her breasts. “You’re sodding gorgeous.”

“Yeah?” she whispered back, feeling warm.

“Perfect,” he said fervently, and then he leaned back to watch his hands on her breasts. His hands were on her breasts, they absolutely were, and Buffy bit her lip and watched his face for cruel rejection even as she arched into his touch.

“Bloody perfect,” he said again, and Buffy blushed, hands coming up to hide her breasts after all.

Spike glared into her eyes then, hands dropping. “Second thoughts?”

“No!” Buffy scoffed, then sighed, planting her hands over her breasts. "It's just… weird. You looking."

"This was your idea," he said reasonably. “Well, I had the idea first, if you’ll recall, but you didn’t like it until it was your idea.”

"Well, yeah, but I didn't know you were going to look so…" Focused? Single-minded? Hungry? Like my boobs are a seven-course meal and you’re starving? She gestured vaguely, then hastily covered her chest again.

He raised an eyebrow. "And just how is a bloke supposed to look, under these circumstances?"

"I don't know. I just feel… naked."

"That's because you are. Well, half."

"Yeah." She swallowed. "Maybe if you, um, took your shirt off, too?"

His eyelids drooped slightly, and he smiled, shrugging out of his duster and setting it aside with surprising care, and then his black T-shirt was coming off over his head, slowly, exposing his pale, hard chest inch by inch, and Buffy's mouth went dry.

The T-shirt landed on the duster. "Better?"

"Um. Not really?" If anything, she was more nervous now. It was a crime, a chest and abs like that belonging to an evil vampire that she completely hated.

“Perhaps this will help.” He grinned ferally, his fingers going to his belt buckle.

"Whoa! Stop!"

"What? Just thought you might feel less naked if I were more naked than you."

"I am very certain that is not the solution."

"Really? Don't mind at all." He was still grinning, obviously enjoying himself way too much.

"I just bet you don't." She sighed again, considering. "Maybe if you just don't look while you're...?"

"Isn't it usually the other way around? 'Look but don't touch?'"

"These are, um, special circumstances."

"That they are." Spike glared at her for a long moment, considering. "Come here, pet."

"I am here."

"Closer."

She stepped closer, trembling, hands still over her breasts, and he set his hands on her shoulders and turned her so she was facing off towards the crypt door.

“Now you can’t see me looking,” he said in a low voice. “Better?”

“Yes, but--”

“Hush.” He tugged her back so she was leaning against him, his bare chest against her bare shoulder blades, and then his hands covered hers, pressing her palms against her nipples, rubbing them in slow circles.

Oh god, there went another whimper.

“Better?” he purred, and she managed to nod, because it was -- even knowing he was looking at her wasn’t the same as looking at him looking at her, there was just enough plausible deniability that she could relax, and feel, and think.

Okay, maybe not think, because thinking made her think she was kind of crazy, but feeling was good. Feeling was very, very good.

He caught her hands up in his then, lifting them off her breasts and drawing them up, tucking them behind his neck; she laced her fingers together at his nape, panting with anticipation as he stroked his fingers lightly from her hands down her arms, across her elbows, her triceps, skirting her ticklish armpits until they finally, finally curved around her breasts again, his thumbs coming to rest on her nipples, and she relaxed into him, feeling a groan rumble through his chest, his stomach muscles twitching, and then she smiled, because she might not be a vampire, but she could definitely tell Spike was turned on too, without smelling at all; he was hard against her butt and she leaned into that too, finding it weirdly comforting.

His thumbs circled her nipples slowly. “This what you wanted, love?”

Want is a very strong word,” she said, trying to keep her voice light. Which was not easy when she was still feeling all whimpery.

“Craved, then.” He pressed his lips to that spot he’d figured out on night two, right at the top of her collarbone. His thumbs kept circling, like vultures, she thought dizzily, except not vultures, because vultures were gross and this was really not-gross. What was a really, really fantastic version of vultures?

“You know all I crave is my revenge,” she bluffed. “This is just business.”

“Mmm.” He trailed his lips up to her sensitive ear. He’d figured out that one that first night by the gazebo, and had been attentive to it every night since. “Of course it is. You hate me.”

“I do,” Buffy groaned. “I really, really hate you.”

His thumbs got rougher, and so did his voice. “Not half so much as I hate you.”

“As long as we have that straight.” Oh god, what was he doing? She looked down at his hands, pale white against her carefully-acquired tan, watching in fascination as he massaged and plucked and caressed. She hadn’t ever… looked at her breasts when she was turned on, hadn’t realized how pink her nipples got, even in the dim light from the candles Spike had arranged around the crypt, the way they roughened and stiffened, and just looking at them now was turning her on more.

“Feel good, baby?” he growled in her ear.

How was she supposed to answer that? She’d never been asked a question like that before. Angel... hadn’t been much of a talker when they’d made love, had gotten them under the covers as fast as he could, just a few whispered words of love, which had thrilled her at the time, but had been nothing like Spike’s frank sensuality, the way he didn’t just want to make her feel good, he wanted her to say it, wanted her to admit it, wanted her to see and feel and understand everything that her body was experiencing, and suddenly she realized she wanted him to know, too. She’d gotten used to honesty, talking to Cordelia, and she wanted it here, too, with Spike, here in their secret hideaway.

And so she bit back her coyness and her shyness and her fear. “Yes,” she said roughly. “It feels… it feels amazing.”

“Want more?”

“Yes,” she said, voice shaking the slightest bit.

“Good,” he whispered into her skin, and then his movements intensified, and she couldn’t say anything, everything in her was focused on his hands, and oh god, she was starting to get terrible ideas, demented ideas, ideas that shouldn’t even see the light of day, and before she put those ideas into words too, before she tumbled into more than she was ready for, she turned her head, lips searching, and then they were kissing, hard and hot, and she twisted and turned until she was facing him again, because she didn’t care so much what he could see, now that she’d seen it herself, she wanted him to know the color and the texture and the beauty of her breasts because they weren’t too small, not when he touched them, and not when he looked at them, and she wanted it all.

He didn’t rub it in, either, which was a little surprising, but then again maybe not, because he was definitely as into things as she was, his hands and lips urgent, and then he turned her again so her back was to the sarcophagus and then lifted her up so she was sitting on it, which also put her chest right at his eye level, and he stepped back and gazed at her like a painter eyeing his masterpiece.

She tossed her hair defiantly. “Got a problem?”

“You’re my bloody problem,” he growled, setting his hands on either side of her hips.

“Good.” She leaned down and kissed him, rubbing her breasts against his smooth chest. “My work here is done.” God, his chest felt good; she laid her palms flat against him, let them stroke over his contours, pale as marble but softer than stone, just enough give under her fingers to feel real as she explored his chest and his ribs and his belly, feeling him quiver under her caresses.

He sank a hand into her hair and kissed her back, deep and desperate. “Not bloody done. You wanted more.”

“I do want more,” Buffy said imperiously.

He set his hands to her cheeks, eyes blazing into hers. “Let me taste them.”

Buffy went still, unable to tear her gaze away. “What?”

“I want to taste them,” he said fiercely. “Your bloody gorgeous tits.”

She leaned her forehead against his, inhaling deeply, but she couldn’t pretend, not when her body was screaming yes. “Just a taste?” she teased instead. “Is that going to be enough for you?”

He slid one hand down to curve around a breast, testing its weight, thumbing the nipple. “Could feast on these all night, love,” he whispered. “Let me.”

Buffy stroked along his chest again, thumbs grazing his flat nipples. “Why should I let you?” The nipples hardened under her touch, which she hadn’t been expecting at all; she gave them a delicate pinch, relishing his gasp.

“Because you crave it,” he said harshly. “You want me to.”

Buffy opened her mouth to deny it, automatically, but then she looked at his tense face, his hands on her, her hands on him, and she kissed his forehead instead, because she knew what Cordelia would say, what Cordelia had said. What Cordelia would do.

Let him.

“Yes,” she said softly into the velvet dimness of the crypt. “I do want you to.”

He ducked his head down then, and Buffy knew what he was doing, she could see it coming, but let him Cordelia had said and let him every inch of her screamed, and so she let him, she arched into his mouth as it closed over her nipple, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, tugging him closer, stroking every inch of him that she could reach, and oh, god, god, he was licking and sucking and she was whimpering again, except she didn’t care, she wasn’t ashamed, she wasn’t embarrassed, she wanted more, and he was giving it to her, and so she gave it back, she gave her enjoyment and her arousal and her own caresses, and she let him feast.

“Do you like that?” he said after a bit, voice catching.

“Yeah,” she managed. “It’s, um, really good.” There had to be other words to describe it, but her brain was unworky now.

“Good.” He nuzzled her belly tenderly.

Buffy stroked his hair. “Does it… um, would you like….” Why was this harder than demanding he pleasure her? “Will you... let me?”

He looked at her blankly, like she was speaking Swahili, but she was already sliding off the sarcophagus, and when she licked across his pectoral he jumped and swore and brushed his thumb across her cheek, and so she set him up against the stone and tried it, tried what he’d done to her, licks and sucks and the tiniest, most delicate hint of teeth, and he groaned and surrendered to her, murmuring encouragement and endearments. It was heady, the way he responded to her, the catch in his voice, and she let her lips travel elsewhere, her tongue delving into that tempting dip above his bicep, the ridges along his ribcage, and she was nuzzling into his belly button when Buffy realized she was heading in a dangerous direction. She desperately wanted to do… things she didn’t want to do. She could see the abyss in front of her, another abyss, a deeper abyss, a terrifying abyss, one she couldn’t turn back from, and she took a deep breath... and stepped back.

“So,” she said carefully once she had her breathing back under control. “Want to try the shoulder thing again?”

He looked at her for a long moment before agreeing with a sharp nod.

This time, she didn’t flinch.

*

“No, for the, like, millionth time, we are not going to have sex!”

Harmony glared at her new minion, fuming. Just who did Parker think he was? She hadn’t sired him because she wanted to have sex, duh. She’d wanted him to do what he had been doing -- listening to her, treating her like a queen, fetching her drinks -- except she’d liked him enough to make him immortal, so he could do it for eternity without getting old and gross. He should be thanking her for the opportunity to be her slave! And here he was expecting her to put out? For a minion?

Things were just not going according to plan.

Parker still had his big, big eyes, and his winning smile, but now that he was a vampire, it turned out he was a total pervert with absolutely zero sense of loyalty and family feeling. He had, like, zero respect for her authority as his sire, even though she’d totally remembered what Spike had told her about how to make the best vampire minions -- or most of it, at least. She could have sworn she’d done it the way Spike had said would make a freshly-sired minion retain the most of their life memories and personality. Maybe Spike had left something important out?

“So listen,” she said impatiently. “I am your sire. You are my minion. This means you have to do what I say.”

Parker’s face slid into confusion that would have looked adorable if he weren’t also kind of smirking in a way that made Harmony think he was making fun of her. “You’re my sire? I thought the word sire was masculine.” He looked at her boobs pointedly.

“Ugh. It just means I, like, made you a vampire.”

“Well, that’s very inaccurate terminology.”

“It’s just how we vampires say it,” Harmony snapped. “Deal with it!”

He shrugged insolently. “So why can’t we have sex?”

“Because you are my minion, and I have standards.”

“You liked me before.” His eyes got all puppydoggy and adorable, and Harmony thawed a little.

“I still like you,” she said regally. “I just, you know, I’m saving myself for Spike.”

“Buffy’s Spike? Your ex?”

“Long. Story.” Harmony sighed. “Look, just, you know, be like you were before. Nice.”

He shrugged again. “I was trying to get laid before.”

“What?”

“I mean, I had been working on Buffy, because she was obviously kinda damaged, and everyone knows the girls with issues are bunnies in the sack as long as you cut them loose right after, but then she ran off and you showed up, and I figured you’d be just as easy.” He looked at her soulfully. “I didn’t think you were going to kill me instead.”

“I didn’t kill you,” Harmony reassured him. “I sired you. Big difference.”

“But you didn’t fuck me. What a waste of time.”

“You said you liked me! You said I was smart!”

He actually rolled his eyes. “Like I thought you were a physics major for even two seconds.”

“But you said…. So it was all lies?”

“It’s not like you were being all that honest, either. And your lies sucked. Everybody knows that if you’re going to lie, you need to know what you’re talking about. You didn’t even get that joke I made about Schrödinger’s Cat.”

“Is that the cat you said might be dead? The one that I cried about for ten whole minutes? Duh, even vampires like cute fuzzy animals!”

He just smirked at her, like she was still missing the joke, and Harmony was about to slap him, but then she heard a noise from the entrance and she turned and saw it was Spike. Finally!

“Quick!” she hissed at Parker. “Kiss me!”

He shrugged and kissed her. It wasn’t sweet and melty like it had been before -- he, like, totally stuck his tongue in her mouth before she was ready! -- but Harmony put up with it because Spike was walking by, and just as he was passing she shoved Parker away.

“Oh! Spike!” She giggled. “Fancy meeting you here.”

He looked at her like she was an alien. “I live here.”

“What a coincidence! Me too!” Harmony grabbed Parker’s arm, pulling him closer. “So Spike, meet Parker. He’s my new minion.”

Spike shrugged. “Cheers.”

Harmony looked at Spike more closely, feeling a growl at the back of her throat. Was that a hickey on his throat? Maybe it was just a trick of the light. “And just what have you been up to?”

He grinned then, though it was a funny grin, like he was drunk or something. “Snogging the slayer.”

She glared, wrapping her arms around Parker’s neck. “You and your stupid revenge plan!”

“What’s a slayer?” Parker asked, his voice muffled by her cleavage.

“Nothing important,” Harmony sniffed. “She’s, like, a bug. Spike’s going to kill her any day now. Right?”

Spike shrugged again, and Harmony got a better look at the hickey, which was definitely a hickey, which was, like, super gross. Spike was a totally pathetic excuse for a vampire, letting the slayer give him hickeys and stuff when he could be getting much, much better hickeys from Harmony. He even smelled like the slayer! Totally lame.

“Come on,” she growled at Parker, grabbing him by the scruff of his neck. “Let’s go to my room.”

He brightened. “To have sex?”

Spike waved an unconcerned hand and headed in the opposite direction.

“Yep,” Harmony said loudly as Spike walked away. “We are totally going to have sex.”

“Finally,” Parker sighed as she dragged him away.

*

Spike lay back on his bed staring at the ceiling, the way he had for the past week, every time he’d come home after snogging the slayer.

...Buffy. He didn’t say it out loud to her, always called her Slayer, but he thought of her by name when he was alone. Buffy. Buffy. Buffy.

What a fucking ridiculous name. Made him think of terrible eighties movies, and valley girl accents, and bloody cheerleaders, which made him think of Buffy wearing a short little cheerleader’s costume, which made him think of fucking Buffy wearing a short little cheerleader’s costume. She’d show up at their crypt in it, looking all innocent and pure, except then she’d flip her skirt at him and he’d see she had no knickers, naughty naughty, and then she’d throw him down to the floor and rip open his jeans and ride him, waving her pom-poms, spelling out his name as she came….

It was bloody ridiculous, he growled to himself. Didn’t bloody matter what he thought of these days -- Gr’shakk demons, Italian food, bloody Teletubbies -- his demented brain would turn every train of thought towards yet another twisted fantasy of fucking Buffy. Or Buffy fucking him.

Even now, he could hear Harmony loudly shagging her new toy, yelling out her pleasure, and instead of thinking of Harmony’s tits, he was thinking of the way the slayer had turned to him, the hot slide of her mouth, her sweet little gasps and whimpers, her hard little raspberry nipples, and he took it further in his head, laying her down on the sarcophagus as he undid his trousers, plunging into her wet, fragrant heat, fucking her and fucking her until she was screaming his name….

He sighed and sat up, burying his face in his hands. Bloody fantasies weren’t going to let him sleep yet again, he admitted to himself. Might as well go get some bloody work done.

“Ooh, Parker!” Harmony was trilling as he stalked back out into the common area. “You’re the best! I’ve never, ever felt this way before! Never!”

Spike grimaced and grabbed a jackhammer, heading off down his tunnel.

They were almost there, Brian had said. Less than a week, and they’d be in, and Spike would have the Gem of Amara, and he could stop playing. He could kill the slayer any time he wanted, and he tried to imagine that as he donned his protective goggles and started drilling away. Sinking his fangs into her throat. The hot gush of her blood. Her voice screaming in pain. Buffy's hands clawing at his back, his cock deep inside her, her head thrown back in ecstasy, except no, it was her slick quim he was drinking from, the hot gush of her come, her voice screaming his name as he brought her off again and again, his own voice whispering sweet nothings as he curled around her after, tender lips on her shoulder, nuzzling her soft hair, stroking her soft skin….

He snarled at the rubble he’d been drilling away, tossed the jackhammer aside, and stormed back to his room. Bloody useless, he was. Couldn’t even break rocks, the slayer had made him so thick.

He stripped naked and flopped back on his bed, staring at the ceiling, rough rocks that weren’t even remotely shaped like Buffy’s delectable body, or her smile, or her eyes, except that’s what he saw, that’s all he saw.

She’d been so… curious. Experimental. He was certain, from the way she’d blinked, that she’d never played with a man’s nipples before, but she’d taken to it like a duck to water, turning all the clever techniques he’d plied on her back against him until he was nearly faint, which shouldn’t have even been possible. He was the one who’d spent a good century seducing strangers and learning every possible way to please his woman -- not to mention all the other things he’d learned when Angelus was still part of their fucked-up little family. Shouldn’t be possible for a barely-grown teenybopper ingenue to twist him around. Except she had tonight, from the very start when she’d just dared him with that little scrap of a white lace bra that he couldn’t wait to get off her. The ridiculous banter. The even-more-ridiculous shyness that had lasted hardly any time before she’d been taking charge. That precocious, instinctive curl of her tongue…. He’d been dumbfounded and desperate from the first kiss until she’d inexplicably decided she’d had enough, just when he was starting to think she might not kill him if he went down on her. Or that she might go down on him. Or that she might let him bend her over the bloody sarcophagus and….

Fuck.

Fuck fuck fuck.

He should never have agreed to this bloody game. He should have just blown her off, laid low until he had his Gem, and then killed the twat. He could have sent Angelus a bloody Polaroid of her corpse and then been back on his way to South America. It would have been neat, it would have been quick, and it would have been safe.

It would have been… boring.

That was the real problem. Spike was having too much fun winding Buffy up to even regret the pleasures he’d sacrificed. He’d philosophically drunk his pig's blood -- the obviously-used-to-vamps butcher had winked at him when he’d gone to pick up the first order Buffy had paid for, saying something about college girls taking a walk on the wild side, and Spike had winked back, because the butcher wasn’t wrong -- and watched the telly instead of hunting, and wanked instead of finding an agreeable partner to fuck, and he was still having the most fun he’d had in years.

He’d known the slayer had fire in her, of course, from the way she fought and the way she bitched and the way she walked in her chunky-heeled boots, but it had all been covered up with a layer of goody-goody prissiness and girlish insecurities. Now that she’d flung some of that away, Buffy was… fire. Sunlight. Lava. A bomb waiting to go off. And Spike was salivating just waiting for the explosion.

She’d almost exploded tonight, he was certain of it. It had been a shock when she’d stepped away, such a shock he hadn’t even felt angry, just… bereft. They’d been there together, in that glorious world of tongues and skin and desperate arousal, and then he’d been shut out again, and they’d gone back to rehearsal for their revenge show just as if nothing had changed.

Nothing has changed, he thought bitterly. He was still going to ruin Angelus, still going to drain the slayer, still going to get Dru back. That was all going to happen, tomorrow or the next day or the next.

But oh, how he wanted Buffy today.

Harmony had finally left, announcing loudly enough that everyone in the lair could hear how she and her favorite minion Parker were going to go out hunting before having lots more sex, and in the dim silence that followed Spike could let his mind wander again, back to their crypt, back to Buffy leaning down, taking panting licks across his stomach, her hot breath and her soft hair like candle flames against his skin, except this time she didn’t step back. She set her hands to his belt buckle and looked up at him shyly, her green eyes shining in the candlelight.

Let me, she whispered.

“Yeah,” he groaned, his hand wrapping around his cock as he imagined her lips parting around the head, her hot mouth enveloping him, her tongue-- Fuck, he was halfway there already and he’d barely started, but he’d been hard as stone since Buffy had taken her shirt off out of the blue, or since she’d walked into the crypt in the first place, or since he’d woken up that afternoon thinking about going to meet Buffy at the crypt, and he needed release, he needed… Buffy.

She’d smelled glorious tonight, her musky arousal hanging in the crypt like incense, and he suddenly wondered what she’d done after she’d left. Had she gone back to her dorm room still thinking of him? Had she lain on her bed naked, just like he was, and touched herself, her strong, slender fingers stroking her wet cunt, grunting and groaning as she brought herself off? Spike pictured it then, the glide of her hand, the slick gleam of her wet pussy, the ecstatic look on her face, the sound of her voice crying out his name, and he growled her name in response as he came hard, his cock throbbing in his fist.

As his body trembled with release, he glared up at the ceiling, which still didn’t look at all like Buffy.

God, he hated her.

*

She hated Spike. She really, really did.

Buffy wrapped her arms around her knees, feeling out of sorts and squirmy and damp and desperate, but… it had been right to stop. It wasn’t right for Buffy to do those things with... someone she didn’t love. She’d done the right thing. Right?

“Are you freaking kidding me?” Cordelia practically shrieked.

“No, I… um, things were just moving too fast for me,” Buffy said softly, not wanting to start explaining how William was actually Spike, an evil, soulless vampire, and so there were other reasons not to go further.

“Well.” Cordelia sniffed audibly. “All I’m saying is if a guy I wanted had spent -- how long did you say it was? Half an hour?”

“I didn’t use a stopwatch,” Buffy muttered. “But it was, um, a while.”

“Okay. We’ll go with half an hour, because if it was longer than that this guy needs to be nominated for sainthood. You’re saying this guy spent half an hour on second base, a really really fantastic half hour, he won second base, and you didn’t bring him on in to third?”

“Well, no.”

“What are you, nuts?”

“Possibly?”

“God. You’re going to need more batteries for your vibrator if you keep this up. And as someone on a really tight budget right now, let me tell you, guys are way cheaper than batteries.”

Buffy curled a little tighter. “I, uh, yeah. More batteries. Check.”

Cordelia’s silence was deafening. Finally, she gasped in realization. “Buffy, you do have a vibrator, right?”

“Not… not as such.”

“Oh. My. God. How did you survive high school without a vibrator? I mean, your fingers just get tired after a while.”

Buffy laughed nervously. “Not… not so much.”

Cordelia snorted. “Buffy Anne Summers. Please tell me you masturbate.”

Buffy opened her mouth and closed it, but her silence was answer enough for Cordelia.

“Holy crap. No wonder you’re such a mess.”

“It’s just…” Buffy flushed. “I tried it. But it was, you know, kinda messy, and I was uncomfortable, and then it didn’t really… go anywhere, so I figured it wasn’t, you know, for me.”

“Oh my god.”

“Well, I didn’t know there was going to be a quiz!” Buffy huffed, irritated.

“No, I mean, I get it. I really do. It’s just… how many times did you and Angel have sex?”

“Just the one. You know that.”

“And Angel never even gave you a handjob? Or went down on you?”

“It was too dangerous,” Buffy argued, though actually... he’d never even put those options on the table. Why hadn’t they been on the table?

“And you don’t take care of it yourself.”

“Like I said, I--”

“No wonder you get so excited about killing vampires. I’d want to kill vampires too, if I’d only had a couple of orgasms in my whole life.”

“Um, one,” Buffy corrected in a small voice.

“One.” Cordelia’s voice dripped with disdain. “Oh, I am going to have to give Angel a stern talking to if that’s all he did for you, along with all the other crap he put you through.” She paused. “Um, if I ever see him again.”

“I think it was one,” Buffy said defensively. “It was kind of hard to tell. So it could have been--”

“Oh my god. Zero! How can you be eighteen years old and have had zero orgasms!”

“I said one!” Buffy squeaked.

“Trust me, if it was hard to tell, you didn’t. That bastard!”

“I really think there was one,” Buffy huffed. “It was nice.”

“Nice!” Cordelia tapped her fingers on the phone. “All right, we are getting off-topic. I wish I’d known all this earlier. Here I’ve been giving you advice like you actually know what I’m talking about.”

“Hey! I took Sex Ed!”

“Uh-huh. Yeah. Super useful stuff. Except it’s only, like, the tip of the iceberg! Buffy, you need to take charge of your own sexuality!”

“Well, that’s what I’m doing now!”

“Oh, sweetie. I know. You’re trying so hard. But you need help.”

Buffy glared at the phone. “Well, that’s why I’m calling you.”

“Buffy, I hate to break it to you, but I have a life. I have a job, I have… well, I don’t have friends here, I guess, but I go to the beach sometimes. I don’t have time to teach you all this stuff over the phone. So here’s what I’m going to do.” Buffy heard some clattering on the other end of the line, and then the sound of typing. “Right now, I am going to email you… a list. A reading list. I can think of three or four books that you need to read, like, right now.”

“It’s the middle of the night.”

“Trust me. The stores that sell these books are open all night. But okay, tomorrow. Tomorrow, before you go drive your poor William completely nutso yet again, you are going to get these books -- get a vibrator while you’re there, too, I’ll email you some recommendations -- and you are going to read them all by the end of the week.”

Buffy laughed. “Is there a test?”

“The test is going to come when you start telling William what you want, and he gives it to you.”

“I don’t… I don’t know what I want.”

“Want to try,” Cordelia clarified. “You need to try stuff, and then you’ll know what you like, and then you can do it more.”

Buffy sighed, but… she’d asked. And she was tired of feeling squirmy and unsatisfied. “Okay.”

“And Buffy? Here’s your assignment for tonight. You are going to go to the showers right now, get a stall way far away from anyone else, and you are going to get your numero uno. And dos and tres, if your poor fingers can stand it.”

Buffy felt her face turning red again. “I, um, I don’t know how to…”

“God, it’s like junior high all over again. Okay. Here’s what you’re going to do.” And Cordelia rattled off instructions that had Buffy gaping at the phone.

“That was… that was very detailed,” Buffy said when Cordelia was done.

“That’s just a starter,” Cordelia snipped. “But I don’t have time to give you the full lecture. Some things you’re going to have to figure out for yourself.”

Buffy sighed. “Um, thanks?”

“Thank me later. I have to go file some things.”

“Okay. Talk to you soon.”

“Okay. And remember, don’t stop when it feels nice. Keep going until it feels like the apocalypse.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yes, ma’am.”

“I’m not kidding. But I do have to go.”

Buffy laughed and said goodbye again and hung up the phone, staring at the ceiling for a long time before she rolled to her feet, gathered up her shower caddy, and headed down the hall.

A little while later, she collapsed against the tiled wall of her shower stall, her legs shaking like there was an earthquake. Except there wasn’t an earthquake. It was her, it was all her, and god.

Why had she not known this?

When she’d gotten naked and slipped into the shower, insanely grateful that nobody else was around, she’d been halfway to dismissing what Cordelia had said. She had had sex, with someone she loved, and it had been really nice, other than the fact that everything blew up after, so she didn’t really think there was anything more to be seen. But, well, she could stand to feel nice again, and she did love herself, and she was definitely turned on, so she figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Except it did kind of hurt, because when she’d reached down and touched herself, she was so sensitive and swollen that the pleasure of that first touch had speared through her like pain, and she’d gasped and jerked her hand away like it had been burned, and she’d been right too, because she was all sorts of a mess down there, slick and slippery, but she’d tried again, stroking and stroking, and pretty soon she was feeling nice, really nice, and she remembered what Cordy had said and she kept going, except a little harder and faster, and then it started feeling better than nice, and she could hear Spike’s voice in her ears encouraging her, there you go, love... god, you’re gorgeous... that’s it... don’t bloody stop now…. and then the pleasure stopped being nice and started being overwhelming, but she kept going and kept going, until she couldn’t even think, she was nothing but fingers and wetness and blinding pleasure and Spike’s velvety voice woven into it all, and then it crested like a wave, her thighs clamping tight around her hand as she felt herself pulsing and throbbing, and she stood there under the water for a minute feeling like… like she’d opened a plain old door and found a treasure trove.

Except now that the throbbing had lessened she still felt kind of squirmy and urgent, and now she knew the cure, she had the solution, and so she leaned back against the tile and started again, except this time she relaxed and did it slow, focused on what she was doing, and oh, that was nice, but god, that made her shake, and she closed her eyes and in her head she imagined Spike doing this, Spike looking at her and touching her and kissing her, which was terrible, she was terrible, he was terrible, but it was also wonderful, magical, and she built it up and built it up until she was crashing again, except this time she didn’t even stop when she crashed, because Spike wouldn’t stop, not until the very end, and she just kept her fingers going don’t stop don’t stop don’t stop and she kept crashing and crashing and crashing and this time she couldn’t hold it in, she kind of yelled, just a little -- good thing nobody else was in the bathroom -- and then she was staring at the water of the shower as it sprayed and trying to think, but failing utterly. Thoughts were as slippery as eels, and she couldn’t quite latch on to any, except one.

I wonder how I smell now?