A/N: Firstly, let me apologise for taking so long to update this. I kind of lost the motivation to write this one for a while. I also got caught up in writing various other one-shots, as well as a longer all-human fic that I'll start posting in the near future.
That said, I've got my muse back for this fic and the next chapter is already being written. I won't promise a posting schedule, but I won't leave it so long between updates, again.
Massive thanks to my awesome beta, Sotia! *hugs*
Buffy wondered why Spike's predatory senses hadn't kicked in. She was standing not three feet away from him, a small frown on her face as she considered Whistler's last words to her. She didn't want to be doing this; she'd much rather be making her way to the finish line on her own. For whatever reason, the Powers That Be seemed to think that she needed Spike, however, and she was too weary to question them.
Spike was sprawled out on the floor of the cowshed, his long leather coat the only mattress between his body and the compacted earth of the ground.
She couldn't bring herself to wake him. Lying there, curled up in sleep, he looked as peaceful and harmless as she'd ever seen him, and it disconcerted her. Made her think of the alternate reality they'd just escaped from, when he had been her gentle—and occasionally wicked—husband.
He stirred, rolling onto his back, the hem of his shirt rising so that she could see the play of muscles across his stomach. She looked away.
Enough of this. Whistler had as good as called her a coward, and that was not what she was. She was the Slayer, and had faced worse than a neutered vampire. For reasons still unfathomable, the Powers that Be thought she needed Spike in order to win the game and save her friends, so she'd just have to buckle down and get on with it. Put aside the girl in her who'd just had her mind jumbled by the alternate universe.
Bending down, she placed her hand on his shoulder, trying not to notice the cool temperature of his skin as she shook him awake.
It took a while—apparently the dead slept like, well, the dead—but he eventually awoke, sitting up and scrambling backwards from her touch like it burned.
"Spike." Not sure how to go about this, where to start after the whole faux-marriage fiasco, she sat back on her heels and regarded him with a steady gaze.
He looked flustered and slightly panicked, his eyes darting every which way as though trying to locate the nearest exit. Not Spike-like at all.
"Spike?" She waved a hand in front of his face. "You with me?"
He shook himself, gaze becoming clear and his usual sneer was now firmly in place. "Yeah, I'm here. Got no place else to be, do I?"
"Whatever." Buffy rolled her eyes, not welcoming the return of Snarky-Spike. "Look, I've been thinking. We both want to get out of here, without the whole dying horribly thing, so I think we should… you know, work together."
"Together?" Spike echoed. "Are you off your nut? Those wanker gamemasters are likely to smite us down without a thought, Pet."
"I'm the Slayer," Buffy replied. "Since when do I do what other people tell me?"
Spike snorted, and muttered an agreement.
"Besides," she continued, "you just said it yourself. The gamemasters. They're watching us, so we may as well make it interesting for them."
"Not sure I followed you round that bend, Slayer," Spike said. "And you're forgetting one very important thing."
Buffy folded her arms across her chest and raised her eyebrow. "Yeah?"
"I hate you." His words lacked their usual venom. Running a hand through his hair, which was already dishevelled into springy curls, he stood up. "Not to mention the big old elephant in the room."
"Huh?" Buffy glanced around quickly, not sure if he meant an actual elephant. In this place, she didn't doubt it could be possible.
"You know," Spike said, voice going low as he took a step closer, his eyes fixed on her face. "Playin' happy families back there?"
Buffy felt her cheeks begin to burn, and turned away. "I don't want to talk about that."
"What if I do?" Spike shouted. "You weren't the only one there, Love. You weren't the only one who was taken advantage of, you know!"
"Oh yeah," Buffy scoffed. "Like it was such a hardship for you. Sleeping with the Slayer. I'm sure you'll brag about it to all your demony friends when we get back to Sunnydale."
"You think I liked being taken over by Stepford Spike? Not having any control over my actions?" He took a deep breath. "Maybe you're right; maybe we shouldn't talk about it. Just know that you aren't the only one who's angry and embarrassed about it, all right?"
Buffy nodded, shocked by his tirade. He sounded sincere, but she couldn't quite understand why. Surely sleeping with her was the ultimate coup for someone like him? She sighed, shaking her head. Perhaps it would be best to let it lie, for now.
"Okay, whatever you say." She moved towards the exit. "Are you coming?"
"Still want me to tag along?" Spike said, sounding surprised.
"Well, yeah," Buffy replied. "I don't like you, but I was going stir-crazy, only having myself for company, before the whole alternate reality thing. Besides, you're handy in a fight. Might be useful."
Spike eyed her knowingly. "You keep telling yourself that, Slayer."
"Got me in your system now, don't you?" He smirked, voice teasing. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone."
"Tell anyone what?" Buffy asked, alternately confused and bemused by his mocking tone. "You're not making any sense."
Spike grinned at her, before looking down at the dial around his neck. "Oh, what's that? Time to go!" He strode towards the doorway, peering outside. "Getting dark—good. Not takin' any more chances with Mr. Sunshine."
Buffy stared after him, frustrated with his sudden change in mood. She didn't think she'd ever understand him, and—as she followed him out the cowshed—she wondered why she all of a sudden wanted to.
They'd been walking for over an hour, following a chalk track through the landscape that wended its way towards a series of steep hills in the distance. Buffy had taken the lead, all her talk of wanting him along for the company seemingly forgotten as she strode ahead.
Not that he minded. View was nice, her perky little Slayer bottom almost hypnotising him as she walked, her hair bouncing along behind her.
Of course, the sight of the Slayer's behind could only distract him from his thoughts for so long, and he didn't particularly want to dwell on those.
Buffy, I love you. God, I love you so much.
It wasn't possible. He hated the girl—always had, always would. And yet…
Spike scuffed at the ground, kicking a pebble, wishing that he could shut his brain off for a little while. He didn't want to think about the dream, nor the events that had preceded it.
Playing the doting husband, being content with that boring, suburban life—looking back, it was his idea of hell. But when he'd known no better, when he'd been playing the role of William Summers, husband to Buffy... he had never been happier.
Memories flooded his mind, of waking up with her, sleepy and warm as she snuggled deeper into his arms. Her kisses had begun so sweet, but became frenzied and hurried as they surged together, hips meeting in an ancient dance.
How it had felt to be inside her, the sensations so intense that his skin tingled now in remembrance. And then to come to, and realise that it had all been a lie, that his body and mind had been manipulated and used by the gamemasters—he hated it.
Hated them for making him feel that way, for making him realise that he had the warm and fuzzies for the Slayer of all people.
He glared at the back of her head, trying to recall all the reasons he had for disliking her: she was the Slayer, killer of his kind. She'd shagged his grandsire, great poofter that he was, and there had to be something wrong with her if she'd thought that a good idea. Not to mention that her current beau was one of the wankers who'd put the chip in his head.
All perfectly good grounds for hatred, and yet, as he watched her walk ahead, he couldn't make a single one of them matter.