Strip Snap

by Lilachigh

Characters belong to Mutant Enemy. I'm just playing with them and promise to put them back neatly when finished!

Season Six - Buffy's 21st birthday in Older and Far Away. During the long evening, we see Buffy and Spike sitting together on the floor playing cards – and so we begin….. A story of romance, sex, divided loyalties, angst, despair and triumph.

Chapter One: One Question

"Bloody hell, Slayer, you can't take off just one earring! That's cheating."

"Oh, so taking one bootlace out of one boot, isn't?"

"It's strip snap. Whoever looses takes off one thing they're wearing. I offered to remove my pants just now, remember?"

Buffy glared and hastily looked round to make sure no one else had heard, but they all seemed busily occupied, as they had done for hours now. "Be quiet! Someone will hear."

Spike cynically raised an eyebrow and shuffled the pack. "Oh and we mustn't let anyone know about us, must we? Can't afford to offend their dainty sense of morality. I suppose you stripping naked in front of me won't get their attention?"

"Huh! I won't be stripping. I can beat you at anything, Spike. Including cards. Just because I don't know how to play poker doesn't mean – "

"You're going to beat me, are you?'"He reached up to tentatively touch the bruising round his eye. "Reckon you've already done that, pet."

Buffy flinched. She didn't want to remember punching him almost senseless the other night. "I meant I intend to win. Deal the cards."

She watched, fascinated as his long fingers shuffled and cut the pack, then dealt them out swiftly on the floor between them. There was something about his hands - geez, it was getting warm in here - whenever she caught sight of them, she could recall how he used them on her body - and inside your body, too, a little voice whispered hotly.

He looked up sharply, nostrils flaring and she knew he'd smelt her arousal. His lips twitched slightly, then he looked alarmed and uncomfortable and she giggled as she watched his erection swelling under the denim of his jeans. That must really hurt, she though proudly. Good!

"Are you sure you wouldn't rather play with Dickhead over there?" he drawled.

"His name is Richard," Buffy hissed, picking up her cards. "You know damn well it is."

"Buffy swore! Buffy swore!" he teased. "You have to pay a forfeit. Take off something right now."

"That's not part of the game!" she grumbled, but at the triumphant look on his face, she grudgingly took out the second earring and giggled at his cross expression.

"OK, strip snap isn't going to work - at least not here where it's so public,'" Spike said regretfully. "Come round to the crypt tomorrow night and we'll play it properly."

Buffy concentrated on the cards she was holding. She refused to meet his sapphire gaze because she knew she would dissolve into a messy puddle if she did. "Oh, I don't know, Spike. I might be busy," she said airily, wishing her voice didn't sound so squeaky.

"Oh, I promise you will be, Slayer," he drawled, reaching out to touch her bare ear lobe. "You're going to be very busy doing just what I tell you to do to me. You're going to work your socks off. You're going to – " He leant forward and whispered words that no one had spoken to her before.

"Let's play something else!" she broke in before she surrendered and flung herself on top of him and damn everybody else in the room. It was her party, after all.

His lips twitched as I tried not to smile, then, "Okay - whoever wins a snap gets to ask a question."

Buffy stared at him suspiciously. "What sort of question?"

Spike shrugged innocently. "Oh, anything at all, Slayer."

"And the loser has to answer?"

"Oh yes. And truthfully."

"OK."

The cards slapped down on the floor - then "Snap!" Spike's hand shot out and covered two aces. "Mine. Right - '"he looked at her tense body, knew she was expecting something really difficult, "Are you having a nice birthday?" he said gently.

He could see her visibly relax. "Yes, it's been great."

Ten more cards fell, then "Snap! My turn again.. Ummm - Do you enjoy being the Slayer?"

Buffy looked at him sharply, but his face was bland, his eyes shadowed by the dark lashes that were ridiculously and annoyingly thick for a man. Did she enjoy being the Slayer? Faith had enjoyed being one. So had Kendra. "I enjoy...I enjoy helping people," she replied slowly. "I think...I think I like the power, but all the rest of it, the killing, the dying, never having a nice, normal life like other girls my age - not so much!"

She picked up the cards and let them run through her fingers. "I'm twenty-one today, Spike. Let's face it, the likelihood of me seeing thirty-one is remote. I want to stay around long enough to see Dawn become independent, but everything else – " She shrugged and glanced round. Time seemed to have stood still this evening. She hadn't meant to speak so freely to Spike but he had that effect on her sometimes. He was looking at her now, and she had the feeling he could read her mind.

Twenty-one. In all the fuss, Buffy hadn't really thought about the figures. Some girls of her age were married and mothers by now. Married! That was a joke. And as for motherhood - well, she'd long ago realised that wasn't on any agenda she could think up.

She found herself returning Spike's gaze and for a minute, she could see in her imagination a little boy with bright blue eyes laughing up at her and a little girl with long blonde hair and dark eyebrows. But they were only in her imagination and she knew that's where they would stay. "Play again,'" she said, breaking the spell. The next two cards laid were a snap. Hers. What on earth could she ask him? Then, without thinking, she heard herself say, "Do you ever regret being a vampire?"

Spike's hands stilled on the cards he was holding. "Difficult one, luv."

"You said anything. If it's too hard for you, of course..."

"William was a nice enough bloke, but weak. Always trying to help people who didn't want to be helped, getting pushed around by friends and family, always falling for the wrong girls."

He paused and Buffy was about to say, "Nothing much has changed then!" but something - the look in his eyes, perhaps, the tension around his mouth, stopped her.

"William would probably have married some sweet, ineffectual, plain young lady, who was about to be left on the shelf and desperate to have a husband, any husband. She wouldn't have understood him, but he would have loved her because she was his wife. They'd have had little money, lived in gentile poverty and raised a brood of children, one after the other, most of whom would have died before their second birthdays."

Buffy put down her cards and, without thinking, reached out to take his hand. "But they would have been happy, wouldn't they? They'd have enjoyed raising the children left to them."

Spike looked at her strangely. "Happy? Well, pet, who knows." He paused again. He realised that he spoke about William as if he was someone he'd once known, not himself.

But William had been him and for a few seconds he wondered what a son of his would have been like, what it would have felt to hold a daughter in his arms and know that his blood would run through their children's veins for centuries to come. He shook his head to break the mood. "Dru rescued me from all that. She gave me eternity, love, passion and, even though I hate to say it in present company, she gave me another family."

"Angel and Darla," Buffy whispered.

"The Mick and his lady love, that's right, Goldilocks. Never liked him, but as people say, you can choose your friends, not your family! So, to answer your question, no, I've no regrets. I've seen things, done things, met people, lived life to the full and regret nothing. I can't say I'm too happy with the chip in my bonce, and I may be only a stake away from dust, but – "

"If you had a soul you'd regret..." Buffy started to say.

Spike laughed. "A soul? Bloody hell, Slayer, give us a break. I've seen what a soul has done to Peaches. So have you! What on earth would I want one of those for?"

And Buffy laughed. She didn't know what had made her think about that. Spike with a soul. Big joke. But as he dealt another hand of cards and she glanced round the room at her family and friends, she wondered exactly what they'd be all be doing this time the following year.

Two days after her twenty-first birthday, Buffy collapsed wearily onto her bed and threw her greasy-smelling, orange uniform as far across the room as she could. She needed a shower; the desire to wash her hair was overwhelming, but the effort required to get into the bathroom seemed impossible.

She looked at her thin tanned legs and wondered if her ankles were swelling from standing on them for such ages. She needed to paint her toenails, she realised vaguely. There hadn't been time for pedicures recently. As long as she was clean, that was all that mattered. She could remember a time when she'd spent hours in the bathroom with soaps and lotions. Once she and Willow had painted every nail they had a different color. But not now.

The night shift at the Doublemeat Burger Bar had been very long and very busy. Her face ached from the false smile that had been stretched across it for hours. And why were people so rude? Why did they come into a burger bar and stand for ages just gazing at all the little pictures above the counter as if they'd never seen a burger before? So many of them were regulars, she always knew what they would finally have, but still they stood and looked. And you always had to smile and be pleasant when in reality she had a mad desire to pour the boiling fat over their silly heads.

She still had to patrol this evening, so perhaps she'd do that and shower when she got back. 'I'll be all hot and sweaty again,' she thought and firmly pushed away thoughts of how she might be even hotter and sweatier if she went to see Spike at his crypt. Even though it was only Spike - and hey, evil, dirty thing remember - she felt too grubby and smelly to let even him touch her tonight. But, oh god, how she wanted him to. Even under the tired, aching muscles and bone weariness, she could feel a hot quivering glow of anticipation as her body - against her will - remembered just what he did to it.

"No! Just patrolling. Then shower and bed," she muttered and pulled open her closet door to find some clean jeans.

"What in the name of - ?" Right in front of her eyes was something on a hanger, wrapped in polythene. There was a large piece of paper pinned to the front of it. WEAR THIS. BE OUTSIDE IN FIFTEEN MINUTES. HURRY!

Buffy tore off the wrapping and gasped. The dress floated. A tight white lace bodice had sapphire velvet ribbons criss-crossing, pulling the neckline into some form of modesty. There were little white feathers all around the edge of the neckline and sleeves. The skirt was layers of white lace and silk. It looked old and was probably the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. She reached out to touch it with gentle fingers. She didn't need to guess who the note was from and she had no doubt, whatsoever, that if she put it on it would fit her. Spike had spent hours running his hands over her body. He knew every curve, every inch of her, intimately.

"I'm too dirty," she whispered to herself. "I'll ruin it." But even as she spoke she was heading for the shower.

Ten minutes later, her hair still wet but at least clean, she had pulled on the dress and stood gazing at herself in the mirror. She didn't recognise the woman who looked back her her; big green eyes in a pale face, hair piled up in tangles on top of her head, her breasts pushed up by the bodice into creamy mounds as she tightened the blue ribbons and the little white feathers tickled her skin in a sudden breeze -

"You look ravishing, sweetheart! Makes me want to ravish you!"

She didn't move. She was still the only person she could see in the mirror, but knew from the feel of his breath on her bare neck, that he was standing behind her. "It's the most beautiful dress I've ever seen!" she whispered. She turned round into his arms, and gasped as he bent his head and dropped a line of tiny kisses along her collar bone.

"Not as beautiful as the person wearing it," he murmured and pulled her damp hair down into a cascade of blonde tangles. "You didn't come down to me," he said, brushing stray strands back from her cheek. "I told you to hurry."

'I had to shower. I was all Doublemeaty. And where are we going, Spike? I can't possibly patrol in this dress."

"I've already done a patrol for you tonight. Three demons, done and dead, luv. Must admit I didn't hunt too closely for vamps. Thought I'd leave that for you tomorrow. Tonight - well, tonight is just for us. Come on!"

"Spike - I've got no shoes!"

"Don't need shoes where we're going!" And before she could protest, he swung her up in his arms and carried her out of the window and swung down the tree branches to the ground. The grass felt cool under her bare feet as Spike put her down, her damp hair deliciously cool on her neck.

There was an old open-topped car in the road. Spike scooped her up again, ignoring her protests and dropped her in the passenger seat. Then he was by her side, the engine was roaring and they were away into the moonlit night.

"Spike, what are we doing? It's so late."

He raised an eyebrow at her and reached over to run a finger across her bare shoulder. She shuddered under his touch. "You said at your birthday party that you missed being a normal girl. I didn't bring you a gift then, so this is my present to you, sweetheart. A normal evening, doing normal things. No worries, no responsibilities, no problems. Just you and me."

"Spike! Are you taking me on a date?"

He laughed. "Bloody well call it what you like, Slayer. Just enjoy it."

She lay back on the warm leather seat and, for the first time since her mother had died, felt herself relaxing, the weariness draining out of her bones, every muscle becoming pliant and soft, the tension vanishing. For once she didn't have to make a decision, be in command. Someone else was in charge. No one was expecting her to be the leader. Tonight no one knew where she was or what she was doing. it was a heady experience - like drinking ice cold champagne on an empty stomach.

This evening was so unexpected, so ridiculous, it was hard not to laugh. The rush of air in her face, the growling of the engine, the feel of Spike next to her, knowing she could reach out and touch him if she wanted. Why did his presence reassure her so much? What was it about this vampire that made her world glow when he was in it? She didn't love him. She refused to believe she could love somebody without a soul. But this - connection - they had, confused and bewildered her. The sex was fabulous; she wasn't naive enough to deny that, but she also knew it was more than lust, more than passion. But what was it? He'd once told her she would crave him, that he was in her blood and now, she realised, he was right.

Twenty miles on and they were pulling off the road and bumping up a dirt track, through some open metal gates, and on into thick, dark woodland, the headlights catching the green gleam from the eyes of small animals crouching in the undergrowth.

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep," she heard Spike quote to himself under his breath. "And miles to go before I sleep."

She turned to gaze into his face. He often quoted poetry, she realised. He'd done it for a long time, especially when he and Giles were together. She'd never thought about his education before. It was odd to wonder about a William at school as a small boy, perhaps graduating from some posh English college before he met Drusilla on the streets of London one dark night. At least she knew the poem he was quoting now, "Robert Frost," she murmured.

"A great American poet, luv."

Then they were out of the woods and Buffy realised they were driving along a sandy shore by the side of a lake. "Where are we, Spike? I had no idea there was any lake near Sunnydale."

"That's because you can't see it from the road. It's on private property. Belongs to some movie star."

"What!' Buffy sat upright in shock. " Then we're trespassing. Spike, turn round and get us out of here."

"Relax, Slayer. No one is going to know," he replied calmly as he stopped the car and turned off the lights.

The darkness swallowed them up, then as her eyes began to adjust, the moon sailed out from behind a small cloud and she gasped. The lake lay blackly in front of her with a silver path of moonlight stretching clearly to the other side. The water rippled slightly in the soft breeze and it was as if a sheet of starlight was being shaken over the wavelets. Before she could speak, Spike had swung her up into his arms. As her head fell against his shoulder, he bent to kiss her. She twisted her fingers up into the platinum curls, tugging on them to get his mouth even closer to hers, making little meowing noises at the back of her throat, desperate for the contact to continue.

His tongue ran softly over hers, tangling, teasing, promising much, then leaving her gasping for more. "Later," he growled. "Be patient! I promise, you're going to have an evening you're never, ever going to forget."

And he carried her down to the shore line. There was a small rowing boat pulled up onto the shingle. Spike laid her down on some cushions in the stern and jumping in, began to row them slowly but steadily down the path of moonlight towards the far shore.

to be continued