"Spike!" Dawn screamed, giving away his presence, but his vampire speed still got Spike to Doc before the little demon could react. He caught Doc's head in his hands and wrenched it around, breaking his neck, then threw the limp body off the tower.
Buffy had reached the platform as well and was running towards her sister. Spike yanked his knife out of his boot and flung it to her. She caught it and cut Dawn free, then pulled her to a more stable area of the platform. That was a relative thing, though: the whole shaky, rickety structure of Glory's tower was swaying precariously in the wind and the lightning bolts of the storm all around them. Some spell, already started and not yet finished, was still running its course.
"Are you all right?" Buffy shouted to Dawn.
The teenager nodded, crying with relief now and unable to speak.
"Did he cut you anywhere?" Spike demanded, arriving beside them. Even one drop of blood and the portal would open and all of this would have been for nothing.
Dawn shook her head. "He didn't have time."
The tower quaked again, swaying violently. They all caught at struts to stay on their feet.
"We've got to get to the ground," Spike shouted. They could all hear metal complaining as the tower swayed and bolts started to wrench apart. "This thing's going to collapse."
Buffy looked at the stairs, but it was a long way down and the tower was already starting to crumble. Spike caught up a cable and started wrapping it around Dawn.
"Listen to me, Bit," he said, making the end fast and scooping Dawn up. "It's gonna be scary. Gonna feel like you're falling. But trust me. I've got you."
"I trust you, Spike."
He swung her over the edge of the platform and let her drop. Dawn started to scream, then choked it back as she felt him take up the slack on the cable. He lowered her as fast as he could. Beside him, Buffy leaned recklessly far out over the railing to watch her descent.
"Almost there, Spike! Another ten feet. She's down!"
"Now you, Slayer. Quick!"
A bolt of lightning struck the platform, so close that Buffy felt the hairs on her left arm crisp. Spike screamed.
He was down on the metal, convulsing. She flung herself towards him. The whole top of the tower swayed violently, metal screeching, then tilted sideways. She caught at a strut with one hand and grabbed the collar of Spike's duster with the other, keeping them both from sliding right off the platform and being flung into space.
The top of the tower tilted even further. She found herself looking down at the ground a couple of hundred feet below. A thin, burning, silver line broke open in the air just below them, started to widen, radiating incandescent white light.
It was just not fair! Dawn hadn't spilled a drop of blood and the portal was opening anyway!
"Damn you!" she yelled at the heavens.
Then the whole top of the tower broke away and fell into the portal.
"Are you all right?"
Spike opened his eyes and saw Buffy bending over him, her face worried. It was a view he normally would have relished, having her concerned about him. Except that his head felt like it was splitting apart.
"Oh, God. Oh, God. My head. The chip. It kept firing again and again." Memory came back. "Shit. I was hit by lightning."
"You should be dead."
"Vampire here. Takes more than that to kill me." He looked up and saw the sun burning down on him. "Holy God!"
He scrabbled backwards instinctively, then stopped, belatedly realizing that he was not on fire.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"I'm not burning up," he said dazedly.
"Why should you be?"
"The sun..." A flash came back out of his confused memories—a line of white light widening. "The portal opened, dinnit? We're in another dimension. That's why the sun can't hurt me. Different sun. But then..."
He climbed shakily to his feet and looked around. They were in a meadow beside a small stream and there were woods all around and everything was calm and peaceful.
"Dimensions were supposed to bleed together and there would be chaos and..."
"What are you talking about?" she asked, moving from where she had been kneeling beside him to a more comfortable position cross-legged tailor-fashion on the thick grass.
"No chaos. Everything's quiet. Not Glory's portal, then. Was a portal, though, otherwise we wouldn't be in another dimension. Wait." He snapped his fingers. "There was some kind of spell running. That's what that storm was all about. Maybe she opened one portal, then Dawn's blood would open the rest, connect them all together. Does that make sense? Damn, we need Red or Giles to figure it out."
"None of what you're saying is making sense."
"Doesn't matter. What we need to do is find a way to get back. Maybe that's what the Scoobs are doing on the other side of the portal. Hope so. Neither you or I are any good with magics. We'll just have to wait, is all."
He swayed on his feet, then sat down beside her.
"Damn. Still woozy. Are you feeling all right, Buffy?"
"Is that my name?" she asked curiously.
Spike's jaw dropped.
"Uh, pet," he said after a moment. "Are you saying you don't know who you are?"
She nodded. "Not a clue."
"Do you know who I am?"
She shook her head.
"Well, um, my name's Spike."
"We've both got weird names," she remarked.
"Uh, yeah." He reached out to tilt her head gently from side to side. "Doesn't look as if you got hit on the head. Maybe falling through the portal did something. Lot of energy crackling through there. Maybe it fried something, same way my chip fired when the lightning hit me."
"If you say so."
"Gotta say, you're taking it pretty well."
"Did all my screaming before you woke up," Buffy said wryly.
He laughed a little. "That's my Slayer. Don't worry. Your memory will come back. Everything I've ever heard about amnesia is that it doesn't last long."
"I hope you're right."
"Just have to wait it out. Like the rest of this. You'll probably remember everything the moment we're back to our own dimension."
"See, that's what's wigging me out," said Buffy. "This dimension business. Are you sure the lightning didn't totally fry your brain?"
Spike laughed and lay back on the grass, stretching his arms out and luxuriating in the warmth of the sun on his skin.
"No, all of that's really true, pet. See, it's like this." He gave her a brief rundown of the last few weeks and then a potted bio of her own life.
"So vampires and demons and Hellgods do exist and I'm their Slayer."
She looked at him thoughtfully. She had been relieved to find someone with her when she had woken up in this meadow. Being alone would have freaked her out totally. And it didn't hurt that he was majorly hot. Face like a fallen angel, bleached-white hair, killer cheekbones, beautiful mouth and a beyond-sexy body beneath that black leather duster. But...
"You're a vampire," she said dubiously.
Spike went into full gameface.
"Whoa!" She recoiled instinctively, then recovered herself. "Well, look at that. May I touch?"
He grinned. "Sure."
He lay still, amused, while she explored his face, running her fingers over the ridges and tilting his head to study the yellow eyes. His fangs were razor sharp. She ran the tip of her finger up one and delicately examined the sheath where it emerged from his gums. He shivered.
"Sorry. Sensitive," he explained.
"Well, it's real, all right. Okay. Vampire. So am I supposed to stake you or what?"
"Rather you didn't," he said, resuming his human face. "Won't hurt you, pet. Can't. These government sods shoved a chip up my brain. Keeps me from hurting humans. But I can hurt other demons and I like fighting, so the two of us, we have an understanding. I help you fight the good fight and you don't stake me."
"So you help me with this Slaying business."
"We're friends then."
"We-ell." Spike sighed deeply. There was no way to explain the tortuous ins and outs of their complicated non-relationship. What could he say? 'I tried to kill you. I'm madly in love with you. You think I'm not much better than a dung beetle.' Yeah, right. He'd better just keep it simple. "I'd like us to be friends. And you tolerate me."
Buffy looked at him thoughtfully. The way he was looking at her suggested that he'd like to be more than friends. A little quiver of heat went through her, curling her toes.
"Mm." His lips tightened and he looked away.
"Hey. Vampire here. Evil. No soul."
"I see." She watched him under her lashes. "Well, that's honest. Gotta give you that, Spike. I mean, you could have said we were humping like bunnies and I'd never have known better."
She laughed as his eyes widened. He thumped the back of his head on the ground a couple of times.
"God, how could I have missed the opportunity? Wanker! Never even thought of it."
"Looks like my mind's more evil than yours."
"You have your moments. Truth is, I know if I tried something like that, you'd stake me the moment you got your memory back."
They were both smiling. Then he sobered and looked at her seriously.
"Wouldn't do that to you, pet. I know I'm a monster, but you treat me like a man. Wouldn't put something over on you like that." He reached out a hand and touched a lock of her hair very delicately. "I'll be honest with you, luv. I want it. Very much. But I want it to be real. Wouldn't trick you into it."
"'And Brutus is an honorable man.'"
"Wow. Some of the English Lit stuck, dinnit?" He grinned as she laughed. Then he sat up and looked at her gravely. "Won't hurt you, pet. Not in any way. Try not to, anyway. Don't know what's right or wrong sometimes. Make some pretty big mistakes. But I don't mean to. You see me going off the rails any time, you just tell me. I'll stop. Okay?"
"Okay," she said quietly. "All of that doesn't sound very evil to me."
He grinned crookedly. "Oh, I'm ba-ad. Proud of it too. But not to you, if I can help it. Got my own kind of honor, I guess. Was at least brought up to be an English gentleman." He gave her a twisted smile.
"Guess some of that stuck as well."
They smiled faintly at each other.
"So what are we going to do now?" Buffy asked.
"Sit and wait. Your friends will be looking for us. They'll find us eventually. Trouble is, it might take days. But I don't think we have any other options. I for one don't have a clue how to open that portal."
"And I don't even know what a portal is. Except that we must have come through something." She tilted her chin at where the remains of the tower top and platform lay at the edge of the meadow, half-buried in the earth and crushing a few trees and bushes beneath them. The mangled metal looked totally incongruous in the pastoral setting of meadow and woodlands all around. "That clearly broke off from something and fell from a great height. But there's nothing around that it could have fallen from. No metal structure of any kind as far as the eye can see."
"The eye can't see very far though, what with all these trees. Let me see whether I can find out what's around us."
Spike stood up, headed for the tallest tree that he could find and began to climb with vampire speed and agility. Watching him, Buffy thought that she would have guessed he was something other than human just by seeing that, forget about the vamp face.
"Nothing but trees in all directions," he said when he was back on the ground again. "No roads, trails, houses, billboards, phone lines, whatnot. No sign of human presence at all. Even a village in the Dark Ages would have fields around it and smoke from cooking fires. Wherever we are, it's far away from human habitation. It would take us a month to walk to anywhere."
"And you don't want to," she said shrewdly.
"Got it in one. Don't want to leave this place. If the portal opens again, it'll be right here. The Scoobies would never find us if we leave. We need to stay within sight of this meadow." He looked around. "We've got water here. Wood for a fire and shelter. All we need is food."
"Yeah. Really rather not have you snacking on my neck."
He grinned at her. "Might come to that."
"I'll go hunting after we get set up. Check your pockets. See if you've still got that knife I gave you before we were thrown here."
She checked, then shook her head.
"Pity. Must have dropped it on the platform. Here."
He handed her a switchblade. She pushed the button and raised her brows at the six inches of lethal steel that emerged. It was wickedly sharp.
"I thought these things were illegal."
"They are." He shrugged at her look. "Evil here, remember? You keep that, just in case. Don't think stakes are going to be useful against wild animals."
"What about you?"
He yanked loose one of the solid metal struts from the tower and hefted it. "Yeah, this will do." He pulled two more pieces of metal loose, one flattened and the other with a sharpish edge. "Shovel and axe," he explained at her inquiring look. "Not optimal, but they'll work with vamp strength behind them."
"How can I help?"
"See if you can find dry wood for a fire. And tinder."
He had a firepit dug and lined with rocks by the time she got back, her arms full.
"Nice load," he said appreciatively. "More out there if we need it?"
"Tons. What are you going to do now?"
"Make us a shelter. Gonna build a lean-to using the platform as one wall. It's leaning nicely as it is. Just have to add another side to it."
He cut several stout branches to lean against the platform, covered those with smaller branches and twigs, making a wall about eight feet wide and five feet high. She helped him cover both that and the grating of the platform with debris like fallen leaves, dried fern and pine needles to provide insulation. Heaped pine boughs made a halfway decent bed inside.
"You're pretty handy at this outdoors stuff," she remarked. "I wouldn't have known what to do."
"SoCal urbanite," he mocked. "Dru liked good hotels and the high life. But there were lots of times we'd have to go on the run and rough it in the wilds. I learned."
"Drusilla. My ex."
"Yeah. She was my sire. Turned me," he explained at her puzzled look.
"Wow. You're that old? You don't look it."
"Vamps don't age and I was only twenty-eight when I was turned."
"Do you like being a vamp?" she asked curiously.
"The truth? Yeah. Was just an ordinary git before. A mediocrity. Got turned and suddenly there was all this power and strength. Could do anything. Be anything. Weird when you think about it, really. I was dead, but I'd never felt so alive."
"So you wouldn't want to go back to being human."
"No. Never." He shuddered at the thought, then gave her a rueful smile. "Not the right answer, is it? Going right off the rails here. But it's the truth."
She bit her lip. "It's the killing people that gets me."
He shrugged and tapped his temple. "Chip. I don't anymore. Can't."
"But if the chip were gone, you'd go back to killing."
He was silent for a while. "Depends. Can survive on pig's blood. Found that out. Disgusting stuff. But it's blood. It keeps me going. Might not go back to killing if...if I had a reason not to."
She glanced at him quickly, but he was looking down at the lighter he was turning around in his fingers.
"Almost sunset," he said abruptly, turning away towards the west. "Gonna go hunt. There's animals in the woods. I can sense them. Should be able to find something. Will you be all right alone here for a while?"
"I'll climb a tree if anything turns up," she said wryly. "I've no idea if I can fight like the Slayer you say I am, but I can sure climb a tree."
His fist shot towards her face with shocking speed. She blocked it instinctively, then gasped when she realized what she had done.
He was grinning. "You'll do. Reflexes are built in now. Your body remembers even if your mind doesn't."
"Whoa." She drew a long breath, then frowned at him. "But I thought you couldn't hurt people."
"Knew you'd block. Chip doesn't fire if there's no intent to harm."
He lit the fire and made sure it was burning properly before shrugging off his duster, picking up the solid metal strut and ghosting away into the woods. She noticed how silent he was and wondered whether that came from being a vampire or whether it was just good woodcraft. The moment he entered the trees, she lost track of him. She should have been able to see him still, but she couldn't. That she supposed was the vampire part.
It was strange being so completely alone, different from choosing to be solitary by herself in her room. She couldn't remember exactly, but she didn't think she was anything but a city girl. She had this sense of always having been surrounded by streetlights and noise and people. Here everything was dead silent except for the rustle of the wind in the leaves and the soft chuckle of the stream. She listened hard, but could hear nothing else. There was a sense of utter, lonely emptiness. It creeped her out. She shivered and hugged herself for comfort, hoping that Spike would get back soon. It wasn't that she was scared; she just wanted the company.
There was a spectacular sunset as the sun went down and then the stars came out. There were millions of them, thickly peppering the night sky. No light pollution. She stared upwards, entranced.
Spike still hadn't come back. She paced around the campfire restlessly, hoping that nothing had happened to him. She wouldn't even be able to go look for him until morning, the night being so completely black, the thin sliver of a new moon in the sky providing not even the slightest bit of light. She sat down on the dead log she had rolled towards the fire as a seat before the daylight died, and tapped her foot impatiently. She wasn't worried about him. Not a bit. Hey, vampire. Talk about being able to take care of oneself. No, she wasn't worried; she was just bored, that's all.
"Where have you been?" she demanded when he stepped out of the darkness into the circle of firelight, one moment not there, the next solidly present. Another vampire thing, she supposed, letting out a hidden breath of relief.
"Up a tree," he drawled and her brows rose.
"What's that?" she asked, staring at the limp shape dangling from his hand.
"Pork." He grinned and held it up into the firelight. A...piglet, she thought. But it was brown and bristly, nothing like Babe in the movie. He saw her dubious look. "Wild pig. Mum was the reason why I was stuck up the tree."
She couldn't help laughing at the picture that presented. "The mighty hunter. Why didn't you bring Mum back?"
"Mum was three feet high at the shoulder and had tusks the length of my hand. Besides, what would we do with four hundred odd pounds of meat? 'S not like we have a freezer around here and I can always catch something fresh tomorrow. Lend me that switchblade, luv."
She followed him as he went off a little ways into the trees, then watched as he skinned and dressed the pig efficiently.
"Did it have enough blood for you?" she asked and he nodded.
"Drained it and got enough in me to last a couple of days. Tasted better fresh from the pig than it does in the bag from the butcher's. It's the life, you see. It's not the blood alone that nourishes you, but the life that you're draining."
"Oh. Is that why you kill when you feed?"
"Hard to hold back once you start," he agreed. "The life, it's powerful, addictive. Though I've done catch-and-release, times when we've had to keep a low profile." He cocked his head to one side, considering. "Some blood's stronger that others and you can go longer before you have to feed again. Some people's lives are stronger than others."
He saw the queasy look on her face and grinned.
"Too much information? That's the way we are, pet." He gave her a sideways-slanting, mocking glance. "Slayer blood's the best. Wicked powerful stuff, that is. One mouthful would do me a week. Plus, it's an aphrodisiac."
He laughed at the look she gave him.
"Definitely TMI," she said firmly and went back to sit on the dead log while he finished cleaning the piglet, got it roasting on a spit over the fire, then went off to wash his hands in the stream.
"Cold?" he asked when he came back to the fire, seeing the way she was sitting with her arms wrapped around herself.
"A little." The night air was cold and the fire only warmed the front of her.
He picked up his duster from where he had left it on a boulder and put it around her shoulders, then came around to crouch on his heels in front of her to draw it closer about her. She watched his absorbed face, its hard planes soft and concerned as he settled the duster around her. This close, his supernatural beauty was even more evident. The firelight threw the strong bones of his face into high relief, making the killer cheekbones and hard temples and strong jaw stand out. His thick, straight lashes cast a shadow on the flat plane of his cheek as he looked down at the lapels he was drawing together, and his lips were parted, making her very aware of the cave of his open mouth.
"Better?" he asked. His hand brushed her hair lightly, lifting it carefully out from under the collar of his coat. The way he was looking at her, as if she were wonderful and amazing and delightful and special, made her breath catch and her heart beat faster.
He smelled of leather and cigarettes and whiskey and a clean, earthy scent that was Spike himself. Very masculine. Very...attractive. She bit her lip.
"You'll feel even better once you've had something to eat," he said. "I know for a fact you haven't eaten much all day. Too worried about the fight with Glory." He started to stand up, then paused. "Oh, wait."
He reached into the right-hand pocket of the duster and withdrew a pack of cigarettes.
"Only one pack," he said sadly. "Have to ration myself. Mustn't smoke more than one a day, maybe two at the most, until we get home."
He rose and went to sit on the grass some distance away where the smoke wouldn't bother her, then lit up and took a long, luxurious drag. She found herself sorry that he had moved away.
"You know those things aren't good for you," she remarked.
He laughed, left eyebrow quirking. "It's not like they're going to kill me, luv."
Vampire. She laughed too, shaking her head at herself. "Right. So what do we do now?"
"Wait for your dinner to finish cooking. Eat. Go to sleep."
She sighed and he grinned.
"Bored, are you? No telly, no clubbing, nothing to do. Poor little modern-day city-girl. So used to having entertainment provided to her. We used to make our own entertainment in the old days."
"And what was that, Grandpa?"
"Play games. Visit each other. Sing, dance. Read, write long letters or diaries. Mostly though, something that's gone out of fashion these days."
She raised her brows at him. "Which is?"
"Have conversations. Talk." He cocked a mocking eyebrow at her.
She gave him a challenging look. "Okay, then. Talk to me."
"You've been a vampire a long time. Tell me about it."
"Didn't think horror stories were in your line, pet."
She made a face. "I didn't mean that. But you must have traveled. Tell me about Paris, for instance, or Rome."
"Oh! Sure. I can do that."
He had been to a lot of places. She watched his face vivid in the firelight as he described them, the clever, sensitive hands shaping the air in illustration. He was a keen observer and his sardonic sense of humor added bite to his words. The way he saw things was interesting, at once cynical and romantic, a wry, mocking, rueful attitude. She found herself enjoying herself immensely.
"Better go to bed," he said at last. "Been a long day for you. Gonna fall in the fire, keep on nodding like that."
She realized that her eyelids were drooping. "You're right." She sighed and stretched. "That was fun. Thank you."
He smiled. His eyes were warm, lingering on her. "Never talked this long before, the two of us."
"Did you like it?"
"Yeah," he said softly. "Very much."
"So did I." She started to hand his coat back to him.
"Keep it. Spread it out over the pine boughs. Won't be so prickly that way." He leaned forward and started to bank the fire. "Don't worry about anything. I'll be up."
She turned, surprised. "Do we need to keep a watch?"
He shook his head. "I'll know if anything comes close. Just not sleepy yet. Body clock thinks that night is the time to be awake. Still hasn't gotten used to the idea that I can move around during the day now."
Once she was in the lean-to, she didn't even notice whether the pine boughs of the bed were prickly or not. She went out like a light the minute she put her head down.
She woke up several hours later to realize she was still alone in the lean-to. It was the dead of night and everything was black, even darker than before because the fire was banked and even the stars had disappeared behind a heavy overcast. She looked around for Spike and located him on the other side of the fire. In the dim light of the banked coals, she saw that he was asleep, stretched out on the ground, with his back against the dead log, his arms and ankles crossed and his chin resting on his chest.
He was awake and up into a crouch in a flash, hand reaching for the metal strut beside him.
"Something wrong, pet?"
"What are you doing out there?"
She saw him blink in the light of the coals. "Guess I fell asleep. Sorry."
"That's not what I meant. If you're going to sleep, you'd better get in here."
He looked taken aback. "Shelter's for you, pet."
"It's big enough for two. It looks like it might be going to rain and all that this situation needs is for you to get soaked and catch cold."
"Vamps don't catch cold."
"Well, I don't like sleeping warm and dry while you're out there getting wet." She wondered why he was looking so surprised. "Hey, don't worry. I'm not going to jump your bones."
"Well, I know that, don't I?" he said, then added under his breath, so quietly that she knew that he hadn't meant her to hear him, "Miracles don't happen."
"And I know you won't jump mine," she finished gently. "I trust you."
"I don't," he retorted, but he laid down the strut and came towards the shelter.
"Now, isn't that better?" she asked when they were lying back to back on the makeshift bed.
'No,' thought Spike. They weren't touching, but he could feel the warmth of her body close to his and smell her scent and hear the soft sound of her breathing slowing as she fell asleep. For him, it was a kind of refined torture, to be this close and not be able to touch her. He forced himself to ignore it, forced down his responses, forced himself to blank out his mind and fall asleep since no good, no good at all was going to come out of staying awake, only more pain.
He woke up a couple of hours after dawn to find himself on his back with something snuggled up against his side, and a weight on his shoulder and across his ribcage. He opened his eyes cautiously and looked down. Buffy's head was in the curve of his shoulder and her arm across his stomach. She was fast asleep.
He curved his arm carefully around her to hold her to him and dropped his face into her hair. God, it was sweet, just holding her. He lay still, his eyes closed, just luxuriating in the feel of her against him, lying so trustingly in his arms. He wasn't going to sleep now, wasn't going to miss a moment of this. He wanted it to go on forever. He lay there in a still haze of amazement and wonder, storing up every moment in his memory.
Yesterday had been a good day. They had had a conversation, a real conversation that had gone on for hours, not just a few orders flung at him. They had really talked and laughed and enjoyed themselves. And now this. Maybe miracles do happen.
After a couple of hours, she stirred. He sighed silently, letting his arms fall away from her. Eyes open the barest fraction, he watched her through his lashes, wondering whether she would be angry and upset when she realized where she was.
Her head turned in the curve of his shoulder, then he felt her sudden stillness and knew she was completely awake. Her hand flattened on his chest, then she pushed herself up a little and looked down at him. Through the screen of his lashes, he saw that she didn't look angry; she just looked startled and a little amused. She considered him thoughtfully for a while, then frowned all of a sudden. He held his breath, then was surprised when her fingers brushed his face lightly, first beside his right eye and then just beneath it. Then she shrugged and drew back. He felt her sit up and work her way downwards and out of the shelter. He turned over and watched her get up and move out of sight, heading towards the stream to wash.
He gave her about fifteen minutes, then got up himself. It was still an astonishment for him to be walking in the sunlight. He looked up at the cloudless sky and thought that he could get used to all of this.
Buffy was kneeling by the stream, splashing her face. She smiled at him as she wiped the water out of her eyes.
"Morning. It looks as if it did rain last night, so it was a good thing you slept in the lean-to." She sighed. "What I wouldn't give for a toothbrush."
Spike broke off a green twig, frayed one end and handed it to her. "Toothbrush. Sorry, no toothpaste, not even salt. That was what they used to do, round the time of the American Revolution. Dip a frayed twig in salt to brush their teeth."
"The things you know," she said, smiling.
"Packrat mind. Wait a minute." He went back to the lean-to, dug around in the pockets of his duster and came back in triumph. "Wondered what felt so hard in the small of my back."
She looked at the metal flask in his one hand and the roll of mints in the other.
"Mints and mouthwash," he said.
She took a sip of bourbon and swished it around her mouth. "Gahh!" She grabbed at a mint to take the taste away.
He laughed at her reaction. "Sterilizes."
"Good excuse," she said dryly as he took a bigger swig.
"Felt like celebrating," he explained, then sighed. "Another thing that needs to be rationed. Mints too. Here."
"Oh, joy!" She took the comb he was holding out.
"Was in a hurry yesterday. Must have shoved it into my pocket without thinking."
"Now, that is a lifesaver."
"You'd look good anyway, pet. Breakfast coming up. Cold pork. Wonder if it'll taste better if we toast it over the fire."
She smiled after him as he headed that way. He was always trying things out, looking for new ways to do something or things to turn to his advantage. She was finding it interesting and fun to be with him.
He had fanned the embers into a blaze by the time she got to the firepit. Some time during the night, he had broken off other pieces of metal from the wreck of the tower and platform. There was a flat piece that he clearly intended to use as a griddle and a hollow one that she saw now could be used as a rudimentary pot.
He looked up at her, smiling as he squatted on his heels beside the fire. She put out a hand and tilted his head to one side.
"What happened to the scratches?"
"You had two deep scratches last night. Here and here." She brushed her fingertips beside his right eye and then beneath it.
"Oh! That's why you..." Spike stopped abruptly before betraying the fact that he had been awake when she had touched him like that before in the lean-to. "Vamps heal fast, luv."
"That must be useful."
"Is. Slayer healing's even faster."
"I heal like that?"
He nodded. "Got yourself staked two-three months back. Belly wound. Deep. Healed in a few days."
"Well, that's reassuring. Helps if I'm constantly getting into fights like you say."
He grinned at her. "You still don't really believe me, do you?"
"Show you after breakfast. Do a little sparring, yeah? No point getting out of shape while we're here. Who knows how long the Scoobies will take to find us."
"Okay." It would pass the time. She sat down on the dead log they were using as a seat and started trying to pick the pine needles out of her white pullover. "Pity there was no warning that we were going to fall through that portal. Wearing a knitted top and thin gray slacks out here is definitely of the bad. There's something pricking me right between my shoulderblades."
She twisted, trying to reach it, and he set down the griddle and came to sit beside her.
"Let me take a look. Oh, you've got a burr."
He picked it off and showed it to her, rubbing her back lightly to take away the irritation. She made a face and leaned against his shoulder, shaking her head.
"I am definitely a city person. I'm not cut out for roughing it."
"You're coping damn well, pet."
"Thanks." She turned her head to smile at him, then caught her breath. His face was only inches away from hers and his gaze was fixed on her mouth, the vivid blue of his eyes darkening as his pupils dilated.
She was suddenly intensely aware of him, found herself remembering the way he had felt when she had woken up this morning, that cool strong body so vibrant and fine against hers. His lips had been parted and she had found herself wanting to cover his open mouth with hers, find out what that mouth would taste like. Now, with his breath shuddering against her lips, she was tempted all over again.
Something popped in the heart of the fire and they jerked away from each other. Her face was hot and she knew she was blushing, couldn't meet his eyes. But he was looking away too, jolting to his feet and using the excuse of putting the griddle on the fire as the reason for moving away from her.
"Think this is ready to eat, luv," he announced after a while.
The pork had tasted really good last night and wasn't half bad this morning either, heated up on the griddle.
"So," she said, needing to fill the awkward silence. "I was staked and managed to heal from it. Can vamps heal from a wound like that?"
He dropped down to sprawl on the grass safely on the other side of the fire. "Long as it's not through the heart. Fire, decapitation or a stake through the heart—that's what kills vamps. Has to be a wooden stake, though. Your ex once shoved a plastic woodgrain stake through my heart. Hurt like bloody hell, but I didn't dust."
"I have an ex?"
"Riley Finn, his name was. Big, cornfed, Captain America type. Wasn't trying to dust me. Wanted me to stay away from you and was making a point. That's why he used plastic instead of wood."
Buffy was frowning. "Was he human, this Riley Finn?"
"Well, of course. Otherwise, I'd have kicked him clean across the country. Your other ex, Angel, he's a vamp. I can fight him. But Riley or Xander? They're human. All I can do is duck when they try to stake me. Finn took me by surprise when he got me with that plastic stake."
"I see. Xander. He's one of the Scoobies, isn't that what you told me before? Why should he try to stake you?"
"Get on his nerves, don't I?" He gave her an unrepentant grin. "I like giving him the bird, that wanker."
"Do they know you've got that chip? That you can't hurt them?"
"Oh, yeah. Otherwise they'd be pissing themselves if I even looked at them."
"Oh, that's brave," said Buffy.
Spike blinked. "What?"
"They try to stake you only because they know you can't hurt them. Cowards. That business with Riley and the plastic stake. He wanted to cause pain. That's torture. Stake through the heart, that must be agony. Take you by surprise, torture you, shove you around, and you can't even fight back. That's my definition of a bully and a coward. No wonder I dumped him."
Spike was staring at her, his jaw dropped. "Uh, pet, I think you've got the wrong idea..."
Her brows rose. "Why, you accept it, don't you? You don't even think it's wrong for them to act that way."
"Well, uh, vampire here, pet. I'm..."
"Evil. Yeah. Got that. Well, I think what Riley did was evil. Geesh, and these are supposed to be the good guys?"
He looked totally taken aback. He opened his mouth to say something, but no sound came out. He seemed to be beyond words. A silence fell. Buffy was fuming. Spike was staring at the ground, the crease between his brows very evident. He was obviously thinking hard.
"A going off the rails moment, huh?" he said at last.
"Ethics," he sighed. "Vamps aren't big on ethics. You want something, you take it, fight anyone who objects. Nice and simple. Why do you have to complicate things, Slayer?"
"Me? Looks like you're the one who's not operating in that nice, simple way anymore, Spike."
"Don't say it. Don't say it. I am not a white hat." He glared at her when she was silent. "I'm not!"
"Didn't say a word. Tell me again though what you were doing before you fell through that portal of ours. Saving my sister, didn't you say? Saving the world from an apocalypse?"
"That was for you!"
"Yeah, right. Whatever."
He jerked to his feet and stalked off into the woods, his back very stiff as she laughed.
The sun was high in the sky before he returned. She had been busy while he was gone, creating spoons out of strips of metal by using the handle of his switchblade to bang a depression into one end, deepening the rudimentary pot and creating a metal spider to allow it to be set over the fire. If he could be inventive, she could too.
"No more talk about white hats, okay, Slayer?" he growled, stopping beside her.
She mimed zipping her lips closed, locking them and throwing away the key. But her eyes laughed at him. He looked heavenward, then dropped two rabbits on the grass beside her.
She stroked the soft fur of the pathetic, little, limp bodies sadly. "What a shame."
"Gotta eat, Slayer, and coneys are good eating. Pity that prey tends to be cute."
"Tend to be beautiful." His gaze moved, smiling, across her face.
"I'm not a predator!" But he was and he was beautiful.
He looked down at her, amused. "Yes, you are, Slayer. You kill my kind. You're the alpha hunter, the ultimate threat. Most vamps are scared even to whisper your name."
"But you're not."
"I like challenges. I've killed your kind."
She was shocked. "You've killed Slayers?"
"Two." His gaze was steady. "Thought you should know."
"Is this the white hat, black hat business again?"
"You don't know what I am. You can't remember. Don't want any false pretences here. One of the reasons I came to Sunnydale was to kill you."
"Why didn't you then? Because of the chip?"
He hesitated. "Couldn't kill you. Even before the chip. Tried. You were too good. And...don't think I was really trying."
She opened her mouth to ask why, then closed it again abruptly. He wasn't meeting her eyes, so she thought she knew.
"Thing is," he said, looking back at her, "you're seeing things from my side. That's the only side you're hearing. And that's not fair to you. Everything's skewed. Better reserve judgment until you get your memory back, yeah?"
"Okay." But even the fact that he felt compelled to be fair was a point in his favor.
"Right then. You've been busy," he said, looking at the utensils she had created and the new pile of wood beside the fire.
"Needed to keep myself occupied. Bored otherwise." She stood up, forgetting about the open switchblade in her lap. "Oh!"
He caught it out of the air in a blur of vampire speed before the razor edge of the blade could impact with the toe of her boot.
"Careful with that, Slayer!" Then he grinned crookedly. "But then you're more used to stakes than knives."
"So you say. God, you move fast." She shook her head, both at her lapse of attention and at his speed. "Are you telling me that I can keep up with that?"
"Oh, yeah. Come on." He pulled her along to a clear area of the meadow. "I'll show you how to spar. All the talk in the world is never gonna convince you, stubborn bint that you are."
"But I don't remember how to fight!"
"Your body does. Gonna start off slow. I'm gonna try to hit you. You block."
"I'll be in slow motion. You'll see it coming. You respond at any speed. Whatever comes naturally, okay?"
"Okay," she said dubiously.
His fist came towards her face in slow motion and she struck it away. He threw another blow and she countered. It became a slow dance, weaving back and forth, smooth, intricate motion. But she couldn't feel that it was fighting. Anyone could strike away the slow, telegraphed blows.
Then his fist came at her with sizzling speed, out of nowhere. She blocked it without thinking.
He grinned at her. "Again, Slayer."
A little faster now—and she was keeping up. Faster still—and she was holding her own. She couldn't believe it. Her conscious mind said that this was not possible.
He barely managed to pull his punch in time before clipping her across the jaw. She had frozen up and he had come right under her guard.
"You were thinking, Slayer. Don't think. Let your mind go blank. Your body remembers the moves. Let it take over. It's like making love. Just go with the flow."
She deliberately blanked out her mind. He was right. If she didn't think about it, her body responded correctly. He started out slow again, but this time sped up rapidly.
"Action and response. That's it, pet. There we go. Keep going. That's right."
She concentrated on the sound of his voice, that soothing litany that kept her from thinking. If she kept her mind focused on simply moving and responding to his moves, her body kept up. Then she realized that she wasn't just blocking anymore. She was hitting back.
She froze in shock. His fist hit her shoulder hard before he could stop himself and knocked her backwards. She was falling, twisting as she fell. She caught a glimpse of a rock in the grass below her, knew absolutely that she was going to hit her temple on it, everything happening too fast to prevent it.
He flung himself at her, his arm coming around her head. She heard the little grunt of pain he made as they both struck the ground and realized he had wrenched his shoulder getting between her and that rock.
"Spike! Are you all right?"
He let out a little breath and sagged back on the grass, his arm still cradling her head. "Yeah. You?"
"I'm fine." She leaned her forehead against his collarbone. "Oh, wow."
"Started thinking again, didn't you?"
"Not your fault, pet. Whole thing kind of escalated." He let her go and pushed himself up on one straight arm, smiling at her. "But, hey, I think you've come around to the idea you really can fight now, haven't you?"
"Mm." She sat up herself and reached out to knead his shoulder. "Did you pull it really badly?"
"No. Getting better already."
"Hey!" she realized. "You hit me."
"Kinda the reason we're sitting on the ground here, yeah."
"Why didn't your chip go off?"
He blinked. "It didn't, did it? Maybe because I didn't mean to hit you."
"Oh. Thank you for getting between me and that rock."
His gaze moved across her face, lingering. "Wouldn't let anything hurt you, pet."
Their faces were so close together that she could feel the shudder of his breath on her lips. She didn't know who made the first move, but suddenly they were kissing. And it was sweet, scarily, thrillingly sweet. Her mouth opened to him without a thought.
He made a painful, inarticulate sound in the back of his throat and then his hands were cupping her face and he was kissing her over and over again, lips clinging to hers, unable to draw away. She purred, drowning in him, losing herself in him. She was drunk on sensation, the taste of him, the feel of him, the long slides of that sinful, knowledgeable tongue against hers.
"You make me feel drunk," she murmured against his mouth.
He was kissing her as if there were nothing in the world but her, his whole being surrendered to her. Despairingly, devouringly, as if the world were going to end any minute and this was the only chance he'd get to hold her.
He tore his mouth away. They leaned their foreheads together, their breaths ragged against each other's faces.
"This isn't right," he groaned. "You'd never let me if you knew who you were, if you had your memory back..."
She leaned against him, shivering with pleasure, her bones turned to water. "I can't seem to care."
His lips were sliding across her face, kissing her eyes, her temple, her jawline.
"Too fast," she murmured, trying to get some sense back, and he gasped against her throat.
"Mustn't," he muttered, agreeing.
They drew back reluctantly. The vivid blue of his eyes was dark with heat and intensity, his pupils dilated, his eyelids heavy with passion and all the bones of his face standing out with strain under the taut skin. Beautiful. She almost fell right back into his arms.
"Oh, wow," she breathed. "That was..."
"Gotta keep our heads. That was way too fast. Came out of nowhere."
"Not for me," he muttered and she couldn't help cupping the side of his face. He closed his eyes and pushed against her hand, like a cat wanting to be petted.
"Need some time to think about this."
"Take all you want, pet."
The power she had over him was touchingly evident. She dropped her forehead against his for a brief second, then sighed and got to her feet.
"We'd better skin those rabbits."
"I'll do that, luv." Spike rose and retrieved the rabbits, switchblade and pot. "Back in five."
He took the rabbits well away from the campsite where the blood smell wouldn't attract animals and got to work, his hands on automatic while his mind whirled.
She wanted him. Really wanted him, not like that spell of Willow's a couple of years ago, the one that had both of them planning on getting married. This time, it was real: she truly wanted him.
But this too was like a kind of spell, wasn't it? Her not having her memory. Non compos mentis. Not in her right mind. In her right mind, she'd never touch him. In her right mind, he disgusted her.
In her right mind, he'd never have a chance in hell.
And, oh, God, he wanted her. He wanted her so. And this would be the only chance he'd ever get to have her—when she was not in her right mind.
It was wrong. He knew it. No question about that. Even as a vampire, he knew it.
But, hey. Vampire here, right? What did quibbles about right and wrong have to do with vampires? Want, take, have—that was all there was to it, right?
'The only chance you had with me was when I was unconscious.' She had said it herself. And this was a kind of being unconscious.
Oh, God, he wanted her.
'And Brutus is an honorable man.'
He rested his elbows on his knees, dropped his forehead onto his unbloodied wrists and sat there for a long time.