Title: Slippery Slope
Rating: 'R' for some mild sex scenes later in the story
Feedback: Much appreciated, and it makes me post chapters faster
Distribution: Want, Take, Have, just tell me where it's going. It gives me a happy.
Disclaimer: The characters and settings belong to Joss and Co., the plot is mine. I borrowed a few lines in later chapters.
Setting: S4 Something Blue, but this replaces the "I will it so" spell. In case you don't recall,Willow's going through her "grief-y, 'poor me' mood swings", and Spike is so new to the chip that he still thinks it's a spell. So what if Willow had gone out drinking by herself that one night? And what if that were the night Spike escaped? What if they ran into each other? What would Spike do?
*This story is complete (almost), but I'm posting it a little at a time. It's long, so please stick with it.
*Many thanks to my sister, Shannon, for being my beta reader.
*The cover of "Havana Affair" mentioned in the first chapter is by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and I don't know what Spike is thinking, because I love that version.;-)
Misery Loves Company
Giles: "She seems to be coping better with Oz's departure, don't you think?"
Buffy: "Well, she still has a way to go, but yeah, I think she's dealing."
Spike: "What, are you people blind? She's hanging on by a thread. Any ninny can see that."
"Jack, straight up. And sometime today, mate." Spike leaned his head on his hands and massaged the temples a bit before taking the glass that appeared in front of him and knocking it back in one gulp. "Another one, and leave the bottle this time."
Escaping from the Watcher's had been almost depressingly easy. Why on earth they'd chosen the bathroom for his prison, he'd never figured out, but it meant several transfers to the living room each day. He'd simply bided his time until they grew less cautious, and voilá! – freedom. Of a sort.
That was the depressing part. Not that he was being held "captive" by a bunch of idiots – the fact that he would have to return there eventually, that he'd actually gone to the Slayer and her pals for help in the first place, that he, William the Bloody, had needed their help at all.
Spike growled into his drink, seething in frustration. Helpless, unable to kill, to feed, to even bloody defend himself. He supposed he should be grateful that the Scoobies still thought he was dangerous enough to chain up, but it just added to his misery.
The bottle was getting surprisingly low, so he signaled for the bartender again before turning to survey the rest of the club. He glared out at the writhing mass of teens and college kids clogging the dance floor. All that blood rushing and flowing, and he couldn't taste a drop of it. With a sour grimace, he began turning back to his drink, when a flash of red hair caught his eye.
The witch was out there on the floor, dancing with enthusiasm, if not a great deal of skill. Spike quickly scanned the surrounding crowds. If Red was here, the Slayer couldn't be far behind…No, he paused in relief, she's alone. Curious, he watched as she disengaged herself from her fellow dancers and wandered unsteadily over to a seat in the corner. Glancing around to see if anyone was watching, she drew a bottle out from under her coat and took a furtive sip. Spike smirked, both at the face she was making and the thought of Miss Sweet-and-Innocent sneaking off to get drunk by herself.
That thread's getting mighty thin, looks like, he chuckled to himself, and they think she's 'dealing with it', what a joke. Spike paused a moment as a thought occurred to him, and an evil grin slowly spread across his face. If he played his cards right…
"Hey mate, get me another one of these, and um…a rum and coke." Drinks in hand, he sauntered over to the soon-to-be inebriated young Scooby.
"Here, pet, think you'll like this better," he said without preamble, placing the drink on the table next to her.
"Spike!" Willow nearly screeched, her eyes wide, "What...! How…!"
"Now, now. No need to disturb all these lovely people," he admonished, a hand on her shoulder to keep her from leaping out of her seat, "We both know I can't hurt bloody anything right now."
"How did you get out? What did you do to Giles? Does Buffy know where you are?" Her voice was heavy with concern. Her face firmed a bit in resolve. "I'm calling her right now!"
"Calm down, love, the Watcher's fine. I just wanted some air, stretch my legs, you know. That bathtub's not exactly comfortable." He stretched out on the nearby couch, enjoying the welcome contrast to his recent prison. "Cheers!" he added, clinking his glass with hers, still on the table beside her.
"Buffy doesn't know you're here, does she?" the redhead accused.
"Not a bleedin' clue, if I'm lucky." Willow opened her mouth to say something, but Spike forestalled her with a raised hand. "Oh, you could tell her right where I am, I can't stop you. But then, of course, we'd have to explain to her what you were doing here." His hand quickly darted beneath the coat nearby, and he fished out the beer bottle, holding it up to view.
The witch turned an amazing shade of crimson. "How did…It's not…You won't tell her, will you?" she pleaded faintly.
"Secret's safe with me, pet. Provided you don't go off alerting the search party as to my whereabouts," he smiled at her. "So's that why you're drinking alone? Afraid of what Blondie and the rest would say if they knew?"
"Not really, or, not entirely," she grudgingly acknowledged.
"Not entirely?" he prompted gently, sensing he might find a good 'in' here. He knew the simple lure of his 'bad boy' image wouldn't be enough for this one. Somehow, he had to find something that would distract her enough to forget his past.
"You're right, though, they probably – no, definitely would not approve." She missed her cue to confide in him, still worried that he might sell her out. "I don't really think I could handle that on top of everything else, Spike," she pleaded.
"As I said, love, your secret's safe. Unlike your little pals, I can appreciate the value of getting utterly pissed when there's cause. And you, my dear," he gestured with his glass, "have definite cause."
"Not really looking for validation from our resident evil," she said absently, looking into her drink with skepticism.
"Rum and coke," he supplied, "Figured you'd like the taste better."
She eyed him suspiciously. "What's in it?"
"Well, if I had to guess, I'd say coke, and with any luck, quite a good deal of rum. That's where they get the name," he explained with exaggerated patience, "Unfortunately, it only works when taken internally."
"No, I meant 'What did you do to it?'"
"Do to it? I carried it across the room." He snorted at her caution, "Even if I had some, poison's not really my style. Plus, no telling what this sodding spell would do if I tried to off you that way. Here," he grabbed the glass from her, took a swig, and passed it back, "Satisfied?"
"Not from that, no. It wouldn't hurt you anyway, you're dead." The girl wiped the rim of the glass with a grimace of distaste. Spike sighed in frustration. "But you're right," she continued thoughtfully, "It's not the sort of thing you'd do. You tend to be more… direct, I guess."
"That's me," he attempted a friendly smile, "Direct and to the point."
Still looking a bit skeptical, the redhead finally took a careful sip of her drink. Pleasantly surprised, she took a bigger one.
"Told you," he said, lips quirking into a half-smile as she continued to drink. He signaled for a waitress to bring over a second round.
They sat in silence for a while, staring out at the dancers before them without really seeing anything, each lost in their own thoughts as they drank.
"So why?" Red finally asked bluntly. "Why buy me a drink if you're not trying to kill me or something?"
"Can't a bloke want to spend an evening drinking with a lovely lady?" A little flattery never hurt, he figured. "I may be dead, as you pointed out, but I still appreciate a good-looking bird."
She just gave him a flat look.
"Oh, please, Spike. Me?" she grimaced, "You're just trying to use me to get at Buffy somehow."
"The Slayer?" His tone was scornful, as if offended at the very thought, "She's got nothing to do with this. I'm bloody miserable, I wanted to get good and drunk, and I didn't feel like drinking alone."
"So you chose me?" she snorted in disbelief, "Over…" A waved hand took in all the other women in sight.
Spike stared into his drink, thinking fast. Lay it on too thick, and she'd never buy it, but he didn't feel like hours of verbal fencing just trying to convince the chit. When the proper approach finally dawned on him, he felt idiotic for not thinking of it right away.
"Maybe I just didn't like the thought of you drinking alone." A short, calculated pause as he threw her a look of empathetic understanding. "Maybe I thought you needed to talk to someone who knows exactly what you're going through."
"You!" Willow's laugh was incredulous, "How could you possibly…"
Their eyes met, Spike allowing just enough of the old pain to surface in his eyes. He could practically see the memories flickering in hers…the factory basement, the love spell, him crying his heart out on her fuzzy, pink shoulder. Her gaze softened and she touched his hand, sympathy in her voice, "I'm sorry, Spike, I forgot about Dru."
"S'alright, love, I'm over it," he waved away the apology. "It's you I'm worried about."
"Nice to know someone is, even if it's you," she replied sadly, before starting in on her next drink. Oh really, he thought to himself slyly, If that's how she's feeling about her friends, I might just have a chance here.
"Especially as it's me," he corrected. When she cocked an eyebrow at him, he explained a bit. "Coming from your friends, you can't ever be sure if they're really telling the truth, or just trying not to hurt your feelings. I don't care if I hurt your feelings, so you can always trust me for an honest opinion. If I'm actually concerned, you know it's got to be genuine."
"With 'actually' being the operative word," she said scornfully. "You could just be looking to do something evil," she added, hitting way too close to the mark for Spike's comfort. More drinks, he decided, flagging down another waitress.
"Good point," he conceded, "Always knew you were the smart one." He gave her a flattering smile, then continued more gently, "But seems like you've already had more pain than you can deal with right now."
She looked at him carefully, measuringly. He waited as patiently as he could, keeping a look of concern and empathy on his face. Genuine empathy, too, although he hated to admit it. On top of his current misery, her situation brought up other memories he thought best forgotten.
Spike was almost about to give the whole thing up as impossible before she made up her mind about him. He was already finishing off his third bottle. The downside of being a vampire, he thought ruefully, is that it takes so much to get decently plastered. When she finally did speak, her voice was so soft that even he had to strain to hear her over the noise of the club.
"It's not just drinking that I do alone. I seem to be alone a lot lately. Even before…" She swallowed hard, trying to regain control. Her voice was a little stronger when she continued, "It's just that everything's different now, all the college stuff. Buffy and I have different class schedules. I'm usually studying when she's out patrolling. Xander's working, and spending a lot of time with Anya." That last bit came out in such a tone of disgust and disbelief that Spike smiled.
"So what, your mates been giving you the cold shoulder? Doesn't seem much like them, does it?"
Willow's face fell again as she examined her half-empty glass, "They mean well, I guess. Buffy tried cheering me up by dragging me to some party a while back…"
"But you weren't ready to be cheered up, yet," he hazarded.
"Exactly," she grimaced, "So I just went back to the dorm to be alone."
"How'd that work out for you?" He was trying his best to seem interested.
"It worked just fine, until a certain vampire tried to kill me." She glared in his direction.
"Oh. Right." he said, wincing inside, "Well, bad on me, then." He hadn't known it was that night she was talking about.
"Still, got your mind off of things for a little while, I'd wager," he quickly redirected, acting as if he'd just been trying to help. He could tell by the look on her face that she was torn between laughing and scowling at him. He breathed a quiet sigh of relief when laughter won out.
Good humor faded quickly, though, as the little witch's misery crept back in. He left her alone with her thoughts for a little while, concentrating on his drinks instead. After a good amount of time had passed, Spike began to wonder if she'd ever speak again, or even remembered that he was there.
"I'm just so sick of feeling this way," she finally confided softly, "I just want it to stop."
Spike simply nodded. "I know, princess," he said, wishing he didn't, "I know all too well." For a moment he actually forgot his true purpose, so caught up in the pain of his own memories that he couldn't help but connect with the young woman beside him as their eyes met a second time.
"And now?" he continued, shaking off the past and regaining his focus, "When you're finally ready to not be alone anymore?"
Her face told the story better than words ever could. It seemed the gang was playing right into his hands. He hid a smile of satisfaction.
"Not a Scooby in sight, is there?" he said flatly.
"It's not their fault," Red sighed, "They mean well, I guess. But it seems like any time I do want to talk about it, I just get a handful of platitudes." She was starting to get a touch angry, something he'd never seen before. "When they're actually there, that is. They have their own lives," she concluded faintly, slipping back into form.
"And you're not part of their lives?"
"You know what I mean."
"I know this – those blokes are so busy trying to convince themselves that you're just fine that they can't, or won't, see how badly you're hurting inside." He shook his head in disgust, remembering what he'd overheard earlier at the Watcher's. "And you're not helping matters either, playing the brave little girl on the outside."
The redhead shrugged, "I don't want to depress anyone, it's not their fault that…" The pain in her face was still stark, despite the alcohol. Spike quickly handed his drink to her, which she downed without hesitation, coughing and spluttering at the taste.
"Sorry, love, but you looked like you needed that," he apologized.
She nodded miserably, with tears in her eyes. He decided to go get them some fresh drinks while she composed herself.
She took him completely by surprise when he returned, drinks in hand.
"What's wrong with me, Spike?"
"You're evil, you'd tell me the truth, right? Why don't guys like me? What's so repulsive about me that I can't even keep the one boyfriend I ever had?" she practically wailed.
"We're not starting this conversation again, are we?" The witch looked at him blankly, clearly not remembering the whole 'biting' discussion.
Spike shook his head, then sat up, all business. "Fine, let's have a look then," he said briskly.
"What?" She stared at him as if he'd gone mad.
"You wanted my honestly evil opinion, and you'll get it. Now, come over here, do your little pirouette and what-all. I'll see what I can find."
"You're not serious!" she gasped.
"I'm just trying to help, love. You're the one who asked." he told her with a grin.
She gave him another incredulous look, before slowly standing up and coming closer. He was amused by her obvious embarrassment at the situation. She started to turn.
"No, a bit slower, love," he corrected, as Red attempted to spin quickly so she could get it over with. "If I'm hunting for repulsiveness, I need to give you a thorough looking-over." Her blush was quite charming, he decided, fully enjoying her discomfort.
He played the role to the hilt, giving her the careful scrutiny of an art critic at a museum show. "Hmm. Heart-shaped face, rather sweet," he cocked an eyebrow, "Not too bad up front." She turned an even deeper red at that. "Good height-weight ratio. Mmm. Lovely backside, pet," he concluded with a smirk as she spun to glare at him. He ignored it and continued his critique.
"Wardrobe's a bit off," he said with a slight frown, looking at the bizarre all-green combo she was wearing, "The top blouse there's nice enough, although I've never been much for frilly cuffs and collars," he reached out and caught part of it, pretending to check the fabric, "But I really don't think it's meant to go with the other one. Is that actually a rainbow on there?" She nodded a little, uncertainly. "Probably best with something like that, instead," he continued, gesturing towards a girl wearing a skimpy black spaghetti-strap number.
"I couldn't wear that!" she gasped, "It's so not me. It's just too…"
"Sexy?" Spike prompted with a leer. How red can she blush? he wondered idly.
"I was thinking more like 'slutty'," Willow rebutted.
"Which is why you wear this over it." He gave the blouse a little tug for emphasis. "And olive sneakers? Now, I'm no fashion critic, but it seems to me that just because all the things you're wearing are green doesn't mean they go together. But aside from that…"
He sighed in mock disappointment, "I'm sorry, love, I can't find a hint of repulsiveness anywhere. And believe me, I know repulsive when I see it. You're actually rather cute, I'm afraid."
"Cute. Wonderful." She sat down with a flop and took a large swig of her drink, disgruntled by the whole thing. "Then why?" she demanded angrily, "Why doesn't anyone ever notice me?"
"She says right after announcing she couldn't possibly wear an eye-catching top like that one." She just gave him a flat look. He rolled his eyes impatiently.
"Red, you're so worried about what everyone else might think that you make sure they don't notice anything." He shrugged, taking a long pull from his own glass. "Except your brains, maybe. I reckon most blokes don't even see what they're missing."
She was clearly not believing him, so he tried to come up with a different way to illustrate it for her. Another memory floated up to him, this one much more recent.
"Do you know the first time I saw you?"
"It was in the alley out back, after Buffy dusted another vamp." she replied, with amazing promptness considering her circumstances. Spike filed that observation away for later. Either the witch was soberer than she looked, or his job was going to be much easier than he thought.
"No," he chuckled, "That's when I let you see me. I'd been watching you and your little pals for quite some time, dancing right there." He nodded in the direction of the dance floor. "And I use the term 'dancing' loosely."
"What's that supposed to mean?" she demanded.
"It means, there was Buffy, dancing away, sexy as hell and knowing it. And Xander," Spike rolled his eyes at the memory, "Dancing like he didn't know what a beat was for, but clearly not caring what anyone thought, or acting it at least." He paused and gave Willow a significant look, "And then there was you – standing. You'd bounce your knees to the beat once in a while, but you were too petrified of what anyone thought of you to do more than that."
Willow ducked her head, and he knew he was right. "I was dancing earlier tonight!" she insisted.
Spike shrugged, "Sure, and you needed a pint or two just to get out there, I wager. Even then, you were probably still worried about how you looked to everyone else. That's not really dancing."
Willow just looked at him, clearly waiting for him to get to his point. He took a moment to decide what, exactly, that point was. He had a vague idea where he was going with this, but not what he'd call a plan.
"Dancing isn't about moving to the music," he finally ventured, "It's about letting the music move you. About forgetting everything and everyone else, including yourself. Let the music fill you, let it tell you how to move, get the feel of it, and you can dance to anything. Hell, you can dance with no music at all." He shrugged, hoping he was making some sort of sense, "At least, Dru could."
"Dru was insane," she replied automatically, but he could tell she was thinking about what he had said.
"Which is why she never worried about what other people thought – and she had a lot of fun that way," he parried. "Come on, then."
Willow startled as he stood up suddenly, taking her gently by the wrist and leading her out onto the dance floor. He figured she was just drunk enough for this to work. The crowd had dwindled quite a bit, and there was a corner of the floor that didn't have anyone sitting nearby. She followed him there docilely, still too off-guard to resist. He whirled the petite redhead around so her back was to the empty corner, and stood in front of her.
"There. Now I'm between you and everyone else. No one can see you," he held up a hand as she started to protest, "Go with me on this, pet. Believe that no one can see you. Better yet, believe that no one would dare laugh at you with someone as dangerous as me at your side."
"True, but I doubt anyone else here knows that. So let's not spread it around, shall we? I still remember how to look the part, at least," he concluded bitterly.
She shot him a suddenly sympathetic look, and acquiesced. He didn't care what she thought, as long as it meant she went along with him.
Some band was absolutely massacring The Ramones on the club's stereo system. The tune to "Havana Affair" was barely recognizable to him, and he knew every song of theirs by heart. Must be one of those bloody tribute album deals, he thought bitterly. How you paid tribute to a punk band by making their music sound more commercial was beyond him, but he grudgingly had to admit that the sultry beat they were giving it was perfect for his little scenario.
"Now, just close your eyes…Or better yet," as she wobbled with sight cut off, "Just keep your eyes on me. Ignore everything but the beat, the sound. Let it fill you." His voice was pitched hypnotically, practically willing her to feel the music, to join with it, "How does it feel? How does it want you to move? Don't think about it, just feel it, do it. No one can see you."
She was hesitant at first, bobbing a bit at the knees, then trying an experimental swing of the hips. When his expression showed no mockery, just support, she grew bolder. Within moments, she'd closed her eyes to focus better, and promptly toppled over again. Spike caught her with an encouraging, "Good, you're starting to get it."
It was actually a bit surprising to him how quickly she caught on, started to have fun with it, to enjoy how she moved, how sexy she could look out there on the floor. And she was sexy, he concluded, almost surprisingly so.
He licked lips gone suddenly dry, then rested his hands lightly on the curve of her waist, careful not to constrain her movements. She stumbled a bit at the unexpected contact, but then smiled at him and wrapped her arms around his neck. The chit was definitely feeling it now, alcohol and music combining to make her feel like the most powerful, beautiful woman in the world.
His hands itched to wrap themselves around her neck, to slowly squeeze the life out of her while she struggled, or to end it quickly with a brutal snap. Or best of all, to sink his fangs into that tender, unprotected neck. She spun in his arms, now rubbing her back against him, so she missed the flicker of pain on his face as his fantasies of killing her got too graphic. You can't kill her, can't bite her, he admonished himself, but you can hurt her. Give it a few days, she'll give you the means for revenge. Again he was thankful that she couldn't see him, this time for the smirk of pure evil and malice that crossed his features. He bent his head, nuzzling lightly at her neck instead. She stiffened slightly at first, then relaxed in to the caress.
Two songs, three, a fourth. Willow was oblivious to everything but the music and the feeling of Spike's body against hers. It was time to call it a night, he decided. No point letting things go too far here. He wasn't looking for a one-night stand. That would sting, but it wouldn't hurt like making her fall for him would.
"Starting to feel a bit better, pet?" he whispered into her ear.
Her gaze turned inward, considering. "Yes!" She turned a surprised and mistily grateful face to him, "I do!"
"Alcohol, bloody miracle worker in cases like this," he concluded.
"No," she disagreed, shaking her head rather emphatically, then looking as if she wished she hadn't, "it was more than that…It was you!" She patted his arm.
Spike tried to hide his smile of triumph, then decided it wouldn't matter at that point anyway. "Me, love? What did I do? Other than buy the drinks, of course."
"You were here, you listened. You didn't just tell me I needed to 'go through the pain' or whatever." Her tone was so earnest that he nearly ruined it all by laughing.
"I let you get totally snockered, is what I did."
Willow considered this very seriously, "That too, that was a good thing." She hiccupped and giggled, "But you were there for me, that's the imp… im… important part."
"Alright then, Red, you've had enough for the night." He wasn't sure exactly how drunk she was at this point, but figured her limits had to be pretty low. He wanted her interested, not comatose.
"I haven't had as much as you did!" she cried defensively.
"True, but you don't have vampire metabolism. It takes an awful lot to get me drunk these days." She started to look belligerent; higher reasoning was probably not her strong suit at the moment.
"No choice, love, it's last call." And it actually was, to his surprise. The evening had flown by faster than he'd expected. She grumbled a bit, and after compromising on one last, quick drink, ("One for the road!" she'd cheerily announced, as he groaned) they headed back to her dorm.
"Here we are, then." He stopped outside the front door.
Willow simply stood there, looking at him, as if waiting for something.
"What?" he asked, puzzled.
"I thought you'd try to get me to invite you upstairs, or something," she confessed shyly.
"I'm a gentleman." He cocked an eyebrow at her as she snorted. "Well, I can be when I choose to," he conceded, "and tonight, I choose to." But he frowned as her face fell. What did I say?
Then it dawned on him, she thought he wasn't actually interested, that he was just making polite excuses to escape from her. He put his hand under her chin and tipped her face towards his, looking deep into her eyes, "Believe me, Red, I don't want to end the evening here, but I think you've had enough pain for one month without adding 'evil vampire one-night stand' to your resumé." Okay, not exactly subtle, but he'd had quite a few himself. "Another time, perhaps."
He kissed her gently, not letting her deepen it. That would be too far for tonight. Already, she was probably going to regret at least half, if not all of this come morning.
She finally nodded agreement, and turned to go inside. He was three steps on his way to the Watcher's when her voice stopped him. "Spike?"
He turned to look at her, half in the doorway.
"Thanks," she offered, head tilted adorably to one side, "For everything."
He smiled at her. "My pleasure, love. Always a pleasure." And with that he strode off, knowing that behind his back she was blushing like crazy.