SHADES OF GREY
A/N:This is not so much a re-posting as a fixed-up version. It reads better with the italics and stuff that it was supposed to have in the first place - Dee.
TITLE:SHADES OF GREY
AUTHOR: Dee Bradfield (My first finished fic - go me!)
TIMELINE: AU. Set post-chip and Riley is long gone (happy, happy, joy, joy - spontaneous outburst, sorry). It's like Season Five, but without all the Glory/Dawn hoo-ha. (Who? Huh?).
SUMMARY: Spike realized his feelings a bit earlier than depicted in the show and took off for a while. Now he's back, and he's a little different. He experiments with some psychic stuff and is contaminated by a supernatural infection that he may have inadvertently passed on to Buffy and Giles. At least, that's how it started - I kinda went all Forrest Gump with the ball.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own 'em but I'll put 'em back in their Mutant Enemy box when I'm done playing, so don't sue me, 'K?
DEDICATION: To James Wesley Marsters for being such an all-fired hottie.
"Love makes all hard hearts gentle."
"Love makes you do the wacky."
Chapter One - SPIKED
It was odd.
It was beyond odd when you thought about it, because for an inhuman creature he seemed uncannily familiar.
Buffy Summers shifted her grip on the ever reliable Mr. Pointy and squinted, trying to make out the vampire's features as he emerged from the crypt into the murkiness of Sunnydale's early twilight. She was cold and tired and this weirdness was putting a dent in her going-home plans.
The silhouetted figure pulled out a cigarette, tucked it into the corner of his mouth and flipped on a lighter. It was that brief, incendiary luminance that exposed his identity.
Buffy hadn't known that she'd spoken out loud until he turned warily in her direction.
"That you, Slayer?"
Oh yeah, she'd be able to recognize that low Brit-edged tone even in England itself. Definitely Spike - erstwhile immortal enemy and infamous troublemaker.
Buffy sighed. He was probably back in town to wreak more of his unique brand of havoc. She straightened, bent on confronting him, then hesitated and chewed worriedly at her bottom lip. Something wasn't right and it was throwing her spider sense off.
"Sod it!" he declared. It took her a startled moment to realize that the curse was directed at himself. "You're hearing things again, you daft git." He rapped a fist against the side of his head, peered around uncertainly and then shrugged, drawing deeply on his cigarette. Smoke drifted up around his head as he ambled in her general direction, a route taking him directly through a bright shaft of streetlight.
Buffy gasped, only now realizing why he seemed so different.
Spike had stopped bleaching his hair.
The sleek platinum-white had grown out into a far more natural shade - a darker blond not all that dissimilar to her own. The style was longer and strayed in unruly curls onto his forehead and around his ears. It made him appear, of all the weird things in the world, younger and cuter.
He was still wearing that infernal leather duster, though, even if it was layered over a cream-colored sweater and worn blue jeans instead of the perennial black T-shirt and pants ensemble. He looked almost... stylish?
She snorted then, alerting him to her presence and ruining her attempt at stealth. She came out from behind the semi-protective barrier of headstones and greeted him.
Spike pulled up short and stared at her.
He made no move, he uttered no sound, and he just stared.
Buffy stared back, refusing to back down in the face of his blatant scrutiny, but then his eyes distracted her.
Spike's eyes were blue. A beautiful undiluted sky blue. Had she ever noticed that before?
It was a strange thing to ascribe to Spike, but there was purity in his gaze – something honest and profound. Probably stemming from the fact that he had lived for over a century. Well, she amended, not lived exactly - but then Angel had been around for even longer, with the addition of a soul, and she'd never seen anything this captivating in his eyes.
Buffy felt a small internal shift, a tender blossoming behind her breastbone, and frowned at the sensation. She stared down at Mr. Pointy, having momentarily forgotten that the stake was even in her hand, and self-consciously tucked it into the back of her jeans, wondering if she should just leave.
Then her anger kicked in.
What the hell was this? Spike was a demon, a diabolical fiend that'd killed who-knew-how-many innocent people. What was he doing? Was he using some Dru kind of vamp-hypnosis on her?
Her frown deepened as she recalled the new purity in his eyes. Had that government chip in his head done the impossible and returned Spike's humanity? Had it mutated into some sort of man-made replica of his soul? There was a scary thought. Nowhere near as scary as being this drawn to him, though. It was so much more terrifying to think that she might actually be attracted to him.
She eyed him speculatively. She often forgot how handsome he really was. Tall and lean, and in superb shape, vampire or no. She shook her head in disbelief at her fantastical musings.
Wake up, Buffy! This is Spike for God's sake! What are you thinking?
Spike averted his head, his fingers toying with the scar that hooked through his left brow. If she didn't know any better, she'd say he seemed kinda vulnerable right then. And that was just plain wrong. Cocky and arrogant - yes, but vulnerable? No way.
He exhaled deeply, cast his eyes upward in resignation and then leisurely closed the gap between them.
The solitary word was uttered succinctly, knowingly, as though running into her was an inconvenience he'd been prepared for.
"Why are you back in Sunnydale?" The question sounded accusatory even to her ears.
"Missed me, did you, pet?" Spike inhaled of his cigarette, a sarcastic smile curved around its filtered end.
"Don't call me 'pet'." The rebuke was an expected, automatic response, something she'd been doing for as long as they'd been acquainted, but she was surprised at her reluctance to snap at him. Strangely enough, she had missed him.
He canted his head and regarded her silently. Away from the direct gleam of the streetlight, his eyes seemed dark and fathom-deep, the lucid blue she'd observed hidden in shadows. She resisted the disorientating urge to drag him into the light so she could gaze at that lucidity without reprisal.
"Well", he said. "You look ... alive." He paused and flicked his cigarette to the ground. "Still."
"And you're still dead."
"Yeah." He grinned at her - a very disturbing and startlingly genuine grin. It sent goosebumps racing up her arms and she shivered, wrapping her arms around her body protectively.
Spike frowned. "You shouldn't be patrollin' on these cool nights, Slayer, you might catch somethin' other than evil vampire hordes."
"What do you care?"
"I don't." The grin returned. "I couldn't give a toss, actually. Just a suggestion."
Buffy's inner sense was reeling. Where had this twisted, mind-numbing attraction sprung from? Had it been lurking there all along and she'd somehow been unaware of its gruesome presence? Was she sick and perverted?
"You're not sick. The perverted bit sounds interesting, though."
Spike's voice seemed to rumble directly in her ears, but she had been watching him the entire time and his lips hadn't moved. In some incomprehensible way he was transmitting his thoughts. And he'd read hers.
"Get out of my head, Spike."
"Now, you'd think that'd be done easily enough," he spoke aloud this time. "'Easy' doesn't come into this scenario." He quirked an eyebrow. "I find that happens quite a bit around you, love."
Buffy gritted her teeth. "Don't call me 'love'." She'd forgotten how nerve-gratingly annoying he could be. The urge to snap at him returned with a vengeance. "What exactly is going on?"
"Exactly?" Spike scratched his chin. "You want specifics?"
Buffy fought against an overwhelming desire to smack him in the mouth. He was either deliberately drawing out his explanation, or he didn't know what was happening and didn't want her to know of his ignorance.
What is happening?
"Just a handy little trick I picked up while I was on my worldly travels." Spike's smile lurched into smirk territory.
"Damn you, Spike."
"Too late for that." He fished about for another cigarette and came up empty-handed. He rolled his eyes, pivoted on a booted heel and headed back toward his crypt.
"You are not walking away from me!" Buffy declared.
Spike's stride didn't falter and she eventually surrendered to morbid curiosity and followed him.
Irritating, undead, pain-in-the-ASS.
"I heard that, Slayer." Spike didn't so much as glance over his shoulder and Buffy poked out her tongue at his leather-clad back.
They entered the crypt. He'd left several candles burning and even in their gentle radiance she could see that it hadn't improved since her last visit, with no decor to speak of and everything dusty.
"You do realize that this whole thing is majorly creepy," Buffy informed him as he bent to retrieve a pack of smokes from behind the stone sarcophagus he used as a bed. "Even for you."
He straightened and frowned at her. "What do you mean 'even for me'? I thought nothing I did surprised you. I'm disgusting, remember?"
She studied him, suddenly captivated by the play of candlelight over his angular cheekbones. They were lethal, those cheekbones.
Spike pulled a cigarette from the new pack and placed it between his lips, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she was watching him. When he lifted his head and met her eyes, though, she knew that he was far from oblivious - very far.
How was it possible for a cold, soulless vampire to have so much heat in his gaze?
"Is that a rhetorical question?"
Buffy glowered. "Would you stop that?"
"Now, why would I do that? It's very enlightening." He pulled the unlit cigarette back out of his mouth and gestured at her with it. "There's actually more going on in that pretty little head than meets the eye."
"What goes on in my head is none of your business."
He shrugged. "If you insist."
Buffy felt like pounding something against a brick wall - preferably him. "You are the most impossible person I have ever met," she said. Then remembered that he wasn't a person. Not really.
"That's right, pet. You stick to that." He tapped his own chest. "Nasty demon. Horrible blood-sucking monster." He grinned that unbelievably genuine grin again. "Big Bad."
Buffy smiled despite herself and acknowledged that he was right. Technically he was all of those things, but somehow the practical application didn't seem to work. Nothing fitted him anymore. Not since the chip.
Spike hopped up to sit on the hard slab of his casket. "Bloody stupid chip," he announced blithely.
Buffy gaped at him. "Are you saying that you don't want it out anymore? That you've suddenly come over all warm and fuzzy?"
Spike glanced away uncomfortably. He swung his legs a little and Buffy was amazed by the innocence he projected at that moment. He looked like a big kid, the candlelight casting a golden aura about his head. She sighed. She just couldn't get used to the non-bleach thing.
"Why the deep and heavy?"
The soft question made her jump. "Huh?"
"Big sigh, Slayer. Got something on your mind?"
"Switched off the Buffy-channel?"
"Re-runs," he muttered, placing the still unlit cigarette back in its cardboard pack and shoving it deep into his pocket.
"Re-runs?" She repeated absently, noting that he'd apparently decided to stop painting his fingernails as well. She raised her hand. "No, second thought, don't want to know."
"Good." Spike seemed relieved. "I'm not up to the telling of it."
Buffy was now regretting her reluctance. That had really sounded interesting. What could he hear that she couldn't?
He drew himself up straight and regarded her. "Worried about my insights? Think I'm gonna pick up on something I shouldn't?"
Damn. Too fast with the reply. Too defensive.
He slid off the casket and stood toe to toe with her, forcing her to tilt her head and look up at him. She was again enthralled by the clearness of his eyes. It shouldn't be possible for someone to have eyes that blue. Or lashes that thick. Or lips that velvety soft. Stop it, Buffy, you're getting sidetracked!
"See somethin' you like, love?"
The query came softly, tantalizingly, a forbidden whisper. He was in her head again. She tensed and made to step back, but he curved a restraining hand around her arm.
"Spike..." Intended as a warning, his name instead passed her lips like an invitation. Not good. Not good at all.
He slapped a hand to his forehead and wrenched away violently.
"Ow!" He winced. "Don't think so hard!"
Buffy couldn't remember thinking anything - her mind had pretty much gone blank. Was she in shock?
"Alright, I get the point." Spike scowled at her. "You can stop shoutin' at me now."
"I didn't..." Buffy started to protest, confused, only to gasp as he slumped to the floor next to his casket, his head in his hands.
"Bloody hell, this is worse than the chip." He began to shake. "I said I got it, okay?" His muffled voice became choked. "Shut up!"
She understood then that whatever he was picking up on was not coming from her. And he couldn't turn it off.
"Jeez, Spike, what have you done?"
He gazed up at her beseechingly. His eyes were glassy with pain, their tear-filled clarity hitting her like a physical blow.
"Make it stop," he pleaded, and she was lost.
Rupert Giles groaned as the insistent tapping invaded his already fitful dreams. "Go away," he muttered. "We're closed."
The tapping progressed to pounding.
He sat up abruptly from the table where he'd been dozing when he recognized that the desperate voice he was hearing belonged to Buffy. He tugged an unusually adhesive sheet of paper from the side of his face and straightened his glasses.
He'd apparently slept through nightfall and could see Buffy's street-lit form pacing outside the half-closed blinds of the Magic Box's front window. The window itself rattled as she again hammered at the door.
"Maybe I should just knock it down," she said, muffled.
Giles shot to his feet and hurried to pull the door open.
The first thing he noticed was that she was extremely distressed.
The second was that she hadn't been talking to herself. A man sat on the path near her feet with his long legs tucked up and his back resting against the wall. As Giles watched, he lowered his already bowed head onto his knees and whimpered.
Buffy knelt at his side. "We have to help him," she said, her voice breaking. "He hurts." Her fingers stroked his rumpled golden hair in a soothing motion and Giles realized that she wasn't even aware she was doing it. His eyes narrowed in suspicion. Who was this person and what was he to Buffy?
The figure on the footpath emitted a deep inhuman growl. His head snapped upright and he pinned Giles with eyes that seemed to glow with an otherworldly power. They were familiar eyes. Eyes that Giles had not expected to see ever again.
"Good Lord!" he exclaimed. "Spike?" He took an involuntary step back, surprised not only at the vampire's condition, but at the curious effect he seemed to be having on Buffy. What was going on?
"Help me get him inside," she said, taking hold of Spike's elbow.
Giles shook his head to break his reverie and bent to comply. "Yes, of course."
Spike was having none of it, however, continuing to stare at Giles, who, in turn, felt himself being drawn back into the vampire's gaze as if hypnotized.
"Know it," Spike said. His voice was low and seemed to carry a disembodied echo.
"I – know what?"
Spike leant forward, ignoring Buffy's attempts to pull him upright, and placed his left hand on Giles' temple. "Know it," he repeated forcibly. The unusual light in his eyes flared the fierce blue of an intense flame, and warmth emanated from his normally cool fingertips.
Giles felt a pulse pounding in his ears but could not discern whether it was his own or if it was somehow, impossibly, coming from Spike himself. A disquieting pins-and-needles sensation crawled across his scalp and he realized that the voice he heard was entirely in his head. Spike had not uttered a single word aloud.
The vampire winked at him, revealing a fleeting glimpse of his usual arrogance, before a benevolent smile spread across his chiseled features and he slumped against the wall. He reached for Buffy's hand and held it as though it were a lifeline. "My Slayer", he murmured and promptly fell asleep.
Giles sat back on his heels, stunned, and looked at Buffy to gauge her reaction. She was watching Spike as he slept, apparently overcome with exhaustion. Their hands remained linked, but it was the unadulterated tenderness evident on her face that made him swallow with a sickening apprehension. Dear God, it was happening again.
Spike's comment repeated in his subconscious, its deep tone mocking him. 'Know it', he'd said.
And he didn't like it.
Stupefied. It was the only word she knew that came close to describing the expression on Giles' face. Either that or 'landed fish'.
Buffy had seen it before. She knew that he would snap out of it pretty soon and then the questions would start. Giles was big on questions. The problem was that she wouldn't be able to answer any of them. Spike probably could, but he still hadn't woken up.
She smiled, remembering the vampire as she'd left him - flat on his back on the sofa in the danger room, his jaw slack and his mouth slightly open. He slept like the dead. Ugh! Bad pun, Buffy, even for you.
Great, her Watcher had come out of his shocked state and had started articulating.
"Before you can get on with the interrogating, Giles, I don't have any idea what is going on."
Giles frowned, then opened his mouth to ask something else. Buffy cut him off. "I don't know why Spike's back. I don't know how that weird thing with his eyes started or how in the hell he was reading my mind."
"He – he was reading your mind?" Giles' eyebrows shot so far upward that they almost flew off his forehead. "But that's..."
"Impossible?" Buffy snorted. "Tell me about it. It's also freaky beyond belief."
"I can imagine." Giles sank onto the seat opposite hers.
"Betcha can't." She flipped open a book on the circular study table but wasn't really interested in the arcane script it contained.
"Um, Buffy, regarding Spike..." Giles was hesitant now, almost reluctant, and she knew exactly where the conversation was headed.
She closed the book and focused on her Watcher. "I can't explain it, Giles. As soon as I saw him..." She sighed. "He's got a major charisma thing going on that I didn't notice before. He was like this supercharged magnet and he just pulled me in."
"You weren't attracted to him before this?"
"No! No, absolutely not. Don't be ridiculous." At Giles' skeptical expression she lowered her eyes. "Well, kinda. Maybe. A little - a real little. Like atom-sized little."
Giles stood and began to pace. "Vampires possess an abundance of charisma. It's one of the techniques they use to lure their victims." He stopped pacing, pulled off his glasses, and cleaned them with his handkerchief. "Slayers are supposed to be immune to it." He gave her an ironic half-smile. "You, on the other hand, seem to be unusually susceptible."
"But this is – it's Spike! He's - I just can't..." Buffy threw her hands in the air. "Aargh!"
"Well put," Giles applauded dryly, replacing his glasses.
Spike's voice came from the doorway to the danger room where he rested uneasily against the frame. He glared at them, his eyes red-rimmed and heavy-lidded. "Sodding headache," he grumbled. "Sodding Keratos demon."
"Keratos demon?" Giles was instantly alert.
Spike shuffled over to the table and gingerly sat down. He leant forward and rested his forehead against its polished surface, groaning in an exaggerated fashion.
"Spike?" Buffy didn't know whether she should laugh or offer some kind of assistance.
He rolled his head to one side and looked at her. "What?"
"Keratos demon?" Giles prompted. Buffy could practically see him salivating at the prospect of some research.
"Should've gutted the conniving bugger," Spike remarked. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and forced himself to sit upright. "Oh God, that hurts!"
Buffy stared, stunned at seeing the golden tumble of his hair under the florescent lights.
Spike opened one eye and peered at her. "What?" he asked again. When she didn't answer he glanced upward, trying to see what she was so interested in, and smiled on realizing the source of her fascination.
"It's hair, Slayer," he said. "I notice you've got some of your own."
"Yeah, but..." she gestured helplessly.
"Okay, so it's blond," he blurted defensively. "Big deal. You didn't think that peroxide was my natural shade, did you?"
Buffy hesitated. He was being a bit ultra-sensitive about the non-bleach issue. "It takes some getting used to I guess," she said. "I just won't look at you."
He blinked as he digested the statement, and then turned to Giles. "Ever come across a Keratos demon, mate?" he asked.
"I – actually, no I haven't. Their psychic powers are legendary, of course. The Watcher's Council have an extensive selection of volumes..." Giles trailed off when he realized that Spike wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention. He was watching Buffy from beneath his lashes instead - his brooding visage reminding Giles eerily of another, equally besotted vampire. So much so that felt compelled to ask, "Spike, have you somehow managed to get your soul back?"
"Hell no!" Spike was horrified. He grimaced at his own raised voice and clamped a hand over his eyes. "Ow."
Buffy smiled indulgently, resting her chin on her hand. He was cute when he was in pain. She loved seeing him like this. She sat up straight at the thought. Had she just used the word 'love' in reference to Spike?
He glanced at her and, noting the change in her posture raised his eyebrows questioningly. "Got somethin' to say?"
"Why don't you dive on in and see for yourself? You didn't have a problem with it before."
"I didn't have a post-Keratos migraine before."
"What did this demon do exactly?" Giles asked, recognizing that they weren't going to resolve the issue unless he intervened.
Spike ducked his head. "It doesn't matter."
"It matters," Buffy argued. "It matters big time."
"Leave it," Spike growled. "It was stupid. I was stupid and now it's over."
She leant forward. "Your being stupid doesn't come into it. That's a given thing."
He recoiled slightly, something flashing in his eyes that gave her pause. She'd seen the same expression on his face before, but its meaning had never properly registered. It was hurt - she had hurt his feelings.
Hang on a sec – Spike had feelings?
She narrowed her eyes. "Are you positive you didn't get your soul back?"
Spike shook his head. "I'm not gonna answer that," he said. "It's insulting."
Buffy sniffed. "This coming from Mr. Tactful."
He rested his elbows on the table, bringing his face level with hers. "Be honest. You missed me, didn't you? Truly?"
The laughter dancing in his vivid blue eyes stole her breath. He was enjoying this. She felt a responsive smile tug at her mouth and repressed it. "I'm not going to answer that," she told him. "It's insulting."
Giles cleared his throat. "The effect that this demon had on you is significant, Spike, even if you don't want to admit it. It's imperative that we are aware of all..."
"Oh, alright." Spike threw up his hands in mock surrender. "Just cease the verbal haranguing would you?" He rolled his eyes at Buffy. "I don't know how you stand it."
She ignored him and tapped her finger on the book she'd opened earlier. "Don't you have enough info in the A to Z of yuck stuff?" she asked Giles.
"Keratos demons are extraordinarily rare," he said. "I believe that the last recorded encounter was in the vicinity of eighty years ago."
"I've run into this pillock three times at least," Spike noted. He appeared to be rapidly returning to his normal self – as normal as that got. "'Course, most demons are pretty much alike. Slimy. Scaly." He pulled a face. "Smelly."
"Three times?" Giles was astounded. "Where?"
Spike's brow furrowed as he made a show of searching his memory. "Um, first time was India. Early 1900's." He shrugged. "The other was here in the good old U.S. of A. 1960's. And then this last..."
"1960's?" Buffy stared at him. "Were you a hippie?"
"I was at Woodstock," Spike informed her importantly.
"Isn't that like an oldie catchphrase?"
Giles sighed. If this continued there was no chance of his getting the information he wanted. "Are you going to tell me what happened, or am I going to have to separate you two?"
"I'd buy tickets to that show." Spike slouched back in his chair and dug into his duster pocket for his cigarettes. When he finally excavated the pack, an increasingly irate Watcher confiscated it.
"No smoking," Giles stated, indicating a nearby sign.
"Oh, and inhalin' incense is good for you?" Spike snorted but made no further protest. "Right, then, where was I?"
Giles sighed and rubbed at his forehead, beginning to feel that the vampire's headache was somehow contagious.
"I got the Keratos to divulge a few trade secrets is all," Spike related, apparently resigned to his story-telling fate. "Hooked up with him in Mexico at that Day of the Dead thing they do." He drummed his fingers on the tabletop and cast a wistful glance at his impounded cigarettes. "Tequila's handy for loosenin' up the old tongue. Well, tongues as the case may be. And this demon's quite the imbiber. Not too crash hot at pool, though." He smiled to himself in amused reminiscence. "The extra appendages tended to get in the way..."
"These 'trade secrets' you mentioned," Giles inquired. "What did they entail?"
Spike's attention flicked briefly to Buffy before returning to the Watcher. "Details aren't vital to the narrative here," he said. "I just wish the wanker had been more forthcomin' about the skull-crackin' side effects."
"You got a demon to teach you how to get inside my head?" Buffy sputtered in disbelief. "Are you completely insane?"
"Beginning to think so," Spike mumbled. Only Giles picked up on the statement and he frowned worriedly at the vampire.
"What did you say?" Buffy asked. Spike refused to look at her and she turned to Giles. "What did he say?"
"I..." Giles barely got his mouth open.
"I said 'yes', okay?" Spike snapped, frustrated. "I'm insane. I'm seriously deluded. I am the friggin' mother of all nutcases."
"You got that right," Buffy huffed, folding her arms across her chest.
The unearthly light in Spike's eyes rekindled and shot angry blue fire in her direction.
Buffy backed away. "Uh, Giles," she gestured across the table. "He's gone all glowy again."
"So I see," Giles scrutinized Spike carefully. "From what little I've observed, any kind of overly strong emotion seems to set it off."
"Emotion?" Buffy scoffed. "It is Spike."
"Hey, I've got emotions," he told them. "I'm a sensitive guy." He straightened up as something occurred to him. "I'm not gonna get another of those sodding migraines am I?"
Giles pursed his lips in sympathy. "You might."
"I'm gonna hunt that demon down," Spike declared vehemently. "I'm gonna pull his bleedin' horns off and shove 'em fair up his..."
"Maybe if you calmed down, it'll stop," Buffy suggested.
"You think?" Spike seemed pleased at the prospect. He smiled.
This time Buffy sensed when the wave of emitted charisma hit her, causing her heart to trip inside her chest. In that stumbling heartbeat, he became the center of her world. It was as though she was seeing the room through a camera lens and he was the only thing in focus. Giles was relegated to a black-and-white blur in her peripheral vision and Spike was in full glorious Technicolor.
She blinked rapidly, fascinated at the discovery. "Wow," she breathed.
Vampire and Watcher frowned synchronously and exchanged blue-eyed glances – one bemused, and the other deeply concerned.
"What's up with you, Slayer?" Spike asked.
"You're such a hottie," she announced, then slapped a mortified hand over her mouth.
Spike winked at her. "Are you just now figuring that out, love? Been tryin' to tell you that for years..." He paused and scowled. "Hang on..."
"It's something we discovered while you were recuperating," Giles interjected. "Buffy's Slayer ability to block your, shall we say, 'vampiric allure' has been somewhat reduced."
"But I'm not sendin' any," Spike seemed honestly perturbed. "Not purposely. Believe me, if I was, you'd be in the same condition. It works much the same on blokes." He leered evilly. "Wonder if she'd get a double-bang if I..."
"Don't," Giles looked ill. "I'd prefer not to have that image burned onto my cerebrum." He did a double take and raised surprised brows at the vampire. "Your eyes appear to have returned to normal."
"Yeah?" Spike's reply was distracted. He watched Buffy with a predatory intensity. She avoided looking him, her embarrassment almost tangible.
"You really have a limited attention span don't you?" Giles remarked. He picked up an ancient tome from the table. "I'll find what I can on this Keratos demon and you two can..." He glanced from one to the other and visibly shuddered. "In any case, I'll be up in the loft."
He grabbed several more volumes from a nearby shelf and climbed the precarious iron staircase, leaving Buffy and Spike to regard each other in silence.
Buffy recovered herself first. "What aren't you telling us?"
"Hey, I spilled. I didn't have to say anything at all." Spike ferreted around a few books and then peered searchingly under the tabletop. "Sodding Watcher pilfered me fags," he muttered.
"I don't understand why you smoke anyway," Buffy said. "It's not like you'd actually get any pleasure from it. You're dead."
"Speak the obvious much?" Spike got to his feet. "Why do you Scooby-types constantly remind me of what I am? It's not gonna slip my mind anytime soon."
"Maybe I'm reminding myself," Buffy mumbled under her breath. She pointed her finger at him. "You're not throwing me off the subject that easily, Spike. You're hiding something."
"You've got to be. It's what you do."
"You're not going to say, are you?"
"Say what?" He tilted his head inquisitively.
Buffy slumped back in her chair, defeated. "Okay, fine. Do the kiddy-defense thing. I don't care."
"Right, then. I'm off." Spike started towards the exit, but halted before ascending the steps to the foyer. He sighed and turned around. "I am sorry about this, Buffy," he said.
She stared at him in askance. "You called me 'Buffy'. You never call me 'Buffy'. Why are you Buffy-ing?"
"I'm being sincere, Slayer. Don't make a big deal."
"What you're doing is admitting that the glowy-eyed head thing is your fault."
"Well, duh! Didn't I say that earlier?"
Buffy approached him menacingly. "Tell me exactly what happened in Mexico, or I'll pull that chip out through your nose."
He snorted. "Nice visual, love."
"Spike..." She drew the name out threateningly.
He folded his arms and thrust out his chin in that smug, stubborn way that only made her want to hit him.
"Look, how many times have we done this routine? Just tell me and get it over with."
He reached up and gently brushed a stray tendril of hair off her face. "Where's the fun in that?"
She blinked, disconcertion rendering her speechless.
Giles chose that moment to return from the upper floor, worry creasing a map of lines on his forehead. He looked up from the book he carried. "We may have a problem."