STICK

Author: 1stRab-id, Raeann

Feedback:  Rabid1st@yahoo.com

Rating:  R

Subject: B/S, A/X and S/Hallie

Spoilers: None that I know of past Season 6 episode, Older and Far Away

Summary/Challenge: Pool Fic challenge issued by Juleen on Onegoodlaysb, this was based on a rumor that B/S were going to break up.  They have broken up and are playing pool at the Bronze.  Sexual tension and innuendo a must.  Sorry to say that I messed this challenge up as Buffy isn't alone here.  But still thought it was worth the submission.

Thanks to:  My lovely Beta, Thud!

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy own all…I sadly own nothing but a used Toyota and a fine collection of cd's!

Song: "Fine Line", herein by Hootie and the Blowfish. 'Cause B/S been crossing over that border way too long.

"How do you confess what words can't explain?

He never intended to cause this much pain,

kind of feels like a farmer praying for rain

he got more than he bargained for from the clouds.

You know it's a fine line in between right and wrong…"

The Bronze was hopping.  Music pounded, people danced under the pulsing lights or made out in the darkest corners under the stairs.  Buffy, Tara, Xander and Anya had gathered a few hours earlier for some much-needed Slay-free bonding.  The frothy nectar had flowed generously and the conversation had spun off of wedding plans and somehow landed on the Slayer's social life.

"All I know," Anya slurred, peering into her empty glass, "is that you get more honey with a carrot than you do with a whole bunch of vinegar."

"Isn't there something in there about bees?" Xander asked, as he returned with the frosty mug refills.

"No," his fiancée said, with a firm shake of her head. "I'm sure it's carrots."

"The honey comes from the bees," Buffy provided, helpfully, as she splashed another two fingers of tequila into her shot glass.  She tossed back her booze and grimaced.

"I think it's flies," Tara said, before taking a long pull on her second light beer.

"Nope," Buffy disagreed, still making faces, "you're thinking of maggots.  Bees give you the honey.  Flies give you the maggots."

"No, Silly," Tara giggled, pushing playfully at the Slayer's shoulder. "I mean, that's the saying.  'You catch more flies with honey than you do with a stick.'  Or…uhm…" she frowned, "wait…that's not it either."

"You can't catch flies with a stick," Xander informed, taking exception to the entire concept.  "They have those buggy eyes and they always see you coming."

"You shouldn't try to catch them even," Buffy grumbled. "If you got a stick, you should just whack 'em!  Filthy things flies, spreading diseases and plagues and maggots everywhere.  I say we whack 'em all!"

A blond man in his late twenties was leaning over the pool table just to the left of the Slayer's chair.  He slid back his cue stick, targeting the eight ball for a game winning shot just as Buffy made her pronouncement.  To illustrate her point, she yanked the cue out of his hands and smacked it down hard on the green velvet surface. The stick shattered into three pieces and a handful of splinters.  Silence fell like a blanket over the bar as everyone turned to stare at the Slayer.

"Hey!" the young man yelped, into the sudden quiet.

"Oh, sorry," Buffy muttered. 

She popped off her chair and began picking up the pieces of the cue.  She tried to fit them together again.  When that failed, she offered the largest fragment to the erstwhile pool player but he backed, hastily, away from her.

"Stay away from me you crazy bitch," he said, holding up one hand as if warding her off.

"See?" Anya said, conversationally, as she waved vaguely in Buffy's general direction. "That's exactly what I am talking about, she's all about the stick."

The ex-demon turned to point an accusing finger at the Slayer,  "You'll never find a man for kisses and snuggles and marriage and babies if you keep on using the sticks approach.  You have to start using the honey."

"I thought it was carrots," Xander said.

"Or vinegar," Buffy inserted, as she came back to the table. 

She was still holding the shattered hilt of the pool cue.  She carefully placed the modified stake in her chair.  Hefting her half-empty tequila bottle, she pouted at it, "And vinegar is what this stuff tastes like if you ask me."

She filled her shot glass to the brim and clinked the bottle down again before continuing,  "and I know a man you can get with tequila if I wanted to get him…and he was even a man…which I don't need anyway…so why don't we talk about this with someone who even cares about the birds and the bees…or the flies…or whatever is that you don't want to let me whack."

"You know, Buffy," Tara said, placing her hand over the Slayer's glass and signaling for a waiter, "maybe we should switch to coffee." She nodded toward the, now, empty pool table and asked, "How about a game?"

"Okay," Buffy agreed, happily, as she pirouetted back toward the Rec area. "But you are going to so go down for me, Sister.  Pool is my game.  I could take you all on if I wanted cause I have that Slayer hand to eye ordinace…crowedeh-er…cowardation…uhm…that hand-eye thingee going for me." 

Suddenly, she shouted,  "ANYONE HERE THINKS THEY CAN TAKE ME?  STEP ON UP!  'Cause I got a check from the Double Meat that says you can't."

She patted herself down, whipped a yellow strip of paper out of her pants pocket and slapped it onto the pool table.

"BUFFY!" Xander and Tara yelped, as one.  Leaping to the Slayer's side, they each took an arm.  The carpenter reached his free hand out toward the check.  But a set of pale fingers got to it first, snatching it away. 

"Well, lookee here," Spike purred, holding the check up to the light like an art expert on alert for forgeries.  "What's this then?  A bit of history for some future generation.  The first Slayer to ever whore herself for a daily wage and I could own the proof of it.  Can't really take a pass on something like that, now can I?"

"Spike," Tara warned, giving him a fierce look. "She's been drinking.  A lot!  And…"

"I AM NOT drunk," Buffy exclaimed, huffily.  Wrenching free of her friends, she shot Spike a killing glance and rapped her knuckles on the table, "You want a piece of me?" she said provocatively, "Why don't you come over here and get it?"

"Hmmm," Spike cooed, tilting his head. "Now, why does that offer sound so familiar?"

"Maybe because you dream about it every night?" Xander suggested. 

"Nnn-oooo," Spike corrected, with a tiny shake of his head.  He raised one brow at the Slayer and grinned.  Savoring each word, he stretched the syllables out like he was working on a puzzle, as he replied, "I don't think I was dreaming…but night…yeah, night seems right to me…"

"Buffy, let's just go home, okay?" Tara said, tugging at the Slayer's arm again. "I've got an early class and you have to get Dawn up for school tomorrow.  Besides, you worked hard for that money.  You don't really want to lose it."

"Lose it!" Buffy squeaked, indignantly. "As if?"

"Lost to me last time we played, as I recall," Spike reminded.

"Yeah," Buffy affirmed, "But LAST time you had something I wanted."

"Last time," Spike said, edging forward threateningly, "I went easy on you."

"Mutual," Buffy said, bracing herself as if she expected a strike from him.

"Whoa, let's all calm down," Xander advised, stepping between the pair. "Buffy, Tara is right!  You can't gamble with your paycheck."

"Oh, don't worry your head about our little Slayer," Spike drawled, backing down a bit. "She won't go hungry." 

He shifted his center of gravity so he could look past Xander and raked Buffy up and down with an appraising glance, before addressing her directly, "Still got a few tricks up your sleeve don't you, Pet?  I bet you could turn a pretty penny if you put your mind to it."  He paused to favor her with a tight mirthless smile and added, "Right street corner."

"Okay, that's IT, Cadaver-Boy!" Xander snapped, balling up his fist and whipping around on Spike. "You're kissing some peanut shells."

Moving in a blur, Buffy caught her friend's elbow and spun him into a chair. 

"Sit," she commanded, suddenly sounding sober as a judge. She held up one finger, stifling his half-formed protest, "Stay!" 

Spike felt a wet clenching in his groin as she turned away from Xander to look at him.  Fear and arousal wrestled for dominance within him.  Buffy ran her tongue over her teeth and her eyes over his body.  She moved, closing the distance between them with a long low stride.   When she reached the pool table, the Slayer slid her open palms along the rounded wooden edge and, with the barest flex of muscle, pressed herself up like a gymnast mounting the beam.  She turned in the air and settled her hip over the bumper onto the green felt.  Dipping one shoulder forward, she offered Spike an unobstructed view down the front of her blouse.  Arousal took fear to the mat for the long ten count.

"The question is," Buffy murmured, "what are you putting up against me?"

Her gaze drifted south of his belt buckle and lingered for a few seconds longer than was strictly necessary to make her point.  Impossibly, Spike's temperature rose several degrees. 

"Slayer magic," he thought.  He sidled forward until he was standing in the ambient heat of Buffy's body.  Then, he leaned in close to her ear and whispered, "See anything you fancy?"

Buffy pulled back to met his eye.  She moistened her lips and dropped her gaze, studying the sculpted curve of his mouth before answering.  Her sweet, alcohol-laced breath kissed against his skin.

"Oh, yeah," she admitted, measuring out an equal amount of innuendo.  Then wrinkling up her nose at him she flicked his lapel up with her finger, "Something in black leather?  Bit of Slayer history?"

Spike gaped at her, unable to credit her audacity.  He puffed out an outraged 'Fuck That' and turned to leave.  The Slayer hopped down from her perch on the table, artlessly dusting off her hands.

"Whatever," she chirped, triumphantly.  Picking up her check, she folded it twice and tucked it into her cleavage. "At least you've learned to walk away when you're outclassed.  Avoiding the inevitable embarrassment."

He was at her side in a flat second.  One hand twisted her right arm back and the other plunged down her neckline to retrieve the check.  Despite the temptation of silken skin and suddenly tight nipples, he didn't tarry.  Releasing the Slayer with a sharp shove, he stalked over to Anya. 

"You hold the stake," he ordered, handing her Buffy's paper.  He shrugged out of his duster and tossed it onto a barstool between the ex-demon and Xander.

"But we have to go home," Anya protested. "Very soon!  Xander and I are both working tomorrow and…"

"This won't take that long," Spike retorted.

"Hmmm?" Buffy cooed, tilting her head. "Now, why does that sound so familiar?"

"Street corner?" Spike suggested, throwing the comment over his shoulder as he went to select a stick.

"Nnn-ooo," Buffy returned, mimicking his earlier tone. "I'm sure that's not it.  Just as degrading, yes…but what I have in mind was nowhere near as satisfying."

"Yeah, right!" Spike snorted out a laugh and the Slayer shrugged, dismissively.

"Oh, well," she sighed, "whatever it was…it's not like it made that much of an impression."

"Can't make an impression in some things," Spike remarked, casually as he chalked up. "Too hard and dense and cold for it.  And then the return's not half-worth the effort."

Buffy's eyes glittered dangerously but all she said was, "Nine ball?"

Spike nodded, "Best three out of five."

"Fine," she agreed.  They stood staring one another down for several seconds and then Buffy cut her glance toward the table's coin-operated ball-drop.

"Oh, come on," Spike protested, his entire body telegraphing his disbelief. "You don't, seriously, expect me to pay for the games?"

"Spent my last dollar on tequila," Buffy shrugged, pointing toward her half-empty bottle, "and I obviously haven't cashed my paycheck.  But if you'd rather default?"

Spike rolled his eyes heavenward and clenched his jaw.  He spat out a minor oath as he yanked a wad of bills from his pocket.  Flattening a One, he inserted it into the feeder.  There was a rumble from somewhere in the bowels of the pool table and an avalanche of colorful balls cascaded into view.  Buffy began racking.  Sighing in defeat, Tara sank down on one of the couches surrounding the Rec area and propped her chin in her hands.

Two hours later she was jerked out of a restless, nodding snooze by an affronted yelp from Buffy.  The Bronze was nearly empty.  It was forty-five minutes until closing time.  Xander and Anya had long since abandoned the vigil.  The stakes in the game kept changing and were now in Tara's keeping.  There was a pile of jewelry and a wad of cash and a number of handwritten notes on napkins beside the vampire's leather jacket.

"Tara," Buffy repeated, "Did you see that?  He nudged the cue ball. AGAIN!"  She turned on Spike, pointing at him. "You are a nudger…and…and a cheat and…YOU have stupid hair!  You have way stupider hair than me."

"Yeah," Spike mumbled as he patted himself down for a smoke, "well YOU are drunk," he fished out a crumbled pack of unfiltered Camels and waved them at her, "and also delusional."

"Pinocchio's nose grows when he lies," Buffy snapped.  "Does yours?"

"Not since I made it to real boy," Spike commented.  He pulled a cigarette from the pack with his teeth.  Lighting up, he took a long drag.  Exhaling slowly, he continued, "Still, if wood is what interests you, Pet, I do a mighty fine stake impression."  He clicked his lighter closed and pocketed it before amending, "or so I've been told."

Buffy cocked a smile at him and pumped her hand up and down the smooth length of her cue stick.  For the tenth time that night, her predatory glance crawled over him.  The vampire shifted, easing the tightness in his groin.  A montage of erotic images flashed through his mind.  Creative uses for pool tables and pool cues predominated.  Spike's thoughts played out on his face and Buffy's smile broadened in satisfaction.

"Glad to know you have the skills," she remarked, offhandedly. "If you miss this shot that may be all you have left to wager."

"I'm not the one down two games to none," Spike reminded.

"No," Buffy agreed. "You're the one that already lost ten games in a row.  This time there's no double.  Just lots of nothing.  So…if you are quite finished adjusting your balls maybe you could shoot already.  It's late! Tara and I need to get home."

"Oh, now she wants to go home," Spike said, with an exasperated sigh, "as soon as the luck turns."

He bent over to sight along his cue stick.  On the far side of the table, Buffy shifted into his range of vision.  She stretched, reaching over her head so that her blouse rode up.  The maneuver exposed a tantalizing expanse of tawny skin.  She pushed her hips forward, arching her back seductively against the roof support pole. 

Spike squeezed his eyes shut and relaxed his neck muscles, letting his head drop forward.  He was throbbing inside like a high voltage wire but he wasn't going to let that affect his shot.  He took several steadying breaths and pulled himself together.  Opening his eyes again, he focused all of his attention on the nine-ball, tuning out the Slayer's hypnotic heartbeat and nearly incapacitating scent.   He eased the cue back for the game and wager winning shot. 

"Nine-ball, right corner pocket," he declared.

"William?" Halfrek cried, from the edge of the dance floor, just as he fired the cue forward. "What on earth are you doing?"

"William," Buffy playfully sang out and the tip of his stick jerked sideways barely grazing the cue ball.  The nine bounced off the bumper several inches short of the correct pocket.  The Slayer giggled.

"BALLS!" Spike snarled, pulling back his cue as if he intended to club someone.

Hallie sashayed up to the table, attracting his dangerous attention as she primly surveyed the Slayer and Tara.  Oblivious to his mood, she addressed Spike with a tone of almost parental disappointment, "Why are you socializing with these people?  I thought that we had decided that was a bad idea?"

"Ohhhh," Buffy said, favoring Hallie with a sympathetic look, "Did he escape again?  Slip off the leash?  I'd suggest punishment but that would only encourage him!"

Both Spike and Tara made tiny choking noises at this pronouncement.  

"You know," Buffy advised, "you should really start chaining him up at night.  I know it sounds cruel but really it's not." Moving closer to the Vengeance Demon, she dropped her voice to a lower register and added, "Just between us girls, it gives him a sense of security.  Kinda like crating a puppy."

Spike glowered.  He flicked his cigarette to the floor and ground it out under a savage boot heel.

"I am not really into chains," Hallie sniffed, haughtily, edging away from the Slayer. 

Buffy transferred her sympathetic look to Spike, "Awww," she purred, "that's too bad."

"Hallie, Plum?" Spike said, with forced sweetness. "Why don't you get yourself a beer while the Slayer and I finish up here?"

"Or how about a tequila?" Buffy offered, pouring out a shot from her second bottle, "Spike picked up the tab so you might as well enjoy it."

Hallie took the pre-offered drink.  She stared at it for a long moment and then sat it aside.  Frowning slightly, she brushed her fingers lightly against her skirt as if they were soiled by contact with the Slayer's glass. 

"I think that we should be going now, William," she said, with pointed distaste.

"Well, if you have to go," Buffy said, crossing to stand by Tara, "then you have to go!"

She swept the jewelry and I.O.U.'s to one side and shook out Spike's duster.  Swirling it through the air like a cape, she let it settle around her shoulders.   Taking her time, Buffy slid her arms into the sleeves.  Making it a sensual experience, she let the heavy coat embrace her.  She wrapped it around her torso, from neck to hips, and snuggled into the leather.  Spike felt the ache grow in his groin as he watched her cuddling up.  He could vividly recall surrounding her in the same way, skin on skin. 

Buffy buried her hands in the coat pockets and inhaled, pulling his scent deep into her body and holding him inside.  Spike knew what she was doing, claiming him and reminding him of his place.  It made him hard and angry and slightly reckless.

"I'm not leaving 'til I get back what's mine," he announced, his fervent gaze nearly scorching the Slayer's skin.

"Nothing here IS yours," Buffy returned, meeting his stare with an equally intensity.

"Yeah…right," he said on a soft breath, his head falling back slightly in a come-hither gesture. 

The Slayer was defiant.  Rocking up on balls of her feet, she dared him to make a move.  Spike's mouth began to water.  He wanted to toss her bodily onto the pool table and take her in front of the entire room.  He could see it clearly in his mind, feel it in his gut and taste the tang of it on his tongue.

"Are you saying William lost all of these things?" Hallie exclaimed, breaking the mood.

"Ain't lost anything, yet," Spike sighed, relaxing. "Matter of fact, still two games up." He gestured at the table, "It's your shot, Goldilocks!"

Buffy didn't bother to take off his duster as she walked to the table.  It flared out behind her accentuating her swagger.  She barely sighted, called the pocket, spun her stick and dropped the nine-ball in one smooth motion.  It was the careless grace of her that set Spike's teeth on edge.  The subtle suggestion that he was the rodent in her little game of cat and mouse.

He narrowed his eyes at his former lover.  Buffy was oblivious to his ire.  She used his wagered cash to reset the game and began racking the balls in a diamond formation.  With practiced ease, she twirled the triangular rack and tossed it over her shoulder.  It made a full-ringer over three extra pool cues in the stand.  Blindfolded ring-toss, Spike thought, yet another Slayer skill.

"See what I'm up against, Baby?" he murmured, pulling Hallie against him as Buffy leaned over the table to break. "Damned Slayer's eye, it's bloody unnatural.  But now that you're here to inspire me…."

Spike's voice trailed off and Buffy stiffened slightly.  Her eyes flickered up in time to see him nuzzle into the Vengeance Demon's neck.  Distracted, she popped the cue ball and cursed as it flew off the table and bounced across the dance floor.

"Watch your language, Slayer," Spike called after her, as she hurried to retrieve the wayward sphere. "There are ladies present."

Buffy snatched up the white ball and whipped it back at Spike's head even as she responded to his taunt, "Oh, yeah…Sorry, Tara."

Spike caught the meteoric projectile in one hand.  He winced at the sting of it as it slapped into his palm.  Shaking off the pain, he planted a kiss full on Hallie's startled lips. 

"Be right back, Luv," he purred, breaking the kiss and favoring the demon with a hundred watt smile.  Before she could react, he twirled her into a chair and headed for the Slayer's position. 

Buffy was seething.  She could not believe how angry she was.  He had kissed that…that…and now he was grinning at her…and.  Spike's voice cut through the incendiary fog in Buffy's brain.  He mouthed something at her as he passed on his way to the table.

"You are going down," he said, his voice barely audible even to Slayer ears.

"Been there, done that," Buffy returned, with equal softness. 

She watched Spike intently as he prepared for his shot.  He cocked his stick back and slid it forward, four or five times, letting the slippery in and out movement between his fingers communicate for him.  Buffy moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue, easily getting the message.  She timed her response exactly, whispering one word at the very second the point of his stick hit the ball, "Swallowed."

It was a beautiful break.  He sank the one, the two…and the cue ball. Game over.

"And just like that we're all tied up," Buffy grinned, giving a victorious rotation of her hips.

Spike stared at her for several beats, anger and affection tettering on the knife edge of the moment before affection won and he laughed.

"Been there, done that," he said, turning away from her to fetch the rack for their final game.

"Yeah," Buffy agreed, wondering at her own brazenness. "It's what I liked best of all."

"Oh, no," Spike demurred, in one of those for her ears only voices, "Not the best."

"William?" Hallie spoke over Buffy's extra quiet response, drowning it out, "I think that I understand the problem here."

Tara was amazed at the identical looks that vampire and Slayer turned on Spike's new girlfriend.  She noted the similar tilt to the head, the same loose-kneed stance and the exactly matched lift at the corners of both mouths.  It was shocking that nobody in the Slayer's inner circle ever thought of Buffy as Spike's lover.  Even half-turned away from each other, separated by dozens of feet of space and a huge piece of recreational furniture, they were still in perfect sync.

"There's a problem?" Spike asked, raising one eyebrow.

"Well, yes," Hallie exclaimed, gesturing broadly as if exasperated by his mental slowness. "You do appear to be losing."

"And you think you know how to stop that," Buffy prompted, her voice and manner indicating serious doubt.

"I don't know much about low games like billiards," Hallie sniffed. "But I happened to notice something as William took that last shot and I think it might be important."

"So share already," the Slayer said.

After giving Buffy a venomous glare, Hallie turned back to address Spike.  She sucked in a lung full of air and announced, "Your stick is bent."

Buffy and Spike locked eyes.  They held it together for all of five seconds and then an impish grin flitted across Buffy's face. Cutting her eyes toward the vengence demon, the Slayer asked with incredulity, "You mean to tell me you JUST noticed that?"

Spike turned his face into the pillar by the cue stand, clutching onto it for support but the Slayer simply dropped to the floor in a boneless ball of free-flowing mirth.

"Okay," Tara said, fighting to suppress a laugh of her own, "I am officially declaring this competition a tie."

Spike waved a hand to indicate his agreement.  Buffy nodded as she wiped her eyes with the back of one hand.

"I don't understand this outlandish behavior," Hallie exclaimed, obviously offended.  Tara took some sympathy on the demon girl and tried to explain.

"It's an inside joke," she declared, somewhat unfortunately, as Spike snorted loudly at that and Buffy collapsed again.  This time, Tara tried and failed to stifle her own giggles.

"It is impolite," Hallie informed them all, "to laugh at a joke that is not universally understood."

"Sorry," Buffy said, climbing to her feet by holding on to the pool table leg, "So, sorry…you're right!  This was fun, though." She smiled indulgently at the demon, "We should do this again.  'Cause I like you way more than Dru or Harmony."

The Slayer dusted herself down and then slid out of Spike's long leather coat.  She laid it on the table and picked up her check. 

 "You aren't keeping the outerwear, then, Luv?" Spike asked. "Won it fair and square."

Buffy considered for a moment and then shook her head, "Looks better on you," she said, saw his surprise, blushed and covered with, "so retro-grunge, not my thing."

"Still and all," Spike pressed, "you got to take something.  I can't welch on those ten games."

Buffy thought this over for a second and then reaching down she plucked a bit of silver out of the pile.  It was a quick, surreptitious choice but Spike sang inside at the significance of it. 

"Are you coming, Tara?" Buffy asked, pocketing her trinket and already heading toward the door.

"In a minute," Tara called, "wait by the car, okay?  I need to ask Hallie something."

"Indeed?" Hallie blinked.  "What could you possibly need to ask me?  If you wish someone cursed…I'm on vacation but I could give you a chant!  Unless it's your father…"

"Uhm…no…not exactly," Tara stalled, watching Buffy make for the exit.  Glancing over at Spike she asked, "How's that cramp doing?"

"Huh?" Spike said, tearing his eyes away from the departing Slayer with obvious difficulty.  He turned a puzzled look on the Wiccan woman.  Tara's eyes flashed and her lips curved up into a knowing smile. 

"Maybe you should put some ice on it," she prompted, willing him to remember and play along.

"Oh!" Spike yelped in sudden comprehension and then gripping his leg he repeated, "Ooohhhhh, yeah…it hurts!"

"You were injured?" Hallie asked, starting to rise. "How were you injured during a billiards match?"

Tara grabbed the vengeance demon's arm and pulled her back down onto the sofa.

"It was a minor slip," the blond woman supplied, "Zigged when he should have zagged.  Knotted up hard as rock…needs to rub something on it!  We can chat while he gets ice from the kitchen."

She called, encouragingly, over her shoulder, "You won't be long will you, Spike?"

"Ten minutes," Spike said, already moving. "You girls wait here. I'll be right back."

"Maybe I should help him," Hallie said, looking slightly confused. "If he is suffering…"

"Oh, he'll be fine," Tara said, with a dismissive wave of her hand. "It's just a little groin pull.  Spike knows what to do to relieve it.  And I really need to get your advice about the wedding reception.  I am having a major problem with demon etiquette and Anya is so busy right now…and you must know EVERYTHING there is to know about proper behavior…"

Hallie began to glow as Tara stroked her ego like they'd just started dating.  And, the wiccan mused, if things went according to plan the vengeance demon would be a free agent by the end of the evening.

Buffy was halfway down the alley when Spike clanged out of the kitchen door.  He closed on her swiftly, like a predator on a scent.  She backed away. 

Throwing up both hands to ward him off, she chanted, "No, no, no, no…."

"Yes," he snarled, grabbing her by the shoulders and pushing her into the wall, "You know you want it and you know it's right."

He captured her mouth in a rough kiss.  Buffy balled her hands up into fists and pressed them into Spike's chest.  She shoved out, hard, but not quite hard enough to dislodge him from her lips.  He was wild, demanding, and filled with a torrid passion but he wasn't hurting her.  His tongue probed her gently and he pulled back long enough for her to exhale and draw in one long shuddering breath before taking her again.  They repeated this pattern a half-dozen times before Buffy let her fingers splay open. 

Slowly, she slid her palms up to cradle his face.  Her fingers tangled in his hair.  Spike dropped one arm around her waist and hugged her tight against his body.  He began to stroke his other hand along the outside of her arm.  His touch was soothing and stimulating at the same time.  Her pulse pounded as he caressed her skin.  Reaching her wrist he gripped it and maneuvered her left hand to his hips.  Buffy took the hint and tugged him closer.  He kissed along her jaw line toward her ear and down the curve of her neck.

"Oh," Buffy breathed out.  Pushing ineffectually against him she tried once more for a reasonable tone, "Spike…don't…this is wrong…we have to…."

She broke off, moaning as he bit down lightly just over her jugular.  Her fingers curled, clawing into his flesh and threading through his hair.  She rubbed against him, twisting her shoulders into the wall as her hips bucked forward.

"No," he whispered, against her skin. "It's not wrong. You're mine."

"I'm not," she reminded, still panting from what he was doing to her, "you have a girlfriend…Hallie…and…and I'm not a demon…and…"

Buffy's voice trailed off into a breathless ecstacy as Spike lifted his head to stare down at her.  In the dim illumination of the Bronze security lights, his eyes were a luminous silver, like mirrors in moonlight.  The planes of his face cast deep shadows, making him even more entrancing.  Looking up at him, Buffy felt a tingle of some primal emotion wash through her body.  Spike's lips pursed slightly as he considered her.

"Don't want a demon," he pouted.  Leaning in to kiss her again, he breathed two words into her mouth, "Want you." 

Buffy tried to focus her objections.  She tried to think of Spike as a vampire, a demon-animated corpse, but it was impossible.  He seemed so alive to her. There was nothing dead about him.  His arms rippled with muscles as he pressed her against a body that literally vibrated with need.  His fingers explored with vigor, teasing out her secrets.  His lips were firm and full.  His tongue played against hers, thrusting and slithering in her mouth like a living thing.  Spike made her so hot it was inconceivable that he could be cold.   Before her skin could acknowledge a temperature difference between them, it ignited under his touch. 

Fully clothed, they mimicked the love act.  Warm, sticky fluid, soaked through Buffy's jeans as Spike rocked the bulge of his arousal against her.  He slipped his hand down to cup her behind.  Sliding his palm along the back of her right thigh, he silently urged her to wrap the leg around him.  She complied.  He kept licking and biting and worrying at her face and neck and shoulders until she could barely form coherent thought.

"Is this the honey or the stick?" she wondered, not even aware that she was speaking out loud.

Spike leaned his forehead into hers, panting with her.  He slid his hand up under the edge of her blouse to toy with the satiny soft skin of her stomach.

"Bit of both," he guessed, somehow understanding.

Buffy nodded, pulling him into another interminable kiss. 

"Punishment and reward," she thought, "pain and pleasure.  So wrong and yet so very right."

"All I want is you," he said at the break, "my Heaven, my Hell, my Buffy."

His voice was thick with desperation as he pushed his fingers into the front pocket of her jeans searching for his token even as he rocked between her legs.  It made the Slayer's breath catch in her throat.  She knew what he was doing this time but it still sent a chill up her spine, raised the gooseflesh on her arms as he looted her.  She had won it, it was hers now.  He brought it out on the tip of one finger and carried it to the palm of her hand. 

Buffy closed her grip around the silver circle and Spike stopped suckling her throat long enough to whisper hoarsely, "Put it on."

"Spike…I wanted…" she began and was interrupted by a loud crash in the middle of the alley.  They separated ready for attack and relaxed again as a cat dashed away from the fallen trashcans.  The kitchen door clanged open almost immediately.

"William?" Hallie called, from the doorway.  Spotting them she frowned, "What in the world are you doing out here?"

The vampire and Slayer exchanged a smoldering glance but Buffy was already edging away, sliding along the wall toward the parking lot and Tara and her waiting car.

"There was a demon," she explained, lamely, as she made her escape. "Spike was…just…helping."

And with that the Slayer turned and pelted down the alleyway.  As she raced up to the car, Tara reacted to her frantic arrival by gunning the engine, and squealing out of her parking space into the center of the lot.  Buffy popped the door open and got in. 

"Go," she said, simply. 

Tara went, faster than the law allowed.  But after a few blocks she slowed down.  Stopping for a red light, she glanced back, frowned at the lack of any pursuit and then looked over at the still panting Slayer.  Buffy was studying something in the palm of her hand.  It was a ring.  A heavy, tacky thing with a silver skull design.  It was the thing Buffy had chosen to settle the wager.  For some unknown reason, Spike had wrapped the band with yarn, so it would only fit his littlest finger.  Tara wondered idly why the vampire hadn't purchased, or stolen, the correct size. 

The Slayer seemed mesmerized by her prize.  She toyed with it, playing her fingertips over the raised design.  Tara was about to ask what was so special about this particular ring.  Spike had several after all.  But just as she drew in the breath to speak, with a tiny sigh, Buffy slid the band onto her right ring finger.   Suddenly, it was obvious that the ring had been modified to fit the Slayer's hand.  And yet, Spike carried it with him.  One of several late night conversations with Willow came back to Tara and, stunned by the implication, she spoke without thinking.

"He asked you to marry him," she recalled.

Buffy snatched off the ring and shoved it into her pocket.

"It was a spell," she snapped and turned to stare out the window, effectively, ending the conversation. 

Tara let it end.