DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: A too-close encounter at the fireplace has sent Buffy running from the cabin…
Buffy mistake number one. Letting him get to her.
It was only because her nerves were frayed to whip-cord strands that it was happening at all, she was sure. Her defenses were down, and Spike’s mindfucks were getting twisted around in the maelstrom of her situation. Under any other circumstances, she wouldn’t be rattled by a few inappropriate remarks, or the firm touch of his hand on hers. It was just…things were weird right now. Plus, no way could she discount the ADD vamp factor. Spike got bored, Spike did what it took to entertain himself. And it looked like seeing her squirm was at the top of the current Spike wishlist, making her writhe and twist and burn from whatever itch he managed to instill under her skin. Making her hot…
Although, not really, not now, because…
Buffy mistake number two. Running out of the cabin without first grabbing her shoes.
Looking down at her socks, Buffy grimaced as the snow that had blown onto the porch seeped through the cotton to start stinging at her soles. That whole fight or flight instinct needed some serious reconsideration if it meant getting frostbit toes, but going back in now would ruin her exit.
Besides, Spike was still in there. Spike and the marshmallows. And the fire. And that mouth with the tiny bit of fluff caught in the crease that made her want to lean forward and lick it off.
OK, so maybe only her toes were cold. The rest of her seriously needed to rethink the whole issue of spontaneous combustion.
He had to give her credit; she’d lasted longer than he thought she would.
Between the comfort of their banter and the saccharine bliss of the marshmallows, Spike had been lulled into a thrumming balm, the edges of the world blurring into a relief of orange and scarlet and burnished Slayer skin. Only when she began inching herself away from the flames and toward him did those edges whet themselves into a ready blade, keen and willing to slice through any part of his anatomy she might choose. Her smell was intoxicating, all fire and spun sugar, and the opportunity to play into it had been impossible to resist, driving him to taunt her with carefully chosen words, each one designed to make her squirm before running away with her virtue tucked between her legs.
It was that last marshmallow that was his downfall, watching it in hungry fascination as something inside Spike came undone.
Even after the door slammed shut behind Buffy, he remained rooted in his seat, his body screaming at him to go after her while his head shouted at it to shut the fuck up. Don’t be daft, he wanted to say. Slayer, remember? Stake me in half a heartbeat if she knew I just got hard for her.
Not that he was proud of the fact. Having his cock straining in his jeans when there was bugger all chance of anything serious happening with Buffy was about as frustrating as being stuck in that soddin’ wheelchair.
With a groan, Spike slumped against the couch, propping his elbows on his bent knees as his fingers worried through his hair. Whoever it was who decided to shackle him with the Slayer in the babysitting job from hell was a sick and twisted bastard, though if it had happened to anyone else, he would’ve been applauding the genius of it from the sidelines. But here he was, stuck with the one creature walking this planet that drove him crazier than any other, and there she was…
…His gaze lifted to look at the door through which she’d just stormed, but was immediately captured by the casually tossed items by its frame, rolling his eyes in exasperation…
…and there were her shoes, the dozy bint.
His cross mood evaporated as he stared at the boots he’d pulled off her feet earlier, strewn with the carelessness of home. She was out there now, standing around in her stockinged feet, probably still too wound around that stick up her ass to come in and retrieve what would make her trek into the winter wonderland a tad more tolerable. No way she wouldn’t notice soon, though. Her ankle may be faring better, but it was still troubling her, and she’d be feeling the effects of the cold soon enough.
Probably get herself sick again in the process, too. Wouldn’t that be a hoot and a half.
Balling his hands into fists, Spike straightened, lifting his chin in determination. He wasn’t going to go chasing after her this time. Let her fetch her own damn shoes.
She’d just about kill for a watch. Had it been long enough yet? If she went back inside now, would Spike have dropped his Vampentino act and leave her alone? Did she want to be left---OK, not even going to finish thinking that question. Maybe it was time to go to bed…and the fact that they were both two of the most nocturnal animals she knew was something else she wasn’t going to dwell on.
Surely, five more minutes would be long enough. She’d just count to…
Crap. Buffy grimaced. OK. Sixty seconds in a minute, times five minutes…was that three hundred? Where was Willow when she needed her? She’d know. The girl was a walking abacus.
Three hundred. Whether it was right or not. That’s what she’d count to.
“One, two, three…”
Her breath clouded before her face, yet another reminder of just how frigid the exterior air was, and Buffy leaned against the wall of the cabin, relieving her ankle of some of her weight. It was starting to throb, and not only from the cold.
Maybe I should just go back in. Maybe I’m just overreacting.
“…twelve, thirteen, fourteen…”
What is he doing in there? For someone who wouldn’t even let me walk across the room on my own, why isn’t he out here demanding I get my ass back inside?
“…twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one…”
He’s probably too busy stuffing his face with the rest of the marshmallows. Stupid, sugar-addicted, freaky vampire---.
“Well, well, well, knew we’d get ourselves a treat, but didn’t think we’d get two of them.”
The drawl slithered over her skin, and Buffy stiffened as the two dark shadows emerged from the forest. As she took a single pace forward, two sets of golden eyes sharpened in her view, and she quirked an eyebrow as she looked innocently about her. “Are you drunk as well as ugly?” she asked. “’Cause…I only see one of me. Not that I don’t think it might be kind of cool to have another me to help out with the homework, maybe take my finals and such, but still, just me here.”
The taller, skinny vampire who’d already spoken leered, his fangs glinting in the light cast through the cabin window. “We’re looking for the girl, Barbie doll. Give her over and we’ll make it quick for you.”
The girl. The Slayer felt her insides freeze at what had to be another reference to Holly. More demons who were after her; maybe the Jenny ghost wannabe had been on the up-and-up after all. “It’s Buffy,” she retorted automatically, maintaining an air of nonchalance in spite of the churning inside her head. “Not Barbie.”
The short vampire snorted, turning to look at his partner, the greasy hair he had pulled back into a ponytail at the nape of his neck swinging. “Hey,” he laughed. “She’s got the same name as the vampire slayer.”
“That’s because I am the vampire slayer, Ponyboy,” she said.
“Impossible.” Stilts grabbed the railing and climbed the bottom porch stair. “The Slayer’s on the Hellmouth.”
She stopped at the top and stared down. “Welcome to my home away from home, boys.” Her good foot shot out, clipping across the vamp’s jaw and sending him sprawling back into the nearest snowdrift.
Ponyboy grabbed his mate under the arms, and dragged him away from the house. “That bitch didn’t tell us anything about the Slayer being here,” he complained. “This isn’t what I signed up for.”
“Stop your bellyaching. We’ve got a job to do, and we’re going to do it.” Stilts turned a dangerous gaze to Buffy. “Besides, there’s two of us and only one of her.” After a pointed sniff to the air, he added, “And she’s not exactly up to par, are you, Slayer?”
“Which just means it’s going to take me a little bit longer to kick your ass.” All thoughts of her cold feet vanished when he leapt forward again, this time avoiding the stairs to tackle her around her midsection, and the pair went down in a tangle of limbs onto the porch.
Buffy grunted when a fist slammed into her stomach, but she held firm as she brought her feet up to launch him back over her head. Rolling to the side, she caught Ponyboy out of the corner of her eye, stealthily trying to sneak up from behind. I don’t think so, she thought, and grabbed the tip of an icicle forming on the railing to break it off. When she felt his hand wrap around her ankle, her body twisted to drive the icicle into his wrist.
Ponyboy howled in pain, falling back to clutch his arm to his chest. “Bitch!” he snarled. A quick yank pulled the driven ice from the wound, and he dropped the blood-stained spear onto the step.
“Might as well get two for the price of one,” Buffy muttered. Before either of them could react, the icicle was back in her grip, and this time, she whirled to face Stilts, driving it into his gut.
The tall vampire growled, but didn’t stop his advance, launching again to drive the Slayer back into the snow. The impact loosened a flurry of white from the eave, and it fell with a wet squelch next to Buffy’s head, half of the snow stinging her cheek where the cold spilled. For a split second, the sensation of choking clogged her throat as stray flakes managed to make their way inside her mouth.
She reacted blindly. Shoving him off, she grabbed one of the porch posts and snapped it from its mooring. She broke it over her knee, and, as they approached her from opposite sides, Buffy drove the jagged wooden ends reflexively into each of the vampire’s chests. Something in her wrist gave way with the impact, but the Slayer’s cry of pain was cut off when she was seized in a sudden coughing fit from the scattering dust.
“You’re a bloody piece of work, you know that?”
Her eyes narrowed as she turned to see Spike lounging in the open door, her shoes hanging from his left hand as if he’d been interrupted from bringing them out to her. “Enjoy the show?” she asked, struggling to her feet. Her socks were soaked, her toes beginning to burn from the frigid wet, and Buffy was pretty sure she’d broken something in her wrist again. Damned if she was going to give him the satisfaction of seeing her in pain, though.
Spike shrugged. “Not your best work, but that icicle trick was a bit of all right. Probably worth the price of admission just for that.” He glanced at the dust darkening the snow. “Lemme guess. This was about that Holly bird again.”
“They complained that whoever hired them didn’t tell them I was here,” she said with a nod. “And they referred to the boss as female, so at least that part of Jenny’s story is holding up.” Her face screwed up in thought. “What did Jenny say her name was again?”
“Maria. This doesn’t mean you’re gettin’ on board with what they have in mind, does it? ‘Cause I thought we’d agreed to tell them to stuff it.”
Adamantly, Buffy shook her head, but then hesitated. “I’m just reluctant to do any kind of stuffing right about now,” she said. In her distraction, she missed both the innuendo in her words and the wicked gleam that curled the corner of Spike’s mouth. “At least,” she continued, “not until this Holly shows up. There’s too many things we still don’t know.”
“Know one thing. You’re not goin’ to do anyone any good you keep channeling Francis the Talking Mule.” Shaking his head, Spike dropped her shoes inside the door and strode forth in determination, scooping her into his arms. “You have got to be the most stubborn girl I’ve ever had the misfortune of knowing.”
“What’re you---?” she started to say as she struggled against him, but the instant all the strain was taken from her muscles, Buffy felt herself automatically melt into his hold, unsolicited relief drawing out a sigh. “You have really got to stop doing this. I’m not a baby.”
“Then stop acting like one. Stayin’ out without your shoes was stupid and you know it, Slayer.”
At least she had the courtesy to blush. “Is there anything you don’t overreact to, Spike?” she said in annoyance. She tried to wriggle her toes, and frowned. “Although…”
He stopped just outside the door. “Although what?”
Buffy ducked her gaze under his intense glare. “My feet feel funny.”
“My toes are numb and kind of tingly.”
Spike muttered under his breath, his pace quickening as he carried her over the threshold. Lashing out with his heel, the door slammed behind him, and Buffy jerked at the sound, her head whipping around to stare at the entrance just before he dropped her onto the couch.
“Keep still,” he barked, pressing her back into the cushion when she tried to rise. Strong fingers grasped her ankle and Spike peeled her left sock off, dropping it to the floor with an audible squelch. “Damn it,” she heard him mutter before he rose and crossed behind the sofa toward the kitchen.
“What is it?”
“Get the other sock off.”
She heard the water start flowing in the sink, and though the urge to see what he was doing was great, she did what he said, looking down at the small white patches along the top of her feet. “Is it frostbite?” The question came out before she could stop it, and she leaned forward to poke at the skin.
“Not yet.” He appeared back at her side, a basin of warm water in his hands. With a frowning tilt of his head, Spike swept his gaze over her legs before setting down the water. “You’re goin’ to have to get out of those pants,” he said. At her visible shock, he rolled his eyes. “They’re damp from the snow,” he explained, gesturing toward the damp cuffs. “The wet will draw the heat and you need to be thawin’ those toes of yours if you don’t want to be called Stumpy the Vampire Slayer.”
“Oh. I think there’s some pajama shorts in one of the drawers.” She watched as he began striding toward the bedroom. “And bring me a blanket to change under!”
The two women watched the golden flicker of the cabin lights dance across the snow. “You really should’ve told them,” the first one said.
Jenny glanced at her companion. “You know I couldn’t,” she said. “We were specifically told not to.”
The first woman shrugged. “That still doesn’t make it a good idea. Buffy gets pissed when people hold out on her. She is not going to be a happy camper if she finds out you held back information. You’d think you would’ve learned that when you were still alive.”
“And what was I supposed to say?” Jenny’s gaze was open, but quizzical. “’Hey, Buffy, you know the girl we’re asking you to protect? Just so you know, if she dies, so does the whole Slayer line which includes you.’” She shook her head. “It’s better this way. The Powers know what they’re doing.”
“Funny, but I didn’t hear the Powers telling us to sic a couple of vamps on her.”
“Motivation. She needs to believe that there’s a genuine risk to Holly.”
“There is a genuine risk.”
“Yes, but we have to be sure she’s going to do it. After our confab this afternoon, I’m not positive she will.” Jenny sighed, her eyes returning to the cabin. “And I’m even less convinced that Spike will be of any help in this at all.”
“You don’t have to worry about Spike.” Jenny’s companion swiveled her head to watch the shadows passing by the windows, the unmistakable shape of the vampire stopping behind the glass. “He’s got a way of surprising people. Especially himself.”
To be continued in Chapter 11: Do You Hear What I Hear?...