"And she finally shows herself," Xander greeted as Buffy entered the Magic Box.
Bemused, she asked, "Was I invisible?"
"Well, not in the strictest sense--"
"Where've you been?" Anya interrupted from behind the cash register, bills in hand. "Giles has been looking for you all night."
"I was patrolling. You know. My job?" She took a seat at the table. "Lots of vamps out there tonight."
Xander ventured, "Not the kind with magic hands, I hope."
"Nooo," Buffy overemphasized. "No magic. Or hands, especially. No hands in contact with Buffy."
Not for nearly a week, anyway. And she was convinced that she could never confidently look Spike in the eye again... let alone the hands. It was all so embarrassing. And beyond wrong. But God, those hands...
"Good," he said, obviously relieved. "Glad you got that out of your system."
Buffy cleared her throat. "Yeah. Out. Out of system. Definitely. I mean, yuck."
"Big yuck," Xander heartily agreed.
* * *
"Yuck!" Buffy cried, trying to rid her hands of the slimy demon mucus that also graced her clothing and hair. "Great. Just great."
She nudged the fallen Fyarl with the toe of her boot. "You couldn't have added a little Woolite to the mix?" It didn't answer -- the unfortunate side effect of being dead. "I'd settle for a drop of Pantene..."
She sighed and continued, "Nope. Just pure, undiluted snot. And you guys just love to seek me out when I wear brand new jeans."
Of course, there was only one way to prevent the inevitable ruin of her expensive clothing: rinse in cold water. Immediately.
Her house was a ten or fifteen minute jaunt from this end of town... but Spike's crypt, and more importantly his shower, was only about two minutes away if she made haste.
She'd been avoiding him, and with good reason. But this was different. This was an emergency.
This had nothing to do with the fact that he'd involuntarily given her the best orgasm of her life.
No, this was in the interest of high fashion.
* * *
Spike tossed the last of Buffy's photos into the cardboard box at his feet, the one he planned to bring to her basement and, over time, return each item to its proper place. With any luck, she'd never know he'd taken anything.
Because now it was all so clear. This box wasn't Buffy.
The girl who'd trembled against his fingertips a few nights earlier -- that was Buffy.
As he kneeled to close it, he spied a piece of pink satin.
Picking it up, he smiled.
It was exactly like the one she'd wore... that night. And since he'd probably never get close to her again, he felt he was entitled to at least one memento.
The door crashed open overhead.
He stuffed the thong into a nearby drawer and quietly slinked towards the ladder, ears perked.
"Spike?" he heard.
He started. Buffy. Was back.
Well, what do you know.
Smirking, he tried not to hurry up the steps. "Well, well, well. What--"
Buffy looked like she was desperately trying to maintain her dignity, even with dollops of slime purling down every slope of her body. "Help?"
Complacence forgotten, he laughed. "What happened to you?"
"What's it look like?" she sassed, wisely withdrawing the requisite 'moron' that usually tagged her questions to him.
"More than one Fyarl demon out there this week, I take it?"
"So it would seem."
"Sure it wasn't your watcher this time?"
"Not funny." She wasn't about to admit that she always checked the eyes first. A string of mucus dribbled to the ground, reminding her of her purpose. "Still got that shower?"
"Oh, yeah. Of course, love. Downstairs." As he guided her, he mentally scanned the lower level for any visible remnants of his Buffy infatuation.
"I can still walk, you know," she snapped, recoiling from the cool hand on her shoulder. Hands bad.
He let her walk ahead. "Wouldn't want to try to help you when you're in need."
"Words to live by," she concurred, descending carefully to the bottom rung. "Just tell me where."
Spike pointed. "It's down that way, to the left. But the knob is kind of tricky... Let me get it for you," he said, acting as if it wouldn't thrill him to watch her shower. En route to his destination, he casually kicked the Box o' Buffy under a table, just to be sure.
Buffy took off her shoes as he employed his 'shower' -- which was essentially a chiseled hole in the wall with a rerouted water pipe and drain.
When he was done, he leaned against the wall and folded his arms.
She looked at him. "Do you have to be here while I do this?"
"Somebody has to turn it off. Don't want you flooding the place."
"I can turn it off myself." She squinted at the pipes. "I think."
Smirking, he arched a brow. "I'll wait here just in case."
She didn't argue. The fact that he didn't mind the idea of watching her as she showered was a good indication that what had happened that night wasn't all her own doing. And that was an oddly comforting thought.
"Well, Banzai," she shrugged before hopping in, clothing and all. "Oh! God! Freezing!"
"No hot water tonight then," he observed, leaning a shoulderblade on the wall beside her, respectfully turned away but able to steal sidelong glances.
"I noticed," she said, voice competing with the jetting water. She ducked under the stream, eyes shut tight. "But I guess you don't?"
She was making conversation? Now, with her nipples poking through her t-shirt? Spike searched his brain for the focus of her question. Oh. Right. Do vampires notice the cold.
"Not really. I mean, I know it's there, but it doesn't bother me."
"Are you bothered by soap?"
He tore his eyes away from her dripping wet curves. "Sorry?"
"Soap!" she shouted as if toting a megaphone. "Do you have any!"
"On the ledge!"
"Ooh. A ledge," she said, her teeth chattering as she found the soap. "This is living."
He was decidedly offended. "Hey, you came to me--"
"I'm kidding, Spike. Lighten up." She turned her back to him and continued to scrub.
"Right. You telling me to lighten up. That's a first."
"Nothing," he called out.
Spike pretended not to watch her rinse off. He also pretended he wasn't internally recording this for a slow-mo replay later.
"Okay, I give up! Where's the off button?"
Button? Oh. He reached past her and turned the knob, unwittingly brushing his arm against the tightened peaks of her nipples.
She covered up her reaction to the sensation by very deliberately wringing the water from her hair. "Tell me you have clean towels?"
"Uh, yeah." He nabbed the closest towel.
"Thanks," she said, patting it against her. "Well, can't say that wasn't invigorating."
He took her in. Shimmering, pristine, dangerous, like a hidden moonlit cove. He wondered if she'd ever been to Mexico...
"I'm pleased to report that I am mucus-free, and my outfit may actually stand a chance." Pressing the towel to her shirt, she noticed him staring. "What?"
"Nothing," he said, clearing the idiotic thoughts that seemed to rule his mind whenever she was less than three feet away. "Uh, you want to dry those off for a spell?" He gestured at her clothes.
She gave him a skeptical once-over. "No... I'll be fine, thanks."
"Look, you can dry them off in the air vent is all I'm saying. I've got some extra clothes you can wear--"
"You? Have extra clothes? You've worn the same t-shirt and jeans since I've known you."
"Got more than one pair of each, you know." He considered whipping out some of her own clothing but nixed the idea. "But, uh, Harm's got some clothes round here somewhere."
"Oh." She felt suddenly uncomfortable. "You want me to wear the clothing of 'Harm.'"
"Well, it's not like I want you to, I'm just offering--"
"And how is 'Harm'?"
Was that jealousy he detected in her tone? "She's uh... the same."
Her eyes wandered around the room. "She doesn't live with you, does she?"
"Good god no," he said. "Even I've got my limits."
"Mm. The absence of unicorn influence on the decor is what really gives it away," she said offhandedly.
He laughed, and their eyes met.
Bad. No! Buffy scolded herself. Focus on something, anything else! She quickly rubbed her face in the towel he'd given her and spent some quality time focusing on the embroidery. The... instantly recognizable embroidery. "Weird. We have towels just like this."
Hell! Wrong towel. "Yeah, well -- lots of towels like that, I reckon," he covered badly.
She frowned at him as she handed it back and stepped out of the shower. "I guess."
After underhandedly flinging it towards the Box, he noticed that she was still shivering.
"Well," she began. "I should go. Check in with Giles, let him know that Glory's probably got Fyarls on her team now--"
"You're not going out there like this," he insisted. "You'll catch cold."
"Thanks Mom, but I think I'll manage."
"Look. Will you just do as I say? Hang your clothes to dry, wear something else in the meantime? Won't take long, the vent works fast." He sighed. "I promise I won't bring up anything about... anything you don't want to talk about."
"Damn right you won't," she said, flushing hotly.
"I won't," he repeated, attempting nonchalance. "But do you really want to freeze out there?"
She gave in. "Fine. Show me Harmony's skankwear."
* * *
"So, how stupid do I look?"
He stifled a laugh. "You don't--"
"Shut up." Buffy plunked down on the lone armchair, Harmony's gaudy silk robe draping over all the wrong places. "This is about a thousand sizes too big. You better not be kidding about that vent."
"Fifteen minutes tops."
She tapped her fingers on the armrest. "So. What do we do 'til then?"
"I'm not whining, I'm--"
"No," he held up the bottle. "Red wine?"
"Oh. I-I don't really..." Then she wondered why she didn't really. "Sure, why not."
He smiled as he poured a healthy amount into two tumblers and crossed the room to hand her one.
She sipped. Not a taste she adored, but it went down warm and smooth. "What were you doing before I got here?"
"Before I got here. What were you doing?"
Conversation again? Or had she seen something? "Nothing. I mean, you know. Evil stuff."
She chuckled. "Right. Because you're..."
"Evil," he supplied.
She lifted her glass in salute. "Can't forget that."
"Shouldn't ever," he said with a nod.
"So... what kind of stuff is evil?"
He squinted. "Why do you want to know?"
"I don't know. I just wonder what you do here all by yourself."
I wank off thinking about you would have been his most honest answer. Instead he said, "I watch telly. Read a bit. Plan world domination."
She snorted. "Like you could."
"I could!" he countered, greatly insulted. "I have! Sort of."
"But you don't really want to," she said. Please don't really want to...
"Okay, I don't. But if I did want to, I definitely could."
"I'd have to stop you," she said, pointing with the finger that held her glass.
"You'd have to catch me," he said, eyes sparking in reply. "Nothing like a good, long chase."
Buffy found herself at a loss for words. Was he flirting with her?
And did she want him to?
She blinked. "What?"
"You finished your wine. Want more?"
"Oh." She looked at her empty wineglass. "Okay."
He walked closer to her, wielding wine in those strong, magical hands.
Captivated beyond her control, Buffy felt her heart beating in her throat and heard a tiny whisper that could only have come from her own mouth: "Spike?"
He stilled the bottle in midair, waiting a beat. "Yeah?"
Her lashes slowly swept upwards. "Would you...?"
"Yeah?" he prompted, voice husky.
"Would you do it again?"
"Do what again?"
Her lower lip trembled as she tried to sound out the words. "Your hands... o-on... on me?"
She braced herself for the possible belly-laugh followed by, 'You're really off your rocker now, Slayer', while being ushered out the door. It could happen. His recent and especially stinging 'not as high, not as firm' comment sprang to mind.
But he did nothing of the sort. Instead, he wrested the wine glass from her grasp, put it down and gently took her hand. With his eyes on hers, he guided her to the sarcophagus.
"Wait." He seemed all too willing. What if he had more in mind? "I won't -- I--I can't--"
"Shhh," he said while languidly tugging at her sash and urging the robe from her shoulders. Like mercury, it slid to the floor, revealing her taut, nude body. "On your stomach, love."
Yielding to his command, Buffy lowered herself onto the sheets, indulging in silken sensuality.
She shuddered as he skimmed his hands over her hair to clear her neck, then she wriggled under the spill of cool oil on her back.
His hands, his wonderful hands returned to coast to and fro, spreading the oil from her buttocks to her shoulder blades and back again.
She sounded out her approval as he ovaled and circled and kneaded every inch of her tingling skin, and whimpered in protest when he finished.
Spike watched her ribcage rise and fall with baited breath as he pulled off his t-shirt.
Crawling over her, he rested on her back and spoke in a soft, hypnotic lilt. "In some parts of Thailand, love, they call this the 'body to body'." He pressed down and rolled his tight, slippery chest muscles across hers in long, slow strokes. "One body... to another. One soft... one hard..."
Buffy did everything she could to keep still, to not rub up against the aforementioned 'hard' part of him that repeatedly nudged her behind.
He tickled her ear with the instruction, "Turn 'round."
Fully expecting him to stay where he was, she took a few centering breaths before turning and was almost disappointed to find that he'd dismounted and reappeared above her, standing behind her head, eyes closed in concentration, fingers on her temples.
She hummed in absolute bliss as Spike massaged every last worry out of her head. No worries about Glory or Mom or Dawn. No worries about MIA ex-boyfriends. No worries about lying stark naked and exposed before her mortal enemy. No worries that said enemy was working his way down her collar bone, her breasts, her abdomen...
He cupped a hand over the juncture between her thighs, and brazenly slid a finger over her most sensitive spot. "Know what they call this?"
Quivering now, she shook her head.
He smiled slightly. "The happy ending."
She smiled too, a dark hunger glinting in her eyes. "Show me."
* * *
"Unhhhh!" Buffy spasmed into Spike's unbelievably gifted hand.
Gasping, panting, gripping one strong arm for support, she wished for nothing more than to wrap herself up in him, coil herself into his embrace, sleep the world away...
And then she realized what time it was.
And what she should be doing.
And what she should definitely NOT be doing.
She had to go.
"I -- I have to go."
"You--?" Spike asked dazedly, reluctantly setting her free.
"I have to go."
Donning the robe again, she scurried downstairs to gather her definitely-dry-by-now clothing.
Spike lay back on the bed, wondering what he'd done wrong. His pants were still fastened, his hands were soaked, and Buffy was leaving.
"I'm insane," Buffy muttered, zipping up her jacket and climbing the ladder. "That must be it. I've officially gone insane."
She made a beeline for the door, but when she spotted Spike lying there, looking confused and frustrated and just so... human, she felt a strange tightness in her chest.
I'm sorry, she tried to say. But the words wouldn't come.
And why should they? she thought angrily. This was sick. And it was obviously messing with her mind. This had to end, right here and now...
Those words wouldn't come either.
So she did the only thing she could do. The thing she should do. She left.
"Right," Spike sighed. "Off you go."