Buffy sighed and checked her watch. The minute hand had barely budged. She was still early. Spike was still on time. She didn’t have a right to be angry yet. He wasn’t late. In fact, he had five whole minutes—make that four minutes and twenty-six seconds—before he was officially late.
Not that being late for patrolling was a bad thing. No. No, of course not. And it totally wasn’t like they were meeting for a date. No, she was just out, meeting a guy for some vampire-slayage. And the fact that she had dressed up had absolutely nothing to do with said guy. She just really liked her vintage gauchos. And the camisole? She hadn’t had a reason to wear it since she bought it. What better time to try out a new outfit? Patrolling was where she met all the interesting guys. All the interesting dead guys. Not that she was out here to meet interesting guys. Just one. But it wasn’t a date.
Buffy huffed a sigh and checked her watch again. Three minutes and fifty-two seconds. Dammit, Spike still wasn’t late. And she was just some crazy person, dressed to the nines, standing out in the cemetery.
Figures he’d be the type to be right on time.
Before she had a chance to fall over in surprise, two strong arms wrapped around her middle and pulled her against a familiar chest. “Now, now,” Spike murmured. “None of that.”
Stupid heart. It didn’t know when not to melt. “Oh. There you are,” she said lamely.
He chuckled and helped her upright. “I honestly didn’t mean to startle you, luv. It just happened.”
“You didn’t startle me. I just happen to like…falling over and looking like an idiot.”
“Well, you’re very good at it.”
Buffy scowled playfully and dusted herself off. “Jackass.”
“I do what I can.”
“And hey! You broke the rules.” She pointed. “You touched.”
Spike’s hands came up. “I din’t fondle!”
“There was non-handholdy touching involved!”
He blinked. “’m sorry, Slayer. Next time, I’ll let you fall on your arse.”
Her lower lip jutted out in a pout. “I didn’t say I didn’t appreciate the breakage of the rules. I mean, mitigating circumstances and all. But don’t take that as a starting point to mark tonight as a failure of the plan.”
“Not a failure.” Spike grinned and his gaze dropped and slowly raked her body in a way that made her heart beat way too fast. And from the way his eyes widened and the strain in his jeans became more pronounced, she figured that she had a stamp of approval from her total non-date. “You’re all dolled up.”
“I’m neither blind nor a eunuch, luv.”
“Those are both things that I happen to know firsthand.”
Spike smirked and ran his hands down his front, hooking his fingers through his belt loops and thrusting his pelvis forward just slightly. “Refresh my memory?”
She flushed and somehow managed not to melt or tackle him, which were both good things in her book. Well, not good as much as infuriatingly frustrating, but good for the plan. And what was good for the plan was good for Buffy and the not-breaking-of-her heart. “In your dreams,” she replied weakly.
“Every single night.”
Damn. Stupid vampire. How was she supposed to ignore him when he said things like that?
“We have patrolling to do,” Buffy said quickly, wiping her suddenly sweaty palms on her hips. “And…it’s not gonna get done just…standing here talking about…stuff.”
Gee, that was profound.
What was it about being around him that turned her into an incoherent mess? Buffy heaved a sigh and shook her head, spinning on her heel. “Okay, so patrol. Kill us some bad guys…present company excluded.”
“Thanks ever so.”
“And then I need to get home and attack my evil homework and maybe even study for the even eviler test on Wednesday, and—”
“Buffy. Aren’t you forgetting something?” When she turned around, he was right behind her, his hand reaching for hers, his eyes burning. “It’s the rules, remember?”
Don’t melt. Please don’t melt.
“Y-yes.” She did her best not to tremble so hard that she pulled them to the ground. But the way her skin tingled as her fingers laced through his could not be outmatched. There was something in his touch that unwound her completely. “The rules.”
“An’ if I din’t mention it before, you look amazing.”
“So your plan is to be completely wonderful and have me melt at everything you say?”
She scowled playfully and poked out her tongue. “Asshole.”
Spike arched a brow. “Be careful with that thing.”
“What a shame,” he replied with a smirk. “So, luv, is there a routine you follow, or are we wingin’ it?”
Buffy frowned. “A routine? My routine is that I patrol.” She paused. “Well, okay. Usually, Giles tells me if there were any suspicious deaths in town…vamp or otherwise. I hit those graveyards first…the places where the suspicious deaths were buried. If it was a vamp, it’ll take a day or so—”
“No need to tell me that, pet.”
“Hey, you asked.”
“I asked about your routine.”
“And this happens to be a part of the routine. If we think that new deaths might be vamp related, I go to those cemeteries every night for about a week…because, as you know, every rising is different.” Buffy shivered and found herself squeezing his hand. It was odd talking to a vampire about her slaying pattern, and where she would have feared condemnation, she sensed only respect. The sensation was overwhelming. “But other deaths that might be demon related are different. We’ve had zombies and stuff. And…other half-breeds. Not much, but some. So I just go wherever Giles and the obituaries tell me to go.”
Spike nodded slowly, his free hand sliding into his duster pocket to retrieve his cigarettes. “What happens on nights when you don’ get any action?”
I go home and rub my bite mark.
Buffy’s cheeks flushed. “Faith…um…the other slayer. She talks about how you can feel…uhhh…unsatisfied if you don’t get a slay in. Or if a demon gets away. Especially if there’s a fight involved.”
He perked an interested brow. “Is that right?”
“Well, it’s what she says.”
Spike winced in disgust, puffing on his cigarette. “I don’t give a rot what Faith says. What do you say?”
Buffy couldn’t help the rush of excitement that flooded her veins. Spike’s open distaste for the other slayer made her happy in all the wrong ways. Ever since Faith had discovered that Angel wasn’t a bad guy, she’d been rather open in her interest in exploring a relationship with a vampire. And Angel, while he didn’t encourage the idea, certainly wasn’t as opposed to it as Buffy would have liked. Well, once. If he wanted, he could do everything aside from get perfectly happy with Faith, and Buffy would feel nothing but relief. Angel smooching on someone else would indicate that he was over her, and would stop asking about bite marks and hickeys.
It was almost surprising how much that knowledge failed to bother her.
“What do I say?” she repeated. “I…um…well, I go home and usually have a cup of non-fat yogurt and then…” Shower while touching my bite mark and thinking of you. “Go to bed.”
A low smirk stretched his lips. “You li’l liar,” he said slowly, blowing out a pillar of smoke.
Spike just grinned and tugged her to a standstill. “Look at me,” he said, his eyes dancing as they searched hers. “Ah, yes, there it is.”
“There what is?”
“When you lie, your eyebrow does this little thing.” He mimicked the alleged eyebrow-thing, and he looked so damnably good that she had to press her thighs together and bite her lip. God, her pussy was on fire, and from the telling look on his face, he knew it.
“My eyebrows are perfectly normal.”
“Lie to me.” He was still grinning like an idiot; Buffy couldn’t decide if she wanted to hit him or tackle him to the ground with kisses. Well, okay, so she knew which she preferred—it just happened to be what she should not prefer. “Tell me you don’ want me to kiss you.”
“You’re an ass.”
“Yes,” he agreed, stomping out his half-smoked cigarette beneath his boot. “But you want me to kiss you.”
“Aha!” Spike pointed victoriously, and while she resented it, his smile was infectious. “There it is again!”
Buffy ducked her head and forced her mirth away, turning to resume their brisk pace through the graveyard. “Whatever,” she replied, trying to tug her hand from his. His fingers were locked; he wasn’t about to let her go, and though inconvenient, the larger part of her couldn’t help but swell with warmth. “Come on. The sooner we patrol, the sooner I can go home.”
“Then by all means, woman, slow down.”
“What? A bloke can’t want to spend time with you?” He poked his lower lip out, and she forced her eyes back to the path ahead. He was too adorable when he pouted, and it was in no way fair. “I like spending time with you.”
“You just want me to be out here with you so you have more time to say more wonderful things and I’ll swoon, and the plan will be postponed until tomorrow.”
“That’s not at all my objective, but I wouldn’t complain.”
“The plan is on. It’s working.” She held up their joint hands and squeezed. “See?”
Spike smiled softly. “Yeah,” he murmured. “It’s workin’ like a charm.” He released a deep breath and was quiet for a minute. When he spoke again, his tone was lighter and somewhat forced. But he was making an effort, and that was all that truly mattered. “Anythin’ exciting happen at school, pet?”
Buffy arched a brow. Okay, effort making aside, it was just weird hearing him ask about her day. “It was…it was good. I guess. Class was the same as always. Giles has me working on some project that involves identifying these stupid crystals. He says it’s crucial for my training…I dunno. It all sounds bogus to me.” Bogus and boring, but she wasn’t about to rant on the many ways that Giles was annoying her recently. “Then Angel dropped in and—”
Spike froze so fast that he nearly pulled her to the ground. “Angel?” he spat. “Angel was at your school?”
She blinked. “Ummm…yeah.”
“What the sodding hell was Angel doing at your school?”
Buffy squeaked inelegantly and nodded. “Uhhh, yeah. Kinda.” She paused. “Well, I did kiss him—”
Spike growled and his eyes flashed. “Slayer…”
“You knew about that! Me kissing him, and then yacking on him like some sort of…I dunno, gross-type-person-who-yacks-on-people? AndI moaned your name. He also knows about the kidnapping incident—” When Spike growled again, Buffy tugged her fingers free of his and threw her hands up defensively. “Which he totally guessed on his own. He guessed it. I told him it was none of his business, but he went to Giles and now they’re all ‘let’s study Buffy’ about everything.”
“For Chrissake, Slayer—”
“I told him—I told them both—that I seduced you.”
Spike’s head shot up in astonishment. “You what?”
“I didn’t tell them…I didn’t tell them what really happened.” Buffy averted her eyes quickly to the ground and kicked at a clump of grass, feeling awkward and self-conscious. “You said that morning…you said that I’d tricked you into…doing what you did and…”
“So I told them that that’s what happened.”
“But it’s not.” His eyes were heavy and he was breathing hard. The guilt she saw there nearly knocked her off her feet. “Buffy, I—”
“No. Well…I dunno. I don’t really know what happened that night, but it’s not something…I dunno.” She smiled awkwardly and reached for his hand again, doing her best to ignore the way her skin tingled when their fingers entwined once more. “I just didn’t want them after you. If they’d known what actually happened—”
“So you took it all on yourself.”
“Well, I was upfront about the kidnapping.”
Spike shook his head. “God…you…” He trailed off helplessly and just looked at her. And for a second—for one blessed instant—she thought she saw something flicker in his eyes. Something big. Something significant. Something life-changing. It was gone in a blink, if it ever existed. But she could have sworn she saw it. “You take my breath away.”
Heat flushed her cheeks. “Spike, you don’t breathe,” she said.
“Not easily when you’re around.” He dropped his eyes to her mouth, and her heart stopped. “Buffy…”
God, he was going to kiss her. She wanted him to kiss her. She wanted him to tell her that she was everything in the world to him and that he’d be around forever. That he’d be in it for the long haul. That she was worth the world—worth changing for—and that he’d love her in ways that made them both forget that they’d lived at all before they found each other. She wanted so many things.
Spike started for her lips. He was going to kiss her. Only he seemed to remember himself before he could, and before she could scream her protest, he forced himself to detour. His hand trembled around hers. His lips caressed her cheek, and he breathed raggedly against her skin.
“Sorry,” he murmured.
“Broke the rules.”
The rules. Of course. Those stupid, stupid rules. Buffy blinked dazedly and nodded. “It’s okay,” she said. “It’s…it was just…”
It was everything.
The little bit of her heart that he didn’t own was beginning to chip away. There was no way she was walking away from this unscathed. No way.
Not when she feared that she could love him.
Not quite 48 hours, but I told myself I’d post before bedtime. And since I’m going to bed very, very early tonight, now would be it. =) I’m still in the “every other day” mentality as far as a revised posting schedule goes…just give or take a few hours. Need my betas all caught up before I run out of chapters.