FIC: DUST (8/?)Posted on 2011.05.09 at 11:41
Era/Season: Season 4 (post “Harsh Light of Day” and “Fear, Itself” but before “Beer Bad”)
Rating: Mature/NC-17 (strong language, sexual situations, adult content)
Betaed by: goblin_dae , yakimama , and subtilior
Summary: She'd kicked his butt, taken the Gem and sent it off to Angel. Buffy thought she'd seen the last of Spike. Clearly, she’d been too optimistic. That he was in her house, in her room, waking her out of a sound sleep and asking for (okay, demanding) her help meant that something had to be majorly wrong. They weren't due for another apocalypse, but ... why else would a vampire make a truce with the Slayer?
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all recognizable characters, locations, and dialogue belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and the various writers. This is written purely for fun.
Falling asleep with Spike in the house wasn't easy, and it didn't get easier over the next few days. There was always the worry over whether he'd abide by their truce, and whether she was shirking her duty somehow by letting the evil dead roam free. Even in sleep she was aware of his presence in her house. Sometimes she'd awaken abruptly to find herself sitting bolt upright in bed, senses strained for some sign of what he might be doing.
After the first night she tried not to go to sleep until just before dawn—because it was easier to sleep knowing he'd be stuck in the house. It wasn't as easy to make herself get up around noon. Her daily routine altered itself grudgingly to accommodate Spike's presence: get up, check on her mother, play Find-the-Vampire, make coffee, take shower, check on mom, play Find-the-Vampire again—in case he'd moved, or Glower-at-the-Vampire—in case he hadn't. The second day she found him asleep in the basement with a book draped over his chest. The third day he was sprawled on the couch with Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner chasing each other almost silently on TV, and a mug of congealing blood in his hand. When she turned off the TV he cracked a groggy eye open, peered blearily at the windows, then shambled off to the basement without a word.
Which worked for her, really. The less time they spent talking, the better. Aside from what Spike sometimes referred to sarcastically as their "professional relationship," Buffy knew they had little in common. When they did talk it usually devolved into bickering and insults, and the only upside was that arguing at least relieved the tedium of research.
Buffy had never really appreciated just how much she relied on Giles for this aspect of Slaying. He was like a book bloodhound—all she had to do was ask, and he'd head straight for the right books and they'd have something to go on within the hour. But now she was stuck slogging through his collection without even a card catalogue to check. She and Spike took to loading up a couple of cardboard boxes every night and hauling them back to her house. After three days of squinting at page after page filled with tiny print, Buffy had acquired a near constant headache and way more knowledge about magic than she thought she'd ever need. Also, she now knew the mating rituals of a least a dozen different demon species—though she'd hidden that particular treatise inside The Magical Properties of Fungi so Spike wouldn't know she'd stumbled on The Joy of Soulless Sex.
For his part, Spike did what he'd promised. He researched when she researched, slept through most of the day, showered regularly, cleaned up his messes, watched TV when he was bored, and then researched some more. Of course, between all that, he took every opportunity to needle her temper until she couldn't help but snap at him, and to make sly innuendos that left her even more furious. Which was probably why, on the third night of their research party, when he said he'd found something, she didn't believe him.
"Don't lie to me." She didn't even look up at the stupid vampire even though he was now casting a stupid-vampire-shaped shadow over her. She squinted at the spidery handwriting in the journal that she'd been wading through for the last hour and thought about taking another aspirin to try to stave off her info-overload headache.
Spike shoved his book under her nose. It smelled like old people and glue.
"Not lying, Slayer. Look, it's a reversal spell; we just have to find the bloody ingredients, say some magic mumbo-jumbo, and then we're done. With any luck it'll lift the spell, and I can get the fuck out of here before sunrise."
She pulled the book out of his hands and studied the spell he'd found. "It can't be that easy," Buffy said. She bit her lip. Only, it kinda looked that easy. There were even diagrams. Diagrams were good, right?
"Says the girl who thought she could end the whole thing with a soddin' kiss," Spike grumbled. "What've we got to lose?"
Buffy peered at the book doubtfully, then glanced up at Spike. "Have you ever done a spell before?"
Spike rolled his eyes. "I've done a few in my time. Simple stuff, mostly, rituals and crap. Not really my preferred MO, but if it'll get a job done, yeah." Then, he paused and frowned down at her. "You?"
"Uh, not really? I mean, kinda been there for a few, and I might've sorta... well, they don't usually let me help cause that's sorta Willow's deal, you know? But, how hard can it really be? I mean, it's got pictures, and steps. It seems easy enough." Half-expecting Spike to make fun of her, she was surprised when he just shrugged.
"You'll get the hang of it, I expect." He picked up his duster and slung his arms into it in a way that looked weirdly boneless.
Grateful for the study break, Buffy got out of her chair and stretched, feeling the vertebrae in her back pop pleasingly. She was ready to thank whatever god wanted credit for it that there was an end in sight; if she had to sit in that chair another hour she was pretty sure that her muscles would just throw in the towel and atrophy. Oh, she'd complained to Giles before that she'd really like a slay-vacation for a few days, but now that she'd had one her hand was practically itching for a stake.
"That magic shop still in town? Or that gypsy store that used to be down off Maple?" Spike asked.
"The gypsy store is gone but the magic store is still there—no thanks to you," she said with a scowl. "It's under new management now. They remodeled and everything. Try not to eat the shopkeeper this time?"
"Might be difficult. You have any idea how good witches taste?" Spike tucked the spellbook into a pocket of his duster and smirked at her. "All that power, it's almost as good as eating Slayer."
"You're gonna be eating my fist if you don't shut up," Buffy said. "Poor Spikey, the fangless vampire—you'll have to gum your victims to death."
"They grow back, you know," he said, wrenching open the front door and mockingly indicating that she should go through first. "Knew a vamp who got hit by a truck, lost most of his fangs. They grew back in about a week. Said it hurt like a bitch, though. Guess he must have met you." He flashed her a nasty grin.
Buffy snagged a light jacket off the coat rack in the foyer and paused for a minute to adjust her hair. In the mirror, there was no Spike to be seen. She couldn't wait until reality matched the reflection.
The walk downtown went quickly; they were both eager to do the spell and get out of each other's company. Buffy still worried that it felt too easy, but then she often felt that way about magic. Sure, it had been sort of exciting to know that magic was real, at first—but then it'd been kind of exciting to know that vampires were real, once upon a time. The charm quickly wore off when something kept trying to kill you, and Buffy's initiation into the Wonderful World of Witchcraft had brought her closer to dying than was strictly comfortable. And now that she'd actually been dead once—even if only for a few minutes—it wasn't something she really wanted to repeat.
But a reversal spell was probably safe, right? That's what they'd used on her a couple of years ago when she'd been turned into a rat—speaking of experiences she never wanted to repeat. All a reversal spell would do was turn off the spell. Theoretically.
The windows of the magic shop were dark; the place had clearly been locked up for the night before the spell kicked in. Unfortunately it wasn't a lock that was easily broken, and she drew the line at breaking down the door. Spike just shrugged, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a switchblade.
"Aren't those things illegal?" she asked.
He rolled his eyes. "We could bust the window instead."
"No," she said. She wasn't exactly one to worry about concealed weapons laws herself. Still, it was a pretty knife—maybe Willow could order her one online? Spike jimmied the deadbolt, then snapped the handle lock with a twist of his wrist.
"Do you see a light switch?" she asked, feeling around just inside the door. Spike slid past her into the dark room. It smelled nice, she thought. The magic shop always seemed to smell of herbs, candles and incense.
Lights flickered on in the back of the shop, then up at the front, illuminating a slightly larger space than she remembered. She hadn't been in here since she and Spike had reluctantly teamed up the year before against Trick's fang gang. She liked what the new owner had done with the place. Warm lamp light gleamed off intricately carved curio cabinets, displays covered in silk scarves, shelves of books and spell ingredients. Little dangly things hung everywhere, tinkling now and then as air currents shifted. No wonder Willow loved it.
Spike, of course, was immune to charming ambiance. He'd already opened up the book and started rummaging through the shelves for ingredients. "We need candles," he said. "Five white pillar candles."
"Who made you boss?" she asked, even as she headed for a candle display.
"Experience," he said. "Since apparently I'm the only one of us who's done it before."
"I've done it!" she said. Then she caught the look on his face. "I mean, okay, so... not so much with the done but I've watched before."
Spike came up beside her and reached for a jar on the shelf above her head. He was so close she could smell the scent of her own shampoo on him and the faint hint of laundry detergent. He was wearing a different shirt tonight, she noticed. It was still black, but it was newer and not faded. Also, tighter.
"Such big eyes you have, Slayer," Spike purred. She jerked her gaze back to his face and noticed for the first time the leer there. "Like to watch, do you? Dirty bitch."
"What?" They were talking about spells, weren't they? And why had she let him get so close?
"Don't worry, pet," he said, curling his tongue behind his teeth. "You'll like it. Light a few candles, some incense. Take it nice and slow. Girl's first time should be special, after all."
"Back off, Creepshow." She shoved him, hard. He staggered back, his eyes full of laughter. "You're a jerk. Besides, you already know I'm..."
He raised an eyebrow. "Yeah? You're ... what?"
"Never mind." She picked up the candles she'd started to collect. No sense reminding him of Angel. Or Parker. And how come Spike had been a witness to the aftermath of both of her disastrous attempts at sex? It was totally unfair. "Five white candles, what next?"
Spike rattled off a list of ingredients, and Buffy busied herself with gathering them. By the time she'd found everything, he had somehow located a hot plate and a small cauldron and set them up in the middle of the floor. Once he turned off the lights in the back section of the store, he arranged the candles around the cauldron and lit them with his lighter, then indicated she should sit beside him on the floor and pass him ingredients.
"Do I have to say anything?" she asked, trying to sit in such a way that their knees wouldn't touch. The space was small and cramped, however, and Spike didn't seem inclined to move. The tip of her knee pressed against the tip of his, and her Slayer instincts protested even that tiny connection. It felt like she was touching a live wire; if they had to be here too long her hair would probably stand on end. Honestly, it wasn't much different than the awareness she always had of Angel's touch—so maybe it was just a vampire thing—but the fact that it was Spike made it all so much ickier.
"No," he said. "Better if you don't, actually. Just hand things over, Slayer, and try not to cock it up."
She glared, but decided to let what was either a really nasty British slang term or even more blatant innuendo pass without comment. Instead, she watched him check the instructions and start putting the spell together.
The few times she'd watched Giles or Willow do spells, they'd always made it look like science: turn up the heat just so, measure your ingredients perfectly, time things down to the second. Frankly, it was sort of a snooze fest. Spike, on the other hand, made it look like cooking, or, at least like Buffy's few attempts at replicating her mother's cooking style. He tossed things into the bubbling cauldron without looking, eyeballed all his measurements, and seemed to make up parts of it as he went along. Considering how her cooking experiments usually turned out, the whole process was making her very nervous.
Still, it seemed to be working. The brew was bubbling, little puffs of smoke and flashes of light were puffing and flashing in what she hoped were all the right places, and she could feel the hair-raising tingle that was short for Magic Pending. Spike's voice never wavered as he read from the book. Then he held out his hand for the last ingredient: a small jar full of fine-grained sand. This he was actually careful about tipping into the pot.
Nothing happened. Spike frowned.
"Did it work?" Buffy asked. The hair on the back of her neck was still standing on end. She could feel the magic building around them.
Spike checked the book. "Candles should have gone out, if it did. Maybe I missed something?" He ran a finger down the list of instructions. The little cauldron began to bubble; they both watched it expectantly.
Light flared without warning. Spike yelled, flinging up a hand to shield his eyes. Buffy squinted through the glare and saw the candles gutter out.
And then she was hit by the magic as it exploded from the confines of the spell. The force of it slammed her backwards, and she heard Spike crash into the wall beside her just as her vision went black.
The first thing he was aware of was heat—the warm, pulsing heat of a human body in close proximity. It was wrapped around him like a living blanket; the soft throb of a heartbeat against his silent chest was almost like having one of his own for the first time in over a century. Hair tickled his nose with the fragrance of hot-house flowers ... coconut ... blood beneath skin. His nostrils twitched, and he felt himself shift faces. The sharp points of his fangs pricked against his lower lip, and he realized he had an arm wrapped around the human at his side. So easy to tighten his grip just a little and roll on top of his prey. A soft groan stopped him, even as the sensual sound of it sent a wave of lust straight from his ears to his groin.
Spike opened his eyes. Half a second later, Buffy lifted her lashes as well. Her green eyes were dark in the dim light, the pupils so wide he felt like he was staring into her soul. Again, he felt his face shift. Their gazes clashed even as they both became aware of their positions: wrapped around each other and snugly comfortable even though they were laid out on the floor. Fascinated in spite of himself, Spike watched the warmth in Buffy's gaze cut off abruptly as she realized who she'd been using as a pillow.
"Get off," she said, her voice cold enough to give a snowman shivers.
"Love to, pet," he said, deliberately purring. "But if you're asking me to move ... well, you're layin' on my arm."
She jerked away from him, and he let her. There was an uncomfortable moment when her hair caught on one of the duster's buttons. He swore as he worked it loose. The moment her head was free, she scooted as far away as she could before she was stopped by a shelf.
He watched through narrowed eyes as she attempted to put herself back to rights. Despite her best efforts, however, her hair retained that lovely just-shagged look.
"What happened?" she asked.
Spike surveyed the scene. The hot plate was still on, the contents bubbling lazily. Candles still out, not even the trace of smoke left in the air. He gritted his teeth as he felt the itch of daylight edging through the closed blinds at the front of the shop. "Spell knocked us out for a few hours, looks like," he said. He switched off the hot plate.
"Just a few hours?"
"Getting close to noon." His inner awareness of the position of the sun wasn't perfect, but it was close enough. "Still liquid in the cauldron—it would have boiled off if we'd been out longer than a day."
"Do you think it worked?" she asked.
His gut knew the answer, but he just shrugged. "Won't know till you poke your nose outside and see."
Buffy levered herself up from the floor with a groan, then stood for a moment stretching her arms and back. Spike remained where he was, though he shifted until he was more comfortable. He dug in his pockets for his cigarettes and lighter.
He lit up as he watched the Slayer open the door. The brightness beyond hurt his sensitive eyes; he squinted against the glare. Buffy stepped through the door and stood just beyond it, scanning the street outside. In the sunlight her hair shone with the richness of old Renaissance gold, and her skin took on a bronze sheen that he had only glimpsed under the glow of lamps. When she lifted her face to the sunlight and inhaled deeply, he felt himself harden painfully against the button fly of his jeans.
Clearly he was overdue for a wank.
When she came back in and shut the door, her shoulders were slumped. "It didn't work," she announced.
"Figured," he said. "I couldn't hear any traffic outside."
"Then how come you made me go check?"
"I didn't make you do anything," Spike said, flicking some ash at her. "Besides, not like you'd have taken my word for it anyway."
"Whatever," Buffy wandered back over to their mess and picked up the book, flipping through the pages of the spell. "Why didn't it work?"
"Don't know," Spike admitted. "Maybe the sleep spell was too big for it. We are talking a whole sodding town, after all."
"Maybe," she said. There was a little wrinkle between her brows as she studied the book. Then she looked around at the shop. "Maybe we should look through the books here. It's not as big a collection as Giles', but they're probably mostly magic books, right?"
"Stuck for the day." He took a long drag on his cigarette. "Might as well."
"You might be stuck, but I'm not. I wish the Espresso Pump was open. I'm starving."
"So go see what they've got," Spike said with a shrug. "Can't be that hard to figure out how to work a bleeding espresso machine. Probably got some little sandwiches or whatever in the fridge over there."
"That's breaking and entering," Buffy said, staring at him. She reminded him of his old governess, actually, with her hands on her hips like that. He hadn't had cause to think of the old harridan in nearly a century. "I can't do that."
"And coming in here was, what? A frolic through a public park?"
"This was to break the spell," she said, planting her hands on her hips. "It's entirely different."
"Don't see how," Spike said, uncoiling to his feet. "Look, if you wanna stand here and debate ethics all day, I'm willin'. But fact is we're not gonna get anywhere with this problem if you're gonna quibble over which buildings it's okay to break into, and whether you're wearing the right moral boots for the occasion. You're hungry, go get somethin' to eat. You're not, shut up and grab a book. I really don't give a bloody damn."
"Yeah, because vampires are so good at debating ethics," Buffy said. "You don't have a soul, Spike, I'd hardly expect you to understand the finer points of moral dilemmas."
"I'm soulless, not stupid," Spike said. "I can quote you Aristotle and Socrates, if you like, though I'm more a cyrenaic hedonist myself. Comes with the fangs."
"A serenadic huh?" Buffy asked, confused.
"Are you going out or what?"
"I'm going," she said, then paused. "You're just gonna be reading in here, right?"
"Sure, pet." He stubbed out his cigarette in an ornate looking china dish and reached obediently for a book. Suspicious, but seemingly satisfied, the Slayer turned on her heel and headed for the door. Spike let her get as far as opening it before he spoke up again. "Pick me up some blood while you're out, Slayer. Feelin' a bit peckish myself."
Buffy glared at him over her shoulder. "I thought you didn't give a ‘bloody damn'?"
"I don't give a bloody damn if you're hungry, Slayer. But like you said, I'm stuck here, you're not. Since you're going out anyway..."
"I really hate you," she said. The china dish rattled as she slammed the door.
Spike gave her five minutes, then slid the book back on the shelf unread, and headed for the cash register. It wasn't like he needed cash just then—hell, most of Sunnydale was his to pinch as he liked. Took all the fun out of it, really. There were principles to be upheld, however, and curiosity to be assuaged. It took him less than a minute to pry open the old-fashioned register; he'd had plenty of practice with this particular sort over the last century. He scowled at the mostly empty drawer; looked like they'd made a bank deposit the night of the spell, and he didn't really care enough to go hunting for the safe. Still, he pocketed the ten, two fives, and the roll of quarters they'd left for next day's change and then poked into the corners for good measure. Lint and a dead cockroach, just his luck.
The counter had several small drawers at the rear that proved more interesting. He paused for a moment, fingering some of the expensive baubles that had been tucked away all cozy. The truce with Buffy specified that he wouldn't steal from sleeping people, not temporarily abandoned stores. Still, money was something he could have been carrying all along; shop merchandise would be less easy to explain away. Scowling, he let the items be and picked up one of the ledgers instead.
When Buffy returned half an hour later, carrying a Styrofoam cup of coffee, a plastic wrapped sandwich, and a bag of blood, Spike was bent over the counter and jotting notes on a scrap of paper. "Decided breakin' and enterin' wasn't against your moral code after all, Slayer?" he asked, barely glancing up.
Buffy sighed, then shoved the sandwich under his nose. "Does this smell okay to you?"
He sniffed. "It's not past due, if that's what you mean. Don't much care for cold turkey."
"Does that seem weird?" she asked, scowling at the sandwich. "None of the food in the case was moldy. Even the tuna seemed fresh, but I didn't really want to chance it. Wouldn't you think it'd all have gone bad, left alone for three and a half weeks?"
"Huh," Spike said. "Come to think of it, the garbage stench hasn't gotten worse either."
"Ew." Buffy wrinkled her nose.
"You forget that I remember a time before public sanitation programs, Slayer. Garbage left at the curb or in bins starts to reek after a few days. Give it a few weeks and the whole town starts to smell like a dump. Sunnydale doesn't, though."
"So...things aren't decomposing?"
"No," Spike said. "Bloody unnatural. Wonder if it has something to do with the bugs?"
"What do bugs have to do with anything?"
He resisted the urge to lob the dead cockroach at her. "You do know how decomposition works, yeah?"
"Well, unlike you, dead boy, I've never had the up-close and personal experience," she said. "And most of the stuff I kill turns to dust. Or occasionally goo."
"Small words it is, then. Again. Let's just say bugs help. Bugs are all sleeping too, so... more evidence against the good guys, I wager. Evil generally doesn't care if shit stinks."
Buffy pondered that for a moment. "Well, guess that means that I don't have to worry about eating nothing but frozen food. That's a bonus. And your blood won't go bad." She dropped the blood bag on the counter and peered at his notes. "What are you doing?"
"Magic shop keeps records of special orders, door-to-door deliveries, repeat customers who order certain items. Thought it might not hurt to know who all the local witches are. We could check round and see if we can't figure out which of them cast this."
"You mean, actual legwork instead of bookwork?" Buffy asked, unable to hide the eagerness in her voice.
"I've got names and some addresses. We'll have to look up the rest, but yeah..."
Buffy grinned, an honest ear-to-bloody-ear grin that nearly blinded him with its brilliance. "If you were anyone else, Spike, I'd kiss you for that."
He shrugged and looked away. "If you were anyone else, Slayer, I'd let you."