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Crazy Eights – Chapter 10 – Nine to Five
When last we left our intrepid duo all those months ago:
Travis matched him fang for fang and growl for growl. They stood, circling each other like a pair of lions, challenging each other over territory.
“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doin’ here, mate? M’out for a night with m’lady and you have the bollocks to grab at ‘er while she’s eatin’ a meal in a public place? Are you mad?”
“You come in here, paradin’ this little piece of fluff around, no new bite marks, no claim evident and think your rep is gonna keep her? She’s a pretty little thing, and I think she’ll look better with me. C’mon, darlin,’ what say we skip this pop stand and find something better to do. Like each other?”
A crowd began to form around the pair, always eager for a fight.
With preternatural speed, Spike turned, grabbed Buffy by the shoulders, and with a roar of “Mine!” sank his fangs deep into her neck.
Two words that flashed through the minds of everyone in Crazy Eights watching the spectacle before them. Fights were not an uncommon occurrence in the establishment, and fangs in throats were de rigueur for a place that drew vampires… but a claim was usually a very private matter.
Buffy froze. She knew her life hung in the balance of the next few seconds. All her Slayer instincts were screaming to dust the vamp at her neck, and all those leering at her predicament.
Good thing she was more than instinct, alone. It was Spike, after all… and he’d promised not to hurt her.
Spike was even more aware of the scene he was making. He’d promised the girl no fangs unless her life was at stake, and now… with his fangs embedded deep in her jugular, his unlife was also at stake, literally if she reacted as her nature dictated.
He could see Travis and Ailuros standing to the left of the gathered crowd, watching their every movement.
The bite alone wasn’t going to be enough; he had to draw blood for all the sensitive noses around to be satisfied. He took several strong pulls, while gently kneading Buffy’s shoulders, trying to communicate his intentions silently.
Outwardly, Buffy was amazingly calm. She relaxed into his touch and closed her eyes, slightly baring more of her neck to give him easier access. It felt… good. Far too good for it to continue in public. And she did trust him not to drain her.
Spike took a final pull, gently sealing the wounds with his tongue. He pulled back and roared a challenge to any and all, a small amount of blood trickling from the corner of his mouth as he turned to Travis.
“I told you she’s mine. My Consort.” Though he was staring at Travis, he was listening to Buffy; her heartbeat racing and her breathing shallow and ragged. He turned and scooped her into his arms. She nuzzled softly into the crook of his neck.
Ailuros was livid. Her plan to use Travis to separate Spike from that little fraud was a failure. Her tail twitched angrily back and forth when she had a moment of inspiration.
“Sssspike,” she hissed. “That’s no claim bite. All you’ve done is feed off of your cow.” Looking mightily pleased with herself, she began to sashay back to her reception desk, secure that she’d exposed the display for the sham it was.
What she hadn’t counted on was Buffy. She tensed in Spike’s arms, raising her head and looking around at the crowd that still lingered, some of them showing their outright disdain for the Slayer-as-bloodcow impression Ailuros left them with.
Buffy brought her hands up to cup Spike’s sharp cheekbones, looking deeply into his questioning gaze. He was deadly calm, just waiting for her next move. The petite blonde slid her hands down to Spike’s collar, and with a defiant yell of ‘Mine’, ripped the shirt away from his neck and bit sharply into the pale flesh where neck met shoulder.
He was stunned. Either her reaction to his claim was purely instinctual, or she had actually read some of Rupert’s hidden volumes of vampire lore. The problem was Spike was unsure as to whether she was aware of the significance of a mutual claim.
One way or another, they were in for a long talk… and as soon as possible.
After worrying at the ragged flesh for a moment, Buffy raised her head to look at the remaining crowd, baring her bloodied teeth between her stained lips with a kittenish snarl. “Any more questions about my Consort status can be emailed to us at ‘we don’t give a fuck dot com’.”
With a chuckle, Spike released the Slayer from his embrace, crooked his arm, which she readily accepted, and the two walked out of Crazy Eights – heads held high – to the rousing applause and cheers of the patrons.
Once outside the madness of the club, the tale changed considerably. Spike’s confidence waned with each step they took, slowly dropping his arm and allowing hers to slip away. The vampire swiped his thumb across his lips; removing the dribble of blood from the corner of his mouth and absentmindedly sucked the digit clean as they continued walking.
Far enough away from the club that they could no longer see it, Spike reached out, stopping Buffy’s movement with a hand on her shoulder.
“Slayer, look at me.” After un-tucking his shirt from his trousers, he tipped her chin up, and used a corner of the hem to wipe his blood from her lips. “Show me the pearly whites, luv.” Amazingly enough, her teeth were clean.
Buffy batted his hands away from her face. “Stop fussing with me like someone’s maiden aunt, Spike. It’s not like I’ve never been seen in public with somebody’s blood on me before.” She smiled softly. “It’s not even the first time we’ve had each other’s blood on us.”
“Yeah, true that. But this is different,” Spike insisted. “The consequences of what I did… what we did… if there was any other way…”
For the first time since leaving the club, Buffy stumbled, unsure of herself. “Are you s-sorry for what you did? For your part of the claim?”
“Yes… No!” he blustered, not entirely sure of the question he was trying to answer. “That I had to do it, yes, I’m sorry. A claiming shouldn’t be forced or hurried… or public. That it was the only way I could insure you’d leave alive and in one piece… and with me? Hell no, m’not sorry at all.”
“But we have a problem now, don’t we?” The Slayer worried at her bottom lip with her teeth, looking up at Spike with wide, haunted eyes. “We’re stuck with each other… like an arranged marriage, aren’t we?”
Spike unhappily had to agree. “You really don’t have a clue what’s involved with a claiming, do you, pet? Watcher’s lessons never covered anythin’ but vamp/stake.”
She, too, had to agree as they continued to walk, finding themselves in Restfield Cemetery the next time they looked around. Like a pair of demented homing pigeons, she thought glumly.
The night was warm and dry, a full moon and a soft breeze made it pleasant to be outside. As if pre-arranged, both hopped up on a flat tombstone, settling in for a rest and a talk. Buffy broke the silence first.
“Okay, Spike. I get that I’m all ignorant-girl when it comes to the mating rituals of vampires. I just sort of went with a gut feeling when it came to returning your bite, especially after Pussy Galore called me a cow.”
Her hand fluttered to the right side of her neck, where the fresh bite throbbed mildly. Now she was marked on both sides of her neck. The Master, Angel, and Dracula all on the left side, Spike alone on the right.
Spike reached across the stone, gently stroking her cheek with his fingertips. “Does it hurt, luv? Tried m’best to make it look worse than it felt, but still…”
The remorse in his eyes for any pain he caused her dealt a massive crack to the protective wall she’d built up around her heart. It was an enlightening moment – he didn’t regret the bite in and of itself, just the circumstances and her pain.
“I-it didn’t really hurt as much as take me by surprise,” Buffy whispered, almost in awe as she remembered the speed with which he moved. “Geeze, Spike… if you moved like that when we were trying to kill each other, I’d’ve been, well… dead.”
“Was the dance that drew me, pet. Much more fun to spar an’ banter about. All the more exciting for being real.” He was right chuffed over her compliment… in a twisted sort of way. “Since our little truce, it became more important to save your pretty neck than t’break it.”
“And don’t think I don’t appreciate it, but I really think you should tell me about the whole claim business.”
“Not goin’ t’be distracted, are you, Buffy?” Spike had hoped to avoid telling her how deep the claim went into vampire society so soon, risking their seemingly budding relationship. “A mutual mating claim is second only to a Sire’s mark in import. Usually your Sire owns your ass. The bond between Sire and Childe is virtually unbreakable, except for…”
“A mating claim,” Buffy finished.
“Right you are, luv. An’ if Childe an’ Sire claim each other as mates, there is no force in the demon world that will rip the bond apart except death. An’ the remaining vamp usually follows their partner from the grief and loss.”
Buffy mulled his words over in her head for a moment before speaking, hating to bring her into the mix. “No wonder you and Dru were so close. Why you stopped fighting me to protect her in that stupid vampire club disaster.”
“That’s not it, sweetling.” Spike sighed, hating to admit this to himself much less Buffy. “Dru refused a mated relationship… because she still had a hankerin’ for her Sire. Nothin’ I did would ever place me in her heart where Angelus laid his claim twenty years before she turned me.”
“One way or another he’s raked us both over the coals, huh?” Buffy brought her hand to rest over the vampire’s, where it rested on the stone between them. “So are we considered fully mated under vampire law, even without the actual… you know, mating part?”
“Not really sure, pet. An’ we have the added bonus of you bein’ human an’ the Slayer. Only one with that much vampiric custom and law in his head’s the one neither of us has the stones to ask.”
“Well, we’re gonna have to ask someone, Spike,” she groused. “I can just see me trying to explain this to Giles. ‘You see, it’s like this: sometimes feelings develop in the workplace, and we got a little carried away, what with the life threatening sitch and all.’ Angel might stake you, but Giles is gonna crucify me!”
“Not to mention Mum,” Spike so helpfully pointed out.
“Oh damn. Please don’t mention Mom. We’ve got nothing to worry about from Angel and Giles… she’s gonna kill us both.” Buffy looked up hopefully, knowing better even as she spoke. “Slayer and vampire healing will wipe out the torn skin before we get home, right?”
“Claiming bites have a magic all their own to them. They’re meant to scar especially on vampire skin,” he sighed. “It’s gonna bruise all kinds of pretty colors an’ scab, then scar pink an’ fade. But it’ll be more prominent than the other bites ‘cause of the mutual claim.”
He touched the old bite scars on the left side of her neck. “These might even fade away, leavin’ you with only my claim.” He nudged her off the headstone. “No use in puttin’ this off any longer. Need to get you home an’ shored up.”
Buffy wobbled slightly as she started walking, and by the time they reached Revello Drive, Spike had to carry her the rest of the way.
“What the hell did you do to my daughter,” Joyce yelled as she opened the door, taking in the bloodied bite on Buffy’s neck. Even though she trusted Spike, the fact that he bore a matching wound and had the girl in his arms did nothing to alleviate her fears.
“I’m fine, Mom,” Buffy murmured weakly, belying her words. “Just need…”
“She could do with a nice rare steak, Joyce. Needs to replace a bit of iron in her system.” Spike settled the girl onto a chair, making sure she wasn’t going to topple over before getting a glass of orange juice out of the fridge. “Drink up, luv. It should help summat until you eat.”
Joyce held her council temporarily, standing back and watching the interaction between Slayer and vampire – her little girl and her chosen companion – and realized there was no way Spike would have bitten Buffy with malicious intent. Their sweet and gentle behavior calmed her terror enough that she was willing to listen to their explanations without prejudice.
By the time her mother put the steak before her, Buffy was sitting on Spike’s lap, allowing him to cut and feed it to her, piece by succulent piece. She did, indeed, feel better once the protein began to hit her system.
“All right you two. Now that my inclination is to listen first and maybe stake later, will somebody please tell me what all the biting was about?”
They rehashed the graveyard discussion, basically coming to the conclusion that the claim was a bond that went deeper than a human marriage, was virtually binding for Spike’s unlifetime, and unless they found a way to break it – should they want to break it – Buffy’s life wasn’t guaranteed should he dust before she died.
Spike tried his best to lay out their options in a calm fashion. “We have a problem, Joyce. There are only two people we can ask about the legitimacy of the claim and the ins and outs of vampiric law on mortals, Slayers in particular.”
“Mr. Giles and that Angel fellow, right?”
Buffy nodded. “Both of them are gonna want to stake first and ask questions later. A-and it wasn’t really Spike’s fault. H-he saved my life. I’m the idiot who jumped in and returned the claim without having clue about the consequences. It just felt right at the time.”
“Joyce… Mum,” Spike started, needing to admit something to all, himself included. “The part I regret about the claim isn’t that it’s with your daughter. It’s that we were just realizin’ there might be feelings between us. Stuff we didn’t know was buildin’, and this sort’ve forces the situation.”
She looked solemnly from Spike to Buffy, seeing fear in their eyes as they waited for her reaction to the vampire’s declaration. What’s a mother to do?
Joyce raised her hand to her mouth… and broke out with peals of laughter. “Oh my sweet babies. You two are so dense.”
Spike and Buffy looked at each other and turned to Joyce as if one, and said, “Huh?” provoking more giggles from the woman.
“You two have been heading towards each other like those dolls with little magnets in their heads for at least the past year. Funny thing is, you’re the only two who didn’t know it.” She shook her head, pushing away from the table.
“I’m going to bed. You two have plenty to work out, but it’s late, and you can deal with it all tomorrow.” Halfway up the stairs Joyce turned and said, “You may be married under vampire law… but in my house, it’s still separate bedrooms for you two.”
Buffy’s indignant shriek of “Mother!” rang from the kitchen.
After the dishes were done, they walked up the stairs, each heading for their own room. As they drifted off to sleep, hands lingered on their bite marks, feeling the odd tingle of the claim resonate throughout their bodies, wondering what tomorrow would bring.
Extra special thanks to tgray for her beta! **smooches, pet!**