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Crazy Eights - Chapter 10

Sorry for the later than normal posting - was busy looking at
my new apartment! My son and I should be getting the keys in
about two weeks - it will be nice to have a room with a door
once again - it's only been ten years without one.

Read and enjoy - comment if you feel like it.

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He’d promised the girl no fangs unless her life was in danger, and now – with his fangs embedded deep in her jugular – it was his unlife at stake, literally if she reacted as her nature dictated.

He felt the eyes of the crowd – could see Travis and Ailuros front and center – watching his every movement.

And waiting.

A 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 appeared amazingly calm. She relaxed into his touch and closed her eyes, baring more of her neck to give him easier access. It felt… good. Far too good for it to continue in public. And she’d said that she trusted him.

Spike took a final pull, gently sealing the wounds with his tongue. He raised his head from her neck and roared a challenge to any and all, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth.

Turning to Travis, he said, “I told you she’s mine.”

Though he was staring at Travis, he was listening to Buffy – to her heartbeat and her shallow, ragged breathing. He scooped her into his arms and enjoyed her heat as she nuzzled softly into the crook of his neck.

Ailuros was plainly livid and Spike couldn’t help but wonder if she’d played a part in Travis’s challenge. Her tail twitched angrily back and forth.

“Ssspike,” 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.

What she hadn’t counted on was Buffy. Spike felt her tense in his arms, raising her head and looking around at the crowd, some of them showing their outright disdain for the Slayer-turned-bloodcow in front of them.

Then she brought her hands up to cup his sharp cheekbones, looking deeply into his questioning gaze.

He was calm, at her mercy, just waiting for her next move. The petite blonde slid her hands down to Spike’s collar, and with a defiant yell of “Mine”, bit sharply into his pale flesh.

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 if she was aware of the significance of a mutual claim.

One way or another, though… they were in for a long talk.

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 and crooked his arm. She accepted the proffered elbow, and the pair walked out of The Crazy Eights – heads held high – to the rousing cheers of the patrons.

~*~

Outside the madness of the club, the bravado dropped away. 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 then absentmindedly sucked the digit clean.

Once 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.” He untucked his shirt and tipping her chin up, used a corner of the hem to wipe his blood from her lips.

Buffy batted his hands away from her face. “Stop fussing, Spike. It’s not like I’ve never been seen in public with blood on me.” She smiled softly. “It’s not even the first time we’ve had each other’s blood on us.”

“Yeah, that’s true enough. 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 which 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 ensure 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, right?”

“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.”

Her silence was answer enough.

~*~

They meandered, finding themselves in Restfield Cemetery the next time she 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 to rest and talk.

Buffy broke the silence first.

“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 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’d moved. “Jeez, Spike… if you moved like that when we were trying to kill each other, I’d have 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. “But since our little truce, it’s become more important to save your pretty neck than 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’ to be distracted, are you?” Not wanting to risk their budding relationship, Spike had hoped to avoid telling her the import of the claim so soon. “A mutual mating claim is the only thing that trumps a Sire’s mark. 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 nothing in the demon world that can rip the bond apart except death. An’ the remaining vamp usually follows their partner from the grief and loss.”

Buffy mulled his words over for a moment before speaking. “No wonder you and Dru were so close. And 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. Angelus claimed her heart twenty years before I was even turned.”

“One way or another he’s raked us both over the coals, huh?” Reaching for the vampire’s hand that lay on the stone between them, Buffy covered it with her own. “So, are we considered fully mated under vampire law, even without the actual… you know, mating part?”

“Not really sure, pet. And we have the added complication of you bein’ human and the Slayer. I suspect the only guy with enough knowledge of vampiric custom and law to answer the question is 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 your Mum,” Spike pointed out helpfully.

“Oh damn. Forget about 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. They’re meant to scar especially on vampire skin,” he sighed. “It’s gonna bruise all kinds of pretty colors and scab, then scar pink and 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 puttin’ this off any longer. Need to get you home an’ shored up.”

Buffy wobbled slightly as they walked, and, by the time they neared Revello Drive, Spike had to carry her.

“What the hell did you do to my daughter,” Joyce demanded as she opened the door, taking in the bloodied bite on Buffy’s neck. She trusted Spike, and yet even the matching wound he bore and had the fact that he had the girl in his arms did nothing to alleviate her fears.

“I’m fine, Mom,” Buffy murmured weakly. “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 and, grabbed a glass of orange juice from the fridge. “Drink up, luv. It should help a little 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 fears enough that she was willing to listen to their explanations without prejudice. She turned her attention to getting her daughter some much needed iron.

Before long, Buffy was sitting on Spike’s lap, allowing him to cut and feed her steak, piece by succulent piece. And, clearly feeling better as 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 gave her the overview: that the claim was a bond that went deeper than a human marriage and, was virtually binding for Spike’s unlifetime. And that unless they found a way to break it – should they want to break it – Buffy’s life wasn’t guaranteed should Spike dust before she died.

Spike laid out their dilemma 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 in regards to mortals… and to Slayers in particular.”

“Mr. Giles and that Angel fellow, right?” Joyce confirmed.

Buffy nodded. “And 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… ” 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 realizing there might be feelings between us. Stuff we didn’t know was buildin’… and this sort of forces the situation.”

Joyce 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?

She raised her hand to her mouth… and broke into peals of laughter. “Oh my sweet babies. You two are so dense.”

Spike and Buffy 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.