Sunday. Wishing all you mothers (of human children or furry ones) the
best of things to come for all you do.
In the meantime, here's the next chapter (and the first totally brand new
one since 2004. Hope you enjoy, and of course, I encourage you to comment.
Spike’s posture was infinitely more relaxed – aided by the consumption of Joyce’s scotch. He sat on the couch, Buffy curled up against his side, as Willow and Giles studied both the chip and the available texts.
“I am so glad that thing is out of you,” Buffy murmured, gently stroking Spike’s hand near the stitches. “I don’t like the idea of something that can track you all over Sunnydale, and who knows how far beyond.”
“Can take care of m’self, love,” said Spike, leaning into Buffy like a large pale cat, “but the element of surprise goes a long way in keeping a bloke safe.”
Buffy folded her arms across her chest and stared, eyebrow cocked, daring him to forget the incident that started this whole misadventure.
Ducking his head, Spike grinned sheepishly, mumbling “Still the Big Bad” under his breath.
Giles rose from his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose, probably in the hope of staving off an imminent headache. “This is useless,” he announced. “There is nothing in these ancient texts that relate to the modern technology… and now we have vampire mating rituals to research, as well.”
“I-I can still feel some kind of charge coming from the chip,” said Willow, warily, eyeing the device in its bowl of water. “It makes my skin crawl. No wonder Spike wanted to scratch it out of his hand.”
“Do you think it’s safe to take it out of the water?” asked Joyce. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
“I believe so.” Grabbing his tweezers, Giles removed the chip from the bowl. It gave off a small spark, then lay silent on the table. Still using the tweezers, he picked it up and settled it gently into his handkerchief. “I think it’s best nobody else comes in contact with this… thing,” Giles said, placing the folded cloth into his jacket pocket. “It’s already imprinted on Spike’s physiology, and we don’t know if it will transmit anything else.”
Buffy nodded, absentmindedly stroking Spike’s now chip-free hand. “Let me know as soon as you have it stuck inside a ring, ‘kay? I have a funny feeling that we don’t know the half of what’s going on at the club.”
“Slayer’s intuition?” Spike asked, never taking his eyes off the girl.
“More like Buffy intuition,” she answered. “That place gives me the wiggins.”
“You know best, love, though I don’t relish that bloody chip anywhere near me again… even in a ring.”
“But we have to try,” Buffy insisted. “I can feel the sinistery vibes coming off the place. It’s my duty as the Slayer to…”
“Stick your perky little nose into anything suspicious?” Spike interrupted, tweaking said nose. Buffy smiled at him tenderly.
“I can’t just ignore what feels like a threat.” Buffy edged closer to Spike, running her fingers through his highly gelled hair, intent on setting his natural curls free. “I have to make sure everyone’s safe.”
“Oh, come on, now,” moaned Xander, who had remained conspicuously silent up until now. Apparently, he hadn’t left earlier – just slammed the door before changing his mind. “Isn’t anyone else getting nauseous from all this touchy-feely nonsense? I say we call Deadboy and let him know what Junior’s been up to. Maybe he knows how to break the claim.”
“Xander!” Willow hissed as the expressions on the blonds’ faces grew cold, Spike’s eyes throwing sparks of gold amidst the blue.
But Xander wouldn’t be deterred. “Angel’s your Sire, or so you claimed when you were gonna bite my neck back at the school. He hates you. I think we need to hear his opinion.”
“Xander, not the time and none of our business,” Willow insisted. She turned to Buffy. “Please don’t be angry,” she begged. “Xander just worries. Because, you know, vampires and biting are generally of the bad. And Xander just doesn’t want to see you hurt. I mean, we’ve patrolled with you and watched countless vampires go for the jugular. Vampires kill. That’s a fact.”
“Yes, they do,” Buffy said softly. “But not this one.”
She absentmindedly stroked her claim mark, closing her eyes at the sensation that caused. “And this isn’t going to go away, no matter how unhappy it makes you all.”
Opening her eyes, she turned to Giles. “But we do need to find out what the rules are. How much influence the claim has on both of us, and how much is our own free will.”
“Yes, yes, you’re quite right, Buffy,” Giles agreed. “Of course I’ll research vampire claims and how to break them.”
“You most certainly will not!” Spike roared in defiance. This time, Buffy had to restrain him from going after her Watcher. He looked to his mate for reassurance before he continued, “That’s twice now there’s been mention of breaking the claim. Neither one of us wants that. We just want to know… to understand… What my mate is trying to say, is that the attraction we felt towards each other has increased since the claim, and she wants to know if it’s only the claim that’s responsible. Or if we’re just fallin’ for each other like any other couple.”
“I bet he’s not talking about a friend kind of mate now,” Xander snarked at Willow, who rolled her eyes in frustration.
“All right, that’s enough!” Joyce stood up, throwing her hands in the air. “Xander Harris, you need to remember that Spike is a guest in my home, and I won’t have you being rude to him. It’s not your concern if Spike has feelings for Buffy – it’s hers, and I’m trusting that they’ll work it out together… without your interference. Right now, I think it’s time you left. Your behavior is getting tiresome.”
Spike smirked and waggled his fingers at the irate young man, but cowed a little when Joyce’s ire turned his way.
“Don’t think that my support gives you the green light to bait Xander, William.” Joyce’s words dripped ice. “You can be very trying when you’ve a mind to be.”
“Sorry, Joyce. Promise to be on m’best behavior from now on.”
Xander glowered. “Just… be careful. I don’t trust the bleached menace and neither should any of you,” he yelled as he left – slamming the door behind him.
Giles stood at the table, busily polishing his glasses hard enough to sand the lenses. “Xander might have the right idea in calling Angel. Do stop that growling, Spike,” he said, replacing his glasses on his nose. “I’m sure a vampire that’s been around as long as he has would have some knowledge of claims.”
Buffy’s former good mood vanished. Her eyes teared up and her lower lip wobbled. “He’s going to try and kill Spike. I know he is.”
“He can try, love. He can try.” Spike pulled Buffy close and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “Got a lot to unlive for these days.”
“Perhaps if you were the one to call, Buffy,” said Joyce, an attempt at compromise. “Angel tends to listen to you.”
“If we can do this over the phone,” Buffy mused, “then maybe Spike would be safe.”
“Oi! Don’t need protectin’ from that git.”
“I know, Spike, I know,” Buffy soothed. “You’re the Big Bad, after all.”
“Now she’s patronizing me,” Spike said, looking to Joyce for commiseration and finding none. “I’m telling you all, gettin’ Angel involved in this is bound to be all kinds of bad.”
“And I’m telling you, buster, that there will be no advancement in our relationship until I understand this claim stuff more. When I make love with you, it’ll be because I want to, and not because the claim makes us want to.”
“Buffy Anne Summers!”
“I’ll take this as my cue to leave,” said Giles, whose skin had developed a decidedly green pallor at the talk of impending sex between his Slayer and a vampire… again. “Buffy… you and Spike come by the Magic Box later this evening. I’ll have the ring ready by then. And, in the meantime, please reconsider calling Angel about the claim.”
After Giles left, the two blonds sat on opposite sides of the couch. Buffy pouted and said, “Don’t you want to get this straightened out between us?”
Spike growled, but took Buffy’s hands in his. “You know I do, petal,” he said reluctantly. “S’just the wanker tends to take over… run things his way. I don’t wanna lose you.”
“You won’t, Spike… I promise.” Buffy was adamant, looking straight into the vampire’s blue eyes. “We were friends before this. I won’t let Angel take you away from me.”
Still grumbling, Spike agreed, “Fine. Call the bloody git. Just warnin’ ya, he’ll probably try to claw his way through the phone.”
Joyce smiled from the kitchen doorway. Her daughter was amazing. She could sell ice in Alaska given half a chance. She wiped her hands, gathered her purse and keys and called out, “Be good, you two. I’m leaving for work. I’ve got a shipment of Peruvian art to uncrate.”
“Bye, Mrs. Summers.”
After the chipectomy debris was cleared away, Spike went down to the basement in an attempt to cool off, while Buffy and Willow went up to her room for a little girl talk.
It didn’t start well, both girls were anxious and uncomfortable. Slowly, however the tension thawed as they relaxed on the bed.
“So, have you done… it yet?” Willow asked, with a sly grin.
“Willow Rosenberg! Did you actually ask me that without blushing?” Buffy’s mouth gaped open in faux shock.
“Well, have you?”
“No, not yet,” Buffy pouted as she shook her head. “Doesn’t mean I don’t want to.”
With a best girlfriend secret smile, Willow questioned, “Did you at least make with the smoochies and the gropies?”
“What are you – twelve?” Buffy’s soft smile belied her snarky comment. “We kissed, Willow. And there was… gropeage. Interrupted gropeage, actually.”
“Ah, the in-home-Mom-patrol?” Willow asked, sympathy coloring her eyes.
“There’s a lot to be said for having a lock on your bedroom door,” Buffy noted. “But, since Mom is being all accommodating about Spike staying in our home, keeping to her rules is probably the least we can do.”
Buffy bunched her pillow up, setting it into her lap, as she drew her legs up, Indian style. “But it’s so freaking hard, Wil! We’re both feeling it. The urges, the desire… I don’t know if we can keep things platonic while we try to figure out if the claim blame.”
“Well, it might be a sore subject,” Willow said, thoughtfully, “but maybe Xander had a point. Angel might have some information that would be useful. And then you can – you know – all you want. Or not, depending on the information.”
With a sigh, Buffy pounded her fists into her pillow. “He’s going to make things so difficult,” she whined. “Xander was right – Angel hates Spike with a passion. And Spike hates him right back. The last thing I want to discuss with Angel is how badly Spike and I want to have sex, not to mention that we’re claimed.”
“Still,” the redhead insisted gently, “Give it some thought. It might be worth the aggravation, if you can keep both of them from dusting each other.” She held out her hands, motioning first with one, then, the other. “Love life versus Angel and Spike, um… not agreeing that you should have one.”
Both girls startled at the sound of the front door slamming yet again.
“Oh, crap,” Buffy yelped. “It must be dark enough for Spike to leave, unless he was feeling particularly suicidal and grabbed his blanket. I never should have left him alone so long.”
She ran down the stairs, Willow following right behind. On the little table next to the door, there was a letter, with Buffy’s name written in beautiful Copperplate script – all loops and swirls.
“Sorry, love. Couldn’t stand it here for one more moment with the words ‘breaking the claim’ swirling about in my noggin. I’ll meet you over at the Magic Box ‘round seven.
“At least he left you a note,” Willow said, looking on the bright side.
“If you see Xander, tell him to stay away from me for a couple of days.” Buffy sniffled, tears glassing over her eyes. “Spike and I need our answers… not haranguing from a bigot.”
Willow’s lips wibbled as she turned and left the Summers’ house, shoulders hunched, bearing the weight of her best friends in what looked like a no-win situation.