No Time To Choose
Prequel to the House of the Setting Sun Series


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PART THREE
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Chapter Ten: I'll Be The Life Of The Party, You Can Be The Soul

Buffy came down the stairs in short bursts, being careful not to lose her footing. It was dark down here and even after patting the wall for what felt like ages, she'd had no luck finding the light switch. Her Slayer reflexes were busy carousing and singing loudly off key inside her and didn't care if she fell down the steps and landed on her ass, so she took it steady and clung to the banister.

Spike lay on his cot and listened to her awkward movements. He'd turned the light off hours ago, not really needing it to see the nothingness that was down there. Plus darkness made it easier to brood.

He'd tensed up when the door opened, but then the familiar scent of Buffy assailed his nostrils, combined with something equally intoxicating - hard liquor. Mixed with the noise she made trying to get down the stairs, he surmised that she was rat-arsed. He knew his Slayer only made friends with the alcohol when she was upset about something and he wondered what it was, and whether he could kill it.

He sat up on the bed and waited to find out what this little visit was for.

"Spike, Spike. Are you down here? Why's it so dark? Ouch! Stupid wall! Spike!"

He chuckled softly. "I'm here, Luv." He walked to a shelf, his footing confident even in the near absolute darkness and lit some candles.

His sensitive ears picked up the sound of liquid sloshing, and her erratic breathing and halting footsteps. As the match flared and wick began to burn he was greeted with a big sloppy smile and had to duck the bottle that was waved in front of his face. His nostrils flared as he identified another, less pleasant smell. His smile slipped.

"Angel's here?" He asked, fangs begging to show themselves.

"Huh?" Buffy asked, nonplussed. "He is?"

"He's all over you."

"Ohhh." Buffy dragged the syllable out, finally getting it. "No he's gone. Totally gone." She didn't want to talk about Angel, she wanted to forget about Angel, Faith, the First and impending doom, just for tonight. Was that really so much to ask?

"Gone?" Spike repeated her.

"Yep, gone, gone. Back to L.A. He just dropped by to bring us some stuff and then he left. End of story." She plopped down on his bed and began to open the bottle. "Now can we talk about something fun?"

He sat down next to her. "What stuff did he bring?"

"Noooo," she whined. "I said fun stuff, not work stuff." She leaned against his shoulder and offered him the bottle.

His nose wrinkled slightly as he took it.

"For Gods sake, do you want me to go take a shower?" She stormed.

"No, no of course not," he placated. He put his arm around her and pulled her into his side, taking a long swallow of the bottle as he did so.

"Save some for me," she pouted.

"Don't you think you've had enough?"

"I think, as the Slayer and world saver I can handle a little bit of drink." She pouted. Why was everyone on her case? Even Spike - the original bad boy - was trying to play her mother.

"Yeah a little bit of drink, sure, but you practically had to come down the stairs on your bum. That wasn't very Slayer-esque of you," he teased.

"Oh shut up," she replied, taking the bottle back anyway and having a swig.

He grinned down at her. She looked even more beautiful in the flickering candle light than she did normally. He could get over the stink of Angel because it was his bed she was snuggling on.

"So to what do I owe this impromptu party, Luv?"

"They were being mean to me upstairs."

"Mean how?" He asked her to clarify. He'd heard muffled arguments taking place upstairs, but had been in no mood to go and join in. Which in itself was pathetic. The day Spike stopped enjoying a good old set to, he knew there had to be something wrong. 'Yeah, it all started when you fell in love with the stunning woman sat next to you,' he thought while he waited for her to speak again.

She mused over possible answers in her head before settling on, "Just mean."

He thought for a moment about possible things that would make them mad at her. "Was it about me?"

"No."

"Oh." He looked crestfallen.

She smiled at him. "Does it matter if I'm here anyway?" She reached up and stroked his hair.

"Guess not." He took her hand in his, gently kissed the palm and then placed it back on the bed between them. "So what else happened on your little mission apart from bumping into dear old Grand-dad? You can just tell me the fun stuff, if you want to keep this party swinging."

She frowned at him slightly, "Uh, got some info on the scythe, pretty much your normal cryptic mumbo-jumbo. Giles and Willow are gonna get on it once they've finished picking apart my private life." Seeing Spike suddenly look all curious, she carried on before he could ask what she was talking about. "I killed Caleb!" She suddenly remembered. Beaming proudly, she recounted his death.

Spike gave her a big hug. "Congratulations Pet. I knew you had it in you." When he didn't let go right away she felt herself begin to dissolve into his arms. One of her arms was caught between them, still clutching the bottle. She placed the other one around him and clung tight to the back of his black t-shirt, burying her head in the crook of his neck.

His arms loosely around her back, he fought the urge to pull her in closer, trying to stay content with the what he had. His nose nudged the hair by her ear and his cold breath tickled her skin as he spoke. "I'm so proud of you Buffy, I wish I could have been there to see you in action."

She shivered at the tiny vibrations his words caused and snuggled deeper.

"I wish you had been. I just needed time to think," she told him, her voice muffled by her own hair and his shoulder.

"And did it help?" He asked hopefully. Had she made her choice? Had she chosen him? Is that why she was in his arms now?

"Didn't really get a lot of time for thinking, what with all the killing." She shifted herself slightly and wriggled her right shoulder.

"Oh, okay. Uh Buffy, does this mean anything?" He asked, unable to stop himself.

"Uh yeah," she said. He smiled and she wriggled her shoulder. "It means I got cramp in my arm and I'm gonna spill this everywhere. Could ya let go a minute."

"Oh, sorry." He pulled away completely, slightly self-conscious.

She kept one arm around his back though, preventing him from moving too far. She stretched out her other arm. The one holding the bottle. He took the bottle from her and had a few mouthfuls while she pumped her arm, trying to get rid of the pins and needles feeling that had started. When it had died away, she took the bottle back for another gulp. He watched affectionately as she wiped her hand across her mouth to remove the dribbles.

She caught him looking and grinned. "Ladylike huh?" She joked before jumping onto his lap, facing him astride his thighs.

"Uh Buffy, not that this isn't nice, but what are you doing?" He asked, scooting back on the cot. She stayed with him, leaning back so her butt rested just above his knees.

"Nothing, just getting comfortable. So how was your night?" She took another swallow and handed the bottle back to him.

"Uh well I played Poker with the kids."

"Those kids are the same age as me," Buffy said playfully.

"To me, Luv, Rupert's barely past puberty."

She chuckled. "What else?"

He shrugged to buy time. Did he tell her about the gang's unwavering belief that she was shagging Faith? Did he tell her Anya had made him realize that they were right, not necessarily about the shagging but that there was more going on than she was admitting? Did he tell her he'd managed to knock holes into the sand-filled punch bag whilst trying to work out his frustration? He could hear the small grains of sand still trickling out, if he concentrated. Did he tell her how he had laid in the dark for hours after Andrew had left, plotting painful ways to kill Faith and make her remains disappear so no one ever found out?

He shrugged again. "Not a lot, just slept really. Didn't get a lot of rest last night."

She studied him, knowing there was something else, but not being able to pinpoint what was missing. When his clear blue eyes gazed at her own and he gave her a small smile, she relaxed, thinking it must just be the alcohol.

"Sounds pretty boring, I wish I'd been here," she quipped.

"Wish you had been too." His hands had been laying either side of him, the bottle empty and forgotten on the bed. He lifted them now and placed them gently on Buffy's waist. She covered them with her own. "Have you seen Faith since you got back?" He asked as casually as he could.

There it was, he felt her flinch, just slightly, at the question.

"Um, yeah." She glanced down and then back up quickly. 'A little more than what I'd planned on seeing just yet,' she added to herself.

He pressed his advantage. "How was she? Just that she seemed a tad upset earlier."

This time Buffy kept her head up, but her gaze had moved to his ear, she managed to keep the chirpy tone to her voice. "Oh she was just fine and dandy according to her. She wasn't very happy about me walking in and interrupting her boinkfest, but she recovered pretty quickly and got back to what she does best." At some point she'd grasped Spike t-shirt and now she balled her hands into fists and wound the thick, black material around them.

"And what's that?" His eyes were on her hands now, it's not like she would notice anyway. Her gaze was turned inwards to a place he couldn't see. If he'd needed any more proof of Buffy's feelings for the dark Slayer, he was getting it now.

"Screwing around," she muttered

"And does that bother you?" He asked quietly.

She hiccuped a couple of times and stroked his face absently. "Do vampires actually have to shave?"

"Does it?" He asked, ignoring her question.

"Not when I've got you to make me feel better." She giggled and bounced a little on his thighs. The motion made his body stiffen and he let out a shaky breath and leaned harder against the wall at his back.

"Hell, you really are plastered, aren't you." He rolled his eyes to the ceiling. 'This is so not a fair time to send a drunk and bouncy Slayer down to me,' he thought. He could tell the Faith thing was bothering her, but if she refused to talk about it what he could he do except play trampoline? That notion was much too attractive to be chivalrous, but white knights do what they have to to keep their fair maidens happy.

She rested her hands on his shoulders and tried to look him in the eye. She blinked a lot and swayed ever so slowly from side to side. His hands on her hips stopped her from going completely over every time she swayed to far. "Look at me," she said.

"I am, Pet."

"Oh." She grabbed his head with both hands. "Try harder."

He leaned back, half thinking she was about to kiss him. "Is that better?"

"Yeah, I can see you now, you were all blurry before." She tapped him lightly on the cheek.

"I'm not surprised, you were an inch away from my nose." He relaxed as he spoke, reaching up to brush a strand of hair away from her face and smiling at her.

Thud. The back of his head thumped firmly against the wall, but he was oblivious to it. The feel of Buffy's lips on his own made any other sensation to boring to notice. Until she surged forward on his lap and then another started to cry out and be heard. He simply kissed her back as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled herself closer. His hands stayed at her hips neither encouraging nor stopping her, just reveling in her enthusiasm for the kiss. It was only when her body began pressing into all the right places that he knew he had to do something.

He pulled away from her mouth, or tried to. She just pushed back harder and refused to be removed, and again for a few seconds he let himself be lost in her. Letting out a rough growl that she swallowed eagerly, he rolled them over. As soon as he was on top, he pulled out of the kiss. Her arms still tight around his neck stopped him from getting up with ease, but at least he could speak now.

"Buffy..." Was all he managed to say. The look in her eyes was so dark, so hungry, he nearly gave up his resolve and gave her everything he had. "Bollocks!" He muttered and squeezed his eyes shut.

"What is it, Spike?" Buffy asked, looking up at him. When she didn't immediately get a reply she threaded her hand in his hair and tried to guide him back down to her lips. She wanted this, she needed this, it felt so right and she felt so horny; how could it be wrong?

Spike remained rock still. "Let go a minute, Buffy."

She loosened her grip and he began to sit up.

"Nooo!" She gripped around his neck again and found herself lifted with him.

"Buffy, this isn't right. We shouldn't be doing this," he tried to explain.

"You didn't have any problem kissing me earlier, what's changed?" She said huffily, still refusing to release him.

"You're out of your tree on bleeding spirits for one thing." He shifted in her hold, trying to pry her arms above his head to get away from their scissor grip.

"So, Slayer metabolism. You know how quick I can sober up. Jeez at this rate I'll be fit to operate heavy machinery before you even get your pants off."

"That's the other thing. Earlier was just a kiss, you know this could go much further."

"Yeah that's kind of the point." She removed her arms from around his neck to slap at his hands. "Will you stop digging your fingers into me like I'm an over-inflated life jacket and kiss me already?"

"What?" He pulled his hands away from her slapping and she took the opportunity to pull his t-shirt off. She shoved him back onto the bed hard before removing it completely. "Buffy, no!"

She ran her hands down his chest, delighted by the muscles jumping. "What do you mean, no?"

He couldn't answer for a second. Her warm hands gliding down his torso took his words and flushed them. Seriously struggling to regain any semblance of thought, he pushed her hands away.

"I don't want to do this."

"Oh I beg to differ." She smirked down at him, rolling her hips against his, groaning slightly herself in anticipation at what she felt there.

Spike threw his head back against the bed and yelled. "Take back the bloody soul, it's killing me."

She wriggled against him again. "You want this Spike, I want this; just let go and enjoy it. You know how good it can be between us."

"Not this time."

"Well we won't know until we try." Her wandering hands finally made it to his belt buckle and she unfastened his jeans with only slightly less than Slayer speed. The drink was indeed wearing off. He knew that didn't make this any less wrong though.

She was taking her top off, eyes shielded as she lifted it over her head, when he made his move. Sitting up fast he took her off guard and pushed her roughly backwards. Sitting astride her belly he slapped her hands away from the hem of her top and grabbed them both in one of his hands. With his free hand he pulled the top down so it more or less covered her decently again.

"Spike, you idiot, what are you doing?" She howled. She couldn't get any leverage to flip him off, with her arms held above her.

"Something I'm probably gonna regret if the world ends next week," he told her honestly.

"Oh you're gonna regret it before that, mister," she growled.

He laughed lightly as he did he jeans back up. "You're most likely right, pet, but one day you'll see I'm doing this for both our good."

"Well thanks for protecting my virtue, but you really needn't have bothered; after all you pretty much killed that last year." She carried on struggling under him.

"Yeah well don't go acting like you were all innocent before, you were the one using me for hot, dirty sex, remember?"

She stopped and laid still, realization suddenly dawning. "Is that what this is about? You're scared I'm using you?"

"No! Well, yes as a matter of fact. It didn't really bother me when I was all evil, but I don't know, just don't feel right now." He let go of her hands, but she reached for his and held them both, gently.

"Spike, I'm not using you. I promise. This wasn't about just getting some. I didn't come down here to jump your bones to make myself feel better. It's just when I get near you the electricity starts building and I need to touch you, to earth myself and then with the drinking it all gets bigger than life and urgent, but it's not like last year. If we do this now, I won't regret waking up in your arms in the morning. In fact I can't think of anything that would be better."

He wanted to cry, he really wanted to cry. Did humans feel like this all the time? Painfully torn between what they want to do and what they knew they should do, because it was a bloody stupid way to live if you asked him.

He stroked her cheek with his finger tips, so softly they felt like a cool breeze against her skin. "I bet you can think of one thing better," he told her sadly.

"Pancakes?" She tried cheerfully to redirect the conversation.

"Buffy. We're not going to shag tonight, because as much as your words mean to me, I'm not the one you want. Whether you admit it to yourself or not, I know you and I know what you get like when you fancy someone, and as much as I'd like it to be me, it's not me."

"It could be," she tried.

"But it's not, is it? Us doing anything tonight is just going to muck things up with you and her, and if you even think of saying 'she doesn't have to find out' I'll flip you like a pancake, and bite your arse."

Buffy chuckled. "And for a minute there, I thought you weren't interested."

He climbed off her and sat at her side. She sat up too.

"Why don't you go up there now, go see her? I'm sure she feels the same way, she'd have to be blind not to," he told her.

"She doesn't." Buffy's voice was devoid of emotion, her face blank.

"What's that?" He asked, looking at her with concern.

"She doesn't. Feel the same way."

"How can you be sure? Have you spoken to her?"

"Tried to, I tried to tell her how I felt when I got back, but she was too busy rutting with Robin." Buffy felt her eyelids begin to fill with tears at the memory.

"That Pratt. Well I wouldn't worry about him, Luv. He couldn't be anything more than a substitute. I mean you have been playing these cards pretty close to your chest, or trying to at any rate. She probably thinks you don't care for her neither."

"No, I tried talking to her after, I started to tell her and she just blew me off, like over and over." The tears started to fall in earnest now, the last effects of the alcohol making her emotions more tangible. "She wouldn't even hear me out. She said she wanted something casual, but if I was looking for anything more then I should look somewhere else."

He put his arm around her, a comfort she gratefully accepted, leaning against his side, her head bowed while the tears flowed.

"Now, Pet, maybe that's for the best at the moment. She's probably just thinking you've both got enough to be going on with, without distracting yourselves further with each other." He more or less said the same thing to her, that she had said to him earlier. Right away he knew it wasn't going to be enough.

"That's not it. I know it isn't. She's always been like this, one conquest after another. That's all I'd be to her, another notch on her belt. I won't be that. I'd rather be alone than be with someone who didn't even care enough to be there in the morning." She took a big, shaky breath. "I've been there before with someone I love. I can't do it again." She sobbed.

He didn't know what else to say. He held her against him and rocked her gently. He felt for sure that Faith felt more than that for Buffy, but telling her now wouldn't make a difference. She wouldn't believe him and if he did turn out to be wrong he would have made her pain ten times worse. So he kept quiet and rocked her, whispering soothing words in her ear now and then.

She turned her head into his neck and sobbed harder for a while then she managed to pull herself back together bit by painful bit. Pulling back slightly she gave him a shaky smile. "Thanks."

"Anytime." His eyes were filled with tears for her, but they didn't fall, just hung to his lower lashes making them glisten.

She wiped her nose on her sleeve, then looked at it in disgust. Looking up at Spike she said. "I'm gross, aren't I?"

He smiled. "You're Buffy, and that's about as beautiful as anyone can get." Then he looked at her sleeve and wrinkled his nose. "You just need to learn how to use a tissue."

She pulled her top off and threw it away from her. He looked extremely wary, waiting for an attack of her hornies to come back, but he needn't have worried.

She picked up his t-shirt that was still laying at the end of the cot. "Mind if I...?"

"Help yourself."

She shrugged the t-shirt on and leaned back into him, her breath still hitched from time to time, but she seemed a lot calmer. He put his arm around her again and she snuggled into him, getting comfy.

"If you love her, you have to try again," he said softly.

"I don't want to get hurt," Buffy whispered.

"Love wouldn't be worth it without a little risk. You can't guarantee that anyone you meet won't hurt you at some point."

"Not the way she could hurt me."

"Do you mean physically?" Spike asked, thinking about the fights they'd had. He felt her shake her head against his shoulder.

"In here." She placed her hand over her heart.

She fell quiet then and it wasn't long before the fight with Caleb, the booze, the emotional confrontations and the lateness of the hour did what they did best. She was sound asleep against his shoulder.

He tried to pull away so he could lay her down on the cot, but she just snuggled tighter, mumbling, "No Spike, don't leave me. Stay."

So he did. He laid them both down smoothly, and holding her in his arms, waited for sleep to claim him too.

It wasn't happening in any hurry. He watched her in the light of the last few candles as they started to gutter. This beautiful girl, his beautiful Slayer, she looked so peaceful lying with her head on his chest, her breath tickling his still bare skin. No one looking at her now would believe the struggles she'd gone through tonight and every other night and day of her life for the past seven years and who knew how many more yet. He bent slightly to kiss her forehead and murmured to her sleeping form.

"Whatever I have to do Buffy, whatever I need to do to make your life more bearable, to make you happy and safe, I'll do it. Whatever it takes." She smiled in her sleep and nuzzled his chest, content at least, for now.


Chapter Eleven

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Part Three Quick Jump:

Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven || Chapter Eight || Chapter Nine || Chapter Ten || Chapter Eleven || Chapter Twelve || Chapter Thirteen || Chapter Fourteen || Chapter Fifteen || Chapter Sixteen


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