Fractured Fairy Tales, Part 1 by PaganBaby
Summary: Buffy and Spike are transported into a book of fairy tales in order to rescue Dawn, who had been drawn into it by magickal means. They'll have to work their way through various stories, taking on the personas of characters and seeing familiar faces along the way, to find Buffy's sister and bring her back home.

WON at the Sunnydale Memorial Rewards for Best Plot and Best Pairing (Conventional)! I was also Runner Up for Best Author!

Nominated at the Running With Scissors Awards for The Cookie Dough Award (Best WIP)

Nominated in Round 2 of the C2C Buffy Awards for: Best Romance, Best Original Plot, and Best Sex!
Categories: Porn with Plot Characters: None
Genres: Angst, Horror, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Character Death, Freaky/Kinky, Sexual Situations, Violence
Series: None
Chapters: 20 Completed: Yes Word count: 147144 Read: 46683 Published: 09/08/2009 Updated: 06/12/2010

1. Chapter 1: Once Upon A Time... by PaganBaby

2. Part 1, Chapter 2: Into the Woods by PaganBaby

3. Part 1, Chapter 3: Out of the Frying Pan... by PaganBaby

4. Part 1, Chapter 4: Crime and Punishment by PaganBaby

5. Part 1, Chapter 5: Toil & Trouble by PaganBaby

6. Part 1, Chapter 6: Rub-A-Dub-Dub by PaganBaby

7. Part 1, Chapter 7: Never Leave Me by PaganBaby

8. Part 1, Chapter 8: Sex and Candy by PaganBaby

9. Part 1, Chapter 9: Pangs by PaganBaby

10. Part 1, Chapter 10: Desperate Measures by PaganBaby

11. Part 1, Chapter 10: Desperate Measures (continued) by PaganBaby

12. Part 1, Chapter 11: The Shape of Things to Come by PaganBaby

13. Part 1, Chapter 11: The Shape of Things to Come (continued) by PaganBaby

14. Part 1, Chapter 12: Stormy Weather by PaganBaby

15. Part 1, Chapter 13: Only You by PaganBaby

16. Part 1, Chapter 13: Only You (continued) by PaganBaby

17. Part 1, Chapter 14: Life of Illusion by PaganBaby

18. Part 1, Chapter 14: Life of Illusion (continued) by PaganBaby

19. Part 1, Chapter 14: Life of Illusion (continued again) by PaganBaby

20. Part 1, Chapter 14: Life of Illusion (continued yet again) by PaganBaby

Chapter 1: Once Upon A Time... by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
RATED NC-17!!! Read the following warnings! Please do not read if you are underage. Warnings for: Explicit sex, adult content and language, character deaths, spoilers for seasons 6 and 7, angst, abuse. BEWARE: Some smut in later installments may contain sex with half-human/half-animal fairy tale characters! So if that squicks you in the least, do yourself a favor and don't read any further. Thank you :)

{A/N: Takes place during season 5 of BtVS after the episode 'Listening To Fear'. This story has a mix of silly and serious. Some things will make you giggle (I hope!) and others will make you cringe. Most of us have read the old fairy tales, and know how dark they could be.

This is an old-new story. I wrote some of it about 5 years ago, but left it unfinished because I wasn't sure if it was too different (and in parts, too kinky!). But, at CallMeKitten's urging, I took up the story again. I'm putting out the first part to see if ya'll are interested, so let me know if you want me to continue. I write at a snail's pace, so updates won't be speedy, but I intend on seeing this through 'til the end :) }

* Thanks to the lovely and talented DFL for beta'ing!
** Endless thanks and love to my homegirl CallMeKitten for her help, suggestions, and encouragement. I would not have even gone back to this old story idea if it weren't for her. Thank you, Kitten! *smoochies and lurve* I'd also like to thank Brett, Chantelly, and DFL for their support *more smoochies*
*** Thanks to Chantelly and Edgehead for the lovely banners!

Joss and ME own all.
Giles was on the phone about a shipping problem. "No, I told you that I ordered one crate of Eye of Newt, you sent me 10..." He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm positive. The mistake was yours." Pause. "Why would I order that many bloody newt eyes?" Pause. Giles groaned. "Yes... I'll hold."

Dawn bounced over to him holding four books, and placed them on the counter near the cash register. "Giles, Buffy's gonna be here to pick me up any minute, so can I take these books home to check out tonight?"

"Dawn, this isn't a library. I don't lend books."

She looked down and pouted. "Oh... okay."

Giles sighed and smiled a bit. She was too bloody adorable. "I won't lend them... but you may have them as a gift, if you'd like."

Dawn looked up again and grinned. "Really?!"

"Yes, they're yours."

"Oh, thank you, Giles!" Dawn ran behind the counter and gave him a bear hug.

Giles chuckled and patted her on the back. "You're welcome. You understand that this isn't going to be a common occurrence? I'd go bankrupt if I gave away merchandise all the time."

"I know. I promise I won't ever ask for anything for free again," Dawn made a crossing gesture over her heart.

"Hmmm, we'll see about that," he said with a skeptical smile. Then he held up his hand as the shipping company came back on the line. "Yes, I'm still here."

Dawn skipped back around the counter and picked up her new old books. She took them over to the table, and sat down to look through them. She couldn't wait to read about all the neat spells and pagan customs.

Giles was still talking into the phone, sounding more exasperated by the minute. "I have that in my office. Hold, please." He put his hand over the receiver and smiled. "Wish I could play Muzak while they're forced to wait. Dawn, would you mind the store for a minute while I'm in my office?"

"Sure, no problem!" She liked that she'd be in charge, even if she was the only person there. It still beat being treated like a helpless infant, aka the way everyone treated her. Well, everyone except Spike.

After Giles closed the door to the office behind him, Dawn was tempted to stand at the cash register to feel more officially in command. But the books in front of her demanded her attention; she had full view of the store from where she was sitting. She opened one that had caught her eye, it had seemed to actually call to her. It wasn't a book about magic or spells like the others she'd chosen, it was an old leather-bound book with elegant, gold cursive letters on the cover. It was a collection of fairy tales. There were beautifully drawn, lifelike pictures to go along with the stories. Dawn didn't know why this particular book had appealed to her, she just thought it was cool.

She did feel a little guilty as she turned the gilded pages, the book had to be crazy-expensive, and yet Giles was giving it to her. Maybe he didn't realize that this one was included in the ones she wanted to take home. Dawn tried not to be greedy and told herself that she'd ask Giles if it was okay when he came back out. Maybe her honesty would be rewarded by him saying it was still okay for her to take it.

Dawn frowned when she felt the table vibrating. 'Earthquake!' her mind screamed.

She jumped up from the table and ran to the doorway to the training room. But the floor wasn't shaking. Looking back at the table, she saw that it was the book of fairy tales that was vibrating. She walked slowly toward it, wondering what could be making it do that. It wasn't a magic book -- at least it wasn't supposed to be.

Dawn reached out to touch the book. A white mist rose out of the pages and hovered over the table, making her quickly retract her hand and jump back. As she stared at it with wide blue eyes, the mist took the shape of a large hand.

"Giles!" She finally found the power to speak. "Giles, there's --"

Dawn didn't have time to do more than squeak before the hand suddenly shot at her and grabbed her. The mist enveloped her completely, lifted her up off of the ground, and then swiftly withdrew back into the book, taking the frightened girl with it. The cover of the book slammed shut.

Giles poked his head out of the office and looked around the main room. "Dawn, did you call me? Dawn?"

Four hours later...

"Where the HELL is my sister!?" Buffy yelled, near panic.

Buffy had entered the shop a minute after Dawn disappeared. It didn't take long for her and Giles to become sick with worry when they couldn't find the lanky teen. The rest of the Scoobies had shown up since then, but no one had any luck in the search.

"Buffy, you mustn't panic," Giles said, fighting panic himself.

Buffy had been battling fear since she discovered Dawn was missing, it was getting harder not to give into the fear. "Mustn't panic? Glory could have her! What other explanation could there be? Dawn wouldn't just take off without all of her stuff."

Dawn's jacket and book bag, as well as the books Giles had given her, were still where she'd left them at the table.

"There would have been some noise if she were abducted," Giles reasoned. They had already gone over all of this earlier, they were just repeating themselves and moving in circles for lack of a proper trail to follow.

"You said that she called you. She could've been calling you for help."

"It was only a matter of seconds, Buffy. I don't see how anyone could have taken her by force in that short amount of time. They wouldn't have even gotten to the front door of the shop without me seeing something."

Buffy took a breath to steady her frayed nerves and rubbed her eyes. "What am I going to do? I have to find her. What am I going to tell my mom? She doesn't need any extra stress..."

Willow was preparing a spell in the training room. She could hear the pain in her friend's voice. "Buffy, the spell might be able to find her. Don't give up."

Spike came in the front entrance, making the bell above the door tinkle. Everyone looked at him expectantly.

He shook his head with a rueful expression. "Searched high and low... still no sign of the Bit, and no one's heard anything."

"Shit!" Buffy cursed. "How can no one know what happened to her?"

Spike shook his head again and looked down at his boots, shoving his hands into his coat pockets. He had come by the shop a few hours ago to see if there were any jobs the Scoobies had that would pay. But they informed him about Dawn being missing instead. Spike immediately volunteered to help, which caused all of them to raise their eyebrows. He didn't like feeling this way -- actually worried about someone, especially one of them. But Dawn was different than the others, she'd shown him kindness and even treated him like, dare he think it, a friend. She was a sweet girl and he'd taken a shine to her, despite his best efforts not to get attached. It made his guts twist into knots to think that some mangy demon (or Glory) had taken Dawn against her will, and that they might be doing unspeakable things to her as he and Buffy's friends searched impotently.

"Okay..." Buffy said, trying to regroup. "How's that spell coming, Willow?"

Willow looked up as she sprinkled sea salt on the floor to form the sacred Circle. "We'll be ready to go in a few minutes. Right, Tara?"

"R-Right. We'll find her, Buffy." Tara nodded from her seat at the table. She was going over the location spell one more time to make sure they had everything they needed.

Buffy smiled gratefully at the blonde witch for a moment, then went back to wringing her hands with worry.

Minutes later, the Scoobies were standing in the training room, gathered outside of the Circle. Willow and Tara were inside of the Circle casting the location spell with a map of the city spread out in front of them. They used Dawn's hairbrush that they'd found in her book bag as the personal item to focus on.

Willow and Tara incanted:

"Goddess Hecate, distant one,

Ruler of night,

Aid us in finding your lost daughter

Who has been taken from our sight

Lead us to her, make her location glow bright"

A spot of light appeared on the map.

"Where is it?" Buffy asked impatiently. "Where does it say Dawn is?"

Willow's red brows furrowed. "It's... here, the Magic Box."

Buffy's shoulders slumped. The spell was the last thing she could think of to find her sister, and it had failed. "We know she's not here. We've gone over every inch of the building dozens of times."

Spike felt a sort of tickle on the back of his neck, causing him to look back into the main room. He didn't know what was going on (if anything) but something was drawing his attention. He'd always been sensitive around magick, being able to sense when mojo was being worked near him, but he'd written off the odd feeling because Willow and Tara were working on a spell. But now he wasn't so sure.

"Did Dawn try doing any spells when she was here?" Spike asked.

Giles shook his head. "No, though she was reading about them. It's not possible that she could have had time to perform a spell in the time I was in the office."

Spike followed the pull on his senses out into the central room. "Uh, think I found something," he called over his shoulder.

Buffy came running out. "You found her?! Where..."

One of the books on the table was glowing.

Buffy joined Spike in staring at the glowing book.

"What the hell...?"

The Scoobies were assembled around the table trying to figure out what this meant, and what their next action should be.

Willow did a Divining spell using one of the divining rods that the shop had in stock. It was a thin branch of a willow tree, ironically. The divining rod virtually flew to the large book of fairy tales.

"Dawn has to be inside of the book," Willow said.

"How can she be inside of it?" Buffy asked. "Maybe she got like... microscopic somehow?"

"Like, 'Honey, I Shrunk The Bit?'" Spike shook his head. "No, Willow's right I think. Why would the whole bloody book, pages and all, be glowin' if a very small Dawn was just perched on top of it?"

Willow nodded and bit her lower lip. "If Dawn were tiny, there would be just a tiny dot of light. We should open the book and see..."

"We don't know if the same thing would happen to us if we touch or open it," Giles cautioned.

Xander spoke up, "Make Spike do it."

Spike shot him a flinty glare and growled quietly. "Sod off."

Willow said, "If I had to speculate right now, I'd say that some kind of strange magick might have... sort of sucked her into the book."

"The book sucked her into it..." Buffy turned her head to look at her mentor, "Giles, why do you have books that suck?"

"I didn't know it sucked! I-I mean, I had no idea that the book possessed any magick or power whatsoever. I never would have had it out here for the public to touch if I'd known."

"Oh, brilliant. Nice goin', Rupert," Spike said mockingly.

"Shut up, Spike!" Buffy snapped at him. She was kind of pissed at Giles too for not being his usual thorough self, but she wasn't about to let Spike, of all people, criticize him or make him feel guiltier.

"Hey, I'm here trying to help -- and without any monetary compensation, I might add. I'm not the one who gave your little sis a book to play with that sucks people into it."

Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. "Shut up, or I'll shut you up." She reined in her anger and frustration, and then sighed. "I wish Riley was here..." It would be nice to have strong arms around her and a solid chest to rest her head on; Buffy needed a big hug. Riley had gone to visit his parents a few days ago, so she was left without those strong arms and solid chest to lean on.

"Why? There's not enough people taking up space in here?" Spike asked. "Why don't we get a cardboard cutout and prop it up against a display case? It'll be just like the real thing -- better, in fact."

Buffy whirled on him. "Oh, shut up, Spike! My god! Can't you be quiet?! I'm sick of your shit!"

Spike's nostrils flared in anger. He was about to say 'sod it' and leave... but he really did want to help get Dawn back. "Think I'll step outside for a smoke. Too bloody stuffy in this room."

He stalked to the front door, opening and closing it more roughly than necessary. Would it kill the bitch to show one iota of gratitude to him for helping? Just because he dared to question the all-powerful, all-knowing Giles, she'd been ready to bite his head off. Well, he'd also insulted her extraordinarily lame boyfriend... she didn't appear to care for that either.

Spike was leaning against the brick wall of the shop and enjoying a smoke when Anya strolled up to him. "Where you been?" he asked curiously.

"Nice to see you too, Spike. Didn't Xander tell you that I take a course at the community college?"

"Let me guess... something to do with making more money?" He smiled slightly and blew out a hit.

Anya smiled cheerfully. "Yes, it does! It's a business course."

"Well, good luck with that then," he said, tossing his spent cigarette to the ground and grinding it under his boot.

"Thank you. What are you doing out here? Did Buffy kick you out?"

Spike sniffed and squared his shoulders. "No, Bitchy didn't kick me out. Was my decision."

Anya rolled her eyes. "Yeah, sure it was."

Spike decided not to get into an endless 'Yes, it was/No, it wasn't' argument. "Want me to bring you up to speed on the latest shit to hit the fan?"

"Oh, no... there's shit?"

"Isn't there always?" Spike asked with a sigh.

Anya and Spike entered the shop together.

Spike said, "Anya's got an idea about what's goin' on."

The others were instantly interested.

Anya gave Xander a kiss hello. "Spike told me about what happened with Dawn and the book. It sounds like an Unari thing to me." She went to the book and reached out to examine it.

Giles said, "Anya, be careful! We don't know if it will suck -- and let's find a better term for that, shall we? -- if it will suck you in as well."

Anya touched the book with an index finger, not looking concerned. "I don't think anyone else will get sucked. Yep, it's Unari. I didn't know you had one of these, Giles."

"Unari... are you certain?"

"Yes, I've seen one or two in my time." Anya opened up the book.

"Why didn't you say that you knew what it was before?"

"I've never seen it before. Inventory is your job, Giles. I handle sales."

Spike crossed his arms. "Maybe an inter-office memo or newsletter might help bridge these annoying communication gaps."

Giles ran a hand back through his hair, and muttered, "I... didn't know it was an Unari book..." He was supposed to be the brains of the outfit, and he'd fallen far short this time. Hopefully his lapse wouldn't end tragically for Dawn... he wouldn't be able to forgive himself.

Buffy, wanting to move things along, said, "What's an Unari book, what does it do, and how do I get my sister out of it?"

Anya explained, "There's an order of demon-witches, called the Unari, who are very talented and efficient at creating different realities or dimensions. They're also big on fairy tales. They made hundreds of these books. And they really did a great job -- just look at this binding."

"Yeah, it's real nice. Why do they make books that suck people into them?" Buffy was trying to be patient. "Something besides the simple answer, 'They're evil and crazy', would be helpful."

Giles was content to let Anya answer the questions. He needed a little time to get over his embarrassment.

Xander was still concerned about Dawn, but couldn't help but smile proudly at his girlfriend. Anya was smart as well as sexy, a terrific combo.

Anya turned pages as she talked, "The books were created for a few different reasons. One was their love of quests -- you know, the band of warriors striving toward the same goal. Originally, the Unari began enchanting books as holding dimensions for those they felt needed to be imprisoned or punished in some way. But then they began using them to test bravery, cunning and strength."

“Why did Dawn get sucked..." At Giles' sigh, Buffy used a different word, "Why did she get drawn into the book?”

Anya thought for a moment. “I can’t say for sure. But I think it could have something to do with her... nature.”

“You mean... the Key thing.” Buffy was afraid it had something to do with that.

Anya nodded. “She must have accidentally triggered a portal open, and it drew her in. That‘s what I think anyway.”

“Yes... that sounds plausible to me as well,” Giles had to agree. He strived to be gracious, “Nicely done, Anya.”

She grinned at him. “Thank you, Giles! I’m just happy I can help.”

"So,” Buffy wondered, “we have a good theory about why she got pulled in. Now all we need is a way to get her back out. Any ideas?”

Giles suppressed a grumble when Anya answered again, "From the accounts I've heard, whoever goes into the book has to quest; they have to look for a portal to take them to the next part or story. And there might be additional quests/tests along the way that you have to finish in order for the next portal to activate."

"Dawn's being subjected to tests?" Buffy said worriedly. She hung her head back and sighed. "Great... my little sister is being tested in some weird dimension, I have to search it for her, and I don't know what I'm going to tell my mom without scaring the crap out of her."

"Look at it this way, Slayer, it can't get any worse," Spike said.

Riley came into the shop, smiling broadly. "Hi, everybody, I'm back!"

Spike closed his eyes, "Bloody hell... I was wrong." He knew he shouldn't have said that, he'd jinxed himself. He watched mutely as Buffy flung herself into the ponce's arms.

Buffy had reluctantly called home to tell her mother about Dawn. But she'd gotten lucky (sort of) when Joyce said she was very tired and was going to bed before the girls got home. That gave Buffy a grain of hope that she might be able to get Dawn back, safe and sound, before Joyce woke up in the morning. Buffy made something up about how Dawn was helping Giles with new inventory and wanted to stay until it was finished. She felt bad for lying, but it was better than upsetting her mom. Joyce bought that explanation, and said it was okay for Dawn to stay out late since it was the weekend. She also said to say hello to the others and to give Dawn a kiss goodnight from her.

Anya was sharing everything she knew about the Unari, with Giles tossing in his own knowledge whenever Anya took too long to answer. Buffy wanted to know how to find one of them so they could find out how to get her sister back. But the Unari had gone off the radar, becoming reclusive around the 1960s; not many people had interactions with them, much less knew where to find them. They were powerful, and of course a bit nutty. Their main talent was the ability to create and shape new dimensions, but they were also telepathic. They were fond of using books as portals into the alternate dimensions, such as the one Dawn was looking at when she disappeared.

Anya informed them that she'd heard that all Unari inter-dimensional books had been "locked" around the time the demon-witches became recluses. Dawn shouldn't have been sucked into it, it should have been just a lovely old book with no power. It had to be Dawn's 'uniqueness' that made it possible. But it should be possible to do a spell to activate the book again, to create another portal for someone to go in and bring Dawn back.

"We don't know what's happening to her..." Buffy said, trying to keep her voice from breaking. "She could be suffering."

Willow was looking through the pictures in the book, and stopped at one that caught her eye. "Um, this looks exactly like Dawn... or am I hallucinating?"

The others came over and looked at the picture. It was Dawn, without a doubt. She was smiling brightly, not looking distressed in the least, and she was dressed like a princess in a pink ball gown and diamond-studded tiara. Precious jewels were dripping from her neck and fingers. She was standing at the top of a red-carpeted grand staircase, in mid wave to people below. The gold lettering under the picture read: Her Royal Highness attending the ball.

"Dawn's a princess and literally having a ball." Buffy let herself feel a measure of relief that her sister wasn't being tortured or hurt. "Can we trust this to show what's really happening? Maybe it's just bullshit."

"No," Giles said, "they wouldn't lie about what happens in their books. I believe it's a true representation of what's happening to her; Dawn truly is being treated like a princess."

"How did she get to be a princess?" Buffy asked.

Anya took over again, "She would have had to complete a quest or quests, moving through stories by finding a portal to the next one. She got lucky somehow, or she did a great job on the quests, and ended up a princess."

Willow skimmed the text next to the drawing of Dawn. "It's not part of any established story, as far as I can tell. There are blank pages before and after. What little text there is says that Princess Dawn is one of the prettiest girls in the kingdom, and that she hopes to find a handsome prince-to-be to call her own at the ball."

"Oh God, she'd better not get frickin' married in that story!" Buffy groaned.

"It also says that the ball is actually being thrown for her brother to pick a bride from amongst the many lovely women that came from all over the realm to attend in hopes of becoming his future queen."

"Brother?" Buffy frowned. "What brother?"

"Um..." Willow read more carefully. "It just identifies him as 'Prince Charming'. For what it's worth, Buffy, it doesn't sound like Dawn's in any danger. If she's a princess, she'll be protected from harm."

"Well... I don't care how great a time she might be having, I need to get in there and bring her home." Buffy felt a passing stab of guilt at wanting to disrupt a wonderful fantasy for her sister. Buffy wouldn't mind being able to crawl into a book and be a princess instead of having to deal with the messiness of her real life either. "How can we activate the book for me to go in?"

"It's a quest-based thing," Anya pointed out. "Two people have to go, one won't be allowed."

"I'll go," Spike said immediately.

They looked at him.

"We're not giving you money, Spike," Giles said, thinking that would dissuade him.

"Don't recall asking for any, Rupert. I happen to like Dawn and wouldn't mind helping bring her back," Spike said seriously.

Buffy had to stop and collect her thoughts. It was strange for Spike to care about anything or anyone other than himself, and it touched her that he cared about her sister. She thought Spike had never looked more handsome or gallant as he did at this moment. A small smile turned up on her lips as she and Spike looked at each other.

Riley took Buffy's small hand in his, wanting to show support for his girlfriend. But he mostly didn't like the way that the Slayer and Vampire were looking at each other. They were sort of... gazing across the room into each other's eyes. "I'll go with you, Buffy," Riley offered, squeezing her hand to make her pay attention to him.

Buffy turned her eyes away from Spike's, and up to Riley's. She smiled wider. "Are you sure? It could be dangerous."

Riley grinned. "I'm sure, honey. I'd be happy to help."

"Thanks, Riley. It would make things so much better if you came with me."

The other Scoobies were all happy and congratulatory, saying what a good idea it was for Riley to go with Buffy.

Spike's jaw tensed. He narrowed his eyes at the wholesome twosome, they made him want to heave. As far as he was concerned, the Slayer and her buddies could go spin. He'd made a no-strings attached offer to bring back the fair Dawn, and they'd rejected him -- fuck them then. Riley couldn't hope to measure up to Spike in any way, shape or form. Buffy would find that out when she needed a powerful right-hand and all she had was an ex-soldier boy with a completely valid insecurity complex.

"But Dawn went in by herself, so why wouldn't I be able to?" Buffy asked, looking to Anya.

"I think what happened with Dawn was a fluke," Anya speculated. "Besides, I think you'll have a better chance of getting quickly through it if you have a partner."

They all had to agree with that.

Buffy felt a head-splitting headache coming on strong. "Here's one of the many things I'm still confused about: Dawn just went into the book hours ago... She went through and passed all their tests already?"

"I'm pretty sure time flows differently in the other dimension. What might feel like months to people in the Unari dimension, might just be hours in real world time. That worked out well when the Unari were using the books as prisons. Someone could serve a lengthy sentence and come back out into the real world not long after they left, ready to be a productive member of their society again."

"So there's a chance that I can get Dawn back before my mom knows anything was wrong?" Buffy asked hopefully.

Anya nodded hesitantly, "I think it's possible."

"Good, I'll hold onto that grain of hope. But, on the off-chance that I don't get back before morning, I'll need you guys to try explaining it to my mother in a way that won't freak her out... too much." Unfortunately, some freaking out would be inevitable.

"I'll talk to Joyce if it becomes necessary," Giles assured her.

"Thanks, Giles." She fervently hoped that it wouldn't become necessary. "Will we run into these Unari people in the wacky dimension?"

Anya answered, "I don't know, maybe. I know that they did enjoy observing the subjects and interacting in the fantasy realm."

"What do they look like?"

"Unari are human-like in appearance, except their eyes are red. But they could appear as whoever or whatever they want in their alternate dimensions."

"Oh, that's helpful," Buffy said wryly.

Anya shrugged, "Sorry, that's the best I got."

Buffy sighed. "I'm sorry, Anya, I don't mean to sound grumpy or ungrateful. You've been great with the info giving."

"I understand, Buffy. You're just worried about Dawn."

The two women smiled at each other.

"You said we'll be looking for portals to move from one part to another. What will they look like?"

"They'll most likely manifest themselves as oval-shaped, swirling vortices, perhaps 2 meters in diameter," Giles said quickly before Anya could answer and beat him to it.

Buffy wasn't sure how much 2 meters were in feet, but figured that should be big enough for them to spot.

"I've heard that the portals are bluish in color, and that they give off a sort of energy so you know when one's nearby, like the hairs on your arms and the back of your neck standing up," Anya added. "Odds are that you'll have to complete a quest or action correctly for the next portal to open. And in case you aren't sure, 2 meters equals approximately 5-6 feet."

"Thanks, Anya," Buffy said with a little chuckle. "I know what to look for now."

Giles was happy that Buffy was getting as much information as possible, but it irked him that Anya had trumped him again -- she'd whooped his ass good in the knowledge department today, and his ego was stinging a bit. "Yes, thank you, Anya," he said with a smile, but clenching his teeth.

Xander gave Anya another hug, smiling a dopey smile. "Smartest -- girlfriend -- ever. Better watch your back, G-man," Xander joked. "She might be gunning for your job!"

The others laughed.

"Ha-ha, yes... very droll," Giles chuckled.

He thought, 'Bloody ingrates... I make one error and they're pissing themselves over Anya?' He was surprised to see that Spike was smirking at him, as if he could see through the jovial façade. For all of his faults (of which there were many) Spike was a very intuitive person... Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea for him to be Buffy's companion on the journey, after all.

"Buffy, I think it might be beneficial to have Spike with you," Giles said, surprising everyone, especially Buffy and Spike.

Riley butted his big moon-head in, "No, it's okay, Giles. I'm going. Buffy won't have to be stuck with... him." He smiled smugly at the blonde Vampire.

Spike cracked his neck to the side and smiled as if he were fine with all of it. "Suits me. It's the Slayer's funeral. Well, hers and Dawn's. But it's no skin off my ass, so carry on."

"What makes you think I won't be able to help?" Riley asked, irritated.

Spike replied dryly, "Because I've met you. You're even more of a big-fat deadly-dull dud since you lost your super-soldier skills. But you do follow orders well, so you have that goin' for you. Can't think for yourself, but --"

"Shut up!" Buffy interrupted. "Just... shut up." She was confused now. First she was ready to accept Spike's offer, then she was relieved when her boyfriend volunteered, and now she was back to thinking that maybe Spike was the best choice... even Giles seemed to think so. But it would break Riley's heart if she chose Spike over him for anything. It... would be okay with Riley, he was... He could... He had a good heart, and he did follow orders well. "I'm perfectly happy with Riley," Buffy said, giving his hand a squeeze and smiling up at him.

Riley squeezed back and grinned. "Hey, maybe we'll end up a King and Queen in the story!"

"You're more likely to end up a court jester with bells on your shoes." Spike smirked, pretending it didn't turn his stomach to see them look all googly-eyed at each other.

Everything was in readiness for the portal to be opened.

Willow dropped the last spell component into a bowl, and the book began to vibrate. A stream of energy shot from the book to a spot in the middle of the shop, and expanded into a portal like the one Giles and Anya had described. It was a large, blue, swirling vortex, about 5 feet wide.

Buffy and Riley stood in front of the blue and white whirling portal. She looked at him, "Ready?"

Riley nodded.

Just as they were about to step into it, a white wispy tendril came out of the vortex and hung in the air between them. No one moved. They stared at the white mist nervously.

Buffy said, "Uh, should we be doing something?"

In a flash, the white mist took the form of a hand and shot out past Buffy and Riley to Spike. He had time to widen his eyes before it enveloped him.

Then, in the blink of an eye, it was Spike standing next to Buffy in front of the portal, and Riley was now standing where Spike had been a moment ago.

"What's going --" Buffy began, looking from Spike to Riley.

But her sentence was cut off when the big white hand gave her and Spike a swat from behind, sending them hopping straight into the portal.

Once they disappeared, the white hand zipped back into the vortex, blending with the blue swirls again. And then the portal winked closed with a *whoosh!*.

The Scoobies blinked and looked anxiously at each other.

"What the hell happened!?" Riley whined. "I was supposed to go with Buffy! Spike did something! I know it has to be his fault!"
End Notes:
Be sure to let me know if ya like it so I can decide whether to continue or not :)
Part 1, Chapter 2: Into the Woods by PaganBaby
Buffy and Spike were deposited on the other side of the portal. They stumbled forward, almost falling.

Spike grabbed Buffy's arm to help steady her. Buffy reflexively pulled her arm out of his grasp once her feet were firmly planted -- but there was a moment where she thought that it didn't feel too bad to have his hand on her, and that he was trying to do something nice for a change.

Spike had automatically reached out to prevent her from falling, and he couldn't quite figure out why. He hated her. Yeah... okay, there were the confounding feelings of lust concerning her... and the sex dreams... but he still should've been happy to let her fall on her face... her pretty, sweet face with the kissable lips and... He forced the thoughts away. He was just as confused as Buffy was about what had happened with the portal. Why had it chosen him instead of Riley? At least those Unari buggers seemed to have good taste.

They appeared to be in a forest, trees surrounded them on all sides and stretched as far as they could see. It was the dead of night, the only light came from the full moon shining brightly down from above the treetops. There were night noises coming from all around them: crickets chirping, bullfrogs croaking, an owl or two 'Hooo'ing.

Buffy took a breath. "Well, that was weird... And, oh good, we're in the middle of a forest in the middle of nowhere."

"Not the warmest welcome we could've gotten, but could've been worse," Spike commented. "There could have --" He did a double-take when he looked at her; the moonlight provided enough illumination for them to see each other clearly. "Hey... your clothes are different."

Buffy looked at him, her eyes went wide. "Yours are too." Then she surprised him by busting out laughing.

Spike looked down at his own attire -- he was wearing lederhosen. "Bloody hell! Thought I felt a draft!" The brown leather shorts were shorter than traditional lederhosen (they barely covered the tops of his thighs), they were the style that was usually reserved for young boys. "Not only am I wearing bloody lederhosen, they're the hot-pants version!"

Despite the need to get their bearings and set off in search of Dawn, Buffy couldn't help but laugh until tears leaked from her eyes. Spike in lederhosen was just too damn funny! In addition to the leather breeches, he had on: a white long-sleeved shirt with embroidered edelweiss flowers down the front; a pair of black leather shoes and adorable white knee-socks; embroidered suspenders complete with breastplate; and the piece de resistance -- a green velour alpine hat with a feather sticking out of the band was perched on top of his head.

"No, really, you look great!" Buffy cupped her hands around her mouth and called, "Ricollllllla!"

Spike glared at her. "Glad you find this so bloody amusing..."

She winked at him. "You just need one of those big-ass alpine horns and the look will be perfect."

"Have I told you that I despise you recently?"

"Love the hat, nice touch," Buffy reached up and flicked the feather stuck in the band of the hat (which Spike wasn't yet aware that he was wearing).

With a growl, Spike whipped the hat off of his head and threw it on the ground.

"Aw, it looked good!" Buffy giggled.

"Piss off!"

"You better not leave the hat here. Who knows if we have to keep all of the stuff they put on us. We don't know the rules, we don't want to take any chances."

"I'm not wearing the bloody hat," Spike said conclusively, raising his chin.

"You don't have to wear it, just hold it then, you big baby." Buffy felt guilty that she was actually a bit relieved that Spike was the one sent through with her. She'd only chosen Riley for fear of hurting his feelings, and he'd seemed so... needy lately. Spike was stronger, faster, and more cunning by far than her boyfriend. Spike was also an obnoxious jerk most of the time. Hopefully he wouldn't make her want to kill him too much.

"Gotta say, I'm not loving this so far." Spike grumbled and snatched the hat back up off of the ground. He shook the hat to get rid of some dirt and leaves sticking to it. "Things had better improve. I'm not some bloody Bavarian Ken doll that they can dress and pose."

"At least your area isn't smooth." She laughed and then raised her eyebrows. "Is it?"

Spike gulped at the thought. His hand rushed to his crotch. He sighed with relief as he adjusted his package. "No, not smooth."

Then it was Buffy's turn to gulp as she watched Spike cup and fiddle with his bulge -- it was a big bulge. Funny that she hadn't noticed that right away with the shorts being so very short and close-fitting. The whole ensemble had just struck her as so funny that she hadn't focused on any one part of it.

'Damn! Spike looks huge in those shorts! Wonder how big it is?' She swallowed hard again, forcing her eyes away from his groin, and the bad, evil thoughts from her mind.

Spike eyed her critically, wanting to make fun of her so badly. But, whereas Spike looked and felt ridiculous, Buffy looked lovely. Her blonde hair seemed to be much longer than it was back in Sunnydale, it had been braided, twisted into a bun and pinned in place on her head. Her clothing was Bavarian in style too. She was wearing a black knee-length dirndl dress with purple and green embroidery; a white button-up, short-sleeved blouse; a light purple eyelet apron that came down to the hem of the dress; black leather shoes with straps and buckles across the arches, and her own pair of adorable white knee-socks.

Spike suppressed a snarl that he couldn't find something in particular to make fun of her about. It infuriated him that she looked pretty. But he had to at least attempt to take the piss out of her, especially after the belly laugh she'd had at his expense. He affected a smug smirk. "Look like you've been waiting tables at Oktoberfest. I'll have a stein of your finest lager, and a plate of schnitzengruben, tausend dank!"

Buffy was checking out her outfit, totally unconcerned and unaffected at his attempt to take her down a notch too. "Spike, don't even try. There is no way in hell that I look sillier than you."

He growled softly in annoyance; he knew she had him there. "So... what are we supposed to be -- dressed in our finery as we are?"

"Not sure. I think it's safe to say that we're supposed to be German though."

Spike rolled his eyes, "Say, you're good."

She put her hands on her hips. "I was being sarcastic, blood breath. You don't get to be sarcastic and mock me when I meant to be sarcastic in the first place. Why did you have to be the one to come through the portal with me? I have to get stuck in another dimension with the most obnoxious person -- living or dead, or living dead -- in the entire world. I was supposed to be teamed with Riley -- and I get you!" She pretended she was totally displeased about the situation, because if he knew the truth he would gloat his ass off.

"You think this is a dream come true for me?!" Spike's temper flared. "The puppet masters dress me in this silly, bloody uncomfortable outfit, and I don't even get to enjoy the peace of you being off in another dimension because I got shoved in with you! Would've been like going on bloody holiday. And as far as Riley 'Wonder Bread' Finn goes, be grateful you got me instead. In me, you have someone who will get the job bloody well done without you havin' to mollycoddle him!"

They stared each other down for a minute.

Buffy shook her head and sighed. "Okay, this isn't a good thing for either of us. It sucks being forced to work together. And we both could have used the break from each other."

"Too bloody right." Spike didn't want to admit even to himself how being near Buffy made his blood sing in his veins. She was a bitch -- but she was a hot and spicy little bitch whom he hungered for.

"You're saying 'bloody' much more than usual," she observed with a slight smile. They were trapped together in this place until they found their way to Dawn and back out into the real world, she'd have to make more of an effort to get along with Spike, or at least hold back on the overwhelming urge to pummel him.

Spike shrugged, feeling a little smile tugging at his lips as well. "Well, yeah. The bloodys tend to bubble outta me when I'm on a roll." He cleared his throat, then said, "So, what now? We prowl around these woods aimlessly hunting for clues that lead us to Dawn or another portal?"

"You got a better idea?" Buffy asked.

Spike opened his mouth to say something snarky, but just shook his head. "Right. Let's get on with it then."

He walked a little ahead of her, casting his eyes around them for anything that looked out of place in the setting.

Buffy was doing the same, but also taking a closer look at Spike while his attention was elsewhere. His calves were muscular, though a little on the skinny side. His thighs looked good... damn good. Meaty and firm... And his ass looked amazing in the little leather shorts...

'Did I just think that? Wow... I'm perving on Spike's thighs and ass? This dimension is making me think wacky thoughts! I just won't look at him as much... and when I do, I will only see the silly, not any hotness.' It alarmed her that she was actually starting to get a little turned on.

They traveled in relative silence for a while. The calm and quiet were eerie. There were none of the customary city sounds: no planes overhead, no trains in the distance, no car engines or horns. Just sounds of the forest and its denizens.

Spike was on the lookout for anything unusual, but was also praying that there wouldn't be bears involved. He hated those gigantic, furry, sharp-toothed gits...

"Why do you think that I got... chosen to go into the portal with you?" Spike asked.

"No idea... Riley looked okay after you two got switched. Surprised, but okay. It does worry me why they picked you instead of him."

Spike shrugged. He was about to say that the portal keepers must've been able to detect how lame Riley was, when something caught his eye.

Spike stopped and turned, looking eastward. He nodded in the direction, "I see something. A light."

"Is it a portal?" Buffy asked, straining to see what Spike had spotted. Her eyesight wasn't as keen as his, but she thought she could make out something, a speck of light. It looked as big as a firefly to her.

"Can't say... Could be. We need to get closer."

They nodded to each other and walked toward the point of light.

They walked for a half hour to get to the source of the light, emerging on a pastoral country road that ran north and south.

The light turned out to be coming from a picturesque, isolated cottage. It was the only dwelling that they had seen so far. The moonlight was still strong and bright enough for them to see clearly. There was a quaint, flower-lined path leading up to the front door.

They stopped outside of the white picket fence and looked up at the house.

"Is that house made of..."

"Candy?" Spike finished, nodding. "Looks that way, don't it? Wonder who's at home?"

Smoke billowed up from the chimney. The smoke, and the light coming from the windows, indicated the house was currently occupied. And yes, the house had been constructed with a vast variety of sweets: peppermint sticks, gingerbread, chocolate bonbons, cookies, cakes, licorice, etc.

"Oh! That witch's house was made of candy! The gingerbread house. I guess we're supposed to be Hansel and Gretel," Buffy assumed. "I didn't think we'd actually be playing the parts of title characters in one of the fairy tales..."

"Yeah, that would explain the spiffy threads," Spike said, grimacing at his clothes. "They left a trail breadcrumbs in the story..."

"Yeah, they did..." Buffy only just noticed a pocket in her purple apron. She opened it to reveal a pouch full of breadcrumbs. She looked back up at Spike. "Oops... you think we were supposed to leave these behind us?"

"With my luck? Yes."

They both tensed when the front door of the cottage creaked open. Then their eyes widened in surprise when Willow appeared in the doorway smiling and waving at them.

"I thought I heard voices out here."

"Willow?" Buffy stared at her friend.

"Hello!" Willow was wearing a dirndl similar to Buffy's.

"What are you doing here? Did you come through too? Is anyone else here?" She started to go through the gate.

Spike took Buffy by the elbow. She frowned and looked at where he was holding her firmly. "Hey, hands off!" She pulled her arm away from him. Was that a jolt of... excitement she felt at the feel of his hand on her bare arm? No, couldn't be...

He whispered, looking at Willow standing in the doorway, "Listen to me, you silly bint, that ain't Willow." A breeze had carried the pretty witch's smell to his nose.

Buffy looked back at her friend, who was still smiling, but beginning to look mopey. "What do you mean that isn't her? How do you know?"

"Let's just say that I know each of your groupies by scent alone -- could identify them if I was blindfolded." Spike kept how well he knew (and secretly loved) Buffy's unique scent to himself. "I don't know who or what she really is, but it isn't your friend."

"Is something wrong?" Willow asked.

Buffy looked to Spike again. "Let's... play along for now. Even if that isn't Willow, we still might find out something important."

Spike stepped closer to her, their chests brushing together, he whispered in her ear, "Are you mad? If she's the owner of the candy cottage, that means she's the witch in the story -- you remember what that daft bitch tried doing to the kiddies?"

Buffy shivered. The thought of getting killed and eaten by someone was chilling enough. But the shivering was also due to Spike's excessive closeness, the feel of his breath tickling her ear, and his deep, velvety voice.

"Hello?" Willow said, getting impatient. "Is everything alright? Do you need help?"

Buffy took a small step back from Spike, blinking up into his blue eyes. She felt like she was being pulled into him. He looked so incredibly gorgeous by moonlight... She turned and addressed Willow, "Oh, sorry, we're just kind of tired from walking."

Willow's smile reappeared. "Why don't you come in and rest for a while? Weary travelers are perfectly welcome in my home."

"Yeah, I'll bet," Spike said under his breath.

Buffy tugged on his shirt sleeve, "Play along."

Spike was about to say no, but Buffy walked up the path to the front door. He groaned, and with a shake of his head, followed her. "Stubborn bloody women..." He thought that playing into this, whatever this was, was a big mistake. They had foreknowledge of how things were likely to go, they knew the fairy tale. So why be so cooperative and stretch their own necks out on the chopping block? But Buffy just had to be the bloody boss of everyone and everything.

"My name's Willow. Have you been traveling on the road for long?"

Buffy tried adjusting to the weirdness, and answered, "Hi, I'm Buffy and... this is Spike. Um, actually we're kind of lost. I'm looking for my sister, Dawn. She's young and pretty, tall, long brown hair... Maybe you've seen her?"

"You're the first people I've seen in days. I'm sorry, I don't think I've seen your sister." She looked at both of them in turn. "Are you two siblings or sweethearts?" Willow asked with a shrewd smile.

They both looked horrified, saying, "Neither!"

Willow chuckled. "Oh, I'm sorry, I just assumed it was one or the other. Come in, won't you?" She stood to the side to let them pass through the doorway.

They didn't move for a few seconds. It probably wasn't a good idea to let her stay behind them, just in case she pulled out an axe and got to hacking. But Buffy went forward into the house, cautiously. Spike trailed closely behind her.

The inside of the cottage seemed to consist of two rooms (perhaps more that they couldn't see), and was neat as a pin. The air was filled with delicious aromas, making their mouths water and their stomachs rumble. This room looked to be the main room. The centerpiece was a hearth made of red brick. They took instant notice of the giant black cauldron over the blazing fire, wondering if and how Willow intended on getting them into it. The pot was big enough to hold one of them if they were curled up (or both, if they were chopped up). There was a round wooden table near the fireplace heaped with candies, cakes, nuts and pancakes, all manner of treats.

There weren't any obvious warning signs: no pools of blood on the floor, no hands sticking out of the cauldron, etc. There was a sharp axe hanging on the wall, but that would be common for people living in a rustic place like this.

Willow's voice made them jump. "Make yourselves at home. You must be dying of thirst! I'll go fetch some fresh, cold water from the well for you." She picked up one of two buckets near the door and hurried away down the path.

"We can't eat or drink anything she gives us," Spike muttered, looking at the tasty-looking treats on the table.

"Well, duhhhh," Buffy made a stupid person face, crossing her eyes and letting her jaw hang open.

"I'm just sayin'. Thought her looking like your bestie might've given you a false sense of security."

"I'm not totally brain dead, Spike."

"Maybe not totally," he smirked.

"Shut up."

"That's your simple answer to everything, innit? That, or a punch."

"I prefer the 'shut up/punch' combo. But I'll forego any violence... for now."

Spike drawled, "You're too kind... and so predictable."

"Okay, how about... I draw a picture of you in that cute outfit you have on when we get back to Sunnydale, and show it to everyone? Maybe even make hundreds of copies and put them up around town. And I'm pretty damn good at drawing, I think I could capture you perfectly," she closed one eye and put her hands up to frame him.

"You would, wouldn't you?" Spike asked, his lip twitching up.

"Yep. I don't know why you're so upset about it, I think you look just darling!"

"Get bent, Heidi." Spike rubbed his forehead. "Think we can take a timeout from the insults and threats long enough to suss out what the bloody hell we're supposed to do about the most likely evil, cannibalistic witch who looks like Willow?"

"We'll pretend everything's cool... to a point. She's here, and looks like my best friend for a reason. She might be able to tell us what to do or where to go."

"Or, she'll incapacitate us and try dumping us in that sodding pot. I still say we just take our chances on the road."

"With no idea if we're on the right track? This dimension could be enormous, we could be wandering around for days. We must have been walking through those woods for over an hour. You can go if you want, but I'm staying to see what info I can get," Buffy said confidently.

Spike groaned. "Yeah, that's a brilliant idea -- splitting up. You know that we have a better chance of getting through this together."

"Then I guess you're staying." She smiled and went to sit down on a long, padded wooden bench that seemed to be the most comfortable piece of furniture. Buffy patted the space next to her.

Spike sighed and sat down near her on the bench. He tossed the much-hated green hat down next to him. "Holding the bloody hat made my palm sweaty." He wiped his hand on the front of his shirt.

"You should've just worn it on your head then, genius."

"Oh, stick it, Slayer. I'd rather deal with a sweaty hand than wear that thing. And did I mention how nice it is that you consider my opinions so very much?"

"What're you talking about?"

"You didn't even pretend to mull over what I thought we should do -- it's always your plan, innit? I haven't lived as bloody long as I have without having spot-on instincts about danger and how to avoid being in the thick of it."

Buffy pouted exaggeratedly, "Aww, did I hurt your feelings?"

"God, you're such a bitch... You need to listen to other people sometimes, you don't have all of the answers. You don't always know what's best."

"People, I'll listen to, but you ain't exactly 'people'. And the fact that you've survived as long as you have is a total mystery to me. You're one of the most incompetent villains I've ever met."

Spike turned to her, getting angrier. "Incompetent!? I was running my own bloody gangs when your granddad wasn't a twinkle in great-granddad's eye! I've had up to 20 minions under me at a time!"

"Yeah, I'm sure you have," Buffy said, her face screwing up at imagining a Vamp sex orgy.

Spike growled and sat back, letting his anger deflate. "Getting into another shouting match with you isn't going to accomplish anything... with the possible exception of me saving Willow the trouble and tossing you in the cauldron myself. We need to get strategizing, not ripping at each other."

"Who's shouting and ripping? Not me," Buffy said innocently. "And if you lay a hand on me? I'll put a major hurtin' on you, so don't even think about it."

Spike growled some more. "Just try to think of how we get the particulars we need out of the faux-Willow without ending up 'Spuffy soup'."

They sat in awkward silence on the wooden bench thinking and waiting for the person who looked like Willow (but wasn't Willow) to return with water from her well.

"What's takin' her so long?" Spike asked suspiciously. "She's probably slippin' a Mickey into the water as we speak..."

"Being on guard is good, but take the paranoia down a notch. Try to at least appear relaxed." She looked at Spike and couldn't help giggling again, focusing once more on the silly, as she'd promised herself she'd do.

"What're you gigglin' about?" he said defensively, frowning. "You find any part of this funny?"

Buffy put her hand over her mouth, still grinning. "Skinny legs."

"Sod off!" Spike snarled and squirmed; he would literally kill for a pair of jeans right about now. "There's nothin' wrong with my legs!"

Willow appeared in the doorway carrying a bucket of water. They sobered and sat up straight, painting smiles on their faces. She came in and closed the door.

"I'm sorry it took so long. That well's been giving me trouble lately."

"That's okay. You have... such a nice home," Buffy said. "You live here alone?"

"Thank you, and yes, it's just me here. It does get lonely sometimes... That's why it's always a delight to have guests!"

"That's quite a spread you have there, Willow," Spike nodded toward the table piled with candy goodness. "Looks like you were expecting guests..."

"I had a good feeling that I'd be graced with company tonight. Would you like some?" She swept a hand over the table. "As you can see, there's plenty for all!"

"Nah, we're good," Spike said, ignoring his stomach's growly answer. "Been cutting back on the sweeties lately."

"Me too," Buffy nodded in agreement.

Willow's face clouded for a split-second before the pleasant smile returned. "Well, if you change your mind, feel free to take what you like. But surely you haven't cut back on water!" She giggled and took two tin mugs from a shelf, put them on the table and filled them with water. With a wholly innocent-looking smile, she brought the mugs to them.

They each accepted a mug, and then glanced at each other.

"Um, thanks, Willow," Buffy said politely, looking up at her and smiling.

"Yeah... thanks," Spike said, eyeing the mug with trepidation. He cleared his throat. "So... Willow, I couldn't help but notice that your entire house is made of candy as well. That's something you don't see everyday."

"Yes, isn't it wonderful?" Willow asked, grinning. "Children, especially, seem to be thrilled when they see it! I always let them have a little piece of my home to snack on."

Buffy asked, "Uh, have you seen any portals around here? We're looking for one that will lead us to my sister."

"A portal?"

"Yeah, it would probably be a big swirly, vortex-looking thing, maybe blue."

"Oh, I think there is something like that around here... But it's too far to journey to tonight. The roads and forest are treacherous at night, I can show you the way in the morning."

"Uh, that doesn't work for me, luv. I've got... sunlight issues," Spike said. "It has to be tonight. Just point us in the right direction and we'll be off."

"Sunlight issues?" Willow asked with a frown.

Buffy answered, "Um, yeah, my... friend here has a bad reaction to sunlight. Makes him burn up... with fever."

"And there's severe freckling involved," Spike added.

"Oh... I'm sorry to hear that. Well, I really wish you'd consider waiting... I'm not prepared to take the risk of going out until daybreak."

"I'm positive that we can take care of ourselves, no worries. Can you give us directions?" Spike asked.

"If you're not in the mood for a sweet treat, I made a delicious rabbit stew, and I just happen to have made much too much for just me!" Willow said cheerfully, ignoring his question. "It really is as if I knew you were coming!" She laughed merrily. "I'll fix each of you a bowl. You're both too thin! It never hurts to have some extra meat on your bones."

Buffy pretended to take a sip of water. "Uh, no, that's okay. I had a big lunch."

"Yeah, same here," Spike said, then also pretended to take a drink. He was getting a bit hungry, but didn't think he should announce that he was a Vampire by asking if she had a pint of blood just laying around.

"Nonsense." Willow continued, undeterred. She took a wooden bowl and went to the hearth. She ladled some stew into the bowl from the big black cauldron.

Buffy and Spike looked at each other again, silently asking how to refuse to eat without possibly pissing off this dimension's version of Willow.

She came back to them, holding the bowl out. "Just take a peek at how delicious my stew looks, and it smells heavenly!" She bent down and took a whiff herself before thrusting it toward them again.

They both leaned in to look and take a sniff. It did look and smell tasty. But they had to pass on eating or drinking anything she gave them. They amiably told her she was right about how appetizing the stew looked.

"You know, I will have some, thanks," Buffy said, causing Spike to give her a puzzled look. She took the bowl and sniffed the contents again, "Mmm-mmm!"

Willow grinned and fetched a spoon and a cloth napkin, and then gave them to Buffy. She put a hand on her hip and looked at Spike, "What about you, Mr. Skinny Breeches?" Willow asked.

Spike growled lightly at hearing Buffy try to contain a chuckle. He smiled a false (but charming) smile at Willow. "No, thanks, Red. Maybe you can make me a doggie bag to go."

"So you're still set on leaving?"

They both nodded.

"I told you that it's dangerous out there in the dark." She shook her head and went to replace the cover on the cooking pot. "You're very fortunate that you weren't attacked by animals or thieves before you discovered my home."

Buffy used her distraction to spoon some of the stew into her napkin so that it would look like she'd eaten some. It was a shame to have to be this cautious, Buffy was thirsty and a little hungry.

Spike wasn't in the mood for all of this 'play along' bollocks. The sooner they found the portal, the sooner they could find Dawn and get the fuck out of this crazy dimension -- and he'd have a proper pair of long-pants to slip into again.

Spike stood up. "Look, Willow, we don't have time to sit and visit. We really need to get back on the road. Can you just tell us where the portal is and..." He blinked, his vision was blurring. His extremities were going numb. He swayed on his feet and tried to take a step, but his knees buckled and he pitched forward onto the floor.

"Spike!" Buffy was kneeling next to him in a flash.

"Wha... Wha's she done to m-me?" Spike said, slurring the words and trying to get his arms and legs to work. "Buffy, I... can't..." He struggled to focus his eyes, to get control of his body again, to no avail.

"What'd you do to him?!" Buffy's head shot up to look at Willow.

Willow's smile expanded. "The same thing I did to you!"

With a miserable groan, Spike slumped fully to the floor, passing out.

Buffy shook him. "Spike! Spike, wake up!"

Willow laughed. "Oh, he won't be waking up any time soon. And you should be following him into unconsciousness any second now!"

Buffy was about to jump to her feet and force Willow to tell her what she'd done, when a wave of dizziness washed over her. She moaned when her head began to swim and her sight dimmed. "I d-didn't eat or dr-drink!" She was confused as to how she and Spike had been drugged, or whatever it was that was done to them.

"Oh, don't try to fight it. It's so much easier if you don't fight." Willow cackled with glee. "Sweet dreams, Buffy!"

Buffy didn't have the strength to hold herself upright any longer, she couldn't combat whatever it was that Willow had given her. It had to be mighty powerful to take down a Vampire and a Slayer. She wobbled, and then fell on top of Spike.

Willow did a little jig, swishing her skirts and laughing.
Part 1, Chapter 3: Out of the Frying Pan... by PaganBaby
Spike came to with a groan. He couldn't remember what had happened. Why was he laying on the ground? Why was his head spinning? Did he drink too much whiskey again?

He opened his eyes to see the witch standing over him, and he gasped. Everything that had transpired came rushing back to him. It was startling to have someone grinning down at him when he opened his eyes, but her appearance also surprised him. She didn't look like Willow anymore. She looked more nightmarish, more like what you'd expect a fairy tale witch to look: green blotchy skin with dark spider veins all over; yellow crooked teeth; eyes as black as midnight; her hair a frizzy, ratty black mess. And yet it was still Willow's face underneath it all... it was unnerving to say the least.

Spike gulped, trying to get his wits about him. "Your face..."

"I didn't need the glamour anymore, it served its purpose. It allowed me to lure the flies into my web. I put on that face for company and other special occasions!" She snickered.

Her voice was different too. It wasn't Willow's soft, sweet voice. Maybe more like what she'd sound like if she gargled with gravel and broken glass.

Spike felt his strength returning along with consciousness. He moved backwards until his back came up against the wall. The rattling of chains alerted him to the fact that his right ankle was shackled and chained to the wall.

He picked up the chain and yanked on it, but it wouldn't break. He looked up at the witch when she laughed again.

"You can't break it, dear boy. You'll only tire yourself out and make your meat all stringy if you keep trying. And then neither of us will be happy."

He struggled to keep his human visage in place as he snarled at her. "Where's Buffy?!"

"Right over there," she pointed with a black-clawed hand to another corner of the room.

Buffy was laying on the floor in a heap, unconscious, and also shackled to the wall by her ankle.

"You crazy bitch! Let us go now or you're going to be so bloody sorry!"

"Heeheehee! Oh no, I'm keeping you." She skipped over to the table and picked up an armful of treats, then dropped them on the floor near Spike. "Eat."

"Are you out of your... Scratch that -- you're obviously insane. But you're nuttier than you look if you think I'm eating anything you give me."

"I have no reason to weaken you again. You're mine, I have you." She grinned evilly. "Now, eat."

"Fuck you!" Spike kicked away the food, scattering it on the floor.

Her grin turned into a scowl. "You bad, messy, wasteful boy! You're going to eat all of it if I have to shove it down your throat!"

"Bollocks to this!" Spike sprang up to his feet and lunged at her. As soon as he grabbed her by the arms, bolts of agony shot through his body, causing him to shout in pain, release her, and fall to his knees. It was different from the pain he normally got from the chip. It was intensified, and caused every cell in his body scream at once.

He went onto his hands and knees, panting for breath and shaking as the pain slowly ebbed.

Wicked Willow placed a swift kick to his face. Spike grunted and fell back onto the floor on his side. He looked up at her once-again smiling face.

"Don't try that again. You see what happens to naughty boys?"

"What the fuck was that?!" Spike said breathlessly, blood trickled from the corner of his mouth.

"The pain? Oh, that's just a little protection spell I whipped up. Sometimes my little darlings don't want to play nice and try to harm me. The same will happen if you put your hands on me again, boy. I suggest you don't try... Your head just might explode!" The sound of her laugh cut through him like a dentist's drill.

Spike pushed himself up until he could lean back against the wall. He was sitting on a mat with a blanket on it that the witch had thoughtfully provided him for a bed. He felt so weak after getting zapped, all he could do was sit there and look at her. His mouth still worked though. "What'd you do to us? We didn't eat or drink any of the shit you tried plying us with..."

"People aren't as trusting as they used to be. Time was when I couldn't keep little pests like you from taking a bite out of my house. I adapted the potion I put in the food to work if you inhale it as well. And you and your little friend had big snootfuls. Works wonderfully! I'm immune to it, so I had no trouble staying awake."

Spike looked over at Buffy, getting worried that she wasn't awake yet. "She's... She is going to wake up, isn't she?"

"Yes, I'm surprised she hasn't yet... Hmm, maybe she had too much or had a bad reaction to it. That would be a shame, I had plans for her." Wicked Willow shrugged. "Well, I can always get a new girlie."

Spike hoped that Buffy would be alright, he needed her help to get out of this madhouse. And... he just didn't like the idea of her being dead and gone; the thought made his heart ache. He told himself it was only because he wanted the privilege of killing her himself one day. But deep down he knew it was because he cared for her, he loved her... And that thought filled him with anger, he shouldn't -- he couldn't -- actually love the Slayer!

He turned his rage on the witch. "Take these bloody chains off of us! We're not gonna kowtow to you or be good slaves, so just end it now! And maybe we won't take you apart piece by piece before we go on our way!"

She laughed in response. "Oh, you are entertaining! Such big-talk. You'll do exactly as I say, or there will be consequences."

Spike was going to retort when he heard Buffy groan. He turned to her, not able to stop a smile from lighting up his face. His mind yelled with joy, 'She's alive! My Buffy’s alive!'

He pushed past the giddiness, forcing the smile away. He glanced at Wicked Willow, and then back to Buffy. "Buffy-luv? You alright?"

She sat up slowly and blinked at him and the witch. She was relieved not to be looking at her friend's face, but the new face wasn't nearly as easy on the eyes.

Spike looked at the witch. "Yeah, our hostess took off her company face. Nice, eh?"

"About time you woke up, little girl! I thought you might have died before the time was right for it. I was just wondering if I should bother cooking a skinny thing like you, or just throw your carcass out into the forest to feed hungry wolves.”

Buffy was so irate that she couldn't move or speak for a few seconds. Seeing blood on Spike's lip enraged her further. 'Oh, she did NOT hurt him! It is so ON!' She grit her teeth and shot up off the floor, barreling at the witch.

"Buffy, don't!" Spike shouted in warning.

But Buffy was moving too fast to stop to ask why she shouldn't charge the evil green bitch. She didn't realize that she was chained to the wall. The witch was taken by surprise, but quickly recovered (much faster than a normal human could) and moved just out of the limit for Buffy's chain.

Buffy's right leg jerked back when she reached the limit, and then she fell unceremoniously onto her face only a few feet away from the witch. Spike winced when she hit the floor. She groaned and lifted her face to see the witch cackling and grinning at her.

"Oh, you're a naughty one too! Same as the boy."

"What's this 'boy' shit?" Spike was irritated to be referred to as a 'boy'. Angelus used to call him boy or boyo from time to time, therefore Spike hated it.

"You have a dirty mouth. I can see that the two of you will need to be taught manners! Training new ones is always a challenge."

Buffy smiled just a bit as Wicked Willow walked within her reach again. She gathered her strength once more, and hopped up to her feet.

Spike could see Buffy's butt-kicking expression and tried to warn her, but again, she was too fast. He only got out, "She has --!"

Buffy's hands wrapped around the witch's neck. The moment her hands made contact, the same agony that Spike had experienced ripped through her body. She screamed, her face twisting with pain. Her hands fell away from the witch's neck and her legs gave out.

Spike finished lamely, "... a protection spell." He felt sick (but mostly angry) that Buffy was on the floor trembling and whimpering. He didn't want to see her hurt -- though there was a small, grim satisfaction that she now had an idea about what he went through every time he tried hitting a human.

The witch kicked Buffy in the ribs, making her 'Oooph!' and clutch her side.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” the witch shook her head and clucked her tongue. “Very bad and mischievous. The boy’s had his first correction too. Maybe you’ll think twice before you try something like that again, eh?” She walked past Buffy.

Spike would have gone to see if Buffy was alright, but his chain was much shorter than hers, only about 4 ft. long. "Tried to warn you 'bout the protection spell."

Buffy pushed herself up into a sitting position. "Yeah... would've been nice to know about that before I grabbed her." The pain was receding, but it still made her tremble. She'd never felt a pain like that in her life, and didn't care to feel it again. Which made them being able to get away much, much more difficult.

"Go back to your corner, Buffy," the witch ordered, pointing to where Buffy had woken up. There was a ratty blanket on the floor serving as a bed for her.

Buffy glared at her, but slowly complied. She sat with her back to the wall to rest and get her strength back. "Why did you do this? We didn't mean you any harm."

"Haven't you figured it out yet? I'm going to eat you! I'll gobble you down with a creamy Hollandaise, and just the right spices -- a pinch of tarragon, chervil, onion..." She smacked her lips and rubbed her stomach.

"You have all this food... your fucking house is made of food!" Buffy uttered with revulsion. "Why would you eat people?!"

"Because I like eating people! Especially little scamps like the two of you." She licked her lips with a snake-like black tongue. "You're going to be simply delicious!"

Buffy and Spike stared at her, their minds going a mile a minute to figure a way out of this.

"You think we're going to let you kill and eat us?" Buffy asked.

"I don't see that you have a choice in the matter, dearie! Hmm, I wonder what side dishes would best compliment you..." the witch wondered aloud, tapping her whiskered chin with a black fingernail. "Some boiled potatoes with parsley and butter, some fresh, chopped carrots from the garden, some..." She kept naming side dishes as she went into the other room.

"What the fuck are we going to do now?" Spike whispered urgently.

"You think I know?! What do you think we should do?"

"Oh, now you want my opinion?! I thought you had all the bloody answers!"

"Will you just --" Buffy stopped talking when the witch came back into the room.

"Now, you children behave yourselves while I go tend to my garden." She picked up what looked a wand made of gnarled black wood, it was about a foot long and shaped like a lightening bolt. "If you get up to mischief while I'm gone, you'll be punished. I can accomplish many tasks with my wand, one of which is delivering the same pain you felt when you put your hands on me. Keep that in mind." She pointed the wand at each of them in turn, and then went out the door.

Spike noted that it was daytime. Judging by the brightness of the light coming from the windows, it was maybe about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. He was thankful that he wasn’t chained up near a window. He would’ve burned to a cinder before he came to... But maybe that would have turned out to be the kinder fate. Getting eaten by the crazy witch sounded a lot worse than the fast sizzle and *foom* of getting caught in the sun. And, with him being a Vampire, she could chop off and cut out parts of him without killing him and draw it out for weeks. She was sack of hammers, so she’d probably get a real kick out of that. It would be best to keep his true nature under wraps.

As soon as the door shut, they began pulling on the chains that bound them to the wall. But neither of them made any headway.

"Damn it! They must be... enchanted!" Buffy said between clenched teeth, pulling with all of her might.

Spike growled, dropped his chain, and sat back down. "Play along, she said... and I was stupid enough to listen to you! If we'd done it my way, we wouldn't be here chained to the bloody wall by a crazy bitch who wants to eat us!"

Buffy stopped pulling on her chain and glared at him. "Oh yes, I was wondering how long before the 'I told you so's' started."

"Well it's bloody true! I think I'm entitled to a few 'I told you so's' since I‘m front-and-center in this bloody mess!"

"Again with the over-usage of ‘bloody’. How do you know that this isn't what we need to do to get out of here?"

"Call me crazy, Slayer, but I'm not seeing how this can be a positive development." Spike kicked ineffectually at the wall.

"I mean, yes, this sucks major ass, but you know how the story goes: Hansel and Gretel escape from the witch. So odds are that we will too... somehow." Buffy rattled her chain.

"Yeah, we need to work on the somehow part."

Buffy took a breath, braced herself, got a good grip on the chain and pulled as hard as she could. Spike watched, hoping to see the chain snap, but it didn't. The whole house was, in all likelihood, enchanted to prevent the witch's captives from breaking out.

"Slayer, if that chain gives now, you're gonna shoot across the room and clean-through the wall."

Buffy stopped, catching her breath, and kicked the wall. "Goddamn it!" She sat down and groaned in frustration. "I'm still wondering what she did to make us pass out..."

"Said it was a sleeping potion in the stew that works if you eat it or inhale it."


"Shit, indeed."

Buffy looked intently at the blood on his mouth. "She hurt you?"

Spike used the back of his hand to wipe away the blood, and then licked it off of his hand. "Gave me a boot to the face for grabbin' her. It was a love-tap compared to the pain I got from touching her. Don't have to tell you how bad it is... felt like I was being turned inside out."

Buffy wasn't sure why seeing Spike's bloody lip had fueled her initial fury. Not because she cared for him -- nope. It was probably because... because he was with her, he was her traveling companion, so an assault on him was also one on her. And no one got away with hurting her. Yeah... that had to be the reason.

A short time later, the witch came back inside. And much to Buffy’s chagrin, the witch once again looked exactly like her friend Willow. They both looked at the witch with a combination of fear, loathing, and bitterness.

She giggled. “Oh, cheer up, my lovelies! I want to see smiles on those pretty faces!”

They had to bite their tongues to keep from answering with profanity.

"Strange... you don't prefer me looking like this, do you? I would think the glamour would be more to your liking. So why isn‘t it?" the witch asked curiously. She noticed Buffy's displeasure in particular.

"You... You look like a friend of mine," Buffy admitted in a small voice, looking away. "You have no right to look like her... she's the sweetest person in the world."

Wicked Willow laughed and clapped her hands. "How delightful! What a happy coincidence!"

"Yeah, coincidence... somehow I doubt that," Buffy muttered. “You just happen to look like my best friend, and have her name.”

Spike asked the witch straight-out, "Are you one of the Unari?" He wanted to cut to the chase and quit playing games. "If you are, just bloody well come out with it and we'll go from there. This is all really a bit much."

"I don't know that word... What's an Unari?" Wicked Willow asked, perplexed.

Spike sighed, not seeing even a glimmer of recognition in her eyes. "Nevermind."

"Something you said last night puzzled me, boy. You said you had to leave before daybreak because of 'sunlight issues'..."

Spike hated to expand on it, the witch would surely use his weaknesses against him. But he didn't have much of a choice. She'd probably test him whether he told her the truth or not. "I... can't stand direct sunlight. It makes my skin burn and blister."

"Hmmm, interesting..." Evil Willow said, pondering that. "I've never heard of such a thing. So if I chained you near the window, you'd sizzle and burn like a slab of bacon on a hot griddle?"

"Yes... I would." Spike didn't want to tell her the whole truth about his nature. That he had super-strength and acute senses would be better kept from their jailor for the time being.

"That wouldn't do at all. I don't want you to cook until you're ready."

Spike decided on trying honey, as opposed to vinegar, to possibly appeal to their hostess. “Willow, we shouldn’t be adversaries, you and me. We’re on the same side,” he said, standing up and turning on the charm. His voice was smooth as silk.

Buffy frowned at him.

“Is that so?” Evil Willow asked curiously.

“I’m evil through-and-through, just like you, luv. And I can respect the sweet setup you got here: luring the kiddies with the candy house and using the cute, innocent-looking glamour to lull them into a false sense of security. And the sleeping potion you put in the food? Very clever.”

“Hmm, you're flattering me. I do enjoy flattery... Go on.” She passed a hand over her own face, instantly transforming back to the non-pleasant, green face.

Spike was unnerved for a moment at seeing the transformation, but was able to carry on. “It... just seems a shame for us to be enemies. I could even help you out, we could be partners.”

Buffy bit her tongue, too upset to talk. Spike had conned her and was offering to help the witch kill and eat children! She was a fool to think he might've had any decency at all -- he was still an evil bastard.

Spike swallowed, and licked his lips. He'd hoped that they would've been able to escape before he had to tell the witch what he really was, but that hadn't happened. And it was getting critical now that he reveal the truth. The crazy bitch had to understand why she couldn't fatten him up, and he needed to try and convince her that he'd make a better ally than he would a meal.

"I'm a Vampire." Spike finally got the words out.

"Vampire," the witch said slowly. "What's that?"

Spike felt optimistic that she didn't appear to know what Vampires were, therefore she wouldn't automatically know his strengths and weaknesses. "A Vampire, we’re... sort a demon/Human hybrid.”

“A half-breed?”

“The politically correct term is ‘hybrid’, thanks ever so.”

"You don't look like a demon..." the witch said suspiciously.

His face morphed into his Vampire visage. "How 'bout now?" Spike smiled wickedly when he saw the witch's eyebrows shoot up in surprise. He hoped a bit of fear was mixed in there too.

"Well, I'll be... I never would've guessed!" Evil Willow exclaimed.

"You see, luv? We have a lot in common. Just like you, I use the other face to blend in with Humans, makes it much easier to hunt and pick them off when they don't know what I really am until it's too late. But this is the real me."

Spike's smile wavered when she approached him, looking fascinated by his new appearance. So much for her being afraid of him.

"What a beautiful creature you are." She reached out to touch his cheekbone and he flinched, moving back against the wall. She giggled, which really wasn't attractive on her. "I wasn't going to harm you, silly boy!"

"Let's take a pass on any touching, shall we? Don't think I want to get crippling pain just 'cos you want to inspect my features."

"Oh, the protection spell doesn't work if I touch you. Only when you try being naughty and hurt me."

Spike thought it best not to say that he also didn't want her touching him because just the thought of her hands on him made him want to puke. So he stayed still, trying not to flinch or show his revulsion and fear for her, while she traced the contours of his face with her fingers.

Buffy watched, cringing, and feeling glad that the witch didn't think she was stunning enough to fondle her face too. She didn't know how Spike could stay still. With some luck, they'd start fighting and rip each other to shreds, and then Buffy could be on her way.

The witch lightly tapped on one of his fangs with a long black fingernail. "Such lovely, sharp teeth. Like a predator."

Spike didn't know how long he could pretend her touching him didn't make his skin crawl. "I am a predator, and a damn good one."

"And what do you prey on, pray tell?" She giggled again at her little joke.

"Animals, anything warm-blooded, but preferably Humans."

"Like your little friend Buffy?" Wicked Willow looked over at Buffy. "Or are you a Vampire too?"

"No, I'm not one of those sickening, soulless pieces of shit," Buffy said, a disgusted twist to her lips.

The witch only spared Buffy a glance, concentrating back on Spike. "If you're a demon, then why can't you free yourself?"

"Because the chains are enchanted. If they were normal everyday chains we wouldn't be standing here and havin' this nice chat right now. I'd be long gone." Spike felt relieved that Wicked Willow had stopped feeling up his face, but she was still standing too close for his liking. But if he was pretending wanting to be her friend, he had to bear it.

The witch laughed, "You're not a very good demon, are you? You can't use magick to escape your predicament! And you're just as susceptible as the girl to my enchantments!"

Spike had thought that about himself more and more often recently: he wasn't a very good demon at all. His lust (love) for the Slayer, his fondness for her mom and sister, being on a leash because of the damn chip and not living like a Vampire was meant to... All of that made him uneasy, afraid that he was losing his edge and becoming that 'fluffy puppy with bad teeth' that he'd once compared Angel to. He did his best to control his temper, and his tongue. The only signs of his anger were a glint in his golden eyes and a twitch of his lips. "Vampires don't have that kind of magick, unfortunately."

“Then what is it that Vampires do?”

“We hunt Humans and drink their blood for sustenance. That’s how we survive -- by drinking blood." He pointed to his mouth, "These pearly whites ain't just for show. We don’t need to eat normal foods, and eating lots of food doesn't have the same effect on us as Humans. We can‘t get fattened up that way.”

"Hmm, interesting..."

Spike tried to maintain his composure, not to show his joy that the witch might be seeing things his way. He had to keep cool until he was sure he had her, then she'd lower her guard. If he could just find some weakness, a chink in her armor...

“You sure the girl isn't evil too?” she asked, casting an amused look at Buffy.

He smiled at Buffy. “No, she’s not, but I have hope for her yet. She’s got a darkness inside her, just needs the right bloke to bring it out.”

"Go to Hell!" Buffy spat angrily.

Spike and Evil Willow laughed.

"She's a little spitfire, ain't she?" Spike said. "Buffy's my 'special project'."

Buffy leaned against the wall behind her, arms folded over her chest. She couldn't wait to get an opportunity to kick Spike's ass now. Of course he was going to take the first chance he got to save his own ass, that was the way Spike operated.

The witch cackled. "Why would you willingly travel with the girl if she's prim and proper? Because you desire her?"

Spike tried not letting his extreme discomfort show, he had to play it off. "'Course I do, she's a pretty little thing."

"True, I suppose she is comely... But last night you said that you were looking for her sister. That doesn't sound especially evil of you..."

"Well, yeah... but I've got my reasons for wanting to help find the girl. The better to get into big sis's good graces -- and eventually, her knickers -- and have her feel indebted to me. That's blown now, but..." Spike shrugged. "I reckon saving my own hide now takes precedence over any future plans I had for Buffy and Dawn."

Buffy bit her tongue again to keep from going on a tirade. Her nostrils flared as she looked angrily at Spike.

Wicked Willow laughed. “Silly boy, I don’t want or need a partner! I do quite nicely all by my lonesome. I’m not changing my plans for the two of you. You look too damn tasty! Nice try, though.”

Spike's toothy grin changed into a snarl, his demeanor changed completely when his ruse didn’t work. “Didn’t you hear a word I said!?”

“Oh, I heard you. I just don’t care!” She laughed and held her sides, walking away from him, finding Spike's attempts to butter her up amusing. "Ah, I think I'll have a little catnap. It's so much work to train new ones." She pointed at the food on the floor at Spike's feet, "You better have all that finished by the time I wake up, boy."

Spike was angry, severely disappointed, and feeling violent. He gave the witch his most malevolent look, which didn't seem to faze her a bit. "I told you, this food won't make me fat. I can't gain weight by eating lots of rich foods."

"Such pathetic lies," the witch said, shaking her head and smirking.

"It's not a bloody lie!" Spike insisted, getting angrier. "My kind can't get fat from eating too much cake and sweets -- with the possible exception of Angel, he really ballooned up."

Buffy rolled her eyes. Spike just couldn't pass up an opportunity to put Angel down, though... she had noticed her ex had packed on some pounds last time she'd seen him...

Spike continued arguing his case, "How can you doubt what I'm telling you is true?! You can see my face, can't you? That should prove to you that I'm a demon!"

"Demon or Human, doesn't matter to me! There's not a creature in existence that won't grow fat from eating cakes and candy. What's more, I've never had a cooked Vampire -- or a raw one, for that matter -- I'm looking forward to it even more now!"

"You stupid, crazy bitch! Why can't you..." He saw that it was pointless to argue with her, nothing he said was going to make her believe him about the food. Instead, Spike growled and punched the wall a dozen or so times.

"My, my, such a temper on you," the witch tsk'ed and shook her head. "I'll ignore those insults this time, lucky for you."

Spike leaned his back against the wall, sliding down into a sitting position again, gnashing his teeth and clenching and unclenching his fists. "You're as daft as you are loony!"

The witch sighed tiredly. "We'll soon see if you're telling the truth or not. The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding!" she laughed. Then she pointed at Buffy, "And you, don't think you can just laze on your butt all day! You get busy sweeping and dusting."

“You... want me to clean your house for you?” Buffy asked slowly.

Spike kept quiet, knowing that if he opened his mouth he wouldn't be able to hold back an onslaught of swearing and insults that would earn him punishment.

“That’s right. Not thinking of objecting, are you?” The witch smiled, showing that she wouldn’t mind if Buffy protested, that she'd enjoy correcting her again. Then she walked to Buffy, who leaned away from her, not knowing what the witch intended to do to her. But she didn't harm Buffy, she only touched the chain attached to her ankle with the magic wand. The chain glowed for a moment.

"What did you do?" Buffy asked nervously.

"The chain will now magically lengthen so that you can clean my cozy home from top to bottom without being limited."

"Then why not just take the chain off altogether?"

"Don't sass me, girlie. I have my reasons for everything I do. Now, you should know that I require a very tidy home, make sure it's spick and span or it'll be the lash for you."

"Oh great, there's a lash too?" Buffy groaned. "What, kicking us and shocking us with the wand aren't brutal enough for you?"

Wicked Willow laughed. "Oh, you'll find that I have many different methods of punishment, unless you behave yourself like a good girl and don't force me to demonstrate. Another thing, you will only eat what I give you, you will not have any of the boy's food. If you take any, or he gives you any, there will be swift and agonizing retribution all around."

"Why? There's --" Buffy flinched when the witch jabbed the wand at her face.

Evil Willow stopped just short of touching her with the wand. "I've had enough of your lip. Shut your mouth or I'll shut it for you."

Buffy didn't reply, only looked at her apprehensively. Spike had a sense of deja vu -- Buffy had said pretty much the same thing to him back at the Magic Box not long ago. Ironic.

The witch smiled again. "Good girl, you may be trainable after all. Who knows, if you do a good enough job working for me, I might spare your life!" She pointed to another corner of the room where a broom was leaning up against the wall, "Use that to sweep my floor. And you'll find a feather duster in the cabinet to dust my shelves. Do a good job of it, or --"

"Let me guess -- I'll be punished?" Buffy said. She didn't even see the slap coming before her head whipped to the side. Buffy scooted back, holding the side of her face.

"Such a smart mouth, don't make me sew it shut," the witch told her. "Now for my nap. Behave yourselves, children!"

They warily watched her leave the room, not saying a word until the door shut.

Spike changed back to his Human features. "Bloody hell, that bitch moves fast. I heard the sound of her slapping you before I saw it... Buffy, are you alright?" he asked with concern etched on his face.

“Don't even try talking to me, you sonuvabitch! You make me sick!” Buffy hissed, rubbing her stinging cheek. "I should kill you right now!"

Spike looked at her with surprise, then frowned. “What?”

“Whaddya mean 'what'? You were trying to join forces with her!”

“That was a bloody ploy, you dimwit! I was trying to appeal to her sense of evil, as one soulless being to another. You... really thought I was serious?” Spike hid how much it truly hurt.

“Why shouldn’t I think that? You are evil! You're evil and proud of it! You have been trying to hurt or kill me and my friends since I met you! It wasn't that long ago that you tried turning us against each other because you had a deal with Adam!”

Spike clenched his fists again, trying not to yell. “A lot's happened since then! I only tried cutting a deal with Franken-soldier 'cos I was desperate." He didn't like reflecting on all that Adam business, he actually felt guilty for trying to hurt Buffy (and to a lesser extent, her friends). And the whole thing had ended in failure for Spike, as usual. "Doesn‘t the fact that I went into the portal with you mean anything? That I volunteered to go with you didn't give you a clue that I might not be totally evil? That I'm capable of emotions other than hatred or anger? That you'd be able to trust me?"

“Trust you!? HA! Never in a million years! And you didn’t make the decision to go into the portal with me, it was those Unari assholes who chose you for some bizarre reason. Probably because they knew how pissed off I'd be.”

His voice was softer, with an edge to it; more hurt than angry. “But I volunteered before that, didn’t I? You shot me down and chose Captain Cardboard, of course, but I did step up all on my own. I knew going into the portal could be dangerous or end up killin' me. I still chose to go because I wanted to bring Dawn back safe.”

Buffy blinked at him, and then swallowed, looking down sheepishly. That part had slipped her mind momentarily. "Okay, I'll give you that... Still... you can't blame me for --"

"Sure, I can. Just watch me." His jaw tensed, he leaned back against the wall, purposely not looking at her. “You believe whatever-the-fuck you want, Slayer. You always do.”

Buffy was quiet for a minute. Thinking that it looked like she really had hurt his feelings. Maybe she had been too quick to think the worst of him. Spike was such a strange guy... He seemed so tough, cocky and self-assured most of the time, but there were times (like when Drusilla had dumped him and he came back to Sunnydale to work a love spell) that his softer emotions ran high. His face was so expressive; it was almost as if words were written on his forehead. Yep, he did look wounded that she thought he was plotting against her.

Buffy sighed. “Okay... I’m big enough to admit that I could be wrong about you trying to be buddies with the witch.”

Spike didn’t look at her or respond.

“Spike, how can you blame me? I don’t trust you, and you don’t trust me -- we’re enemies. I‘ve never known you to lookout for anyone but yourself... well, except for Dru.”

A muscle in his cheek ticced at the mention of his ex’s name.

“Of course I thought that you’d betray me in a second if it meant saving your own ass. All that stuff you said to the witch... You were very convincing. The stuff about you only helping in the first place because you wanted to get in my pan--”

Spike smiled at her, “You know what the funny thing is? You keep talking to me like I’m listening to you! Do us both a favor and shut your gob!” He sneered and turned away from her again.

“Fine! Be an asshole! It’s what you do best.” Buffy huffed and sat back, crossing her arms and looking petulant.

The witch's voice sounded from the other room, "Both of you had better be busy with your assigned chores! You don't want me to be displeased when I wake up!"

Buffy got up and grumbled all the way over to the broom, noting how the chain became magically longer and heavier with each step she took. Spike likewise grumbled as he began eating some of the food piled in front of him, even the stuff he'd kicked away a while ago. They had to go along with this, avoiding getting punished if possible, until they found a way to escape.

Buffy started sweeping near where he was sitting. She said in a low voice, "We'll figure a way out of this and..." She sighed, seeing that Spike was being haughty and wouldn't look at her. "Oh, that's good -- you're going to give me the silent treatment now? How are we supposed to --"

Spike gave her the middle finger, waving it around in the air at her.

"You're such a jerk! Fine, don't talk to me, I'll come up with a plan all by myself then," she said peevishly, sweeping a bit of dust directly at him.
Part 1, Chapter 4: Crime and Punishment by PaganBaby
Buffy swept and dusted the hell out of the room for an hour while the witch stayed behind the closed door. She tried coming up with a strategy as she worked. Spike still wouldn't speak to her -- who knew Vamps could be so damn touchy! Unfortunately, the physical activity was making her hungrier. She'd been warned about eating any of the food meant for Spike, so what was she supposed to eat?

Each of them made futile attempts to pull their chains out of the wall, and tried slipping the shackles down over their ankles. But all they succeeded in doing was tiring themselves out and chaffing their legs; it appeared that only breaking a bone or two in their feet would allow them to slide the shackles off, and they weren't prepared to do anything that drastic... yet.

Buffy came up with a few different plans of attack on the witch. All would probably result in her feeling that horrific pain again, but she wasn't going to just submit to being anybody's slave, not without throwing everything she had at her would-be captor.

She sat back down on her blanket, wiping sweat from her brow, and looked at Spike. He was staring straight ahead at nothing, just robotically feeding bits of pastry and candy to himself.

"You still not talking to me?" Buffy asked. "You realize that we should have been using the time alone to come up with a plan, right?"

Spike swallowed a mouthful of food. "Why would you tell me about any plan? Aren't you worried I'll tattle on you, since I'm pure evil an' all?"

"I'm sorry, okay? Geez!" Buffy groaned and sighed.

He looked at her, raising an eyebrow. "Did you just apologize to me?"

Buffy thought about giving him a snarky answer, but she just wanted the arguing and grumpiness to end. "Yes. Here, I'll do it again: I'm sorry for jumping to the wrong conclusion. I... was wrong... apparently."

Spike raised both eyebrows, not knowing what to say at first. He couldn't believe that the Slayer actually said the words 'I'm sorry' and meant them. He cleared his throat, then said, "Have you come up with any ideas on what we could try? I've been brainstormin' too, can't say I came up with anything more radical than just takin' some big swings at her though."

Buffy was relieved that her sincere apology seemed to appease Spike; they could move past it now. "Yeah, my plans pretty much consist of just beating on her with fists or objects like the broom." She gripped the handle of the broom tighter for a second, picturing herself using it like a fighting staff. "Not very convoluted... but I think that all one of us needs is one good shot at her." Buffy went over and knelt down near him so they could talk quietly.

Spike looked at her uneasily, "You won't have a problem doin’ her in if she looks like our Willow -- your Willow -- at the time?"

"I really don't want to have to kill her..."

"Then I'll do it. I'll do it with the biggest bloody grin that you've ever seen."

"Yeah, I guess you wouldn't be bothered with her looking like Willow, she doesn't mean anything to you."

"Well... I wouldn't go that far. True, she's not my bestie, or even what most would consider a friend, but I'm... fond of her. Willow's shown me kindness in the past, and I don't forget those sort of things. That being said, I know that person using her face isn't really Willow. Therefore, I don't have any emotional dilemmas about ripping her head off."

Buffy was aggravated with herself at having any hesitation in killing the evil witch. It shouldn't bother her that much that the witch could sometimes look like Willow, because it so obviously wasn't her friend. "It's just the... looking like Willow thing wigs me. Even when she‘s green and evil-looking, I can see Willow‘s face underneath."

Spike thought about criticizing her for feeling that way, but he understood all too well what it felt like to have to kill someone who looked even remotely like a person you loved. "Yeah, s'pose it would. Well... I'll have no problem with it once I find a way to even touch her without immense pain."

They both went quiet for a minute, lost in unsettling thoughts.

Spike broke the silence, changing the subject. "Some things are different from the story I remember reading. There was a big oven, not a pot. That's how Gretel killed the witch, by shovin' her in and locking her in it to burn."

"Yeah, now that you mention it, I remember it was an oven."

"And we didn't leave the trail of breadcrumbs, so that's different too," Spike said, giving her a look that said 'because you didn't check the bloody pocket of your apron'.

Buffy rolled her eyes.

"There've been quite a few different versions of the classic fairy tales, some darker and grislier than others. Some sanitized, safer versions popped up in the 20th century -- Humans became such bloody namby-pamby wankers, makin' everything happier and less scary with cute little talking animals. Something tells me that the Unari have a fondness for the darker tales," Spike said with a sigh.

"I hope you're wrong..." Buffy said, though she was sickeningly certain he was right.

"Yeah, me too. We just need to be prepared for the worst."

"I'd say a witch chaining us to a wall and threatening -- promising -- to eat us qualifies as 'the worst'."

Spike glossed over that remark, it wasn't something he wanted to ponder. "Another thing that's different, the witch was supposed to find Hansel and Gretel munching on her house, which we did not do. Unless you had a gnosh while my back was turned."

"I only wish I'd eaten something while I had the chance..." Buffy said regretfully, absently rubbing her stomach.

"The witch was supposed to be an old crone -- which she sort of is. But not infirm and blind as she was written. Remember? Hansel fooled her by holding out a chicken bone he found in his cage when she wanted to check to see if he was getting fat. The witch was too blind to realize that it wasn't his finger. Our hostess doesn't seem to have any vision impairment. Nuttier than an outhouse rat? Yes. But her eyesight seems fine."

Buffy thought she remembered something like that. She looked at him funny. "You seem to know a lot about that fairy tale..."

Spike sniffed. "So? I was a wee lad once, y'know? Had my share of bedtime stories read to me."

It was a weird concept, but Buffy supposed that many, many years ago an innocent, pre-bloodsucking young William did have his mum read him stories when he was tucked in at night. She bet that he'd been an adorable little boy, apple-cheeked, chubby-legged, and innocent. It made her sad to think about it, that innocent little boy being turned into a monster years down the line. "You said Hansel was kept in a cage, so that's another thing that's different."

"You see what all this means, don't you?" Spike asked.

"Um... yes, but tell me what you think first..." Buffy said, not having a clue what he was getting at.

"If things are changed from the original story, that means there's no guarantee that we can escape before the bad shit goes down like Hansel and Gretel did."

"I think... it just means that we have to find a different way to escape. That's all. Think outside the box, as they say." Buffy was afraid to admit that Spike might be right. What if she'd gotten them both killed because she'd been convinced that talking to 'Willow' was the correct course of action in order to complete the quest? Because she'd stubbornly refused to consider his opinion... "I'm surprised that you're giving up hope so soon, Spike."

"I didn't say anything about 'giving up'. I told you before, Slayer, I'm a survivor. If there's any way to get out of this place, you bet your sweet ass I'm gonna find it."

Buffy's brows went up slightly at the 'sweet ass' comment, but she let it go. "Do you think she's one of the Unari? She seemed to be telling the truth about not knowing what you were talking about, but maybe she's just a method acting fanatic. Like a Daniel Day Lewis type actor -- on crack."

Spike considered it for a moment, then shook his head. "My gut says that she's not one of them. When I asked her straight-out about it, there wasn't any kind of tell; no involuntary twitch, no extra blink, no change in her voice. I really don't think she's one of them. I'm not sure how the Unari operate within their dimensions, but my guess is that the people in them are constructs, like robots programmed to act and think a certain way. Her scent is different than anything else I've ever come across. Like she's livin' -- with a beating heart, blood pumping through her veins and all -- but there's something artificial about her... Hard to explain it right."

"Well, she sure looks real enough." Buffy touched her cheek where the witch had slapped her, "And she hits and kicks really hard."

"Yeah, I noticed that too."

They looked at the door to the other room when they heard movement.

"Sounds like Witchiepoo is awake. Better get back to cleaning," Spike said, motioning her away with his hands.

Buffy got up and moved away, resuming her sweeping. There was no dirt or dust left on the floor after her hour of cleaning, but she wanted to look busy to their captor.

The witch came out into the main room, stretching her arms wide and yawning. "Ah, a little shuteye was just what I needed! All the excitement of you two coming to visit tuckered me out."

They glared at her.

"Were you obedient without me here to keep an eye on you?" Wicked Willow scanned the room as she walked to a cabinet. She ran a green finger along the top of the cabinet, then checked to see if it came away dusty. "Hmm, you seem to have done a passable job, Buffy."

Buffy didn't reply, but did breathe out with relief. At least she wouldn't be punished for not cleaning well enough. Cleaning was never one of her strong suits, to put it mildly, but apparently she could do a good job when threatened with physical violence.

The witch then went to Spike, scrutinizing the pile of food she'd ordered him to eat. "You've made some good progress, boy." She went to the round table, picked up another armful of food, then dropped it in front of him. "Here's some more."

Spike looked at the food, then up at her with a blank expression. "You've gotta be kidding?"

The witch smiled and shook her head. "I expect you to eat all of it before the end of the day."

"I can't eat anything else! I'm full!"

"Don't raise your voice to me, boy," she said dangerously. "And don't refuse my orders. I've told you what you must do, and now it's up to you to do it or pay the price."

Buffy worriedly watched them exchanging words, thinking, 'Spike, don't argue with her! Just play along and pretend you'll eat all the damn food!'

"It's bloody pointless!" Spike ranted. "I told you that eating this won't --"

Wicked Willow's foot shot out and connected with his jaw, making his head snap back. Spike grunted, his head slammed back into the wall behind him.

Buffy's instincts told her to act now. She started toward the witch, flipping the broom in her hands and swinging it back like a baseball bat. She had to make this strike count, the blinding pain would wrack her body and leave her defenseless.

But the witch had turned in the blink of an eye and thrust the wand at Buffy, touching her arm. And that touch was enough to make Buffy yell with incredible pain, forcing her to drop to her knees and forget everything except the pain. Wicked Willow wrenched the broom out of Buffy's hands, then kicked her in the chest, sending her sprawling backwards onto the floor.

"Bad, naughty children!" the witch seethed. "Do you see what your insolence gets you?! I should whip both of you within an inch of your lives!"

Spike had been dazed when his head had hit the wall, his mind was only now just clearing. He massaged his hurting jaw, looking from the witch to Buffy's groaning, twitching form. It didn't take but a moment for him to figure out basically what had happened.

Evil Willow began kicking Buffy's legs in a fit of anger.

"Stop!" Spike shouted. "Don't hurt her anymore!"

She stopped and looked at him, breathing hard, baring her yellow teeth. "I haven't begun to hurt her!" Spittle flew from her lips. "I think I'll kill her now! The insolent little brat is more trouble than she's worth!"

Spike was trying hard to keep his own rage under control. If he didn't try calming things down, Buffy might get beaten to death while she lay there on the floor, semiconscious, with no way to defend herself.

"Please..." he said quietly. "Please stop. You really wouldn't want to kill her yet, would you? Having Buffy around will make your life so much easier. This is only our first day, and it's not an easy thing for us to adjust to... You've punished us both, we got the message -- you're the boss. We know not to try anything like that again. We'll listen to you and follow your orders." It killed Spike to bow and scrape to anyone, but Buffy's life might depend on how well he groveled.

That seemed to placate the witch somewhat. She visibly calmed, still looking pissed, but not murderous. "You'd better mean that, boy."

"I do. And... I'm sure Buffy will agree once she can think and talk again."

She put the broom back in its place, then dragged Buffy by the arm back to the corner. Spike noted that the witch didn't seem to have to expend much energy dragging Buffy across the floor. The bitch was definitely stronger than she should be.

Buffy came back to her senses a minute later, slowly sitting up with her back against the wall. The first thing she did was look at Spike to make sure he was alright. There was fresh blood at the corner of his mouth, but he was sitting up and looking intently at her. She nodded at him to let him know she was okay. She'd been nearly unconscious, unfortunately not having heard Spike's plea for her. While she was relieved that she wasn't hurt worse, she was mad and disappointed with herself for not getting the job done. She should have been able to push past the pain and hit the witch.

The witch's speed, reflexes, and strength were enhanced, that was obvious. Did the Unari design the witch especially for her and Spike? Giving the green meanie superhuman abilities to compensate for theirs? How were they ever going to get away if they couldn't handle the pain long enough to get just one strike in at her? She added those questions to the growing list in her mind as she recovered from the zapping, and listened to a lecture from the witch about them 'misbehaving'.

Evil Willow continued lecturing and threatening.

"I think now is a good time to explain some of my rules to you, we don't want a repeat of what just happened, now do we? I promise you immense suffering if you do it again. I want you both to put on your listening ears and pay very close attention to what I say."

They stared at her, not able to hide their loathing. But they listened, not wanting her to go medieval on their asses again.

"Neither of you will try attacking me again, I simply won't stand for any of that. I do have plans for you, but I will kill you without hesitation if you push me too far. Do you understand me?"

They slowly nodded and droned, "Yes."

"Very good. I have many errands to run and chores to do during the day. Since I have a girlie to do my housework, I'll have more time to go into the village, tend to my garden, and gather herbs and ingredients in the forest."

She waited for one of them to open their smart mouth, but they stayed silent.

Spike nearly said, 'How nice for you.' But he bit his tongue and settled for thinking it instead.

"When I'm away, I expect both of you to behave. If I come back and find that you haven't been good, I'll have to punish you harshly. You will not do any damage to my home or my things. You will not plot against me, or horde objects to be used as weapons against me. May your God have mercy on your souls if I find you hiding a knife or other weapon. Everything else I've done to you will become sweet memories in comparison to what I'll do then."

"Yeah, I think we get the picture," Spike said, his eyes burning with hatred.

"Good. I don't want to have to repeat myself, so see that you mind your manners." The witch went to the candy table and picked up a chocolate chip cookie the size of a soccer ball, then held it out to Spike. "Here, I want you to eat this too. You eat up, get big and fat!"

Spike looked at the cookie, then up into her eyes, grinding his jaws together. He took the cookie from her without saying what he wanted to say.

Buffy wasn't happy about having to eat anything the witch gave them to fatten them up, but she was getting really hungry. She felt weak and needed to replenish her strength. "Uh, what about me?"

"Oh, how rude of me! You need to eat too!" The witch hummed and went about fixing a plate for Buffy.

Buffy frowned when the witch bypassed the table of tasty food. Wasn't she going to get any of the candies or pastries? She looked at Spike, seeing him take a bite out of the delicious-looking giant cookie.

The witch hustled back over to her, and dropped the tin plate on the floor in front of Buffy. "Here you are, my dear. Enjoy!"

Buffy got nothing but a tin cup of water (some of which sloshed out when the plate was dropped), stale bread and crab-shells.

"Crab-shells!? What the fuck?! Are you serious? I'm not eating those!" Buffy shoved the dish angrily away. Her outrage made her forget that she was supposed to play nice.

"Buffy..." Spike said warningly, hoping she wasn't going to be hurt again so soon after the last time.

Evil Willow shook a finger at her, "Eat them or don't. But you will have nothing else, you brazen girl!"

"Why can't I eat what Spike's eating?!"

Wicked Willow's lip curled into a snarl. "Do not question me! I won't have any of your sass! Eat the food I've generously given you and shut your mouth!"

Buffy bit back any further arguments. She could tell that the witch was going to hurt her again if she didn't do as she was told. She didn't know how much zapping with that wand her body could take without some kind of permanent damage. She grumbled, but pulled the plate of 'food' back to her.

The witch smiled again. "That's a good little girl. You'll be spared the lash if you learn to watch your mouth and do as you're told."

Buffy figured that the witch wasn't going to stop staring at her until she made an effort to eat. Feeling those black beady eyes resting on her turned her stomach. So she took a piece of bread and nibbled at it slowly.

The witch, apparently satisfied with that, walked away, going into the other room again.

"This sucks!" Buffy said in a low voice. She flicked at the gross crab-shells on her plate.

"You alright?" Spike asked. "You were out of it for a few minutes..."

Buffy pouted as she looked at her food. "Yeah, just still kind of shaky... God, that shit hurts! I'm hungry, why can't I have a cookie?"

Spike shrugged, "You need a better answer other than 'she's a heartless, evil bitch'?" He took another bite of the big chocolate chip cookie. The look of longing/jealousy on Buffy's face lifted his spirits slightly. It reminded him of when she was going to deny him even one cookie after that spell of Willow's went awry -- the only reason she'd shoved one in his mouth was to keep him from revealing things about their time as an engaged couple.

Buffy scowled at him. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Oh my, yes. Being drugged, imprisoned, beaten, and force-fed sweets by a batty, cannibal witch is tops on my list of good times."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "I meant the seeing me being treated like dirt part."

"Oh, that." Spike just smirked and let her fill in the blanks. Since Buffy seemed to be feeling better and back to herself again, he felt more like himself too, making with the teasing and snark. It helped and felt good to have some illusion of normalcy.

"Asshole..." she muttered. "You just couldn't keep your mouth shut, could you?"

Spike looked at her, puzzled. "What?"

"If you just would've kept your mouth shut and accepted the extra food she put in front of you, I wouldn't have gotten zapped!"

"You're blaming me for that? I don't recall asking you to do anything!"

"She was attacking you! I thought..." Buffy didn't want to admit that she'd been trying to protect him, that she'd actually feared what the witch might do to him. Spike would probably read any concern for him the wrongest way possible. "I saw an opportunity, so I went after her. At least I tried to. But you just should've kept your stupid mouth shut." Buffy took some sips of water, even that tasted stale and gross.

"If it makes you feel better to blame every-bloody-thing on me, then go ahead. I think we both know who deserves the lion's share of blame around here..."

"You better not be talking about me." Buffy was defensive about that, she didn't want to acknowledge that her instincts might have been way off the mark and that she should have listened to Spike.

They glared at each other for a few seconds.

Spike sighed and hung his head. "Let's not start another round of snapping at each other, alright? We're both havin' bloody horrible times of it. Frayed nerves, frustration and all that. We have to keep in mind that we're in this together. We've got a common enemy -- her -- and a new common goal -- to get the bloody hell out of this place."

Buffy sighed too, looking back down at her plate. Spike was right, of course. Maybe they were enemies back in Sunnydale, but here, they had someone far worse than each other to worry about and focus their anger on. "Any idea how I'm supposed to eat a frickin' crab-shell? The sad thing is... I'm so hungry, they're starting to look delicious."

The only bit of good news they'd had since they'd arrived in the dimension was that the witch owned a functional water closet, it was a small room off her bedroom. That was out of place in this weird medieval-like fairy tale land -- but neither of them were about to complain. Wicked Willow released them, one at a time, from their shackles by touching the wand to the chains, telling them that they would be allowed one trip a day to the facilities. The thought of trying to escape crossed their minds, but the witch stuck to them like glue and waited right outside the door until they came back out. The time wasn't right to try bashing her head in, they needed some time to recover, plan and assess the situation, and gather their strength.

The rest of the night was incident and pain-free, with Spike and Buffy holding their tongues and just doing whatever the witch told them to do without argument. She'd made herself meat and potatoes for dinner, and of course forced Spike to have some. Buffy wasn't offered any, nor did she ask for any. She knew what the answer would be and didn't bother wasting her breath.

Evil Willow spent most of the evening doing embroidery in a rocking chair by the hearth, singing songs as she worked. Needless to say, she had a horrible voice. After a few hours, her constant humming and singing had Buffy and Spike ready to puncture their own eardrums to end the caterwauling.

Just when they thought they couldn't take it anymore...

"It's been a long day," Wicked Willow said, standing up and stretching. "Time for bed! You two are already in yours," she giggled.

They watched from their corners as she put out the oil lamps around the room, then went to her bedroom door.

"Don't get up to any mischief during the night! Goodnight, my darlings!"

They sighed with relief when she was finally out of the room and the door was closed. The fire in the hearth was still going, so they thankfully weren't left in complete darkness.

They kept their voices low, hoping she wouldn't overhear them.

"I thought she was going to stay in here all bloody night. Lovely singing voice on her, eh? Like a wounded wildebeest."

"Omigod, I was going to go insane if I had to listen to that for 5 more minutes! Not bad enough we have to look at her nasty face, get threatened and beaten up all the livelong day, she has to assault our ears too?"

"Come up with any plan of action?" Spike asked. They hadn't had a chance to talk alone for hours.

"No... not really," Buffy said with a sigh. "You?"

Spike shook his head. "But we'll figure something out... Maybe try getting that wand away from her, we might be able to use it. Do you think the Unari would let us be killed? Maybe they'll stop short of actually killing us..."

"Well, they let us be drugged, chained, and suffer, so yeah, I think they would let us die here. Nice folks."

"You know..." Spike glanced at the door, "I don't see how she'd know if you had something to eat. There's no way she'd miss one cookie or piece of cake or know that it wasn't me that ate it."

"I don't know..." Buffy wanted to grab a handful of food and wolf it down, but she was hesitant, remembering those shocks from the wand very well. It pissed her off that she was already being conditioned, trained like an animal, after only one day.

Spike looked her over. "You can't afford to lose any extra weight."

Buffy frowned. Was he saying she was too skinny? He didn't think she was... attractive? And why did that thought actually bother her? "What's that supposed to mean? You think I'm bony?"

"Just that you're already thin -- fit, but thin -- you don't have a layer of blubber to shed. The weight's just gonna drop off of you eating only bread and crab-shells. You need to keep your strength up."

"Yeah, I'm still pretty hungry..." She looked longingly at the table of yummyness.

"Doesn't look like I'm going to be getting any blood, so I'm only going to get weaker by the day..." Spike said, not wanting to contemplate how bad it could get for him. He could last a long time without fresh blood, but it would only be about two weeks or so before he was too depleted to do more than blink his eyes, if he could even do that. He'd get thinner and thinner until he looked like a concentration camp survivor, with just a thin layer of skin stretched over his bones. He shook himself from the frightening thoughts whizzing through his mind. "One of us needs to be strong enough to take her down when we see an opportunity."

"As tempting as it is, I think I'll wait to try sneaking any real food. I can manage for a while longer. We might be able to get out of here tomorrow, Spike. I have a hunch we aren't going to be here long."

He didn't feel as optimistic, but gave her a small smile and nodded once. "You feel up to searching the place for anything we might find useful? I'd do it but..." he tugged on his chain. His chain wasn't magically lengthened like hers.

Buffy got up and moved as quietly as she could through the room, looking for any objects they could wield as weapons.

Spike pulled on the chain halfheartedly. "I know how those baby cows feel now... The ones they raise for veal. Chained up, not allowed to play an' frolic."

"Yeah... I always thought that was sad. I can sympathize even more now."

He chuckled humorlessly. "That's what I am essentially -- a baby cow bein' raised for veal. I wonder if she'll try killing me first, or just chuck me in the pot to boil me alive?"

"It's not going to come to that, Spike," Buffy said as confidently as she could.

"Yeah..." he stared at the fire, "let's hope not. Might not kill me, but it'll make me wish I was dead -- or deader."

Buffy didn't want to dwell on the worst case scenario, she refused to believe it would happen that way. She changed the subject. "You heard what she said about us stealing knives or whatever to use against her. What if she finds what we took?"

"Don't take anything just yet. Just look around for potential weapons, take inventory for when we're ready to make an attempt. She'll probably be awake before us, don't want her to be able to search us and find anything while we're out of it."

Buffy nodded, thinking that Spike could be smart occasionally. She wasn't going to say that out loud, of course, but she thought it.

After Buffy had pointed out all the sharp and blunt potential weapons, she sat down on her blanket, feeling bone-weary. It wasn't easy to keep up an optimistic attitude with what they were faced with. Were they going to fail the very first test they were subjected to? Not only fail, but lose their lives in the process? Who would rescue Dawn then? Her mother would be devastated if both of her daughters were taken away forever.

She mumbled something Spike couldn't make out.

"You say something?" Spike asked.

She didn't answer for a moment, getting her emotions under control. "I said... I'm the frickin' Slayer."

"You need reminding about that?"

"Apparently I do. Look at me... Chained up, beaten up, hungry..." She said the last part in a shamed whisper, looking away from him, "and afraid."

"Makes two of us, pet," Spike said softly. Admitting to being scared couldn't have been easy for Buffy, he sympathized, and shared her sentiments. "Doesn't exactly thrill me to be subjected to this either. Having to do what she tells me, having to keep my mouth shut -- goes against everything I am. Being under someone's thumb, especially that bitch's thumb, fills me with so much... rage. Hard to sit still, hard to think straight. I keep thinkin' I should've been able to stop this before it got this far. Should've been stronger, smarter... something."

Buffy nodded imperceptibly, she knew what he was talking about. He didn't have the added fears and worries about her friends and family that she did, but he clearly understood the feeling inadequate and powerless part.

"Try to get some rest, Slayer."

Buffy turned her back to him and laid down on her side. A minute later she looked back over her shoulder at him, seeing that he was still sitting up. "Aren't you going to try sleeping?"

"I will, just want to do some thinking while it's quiet."

It was true that Spike hoped the peace and quiet would help him think, but he also wanted to wait at least until Buffy had fallen asleep to let weariness finally overtake him. He had a bad feeling that the witch was going to try hurting them while they slept, and he didn't want Buffy to be hurt again. What he'd do to protect her, he didn't know, but he'd try. He rolled his eyes at his own poncey thoughts about Buffy. 'I have to stop thinking about her like that!'

15 minutes later, Buffy was no closer to sleep and Spike was still sitting up, leaning against the wall and thinking disquieting thoughts.

Buffy was so tired, but her eyes didn't want to stay closed. Her mind wouldn't stay quiet, terrifying thoughts and fears flooded her brain. But she pretended to be asleep, not wanting Spike to know how distressed she really was. The feelings of helplessness and frustration were suddenly becoming overwhelming.

She wasn't fooling him though.

Spike could hear her breathing; it wasn't a slow and steady sleeping rhythm. He looked at her when he heard a very soft sob, followed by a sniffle, and could see her shoulders shake slightly... and the sound broke his heart. His own eyes became moist at the thought of her crying.

He thought about trying to talk to her to help her feel better, but she was a proud person, as was he, and she'd probably be embarrassed if she knew that he knew. Then he recalled a method of calming a lady in distress that he'd employed countless times over the years. And, once upon a time back when he was mortal, it had worked on him too. Would it work on Buffy? One way to find out.

Buffy thought, 'God, I can't believe I'm fucking crying! I never cry! It's only been one day, why am I having a meltdown already?! How am I going to...' She was taken out of her increasingly distraught thoughts by Spike's voice.

He was singing.

Spike stared at the fire and sang the words slowly, in a soft, smooth, lilting voice:

"Are you goin' to Scarborough Fair
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine"

Spike paused for a few moments to gauge what reaction Buffy was having.

There were no more sniffles or sobs, she seemed to be paying attention to him, but not reacting in any obvious way. She wasn't telling him to shut up, so he took that as a sign that she didn't mind him continuing.

"Tell her to make me a cambric shirt
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Without no seams nor needle work
Then she'll be a true love of mine"

Buffy laid there, not moving, just listening to him. She wanted to ask him why he was singing -- and how Mr. Punk Rock knew the lyrics to a Simon & Garfunkel song by heart -- but she stayed still and let his voice soothe her. His voice was good, deep, and soft. It was especially welcome after having to listen to the witch warbling for hours, it reminded her that singing wasn't evil, after all.

As she listened to the rest of the song, Buffy hoped that Wicked Willow wouldn't come flying into the room any second and make Spike stop. Though the song sounded sad, his voice was relaxing her, giving her something to concentrate on besides her own despair and frustration. The sound of his voice made her feel warm and... safe for some strange reason.

She pouted when he stopped singing for a few moments, wondering if she should let him know she was awake and that she liked hearing it. But after a short pause, Spike started the song over from the beginning.

Spike had no trouble remembering the words, he'd always been good at remembering poems and songs by rote. The song was better when there was a partner to harmonize with, but what the hell, it seemed to be accomplishing what he'd wanted, getting Buffy's mind off of her worries. It was helping him a bit too.

Buffy's eyes slid (and stayed) closed, sleep was finally claiming her, Spike's voice lulling her, washing over her. She wouldn't have guessed that he had such a good, velvety voice, or that he'd be capable of singing something that didn't have the word 'bollocks' in it or lots of yelling. Spike was full of surprises.

Spike sang the song from beginning to end a few times. He was thinking of changing to that old song his mum used to sing to him... he loved that song. It had never failed to relax him when she'd sung it to him. But there were such painful memories associated with it now...

He realized that he'd been silent for a minute, lost in the heartbreaking events from so long ago. Then he heard a tiny snore come from her, and smiled a little. Buffy's breathing had evened out, she was finally asleep.

Spike let out a sigh as he laid down on his side. He watched the fire, letting his mind go blank. He'd have trouble drifting off too if he couldn't clear his mind of thoughts of evil witches, a beautiful blonde Slayer, and his confounding feelings for her, and now he'd reopened the old wound about what had happened with his mother too. So much guilt, so much regret and anguish.

Spike let his mind drift, getting lost in the past again. He flashed back to one of those times his mother had sung to him, he was able to block out the bad memories this time, and just focus on the good ones; how peaceful he'd felt, how safe.

It wasn't long before he joined Buffy in slumber.

Back in the real world, at the Magic Box...

Buffy and Spike had gone into the portal not a half hour ago. There was some confusion and worry afterwards, but things had calmed down a bit. The Scoobies were pretty good at coping with the unexpected, though Riley remained especially agitated.

Everyone was in research mode, poring over every book with a reference to the Unari that Giles owned. They hadn't gotten much more additional useful information. One thing they were eager to find was an account, or accounts, of anyone who had entered an Unari book dimension. They were all terribly worried about Buffy and Dawn (and to a lesser extent, Spike), and wanted to know what their friends might be facing. But so far they'd found nothing like that. Maybe the Unari had some kind of confidential agreement with the questors and no one was allowed to tell what happened to them? Anya had only heard 2nd and 3rd hand accounts, nothing concrete.

Giles felt a little guilty for it, but he'd sent Riley out on an errand to get rid of him for a while. The Slayer's boyfriend kept whining and complaining and pacing around the room, driving Giles crazy. He understood why Riley was upset, but it wasn't productive and it was disrupting everyone else's ability to focus and remain calm. It would do Riley a world of good to have a task to occupy his mind, and it would help him feel like he was doing something constructive too. They were able to concentrate on their tasks with Riley gone to Giles' house to pick up some extra books for them to go over.

They had no idea how or why the portal had chosen Spike to go through with Buffy instead of Riley. The portal appeared to possess some kind of sentience; it had seemed to deliberate momentarily on Buffy and Riley as potential questors, then the switch had been made. Were the Unari themselves monitoring the opening of the portal or was the portal itself alive in some way and capable of choosing who would be allowed to enter it? Were the Unari the ones that actually made the choice to send Spike instead of Riley? And if so, why? So many (too many!) questions and not enough answers.

Anya had been given Unari book monitoring duty. If an illustration of Dawn appeared in the book, then perhaps one of Buffy and Spike would appear too. It would be a little comforting to at least know what story they had wound up in. But there were no new pictures yet. Anya told them that the text of whatever story they'd found themselves in was likely to change too, following what actions Buffy and Spike took -- that would be the best case scenario. The Scoobies' hands would still be tied as far as helping Buffy, but they'd know if she was okay and what she was doing.

Anya was flipping through the pages and almost missed it. She turned the last page back over, checking to make sure her eyes weren't playing tricks on her.

"It's them! I found them in the book!" Anya said, bouncing in her seat, waving everyone over to her.

The Scoobies rushed around the table to Anya, anxious to see for themselves.

The story was 'Hansel & Gretel'. The large illustration that had caught Anya's eye showed Buffy and Spike shortly after they had arrived in the dimension, walking in the forest, wearing their Bavarian clothing.

"Holy Oktoberfest! Look at Spike!" Xander laughed wildly, much as Buffy had when she'd first seen Spike dressed in the lederhosen. "Can I make a photocopy of that picture?"

They all giggled. It wasn't just that they thought Spike wearing the Bavarian ensemble was amusing, they were also giggling as a way of releasing the considerable tension and nervous energy that had been building up in all of them. They knew where (and who) Buffy and Spike were in the other dimension, and they'd be able to follow the twosome's progress.

"Buffy looks so pretty," Tara said, smiling a bit.

They nodded, thinking the same thing.

"I told her she should wear her hair up more often. Doesn't she look good with it like that?" Willow asked.

They nodded again, Mmmhmm'ing.

"I think Spike looks good too," Anya said.

Xander chuckled, thinking that she was joking. "Oh yeah, me too! Great look for him, I hope he keeps it when he gets back."

"No, I mean it. I think men wearing native or traditional costumes are very sexy. You know how I like it when you wear your bullfighting costume, or the Viking costume, or the Polynes--"

"Ha! Honey, nobody wants to h-hear about that stuff!" Xander laughed anxiously, smiling at his grimacing friends. "Can we go back to talking about how hilarious Spike looks?"

"The Unari dressed them appropriately, I see," Giles said, pondering. "They're able to have an effect on every aspect of their dimensions, down to the clothing that the subjects are wearing."

Anya nodded, "Changing the clothes Buffy and Spike were wearing would probably be very easy." She looked back at the picture. "I still think Spike looks very handsome and manly."

Tara and Willow were looking over her shoulder, both shrugging slightly and nodding in agreement. Spike looked kind of funny, but he was a good-looking dude no matter what he was wearing.

Anya whistled. "Check out the unit on him; he's really packed into those shorts. I wouldn't mind blowing his Alpine horn..."

"Anya!" Xander cried, shocked and appalled.

"Oh... did I say that last part out loud?" She fidgeted. "Oh honey, you know you're my Xander Bear, I'd never stray. It was just a... figure of speech, I didn't really mean I wanted to blow his --"

"Do you have to perv on a picture of Spike wearing tiny, upsetting shorts?! I don't --"

"Please," Giles said wearily, "please stop. Let's focus on what's happening to them, not what they're wearing. Anya, what does the text say? Has that changed as well?"

"It still refers to them as Hansel and Gretel..." She read on. "But the story is changing around them. It seems to be what's really happening: they're the Slayer and her Vampire companion, going in search of her sister." Anya turned the page. The next page was only half written, there was another illustration of them on the opposite page, still in the woods and pointing to a light in the distance.

The new content didn't have a word-for-word account of what Spike and Buffy said to each other, but this was better than the Scoobies could have hoped for. They wouldn't be left totally in the dark and could take some comfort in knowing how and what Buffy was doing.

"They're going to meet up with an evil witch eventually," Willow worried. "I hope they'll be okay."

"Shouldn't pose that large a problem," Giles said comfortingly. "They have the advantage of knowing what will happen next. Buffy is a resourceful person, I'm sure she can handle it. And Spike's a very resourceful fellow."

The Scoobies nodded and smiled a bit, letting their worries fade. They just had to have faith in their friend... and Spike.

"Riley will be relieved when he gets back," Xander said, then gave Anya an admonishing look. "Try not to make any remarks about Spike's package to him, okay, honey?"

"Why?" she asked, genuinely puzzled. "Oh! Is it because he'd feel insecure and his masculinity would be threatened because Spike appears to have a large penis? Penis envy, I've heard about that. Oh wait, penis envy is when a woman wishes she had one, isn't it? Riley would be envious of Spike's bigger --"

"Uh, just... please, don't say anything."

Anya made a lip-sealing gesture. For some reason that didn't do anything to reassure any of them that Anya wouldn't make an inappropriate comment to the already ill at ease Riley...

They went back to work researching.

Willow was reading a tome at the table about fairy tales being used as settings for alternate realities. She sighed and shook her head. "Fairy tales are so unfair to witches! It’s hateful propaganda, that’s what it is.”

The others nodded, keeping quiet lest Willow go on a full-fledged rant or think that they were patronizing her.

They held in groans when Willow continued, “They wanted everyone to associate witches with evil, and used fairy tales to indoctrinate fear and hatred. They weren’t content to burn, drown, or torture suspected witches, they had to turn the common people against them too! Even midwives were labeled evil witches! Can you believe that?”

Tara frowned sadly and held Willow’s hand. “Wolves too. They gave the poor things a bad a name by portraying them as evil and bloodthirsty.”

“Stepmothers got a pretty bad rep too,” Xander pointed out. “Were there any stories where they weren’t horrible, evil old bitches?”

“And sometimes,” Willow added, “the stepmothers were witches! So it was doubly-evil propaganda. Can anyone come up with a positive example of witches, stepmothers, or wolves in an old fairy tale? If you can, you win...” Willow picked up her bag and fished around in it for a few moments. "Whoever does, gets this fuzzy troll pencil topper," she brought out a little smiling wishing troll pencil topper with pink fuzzy hair.

"Oooh, a prize!" Xander said, wanting to win it.

Anya fidgeted uncomfortably, remembering her very first action as a Vengeance demon. "Trolls, on the other hand, deserve their reputations. They aren't cute or nice, as your novelty pencil topper would have us believe. That's propaganda too."

They wracked their brains to think of positive examples of stepmothers, witches, or wolves in fairy tales, as they continued studying the books in front of them.

Riley went over the list of books Giles had given him, making sure he brought the right ones back to the shop.

He was furious that Spike had gone through the portal with Buffy. Even though Giles and the others had said they didn't see how Spike could've had anything to do with it, Riley was convinced that the evil, treacherous Vampire was responsible in some way.

Spike had a thing for Buffy -- Riley had seen it, sensed it, felt it. And he wouldn't put anything past Spike. Maybe Spike had made some kind of secret deal with the Unari? Riley knew Spike couldn't possibly actually care about Dawn, that was just part of his evil plan.

Riley didn't see or care that he was being completely irrational. He was afraid.

He was afraid that Spike had some sick, demented scheme cooked up; afraid that Buffy was going to be incredibly naive (she made some very questionable judgments, as far as Riley was concerned) and buy into whatever bullshit Spike sold her; afraid that Spike would try slithering his way further into Buffy's life... maybe forcing himself on her or trying to seduce her (and Buffy had proven susceptible to a Vampire's charms in the past). His biggest, most secret, darkest fear was that there was something between Buffy and Spike. A strong, primal magnetism that had been simmering since Spike had first walked into Buffy's life.

Riley could only pray that Buffy wouldn't discover she had warm feelings for the evil Vampire (whom she should have staked ages ago if she'd been doing her duty).

"It would be a shame if something bad happened to Spike in the other dimension..." Riley said, a smile touching his lips for the first time since Buffy had gone through the portal without him.

That thought did make him feel a bit better, imagining Spike getting killed in a dozen different, extremely painful ways. But, to Riley's frustration, Spike seemed to have 9 lives, never meeting the violent, dusty end that he deserved. If there was a way to survive, that snake always found it. Riley wasn't going to permit Spike to divert Buffy's attention or trick her into having feelings for him. He'd be damned before he let that smug, soulless bastard take away what was his.

He smiled broader as he collected a few more books, saying to himself, "Even if he does manage to come back with Buffy and Dawn, I'll take care of him personally, once and for all."

The thought of killing Spike was so pleasurable, it was actually giving him a hard-on.
End Notes:
'Scarborough Fair' is a Traditional English folk song. Most of us are familiar with the version by Simon & Garfunkel. Thanks to Carol for reminding me of that :)
Part 1, Chapter 5: Toil & Trouble by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
Banners by xoChantelly and Edgehead :D
The next morning Buffy and Spike were awakened by the witch singing another song. It took them both a moment to get their bearings, and then swallow the disappointment that all of it hadn't been some crazy nightmare. They were still here.

Wicked Willow danced around the room as she sang:

"Oh, ev'ry sleeper waken!
The sun is in the sky
Come, rise, come, rise,
And hear the cuckoo cry
Cuckoo! Cuckoo!
Wake up! Be spry!"

She ended her song by giving Buffy a sharp kick to the shin.

"OWW!" Buffy shouted and jumped. She scooted into the corner, massaging her smarting shin and looking at Wicked Willow with undisguised contempt. "I'm awake, dammit! You didn't have to kick me!"

"Get up, you lazy girl, it's time for breakfast! It seems that you were both well-behaved while I slept, good thing for you!"

Spike groaned and sat up. He would've feigned sleep, but all that would've gotten him was a kick or worse.

"You'll come with me to gather eggs, fetch water, and firewood," the witch told Buffy.

"The... chain will stretch all the way outside?" Buffy asked.

"No, I'll have to take the shackle off for that."

Buffy was still foggy from sleep, but the thought of possibly being let off the chain was enough to perk her up. If she was free and let outside, there would be a good chance for escape.

"Now, don't get the notion that you can just run off," the witch said, eerily seeming to know exactly what Buffy had been thinking. "There's a spell that will keep you from leaving my property -- the same pain that you feel with the wand and when you try putting your filthy little hands on me."

Buffy thought, 'Shit, she's got one of those invisible fence things too... Figures.'

The shackle dropped away from Buffy's ankle at the touch of the wand.

Buffy rubbed her chafed ankle. "If you have a spell to keep us from running away... why chain us up?"

"Oh, there are many reasons. Because sometimes the old ways are best, as well as more fun! It pleases me to see chains on my darlings. It also keeps you from getting underfoot while reminding you that you're mine. Stand up, girl."

Buffy stood up, wanting to cave the witch's head in so bad. The thought of getting that horrible pain again was the only thing staying her hand.

The witch told Buffy that she would be doing chores outside during the day as well as in the house. There were some animals to be fed and watered, crops to be tended to, wood to be chopped, etc. Buffy didn't say so, but the wood chopping sounded good -- she'd have to be given an axe to perform that chore. Giving an angry Slayer an axe was a big mistake that their captor would find out the hard way... if Buffy could just manage to be faster, stronger, and accurate.

"Follow me, and don't try anything stupid, you know what will happen to you if you do."

Buffy reluctantly followed the witch out the door, giving Spike a nervous glance.

Spike didn't like this -- Buffy being shuffled along to another location. The witch could be taking her somewhere to slaughter her like a hog. At least they had a chance of preventing the other from getting killed when they were in the same room.

Spike spent the time alone fruitlessly pulling at the chain and thinking of ways he might be able to get the wand away from the witch, or use one of the potential weapons on her. The axe hanging on the wall looked especially good to him. Oh, how he'd make that bitch pay if he could get just one swing in...

Evil Willow and Buffy came back 20 minutes later with the witch carrying a basket of eggs, and Buffy lugging a pail of water and a bunch of firewood under her other arm. The firewood had already been chopped, so she hadn't had a chance to try using the axe as a weapon yet. But the pile of wood was dwindling, so maybe tomorrow... Buffy hadn't tried escaping just yet, there hadn't been a good opportunity. She didn't know where she'd go or what she'd do if she did manage to break free and make a run for it. Though the pain from the spell would probably make her drop. And there was the problem of Spike still being chained up in the house. She'd have to think about it before she tried anything.

Breakfast was cooked for Wicked Willow and Spike. Buffy got a piece of stale bread and a cup of water, while they had ham and cheese omelets with pastries for dessert.

After the meal, Buffy was told to do the dishes. She just barely was able to keep from going off. The witch replenished the table o' candy goodness, creating more food with a touch of the wand. Spike was given a fresh heap of cakes and candies to devour throughout the course of the day. And one thing that they were confused about, the witch ordered them to take off their shoes and socks. They asked why, but she just gave them the 'because I told you to' explanation. They did as she asked, choosing to pick their battles.

Then Wicked Willow took Buffy back outside with her, leaving Spike alone again.

He tried focusing on constructive things, but he worried. Worried about Buffy possibly being harmed, but also worried about Buffy making a run for it.

'She wouldn't leave me here... would she?' Spike asked himself, then shook his head. 'Nah, she wouldn't do that. She's all heroic, and heroes don't abandon their comrades...' He nodded, trying to convince himself that that was true. He tried ignoring the voice in his head that told him that Buffy would leave him, he meant nothing to her. He was the kind of creature she killed on a daily basis, and he'd personally caused her and her friends so much trouble and grief. Why would she bat an eyelash at leaving him here? "No, she wouldn't -- she won't."

An hour and a half later, Buffy and the witch returned. Spike silently chided that negative inner voice of his, he'd been worried for nothing, Buffy didn't leave him here to die. He looked her over for any signs of injury. She looked tired, her face, arms and feet were streaked with soot and dirt. But she looked otherwise fine.

Wicked Willow pushed Buffy toward the corner. Buffy stumbled, but didn't fall. She sank down to sit on her butt, glowering at the witch.

"Where'd you two go off to?" Spike asked.

"I'm sure that Buffy will tell you all about it while I'm gone." The witch passed a hand over her face, suddenly looking like Sunnydale Willow again. She smiled and giggled. "I need to go into the village for a few necessities."

They contained their happiness at the thought of her leaving for any amount of time.

Evil Willow straightened her clothes "Now, Buffy, remember what I told you: no eating. You are not to eat or taste or drink anything unless I give it to you. Do you understand me, girl?"

"Yes," Buffy said, her eye twitched with suppressed rage.

"Spike, if you give her any food, you will be severely punished too. She only eats what I give her -- do you understand?”

“Yeah, I do. I understood it the first few dozen times you told me, too.” He clenched his fists, keeping his temper in check.

Wicked Willow hesitated a moment. "If I weren't in a hurry, I'd discipline you for that smart mouth. Buffy, you are to sweep and scrub the floor while I'm gone."

"I just did it last night!" Buffy protested.

"And it's filthy again!"

Buffy's brows formed a V of confusion. There was dirt all over the floor again, it shouldn't be that dirty yet. That was a nice touch, the floor must get magically dirty again to give her more work to do. "What the... I just cleaned it! How..." She shook her head. "Can't you just use your wand to make it instantly, magically clean?"

"You're questioning me?" Evil Willow asked with narrowed eyes.

"I think it's a valid question. You can do all that other stuff with the wand, so why --"

"I have my reasons, girl, and I don't have to explain them to you." The witch dropped a scrub brush into a bucket of water. "There's enough water in the pail for you to wash the floor. You'd better do a good job of it too! Now, be good while I'm gone or it'll be the strap for you!" she said cheerfully as she went out the door.

"What'd she have you do?" Spike asked once they were alone.

"There's another place around back that she had me clean," Buffy replied, shivering a little.

"Does she have more people trussed up out there?"

"No... but it's obvious that people were in there before. And... there's a huge oven, like the one in the story."

Spike's mind went to the worst happening: the witch shoving him and Buffy in the oven. But he tried looking at it from a more helpful angle. "Good."

"Good? Are you crazy? That means she can bake us!"

"It's good because that jibes with the story, and we have the means to kill her like Hansel and Gretel did. That's how we kill the bitch."

"I thought about throwing her in, but I can't do it with the pain..."

"Yeah, that's some pain, innit? Worse by far than what I get with just the chip."

"It... almost makes me feel sorry for you," Buffy said.

Spike rolled his eyes, "Almost? After the pain you got, you still don't feel for me?"

"I say 'almost', because the pain you get from the chip is the only thing keeping you from going on a killing spree."

Spike smiled a little and shrugged, "True 'nuff. But I never want you feelin' sorry for me. Don't need your pity."

"Oh right," Buffy said sarcastically, "when you got chipped, you came crawling to Giles' house for us to help you. You were begging for our pity -- and you nearly ruined my Thanksgiving."

Spike bristled at that. "Hey, I'm a bloody survivor! If asking for help leads to me living to fight another day, I'll do it. I'd like to see how intact your pride would be if you were starvin', defenseless, and you'd been violated."

"Violated? Geez, Spike, drama queen much?"

"You don't call being incapacitated, then having someone shove a piece of metal in your brain to control you 'violated'? You must have a much different definition of the word then. And I think that the homicidal Indian spirits had more of a chance of ruining your precious turkey dinner than me being tied to a bloody chair!"

"And when he turned into the bear... can't forget that," Buffy said, then gulped at the memory.

Spike fidgeted at the mention of the bear. "Yeah, and Tall, Dark and Forehead was swanning about behind the scenes too. See? I was the least of your worries that day. Don't go trying to put all the blame on me like you always do -- you and your soddin' posse." At a perilous look from Buffy, he explained, "I said 'posse', P-O-S-S-E."

"It's not even noon yet and I want to go back to sleep. I'm not in the mood to start fighting with you about stupid crap again." Buffy groaned and ran her hands back through her hair. Her pretty Bavarian braided 'do had suffered some damage since they first got here. It wasn't tidy anymore.

"Well... you started it." Spike sniffed. He pretended not to be too engrossed when Buffy took her hair down. She freed it from the pins, letting it fall, then began unbraiding it so she could fix it. "The longer hair suits you," he said as casually as he could.

"I wore it longer when I was a kid, got tired of it. Why the Unari felt the need to make my hair longer is added to the bottom of my list of questions. Just weird." She used her fingers to comb her hair because she didn't have a brush, and she sure as hell wouldn't use one that belonged to Evil Willow, though (judging by the sorry state of her hair and teeth) it didn't seem like the witch used brushes on anything other than floors -- ever.

Buffy's hair looked lustrous, despite it being messy. Spike's fingers itched to run through her golden tresses. It looked so silky, soft and shiny... 'Why can't I stop thinking shit like that? I've got to stop!'

After putting it into one big braid, she wound her waist length hair into a bun and secured it at the back of her head again as they talked. "I thought about throwing a bucket of water on her when I was outside, à la 'The Wizard of Oz'. I didn't because A) that would've been too easy a way to kill her, and I don't think we'd get that lucky, and B) it wouldn't work, and then she'd be soaked and very pissed off. Do you think I should've tried it anyway?"

Spike looked away from her, not wanting her to see how pleased he was that she was asking his opinion. He felt like a git that just a tiny bit of acceptance from her made him puff up. "Probably best you didn't try it. I doubt it would've worked either."

Buffy nodded, feeling better that Spike agreed. She'd been taught a lesson about not asking for or valuing his opinions, she'd try not to repeat the mistake. Then she sighed and stood back up. "I'd better start sweeping and scrubbing, I wouldn't want to get beat on for something avoidable." She took the broom and started seeping the floor. "I haaaate cleaning. Even normal cleaning that doesn't involve me being threatened with violence."

"I subscribe to the Lily Munster method of housekeeping, myself. I think dust and cobwebs give a home a more cozy feel."

"Yeah, I've seen your place," Buffy said with a slight smile. "Good thing you aren't the one being forced to clean, you wouldn't know how. It's so weird, why does she seem so fanatical about everything being clean? Wouldn't know it to look at her."

"It's a puzzler, alright. Her personal hygiene is horrible, but otherwise she's a neat freak."

They both chuckled and shared a shy sort of glance. It felt good to talk with each other like this. To joke and discuss things as if their straits weren't so dire.

"Why do you think she can't just *poof* everything clean or make everything she needs appear with the wand?" Buffy asked.

"The first answer that leaps to mind is that she's just evil and mad. But... maybe there're added reasons."

"Like what?"

"Like maybe she has a limited amount of magick energy in either the wand or herself, and she has to choose which things she uses it for before the power runs out." Spike started working on eating the mound of food in front of him, he didn't want to get shocked for something avoidable either.

"So if we made her use her magick up, we might be able to overpower her?"

"Possible, but a bit too risky for us to try. The only way we know for sure to get her to use the wand is when she zaps us, and I don't know how much of that either of us could take. That wand might have a big power supply. Plus, the draining her power thing is still just a theory."

They were quiet for a minute, thinking hard.

"You know, we get the pain when we touch her, but we could try chucking something at her head," Spike suggested. "I'm not sure if I'll be able to do anything because of the chip, but you can throw something at her with no trouble. Unless her looking like Willow still bothers you too much?"

"Oh, I think I'm rapidly getting over the aversion to hurting her."

Sly smiles appeared on both their faces.

Buffy continued, "I can't believe I didn't think of it myself, but you're right. I think the protection spell won't kick in if we're not actually putting our hands on her. The chip still works when you try to hurt her? She ain't exactly Human."

"Honestly, I don't know. The chip could have been going off but I couldn't tell with the extra pain. The pain I felt when grabbed her... well, you know what it feels like. That pain eclipses what the chip normally does."

Buffy nodded as she looked around for what her weapon of choice would be. "I'll take care of it, just have to figure out what to use on her."

"I'm partial to the axe," Spike said, nodding at where it hung on the wall.

Buffy screwed her face up, "That would be messy though..."

"What do you care? Your cleaning days will be over."

They laughed, giddy at the thought of being free.

"Good point. Alright, the axe it is. I'm pretty good with projectile weapons, I know I can make one throw count." Buffy put the broom down, then took the axe off the wall, gripping the handle and testing its sharpness. "I can sit on the hearth and wait for the bitch to open the door, then fling the axe right at her forehead."

"I don't know if that's a good idea."

She frowned and looked at him. "Why not? Don't you want to get out of here as soon as possible?"

"Yeah, but she might be anticipating that we'll try something while she's gone, that maybe we're laying in wait for her. I think it's best if we wait for the best time, when she won't be expecting anything."

Buffy sighed, then put the axe back on the wall. "This really is a kooky dimension -- you make sense here."

Spike rolled his eyes, "Thanks, Slayer. Nice backhanded compliment."

Buffy took the broom back in her hands, getting back to her assigned chores. "Okay then, I wait for the right time to split her head open. But what if there never is a right time? I want to get out of here today."

"Let's just hope that an opportunity presents itself, yeah? The sooner we escape the better. I ain't exactly havin' the time of my life either. But we've got to play it right."

Buffy's curiosity was still piqued from last night. She wouldn't reveal how frazzled she'd been last night when Spike had started singing, but she just had to ask him a question or two. She was ashamed of herself for letting the situation break her down enough to make her cry, and no doubt Spike would tease her about it.

"Were... you singing last night or was I dreaming it?" Buffy asked after a minute of silence.

Spike cocked an eyebrow; he wasn't sure if she would bring it up or not. "Offend your ears, did I?"

"No, you were... actually your voice isn't that bad." Buffy didn't want to let him know she thought he had a great voice, or how much she'd really liked it, how soothing she'd found it. "You sounded like an angel after the witch's singing."

"Hey, I'm a helluva lot better than Angel!" Spike said defensively. "Only time I didn't mind hearing him was during drinking songs, and that's only 'cos I was pissed drunk too. He's a bloody horrible singer and dancer, and I --"

Buffy interrupted, calmly saying, "I said you sounded like an angel -- not Angel with a capital A -- in comparison to her."

"Oh... Alright, then. Thanks." Spike felt blushy at misunderstanding her, but tried playing it off. "Though it wouldn't take much to top her singing voice."

"I never heard Angel sing or saw him dance."

"Consider yourself fortunate, luv."

In the spirit of getting along, Spike held back what he wanted to say, but silently wondered, 'What the hell did those two do when they were together? They only shagged the one time, so they weren't doing that. Probably did a lot of talking about their feelings, how they're so much in love, but couldn't be together... Morons...'

"How is it that you know the words to a Simon & Garfunkel song?"

"You think I don't have facets? I'm a bloody iceberg, Slayer, there's lots more to me under the surface."

"It's just hard to imagine you liking folk music."

He sighed, turning his face away. A small, wistful smile lifted the corners of his mouth. "Dru loved it. Whenever she had an intense vision, and was especially... distraught, I would wrap my arms around her and sing to her. By the second verse, she would usually be singing along with me. She'd forget her troubles for just long enough to get some control over her emotions. I figured you could use a little soothing."

Buffy wondered how it was that someone like Dru (an insane, remorseless, brutal killer) got lucky enough to have someone so loving and protective of her. Then Buffy felt defensive -- was he saying he'd heard her crying and sang the song to calm her down like he'd done for loony tunes Drusilla?

"I sincerely hope that you aren't comparing me to that crazy bitch. I might've been... grappling with some issues, but I'm not a frickin' nutcase."

Spike shot her a look, his smile disappearing. "I happened to love that crazy bitch... so watch your bloody mouth."

"Why? Why did you love her so much? Was it because she made you? Some weird Vamp bond thing?"

"That's... none of your business. I think I gave you this speech once before, love isn't about reason. You don't weigh pros and cons, you just... feel."

She sighed. "Yeah... I know something about that too."

"By the forlorn expression on your face, I'll wager you're thinking about how much you love him," he said with distaste.

"Spike, can we not get into a debate about Angel? Told you before, I'm not in the mood."

"I meant Captain Cardboard." Spike smirked. That said it all as far as he was concerned. In a conversation about love, old Riley had been temporarily forgotten.

"Oh... w-well, I don't want to argue with you about him either." Buffy swept the floor with more energy, turning her back to Spike. She thought, 'Riley completely slipped my mind! What's wrong with me?! My sweet, kind, loving boyfriend is probably back home all worried about me... Oh God, I'm a horrible person!'

Buffy did love Riley, but not as much as she wished she loved him, or as much as he loved her. She loved him, but didn't think that she was in love. That upset her to no end. Why couldn't she be head-over-heels with a perfectly nice, normal guy? But she would make it work, dammit! When she got back to Sunnydale, she would do everything she could to work through all of the little problems she was having (and some of the big ones) with Riley. She wouldn't think about Angel... or certain other Vampires, as in any way attractive or alluring.

She glanced at Spike, seeing him eating another delicious-looking cookie. The cookie looked like a giant snickerdoodle; he appeared to actually be enjoying this one. His eyes closed momentarily with what looked like pleasure as he slowly chewed. Her mouth watered. But why exactly was her mouth watering? Some of it was due to the fact that she was starving for real food, but there were also the random thoughts popping up in her head about Spike himself. How beautiful he was, how strong, how... desirable. This wasn't the first time she'd noticed what a stone cold fox Spike was, but she was dwelling on it more now. It was this crazy dimension. It had to be. There was the perving on Spike back in the forest, the thinking he looked gorgeous by moonlight, and now she had the urge to jump him, to devour him and that cookie. This place was doing weird things to her head.

Buffy was distressed again. 'I *cannot* think of him that way! I went down the Vamp lusting path once and it sucked! Sucked in every meaning of the word. And Spike doesn't even have a soul! Sooo wrong. So... wrong. ' There was a little thrill that shot through her at the thought of doing something wrong, and that shamed her further.

She focused on the sweeping and thinking about possibly escaping later. It wouldn't be easy to kill the witch, but she was ready to do it. They had to get out of this place before they could be abused or starved any more.

Speaking of hunger, Buffy's stomach chose that moment to make a loud rumble.

Spike looked over at her when he heard Buffy's stomach growl. Buffy winced and rubbed her stomach, willing her body to shut up.

He looked to the pile of food, and then back at her. "Why don't you go ahead and have something?"

Buffy looked at the tasty treats and chewed on her lower lip. "But... she warned me about having any."

"You're hungry, I can hear your stomach devouring itself. Go on and have something. How's she gonna know? We'll be making our escape attempt later on, and you should be at your best when we do."

"Well... I guess eating one little thing wouldn't hurt, right?"

"Right." He gestured to the food in front of him, "Take whatever you want."

Buffy shuffled over and kneeled down next to the food. She didn't know what to pick, it all looked so good.

Spike picked out a big chocolate chip cookie and handed it to her. "One morsel couldn't hurt. Just make sure you get all of the crumbs and whatnot cleaned up, she might check your fingers or mouth."

Buffy nodded and licked her lips, then she took a big bite out of the cookie. "Mmmm! So good!" she mumbled, a few crumbs flying off of her lips. She made short work of the rest of the cookie.

"I'm sick of the bloody things, don't even taste good to me anymore. With the exception of that last enormous snickerdoodle, I'm a cinnamon fan." He smiled as he watched Buffy gobble up the cookie, then licking her fingers. "Better?"

"Yeah, God, I needed that! I'd better cover up any evidence right away, she might try to surprise us by coming back sooner than we expected."

Buffy went to the bucket of fresh water and took a drink, swishing it around in her mouth, and then washed her hands, making sure to get rid of any traces of chocolate chippy goodness.

"You got a bit of relief from your hunger, yeah?" Spike said.

"Mmmhmm. I could eat 10 more cookies just like the first one, but I think it took the edge off my hunger."

"Now if only I could take the edge off mine..."

The way his voice sounded made her look at him. His voice was deeper and disturbingly sexy. The look on his face matched the sensual tone of his voice.

"I need blood..." Spike's eyelids were lowered slightly, he looked at her in a way that made her fidget (and though she didn't acknowledge it, made her womany place tingle). "You wouldn't consider..."

"No, I would not," Buffy said rigidly. "There ain't no way I'm letting you suck my neck, buddy."

"It wouldn't have to be your neck..."

"You think that sweetens the deal for me?! I say again, NO." She gave him a look that told him that to suggest that again would mean getting punched. "I'm committed to my 'no sucking of any kind' policy."

Spike smirked, "Sorry to hear that... my condolences to Finn. Y'know, if you could survive on something my body manufactured naturally, I'd let you have a suck."

"Eww! You're so gross! I feel sorry for you, but I'm not letting you suck on any part of my body!"

"I'm starvin' to death! It wouldn't kill you to let me have just a sip!"

"Thought you didn't want my pity? And starving 'to death'? Not possible."

Spike rolled his eyes. "Sorry, I should've said 'starving until I look like a living skeleton'."

"We're not going to be here that long, remember? We're getting out of here tonight, I think you can survive that much longer without me opening a vein for you. That's the only reason you encouraged me to eat something, isn't it? Because you wanted to try guilting me into giving you my blood!"

Spike replied scornfully, "I suggested it 'cos the sounds your stomach was making were annoying me."

That wasn't true, of course. He'd suggested she eat something because he was worried about her. But he wasn't going to admit that, especially not now with her getting bitchy. Spike hadn't had any ulterior motives, but he wasn't going to say no if she offered him a bit of the ruby red to help keep him energized. He also wasn't as optimistic as Buffy was about their chances of getting away tonight, or even tomorrow. He had a bad feeling about it. After all, every one of Spike's plans had failed since he'd met Buffy, and this was partly his plan, so he was afraid that it was doomed to fail.

"Sorry I can't control the growling of my stomach, jerk."

Every time they made some headway in the 'getting along' department, they ended up pissing each other off somehow. How were they ever going to get through this if they couldn't stop arguing for more than 5 minutes at a time?

They were both quiet for some time after that, mad at each other for different reasons. Buffy finished sweeping, and then scrubbed the floor while Spike continued eating his food.

They stopped what they were doing when they heard the door open.

The witch came in carrying a big wicker basket of items she'd gotten in the village. Thankfully she was green and nasty looking again, it was extremely upsetting to have to interact with her when she looked and talked like the real Willow.

"Hello, poppets! Miss me?" Wicked Willow asked with a giggle. She talked as she put things away. "Looks like you two kept busy. Did you mind your manners?"

"Yes," they said, adding extra S's to the end, making it sound more like a hiss.

Buffy's eyes kept straying to the axe. She wished she would've done it her way and gotten the witch as soon as she'd come through the door. Spike was wrong about that, Evil Willow just strolled right in, not looking concerned or cautious at all. Buffy inwardly cursed herself for not following through with her initial instinct.

"You may sit down Buffy. I have more chores for you, so rest up!"

Buffy sighed and dropped the scrub brush back into the water, then went to her corner to rest for whatever amount of time she was given.

"You weren't thinking of doing something nasty to me before I came in, were you?" the witched asked, her eyes twinkling darkly.

"Now why would we want to do something like that?" Spike said smoothly. "As you can see, we didn't try anything, we're not stupid."

"I peeked in on you just to make sure! You both have lots of mischievous energy, got to keep my eye on you!"

"What do you mean you 'peeked in' on us?" Buffy asked. Was the witch talking about peeking through the window or was it a magick kind of peek?

"Never you mind, girlie. That's for me to know and you to find out!" She cackled.

If the witch could see or listen to them, they were more screwed than they'd thought. They glanced at each other and waited to see what the witch busted them on.

"I had to... have a drink of water," Buffy said.

Spike gave her a questioning look, wondering why she was admitting to anything.

Evil Willow put her hands on her hips and narrowed her black eyes. "You did, eh?"

"I-I was thirsty from working so hard." Buffy hung her head, hoping to look repentant.

"Hmm, I should punish you for your insolence. But... you were honest and admitted your wrongdoing, so I will forgive you this one time."

Buffy closed her eyes for a second and breathed with relief. She'd taken a gamble by admitting to drinking some water, thinking that maybe if she confessed to one small infraction, that she wouldn't be suspected of the other things.

The witch smiled. "I suppose you're right, you'll need more water to keep you strong enough to do your chores. I'll allow you a few cups a day."

Buffy squirmed uncomfortably because the witch was just staring at her now. Did she suspect that Buffy had snuck food too or did she know about their plan to attack her later? "What?"

"I'm waiting!"

"... For what?"

"I just graciously permitted you to have more water each day and decided not to punish you -- you need to thank me. You must have been raised in a barn! Terrible, awful manners!"

Buffy had to brace herself and force the words out between clenched teeth, "Thank you."

Wicked Willow giggled and clapped. "Was that so hard? You know, it's such a lovely day outside! You two should be out there letting the sunlight sink into your bones. Maybe I'll let you out to play, but only if you're good!"

"Aren't you forgetting that I can't go out in the sun?" Spike asked. "Or don't you believe me about that either?"

"You'd sizzle and pop, or so you claim. That sounds just as ridiculous as not getting plump from eating cakes and candies." She walked to Spike, making him nervous. "Stand up and let me see that splendid demon face again."

"Why?" he asked cautiously.

"Because I told you to do it, you don't need any more reason than that."

Spike slipped into his Vampire features as he stood up. "When are you going to start believing me about needing blood to live, not Human food?"

The witch had a gleam in her eye that Spike didn't like one bit. "Possibly very, very soon... Bite her!" she said, pointing at Buffy.

Buffy and Spike both said, "What?!"

"You prey on Humans, so bite her. I want to see it."

"No, I-I can't..."

"Why not?"

"It's a long story..."

"I think you have time, dearie."

There were several reasons why he didn't feel that he could actually bite Buffy, the problem of the chip seemed to be the safest explanation. "I don't think you'll understand."

"I know you think I'm stupid, boy, but I assure you that I am not," she said menacingly. "Think it's beyond my tiny brain's ability to understand, do you?"

"The place we come from is different..." Spike growled in frustration, not knowing how to explain it. "The... military captured me because I'm a demon, they put me in a cage, and..." He wasn't sure how to describe it to someone from a time and place without modern technology. "They implanted a device in my head that makes it impossible for me to hurt a Human, not without feeling the same kind of pain I get from your protection spell. It's a... sort of magick they practice."

"Ah, I see..." The witch looked thoughtful but not confused. "So you can't sink those lovely teeth into her without having pain yourself?"

"Right." Spike sighed, relieved that she seemed to understand the basics and wasn't questioning how the chip worked.

She smiled. "Then I'll slit her throat. String her up by her feet and butcher her like a hog. I want to watch you feed."

Spike's eyes widened. "No! Don't... I won't... I won't drink her blood. All you'd accomplish would be making a mess of your floor, and you'd lose your live-in housekeeper."

Buffy's eyes had widened too. She gulped and reflexively put her hand to her throat. His wanting a taste of her blood was what their argument had been about just before the witch came back.

"It will be worth it!" the witch replied with a laugh. "If you're fond of her and don't wish her to die, I can just slice her open somewhere that won't kill her. I don't like compromising, boy, but I'm keen on seeing you drink from her."

"Doesn't matter what you do, I won't drink her blood," Spike said firmly, puffing his chest out.

Evil Willow's smile turned into a scowl. "You'll do as I say!"


"The fact that you refuse to do it makes me think that you've been lying about needing blood."

"You keep animals, yeah? Bring me one of them, I'll show you how I feed. You'll see I'm not lying."

"I don't want to watch you kill an animal, I want to see you drink her blood!"

"And I said NO!" Spike bellowed. His anger was getting the best of him. He was so hungry, and Slayer blood was like ambrosia. But he couldn't in reality feed on Buffy, it didn't matter even if the witch gave her a non-lethal cut, he couldn't do it. The main reason was because he knew Buffy would hate it, she'd be revolted, but he also refused because he couldn't trust himself. He was so hungry... he might lose control and take more than he should.

Buffy was inching in the direction of the axe. Spike and Evil Willow were staring each other down, their nostrils flaring. Spike was going to be 'disciplined' any second now, and Buffy intended on putting the plan into motion.

"Let's see how much of what else you told me is true," the witch said, touching Spike's chain with her wand; the chain became enchanted to lengthen as Buffy's did.

Spike's bumpy brow furrowed, he didn't know what she was doing. "What're you --"

She took Spike by the wrist and started to walk toward the windows. "Let's say hello to Mr. Sun!"

Spike twisted his wrist out of her grasp. "I ain't goin' near the bloody window!"

"Come along, boy!" She tried grabbing his arm again, but Spike kept pulling away. Then she tired of the little game and just zapped him with the wand.

Spike squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his teeth, yelling in pain and dropping to his knees. The witch took his wrist and dragged him toward the window. Spike wasn't able to struggle, just groan and twitch.

"Stop!" Buffy shouted. "If you put him in the sunlight he'll go up in flames! It's the truth!"

"And I'll just take your word for it?" Wicked Willow laughed. "No, dearie, I need proof. I don't trust you little rapscallions any more than you trust me."

Buffy got to her feet, the window was between her and the axe, and the witch was currently moving into her path. There were no other weapons available near her, and she already knew what would happen if she tried manhandling Evil Willow. She didn't know what to do.

The witch held Spike's hand in the sunlight coming in through the window. His hand started to smolder.

The sounds Spike was making changed, becoming more distressed, reminding Buffy of a dying animal caught in a trap. He tried jerking his arm out of the witch's grasp, but she had no trouble keeping hold of him. She just watched his hand smoke, redden, and begin to blister with an inquisitive smile.

"Let him go!" Buffy yelled. "You see that we weren't lying! He's going to die if you don't get him out of the light!"

Then flames popped up on Spike's hand. The witch finally let go of his arm. Spike immediately threw himself as far from the window as he could, and brought his hand to his chest and rolled on top of it to put out the flames. Buffy wasn't sure how much of what he was doing was just survival instinct or if he were cognizant enough to think about protecting himself.

He was growling and sounded like he was trying to yell something, but he was still in the grips of the effects of the wand, his words coming out garbled. Considering how insulting and laden with profanity what he was trying to say probably was, it was a good thing that the witch couldn't understand him.

Wicked Willow shook her head and laughed. "Oh my! You weren't lying about that one!" She bent over Spike's shaking body. "Hmm, maybe I could take a bite out of that half-cooked hand, see what broiled Vampire tastes like."

Buffy went for it: she ran to the axe, plucked it off the wall, then threw it in a matter of seconds.

The axe flew straight and true at the back of the witch's head. Buffy prepared for the splat -- but the axe just seemed to bounce off of the witch without causing any harm, then clattered to the floor.

Buffy stared in disbelief, "Shit!" The protection spell apparently had some added bonuses that they hadn't been aware of...

The witch straightened up and whirled on her, looking from the fallen axe to Buffy. "Bad, wicked girl!"

What does one say to an evil witch after a failed attempt at killing her? "Um... oops, the axe slipped -- I wasn't throwing it at you..." Buffy said lamely, backing up until she bumped into the front door. The witch looked eerily calm as she stalked toward Buffy. "I couldn't just stand there! I had to do something! You were going to hurt him!"

"And now, I'm going to hurt you!"

Buffy didn't have time to even try defending herself. Pain and darkness filled her mind, causing her to blackout. She didn't expect to wake up again...

When Buffy came to, the witch was nowhere around. She sat up, groaning and still trembling a bit from getting zapped. Spike was sitting in his corner, looking relieved to see her awake.

"Thought you were going to snuff it for a few minutes there."

"No... not yet. I really thought she was going to kill me... How long was I out?"

"'Bout 5 minutes, I think. I was out of it too, don't really know for sure."

Buffy sighed, "The axe didn't work."

"So I gathered," Spike said, frowning.

"She's got some kind of force field or something around her... Son of a bitch! Where is she?" Buffy looked all around.

Spike nodded toward the front door, "Went back outside. Doin' what, I don't know."

Buffy crawled over to her corner. The blanket wasn't much, but it was more comfortable than the bare floor. She leaned back against the wall. "How's your hand?" she asked, seeing that he'd ripped one of his shirt sleeves off and had it wrapped around his burned left hand. "She didn't... try eating your hand, did she?"

Spike raised his eyebrows and looked at this hand, flexing his fingers slightly, "No, my feelers are in one piece, just burned a bit. The burn isn't too bad, looks worse than it really is. Should be healed in a day or two. 'Course... that's the normal time it would take with me getting my daily serving of blood."

"She's got to believe you about needing blood now, right? I mean, you showed her the fangs, and she saw your reaction to sunlight. She knows you were telling the truth about those things."

Spike shook his head. "Nope. Stubborn bitch refuses to believe it. She also said that she'll kill us next time one of us tries something on her. I think she means it."

Buffy hugged her knees, resting her chin on them. "That's just great... Oh... and thanks."

"For what? Ah, was that a sarcastic thanks? You're really tryin' to stick it to me 'cos I did something wrong?"

"No, not sarcastic. I know how hungry you must be... but you refused to drink any of my blood when she was ordering you to do it. And you knew she'd punish you for it, but you risked standing up to her anyway... You really surprised me."

"Don't know whether I should be flattered or offended that you expected the worst of me yet again."

"Well, you are soulless and everything. And even people with souls have betrayed their friends in similar situations when they were hungry or scared enough. You came through for me and I... appreciate it."

Spike nodded once, then looked away. He didn't know how to handle Buffy being so sincere, her eyes and voice showing real gratitude. "Don't mention it."

"Why did you say no exactly?"

No way could he admit the whole naked truth to her. "We're in this together, ain't we? We get out of this together -- with all our parts intact -- or we don't get out at all. I've got your back, Slayer."

They smiled softly at each other for a moment.

Spike had to look away again, her eyes were pulling him in like an undertow, even from this distance. "I hope that you feel you can trust me a bit more now."

Buffy smiled wanly, snorting quietly. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but you showed me that I can trust you, Spike."

He still felt shaky and his hand hurt like a bitch, but her saying she trusted him buoyed his spirits considerably. He had to make an effort not to grin like a jackass.

"Looks like we have to come up with a new plan... What are we going to do now?" Buffy asked.

Spike hung his head back, looking up at the ceiling. "Reply hazy, ask again later," he said, mixing a few Magic 8-Ball answers.

At the Magic Box...

So far, none of them were able to come up with examples of nice stepmothers, witches, or wolves in fairy tales. Riley just got back from Giles' house.

"Did I miss anything?" Riley asked, putting the box of books down on the counter.

Giles thanked him and started taking the books out carefully, some were quite old.

"There are new pictures," Anya said, waving him over.

Riley hurried to her and blinked in surprise. "Oh my God... Is that really them?"

"We think so. Don't they look cute?"

"Well... Buffy looks cute. Spike looks like an idiot -- which is appropriate." Riley chuckled and pointed to the first picture, "Look at his stupid outfit, those shorts are hilarious!"

"I think he looks handsome. The shorts show off Spike's impressive basket. It's like he's smuggling sausage in his shorts."

"Anya, honey..." Xander groaned and rubbed his eyes. "What did we talk about earlier?"

"You mean about how I shouldn't mention how hot or well-endowed Spike looks in the pictures in front of Riley? Oh... oops." She bit her lip and looked back down at the book.

Xander groaned again. Willow patted him on the back. "Hey, she held out longer than I thought she would. I owe Tara five bucks."

"Why would I care what Spike looks like?" Riley huffed. "He looks stupid."

Anya explained, "Because men can get jealous of other men more gifted in the penis department. I thought you had a small --"

"Anya! For the love of all things good and holy -- stop talking!" Xander pleaded.

Riley glared at the drawing of Spike. "I'm not jealous of that son of a bitch! He's skinny and short! Every centimeter of that bastard is evil."

Anya studied the picture. "I'm guessing 23 centimeters of pure evil, maybe more. That's about 9 inches to you Americans. Why didn't you ever convert to the metric system? Everybody else in the world uses it."

Riley was getting redder in the face. "No way is he more -- gifted than me!"

"Uh, okay... I believe you," Anya said unconvincingly, clearly not believing it.

"You want me to prove it?! I'll prove it!" Riley started unbuttoning his pants.

The Scoobies were horrified -- with the exception of Anya, who had turned in her chair with eyebrows raised, ready to get a gander of Riley's equipment. She'd never pass up a chance to see a penis.

Xander ran over and put a hand on Riley's shoulder, shaking him slightly. "Whoa! Ri, let's calm down, okay? We don't... need to see that."

Riley stopped and closed his eyes, his shoulders slumping. He ran a shaky hand back through his hair. "God, I don't know what's wrong with me..."

"We're all, um, worried about Buffy. Makes us think and do the wacky..." Xander gave him a pat on the back. "Could someone else watch the book for a minute? I need to have a little talk with my lady..." he gave Anya a pointed look.

Tara volunteered to take up book watching duty.

Anya sighed as she gave up her seat to Tara, knowing she was about to get another lecture about being 'tactful and appropriate'. But she got up and followed Xander into Giles' office. She hadn't meant to upset Riley -- how was she supposed to know he'd go crazy and try showing his dick to everyone? It was a good thing Xander had stopped him -- Anya was positive that Riley's penis couldn't cash the check his mouth wrote.

"Sorry... I'm really sorry about that, everyone," Riley said sheepishly after the office door closed; he made sure his pants were buttoned and zipped.

"Th-That's okay," Tara said, trying to be understanding. "We're all under a lot of pressure."

Giles concentrated on unpacking the box of books, giving Riley a wary glance occasionally. 'Bloody hell, the boy's cracking up. That's all I need -- a mentally unstable, physically imposing ex-soldier. I have to think of more busy work for him...'
Part 1, Chapter 6: Rub-A-Dub-Dub by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
Buffy and Spike will be prisoners of the witch until chapter 10. What happens between now and then is all about their personal relationship and how it's changing. I hope y'all enjoy the ride :)

Kewl banners by xoChantelly and Edgehead
Later that night, back in the gingerbread house...

Buffy and Spike were mostly recovered from their bad shocks earlier in the day. They tried being on their best behavior, not wanting to push the witch too far again. They were afraid that she really would just kill one of them outright if they committed the tiniest violation of her rules. Evil Willow hadn't said anything about Buffy stealing a cookie, so at least there was one bright spot in the day.

They'd barely had a moment alone to talk and strategize since the afternoon, and they were still worried that the witch might be able to listen in on their conversations or see what they were doing even when she wasn't in the same room. But they both separately decided they'd have to take the risk of getting eavesdropped on, as they had to talk and plan sometime.

Around 8 o'clock, Wicked Willow stopped working on her embroidery, and stood in front of Spike. "You've done a fine job eating all your food, boy. You can stop for the evening."

Spike slumped with relief -- but that didn't last long.

"Stand up. And don't ask why, just do it."

Spike decided to go along with it, trying not to be too nervous about what she might want.

"Do you know what tonight is?" the witch asked him.

He shrugged, "Can't say that I do... And odds are that I don't want to know."

"It's bath night!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands happily. "Take off your clothes!"

Spike barked a laugh, then quickly sobered when he saw the no-nonsense look on her face. She was serious. "No, I won't be doin' that. Here's an idea: let's all keep our clothes on at all times."

Her smile faded. "You're making me repeat myself, and I don't like having to do that. I said... take them off. Now."

"No." Spike raised his chin.

"You can take them off willingly or I can use magick to remove all of your clothing, or I can rip it from you while you writhe in agony on the floor once I've corrected you with the wand. The choice is yours."

Spike could see that he was in a no-win situation. He opted to do it himself rather than be put out of commission and have it done to him. He didn't doubt she would do what she said, and he didn't want to be stark-bollock naked and defenseless in front of her... or Buffy, for that matter. He slowly shrugged out of his suspenders, and then began unbuttoning his shirt, keeping his eyes on Wicked Willow.

"It's not bad enough you've got us chained up and take delight in hurting us, you have to be pervy and gross by making us take off our clothes in front of you too?" Buffy asked, making a point of not looking directly at Spike. She felt ashamed that she was secretly excited about the fact that he was undressing in front of her, and she'd soon be seeing him naked.

"You be quiet, Buffy! It's your turn in the tub next! You've gotten filthy doing all your housework."

Buffy's eyes rounded. "I-I'm not taking off my clothes in front of... other people!"

The witch snickered. "Aww, modest little mouse!"

Spike thought as he tossed his shirt onto his 'bed', 'Bloody hell! I'm going to see Buffy naked?!'

Evil Willow waved the wand, an old-fashioned clawfoot bathtub, filled with hot water, appeared in the center of the room. "Now normally, I'd have you fetch water from the well for the bath," she told Buffy. "But I think it's best if I keep both of you close and confined for now. You were very naughty today!"

"I am not taking my clothes off." Buffy crossed her arms, defiant. She didn't want to give the witch any excuses to hurt her again, but she was nearly panicked at the thought of being naked in front of them.

"I have a solution to your shyness problem." The witch went into the other room, and brought out a room divider.

It reminded Buffy of one of those Oriental screens. It had a dark wooden frame with an oak tree painted on the white panels. The divider definitely looked out of place.

Buffy thought, 'That's weird -- but what isn't around here? -- they didn't have dividers like that in Europe in the olden days...'

Spike was thinking much the same thing, though he was mostly preoccupied with soon being naked in front of both of them, and possibly later seeing Buffy in all her glory.

Wicked Willow giggled. "There! Now no one will be able to see you while you bathe." She positioned the screen between the tub and Buffy. "I'll move the screen so he can't see you when it's your turn, you silly goose!"

"Fine," Buffy sighed, not seeing a way around taking a bath. At least she wouldn't have to do it with their eyes on her the whole time.

Spike spoke to the witch as he started undoing his shorts, "I don't understand why it's important to you that we bathe..." He stopped short of commenting about the witch's own lack of hygiene.

"I want your skin to stay nice and supple. And it'll save me time scouring off dirt when it's time to cook you!"

"Oh... wish I hadn't asked now."

Spike's hands paused before he'd finished unfastening his shorts. "I'm not doing this if you're going to gawk at me the whole bloody time."

Buffy felt heat bloom in her chest and cheeks, looking away sharply. She was about to deny that she'd been looking at him (her eyes had accidentally drifted toward him), but realized that he was talking to the witch before she'd blurted anything out. Spike's bare torso had drawn her eyes like a magnet. He was muscular without being too bulky. Streamlined, elegant, and smooth, like a statue of a Greek god.

'Oh my God, he's beautiful...' It was a beauty that made her want to gaze for hours, but also made her hands twitch with the desire to touch. To run her fingers along those chiseled lines, to trace them...

Buffy made more of an effort not to look at Spike. 'I can't perv on him! Well, not perv any *more* than I already have... He'd better keep his eyes to himself when it's my turn...' She felt guilty for staring at him for even a second, for lots of reasons. One being that she wouldn't appreciate him doing the same thing to her. But then, Spike wasn't known for his modesty. He probably didn't care if Buffy saw him naked... Still... she had to be polite and not look.

Spike put his hands on his hips, looking at the witch. "I can't undress or get in the tub with you watchin'. Hit me, kick me, whatever kind of mood you're in, but I'm not doing it."

Wicked Willow laughed "Silly boy! No need to be modest. I'm not gawking, my only interest in you is how well you'll cook up! You'll probably be tender and well-marbled, with a piquant flavor. But you're still too skinny for eating!"

"I'm not getting naked or getting into that tub with you watching either," Buffy said to the witch, showing her agreement and solidarity with Spike.

"Oh, you two are so precious! So shy! I could just eat you up -- which I will when the time is right!" She cackled and slapped her knee with glee. "Very well, I'll give you some privacy. Don't say I never did anything nice for you! I can do some sewing by lamplight in my bedroom while you get nice and clean. And I still haven't settled on what side dishes to serve with you, I can ruminate on that."

Evil Willow set down two folded towels on the floor next to the tub, along with a bar of soap and a washcloth. Then she hummed as she took a green bottle from a shelf, and proceeded to pour it into the bathwater. Bubbles quickly formed and expanded on top of the water.

"Bubbles make everything more fun!" Before she shut the door to her bedroom, she said, "Spike, you give me a holler when you're squeaky clean. Do a good job of washing -- you don't want me to have to scrub you!" She giggled as she closed the door.

They were so relieved to see that she was actually going to leave them alone.

"I most definitely do not want her scrubbin' me," Spike said with a shudder.

"Me either," Buffy agreed with her own shudder.

He looked at her and smirked, cocking an eyebrow, "Alone at last, eh?"

"We don't know how alone we actually are..." Then she had to look away quickly when Spike started undoing his shorts again.

"Yeah... well, nothin' we can do about that, just try to be as cautious as we can. I don't think she can see or hear everything though... some things went unmentioned." Spike was happy about Buffy's little snack going undiscovered too. He stepped out of the shorts and underwear, then kicked them onto his bed.

Buffy's eyes darted to him -- all on their own, of course. His back was turned to her, she got a good look at his butt. And what a sweet butt it was! It looked just as hot as the shorts had made it look -- firm, high and nicely rounded. Her eyes roamed down from his strong shoulders, to his muscular back, his tapered waist, the perfect ass, down to his legs (which she didn't find skinny anymore, they were just right) and back up again. A naughty part of her mind was actually hoping he'd turn to the side so she could get a look at his dick -- the bulge in his shorts had intrigued her.

She forced herself to look down at her lap. She'd be mortified if Spike caught her checking him out like this. It was bad enough she knew she was doing it.

He stepped behind the screen, unaware that Buffy was having trouble with his nudity. Spike figured that she'd been looking down and shielding her blushing eyes the entire time.

Buffy looked up again, thinking it was safe. But, thanks to the light from the fireplace, she could see him silhouetted in diffused light through the screen. She blinked at seeing a certain part of his anatomy in shadow. 'Whoa! Is that a trick of the light? Dammmmn...' Spike's 'spike' appeared to be quite big, just as she'd surmised from how his package looked when he'd been wearing the shorts. 'No wonder he's so cocky... Um, so arrogant. Omigod, what am I doing?! I'm actually hoping to see it without the screen in the way! Must focus on something other than Spike and his... body. I hate this crazy damn dimension!'

She was able to think again when Spike climbed into the bathtub and sank down into the water.

Spike slid under the water, then came back up so just his head was sticking out. The water was hot, not scalding. It'd be extremely relaxing if there wasn't the crazy witch in the next room to worry about. "This actually isn't too bad. Could do without the nancy boy bubbles though..." He blew some suds off of his hand.

"Bubbles are of the good. That's the only thing I agree with the witch about. I'm just grateful we don't have to deal with her staring at us... Thank God she has at least that much decency."

"You and me both, Slayer. Hmm, my hand ain't lookin' too bad. I didn't think it would heal at all, but the worst of the burn is already healed over. Just look like blemishes now."

"That's good."

She heard the water sloshing around as he sat up.

"Shame there's not some beautiful, hot nurse around to give me a sponge bath," Spike joked as he lathered up the washrag.

Just for a second, Buffy pictured herself in a nurse's outfit and giving Spike a thorough sponging... "Uh yeah, too bad. I think you've watched too much porn, Spike." Seems like she had too, her thoughts kept turning pornographic.

Spike laughed. "Maybe you're right. Beautiful nurses, bank tellers, or pizza delivery girls never just start takin' off their clothes like they do in the movies. Well... they have for me on occasion, but not lately."

Over the next 10 minutes, they talked through the divider about what they could do to escape. They refused to give up, but they couldn't come up with a plan that was assured success.

"I'm about done here," Spike said, having washed all the dirt from his body, as well as his hair. "But... would you mind coming 'round and doing my back? Want to make sure I'm grit and grime-free so she doesn't try scrubbing me herself..."

"Yeah... sure." Buffy gulped, not being able to think of a good reason to say no.

She went around the screen, telling herself to snap out of whatever weird horny mood she was in. This wasn't a good time to start thinking of Spike as an uber-hottie -- there was never a good time for it.

"'preciate it, luv." Spike smiled at her, holding out the soapy washcloth.

Buffy took the rag from him and kneeled down next to the end of the tub, Spike leaned forward so she had plenty of room to wash his back. She bit her lip as she began to rub the soap onto his skin. He looked really good wet... The water made his muscles shimmer, his hair looked especially sexy all wet and pointy. His skin was warm and nice and pink from the temperature of the water.

"How's it look?" Spike asked.



"Yeah, so dirty..." Buffy took a breath, forcing her mind onto a non-lusty track. She'd been mesmerized by his back muscles and hadn't really understood what he was asking. "Um, actually no, it's not too dirty. I'll be done in a few seconds."

Spike raised an eyebrow, thinking that she sounded strange. 'Well,' he thought, 'it must be weird for her to be washing her archenemy's back for him, that must be it.' Spike had to quell a rush of excitement at his next thought, 'Will she ask me to do her back too?! God, I'm such a git...'

When Spike was as clean as he was going to get, he started to rise out of the water. Buffy hurried back around the screen, keeping her eyes trained on the front door, and not looking back to possibly get another peek at his fabulous bod.

"Thanks for the help," Spike said as he toweled off. It felt so weird to thank her for anything. There was a time when he would have laughed himself silly if someone had suggested he'd thank Buffy for anything. "That wasn't easy for you, was it?" He was referring to the strangeness of washing the back of an enemy, but that's not what Buffy's mind leapt to.

"What? Wh-Why would it not be easy? It was super-easy!" 'Oh God, he knows I was thinking pervy thoughts!'

"Really? I thought it would be at least a little strange, what with us frequently being at each other's throats -- figuratively speaking. 'Cos a year -- Hell, just two days -- ago you wouldn't have imagined doing me a favor of any kind."

"Oh... well, maybe a little, yeah..."

Once Spike was dried off and had his shorts back on, the time came for Buffy's turn in the tub. The witch came back out and moved the screen between Spike's corner and the tub. She also inspected Spike to make sure that he was clean, and thankfully, she gave her approval. She freshened the water in the tub, and even poured in some bubble bath, which Buffy hadn't expected her to do.

Then she went back into her bedroom to let Buffy prepare for her bath, leaving as her parting thought, "You'd better be squeaky clean too, Buffy! If you aren't, I'll have to wash you myself, and I might just scrub you raw and bloody!"

Buffy gave the middle finger to the door after it was closed.

Spike went and sat back in his corner, not bothering to put his shirt back on. For one thing, he hated it. And another thing, it only had one sleeve, making him look even more ridiculous. He was sure he looked silly with just the leather shorts on, but he'd grin and bear it.

Even Spike being back in the shorts didn't stop Buffy's mind from thinking naughty things. She suddenly thought of how he reminded her of Sting in the movie 'Dune'. Buffy had seen that very long (and boring, in her opinion) movie a long time ago, but Sting wearing those shorts (or codpiece, whatever that winged thing was) had interested her greatly, and had even been featured in some of her earliest erotic dreams. So lean, hard bodied and sleek... Buffy was tingling in very naughty places. 'Oh God, I *have* to stop thinking this way! What's wrong with me?!'

Buffy went behind the screen, then hesitantly took off her clothes. She kept thinking Spike would try peeking on her, or the nasty witch would come back out just to torment her.

Spike rewrapped his hand with the ex-shirtsleeve; his hand looked 90% better, but he wanted to protect it until it was done healing. Then he noticed that he could see Buffy silhouetted through the screen. He stared, then looked away. Spike didn't want to take his eyes off of Buffy, but if she caught him... appreciating her, the bit of trust he'd earned would probably go right out the window.

But he couldn't fight the urge to peek. 'It's not like I'm going around the divider to see her. I'm just... seeing her shape.'

He had to bite the inside of his cheek when she'd shed her dress. She turned to the side, sticking her foot in the water to test the temperature, which gave him a nice profile view of her breasts. Spike could make out the points of her nipples. If this were a porn movie (and why, oh why couldn't it be?), she'd invite him to help her get those hard to reach places, he'd go around the screen and ravish her, right there in the bathtub.

'Bloody hell, why am I doing this to myself?! Stop looking!'

Buffy slid into the water. She moaned, the sound made his eyes roll back for a moment.

"Ohh, you were right, this does feel so good, Spike. It's so good and hot."

"Mmmhmm," was all he could safely say.

"Having a hot bath was one of the last things I expected to get here."

"I imagined a very hot bath in the cauldron -- only with sliced carrots and potatoes floating in the water with me."

Buffy laughed, the sound made him smile. And he was thinking such warm n' fuzzy thoughts about her that he wanted to kick his own ass.

"I admit, I pictured that too," she said, letting the heat of the water relax her as much as possible. "This is much better."

Buffy would have liked to just soak, but she didn't know if there was a time limit. So she got busy washing herself, she was streaked with dirt from all the cleaning she'd been doing. After she'd finished the rest of her body, she paused, wondering is she should ask or not.

"Um, could you do my back?" she asked finally.

Spike quickly took the makeshift bandage off his hand, not wishing to get it wet. "Yeah, tit for..."

He thought, 'Don't say the word 'tit'!'

"You did me, so..." He took a breath, growling inwardly at his own schoolboy-like nervousness. If his heart could beat, it would be galloping in his chest.

"You'll be tactful, right?" Buffy asked anxiously. "No... commenting on me being nude? No trying to look at certain areas..."

Spike went around the divider, stopping for a second to collect his thoughts. Buffy was in the tub, the water coming up to just above her breasts, her back to him. She had her arms crossed protectively over her chest even though the water and suds were covering it. The wet skin of her shoulders and neck shone in the light. His mind sputtered, 'Buffy -- wet -- naked -- bubbles.'

"You were considerate when you did me -- did my back, so I'll repay the favor."

Spike endeavored to be as detached as he possibly could so as not to upset the Slayer. 'Keep your libido under control, you wanker! Don't try saying anything funny or clever, just do what she asked you to do as quickly as you can!'

He got on his knees on the floor behind her, Buffy kept one arm across her chest as she handed him the washcloth and soap.

"You'll need to... lean forward and rise up a bit," Spike said.

Buffy did so, and Spike began washing her back. He noticed that there was still some dirt at the back and on the sides of her neck that she'd missed.

"Your neck's dirty. I'm just tellin' you because I'll have to concentrate on that area for a minute and didn't want you thinking it's my neck fetish."

Buffy chuckled anxiously. "Okay, I'll keep that in mind."

Cleaning her neck wasn't easy for him. Not because it was extremely dirty, but because it was her neck. The harder scrubbing making her skin pinker, her precious, delicious blood right at the surface. Spike tried thinking unsexy thoughts to keep his cock from swelling more than it already had.

'Alright, I need to think! What's completely unsexy? Angel naked. Riley naked. Naked Angel and Riley snogging. Angel, Riley, and Xander in a wild all-male sex orgy.' Not only were those thoughts and images unsexy, they were downright nauseating. It was helping. Though if those three gits did hook up that would leave Buffy without them constantly jockeying for position in her life... that aspect of it sounded good.

Once her neck was dirt-free, he gratefully moved down to do her shoulders and back. Although those parts were sexy as hell too... There wasn't any part of her that he wouldn't like to suck on for a week or two. He put his hand on her shoulder as he swirled the washrag around on her back; he touched her bare skin without thinking, just wanting to keep her steady while he washed her.

Buffy was unsuccessfully trying to clear her mind of any sexy thoughts too. Spike's injured hand was on her shoulder, gripping her gently. He was right, it did seem to be healing pretty well despite a supply of fresh blood. The hurt hand led her on a stream of consciousness journey to why he'd gotten burned -- Spike had refused to harm her and take her blood, even though his demon had to be roaring for it. Maybe he really was changing, becoming a better person... a very hot and sexy better person...

Spike had a gentle touch, one that made parts of her body below the water's surface quiver. Her naughty bits were betraying her by pulsing with need; her mind might be saying 'No', but other parts were begging for some action -- to feel him trail that washcloth down over her chest, stomach, then slide below the water...

He gripped her shoulder a little harder. "Bloody hell, you're tense."

"Yeah, wonder why?" Buffy sighed.

Spike draped the washcloth over the edge of the tub, then put both hands on her slender shoulders.

Buffy tensed up even more, her shoulders near her ears. "What're you doing?"

"Let me get some of these knots out. Relax."

She slowly lowered her shoulders, but her eyes were still opened wide. "You d-don't have to..."

"I know, but you need it. And I just happen to give excellent massages. So shut your gob and just enjoy," he said with a smirk, then started kneading her muscles in earnest.

It felt so good that Buffy gave in, her eyes going half-closed, a moan caught in her throat.

She didn't know how much time went by, lost in the sensation of his strong hands making all the tension fade away. There was still tension of a different kind in other parts of her body...

Buffy gasped when she felt his lips press against the nape of her neck. "S-Spike, what are you doing?"

His lips brushed over her skin to her ear, he whispered, "Shhh," then sucked on her earlobe.

Buffy knew she should scream at him, she was outraged that he was trying to take advantage of her in the vulnerable position she was in... but she was also so turned on she couldn't stand it. His lips felt so soft, so warm, so good.

She trembled with excitement, her heart palpitating. "Spike, don't! S-Stop!"

He smirked. "Don't stop, you say? As you wish." Spike's lips moved to the side of her throat, he nibbled, licked and sucked at a particularly tender spot, causing that moan Buffy had been holding back to burst forth.

His arms went under her arms, his hands sliding around to cup her breasts. Buffy groaned, her head dropped back to rest against his shoulder as he began gently squeezing her mounds and tweaking her nipples.

"Stop..." she said weakly, not making a move to make him stop.

Spike's hand went on the journey that she'd fantasized about -- sliding down over her taut stomach, going below the water. His fingers dipped between her folds.

"Ohhh God, don't stop!" Buffy said breathlessly, arching into his hand.

"My goal is to get you good an' relaxed, pet. You'll sleep like a baby when I'm done workin' my magic." Buffy was breathing heavily and clutching his arm as his hand worked that magic on her pussy. "Feels like my good hand's getting burned, but in a much more pleasant way."

Buffy turned her face toward him about to make another weak protest, to say how there were tons of reasons why they had to stop doing this, but he covered her mouth with his, swallowing her words. And then Buffy forgot why she should be opposed to it.

After the hottest kiss she'd ever experienced, Spike broke away from her then rose to his feet.

His shorts dropped to his ankles when he stood up. Buffy wasn't thinking very clearly, but she wondered how he'd undone the bindings on his shorts with both hands on her... But the majority of her attention was concentrated on his erection standing out tall and proud from his body. It was big and luscious, and that was no 'trick of the light' earlier, he was gifted. Her pussy clenched, eager to have that jumbo cock stretching and filling her like none had ever before.

"I feel dirty again," Spike said huskily. "Maybe I should get back in and wash some more."

Her eyes were following the slight bouncing of his cock like someone getting hypnotized with a pendulum. "Yeah... maybe you should. I still feel dirty too..."

"Let's share." He coaxed Buffy forward, allowing him to climb in to sit behind her. Then his arms wound around her and he pulled her back tight against his chest.

Buffy turned her face to the side for another hot, wet kiss, winding an arm up and around to tangle her fingers in his hair as their lips and tongues wrestled. Spike's hands glided over the front of her body. He used one to massage her tits, and the other went back to her pussy. She felt his hard, throbbing cock pressed against her ass.

With a little lifting and shifting, Spike's cockhead nudged between her pussylips, and then his long, thick shaft was sliding into her channel. She was sitting on his cock, fully impaled on his hardness, her ass resting against him.

"Ohh Spike, oh my God..." Buffy moaned, her eyes closing. She'd never been so full or felt so good.

He mouthed the side of her throat, moaning at being inside the hottest, tightest pussy he'd ever had. "Mmmm, Buffy, so perfect." He ground against her ass.

Buffy curled her legs to get her knees under her, to get better control and allow for longer, more powerful strokes. "Fuck me like this!" Buffy moaned, pushing back down onto his cock.

Spike held her waist and began rocking into her, the water of the tub splashed around them with every hard thrust.

"Ohhh God! Y-Yes!" Buffy whimpered, her hands grasping the sides of the tub. She helped by using her legs and arms to move back and forth, up and down.

It was strange, it was awkward -- but it was also the best thing either of them had ever felt.

Spike kept one hand on her slick hip, and reached around with the other to play with her clit. He drove into her as hard and fast as he could manage in the bathtub, not that he needed to move much in order to plow her, Buffy was doing a good job of fucking herself on him.

Buffy's movements became more frenzied. Spike's big cock piercing her core and his fingers in constant motion on her throbbing clit made her squeal in pleasure. Her body seized up, then shook as she came.

Spike felt her pussy convulsing, and that was it for him. He put both hands back on her waist, pulling her down and shoving his cock as deep inside her as it would go. "Ahhh Buffy!" he shouted as his cum erupted into her.

They moaned and grunted, rocking their bodies together, wanting to take every bit of pleasure they could from this...

Spike had been in a happy little world all his own, having a red-hot fantasy about a bathtub boff with Buffy. He snapped back to reality, surprised and confused. He wasn't in the tub with her, he was still on his knees behind her, washing her back. His hand was slowly jacking his cock of the last few drops of cum, the rest being splattered on the back of the tub.

His eyes wide, he thought, 'Bloody hell! What's wrong with me!?'

Spike still had the washcloth in his other hand, rubbing slow circles on Buffy's back. Buffy would go completely apeshit if she knew what he'd just done! He swiftly brought the washcloth to his softening cock, cleaning up all of the sticky cum as fast as he could. Then he wiped up the jizz on the bathtub, afraid that Buffy was going to catch him at any moment. Luckily, she seemed to be very relaxed and wasn't paying attention to what was going on behind her. Her right arm was resting on the lip of the tub, she was still lazily leaning forward. She was shivering a little, the water must be getting cold.

As Spike cleaned up his ejaculate, he wondered how the hell he'd gotten that horny and out of control. The circumstances had been making him hot, but he thought he'd been handling it okay -- right up to the point where he realized that he'd just cum on the back of the bathtub. He didn't remember doing any of it. Somewhere around the time he'd mentioned how tense she was, he'd slipped into the fantasy, imagining that he'd been so bold as to actually try giving Buffy a back massage.

'Must be the lack of blood... I'm starting to lose my mind!'

He draped the washcloth over the side of the bathtub so that he could use both hands to quickly tuck himself away and do up his stupid shorts. He swallowed anxiously when Buffy suddenly sat up, the water splashed at her abrupt movement.

"I-I think I fell asleep," she said, sounding a little freaked about it.

"Yeah? You... did seem pretty relaxed..." Spike buttoned up his shorts, feeling a little less nervous with everything put away. There was no evidence that he'd jacked off while washing her back, he could deny it if she suspected. He could just laugh it off and tell her that she had a filthy mind.

"Um, thanks for the help, Spike. I can take it from here."

He saw the washrag where he'd draped it over the edge of the tub. His cum was still on it. There were also lots of suds, but it was obvious (at least to him) what else was on it.

Spike was about to snatch the washcloth back from the side of the tub, but Buffy took it just before his hand got there. He needlessly held his breath, waiting for her to say something or scream with disgust.

"I said thanks, Spike." She looked at him over her shoulder. "You can... you know, go back around the screen now."

"Oh... yeah, okay. Glad I could... help." He stood up and went around the divider.

Spike could still see her in profile through the divider. He held in a moan at seeing her running the washcloth down the front of her throat and onto her chest.

'She's smearing my ball batter into her skin, and she doesn't even know it... That would be enough to make me blow my wad if I hadn't just a minute ago... Thank God she didn't notice what it was...'

Buffy was freaked out. She'd just had a crazy dream/fantasy about having bathtub sex with Spike! And she'd loved it! She'd come back to her senses shuddering, with two of her fingers shoved up her pussy. She'd actually cum while fucking herself with her fingers and imagining it was Spike's dick.

She tried to hurry finishing washing herself, giving her front one more quick going over, and then washing her pussy again. She was still tingling and sensitive (and subconsciously aching for the real thing), but she was finally done removing dirt... and other things. Though she felt a lot dirtier than she did when she'd started the bath.

'It must be having to deal with all the crazy, bad shit in this place... That and the fact that I'm practically starving. I would *never* do that, or want to do that, with Spike! It's not my fault... it's this place making me think the wacky.'

Buffy prayed that Spike didn't know she'd been frigging herself, much less that she was thinking about him while she was doing it.

They were relieved when bath time was officially over and they were both dressed again. Spike only had the shorts on (which still caused Buffy to think bad thoughts), but at least his naughty bits were concealed.

The witch deemed Buffy to be clean by her standards, then gave her a new plain gray dress to wear with a matching apron. Spike asked about possibly having an actual pair of pants, but he was denied. Evil Willow did promise to pick him up another pair of leather short-shorts the next time she went into the village. Not what he had in mind, but he managed to stop from complaining.

Even when they were left alone at bedtime, both Spike and Buffy kept silent. They were still lost in thought about their bath time fantasies, not knowing the other had experienced exactly the same thing, and too embarrassed about how vivid (and amazing) the fantasies had been. They could barely look each other in the eye, afraid that the other would somehow know how naughty their thoughts had gotten.

They were left with the light of the fire again, in the same positions they'd taken last night: Spike sitting up and leaning against the wall, and Buffy laying on her side to try and get some sleep.

Spike debated on whether to have an encore performance of the previous night, but decided to sing another selection from the Simon and Garfunkel songbook, 'Homeward Bound'.

'What if' scenarios concerning Buffy kept running through his mind. Spike didn't want to think that there might be a chance for them to be more than just 'enemies who could occasionally get along'. What if he told her how he felt? No... there was no way in hell that Buffy would even consider it, and he'd have a broken heart again. But he was helpless to stop the thoughts from coming.

There was no denying to himself that he lusted after her... especially not after what he'd done when she was taking her bath. Spike was still alarmed by his behavior, he was in bigger trouble than he'd imagined if he was losing control of his impulses. He'd have to try harder to keep his wits about him and not have another lapse.

Buffy was thinking along similar lines.

Buffy didn't think she'd cry tonight, that had been a temporary weak moment. Not that she wasn't depressed and frustrated though. Being held captive and treated like crap was bad enough. She also worried about her sister. And now she had these almost constant odd, scary, arousing thoughts about Spike.

It had to be this weird dimension messing with her head. That, and the fact that he'd risked his own safety to protect her, and that they were getting along better. But, she reminded herself, one or two acts of bravery or kindness didn't make someone's rap sheet automatically go away, and Spike had a lengthy one... Rap sheet, that is. A very lengthy... rap sheet.

Even if Spike did change his ways, she could never have a... romantic-type relationship with him. He didn't have a soul. And there was Riley, of course. She had the wonderful Riley Finn as a boyfriend already. A normal guy who loved her. That's what she needed -- not another Vampire boyfriend who would only drive her insane.

But there was a part deep down inside of her that desperately wanted to be challenged by the man she chose as a partner and lover. Someone who truly understood what her calling as the Slayer meant. Someone she wouldn't have to hold back her strength with or hide away her feelings on certain subjects. Someone who would give her what she craved sexually, intellectually, and emotionally. Someone who would love her for her strengths and her weaknesses, and wouldn't feel threatened by her superior abilities. Someone who would be her match.

It was asking for too much, she knew. There weren't any male Slayers, none of the Watchers she'd met had attracted her in the least, and any relationships with Vampires were to be avoided. That left her with no real options.

It scared Buffy to acknowledge the tiniest bit that Riley wasn't the 'long haul guy'. But that guy also surely wasn't Spike... Couldn't be... Spike was a killer... Though she was too, wasn't she? She killed his kind without a second thought everyday of her life. If Vamps were ever given a higher status and considered 'people', with all of the rights and privileges that Humans enjoyed (though that was highly unlikely), Buffy would then be considered a serial killer.

Her thoughts went back to imagining that perfect mate and how utterly wonderful it would be to find him. Buffy wished to have someone who was her equal on the battlefield, and who would prove just as extraordinary in her bed. A man who would know just how she wanted and needed to be touched. At times wild and vigorous or soft and gentle when they lay as lovers with his arms enfolding her at night. She'd love to be held right now...

'Stop driving yourself crazy and just listen to his voice,' Buffy told herself.

Spike was in a bluesy kind of mood. Knowing that his feelings for Buffy would never be reciprocated bothered him almost as much as being chained to a wall and held prisoner by the witch. A different kind of song pushed to the forefront of his mind. He started tapping out a slow beat on his thigh with his hand, then sang:

"Need someone's hand... to lead me through the night
I need someone's arms to hold and squeeze me tight
Now, when the night begins, I'm at an end
Because I need... your love so bad"

This was one that he'd never sung for Drusilla, she wasn't that fond of the Blues. This song made him think of how he felt about Buffy... which made singing it with her in the room a bad idea. But he couldn't just stop now and switch to another song after only one verse, she might be suspicious if he did that. She wouldn't know it was thoughts of her that pushed him to sing it, if Buffy asked he could always lie and say it was about Dru.

So he continued:

"I need some lips... to feel next to mine
I need someone to stand up and tell me when I'm lyin'
And when the lights are low - and it's time to go
That's when I need your love so bad

So why don't you give it up, and bring it home to me
Or write it on a piece of paper, baby - so it can be read to me
Tell me that you love me - and stop drivin' me mad
Oh, because I - I need your love so bad

Need a soft voice to talk to me at night
I don't want you to worry, baby
I know we can make everything alright
Listen to my plea, baby, bring it to me
Because I need... your love so bad"

Buffy had listened, being comforted by his voice again. But she had to wonder who he was singing about. It was obvious that the words held some personal meaning for him -- he'd infused the song with lots of feeling, while still being careful not to project too much in case the witch overheard. It was eerie that she'd been thinking about needing someone when he chose to start singing that particular song.

It was kind of conceited to think so, but... could he have been singing about her? She believed that Spike had the hots for her (he'd given her lots of suggestive looks and lewd comments), could his feelings possibly run deeper than that?

As Buffy was pondering that, Spike went back to singing 'Scarborough Fair' -- a safe song. The bluesy song was probably just another one he'd sung for Drusilla, after all. The lilting song and her tiredness helped Buffy finally go to sleep, leaving all of those probing questions for tomorrow.
End Notes:
'Need Your Love So Bad' lyrics by Little Willie John

* CallMeKitten suggested I include some reference pics. When Spike had his shorts back on, Buffy was reminded of Sting in the movie 'Dune'. For those of you who haven't seen it (and for those who have, and just want to see his yummyness again) here are two pics of Sting from the movie:

I know, Spike is way hotter and more muscley, but you get where Buffy's head was at heehee Thanks to Kitten for the suggestion of including the pics! *mwwwah!*
Part 1, Chapter 7: Never Leave Me by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
Happy Halloween! =D

Banners by xoChantelly and Edgehead
Buffy awoke to the witch kicking at her leg with a pointed boot, saying, "Get up, you lazy creature!"

"Hey!" Spike said from his corner. He'd just woken up to the witch's gravelly voice, and saw her beating up on Buffy already. "That's not bloody necessary!"

"I'm awake already! Stop it!" Buffy cried, moving her legs out of kicking range. "Can't you just wake me up normally -- with no kicking or hitting?!" She glowered at the witch. She already had a collection of purple bruises dotting her leg from getting kicked.

"I could, but kicking you is fun!" She looked at Spike, "And you be quiet, boy, I wasn't talking to you. Speak when you're spoken to."

Spike growled quietly.

The witch smiled at Buffy. "Now, fetch water from the well and make us a venison stew. It needs to be started now if it's to be ready for supper. Spike has to get nice and fat for me to eat him!" Wicked Willow touched the wand to Buffy's chain, the shackle fell away from her ankle.

"There's a lot wrong with what you just said... First of all, I don't know how to make any kind of stew."

The witch shook her head with disgust. "Children know nothing these days! I'll instruct you. Get moving!"

"Why can't Spike just eat the cookies and stuff you can make with the wand?!" Buffy complained.

"Uh, yeah, I don't want anything else," Spike said, looking at the fresh mountain of cakes and candy that had been placed next to him while he'd slept. "I don't even want this. Wouldn't hurt for you to give --"

"Hush, you two! A growing boy needs meat in his diet, not just sweets. A hearty stew will stick to his ribs and put hair on his chest."

Spike shook his head, wanting to shout again that force-feeding him all this crap was all for naught. But it would be a waste of time and energy, the witch refused to believe him. He didn't care if he ever saw another pastry or piece of candy if he lived to be 1000.

Evil Willow grinned at Spike, and then back at Buffy. "Don't question me again, girl. I'm tired of your mouth... maybe I should just remove your tongue to avoid more sass back? That thick tongue of yours might make good flavoring for soup."

Buffy swallowed nervously. She had no doubt the witch was twisted enough to do what she threatened.

"Move your skinny behind! Take the buckets and go to the well! We need to fetch things for breakfast too, time's a' wasting!"

Buffy grudgingly got up, and picked up the water buckets near the door. The witch thought she was moving too slow and kicked her in the butt.

"Oww! I'm going, dammit!" Buffy yelled, moving out the door and down the path quickly. She muttered insults under her breath, too afraid to say them out loud. She was the fricking Slayer! She shouldn't have to take that crazy bitch's abuse! She had to find a way to escape. She had to get away...

Spike hated when the witch stared at him -- like she was doing right now. He sighed and picked up a pastry, and bit off a chunk.

Wicked Willow smiled wider. "Good boy, you eat all of your food. I'm going to make sure that lazy girl doesn't dawdle."

Spike imagined how sweet it would be when he finally figured out a way to do some violence on their jailor.

He amused himself for a few minutes by thinking of all the different ways he’d like to kill the witch. Then he distinctly heard Buffy cry out in pain.

Spike went on alert, tossing the food aside and getting to his feet. He extended his senses beyond the walls of the house to try and pick up any traces of Buffy. What was happening to her? He growled, sensing that she was in a heightened state of distress, her rapid heartbeat pounded in his ears like a bass drum. He went into game face without consciously doing so.

Spike knew it was fruitless, but he tried pulling his chain out of the wall. His only thoughts were that he had to get to her, he had to help her. He snarled and growled in frustration, struggling like an animal. Breaking a few bones in his foot to get the shackle off sounded less daunting given the circumstances. He was seriously considering doing that when the witch came lumbering in through the doorway, lugging a limp Buffy by the wrist behind her on the ground.

Spike growled angrily. "What happened?! What did you do to her!?"

Wicked Willow dragged Buffy to her corner, and snapped the shackle back around her right ankle.

"What did you do to her, you bitch!?" Spike yelled when the witch wouldn't answer him. He was a little relieved to see that Buffy was at least semi-conscious. She was shaking and groaning, which he recognized as the aftereffects of getting shocked by the protection spell or the wand.

"Watch your tone, boy," Evil Willow said menacingly, her black eyes slitted. She was clearly not in a good mood, which meant that she was likely to lash out at him with little provocation.

Spike forced himself to be calm, his Human face slid back into place. "Did she try attacking you?"

The witch looked down at Buffy with a malevolent gaze. "The mangy little cur tried running away." She leaned down, and said in a mocking voice, "Didn't you, dearie? Tried sprinting off into the woods like a doe to escape me? I don't know if you're just stupid or stubborn -- perhaps a dash of both." She kicked Buffy's thigh, causing the blonde to grunt and clutch her leg. "I told both of you that were bound to this place now, any attempt to leave my property will result in a nasty jolt. But did she listen?"

"She tried to leave..." Spike said, not asking a question, just stating it. He felt numb, Buffy had attempted to escape, leaving him here to fend for himself. That was what he'd feared yesterday. He'd thought that they were getting along well... but her opinion of him obviously hadn't changed at all. He was still expendable in Buffy's eyes.

"That's right, she did try to get away. No supper for her tonight! She'll be lucky if she eats at all this week, insolent little imp!" The witch kicked at Buffy's leg again, then went back out the front door, muttering to herself.

Buffy slowly sat up and leaned against the wall for support, letting the pain lessen and waiting for her strength to come back. She was bitterly disappointed that her attempt at escape had failed. She hadn't even thought about it, it was like a primitive survival instinct had kicked in and she'd run as fast as she could. Unfortunately the witch hadn't been lying about them not being able to leave her property -- as soon as she tried going past the picket fence, the pain had hit her. She'd taken a chance and failed, but it was better than just taking the abuse.

Buffy wasn’t yet used to seeing Spike hold back if he wanted to say something, but she could tell he was bothered about something. Those muscles in his jaw were flexing, his eyes had a hard cast to them. He was probably angry that the witch had hurt her. He really did care about her... It was strange, having some trust in Spike, she never thought she would be able to trust him even one little bit. But he was growing on her.

“What is it?” Buffy asked, concentrating on getting her breathing back to normal.

Spike sat back down, looking away from her, that muscle in his cheek still spasming like crazy. “Nothing. It... can wait until you’ve recovered.”

“No, if something’s on your mind, say it now. We're alone for the moment, and I think talking will help me feel better faster, so go ahead.”

“You really want me to say what I’m thinking?” Spike said tightly.

“Yes, geez, say it already!”

He turned to her, eyes angry, voice angrier, “You lousy, rotten, treacherous bitch!”

Buffy blinked. “Okay... I wasn’t expecting that." So much for him being concerned about her. Her brows formed a V. "What the hell's your problem?”

“You got zapped trying to get away, eh?” Spike asked accusingly.

“Yeah, so? Isn’t that what we’ve been trying to do?”

“Right -- WE have been trying to escape. You were just gonna fuckin' leave me here to die!”

“I-I was not!” Buffy said defensively in a high voice, brows lowered.

“Yeah? I must’ve missed when you told me that the Great Escape was on.”

“I didn’t plan on trying, I saw an opportunity and took it!” Buffy felt guilty that the fleeting thought of leaving Spike behind had passed through her mind, but only for a second. She hadn't seriously considered it, but it still made her twitch, and thus appear more guilty in his eyes. She had just felt such powerful desperation to get away. “I was going to try getting to the woods to hide from her and then regroup.”

“Sure you were,” Spike said coldly.

“I was! I wouldn’t leave anyone behind in this place.”

“Did you hope to round up some woodland buddies to help you rescue me -- such as a wisecracking raccoon or perhaps a mentally-challenged squirrel?” It was clear from his expression and tone that he was livid.

“God! You’re so paranoid! I was not going to leave you here! You’re impossible to talk to!" Then, because she was feeling defensive and guilty, she swung into bitch mode. "Why couldn’t Riley be here instead of you?! It'd be so much easier!”

That stung Spike in a sensitive spot. “I knew you were still pissed because I got sent through with you instead of that git! You‘re trying to blame me for something that I had no control over! You’d rather have him: someone easy for you to control, someone born without a brain stem. Bloody doormat, is what he is!”

“He is not a doormat!”

“Oh, pardon me, I didn’t mean to suggest that. An actual doormat has more personality than your lummox of a boyfriend. Would probably prove a better conversationalist too," Spike said with tons of sarcasm.

Buffy sat back and crossed her arms. “You’re just jealous of him.”

“Jealous... of him?! Ha! Don’t make me laugh, Slayer!" Spike said with a touch of anxiety. The truth was that he was jealous of Riley, because Riley inexplicably had Buffy. That idiot didn't deserve her... Though the way Spike was feeling about her right now, Riley was welcomed to have Buffy all to himself. Spike wanted nothing to do with her -- other than ripping strips of sinew out of her throat with his fangs. “How did we start talking about that bland, self-righteous piece of shit? You two are perfect for each other, by the way. I believe the main subject was you leaving me to get eaten by the loony!”

The only plus side to the conversation was that Buffy forgot that she was in any pain. Fighting with Spike always got her blood pumping. “I said that’s not what --”

Spike interrupted her, "Let's say hypothetically that you did get away. She would've been enraged, right? Do you think she might have come back in here and taken out her anger on the one person she still had chained up? Hmm?"

Buffy closed her eyes, turning her face away. "That's my point, Spike. I wasn't thinking, I panicked."

He laughed. "You don't panic! You may make split-second decisions, but you don't bloody well panic! You ain't a very good liar, luv, you really shouldn't try."

"I'm not lying -- I did feel panicked and desperate!" Buffy dropped her face into her hands.

"Actually it's better that it happened now. I see, I get the picture."

"What do you mean by that?"

Spike gave her a venomous look. "I'm going to keep trying to find a way out of this place, but I'm not gonna be too picky about whether you're right behind me or not."

"Oh, that's real nice. So you're going with or without me? And how do you think Dawn will feel when I'm not there -- when you finally make it to wherever the hell she is? You'll explain to her that you left me on purpose?"

"This is a dangerous dimension," Spike said coldly. "Not my fault if you don't make it. Shit happens."

"I didn't plan on leaving you -- in spite of what you think -- but that's what you're saying you'll do on purpose! That's --"

They stopped arguing when the witch reentered the cottage, looking like Sunnydale Willow again.

She looked at them, smiling. “Aww, were my little turtledoves having a spat?”

Spike turned his face away, not wanting the witch to get the satisfaction of witnessing them turning on each other like wild dogs. “Nah, everything’s just peachy.”

She said with mock-sweetness and concern, “But I heard you snapping at each other from outside. You can tell me. Tell Willow all your troubles.” An evil grin formed on her face.

"That's not your name!" Buffy snapped. "Stop calling yourself that and stop looking like her! You‘re not Willow!"

The witch passed a hand in front of her own face, going back to being green and gross. "Aww, don't be upset. You see how easily I can slip in and out of the glamour? I've done it hundreds, thousands of times, comes so naturally to me now. Like eating or sleeping!"

"Obviously things like brushing your teeth and dragging a comb through your hair don't come so naturally," Buffy said with a twist to her lips. She couldn't hide how much it disgusted her that the witch used her friend's image.

Buffy was swiftly slapped across the face. She touched her hot cheek, bracing herself for more hits or kicks. But the witch was happy with just the one slap.

"Sewing your mouth closed is sounding more and more attractive, little girl. I won't put up with your sass."

Spike had winced and closed his eyes when Buffy was hit. Again, the witch had moved so fast that even he didn't see it happening until it was over. He was angry with himself for still giving a damn about Buffy, that it upset him to see her being hurt. But he was set on just looking out for himself from now on -- Bitchy the Slayer wanted to abandon him? Not if he could abandon her first.

"You won't be having any food today, Buffy," Wicked Willow informed her. "You were stupid and naughty enough to try running away, and you must be taught a lesson."

"Oh heavens," Buffy said sarcastically. "Don't take away my delicious crab-shells! Whatever will I do?"

The witch's gaze became more dangerous. "There you go again with that backtalk. I've had just about enough of you, missy!"

Spike growled. "Buffy, just shut your bloody mouth! How stupid are you, woman!?"

Buffy glared at him.

Evil Willow giggled. "Yes, listen to Spike. He's much smarter than you!"

Buffy was worked extra hard the rest of that day. The witch didn't give them a moment alone, not that Spike would have spoken to her anyway. He didn't say a word to Buffy after telling her to shut up that morning.

By the time Wicked Willow retired for the evening, Buffy was more tired and hungry than she'd ever been. She was feeling more despondent since the failed escape attempt and Spike's resulting grouchiness. It upset her that he was upset with her -- how weird was that? She'd be angry too if she really thought someone was leaving her to die a horrible death. She wanted to try explaining it to him, to make him understand. But he wouldn't even look at her, she could see how angry he was by the way his jaw was set.

"Spike, will you talk to me?"

He laid down. "I suggest you get some sleep and stop nattering. I've got nothin' to say to you, Slayer. Don't want to hear anything from you either, so save your breath."

She shook her head and sighed, laying down too. It was no use trying to talk to him while he was in this mood.

It took longer for Buffy to fall asleep. Spike didn't sing like he had the other nights. And she didn't realize just how much the sound of his voice had comforted her until now.

The next morning started much like the last. The witch kicked Buffy awake, ordering her to follow her outside to collect items for breakfast. Needless to say, Buffy didn't try running again.

Buffy was given only a cup of water while the witch cooked eggs, bacon and sausage for herself and Spike. When she'd been forced to clean the shack out back (the one with the huge oven) Buffy had seen a variety of cured meats being stored there. The witch did have a pigpen, so Buffy thought the meat might be okay -- animal, not Human. The teensy little amount of uncertainty was enough to make her not willing to eat some, not that she would be offered any anyway.

Buffy had to keep pressing a hand against her stomach to help ease the hunger pangs. The aroma of the food made her stomach cramp and her mouth water. She had to have something to eat today, whether it was stale bread or not. That meant being on her best behavior, no talking back, nothing the witch would consider 'misbehaving'. Buffy told herself to keep it together for a while longer, she would escape. And she'd be taking Spike with her when she did. She had to try talking to him, he had to forgive her.

Buffy was taken out of her thoughts when the witch said, "I don't think I've punished you enough for your disobedience yesterday, Buffy."

"I won't do it again. I was just scared and --"

Evil Willow interrupted, "Spike, what do you think I should do to Buffy? Cut off a finger or two? Sew her lips shut? Cut out her tongue? Or something a little more merciful, like whipping?"

He looked at Buffy; the anger still present in his eyes worried her. Maybe he was pissed off enough to take delight in harm coming to her now.

After a pause, Spike said, "I think she learned her lesson." He was more mad at himself for not wanting Buffy dead than he was with her. It seemed that he really did love her, much to his irritation. It didn't matter how badly Buffy treated or disregarded him, he still wanted to keep her safe if he could. Love's bitch strikes again.

Evil Willow shook her head. "No, I don't think she has. There's that spark of mischief in her eyes, she'll try something stupid again. Good thing the girl has that pretty face, she's as dim-witted as a sheep!" She laughed. "I believe Buffy needs a severe lesson this time."

"I can tell she understands it was a bloody stupid thing to do, she won't be making that mistake again. There's no need for another 'lesson'."

Wicked Willow's smile turned down at the corners. "But I thought you were angry with her... that you'd be happy to help decide her punishment."

"I am angry with her... Doesn't mean I want her permanently scarred or maimed."

The witch was angry that he wasn't playing her game. Spike could see the evil wheels in her head spinning. "Fine..." A grin spread across her face again. "If you won't decide, then I'll punish you instead of her!"

Spike's brow furrowed. "What?! I've done every bloody thing you've asked!"

"It's your choice. Tell me what I should do to her or I'll do something to you."

Spike glanced at Buffy again, quickly going over his so-called options. Buffy had tried to leave him here to a grisly fate, she didn't care about him at all. He should be happy to let her get some kind of punishment... but he couldn't. And it might be easier on him to be the one punished, the witch planned on fattening him up to eat him, so she probably wouldn't hurt him as much as she would Buffy.

"I don't like to be kept waiting, boy! What will it be?" the witch demanded impatiently.

Spike looked her in the eyes. "I'm not going to tell you how to punish her. I won't have anything to do with it."

Wicked Willow was clearly irate and disappointed. She backhanded him across the face. Spike clenched his jaw and fists, ordering himself not to respond how his demon was demanding he respond.

"Foolish boy! Oh yes, you're quite evil, aren't you? Just another one of your lies! You're not evil at all!"

Spike swiveled his head to look at her again. "I admit, I ain't got nothin' on you in the evil department."

Buffy couldn't believe that he was risking himself to protect her again. She hadn't expected it after her escape attempt. She was grateful, but now she was afraid of what was going to happen to him for not cooperating with the witch.

"Don't hurt him," Buffy said resolutely. "Take it out on me, I'm the one who broke your rules. Spike shouldn't be punished for something I did."

Wicked Willow seemed to get angrier at that, stomping her feet and putting her hands on her head. "Damn you two and your..." She uttered the next word with disgust, "niceness! You make me sick!"

"The feeling's more than mutual. Simple solution, you could always let us go," Spike said, not expecting to be freed, but it felt good to say it.

"Oh, I've put in too much time and effort with you to let you go. Plus, you promise to be one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. I should punish the both of you for annoying me so! I'm going to my garden, I need to ponder." Wicked Willow huffed and stomped to the door. "You get busy dusting while I'm gone, girlie." Then, mercifully, she was gone -- for now.

"Are you okay?" Buffy asked.

Spike nodded and licked up the blood on his lower lip.

"Why'd you do that?" Buffy asked softly.

"Do what?"

She rolled her eyes. "You know 'what'. I guess you don't totally hate me, after all."

He looked at her out of the corner of his eye, smirking ever so slightly. "Maybe not... totally."

"About yesterday..." Buffy began.

He shook his head, "Let's not talk about that." Spike was trying to lighten up a bit, and reminding him of all the reasons why he should be pissed off wasn't going to help.

"I need to try explaining why I did what I did. Okay?"

Spike could see that she needed to say whatever it was she wanted to say. He sighed and motioned for her to go ahead.

"I'm not... handling all of the weirdness of this stupid dimension as well as I should. I have these moments where I feel like I'm reduced to some weepy, scared, defenseless little girl. I hate it... I'm so not used to feeling that way. I hate feeling weak, and you having a front row seat to witness me being weak."

"I've never seen you weak -- not when it wasn't due to some magickal bugaboo." That Halloween when she'd been transformed into a timid, genteel lady occurred to him. He'd almost gotten her that time... but she'd ended up kicking his ass, as usual. Spike had been royally pissed at the time, but he was glad it turned out the way it had now.

"You have seen me weak," Buffy said.

Spike frowned, eyes rolling upward as he tried to remember. "When?"

"When... I found out my mom had to go into the hospital. You caught me crying."

Damn her... Remembering how she'd looked sitting on the steps, with tears running down her cheeks, was melting his heart fast. All he'd wanted to do back then was hold her and let her cry on his shoulder -- he'd had to settle with comforting pats on the back and sitting in silence with her, but it still felt good to 'be there' for Buffy in anyway he could.

"Anyone who loved their mother would've felt the same way. That wasn't being weak, Buffy. That was just being Human. I sometimes forget that under the sacred calling and all the superhuman abilities... you're still just a girl." Spike could see her trying to figure out if that last part had been meant as an insult, so he added, "I mean, you can occasionally falter like everyone else on the bloody planet."

Buffy looked down, feeling guilty and embarrassed at recalling her failing from the day before. "When she took me outside yesterday... all I could think was 'I can't take any more of this shit, I've got to get out of here!'. Then she turned her back to me, and I saw what looked like a clear path into the woods, and then my mind was yelling 'Go! Run! Hurry!'. I know she warned us that there was a spell to keep us from leaving... but I hoped she was lying about that. I know, I was crazy to even try it. I'm ashamed of myself -- both for panicking and for trying to escape without you. I'm really sorry, Spike." She pouted in a way that made him want to kiss that jutting lip.

"Okay, Slayer... we'll pretend it didn't happen and go from here."

"You aren't still mad?"

Spike sighed, "I'll get over it."

"I've dealt with so much weird and challenging stuff in my life, but here... It makes me think that the Unari are doing things to our minds, making us weaker. Either that or I'm just losing my grip..."

"Being treated and abused like a slave is new to you. S'pose I should cut you some slack."

"I promise that I won't let myself do anything stupid again, Spike. You know... I really thought you hated my guts when you yelled at me to shut up yesterday."

"I did." She pouted again, making him quickly amend, "But... I was also trying to save you from yourself. Your mouth was going to get you killed."

"Yeah... I couldn't seem to shut up. Until you yelled at me, that is."

"You actually listened to me?" Spike asked playfully. "That's a first."

Buffy smiled a little. "There's a first time for everything, right?"

"I hope it's the start of a trend."

When he'd shouted at her yesterday, he hadn't just been doing it out of anger. Spike didn't say it only because he was fuming mad, but also because he thought the witch was going to do something horrid to Buffy if she didn't shut her mouth. At the time, he'd wanted to beat the shit out of Buffy for her attempted abandoning of him, but he also still had an irresistible urge to protect her. And that had only made him angrier -- his own mind and instincts betraying him.

But Buffy seemed to really regret what she'd done, not just that she hadn't succeeded, but that she may have left him to a nasty fate. She looked so adorable and sexy at the same time when she pouted... Spike was helpless to fight the way it made his unbeating heart seem to swell.

"What do you think she's going to do to us?" Buffy asked, looking at the door.

"Hopefully nothing. We're gonna have to do lots of toadying..." his lip twitched as he talked. "I fucking hate having to be nice, 'specially to evil bitches like her. But if we're nauseatingly sycophantic enough, she might decide not to hurt either of us."

By kowtowing and acting reticent (with sad expressions and keeping their heads bowed, trying not to make eye contact), Spike and Buffy convinced the witch that they were suitably sorry for their bad behavior. It made them sick to act so broken and meek, but they managed to put on a good enough act to fool her. They weren't punished again that day. And Buffy was given her 3rd rate meal at suppertime, she was grateful for even that after a full day of nothing at all to eat.

It was another bath night -- which they both were very nervous about. They were still shaken up by the steamy fantasies they'd had. This time, they got it over with as fast and efficiently as possible. Both the Slayer and Vampire were tense as they scrubbed the others back and neck, too nervous to relax enough to slip into another hot (yet ultimately scary and confusing) fantasy.

And then it was bedtime.

Buffy settled down to sleep. A few moments later she smiled when she heard Spike softly singing a song. She'd missed that last night.

For tonight's performance, Spike started with that special song his mother used to sing. He tried to dwell on the good feelings it had created in him back then, and not the sorrow when thinking about it in hindsight.

As he finished the last verse, he noticed Buffy's breathing evening out. He was feeling a bit melancholy, but it was having the desired effect on Buffy -- that was worth it for him.

"Thus sang the maiden,
Her sorrows bewailing;
Thus sang the poor maid
In the valley below:
'Oh, don't deceive me,
Oh, never leave me,
How could you use
A poor maiden so?'"

Spike laid down, looking at Buffy one last time before he closed his eyes. "Goodnight, pet, sleep well," he whispered.
Part 1, Chapter 8: Sex and Candy by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
Banners by xoChantelly and Edgehead, respectively :)
Spike and Buffy cooperated (for the most part) with the witch over the next few days. They wanted her to believe that she'd broken their spirits. It wasn't easy for either of them, but they had each other to lean on, figuratively speaking.

Buffy snuck a pastry or bit of candy when she could, always tempted to eat more, but she was afraid that taking more would be pushing her luck. She hadn't been accused of stealing food yet, so at least there was that small piece of luck.

While pretending to only be cleaning, Buffy had found a big book in the witch's bedroom labeled 'Magick'. Magick had never been her forte, but the first thought that had occurred to her was to look for a spell that she and Spike could use to their advantage.

But there was a problem, of course. The book had an enchanted lock on it, neither of them were able to open the book to read it. So she'd put it back where she'd found it, hoping they would find a way to unlock it. They both agreed that their next escape attempt would involve trying to steal or grab the magic wand away from Evil Willow. They had no idea if it would work for them, it might turn out to be just a fancy stick in their hands, but they didn't have any better ideas.

It was afternoon, they were left alone again, grateful for the peace. But after more days of toil and trouble, they were both feeling about as down as they could get. There was no obvious way out of this, they only hoped that an opportunity to escape would present itself soon.

Spike wasn't paying attention to Buffy as she swept the perpetually dusty floor of the cottage. Instead, he was concentrating on forcing down more of the cookies, candies, and cakes that the witch required him to finish by the time she got back from the village.

His hunger for blood was getting to a painful stage. Circumstances in the past had required Spike to go longer than this without sustenance, but he'd forgotten how horrible it actually felt: the weakness, the stomach cramps, the general malaise, the overwhelming, unrequited bloodlust. It sucked.

Buffy broke the silence, "I still can't be 100% sorry you were chipped. 'Cause, you know, you would've kept killing and I would've had to stake you. But I can definitely sympathize."

"You woulda been sorry to have to stake me?" he asked with a little smirk.

Buffy was at a loss for words for a moment, her mouth opening and closing. "Uh, maybe... But only because you wouldn't have made it easy. Just would've been more work for me." She wasn't sure what it was exactly, but the thought of staking Spike made something inside of her knot up. She had deeper reasons for wanting him around that Buffy herself couldn't quite figure out (or admit) yet. "My point was that I can understand a little what you've been going through with the chip. It sucks, pure and simple. I don't know how you kept it from driving you nuts."

"Nearly did drive me 'round the bend. I adapt to new situations and surroundings very well, as luck would have it. The chip is something I struggle with every bloody day, but I manage. Worst is when I'm just trying to defend myself and can't do a thing."

"I'm getting a big taste of what you deal with all the time. And I do not care for it." Buffy had had lots of time to reflect. Being the recipient of verbal and physical abuse, and being 'corrected' when she tried striking out at their captor, made her sympathize with Spike more than she ever thought she would. The fact that he was a soulless Vampire who had wreaked havoc for a century didn't give her or her friends free license to heap abuse on him. What did that say about them, the so-called White Hats?

"The zapping?"

"Not just that. There's also the being yelled at, insulted, and beaten on for no good reason... I've done all those things to you."

"You never chained me up. Or was that something you were building up to?" Spike added, not sure why he was trying to joke. Buffy just seemed so somber, he wanted to make her smile.

She did smile just a bit. "No, wasn't planning on that. But I have been really unfair to you... I never thought twice about taunting or hitting you, knowing you couldn't fight back. And always assuming the worst of you."

"You weren't wrong all those times. I've been up to no good more than once."

"I expected you to go on a rant... or at least call my friends names. Why are you being so... nice about it?"

"Is that what I was doing? Just trying to avoid more bickering, luv. Truth is, the way you and your chums have treated me pissed me off to no end. Overnight, I went from being the cock of the walk, the Big Bad, to being this weak, pitiful... almost defenseless shell. Because of that bloody chip I had to put up with being treated like something you scraped off the bottom of your shoe. Being put down, knocked down and shunned every single day. I didn't have any recourse, I had to take it. I had to change almost everything about myself and wrap my mind around my new limitations just to go on living. Couldn't hunt, couldn't feed, had to learn to control my urges. And while I was adjusting to all that, as an added perk, I got to take abuse from the sainted Scoobies. I was the ultimate outsider to a group of outsiders, lowest of the low. It was a reminder that many people need someone they can treat like shit to make themselves feel strong and superior."

Buffy felt ashamed of herself for some of the things she'd done and said to him since the chipping. "Wow... okay, I should know better than to prod you to tell it like it is, because you will."

"Well... wasn't like I was some kind of martyr. I s'pose the treatment I got was payback for my wicked ways. Karma coming 'round to bite me in the ass, with a fucking vengeance."

Buffy shrugged slightly, pouting.

Spike tilted his head, looking at her. "You really do feel bad, don't you?"

"Of course I do. It wasn't fair. You didn't deserve the constant shitty treatment by me and my friends. We prejudged you every time. You proved to me here that you can be trusted if you're given a chance, that you're not... all bad. That maybe we should've been trying to encourage you to do more good instead of keeping you at arm's-length and putting you down all the time. If we'd just tried showing you some compassion and given you a chance..."

Spike was stunned to hear her actually say the words. Buffy was apologizing for the way they'd treated him, and she was saying she would try to accept him. He licked his lips and started to say something, but then closed his mouth, searching for the right way to respond to her heartfelt statement.

Buffy looked at him and laughed softly. "Oh my God, I made you speechless? I didn't know that was possible."

Spike broke into a smile, laughing a bit too. "Another feather you can stick in your cap, or wherever else you want to stick it." He lowered his head, making like he was rubbing the back of his neck. He was actually feeling quite shy, something he wasn't accustomed to feeling since he'd become a Vampire. "What you said... that was decent of you. I appreciate it. I'm finding it hard to believe that you actually said that to me... I never expected anything like that, and it... means a lot to me that you said it. Another chance to pass or fail is all I ask from you. I'm not the same person I was when I first came to Sunnydale." He looked back up at her. "A man can change."

"It took a lot for me to realize that... but I think you're right."

They gazed at each other for endless moments. Then both looked away at the same instant, nervous that the other would ask why they were staring. Neither of them were ready to bring up the subject of their newer, warmer feelings for each other.

Buffy started sweeping again, Spike pretended to be interested in the food in front of him.

"Damn dusty floor," Buffy griped. "This stupid floor gets re-dusty every day. It's not just my imagination, is it?"

"No, you're not losin' your marbles, I noticed that too. Yet another unique charm this place has. At least you can move about the place. I'm stuck in this corner 23 hours and 55 minutes a bloody day, stuffing my face with cake."

"I wish we could switch for a while. I could --" Buffy pricked her finger, getting a splinter of wood from the broom under her fingernail. She hissed and threw the broom down. "Goddammit!" She put her fingertip in her mouth.

Spike's head had snapped up the second the splinter had pierced her skin. He could smell her blood so strongly, it was making him salivate. "Wha... um, somethin' wrong, Slayer?"

"Got a damn splinter from that fucking broom!" Buffy snatched the broom back up and tried breaking it over her knee, but it bounced off of her thigh. She forgot that the witch had enchanted that too. With a snarl, Buffy threw the broom across the room. "Stupid goddamn unbreakable brooms and chains!"

Spike raised an eyebrow, trying to ignore his inner turmoil. "C'mon, don't lose it now, luv. Take a breath, calm down."

She did stop and take a breath. "I know I must be losing it if you have to try calming me down..." Buffy mumbled, sucking on her finger and sitting down on the edge of the brick hearth.

Buffy noticed the way he was looking at her, his eyes a bit glazed and lightly licking his lips. She frowned at him. "Stop doing that... you're creeping me out."

Spike snapped back to attention, and looked away from her. "What was I doing to 'creep you out'?"

"Looking at me all... glassy-eyed, practically drooling. It's my blood, isn't it?"

He glanced at her. "Can't help it. Leave it to me to have gone with a light lunch the day we hopped into the portal. I'm starvin'."

"Yeah, well... keep your fangs to yourself."

"Want me to help you with that splinter?" Spike didn't plan on trying anything stupid, he really did want to help her. But... he also wanted to get closer to the source of that delicious aroma, just to see it, to smell it. He felt that he could control himself and not go wild, he wouldn't have said a word about helping if there were any doubts.

"Uh-uh. We've built some trust, but I'm not crazy or stupid enough to put my bleeding finger anywhere near a starving Vampire."

Spike shrugged, "Have it your way, Slayer." He bit the inside of his cheek. "Would it kill you to just let me suck on your finger for a minute? No biting."

"Wow, that you can even ask me that question... you really must be woozy from hunger. If you'd like to be beaten to a pulpy substance, all you have to do is ask, Spike."

"Now, now, none of that. We're being all friendly-like, let's not regress, luv. I know you have to be gettin' pretty damn hungry too. It's like I said, if you could survive on something my body produced, I'd let you have a good, long suck."

Buffy shook her head. "You're getting very weird." She grumbled when her attempt at getting the splinter out failed.

"I can help you with that," Spike said. "I won't even try sticking your finger in my mouth. It's like that fable about the guy extracting a thorn from the Pope's butt and earning his trust."

Buffy laughed. "I think you heard a different version of that fable than I did -- it's a thorn in a lion's paw."

Spike smirked. "Knew it was somethin' like that."

She could take kicks and punches by 300 lb. demons, but this one sliver of wood lodged under her fingernail was killing her. "I thought all wood and wood byproducts were supposed to be Slayer-friendly. All right," she said with a defeated sigh. She got up and shuffled over to him, then kneeled down at his side. "But there will be absolutely NO sucking of any kind, got it? You're just getting the evil splinter out."

"One little taste of your precious blood isn't worth the ass kicking I'd receive for trying anything funny," Spike lied. It wasn't that he planned on risking a beating from her, he'd behave. But the fact remained that even one lick of her blood would be worth it. Spike needed to show her that she could trust him now though, so no licking or sucking.

Spike took her hand and held it near his face, inspecting the hurt finger.

Buffy bit her lip. "Do you think you can get it without tweezers or anything sharp?"

"Hmm, will be tricky... I can see the end of the little bugger."

"Feels like a sapling is jammed under my frickin' nail."

He chuckled softly. "The rough, tough Slayer can't handle a bit of wood?"

"I can handle wood just fine." She rolled her eyes and sighed wearily at Spike's response of a smirk and raised eyebrow. "Is your brain always in the gutter or does it vacation in tactful locales occasionally?"

"Your brain must reside in the gutter as well, you made the connection too," Spike replied, smirk still in place.

"Can you get it or not?" she asked impatiently, not wanting to talk of wood or how well she could handle it. She was ready to yank her hand out of his admittedly gentle grasp.

"I think a sharp instrument will be required..."

"Wait, will the chip zap you even if you don't mean to hurt me?"

"A lot seems to depend on intention -- if I don't mean you harm, which I don't, then I won't get shocked. Had enough of that shit in this place already."

"Should I find a sharp knife? I'm nervous about touching any of the cutlery, she said she'd punish us if anything was out of place when she got back... God, I hate that bitch..."

Spike swallowed, knowing what he was about to suggest might well send her into a rant which involved punching. She was extraordinarily kind to him earlier, but Buffy was also under lots of strain which could cause her to snap. "Actually, I've got some sharp instruments that I always have with me..." He pointed to his mouth.

"No way!" Buffy tried pulling away from him, but he held her hand more firmly.

"Buffy, I'm not going to bite your finger off, for God's sake! I can use my fangs very precisely if I have to. All I need to do is dig in a bit to get the splinter."

She stopped trying to pull away, but looked at him suspiciously. "I don't think I trust you that much..."

"That's what this is about, Slayer. Me proving to you that I can be trusted. The fable about the thorn in the Pope's butt, remember?"

Buffy's lips twitched. Damn him for making her smile when she was trying to be serious. "Yeah... Okay... But don't go crazy, or I'll... y'know, do bad stuff to you."

Spike shifted into game face and looked at her hurt finger closely.

Buffy thought, 'Shit, I really must be going out of my mind... Voluntarily letting any Vamp perform surgery on my finger with his fangs ain't smart. I swear to God, I'll rip his arms off and beat him into unconsciousness with them if he tries sticking my finger in his mouth and biting me...'

The "surgery" only lasted about 10 seconds. Spike delicately used his left incisor to get alongside the splinter and coax more of it above the surface of her skin. Then he looked at her finger again, using his nails to tug the piece of wood the rest of the way out.

Buffy winced a bit, but then it was out.

Spike swallowed hard, seeing a bead of blood rush up from the tiny hole where the splinter had been. "Th-There you are, all better, courtesy of Dr. Spike." He held up the offending splinter for her to see, as his face regained its more pleasant Human appearance.

Buffy smiled and examined her finger. "Thanks... I must say that I'm impressed that you didn't try anything gross or stupid -- or both."

"Yeah, well... I said I wouldn't. I keep my promises."

"Some of them, anyway." Buffy took the splinter from him, and threw it into the fireplace.

Spike frowned. "I always keep my promises."

"Didn't you promise never to come back to Sunnydale once or twice?" she asked teasingly.

His mouth opened and closed. "I... may have... Can't recall. Let me amend that to: I keep all of the promises that I remember keeping."

Buffy shook her head, smiling. "How convenient. I didn't know Vampires could be so..." She didn't want to use the word 'gentle'. "So... careful with their big, pointy teeth."

"Glad I could demonstrate a hidden talent. With experience, we can be very gentle, even to the point where we can bite someone with them feeling only the slightest pain."

"Oh?" Buffy asked, wondering if he'd been doing some snacking on Humans that she didn't know about.

"To answer the question on the tip of your tongue: no, I haven't been secretly biting Humans. They're still off the menu. The gentle bite isn't something that can be rushed, it has to be done with both parties being utterly relaxed." He was trying to focus on the conversation, but it was so hard to think of anything except the sweet, delicious smell of Slayer blood invading his nose.

Buffy took pity on Spike, he was looking at her finger so longingly, and he'd been true to his word about not trying to trick her into getting a quick lick. And it felt good to her to be needed for anything. Spike needed just a taste to help him hang on a while longer. He'd surprised her by refusing to take her blood without consent before, so she kind of owed him one.

"I don't believe I'm even thinking about doing this -- and if you tell anyone when we get back home, I'll deny it and then kick your ass -- but... you can suck on my finger."

Spike's glassy eyes widened, he stared at her. "Are... you sure?" He wanted to make sure he hadn't heard only what he desired to hear.

"Yes," Buffy said reluctantly, raising her index finger to his mouth. "I was going to put it back in my mouth anyway... But no biting, do you understand?"

Spike nodded eagerly, still a bit shocked that she was offering to do this. Sucking on her injured finger wouldn't give him the nourishment he required, but the taste of Slayer blood (even a drop of it) was the sweetest thing in the world and might give him the energy to carry on a while longer without a substantial meal. Though there were a few very close runners-up in the 'sweetest tasting thing in the world' category (that also belonged to Buffy) not that he'd ever get a chance to sample them outside of a wet dream/fantasy.

He licked his lips, opened his mouth a bit and slid the tip of her finger past his lips. Spike closed his eyes at the taste of her skin and blood. He was cautious not to let his instincts take over, if he scared her and pissed her off, Buffy would never even think of trusting him again.

Spike gently stroked the small hole in her finger with the tip of his tongue. It felt weird to Buffy at first... then it started feeling really good. Her finger wasn't stinging nearly as much after only a few dabs of his tongue.

He opened his eyes and looked into hers as he sucked more of her finger into his mouth, up to the first knuckle, still gently swiping at it with his tongue. Buffy let him, this felt really good too. Both sets of eyes were unfocused, both Slayer and Vampire were affected by the sensuality of what he was doing.

Spike had forgotten about how Slayer blood effected a Vampire's nether regions, acting as an aphrodisiac. It was completely involuntary, the same as if Buffy were to rub his cock -- though there was no way in hell that was ever gonna happen.

Buffy pretended not to notice the movement within his shorts. She was feeling a bit damp in the panties herself. His hot, wet, softly sucking mouth felt heavenly. Was she going to pull her finger out only to replace it with her tongue? Buffy had the crazy impulse to do just that.

Before Buffy could do any ill-advised inserting of her tongue, the witch came in, stopping abruptly when she saw them together in Spike's corner. "What are you two doing?!"

Buffy jumped to her feet, quickly extracting her finger from Spike's mouth. "N-Nothing."

"I won't permit any hanky-panky between you two. You bad children these days with your filthy minds!"

Spike shook his head to get rid of the cobwebs. "That you'd find offensive, but you have no problem terrorizing, abusing, and eating people? Interesting moral code you have there."

"There was no hanky or panky," Buffy insisted, hoping the witch didn't notice how rosy her cheeks were. "Spike was just... I got a splinter in my finger from the broom, and he got it out for me."

"Yeah, that's all it was. Buffy had a nasty splinter."

Wicked Willow was still squinting suspiciously at them, making them nervous about getting punished again, and momentarily forgetting how close they'd been to actually kissing.

The witch dropped her scrutinizing gaze to the floor. "My floor is still filthy! Mind your task, girl! You lazy thing! I can't take my eyes off you for a minute!"

"I told you that damn broom gave me --"

"Are you sassing me?" the witch asked tersely.

Buffy pressed her lips together and slowly shook her head no. Oh, how she wanted to beat the hell out of that green bitch. Just 30 seconds without that protection spell, even only 5 seconds would be sufficient.

The witch picked up the broom and threw it at Buffy, who caught it just before it could whack her in the forehead. "Get to sweeping!"

Buffy clenched her jaw and went back to sweeping the floor.

The witch went over to Spike, luckily just seeing her was enough to make his erection of a minute ago deflate rapidly. She looked at his unfinished heap of food. "You get busy too! I should punish you good for not having more eaten by now! Did you give her any? Because if you did..."

"No, Buffy didn't have any. I'll eat the sodding food, alright? No need to zap me again." He glared up at her as he stuffed an éclair in his mouth.

Evil Willow smiled. "That's a good boy, you eat it all up now."

She went into her bedroom, leaving them alone again.

Buffy couldn't look directly at him, she was embarrassed about what she'd let him do, how it had made her body react, and what she'd been thinking about doing right before they were interrupted. Buffy thought, 'Whoa, Spike sucking my finger was getting me so hot! Shit! I need to clear my head... It must be some kind of weird thrall that Vamps do... Yeah, that must be it, because I would never...' She kept her head down as she swept the floor, convincing herself that any 'Spike is hot' thoughts weren't her own, but eerie Vampire hypno powers or the Unari muddling up her mind.

Confusing thoughts and feelings coursed through Spike too. That taste of her blood had been worth the price of admission all by itself. He was still very hungry, but felt a bit more energetic. It had to be his imagination, but he could have sworn that Buffy was getting into it. She'd appeared to be leaning down closer, her eyes fixed on his lips as if she wanted to kiss them. His senses couldn't be completely trusted in the weakened state of his mind and body, he even fancied he could smell sexual excitement coming from her -- but that couldn't be true.

Spike sighed, mentally chastising himself for reading more into every action and look from Buffy than there actually was. He could only shoot quick glances at her, not able to look her in the eye either. His feelings for the petite Slayer were deepening, getting stronger by the day. How much longer could he hide his intense lust and love for her? Spike didn't think he could take hearing her reject him, and no doubt she'd have a horror-struck look on her face while she told him. It would break his heart if it happened back in Sunnydale, but here (in this crazy, off-putting dimension) it might completely crush him.

Spike cast those upsetting thoughts aside for now and focused on making progress on eating the mountain of food he was required to finish, grimacing as he popped another pastry into his mouth.

Spike and Buffy didn't bring up the splinter removal/finger sucking incident again. Both were too unsure of themselves to mention it. They might accidentally reveal things they weren't ready to, things with the potential to be very embarrassing. They might also get a response that they weren't ready for.

Buffy was afraid of her new feelings for Spike. She was seeing him in a brand new light, seeing that he could be trusted, and it felt good to have him on her side. And there was the ever-growing sexual attraction she felt for him... She was confused, not knowing how or why she was feeling so strongly about Spike. It wasn't proper -- it was wrong -- but it was happening. Buffy vowed to try keeping herself under tight control, just in case she had the urge to say or do something stupid in her stressed out and food deprived state.

Spike was still afraid of his feelings for her too. Since they'd arrived here, he'd gone from denying to himself that he felt anything more than lust for Buffy, to knowing that he was in love. He was willing to lay his own life on the line for her, seeing her being hurt or suffer made him hurt too. He knew it was wrong for him lust for her, and even wronger to love her -- but that's what was happening. Buffy had surprised the hell out of him with her kind, apologetic words to him, and then when she'd offered her finger to him. She was obviously changing her attitude toward him. But that didn't mean she'd be interested in something... more. If she discovered how he really felt, that might undo all of the goodwill they'd created. No doubt the Slayer would find his attraction to her inappropriate and offensive. Spike could only pray that he didn't have any more losses of control like he had the night of that first bath...

They both decided to keep their feelings to themselves.

The day after the splinter/finger sucking incident...

The witch had gone into the forest to collect herbs and ingredients. Before leaving, she'd ordered Spike and Buffy to do their usual chores while she was away.

Buffy was beyond sick and tired at being given meals of bread, water, and the weird, icky crab-shells, while Spike was presented with delicious cakes, candies and stews. She had no desire to be force-fed in order to fatten her up for the cooking pot or oven, but letting her have one frickin' piece of cake wouldn't be the end of the world!

She sat down in her corner to rest for a few minutes after sweeping the stupid floor yet again. Her hunger was getting harder to manage.

Buffy watched Spike spooning some cheesecake into his mouth. Buffy licked her lips, salivating as he licked his own lips and chewed thoughtfully. There was still some creamy cake at the corner of his mouth and on his lower lip. She wanted to crawl across the floor to him and lick the cake from his mouth... Maybe smear it on that muscley chest and those ripped abs and eat it off of him...

Oh God... my brain is really starting to shut down! We have *got* to find a way to escape this damn house! Oh, but it looks so good...'

Spike stopped chewing and looked at her out of the corner of his eye, noticing that she was staring at him strangely. "What?" he asked around a mouthful of food.

"Hey," Buffy said coolly, nodding at him, "gimme somma that."

He swallowed the bite. "Some of what?"

"That cake... I want it."

He'd never seen Buffy look so... hungry. And as dire as their predicament was, that look on her face and the huskiness of her voice turned him on. The hunger for food looked very much like a hunger for sex. "We don't know how long Witchiepoo is going to be gone this time, don't know if you should risk it. You know she'd most likely flog and flay us both if she caught me giving you the good food."

"And do you do everything Wicked Willow tells you to do? Thought you were supposed to be a rebel," Buffy taunted him, a gleam in her eye. "Are you that scared?"

"Hey, I was only..." He was going to say 'I was only concerned for you', but was able to stop himself. "I don't follow anyone's orders. I'm not scared of her. Well... that's obviously a lie. We've both got good reason to be afraid of that crazy bitch, we've avoided being abused too much by being good li'l prisoners the last few days. And I don't have the Stockholm Syndrome just yet either. I’d just like to avoid being beaten or getting a jolt from that bloody wand if I can help it, that‘s all. If you're set on having a bite you can steal whatever you want."

"I want that," Buffy eyed the cheesecake on his plate, trying to keep from drooling. She didn't know why that food was the most delicious looking thing in the candy house -- she only knew that she had to have it.

He raised his eyebrows, but didn't ask why it was so important for her to have the cake specifically. Spike held out the plate of cheesecake, "Here, have at it."

Buffy was able to control herself from just pouncing on Spike -- on the cake... not on Spike. She got up and walked calmly over, then knelt down beside him. She bit her lip and ran a fingertip on top of the cake. She slid her finger into her mouth, closing her eyes and moaning.

"Oh my God... ohhh that's sooo good!" Buffy breathed heavily with an orgasmic look on her face.

Spike's eyelids lowered slightly, he had to bite back a moan of his own at how hot seeing and hearing her do that was.

Buffy went back to the plate again and again, scooping globs of cake up with her fingers and then putting them in her mouth to lick and suck them clean.

Spike was still holding the plate, he'd had to clutch it over his crotch to prevent her from seeing how very much he enjoyed watching her dine. He had a hard-on that wouldn't quit.

He swallowed and cleared his throat. "Good... eh?"

She nodded and made sure to lick up every last blob of cake. Spike bit his tongue when Buffy actually lowered her head to his lap and licked the plate clean. His stiffy was pressing against the bottom of the plate, so every press of her tongue on the plate nudged him. Having her bent over his lap, tongue extended... it was more than he could take. A fantasy inundated his mind...

Spike's fantasy

An especially firm lick caused the dish to slip, Buffy noticed Spike's condition and gasped.

He covered himself with the plate again, holding his breath to see what she would say or do.

Then she put her hand on Spike's thigh and looked at him with a kittenish smile. "Hmmm, looks like I'm not the only one who really likes cheesecake..."

Spike looked from her smoldering green eyes to the hand beginning to massage his thigh. "Uh... what're you... You're not... pissed that I..."

Buffy took the plate from his hands and flung it away like a Frisbee, then smiled at the lump in his leather shorts. "We've had such a bad time in this place so far, Spike. Since we're alone... let's make with a little fun."

Spike could only stare in amazement when Buffy's hand moved up his thigh and cupped him. He closed his eyes and hissed with pleasure as she fondled him.

"Oooh, nice!" Buffy giggled. She used both hands to undo the bindings on his shorts. She brought out his thickening cock and began stroking it. She used her free hand to tug the shorts down further in order to get total access to his naughty bits.

Spike put a hand on the back of her neck and crushed his lips to hers. They moaned into each other's mouths, tongues tangling and thrusting. Buffy pulled away from his lips -- he thought she was 'coming back to her senses' for a moment. But she made him gasp with delight when she lowered her mouth onto his rigid cock.

Buffy rubbed his throbbing flesh with her tongue and rolled his balls in the palm of her hand as her head bobbed up and down.

His fingers slid into her hair. 'Ohhh! Fuck, Buffy!" he groaned.

She slid her mouth up and off of his dick, then sat up and grinned. "I like that idea! Buffy needs a good hard fuckin'!"

That wasn't nearly enough cocksucking, in Spike's opinion. But if she wanted him to fuck her right now, he had absolutely no problems with it.

Buffy hopped onto his lap, straddling him. Their mouths fused together again, Buffy ran her hands over his cheekbones and into his hair. Spike frantically gathered up her skirts, needing desperately to be inside of her. He ripped her underwear away, Buffy squeaked and giggled at his roughness.

And then his cock was pushing up into her heat. Buffy let out a little cry into his mouth and took his hardness fully inside her. She ground her box against him.

Spike took her hips in his hands and began thrusting up into her.

"Ahhh--Buffy!" Spike panted. "Fuck, pet!" She was so tight and hot that he thought he might lose his mind -- she felt just as wonderful as he’d always imagined she would.

Buffy bounced harder on his dick, gasping for breath and moaning. "Ohhh! Yes! Ohhh fuck me, Spike!"

He gripped her ass in his hands and moved them down to the floor, with her on her back. Buffy looked up at him, looking more beautiful than he'd ever seen her. She looked stunning, so flushed and aroused.

A piece of chocolate cake was right next to her shoulder. Spike smirked, holding back from just hammering away at her. He only gently moved his hips, and asked, "Still hungry, pet?" He scooped two fingers into the cake, then put them to her mouth.

Buffy opened wide and enveloped his fingers with her mouth. "Mmmmmm!" Her eyes twinkled as her tongue swiped the moist cake from his digits.

Spike groaned as she sucked and chewed on his fingers. Buffy wound her legs around him and grasped at his shoulders. He slowly pulled his fingers out of her mouth, she licked at his fingertips.

"Please fuck me, Spike," Buffy whispered, hugging his lower body to her with her powerful legs. "I need you to fuck me hard and fuck me deep, baby."

Spike grinned, not needing to be asked twice. He made Buffy squeal when he started pounding into her.

"YES! OH YES!" Buffy screamed, scratching and digging her nails into his arms.

He attacked her neck with blunt teeth, nipping and sucking at her tender skin.

She clutched him tighter, he felt her inner walls begin to squeeze his cock. He growled lustily and pounded her quim even harder.

Buffy yelled, "Ohh! Cumming! Bite me, Spike!" She tilted her head to the side, offering her throat to him.

His fangs extended, his eyes glowed yellow. He growled hungrily, wanting this more than anything he‘d ever wanted in his life -- as a mortal or Vampire. Spike licked her neck, then opened wide and bit down. He buried his fangs and cock deep inside her, immediately exploding with intense pleasure. Her blood was like nothing he’d had before. Ambrosia. Love, desire, paradise, ecstasy -- every pleasurable sensation and state of mind rolled into one. His hips kept pumping, he continued to paint the inside of her pussy white with his thick spunk while pulling her hot blood into his mouth.

"YESSSS! Bite me, fuck me!" Buffy screamed as her pussy furiously milked his spurting cock. "I love you, Spike! Ohhh Spike!"

"Spike? Earth to, Spike!" Buffy waved her hand in front of his face, she was wiping the cheesecake from her mouth with her other hand.

He snapped out of the fantasy and looked at her dumbly, not sure what was real and what wasn‘t yet. “Hunh?”

“I asked if you’re okay... you look weird.” Buffy noticed that Spike looked odd when she’d sat back up from licking the plate like an animal -- which she couldn’t believe she’d actually done. But the cake was just sooo good, and she was sooo hungry. He was breathing harder, his head was tilted back, he was still gripping the empty plate in his hands. Buffy was concerned that something was wrong with him, but couldn't help thinking that he looked very... sexy. “Are you in pain?” Buffy asked sympathetically.

“Pain...?” Spike gulped and tried shaking off his rampant horniness, while keeping the plate positioned over his lap.

“You looked kind of... pained.”

“Ah... yeah, just some... hunger pangs. I‘m fine... no worries.”

Spike thought, ‘Bloody hell! Did I cum in my shorts?!’ But there didn’t seem to be excessive moisture in his shorts, thankfully. However, his cock was hard and aching. He would’ve jizzed in the damn lederhosen if she hadn’t spoken to him and brought him out of the fantasy. That would’ve been embarrassing... Spike didn't embarrass easily, but that would've done it.

It had happened again -- he’d slipped into a fantasy without realizing it. He gave silent thanks that he hadn’t grabbed Buffy and tried making his dream a reality, or whipped out his cock and wanked it. The Slayer surely would’ve freaked out if either of those things had happened. She'd probably never speak to him again and/or beat the tar out of him.

Spike was having trouble focusing on anything other than the sensations from his angry, throbbing cock, and watching Buffy’s pink tongue dabbing at her upper lip.

“You still look weird,” she observed. “Is there anything I can do...?”

There was something very specific she could do for him... He swallowed and looked away from her enticing mouth. “No, s’okay. You’d best... clean up all bits of cake and go back to doing what you were doing before she comes back.”

Buffy sighed and nodded. "Yeah... I know. But I have to say, that was the most delicious cake I ever had! I need to get me one of those magic wands to whip up some food when we get back home. Nobody will make cracks about me being a lousy cook ever again.” She stood back up and went to the fresh water bucket to clean herself up.

Spike kept the empty plate over his extra bulgy bulge and hoped he didn't look as besotted and horny as he felt. "Make sure you... uh, don't have any trace of it on you. She'll most likely check to see if you were... naughty."

Naughty Buffy... now there was a girl he would love to know intimately. Just like he had in the fantasy.

Spike groaned at the pile of food that he had to make progress on before the witch came back. He didn’t fancy the crazy bitch beating him up or zapping him. He tried thinking of every unsexy thing he could in order to make his hard-on go away. The Angel/Riley/Xander sausage-fest would likely do the trick again.

He picked up another piece of cake and tucked in.

After covering the evidence that she’d snuck food, Buffy sat down in her corner to rest for a minute longer. She looked at Spike as he wolfed down more delicious cake. She rubbed her stomach when it growled again, apparently the little bit of cake-y goodness wasn’t enough to sate her for very long.

Buffy watched Spike pick up a long, chocolate-frosted, whipped cream-topped pastry. He stuck his tongue in the side of the éclair, and lapped at the custard oozing out. His lips were covered with creamy goodness; his tongue dipped into the hole again and again.

Buffy had felt tingly with excitement when she'd eaten the cake, those tingles weren't going away. The excitement was also sexual in nature -- her nipples hardened, her pussy was getting moist. She desperately wanted to touch herself (or better yet, have him touch her) and squirmed to get some friction between her legs.

To her, he looked like a giant, Spike-shaped piece of cake -- tasty, sinful, and oh-so-bad for her. Buffy salivated as he licked his lips and swallowed. There was still plenty of whipped cream on Spike's mouth. Her clit throbbed with need. She imagined herself taking the pastry and doing what she’d thought of before: smooshing and smearing it all over Spike’s luscious body... eating it off of him... She let out a shuddery breath, her eyes hooded. It was just too frickin' hot! A sinful fantasy played out in her mind...

Buffy’s fantasy...

She crawled her way over to Spike on her hands and knees.

Spike looked up at her when she was a few feet away, seeming confused and perhaps a bit nervous as to why she was prowling at him like a jungle cat. She looked ravenous; like she might start gnawing on his arm or leg. He swallowed and was about to ask what she was doing, when Buffy pounced. She took his face in her hands and plastered her mouth over his.

Spike "Mmmph!”ed" and flailed a bit in surprise as her tongue plumbed his mouth. Buffy climbed onto his lap, knocking the empty plate away. She extracted her tongue from his mouth to lick his lips free of cream.

"Shit, Buffy! What're you doing?" Spike gasped.

She smirked and took the éclair from his hand. "I'm hungry, and you look yummy. But you can get even yummier." She squeezed the pastry, custard and cream erupted from the top and the hole that Spike's tongue had made in the side, dripping blobs of it onto his chest. It made her giggle to see the stunned look on Spike's face.

"I'm gonna blow your mind, and then maybe another part of your body," she said devilishly. Buffy smeared the gooeyness around on his chest while shoving her tongue back into his delicious mouth. "Want you!" She bit his bottom lip.

Any hesitation he had was gone in an instant. Spike ripped at her dirndl; Buffy ripped at his shorts. They were both naked without much effort at all, their clothing in tatters around them. Spike rolled them to the floor. Buffy snatched up another éclair as he pushed her onto her back. She alternated licking the cream from his chest and kissing his mouth.

He took another pastry and squeezed it over her chest. Buffy giggled as the cream filling plopped onto her skin. Spike smiled and bent his head down to lick her breasts clean. His tongue and hands traveled over her chest, swirling and rubbing the cream filling around. Each of her hard nipples was lavished with attention -- Spike circled them with his tongue, gave them a good, hard suck, then a little nibble. The sensations were driving Buffy crazier with lust.

Buffy rubbed her éclair on the nipple Spike wasn't currently sucking on, giving him more to lick up.

They were both getting wonderfully sticky and messy. Buffy's chest and stomach were wet and smeared with custard and cream, Spike's face and chest were tacky with it too.

Buffy ran her sticky fingers through Spike's hair, smiling when he moved down her body, kissing and swiping at her with his tongue. She bit the end of the pastry off and chewed, "Ohhmm yeah! Keep going!"
She spread her legs wide, giving him all the room he needed.

She was getting whipped into a sexual frenzy, wanting more food, more licking, more everything. Buffy took handfuls of cake and cookies, smearing and crumbling the food onto her torso. Combining sex and food had never held much appeal to her before, it had even seemed gross. But now she was letting her freak flag fly, relishing and loving everything about it.

Buffy laughed at the strange (but great!) sensation of cream squirting out of a donut onto her pussy. The giggles turned into jagged moans when Spike's tongue began laving her nether lips. He lapped at her pussy, then his tongue was burrowing between her folds.

Buffy pressed her thighs against the sides of his head while sucking the cream out of the pastry. Spike licked and munched on her creamy pussy. She arched up when he sucked on her thumping clit, "Ohhh--Ahhh yesss!" Waves of pleasure rippled through her body.

Spike smiled, looking up at her face. "I wouldn't have any trouble eatin' all this food if I could do it like this."

"Yes! Eat it! Eat my fucking pussy!" Buffy gasped with pleasure, pushing his face back onto her quivering sex. "Don't stop! Ohhhmm!" she took a bite out of another pastry, chewing and savoring it while Spike dined on her pussy.

"Mmmm, Buffy, always knew you'd be delicious!" Spike moaned, licking and slurping on her.

"Hey, let's do that 69 thing!" Buffy said brightly. She'd never done that before, but for some reason really wanted to do it right now. Buffy had never even given a blowjob before, though she knew the basic moves. She wanted his big, luscious cock to be the first. "You can give me something else to do with my mouth."

"Just don't mistake my dick for an éclair -- no hard biting," Spike chuckled.

"Don't worry, baby, I won't get mixed up. No bites, but I do wanna see if I can suck the cream out of your éclair," she giggled and winked.

"I don't see that being a problem," Spike said with a smirk as he went down onto his back.

Buffy was on him in a flash, first straddling him and dipping her head down to kiss his sweet lips. Then she spun around, her knees on either side of his head. Spike put his hands on her hips, bringing her down to his waiting mouth, and diving right back into her saturated pussy.

Buffy just stopped to enjoy it for a minute, gyrating against his mouth. "Ohhh shit!" she breathed. "Ohh that's so good!"

She didn't make him wait too long, Buffy took a donut from the pile of food (conveniently located right next to them) and squeezed the white creamy filling out onto the palm of her hand, then slathered it all over his hard cock. She slowly pumped him in her slippery fist, giving little licks the head and sides. Then she just had to have him in her mouth, taking about half of his considerable length in and bobbing on it.

She felt him inserting a finger into her, and then another. He finger-fucked her, pumping hard and fast while sucking on her clit.

Buffy whined and moaned around his girth, slobbering and bobbing. She let him slide out of her mouth when her orgasm hit her like a freight train. "YES! OH FUCK!" she screamed, her body shaking all over. She humped his face while pumping his dick furiously. "Give me the cream, Spike! I want it all, give it to me!" She growled and wrapped her lips around his cockhead, sucking like a vacuum cleaner.

Spike's hips started to buck, then a moment later he grunted into her pussy and jets of cum began to flood her sucking mouth.

Buffy smiled and moaned happily, slurping down all of his thick, creamy jizz. She wasn't sure what sperm tasted like on its own, but she would highly recommend combining it with the cream filling of a donut.

Spike pushed her hips up, holding her hips in his hands and panting for breath. "Bloody hell! You're amazing, Buffy!"

"Mmmm, you are too. And you're still hard!" She grinned and stroked his steely member. "Good, 'cause next I want you to fuck me while I eat some more cake!"

"I'd love to, pet."

Buffy giggled as he spun her body back around so that she was laying on him, sticky chest to sticky chest. Then Spike rolled them over.

He smiled down at her and wriggled his hips to get between her thighs. "You want it hard, pet? Want me to fuck you like a man possessed?"

"Oooh yes!" She growled and bared her teeth, wrapping her legs and arms around his body. "Yes, give it to me hard! Fuck me!"

Buffy gasped and tilted her head back as his cock began pushing into her core. Spike lowered his head to kiss and suck on her neck. She gasped again when she felt his fangs scrape lightly over her skin -- but, strangely, she wasn't afraid. The thought of Spike burying his fangs and cock into her at the same time was exceedingly erotic. She wanted it, she wanted all of him.

Spike whispered, "I love you, my sweet Buffy. Ohh Buffy..."

“Buffy? Hey, Slayer!” Spike was looking at her with a furrowed brow, calling to her from across the room.

It was Buffy’s turn to be shaken from a fantasy. She blinked and looked down, blushing furiously. The entire thing -- from when she saw him poking his tongue into that éclair -- had been in her mind.

‘Holy shit... That was crazy! What kind of sex-crazed freak am I?! I’m woozy with hunger, that’s what it is. Woozy! And he’s... all cake-y and creamy, almost naked and scrumptious looking. Not my fault...'

"You alright?" Spike asked. "Looked like you were gonna faint."

She cleared her throat. "Yeah... just sleepy."

"Lay down and take a rest then before the Green Meanie comes back. Make sure you got all traces of the cake off you."

"I-I did, I'm clean. Yeah, a siesta sounds good..."

Buffy turned away from him and laid on her side, eyes wide as her mind replayed the crazy daydream again. The oral sex, the rough kisses and groping, her having to imagine what being fucked with a big cock like his would feel like -- it was all so very good. The thing about his fangs exciting her was a surprise, no way would she find that hot in real life. At least... she didn't think she would. And there was all that messiness with the food... Buffy had never seriously thought about using food in combination with sex, she was never that kinky or experimental. But she could see why people did do it now... and she wanted to try it in real life... sometime. Not now... not with Spike... Never with Spike...

'Oh dammit! Who am I trying to kid?' Buffy asked herself. 'I want him. I want him soooo goddamn bad... and it's only a matter of time before I actually do jump his bones. Please, God, help me control myself...'
Part 1, Chapter 9: Pangs by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
Only one more angsty chapter to go before it comes to a head. Thank you for sticking with me, gentle readers! =) *hugs*

Banners by xoChantelly and Edgehead :)
God either didn't hear Buffy's prayer or had ignored it. She was shaken and distracted the rest of the day because of her illicit (and very messy) fantasy about Spike.

Buffy couldn't seem to stop thinking about him in ways she shouldn't. She knew he had to be an amazing lover, and she ached to find out for certain, firsthand. But there were thoughts that scared her just as much, if not more. Thoughts like how nice it would be if Spike just held her in his arms, or how it made her all warm inside when he smiled and laughed at something she said. Not mean or mocking laughter such as he'd done in the past, of course, but genuine laughs like friends share. Being united under these horrible circumstances had forged a bond between them. Buffy was seeing things in Spike that she'd never suspected -- that he would risk his life and safety to spare her pain was a huge eye-opener. Her regular life in Sunnydale (and her boyfriend, and the fact that she even had a boyfriend) seemed a million miles away. Right now the world only consisted of her and Spike.

Spike started singing a song, 'Something' by the Beatles. Instead of just letting his voice lull her to sleep while she pretended to already be asleep, Buffy sat up and watched him sing. Then watching wasn't enough. It was silly not to let him know she thought he had a good voice, and that she appreciated him doing it every night to make her feel better.

The real reason was that Buffy felt the need to be close to him. To hell with all her doubts and fears. She went quietly over to Spike and kneeled down next to him, sitting back on her heels.

He stopped singing when he finally noticed that she was right next to him.

"What?" Spike asked uncomfortably. He didn't think he could sing 'Something' with Buffy only a few feet away and looking at him like that. Why'd he choose to start with that song? He forgot to steer clear of romantic songs...

"I really like your voice." Buffy felt absurdly like a nervous teen talking to a hunk whom she had a big crush on. This wasn't easy for her; part of her was still trying to resist saying anything about her secret feelings. But she felt like she'd explode if she didn't get the thoughts out of her head. "I didn't say so before because... I don't know why I didn't. It felt weird to compliment you."

Spike smiled. "I know what you mean. Complimenting or saying 'please' or 'thank you' to each other felt out-and-out unnatural not long ago."

"It's weird, but... I looked forward to hearing you sing at the end of every day. It's been the only thing to look forward to in this place."

Spike's smile became shyer, he looked at her from under his lashes. "Really?"

Buffy smiled and nodded, feeling a warm blush springing to her cheeks. "I know you were doing it for me, and it really has helped." Then she looked at him uncertainly. "You... were doing it for me, weren't you?" She'd feel like an ass if it wasn't for her, after all.

Spike nodded, "Yeah... that first night I thought it might help take your mind off things. I was going to keep doing it 'til the night you'd roll over and tell me to shut the hell up."

Buffy laughed softly. "I wouldn't have done that. I didn't know you could sing, I'm impressed."

"Thanks, I'm glad I could help you feel a little less stressed... You going to sing me a few bars of something?" Spike asked, raising an eyebrow.

"No way," she giggled. "You don't wanna hear it, trust me."

"I bet you have a lovely singing voice."

"Nope. Nasally and whiny, that's me."

Then Spike wasn't sure what to say, Buffy was staring at him strangely and just sitting there. "Do you, uh, want me to keep..."

He went motionless when Buffy reached out and touched the side of his face. He was afraid to speak or move, as if she were a baby deer he was trying not to frighten away. Buffy was gazing at him with what he thought looked like affection and she was caressing his cheek -- he didn't want to break the spell.

Buffy couldn't fight it anymore, she swiftly leaned forward, pressing her lips against Spike's. His eyes widened, then slid closed. The kiss was a tentative one, Buffy wanted to see if this was what she really wanted. She thought that maybe her attraction to Spike was just a passing thing.

But the good feelings grew with each second their lips were pressing together. The kiss didn't last that long, only about 10 seconds (and there was no tongue), but the moment their lips touched there was sparkage.

Their eyes blinked open when Buffy pulled away.

"Why... did you do that?" Spike asked softly, awed. He was trying to control the thoughts and feelings speeding through his mind and body. She probably only kissed him as a way of saying thanks for trying to comfort her, not because she had feelings for him too.

"Because... I wanted to. I've been wanting to... I don't know how or why I feel the way I do, all I know is I couldn't not be kissing you anymore."

"Do you... want to do it again?" Spike asked, hope and happiness blooming in his chest.

Buffy could tell that Spike had liked it and would welcome another kiss by the way his eyes moved from her lips to her eyes and back again. And his voice had that deep, caramel-y tone that was virtually irresistible. She just nodded then swooped back in to kiss him again. This time they were both ready for it and eager to continue.

Spike's arms came up around her, pulling her body closer. Buffy put her arms around his neck, letting him pull her to him. She was still on her knees, moving so that she was now straddling his left thigh.

The kiss deepened, tongues came out to play, and their hunger for each other intensified.

Buffy hadn't felt this way when kissing someone for a long time. There was so much heat, so much passion flowing between them. It scared her (for oh-so-many reasons), but she wanted him so badly. She thought, 'Oh God, he's such a good fucking kisser! Ohh yummy lips! Good arms -- feel so good around me! Oh my God, how is he doing that with his tongue?!'

Spike's mind was racing too as his lips and tongue wrestled with hers. Buffy had come to him and was kissing him of her own freewill. This was better than any fantasy or even when they'd kissed while under the effects of Willow's spell last year. This was real, both of them participating because they wanted it. If this was just another dream, he didn't want to wake up.

The only sounds in the room were the crackling of the fire in the hearth, their lips smacking together, and their heavy breathing. They weren't capable of actual speech at the moment, their minds were too consumed with desire.

Spike's mouth slid down to her neck, kissing and mouthing the slender column. Buffy ran her fingers through his hair and let her head list to the side. His hot mouth on her skin and his strong hands roaming over her back felt so good. She unconsciously rubbed herself against his thigh as he kissed her throat. She didn't consider that she was in any possible danger from him. Spike cared about her, and there was the chip that prevented him from hurting her even if he wanted to. Not that Buffy was able to give serious thought to anything other than his body, what he was doing to her with it, and the delicious feelings he was bringing about in her as a result.

Spike's head was swimming. Having Buffy embracing him, encouraging him to continue, the scent of her arousal rising to his nose -- he felt as if he would burst from sensory overload. Her pulse thudded against his lips. Her could feel and hear her blood rushing through her veins. Her hot, life-giving fluid was only under a delicate layer of skin, directly under his mouth... so close.

Under normal circumstances, Spike wouldn't have any trouble controlling his demon. He loved Buffy and would rather cut off his right arm than harm her. But now... starving for fresh blood and his mind foggy with lust, his fangs extended and his eyes glowed amber. His primitive instincts took over.

Spike growled and gave the side of her neck a long, sensuous lick. Buffy didn't know anything was wrong. In fact, the growling sounded very sexy to her, making her growl a little in response.

Spike opened his jaws, preparing to chomp down on her lovely neck.

At the last second, he froze, realizing what he was doing.

Buffy moaned, surrendering to her desire for him. "Ohhh, Spike, we shouldn't be doing this. But --"

Spike was horrified with himself, he'd been an inch away from hurting (and very possibly killing) the woman he loved. He suddenly grabbed her shoulders and shoved her away from him, sending Buffy falling backwards to land a few feet away from him on her backside.

Buffy sat up, angry and confused. "Ow! Hey! I said BUT! You didn't honor the but! What's wrong with..."

Spike curled into the corner of the room, looking like he was trying to pass through the wall. He was wincing and digging the heels of his hands into his forehead and trying to hide his face. She saw his forehead was bumpy and his fangs catch the light.

Spike said in a growly whisper, "Stay away from me." He hadn't been sure if the chip worked in this dimension until he pushed her away, but it had gone off, adding to his misery.

Buffy glanced at the witch's bedroom door, hoping their captor wasn't woken up by the noise. After a few moments of silence, Buffy focused back on Spike. She inched closer to him despite his warning.

"You tried to bite me?" Buffy asked, a disappointed/hurt edge to her voice. "Guess the chip still works, huh?"

"Just... stay away. Please..." Spike said, his voice cracking.

Tears built up in her eyes. "I trusted you! How could you..." Buffy stopped to think, for once. She was assuming the worst of him again, and she'd been wrong the last few times she'd done that. It didn't make sense that Spike would protect her the way he had, and then try to hurt her himself. Especially while they were... doing what they were doing. Maybe it was just that he was so hungry that his instincts had taken over, or maybe he hadn't tried to hurt her at all. "Wait... did the chip go off because you tried to bite me or because you pushed me away?"

"Doesn't matter..." he muttered, still keeping his face turned away from her.

"Yes, it does. Did you mean to hurt me or not?"

"I was... overcome -- first by desire for you, and then by the desire for your blood. I lost control. I realized that I was about to sink my teeth into you, and that's when I pushed you away. I got zapped by the chip for pushing you. I didn't mean to hurt you... just had to get you away from me. I'm so sorry, Buffy... You have no idea how sorry."

Buffy was sad that their heavy petting had ended so abruptly and badly, but her heart didn't feel as heavy knowing that Spike wasn't trying to hurt her on purpose. She was glad that she'd let him explain first, and she hadn't just gone off on a rant and sulked.

Spike continued, "If I hadn't come to my senses, if it had gone on for just a second longer... I would have bitten you. I've been losing control, losing time, more and more. Short periods of time where I go into a sort of... trance. I come out of it and I don't remember what I was doing or why."

"Things like that have been happening to me too... I kind of zone out for a minute or two." Buffy was too embarrassed to say exactly what she'd been imagining doing during those mental lapses. "Oh, Spike... I didn't know it was getting that bad for you. Why didn't you say anything?"

"Not a pleasant thing to bring up, that one is losing one's mind. This was the worst yet." He laughed a little crazily. "Don't know why I should be surprised, this is exactly the way my luck has run since I got to Sunnyhell. I was finally doing what I've only dreamt about, and I ruin it because I'm goin' insane."

"You... dreamt about doing that... with me?" Buffy's heart sped up at the thought that he'd wanted her just as much as she wanted him, that he'd yearned for her the same way she had for him.

Spike looked at her out of the corner of his golden eye. "Once... or twice."

She smiled. "Thank God it wasn't just me! I've been thinking about you in, um, very different ways since we've been here. Do you think the Unari are doing things to our minds? Making us... feel things for each other?"

Spike's face changed back to his Human appearance. The pain from the chip was receding at last, but his emotional turmoil wasn't going away any time soon. Buffy seemed to think that her attraction to him was coming from outside herself, from the wankers that created this dimension. Maybe it was true -- for her. Spike had already been well on his way to being head-over-heels in love with her, he'd only needed a nudge in the right direction for his lust to turn to full-fledged love. He was able to privately fully accept and embrace that he loved her now, not beat himself up about it like he'd done back in the real world. But Buffy might need to believe she wasn't responsible for her feelings and actions. He'd go along with that theory if it helped her deal.

"Maybe they are messing with our minds, I don't know."

"Why would they do that?" Buffy asked rhetorically. "What would they gain from making us... care about each other?"

Spike just shrugged slightly.

"Feeling better? The pain going away?" Buffy wanted to reach out and touch him in a comforting way, but knew he wouldn't welcome it. His body language couldn't be more 'hands off'.

"Yeah. You should go back to bed now."

Buffy sighed, seeing that he was still shrinking away and wouldn't look directly at her. "Spike... it's okay, I'm not mad at you for what happened."

"It's not okay. I almost killed the woman I... I've grown very fond of." Spike wasn't ready to confess his love, he didn't know if he ever would be. "I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I hurt you, Buffy. I hate myself, how can you not be angry with me?"

"If it was reversed -- like if you had chocolate sauce running through your veins -- you'd have to sleep with one eye open because I'd be tempted to chomp you."

Spike and Buffy both snorted a little laugh.

He smiled a bit, amazed and moved that Buffy was trying to cheer him up. Then he sighed and looked at the blue veins on the undersides of his wrists. "I'm surprised it's not chocolate sauce by now, with all the fucking sweets I've eaten."

Buffy took a deep breath, what she was about to suggest was contrary to everything she believed in. But that was back in Sunnydale, and the rules were changed in this dimension. "Spike, I want you to take some of my blood."

He turned and looked at her, so many emotions were churning within him. Spike was touched that Buffy was offering to feed him her own blood, his demon sang in triumph that it would be fed Slayer blood. He was so hungry, he wanted to shout, "YES!" But he couldn't take it from her. After the initial eagerness to accept her offer, he took a good look at Buffy. She was holding up better than just about anyone else would be in her position, but he could see the signs that she was getting weaker.

Buffy saw the emotions register on his face as he felt them: awe and happiness, then hesitancy and fear, then sadness and resignation. His shoulders slumped, and he curled back into the corner. "No."

"Why not? Spike, you need it. I want to help you."

"Buffy, you don't understand... I can't trust myself. If I get one taste... I'll want more, and more... I won't be able to stop until I'm full as a tick."

"But the chip would..."

Spike shook his head. "The chip would go off, but I doubt I'd feel it. I'd be too determined to drink, I'd do it through the pain. It's getting to the point where... I'm little more than an animal, like a shark going into a feeding frenzy. I'll act on instinct, without emotion interfering. It won't matter how I... feel about you, you'll just be food. And then I'd realize what I'd done and despise myself for hurting you. So, please, you have to keep your distance from me."

It touched Buffy that Spike cared for her so much, he wasn't interested in just getting into her pants -- though he was clearly interested in that too. "Then... I can cut myself and bleed into a cup. That way you wouldn't accidentally hurt me."

Spike swallowed and squeezed his eyes shut. Then he shook his head again, saying firmly, "No."

"Why are you objecting this time? You won't even have to get your fangs anywhere near me."

"It means more to me than you'll ever know that you offered me your blood. But I can't take it from you, Buffy. I won't. You're not exactly 100% yourself, you can't afford to be weakened any further either. I'm fading, but one of us has to stay as strong as possible."

It made Buffy's heart ache to see how Spike was fighting to do what he thought was the right thing. He was trying to go against his most primal instincts for survival just to keep her from being harmed.

Buffy sighed. "You had to choose to start being all noble in this dimension? Why not back in Sunnydale?"

"Noble," Spike repeated with a sneer. "There's a word that could never be tagged onto me."

"Until now. You're being heroic, admit it," Buffy said with a small smile.

"Never," Spike replied with an answering smile.

Buffy repeated something he'd said to her, "If your body manufactured something I could survive on, you'd let me have a suck. Right? Let me give --"

"No, Buffy." Spike looked her in the eye. "I'm not going to change my mind about this."

She wanted to smack him and cuddle him at the same time. He was being stubborn, but his motives were sweet. Buffy tried to think of something she could do for him. "Well... what if I can bring you one of the animals she keeps outside?"

"That would be... better, in that it doesn't involve weakening you. But she's not just gonna let you feed me one of her animals. And I don't think you'll be able to smuggle in a pig under your skirt."

"I'll think of something... My chain won't reach out into the yard, but I was thinking of trying to lure some kind of animal into the house with food. Would you object to having to eat a rat if it comes to that?"

Spike growled. "Not like I have endless options... I'll dine on rat tartar if I must. I don't want her catching you trying to help me and hurting you again, Buffy. I won't --"

"Shut up, Spike," Buffy said much more good-naturedly than she had in the past. "I'm going to get you blood, one way or another. No more arguments."

Spike was still nervous about what she planned to do, but his spirits were lifted slightly that Buffy cared about him. "Yes, ma'am. Just... whatever you do, promise me you'll be careful, pet."

Buffy resisted the urge to rub his leg -- in a comforting way, of course. Although her warm feelings for Spike hadn't gone away, him nearly ripping her throat out had put a damper on her horniness for the time being. It wasn't a good idea to do that with Spike, for many reasons besides the possibility of him unintentionally killing her.

"I'll be careful." Buffy gave him a smile, then went back to her corner.

Spike relaxed when she was no longer within reach. He was afraid that he'd lose control and hurt her if she was close enough to grab. It was depressing that the kissing had ended the way it had, and with his luck, it would never happen again.

Spike licked his lips anxiously, then asked, "Uh, what we were doing right before I vamped out... is that something you'd want to do again?"

Buffy looked down, blushing anew. "Um, well... maybe, yeah, I think I would. But you have to get strong and survive in order for it to happen again. Got it?"

"Now that's what I call incentive." Spike smirked and laid down to get some rest as Buffy did the same. "For my next number, I'd like to do 'I'm A Bad, Bad Man' from Annie Get Your Gun."

They looked at each other, smiling and laughing lightly, then both settled in to try sleeping.

Spike went to sleep after serenading Buffy with a Simon and Garfunkel song; he knew those so well that they required almost no effort. He was so tired, and his mind was too cluttered. He was shaken by what he'd almost done to her. Fate was cruel indeed... it was to him, anyway. Kissing Buffy was right at the top of Spike's list of things he wanted, and she seemed to be interested in being with him -- but he couldn't allow her to come near him right now. Not until he had a decent meal. She'd called him 'noble'. Was that what he was doing? Being noble? He wouldn't dissuade her from thinking of him that way, but Spike didn't consider it gallant, he just didn't want to hurt the woman he loved. His motive was selfish at its core, like most things he did. There was more to it than that, of course, but Spike had trouble thinking of himself as heroic in any way.

Buffy fell asleep trying to think of what she could find for Spike to eat -- and not what her feelings for him meant or might lead to. First, they had to escape, then she could worry about repercussions from what she might or might not do with him. Spike was right that the witch wouldn't just let her give him an animal to feed on, and a missing animal would surely be noticed. Maybe a wild animal was the best bet? There might be some rats hanging around a house made of food... It was squicky to think about it, but she would do what it took to keep Spike from starving.

The next morning was the same routine. Kicking, taunting, breakfast, then Wicked Willow leaving to do some witchy errands.

After making sure the witch was no longer in the vicinity of the house, Buffy placed a trail of food leading into the house. She hoped to lure an animal in that Spike could eat. Then she went back to her chores.

Spike was dubious about the chances of a furry creature just walking up to the house. He imagined that animals (with their keener instincts) would stay away from the gingerbread house. Animals had a way of knowing when danger loomed; they were a lot better than Humans at sensing evil.

"Buffy, you know what's going to happen if she comes back and sees the door wide open and a trail of food leading inside..."

"I know. But she's usually gone for a few hours. I'll leave it like that for a while, then clean it up and close the door if we don't have any luck getting an animal into the house. The bitch won't even know we did anything... hopefully." Buffy helped herself to a piece of chocolate cake. Her mother would surely be disappointed with her table manners. She practically inhaled the cake, eating it with her hand.

"So, the plan is that a bunny will hop through the doorway and you'll stomp on it?" Spike asked.

"Something like that," Buffy replied as she washed her hands. "Maybe the wisecracking raccoon or the mentally-challenged squirrel will come along to save us. I'll have to be careful not to stomp on them."

They laughed.

"Never did I think I'd see the day where the Slayer would be trying to trap cuddly critters for me to eat."

"Yeah, well I'm doing and thinking about lots of stuff I never thought I would..."

Though Spike was joking with her and being smirky, she could tell that he was not well. He looked so tired, like he could barely keep his eyes open. He was getting more listless -- even his snark wasn't as snarky today. But it had been a long time without him getting any blood, just all of the food that Buffy wished that she could eat.

"Why don't you try to rest," Buffy suggested. "I'll wake you up if anything happens."

Spike sniffed and sat up straighter. "Nah, I'm alright."

"Spike, close your eyes and take a nap."

"You get off on bossing me around, don't you?" he asked playfully.

"Mmmhmm, love it. Now shut up and go to sleep."

Spike stubbornly stayed awake making small talk with Buffy as she cleaned. It was silly (he knew it was), but he didn't want Buffy to think of him as frail. Despite the fact that he had very little energy, and he really should rest while the witch was away, he didn’t want to admit how bad his condition was getting -- to Buffy or himself.

Buffy guessed that over an hour had passed since the witch had left, she could be back at any time. Unfortunately, no animals had been dumb enough to hop/walk/slither through the door. It was time to clean it up and shut the door before the witch returned.

After she shut the front door Buffy sighed dejectedly. “Dammit... I was really hoping the food would attract an animal. Sorry, Spike, guess we‘ll have to try again tomorrow.”

He sighed, "It was a long shot, but thanks for tryin'."

Buffy gave the floor another quick once-over with the broom, then sat down in her corner to rest. She felt so tired, so weary. She was getting much weaker, this 'story' had to end soon if they had any hope whatsoever of surviving. It seemed so hopeless... But she had to keep putting up a brave front for Spike, as well as for herself. It was important to keep talking about getting home, even though their spirits were flagging.

She wiped sweat from her brow with the back of her hand. "I am going to go out to dinner at a steakhouse and eat the biggest, juiciest damn steak in the world when I get back home. You know, one of those mega-steaks where if you eat all of it they put a picture of you up on the wall and ring a bell? That's what I'm gonna do. And maybe get the salad bar to balance it out. How about you?"

Buffy looked at him, seeing that he was slumped against the wall, his eyes closed. He didn't look good at all. He was paler than normal and the dark circles under his eyes were more pronounced.

She wasn't doing too well herself, the ability to think rationally was getting more difficult at times like these. Her knee-jerk reaction was to fear for Spike and worry because he’d been talking to her only a minute ago, and now he looked so... dead. It slipped her mind for a moment that Vampires didn’t just die, they had to have something major happen to them (such as staking, being set on fire, decapitation), then they *poofed*.

"Spike, are you okay? Spike!" She had to raise her voice to finally get his attention.

He jerked and opened his eyes, then sat up. He looked around, confused.

"I was talking to you," Buffy said with concern and a little embarrassment that she'd panicked for a moment.

"What? Missed what you said. I was... just resting my eyes for a minute."

"That's what my grandpa used to say when he fell asleep watching TV."

"Alright, yeah, I drifted off... Isn't that what you told me to do?" It disturbed Spike that he hadn't meant to fall asleep. He figured that his body was starting to shut down from lack of nourishment, protecting itself by putting him into a sleep state until blood was available. But he tried not to let his distress show.

"We have to make a move soon, Spike. I'm getting weaker from lack of food and being worked like a mule, you're getting weaker from lack of blood. We have to get out of here."

"You're talking like we haven't been trying anything since the bloody beginning. We can't get around the bitch's protection spell."

"Well, if we don't get out soon..."

Spike sighed and nodded slightly. "Yeah... I know. But she won't give me blood. The way I am now, I doubt I could even beat up Xander."

"I'm going to offer you some of mine again -- and you better say yes or I'll kick your ass."

Spike wanted to shout 'YES'. But Buffy wasn't faring too well herself. She was putting on a tough front and pretending she was stronger than she actually was, he wouldn't expect any less of his Buffy. She was a magnificent woman; her strength and determination were two of the many things he loved about her. But he could tell how weak she was becoming. Her face was drawn and pale, she had dark smudges under her eyes, she was thinner from not being able to eat anything substantial. Thank goodness she'd gotten away with stealing a bit of food here and there, she'd be even worse off if she hadn't eaten a cookie or two every day. But the fact remained that she couldn't give him any of her blood without serious risk to her own health.

"Spike, did you hear me?" Buffy asked after he hadn't responded for 30 seconds.

"Yeah... I heard you, Slayer. My answer is still no."

"You are so damn stubborn!" Buffy huffed.

"Something we have in common." Spike smirked faintly.

"One thing I never thought I'd have trouble making you do was drink my blood."

"I never reckoned it would require much arm-twisting either, but..." he shrugged.

They spoke over each other, both wanting to get their points across:

"Spike, you need --"
"I'm not taking --"

They ceased talking when the witch came in the door.

"I'm back, my darlings!" She came in and closed the door, then went to put her basket of flowers, roots and herbs on the cabinet. "I hope you were good little children while I was away."

She crossed the room to Spike, stopping a few feet in front of him. "Stand up, boy. Let me have a look at you."

Buffy started to say, "He's tired and weak because you won't give him --"

"Shut up!" Wicked Willow snapped at her. "I didn't ask for your opinion." Then she looked down at Spike again. "I told you to stand up."

Spike took a breath, then used the wall to help him stand up. His eyes went to the magic wand clutched in the witch's right hand. They'd never gotten a good opportunity to try getting that wand away from her, she always had it tightly gripped in her hand when she got close to them. They didn't know if it would shock them if they just touched it. But their situation was getting more critical, they might not have much time left. They would have to take what would probably turn out to be stupid risks if they had a chance in Hell of getting out of this alive.

'Better to go down fighting than just lay down and take it like a bitch,' Spike thought gravely. He waited for Wicked Willow's attention to be diverted before trying anything.

Evil Willow poked a sharp, black fingernail at his ribs, he flinched away from her touch. "You're still not fat! You've gotten skinnier!" she said accusingly.

Exasperated, Spike yelled, “How many bloody times have I told you I wouldn’t gain weight?! I’ve eaten tons of the fucking food you've forced on me, haven’t I? Not my fault you didn‘t believe me, you stupid bitch!”

“Don’t sass me, boy!” the witch screeched and jabbed the magic wand at him.

Spike saw this as his chance. He was able to move fast enough to turn to the side, avoiding the wand making contact with his body, and grabbed the wand with both hands, trying to wrench it out of her grasp. Spike was trying to be careful not to touch her, just the wand. It was something of a relief that just laying hands on the wand didn't deliver a shock.

The witch wasn't giving up the wand easily though. She was able to hold onto it with one hand while clawing and scratching at his face with the other hand. She grit her teeth, trying to pull it out of Spike's clutching hands, "Stop that this minute! Let go!"

Buffy sprang up and rushed over, eager to help.

Unfortunately, the witch saw her coming. As soon as Buffy was within striking distance, Evil Willow's left hand shot viciously out at her. Buffy was backhanded with great force across the face. The blow sent her stumbling backwards, her head crashed against the wall -- and that was the last thing Buffy remembered for several minutes. It would have killed her, had she been Human.

Spike was still struggling with the witch when he heard Buffy get smacked. He didn't stop trying to yank the wand out of the Evil Willow's hand, but he looked in time to see Buffy hit the wall, her eyes roll up, and then watched as she dropped to the floor.

"Buffy!" he yelled, afraid that she might be hurt badly, or worse. There was no way in hell that a Slayer should be felled so quickly and easily, especially not Buffy. This dimension was all wrong, it was insane, and it was slowly making them insane too. Spike went into game face and snarled at Wicked Willow. "You're dead, bitch!"

"Oh no, you're the dead one, darling boy!" She grabbed his right shoulder at the trapezius, spearing his flesh and digging in with all five of her long nails.

Tendrils of fresh pain curled through his body starting from where her nails were piercing his skin. Spike had been clawed before (mostly by Drusilla), so he wasn't a stranger to it. But even Dru had never lanced him like this. Maybe it was because he was already physically weak, or maybe it was some kind of additional magick -- it wouldn't surprise him if the green bitch had enchanted fingernails to deliver pain. But whatever it was, it made Spike feel drained of energy and caused him to loosen his hold on the wand.

His golden eyes widened when he felt the wand being pulled out of his hands, "NO!" He tried getting a new hold on it, but it was too late.

The moment it was pulled free, Wicked Willow stabbed it at his chest cruelly. The finely honed end of the wand pierced the skin of his left upper-chest.

“Arrgh! F-fucking hell!” Spike yelled between clenched teeth, the pain quickly overtaking him. Even when he was at full strength, the shock from the wand would have disabled him. If he were Human the shock he just received would have killed him.

The witch kept zapping him, she was mighty pissed off. Spike felt blood running from the wounds on his shoulder, deep scratches on his face, and the new one on his chest, blood he couldn't spare. But it was the shocks from the wand that occupied his mind, making his body jerk and shake like someone who'd grabbed onto a live electrical wire.

"You'll pay dearly for your insolence, you unruly boy!" Wicked Willow extracted her claws from his shoulder, then shoved him hard. Spike hit the wall, then collapsed to the floor, unconscious.

Buffy woke up first, the back of her head and her jaw aching, she tasted blood. She groaned and pushed herself up onto her elbows. She didn't know how much time had passed. When she remembered what had been happening, she whipped her head over to look at Spike -- which made her wince hard at the throbbing in her head.

He was laying curled up on his side, blood was running from his chest and shoulder, and the side of his face had several deep scratches; it looked like a large, pissed off cat had gone crazy on him. But the most noticeable change was that Spike was now in a barred, metal cage, a cage like Hansel was put in in the story. Fear and hopelessness gripped her heart. Spike had taken (what might turn out to be) their one last bid at overpowering the witch and escaping... and it had failed.

Then Buffy's eyes quickly scanned the room -- the front door was open. They were alone, but probably not for long. She didn't notice that the axe was gone from the wall where it normally hung.

"Spike," Buffy called, but it came out a whisper. She blinked away tears as she sat up. She said louder, "Spike! Please wake up!"

Spike's eyes snapped open at the sound of her voice. He wasn't thinking coherently yet, and seeing that there were now metal bars surrounding him sent him into a frenzy. Back when he'd been plain ol' mortal William, he'd had a slight fear of confined spaces (among other fears), that old fear came back.

He went wild, his fangs bared and yellow eyes blazing -- getting to his knees and roaring with rage and animal-panic. He yanked on and rattled the bars of his cage frantically, his body swung back and forth as he pulled and pushed with all his might, like a zoo animal who had finally had enough of captivity. The bars weren't budging. He was a helpless, caged beast.

Buffy wiped away tears, forcing herself to be strong for both their sakes, then crawled quickly over to his cage. She didn't dare try touching him while he was in this mindless, violent panic-mode.

She stopped in front of the cage, waving her hands around to get him to focus on her, "Spike! Spike calm down, you're going to hurt yourself worse! Please stop!"

Buffy's voice finally penetrated the fog in his mind. Spike's wild eyes fixed on her, then he slowed to a stop, panting madly for breath he didn't need. He sat on the backs of his legs, still holding the bars between his trembling fists. "You're okay..." he said, remembering she'd been hurt too.

His face morphed back to Human; to Buffy, he looked to be in shock. And after that incredible burst of violent energy he'd just expended, he was probably as weak as a baby.

"Yeah, I'm okay." She looked at the bleeding marks on his face, shoulder, and chest. "What did she do to you?"

"Fingernails... wand." Spike leaned forward, resting his forehead against the bars. "We can't escape, Buffy. She's going to kill us, and there's not one bloody thing we can do... Can't stand this anymore..."

"Don't talk like that. We will get out of here." She knew how stupid that sounded after all they'd been through and all the things they'd tried. But she had to keep a stiff upper lip that Giles would be proud of. "It's my fault this is happening to us, if I'd listened to you at the beginning of this..."

"It's not your fault..." Spike didn't blame her for their predicament anymore, he figured that she very well may have been correct about them meeting the witch being a requirement to passing this 'test'. Perhaps the Unari had set them up to fail, or maybe they'd just missed an opportunity to escape that they weren't aware of. Spike didn't want Buffy to feel guilty about it.

"Yes, it is my fault. But I promise that I'll find a way to get out. I won't let you die." Buffy reached through the bar with her right hand, gently caressing the side of his face. She put her other hand over top of his clenched fist. "I promise."

Spike's eyes lifted to her face, his eyelids fluttered as he leaned into her touch like a cat. "This... This is almost worth all the pain. To have you touch me like this... s'pose it's okay for me to die now."

She swallowed the lump in her throat. "No one's going to die -- with the exception of that evil bitch. I'm getting out of here, and I'm not leaving without you. Do you understand?" Buffy said firmly.

Spike just looked at her with despair, his blue eyes shining. He marveled at her strength of will again, how she could still have a positive outlook in the face of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their path.

His mouth was near the bars, so Buffy leaned forward and pressed her lips against his, needing to find and give comfort. As she'd expected, the world and their plight faded at the touch of his lips, just like the last time.

It was comforting to both of them for a short time, then Spike tasted the blood in her mouth from when she'd been punched -- he suddenly pushed off of the bars, propelling himself backwards, hitting the back of the cage. Before a startled Buffy could ask what was wrong, she saw that his fangs and bumpies were back.

"You have to stay away," Spike croaked, turning away from her. He curled his fingers around the bars closest to him just holding onto and gripping them. He didn't think he was capable of self-control any longer. He was too depleted and deprived to be trusted.

"Spike... there's no time left to argue about it, you have to drink my --"

Willow's voice came from the doorway, making them jump. "Get back in your corner before I count to five, Buffy, or you'll be missing a foot." Wearing Sunnydale Willow's face with a grim expression, she twirled the axe in her hand like a majorette with a baton. "One..."

Buffy looked away from the witch back to Spike, not wanting to leave him to possibly be hurt again -- but she didn't want to lose a body part either.

"Go on, go," Spike said softly, his golden eyes pleading with her to hurry.

She'd never thought a Vampire's spooky yellow eyes could look soft and warm, but his did.

Buffy hesitated a moment, then did as she was told, making it back to the corner on the count of 4. She cringed away when the witch leant down toward her, expecting to be hit or chopped. But Wicked Willow only touched Buffy's shackle with the wand.

"Come with me, little imp."


Evil Willow smiled, which was scarier than when she scowled. "My patience has worn thin. I wouldn't give me any lip if I were you. Take the buckets to the well and fill them -- now. I want to make a nice chicken soup for dinner. And if you to try something foolish, I'll chop your head off without thinking twice about it. I was so very angry about what you two did that I had to go chop some firewood. I came very close to just chopping you both up, but I took it out on the woodpile at the last minute instead. Be grateful."

Buffy stood up, and picked up the buckets by the door. The witch pushed her out into the yard and followed her to the well.

The animal pens on the side of the house came into view when she got to the well. It was almost certainly useless, but Buffy had to try asking for some kind of compassion. "If you could give Spike just one animal... He's very weak and needs blood. You noticed yourself that he's getting thinner -- which makes no sense unless he's been telling the truth about needing blood."

"I offered him your blood and he rejected it. You expect me to believe that an evil, blood-drinking demon chose not to eat in order to spare you?"

Buffy was having a hard time believing it herself. "Spike is... different than other Vampires, he's special." She hadn't realized how different or special Spike truly was until their captivity. "Please just give him one --"

"We're beyond that now. Put down the buckets. Gather an armful of firewood and take it to the shack."

Buffy paused after she'd put the buckets down next to the well. "What do you mean, we're beyond that?"

"I will not wait any longer. Let Spike be fat or lean, tomorrow I will kill him, and cook him!"

Buffy gulped and stared at her. "No... please don't kill him. Please..."

"Gather the firewood and march to the shack. I won't tell you again." She twirled the axe. "I remember that little incident when you tried to kill me with this very axe... Wouldn't it be ironic if I used it to separate your foolish head from your shoulders?"

Buffy picked up an armful of firewood, afraid that she'd feel the blade of the axe crashing into her body at any moment. She started walking to the shack. How the hell were they going to escape? They were out of time. This test/quest was completely unfair! Buffy didn't mind a challenge, but this situation was impossible to get out of. They'd never stood a chance against the superhuman, evil witch. God help the Unari if she ever got her hands on one of them... Of course she'd have to avoid getting killed or starved to death first.

She entered the shack, going on autopilot; her mind was consumed with whirling thoughts. On a wooden table against the wall on the right sat a huge black roasting pan and a collection of sharp knives. She shuddered, knowing what their use would be tomorrow if she couldn't kill the witch before then. 'I can't let this happen. I *won't* let this happen. I won't let Spike die.'

Buffy eyed the oven as she dropped the wood in front of it, the fire was already going. The air was hot and wavy around the oven, and she'd seen smoke billowing out of the chimney outside.

"Now, remove the cover," Wicked Willow said from behind her.

There was a large, heavy iron door (about 4 feet high, and just as wide) on a sturdy hinge on the front of the oven. It could be opened by swinging the door to the left. A long, solid iron bar was standing on end leaning against the oven. Buffy deduced that the oven door could be barred, keeping anything inside that might still be alive. After all the chilling, crazy shit she'd been through she could really relate to that scene in 'Planet of the Apes' in which Charlton Heston declared, 'This is a madhouse! A maaaadhouse!'

Buffy opened the oven door, a blast of stifling heat pushed her back a step. She had to turn her face to take a deep breath and felt the wispy hairs surrounding her face curl. This could be her last chance to get rid of the witch, and it would adhere to what happened in the fairy tale.

'How did Gretel get her in the oven again?' she asked herself. 'Should have talked to Spike about it...' It wasn't easy to think straight.

"Add the wood to the fire, I want to make sure the oven stays nice and hot," Wicked Willow told Buffy. "We're going to have a tasty roasted Spike tomorrow! I'll even let you have a piece! As a matter of fact... I insist that you have some."

Buffy whirled around to face her. "You can't do this! I won't let you!"

"How adorable! You have some fight in you yet, eh? I can do whatever I like to you! I can't wait for tomorrow to come. First, I'll bake the bread shell, then pop him in and sprinkle him with the perfect blend of spices. Mmmm, Spike potpie! I can't wait to eat my oven roasted Vampire! Should I slice up some apple or stick a whole one in his mouth? I think I'll have a nice red wine with him. Oh, it's so exciting when the time for feasting comes!" Wicked Willow laughed and did a happy little jig.

"You won't be able to eat him! If you try putting him anywhere near fire he'll go up like a pile of oily rags. There won't be anything left for you to eat -- do you understand?!"

"Hmm, yes, so you've said. I suppose I couldn't cook him if what you say about Vampires is true. How tragic it would be if I was robbed of my prize. Killing him might not be the answer..."

Buffy's shoulders sagged with relief, thinking that the witch finally understood. That maybe now Spike would be spared being cooked.

"But..." Wicked Willow continued with a gleam in her eye, "perhaps I could cut off an arm or a leg without my dinner turning to ash."

Buffy looked up sharply at her, not able to hide the horrified look on her face that told the witch that it was true.

Evil Willow cackled with glee. "I think I'll experiment -- chop pieces off one at a time and see how long it takes him to die."

Tears filled her eyes. "Please don't do this!" Buffy knew that it was useless to ask for mercy from the pitiless, soulless monster, but she couldn't help making the reflexive plea. "There has to be something I can say or do to make this stop? Just tell me what you want and I'll do it!"

"Would you rather I ate you? Tell me that you will take his place -- that's how you can save him. I bet you'd cook up just fine."

Buffy felt like a coward, she just couldn't say it. All sorts of horrific images of the witch doing terrible and painful things to her flooded her brain. "I don't want you to cook either of us!"

"It's you or him -- choose."

Buffy looked up at the ceiling (addressing the Unari, if they were even paying attention), "Please don't let this happen! What's wrong with you people?! I just wanted to find my sister! Why are you doing this to us!?"

The witch laughed. "Who are you talking to, girl? Has your fragile mind finally snapped?"

Buffy ranted, "You know who I'm talking to! The Unari, the ones who made all this! They screwed us by making this an impossible test!"

"You are mistaken if you think I will take pity on you because you've gone mad. It just makes you more amusing! I've been looking forward to my feast for too long. Tomorrow, you or Spike will be going in my oven. There's nothing you can do to prevent it. Now put the wood in the fire."

Buffy didn't have to fake crying, but she did exaggerate it. She wailed, then covered her face with her hands, hunching over and sobbing. "Please let us go! I can't take it anymore!"

The witch grumbled and pushed Buffy away from the stove, "Get out of the way, you're useless! I'll put the wood in myself, you gibbering little fool."

As soon as Evil Willow was occupied, Buffy circled around behind her. She still made wracking sobbing sounds to make the witch think she didn't pose a threat. If she could charge the witch while her back was turned and butt her with a shoulder hard enough to send her forward into the open oven...

Buffy took a deep breath took a step back, leaned forward and ran, leading with her right shoulder. It was going to hurt when the protection spell zapped her, but the witch would be in the oven by then.

Displaying superhuman reflexes and uncanny knowledge of what Buffy was thinking, the witch sidestepped Buffy's attack. Buffy's momentum kept her going forward toward the oven. At the last second, she gasped and was able to put her arms out to stop herself from going into the flames.

Buffy screamed wretchedly when she felt the wand hit her on the back. It wasn't just the pain from getting zapped, it was that she'd failed yet again. This was her last chance -- and she'd failed.

Back at the Magic Box...

It was now morning in Sunnydale. The Scoobies had gotten no rest.

Giles was at the Summers' home talking to and consoling Joyce about her daughters both being missing. No one envied him that task. Xander had to go to work, there was no way he could get out of it if he wanted to keep his job. Willow, Tara, Anya, and Riley were minding the shop and continuing with the research.

New pictures (with accompanying new text) had appeared. The first showed Buffy and Spike arriving at the Gingerbread House. The second showed them being fussed over by "Willow" -- the real Willow was horrified beyond belief. The third showed them succumbing to being drugged. And the fourth showed Spike trying to sweet talk the witch into trusting him.

Willow was sulking at the table, her head in her hands.

"Sweetie, it's not your fault," Tara soothed, rubbing Willow's back.

Willow sniffled. "It's just SO wrong! The Unari made me the evil witch who's abusing Buffy and Spike! They're using my name and image without my permission -- I wish I could sue!" She sat up and looked at Anya. "Anya, is there some kind of demon version of Judge Judy that I could..."

Anya just shook her head no.

"Dammit..." Willow grumbled, pouting uncontrollably.

"That's what you're worried about?" Riley asked. "How about the fact that Spike is betraying Buffy already!"

Anya rolled her eyes. "He was saying those things to try to get on the witch's good side. He wasn't serious."

"You think so, huh?" Riley said with a condescending shake of his head.

"It's obvious. To me, anyway. Spike's been helping us lately, and he volunteered to go into the portal with Buffy before you did. I don't think he'd double-cross her."

Willow was too busy pouting and Tara was too busy comforting her to chime in with their opinions on the subject. Though if they did, they would have agreed with Anya. Riley had reason to distrust Spike, but he was going a bit overboard with the suspicion.

"Oh, I'm sure that Spike volunteered out of the goodness of his heart, right? Uh-uh. That son of a bitch has something up his sleeve. He doesn't do anything that won't benefit him in some way. A leopard can't change his spots. Spike's m.o. has always been to look out for himself and no one else. I have no doubts he's doing that again. At least Buffy is seeing that he's nothing but a filthy demon, inside and out."

Anya raised her eyebrows. "I believe 'Paranoid much?' is the correct Sunnydale response to that. You should get some rest, Riley. Your hatred for Spike and paranoia about him are getting out of control -- and annoying. I know you don't believe me, but Spike isn't betraying Buffy, it's just a strategy."

'Of course she'd stick up for Spike... They're cut from the same cloth,' he thought. Riley had his reservations about Anya. She was a very pretty, very Human-looking woman, but he couldn't just forget that she had been a hideous, evil demon for a long time. What was Xander thinking, getting involved with a demon? It was crazy.

"Well, I guess we'll see which one of us is right when more of the story appears," he said smugly. "Then, hopefully, Buffy or the witch will stake Spike's sorry ass. Buffy can get out of this without any help from him."

Anya gave him a half-shrug. She was confident that she was right about Spike's motives. Riley just wouldn't cut Spike any slack whatsoever or give him the benefit of the doubt. She was also convinced that Riley secretly hated her, right along with Spike. He despised Spike (in part) because of the evil deeds Spike had committed over a century. Anya had 1000 years of Vengeance Demon'ing behind her, she'd done terrible things to people a lot longer than Spike had. But she'd changed. Loving Xander and being accepted into the Scoobies had helped make her a new person. Because of his limitations with the chip, Spike was rediscovering who he was now too, and Anya believed that he was changing, and he'd keep changing for the better. Just like she had. Spike deserved to be given another chance to be a better person.

Riley rubbed his tired eyes, "Maybe I will go get a few hours of sleep."

"Yeah, good idea." Anya would be glad to have him gone for a little while.

He said goodbye to Tara and Willow and started for the door. Then he stopped and turned back to Anya. "What would happen to them if the book was destroyed while they were still in the other dimension? Would it kill them?"

"I don't know," Anya said. "I guess it's possible. Or it might trap them in the other dimension forever, which is also bad."

"Don't worry, Riley, we won't let anything happen to the book. They'll be safe on this end," Tara said, trying to alleviate his fear on at least that subject.

Riley smiled slightly and nodded. Concern about something happening to the book hadn't been his motivation in asking the question, he'd only been going over possible ways to kill Spike. If it weren't for Buffy and Dawn being in there too, the fairy tale book would be thrown into the nearest fireplace. Getting rid of Spike forever sounded so very good. It was becoming an obsession, he couldn't seem to focus on anything else for long. Anya was so sure that Spike wasn't throwing Buffy under the bus? Well, everyone was going to see what a total bastard Spike was when more of the story appeared and they read about him stabbing Buffy in the back the first chance he got.

'Spike is history if Buffy and Dawn come out before he does. I'll rip that damn book apart with my bare hands if I have to.'

Riley didn't know it yet, but he was the one who was going to be upset when it was learned that Spike was just trying to trick the witch to save himself and Buffy. Anya gloating that she'd been right wouldn't help his mood either. It would piss him off even more that the Scoobies would be impressed with Spike's actions. He would be frustrated that none of them could see it had to be all part of Spike's evil plan.
Part 1, Chapter 10: Desperate Measures by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
I went beyond the limit for chapter length *sigh* So I split chapter 10 into two parts. Enjoy!

Many thanks to my awesome beta, Dragonfly Lady :)

Banners by xoChantelly and Edgehead
Spike watched from his cage as the witch re-shackled Buffy's ankle. She'd come in a few moments ago, fuming mad and dragging Buffy by the leg.

"I've had it with you two! This one is always trying to hurt me!"

Spike felt exhausted and weak, but when it came to Buffy's safety he could muster up energy. He was afraid that the witch was going to start beating on Buffy again. Maybe he could deflect some of the witch's rage onto him. "What do you expect, you barmy cow!? You're starving and torturing us! Of course we're going to try taking you out!"

"Don't trifle with me, boy! I'm so angry that I might just kill you now instead of tomorrow." Wicked Willow growled. "Because of the girl and her foolishness, I have to get things ready myself!"

"How sad for you," Spike said, shooting daggers with his eyes.

"I'll deal with you later. I've got to get the soup on, then make baking preparations... So much to do," she muttered, going back outside.

A few moments later, Buffy groaned and sat up. "Goddammit! That bitch must have eyes in the back of her fucking head! There's NO way she could have known I was going to attack her!"

"From what Anya and Rupert told us, the Unari are telepaths. Seems like they don't have a problem with reading our minds to their advantage. Bloody unfair and unsportsmanlike."

Buffy rubbed her face as she shook off the effects of the wand. "I almost had her, Spike... If she hadn't moved at the last second, she'd be in that damn oven right now."

Spike closed his eyes, repressing the scream of frustration that wanted to burst out of him. Buffy felt bad enough that she hadn't succeeded, he didn't want to make her feel worse. Him ranting and raving wasn't going to help. "Good try, luv."

"I'm sick of 'good tries'! I thought it was going to be over. Tomorrow she's going to... That could have been our last chance, and I blew it."

"Not your fault the Unari are playing dirty pool."

"I'm so sorry I got us into this..." Buffy lamented with her head bowed, trying not to cry.

"I told you that I don't blame you. It's okay, Buffy. Hey, look at me, bein' all gracious. Huh... didn't think I was capable of doing that. You know... maybe at the moment all hope is lost, we'll be spit out of a portal back at the Magic Box. Like a video game, we lose but we get to try again. Hit the old Reset button."

Buffy could see that he was trying to put on a brave, more jovial facade for her. She couldn't join in the joking, she was too angry and upset. "I have to do something before she... hurts you."

The witch came back in with two pails of water. The wand was tucked into her apron -- Spike's fingers twitched, wishing she would come close enough for him to try stealing it again. They went quiet, just watching her and wondering what she was going to do next.

"When are you going to learn?" she asked Buffy as she poured the water into the cauldron. "How many times must I correct you until you learn not to try putting your grubby hands on me?"

"I'm never going to stop trying to get away from you," Buffy said boldly. "I hate you for what you've done to us, and I will kill you to get away if I have to."

"Silly, stupid girl." Wicked Willow shook her head, then sprinkled some spices into the cauldron. "Oh, Spike, Buffy gave me a wonderful idea earlier! If it's true that your body would sizzle up and leave me nothing to eat if I put you in the oven, then I'll just cut off pieces of you! Cook you bit by bit!"

Spike looked at Buffy, with fear, confusion, and hurt warring it out on his face and in his mind. "Well, thanks a lot, Buffy! What the fuck did you tell her?!"

"I didn't tell her to do that!" Buffy blurted out, outraged that the witch was trying to turn Spike against her. Especially with such a horrible accusation. "I-I was just trying to finally make her understand that she couldn't bake you. I didn't say --"

The witch cackled. "I believe I'll start by chopping off a leg. There's more meat on them than the arms, and I've been looking forward to a feast. It might be nice to add some pieces of you to the soup tomorrow too."

Spike ran both hands back through his hair, "Bloody hell, this just keeps getting better and better... It'd be wasting what little energy I have left to ask if there was anything I could say to make you change your mind, right?"

"Well..." the witch said, looking thoughtful, "I could cook Buffy instead. She's a skinny thing, but she might make a good meal. I gave Buffy the same choice -- and she chose for me to cook you!"

Spike looked at Buffy again, his sad expression broke her heart.

"You're lying, you evil bitch! That's not true!" Buffy protested. "I never told you to kill him instead of me!"

"Oh, yes it's true! You remained silent, which was answer enough. Isn't that right, Buffy?"

Buffy was ashamed of herself all over again, and seeing the hurt and sadness on Spike's face made it worse. "You want me to say it? Fine, I'll --"

"No, Buffy," Spike interrupted. "Don't say it. She's only saying this shit to torture us some more. Don't play her game. No one in their right fucking mind would volunteer to be hacked to pieces and cooked in place of someone else. Unless it's their child, I s'pose."

"You've outlived your usefulness," Wicked Willow said to Spike, narrowing her eyes. "Seems as though my decision to cook you tomorrow was correct. I won't put up with your smart mouth and disrespect any longer."

Spike glared up at her. "Go fuck yourself."

"I should start preparing you for cooking by washing out that dirty mouth of yours with soap!"

"Try it -- I'll bite your bloody fingers off. You're already going to take me apart and cook me -- I think that's about as bad as it can get. So I'm gonna say whatever the fuck I want to you. You loony, twisted, vile bitch. If I get the chance, I'll rip your heart out."

"You think your fate can't get worse? Sounds like a challenge to me! The more you sass me, the more painful I'll make your death." The witch picked up the buckets and went back out the door.

After his burst of energy, Spike felt worn out again. He slouched and rested against the bars. "I would've told her to bite me... but she would've taken it literally. I hope a piece of me goes down her throat sideways and she chokes to death." He chuckled, "Maybe that's how we kill 'er. Everything else hasn't worked."

"Spike, I didn't tell her to kill you. You know I wouldn't do that. Right?" It was important to Buffy that he knew she didn't betray him.

He smiled sadly. "I couldn't blame you if you did."

"I swear, I didn't."

"I know you didn't. I know you wouldn't do something like that, Buffy. Sorry if I acted like I believed her at first... Logical thinking is getting harder to do." Spike cracked his neck to each side. "I don't want to die -- or be dismembered -- but it's better that it's me." And Spike meant that. He would rather it was him than Buffy.

Buffy closed her eyes and dug her fingernails into her palms. "I should have told her to hurt me instead of you, but I was too afraid to say the words. She's turning me into a shadow of myself -- afraid and weak. That's not me! I hate myself..."

Spike's mouth formed a determined line, he shook his head, "No, I told you, it's better that it's me, Buffy. And when she's... busy with me, I want you to try and get out of this place any way you can." Spike could hardly believe how strongly he felt, how adamant he was that he be the one to die instead of her. He'd only ever been willing to die for two people in his life: his mother and then Drusilla. And now Buffy was at the top of the list. He would do or suffer through anything if it meant Buffy had a chance to go on living.

"Spike, I can't leave you. I won't," Buffy said, wiping her eyes.

"If you see a chance you'd better bloody well take it, Slayer. You hear me?" he said sternly, then his expression and voice softened. "You matter, Buffy. Think about it: What am I? I'm a cold-blooded killer. I've spent over a century killing innocent people, leaving nothing behind but chaos, death and grief. And I'd still be at it if I hadn't got chipped, assuming you wouldn't've staked me by now." He sighed heavily and looked at the fire in the hearth. "You're a warrior for good, helping people, trying to make the world a better place. You're the Chosen One. You've got people that depend on and love you, who'd miss you if you were gone. I don't. Which one of us is more expendable isn't really much of a head-scratcher when you think of it that way, is it?"

"I'd miss you... if you were gone," Buffy said thickly.

Spike smiled and looked at her, seeing tears on her cheeks and her eyes brimming. "Believe it or not, that makes me feel better." She was crying, for him. That was something he never thought possible. He thought she'd never looked more beautiful than she did at this moment. Spike wished he could take her in his arms right now and hold her and kiss her and love her, he'd never want to let her go.

Buffy wasn't going to let this happen. She couldn't lose Spike, especially not like this. As long as she still had breath in her body, she was going to fight. She looked at the door to make sure they were still alone. "I'm going to try something after she goes to bed. If I have to I'll drag you, cage and all, out of here."

"Buffy, don't worry about --"

"No arguments, Spike," she said firmly, but with a small smile. "I know how you love arguing with me, but I'm determined. See my determined face?" she pointed to her tear-stained face, which did look quite determined.

He smiled. "And what a beautiful face it is, too."

They just stared at each other, wanting and needing to say so much in case this was their last night alive.

Spike wanted to tell her that he loved her -- but would that be fair? If she was disturbed by the depth of his emotions for her, it would make their moments together awkward. If she welcomed his feelings, he might die tomorrow and leave her.

Buffy wasn't sure if what she felt for Spike was love, but she cared about him so much. Much, much more than she ever thought she could ever care about him. The Spike that she'd come to know in this horrible place was brave and thoughtful, as well as desirable -- a man she wanted to get closer to under better circumstances. If it wasn't love, it was something that could easily cross over into love. But trying to explain her confused emotions to him would sound so lame. Someone given a death sentence for the following day didn't want to hear 'I think I might love you, but I'm not sure'.

"Don't give up, Spike, okay? Just... please don't give up."

"You know me, pet. I'll go kicking and screaming, not gonna make it easy for her. 'Sides, I've got faith in you. Hasn't been a big bad you've come up against that you haven't bested -- including yours truly. That bitch just might get her comeuppance yet."

The next few hours came and went with Buffy and Spike staying quiet, thinking. The witch made a hearty chicken soup for supper, without Buffy's help. Buffy's chain had been shortened and she was ordered to stay in her corner; the witch was expecting them to pull out all the stops to escape.

They were given their dinners. Spike was given more cookies and cakes, but the witch wasn't forcing him to eat. He was glad for that, but not for the reason why she didn't care if he ate or not -- that it didn't matter because she was going to kill him tomorrow. Buffy was given her usual with two cups of water. She hated the 'food', but she ate it all to be as strong as possible for what she planned on doing tonight.

Buffy knew the end was coming, and it didn't look like it was going to be a happily ever after for her and Spike. Tomorrow was the day it would end, one way or the other. They had to do something before they ran out of time. Buffy planned on breaking her foot to get the shackle off, and then braving the invisible fence at the border of the witch's property. And she meant what she'd said, she would not leave Spike behind.

Buffy had to blink away a strong wave of fatigue as she discreetly studied her right foot. She thought she'd feel stronger forcing herself to eat the nasty food, but it was having the opposite effect. She'd have to be careful about which bones in her foot she chose to break when the time came. Hopefully she could limp and hop well enough to escape.

"Aw, poor little Buffy. You look so pitiful. Here." The witch threw a big cookie at her.

Buffy looked at the cookie, then back at the witch. "What's wrong with it?"

Evil Willow laughed. "Such a suspicious little thing! Nothing's wrong with it. The food will just go to waste now that Spike won't be eating it anymore." She shrugged. "Eat it, don't eat it -- doesn't matter to me!" She took more treats and threw them at Buffy. "Have all you like!" She threw yet more food at Buffy.

Buffy brought her arms up to keep the food from hitting her in the face. "Stop it!"

"Isn't it nice of me to let you have your fill tonight? Enjoy your food, little imp!" The witch hummed a merry tune and made her way to Spike's cage. She touched the top of the cage with the magic wand -- and then the cage was suddenly on a handcart.

Spike looked around him, not knowing what she'd done, but immediately noticing that the cage had been raised about a foot off the floor.

"What're you doing?" Buffy asked, her heart beating faster with anxiety.

"Time for you to go, boy," Wicked Willow said, tucking the wand into her apron. The cart that the cage now rested on had a long handle. The witch picked up the handle and pulled the cart toward the front door.

Spike held onto the bars, thinking that this was it for him. He'd thought he would have one more night to try one last desperate act. But it appeared that he was out of time. She was leading him to his slaughter.

When the cage came within Buffy's reach, she grabbed onto the bars, trying to keep the witch from taking Spike outside. "No! No, don't take him!" She held onto the cage with every bit of strength she had left.

Evil Willow said coolly, "Remove your hands or I'll take my axe and remove them from your wrists."

Spike put his hands over Buffy's and squeezed for a moment. Then he peeled her fingers off of the bars, "Let go, Buffy. It's okay."

Her chin wobbled. "No, I can't! It's not okay, it's insane! I can't let her take you!"

Spike fought to maintain his own composure. Why did it have to be like this? Buffy showing that she cared about him, shedding tears for him, but only when the end was near. He had to be strong. "Please, Buffy... Let go."

She let her hands drop from the cage, and watched Spike be pulled away.

When the door closed, Buffy angrily wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at her foot. "I have to get out there before she..." Buffy couldn't finish the thought, it was too horrible. The tasty food laying on the ground around her didn't look appetizing at all right now. She couldn't eat anything knowing what was going to happen to Spike, possibly within the next few minutes.

Another wave of tiredness made her feel faint, the room started spinning. Buffy squeezed her eyes shut and leaned against the wall, taking deep breaths and waiting for it to pass. But it didn't pass.

She tipped over and collapsed onto her side on the floor amongst the cookies and treats the witch had thrown at her, passing out.

Wicked Willow threw a bucket of ice cold water on Buffy to wake her up.

Buffy gasped and bolted upright, shivering and shaking. The last thing she remembered was trying to gather her strength to go and attempt to rescue Spike, and now the witch was standing in front of her, holding the empty water bucket and smiling.

"Why did you do that?! Wh-What's going on?! What..." Buffy spluttered and wiped water from her face. She looked around jerkily. Her mind was having trouble processing what had happened. There was faint light coming from the windows... but it had been dark a minute ago.

"You're just bursting with questions, aren't you? Have a good night's sleep, Buffy?" the witch asked with an evil grin.

"N-No, I wouldn't have gone to s-sleep... I was going to..."

"What were you going to do?" She cackled. "You see, I knew you'd get up to mischief during the night, so I added a drop or two of sleeping potion to your water cup. Worked a bit too well though, you almost slept the whole day away!"

It finally sunk into Buffy's brain. She'd been drugged, which had prevented her from trying one last escape attempt -- and Spike had been at the witch's mercy all day. The Unari and their calculated unfairness made her tremble with anger and want to scream. It was obvious that those bastards didn't want Buffy and Spike to escape. They continued to anticipate every move and foil every shot she or Spike took. It had to come in handy to have nifty telepathic powers, you'd know your victims' every thought, every plan ahead of time.

Buffy stared hard at Evil Willow. "What did you do to him?! I want to see Spike!"

"You should know by now that I don't answer to you. You'll see him when I'm good and ready to let you. Though, I hope you don't mind if he's not all in one piece!"

Tears ran down Buffy's face, "NO! Oh God, no! Damn you! You bitch!" Despair and grief made her heart ache terribly; she felt cold inside. It felt like she'd lost her best friend. She let out that scream of frustration that had been building inside her and pounded her tightly clenched fists on the floor. Wicked Willow laughed, mocking her.

Buffy thought, 'I couldn't save him! Spike, I'm so sorry!' But from what the witch said, he wasn't dead. That meant there was still hope. As long as he wasn't a pile of dust, there was hope. Spike would be needing Buffy's help more than ever now. It sickened and enraged Buffy to think that he might be in several pieces. Was there anything she could do for him? Could she put him back together again? And if she could, would he be able to heal after something like that?

'My blood -- I'll give him my blood! Slayer blood will make him better!' The thought of feeding him her blood kept repeating like a chant in her head. Buffy didn't know if her ability to think rationally was completely gone (it seemed a rather naive and simplistic solution) or if it could really work. But she was suddenly obsessed, driven to give Spike her blood. She'd force it down his throat if she had to. She only hoped that he was in good enough shape to drink from her. Whatever his current condition happened to be, she needed to see him, to hold him, to make him okay again.

Buffy wanted to kill the witch with her bare hands, her inner rage was barely controllable. She grit her teeth, giving Wicked Willow a murderous look. "I need to see him... Please let me see him."

"Well, you did ask nicely, so I'll grant your wish!" the witch said cheerfully. She touched the wand to Buffy's shackle.

Once the chain fell away, Buffy (still dripping wet from the bucket of water) stood up slowly. She took care in her movements, wanting to save her energy. She felt like a compressed spring, ready to strike.

Wicked Willow opened the front door and gestured outside with the wand, "Get going to the shack. It'll soon be suppertime!"

Buffy walked out ahead of her, the wheels in her head spinning.

After only a few steps, the witch said, "Oh drat, wait right there! There are some special spices I want to bring that will be just perfect for my Spike potpie." Wicked Willow went back into the gingerbread house, muttering something to herself.

Without hesitation, Buffy ran as fast as she could toward the shack. Adrenalin pumped through her system, she was determined to get to Spike and be alone with him for even just a minute.

When she got to the shack, she spared one look over her shoulder to see if was being pursued. There was no witch running after her like she'd expected. Wicked Willow hadn't noticed she'd run off... yet. That would probably change within a few seconds; Buffy had to act fast.

She ran inside and slammed the door shut, then turned the lock. She knew it wouldn't keep the witch out for long, but anything that delayed her for even a moment was good.

Buffy, breathing hard, turned and pressed her back against the door. She was afraid of what she might see, of what might have been done to Spike.

The inside of the shack was a bit bigger than the main room of the cottage. The heat from the large oven was oppressive. The atmosphere was like something out of a horror movie. Sharp cutting and chopping instruments (along with the huge roasting pan) were on the large wooden table set against the right wall, meat hung from hooks suspended from the ceiling. It was reminiscent of 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre', without the chainsaws.

And on the left side of the room was Spike in his cage. He was sitting up, slumped against the bars.

Buffy scanned him quickly, then let out a sob of relief at seeing that he appeared to be all in one piece. The witch had only been trying to upset her and lied about having carved him up. He looked listless, but whole. She'd never been happier that the witch was a lying bitch.

She ran to the cage and crouched down. "Spike! Spike, wake up!"

Spike opened his eyes, then blinked rapidly, thinking that he was hallucinating. "Buffy? Why are you all wet...?"

She gave him a quick close-up once-over, "Did she hurt you?"

He got up on his knees, becoming more animated with excitement when he realized that it was really Buffy and not a figment of his imagination. "What happened? Did you kill her? You got away?!"

She stuck her hand through the bars to touch his face. "You're okay, she didn't cut you up."

"Buffy, what's going on? Tell me!"

She shook her head, trying to focus. "We don't have much time." She got up and ran to the table, then raced back with a butcher knife gripped in her right hand.

Spike's eyes widened, he leaned away from her, not sure what she was going to do.

"Spike, you have to take my blood," Buffy said staunchly, wearing a determined expression. Even though Spike's condition wasn't as bad as she'd expected, she still felt the irresistible urge to feed him her blood.

"I... I can't, Buffy. We already talked --"

"You have to! I'm not taking no for an answer this time! Just do it!" Buffy couldn't explain why it was so important, she only knew that it was vital. Unless her certainty was due to dementia brought about by the horrible conditions she'd had to suffer through...

"I don't know if I'll be able to stop! I could kill you without meaning to! What would be the point now, Buffy? I can't fight her while she's got that --"

They heard the witch yelling angrily outside, the door rattled as she attempted to open it.

"She's on her way in here to kill you! And I'm sure she'll get around to killing me too. There's not time to argue about it -- you're going to drink my blood, dammit!"

With that, Buffy sliced open her left wrist and thrust her arm into the cage. Spike flinched as her blood squirted out, some hitting him on the face, some on his chest. The moment she'd cut herself, Spike had involuntarily gone into game face. His senses were flooded by the smell of her blood. Even just the scent of her blood was like a drug; he was powerless to resist its lure.

Spike seized her arm with both of his hands and plastered his mouth over her spurting wrist.

Buffy grunted and dropped the knife. She grabbed onto a bar of the cage, holding on while he fed. "Yes, drink! Take it!" she moaned.

Her blood made him feel sort of like he was back at Woodstock. Like he was trippin' on a delicious flower child loaded with powerful hallucinogenics. He was practically feral, but there was a voice in his mind repeating 'It's Buffy! It's Buffy, don't hurt her! It's Buffy!'. The voice kept him from tearing into and ripping the sweet flesh with his fangs. He only sucked and drank, sucked and drank. But then the voice commanded him to stop before he killed her. And he obeyed it, remembering who it was he was drinking from. The woman he loved more than life itself.

Spike and Buffy were both swaying on their knees as he started licking the deep cut on her wrist. She was woozy from blood loss, he was woozy from the effects of her potent blood.

The door slammed open to reveal a very pissed off Wicked Willow. She'd switched back to looking like Sunnydale Willow again, hoping to unnerve them.

"What're you doing there?!" the witch screeched. She ran over to Buffy and yanked her by the hair away from the cage.

Spike let Buffy's arm be yanked out of his grasp without really noticing that he wasn't still holding it, his eyes were closed as her blood worked its magic on him.

"You disobedient little whelp! You'll be joining him in the roasting pan!"

Buffy whimpered and tried twisting away from the witch, but she was too weak. Evil Willow picked Buffy up like a professional wrestler and threw her against the right wall. Buffy crashed down onto the table, and then fell to the floor along with many of the knives and the roasting pan that had been on the table. She wasn't knocked out, but she was stunned. All she could do was groan and bring her bleeding arm against her body.

"I'm going to kill you first, girl. I was going to let you live a while longer. Now he can watch as I --" the witch looked back at the cage, then froze.

Her eyes widened at seeing the bars of the cage were pulled apart, wide enough for Spike to have squeezed through.

"It's impossible! He couldn't bend the bars!"

"Must say, that came as a surprise to me as well," Spike said with an amused tone. He licked his lips greedily, pulling the traces of Buffy's life giving blood into his mouth.

The witch whipped her head to her left to see him standing near the door of the shack. He was still wearing his Vampire face, smirking; his mouth and chin wet with fresh blood.

"No creature has ever escaped me! You can't bend the enchanted bars of the cage!"

"Can, and did. Guess I'm not such a shitty excuse for a demon after all, eh? Now, whaddya say, luv, wanna dance?" he clapped his hands and rubbed them together enthusiastically. Spike felt invincible and he intended to end this right here, right now. If the witch thought her looking like Real Willow would deter him, she was dead wrong.

Wicked Willow was virtually vibrating with rage. She bared her teeth in fury and rushed at him. "In the oven you go, boy!"

"You first," Spike quipped, then expertly executed a spinning side kick, his foot striking the witch in the midsection.

She grunted and flew backwards -- straight into the open oven. Exactly what Spike had hoped when he'd taken position by the door of the shack.

When Spike's foot had connected with her, a wave of pain and dizziness had rocked him. He wobbled on his feet, his knees almost gave out. But the powerful Slayer blood he'd consumed made him much stronger, able to withstand almost any amount of pain for a short time.

It took only a rapid shaking of his head for him to get over the effects of the protection spell. His immobility had lasted only a few seconds. He sprinted to the oven, grabbing the giant metal door and slamming it shut, just as the witch was about to crawl out.

Spike had to push against the oven door to keep it closed, the witch was rattling it good in an attempt to escape. He spotted the iron rod, and quickly secured it in place in the brackets on either side of the door. He stepped back, panting from the adrenalin rush and exertion. The door was still rattling, but it looked like the bar would hold. The witch screamed in pain and anger.

Spike looked over at Buffy, his Human features sliding back into place. She was still laying on the floor and looking back at him with glassy eyes, holding her bleeding arm curled against her chest. He rushed over to her and knelt down. He prayed that he didn't hurt her or taken more blood than he should have.

"Buffy, are you alright?" He did a quick check to see how badly she'd been hurt. Luckily, none of the knives had punctured her body in the fall. Her only serious injury seemed to be the one she'd inflicted on herself, on her wrist.

She was trembling and mumbled something he couldn't quite hear. Spike took what looked like a dish towel that had fallen off the table, and then wrapped it around her forearm.

"Put pressure on it to slow the bleeding. Buffy, can you hear me?" Spike cupped her face in his hands, looking into her unfocused eyes. "Please be okay, pet. I don't know what I'll do if..."

Buffy's eyes moved to look at the oven when her best friend's voice wailed, "Bufffffy! Buffy, please help me! Buffy, don't let me diiiiiie!"

Buffy squeezed her eyes shut and tried to cover her ears. Even in her depleted state, she knew it wasn't her friend, but it sure as hell sounded like her. Hearing Willow's voice rife with agony and terror stabbed at Buffy's heart.

Spike didn't enjoy hearing the screams of the evil witch as much as he thought he would. That it sounded like Sunnydale Willow begging for help -- she of the fuzzy lilac sweaters and sweet disposition -- affected him too. But he was able to keep his wits about him, not forgetting for a moment who was really calling for help. The person yelling was the same one who took great delight in torturing him and Buffy. The same one who had every intention of killing and then eating both of them. That barmy bitch wouldn't get an ounce of mercy from him.

Spike growled and turned to the oven, "You won't be getting any help! Die already! I'll see you in Hell, bitch!"

Then he turned back to Buffy, his demeanor changing to caring and gentle again. "It's not her, Buffy. You know who's burning up in there. It's not our Willow. It's the bitch who was going to kill and eat us."

Buffy whimpered, still trying to block out the sounds of the screams.

"C'mon, pet, let's get out of here." Spike gently picked her up in his arms and held her tightly to his chest. Buffy buried her face against his chest and hung onto him with her right arm. Spike carried her out through the door, into the fresh, cool air of the early evening. He was relieved that the sun had gone down -- at last, their luck seemed to be good. He kicked the door shut behind him to mute the sounds of the witch's yelling.

They both took deep breaths, glad to be away from the nasty sounds and smells of the shack. There was a stone garden bench near the door. Spike laid Buffy down on it. She tried clinging to him, but he gingerly took her arm from around his neck, then brushed some hair away from her face.

"You stay here and rest, alright? I'll be right back."

"Spike, don't leave me..." Buffy said weakly.

Spike was still very worried about her. Her weakness from lack of food combined with giving him her blood could be enough to kill even a Slayer. She looked so pale. There weren't any hospitals around to get her a blood transfusion in this realm, Spike could only pray that she could recover without medical assistance.

"I'll just be a minute. Want to make sure she doesn't get out of that oven and pop out at us later like in a bloody horror movie."

Spike pressed a lingering kiss to Buffy's forehead, then went back inside the shack.

Buffy closed her eyes, wondering if the nightmare was really over. Could this have been another dream/fantasy? It seemed too good to be true that they were actually free.

"Please... let it be real," she mumbled. Buffy felt so tired and weak, she easily slipped into sleep.
Part 1, Chapter 10: Desperate Measures (continued) by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
It's a pain in the butt to split the chapter in two lol

She heard Spike's voice calling to her. It sounded far away at first, like part of a dream. His voice got louder, she felt a light touch on her cheek.

She opened her eyes to see Spike looking at her. He looked concerned, but then a little smile lifted the corners of his mouth.

"Gave me a scare there for a second, Slayer."

"Spike... is it over? Is she dead? Please tell me it wasn't a dream..." Buffy lifted her head and looked around.

They were outside the shack, she was laying on the bench. Crickets were beginning their nightly chirping, fireflies flew lazily around the yard, the moon was starting its climb across the sky.

"It is over, she didn't manage to escape from the oven. We did it. Can hardly believe it either, but we're finally free."

She reached out and touched his face, though he'd wiped off most of it, there was still a bit of her blood smeared around his mouth. "All of it really happened... Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Great, in fact." Spike put his hand over hers and gave the inside of her wrist a small kiss. "Let's go back into the house and get your arm bandaged up proper." Spike helped her sit up, but Buffy was reluctant to stand.

"I don't want to go back in there." She tugged him down with her.

He sat next to her, putting his arm around her shoulders. "I know, that place is unsettling for me too. But she won't be there to bother us anymore, there's nothing for us to fear now. And it's the best place for us to plan what we should do next."

"Can we stay here for a minute?"

"Whatever you want, luv. I had a look at your wrist while you were dozing. The bleeding's slowed, but I want to have a better look at it soon, alright? It's important to stop the bleeding." Spike made sure the towel was wrapped around her arm as well as possible. "Want to make sure you don't... bleed to death or go into shock."

She nodded and snuggled against Spike. There had been so little physical contact during their captivity, even little things like having his arm around her felt glorious. "You're not tempted because I'm bleeding? Don't want to have a suck?"

"It's tempting. You have no idea how delicious you are. But I won't have any trouble controlling myself, no worries."

Buffy wasn't worried at all, she trusted Spike. She laid her head on his shoulder, looking up at the stars. She still felt weak and tired, but there was a definite boost to her spirits. She was just so happy and relieved that their days as prisoners were at an end. "Didn't Anya say a portal would open up when we completed the quest?"

"Yeah, she did... Anya wasn't positive about some of the Unari info, it was shit she'd heard 2nd and 3rd hand. I don't see anything portal-like around here."

"Dammit... What if we did something wrong or we didn't do it exactly right?" Buffy fretted. "What if we're trapped here? What the fuck do the Unari want from us?"

Spike hugged her tighter for a moment, then rubbed her shoulder soothingly. "We'll suss it out once we're inside the house. Maybe there's some kind of sign telling us what we need to do to... advance, or whatever the hell you want to call it."

Buffy was still nervous about going back in the house. All the horror movies she'd seen told her that a nasty surprise would be waiting for them. She ran her right hand over Spike's chest, noticing that the injuries he'd suffered at the hands of the witch seemed to have completely healed. The scratches on his handsome face were gone too, as if they hadn't been there just a few minutes ago. He had gotten thinner (as had she) during their imprisonment, but it looked like he'd filled out a bit already -- was that possible? The speediness of his healing had to be due to drinking her blood. Without thinking about doing it, Buffy snuggled closer and closer to him, until Spike just pulled her onto his lap.

"I'm so tired," Buffy yawned, feeling perfectly safe being enfolded in his arms with his strong body supporting her.

Spike held her protectively. "You'll need some food and a nap... then you'll be okay." He hoped that was all it would take. If he lost Buffy now...

It felt so good and right to hold and be held by each other, they took comfort and strength from the embrace. Spike wanted to make a comment about her sitting on his lap, but he bit his tongue. He was afraid to remind her that she shouldn't be letting him hold her like this, that she might revert back to her old attitude about him now that they were free.

"I can't believe you were able to bust out of the cage. And didn't you get shocked when you kicked the witch into the oven? That was awesome, by the way," Buffy finished with a sleepy smile.

Spike grinned. "After you gave me your blood, I fancied I heard the Popeye music. If I'd had a pipe in my mouth it would've been spinnin' 'round." They laughed at that image. "I did get a shock when I kicked her, but thanks to having a power snack from you, I hardly felt it. Same effect as if I got punched by a big, ham-fisted bloke, jarring but not incapacitating."

Buffy raised her head and looked at him, blinking owlishly. "Shit... You mean... if you would've drank my blood that first night she ordered you to take it, we might have escaped way back then?"

Spike made a sound somewhere between a groan and a growl. He felt like an idiot. "Bloody hell... Can we pretend that's not true, please? Just the thought of that being true makes me want to heave. I'm such a fucking moron..."

Buffy stroked his now unmarred cheek. "But... the fact that you refused to hurt me that day showed me how you're changing, that I could trust you. And we got... closer after that. So... I guess I can't be totally depressed thinking that we missed an early chance to get away."

"Looking at the glass as half full, eh?" Spike asked, cocking an eyebrow. "I'd still want to kick my ass if I were you. Hell, I want to kick my own ass." He took a breath and looked up at the stars. "The first time in a long time I'm determined to do the right thing, and it ends up being the wrong choice... Even when I try to do right, I'm wrong."

Buffy rubbed her cheek against his shoulder. "Well, I appreciate what you were trying to do and why. I was totally blown away when you did that. And there will be no more kickings of your ass. I think we both got enough abuse to last a lifetime." Buffy sighed. "I'm sorry, Spike."

He frowned. "Sorry? 'Bout what?"

"For lots of things. But right now mainly because I wish I could've helped you in there with the witch, not that you needed it... I just got thrown against a wall and laid on the floor while you did all the work."

"Are you joking? Buffy, you did your part by cutting yourself open and making me drink from you. We wouldn't be sitting here and chatting right now if you hadn't done that. I know how... disgusting that must've been for you."

"It wasn't, really... It was the only thing I could think about. I had to make you take it." It hadn't grossed her out at all, it had even felt a bit erotic having his mouth on her, his tongue lapping up her precious fluid. Under different circumstances...

"I'll never forget you did that for me, Buffy... Turns out you saved both our hides by doing something you never would've considered doing back in Sunnydale." He felt Buffy shiver, then he rubbed her back. "I can't recall, did you say how you got all wet?"

"That's how she woke me up, by throwing a bucket of cold water on me... Bitch. May she burn in Hell. Right after she took you away last night, I was going to get that shackle off of my leg by breaking some bones, and then try to get out here to help you. But she'd put sleeping potion in my water... I passed out."

"Well, I'm glad you didn't get a chance to break your foot to try and rescue me. It all worked out. Hey, your teeth are chattering, you're gonna catch a cold or something. Let's go in the house now, alright?"

Buffy sighed, but nodded. She couldn't put it off all night, might as well go in now.

Spike stood, then scooped her up in his arms.

She smiled at him. "I think I can walk."

"Uh-uh. You're still weak. 'Sides, carrying you makes me feel all strong and manly."

"Oh okay, since it makes you feel manly and everything. It's kind of nice to get carried around. Walking is for suckers." She rested her head against him as he carried her away from the awful shack. With any luck, they'd never have to see that place again. Maybe just in their nightmares.

Buffy's eyes widened when she felt something hard poking her hip. "Um, Spike, what's that hard thing poking me?"

"That means I like you."

"God, Spike!" Buffy blushed and swatted his arm. "How can you think about --"

Spike laughed. "It's just the wand."

"You call it... 'the wand'?"

He laughed again. "You've got a dirty li'l mind, Slayer. It's the wand -- the one that the witch zapped us with. She must've dropped it when she went into the oven. I tucked into my shorts to have my hands free to carry you. Never know, we might need it for something."

"Oh... guess I'm not thinking straight. My mind went to the naughty place, and you didn't help with that comment... It's not cool to mess with someone's mind who's sleepy and weak."

"Sorry, luv. I'm just feelin' full of piss and vinegar. Feel like I could take on the whole bloody world, thanks to you." He slowed down as they passed the pig sty. Buffy's blood had him flying high at the moment, but he was still very hungry.

"Is something wrong?" Buffy asked when she noticed his walk had slowed.

"Uh, no. Just thinking about my next meal."

Then she noticed where they were, at the pigpen. "Oh. If you need to eat, we can stop here and --"

"I don't think you need to watch me kill cute little Porky right in front of you. My needs can wait, yours can't." Spike resumed walking to the house.

Buffy relaxed in his strong arms again. "I never knew you had such a selfless side to you... All heroic and brave, sweet and sensitive."

"Don't make me sound like a poof," he joked. Actually, it bolstered him quite a lot to have her talking about him like that. She believed in him and his ability to be a good man, and that meant the world to Spike. It made him believe in himself; it made him want to be a good man, like he had been once upon a time. He thought, 'Bloody hell, I can't stop the poofy thoughts. I really wish I could kick my own ass.'

Buffy snorted and smiled. She had seen him be self-sacrificing in the past for Drusilla. But Buffy didn't want to bring up Dru's name -- it bothered her to think of him being devoted to that loony, or anyone else. 'Spike's mine,' she thought possessively, holding him tight.

When they got to the front door Spike set Buffy down on her feet.

"Let me go in first and check for any surprises." He started inside, but Buffy put a hand on his arm.

"No, I'm going in with you."

"Buffy, it's best if..." One look at her determined face made Spike roll his eyes and sigh. There was no talking her out of something once she'd made up her mind. "Fine, but let me take the lead." He handed her the witch's wand, "Maybe you can zap something if you have to."

Buffy nodded. Even if she wasn't able to zap anyone magically, she could still use the wand to stab, if necessary. She knew she should have just waited outside for him, she really wasn't in any condition to fight anything that might jump out at them. But they were a team, and she wasn't about to let Spike face possible danger without her again. If anything happened to him...

Spike cautiously went into the gingerbread house with Buffy following. The main room seemed safe. Spike held up his hand, silently asking her to stay where she was, then went into the bedroom. Buffy didn't argue for once. She stayed in the main room by the hearth, waiting and hoping nothing bad would happen.

Spike came back out less than a minute later. "Looks like all's clear. Not a creature is stirring."

Buffy closed her eyes and let out a relieved breath.

The next thing she knew, Spike was holding her around the waist with one arm, tapping her face with his right hand and looking worried.

"Buffy? Buffy?"

"Wh-What?" She was so sleepy.

"You fainted. I caught you before you hit the floor."

"I fainted?"

"You'll be alright... Let's get you nice and comfy."

Spike took her to the rocking chair and sat her down. He tried not to be afraid that he might still lose her. He was good at this kind of thing though. From all his years taking care of his mother and then Dru, Spike knew how to nurse someone back to health. He just had to get back into that nurturing state of mind.

First, he got a quilt from the witch's bedroom and covered Buffy with it. Next, he took a clean mug and filled it with water for her. He took a test drink to make sure it wasn't poisoned or drugged. Then, after taking a bite out of a big snickerdoodle cookie (making sure there was nothing wrong with it either), he placed the cookie on her lap.

"You relax, drink the water and nibble the cookie while I bandage your arm, alright?" Spike asked, wanting to keep her talking.

"Yeah, okay," Buffy said drowsily.

Spike got everything he'd need to clean and bandage her wrist and sat cross-legged on the floor at her feet.

Buffy finished her mug of water as Spike washed and cleaned her wound. Her Slayer healing abilities were doing a remarkably good job, blood was only seeping from the wound, not pouring out as it would be if she were a regular Human. Spike hadn't bitten into her when he'd fed, his fangs had only scratched the skin surrounding the cut she'd made. He'd managed to be gentle even though he'd been ravenous at the time, not going into a feeding frenzy as he'd assumed he would.

Her eyebrows went up when she felt his tongue gently lapping at the cut.

He looked up at her, then stopped. "Uh, I should explain. I'm not taking advantage and sneaking another taste. Licking a wound helps it heal much faster. That's why I was doing it. Like when I... licked your finger after you got that splinter."

"Oh yeah... I remember it felt a lot better after that." She remembered how hot it was too. How she'd been ready to shove her tongue down his throat before they'd been rudely interrupted. "That seems weird... Why would Vampires want to help a wound heal?"

"I don't know how or why everything works the way it does. Biting can be something done between friends or... lovers, we have the ability to heal the marks we make."

"Hmm, interesting. Okay, you can keep... licking me."

It wasn't easy for Spike to let that go without making a suggestive comment, but he managed. Giving Buffy only a slight smirk before continuing to lick her wrist.

Buffy had another cup of water while Spike's tongue stroked her skin. Not only were his licks helping her to heal faster, it seemed to act as an anesthetic too. The burning and stinging that she'd felt were greatly reduced, there was hardly any pain whatsoever anymore. The fact that he was licking her had another kind of effect, one that brought a blush to her pale face. 'Oh God, that feels so good... I have to concentrate on drinking and eating, not on his tongue and lips. Wow, I never knew I was such a horny bitch. I almost died tonight, I'm hungry and tired, but all I can think about is having Spike do naughty things to me... Look at him... he's so hot. Licking me like some big, gorgeous, sexy man-cat... Man-cat? Damn, my brain is really fried. I need to recuperate.' Buffy tried to stop the thought that kept pushing its way to the forefront of her mind: 'I want to feel his tongue on my pussy.' She did her best to ignore the tingling between her legs. Each swipe of his tongue made her clit throb.

Just when she thought she'd have to lift her skirt and beg him to give her a thorough tonguing, Spike finished licking her wrist. Then he quickly and skillfully bandaged her arm.

She thought, 'Shit, thought I was going to slip into another one of those vivid, oh-so-steamy fantasies... Kinda wish I had...' Fantasy Spike could satisfy her so well -- but it was probably nothing compared to the real thing. Buffy drank another cup of cool water, she felt so hot.

Spike stood up and brushed off the seat of his pants. "Right, that's taken care of. Now I think you'd better get out of those wet clothes," he said seriously, honestly not saying it for his own future viewing pleasure.

Buffy raised her eyebrows, a coy smile on her lips. She was trying to be cool, but the idea of being naked in front of him -- with no evil people to worry about or to interrupt them -- got her heart racing. "Oh, you do, huh?"

Spike swallowed and fidgeted when he realized she might think he was being less than gentlemanly. "What? It's true! S'not just me wanting to -- I mean, I wasn't saying it because I want to be pervy and gawk at you in your knickers... You'll catch pneumonia if you wear wet clothes."

"What do you suggest I put on? I ain't wearing her clothes, and I don't think being naked will improve my chances of not getting sick..." As much as she wanted Spike at this moment, she was just too weak to really consider having naked fun. She'd probably fall asleep during... whatever they ended up doing. And that would be very unfortunate. And, oh yeah, and she still kind of had a boyfriend back home too... Was getting easier to forget that. Right now, Sunnydale seemed like it was a lifetime and a million miles away.

"Y-Your dress, the one the Unari put you in, should be around here somewhere. I'll check the bedroom." Spike didn't want to dwell on the thought of her being naked. He had to take care of Buffy and make sure she recovered, not think about how much he desired her.

Spike hurried into the bedroom and began searching for Buffy's original clothes. He'd been aware that Buffy had been getting aroused when he was licking her -- but that was only an involuntary reaction that her body had had to his actions, he told himself. It had taken every ounce of self-control he possessed not to kiss and lick his way to other parts of her body. Only repeating to himself that Buffy needed his help to recover had kept his libido at bay, he didn't want her thinking he was taking advantage of a bad situation to sate his own desires.

He found the clothes he was searching for in a drawer. He'd also found that book Buffy had discovered days ago, the one labeled 'Magick'. They might be able to figure out how to open it now. When he turned around Buffy was standing in the doorway.

"Hey, who said you could stand up?" Spike asked. "You're supposed to be --"

"I feel a little better. I thought I could help you look."

He growled, but smiled a little. "I swear, you are the most stubborn woman in the bloody world."

Buffy shrugged, then saw that he was holding the clothes. "Oh, you found the dress?"

"Yeah, here," Spike held them out for her. "You can change in here, I'll... wait out in the other room. I got the book too," he raised and shook the book.

She took the clothes from him with a grateful smile. "What would we need anything in the book for now?"

"Never know, there might be something useful. Maybe some kind of spell we have to do to open the portal."

"That's true, good idea. I'm glad one of us is thinking."

"You want to curl up on the bed to get some sleep?" Spike asked, gesturing to the witch's bed.

"Uh-uh," Buffy shook her head, looking at the bed warily. "No way could I sleep in her bed."

"Right. Doubt I could either... Come back out into the living room when you're... when you're decent, then."

Both of them hesitated for a moment. They were both craving the same thing: intimacy. Buffy waited for him to make the first move. She held her breath when Spike raised his hand to her touch her -- but he only gave her an awkward pat on the arm, then left the bedroom and closed the door.

"I must look like total crap if Spike doesn't even want to try kissing me..." She pouted. Not that she felt physically strong enough to furiously make out with him, but one kiss would've been nice.

Her desire for him hadn't diminished, she still wanted to ravish and be ravished -- once she was well-rested. Buffy chose not to think of how everything would change once she got back to Sunnydale with Dawn and Spike. So much drama and unpleasantness was in her near future, it made her sick to think about it. What would her friends say about her having feelings for Spike? What would Riley say? Oh, poor, sweet Riley... But that was if she felt the same way about Spike when they got out of the crazy fairy tale world -- their lust for each other could just be the Unari planting thoughts and feelings in their minds for some twisted reason... That was a very disturbing notion.

'I'll make myself go insane if I don't stop thinking about that shit. I'll worry about all of it later. I have to eat and rest to build my strength back up, then try to find that frickin' portal.'

Focusing on the here and now was best. Right now, it was just her and Spike against the world and she could have as many squishy feelings about him as she wanted without unpleasant consequences.

Buffy changed into the dry clothes. Then she checked herself in a large, opulent mirror hanging on the wall above the bureau. She didn't look too bad considering what she'd been through. A little skinnier than she'd like, her face a little too pale and drawn, but not as bad as she thought she'd look. When she'd been ordered to polish the mirror by the witch days ago, Buffy had wondered why a scary-looking witch would have such a lovely, big mirror. Clearly the witch hadn't been overly concerned with primping and hygiene, so why the mirror? It was just another weird thing in this weird-ass dimension.

Buffy came out into the main room a few minutes later. She'd taken her long golden hair down, but was too tired to try doing anything with it.

Spike smiled, then did a double-take, looking amazed.

"What?" Buffy turned her head and asked, thinking that he had to be looking at something behind her.

He blinked then ducked his head, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Nothing. It's just... you look so beautiful. Like a princess."

Buffy smiled and looked down shyly. "Yeah, right. I look like crap, I know because I looked in the mirror while I was in there. I think you must be lightheaded."

"I don't care what you say, you look radiant." Spike went to her and helped her to the rocking chair. "I couldn't open that sodding magick book, didn't find any keys. I'll try again in a bit." He covered her back up with the quilt. He had freshened the water in the bucket, and piled some pastries and candies he thought Buffy would especially like near the chair. He'd moved the chair and table closer to the fire so Buffy would get warmed up faster. "There now, you eat and drink -- slowly though, don't want to get sick -- and rest."

"Thanks," Buffy said, getting cozy under the quilt. She noticed a steaming bowl of chicken soup on the table beside her.

"Go ahead, I tried it, it's good. Not poisoned or drugged. Probably better for your empty stomach than filling up on only cookies and sweets."

"When did you become my official food taster? I don't want you getting poisoned or anything either." She picked up the bowl of soup and stirred the spoon around to help cool it down faster.

"Odds are it wouldn't kill me."

"You may be a big, strong, manly Vampire, but you're not invincible. It's sweet of you to take care of me like this. You're pretty good at it."

"Yeah, well... I don't mind. You would've done the same for me, right?"

"That's right, I would have," Buffy said without pause. "You know, you really did save the day. I'm glad I didn't lose consciousness, I got to see you literally kick her evil ass."

"Well, you save the day on a regular basis. Thought I'd give it a whirl."

"How does it feel?"

"Not bad. I could get used to it." The best thing about it was the way she smiled at him, how proud and impressed she seemed to be with him. But Spike didn't say that, he felt he was already talking, thinking, and behaving too nancy boy-like. He didn't want her to think he was going soft. Buffy just had a way of making him feel all gooey inside. "I was saving my own ass too, that doesn't really qualify as heroic."

"Don't downplay it, Spike. When you save someone else in the process of saving yourself, it does qualify as heroic." She blew on a spoonful of soup, then ate it. "Mmm, soup's good. I was thinking that it'll be nice to hear you sing when you don't have to worry about a certain evil bitch overhearing... Oh, but I guess you don't have to sing anymore, huh?" Buffy's bottom lip jutted out.

"I'll sing like a bird for you anytime you want in the future," Spike replied, smiling. "I'd like to go into a chorus of 'We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions', but not right now. Got some important matters to attend to first."

Then Spike put a hand to his forehead, closing his eyes and swaying a bit. He held onto the edge of the table to get his balance.

Buffy sat up straight. "Spike? What's wrong?"

"Whoa, I'm starting to crash..."


"I'm just comin' down from the high I got from your blood. I'll be back in a bit, you try to relax." When he was sure the dizziness had passed, he walked to the front door.

"Where are you going? Don't go."

"I got to eat... remember?"

"Oh, right... I forgot." Buffy sank back into the chair. She didn't want to be alone in the house, and she didn't want to be apart from Spike. But she understood he needed to eat. "I'm sorry, I'm getting all clingy and weird."

Spike chuckled. "You just need some rest, then you'll be back to yourself again."

"I need to get the fuck out of this crazy dimension, that's what I need."

"I'm just as eager to be on our way. We'll be movin' on soon, luv. And just for future reference, I like you clinging to me." Spike winked, then went out the front door.

Buffy sighed, watching his butt as he walked away. "Okay, he's making with the innuendo so he's still interested. Maybe I can get that kiss when he comes back..."

Hopefully he wouldn't be all bloody. It was okay (and even kind of oddly hot) when it was just her blood on his lips. But him being covered in pig blood like Carrie on prom night = not hot.
End Notes:
Ding-dong, the witch is dead! heehee
Part 1, Chapter 11: The Shape of Things to Come by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
{A/N: I had to split this chapter into 2 separate ones again. I can be too verbose lol It will probably take me a bit longer between updates for the final few chapters. The holidays are a real bitca.

Mucho thanks to all of you who have been so awesome with the review giving :D Leaving a few nice words can really make a big difference! *smoochies to all*

Thanks again to DFL for being such a wonderful beta, and Chantelly and Edgehead for the fabooo banners! *hugggles*}
Buffy had dozed off after eating the soup. It was a natural sleep though, not a sleeping potion induced one. Her body and mind needed to do some healing.

She was having a bad dream, one in which things hadn't gone well in the shack. She jerked awake at the floor creaking when Spike walked back into the house.

"Sorry. Didn't mean to startle you."

"It's okay, I-I must've fallen asleep. I had a bad dream..." She sat up and rubbed her eyes.

"Are you alright now?" Spike asked, his voice heavy with concern. He expected they'd both have some bad dreams about what had gone on here.

"Yeah, was just a dream... How long were you gone?"

"'Bout a half hour, I think."

After she'd rubbed her eyes, she took a good look at him. "You're... wet. Why are you all wet?"

Spike was indeed dripping wet with water. Not blood, thankfully. And it wasn't her imagination earlier, he had filled out. Probably even more so after having what had been his first big meal in a long time. His physique was back to being lean, but not too lean. His sinewy muscles shimmered in the lamplight.

"Wanted to wash up at the well before I came back," Spike explained as he raked his fingers back through his wet hair.

He looked so good wet. Buffy had to make an effort to keep her tongue in her mouth. 'Mmmm, looks like wet Sting in the winged undies...' The nightmare she'd had was temporarily forgotten.

"I hope you didn't get the shorts too wet... If those things shrink any more they'll officially be part of your skin." She forced her eyes away from the shorts and up to his eyes -- it wasn't nice to ogle someone.

Spike laughed and looked down at the much-hated shorts. "You're right about that. Don't know why these damn things had to be so tight to begin with. If I start talking in a high, squeaky voice, you'll know why. All I need is a mesh shirt, guyliner, and some body glitter, then I'll be all set to go clubbing."

"Maybe there are some other clothes you can put on in the bedroom."

Spike shook his head ruefully, "Nah, only women's clothes in there. I hate these shorts with a passion, but I ain't putting on a bloody dress."

Buffy giggled at the mental picture of Spike in a dress. "I think you'd look cute."

Spike gave her a mock angry look, then smiled. When they'd first arrived in this dimension, Buffy jibing him like that would have made him genuinely angry. But things had changed. Spike knew she was just being silly and didn't mean it unkindly. "It's probably best if we put on the clothes we came here in before we set off looking for the portal. I wouldn't want to have to come back here if it turns out we were supposed to be wearing them. I saw my stupid bloody hat and shirt and our shoes and socks in the bedroom. My shirt has seen better days though, only got one sleeve."

"Definitely wouldn't want to have to come back here."

He walked to the chair, and went down on one knee. He took her hand in both of his and looked at her with concern, as well as affection. "How're you feeling, luv?"

"Better. Kind of weird how much better, not that I'm complaining."

He smiled and gently squeezed her hand. "Good, that's what I want to hear. You look much healthier already."

Buffy smiled and reached out to touch his hair. "Your hair's curly when it's wet." She couldn't resist sproinging one of the curls then winding the lock around her index finger. She'd wanted to touch his cute, curlier hair after their baths, but she hadn't felt comfortable enough to even suggest it back then.

Spike leaned his head against her hand. Buffy was playing with his hair -- another thing he never thought would happen and which he was pleasantly surprised about. "I hate the curls, can't be a proper badass with Shirley Temple locks. You wouldn't believe how much it curls up in humid weather. Makes me just want to shave it all off sometimes."

"Uh-uh, don't you dare. I like your hair the way it is."

Spike gently kissed her hand. "I have to dry off so I don't drip all over you. Be back in a minute." He got up and went into the bedroom to find a dry towel.

Buffy looked at her fingernails, thinking that she'd love to get a full, all-day spa treatment when they got back to Sunnydale. Her hands and nails had suffered some damage from having to clean the house so often. She reflected on another weird aspect of this dimension: Time had passed, and yet it stayed still in some respects.

In the nearly 2 weeks they'd been trapped here, neither of them had had a need to shave, their hair didn't grow. Their fingernails and toenails didn't seem to grow either. Buffy had also been due to get her period a few days before, but that hadn't happened either. Initially she'd been scared, thinking she might be pregnant with Riley's child, but the non-growing hair and nails had helped ease her mind that it was just a strange side-effect of being in this dimension. She hadn't shared the pregnancy scare with Spike, it was too frightening and personal. Though she would have told him if she'd noticed signs of morning sickness, she didn't doubt that Spike would try to help comfort her, but first, he'd most likely go on a rant about how lame Riley was and question her as to why she'd let Riley touch her in the first place. And she didn't need to have that conversation.

Poor Riley. How was he going to react when she told him that she had feelings for Spike? Because there wasn't any going back to the way it used to be between her and the surprisingly sensitive and thoughtful (and very sexy) platinum blonde Vampire. There were so many good qualities she'd discovered in him. Spike would have to do something exceedingly awful for her to stop caring about him now. They'd been through and shared too much together to just pretend they didn't care for each other, or try to forget how close they'd become. And she still wanted Spike in every way possible. If all this wasn't the Unari screwing with their minds to make her and Spike want each other, that is. Oh, there was just too much shit that would make her crazy if she let it.

To put her mind to a constructive purpose, Buffy picked up the Magick book and examined the lock that held it shut. There was a keyhole for which they'd been unable to find the corresponding key. Buffy ran a finger over a little scratch above the keyhole. The scratch was a deep indent in the metal latch, consisting of a line with a few little scrapes around it. Going on a hunch, she leaned towards the fireplace to inspect the latch in as much light as possible. Upon closer inspection, the scratch looked like the witch's magic wand with what might be little sparks of energy coming off of it.

Buffy picked the wand up from the table, then touched it to the keyhole, saying, "Abracadabra." She didn't know if magic words would help or were necessary, but thought she'd try it anyway.

Buffy gasped when the latch dropped open. She just stared at it for a few seconds, not believing that it had actually worked.

"Spike! Come here!"

Spike raced back in, his eyes wide and fists clenched, ready to fight any threats to their safety and freedom. "What's wrong?! What hap--"

"Nothing's wrong. Look," she showed him that the latch was now open.

He blinked, then willed himself to stand-down, relaxing slightly. "How'd you do that?"

"I touched it with the wand and it just popped open. I haven't looked inside yet."

"Good work, luv. Why didn't I think of that? Here, let me," Spike reached out for the book.

"Spike, why do you keep throwing yourself on every potential 'grenade'? I don't want you getting hurt either if there's some kind of booby trap."

"You've still got recovering to do. I'm feeling strong and fit, I can take some punishment and still be in good shape. Now, give me the book," he said, with a determined look of his own.

"Alright," Buffy relented, handing him the book. "But if you get yourself killed, I'm never speaking to you again."

They exchanged nervous smiles as he took the book from her. Spike cleared off a section of the table, and set the book down. Buffy stood up and moved to stand next to him, ignoring the weary sigh he let out. She wanted to be shoulder to shoulder with him when the book was opened, to face whatever might happen along with him.

Spike took a bracing breath, then opened the book.

Nothing exploded, jumped out, or zapped them. It seemed to be harmless... so far. They weren't taking anything for granted. There was a table of contents written in calligraphy, with what they chose to believe was just red ink.

"Definitely a spellbook. Seems to serve as a recipe book too... I think we'd do well not to read the recipes." Spike trailed his index finger down the list showing chapter titles, such as: Full Moon Magick, Potions, Recipes for Boys and Girls, Herbs and Spices, Travels, etc.

Buffy pointed to the chapter titled 'Travels', "Let's check out that one first."

Spike flipped the pages to the chapter. There was a piece of loose paper at the beginning of the chapter, a map. There were red and blue glowing points on the parchment. The blue glowing spot to the north was what had to be one of the portals, it was the right shape, color, and was swirly. They tried to contain their excitement that they were getting the information they needed in order to leave this place (which they'd come to despise long ago).

"That has to be our destination," Spike said, tapping under the blue spot on the map. "And the red thing must be where we are now. See, it's a drawing of a house with a gingerbread man next to it.

Buffy grinned and grabbed onto Spike's arm, hopping in place a little with happiness. "How far do you think it is?"

"Dunno, there aren't any marks to show miles or kilometers. But it doesn't seem like it's that great a distance. The village she was always runnin' off too is south of us, and the portal is north. We should be alright if we just follow the road. Looks like we'll pass a farm or two, then come to a bridge spanning a river, and then the portal is just past that."

Buffy threw her arms around Spike's neck for a victory hug. "Yay! We won't be walking aimlessly, we know where to go! I can't wait to get out of this hellhole!"

Spike turned fully toward her and joyfully wrapped his arms around her too, hugging her back, "Soon, luv. This bloody place will just be a bad memory for both of us."

"It wasn't all bad," Buffy said, sliding her cheek along his until they were looking into each other's eyes.

Before Spike could ask which parts she didn't consider bad, Buffy's lips were on his, kissing him breathless (or more breathless). They held each other tighter as the kiss deepened, becoming more impassioned. Spike moaned as Buffy's tongue slid between his teeth.

His first reaction was to return the kiss with just as much vigor as her. Then he worried that maybe this was too much for her right now. Buffy didn't seem weak at the moment, not with how tight she was holding him, how she was mauling his lips, and how she was rubbing her nubile body against his. She had been through a lot tonight. Spike knew himself too well -- if the kissing went on like this, his passion for her would fully ignite and he'd be pushing the food and book off of the table so he could lay her down on it and...

He broke the kiss and rested his forehead against hers, panting for unneeded breath. "Buffy, you aren't 100% yet. And it's not only feeding frenzies that I can go into. Don't want to... overwhelm you."

Buffy lightly brushed her lips over his, trying to get control over her raging hormones and liking the idea of Spike overwhelming her. "I was wondering why you hadn't tried to kiss me since we got free. Thought maybe you weren't interested in me anymore," she said with an adorable pout that made him melty.

Spike snorted a laugh at the absurdity of the notion of him not wanting her. "It wasn't that I didn't want to kiss you... Wanted to so bad."

They shared a few more feather-light kisses as they talked.

"Then why didn't you?"

"For a few reasons."

"Such as?"

"Besides worrying that you're not up to anything... physical, I didn't want to kiss you and have you say 'Yuck'."

"Why would I have said that?" 'Yuck' would be the furthest thought from her mind when it came to kissing Spike.

"I had blood breath, I hadn't brushed and rinsed."

Buffy smiled. "Wow, more thoughtful and considerate behavior. My mind has been blown by all your displays of niceness."

"I know, I'm makin' myself sick," Spike joked. "But," he said more seriously, "kissing you is... well, it's something that I want to be doing lots of, and grossing you out by having blood lining my mouth isn't a good way to keep you comin' back for more."

Buffy covered his mouth with hers again. There was nothing yucky about his mouth, and she could definitely see herself coming back and again and again for more. Her mind leapt ahead to what might come of the kissing -- Spike dramatically sweeping the food and book from the table, then lifting her onto the surface, and then...

But that wasn't a good idea for many reasons. #1: Buffy didn't want to stay in the gingerbread house any longer than was absolutely necessary. #2: They had to get to the portal as soon as they could; Dawn could be waiting for them on the other side. #3: This would be their first time -- not a dirty dream or fantasy -- and she didn't want it to be here, where they'd been tortured for what felt like an eternity. There were too many bad memories of this house and this room, memories that she didn't want tainting her and Spike expressing their feelings for each other physically. And a big reason, #4: She still had a boyfriend... it would be so wrong to cheat on someone for any reason. Riley deserved better than that. Any more intense physical things between her and Spike would have to wait until she could do things the right way. First she'd have to let Riley down as gently as she could and break off their relationship, then she could have a clear conscience -- about that part of it, anyway. Buffy hated that anyone had to get hurt in all this, but it was inevitable.

Buffy broke the kiss this time. "Spike, you were right, we should cool it."

He made a groaning sound, but stopped, released her and stepped back. He was trembling a bit with the intensity of his desire for her, it wasn't easy for him to stop. But Buffy's comfort and needs came first. "Yeah, need to... slow down. Are you alright? I-I didn't hurt you or --"

"No, no I'm okay. Not a 100%, like you said, but okay. It's mostly that we don't have time to do... stuff like that right now. The portal awaits."

"Right. But... when you say we don't have time 'right now', that implies that there will eventually be 'time' for that?"

Buffy blushed, nodding. Spike looked so adorable and hopeful; it did her ego good to know he wanted her so much. "Yes, I'm sure when we get back to Sunnydale there will be time in between apocalypses."

"You... want to wait till we're back home before we...?" Spike wasn't able to keep the disappointment and frustration out of his voice. They could be going home soon, or there could be more tests ahead for them to pass or fail. They could be here weeks longer. He didn't know if he could stand being so close to Buffy and not tell her and show her how much he loved her. A long wait could very well kill him or drive him bonkers.

She nodded again, though part of her didn't give a shit about doing things the right way. Part of her just wanted to jump on Spike and have her way with him right here and now. "Besides the time thing... I don't want to be a cheater -- more of one than I already am, I mean. And if we go any farther, I'll be a huge, big fat cheater-pants. I need to do this right. I'd have to tell Riley it's over between us before I can... get closer with you. I hope you understand..."

Spike struggled to maintain his composure and not blurt out things he'd regret. He pressed his lips together and nodded reluctantly. "Mmmhmm."

Buffy winced. "You're upset. I'm sorry... Please don't give me a hard time about this, Spike. It's not going to be easy for me either, but I'm trying to do the right thing."

Spike took a deep breath through his nose, then let it out slowly through his mouth. "I s'pose it wouldn't be you if you didn't try doing 'the right thing', that's just how you're wired... I'm trying to understand where you're coming from. But I can't help being... disappointed that I have to wait any amount of time before we can... get closer. Won't be easy for me to behave. We can still kiss, right? Just not..." he made a gesture with his hands.

"Kissing..." She knew she wouldn't be able to resist kissing him, she wanted to do it again already. Kissing someone else was still cheating, but... it was less bad than actually screwing. "Yeah, kissing is okay. We just have to be careful not to... let it get out of control."

Spike thought, 'Easier said than done.' But he nodded in agreement. He had to get his mind off of sex, and fast. "Alright, time to pack up and be on our way. You get some food and water ready to take with us. Don't want to be caught without food again if the journey takes longer than we think it will. If you feel up to rummaging around, that is."

"If it gets us out of here faster? You bet your sweet ass I feel up to it."

Spike smirked. "Think I have a sweet ass, do you?"

"It's just an expression... But as a matter of fact, yes, I do." Buffy cleared her throat, trying to focus her mind away from Spike's sweet ass (and other parts). She started looking for a bag or basket to put food in, she remembered a bunch of stuff like that being in one of the cabinets. "Oh, should we find a way to take some blood too?"

"No, I'll be fine for at least a day or two."


"No worries. I need to get the rest of my clothes out of the bedroom. I'll look around to see if there's anything else we might find useful to take along too. Be back in a minute."

Spike started to walk past her, then couldn't resist snaking an arm around her waist and pulling her against his body for one more passionate kiss.

Buffy moaned and put her arms around him, her toes curling and her knees turning to jelly. A voice in her mind said, 'Oh, it wouldn't be the end of the world if Spike and I got groiny... No! I have to be strong! But his lips... Oh God, his lips. Damn him! Why does he have to be so irresistible!'

Buffy was about to abandon her promise to wait and try hooking a leg over his hip when Spike stopped kissing her and took a step back. His hands stayed encircled around her waist to make sure she didn't fall.

"Sorry, couldn't help m'self," Spike said with a mischievous smirk.

"Hmm? Oh, it's... okay. Kissing is okay." Buffy was happy to find that her legs could support her, she wasn't sure if she'd just sink to the ground. That, or sweep off the top of the table herself and throw him down onto it. "You should... you know, go get your clothes."


Buffy took a deep breath once he was safely out of ravishing distance and in the bedroom. Resisting Spike's magnetism and yumminess was going to be even more difficult than she'd thought. Hopefully they would find Dawn and be going home very soon.

"Have to get ready to go," Buffy mumbled, starting to prepare what she'd need.

She took a waterskin and a burlap sack out of a cabinet, then filled up the waterskin with fresh water. It would be reassuring to just have the food and water with her, even if she didn't end up needing it. 'As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again,' Buffy thought, quoting Scarlett O'Hara. As she stuffed food into the sack, she perused the Magick book, seeing if there was anything else that might help them. But the rest of it didn't seem to be of any relevance to them. She still planned on taking the book along with them in case they needed it.

"Should take a lantern too," she said to herself. There was a good lantern sitting on the top shelf of a cabinet. The moon was full and bright, but Buffy would feel better having another source of light. It was kind of like when she was a child and something frightened her, having as much light as possible helped to quell her anxiety back then. Everyone knows that light scares away the Boogieman.

Buffy shook her head at her childlike nervousness. She was the Slayer and had been doing battle with the undead and demons for years now, but something about this dimension made her forget that. She felt like a 'normal' person, and being normal wasn't nearly as appealing as she'd always thought it would be. The Unari were probably messing with their minds, making them weaker, more afraid. Maybe it was the whole fairy tale motif -- that they used fairy tales to prey on people and bring their childhood fears back to the surface? She'd have to see what Spike thought of that theory when he came back out.

A shout from the bedroom shattered the silence. "Aghh! Shit!"

Buffy gasped and her head snapped up when she heard Spike yell. A million terrifying thoughts flew through her mind. Something was waiting to jump out at them, it had just bided its time. Hadn't they been through enough already? Spike was being attacked by God knew what, she had to help him.

"Spike!?" She dropped the bag of food and ran to the bedroom, plucking the wand from the table on her way. She only hoped that she wasn't too late to save Spike. If someone hurt him again, she would make them pay.

A few minutes earlier...

Spike put on his ruined white shirt. He ripped the other sleeve off to make himself look a tad less odd. Now it was a white vest, a slight improvement. He put on the rest of the outfit, growling when he picked up the green hat. But then he smiled a little and put it on his head, running his hand along the brim and cocking the hat to the side. He hated the hat, but he thought it might make Buffy smile or laugh when she saw him wearing it. He loved seeing her smile.

'God, I've got it so bloody bad. I don't even mind if I look like a jackass, as long as she smiles... I really need to kick my own ass...'

Spike went to the bureau and rifled through the drawers looking for anything they could use. As he searched, he marveled at Buffy's displays of affection toward him. She really liked him, she wanted to hold and kiss him, and she wanted to be with him. She even said that she was going to breakup with Riley so that she could be with him... Spike was almost too afraid to let himself believe it. It seemed too good to be true. But what would he do if Buffy's theory was correct about their feelings for each other maybe being manufactured by the Unari? What if she didn't want him anymore once they were back in the real world? What if the fact that she had wanted him made her sick?

He whispered, giving himself a pep talk, "Stop doubting yourself, you git. She wants to be with you, she said so, and it's obvious from the way she tried to shove her tongue down your throat. Believe her, it's true. She'll still want me when all this is over..."

Spike looked up and happened to be looking into the fancy mirror right above the bureau. He didn't see his reflection, of course, he only saw the empty room behind him. He straightened up and smiled at his non-reflection. He really missed being able to see himself in mirrors, even after all this time.

'Well, who can blame Buffy for finally succumbing to my charm. I know how to treat a lady. She's only Human, and I'm a dead-sexy bloke. Was bound to happen eventually. My mojo is so powerful that I finally got the Slayer wanting to tonsil box with me,' he thought, trying to get his cocksure attitude and swagger back.

"Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who's the sexiest Vampire of them all?" Spike said out loud, then chuckled. He bent down to continue going through the drawers.

"I suppose that would be you," the Mirror replied in a deep, masculine voice.

"Aghh!" Spike shouted, jumping backwards halfway across the room. "Shit!"

He stopped backing up only when his back came up against the wall, and stared at the mirror. White mist was now swirling around inside of it. Apparently, they weren't done here quite yet.

He heard Buffy's alarmed voice call out to him.
Part 1, Chapter 11: The Shape of Things to Come (continued) by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
Enjoy the second half of chapter 11! =D

Banners by xoChantelly and Edgehead
Buffy raced into the room, her wide eyes first fixing on Spike to make sure nothing ghastly had happened to him. He looked freaked out, but not hurt. Then her eyes darted around the room.

"Spike, what the hell happened?! Why did you --"

He pointed to the mirror, "The bloody mirror talked to me! It's doin' something -- look!"

Buffy cautiously went further into the room and looked at the mirror from a safe distance.

Spike got over his initial shock and went to stand beside her. He hadn't thought of the possibility of talking mirrors because there wasn't supposed to be one in Hansel and Gretel. There was one in Snow White, but not this particular fairy tale. Not until now, anyway.

They watched nervously as the white mist coalesced into a face. The face had no prominent features, just rudimentary shapes forming a nose, mouth, and eyes.

The Mirror laughed at their surprise, then said, "Congratulations on having activated the portal. We were beginning to doubt you would survive."

"You're one of the Unari?" Buffy asked.

"I am a representative of the Unari. I was created to speak for them."

Spike couldn't contain his anger. "'Bout time you wankers showed up! You almost killed us! What the bleedin' hell is wrong with you people?! That how you get your jollies? By making people suffer?"

"That's interesting," the Mirror said dryly. "Especially coming from a Vampire."

"Yeah, well, guess you could say being treated like shit and chained to a bloody wall for weeks had an impact on me."

Buffy couldn't stop her own anger from boiling over. "You tortured and starved us for weeks! We were almost murdered tonight! Why did you do that to us?!"

"We didn't do anything to you. It was the witch."

Spike snorted. "Right. Like you didn't control her? Like you couldn't have put a stop to that shit if you wanted to? Just how dim do you think we are? The witch in the story didn't have superhuman strength and abilities. You made her that way."

"Yeah," Buffy continued, "and there were times when it was like she read our minds, and you're telepaths. Not hard to figure out that you were using that -- which was totally unfair -- to ruin our plans to escape."

"She was a character with a life of her own, we merely observed to see how you dealt with her. We did not make the witch do anything to you, though, admittedly, we enhanced her abilities to rival your own. It wouldn't have been sporting otherwise."

"Sporting?" Buffy was so pissed off, she wished the Mirror had a neck she could snap. The Unari were smart not to send a flesh and blood 'representative'. "There was nothing sporting about what was done to us!"

"We had heard that Slayers and Vampires were stronger and more resilient than normal Humans. We did not impede you or help the witch. If anything, what little interference we did do was beneficial to you."

"Any examples of this alleged help you gave us?" Buffy asked, crossing her arms.

"The witch would have known you were stealing food, but we prevented her from catching you. And the singing that Spike did at night was another thing that the witch would have put a stop to. But we found the effects it had on both of you interesting. So we allowed it to continue. You were allowed privacy while bathing as well."

"Was it you that made me obsessed with giving Spike my blood at the end too? I was totally convinced that was the answer."

"We would never aid you in that way. You must solve problems yourselves."

"Oh..." Buffy had thought it was the Unari who had made her so bizarrely fixated about feeding Spike her blood, but the Mirror was denying it. And she didn't think they were the merciful types, so it probably really was her own need. Did that mean that the lustiness was real too? She needed to ask about that as well. "Well... okay, yeah, it's cool that you did those other things, but it doesn't make up for the fact that you made it impossible for us to get away!"

"There were many possible avenues of escape, there are always solutions to the obstacles you encounter in this realm, if you look for them carefully enough. One of the solutions was for Spike to drink your blood. We didn't anticipate that it would be refused... several times."

Spike shifted uncomfortably and looked down. He hated himself for not getting them out of here a lot sooner. He could have spared both of them so much pain.

Buffy curled her fingers around his hand and gave it a squeeze. "I told you it's okay, Spike. By doing that, you proved to me that you could be trusted, that you cared about me, and that you can be a good guy. I'm not sorry I got to see those things about you." She smiled reassuringly at him. She could tell that he was still troubled about it, but he gave her a small, appreciative smile. Then Buffy turned to address the Mirror again, her smile disappearing. "You know your 'test' didn't make any sense, don't you? It wouldn't be a test for a Vampire to just drink my blood without a second thought. The test would be him not taking it. Spike had to fight every instinct he had to reject it, he had to have amazing self-control. And that should have been the right choice."

"When you create your own dimension, you can run it however you'd like. But you're in ours now. You aren't in command here, Slayer," the Mirror said, sounding a little testy. "The challenge wasn't only about escaping. It also involved you growing beyond your limitations -- opening your minds and hearts to things that would have made you balk in the not-too-distant past. Any good quest causes the subjects to discover truths about themselves. In the end, you were both willing to sacrifice yourselves to save the other, and that impressed us. Are all Slayers and Vampires as interesting to observe as you? You're our firsts."

"I doubt you'll ever have another Slayer/Vampire duo questing together," Buffy said. "We aren't typically... mixy."

"Right. I can guarantee you won't have any other Slayers or Vamps in here makin' nice. Buffy and I are a special case. We have a --"

"You have a bond," the Mirror finished. "Yes, we noticed that connection. After all these years, we can still be surprised. It's fascinating."

They glanced at each other, wondering what exactly the Mirror meant.

Buffy started to ask, "What kind of bond do you --"

The Mirror interrupted, "Our time to talk is limited. I suggest you ask now if there is something important you wish to know."

There were tons of questions she wanted answered, but Buffy needed to get to the heart of the matter. "I suppose you know why we're here, since you can read our minds. We came here to rescue my sister Dawn."

Spike decided to let Buffy handle most of this, she seemed to be up to the task. He wasn't feeling particularly chatty or forceful at the moment. Buffy might be okay with his non-action resulting in keeping them here much longer than they should have been, but he wasn't okay with it. Spike felt unsure of himself, he doubted himself and his decision making skills. What if he made another wrong decision that got them more abuse, or ended up getting them killed?

"Yes," the Mirror replied, "you came to retrieve the Key. The Key does not require rescuing. We are protecting and lavishing the Key with luxury. The Key's every whim is being attended to."

"Her name is Dawn. She's more than just some mystical Key to me. I'm afraid of what you might have done to her, considering how horrible Spike and I have been treated. If you hurt her... I swear I'll make you pay. I don't know how, but I will."

"Making threats isn't going to help, Slayer. We respect and revere the Key. It is an ancient and powerful being whom you could never hope to comprehend. No harm has come to Dawn. Your tone is accusatory, but it's not as if we took her from you, she was drawn into our dimension accidentally, we weren't aware of her origins until she was well into her first quest."

"What was her quest?" Buffy was curious to know.

"She was Rapunzel, trapped alone in an ivory tower. When we realized what that seemingly normal Human girl actually was, we ensured that she was not harmed in any way. She is quite intelligent and escaped the tower on her own before the prince had arrived. She did much better than the two of you." The Mirror chuckled.

Buffy was both relieved (that her sister didn't have to deal with an evil witch) and impressed (that Dawn had overcome obstacles without any help). "How did she escape?"

"Oh, I can't tell you that. You may face a similar test in the future and it wouldn't do for you to know what course of action to take in advance."

"In the future? You mean, we're not done? There's more?!"

Buffy and Spike were taken aback that the Unari felt they hadn't done enough or proved themselves worthy yet. If this had been only the first test (they'd suffered near starvation and being abused), what were the Unari going to do for an encore? It made them both shudder.

"Yes, indeed," the Mirror said smugly. "The portal to your next quest is now open, you only have to journey there and enter to receive your next set of challenges."

"Son of a..." Buffy trailed off. "All I want is to get my sister and take her back home where she's safe! How many hoops do we have to jump through to satisfy you people?!"

"Dawn is safer and happier here. We know of Glorificus and her quest to find the Key."

Buffy was glad she wouldn't have to explain about Glory, but wondered how they knew. Weren't they hermits with no contact with the outside world? "What if Glory finds out that she's here? She could find a way in and --"

"No, Glorificus would not be able to enter our world."

"Okay... Well, what if Glory destroyed the book from out in the real world? Would that kill Dawn or --"

The Mirror said simply, "The Key transcends reality, time, and space."

"What the bloody hell does that mean?" Spike's forehead creased.

"The dimension you are currently in is only one of many that we maintain. If the Key's life was threatened, we would shift her to another dimension for safekeeping. It is true that if a book is destroyed, those who entered through it would die. But we would know if the Key were in danger and would simply move her to another part of our continuum, thus keeping her from being harmed. She is special and should be protected. The two of you are special in your own ways, but we wouldn't save your lives under the same circumstances. It would be regrettable, but if you happen to fall by the wayside, that is simply the way it must be. You aren't that special."

"Gee, you're all heart," Spike said sarcastically.

Buffy was grateful to hear that Dawn would be protected if the worst happened, but she was equally disgusted at the Unari's callousness towards herself and Spike. "So you would've let us die in this place? You wouldn't have stopped the witch from killing us?"

"No, we would not have stopped it. You knew that our world would be perilous, and yet you chose to enter and risk your safety."

"Yeah, but only to get my sister. Dawn didn't enter your dimension by choice -- so shouldn't you just like... give her back?"

"I told you that the Key -- Dawn -- is safer here with us. Weren't you listening? Ah, I see, it's that stubbornness and inflexibility that you've displayed time and time again. You're very single-minded. Can you honestly say that you could protect her better than we could, Slayer? We'll give you a choice -- you can be sent safely home now without Dawn and leave her under our protection or you can continue the quest."

Buffy's determination wavered. Since it was her decision that got them drugged and then chained up in the house in the first place, she wasn't sure if what she thought was best was actually best. "Give us a second," she said to the Mirror. "Don't... go anywhere or get unswirly or anything." She took Spike's arm and walked with him away from the Mirror.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Spike, do you think I'm being selfish for wanting to take Dawn home with us? What if she really would be safer -- and happier -- here than in the real world? Is it fair of me to take her back? Maybe I'm too emotional to see the truth because I love Dawn so much... Please tell me the truth." If there was one thing she could always count on Spike to do, it was to tell it like it was.

Spike was worried about their situation and about Dawn's welfare, but he felt such happiness that Buffy was asking his opinion about something so close to her heart. She trusted him and wanted to know what he thought in order to make her final decision. The way she was looking at him with those beautiful green eyes told him that his opinion really mattered. Some of his confidence returned. If Buffy believed in him, then he could try believing in himself again too. He tried pushing aside his happiness to give her question serious consideration.

"Well... there's no way for us to be sure, is there? All we can do is go on what our guts are telling us. And my gut says you're not being selfish, Buffy. Whatever else Dawn happens to be, she's your little sister and she's Joyce's daughter. And she was put in your care for a reason. Wouldn't the monks have tried going to the Unari if they thought that was the best place for Dawn to be safe? They went through a lot of trouble to place her in your family because they knew you could get the job done." Spike held her hands in his. "I promise, on my life, I'll help keep the Nibblet safe once we get back home. Glory and her minions will have to go through me to get to her. And I'm a scrapper from way back. But I want you to know I'm with you completely, whether we journey on here or take the next portal home."

Buffy smiled, then leaned up to give him a soft kiss on the lips. "Thank you, Spike. I was hoping you'd say that."

They walked back to the mirror.

"I want to find my sister, I'm not letting her stay in this crazy dimension."

"Very well," the Mirror sighed. "Not that we won't enjoy watching you progress through the challenges, but you are misguided in your belief that --"

"Yeah, yeah. You can protect her better than me -- I heard you the first few times."

"You're very rude. I'm reminded of one of the reasons we withdrew from the outside world," the Mirror said haughtily.

"Well, pardon the fuck out of us if we're not feelin' all friendly after what you lot put us through," Spike said.

"That we are speaking to you is a gift we decided to bestow upon you; we were under no obligation to speak to you at all. And this is how you show your appreciation?" The Mirror's face started to break up.

"Wait!" Buffy cried. "Wait... please."

The face reformed. "Yes?"

"I have so many questions I need to ask. I'm... sorry we were being rude... I want to let my friends and my mom know that I'm okay."

"That will not be possible."

Spike sneered, "It's possible, you just won't do it."

The Mirror chuckled.

Buffy persevered. "Fine. But I want to talk to Dawn to let her know we're coming to help her and take her home."

"That will also not be possible. Or rather, we can, but won't do that. There are basic rules here, we have never let questors communicate with others while the quests are in progress. And we aren't about to change that for the two of you. Show us proper respect."

"Do you have to be such jerks about this?" Buffy asked. "Don't you think Dawn is going to be depressed if she thinks we don't love her enough to try finding her?"

Spike added, "You might prefer to only think of Dawn as the Key, but she's in the body of a teenage hormone bomb who's prone to wild mood swings. You want to keep her safe and happy? Let her know her family and friends love her and would do anything to get her back."

After a pause, "Perhaps you're right, Vampire. We wouldn't want the Key to be distressed."

"Glad you see it our way. And the name's Spike, mate. There's more to me than being just a Vampire."

"No, of course you're not just a Vampire."

Spike couldn't put his finger on it, but he didn't like how the Mirror said that. Like there was some kind of sinister meaning behind the words, like it was up to something... Probably just him being paranoid.

"We will tell Dawn that you are trying to 'rescue' her. And... your friends will know that you are well. But we will do no more than that, we cannot bend the rules too much for you. Others would expect the same."

They blinked, surprised that the Mirror was being more understanding.

"Okay... thanks. I'd rather tell them myself, but as long as they know we're all right, I guess it doesn't matter how they find out."

The Unari were amused that neither Buffy or Spike seemed to suspect that much of what they did showed up in the storybook. The Slayer and Vampire didn't know just how much their friends were seeing (and would see in the future). The poor deluded creatures seemed to think that just one picture of them (if any) would appear in the book and that the text wouldn't be too detailed. If and when they made it back into their world, they would get quite a surprise at finding out how much their friends read and saw of their journeys and trials. It was quite humorous.

Buffy said, "I realize that you don't have to do us any favors, but I'd feel better if I could at least see Dawn, to see with my own eyes that she's okay."

The Mirror didn't answer for a few seconds, Spike and Buffy speculated that it might be conferring with the Unari before it answered.

Then it said, "If it will set your mind to rest on the issue of Dawn's safety, we will show you how she spent her day."

The face joined the white mist swirling in the mirror, then the mist parted, showing a smiling Dawn doing various things, it was like they were watching her on a television monitor.

She was horseback riding on a beautiful, white mare; then she was having her long brown hair brushed and her toenails painted by handmaidens while she chatted with them and ate an apple; then she was modeling ball gowns; then she was seated at a huge, fancy dining room table. Rich, delicious looking foods were spread out on the table for her. Dawn was saying something to a servant, but they couldn't hear her; there was no sound.

"Wish I could hear her..." Buffy muttered.

Suddenly there was sound. And their view expanded so they could see the servant she was talking to. Buffy recognized him as Jonathan Levinson. It seemed that other parts of the dimension were populated by versions of the people they knew. Weird, Dawn had maybe met Jonathan just once; she probably wouldn't even remember she'd met him, but there he was.

"All this food is gonna make me fat," Dawn said, eyeing the platters of rich food. "Aw, what do I care? I'm a princess, right?"

"Of course you are, Highness. You're the most beautiful girl in the kingdom."

Dawn batted her eyes at him. "Thanks, Jonathan, you're sweet. Being a princess rocks!"

"Are you ready for the ball, Milady?"

"I can't wait! I've got the coolest dress to wear. I hope I get a major hottie to notice me."

"A man would have to blind, deaf and dumb not to notice your beauty, Majesty."

"Aww! Thanks, Jonathan. Oh, I'd better get started on my dinner, I've got my dance lesson in an hour." Dawn started shoveling pasta into her mouth, not seeming to care at all if she looked like a pig.

Then the mist closed in to obscure the picture, and the face was back.

"Are you satisfied?"

"I guess I'll have to be. I hope what you showed me wasn't a lie..."

"What you saw was the truth. We want her to be happy and taken care of."

"Hey, I thought the ball already happened?" Buffy said, puzzled. "Remember that picture in the book?" she asked Spike.

"Yeah, I remember. Showed her dressed all fancy and wavin' to people."

"Do you see how your comprehension fails you? There is no past, present, or future. Time has little meaning here. Events that have happened are still occurring and will occur. But through it all, the Key will be protected."

"We'd have to be very stoned to make any sense of that bollocks," Spike said. "Feel like I'm listening to Timothy Leary."

"It didn't seem like she even misses us at all..." Buffy said sadly. She wondered again if Dawn was better off here.

Spike put an arm around her waist. "We're not seeing everything, Buffy. 'Course she's having a grand time riding horses, being waited on hand and foot, dressing in fancy duds and jewels, and eating a feast of her favorite foods. Who wouldn't? But at night, when it's quiet, I'm sure she sheds a tear wanting to see you again."

Buffy smiled and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "You're on a 'saying the exact right thing to make me feel better' streak."

"Just so you know, I'm not just saying it to make you feel better, pet. That's a good bonus, but I'm saying it because I believe it."

Buffy did feel somewhat reassured that Spike believed it. He had a knack for seeing how people were really feeling, whether they put on a happy face or not. She looked back to the Mirror. "When we do get to Dawn, are you going to let us take her through a portal back into our world?" she asked nervously, hoping these weirdoes didn't want to keep her sister.

"We would allow it, since that is your primary quest. Should you succeed, you will be permitted to take her back to your world. If she wants to go, of course. The Key will not be forced to do anything she doesn't want to do."

"Oh, that's great... we might have a tough time convincing Dawn to leave a place where they pamper her and don't make her do diddly squat."

"She'll jump at the chance to go back home, Buffy. You'll see." Spike believed that, but it probably would take at least a little time to convince a teenage girl to give up the life of a princess so she could go back home where she'd have household chores (and an evil Hell God hunting for her).

"But if Dawn agrees to come back with us, you won't stop it?" Buffy was still suspicious. "No tricks? You'll let us go through a portal home with Dawn without throwing more obstacles in our way?"

"I said we would allow it." The Mirror definitely sounded weary with the conversation. "I think it's high time you went on your way to the portal."

"It's not going to close or anything if we take too long? It'll still be there and open?"

"It will be there waiting for you. Good luck." The mist swirled again.

"Wait! Please! We still have more questions!" Buffy called.

The face did not reform, but they heard it say, "A Mirror such as this one can be found in every new environment. Seek it out if you have a pressing need to speak with us again. But don't try our patience."

And then it was nothing but a deceptively normal looking mirror again.

"Dammit," Buffy muttered. "I didn't get to ask half the stuff I wanted to."

"Yeah, but we did get a look at Dawn. She doesn't look any the worse for wear. She's getting much better treatment than we've gotten in this bloody place."

Buffy nodded, trying to let that make up for the burning questions she didn't get a chance to ask. She really wanted to ask about the extreme lusties that her and Spike had for each other. Was it the Unari manipulating them like puppets, or was it a natural attraction that had simply grown over time? It felt like it was natural, but she didn't trust the Unari; they'd proven to be cruel and they didn't play fair. And what did the Mirror mean about her and Spike's bond?

"There was shit I wanted answered too..." Spike growled. "But it said there were other mirrors in each new place. Reckon we'll have to save the rest of our questions for next time."

Buffy put her arms around Spike and laid her head on his shoulder. "You really think what they showed us was the truth?" she asked, still doubting.

"Something tells me it was true, yeah." Spike could be happy staying like this forever with Buffy's arms around him and her body pressed against his. But the faster they got the show on the road, the faster they would be to getting home, and then getting closer. "Right. Let's pack up the food and get the fuck out of here before more pieces of furniture start talkin' to us."

"I'll be sooo happy to see this house in the rearview. We won't have a car... but you get what I mean." She looked up and giggled.

Spike frowned, smiling a bit. It was so good to see Buffy smile, but he wasn't sure what it was she was smiling about. "Feelin' giddy about getting out of here, eh?"

"Definitely. But mostly, I was wondering why you're wearing the hat."

They finished getting the food and water together. Buffy found another bag to put the magick book, map, and the wand in -- Spike stuffed the green hat in the bag too. He hoped he'd never see it again after this was over.

Buffy showed Spike the lantern and some matches. "I'm taking this too."

Spike was making a last visual sweep of the room to make sure they weren't leaving anything they might need. He glanced at her. "Good idea. It'll keep the animals away."

"Animals?" Buffy hadn't considered that benefit of having light with them.

"Well yeah, we know there are wolves around, we've heard them howling at night." He saw the nervous look on her face. "Don't worry, the light will keep 'em away. More afraid of you than you are of them, and all that rot."

She set the lantern down on the table. "Unless they're starving... then they'll attack anything that moves. And we're going to have food with us..."

Spike stepped up to her with an unconcerned smile, he put his hands on her shoulders and lightly kissed her forehead. "No wild animal's going to hurt you while I'm around. I'm a much bigger and wilder animal than anything out there."

"I could fight if I had to, I don't need you to protect me," she said a little defensively. Then she smiled a bit, and fingered the collar of his shirt. "I mean... I appreciate you wanting to protect me and everything. It's just that I've felt so helpless so often since we've been here, but I'm the Slayer and it's time I started acting like it again. I kick major ass."

"That you do, luv. I'm very aware of how rough 'n tough you are under normal circumstances. Watching you in action while you dispatch some baddies is..." Spike sighed dreamily at picturing her kicking demon ass, "It's a thing of beauty. But you aren't 100% Buffy yet, and until you are, I'm going to take point when danger's afoot."

"I feel a lot better since I ate and napped. It's just that I don't want to be forced to kill any innocent animals, that's all."

"You won't have to. They won't bother us. But if they do, we can try scarin' them off before I resort to any killing. Okay?"


Spike just had to have her in his arms one more time for a thorough snog before they left. Buffy squeaked when his arms were suddenly around her and his lips were pressed to hers. Buffy's arms went up around his neck and she joined in the kiss, knowing she should tell him to stop, but it felt so good. No one had ever kissed her like Spike did. They'd had some sweet, light kiss-age that had made her warm up gradually, but it was this hungry, possessive kiss that immediately made her toes curl and her body thrum with desire.

His mouth moved along her jaw, he kissed her ear then her neck.

"You feel it, don't you, pet?" Spike said huskily, holding her body tight against his.

"Spike, we... we really don't have time for th-this." Oh, it was so difficult to protest. She just wanted to rip those shorts off his body and ride him into the ground. "I told you my reasons for waiting, and you pressing it against my --"

Spike laughed and backed off. "There's that dirty mind of yours again. I'll have you know I was referring to you feeling the heat and sparks that I feel between us. Not other, more... tangible things."

"Oh... well, I knew that. Yes... I do feel it. The heat and sparkage. But I'm going to stick to my pledge to wait. I want to kiss you... and more... I really want to. But... I can't."

Spike let out a ragged breath. "Yeah, I know. Sorry. Your fault for bein' so bloody irresistible."

"I still think you might need glasses, I look like total crap." Buffy smoothed back her hair, then made sure her clothes were straight, trying to hide the smile she got from knowing she drove this gorgeous man wild with lust, even when she looked (what she considered) bad. "Now, can we go, please? I can't stand being in this place for one more minute."

They finally walked out of the gingerbread house, both of them throwing a nervous look or two over their shoulders as they approached the gate. They were still paranoid that something would happen to stop them, but who could blame them?

Spike was carrying everything except the lantern (and the axe, which Buffy had decided made her feel more secure). Buffy didn't want to keep being the weak maiden and let Spike do everything -- but she also didn't like carrying stuff, so she didn't mind him being overprotective this time. Besides, Spike seemed to enjoy being able to do things for her, it made him feel all manly.

Buffy smiled as they walked down the path, convincing herself that it really was over. Freedom had never felt so good. "My new goal in life is to eat as much good food as I can in one sitting without getting sick. They'll have to bury me in a piano case. Jabba the Slayer, is what they'll call me."

"Might have trouble battling the forces of evil if it takes a forklift to move you, luv."

"I bet you wouldn't want to kiss me then," she said with a coquettish smile.

"I'll take that bet. I don't mind a woman having some meat on her bones. You know, it's not just the window dressing that gets my motor revved -- though it is some beautiful window dressing, at that. I'm captivated by the whole Buffy Summers package."

She batted her eyes at him, "Why, Spike, that's..." Buffy stopped walking abruptly when they got to the gate, "Oh shit... Wait! Stop!"

Spike stopped in his tracks. "What's wrong?"

"The invisible fence thing... What if we can't get out because of that spell?"


"That's what I said."

They looked at the border of the property with trepidation.

"I forgot about that... But maybe the spell was broken when the Green Meanie bit the dust," Spike said hopefully.


Spike put down the bags and stepped toward the fence.

"Spike, you're doing it again! Stop putting yourself in --"

"Buffy, one of us has to test it to see if the spell is still active, and I'm volunteering to do it. So shut your beautiful gob."

She raised her eyebrows. "If you think you're the boss of me, somebody done told you wrong. And I won't shut my gob. My gob will stay wide open, thank you very much."

"Yeah, I'm quite the male chauvinist villain, ain't I? Ordering you to step back while I take the brunt of the possible danger."

"Okay, just... try going out the gate. Get it over with." The suspense and worry were killing her. The words 'be careful' wanted to come out of her mouth, but that would be a pretty stupid thing to say.

But Buffy didn't have to say it, Spike could see the worry for him in her eyes. He took a deep breath, then took a big step past the gate. And he wasn't zapped. He turned around with a big grin. "Nothing. The coast is clear." He jumped back and forth across the border of the property a few times to make sure.

Buffy grinned back at him. "Yay! I thought for sure they'd try screwing with us some more. Let's go!"

Spike took the bags from where he'd set them down, and they started north on the road.

After only a few steps, Spike stopped walking again. "Wait," he sighed.

Buffy groaned. "No more waiting, let's just go! Every second we're here is a chance for something crazy and horrible to happen."

"Fine, you go on ahead then, there's something I have to do. I'll catch up in a few minutes."

"I am not going anywhere without you. What else could you possibly have to do here? Unless you want to burn it down -- Ooh, let's burn it down!"

"Razing the place to the ground does sound good, but that's not what I was thinking." Spike sighed and looked over to where the animal pens were. "I'm going to let the animals out before we go."

"Why?" Buffy's forehead wrinkled in confusion.

"'Cos... we don't know if all this will keep existing after we've gone through the portal. If it does, those animals will be trapped in their pens if we don't let them out. After being starved like I was, I don't want any creature to suffer like that. They might have to deal with predators, but at least they have a chance of getting away. I know it's silly, but..."

"Aww! That is so --"

Spike looked at her seriously, "Do not say it's... sweet."

"Well... it is! And I feel the same way, now that you brought it up. We should let the animals go, that would be the compassionate thing to do."

"I'll take care of it. Wait here," Spike grumbled, then walked quickly around the side of the house.

Buffy sighed, smiling and waiting for Spike to come back. It was this kind of stuff that she never would have predicted he would do. It was this kind of stuff that made her more certain that she wanted him for more than just hot sex -- which she had to wait to sample, but knew it would be hot.

Spike was back a few minutes later, having let the cooped up animals out.

And they started their way north to the portal, bidding adieu to their prison forever.
End Notes:
You likey? Let me know :D
Part 1, Chapter 12: Stormy Weather by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
Sorry it's taken me so very long to update. I got a terrible case of ye olde writer's block. Bear with me as I attempt to get my groove back =D Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me! *smooches and love*

Here's a link to a YouTube vid of the Fleetwood Mac (from the Peter Green era) cover of 'Need Your Love So Bad':

I just love that song. I love imagining Spike singing it even more heehee

Thanks to DFL for beta'ing this long-ass chapter! And thanks to CallMeKitten and Passion4Spike for all of their support! You gals rock! *smoochies*

Banners by xoChantelly and Edgehead
Spike and Buffy were proceeding north on the road. It had been an hour and they hadn't come to the river yet. Spike couldn't even hear the sounds of the river yet, and he'd be able to hear it from at least a mile away. It was discouraging and made them wonder just how far away the portal was. Would it take them several more hours or even days to reach it?

On the plus side, no wild animals had attacked them. The night was eerily quiet except for the chirping of crickets and the occasional (and thankfully distant) howl of a wolf. Buffy asked Spike for some traveling music to soothe their jangled nerves, and he was happy to sing a few songs as they walked. They took a few breaks along the way to rest and for Buffy to drink some water and have a snack.

Buffy was feeling much better, almost as if the abuse and starving hadn't happened. She remembered it all too well, though she seemed to be mostly recovered physically. But her legs started getting tired; she was sick of walking. Spike gallantly offered her a piggyback ride, and she accepted. He was thrilled to be walking after being chained up for so long, and he still felt energized from ingesting Buffy's powerful blood.

They had fun with him playing horsy for her. They both needed some silliness and levity after what they'd been through the last few weeks. Spike talked Buffy into belting out a tune for him as a change of pace. She still felt self-conscious about her singing voice, but decided that she'd do it for Spike since he'd been so good to her. She thought of singing 'I Touch Myself', but it wasn't a good idea to make them both start thinking about sex again.

Buffy finished singing her song:

"Why don't you hit me with your best shot
Hit me with your best shot
Fire awayyyy!"

"Bravo!" Spike said. "I'd applaud if I had my hands free."

She giggled. "I always loved that song. And don't say I didn't warn you that I wasn't a good singer."

"It's just as I thought, you've got a lovely voice. If you get tired of the whole Slayer thing, you could try for rock n' roll stardom."

Buffy laughed. "Yeah, right."

"I could listen to you all night. I'll buy your CD when it drops. Or I'll steal it from a shop. Either way, I'll be sure to get it."

"You're goofy. And you have to be getting tired of me riding you like a beast of burden."

"Could never get tired of that, pet," Spike said suggestively.

She couldn't see his face, but she just knew he was smirking. He was the only person she'd met who could actually smirk with his voice too. "Spike, don't make me smack you."

"Couldn't resist. I'm a naughty bloke."

"I noticed."

"Do you know 'Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me' from Rocky Horror Picture Show? I'd like to hear you sing that one."

"I bet you would. No, I don't know it. Let's take a break here for a minute. I need a drink; I'm parched after all that wonderful singing."

Spike stopped and crouched slightly so Buffy could slide off his back. His back felt nice and toasty warm from Buffy's body heat. A shiver of pleasure ran down his spine before he grudgingly shifted his thoughts away from contemplating Buffy's body and its heat. He was trying to be good.

Buffy went to the side of the road and sat on a fallen log. "Gimme the waterskin. Please."

"Let me dig into my saddlebags and get that for you, little lady. Look at us, bein' all polite. Who would've ever guessed, eh?"

He sat down beside her on the log and then opened up the bag containing the food and water. Buffy took the waterskin from him with a thank you. He thought about their journey while Buffy snacked and rested.

Spike looked at the road ahead of them and craned his neck, seeing the roof of a barn over the trees. "There's a farm up ahead like we saw on the map."

"Ah, the promise of a new, disgusting, evil character." Buffy sighed, then took another drink. "Wonder who the evil farmer will be: Giles? Xander? They're the top two contenders, but the possibilities are almost endless."

"We won't be dropping in for tea. We're going right past the bloody thing. Feels so good to be free-range again and I'm not gonna risk it by knocking on any doors. Had my fill of captivity, and then some."

Buffy just nodded, she couldn't agree enough with that sentiment.

Spike took a look at the map again. "The good news is that we made it to the farm, so that means we're getting closer to the river. Might be another hour or two of walking. Why couldn't the bloody portal just have appeared outside the house?" He rolled the map up and put it in back in the bag. "Those Unari are some warped bastards."

"Yeah, why they thought we hadn't gone through enough shit would've been one of the questions I would have liked to ask the Mirror if it had let me. And why they chose to make the witch an evil version of my best friend. And why they chose you to go into the portal with me. And... if they're making us feel and think certain things about each other..."

Spike picked up a stick and drew doodles in the dirt, trying to act casual even though this subject made him antsy. "Don't you think it's possible that... we started to have feelings for each other naturally? We went through a lot together, shared a lot of quiet times. We were good to each other. We actually talked and worked through problems instead of throwing a punch or stormin' off and cursing the other's name."

Buffy reached over and held his hand. "All the things you did for me the last two weeks would definitely have made me want to be your friend, the Unari didn't need to make me feel grateful or sympathetic toward you. What I witnessed you do and say is what made me see you in a new light. You showed me that you can be a good guy. I would still have wanted us to team up in the future and I promise that I'll treat you so much better when we get back to Sunnydale. It's the... sexy thoughts and feelings that I'm worried the Unari put in our heads. I never thought about you like that before." In her mind she amended, 'Well, maybe just a random thought here and there about how hot he looked or sounded, or what he might be like in bed... I never perved on him the way I have since I got to this dimension. Those fantasies... Holy shit, those were hot!'

Spike couldn't look her in the eye at the moment. He couldn't admit that he had wanted her, dreamed and fantasized about her, and had been falling in love with her well before they even came to this dimension. He'd look like a fool (Lord knew he felt like one), and she'd probably feel sorry for him -- and he definitely didn't want that. Maybe the Unari had built on the affection he'd already had for Buffy, turning it into full-fledged love...? Spike hated the idea that those bastards could be tampering with his mind; that his feelings weren't completely his and real. But nothing changed the fact that he loved Buffy with all his heart, here and now.

"All I know is how I feel about you now. And it doesn't feel artificial. It feels as real as anything I've ever felt before." Spike looked at her and put his arm around her waist, pulling her gently against his hip. He raised his hand to her face and stroked her cheek.

"How do you feel?" Buffy asked breathily as she gazed into his deep blue eyes.

"I want you, I need you... I wouldn't want to live in a world without you. I'm in love with you, Buffy."

Buffy blinked. He'd said 'the L-word', and she could see the sincerity and passion in his eyes. His words scared her, but also made warmth bloom in her chest. It was exciting and wonderful and frightening all at once. She wanted Spike to love her and she liked hearing him say it. She felt such strong affection for him, but there were so many reasons why they shouldn't get more deeply involved yet.

"Yeah... I said it. I love you, Buffy. I don't expect you to say it back, so don't feel like you have to. I just wanted you to know how I feel."

She gulped, it was time to tell him; he'd already taken the leap by saying it first. "Spike... I don't want to sound lame, and I'm not just saying it as a reflex, but I... I think I love you too."

Spike smiled tentatively. "You think you do?" That was a better response than he'd anticipated; he'd take an 'I think I love you' from her any day.

"I know... lame. I'm not good at love stuff... or expressing what I'm feeling. Fighting demons, using my fists and pointy objects, is pretty much the only thing I'm good at. But there were so many nights in that horrible house when I wished I could just hold you and kiss you. When I thought the witch had chopped you up... I felt like my heart was being ripped out, like I was dying inside. The thought of you being hurt like that -- or killed -- hurt me so much too. I would've done anything to have one more chance to save you and let you know how much I care about you..."

"Sounds like love to me," Spike said, then gave her a soft kiss.

"It's so weird, isn't it? I mean, us... The same people who've beaten the shit out of each other numerous times, who despised each other, now can barely keep their hands off each other and are having all these warm and fuzzies..."

"Well, we're both amazingly good-looking and sinfully sexy. I figure it was a matter of time before we fell prey to each other's sexual magnetism."

Buffy giggled. "I guess so... I know you are hot and sexy."

He nudged her with his hip. "C'mon, you know you're hot. Don't try to bullshit a bullshitter."

"I know I can look pretty hot when I want to. But you're hot with zero effort, lucky bastard. But I guess that makes me lucky in a way too, 'cause I get to look at you." She playfully tweaked his chin.

"Careful, you might charm the leather shorts right off me." Spike wagged his eyebrows.


"I know, I know. I'll behave," he said, rolling his eyes and sounding put-out, but smiling. Buffy had said she (thought) she was in love with him, so it would take a lot to genuinely upset him at the moment.

"Are you capable of behaving?" Buffy poked his bicep.

"I'm up for the challenge... I think I can do it."

They each put an arm around the other's back, resting for a little longer, and just enjoying being able to hold each other the way they had wanted to for so long.

"You know," Spike said, "it doesn't matter if this is the only dimension where we can love each other. What matters is that we do feel it right now. I love you, Slayer. I'd die for you."

"I'd rather that you live for me. A dusty Spike doesn't do me any good. A dusty Spike makes me sad and frowny."

"Just giving you fair warning, I'm going to kiss you now..." He turned his face to her and leaned in slowly.

"Not if I kiss you first," Buffy said with a grin, then closed the rest of the distance to press her lips to his.

They quickly got swept up in their emotions, kissing with more and more passion. Their arms wound around each other. They went backwards over the log onto the dewy grass, but they hardly noticed. They kept right on kissing and touching.

Buffy was getting so hot; she was nearing the point of no return. She suddenly remembered her pledge to herself -- she had to do things the right way.

"Wait, Spike, stop!"

He growled, but loosened his grip around her to let her wriggle free.

Buffy untangled herself from him and jumped to her feet. "I-I don't want to cheat! We have to control our... urges! Please respect my decision!"

Spike groaned, he didn't try to get up yet. He just stayed on his back on the grass, folded his hands over his stomach and looked up at the stars. "I'm trying to respect your wishes. I hate it, but I'm trying to be respectful of your decision. You were kissing and pawing me too, ya know. Not like I was molesting you."

"I couldn't help it! I get all... crazed when you kiss me like that. It's too tempting to try doing... more."

Spike raised an eyebrow and smirked. It felt so good to know that he could affect Buffy that way too; it wasn't just one-sided.

"Don't look at me like that!" She turned her back to him.

"Like what?"

"That smirky, sexy thing you do -- cut it out! Any kissing we do in this dimension will have to be with our hands behind our backs -- and no tongues."

"You need to relax, Buffy. No need to drive yourself mad over this." He sighed, seeing she was wound up tight. "Alright, we'll give... pecks on the lips, as opposed to trying to swallow each other's tongues."

Clouds moved across the moon, making it much darker within seconds.

"Whoa, glad I brought the lantern, I can barely see anything." Buffy picked up the lantern. She wasn't happy about the sudden darkness, but at least it provided a distraction from how hot Spike was making her.

Spike got to his feet and looked up at the sky, sniffing the air. "A storm is brewing. Coming on fast, too."

The wind picked up suddenly, whipping Buffy's hair around. "Oh goody, a storm! That's what was missing to make the walk to the portal more of a pain in the ass."

Spike blinked when a raindrop hit his forehead. "Just felt a raindrop," he said, wiping the water from his skin with the back of his hand.

"I just got warm and dry a little while ago, dammit," Buffy groused.

An ominous peal of thunder sounded.

"What do you say: keep going or try our luck with the farmhouse for some shelter?" Spike asked.

"Let's keep going. A little rain won't kill us, but whoever's in that house might. I am not going to spend any more time chained to a frickin' wall."

Spike agreed wholeheartedly. They gathered up their stuff and set off down the road again, hoping to get to the bridge before the storm got too bad.

They came upon the barn Spike had seen just as it began to drizzle. It sucked to be getting rained on, but it wasn't bad enough to force them to stop their journey.

"I want you to know... I'm glad it was you, Spike."


"I'm glad it was you that came through the portal with me. I was relieved from the beginning that it was you."

Spike smiled happily at her confession. Then he frowned slightly. "But you said more than once that you wished --"

"I know what I said. I was lying. I didn't want you to know how I really felt about it because you'd gloat."

"Ah. Guess you know me pretty well."

"I thought I knew you, but you're full of surprises." They smiled sappily at each other. "I'm sorry I tried to make you feel not good enough... I can be a real bitch sometimes -- and please don't feel you have to agree with me too enthusiastically about that. The truth is I couldn't have gotten through that nightmare without you. Having you there was the only good thing about it."

Spike swallowed a lump of emotion, chiding himself to toughen up and not get choked up like a nancy boy. "As crazy as this sounds, if I had to, I'd go through it all again for you, to be there with you. It... means a lot that you said that. I don't know if I'll ever get used to you saying nice things like that to me."

"Well, you better get used to it. From now on, I --"

Lightning struck a tree on the left side of the road just ahead of them. They gasped and jumped backwards. They bumped into each other, trying to protect the other from harm. The blazing top half of the tree fell onto the road where they'd been standing a few moments ago.

"Holy shit!" Buffy exclaimed. "Guess I was wrong about the rain not killing us!"

Their ears were ringing and they had to blink rapidly to try getting their vision back to normal after the bright flash of lightning. The hair on their arms and the backs of their necks was standing on end, the air around them was charged. The rain started pelting them, turning into a downpour.

Spike sensed there was going to be another lightning strike any second. "We've got to find cover!" There was a dim light coming from inside the farmhouse up ahead, but he was reluctant to risk meeting another crazy, murderous inhabitant of this dimension. The barn was closer and seemed like it would provide them with adequate shelter and they'd be less likely to run into someone.

Spike switched both bags he was carrying to one hand, then grabbed Buffy by the wrist and ran toward the barn. She ran with him, figuring out where he was headed. They could only hope there wasn't an evil farmer (wearing the face of one of her friends) in the barn waiting for them.

Another bolt of lightning hit where they'd been less than ten seconds ago.

Spike closed the barn doors to shut out the intensifying storm once they were safely inside. There didn't seem to be any people around, just regular barnyard animals. A horse and a cow in stalls, some chickens, and a few goats wandering around; there were possibly more animals further into the barn, but it was too dark to see very far. The animals that were loose didn't seem concerned or interested in the new arrivals, they just went about their business.

Buffy and Spike were shaking the rain off and looking out a big window on the side of the barn.

"This is just great!" Buffy stomped her foot. "Now we have torrential rain and killer lightning." The rain was coming down so hard and fast that it was going sideways. Lightning and thunder flashed and cracked every few seconds. "I hate sideways rain."

"And us without any rubbers."

Buffy stared at him for a second, then said, "... Huh?"

"Rain boots."

"Then why didn't you just say 'rain boots'? You know what 'rubbers' commonly refers to."

Spike smirked. "That's just what we used to call them in the olden days." Then he sighed and looked out at the storm again. "Seems like we should sit tight 'til it passes."

"It could be hours. What are we going to do all that time?" Buffy had said it innocently, but a naughty answer immediately popped into her mind.

They looked at each other out of the corners of their eyes, both thinking the same thing. Then they swallowed and looked back out at the driving rain. Buffy's vow to wait until they got back home was about to be tested... big-time.

Back at the Magic Box...

"Hey, guys," Xander said as he came through the door. "Any new developments since you called me?" After the new pictures and text had appeared, Anya and Tara had called the absent members of the team to fill them in.

Willow was seated at the table with the fairy tale book open in front of her. She looked bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, full of energy. "Nothing new in the book since Anya talked to you. I hate the evil witch -- can you believe those a-holes made ME the evil witch? With my name and everything! Damn the Unari for making her look like me. I think they know how I feel about the horribly unfair witch stereotype and they're stickin' it to me! Stickin' it, I tell you! Oh, we could use some more coffee and donuts. Why are you here so early, Xander? You got out of work early? Or are you on a brunch break?"

Xander raised his eyebrows and looked at her. "You know, breathing between sentences is a good thing. Willow... are you on the pep pills again?" Willow had sometimes resorted to taking over-the-counter caffeine pills during midterms or finals back in high school, as if she'd actually had reason to worry about failing. And she was showing the signs again. Xander had worried about her taking those things in the past, so he'd insisted that they study together often to make sure she didn't get the urge to take the pills. It had had the added benefit of him studying with his best friend the genius, thus helping him pass tests, too.

She dropped her eyes from his. "N-No... this is just my natural perkiness."

Tara gave Xander an exasperated look, shaking her head. Willow had been like this for about an hour. She'd already chastised Willow for taking pills, only to have the subject immediately changed by her girlfriend. Maybe Xander could talk some sense into her.

Xander crossed his arms. "Your pupils are just naturally dilated too, huh? You look like one of those paintings of big-eyed kids that you'd find in some of our finer motels. I thought you were off the junk, Willow? You said you wouldn't take them anymore."

"I-I'm sorry, I can't help it! I only have them for emergency staying awake purposes. I can't go to sleep -- not with Buffy and Spike being held captive by that thing that looks like me! I have to stay and watch the book until they escape from her. Until I know... they'll be okay." She hung her head.

Xander could sympathize, it would drive him nuts too if an evil character that looked like him was abusing his friends -- or rather, his friend and Spike. He looked over Willow's shoulder at the pictures in the book to see for himself what had appeared, putting his hands on her shoulders comfortingly as he read. Xander was a bit worried when he read the last part with Spike telling the witch that he was on her side, but that was probably just a ploy... At least he hoped it was. Spike wasn't that much of an asshole, was he?

After he was done checking out the new information, he gave Willow's shoulders a little squeeze. "You need to sleep so your brain can recharge. It'll be better if you're fresh and rested, the natural way."

"How is Buffy even going to be able to look at me when they come back?" Willow said dejectedly.

The others had tried reassuring Willow several times, but it hadn't made a difference. Though Anya hadn't helped much by being honest to a fault (as usual) and saying that maybe Buffy would have trouble separating her feelings between the real Willow and the evil witch Willow, at least at first. Tara was a peaceful person, but sometimes she really wanted to smack Anya. She didn't seem to get the concept that you didn't say certain things at certain times to people, whether those things were true or not.

Xander gave comforting her a shot. "Buffy knows it's not you, Will. We've experienced plenty of weird shit in this town, such as there being a double of one of us running around causing general mayhem, and we got through it all just fine. Buffy won't feel any differently about you. She's probably just as mad as you are about them making the evil witch look like you."

"Yeah, but it looks and sounds exactly like me -- when it isn't all green and gross. It said in the book that Buffy was upset that the character was exactly like me. Except for the evil. Just looking at me is going to give Buffy flashbacks. Who knows what else that thing is going to do to Buffy before they can escape!"

"Tara, can you talk to her, please? Help her see Buffy will still love her just the same, and that she should get some sleep."

"I tried..." Tara frowned. "She gave me the determined face, directly followed by the sad-puppy face. I'm powerless against that combination."

"Aren't you tired, too?" Xander asked.

Tara smiled wanly. "I had a nap in Giles' office. I'm okay for now."

"Why don't you give me the rest of the pills, Willow." Xander held out his hand.

"Why don't you jump up my butt!" Willow was surprised at her own outburst, putting her hands over her mouth. Then she looked at him apologetically and slumped down in the chair. "Sorry... I didn't mean that. I'm just a little edgy."

"It's not her talking, Xander," Tara said, confiscating the bottle of caffeine pills from Willow's bookbag, "it's the 'Trucker's Choice' brand supplements talking." Having Xander on her side made Tara feel bold enough to take action.

Willow sat up, distressed. "Tara! Don't go through my stuff! Come on... I need them just a little while longer... It's not like they're illegal." She pouted and made half-hearted attempts to take back the pills.

Tara held the bottle away from Willow's grasp. "They're legal, but they're really bad for you. And I'm not letting you mess up your metabolism by taking any more of them." Tara put the pill bottle in her own bag, then zipped it closed. "I'll get rid of them soon as I get the chance."

"Good work, Tara." Xander thought he'd try one more time to get through to Willow. "Please go back to the dorm, Willow. Or at least take a nap on Giles' couch like Tara did. If anything new happens, one of us will call you right away, okay?"

"One more hour," Willow said, shifting her butt in the seat to get more comfortable. "I'll book watch for another hour... then I'll sleep." She sipped her latte. "Could use some more coffee and donuts. Did I mention that?"

"Yeah, you did. I'll swing by the donut shop and pick some up." Xander sighed. There was nothing more he could do, short of shooting Willow with a tranquilizer dart. "Is Giles still at Buffy's house? How's Joyce taking the news about Buffy and Dawn?"

Tara nodded. "When I talked to him a little while ago, he said she was taking the news as well as could be expected. She's really upset, but not totally freaking out. He'll probably be bringing her back here with him so she can see that we're doing what we can. She'd probably feel better if she could help in some way too. I feel so bad that Mrs. Summers has to be stressed out, since she's been sick and everything..."

"Yeah, me too. If only they could've come back before morning, Joyce never would've even known anything was wrong. We'll all have to do our best to help her not worry too much. I need to talk to Anya... make sure she doesn't say more inappropriate stuff in front of Buffy's mom -- or Riley."

"Um, about Riley..." Tara began.


"I'm kind of concerned about him. The way he's been behaving since Buffy went through the portal has been so... strange. He really, really hates Spike. Like 'if Spike were here, Riley would be staking him' kind of hate. He's really paranoid too, he's convinced that Spike is trying to double-cross Buffy or is bound to hurt her in some way. Like how he was sure that Spike had somehow arranged for the Unari to send himself into the portal with Buffy. I don't know him as well as you, so I probably shouldn't be saying anything..."

"I was... surprised by some of the stuff he's done, too. The Riley I know wouldn't act like that. He does seem to be having a really tough time with this... I guess he's just so worried about Buffy that he's losing it a little... or a lot. I'll try to help him through it the best I can."

Tara nodded again. "All Riley probably needs is a good friend to talk to," she said hopefully. Riley's behavior had scared Tara. She was trying to be understanding, but she just had the feeling that something was very wrong, that Riley's problems would end up causing more grief and badness. But it was just a feeling; it was probably nothing...

"Can you try to make sure Willow doesn't get her hands on any more of those pills?" Xander asked. "Those things can kill you. I heard about a 16-year-old kid taking them and having a heart attack."

"That's just an urban myth," Willow grumbled. "Like the one about Mikey, the Life cereal kid, dying from eating a combination of Pop Rocks and Coke."

"Yes, I'll make sure," Tara said, giving Willow an unwavering look. "Those pep pills are going right in the trash. You can get your energy like our forefathers and mothers did, through sleep and drinking coffee."

Willow pouted again. "Meanies."

Anya came upstairs. "Xander, I didn't expect you to be back so early." She gave him a kiss. "Oh no, you didn't get fired, did you? You won't get that fat paycheck every week, and I won't be able to drive to your construction site to watch you on the job -- with your muscles bulging as you swing your heavy hammer, the white t-shirt sticking to your sweaty skin as you --"

"No, not fired, I'm still among the employed. I was able to get out early. Said I had a 'family emergency'. That excuse usually works without any follow-up questions." They walked to the counter, talking low so Willow wouldn't hear, "I can't believe they made the evil witch look like Willow. The Unari are real sickos."

"I expect more characters to look like Buffy's friends and family in future stories. That's if they manage to escape and not get killed and eaten in the Hansel and Gretel story, of course."

Xander took a breath and looked at her seriously. "It's that kind of thing I want you not to say when Buffy's mom gets here. The stuff you say in front of us or Riley was one thing -- and I'm still not happy with you about that -- but you cannot upset Joyce. Do you understand? You have to make an extra-special effort, or just don't say anything at all."

She frowned. "Don't talk to me like I'm a child. Of course I won't say anything like that in front of Joyce. You actually thought I would tell someone's mother that there's a chance her children could die? And I know Joyce has health problems. What kind of monster do you think I am?" she huffed and crossed her arms, turning her back to him.

"Honey, I don't think you're a monster. I know better than anyone else what a sweet and caring woman you are. You have to admit that you have a habit of... speaking before thinking out how what you're going to say will affect the people you're talking to."

"I wouldn't be that cruel. I just won't say anything to anyone ever again -- how's that?" her voice wavered, there were tears in her tired eyes when she looked back at him. "I'll take a vow of silence and never speak to another soul for the rest of my life. Will that make you happy?"

Anya very rarely got this way; it hurt Xander's heart to see her eyes shiny and her chin trembling. "Anya, come on, I didn't mean --" he reached out to touch her face, but she moved away.

"Don't you dare touch me, Alexander LaVelle Harris!" She went into the office and slammed the door. A moment later, the blind dropped over the window in the door.

"Ooh, she full-named you. That's not good," Willow said, having just heard the last part of their conversation. "What'd you do to make her mad at you?"

Xander groaned and put his head down on the counter. "I think Anya needs some sleep too... Is everyone around here going crazy?"

He'd been hoping to have time alone with Anya sometime today. Making love (even a quickie) always cheered both of them up and energized them when there was a crisis. But he'd hurt her feelings without meaning to -- while giving her a lecture about saying things that hurt people's feelings. Ironic. Some gifts of flowers and candy would be required to show Anya that he was sorry. It didn't look like he would be getting any sweet lovin' for a while.

Xander was tired, too. As if worrying about what was happening to Buffy and Dawn in the fairy tale dimension, about Willow taking those pills and about Riley freaking out wasn't enough, he was also worried about how Joyce would handle her daughters being missing AND about how he'd Anya's feelings earlier. It was all getting to be too much! At least Tara and Giles seemed to be okay. As far as Riley was concerned, Xander hoped that getting some sleep would do his buddy a lot of good. Riley was a good guy and a strong person, and Xander promised himself that he'd help him get through this, hopefully without any more bizarre incidents (like when Riley had almost whipped it out in front of everyone). That had been very disturbing as well as shocking...

Riley went back to his small apartment and tried to get some sleep. His waking thoughts, and then his dreams, were plagued with worrying scenarios concerning his girlfriend and Spike.

His surroundings changed to a forest. He saw Buffy and Spike dressed in the Bavarian clothing they were wearing in the pictures in the book. They were embracing, their arms around each other, their lips connected.

"No! Stop! Get the hell away from her, Spike!" Riley shouted. He tried to run to them and force Spike away from Buffy, but he couldn't move. It was like his feet were cemented to the ground. He could only watch in disgust and shout, "Buffy! Buffy, what are you doing!?"

Spike turned his head and smirked that annoying smirk. "Lookee, I've got your girl, Finn." He slid his hands around on Buffy's back and ass, sticking his tongue out. "Was just a matter of time 'fore I got her."

"Buffy, get away from that monster! You know what he is! You know what he's done! How can you let him touch you? Are you under a spell?!"

Buffy smiled and shook her head, "Nope, no spells. I don't have to be under a spell to realize how amazing Spike and I are together. Sorry, Riley, but Spike's more my speed. It took me a while to see it, but he's exactly what I need."

Spike chuckled, "Hey, that last bit rhymed! Nice one, pet."

Buffy giggled and then looked back to Riley. "You did know this was coming, didn't you? I was just wasting my time with you, denying what and who was the right one for me. But now I know, thanks to Spike being sent into the portal with me. We had all that time to get to know each other better. Some alone-time was all we needed to get snuggly." She smiled at Spike, lovingly stroking the side of his face. "I love Spike. I need to be with him. He compliments me and my abilities perfectly." Buffy playfully tapped a forefinger on the tip of Spike's nose, and then his lips as she said the words.

Spike made as if to bite her finger, with that smirk still on his face.

"So naughty," Buffy giggled. "Spike's fun to be with and so damn sexy. And he's got that dangerous edge that I need in a man. Keeps things exciting. 'Cause with you, Riley? So bored. I had to pinch myself hard to stay awake most of the time."

"I'll be the only one pinchin' you hard from now on, luv." Spike made her giggle again by nuzzling her neck and giving her bum a pinch.

"No..." Riley whispered, horror-struck. "You can't love him! You love me!"

"Sad, really," Spike sighed and swiveled his head toward Riley. "How could she love a git like you? You don't have super strength, you're not immortal, you don't have... Need I go on? There's nothing special about you. Unless you count the ability you have to bore those around you to tears at the speed of light. You really thought you were man enough for the Slayer?" He laughed mockingly. "You don't even come close, boy. Buffy needs a little monster in her man." Spike looked back at Buffy while giving her butt a good squeeze, "Isn't that right, pet?"

"Mmmhmm, so true," Buffy hummed and leaned up to kiss him. "You're my perfect mate, Spike."

Riley clenched his fists and teeth. "I'll kill you before I let you have her, you bastard!"

"You're certainly welcome to try," Spike drawled, the smile spreading across his face.

"I won't let you take her away from me!"

"It's already done, you tit. Read any good books lately?" Spike asked, smirking. "Only wish I could see your face when you're seeing it. You'll see soon enough. She's mine now and I'm not letting her get away. Deal with it."

Buffy and Spike both started laughing, laughing at Riley's pain and helplessness. Then Spike put his hand on the back of Buffy's neck and smashed his lips against hers, kissing her passionately. She responded by kissing Spike just as passionately and wrapping her body around his.

Riley put his hands over his eyes and yelled, "NO!"

Riley woke up in a cold sweat only a few hours after he'd gone to sleep. It took several moments for him to realize it had been a bad dream. It had been so vivid, sickeningly, disturbingly vivid.

He could still see them hugging and kissing, he could still see Spike's filthy hands groping Buffy, and her hands caressing the blond Vamp in return. Their laughter still rang in his ears.

Riley went to the sink in the bathroom and splashed cold water in his face.

"Just a nightmare," he told himself. "Just a nightmare. It won't happen that way... It won't, it can't."

He tried convincing himself that it would turn out the opposite of his dream -- the more time Buffy spent alone with Spike, the more certain she'd be that he was an evil asshole. But there was a voice in the back of his mind that knew better. The voice nagged at him, telling him that the dream would come true if he didn't do something.

There had to be a way to suck them back out of that book before anything horrible could happen. And hopefully there was a way to select which people you wanted to get out of the book, and which one you wanted to leave trapped.

"I've got to keep it together," Riley said, leaning on the sink and looking into the mirror.

He was aware of how erratic his behavior had been since this started. The looks and comments he'd gotten from the Scoobies made it clear that they'd noticed it too; Xander had seemed especially worried. It scared Riley that he'd lost it a few times already. He was a soldier, trained to withstand physical and mental hardship, and yet this was making him lose control. It was because of Spike's involvement. There was just something about Spike that made Riley less able to stay calm, cool and collected. Even under "normal" circumstances, Spike pushed Riley's buttons. But when it came to Buffy... it was just that much worse. He knew his behavior must be scaring his friends. He didn't want to worry them. He also didn't want them to suspect he was doing his best to plan Spike's death. The Scoobies weren't big fans of the fanged blond pest, but they might try to stop Riley from carrying out his plan, once he had one. He'd done pretty well having a secret soldier identity for a while and keeping everyone in the dark about the Initiative. He could use his acting/deception skills again to act normal for his friends' benefit.

"I can't show how this shit is affecting me. No matter how angry or freaked out I get, I have to hide it. I have to fall back on my training and discipline. Can't let my friends know. And wouldn't Spike would just love it." He grimaced at the mirror and pounded his hands on the counter once, then let the anger dissipate and relaxed again. "Spike would just love to know how upset I am... how this is getting to me. That son of a bitch would be laughing his ass off. I won't let him win..."

He had to get back to the Magic Box. He was afraid of what he might see in the fairy tale book, but he needed to watch for any developments, good or bad.

"I've got to research. Got to find a way. He won't take Buffy away from me."

Then an idea occurred to him. Riley still had a few contacts within the government, one of those contacts might know something more about the Unari. He called some old buddies and those who owed him favors, asking them to look into the Unari and call him back with any info. If some branch of the Initiative had ever captured an Unari and interrogated it, that would be a big help. Maybe one of those creatures was still in a cell somewhere.

He set off for the Magic Box once his personal business was finished for the time being, feeling more confident and in control. He would save the day and bring back Buffy and Dawn, and get rid of Spike in the bargain, if possible. Riley would be the big hero again, the knight in shining armor. Just as he was always meant to be.

Spike and Buffy decided that maybe getting some rest would be the best (and safest) way to pass the time while they waited out the storm.

Spike thought, 'I have to be alone with Buffy in a barn for God knows how long... I really don't want to have to imagine that gut-churning Angel/Riley/Xander threesome again. I might condition myself so I never get a hard-on again, even when I want to have one. I don't want to piss her off again by trying to kiss and touch her. Must be strong and show her she can trust me to control my passion... Bloody hell, this isn't going to be easy...'

Buffy wasn't comfortable with the idea of sleeping on a pile of hay on the floor of the barn, not with the animals that were walking around. She thought she'd wake up to find a goat gnawing on her foot, or a chicken pecking out her eyes. Spike had chuckled at her concerns about the animals at first, but then had to admit maybe she had a right to be concerned -- he didn't like the way one of the goats was staring at him with its spooky eyes. So they tried the hayloft. Spike had found a couple of horse blankets that were folded neatly on a table on the ground floor, they looked and smelled clean enough to have the honor of keeping Buffy warm. Then they climbed the ladder to the hayloft with their supplies.

The loft appeared to be safe and dry. There were a few leaks in the roof here and there, but they found a dry area to settle in.

Buffy set the lantern down on a bale of hay and then fluffed up a big pile of hay to make a temporary bed. They took off their wet shoes and socks to get more comfortable and to let them air-dry. Buffy sat cross-legged with a blanket wrapped around her.

Spike sat across from her with his back against the wall near the door set in the hayloft, stretching his legs out in front of him. He unbuttoned his wet shirt but didn't take it off, not noticing how Buffy's eyes followed the progress as he undid every button. (She looked away and tried to appear casual by the time he looked up again.) "This isn't too bad, eh? Not luxurious, but we've got the essentials. We can tough it out here for a while."

"It'll do. At least it's warm and dry." Buffy opened up the bag with the food and water. "Good, the bag kept the food from getting soggy. I would've eaten it anyway, but it's nice to have it un-soggy." She had herself another little snack. "What time do you think it is?"

Spike paused and looked up in thought. "Feels 'bout midnight."

"Do Vampires have a kind of internal clock? So you know when morning is coming?"

"Yeah, we do have a sense that tells us when dawn or dusk is approaching. 'Course my senses could be way off in this dimension, the natural laws don't seem to apply in some instances. For example, it's been a full moon for a few weeks straight -- that's fucked up. The real world would be thrown into chaos if that happened."

A loud crack of thunder made them both jump slightly. "I hope the storm ends soon and we can keep going toward the portal. We have to be back on the road before sunrise, I don't want to get stuck here for another day."

"I could always cover myself with a blanket and do like I do back in Sunnydale. It might be overcast so there'd be a better chance of me not smoldering too much."

Buffy started shaking her head no before he'd finished his sentence. "No way. I don't want to spend another day here, but I will. I'm not going to let you risk getting crispy. We can either both go outside safely, or both of us stay here."

Spike only smiled at her, touched once more that Buffy was thinking of his safety. He could easily get used to this kind of treatment from her, and to seeing the affection for him in her eyes. He was already hooked on it.

His hair was wet from the rain and curling at the ends -- Buffy really liked the curly hair. He looked so cute and sexy... and she had to start talking and thinking about something else besides his sexiness. She checked her injured wrist to see how it looked.

"Check it out," she held her arm out for him to see. "There's only a red mark where I cut my wrist. I healed super-duper fast. I think that's the fastest I've ever healed from anything."

Spike leaned forward and looked, raising his eyebrows. "Yeah, looks good. It really did heal especially fast, didn't it?"

"The... licking must've helped, huh?"

"I think so. Perhaps the twisted overlords decided to give you a break and helped with the healing. It should've taken me at least a few days to fill out and feel as strong as I do right now. Maybe they helped me too."

"Maybe." Buffy discarded the bandage, not needing it to keep her wound clean anymore. "It's the least the Unari could do after what they did to us." She nibbled on a gingerbread man cookie. "Wish we had a deck of cards or a board game or something."

"Oh, you want entertainment? Why didn't you say so?"

Buffy watched with a bemused smile as he scooted over to the bale of hay and fiddled with the shutters on the lantern.

"I'll put on a shadow puppet show for you." Spike made his hands look like a bird shadow. "I'll do sound effects too: Caw-ca caw! Realistic, innit?"

Buffy giggled. "Another hidden talent." She thought of seeing his shadow when he'd been behind the room divider screen. There was a certain shadow puppet she wouldn't mind seeing again... Why did her brain insist on turning every topic back to sex? New subject. "I've wondered this for a while, what's your last name?" Unlike Angel, there was no information about the pre-Vampire William.

Spike made more shadow animals on the wall while they talked; Buffy recognized a dog, an elephant, and a bunny. "Don't have or need a surname. I'm like one of those ultra-famous celebrities -- such as Sting, or Bono, or Topol."

She laughed. She thought it was funny, especially him mentioning Sting. "Come on, what's your last name? I don't think I can kiss a guy whose name I don't know..." Buffy said playfully.

"Lovejoy," Spike said quickly.


"My name. It's William Henry Lovejoy. See? Doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of men, does it? Sounds like a bloody accountant."

"Your last name is Lovejoy? That's so cute!"

"Uh-huh, go on, get your giggles out."

"Mister Loooovejoy." She laughed then waved her hand, "I'm just kidding. Lovejoy is a cool last name. It's just funny 'cause you're a Vampire and all. They're not known for being big with the love or the joy."

"I always found it ironic... even my last name has 'love' in it. Seems like I was destined to be ruled by that emotion; I was branded from the start. I've always been love's bitch."

"You don't make it sound very pleasant. Wouldn't it be nicer to say you're a 'slave to love'? Hmm, though slave isn't a good word either..."

"'Slave to love' fits too. You know a thing or two about how painful being in love can be. When it's good... God, there's just nothing better. But when it's bad... feels like you were dropped off a skyscraper, repeatedly, or you seriously consider stepping in front of an 18-wheeler."

Buffy sighed, studying her cookie as she broke another little piece off of the gingerbread man.

Spike wanted to lighten things up a bit again. He didn't want to depress Buffy by making her think of the wrong turns her relationships had taken. He'd prefer she didn't think of her other relationships at all. "I thought 'Spike Love' would be a good porn name, should I ever enter the business. Though, just 'Spike' would work, I s'pose."

His attempt at lightening the mood worked, Buffy couldn't stop smiling (or blushing thanks to his mention of porn). She wondered, but was too giggly to ask, if Spike had already made a professional adult film in the past. He definitely wasn't shy, so he probably wouldn't have had any reservations about that kind of thing. "You're funny. Did you just become funny recently? Because I don't recall thinking that you were before."

He smirked. "I've always had a rapier wit, you just didn't notice."

"Ah, you know what? It was probably because you were making fun of me most of the time. Jokes and snide comments about me? Not so funny."

"It was a two-way street. You gave as good as you got. You got some real good insults and jokes in at my expense. What was that one...? I think you said I was the shell of a loser."

"Well... we won't be doing that mean stuff anymore. Making fun of each other, I mean. If we do, it will be said with kindness and affection."

They were quiet, listening to the rain and wondering what their burgeoning relationship would bring. They both hoped for more good than bad. But neither of them were naive enough to think it would be smooth sailing. The not knowing for sure if their feelings were even real was enough to drive them crazy. How could something they felt so strongly be an illusion?

"Why don't you get some sleep, pet. I'll keep watch."

Buffy sealed up the bag of food, having finished her latest snack. "Watch for what?"

"Dunno exactly. I'll wake you if the storm ends while you're off in Slumberland. But also if anything poses a threat, like if the barn is struck by lightning and it starts a fire, or a homicidal farmer wielding a pitchfork comes looking for intruders in his barn."

"Oh, I won't have any trouble sleeping now," Buffy said sarcastically.

"Sorry. I just want to be ready for anything."

"When are you going to sleep? You still need sleep too." She figured that Spike had to be exhausted. The only sleep he'd gotten was when he'd passed out over the last day or two. And she was looking forward to having Spike laying next to her on the hay -- just to have him near her, not so they could... do stuff.

"I'm fine." Spike sniffed and squared his shoulders in the way that Buffy easily recognized as him trying to be all manly.

Buffy rolled her eyes but didn't argue with him. She figured that he'd sleep after he saw that she'd gone to sleep like he'd done most nights back at the gingerbread house. She laid down in the hay, pulling a blanket up to her neck and using the other one as a pillow. She closed her eyes.

A smile spread across her face when she heard Spike start singing softly. It was that bluesy song again. But it didn't sound as sad this time, it sounded more hopeful.

"Need someone's hand to lead me through the night
I need someone's arms to hold and squeeze me tight
Now, when the night begins, I'm at an end
Because I need... your love so bad"

After the first verse, Buffy didn't sit up or open her eyes, but asked, "Spike, did you used to sing that song for... Drusilla?" She risked bringing up Dru's name because she just needed to know the answer to that question.

"No. You're the first person I've ever sung it for."

"Good." Buffy smiled wider before letting herself drift off to sleep, happy that the song was just hers.
End Notes:
* 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' lyrics by Eddie Schwartz; 'Need Your Love So Bad' lyrics by Little Willie John
Part 1, Chapter 13: Only You by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
I named this chapter after the song 'Only You' by The Platters. The lyrics just scream 'Spuffy!' to me - lots of songs do that lol Here's a YouTube link to song if you'd like to give it a listen:

This is another long chapter, so it's best to read it when you have time to kick back and relax :D I had to split it into two for it to meet the max. words requirement.

Big sloppy kisses to Passion4Spike for her devilish encouragement! >:D *smooooch!*

Banners by xoChantelly and Edgehead
15 minutes after Buffy fell asleep...

Buffy gasped awake. "No!"

She startled Spike. "Shit! What?! What's wrong?" He had been sitting against the wall, looking out through a crack in the wall at the storm, and also watching in case anyone approached the barn.

She quickly sat up, her head jerking like the Bride of Frankenstein as she looked around her. Then she looked back at Spike with tears shimmering in her eyes. "You were... The witch hurt you! I c-couldn't stop her! She cut you... pieces of you!" She put her hands over her face, trying to convince herself that this was real, not the horrific images from her bad dream.

Spike swiftly moved over to sit next to her, Buffy grabbed onto him, clutching him and frantically touching his chest, arms and face to affirm that he really was okay. She was breathing shallowly and trembling.

"Shhh, I'm okay, Buffy. See? Not a mark on me. It was just a nightmare, we got out of there before she hurt me. You got to me in time."

"Never leave me, Spike. Please never leave me," Buffy said desperately. "I can't lose you..."

"You won't lose me. I'll never leave you, Buffy." He rubbed her back and held her, allowing her time to calm down. It was all so surreal: Buffy being this freaked out over just a dream about him being hurt or killed. His eyes became shiny with tears of sympathy (for her nightmare) and happiness (she really did care deeply for him in the here and now). He wished things could be like this, always. With Buffy not afraid to be close to him, letting him hold and comfort her, telling him she needed him. Buffy's breathing was still reedy, but she was resting against him now and holding him tight. "I'm afraid you're stuck with me forever and ever, pet."

"Everyone leaves..." Her cousin (and best friend at the time) Celia had died when they were children, her father had abandoned her, Angel had left her (once by choice and once not), she was still afraid she'd lose her mother, and Dawn was sucked into the damn book. People important to Buffy had a habit of leaving (whether it was a voluntary decision, because of magick, or due to death).

"I've had problems keeping those I love from leaving me too... But not everyone leaves. I won't. When I love a girl, she stays loved. I'm yours for as long as you want me... and even when you don't, you'll have trouble getting rid of me." Spike eased down to lay on the hay, bringing her along with him, hoping to help her relax again. He pressed soft kisses to her forehead and gently brushed away her tears with his thumb.

He didn't say so, but right before she'd woken up he'd been thinking about what might have happened if Buffy hadn't given him her blood when she did. He wouldn't have been able to stop the witch from cutting him into pieces, no matter how much he'd tried to fight. Who knew what else the Unari were going to do to them before this was over. One or both of them might never make it back to Sunnydale, what if they never got a chance to be together? That would be just his luck, wouldn't it? Paradise just within his reach, only to be snatched away at the last moment. But Buffy wanted to do things in the right order: no shagging until she could breakup proper with The Enormous Hall Monitor. As much as Spike loathed it, he would try to honor her choice and hope for the best. He didn't have any other option.

The nightmare had shaken Buffy badly. Spike being cut up was horrifying, but she'd also started thinking, 'What if he does get killed before we get back to Sunnydale? Or what if I die before then? Waiting until we get home might mean that we *never* get to show each other how much we care. How much we love...' She could lose him without ever really having him. The idea of being denied the chance of being with Spike frightened her. She'd had to give up and sacrifice so much in her life, putting her own potential happiness on hold (or relinquishing it altogether) because of her calling or in order for someone else to be happy. It all suddenly seemed so overwhelmingly unfair, and she wasn't prepared to do that this time. Why couldn't she have what she really wanted just this once? She felt the way she had that night back in the gingerbread house when she'd gone to Spike to tell him how she felt, and they'd kissed. They might have done a lot more if Spike hadn't been so hungry and vamped out. Well, there was no one and nothing to stop them right now... The real world (and the problems that would be waiting for her when she got back) receded even more, until all that existed was this bubble containing her and Spike.

Buffy wanted him. She needed him. And those were the only things that mattered.

Spike swallowed audibly when he felt Buffy starting to kiss his neck and her hands moving on his body in a more relaxed, purposeful way. Her right hand pushed his shirt open, then began making slow circles on his naked chest. He wanted to ask her why she was doing that, but he figured that she was just happy to see that he was whole and healthy, and she probably wasn't fully awake yet. He would let her kiss and touch a little longer... but then he'd have to ask her to stop because he knew it couldn't go any further, and he was already starting to get hard. If they didn't get out of this dimension soon, he probably would go crazy with wanting her. Maybe he could slip downstairs once she went back to sleep and find a quiet place to wank off.

He thought about singing a Simon & Garfunkel song to soothe her, 'Sounds of Silence' maybe, but he remembered her being angry at having her mental state compared to Drusilla's. Best to try comforting her without a song. Spike didn't want to make any mistakes that would set him back with the Slayer. They were doing so well -- extremely well -- that he was afraid something would happen to make it all disappear in the blink of an eye.

Spike said in his most comforting tone, "It was just a nightmare. S'alright, pe-HET!" As he'd talked, Buffy's right hand had crept lower and lower, moving over his abs and onto his bulge, which she gave a nice firm squeeze.

A gasp escaped Spike's mouth; he clapped his hand over her wrist and moved her hand back up to his stomach. "Best if you keep your hands above the belt. I'm doin' my best to be... good, but my body has reactions to your touch that I can't control. So..." He brought her hand up to his mouth and kissed her knuckles, then set her hand on the center of his chest. He squeezed his eyes shut as her mouth continued to work on his neck. "The, uh, the kissing... bloody hell, the kissing is great... But maybe you should stop..."

Buffy had felt his cock stirring, there was definite growth and movement occurring down there. She knew he wanted her too. It turned her on even more that Spike was trying to be good. He wasn't exactly the poster child for self-control, this had to be killing him. But he was trying to behave himself out of respect for her.

"I think I'm 100% Buffy now," she mumbled with her lips against his throat. She was referring to what he'd said earlier about her not being 100% okay yet. But now she felt healthy enough for just about anything.

"Hmm?" Spike asked, pulling away slightly to look at her.

Buffy attacked his mouth with hers, kissing him furiously. Her eager tongue drove past his lips and into his mouth.

Spike moaned and curled his arms around her, kissing her back instinctively. But then he remembered what she'd said about her vow to wait. He managed to say between kisses, "What about your -- Mmmmmph -- You said you wanted to do things right." Spike did not want to talk her out of this, but more than anything, he didn't want her to regret it. It would kill him if she regretted it. He had to make sure this was what Buffy wanted with all of her heart and soul.

"This is right," Buffy insisted, continuing to kiss and touch him. "This is what I want." She groped his package, giving his rapidly hardening dick a soulful squeeze.

Spike's hesitance disappeared; he couldn't hold back. "God, don't let this be another bloody dream!" His arms were around her, his hands flying over her back and dropping down to squeeze her butt.

He kissed her in that way that made her knees turn to jelly, so it was a good thing she was already lying down. The way he'd said that thing about hoping it wasn't 'another dream' made her think that he'd had more than a few dreams/fantasies about this, just like she had. Buffy filed away that information to ask him about it later; it would be interesting to see how their fantasies compared. Maybe they'd even both been horny for each other at the same time without knowing it. There was a part of her that was still afraid to take things to the next level. How many times had she been smacked down when she'd tried taking a little piece of happiness for herself? Being with Spike was a bad idea for oh-so-many reasons... but Buffy couldn't help herself. She'd never wanted a man as much as she wanted him. If she was being stupid and weak by surrendering to her desire for Spike, then so be it.

She moaned as his lips went to her neck and one of his hands rubbed her hardening nipples through her dress. She couldn't wait to feel his hands on her naked body.

"Don't hurt me, Spike," Buffy whispered plaintively, running her hands up his back and over his shoulder blades.

He immediately stopped and drew back, brows furrowed with concern. "I hurt you? God, I'm sorry! I shouldn't've --"

Buffy held him tighter, bringing him back flush against her body. She tried to soothe him with a series of little kisses, as he'd done for her a few minutes ago. "No, no you didn't hurt me. I'm okay. I want you, I need you so much... but I'm scared. I meant, don't hurt me by turning into an evil asshole after it's over. I haven't had the greatest luck, y'know. I'm just afraid that... you'll change, or something else will change and mess everything up. Any time I've ever given into my desires and just lived in the moment... it's always turned out bad."

There was so much hurt and pain accumulated in her luminous green eyes, it broke his heart that she'd had to suffer such misfortune in her young life. "I'll never hurt you, Buffy. Never," Spike said softly, pressing kisses to her cheeks and around her mouth. "I'd rather die than hurt you. I'll still be the same Spike after that I am right now -- but with a delirious, everlasting grin carved on my face. Being with you like this..." He brushed a strand of hair away from her cheek and then stroked her there with the back of his hand, his fathomless blue eyes trying to take all her beauty in. "This is my Heaven."

"That's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me." The smile that formed on Buffy's face touched her eyes, taking away some of the anxiety and pain he'd seen there. He would do anything it took to make her smile like that.

Spike smirked and growled playfully. "'M not sweet... Okay, I can be. But just for you, Buffy. Only you."

They kissed passionately. Spike's hands roamed over her chest, then down to her thighs. He slowly stroked her inner thigh, simultaneously rubbing her and inching her skirt up. Buffy's hands seemed to be in more of a hurry, she'd made a quick circuit over his chest and abdomen, and then down to the shorts, trying to get them open.

"We don't have to hurry, Buffy," Spike said silkily as he nuzzled her neck. "This is too good to rush."

"But hasn't something happened or gone wrong every time we started kissing? I want to get in as much as we can in case something else happens."

"Hmm, you have a point. But... I want to take my time, I'm willing to take the risk of being interrupted." He kissed her ear, neck, and down onto her chest, brushing his mouth against her nipples through her clothes. "I'd never forgive myself if, in my haste to make you mine, I glossed over some very important bits. I need to explore this beautiful body thoroughly."

Buffy shivered with lust, imagining what extra things he might want to do to her.

"I've wanted you for so long, Buffy." He moved back up and kissed a spot just below her ear. "I love you, I adore you. Never hurt you. Never leave you."

"I love you, Spike," she breathed.

Spike pulled back, needing to see her face. His unbeating heart leapt at hearing her say those three little words with his name tagged onto the end. He could tell that she was nervous to say it, but she was saying it.

She didn't need to hear him ask the question with words, his eyes and his chiseled, expressive face said, 'Did you just tell me you loved me, and you meant it?'.

"I love you. Love you, want you so much," Buffy repeated while pulling him back to her and kissing him. She was sure it was love now, she couldn't deny it. That frightening nightmare had banished any doubt. The anguish and horror she'd felt weren't just what she'd feel at the loss of a friend or companion, but of the man she loved. She needed to make Spike hers, to show him how much she loved him. If one of them was fated to die tomorrow or the next day at least they would have had one night together.

"I love you. I love you more than you'll ever know," Spike said as he brushed his lips over hers.

They kissed tenderly, each feeling so much love for, and coming from, the other. Spike hadn't experienced anything like this for so long. Not since before Drusilla had kicked him to the curb had he felt this kind of connection to someone; not since Dru had he been so deeply in love with someone. Although he'd loved Drusilla with all his heart, her love for him had ebbed and flowed to suit her own needs. Somehow, he knew it would be different with Buffy -- he wasn't just a convenience -- she felt the same way about him that he felt about her. This was different from the connection he'd had with Dru though -- this was stronger, deeper, better. He loved Buffy even more than he'd loved his Sire, and that had been an epic love.

"Can we be naked now?" Buffy asked, her eyes twinkling.

They grinned and laughed, rising to their knees and kissing hungrily, feeling each other up and pulling at clothes. They groped and kissed feverishly, like teenagers who'd finally got some alone time in the back seat of a car.

They couldn't remove their clothes fast enough. Buffy flung open his shirt and shoved it down his arms, and then ran her hands over his strong, bare shoulders. She moved her hands to his chest and explored the hard, twitching muscles while Spike's fingers flew over the ties and buttons that held her dress together.

Then they had to separate to strip off their clothes. By the time Buffy's underwear joined her dress on the floor, Spike was naked and waiting. He thought she was perfect, from the top of her honey blonde head, to her flawless, perky tits, to the tips of her cute, bitable toes. Perfect. His eyes zoomed down to her crotch; he'd wondered for so long what that part of her would look like.

His mouth watered at the sight of the little triangle of dark blonde hair, perfectly shaped and trimmed. He could see how excited she was for him from the drops of moisture glistening on her pussylips; he could smell how aroused she was, and it nearly drove him wild. She was just as beautiful as he'd imagined. In fact... she was exactly how he'd imagined in his recent fantasies and dreams. Not that he was disappointed in the least with the reality, but it was odd that he'd been able to predict how she maintained her bush when there were countless possibilities.

But Spike didn't spend much time at all contemplating that odd coincidence, her fabulous, nude body made it impossible to think of anything other than what he wanted to do to her. His demon wanted to pounce on her and take her roughly, but the romantic poet in him was the dominant force right now. He was going to make love to Buffy, not simply take her. He would wait semi-patiently, resting on his haunches until Buffy beckoned to him.

Buffy fought the modest urge to cover her naughty bits as Spike's eyes explored her body. No man had ever looked at her with such raw passion. She focused on drinking in his nudity. Her tongue swept quickly across her lips as her eyes moved up and down his form. Spike's body was perfection. That one little piece of clothing that had kept her from seeing him in all his glory was finally out of the way. Chiseled pecs and a hard stomach you could wash laundry on, those she'd already seen and secretly drooled over. She'd thought that by now the sight of his bare chest wouldn't affect her, but he was just so very beautiful. It would be like getting tired of gazing at a perfectly sculpted statue of a god -- not possible. She couldn't picture Spike going to a salon to have a body wax, but his body was smooth and hairless from chest to groin. Her eyes bugged out when she got her first real look at his dick. She was pleased to find that the room divider screen hadn't given her a false impression regarding his size; his cock was just as big and meaty as she'd hoped. He was simply enormous by Buffy's standards, a 9 1/2 inch column of throbbing flesh. So long and beautifully thick; it appeared even larger without any pubic hair to frame it. 'He might split me in half like a piece of lumber with that thing... But it's a risk I'm willing to take!'

It was strange, but Spike's groin-al area and his penis looked exactly how she'd imagined it would in her fantasies. Even the way his dick curved a little to the left at the top. For now, she attributed that to her just being a really good guesser, there were more important things to do than ponder those fantasies. She had the real thing right here in front of her, begging to be touched.

"My eyes are up here, pet." Spike smirked, laced his fingers behind his head and stuck his chest out, striking a nude model pose for her. "Like what you see, then?"

She looked up into his eyes, then blushed and laughed, not having realized that she'd just been staring at his groin. "Sorry. I was just... It's so..."

"I was staring at you, too. You're so bloody beautiful... takes my breath away. Or it would, if I had to breathe. I hope yours was also an 'impressed' stare."

She smiled shyly. "Definitely 'impressed'."

They stared into each other's eyes, seeing a hunger there that matched their own.

Buffy let out a shuddery breath, lust was shooting through her body, overpowering the nervousness and giddiness. "Let's do more than just stare," she said in a sultry voice that neither of them had known she possessed.

They threw themselves at the other, meeting in the middle on their knees, their bare torsos slapped together. Their lips mashed together, their hands greedily felt up the exposed skin they'd only dreamt of touching.

Buffy smiled at the way Spike moaned when her fingers wrapped around his shaft. The look on his face, one of total bliss, made her think he was trying to control himself to keep from cumming just from this. She stroked him slowly, feeling him thicken and grow larger in her hand.

Her eyes flicked down to watch her hand moving along his length. "Is it... always this big? I mean, normally back in Sunnydale and not in Bizarro World. They didn't enhance you, did they?"

Spike beamed with pride. "That's the way it always is, baby. 100% pure Spike. I know it like the back of my hand. And my hand has gotten a lotta action the last few months." His hands journeyed over her body, her breasts, sides, and hips. He bent his head down to kiss the rounded part of her shoulder and worked his way inward to her neck.

"How the hell do you fit it in those tight jeans you wear back home?" she asked with a giggle.

Spike chuckled and maneuvered them back to the pile of hay. "I manage." He lowered Buffy onto her back, covering her warm body with his.

Buffy put her arms around his neck as they kissed, threading her fingers through his hair and loving the way his body felt against hers. His hard cock pressed against her belly, making her pussy ache to be filled.

He lifted off of her and sat back on his heels.

Buffy went up on her elbows. "Why did you stop?" He was looking at her with such adoration; he could make her feel so warm (and horny) with just a look. "Oh, you're back to just staring again, huh?" She laughed lightly, not feeling self-conscious anymore under Spike's loving, hungry gaze.

"Just want to take a mental snapshot. Want to remember this moment, and how beautiful you are, for the rest of my life."

She'd remember how he looked at this moment for the rest of her life too. Buffy smiled and batted her eyelashes while laying down and putting her arms behind her head, "Hurry up and take the picture already. I don't think I can wait any more."

"My Buffy." Spike smirked and leaned forward, plucking a piece of straw from her hair. Then he dived back on top of her, making her giggle again.

Buffy splayed her hands on his back and dragged her hands down until she could squeeze that luscious bum of his. His ass was so nice and firm, a pleasure to touch. She'd wanted to fondle his butt for a while now, it was great to finally have it in her hot little hands. She gave his left cheek a sharp pinch.

"Eh!" Spike uttered in surprise and raised up. Then he looked at her with a cocked eyebrow and a naughty grin. "You like pinching, eh?"

"I was just making sure it wasn't a dream," Buffy winked, massaging the spot on his butt that she'd pinched.

"You're supposed to pinch yourself, luv."

"Oops, I got it backwards." She stuck the tip of her tongue out.

"I'll do a test on you," Spike said, dropping down onto her again and moving his hands under her to give her butt little pinches.

Buffy giggled and squirmed as his fingers plucked at her skin, "Okay! Stop pinching! Clearly not a dream!"

Her giggles turned into moans when Spike's hand moved around to her front and slipped between her legs. Spike went onto his right side as his fingers traced her gleaming slit. His hand was actually shaking a little, he'd wanted this for so long... Or was that Buffy shaking?

"I want you so much, pet," Spike whispered, kissing her cheek.

"Want you so much, too," Buffy replied with a quiver. It was hard for her to remember how to talk with his hand touching her mound; his fingertips traveling up and down, whispering over her slit. She parted her thighs further, giving him more room.

Spike wanted to get down to it, but he also just wanted to play and tease a little longer. The more anticipation and lust they built, the better the main event would be. He continued lightly stroking her thighs and playing with her pussy while his mouth kissed a slow line up and down her neck.

As his lips brushed over the side of her neck, occasionally his blunt teeth would lightly scratch her skin. Buffy's heartbeat picked up, wondering if he was going to try biting her. It was thrilling and scary at the same time, just like in the fantasy she'd had. But Spike only kissed her throat, then her earlobe. He nibbled and sucked on her lobe, chewing delicately.

Spike had felt her tense when his teeth had made contact with her skin. He hadn't been thinking of biting her, not a serious bite with his fangs, anyway. But she must have thought he might do it. He lingered at her ear with soft kisses and licks, waiting to see if she told him to stop or voiced any concerns.

Buffy ran her hand up his arm to his shoulder, loving the feel of his soft skin with the hard muscle underneath. "I thought you were going to bite me for a minute," she admitted, still not sure if she wanted it or was afraid of it.

"I wouldn't do that. You know you can trust me by now, Buffy."

"I do trust you. I know you wouldn't bite me when your brain is unfogged. But I didn't know if you might because of being all lusty."

He smiled and kissed her lips. "Wouldn't do anything to hurt you, pet. I know you don't want to be bitten."

"You said you could bite someone with hardly any pain. How's that work?"

"You want me to bite you?"

"I didn't say that... I'm just curious. You know me, always seeking knowledge. A knowledge seeker is what I am."

He chuckled and gave her another kiss. "What say we talk about that... later?" His fingers wriggled against her slit.

Buffy cooed and smiled, arching her back a little. "Yeah, talking later sounds good." She turned her face to latch onto his lips again as she wound an arm around his neck, playing with his hair. Her other hand stroked up and down his strong left arm as he fingered her.

Spike rubbed longer and harder, gathering more of her moisture with every pass. She puffed breath into his mouth when his moistened finger began making circles around her clit. Oh, it felt so good! His finger went around and around, occasionally giving her a direct rub, sending bolts of pleasure through her body. His fingers went back to stroking her sex, gliding over and between her nether lips.

Buffy let out a whimper into his mouth when he penetrated her with a finger. She unconsciously tightened her inner muscles further to hug his invading finger. Spike whimpered softly too, the immense heat and tightness that greeted his finger reinforcing his belief that this was going to be the best sex of his long, sordid life. His cock felt harder than it ever had before, like a steel rod. He was so hard for Buffy, the ache was getting painful. He wanted her like he'd never wanted anyone.

Spike licked at each of her breasts, tracing the areolas with the tip of his tongue, followed by quick flicks to her perky nipples. He sucked and nibbled on her tits as he pumped his finger slowly in and out of her slickness.

Buffy panted and clutched his arm when he introduced a second finger into her pussy. She felt like a virgin again, it was that kind of excitement that was just a step away from being anxiety. But she trusted Spike completely. She knew she was safe with him and that he only wanted to please her. He was making her feel so wonderful already, with just his mouth and hands. His cock twitched against her hip, reminding her that she wanted to get much better acquainted with his 'wand'. She unwound her arm from around his neck, and reached down, taking his hard shaft in her hand.

Spike groaned with his lips surrounding one of her rosy nipples, the rhythm of his fingers faltering for a moment.

"Oh, you like that?" Buffy asked, stroking and gripping him.

"Love feelin' you touch me, pet." He gave her nipple another lick and pull of his lips, then went back up to her mouth for a languid kiss.

His fingers pumped faster over the next few minutes, the heel of his hand ground against her clit. Buffy's hips were grinding back at his fingers, she started mewling. "Ahhh! Ohh God! Yeah! Ohhh!"

One more pump and flick of his wrist made her cry out and her body shake. Spike had to run sports trivia through his head to keep from blasting into her hand. Watching and hearing her cum was enough to do it, but he also felt her creaming on his fingers as her walls contracted. And she'd started squeezing and jerking his cock harder when she'd started cumming. A strong rush of pleasure ran through his body. He had to look down to make sure he hadn't exploded all over her.

Her hand was a bit slippery, but it was just from his copious pre-cum. Spike withdrew his fingers from her dripping sex, gently touching and stroking her nether lips.

Buffy grinned and relaxed, her hand becoming gentle again as she stroked him. "Mmmm, ohh God I needed that!"

Spike smiled and kissed her. "You're so bloody magnificent when you cum. I think I'm gonna have to make you do it a lot more, just so I can see it."

She giggled and bit at his lips. "I have absolutely no objections to that." They shared a soft kiss. "I can't tell you how great that felt, Spike. You've got like... magic fingers or something."

They grinned at each other.

Spike propped his head up on one hand, looking down at her adoringly. "We're just gettin' started." He waggled his eyebrows and took his hand from between her legs. He trailed his fingertips along the skin of her stomach, up to her chest, and then brought his hand up to his face. "Mmm, my magic fingers are very happy and warm, they just went on a fantastic voyage." Other parts of his body were very keen to go on the same trip.

Buffy had shivered as his hand had moved up her body. Even the lightest of Spike's touches were sensual and made her quiver.

Spike held his wet fingers under his nose and inhaled deeply. His eyes rolled up, then closed. Then he slid his fingers into his mouth, groaning and feeling his cock throb at the taste of her. His head lolled as he sucked her juices off his fingers. She tasted like cinnamon and honey combined with that uniquely Buffy taste. Exquisite.

She was worried for a few seconds that he was actually going to pass out. But then his eyes fluttered back open and he smiled around his fingers, his azure eyes sparkling. He drew his fingers out of his mouth slowly.

"Oh God... you taste so bloody good, Buffy," Spike groaned lustfully, his voice all deep and growly and sexy as hell. "You are the world's most rare and mouthwatering delicacy."

"You like it that much?" she asked, blushing. It was hard for her to believe that her spendings could taste that good; Spike looked like a kid getting his first-ever taste of candy.

"Yes, yes, oh God, yes," Spike moaned and kissed her lips. "So bloody delicious and juicy, you are. Can't get enough..." He'd thought about delaying the oral sex, saving it for after they'd shagged. He was so eager at the thought of being joined with her, to be moving inside her. But after getting that taste of her, he just had to have his face between her thighs right away.

Spike started kissing a winding trail down her body, shifting his body down lower as he went. Buffy's heart felt ready to burst out of her chest. She knew where the trail of kisses would end and she had to remind herself how to breathe again; she wanted it so bad.

He knelt on the hay between her spread legs, his hands caressed her flesh, moving in alternately light then firm circles over her thighs and hips. His mouth was at her abdomen now, raining hot, wet kisses to each hip bone. "So sweet... so soft," Spike murmured.

"Spike, you d-don't have to do that..."

He looked up at her, arching an eyebrow. He rested his chin on her stomach as his hands slowly caressed her hips. "You don't want me to?"

"It-It's not that I don't want you to -- I'd have to be clinically insane not to want it. It's just that I'm not sure about doing... the same thing to you because I've never done that before... Always seemed kind of icky... So you don't have to do it to me."

"I'm not going down on you because I expect you to... reciprocate. I'm doing this because I want to. I'm doing it because I'm bloody well dying to do it."

"I just didn't think it'd be fair if I can't... you know... do it to you, too."

He smiled and kissed the quivering skin of her stomach. Buffy never stopped trying to do the right thing, even when she was yearning to be tongued into oblivion. It must be exhausting for his sweet li'l Slayer to always be 'on'. He could tell how excited she was for it by the way her heart rate picked up and how her delectable musk intensified the closer his mouth got to her quim.

"You are too bloody sweet, Slayer, in every conceivable way. I appreciate your honesty and sense of fair play, but unless you plan on stopping me, I'm keen on getting back to it."

Buffy bit her lip, shaking slightly with anticipation. She nodded once, bidding him to continue. She was nervous about giving her first blowjob (outside of a dream or fantasy), but she did want to take him in her mouth, she wanted his to be the first dick she sucked. Just the thought of it made her salivate. If her nerves and self-consciousness didn't get the best of her, she'd treat Spike to some oral pleasure, too.

Buffy gasped and her body jerked at the first swipe of his tongue on her sensitized flesh.

"Shh, easy, kitten," Spike said softly, holding her hips down firmly for a few moments before he began to caress her again. "You're primed, aren't you? Ready to jump outta your skin."

"I-I'm sorry, I'm just --"

"Uh-uh, don't apologize. No need for that." Spike rubbed his cheek against her inner thigh, giving it a little kiss. "I want this to be as momentous and pleasurable for you as it is for me, pet. If me doing this is making you uncomfortable... We can do, or not do, whatever you want." He really hoped she'd let him continue, but it was her call.

"I do want this, Spike. It's just that I want you so much and it feels so good... Combine that with worrying about someone or something stopping us, and it makes for a jumpy Buffy. It's like everything is brand-new to me, like it's the first time anyone ever touched me. Sorry I'm acting all virgin-y."

He smiled, wishing he really could have been the first man to touch her, and hoping he would be the last. "S'okay, Buffy. I'll be... gentle. And as far as someone or something trying to stop us, I pity the poor soon-to-be-departed sod who interfered with me making love to you."

She smiled, giggling a bit. "They'd be sorry, huh?"

He kissed her abdomen, mumbling against her skin, "They'd feel my wrath."

Spike applied small kisses along both her thighs as he settled into position. He was going to make this so damn good for her. She wouldn't be able to remember her own name. Though he'd settle for her not being able to remember the names of the wankers she'd been with in the past.

He had to use self-restraint to not just dive into her fragrant quim. Spike started out with some feather-light kisses and licks. The tip of his tongue glided and swirled up and down the length of her slit. Buffy responded by moaning and unconsciously pushing her pelvis at him. He smiled and his licks became a little firmer, the plan was to tease her just a bit until she asked him to get rougher. He tried to ignore the angry throbbing of his cock and concentrated on giving Buffy a good seeing to.

Buffy's hands moved slowly up and down her torso as Spike teased her. "Mmmm, lick me harder, Spike," she hummed.

She rubbed a nipple with her hand. The feeling of moisture made her look at her hand and see a bit of his pre-cum glistening. As Spike continued giving her pussy unhurried licks, she experimented a bit too. She'd never tasted man-juice (pre-cum or the other), and that was part of what was making her nervous about doing it to him. If she thought it tasted gross, spitting it out would be really rude and might hurt Spike's feelings. Buffy brought her hand to her lips, her tongue darted out to dab at a wet spot. Kind of a strange taste... but not bad. She licked her hand again and again, liking the flavor more and more with each swipe of her tongue. 'Okay, he's delicious. Doesn't taste gross. I can blow him with a little more confidence.' The thought of taking his cock in her mouth was exciting her more now that she knew a little more of what to expect. She only hoped she could do it okay; her inexperience still had her a bit apprehensive.

Buffy's hands went back to moving slowly up and down her body as she concentrated on what Spike was doing to her down below. She wanted to give her undivided attention to his tending of her pussy.

Spike parted her slick pussylips with his right hand and looped his left arm around her leg, bringing his hand back to her mound. Her hard little clit was poking out from its hood. Again, he had to restrain himself from just engulfing it with his mouth and sucking until she screamed.

"You are so fucking delicious..." Spike said in a husky tone. He lightly flicked his tongue against her clit, then blew a stream of air on it.

Buffy jerked and shivered, moaning loudly and pinching her pebbled nipples. She needed it too bad for gentle and slow. She wanted him to overwhelm her like in those fantasies and dreams. "Spike, do it," she whined.

"Do what, pet?" he said with mock-innocence, wanting to hear her say it.

Buffy looked down at him, her eyes shining and her lips parted. She smiled a little at seeing his playful expression. "Eat my pussy, baby," she purred, only the sensuality of the moment kept her from giggling like crazy at her porny talk. She'd never talked dirty or been particularly vocal during sex before.

He had to squeeze the base of his cock with his right hand to keep from cumming just then. Buffy looking and sounding all wanton was so stimulating. He still held back from going at her as furiously as he wanted, not wanting to scare the girl with the enormity of his passion.

Spike pressed longer, firmer licks to her labia, wriggling his tongue against the pink insides. Every breath Buffy took was entwined with a moan. He licked, kissed and sucked on her folds, not wanting to leave one centimeter of her sex unloved.

"Ohh God, Spike! Ohh it feels so good! Don't stop... Uh-huh!" Buffy slowly ground her pelvis against his face.

As his lips, teeth and tongue worked Buffy into a lather, the song 'Let's Get It On' started going through Spike's head. The song was definitely appropriate for them: he'd been trying to hold back this feeling for so bloody long. He would've crooned a verse or two if his mouth weren't so happily occupied. He did hum the tune a bit though, knowing the vibrations would feel good on her sensitized flesh.

Buffy had been thinking it'd be nice to have a CD of romantic songs playing right now -- or a radio or anything from the 20th century. Though, the sounds of the rain outside, their heavy breathing, and Spike's slurps on her pussy made quite an erotic soundtrack without any additional accompaniment. It'd still be nice to have some mood music like 'Let's Get It On', for example. 'Such a sexy song. Maybe Spike will sing that for me sometime... Ohh God, I love his tongue!' She imagined she could hear Spike singing the song in her head as she writhed and groaned with pleasure. And then he'd started humming it, which Buffy would have considered a strange coincidence if her brain weren't consumed with the joy he was giving her.

"Ohhh shit! Ungh! God! Yeah!" Buffy panted. "Ohh, the humming's good! More humming!"

Spike was very adept at using his tongue, it was something he prided himself on. He'd had lots of practice at using it on women in ways that had reduced the girls in question to quivering puddles of goo. It was a few of those techniques that were causing Buffy to moan louder and push harder against his face. Some fancy moves he liked to call 'Threading the Bobbin' and 'The Sea Snake'.

His tongue slid in and out and all around her pussy, expertly and skillfully, with a nimbleness that stole her breath away. She'd heard good things about oral sex when it was done right, but... Goddamn! There were no words that could describe how amazing it felt. Buffy was creaming a river on his tongue and she could feel her body manufacturing more moisture to replace what he lapped up.

"Ohhh... Oh my God, you are so fucking talented!" Buffy moaned, then laughed giddily.

Spike laughed and gave her pussy some gentle licks and kisses before replying, "Like that, do ya, pet?"

"Mmmmhmmm! More please."

"Oh, there's no bloody way I'm stopping just yet. Just lay back and enjoy."

She moaned and delicately moved her lower body against his mouth as he worked his magic. "Ohhh Spike... Oh yes... Mmmmm!"

Spike didn't know how he was able to hold back and tease her, but he loved hearing her say his name and talk dirty and he hoped to get her to do those things again. With luck, she'd yell at him; he'd like that. He continued lapping at her pussy like a cat with a bowl of tasty cream. (Buffy was reminded of the big ol' sexy Man-cat she'd imagined him as back at the gingerbread house). He would lavish her clit with enough attention to bring her to the brink, and then stop at the last second and move to another area. He did this a few times to get her percolating nicely. After several minutes of this, Buffy was groaning and squirming, desperate for release.

"Dammit, Spike! Make me cum, you bastard!" Buffy yelled in frustration and pounded her fists on the floor.

Spike smirked, that was the sort of thing he'd hoped for. "Yes, Ma'am!"

Buffy bit her lip, realizing that she'd not only yelled at him but had called him a name too. "I'm sorry... I didn't mean to say that." She hoped she hadn't just brought things to a screeching halt.

He growled lustily. "I love it when you talk like that, Buffy. The more you yell at me, the more orders you give and names you call me, the harder I want to fuck you."

Buffy's chest heaved with harsh breaths. His eyes looked like twin blue flames; seeing his naked lust fanned the fire inside her. "You'd better finish eating me out and then fuck me or I'll... spank you."

Spike gave her a sexy openmouthed smile, touching his tongue to the roof of his mouth. "Threatening to spank me is not a deterrent."

Buffy imagined raining smacks down onto his perfect ass, leaving pink impressions of her hand on his white, flawless skin... That turned her on even more. 'I'm into spanking now? Wow, we both have some major issues.'

Spike dived tongue-first back into her pussy, knowing she was ready for and wanting a little rougher treatment. He stiffened his tongue and dipped it into her hole, thrusting and moaning into her channel. He could never get enough of tasting Buffy's nectar, it was on par with her blood in tastiness. He slid his arms under her knees, getting both of them up over his shoulders.

Buffy threw her head back and clutched handfuls of hay at her sides as Spike's tongue probed deeper. She gasped and moaned over and over, his tongue was moving in some very good and interesting ways inside her. Rippling, rolling, flexing and thrusting.

"Ohh shit, Spike! OHHH! How are you doing th-- OOOOHH!" Buffy bit down on her lower lip, hard enough to draw a little blood.

The smell of her blood registered in Spike's mind right away. He paused, his eyes flicked up to her face to see what the source of the blood was.

"Don't stop!" Buffy pleaded, putting her right hand on the back of his head and pulling him tighter against her pussy. "So close! Please don't stop! So close!"

His eyes zeroed in on the bit of blood on her lip. Seeing that aside from being horny as hell, Buffy appeared to be fine, Spike went back to work.

Buffy was really getting into it, panting and humping his face. Both of her hands were on his head now, her fingers winding through his hair and holding him in place while she watched him eat her out. She felt so dirty -- but in a good way -- that she was enjoying watching him do her. Enjoying the sights and sounds and, of course, the sensations. Buffy had always been reserved when it came to sex, and as a result, she'd never had truly good sex. But Spike wouldn't mind if she talked like a whore, and he wouldn't be hurt if she got a little rough with him. Apparently, he didn't mind her doing those things, in fact, he seemed to love those things. She knew Spike welcomed her naughty and experimental side with open arms. She could be just as filthy and shameless as she wanted with him without worrying constantly that she'd go too far and turn him off or embarrass herself, and that made her feel free.

Buffy had had a bunch of mini-orgasms since Spike started, but not an epic one like she'd... 'Ohhh here it comes now!' The pressure in her loins was intensifying as her movements became more urgent. She moaned his name loudly. She was about to cum, and it was gonna be a big one.

Spike retracted his tongue from her hole and licked swiftly upwards to her hard little clitoris. He took it into his mouth, sucking and licking it passionately.

Buffy fisted her hands in his hair, arched her back and screamed as the biggest orgasm she'd ever had exploded in her body. "SPIKE! F-FUCK! AHHH! GOD YESSSSS!" Her hips pumped, lights danced in front of her eyes and her entire body jolted with pleasure.

Spike held onto her while she bucked and jerked, letting her ride it out while he laid the flat of his tongue against her pussylips, letting her hump his mouth all she liked. He felt a wave of pleasure run through him again, making him moan and hurriedly squeeze his cock to keep his orgasm at bay.

Buffy rocked against his face until the climax subsided. She breathed hard, and slowly released her grip on him, sinking down onto the blanket with a satisfied smile.

He wanted to jump on top of her and start fucking her, but he also wanted Buffy to have a minute of peace, to just enjoy the moment. The past few weeks had been so brutal and unrelenting, they both deserved to bask in every bit of happiness. Putting aside his own escalating need, he crawled up her body and laid on his side next to her. Assuring Buffy's complete and utter pleasure was of paramount importance to him. He commanded himself to wait until Buffy gave him a sign that she was ready to continue. He needed her so bad that his dick felt like it had a heartbeat. But, dammit, he would show Buffy what a considerate lover he could be, if it killed him.

Spike nuzzled her neck, his left hand softly stroked her from her hip to her stomach. He presumed her pussy would be a little too sensitive for more play at the moment.

Buffy's body was still buzzing and delightfully tingly. She said breathily, "Oh my God, Spike... that was the most... I never felt.. Holy shit, you must've taken classes!"

"Glad it met with your approval. I wanted to make it good for you," Spike said, mouthing the side of her throat.

"Good doesn't come close to describing it... baby." They both smiled at her attempt to get comfortable calling him by a term of endearment.

Buffy basked in the wonderful feelings she was experiencing while getting her breath back. If she'd known Spike gave such amazing head, she would've tried convincing him to change his ways a long time ago. Like when he'd been tied to the chair in Giles' house: she re-imagined it with her doing naughty, dirty things to him while he was tied up and some bow-chicka-bow-bow porny music played in the background. That would've been fun! 'Wow, I get hot fantasizing about taking advantage of Spike while he's tied up? I want to try bondage? I'm finding out all kinds of interesting things about myself.'

"I now know what it would feel like not to have any bones. Boneless Buffy." She sighed in contentment and rubbed the side of her head against his forehead.

He nibbled at her earlobe. "Mmm, turned you into a puddle, did I?"

"Mmmhmmm. You made me all melty and goo-like."

"That was the plan."

They laughed and moved their hands softly over the other's body.

Spike's hand caressed her, moving up her body to her face, then turning her to him for a tender kiss.
Buffy tasted herself on his lips and tongue. It was erotic and not unpleasant, but she didn't see what was so special about her juices that made him deliriously happy. But he loved it, that's what counted.

As he kissed her, Spike delicately licked her lip where she'd bitten it, then his tongue slipped into her mouth to get the little bit of blood on the inside.

Buffy knew what he was doing, but she didn't mind. Knowing how much he got off on the taste of her blood excited her too. At what time had the idea of Spike licking her blood started turning her on? It had been in those fantasies, if she recalled correctly. The way he'd grazed his fangs along her neck in that one fantasy had made her quiver... 'Yep, we've both got some major issues...'

"There's hay stuck to your face," Buffy giggled, brushing off the sticky area around his chin.

Spike smiled, playfully kissing and nipping at her fingers as she de-hayed his chin. "I'd say both of us are going to be covered with the stuff by the time we're finished. Gonna look like anatomically correct scarecrows."

She laughed and kissed his lips. "Let's spread one of the blankets out and lay on it so not as much hay will stick to us." The blanket was crumpled between them, having been cast aside when Spike had come over to comfort her after her nightmare.

"Good idea. We'll have to hose ourselves down before we get dressed again as it is. I think I saw a water pump out in the barnyard, we can use that to wash up before we leave. Won't you be cold without the blanket to cover your incredibly beautiful body?" He kissed her shoulder.

"Hmm, I guess we'll just have to generate some body heat somehow..." She had sampled Spike's foreplay and it had her enthusiastic to experience the rest.

Without moving too much, they pulled the blanket, spreading it under their naked bodies. Then they settled back into cuddling positions. The storm was still going strong outside. As eager as they were to go on to whatever place it was that the portal would take them to and (eventually) find Dawn, they were glad to have a good excuse not to go right away. They could immerse themselves in the joys of each other's body without feeling guilty for taking time away from their quest just for their own pleasure.

Buffy felt his pulsing, stiff cock against her leg, and looked down at it. "Well, one of us obviously isn't boneless." She stroked the silky skin with her fingertips, which made Spike suck in air and shudder. "Poor baby, you need release." Buffy had never seen a cock so big and hard, it had to be at least a little painful for him. She wondered again if he'd fit inside her, getting a thrill up her spine just imagining what it would feel like to have his huge cock pushing into her. Her aftershocks and tingles turned back into an ache, she wanted to take him in her mouth, her pussy, anywhere. Just as long as she had him inside of her.

Buffy wanted to repay him for giving her the best orgasm in history, and she just plain wanted him. The thought of making him scream like he'd done to her had her pulse racing. Her mind was suddenly clear and her body ready. She pushed him onto his back and raised up on an elbow. She draped herself over his side, smiling down on him as her fingers traced the lines of his hard chest.

"There are so many things I want to do to you... and with you," she said, circling one of his nipples and then the other with her fingertips. Her fingers were moist from his pre-cum and her own saliva; she drew little wet circles on his pecs.

"Yeah?" Spike asked, a drunk smile on his face.

"Mmmhmmm." Buffy leaned over his chest and licked his nipples. She liked the way his skin tasted, the flavor of his pre-cum that lingered in her mouth made him even tastier, salty and savory. She had never done this to any of her lovers, nor had she gotten the urge to. Nipple licking was something she liked receiving, but didn't see herself doing. But Spike's pecs were just so damn lickable. Just about every inch of him was lickable.

Starting with his perfect pectorals, Buffy began softly kissing and licking downwards on his torso, her hands and mouth touching and sliding over his sleek skin and hard muscles.

She didn't have to go far before she got to the tip of his cock; it was angled up against his tight abs. She laid her fingers against the underside and stroked slowly down to his balls, then back up to the head. Spike's stomach was jittering, his cock twitched under her palm. Her tongue swirled closer to making contact with his prickhead, as her fingers continuously made the journey from ball sac to tip and back again.

"We can skip that if you want," Spike said tensely, sounding pained. There was no way in hell in he wanted her to stop, but he wanted to keep being the considerate lover she deserved. If Buffy really was uncomfortable giving him a hummer, then, ultimately, he'd rather she didn't. Spike didn't want her to look back on anything they did tonight with regret, and he didn't want her to feel pressured at all to do things she found distasteful.

Buffy turned her head to look at him, surprised. "You don't want me to?"

He laughed. "Sorry, but the idea me not wanting you to put your mouth on my dick is hysterical. Of course I want you to. Just the idea of you doing it makes me want to cum... But you said you weren't sure you wanted to do it. You thought it was, and I quote, 'icky'."

"It's okay, I want to try it. Determined face, see?" She smiled and pointed to her face, still feeling nervous, but wanting to give it a go. She resumed the slow strokes on his shaft.

"I sh-should warn you that... it's not going to take much for me to cum. Just you touching me is..." Spike breathed deeply, then gulped. "I think all you'll have to do is breathe on it and I'll pop. And I didn't think it would be too... romantic for me to cum in your mouth or on you the first time. I wanted to be making love to you when..."

"You let me cum in, on, and around your mouth first." Buffy blushed and ducked her head at remembering how out of control she'd gotten. "And sorry if I got too rough with the humping of your face earlier... I went into an orgasmic frenzy."

Spike smiled. "I absolutely loved it when you went wild, pet. You can fuck yourself on my face just as hard as you want. Didn't hear me complainin', didja?" He smirked and licked his chops.

"I consider all of it -- the foreplay, the oral, the... intercourse -- 'making love'. Don't you?"

He thought, 'Could she be any more adorable? She actually called it *intercourse*.'

"Yeah, I do. But men and women usually have different points of view on what makes the ideal encounter. I want this to be as good for you as it is for me, Buffy. And it's been so bloody good for me," he said, softly stroking her hair.

"It has been good for me. Very good. Unless you plan on stopping me, I'm gonna do it." She winked and gave his sternum a kiss, then focused her attention back on bringing him off. She moved her hand slowly up and down his cock, rubbing the pad of her thumb over the tip on the upstrokes. Spike moaned and shuddered slightly each time her hand reached the top, making Buffy smile. 'So far, so good!' she thought.

Buffy took his cock in both hands and began stroking him up and down, still at a leisurely pace. Seeing his big cock in her hands, feeling the soft skin and the moisture seeping from the head, entranced her. The rest of his body was room temperature (or maybe a bit warmer than that from absorbing her body heat), but this part of him was downright hot and thumping. It made her feel powerful in a way she wasn't used to feeling powerful. That she could make a hot, (much) older and experienced guy like Spike crave her touch so much that he was trembling and solid as a frickin' rock made her feel sexually potent and more confident.

Not having done this before, she thought she'd start off with some kisses and licks up and down the sides. Her hot, pursed lips moved over his length, her tongue flicked out every few seconds. Spike's body twitched at her actions. Another glob of pre-cum rushed up, and Buffy swabbed the head with her tongue, wanting to get all of it. She was happy to sample his juices again. It was even tastier coming right out of the source.

Spike groaned with delight, struggling to keep from cumming as long as possible. He didn't know how long he could possibly last. There were no words good enough to describe how it felt to have Buffy doing this to him. A wet dream (or several wet dreams) come wonderfully true.

Buffy licked at the head and gave it soft kisses as her hand moved steadily up and down. "Feels good?"

He grinned, breathing through his mouth. "What do you think? I love what you're doing, can't you tell?"

"Maybe I just wanna hear you say it... baby," she said with a grin that was part saucy and part shy.

Buffy needed some encouragement, he could definitely do that. Smirking, Spike said, "You sure you want me to talk? I can get really filthy."

"As long as you don't call me a bitch or a whore, I'll like it. I know it's not fair since I called you a bastard, but..." Once she'd thought about it, the idea of Spike calling her a name wouldn't be that bad. It was kind of hot (in a weird, naughty way) to imagine him calling her a bad name while she sucked his dick or when he'd finally be pounding into her. She seemed to be getting kinkier by the minute... Maybe in the future she'd encourage him to call her names, but this was their first time, it was special and about expressing their love for one another. Any bitch or whore talk would be better saved for a future tryst. And she had a very good feeling that there would be many future trysts.

Spike wagged his eyebrows. "I actually liked it when you swore at me, but then, I'm a strange, kinky bastard. I won't call you any bad names, promise." He'd be damned (again) before he did or said anything to put Buffy out of the mood. He would make an effort not to get too filthy, lest he offend her.

Buffy used her lips, then her tongue, then her lips again, up to the leaking tip and along his shaft. She slowly took the head into her mouth, sucking softly and swirling her tongue. As she worked, she couldn't help letting out little moans at the taste of him. Spike-taste had quickly risen to the top of her list of favorite flavors. She knew what he'd been talking about now when he'd said how magically delicious she was, she felt the same way about him.

A more pronounced moan issued from Spike. "Ohh fuck... Buffy, yessss."

Buffy began bobbing her head slowly, not trying to take much of him in yet, just the first few inches. But it was enough to make Spike's breathing become harsher.

She got a good rhythm going, synchronizing the strokes of her hand up and down his length with the bobbing of her head.

Just the sounds of what she was doing to him were amazingly hot. The licking, sucking, slurping, and her little moans that told him she was enjoying doing this to him. The sounds combined with the sensations made it almost overwhelmingly pleasurable. A moan seemed to get stuck on repeat in his throat, he just kept on unconsciously making a low noise.

Buffy smiled at hearing the sounds he was making. The impassioned look on his face made her hotter and more determined to do her best.

"Ahhh God, Buffy... you're so good," Spike moaned, gently brushing her hair away from her face. He knew that watching her give him a blowjob would make it end that much quicker, but he just had to see it. It was like spotting an albino deer in the wild, something wondrous, beautiful and special. He wanted to give her plenty of verbal encouragement since she'd requested it. She'd been hesitant at first, and was new at this. It was hard for Spike to believe that Buffy doubted herself; she was amazing, just as he knew she'd be. "You're incredible... Ahhh -- feels so bloody wonderful, pet."

Buffy thought she was giving a pretty good blowjob, but it was extra nice to get affirmation of it from the blowee. She tried even harder to make it good, taking more into her mouth with each downward motion of her head. She kept her eyes locked with his stormy baby blues, she'd heard some guys liked the eye contact, and she found she liked it too; it made it that much more intimate and sensual.

Soon, Buffy was at the halfway mark and still going further with each downward stroke of her lips. Her saliva had well-coated his stiff cock, making him nice and slippery.

"Fuck -- Fuck -- God -- Fuck," Spike chanted, panting. "Can't hold out much l-longer!"

She pulled her mouth up and off the tip, smacking her lips and smiling while pumping him in her fist. "You likey?" She squeezed a bit tighter at the base of his cock, helping him keep from exploding a little longer.

He laughed and nodded. "Ohhh yes, I likey. You suck a mean cock, Slayer. God, you're so bloody amazing."

"Aww, thanks," she blushed. It made her proud to know she could give a bj well her first time 'at bat'. Maybe she had a knack for it, another innate skill. This was one she couldn't brag to her friends and family about though... "You've already lasted longer than you thought you would. I breathed, and drooled, all over you and you didn't 'pop'."

"Only through sheer force of will," Spike joked.

She held his cock up against his stomach and licked a slow line from base to tip, rolling his balls gently in her right hand as her lips and tongue dragged up and down the underside.

"Ahhh... shit! Ohhh... You really never did this before?" Spike asked.

She trailed her tongue up and down, smiling. "Uh-uh."

"Fuck me..." he moaned.

"You want to... skip ahead?" Buffy asked. Maybe she wasn't doing as well as she thought if he wanted to quit before the finale and get right to the fucking. Then again, Spike was an impatient fellow, maybe her skill or lack thereof wasn't the issue.

"Huh? No, no, don't stop!" Spike said quickly. "Fuck me -- it's just a... an expression of... Bloody hell, it's really hard to think straight; I've got about a thimbleful of blood left in my brain. Just... don't stop!"

She smiled wider, happy to know he wanted her to continue. Buffy wanted to see this activity through to the end. She wanted his cum -- to see it, to feel it, to taste it. For a moment she couldn't decide what she would do when he started cumming. She did want to drink him down, but she wanted to see him blasting off too. Decisions, decisions.

Buffy resumed the steady up and down on his staff with her mouth and hands. She started sucking his cock with total abandon.

Spike wondered what she'd do when he came. Would she wank him and let him spray on her neck and tits? Would she just jerk him straight up and down and let the spunk fly in the air? Or would she -- dare he think it -- swallow? And with that thought, he couldn't hold back any longer.

"Unnngah! Buffy!"

Buffy swooped back up to the tip, leaving it in her mouth and waiting, still sucking, licking and pumping him in her hand.

Spike's body stiffened, he groaned loudly, then shouted in ecstasy at the same moment his cock leapt in her mouth. Buffy felt his cum begin to gush into her mouth, it was shooting fast and furiously down her throat. She did her best to keep a tight seal around his cockhead, but some inevitably leaked from the corners of her mouth. It took several hard swallows, but she got the rest of his bountiful load down without letting any more overflow her mouth. Buffy pumped him with one hand, the other hand flew down to her pussy. She rubbed herself, moaning as a feeling of profound pleasure rocked her body, almost as if she were cumming too. She didn't know she could feel so good just from doing this to him.

When the spurts slowed in power and intensity, she was able to leisurely suck, lick and swallow. She pulled her mouth up and off of him, giving the head little licks to get the cum that was just seeping from him now.

"Holy shit, Spike," she said, chuckling. "You don't do anything halfway, do you? I didn't know guys usually came that much."

"Bloody fucking hell..." he panted, a delirious grin on his face. "I don't think I've ever cum that hard in my life. You are the most fabulous woman in the history of the world."

Buffy finished cleaning his cock, licked her lips free of his spendings, then crawled up his body and went into his arms. She looked down at his face which bore the same wide smile hers did.

Spike raised his left hand and caressed the side of her face, then trailed his index finger to her chin, wiping up a bit of his cum that had dribbled from her mouth.

"Oops, thought I got it all." Buffy took hold of his hand before he could lower it, and slid her lips around his finger. She smiled at him around his finger as her tongue cleansed his digit.

Spike pursed his lips, his eyes at halfmast but beginning to burn with passion again already. "You are so bloody hot..."

She slid her lips up and off his finger, giving the tip a quick lick. "Why, thank you." She dabbed at the corners of her mouth daintily.

"I didn't think you'd swallow... Bloody hell, that was hot."
End Notes:
The hayloft scene was based on a Spike dream I had. A very nice Spike dream :P

* The poem, 'To Anthea, Who May Command Him Any Thing' is by Robert Herrick
** 'Only You' lyrics by Buck Ram and Andre Rand.
Part 1, Chapter 13: Only You (continued) by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
Here's where Buffy and Spike left off :P

I've gotta thank my beta, DFL, again for taking on these extra large chapters of mine lol Bless her heart :D
Buffy was in the mood to be more aggressive. She pushed on his shoulder until he got the message and rolled off of her onto his right side. Then Buffy pushed him the rest of the way onto his back.

Spike was afraid she'd had enough, until he saw the depraved look on her face and knew she wasn't through with him.

Buffy sat up and swung her leg over him to straddle his waist. She rested her butt on his thighs and smiled down on him, placing her hands on his chest. "I feel like goin' for a ride. How about you, cowboy?"

Spike grinned, stroking her thighs and hips. "How did I know you'd like being on top?"

"You have a problem with that?" Buffy asked, arching an eyebrow.

"Uh-uh, no problem at all. I think you look absolutely majestic sitting atop your mount. I'm taking more of those mental snapshots right now."

"I seem to remember you saying that you could never get tired of me riding you." She wagged her eyebrows. "I wanna test that claim."

"Saddle up then, pet."

She leaned over Spike's body, running her hands over and kissing his smooth, muscular chest. Just touching him made her feel so good. Her hands moved down over his sides and onto his hips. "You have such sexy hips," Buffy said, smiling and caressing said hips.

"My hips? You choose my hips as your favorite bit when you have the bounty that is my body?" he joked with his trademark smirk, stretching his muscles, then making his pecs dance.

"Ego much?" She continued moving her hands over his silky skin. "Not that you don't have a right to be conceited. 'Cause, damn. And I didn't say your hips were my favorite 'bit'. You have lots of 'bits' that I find attractive. I just think the hips are very, very sexy. I don't know why, but your hipbones make me just... I just wanna bite them," she giggled, fingering his hipbones. Her fingers then ran along the indents of his hips. "I believe these are called 'love grooves'. You've got awesome love grooves."

Spike laughed. "There's an especially desperate bit that needs your attention. You'll find it located between the love grooves."

"Mmmhmm, it's impossible to miss, all right... pointing up, all angry-lookin' and throbby." She wrapped her hand around his cock, stroked it and rubbed it up and down her gash. They both moaned at the contact. Buffy took his cock back inside of her. Her pussy swallowed him up quickly this time and she moaned deeply as he filled her.

Buffy started to ride him slowly, her hands moving over his chest and stomach. "Ohh this feels so good," she moaned.

"I second that emotion." Spike's hands skimmed up from her hips along her sides. He surrounded her breasts with his hands, kneading them lovingly as Buffy rose and fell in a slow, gentle rhythm.

Buffy smiled. "You think you can take a lot of this, huh?"

Spike smirked and put his hands behind his head, trying to look casual, as if what she was doing to him didn't make him feel like he was burning up and melting like a stick of butter under her furnace-like heat. "Don't know 'bout you, but I could do this all night."

Buffy smiled. "Oh yeah? Guess I need to be a little rougher with you then?"

He raised and lowered his eyebrows. "Do your worst, Slayer."

Buffy gave him a wicked smile and lightly scratched her nails down his pecs to his stomach. "Remember, you asked for it, baby."

"I'd appreciate it if you could slip in some dirty-talk like," he said the next part in a higher pitched, breathy voice, "'Oh Spike, you're the Big Bad!'"

Buffy laughed and slapped his chest. "You're so weird."

"What?" Spike smirked. "I think that'd be bloody hot. Anything special you'd like me to cry out that I could incorporate?"

"Hmm, well I like just hearing you say my name. But calling me Slayer while I'm on top of you... I'd like you to do more of that."

"There's my naughty girl." He rolled his pelvis up at her, but let her maintain control. "I could stay in your sweet li'l quim forever, Slayer," Spike drew out the word 'Slayer'

It did give Buffy an extra thrill to be on top, dominant, and have him call her Slayer. The whole Vamp/Slayer thing really was pretty hot, she had to admit. Natural enemies who had fought many times, no longer able to control their animalistic attraction to each other -- and it was her job to tame this fierce, powerful, sexy beast...

That line of thinking made Buffy start rocking a little harder. She closed her eyes and rolled her head on her shoulders, making little moany sounds. When she opened her eyes, she saw Spike smirking at her, his arms still leisurely behind his head.

As much as she liked the playful look on his face, she wanted to make his expression change to one of pure pleasure. She wanted to make him swear and curse, gasp for unneeded breath, and hold onto her while she fucked the shit out of him. Faith, the slutty, rogue Slayer, would no doubt be proud of Buffy's sudden sexual ferocity -- and then Faith would try to fuck Spike herself, of course, just to take another of Buffy's boyfriends.

Buffy picked up the pace, going at a more vigorous clip. "You still doing okay there?"

Spike took his hands from behind his head and placed them on her hips. He was opening his mouth to answer when Buffy contracted her inner muscles around him, giving his cock a big hug. Now that she knew she had those special muscles, by God, she was gonna use them!

Spike gasped and his eyes crossed. "Ahhh--Fuck!" His eyes fell shut, he grasped her hips tighter and swallowed hard.

Buffy giggled, slowing down her tempo just a bit. "Did that hurt or feel good?"

Spike opened his eyes and smiled. "You're a saucy little wench, aren't ya, Slayer? It hurt so bloody good. Giddyup," he said, reaching around to give her ass a smack.

Buffy sped up again, rocking her pelvis and flexing her inner-muscles around his big, pulsing cock. She leaned back, resting her hands on his knees and hanging her head back. Her long hair hung down, brushing over and tickling his thighs as she moved to and fro.

Spike dragged his hands over her front, from collarbones to crotch, as she gyrated on him, always coming back to play with her tits. Caressing, stroking, and squeezing her soft, hot skin. His fingers teased her rock-hard nipples. He remembered seeing the little peaks in silhouette through that screen, and wishing that he could touch them and take them into his mouth. Her body belonged to him now (just as his belonged to her), he could play with her, any part of her, that he wanted.

Spike watched his cock sliding in and out of her pussy. Her hard little clit was too beautiful to ignore. He put his left hand on her mons and used his thumb to rub her.

"Ooooh yeah! Ohh shit!" Buffy panted. She felt another mini-orgasm run through her. She wanted another big one to follow the mini one. She leaned forward again, pressing her hands against Spike's chest.

Spike was doing all the things she'd wanted to make him do: clutching her, gasping, and muttering things like "Ohhh fuck, Slayer! God yeah!"

Her ass smacked down onto the tops of his thighs harder and louder as she rode him at a pace that might put a 'normal' guy in the hospital. Buffy bounced on his cock, moaning to the rhythm of their flesh slapping with slutty abandon. Their moans and gasps intermingled, creating a symphony of pleasure. Spike held onto her waist and thrust up manically into her.

"Ohh! Ohhh God! Spike! Ahhhgga!" Buffy keened as her climax detonated inside of her. Her eyelids flapped, her body shook.

Spike sucked in air when his own climax hit him with tidal force. "FUCK! Ahhh--Yesss--Fuck--Buffy!" he shouted, cumming explosively deep in her pussy.

They grunted and groaned, their pelvises still smacking together, and gripped each other in the throes of the biggest orgasms either of them had ever experienced. Buffy fell forward onto Spike's chest. He wrapped his arms around her back, holding her tight against his body. They tried kissing, but mostly just moaned and puffed into each other's mouth. They didn't know how long they lay there, just shuddering and holding onto each other. Finally, their brains began working again.

Buffy took a few deep breaths, resting her forehead against his shoulder. "Oh... my... fucking... God! That was... holy shit!" she panted.

She'd never felt that way before, she never knew it was possible to feel that way. It was like Spike had touched a place inside of her, a bubble that contained pure joy, and the bubble had burst, filling her with more happiness, bliss and peace than Buffy had believed she was capable of feeling. She'd muse that their souls had joined... except he didn't have one. Whatever it was that was that passed between them was extraordinary.

Spike stroked her back lazily, he couldn't speak at the moment. He'd never cum like that in his life -- and he'd cum a lot over the years. It went beyond just physical pleasure; it wasn't just their loins connecting them... It felt like he'd connected and joined with Buffy's soul. She had taken him to heights of bliss that he'd never known existed. Spike didn't know how to put what he felt into words (and without sounding like a complete nancy boy), so he remained quiet, staring in wonder up at the ceiling.

Buffy raised her head and kissed him softly, still trembling. They kissed for a few moments before Buffy pulled back to look at him. What if it hadn't been as good for him as it was for her? She was a little worried that he wasn't saying anything and was just looking at her with a strange expression which she couldn't decipher. "Spike?"

He blinked, then a smile spread over his face, he hugged her tighter and pressed his lips against hers.

"Bloody hell, Buffy," he moaned. "I didn't know Slayers had beaucoup de sex mojo like that... or is that just you?"

"Sex mojo?"

"I never..." he stopped and shook his head. "There are no bloody words for how you made me feel, pet." He started softly kissing her throat, his hands drifted over her back.

She smiled at seeing that the experience had affected him deeply too. "I was good, eh?"

"Good? Uh-uh, that don't come close to describing you. Brilliant... amazing... incredible... effulgent." He wondered how that git Finn had survived taking a tumble with Buffy, but he wasn't about to bring up the idiot's name to in any way sully this momentous occasion.

"God, Spike, you were all those things too. Incredible, amazing, effulgent -- I never heard that last word before, but it sounds good."

They chuckled and kissed again.

"You're the best I ever had, Buffy," Spike said sincerely, wanting to express his feelings, and also wanting to boost her confidence level. "Loving you, being with you... feels like you awakened something inside me... something I never knew was there."

She smiled broadly. "Oh wow... That's what I was thinking!"

Spike grinned. "It was?"

"Uh-huh. I thought it was like... you touched a non-physical part of me. And then I thought some stuff about bubbles of joy bursting. I wasn't sure how to say it 'cause I didn't want to sound stupid, but you said it first."

He chuckled. "Oh, so I was stupid first and that made it safe?"

"You weren't stupid." She placed little kisses around his mouth as she spoke, "You were sweet... and wonderful... and sweet."

"You said sweet twice, pet."

"Did I?" Buffy laughed softly. "Sorry, my brain is all mushy."

After another kiss, Buffy moved to lay on her back next to him. The vigorous sex and the powerful orgasms, combined with the two weeks of hardship they'd suffered, had suddenly caught up with them; they both felt exhausted.

"I think I might've blacked out for a few seconds." Spike smirked and put an arm under his head, feeling more at peace and happier than he could ever remember feeling.

"Mmmm, me too. It was a fun blacking out though. Not scary." Buffy rolled onto her side and cuddled against him, giving his chest a kiss before resting her head on his shoulder.

Spike slid his free arm under her and caressed her shoulder, holding her lightly. "And now, I'm boneless."

Buffy smirked and lightly stroked her fingertips over his softening cock. "I see that."

She sighed in contentment after the best sex she (and perhaps anybody else on the planet) had ever had. She hadn't needed to fake a second of it. She'd never just let herself go like that during sex. Her first time, with Angel, she'd been too timid, with Parker she'd been afraid that he'd turn evil the morning after like Angel had (unbeknownst to her, Parker was already an asshole before the sex), and with Riley she always had to be careful not to be too rough. And he never gave it to her hard enough when she needed to be fucked, as if he thought she was fragile. This, with Spike, was the first experience where she'd felt truly and completely satisfied by a lover.

"Well, we did it... Are you evil?" Buffy asked, half-kidding.

"No more so than I was when we started. I feel much too blissful and mellow to be properly evil."

"You going to insult me or say mean things?"

"Uh-uh." He pulled her close and kissed her forehead. "Told you I'd be the same Spike afterwards." He closed his eyes, basking in the afterglow, with an amazed smile on his face.

"What're you thinking?" Buffy asked.

Spike snorted at her being so predictably female by asking that question. He squeezed her shoulder. "You're such a girl."

"You seemed to enjoy the fact that I'm a girl, and my girl parts, a few minutes ago."

"Mmmm, that I did. Okay, I was thinking 'I just made love to Buffy!!!' -- followed by several exclamation points."

"I had a similar thought, only with your name in place of mine."

"I'm also thinking that you're the most amazing, beautiful, sexy woman I've ever met." He tipped her face up to his and kissed her lips tenderly.

"Aww, Spike, that's so --"

"Don't say it's 'sweet'," he said with a playful growl.

"You stop saying and doing sweet things, then I'll stop accusing you of being sweet. But, seriously, don't stop. I love Sweet Spike. I also love gruff, Growly Spike."

They cuddled, feeling more and more sleepy by the moment.

Spike sighed. "As much as I'd love to, I don't think I can manage another round of 'hide the tree trunk' tonight, pet. I swear, I can usually go all night long, I'm a bloody marathon man. But I'm so tired right now..."

Buffy replied by yawning, then covering her mouth. They chuckled. "That's okay, I'm so very sleepy. I was trying to think of a way to ask if we could stop without you thinking I wasn't having a great time. But you're tired too, so problem solved. You haven't gotten any sleep since we left the house of horrors, you must be exhausted."

"I am. Even without the terrific shag, I'd be knackered. You're absolutely magnificent... you know that?"

She smiled sleepily, but proudly. "Thanks. You were... I'll use your word because my brain is muggy. You were magnificent, too."

Spike knew she'd had several "happys" and she'd told him how incredible it was already, but his ego liked being stroked, so he had to ask, "It was good for you, then?"

A horse whinnied loudly below them, making them laugh.

"Yeah, what the horse said. It was very good for me."

"I could really go for a smoke right now," Spike said wistfully. "Nothin' like a post-coital smoke."

"I'm glad you don't have any with you."

"I know, you don't like smoking. You're a goody two-shoes -- don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do?"

"Well, this goody two-shoes just rode you like a prized pony and made you scream my name. That's what I do," she said, impishly giving his soft cock a nice squeeze with her hand.

Spike sucked in a breath, and then moaned. "Careful, pet. Stop doin' that unless you want me to get a second wind. Don't care how bloody knackered I am, I'll roll over and ravish you all over again." He smirked and raised an eyebrow.

Buffy giggled, gave his cock an affectionate, parting stroke, and then moved her hand up to his chest. "As fun as that sounds, I'll end up falling asleep under you, snoring away. Not that I snore... because I so don't."

"Hmm... we can't have that happenin', now can we? S'pose I'll just have to wait 'til we're both rested then. Since you're so bad, and not at all a goody two-shoes, you would join me in a smoke if I had one?"

"Nope, I still wouldn't. It's true that I don't like smoking, but I was thinking more about the fact that we're surrounded by dry, brittle hay that's even more flammable than you are."

"Ah, I see your point."

"I could go for a drink of water. Luckily, we have that."

Buffy sat up and got out the waterskin. She and Spike both had a few sips, their mouths were dry from all that heavy breathing. She put the waterskin back in the bag. Spike suggested she put out the lantern since they both needed to get some sleep and she agreed, blowing out the flame.

They laid back down in the hay. Spike used the other blanket to cover their naked bodies as they settled back into each other's arms.

Spike thought back to the first time he'd ever seen Buffy, when she was dancing with her friends at The Bronze. Even way back then, she'd fascinated him. He'd thought the excitement he'd felt was the thrill of the hunt and the prospect of taking down his third Slayer. But now, in hindsight, Spike knew that he had started falling in love with her at that moment. He just hadn't been able to comprehend it at that stage.

"I love the way you dance," he said out of the blue.

"Is that dance as in fighting or sex?"

"Dance as in actual dancing. But I love the way you fight, too. And the way you shag goes without saying."

"Why does it go without saying? A girl likes to hear she's good in the bedroom -- or barn, wherever the deed happens to take place."

"Mmmm, you know you're the best. So powerful, so graceful... so bloody sexy. Gettin' me all worked up just thinking 'bout it..." He made a little growly sound and turned his head to playfully nibble and suck at the side of her neck.

She grinned. "That's better. So, you said you like my dancing. When did you see me dance?"

"A few times. First time I ever saw you, you were dancing at The Bronze." He had to be careful about what he admitted from here on.

"Ah, when you first came to town to kill me."

"Well yeah... Sorry 'bout that."

"What did you think of me back then? Was it all business?"

"Mostly business. I was... involved back then, so I wasn't looking for more than a good brawl from you. But... I would've had to have been dead -- completely dead, not just undead -- not to notice what a hot little number you were. The way you moved..." He closed his eyes and smiled dreamily. "It's true what they say, you know. You can tell if someone will be a great fuck if they can dance. It's all about rhythm and sensuality. And you definitely are a great fuck."

"A great fuck, huh? Ooh, how romantic," Buffy said with mock-annoyance and flicked his chest.

"Aw, come on, don't get bitchy, luv. I'm a romantic to the very marrow of my bones. Alright, that wasn't a very polite way to put it, but you are a great --"

"Okay, you don't have to say it again. Putting it like that just makes it sound like that's all I am."

"Buffy, do I really need to tell you again how deep my feelings for you go? You are that but you're so much more. You're everything to me."

He thought for a moment, then recited:

"Thou art my life, my love, my heart,
The very eyes of me;
And hast command of every part,
To live and die for thee."

"You're such a strange guy, Spike. You can go from being a potty mouth to quoting pretty poetry so quickly."

He smirked and shrugged.

Buffy ran her hand over his chest, sighing tiredly, "Say something else that's purdy and inoffensive."

"Hmm." He thought for a moment, then said:

"Only you can make this world seem right
Only you can make the darkness bright
Only you and you alone
Can thrill me like you do
And fill my heart with love for only you"

"Mmmm, very nice. What's that from?"

"'Only You' by The Platters, circa 1955. They don't write 'em like that anymore."

She laughed lightly.

"Am I forgiven for my poor choice of words earlier?"

"I suppose so. But next time you say something like that, I might have to give you a spanking."

Spike smiled and patted her butt. "Told you before, that's not a deterrent."

"If I wasn't so tired, I might take you up on that spanking... We both need to sleep at least a little, let's see if we can get a few hours in. Go to sleep, you naughty Vampire." She gave him one more kiss on the lips, then snuggled down with him for the night.

"Love you, Buffy," Spike whispered and kissed her forehead.

"Love you too, Spike."

He could never get tired of hearing her say those words.

They felt so happy, sated and content and it was only a few minutes before they were both fast asleep in each other's arms.

What Buffy and Spike didn't know was that they hadn't just had mind-blowing sex -- they really had shared the experience on more than just a physical level. They had felt their own pleasure and the other's pleasure at once, doubling the intensity and ecstasy. The bond between them the Unari had noticed was manifesting in ways Buffy and Spike weren't yet aware of or thought possible. Their minds were linking together at certain times, letting them share powerful emotions. It had happened several times while they were captive in the gingerbread house with the most extreme instance being the shared bathtub fantasy.

What else might they share in the future through their bond? And how long is it going to take them to figure out what's going on? Only time will tell.
Part 1, Chapter 14: Life of Illusion by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
At this point on the show, Dawn wasn't yet aware of her 'keyness'. But, for the purposes of my story and to move things along, she already knows she's the Key that Glory is looking for. Dawn's dealing with it the best she can -- without as much whining lol

I could have made Dawn's portion of the chapter much longer and more detailed, but I reckoned most readers would rather get back to Magic Box and Spuffy happenings more quickly :)

This is going to be a very long chapter -- it will include Dawn's arrival in the Unari dimension, Magic Box scenes and, of course, Spike and Buffy's continuing adventure. I wanted to get everyone in there and wrap up Part 1 in grand style lol

The song 'Life of Illusion' by Joe Walsh got stuck in my head when I was planning this chapter. Here's a YouTube link if you'd like to listen and get it stuck in your head too =D

Mucho thanks to DFL for beta'ing the previous 13 chapters. Thanks to Passion4Spike for taking over on this last gi-normous chapter :) And special thanks to CallMeKitten for all of her support, encouragement, and the kick in the ass she gave me to get this story off the ground! *hugz*

Fabooo banners by xoChantelly and Edgehead

Dawn's experience in the fairy tale realm was much different than Buffy and Spike's.

She was terrified when she arrived in the dimension, not knowing exactly what had happened to her. She remembered being in the Magic Box, the book vibrating and the white mist coming out of it, and then she suddenly found herself in this strange new place. She had been transported and placed into a small room with no doors and only one window. There was a bed, along with a vanity table and a chair, but that was all.

She rushed over to the window and looked out. A wave of vertigo gripped her; she was at the top of a very tall tower. The scenery didn't look like any place she'd ever been, it was just green rolling hills as far as the eye could see. One detail that was impossible to miss -- her hair was incredibly long, she guessed maybe 20 or 30 feet, in one giant braid. Her clothes had changed too. She was wearing an ankle-length purple dress that looked like something she'd expect a fairy tale character to be wearing.

Dawn wept and panicked, screaming for Giles, Buffy, Spike, anyone, to come and help her. They probably didn't even know she was in trouble, since she'd been alone when she was taken. What if she was stuck here forever?! After a few minutes, she was able to force herself to calm down and think rationally. She'd obviously been taken inside the book of fairy tales somehow. Why would Giles leave a book like that out in the open where anyone could get sucked into it? He apparently didn't know about the book's special properties, which made her odds of being rescued take a nosedive down to the “slim and none” category.

Dawn tried to think how Buffy would handle this. Buffy wouldn't cry or let fear cripple her. Buffy would assess the situation, examine her surroundings, and then find a way out. Her older sister could be a tiny, stubborn jerk sometimes but Dawn couldn't help feeling she could never measure up to Buffy (in any way other than height). A lot of it was simple jealousy. Buffy was older, stronger, braver, had lustrous blonde hair, got all the hot guys (and even vampires!) to fall in love with her -- Buffy, it seemed to Dawn, had it all. Buffy pissed her little sister off a lot, but when it came down to it, she was Dawn's hero. Buffy was everything that Dawn wished she could be.

"What would Buffy do?"

Dawn figured out rather quickly she was supposed to be Rapunzel, and what she should try to do in order to get out of the tower. She wasn't going to wait around in the room for the villain (whoever it was) to show up. She whined as she did it, but she used a pair of scissors she'd found in a drawer to cut off her hair just above her shoulders. She hoped her hair would grow back fast, but having a pixie haircut for a few months was a small price to pay to gain her freedom. After tying the hair rope to a bedpost and throwing the loose end out the window, she nervously, and very carefully, climbed down to the ground below.

The tower seemed to be placed in the middle of nowhere. She saw only green grass and hills for miles and miles in every direction. So, which way should she go?

Just when Dawn was pondering her next action, a blue portal appeared in front of her. It gave off a kind of energy, making her hair stand on end. She started backing away from it, afraid of what might jump out at any moment.

A male voice called to her (she didn't know if it was coming from the portal or if it was the portal), "Don't be afraid. We only wish to help you. Step into the portal, please."

"Oh sure, whatever you say! I instantly trust you -- creepy, disembodied voice!" Dawn said sarcastically. Then, borrowing one of Spike's favorite lines, she told the voice to, "Get stuffed!" trying her best to sound as indignant as Spike always did whenever she heard him say it.

She turned to run in the opposite direction, but a force sucked her into the portal anyway.

The room she found herself in this time was much nicer than the last, more lavish, in fact, she thought Spike would've even said it was "posh". There were several doors and windows, and the furnishings were very swanky. Her eyes were drawn to the bed in particular. It was the bed of her dreams: a grand, pink silk-covered, canopied princess bed. It looked exactly like the one she'd always dreamed of laying herself down to sleep on every night. Another object that captured her attention was a large, opulent mirror hanging over the vanity. She checked herself in it.

Her clothes were different again. This time she was wearing a long green silk dress. She had on a gold necklace, rings, bracelets and a tiara studded with emeralds. She felt some relief that her hair was back to its normal length, down to her waist like it was before that giant white hand had pulled her into the book. Some makeup had been applied to her face too -- just enough to make her look more mature and enhance her natural beauty, while avoiding getting into skank territory.

The look was a different one for her, but she liked it. She smiled. Everyone back home may think she was still a kid and too young for makeup, but obviously someone realized she wasn't a child anymore.

Dawn temporarily forgot she may possibly be in danger; she was astonished by her own reflection. She'd thought of herself as 'pretty', but she'd never looked beautiful before.

Suddenly, a mist swirled in the mirror and a face formed, scaring Dawn again.

The Mirror spoke to her without her having to address it first (unlike Buffy and Spike, Dawn would get all sorts of special treatment). After getting over her initial fright, she relaxed a bit. She had a gut feeling that the Mirror guy didn’t intend to harm her.

How the Mirror treated Dawn couldn't have been more different than Spike and Buffy's experience. The Mirror was reverent, respectful and kept calling her things like 'Holy One'. It explained that she’d been accidentally drawn into their dimension because the dormant magick in the book of fairy tales was awakened by her presence. The book had recognized her true nature and brought her into this world for her own safety. The Mirror told her that her happiness, making her every wish and dream come true, was the Unari’s top priority. The only wishes she would not be granted involved leaving this dimension and communicating with the outside world. It apologized to her for not being able to submit to all of her wishes, but it wouldn‘t be swayed.

Dawn was told who the Unari were and that they considered her a 'holy being'. They literally worshipped the ground she walked on -- now that the Key had feet. That didn't help support her 'I'll just pretend I'm a normal person' attitude she'd been trying her best to maintain after finding out she was the 'Key'.

Dawn insisted that she wanted to go home. Then the Mirror tried to persuade her that staying in this dimension was best by using the Glorificus angle. It told her how Glory would never stop trying to find her. Glory would kill, maim, and destroy anyone and anything in her path to find the Key. And when Glory did find Dawn, she would spill her blood to open a dimensional portal, and then unimaginable horrors would be released on the world. Millions of people would die. But, if Dawn stayed in this dimension, Glory would never be able to get to her; Dawn, and the whole world as she knew it, would be completely safe.

Sensing that Dawn was beginning to see reason, the Mirror went on to assure her that her family (the Mirror had said that word with a sneer) would be informed that there was no reason to fear for her safety; she couldn't be safer than she was right now. The Mirror said that she didn't belong with her family, she belonged here in this dimension with those that would worship and protect her.

Dawn thought it over. Her loved ones had told her many times that they would do anything to defend her against Glory. But all of them could die because of her, in the process of protecting her. Dawn couldn't bear to even think about that happening. She didn't want to be responsible for anyone getting hurt or dying... she didn't have much of a choice, really. She decided with sad resignation: 'Everybody would be better off and happier if I just stayed here. It would probably be a big relief to everyone not having to worry about me anymore.'

She had to try to make the best of it and accept this world as her own. One of the biggest problems was going to be missing her friends and family -- but then the Mirror told her how the people around her could and would be made to look like people from the outside world. That would help ease the homesickness a bit.

Dawn reluctantly told the Mirror guy that she would voluntarily stay in this dimension -- for a while, at least. The Mirror was overjoyed by her statement, promising her much happiness in the days and weeks to come.

There was a knock at the chamber door.

Dawn looked at it nervously. "Who's that?"

"Open the door and see. Every surprise will be a delightful one. You have no need to fear anything in this realm, Holy One."

Dawn sighed and rolled her eyes at being called by that title as she went to the door. She held her breath as she opened it, then smiled brightly at who she saw.

Joyce was smiling happily. "Good morning, my beautiful daughter."

"Mom!" Dawn flung her arms around her, hugging her tight. Her mom looked beautiful and healthy. It was easy to forget for a second that this wasn't really her mother: the person looked and talked just like Joyce Summers. She even smelled of Joyce's perfume. Her mother was dressed in a pretty, dark-blue silk dress that resembled the one Dawn was wearing, looking very fancy.

"My goodness," Joyce chuckled. "You're in a good mood this morning!"

Dawn released her and stepped back. "Um, sorry. I'm just really happy to see... you."

"I'm happy to see you, too." Joyce patted her face. "Come down to breakfast, sweetheart. We can't start the meal without you, now can we?"

She absently rubbed her stomach and looked back into the bedroom. The Mirror looked like a regular mirror again, non-swirly. "I guess I am kind of hungry."

Joyce took her hand and led her out into the hallway, and then toward a staircase. "And after breakfast, we can go for a ride, if you'd like."

"What kind of ride?"

"On your horse, Snowflake. I haven't decided which horse I'll choose yet."

"I have a horse?"

"You have several, but Snowflake has always been your favorite. The two of you have such a wonderful rapport."

They got to the bottom of the stairs. The palace was immense and lavishly decorated. There were tapestries, crystal chandeliers, fancy furniture, plush rugs and portraits everywhere. Dawn didn't know where to look first, everything was so beautiful; she really was inside a fairy tale. She let her mother continue to lead her by the hand.

Servants bowed and greeted them joyfully, everyone seemed especially happy to see Dawn. Many of the cheerful faces were familiar to her, some she remembered meeting in Sunnydale, some she'd only seen in passing on the streets. The people radiated such happiness and kindness that Dawn could feel it too. She felt warm, safe and loved. Even though she knew her mom, sister and all her friends back home loved her, somehow this felt... different; like she was adored and revered by everyone in the whole world -- it was more love that she'd ever felt before. It was weird, but cool.

Joyce said, "Bradley told me that Snowflake has been pining for you to come and take her for a ride."


"One of the stable boys. Ah, there he is now." She gestured to a man who was bowing in their presence.

Dawn did a double-take when he straightened up again and she got a look at his face -- it was Brad Pitt, the actor.

"Omigod! Brad Pitt!" Dawn exclaimed, clutching her mother's hand, and hoping she wouldn't faint at Brad's feet.

"Good morning, Your Majesties," he bowed again. "How is it that each of you gets more beautiful with every passing day?"

Joyce laughed and playfully waved him off. "Oh, Bradley! You and your flattery!"

"I speak the truth," he replied silkily, smiling at Dawn. "I do hope Princess Dawn will come down to the stables to go riding soon."

"We were talking about doing just that, Bradley," Queen Joyce said. "My daughter and I would love to have a ride after breakfast. Isn't that right, Dawn?"

"Huh?" Dawn realized that she was just staring at Brad with her mouth ajar. It might not really be him, but it sure as hell looked and sounded like the real deal -- and that was good enough for her! "Oh, um, yeah! Definitely!"

"I look forward to it. I'll go and prepare your mounts right now so they'll be ready for you. Majesties." He bowed again, and then hurried off to the stables.

"Wow... that was cool! Can, um... Can Bradley go riding with us?" Dawn asked, still feeling tingles shooting up and down her spine.

"Of course, Dawn. Your every wish and whim will be attended to."

Dawn smiled wider as they continued on their way to the magnificent dining room. "I guess being stuck here might not be too bad, after all."

This wasn't the real world... but what was so great about the real world, anyway?

Back in the not-so-great real world...

Xander and Riley had bumped into each other at the Espresso Pump. Both had gone there with the intention of buying coffee and donuts for the Scoobies. Riley had put on his best fake smile and assured his friend that he'd gotten his shit together, all he'd needed was some sleep. Xander bought the act; he was too willing to believe it was true and relieved to have one less person to worry about.

After stopping so Xander could pick up some flowers and chocolates for Anya, the boys went back to the Magic Box. By the time they got there, Giles and Joyce had arrived. And there were new pictures in the book.

The series of pictures and text highlighted points of Buffy and Spike's experiences: having their argument after he'd tried sweet talking the witch; Buffy being punished after her failed attempt to attack the witch, and Spike's subsequent plea for Buffy's safety; Buffy being given stale bread and crab-shells to eat; and then Spike and Buffy having a relatively pleasant chat -- followed by another argument.

The next part struck the Scoobies temporarily speechless: Spike refusing to drink Buffy's blood, though the witch had ordered him to do it and threatened to punish him if he didn't. They never imagined Spike could have that much restraint, or would want to restrain himself, under those circumstances. Giles hypothesized that perhaps the other dimension was having a positive effect on Spike, influencing him to behave in more thoughtful, civilized manner. Anya disputed that theory, pointing out that they had no real evidence to suggest Spike or Buffy were being 'influenced' in any way.

Tara thought it might just be her being naive about vampires, and Spike in particular, but she wondered why the others (except Anya) seemed so reluctant to give Spike any credit for doing something good on his own. Spike was different than other vampires, Tara had seen that in the time she'd known him. His aura was dark, but there were flickers of brightness and warm colors that were absent in the other vamps. Tara had never seen an aura like that before, so she wasn't positive what it meant. But she thought it might mean that Spike was capable of being good, if he would only try walking the straight and narrow. Spike had done an amazing thing by refusing to take Buffy's blood, and Tara believed it was genuine and done for the right reasons. She was much more comfortable around the Scoobies than she had been when she'd first joined the group, but she was still timid about stating an opinion that went against what the others said. She could talk to Willow about it later, in private.

The next picture showed Buffy trying to kill the witch with the axe while trying to protect Spike after his hand had gotten burned. The last picture in the book showed Buffy recovering from getting zapped and thanking Spike for staying loyal to her at his own peril. And then she told him that she trusted him.

It was evident from the last pictures and additions to the 'story' that, while they still bickered with each other, Spike and Buffy had turned a corner in their relationship. They were having more "normal" moments, talking like friends or at least like they were on the same team. With the exception of Riley, everyone was relieved at the interaction. If Buffy and Spike could stop arguing, they would be able to work together more efficiently and escape sooner. They weren't sure how much Buffy could or should trust Spike, but hoped he would continue to help and protect her.

The girls thought, but didn't say, that it was very sweet that Spike had sung a song to soothe Buffy's nerves. They never would have expected Spike to do something so nice. It was kind of swoon-worthy actually: a rough, tough guy who liked to refer to himself as 'The Big Bad', singing a pretty song and taking the risk of Buffy making fun of him, in the hope that he could help take her mind off her troubles.

Riley had to make an effort to keep from commenting and reacting when it became clear that Spike hadn't been trying to betray Buffy, and some of the Scoobies acting impressed with Spike over the things he'd done. Anya couldn't keep her mouth shut, of course, gloating that she'd been right about Spike's intentions. 'So Spike didn't double-cross her *this* time... that doesn't mean a damn thing. He will, given enough time. If I'm lucky, *all* he'll do is betray her... To put it mildly, Riley didn't like that it seemed Buffy was indeed having warmer thoughts about Spike. She actually said she thought she could trust him! Could she really be that naive?!

Riley thought it would be best if he tried fading into the background and keep his opinions to himself. He didn't want to have another meltdown in front of everyone.

After the Scoobies briefly discussed what they'd seen and read, Joyce went to one of the shelves of merchandise, absently straightening up and silently worrying about her daughters (and Spike -- she liked him for some reason she couldn't quite pin down). She tried accepting that Dawn was being treated well and was in no immediate danger, but Buffy's situation was much harder for her to deal with.

Joyce didn't have to say anything, Giles had seen the distress in her face before she'd wandered away from the others at the table. He joined her at the shelves and put his hand on her back comfortingly. "I know how difficult this must be for you, Joyce. You're holding up very well."

She nodded, keeping a handle on her emotions. "I'm trying. My poor Buffy... it just never stops for her, does it? She never gets any peace; there's always some new threat popping up that she has to put her life on the line for. I almost wish I didn't know what was happening to her in that horrible place. It's... so hard to know that she's being treated that way and there's nothing I can do about it."

"Well... it seems that Spike is doing what he can to help and protect her."

Joyce raised her eyebrows and shook her head, "Yeah, that was something, wasn't it? At least she's not alone in there and has someone looking out for her. It does give me some comfort to know that Spike is on Buffy's side, but... I'm still afraid for her."

"I have complete faith that she will get through this. Buffy's a strong and resourceful young woman, there's no one else quite like her. I never had children of my own... but I couldn't be more proud of or love her more if she were my own flesh and blood."

Joyce smiled at him. "It makes me feel good that she has you in her life, Rupert. It's reassuring to know that you'll be there for her and Dawn if something happens to me."

"Now, let's not have any of that kind of talk. You came through your surgery with flying colors. The doctors said you'll be fine."

"I know. But it did make me realize how quickly our lives can take a bad turn; we never know when our numbers might be up. When you face your own mortality..." She paused and shook her head. "Wow, aren't I the cheery one? I promise I'll try to be more optimistic. No more mortality talk."

Giles smiled and patted her on the back. "It will all work out fine, Joyce."

Joyce and Giles normally called each other by their first names these days, but when they were within earshot of other people, they felt the irrational need not to seem as close, as if the others would guess what had happened between them years ago. It was bad enough that Buffy knew, they didn't want the others to get 'wigged' too. At the moment, they felt that it was 'safe' to talk more freely, with the others being on the other side of the room.

Anya took notice of Giles and Joyce talking quietly away from the rest of the group. Was there something going on there? Anya knew Giles had an orgasm friend, Olivia, but she lived in England, and long-distance relationships were rarely successful -- she'd seen her share of those when she was a Vengeance Demon. She thought it would be nice for Giles and Buffy's mom to get together. They were both attractive, middle-aged, lonely people. They only lived a few minutes away from each other, so booty calls would be very easy to accomplish.

A few minutes later, Giles and Joyce rejoined the others at the table.

Riley was content to be apart from the others for now, standing at the counter and pretending to peruse a book, but his mind wasn't on what he was supposed to be doing. He wished he could just go home and anxiously await any word from his friends in the government. But he needed to stay here for now to seem "normal".

Riley knew that Buffy didn't love him; not like he loved her. He had even admitted that to Xander not long ago. Yes, Buffy was affectionate and loving with him, but she wasn't in love. He sometimes tried fooling himself into believing she did or that she could love him one day. But that nagging inner-voice knew better again. It seemed to him that Buffy had some bizarre need for the man in her life to cause her endless pain (both physical and mental). Apparently, she needed a man with darkness in his soul -- or the total lack of a soul.

Still, it wasn't in Riley's nature to give up on anything. He wouldn't stop trying to win Buffy's heart; he knew that he could make her happy, if she would only let him. And the first step in achieving that goal was to get rid of Spike. The bleached blond vamp was trying to confuse Buffy and prey on her weaknesses, and he needed to be eliminated from the equation. Then Riley and Buffy could get back on the right track. Eliminating obstacles: that would help his cause considerably. There was nothing he could do about that bastard Angel... for now, but Spike would be easy to take care of once Buffy and Dawn were back safely.

Riley noticed Tara looking at him and he gave her an easy, small smile. He couldn't let his fake smile look too happy or they'd know it wasn't real. Tara smiled weakly and then looked away. She seemed suspicious of him, she was usually intuitive... She was also usually quieter than the rest of the group, hopefully she'd stay quiet.

"Is there something I can do to help?" Joyce asked as she sat down at the table.

"Of course," Giles said. "What is it you'd like to do?"

"I could go through some books like everyone else is doing."

Giles nodded, but looked at her with concern. "That would be fine. Any help you can give would be appreciated. Are you certain you're up for that?"

"Am I up for reading? Yes, I think I can handle that... Giles." She reverted back the less intimate name 'Giles' instead of 'Rupert'. "It's not exactly high impact aerobics."

"It's just that... I know you're under tremendous stress already, and I'm concerned that reading too much may give you a headache."

She smiled and touched his arm. "It's sweet of you to worry, but I'll be okay. If I feel a headache coming on, I'll take a break."

Anya raised an eyebrow, seeing another friendly touch and more warmth exchanged between Giles and Buffy's mom. She would have commented, but she got distracted by an illustration of an erotic woodcarving from the 14th century in the book she was currently going through -- it would look great in their new apartment.

Tara had been getting some bad vibes from Riley a minute ago. It could just be that his worrying for Buffy's welfare had him giving off negative energy... but she wasn't sure that's all there was to it. Tara had already told Xander she was troubled about Riley's mental state, there wasn't much more she could do. She couldn't very well accuse him of something like thinking dark thoughts -- who didn't think dark thoughts once in a while? Especially when the person they loved was in danger. She decided she should just mind her own business. It was probably nothing, anyway...

Joyce tried to relax and lighten up as much as possible. She could see that everyone was concerned about how she was handling the situation; she wanted to put up a brave front. "I've never been in on the researching before. Kind of exciting," she said with a slight smile.

Xander sighed. "Yep, when we crack the books, oh the fun, it never stops."

"The most I've contributed to your research sessions in the past was bringing snacks," Joyce said.

"But that's really a lot of help, too." Willow smiled. "Don't know what we would've done without you, Mrs. Summers."

"Don't downplay the importance of sugary treats," Xander said, holding up a finger. "I often find myself in the role of 'purveyor of snacky goodness'. It's up to us to keep the troops energized."

Joyce pointed to the fuzzy troll pencil topper, which still stood on top of a pile of books in the middle of the table. "Is that there for a reason? Is it magical?"

"Nah, not magic. It's just a prize for whoever can think of a positive portrayal of witches, wolves or stepmothers in fairy tales. It's thus far unclaimed, but I'm gonna win that little guy yet," Xander declared, reaching out to pat the top of the troll's hair. "He'll be resting comfortably on the end of my pencil at the end of the day -- mark my words."

Joyce took a book off the stack in the middle of the table, taking care not to knock over the fuzzy troll pencil topper. "All of you are researching to find a way to get Buffy, Dawn, and Spike out of the fairy tale book as soon as possible?"

Willow replied, "Yep, that's the main goal. We're also trying to find out as much as we can about the Unari and their dimensions as we can. So be on the lookout for any mention of the word Unari, U-N-A-R-I."

Joyce began turning the pages and scanning the book in front of her. "I assume these Unari people wouldn't be too pleased about you trying to bring the girls and Spike back out before they've finished their quests or tests."

Anya answered, "No, they wouldn't be happy to have their quests possibly interrupted by outsiders. In fact, I think they'd be very angry."

"Can the Unari do things to people in the real world?" Joyce wondered.

Giles answered, "Technically, their world is just as real as ours. It's merely on a different dimensional plane of existence."

"Okay then, can they reach out from their world to do things to people on our dimensional plane of existence?"

"How do you mean?" Giles asked.

"I mean, is there a chance that they know what we're trying to accomplish and is it possible they could try to harm one of us or take someone else into the book to stop us?"

"I suppose that's... possible, but I doubt it. The Unari prefer not to have dealings with the outside world. I suspect they only took Dawn because of her special nature, and Buffy and Spike were only taken once we purposely activated a portal." Giles almost didn't want to ask Anya the next question, his pride was still stinging, but he could put that aside for the greater good. "Anya, have you heard any accounts of the Unari striking out to harm people outside of their own dimensions?"

"No, I haven't. That doesn't mean it couldn't happen though. They are adept at using magick, they wouldn't even have to be physically here in our world to get at us, if that's what they wanted to do."

"It might be prudent for us to cast a general protection spell on the shop and ourselves. Better safe than sorry." Giles looked to the witches. "Willow, Tara, could you work on that?"

"We sure can." Willow was starting to feel really tired again, thanks to Tara and Xander ganging up on her and taking away her pep pills. Working a spell would help her feel better, at least temporarily.

Willow and Tara stood up and went to find the right spellbook.

Giles, Willow, and Tara cast protection spells on the Magic Box and on the individuals in the shop. If it worked correctly, it would protect them from being harmed by magick and would root them to this dimension, they couldn't be taken into the Unari's world against their wills. Giles still doubted something like that would happen, but he wouldn't be caught unawares again.

And then it was back to the books, with everyone feeling a little more secure that one of them wouldn't be hurt or snatched into the book.

Anya, Giles, Joyce, Willow, and Tara were seated around the table. Xander came over to give Anya a fresh latte and a kiss on the cheek.

Anya smiled. "Thank you, Xander. You're a wonderful boyfriend."

"You're welcome. See?" Xander said to Joyce. "Keeping the troops energized -- it's important." He walked away, going to the counter to see how Riley was doing.

Willow rolled her eyes. "I see you two made up. That didn't last long..."

"Oh, you and Xander had a fight?" Joyce asked.

Anya looked adoringly at her boyfriend (and admired his meaty butt) as he stood at the counter. "We did have a little lover's spat earlier. It was partially my fault, I suppose. But Xander gave me the traditional conciliatory gifts of chocolates and flowers, and I accepted his apology. I expect the make-up sex to be excellent, too -- but, of course, that will have to wait until later. We're good now." She left out the part where she promised not to say anything that might scare Joyce.

Joyce smiled. "Xander always was a sweet kid. It's a wise man who knows when to make peace, even if he isn't totally at fault. You've got a good one, Anya. Don't let him get away."

Willow glanced up from her book. "There's no danger of that happening. Even if Xander did finally get tired of her, Anya would probably pull a 'Kathy Bates' and hobble him to keep him from running away or she'd do him like Kunta Kinte and chop off his foot."

Anya sniffed. "I think you need some more of those caffeinated pills, Willow. You're being a real bitch now that they're wearing off."

Willow frowned. "Hey, I am not being a bitch!"

"Really? Because you're displaying some bitch-like qualities. What's the saying? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. Substitute the word bitch for duck, and it applies to you."

Willow scowled at her. "If anybody is a bitch, it's --"

"Girls, please don't argue." Joyce tried smoothing things over. "We're all friends here, right? Don't let the tension get to you."

Giles had looked up when the girls raised their voices, but he wasn't getting involved unless it escalated further. He didn't want to get dragged into their tiff and have them both prodding him to pick a side; he'd seen that happen to Xander more than once. He kept his head down and his eyes trained on his own book.

Tara tried helping with the smoothing over. "Mrs. Summers is right, it's n-not good for us to argue. We need to concentrate on getting our friends back. The lack of sleep has to be catching up with both of you. Let's just... try to get along, for everyone's sake. Okay?"

Willow didn't want to stress out Joyce or Tara any more than they already were, so she took a breath and forced out a half-hearted apology to Anya.

Anya went back to reading her book, but then noticed they were still looking at her. "What? Do I have to apologize too, even though she was insulting to me first and I was right about her acting like a bitch?"

"That would be... a good thing, yes. Calling people names isn't a nice thing to do. In the interests of peace, you should," Joyce said.

Anya smiled pleasantly at the grumpy, redheaded witch. "Willow, please accept my apology for pointing out that you were acting like a bitch. I'm very sorry."

"Yeah... okay." Willow didn't think much of that 'apology', but she wasn't going to look like the unreasonable one by not accepting it.

Anya looked hopefully at Joyce. "Did that sound sincere? I've been working on appearing more sincere. Like when I tell a customer to have a good day -- I don't really care, but it's a polite thing to say and encourages them to return and bring me more money."

Willow pressed her lips together to keep from saying anything else that might upset her girlfriend or Joyce. Tara reached out and held Willow's hand, which made Willow smile and relax a bit.

"Well, Anya..." Joyce said. "You should mean you're sorry when you say you are. But I have two daughters who loved picking on each other, so I've learned to value even insincere apologies. Whatever it takes to get some peace and quiet is always appreciated."

Anya nodded. "You're very wise, Mrs. Summers. I hope to be as wise and still as attractive as you when I reach your biological age."

Willow thought, 'Eww, she's sucking up to Buffy's mom! No way is Mrs. Summers ever going to like Anya better than me. I'm like a third daughter to her! Come on, Anya, say something vulgar about orgasms. You know you wanna...'

Joyce had to take a break from reading after a while because she was getting that headache Giles had predicted. She insisted on tidying up the shop, though Giles and the others encouraged her to rest. Cleaning helped her deal with stress. So now she was dusting the shelves and feeling a little better already.

Riley spoke only when spoken to, staying at the counter, apart from everyone else. He planned on telling everyone he needed some more sleep and going home soon. He didn't really want to sleep. He was afraid he'd have another nightmare like the last one. But he did need to check his machine to see if any of his government contacts had any information for him.

The Scoobies were discouraged that they hadn't found out more than they already knew from Anya and Giles (mostly Anya), and they hadn't found any spells that could work inter-dimensionally that could be used to bring Buffy, Dawn and Spike back. They wouldn't try anything that wasn't guaranteed to work for fear that it could end up hurting their friends (and Spike).

Things had calmed down a bit after Anya and Willow called a ceasefire. But now it was back to being quiet and boring, and that didn't help fight off their collective fatigue. A few customers had come in to browse and make purchases while the Scoobies researched, though it wasn't so busy that it distracted them for long.

Xander sighed as he finished looking through one book and then took another. He felt the need to start a conversation about something -- anything -- to break the tedium. "I've never been a big fan of fairy tales. They're written for girls -- all that princesses and handsome, perfect, boring princes riding up on white horses to whisk them away to enchanted castles stuff. They make it hard for us normal guys to live up to those fantasies; all that idealized romance crap gets on my nerves."

"Oh really?" Willow asked. Xander closed his eyes, he could tell she was about to swing back into lecture mode. "Did you know that in the original version of 'Sleeping Beauty' the prince raped her while she was in her magickal coma? That's not exactly every girl's dream."

"Wow... no, I didn't know that. Okay, some of the old-timey stories were obviously written by sickos who had lots of issues with women. But modern, Disney-type stories were written for girls. There isn't much for guys to get into, would it have killed them to include some sword fighting and Indiana Jones-style adventure?"

Willow asked, "Why don't men dream of finding their one, true love? That's an element in a lot of fairy tales, and it appeals to women of all ages. Why don't men want that, too?"

Xander looked around when he noticed Willow looking right at him. Then he pointed to himself, "You're asking me, specifically?"

"Well, you're a man."

He puffed his chest out and said in a deeper voice, "Damn right, I am, baby."

"Men are just different, Willow," Anya said. "You were only with one man before you gave up penis, so it's understandable that you'd have less insight into how the male brain operates."

"How many guys I've... been with doesn't matter," Willow insisted with a frown. Oh, it was so hard to have a normal conversation with the ex-Vengeance Demon without wanting to slap her around after a minute. "It's not like you reach some magical number of sexual partners and suddenly understand how the other gender's minds work."

Anya thought about it, and then nodded. "You're right, men are enigmas."

"Men aren't hard to understand, it's women that should come with an owner's manual." Xander was just kidding (well, semi-kidding), but the girls narrowed their eyes at his comment. He nudged Giles with an elbow. "Am I right, G-man? You know what I'm sayin'." He held his hand up for a high-five. "C'mon, up-top."

Giles looked at Xander's raised palm, then back to Xander's eyes, and then back to the book he was reading.

Xander lowered his hand and shook his head. "Aw, that's cold, Giles. Not cool to leave a brutha hangin'."

"If you're trying out some newly acquired street lingo, please stop," Giles groaned.

Anya ignored the exchange between Giles and Xander, she was still thinking about the previous topic. "I could live for another thousand years and still not fully understand men. Asking direct questions can be helpful, so let's carry on." Anya looked at Xander. "Can you tell us why finding your soulmate doesn't appeal to people with penises?"

Xander wished he'd just kept his mouth shut now. "Guys do want to find Miss Right, most of us just don't lie awake nights ready to burst into song about it."

Anya turned to Willow and Tara, "I've found that gay men are much more open to things straight men consider too womany. I believe it's because they're more secure in themselves and their masculinity and don't feel they have to prove anything to anyone."

"Yeah," Willow pressed, focusing again on Xander (much to his chagrin), "Why don't most straight guys like fairy tales? There are violent and zany things that happen in lots of the stories that should appeal to men."

"For starters, the word 'fairy' is right there in the name, and that's enough to make lots of guys tune out. I don't know, the stories are just too... girly."

"Girly?" Willow asked. "That implies that there's something wrong with the way women think or act."

Xander laughed nervously and elbowed Giles again. "Giles, you want to help me out?"

Giles didn't look up from his book this time. "Not even a little. And never nudge me again," he said, sliding his chair further away from Xander.

"Wait," Xander said, looking back at Willow. "I thought you hated fairy tales? They bring out the militant in you because of the evil witches and wolves and whatnot. And now you're jumping on me because I'm not a fan?"

Willow fidgeted. "Well... I hate stuff about them, but there are parts that I like. They speak to many women's deep-seated desire to find the perfect handsome prince -- or princess," she said, quickly smiling at Tara, who smiled back in response, "-- to sweep them off their feet. Don't try turning the tables on me, you... table-turner."

"There is no table to turn!" He rapped his knuckles on the table. "Except this actual one. Why are you picking on me?"

"I'm not picking --"

Giles interrupted them, "Lively discussion is always welcome, but let's not snipe at each other because of... the perceived flaws in our genders. We're all overtired, but let's try to remain civil. And without any more nudging." He looked pointedly at Xander when he'd said the last sentence.

"What do you think about fairy tales, Giles?" Willow asked.

"I think... I don't want to be dragged into this." He looked back at his book. "You may continue picking on Xander."

"Aw, come on, I won't jump on you. I'm just curious to hear your opinion about anything... because you're so wise and learned." She smiled.

"Well, since you put it that way... I think, more than anything else, they're cautionary or morality tales. 'Hansel & Gretel' is one of the best examples of why you shouldn't take candy from strangers. The stories served a purpose."

"A purpose besides scaring the hell out of little kids?" Xander asked.

"And instilling fear of witches or anyone who's different," Willow added.

"Fear has always been a powerful motivator. Fairy tales, fables, and stories found in every society and religion have been written to illustrate right and wrong decisions and possible sinister consequences for those decisions. Many stories have been about the perils of greed and vanity. I think we can all agree that those are good lessons for people to learn."

"Sorry I was picking on you, Xander," Willow apologized (sincerely this time), reaching out to give his hand an affectionate squeeze. "I guess Anya wasn't totally wrong when she said I was being... extra cranky."

Anya said, "No, you're mistaken. I didn't say you were cranky, I said you were being a bitch."

Willow took a deep, calming breath, she didn't want to get pissed off again. "Yeah, I know, but I was putting it a nicer way."


"It's okay, Willow." Xander smiled lopsidedly. "I can't stay mad at you."

"But, hey, picking on you took my mind off my troubles for a few minutes, Xander... so thanks."

"Glad I could be of service."

They went back to reading quietly for a minute.

"Y'know," Xander said, trying to put more levity into the proceedings, "I do have a favorite fairy tale, but I'm not seeing it in any of the books. What's the one that starts with: 'Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the police academy'?"

"There's a chance you're thinking of 'Charlie's Angels'," Willow chuckled.

The others smiled and laughed softly too, making Xander happy that he'd eased the tension they were all feeling a little bit. And without starting another round of 'Let's pick on Xander'.

"Oh yeah. Now there's a fairy tale kids of all ages can enjoy." He looked dreamily off into space. "Not enough bikini-clad babes toting guns in those stories. Then more guys would read them with great enthusiasm."

Part 1, Chapter 14: Life of Illusion (continued) by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
More at the Magic Box :)
After another cup of coffee, Willow rubbed her bleary eyes. She couldn't force herself to stay awake for much longer. Almost everyone else looked as tired as she felt. Riley, Tara and Mrs. Summers had gotten some sleep, so they weren't as bad off.

Willow was looking through the Unari book again to see if anything new had appeared about Buffy and Spike or Dawn. The pages after the last noted change were blank, waiting to be filled with whatever the future held for her absent friends.

At first she thought she was imagining it, but pictures and words began appearing right before her eyes on the previously blank pages, being drawn by a phantom hand as she watched.

"Oh!" Willow exclaimed. "New stuff is..." Her eyes bugged when she saw the finished drawings. "Oh!"

The others leaned forward, anxious to see what was happening to Buffy now, Giles was reaching across the table to move the book so all of them could see it better.

Willow suddenly slammed the book shut, and then pressed her palms down on the cover, as if she were afraid it would pop back open by itself.

The others flinched, and Giles quickly drew his hand back.

"That was very rude, Willow," Anya said. "We were trying to see the new pictures."

"Willow, what's the matter with you? Why did you close the..." Giles was suddenly very worried, thinking that perhaps Willow had seen something ghastly happening to Buffy.

Willow was freaked out by what she'd seen, but she could plainly see the others were assuming the worst. "Buffy's okay -- it's nothing like that. She's not in any... physical danger."

"Then why did you react the way you did?" Giles asked.

Willow's eyes darted to each of them; her looks at Joyce (who was standing near the table now, clutching the feather duster in her hands) and Riley (who was still at the counter, but looking on edge) lingered a bit longer. They definitely shouldn't see the pictures, and Goddess only knew what the text would say.

"Um..." Willow nervously tapped her fingers on the book cover, "maybe Giles should be the only one to look. The pictures might be... disturbing to more sensitive viewers."

"Come on, Wills," Xander said impatiently. "Please just open it and let us see. You're scaring the crap out of us."

Riley didn't like the way Willow had looked at him, she had gotten even more nervous and twitchy than she did when glancing at the others. He was afraid of what he was going to see in that book. 'The nightmare is coming true... That evil bastard seduced Buffy!' He joined Joyce and the others standing around the table.

Willow was still reluctant, but they were all looking at her and waiting. She didn't know how to tell them what the pictures showed, better just to let them see for themselves. At least they'd see that Buffy was not being hurt or killed. "O...kay. But they're... Okay, just... just open it," she said as she removed her hands from the book. She hung her head and rubbed her forehead, waiting for the inevitable bad reactions from all of them.

Giles opened the book, quickly flipping to the bookmark to find the latest additions.

There were sharp intakes of air from everyone when they saw it for themselves. They felt relieved that no harm was coming to Buffy, but...

The series of pictures were of 'bath night' at the gingerbread house: Buffy, and then Spike undressing behind the screen while the other discreetly observed, Buffy washing Spike's back, and Spike washing Buffy's back. And then (the picture that had shocked the Scoobies the most) Spike and Buffy with their eyes closed as he was kneeling behind her and a connected thought balloon over their heads that showed another picture of them together in the tub -- Buffy with her back against Spike's chest, craning her neck and kissing him, and his hands covering her breasts.

The text below the salacious drawing described how both Spike and Buffy were sharing the exact same fantasy at the exact same time. Their highly aroused minds had somehow connected at that moment, and permitted them to experience the vivid sexual fantasy -- which seemed so very real to them that they weren't sure if they'd actually had sex or not for a few moments after it was over.

The last picture showed Spike and Buffy settling down to sleep that night, and Spike singing her to sleep with 'Need Your Love So Bad'. The text told of how they were both thinking about the other and their mutual desire. They were afraid of their feelings for their former enemy, but they couldn't deny the strong attraction. There was a brief mention of how Buffy hadn't found the perfect guy for her yet, how she longed to find the perfect mate, and her wondering if that mate could possibly be Spike.

It wasn't just what the pictures suggested that shocked and disturbed the Scoobies (though those did indeed shock and disturb them), it was the words. The words that said Spike was lusting after Buffy, and that Buffy was lusting after Spike; the Slayer and vampire were having vivid, lurid sexual fantasies and thoughts about each other. And according to what the book said, Buffy and Spike had somehow shared the bathtub fantasy, as if it had really happened. But, apparently, it was all in their minds.

"Dear Lord," Giles muttered. The others muttered variations of that phrase or were too stunned to speak at all.

Joyce was the first to avert her eyes, followed by the rest of the Scoobies. Except for Anya, of course, and Riley, who was too paralyzed with rage and revulsion to look away. Anya, in contrast, thought the drawings were very sexy. She and Xander sometimes engaged in sensual bathing, so she could understand how that may have triggered Buffy and Spike's intense craving for each other's bodies.

"You can see why I was wigged now..." Willow said with regret. She tried to accentuate the positive and smiled slightly, "But Buffy's not hurt, so... that's good! Right?"

Joyce was stunned and having trouble believing the pictures and text too, but she figured that if the worst thing that happened to Buffy in that bizarre dimension was having sex with Spike... it wouldn't be the end of the world. Joyce could live with that.

Anya looked at Riley warily, guessing that he must be hating this more than anyone else. Riley's eyes were narrowed, his jaw clenched. His right eye was twitching -- just like those guys who go insane in war movies. Was he going to go crazy again? Maybe he'd try whipping out his penis again, she wouldn't object to that. Though, right now, he looked more likely to whip out a gun and fire blindly around the shop. "Xander, it's not actually possible for a human's head to explode on its own, is it? Like in that 'Scanners' movie we watched."

"Uh, no, not possible... At least, I don't think so."

"We're about to find out," she said, taking a few steps backward and watching Riley's temple pulse and his right eye twitching away.

Riley couldn't stop himself from (metaphorically) blowing up. He felt like he was going to puke. "Buffy would never..." He pointed at the book, "That's a lie! I don't care what the goddamn book says -- it's not true! She would never even think about doing that with Spike! Those Unari freaks must be messing with her mind and making her think that way! They put a spell on her! They're even sicker than we thought!"

Most of the Scoobies nervously watched as Riley ranted. They weren't ecstatic about Buffy having lusty thoughts and fantasies about Spike or what the shared fantasy might mean, but Riley was understandably taking it the worst. That thing about Buffy yearning to find the perfect man for her had to be like a punch in the gut for the burly ex-soldier.

Xander was grappling with his own shock and disbelief. "Yeah... Yeah, I bet that's it! The Unari have power over everything in their dimension -- mind control spells wouldn't be hard for them!" Attempting to rationalize it that way was partly for his own peace of mind, but most of all for Riley's.

Riley nodded, convinced that was the only plausible explanation. "That has to be it." He latched onto that theory for dear life -- it was much more acceptable to him and kept him from losing control. "Why would those Unari monsters put those thoughts in her mind?"

"Exactly," Anya said. "What would they possibly gain?"

"Maybe for more entertainment," Riley said with disgust. "They're obviously cruel and sadistic people, and they can read Buffy's mind -- they'd know how horrified she would be if she had any... attraction to Spike."

"Really? This is the theory we're going with?" Anya shook her head. "I don't think it's correct."

"How else would you explain Buffy and Spike having the exact same... um, daydream?" Xander didn't want to call it a fantasy.

"I... can't explain it. But my gut tells me it's not the Unari manipulating them with a spell or some kind of mind control."

"Your gut? We're supposed to accept whatever your gut tells us is the truth? I don't think so," Riley said, barely keeping his anger in check.

"And listening to your paranoid, jealous instincts is better?" Anya challenged, putting a hand on her hip. "In case you hadn't noticed, I've been very helpful during this crisis. I even spanked Giles' ass good and hard earlier."

Giles raised his eyebrows. "I... have absolutely no memory of that."

"I meant, figuratively speaking," Anya clarified. "I was the one that had the most knowledge and was most helpful. Right?" Anya was happy and proud that she'd been the one the others looked to for answers. She felt like a valuable part of the group during this crisis; there were times when she still felt like an outsider who had nothing to contribute, so it was very gratifying when she was able to help as much as she had with this particular problem.

"Yes... you've been very helpful." Giles suppressed a grumble. 'Must be gracious.'

Anya smiled proudly. "Thank you, Giles."

"Well," Riley countered, "the people who know Buffy the best, know that it can't be her thinking those things on her own."

"Why not? Because Spike's not sexy and attractive -- oh wait! Yes, he is!" Anya crossed her arms confidently. "I think them experiencing the same fantasy might be because..."

Xander gave her a look that she was coming to recognize more easily -- a look that said 'Please just go along with it!'

It killed Anya to do it, but she attempted to play along. Her shoulders slumped. "Um, on the other hand... I suppose I could be wrong. We don't know anything for sure. Damn those evil, crazy, scheming Unari! They're clouding Buffy's mind with lust spells!" She pounded her fist once on the table, hoping to give her performance extra intensity.

Xander rubbed his eyes, and Giles was polishing the hell out of his glasses. Riley glared at Anya for a moment, he didn't like that she was obviously humoring him. But he figured it was preferable to her spewing rude, contradictory comments constantly. It was about time Xander started to get that woman on a leash.

Riley intended to go to the training room, he needed to punch something. Xander wanted to talk to him first though, to make sure he was okay. He took Riley aside and spoke to him quietly. It took every ounce of Riley's self-control to keep from just pushing Xander out of the way, he somehow managed to suppress the rage inside of him in order to reassure his friend.

The others went back to talking softly about what they'd seen and what it could mean. Could Buffy really be under a spell?

Anya thought, 'It's not fair that I have to censor my speech! This is America -- the land of the free and the home of the... the Whopper! No, that's not it... I'll look it up later. I should be able to say what's on my mind, it's my right as a taxpaying citizen. Just because humans have trouble hearing unpleasant truths, I have to pretend that I don't have perfectly valid, and most likely correct, assumptions. Isn't it more important that we explore all possible explanations and not settle on the one that's the most palatable for these giant, squeamish babies I'm surrounded by?! I hate having to resort to internal dialogue!'

"This sucks," Anya said out loud with a grouchy pout.

"What?" a few of the Scoobies said at the same time, looking at her.

"Huh? Oh, I said... Nip/Tuck's on. I was referring to the edgy basic cable television show about two horny, morally ambiguous plastic surgeons. There's a repeat on tonight which I hope to watch. Xander and I enjoy the sexual situations, partial nudity and profanity." Anya smiled at Xander and winked, thinking that he'd better appreciate her discretion. If the others chose to believe and promote (what she thought were) bullshit theories than look at the issue from all sides, what could she do about it as the lone voice of reason? She was reminded of the phrase 'Living in a fool's paradise'.

No one bought Anya's act, but they wisely let it go. They had more important things to worry about.

Everyone was back to researching, with the exception of Riley who was in the training room beating the stuffing out of the punching bag (while imagining it was Spike's face he was pummeling).

They didn't know what to make of the steamy pictures of Buffy and Spike and what the book said -- but believing it was some kind of spell or mind control by the Unari was the easiest explanation. They'd go with that until it was proven otherwise. Anya wasn't happy about that, but she had to go along with it to appease the others. For now. They were all making an effort not to get more freaked out or dwell on what was... developing between Buffy and Spike. If they kept at the researching, they might find a way to get Buffy out of the book before anything could happen for real.

Joyce was looking at the first picture of Buffy and Spike in the fairy tale book with a sad expression as she traced the shape of Buffy's face with a finger. She wished she could do something to help and protect her girls. It was terrible for a mother to feel so helpless.

Anya wanted to cheer Joyce up as well as prove to Xander that she could be pleasant and compassionate. She pointed to the picture of Spike, "I know you're focusing on Buffy, but did you notice Spike's package? Nice, huh?"

Joyce snorted in surprise, then covered her mouth with her hand and turned her eyes away. Unfortunately, now that Anya pointed it out, that's all Joyce's eyes wanted to fix on.

The others made groaning sounds. Except for Willow who was actually relieved that Anya was finally showing how inappropriate she could be to Buffy's mom. 'No way could she like Anya the perv better than me.'

Xander took a calming breath. "Anya, Mrs. Summers isn't interested in that."

Anya stood up straight and fidgeted. "Oh..." She was dismayed that she'd apparently gotten faulty information. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Summers. I didn't know you were a lesbian. I was told you liked penis."

Joyce sputtered, "I'm n-not a..." Then she frowned. "Who told you that? Are those their exact words -- that I like penis?"

"So then you do like penis?" Anya asked. "But it's okay if you don't like penis, because --"

"Stop saying penis!" Giles blurted out. He closed his eyes and sighed. Then he took off his glasses and polished them furiously.

"Well, there are lots of different words and terms for it in the English language alone. I could say cock instead," Anya said, genuinely thinking she was being helpful by offering alternatives. "There really are dozens of terms: dick, prick, pecker, one-eyed trouser snake, rod, sha--"

"Penis it is, then..." Giles said tiredly. "I meant, could you not refer to that... body part at all."

"Penis is the correct medical term for the male sex organ. I don't understand why some people in this day and age get blushy and embarrassed at the mere mention of human anatomy and sexuality. Is it religious upbringing? Many religions tend to try shaming people into being more inhibited. The ancient Romans, on the other hand, now they weren't shy to talk about sex. They even used ceramic penises as decorative --"

Giles made a growly sound. "Honestly, Anya, can't you go a half hour without saying something offensive? Mrs. Summers is --"

Joyce got over her initial shock, laughed and waved her hand. "It's okay, really. It made me think of something besides how worried I am about my daughters for a minute, and I actually laughed... eventually." She looked at Anya. "So, thank you for that, Anya."

Anya grinned and puffed up with pride. "You're welcome." She stuck her tongue out at Xander and the others.

Joyce leaned closer to her and asked quietly, "Seriously though, who told you I like penis?"

"Giles told me that --"

"I most certainly did NOT!" Giles exclaimed.

"Yes, you did," Anya insisted. "You told me that you and Mrs. Summers --"

"Why would you tell her about that?!" Joyce looked at him with wide eyes, blushing deeply.

"I have no idea what she's talking about! I've never --"

Anya sighed. "You two keep interrupting me before I can get more than one sentence out and explain myself. It's becoming very annoying. May I finish?"

They just nodded mutely, afraid of what else she might say.

"Thank you. I was going to say, Giles told me that the two of you had talked about how you were married for a long time to Buffy's father. And while that fact doesn't guarantee that you weren't secretly gay all that time -- because that does happen -- it does show that you were attracted to men in your formative years. And you've been on dates with men since your divorce. Therefore, I assumed that you liked penis and that you would enjoy looking at the very lifelike and beautifully illustrated picture of Spike wearing tight fitting leather shorts." They were just staring at her, so she said, "You can speak now, I'm finished. Thank you for remaining silent for a minute."

Joyce had to chuckle at the misunderstanding. "Thank you for clearing that up." And then she looked sheepishly at Giles. “I'm sorry I... leapt to the conclusion that you were, um, spreading gossip about me. I should've known better."

Giles smiled warmly and put his hand on Joyce's shoulder. "I understand. Anya has a way of... getting people flustered."

Anya observed their smiles and the hand on Joyce's shoulder. There were no erotic woodcarvings to distract her this time. "You two have had sex, haven't you? I didn't know you were orgasm friends."

They both coughed and then cleared their throats as Giles quickly stepped away from Joyce.

"Of--Of course we're not org-- that sort of friends!" Giles replied completely unconvincingly.

"It wasn't our fault -- we weren’t ourselves!” Joyce blurted out.

Giles groaned and put a hand over his eyes. So much for trying to deny it...

The other Scoobies were shocked, staring with wide eyes.

“If you weren't yourselves, then who were you?” Anya asked with a frown. Then she brightened, “Oh! Were you doing some sexy role-playing? Pretending to be other people can really spice things up. I have a black leather spy outfit that I put on and call myself 'Natasha', Xander loves it. So, how long have you two been doing ‘the horizontal mambo’? That’s slang for having sexual intercourse, in case you didn’t know. I just learned that one myself.”

Both Giles and Joyce were blushing furiously, unable to speak for a moment.

Willow, Tara and Xander's jaws were hanging open. They were still recovering from the revelation.

"Wow, you two really...? Does Buffy know?" Willow asked, blushing brightly herself.

"Sweet merciful Zeus!" Xander muttered. "I never thought I'd say this, but go back to talking about Spike's package again -- much less traumatic."

Anya smacked his arm, frowning. "Don't you try making them feel guilty or wrong for enjoying themselves. That goes for all of you. If they want to be orgasm friends, then I say more power to them."

Joyce looked down, finding the floor much safer a place to look than in the others’ startled eyes. She mumbled, "It was that cursed band candy, it wasn't really us. We were.. out of control..." She glanced up at Giles and then quickly away again. She couldn’t help the way her body tingled when she remembered their brief dalliance. ‘Ripper’ was one hell of a lover! Definitely better than any tumble she'd ever taken with Hank.

"Out of control is when some of the best sex happens," Anya said, patting Joyce on the arm.

“It w-wasn’t... It’s not as if we’re still... It only happened once,” Joyce said awkwardly.

“Twice,” Giles said before he could stop himself. Yes, even Giles' brain needed sleep to avoid becoming sluggish.

They all looked at him.

His eyes widened; he was just as surprised as they were. He squirmed slightly under their gazes. “Twice if you count... Once -- it happened once, just as she said! And it's none of anyone else's bloody business!”

Joyce put her hands over her face, flushed with embarrassment... but also a bit of excitement since she was now vividly recalling getting freaky with Giles on the hood of that police car. “Somebody please shoot me.”

"Erm, Mrs. Summers," Giles said, hoping to provide both of them an escape, "would you like a cup of coffee? I have some in my office. I was just going to have some myself."

Joyce was eager to get away from her daughter's shocked friends and any further questions they may have, she stood up quickly. "Yes, thank you... Mr. Giles."

Anya’s brows knit, "You're still not on a first name basis after you had sex? Although, that can be pretty hot if you role-play, say, a student/teacher scenario. Xander and I have --"

Giles held up his hand, "Anya, I will say this as politely as I can: Do not say another bloody word... please." He'd said please, but it was through gritted teeth.

She frowned, but closed her mouth and kept it closed, and made a lip-sealing gesture -- not that any of them thought that would last very long.

He sighed heavily. "Thank you."

Giles and Joyce hurried along to his office.

"You know, we have coffee out here." Anya picked up one of the unopened cups from the Espresso Pump. "And it's much better than the sludge that Giles makes in his office." She chuckled. "The other day, I humorously asked Giles if it was his practice to strain the coffee through a mummy. That's going right in the act," she said, referring to her plan to try her hand at stand-up comedy at a club in town called The Giggle Pit.

"The main attraction of the sludge is that it's in there," Giles said as he pointed to his office. "And you will be remaining out here."

He closed the door once he and Joyce were both inside.

"Well," Anya pouted, "that was rude."

"I can't believe it," Xander blinked and shook his head. "Giles and Buffy's mom..." He shuddered.

Anya's mopey expression was replaced by a smile. "Oh! Wouldn't it be sweet if they were going in there to have sex again?"

"Eugh!" Xander recoiled. "Sweet? No, it would be the opposite of sweet!"

Anya blew out a breath and shook her head. "All of you have so many hang-ups. It's a wonder any of you ever have sex."

"Giles and Buffy's mom having..." He grimaced, not able to say the word. "Them being together is like my own parents knockin' boots. Luckily, my biological parents haven't even thought about touching each other for years -- but this is the next worst thing."

"Xander, grow up," Anya gave him a swat on the back of the head.

"Hey! And, oww," he rubbed the back of his head. "Stop with the smacking! I bruise like a peach!"

Tara had been quiet, but finally stated her opinion. "I haven't been around as long as the rest of you, so I guess that's why it doesn't seem as weird to me. I think Anya's right, it would be nice if Mr. Giles and Mrs. Summers started dating. They’re such nice people, they deserve to be happy. And you guys will be okay with it too, once it has a chance to sink in."

"I don't want it to sink -- I want it to float. No sinking," Xander said, leaning away from Anya, lest he get smacked again.

"At least Tara isn't acting like a child. Thank you for taking my side, Tara," Anya said.

Tara smiled slightly and nodded.

"We should... hang out sometime," Anya said with a sort of forced casualness, trying to further prove how friendly and approachable she could be. "Shoot the breeze, as they say. Maybe we can go shopping for flannel shirts and Birkenstocks, which I've been informed many lesbians enjoy wearing. You gals love your sensible footwear, am I right?"

"Uh... yeah, s-sure," Tara stuttered. She didn't know how well she and Anya would get along without the others around. They once had a solo discussion about the tile in Giles’ bathroom, and that was about it.

Xander couldn't imagine two women as different as Anya and Tara. To be a fly on the wall to observe them 'hanging out' would be interesting. Poor Tara would probably be ready to jump out of a moving car to get away by the end of the shopping trip.

"Just so we're clear," Anya added, "I'm asking you out as a friend. I'm not a lesbian, I'm not hitting on you and trying to steal you away from Willow. I like penis."

"O...kay," Tara said slowly.

"Anybody who's ever spent two minutes with you knows you like penis, Anya," Willow mumbled.

"Well," Xander clapped his hands and rubbed them together, "what say we erase all our memories from the last ten minutes?"

"You think Buffy knows about her mom and Giles?" Willow whispered.

"Didn't you hear the thing about the erasing of our memories?" Xander asked, exasperated. "Better yet, let's start the erasing right before we saw those new pictures..."

Willow blinked at him, waiting for an answer.

He slumped in his chair and sighed. "I think Buffy would've told us if she knew about her mom and Giles. I don't think she would have been able to hide the big ol' case of the wiggins it would've given her..."

Xander couldn't stifle a yawn, which made everyone else yawn reflexively.

End Notes:
Spuffy comin' up next!
Part 1, Chapter 14: Life of Illusion (continued again) by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
Finally getting to the Spuffy part :D
Buffy woke up smiling, automatically snuggling against Spike's hard body. She couldn't see very well, but there was enough dim light for her to observe that he was sleeping. She was laying against his side, her arm across his chest and a leg draped over one of his. She smiled some more and rubbed her cheek lightly against his chest.

She felt so good. Her body and mind had never felt more satisfied and relaxed after a session of lovemaking. She wished for a few days alone in a nice big bed with Spike, and a refrigerator full of sports drinks. More time and less sleepiness would be good. It made Buffy tingle to imagine all the things they could do with each other given more time and energy.

It was an immense relief to discover that it hadn't been another vivid dream. Both of them had had a bit of fear that they'd wake up only to find that it hadn't really happened. But it was, without question, real this time.

Buffy had no idea how long she'd slept, but she felt great, like she'd had a full eight hours or more. That couldn't be, though, because it would be morning now if that were the case. The Unari were probably playing around with their recovery time. Whatever. She was just glad that she was feeling good and curled up with her man.

'My man... That's what he is now. How weird is that?' Buffy thought with a small smile. Before they had gone on the 'Quest for Dawn', Buffy never imagined she'd ever be laying naked with Spike after the lovin', feeling all glowy and happy. But here she was. And she was in love with him. Life was strange -- her life certainly was, anyway.

She sighed in contentment and gently caressed Spike's smooth chest. She'd had sex -- amazing, fantastical, splendiferous sex -- with Spike. It was how she had always dreamed sex could be. It wasn't just the intense, incredible orgasms (though those helped!) that made it the best experience of her life. She remembered the way they'd talked and laughed while they'd made love, being at ease and comfortable enough with each other to act silly as well as share their profound feelings. Everything had felt so very right -- it was perfect.

The happiness she felt because of Spike and their new relationship was still so fresh and all-encompassing, it was easy for her to push away the worries and fears for the moment. Happy Buffy was in firm control right now, and she wasn't going to let any bad shit in to dampen her euphoria.

Buffy gave Spike's chest a soft kiss, and then, as quietly as she could, got up and slipped her dress back on. She peered over the edge of the hayloft to see if there was anyone down there, but it was just the animals.

"No homicidal farmers... so far. Still think those goats and chickens are up to no good..."

Buffy lit the lantern and took it with her down the ladder. She explored the barn a bit, giving the animals a wide berth. She was surprised, but grateful, to find a water closet like the one back at the gingerbread house. After she used the facilities, she went to the big window on the side of the barn. She had known it was still raining (she could hear the rain hitting the building), but she'd hoped that it would show some signs of slowing down.

Buffy sighed as she looked out the window. The rain was still pouring, lightning flashed and thunder still crashed. Would this stupid storm ever go away? How much longer were they going to be trapped in here?

Her eyes moved to the hayloft, and a naughty smile formed on her lips. 'Spike and I can entertain ourselves while we wait for the storm to end. Make the best of a bad situation -- that's what I always say! Actually, I don't think I've ever said that before... but I'll start saying it now.'

She hurried back up the ladder. Spike was still fast asleep. She didn't want to wake him, he'd been through so much too and deserved as much rest as he could get. He looked so adorable and sexy in his sleep. His eyelashes were so dark, pretty and thick. Why did some men get such lush eyelashes? Wasn't fair.

'Okay, I'm not going to be an insensitive jerk and wake him up just so I can have my way with him again. I'm not an animal.' She wasn't so sure about that. Looking at Spike and thinking about their sweaty bodies pressed together again was making her feel all hot, squirmy and growly, more animal-like. 'I can control myself. Just cuddling is nice, too.'

Buffy left the lantern lit and set it on a bale of hay (in case she got bored and got the urge to make some shadow animals on the wall), and then took her dress off again. She carefully got back under the blanket with Spike and snuggled against his side like the way she was when she'd woken up.

It was nice just to cuddle him, to feel his skin against hers. Buffy ran her hand over his chest and stomach, trying to be delicate so she wouldn't wake him, but she had the irresistible need to touch his beautiful, powerful, muscular body.

Spike stirred, waking up slowly as Buffy was making herself cozy against him again. A smile played on his lips as his very satisfied body sent the 'I had an epic shag before I went to sleep' signals to his brain. His smile expanded when the memories of making love with Buffy flashed through his mind. He felt Buffy's warm body pressed against his side and her hand on his chest. It had really happened; it wasn't another dream or fantasy. And it had transcended any previous shag he'd ever had. Buffy was the perfect woman for him, there wasn't any doubt about it. She was his destiny.

Yes, he'd been positive that Drusilla was his destiny once upon a time, but that was then and this is now. Time had proven him wrong about Dru. She was a part of his destiny, but not the one he was meant to be with. She had created him and made him her companion for over 100 years, which had ultimately led him to Sunnydale and Buffy. He still had anger and resentment towards Dru for the way she'd cast him aside, but he was grateful to her for guiding him (albeit unwittingly) to his true destiny -- Buffy.

Spike hadn't opened his eyes yet, he was content to bask in his happiness and the warmth of her body. The aroma of their lovemaking lingered in the air and on their skin, tickling his nose and arousing him.

But then a few troubling thoughts snuck their way into his mind. What if Buffy changed her mind about wanting him? What if she regretted being with him now that the deed was done?

His eyes finally opened, he needed to see her face. Buffy was smiling back at him, which made Spike's smile spread across his face. Hers wasn't a smile of someone who regretted what had happened, it was one of a happy and satisfied woman.

"Hi there," Buffy said, kissing him lightly.

"Hello, cutie."

"Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."

"S'alright, pet." He took a deep breath and stretched his muscles. "Can't think of a better way to wake up," he said, and kissed her lips softly. Then he pulled back and cocked an eyebrow. "Well... there are a few better ways to be woken up... also involving you."

Buffy smiled and bit her lower lip, imagining herself being so bold as to mount him or suck his dick while he was still asleep. That idea appealed to her and she was sorry she hadn't tried waking him up in a highly naughty way. Well, there was always next time.

"I didn't intend to wake you up, I wanted to let you sleep as long as you wanted since we're stuck here, anyway. Though, I have to admit... doing something naughty did cross my mind. If I did one of those things, I'm thinking it would've woken you up."

"Eventually." Spike put his left arm around her, holding her closer. "You know I was joking, don't you? Waking up with you next to me is all I need."

"I know." They kissed again, not seeming able to get enough of each other's lips. "Though you wouldn't object if I woke you up another way..."

"That would be a bonus." He poked his tongue out.

They smiled and continued to just lightly hold each other a while longer.

"So... still love me?" Spike asked.

"Mmmhmm." Buffy kissed him sweetly to reassure him. "You thought the mind-blowing sex would make me not love you anymore?"

"Just checking."

"And you didn't turn into an evil bastard in your sleep?" She was just teasing, of course, though that fear had been at the back of her mind.

Spike kissed her forehead and held her tighter for a moment. "How could I be anything other than blissfully happy? I woke up with you in my arms, I'm on top of the bloody world."

Buffy smiled. "Just checking."

Spike looked up at the ceiling, hearing the sound of the rain dashing against the roof of the barn. "Still raining, eh?"

"Yep. I peeked out the window downstairs. I think we're going to have to build an ark."

Spike nodded his head toward the lower level of the barn. "Don't know if we have two of every animal down there, but it's a start." He didn't see any light peeking in through the walls or ceiling. "It's still dark outside?"


He frowned. "I feel like I've had a full night's sleep. That can't be."

"It be. I feel rested, too. I don't know how it's possible either. I guess it's the Unari playing around with our recovery speed and time again."

Spike growled, his body tensing slightly. "I don't care if what they do does help us in some way -- they should leave us the bloody hell alone. We've done just fine on our own, survival-wise, before we came to this dimension. We're survivors who don't need or want any extra help from the likes of them."

Buffy stroked his chest soothingly. They were both wondering if, and how much, the Unari were tampering with their minds and emotions. But they didn't voice those concerns. Not yet -- not while they were still on a high. Neither of them would permit unpleasant possibilities back in quite yet.

"What time does your spidey sense tell you it is?" she asked.

He concentrated for a moment, his frown deepening. "Same as last time I checked -- 'bout midnight."

"Well, I guess that's good. It gives us more time 'til sunrise to wait out the storm. We need to get to that stupid portal."

Buffy gasped, and then smiled when Spike was suddenly on top of her, looking down on her with a devilish grin.

He held himself above her. His voice was deep and roughened. "I just want to stay right here and make love to you for days. Part of me says sod the portal."

"Mmmm, I think I know which part you're referring to." Buffy wrapped her hand around his hardening shaft. "Days, huh? I don't know if I'd survive, but it's a much better way to go than what we faced before."

"You'd survive. Just might be walkin' a little funny." Spike lowered his body to hers and playfully bit the side of her neck as he settled his hips between her thighs.

Buffy let go of his cock, and put her arms around him. She ran her hands ran up his back while her heart hammered in her chest and her pussy tingled in anticipation of what they were about to do. Buffy grinned and tilted her head back as he kissed and softly sucked at her neck. "Oh, we really shouldn't be... indulging ourselves. We should get dressed to be ready to get back on the road as soon as the rain stops."

"I'm gonna indulge the hell out of you," Spike rumbled while nibbling at her neck. He understood Buffy a little better in some ways. He noticed that she liked to put up a token resistance to being bad and she said things just so he could 'talk her into it'. Of course, there were times when she meant no, too -- he had to be careful not to confuse being playful and being serious. Being Buffy's man wasn't going to be easy, but Spike was positive that he was man enough for the job, and the benefits outweighed any drawbacks. Buffy had a naughty streak laying just under the surface, but she tried to be such a good girl all the time. It gave Spike an extra thrill that this pure, lionhearted girl wanted to be bad with him.

"Mmmmm, yes, Spike. Indulge me. Indulge my brains out," she breathed, arching her body into his.

But then Spike stopped and raised his head, looking to the side. "Hold on -- I think it's over."

Buffy's fevered brain thought he meant he'd finished already. That unfortunate occurrence did happen to guys sometimes. She was disappointed, but didn't want to hurt his feelings. "Oh... it's okay, baby. We can try again in a little while." She kissed his neck and caressed his sides. "You were really excited, huh?" She looked between their bodies, wondering why she hadn't felt him cumming on her skin.

Spike smirked, thinking again how adorable she was. "I was talking about the storm outside. I don't hear the rain anymore."

Buffy listened. She didn't hear the pitter-pat of the rain on the roof either. "Oh, that's... good. I guess we should... get dressed."

"Yeah... dressed."

They didn't move; they were reluctant to part from the warmth and comfort of each other's body. Their bodies were still primed and thrumming with desire.

"You do drive me wild, Buffy, but I don’t prematurely blow my wad like some spotty teenager."

A blush further reddened her already passion-flushed face. "I misunderstood."

Spike kissed her rosy cheeks. "Rest assured, milady always comes first. It was considerate of you to try and make me feel better 'bout it though. Good to know I can count on my girl to boost my spirits."

She giggled. "I didn't want to hurt your feelings. I tried to take it as a compliment."

He gave her lips a kiss and then began to move off of her. Buffy wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck. It was important to get to the portal as soon as they could, but her sex-hungry body wasn't going to let her do anything until it got what it wanted first.

Buffy batted her eyes at him. "We don't have to... rush off. The rain might start again in a minute, we should wait and see."

Spike smiled and settled against her again. He had only stopped because he thought she'd be upset if they didn't leave right away, and he didn't want to try her patience. Just like hers, his body was also adamant that it get what it wanted. "If you insist."

"I'm afraid I must insist." She smiled and relaxed the grip her arms and legs had on him now that she was sure he wasn't going anywhere.

Spike's left hand moved between her legs, his fingers stroked and pressed into her slit. "Mmmm, so wet for me already, pet."

Buffy's eyes closed at the feel of his hand on her nether lips. "I was thinking about coming back up here and jumping you. Maybe I subconsciously wanted you to wake up... I'm sorry if that's what I did." She let out a little gasp when his fingers rubbed her clit. "No, I take that back -- I'm not sorry," she said with a breathy laugh.

Spike's fingers continued their gentle assault, getting her pussy wetter and wetter. "I think you can guess which I would choose given the options of sleep or sex. Don't hesitate to wake me up and ravish me, or wake me up while ravishing me, if you've got an itch. I always want you. I’m always hard for you, Buffy."

Buffy didn’t think she'd ever really be insensitive enough to wake him just so she could ravish him, but who knows -- she might get just that horny and mischievous sometime. "I don't think we should do everything this time. Ohh that feels so good," she moaned. "W-We really do need to get going soon." She really wanted some more of his excellent oral skills, but her pussy was demanding to be filled with his cock.

"You want a quickie, then? I'd prefer a longie, but... Alright, lady's choice: How do you want it, pet? What's your pleasure?"

Buffy rubbed his back with her hands and his hips with her thighs. "Like this. I want you like this." She arched her back as Spike slid two fingers into her hole. "I want you now, Spike! I'm ready!"

"You certainly are." Her pussy was so hot and wet for him, her muscles gripped and pulled at his fingers. His cock twitched, craving to take his fingers' place immediately. He withdrew his fingers, giving her clit another firm rub. He thrust his tongue into her mouth at the same instant he thrust his cock into her hole.

Buffy moaned into Spike's mouth as he entered her. Her tongue wound around his. All was right with the world when he was inside of her and loving her; time seemed to standstill, and the only thing that was real or mattered was the pleasure they gave each other.

They moved together slowly -- for how long, they couldn't say -- savoring every moment. During that time, delicious mini-quakes rocked Buffy's body. Then she felt the biggest 'O' building up in her loins.

Buffy moaned and met his thrusts. She never knew a cock could feel so glorious inside of her. Every movement of his slim hips, every sawing motion of his cock as it moved in and out of her passage, sent ripples of pleasure throughout her body. She didn't know how she could remember anything at the moment, but she recalled something earlier he'd said in a joking way -- she suspected he might not have been totally kidding, so she moaned, "Ohh Spike, you're the Big Bad! The Big Bad!"

Spike stopped moving for a second, his already highly aroused mind and body got an extra jolt of passion. He didn't care if she was only trying to be funny -- it was bloody hot! He growled and adjusted his position, and then started pounding away at her.

Buffy squealed and gasped, holding onto him while he fucked her hard and fast. She definitely would be calling him that again in the future if it got this kind of result! She brought her knees up to her chest, tilting her pelvis up to allow him to go deeper. She felt that big orgasm begin to crash over her. "Yes! Ohhh God! I'm cumming! Cum with me, Spike!"

One more push was all it took for Spike to hurdle over the edge with Buffy. He drove into her to the hilt, tensed, threw his head back and gave a primal shout as he started shooting his load deep within her.

Then they both felt that extraordinary feeling again -- the one Buffy had described as bubbles of joy bursting. Their hips bucked and shook as they came together. Grunts and moans of bliss erupted from their mouths. Spike collapsed against Buffy's chest, unable to support himself any longer. Buffy wrapped her arms around him, holding him to her bosom. They cried out and held each other, their lower bodies repeatedly lurched together until completion.

"Wow..." was all Buffy could manage to say when she was able to speak again. She petted the back of his head and neck.

"Bloody hell," Spike gasped, lifting his head.

They smiled at each other and shared a tender, breathless kiss. They didn't feel exhausted like they had after the last time, but their brains were a little fuzzy. They would need a minute or two for the orgasmic haze to lift. Spike moved off of her and flopped onto his back on the blanket. They were pleased to find that their first time hadn’t been a fluke -- they'd both felt that incredibly strong, mind-scrambling torrent of pleasure again.

Buffy put the back of her hand against her forehead as she got her breath back. "That was some damn fine indulging you did there, sir."

"I aims to please, milady," Spike panted, a broad smile on his face, too.

"God... that was... wonderful!" Buffy enthused. "Having sex with you takes a lot out of me though." She laughed giddily.

"Takes a lot outta me, too," Spike said, raising and lowering his eyebrows.

"I noticed," she said coyly, gingerly rubbing the combination of their juices on her wet slit. Buffy rolled over to lay against his side again. She moved her hand over his stomach and chest. "I love going slow and working up to a big finale, but sometimes I..."

"Just wanna be wildly fucked?" Spike finished her thought.

"That's putting it crudely... but accurately," she giggled. "I think one of my fillings came loose."

"Wasn't too rough, was I?"

"I would've let you know if I didn't like it. Don't start thinking you have to treat me like a China doll." Buffy didn’t want Spike to handle her as if she were fragile like other men in her life had. Not that she didn’t enjoy tenderness, but she also liked a good hard fucking.

"I know you're... sturdy," Spike patted her on the ass. "I'm just making sure you wanted me to be as rough as I was. I s’pose it’s a bad time to check, once we're already done..."

"It was just how I wanted it." She kissed him. "You liked that 'Oh, you're the Big Bad!' thing, eh?"

Spike smirked. "Told you I would. I loved it, pet. It sent me into overdrive." His hand went from resting on her butt to lightly groping. "You sure we don't have time for a longie? I've got lots of things I want to try with you." He'd really wanted to see if she would be up for some doggie style, but he'd forgotten to mention it while they were shagging. It was hard to remember anything with her hot, nubile body wriggling under his.

Buffy smacked his abs. "Stop trying to tempt me, you bad boy. We shouldn't have indulged ourselves as much as we have. You know we have to go now."

Spike sighed heavily. "Yeah, I know. But when this is all over and we have access to a big, comfy bed, you'd better set aside a few days on your calendar."

"I love you," Buffy said sweetly.

"I know," he replied with a smirk.

She rolled her eyes. "How very Han Solo of you."

There was still a twinkle in his blue eyes, but he said more seriously, "You know I love you, Buffy. I'd go on top of the bloody roof and shout my love for you if there wasn't a good chance of me bein' struck by lightning or slipping off and breaking my neck."

Buffy took his hand and stood up, tugging him up to stand with her. Every second they were alone here, naked and smelling of sex, was too much temptation for the newly addicted to Spike-sex Slayer. "Come on, Han, let's go get cleaned up." She tried not to let her gaze linger on his still-hard cock. Remarking on or staring at it might very well lead to them being here for a few more hours.

"Anything you say, Leia."

They gathered their clothes and supplies, and then went down the ladder and made their way to the water closet.

They quickly washed up at the sink.

Buffy's teeth chattered. "Water's cold!"

"Want me to... warm you up?" Spike couldn’t help being a bit naughty by putting his arms around Buffy from behind and nuzzling her neck. His hands slid over her stomach and hips.

Buffy smiled and swatted halfheartedly at his hands. “Stop it, Spike. We don’t have time to screw around.”

“Not even a little?” he asked silkily, pressing his lips against her shoulder blade.

Buffy closed her eyes and leaned back against him, just enjoying the way being in his arms made her feel. "We really have to get going while it's still dark outside, Spike."

"Sure you don't want to hang out in the hayloft a bit longer?" He singsonged, "It's nice and cozy..."

"Ohh yes," Buffy moaned. Then she shook her head, "I mean, no. I'd like to, but..." His lips moved to the side of her neck, pressing soft kisses and sucking lightly. Buffy moaned again. "We just did it a few minutes ago. Wasn't that enough to... satisfy you for a while?"

"Not my fault you're so succulent, Slayer. I can't get enough of you," Spike said in that nearly irresistible caramel-y tone of his. His hands slowly moved up to cup her breasts.

"Dammit," Buffy muttered, then spun around in his arms, and kissed him fiercely.

They kissed and groped and rubbed for a minute before Buffy pulled back, breathing hard. “No, we can’t put everything on hold any longer just so we can satisfy our lustiness. Put your clothes back on.”

Spike sighed dramatically, but stopped kissing and touching her. “Alright... But remember that appointment we have with a big bed and days to explore and map each other's body.”

“I won’t be forgetting that, don’t worry." Buffy was looking forward to that just as much as Spike was.

They both held in disappointed groans once their clothes were back on, they loved looking at the other’s body. But it did help lessen the temptation... somewhat.

On their way out of the barn, they each cast a last wistful glance at the hayloft where they'd spent some very happy hours.

Right before he closed the barn doors behind them, Spike bowed toward the animals, "Thanks for not trying to eat our faces off while we slept. Cheers!"

They walked across the spongy ground back to the road. The storm had made the road into a muddy, goopy mess, but they were relieved that there still was a road after all that rain. The moon was high in the sky, full and bright once again; stars twinkled against the black backdrop of the sky. Everything seemed so calm and peaceful. If it weren't for the state of the dirt road and some fallen tree limbs, you'd never know a monsoon had just come through the area. It wasn't going to be any fun walking along the muddy road, but walking in mud wasn't so bad -- at least they hadn't been drugged and chained to a wall in the barn with those shifty-eyed goats and chickens.

They looked back at the barn and the nearby farmhouse. There didn't appear to be any last minute threats to their safety.

"Well, looks like we got through another of the Unari's little games unscathed. Eventually the tossers are gonna see that there isn't anything they throw at us that we can't handle. I'm pleasantly surprised that we didn't have homicidal farmers or bloodthirsty barnyard animals to deal with."

"Me too. Hard to believe the Unari were kind enough to give us some time alone..."

They weren't sorry they'd been able to get closer because of being waylaid by the storm, but it did make them wonder. There didn't seem to be any purpose to the storm or for them having to seek shelter from it. It could have been a delaying tactic by the Unari to keep them from getting to Dawn more quickly. But...

And then Buffy had an unsettling thought. "What if they set the whole thing up so we would... You don't think the Unari were watching us when we were... you know... do you?" Buffy's eyes widened and darted around.

Spike blinked and frowned. "Dunno... maybe."

She put a hand over her eyes. She felt sick, angry and embarrassed at the thought of anyone observing what she and Spike had done in the hayloft. "Oh my God..."

"I think they might have given us privacy. They seemed to understand about us needing more privacy for the baths..." Spike sniffed. "I don't care if they were watchin', we've got nothin' to be ashamed of."

"You might be okay with those pervs watching us while wearing their filthy trench coats, Mr. Porn Star, but I am not. My boudoir activities are strictly private!"

"We were in a hayloft, pet. Not a boudoir in sight."

Buffy looked at him in exasperation. "How can you be so jokey about this?! Those freaks might have been watching us in our most intimate moments! That doesn't bother you at all?"

"Don't get me wrong, if I find out they were watching us, I'll take a chunk out of their hides for it. There's just nothing we can do to change or prevent it. I've had to learn to let some things roll off my back rather than let them drive me mad. You'd do well to learn the same lesson... especially in this dimension."

"Well, we just won't give them any free 'shows' again. No more sex until we get back home," Buffy said with a firm nod.

Spike didn't like that solution. "That's a little extreme, don't you think? We don't even know if the blighters did watch us."

"It doesn't matter. I'm all squicked thinking they might be watching."

"You know, religious types believe God is watchin' you all the time. Sees you when you're sleeping, knows when you're awake... Wait, I think I got God mixed up with Father Christmas. Same difference though."

"This is different -- the Unari are not Gods."

"In this dimension, they are," Spike said simply.

"Oh, that's just what I wanted to hear. Not helping me feel better, Spike!"

"Bloody hell, Buffy," he groaned. "Don't let them get to you."

"I can't help it, Spike. I'm officially wigged." She pouted, which made him sigh at her adorability.

Spike stepped up to her and gave her pouty lip a light kiss. "It's going to be all right, pet. We won't... give them any more peep shows... if they were even watchin' in the first place." He didn't like the thought of not being able to make love to her again while they were in this dimension, but he had to do whatever it took to help set her mind to rest. "We're not gonna let those bastards get to us, are we? No, we bloody well are not! Not after what we've already gone through. We're gonna show the Unari just how bloody tough and resilient we are. We're going to get past all these bloody tests, straight through to the end when we find Dawn, with all our marbles intact. And then -- if one of the Unari has the bollocks to face us -- we can go medieval on their asses."

Buffy smiled. "Nice pep talk."

Spike smiled a little. "Did it work?"

She nodded. "You're right, we can't let them get to us. That's what they want. I bet they left us with all these dangling questions so we'd be confused and freaked out." Buffy straightened up, squaring her shoulders. "But we're not going to let them win -- all they're doing is pissing us off and earning a monumental kicking of their asses delivered by us. Now, let's ease on down the road before they do reconsider sending a homicidal farmer after us."

Travel on the road was proving problematic... and gross. Every step they took made a squishing sound. Cold mud oozed into their shoes.

Spike was a few steps ahead of Buffy, but he stopped when he heard a loud, strange sucking sound. Buffy stumbled into his back a second later.

"Eww!" Buffy yelled as she tried to right herself. "The stupid mud sucked my shoe off!"

Spike turned around and helped steady her. He tried not to smile to avoid getting smacked. But she looked so cute with her brow creased and hopping on one foot.

Buffy held onto Spike so she didn't fall over and go face-first into the mud as she bent down and retrieved her shoe from the muck. She held it upside down, pouring out mud. "I say again, ewww."

"Want another piggyback ride? You can mount me any ol' time you want."

Buffy gave him a 'don't start' look at that comment, but she steered clear of the double entendre. "Yeah, I'd hop on your back and then you'd sink up to your neck in the mud like a dinosaur in a tar pit. Let's try walking on the grass on the side of the road instead. It's squishy but not as bad as this crap."

They went to the side of the road. Buffy grimaced as she slipped her shoe back on. "Oh, ick -- that's feels nasty."

"I've got cold mud sloshin' around in my shoes, too. Not the most pleasant feeling in the world, is it? Let's talk about something, preferably frivolous, to get our minds off our feet."

They started walking again, trying to ignore the squelchy sensations and sounds.

Buffy thought about the fairy tale 'Hansel & Gretel' and how their own experience compared. "Do you think we're supposed to find our house?"

"Our house?"

"If it follows the fairy tale script, our father left us out in the woods because our wicked stepmother ordered him to get rid of us, right?"

Spike nodded, "Yeah, that's the way it went in most versions of the story."

"Didn't Hansel and Gretel find their way back home after they escaped from the witch to have a happy reunion with their spineless deadbeat dad?"

"But the portal's opened -- or so we've been told -- we satisfied the conditions to go forward. I think we're done with this part of it."

"I hope so. I just want to move on." Buffy looked pensive. "Hmm..."


"If we're supposed to be brother and sister... we did some bad, bad things." Buffy made an 'oops' face.

Spike laughed heartily at both the thought of them being related and Buffy's expression. The way his laugh just burst out of him and the way his eyes crinkled up made Buffy smile and think how adorable he could be, even when he was laughing at something dirty.

He wiped a tear from his eye with the back of his hand. "Unlike the original Hansel and Gretel, I don't think we're supposed to be related, luv. We're just... traveling companions."

"Yeah, let's go with that. It's non-creepy and doesn't make us deviants in most States."

"I'll have to have another look at the map to be sure, but I don't think there was another house near the portal. That Mirror told us all we had to do was get to the portal."

"Call me kooky, but I don't trust those people. I wouldn't put it past them to throw one more test at us even though they told us there weren't going to be any more. They'd probably think it would be really funny to surprise us."

Spike hated to admit she might be right, but she did have a point. "We won't get complacent; we'll stay alert." A minute later, he chuckled again. "Us -- brother and sister. Would've been the first taboo, X-rated version of the story, as far as I know."

Buffy laughed along with him. She wouldn't be laughing if she suspected that her friends would get a gander at her and Spike's X-rated exploits.

"I wonder if you'll be playing the title role of Pinocchio somewhere down the line?" Buffy teased.

Spike rolled his eyes, "Oh yeah, that'd be brilliant."

"It would've been great if your nose grew every time you lied in the past. You'd have quite the schnoz by now."

"Yeah, well in my version of 'Pinocchio' it ain't my nose that grows. I saw a very entertaining video nasty based on that premise once."

Buffy chuckled. "How did I know you'd go there?"

He smirked and shrugged. "You set me up for it, and I couldn't resist."

"I don't think you need any magical help in that... area," she said, raising her brows and lowering her eyes to his groin.

Spike's smirk turned into a full-sized grin. "You're a fan of my wriggly bits, then?"

Buffy looked at him sideways with a smirk of her own. "Shut up."

"We'd put how well you can handle wood to the ultimate test."

"Just so you know, I'm not having sex with you if you're a wooden puppet."

"Not even if I'm nice an' shellacked? There'd be less danger of you getting splinters in sensitive areas."

Buffy giggled. "You're so weird. Uh-uh, I don't 'do' puppets, no matter how impressive their noses or other parts may be."

Talking was helping take her mind off of the mud, so she went to the next topic that leapt to mind.

"I wonder why they didn't make me Goldilocks? A little too on the nose? Maybe that will be the next fairy tale we get dropped into."

Spike swallowed audibly. "No, that's not gonna happen."

"It could."

"It won't," Spike said quickly and conclusively, furrowing his brow.

"What's your deal? Is... it the bears?" Buffy hazarded a guess. She recalled how freaked out he had been that Thanksgiving when the Indian spirit had transformed into a bear. "Why do bears scare you so much?"

"'m not scared." Spike squared his jaw. "I had to fight a whole pack of demon bears once,” he said dramatically. “Enormous, red-eyed bears from Hell. Was quite a battle... fraught with peril and pain. Fur, claws and fangs flyin', I barely made it out in one piece."

"Wow, that does sound like a fascinating and action-packed story -- if only it were true,” Buffy said. The look she gave him and the tone of her voice made it clear she wasn’t buying that story for a minute; she knew Spike too well by now. “Good thing you're not Pinocchio right now. Anything growing?" Buffy made a show of looking at his nose and then at the front of his shorts.

"What? That story is completely 100%..." Spike hung his head back and groaned. "Okay, you got me. I made that up. Do I really need an excuse to fear bears? They're massive, have mouths full of sharp teeth, and claws that can eviscerate you in seconds."

"The way you reacted makes me think there's more to it. I've seen you trying to pretend you're not worried or freaked out enough by now to recognize the signs."

"The real story isn't interesting. I really think you'd prefer the demon bears story."

"I prefer the truth."

Spike heaved a sigh. "It’s nothing, just stupid kids' stuff, Buffy. My uncle used to tell me bedtime stories when he would visit. He embellished a lot... The way he told the 'Three Bears' story, especially, gave me nightmares for weeks. There, that's all there is to it -- I had bad dreams and they stuck with me."

Spike's mind flashed back to all those years ago when his Uncle Victor (his mother's brother) would gleefully tell him grisly versions of fairy tales, including the one about the three bears ripping Goldilocks and other unfortunate people to shreds, and how the bears would come and get little 5-year-old William if he wasn't a good boy and didn’t do as he was told. Spike could see himself lying in his childhood bed with the covers pulled up so that only his mop of curly dark blond hair and his frightened, big blue eyes were showing.

Buffy pouted. "I know something about bad dreams and how they tend to stick in my head, too. I'm sorry, Spike. Why was your uncle such a dick?"

He shrugged. "I think it amused him to scare me 'cos I was a sensitive lad. S'pose he thought it'd toughen me up a bit."

"Sounds like he was an asshole."

Spike nodded. "That's a fair assessment. I've got a bad feeling the Unari are going to put us in that fairy tale, just 'cos they know what a hard time I'd have with it." He looked at her. "I don't want you worrying that I'll freeze up. It's not as if I'd be curled up in a corner, shaking with fright -- I'll do whatever it takes for us to get out of it safe an’ sound."

"I know. I have faith in you, Spike." Buffy smiled reassuringly at him. She knew that Spike wasn't one to let his fears stop him from taking action, he didn’t back down from confronting things that scared him. Though fears that went all the way back to childhood were especially difficult to confront. Still, she did believe in Spike. If he had extra trouble, should they be placed in 'Goldilocks', she would help him through it.

They didn't talk for a few minutes after the 'bears' conversation. Spike was trying not to get lost in old, scary memories, and Buffy was feeling bad for bringing it up.

Buffy shifted her thoughts to the positive, thinking about the good aspects of her and Spike being in love when they got back to Sunnydale: they could patrol and spar together, he would help protect her family, and she would finally have a lover that understood her and what being the Slayer meant.

But then the bad stuff worked itself into her thoughts. Her friends would be so upset with her, and Riley... Poor Riley would be devastated. The guilt started gnawing away at Buffy.

Spike noticed the glum look on her face. "Somethin' wrong, pet?"

"I feel horrible, Spike."

He stopped and looked her up and down, alarmed. "You feel sick? What's --"

"No, I'm not sick. It's not a physical thing. I just feel so horribly guilty about... Riley."

Spike tensed and suppressed a growl. "What made you start thinkin' of him? Did you see a toadstool shaped like him or see his likeness in a glob of mud?"

"I was able to not think about the fact that I cheated for a while, but the guilt and badness is really starting to eat at me."

Spike pursed his lips and looked away from her. Now he felt horrible. This is what he was most afraid of -- Buffy regretted it, after all.

"Riley doubted me and my feelings for him once, and I gave him this big, teary speech about how he was who I wanted and needed. And then... I do what I did with you. It's going to hurt him so bad..."

"Oh, I could just go on talkin' about Captain Cardboard all bloody night!" Spike said with a laugh. It wasn't a happy laugh though, more like an 'I'm trying to hang onto my sanity' kind of laugh.

"Spike, why are you getting angry with me?" Buffy asked, clueless. "I'm just trying to tell you how I'm feeling." She saw the muscles in his jaw ticcing and his nostrils flare. She was so preoccupied with her own turbulent thoughts that she didn't consider that Spike might take what she said the wrong way. "I can't help that I feel terrible for what I did."

"Ah, I see," he said tightly. "I thought everything was all right after the way we woke up. But it just took you a little while to be properly disgusted with yourself for shagging me, eh?" She tried to interrupt, but he kept talking over her, his voice rising with emotion. "Here I am, not able to think about anything besides how much being with you meant to me and how bloody much I love you, and all you feel is overwhelming guilt, remorse, and disgust. That's exactly what I was hoping for! What man doesn't dream of the woman he loves saying those words! Thanks ever so!" He growled and trudged ahead of her.

"Stop putting words in my mouth -- I didn't say anything about remorse or being disgusted! Will you calm down?" Buffy followed him, trying to catch up.

"No, I bloody well won't calm down! And I don't need to hear you elaborate on how big a mistake it was to sleep with me. Let's just get on with it and get to the sodding portal -- without any more chitchat."

Buffy didn't think she could feel worse than she did a minute ago, but she did now that she saw how hurt Spike was by her venting. "It's not like that, Spike. I didn't mean it that way!"

"I think I got a bloody good idea of where your head's at, Slayer," Spike grumbled. He felt ill and panicky, like he was suffocating. He didn't need to breathe, but he sometimes forgot that when something as excruciating as this happened to him.

Buffy's temper rose, "It's great to know I can share my feelings with you about any subject and can count on your support and understanding! I should've just kept it to myself and put on a happy face. Fine, that's what I'll do from now on. I guess I can't talk to you about anything!" she huffed as she walked ahead of him. "I love you, but you really know how to piss me off!"

Spike stopped and sighed. "Buffy, wait... Stop. I do want you to tell me when something's on your mind."

Buffy turned around to face him, tears of frustration stung her eyes. "Biting my head off and stomping away from me is a great way to encourage openness."

"How did you expect me to react? I was virtually walkin' on air because I just had the best night of my bloody life, and you tell me you're only wracked with the guilties about it. You... regret it," he looked down, sounding and looking so sad that it made Buffy's heart hurt. The unshed tears in his eyes made her sigh and want to cuddle him.

Buffy set the lantern and axe down on the grass, and then walked up to him and put her hand on his cheek. "Spike, look at me."

He was afraid of what he'd see in her eyes: pity, disgust, regret? If he saw any of those things, he might just burst into a cloud of dust on the spot -- no stake required. After a moment's hesitation, he did look up into her eyes. Spike felt his insides go gooey at the love for him he saw in her eyes.

"It was the best night of my life, too, Spike. I shouldn't have said the stuff about me feeling guilty the way that I did... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings or give you the wrong idea. Please don't think that part of me isn't just as air walky as you. It's just that I feel like a bad person for not being strong enough to wait and do things in the right order. I didn't want to be a cheater... The guilt is doubled because I can't regret what happened between us, and thinking about getting another chance to be with you like that makes me feel so..." Buffy blushed and swallowed. "I know I'll do it again... and again, and again. I feel guiltier because I enjoyed being with you so much."

His pain was fading at her words; she still wanted him, she hadn't changed her mind. "You don't... regret it, then?" Spike asked timidly, needing to hear her say it.

Buffy smiled and shook her head no, then leaned in to kiss him softly. "I don't regret it. I love you, I love the way you make me feel, and I love the way that you love me."

Spike was trying hard not to let his bruised feelings get the best of him. He knew how he could get -- letting his emotions run his mouth most of the time. When he was hurt, he tended to strike out like an angry cobra. He reminded himself, harshly, that he had to try being less of a hothead now that they were together. Couples talked things out, they shouldn't be afraid to be open with each other. He'd rather just hoist Buffy up around his waist, press her back against the nearest tree and demonstrate how much he loved her, and once again claim her as his woman, and his alone. But he had to try to control himself.

Buffy continued, "I'm not feeling only guilty about us having sex. There's a whole bunch of good and wonderful thoughts and feelings wrapped up in it. Nothing that felt that right can be wrong."

Spike set down the bags he was carrying and put his arms loosely around her waist, needing to hold her. "Can't you, just for once, let yourself have some pleasure and not feel guilty for it?"

"The answer to that question seems to be no."

"I didn't know you were Catholic," Spike joked.

Buffy hugged him, resting her head on his shoulder. "I wish I could just bask and do the 'on cloud 9' thing. It figures that the most amazing night of my life has to result in someone being wounded. Again, not regretting being with you," she added quickly. "I just... can't be totally happy and carefree knowing that someone innocent has to get hurt and that I'm going to be the cause of that hurting."

Spike took in a breath and rubbed her back while he looked upwards to the night sky and prayed for the strength to be patient and understanding with Buffy. "You're too hard on yourself, luv. You're the best person I've ever met. And if anyone deserves to take life by the bollocks and live for today, it's you. People get hurt no matter how bloody much we wish it weren't so. Life's not a game for the faint of heart. I've had my share of pain and heartbreak, but sometimes... I think things happen for a reason. We get stronger from being beaten down, and it can lead us to find our way to our true destinies."

"I guess..." Buffy moped. That was a good way to think of it though. She didn't feel that she belonged with Riley, but he was such a great guy, he deserved to find the perfect woman for him. Even though Riley would be hurt if she broke up with him, it would free him up to find the woman he really belonged with.

Spike kissed the top of her head. "You've earned the right to be happy. I'll do everything within my power to make you happy, Buffy."

She hugged him tighter before pulling back to kiss his lips. "I am happy being with you, Spike. I'm just a really complicated and emotional gal."

"Hey, we just had our first argument since we became a couple... Now we're required by law to 'make up'." Spike smirked and went in for another kiss.

Buffy laughed and pushed on his chest. "Uh-uh, mister, put that tongue away. We don't exactly have the luxury of time right now. Believe me, part of me would love to throw caution to the wind and have lots of make up sex with you."

"Bet I can guess which part," Spike said, then poked out his tongue and squeezed her butt.

She rolled her eyes and wriggled out of his grasp, but smiled. "God, are you perpetually horny?"

"For you? Yes."

"You'll have to settle for another 'I love you' and a kiss... for now. But with the promise of a good 'making up' when we have time." There was so much else weighing on her mind that she temporarily forgot about the 'no sex until we get home' rule. Though, the last time she'd made that vow it hadn't lasted very long...

"Maybe we'll have another spat before then and we'll have to make up twice," Spike said hopefully.

She gave him a quick peck on the lips, and then hopped away before he could grab her and turn it into something more intense.

Spike cocked an eyebrow. "Alright, I got the drive-by kiss, such as it was, but I don't think I officially got the extra 'I love you'."

"I love you -- I love you -- I love you -- I love you! There. That was four of them in a row. That should hold you for a while," Buffy said teasingly.

"Oh yeah, 'specially when you say it with so much sincerity," Spike said peevishly, rolling his eyes. "I'm all a' twitter."

Buffy hung her head back. "Spike..." she said wearily, thinking that he was still being ultra-sensitive. "I was only --"

He grinned. "Sorry, luv. Just takin' the piss. I know you meant it."

"In the future, don't take my piss, leave my piss alone."

He laughed and then she laughed. It was a relief to be "okay" again. Buffy still felt guilty for cheating on Riley, but she couldn't help how happy Spike made her feel either. She made a big effort to go back to dwelling on the happy for now. Thinking about the bad stuff wasn't good for her mental health, and it would hurt Spike's feelings again if she got all mopey. He was so damn sensitive! It got on her nerves... but she kind of loved his sensitive side too. How Spike wore his heart on his sleeve was endearing in a way, she only wished he wasn't so quick to be injured or angered with little provocation. Spike was one complicated, multi-layered vamp. But he was her complicated, multi-layered vamp, she had to be more patient with him.

Riley was due some profuse apologies when Buffy got back -- even if her feelings for Spike were caused by the Unari and she didn't feel the same way she did about him as she did in this world. There was still that upsetting detail to think about. It would solve some problems if she wasn't in love with Spike back in the real world, her life wouldn't become more topsy-turvy. But she didn't want it all to be an illusion, either. She loved Spike and how amazing he could make her feel with just a look or a touch, she'd never felt so loved and adored by any other man. Buffy kept waffling about what the best and easiest outcome would be. She definitely wouldn't mention that to Spike, it would hurt him too much if he knew that even a little part of her wished things would go back to "normal" once they got home. Hurting Spike again was the last thing she wanted to do.

"So, can I or can I not tell you if I'm worried about anything?" Buffy asked.

"You can." Spike nodded, vowing to himself that he would try not jumping to the worst conclusion every time Buffy opened her mouth. "I want you to be able to tell me anything, pet. I'll..." He sniffed and squared his shoulders. "I'll try not to fly off the handle, and just... try to be there for you."

Buffy smiled. She wasn't sure if he could do that, but it was nice that he was going to try. "And I'll try to be more careful in how I phrase the stuff I say. Just try to remember that I love you, you sweet, sensitive hunk of vampire."

Part 1, Chapter 14: Life of Illusion (continued yet again) by PaganBaby
Author's Notes:
This is the last addition - promise! lol

Thanks one last time to xoChantelly and Edgehead for making me those awesome banners :D
Spike sang a few songs as they walked along the side of the road. They were trying to stay positive, but they were getting very frustrated by how long it was taking to find the portal.

Buffy asked, "Do you hear the sounds of the river yet?"

Spike shook his head. "I won't be shy, I'll tell you when I do hear it."

Just to be talking about something safe, she asked, "Did you get tired of the Simon & Garfunkel songs? You haven't sung one of those for a while."

"I haven't sung any of those because of that thing you said about not wanting me to treat you like Dru. I thought you'd rather I didn't sing any of those."

"Oh. Well, it doesn't bother me anymore. I like to hear you sing those songs. They're kind of ours now... that's how I think of it."

They smiled warmly at each other.

"Spike, you shouldn't just assume that something will upset me, you can ask me stuff, you know."

"We're gettin' on so well -- 'cept for our little spat earlier -- and I don't want to do anything that will fuck it up. I seem to be really good at fucking things up, I've got a bloody knack for it."

"I'm a wiz at fucking things up, too. We're going to make an interesting couple," Buffy said with a smile and a shake of her head.

Spike shrugged. "Least it won't get boring."

"Nope, I can't see being with you ever getting boring." And that was the truth.

Knowing that Buffy wouldn't mind another Simon & Garfunkel tune, Spike sang 'The Boxer', with Buffy taking the "lie-la-lie" parts.

For his next number, he felt like being more raucous (and of course, naughty). Spike started singing in a rough, rockin' voice and nodding to the beat in his head:

"Why don't we d-do it in the road
Why don't we do it in the road
Why don't we do it in the ro-oh-hoad!
Why don't we do it in the road
No one will be watching us
Why don't we do it in the ro-oh-oad!"

Buffy just shook her head and rolled her eyes.

"C'mon, pet, sing along!" Spike said cheerfully. "Jump right in, you know the words. Second verse, same as the first.

Why don't we d-do it --"

"Even if I wasn't weirded out about them possibly watching us, I wouldn't do it in a muddy, dirty road."

"Bein' dirty can be loads of fun," he said, arching an eyebrow.

"I don't want to get that kind of dirty." Buffy saw a fallen log just ahead of them. "Can we take a break here? I need to sit down for a minute. And no, that's not code for me wanting to get dirty."

Spike nodded, he could do with a short rest too. He couldn't help how much he wanted Buffy. He wanted to be touching, kissing and fucking her every moment of every day for the rest of his life. Hopefully she wouldn't get fed up with his continuous naughtiness.

They sat down on the log, and then each had a drink of water. Buffy ate a few bonbons from the dwindling food supply while Spike checked the map again. Nothing on the map had changed, they were still on course to the portal.

Buffy slipped her shoes off and wiggled her toes. "My feet hurt."

"Want a foot massage? Just put those dainty feet on my lap and let me go to work on 'em." Spike smirked and patted his lap.

"That sounds great, but we're just stopping here for a minute. You are going to give me a full body massage the first chance we get though, mister." Buffy loved the idea of getting a massage from Spike when they had the time and opportunity. It would be heaven to feel his strong hands and magic fingers gliding all over her body, kneading, rubbing, pressing into her tight muscles... Buffy shivered a little, starting to get turned on again. She wanted him so bad already -- how was she going to resist wanting to jump him before they went home? Maybe if they did it under some blankets or turned out all the lights, the Unari wouldn't be able to see them...?

"You can count on it, pet," Spike replied with a naughty smile.

Buffy made a face as she put her shoes back on. "Eugh, gross. You ready to go?"

"You said my legs were skinny..." Spike said, pouting slightly.


"When we first got to the gingerbread house, you laughed and said my legs were skinny."

"Geez, Spike, that was forever ago." Buffy could tell he was mostly kidding, but she could also tell that it had hurt his feelings a bit. She'd be pouty too if he'd made some kind of disparaging remark about a part of her body. She put her arm around his back, using her other hand to slowly stroke from his knee up his thigh. "I love your legs. They're very good, strong, meaty legs. I like looking at and touching them. I thought you looked really hot."

Spike raised an eyebrow, "Oh, so that's why you laughed your ass off while pointing at me? You were snickerin' at me. There's nothing wrong with my memory, I remember it very well."

"I just wasn't used to seeing you without pants on. I mean... I wasn't used to seeing you wearing something other than jeans. Now I'm going to miss seeing your legs when you're able to wear long-pants again."

"I'm still not convinced," Spike smirked a little, still trying to act aloof.

She kept stroking and squeezing his thigh. "I'm sorry I was such a bitch. The truth is... you were getting me hot, and I was trying to force myself to see you as unsexy." She leaned closer and started kissing the side of his neck. "There has to be some way I can make it up to you...?"

Spike smiled and closed his eyes, enjoying the touch of her lips and her hand rubbing his thigh. "Just keep doing what you're doing... that's a brilliant start. Want to go back to the barn? We could spend a day or two making things up to each other."

Buffy giggled and sat back, patting his leg instead of stroking. "I'd love to, but we gotta move on. Stop with the tempting. You keep trying to tempt me."

"I love tempting you. Love it even more when you give in to temptation..." he replied, leaning in to kiss her.

She leaned further away from him, "If we start with the smoochies then we'll never get to our destination. Plus, those weirdoes might be... watching us."

"Hey, you were the one rubbing my leg and kissing my neck. Not fair to get a bloke's motor revved just to leave him hangin'."

Buffy sighed in mock-exasperation. "What am I going to do with you?"

"I've got a few suggestions..." He poked his tongue out. "I've had some lovely dreams involving you and me and things I want to try out in real-life."

Buffy laughed, then remembered she'd meant to talk to him about those fantasies and dreams she'd had about him. "You want to hear something weird?"


"Your... naughty area looked just like I imagined it did."

He raised an eyebrow.

She laughed again. "I know, it's crazy, right? I guess I got a great impression of what that portion of you looked like through that room divider thing." Then she looked sheepish. "Not that I... um, purposely looked. 'Cause that would've been rude."

"Not that I was trying to sneak a peek either, but I remember seeing you... silhouetted. So bloody beautiful..."

She blushed deeper. "And then I asked you to come around to do my back..."

"That wasn't easy for me... you looked so fetching, all wet and sudsy. Do you want to hear something weird?"

"Sure, why not."

"You looked like I imagined you would, too -- south of the border."

Buffy raised her eyebrows. "Exactly like you imagined?"

He nodded.

"That is weird..." She could tell there was something else Spike wanted to say, but he looked hesitant to say it. “What is it?”

Spike took a breath, and then swallowed. “I had some very... vivid fantasies about you. So vivid that I didn’t realize it wasn’t really happening until I snapped out of it. They seemed so bloody real... I'm thinking it was 'cos I wanted you so much and I was more... susceptible to taking off on flights of fancy from not getting any fresh blood." He laughed, "You would've killed me if you knew what was goin' through my mind at the time."

Buffy was beginning to feel more uneasy by the minute, something very weird was going on. How could they know what the other looked like naked when they'd never actually seen it for real? "Tell me about some of the stuff you fantasized about."

"Sure you want to get into that topic right now?" The fantasies and dreams were odd, but they were also incredibly arousing. Spike was certain he'd get heated up if they discussed that particular subject.

"Yeah, I think we need to talk about it, actually. You go first."

"Okay... on that first bath night, when I was doin' your back, I imagined that I started giving you a massage and then we got a whole lot closer, right there in the tub. Let me tell you, it was bloody hot! I didn't realize it wasn't actually happening until... it was over." He was keeping the 'happy ending' he had on the back of the tub to himself.

Buffy swallowed, staring at him nervously.

Spike tilted his head. "What's wrong, Buffy? You don't have to be worried about me, if that's what you're thinking. I'm alright now."

"You massaged my shoulders, then you kissed the back of my neck and I told you to stop... at first. Your hands went from my shoulders to... naughty places. I changed my mind about wanting you to stop real quick after some intense kissing and fondling. You got in the tub behind me. I got on my knees with my back to you and we had wild, soapy, splashy sex."

Spike's brow creased by degrees as she'd talked. "Wait... how could you know all that? Are you saying it actually happened? I know it didn't really happen... I was still on my knees outside the bathtub and washing your back when I came -- out of it."

"Spike... I imagined the same thing. It didn't physically happen, but both of us fantasized about the exact same thing happening. Both of us thought it was real until we came -- back to our senses."

"Could just be... a coincidence. I mean, it was sensual -- with the nudity, the rubbing, and the bubbles."

"Yeah, our minds might have been put on lusty tracks by the nudity, rubbing, and bubbles... but the Unari had to have done that to us, Spike! How else can you explain that we both zoned out, imagined the same thing at the same time, and we both thought it was real?"

"I.. can't explain it." Spike growled in frustration. "Alright, yeah... something more than meets the eye is goin' on, but I don't think it's that cut and dry." It hurt him that Buffy was so quick and willing to believe that she didn't want him all on her own. She could very well be right... but Spike wasn't going to accept that explanation.

"Did you have a fantasy about me... involving food?" she asked. That messy food fantasy was the second most intense.

"Yeah... I had a few. The biggest one happened the day after the 'splinter incident'."

"That's when I had one, too! We were smooshing food onto each other -- and I think you were going to bite me." Buffy could tell by the look on his face that he had fantasized about the same thing.

Spike and Buffy both paled, their fears about the Unari manipulating them were seemingly being confirmed. They didn't know that their food fantasies weren't exactly the same, they just assumed they'd somehow shared that one too.

Spike was trying hard to stay calm; this was freaking him out. "That doesn't mean anything. It was... natural for us to think about food. We were starving." He took a breath. "I think it's just another coincidence, Buffy."

"A big coincidence."

"Yeah, a big one, but still a coincidence. When I had that fantasy with you and the food, I got all hot and bothered 'cos you were eating that cake, making all those yummy-sounds and looking so... hungry. It's only natural I'd think dirty thoughts under those circumstances."

"Spike, who are you trying to kid? They're controlling us like puppets!" Buffy stood up and started pacing, much like Spike himself was wont to do. "Oh God, those freaks can make us feel and do anything! We have to get out of here!"

Spike's ability to keep from reacting with a hurt/angry rant was being tested. He refused to believe that he was being forced to love Buffy -- he wouldn't accept that it was all a lie. Spike felt like ranting and pacing too, but he wanted to be strong for Buffy. He started to say, "Buffy-pet, try to --"

Buffy was too scared and confused to listen to him. "Is anything real? What belongs to us and what doesn't?!" She looked up at the sky and yelled, "Get out of our heads, you bastards! Leave us alone!"

Spike got up and went to her. He took her by the shoulders, gripping her firmly, and made her look at him. "Buffy, calm down." He could see how afraid she was, how violated she felt. He felt the same way.

Buffy stopped and tried focusing on him instead of her frightening, chaotic thoughts. Looking into his deep blue eyes did help a little. "How can I calm down? They --"

"Listen to me, pet. Will you listen to me?" he asked in a softer voice.

Buffy closed her mouth and nodded slowly.

"We can't jump to conclusions. We don't know for sure that they made us feel the way we do."

"But..." Buffy said weakly.

"I know what real love feels like and I'm feelin' it right now. I know for a fact that I would have had those fantasies about you without any help from the Unari. Seems like the fantasies were... amplified somehow, but no one made me want you and love you the way I do."

Buffy sniffled and wiped tears from her eyes.

Spike eased his grip on her arms and rubbed his hands up and down in a soothing way. "My feelings for you built up gradually. It wasn't a sudden, 'Oh, I'm in love with her!' kind of thing." That first steamy dream he'd had about Buffy back in Sunnydale recurred to him. That had been a revelation to him, and yet he'd fought and denied his feelings, not wanting it to be true. But there was no denying it now. "Didn't your feelings for me change over time, too?"

Buffy reflected for a moment and then nodded. "I had some... unwholesome thoughts about you almost right away when we got to this dimension. But... I fell in love bit by bit. The things you did for me in that house... You impressed the hell out of me so often. I looked at you so many times and thought how much I liked the man you'd become. I thought 'This guy is so brave, strong, sweet, and beautiful -- I want to get to know him under better circumstances'."

He gave her a smile (hoping he looked completely confident). "See? We weren't suddenly love struck. We fell in love because we started seeing things in each other that attracted us. And I do love you, Buffy. It's the realest, most amazing thing I've ever felt in my life."

Buffy took a breath, closed her eyes and nodded as she pulled him into a hug. “I love you too, Spike. I’m just... so scared that they’re playing sick games with our minds.”

Spike held her and rubbed her back. “I know. I’m... concerned too, luv. But I’m not givin’ those pillocks the satisfaction of seeing me lose my head. And neither are you.”

“What are we going to do, Spike?” Buffy asked in an almost-whisper.

Spike was worried about her. Buffy had mentioned how she’d felt afraid and weak often in this dimension, and she’d had a sort of breakdown a minute ago. But she was Buffy: the strongest, toughest, feistiest bitch he’d ever met. He had faith in her, she’d shake this off and be her old self again soon.

"We know what Question #1 is gonna be next time we find one of those bloody Mirrors. But until then, let's choose to believe what we feel is real. Alright?"

“It’s not that simple...”

“It is if we let it be that simple and not over think everything to death.”

Buffy sighed and rubbed her cheek against his chest. "I want to believe it's real, Spike."

"Then it is real. Until we have absolute proof that it's not real... Well, I still won't believe it's an illusion." Spike pulled back, looking intently into her eyes. "I love you, Buffy." He thumped his chest with his left hand, "Me. I love you. No one made me feel it.""

“I’ll try to think that way, too. It’s just hard...”

Spike hugged her again. "I know it is, pet."

Buffy was still freaked out, but she had a better handle on herself now. Her many fears were getting pushed to the back of her mind again. She had to bury her fears or she wouldn't be able to function. Spike was right, she couldn't let this (as scary as it was) make her go insane. They'd fail and never reach Dawn if Buffy shutdown mentally. “Wow, you've had to calm me down and give me a few pep talks, and you're really good at it. I’m sorry I’m losing it, Spike...” she pouted.

Spike kissed her pouty lip. “You’re not losin’ it. After all we’ve been through, we’re entitled to an emotional outburst or two. It’s your turn to calm me down next time though,” he joked.

Buffy laughed a little. "Okay. Deal."

Spike continued to hold her, it was as much to comfort himself as it was to comfort her. And Buffy was content to stand there, with their arms around each other, for a little while longer.

She sighed and squeezed him tighter for a few moments. "I've never felt this way about someone... the way I feel about you. I've been in love before, but what I feel for you is so different and so strong. I can't help being afraid the reason it's so intense and different is because it's them making us feel this way."

"Every time you fall in love is different, pet. It's like snowflakes: no two are exactly alike. This, with you, is different than anything else I've felt. But I know... in my heart, I know it's the real thing. I love you so bloody much, Slayer."

Spike was able to hide the majority of his fear from her, and the hurt that he felt that she seemed convinced her love for him was artificial. A voice at the back of his mind told him that Buffy thought that because it's what she wanted to be true. Think how much easier her life would be when they got home if she went back to the way she used to feel about him -- she barely tolerated him hanging around and had a deep loathing for him, in general. She could dismiss Spike and what they'd 'had', and take right up where she'd left off with Captain Cardboard. Buffy was probably banking on her feelings being manufactured by the Unari, that she couldn't possibly have developed feelings for Spike on her own, and whatever lewd acts she'd performed with him hadn't been her fault...

'No,' Spike countered his negative inner voice, as forcefully and confidently as he could. 'I won't accept that. What we feel is real. This girl loves me and she will *still* love and want me when we go home. I'll be proven right in the end.' He had to bury his own fear and negative thoughts to help Buffy through this. She needed him to be strong.

Spike slid his left hand up to the back of her neck, gently pulling her to him for a kiss. Buffy readily joined in the kiss. They kissed in an almost desperate way, because that's how they felt: desperate. They didn't want to lose this amazing connection they had with each other.

They finally broke the kiss so Buffy could breathe and rested their foreheads together.

Buffy was touched by Spike's apparent faith in his love for her. But it also made her feel guilty (ooh yay, more guilt!) that she had big doubts. Buffy sighed, thinking again that she just was not good at love stuff -- whether it was in the real world or in a wacky fairy tale dimension.

"I'm sorry I fell apart again..." Buffy said, giving herself a mental kick in the ass. "Why do I keep doing that? I really hate this dimension."

She was still afraid of what the Unari were doing to their minds, but Buffy was able to collect herself and start thinking in a more Slayer-y way. What was important now was finding the portal -- and to find it before sunrise. Worrying about Spike's safety helped her shift her thoughts in a more productive direction.

"S'alright, pet. I steady you when you wobble and you do the same for me. There were one or two times in that bloody gingerbread house where I lost my grip and thought we were going to die... I thought we were doomed. But you were strong when I needed you to be. I was amazed by how strong you were, and it helped me get my confidence back. That's what we do for each other." Spike was getting choked up, so he switched from sincere to naughty to avoid any more nancy boy-like displays. "Well, it's one of the things we do for each other... There are other things we do that I can't wait to do again..."

Buffy gave him a soft kiss, and then smiled slightly. "There you go being all sweet again. Well, you were being bad again at the end there, but you were very sweet before that."

"Don't go tellin' everybody about my sweet side when we get back home. I got a rep to protect, y'know."

"It'll be our little secret," Buffy replied with a wink and a smile. “Oh... I wonder how much time I wasted by freaking out? What if we get caught out in the open at sunrise now because of me?” Buffy said worriedly, looking up at the sky. There was no sign of daybreak yet.

"That won't happen, Buffy. There's forest to our left and right. If need be, I can find an extra-shady tree to hide under if --" Spike stopped talking and tilted his head, his eyes moved up and to the left in concentration. "You hear that?"

"What? Is someone coming?" she asked anxiously, looking around them.

"I think I hear the river."

Buffy listened intently, not hearing anything at first. But then she did hear what could be rushing water somewhere in the distance. "I hear something, too! Thank God, we're finally getting close!"

They smiled and hugged, their spirits getting a desperately needed boost.

Buffy's brow furrowed as she pulled back from the hug. "But... I didn't hear anything a minute ago. I guess it could be because I was too busy having a breakdown."

"No, I didn't hear it until just now either."

They shook their heads, figuring that it was just the Unari playing with them again. They were finally getting to the river because the Unari were letting them get to it.

They picked up their gear and hit the road again, walking more briskly. The road curved to the left ahead of them. They hoped that the river would come into view once they rounded the bend.

"Can you sense how much time we have left before sunup?" Buffy asked.

Spike closed his eyes for a moment, and then shook his head. "Not exactly... but it won't be long."

"We should look for a place to take cover for the day," Buffy said, looking at the woods to their left.

"Let's just keep going, pet. We're close to the river now."

"And we might not be close to the river -- the Unari might be trying to trick us into thinking we're close, just to screw with us. We at least need to scope out possible hidey holes for you... I just don't want anything to happen to you, Spike."

Spike smiled. "Thanks for the concern, but somethin' tells me we'll make it."

They rounded the bend and grinned when they saw the river ahead of them. It would still take them a few minutes to reach it, but at least it was in sight now. They didn't see the bridge yet, but they thought it might just be to the right or left of the main road.

"You know... bridges in fairy tales usually have a troll living under them," Spike said.

Buffy winced. "God, I hope we don't have to deal with a big, ugly troll next."

"I don't know... I could go for a spot of violence."

"I guess I wouldn't mind kicking something's ass, too. I'd just rather not have to get through any more stupid tests."

"I feel a bit sorry for the potential troll. Both of us have heaps of pent-up aggression and we're spoiling for some payback. We'll kill the thing ten times before it hits the bloody ground."

Buffy smiled a bit, thinking it wouldn't be a bad thing to have to fight something -- as long as the troll didn't have lasers that shot out of its eyes or something else unfair. "How do you kill a troll?"

"I think the usual ways should work. I never heard about trolls having any special powers besides being very strong. Rippin' its head off should work just fine."

At last, they emerged from the tree-lined road with the river in front of them. The water was roaring along, more like whitewater rapids than the calm river they had imagined they'd find. Worst of all, there was no bridge. They scanned up and down the shore trying to spot a bridge, but there was nothing.

"Guess we don't have to worry about any nasty troll -- what with their bein' no bloody bridge for it to be crouched under..." Spike growled.

"It's supposed to be here!" Buffy quickly took the map out of the bag and checked it. "It's supposed to be right here! Dammit!"

"Balls," Spike groaned. "Now what?"

"Maybe it's there... just invisible or something," Buffy hypothesized, moving to where land ended and water began. She carefully tapped her foot back and forth just above the water, over as wide an area as she safely could without losing her balance. "Damn," she sighed. "No invisible bridge."

Spike stood with her at the water's edge. He pointed at something on the other side of the river, "Look! I see the light from the portal."

Buffy smiled, seeing a faint blue glow across the river. "Thank God!" Then her smile waned as she looked back down at the dark, surging water separating them from their destination. The moonlight bounced off the surface of the water, but that didn't make it look any less foreboding. "So all we have to do is get across... somehow."

"S'pose we'd better search up and down the shore for a break in the rapids, then. You can go left and I'll go right." Spike looked to the east, seeing a slight lightening of the sky on the horizon. That wasn't good. It wouldn't be long before sunrise. Even if he hadn't seen the visual evidence of the sun beginning its ascent, he'd felt it in his bones.

Buffy came to the same realization. Dawn (unfortunately, not her sister) was coming. Spike would have to seek shelter soon. Buffy wanted to get the hell out here as fast as possible, but she wasn't going to risk Spike's safety. "First of all, we're not splitting up, so forget about that."

"What's the 'second of all'?"

"I don't think there is a bridge or a calmer patch of water where we could cross. It wouldn't matter if we walked a hundred miles in both directions, we wouldn't find either one."

Spike sighed. "That doesn't leave us with any options. Where's Charon when you need 'im?"

"Who's Karen?"

"Not Karen, Charon, the ferryman of the dead in Greek mythology. You're so bloody adorable." Spike smiled, she never ceased charming him.

Buffy frowned. "I knew that -- I just heard you wrong. I'm not stupid."

"Never said you were, luv. Well... not recently."

"You've been hiding that knowledge-packed brain all these years. You're going to be required to help with any and all researching when we get home."

Spike didn't like that idea. He'd been bookish when he was mortal, and he didn't care to go back to being that way. "Uh... that won't work for me. I got... a parchment mite allergy." He sniffed. "Can't be around old books and whatnot."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "You are so full of shit. Vampires aren't allergic to anything."

"... Are to!"

"Spike, I think we have more important things to talk about!" She glanced at the horizon again. "Put your brain to good use: How are we going to cross the river?"

"How strong a swimmer are you?" Spike asked, looking at the rushing water.

"Are you crazy? We can't possibly swim in that; we'd be swept away by the current!"

"You got a better idea, Slayer?"

"No, I don't have a better idea. But we're not trying that because it's just..." Buffy trailed off when what appeared to be a white duck the size of a Volkswagen came into view on the river.

Spike wondered what she saw that made Buffy stop talking and caused her to get that peculiar look on her face, and then he saw it too. “Has my mind snapped... or is there really an enormous duck in the river?”

“Nope, not crazy... I see it. Unless I'm crazy, too... which is very possible.”

They backed up a few steps when the duck turned and started heading toward them. The duck didn't seem to be bothered by the fast moving current, it was gliding right along as if the water wasn't raging under it.

The duck stopped and idled in the water about ten feet from the shore, just looking at them with its big black eyes. It had bright white feathers and a yellow bill, like a normal duck, only on a much larger scale. "Hello," the duck's voice boomed.

Spike jumped back several feet further. “Bloody hell! It talks!”

Buffy tried to quickly gather her wits, they had to roll with the punches in this weird dimension, and they had a time limit. She had thought a talking mirror was strange, but this was even more bizarre. “Um, hello, Mr. Duck, are --”

“Mister? *Quack!* I’m a female, can’t you see that?” the duck asked and shook its feathers, perturbed. "You think a drake could have plumage as lustrous and pretty as mine?"

“Oh... sorry, Mrs. Duck. We don’t have ducks like you where I come from, I didn’t know.”

“I suppose I can forgive you... *Quack* Just be more observant next time. You wouldn't like it if I mistook you for a boy, would you?”

"No... I wouldn't. Now that I get a better look at you, I can see you're obviously a girl. Much too pretty to be a boy."

"Thank you, *Quack* that's much better."

Spike was still freaked out by the talking duck, so Buffy continued speaking to it. "We need to get across the river, but there's no bridge."

"A wicked old witch tore down the bridge some time ago. It was built again, but then tonight's storm washed it away. *Quack* The witch wanted to trap travelers on this side of the river and lure them to her house. I hope you didn't meet her."

Buffy had a brief Evil Willow flashback, but was able to shake it off. "Unfortunately, we did meet her... Is there another way across the river? We need to get to the portal on the other side."

The duck shook her head. "No, there was only the bridge. *Quack* The river stretches on forever."

"Oh, that's just bloody marvelous," Spike muttered, finally getting over the weirdness of the talking duck. Now that he thought about it, he did remember there was a white duck in some versions of 'Hansel & Gretel'. It wasn't supposed to be a giant duck, but that was more of the Unari using creative license.

"Well, *Quack* there is one other way."

"Yes?" Buffy asked.

"I could give you *Quack* a ride across on my back. I have no trouble swimming in the river, as you can see." She swam in a figure eight pattern to demonstrate.

"That would be... very kind of you," Buffy said. "Are you sure you wouldn't mind?"

"Not *Quack* at all."

"Uh, Buffy, a moment of your time?" Spike said, giving her elbow a tap. He walked several feet away, motioning for her to join him.

"Um, excuse us for a second," Buffy told the duck, and then joined Spike. "What?"

"Are you serious? We're just gonna trust that duck not to dump us in the river? I'm not big on trusting anyone or anything in this dimension."

"I don't remember there being a duck in 'Hansel & Gretel', do you?"

"Yeah, in one or two versions, there was a white duck that offered to help them cross the river. And the duck dumped them in the water halfway across."

"Oh no... it did?" Buffy asked, thinking their last hope of getting across before sunrise was lost.

Spike looked up in thought. "Wait... I might be thinkin' of the Gingerbread Man story. Remember that: 'Run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man'? That smug, obnoxious cookieman was just askin' to get eaten."

Buffy raised her brows.

"Okay, you don't remember that one... Maybe I was thinking of the fable with the fox and the scorpion..."

Buffy groaned, "Not being helpful, Spike."

"Well, pardon me for confusing stories and fables that I haven't had cause to think about for bloody years. If it's a talking encyclopedia you want, you should've brought Rupert with you. I think I've done a pretty good job at remembering that shit so far."

"Alright, take a pill -- yes, you've been very helpful so far." She sighed. "I'm sorry, Spike, it's just frustrating. I don't think we have much of a choice but to take our chances with the duck. She seems... nice. Can you remember for sure if the duck took them safely across in the story or not?"

Spike thought about it, and then nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure now, it didn't double-cross Hansel and Gretel."

"Good. Then that's what we're supposed to do."

"But the Unari enjoy changing things up, don't they? They could make the duck evil in their version of the tale."

"I don't know, my gut tells me that we can trust the duck, Spike." Buffy blinked. "Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd say..."

"So, in this fairy tale dimension, people aren't to be trusted -- but giant waterfowl are. Got it," Spike said sarcastically and nodded.

"Spike, we don't have time to debate this." She looked to the eastern sky, and then back to him. "We have to just cross our fingers and hope for the best. By the way, does the duck seem familiar to you?"

Spike glanced at the duck and raised an eyebrow. "Familiar? Hold on, let me think back on all the other giant talking ducks I've met..." He pursed his lips and looked up as though he was pondering.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Will you stop with the sarcasm? I meant, the voice sounds kind of familiar, like someone I know."

Spike shrugged. He thought it sounded a little familiar too, but couldn't place it.

"Okay, let's do this," Buffy said, breathing out.

They walked back to the shore. The duck had its head turned backwards, preening the feathers on its back while waiting for them to return.

"Hi, we're ready to cross now," Buffy said.

The duck swiveled its head back toward them. "Good. But I can't give you a ride until you say the *Quack* words."

"What words?" Buffy asked.

"The words. I'm sorry, but rules are rules; there's protocol to consider. Say the words, and then *Quack* I'll let you ride on my back."

"What words?" Buffy asked again, this time asking Spike. "Do you know what she's talking about?"

Spike groaned, thinking he knew what it was the duck was waiting to hear. He didn't remember this part of the version of the story with the duck until just now. It was a good thing he could memorize poems and songs so easily. "Bloody hell..." he muttered, and then cleared his throat. He recited what he hoped were the right words:

"Little duck, little duck, dost thou see,
Spike and Buffy are waiting for thee?
There's never a plank, or bridge in sight,
Take us across on thy back so white."

Buffy looked at him, raising her eyebrows. "What the hell was that?"

Spike rolled his eyes, "That's what it said in the bloody storybook, okay? I just changed the names to ours." He waited to see if the duck accepted what he'd said.

The duck seemed to smile and quacked happily. "You said the correct words! I will take you across the river."

"Oh!" Buffy smiled and kissed Spike on the cheek. "Good work, oh creature of the night who has an odd wealth of knowledge about children's fairy tales. Sorry I was all poo-pooey about your remembering skills a minute ago."

Spike smirked. "You'll have to make that up to me later."

Buffy gave him a teasing smile. "You really must've had this story read to you a lot..."

The duck swam close enough to the shore for them to climb onto its back. "One at a time, *Quack* please."

"One at a time?" Spike asked. "But... you're massive; there's enough room for both of us on your back."

"I said *Quack* one at a time. I don't think it's unreasonable for me not to want two humans sitting on me with their bony knees and butts. Your species has too many bones poking out. And you two look especially bony."

Buffy wanted to object to that 'bony' remark, but it wouldn't be good to get into an argument with the duck. It was their only way to get to the portal before sunrise, so they'd have to play nice.

They heard some strange chirping noises coming from further down the river. There were three yellow, fluffy ducklings swimming and playing together. The duck babies reminded Buffy of those paddleboats made to look like swans, they were about the same size. Except these were ducks and they were very much alive.

"Kids, stay where I can *Quack* see you!" the duck called to her ducklings. "I can't take my eyes off them for a minute."

"Oh, your babies are so... cute," Buffy commented.

"Yes, aren't they just the *Quack* cutest li'l things you've ever seen?" the duck said proudly.

"Yeah, but they're not-so-little," Spike added.

"Which one of you *Quack* wants to go across the river first?" the duck asked.

Spike thought he had a solution that wouldn't mean any delays. "Hey, couldn't one of us hitch a ride on one of your giant kids? They look stout enough to --"

The mother duck quacked angrily and shook her tail feathers. "How dare you even suggest riding one of my children!"

Buffy leaned close to Spike, whispering, "Don't piss off the duck!"

"I didn't know that'd be a touchy subject!" he whispered back.

Buffy tried to smooth things over. "We're sorry, Mrs. Duck. We didn't mean any disrespect; we just need to get across as quickly as possible. Spike is super-sensitive to sunlight, it hurts him. And the sun is about to rise..."

"Very well... I'll forgive you this once. But don't ever suggest *Quack!* anything like that again!"

They both promised not to do it again.

"Now," the duck said more calmly, "who goes first?" She turned her back to them and then pivoted her head backwards to look at them.

"Ladies first." Spike bowed and swept his arm toward the duck.

"How chivalrous. You just want to see if I end up in the water," Buffy joked.

"I'm just bein' a gentleman. I was one once, y'know."

Buffy got serious. "You have to go first, Spike. The sun's coming up... If you go first, you can go wait for me near the woods. You can find a shady place to hide if you have to."

He smiled and gave her a soft kiss. "Brains and beauty. Here I was tryin' to do the chivalrous thing, but you're right."

"I love that you were trying to be chivalrous. And I love being told I was right even more." Buffy grinned.

They smiled and kissed lightly.

Buffy patted him on the butt. "Get going."

Spike carefully climbed onto the duck's back, apologizing for having to step on her. He kneeled on the center of her back, like he was riding a horse.

"Is that alright?" Spike asked the duck. "Not hurting you?"

"No, *Quack* I'm fine. Are you ready?"

Spike looked back at Buffy. He swallowed a bit of anxiety, not knowing if the duck was going to turn out to be evil. "Yeah... let's go."

"I'll see you on the other side." Buffy smiled reassuringly. She was nervous too, but tried to remain positive.

Spike nodded and then looked forward as the duck began swimming across the river. It would take a few minutes to get to the other side.

He wasn't sure what small talk to make with the duck. But it wasn't in Spike's nature to remain quiet for long; he had to say something.

"Uh, sorry about that thing I said... about riding one of your kids. I didn't mean nothin' by it."

"Yes, I was quite angry about that. *Quack* But I understand you didn't mean to upset me. You were just being a clueless, slow-witted male."

Spike wanted to protest that crack about men being stupid, but there was a good chance he'd be dumped into the river if he angered the duck again. So he kept his thoughts about that to himself. Instead, he said, "What nice... feathers, you got. Very soft and shiny."

"Thank you. It's not easy taking care of the little ones *Quack* and still finding time to look my best."

"Well... you look great. Your drake's a lucky bloke." Spike thought of saying how usually it was the male ducks (and many other species of animals) that were more brightly colored and prettiest. But he didn't think the female duck would like that too much.

"Yes, he is lucky. You're lucky, too. Your Buffy is an attractive female."

Spike looked back at where Buffy was watching and awaiting her turn from the shore and he smiled a bit. "Yeah, she is."

"Is she your mate?"

"I'd... like to think so, yeah."

"You don't *Quack* sound convinced. Doesn't she love and desire you, too?"

"Yeah, she does. We love each other... but it's complicated." Spike found it hard to believe he was having a heart-to-heart about Buffy with a giant duck. He hadn't been a part of something this surreal since he'd fed off of a hippie (who had dropped a large amount of acid beforehand) and hallucinated that he'd had tea and scones with a talking (though normal-sized) hedgehog named Frank. Spike had been trippin' balls back then, but this wasn't a hallucination. The duck's back was solid beneath him; he could feel the softness of the feathers on his bare legs; he could feel and hear the duck take and then expel breaths; he could hear its heart pumping and feel the heartbeat.

"It's not complicated," the duck said. "If you feel love for each other, *Quack* then it's real."

"That's what I've been trying to tell myself... and her. I can't go back to the way it used to be. I can't lose Buffy now that I know what being with her is like..."

"I recommend giving her lots of gifts as tokens of your affection. Gifts always *Quack* make me happier with my mate."

"Well... I don't have lots of cash. I wish I could buy Buffy treasure chests full of shiny baubles, but I'm usually flat broke. I'd give her the sun, moon and stars, if I could..."

"Aw, that's sweet. But you should seek employment if you want to keep your female happy. Though, a cherished gift doesn't have to cost money. *Quack* You can pick wildflowers for her and little things like that. Heartfelt presents can have more meaning than expensive ones. You still need gainful employment though to keep her happy and support a family."

Spike believed he knew why the duck had seemed familiar to Buffy now. "Yeah, I'll look into that." He looked at the horizon; his vampiric senses were telling him he had to get somewhere safe very soon. As nice a chat he was having with the duck, he was worried that he would run out of time. But the sky wasn't any lighter than it had been a few minutes ago, thankfully. It looked like they actually were going to beat the clock.

"One of my favorite things my mate does for me is bring me the fattest, juiciest worms. He could *Quack* just eat them himself, but he knows how much I like them."

Spike didn't want to think about there being enormous worms in the vicinity too -- he pictured those sandworms from the movie 'Dune'. "I don't think Buffy is the worm-eating type, but I get your gist."

They were coming up on the riverbank. The duck turned sideways and eased over to the shore. "Just treat her right, listen to her, shower her with love -- and presents -- and *Quack* you will have a happy life together. Here we are."

"I'll do my best to keep a smile on Buffy's face. Thanks for the ride." Spike carefully crawled off the duck's back and walked onto the bank.

"You're welcome, Spike. Now I'll go get your female."

"Try to hurry, alright? The sooner she's back at my side, the better."

"I'll be as quick *Quack* as I can."

The duck turned around and swam back towards the other shore where Buffy was waiting.

Spike waved to Buffy, and she waved back. They were relieved that the duck didn't double-cross them. Since Spike hadn't been thrown into the river, odds were that Buffy would be safe too.

He walked to the edge of the woods to wait, just in case he had to find cover before Buffy could join him.

Once Buffy was seated on the duck's back, they started on their way across the river.

Buffy had heard Spike and the duck talking, but she hadn't been able to hear exactly what they'd said. The duck looked to check on her ducklings; the baby ducks were still swimming and playing happily.

"Is there a Mister Duck?" Buffy asked.

"Well, obviously there is. *Quack* I can't procreate asexually, you know."

"Like I said, we don't have ducks like you where I come from, so I wasn't sure. Is he around?"

"He's off with the boys again, having fun with his friends while I take care of our children -- typical male."

"Yeah, that sucks. He should stay and help you." Buffy had some issues with her own father leaving all the parenting to her mother; it touched a nerve to think of any dad ignoring his kids.

"Oh, I shouldn't complain. He's a good provider and a good father. When he is here, he does a wonderful job, he just likes to run off with his friends every now and then. And *Quack* he does sweet things for me. I was just telling Spike about that."

"You... had a nice talk with Spike, huh?"

"Yes. He loves you very much."

Buffy smiled. "He told you that?"

"Yes. He seems to be an excellent choice as a mate for you, apart from not having a job. He adores you, *Quack* and he's very handsome for a human."

Buffy didn't bother trying to say what Spike's species actually was. "Yeah, he's a hottie, all right."

"The two of you will make lots of pretty human babies."

"Uh, I don't think babies are in our future. Neither of us are interested in being parents, anyway." That thought was just too wiggy for words -- her and Spike with a child? How screwed up would that poor kid be? Thank goodness that was one benefit of having a vampire for a lover: no unplanned kiddies.

"You never know. But *Quack* you can have fun practicing making babies. Humans enjoy sexual intercourse too, don't they?"

"Yeah, that we do."

"Is Spike good at giving you lots of *Quack* orgasms? Something about him tells me he'd be good at giving orgasms to his mate."

Buffy coughed. "Um, I have no... complaints." She knew why the voice sounded familiar now -- it was Anya's voice. A bit deeper and distorted, but it was her voice. The duck even looked a bit like Anya around the eyes. Buffy hoped to move the conversation away from the subject of orgasms. "You remind me of a human friend of mine named Anya."

"Why, that's my name, too!" Anya-duck quacked happily. "Isn't that a neat coincidence?"

"Mmmhmm." Buffy didn't bother with the 'It's not a coincidence' response. It was probably the same as it had been with the witch, and the duck wouldn't know anything about the Unari.

"What's your friend like?"

"Anya's... pretty and smart. And she's very direct, she doesn't mince words. Her favorite topics are money and sex."

"I like her already!" the duck laughed.

"I like her, too. She's not always the easiest person to talk to, but she's got a lot of good qualities. So... what else did Spike say about me?"

Spike went back down to the water's edge to meet Buffy, and helped her off the duck's back. He'd left the bags he'd been carrying near the woods. Though he was carrying the green hat he hated so much.

Buffy put down the axe and lantern, and then hugged Spike. She could see the portal through some trees -- she'd half-expected it to be gone. "Portal's still there," she said, blowing out a relieved breath.

"Yeah, it's just waitin' for us to hop through."

They pulled out of the hug and gave each other a soft kiss.

Buffy turned to the helpful giant duck. "Bye, Anya. Thank you for helping us. You don't know what a relief it was for us to meet someone nice in this place."

"I like you two -- so I'm not even going to ask *Quack* for compensation for riding you across the river. Good luck to both of you," Anya-duck called, and then swam off to wrangle her ducklings.

"What kind of compensation would a duck ask for?" Spike wondered as they watched the duck swim farther away to join her babies.

Buffy shrugged.

"For a minute I thought we might have to go looking for those giant worms for her."

"There are giant worms?" Buffy asked anxiously. Giant ducks -- okay, that was weird but she got used to it. Giant worms -- that would just be gross.

Spike shook his head, "Doesn't matter if there are, 'cos we won't be stickin' around to meet any." He smirked, noting that Buffy had called the duck 'Anya'. "You figured out why she seemed familiar too, eh?"

"Yeah, it clicked when she said something about intercourse and... orgasms."

"Ah. For me it was talking about money and gifts."

"The duck told you to get a job," Buffy said with a laugh.

"Yeah, she did. Pushy chit. But she's not wrong. I do need money comin' in to treat my lady to dinner, buy her trinkets and all that good stuff."

"We can talk about present buying later." Buffy looked at the horizon. "We made it to the other side before sunrise. I thought for sure we wouldn't."

Spike held his arm out for her. "Shall we?"

Buffy looped her arm through his and they started for the portal.

It only took them a minute to get into full view of it, with no trees or other obstructions in the way. The blue, swirly vortex was right in the middle of the road. The hair on their arms and necks stood up the closer they got to the portal.

They stopped a few feet away from it to steady themselves and prepare.

"Well... here we are. Finally," Buffy said. "And with a minute or two to spare before sunup."

"All I know is they'd better give me some fucking long-pants in the next story. Wanna take one last look at my legs? 'Cos you ain't ever gonna see them again."

Buffy raised her eyebrows. "Never? You mean you're never going to get totally naked in front of me again?"

"Well... just no shorts. Being completely starkers doesn't count."

Buffy held his hand and squeezed it. "Spike, I'm nervous about what's going to happen next -- where we'll end up, what new, crazy people we're going to come across."

"I'm... nervous 'bout that, too. But look at the bright side: the duck was nice enough, so not everyone we meet is guaranteed to be evil and insane."

Buffy nodded, but she couldn't help feeling anxious.

Spike put his arms around her and kissed her lightly. "It doesn't matter what hairy situation they throw us in the middle of, Buffy. If we could survive the shit we were put through the last few weeks, we can survive anything. And we'll get all our questions answered."

Buffy smiled and wrapped her arms around him for one more big hug. "We do make a damn good team. As long as we stick together, we'll kick ass and make it through to the end. I can get through anything... as long as I have you. I love you, Spike."

He pulled back and smiled. "I know."

Buffy laughed and smacked his arm, and then they kissed one last time.

They separated, faced the portal and held hands.

"I love you, Slayer," Spike said. Teasing her with the 'I know' was fun and all, but what if something happened to him when they came out the other side? He wanted to make sure he said it again, and she knew it, just in case.

"I know." Buffy smirked and squeezed his hand again.

Spike and Buffy were ready to meet whatever new challenges awaited them. And they were extra eager to find another Mirror to get some answers about their feelings for each other. They were sure that as long as they had each other, they could cope with anything.

They went forward, each taking a deep breath, and jumped into the portal together.

The Unari intended to see just how determined Buffy and Spike were to succeed. They weren't done playing with their new subjects -- they were far from done.

The real fun was just beginning.

End Notes:
* 'Why Don't We Do It in the Road' lyrics by Lennon/McCartney

Woohoo, I can't believe it's finally finished! lol Big sloppy kisses to everyone who came along on the FFT ride with me! Thank you all for your wonderful reviews! Getting your feedback and comments really helped keep my fussy muse fed and happy =D

I've got some interesting stuff planned for Part 2 that I hope y'all will enjoy :)
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