Twenty Questions. I’m-Headed-To-The-Picnic. Guess That Tune. Slayer wanted to say she was bored with word games, but the truth was she wasn’t. Anything, anything, to distract from the pain in her shoulder, and the ache in her belly, and the agitation the god damn bright light was causing.     

   They were in the middle of some word game Spike had taught her called My Name Is, where, following the alphabet, you have to come up with a name, a location, and a thing, all within five seconds. Spike had just won, as far as Slayer was concerned, by trapping her with X. “I give up,” she snapped. “Xander lives nowhere, and... and what, does X-Rays?”

   “Xander’s short for Alexander, doesn’t count.”

   “There is nothing that starts with X!” Slayer shouted.

   “Xerxes from Xalapa plays the xylophone,” Spike said quietly, which Slayer thought was certifiably cheating, since he’d already flattened her with Quentin from Queensland likes quince.

   “Oh, shut up,” she muttered. She rubbed at her eyes. “Don’t they ever turn the lights off in this place? If they keep you under fluorescent long enough does it burn you like the sun? It just takes three days, while the sun takes four seconds?”

   “No,” Spike said. “But most demons feel stronger in darkness. No doubt they’re trading on that.”

   “Ugh!” Slayer grabbed at her head, almost tearing out her hair. She wanted to pace like Spike, but the truth was, she felt woozy, and didn’t want to be seen stumbling. She hadn’t felt good to start with, after two days without any blood, and now that she’d been shot, she felt ten times worse. She hadn’t had much blood the night she’d been captured, just that one wineglass full of Willy’s special delivery donor stuff. Her stomach had stopped growling the day before, too empty to make noises. Between her bruised, possibly broken hand and her wounded shoulder, her body was screaming at her, saying, Damage! You need blood to repair the damage! and there was no explaining to it that there just wasn’t going to be any blood forthcoming. Except for the stains on Spike’s fingers, where he’d ripped out the throat of that lab assistant, which.... Slayer kept pretending it didn’t keep drawing her attention, but it did. Those black painted nails had dried blood caked around the cuticles....

   There was a time Slayer would have found that disgusting. Now she just kept thinking how much she wanted to suck on them....

   Spike was regarding her with blue eyes that glittered like gems. “Why did you tell them to take you?” he asked. Slayer dropped her hands to frown at him. “When they were gonna take me away. Why’d you say to take you instead?”

   Slayer shrugged. “I... I thought if I volunteered for their experiments... I... I might get a chance to see whoever was in charge.”

   Spike’s eyes narrowed. “And that thought only occurred to you as I was being carted off to the knife?”

   Slayer looked down. That thing about volunteering... that was true. That had been in her thoughts. But the real truth was, the idea of Spike not being in the cell next door any longer had filled her with a panic she hadn’t been able to explain. The offer had been desperation. She would rather have gone under the knife herself before she’d choose to be in this place alone.

   But she didn’t dare say that.

   “Why’d you let me out?” she asked, rather than confess that. “You didn’t have to. All I did was slow you down.”

   Spike regarded her for a long moment, and then looked away. “You know, you might be able to come up with an excuse after the fact, but I’m still drawing a blank, slayer.” Then he frowned. “I suppose I can’t really call you slayer anymore.”

   “Actually, you can,” Slayer said. “It’s my name, now.”

   He frowned. “Buffy?”

   She shook her head. “I don’t really feel like Buffy anymore. I started going by Slayer. Willow and Xander still have a hard time with it, and... I don’t even try with Mom.”

   “Where is your mum?”

   “London.” Slayer sighed. “I sent her away, and made Giles promise to look after her. I don’t... trust myself to be around them.”

   “Why not?”

   Slayer shrugged. “This soul isn’t very secure. If it pops off... I don’t want my mom anywhere near me.”

   “You wouldn’t kill your mum. Soul or not.”

   “Are you one hundred percent sure of that?” Slayer asked.

   Spike looked down.

   “Yeah. Me neither. All I know is my first impulse is kill, with everyone and everything these days. It was a little like that as a slayer, with demons anyway. It’s a hell of a lot worse like this. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have this thing. Given any choice at all, I’d rather Mom was half a world away, safe with Giles.”

   Spike hesitated. “You know, even if you do lose it, after those first few months or so... impulses are a little easier to control. Once you’re no longer such a fledge, you shouldn’t have to worry much about it.”

   “I worry about it enough even with her in London,” Slayer said. “I worry about Xander and Willow, too, and they’re really vamp savvy. I won’t let them invite me in. We hang out on the porch if I come visit, or in the common room at the dorms.”

   Spike regarded her. “You trust yourself that little?”

   Slayer shrugged.

   “Or is it that you hate yourself that much?”

   Slayer wrapped her arms around herself and looked at her knees. Damn Spike. He was too damn insightful, and the bastard seemed to read her like a book. “Please just leave it,” she whispered.

   She turned away from him and hugged her knees. She couldn’t take this. Visions of ripping her loved ones apart were running through her head, and they were visions she had all too often. She really did hate it.

    “I’ve had human friends before, you know,” Spike said quietly. “Human hires. Hell, Willy’s brassed me off no end. It wouldn’t haunt me if I took him out, but I wouldn’t do it for no reason at all. Impulses are one thing. A conscience is another. But your brain’s still there, slayer, soul or otherwise. You can decide not to, conscience or no.”

    Slayer couldn’t decide if she wanted to hit him, or hug him for that little ray of hope. Angel’s behavior when he lost his soul was so horrific…. Killing innocents, torturing his lover, wanting to end the world. Most of the members of the co-op were minion material, thus easily led, with a few like Harmony who were turned and trained by sucker-class vampires, who specialized in killing their victims slow “leaving them alive” as they enthralled them into becoming blood-junkies. Slayer was playing Master, keeping these low-level vampires from killing with the co-op venture, but they weren’t high-class killers to start with. Not like Angelus. Not like herself. Some part of Slayer had always felt that without the soul, she’d instantly become like Angelus or Drusilla, all into the wholesale slaughter, torture, and destruction.

    But Spike… Spike had had a lover he was devoted to. He’d forged a truce with an enemy, rather than killing her and her family outright. He’d thought the world worth saving.

    Maybe being soulless didn’t have to mean being… well, as bad as all that. Not that Spike was good. Killer, murderer, yes, no conscience at all. But… he hadn’t killed Joyce when he’d come back to Sunnydale. He’d sat and had cocoa instead. That was what he’d chosen…. Companionship over murder. In that instance, at least.

    It wasn’t enough for Slayer to feel sanguine about the idea that her soul might detatch some day, but the terror that she’d instantly turn on everyone she’d ever loved, hunting them down with an obsessive zeal…. It felt a little as if a thorn had been dislodged from her heart. Still wounded, but the fear…. Not quite so bad.

    Unfortunately, the worst of her agitation wasn’t coming from her own self-loathing. She bit her lip, and tried to count to one hundred. That was supposed to calm people, right? But she got there, and the light still penetrated her closed lids, and her stomach was still gnawing at her. Was that where the center of the demon lived? In her stomach? Would the damn thing eat her if it didn’t get the blood it was demanding? She rocked back and forth in time with her counting, trying not to scream. She wasn’t calm when she finished. So she counted on to five hundred. And when she still felt agitated, she kept going. She was well on her way to a thousand, but she lost track somewhere in the seven hundreds, and debated starting all over again, or going back to five hundred and starting from there.

   And her counting was interrupted by a bare arm, thrust into her face. She tensed and her head snapped to Spike, who had climbed up from his place by the wall, and knelt beside her. His coat was off, hung over his knee, and his red overshirt was rolled up to the bicep. “Drink,” he said evenly.

   Slayer only stared at him.

   “It’s demon blood, it’s not gonna stop the craving,” he said. “But it tastes okay, and it’ll fill you a bit. Take the edge off that gnawing feeling. Should help you close up that shoulder, too.”

   Slayer glanced down at it. It was still oozing blood.

   “It should be starting to heal already, and it’s not,” Spike said. “You’re still a fledge. No matter how strong, that’s what you are. Fledges need to eat, that’s why they’re so hard to control.”

   She was tempted. Beyond tempted, she wanted. “But you....”

   “I’m over a hundred and twenty, I’ll be fine for weeks without fresh blood in me,” he said. “And if I’m gonna be sharing a cell with you, it’ll be lots sweeter if I’m not watching you rock back and forth as the hunger drives you barmy.” His face was very soft as he looked at her. “Just take it, slayer. Might as well hang for a sheep as a lamb.”

   Slayer didn’t know the idiom, and she didn’t care anymore. She vamped, took hold of the arm, and bit.

   Blood poured into her mouth, and she moaned, sealing her lips around the wound, drawing in the cool liquid, making it part of herself. She hadn’t tasted another vampire’s blood since she’d been turned, and her tastebuds had been mortal then. Despite the instinct to drink, it had felt like a spell, not just something delicious. This was delicious. It wasn’t like the pig blood, which was… food, but not good. It wasn’t like the donor blood, which was human and right and perfect (even though it was dead, and some part of her longed to taste it fresh from a living person). This was strange, but it filled her belly, and it tasted of demonic magics and joy and... and Spike. She could taste Spike, all of him, as if she could read him, as if the whole of him was spelled out in the blood, and if she only knew the language, she could read it back to him.

   But she didn’t know what she was reading. All she could do was take it in.

   And all too soon it stopped. She hadn’t judged where she bit, she hadn’t hit any veins or arteries, she had just clamped down. And of course he was a vampire. The same power which he insisted should already be closing up her shoulder quickly stopped the bleeding and started healing the bite.

   She licked at the no-longer-bleeding bite mark, then pulled away, disappointed. She wanted more. She almost felt like crying, it was over so soon.

   “It’s okay,” Spike whispered. Slayer looked up at him. He had the strangest look on his face, maybe pity, maybe sympathy, maybe even longing. She couldn’t identify it, but it cut her as deeply as her fangs had just cut him. “Do it again.”

   Maybe it was the way he’d put it. Maybe it was something else. But Slayer found herself doing it again, and not on his arm. With an abandon that startled her she lunged for his throat, sinking her fangs into his cool, demonic flesh.

   “Oh, god,” Spike murmured. “Buffy….” His arms went around her, hard, and she held him back, his body against hers, drawing him inside. Spike groaned, his breath coming hard, and he gripped her more tightly. His strength was like a warm blanket on a cold night, a comfort and a relief and a protection.

   She sucked at his throat, gripping him, wanton in her sudden lust for his blood and... and his body. Pull, swallow, pull, swallow. His scent, his strength, oh, god, the taste. He fell backwards, landing on his back on the hard tile, and she went with him, unwilling to release him. She found herself making tiny, lustful noises, writhing against him as she swallowed, over and over again.

   Her stomach was... was full. She should stop. Why didn’t he make her stop? Didn’t this hurt him? He felt so good beneath her, his flesh had felt so good between her fangs, the blood felt so good sliding across her tongue, down her throat. She only wished it were warm and alive. But he was alive, in his vampiric away, moving and breathing, she could feel his breath against her ear, his hand as he... he gripped at her hair.

   He was breathing hard. The sounds he was making... they sounded a lot like hers. It sounded as if they were making out or something.

   What the hell was she doing?

   She made herself leave his throat, pull away, look down at him, panting. Their faces were scant inches apart. God, his breath smelled heady. The taste of him was still in her mouth. She realized she was shaking. “Sorry,” she whispered. “I’ve... never done that before.”

   Spike looked a little stunned. His voice was husky when he found it. “Fed from another vampire?”

   She realized as he said it that it wasn’t even that specific. She’d never fed from anyone at all. All her blood had come in jars or bags or bottles, as distant from the creatures that supplied it as a package of hotdogs. She realized she was still sort of splayed over him, and she made herself get off. “S-sorry,” she said again.

   Spike lay on his back blinking up at the bright lights. Slayer sat, trying not to sob. She wasn’t sure why she wanted to. She felt better. Her stomach didn’t ache so much, and that desperate feeling of being eaten alive by her own demon, that seemed to have stopped. He’d said it wouldn’t stop the craving, but she lived mostly on animal blood. She was used to the damn craving never going away.

   Not only that, but Spike tasted easily ten times better than pig blood.

   She still wanted more. She didn’t even feel exactly hungry anymore, but the feel of Spike’s flesh between her teeth... with his body against hers, and his arms around her, and the sounds of his breath, and the feel of his strength.... oh, yeah. Oh, god, yes.... Slayer buried her head in her hands, and realized she was still vamped up. She made herself put her fangs away. It seemed almost sacrilegious, since the taste of blood was still in her mouth....

   A moment later she heard Spike move, and a heavy weight was lain across her shoulders. “You should try and sleep, after that,” Spike said. His voice was low, still husky. “That coat’s protected me from the sun, it should block out the light.”

   Slayer looked down at the black leather around her shoulders. She hadn’t slept much at all, in the two days she’d been here. The floor was uncomfortable, and the light... yeah. It had kept her awake. She pulled the coat off her shoulders and looked down at it. “Don’t you want to use it?”

   “Go ahead,” Spike said. “You’ve as much right to it as I do, really. I pulled that off my second slayer.”

   Slayer looked down at the coat, and realized Spike was sort of boasting about it, even while being generous. She ran her fingers over the butter-soft leather. “Was she hard to kill?” she heard herself ask.

   “Well, she didn’t lay down and tell me to drink from her,” Spike said.

   Slayer wanted to be insulted, but she wasn’t. Probably because, even if that was how she had died, it was also exactly what Spike had just done.

   “Get some rest,” Spike said. “Try to heal up. I’ll make sure you wake up if anyone tries... anything.”

   Tried to take him out of the cell, or her, or... yeah. She was worried about that.

   Slayer took the coat and went to the furthest corner of the cell, lying down with her face to the wall. She took off her own jean jacket to use as a crappy pillow, and spread the leather coat over her, the collar over her head. The bright white light was blissfully blocked by the heavy leather, and Slayer sighed with relief. God, yes. Darkness. She’d been craving it for days.

   Sleep eluded her, though. She lay there, in the darkness beneath the coat, and found herself unable to stop thinking. Thinking about Angel, and the turning. About Spike, letting her out. About the taste of demonic blood in her mouth... Angel’s... and Spike’s... and even her own. Could they do this? Feed on each other, keep the hunger at bay that way? They’d be growing steadily weaker, but without going crazy with it.

   And she realized she was thinking about this only because she wanted to touch him again. She wanted to touch and taste him, and have him touch and taste her. God, she couldn’t afford to think this way! It wasn’t right, it wasn’t safe.

   But... she was a prisoner. And they were probably going to kill them both, in the end. What the hell would it even matter if she...?

   She felt more than heard his presence as he settled down... not quite beside her. He was about two feet away, between her and the door. Close enough to be safer if their captors came into the cell, far enough away that he wasn’t being intrusive to her personal space. Slayer turned her head and looked at him under the edge of the coat. His arms were up behind his head, and one leg was slightly raised, his knee bent. He looked nonchalant and at ease and... and beautiful.

   And her bite mark was stark against his pale skin.

   Slayer rolled over and shoved her jean jacket at him. He looked vaguely confused for a moment, but the confusion faded as Slayer sidled up beside him and buried her head in the crook of his arm. Without a word of comment, without any kind of hesitation or question, Spike shoved the jacket under his head and snuggled her carefully against him, pillowing her head against his shoulder. She put her arm over his chest and kicked part of the coat over both of them. She even let it slide down so it didn’t cover her face anymore. With Spike’s body to snuggle into, she could bury her face in his flesh, and the light didn’t even matter anymore. She slid her leg over his, snuggling in as closely as she could.

   “Sleep tight, slayer,” Spike murmured. She didn’t even question it when he bent and kissed the top of her head, nuzzling into her hair. After everything they’d already been through... it all just sort of felt right.



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