Lesson the third: Vampire Hunting
Buffy decided she would go. She returned to her hotel room at dinner time, and in spite of it being daylight, Spike was gone. She checked under the bed and in the shower and closet, no sign of him, no note.
She wondered if he would return for her, or if she should meet him in the cemetery where she and Xander had encountered him the night before. She decided to stay and wait for him. He knew where she was; he was a moving target on a field she was not familiar with.
By 11 PM, he had not arrived. Exhausted from lack of sleep the night before, Buffy put on her pajamas and went to bed.
She awoke some few hours later when she heard knocking right beside her head. Her arm shot out to feel if he was beside her in the bed. He was not, he was looming over her, a dark shadow.
“Am I too late?” he asked, a chuckle in his tone.
“I expected you at Sundown,” she admitted.
“Thought you could use a little shut-eye, and besides, the most interesting nasties don't show up until true dark.”
She scanned vocabulary in her head...true dark...true dark, was that a thing? A certain time?
“Buffy,” he called her out of her head.
She closed her eyes, took a breath and got her bearings. She was in a hotel bed, wearing her sushi pajamas, 900 miles from home, with a vampire hovering over her.
Spike had expected her to be dressed and ready, asleep, yes, but still dressed and ready. It seemed now like she hadn’t expected him to return. She’d been solidly out, deep in sleep.
“Maybe another night yeah?” he was close enough that she could feel the breath of his words on her face.
“No, I don't want to miss it and I can't stay much longer. Even a cheap motel isn't cheap on my budget.” She needed to get out of bed and dress. Would she need a flashlight? She needed coffee and recalled there was a convenience store across the street.
“Up it is then. The night air will bring you round.”He sounded almost chipper.
“Have you been drinking?” she guessed.
“In a manner of speaking.”
Oh god. Oh god. She really didn't want to know. What was she doing? Why wasn’t she studying accounting like her father had suggested? Why wasn't she in bed with her boyfriend who drank beer and not people?
William the Bloody’s world wasn't supposed to be real. It was something she studied. It was what she read about in books before she went to sleep at night, not what she got out of bed to interact with. He was essentially waking her up so she could enter a nightmare.
She still wasn't moving.
“We can stay in if you prefer.” Spike's voice was farther away now. So he probably wasn't making a lewd suggestion. Surely if he was he'd be beside her on the bed.
“No, let's go.” Buffy began to push up to a sitting position.
“Don't think you should. You're not up to it.”
“I'll be fine. I pull all-nighters all the time. I stay up studying for hours. I just need coffee,” she assured him.
Suddenly his hand was on her shoulder, pushing her down. “Not tonight.” It didn't feel like a hand and arm with human muscles; it felt like a hydraulic press with untold power behind it. Like there was no point in pushing back.
She hadn't even realized he was close enough to touch her.
“You can't sense me within 12 inches of you. I’m not taking you out there to get yourself killed.”
“I thought you were going to protect me.”
“That's what I'm doing.”
In an instant, he was beside her on the bed. “What's say I get to ask you some questions?”
“I thought the point was to let me sleep.”
“Just a little bedtime game to put your mind at ease.”
“Because my mind will feel so at ease laying in the dark with a vampire.”
“I've already eaten; you've got nothing to worry about.”
She was overcome by a wave of feelings. Buffy felt trapped in her head. There was a reaction in there, possibly several, all banging around unable to find their way out. Her brain could process vampire, they were the subject of her studies. She could list facts and figures. Her brain could not process that a few inches away from her was a creature whom had killed and drank the blood of another human being within the last few hours.
She knew it as a fact, but she didn’t feel it as a reality, yet it was real. He was real. If it was real why was she just laying here? Why was she doing nothing to address this killer that was in her room? She should pull out a stake, or call the police, or call Stuart.
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?” Spike asked.
“What?” Did he really expect her to lay here and answer questions?
“You said your father was a banker. You never mentioned your mother. Do you have siblings?”
Buffy’s brain tried to knit together all she knew of him, from books and from what she’d learned in their short time together. The day before he’d asked about her boyfriend, now siblings; he was making a list of people in her family to go after.
“No, no siblings, no family at all really. My father is dead too,” she said hurriedly.
“What made you want to be a Watcher?” Spike ignored her babbling.
“The medieval history program was full.” She would answer his questions as simply as she could and try to figure out where he was going with this.
“So this is the next best thing?” From his tone, it was clear that he found that absurd.
“I went to a lecture given by a professor in the program I wanted to get into. I'd read some of his books. I loved his books, but his lecture was horrible. every other word was um. Anyway, during his program, he mentioned vampires, not as mythology but as if they were real. He even mentioned the Watcher's Council.”
“So you looked us up?”
“It wasn't exactly that easy. I talked to one of his grad students and I asked for the list of books that he referenced during the lecture. I looked up all of them but there was one I couldn't find. Not anywhere. Somehow, that's when I knew it was all real. I knew the book was out there and that I had to find it.”
“How did you find it?”
“It finally occurred to me that to reference the book, the professor probably had a copy of it so I made an appointment to see him. While I was waiting, I browsed around his office.”
“And there it was.”
“There it was. He let me see it. Just like that, no secret or anything.”
“There IS a secret handshake,” Spike said.
“Yeah. Maybe he let you pass because you were pretty.”
“I'm pretty?” she squeaked, wondering if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Stuart had suggested that it might keep her safe but it seemed just as likely that it might make her appear more appetizing.
Spike could feel her temperature rise. “So, he let you see the book...”
“He did, and I told him I was interested in vampire mythology and he said, why bother with the mythology when I could just study vampires themselves.”
“Smart sort of fellow.”
“I spent a couple of afternoons looking over his books then I transferred schools and went into a history program with Beverly Leeds.”
“Name means nothing to me.”
“She translated texts on vampires from the Old French,” Buffy told him.
“Sounds bloody boring. I’ve always hated translating. I prefer reading texts in their original language. Translations are nearly always god awful.”
“How many languages do you know?”
“Seven more or less. Five down pat. Can't speak a lick of Greek but I can read it.”
“I know English, and very shaky French.”
“So you're stuck with translations.”
“Now. Here. With me. You're not reading history, you’re writing it.”
“In a cheap motel wearing my sushi pajamas.”
Buffy could hear the leather of his coat creak as he shrugged.
“Life is where you find it.”
“So I've been told several times in the past 24 hours.” That seemed to be the gist of what Stuart had been telling her.
“Ok, easy one.”
She felt Spike roll to face her on the bed.
“What's your favorite--”
She waited, he was hesitating.
“My favorite what?”
“Can't decide if I want to ask you what your favorite book is, or…” He ran a finger down over her belly.
Even with the fabric of her pajamas and the blanket between them, she shuddered at his touch.
“Randall's Compendium of Vampires and the Undead,” she answered swallowing down a lump of fear. “Why can't you just ask what my favorite pizza topping is?”
“I don't care about pizza.” Why was this woman so daft?
“I don't think this is helping me fall back to sleep.” He was no longer touching her, but she wasn’t sure where his hand was. It could be hovering right over her.
“You want to sleep?”
“That was the idea.”
“I can put you to sleep.”
“Do I want to know?”
She felt a cool pressure on her neck, then blackness.
Spike was gone when she woke up. It was after 10 AM and Buffy felt well rested. After a minute or two, she remembered the last things they said and that'd he'd done something to her to make her sleep. She didn't know what and she wasn't sure if she wanted to, but she felt fine, not drugged or damaged.
There was an indentation in the pillow beside her where he had lain while they were talking. There were a few tiny flecks of dry blood on the pillowcase, a few more on the sheet below. Buffy felt her face and neck. She wasn’t injured. The blood wasn't hers.
“How'd you explain this trip to your boyfriend?” Spike asked her that evening when he came to pick her up.
“I don't have a boyfriend.”
“He must know you study vampires. Does he know why you're out here?”
“There is no boyfriend.”
“If you were my bint, I wouldn't have it, chasing after things that go bump in the night.”
“I definitely would NOT have a boyfriend who tells me what I can and can’t study and who I can bump in the night with,” Buffy said in a huff.
“You're not a very good liar. Does he study vampires too?”
“There IS NO HE.”
“Wouldn't keep a bint around who lied about being with me either,” Spike muttered.
“I’d prefer to keep my private life private,” Buffy explained.
“While you're poking about into my history.” He gave her a pointed look.
“What did you do to me last night?”
“Besides making you uncomfortable by asking you certain questions?”
“How did you put me to sleep?”
“I can do it again.” He grinned.
“No, just tell me.” Buffy stepped away.
“It's just a thing. I pressed on a nerve.”
“It's a vampire thing?” she guessed.
“Anyone can do it if they know where and are strong. I could teach you but your hands are--” He reached for one.
Buffy snatched her hand back before he took it.
“Sorry love. Forgot you're still new at this. Not like in the books, eh?”
“Sorry, I don't...” Buffy was embarrassed. She did want to touch him, or at least a vampire, but she was still too skittish. She needed to pull herself together. How was she going to do meaningful research? How was she going to do any of this if everything scared her out of her wits? It’s just that he was so not like vampires on the pages of a book.
Spike frowned at her. “Not sure if this is going to work.”
“You can't kill a vampire if you can't touch one.” He pointed out the obvious.
“Couldn't I just watch you?” she said, only half-jokingly.
“Thought the point was you learn to do it yourself.”
“I can learn by watching you first.” She thought that was a very sound plan.
Spike put out his hands, palms up and tipped his head towards her. Buffy reached out slowly. She swallowed down a lump of consternation and touched her fingertips to his. His skin was cool and firm. She could feel the ridges of his fingerprints. She slid her hands up and felt the creases in his palms.
He grasped her hand. He was gentle, but she could sense the strength just under the surface, muscles that could crush, a grip that could close with the power and persistence of a vise.
“I wouldn't want to fight you,” she said shakily.
“You couldn't,” he stated the obvious. He turned her hands over and looked at them.
“I like lacquer on a woman's nails,” he said.
Buffy wasn't wearing any, but Spike was.
Spike shrugged. “Damned if know.” He gave a little chuckle. “Gonna put that in your paper? Manicure preferences among vampires.”
Buffy smiled. She was still in question mode, using her script, still filing away information. They stood there; Spike looking into her eyes. Buffy's smile grew a bit less genuine. His grip on her hands was still firm, the pressure precisely the amount needing to hold her fast without crushing or hurting her fingers. Buffy tried to move her hand away, almost the moment she thought of it the tiny muscles in his hand came alive, increasing pressure in exactly the increment needed to prevent her pulling away. As soon as her hand relaxed so did his.
His eyes, the uncanny coordination of his muscles, and slow, even breathing were hypnotic. He was a predator. She was prey, an easy kill.
“It's been awhile since I held hands with a pretty girl.” He wore a cat that ate the canary smile on his face.
“We should go,” Buffy suggested, trying to look away but finding herself unable to, afraid of what he’d do if she wasn’t watching. That was laughable; he could do what he pleased whether she was watching or not.
“No harm in us taking our time. The vampires will still be there.”
Look away Buffy, look away. He's doing that thing: the thrall. She shifted her eyes and the pressure of his hands increased, holding her there, drawing her eyes back to his, maintaining command.
Spike's eyes flickered to the bed then back.
Buffy's heart raced. Proper shag, boyfriend, hand holding, pretty girl, he wasn't letting go.
Was she going to be adding a chapter to her paper: Raping practices of Vampires?
He could put her to sleep, hold her fast, be in her bed without her even knowing it. He could even capture her eyes so she couldn't look away.
Was he waiting to cut a deal with her the way he had with Faith? He'd tell her what she wanted to know as long as she slept with him?
What happened to the not caring? Why was he doing this? She wasn't a Slayer, she was barely a snack. The Council sent 15-year-old girls to fight things just like him. It was unthinkable. It was insanity.
She wondered if he was getting off on this or was it just something he did, part of his script.
“I can only afford to stay a few more nights. I need to make the most of my time. Can we go?” She may as well cut to the chase. So far he’d proved that he was reasonable. If he was going to do something to her, then he should just do it.
“Yeah, was just having a bit of fun with you. You ask a lot of questions but some things you'll never know until you feel them.” He released her hands.
“There are some things I don't want to know.” She rubbed her palms on the thighs of her jeans as if she could scrub away the sensation of being trapped and helpless.
What Buffy wanted was to write her paper about him. She didn't want to be toyed with or raped or eaten. How could the Council send girls out to fight these monsters? It was one thing to slaughter demons; super strength made that doable, but what powers did Slayers have to address this? Their only hope had to be to kill vampires fast before they had a hold on you before they'd wormed their way into your mind before they looked into your eyes and took delight in your ignorance.
Spike was talking about the hunt as easy as you please. “Could do it one of a few ways, could set you out as bait, attract a bugger or two then I jump in and save you. Or we could jump a nest. Probably the safest is to look for rising fledglings, easy pickings unless their sire is waiting for them.”
Buffy understood most of he was saying, even though he was speaking quickly. Some of the terminology was different than that used in Council publications, but she knew the gist of it.
“I'd rather fledglings since I really don't know what I'm dealing with.” She freely admitted that now. None of this was anything like her book learning.
“It’s like clubbing baby seals.”
Did she detect scorn in his voice? Was it aimed at her? Vamps were strong, even new ones. Baby seals didn't go around ripping throats out.
“That's me, Slayer of the cute and helpless.” Somehow she doubted a joke was going to lighten the mood.
Spike gave her a look.
“What was that for?”
No comment. “You've got your stakes?”
“Should I be carrying a cross and holy water?” She wasn't sure if she was joking or not. Was that just mythology too, or were vampires really harmed by crosses and holy water?
“Let's keep it simple.”
She was certain she detected scorn in his tone now.
“I AM here to learn,” she grumbled. She was doing her best, asking questions, willing to be corrected. “ So, sorry Mr. Vampire if--”
“Will you please shut up? You’ll learn more when you're quiet. Even hungry vampires are turned off by a bint bitching. Sends them running in the opposite direction. If you need to make noise pant or scream or something.”
Don't take it personally, she reminded herself, tucking away the hint about vampires avoiding bitchy women. Who knew, it might save her life one day. She shouldn’t expect manners, Spike wasn’t a man; he was a vampire, not big with the manners. He's your study subject, not prospective date. Just file away information. This is field work.
She decided to look at it like deer hunting. People didn't talk while they were deer hunting. She didn’t know if people kept quiet when they were clubbing baby seals.
“Wait, do I have my room key?” She felt in her pockets. She was wearing a LOT of pockets. She'd gone out and purchased cargo pants for tonight. Vampire hunting was definitely not a purse carrying event. Spike told her wearing a backpack would get her killed, so she opted for pockets, lots of pockets, so many she had no idea where anything was.
“Don't worry love, I'll get you back in. Can we go?”
She reminded herself to act casual, as if they were just two people, out for a stroll, not a vampire and grad student.
“Do you ever have trouble passing as a human.” She returned to the comforting structure of her script.
“What do you think?”
She had eyes. Was she incapable of coming to her own conclusion? “Does anything about this scream creature of the night to you?” He held his arms out and invited her to look him over.
“Pretty much everything,” she noticed: black coat, pants, T-shirt, boots, and the hair. Peroxide blonde wasn't a strong enough term for the shocking whiteness of his hair.
“Yeah, well, I only go out at night,” he allowed. “So that bit's not really a factor.”
“And so I ask again, do you ever have trouble passing?”
“I was human once,” he reminded her.
“That was a long time ago,” she reminded him.
“I keep in practice, so I don't forget.”
The walked a few more paces and he stopped and looked at her. “Key to being a successful vampire is to not too get cocky, I mean at first. Fledglings tend to get juiced up when they first turn. You rise with all this strength and hunger. Feels so good you just want to explode with it.” He began walking again. “That's what gives you away: not controlling it.”
“You are good at controlling it.” No doubt there; he was the pro of control.
“Wasn't always. I was lucky to make it past my first few decades really. No one had more lust for the kill than me I'll wager. Damn lucky my family, vampire family, kept me alive. But I learned. Just like you, gotta be willing to learn. Thinking you know too much is what gets you killed. Well, that and pointy bits of wood.” He winked.
“And Slayers,” Buffy added.
“Not yet,” he gave a self-satisfied shrug.
“Why did you go after them, other than the obvious, they kill your kind.”
“Challenge, glory. Why hunt tigers? Bigger trophy. Bragging rights. I enjoy a good scrape.”
“So it’s not like you have a death wish?” she said suggestively. It was a pet theory of hers. William the Bloody got bored with his unlife, things had become too easy and predictable. He’d gotten too good at it. Maybe immortality wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and he subconsciously wanted a way out.
“What I have is a life wish; a good fight makes me feel alive.” It was one of the few things that did. Just about any intense experience helped him forget his undead state, but experiences with unpredictability built in did it best. Fighting a Slayer was about the most unpredictable thing he’d experienced in his decades as a vampire. When he was a living man, his most unpredictable experience had been falling in love. Now his heart didn’t beat and his mind was far too sharp to allow itself to be made a fool of that particular way.