Listening To Fear

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<<>>

With a groan, Buffy shoved the Queller demon off of her and lay on her back,
staring up at the ceiling. Her breathing was ragged and she was still weak
from the impromptu sob fest she had engaged in a short while before, but she
was alive. Her mom was alive. Dawn was alive.

And Spike stepped into her view and extended a hand, which she gladly took.
He pulled her to her feet and looked down at her, rubbing his thumb over the
back of her hand.

'I'm sorry' formed in the back of her mind. 'I'm sorry for not telling Riley
about us.'

But before she could form the words, the door burst open and Riley ran in,
flanked on either side by a team of army men. Buffy let go of Spike and
looked at Riley in disbelief. The first sign of trouble and he went back to
his roots.

"Are you okay?" Riley asked, and in the back of her mind, Buffy ticked off a
thousand cuss words to indicate how *not* okay she was, but she brushed past
him instead.

Spike watched her go and shrugged, glancing at Riley. "You missed a real
nice time."

"Yeah," Riley glared at Spike as Buffy vanished at the top of the stairs.
"But it sure looks like you didn't."

"What can I say?" Spike hooked his thumb in the waistband of his jeans. "If
there's fun to be had, I'll find it."

"Why don't you go find it and clear out of here before I remind the Captain
that you've currently got a chip in your head. Seems to me that there were
clear orders to destroy every trace of the Initiative." Riley took a step
closer to him, ignoring the commotion and the various commands that were
being given around him. "Should I tell him, Spike?"

"I see you're still being true to form." Spike gave him a sly grin. "I'm
beginning to see why you don't ring the Slayer's bell. Hell, it must be hard
to even **find** her bell when you're living life under someone's thumb."

"I'll give you to the count of three." Riley stood up straighter, squaring
his jaw. "One-"

"Two, three," Spike finished. "Oh, don't get your little undies in a twist.
I'll go." He walked around the man and headed toward the door, then turned
at the last minute and saluted Riley with his middle finger. "The only thing
worse than having this chip, is being you. I'm pretty sure the Slayer is
starting to see that, too. I'd think about that."

Riley stalked toward the vampire, but Spike was gone before he made it
halfway. Slamming the door, Riley realized that it wouldn't latch properly.
With another glance up the stairs, Riley motioned at Graham. "Could you get
a couple of the guys to fix the door?"

"You got it," Graham nodded and walked away, already speaking into his
walkie-talkie and issuing orders.

Riley slowly climbed the stairs, pausing at the top and listening for any
sign of the Summers' women. Joyce's door opened at the end of the hall and
Buffy stepped out, lingering for a few minutes to peer through the crack in
the door before she shut it. When she turned and saw Riley, she
involuntarily jumped and moved a hand toward her heart. "You scared me."

"Sorry," Riley said. He bit his lip to keep from commenting on how tired and
frail she looked. Instead, he held out his hand and she took it, but not
before she eyed it apprehensively. He noticed, but said nothing.

Buffy allowed him to lead her down the hallway and into her room, where she
sat on the edge of the bed. "Riley-"

"Buffy, let me go first. I know that you probably resent the fact that there
are Initiative soldiers down there and that I-"

"No, I don't care," Buffy yawned and lay back on her bed, curling her hand
under her chin.

Riley stopped short and looked down at her. She didn't care? "I-I know that
you don't trust them or appreciate me going behind your back and-"

"It's your life." Buffy shrugged and stifled another yawn. "And I'm too
tired to think. You should go."

With a slight nod of his head, Riley let himself out. Buffy sat up on the
edge of her bed, burying her face in her hands.

What had she gotten herself into?


<><><><><>

"Thanks for coming on such short notice," Buffy said to Giles as she took
his coat.

"What kind of demon do you think it was?" Giles asked as he followed her
into the living room, where she was busily piling weapons into her bag. "You
saw it from your window, you say?"

"Yeah," Buffy lied. She had called him over simply because she couldn't
leave Dawn alone with her mother and she needed to get out of the house. She
needed to find Spike. "It was on the roof right outside my window. The only
really good feature I was able to make out were the fangs. Believe me, not
fun."

"Are you sure you should be patrolling? You look rather tired." Giles helped
her load a crossbow into her bag and started to lift it for her, but she
beat him to it.

"I'm good. I should get a move on though. I need to track it while I can."
Giving him a brief smile, she hurried toward the door. "Mom's sleeping.
Dawn's in bed with her. I left her prescriptions on the kitchen counter and
a list of what times she can take it."

"They'll be fine." Giles held the door open for her. While he couldn't put
his finger on it, there was something very odd about Buffy's demeanor. She
wouldn't make eye contact with him and he'd never seen her go after a random
demon so adamantly ... especially when there were so many other things to
deal with. "Are you sure you're feeling up to this?"

"God! Yes!" Buffy snapped, turning to face him for the first time since he'd
arrived. He was clearly taken aback by her tone and she exhaled, shaking her
head. "I'm sorry. I'm- I'm just - I have to go."

Giles stood in the doorway, watching as she rushed down the sidewalk and cut
through one of the neighboring yards, then vanished into the night. Closing
the door, he turned to go back into the living room and saw Dawn
standing halfway down the stairs, watching him. "Oh! Hello, Dawn. Is
something wrong?"

Dawn bit her bottom lip. "Where's Buffy?"

"She saw a demon and went after it," Giles told her.

"Oh."

"Do you need something? Is Joyce awake?"

"No," Dawn said. She walked slowly down the stairs, pausing on the last one.
"Can I talk to you?"

"Of course," he replied and nodded toward the living room.

"Uhm, we better talk over tea. Or coffee. You may need it."

Bewildered, Giles followed her into the kitchen.

<<>>

Spike closed his eyes, trying not to think about the fact that Riley Finn
was currently with Buffy. He was probably consoling her, telling her it
would be okay, holding her in his big steroid-filled arms. Maybe he was
kissing her. Or maybe he was making love to her, listening to her gasps and
moans and pleas for more.

With a snarl, he stood up and paced around his crypt. Shagging the Slayer
had been the biggest mistake of his unlife. She was part of him now, part of
everything he did. Every waking hour contained thoughts of her and every
time he slept, she was there, tangled in his dreams.

Digging in his pocket, he pulled out the photographs of her he had taken
from a shoebox in her basement. There hadn't been much time to choose
carefully, so he had simply grabbed a handful- not that he was at all
disappointed with what he had gotten. Sitting down again, he flipped through
them, smiling back at the grinning Slayer. She looked pouty in one of the
photos. In another, she was looking serious, sexy, eyes wide and arms
crossed. But in a majority of them, she was happy, laughing.

He felt another one in his pocket and quickly pulled it out.

He yelled angrily when he saw Riley in the photo and ripped it to shreds.
Damn the Slayer for what she was putting him through.

"Well, well, someone's cranky," Harmony said from the doorway.

Spike rolled his eyes. "What do you want, Harm?"

She licked her lips and closed the door behind her, then sashayed toward
him, running her fingertips over his chest. "I'll give you two guesses,
blondie-bear."

"Bloody hell," Spike mumbled, shaking his head. "Get out."

Saying nothing, Harmony took a step back and pulled her dress over her head,
leaving her in nothing but her heels. Spike had to hand it to her, she wore
her lack of modesty very well. The blue veins in her body stood out vividly
against her pale skin and he licked his lips, recalling all too well how her
cool blood tasted sliding over his lips. She was still new, a fledgling, and
what remained of her human blood still tainted the flavor, making it divine.

He didn't look away. He openly surveyed her, drinking in the curve of her
neck, the swell of the breasts that never rose and fell, and then landed on
the thatch of blond curls between her thighs. His lips parted slightly and
he heard a low growl emanating from the back of his throat. She wasn't
Buffy. She wasn't tanned and toned and dark between the legs .

But she would do.

He stalked toward her, walking her backwards until her back was against the
wall, and then he lowered his head and kissed her. The blood of a recent
kill was still fresh in her mouth and he slid his tongue against hers,
trying to lap away every trace of it, greedily sucking what he could into
his mouth. The sense of depravation infuriated him, and he broke the kiss,
unable to savor what he could not have. With one hand, he unzipped his pants
and freed his cock, and with the other hand, he half lifted her, and then he
was inside her, slamming wildly into her cool depths.

She wasn't Buffy, he thought again. And when she made a move to kiss him, he
turned his head. He could deal with the coolness between her legs, but he
could not - would not - kiss her, sample her evil, take pleasure in it.

He just wanted to forget.

<><<>><>

Buffy staked two vampires as she made her way through the cemetery. She had
done it swiftly, taking no time to fight, and her muscles protested angrily,
tightening under her skin. She was unsatisfied, aching for hand to hand
combat, yearning to come alive and be used to capacity. Buffy made up her
mind not to disappoint her body. She would be writhing underneath Spike in
just a while, making use of every inch of her hungry flesh.

When his crypt came into view, just over the horizon, a new spring found its
way into her step and she grinned. Despite the fact that he had left her a
few nights before, turning a deaf ear to her sobs and leaving her alone, she
couldn't stop wanting him. When he had offered his hand earlier, helping her
to her feet, the same familiar fire that burned in her stomach had come back
with a vengeance. One touch of his hand, one look with his steely blue eyes,
and she was willing to swallow her pride and apologize. Willing to beg him
to give her ... what? What did she hope he would give her?

All she knew for sure was that she was willing to take what she could get.

A few feet away from his crypt she heard the moans. Pausing, she set her bag
down on the nearest headstone and crept closer. The moans were female,
familiar. Both the voice and the emotions behind it. Harmony! Putting a hand
over her lips to keep from crying out, she listened as the female vampire
became more vocal.

"Oh, yes, Spike-y! Oooh, make me come!" The sounds grew louder as Buffy
listened. "Yes! Blondie-bear!"

Buffy's eyes filled with tears when she heard the familiar hoarse cry that
signaled Spike's release. The exact same sound she'd heard each time he'd
come with her. The. Exact. Same. One.

Stumbling back a few feet, she lost her balance and toppled over, knocking
her bag to one side. She heard Spike's voice asking Harmony if she heard
something, and she grabbed her bag and ran.

She made it to the edge of the woods before she dropped to her knees,
grabbing two handfuls of grass as she lost the little bit of food she had
managed to swallow that day. Sobbing, she continued to heave until the last
of it was gone, and then she stood on shaking limbs, gathering her bag once
more.

That was when the hairs on the back of her neck bristled, her ears keened,
and she picked up the low growl that was coming from the nearest thicket of
trees. Moving slowly, she pulled a long dagger from her bag and scanned the
area. A flash of red eyes was her only warning, and the beast lunged at her,
jowls wide with a savage scream.

Buffy quickly ducked and rolled and the creature overshot, landing hard on
its haunches before it, too, regained its footing. Wrinkling her nose, Buffy
wondered exactly what kind of beast it was, then it was coming at her again.
She deflected a bite with a clip to its hairy chin and sent it spiraling,
whining like a dog. But it didn't look like a dog, not even like a werewolf,
which she would have simply knocked out. Instead, this demon was
fair game, and she was ready to play anything but fair.

While the creature was still reeling from the blow, Buffy lashed out with
her foot, catching it where a ribcage should have been. She expected to hear
the satisfying crunch of bone beneath her boots, and instead, it was like
connecting with an armored car. Buffy cried out as the impact shook her from
head to foot, causing her teeth to snap together. She bit her tongue and
tasted blood, but she didn't stop, didn't even wipe when it began to seep
past her parted lips.

This was a part of it. The wounds that made her feel alive. The pain that
took hold of her, numbing everything except the physicality of it. Sating
the primal hunger of a huntress, a predator. Her bloodshed was a fair price
to pay, a fair trade for the death that she created; her art.

As the demon came at her again, there was no conscious thought. No retreat.
No fear. Only the showmanship of a master in her domain, an executioner who
waited for no trial, no judgment.

The dagger became an extension of her arm, an added finger, part of her.
Flesh opened, blood poured, howls turned to whines and whines turned to
silence and when the sun dawned, shining its holy light on the carnage, she
returned. She dropped the knife into her bag and quickly shut it, then
swallowed hard, trying to remember what had happened. All that remained of
the demon were tufts of hair and shards of bone, broken jagged under her
strong hands. Her bare hands. Buffy looked down at her palms, cringing when
she saw the small tears in her own flesh, undoubtedly received from bone,
from tooth, from death. Her prey rarely accepted death easily, and death
rarely minded.

The sound of her pager going off startled her, and she reached stained hands
into the bag, pulling it out. It was her home number. Memories of her mother
suddenly came back with a vengeance, and she stood, absently brushing grass
and dirt from her pants.

As she passed back the way she had come, she glanced at Spike's crypt. There
was a memory there too. She paused, wondering if she should barge in,
confront him, stake Harmony and leave, but she had more important things to
deal with. Her mother. Her sister. A boyfriend - that she didn't really
want.

Squaring her shoulders, she lifted her chin. She may not want Riley Finn,
but he was hers! He wouldn't sleep with someone on the side. He was
dependable, reliable, and everything a good boyfriend should be. He wasn't
dark, wasn't deadly, but all things considered, she was deadly enough on her
own, wasn't she?

She made up her mind then and there that Spike had to be out of her life for
good. As soon as she got her mother through the worst of it, she would let
him know that they were through.

For good.

Forever.

~Finis
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