[identity profile] eee1313.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] dancing_lessons_archive
City of Light

a Dancing Lessons interlude
By eep

Summary: Remember what Spike gave Buffy for Christmas at the end of War? They're finally putting the present to use.

Rating: R

Thanks to cousinjean and adjrun for helping me out so much with this, and especially to cousinjean for not kicking my butt when this took forever. Also, thanks to georgevna for letting us all camp out at her house while we hash stuff out. Y'all rock.


*

Buffy groaned and tried to stretch her legs. As soon as she moved, her knees rammed into the back of the seat in front of her. This flight is taking forever.

The cabin of the airplane was mostly dark, illuminated in a few places by overhead lamps. Most of the passengers slept fitfully in the practically upright seats, while some tried to pass the time reading or playing handheld video games. The in-flight movie ended nearly two hours ago, and Buffy longed for a deck of cards.

She scowled and raised her eyes to the television monitors that hung from the ceiling. A computerized graphic showed a map of the world with a tiny airplane flying across to show the plane's progress. They were passing over the southern tip of Greenland, which meant at least three more hours on the plane, as far as she could guess. With a sigh, she leaned her head back against the seat and tried to get comfortable. Immediately a kink formed in her neck.

The little boy in the seat next to her mumbled in his sleep and shifted, resting his head on her shoulder. Buffy looked at him in disgust. As if the trip wasn’t uncomfortable enough, now she had to act as a pillow to this kid? She looked up to find his mother smiling at her from two seats away. “Merci,” the woman whispered over the sleeping child.

“No problem,” Buffy replied, forcing a polite smile.

She looked back at the tiny television overhead and watched as the animated plane made another blip on the screen. She reached up and massaged the kink out of her neck. The kid on her arm began to drool. And she was stuck.

He's probably more comfortable down there than I am up here, Buffy thought with a sulk. She lightly stomped her foot on the cabin floor, hoping that somewhere down there he would hear her.

Not much of a chance for that.

Ten feet under the cabin, Spike's portable CD player was turned up to full volume. He lay in a coffin, drumming on the lid with his fists. The headphones clamped over his head and he hummed along with Iggy Pop, trying desperately not to think of the time. Spike hadn't flown in nearly sixty years, and now he remembered why. Being crammed in a coffin in the cargo hold wasn't exactly his idea of traveling in style. Hell, coffins weren’t his style.

Ah, well, anything for my lady, he sighed. What he wouldn't give for a cigarette. Instead he reached for the packet of nicotine gum stashed in his pocket. It would have to do until they landed in Paris.

Spike popped the gum in his mouth and chewed. It can't be much longer. Maybe a half-hour, tops. He nodded, sure that his calculations were right. He did some quick math in his head. Two Ramones albums, one Clash disc, half of the New York Dolls, one Sex Pistols, and now this Iggy Pop meant… Not nearly enough time has passed.

He groaned and banged the coffin lid with his fists again, this time in frustration. This flight is taking forever.

***

Buffy wheeled her carry-on luggage behind her and headed up the ramp to a pair of steel doors that read "Authorized Personnel Only." Or so she assumed. She couldn't read French any better than she could speak it.

"Pardonnez moi," Buffy said to a passing baggage handler. "Parlez vou Englais?"

"Yes, Madame."

"I'm traveling with-" her voice dropped to a whisper "a body. I was told I need to identify it before I can pick it up."

"Yes, Madame. Follow me."

He led Buffy to a nearby desk and quickly explained her situation. The second man, wearing what was probably an airport security badge, nodded and took Buffy's passport and plane ticket from her hand. He looked over the identification, looked back at Buffy, and smiled. "Follow me, please."

He led her through the doors and down a long corridor. Everyone who passed by them wore airport badges. Buffy felt out of place in the bowels of the airport, like she had entered some secret lair. It was like seeing the behind-the-scenes doings at Disneyland.

The security guard ushered her into a small room. "Wait here, please," he said. "We will bring the body for you."

Buffy nodded and sat down in one of the plastic chairs. The room was windowless, with cinderblock walls and exposed fluorescent lighting. Other than the line of plastic chairs, the room was empty.

She let her muscles settle onto the hard plastic. It amazed her how sitting for hours on end could make one so exhausted. She closed her eyes and yawned. Her chin just touched her chest when the door opened with a band. A familiar oak coffin rolled in on a gurney, pushed by a queasy-looking baggage handler. The security officer from earlier entered after it and unhooked the latches on the side. "Madame?"

Buffy nodded and approached the coffin. He opened the lid and Buffy peered inside. There, nestled among the white satin liner and pillow, lay Spike. It still gave her the heebie-jeebies to see him in a coffin - just one more reminder that her boyfriend was dead.

"That's him," she said quickly.

The security guard nodded. "You have a car arranged to pick up the body?"

"Yes. It's supposed to meet us at terminal three.”

The security guard turned to the baggage handler and repeated this information. As his back was turned, Spike took the opportunity to open his eyes and grin at Buffy. She suppressed a smile and discreetly waved at him to lie still, but this only goaded him on. Spike crossed his eyes and stuck his tongue out at her, all the while watching the men over her shoulder. Just as the security guard began to turn towards them, Spike blew her a kiss and shut his eyes.

"Madame," the guard said as Buffy spun on her heels to face him. "If you’ll follow me, we can go over the paperwork. You can pick up your luggage on the way.”

Buffy nodded and pulled on the luggage handle, wheeling it behind her. The men left the room first, and as Buffy crossed to the exit she turned to face Spike once more. With a quick gesture she pointed a warning finger at him hissed "Later!" He winked at her and she rolled her eyes, pushing through the door to where the guard waited.

***

Forty-five minutes later Buffy stood on the curb, waiting for the hearse to arrive. Spike had arranged for an "old friend" to pick them up once they arrived in Paris, and she was beginning to wonder about the value of Spike's friendship back in the day. The airport security guard who stood at the side of coffin looked ready to scream, and Buffy felt just as angry. It was one thing to be stood up by your ride, but another thing altogether when you're lugging a dead body with you.

Buffy gave the guard an apologetic look. "I'm really sorry," she said with a half-smile. "He was supposed to be here by now."

He set a cold stare on her for a moment, then returned his eyes to the road.

Wow. Way to be sympathetic, pal, Buffy thought, beginning to believe the rumors she'd heard about how rude the French could be.

Thankfully a large black hearse screeched to a stop in front of them and a man in his thirties jumped out of the driver's seat. "Buffy Summers?" he asked in a thick accent.

She stepped forward. "Yes. That's me."

He extended a hand. "Martin." He shook her hand firmly, then nodded to the security guard and gestured to the back of the car. He said something in French that Buffy couldn't understand, but in a moment they wheeled the coffin to the back of the hearse and began heaving it inside. They shoved at the back of the oak box, trying to slide it in without bumping the sides of the car. It tipped to the left at a precarious angle, and Buffy rushed forward to help, afraid it would fall to the ground.

“No, miss, we’ve got it,” Martin said, bracing the coffin with his knee and shoving it inside the hearse. “Please, stand back.”

Buffy stepped back onto the curb as he thanked the security guard and began loading her luggage into the car. Martin struggled with the bags, and when Buffy stepped in again to help, he waved her aside. “Please, let me. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”

She shrugged and waited as he wedged the last of the suitcases in next to the coffin and slammed the door. Then he circled the car and opened the passenger side door for Buffy. "Please," he said with a wave of his arm. She climbed into the hearse and watched Martin cross in front of the car. Nothing about him seemed out of place, so she had to wonder how Spike knew him. Spike hadn’t been in France since World War Two, or so he had said. Martin looked far too young to have been alive then. Immortal? Demon? He couldn't be a vampire, as it was still daylight. Martin slid behind the wheel and threw the car into gear, cutting off two cabs as they raced away from the airport.

"So, how do you like Paris?" he asked amicably.

"I haven't really gotten a chance to find out. The airport seemed nice, I guess," she replied.

"You'll love it once you're on our time," Martin said with a smile.

"I hope." She watched him from the corner of her eye.

Martin wove in and out of the highway traffic, the car zipping from one narrow lane to the next. Buffy gulped and tried to keep her mind off the road in front of her. "So how do you know Spike?" she asked.

He smiled. "I wondered how long till you asked me that. You've been looking rather suspicious since I showed up."

"Sorry," Buffy muttered.

"No, don't be," he said, giving her a friendly pat on the arm. "Spike and I go back quite a bit. We met back in the late 1800s, I think."

"So you're. . . ?" Buffy prodded.

Martin ran a finger over his right cheek, smearing away the thick makeup that concealed his pale lavender skin. "Demon through and through," he grinned.

Buffy nodded. "So you knew Spike back in his bad-boy days then, huh?"

He nodded. "First time we met, Spike was in this cabaret with Drusilla, taking in this lovely showgirl. I had my eye on her as well, but not in the same way. I wanted a date, they wanted a snack - "

"Oi! I don't think she needs to hear this story," a muffled voice shouted from the back of the car.

Buffy couldn't agree more.

"Spike! How are you back there?" Martin called over his shoulder.

"A little stiff, no pun intended. You?" Spike replied.

"Just fine."

"Glad to hear it.”

“So whatever happened to Dru?” Martin asked him. Then, looking quickly to Buffy, he added, “Or did you leave her as soon as you saw this beauty?”

Buffy shifted in her seat.

“Ah - " Spike was quiet for a long moment, trying to find the right words. “Dru’s gone, mate. A few months ago. She threatened to kill us, so . . .”

Buffy looked out the window. This was an awkwardness she hadn’t expected.
“I understand,” Martin said, cutting off the silence that hung in the car. “Besides, this new girl of yours is ten times as pretty.”

“Isn’t she though?” Spike’s voice instantly lost all of its previous hurt.

“I’ll say. Something about those American girls,” Martin said, flashing Buffy a toothy smile. She smiled back, praying for a change in the conversation topic.

Spike pulled through, as always. “How long till I can get out of this box?"

Martin veered off the highway onto an exit ramp. "We're almost there, old friend."

"Thank God."

Buffy stared out of the window as they cruised through the streets of Paris. It looked nothing like her tour brochures. The buildings were old, just like in the pictures, but that ended the similarities. There were no well-manicured flowerboxes, or bicycles propped against stenciled doorways. Only dirty stone walls, dark windows, and a few people waiting for who knew what on the sidewalks. Old compact cars lined the streets, dingy storefronts, alleys lined with garbage cans. Not the city of romance that she expected.

Martin swung a hard right and entered a garage. "Alright, everybody out."

Buffy got out of the car and stretched her arms above her head. Martin opened the back door of the car and gave the end of the coffin a tug. It slid along the bed of the cabin until it hung halfway out of the car, then tipped downwards and hit the ground with a thud.

She rushed forward and opened the upper lid of the coffin. Spike lay inside, propped on an angle with the rest of the box. “Hey.”

He reached up and touched her cheek. “Hey. Want to help me out of here so I can give you a proper hello?”

Buffy raised an eyebrow in a smirk and unlatched the rest of the lid. Spike pushed himself out and wrapped his arms around her. "How was your flight, love?"

She hugged him back. "Long. Yours?"

"Let's just say it's nice to stand up." He caught her lips in a kiss. Buffy couldn't help but feel woozy. Maybe it was the jet lag, or maybe it was just that he hadn't kissed her in nearly fourteen hours, but his kiss was making her weak in the knees.

"Ahem!" Martin coughed politely.

They broke apart.

Spike strode over and caught his old friend in a bear hug. "Martin! So good to see you!"

"Same here!" he crowed. "Mon dieu, what have you done to your hair?"

Spike looked almost sheepish. "America, man. It does things to you."

Martin shook his head and laughed. “I’ll say. Listen, the sun will be down soon. We'll need to get you to the hotel before your reservation expires," Martin explained. He began heaving suitcases from the back of the hearse to the trunk of an old taxi.

Buffy picked up one of the suitcases and hefted it towards the men. "Here, let me get that," Martin said.

"I've got it," Buffy insisted.

"No, please, let me," Martin took the handle from her and immediately the suitcase dropped to the ground. "That's incredibly heavy," he said. Then, looking to Buffy, "Or you're incredibly strong."

"It's the latter," Buffy said with a quick nod.

"She's the Slayer," Spike confided to his friend in a stage whisper.

"The Slayer?" Martin gasped. "But you're a vampire!"

"Cruel twist of fate, huh?" Spike laughed. “But it’s working out right nice for us, so who am I to complain?” Spike snaked an arm around Buffy’s waist.

“To each his own,” Martin said with a shrug. “But dating the enemy isn’t my idea of a good time. Can you imagine me with a Gurvenn demon? Now that’s a frightening thought.”

"Spike!" Buffy hissed as soon as Martin turned away. "Why did you tell him about me? He could rat us out!"

He wrapped an arm around her waist. "Not likely. Martin's a trusty bloke. He's even keeping me in blood this week."

"I just don't want to know where he gets it," Buffy grumped. "And he better be trustworthy. The last thing I want on this vacation is any trouble."

"Don't worry, pet," Spike said, opening the back door of the cab for her. "This vacation will be nothing but fun.” He leaned down to whisper in her ear. "Just you wait."

Buffy grinned. "Do I have to?"

Spike raised an eyebrow. “I wish we didn’t have to. But I’m afraid Martin won’t appreciate that much.”

“Damn,” Buffy said, sliding a hand across his thigh.

Martin opened the driver’s side door and slipped behind the wheel. “Sun’s down. Let’s go!”

“I can’t wait,” Spike said, flicking his tongue across his upper lip. Buffy couldn’t agree more.

***

By the time the taxi reached the street night had fallen over the city. Buffy couldn't help but press her face against the car window, watching as city flew by. The white stone buildings shone amber under the streetlights, and everywhere the streets teemed with people. Saplings dotted the sidewalks, and outdoor cafes lined the fronts of every restaurant. Martin detoured down the Champs-Elysees so that Buffy could see the Arc de Triomphe at night, allowing a bit of sightseeing before they coasted up to the hotel. This was the Paris she dreamt of, the city of romance and legend. She still couldn’t believe it was real.

They passed by the Place de l'Opera and cruised around a large building. A large green canopy covering scores of wicker tables and chairs aproned two sides. Gilded letters on the canopy read Café de la Paix, and dozens of diners sat below enjoying wine and the finest French cuisine. As the taxi turned a corner, Buffy realized that the building took up one entire city block, and that this was the hotel.

Martin eased the car to a stop in front of large glass doors. "Everybody out," he called.

A doorman opened the car door for Buffy before she could even reach for the handle. She stepped out into the street and got her first real breath of Parisian air. It was a warm, moist air, but nothing like the Southern California air she was used to. Here, the air seemed to smell different, to fill her lungs a bit more fully. The night swam with the sound of buses and mopeds rushing by, and somewhere faintly in the distance someone played "Ma Vie en Rose" on an accordion for the tourists.

"Love," Spike said, snapping her out of her reverie. "Come on."

She turned to see that all of their luggage stood ready on the sidewalk to be taken in, and Spike was already waving goodbye to Martin. As the cab pulled away, Spike extended a hand to Buffy and led her up the marble stairs to the entrance of the hotel. A doorman held the glass doors open for them as a bellhop followed, wheezing, with their bags.

They entered into a small hallway, its floor and walls lined with marble. Only a few steps inside, the hallways opened into a huge foyer three stories tall, with a giant plant-filled atrium. A restaurant sat on an elevated platform in the center of the room, and giant glass chandeliers lit the room.

Buffy gaped for a moment, her hand tightening around Spike's fingers. "This is gorgeous," she breathed, craning her head back to see where the marble columns disappeared into the glass ceiling.

He stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her body. "Not as gorgeous as you."

"I certainly don't feel gorgeous," she sighed. "I feel like I should have on Prada or Givenchy or something in here. I've been wearing these clothes for forever, it seems."

Spike planted a kiss on her neck. "Then let's get you out of those clothes," he murmured in her ear.

He tugged at her arm and led her over to the check-in desk. "Hello, we have a reservation," Spike said, passing a credit card to the clerk. She checked the name and typed a few keystrokes into the computer. "Certainly, sir. Your suite is ready for you."

"Lovely. And would it be at all possible to have all chamber service held until early evening? We'll be sure to be out every night, and we won't want to be disturbed if we're in."

"Of course, sir"

"Thank you," Spike said with his most charming of smiles.

"Your luggage will be delivered to your suite in a few minutes," the clerk said as she passed Spike the room key. "Thank you for choosing Le Grand Hotel Inter-Continental."

He led Buffy to a bank of elevators decorated in green marble and brass, and within a minute they were lifted to the top floor of the hotel. They followed the hallways to their suite and opened the door.

Once more Buffy was awestruck as she took in their quarters. Even with the lights off, the glow from the square outside illuminated the room. Four floor-to-ceiling windows lined one wall, and gauzy window sheers gave the room an ethereal glow. The mood only lasted for a moment, as Spike flicked the light switch to show her the room's full glory. Navy blue carpet offset the stark white armchairs and massive king-size bed in the center of the room. A white canopy hung from the powder blue wall above the bed, framing the head as if it were meant for royalty instead of a California-bred girl and her undead lover. Mahogany furniture lined the room, decorated with understated scrolls and filigree. Buffy crossed to the huge dresser and ran her fingers along the smooth top, her eyes taking in the room in the giant mirror before her.

Spike's arms closed around her waist. "Rather Eyes Wide Shut, don't you think?" he rasped in her ear.

Buffy giggled. "It might be if I could see you," she said, gesturing with her chin to his lack of presence in the reflection.

"Damn. Ruin all my fun, why don't you?"

She turned in his arms. "I think the fun is just starting," she murmured, planting a kiss on his neck.

There was a knock on the door.

"Or it's just ending," Spike muttered, letting go of her. "That would be the bellhop. Don't forget where we were," he said with a grin as he vaulted to the door.

Buffy crossed the room to the windows and pulled back the sheers. Below her the Place de le Opera spread before her, and to her left was the famous Opera House of legend. The building's façade was bathed in rosy light, and the angel statues on top of the building gleamed against the night sky. Buffy pushed open the window and stepped out onto the tiny balcony. She stood five stories over the city, watching as people swarmed about on the streets below her. Her hands gripped the railing and her eyes roamed over the square to the blue slate roofs of the buildings nearby. Everywhere she looked the buildings glowed with light that seemed to come from within.

"So you like it then, love?"

Buffy turned to face Spike, who had stepped behind her onto the balcony. "I couldn't imagine it would be any more wonderful."

"Is that a yes?"

"Yes." Buffy kissed him again, her arms wrapping around his neck.

"I don't think that's quite where you left off," Spike teased.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she played along. "Was I supposed to kiss you here?" she asked, planting a kiss on his cheek. "Or here?" She kissed his nose. "I can kiss you other places," she whispered as she kissed his earlobe.

"Such as?" Spike coaxed.

"You'll have to find out."

He picked her up and carried her back into the room. "I love you," he panted, lowering her onto the bed.

"Well, if that isn’t obvious. . .” Buffy said, her words getting lost in his kiss.

***

"Did you see this bathroom?!" Buffy shrieked to Spike.

"Love, the bathroom is pretty much the least important thing to me right now," he replied from the tangle of sheets.

Buffy entered the bedroom, toothbrush in hand. "There's a phone in there!"

"Why would you need a bloody phone in the bathroom?" Spike asked.

Buffy shrugged. "So you can talk to people?"

"The last thing I ever want is to have a conversation with someone in the loo."

"Wait, does that mean that you're in the bathroom, or they are?"

"Either way, I don't want to be involved." Spike opened his eyes and looked at her. "Where'd you get that bathrobe?"

Buffy hugged the plush white robe to her body. "It was hanging on the door. There were slippers, too."

“There some for me?"

Buffy beamed. "Uh-huh."

"Any other freebies?"

"And how! Come check it out." She tugged on his arm, trying to pull him off the bed.

Spike shook himself loose and rolled over, burying his face into the pillow. "Tomorrow? I'm pretty sleepy, in case you didn't notice."

Buffy smiled. "There's a sau-na," she sing-songed.

Spike lifted his head. "Really? We'll have to put that to use. You, me, all hot and bothered. . .”

"You call room service, get us some food, and I'll get it going."

Spike sat up. "Deal."

Buffy padded back into the bathroom.

"So what do you want to do tomorrow?" he called to her.

"What do people usually do in Paris?" she replied.

"Drink wine and shag," he said as he dialed the phone.

"Sounds good to me!"

***

Five days had passed in Paris, and almost every day was the same. They slept till eleven, and then Buffy got up and went sightseeing on her own. She visited Montmarte and Sacre Coeur during the day, then returned to the bohemian colony at night with Spike. The Louvre, the Musee de Orsay, the Bastille, la Madeline-these she visited on her own. As soon as sundown came, they walked the city, exploring its streets and cafes together. They rode the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower and kissed high above the millions of lights that made up the most romantic city in the world. Near dawn they would return to the hotel, draw shut the heavy brocade curtains, and make love until they couldn't stay awake any longer. Then the next morning it all started again.

One night they dined at Deux Magots, sipping wine and eating chocolate-filled croissants at an outdoor table. Buffy couldn't imagine anything better. Then a familiar voice pierced the air.

"Oh my God. What are you doing here?"

Spike's head snapped to attention. "Harmony?"

The blonde vampire stood on the other side of the flower boxes that separated the café from the sidewalk. Her fists burrowed into her hips in a defiant pose and her brows knitted in frustration. "Spike. Of all the people to see here."

"Harmony?" Buffy asked, her hand hovering halfway between the table and her mouth, the wine glass tipped nearly sideways in surprise.

"And you!" Harmony spat, turning her attention to Buffy. "You just waltzed right in and stole my Spikey's heart away from me. And here you are - in Paris - with him!"

"Harm!" Spike interjected, focusing her attention back to him. "What are you doing here?"

She turned her nose up at him. "What do you think I'm doing here? I'm doing everything you'd never let me do. Remember, Spike? I used to beg you to bring me to Paris. And what would you say? 'Later, Harmony.' 'Not now, Harmony.' 'Shut up, Harmony.' Well, no more begging for me. I've got a man who worships me. He understands me. He treats me like a queen."

"And who is this flaming git?" Spike asked with a roll of his eyes.

As if on cue, a man appeared behind Harmony, carrying a load of bags and dress boxes from dozens of boutiques, his face hidden behind the packages. "Harmony, my darling, I am afraid we must return home. I cannot carry any more tonight."

Harmony smirked and Buffy and Spike and slid an arm through the man's elbow, nearly toppling the carefully balanced packages. "I believe you remember," she bragged, reaching up to relieve him of some bags.

The man's face was finally visible, and Buffy had to do everything in her power to keep from laughing. Before them stood Dracula, the Prince of Darkness, arms laden with Manolo Blahnik pumps and Harmony's purse slung over his arm. His face fell when he saw them.

"Vlad!" Spike said with a grin, standing up and reaching across the table to shake his hand. "Good to see you again. I see you an' Harm are still. a couple?"

If Dracula could blush Buffy swore she saw it just then.

"That's right!" Harmony answered for Dracula. "I'm his Number One Bride. Isn't that right, my sweet prince?" She turned her sappiest grin to Dracula.

"Harmony and I," he stopped to search for the right words, "we have become very close in these past few months."

Buffy forced a smile. "Glad to see it."

"And you and William?" Dracula turned the conversation to Buffy. "You are both still very much in love?" He almost spat the final two words at her.

She blinked and then nodded briskly. "Darn tootin’ we are.”

"Had a right good shag this afternoon, if that counts for anything," Spike said, sitting back down and placing an arm around the back of Buffy's chair. "Three times, actually. It was three, wasn't it, love."

"Three for you, maybe. For me, like, six,” Buffy smirked.

"Spike brought her to Paris," Harmony explained to Dracula. "I asked and asked him to bring me, but nothing. And then I ask you once, and you bring me right over. You're so the better boyfriend." Harmony said this to Dracula but glared at Spike the whole time.

Spike pretended to wipe tears from his cheeks. "And I feel so bad about myself for it, Harm," he shot back.

"Okay, enough," Buffy said with an amused roll of her eyes. Then, realizing the absurdity of the situation, she shook her head in disbelief. "Can we just pretend that we never saw each other here?"

"Agreed," Dracula instantly replied. "So our truce from before still stands?"

"Definitely. Just don’t come back to California, okay?”

Dracula nodded. "I wouldn’t dream of it. Know that we are not responsible for the killings in the catacombs. I do not want my family unnecessarily staked by you," Dracula warned.

Buffy snapped to attention. "Killings? What killings

Harmony sniffed. "Some thing keeps dragging people into the catacombs and killing them. It's pretty gross. It's been all over the news. Then again, my French isn't that good-"

Buffy turned to Spike. "I'll call Martin and see what he can tell us," Spike answered, forestalling her question.

"Thanks, hon," Buffy said with a smile, glad that she could always count on Spike. "Now - " She turned to Dracula and Harmony, but they already disappeared into the night. "So much for a relaxing vacation, huh?" she sighed.

"With you? It's impossible," Spike grinned.

***

"Well, this is where most of the people seem to be disappearing," Buffy said, peering over the side of a bridge into the Seine.

"Right off the bridge? Sure they're not jumpers?" Spike asked.

"Don't I wish. Jumpers don't usually leave dismembered body parts, do they?"

"Maybe back in Sunnydale."

Buffy shot him a look.

"What? I'm joking, love. Here, let me have a look." Spike grabbed the bridge railing and leaned over, balancing his hips on the stone rail. He leaned forward and used his legs as leverage to keep from toppling headfirst into the river. A few seconds later he tipped back into an upright position. "Yup, there's a bit of a tunnel or something down there."

"How did you see that?" she asked, leaning over the bridge for another look.

Spike pulled her back up. "One, I'm a vampire and have better vision. Two, it's night, and, well, I have better vision."

"Way to go, Mr. Logical."

"Come on, let's find a way down there."

They traipsed along the bridge until they reached the riverbank, then scaled their way down a narrow stairwell to where a few small barges were docked. Spike signaled for them to move against the stone wall of the embankment, and they flattened their bodies against it so that anyone walking on the riverbank above would not see them. They slid their feet along the narrow ledge to which the barges were tied, shuffling back toward the bridge. When they reached the underside of the bridge, the wall at their backs fell away in the mouth of a small tunnel.

"Come on," Buffy said, climbing into the opening. "If it's in there, we'll find it."

Spike pulled a machete from its hiding place under his coat and handed it to her. "Just in case," he said with a smile. "Remind me to thank Martin again."

"Remind me not to ask him why he has this stuff," Buffy retorted as Spike unhooked a hand scythe from where it was strapped to his thigh.

"Lucky for us he's willing to loan it out,” Spike reminded her, pulling himself into the cave behind her.

A silence fell over them as they peered into the darkness ahead. Only the first few feet were visible from the light outside, and Buffy quickly noticed the similarities between this tunnel and the Sunnydale sewer system. The entire tunnel was hard, packed dirt, and a trickle of water ran down the center of the floor towards the river. Buffy stepped aside so Spike could pass, and she linked hands with him as they walked into the darkness. Minutes passed and the only sounds to meet their ears were the sloshing of their feet in the water and Buffy's breathing.

"Spike!" Buffy hissed.

"Wha?"

"Why didn't we get a flashlight?"

"Martin didn't have any. Part of being a Nogthwal demon - infrared vision."

"Oh."

They walked for a few minutes more. They moved slowly, afraid that the ground might disappear from beneath them at any time. The pinprick of light from the tunnel’s entrance disappeared at least a quarter-mile back, and Buffy was beginning to think this was a bad idea.

"Buffy?"

"What?"

"Do you hear that?"

Buffy stopped and listened. Water ran somewhere close by, not the slow trickle of the stream under their feet, but moving water. And something moving in the water.

"Spike?"

"Yeah, love. Something's coming towards us."

Buffy's grip tightened on the machete and Spike's hand. "Don't let go of me," Buffy ordered. She wasn't asking on her behalf.

Suddenly Spike jerked away from her, but Buffy yanked back on his arm. "What? What is it?!" she yelled.

Spike thrashed between them. "A squid or something!" he shouted.

Buffy pulled Spike's torso against hers and braced her feet into the ground. "Hack at it!"

"Don't you think I already am?" he shot back.

With their free hands they swung blindly into the darkness, Buffy's weapon hitting nothing but air while Spike's scythe connected with the thing on his leg several times. On the twelfth - or possibly twentieth - swing, it let go. Spike tumbled into Buffy and they smashed against the wall of the cave.

"What happened? Where'd it go?" Buffy asked.

Spike brought up his leg and pulled whatever it once was from around his calf. He pressed the slimy tentacle into her hand. "Feel that? You feel it again, you kill it."

Buffy dropped the still slithering mass and tried to force back the bile in her throat. "Spike, I don't like this."

"Me neither." His arm linked into hers. "This was a stupid idea."

A long tentacle wrapped around her arm. "Very stupid!" Buffy shouted.

"What? What?" Spike yelled.

"It's on my arm! Get it off! Get it off!"

With her left arm in Spike's and her right in the thing's, Buffy was left helpless. Spike leaned across her and swung again and again, trying not to cut Buffy's forearm off in the process. Buffy tried thrusting her machete at it from below but only managed to stab empty air.

The worm-like arm let go of Buffy as quickly as it had grabbed her.

"Okay, what's that about?" Spike breathed.

"It just left? You didn't chop off another arm?"

"No."

"Crap. That's not a good sign." Buffy pressed herself against Spike. For once she was grateful for his lack of a heartbeat, as his body's silence allowed her to better listen to their surroundings.

"Spike," she breathed, barely above a whisper. "It's right behind you."

He swallowed and gave the smallest of a nod.

"Duck!" she shouted, raising her machete over her head. She felt Spike drop to his knees in front of her, and she slammed the knife into the air before her. The thrust met with resistance, and Buffy pushed the machete through something firm and gooey. Then she pressed down on the handle and the blade ripped through the mass, tearing skin, or flesh, or possibly cartilage, as it went.

An earsplitting shriek filled the cave, something like an elephant being sucked through a garbage disposal. Buffy jabbed the machete at it a few more times, then grabbed Spike's collar and heaved him to his feet. A tentacled arm whipped through the air, hitting Buffy squarely in the back. Sounds of the thing’s arms smacking against the walls of the tunnel mixed with its screeches, propelling Buffy into motion. "Run!"

Their feet hit the cave floor, splashing water all over their legs. She sprinted as fast as her legs would allow, not knowing if the thing chased only a few feet behind. Spike clamored ahead of her, his boots clomping on the stone. Suddenly the ground disappeared completely, and they found themselves falling from the cave into the Seine. Buffy let out a yelp just before going under, then fought her way back to the surface.

Spike's arm gripped her around the waist and helped to buoy her. She gasped for air, then began paddling away from the tunnel. "What was that?"

"How the hell should I know?" Spike said, giving her a boost as she grabbed the embankment with one hand.

"Better vision, or so you say."

"Not in the dark, love." Spike pulled himself onto the ledge. "Did you kill it?"

Buffy held up the machete that she still clutched in her right hand. A piece of flesh hung on the blade like fish skin. "I dunno. What do you think?"

Spike studied the tangle of flesh for a minute. "I'd say so. That seems to be an eye, and I think a bit of brain."

"Ew!" Buffy dropped the weapon from her hand.

"I guess we'll have to wash that off."

"I think we'll have to wash off, too," she said, finally noticing their condition. Their clothes clung to their bodies and dirty water ran from Buffy's hair. Dirt from the cave smudged their hands and faces, but more noticeable was the thick green slime smeared all over their bodies. Buffy’s hands flitted through the air, gesturing at the goo on her body. "Slime, or blood?"

"I don't want to know. Come on, let's get home."

“Oh my God,” Buffy moaned. “I need a shower!”

“Look at your hair,” Spike groaned, touching the wet, slime-coated mass on her head.

Buffy looked at the strand Spike held between his fingertips. “Exactly how many free bottles of shampoo do we get?”

“Not enough, love,” Spike sighed, following her to the stairwell. “Not enough.”

“Like you’re the picture of proper hygiene?” Buffy scoffed. “I don’t think so.”

Spike looked at her and laughed. “You’ve got to give me credit, pet. I know how to show a girl a good time.”

”Yeah, let’s do this again sometime,” she joked with a roll of her eyes. “Come on. You’re beginning to smell.”

***

Buffy shampooed her hair for the third time. "I can't get that smell off."

"Then wash again, love," Spike said from the other end of bathtub.

She massaged the shampoo into a thick lather. "Gross, gross, gross. I'm going to smell like that river forever."

"So will I," he said, scrubbing his arms with a loofah. "And I was told they've cleaned that river up."

"Nasty." Buffy grabbed a washcloth and began furiously rubbing her shoulders. She looked at the once-white cloth, now green with remnant of demon goo. "Do you think they'll ever let us stay here again?"

Spike laughed. "Not with the mess we made in the lobby."

Buffy dunked her head under the water, then emerged and began squeezing the shampoo suds from her hair. "You know, other than Peter Benchley's creature, this has been a wonderful vacation."

Spike smiled. "You've earned it. And it's nice to get away."

She leaned over and kissed him. "And how."

He reached a sudsy hand from the water and began rubbing a green stain from her arm. "And how." His hand slid down under the water.

"Mmm, Spike... I think those are already clean enough."

"Pays to be thorough."

Buffy’s eyes lit up. "Oh! And that... that never even got goopy."

"Hold still."

"I... I... oh... I love a perfectionist..."

"You better,” he said, reaching forward to pull her towards him. She twisted as she slid across the length of the tub, his arms encircling her as she lay against his chest.

Buffy relaxed her body into his, her back pressing against him. Water rose up to the tops of her breasts, warming her instantly. Spike's arms snaked beneath hers, lifting hers, and then locked around her torso. He nuzzled his face into the back of her neck and kissed the spot between her neck and shoulders. Buffy hummed and tipped her head back onto his shoulder. Spike trailed kisses along her shoulder, flicking his tongue out every so often to taste her skin. Buffy's hands moved along his forearms, pressing his arms into her belly.

"Love you," Spike breathed against her.

Buffy moved slightly to her right, twisting in his lap. Her mouth met his and her right arm rose to rub his neck. She slid her left arm along the side of his body, running her fingers along his ribs and down to the hollow above his hipbone. He jerked involuntarily beneath her, and Buffy smiled into his kiss.

"Want you," she answered.

Spike's hands unlocked from her waist and began to wander under the water. One hand slid along the top of her thigh while another roamed upward, slowly pressing and circling her left breast in his palm.

"Want you," she repeated, trapping his legs between hers. She broke apart from their kiss and moved back against his chest. Her body rose against his and Spike stared, intrigued by her actions, as she gripped the edge of the bathtub. Buffy braced her weight on her forearms and moved back once more against Spike.

He hissed, a quick intake of air, as Buffy fitted herself against him. He tilted his head back for a moment, letting himself savor the feeling of her body against his. Then he leaned forward again, this time kissing her neck with a ferocity that still surprised Buffy. His mouth pressed against her neck, her ears, her jawline, her shoulders, as his arms once again locked around her waist.

Buffy moaned as he pulled her against him again and again. "Spike." She rose again, barely noticing as the water moved in waves against her body. "Spike."

He planted his lips on the nape of her neck. "Buffy." They moved together now, and the water moved with them, a steady pace like the rocking of a boat. "I need. . ." Spike gasped.

"Love you," Buffy gasped, feeling his arms tighten around her one last time, her own arms giving out as she collapsed against his body.

***

They lay in the bed, warding off the sunrise by pretending the brocade navy curtains were the night sky. "Do we really have to go home in two days?" Buffy sighed.

"I wish we didn't have to, pet."

"Couldn't we just stay a few more days?" Buffy grinned, rolling next to him, her head on his chest.

"Not unless you want to take me to the poorhouse completely,” Spike said, trailing his fingers down her spine to the rise of her bottom.

"Is this place really that expensive?" she asked, suddenly feeling guilty.

"Well, we could stay for a few more days, or we could spend that money to upgrade to the Concorde on the way home."

"And that means what?"

"That means a faster trip, which means we could travel together. And," Spike added with a grin, "possible membership in the mile-high club."

"Oh, tacky!" Buffy said, slapping him lightly on the arm.

"Like you're not intrigued," Spike goaded.

Buffy closed her eyes and turned up her chin at him, pretending to be above it all.

"If we took the Concorde, it would also mean a night's stay in New York," Spike wheedled.

Her eyes flashed open. "Ooh, let's do that then!"

He laughed. "I know what my lady likes."

Buffy grinned. "Damn skippy."

She lay her head back against his chest. "Hey Spike?"

"Yeah?"

"If we're meeting Will and Xander tomorrow, and we still have to buy gifts for everyone back home, does that leave us a lot of alone time?"

Spike was quiet for a few seconds. "Not really, no."

She wrapped an arm under his neck, tilting his head towards her and kissing him. "Then we'd better make the most of the time we have.”

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