THANKS:  To my wonderful and patient beta, Jonquil
DEDICATION:  To those brave few who actually ask me for more of this story instead of the TYT/IAT series.  Thank you!
~ 3 ~

I'd figured that would be the end of it, my little game with the little girl.  The chit avoided me like the plague, bubonic or otherwise, for days.  Suppose it's possible she hadn't come around to the Watcher's place at all.  Didn't know and didn't care.  Obviously, the poor thing was too afraid to tell her friends she'd ballsed something else up, which was fine with me since it kept a brassed-off Slayer from using my face to scrub the already spotless tiles.  I've heard enough references comparing my hair to a Brillo pad for one century.

Although it isn't all that easy to keep track of time when you're locked in a loo, from what I could tell, a week or so had passed without seeing hide nor hair of the wannabe witch.  Needless to say, I was surprised to wake up one day and find the little redhead leaning in the doorway, staring at me.  She was holding that most-hated mug between her tiny hands.  Damned if even her hands didn't look innocent, all soft and pink, even while holding my blood meal.

Not being the type to make chit-chat when supper's on the table, I held my cuffed hands out for the mug, but she didn't budge.  She just stood there in the doorway, watching me.  More like studying me, actually, as she held the cup, rotating it once in a while.  If it had contained anything other than blood, I'd almost say she was warming her hands with the heated mug.  But the witch?  Doubtful.  Innocence like hers and blood don't make good least not more than once.

"Hungry?" she eventually asked, but only after I scowled at her a bit.

"Starved, luv.  So if you could be so kind as to hand it over."

She stepped into the room to stand right next to my porcelain prison.  She had a peculiar look on her face as she took in my situation, but at the time, all I cared about was what she had in her hands, not her head.  So I reached for the cup again, but she pulled back, taking my dinner with her.  Then she crouched down beside the tub, just out of my limited-by-iron-chains reach, and flicked her gaze between the thick red liquid and me.

"How long can you actually live without blood, Spike?" she asked, as if it were an oral exam of sorts, she the teacher and I the slow student.

Honestly, if it were the Watcher or the Slayer asking such a loaded question, I'd be a wee bit worried.  But the little redhead?  Come on!  Sure, the chit was up to something, no doubt.  Probably just some pitiful attempt at payback for my previous escape attempt.  I was hardly shaking in my boots.

"Days...weeks even, but it's not a pretty sight," I responded coolly, my eyes already devouring the contents of the mug.  "Bound to give you sugar-and-spice types nightmares for weeks.  So, do yourself and your bed sheets a favor and hand over the ole 'Babe' in a cup so you can get back to your studies.  Can't have the Scooby Gang's brainiac fall behind and disappoint her friends *again*, can we?"

That ought to shut her up and send her scurrying away, I thought.  But she didn't budge.  Apparently the stubborn thing still had something resembling a backbone.  Thought I'd cured her of that.

Oh know what they say: If at first you don't get what you bloody well want...hit 'em harder.

"Oh, I see now," I continued, choosing to focus on her most obvious weakness: actually caring about what her friends thought of her.  "This is more penance, isn't it?  Still trying to make up for your inept witchy abilities?"

There was a flash of something in her eyes.  Couldn't tell exactly what though...anger, resentment...pain, most likely, but it was gone quickly.  Shame that.  I like to revel a bit in the misery I cause.  Still, it was early days yet, and I was starving.

"Look," I began, my eyes glued to that damned mug.  "Enough small talk.  As you can see, I'm still here...chained to the tub.  So give me my breakfast, lunch, or whatever the hell it is, and then you can run along.  Isn't that slobbering dog bloke waiting for you?"  I paused just a long enough for her to remember our little Pavlovian conversation, before cunningly adding, "Oh, almost forgot.  He left you, didn't he?  The wolf? And for some other slobbering dog, wasn't it?"  I tried not to laugh...well, actually, no I didn't.  I chuckled and loved it.  "Well, best get back to your studies again then, hadn't you?  Since that's all you have..."

She didn't even flinch.  In fact, she didn't do anything.  She simply continued to look at me with a blank expression on her usually easy-to-read face.  Strange.  But just as I was beginning to think she'd fallen asleep with her eyes open, her lips curled just a bit.

"I have time, Spike," she informed me, still keeping the blood out of my reach.  "It's vacation...Christmas vacation, winter break, the holidays...whatever you want to call it..."  She actually grinned, and there was nothing girlie or shy about it.  In fact, it bordered on being devious.  "And as you so joyfully reminded me," she continued, "I no longer have a boyfriend to rush off to, so..."  This time *she* had the perfectly timed pause, waiting just long enough for my puzzled expression.  "Oh, didn't they tell you?" she asked innocently.  A brief but definite flash of victory brought some fire to her indifferent green eyes.

"Tell me what, witch wannabe?" I snapped.  No point in being nice when it wasn't going to get me anywhere.

She gave a little sigh, then ran a finger along the tub's white edge while she spoke, as if inspecting the cool porcelain for imperfections.  "It's just me and you again, Spike.  For a little while, anyway."  She ignored me, her eyes flitting about the room, studying the fixtures, the lights...everything but me.  "I'm staying here to keep an eye on you while Buffy stays with her father for Christmas. Anya and Xander are going to give each other lots of orgasms in the mountains somewhere far away from his family's usual holiday disaster, and Giles is visiting Olivia for a few days in your old stomping ground."

It annoyed me more than I cared to admit how she seemed to momentarily forget I was in the room.  Sure, she was talking to me.  Carrying on a bit of a conversation even.  But the chit was practically within grabbing range, which sits right on the border of the biting zone, and she wasn't even watching me out of the corner of her eye.

Bloody hell...I'm a vampire!  Even if I am, for the most part, fangless at the moment.  And so what if I'm chained to a tub, that doesn't make me completely harmless!  She could at least do me the courtesy of casting an occasional furtive glance my direction...maybe a trembling limb or two.  But no.  She's treating me more like a declawed kitty she's been asked to look after than a soulless demon who lives on the blood of others.

Pretty damned insulting, if you ask me.  Downright rude, actually, and I don't mind telling you that it irritated the *hell* out of me...if that's possible.

"You know," I snarled, "it would have been nice if someone had clued me in on all the goings on.  I am, after all, practically the Watcher's flatmate...he could have said something before leaving."

Smirking, Willow stood up to open the mirrored door to the medicine cupboard, revealing its sparse holdings.  Then she pointed to items on the counter and sink, or better yet...the *lack* of items on the counter.  "Um, didn't you notice Giles packing his toothbrush and things yesterday?"

"Is that what he was doing?" I retorted.  "Thought the wanker was making a lot of noise on purpose to annoy me during my stories.  He does that, you know.  It's bloody annoying, too," I grumbled.

"Nope," she said, much too cheerfully for my liking.  "It's just me and you."

"Really?" I snorted, and then finally it dawned on me.  (Er, bad expression for a vamp, I know, but you get the idea.)  The only thing standing between freedom and me was one tiny, little, red-headed wannabe witch, whom I had no doubt I could still easily wrap around my finger.

"They left you in charge of the big bad, did they?" I continued.  "Guess they cared more about getting their jollies than your safety.  Can't say I'm surprised, actually."

"I'm not surprised either," she said flatly as she squatted down near the tub again.  Her voice completely lacked any trace of self-pity, which left me wondering if she'd somehow cured herself of that particular weakness.

Hope not.

"I never told them about what happened the other week," she went on to inform me.  "I guess you didn't either.  So for all they know, I'm the best vamp sitter in the city."

And I smiled, but only on the inside.  No need to let the little girl know that my planning gears were already beginning to spin.

"So, it's just you and me, kid?"

"That's right, Spike," she said, rising to stand.  "But this time...things will be different."

"Different how?"

For an answer, she simply smiled, set the mug down just out of my reach, and made a quick exit.

It took some squirming, but eventually I managed to grab the cup.  It wasn't hot, lukewarm at best.  But I'd drink it cold, if I had to.  Beggars can't be choosers, right?

I gulped the blood down, ready for the sour aftertaste that always comes with animal blood.  But it never came.  Bloody fucking hell...the aftertaste never came!

It was human blood, and it was the most sinfully delicious thing that I've had in my mouth in a very long time.

"Witch!"  I called out, then began licking the cup, trying to get every drop of that red nectar.  "Red!" I repeatedly bellowed between licks when she didn't show her face.

Still, no little girl appeared at the door.

"Willow!" I finally called in desperation.  I *had* to know where she'd gotten the lovely stuff.  Strangely enough, this time the witch strolled in, as casual as could be.

"You bellowed, vampire?"

"This's real.  I mean, it's human!"

Willow shrugged, all mysterious-like.  I hate that.

"Well, where'd you get it?"

She leaned back against the sink, arms across her chest. "No big, really," she said.  "I was doing some research at Willy's, we had a little chat, and here you go.  I couldn't get much though and that stuff's expensive, so take it easy."

I could only stare at her for a moment.  She was so casual about matter of fact.  You'd think she'd been talking about going to the local ice-cream parlor to get a malted, not bargaining at a hellmouth's demon hangout for blood.

Something wasn't quite right.  She was *too* casual, if you know what I mean.  I was intrigued.

"My, my," I said wryly.  "Haven't we gotten all grown up suddenly?  Can't believe the same little girl who worried about placating the poor abused turkey-day natives doesn't have a problem dealing in human blood."

Willow's face became quite pink at my comment.  Apparently, she hadn't changed that much.

" I said, it's not much," she sputtered.  "Consider it part of your Christmas and/or Hanukkah present.  Besides, Willy assured me that the blood was donated..."

"Riiight..." I smirked.  "People are lining up to donate for vampires."  I chuckled at my own words.  "Actually, they do line up, but usually for a more personal kind of donation," I added in a low tone, very near a growl.  When suddenly it occurred to me that in my chipped state, I couldn't even take advantage of those humans that frequented the vampire version of a brothel, the growl became real.   I had once considered it quite pathetic to feed in that way, too sterile and fake.  People paying money for the 'privilege' of being food? It lacked the thrill of the chase, the hunt.  It lacked...passion.  But compared to drinking animal blood out of a 'Kiss the Librarian' mug, it was nirvana, and I envied them.

Hating the feeling of desperation that was welling up inside, I mournfully inspected the cup one more time, failing to find another drop.  "Top shelf stuff, that," I said off handedly, trying to keep my thoughts from getting too pathetic.  "Must have cost a few bob."

She, on the other hand, was back to being quite composed again, rather stoic actually.  Very *un*-like her.

The redhead simply shrugged yet again.  "I gave him some useful info on the soldiers, so he made me a deal.  Like I said, vampire.  There isn't much, so you might want to take it easy."

Then she stood up and flipped on the tele.  It was time for "Passions" after all.  Did I have the stupid cow well trained or what?  At least it would take my mind off, *problem* for a little while.

The opening credits were almost done before I noticed that she was still in the room, leaning against the doorway again, looking at me.

"Forget something?" I drawled, not sure I liked being stared at in that manner.  It was very...well, scientific, giving me flashbacks to my time as Hostile 17.

She shook her head, her eyes glancing down to my various shackles.
"You know," she said softly, with the barest hint of a smile, "if you behave, Spike, maybe you'll get the rest of your presents early..."

And then she was gone, but not before she could do the last thing that I expected.  She winked at me...not seductively or even coyly, but in challenge.

After a stunned moment or two, I found myself smiling.  Apparently the little witch wanted to play.  She wouldn't be a match for me, but being the gentleman that I am, I found myself most eager to participate.

The game was afoot.
End Chapter 3 (archived 8/16/01)