By Mint Witch
RATING: PG-13, this chapter. Hey, nobody is forcing you to read this.
SPOILERS: Through S6
DISCLAIMER: Absolutely. They are all mine, I just use a pseudonym and dress up in women’s clothing when I write fanfic.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story picks up from the end of Kitchen Confidential. I was calling it the “I Wish-verse”, then briefly the Goldfinger series, and right now it’s going by the name Kinky-Buffy-Smut. Anyone who can come up with something I like for this monster gets a cameo or a ficlet, depending upon what that Bitch (a.k.a. My Muse) forces me to write.
DISTRIBUTION: I hope in time ‘twill grow into a custom, That noblemen shall come with cap and knee To purchase a night’s lodging of their wives.
FEEDBACK: Is this a trick question? Because I don’t remember the professor saying this would be on the final.
5. A Lesson in Tightropes
Looking around the table, Buffy was forced to acknowledge that so much was wrong with this picture, it was impossible to identify them all, like one of those puzzles in the comics section of the paper. Dawn was good at those, but Buffy got way frustrated and always ended up stabbing at them with her pencil, hoping beyond hope that irritating Sunday supplements were Slayable.
Let’s see: in this picture, four people are having a nice dinner. In the other picture, only one of them is an actual, unadulterated person, the other three are monsters or freaks or glowy green balls of energy. In drawing one, the young woman’s gentleman friend is savoring a nice cup of coffee after a pleasant meal. In drawing two, a former serial-murderer- slash-attempted-rapist is slurping down human blood with every indication of genuine pleasure. Back to the first picture, family and friends are enjoying a quiet moment and the pleasure of each other’s company. Cut to the second, and four very violent purveyors of mayhem are seriously contemplating committing permanent bodily harm to certain other members of this little dinner party.
Too much to deal with, in a really big way. Dawn and Xander were currently playing ‘we hate Spike’, and since Buffy had turned traitor and gone over to the enemy, she was now included in the shut out. Spike had gradually cooled from ‘hot and sexy vamp’ to ‘silent and foreboding vamp’, obviously pissed for any of a hundred good reasons. And Buffy, nominal head of household, temp-job Mommy, and Slayer of the Evil Undead, was still feeling on the warm and tingly side, trying desperately to exorcise the impulse to slide beneath the table and suck off her evil undead not-quite-boyfriend, because oh dear god wouldn’t that feel better than this wrackingly painful tightrope tension. To lose herself in the taste, touch, smell. . .
So not good. And for the life of her, Buffy couldn’t figure out how to fix this. The whole ordeal was quickly driving her into a panic attack of truly epic proportions. Buffy was the Slayer. Slayers save people, save the world, countless times over, dying and resurrecting without the uncomfortable karmic cockroach parts. Unfortunately, Slayers were not Chosen for their mastery of witty social banter. Or was that covered in the Handbook? Appendix S, maybe, for social, addendum IV. Some Watcher from the eleventh century outlining appropriate subjects for Slayer conversation at meals: apocalypses over appetizers, demons during dessert.
The scrape of Spike’s chair broke the rhythm of Buffy’s reflections. She looked up from her untouched meal, grateful for the interruption to her rapidly derailing train of thought. He nodded around the table, lips set into a thin line, and carried his mug into the kitchen. The whoosh of running water was loud in the quiet house. And surely it was only the silence that made the sound of the back door closing seem so slammy.
Buffy rose to follow, anxiety churning in her stomach, but Dawn was already out of her seat and darting towards the back porch. She had to calm down. He was back: he wouldn’t have come back just to take off again. But they still hadn’t talk-talked. God, she must chill. Chill, Buffy, chill. Dawn wouldn’t dust him, would she? Spike didn’t know about… Everything would be fine. Mental fingers wrapped around the thought and held it close, the familiar mantra soothing her.
Buffy sank back down into her chair, closing her eyes against the tension remaining in the dining room. She could feel Xander thinking at her, invisible I-told-you-sos shooting across the table like hard little rubber bullets.
Smoke curled up from the end of his cigarette, the gray tendrils enviably impervious to the hostility blowing through Casa Del Summers. Spike contemplated the collateral damage possibilities of fire as applied to the whelp, wondering idly which of his dinner companions would be rushing outside to play Kick the Spike. Maybe they’d all jump up at once and get stuck in the kitchen doorway like a Stooges skit. Then at least he would be able to finish his cigarette in peace.
Ah, no such luck. Several seconds before the hormone bomb herself landed on his nice, serene porch, the pitter-patter of little sister feet announced who'd wrestled the others to the ground for the long straw. Spike maintained his thoughtful pose, trying to banish a sneaking desire to rip the little brat’s lungs out. Opposing urges warred within the vampire, for some reason far more difficult to reconcile with a soul than with a chip. His demon understood the chip, had even begun to accept it; pain was a recognizable boundary. The soul, however, could be tempted, urges rationalized. Invisible sappers tunneled beneath the ramparts of Spike’s resolve, goading him to snap and bite at the girl, to cause pain equal to his own.
Dawn looked him up and down, face pulled into a derisive smirk. “So I guess all’s forgiven, then, huh? You come back all soul-having and Buffy is suddenly ‘take me now, you sexy fiend?’ Gosh, you might as well change your name to Angel!”
That’s it, time to kill the chit. Spike vamped and lunged, stopping short nose to nose with the teenager. His face morphed smoothly back into his human guise as he ground out, “You don’t have the first clue what you’re talking about, Bit.” The vampire stepped away from Dawn, letting the girl get her breathing back under control. He noted with interest that it didn’t take her long, and even that probably just from the surprise. They’d practiced this trick all last summer: something to while away the evenings and good training for Sunnydale’s particular hazards.
“No? That’s what it looked like this morning: former rapist and rapee gettin’ all snuggly on the couch.” Her expression was antagonistic, but the defiance didn’t reach Dawn’s eyes. Spike’s own defensiveness melted under the hurt confusion lurking in those soft blue depths.
He looked down, wondering idly why he’d spent the entire day without shoes, while contemplating his next words. “Er. It’s complicated, Dawn.”
She exploded at him, screaming shrilly, “Why does everybody always say that? What, it’s too complex for my miniature brain to grasp? I’m sixteen, Spike! I’m old enough for the truth. What really happened? Just tell me what really happened with you guys! Don’t you owe me that much?”
“Fine! You want the truth?” Spike cut the reins on his tongue, and let go. The Bit was gonna learn a lesson here, if it killed both of them. Damn certain Harris wasn’t the one to teach her; the boy was practically in nappies himself. “The truth is, it’s none of your fucking business, Pidge. So you’re all grown-up now? Well, here’s a news flash: actual grown-ups know when to leave be. Only little kids think they get a piece of everybody’s pie! You don’t want all and sundry poking about in your stuff? Then you gotta do the same.”
They glared at each other, both gasping with anger. Dawn’s mouth opened and closed as she fought for something mature and cutting to say. She lost. Badly. “I hate you!”
Spike blinked at her, rocking back on his heels. She could do better than this: they’d screamed through the house for five months, taking out their rage and frustration on each other weekly. Red had even started to keep score, adding up point and counterpoint. He waited.
Dawn collected herself, visibly martialling her arguments into regimental order. Inhaling deeply, she began again, “I don’t care what Buffy does, I don’t forgive you. You left, you hurt her, you hurt me, and you reneged on your promise.” She looked triumphant at his sudden confusion. “You promised to take care of me, to protect me, and then you bailed and Willow almost killed me! Hah! Did you know that, Spike? Willow went all” Dawn scrunched up her face and waggled her fingers in the air in a fairly good Wicked Witch impression, “on me. And you weren’t there! You failed –again- and I. Don’t. Forgive. You.” This last was accompanied by a hard poke in the chest.
He looked down at the finger poking him, then back up at the trembling girl. “Join the party, Summers. I think that makes all of us. Guess you are all grown up.” Spike turned away from her, fumbling for his cigarettes. That last was definitely a direct hit. He hadn’t known about Red, but it made sense with what all else had gone on in his absence. Fuck. He lit one, inhaling deeply as Dawn continued.
“But I don’t understand how she can be all--” more hand waving flickered in and out of Spike’s peripheral vision, “if she hasn’t forgiven you?”
The blonde man took a moment to mentally translate ambiguous Dawn gestures into Spikese and came up –correctly- with ‘snogging’ as the linguistic equivalent. Why didn’t Buffy have this talk with the girl? Knowing Nibblet, she probably did, and the younger Summers was both fishing for more detail and taking advantage of a prime opportunity to bust his balls. Went right for the soft underbelly of a fellow, she did. You had to admire a girl who could multi-task.
“Told you it was complicated.” Shooting a glance at her still mutinous face, Spike shook his head in resignation. “Forgiveness is just a word, isn’t it? Doesn’t mean much, just a short way of saying we’re not gonna talk about whatever it is. Doesn’t make pain go away. Doesn’t mean you trust again.” Next thing you knew, he’d be giving her speeches. He smirked a little- ‘yooou Lieutenant Weinberg?’ Snicker. Damn, what was he spouting on about? Right. “Doesn’t make you forget.”
“That’s not true. Forgiveness is more than that. It’s…”
Spike cut her off as she fumbled to explain herself. “Don’t use words you can’t define, Dawn.” He thought for a moment, searching for an illustration that would mean something to the girl. “Put it another way: have you forgiven your Mum for dying, yet?”
Dawn’s eyes filled. Whispering malevolently, “I hate you, I really do hate you,” she ran back into the house, the door slamming shut behind her.
Spike exhaled smoke and crushed his cigarette on the porch rail, then followed sedately.
Buffy and Xander both looked up, startled, as Dawn raced sniffling towards the stairs. He rose to follow, but Buffy reached across the table, grabbing at his wrist to restrain him.
“Let her be.”
The male yanked his arm out of her grip. “Christ, Buffy, don’t you even care what he did to her?”
“He didn’t do anything to her, Xander. Just leave her alone.” Buffy’s eyes flicked towards the kitchen, a whisper of sound alerting her to Spike’s entrance. The wave of relief she felt was completely out of proportion to the odds that Dawn had decided the vampire would look better in an urn.
Xander continued, oblivious. “Then why’s she crying, Buffy?” He bobbed his head in the direction of her room. “He obviously did something, and maybe you should be a tiny bit concerned about what it was a mass-murdering member of the demon-of-the-month-club could do get her that upset. Or am I the only one who remembers what he is?”
Spike appeared in the archway behind Xander and met Buffy’s eyes over his shoulder. “Told her the truth, is what I did.” The angry brunette spun around. “Said it’s none of her bleedin’ business. It's between the Slayer and me. Same goes for you.” Buffy nodded at both of them, as Xander’s head swiveled back and forth between vampire and vampire slayer.
He finally threw up his hands. “I can’t deal with this tonight, Buffy. I’m sorry, but I’ve just… I’ve gotta go. Retrieving his jacket from the sofa, Xander turned to leave, determined to get out of the house before he said something deeply suicidal. He was almost through the door when Spike’s final blow landed. “Still running away then, are you Harris?” The slam rattled the windowpanes in their frames and they both clearly heard tires squeal as Xander pulled away.
Buffy sighed and looked at the blonde man. “That was unnecessary roughness.”
“Couldn’t help it. Boy gets to me.” He shrugged, a little shame-faced. Seemed to be his day for dishing it out. Just another thing he’d expected the soul to fix. No wonder Xander was such a prat. Had to admit, though, sometimes it felt good to get some of your own back.
“Yes, well, your lack of impulse control might cost me my carpool.” She looked genuinely upset, despite the flip words, and Spike moved over to stand behind her, laying his hands on her shoulders.
“Nah, he’ll be over it tomorrow. Just needs a little time, that’s all.”
Buffy turned and rested her head against his chest, the dog tag pressing into her forehead through his shirt. “Don’t we all.”
Ah, this is what the soul was for, this dreadful craving to give comfort. Their relationship, or whatever it was, had not included much in the way of comfort towards the end. He’d proved himself an utter failure at the Marvin Gaye impression, to boot. Bloody hell. This thing they were doing now, well, it was still far too new for Spike to know what to offer. What would she accept? “Buffy, luv, why don’t I patrol? You can stay home with your sis for once, protect her from the beasties, since Harris scarpered.”
Buffy sighed and shook her head. “No, I really need to patrol and Dawn can handle being on her own. Plus, I don’t want you and Xander to run into each other without Buffer Buffy, for a while. That could be very bad.”
Spike pulled back to look into her face. “Why was Harris here, then, if Bitty Buffy can handle herself?” His expression was comically confused, protectiveness warring with curiosity to transform his forehead into an emotional roadmap.
Snickering, Buffy ran her hand down his chest, eyes wicked. “Because it makes him feel all… manly.” She waggled her eyebrows at him, continuing more seriously. “Honestly, Dawn and I cooked it up, he was pretty down for a while there. She doesn’t really need help with her homework, either, but I think I speak for everyone when I say it would be best if you didn’t pass that on, okay?” He nodded acquiescence and Buffy smiled a silent thanks. “Okay, then. I’ll just go let Dawn know we’re leaving.” She pulled out of his loose embrace, visibly turning into the Slayer as she ghosted towards the stairs.
So many things had changed in such short time. He would never get used the speed at which humans flew through their lives. When had Buffy quit wrapping her sister in down and denial? When had Harris turned into Mr. Hold’s-His-Temper? Where was Red? Did Buffy slay her for threatening Dawn? That brought Glinda to mind: where was she?
His musings were interrupted by Buffy running full bore down the stairs screaming, “Little BITCH! AAAAH!”
“Dawn sneaked out; she knows that’s against the rules! She is sooo dead.” Buffy dove into the closet, grabbed a handful of stakes, and was out the door before Spike had a chance to question her further. He forced himself into motion and sprinted after the Slayer.
“Slayer! Bloody hell! Wait up!” He put on another burst of speed, reaching her just as they entered his cemetery. “Where are you going?”
“Where do you think I’m going, Spike? Slow much?” Buffy slowed down to a quick march as her initial rage cooled to a light simmer. “She’s gone to cry on Clem’s shoulder.” She shrugged. “It’s where she always goes when we fight, I don’t see how this would be different.”
Spike stopped, body rigid with horror as her words sank in, and then burst into a run. “Bloody hell!”
“Hey! Why are you- oh no! You have eggs down there, don’t you?!” She sped to catch him, temper flaring up once more, this time at the vampire.
“No eggs, Slayer: it’s much, much worse than that.” They came to a halt at his crypt, Spike staring fearfully at the entrance.
She yanked him around to face her, snarling, “What could be worse than demon eggs Spike?”
Cautiously pushing open the door, Spike’s next word was almost lost in the blast of noise that roared out at them from the dim interior.
Continued in 6. Illegal Smile