He watched the customers flock to the counter, yelling out their orders, yelling at Buffy, the stink of the place overwhelming him from across the street. The uniforms were garish, the hats designed to cause the maximum amount of humiliation in the wearer. And what on earth did places like that pay? Five bucks an hour? Six? Even after eight long hours, it was only forty bucks. How could he have missed it?
Her, of course. It was that simple. How was he supposed to concentrate on anything else? He'd crept closer, watching her through the window, thinking about that first moment, the kiss that started it all, her lips slamming against his, the struggle across the floor, the building shaking around them. The desperate search for some anchor in a world that shivered around them, and finding out the only anchor was one another. He swallowed now as he remembered it. That kiss... oh, and then everything after...
He shook himself. That wouldn't do at all. He couldn't concentrate like this.
What on earth could Buffy do, though?
He watched her standing disconsolately at the counter, and knew there was something he could do. Had to be, and it had to be beyond this horrible place. She wasn't supposed to be waiting on these ghastly, ungrateful people -- it was bad enough she had to save their ungrateful asses over and over again, she had to serve them stupid food. She'd been resigned to it the other night, having waitressed before, but this wasn't waitressing; there were no tips here. He watched her, and he found himself getting tired.
She did the same thing over and over again; wiping, cleaning, running, fetching, smiling at idiots who chewed with their mouths open. He watched people stand in line for ten minutes, get to the front, and then make up what passed for their minds. There was a guy who ordered a huge pile of food, then whipped out a checkbook, and when told, evidently, that the restaurant didn't take checks, he drew himself up to enormous heights, bellowing, and then spitefully knocked a cup of soda onto the counter. Some of the liquid splashed across Buffy's uniform. The customers snickered, and he vamped out so abruptly that his chip blazed a warning across his skull. He clutched his head, waiting for it to end, and wondered why it was even necessary to have a Vampire Slayer. Obviously what was really needed was the Slayer of Rude Bastards.
He watched in horror as a swaggering git dressed in head-to-toe logo wear sauntered up to the counter, and preened while he ordered. Spike, even without the vamp vision, could see that nothing the twit was wearing had his own initials on it, and amended his earlier proposal to Slayer of Rude Bastards Who Dress Badly.
Good God, more people were lining up. The place was an ant farm, the line snaking around velvet ropes, the drive through bumper to bumper. What did they put in those burgers? Drugs? Buffy smiled, took orders, cleaned, smiled, took orders, wiped counters, watched as careless gits carelessly spilled stuff, and just as carelessly shrugged it off.
Spike watched and thought of Dawn, trying to get a paper route with a broken arm that someone caused. Who, he suddenly wondered, was paying for those medical bills? He'd lay money it wasn't Willow.
All Buffy needed, he thought, was some respite. That was all. Not to be bailed out, just enough so that she could take a breather, rest, not deal with anything. She needed long dreamless nights without nightmares about bills, time to recharge her batteries. Couldn't they see that?
He wasn't even sure who they were. He just knew if he waited around for some of her friends to do something, he'd die of old age. One last try, he thought. Maybe if he just talked to her.....
But she was so bloody proud. Had to do it herself. It was one of the things he liked about her, not loved, but liked, the way she was so ferocious about doing it herself, coping. The problem is, she had been so good at it for so long, that when she had too much to do and cope with, she didn't know it was acceptable to get help.
He'd help, he thought. He had to. He was prescient enough to realize there was a certain selfishness there; he just couldn't bear to see her like this.
He shook his head at his own foolishness; picturing nothing more than the two of them as they had been in her bed before the nightmare, wrapped around each other, all warm from the bath, just sleeping, an act that somehow seemed almost more intimate than the sex. At least it would till both of them were making love and not just him.
He sighed and waited for the rush to end.
Continued in Chapter 9