He looked like he was going to leave. At the very least, he didn't look as if he was sure he could stay.
Boy, isn't this great? Buffy thought. Fight, shag, kiss, all sorts of things, but say, 'Please stay' and it's impossible. But it was. She couldn't meet his eyes, because he was staring at her with William's eyes, and that made it worse. Worse still was the thought of him not being here. No arm beneath her cheek in place of a pillow, or cool body around hers. But she couldn't even get the words on her tongue.
Instead, she maneuvered toward him, brushing her hair at the vanity, dropping her earrings off at the nightstand, turning off the light, and finally coming round the bed to draw the blinds so there'd be no sun on them in the morning. She kept her eyes to herself, hoping he'd notice the significance of that little gesture, but even with an extra century, he was still a guy, post orgasm. So she padded up to him in the dark, touching his stomach with hands as light as blown leaves, hesitating, not daring to look into his eyes, shoving his coat down his arms and lowering it. She heard his breath catch in his throat, then, and had to look away, so she took the coat away and hung it over the bathroom door. When she turned back, he was undressing in front of her, and she found herself mentally stumbling over yet another one of those odd moments that seemed to lurk where she least expected them.
She'd seen him nude, obviously, it couldn't be that. Not to put too fine a point on it, they'd been about as intimate as you could get with another person, so why did she feel so strangely frightened, so suddenly, at Spike casually tossing his clothes on the floor? Maybe it was the casualness of it. She checked her mental list of Guy irritations to see if it was a typical guy-being-messy-type-of-reaction, but it didn't seem to be that. She padded forward on silent bare feet, and let the drapes fall closed. Turning to him, she found the pitfall she'd been avoiding.
He was naked, and she was struck by it. Naked, he reminded her of all the times he'd forced her to look into his eyes when they'd had sex, and now it was just being forced to look at him while not in the throes of arousal or ecstasy. Naked, quite simply, he was just a man, not Spike like at all, not a vampire, not frightening. In fact, with his hair all mussed, and his eyes smudged with tiredness, the very idea of applying the name 'Spike' to him seemed amusing. He leaned back on his hands and cocked his head at her, the way he'd done so many times before, but this time, she climbed into his lap and kissed him. It wasn't exactly a 'hello sailor' type of kiss, not with her fingertips on his face, in his hair, her lips barely on his, but he slid down onto his back and took her with him. "William, William, William..."
"Hm?" He paused, blinking up as she pulled away, and propped herself on her elbow so she could trace circles on his stomach. "What?"
She couldn't meet his eyes; afraid she'd see the response she was always afraid of getting, afraid he'd suddenly look at her the way she'd once looked at him. Except I really deserve it. The thought unnerved her.
She sat back up and took off her sweats, getting up and going to the door to toss them haphazardly somewhere in the general direction of the bathroom. She must not have aimed really well, throwing them backhanded and blind, because they hit something in the bathroom, and knocked it to the floor with a clatter, a clatter that made him flinch.
Vampires, Buffy thought, don't usually do that.
Vampires, no. She thought. Dawn did, though; that was a very Dawn-like thing to do, when Mom's name came up; she supposed she herself did it, when Riley's name surfaced. She'd seen Xander stiffen abruptly in his parents' basement, when they reminded him of their existence by anything, and even Anya gave a little involuntary shudder at the thought of poverty, free giveaways, and celibacy. All perfectly human, given the provocation. But here was Spike, twitching at a loud noise around her. And that, she thought, I did deserve.
He sat all the way up and watched her, watching her watching him, intrigued, wondering what had shifted. There was something in the air, something in her eyes, because she wasn't a girl who was comfortable enough in her own skin to walk around nude and not care if he watched. Except... Except, just now, for some reason, he got the feeling that she had jumped past the getting-accustomed stage to the part where... He shook the thought off as being too optimistic. She tugged at the bedclothes under him and he obligingly shifted so she could slide under them and cuddle next to him.
She could see practically nothing, and hoped that he could. In the dark, she felt invisible, but not carefree as she had before. It was different than escaping her responsibilities, it was as if she could cope with them differently because they had different shapes and incomplete forms. In the dark, she was only aware of warmth and comfort and cool skin; his lips against her forehead, her hands pulling him closer. In the dark, she could do the things she wanted to do, and hoped that feeling them was as good as seeing them. So she traced his lips with her fingers, over and again, as if she were writing her name there, holding his palm to her cheek while she buried her hot face against his chest, and tried not to let it overwhelm her. His hands stroked her back, up and down, just fingertips, as if he were tracing her for memory. She did his gesture; his head on her arm while she curled her fingers in his hair, tracing his face with the back of her fingers. She couldn't see at all, only feel, and it gave her the courage to put motion to her feelings, completion to her impulses. She pressed her face to his, and braided her fingers with his, wrapping arms and everything around him, not even thinking, not even worrying. Maybe she couldn't say it with words, what it was that she felt, but this was her declaration. She pressed her lips to his palm and held his hand there till he pulled it away to take the gesture from her and give it back. In the dark, she was no longer a vampire slayer, and he was not a vampire. He was love and comfort, and all the sorrow that had permeated her melted in her fibers and seeped away.
Lorne picked through the pizza leftovers and wondered if the microwave would make too much noise. At least LA was a big city where he didn't have to worry about what would happen to his green behind if some parents found him lounging around the kitchen while their nubile daughters slept the sleep of the innocent in the living room. Where's Emily Post when you need her?
He stepped out on the deck, checking to see if the door would lock behind him. He considered his options; wait in kitchen, sit in chair, stretch out on dining room floor or dining room table, steal Spike's car and drive himself back to LA with his unkicked-butt in tow, win the lottery and just go wild? He wondered if he did win the Lottery if it would be worthwhile to go on working. On the one hand, there was helping the helpless, that sort of thing. On the other hand, Angel had that pretty well covered, and there was Club Med.
He sat down and looked up the stars. Shame about not getting Hallie to sing. He must be getting old, that was all there was to it. Once upon a time, he'd been young and could have done a whole room full of people at once; now he had to take them one at a time, and then rest a bit between them, unless they were really shallow. He glanced at his watch. Two hours away from LA. Two hours away from LA. Good God, what did these people do for fun?
"I don't like this one."
"Yeah, well," Warren said, "You don't want to do the dirty work, you don't get to pick. She's not bad." He cast what he hoped looked like an experienced eye over the woman's silent, sleeping form. "Besides, after what happened, I gave her an extra large dose."
"Is it gonna last longer this time?" Andrew asked cautiously. It was so easy to say the wrong thing around Warren; he just erupted over everything, especially since the Katrina debacle.
"Yes, of course it's going to last longer, Curious George. Why don't you go away and count pimples or something?"
"I don't have any pimples." Andrew said. "I use Stridex."
"Yeah, well, go away already. I need to work."
They both looked at the unconscious woman again. "Hope I didn't give her too big a dose," Warren said thoughtfully. "She's bigger than -- than -- -the other one."
"Well, I don't want to be second. I did see her first."
"She was the only woman drunk enough to try it on, you moron."
"Still...Well, she's too drunk now, anyway."
"What are you talking about? This would be perfect. She'll never know." Warren drummed his fingers impatiently against the coffee table. "Then we can just get rid of her and find the perfect one."
"Buffy." Warren agreed. "But until then, we have to practice."
No more ice. Angel winced into the freezer and tried to remember if being killed had hurt this much. Actually, being evil, he'd been pretty much impervious to pain, so perhaps this was an okay development. Anything, anything at all that kept his aggrieved brain cells from thinking about the hammers attacking them was a good thing. He closed the freezer and took a can of soda out of the fridge and pressed it against his skull.
Cordelia watched from the doorway, sympathetic but amused. Connor snoozed in her arms, emitting tiny baby snores. "That's a new look for you.'
Angel didn't even bother talking. Sarcasm was wasted on him while he was this embalmed with alcohol; nothing could hurt as bad as his skull did now. Nothing. He carefully placed one foot in front of the other in her direction, but she shook her head and took a compensating step back. "Nuh-uh. Get away from this baby. You'll get him drunk with your breath."
"I don't breathe."
"Well, you do something, because I can smell alcohol, and I don't want to have to go to toddler AA. No Barney DT's for me. So back off, buddy. Besides, you'll get me drunk, too."
That hit the conversation with a certain force, bringing to mind as it did certain incidents which had proceeded while under a drunken sensation. Not drunken, technically, but just as intoxicating. They both avoided each other's eyes. "He's wet. I have to change him." She risked an impish look in his direction, Cordelia in charge yet again. "Besides, his diaper's soaked with alcohol fumes."
"I can take a hint." He protested.
"Then why am I the one leaving?"
"Good point." He pretended to skirt around her while she made a huge point of plugging the baby's nose, but that was an excuse and he knew it. He was so drunk that he was still intoxicated rather than really starting on his hangover, and he wondered if he could just die before that happened. Of course, the fact that he was already dead could mean a number of different things, all of which he desperately wanted to avoid thinking about. Maybe Wesley knew a vampire hangover remedy or something. Maybe Wesley just had an extra stake he wasn't using. He staggered down the hallway, trying to find a pain-free position, but none of that was working. He finally came to a door, and fetched up against it to keep from falling over.
Inside, Wes looked up guiltily, and Angel wasn't so drunk he didn't notice. "Going to get Lorne?"
He eyed the stuff spread out on Wes's desk; weapons, Tupperware, and Thermoses. Some clothes. "Either you pack like Buffy, or you're taking your vacation time."
"I like to be thorough."
"Thoroughly weighed down?" Angel winced as a thought made his brain cells hurt.
"Well, I just like to have everything I might need." Wes straightened up from where he was tying a knot on a sleeping bag's tie sack. "There's nothing worse than needing something, hundreds of miles from home, and not having it."
"Well, makes me wonder." Angel said. "How long are you going to be there?"
As long as it takes me to get away from Fred for a while, Wesley thought. I'll do some research, whatever. I'll work.
Looking at Angel's sodden face, he thought with a shudder, Perhaps I'll get drunk. With Spike. There was a certain rebellion in his face as he returned Angel's curious look.
That's what people do when they're miserable. I'll get drunk and I won't work. I'll...drown my sorrows. Just the thought of getting away was lifting his spirits.
"Angel, why are you asking me questions?"
There, that was the Boss tone. That should work wonders. And it did; even drunk, Angel bristled a bit. "I just think it's interesting. Spike comes to town, asking for money, petty cash disappears, Lorne drives off into the sunset with Spike, why wouldn't I ask questions?"
"Well, you're really in no condition to be doing much except sleeping it off, are you?" Wes jammed a pile of stuff into his overnight bag, but knocked his Tupperware container of sandwiches to the ground, and thus missed Angel's carefully-blank face.
"It's just that I get the feelings there's something going on here that you're not telling me."
"Sometimes employees don't need to know everything." Wes said quietly. He wavered a moment between shame and triumph, then Angel finally looked up and met his eyes, and he felt something entirely unexpected.
Continued in Chapter 31