"Huh...what? What the hell?"
Willow sat up abruptly, wondering how she had gotten from Africa
to her own bedroom. Oh. Dream. Damn. It's always the good ones that get
interrupted. Nobody ever interrupted that dream about her failing test
scores being posted on the front page after she'd been arrested for public
nudity. She shook her head to clear it and looked around. Tara's apartment.
Good---familiar. Tara. She glanced down at her fondly, but she was still asleep
for the moment. Then the pounding started again, and she thought: Uh. Oh.
She slipped carefully from under the covers, grabbing a
throw from the foot of the bed and wrapping it around her shoulders as she
tiptoed from the room. The heat of the dream's setting had departed, leaving her
She paused in the living room door to get her bearings, shaking
her head to clear the dregs of sleep from it. There was no noise from the other
bedroom, which meant that either the girls were sleeping through it, or they'd
absconded through the window.
Xander? She hurried to the door, bracing herself against
whatever it was now. Why couldn't emergencies happen during the day when she was
rested, and awake? It was bad enough getting woken up, but then you had to deal
with getting acclimated to the shock of whatever was going on. That never got
easy. She sighed and unlocked the door. At least I have my fuzzy blanket,
she thought. Grasping at straws always helps.
She opened the door to find Xander knocking on it so
ferociously that he didn't stop until a couple knocks had almost hit her. She
frowned at him, scanning him for wounds, extra body parts, or sudden excess body
hair. She relaxed slightly as she realized that he was upset, not in an
Apocalypse kind of way, but in a Xander kind of way. Nothing looked
different, but he was wild-eyed. "Xander?" she asked mildly. "What's wrong?"
"Sit down, Will, I have bad news."
"What? Tell me! What's wrong?"
"It's Buffy. She-" He gulped and looked around. "Is Dawn in
bed?" He asked softly. "I don't think she should hear this."
"What?!" Willow grabbed his arm and yanked him inside. "Is
"Oh, she's okay," he muttered, striding across the room
with his hands in his hair. "She's just fine, physcially, but mentally, she's
"Is it a spell or something?"
"It must be." He'd been dreading this moment for quite some
time, he realized. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he'd dreaded it ever since
he'd found Spike weeping outside of Buffy's house after she came back. "She's
sleeping with Spike."
Willow blinked at him and waited.
"See? I know! I was in shock, too, it's disgusting,
"It's---Is that it?"
"What do you, mean, Will, is that it? She's sleeping with Spike,
he's Spike, he's---"
He flopped down in a chair, running his hands through his
hair repeatedly and rocking back and forth. Willow looked down on him for
a moment, then sighed, and sat down next to him. "Xander?"
"I knew that."
"Buffy told me during the slumber party. It was kind of
He was struck dumb, staring at her with something like betrayal
in his eyes. "Why didn't you tell me?"
She sighed and looked into space. "For the same reason I didn't
tell you about Tara at first. I had to figure it out myself first. Then I
"This is different."
"Do you think it's okay, me and Tara?"
"Well, yeah, it's...it's....What do you mean?"
"What if you didn't?"
"What if I didn't? Will, you've never dated anybody stupid. I
mean, you've never done anything stupid like that."
"But what if I did?"
"Huh? I don't....I don't get it."
"If I was dating somebody you didn't like, what would you do?"
"Well..." he shrugged. She leaned against him, sighing deeply.
"I don't know. Why would I disapprove?"
"Well, somebody you just didn't like. You know, that fat guy you
work with who smells? What if I decided to date him and you didn't like it?"
"Oh, hey, hey...I see what you're doing." He jumped to his feet,
leaving her lurching sideways on the couch. "This is different!
Spike is evil, Spike is---is----" He sputtered helplessly, looking for a word.
"He's...He's...Spike! It's disgusting! He's tried to kill us a lot of
"Well, we get that a lot," Willow said. "But, Xander...You know,
you're dating a demon. A lot of people wouldn't understand that."
"Did you guys compare notes or something? Ex-demon,
ex-demon! She doesn't do that stuff anymore!"
"Sure, Xander. Like she doesn't miss it or anything."
"Will? Did Buffy just call or something? Do you get your game
She rolled her eyes, but her voice was mild. "Why?"
"Buffy was----" He stopped pacing and stared at her. "She said
some of the same stuff. She said Anya was a demon for centuries..."
Willow, startled, considered it. How on earth had she overlooked
this particular little weapon in the arsenal of Anya-dislike? "Well, yeah,
Xander, it's not as if Anya---" She stiffened at his bewildered anger, and
subsided back. This is me, she thought. This is how I reacted to Anya
and Xander. "Xander, are you jealous?"
"Jealous?!" He made a snorting noise. Then he stopped pacing and
looked into her eyes. "Do you think I'm jealous? I'm worried about her. He could
Willow looked at him carefully, considering. She wondered just
how much honesty he could take. "You know, Xander, we were the ones who pulled
her out of heaven."
"I think he loves her, Xander. I really do. He looks at her the way
Tara looks at me. Maybe Buffy finally noticed." She waited a second, but his
shocked expression didn't abate, although his jaw slowly fell open. "There's
lots of people who think that Tara and I are wrong, who would think that you and
Anya are wrong. But..I think love makes you feel alive. Buffy needs that now,
more than ever."
"That...that..." He shook his head at her, no longer angry, but
sad. He looked at her as if he'd never seen her before. "That's..."
"Are you happy, Xander?"
"Me?" He looked at her cautiously. "Why?"
"It's just a question, Xander. Are you happy?"
"Yeah." He shrugged. "Yeah, I'm happy."
"Well, don't you want Buffy to be happy?"
"Not with Spike! She can't be happy with Spike!"
"I think she is, Xander. And I want her to be happy. I screwed
that up, and we screwed up. But he didn't, not that at least. He loves her. I
mean, Xander, remember how he helped us while she was dead? He was there the
whole time, even when he thought she was dead. He remembered her, Xander. He
loves her, the way Anya loves you." A memory came to her, then; Spike in the
Bronze, muttering something about Buffy being more likely to hurt him than vice
versa. "I just don't think you throw love away like that."
Xander stared down at her, eyeing her rather dreamy
expression with suspicion. "It's that whole bad boy thing, isn't it? The leather
coat, the accent, the---the----You're gay! You're supposed to be cynical about
Willow stared at him, then got to her feet. "I didn't choose to
be this way, Xander, I just am. Like you and Anya. Maybe you can sort of not
fall in love, but sometimes it surprises you. I'm just not going
to...to...whatever because you don't like Spike. You didn't stop dating Anya
because we, sort of, had some tension, you know."
"You know she and I don't get along all the time."
"It's gotta be the same for everybody, Xander. If Buffy can't
date Spike, then I can't date Tara, and you can't date Anya. How would you
He sighed and looked at his feet, and she stood up,
pulling her fuzzy blanket around her like armor. "That wasn't a rhetorical
question, Xander. How would you feel if you couldn't date Anya?"
He finally looked up at her. "Answer me," she ordered.
"I can't imagine."
"Well, what if the Initiative were still around, Xander? What do
you think they'd do to her?"
He gasped at that, freezing as he actually considered it. Anya
in the hands of people who would cage her like an animal? She wasn't human
enough yet to understand why, and she'd be confused and very likely terrified.
She'd miss him terribly....Unwillingly, he remembered that summer. It was more
than unwilling, it was almost as if the summer was forcing its way into his
brain, demanding that he look at the memory. It was Spike, turning away from him
every time he brought up Buffy's name, flinching away even from looking at
pictures of her. He'd caught the vampire staring off into the distance from the
back porch more than once, just staring off as if there were vast spaces in
front of him instead of the Summers' small back yard. He'd get that look on his
face, that thousand-mile stare he had when he was thinking about Buffy, and
you'd actually have to touch him to get him to notice you.
He avoided Willow's eyes. "Look, Xander, I'm not asking
that you two start skipping hand in hand through fields of wildflowers, but is
it too much for you to just leave them alone? As long as you're dating Anya, at
least. As long as I'm dating Tara."
"If he hurts her.."
She looked at him sadly, and that was his last excuse. "I'm
going home," he muttered. "You can form the Spike fan club on your own."
Willow went to the door and held it open. "Get some sleep,
Xander. And think it over. Maybe think about how come you didn't let Anya tell
us you were engaged, too."
She closed the door on his freshly-dropped jaw, pulled her
blanket about her tighter, and wondered if she could somehow find her way back
into that puzzling, intriguing dream. In the hallway, Xander squared his
shoulders and walked slowly away, but as he got closer to the car, his step
picked up. Anya. Home. Bed. No frogs. No vampires. Sleep, he thought.
Dawn rolled over on her back and caught Janice's eye.
Janice was frowning in puzzlement. "What was that about?"
"It was about me getting a paper route," she said with great
satisfaction, before drifting off to sleep with dreams of actually buying cds
dancing through her head. The thought surfaced briefly just before she slept,
and Spike will have to be there all the time, too.
It was a somewhat subdued group that Buffy bid adieu to at
the front door. Angel had been waiting out in front ever since she'd had her
talk with Xander, and she never actually got to say good bye to him. Fine. Be
that way, she thought. You might have forever to carry a grudge, but I
don't. Anya was still perky despite the fact that Hallie appeared to
have abandoned her once again for Wes' company, once the need to get Anya out of
the room had passed. Wes looked both perturbed and intrigued at that, and she
found herself wondering what exactly had happened to the twitchy little
Englishman she remembered. How come Angel had a good effect on him? The
rest was a blur, and she was left closing the door on them with such relief that
she felt almost but not quite guilty over. She actually leaned against the door
for a moment, pressing her face to the wood. Then she turned and leaned her back
against it, reaching out with one hand to jiggle the knob to make sure it was
Angel stared for a long moment at the doorknob from the
yard, then turned to look back at the group silently regarding him. Lorne waited
a second, and then jammed his hands into his pockets with a sigh. When Angel
didn't move, Lorne stepped forward and held out a hand. "C'mon Kemosabe. I think
we need to get drunk." This was greeted with silence. "Okay, we need to get
Wesley drunk and watch him try to sing."
"I heard that." Wes muttered.
"See? Wes is willing to take one for the team." So what are
you willing to do, you big sour puss? He thought. He looked at Angel
thoughtfully, wondering if Angel was capable of putting aside his problems just
once, so the rest of them could have some fun. "C'mon, big guy, let's go get
wasted." Lorne glanced around the group for support. "We'll drink, we'll
exchange confidences, we'll talk about women." He glanced somewhat nervously at
D'Hoffryn. "Or...demons." Or whatever, he noted to himself. Sheep?
Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'dinner and a movie.' "Say..."
he eyed D'Hoffryn. "Not telepathic, are you? Good.....So.... We'll get drunk,
we'll get tattoos, we'll listen to country music. Maybe some of us will wind up
sleeping with inappropriate people. C'mon, all we need to have fun is you."
Angel looked down, considering. Suddenly, he was just terribly
worn out. Nothing had turned out the way he had planned, the way he'd hoped, and
all he wanted was sleep. No thinking, no drinking, no friends. He shrugged at
them all, and they began to drift toward the car. With their backs to him, none
of them saw the way he paused under the tree, looking at the door, looking at
the porch. How had everything changed, that he was the one standing outside the
house, while Spike was inside?
Buffy braced herself against the door, flinching slightly
at the sound of the car doors slamming outside. There they go, she
thought. She ached all over with weariness and tension, and though a lot of it
was leaving with them, some of it simply felt...unfinished. Is it bad that I
want something....else? What that might be, she wasn't sure, but it
nagged at her. Shouldn't be, she thought, but still....the argument felt
unfinished. They think they're going to ignore this till it goes away, she
thought grimly. It's not going to go away. She lifted her eyes to Spike's, and
looked at him as he shuffled slowly from the living room. As she watched, he ran
his hands through his already-rumpled hair, and cautiously looked up at her. He
looked so much like a guilty schoolboy that she had to smile involuntarily, and
his shoulders slumped suddenly.
Spike gave a sigh and sank down onto the steps in
front of her, stretching his arms out as they were stiff from being crossed
sullenly in front of him for the whole evening. He gave her a rueful look
composed of two parts irony and one part exhaustion that had once been
exasperation. As she continued to stare, the irony melted away until
she was looking at the genuine thing, the unadorned character. It was at moments
like this that she saw the man he might become if he had the chance. It was also
at moments like this that she wondered if that chance was...her. No pressure
there. Oh, boy, she thought. What did I say tonight? What did I
do? It seemed somehow appropriate that she had gone from having
sex with Spike to actually admitting having sex with Spike. One more
stage, though, she thought. One more thing. How many more things are
there? They looked at each other, Spike slowly blinking those lashes as if
he were considering something deep and serious, and she trying to fathom what
that something might be. A clock ticked somewhere, but it occurred to her how
seldom it was that they got uninterrupted watching time out of bed. She'd
watched him in passion, in abandon, but when there were clothes between them,
she'd always felt the need to glance at him only surreptitiously. Now I don't
have to bother, she thought. I can look at him any time I want to. So
she did, studying him with a seriousness that made him first glance down
curiously, then meet her eyes uncomfortably, not certain what or why she was
looking at. "What?" he asked.
"Nothing." Damn. She could feel herself flushing again.
Damn that feeling, that sudden rush of blood, that abrupt leap in her pulse. She
didn't stop looking at him, though. He responded to the scrutiny by ducking his
head and running his hands through his hair again, leaving it in messy curls. It
was such a nervous gesture, so boyish, that she had to smile, something that
Spike caught instantly.
"What are you starin' at, Slayer?" But now he'd stopped being nervous,
and was staring back. She stepped toward him, then, conscious of how
odd it was to be glad her friends were gone and that Spike remained. She walked
right between his arms and he wrapped them around her, bowing his head to her
stomach. She used his hair for a pillow, smiling silently at the lack of
gel. "They're gone," she muttered.
"Temporarily," he grumbled.
"They're still my friends."
"I think that says more about you than it does about your powers
of persuasion, pet."
"Hey!" She pulled away and he loosened his arms, sliding his
hands down the backs of her legs. Then she realized it was sort of a compliment.
Oops. She was staring down into his eyes, arms loosely around his neck.
"Hm?" He was already looking at her lips, she noticed.
Who are you? She thought. Who am I? I
know who I used to be, and who you used to be and who my friends used to be, but
not any more. I just chewed out my friends for you, and I think they're still my
She scraped her fingers through his hair, tracing his face
with her fingertips. I can do that, she thought. I can do that in
front of my friends now. Probably better not actually do it, though.
And then it hit her; Oh my God, I told them about Spike. No more secrets. I
did the mature thing. I don't have any secrets.
Well, maybe one.
"C'mon," she said, pulling him to his feet.
After the tension of the evening, it just seemed to her suddenly
that she couldn't bear any more pretense. She knew she wasn't ever going
to be Exposition Girl, but now the last couple of days just crowded up around
her. Confronting what had felt like the whole world's opinion of her was so much
more difficult than confronting demons and vampires. When you staked
them, they stayed staked. When you confronted your friends, they argued.
No, she thought. When you confront your friends, they argued, and then
they...stayed your friends. "Just...c'mon." And not to mention how
irritating it was when your friends acted like they could date unsuitable
people, but you couldn't.
Bemused, he let himself get led upstairs, and into her
room. She turned around at the threshold, her finger pressed to his lips,
pulling them away playfully when he tried to kiss them. She slipped his coat
slowly down his arms, looking into his eyes the whole time. When his coat fell
to the floor she still had her hands around his arms, sliding them down to his
hands, and twining her fingers with his. They stared at each other, oddly
peaceful. "Sorry," Buffy whispered.
"I just want to...."
"Look at you." She whispered. "Just want to look at you."
A slight quirk of the lips, and his eyes changed colors,
darkening as he almost but not quite smiled. That was when she kissed him,
gentle and unhurried. She leaned into his body, wrapping her arms around him,
feeling his arms around her. With a tug, she pulled him toward the bed, and they
walked backward, still kissing. At the bed's edge, she pulled back slightly,
pulling his shirt away from his jeans, leaning back when he skinned off his tee
shirt. She took off her own shirt and pants, then, and found him undressed when
she turned back. She paused and looked into his eyes again, not sure of what she
was looking for. Maybe just him. A slight breeze brushed over them as she
reached up and kissed him again, tasting his lips as delicately as if she were
savoring a new wine.
With the clothes gone, his skin became the only barrier,
and she found herself tracing the muscles of his arms and backs as they kissed,
murmuring into his mouth. This time he was the one who pulled away. "Hm?"
"C'mere." At that, he smiled. They were naked and pressed
together, and she was telling him, 'c'mere.' He sat down on the bed, and
she hovered at his knees, looking down at him with sleepy eyes. For a moment he
had the typical male reaction to a naked female; a fraction of a second of shock
that in fact there was a naked woman at his knees, and not only that, that it
was Buffy. Then she leaned forward and they eased onto the covers, bodies
twining together like string.
He had no idea whatsoever was in her mind. She kissed him
the way he'd always wanted her to, slow and deep and supple, fingertips on his
face, breathing, 'oh, oh,' into his mouth. Her warmth seeped into his skin, his
bones, his fibers, and there seemed to be no separation between the two of them,
not skin, not personality, not blood. She eased away slightly to look into his
face. "What?" he muttered.
"What?" she repeated, amused. "A little tense?"
"What yourself. Want to see my ID or something?"
She cocked her head at him, then slowly glanced down his body,
taking her time before her gaze reached his feet and she came back to his face.
"What I really want to see is where you'd keep it."
He crossed his arms behind his head. "You're awfully feisty
She smacked his chest again, then looked at him consideringly
and tried to tickle him. Spike just smiled patiently and batted away her hand.
"Nice try. Vampires aren't ticklish."
"Oh, they're not?" Buffy demanded skeptically. She traced one
fingertip down his neck to his nipple, circling it while keeping a thoughtful
look on her face. Spike held his breath as she continued, shuddering suddenly
till she triumphantly flattened her hand against his chest. "What was that,
"Well, thank you, Doctor..." She cleared her throat. "Well,
thank you, Doctor Spike.Doctor..Spike, get it? Doctor Spike?"
Spike groaned and let his head drop to the pillow. Buffy shook
her head at him, and muttered, "Well, it's not like you're the one contributing
witticisms to the conversation."
Conversation? He thought suddenly. He lifted his head to
look at her. "Sorry. I've been remiss. Please go on and speculate as to
where, precisely, I keep my green card."
"You know, I just don't think that's on my list of worries right
She shook her head at him. "You're the one that's awfully frisky
tonight." They looked at each other, then, and Spike reached out one finger and
touched her cheek. He could feel the blush before he saw it, and he wondered if
she was aware of it, that blush that was the sign of all those bottled emotions,
struggling in her throat.
"Can't imagine why I'd feel...so..different tonight." He said
quietly. "Can't imagine what it would be."
"Yeah, well," she muttered, embarrassed. "It's not like...I
should have said something before. I'm not a liar or anything."
"You're not," he agreed soberly.
"It's just that I don't know what to say when I...don't know
what to say." She frowned. "That sounded a lot more intelligent in my head."
"You told Angel."
Something struck her, then; the absolute certainty that he had
not told Angel. The suspicion was certainly what had brought Angel to
Sunnydale, but Spike was not the one who had said anything. The only thing
better than killing a Slayer is f-- She looked at him with equal parts
irritation and wonder. A God tortures him for an answer, and he doesn't give
it, but he couldn't refrain from blurting out that comparison between offing
Slayers, and, well, getting off with them. It made no sense at all.
"And you didn't, did you?"
"What?" He shook his head, trying to follow her thoughts. "Oh?
Oh. Oh. No, love, would you have wanted me to? Seems like it's your job
to tell the ex about the...."He hesitated.
"About the new..." she hesitated. "Guy?" She paused again.
"About the new....boyfriend?" She finished.
"Yes," he breathed. "Yes, that." He steadied himself. "Seems
"I guess. Which still doesn't explain why Angel never..." Buffy
made a tsking noise to herself, scowling for a moment. "I will not think
about that again."
"Will thinking about it make you get irritable with Angel?
Because that I wouldn't object to."
"You think he's going to..." She rolled her eyes at herself.
"Nope, not gonna go there. What's wrong with me?"
"Not enough shagging." Spike said seriously.
"No, it's not that," she muttered. "Just..." She traced a
finger across his chest, then looked up searchingly into his face. "You know, I
always worry about that...chip." Her voice dropped at the word, chip, as
if it were something extremely profane. "Always." Hurt made his forehead furrow
briefly before she continued. "But....I wasn't worried tonight. I was more
worried about Angel."
"Think he'll come back and do your hair in your sleep or
"Point taken. I, however, am naked."
"Yeah, you're funny."
"Whereas you are funny-looking."
"Me what? Go ahead, finish that sentence." She propped
herself up on her elbows over his chest. He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully at
her, his scrutiny not matching her mood. He cupped her face in one hand and her
eyes got big and round, her lower lip sticking out. She pulled herself
closer and pressed her hand over his, fitting his against her face, and laying
her head on his chest. The gesture made his throat close up, and he buried his
face in her hair. "So," he muttered. "Shouldn't we be planning for tomorrow,
getting all ready?"
"Why?" Buffy demanded."Getting ready means making sure I'm not
wearing underwear. And I know you're not."
"Which you've put to good advantage."
"Like I didn't have help..." Buffy said dryly. "So, okay, see
how this sounds. This is tomorrow, right? I will fight demons, bad guys, and my
friends. They will bitch and moan. Xander will sulk, probably. Tara will look
all happy. Dawn will be really happy. Willow will make jokes. You and I,
well, you and I, we'll, uh---"
"---Look for broom closets."
"Probably," Buffy said dryly. "Why do I think my friends will be
following us around suspiciously?"
"Because they will. Especially Harris."
"But anyway, there will be fighing, probably some snarky remarks
from Xander, and Angel might call. People will listen to me...or not. And you'll
be here, all the time."
"All the time?"
"All the time." She raised her head and looked at him. "That's
all I know for sure about tomorrow." She nudged her head under his chin again.
"That's....all I need to know."