All About Spike

Chapter: 1  2  3  3 1/2  4

Tabula Obscura
By Ginmar

Chapter 2

She found Willow on the front steps, and had a momentary thought that this was good, because the back deck had so many connotations. Then she saw her friend’s slumped shoulders and staring eyes. No good here. She hesitated just a moment, jamming her hands harder into the pockets of her robe, wondering what the disapproving old lady across the street would say about her sitting on the front porch in her bathrobe. I saved the world a couple of times, cut me some slack, you old biddy. Then she sat down. Willow was staring down the street expectantly, wearily, as if searching for a late-arriving guest.

“Think…?” Willow whispered.

“What?”

“Think she’ll change her mind?”

Buffy looked down. Shit. She’d just been thinking that it was all Willow’s fault that one of her spells had yet again resulted in her kissing Spike---well,  kissing pretty much all of Spike this time----but Willow looked so miserable it seemed unfair to bring that up. She glanced up suddenly at a small snapping noise. Spike crawling out of the window? A tree branch?  If I ran up there, I could…..

Willow mistook her silence. “It’s okay to tell me what you really think, Buffy. I’m not looking for…for….make-me-feel-better-goodness now.”

“Honest?” If I ran up there, I could…what, exactly?

Willow gave her hands a tiny, secret smile. “You sounded pretty eager.”

Just ignore me, Buffy thought. It’s just the fact that I’m still weak from all that---She shook her head to clear it. “Will---“

“Its okay, Buffy,” Willow said. “Just go ahead.”

“Well, Will----“ She got that far and then her voice simply dried up in her throat.  “Those spells of yours----“ She tightened the belt of her robe again. What if Spike is still upstairs? Is it that bad to lock the door? I mean, I did stick my hand in his pants----“How long do they last?”

“What?”

“The after effects? How long do they last?”

“Why? Buffy, are you okay? Do you feel sick?”

“No, no, I’m good.” Except for that soreness. That tingling soreness.  She shook her head again, feeling the urge to blurt out something rising in her throat. I’d like to know because I just had sex with Spike and I’m wondering if I can blame that on you. And why I would really, really like it to happen again very soon. And if it’s not my fault and it’s not your fault, then that means it’s…his fault.

“You sure?”

“I think so.”

“Well, there shouldn’t be after effects of the spells,” Willow said thoughtfully. “Unless I did it wrong, but I never do them wrong.”

“Ouch,” Buffy muttered.

“Oh,” Willow said quietly.

“Yeah,” Buffy said.

“Go ahead.” Willow straightened up her posture, bracing herself. “I can take it.”

You can, Buffy thought. But I can’t.

They both stared out at the street, and gradually Willow relaxed. “Were you…Were you really in heaven?”

“I think so.”

“Do you….” Willow swallowed. “Do you hate me?”

Buffy looked at her, startled. “What?”

“Do you hate me?”

“No,” she said after a pause. Then, gathering her courage, she added very quietly, “But the things you do, Willow, the spells---“

“But they’re over now,” Willow interrupted. “All done. I shouldn’t have, I know, with the memory spell, but I just wanted to---“

“Willow,” Buffy whispered, “If you wanted to make me feel better…” Her throat locked up, then, the words refusing to cooperate.

“What? What? I’ll---I’ll do it, Buffy, anything---just don’t cry, okay? Please?” She threw her arm around her shoulder, and Buffy gave a little gasp for air and ducked her head. “Just say it, please, okay?”

“The spell…” Buffy drew in a shuddering breath. She stared at her tightly-clenched fists. “I don’t know if I’m doing something myself, or if it’s you making me do it…Why didn’t you just talk to me? Why didn’t you just…?” She spread her hands helplessly.

“Oh, God, Buffy, I’m so sorry…I just wanted to help. I just wanted to help, I just wanted to…” She squeezed Buffy’s shoulder harder and stared worriedly into her friend’s eyes.

You want me to make you feel better, Buffy thought suddenly. “Willow…”

“What?”

“Why do you do magic?”

“Why?”

“Yeah, why? Why now, I mean.” She looked down. “It’s not the same as it was before.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you used to be different with it, didn’t you? That’s what I thought, anyway,” she muttered, as Willow’s puzzlement turned to consternation.

“Why do you think I use magic?”

Buffy’s shoulders slumped. The stuff that scares me, she thought. Vampires and demons, I can cope with. But not this.  Anything but this.  “I don’t understand it, Willow. I don’t understand why.”

Willow’s arm loosened from around Buffy’s shoulders. “I…I…just do, that’s all.” She shrugged.”It’s something I’m good at.”

“You’re good at lots of stuff,” Buffy said.

“Like…?”

“Research, and computers, and general smartness.”

“That explains the crowd that gathers every time I turn on my laptop,” Willow said bitterly. “That’s stuff nobody notices.”

I notice,” Buffy muttered.

“No,” Willow said softly. “You notice when I do it wrong.”

“That explains why I never notice,” Buffy said lightly. “You never do it wrong.”

“Except for bringing you out of heaven.”

“Well, I---I---couldn’t exactly send you a postcard,” Buffy said quietly.

“Well…”

They sat in silence together. “I miss her,” Willow said quietly.

Buffy turned several remarks over in her head. “What?” Willow asked.

“You said I could be honest, right?”

“I think I need you to be honest.”

“Totally honest?”

“Totally.”

“Will…” She stopped and started again. “The spells you do...” She searched for subtlety, but couldn’t find any.  “They scare me.”

“Oh, but they’re harmless, I know what I’m---Oh.” Willow stopped. “Oh. Okay.”  She held up her hands in appeasement. “Go ahead.”

“You keep doing spells, and you do them because….because…it’s easier than…than…”She stopped miserably, clutching her arms around herself as if she were cold.

“Easier?” Willow looked at her.

“Yeah, you know…You do a spell when you can’t get your way, Willow.” She took a deep breath.

“It’s not like that, Buffy. It’s not.”

“Then why did you do this one?”

“I wanted to…make things easier for you. The..the…coming back from heaven thing.”

“Did you?” Buffy asked softly, disbelieving. I am really doing this. I am really saying this. This is me, doing this. It doesn’t hurt. Me? Or...Willow? The more I do this, the easier it is, she marveled. “Because---because it hit me all over again, Willow.” She took a deep breath. “Maybe you do mean well, you know? Maybe. But---but----I---don’t want to have somebody doing spells on me, making me feel things that I don’t feel.”

“Oh, Buffy, no---“

“That’s how I felt. The music spell? That wasn’t your fault, I know, that was Xander, but still, you know, people wound up paying for it. People died. And---“ And I wound up kissing Spike, she thought. And doing a lot more than that, and—and---I just can’t trust it because it felt like a spell…”Have you ever kissed someone you didn’t want to?” But I did want to kiss him, she thought. For awhile. That was just the best excuse.

“No…Buffy…why?”

“Remember that spell where Spike and I---?”

“Oh, God,” she groaned, smacking her forehead. “Buffy, I am so sorry----“

“Then why did you do it again?” Buffy blurted out. She slapped her hand over her mouth. “Sorry, sorry, sorry----“

Willow looked down at her hands for a long time.  “No, Buffy…” She sighed heavily. “No, you’re right. You’re right. You know why? It was just so…easy. It was easier than, you know, saying I’m sorry, okay?”

“And Tara?”

“Tara?” Willow said dully.

“Tara. You used that spell on her. After what Glory did to her.”

“Yeah,” Willow said quietly. “What about you?”

“Me?”

“What about Angel?”  For a moment, she thought Willow had said Spike, and there was a roaring in her head. She could feel the blood draining from her face. They hadn’t made any noise at all, she was sure of it. Oh, God, what if someone had heard something? Then she realized what Willow had actually said. Guilty, much? She had to steady herself against the banister.

What?“

“What would you do to get him back?”

If anything, Buffy felt even weaker. How could Willow bring Angel back up? How? She’d fought so hard to get over him, and here was Willow, using him against her when the debate got too close to home. So much for honesty, she thought. Everything from the worst period in her life came back, and she stared at Willow. When I came back, she was this way, she thought. There was too big a hurdle between the past and the present. She saw Spike’s face, in his crypt, as he realized what she was doing. The power she’d felt with him, the power she’d never felt with Angel… He loves me and I just…She closed her eyes to shut out the mental image.

“He left, Willow. He had to.“

“That wasn’t what I asked. What would you do to get him back?“ Willow’s voice was steely. The same voice she’d used on Giles. Buffy shivered slightly.

“I don’t have that option, Will.” Buffy whispered. “I don’t. You know that---You know that perfectly well. You know what would happen.” When Angel came back, you were keeping secrets about Xander. And you were afraid of Angel. You just never admitted it.

“But I thought you loved him,” Willow said. “I thought you loved him so much that—“

“That you’re afraid of losing your friends?” Buffy whispered. “And they’re afraid of telling you what’s scaring them so they just don’t say stuff that they should?” She took a deep shuddering breath that seemed to sear her throat. “Let’s just do it, okay? Because I can’t say this more than once.” She steadied herself. “Tara loves you, too, Willow. She loves you so much she couldn’t stand you doing this any more.” Why did Angel really leave?He said it was for me, but what if it was like Tara? What if it was for him? What if..?

“I never meant---“

“Willow, think about it.” She sniffed. “You know what I wanted, instead of that spell? I wanted you to talk to me. But maybe you didn’t want to talk to me, Willow. Maybe that was it. Because you know what I would have said? I would have said this, I would have said that I was mad at you and scared of you at the same time. That’s why you do spells, Will. You don’t want people to say stuff to you that you don’t want to hear.”

She expected anger. She waited for it. Instead, Willow slowly bowed her head and took a breath that trembled in her throat. “Do you think I’m a bad person?”

Buffy had to think about it, turning things over in her mind. “You’re a good person who does bad things, Will.”

“Bad magic, you mean.”

“Will, if it you did something like that that wasn’t magical, don’t you think it would be bad?”

“Like what?”

She was stumped. All the bad things Willow had ever done were magical.  “That forgetting spell that you did to Tara. And then the one you did to us. Tara was mad at you because of the way you put that spell on her, especially after what Glory did to her. And then…. Then you put that spell on all of us so we couldn’t remember---“

“Well, I didn’t want you to be in pain, with the---with the---“

“What about Tara? She was mad at you, Will. You know that. It’s like…like…It’s like you made her----“ She searched for something to demonstrate her point. “It’s like..you made her unconscious or something, so then you could have her do what you wanted.”

“No, that’s not what I wanted, Buffy, you know that, it was---“

“Well, she was mad at you. That’s what it looked like to me. It looked like you didn’t want her to be mad at you any more, so you didn’t apologize, you just erased it.“

Spike, muttering, ‘sorry, sorry, sorry’ under his breath.

A good person who does bad things. Or a bad person who does good things. Which is better?

She stared at Willow, mouth opening and then closing with a snap. “You asked me to be honest, so I am. Ask me the next time you want to do a spell for …” She stopped, suddenly, her face turning pale. “…for my own good. I want to have a say in what’s good for me next time, okay?”

Leaving Willow behind her, she turned and went quietly up the stairs. Her eyes burned. Everything she’d gone through with Angel was suddenly fresh in her mind, and now---Spike.  She could feel a spot itching between her shoulder blades, where she expected to be hit by magic bolts or something. Nothing happened, but she still turned the corner at the top of the stairs with a sigh of relief, that turned into queasy anticipation.

It was at her door that she hesitated, listening. How long had she been gone? Had he actually left? She took one breath, then another. Still unsteady. She kept seeing herself, watching Angel leave, knowing he had to, but knowing she would never understand it, either.

Had Spike left?

Did she want him to?

She took a deep breath and stepped inside.

Spike, sitting on the edge of her bed and pulling on his boots, froze at the sight of her. He was wearing that wide-eyed look that he’d had when he’d wiped her hands off with his shirt, and it made her swallow. “Look…”she whispered. Her face flamed with all the emotions she’d been struggling with, and she had to bite her lower lip to keep it from trembling.

“Yeah, Slayer, I’m leaving.”

“Um…” I can do this…He stood up, yanking his shirt on, and she stomped back the memories of his stomach muscles twitching as he slid inside her. “Why..Why did you lock the door?”

“Wh--?” He looked at her blankly. She could see the moment when he realized what, exactly, she was talking about. He was utterly transparent to her, without guile or defense, and her heart felt suddenly like he’d taken it in his hand and squeezed it tight.  “Oh, well..” He took a deep breath and shrugged. “Figured we had some talking to do…” He met her eyes cautiously, then looked away, as if the sight of her pained him. “Figured we needed to have a chat about…” He shrugged again.

“Yeah, I guess so.” She whispered. Her throat suddenly seemed to burn. “I---uh---I---“

“Go ahead.” He said bitterly, tucking his shirt in.


“What?”

“Go ahead, practice. Start pretending this didn’t just happen. Maybe I can give you a few pointers. I’ve seen it before, I’m the expert.” He looked around for his coat.

She just stared at him for a second. “You know, I wasn’t the one who got all embarrassed...” She spoiled her righteous indignation by turning bright pink.”…in your crypt.”

“Well, if I had had some time to realize…” He shook his head again. “ One minute, you’re running away, the next minute, you’re…” His shook his head bitterly, looking for control “Just get it over with, okay? I’ll wait so you can give me whatever excuse you’ve got. It’s getting kind of late, though. Could you hurry it along?”

They stared at each other, Spike jamming his hands in the pockets of his jeans, Buffy hers in the pockets of her robe. “This isn’t what I wanted,” she whispered.

“Oh, yeah, so it’s my fault?”

“No.”

“Then? Oh, wait. Here’s one you haven’t tried…I bet it was that spell.” He spotted his red shirt and picked it up, dusting it off critically, anything but look at her face. He couldn’t do that. As mad as he was, he knew she was crumbling, and if she did that, he knew he’d melt. He’d fought her for years, developing a resentful respect of the girl who continuously whipped his ass, and he couldn’t bear to see her humbled. It had always irritated him, when she’d fallen for men and friends so far beneath her. At the same time, his pride nipped at his sympathy. I love her, butShould have known it was a one-off. Should have known. Just like the kissing, except worse.

If he’d been more to her than a fuck, she wouldn’t be struggling to not cry in front of him. That was what he was left with. The whole summer he’d spent fighting, just to take his mind off her, the way she’d been with him since she came back, and it all blown away by a shag. And then she took a deep, shaking breath, trying to get some control over herself again, and his anger crumpled. Damn. Did it to him again.

Willow looking away from her, Spike frowning with sudden concern. Without him she felt naked. With him she felt clothed, safe… and somehow scared. That was naked, that was more than she could handle. It was one thing to bare her body to him, it was quite another to bare anything else. Her friends couldn’t handle it, and they had been her best hope. Besides, you couldn’t be honest with guys; they used it against you. And if you couldn’t be honest with regular guys, what sort of hope was there with a vampire of all things?

Of course…

Except…no, that was too frightening.

Definitely not.

Something inside her broke.

It had been so hard all fall, and her friends had flinched away from her drawn face. Only Spike had not done so.

She wanted to shove him away. This is my defense, she thought. And abruptly she thought---maybe all that sarcasm---maybe that was his. Maybe it was stupid, putting up defenses against each other. Maybe they could be defenseless together.

Spike doesn’t need any defenses, she thought. But the memory of what his face looked like after Glory’s torture was vivid.

He studied her, biting his tongue, thinking that nothing quite so eloquently demonstrated her feelings—or lack thereof----as the way she faced away from him. What on earth had Willow said? Some instinct made him literally bite his tongue to keep from doing what he did best---blurting out whatever came to mind, without censoring. When she didn’t hit him, he took that as a sign and tentatively reached out, cupping her face in his hand. She lifted eyes full of misery to him, and it hit him harder than a blow. Don’t fucking say anything, he thought. Do not fucking say anything. Don’t ruin it. Don’t ruin it. She was as skittish as some unbroken filly, ready to flinch and bolt if he did the wrong thing, and right now, just about anything was definitely wrong.

“Your…eyes…” Buffy breathed.

“What?”

“Your eyes,” Buffy whispered. “The way you looked at me. Not the way you’re looking at me now,” she added irritably.

“What are you talking about?”

Nothing,” she snapped, annoyed now. “You know, you act like it’s so easy to just forget the past five years or so, just because you say you love me all the time.” She flinched the minute the words left her mouth. Spike, who had stared at her with something like hope on his face at the beginning of her statement, briskly got irritated instead.

“What does it take, eh? I mean, I risked my bloody life for you, for Dawn, I---“

“You did it so you could---“ At the wounded look on his face, she sighed. “Spike, for a vampire, you’re….You’re…It’s really, really nice---“ She gulped for air. “But men are bad enough. I mean, they say they love you and they get all weird and then they leave. But you…What am I supposed to think? You say you love me all the time…” And you stay. My friends make excuses and avoid my eyes. You tell me I’m full of shit and look me in the eye. When I run away from them, they stay behind, and you follow. You’re evil. You’ll always be evil. A few good deeds…

“I can’t help the way I feel about you.” He said quietly, and she heard the tightness in his voice. “It doesn’t change. I don’t love you more when you’re all…dressed up or happy…or less….when you’re…all sweaty…and ugly.”

“Hey!”

“It’s true!” He protested. “I feel the same way around you, no matter what. You think it’s all….just to…what? Get inside you? Not that way, luv. I just…I just want you to understand what it feels like. It never changes. It’s not any better now. It’s..worse. Because I can imagine what it must be like…when you actually love somebody.”

“I’m…sorry. It was….”

“Yeah, a mistake. I got that part already.”

“No…I just…” Her voice broke. “I just…” She tried to gather her scattered thoughts. “But you did change just for me, I believe that. But don’t you see? It’s the same thing if you changed in a bad way. You’re just doing it to get something. Or someone. What if you just don’t feel the same way after a while? What if it goes away?”

“It doesn’t go away! I’m not doing it to impress you!” He jammed his hands through his hair and whirled away, flinging his arms wide open. “I can’t help it! It just happens! When I’m around you I don’t know what I am anymore! And---and--- if it was going to bloody go away, it would have already! If anyone here is entitled to be nervous, it’s me, because you’re the one who’s had three relationships in a few years and I had one in a hundred!”

A good person who does bad things. A bad person who does bad things.

“You’re still a vampire,” she said, piqued now.

“Yeah, but that’s my point. Oh, vampires can’t love, what was that?

Well, he had her there.

“Well….”

“It would just kill you to admit that, wouldn’t it?”

Not unless I die of confusion, she thought.

“Well, you loved Dru,” she admitted. “But you murdered people when you loved her.”

“She was Dru! And that’s different.”

“Why? If it’s just love that makes you…”

“It’s you, that’s what it is.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“You think I don’t know that? You think I want to feel like this? Especially now? Especially after this?” He waved a hand at the rumpled bed, and Buffy flinched at the gesture. “I know what it’s like now,” he whispered, stepping close, while she backed away. “I can’t go back.”

“That was a mistake.” Buffy muttered.

“Maybe it was, but that wasn’t what I’m talking about. I can’t go back to what I was, no matter how much you want to believe that’s what’s going to happen. It’s so much simpler that way, isn’t it?”

“You’re still a vampire.”

“That’s what really bothers you, innit? Why me and not Angel? He loved you only when he had a soul.”

“Oh, just stop.” She winced around him and sat down gingerly on the edge of the bed, crossing her arms. With a sinking heart, he realized he’d once again gone a tad bit too far. You’d think after a hundred years, he’d have learned not to put his foot in it, but that didn’t appear to be possible.

“Love doesn’t make people better. It’s not a great thing. It doesn’t do good things to people. It does bad things to them. It doesn’t change them for the better.” She picked at the comforter. “That’s just…a…fairy tale.”

“I’m a vampire,” he said dryly. “I think I’m entitled to a few fairy tales. It’s not like I have any other job.”

“But…I have a mortgage!”

“What are you talking about?”

“Maybe I could believe in love in a fairy tale, but that’s the only time. Not in real life.”

“Buffy…” He sighed, half exasperated, half touched. She looked so forlorn, sitting on the edge of her bed, that the exasperation vanished and he sat next to her. She was the Slayer, he thought. She fought demons and vampires and gods and saved the world and befriended witches and werewolves. If anyone was entitled to fairy tales, it was her, but she was so ground down that she didn’t even have the energy to spare for hope. And her friends certainly weren’t helping her. They should be jumping before she asked, paying her rent, taking some of her burdens, but in effect what they did was continuously pestered her with their problems, preventing her from solving her own. She always put them ahead of herself, and it was wearing her out. “It’s being around you. That’s all it is. Nothing great, nothing magical. It’s not the chip, either. It’s just being near you. I don’t want to kill things when I’m around you, even if you do wind m---“ Uh. Oh. Not a good look on her, that scowl. Bugger. Where did it go wrong?! Backtrack!! “And, if you think I’m doing it to impress you, you’re wrong, because there’s nothing more bloody irritating than coming over all queer when the Bit shows me her latest school project. My reputation’s gone, thanks to you.” Uh-oh. Not working well, either. Bugger. But at least she’s not running off.

“Oh, fuck,” he muttered, ducking his head and running his hands through his hair again.

“Thanks,” she said sarcastically. “I’m sorry I’m such a…”

“Oh, bloody hell,” he sighed. He plopped down on the bed next to her, and slumped with exhausted impatience. “I can’t bloody talk around you.”

“Well….So it’s not a total loss, then.” Buffy muttered.

Spike glanced out of the corner of his eye at her. Was she making a joke? He bit his tongue. Better not risk it, not now. He hadn’t gotten staked or thrown out the window, which meant he was ahead of his highest hopes. But he had swallow to keep his words in his mouth. Here was tempting, familiar footing, but it was false, this retreat to sarcasm. Not after what had just happened. Not yet. Not when everything was so new and frail and volatile. He felt like he was standing on new volcanic soil, feeling the heat from beneath burning through him, and one unsteady footstep would get him immolated. “I’m not saying anything,” he said finally.

“Ah—“Buffy raised one finger, prepared to object, but he stared into her eyes, serious now. Such blue eyes, she thought. Faster than she could see, he grabbed her finger, and they both froze. Contact. She jerked away, but he saw the goose pimples rippling up her arms. She crossed her arms around herself, and inched away. Both of them swallowed, turned, stared at her wall. Tense minutes ticked by, and he could hear her heart speeding up. As long as he didn’t look at her, he was safe. Instead, he concentrated on the tips of his boots, wiggling his toes inside them. Good, his eyes were working. That was helpful. Anything to avoid taking stock. We just had sex. Now things are weird. I don’t want to leave and you don’t want me to stay. The worst of it was knowing that this painful silence was probably killing her. He wondered where the vivid Slayer he’d once loathed had gone, and if he’d had anything to do with it. He could feel her discomfort like he could feel her breath. He sighed out loud. In the room’s leaden silence, it sounded explosive.

“Just---“ He sighed. “Just---no joking around.” He took a deep breath that was distinctly unsteady. His knees suddenly occupied his entire attention, and he studied them as if they were utterly engrossing. One day, he swore, she’d look nowhere but at him… Bugger. Why did she have to look at him, like that, with her hair all curly, and big eyes…and… Fuck. Bloody fuck. She just had to keep staring at him, didn’t she? Driving him demented, it was. Would it really hurt anything if he kissed her again? Because God knows, it probably wouldn’t happen ever again. Just one kiss; a goodbye kiss, that was all…Buffy licked her lips and did him in.

Oh, God, so not good, she thought. His eyes had gone all dark, and was it her fault his mouth got all soft when he was so obviously thinking about…? He leaned forward toward her and it was like a set of magnets, jerking towards one another. Only at the precipice did she realize what was happening, and yank herself back. Reality. Reality is good. Reality is having enough self-control not to have more sex with… Oh, God. She gulped past the lump in her throat and studied her chipped toenail polish, yanking at the sash to her bathrobe. God, I had sex with him, and my nail polish looked like that? What does he think of me now? Are my legs all hairy, too? Knowing he could feel the changes in her heartbeat as if it were his own did not make it any easier. Assuming he had a heartbeat. Her throat was abruptly dry. Earlier thoughts returned to her and she found herself thinking about just tossing all her fears away. Her throat abruptly ached with the stress of keeping it all in. He was so much more frightening this way than he had ever been as an enemy. She could feel his closeness all through her body, like heat shimmering in the air, making the hairs stand up on her arms, on the back of her neck. Nothing going on, no harm done…Fine. Just doing fine. Keep breathing. Keep pretending he wasn’t stealing glances at her, with his messed-up hair, his long lashes…

Her bones seemed to dissolve against him, around him, her arms winding around his neck, fitting seamlessly everywhere, not just kissing him good night---oh, no, here was a whole vocabulary. It didn’t mean anything when she shifted onto his lap; it was just so uncomfortable being twisted across him like that, really. God, it was so unfair the way he kissed, sweet and melting and urgent. She twisted her hands in his hair and marveled at the way her arms fit around his shoulders, not too much, not too little, like pieces of the same part. She pulled back to breathe, and he spread his hands slowly across her back. Once is an accident, but twice would be…twice, she thought. But his arms fit so neatly around her that the feel of them was somehow comforting. With that, she pressed her forehead against his. It enabled her to breathe and to hesitate. Both were necessary. But her arms were curled around his head almost protectively, and her fingers stroked through his hair.

“I have to go,” he grumbled, but spoiled it by kissing her again. Definitely a good bye kiss.

“M-hm,” she sighed, not helping at all, now with her lips pressed against his hair, touching kisses across his forehead, cradling his head with the lightest of touches. Of course she was stupendously strong, with all the arrogance that came from it, but this gentleness was new to him. As long as I don’t call her on it, he thought. Her robe was loosening around her, but she wasn’t moving off his lap, unwilling to end it, but unwilling to make a decision either. He made it for the both of them, easing her on her back, somehow winding up between her legs, able to kiss her without worrying she’d fall off his lap. He settled on top of her and touched her face, kissing his way across her face, her throat, pulling the petals of her robe aside to kiss her nipples. She wound her arms around his head and sighed into his hair, while her scent filled his nostrils and sent blood rushing through his veins. But she was so passive beneath him that he paused before kissing her again, cradled between her thighs with one hand on his belt buckle. He traced his thumb over her cheekbones and looked down into her eyes.

She was so strong. He didn’t think she even realized it, how brave she was. He’d never seen a fighter like her, and she was just as passionate in bed as he’d always thought she’d be. But it took a while for her to relax to it, as if affection was somehow alien. He cupped her face with one hand, and she sighed and nudged closer to his hand, making him wonder some more. Easing himself over her, he shifted his weight off her, propping his head on his hand, touching her face while she closed her eyes and squeezed her eyes shut. Her hands weren’t still, either; one hand roamed up and down his back, while the other touched his chest. Slowly, dreamily, she opened her eyes, and blinked up at him, drawing him to her, his weight easing down on top of her, her thighs opening to accommodate his hips. And he suddenly couldn’t move.

Two quick movements, and he would be inside her. It was good enough for someone who’d really hoped for much, but for a brief second there, he’d seen what he wanted in her eyes, and suddenly, he couldn’t accept anything less.

Oh, God. He took a shuddering breath, unable to move, seeing everything he’d ever wanted in her eyes. Tracing the outline of her face and her cheek did nothing to alleviate the shaking of his hands. Slowly, realization dawned in her eyes as he lay frozen on top of her, his erection between her legs, he still fully clothed, and she with her bathrobe falling open. Their relative vulnerability hit him, and he reached down to tug her robe shut. With that, the look in her eyes sharpened, and he realized he was in trouble. “God, I love you,” he whispered.

Don’t.

“It’s not going to stop being true if I stop saying it.”

Her face flushed and he realized that he had officially screwed it up. Badly. Why did he only see this type of thing afterward? There was no way he could go back to being what they’d been; the only way was forward. Unfortunately, this particular moment had not been a good time to suddenly act on this theory. “Buffy….” He shifted tentatively on top of her, and she winced. God, I’m going to pay for this, he thought. She put her hands on his chest and shoved, and yanked her robe together, rolling over on her side. He lay on his back and stared at her ceiling, noticing as he did a huge water stain on the plaster. How many nights did she lie there, worrying about the roof? He flung his arm over his face, and tried to not to hear her quiet---too quiet----breathing. “Buffy?”

No answer. The silence stretched out unbearably, and he faced her back, his hand hovering over her shoulder for centuries. She took a deep breath, and he could the raw sound of suppressed tension in that single breath. “Buffy?” He waited a few beats, then touched her hair.

She was shaking.

He scooted close to her, stroking her hair, unwilling to press and be rejected, not after getting so close. “I love you,” he whispered. Can’t she see that? Can’t she believe that? If he was anything to her but a fuck….She stiffened under his hand, and he knew then that there was nothing else he could do.

“I should go,” he said.

“What?” Buffy whispered, and then he realized he’d said exactly the wrong thing. He turned to her in a flash, but she was looking at her wall.

“You don’t want me here.” She swallowed at that. “Don’t want your friends to find out, do you? And if you don’t want it, I don’t want it, no matter what you’re thinking.” That’s what happens when you love someone, he thought bitterly. “Don’t want people to be…” he couldn’t find anything with which to finish that sentence. “Give you a chance to sort things out, okay?” He sat up wearily, and put himself in order. She adjusted her robe, now avoiding his eyes entirely. He swallowed, trying not to feel the sinking sensation in his stomach. Slowly, he got to his feet, as reluctantly as a weary old man. He pulled on his duster and shrugged it so that draped properly, turning at the windowsill to look at the bed. She’d curled up on the bed, facing him at least---that was a good sign, wasn’t it? Problem was, he regarded just being unstaked as a good sign. She looked so utterly miserable that he was swamped by pity. She’d been fighting things for so long, so efficiently, that it was hard for her to realize that some things weren’t hostile, just different. “Slayer.”

She looked at him, another good sign. “What?”

“I’m not forgetting,” he said firmly. Oh, fuck, she had that look on her face. The same look she’d had when she’d told him about her mum. It was all he could do not to crawl into bed and wrap her up in his body. Her eyes were huge and he hesitated forever at the windowsill. Maybe, he thought, she does believe it.

Maybe that’s the problem.


Continued in Chapter 3

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