Timeline: Season 2 (After What’s my Line) and later in season 7
Spoilers: AU from Beneath You(7.2) In this universe, Buffy takes Spike home
Disclaimer: All ME
Only the lonely (8)
"Oh, that’s okay. It’s nothing personal."
"So, um, you moving back?" Buffy said, opting for the casual approach.
"Yeah. I need to study more, you know, and it’s hard being so far away from the library and everything. Kinda crowded all the time here, too, you know."
"Um, sometimes, yeah. But….quiet? In a dorm?"
"Well, you can be totally anonymous in a dorm. No one is going to look at you twice if you walk to the shower with blech-face on."
Buffy looked at Willow in sudden understanding. "I get that. In a full house like this you ‘re so busy ignoring each other most of the time, ‘cause you’d go crazy otherwise, that you kinda forget to put the ignore-button on off sometimes."
They hugged and smiled at each other, delighted at their new-found agreement. Buffy liked Willow’s scent, a fresh floral perfume, reminiscent of the Willow of old. Last year she’d been going around in swathed in clouds of Poison.
"Quick aura check, Buffy?"
"I don't have an hour to spare, Will, I've got to get to work."
"Five minutes only, just by to see if it's different than last week after your time travel moment."
Buffy settled herself on the couch, while Willow worked with the crystal ball. "What kind of aura did the other Buffy have?"
"There were a lot of similarities; but she's younger and some stuff, like sexuality, should be less developed at that age. Most of her colors were fairly balanced. But she did show encroaching repression areas, only smaller than yours now."
"Will? About my repressed sexuality Which I didn’t want to talk about with Giles and Spike in the room? What should I do?"
Willows eyebrows rose. "Stop denying it?" She looked at Buffy. "I don’t mean you should jump any bones that take your fancy, not that I mean like skeletons, or dead people, or… delete that last sentence. You should accept that sexuality is a normal part of you, and whether you act on it or not is your business, but don't try to deny that you have needs, like everybody else."
Buffy looked at Willows suddenly downcast face. "You too, huh? Are you starting to look around again? Or…still grieving?"
Willow sighed. "I don't know. It seems unfair to Tara, but on the other hand, you shouldn't let one, er even two, difficult experiences stop you from living. Loving means risking the pain, right?"
"What about you, Buffy? Do you feel like seeing anyone? Anybody taken your fancy lately?"
"Right here and now? No, it's funny, I never meet anyone interesting. I mean, where? In school? All the teachers are totally old or boring. I met someone in the past, though, that really got me fired up. But, you know, past, pointless, not to mention unsuitable and unhealthy…"
"I'm not following, Buff. You met someone in the past? In high school or what?"
Buffy waved this away with a flapping motion of her hand. "Never mind. How do normal girls meet cute guys? You remember how to do that?"
"How about a night at the Bronze? Jus the two of us? Check out the boys and girls?" Willow looked at Buffy expectantly.
"Yeah. That sounds, like, actually irresistible! Just because we've been grieving over our last relationships doesn’t mean we're Depresso Gals!."
"Are you, Buffy? Grieving? And are we talking Riley, or the other one?"
"Hmm. Well. The other one, I guess. I still haven't figured out why it ever happened, and how I feel about it. Or about…now. You know."
"I don't know, Buffy. We've never really talked about it." Willow said gently. "That's cool, though. And if you wanna talk about it, I'm game. Your call."
"Maybe sometime. Not ready yet, I think. Still Denial Buffy." Buffy looked at Willow. No condemnation in her face.
"Okay. Bronzing soon. Deal. Just us. We’re gonna jump back in the fray."
"You’re making it sound like battle, Buffy. I was thinking more of drinks and dancing. Possibly even playing pool. Hey! This is a surprise!" Willow held up the crystal ball.
"Your aura! It's really changed. A lot more red, I mean a lot, more orange and blue, a little yellow and green…I didn’t think an aura could change that much in a week. What did you do back there? And how long were you there?"
"What do you mean? I was there like, half a day, same as last time. I really had some fun though. Great fight, and last time a Talk from Giles, and a lot of boring classes! What does it mean? Good or bad?" Buffy peered at the ball, but could make no sense of the swirly colors.
"It seems good! Are you feeling any different?"
"I feel fatter. That the kind of thing you mean?"
"It’s a start."
They went their separate ways.
With a swift jab Buffy dusted the fledgling before his arms were free of the grave dirt. She stood up and groaned. Her butt was stiff and cold from sitting on a tomb for half an hour, she must be getting old. She stretched for a few minutes, then pocketed her stake and trudged home. Patrol was kind of a drag, lately. Spike never showed up anymore since he’d moved from her basement. She wouldn’t even have known whether he was still in Sunnydale if Dawn hadn’t mentioned going to see Harry Potter with him.
The lights were out when she got home. Dawn must be in bed already. No Giles either. She heated yesterday’s leftover pizza and gorged herself on a whole tub of The Full Vermonty afterwards. Since when had Dawn stopped begging to be included in patrol? Xander used to show up a lot as well. Somehow Revello Central had become Dead End Junction. Was this her future? Everybody moving on, getting a life, and she still the slayer, patrolling by herself every night till it killed her? She slugged down a quart of juice to top off her meal, and after burping loudly, since she was home alone anyway, she made her way upstairs and settled in for a long soak in the tub. A long, luxurious, undisturbed bath. It still felt kind of lonely, though.
The next morning she remembered only fragments of the dream she’d had. Running through snowy pine woods, feet squishing in sodden boots. Slowing down when what was following her got too far behind. Hitching up a filthy woolen dress to give the vampire access, shaking the dust out of her skirts afterwards. Ew.
Arms linked, Buffy and Willow strolled through the chill evening on their way to the Bronze.
"This is fun, Buffy, "Willow remarked. "When was the last time we did this?"
"Just the two of us? Can’t remember. BR probably."
"You’re still so Ms. Smarty-pants, Will."
Willows face clouded.
"What did I say? You’re face fell so hard it’s practically on the floor."
"I don’t think I’ll ever be as smart again as I was, Buffy. I can’t concentrate as well as before my…episode. Something just burned out, I guess." Willow’s face looked pinched and sad.
"Oh Willow. I didn’t know. I’m so sorry." Buffy shot a concerned look at her friend. There really was a lot of stuff they hadn’t talked about.
"Yeah. Paying the price. Atoning for what I did. Hey. We are not talking about this stuff tonight, okay? Tonight is drinks, dancing and ogling likely prospects. But not actually making a move on them."
"Sounds about at my level of being over stuff, too." They giggled companionably.
"Your ex is actually still available, though. Doesn’t that make a difference? Don’t you ever think about getting back together?" Willow asked.
"Oh, please, with Mr. Sanity Challenged?" Buffy rolled her eyes. "I mean, my ex isn’t available either. That person doesn’t exist anymore."
"You really think so? I mean, at first, when I came back, he was so weird, totally out of it. But the last weeks? Seems pretty normal, that is, normal for Spike. Although he sort of stiffens up around you, and I meant that in a completely non-innuendo-ish way…" Willow trailed off. Buffy loved babbling Willow, and was glad to see that she still existed.
"I know what you mean, without the innuendo."
"You have made me think of something, I think I’ll ask Spike if I can do an aura reading of him. I was planning on stopping by Xander’s soon anyway."
"And the connection between Xander and Spike is?" Buffy said, confused.
"Buffy, Spike is Xander’s new roommate, apartment mate I should say. He didn’t tell you?"
Buffy’s face told all.
"Ouch. Sorry Buff."
The Bronze wasn’t very crowded, even for a weekday. They found a table, and at first were content to just sip their drinks and look around.
"Jeez, Will, when did we suddenly get old? All these kids look about fourteen to me." Buffy remarked.
"You’re exaggerating, I…" Willow fell silent, a surprised expression on her face. Buffy turned her head to see what Willow had been looking at.
"Wha…? Spike? Spike is working? Spike is a bartender? I don’t believe this!" Buffy continued to stare, looking angry as well as surprised.
"Kind of makes sense," Willow observed. "Must be hard to find a job for nights only."
After a few minutes Willow started to become fed up with Buffy’s lack of attention. "Buffy…come on. Buff, quit with the googly eyes. Buffy! We were supposed to have fun together, not stare at our ex? Buffy!"
Buffy turned her head to Willow, but her eyes were looking inwards. She downed her drink pretty quickly, and urged Willow to finish hers.
"Drink up, Will, I need an excuse to get over to the bar." Armed with two empty glasses Buffy wended her way through the crowd.
Spike was chatting to one of his colleagues, looking animated and relaxed. The colleague was a tall, buxom brunette, whose ample breasts jiggled close to Spike as she laughed at something he said. Buffy cleared her throat loudly.
"Spike? Can I have your attention for a moment?"
"What’ll it be, miss?"
This was annoying. "Miss? You have amnesia now? Randy Giles I presume?"
Spike moved over to where Buffy was standing and leaned on the bar. Buffy tried not to look at his nicely muscled arms. It looked as if he had finally put on some weight. He gave her a cocky grin and needlessly wiped his rag over the top of the bar. Buffy watched the play of his muscles while he repeated the circular motion over and over.
"Have to be polite to the customers, don’t I?"
"Give me a break, please. You polite, that I gotta see."
"Are you gonna order, or just stand about and insult me? Not fair to harass a working boy, you know."
"Smith? " A voice called out. Spike looked up. "No chatting up the customers, dude. Get her order, or move on."
"Smith? Really? William Smith or Spike Smith? And is it your real name?"
"Oh, come on, love, I would never use that. I almost picked John Doe, but I reckoned that would rouse suspicion." He grinned at her and wiggled his eyebrows. "And it’s Will Smith, actually."
Buffy groaned, but felt an answering grin tugging at the corners of her mouth. "Okay, get me refills of this."
"You and Willow having a girls’ night out?" Spike asked as he worked on their drinks.
"Yeah. It’s been ages. We thought it was time we were done grieving and start checking out the merchandise again."
He looked at her oddly and said; "What exactly were you grieving about, then?"
Buffy felt a furious blush rise up. She couldn’t speak from sheer embarrassment. She saw Spike’s Adam’s apple bob up and down. Without looking at Spike again she paid for the drinks and hurried back to Willow.
She saw Willow’s amused look and asked: "Is my face still red?"
A few drinks and some time later, Buffy and Willow were being taught how to play pool by two friendly young men, who said they were some kind of work buddies to Xander.
Willow sidled up to Buffy and whispered in her ear: "He’s checking out your butt. Don’t look."
Buffy looked. Spike stared back. Almost against her will she started to move towards the bar.
"Buffy?" Willow asked. "I meant the guy in the plaid shirt?"
"I need more alcohol. Be right back," Buffy answered, without taking her eyes off of Spike.
Spike didn’t speak, just raised an inquiring eyebrow.
Well, what had she been going to say? Oh, her mouth was already moving. "Um, Spike, I kinda missed you on patrol the past few weeks. When are you going to come with again?"
"Difficult to combine with my work schedule, you know. Figured you didn’t need me, anyway." He started polishing the bar again.
"I totally need you," Buffy blurted out. " I mean…You’re my favorite slaying buddy, you know that. I thought we were a team."
Spike kept his eyes on his hands, polishing the same spot again and again. "I’m free on Mondays. We could meet up then?"
"One day a week?"
He shrugged. "Unless you wanna patrol after one o’clock in the morning, it’s pretty much the only possibility. Refills again? You sure you need more drinks? You look kinda well-done already."
"You prefer your girls rare, I suppose?" Buffy snapped.
He didn’t answer, just slapped her change on the bar and pushed the drinks towards her, before moving on to the next customer.
What had she said? ‘Your girls’ ? Implying that she was his girl? So not going there. She moved back to the pool table a little unsteadily, but not before catching a fragment of conversation between Spike and his boss.
"…same girl again, Smith. What’s the deal?"
"Sorry about that, sir. She’s, um, my ex, don’t want to blow her off."
Blow her off indeed! Buffy threw back her drink, and proceeded to beat the crap out of their pool buddies, at pool that is.
Buffy looked down at the spilled drink on her dress in confusion. What the heck?
"You okay, Buffy?" Willow’s voice said anxiously.
"Sorry, it just took me a minute to get it; this is a time switch again…." Buffy smiled at sweet young confused Willow. They were sitting on Willow’s bed, in her pastelly old bedroom at home.
"Long time no see,‘ Buffy remarked, looking around appreciatively.
"Aren’t we still friends?"
""Of course we are!" Buffy hugged Willow. No perfume at all. Funny that even beloved memories could be wrong. "You just don’t live here anymore, which is normal, right?"
"What were we talking about? Boys?"
Willow perked up again. It sure didn’t take much in those days to make her happy.
"I was just mentioning casually that this boy Oz was kinda cute, you know. Just a passing observation!"
"Yeah, right, like me just happening to run into Angel, sitting on my window sill at night…"
They shared a grin.
"You know, Will, would you mind if I ran my current boyfriend troubles by you? Not Angel, but someone else?"
"Wow, Buffy, what a mind bending statement! I thought you guys would be forever!" Willow’s soft drink went down the wrong way in her agitation and she had to be thumped on the back.
"Me too, Will, me too. Thing don’t always work out the way you think…" She sighed. "Okay. Swallow. Sick feeling in the tummy. Present ex-boyfriend, recap. We never really dated, we just…made out a lot. A lot! And I hid our relationship from my friends, and pretended to hate him in company. And then, um, another ex-boyfriend discovered us, um, making out, and I dumped him. Oh, I forgot to mention I beat him up a lot, too. " Willow’s eyes were growing rounder and rounder, and she was sucking hard on the straw of her empty soda-bottle. "Then he, um, made out with Xander’s ex, and tried to, um, kiss me without my permission?"
"Hello, really smart gal here. The um’s are because you are twenty-one and were really having sex with him, right?" Willow asked.
"Sorry, Will. I didn’t mean to talk down at you."
"Huh, sex, awesome! What’s it like?" Willow wiggled her dungareed bottom on the bed.
"It was, like, wow! Amazing! He was totally the hottie, blue eyes, cheekbones to kill for, great body, incredible stamina, no need to breathe, which is great for…" She heard herself gush like the sixteen year old she wasn’t, and stopped, embarrassed.
Willow’s smooth forehead crinkled. ‘No breathing?"
"Figure of speech. Okay, where was I? He tried to hurt me, and went away to change himself to become a better person. For me." Buffy took a deep breath. "And the question is, do I take him back? Is he even the same person he was?"
"This is really deep stuff. First question is: do you love him?"
"But that’s just the one I can’t answer! I don’t know! I thought I didn’t, but I realize now that I felt more for him than I wanted. So I finally realized I wanted him back, and then he’s so changed, you know, he’s even been insane for a while. And he got really mad, when I made him this stupid offer, and now I just don’t know!"
"Why not give it a try? Do you have the same interests? Does he get along well with the rest of your friends, does your Mom like him? "
"Maybe, yes, no, yes."
Willow processed this with lightning speed. "Do I like him?"
"I don’t exactly know…You don’t hate him like Xander, that’s for sure."
"Like he hates Angel."
"I say, go Buffy! No pain, no gain." Willow pronounced.
Buffy made a loud huffing sound as she fell flat on her face on the bed, driving the breath out of her lungs. She sat up and found Willow looking at her concernedly.
"Are you back?" she asked. Buffy nodded.
"And I find myself in still in the same place, amazingly enough. You two have a good time? I just slayed in my usual cemetery for an hour or so, only in the future. Same old tombs!"
"It was great, " Willow said with enthusiasm, "she’s really nice, once you get to know her. We talked about her boyfriend troubles."
"Let me tell you," Buffy pronounced, "That we’re not talking about Angel here!"
"I know," Willow said, nodding sagely. "She told me everything."
"I just don’t get what she sees in him. He’s pretty nice, but compared to Angel he’s not that great looking. He’s short, skinny, has really weird hair…"
Willow giggled. "You should have hear her swoon! ‘His eyes are so blue, and his body is so hot… ‘ And did you know they had sex!"
"I kinda guessed, I mean, she’s a grown-up, okay?"
"Imagine switching when she was, um, you know, in the middle of!"
"Eew! And eew! I once jumped into her just after they’d kissed! Eew!"
They fell over giggling from delighted disgust, and imagined several creative scenario’s to prevent this from ever occurring.
"Now if it was Angel…" Buffy sighed.
"You two gonna…?"
Continued in Feelings (9)