DEDICATION: To Kelly Hodgson Kline, whose support has been invaluable in continuing this series.
Chapter Eleven: Old Friends and New
“Well, I can tell a corner bracket from a center bracket, which makes me smarter than you, ” retorted Angel, tossing a small object from one hand to the other.
Grabbing it in midair, Spike held it up. “This one is the corner bracket. The one that looks like a “T” is the center bracket. ”
Angel picked up the object in question, peering at it.“ No, you’re wrong. The diagram clearly indicates that…” He held up the instructions, waving them for emphasis.
The blonde ripped the paper out of Angel’s hand, voice rising. “Listen, I don’t need a bloody schematic to put a crib together, Angelus. Its just slats of wood, with some metal bits thrown in.”
‘Oh, sure! Let’s do it your way,” Angel said sarcastically, grabbing the instructions back. “Let’s just throw it together. It doesn’t really matter, it’s only my child’s life that we’re taking about.”
Spike guffawed. “Oh, please. Why do you have to be so melodramatic about everything?”
As she entered the basement, Buffy winced at the mess they were making. Angel and Cordelia had it cordoned off into two areas, one for each of them. The paper screen that separated Cordelia’s space from the chaos surrounding it had toppled over onto her bed. Angel’s bed and couch were drowning in a sea of boxes. The shipping box lay on its side, spilling forth the pieces of the crib. The mattress was propped against the wall nearby. There was no clear space anywhere to be seen. “Spike, why don’t you go upstairs and help Tara and Cordelia with the research,” she said cheerfully. “We need a fresh brain.” He gave her a sour look, but kissed her and went upstairs without protest.
Angel smiled at her in appreciation. Picking up the instructions, she studied them for a moment. “He was right. They mislabeled the brackets,” she said quietly.
Methodically, they grouped the pieces of the crib together. With both of them cooperating, it was finished in minutes. “Good job,” Buffy told him as she pushed the mattress into place. ‘Do you want to put on the bedding?” she asked, looking around.
Angel scratched his head. ‘I ordered a crib set. It’s around here somewhere.” He looked through the boxes and bags, finally locating the bedding.
Angel scratched his head. ‘I ordered a crib set. It’s around here somewhere.” He looked through the boxes and bags, finally locating the bedding.
“Oh, that is so cute,” said Buffy, admiring the set, which was a midnight blue pattern, covered with gold suns and silver stars.
He looked at her oddly. “I guess so. Cordy picked it out.” Angel put on the bedding and the padded bumper, while Buffy assembled and installed the mobile. Once finished, they stepped back to assess their work.
“It looks great,” said Buffy. Leaning forward, she twisted the knob on the mobile. A circle of suns and moons circled around, spinning to the clockwork tune.
“I’m really glad that you are here,” Buffy said. “I never thought you’d stay in Sunnydale again, not even as a safe place for Connor.”
“Cordy and I were going to leave. We didn’t want to impose on you. But I couldn’t just walk away from you while you’re going through this,” he said sincerely. “You have no idea how scared we all were, seeing you burned, wondering if you’d be alright.”
“You, and Tara, and Cordelia, you’ve all stayed, doing everything you can to help me understand the claim, understand the effect it has on me. Even thought it scared you, or hurt you to see it, you didn’t run away. You didn’t turn your backs on me. I guess it just goes to show who my real friends are,” she said bitterly.
“They’ll come around,” reassured Angel. “Xander and Willow don’t understand your relationship with Spike. If you’d told them what you told me, they would see.”
“They’ll never understand,” replied Buffy. “They don’t know what it feels like to be dead, and then to feel alive again. To have love, after having nothing.” Angel stared at her, his eyes filled with pain. “I’m sorry. That was insensitive. I wish you could love again, feel about someone the way I feel for Spike,” she said earnestly, reaching out her hand. He turned away. After a pause, he turned back. She was already at the top of the stairs. “I do,” he said, as he watched the mobile spin in endless circles.
She stepped out into the kitchen. “So, how are things going on the making Buffy nonflammable front?” she said brightly.
“Not so good,” Cordelia replied, sipping from a mug at the kitchen counter. “I think we need to get some help. These sources Angel gave us didn’t really know anything. It seems that the vampires don’t really have the answers on the Slayer front.”
“I’ll try to call Giles again,” said Buffy. “We really need his expertise on this. I wonder where he is. I’ve been trying to reach him for over a day now.”
‘I know we haven’t really gotten anywhere, but I need a break. My head hurts from staring at the monitor,” said Cordy, as she rubbed her eyes.
“Why don’t you go upstairs and take a nice hot bubble bath? Connor’s sleeping, and you should take some down time,” suggested Buffy. The other girl looked tempted, but hesitated. “I’ve got scented candles from France, and soothing environmental music, and a very expensive face mask waiting. Not to mention a nice, clean Egyptian cotton robe...” her voice trailed off enticingly.
Cordelia smiled widely. “That sounds absolutely perfect.” She headed upstairs.
Buffy watched her go, then turned and entered the dining room, where Spike and Tara huddled conspiratorially. Thick volumes and stacks of papers were everywhere. “Okay, so are we good?”
‘She has no clue that we know it’s her birthday,” said Tara. “We are going to totally surprise her.”
“I hope she likes it,” said Buffy. ”The surprise birthday celebration thing kind of sucks when it’s for me.”
Angel came in the room. “Okay, so what is the plan?”
Spike rustled some papers on the table. “We’ve got a reservation at the Armory for nine o’clock. The cake is here. Tara slipped it past her. Did you get her presents?”
Angel made a face. ‘Yeah, I got everything.”
‘What is it? What’s so terrible?” Tara asked
‘What’s terrible,” replied Angel, “is she is going to make us….” A knock at the door interrupted him. “I think that’s for me,” he said, moving to answer it.
A young woman wearing a black dress and a white cap stood at the door. “Hello, I am Penelope Travers,” she said in a clipped British accent. “Wesley told you I’d be coming?”
‘Yes, absolutely.” He looked over his shoulder. “If you don’t mind, let’s just step outside for a minute.”
As they stood on the front porch, he peered down at her. “So, you understand the situation.”
She nodded at him, eyes grave. ‘I was made aware of the threat that you are facing. I will protect the child with all of my powers.”
Angel looked at her hesitantly. Leading her over behind the tree, he stopped her. “If you don’t mind, would you drop the glamour for a minute?”
She looked at him seriously and then shut her eyes. Her features blurred and reformed. Before him stood a winged creature taller than himself. Blue scales covered humanoid features. Sharp talons curled at the ends of powerful arms. She opened her green, reptilian eyes, turned her head to the side and breathed a stream of blue fire. As she pivoted back to face him, she returned to human guise. ‘I am perfectly harmless cloaked in my mortal appearance,” she explained softly. “But any hint of threat to your son, and I will change instantly and address it.”
Angel cleared his throat. ‘Well, I’m convinced of that. Please come in, Miss Travers.”
He took her coat and hat and led her over to the bassinet. ‘This is Connor,” he whispered. After hanging up her things, he led her to the dining room. “Everyone, this is Miss Travers,” Angel announced. “She will be helping us take care of Connor while we stay in Sunnydale.”
Buffy smiled. ‘Wow, you’re actually going to let someone else take care of the baby?” She turned to Miss Travers. “Hi, I’m Buffy. It’s a pleasure to meet you. You must be some kind of superwoman, if Angel thinks you’re up to the job.”
Spike gave the nanny an assessing look. “Not a super woman. More like a…”
Angel laughed nervously. “Super person. A really super person. No need to be sexist, right?” He shot Spike a glare, clearly wanting him to shut up.
For once, Spike took the hint. ‘I’m Spike. Pleasure to meet you,” he said. He tilted his head, staring at her.
“And I’m Tara,” the witch introduced herself. “So, are you from Sunnydale?”
“No,” Miss Travers replied. “I’m from elsewhere.”
“So, can I get you a drink, or something to eat?” Buffy offered.
A small wail arose from the living room. ‘Excuse me, ‘ the woman said, “I must tend to the child.” She turned towards the living room, Angel following right behind.
‘Wow, that is cool,” enthused Buffy. “So we can actually have an adult evening. Maybe we could go to The Bronze after dinner. I bet that Cordelia and Angel haven’t gone dancing in a while.”
“Last time we went there, we didn’t do much dancing,” said Spike seriously. Buffy looked over at him in disbelief.
‘Why not?” asked Tara, as she looked up from the notes on the table. “Was one of you not feeling well?”
“We had to leave,” explained Buffy, flushing slightly. ‘I got overheated.”
“Well, if we’re going to go dancing, I should change clothes,” said Tara.
“Willow left some boxes of yours behind. I put them in the closet in your old room,” said Buffy.
“I’ll take a look, see what I can come up with. “ Tara went upstairs.
Buffy turned to Spike. “What is with you?” She poked him in the chest. He grabbed her waist and pulled her close.
“I just like teasing you,” he said quietly. His hands wandered up her body, thoroughly touching her from hips to shoulders. She sighed, rubbing against him. He pulled her head down for a kiss, as his hand pressed the back of her head. The embrace deepened, growing tighter and closer with every moment of the kiss.
Buffy broke away, breathless. “We can’t, not now,” she whispered. “There’s a houseful of people.”
He nibbles her ear. “You know, the second that I walk in the Bronze I’m going to get hard,” he said matter of factly. “Just thinking about the last time we were there. What a naughty girl you were, fucking me right there on the dance floor.” His breath hitched and his hand slipped under her skirt. ‘Strike that. I’m already there.” She felt his erection pressed against her.
“Let’s go to my room,” she said breathily.
“Can’t, Tara’s there,” he said.
“Bathroom?” Buffy suggested.
‘Cordelia,” he replied, as he gently nipped at her neck.
“Basement?” she said hopefully.
Spike picked her up and threw her over his shoulder, running down the stairs. “Shall we break in Angel’s bed or Cordelia’s?” he asked as they reached the last step.
‘Neither,” said Buffy. “That’s just gross.”
“Neither of them are using them for anything fun, “ said Spike with a grin. “Really, it would be doing them a favor. We’d be testing the mattress for quality and endurance.”
“You’ll just have to test your endurance over there,” said Buffy, pointing to the wall where the washer and dryer were.
“Against the wall? We’d bring the house down again,” said Spike. “And we want to keep living here, right?”
‘I have an idea,” said Buffy. Several minutes later, Buffy lay on a twin size air mattress covered with a Barbie sleeping bag. They were wedged in a corner between some boxes and the staircase.
Spike looked down at her. “I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but I’m not really in the mood anymore. Moving boxes, pumping up the mattress. Kind of ruined the moment, love.”
Buffy pulled off her skirt, showing a garter belt and sheer white stockings. She took off her blouse, and revealed a creamy satin bra.
“I’m good,” said Spike, unbuckling his belt and kicking off his pants. He pounced on her, ripping off her panties. “This is a different look for you,” he said, popping a clip on the garter belt.
Buffy grabbed his hand. “I kind of thought we might do it with them on,” she said. “I could wrap my legs around you while you fucked me,” she said in a low voice, biting his earlobe. “It would feel so silky, so smooth, sliding against your skin.” She stared deeply into his eyes.
He returned her gaze and swallowed. “Works for me,” he said weakly. He refastened her button, fumbling a little before he got it right. She slid her foot up the inside of his leg. He shut his eyes, biting his lip.
“You like that, don’t you?” she asked. He thrust against her, showing her exactly how much. She grabbed his ass in both hands, guiding him inside her. He nipped and bit at her collarbone as he moved in and out of her warmth. “I love the way you feel,” she whispered, wrapping her legs around him. He pulled up his head, kissing her thoroughly. She pushed his chest, pulling him away slightly. He looked down at her, confused. She slid her right leg up, pulling it over his shoulder, and then her left. He rocked forward slightly, and she gasped.
“Am I hurting you, love?” he said, concerned.
“Don’t stop,” she said, ” you’re so deep inside me.” She closed her hands around his wrists.
He moved cautiously within her, fearful of hurting her. As her response became more and more avid, he moved faster within her. Her color heightened, her head thrashed from side to side as she scratched him with her nails. “I’m coming, I’m coming, come for me,” she moaned, arching in climax.
“Buffy, I love you,” he said brokenly, following her into bliss.
Upstairs, in Buffy’s room, Tara tried on her outfit. She looked in the mirror critically, turning from side to side.
“Are you going somewhere special tonight?” asked Cordelia from the doorway. She looked relaxed and flushed, a terry turban on her head matching the robe she wore.
“We all are. It’s kind of a study buddy field trip. All hands on deck.” She turned, smiling at Cordy. “So you’d better go get ready.”
“Where are we going?” asked Cordy, her eyes bright. “Someplace dressy?”
‘Yep, and you’ll need to wear shoes you can move in,” said Tara.
Cordelia gave the witch an appraising glance. “You look really nice, Tara.”
The girl’s face lit up. “Really?”
“Yeah.” Cordy gave her a thoughtful look. “But I think we can do even better.” She walked to the bathroom, returning with her vanity case.
Pulling out some makeup and a curling iron from her bag, she motioned for Tara to sit down at Buffy’s desk. “I want to add some sparkle to your cheeks, put a little curl in your hair. Are you ready for a little change?”
Tara smiled up at her. “Definitely.”
In the living room, Nanny Travers took detailed notes. “You prefer him to be held on demand, fed on demand, changed as necessary. No set sleep schedule.” She looked up at him. ‘So you wish me to do what the child wants when he wants it?”
‘That’s correct,” said Angel, staring down at the child in his arms. “I don’t want him to feel neglected or unloved for one instant. The second that he cries, I want him to be held. To feel secure.”
‘As you wish,” said the nanny. “I tend to agree with you sir. A happy child is a secure child.”
He handed her a piece of paper. ‘These are the numbers where you can reach us. My cell phone, Cordy’s, Buffy’s and Spike’s. Additionally, the number of the restaurant and the club are there. The number for Connor’s new pediatrician here in town, poison control, police and fire department.”
“You’re very thorough, sir. I’m sure that everything will be fine, but I will contact you with the slightest concern.” She looked up at him, the very picture of capability.
He smiled at her. “Do you need anything? Can I help with any arrangements?”
Nanny Travers shook her head. ‘No, Wesley arranged for my private accommodation in town and transportation. I’m all set up to stay as long as you need me.” She held out her arms for the baby. “Why don’t you go prepare for your evening? I’m perfectly capable of looking after Connor.”
Looking hesitant, Angel handed over the baby. As he stepped into the kitchen, he saw Spike drinking from a mug. He grabbed a bag of blood from refrigerator for himself.
‘Great minds think alike.” Spike raised his mug. ‘So, is there a reason that you’re not telling anyone the nanny is a beastie of the godlike strength, setting things afire variety?”
“I don’t want to worry Cordelia. I’ll tell her later.” At Spike’s sidelong glance, he continued, “Really, I will. I just want to have one nice evening where nothing goes wrong.”
An hour later, Buffy slammed shut her door and turned the key in the ignition.
‘Are you sure you want to drive, Buffy?” asked Tara nervously from the back. Her hair cascaded over her shoulders, tightly curled into ringlets. “I mean this thing is huge.”
Carefully, Buffy backed the Suburban down the driveway. ‘Dad said that he wanted me to drive something safe. Like a tank.”
“Which does kind of begs the question of why the niblet got the convertible,” said Spike drolly.
‘Well, the convertible is huge too. Dawn is probably the only person under sixty with a Cadillac. Therefore,” said Buffy chirpily, “there is no need to draw any unflattering driving comparisons. No one is saying that Dawn is a better driver than I am.”
“I taught her how to drive, Buffy,” said Spike. “I can safely say that she is a much better driver than you are.”
“I’m a perfectly fine driver. Dawn can’t even drive yet without an adult in the car to watch out for her,” snapped Buffy.
‘Stop sign!” Tara exclaimed loudly from the back. The truck screeched to a halt, barely stopped in time to avoid being clipped by another car. “Not a word,” said Buffy firmly. The rest of the ride took place in silence.
Cordelia was stunned by the ambiance of the Armory. “Wow, this place is really unbelievable.” Mahogany paneling accented stained glass windows. The floors were paved in gray cobblestones, with varying types of arms and armor hung on the walls.
The host led them to their table. Angel assisted Tara and Cordelia into their seats as Spike did the same for Buffy. They looked over their large burgundy leather menus. “These prices are insane, Angel,” murmured Cordy.
“It’s your birthday, Cordelia. The day that you were born was a very special day. It deserves to be celebrated,” he said, as he stared at her.
She looked over at him, eyes wide. “Thank you,” she said quietly.
The waiter came and took their orders, then came back with a bottle of champagne. After they were served, Angel raised his glass. “To Cordelia.”
“To Cordelia!” they all chorused, clinking their glasses.
Three bottles of champagne later, things had become progressively less sophisticated. “I kissed a girl once,” said Buffy. “It was at summer camp. Her name was Amanda. She had really soft lips.”
Cordelia handed her empty glass to Angel, who refilled it. “I kissed a girl at summer camp, too! I can’t remember her name, but she had the prettiest hair. It was a deep rich red, like Willow’s.”
At the mention of Willow’s name, the effervescence faded from the mood. Buffy and Tara both looked sad. The two men shared a look. Spike clapped his hands and stood up. “Let’s go girls. The Bronze is calling. Time to go shake your moneymakers.”
He helped Buffy up, as she lurched unsteadily in her heels. “Whee,” she said loudly. “I’m weeble wobbly.” He smiled down at her.
Angel peeled bills off a roll and threw them down on the table. Cordelia sank back her glass of bubbly and grabbed her wrap. Angel placed it gently around her shoulders as the group walked outside.
“It is such a pretty night,” said Tara. “The stars are so clear, and you can smell the ocean from here.” Spike helped her into the truck and then placed Buffy into the passenger seat. Angel helped Cordy step inside the massive vehicle.
“As the designated driver, I am responsible for your welfare,” intoned Spike. “Everybody buckled up?”
As everyone shouted their assent, he took off. “Let’s put the pedal to the metal.” He drove very fast, but in perfect control of the big truck. “I love this thing, Buffy,” he told her. “It’s got a lot of kick to it.” He smiled over at her, grinning wickedly.
“Yeah, that’s true. Enjoy trying to parallel park it, though,” said Buffy.
A short drive later, Spike pulled into the very first space on the end of the lot at the Bronze. “The parking gods have smiled upon me,” he joked.
They went into the club and sat down at their reserved table. ‘Can I fetch you some drinks, ladies?” the blonde offered.
“More champagne,’ said Cordelia. “Keep it coming.”
“Your wish is my command.” Spike went over to the bar.
“Buffy?” said a voice. She turned around and saw Xander.
“I really don’t want to fight any more,” she said unsteadily. “I’m having fun, with friends. People I love, who haven’t stabbed me in the back lately.”
He looked down at her, his eyes earnest. “Please, Buff. I don’t want to fight either. I just want to talk.”
She got up very carefully. “OK, let’s talk.” Wobbling slightly, she followed him upstairs. Angel turned to Cordelia. “Why don’t we go dance?”
“I thought you didn’t dance,’ she said. He gave her an appreciative look, admiring her and her strapless dress. “For you, I’ll make an exception.” She placed her hand in his with a smile as they walked to the dance floor. Angel was glad of the slow love song that gave him an excuse to pull her close.
Tara sat alone at the table, looking a little lost. She drummed her fingers on the table, absently looking around. Her face brightened when Spike appeared. He was laden with champagne in a metal bucket of ice, four flutes precariously pressed to his chest. He placed them down on the table, then opened the bottle with a small pop. “Where’s the rest of our little party?” he asked as he poured Tara a glass.
“Angel and Cordy hit the dance floor.” Tara paused slightly. “Bu-bu-buffy went off to talk to Xander.”
He tensed up and scanned the crowd. “Xander is here?”
She grabbed his wrist. He looked down angrily. “They’ve been friends a long time, Spike,” said Tara calmly. “If they can work this out, it would be good for both of them.”
Upstairs, Buffy sat with Xander, Anya and Willow. “We are so worried about you, Buffy,” said Anya. “We just want to make sure you’re okay.”
“Well, I’m not okay,” said Buffy shakily. “My best friends aren’t even talking to me, so how can I be okay?”
Willow looked at her, pain in her eyes. “Buffy, you know that we love you. But we can’t stand seeing you throw your life away on someone who isn’t even alive.”
Buffy pointed a wobbling finger at her friend. “You don’t understand, Willow. Spike is the person who saved my life.” She took a moment as she attempted to find focus. “I died,” she said, “to save all of you. I was in heaven, and I was so happy. I was at peace, content.”
She bit her lip as she held back tears. “When you all made your decision, and yanked me out, I was so lost.” She looked up and made eye contact with each of them. ‘You all saw how out of it I was when I came back. All I wanted was to die again. Dawn stopped me from ending my life. But it was Spike who made me live it.”
She pressed her shaking hands together, and hid them in her skirt. ‘When I saw him for the first time, I saw in his eyes how much he loved me. And I felt it too. I knew I loved him, that I’d loved him even before I died. When he looked at me, it was like a magnet to steel. It pulled me in. It kept me here, kept me strong. When I wanted to cut my wrists, or hang myself, or overdose on pills, I went to him. He’s the only reason I’m still alive.” Her voice broke, and she choked back a sob.
Xander’s eyes were full of sorrow and guilt. Willow’s tears ran down her face, unchecked. “I couldn’t tell him that I loved him. I knew it was wrong. I knew you all would hate it. I knew all the reasons why he wasn’t worthy of me.” Buffy smiled bitterly. “I was Saint Buffy, up on my pedestal, keeping the evil vampire in his place.” She paused for a second. “And even when I made love to him, when we became lovers, I stayed on that pedestal. I didn’t give him so much as a grain of affection. It was too close to the truth.”
Buffy looked up into Xander’s eyes. “Anya saw us together. I was horrified, ashamed that you all would learn my little secret. And so I threw Spike away.” She looked at Willow. ‘He tried to kill himself. He nearly died. That’s why Angel and Tara helped me with the ritual. I begged them to. I told them that if Spike died, I’d kill myself.” She stared at them, her eyes a hard, dark green. “It was the truth.”
Xander leaned forward. “But how can he mean that much to you, Buffy? How can one person mean the difference between life and death?”“He’s my heaven,” she said softly. “Being with him, it’s being back in heaven.” Willow’s sobs rang out. Buffy went to her. They rocked together, crying. Xander wrapped his arms around them. Anya placed her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. The four friends rocked back and forth, moving as one.
Down on the dance floor, Spike and Tara danced, moving gracefully. “I’m really glad that you’re my friend,” he said. She looked up at him, surprised. ‘You saved my life, healed Buffy. You went toe to toe with the Scoobies, even though I know it hurt you.” He looked down at her, his eyes sparkling. “Plus, now you’ll dance with me. And I can see all the way down your dress.” Taken aback, she looked downward. ‘You cannot, you creep!” she said with a flush, as he howled with laughter. She smacked him lightly, laughing herself, as they continued their dance.
Across the room, Cordelia and Angel swayed together. Her head rested gently on his shoulder. His hand was splayed widely across her bare back, touching as much of her as possible. They were lost in each other, held in a moment of rare peace.
Continued in Chapter Twelve: Slaves to Love