He sighed, and then reached back, sliding his hand down her thigh with one hand as she wriggled closer. “What time is it?” he murmured.
This was greeted with a yawn. “Is there anything going on?”
“The agenda for today is napping. And for a change of pace, later on, there will be napping.”
She could tell he was hesitating about something, and she counted the breaths till he finally said something. “What about Dawn?”
“She’s at Angel’s.”
Spike was silent for several moments too long, then said cautiously, “This is good?”
“I think it is,” she said quietly. “It used to be different. She used to really give him a hard time.” With that, he eased onto his back, his expression guarded. What’s this? She thought nervously.
“How does she give him a hard time?”
“You’re not going to find out from me.” She studied him for a second, then dropped her head to his chest.
“Oh, that’s just fine,” he said. “I’ll wait for my moment.”
“Thanks for the warning,” she said dryly. “I’m sure your big chance will come during one of those poker nights they have.”
“You sound…” She lifted her head to get a better look at his expression. “How do you sound? You don’t sound mad, I know that.”
“Maybe it’s pity,” he said. “She’s playing poker with Angel?” He grimaced. “Pity, luv. Definitely pity. That’s…just….wonderful. How is she going to learn anything from him? He’ll go on and on about the art of it, but he won’t show her how to slip that card up her---“ He hastily changed tacks at the sight of Buffy’s skeptically-narrowed eyes. “Oh, right,” he muttered. “Vampire with a soul and all that rot. Can’t see his hand in the mirror, can she? Never know he’s cheating, will she? And he does, too. But he even cheats in a boring way.”
“You’re channeling something scary there, Spike.”
“Well…It’s just that poker is…fun. It’s not something I associate with Angel. Not bloody something I should have to. Vampire with a soul, blah blah blah. Dawn told me that…you used to cry a lot when you and he were…together.“ He had the facial expression of someone who’d bitten into a lemon expecting an orange.
“Oh, boy, she told everybody that. And when exactly was this?” Buffy sighed. “I’m tempted to read her diary.” Then she blinked. “Oh, my God, she doesn’t have a diary, does she? It’s somewhere in Sunnydale.” She shifted herself off him till she was face down on the blanket. It took some getting used to, the new temperature of his body. “Can’t even think of stuff like that any more----it’s all down at the bottom of that pit. I can’t even think about basic things, because everything, everything is down there. It’s all lost.“
“Well…. I was lost, too,” Spike said. He picked at the blanket, dropping his eyes. “Not for the first time.”
“I’d blame the Watcher’s Council,” Buffy said quietly. “If they were around, really. Or the Initiative.” There was something uncomfortable waiting to be discussed, lurking in their conversation, and she tried to detour around it. “So…when did you and Dawn do all this talking? What did you say to the cops, anyway?”
“When you were---gone,” Spike said. “Did a lot of talking then. And the cops? Ah, I just looked pitiful and confused---did my Andrew impersonation.” Buffy snorted. “And the doc was a right bastard about those cops, too---I should’ve taken notes. He’s wasting himself as a human.”
“And you think a better career choice would be---?”
“Oh, he’d make a good demon. Not quite certain what was going on there, really. But that was his bloody hospital, you know.”
“He owned it?”
“Oh, no, not like that,” Spike said dryly. “He was the king there.” He looked wistful. “Know the feeling.” He dragged himself back to his subject with a visible effort, not noticing how Buffy’s face froze for a second as he looked off into the distance. “Started to get worried that he thought that the patients in the hospital were his, too.”
“Well, at least it worked.”
“It did.” He stroked her hair, softly, then touched her cheek. “You found me, didn’t you?” Then he cocked his head. “How did you find me, then?”
“The police asked me to identify the---the---girls.” She swallowed. “And then they just sort of mentioned you, not by name, you know---What name did you give them?”
“Oh, Smith,” he said dryly. “Figured Doe would be pushing it.”
“Well, you know….” She bit her lip for a minute, then gingerly continued. “Why didn’t you say something a bit more….unique?”
“Not enough time to think about it, with them hoverin’ over me like---bugs. Big, glaring, irritating bugs.” Spike shrugged. “Cops were pissed already that you’d snuck in there the once. Think they were expectin’ just to sign off on that case, long as I was out of it, and now…Don’t know what they thought you were doing. It’s not as if you banged a gong under my ear, is it? I think that’s what got the doc so pissed.”
“What? At me? The police? O the doctor?”
“Bit of everything. Police because they do like to blame stuff on whoever’s closest.” He shook his head. “The doc because you weren’t really supposed to be in there. His hospital, remember?”
“He was nice to me.”
“The police didn’t like you. So that tipped the balance, even if you did sneak into my room.”
“Next thing you know, they’ll be blaming you for the whole thing.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” she said dryly. A glance at the closet door revealed the shapes of all her new clothes, and she shivered suddenly and laid her face on the blanket, shifting away from him.
“It’s just---no rules now, are there? Before----it was breaking the rules.” She shivered again, as if something cold had walked across her back. Before, she thought, it was fight and have sex, and know that he was a vampire and I was a Slayer. Looking at him, she realized that it had actually been sort of comforting. She’d never had a relationship with a normal person before, assuming normal could be said of a former vampire. Unless he joins the CIA, she thought, he’s more normal than I’m used to. A flash of sheer terror made her swallow suddenly. I do not know how to do this. I do not know how to do this. Then she thought: successfully, that is.
“What?” Spike said again. “You have this frown on.”
“Oh, I was just thinking about---Dawn’s diary.”
“We can just get her another diary.” He grinned cheekily at her. “And then you can read it, while I deny all knowledge of how the lock got picked, and play good cop to your bad Slayer.” She smiled weakly, thinking, are you going to steal one like you used to? Nobody cares when you’re a vampire. But every little thing is important when you’re human.
“Oh, thanks.” She rested her chin on her fists and looked him in the eye for several long minutes. “Do you feel weird?”
Spike looked back, mouth opening and closing. “I’ve been feeling so odd for so long that it almost feel normal. Is that what you mean?”
“I don’t know.”
“That doesn’t exactly narrow it down, luv.”
“I know,” Buffy muttered. “But that’s what I’ve got.”
“Been hard for you, I expect.”
“I thought I was doing good.”
“That’s when you should be worried.”
“Oh, thanks,” Buffy said dryly. She sat up and stretched, sighing, and then looked around the room . It was all so ordinary, lying in bed on a sunny afternoon with her boyfriend. There was no battle of good and evil going on here, no great love story between a star-crossed Slayer and her demon lover. Something inside her seemed to shrink. This small apartment, this small life. Who is this? She gave him a rather watery smile and headed unsteadily toward the bathroom.
Spike looked at her departing form for a moment, puzzled. Then he got up and went to the bathroom door, hesitating for a second. Handcuffs, he thought. Hot candle wax, sex on breaks, sex in alleys, sex on floors. But knocking at the bathroom door seemed suddenly so…intimate. So common and yet so momentous. The shower started, and he hovered still in the doorway, even though she’d left it partially open. “Buffy?”
Hesitantly, he stepped inside, and he realized he’d barely raised his voice. She had her hands braced on the wall of the shower, the stream of water pouring full onto her face. When she didn’t acknowledge his presence, he swallowed again. Probably just the water, he thought. That’s right, it’s the water. He pulled open the shower door behind her and she lifted her face from the water and looked at him over her shoulder. A dozen quips rose in his mind and evaporated on his tongue like cotton candy. He slid his arms around her, turning his own face into the spray, the bandage on his right hand getting soggy.
Buffy stiffened for a second, then slowly eased into the embrace, her whole body seeming to sigh with familiarity. She’d always liked that about Spike, how they were close enough in size that he didn’t loom over her, and now the warmth of his skin was a pleasant counterpoint to that of the water. Freak, she told herself. No matter what’s going on, you’re going to find some way to be confused? It is confusing, she thought. Even Giles said so. She turned around in his arms, but he had to breathe and the water kept getting in the way. She giggled, just a breath, and turned, leaning against the wall, and he leaned against her for a moment before kissing her. Her tension was seeping away. Once, they had taken every opportunity for surreptitious sex, rushing and hiding, but now she realized that they didn’t have to hurry. It was sort of oddly comforting. Human Spike had limitations Vampire Spike had lacked, however. Letting herself relax into the kiss, though, letting herself get used to the newness of it all, she found that she liked the idea of just kissing, just feeling the muscles move in his body against her, finally getting a chance to touch all that skin that she’d grasped at so frantically during sex. She still wasn’t used to his temperature, the way it changed the taste of his mouth, made his kisses seem more vivid. It was startling the way something so simple changed everything. She found herself oddly tentative, kissing and retreating, pulling back just a bit. No hurry here, no rush to a climax, just slow and thorough, and finally she realized that her nerves had calmed. She pressed her forehead to his, touching his face with her fingers. “Ignore me. I’m just being weird.”
“I’m used to it.”
“No you’re not.”
“That sounds like a threat.”
“Uh---maybe an explanation?”
“Right, then,” he said agreeably. Reluctantly, she slid away, getting her hair wet enough to shampoo. Spike grumbled a little, but stopped when she got the soap and began swirling it over his chest. Her hands were unsteady. Somewhat uncertainly, he lathered her hair for her, and she stepped away only when it was time to rinse. The bandage on his hand was soaked, and he took it off, tossing it toward the little garbage pail across the room, and missing. They switched places, slipping past one another in the narrow space, and only when his back was to her did she allow her face to relax. That strange feeling that had departed when he kissed her returned with a vengeance. Taking a shower, lathering each other’s hair---these were the things she’d always avoided with him. They were so normal, so confusing. She stepped closer and suddenly slid her arms around him, dropping her chin to his shoulder. Spike jumped a little, then stilled.
“Okay,” she muttered. Holding him was what worked, then; she felt better somehow. I’ll have to remember that, she thought. “Just general weirdness.”
“This can’t be new to you.”
Yes it is, she thought. Oh, yes it is.
After a bit, she released him, her face flaming, and scrubbed at his hair. Clean, it was curly and boyish in a way she couldn’t define, and something tiny twisted in her heart. No more bleach, she thought, and another one of those odd little twinges sliced through her. He rinsed, ducking under the water, and she quickly stepped out of the shower. By the time he turned the water off, she’d wrapped herself in a towel, and picked up the discarded bandage with fingertips to toss in the garbage. When he got out of the shower, he looked sheepish. “Sorry.”
He nodded at the garbage. “I missed.”
“It’s okay.” She managed a cheerful expression. “This gives me hope that there might be somebody who plays basketball worse than me.”
“You play basketball?”
“I would if I could find somebody really, really short---and really, really clumsy,” Buffy said cheerfully. “Okay---not my best joke.”
“No,” Spike said dryly. He ducked beneath a towel to scrub vigorously at his hair, and when he surfaced, she’d gone. He blinked around the steamy bathroom, eyes distant. A little monster, he thought sickly, as if he was hearing someone else’s words.
He patted dry with one hand, after examining the round red scar on his hand. Anyone who’d seen the original medallion would know what it was, and he wondered how many people or things could do precisely that. He wrapped himself in a towel and padded into the empty bedroom, hot now with the afternoon sun. The sound of traffic attracted his attention, and he followed it to the living room, where a small balcony faced the hills, on the other side from the bedroom. He stared, entranced, stepping to the rail in his towel.
That was where Buffy found him, leaning against the railing, head tipped back, eyes closed, motionless except for his chest, as if he were breathing in sunlight, instead of air. Hearing her, he blinked and looked at her, blue eyes swimming. He stared a long moment. “You did this.”
“No,” she whispered. “You did. You did it all on your own, Spike.”
“You were always there.”
“I was bad for you,” she said, but her voice cracked. “You did something really good, Spike.”
He shook his head, dazed. “You weren’t yourself.”
“But you were.” She took a deep breath.
“I don’t know if I know who that is anymore.”
She led him to the sofa, and made him sit down, where the sunlight drenched him, and turned his hair to spun gold. She sat next to him with her feet curled up under her, and ran her fingers through his hair while he stared at her as if trying to remember who she was. He took a deep breath, and dropped his head to her shoulder, and she slowly sagged down on the couch, till they were lying entwined, side by side and wrapped together. He couldn’t talk, and she didn’t know what to say. Well, Buffy thought. At least that’s something.
Continued in Chapter 10