Buffy leaned against the door and watched him.
“You look thin,” she said, studying him.
Spike turned and looked at her over his shoulder. “Same could be said for you,” he said quietly. His voice, always so quiet now.
“You’re using too much detergent,” she pointed out as she watched the sink fill with suds.
“Right,” he agreed. Buffy sighed.
“I was sort of hoping for a snarky rebuttal, Spike.”
“Xander’s not here,” he murmured, as if he didn’t hear her.
“Yes, I know.”
“I’ll tell him you came by.”
Buffy walked to his side and grabbed a dish towel. She began drying the soaking dishes left on the counter.
That’s how Xander found them, minutes later. Standing quietly, maybe even companionably, at the kitchen sink. He paused for a second as a very odd feeling came over him. For the first time in ever, he didn’t clench his fists or frown seeing them in the same room. It looked right, somehow.
“Gaaah,” Xander said, shaking the insanity out of his head.
“Hey, Xander. Spike was flooding the counter.”
“I thought you said he was a horrible slob of a roommate,” Buffy grinned. Xander shrugged.
“Not so bad after a few weeks, actually. Spike’s also a pretty mean cook.”
“You cook?” Buffy said, turning to look at the blonde vampire. He was looking at her, but when their eyes met he quickly looked away.
“The bloody Food TV network is addictive,” Spike said by way of explanation, then nodded quickly and left the room.
Buffy stared at her old friend, eyebrows raised.
Finally, Xander frowned. “What? Why are you staring at me like that?”
Buffy shrugged. “I thought I’d come here and see the place in shambles, or at the very least Spike locked in a closet.”
Xander started putting groceries away. “Well, yeah. No.”
“Ah. Thanks for clearing it up so astutely.”
Xander shrugged. “I still hate the guy with every fiber of my being, but you should try his chili. Plus, he’s trying.”
“I’m sorry, what bizarro world have I entered?” Buffy said, sitting up on the counter and grabbing the tortilla chips out of Xander’s hands before he put them away.
“The world called Stranger Things Have Happened, I guess. We live in a kooky world, Buffy.”
“So true,” Buffy mumbled as she chowed down on chips.
“Except for the nightmares, I think he’s okay. He does tend to hog the remote though.”
Xander rooted through the fridge. “Yeah, he’s practically mute except when he sleeps, then its another round of scream-bloody-murder.”
Buffy sat very still. “What kinds of things does he scream?”
Xander shut the refrigerator door, stood still for a minute, then looked up at Buffy. “Whoever he’s talking to, he says ‘I’m sorry’ a lot. I’m not saying I feel for the guy, at all, but it’s kind of awful, whatever it is he’s dreaming about. He doesn’t sleep much though, so it’s only happened a few times.”
Buffy just nodded, suddenly feeling inexplicably sad.
“I better go,” she said finally, hopping off the counter.
“You sure you don’t want to stay? I got a movie. And microwave popcorn complete with day-glo fake butter topping.”
Buffy considered the invitation. “I don’t think it’s a good idea. I don’t want to freak Spike out.”
“I don’t think anything bugs him anymore. Nothing… phases him. The first week he was here I tried to pick all sorts of fights with him. He just stood there, taking it. Kind of took all the fun out of it. I mean, you’ve seen him the few times he’s helped out. Does what we ask him, then leaves.”
“Spike?” Buffy called out suddenly. “Get your coat.”
She looked at Xander. “I’ll take him on patrol, get him out of your hair for a bit.”
Xander nodded. “If I thought for a second he’d try to hurt you again, I wouldn’t let him go.”
Buffy stared at Xander evenly. “If I thought for a second he’d try to hurt me again, I wouldn’t have gotten him out of that basement. And I will say this only once. This is the last time I want to hear it mentioned again. I live with it, every day. Just like I had to live with the fact that Angel tried to kill us all. But it’s different. It was different with Angel when he got his soul back, and it is different with Spike.”
Xander held up his hands. “I know… I guess in my roundabout, lugheaded way, that’s what I was trying to say. That I know. And I’m sorry.”
Spike cleared his throat from the doorway, and Buffy jumped.
“You called?” he asked.
Buffy nodded. “Are you up for patrolling?”
Spike looked at her blankly for a second, as if she spoke a foreign language. Then he nodded. “Yeah.” Then Spike turned to Xander and almost, almost grinned. “Don’t wait up.”
“So, read any good books lately?”
They were taking a familiar path through one of the larger cemeteries, and Spike had not said a word. Buffy remembered all the times she used to have to tell him to shut up, and now all she wanted was for him to say something. Anything.
“That’s a common twenty-first-century conversation inducer,” Buffy explained. Suddenly Spike shoved Buffy roughly aside.
“An interesting rebuttal, I must say,” she grumbled from where she had landed, frowning at him in confusion before she saw the demon fall out of the tree landing right where she had just stood. In a blur of movement, Spike took a large knife hidden under his sleeve and gutted the demon, slicing him open waist to neck.
“Wow, unnecessary roughness…” Buffy began, right before she saw scary little head pop out of the demon’s open chest and growl. Spike effortlessly twisted its neck, snapping it with a horrible pop. The grotesque and thankfully dead demon fell to the ground with a thud. The ensuing silence almost made Buffy laugh.
“And the award for Best Alien Impersonation goes to…”
“Flarnegh demon,” Spike finished for her. “Very rare in the Western hemisphere. Scary buggers.”
“I wouldn’t have known about the whole head in the torso thing. Thanks.” Buffy stood up and dusted herself off.
“Did I hurt you?” Spike asked, staring at her with an unreadable expression.
“What, that? No, please. I’ve had much worse.”
“I know... I’m sorry.” He turned and started walking away quickly.
“No, I didn’t mean you. Wait up!” She caught up to him and grabbed his arm. “Spike, for the love of all things holy… I mean, not so holy…” Buffy sighed, frustrated, dropped his arm. “Will you talk to me?”
Spike swallowed. “I don’t know what to say.”
“I don’t know, say something familiar. How about , ‘Slayer, you silly bint.’”
Spike just looked at her.
“No, okay, then. Tell me how much you hate Xander and how he’s a tool.”
Spike raised his eyebrows. “Tool?”
“Yeah, the American version of ‘bleedering buggery buggah.’”
“Why do you want me to talk to you? Why aren’t you throwing me out of town, or staking me, or something?”
“Don’t be a jack-ass,” she snapped. “I just… want things to be normal.”
“Buffy,” Spike sighed. “I don’t even know what that is.”
“Well, I don’t either. But I don’t like things like this. Tell me about the nightmares.”
Spike frowned down at her, his face cold. “Never. Can we continue to patrol now?”
Buffy sat down on the ground and crossed her legs.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m not going anywhere,” she said. She crossed her arms to give a strong resolve vibe.
“Fine,” he bit out, and walked away. Then walked back about 7 seconds later. Buffy stared up at him. Finally Spike sat down across from her, sighing.
“Spike, I need your help on this. Everyone’s help. And if I hear “From Beneath You It Devours” one more cryptic time I’m going to lose it. So what were your nightmares? Maybe it could clue us in.”
Spike leaned his hands back on the cool grass and looked up at the sky. “If my dreams had anything to do with that, you know I’d tell you. I’ve told you everything, about the visits in the basement, but since I’ve been out of there, I don’t get those visions, visits, whatever.”
“Okay.” Buffy watched him watch the sky. He looked exactly the same. She remembered the first time she saw him, remembered the thousands of expressions that had crossed his face over the years when he looked at her. Hatred, infatuation, admiration, ecstasy, shock, love. Above all, love. She could not comprehend her feelings for him. Doing so only led to confusion and a massive headache. She tried to act cold to him, thinking that was how she should behave. She tried to ignore him, and in the end it came to this. She always sought him out, somehow. She wanted to try to forgive him, or at least admit she already had, and she wanted to understand who he was now, what he became. For her.
Spike’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “I am here to help you, whenever you need me. But I’m not going to cry on your shoulder about the things I…” He stopped, frowned, looked back at her. “I’m not going to mope about what I cannot undo.”
“No one’s calling you Mope Boy.”
“You’re just so goddamn quiet, is all, and it’s starting to piss me off.” She stood up, then reached a hand out to Spike. He looked at her, eyes full of questions, full of unnamed sorrows. Finally he took her hand, and she pulled him up. Somewhere in her muddled thoughts Buffy realized she didn’t jump when she touched him. She didn’t mind it. She slowly let go of his hand.
“Let’s talk chili.”
“Chili?” Spike asked, humor in his voice.
Buffy shrugged. “It’s a start.”
“Chili’s nothing. Any, uh, tool, can make a decent bowl of chili. It’s the stuff you don’t expect that makes it good. Like cinnamon…”
“Cinnamon? In chili?”
“Can I finish?”
“By all means.” Buffy smiled. They began to walk side by side as Spike finished his story.
Continued in Chapter Two