Spoilers: through Potential
Summary: Buffy and Spike share a few quiet moments
Disclaimer: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, the series and all characters owned by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy, grrr, argh, and all that.
Thanks: as always to Kelly for the beta. Thanks also to Kimi - she knows why ;)
After the soul, he'd thought perhaps everyone had been right all along, and he was just obsessed. That's all it was. Must have been to do this to himself. And he'd cried over the fact that perhaps he didn't love her after all. And then he'd seen her again, and he knew it was so. He did love her. More, even. And he cried harder.
And now, well, she was killing him with kindness, that's what she was doing. Worst kind of torture. He had to constantly tamp down the hope that swelled within him with every smile she gave, every concerned look, every casual touch.
Tonight, they were the only two who were still awake. Unusual, that, with the house full she had. But he lay in the cot she'd made up for him in a corner of the basement, and listened to the sounds of a slumbering house. The humming refrigerator, an assortment of heartbeats which eventually found a common rhythm, Harris turning over on the sofa, the little sighs and snores of their teenage charges. Couldn't make out the words, but he could hear the low tones which Willow and Kennedy spoke in long after the others had gone to sleep. Finally, even they were silent.
And then he heard her, making her nightly rounds. The floorboards shifted overhead, even under her slight weight, followed by the basement door creaking open, her slippers scuffing on the wooden stairs.
She did this almost every night. Would come down here and check on him, while he pretended to sleep. Watch him for a moment, and leave. Reassuring herself that he was still there, he supposed.
Tonight, though, she didn't leave. She stood there, watching him, and he could hear her heart racing as though she'd just finished a fight, though she'd been home for hours. She took a step closer, then stopped. He opened his eyes and propped himself up on his elbows.
"What's wrong, pet?" he whispered. No one would have heard them down here. What was it that made one want to whisper in the middle of the night?
"I...I had a bad dream." She shook her head and smiled ruefully. "God, that sounded lame. What am I, four?"
He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the cot. He'd taken to wearing sweatpants to bed, what with all the little girls running around. Not to mention Buffy. "Well, I'm not going to put anyone down for fearin' bad dreams, that's for damn sure," he shrugged. "Pot, kettle." She gave him that pained expression she got, every time he mentioned any sort of soul trauma. He tried not to complain too much. Didn't like that look. "Want to talk about it?"
She nodded, and he patted the cot next to him. She was wearing those thin cotton drawstring pyjamas she favored, the kind that came in all the pastel candy colors, and a little camisole. She'd wrapped a throw around her shoulders to ward off the chill. Now she sat shivering in her blanket, staring at the floor, not saying a word.
"One of those prophetic, slayer-type dreams, was it?" he prodded.
She shook her head. "Don't think so. Just one of your run of the mill, expose all your insecurities types."
He waited patiently. Not exactly his strong suit, but if he pushed too hard she'd just get up and leave. And he didn't think he wanted her to leave.
"I failed," she finally said.
"Failed at what?"
"Saving the world," she sighed. "Everyone was dead. Everyone on the planet. Except for me. That was my punishment for messing up, I guess. I was left by myself. Alone." She sniffled and put her hands to her face, pushing back the tears.
He swallowed hard. God, she touched him so. Weight of the world on her slender shoulders. And that was her worst fear, of course, that she'd be left alone. Ironic, really, since it was so hard for her to let anyone get close.
"Well," he said, clearing his throat, "in that case I sincerely hope it was *not* a slayer dream."
She snickered indelicately and pushed a lock of hair behind her ear so she could give him that sideways look of hers. "I knew there was a reason I came down here," she said.
They sat in silence for a moment. "God, it's quiet," she said.
"Everyone's asleep, `cept for us."
"I should go," she said, wrapping the throw a bit more tightly around her.
"Alright." Her hair fell into her face again, and he reached out, hesitating briefly before tucking it back in place.
She looked so small wrapped up in that blanket, and she gazed at him with huge, moist eyes. "Do you think you could, maybe, just...." She broke off, unable to continue.
"No," she said with a smile, "I can't say it. I cannot stoop to that level of cliched patheticness." But, she didn't make a move, though her lavender slippers seemed to have taken on a new level of fascination for her.
"Chicken," he teased.
She rolled her eyes. "Alright." She took a deep breath. "Hold me? Oh God, I said it! I'm the Needy Queen of Needville!" She groaned and hid her face in her hands.
Now he remembered why her loved her. Such a bundle of contradictions, this girl. Strongest woman he'd ever known, and the most vulnerable. Capable of inflicting such pain, with her fists and her words, and then these moments that just brought him to his knees.
"It's alright, Buffy." He put an arm around her and she leaned into his embrace, like it was the most natural thing in the world.
"Thank you for not making fun of me," she mumbled.
He rested his chin on top of her head for a moment, and then heard her yawn. "You need to get some sleep."
"Why does everyone always say that?"
"Because it's true."
She turned her face up to him, so close he could smell the minty toothpaste she'd used. "I don't think I can go back up there...alone." She dropped her eyes.
"You can stay here," he offered, and regretted it the moment the words left his lips. God, what was he saying? How many times had he asked her to stay with him during their affair? William the Bloody, begging for a scrap of affection. It was humiliating. Her words came painfully back to him. `No, Spike. You know I can't stay. Someone might...will you just stop bugging me about this? This is all we have. Cuddling in the afterglow is not part of the package.'
"O.K." she said. She took the wrap from around her shoulders and waited for him to lay back down, fussing with the sheets and blankets before snuggling up to his side. He could sense every molecule of her body that was pressed against him, smell her hair, her skin, feel her warm, moist breath. The hope swelled up again, and he thought he might die from the exquisite pain of it.
"So, are you going to tell everyone about Buffy the Scaredy Slayer?" she asked. Her head was on his chest, and he could feel her voice reverberate through his body. Her tone was teasing, but he thought she must be worried that the others would find out.
"Nah, don't want to ruin your reputation as a hard ass." She slapped him playfully. "`Sides," he said carefully, "they might think something was going on between us."
"Isn't there?" she asked.
He lifted his head up to look at her. "What?"
She didn't return his gaze, and he was left looking at the top of her head. "I...I mean, they already think that anyway." She took a breath. "It's just, I don't care. If they know I was here. O.K.?"
He smiled, though she couldn't see it, and dared reach up a hand to stroke her hair. "O.K."
Buffy shifted her weight, snuggling in closer to him. "This is nice," she murmured as she drifted off. "Better late than never."
He lay in the dark, and listened to the sounds of a slumbering house. Which now included her heartbeat. Her breathing. The rustling of the covers as she stirred, then settled.
At least one of them would get some sleep tonight.