Setting: Season 7. Spoilers through BtVS "The Killer in Me" and AtS "Calvary"
Thank you to Sandy from The Gutter for the inspiration for this one.
"They've got to get out of the house," Buffy told the group gathered around the kitchen counter. "The girls are losing their edge. They need a break." I need a break, she admitted to herself, realizing that her original plans for an intensive Saturday training weren't going to work.
"So...a slayer field-trip," Xander suggested. "What's the drill? Willy's bar? The local mortuaries?"
"Something definitely non-slaying-related. Something teenage appropriate."
"You mean the mall?" Dawn asked hopefully.
Buffy had to smile at her sister's enthusiasm. "Sounds like a good idea. Think you and Amanda can come up with a plan that includes Rona and Vi? And, yes, you'll get money."
She took Dawn's bouncing in place as an affirmative. "Xander, could you and Anya do something with Molly and Chloe? If you take Andrew with you, I'll be really happy."
"Need a little geek-free time?" Xander asked with a grin.
"A world of yes." Buffy turned to Willow. "Would you mind taking..."
"Kennedy out somewhere? Sure. Give us a chance to talk." Willow leaned forward, resting her elbows on the counter. "What are you going to do during all of this, Buffy? You need down time, too."
Buffy slid off the stool, feeling much better already. "Oh, I have plenty of pampering to do. Fix my nails, lie on the couch with some Ben & Jerry's. While you're gone, I'm going to do my best to relax."
God, she was bored. No, bored wasn't the word when her mind was racing ninety miles an minute. The gang had been gone barely half an hour, armed with instructions to stay in groups, avoid dark alleys and be home before the sun set, and now Buffy was wishing someone was here.
Gradually, as she lay on the couch and stared at the ceiling, the faint rumbling of the washer in the basement penetrated her brain. Someone was here and that realization made Buffy smile.
She found Spike sitting on the floor, back resting against the wall, engrossed in a book. Halfway down the stairs, Buffy sat, careful to make no sound as she watched him. He looked peaceful, the strain she'd seen on his face so often lately gone for the moment. Of course, the chip being gone probably helped, meaning no more headaches to worry about. As he turned the page, she wondered if he knew she was there.
The buzzer on the washer went off and he looked up at her with a smile. He'd known, and that started a warmth inside her as she rose and finished descending the stairs. Joining him at the washer, she helped shift the load of clothes to the dryer. "Everyone's gone for the afternoon."
"I heard. The little birds were all a-twitter at the prospect. Nice to have some quiet for once."
"Especially since I managed to get Xander to take Andrew with him."
"Geek bonding. Be still, my heart."
She heard the snark in his voice and looked up to see the familiar smirk. How long had it been since she'd heard him sound like his old self?
"Don't worry," he continued. "I'll stay down here so I won't disturb your quiet time."
The warmth froze and shattered into shards of disappointment. "You're welcome to come upstairs."
A low chuckle and he shook his head. "I appreciate the gesture, Slayer, but we can probably survive the afternoon without you having to baby-sit me."
"Spike, I'm not..." She reached out and laid her hand on top of his. It was cool to her touch, but she knew if her hand lingered there, his skin would begin to warm. "I'd like you to come upstairs -- I mean, if you don't mind."
He looked down at her hand, then up to her face. There was a question in his eyes she wasn't sure she could answer, but she couldn't turn away either. "We could just sit...the couch would be a lot more comfortable if you're going to read."
"Can wait. You deserve a chance to relax, too."
She thought he was going to pull away, retreat like he had so often recently. Like she had done to him so many times. She remembered what it had been like after she'd first come back, how nice it had been to simply sit with him. She wanted to recapture those moments, but didn't know how.
He considered her, blue eyes thoughtful. After a moment, he gently slid his hand from beneath hers and punched the button to start the dryer. "Let's go upstairs."
They started at opposite ends of the couch once Buffy had made certain no stray sunbeams peeped through the curtains. She idly flipped through the television channels while he read. After a few minutes, she felt herself begin to relax at last, drawing her feet up onto the couch as she snuggled down into the pillows. This was nice, just the two of them with no need to speak.
Unfortunately, the couch wasn't big enough for her to stretch out without poking him.. After about the sixth time, he got up. "Don't go," she complained.
"Just moving to the chair, luv. That way you can stretch out to your heart's content."
"But..." She felt inexplicably whiny, wanting to stretch out yet not wanting him to sit anywhere but with her. "Can't we figure something out?"
He looked down at her with a smile. "Only way I can think of is if you lie down with your head in my lap."
Spike headed for the armchair, as if he was certain she'd reject the idea. "Okay," she said quietly.
He stopped. "Do you realize what you're suggesting?"
She sat up, her hands gripping the front of the seat cushions. "I did a lot of thinking while you were...while we were looking for you. About us. About...things."
She'd been thinking a lot since she'd rescued him as well. The problem with having a house full of potential slayers was never having a moment's opportunity to act on those thoughts. Instead, she'd watched as his wounds healed and he took up his strange position in the household, integral to the training and work, yet somehow apart as if he didn't feel he fit. This was the first chance she'd had to speak with him privately and now she wasn't sure what to say.
Taking a deep breath, she plunged in as best she could. "I don't want us to be uncomfortable around each other. There are lots of things we need to talk about and sort out, but I don't know if we have time to do it properly before everything comes crashing down or even before everyone comes home and we don't have a chance to be alone again if ever."
He was frowning and she pushed on. "I meant what I said in the basement before you were captured. I saw you change even before you went to get your soul. When I came back, you were the only one who seemed to understand that there were times I needed to just sit and be. The vampire I met in the alley outside the Bronze wouldn't have done that."
"He might have if he couldn't bite you," Spike offered, his tone light. It was the same tone he'd used to speak with her in those first dark days, when she'd claim she was going on patrol and would end up just sitting in his crypt with him for hours.
"You watched out for Dawn, you risked everything to help me...you did all that before..."
"I did other things." He returned to sit next to her. "Things that were less..."
They sat in silence for a moment. Then words tumbled from both of them.
"I couldn't believe you'd do that..."
"I only wanted you to love me..."
"I was in shock..."
"I couldn't live with myself..."
Just as suddenly as they'd begun, the words stopped and they were left looking at each other. "It's not that easy," she said slowly.
He nodded. "I know. We can't put it behind us with just a few words."
Buffy hesitated, chewing on her lower lip. "It takes time."
"And patience and effort."
"We don't have time."
She watched as the disappointment registered in his eyes and his chest swelled with a sigh. "I know. Foolish to think we could set everything right. Just know, I'll do whatever I can to help and I've always got your back."
Before he could rise and make the exit he was probably planning, Buffy grabbed his hand. "I meant I know we should take the time, work through what you did, what I did because if we don't there could be problems later. But if we did that, time's slipping away and we don't have much."
Had he always tilted his head to the side in just that way, watching her with something akin to wonder? There was an intensity in those blue eyes that made her want to shy away, but she was determined to stand her ground this time. "I don't know what's going to happen, and I know we're not all going to make it, no matter what I say to the troops. I've got lots of regrets, Spike, and if I'm going to die a third time, I don't want one of them to be that you and I...that we...that I never told you..."
She was floundering, losing the thread of what she wanted to say. Her courage began to desert her and she tensed, ready to flee. Then, as if he could read the chaos in her mind, Spike reached out to cup one cheek in his hand and kissed her.
All her memories of kisses between them were bruising and urgent. He wanted to show her how he felt; she wanted just to feel something. This was soft and sweet, chasing away the worries and fears that crowded her mind, her thoughts shifting, ordering. When he pulled back, he was smiling, his thumb gently caressing her cheek. "I love you," Buffy said, the words falling easily out of her mouth.
"I love you," he replied. He'd provoked her to anger with those words; now they roused something else inside.
She initiated the kiss this time, letting her arms encircle his neck, ignoring the "clunk" of his book when it dropped to the floor. At this moment, nothing mattered except him and her. This was their respite.
Buffy stirred sleepily as the noise associated with teenaged girls penetrated her consciousness. She was vaguely aware of a hand gently stroking her hair, the touch soft and wonderfully familiar. She was on the couch, that much she could remember, having stretched out to nap after yawning three times while she and Spike had been kissing. He'd teased her about how he clearly held her interest and she'd gotten annoyed, only to realize he wasn't trying to provoke but let her know it was okay that she needed the rest.
She remembered settling with her head on his lap and how just having him near helped wash away the tensions, letting her body find the sleep it'd been craving.
The sound of girls being shushed, then Buffy heard footsteps approach the couch. "Is she asleep?" Willow asked in a whisper.
"Coming up, I think," Spike replied, his voice just as quiet. "Should be on her feet in a few minutes."
"Don't wanna," Buffy muttered, burrowing into him as much as she could.
"Clear sign she's coming up. Buffy always complains like that when she's waking up. At least, she did in high school when we had sleepovers."
"I'd like to let her sleep as long as I can; she needs the rest."
Buffy agreed with Spike and wanted to tell them that their quiet whispering was preventing her from dropping back down, but it would take too much effort.
"She's been working awfully hard, but I'm not certain she'd really like the potentials to see her like this. I got Dawn to take them in the kitchen, but Xander and Anya should be back soon and..."
The front door closed with a bit of a bang, followed by Andrew announcing, "Why is Buffy sleeping with her head in Spike's lap?"
"...you know Andrew won't be able to keep his mouth shut," Willow finished.
Buffy managed to open her eyes with that, struggling to sit upright. "You should have woken me when they came in."
"Thought it better you come up naturally." Spike smiled at her. "Besides, you looked very peaceful."
"Maybe, but I bet my hair looks like a dead cat."
He reached out and pushed a stray strand behind her ear. "Not at all. Looks perfect."
Buffy turned to look at Willow, who mouthed "cat." Well, Spike was definitely passing the boyfriend test. "I'll be back down in a minute," she told him, reaching out to squeeze his hand.
The smile he gave her at the simple gesture could have lit the building. Xander, in contrast, looked none too happy, though Buffy wasn't certain if that was because of Spike or because Andrew kept trying to whisper something in his ear. Deciding not to stick around to find out, she headed for the stairs, fully intent on putting herself to rights and getting back down as soon as she could...before the questions and arguments started.
It wasn't surprising that Willow followed her, flopping on the bed as Buffy tried to remove her hair clip from a tangle without pulling too hard. "You look like you had a relaxing afternoon."
As invitations to spill went, that one wasn't bad. "It was...nice," she admitted.
"Must have been, given how comfy you looked with Spike and all. Just decided he'd make a nice pillow?"
The clip came free and Buffy laid it on her dressing table before turning to face the inquisition. "You're just going to sit there and ask questions until I tell you everything, aren't you?"
Willow looked completely unrepentant. "That's what best friends are for."
Despite the confidence she'd felt when she'd spoken the words, Buffy found herself hesitating. Admitting how she felt to Spike was one thing; admitting how she felt about Spike to her friends was a completely different matter. "You know I was wound pretty tight over getting Spike back," she said, looking down at hands that hadn't seen a manicure in forever. "Part of it was because we needed to get him away from the First, from whatever plan they had for him, but a lot of it was because I realized I cared for him and I've lost too many people I care for."
"You care for Xander and you don't curl up on the couch with him like that."
"Because I don't love Xander like that." There. She'd said the words and was rewarded with silence from Willow. Unable to stand it for more than a few seconds, Buffy looked up to find her friend staring at her with a somber expression.
"Buffy...we haven't talked about it because, hey, kind of personal, but Xander told me what he did."
"Xander doesn't know!" The words came in frustration. "He came in after Spike had left. I just wish he'd let us deal with it rather than telling the whole world what he thinks happened."
"So, Spike didn't..."
"No, he didn't and that's not what this is about. This is about the fact I'm finally admitting I love Spike and we've got things to work out, but I'm not going to wait for a 'someday' that might not come." Buffy was on her feet, pacing the confines of the room. "I know, I know. I'm falling for a souled vampire again and there are all the Angel issues to worry about, not to mention the fact that I think I fell in love with him before he got the soul and Angel was different from Angelus, but Spike's still the same Spike, only with a soul and am I making sense here?"
Willow sat up, legs crossed. "Let me try to summarize. You love Spike and you're thinking of making with the smoochies?"
"Big time. We did on the couch, make with the smoochies, I mean. I just suddenly felt so relaxed being with him that I started drifting off." Buffy joined Willow on the bed. "I know everyone's got issues about Spike, but I don't have time to be cautious and serious about this. I shouldn't...I mean, what example am I setting for the girls? But I need him, Willow. I need what he can give me. Can you understand that?"
"Yes," Willow admitted cautiously. "I mean, I didn't think there'd be anyone after Tara and even if there was, I wouldn't be thinking about it this soon."
"But there's Kennedy and no time."
Willow offered a sheepish smile. "I guess we're kind of in the same boat. I think Xander's going to have an easier time of mine than yours, though."
"Xander!" Buffy pushed herself to her feet and grabbed her brush, looking in the mirror as she pulled it through her hair with somewhat frantic strokes. "He's down there with Spike. I didn't mean to be up here that long."
Willow offered to make certain Spike hadn't been turned to ashes and told Buffy to take the time she needed to make herself presentable. Presentable. It'd been a while since she'd worried about that. She brushed the tangles from her hair and started to pull it back, but decided against it. Hadn't Spike always said he liked it long?
When she came downstairs, Spike wasn't dusty, though he was being grilled by both Willow and Dawn, a half-pleased, half-helpless look on his face. Andrew was sulking in the corner as usual and various potentials were scattered about the living room, all doing their best to avoid looking at Spike. Oh, yeah. It was a big secret.
Xander wasn't in sight, which meant he was probably in the kitchen, giving Anya an earful. He could wait for a few minutes, then they'd talk. First, though...
Spike's head turned toward her as she approached and she didn't miss the way his eyes trailed down her body appraisingly. Bad Buffy! "Dawn, can I borrow you?"
The look her sister gave her was a far cry from the enthusiasm of earlier that day and a clear announcement Buffy was In Trouble. Silently, arms crossed over her chest, she followed as Buffy led her to the far end of the living room. "I'm guessing you've figured out something's up."
"No. I think you panic about every vampire you meet." Dawn took a deep, put-upon breath. "I thought you said it was over."
"It was. It's back on again...and it's serious this time. I've given this a lot of thought and I really care for him."
"Even with Anya? Even with, well, you know."
"We've talked about 'you know'; we're dealing with it. As for Anya...I've seen Spike do stupider things while he was drunk."
Dawn stood there, doing her best to look annoyed, but Buffy could sense the weakening. There'd been a gradual thaw since Buffy had brought him home and she hadn't missed how Dawn had thrown him the Bringer knife without hesitation when they'd taken out some of the First's minions at the school. "If you're seeing Spike, does this mean I can date?"
Buffy restrained herself from the knee-jerk "no." "Once we've dealt with the First. Right now, I'd worry too much about you wandering off with a boy alone."
"What about a school dance? The staff usually chaperones, so you'd be there."
Clearly Dawn had someone in mind. "We'll see," she promised and headed for the kitchen. As expected, Xander was there. "I mean, it's crazy. We know what happened with Angel. One happy and poof!"
"Maybe Spike can't give her a happy," Anya said as she stirred a pot of spaghetti sauce. "I mean, I offered and he wasn't enthusiastic at all."
Buff stepped in before Xander could explode. "I don't need to guess the topic of conversation."
Anya shrugged. "He's jealous because he thinks Spike will be giving you orgasms soon and he's not getting any."
"Let's talk on the porch." Xander, for some reason, offered no resistance when Buffy grabbed his arm and pulled him toward the door.
"She really is amazing," Xander said, staring into the darkness of the backyard. "Sometimes I think she does it on purpose just to fluster me."
There were a world of issues to discuss there, but Buffy chose to sidestep them. "She's not completely wrong."
"About Spike?" He shoved his hands into his pockets. "I figured that, seeing you on the couch with him. You sure that soul's properly anchored?"
"Yes." The question had come up between kisses, along with the question of if there was enough time before everyone came home. "It's not a curse, like Angel's. The demon's not lurking in there, waiting to get out."
"The demon's always lurking in there, Buffy. The soul just gives it a friendlier face. You're not afraid he's suddenly going to go all sleeper on you at an awkward moment?"
"I think I might notice if he started singing or talking to someone who wasn't there, and there's got to be a way to find out what the trigger is and defuse it. We just haven't figured it out yet. Look, Xander, I know you don't like Spike..."
"That is an understatement. Try hate. Although, I have to admit, Andrew's rapidly closing on him. No, after this afternoon, I think I hate Andrew more than Spike."
She had to laugh. "That bad?"
"Words do not begin to describe it. Look, you're doing all this to see if I'm okay with you and Spike, right? I'm not okay. I'm several counties away from being okay with it. Problem is I don't actually get a say, do I?"
On impulse, Buffy hugged him. "Can you try to get along?"
"I'll do my best." He hugged back. "I just hope you're right about him."
Continued in Chapter Two