Spoilers: S5 (early)
Disclaimer: All characters from BtVS are not mine, I don't own them, yada yada yada.
Summary: Buffy and Spike call a truce...over hot toddy.
Copyright E. Marney 2001
When the door swings open, they just stare at each other for a moment or two. Her plaits are bedraggled, her nose is red, dripping, and she is dwarfed beneath jacket, coat, scarf, hat. He, by contrast, is like the eye of the storm - neat, dry and composed, long black sleeves his only concession to the weather, nicotine-stained fingers his only decoration.
His eyebrows lift in query, but before he can spit out a caustic remark and break her resolve she delivers her peace offering.
"Can I come in?"
This politeness stops his mouth firmly. She's asking to come into his home - now he's confused. Anything could happen. He makes a snap decision, opens the door wide and steps back, giving her entrée with the tilt of his head and the line of his body.
Her step, firm over the lintel, into the light of a pilfered lamp and a collection of candles in bottles. She feels a quiver of misgiving, and the sound of the door closing behind her is like a reprimand. She turns quickly to face him before her will gives way.
He's lighting a cigarette - he needs one.
"And to what do I owe the honour..?"
"Oh - no reason. I've been out. Passing by - thought I'd drop in."
Like it happens every day.
"On patrol? It's raining." He almost looks sympathetic.
"Yah - noticed that actually." The tight smile she gives is the icebreaker. He remembers that he used to have manners.
"Erm - do you want a drink? I made hot toddy."
"Hot toddy." He looks a bit sheepish and defensive at the same time. "It's booze, but it's warm - oh, here." He picks up a thermos and fills a mug, thrusts it at her before she can object.
"Ah...thanks." Against her instincts she lifts the mug and takes a cautious sip. It's wine, spiced and hot and sweet. She's caught off guard by the taste. "Hey - this is good."
He shrugs. "Old recipe."
So now they just stand there for a moment, wondering what to say next.
"I just wanted - "
"It's not like - "
They both stop, berating themselves. (Did they really think it was going to be easy? Making conversation without the glib comments and the wisecracks?)
"Sorry, you - "
"You first - "
Stalemated, they glare at each other. He holds up his hands for time-out - swallows, and decides to go with social custom, gesturing her to proceed.
She takes a breath, speaks quietly, only her fingers picking at her jacket giving away a lack of poise. "I patrolled late. Mom's at home with Dawn. It's too early to be morning, and too late to go to bed. I just..felt like..visiting."
He takes this in and nods, trying to be casual. Sizes up a response, then decides to go with honesty. Chill the whole situation out a bit.
"Well...it's nice to have a visitor. I've just been having a quiet night in with the telly." Throws a hand toward the lazy arrangement of saggy sofa, coffee table and TV set, plonked down incongruously to one side of the tomb. "D'you want to sit down?" Can't hurt to ask.
This seems to be pushing things a bit, by her expression. But then her face changes - to 'I-can't-believe-I'm-doing-this' - and she plunges in.
She dumps coat and hat. So there they are, sitting sided by side by the flicker of the telly, sipping hot toddy, not close enough to touch and looking uncomfortable. But it's a start, he thinks.
"Well - this is very civilized."
"Yeah. I thought..."
"Well, I thought we should, you know, clear the air - so here's me. Kind of a detante thing."
"Detante?" he asks cautiously.
She interprets this as reluctance and sighs. "Yeah, you know - you, me, not trying to kill each other every time we meet -"
"Okay, yeah, I do understand the term," he says placatingly.
They glare again, this time at the telly. But then curiosity overcomes his pride.
"So...are we talking a total cessation of hostilities here? Or do we just try to avoid each other?"
She blinks contemplating this.
"Well...I don't think we can completely ignore each other - I mean, hello, me patrolling the cemetery every night."
"True." His next cigarette seems to be demanding a careful perusal. "And...I don't think ignoring each other is quite going to do the trick." He's thinking, more likely it'll have the opposite effect.
She swallows and colours faintly - better not go there.
"I-I was thinking that we could just, um, act polite. Like you said - civilized."
They look at each other for a moment - time enough for both to take in a few details. He thinks that, in her dripping state, with the plaits, she looks incredibly young. It makes him feel 200 years older than he already is. She thinks that, when he's not grimacing with punk angst, his mouth looks very soft. Very tempting.
Then they both look away, clear their throats and fidget. The television provides a much-needed distraction.
"How about those infomercials, huh? she says quickly. "Nobody gets abs like that with a three minute workout."
Speak for yourself, he thinks, but says, "Yeah, well it's better than watching reruns of 'I Love Lucy'."
They sit and watch TV for a bit, making the occasional hmph-ing noise of disbelief. It's almost comfy and domestic - they could almost be two friends relaxing in the living room in front of the tube. If they weren't a vamp and a slayer, on a stolen couch in a cold corner of a crypt.
The sun's getting close to rising now. He yawns - getting sleepy - and she notices. She thinks reluctantly that it's getting time to go. It makes her sigh, knowing that this has been nice, almost easy - and that next time they meet anything could happen.
He picks up on her touch of melancholy, but he wants to end it on a good note. He raises his mug for a toast.
"So - to detante."
She grins. "To detante."
They clink their mugs and sip. The wine is cooling now, but all in all - still sweet.