Sequel to Try a Little Tenderness
VAGUE DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to Joss and co.
CONTEXT: This won't make any sense unless you read Try a Little Tenderness first. TLT assumes some time has passed after Hells Bells and everything else follows on from there, in total denial of any reality that Joss & co create.
COMMENTS: As Morgan warned -- "There is always the danger of becoming maudlin if you continue the story line." I've had a few beers, so I'm gonna risk it. If you're concerned about safety don't get in my metaphorical car. To understand where this is coming from, you should read "Try a Little Tenderness" first (and maybe stop there). I'm hoping to have a trilogy of stories here -- Try a Little Tenderness, When a Man Loves a Woman, and Respect -- because maybe it all comes down to Soul. But who knows if Buffy and Spike can ever make it through to Respect.… Don't count on it.
DISTRIBUTION: If you want to link to this, or put this on your site, it's only fair to me that you let me know…..
X RATING: NC-17
Deep in the dusk of her bed, up close to his chest, she inspects his wounds. From the look of him, vampire healing outclasses slayer healing, but still his body's a patchwork of scar tissue. There's a jagged red line that cuts straight across his right nipple. God, that must have hurt. The left one's intact, she observes. Pert and pink and pretty, only inches from her mouth. She stares at it and icy fingers creep into her gut. Here he is, real and present in her bed. This is what she wants isn't it? No. No. No. This is not what she wants. She wants him not to leave her. That doesn't mean she wants him here inside her deceased and sacred mother's house, here in her bed, with Mr Gordo perching on his shoulder. She can't do this. She wants him forever loitering under the tree outside her window, lurking on the other side of the dance floor at the Bronze, loving her eternally from afar. She wants to love him back, smile at him from a safe distance, make moon-eyes at him, blow him kisses maybe. Leave him billet doux. Yes, and he can write her love poems. They'll be kind to one another, She knows how to do this. She's done it with Angel, when letting him in turned out to be too dangerous.
She thinks about yesterday and there's a throb deep inside her that’s part thrill, part fear. How did she let him get so close? She's never let anyone get that close before. Now she feels -- Christ, this is beyond ridiculous! She's a slayer, she's a warrior. She is the Chosen One -- and be sure to use upper case on those initials.
She feels shy.
She knows with a certainty that she'll blush and stammer if she has to meet his eyes. Because of Spike? No, not because of Spike. Because of the idea of William. Because of the man inside Spike she calls William. And because Spike will see right through her. He'll wriggle his slim hips and spiky wide shoulders right inside her and somehow take advantage.
And yet -- she glances at his pretty, pretty nipple -- yet she so wants to touch him, kiss him, take him in her mouth. Maybe if he were asleep. Yes that's it, asleep, or weak, somehow needy or vulnerable. Anything other than fully himself, full of himself, undiluted Spike.
And then she becomes aware of the rise and fall of his chest. He's breathing. He must be awake. He must be aroused in some way. Does he want to make love to her? The question makes her want to run and hide. She shuts her eyes, breathes slow and regular…. Images of sex with Spike dance across her eyelids. They've done it so many times, so many ways, and now… You're the Slayer, she reminds herself. It's not possible that a chipped and impotent vampire with a subconscious yen to be human could make you tremble. Well, yes he does. Yesterday -- Oh God, couldn't they maybe just do that again, him weak as a kitten, making her weak as a kitten, doing their needy kitten thing together? She thinks she can meet him like that, manage him like that. But she knows they're beyond that now. They're going to have to carry this thing forward -- and, well, how many ways can you say it -- she's afraid.
She thinks: "This is the body of a notorious vampire, the body of some sort of European scourge, kind of like the bubonic plague on legs." But it's like sticking a pin into a dead limb. The cue doesn't work anymore. She's knows that, chip or no chip, there's only one person he can hurt now, only one person he can extinguish. No. Don't go there… And this thing they have together that until yesterday she denied has nothing to do with fiends and vampires and everything to do with -- she doesn't know what it's about, but it's not about vampires anymore.
So he'll never get a tan, who cares? Never succumb to cancer or emphysema -- sounds like a plus. Never ever curl up with his child on the sofa, tickling her and laughing and think yes, every painful second of my childhood, every self-conscious and fucked up hour of my adolescence is worth this single moment of joy that I feel now.
Well she cares that he'll never do that, and she's never ever played that particular tape in her head before. What the hell does that mean?
It means that to all her intents and purposes, he's a man. But it also means no more dry humps in the lot behind DMP, no more collapsing buildings, no more handcuffs. No more metaphors. No more games. And for some reason that she doesn't understand herself Buffy's backing off here. She wants to put in a good word for trust games and parking lot sex. These things are safe. But somehow she knows he's going to ask for something else. Something like yesterday, except this time he'll have his full strength and it'll be different. And Buffy wants to rise to the occasion, but she's scared. She doesn't want to show any more than she's shown already.
Well he never considered himself as having leadership qualities, but in Buffy's absence he feels he's rising to the fore. Of course Willow and Tara are kind of preoccupied. There's a lot of hand holding going on, and unnecessary adjusting of one another's hair -- and last night they shared a bed for the first time in months, so it's not as if they've even noticed that he's taken the driver's seat. Of course, Dawn would like to be a contender but…. Thank God, thinks Xander. Thank God she's only 15.
He lies on the couch in the clothes he slept in, under the blanket Willow thoughtfully provided, drinking the coffee Tara kindly offered and feels -- well mainly he feels grateful that he's not in a motel, but he also feels worried. "This Carver demon thing's still kind of spooking me," he says. "I think we need to talk to Spike."
Willow smiles at him, "Hey Xand, you're getting as weight-of-the-world and watchy as a Watcher. Let Spike and Buffy have some space…." She perches on the arm of Tara's chair and turns her smile on Tara. "I just think they need some time together." Tara looks at the curve of Willow's lips. No-one has more curly lips than a smiling Willow. She remembers how last night they curled against her like a promise of happiness and offers her face up to be kissed.
"Dawn!" Xander yells. "Hey, Dawnie! Need some help with those waffles?"
She smells different. There's a faint scent of arousal, but something else, something he's never smelt on her before. It's fear and it's freaking him more than the hellgod freaked him when she groped about in his intestines for her key. And what's with the eye closing and the heavy breathing? She surely not pretending to be asleep? And then suddenly it dawns on him. It's him that she's afraid of. Oh Buffy, Buffy, Buffy, I don't know what to do about you -- with you -- to you…. He considers his love and how she intimidates him. Thinks his whole unlife has been a game of cat and mouse with her, until yesterday, when she was kind and let him come out to play.
He wonders why it is that he can smell her arousal and her fear, but her love has no scent. Why is he so reliant on her to show it to him? It's a card she holds tight to her chest. Yesterday she laid it on the table. Today it's back in the pack, tucked away and -- sod it, he's not a mind reader. How the fuck can he be expected to know what to do?
"Gotta take a shower," he says, and projects his pale and blood-stained body out of the bed and onto the floor. She stretches into the space he's left behind, considers the flecks of dried blood on the sheets and thinks about laundry. Wonders if there's a wash cycle that can deep cleanse her fucking yellow, lily-livered soul. Wonders why she just rolled onto her stomach to hide her face from Spike.
"So what's with this Carver demon thing? Do I get to go kill it?"
Buffy's standing in the doorway to the kitchen. She hasn't washed, he notices. Just thrown on some clothes and run downstairs. Still looks beautiful though, even with dried blood on her cheek.
"Hey Buff," he says.
"Want some waffles?" Dawn offers, plate in hand.
"Not just now. I'm waiting for Spike to quit hogging the bathroom so I can clean up."
Xander raises an eyebrow. Separate showering? This is not of the good. Clearly something's gone badly awry in the realm of the OK. Not twenty-four hours into her reign and the queen's suffered a set-back. He wants to wring Spike's neck -- what a jerk. Instead, he walks over to her. She smells of blood and Spike, neither of which feature on his list of acceptable nose-candy, but he hugs her nevertheless, so she'll know he's still a loyal subject.
"So?" she says with false brightness. "Carver demon? What's the story?"
"Well Giles said no-one knows whether they're real or not. Like maybe the term Carver demon was coined to explain -- well, what they call a Carver incident."
"Giles said this? You spoke to Giles?"
"Not me. Willow. He called her in the middle of the night, night before last. Said he'd just come across something that suggested there was going to be a Carver incident on the Hellmouth."
"So you did with the research? Wormed the books, went through them all like a dose of salts?"
Xander thinks he's been waiting forever for this moment, and now here it is. "Listen up children, because this is a one-off announcement." He can barely contain his glee. Steps back, makes big with the Da! Da!
"The Watcher said bugger the books, let's go hands-on!" he beams.
"You sure it was Giles?" snaps Buffy, eyes narrowing.
Dawn shoots him a withering look. "Dead-of-night phone call. Out-of-character advice from a trusty old friend. That's so obviously a set-up."
Buffy spins on her heel. Yells, "Willow!"
He stands in the shower letting it all wash over him, one hand soaping his chest -- watch the nipple! Jesus Fuck! He presses his forehead against the cold tiles and reminds his other hand to get back to work. Stares at the pinkish water sluicing down the plug hole. Thinks about touching Buffy. Summons forth his game face. Here it comes. Thank fuck for that. He slumps into the wall. When he passes his hand over the ridges on his brow he wonders what he looks like. Remembers he once told her "a Slayer must reach for her weapon. I've already got mine". Is this what she's scared of? I don't think so.
He knows what frightens her. It's the same thing that frightens him. He doesn't want to look at it but he makes himself. Casts his mind back to that day long ago when she was going to marry him. Examines its superficial glamour, the fake fluffed-up lightness of it. The whole day had that dumbed-down, candyfloss quality that you often get with spells. And he wonders if that's how she wants it -- a romantic comedy with something for all the family, easy-on-the-ear-and-eye, lots of smoochies, a few wise-cracks and here's your ration of manufactured emotion before we cut quickly to a commercial break.
Compare and contrast, he thinks, to what they had going a few weeks back. Taking her in the Bronze, outside the DMP, outside her house. Taking her. Taking her. Taking her. As if he could never get enough. He could go back to that. He was comfortable with that. He slams his head into the wall. No he wasn't. It was shit. It was like reaching in, continually reaching further and deeper and your hand always closing around thin air.
He doesn't know how to do this. Dru sure as fuck never taught him.
Well that's his Buffster. She may have been toppled in OK land, but she's still boss lady here. Xander watches her cross-question Willow and can only conclude that working at DMP has improved her grilling technique.
"Did Giles take off his glasses and clean them?"
"It was a phone call!" wails Willow.
"Did he refer to any ancient and unpronounceable texts?"
"He mentioned the Wychburghen Chronicle, but most of his information came from the Internet."
"The Internet! And you didn't suspect anything? This is Mr Printed-Word-Is-Sacred we're talking about here."
"So he got with the Internet," Xander cuts in. "What's the big? He's made it into the twentieth century. He's still Giles. Still a century behind the rest of us."
"It was Giles," Willow insists. "OK, so he's your father surrogate not mine, but me and him thumbed the pages into the wee small hours lotsa times. I'd know his voice anywhere. And - and, when I said Xander and me would get onto it in the morning, because you'd be at work, he said 'Splendid!'"
"Work," splutters Buffy hand over mouth aghast. " I forgot to go to work!"
"And anyway," Willow hasn't finished. "The reason he said not to bother with research is because the stuff in the books is all about Carver incidents and he's already read that. What's lacking is information about whatever's responsible for the incidents, the so-called Carver demons. So he said given Spike's connections with the demon world, he might have an insight into -- well any sort of insight would be useful since we're totally in the dark here."
"Didn't even phone in sick," Buffy murmurs. "I think we can safely say I've lost my job." She blinks and gazes round at them. Squares her shoulders. "So what exactly is a Carver incident?" she asks.
"Well, um, basically the hallmark of a Carver incident is slash and gouge -- but way above and beyond your lil ole psycho-killer slash and gouge." Willow frowns. "Giles was sketchy with the detail but I kinda got the impression that, say Edward Scissorhands got real mad at you, what'd be left of you afterwards would be called a Carver incident. So maybe Carver demons look like Edward Scissorhands, but who's to say, because no-one's ever survived a Carver incident to dish the dirt."
"Except Spike," says Buffy carefully.
"Yeah that's why we need to speak to him," says Xander. He expects her to spin on her heel and yell "Spike!" up the stairs. But she just murmurs, "Speak to him?" Crosses her arms. Sighs. "Yeah, I guess I should."
She loiters outside the bathroom door until at last he emerges, a towel slung round his hips and tendrils of steam curling up from his ivory skin. She hands him the clothes Willow rescued from his crypt.
"You can change in my room," she offers, as if he hasn't just spent the night in her bed. As if yesterday she didn't just bare her heart to him, along with her neck.
And then at last she brings her hand to his cheek and looks into his eyes -- see, I did it. I made eye contact, I'm being kind. He doesn't need to know that I'm afraid of him.
He turns his face into her hand, so he doesn't have to see her stricken expression. Kisses her palm, whispers "Buffy. We can do this. We can be OK together…. Let me watch you shower."
She thinks about this. Maybe he can sit on the toilet and tell her all about the Carver demon -- calm and businesslike. But she knows what he's like. He's greedy. She'll turn her back and he'll step in behind her, and then he'll touch her and turn her on, and before they know it….
This is what's wrong, she realises, as she lets her head droop forward onto his chest. This feeling I'm feeling right now is precisely what's wrong. Ever since yesterday, after - after yesterday, she's felt all shy and girlish. Not even girlish -- slavish. Yes, that's it: the slayer feels slavish. Like she'll do anything for him -- willingly -- anything. If he asked her, she thinks she would turn herself inside out for him. That can't be right. These can't be healthy feelings. They lead to dangerous places where you lose yourself entirely. And now he's leaning in and pressing soft little kisses against her throat, on the bruised tender place where he took her blood. And oh God they're going to go there now, and she's not ready. Can't he see it matters too much? Doesn't it scare him even a little?
"No," she murmurs, casting about for escape routes. And suddenly one comes to her, a lifeline thrown from woman to woman down the generations. She thrusts the bundle of clothes into his arms, looks up at him. "I'm sorry, honey, I've got a headache," she says.
His eyes widen slightly and he steps back, raising his hands as if to say, "Whoa. Don't want any part of this." Then without looking at her he scoops the dropped clothes off the floor, turns his back and walks away.
Well it's a Scooby meeting just like every other Scooby meeting since dead boy took to sitting in. Everyone working together, pooling ideas, chasing up leads -- and treading ever-so-carefully-on-tip-toe around the short fuses, the dry tinder, the explosive miasma of tension that lies between Buffy and Spike. Love's young dream, he wonders, what became of you? And what became of you and me, Anya? Why did I drive fear in like a wedge? Why did you let me do it?
Still, he thinks, you gotta hand it to Buff. You can exile her entirely from OK land, but she'll still act like the queen. Shrug her shoulders, say, "I'm good," and move swiftly on to a war-footing.
"OK, Spike," she says. "Time to share. Tell us what you know about Carver demons."
"Carver demons?" Spike's supremely indifferent. He picks up a magazine and leafs through it. "That's just a story for fledglings -- you know, to keep the lower orders in their place." He looks round at their clean sun-kissed uncomprehending faces and sighs.
"According to legend the Carver demon is the nemesis of master vampires -- comes and cuts them down when their time's up. See, what you gotta realise is that aside from the occasional slayer having herself a good day, there's only one thing a master has to fear, and that's his fellow vamps. So the Carver demon's just a myth, a bit of smoke and mirrors put about to deter the competition. You know: don't try climbing the career ladder because it's dangerous at the top. Don't get uppity or the big ole Carver demon'll get you.
'Course it's all complete bollocks."
"How do you know that?"
"Logic. Stands to reason. Why would the Powers that Be need another tool to torment us with?" He glances at Buffy. "They've already got you."
"Yeah," she says, "And I'm good. Nemesis, huh? That's a new word to me, but --. " Xander suddenly finds that it's time to hijack the conversation. "Tell us about that demon that attacked you yesterday," he says.
"It wasn't a demon," says Spike, pausing to peruse an interview with Angeline Jolie.
"What do you mean it wasn't a demon?"
"It wasn't organic."
Xander's not sure what to make of this. "You're saying I should avoid putting it in my shopping trolley?" he asks.
Willow sighs. "He means it wasn't alive, or undead, or whatever."
"More like a machine," mutters Spike. He studies the photograph of Angeline as if her ass holds the solution to all his troubles. "Like a cross between a toaster and -- " He suddenly looks directly at Buffy. "What are those things girls buy their boyfriends when they want to make them feel manly but don't want to go to the bother of shagging them?"
Everyone stares at him, except for Buffy who looks away.
He snaps his fingers, "That’s it, a Swiss army knife."
"Hey! I bought my own," objects Xander.
Spike slams the covers closed on Angeline. He feels shit. Back to lobbing grenades into fortress Buffy again. He thought they'd got beyond that. He thought they were home and dry. He feels in his pockets. Bollocks, no fags. And no chance of a crash off these clean-cut kiddies. No chance of a quick dash to the shop, either, unless he wants to put a new spin on the words Smoking Kills. He tips the magazine onto the floor and slouches back into the couch, hands behind his head, legs apart. Listen to my body language, baby. And give it to me good, 'cause I'm not afraid of you.
"Do you think it was a robot?" Willow wonders aloud.
"Didn't look like any of the robots I've ever met," he says.
"You mean it didn't prance around in a pink skirt and offer you a blow job?" inquires Buffy. So easy to fall back into this, she can't stop herself. "Guess it didn't, huh? That's too bad. You'd have liked that wouldn't you, having another bot to be your sex slave, do anything you want, lick your boots, suck your cock?" Now why's everyone looking at her as if they think she's gone too far. What's with the Spike sympathy? Is it because they've banked their blood with him? Do they think they have to protect their investment?
"He started it," she says.
"Think I'll make some more coffee," says Xander rising abruptly to his feet. "Wanna help me, Dawnie?" Willow and Tara drift up from their seats saying something about fresh air and enjoying the sun while it's out. Shit, they're going to leave him alone with her. He doesn't want to be left alone with her. She's gunning for him. He needs protection. "Hey!" he protests, drawing his body in, crossing his legs. "Hey. Call that a meeting? We've only been at it five minutes!"
"Looks like we're taking a commercial break," says Buffy.
She contemplates him from the other side of the room, comes to a decision and stands up. The doorbell rings and she calls, "You get it Dawn," and steps towards him. She comes towards him across the room and he just knows she's going to hurt him. She stops in front of him, leans in. He almost goes into game face to ward her off -- and suddenly she's swinging her ass down hard towards his balls. And just as he's flinching and thinking this is some new slayer move designed to disable his wedding tackle, there she is perched in his lap.
How'd you do that, Buffy? What made you do that? Is this you being kind? Do I get to be kind too? He slips his arms around her, feels the softness of her breast against the heel of his hand, sees how big are her eyes and knows he overwhelms her just as she overwhelms him. Draws her in and goes to claim her lips, or let her claim his, what the fuck does it matter, he thinks, we're both drowning here. Yes drowning, love. Lay back there. No, don't be sorry. Just show me. Show me…. But as he dives, forgetting where he is, intent only on where he's going, he's aware in a small corner of his mind, out of the corner of his eye, that Dawn has come dancing back into the room. Excited. Adolescent indifference thrown to the winds. Too full of news to notice he's got his tongue down Buffy's throat, his hand up Buffy's shirt. "Guess who it is! Guess who's here!" she cries. "It's Giles!" And Buffy rips from his arms and across the room, where she stands, white faced, with one hand slapped across the hickey on her neck.
Continued in Chapter Two