By Valerie X
After Season 6, Buffy is shocked when Spike returns and he's......pretty much the same. S/B with Dawn friendship. Angsty, humorous, and eventually sweet sweet Spuffy fluff. Say that ten times fast. Spoilers for finales of both BtVS and Angel.
Thanks to my sister Jean, my own Peanut partner.
Sometimes, Buffy thought, when you fall in love, it's like getting hit. Love just smacks you in the face with a right hook and makes you all dizzy, so that you can't even think straight. And you do stupid things like wander around cemeteries hoping he'll show up, or cry and not kill him when he turns evil.
But sometimes falling in love is more cerebral. You watch the person, study them, mentally list why they'd made a good boyfriend, and eventually, logically conclude that yes, this is love, because it makes sense for this to be love. And the entire process, while seeming sweet, all the doe-eyed stares and gentle kisses in place, is so cold and clinical that when he goes to a vampire whorehouse, none of your friends seem surprised.
But sometimes, she thought, the right times, love is just seeing someone. Just looking across your dining room table and realizing that, though you've spent years looking at this person, though you've touched them and kissed them, you've never really seen what they mean to you, never really known all the beautiful things they have deep inside of them. They were always either annoying, burdensome, barely tolerable, or simply an embarrassment. But once you see them, love creeps into you slowly. It's not a sudden realization, but a gradual feeling, entering without acknowledgement or words, so that when you look at them, when you finally see them, it's almost a surprise that you love them.
But not really.
Buffy threw her cards down and scowled across the table at her sister. "You have to be cheating."
Dawn smiled wickedly as she gathered together the piles of cards at the center of the table. "If that's what you need to tell yourself to keep your fragile self-esteem intact, whatever."
They'd been playing peanut, a combination of solitaire and insanity, almost every night this summer. The goal of the game was to get as many cards as possible into the center piles while simultaneously organizing your own cards using the rules of solitaire and getting rid of all the cards in your "peanut" pile, the move that ended the hand, after which cards in the center were assigned points and tallied. The real challenge was getting your cards to the center piles before your opponent did, a maneuver that usually resulted in frantic movements, vicious shoving, and the sharing of many creative insults.
They'd begun keeping score at the end of May. Now, at the beginning of August, Dawn had 4,863 points to Buffy's 3,292.
"I have super slayer speed," Buffy said with a pout. "But you still always get your cards down first."
"It's called skills," Dawn said as she sorted and counted the cards. "I have skills, and you have none."
Buffy dismissed this with a shrug. "At least, if we keep having money problems, you could always be a card shark."
"Twenty-two for me, eight for you," Dawn said, writing the points down of the ratty piece of looseleaf paper nearby. "And I so totally could be a card shark," she added proudly. "I won almost every game of poker I played with Spike."
"Are we still wincing about him?" Dawn teased.
"Shut up and deal," Buffy said with a teasing smile. "I'm about to catch up, I know it."
"Yeah, you might catch up. Right around my college graduation."
"Gigantic monkey whore." Dawn smirked at her sister's hesitation; she'd won this round of insults. There was just no way to top 'gigantic monkey whore'.
Buffy took her deck of cards and began laying out the piles in front of her that would begin the new hand. "So, Saturday, Bronze. Anya's in. What about Mandy and all them?"
"Mandy's coming, but not Janice, because I am so totally over Janice," Dawn said.
"Good," Buffy agreed. "I've been over her for a while. No one should be allowed to own that many belly shirts."
Dawn nodded in agreement. "There should so be a law." She lifted the first card off her peanut pile, preparing to flip it. "Ready?"
"Yes - no, wait!" Buffy held up her empty glass. "Out of Pepsi."
Dawn groaned. "I'm so having a caffeine overdose."
"Switch to sugar?" Buffy suggested, and Dawn grinned widely.
The late-night peanut games were a ritual now. Every day this summer they'd slept in, spent the late hours of morning preparing overly elaborate breakfasts, hung out with Anya (the only Scooby in town for the summer) and some of Dawn's friends, went out to the Bronze, went out to the cemetery, and paused in their newfound friendship only when Buffy had to work a shift at the Doublemeat Palace.
When they got home each night around twelve, too wired for sleep and too worn-out to do anything productive, they played peanut in the dining room, covering the table with cards, snacks, and sodas. Their conversations while playing ranged from the mundane ("I love that shirt you just got." "Don't buy one! We'd end up wearing them at the same time, and nothing could be more lame.") to the political ("How is it possible that so many men are in positions of power when boys are so utterly stupid?") to the intellectual ("What does 'conundrum' mean?" "It's when something's really puzzling. Like how I have so many pairs of pants, and yet I can never find anything to wear.")
And at some point that she couldn't put her finger on, probably during one of their Peanut games, wired on Diet Pepsi Twist and gorged on fat-free pretzel nuggets, Buffy had looked at her little sister and realized that she loved her.
Dawn returned with two glasses of what they'd termed Magical Dawn Iced Tea, a drink mixed so sweet that, on close inspection, the tiny granules of sugar were all visible. Buffy took a sip as she sat up in her chair and prepared to play the game again. "Okay, let's go; I'm feeling lucky."
"Do you think he's dead?"
Buffy bit her lower lip and kept her eyes focused on the table in front of her. "He's always been dead."
"You know what I mean." Dawn picked up her peanut pile of cards and began to shuffle it nervously.
"No," Buffy said, her voice coming out a little too stern for her liking. She sighed. "No," she repeated, gentler this time. "I honestly think he'll live forever. Like a cockroach. A nuclear war'll kill us all and when the smoke clears, it'll be Spike and the roaches, existing forever just so the new evolving race of life will have something to be aggravated by."
This explanation seemed to cheer up Dawn, who smiled as a little as she continued shuffling. "It's just weird that even Clem hasn't heard from him."
Buffy frowned at her cards. The King would be easy to move, and she could probably get rid of that three once they started getting aces out there, but she had two sevens, and those would be more difficult. "Vampires don't usually send cards, Dawnie."
"He sent me one."
Buffy's eyes snapped up from where she had been mentally plotting her first moves of the new hand. "What?"
"Oh, not recently," Dawn quickly corrected. "But last summer, for my birthday. Spike gave me a card. You didn't ever see it? It's in the living room desk."
Buffy gestured at the cards spread out between them. "You're trying to put off the game, aren't you? Cause you know I'm gonna win this time."
Dawn's wicked card-shark smile returned, and she held up her first peanut card almost threateningly. "As if. Ready?"
When the curtains became pink with daylight, they finally decided to end this night's game and go to bed. Buffy lay in her room watching the sunlight begin to rise against the ceiling. The nightmares that had plagued her last year were thankfully gone, but old slayer habits died hard; she never felt like sleeping until it was fully daylight. She crept downstairs, and found herself sitting at the desk in the living room.
She found the card buried underneath a pile of bank statements. The envelope had been torn apart brutally, in the classic Dawn style of unwrapping. It was a regular card, with Happy Birthday printed across the front in blue and gold. And inside, his scrawled handwriting:
Happy Birthday. You're a nice kid. If I ever get this chip out, I probably won't kill you.
A few months ago, seeing this would have made her turn off the desk lamp, put her head down, and cry. But now she only smiled.
Things were better now. She'd worked through her depression. And while she still had a crappy job, too many bills, and the constant responsibility of saving the world, she didn't spend her days in a haze of misery. Not anymore.
Things were better. She was better. So she didn't need anyone else around to try to make her feel better. She didn't need him.
So the reminders of him weren't painful. Touching, maybe, as she thought about how, in those days after her own death, when Dawn must've been devastated, Spike's few sentences in the card, however ridiculous they seemed, must've been like a proclamation of love. No wonder Dawn missed him.
And maybe she did too. Miss him, a little, mornings when she couldn't sleep.
But not really.
That night she dreamt of the time he drank from her.
It was her second week of working at the Doublemeat Palace, and at the end of her shift her drawer was ten dollars short, and the manager had snapped that she should know better. She came home with a Doublemeat Medley for Dawn, who sucked her teeth at the sight of it and defiantly announced that she'd be spending the night at a friend's house, where they had real food.
She patrolled one of the cemeteries slowly, as if in a daze, as if she felt her life had ended but she was forced to watch the world keep going, this stupid world that she'd hate, if only she had the energy to hate anymore.
When a vampire leapt out from behind a tombstone, she didn't raise her arms to fight.
It wasn't a conscious decision to die, just an exhaustion that spread over her limbs and a solidness behind her eyes that made her feel as if this evil creature was the world moving, but she wasn't a part of this world, so why should she even bother fighting to save it?
The vampire knocked her over roughly, and its nails dug into her shoulder, tearing her skin open. Instinct surfaced with the pain, and she dusted it quickly.
She walked into his crypt without knocking, because it was too late now to break old habits. He emerged from the lower level shortly after she entered, his eyebrows knit together at the sight of her frown and the defeated posture of her body.
"What is it?" he asked, all business. "Someone hurt?"
"Just me," she said flatly, turning her body so that he could see her red-stained shoulder.
He had bandages, and she dressed the wound herself as he leaned against the wall and pretended not to watch her. The dark vibes coming from her slow, measured movements kept him unusually quiet, even after she finished her work and lunged at him.
She pressed her body against his forcefully, knowing that pain would make him say it. He banged against the wall with an audible thud, and met her frantic groping, sending shivers up her spine and into her brain, where the sensation drowned out everything but her monotonous plea, the thought, say it, say it, say it. She bit into his face, leaving tiny dents along his jaw line, and that did it -
"I love you."
What mattered wasn't that he said it, but that someone had said it. That someone, anyone, loved her, even if it was a man who was dead and evil, even if that meant that no living man would ever love her again, not after how she'd been broken by death, and then broken by life, made so cold and numb that she didn't even realize it when she started crying.
He was inside her, rocking his body into hers, pressing her into some random piece of furniture, and she tore off her bandage so hard that her shoulder began bleeding again, and the pain seemed so far away that it didn't even hurt, and she moved his face towards the open wound.
Her eyes were closed, and wet, though she didn't think about how her eyes had gotten so wet, only that if she had to look at him she'd have to think about what she was doing, and she didn't want to think right now. She just wanted to feel the injury, feel the pain, feel the fucking, feel the edge of the table as he pushed her backwards with each motion, feel the blood rush out of her body as hard and as fast as he could take it.
Instead she felt his hand there, pushing down on the cut, causing her blood to leak out between his fingers, and he returned his face to hers, where she was crying like a child, freely, her sobs echoing through the stone room. He kissed her deeply, opening both their mouths with each motion, covering her lips with long kisses, breathing in as she exhaled unevenly, still crying, and he drank from her mouth instead of her body.
Long after the pressure of his hand caused her wound to close, after the thick wet redness on his pale skin turned brown as it hardened, he was still drinking, and she was still crying, until, fatigued, they both fell asleep on the floor, naked, sticky, covered in semen, blood, and tears.
Except, in her dream version of that night, after they fell asleep, her yellow eyes opened, and her sharp teeth sunk into his neck.
Continued in Part Two