All About Spike - Print Version
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Talk To Me
By Ozfan

Chapter One

Buffy leaned against the door and watched him.

“You look thin,” she said, studying him.

Spike turned and looked at her over his shoulder. “Same could be said for you,” he said quietly. His voice, always so quiet now.

“You’re using too much detergent,” she pointed out as she watched the sink fill with suds.

“Right,” he agreed. Buffy sighed.

“I was sort of hoping for a snarky rebuttal, Spike.”

“Xander’s not here,” he murmured, as if he didn’t hear her.

“Yes, I know.”

“I’ll tell him you came by.”

Buffy walked to his side and grabbed a dish towel. She began drying the soaking dishes left on the counter.

That’s how Xander found them, minutes later. Standing quietly, maybe even companionably, at the kitchen sink. He paused for a second as a very odd feeling came over him. For the first time in ever, he didn’t clench his fists or frown seeing them in the same room. It looked right, somehow.

“Gaaah,” Xander said, shaking the insanity out of his head.

“Hey, Xander. Spike was flooding the counter.”

“Was not.”

“I thought you said he was a horrible slob of a roommate,” Buffy grinned. Xander shrugged.

“Not so bad after a few weeks, actually. Spike’s also a pretty mean cook.”

“You cook?” Buffy said, turning to look at the blonde vampire. He was looking at her, but when their eyes met he quickly looked away.

“The bloody Food TV network is addictive,” Spike said by way of explanation, then nodded quickly and left the room.

Buffy stared at her old friend, eyebrows raised.

Finally, Xander frowned. “What? Why are you staring at me like that?”

Buffy shrugged. “I thought I’d come here and see the place in shambles, or at the very least Spike locked in a closet.”

Xander started putting groceries away. “Well, yeah. No.”

“Ah. Thanks for clearing it up so astutely.”

Xander shrugged. “I still hate the guy with every fiber of my being, but you should try his chili. Plus, he’s trying.”

“I’m sorry, what bizarro world have I entered?” Buffy said, sitting up on the counter and grabbing the tortilla chips out of Xander’s hands before he put them away.

“The world called Stranger Things Have Happened, I guess. We live in a kooky world, Buffy.”

“So true,” Buffy mumbled as she chowed down on chips.

“Except for the nightmares, I think he’s okay. He does tend to hog the remote though.”

“Nightmares?”

Xander rooted through the fridge. “Yeah, he’s practically mute except when he sleeps, then its another round of scream-bloody-murder.”

Buffy sat very still. “What kinds of things does he scream?”

Xander shut the refrigerator door, stood still for a minute, then looked up at Buffy. “Whoever he’s talking to, he says ‘I’m sorry’ a lot. I’m not saying I feel for the guy, at all, but it’s kind of awful, whatever it is he’s dreaming about. He doesn’t sleep much though, so it’s only happened a few times.”

Buffy just nodded, suddenly feeling inexplicably sad.

“I better go,” she said finally, hopping off the counter.

“You sure you don’t want to stay? I got a movie. And microwave popcorn complete with day-glo fake butter topping.”

Buffy considered the invitation. “I don’t think it’s a good idea. I don’t want to freak Spike out.”

“I don’t think anything bugs him anymore. Nothing… phases him. The first week he was here I tried to pick all sorts of fights with him. He just stood there, taking it. Kind of took all the fun out of it. I mean, you’ve seen him the few times he’s helped out. Does what we ask him, then leaves.”

“Spike?” Buffy called out suddenly. “Get your coat.”

She looked at Xander. “I’ll take him on patrol, get him out of your hair for a bit.”

Xander nodded. “If I thought for a second he’d try to hurt you again, I wouldn’t let him go.”

Buffy stared at Xander evenly. “If I thought for a second he’d try to hurt me again, I wouldn’t have gotten him out of that basement. And I will say this only once. This is the last time I want to hear it mentioned again. I live with it, every day. Just like I had to live with the fact that Angel tried to kill us all. But it’s different. It was different with Angel when he got his soul back, and it is different with Spike.”

Xander held up his hands. “I know… I guess in my roundabout, lugheaded way, that’s what I was trying to say. That I know. And I’m sorry.”

Spike cleared his throat from the doorway, and Buffy jumped.

“You called?” he asked.

Buffy nodded. “Are you up for patrolling?”

Spike looked at her blankly for a second, as if she spoke a foreign language. Then he nodded. “Yeah.” Then Spike turned to Xander and almost, almost grinned. “Don’t wait up.”

***

“So, read any good books lately?”

“What?”

They were taking a familiar path through one of the larger cemeteries, and Spike had not said a word. Buffy remembered all the times she used to have to tell him to shut up, and now all she wanted was for him to say something. Anything.

“That’s a common twenty-first-century conversation inducer,” Buffy explained. Suddenly Spike shoved Buffy roughly aside.

“An interesting rebuttal, I must say,” she grumbled from where she had landed, frowning at him in confusion before she saw the demon fall out of the tree landing right where she had just stood. In a blur of movement, Spike took a large knife hidden under his sleeve and gutted the demon, slicing him open waist to neck.

“Wow, unnecessary roughness…” Buffy began, right before she saw scary little head pop out of the demon’s open chest and growl. Spike effortlessly twisted its neck, snapping it with a horrible pop. The grotesque and thankfully dead demon fell to the ground with a thud. The ensuing silence almost made Buffy laugh.

 “And the award for Best Alien Impersonation goes to…”

“Flarnegh demon,” Spike finished for her. “Very rare in the Western hemisphere. Scary buggers.”

“I wouldn’t have known about the whole head in the torso thing. Thanks.” Buffy stood up and dusted herself off.

“Did I hurt you?” Spike asked, staring at her with an unreadable expression.

“What, that? No, please. I’ve had much worse.”

“I know... I’m sorry.” He turned and started walking away quickly.

“No, I didn’t mean you. Wait up!” She caught up to him and grabbed his arm. “Spike, for the love of all things holy… I mean, not so holy…” Buffy sighed, frustrated, dropped his arm. “Will you talk to me?”

Spike swallowed. “I don’t know what to say.”

“I don’t know, say something familiar. How about , ‘Slayer, you silly bint.’”

Spike just looked at her.

“No, okay, then. Tell me how much you hate Xander and how he’s a tool.”

Spike raised his eyebrows. “Tool?”

“Yeah, the American version of ‘bleedering buggery buggah.’”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why do you want me to talk to you? Why aren’t you throwing me out of town, or staking me, or something?”

“Don’t be a jack-ass,” she snapped. “I just… want things to be normal.”

“Buffy,” Spike sighed. “I don’t even know what that is.”

“Well, I don’t either. But I don’t like things like this. Tell me about the nightmares.”

Spike frowned down at her, his face cold. “Never. Can we continue to patrol now?”

Buffy sat down on the ground and crossed her legs.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said. She crossed her arms to give a strong resolve vibe.

“Fine,” he bit out, and walked away. Then walked back about 7 seconds later. Buffy stared up at him. Finally Spike sat down across from her, sighing.

“Spike, I need your help on this. Everyone’s help. And if I hear “From Beneath You It Devours” one more cryptic time I’m going to lose it. So what were your nightmares? Maybe it could clue us in.”

Spike leaned his hands back on the cool grass and looked up at the sky. “If my dreams had anything to do with that, you know I’d tell you. I’ve told you everything, about the visits in the basement, but since I’ve been out of there, I don’t get those visions, visits, whatever.”

“Okay.” Buffy watched him watch the sky. He looked exactly the same. She remembered the first time she saw him, remembered the thousands of expressions that had crossed his face over the years when he looked at her. Hatred, infatuation, admiration, ecstasy, shock, love. Above all, love. She could not comprehend her feelings for him. Doing so only led to confusion and a massive headache. She tried to act cold to him, thinking that was how she should behave. She tried to ignore him, and in the end it came to this. She always sought him out, somehow. She wanted to try to forgive him, or at least admit she already had, and she wanted to understand who he was now, what he became. For her.

Spike’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “I am here to help you, whenever you need me. But I’m not going to cry on your shoulder about the things I…” He stopped, frowned, looked back at her. “I’m not going to mope about what I cannot undo.”

“No one’s calling you Mope Boy.”

“Good.”

“You’re just so goddamn quiet, is all, and it’s starting to piss me off.” She stood up, then reached a hand out to Spike. He looked at her, eyes full of questions, full of unnamed sorrows. Finally he took her hand, and she pulled him up. Somewhere in her muddled thoughts Buffy realized she didn’t jump when she touched him. She didn’t mind it. She slowly let go of his hand.

“Let’s talk chili.”

“Chili?” Spike asked, humor in his voice.

Buffy shrugged. “It’s a start.”

“Chili’s nothing. Any, uh, tool, can make a decent bowl of chili. It’s the stuff you don’t expect that makes it good. Like cinnamon…”

“Cinnamon? In chili?”

“Can I finish?”

“By all means.” Buffy smiled. They began to walk side by side as Spike finished his story.



Chapter Two

Spike's Chili Recipe [External Link]



Chapter Three

"You're interfering! I don't need your help. Do I look like a freaking damsel in distress to... GAH." A vicious tackle from behind cut off Buffy's girl-power speech.

"Hey! Little... help... here," Buffy hissed as the vampire choked her with a powerful forearm.

Spike leaned against a large, expensive-looking gravestone. "You just said to stop interfering."

"Son of a..." Buffy flipped herself over the vampire and kicked hard with her heel into the side of his knee. As the vampire screamed in agony, Buffy glared at Spike. "Six years we've known each other and you still can't tell when I'm joking?"

Spike shrugged and lit a cigarette. Buffy staked the vampire before he could stand.

"You know what your problem is?" Spike said, kicking some dirt off his boot. "I mean, other than your new bangs?"

"What?"

"Kidding. No, your problem is, you're not clear on what you want."

"Right now, I am quite clear on wanting you to shut up."

"Well, that's a start."

Buffy pursed her lips, trying hard not to smile. "Let's head back."

***

"How's Dawn?"

Buffy glanced over at him, trying to read his expression. "You should ask her yourself some time."

"Yeah." Spike sighed as they approached Buffy's house. "Tried talkin' to her a few times. It was so bloody awkward. And not just because the little twit is as tall as me now."

Buffy turned and looked up at him. He looked a little more rested, more relaxed than he had a few weeks ago. He still kept a lot in. He was dealing in his own way, and she respected that. He went from being aloof, to distantly polite, and now he was slowly coming around to being a sarcastic pain in the ass, finally.

"You want to come in and say hi to her?"

Spike dug his hands in his front pockets and stared at the front door of the house. "It's late."

"Yeah, so?"

"So, I hate the way she looks at me. All polite and disinterested."

"Aw, poor Spikey."

"Don't start, I'll kick your arse."

"You and what insane visiting spirits?"

"Ha ha." Spike gave Buffy his meanest look, then glanced back at the front door. Finally he sighed. "Look, just tell her I miss her. Tell her I... don't tell her anything. Maybe dealing with one Summers woman is penitence enough."

Buffy was about to say something witty and cutting when she realized how close they were standing. It was a natural thing these past few weeks. They fought better sticking close together, and they ended up walking close together as well. But here, tonight, as she listened to leaves whispering overhead, she realized they were standing under the tree. Their tree. The lovely tree Spike used to spy from, the tree they once made crazy love against on a night just like this.

Spike seemed to follow her chain of thoughts. He glanced up, frowned, then stepped quickly back, away from the shelter of the tree.

"Goodnight, Slayer. Don't be too tough on the tots, tomorrow, eh?" He nodded brusquely and walked away. She watched his receding back, her mouth suddenly dry.

"Goodnight," she whispered, even though he was too far away to hear her. She stayed there for a minute, remembering despite herself, then went inside.

***

Dawn had a variety of screams. Some were shrieks of surprise, some were shouts of indignation, sometimes they were just yells of fear. But this one was a sheer yelp of joy. Buffy pushed back her covers and went downstairs. Dawn was doing what could only be surmised as a happy dance.

"Did we win the lottery?" Buffy yawned. Dawn was all ready for school and was grinning at the phone in her hand.

"Better. He's coming back for Thanksgiving!"

Buffy absolutely loved these moments. These little moments of happiness they got to share, when for a split second all seemed right with the world.

"Giles."

"You got it! He just called. I thought you were still sleeping. Buffy, he's coming home." Dawn looked so happy, as happy as Buffy felt, and she put her arm around her sister's shoulders.

"We don't have much time. Lots to do, lots to plan. We'll have it here, of course. Invite everyone."

Dawn gave her a strange look. "Everyone? As in Spike too?"

Buffy busied herself with the coffee machine. "You think I should invite Spike?" she asked casually.

"Oh, sure. Let's invite some other mass murderers over too while we're at it."

"You mean like Anya?"

"That's different. I can't believe you're defending him." Dawn's voice was cold and accusing.

"And I can't believe you aren't giving him a tiny chance, Dawn. Jesus, even Xander has lightened up."

"Oh my God. I am not having this discussion with you." Dawn grabbed her bag and left the kitchen. Buffy heard the front door open and close. Well, at least she didn't slam it.

"Crap," Buffy sighed.

***

The knocking was loud and insistent, even for Sunnydale standards. Spike put down the reference book on demonology and went to the door.

"Jesus, I said hold..." Spike's words died when he saw Dawn standing there. "Hey."

"Hey." Dawn pushed past him and walked in.

"Xander's not here."

"I know. They're all helping Anya out at the Magic Box. Grand reopening is this weekend."

Spike leaned against the back of the sofa and crossed his arms. Boy, did she look mightily pissed. He almost grinned out of affection but saw the coldness in her eyes and reconsidered.

"Well, I'd offer you something to drink but from the shards of hatred coming out of your eyes I see this isn't a social call."

He watched her hesitate for a second, then stand up straight. "Wow, you're observant, Spike. Does that come with having a soul?"

Spike sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Get on with it then. Say what you have to say."

"You're not invited to Thanksgiving."

Spike let out a tired laugh. "You don't say. I was expecting an engraved invitation any day now."

"I mean it."

"Little girl, what makes you even think I'd want to spend Thanksgiving with you all?"

"I'm not a little girl. And you're a shit." Dawn's voice wavered slightly. "But, hey, at least you're not using me to get to Buffy like you did two years ago."

"I didn't use you. And you're right, you're not little anymore, so stop acting like such a prat."

Dawn slapped him hard across the face.

"You can do that again if it makes you feel better," Spike said, rubbing his cheek. She went to do it again, but he grabbed her wrist.

"I didn't mean that literally," he said.

"I hate you," she whispered. "I can't believe I ever thought you were my friend."

She turned to go but Spike's voice stopped her. "I was."

"Until you got her," Dawn bit out. "And then you just forgot about me. And then you hurt her, and you left us."

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, realizing this was the first time he said those words to her. Those useless words that she still probably needed to hear. "Please believe that I'm sorry. I did... I did get so wrapped up in her that everything ceased to exist. That wasn't fair to anyone."

His words seemed to float in the air between them until Dawn turned to look at him. Spike saw the pain and doubt in her eyes, this girl who once treated him like a king.

"I'm just sorry, Bit. I did care about you. And I missed you."

"You missed Buffy. You left for her, you came back for her."

"It's not as simple as that. And nothing's the same."

"No. One thing's the same. You're still the same person that tried to rape my sister." Dawn said the words to hurt them, and it worked. Spike accepted the pain, just looked at her sadly.

"I guess there's nothing left to say then." Spike walked to the door, opened it, not looking at her. Finally, she left, not saying a word. Spike shut the door slowly. He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead against the cool steel. Another loss, another punishment, another world of regret to haunt him, and still he felt she let him off easy.



Chapter Four

“Whatcha watchin?” Dawn said, sitting on the edge of the sofa. Willow and Buffy sat side by side on the sofa.

“We think it’s a really bad movie.”

“We’re not sure what it’s about.”

They both stared, unblinking, at the screen. Dawn raised her eyebrows and sighed. “Sounds fabulous.”

Buffy and Willow nodded in unison, their attention focused on the TV.

“Is this some diabolical spell where you are mesmerized by evil programming that sends subliminal messages through the television?”

Willow looked up at Dawn finally. “Well, many people do consider these Lifetime movies evil.”

“Shh. Valerie Bertanelli’s character is about to do something risky,” Buffy shushed them. Dawn shook her head sadly and went upstairs.

When the movie was over, Willow leaned back against the sofa and shook her head. “Wow, that was bad.”

“So very bad,” Buffy agreed.

Willow stretched her legs and sighed. “Tomorrow’s going to be a big day. Magic Box opening, getting ready for Giles, avoiding studying for my psych test, yada yada. Anything else I’m forgetting?”

“I think you have it covered, Will.” Buffy rubbed her eyes and yawned. “It’s too early on a Friday night to be this tired.”

“We’re getting old,” Willow said, patting Buffy comfortably on the back.

Suddenly Buffy sat up straight. She looked directly at Willow.

“No, we are NOT. We are young, dammit. We are young, and it’s only 10:30, and we are NOT sitting on this couch for another minute.”

“But I thought you wanted to watch the thirtysomething marathon.”

“I’d rather act like a freaking twentysomething, which is what we are.” Buffy grabbed a protesting Willow’s arm and dragged her upstairs.

“Dawn, help me! Your sister has gone psycho again!” Willow said as they passed Dawn’s slightly opened door.

“That’s nice,” Dawn called back.

“Come on, my friend. We are dressing up, or at the very least changing out of our sweats, and we are going to the Bronze.”

Willow groaned. “Maybe I should stay here with Dawn.”

“Dawn’s going to come too. It’s a Friday night, and Bronze is all ages, remember?”

“Maybe I should clean the guest room up for Giles.”

“Dawn already did that. She even put clean sheets on the bed.”

“Maybe…”

“And now I must ask you to shut up.” Buffy went into Willow’s closet and threw some shirts on the bed. “I’ll give you options.” Buffy stuck her head out the door. “Dawn, wanna go to the Bronze?”

“Always,” Buffy heard her respond.

“Remember, no more dressing like a ho biscuit.”

“Fine, then I won’t be borrowing any of your clothes then,” her sister called back pleasantly.

Buffy turned back to Willow, who was sitting on the bed surrounded by brightly colored shirts. The look on her face was classic Willow, rife with insecurity and tiny glimpses of hope.

“Alright,” Willow finally sighed. “Call up Xander. If you’re forcing me to go out he might as well suffer with the rest of us.”

***

Xander usually let the machine get it but he was bored out of his mind.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Xander. What are you up to?”

Xander looked at the half-empty pizza box on the coffee table and the remote in his hand.

“Oh, just getting ready to head out.”

“Damn. We’re going to the Bronze for some mandatory fun and wanted you to come with.”

Xander cast a glance at his ripped sweatpants and tried to remember if he had any clean clothes.

“Uh, well, I was just meeting up with some guys from work, but I do that all the time. I’ll meet you guys at the Bronze in a half hour if it’s that important to you.”

“You’re sitting in your ripped sweatpants eating pizza, aren’t you?”

“I refuse to dignify that with a response,” Xander said, putting the phone down before he turned off the TV and ran into his bedroom to change.

***

“Here’s to Giles coming home,” Buffy said, lifting her glass.

“And to me being with the three loveliest ladies in all of Sunnydale,” Xander added.

“And to Buffy for not reeking like Doublemeat Palace anymore,” Dawn grinned.

“And to Dawn being so kind and respectful of her big sister,” Willow nodded. They clinked glasses and drank.

The Bronze, as always, was crowded on a Friday night. A very loud but pretty talented band played on stage, and the lights were thankfully lower than usual. They were lucky to get a table with four chairs.

“If it’s okay, I’m going to go say hi to some friends,” Dawn said, putting down her coke. “And if I’m not sitting with you guys you can actually order drinks and not feel guilty.”

“You are a smart, smart girl,” Xander said.

“Got your stake just in case?” Buffy asked. Dawn patted her cute red purse affectionately, waved, and disappeared into the dance floor.

 “Quick. Beers for all!” Willow said.

“I’ll get them.” Buffy jumped off her stool and wound her way through the throng to the bar. It usually wasn’t this hard to get there, but the bar was extremely crowded tonight. Buffy couldn’t even see over the heads of all the women standing in front of her.

“Be cunning. Be resourceful. You’re the Slayer,” Buffy whispered to herself after waiting patiently for what felt like an eternity. Finally, she ducked down and squeezed her tiny frame through the crowd and popped up right next to the bar, despite grunts of protest.

“What’s it take for a girl to get a drink around here?” she said, slapping her twenty down on the bar.

“Sorry, lo...,” said a very familiar voice. “Hello, Buffy.”

Buffy gaped at Spike as he stood behind the bar, looking very much the… bartender. “No. Way.”

“Way. What’ll you have?”

“Uh…” Buffy shook her head slightly. “Three lagers.”

Spike nodded and poured her three drafts. He placed them in front of her, and crossed his arms, waiting patiently for her to stop staring at him.

“When did you…”

“Started Monday. I know a guy who needed someone to help out here for a bit, keep an eye on things while I was at it.”

“Hello? We’re waiting?” A very curvaceous brunette leaned across the counter a few stools down, smiling sweetly at Spike. Buffy glanced at her and other very pretty women who were staying put at the bar.

“You must be making a fortune in tips,” Buffy said. Spike shrugged innocently.

“What can I say? I’m pretty good at this. Now shove off, I’m working.” His words were tempered with mischief in his eyes. Buffy nodded graciously, grabbed the beers, and headed back to the table.

“You guys, you are NOT going to believe who’s bartending now.”

“Spike’s on tonight too? Damn. He seems to actually be developing a work ethic. Chalk it up to me and my positive influence,” Xander said, taking a large gulp of beer from his glass.

Buffy frowned at him. “You knew?”

“Yeah. He gave me money last night for groceries and stuff. After I accused him of stealing, he patiently explained to me he was working here now. Part bartender, part security, I guess.”

Buffy looked at Willow. “Did you know?”

Willow shrugged. “Nope. That’s pretty cool though. Ooh, maybe we can get free drinks!” Willow turned her attention back to the band, nodding her head to the beat. Buffy sat down on her stool and sipped her beer that she now didn’t really want. She somehow managed not to glance over at the bar or all the women surrounding it.

“We must dance now,” Xander announced a few beers later.

“Yes, we must!” Willow agreed quite loudly.

“I’ll be there in a minute, I’m going to case the joint,” Buffy replied.

“’Case the joint?’ Oh, that’s right! You are THE LAW,” Xander intoned.

“You are never going to let me live that down, are you?”

“Nope.” Xander smiled at her and grabbed Willow’s hand. “Come on, Will. Let’s show these younguns how it’s done.”

“But I don’t think we even know how’s it’s done,” Buffy heard Willow say as they headed off toward the dance floor. Buffy watched them go and had another one of those perfect moment feelings. They were all still together, still friends. Somehow they found a way to keep going, forgive, change, move on.

At that thought, Buffy turned and glanced at the bar. Still very crowded over there. Not even a glimpse of platinum blonde hair. Buffy caught sight of her sister sitting with some kids. She looked like she was having a good time. All was right with the world.

So why did she feel so annoyed?

***

After Buffy checked all the areas of the Bronze, especially the hidden, darkened corners, she went out back to check the alley. She listened carefully and walked quietly up and back a few times. After a few minutes she headed back to the Bronze just when Spike was heading out the door with a full garbage bag.

“Hey,” Buffy said. Spike looked around and saw her.

“Hey yourself.” Spike threw the bag into the dumpster, then looked up and down the alleyway. “Nothing tonight?”

“Nope. Just checked.”

“Good. I was just about to check.”

“No need to now.”

Awkward pause. Buffy realized she was fidgeting, and stopped herself. Spike was calm and still.

“So, Giles is coming back this weekend.”

“So Xander tells me,” Spike said.

“I told him about you.”

Spike nodded. “I figured you would. I wish I’d seen his expression.”

“Me too.” Buffy grinned. She looked at him, then at the building behind them.

“I still can’t believe you work here,” she said.

“Well, I need a place of my own soon, so I need to save up. Plus it’s something to do.”

“You looked like you were enjoying it,” Buffy said casually, studying his face. Spike shrugged.

“Could be worse. It could be Willy’s. I’d last about a day there. It’s just hard being around alcohol, is all.”

Buffy’s eyes grew round as saucers. “You stopped drinking?”

Spike nodded solemnly. “No more alcohol for me. Impairs judgment and all that. Givin’ up smoking next. Gonna get me those patch things.”

Buffy crossed her arms and watched his earnest face. “You are so full of it,” she finally announced.

“Had you for a second, though, didn’t I?”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Shyeah.”

Spike grinned and pulled open the door. “You better get back inside, Buffy. Xander and Willow desperately need your help on the dance floor. What they’re doing… it’s not pretty.”

“Well, you better get back inside too before the lay-dees start rioting.” Right after she said it, Buffy really, really wished she hadn’t. The ensuing awkward pause made the last awkward pause look downright suave.

“Um, hey, I forgot… Thanksgiving, my house, Thursday,” she said quickly.

Spike looked at her oddly. Then the strange expression was gone. “Thanks. I can’t. But… thanks.”

“Oh. Well. No big. But I promise no bears this year in case you change your mind.”

“Watch it,” Spike warned as he followed her back into the Bronze, closing the door behind him.



Chapter Five

“Sorry about punching you in the face, even though vengeance demons are stronger than hell. Was a bit of a loony back then. Wanted to say congrats and all on the store. Hoping it goes well.

- Spike

Buffy read the card that rested in the center of the flowers as the last of the customers left the store. The grand reopening of the Magic Shop was… well, if not a resounding success, then a good solid attempt at one.

“Wasn’t that thoughtful? And put down that crystal Phurba!” Anya said cheerfully as she noticed Dawn handling the daggers on display. Buffy looked up, then stepped quickly away from the flowers.

“I still can’t believe he did it,” Anya said. Buffy looked at her, confused.

“Sent flowers for the reopening?”

“No, dummy. Got his soul back. I have never in all my centuries heard of a vampire getting his soul back voluntarily.”

“Really? Not ever?” Willow asked, looking up from the pile of books on the table. “I mean, the literature never mentions it, but I thought maybe you’ve crossed paths with ones before.”

“Nope,” Anya shook her head. “It was supposed to be impossible even if the vampire wanted a soul. Besides, vampires aren’t supposed to feel anything resembling humanity. I mean, nothing, zilch. No remorse, no guilt, no affection…”

“No love,” Dawn finished softly, not looking at them.

“Exactly!”  Anya said, locking up the register. “And yet. First you guys talk about Spike with Drusilla. And then he almost died to protect Dawn. And then Spike went and got a soul, apparently for Buffy, after what he did.” She paused and looked around the now-silent room, then focused on Buffy. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you sad.”

Buffy looked up. “I’m not sad.”

“You look sad,” Anya insisted.

“I am NOT sad!” Buffy bit out.

“Now you look mad,” Anya sighed matter-of-factly.  She looked around her store, a contented smile on her face. “Thank you all. For staying and helping. And I actually mean it when I saw I most likely couldn’t have done it without you.”

“It’s the least I could do, at any rate,” Willow grinned. “And thank you for letting us continue to research here.”

“Well, Giles is still half-owner. Plus, I… I don’t mind you being here.” Anya cleared her throat. “So, when is Giles’ plane due?”

Buffy looked at her watch. “Right about now. Xander wanted to get to the airport a little early.” Buffy turned to Anya.  “You want to come back to the house, get something to eat?”

“Thanks,” Anya said,  “but I’m extremely tired. I’m going to read the Financial Times and head straight to bed. Tell Giles I said hi, and he should come by tomorrow. He won’t recognize the place.”

“You’re not sad, are you Buffy?” Willow asked on the walk home.

Buffy looked at her friend and at her sister. “Not sad, no… I don’t know what I am.” She frowned, trying to understand, but instead of clarity she just had glimpses of memory, a smart-ass grin, clear blue eyes that saw straight through her. Even when he wasn’t here, he was always… present. She found herself missing him when he wasn’t around. It wasn’t like this time last year, when she needed him to make herself feel anything. Now, even when she was happy, like right this moment, walking with her best friend and her sister to go see Giles, her feet itched to go find Spike, her brain itched to get into a stupid argument with him. She wanted to fight alongside him and then laugh with him over the danger they just faced. And, okay, while she was letting these thoughts surface, she sometimes kind of vaguely wondered if he ever thought of kissing her. If he even wanted to anymore. He treated her more like a sister, and she knew she should be relieved. Sane Buffy would be relieved, but Real Buffy was… well, confused.

“Stupid emotions,” Buffy grumbled. Dawn just looked sideways at her sister and said nothing.

Willow draped an arm around Buffy. “Tonight, I promise. Nothing but happy, reunion-y emotions. Plus, hey! Short week because of Thanksgiving.”

They reached the house just as Xander was pulling into the driveway. Buffy broke into a sprint and launched herself into Giles’ arms before he had a chance to say hello.

“Ribs. Can’t breathe,” Giles sputtered. Buffy let up a little, right before Dawn and Willow came at him with almost-as-strong hugs.

“Hey!” Xander said, grinning as he walked around the car carrying Giles’ bag. “How come I never get a greeting like that?”

Buffy walked over to Xander and gave him a big hug. “You know we love you, Xander. But if you want the extra-special hugs you have to leave the country for months and leave a big gaping hole in the hearts of those you left behind.”

“Gotcha,” Xander said. Buffy looked over at Giles, who was smiling at her. She could only smile back.

***

Long after everyone else had gone to bed and Xander had left, Buffy and Giles stayed up talking in the living room. He told her of his work with the coven in uncovering the mystery of the newest rising evil, she told him of her work with the kids at the high school. They talked about Anya’s ex-ex-ex-demon status and Dawn’s developing self-defense techniques. Buffy told Giles of the dreams involving the fallen girls, and Giles asked how Willow was faring back at college.

“I think that covers it,” Buffy yawned.

“Not exactly, Buffy.” Giles gave her a knowing look.

“Shoot.”

“How is he?”

Buffy took a deep breath, then let it out slowly and tried to sound normal. “Well, he’s actually earning money legally now. As a bartender at the Bronze. And he’s been extremely helpful with all the demon activity around here. He and Xander even have poker night once a week at their place but I think Spike wants to move out soon cause he… well, he’s pretty much a loner these days.”

“I’ll need to talk to him. Soon. They are very interested in him back in England.”

“Who?”

Giles grinned. “More parties than I care to admit. The coven, the Watcher’s Council. There’s talk of a prophecy involving a vampire with a soul. He might be a key to whatever is building.”

“So, you’re not mad at me for not staking him as soon as he came back here?”

Giles leaned forward, studying her face. “No. He’s an excellent fighter, a strong ally. And the soul… it’s true?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Extraordinary. Has he… tried to resume relations with you?”

Buffy shook her head vehemently. “No, Giles. It’s not like that. He’s so different. Besides, Xander and Dawn let him know he’d be dust if he even thought that way.”

“And you? Have you let him know?”

Buffy sighed, remembering when he first got back, how she had snapped at him. “Yep, I guess you can say I did let him know that he didn’t stand a chance.”

“You owe him nothing, Buffy,” Giles said gently after a minute.

“God, I know that. Believe me. He’s asked for nothing.” Buffy rubbed her temples. “I wanted to hate him, Giles. I wanted to tell him to leave and never come back. But I couldn’t.” She swallowed, her throat suddenly too tight. “You think I’m crazy,” she whispered.

Giles covered her hand with his. “No, my dear. I know you’re crazy.”

Buffy looked up at him, blinking back tears, and she laughed. “Thanks.”

“I don’t envy you at all. I don’t know what to tell you to do.”

Buffy looked down at her hands. “What do you do when you think you feel something for someone, and you don’t want to feel it, and then you’re not even sure they feel the way they used to feel so you’re not sure how to feel about their feelings?”

Giles thought hard. “Drink heavily?” he suggested.

“Nah. I think I’ll just mope.”

“Always a wise choice.” Giles grinned. “Besides, I might get to remove the problem entirely.”

“What do you mean?”

Giles watched her, then spoke slowly. “The council wants Spike to come to England. For research, but also to help. There’s been demonic uprisings all over Europe. You tapped into it with your dreams, and if we had Spike to help, we stand a better chance of figuring out why those girls are being killed. The Council has facilities there are so much better than here. Besides, it might be better for everyone if he left Sunnydale for a while.”

The room fell silent. Buffy tried to digest what Giles was saying.

Spike. Spike not here. Again. He’d be out of everyone’s hair. Dawn would be happy. Xander would probably be happy. He might be more useful there.

Finally Buffy spoke. “Yes. He would… like that. He’d be home. That makes sense. I’m… I’m going to bed now, Giles.” She hugged him quickly and went up the steps, her mind gone numb.



Yeah, I’m not actually following the events that occur right after Him, cause I’m not. And I’m sentimental. So there. Thanks to everyone for their feedback. I know this is fluff, but it’s grey outside, and Novembery, and the show makes me sad for Spike sometimes, so this is what I had to do.



Chapter Six

Candlelight flickered as Giles stood to say a few words.

“It's been a hard year for many of us. Yet, here we all are, together. I'm very happy to be with you all again on this silly American holiday.” Giles grinned when Buffy laughed. “Sharing our lives with our friends and our family is far stronger than anything that world out there can do to us. Our riches are at this table with us today, and they are here in spirit as well. To Joyce. To Tara. To all of us and our loved ones, near and far." Giles lifted his glass. Anya, Willow, Xander, Dawn, and Buffy lifted theirs.

**

“Isn’t it too early for Christmas movies?” Xander said, glancing at the television as he joined Buffy and Dawn in the living room.

“It’s never to early for It’s A Wonderful Life,” Dawn admonished, laying back on the sofa with her hands resting on her very full stomach.

“You guys want anything from the kitchen? There’s pie left.”

“No more pie. No more food,” Buffy moaned.

“It was excellent, as usual,” Xander said. Thanks, Buffy.”

“Always,” she smiled up at her friend.

Giles came in, sipping a glass of wine. “Buffy, I do believe you’ve outdone yourself. Dinner was excellent.”

“Aw, you’re only saying that because it’s true.”

Giles smiled at her and sat down, stretching his legs out. “Willow and Anya have clean-up duty under control, so I am going to finish my wine and dread going back to England this weekend.”

“I thought you loved going back to the mother country, Giles,” Dawn said.

“I do love England, and I am needed there, more so than here at this point, but I don’t like leaving all of you. And by taking Spike with me, I’m afraid your defenses will be down and I’m not…”

“Wait, what?” Dawn said, looking from Buffy to Giles. Buffy looked at stunned as she did.

“Surely Spike told you…” Giles said, staring at Buffy. She shook her head slowly.

“I haven’t seen him since you’ve been here,” Buffy said. “He hasn’t been patrolling, and I told him to come here today but he… he said no, for some reason.”

Giles frowned. “Oh. Well, he’s agreed to work with us there for the time being. We need to determine whether he’s involved with certain prophesies, and it’s almost impossible to do so without him there, working directly with the Council. And getting him away from the Hellmouth… considering what happened to him in the basement, it does make sense.”

“But you said things are happening everywhere, Giles. Not just here,” Buffy said, standing up abruptly. They all looked at her, confused.

“I just think we need as much strength in Sunnydale as possible,” Buffy offered, rather lamely.

“This sounds crazy, but I’m gonna miss our poker nights, “ Xander sighed. “Good times.”

“Now I feel kinda bad I told him he couldn’t come here for Thanksgiving,” Dawn grumbled.

“You what?” Buffy said, turning sharply toward her sister. “When did you do that? And why? What did he ever do to you except try to help you?”

Dawn swallowed. “I… I’m sorry.”

“Giles, when did you talk to him?” Buffy demanded. Giles looked up.

“Yesterday. It was quite illuminating, as a matter of fact. I think he’s looking forward to getting away.”

“Well, why wouldn’t he? We treated him like dirt when he first came back. All of us. Especially me.”

“What were we supposed to do? Throw a parade?” Dawn said, incredulous.

“No! I mean… I don’t know.” Buffy sank back down onto the sofa. When she spoke it was almost to herself. “I tried to tell myself getting a soul was no big deal. But we all know it is, and I’m tired of trying to act how all of you think I should act. I’m tired of pretending Spike’s the same old Spike because he isn’t. I’m tired of pretending…” Buffy’s voice trailed off.

Xander stood up and walked over to Buffy. He looked at her, then smiled. “Here.” He took a key off his key chain and handed it to her. “In case he won’t let you in. Go talk to him. Go tell him.”

Buffy stood up, his eyes bright with tears. “I don’t know what to say to him.”

Xander gave her a hug. “Tell him you’ll miss his chili.”

Buffy laughed. “Why? Why are you doing this?”

Xander shrugged. “I’m chock full of surprises. Besides, he has changed. I’ve had to live with the guy. Oh, sure, playing kick-the-Spike was fun for a while, but I’ve decided to take up a new hobby. It’s called letting you live your life.”

Buffy hugged Xander fiercely. She looked at Dawn, who was looking down at her hands. Then she looked at Giles, who only smiled at her.

“Food,” Buffy said suddenly. “He needs food. I wanted him to come here for Thanksgiving. I doubt he’s ever had a good Thanksgiving dinner.” Buffy ran into the kitchen, where Willow and Anya were discussing spells.

“Whatcha doin, Buffy?” Willow asked, watching her friend pull out a paper plate and some aluminum foil.

“Making a care package. For Spike.” Buffy looked at Willow and Anya. “Spike, alright! Spike! I’m not letting him go away. We need him here. I need him here. With me. Okay? How do you like that? Huh?” She stood posed, hands on hips, ready for battle.

Willow raised her eyebrows. “Uh, that’s nice, Buffy. Don’t forget to cut him a slice of pie.”

“Yes, the apple is better than the pumpkin,” Anya added. Willow glared at her.

“It is not! I made that pumpkin from scratch!”

“Willow, I saw the bakery box in the trash. You bought it, you know you did. And I think it was stale.”

“You guys don’t think it’s weird that I’m doing this?” Buffy asked.

“Oh, please,” Anya said. “I just wish you would tell him you’re in love with him already and get it over with.”

“You’re such a romantic, Anya,” Willow deadpanned. She looked at Buffy, who was looking at them with shock.

“Buffy, it’s kind of obvious, to everyone with, you know, eyes, that you are crazy about Spike.”

“It is?”

Willow and Anya nodded in unison.

“Well, why the hell didn’t anyone tell me?” Buffy demanded.

***

With one hand precariously holding the plate of leftovers, Buffy pounded on Xander’s door with the other.

“I know you’re in there!” Buffy shouted. “I have a key and I’m not afraid to use it!” She pounded some more.

Suddenly the door swung open. “It wasn’t locked,” Spike said, drying his hair with a towel.

“Oh.” Buffy said. “I knew that.” After staring at his naked torso for a second, she walked past him into the apartment.

“What’s that?” Spike answered, pointing at the bag she carried.

Buffy spun around and glared at him. “I can’t believe you’d even consider going to freaking England. You can’t go! They have… they have really lousy cable channels, and bad food, and the weather sucks, and they don’t even have Thanksgiving!” With that, Buffy shoved the bag at him. Spike raised his eyebrow quizzically at her, then peeked inside.

“You brought me food?”

“It’s Thanksgiving dinner, not just food. I’m a good cook. You’re not supposed to just sit alone on Thanksgiving and drink warm blood. That’s really untraditional!”

“I watched the Great Pumpkin,” Spike offered. Buffy almost hit him out of habit but managed to restrain herself.

“You want to sit on the sofa and take a few deep breaths or something?” Spike asked.

Buffy ignored him, pacing around the kitchen. “You chose to just sit by yourself here. I invited you into my home to be among friends on a very important American holiday! I don’t care what Dawn said. I pay the mortgage so I get the majority vote. She had no right to tell you not to come.”

“Don’t be mad at her.”

“I’m not. I’m mad at you, you stupid… vampire.”

“No need for name calling,” Spike said, watching her with steady amusement.

“You know, you should go to England. I don’t even think I like you anymore,” she said, crossing her arms.

“When did you like me, pet?” Spike asked quietly, serious now.

Buffy stared at him in shock. “What a stupid question!”

“Is it?” Spike stepped close to her, their faces inches apart. “When the hell did you like me? When I was trying to kill you? Stalk you? Rape you? When I kept trying to tear you away from your friends when you were depressed?”

“Oh, right. You were just my favorite person EVER last year. And now you’re trying to tell me that that’s still you? You’re still that same person that did all those things? You’re telling me having a soul changes nothing?” Buffy’s voice grew louder and angrier, her fists clenched to her sides.

“What did it change? What?” Spike yelled.

“Obviously nothing. You’re still a psycho, and you’re still annoying!”

“Buffy, please, for your sake, go away. It’s useless. Every time we’re together we end up fighting or…”

“Or what?” Buffy prompted when Spike cut himself off. He stared at her, then his eyes drifted to her lips. It pissed her off how much she wanted to touch him. She stepped even closer.

“No, no. I’m going. I’m going to England with Giles.” He pulled back suddenly. He walked away from her but she followed close behind.

“So everything we’ve been through these past months since you’ve been back has meant nothing to you? You’re just going to throw it all away?” she shouted. He turned suddenly and she almost slammed into him.

“Buffy, I’m kidding myself. Being here. Doesn’t help you. Doesn’t really help anyone. We’re nothing but bad for each other.”

“Oh, bullshit.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, bullshit!” She circled him and pushed her index finger into his chest. “We don’t know what we’re like together now. Now that it’s all different. And I am not going to let you leave until I find out. Not again. And I have feelings for you that are confusing and wonderful and you still have feelings for me.”

A long silence stretched between them. Their eyes met and held, until finally Spike looked away.

“I thought I did, but I don’t. I’m sorry.” Spike’s expression was passive.

Buffy pushed him up against the door, her hands on his chest. They stared at each other and Buffy couldn’t breathe, was almost too scared to move for fear he was telling her the truth. Slowly, she leaned in and rested her cheek on his chest, burying her head into the crook of his neck. Her arms wound around him slowly, hesitantly, and she closed her eyes, breathing in the scent of him. It felt like coming home.

“You’re a liar,” she whispered.

When Spike finally put his arms around her, she breathed a sigh of relief. Her heart was pounding and she realized she was shaking a little. Or, rather, a lot.

“Yes, I am,” he finally responded. His hands were in her hair, his lips pressed against the top of her head. “Yes, I am.”

***

“Spike?”

“Mmm?” His fingers ran over her bare skin.

“I have something to tell you,” she whispered into his neck. He drew her closer to him.

“What’s that, love?”

“It’s something I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time.” She felt his body freeze up in anticipation.

“You don’t have to say it. Don’t say it.”

She kissed his shoulder. “You don’t even know what it is I’m going to say.”

“I’m afraid of what it is.”

“No need to be afraid. Not anymore.” She traced the outline of his features with her finger.

“Go on, then,” he sighed, but she heard the hope and anticipation in his voice. “Say it.”

God, she loved this man, she thought to herself.

“I just wanted to tell you how much… how much I love… Thanksgiving.”

And then she couldn’t help it. She started laughing.

“You are in deep, deep trouble,” he announced, rolling on top of her. She squealed with laughter and he stopped her with a kiss.


The End