Summary: Pointless, but sweet. Buffy, Dawn and Willow conspire against Spike to help him get over his self-developed phobia of the Slayer's bathroom. Starts out fluffy, devolves into angst, and ends with yet more fluff and Spuffy silliness. What more could you want?
Rating: PG because it's angsty in parts, and for occasional innuendo. Mostly it's fluff, and it is, of course, very B/S-centric.
Spoilers/Setting: It's set about two days after the "Cradle" timeline, and hence is post-Season 6 plus several months. It references specific bits of "Cradle" directly in parts. While you don't need to have read that fic to understand this one, (and because it's impossible to actually summarise short of writing an essay on the subject) it would be much appreciated if you did anyway. =)
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. Spike's paranoia is, even though I have to ask permission to give him cuddles.
Author's Notes: This came to me randomly during the weekend my friend spent at my house, after watching approximately the first eight or so episodes of Season 7 in a row. It made more sense back then, but it's taken me this long to finish "Counterpoint" and the idea's diminished a little. I've attempted something resembling Crazy!Spike, but not as extremely so as in "Beneath You", so… bear with it. Anyway, I don't think "Cradle" will ever truly 'finish' and I'll probably be writing mini-sequels for eternity, so here's the first one. Enjoy, then tell me about it. :D
"…so is everyone clear on the plan?"
They both nodded wearily. "Yeah, Buffy," said Dawn. "But I don't know why you're making such a big deal over this. Isn't it just, y'know, a phase?"
"Maybe," she replied, "but if it is, who knows how long it could last? I'd rather just get it sorted now."
"But how do you know it's even going to work?" asked Willow.
"I don't. Doesn't mean I'm not going to try." Clearly, there was going to be no talking her out of this. "Look, if you get desperate for a bath, just… just go to Xander's or something. Only make sure you call first. He and Anya are still-"
Dawn interrupted. "Whoa. Okay. We don't need the mental images, thank you…"
"Buffy…" began Willow, expressing her last concern with the whole plan. "Are you sure you wanna stay with him for this? I mean, it could get pretty angsty in there, for both of you."
She dropped out of command-stance and sank to the sofa. "I know, Will. But I want… I need to do this, for him, for me. I forgave him, but it doesn't seem to be enough."
Willow was just about to offer some comforting, supportive words - although she hadn't entirely thought about what they were going to be just yet - when the subject of their conversation came down the stairs, yawning. All three heads turned to look at him; none of them had quite succeeded in getting rid of the serious expressions their conversation had provoked, however.
Spike yawned again when he reached the bottom of the stairs, and leaned on the post. "All the nattering down here's enough to wake the dead," he joked. Buffy offered him a weak smile in apology, but it didn't last very long. Spike took in their expressions, and adopted a worried one of his own. "Hey, what's with the long faces? What'd I miss?"
Bravely, Willow recovered first of all. "Oh, it's nothing, Spike. We were just thinking about everything that's happened, reminiscing… about old times. People."
"Yeah," added Dawn. "Like… like Tara and Mom… and Giles."
"Oh." He hated seeing both of his girls upset - no, make that all three of them, since Willow was part of the household as well and had accepted him pretty much instantly - and he was starting to look as melancholy as them until Buffy got up and tried to lighten the mood again.
"I think that's enough memories for one day, don't you?" The other two nodded, and went back to what they'd been doing before Buffy came to debrief them - Dawn to her homework, and Willow to a book. Buffy headed over to Spike. "Sorry. We didn't mean to wake you up."
He brushed off the apology with a wave of his hand. "Doesn't matter, I wasn't sleeping much anyway. It's lonely up there."
She smiled, then took his hand to lead him into the kitchen. "Come on, I'll make you some hot chocolate. Marshmallows and everything."
He smirked as he followed her. "You were never this hospitable before."
"I was never in love with you before," she said, nonchalantly. She could tell he was raising an eyebrow without even having to look. "Or, at least, I never admitted to it… Besides, it won't last. Pretty soon I'll be ordering you to make me breakfast."
They'd reached the kitchen by this point, and she let go of his hand to set about making the chocolate. He grabbed her again and pulled her back to him, into his arms. "What makes you think you'll have to?" he asked.
Just as she was starting to wonder how on Earth she'd gone on for so long pretending she didn't love him, a thought struck her. "You don't have any other clothes with you, do you?" she asked, randomly, pulling out of his arms.
"Uh… no. Now you come to mention it."
"You wanna go fetch them later? You can borrow a case, if you want." Remembering her task, she went to the cupboard for the chocolate mix and marshmallows, and set the kettle boiling.
He laughed. "There's not that much stuff, love."
"Huh, I guess not…" Her eyes lit up as another idea hit her. "Ooh, and I'll clear out a drawer for you."
"Actually, I doubt there's even enough for-"
"Oh, come on. Humour me." She looked up from spooning the powder into the mug. "I've never offered anyone a drawer before…"
"In that case," he said, as the kettle finished boiling, "I would be honoured to accept your dresser space." His tone was jovial, but suddenly, the offer of Buffy's drawer was the most important thing that had ever happened to him. She added water to the mug, stirred it, and threw in a couple of marshmallows, then took it over to him. As he took it from her, he added, "You do realise this means you're not allowed to complain about everything being black, don't you?"
He returned to the house later that night, with all of his clothing bundled up in his blanket. On searching through his crypt (with a little enthusiastic help from Clem, naturally), he'd managed to root out a lot more black tees than he'd thought imaginable, but only one spare pair of jeans amongst the usual shirts. He had a sneaking suspicion that he'd come back one day to find that Buffy had decided to buy him more things, but for the moment he'd make do with the basics like he'd done for decades.
He came in through the back door and found Willow in the kitchen, engrossed in a magazine. She didn't notice him come in, nor did she notice when he stood behind her and started reading over her shoulder. "Fifty Ways to Bag Your Woman," he read aloud with a snort, making her jump. "Well, good for you, Red. Planning on getting yourself back out there?"
She blushed an attractive shade of plum and hastily shut the magazine, then promptly sat on it. "It's Xander's!" she blurted out. "I was reading it for, um, educational purposes. For psych. Finding out how the male brain works, stuff like that." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "It makes me kinda glad to be female, actually…" She rolled her eyes at herself for thinking she had to explain herself to him, especially considering the circumstances, and swatted him on the arm. "Anyway, Mister No-Respect-For-Privacy, that wasn't polite. And you scared me half to death!"
"Good," he said, smiling smugly. She shot him a glare, and he lost the smug expression immediately. "Um. Sorry. Where's Buffy?"
"Upstairs, I think," she said, nonchalantly. "Is that all your stuff?"
He shrugged as she pointed to his bundle. "Pretty much. Still more than I thought I had, though. Rest is just furniture, an' Clem needs that. Anyway. Best find that Slayer of mine before she thinks I've run off."
Willow watched him until he was out of sight, as he chatted to Dawn before heading up the stairs, then she briefly stood in the garden and directed a grin and a thumbs-up towards an upper window. She went to the lounge straight after; she and Dawn followed Spike up the stairs when they were sure he wouldn't see them, and then hid in the younger's room.
Spike was unaware of this, and wandered down the landing to Buffy's room. She wasn't in there. He deposited his blanket on the floor and then started searching.
"In here!" she called, from the other end of the landing. He followed it, then spotted her in the main bathroom. She was struggling to reach into the back of the cabinet for something, various other items from within its depths strewn on the floor and in the sink. She was having difficulty, being too short to reach the top shelf at the best of times.
"Lost something, pet?"
She came down from her tiptoes and turned to face him with a smile. "Hey. Yeah. There's a spare razor in here somewhere, and I can't find it. And seeing as Dawn decided to completely dull all of the others in one fell swoop… If I didn't know any better, I'd think she'd shaved her head or something."
"Can't you just buy a new pack?" he asked, logically enough.
"Of course, but it's the principle of the thing. And anyway, I've already started looking…" She made to reach up again, but quickly withdrew her arm with a hiss. "Great. I think I sprained my shoulder. Dawn is dead."
Spike, still hovering in the doorway, smirked. "Serves you right for being a shortarse."
She glared at him. "You're one to talk."
"'M still taller than you."
"Everyone's taller than me," she complained. "The Slayer strength makes up for it." She was apparently struck by an idea. "You know, you could always get in here and help me look for it."
The smile he'd been maintaining dropped, and he took an instinctive step back from the threshold. "Uh…how about I just go and fetch you a chair…"
Just as he was about to turn to leave, her horrified expression stopped him. "We do not stand on chairs in this house!"
He raised a sceptical eyebrow, but knew better than to question her. "Okay, no chair. Maybe a step-ladder…"
Before he could try to wander off again, she strode over and grabbed his hand. "Look, forget the razor. Could you at least help me put everything back? It needs re-organising anyway."
He looked a little fearful, but Buffy's grip on his hand wasn't loosening. With a sigh and a nod, he conceded defeat, and let her pull him through the door.
Two seconds after she let him go, he tried to flee, memories and random images flooding back to him that were almost too much to endure. He wasn't about to stick around for the onslaught to get any worse. He'd barely moved two steps, however, when the door shut and was audibly locked… from the other side. He tried the handle, but it wasn't going to budge. He laughed humourlessly. "Oh, come on. Dawn? Will? Joke's over, girls…" When there was no reply, not even any giggling, from the other side, he tried the handle over and over, getting more desperate, and then started clawing at the door like a caged animal, his panic increasing, hoping if he knocked loud enough they'd see sense and unlock it.
Dawn and Willow listened to the pounding on the door, flinching periodically. "Okay, that's it," said Dawn as she heard a growl, "I'm letting him out."
Willow caught the waistband of her jeans as she took a step towards the door. "Give it time, Dawnie. Buffy'll get him through it."
"But he's going to hurt himself!" she protested, gesticulating wildly in the direction of the closed door as another loud bang was heard from within.
The witch was inclined to agree, but didn't voice it. Instead, she reiterated, "She'll get him through it… And when it's over, it'll never happen again…"
Buffy cringed internally at his reaction. She'd been expecting something similar, but he was sending himself into an extreme state of panic a lot sooner than she'd thought. She approached him carefully - he was still banging on the door and was unlikely to hear her - and placed a tentative hand on his shoulder. "Spike…"
He spun around and nearly threw her off-balance. He flattened himself against the door when he saw her, and she backed up a little. "I have to get out," he said. "Can't stay in here. Tell them to let me out."
It would have been easy enough to grant the request, but she knew it wouldn't help him. Finding courage from somewhere, she shook her head. "No. I'm sorry, Spike, but this is for your own good."
The fear in his eyes was replaced by something else, a harsh, cold realisation. He stood away from the door and took a step towards her. "Oh, I see," he said. "This is the punishment, is it? You get me all vulnerable and trusting with kind words and 'I-love-you's, then lock me in here 'til my guilt drives me insane, is that it?"
Buffy frowned and folded her arms, hurt that he could think that. "No, actually, I was going to stay with you and help you get over it. But if that's really what you think, then I'll just leave you in here by yourself…"
She made to move past him, but he braced himself against the door again, this time to block her exit. "No. Buffy. Stay… I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"
"I know, Spike," she said. She took a step back, away from him, hoping to eventually draw him further into the room, and attempted to look approachable and sympathetic. "Okay, this isn't going to be easy, for either of us. Part of the reason I agreed we all switch rooms is because Mom's-" She cut herself off, and re-stated it. "Will's room has an ensuite, which means you never have to use this room ever again if you don't want to. I'm just worried about you. I know how these things develop; it'll start with the bathroom, and then it'll be the surrounding area. Pretty soon you'll avoid the top floor altogether, maybe even the entire house."
He was going to protest, but had a feeling she was right. He thought back to a few weeks ago, after Buffy had woken up immediately following the purging, when he'd rushed into this same room to get her something. He'd been a little worried, admittedly, but nothing like he was now. He wasn't entirely sure, any more, whether the problem was soul-related, or psychological. "S'pose you're right," he mumbled, "but… but how is locking me in here going to help?"
"Flooding," she said.
He gave her a quizzical look. "You're gonna try and drown me, too?"
She tried not to laugh. "No. It's something I remember from college, in between the falling asleep. It's a technique they use to help people with phobias," she explained. "You just… present the person with a whole lot of what they're afraid of until they're not any more. Like making people who're scared of heights do a parachute jump."
Spike seemed just a little sceptical of this. "And this works… how?"
She shrugged. "Beats me. It only works in some cases, I think. Which is why you're going to have to talk to me while we're in here, too." That idea sounded even less palatable, and before he could complain, she said, "It's either me or a therapist, Spike. Your call."
The idea of him lying on a psychiatrist's couch was suddenly far too amusing, but she stifled her laugh. "This 'flooding' thing sounds bloody sadistic, if you ask me," he muttered, staring at the floor as if it held the answers to the universe.
"Yeah, I figured you'd appreciate that." He looked up, then, not entirely sure if she was kidding or not, or if it was meant to be some sort of insult. She was smiling fondly at him, implying she was joking. He was already starting to feel more at ease.
He sighed, realising that the more he tried to talk his way out of it, the longer he'd end up staying in there. "I'm really not getting out of this, am I?"
He leaned back against the door, and slid down it until he was sitting on the floor, preparing for the long haul ahead. Buffy gave a satisfied nod, and then sat down herself, perching on the wicker laundry basket where Willow had initially seen Mirror-Tara. She watched him, neither of them speaking further for a while, and wondered what the next few hours would hold. The window coverings weren't too good in the room, and she was hoping to be out of there before sunrise became an issue.
Looking around the room a little absently, since Spike didn't seem in immediate danger of freaking out again, she remembered the evening she'd told Giles everything that had happened. This room had brought memories of That Night flooding back to her, and they were more painful than she'd wanted to admit; Spike being missing, for some reason, had made it even worse. She'd pretty much coped with the situation by ignoring it, and then he'd come back and she'd not had any time to think about it. It was starting to seem quite likely that he wouldn't be the only one having to cope with old demons.
They sat on the floor and watched the door a while longer. The pounding and shouting had stopped some time ago, and Dawn was getting tired, but both girls wanted to make perfectly sure Spike and Buffy were okay in the bathroom. They could hear muffled voices, low in conversation, but no discernible words.
"You think they're gonna be okay?" asked Dawn.
"Sounds like it." Willow got to her feet and put an ear to the door. "They've stopped talking now. Could be they fell asleep in there."
"I… I guess that's of the good, right?"
"Yeah, I guess so." She yawned, and so did Dawn. "I'd say it's safe to go to bed now. I'm sure Buffy can handle it."
Dawn nodded, and the two got up to head to their respective rooms.
The room had been silent for a while now, and Buffy was still watching Spike intently. He seemed to be deep in thought, but she couldn't ascertain whether those thoughts were negative, positive, or anything in between, since he wasn't reacting in any way. It was approaching midnight, and since they'd woken him up that morning by talking in the lounge, he'd not attempted to go back to sleep. After searching his crypt, and using up most of his energy and adrenaline trying to escape from the bathroom, it made sense that he was understandably tired. It also accounted for the fact that his eyes were starting to close slightly.
Just as she noticed this, his head drooped a little, and his eyes closed completely.
"Hey," she said, quietly, alerting him again. He opened his eyes and looked over to her.
"Oh. Sorry, love."
"It's okay." She gave him a reassuring smile. "I'll let you off for cheating."
"Wasn't intentional," he said. "Was just thinking." Clearly, he wasn't quite ready to divulge his thoughts to her just yet. The silence was unnerving in the cold, tiled room.
"Talk to me, Spike," she implored. "Please?"
He met her gaze from across the room, and found support and genuine concern in her gaze. He let out a quiet snort of self-deprecation. "Actually," he said, "I was wondering…" The explanation trailed off as he lost his nerve, and he averted his gaze from hers.
"What?" she prodded.
"I was wondering how you can stand to stay here with me."
She got up from the basket. "That's easy," she explained, moving to sit beside him, and linking her fingers with his. When he finally looked at her again, she continued. "Because I love you, enough to help you face this. Because you're here, and that… that wasn't you that night. We're both different people now."
Spike looked at her in wonder, unable to think of anything to say in response. Instead, he placed a kiss on her forehead. Buffy reached up with her free hand and touched his face in a gesture of comfort, then returned the hand to her lap and made herself more comfortable, laying her head on his shoulder.
"I'm right here," she told him, "and I'm not going anywhere."
Spike relaxed into her touch a little, relishing her presence. "Buffy…"
"If I… If it gets bad, and I… relapse, or something… stop me. Do whatever you have to. Promise me."
She hoped it wouldn't come to that. "I can't promise you that. If it does get bad, then I'll help you, not hurt you." He sighed, but she couldn't tell exactly why. Silence fell on the room again, and they stared straight ahead at the opposite wall, both deep in thought.
Buffy was jolted awake by the sensation of keeling over onto the tiled floor, and, immediately, she realised that Spike was no longer by her side. Instantly alert - she'd only been napping lightly, as it was - she sought him out, getting to her feet in the process. She saw him on the other side of the room, apparently as far into the corner as he could get, curled into a ball with his head in his hands. She'd not been witness to any of his soul-induced personal guilt trips, but she doubted they were very pretty.
She approached him carefully, but it wasn't necessary - he'd already spotted her coming, and he looked up, holding his hand out to stop her approaching further. He was lucid, it seemed, but only just.
"What happened…?" she asked, quietly.
"Don't!" he said, putting his hand out a little further to emphasise his point. "Don't come any closer… It's not allowed."
"Okay," she said, in her best 'humour-the-maniac' voice, trying to keep her tone level and non-panicked. "I'm not moving." She indicated a line of tile grouting with her foot. "See this? This is the boundary; that's your side, and I won't go near it unless you want me to." Spike didn't seem to register the comment. "Now… what happened?"
"I cheated," he told her. "Like you said before; told me off for cheating."
It took her a while to remember, and then she realised what he was on about. He'd obviously fallen asleep as well. "Oh. Well, I cheated, too, and you don't see me all with the crazy," she said, attempting to keep the mood light. It wasn't working, and he didn't seem to register her words in the slightest.
"I cheated; wasn't supposed to cheat, so I got punished."
Well, at least he was trying to explain, albeit a tad cryptically. Buffy crouched down, still keeping on her side of the 'boundary' so he wouldn't panic further. "How were you punished, Spike?"
On hearing his name, some semblance of sanity returned to his eyes. "Buffy…?"
"Yes. It's me." She reached for him, reassuringly, but he merely moved further back, away from her. She withdrew her hand with a sigh. He did, however, seem to be almost back to normal, although he was looking slightly fraught, still. "Are you with me?" she asked.
He nodded. "Think so…"
"Well, that's something. Don't do that to me again, okay? It's scary…"
That was clearly the wrong phrasing, since he'd interpreted it in terms of the reason they were even in this situation. "That's why you have to stay away," he told her. "So I won't do it again…"
"Still on my side of the boundary," she said, indicating her position in relation to the grouting again.
He shot her a glance that could only be interpreted as "give me some credit", which proved he was, at least, thinking more rationally, even sarcastically. "I don't think that'll help now."
"Maybe not, but like I said, I'm going to help you, not hurt you. Now, tell me what happened."
He sighed heavily. "I had a dream, is all. Dreamt it all happened again, everything in here. You and me, everything the same, right down to the words. I woke up before…" He trailed off, but didn't need to continue the sentence. "And then I looked and you were there, all vulnerable, right beside me, and I didn't want to hurt you again. I didn't want to… It was just so vivid, and… I just had to get away."
Buffy listened intently, looking sympathetic. She sat herself down on the floor, still keeping her distance from him, and then, she said, "You know what? I dreamt about it, too." He gave her a questioning look, and she added, "No, not just now. I mean before, while you were gone. For days, it was all I dreamt about, and it was just like yours, exact to every detail. But life goes on, and I had to face this room every morning afterwards. So eventually, I just stopped remembering it. I just refused to think about it, and then, I stopped dreaming about it."
"How could you forget about it?" he asked.
"Because I had to," she explained. "And because, all of a sudden, I realised I missed you, and the only reason I had left to hate you wasn't even a proper reason." Off his questioning expression, she elaborated on her somewhat cryptic remark. "Admit it. We were both emotionally screwed up when it happened. And with everything else going on around me, before and after the Wrath of Willow, continuing to convince myself I had a reason to hate you was pretty low on my priority list. Wondering where you were, that was slightly higher." She gave him a small smile.
Spike pondered her reasoning for a moment, realising she was right about her 'emotionally screwed up' comment. What little he did remember, aside from shouting and pain, was that he hadn't been of sound mind at the time. "I know," he said, "that I wasn't thinkin' straight, back then. And you were…" He tried to think of a polite way to explain it. She helped him out.
"The uber-bitch of the century?"
"Well…" He seemed reluctant to agree to the wording of it. Buffy rolled her eyes.
"Don't fight me on that one. You were saying?"
"Yes… What I was driving at was: we both made mistakes… but just because I was out of my head… Are you honestly telling me that excuses it?"
She thought about it. "Maybe it doesn't. I'm not claiming any of this makes sense, Spike. It's just…" She hadn't planned on telling him this, but it seemed she had no choice. "All right, I guess I have to tell you what happened…" She made herself more comfortable, which was tricky, considering she was sitting on a hard floor, and there was very little to lean on aside from the bathtub, and that would probably set Spike off again. When she'd found a position where something wasn't digging into her, she cleared her throat.
"Before you came back… everything was horrible. I mean, it really was…" She gave him a lowdown of her friends' various mental states, and went on to describe the night Giles had taken them all out to dinner, the same night she'd had the dream about him returning, only to vanish again. She told him about going into the bathroom and spotting the cracked tile - he craned his neck to see it, and got a brief flash of the moment he'd hit the wall - and then how she'd fled down the stairs after being bombarded with random memories.
"I sat on the bottom step," she explained, "and all I could do was cry… but it wasn't because of the memories, or, at least, not those. Suddenly, I remembered something you'd said to me before… before Anya. You said 'I don't hurt you'… Only… only you had, by what you'd almost done, by leaving like you did. And then I remembered something else you'd said, that time in the alley. 'You always hurt the ones you love'."
She stopped for a breather. Spike hadn't spoken throughout her retelling of the events, and he was curious as to how the story was going to end. Buffy re-collected her thoughts. "That's when I knew," she said. "I knew you loved me… or I… I accepted that you did. I guess, deep down, I'd always known it was true, even when I was denying you could feel anything. That realisation… it made it so much easier for me to forgive you… Or, at least, it made it easier to believe I was right to do so.
"Giles found me, did his big ol' concerned-father-figure thing, and I ended up telling him everything. He couldn't believe I'd forgiven you, at first, but… I couldn't explain it. I still can't, not really. All I knew then was that if you ever came back, I wanted you to know you were forgiven."
She'd finished, it seemed. Spike remained silent, for a moment, taking everything in. Buffy's reasoning didn't make perfect sense, but then, when had anything in their mixed-up relationship made sense? He offered her a smile to show he understood, for the most part, and then he couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't seem contrived. Instead, he opted for something light. "And you said I was the crazy one…"
She returned the smile. "If there's just one thing I've learnt from being with you, Spike, it's that sanity sometimes isn't an option."
How right she was. They'd both been insane from the beginning: Spike, to think he'd get out of the ordeal unscathed, and Buffy, to think she'd ever manage to push him away. Nevertheless, all of that was in the past, and the present was currently what mattered, and getting him through his 'therapy session' so they'd have some chance at a future. "When did you realise you'd forgiven me?" he asked. "Not that I can quite believe you have…"
"I don't know," she said. "It doesn't matter, though, does it? The important thing is that I do forgive you." He was still dubious of that fact, although the surroundings probably had something to do with it. If she had to, she'd keep on telling him until he believed her, or until he managed to forgive himself, whichever came first. "Oh, I'll tell you what I do know, though."
"The exact moment I allowed myself to love you. Remember that argument we had, in the street?"
"It was then. After you'd gone. I guess after all the rambling I did about how I wanted to and couldn't, something finally clicked."
"I'm sorry about that ultimatum, by the way," he said.
She shrugged. "I deserved it." She said it with such finality that he knew better than to argue. She got up, then, to stretch her legs. "I wish I knew what time it was," she muttered.
Spike also got to his feet, and looked out of the window. "About… two-thirty, I reckon."
She looked at him curiously, but decided it was better not to ask how he could guess, especially considering there was no visible moon. They both remained standing on opposite sides of their invisible boundary, looking around rather helplessly now that the difficult part of the conversation was over with. Spike seemed to have mellowed considerably. "Am I allowed to touch, now?" she asked. He answered the question quite effectively by stepping over into her 'side' of the room, and enveloping her in a hug. The sigh of utter relief he gave implied he'd been wanting to do so for quite a while. As she hugged him back, she asked, "How are you feeling?"
"Better now," he said. "And like a complete idiot for freaking out."
"You think you're going to be okay in here, now?"
He let go of her again, and looked around, ponderously. "It's still in my head a bit," he admitted. "But I'll be fine. And it occurs to me that you did more talkin' than I did in here."
"I guess I did… Whatever, it still worked. Just call me Doctor Buffy." He raised an eyebrow, and she could tell there was some lewd comment coming, so she cut him off. "Okay, ew. And you know that isn't what I meant. God, you must be feeling better…"
"Right as the proverbial rain, love," he said. "What time is that sister of yours meant to let us out of here?"
Buffy had completely forgotten about that, for some reason. "Oh… in about seven hours. I was expecting it to take longer."
"That's assuming she wakes up in time. Did you forget it's a Saturday? What teenager in their right mind gets up before noon on a Saturday?"
"Damn, you're right. I guess we'll just have to make lots of noise."
"Again with the 'ew'…" She rolled her eyes, and in doing so, caught sight of the various items she'd taken out of the cupboard, which still hadn't been put back. "You think seven hours is enough time for us to alphabetise the cabinet?"
"I would hope so."
"Right, then…" With that, she pulled out the remaining few items and dumped them in the sink, then put everything on the floor and sat, Indian-style, in front of the debris, staring to sort it into piles. After a few seconds, she looked up. "Y'know that 'us' I mentioned…?"
He sighed resignedly and sat opposite her. "Where the Hell do we start?"
She handed him some antiseptic, and then started singing the Sesame Street Alphabet Song, with only the slightest hint of sarcasm.
An hour and a half later, they'd sorted every single item into alphabetical order, reverse alphabetical order, numeric order, general overall size order, and then into 'medical', 'cosmetic' and 'miscellaneous'. Buffy stared at the half-rolled up tube in her hand, and asked, "Do you think anti-pimple cream comes under 'medical'?"
Spike had zoned out around about the third re-organisation, and shook his head to clear the fuzz. "What?"
"This stuff," she said, showing him. "'Medical' or 'cosmetic' or what?"
He shrugged. "Maybe if we had a section for 'vanity'…"
She threw it at him. "Just because you don't have to worry about it…"
He stared at the various rows on the floor. "You know what I think?"
"What do you think?"
"I think that it doesn't matter how the bloody thing's organised, because the Bit'll mess it up in five seconds flat."
Buffy pouted. "I know that. I just wanted the sense of achievement." She got up, and opened the cupboard again. "Uh-oh…"
She turned back, indicated the three rows of products on the floor, and said, "I forgot we've only got two shelves…"
Spike resisted the overwhelming urge to bash his head against the wall - after all, it wasn't like that damn tile could get any more cracked - and instead began pelting her with cotton wool balls. Buffy fought back with whatever was nearest. Spike dodged bandages, rolled-up gauze, and various other things, but it was the roll of toilet paper that finally caused him to call a truce, holding his hands up in surrender.
Buffy lowered the box she'd grabbed - which, on reflection, wouldn't really have been fair - and surveyed the mess they'd created. "Oh, well… I think it all fits better when it's a mess, anyway…"
She started gathering the cotton wool up again, stuffing the wads back into the bag from whence they'd came, while Spike helped retrieve things from the other side of the room. They worked in amicable silence to put all the supplies back in the cabinet - of course, by this point, Spike had realised the story about the spare razor had been a ruse - and closed the door on the teetering chaos within.
"I've always wondered," he said, breaking the silence, "why nothing ever falls out when you open the door."
"I know; it's weird, isn't it? It's like the laws of physics no longer apply."
Spike cast a glance to the window; the sky was lighter, now, a medium shade of blue. "Must be about four o'clock," he said. "Sun rises on the other side of the house, doesn't it?"
Buffy nodded. "Yeah, but we'd better block the light anyway, just in case." So saying, she went over and pulled down the window blind, although it was far too thin to be effective. When she turned back, she yawned.
"You should get some sleep, pet," he said. "After all, you've been up all night, more or less."
She wasn't going to argue with him about it, since the idea of sleep sounded suddenly very appealing. "So have you," she said. "And I really think your brain needs a break, don't you?"
"I s'pose it does…" he mumbled.
Buffy looked around, wondering where would be most comfortable to sleep. Leaning on Spike by the door had been fine for her brief nap, but it was bound to play havoc with her back if she did it a second time. Then, she was struck with a brainwave. With any luck, it would also be the final factor in Spike's 'recovery'.
She wandered towards the bath, and held the shower curtain up to the light. On its own, it was useless, but as an extra filter for the light that might escape through the blind, it was perfect. She nodded, satisfied, ignored Spike's curious expression, and began to root through a box of various bath junk until she uncovered an inflatable pillow in the shape of a duck.
She threw it in his direction, implying he should blow it up. "What the Hell is this meant to be?" he asked.
"It's Dawn's," she said, as if it explained everything, "but in the absence of a proper pillow, it's going to have to do."
Spike fiddled with the stopper on the pillow. "Buffy, if you think I'm willing to let either of us sleep in that bathtub-"
"You've got a better idea, I suppose?" He shrugged; she started to pull the shower curtain across until it concealed the bath. "I don't trust that blind," she said. "It lets too much light in, but this should help." When she looked across, he'd already managed to inflate the pillow and stop it up. She took it off him and hurled it unceremoniously into the bath, following it with several towels in an effort to make it more comfortable. "Consider this your final bit of therapy."
She'd deliberately positioned herself in the same place she'd been during the Incident, and Spike had already noticed. He started to back away a little, but she asked, rhetorically, "Where are you planning to go?"
He stopped; she was right. "Is this what they call 'tough love'?" he asked.
"I guess it is," she replied. "Key word is 'love'…" He sighed heavily, but she could tell he was weakening, and persevered. "Spike, whatever happens… neither of us will get hurt. I promise."
Buffy reached out a hand towards him, her expression hopeful and slightly pleading. Spike gave in. He took a step closer to her, and grasped her hand in his. With his other hand, he brushed her hair behind her ear, cupping her cheek gently. "I don't know about you," he said, "but I'm bloody terrified…"
She knew, somehow, that he wasn't referring to the surroundings any more. The prospect of their having an actual, proper, sane relationship was somewhat frightening, to say the least. "Me, too."
And then, she kissed him, and the cold tiles that had been the stuff of nightmares vanished into nothingness.
She vaguely remembered her alarm clock blaring, but that was hours ago. When Dawn finally rolled over and opened her eyes with enough coherent thought to read and comprehend the numbers, she nearly fell out of bed. It was nearly noon, and Spike and Buffy had been in the bathroom a whole five hours too long.
"Crap, crap, crap!" she yelled to herself, starting up a mantra that would provide the rhythm for her to get dressed to. She glanced at the clock again, and it chugged over another minute. "Crap!"
Her bedroom door burst open, and she tried to remember where Willow had hidden the key - she noted with only a little relief that their housemate was similarly not up yet, if her closed bedroom door was any indication - and muttered to herself as she ran down the stairs. "He can't kill me, he's got a chip; she can't kill me, I'm her sister…"
She flung open various cupboards, and finally uncovered the bathroom door key in a box on the mantelpiece - Well, duh. Obvious much? - before bolting back up the stairs again. She stopped at the bathroom door to catch her breath and adopt her most innocent expression. As she slipped the key into the lock, it occurred to her that she should have put all the clocks back five hours - Hell, even six, so she'd look early - but it was too late to worry about it now. The door swung open, and she braced herself for a torrent of Buffy-rage…
The room was silent, and apparently empty, bathed in late-morning sunshine. Dawn took a tentative step inside, half-expecting to be ambushed from behind the door, or something, and looked around. "Uh… guys? Buffy? Spike?"
There was no answer. She was relieved to see there was no blood anywhere - one of her more negative presumptions had been that they'd end up fighting, or inflicting harm in some way - but was now starting to get worried. Where the heck were they?
That was when she heard the light snoring coming from the bathtub, and her panic decreased. She stepped carefully up to the tub, and peered behind the curtain.
Whoever that is banging on my door, you are going to die. It's not even noon y- Willow opened one eye, noted the position of the sun, and groaned. She dragged herself out of bed and stumbled, bleary-eyed, towards the door.
"Okay, I'm comin'…" She opened the door to see Dawn grinning like a moron and bouncing on her toes. "Dawnie? What's-?"
"Okay, so I slept in, and I thought they were gonna kill me, but I opened the door and… oh, it's so adorable! Come see!" She started to head off, but Willow grasped her shoulder with one hand, rubbing her eyes with the other.
"Slow down. Tell me in real words."
"Sorry." She took a deep breath. "It's Buffy and Spike. They're in the tub. Just… oh, you have to see this!"
Willow's eyebrows shot up her forehead. "Dawn Summers! I really don't think it's appropriate for you to… see that." She put on her resolve-face. "You little voyeur…"
Dawn looked at her as though she'd just sprouted wings, and then realised what she was on about. "Oh! Oh… no! Ew!! I didn't mean… oh, just come and see…"
Before Willow could ask any more questions, she grabbed onto her wrist and dragged her down the landing. At the door, she put a finger to her lips to imply she should be quiet, and let Willow go in ahead of her. They both looked into the bathtub. There, lying on a couple of bath-towels and a duck-shaped inflatable pillow, was one bleached-blond vampire, and, practically on top of him, nestled in his arms, was the Slayer. Both were sound asleep and oblivious to the two goofy-faced women grinning down on them.
"Aw…" noted Willow.
Willow indicated, with a gesture of her head, that they should leave the room, and Dawn agreed. She pulled the door to. Willow emerged from her room with the comforter from her bed, which she placed carefully over the sleeping pair, making sure they were tucked in. When she was sure they were settled, she headed down to the kitchen with Dawn.
Willow made them both coffee, and they sat opposite each other, neither speaking. Eventually, Dawn looked up from staring into her mug, and said, "Looks like you were right, Will."
Dawn smiled. "She got him through it."
A/N: Aw. As I said, pointless, but sweet. There may be another of these post-"Cradle" snippets (although my snippets tend to be ridiculously long despite the simplicity of the ideas…) where they attempt to move around the furniture for the room-change. Not sure if I have enough material to make it humorous enough, though, so… it may not appear.
Anyway, now that this is out of the way, I'm afraid I must love you and leave you, and sit very firmly on my Spike Muse, since I have a "Phantom of the Opera" fic to finish. FYI, I got a cast on my leg today. A fractured cuboid bone in my foot. So, in the interests of sympathy, I believe you are all obligated to review. :D
Anyway, now that this is out of the way, I'm afraid I must love you and leave you, and sit very firmly on my Spike Muse, since I have a "Phantom of the Opera" fic to finish. FYI, I got a cast on my leg today. A fractured cuboid bone in my foot. So, in the interests of sympathy, I believe you are all obligated to review. :D