CHOICES

By OneTwoMany

SUMMARY: A slightly alternative chosen.

RATING: This part G, but R eventually

DEDICATION: Monanotlisa and Scarlettfish, who wanted Spuffy schmoop.

THANKS: Juliabraa and BuffyX

Having had enough of gazing at the pit of death and destruction that was Sunnydale, Buffy climbs back into the school bus. Foot over painful foot, up the three well-worn steps. She's vaguely aware that the others may be following her, but her eyes are straight ahead, scanning the aisles and seats.

It takes a second, but she finds Spike sitting on the floor between the seats, coat draped across him, hiding from the sun. He looks a little singed around the edges courtesy of their early-afternoon bus run - how long has it been since done one of those? - but otherwise no worse for wear.

Not dust, anyway, and right now anything more than that's a bonus.

The old seat creaks, as Buffy eases down to sit near him. It's painful to move; she's bone tired, and her stomach still aches, and her hand burns from where she'd ripped the heated, glowy amulet from around Spike's neck. He'd been so determined to die. Stupid, wonderful heroics. She feels the wave of relief wash over her again.

They've been through so much, and there's something instinctive about returning to him now.

"So, Sunnyhell's completely gone, eh?" he asks, gently raising a hand to rest it tentatively on her knee. His fingers lie dangerously close to a sunbeam, but then, he's always played with fire.

She nods. "Oh, yeah. Dusted."

There should be tears behind her eyes and lead in her heart. She knows this and, yet, feels nothing. Numb, wasted. So not ready to deal, but thankful for a victory she's not sure she entirely expected.

She watches the others file in and take their seats. Mirth and relief expended on café jokes, they're quieter now, speaking mainly in hushed conversations and muffled whispers. A few glances in her direction, as always, and no one seems surprised to see her sitting with Spike. Guess you get a little break from the mothering and the worried, condescending glances when you've just saved the world.

Again.

But what to do now? So much uncertainty. They've won, but they're not quite ready to process the price they've paid. Not the potentials, for whom Sunnydale had been death row, nor the Scoobies for whom it had been their only home. Certainly not Xander, whose wounded face and vacant eyes hint at the loss of his very soul. It's the second time in Buffy's life that she's been homeless, but she's never before had no home to go back to.

Buffy drops her gaze to her lap, catches Spike watching her with soft, cautious eyes, as his fingers gently play over her knee. She can see that he's searching for words but coming up empty-handed. Spike short of words. It should be funny, but it's only sad. She wonders briefly if he can possibly even understand; remembers that he too lost a home amid fire and violence.

Best not to think of that now, so she turns her attention back to the smudgy vista beyond the dust-laden window. Tries to drown out the business-like discussion between Giles and Willow and Kennedy over directions and plans. It occurs to Buffy that she's no idea where they're headed, or if they're headed anywhere at all. It's nice to let someone else be in charge for a while.

Finally, the voices fade, and the bus lurches and starts, engine groaning. Just gonna drive then. Get away from here, before the memories and inevitable punch of reality drive them mad.

"You're wounded..." Spike's voice tugs her gently back to the here and now.

He's staring at the stain on her shirt with concern, moves his hand from her knee but doesn't quite touch the fabric.

Huh. Forgotten about that.

Buffy nods.

"Yeah. Or, I was wounded. But now? Not so much." She lifts the shirt slightly. Her stomach is smattered with blood, but the wound is small and scabby. Funny, how that had worked. Not even slayer healing could usually take care of that kind of injury so fast.

Mystical healing, eat your heart out.

"I think, maybe the scythe..."

Her voice fades out, as Spike gently touches the skin around the wound. Cool, dry fingers, expert and gentle. There's a familiar tingle of awareness, and her breath catches in her chest. Apparently satisfied, Spike flattens his palm, begins to run his hand around the sensitive, slightly ticklish skin on her flank. Buffy doesn't move, doesn't even flinch, as he gently tests the skin on her back. Content, he nods and pulls back, hand returning to her knee.

Buffy can feel the trail of his fingers long after they leave. She takes a steadying breath.

"Not half as bad as it looks, then. And thank God for that. Buggering huge amount of blood from such a little scratch." He smiles, eyes meeting hers, eyebrow raised a little. "Enough of the stuff to make a bloke hungry."

Buffy snorts out a laugh, rolls her eyes. "Okay, eww."

He smiles in return. "Can always get a grin."

The moment's broken, but in the crowded bus and under so many gazes, the drop in intimacy is kind of a relief. She's not sure she's ready for intimate public touching yet, although the hand clasps and gentle, comforting gestures she welcomes with ease.

Let the others think what they like.

"So, pet, given I can't look out the window, wanna tell me where we're headed?"

She shakes her head. "I really have no idea." A pause, and then she moves her hand back on top of his, and catches his gaze with her own. "But I'm glad you're along for the ride."