Chapter 9: Town Meeting
She was dying in front of the toothbrush display.
They had an amazing selection for a general store in a one-light town: blue, green, or pink. A mind-boggling decision when the guy you just molested in broad daylight was standing inches away. All nervous energy and swollen lips. Redolent of leather and blood. Buffy snuck a quick look over her shoulder. And flushed as filtered light caught the pale hair that only fingers could trash so thoroughly. Her fingers. She tore her eyes away with difficulty, glued them to a package of...cherry floss. It would do. In her mind's eye, she saw nothing but him, watery sunlight. A swirl of road dust. Kisses.
He looked like exactly what they'd been doing, and Buffy was torn, veering wildly between terror and a kind of bemused pride. She, Buffy Summers, had apparently netted the town catch. And now she didn't know what to do with him. You're not ready for this, her brain screamed. You're relationship illiterate. You're a flop at sex, and not in a good, sweaty, just-got-done kind of way. You're-
"—taking a fucking millennium. It's a toothbrush, not your last will and testament."
Spike sounded cranky. Who could blame him? Dragged out at dawn, insulted, punched. Practically mauled. And now he could add stared at to the mix. Wherever Buffy turned, there were eyes. Curious. Assessing. Sizing up the new girl who was not Drusilla. No wonder Faith hid in the corner with her cigarettes.
Spike was still talking. Some kind of objection to being there "all buggering day". Whatever. Buffy was thinking about his hands. Where they'd been. Where they might go.
"Bloody hell. Are you even listening to me?"
Listening. Mmm. Absolutely.
Spike rolled his eyes. "Never mind. The dopey look says it all." Reaching past her, he plucked the green brush off the rack. "Merry Christmas, happy Chanukah. Can we get the hell out of here?"
Buffy pouted. "I don't want that color!"
Spike slapped the plastic box into her hand anyway. "Big fucking dental tragedy. Deal with it."
Buffy's face flamed. "Stop swearing! People can hear!"
"Yet another spectacular statement of the obvious." Spike's sarcasm was so thick Buffy could spread it with a butter knife. "Were you born this uptight?"
"No," Buffy shot back, "But the incredible nosiness of complete strangers makes a girl edgy."
Spike shrugged. "Small town, pet. Whiz and it winds up in the local daily." He glanced up the aisle to where the cashier was stationed. "Oi, Lydia! Quit the rubbernecking! You're making Buffy nervous."
The older woman glanced up from her coins. "William," she replied sternly. "Are you implying that I was eavesdropping?"
"Absolutely." He swung in the other direction and addressed a bespectacled young man who'd been strenuously examining baby wipes for ten minutes. "Put those saucer eyes back in your head, Miles. Haven't you ever seen a girl before?"
Embarrassed silence reigned for a moment. Buffy could hear the soft hum of the coolers and floorboards shifting underfoot. Then, to her amazement, all the oglers suddenly launched into action at once, returning to their regularly scheduled tasks with a vengeance.
Spike made a satisfied noise. "Happy?"
"Not really," Buffy admitted. "They're only pretending. To pretend to not listen," she clarified.
"I suppose," Spike agreed mildly, but he had an unholy gleam in his eyes that made Buffy nervous. Very nervous. "Maybe we should give 'em a show."
"Maybe we shouldn't." Buffy took a hasty step back and promptly collided with the shelf, sending several cans of shaving cream clattering to the floor.
Spike ignored the racket and moved into her space with ludicrous ease. Buffy squeaked in surprise, not prepared for the beguiling weight of his hands on her waist. The tickling breath and bundled energy that comes before a kiss.
It was only a fleeting contact, lighter than a whisper. Almost friendly. But Buffy was undone by it, that brief brush of lips that banished her fears and sent embarrassment skittering away for a little while. She resurfaced a little dazed, a whole lot charmed. Wanting more. Her fingers had slipped down to encircle his thin wrists at some point, she realized, absently stroking where the skin was pale and soft as wet paper.
"Okay?" To her amazement, he sounded a little unsure, like she might still bolt when they separated. For the first time, it occurred to her that he was probably just as freaked out by this strange and irresistable attraction as she was. Maybe more so. But he wasn't the type to cut and run. Not Spike, who grabbed and wrestled with life and somehow always came out on top.
"Yeah." Buffy licked her lips and he followed the movement with wide, hungry pupils. "Spike, I..."
He held up a hand to stop her...apology? Confession? "Look, you don't have to say anything."
"I already know."
She stared at him, bewildered and not a little amazed. "You do, don't you?"
"S'all movin' a bit fast, yeah?" He waved a hand, encompassing them, the store, the town. "Got you good and wigged."
Buffy nodded. "A little."
Spike snorted. "I'd say a lot. Last night was a fiasco and this morning was all over the bloody map. The ladies auxiliary is in secret meeting to pick out our china pattern. You have no money. Mummy and Daddy have probably hired Columbo by now and–"
"Feel free to stop anytime," Buffy cut in archly. "I feel much better, now. Thanks bunches."
"Just makin' a point, love."
"Well, don't do it again!"
Spike sighed. "All I'm sayin' is that it's a lot to take in."
"Yeah," Buffy relented. "I get that. Next time just batter me with a blunt object, okay?"
"Done." Spike grinned, and her heart tripped a little at the miracle it worked on his sharp features. "Wanna get out of here?" His voice was very low. Smoky. Just for her.
"Spike...wait." Buffy bit her lip, not quite sure what she intended to say. Only that they weren't quite finished and, God knows, the moment might never come again. She breathed deeply of lemon polish and fresh coffee. Morning sunlight and unwashed boy, which was sweet and funky and strange. "Come here." She tugged on his belt loops. "Your button's undone."
She'd first noticed it on the road, during her initial inventory of his person. And hastily put up a mental block for her own sanity. Now, she set to work buttoning his jeans like it was the most natural thing in the world. See, I'm not afraid. A big, fat lie, of course, and he saw right through it, being perception guy.
"A for effort, ducks. Might work better if your hands weren't shaking." He squirmed a little. "Be careful, will ya?"
"Oh, shut up." Buffy admonished.
"If you wanted to stick your fingers down my pants all you had to do was ask."
She ignored that and concentrated on what she was doing. Until a large hand gently closed over hers. "You've nothing to prove, pet. Not to me."
Buffy dared a glance at his face. "But I...and you..." She stammered to a halt, not sure how to finish that sentence without humiliating herself. She wanted him. God, more than she'd ever wanted anything in her life, but the black knot of fear in her belly was almost stronger. It colored everything.
Bless him, he didn't make her say it. I suck at sex. And not in the good, oral way. Just eyed her for a long moment. "If you want me to back off, I will."
"No!" Buffy almost yelled, earning a raised eyebrow. "I just..." She broke off, discouraged, and decided it was now or never. No more doing a Gregory Hines around the issue. "We are talking about sex, right?"
Spike leaned forward to reply to her low, embarrassed murmur. "I bloody well hope so. If this whole, twisty conversation was about your sodding toothbrush, I'll impale myself on that umbrella rack."
Buffy wondered how many years the Queen would throw at her for throttling him. "Could you be serious for one nanosecond?"
"Why? Seems like you're knotted up enough for both of us." He canted his head like she was some intriguing puzzle he was hellbent on putting together. "The way I figure it, some bloke did a number on you."
Buffy flushed, torn between mortification and relief as Spike slid the pieces into place. "Tosser couldn't hack it in the sack and blamed the lady. What a prince." He arched a curious eyebrow. "Did you ever consider the possibility that it wasn't all your fault?"
Actually, no. But it was a strangely compelling idea. Liberating and new.
Spike grunted. "Didn't think so. Take my word for it, pet. There's nothing wrong with you."
"You're just saying that."
"Right." He rolled his eyes . "I shared the couch with you because you're so repulsive."
"It was a pity share!"
"That's bollocks," Spike ground out. "And you know it. I think you've been using your one bad experience to avoid contact with the male species altogether. Well, get over it. Shagging isn't always hearts and violins. I remember this one time–
"–with prodigious amounts of gin, some young ladies, and a traffic cone. I think penguins were involved."
Buffy grimaced. "How sweet. Never speak to me again."
"It's all a bit hazy."
Thank God, she thought, pasting on a big, fake smile. "Bummer. No details for the nightmare I'm going to have about this conversation."
Spike huffed impatiently. "Christ on a cracker, Buffy! Don't you get it? I'm trying to shove it through that thick skull of yours that we're not all bastards. Don Dickless needed a brain transplant and a boot up the arse. But he's gone, now. Throw that memory on the rubbish heap and move on." Spike slapped his hands together like he'd just solved her life's trauma in half a dozen sentences. "Let's get a coffee." He was already moving away.
Buffy trailed after him, knocked off balance yet again. Being with him was like riding the Roller coaster at Six Flags in a lightning storm with no belt and a drunk at the controls. "Fine. If you'd rather forage than talk to me--."
"Hush for a minute." Spike cut in, coming to an abrupt halt in the middle of the aisle. Buffy, a step behind, crashed into the curve of his shoulder with a muffled "Oof."
"Spike, what the–" With his head cocked like a retriever, he appeared to be listening.
"Here." He shoved a shopping basket at her. "Get whatever you want. I've gotta go." And he bolted away like a man pursued by fire vomiting dragons.
Go? Go where? The frozen section? Outside for a cigarette? Disneyland? Buffy was still standing there in confusion when someone almost bowled her over from behind.
"Blondie Bear!" A blur of hair, perfume, and cleavage rushed by like Haley's comet on speed.
Buffy gaped at the retreating figure. Blondie Bear? She couldn't possibly be referring to...
Well now, Buffy thought. This is an interesting twist.
Her amusement pretty much dried up, though, when a crash and a yell came from the next aisle, followed by a lot of profanity.
IHe sounds like he's being killed. Time to mount a rescue./I
Buffy found them in the bread section. Pinned against some whole wheat, with the blonde wrapped around him like an amorous orangutang, he was trying to extricate himself without causing a major loaf disaster. She, in the throes of a Harlequin moment, was having none of it.
"I knew you'd come back! The Psychic Friends told me we were forever. Like Joannie and Chachi."
Buffy snickered loudly, drawing Spike's attention. "Hi, there." She waved congenially. "Need help?"
"Obviously," he snapped. "Quit yapping and lend a hand."
"Aren't you going to introduce us first?"
Spike rolled his eyes. "Fine. Buffy, meet Harmony." He hesitated. "My ex."
Buffy gaped at him. "How many do you have?"