Buffy walked into the kitchen and groaned. After a long day, all she wanted was a snack, toast or cereal or something. However, in order to make toast, you needed a plate, a knife to spread the butter; for cereal, a bowl, a spoon. Unfortunately, judging by the appearance of the kitchen, there wasn't a clean dish or utensil in the place.

Aggravated, she turned to yell for one of the girls to come and do dishes. Before bellowing, she reconsidered. Doing dishes, she'd at least be guaranteed some quiet and privacy. The Potentials had an instinct for avoiding household chores. With a quirky grin playing about her lips, she began running hot water in the sink and collecting dishes in reachable piles.

The sink was full of hot sudsy water, and Buffy was about to sink her arms in when she noticed the silence. Quick as a flash, she took advantage of the moment to snap on the radio, for once able to listen to music without 15 girls arguing about what station.

She was already wet to the elbow, relishing the normalcy of her task when the music finally penetrated her consciousness. Appalled, she looked at the radio, then at her wet hands. She was totally unable to change the channel. That new girl from Texas was going to hear what Buffy had to say about changing the radio to a Country station after the dishes were done.

Resolutely, Buffy returned to her task. After a few minutes, the unknown music became soothing. A surprising number of songs were familiar to her, crossover hits she'd heard on other stations or remakes of old pop and rock hits. She hummed along with the songs she knew, breaking into song when an unfamiliar version of "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" floated gently through the room. Eventually, she even hummed along in the choruses of songs she didn't know. The song "Wanna Talk About Me" made a plate slip from her wet hands back into the soapy water as she tried to control her disbelieving giggles.

Soon the songs slowed down again. 'This station was sure fond of love songs,' she mused, as the first chords sweetly filled the air. The purity of the female voice drew her attention, and Buffy's hands slowed in their assigned task as she was drawn into the song.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed.

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me, that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

The lyrics were sweet, entreating the listener to stop and smell the roses. A reminiscent smile grace Buffy's beautiful face. Something in the woman's voice and words reminded Buffy of her mother. Then, as the chorus swelled, she looked incredulously at the radio.

I hope you dance. I hope you dance.

Sweet memories of her mother were suddenly gone as her mind filled with images of Spike. Vivid memories of sparring with fists and wits, of tangled limbs and tongues in the throes of passion. Her face heated with remembered excitement and lust. He always called their interactions a dance.

The chorus was short, and soon her flushed body cooled, as did the water. Her task totally forgotten, all her attention was focused on the lyrics of the song.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance,
Living might mean taking chances but they are worth taking,
Loving might be a mistake but it's worth making.

Don't let some hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to selling out reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

Snapshots of her life flitted through her mind. Difficult choices, the sorrows, and the joys all passed before her eyes. She remembered Giles leaving her, her mother's death, falling to the Master so many years ago. Once again she learned to live after returning from Heaven, learning to love again. A snicker escaped her lips as the line about the "hell bent heart" caught her attention. That was certainly one way of describing Spike.

The chorus again rose lyrically through the room. This time it was longer, and a male voice sang in counterpoint.

I hope you dance. I hope you dance.
I hope you dance. I hope you dance.

(Time is a wheel in constant motion,
Always rolling us along.

Tell me, who wants to look back on their years and wonder
Where those years have gone.)

A tear slowly rolled down her cheek. This time, her visions were peopled by all those who'd left, who she'd lost. Once again she sobbed as her father left their home in L.A., as funeral services for classmates, grandparents, and her mother passed in one long, grief-coloured blur. Once again she had to kill Angel to save the world. Finally, she stood atop the rickety structure Glory built, saying goodbye to Dawn.

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance


The first verse played softly through the room again. Absently, Buffy wiped away a tear with a wet and soapy hand. Listening more carefully to the words this time, a smile curved her lips. The smile had so much emotion in it; sad, sweet, reminiscent, and hopeful all at once.

Dance. I hope you dance.
I hope you dance. I hope you dance.
I hope you dance. I hope you dance.

(Time is a wheel in constant motion,
Always rolling us along.

Tell me, who wants to look back on their years and wonder
Where those years have gone.

Tell me, who wants to look back on their years and wonder
Where those years have gone.)

The final chorus and the instrumental faded into silence. Slowly, Buffy came back to herself after her trip down memory lane. Blinking, she looked around the kitchen. It wasn't up to Joyce's standards, but there were enough clean dishes for supper. She quickly decided to leave the rest for someone else.

Drying her hands she moved to snap off the radio. The announcer's voice made her pause a moment. She made a mental note of the title and artist of the song that had touched her so deeply, and only then turned off the radio. As if it was a signal, suddenly she could hear a few of the girls bickering in the living room. She winced as the voices got higher and higher in pitch. Her eyes lit on the basement door and, lightning fast, she disappeared down the stairs, closing the door and the squabbling out.

"Buffy?" Spike's voice rose gently from the darkness below, sending a shiver through Buffy's body.

"Yeah, it's me," Buffy said, trying to keep her voice steady. "I was looking for someplace quiet. Is it okay if I join you?"

Spike looked at the Slayer in surprise. When she'd asked for quiet, he'd expected to be tossed upstairs with the girls. He instantly acquiesced to her request, grateful even now for the opportunity to spend time with his Slayer. He watched her grope her way down the stairs. The dim light made it possible for his enhanced vampire sight to watch her without her catching him. A few steps from the bottom, she stumbled. Like a shooting star, Spike streaked across the room and caught her before she hit the hard concrete floor.

"Thanks Spike." Buffy spoke quietly, no hint of sarcasm or irritation in her voice.

Spike was beginning to worry. This didn't seem like Buffy, his Slayer that was all fire and passion. As if Buffy could sense his concern, she reassured him.

"Relax Spike, nothing's wrong. We're still in a holding pattern, nobody died, hey, I'm not even that worried about the apparent stalemate, at least at the moment. I just needed to get away from everything for a bit. You know, I was so desperate for peace and quiet I did the dishes?"

Spike chuffed a brief laugh. Somehow, he and Buffy were perched side by side on the edge of his bed. Buffy sighed and slid back to lean against the wall. Spike hesitated a moment, then gingerly slid back and joined her, his bare arm sliding against hers in the darkness. They sat in silence for long moments, letting the tension between them drain away slowly, leaving only a sense of camaraderie and companionship.

Eventually, Buffy spoke again. "Spike, why do you always say we're dancing?" The quietly direct question rang in the darkness like a church bell.

Spike was startled. His mind tumbled like rocks in a mountain stream, and before he could plan what to say, he started talking.

"I grew up in a middle-class home in Victorian England. Mother had a Dancing Master come and instruct me from the time I was 13. I hated it. It was too easy. He stood there, telling me where to put my feet, how to hold my body, to pretend I had a woman in my arms. It was ridiculous. I complained about it all the time." Spike broke off, trying to figure out what he was trying to say. "By the standards of the day, my mother was extremely lenient. One day, after about five years of lessons, she stopped in the room to watch. She stayed silent until after the lessons were through, then told me I was a fine dancer and I didn't have to have the Dancing Master come any more. I heard from the servants that mother had complained that the lessons were useless. 'How can he learn to dance without a partner? Fool of a man, wasting my son's time and my husband's money.' A week or so after my last lesson, we were in the country, and mother asked me to accompany her to a county dance. My father was in India at the time, and this was my opportunity to prove that I was an adult. Everything was fine until Mother pushed me to ask one of the Squire's daughter's to dance. Mabel was beautiful, about my age, in the process of preparing for her debut in the fall. She was accomplished, polished, a woman, rather than a girl. I was still a callow boy." Again, silence filled the room. Finally, Spike sighed and continued. "I was terrible. I was so proud of my London manners and my London dancing lessons, and I was dreadful. I stepped on her feet, I knocked into the other couples on the floor, and I tangled in her train so badly I ripped the trim."

Spike expected Buffy to burst out laughing at this confession. He was surprised to feel her reach for his hand in the darkness. "That must have been humiliating," she said sympathetically.

Encouraged, Spike continued. "In the carriage home that evening, I complained to Mother. She'd said I was a fine dancer, pushed me to dance with Mabel. It was her fault I was humiliated. She simply sat there and let me rant at her. Then, at home, when I would have stormed up to my room in a temper, she took my hand and pulled me into the drawing room. She sat me down and explained how important dancing was. It was the display of a peacock, allowing us to display our physical beauty and control, as well as our understanding of the culture and societal requirements. Then she took me by the hand and taught me to dance. We spun around the room, faster and faster, finally falling to the chaise in laughter and joy. It was utterly freeing." Spike's voice dropped to a whisper. "It was the night I realized Mother was dying." Buffy's hand, still entangled with his, clasped tighter. "The joy and sorrow combined made me understand the dance more than even Mother's explanation. Everything is dance. Dancing is about give and take, competition and alliance, victory and defeat. For a while, I treated everything was like a dance. Conversations, riding, school, whatever I did, I compared it to the ebb and flow of dance. Then I got turned. When I was a vampire, there was no ebb, only flow. There was no defeat, only victory. Even the Slayers couldn't defeat me. Then I met you, and the world was a dance again. It was the brilliant colours, the sparkling wit, the joy and freedom I'd experienced that night Mother taught me to dance, only so much deeper and more vibrant. There was no other word in my vocabulary that expresses the emotions I felt, that I still feel, when I'm with you, be it fighting you, arguing with you, or," Spike's voice dropped to a whisper, "loving you."

Spike expected Buffy to drop his hand. Any reminder of his love, their shared lust always caused her to turn away before. This time she held on, staring into the darkness. Finally, as the tension once banished rebuilt, she turned to him.

"Thank you, Spike. I don't quite know why that is so important to me, but hearing that story, understanding your feelings, it means a lot." She closed her eyes, and despite the darkness, unerringly found his lips and brushed a gentle kiss across their soft coldness. A final squeeze of his hand, and she vanished back upstairs.