Title: Around the Back Way

Author: Sandy S.

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: All belongs to Joss except the song, which belongs to someone else.

Summary: Mia wanted "I'd like Spuffy, S4. What I'd like to see is a realistic romance post-SB. What I don't want to see is Riley." Hope you like it, dear!

(Special thanks to Denise for recommending the song included in the fic!)

Around the Back Way

The phone rings.

Xander pauses to glare at Spike. Glancing at the caller ID, he frowns and his heart jumps a little. What's Joyce. . .er, Buffy's mom calling him for? He tries not to sound too eager. . . after all, she is Buffy's mother. "H-hello?"

"Xander?" Joyce asks.

"Yeah, that's me!" He pauses, turns his back on Spike, and then asks a bit awkwardly, "What's up?"

"Is Spike there?"

Grasping the receiver with both hands, Xander gawks over his shoulder at the vampire tied to the desk chair. Spike raises his eyebrows in him in that disconcerting way of his. "Y-yeah," Xander clears his throat, "yes, he is."

"May I speak with him?" Joyce is polite but firm.

Uncertain about this new development, Xander hedges, "Well, he's, er, a bit tied up at the moment. May I take a message?"

"Bloody hell, boy, I'm right here!" Spike calls out loudly enough for Joyce to hear. "Let me have a phone call. What is this, prison?"

In haste, Xander covers the mouthpiece with one hand and hisses, "Well, yeah. You're an uninvited guest because Giles needed a break from you for a few hours, and this is my home. I get to decide who gets a phone call and who doesn't. As a matter of fact, I'm expecting an important call, and I need to keep the phone line free."

Spike snorts. "What important phone call? Expecting phone sex with your demon girl? She better not come here. . . don't know if I can stomach your sexcapades."

"Not winning any points here," Xander notes.

Rocking the chair onto the back two legs, Spike bellows in a pseudo-deep voice, "This is the song that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend. Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was, and they'll continue singing it forever just because. . . Oh! This is the song that never ends. . . "

"Xander?" comes Joyce's distant voice over Spike's off-key singing.

". . . goes on and on my friend. Some. . ."

Xander raises the receiver and grumbles, "Hang on a second."

Instantly, Spike ceases his unmusical cacophony and grins. Reaching up an untied hand, he takes the phone from Xander. "Thanks, mate."

Xander stands over Spike with his arms crossed.

Spike rolls his eyes. "What? Can I get a little privacy here?"

"This is my house."

"No. If I remember correctly, this is your parents' house. . . you pay rent, and I don't think they'd appreciate a continuation of my singing." He inhales deeply as if to continue the tune.

"What is that song from?"

"Don't you wish you knew." Spike turns his attention to the phone. "Hello? Joyce?"

Xander shakes his head and sighs. He heads toward the basement exit, snagging his jacket on the way out to get Anya. He hates it when vampires are right. Humming the annoying little song on his way up the stairs, he hopes Spike is done talking before he and Anya get back to watch a movie on TV. Thank goodness Spike goes back to Giles's house tomorrow.

xxxxx

Buffy shifts from one foot to the other, impatiently waiting for her mother to open the front door. She has a million questions on her mind. . . so many questions, in fact, that she forgot her jacket at the party she and Willow were attending tonight. She tucks a blond curl behind her ear and shivers in the cool night breeze.

The golden porch light flicks on, and Buffy hears the lock unlatch. Her mother's head pokes around the opening door. "Buffy? What are you doing here so late? Why'd you ring the doorbell?"

With a small huff, Buffy pushes forward into the house, and her mother backs away. "I forgot my key."

The warmth of the house embraces her, and she smells the faint scent of cooked catfish. Her stomach growls involuntarily. Dorm food sure isn't doing the trick with her Slayer appetite.

Her mother isn't through with the questioning, "Buffy, where's your jacket? And why are you dressed like that?"

Feeling self-conscious, Buffy folds her bare arms over her chest as if to shelter her mother's view of just how much skin the loose low cut red top isn't covering. "Well, um, actually. . ."

Her mother gives her a sad but accepting smile and hands her a sweater from the nearby coat rack. "Put this on. I keep forgetting that you're off at college now, and I have less say in what you go out in. Do you want some tea to warm up? The water's already on the stove; I was planning on having some."

A little thrown by her mother's behavior, Buffy momentarily forgets her agenda, "Sure, that'd be great."

She trails her mother into the kitchen and perches on a stool to watch her mother gather tea bags and mugs. When her mother sits down next to her and hands her an empty coffee cup, Buffy attempts to gather her thoughts.

"Mom. The reason I came her tonight is because I got some. . ." Buffy bites her lower lip. How can she say this without making her mother angry? "Well, Xander called me, and I got some pretty. . .disturbing news from him."

Joyce forehead creases in concern, and she thinks before she speaks, "If you're coming to me with this, it must be something I should be concerned about. Is it related to the slaying?"

"Well, yes. I mean, we never really talked about it before, but well," she cocks her head to one side, "it happened last year, too."

Buffy's mother shakes her head slightly. "What are you talking about?"

Buffy takes a deep breath and blurts, "HowlonghaveyoubeentalkingtoSpike?

Joyce smiles and places her hand atop her daughter's shaking one. "Slower."

Buffy relishes her mother's comforting touch. "Why did you call Spike?"

"Oh, that." Joyce waves a dismissive hand. "He likes to talk with me about what's going on with him. . . ever since last year. Usually it's about relationship matters."

"Mom, you do know that Spike's a vampire. . ."

Joyce sips her tea. "He won't hurt me. He just needs someone to talk with."

"Just because he can come in the house and calls for advice doesn't mean he's safe though. Be careful." Buffy figures that Spike has been getting romantic advice from her mother, but she can't take a chance that it might be something else.

"I know that. Honestly though, Buffy, I don't believe he'll hurt me."

Buffy tugs at a strand of her hair. Somehow, she knows Spike would never hurt her mother. How can she ask her next question without being too obvious . . . "Who does he ask advice about?"

Joyce runs a finger around the rim of her mug. "Oh, he doesn't say. But lately, it's someone new. It used to be all about Dru. . . he was really in love with that young woman. Now, though, he and Dru have been broken up for a while, and he's been asking for advice about someone new."

A knot of disappointment appears in her stomach. "He doesn't say who?"

"No. I don't know why. . . but he seems to be quite taken with her."

The words tumble out of her mouth before she can stop them, "What does he say?"

Joyce looks thoughtful. "Well, he. . ." She pauses. "Buffy, why are you asking me about this?"

Buffy tries to stay cool. Can't let her mother pick up on how interested she is in the details. "Just that Spike is staying at Xander's, and he is. . . going through a lot, and I wanted to make sure I take all precautions in dealing with him."

"I guess that makes sense. Why is he at Xander's? Doesn't he have his own place? Last time I heard from him, he called me from Mr. Giles's place." She blinks. "And why was he at Mr. Giles's place?"

"That's the thing. He's. . . going through stuff, and we're taking care of him right now. Giles needed some time alone, so Spike's at Xander's." Anxiously, Buffy hooks her finger in and out of the cup's handle, hoping her mother doesn't ask too many questions.

"I guess that makes sense."

"So, what exactly does he say about this girl?" Buffy licks her lips in remembrance of Spike's recent kisses. How much of his ardor was due to Willow's spell and how much might reflect genuine caring? She wonders if Spike has been talking about her. . . them. . . the time they spent in. . . love. How does he feel about her now?

Joyce is adamant, "Buffy, I don't think it's appropriate for me to reveal something he trusted to me in confidence."

"But. . ." Damn it. Her mother is not being helpful.

"I'm sorry, Buffy. I can't. I promise if he was telling me something I thought was dangerous, I'd let you know."

Buffy sighs in defeat.

Her mother tries to make up for her refusal. "Want some cookies? I made them fresh today."

xxxxx

Taking a sugar cookie, Buffy pictures Spike biting into the chocolate chip cookies Willow flooded them with a few days ago. She shivers again but not from the cold. She wonders what his lips might feel like against her neck. . . over her collar bone. . . and. . .

The next day, Buffy knocks politely on Giles's door. Giles is always prompt about answering the door, and she breezes past her Watcher, aiming directly toward Spike who is tied once again to a chair in the living room.

"Buffy, what ar. . . ," Giles begins.

"Just need to borrow the vampire," she half-growls as she grabs Spike by the collar. She proceeds to drag him sideways toward the door, chair and all.

"Wait a bloody minute," Spike objects. "I'm tied down here. No use dragging a fellow across the floor. Untie me, and I'll follow you."

Crossing his arms, Giles smiles at the sight. "He's got a point, and I'd prefer you didn't break my furniture."

Buffy rights Spike and kneels next to him to untie the knots. He can't help but notice that she smells heavenly, and her outfit leaves little to the imagination. If only. . .

"Why don't I just go upstairs, and you can talk with Spike down here?" Giles offers, heading toward the staircase almost too quickly.

Buffy smirks at her Watcher's behavior. Guess the sight. . . and sound of Spike and her recent love-fest are still too fresh in his head.

"Sounds good to me."

Spike is less than thrilled about that plan. Trying to look over his shoulder, he appeals to Giles, "What if I don't want to be alone with the Slayer? She might decide to stake me."

Giles stops briefly. "The whining is getting old." Spike opens his mouth, but Giles continues, "And no, I don't care if you sing the 'Lamb Chop' theme song over and over. I have ear plugs."

Fingers in the midst of rope knots, Buffy glances between Spike and Giles in confusion. In doing so, her skin accidentally brushes against Spike's, and tingles fly up her arm at the contact.

Giles disappears, and Spike focuses on her, studying her flustered behavior. "Eh, pet. What's on your mind?"

The softness of his voice muddles his British accent and deepens his voice, and Buffy fumbles with her work. She tries to maintain concentration but fails and finally sits back on her heels. "Damn it."

Spike twists his wrists in the ropes and after a few seconds, the ropes fall away. Buffy's eyes widen in surprise.

He grins at her. "What? Watcher ties knots that any reliable escape artist can get out of." He bends over to untie the bond around his left ankle. "You gonna help me or what?"

So, he could have escaped their custody anytime he wanted. Interesting. Buffy tries again on his right ankle. "So, how do you know the 'Lamb Chop' theme song?"

"Dru used to let her dolls watch it if they were good. We only had one TV. If I wanted to watch anything, I had to watch that."

"Oh."

Spike finishes his left ankle and reaches over to aid Buffy. Several times, he comes into contact with her hands, and each time, Buffy's body reacts in the annoying manner that she's come to associate with Spike.

When the task is done, Spike stretches and stands. Buffy matches his movements and steps back.

"What's on your mind?" he asks, leaning on the nearby table.

Buffy flushes and spurts, "Why have you been talking with my mom?"

Clearly, Spike wasn't expecting her question, and he automatically turns his head away from Buffy. "I enjoy talking with your mum, that's all."

Buffy plants her hands on her hips. "You're a really bad liar, Spike."

"I'm not lying," he insists in the same tone of voice.

She rolls her eyes. "You so are."

"Am not."

"Are to."

"Am not!" "Are to!"

They both laugh at the same time. Buffy is surprised by the mirth. She's not used to being in a good mood around Spike. . . but for some reason, she doesn't mind.

"So, yeah, I like talking with Joyce," he confesses. He surveys the petite Slayer. She seems different by some means, and maybe. . . . No, he can't allow himself to hope. After all, he's a bloodthirsty, evil vampire, and she's so vital. . . and beautiful. Damn Red and her spells, making him act all poofy!

"Do you want to hurt her?" she demands, sparks in her green eyes.

Spike adores her when she's feisty, but he finds himself unwilling to provoke her further. "I could never hurt your mum, pet."

"How can I possibly know that, Spike? You have an invite to my house. You have no soul. Come to think of it, why haven't you tried to kill her yet?"

Spike snorts as his temper dissipates. "Because I'm a bloody vampire, right?" He pushes away from the table and stalks away. He spins on his heel. "You're right! I'm a certified member of the undead. I'm evil. . . EEE-VIL!"

Buffy is so shocked by his reaction that her mouth drops open, but no words dare come out.

Spike takes advantage of her stunned silence to sort out his thoughts and lower his voice so that Giles doesn't come running. "I dunno, love. I'm not Angel. I don't sneak into people's homes and spy on them and kill them. If I'm gonna kill someone, they're gonna know I'm coming, and it darn well won't be someone I care about!"

"You care about my. . ."

Spike holds up his hand. "I'm not finished quite yet."

Buffy clamps her mouth shut, trying to contain her own bubble of anger; she wants to hear what he has to say.

"And contrary to what you might want to believe in that black-and-white brain of yours, soulless creatures, like myself, can make choices. . . can feel every emotion in the kaleidoscope of feelings. Yeah, maybe the choice I have to make goes against every instinct in my being, but if the feeling is there, I can still make it. I can still choose who. . ." Realizing that he's about to confess his passion for the Slayer, he trails off and studies the ground.

"So, uh, what are you trying to choose again?" Buffy asks, a little confused by Spike's speech.

Feeling awkward about his outburst, Spike visibly calms and slumps onto the sofa. "I'm choosing. . . to be here. . . in this sodding dump."

Touched, Buffy perches beside the disgruntled vampire. She can't imagine what it must be like to be shuffled from one place to another like an unwanted child. "It's just until we figure things out with the chip." Without quite realizing what she's doing, she reaches up to touch his temple. When she realizes herself, she puts her hand back in her lap.

Spike doesn't seem to notice her gesture. "Yeah. I feel so. . . lost."

"I bet. You have m. . . er, us though. We'll help you find your way," she reminds him.

They share a comfortable silence for several seconds, both staring off into space.

Then, Spike runs a hand through his platinum blond hair and cocks his head toward Buffy, asking, "Want to know what I was talking with your mum about?"

Buffy's head shoots up in alarm. Does she really want to know whom Spike had his heart set on? She shrugs and tries honesty, "I don't know." She ducks her head to stare at her hands.

He waits until she looks directly into his eyes before he explains, "I called her about a girl. I needed to know if something I was feeling was a mutual thing."

His cobalt eyes are deep and dark with desire like a lake stirred up by a raging storm. She barely manages, "What advice did Mom give you?"

"She didn't."

"Huh?"

"She just listened. Your mum's good at that, and you not knowing what we talked about. . . that just tells me that she's trustworthy."

"Double huh?" Despite her bewilderment, something was starting to click into place.

Spike leans toward Buffy. The heat she radiates is like a fire in which he wants to immerse himself. Swallowing, he takes a greater risk so that she can understand, "I wanted to find something out, but I had to go around the back way."

Buffy narrows her eyes and switches into Slayer-questioning mode. "How long have you been talking to my mother?"

"Since last year." He can't help but smile. Buffy isn't in the slow group.

"But you went back to Dru last year. Did you talk with her all last year?"

"Nope."

Buffy's excitement accelerates. "What's the longest amount of time you've gone in the last year without talking with my mom?"

"Hmmm." Spike thinks about how long he wants Buffy to guess time periods. "I hadn't spoken with her for about six months when I talked with her in the last few days."

Buffy is taken aback by his candor. She expected to have to query him for a while. Spike usually is as evasive as a weasel. She is almost certain now, "Was it after Willow's spell?"

He hesitates, and then, "Yes."

Buffy's bubble of anger bursts forth tinged with the bright colors of embarrassment, "You tricked me!" She backs away from him toward the arm of the couch.

Spike laughs. "What? Tricked you? How?"

"'Around the back way,' you jerk!" She throws a pillow at him.

He catches the pillow and tosses it aside, lunging at her. He doesn't wince in pain, and Buffy instinctually knows he wouldn't harm a hair on her head. So, she meets him halfway, heart pounding in her chest.

Before she does what her body is screaming at her to do, she has to talk, "You knew I'd find out about your talk with my mom. You knew Xander would tell me."

He smirks. "Yup."

Nudging her face toward his, she quiets and takes a risk, "You felt it, too?"

He nuzzles her nose with his. "I did."

"Good," she says and licks his lower lip with the tip of her tongue.

"Remind me to thank Red and your mum later," he whispers.

"What does this mean?" she contemplates aloud.

His voice is husky, "I don't know. Questions later. This now."

"Good plan, despite you being evil and all." Buffy grasps his shirt in both her hands and pulls him forward, meeting his cool mouth with her warm one.

The end.