She's been practically sizzling all day, her whole body on fire. During a particularly boring period at work, her thoughts went to naughty places, and then, of course, to him (...or was that the other way around?).
...and then with the sizzling.
She's avoided him for almost a week now, and the excess sexual energy is getting to be totally distracting.
So now she's on her way to good ol' Restfield.
This is all his fault, the way all things wrong with her usually are.
What was up with what that whole speech he made last week? And kicking her out? And after only one round or two? Is she tiring him out, or what?
Wimp, she scoffs--
--and finds herself eating cemetery dust. "Who the hell makes a headstone this short, anyway?" She grumbles as she gets up, wiping her clothes off. Her boot halts abruptly in mid-air as she's about to give the offending stone an irritated little kick; the squat gravestone turns out to be heading the final resting place of a little boy who only lived to be five years old.
Biting her lip, she puts her foot down carefully, nods once towards Billy Thompson, Beloved Son, and tries to shrug off the haunting sense of wrongness.
Odd how quickly horniness evaporates under such circumstances.
When she thinks about it, when she allows some of the indignation to leave her, she knows he's right. He was sitting tight in Camp Justified when he kicked her out. She was...freaking him out. On purpose.
So why didn't she feel guilty about it? The guilt came so readily when it was Dawn doing the freaked-out thing.
Okay, so maybe he was enjoying it for a short while, but he really...he likes to have her all there, it seems. They both know her heart isn't in it, and she knows it stings him, even if she usually avoids thinking about it, but when he couldn't even see her face, her body, when all she was was a disembodied voice...
Well, it must be a metaphor of some kind for something about the two of them, she reckons.
Buffy finds herself walking towards the familiar crypt even as the embers inside her have all died out. He's sure to get them going again, though, if he's not sulking still, but maybe...maybe sex isn't in the cards tonight...
"I might as well go home to Dawn," she says out loud in the empty cemetery but like the Energizer bunny, she just keeps going.
As she kicks open the door-- what with the lack of major villains and all, it's been kinda quiet on the violence front-- it hits her that something feels different. The usually dramatic, loud slam of wood against stone seems to be swallowed up somehow, sounds half-assed and pathetic. She can hear a draft of air groaning through the dark, deserted space, and Spike is nowhere to be seen. As she wanders further into the room, she notices that the television set is off, and that there's a half-empty cup of something sticky and sweet sitting forlornly on the armrest of that ugly, old, green-ish comfy chair of his.
All the candles have been blown out, and when she checks the fridge, although she really doesn't know why she does, there's nothing but a couple of bottles of beer standing by themselves in the back and a shriveled old apple on the second shelf; not that he usually keeps much in there, anyway. She tries to avoid eye contact with the funny-looking plastic box of carbon-dated take-out.
There's no blood.
Downstairs is the same story, only messier. Clothes and things are strewn about as if he's been having a hissy fit or something. Or maybe he's just plain old messy. Not a candle alight, not a tell-tale Spike-shaped lump under the bed covers, nothing.
He's probably out somewhere getting drunk, she figures. My secret lover is a complete lush, she grimaces.Yay.
So...what? He couldn't have gotten drunk here at home?
For a brief second she actually considers wasting five minutes waiting for him. God, I'm pathetic.
For the briefest of nano-seconds she actually considers staying here until he returns so she can tell him she's sorry. So pathetic.
Maybe it's time to go home.
Maybe it's time to go home and talk with Dawn before bedtime and go to bed early and actually feel refreshed in the morning.
Her whole body itches with unconsumated energy.
No one can accuse her of being impatient. She waited right until the next night to go visit him again.
Okay, maybe she won't win any wait-a-thons, but at least she didn't go and bother him during the day.
Hah. As if he'd see it as a bother.
After dinner with Dawn and an hour or two of after-dinner television, she mumbles something about patrol and slips out the door.
He's not there tonight, either.
Figuring she's just missed him again, she goes out on patrol.
He'll probably turn up soon, and probably at the most inappropriate moment imaginable. He loves to do that.
She sees him in the cemetery the next evening, apparently heading the same way as she, to the crypt. As he turns, catches her eye, there's an awkward silence while they try to re-group, figuring out what to say.
She figures he's not technically a slayee-- he doesn't seem very threatening, anyway-- but she can tell he's nervous, face to face with the Slayer.
"Hey, uh...you're Buffy, right? We met once before, remember? At the poker game? I'm Clement. Clem." He attempts to smile disarmingly, and she indulges him with a careful grin of her own. "I was just on my way to..." He starts, but pauses as something dawns on him. "You, too?"
She clears her throat while considering her answer, trying to cook up some excuse. "Yeah." It slips out before she even realizes it.
"Are...have you seen Spike lately?" He points his thumb at the crypt. "'Cause I was here yesterday 'cause there was this Passions marathon, so I just, y'know, assumed he'd be here, but..."
She regards him for a moment; she wasn't even aware that Spike had any demon friends, at least not so close that he actually invited them to his home and stuff. She thought it was just the poker thing, passing aquaintances. This one seems friendly enough, though. She looks down. "No, I haven't seen him, Clem." She kicks a little at the cemetery dirt with her boot like some bored child. "Not since last Wednesday."
He tilts his head in that certain way; she figures he must've been hanging out with Spike for too long. Spike has this annoying way of affecting people. "Really?"
She shrugs. "Yeah."
"So...you think he's there now?" He nods towards the crypt.
Buffy seems to suddenly tumble out of whatever thought she's wrapped herself up in. "Oh! I don't know, maybe, but you can just...I mean, you were on your way to--"
Clem holds his hands up appeasingly. "Oh, no, I wouldn't wanna intrude on you guys."
"Uh...intrude?" She looks confused for a moment-- then she has to struggle to keep the blush from bursting out on her face. Did that son of a bitch tell Clem...? "I...I'm not...I have to go do the slaying thing, anyway."
Clem smiles, looking slightly uncomfortable at the reminder of her actual occupation. "Okay."
"Sacred duty, you know the drill." She laughs lamely, feeling oddly like the Big Bad Wolf trying to charm Little Red Riding Hood. I kill your kind. She can't remember ever having seen his kind before, though, so she tries to comfort herself with the knowledge that she can't have slayed any of his relatives, at least.
"See you around, then." He waves.
She draws a breath.
"If he's there, could you tell him..."
Buffy pauses, her mouth open, her brow furrowed. "Nothing...I mean, uh, just tell him I said hi or something."
"Okay." Clem grins, walks away.
Two days later while she's alone in the basement, folding clothes, Buffy realizes something that honestly upsets her.
Dawn is staying over at Janice's house for tonight, and Willow is visiting her parents for her mother's birthday, so it's just her. Tara doesn't live here anymore, and Xander and Anya are...well, at this hour, probably having sex, or possibly arguing over some petty wedding details. Or maybe sitting down to a late dinner together. Maybe even the sort that has candles.
Buffy sighs. Her dinner was macaroni and cheese without the cheese. Actually, it was just the noodles, boiled, and with ketchup. With some convincing, she could go as far as to name the ketchup the meal's contribution from the vegetable food group. Except-- tomatoes are fruit, aren't they? She wonders idly what Janice's mother is making for her husband, Janice and Dawn. Certainly not soggy noodles.
The TV might keep her company, but she isn't in the mood for some lame sit-com about the perfect family. Her mother is dead, her father is living it up with his secretary and her little sister used to be a mystical green blob of energy, several thousands of years old. Besides, watching TV alone never was her thing. You can't give sarcastic remarks about the poor quality of the shows to yourself. Or you can, but that'll get real pathetic real fast. When you're watching TV with someone else, there's almost no limit to what kind of garbage that'll become entertaining with just a little added commentary.
The thing is, she's vaccumed, she's done the laundry, she's done the dishes, and suddenly the house, which was abustle with the noises from the washer and dryer and the vaccum cleaner, is unsettlingly quiet, and not in a spooky Halloween kind of way, just a sad, pressing, sucking-up-your-will-to-live kind of way.
What she realizes is that she's seriously lonely, and has been for a while, even with all the Scoobies buzzing about her. The other thing she realizes is that if a certain person of the undead persuation should happen to come by right about now, she wouldn't kick him out. Maybe she'd let him into the hallway. Or maybe even the livingroom. Not upstairs, though.
The thing is, she has good friends, but they have their own lives, while she's...kind of out of the loop. Willow's devoting all her time to studying and to figuring out how to get Tara back, Dawn has school and her friends and Xander and Anya have each other. While Spike...what with no job, no studies and not many friends, his life basically centers around her. Whenever she's in the mood to be honest to herself, though, she has the feeling that even if he did have all those things, his life would still center around her, and she doesn't quite know how to deal with that.
Of course, she has the slayage, but lately...even that's become a lonely routine. To be even more honest, she's gotten used to having Spike constantly hovering behind her silently during patrols, or walking next to her, chatting her head off, or charging towards their opponents with a full-throated roar, coat flying, before she's even composed herself. It could be terribly annoying when he went ahead without as much as a warning--she's supposed to be the Slayer, after all-- but mostly it was kinda practical to bring the super hearing and super sense of smell along with her on patrols. Sometimes she doesn't spot demons before they're practically on top of her.
It would be nice to have someone tag along again. Someone whom she knew could hold his own and she didn't have to be worried about. And out of her circle of friends and aquaintances, basically only one person fits the bill.
Buffy walks up the stairs from the basement, dragging the basket of freshly washed, dried and neatly folded laundry with her. Lacking the energy to carry it to the second floor and divide the clothes into a Buffy-pile and a Dawn-pile, she leaves it by the couch and grabs her coat and boots.
She's bored and lonely and she's avoided checking the crypt for the last two days. This time he's got to be there.
She all but spins around as she hears the voice; she's been walking with her eyes trained on the sidewalk, her head stuffed with thoughts.
"Huh?" She says, disoriented, focuses on the person in front of her. Smiling a little in relief, she exhales. "Xander."
"Hey, Buff," he says in a cheerful tone, grinning. "Where you headed, patrol?"
She pauses, then nods. "Not exactly my idea of what to do with a Friday night, but..."
He points a thumb behind him. "Yeah, we were just at the Bronze, but we're both kinda tired, so we're pooping the party early tonight."
Just as Buffy starts to look confused, Anya pops up beside Xander. "The amount of time human females spend in the bathroom is frankly disturbing sometimes. You wouldn't believe the line!" She turns her head as she catches sight of Buffy. "Oh! Hello, Buffy! Xander and I were just discussing how maybe we should 'fix you up'," here she makes quotation marks in the air with all the joy of having learned a new human expression, "with one of his co-workers." She smiles brightly.
Buffy looks outraged, her jaw dropping, but Anya holds up her hands placatingly. "Oh, don't worry, I've met and approved of him. He's very handsome." She beams. "And we're almost a hundred per cent certain that he's not evil."
Buffy scowls at Xander, tapping her foot, her fists on her hips in a classic Enraged Female pose, and he chuckles disarmingly. "Uh, it's not...there's just this guy we'd like you to meet, that's all."
"Uh-huh." Buffy raises both eyebrows. "And if I just happen to start dating him, that'd be swell-- but hey, no pressure?"
"Okay, maybe we should've asked first." Xander grins sheepishly.
"Or maybe you should've just butted out of my love life?" Buffy suggests, glaring.
"Oh, it's rather the lack of love life we're concerned about," Anya clarifies helpfully.
Buffy shakes her head. "I can't believe this."
"Sorry, Buff," Xander looks a little guilty. "We'll do the butting out part, it's just..."
"I'm fine, okay?" Buffy draws herself up. "I have other things to worry about."
"Buffy..." Xander looks a little worried then.
"If you'll excuse me, I have to patrol," she turns, but turns back just as quickly. "By the way, while we're on the subject of patrolling...have you guys seen Spike around lately?" She searches their faces, frowning, wondering if they can see right through her. "Was he at the Bronze?"
Xander shrugs. "If he was, he must've been doing the ol' lurking-in-the-shadows vampire routine or something, 'cause we didn't see him."
Buffy chews her lip, looks down. "Too bad, 'cause I coulda really used his help these last few days, patrol's been really tough lately. Thing is, I haven't seen him since last week, actually."
"Yeah, we should get him a pager or something, huh?" Xander chuckles. "Oh well, less bleach to go around is fine by me."
"If you date Xander's construction buddy, you won't have any need to use Spike as the substitute boyfriend-type figure in your life. You'll have a real one!" Anya points out enthusiastically, completely unexpectedly. "What was his name again?"
Buffy looks trapped, eyes wide. "What?" She squeaks. Sometimes Anya is so blunt, not too mention so frighteningly insightful that it's like taking a troll hammer in the face.
"Richard, his name is Richard." Xander says hastily, appearing very discomfited. "Don't give us any mental pictures we really don't need, sweetie." He adds, wrinkling his nose.
"I was just--" Anya protests.
"I kinda doubt this...this Richard person would wanna come patrolling with me!" Buffy interrupts sharply. When they both stare at her, she adds, a tad calmer, "I don't like match-making, okay? It's just so forced, you know, so totally awkward. I like things to proceed naturally."
Anya nods, unruffled. "You have time, you're still young." She pats Buffy's shoulder. "Just give us a call if you're still single at thirty." She promptly ignores or doesn't notice Buffy snapping for air, outraged again.
Xander slips his arm into Anya's, tries to tug it a little so she'll see it's time to leave. "We'll give you a heads-up if we see Dead Boy Jr., all right?"
Buffy nods, still discomposed. "Just tell him I'll stake his lazy ass if he doesn't get out patrolling again," she grumbles, leaves.
"Xander..." Anya looks thoughtful as they're strolling home, arm in arm.
"Honey?" Xander glances at his fiancée.
Anya looks up at him, frowning slightly. "I think she's really worried about him."
Xander grimaces in confusion. "What do you mean?"
Anya sighs, rolling her eyes. "Most things are obvious if you only bother looking, you know."
"Huh?" Xander's eyes are wide.
"So," Anya continues, unphased, "I was thinking that instead, why don't we 'fix' Richard 'up' with this girl who always shops at the Magic Box? You know, the one who's always looking for Alistair Crowley records? I think her name's Debra."
"Ahn..." Xander complains, head still spinning with the mourn-worthy news. For some reason, his thoughts drift towards one day last week when Spike was...behaving rather oddly. Stranger than usual; 'excersizing' naked and swatting at invisible mosquitos. Invisible--
"I love match-making!" Anya grins happily from ear to ear. "You know...I bet I could turn a profit on this..."
She doesn't notice that her fiancée's suddenly gone white as a sheet until his inexplicably weak knees force him to lean limply against her shoulder.
Once a thought of this caliber pops into your head, it's almost impossible to dislodge it. Buffy has always suspected that she might have a twinge of paranoia in her genetic make-up. Considering the fact that her paranoid suspicions are often correct, though, it's not that surprising that she usually indulges in them. After all, like Kurt Cobain said, just because you're paranoid, don't mean they're not after you. And in Buffy's case, someone is almost always after her, if not one of her friends.
It's Monday, and she's vaccuming-- again!-- because she managed to spill the entire salt shaker on the kitchen floor, and as she watches the tiny grains of salt disappear into the sucking nozzle of the hoover with odd little scratchy sounds, a chill goes down her spine.
Sunday went by pretty uneventfully, she took Dawn to see some chick flick, a vamp or two were dusted, no biggie, and still no trace of Spike. She bumped into Clem again near Restfield, but he still hadn't seen Spike around. She's rapidly running out of places to look, so she's started checking twice in the same spots, just in case.
No, actually, it's more of a full-body chill, and one of the seriously creepy variety. She drops the nozzle on the floor, kicks the button on the machine to shut it off, clutching her heart.
"Shit, I hate those," she mutters, shaking herself to rid herself of the goose pimples and the itchy after-effect of the chill.
Dawn rounds the corner, looks strangely at her sister, who stares back at her with round, frightened eyes. "Jeez, you look like you've seen a ghost!" She exclaims, then jumps a little, looking behind her before raising an eyebrow at Buffy. "You haven't, have you?"
Buffy swallows. "No, Dawnie. No ghosts." There wouldn't even be a ghost left...
Dawn studies her, thoughtful. "You want me to do the rest of that?" She asks, pointing to the salt left on the floor.
Buffy stares at her, her eyes widened in comic exaggeration this time. She puts a hand to her sister's forehead. "Are you running a fever?"
Dawn scowls. "Very funny."
Buffy shakes her head. "I can do it myself."
Dawn tilts her head and the chills almost wreak havoc in Buffy's body again. What's with everybody head-tilting all the time? Is it a new fad or what? "Sit down or something," Dawn says, picking up the hose of the hoover. "You look awful."
"Gee, thanks," Buffy replies glibly, but does as she says, taking a chair by the kitchen island. The buzz and moan of the hoover starts up again, and after a while of listening to that, Buffy realizes she's letting her hands and elbows support the dead weight of her head, hanging like a limp sack of flour, her shoulders hunching up. "Do you mind doing the vaccuming instead of me for the rest of, like, forever?" She asks Dawn tiredly, who sends her an disbelieving 'yeah, right' kind of look. Dawn must've noticed she's not been feeling a hundred per cent lately, though, because she's started doing the dishes, and when Buffy got home Thursday night, the clothes had been sorted and put neatly away.
As Dawn drags the hoover back down to the basement, Buffy falls back into the images her evil brain conjured up while vaccuming. What if he's...?
He's not at his crypt, he's not at Willy's (she checked yesterday), he hasn't been around to her house or to the Bronze, she hasn't seen him in any of the convenience stores where he usually buys his beers and cigarettes, and neither Xander, Anya, Dawn or that guy Clem has seen him. The thing is, it could be that she can't find Spike because there's no Spike to find.
Maybe he hasn't skipped town? Maybe he's actually...
Any number of demons in this godforsaken town would like to get their hands on Spike, considered a traitor against all demon-kind; she knows that, she just hasn't really thought about it. Her world pretty much consists of her, Dawn, The Scoobies and Spike, and of course there's the occasional demon and/or vampire, but they're just...
She doesn't really think of them in terms of a large group, as whole societies, but they are, and they hate Spike, and at any moment they could-- or maybe they already have. Or even...what if Xander or Giles finally got fed up with him? Would they do it? End him?
Lord only knows that she's threatened to do it countless times herself.
Would that be it? Would they stake him and watch the dust flutter past and never tell her? Would they assume she wouldn't care?
As the sting of unshed tears starts prickling behind her eyelids, she begins feeling dizzy. Is this it? She thinks desperately, First I don't see him for more than a week and then...then I discover that I can never see him again?
It ended on such a bad note, too.
She feels sick, thinking of the fact that she was even fucking invisible the last time they--
Buffy's horrified to realize that the thought of him gone, permanently gone, feels like someone's carved half her guts out with a spoon, leaving a gaping hole, fierce pain. He's not anywhere, and it's been almost two weeks since she last saw him, so what other solution...?
Despite the numbing shock it gave her to find it, at least her mother left a body, but him...it'd be almost like he didn't exist in the first place. There is no record of Spike that she's aware of, except as William the Bloody in the Watcher's Council's notes, and he has no bank accounts as far as she knows, not a lot of earthly possessions, no social security number, no relatives or anything (Angel and Drusilla don't really count as kin, not by her book).
And if he was just gone one day, not dust-gone, but simply gone-gone, if he got tired of her, of this town and everything in it and just left; well, then he might as well be dust anyway, because he has no pager, no cellphone, no post adress, nowhere and no way in which she could reach him. If Spike wanted to be gone, he'd be gone. At least she knows where Angel is, how to reach him-- he even has an e-mail adress and a webpage, for chrissakes-- but Spike? Suddenly Xander's silly joke about getting him a pager doesn't sound quite so stupid.
What if he was staked in his crypt? What if she's breathed in his remains each time she went to look for him there? What if she stepped in it when it settled on the floor?
Buffy's stomach feels like it's in her throat, and she leans forward, clutching her mid-section, moaning with the struggle of withstanding nausea.
Dawn reappears in the kitchen, a skip in her step, halts as she catches sight of her sister. "What's wrong? You're lookin' a little green there."
"I'm...fine." Buffy insists in a thick voice, getting up from the chair. "I...I think I'll just have a little lie-down."
Dawn frowns after her. Usually Buffy never folds for anything like that. She hates being sick. Willow told her that once she went out patrolling when she had the flu, even. Still frowning, she trails after her sister.
Buffy's lying on her back on her bed, looking at the ceiling. When she hears Dawn enter, she turns bleary eyes to her, standing in the doorframe looking concerned.
She puts on a transparent smile. "Tell me what Mrs..." She falters, can't remember the name,"...uh, Janice's mom made for you last night."
Dawn answers the unconvincing smile tentatively. "Oh...you sure you're...?"
Buffy nods, tries to widen her smile. "I'm fine, just my stomach's a little upset."
Dawn relents, goes over to sit on the bed. "She made this, you know, kind of Thai casserole? In one of those huge stir fry pans, I think they're called bok?"
"Wok," Buffy grins slightly.
"Whatever." Dawn rolls her eyes, secretly pleased that Buffy seems to be feeling a little better. "There was like, coconut milk and green curry and tons of vegetables and chicken and this special kind of Thai rice--" Her eyes light up with the enthusiasm of an idea. "We should totally make that for your birthday dinner next month!"
Buffy pales slightly. "God, is that next month already?"
Dawn grins widely, pointing at her eyes. "Yeah, another year to add to the little wrinklies right around here--"
"Hey!" Buffy swats her hand away. "I do not have wrinkles! I am, in fact, wrinkle-free!"
"Not what Anya says!" Dawn giggles.
Buffy narrows her eyes. "Maybe Anya should mind her own business."
Dawn looks disoriented. "What?"
Buffy raises both eyebrows, stares her sister in the eye. "Would you believe she and Xander wanted to fix me up with this guy from Xander's work?"
Dawn squeals in outrage. "No way!"
"Yes way." Buffy nods sagely. "Like, you know, I can't get a date or something?"
"Well, technically, you are pretty dateless right now." Dawn points out.
Buffy pouts. "I could date if I wanted to." She tosses her hair. "Just don't feel like it right now."
Dawn giggles, shaking her head. "So, who're you inviting for your birthday?"
Buffy purses her lips. "I dunno, the usual gang. Willow, Xander, Tara," She scowls, "Maybe Anya."
Dawn tilts her head, and Buffy's sure that she's turning a little green again. "Are you gonna invite Spike this time?"
Buffy swallows, shifts a little at the somewhat unexpected question. "I don't think so." She shrugs. "Anyway, I can't find him anywhere, so how am I supposed to invite him? And what do you mean, 'this time'?" She adds, curious.
"I mean, I think he wanted to come last year." Dawn chuckles a little. "I don't think I told you, but I caught him in the garden with a box of chocolates for you."
Buffy's eyes widen almost painfully. "Huh?"
"I totally swear!" Dawn looks amused.
"Dawn..." Buffy presses a hand to her temple, grimaces with the small pang of dizziness. "I...I think he's really gone." She tells her, unable to keep up the bright chatter as if nothing's wrong.
"What? He's around here somewhere, right? I mean, I thought you were looking for him?" Dawn's mouth falls open, she clutches Buffy's sleeve. "Why?"
Buffy looks away, trying to avoid her sister's panicky gaze. "I...I don't know."
"Is he really gone? Like, out of town-gone?" Dawn shakes Buffy's shoulder a little.
"Maybe..." Buffy mumbles, wringing her hands.
Suddenly Dawn freezes; Buffy can practically hear her little sister's heart stop. "Ohmigod! What if he's-- what if someone's--?"
Buffy barely makes it to the bathroom before she throws up.
The next evening is a Tuesday evening, and tomorrow night it'll be exactly two weeks since she last saw him. Dawn wanted to come help her look for him, and she had to let her join her for a little while, at least, just to calm her down, but once it started getting too late, she walked her home before heading out again.
They've been practically all over town today; even at the Espresso Pump, though she wanted to start laughing hysterically at the thought of Spike at the coffee shop, slurping down double mochas and listening to some wannabe-intellectual firing off haikus from the stage, or some guy with an earring and a guitar impersonating Bon Jovi.
It wasn't really worth a shot to look for him there, but as long as it kept Dawn away from such places as Willy's, it was fine by her.
It was weird to hear Dawn talk about Spike; she's not used to anyone adressing him favourably, not used to anyone being worried about him and wanting him to be okay. Would the other Scoobies even bother to look for him?
Probably not. They'd figure he could hold his own, or maybe they wouldn't even care. And if he wasn't in trouble, if he'd just left, it probably wouldn't come as a big surprise to any of them that he'd gotten tired of being a white hat.
The worst thing wasn't listening to Dawn talking about Spike, though. The heart-wrenching part was whenever she'd grow quiet, her lips tightening in an effort to be a 'brave little soldier'. It was unsettling to look into her sister's girlish, yet somehow infinitely old eyes and read from them the impact the vampire has had on her life.
The only place left to look now is basically the crypt. Her idea from a few days ago to wait for him there doesn't sound so pathetic anymore.
When she's waited for five hours, during which she's practically worn the floor out with her pacing, had one of his beers to calm her nerves, searched the lower levels of the crypt and even looked around in the caves underneath, she sits down in his hideous old chair to wait for him, and finally falls asleep an hour later, tears of frustration drying on her cheeks.
Something is touching her face.
Something is touching her face, her neck and her arms, and she awakes with a startled gasp, eyes snapping open and a hand automatically moving up to grab whatever it is in a chokehold.
She vaguely registers a voice objecting to her actions, and she blinks, shaking herself a little as she rockets to her feet. Then she turns her eyes to whatever she's choking and swallows as familiar blue eyes come into view. She drops the chokehold abruptly, completely thrown off her center.
"Spike?" She murmurs incredilously.
Frowning, rubbing his bruised throat, he nods. "Shouldn't be so surprised, luv. That's my chair you were sleeping in, after all."
She feels as if a load has been lifted, as if her stomach's stopped plunging to her feet every five seconds. Now it's only her heart soaring in her chest instead. "Oh, gods," she sobs, flinging herself onto him, her arms reaching up and linking behind his neck, pulling his head down. She presses her face to the side of his, breathes in his scent, plants a kiss on his jaw, her chest heaving with heavy breaths as she gulps down mouthfuls of stale crypt air, miraculously free of Spike dust. First she doesn't see him for an entire week, and then she spends another week looking for him, and of course it's him who finds her, the bastard.
Her arms slip down to around his chest, and she burrows her nose into layers of duster, shirt and T-shirt until it meets with his flesh, squeezing him to her, lips turning up to kiss his collarbone. Then she simply stands completely calm as he encircles her with his arms, pulling her closer still. She leans her head against his shoulder like against a pillow, breathing in and out, softer now. It's like a goddamn safe haven, and that scares her even as it soothes her.
"Buffy?" He sounds simultaneously uncertain and hopeful, and it slices through her heart like a hot knife through butter, cuts her to the core.
When she hears his voice, it's as if she wakes up for the second time. Shivering a little, she lets go of him, staggering back. "Where have you been?" Her voice is oddly sharp and soft at the same time, both concerned and accusing, and he doesn't know what she's thinking, what she's doing here, so he decides to play it cool until he's sussed her out; for once, he doesn't want to be the one throwing his heart into the bulldog pit.
He shrugs. "Just away for an errand."
"For more than a week?" She fixes her eyes on his, provoked by his calm manner.
"Out of town." He says simply.
"Why didn't you say anything?" She asks gently, anger threatening to bubble to the surface.
He stares at her for a while, tilts his head, examining her eyes, trying to figure her out like always. "Thought you wouldn't care, luv." He tells her earnestly, and it hurts her; she instantly wonders if he can tell, if he noticed the tiny twitch when she winced.
She pauses, holds her breath, looks at him with narrow eyes. "I didn't." She tells him finally.
Spike clenches his jaw; why does she always give him the urge to break things? "Is that right?"
Buffy nods defiantly; now that she's got him back, the initial relief over with, old feelings are welling up. Annoyance, anger, frustration, inadequence when it comes to communicating with him; why does she always feel the need to shoot him down like this? "That's right."
"What was all...all that about, then?" He gestures, indicating the embrace they just shared. "You just decided to-- to hug me because of how much you didn't miss me?" He arches an eyebrow in challenge.
"You shoulda told me you were leaving," she hisses, teeth gritting. "I had to patrol alone for a week!"
Spike gives her an 'I-couldn't-care-less' type of look. "What about your little mates? They couldn't help you?"
I wanted you to help me, she nearly shouts, but manages to bite it down. "They're busy!" She barks.
He seems skeptical. "What, too busy to save the innocent?"
"This doesn't have anything to do with them!" She blurts out, and instantly knows she's crossed an invisible line. "You're supposed to be on our side, right?" She says, trying to recover before he rises to the bait. "You should have some sense of-- of responsibility!"
"Oh, yeah," Spike scoffs, his eyes shooting venom. "I'm an evil, disgusting thing who'll never change, who'll never be accepted by you or yours, but now I'm supposed to have a bloody sense of responsibility all of a sudden? Where the hell do you get off?"
"You can't just leave like that!" She exclaims desperately.
He sighs, exasperated, "And why is that, Buffy?"
Her face falls; she doesn't really have an answer to that. "B-because..."
Spike closes his eyes, attempts to calm himself down. "Listen, pet, I can tell we're not getting anywhere, so why don't you just go on home? It's four in the morning, Slayer. The sun'll be up soon." He turns away, walking towards the ladder heading down to his bedroom. "About time for all little vamps to go to bed, too."
"Spike!" She calls after him.
He stops and her heart soars again; maybe he's not that mad, after all. "Yeah?" He says, back still turned to her as if he's sure she won't add anything worthwhile.
"I, uh..." She falters until inspiration strikes at last. "My birthday's next month."
"I know." He tells her quietly, and her heart twists with guilt. "What of it?"
She swallows. "I...it would be...I would like it if you wanted come to the party."
He turns to her, stares her in the eyes, still wary. "Would you?"
Feeling like she's regaining her momentum, she takes a few steps towards him, nodding. "Dawn wants you to come, too. And...and maybe you'd like to go patrolling tonight?"
Wonders never bloody cease, do they? He chuckles a little, rubbing one eye with his knuckles, peering up at her with the other. "Guess you'll stake me if I don't?"
"Is that a yes?" She presses.
He nods, smiling for a second. "On both accounts. Except..." He gazes into her eyes. "Buffy?"
"Yeah?" She says, all but holding her breath, transfixed by his eyes, by his very presence in her life again, feeling mushy and pathetic, rather like some adolescent girl with naive, yet firm believes about romance. He looks like he's gonna tell her something important.
"Can I bring someone?" He asks, and she's bafffled. Not exactly what she was expecting. On the other hand, she doesn't quite know what she was expecting. She's already told her the 'three magic little words' too many times to count, so what else is there left to say that even approaches that kind of shock value? Well, apparently there is one thing...
"What?" She asks hoarsely, her throat suddenly dry. "You mean like a date?"
Spike laughs; if he didn't know any better, he'd think the gorgeous bird's actually jealous. "Don't think he's interested in me in that way, but who knows?"
Buffy laughs, too, though mostly in relief; looking into his eyes, she can see his need for back-up in something as unfamiliar to him as a Scooby party situation. It's not as if they invite him for vid-nights or things like that. "As long as they're not evil, you can bring whoever you want." She pauses, adding sternly: "Who is it?"
He shakes his head a little. "Don't reckon you know him, luv. Wrinkly fellow, 'bout this tall?" He indicates a height with his hand a little above his head.
"Oh, you mean Clem?" She asks casually, glad that it's only him.
Spike blinks, puzzled, and for some reason she takes satisfaction in this; maybe because it's about time for his head to be spun for once. "You've met him?"
"Uh-huh," Buffy nods, acting like it's the most natural thing in the world. "We met once at the so-called poker game you brought me to, remember? And then later we met on the cemetery a couple of times when I was looking for...uh...y-you." She stutters to a halt. So much for being all upper hand-y.
He freezes, amazement creeping tentatively across his features. "You went looking for me?" He pauses to raise an eyebrow dramatically. "Several times?"
Her gaze turns flinty even as she blushes. "You coulda left a note or something!" She raises her voice defensively.
Now he's got that devastatingly sappy look in his eyes, the one he gets like once in a blue moon, whenever she says something that even remotely indicates that she cares. The look that makes her want to scramble under the couch on all fours and hide, shivering like a small, furry animal, hissing and clawing everytime he got too close. All she does now, however, is the shivering part of the plan.
He shakes his head, chuckling. "You know, Slayer, even Dru was easier to understand than you, sometimes."
"What is that supposed to mean?" She asks, agitated.
Spike smiles, almost too broadly, his eyes twinkling with merriment like little shards of jewels. She wants to tell him that he likes it when he smiles, when those edges of his soft mouth turn up, likes it when the hollows of his cheeks, like crescent-shaped pits in his face, although becoming, are drowned in dimpled flesh, softening his sharp edges, filling the grooves up with smooth, pale skin, bunching together to form almost cherube-like cheeks, such a strong contrast to many of his other expressions; grimacing in angst, sneering in anger, scoffing in disgust, tightening his jaw in frustration, frowning in worry or his face simply slack with depression. But of course she doesn't say anything.
"Means I'll be there for patrol tonight, and for your birthday next month and for as many other patrols that you'll have me for." He says, smiling that smile.
Slightly thrown by his vague answer, Buffy smiles lop-sidedly back. "See you tonight."
"Tonight," he promises, watches her go.
So...a birthday invitation.
It isn't quite as catchy as 'I love you', but at least it's a good start, Spike figures.
Author's note: Okay, so I said in 'A Bloke's Gotta Try' that I didn't think I'd publish any more Buffy stories, but I had this little story lying around, so I figured I'd publish it even if I'm not quite sure if it's finished or not. It's mushy and unoriginal, but hey. Anyway, I can't really think of anything to defend this with. I just hope it didn't give anybody cavities.
Hurray for Buffy/Spike, and please visit for more well-reflected fics than this one. That's the place for the serious and (mostly) gramatically correct Spike fics out there. I've seen a lot of crappy Buffy fiction, but I like to think it's because all the good ones are lumped together at one single site; the all-round high quality of the fics there almost shocked me.
By the way, the line 'I think her name's Debra' is of course a little nod to the song by Beck, 'Debra', from his album Midnite Vultures.
Oh, and hurray for cameos by Clem:)