The Girl, With Questions
By cousinjean

Summary/spoilers: In my journal, littlebit requested: During "The Girl in Question". This time, Buffy notices the goings on. Reactions, reunions, repercussions. Oh, and you could add in a welcome back from the dead kiss, if you want.

Disclaimer: Mine! Mine, I say! Oh, well, except for the part where they're totally Joss Whedon's. Durn it.

Rating: PG-13

He wanted to leave. Not till after this song, she'd told him. She was having too much fun dancing. The irritation had rolled off him in waves as he'd stood there, trying to decide whether it would be worth it to argue. Buffy had rolled her eyes at his back when he finally gave up and stormed out, muttering that he'd be waiting in the limo.

The Immortal was so used to women falling all over themselves to please him that it always baffled him when she didn't. Please. Like he was the first immortal super guy with a god-like body and melty eyes and perfect cheekbones that had ever wanted her. But he sure knew how to show a girl a much needed good time. And he was intrigued by her blasé attitude toward him, which was just too cute for words, even if he did get a little annoying about it sometimes.

So let him sit and stew in his fancy car. It would do him some good. Just like the dancing was doing her worlds of good. Buffy closed her eyes and spun, feeling her hair whip out around her. Raising her arms above her head, she gave herself over to the bass line, let it move her, thrum through her body and fill her head until there was no room for anything else. No room for the grief that liked to sneak up out of nowhere sometimes and punch her in the gut. No room for thought, for missing people, missing home, for wondering if certain other dances would have moved past metaphorical if certain other supposedly immortal dancing partners hadn't up and di-"Oof!"

Buffy stumbled, but caught herself before she fell. She opened her mouth and turned to yell at whoever had knocked into her, but suddenly everybody was bumping and shoving, all of them looking back as though trying to get out of the way of something. She peered through the crowd, but couldn't really see what the deal was. As she pushed through the sea of club goers toward the commotion, she tuned into her Slayer sense, and what she felt gave her pause. Vampires. But it wasn't just that. It was something even more visceral, more... familiar.

She could see the fight now. An all-out bar brawl. And she could see the back of one of the brawlers, and everything clicked into place. Broad shoulders covered in expensive leather, stupid hair... Buffy scowled in irritation at Angel's profile as he took a punch that wheeled him toward her; then she spun on her heel to go and find her date. He could take care of himself, and after that stunt with the tail he'd put on her she wasn't about to give him the satisfaction of-

"Aaaaarrrrgh!"

A scream. No... a battle cry. One she never expected to hear again.

And it didn't come fromAngel.

Turning back, she saw the platinum head bobbing and weaving its way through the fight. She swayed as her knees gave out, but leaned against the wall and slid down to the floor.

"Oh my God."

This was the stuff.

Been a long time since he'd been in a good brawl. Almost more dance than fight, he moved with the music, swinging, kicking, swirling, ducking, all in a rhythm he couldn't get enough of. It was music to his demon, if not his soul. Oh, who was he kidding? His soul loved it too. 'Course, these blokes weren't his preferred partners. She was dancing her little heart out in the more literal sense, out on the floor and completely oblivious to his existence. Even so, this sure as hell beat getting whaled on by Big Blue back at the ranch.

Spike heard and felt a satisfying crunch as his elbow connected with cartilage. With a battle-hungry roar, he spun, swung and lunged, his bare-knuckled right cross cracking against a cheek. He smiled. Until he realized whose cheek. It was like slow motion, watching the head snap, seeing that great brow grow even more pronounced over eyes that blazed with fury, and yet he barely had time to think Oh, shit! before Angel's fist reciprocated. Spike tried to roll with the punch and pick up momentum to come back around and get in another blow at the git, but as he turned he saw another fist, small, white and delicate, out of place amidst all of the meaty paws that'd been smacking him around since this all started and so very familiar. It landed square against his nose, and as he felt it crack and was lifted up and sent flying backwards into Angel, only one thought penetrated the pain that filled his head and made his eyes water: home.

Through tear-blurred vision he blinked up at his newest assailant, barely aware of Angel swearing and struggling to get out from underneath him. He wasn't even aware of his own pain anymore as he registered the much deeper hurt in her eyes. Her name died on his lips as his voice dried up in his throat. Her fists clenched at her sides like she was ready for more, and her chest heaved with fury. She opened her mouth, but then she, too, kept silent. There were no words. Instead she just shook her head, then turned and walked away.

Spike sat up and hung his head. "Shit."

"Get the hell off me!" Angel shoved him roughly to the side and jumped to his feet. He looked around in confusion. "Where'd they all go?"

Finding the wherewithal to climb to his feet, Spike shrugged, too busy trying to see where she went to pay Starsky any mind. "'Spect she scared 'em off."

"She who?"

That got Spike to look at him. He didn't see... "Nobody." He pointed at the door. "They're making off with our head!"

"Damn it!" Angel ran to the door, but Spike hung back. Angel paused. "You coming?"

"Yeh..." Spike jerked his chin toward the back exit, where a gorgeous set of blonde locks had just slipped out the door. "Saw one of 'em go out the back. I'll follow and catch up with you."

Angel scowled and came back inside. "No you're not. You're gonna go try to save Buffy without me."

Spike pasted on his best innocent face, then decided irritated would probably be more convincing. "Do you see Buffy around anywhere? We already missed her." He patted Angel on the chest. "Don't lose your head, mate." With that, he turned and casually made his way through the crowd of dancers. He could feel Angel's glare boring into the back of his head. Halfway there, he chanced a look back and saw the oaf going out the front door. Spike waited another beat. Then he ran for it, shoving people out of his way in a blind tear to the exit. He burst through the door and into the narrow, cobblestone street just in time to see a limo pulling away from the end of the alley. He ran after it, but by the time he reached the main strata it was already gone.

"Bloody..." he muttered as he turned back, gingerly poking at his tender nose and blinking back fresh tears of a different sort.

"How's the nose?" a quiet voice asked from further down the alley.

Spike slowed to a stop and lifted his eyes. She was a vision, standing there bathed in the orange glow of the lamplight, arms folded across stomach. Her face was a mask of neutrality, but her body language emanated irritation and caution, and maybe something else. He thought he could see something in there that resembled hope, but he could've been projecting. His hand fell to his side, and he gave her a small, tentative smile. "Already forgotten, Love."

Something flashed in her eyes at the endearment, and she nodded. "Looks like forgetting me is something you've gotten good at."

Spike gaped at her in disbelief. "Like hell! You want to talk forgetting? You're the one's moved on and been getting all snuggly with the Immortal!"

"Have you been spying on me?"

"No! Went by your place, and Andrew told us. But Angel was spying." Far be it for him to miss an opportunity to paint his grandsire in a bad light.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Tell me something I don't know."

"Alright. For starters, you're under a spell."

"What?"

"The Immortal. He's done something to you, I know it. Some kind of love spell. 'Cause you're way too smart a girl to fall for his brand of B.S."

"As opposed to yours?" He narrowed his eyes, but Buffy just shook her head. "I'm not under a love spell, Spike."

"Sure you're not, Pet. Just like you weren't when I had to wrestle that bazooka away from you 'fore you could blow away the principal. Or when you were gonna marry me. And don't think Harris never told me about that time in the library..."

Buffy scowled. "I am NOT under a love spell!"

"How do you know?"

She gritted her teeth. "Because I don't love him."

"You... oh." Spike shoved his hands in his pockets and tried not to show the immense relief he felt. "Well that's different then, innit?"

Buffy rubbed her face wearily. "So is that what this is about? You thought I finally stopped grieving and moved on?"

"No, it's... wait. There was grieving?" The look Buffy gave him made him feel like an idiot, and he immediately tried to look contrite.

"I met this guy a month ago," she said. "You've been gone a year. This last month was the first time I've been able to stop missing you long enough to-" She stopped as her voice hitched. He could see her fighting tears. Suddenly he felt like a right bastard. It had never even occurred to him that she might be grieving all this time. Well, he had hoped, in a selfish way, that he'd meant enough to her to merit a mourning period but he never really let himself believe it. He'd been too stuck on telling himself she hadn't meant what she said to consider the implications for her if she had.

"How long have you been back?" she asked him.

"I... ah, it's kind of a long story."

"How... long?"

Spike sighed and looked at the cobblestones. "It's complicated, Love."

"So complicated you couldn't call, or write? So complicated you had to let me keep thinking you were dead?"

He moved toward her. "Buffy, I-"

"No." She held up a hand. "No, Spike. You don't get to just show up here all non-dusty and play the jealous boyfriend."

He shuffled his feet. "Was trying more for concerned friend."

Her lip trembled, and he had to fight the urge to reach out and still it with his fingertip. "Friend? Is that all we are?"

"You tell me."

"I did! You were there! Or was I talking to myself in the Hellmouth?"

Realization dawned on her face even as it penetrated his skull. They both spoke at once: "You mean you meant that?" "You really didn't believe me?"

They stood there and blinked at each other. "Right," Buffy said at last. "Because I'm so known for throwing that phrase around all willy-nilly." She shook her head in disbelief. "All this time I told myself that you were just being noble... I mean, you had to know. You couldn't be that thick-headed."

"Apparently I could."

She made a little disgusted noise and turned away. Then she wheeled back around. "What did you think that was? That last night, in the basement? Did you think I was just getting in one last thrill ride before the apocalypse?"

"No! I didn't-"

"Then what?"

Spike closed his eyes, unable to look at her. Softly, he replied, "Pity."

Silence. He opened his eyes and forced them to meet hers. The hurt in them was plain to see. "Oh, Spike. Get over yourself." She turned and walked away.

Spike just stood there like the wanker he so clearly was. He had no right to go after her. He didn't know how to even begin making it up to her. Wasn't this exactly why he had stayed away? Least, it was one of the reasons he'd listed, on those lonely nights when he lay in his single bed and wondered why he was torturing himself. He didn't want to take the risk that she'd be happy, have moved on, and him showing up would just bollix it all up for her.

No. That was giving himself too much credit. Truth was he just didn't want to take the risk, period.

Bugger that. Since when didn't he take risks?

"Buffy, wait!"

She stopped, but didn't turn around. As he approached he realized that her shoulders were shaking, and he could hear little hitches in her breath. She put her hands over her face and, when he reached her, let out a muffled sob.

"Love, I'm..." He raised a cautious hand to hover near her hair. Finally, he let it rest on her bare shoulder. "I did it all wrong."

Her hands fell away and she barked a curt laugh. "Ya think?"

"I'm a... what was it you called me once? A shirty dope?"

That earned a hint of a smile. It made him bold, and he dared to stroke her hair. "Truth of it is, I'm a coward."

She shook her head. "You're a lot of things, Spike, but you're no coward."

"Am when it comes to you." He looked up at the rooftops. "Truth is, Pet," he said, lowering his gaze back to her, "loving you's the single most frightening thing I've ever done."

He braced for her reaction, expecting another fist in the face or a cutting remark. But instead she simply lifted her eyes to his and said, "Ditto."

Then her hands found his chest. They flattened against him, slid up and over his shoulders and down the front of his coat, as if reacquainting themselves with the feel of him, or maybe confirming that he was real. Solid. She gripped his lapels and pulled him closer, then reached up to stroke his face and run her fingers through his hair. Finally, she cupped his face in both hands. "Did you miss me?"

He nodded, settling his hands on her hips. "Like Nibblet at target practice."

That got a real laugh. Then she kissed him. It was soft, and careful, nothing but the lightest touch of lips. And it was electrifying.

When he raised a hand to her cheek she broke it off. He feared he'd gone too far, but she covered his hand with her own and held it there. "So, do you understand what all of this means, or do I need to spell it out for you in tiny, tiny words?"

He tilted his head and smirked down at her. "Think I'm getting the message."

"Yeah, well, just in case... I love you."

His smirk melted into a smile. He wanted to reply appropriately, but he was a bit dumbstruck at the moment.

"Do you need me to sign it?" she asked, holding up her hand with her pinky, thumb and forefinger extended. "Or... ooh! I can say it in Italiumph!"

Spike silenced her with another kiss. As decidedly more than lips became involved, their arms wrapped around each other and tightened until every space between them was closed.

Behind them, the club's back door slammed open. "I knew it!"

They stopped kissing, but didn't let go of each other as they looked over at the door. Buffy frowned. "Angel?"

He pointed at Spike. "You are so fired."

"You can't fire me. I don't work for you." He turned back to Buffy. "Not technically, I mean. I'm more of an independent contractor."

"Fine." Angel stepped out into the alley. "Then your contract's up. And you have to find your own ride home."

Spike looked from him to Buffy and back again, then shrugged. "Think I am home, mate."

"Don't 'mate' me."

Buffy snorted, and Spike had to work hard to suppress a laugh.

Angel went on, oblivious to his own entendre. "You were supposed to be watching my back, not stabbing me in it." As he spoke he came closer, and they could both see that he was the worse for wear. Spike felt a stab of guilt.

"Yeh. Sorry 'bout that. The not having your back part, I mean. Not this." He pointed at himself and Buffy to clarify. Angel looked back and forth between them, so dejectedly that for a second Spike feared he might actually cry. Time to change the subject. "So'd you get the head?"

"No."

"What head?" asked Buffy.

"Why don't you ask your boyfriend?" said Angel.

"I just did."

Well, so much for changing the subject. Angel's mouth fell open. Then he covered it, and ran his hand over his face. Pointedly ignoring Spike, he stalked up to Buffy. "Can we talk?"

Buffy looked uncertainly at Spike, then rolled her eyes as she detangled her arms from his and let Angel lead her to a spot that might have been out of earshot, had Spike been human. "Just tell me this is all part of your crazy cookie baking thing."

She sighed. "Angel..."

"'Cause, you know, if it is, I can deal with that. I mean," he laughed, pointing at Spike, "you can't actually love..." His voice trailed off as Buffy's face remained impassive. "That," he finished, matching Spike's smirk with a defeated glare. "Never mind. Don't answer that."

"By the way," said Spike, "how's Nina? You called her to let her know about your little trip, right?"

Buffy's eyebrows shot up. "Nina, huh? Guess you found another cookie vendor."

Angel pointed at Spike again and carefully enunciated, "Fired." Spike couldn't suppress a chuckle that time.

Shaking her head, Buffy moved back to Spike. "So what's this about a head?"

"Some demon head," Spike explained. "If we don't get it back to L.A. soon there's gonna be a nasty civil war."

"And what's all this got to do with the Immortal?"

"He took it to screw with me," grumped Angel.

"Wow. Paranoid much?"

"No, Pet, he's probably right. Those two got a rivalry that's older'n I am."

"Huh. He never mentioned-"

"Oh, yeah, 'cause he's such a swell guy that surely he would have told you," said Angel.

Buffy held up her hands. "Okay, look. Calm down. I sent him home after I found Spike, and he's probably there by now. I can call him and get this whole thing straightened out."

"And break up with him," Spike added. At her look, he shrugged. "Not jealous. Just sayin'."

Angel made a sickly sound. "I'll be at the bar," he said, brushing past them toward the door. "I need a drink. Or ten."

"Poor guy," Buffy said when the door closed behind him.

"Yeh. Miserable sod." Again, Spike shrugged. "Oh well. He'll live."

Buffy gave him a rueful smile and reached for him. "So, once we get this head thing taken care of. Angel doesn't really need you to help him take it back to L.A., right? I mean, it's not abnormally huge or anything?"

"Nah, it's head-sized. Think he can manage it."

She smiled. "Good."

He returned her smile, but only for a moment. "I do have to go back, though. Not right away, but soonish."

She fiddled with the buttons on his coat. "I kinda figured."

"Just, y'know, till after the apocalypse. Or whatever it is this is all building to."

Buffy nodded. "Do you guys need me?"

"Pretty sure we've got it covered. But I'll call you if that changes."

"Promise?"

"I do."

Buffy gazed up at him. "Promise not to get dusty this time?"

"Well I'm sure as hell not wearing any jewelry into the fight." He quirked the corners of his mouth at her. "I'll do my best."

She grabbed his face. "That's not good enough."

"Sorry, Love." He took her hands in his. "Best either of us can do. You know that." She looked away, her lip trembling. This time he carried out the impulse to touch it. The brief contact seemed to still something within her, at least for the time being. "What say we talk about it after we're done catching up?"

She nodded. "Let's go find Angel's head." She took his hand and led him back into the club.

"Think we got time for a dance first?"

Buffy smiled. "We'll make time."