Chapter Five: At Home
Two weeks after Spike's arrival, he, Willow and the Summers' were feeling the tension as still no reference to the cure was found. There were still plenty of Giles' books to go through however; mostly Buffy and Willow were doing this, as Spike's good patch slowly wore off and he spent more and more time asleep in the basement with Joyce anxiously fussing over him.
With the exception of the odd petty disagreement, Spike and Buffy had not had an argument like the first one. Both were trying hard to keep to the ground rules. Willow had not yet met Spike, although she heard a lot about him from Buffy – from how much his presence got on her nerves to how anxious she was getting over finding the cure for him.
Towards the end of his good patch, Spike's health started fluctuating faster, eventually from day to day – he could be almost fine one day and barely able to lift his head off the pillow the next, as well as variations in between. Buffy knew her mother had been taking a lot of time off work, and hoped she wouldn't lose her job at the gallery.
Joyce and Buffy had never had money to throw away anyway. Buffy was no longer living at home, and Spike ate less than her (and bought less clothes), but Spike still found Joyce stabbing repeatedly at a calculator next to a pile of bills with her face creased in anxiety.
"Joyce?" He pulled out a chair next to her and sat down. "You okay?"
She pushed a leaflet towards him. It was brightly coloured with pictures of couples dancing over it. In the middle in large letters it read, SALSA LESSONS. Underneath, in smaller print, No partner necessary.
"You want to learn to salsa?"
"I would love to learn," Joyce sighed, "but I can't afford it, however way I try and work it out." She pushed the calculator away and rested her head on her arms on the table.
Spike gave a low whistle when he saw the price of the course. "Come on Joyce, you don't need to pay this much for a beginners' salsa course."
"I know I don't need it," she said into her arms. "I just would have liked to take it up as a hobby."
"I didn't mean it like that, I mean you don't need to pay for a teacher. You've got me."
Joyce looked up. "What?"
"Stand up." Spike took her by the hand and she stood. He led her into the living room, where he pushed the table towards the wall out of the way.
"I've been all over the world, Joyce, and I've picked up a few things on the way. How to salsa is one of them. Now." He stood in front of her, and took a firm but gentle hold on her right hand and placed her left on his shoulder. "This is the basic position. The lady places her hand on the shoulder, and the gentleman places his hand on her shoulder-blade." He did so. Joyce, still surprised, followed his lead. "Now, for the basic step, the gentleman steps forward on his left, but the lady steps backwards on her right. Have you got that?"
"Um, yes, I think so."
The lesson lasted several hours, and Spike had taught Joyce several steps before she realised what the time was and shooed him into the kitchen to help with dinner.
Whatever the outcome of his illness, Joyce realised she would miss Spike sorely. He was the kind of person that seemed permanent, by his very nature. This was enhanced in his unfailing optimism – or maybe he was just putting on a brave face. Either way, she could no longer imagine their lives without him.
"Okay, spill," Willow said before Buffy had even closed their door behind her.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Buffy shrugged off her jacket, avoiding her friend's eye.
"Oh, come on. I know you were with Riley Finn. Did something happen?"
"No, nothing happened."
Willow raised her eyebrows. "You expect me to believe that?"
"Okay, okay." Buffy sat down and started to undo her shoes. "Yes, we went for a drive. Yes, it was nice. No, nothing else happened."
Willow looked disappointed. "No kissing?"
"Oh. Why not? I mean, you like him, right?"
Buffy considered. "Yeah, I guess. But after Parker, I'm being more careful. And besides … I'm not one hundred percent sure I like him in that way."
"Good point. Just don't take too long deciding though, 'cause he seems much nicer than the other guys around and you don't want to lose him."
Silence fell. Willow slid into bed and Buffy finished undressing. It wasn't until Buffy was in bed as well and had turned out the light that Willow realised what the look on her friend's face meant.
She gasped and sat bolt upright. "Buffy!"
"What?" Buffy grumbled.
"There's someone else, isn't there?"
"You like someone else!" Willow bounded out of bed, turned the light on and jumped onto Buffy's bed eagerly. "Spill! Who is he?"
"Willow Rosenberg, you are a nutter. There's no-one else."
"Positive. Besides, who on earth have I had a chance to start liking besides Riley?"
Buffy switched off the light.
Spike had definitely begun to feel at home in the Summers' household. This was mainly due to Joyce's caring nature, but he noticed that Buffy seemed to be less antagonistic towards him these days. Although she was only around some of the time, she was beginning to treat him like a human being and had taken to asking him how he was feeling every time she arrived.
In return, he found himself warming to her in a way he couldn't quite put his finger on. Now he was the recipient of her good nature rather than set on destroying it, he found it harder to think of her as the Slayer. She was Buffy.
Joyce had been right, he thought wryly one time when she was staying to dinner. Buffy really was nice once you got to know her.
He kept his thoughts to himself, however, as well as the disturbing feeling that he was missing something when Buffy mentioned a new name.
"Who's Riley?" Joyce asked before Spike could.
"He's the course trainee teacher. I've gone for a couple of drives with him, he's a nice guy."
Spike grinned at her, although in truth he felt like punching something. "'Nice guy', eh? What exactly does that mean?"
"It means, mind your own business, Spike." Buffy grabbed the ketchup out of his hands.
He wolf-whistled. "Message received, Slayer, loud and clear."
"Oh, shut up."
Joyce just smiled to herself infuriatingly.
After dinner, Buffy retreated upstairs to find the jacket she had left behind last time, and Spike volunteered to wash up so Joyce made a start on the laundry. He had just finished when the phone rang, and she asked him to get it.
"Summers residence," he stated.
"Can I talk to Buffy?" The voice was male and unfamiliar. Spike frowned.
"Are you Riley?"
If he had been alone, Spike would have given into the urge to reply "She's not in", possibly with an accompanying insult, and hang up. But Joyce was in earshot so he forced himself to overcome it.
"One second." He moved the phone away from his ear and bellowed, "Buffy, it's your boyfriend!"
Hurried footsteps from above signalled that Buffy was on her way to wrestle the phone off of him. Deciding to make the most of this opportunity, he returned the phone to his ear.
"She's on her way down," he told him.
"So, how long have you two been dating?" Spike said with a grin.
"We're not – I mean -"
"Really? That's not how Buffy makes it sound."
Buffy entered the room at that moment, but Spike was not willing to pass up this golden opportunity without a fight. For the next few moments all Finn should have been able to hear was scuffling and Buffy's annoyed "Spike, give me the phone!", before she managed to wrench it out of his hand and said breathlessly, "Hi, Riley."
Spike wished he'd managed to be more creative with his conversation. As Buffy moved into the next room and pulled the door to, he sat and stared unseeingly in front of him.
He could hear Buffy laughing through the door. After a few moments Joyce came in.
"Spike? What are you doing?"
"Watching telly," he mumbled.
Joyce looked at the blank screen and back at him. "It's generally considered more entertaining if you turn it on."
"Shh," he said, straining his ears to hear Buffy's conversation.
Joyce looked between him and the door and sighed. "Well, if you want to be all mopey that's up to you, but if you want to make yourself useful why don't you help me out?"
She always had a way of knowing what he was feeling, Spike thought as he looked up at her. Even when he wasn't entirely sure himself. "Yeah, alright."