Disclaimer: Blah blah blah not mine, blah blah blah Joss Whedon's, blah blah blah don't sue me.
Notes: As always, big thanks to my beta readers: Fenwic, Fiona, JRS, Abby, adjrun & Aurelio Zen. Their betas made it so much better.
Feedback: Love some.
Distribution: Also posted at dancing-lessons.org. Feel free to archive, but please let me know where it's going.
The hiss of hydraulics as the doors swished shut and the bus geared up to leave sounded Spike's cue to turn away. He couldn't take watching it go. Watching it carry her out of his life.
He squeezed his eyes shut, holding back tears, holding at bay the image of her leaving, and leaned on the hood of his car. "Buffy," he whispered. Then, "Fuck!" He wiped at his eyes with the palm of his hand, balled it into a fist and slammed it against the hood. "Stupid ... sodding ... buggering ... stubborn ... bloody ..." With each word he pounded the car, again and again, until his hand bled. He reared back to kick it instead. "Bitch!" he finished, leaving a boot-shaped dent in the fender. He stumbled back, but regrouped to kick it again. Then he froze, leg in mid-air. He thought he could feel --
"You wanna say that to my face?"
Spike lost his balance as he spun to face her and fell against the car. He recovered and pulled himself together -- half sitting, half leaning against the hood, staring at her like she was a mirage.
Her eyes dropped to his damaged hand. "God, Spike." She took it and examined it. "What the hell did you do that for?"
He stood up and jerked his hand away. "Missed your bus," he said, shoving both hands in his pockets with a wince.
Buffy looked back to where the bus had been, and shrugged. She turned back to him. "Guess you'll have to take me home."
It took everything Spike had not to run to the passenger side and open the door for her, not to sigh with relief and smile and be grateful that she was still willing to have him in her life ... not to hope that this time, things really had changed between them. He wanted to do all of that, make no mistake; but he wouldn't. Not this time. This time, he knew better.
He stood his ground. "Why should I?"
Buffy rolled her eyes skyward, as if she might find the answer in the swarm of bugs buzzing around the lampost behind him. "How about, because you're the one who brought me here, and you're responsible for getting me home?"
"I paid your bus fare," Spike said. "I did my part. This was supposed to be goodbye. You want me to take you home? Then tell me." He stepped close to her -- too close. He could smell her, smell himself on her, could feel the hum and thrum of life coursing through her. It made her that much harder to resist. His eyes bored into hers as he carefully enunciated each word. "Why ... should ... I?"
Her bottom lip trembled, ever so slightly, and she looked away.
The knife twisted in his gut. He wished he could die from the wound, and to do it before the temptation to throttle her overwhelmed him. Why the hell couldn't she have just stayed on the bus? Then they could both be getting on with their lives.
He didn't die. He didn't throttle her. Instead he brushed past her, towards the bus depot.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"To get you a new ticket."
He stopped. There was a hitch of desperation in her voice, a pleading that, despite his best judgment, made him think maybe. Just maybe. One more try wouldn't kill him.
Without looking back at her, he said, "Say it, Buffy. For God's sake, just spit it out." He meant the words to sound harsh, but he was too weary. "If you want me to stay, love ... you know the magic words. Say them, and we can both go home."
He waited. He imagined that the silence that met him must be what it's like in that moment, after the stake pierces your heart, when you dissolve out of this world into nothing. Only this hurt a hell of a lot more. He wished she would just stake him and be done with it. It'd be so much kinder than this.
When the silence from her became too thunderous, he continued toward the station. He said nothing. If she couldn't speak the words he needed to hear, then there was nothing more to say.
He wanted to hate her. He tried to remember what that felt like. It seemed so long ago. It'd make this all so much easier, if he could just go back to that, return to what he was before. Before her, before the chip. But as he reached the ticket line, he knew he had only himself to blame. He should've just pulled up stakes and left Sunnydale, nice and quiet-like, instead of dragging her into this, setting them both up for such a painful goodbye.
He should have known it would all end like this.
Two nights earlier ...
Dawn bounded down the stairs, backpack slung over one shoulder. "Bye, Buffy!"
"Wait!" Buffy jumped up from the sofa and intercepted her sister at the front door. "You know the drill, right? Don't go anywhere after dark unless Janice's parents drive you there. And don't trust Janice's judgment in boys."
Dawn rolled her eyes. "I know."
"You also know I'll be calling her parents to make sure you're really there."
"Yeah, I know. I'll be there. And you can lay off the über-mom schtick. I mean, just because you tried to kill me doesn't mean you have to smother me with parental concern."
Buffy pressed her lips together and looked at the floor.
Dawn sighed. "I didn't mean --"
"No." Buffy tried to keep her voice relaxed. "It's okay. I ... I have it coming."
"No you don't," Dawn said. "You weren't yourself. I know that. I do."
Buffy made herself look Dawn in the eye. She looked earnest, but she also looked so wounded, still. "Doesn't really make it hurt any less, does it?"
Dawn looked away. "It ... It'll be okay. We just ..." She sighed. "This weekend's probably a good thing for us, huh?"
Dawn looked back at Buffy. "Have fun this weekend, okay?"
"Sure," Buffy said. "Big fun in store. Willow's gone on a retreat with her support group, Xander's off looking for Anya, and Tara ... well, I don't really feel right calling her up, seeing as how I almost put her in traction."
"Tara also knows you couldn't help it, Buffy."
"Yeah." She forced herself to sound cheerful. "But don't worry. This'll give me a chance to catch up on sleep. Sleep is of the good."
"Right." Dawn looked doubful, but then shrugged. "Well, however you spend it, just ... try to relax, and enjoy yourself. And don't worry about me."
"That's going to happen." Buffy opened the door and made a "get out" gesture with her head. "Have fun with Janice. And I promise not to be psycho with the phone calls."
"See ya." Dawn pecked her on the cheek, and left.
Buffy shut the door behind her, then turned around and slumped against it. She'd meant it about the sleep. She had the Doublemeat breakfast shift in the morning, so she really should go to bed; but it would still be nice if she had an option to do something else. It depressed her to realize just how little of a life she really had these days. She felt lonely. For just the briefest moment she let herself entertain the thought of going to see Spike, before banishing it from her head. No matter how innocent her intentions, he was bound to take it the wrong way. The last thing she needed was to see that aching, hopeful look in his eyes.
A knot formed in her stomach as she remembered the last thing he'd said to her. "Either you tell your friends about us, or I will." Nevermind that there was no longer an "us" to tell them about. Or that they hadn't been much of an us to begin with. She supposed that was one good thing about her friends all being out of commission -- she didn't have to worry that they'd talk to Spike.
A knock on the door broke her reverie and she groaned. She didn't need to turn around to know who it was. He had the most ironic sense of timing. Buffy straightened up and opened the door. "You can't come in."
Spike looked startled by the statement. Keeping a wary eye on her, he stepped a toe across the threshold. When it passed over, he stepped inside, looming over her with a mix of relief and self-satisfaction on his face. "Looks like I can."
Buffy planted a hand on his chest and shoved him back out the door. "I mean it. I'm going to bed. Directly to bed, without passing go. Or collecting any vampires," she added as his eyes drifted up the stairs towards her bedroom.
He looked her up and down. "You're back to your old charming self again, I see."
She crossed her arms defensively and gave a little shrug. "More or less."
"I was hoping for more. You recovered enough for some Slayer action?"
"I told you, I'm--"
"Going to bed. Right. You should. You look bone tired."
"Thanks." Her tone was sarcastic, but she frowned down at her pink elephant pajama-bottoms and ran a self-conscious hand through her sofa-flattened hair.
"Right, then. I s'pose Warren's hideout'll still be there after you've had your rest. Sleep tight, Love." He leaned in and grabbed the door handle and started to pull it shut.
Buffy yanked it back open. "What do you mean, Warren's hideout? You found him?"
"I spotted that van of his. Followed it to a farmhouse on the outskirts of town. I didn't stay to snoop around. Figured I'd leave that part to you. Them being human, not much I could do if they caught me."
"Right," Buffy said.
Spike pointed with his thumb over his shoulder. "I've got my car. Figured I could run you out there, have a quick look-see. But like I said, it can wait."
"No," Buffy said. "I've already waited too long for this. Just give me a minute to go put some shoes on."
"Sure, Pet. I've got all night."
Buffy left him standing at the door while she ran upstairs. She did more than just put on shoes. She changed into something less nap-on-the-couch-worthy and more slay worthy. She'd already touched up her face and was smoothing out her hair before she remembered that she wasn't supposed to care what Spike thought of how she looked. She grabbed a scrunchy and pulled her hair back in a loose ponytail to hide any evidence that she'd spent time on it. One last look in the mirror showed that she looked decent enough without looking like she tried. Which was really a stupid illusion to go for, considering Spike had just seen her looking all ratty and would know better. She frowned. Maybe she should change back.
"Oi, Slayer!" He hollered up the stairs. "We haven't got all night!"
Buffy stuck her head out the door. "But you just said that we did!"
"Figure of speech. Now come on!"
Buffy sighed and grabbed her bag, then headed downstairs. Spike hovered just outside the door, having a smoke on the porch. He dropped his cigarette and ground it under his boot as she reached him, then turned to her.
He offered his arm. Buffy resisted the impulse to take it. After a beat, he nodded and started for his car. She followed him, and held her tongue when he opened the passenger door for her. She'd come to learn that such small gallantries were just in his nature and it was better not to imbue them with greater meaning. Or to make a big deal about it when they did mean more.
They drove in silence, for which Buffy was grateful. He was always so eager to talk, and no matter how much she tried to deflect, their conversations always came back to the same thing. Still, even she could only stand the quiet for so long. "Are we there yet?"
"What is this, a trip to Disneyland? No, we're not there yet."
"We've been driving for twenty minutes. How far out of town is this place?"
"Um ... pretty far." Spike gave her a sidelong glance. "Another ten minutes, at least."
Something in his tone told her not to believe him. God, he was such a lousy liar. "Spike, where are you taking me?"
"I told you, Pet. Farmhouse, outskirts of town. Warren's hideout. We'll be there soon, just keep your shirt on." He gave her an appreciative glance. "That last part's optional, o' course."
"We're heading down the coast. There are no farmhouses along the coast."
"Oh. Ah ... bugger. Must've gotten turned around."
Buffy sighed. "Okay. What the hell is this?"
"This? This is, well, it's ..." He looked over at her, then rolled his eyes. "Okay, you got me. Consider yourself kidnapped."
"What, again? I've never kidnapped you before."
"No? What do you call last year, with Drusilla?"
"Desperation. And you came to my place of your own free will."
"Whatever," Buffy said. "Just stop the car."
"Spike, I'm not kidding. Stop the car."
"I think you fail to see the principle behind the whole kidnapping concept, Love."
"Stop the car right now, and don't call me Love."
"Look," Spike said. "Here's the deal. You are going on holiday, whether you like it or not. You're going to get the hell away from your life for a while. Away from bills, your job, social services, away from Red's co-dependency and Harris's fear of commitment, away from the whole hero bit. No responsibilities. Just you, me, and the open road. How 'bout it, Slayer?"
"I have to work in the morning," Buffy said. "I can't do this. Dawn --"
"Is staying with a friend all weekend and will be just fine without you."
"Spike, no. I can't just leave like this. Take me home."
"See, that's the beauty of it. You don't get a choice. You're the victim in this, hence you're absolved of all responsibilities and consequences of your absence."
"Oh, my God," Buffy said. "You really put a lot of thought into this, didn't you? How long have you been planning this?"
"Not that long."
"Do you have any idea how messed up this is?"
"Yeh," Spike said, "I do. Just don't care." He looked at her. "Evil, remember?"
Buffy took a deep breath, then calmly said, "Spike, I'm going to give you one more chance before I cause you severe pain. Turn the car around, and take me home."
Spike chuckled and shook his head. "What part of 'you've been kidnapped' don't you understand, Pet? Look, I'll make it real simple for you." He reached into the back seat and rummaged through the trash that littered the bench. "You can sit back, relax, try to enjoy the ride, and -- God forbid -- maybe have a little fun and get some fucking perspective about your life. Or..." He bit his lip in concentration as he lifted off the seat, bending further over the back and reaching into the floorboards.
"Or?" Buffy prompted.
"Give us a sec'." He must've found what he was looking for, because his face lit up with satisfaction. "Or," he continued, producing an all too familiar looking toy, "you can go nighty-night and spend the rest of the trip in the trunk." He pushed the button on the cattle prod and made the electric currents crackle for emphasis.
Buffy's eyes widened. "You wouldn't."
He zapped the air between them again. "Try me."
"You psychotic son of a bitch. You're insane, you know that?"
"Only because you drive me there. What's it gonna be, pet?"
"Maybe later. Now answer my question."
Buffy just looked at him for a long, hard moment. Then she snatched the cattle prod out of his hand and tossed it out the open window. Spike stared at his empty hand in disbelief as Buffy turned back to him. "First pit stop, I am so gonna kick your ass for that."
Spike nodded, and put his hand back on the steering wheel. "Fair enough." He fought the smile that tugged at his mouth.
Buffy crossed her arms and slumped in her seat. She looked out the window so he wouldn't see her fighting one of her own.
The first pit stop occurred just before they reached the Interstate. The car's tank was almost empty, and Buffy's bladder was full. "So," Spike said as he pulled up to the pump, "you wanna kick my ass now, or after I fill up the car?"
"Too many people around," Buffy said. "Guess it'll have to wait. Besides, I have to pee." She started to open the car door, but stopped. "You want to come in with me? Keep watch, make sure I don't call home or try to slip somebody a 'Help, I've been kidnapped' note?"
Spike considered this, then waved his hand. "Nah. You won't do that."
"What makes you so sure?"
He held up his pinkie. "One, there's no one at home to call. And two," he raised his ring finger to join it, "you don't want to be rescued." He smirked at her, then got out of the car.
Buffy stared after him a moment in amazement. So, he was right on both counts. Did he have to be so damned smug about it? She got out of the car and headed inside. How did he know she'd be alone this weekend, anyway? Probably because he made it his business to know these things. Did it really matter how he found out? She was probably better off not knowing. Inside the store, she turned back to look at him. He had one hand on the nozzle, while the other one worked his lighter, igniting the cigarette that dangled from his lips, heedless of the "No smoking or open flame near pumps" sign posted right behind him.
That's my Spike.
She frowned at the thought. He wasn't her Spike. He wasn't her anything. Not anymore. She shook her head and headed to the ladies' room. After finishing up and washing her hands, she stared at herself in the mirror. So then, what the hell was she doing here? They were obviously still something to each other. She knew what she was to him. He made that clear every chance he got, and it never changed. No matter how she treated him. But what was he to her? Sex wrapped in leather, an orgasm waiting to happen? Wasn't he more than that? It would be so easy sometimes to let him be. Whatever else he was to her, could she rightfully call him a friend after everything they'd been through together? Everything she'd put him through?
You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver ...
"But you'll never be friends," Buffy finished the thought aloud. She sighed, and dried her hands.
She came out of the bathroom just as he was coming in the store. As he entered, a middle-aged guy in a ponytail "tsked" at Spike's cigarette and pointed at the no smoking signs. Spike looked at him, took the cigarette out of his mouth, and blew smoke in the man's face. As Ponytail coughed and sputtered a stream of indignant curses, Spike put the fag back in his mouth and sauntered over to Buffy, his body language daring anyone else to try and make him put it out.
"Rude much?" Buffy asked as he reached her.
"Tell me about it. People these days don't know how to mind their own sodding business."
"I meant you."
He looked genuinely surprised. "What? It's not like I vamped out and threatened to eat the tosser."
Buffy considered this, and decided he had a point. You hang with the soulless undead, you have to pick your battles. This was an offense she could let slide.
He pointed at what was fast becoming an armload of toiletries as they made their way down the aisle. "What's all this, then?"
"Stuff I'm gonna need." She reached for a tube of deodorant. "It's not like you gave me a chance to pack a bag. I don't know what I'm going to do for clothes this weekend. At least if these get all stinky, you don't have to inhale."
Spike got distracted by a Frito-Lay display stand at the end of the aisle and went to load up on chips. "Don't worry about that," he said as he inspected a bag of Funyuns. "Everything you need's out in the car." He held up the bag. "You like these, Pet?"
Buffy stopped in her tracks and gaped at him. "You packed me a bag?"
"Oh, no. The Bit --" His eyes widened, and she could see him trying to backpeddle. "Um, that is, the bint" -- his enunciation lingered on the 'n' -- "Harmony, see. She left some of that stuff in my crypt, and I knew you'd be needing it, so I brought it along." He nodded for emphasis.
Buffy rolled her eyes in disgust as she dumped her items on a shelf. "I can not believe that Dawn was in on this."
"No, no she wasn't. She had nothing to do with this. It was all my idea."
"She is so grounded when I get home." Buffy balled her fists and rested them on her hips. "What did you say to her to get her to go along with this?"
"I didn't --" Spike stopped, and sighed. "Don't suppose I can plead the Fifth?"
"No, that copout's strictly for living, American criminals." She crossed her arms and waited.
"Fine." Spike put down the chips and moved closer so he could lower his voice. "Apparently when you went on your little rampage the other day, you said something to Dawn about us."
Buffy squeezed her eyes shut. "Oh, God."
"Not in so many words." He managed to sound wounded and irritated even as he tried to reassure her. "But enough to let her put two and two together. And believe it or not, she's okay with it. Has this silly notion that you and me could actually be good for each other."
"She's young. What does she know?"
Spike pointed, as if Dawn were standing off in the corner of the store. "She knows enough to think that it'll be good for you to get away for a few days. And I happen to agree with her."
Buffy's eyebrows shot up. "Are you telling me that she masterminded this whole thing?"
Spike folded his arms. "I'm not telling you anything. And you didn't hear any of this from me."
"Whatever." Buffy pushed past him and grabbed a bag of Doritos off of the display. "Let's just go while I'm still insane enough to agree with both of you."