Schmoopy bingo prompt – Candlelight dinner

Follows immediately upon the heels of "All We've Ever Done is Dance" –

Good Food, Good Wine, Candlelight, a Bit of Violence...

"Did I see Buffy dancing with Spike?" Xander spoke around the piece of cake Anya had just shoved in his mouth.

"You did. Get over it. Have more cake."

"But... she... he... mmmph!"

"I thought he came with a date," Tara murmured to Willow as they watched Spike stop twirling Buffy and set her back on her feet.

"He did. I met her. I wonder where she is?"

"She left." Dawn's voice held nothing but satisfaction and smugness. "I talked to her, too, and she wasn't as stupid as Spike thought. She knew she was just here to make somebody jealous and when she could see it worked, she left. Smart girl."

"Jealous? Who would Spike be trying to make jeal— Oh. But you can't mean... Buffy wasn't..."

Dawn rolled her eyes. "Seriously? Nobody but me has noticed how much time Buffy has spent with Spike since she... came back? You don't think she's out there patrolling all by herself every night, do you? He doesn't come around the house as much..." She paused, frowning and nibbling her lip. "I wonder why that is? He used to be there all the time." She shrugged it off. "Anyway, Buffy can insist all she wants that he's stalking her and that she doesn't want him around, but anybody could see that's not true. Bringing a date is probably the smartest thing he's ever done." She nodded with the wisdom of a younger sister. "Buffy doesn't share her toys..."

"They do seem pretty happy and comfortable together," Tara ventured, sliding her eyes toward Willow and wondering if she could share what she knew about them now that Buffy seemed to be going public with it. However, when Buffy and Spike came back into the main room displaying no physical signs of affection other than to remain in each other's general vicinity, she decided to let Buffy's own actions reveal whatever she was willing to reveal.

As the reception wound down and the happy couple was sent off on their honeymoon – the appropriate amounts of small seeds and other, less appealing, things having been thrown at them – Buffy and Willow went about the boring business of cleaning up and closing down the venue. If anyone was surprised to see Spike pitching in and helping to carry the heavy trash bags outside to the dumpster, they didn't mention it.

Eventually, they were as finished as anyone felt like being at that hour of the night, and all piled into the Summers' SUV to go home. The back was full of gifts that Buffy had offered to store until Xander and Anya came back from the honeymoon, and Spike was left standing awkwardly on the pavement. Buffy looked at him helplessly as he walked around to her window and murmured, "It's alright, love. You need your rest. I can get myself home from here. Baby steps, yeah?"

Buffy smiled with relief and nodded her head. "Baby steps. Goodnight, Spike." Although they didn't touch, very conscious of the eyes on them, the way they were leaning toward each other made it very clear to everyone in the car that without the audience they would have been kissing their goodnights.

"Night, Spike!" Dawn broke into the moment, giving Buffy the push she needed to give him one last wistful smile before pulling away from the curb and leaving him staring after them.

"So," Willow said with studied casualness, "you and Spike?"

"We're... it's complicated. We were—" She paused when Willow and Dawn yelped, "You were?" neither of them noticing Tara's lack of surprise. Buffy waited until Willow had stopped babbling questions, continuing as though she hadn't been interrupted. "We were... and then we weren't—aren't... and now... maybe... maybe we are again. We're going to see how it goes."

"Is that what he meant by 'baby steps'?" Dawn demanded.

"Yes. We're going to take it very slow and just see... see what happens." As she pulled into the driveway, Buffy met Tara's eyes in the mirror. "There was a lot of badness before... but I'm better now, so maybe..." Tara gave a reassuring smile that Willow missed as she was opening the door.

The girls entered the house and immediately began yawning.

"Okay, you've got some 'splainin' to do," Dawn said. "But I'm too tired for it tonight."

"That's right, missy," Willow put in. "Big explaining. Possibly with pictures—" She paused when Tara snorted and Buffy turned bright red. "Oh Goddess," she breathed. "Okay then – no pictures. But explaining. Lots of explaining."

"I'll... I'll try to explain. But not tonight. Tonight I want to get out of this dress and put it somewhere that it won't disturb my sleep. Possibly that would be South America..."

There were murmurs of agreement as lights were turned off and doors rechecked before everyone stumbled off to bed. Buffy closed her door and gave a sigh as she reached for the zipper on the back of the dress.

"Need a little help with that, love?"

Her "eep!" of surprise was indicative of how tired she was. The fact that there was a vampire sprawled on her bed hadn't even ruffled the hairs on the back of her neck. While she glared at him, Spike flowed off the bed and gently took her shoulders to turn her around.

"You are planning to make this disappear now, aren't you?" he said, sliding the zipper down, and then stepping away. Buffy stared at him in surprise, choosing to answer his question rather than comment on the distance he'd just put between them.

"That's the plan," she said with a grimace. "Although I think I'm too tired to get it very far away tonight." She stepped behind the closet door and slipped the dress off, kicking it out into the room before shedding her underwear and pulling on a pair of modest pajamas. She stepped out of the closet, prepared to tell Spike that finding him lolling on her bed was not her idea of taking it slow – only to find him standing by the window, dress over his arm.

"I'll get rid of it for you," he offered. "You can tell Anya you got attacked by a demon on the way home and the dress was ripped beyond all repair."

"You have a devious mind." She cocked her head at him. "I think I like it." She watched as he put one leg over the windowsill. "Are you leaving? I mean without me having to throw you out?"

"That's what we agreed, innit? Baby steps? Just came by to ask you to dinner tomorrow evening. Really more of a late supper, I guess, now that I think of it. After you patrol."

"Dinner? With you?" She couldn't miss the pain that crossed his face, and hastened to explain. "I didn't mean... I'd love to, Spike. Have dinner with you. You just surprised me, that's all."

"Want to do this proper – and that means I need to wine and dine you." He looked down with embarrassment. "Wasn't sure you'd want to be seen with me in a nice restaurant, though, so I—"

Buffy stepped closer to the window. "If we're going to do this, I want to do it 'proper' too. And if that means..."

"Not to worry, pet. We'll have our first 'date' in my crypt – if that's alright with you. Candlelight, wine, good food – but without the pressure of knowing people are watching us and wondering when we're going to start tearing the place apart."

"People don't think that about us!" she said, tossing her head. "Maybe you, they do, but I know how to be a perfect lady."

"Not the way Willy tells it," he grinned.

"Willy wouldn't know a lady if he tripped over one – and his place doesn't count as a public restaurant." She grimaced. "And anyway, we only wrecked it that one time... and then there was that time I... " She shook herself. "You weren't planning to take me to Willy's for our first date were you?"

"Hell no! But I didn't want to make reservations anywhere without your okay, so I just thought a nice, catered dinner..."

"It sounds lovely, Spike. I'll be looking forward to it." She leaned in and brushed her lips across his. "Now go away before I fall face down on the floor."

"Sleep well, love. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Night, Spike." Buffy waved a hand as she fell face first onto bed and burrowed under the covers. With a sigh, Spike brought his leg back into the room and silently crossed it to turn off the light. He leaned over the bed and dropped a kiss on the top of her head.

"Goodnight, Buffy," he whispered before sliding out the window and pulling it shut behind him.

Swearing under her breath at the newly risen – now staked – vampire that had managed to get grave dirt in her hair, Buffy combed her fingers through it as she approached Spike's crypt. The sight of the familiar door sparked a most unfamiliar flutter in her stomach, slowing her steps until she was standing in front of it chewing her lip. The metal outer door was already standing open in welcome, the inner one closed tightly. She noticed the warm light coming from under the door and wondered if Spike had found some new lamps since her last visit.

She raised her hand and knocked upon the door that she had kicked open so often. She stood, waiting, not sure if she should knock again, when the door opened with a theatrical creak. Huh! The door makes spooky creaking noises. I never noticed that before.

Spike stood before her, a soft smile lighting his face as he gazed at her. Buffy stared back blankly. He was wearing black dress pants with a belt and a tucked in but open, blue dress shirt that seemed to match his eyes. His hair was curling gently over his forehead and his feet were bare. He held a wine glass in his hand and extended it to her as he said, "You look beautiful, Buffy."

Still combing at her hair with one hand, she took the offered wine glass and blushed. "You look pretty yummy yourself – not that I'm thinking yummy thoughts! I mean, baby steps. There are no yummy thoughts with baby steps... and I just said all that out loud, didn't I?"

His soft smile had turned into a grin as she quickly tipped up the glass and took a big swallow.

"Am I making you nervous, Slayer?"

"What? No, of course no— Maybe? This is so different... so not... not us. But it shouldn't feel weird, should it? I mean that's why I..." She frowned and moved into the crypt so that he could shut the door. "This is silly. I'm me, and you're you, and we... we know each other."

Spike took her hand and walked her into the room where she could see a small table, covered with an immaculate white tablecloth. It was set for two and was accompanied by an assortment of covered platters on a nearby teacart. Taking the glass from her, he set it down and pulled her into a loose embrace.

"I'm nervous, too, love," he said in a low rumble. "This is all new territory for us, yeah? Not that I wouldn't have liked..." He shrugged. "What's important is that we're still us, just us on our best behavior."

Buffy shrugged. "Best behavior, huh? I guess that's what feels so strange... Not exactly something we tend to bring out in each other, is it?"

"It could be. I'm willing to try if you are."

"It looks like you're off to a pretty good start," she said, gazing at the table with its sparkling china, silver utensils and beautiful candelabra in the center. She turned her gaze to the rest of the crypt. Each stone niche in the surrounding walls had its own thick candle burning brightly giving the entire large room a warm glow. "Doesn't it make you nervous? All this fire around you?"

He looked around the room and shrugged. "The big ones are way out there, and they're sitting on stone. Not likely to start a fire." He turned her towards the table and the candles burning there. "And these are giving my lady the candlelight dinner I promised her. Worth the risk, if you ask me."

"Well, just be careful, 'k? Not wanting our first date to end in flames and ashes."

"Not how I'm planning for it to end, Buffy. Trust me." He wriggled his eyebrows in a theatrical leer and she giggled.

"Baby steps," she warned, flushing under his warm gaze.

"You can't come here looking like that and expect my mind not to go exactly where you knew it would go. That's not fair, love."

Buffy glanced down at her own carefully chosen outfit and flushed again. It would have been pointless to deny that her tight-fitting, low-cut red blouse and the black a-line skirt she paired it with hadn't been chosen with Spike's preferences in mind.

"I just wanted to look nice," she said, tossing her head. "And be wearing something practical for slaying." She glared at his raised eyebrow. "What? Red shirt – blood won't show. Swinging, loose skirt – no problem kicking or running. It's all very practical."

"If you say so, pet. Looks to me like you wore my favorite colors, a blouse that means I'll be trying to see down it all night, and a skirt and boots that..." His attention had clearly wandered, and Buffy gave up waiting for him to regain his train of thought. She pulled out one of the chairs and sat down where he'd placed her wine glass.

"So, dinner?"

"Right! Dinner." Spike shook himself and picked up one of the covered platters. He whisked off the lid and set it aside. Underneath had been two T-bone steaks – one barely warm and one still almost sizzling. "Uh, that's yours," he said unnecessarily as Buffy wrinkled her nose at the raw-looking piece of meat and put the sizzling one on her plate.

When he had offered her everything on the cart, and taken a few things for his own plate, he brought the wine bottle to the table and topped up her glass, pouring one for himself before setting it down.

He raised his glass in a toast and said, "To baby steps." Buffy smiled and tapped her glass against his. "To a new beginning... with baby steps."

In spite of the awkwardness between them at first, Buffy and Spike had known each other too long and had spent too much time together not to be able to relax and talk easily. Although, whenever the conversation drifted away from slaying, demons and apocalypses it did become a bit strained from time to time, causing Buffy to remember how little she really knew about Spike as a human.

"Tell me about William," she said when she had already praised the food and ambience so many times it was becoming a joke. She sipped at her wine while Spike pretended to give her request some thought.

"Told you all you needed to know last night," he said, not meeting her eyes. "Prissy little Victorian gentleman that nobody gave two extra thoughts to... unless they were mocking his—" He stopped himself and took a deep draught from his glass, pulling it away from his mouth and frowning at it. "Bloody stuff doesn't have quite the same effect as a good shot of Jack," he muttered.

"If you have to get drunk to tell me, then never mind," Buffy snapped. "I just thought it might be nice to know you as well as you know me."

"Ah, Buffy, love... Been around for soddin' ever, haven't I? Can't put all that into one evening's conversation."

"I wasn't asking for the life and times of William the Bloody, I was asking about the life of William...?" She let it dangle until Spike finally sighed and surrendered.

"Pratt," he said quietly. "William Pratt."

Buffy frowned. "Prat? Isn't that something Giles calls Xander when he's done something stupid?"

"Pratt. P - r -a - t - t. Perfectly respectable British name. Just my luck it rhymes with that other word. And don't think that escaped anyone's notice, back then. Might as well have named me William Wanker." His face hardened as he reminisced and Buffy wasn't sure she didn't see a flash of gold in his eyes.

"Okay. Not all happy, fluffy memories. I get it. Let's talk about something else, something less—" She was interrupted by the sound of the door being flung open as several vampires burst into the room – stopping in confusion when Buffy and Spike looked up from the table in irritation but with no sign of fear.

"Fuckin' bloody idiots! Can't you see we're having dinner here? Where are your manners?"

Since neither Spike nor Buffy had moved yet, the large, thuggish vampire in front said, "We have a message for you from the K'ralk demon you cheated the other night. He's taking his money back – out of your hide." The vampire looked at Buffy and licked his lips. Clearly he had no idea who she was. "Maybe we'll take your little friend there back to him... after we're done with her, of course."

Spike's eyes lit up and he rose to his feet, the joy of battle already evident on his face.

"Bring it on then, mate. You'll have to go through me to get to her." He gave Buffy a wink, enjoying the way her eyes narrowed at the one that had referred to her as his "little friend".

"Not the problem you think it might be," the vamp said, standing to one side and allowing two equally thuggish looking humans to walk past him. "That's him," he said, pointing to Spike. "He can't hurt you. Should be an easy job. Just don't dust him – client wants you to leave him crippled so he starves to death."

Buffy was already on her feet and moving before the leader had finished speaking. She got between Spike and the humans, earning frowns from everyone. "Switch?" she asked as she stepped in front of Spike.

"You got it, Slayer." Spike grinned and moved to get between the vamps and the door. "Now then, you were sayin' something about it not being a problem?" He bounced on his toes and waited for them to make a move.

Buffy, meanwhile, continued to stay between Spike and the mean, but not overly bright human thugs who were still focused on reaching him. One of them tried to backhand Buffy out of the way, only to have her grab his arm and use it to propel him across the crypt.

"Hey! Did he just call her 'Slayer'?" Before the vamp in question could answer his own question with "Oh shi—" Spike had picked him up and thrown him through the door to land in an unconscious heap. The other two jumped on his back, hoping to bear him down under their combined weight. Not only had they not done their homework about who Spike hung out with, they also didn't know exactly who he was. Or they didn't know there was a difference between the strength of a cocky ten-year old vampire and one that had been undead for well over a hundred years...

While Buffy efficiently knocked out the other human attacker, dragging both him and his companion outside to lie beside the vamp Spike had tossed through the door, Spike had reached behind him and put a very powerful hand around the largest vampire's balls. With a wicked grin, he crushed them in his fist, laughing at the high-pitched scream it evoked. While that attacker writhed on the floor screaming curses, Spike got the remaining one to the door by punching him in the face and knocking him back a few feet with each punch. When there was nothing between the woozy vamp and the outside but the threshold, Spike landed one final uppercut that sent him through the opening and out to join the pile of unconscious or moaning bodies on the grass.

He turned around to see Buffy standing over the screaming leader, stake in hand.

"Wait, pet," he said. "Let's do this efficiently." Ignoring the snarls, curses and cries of pain from the vampire in his hands, he threw him out the door and came back to pick the candelabra off the table. He carried it outside and grinned at the three vampires now trying to crawl away.

"Word of advice, boys. Always know your target before you decide how easy a job is going to be." He leaned down and touched each of them with the flaming tips of the candles, muttering "oops" when a candle fell off and landed on the middle vampire. With a whoosh, they all went up in flames, leaving nothing behind but an acrid smell and three piles of ashes.

The still barely-conscious human attackers stared in horror, skittering away from the flames as best they could and screaming when Spike turned an unforgiving eye on them.

"What do you think, pet? Bet it takes a lot longer for a human to go up in flames than it does a vamp. I wonder if I could..."

"They aren't worth the headache, Spike," Buffy said firmly. "And you know I can't let you try it."

"Yeah, yeah. Was only havin' some fun with them." He shifted into game face and bared his fangs at the two men. "In case you haven't learned your lesson yet, I am a bit handicapped, but a long way from toothless." He felt Buffy at his side and reached for her hand. "And my lady... she's..." His voice trailed off and he went back to his human mien as he noticed the hungry look on Buffy's face.

"She's got better things to do than stand out here to make sure no fledges eat them before they can get away," she breathed. "Things that ought to be done inside, behind closed doors..."

Without replying, he scooped her up and carried her into the crypt, kicking the door shut behind them. Buffy laughed softly and squirmed until he put her down. "As romantic as that was, I think you should lock the door before we get any other surprises."

"I suppose you're right," he murmured into her neck, licking the pulse pounding there. When she gave him a little shove, he sighed and let her go. "Right. Lock the doors... and rescue the caterer's candlesticks..." He opened the door, raced out, grabbed the candelabra from where he'd dropped it, snarled once more for good measure and went back inside, pulling the heavy metal outer door with him. He handed the no longer lit candles to Buffy and closed and barred the interior door, dusting his hands with satisfaction.

"Now where were we?" he purred, pulling her against his body.

"I think we were about to zip right through the baby steps to big, leapy, steps."

"I am feeling a bit like taking longer strides right now," he agreed, nibbling on her lower lip and sliding his hands down to her ass. He pulled her against the proof of what he was saying, groaning when she ground herself against him.

"I think we can... ah!... I mean, we're both very athletic and... oooh... coordinated. We can probably walk a little... ummmm... faster than most people..."

The End (of our voyeuristic opportunity anyway) :)