The Morning/Afternoon After...

Rating PG13

Summary: Follows up on gryfndor_godess's wonderful season 9 comic fic "Picture Perfect", which you should probably go read first, if for no other reason than her wonderful Spike pov. Mine is from Buffy's pov, and takes place the morning after the infamous party...

The Morning After...

Buffy groaned as she began to wake up. Opening her eyes didn't help at all – the sunlight coming in the window was painful, and she shut them with a whimper.

Engage brain, first, Buffy. Then open eyes and do... other stuff. Okay, I'm in my room, in my bed. That's good. I don't think there's anyone else in the bed... also good (unless it's Spike. No, not Spike. Spike was kissing some girl – the picture girl. He kissed the picture girl!)

The growl in her throat made her head hurt again and she stopped thinking about Spike and the picture girl. A few deep breaths and she was ready to try opening her eyes again. Doing so cautiously, she peered around.

Alone. Okay, that's good. Naked? Not so good. Man's pants and belt on floor... a whole world of not good. Spike's maybe? Let's see... OK, not Spike's, and note to self: bending over to look at the floor when you have a hangover? Really bad idea.

She groaned again and shut her eyes. When she had spoken strongly to her unhappy stomach, she gathered her courage, sat up, pawed her way into her bathrobe, and staggered to the door, praying no one else was home. She was almost all the way to the bathroom when she realized she'd just walked past Spike, sitting quietly in a shaded corner of the room.

She squinted at him, searching his face for any sign of disgust or anger, seeing nothing but mild amusement at her obviously uncomfortable state.

"Go on, pet. Have a good hot shower. You'll feel better for it."

"You'd know," she muttered, ignoring his laugh of agreement and going into the bathroom.

When she emerged a half-hour later, clean, dry, teeth and hair brushed, she almost felt human. Human enough to walk over to Spike and glare at him.

"You kissed somebody last night."

"Noticed that, did you?" He seemed unperturbed, and her frown deepened.

"Would you like to explain yourself?" She flinched when he gave her a cold stare.

"Pretty girl. She kissed me, I kissed her back. Seems pretty self-explanatory to me."

He lifted his chin, his defiant expression fading when he noticed Buffy blinking back angry tears. She whirled and almost ran to the kitchen, opening and shutting cupboards randomly as she searched for something that wasn't there. With a final slam, she closed the door of the last uncooperative cupboard and slumped onto a kitchen stool, resting her elbows on the counter and her chin in her hands.

"Buffy?" Spike's voice was hesitant, his hand hovering over her head before dropping to his side. An angry huff as she turned her back on him was the only reply. The tense silence finally broke as she sighed and dropped her head into her hands.

"There are... clothes in my room. Not my clothes. Guy clothes." She kept her head bowed not wanting to see his reaction.

"Yeah, reckon there are. Wouldn't let those wankers that changed in there go back in. Not after you did your Sally Rand act on the table and then fell into bed all naked and whatnot. Told them to come back this afternoon for their pants."

Buffy's relieved smile faded quickly. "My who what act? On where?"

"Before your time, pet. Naked dancer. Used fans and bubbles to hide her goodies. Don't know that she did it on tables, though..."

"You're lying." Buffy's voice trembled with the need for him to say she was right, even as vague flashes of events from the night before told her he wasn't going to.

"About Sally Rand? No I'm not. You can google her. She was famous."

"Please tell me I didn't get naked at my own party."

Silence.

"Was that after you kissed the picture girl?"

"Was."

"Then it's your fault! I was probably upset, and—"

"You were blotto, love. And having the time of your life. Don't try to hang this on me. If I'd wanted you to get naked, I would have dragged you off someplace private—"

"If?" Her voice was small. "You don't want me that way anymore? Is that why I had to go to bed by myself?"

"You went to bed by yourself because I didn't want to take advantage of your condition, and I wasn't about to let anyone else do it. Almost had to bite one wanker." He muttered under his breath, "Bloody arse didn't believe me when I said he couldn't go in there."

"My condition was because you told me you think I'm adorable when I'm drunk. I was trying to be more adorable. This is still all your fault."

"I also told you I find you adorable all the time. Don't put your behavior on me, Slayer. I'm surprised you even noticed our little attempt to make you jealous, busy as you were chatting up that dork in front of you."

"I was not—You were just trying to make me jealous?"

He shrugged. "Was her idea. She said we made such a good couple, she hated to see us not together." He shuffled his feet and looked at the floor. "Tried to tell the silly bint that we're just friends now, but..." He cleared his throat. "Anyway, was her idea. Didn't work, of course, but I got a good long snog out of it."

"What makes you think it didn't work?" Buffy turned away from him, trying to be casual about what she felt was a major admission on her part.

He shrugged again, realized she couldn't see him and said, "Well, didn't try to rip us apart, did you? Didn't punch me in the nose, or throw me out. I didn't have to keep you from hurting her... Seems like it was pretty much a waste of a good snog, if you ask me." He gave a rueful sigh. "She was so sure it was gonna work, she almost slapped me when I suggested we take it somewhere more private."

Buffy whirled around so fast she almost fell off the stool. "You suggested what?" Her hand was flying toward his face almost too quickly for him to react, but he managed to grab her fist just before it connected and use it to pull her closer.

"And there she is." He smiled down at her furious face. "My possessive little slayer." Ignoring her glare, he leaned down to whisper in her ear, "Have I also mentioned how adorable you are when you're brassed off at me?"

"Make up your mind," she grumbled, leaning into him briefly before sitting back down on her stool. "Do you want me jealous or mad at you?"

"Same thing, innit?"

"No. I can be mad at you for lots of other things besides..." She waved her hand around in the air. "They've got nothing to do with each other."

"So, I get to pick which it is?"

"Maybe? I don't know. Maybe I'm just plain mad at you now... Now that I know..."

"Now that you know there wasn't really anything to be jealous about?"

"Would you have gone with her? If she'd wanted to, would you?" Her question was delivered in an uncharacteristically meek tone, and Buffy kept her eyes focused on the counter, brushing at imaginary crumbs. She felt Spike step up behind her and touch her hair.

"Don't know, love," he said in his I'm-going-to-tell-you-something-you-may-not-want-t o-hear voice. "Earlier in the evening, when we were taking pictures and you... No. Wouldn't have been able to see anybody but you. But by the time she kissed me? I'd spent too many boring hours watching you playing in the pool, dancing, laughing, talking... all with other blokes that weren't me. Thought maybe I'd had my crumb for the night and should move on."

"Why didn't you then?" She reached up and touched his hand where it was resting on her head. Still not looking at him, she repeated her question. "Why didn't you go with her? I know how you kiss; she would have changed her mind if you'd tried."

"Because somewhere in that room," he jerked his head toward the bedroom, "there's a camera with a picture on it of you looking happy to be with me. Wouldn't risk losing that moment for all the willing birds in San Francisco."

"Oh." Buffy tipped her head back to look at him. "We should go find that picture and print it out."

"I'd like that. You did promise me a copy." He dropped his hand and stepped back, giving her room to stand up. He followed her to her bedroom, standing in the doorway while she rummaged around on her desk for the camera and the connector for the computer.

She handed it to him, saying, "We have to use Tumble's computer and printer. It's his camera." Glancing down to where she was still covered by the old bathrobe, she shook her head. "Maybe I should get dressed in something less... hungover old buddy looking? Something to remind you that you think I'm adorable?"

He shifted uncomfortably. "I've been assuming you're still naked under there. Trust me, love, I don't need any more reminders than I've been dealing with since you woke up this morning."

Her eyes flickered to his crotch, then quickly away. She pulled the robe around her a little tighter, saying, "Oh, okay then. We'll just print out the pictures and I'll get dressed... later."

It took a few moments to get the camera and computer up and running, Buffy's hands kept fumbling over things she knew perfectly well how to do. She was very conscious of both Spike's nearness and of her own nudity under the old robe. When she finally got the pictures to load, she moved over so he could see the screen with her as she ran though them.

"So, which ones do you want?" She skipped past all the ones where he hadn't given her the smile she wanted, slowing down when she got to the one she liked. "This one's a keeper," she said without looking at him. "It's exactly what I wanted."

"Still don't get why you wanted it," he said, trying to keep the happiness from his voice and face.

Forgetting his nearness and her own lack of clothing under the robe, she turned to face him. "Because when I thought you were... gone... I had nothing. Nothing, Spike, Nothing! Even that ugly old ring you gave me when we were 'engaged'..." she made little quote marks with her fingers... "went down with the rest of Sunnydale. I didn't have anything to help me remember you – no pictures, no old tee-shirts, no... no nothing..." She trailed off, caught in the expression on his face. "Nothing," she repeated in a whisper. "I had nothing, and I wanted... something..." She raised her hand to his cheek. "I wanted you, and I thought you were gone forever, and I was afraid I would forget what you looked like." She traced his eyebrow, then his cheekbone, and finally his lower lip. "I wanted you," she repeated.

"Buffy..." Spike groaned her name; his hands trembled at his sides. When he didn't touch her, she sighed and turned back to the computer, telling it to print the picture she wanted, and then scrolling through the rest till she found the best one of the two of them together.

"We look happy," she said, studying the photograph. "We look like we're comfortable with each other."

"We look like a couple," he said, moving behind her and putting his arms around her lightly. When she didn't object, he pulled her back against his chest and dropped his head to whisper in her ear. "We look like a couple."

Buffy shivered against him, unable to speak for a moment. This feels so... right. She straightened and turned around, putting her own hands around his waist and tipping her head up to look at him. "I think we are a couple," she said, watching him for any sign of disagreement. "Whether we're together all the time or not, I think we are a couple. We just need to learn how to act like one. Would you... can we do that?"

"Think you already know that answer, love," he said, staring at her mouth, now raised to within a few inches of his. "It's all I've ever wanted."

"I think you should kiss me now. That would be the couply thing to do."

"I'm on it." She felt his smile against her lips as he followed directions, banishing any memory of the night before.

the end