Buffy swallowed a mouthful of her burger, blushing as Spike watched her with an amused expression on his face. They were walking idly along the street, her with a burger and him with a cigarette dangling from his fingertips. Usually, she’d frown at him until he put it out, but something about the way its smoke curled through the air and left only the slightest scent behind made it okay.
“Good burger, pet?”
“Mm-hmm.” Buffy assured, giggling through her mouthful at the muffled answer. Spike grinned. Her laugh was so cute and innocent- like she hadn’t seen hundreds of evils in the world, or dealt a hundred deaths. It was purely Buffy. And it was amazing how she could make wolfing down a burger and the curly fries he was holding for her seem adorable.
She swallowed, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. “Oh, god. I’m so embarrassing.”
Spike laughed, popping one of her fries into his mouth with a teasing grin. She rolled her eyes at him and took one for herself. “It’s really good. I’ve only ever been there a couple of times. I usually hit up Ben and Jerry’s after patrol.”
They were moving at a slower pace than both of them were used to, Buffy’s tender ankle slowing them up. She wasn’t limping, but it hurt enough to slow them down. Spike had tried to convince her to sit down and ice it while they were waiting for her burger, but she’d vehemently refused, insisting it’d be fine. Still, the usually antsy vampire didn’t complain at the slow pace.
“You angling for desert, Slayer?”
Buffy laughed. “Are you kidding? After what I just ate… well, actually yeah, I could go for a sundae.” She admitted to his amusement. “But I’ll survive.” She shrugged, before casting him a sideways glance. “You didn’t have to pay for the burger though, you know. You’re not even eating.”
Buffy had ducked into the bathroom the moment they had arrived at the late night café, to wash away any lingering vamp dust and check the state of her ankle without the British commentary track. When she’d come out, Spike was waiting with a large serve of fries and a double-bacon cheeseburger with extra mayo. She’d tried to pay him back, but he’d insisted that cash was not an issue- apparently the demons at Willie’s were getting steadily worse at poker.
Spike only shrugged, a smile touching his lips. Flicking his cigarette into the gutter, he tucked his hands into his deep duster pockets. “You ready to head home, then? It’s still early, but you should probably get off of that ankle.”
Buffy sighed as his eyes flickered towards her injured leg. “No, I promised I’d make an appearance at the Bronze tonight.” She finished the last mouthful of her burger and wadded up the wrapper, tossing it deftly into a bin about five feet away. “The whole gang is going to be there and, well, I think this is the closest I’m going to get to an apology for the group intervention.”
Spike scowled. “They bloody well should apologize.”
She bumped her shoulder against his arm consolingly. “Calm down there, Big Bad. It’s no big. They’ll be a few hours of overly-chirpy Willow-ness and endless plates of sugary goodness courtesy of a guilty Xander and then it’ll be fine. I’m over it.”
Spike looked about as convinced as she knew she sounded.
There was a pause for a moment, before Spike started moving forward again steadily. “C’mon then love, let’s get you to the club before the Scoobies decide you’ve stood them up.”
* * * * * * *
Buffy and Spike made the relatively short trip in mostly companionable silence, glancing at each other when the other wasn’t looking. Buffy reprimanded herself every time she found herself studying the vampire walking beside her… his face and his body, the way he moved. She didn’t see him do the same thing to her.
Spike broke the silence every now and again, asking idle questions about school, her mom, Dawn, even what it had been like in L.A. Buffy was a little confused by his interest, but answered his questions anyway. She even found herself asking some in return.
“Were you close to your father?”
“When I was little, sure.” She answered, shrugging. “I think he tended to favor Dawn though- his little princess in a baseball cap. I was a little too girly for him.” She smiled. “After the divorce, not so much. At first he was always promising this weekend and that together… trips away in the holidays, but after a year or so, that’s all they became. Promises. Now he’s off with his secretary living the cliché… somewhere in Spain, I think.”
“I’m sorry, pet.”
Buffy smiled at him. “Don’t be. I have Mom, I have Dawn. I have Giles and the Scoobies. I don’t need a Dad.” Spike nodded, and she looked at him questioningly. “What about you and your dad?”
“Ah, well, not really much to say there, love. My da’ died when I was young, so it was really just me and my Mom for as long as I can remember.”
“Oh, god. I’m sorry.”
Spike shrugged, offering her a smile. “’s alright. Not too many memories of him have lasted over the decades. My mother always said I had his smile, but I… I don’t remember him.”
There was a pause before he spoke up again. “Did you like it better in L.A.?”
Buffy frowned thoughtfully. “It was…simpler. The biggest concern I had back then was someone wearing the same outfit as me out to the local clubs or who was dating who. I was a lot more… Cordelia-esque back then, before I was the Slayer.”
“That doesn’t answer my question, pet.”
Buffy smiled, coming to a slow stop. “No, I wasn’t. I mean, I was the most popular girl at Hemery High. I knew it. Everyone wanted to be my friend, and every single guy wanted me on their arm. But… no, I wasn’t happy.”
“Are you… are you happy now?”
Buffy thought about it- all the trouble she was going through at home and with her friends, and the rocky state of her relationship with Riley. To the way she had to lie about her feelings to keep everyone else happy, and the fact that the only person she seemed to be able to talk honestly to was a chipped vampire who had spent three years wanting her dead.
“I’m a lot closer to being happy now than I ever was then.”
Spike didn’t smile, but she could see his face warm at the twisted confession. He glanced at the building across the street, the heavy thud of the Bronze’s speakers mingling with the night air. He waved a hand towards the entrance. “You better be getting inside, love.”
Buffy’s brow furrowed as he turned away. “Aren’t you gonna come in?”
“Don’t think so, pet.” He shook his head, “Besides, what about the demon? I could still catch a scent if I’m lucky.”
She shrugged. “We’ll hunt tomorrow. Tonight, I owe you a drink for saving my life.”
“You can’t buy alcohol, pet.” He smiled.
“Well, I’ll just have to give you the money to do it. The sentiment is still there.” She backed towards the club’s door, beckoning for him to follow her. “C’mon Big Bad. It’s the least I can do.”
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