Buffy led the hesitant vampire into the bustling Bronze with a teasing giggle, swaying her hips to the beat of the latest song- something by the Misfits that she didn’t really recognize, besides the fact that she knew she’d heard the song before. She was walking backwards, skillfully avoiding bumping into any members of the dancing and chatting masses. She flashed Spike a taunting smile as he followed her, laughing at his uncharacteristically unsure expression before turning and searching for the rest of her friends.
She found them relatively easily, waving to Willow as she spotted her and the rest of the gang at a table by the dance floor. It was one of their usual spots- with an ideal position between the bar and the dance floor. Anya and Xander were watching the throng of dancing people, Anya with a somewhat longing expression as she fidgeted restlessly in her seat. Xander’s expression was more pensive, but he turned as soon as Willow nudged him.
Buffy gave herself a mental shake in preparation as she moved towards them, her lips curving in greeting. It was a tight smile, bordering on forced, but it warmed considerably at the friendly grin Tara offered her. She let Willow hug her when she reached the table, and grinned at Xander as he offered her a greeting. She sat down on a vacant stool, almost immediately glanced over her shoulder. She couldn’t see Spike.
“How was patrol?” Willow asked hurriedly, a bright grin plastered on her face. Tara put her hand over the redhead’s in an attempt to soothe the perky witch’s nerves. Buffy could see the girl take a calming breath before she continued. “Did you kill any big nasties?”
“Found a nest,” Buffy shrugged, her eyes alternating between focusing on Willow and flicking through the crowd, trying to spot a streak of peroxide blonde hair or a long leather coat. “Seven vamps.”
“Seven?” Willow repeated, concerned, just as Buffy spotted Spike. He was standing in the direction she came from watching the group warily, and half hidden in the crowd. He made no move to approach them when she spotted him. He seemed slightly uncertain, but began walking when she jerked head slightly. His step was as cocky as usual, but she could see that same strange uncertainty in his eyes and jaw. “We should have come…”
“No, it’s okay.” Buffy assured her, just as Spike reached the table. “I had backup.”
“Spike?” Xander’s voice was accusatory. Tara looked curious. “You had Spike as backup?”
The vampire standing next to her stiffened slightly, and Buffy sighed. If Xander was trying to mend bridges like Willow, he wasn’t doing a very good job. “Yeah, he helped me out in a pinch. There was actually some life-saving happening there. In fact,” she turned in her seat pointedly to face Spike, looking up at him. “I believe I owe you a drink.”
Spike’s response was gruff, his hands stuffed in his duster pockets again. “Told you Slayer, its fine. Don’t need a sodding drink.”
Buffy waved a hand dismissively, reaching for her purse. “Just buy yourself a damn drink, Spike.” She grinned exasperatedly. “And one for me too, while you’re at it.”
“I’m thinkin’ mixed.”
“With what, pet?”
Buffy shrugged, ignoring the strange look Willow was giving her for her request for alcohol. Or for being so cavalier with a vampire. “Surprise me.”
Spike nodded once and walked away, his expression turning quizzical at Tara’s cocked eyebrow. Buffy turned back to her friends, tucking her wallet back into her purse before meeting their eyes. She kept her expression decidedly nonchalant, proud that she was able to pull it off with a don’t-even-start-with-me glare in her eyes. They all seemed to take the hint, and Buffy helped herself to the bowl of Skittles in the middle of the table, no doubt the first offering in Xander’s apology.
Anya was the first to speak up. “So, are we all going to sit here awkwardly because Buffy brought Spike to the Bronze because they obviously seem to be friends now or are we going to actually dance?” The last part of her question was directed at her boyfriend.
Xander glanced towards the bar- or more accurately, Spike’s back- and back at Buffy before he nodded and let Anya drag him away. Willow was bouncing nervously in her seat, and Buffy decided to throw her a bone in return for the olive branch, if only to save Tara.
“Wills, its okay. I’m over it.” She knew she didn’t have to elaborate on what ‘it’ was, and she saw her best friend relax visibly. “Water. Bridge.”
Willow smiled widely, before her forehead furrowed questioningly. “So, what’s with the Spike-shaped patrol buddy?”
Buffy shrugged, deciding to give the redhead the half-truth. No need to tell them about the fact that he’d actually picked her up. “He was itching for some action of the slay variety, and I let him tag along. Actually, he was the one who found the nest, not me.”
“And he… there was some saving?” Tara asked.
“Yeah. Spike dusted a vamp that was getting a little too close for comfy-ness,” she decided to leave out the super-protective rage that had happened. She wasn’t really sure what that was all about. “Got his head cracked open pretty good in the process.” She gestured to her own temple, where Spike’s bandage strips were.
“Wow,” Willow said, glancing towards the bar. “That’s weird. I mean, not about the ‘you being alive’ thing. That’s great. But, you know, the whole ‘Evil vampire being the reason you’re alive’ thing is.”
“I know,” Buffy conceded. “But, I don’t know… I don’t really think Spike all with the evil anymore.”
“Really?” said Tara with interest. “What makes you say that?”
Buffy opened her mouth to answer just as Spike made his way back to the table. “Just a hunch,” she shrugged, confused by the knowing look Tara gave her in response. She smiled instead as Spike set a drink down in front of her, giving it a wary glance before taking a sip.
“Hey, this is really good! What is this?”
“Rum and coke,” Spike said with a small smile.
“I’ve had rum,” Buffy told him with a wrinkled nose. “This isn’t rum.”
“’s Malibu… Coconut rum.”
Buffy took another sip of her drink. “Well, I like it. You chose good Mr. Liquor.”
“Mr. Liquor?” Spike looked scandalized as he took a mouthful of his drink. “What are you trying to say, Slayer?”
“Oh, come on. You’re like the spokesman for Jim Daniels.” Buffy eye rolled with a teasing grin.
“Jack Daniels, pet.”
“Whatever.” She pouted, taking another sip of her drink. “You can sit down, Spike.”
He hesitated for a moment before both the witches nodded, and Tara gave him a welcoming smile. He sat down next to Buffy, hands in his lap.
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