By the time Dawn came down for breakfast, Buffy was eating at the counter by herself.
“It’s almost noon. Where do you think he is?”
“He doesn’t live here, you know.”
“He went home? Why’d you let him do that?”Dawn stared at Buffy as he she’d lost her mind. “What if Riley goes looking for him?”
“He’ll be fine,”Buffy said, staring intently at her cereal. There really was nothing wrong with letting Spike spend the day in the basement, but she hoped she could get away with letting Dawn think he’d left before the sun came up. No such luck….
“He left his coat here?”Dawn pointed at Spike’s coat. “Do you think I was born yesterday—never mind, don’t answer that.”She blushed as they both remembered that she really had come into existence only a few months ago.
“Fine,”Buffy sighed. “He’s downstairs. He wanted to go home through the sewers, but I want to be sure Riley really left for South America before I let him out of my sight.”
“So you stayed downstairs with him? I know you didn’t use your bed last night.”
“We fell asleep on the couch,”Buffy said, once again hiding the not-quite-a-lie in study of her cereal. “When the sun came up, I sent him downstairs.”
“Well, that’s just…. really boring.”Dawn got down her own heavily sugared cereal and poured a big bowl.
“Welcome to my life,”Buffy said, yawning. “Now that you’re up, I think I’m going to catch a nap before Mom calls. Come and get me when she calls, ‘k?”
Buffy put her bowl in the sink and began to leave room. “And don’t wake Spike up. He’s still got a lot of healing to do.”
It was noon by the time Buffy heard the phone and picked up the extension in her room in time to hear Dawn say, “Hi Mom.”
“Hi Mom,”Buffy added. “I’m here too. What’s the word on coming home today?”
“They want me to stay here a little longer, but they did say I could sleep in my own bed tonight, as long as I take my meds and rest.”
“So, what does that mean? Pick you up after dinner or before?”
“Unless either you or Dawn has learned how to cook in the past few days, I’d say after dinner.” She paused. “I hate to keep imposing on Rupert. Do you suppose if you are coming after dark Spike would be willing to drive us?”
Dawn’s “Of course he will!”was quickly followed by Buffy’s, “Mom, I’m sure Giles doesn’t see giving us rides until you can drive as an ‘imposition’. But if you’d rather Spike did it, I’ll ask him first.”
“I’ll ask him right now!”Before Buffy could stop her, she heard the downstairs phone drop to the floor as Dawn yelled, “Spike! Will you drive us to pick up Mom tonight?”
There was a long silence before Joyce sighed. “Did Spike spend the night there?”
“He’s asleep in the basement,”Buffy mumbled. “Or at least he was until Dawn –who may or may not be alive when you get home –woke him up.”
With another sigh, Joyce said, “I’m not up for a full discussion of this right now. I just hope you know what you’re doing.”
“I have no idea, Mom,”Buffy admitted. “It’ll work, or it won’t. Please don’t worry about it or start hating Spike.”
“I like Spike,”her mother said. “You know that. I just remember how broken you were when that last vampire—”
“Not him, Joyce.”Spike’s voice as he picked up the downstairs phone was sad, but accepting. “Never was like him and never will be.” He didn’t wait for her answer, but continued, “And I’ll be happy to pick you up this evening, and chauffeur your girls around until you’re back on your feet. Didn’t need to ask.”
“Okay. I’ll see you both later on. And, I’m sorry, Spike. I didn’t mean to imply…. I just worry about her.”
“Understood. Here’s the Bit.”
Dawn came back on the line to say, “Don’t worry about anything. We’ll get your room all ready for you before you get here. Love you, Mom. See you later.”
“I love you, too, Dawn.”
“We’ll come to the hospital around 7:30,”Buffy said. “Do you need me to bring anything?”
“Maybe some clean clothes? At least clean underwear. The stuff I wore in is here in a bag, but it hasn’t been laundered.”
“Got it. Okay. See you after while. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Buffy. Bye.”
“Bye.”Buffy put the phone down slowly, hearing the sound of Spike’s boots on the stairs. He leaned in the doorway.
“May I come in?”
She snorted. “Little late for me to get prissy about you being in my bedroom, isn’t it?”
“I was just bein’polite,”he said as he stepped in looked around. “Woulda come in anyway.”
“That’s more like the Spike I know.”She grinned at him and he smiled back. “Did you get enough sleep?”
Buffy yawned. “Probably not, but it’ll do me. Maybe tonight we can do a quick patrol after we get Mom home and settled in, and I’ll just go to bed early.”
“That would sound a lot more interesting if I didn’t think you meant bed here, alone.”
“Sorry, love. Don’t mean to be pushy…Well I do, but I know your mum comes first.”
She yawned again stretched. “Okay. I’m going to take a shower and get some clean clothes on. And then I guess start getting things ready for tonight. Or maybe the other way around….”
“My cue to take my leave, I reckon,”he said as she stood up. “I need to find some blood and clean out my car, anyway.” He walked the few steps to where she was standing and tipped her chin up to murmur against her lips, “But I’ll be thinkin’about this morning the whole time I’m gone.”
Her own lips curved into a smile as he turned the caress into a real kiss. “It was kinda unforgettable,”she admitted when she pulled away to look up at him. “But we’ve got stuff to do. Just because there isn’t a hellgod to worry about, doesn’t mean I can take a vacation.”
“Doesn’t mean we can take a vacation,”he corrected. “I’m in for the long haul…or for as long as you’ll have me. I’m here to help –whatever you need.”
“Hmmm Well, I think we need to clean the kitchen and wash all our empty cereal bowls. And then there’s changing the sheets on all the beds, doing laundry, vacuuming the downstairs….”She giggled at the horrified look on his face. “Oh. You meant help killing things, didn’t you?”
“Very funny, Slayer,”he growled, nipping at her lower lip.
“Your face was funny,”she said, still smiling broadly. “You were really afraid I was going to ask you to do housework.” She raised her hand and stroked his cheek. “And I might…someday. But not today. Go, feed your disgusting habit. Just be back in time to take us to pick up Mom.”
“Need to borrow a blanket to get to my car. Are you particular which one I take?”
“Here,”Buffy snatched up the old bedspread she’d been sleeping under. “I have a new one in my school stuff. I just haven’t brought it home yet.”
“Alright. I’ll be back in time to take you.”He hesitated, shuffling his feel as if not sure what to do next, then, seeming to come to a decision, he leaned toward her and gave her a quick kiss. Buffy looked at him, puzzled for a second before she realized what was going on.
“Is this you being insecure again?”
“Just wasn’t sure that’s where we were yet. A little slap and tickle is one thing, hello and goodbye kisses are…I don’t know. Just didn’t want to seem presumptuous, I guess.”
Buffy sighed and rose on her toes to give him a more sincere and lengthy kiss before saying, “That’s probably a good plan, actually. Nobody but Mom, Dawn, and I guess Giles, has any idea that you and me are…. whatever we are.”She gave him a rueful smile. “It probably isn’t something we should spring on everybody just like that. It might take Xander a little while to—”
“If he tries to stake me, he’s gonna find out the chip’s missing,”Spike growled.
“Oh God, the chip!”Buffy moaned as she sank down on the edge of the bed. “I forgot about that. How are we going to keep all these secrets?”
Spike’s expression darkened. “Seems to me, only one of those things needs to stay a ‘secret’, Slayer. Or is that what I’m to be –a dirty little secret?” His face settled into the cold mask she was really learning to dislike, now that she knew it was hiding hurt feelings. “Need to know where my place is, Buffy.”
She sighed and glared at him before grabbing his arm and pulling him down next to her.
“Right here,”she said. “Beside me. That’s not a secret. But Giles doesn’t want the Council to know that you’re helping me because we’re…seeing each other…so we have to be careful when your fan club gets here. And the last time we were around my friends, we were…we’ll, I don’t remember what we were doing, to be honest. Probably insulting each other. It’s been a really busy few days and a lot of things have changed. But just for us. I mean, they kinda know Riley and I were having…issues. But all they know about you is that you saved me and you’ve been helping me keep Dawn safe. They don’t know why, and they don’t know about the chip.”
“Alright, love. That makes sense I guess. How do you want to play it?”
“I dunno. Just…no PDAs I guess. Not until everybody’s had time to get used to seeing us together anyway. And not in front of the Watcher wannabe. I don’t know how you’re going to explain to her why you’re helping me, but Giles thinks it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to think you’re helping me –us –because you….”
“Because I’m in love with you?”He gave her a wry smile.
“Yeah. That. It’s too much like—”
“It is nothing like that. And if you say his name….”
“You know that, and I know that, but they don’t. You’re just another old vampire to them, and one that’s related to An—him.”
Spike’s growl wasn’t muffled enough for Buffy to ignore.
“You can’t do that every time I say his name. Speaking of people who probably shouldn’t know about this…”she gestured back and forth between them “…until we know for sure what we’ve got.”
“Sorry, love. It’s an automatic reaction. And you’re right.”He laughed at the shock on her face. “Don’t look at me like that, I admit you can be right every once in a—ow!” He laughed as he rubbed his arm. “See, now, that’s more us, innit?”
“Just sayin’, the big poof wouldn’t take it well. I know that just as well as you do. And there’s no sense bringing on that kind of a fight unless we know we’ve got something to fight for.”
“Who are you, and what have you done with Spike? And what do mean ‘we’?”
“Not saying you’d be actually fighting him. That’d be me what needed to try to stay alive long enough to calm him down. But you’d have to listen to a lot of ranting and complainin’and be trying to explain something that’s really none of his business. Wouldn’t be fun for anyone, and not something I want to see happen unless I’ve got good reason to think we’d be fighting for the same thing.”
“I hate it when you sound sensible. It’s so…not you.”Buffy’s words didn’t really match the small smile on her face or the sideways glance she gave him.
“I’ll try not to let it happen too often,”he said, bumping his shoulder against hers.
“See that you don’t,”she replied, bumping him back. Suddenly they were both aware that they were sitting on a bed, in a room with a door that could be closed.
“Speaking of sensible…”Spike fell backwards and tugged Buffy down with him. Even as she tried to protest that Dawn was just downstairs, Buffy rolled so that he was on top her and could reach her mouth with his.
“This is not sensible….”she gasped as he pressed her down into the mattress and worked a hand under her shirt. “Dawn is—”
“—on her way up here,”he growled, letting her go and sitting up. By the time Dawn was peering in the door, hands over her eyes, but fingers splayed, they were both on their feet.
“Oh,”Dawn said, sounding almost disappointed. “I thought I might have to shield my virginal eyes.”
“Sorry to disappoint, Bit. Was just taking my leave of your sis. I’ll be back later to bring your mum home.” He cocked one eyebrow at Buffy, and when she gave a tiny nod and a smile, he brushed his lips over hers in a much more chaste version of what they’d been doing when he heard Dawn’s footsteps. “Later, Slayer, Bit.”He brushed past Dawn, clutching the old bedspread as he went down the stairs.
When they heard the door shut behind him, both girls relaxed.
“Sorry,”Dawn said. “I didn’t interrupt anything important, did I?”
“No. Nothing important. We were just talking about how we need to be careful who knows about Spike’s chip and….”
“And your new status as snuggle-bunnies?”
“And that. Just don’t talk about it around anybody except Mom or Giles until I give you the okay, okay?”
“Let’s get started on cleaning up Mom’s room and the rest of the house.”
Bored after several hours of cleaning, Buffy took a shower and came downstairs, shaking out her hair.
“Going somewhere?”Dawn barely looked up from the TV screen.
“I’m going to the Magic Box to talk to Giles and maybe meet Willow and Tara if they don’t have classes. And pick up some blood to keep in the freezer for Spike…”she added casually.
“So he’s going to be here a lot?”
Buffy shrugged. “Probably more than he has been. It just seems like a good idea. I don’t think Mom will mind as long as it’s frozen.”
“Are you going to be here too? Or are you staying in the dorm?”
“I don’t know. I’ve missed a lot of school lately and Willow and I only share a few classes, so I’m way behind. I wanted to be close by while Glory was around, and then with Mom having surgery….”She sighed. “I’ll probably stay here. It’s cheaper and Mom’s going to need the help for a while.”
“I can help!”
“I know. But you have school too. It’ll just have to be a group effort for a while. I’ll worry about where to live after things settle down.”She pulled on a jacket and waved. “I’ll be back in plenty of time to go get Mom.”
“So, what’s the sitch, Giles? Did you tell the Council that Glory is gone?”
“I did. I would like to say they said to tell you ‘Good job’but we would both know I was lying.”
Buffy snorted her agreement.
“I also shared with them that Spike provided some assistance when and how he could without setting off his chip. I did not share that it was not an issue after his first few seconds with Glorificus.”Giles gave her a wry smile. “Ms. Chalmers was quite pleased to hear about it and is looking forward to meeting him.”
“You reported to her?”
“No. Of course not. She’s not that…no. But she had been following the situation and called me after she heard the report. She is quite eager to come to Sunnydale and begin taking notes for a future paper she intends to write.”
“So….”Buffy said, trailing her hand along the table in an effort to appear uninterested in the answer. “If she’s still writing papers, she must not be very old, huh?”
“Watchers never stop keeping records and writing reports, Buffy. It’s what we do. Whether in the field or not. However, to answer your real question, I believe her to be somewhere in her late twenties.”
“I know you meant to say fifties, didn’t you?”
“No. I did not. And while I don’t expect Spike to seduce her, I do expect him to ingratiate himself as much as possible, and I would prefer that you not interfere while she is interviewing him. The more she likes him, the more flattering –and safer for him and you –her report is likely to be.”He gave Buffy a more sympathetic look than she might have expected as he continued.
“Whatever jealousy you may feel toward her and the time she spends with Spike might be better channelled toward the demon population of Sunnydale. A population that increased a good bit while you were otherwise occupied with Glory.”
“I’m not jealous!”
“Excellent. Try to maintain that thought for the next few weeks, please.”
“Next few weeks?”
“Ms Chalmers –Lydia –will be arriving sometime tomorrow afternoon.”