Buffy remained where she was, fidgeting but conquering the urge to plunge down the stairs and catch up with Spike before he’d gone very far. Vowing to trust him, and knowing Lydia’s bodyguards wouldn’t be far away, she took a deep breath and sat back to find Giles watching her with approval.
“You’re growing up,” he said with a smile. “Your self-control is admirable.”
As the watchers left the shop to go to Spike’s, Anya said, “Men can’t be trusted. You should have followed Spike.”
“Thank you for that insight, Anya,” Giles said with a glare.
“I wasn’t a vengeance demon for a thousand years for nothing,” she said. “I know what I’m talking about.”
It took only a second for Buffy to realize that Anya was speaking as if it was common knowledge that Spike and Buffy were together. She turned panicked eyes to Giles, who sighed and nodded.
“I’m fairly certain the only one who hasn’t noticed is Xander. And he is probably willfully refusing to see it. As long as no one says anything in front of the Council members—” he sent Anya a pointed look. “—I think it will be all right. With a bit of luck, Lydia will run out of questions for Spike to answer and her companions will be able to talk her into leaving.”
“I don’t think so,” Anya volunteered cheerfully. “Spike is quite attractive for a vampire, and she seems very interested in him.”
“On that note…” Buffy stood up. “I’m going to see my adviser at Sunnydale U and see what he suggests for somebody who can’t always make classes and who… works nights. Maybe they have some stuff I can do online on my own time.” She shrugged. “Or maybe he’ll just tell me to apply for work at the Doublemeat Palace like all the rest of the losers.”
Giles watched her leave with a frown on his face. Anya was quiet for a few minutes, then said, “You know, Spike is pretty old. Not old like me, but old.”
“Don’t you understand?”
“If he hasn’t squirreled away a lot of money in the past 100 years, I’ll be very surprised and disappointed in him. As long as he is Buffy’s boyfriend, there’s no reason for her to worry about money. He should give it to her.”
It took Giles a full minute to stop his open-mouthed staring. “I’m not sure where to begin to address the appalling assumptions there.”
“What assumptions? He is old, and he isn’t stupid. I’m sure he can get his hands on money, and Buffy is his girlfriend, so he should be giving it to her.”
“Oh dear lord,” was the only reply.
Buffy’s visit to campus brought mixed emotions. Seeing all the other young people walking around with friends, talking, laughing, studying together, gave her a jealous pang she didn’t want to acknowledge. On the other hand, she was very sure none of them had boyfriends who’d been honing their lovemaking skills for well over a hundred years.
“Point to Spike,” she muttered as she passed another couple, holding hands as they basked in the sun. “I’ll be they don’t know as many ways to kill something as I do either… point to me? Okay, maybe not, but still, skills are skills, and I have them.”
“You have what?” Willow’s voice made Buffy jump.
“Skills. I have skills,” she said, smiling at Willow and Tara. “Whatcha doing?”
“We were just about to get some lunch. Are you interested?”
“Sure. Sounds like fun.”
As they walked toward to the student cafeteria, Willow asked, “What are you doing here? I thought you’d decided to skip the rest of the semester?”
“I did. I am. I just came to talk to my advisor and see if we can figure out some way for me to keep going, just in some way that doesn’t require me to be actually, you know, here for classes… or awake during them.”
“That’s a great idea! What did he say?”
“Uh…. I don’t know? I mean how do you explain that the reason you can’t be in class is because you’re up all night staking vampires, or you’re going to miss most of the spring semesters because there will probably be an apocalypse?” Buffy sighed. “Some things just don’t translate well into excuses that won’t freak people out.”
Tara gave her a sympathetic nod. “It must be very difficult,” she said. “Trying to fit into the normal world, when you know how very not-normal so much of it is. I really admire you, Buffy. You give up so much, for so little thanks. No one even knows how hard you work to keep them alive.”
Buffy blushed while Willow looked at her with new respect. “I never thought of it that way,” she said. “I just always thought – oh lucky Buffy, she’s so pretty and she has superpowers. I never thought about all the things you don’t have.”
“Like a life?” Buffy said, with wry grin. She shook her head. “It’s not so bad. Superpowers are pretty cool. It’s just sometimes….” She shook herself. “Well, I’ve tried normal and it never works out for me. I just need to learn to enjoy my not-normal life.”
Tara and Willow exchanged glances before Willow spoke. “I’m guessing Spike’ll be a big help with that. Helping you enjoy your non-normal life, I mean.”
“We’re not fooling anybody, are we?” Reminded of what Giles had told her earlier, Buffy had just a trace of a blush.
“Well, not very well. I think most of us probably knew it before you did. Spike doesn’t hide his feelings very well when he thinks we aren’t looking at him. And when you refused to stake him to keep Riley from being jealous…”
Buffy flinched a little, remembering that no one but Giles knew about the missing chip. She wondered if Willow would feel differently if she knew Spike could kill again.
“Well, so much for that secret. But you guys know we can’t let the Council in on it, right? They need to think he’s helping us because he likes the violence and he’s learning to like people – in other ways than as something to eat.”
“So, how’s the groupie going to take it if she figures it out?”
Buffy made a face. “If she knows what’s good for her, she’ll just get her tweedy little butt back to England.” Buffy attacked her hamburger, asking between mouthfuls, “So, how did it go after we left last night? Giles says they cleared Dawn to consider herself a normal kid?”
Willow and Tara exchanged looks.
“Nothing. Nothing Dawnish. Their mage talked to her, held her hand for a while, ran some kind of a wand around, frowned a lot, and then said he couldn’t find anything magical about her. He sounded kind of disappointed,” Willow said with a giggle.
“So, what was non-Dawnish?”
Willow looked at Tara again and took her hand. “Oh, nothing important. He talked to me about magic and the hellmouth and ‘dark forces’ and a bunch of stuff like that. He… he tried to say I should come back with them for ‘training’. I think he and Giles almost got into a fight because he said Giles was letting me become too powerful. Like he could stop me!”
Tara’s troubled face as she pulled her hand away told Buffy there was probably more to the story, but Willow just put on a perky smile and said, “So, no biggie. He asked me to come with them, I said no, he and Giles yelled at each other for a while, and then they stomped out. Good riddance to them!”
“Well, yeah,” Buffy agreed slowly. “I mean, you’ve got Giles, and you’ve got Tara, and you’re all genius-girl, so what could they possibly teach you?”
“Exactly!” Willow’s comment just managed to smother Tara’s own “Humility?”, but Buffy’s better hearing caught it and she met Tara’s eyes for a startled second. Vowing to talk to Giles about what else had occurred after she left the meeting, she excused herself to go run some errands.
After her unscheduled lunchtime visit with Willow and Tara, and a less than satisfactory visit to her advisor, who was visible annoyed at all her “It’s complicated” responses to his questions, Buffy found herself wandering toward Restfield. Telling herself she wasn’t checking up on Spike, just making sure he was coming to help Dawn later, she had a smile on her face as she approached the crypt.
The smile faded quickly when she saw George and Nigel leaning against the outside wall and soaking up the afternoon sun. The door to the crypt was open, but there was no way they could see in from where they were sitting.
“What are you doing out here?” she demanded. “Shouldn’t you be inside guarding Lydia?”
Nigel narrowed his eyes at her as he stood up. “Is she in danger?” he asked as he moved toward the door. “Is there something we should know about William the Bloody? Why are you concerned that we’re out here?”
George, on the other hand, just sighed and rose to his feet. “I’m sure she’s in no danger, Nigel.” He gave Buffy a pointed look. “Not from the vampire, anyway.”
Buffy could feel her face redden as she hurried to get to the door before Nigel did. “No, she’s not in danger from Spike. But you guys probably shouldn’t have taken his word for that.”
She stepped through the open door, pausing to let her eyes adjust to the gloom. She found Spike, already rising to his feet from a chair near the sofa. A sofa upon which Lydia had made herself comfortable in front of the old TV. She was leaning on a pillow in very un-watcherly fashion, but paying more attention to Spike than Passions.
“Slayer! Wasn’t expecting to see you here this early.”
“Obviously not,” she spit out before turning on Lydia. “What are you learning about Spike from a television set?”
“Well, it’s actually quite interesting that he is so passionate about a soap opera with supernatural themes. I’m studying the show in order to understand what about it would appeal to a vampire.” She smiled at Buffy as if she’d been explaining things to a small child.
Before Buffy could answer, Spike got between her and Lydia as subtly as he could. He didn’t get a chance to speak before Nigel approached and shut off the television set, but he did manage to touch Buffy’s arm in warning. She shook him off with a “Take your hands off me” that made him flinch.
“Really, Lydia, this does not seem to be a good use of your time. If you’ve finished your questions for today, we should return to the hotel so you can write up today’s report.” Nigel waited for her to get up, the picture of disappointed colleague.
George nodded. “We should leave Miss Summers and Mr Bloody to discuss their plans for this evening’s patrol. Perhaps they will allow us to join them again?”
Spike gave him a grateful look and nodded. “Sure. Could be fun. Who knows what evil we’ll find lurking in Sunnyhell tonight? That’s a good idea, isn’t it, Slayer?”
A pouting Lydia was on her feet and already moving toward her escorts, giving Nigel a dirty look, but obediently preparing to go with them. Buffy didn’t respond to his question except to mutter to Nigel, “Sure. The more the merrier. I’m sure no vamps will hear us coming.”
With Lydia peering coyly over her shoulder to wave good-bye to Spike, the three watchers eventually made it out the door, which Buffy slammed shut behind them so hard it vibrated.
“Feel better now?” Spike asked as he walked to the door and slid the bar into place.
“No. Yes. I don’t know.”
He put his arms around her, whispering, “As chuffed as I am to think you’re jealous of another woman, I can think of better things to do with the rest of the afternoon….”
Buffy leaned in to him. “I’m behaving like a… a… something self-absorbed and stupid, aren’t I?”
“You’re behaving like somebody who doesn’t like to share her toys. Comes of being an only child until recently.”
“You think you’re a toy?” She leaned away and frowned up at him.
He shrugged. “Don’t know, do I? Are you so worried about the watcher bint because you care what I do? Or because you don’t trust me when I tell you I wouldn’t? Or just because you can’t have my tight little body any time you want it while she’s here?”
Buffy sighed and freed herself from his loose embrace. Turning away, she said, “I don’t know either.” She looked back at him. “But, as good at it as you are, I think it’s safe to say I don’t want her to stay away from you just because I’m starving for sex.”
“I’m not sure how to take that.”
She sighed again and sank down onto the couch, dropping her head on the pillow. “I’m not sure how I meant it. I mean, I do… like… what you do and how you do it.” She hid her blushing face for a second. “But if that’s all it is, why would I care if you do it with somebody else? I mean, we don’t have to… just to have fun. And when we go out to kill things together… we were doing that before we….” She paused and looked up at him. “I like being with you. I like it when we fight together, and even when we fight with each other, and when we just talk…. I think we’re friends, and… and I don’t want anything to take that away from me.”
“Ah, Buffy, love.” He dropped to his knees in front of her so they were at eye level. “When I tell you I love you, I’m not telling you I crave your delectable little body, or that I just want to shag you until we can’t walk. Although I do. Both of those things. But I love everything about you. I love fighting with you – and against you. I love the way you never quit. The way you love your family and friends… if all I ever was to you, was one of those friends, I’d love you just as much as I do now. Nothing is going to take that away from you. Least of all some mousy little watcher what can’t see the good man right under her nose.”
“I think you should kiss me now,” she said. “I think you should kiss me a lot.”
“Mmmmm. See? We even think alike….” he said as he leaned in to do as she asked. “Lots of kissing, coming right up.”
“What time do you think it is?” Buffy drew lazy circles on Spike’s bare chest.
He sighed and turned to face her, kissing her shoulder before responding.
“Time for us to get dressed and go. Bit’ll have been home long enough to be wondering where her homework help is. And your mum is probably wondering where you are.”
Buffy huffed, but sat up, smiling as his admiring ogle. “She practically shoved me out the door this morning. I think we were smothering her.”
“Knowing your mum might die can lead to that sort of attention,” he said, his face clouding momentarily. He ignored her questioning look. “But be that as it may, it is time for both her daughters to be home eatin’ supper with her.”
“I guess so. I wonder where my clothes are?”
He waved his hand around. “Oh, here and there. We’ll find them. No worries.”
He stood up, completely comfortable in his nudity, and walked around the room picking up discarded pieces of clothing. “Wonder how that got over here?” he muttered as he found his tee-shirt hanging from a candelabra. He tossed Buffy’s shirt to her, and pocketed her underwear as he pulled on his jeans. He retrieved her bra from the bar on the door and her jeans from the floor on the other side of the couch. While Buffy put on her bra and blouse, she searched on the floor around her for her panties, finally glaring at him and holding out her hand.
With a laugh, he took them out of his pocket and tossed them to her. “I don’t wear underwear, don’t see why you need to.”
“Because I’m not gross,” she sniffed as she finished dressing.
Both dressed, shoes and boots on, they stood staring at each other.
“I guess I better get going. See you at my house.”
He nodded and pulled her in for a soft kiss and to nuzzle her neck. “I’ll be right behind you, pet. Just… underground.” He picked up the ragged blanket she’d given him.
She walked to the door and lifted the bar while Spike remained out of reach of the sun’s dying rays. They both looked at the gathering dusk.
“If I wait a few minutes, we can walk together. You won’t have to use the sewers.”
He nodded and threw the blanket on a chair. “It’s not like me not to be able to tell when it’s gettin’ dark. You must have shagged it out of me.”
“Maybe you just spend so much time around humans we’re rubbing off on you.”
“Bite your tongue!”
She stuck it out at him, then darted out before he could grab her. Laughing, they ran through the cemetery, Spike allowing her to remain in the lead until they reached her house. As they approached the walk, he put on a burst of speed and caught her, scooping her up and carrying her up the front steps. She was still giggling at him when the door opened.
“You guys are disgusting,” Dawn said, holding the door. “Can’t you act your age?”
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