Chapter 10 - All's Well. (c. Decisions and Dates)
Sunday, May 5th, 2002
Buffy tried to concentrate on the paperwork in front of her, but her mind was too preoccupied with the happenings of the previous day to really take in what she was reading. She looked over at the two Wiccans sitting across the table from her and was sure they were equally distracted. So far there was nothing on any of the pieces of paper to give them any clue as to their adversaries' next course of action.
Willow was about to start checking out the stuff on the computer disks. Buffy stifled a yawn and pushed aside the papers in front of her.
"Research hurts my brain. I think I'm going to go swing past Spike's crypt and see how he's getting on with that translation. I might go straight out on patrol afterwards. If you need me Spike's phone number is on the bit of paper in the front of the address book."
"Spike has a phone?" Willow asked amazed.
"Yeah. He's been holding out on us. Something about not being totally on a leash, except that wasn't quite how he put it...See you later. If Dawn's looking for something to do when she gets back from Janice's tell her to check round the house and the garden to make sure there aren't any more cameras."
Buffy grabbed the tranquilliser rifle from where it had been left in the hall, wrapping it in a blanket and bouncing down the steps to go to see a peroxide pest.
Buffy hovered indecisively outside the crypt door, uncertain whether she could or should go through with what she had planned. She rapped her knuckles against the solid door and waited a few moments for a reply. The door swung slowly open in front of her, like the door of a horror-movie house and her steps faltered as she entered the mausoleum.
"Come on, slayer. You know I only bite when you want me to. Hurry up and get in so I can shut out Mr Sunshine." The familiar English accent sounded from behind the door.
Buffy shook her head, banishing the imaginary corpse lurking round the corner, and made do with moving out of the way so that the real walking, talking one could shut the door behind her.
"I brought a peace offering, sort of semi-permanent loan idea. I was thinking after you left last night and I figured, this way, the next time someone comes in making unfounded accusations you might at least have a chance to defend yourself." Buffy's voice was hesitant her gaze trained on the vampire's neck, knowing she would never get through this if she had to look into his eyes.
She gently laid down the bundle containing the tranquilliser gun on top of the television. "I also wanted to apologise for not giving you a chance to explain about the eggs. I don't know if they were really what we were looking for or not, but even if they were I should have given you the chance to explain how you got them.
I'm sorry about that night in the alley. God, I'm so sorry." She stole a glance at his face, love puzzlement and concern clear from the tilt of his head and the luminosity of his ultramarine eyes as he moved toward her. "I just can't believe. I look back at the things I've done, at the way I've treated you and it's almost like a stranger did them. I just can't make. I thought I was this person. I was supposed to be some kind of hero, some sort of ideal but coming back there's been all this anger, and frustration and loneliness and helplessness and I've just lashed out at you. I've used you as a whipping boy for everything that's gone wrong since I've come back. and I'm just so sorry."
She drew in a deep breath that was almost a sob and inhaled the fragrance of tobacco, copper and spices. Startled, she realised that she was almost resting against her former lover's chest and that his hands were running up and down her arms making soothing motions while he murmured soft phrases of comfort.
"And it's not just that. It's everything that every guy I've dated has ever done to hurt me. Every bad thing that's happened was just hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles because I couldn't accept that you were different."
She took a step backwards, pulling away from his caresses but looking into his eyes once more. "I just have so much I have to say and if I stay that close to you. my brain'll just give up."
"Would that be a bad thing, love?" She forced herself another step back as the ocean of emotions in his eyes threatened to pull her under.
"It would be, if we want things to be right between us, and I don't know if we can make things right, and even if we manage to make things right that doesn't necessarily mean that we'll be together." Most of the words in her reply ran into one another as she rushed to still any premature hopes that the vampire might get.
"Can you forgive me for all the things I've done and said?"
"Love, they were forgiven without you even having to ask." She nodded her head gently and his eyes were drawn to where she held her lower lip between her teeth.
"Okay, here's a question and I need you to really think it through before you answer." She caught and held his gaze. "You always talk about how we're both creatures of darkness. You say that I belong in the dark with you. What happens if I can't accept that? If I don't like the person I can feel myself becoming? What happens if I ask you to come down off the balcony and be with me on the dance-floor?"
She could see him resist the urge to answer the second she finished. Instead he let a few seconds pass before he replied.
"Buffy, you've been inside me, you've felt what I feel. Don't you know I'd do whatever it takes to be with you."
"Spike, I know you'd die for me, I'm prepared to believe you would die without me. I'm asking something of you that's going to be far harder. If there's going to be a chance for us to be together you are going to have to live a life that goes even more against your nature than how you're living now.
I don't even know exactly how you get the money you spend, so I don't know if you could even afford your blood out of what you make honestly, never mind cigarettes, alcohol or anything else, but that's what I would need for you to do, even if it meant getting a job."
"How am I supposed to watch your back on patrol if I'm stuck behind a bar somewhere or something?"
"You can't. But how can I even try to break Dawn of her bad habits if I'm condoning the same habits in you. You need to be purer than the driven snow. I need to be able to tell myself and anybody else who thinks they're going to mouth off about my taste in men, that, yeah, Spike was everything you say, but he changed. right down to stealing power and cable." She glanced over at the television where Passions played on, totally unheeded by the vampire who had put it on.
"You've been thinking about this real hard, haven't you, pet?"
"Yeah, and I know the little things are almost so stupid they're hardly worth the effort, but the thing is, I want to trust you but it's really hard. All my slayer instincts say that I shouldn't but if you give me a basis to build that trust on, then I'll try my best to ignore what those instincts tell me, but if you tell me you'll do this and then I catch you out in something, that's it. If there ever comes a point where you prove that I can't trust you, if you even so much as shoplift a can of coke, then we part ways."
"And if in theory I agree to all this where do we go from there?"
"Well, we try to go back to being friends like we were before we kissed. We go back to patrolling together, when it's mutually convenient. We get motorbike rides, videos and pizza, and I get someone else's cooking if I'm working late. We date. Out in the open not hiding it from people, but don't count on us being alone much because I can't cut back on my time with Dawn.
Dawn is my responsibility. You want to be a big brother figure, fine, but I'm the parent. I get to have the final word. but I'm open to advice.
We can spar in the training room at the Magic Box, but outside of that we never hit each other again. Dawn never sees another bruise on either of us that was intentionally caused by the other. The handcuffs and all your other toys stay here, but the only time I'll be spending the night is when Dawn isn't at home. You can stay nights at the house, maybe a couple of times a week, but no more than that because I don't want trouble with Social Services-"
Buffy's exposition was halted by Spike's finger on her lips.
"I think I've got the general idea, love, you can draw up a list of do's and don'ts later. You know what my answer's going to be."
"I could make an informed guess."
"So is it okay to kiss you yet, or do I have to disconnect the electricity and the cable feed first?"
Buffy pretended to give this due consideration. "I think if you get rid of the cable feed I can take that as a gesture of good faith and let you off on the electricity until you can get yourself a generator or something. I wouldn't want your blood or your eggs to go off, if that seems fair to you?"
Spike opened the coffin he used as a weapons chest and drew out an axe. Striding to the far side of the room he brought it down on the aerial cable for the TV. "You'll have to wait till after dark if you want to make sure I take the dish down.but I'm sure I could keep you entertained if you want to wait."
Spike dropped the axe on the floor behind him and came over to take Buffy's shoulders in a gentle grip.
"I'm sure you could but Dawn'll be getting back from Janice's soon. I could justify hanging out here till it's time to patrol if you had lots of interesting translations for me to read but since you've been watching tacky soap operas. which are still running. Why's your TV still playing Passions if you just cut the cable?"
"Because, it's on video, because I was at The Magic Box checking up on some background to that passage I translated when it aired. Course, if you want to know what I found out, I'm still waiting for that kiss."
"Blackmai-" Buffy's accusation was cut off in surprise as Spike's lips gently brushed against her own. Her arms wound their way around his neck and she stood balanced on the toes of her left foot her right foot instinctively raised a few inches off the floor. She had been expecting a bruising forceful assault and was blind-sided by his gentle caresses grazing against her hypersensitive skin. Her body came to rest against his and she strained upward to deepen the kiss. His tongue made it's way behind her parted lips tracing a slow trail along her gum-line before stroking softly against her own. The kiss had none of the urgency of their normal interactions. It was slow, sensuous and tantalising and it held the promise of lovemaking that would take hours to reach its peak.
Buffy's eyes flicked open as he pulled his head back, her cheeks flushed and her pupils dilated. She drank in the stark alabaster planes and angles of her lover's jaw and cheekbones before she registered the contented glow she had never seen before in his cobalt eyes. Aware of her gaze his lips curved gently upward.
"You haven't lost interest in what our friends have been reading up on, have you? Not after me staying up half last night working on it?"
She shook her head to clear the lassitude engendered by his efforts. "No, I just got a little distracted. Do tell."
Spike led her over to the "comfy" chair and once he was seated he pulled her into his lap so that her back rested against one chair arm and her knees hung over the other. As he spoke one hand played idly with her hair whilst the fingers of his other had traced soft patterns on the fabric of her jeans.
"It looks like Warren and his mates have decided to become the Sunnydale equivalent of Indiana Jones." Spike explained to Buffy about the Nezzla demons who lived in some of the deepest caves under Sunnydale and the magical treasure which they guarded.
When he had finished there was still an hour or so to go before sundown and Buffy looked regretfully at the daylight filtering through the crypt's windows. "I should go back and see Dawn's okay before I come back out on patrol."
"But you don't want to." Spike finished for her in a soft voice.
Buffy shook her head.
"Well, how about this for a different idea. You go home, see little sis, make sure she's done all her homework. If she has I'll come over and escort you both to the Bronze. We can always patrol once the Niblet's safely tucked up in bed and it seems to me we've got reason to celebrate. You could always ask the Wiccas as well if you want, if they don't want to take advantage of having the house to themselves, that is. does that sound better?"
"You mean like a date?"
"Well, sort of like a date with an extra woman or three."
"Way to pander to your ego, walk in the Bronze with four women on your arm."
"And every one a looker, too." Spike replied with a smug smirk.
"You're on. Give me that phone that you've been hiding."
Spike pushed Buffy up off his lap and retrieved the phone from the corner near the refrigerator where it was charging and threw it to Buffy. "Just press down the number two key and hold it for a while."
"Hey, Will, it's me. Has Dawn come home yet? .Do you know if she's finished all her homework? .Let me know if she finds any. Look, the reason I ask is that we've all been invited out for the evening. To quote a wise man there is no good time to have fun on the Hellmouth. No, don't worry about it. He said it was like a date but with three extra women. That means he gets to pay for all of us, doesn't it." Spike rolled his eyes when he realised what he'd been suckered into. Buffy covered the bottom half of the receiver and whispered, "that is okay isn't it?"
Spike couldn't help himself. She had a sparkle in her eye. "As long as you don't plan on drinking a bottle and a half of tequila each it should be fine." He settled back into the chair and Buffy perched in his lap again.
"Okay, Will, I'll be back in half-, make that three-quarters of an hour and tell Dawn if she wants to use the shower to do it now before I get back." Buffy flipped the phone shut and passed it back to Spike. "Dawn has apparently been going round her room and the bathroom with a fine-toothed comb to check for cameras in case The Nerd Herd have been watching her when she's not dressed."
"They're dead men if she finds any."
"True, but you won't be the one dealing with them, Chip Boy." Buffy's tone softened when she saw his expression. "It's hard for you to rely on someone else to look after your womenfolk, isn't it?"
"Hey, Victorian male here, what do you think?"
"I think compared with when Will did her will be done spell you've made definite progress. It's part of what makes me want this to work. You're the only guy that I know who lets me be whatever I need to be rather than trying to make me fit with their perception of who I am.
Riley never got it. No, that's unfair, maybe he did, but he couldn't be who I needed him to be.
With Angel it was like he was always protecting me, except when he was stalking me, even when he left he said it was to protect me. I was such the little schoolgirl when we were together. Angel would never be able to cope with who I am now. He had to play the hero. I think that's why he never used to show up except with dire warnings of impending doom."
She brought a hand up to brush his cheek, turning his head slightly so she could stare him straight in the eye.
"You know I'm counting on you to be the long-haul guy, don't you?"
"I had hoped that was the point of the exercise this afternoon, love, but I must admit I don't quite get why. I was expecting you to come after me full of piss and vinegar and tell me to get out of your town when the spell went wrong like that." Spike voiced what had been troubling him earlier.
"And I might have done if it wasn't for what I saw and felt when I was inside your head. I got to see myself through your eyes and I didn't like all that much of what I saw. And I got to see how crazy you are; that even when this total bitch treats you like I don't know what, all you do is love her with all your heart regardless.
You wished that I would work out what it was that I really wanted. I think at the time it was an iced mint mocha, but once I really saw inside you I knew that what I wanted was to be able to trust you enough to love you back."
"Trust's for old-marrieds, pet."
"No, Will, trust's what carries people through from where we are now to being old-marrieds."
"That's a new one, pet."
"I thought I'd try it on for size. William seems a bit stuffy and dated and Spike just didn't seem right and you're definitely not a Bill or a Billy. Besides, if I called you Billy people would think it was a joke about the hair. You don't mind do you?"
"Definitely better than the last time you called me William. Call me anything you want, love."
"Well, aside from potential confusion when Willow's around, I think I like it, of course it's not quite as catchy-." Buffy was interrupted by the ring of Spike's phone.
"I knew giving the number to you women was a bad idea." Spike checked the caller ID and passed the phone over to Buffy without answering it. "It just flips open, love."
"Bloody residence. Buffy Summers speaking. Yeah, no problem, I'll let him know. Poor Xander." Buffy closed the phone and passed it back to Spike before explaining.
"It looks like we're set to be a party of seven tonight. Xander rang up about all the messages we left the other night, said that he wanted to come over, that he had an announcement to make. So Will told him we were all going to the Bronze and could he meet us there instead. Little does he know that we all know what his announcement's going to be before we get there."
"Much as it pains me to say it we could-." Spike's phone rang again, but this time when he checked the caller ID he took the call himself.
"Yes, pet. I should be able to manage that. yeah, see you later then. Bye, kitten." Spike closed the phone again and continued as if the phone conversation had never happened.
".pretend that we didn't know. Well, except for the fact that I'm a terrible liar."
"I'd never have guessed, I take it that was Anya."
"So, how is it she got your phone number and I didn't?"
"Because she was alone. She needed someone she could turn to if anything went wrong, or if she had a bad day."
Buffy remembered the protective feelings he had harboured for the woman the previous day. "You really are quite a possessive little vamp."
"Less of the little, pet, or I'll have to make you eat your words, but possessive? You bet, and jealous too but I figure now everything's official that I can be a bit more laid back. I might even manage to be civilised if you dance with other men tonight, as long as their hands don't go anywhere they shouldn't."
"I'm so glad you aren't planning on threatening to eat anyone tonight. and besides I'm rather fond of the compact packaging. I like being able to look you in the face rather than end up staring at your nipples, which isn't to say that your chest isn't. I better go." She made no move to extricate herself from the vampire's lap.
"Do you want me to bring the car tonight or would you prefer to walk."
"It looks like it should be a nice night. Let's walk. Besides it would take hours to clean it out so that anyone could sit in the back seat."
"Check. Clean out car before taking Buffy to Make Out Point."
"You are incorrigible. except you haven't really been that way at all today."
"That would be because I don't want you to fall back into thinking this is all about sex. Sure, if that was all that was on offer I'd take it, but incredible as it was, it couldn't make up for what was missing. I think I tried to tell you that once."
"So is this your way of saying you plan to withhold sex?"
"Why don't you invite me back to your place after patrol when neither of us have to rush off anywhere and see?"
"Because I have a better plan." Buffy gave a teasing smile.
"And what plan's this, love?"
"I invite you back to my place instead of patrol."
"Much better plan." Spike's smile widened into a grin, a very smug, contented grin that Buffy just had to kiss right off his face.
Now that the moment was finally here Spike suddenly felt like an ancient teenager. He tried to remember the last time he had picked someone up for a date and found that he couldn't actually remember ever having done so. He juggled the flowers he was carrying to check his hair and pop a mint in his mouth. Refusing to prevaricate any further, he rang the doorbell.
He heard the clatter of teenage feet on the stairs and then the door was pulled open by the younger Summers sister.
"She's nearly ready, but she's got to make an entrance," Dawn bubbled before taking the time to give him the once over. "Not bad. not bad at all. You should wear that colour more often. You'll do."
Spike had basically gone with the new boots and jeans he'd bought for the aborted wedding but he'd teamed them with a silk shirt in a deep violet-blue and foregone his normal black T-shirt underneath. Here and there a glint of silver jewellery set off the look.
"Here," Spike pulled a bunch of purple freesias from the midst of the other flowers in his arms. "These are for you."
Half-laughing, Dawn took them. "What did you do? Buy a bunch for all of us."
"Well, yeah. Didn't seem right getting some for Buffy and nothing for the rest of you if I'm supposed to be taking all of you out." Spike was a bit embarrassed now and wondering if the flowers had been a good idea after all.
"I can't believe Buffy suckered you into paying for everything. You do know that you're totally whipped, don't you?"
"Totally, utterly and completely and not ashamed to admit it."
"Okay, I'm going to go get a vase and put these in my room. Then I'll see if Willow and Tara have finished playing with their overgrown Barbie." She wandered in the direction of the kitchen, leaving Spike standing alone in the hall. Thanks to his better than average hearing he caught the bit she muttered under her breath as she left the living room. "As if he would care if she came downstairs in sack-cloth and ashes."
Less than five minutes later she was passing through the hall again on her way upstairs. "I would ask if you wanted to sit down," she said, " but I'm pretty certain you're supposed to be around for the full dramatic effect of the walk downstairs. I'll try to speed her up though."
"Don't worry, pet, I've waited more than a year. I think I can manage to wait a few more minutes." He said to her retreating back. He decided to have another mint and if she hadn't come down by the time he finished that he was going out on the front porch for a quick fag. What was taking the bint so long? He never used to take this long to get Dru dressed or at least he didn't think he did.
He was almost about to go outside when Willow and Tara came down the stairs hand in hand. "Hey, Spike," Tara greeted him softly.
"Ladies," Spike responded with a nod in their direction, passing each of them a bunch of roses, white for Tara and a peachy shade for Willow. "Sorry they're a bit. but I couldn't get to a florist. Had to make do with the selection from the garage." He shrugged apologetically.
"They're lovely. It's the thought that counts anyway." Tara smiled at him in that way that made you realise she really was beautiful. Willow gave him a soft smile and mouthed the words "Thank you."
Before they got any farther Dawn came rushing downstairs at breakneck speed. "I'll take those and stick them in a bucket till we get back. Buffy's coming down." She took the flowers from the two witches and rushed through to the kitchen with them, eager to get back in time to see Spike's face when her sister appeared.
Buffy appeared on the stairs, moving down them slowly, which Spike decided was just as well since it gave him time to recover. Feathery tendrils of hair framed her face apparently bare of make-up except for dark mascara outlining her green brown eyes and crimson lipstick. Around her neck she wore the same black choker with a pink-red rose that she'd worn at her birthday party and her halter-top was the same colour as the flower. For only the second time that Spike could remember since she came back, she wore a skirt instead of trousers, this one calf-length and black. It was full enough to allow her total freedom of movement if she needed it but so lightweight that it swirled and moved against her legs as she walked. Black suede boots with a three-inch heel showed beneath the hem of the skirt and over her arm she carried her long black leather coat.
Spike instinctively moved to take her coat so that he could hold it for her to put it on and then he realised he still held her flowers in his hand. Glad that he didn't have any circulation to give him away with a blush he held out the bouquet toward Buffy, who took it from him, smiling teasingly at him as she questioned, "Cat got your tongue?" Then her expression turned puzzled. "Don't think I want to know where that expression comes from."
"You look beautiful, love, as always." Spike managed in a husky tone, glad that he'd left his shirt loose over the top of his jeans. He cleared his throat and continued. "I don't know what time you're all meant to be meeting Harris but I think if we don't get those flowers in the bucket with Willow's and Tara's I'm going to be late for a meeting with a vengeance demon. So, assuming you ladies all want me in one piece, I think we should get moving."
Dawn rescued the last of the flowers and Spike held out Buffy's coat for her in a gesture rarely seen these days outside of restaurants and hairdressers. Soon the group were on the move, Willow and Tara walking in front, Spike and Buffy ten or fifteen feet behind with Dawn rushing back and forward between them every few minutes like an over-excited puppy. Every so often when Dawn was up ahead with the Wiccas, Spike would claim a kiss from the apparently happy slayer, then the two would have to speed up to avoid trailing too far behind.
The whole thing seemed surreal. On Friday night he'd been commiserating with Anya over the state of both their love lives. Now come Sunday, he was with Buffy on his way to congratulate Anya on her wedding. He could still congratulate her on getting what she wanted, even if that was Harris, couldn't he? Most surreal of all was the feel of Buffy's tiny fingers intertwined with his.
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