A/N: The songs in this chapter are And the Money Kept Rolling In from "Evita" (not the best quality, but you get the idea) and Trying Not to Notice from "The Woman in White."
Chapter 4: Sweet Tension
The gang was already assembled when Buffy arrived, including Giles and her sister. Xander appeared to be telling them all a story. No… upon closer inspection, Buffy realized he was singing to them.
“And the money kept rolling in from every side
Anya's pretty hands reached out and they reached wide
Now you may feel it should have been a voluntary cause
But that's not the point, my friends
When the money keeps rolling in, you don't ask how
Me and Anya, we are guaranteed a good time now
Anya's got the capitalist fever, open up the doors
Never been so proud as seeing my girl a success”
He grabbed Anya’s hands and they danced around the magic shop, while the others chorused:
“Rollin' rollin' rollin', rollin' rollin' rollin'
Rollin' rollin' rollin', rollin' rollin' rollin'
Rollin' on in, rollin' on in
Rollin' on in, rollin' on in
Buffy cleared her throat, and the music quickly died away. “Oh, thank goodness,” Xander muttered, taking a seat at the table with a sheepish expression on his face. Anya pouted a bit before returning to the cash register. She liked the money song.
As she looked around, Buffy was startled to find Spike leaning casually against a bookshelf. He must have taken the tunnels and beat her here while she was at home. Stupid vampire, she thought. She did her best to avoid making eye contact, but somehow they managed to gravitate towards each other.
“Buffy, where’ve you been?” Willow asked, her voice full of concern. “You didn’t come home last night.”
Spike opened his mouth to respond, and Buffy heard the rising strains of a musical intro. She clamped her hand over Spike’s mouth and the music stopped abruptly. This was no time for the truth. Especially not if the truth was going to be a love song.
“Patrol,” she said. “Thought maybe I’d find Sweet… I think he’s still around.” She looked at the others. “Guess you guys’re still singing, too.”
“Anya gave me a whole operatic lecture on not playing with the merchandise,” Dawn replied.
Tara also nodded, and Buffy noticed another gaze-avoidance thing going on between her and Willow. Huh, she thought. That’s weird. They seemed fine last night. Maybe they got hit with a truth-revealing showstopper.
She groaned inwardly. Speaking of which…
“Hey, uh, about last night…”
“Why didn’t you tell us, Buffy?” Giles asked, unable to stop the anger and betrayal that tinted his question. Buffy’s secrecy had hurt him deeply. Of all the people she should have been able to trust – he’d expected her to be honest with him. Not in any official capacity, because Buffy shared his own growing distaste for Council practices and procedures. But as a friend, as the father figure he’d come to be… He’d never expected this sort of duplicity. “You lied. You’ve been lying to us ever since you came back.”
“What was I supposed to say? ‘Guess what, guys. I know you think you did me this huge favor, but you actually really screwed things up, so I’d like to die again, please’?”
At this, Willow drew in a sharp, choking breath and Dawn let out a muffled cry. Spike elbowed Buffy in the ribs. When she looked at him, he was glaring and wagging his eyebrows in an “apologize now” face.
Buffy grumbled to herself – where did he get off telling her what to do? But, as usual, he was right. With a sigh, Buffy turned back to the group. “I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have… Look, I don’t know what to say. I mean, yeah, it’s really hard being here right now. But I’m sure… well, I think, eventually I’ll get past it, and I’ll be super-grateful for the second chance at life and all. It’s just…”
“We just wanted things our way,” said Tara, in a dull, flat tone. “We needed Buffy back, and we didn’t think about the consequences.” Willow looked like she was on the verge of tears – and on the verge of saying something, but she kept quiet.
“We’re really sorry, Buffy,” Tara finished. “At least, I am. Not – not sorry you’re here, but sorry we didn’t think about what maybe was best for you.”
Buffy just nodded.
Giles adjusted his glasses before clearing his throat. “There’s… ah, certainly some lessons to be learned here about the ramifications of magic. One shouldn’t try to control things one knows nothing about,” he finished, landing his gaze upon the redheaded witch.
Willow gave the Watcher a deadly stare before walking out of the magic shop.
“I should go after…” Buffy mumbled, pointing towards the closing door.
“Nah, I’ll go,” said Xander. “No offense, Buff, but you being around kinda amps up the guilt trip. Besides, I learned a valuable lesson about magic last night.” He made a face at Anya and then followed Willow outside.
Giles watched them go, before turning a thoughtful gaze upon Tara. She looked upset and uncomfortable, and Giles found himself mulling over what she’d said before. “Ah, Tara, could I speak to you in private for a moment?” he asked, motioning to the back of the store.
With a nod, the blonde witch followed him into the training room. While Anya headed down to the basement, the others grabbed books and began researching Sweet.
Dawn curled up against the pillows in the reading corner. She opened her book, but her focus kept drifting to the stairs leading up to the restricted section, where Spike was perched, his own research text laying open on his lap. She watched as his jaw clenched, the muscle twitching of its own accord, his brow knitted tight in concentration. Damn, he was hot. He always treated her like a little sister – especially since he took care of her all summer in Buffy’s absence. But she was almost sixteen now, and she was certain he’d start seeing her as a real woman one of these days.
Or he would have, if little Miss Love-of-My-Bloody-Unlife hadn’t been around. It so wasn’t fair that she had to compete with Buffy. Why couldn’t the monks have given her to an ugly sister, who wasn’t all special and Chosen One-y? Somebody who wouldn’t completely steal the attention and affection of the guy she liked. And who wouldn’t be an absolute bitch to him about it. “Stupid Buffy,” Dawn mumbled, before she began to sing softly to herself.
“Sweet tension fills the air
Which I know I ought not dwell upon
I look away and I still see him there
I’m trying not to notice him
Yet I can’t help but stare”
Spike glanced up, but his attention didn’t fall to Dawn. He snuck a peek through the railing to where Buffy was seated at the table, poring over her book, blonde hair cascading around her shoulders like a curtain, in what was either a newfound dedication to research or a diligent effort to avoid him. Spike was pretty sure it was the latter.
He ached to touch her again, to feel her surrounding him as she had last night. He’d imagined it so many times, but the real thing was incomparable. The Buffybot, Spike realized now, had been a mere shadow of the thrill that was the real Buffy. The smell of her, the taste of her – just remembering it now was enough to drive him mad with desire. He shifted the book in his lap to conceal the growing bulge in his jeans as he unknowingly picked up Dawn’s song.
“No gazing, know your place
Words that I’d be wise to tell myself
I close my eyes and I still see her face
I’m trying not to notice her
But I don’t stand a chance”
Buffy looked over her shoulder and caught Spike’s gaze for a moment before they both quickly turned away from each other.
“I’m trying not to notice him
Yet I return each glance”
She closed her eyes, trying to expel the confusing emotions that had been roiling around inside her since the two of them had come together so spectacularly. She wanted to convince herself that it wasn’t real, that it was the spell. The singing making them do things that they would never normally do. Really, she’d never have danced like such a spaz in real life. Same thing with the sex… except she couldn’t shake the thought that it wasn’t just sex, as though the magic music had burrowed deep and unearthed some sort of feelings she had for Spike.
“A thousand contradictions
Are stirring in my soul
They seem to grow in me
Overflow in me”
Spike gripped the metal railing hard enough to bend it. “In spite of my convictions, I’m losing my control.”
“I’m slightly shocked inside,” Dawn completed the bridge, off in her own world in the corner. “Keep it locked inside.”
Then, as the music surged, all three were swept up in unison, each unaware of the others’ singing, even as their voices mingled and harmonized.
Still it’s louder than a symphony
Can no one hear what my heart seems to shout?
Perhaps they do not notice it
Though it’s as plain as day
I’m trying not to notice it
But it won’t go away”
As the accompaniment faded out, they cast furtive glances around the shop, trying to ascertain whether anyone had noticed anyone else singing. No one had. With a fair amount of fidgeting, nervous coughing, and throat clearing, they settled back down to their work.
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