Within the week, they had settled into a routine of sorts – Buffy rising in time to go to work until early evening – Spike meeting her at the restaurant or at the mall entrance and accompanying her on her patrol rounds. They always stopped to eat at the same diner where the owner now nodded to Spike as cheerfully as he greeted Buffy.
It took a full month of being escorted everywhere she went, before Buffy lost her temper and stopped outside her house, stamping her foot for emphasis as she told the vampire to “Go do something with yourself! You’re driving me crazy!”
She regretted her words immediately when she caught the pain flashing across his face - pain that was immediately replaced with righteous anger.
“I’m just tryin’ to keep you safe, you bloody ungrateful bint!” he snarled. He’d been enjoying his evenings with her – either watching her fight if she was facing vampires, or joining in to help if she ran into more than one demon. Their quiet talks while she ate her evening meal, and the leisurely walks home had gone a long way to ease his anger at the PTB for pulling him away from the Buffy that he’d come to care so much about. That they apparently weren’t as enjoyable for this Buffy as they were for him had never occurred to him, and he hated the way that thought made his chest ache.
Even as she rued her harsh words, Buffy reacted to his anger and snapped back at him.
“We’ve already had this conversation! I’m the Slayer. I don’t need to be protected. I am the protector, you moron. I swear, you’re worse than Angel—“
His grandsire’s name had no sooner left her mouth than she knew that she had just made things worse. His eyes first darkened, then shone with an amber light as his demon came to the fore. Without another word to her, he whirled, coat flaring, and began to stride rapidly in the direction of the demon part of town. He was out of sight before she could even begin to get out the words of apology that trembled on her lips. She stared down the empty street – wondering if she should go after him – before setting her mouth firmly and marching up to her front door.
She unlocked and opened it, slamming it firmly behind her when she was in. Dropping her jacket on the floor and ignoring the stakes that clattered out of the pockets, she walked into the small living room and threw herself onto the couch, glaring at the old TV that stared silently back at her - a mute reminder that, after a year of loneliness, she had actually been enjoying the vampire’s company every night and hadn’t really meant what she said. Spike had “liberated” the television set from a vampire gang that, after looting a victim’s home, had the misfortune to run into him and the Slayer. At his insistence that they had no way of knowing where it came from, and that its former owner was undoubtedly now dead, she gave in, allowing him to bring the television back to the house and set it up in the living room. She had even allowed him to rearrange the meager furniture in the room so that he could watch television in the daytime without fear of the sun’s rays that slanted through the room’s windows.
She liked the hyperactive vampire, and, if she was being honest with herself, she could easily see why her older version might have fallen in love with him. Aside from the fact that he clearly admired her more than either of them was willing to admit to, and that he was both a good storyteller and a good listener, she couldn’t deny the way her pulse sped up whenever he was close enough to touch.
(I can see that if I wasn’t in love with Angel – which I am! Totally. – that it would be easy to fall for a hottie like Spike. I mean besides the eyes and those cheekbones, and that body... But, I am. In love with Angel. Just because I haven’t seen him in a long time, doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten him. Spike’s just going to have to get over this getting pissed off every time I say Angel’s name.)
She resolutely ignored the fact that it wasn’t so much that she had said Angel’s name, as that she had been comparing Spike to him that had set the vampire off. Telling herself that she had done nothing wrong, and ignoring the sneering little voice in her head that was saying “Oh, yeah?”, she locked the front door, picked up her stakes and her jacket and went to get ready for bed.
When she emerged from the bathroom after brushing her teeth, she stared irresolutely at the front door, before sighing and putting a chair in front of it. The chair would in no way impede someone’s entry, but it would make a clatter when it was pushed away. She then got into bed, promising herself that she would not spend the night listening for the sound of a key in the lock, or of the chair being slid out of the way.
The vampire raged through the streets, only his speed preventing him from destroying everything in his path. For a full month he had been subsisting almost entirely on the pigs blood with which Buffy had stocked the refrigerator; he’d had nothing alcoholic to drink, had done no fighting except what was needed to help her, hadn’t played a single hand of poker, nor had he been able to follow up on any of the things Clem had told him about life in this dimension. Not to mention, with his last sight most nights being Buffy’s lithe body disappearing into her bedroom, he had become much better acquainted with his left hand that he would have liked.
If he hadn’t have found the TV, he was sure he would have been going crazy himself – and only that realization allowed him to slow down and analyze what Buffy had said.
If he was being honest with himself, he could admit that he’d probably been smothering her. After being on her own for almost a year, the fact that she’d had no time to herself and not much privacy, had undoubtedly been more of a strain on her than he’d realized. In his zeal to prevent another incident like the one he’d interrupted a month ago – an event that he had to admit was unlikely – he had given neither one of them any room to breathe – or to just be alone.
Only the pain he still felt at the way she had rejected his company, and the comparison to his hated grandsire, kept him from turning around and going back – an apology on his lips. In spite of being more understanding about her feelings, he couldn’t overlook her harsh words. He walked into the demon bar with a scowl on his face that sent lesser vampires and demons scurrying out of his way.
Undeterred by Spike’s thunderous expression, Clem quickly joined him, expressing regret that the vampire had missed the last poker game and telling him about the tournament coming up on the weekend. When Spike raised his eyebrows at the idea of demons waiting for a weekend, Clem explained that many demons in this dimension held jobs and they couldn’t afford to spend all night gambling when they had to go to work the next morning.
As he looked around the room, he noticed the chef from the restaurant where Buffy worked, and they exchanged stares – each obviously wondering what the other was doing there. Spike was distracted from asking Clem what kind of demon the human-looking man was by the arrival of his glass of blood and the Jack Daniels bottle. He grinned his appreciation at the waitress.
“Thank you, luv,” he purred. “It’s nice to know that you remembered me.”
“I did,” she responded with a mock pout. “But I thought you’d forgotten me. Where have you been?”
His eyes hardened and she involuntarily flinched as he growled, “That would be none of your business, pet.” He forced himself to relax and smile at her until she was confident again. “Didn’t stay away, now, did I?”
“You stayed away too long.” The pout was back and he found himself comparing it unfavorably with Buffy’s soft, pink lower lip. With a mental growl, he pushed the Slayer out of his mind and leered at the hovering vampire.
“Maybe I needed a good reason to come...back. You think I might find one around here?” The innuendo was clear and she preened as she responded.
“I think I can give you some good reasons to come...back here a whole lot.”
“We’ll talk about that later, pet. Say, after you get off?”
With a happy giggle, she went back to work and Spike turned to smirk at an admiring Clem.
“Wow, that was smooth,” he flattered. “I guess you’ve got yourself all settled in then? A place to stay and all?”
At that question, Spike’s face darkened and he growled. “Had one. Not sure where it stands jus’ now – but I’m not goin’ hom- there tonight,” he quickly corrected himself, “come hell or holy water.”
“Oh. Well, if you need a place to crash...My cave’s not fancy, but it’s warm and dry and sun-free.”
“Thanks, mate. I think I have a place for now.” He leered at the giggling waitress again and blew her a kiss.
As he turned back to Clem, he caught a glimpse of the suspicious look on the chef’s face and realized that the man or demon – whatever he was -- had recognized him from the times he’d picked Buffy up at the restaurant. Spike sent him his best “sod off” glare, and went back to his conversation.
(Slayer doesn’t give a rap what I do, or who I do it with. No bloody reason why he should.)
He sat at the table, drinking with his new friend, and getting more information about the weekend poker tournament. Periodically the waitress would come by the table and lean over to give him another good look at the reasons why he should continue to hang around until she was free, and he would dutifully ogle and leer at her until she was reassured that he hadn’t lost interest.
Which he had. In spite of his still-simmering anger at Buffy, and his need for the release he could expect from a good shag, he couldn’t help comparing the vampire’s overblown charms with the two slayers who occupied so much of his thoughts.
(Even Dru’s got more class than this bimbo. Wonder if there’s any way to get out of this without losing my image?)
His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of a couple of rough-looking, but human, patrons. The men made a point of greeting the waitress by name, and, as they conversed with her, Spike began to realize what they were doing in the demon bar.
(She’s a bloody vamp whore! The stupid bint was probably expectin’ me to pay her for shagging me. No way is William the Bloody paying for it!)
As Clem said his good-night and stood up to go, Spike interrupted him.
“Is that offer to stay at your place still good?”
The wrinkled demon blinked in surprise, flicking a quick look at the vamp girl now giving Spike a worried look, but nodded his head.
“Sure, it is. No problem. I’ve got to leave now, though. Have some stuff to do in the morning.”
“That’s fine,” Spike said, standing and tossing some bills on the table. “I’m ready to go now.” He ignored the angry glare the waitress was giving him, even as she leaned forward so that the men could stuff money into her bra. As Spike went to brush past her, she stepped in front of him and demanded, “Where are you going already?”
“Changed my mind,” he said tersely. “William the Bloody doesn’t pay for it, and he doesn’t share with humans.” He gave her a contemptuous sneer and followed Clem out of the bar, exchanging a guarded nod with Buffy’s boss as he passed that booth.
He followed Clem to the outer edge of the town and into a surprisingly warm and cozy cave. He gazed around at the over stuffed furniture, TV set and rugs.
“So, this is what the Slayer got back for you, huh? Got to say it’s a right nice place.”
“Yeah, I had to get new rugs. Those stupid vampires – no offense – got blood all over my old ones. But it was okay, I just rolled their dust right up in the ruined rugs and threw them out in the woods.”
“Slayer came here to dust them?”
Clem’s eyes took on a deer-in-the-headlights expression.
“Well...yeah...she...Buffy...I mean, the Slayer...she...” He stopped and sighed. “I work in the same mall that she does. I kinda...asked her to help me out. And she did.” He looked at Spike anxiously. “She’s a nice girl, this Slayer. I know you said that you’ve killed them before, but...”
“Relax,” Spike growled. “Got no plans to kill this one. If I haven’t done it by now, I... Never mind, where do you want me to sleep?”
“Oh, here you go – that little alcove there is the guest room. Sun doesn’t come in that far and there’s an old bed in there. It’s not much, but it’s clean.”
“It’ll be fine,” Spike said gruffly. “I appreciate it. You do know, I’ll be stuck here till dark, right?”
“Oh yeah. No problem. Help yourself to the Cheetos and the TV. Got no blood, of course, but---“
“I’ll be fine,” Spike muttered, embarrassed at having to depend on someone he’d just met, but grateful for the place to stay.
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