Spike sat on the steps of the ‘courthouse’, hidden in shade. The sunlight lit the town square beautifully, if you liked that sort of thing. Increasingly, he found he did. He sat quietly smoking a cigarette, foot tapping in a soft rhythm again the concrete step.
He’d left the Slayer inside talking with Xander and Willow. He’d felt slightly out of place, as he always did with them. No doubt he wanted to help Buffy and tell her it was all going to be alright but she had her friends, he was surplus.
So he sat and he smoked.
As far as he could tell it was actually going considerably better in there than any of them had thought. Who knew Norman actually had stones? Spike smirked and blew out a stream of smoke. Still, if he knew anything about Lucy Porter – and he did – she wasn’t about to let them have it easy. The trial was still in its infancy and could turn into a squalling brat at any minute.
Speaking of…he wondered if Mya was done being upset with him yet. She’d wanted to come and watch the trial but Spike didn’t think it was a good idea and she had school. So when he left her that morning she’d been sulking. Now, though, he wished he’d brought her along so he wouldn’t feel quite so out of the loop.
Spike snorted to himself, still feeling sorry for yourself. Knob.
“Filthy habit,” Buffy commented from the wide doorway of the courthouse.
Spike looked over his shoulder at her. “Break over?”
She shook her head and stepped out into the bright sunlight, walked across to his shady alcove. “Nah. Just needed air. Breathing is good.”
“Always seemed a bit redundant to me,” he smiled, looked straight ahead. “How’d you lose the Scooby Retirement Gang?”
Buffy sat down next to him, shrugged. “Ran. Ran like the wind.”
He laughed and she smiled. He loved her smile, didn’t see it near enough. He looked away before she’d notice he was staring at her and she looked down at the ground. The Slayer had dressed up for her day in court. Willow had taken her shopping and the result was a sleek trouser suit. Her hair was clipped up, a few strands artfully escaping. The look did it for him a bit.
Buffy reached across and fingered the lapel of his suit jacket. “Nice suit.”
Spike shrugged, secretly thrilled.
“You just dress like an Armani model every day to make me look bad,” she nudged him with her elbow.
He stubbed his cigarette out and glanced at her. “I don’t think that’s possible.”
She beamed. “Aw, shucks.”
“You’re in a bit of a good mood,” Spike commented.
“For someone on Death Row?” She tilted her head, watched his face.
He shook his head. “No. For Buffy Summers.”
She gaped and shoved him lightly. He laughed and almost shoved her back before restraining himself. It would no good to be found rolling around on the court steps with the Slayer. Even though it sounded like his idea of fun.
“You know, you kind of started a conversation the other day that you neglected to finish. In fact, I may even be inclined to say you ran away from said conversation like a little girl…” Buffy watched him, eyes amused. “…if I were a meaner person.”
Spike shifted. “I start a lot of conversations. Sociable man that I am. You’ll have to refresh my ailing memory.”
She arched an eyebrow but said nothing and neither did he. He figured he ought to just confess his feelings to her but, truth was, he couldn’t. Thirty years ago he’d be pouring his undead heart out to her. He’d changed since then. Closed off a little. Learnt to protect aforementioned undead heart. Because if there was one person in the whole world who could break his heart in an instant it was Buffy Summers.
He wasn’t ready to give her the chance, yet.
Besides they were in the middle of a murder trial and now was hardly the time for flowers and hearts. If they made it through this there would be plenty time to talk things through. When they were ready. When he was ready.
They sat there for a few more minutes in steady silence before Willow and Xander joined them. Wordlessly the pair sat down. Willow beside Buffy and Xander, surprisingly, beside Spike.
“Is anyone else thinking this is a way too beautiful day for a murder trial?” Xander asked, slipping his sunglasses on.
Buffy nodded. “Wanna skip court and go get an ice cream?”
“Sounds good,” he smiled.
Willow bumped shoulders with the Slayer. “We’ll all get sundaes when you’re a free woman.”
“All that fudge and syrup plays havoc with my hips,” Buffy complained.
Xander arched an eyebrow. “That’s because you’re supposed to eat it, Buffy, not dance with it.”
Spike drowned their banter out with his own thoughts. His mind couldn’t really get past the idea that Buffy might be put in jail, or worse, and he’d lose her again. He couldn’t bear that. Spike glanced over at her. She was smiling softly at Xander, at something he had said. She played the part of carefree girl very well. He knew that underneath that surface she was a mess of nerves, of insecurities.
Therein was the true Buffy Summers. Infinitely breakable. Always wary.
“It’s starting again,” Norman announced, peeking out of the doors.
It certainly was. Time for it to start again. The three friends exchanged looks but Spike remained sitting as they stood up slowly, stretching their limbs. They started away until Buffy stopped and looked back for him.
She took a step back to him and halted in the sunlight. Spike didn’t look at her, couldn’t. He still had to collect his thoughts, store them away so he could get back into the courtroom frame of mind.
Buffy turned to her friends. “Give us a minute.”
The pair looked concerned but after a moment Xander nodded and they made their way back inside, leaving Spike and Buffy alone on the steps. Spike closed his eyes and bowed his head as he felt her come up behind him.
“Are you okay?” She asked.
He laughed gently. “Aren’t I supposed to ask you that?”
She said nothing and he wondered if she had gone. Then her hand rested on his shoulder and he opened his eyes and looked up at her.
And it occurred to him them. He didn’t know why exactly it was that moment when he realised. When he realised that he had never expected to look up at Buffy Summers again. Had never expected to look at her at all. Hadn’t thought he’d hear her laugh again or scowl.
Now she was here and he was caught unprepared and dazed and stupid and all those things he had told himself he would never be again.
All this occurred to him now, at the worst moment possible. At the moment when he had to go back in that courtroom and be professional and intelligent. When all he really felt like doing was staring at her endlessly, just to reaffirm that she was actually here.
“Spike,” she crouched down beside him.
He blinked, looked away. “I’ll be right in.”
She looked at him a little while then nodded and stood. And left.
+ + +
When Spike crept back into the courtroom as quietly as he could Willow was already mostly finished setting up a space for the spell. He dropped down into his seat directly behind Buffy and tried to look composed and calm. He didn’t know if it worked. No one was looking at him anyway, fascinated with what the witch was doing with some sage and candles. It was all very 1960’s pothouse. Or that’s what it reminded Spike of.
The good old days.
Willow turned to Heaton. “I’m ready to start.”
“Then, by all means, begin,” he replied.
Willow sat cross-legged on the floor and began to speak in a foreign tongue. Everyone in the room watched with rapt attention, except Spike. He’d seen the witch do her thing before, many times, and so his eyes remained fixed on the back of Buffy’s head – another thing he’d seen many times but never seemed to get bored of.
He wondered if she could feel his eyes on her and decided that even if she could she wouldn’t look back. She never looked back.
Willow’s voice rose in a crescendo as she got closer to opening the portal. Spike barely heard her. He was thinking too hard and too much and that was never a good idea. His brain wasn’t big enough, wasn’t clever enough for all that. He was a man who spoke his feelings, who yelled them, who put them into every action and every look and every expression. But he hadn’t done that for years and all that had been bottled up, had been twirling around and around inside him, something akin to a tornado, ripping him up inside. He wanted to open his mouth and scream it, scream what he felt.
Except he didn’t exactly know what he felt.
Just that it was big and important and something he hadn’t felt before, or at least not for years and years. As though it was something long forgotten and he had to relearn how to let himself feel it.
Spike opened his mouth, not sure what the hell he was about to do or say. Before he got that far Willow interrupted him.
“Open!” She shouted in English, hands raised high.
It was loud enough and jarring enough to make him blink, close his stupid mouth, and watch expectantly. Seconds ticked by. Nothing happened. It was kind of an anticlimax, he thought, but restrained himself from voicing.
Xander frowned. “Well, that was sort of an anticlimax.”
Spike rolled his eyes.
Willow looked sheepish. “Uh…open, please?”
The portal didn’t open
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