“So how come it’s okay for you to invite people over to my place without my permission and I have to cook?” Faith asked as she set the plates down on a crate she’d stolen to use as a table.
Buffy smoothed out the blanket on the floor. “Faith, I wouldn’t call buying food from a Chinese takeaway and putting it on a plate 'cooking'.”
“Missing the point, B.”
The Slayer shrugged. “I like to think of it as our place.”
“Oh yeah? That mean you’re gonna be contributing to the rent anytime soon?”
“Only with my sunny smile and chipper disposition.”
Faith snorted. “That don’t pay the bills, B.”
If Buffy were to be perfectly honest, she did feel guilty not paying anything towards her board to the other Slayer. She didn’t have a job and couldn’t get one due to the whole murder trial thing.
Faith padded around barefoot, hair tied up in a tight ponytail, as she kicked bits of junk into one corner and cracked open a couple of windows to air the place out. Their mattress had been pushed to one side and covered up too. Buffy was weirded out that she was now referring to it as their mattress.
Luckily there was a knock at the door and Buffy could brush that terrifying thought away. She skipped up to the door and pulled it open. Mya barrelled into her giving her a warm hug. Buffy was a little surprised but returned the embrace, albeit a little less tightly. The girl had made an effort and was dressed up, looking beautiful and way beyond her years. She stepped in and Spike appeared a second later. He was dressed in a black shirt and grey slacks. His hair was back to being brown and Buffy eyed it, surprised.
“Hair dye of the future is much improved,” was his only explanation.
He smiled and she returned it. They hovered in the doorway a moment before Buffy remembered she was supposed to let him in. Yet she still didn’t move. Spike arched an eyebrow and then stepped towards her, no doubt hoping she’d move back. She didn’t. He halted awkwardly.
“Uh, Buffy?” Spike shifted from foot to foot.
She blinked. “Right. Sorry.”
Mya appeared at her side. “He has that effect on women. Of a certain kind.”
Spike folded his arms. “What kind would that be?”
“Slayers, mostly,” Mya grinned.
Buffy flushed and turned away. “There was no effect.”
Faith gave Mya a wry look, which the teenager duly returned. Buffy felt as though she’d been ganged up on. Spike seemed to find it all slightly amusing as he walked into the main body of the apartment. Buffy went back to straightening up the ‘table’.
“You look nice, Buffy.” Mya said, sidling up to her father. “Doesn’t she, father dearest?”
“She is nice.”
Faith pulled a face. “Yeah, the girls a peach.”
“The girl is right here,” Buffy turned to them, hands on hips. “And your dinner is getting cold.”
Faith sauntered over to the food. “I slaved over a hot stove for all of you.”
“A stove? Whatever, Martha Stewart.” Mya slumped down onto the floor by the crate.
Buffy arched an eyebrow in Spike’s direction. “The kids are still down with Martha?”
“She watches the History Channel an unhealthy amount,” Spike explained.
“Cooks who are crooks amuse me.” Mya added.
Buffy sat down beside the girl. “It takes all kinds, I guess.”
They started on the meal. Buffy and Mya being the only humans in the group had the majority of the share, whereas Spike and Faith had a little to create the illusion they didn’t just want to suck everyone’s blood. Faith was kindly sharing some of her blood substitute with Spike and while Buffy was grateful she just hoped it didn’t mean Faith would find her supply short and go looking for her meals elsewhere. Such as Buffy.
“I saw Angel today,” Faith announced suddenly. “Went to see him, I mean.”
Buffy looked at the woman who sat opposite her. “How is he?”
“He’s alright. Worried ’bout you, but okay.”
The Slayer looked back down at her plate. “I should visit more.”
“I think he gets you’re kind of in the middle of something at the moment,” Faith tapped her fork against the crate. “’Sides, he gets to see me. So what else does he really need?”
Buffy glared at her hotly and both Mya and Spike laughed, Faith grinning at her to show how much she loved riling up her fellow Slayer. Buffy shook her head but ended up smiling softly, too. It was pretty weird to be sitting with Spike and his kid and Faith and just enjoying being a part of it. Even if she seemed to be the butt of everyone’s jokes.
“So, dad really had that insanely glowing hair back in the day, huh?” Mya eyed her father across the crate.
Buffy laughed. “He really did.”
“God, here it comes.” Spike shook his head and looked down. “You gave your word you wouldn’t mention the hair.”
Mya tilted her head. “Haven’t you learnt my word means nothing?”
“Well, that’s it. No more watching The Notebook and braiding each other’s hair ever again!” Spike replied.
Her mouth gaped in mock surprise. “But, father, it’s a classic love story which has really stood the test of time!”
“I don’t care. I will never again watch Ryan Gosling get fat and beardy in the name of love. Never!”
Buffy’s eyes widened in surprise and amusement, meeting a similar look from Faith. The two Slayers watched the banter between father and daughter and exchanged a genuine, if brief, smile. Buffy’s mind wandered to Dawn and her mood fell. She looked down at her food and pushed it around the plate with her fork.
She had the horrible and sudden feeling she was going to cry.
Buffy bit her lip and concentrated on studying the wood grain of the crate, or the weaving of the blanket they all sat upon. She didn’t understand why it was hitting her now but she missed Dawn and Giles fiercely in that moment.
She blinked and looked up, eyes probably looking embarrassingly watery. It was Spike who had spoken. He looked concerned. Now she was hideously embarrassed. She took in a deep breath and plastered a fake smile onto her face.
He paused a moment, regarding her. “I know you don’t want to talk shop…but I think I might have tracked down Wood. Could be good news in getting the Slayer’s kit.”
“Oh. That’s good,” she nodded.
“Yeah…” Spike sighed and looked away.
Buffy winced inwardly. She should have shown more emotion, positive emotion. After all, it was a big deal if they could get the portal open. It could save her. Spike and the rest of the gang were trying so hard to help her but she couldn’t even help herself.
It made her question her motivation for this dinner. What was the point of this little get-together if she was in prison or, worse, dead? Was this a last supper? Was she subconsciously saying goodbye to them?
Mya and Faith looked awkward at the sudden cool atmosphere. They didn’t get it. It was often like this between Buffy and Spike. Even when they were friendly they were only minutes, only moments, away from a fight.
“Wood? Robin Wood? Your ex, right Faith?” Mya piped up.
Faith shrugged with one shoulder. “Kind of. Oh hey, he tried to kill your dad once!” she delivered it like it was the best news ever.
Buffy and Mya both turned sharply to look at Spike. He returned the looks easily as if waiting for one of them to ask.
“Why?” They both spoke simultaneously.
“Why’d you think?” This question was directed at Buffy with not a little scorn.
She held his angry gaze. “You. You killed his mother?”
“She was a Slayer. It’s kind of what I did."
Spike stood up and turned his back on the table, stalking over to one of the windows.
“She was the Slayer on the Subway?” Buffy’s curiosity got the better of her.
“That’d be the one.”
The room went silent.
“Sheesh,” Mya took a gulp of her coke, hand shaking just a little. “Who knew murder could be so awk-ward.”
Buffy admired Mya so much in that moment. To hear about her father’s past crimes, horrible, terrible things and to be able to see past it. To see the Spike he was now, without his past deeds tarnishing him. Buffy wished it was that simple for her, that easy. Or maybe it wasn’t easy at all, maybe it was incredibly hard and Mya was just a better person than her.
Faith cleared her throat. “I’ll talk to Robin, if you want. He’d probably at least take my call.”
“Thank you, Faith.” Spike said without turning around.
Buffy knew what he was thinking. That even Faith was trying to help, trying to make a difference. Whereas Buffy was sat on her ass doing nothing. She looked away from him, down at her hands. They had no adornments, no jewellery. No wedding ring. Not like him. Not like her friends.
When she looked up, however, she noticed his left hand no longer showed the simple silver band.
Before she had time to process that Faith stood up and began clearing the plates and glasses away. Buffy knew it must be serious if Faith, of all people, was clearing up. Mya cleverly roped herself into helping Faith wash the dishes, to get out of the tense atmosphere.
Buffy stayed sitting on the floor by the stupid makeshift crate table feeling pretty stupid herself. She thought about leaving but considering she lived there that would be pretty stupid too. So she sat.
Spike continued to peer out of the window. Buffy wished they could just hit each other and sort it out like they always had; with a good bout of violence. Except they couldn’t do that. He’d matured, he had a daughter to set an example to and Buffy knew it wasn’t really all that healthy. Still, it had been easier than this. This silence.
Buffy gave herself a mental mind slap and stood up. She walked the couple of steps over to stand directly behind the vampire. He didn’t acknowledge her.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
Spike paused. “For what?”
“I’m sorry you think I don’t care.”
He turned slowly to face her. “Do you care?”
Buffy looked at him for a moment. “I care, Spike.”
“It doesn’t seem that way.”
She nodded. “I know. I’m not like you. I don’t – I can’t – wear my heart on my sleeve. That’s not me.”
Spike folded his arms and leaned against the windowsill, eyes sweeping over her. He watched her for a while not saying anything and it made her incredibly self-conscious. In the year before she’d stepped into that portal he’d almost made a habit of avoiding looking at her. Now he was memorising her. She shifted from foot to foot, unsure. She didn’t know if her statement was satisfactory to him but it was the truth.
“Okay,” he said finally.
Buffy was a little surprised. “Okay?”
“I know you’re a private person. I know you keep it all bottled up. That’s fine. As long as I know it’s not all for nothing. That you want to be here. With me.” Spike spoke softly. “With us.”
She opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out and she had the odd sensation that she was going to cry again. Buffy looked away from him and blinked, trying to keep herself in check.
“Buffy, it’s alright,” he whispered, moving towards her. “If you want –”
“CAKE!” Faith called out suddenly, walking towards them with plates in her hand.
Buffy took a big step back away from Spike as Mya followed the female vampire back to the ‘seating area’. Faith shoved a plate at her.
“I’m not really hungry…” Buffy started.
“Oh please, you’re like one big bone. And not even the good kind,” Faith slapped the other plate into Spike’s resistant hand.
The Slayer glared. “Gee, thanks.”
“It took me hours to bake this cake,” Faith pointed at each of them in turn. “So you better eat it and like it.”
Spike arched an eyebrow and picked his slice up. “I didn’t know you baked, Faith.”
“It came out of a box!” Buffy exclaimed.
“If that’s what you need to tell yourself,” Faith gave a sympathetic look and took a plate when Mya handed her one. “Eat up, kiddies.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and half-heartedly ate her cake. She still couldn’t believe she’d been on the verge of bursting into tears with Spike present. God, how unbearable would that have been? And to have Mya and Faith witness the meltdown too? She’d never been so relieved to have Faith there to interrupt at the most inappropriate time.
Spike was trying to catch her eye, so she looked anywhere but at him. It seemed like the mature thing to do. He had wolfed down his dessert and set the plate on the sill of the window. Faith gave him an impressed look and followed suit. Weird how the vampires had the biggest appetite. Or, maybe not weird, just scary.
“You know what this not-at-all-uncomfortable shindig needs? Alcohol! I’ll just go down to the store. Hey, kid, you’re with me,” Faith gestured to Mya.
Spike took a step forward. “I don’t think that’s –”
“Girl’s gotta learn the fine art of a beer run sooner or later.” Faith grabbed Mya’s arm and pulled her along.
“I haven’t finished my cake.” Mya protested wide eyed.
Faith ignored her. “We won’t be long. But long enough, okay? Later!”
And with that she’d pulled the door open, wrenched Mya out with her and slammed it shut. Spike stood looking at where the vampire and his daughter had been standing only moments before, mildly stunned.
Buffy picked at her dessert. “Wow, that was subtle. Then again we are talking about Faith.”
Spike turned to face her slowly, a look crossing his face. “Let’s talk.”
If her life had been a cartoon Buffy would have gulped. Instead she set her plate down on the windowsill next to Spike’s and nodded once.
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