16 Not Perfect
Chp 16 Not Perfect
Buffy closed her eyes, letting her skin soak up the sensation of those hard, clever fingers tracing the contours of her face, almost as if – her eyes flashed open! – as if Spike was never going to touch her again.
She reached up, captured his hand and held it in a Slayer’s grip. “Why on earth would you think losing you would be good for me and Shanny?”
Another gust of wind sent a splatter of rain into the room. Spike didn’t even flinch. “ You heard Shanny just now, pet. When she was talking about Angel. She likes him! She’s my daughter but it’s bloody obvious which of us she thinks would make the better grandfather for the twins. And how do I tell her what he’s done? What he was? It’ll just sound as if I’m trying to score points.”
He tried to pull his hand free but Buffy just tightened her grasp.
“And me? How would it be better for me if you weren’t here?” she said, refusing to be sidelined by a discussion about Spike and Angel’s relationship.
Spike shrugged. “Come on, Buffy! In all sorts of ways. When was the last time you went swimming? Well, in daylight, anyway. Or sat in the yard on the swing and felt the sun on your face? Oh, I know, you’ve done things on your own, but even I can see that it would be better for you to share them with someone else. And Angel’s always going to be there, in your mind, in your thoughts. Dru felt the same.”
“What!” Buffy’s shriek was louder than the stinging slap she landed on his face. Still without letting go of his hand – she had the terrified feeling that if she did, he would vanish out into the night – she forced him to look at her.
“How dare you! You miserable, good-for-nothing excuse for a husband! How – dare – you! If I didn’t love you so much, I’d walk out of this house and never come back. Do you really think so little of me, after all these years? Me and Angel? Again, already! God, it gets old. All this jealousy crap. And Dru? You have the nerve to compare me and my feelings to your ex? Just because she got the hots for Angel each time she saw him, you reckon every woman is the same? Words fail me!”
Spike massaged his jaw with the hand that wasn’t being slowly crushed to pieces. Bloody hell, he’d forgotten just how much pain the Slayer could inflict when she wanted. It had been a very long time since she’d hit him properly.
“You seem to have plenty of words left, pet.”
“Yes, I have words! Lots and lots of words. Big ones, clever ones, angry ones and I’m just about to sharpen them all and send them hurtling towards your head.”
“Buffy – “
“No – don’t Buffy me. And stop making that hangdog expression with your eyes. I – am – angry! Look – ” she held out her left hand and waggled her fingers under his nose. “Look – on my finger – one ring, round, gold, marriage for the use of. You put it there, I accepted it - or perhaps old age is creeping on and you’ve forgotten.”
Spike touched the gold, worn thin in places by constant rubbing. “Never got you one with a big diamond in it, though, did I? I meant to. Every year that’s passed, I’ve meant to. I could have stolen one for you, but didn’t think you’d appreciate the gesture. This ring we found in some old crypt in Italy, remember? I didn’t even buy it. I can only imagine the sort of ring Angel could give you.”
Buffy started to yell at him again and then stopped. How many years had all this angst been festering under the surface? She’d thought they were happy. No! She defiantly pushed the thought away. They were happy! Their love had endured death, apocalypse, demon wars and half the Shanshu prophecy. She knew Spike still loved her. There had to be some way of making him realise how much she still loved him.
She loosened her grip on his fingers and began to rub across the knuckles with her thumb. “Do you remember those days before we got married?”
Spike stared out at the driving rain and for a few seconds he was back in the dark, airless tunnels that criss-crossed underneath the city of Rome. Almost from the moment he’d received the Shanshu and flown out to Italy, they had been catapulted into the First European Demon War.
“We were hunting for someone to marry us,” he said now.
“It was funny at the time, remember? Even with the fear and the blood and the demon spit flying around, we checked out everyone we met in case they were a priest or a clergyman of some sort.”
Spike found himself smiling. “I seem to remember you even asked that demon with the stinky green heads if he knew where we could find one! But you sliced off all his heads before he could bloody well reply!”
“I was desperate to marry you.”
Spike smirked. “Well, I was quite a catch, if I remember – ”
Buffy glared at him. “No, vamp-boy, you weren’t! You were a vampire with a soul, unchipped and carrying half a Shanshu prophecy around with you with no idea of exactly what part of the deal you’d got. I don’t think you’d have come tops of any “Is My Partner The Right One for Me?” poll.”
“Then why – “
“Because I loved you, stupid! So much that I wanted everyone to know. Remember this?”
She crossed the bedroom to where a dark green leather box stood on her nightstand. She had very little jewellery; beads, gold chains, a few earrings, a couple of bracelets. The top layer of shelves lifted out: Buffy picked up a tiny twist of tissue paper and unwrapped it.
She turned and held a ring towards Spike. It was made from twisted platinum hair – his. “You made this for me one night – in fact, I’ve always believed it was the night Shanny was conceived. I wore it for weeks until we found my gold wedding ring and I’ve treasured it through every battle, every disaster. It’s never left me and never will.”
Buffy crossed back to him, pushing the ring onto her finger. “Till death us do part. That’s what I said, and that’s what I meant. I don’t want diamonds or fancy cars or- or – swimming pools! I certainly don’t want Angel. I want you!”
She was taken by surprise at the speed of his arms snatching her close to him. The power of his kiss, the trembling of his body, inflamed her as if she was twenty-one again and she was hardly aware of him tugging her clothes away as they fell on the bed.
And for minutes, as so often before, their daughter was forgotten.
* * * * * *
Shanny finished cleaning in the kitchen, occasionally peering out of the window at the wind-swept yard, wondering how long Joyce was going to keep up this silly game this time.
There was no sign of her parents. Well, she hadn’t expected there to be. She didn’t have to go and check to know their bedroom door would be locked against her. She couldn’t begin to count the times that had happened when she was little. Oh, it would be opened again at some time during the day and, if they weren’t out patrolling, or in some grisly battle, there had been cuddles and hugs and fun. But all the laughter in the world couldn’t make up for a locked door when you’d had a nightmare that the demons were about to get you.
Mom and Dad would appear in a little while, the link between them renewed, so tangible that you could almost see it.
She paused, inspected a chip on a cup and deciding it was too big to be overlooked, threw it into the trash. Then she rescued it and placed it to one side. It was a nice mug; there were kittens painted on it. Perhaps her mom could use it to keep things in. Shanny knew that was what you should always do with things that weren’t perfect – isolate them and hope they would come in handy at some time.
A sound from upstairs made her wince and she shut the kitchen door with almost a slam. Was she jealous of her parents? Of what they shared? No, she didn’t think she was. She knew that her love for David was different, though. Was it less real? No.
Shanny caught sight of her reflection in the dark kitchen window. She sighed: if David were here he’d say she looked tired and make her sit down. The love they had for each other might not be all passion and intensity, but at the same time it was not inclusive. They included their children in the circle; they didn’t shut them out.
Suddenly a slow trickle of unease wormed its way over her skull. Of course she included the twins in their life. Hadn’t she done everything in her power to make sure they were brought up as normal children? OK, they weren’t normal – at least Joyce wasn’t – but she’d tried. She’d tried so hard.
‘So why did you send them away?’ a voice mocked inside her brain.
‘So my mom and dad could help them. I didn’t know how to keep them safe any more.’
And all at once she was back in that room – had it been in France? She couldn’t remember – with her mom telling her that she was going to live in America so she would be safe.
The fires of rejection that Shanny had banked down for so many years, flared up into a final blaze, then just as suddenly died away. Oh God, was that what Joyce felt? That her mommy didn’t want her?
Shanny sank down at the kitchen table. Her legs were shaking and she couldn’t stand. She felt as if she’d opened a door onto a long pathway through a dark wood and was taking the first, tentative steps into the unknown.
Footsteps sounded above her, water was running in the bathroom. Mom and Dad would be down soon, renewed, invigorated, together. At their age she wondered where they got the energy.
Suddenly she smiled. Perhaps she was wrong and her parents had just been sitting upstairs, talking about how to find the twins! Or perhaps not. Slayer and vampire, husband and wife; it was a combination that defied all belief. Shanny had learnt that over the years and, not for the first time, was thankful that she and David were normal people.
Her mind flirted with her mom’s revelation about her and the Angel guy, but it was too gross to remember. It was bad enough that your parents couldn’t keep their hands off each other without having to think of someone else being in their lives.
She glanced at her watch and frowned. This little game of Joyce’s had gone on too long now. She might well be the most powerful witch the world had ever seen, but she was still only nine years old and it was way past her and Billy’s bedtime.
As Buffy and Spike came into the room, Shanny flung open the back door to the storm and called “Billy! Joyce! Come in at once. I know you’re out there. I mean it, Joyce. It’s time for bed. I’m going to count to five and you’d better get your butts in here – one – two – ”
But the three was never spoken. The blackness of the open doorway was suddenly filled and Shanny stepped back, stifling a scream with all the practice of a childhood spent in hiding from hunting demons.
She heard her mom gasp and knew that she wasn’t dreaming. A woman stood there, old and feral, her face painted in stripes and symbols, crouched, ready to attack.
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