Part 5: Surprise
All of his fears had rushed back when he'd heard Buffy leave that afternoon. They'd marched through his brain and over his heart until he thought he go insane, or that his heart would stop. Then he remembered it already had. So he sat for awhile. Better that than rushing after her. And what he'd said was true. Someone needed to let her know that the world didn't revolve around her. It was coincidental that his did.
So he and Buffy had silently and grimly stalked every cemetery in Sunnydale (which was no small feat in itself) tonight, making certain that they'd made the Hellmouth as safe as possible for the Slayer, two witches (one non-practicing), an ex-demon (who was still making last minute changes to the seating chart) and....well...Cordelia. Who Spike privately contended had the most irritating, ear-splitting scream he'd ever heard. She'd even put him off his feed once or twice in the old days.
The silence was getting to him a bit. He paused and turned to Buffy.
But she walked right past him, frowning prettily, a very distracted look in her eyes. He watched her walk ahead and told himself that he deserved better than what he was getting. And that he was better off without her if this was all there was. Spike was fast approaching the 150-year mark, if you counted alive and undead time together. He knew how the years could drag on and on when there was nothing to envision but more of the same.
He drew in another breath he didn't need and set his shoulders, caught up with Buffy, determined to get back on track. He was here to back up the Slayer. So he'd better start paying a little more attention to the foliage. That was hard though. He wished things were different, that they hadn't gone so wrong. He knew he wasn't good enough for her, but he was the best of a bad lot. And she could be so sweet, so good. Just not to him.
Buffy sensed Spike at her shoulder, breaking her reverie. She naturally turned to acknowlege his presence as she had so many times before. She blinked and stopped, completely taken by the look in his eyes.
She allowed herself to fall into the intensity of it. He hadn't looked at her like that in weeks. She'd begun to think he'd forgotten how. Her stomach flipped over and her knees gave. Just the tiniest bit.
Then Spike had his arms around her, steadying her, while leaning down to see what had made her stumble. He looked up at her questioningly and smiled. Then he carefully kissed her.
Her stomach flipped again and she felt herself go hot all over. Spike pulled back from the kiss and held her eyes.
"I love you, Buffy."
Buffy opened her mouth to speak. Cowardice took over and Spike laid his fingers across her mouth. He gathered her in close, holding her firmly to still the shaking -- he wasn't certain whose.
Buffy was enveloped in the smell of tobacco and the crackle of leather. All comfortable things somehow. She let out a little ragged breath, relaxing a little against his tight strength like a little girl.
Spike kissed her forehead. "Come on," he said softly. "I'll walk you home."
Oz and Willow sat in the dark quietly. Willow had told him everything. Even the fears she hadn't felt she could share with Tara when Buffy had been taken from them and it had been up to her to lead them all. Willow had laughed at herself and cried softly when she told him about the forgetting spell and how Tara had left her. And about how broken Willow had felt when she realized what she'd done.
Oz listened, solid and supportive. He'd led her through the rough patches and encouraged her to say what she had really felt in those lonely months.
"Got some of this from Spike. But not all."
"Spike doesn't know everything. Things got really weird when Buffy got back and I got really angry with Spike."
Oz's words came slowly. "Cause Spike was the one that Buffy chose to spend time with."
"Well," Willow considered Oz's words. "I guess I was kind of jealous. I mean, I'm the one who did the spell. I'm the one that..." She looked down at her hands. She looked back at Oz and saw his puzzlement. "The resurrection spell." She closed her eyes briefly, remembering. "But I don't want to talk about the spell."
Oz nodded once. "Tried to live up to what you thought the Scoobs needed you to be. You took a few shortcuts. And ended up in a dark place."
Willow sniffed and wiped her face on the sleeve of her jacket. "Tara told me that. Kind of."
Oz smiled sadly. "Of course she did," he said softly. He held her eyes. "She loves you, Will. If she thought you were in trouble, she'd call you on it. Would have done the same myself."
Oz stood up. "I'll walk you home. I'll be in town for a while. We'll talk again, work through some of it. But for the rest you're going to need Tara."
Oz smiled, effectively changing the subject. "The band thing has been cool. Spike's been cool." He shook his head in amazement.
"You must have seen him a lot," Willow hiccupped, grateful for the new conversation.
"Well, yeah, some. He's been here practicing with the band. Song's a little dated, but..." Oz shrugged. "It works for him, I guess. Little gift for Xander," he explained, chuckling.
Tears forgotten, Willow looked at Oz in shock. "What?!"
Buffy walked up the steps. Spike had stopped. It had been a quiet walk back, but nice. Like it used to be right after she got back, before that first kiss. She turned back to him.
Spike nodded at her, indicating the door. "Get some sleep, Slayer."
She paused, "Do you want to...come in?"
Spike had already started down the walk. Her uncertainty was disarming. And he'd already been disarmed enough tonight.
"Tempting. But no. Got to juice up the bar. Steal some clean sheets," he said a little flippantly. "I don't have much company, you know."
She sighed, "Spike, I..."
"Buffy, I'm talked out. Really."
She shook her head. "We don't..."
"Don't what? Have to talk? Also tempting. But I'll pass." He decided it was time to get out now.
"That's not what I..."
Dammit, she was making him crazy, all soft like she was right now. Suddenly, in the time it took for Buffy to take a breath, Spike was on the top step with her, nose to nose.
"Slayer, if I come in, I assure you, we will talk." He said softly. "Then we will proceed to some other not-so-talkative things. And probably trash your bedroom in the bargain. I'm bloody tired of waiting on the steps like some neglected pet for you to let me come in. I am in. I'm in here," he said brushing her temple with the side of hand. "In here," moving his hand to rest very lightly over her heart. She didn't breathe. "You just won't admit it."
He pulled his hand away and leaned back away from her to focus on her whole face and to get away from those eyes that were dominating his field of vision. And he smirked, seemingly changing the subject.
"Want to know why I'm not quaking in my boots at the second coming of The Ensouled One, Slayer?"
Eyes widening, she shook her head, which seemed to be the only part of her that would move.
"Because you're not in love with Angel, you silly bint. You're in love with me."
He laughed and continued in a voice dripping with sarcasm. "Hell, the only thing I have to worry about is what Angelus is going to do to me when he figures it out. Could be a simple staking or maybe a full scale beheading." Spike's eyes sparkled in amusement. "I'd like to see him try. But by God, it would be even be worth going up in flames to wipe that holier than thou look off his face."
Oh, he was mad. She could tell that underneath his cool exterior, he could break her neck. And she remembered that now he could. But knew he wouldn't. Still, she thought it better not to interrupt.
"You know, pet, this isn't some fantasy, some fairy tale romance you can keep trapped in the pages of a book. I'm not interested in little schoolgirls like one I won't mention. And unlike that sodding waste of your time and tears, I'm not going anywhere. And there's nowhere you can go that I won't find you."
He leaned in close, eyes burning like gas flames. They burned right through her eyes and into the back of her brain. She realized she was breathing roughly. And so did he.
He leaned in closer. In a hard whisper, he taunted her. "I ought to take you right here on the front steps. Or maybe right against the front door."
"But this isn't about the sex. The very good sex." He felt her shift again and the smell of her almost overwhelmed him. He put his hands on the door on either side of her head. But he didn't touch her. He let the weight of the air between them flatten her against the door. "Don't ever think that this is about the sex," he growled.
He felt her nod, holding her breath.
He snapped back to a standing position, dropping his hands to his sides. "So. Then. So long as you understand." He turned away from her. "G'nite, pet."
And found himself being spun around, back slamming against the door, with one of her small white hands, palm down, against his chest. And she was looking at her hand like it didn't belong to her, frowning.
Such a lovely little hand. He found his voice and was pleasantly surprised at how steady it was. He tenderly wrapped his fingers around her hand and removed it from his chest, kissing it softly and holding it. He smirked and called up reserves of bravado from the old days. "Oho, Baby wants to play."
"Well, I'm done playing. And I think you need to go inside before I do something you'll regret in the morning." He pushed her hand back at her calmly, looking her dead-on in the eyes.
She turned on her heel and went into the house.
Buffy softly closed the door of the Summer's house and stood quietly for a moment, staring vacantly at the doorknob. She calmed her breathing, sighed once and started up the stairs. Hesitating, she turned and went back to the door, putting her hand on the knob. The hand he'd given back to her.
What could she say, anyway? He'd said plenty enough for both of them.
She went up the stairs. The light was on in her mom's old room. Buffy decisively changed course, heading toward the master bedroom.
Buffy peeped in. "Willow?"
Willow was sitting on the bed with folded and unfolded towels all around her. Buffy smiled in spite of herself at the sight of her friend folding clothes the old-fashioned way. She inclined her head to the pile of fluffy towels. "Extra points for hand-folding."
Willow grinned. Buffy made a decision, continued into the room and sat down on the bed with a thump.
Willow looked a little concerned. "You okay?"
"Sure. Nothing a nice sharp stake wouldn't cure."
"Oh. Patrol go all right?"
"Patrol was fine. It's all the rest of the time that my life sucks." Buffy smiled encouragingly at Willow. "Been slaying that ole Laundry Demon, huh?"
"Had a lot to think about. I'd forgotten how folding clothes helped. I saw Oz tonight."
Buffy glanced up from the loose thread in the quilt that had caught her attention. "Oz? He's here?"
Willow nodded. "Long story. Better left 'til tomorrow. Tonight's installment is that we talked."
"Really? Was it weird?"
Willow considered the question. "No, not really. Not like last time. You know, me the one with the new girlfriend and all. But this time, no falling into the black hole in the pit of my stomach. No paranoia. No 'what-if' moments. It was nice. Like seeing a really special old friend."
Buffy found the loose thread again with her eyes, trying to decide whether to pull it out or not. "Did it make you feel guilty? Not feeling ... not being all in love with the first guy you ever were... with?"
Willow thought a moment. "No. Not guilty. But I mean ... it's not like I left him for somebody else. He left. I grieved. And then I met Tara."
"Yeah," Buffy said absently as she began tugging on the thread lightly.
Willow stopped folding and waited.
Buffy continued staring down fixedly. "I felt guilty."
Willow leaned over and put her hand on Buffy's knee. "When, honey?" she asked softly.
"When I met Angel outside L.A. After I ... got back." Buffy looked up at Willow to see if she remembered and once assured, looked back down at the bed. "I felt guilty. I felt ... I don't know, almost unfaithful. Which is ridiculous considering Angel left me and Riley and I had been ... you know, since then."
Buffy shook her head. "After all the people who were hurt -- killed. How could that just be ...gone? All I could think about was getting out of there and getting back here to..." She stopped at Willow's shrewd look. "You guys," she finished lamely.
"Mmmm. Well, Buffy, you're not a schoolgirl anymore, you know. And Riley was Rebound Guy."
"Not a schoolgirl," Buffy repeated softly, frowning at the offending thread. "Or a shopgirl, or..." She ripped the thread out of the comforter, staring at the limp thing. "Or anything faintly resembling a girl."
Willow reached across and caught her hand. "Buffy? What is it?"
Buffy looked at Willow's hand and up at Willow's concerned face. And that look released her from her silence.
"Oh, Willow, I'm such a mess. I'm worried about you. I'm worried about Dawn. I'm worried about Xander and Anya and the wedding. I'm even worried about Giles, because Spike said he was busy on Watcher business and might not even make the wedding.
"I'm real worried about me because I can't seem to do anything to fix what I'm worried about." Buffy laughed wryly. "And I'm worried that all I do is worry." She took a breath. "I'm even worried about Spike."
Willow was taken aback. "About Spike? Spike is...well, of all of us, Spike seems to be the one who's got it all under control. Kinda together. You know, in a chipped vampire sort of way." She could start paying Spike back for breaking through to Buffy right now. And it was true anyway.
Buffy snorted derisively. "Yeah? Well, Angel gets here tomorrow night, right?"
"Buffy, Spike invited Angel. You said Angel and Spike were..."
"Oh, they are. For now. But things get weird in Sunnydale. And when Angel gets here and figures out that..." Buffy stopped, not quite certain what to say next.
"What? That you and Spike are not just ... you and Spike. That there is a 'you and Spike'?"
Buffy looked up at Willow in surprise. "You knew?"
Willow smiled a little sadly. "Well, being out of the 'Buffy' loop and into the whole 'Poor Willow' thing, I didn't figure it out until today. After I thought about it, it seemed pretty obvious. I mean, talk about stamina!"
Buffy gulped. "What?" she choked out.
Willow looked at Buffy and laughed. She couldn't help it. Buffy looked so... funny. Shocked and reddening, Buffy just stared at Willow. "Oh. Ohhh." Willow laughed again. They were definitely going to talk about that later. "I meant the way he'd hung in there. All this time. Even after you were..." Willow tensed up, looking for a word.
"Dead?" said Buffy pertly, recovering a little. Now this was something Buffy could be certain about.
Willow chuckled, tension gone. "Yeah, dead." She got serious. "Buffy, when you...died, I thought he was going to shake apart. I've never seen anyone cry like that, man or woman. He sees Dawn coming down off the scaffold and goes to her and holds her. Then he took her away with him. Back here. Next night, he was pushing us to go patrol. And he calls Cordy 'cheerleader!' You shoulda seen him. And some nights he even stayed here." She got lost in her thoughts, remembering how unreal it had been.
"We were all so...numb, Buffy. I think we were waiting for you to get up. All except him and Dawn and Giles. They accepted it. They grieved. I don't think the rest of us really did. I don't think we believed it.
"I think that was why it was so easy to start looking for a way around it. To bring you back. To cheat." Willow looked at Buffy, imploringly. "Buffy, I am really sorry. I just..."
Buffy hugged Willow hard to forestall that whole line of discussion. "Well, I'm here now." She laughed ruefully. "Probably better off here anyway. Except I've got one brassed-off vampire on my hands, and probably another one showing up tomorrow. I am so not Angel-4ever-Buffy anymore, Will. I'm almost to What-Did-I-Ever-See-In-Him Buffy. I'm worried about Angel figuring it out, and even though Spike says he won't say anything...well, you know Spike and that mouth of his. And I mean, it's not like he's my boyfriend or anything. Spike, I mean."
"Oh." Willow was taken a little aback. "You just have sex with him," she said appraisingly. "Slutty much, Buffy?"
Buffy grimaced. "Okay, I guess I deserved that just a little, but you sounded like Spike just then." She laughed bitterly. "I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do about it anyway. I mean, Spike's not Riley. Spike is ... well, Spike. And I don't think he'd appreciate any interference from Rescue!Buffy! at all when it comes to Angel. He's practically lifting his leg on every tree in the front yard now!"
Willow laughed and Buffy joined her, even though she was still worried. It was an image, all right.
"Ugly male pride rearing its serpentine head. Ewww. That was phallic, wasn't it?" Willow grimaced, as Buffy giggled.
"Yep. You have no idea. Well, you ... no, you don't. Believe me. And it's Spike."
"So? I never thought it was that weird when we thought you were the 'Bot."
"My turn. Ewwww. Hate the 'Bot. Help me forget the 'Bot." Buffy looked at Willow quickly. "Forget the 'forget,' okay?"
"Well, what was it like?"
Willow reddened a little. "You know. And I want details. Graphic enough, but not all 'ewww, okay?' Remember, gay here. Just the highlights."
Buffy looked embarrassed. "I got highlights for you, Will. We demolished a house. A whole house," she mumbled, looking down where the thread didn't live anymore.
Willow looked at her in shock, then chuckled. "You brought the house down?"
Buffy looked back up at Willow. "It's not funny. I woke up, it was morning and we were in the basement. We didn't start out in the basement, Will. I'm sure of that, because the ceiling was gone. And there were beams, flooring, debris everywhere. Monster-size Godzilla stakes everywhere. And him. Right in the middle of it."
"It was daylight and he was still there?"
"Yeah. How weird is that? Waking up with someone the morning after. That was so...unusual...for me, anyway. I didn't know what to do. What to say. And then he...didn't want me to go...and we had a...fight... cause I guess that's what we do. And I was...mean. And he was...horrible."
"So you treated him like the evil vampire?"
Buffy nodded. "And have ever since. Except when I'm screwing his brains out."
"I know, Will. But it's Spike. I mean, how sick is this? A vampire and a slayer? Looking back on Angel, it was insane. People died, Will."
"Well, try being Logic Girl for a minute. As a boyfriend, Spike has a great track record. I leave out the Harmony part cause she was just Rebound Girl. He was with Druscilla for what? Over a hundred years? And she was nuts. Perfect boyfriend. He would have died for her. He's definitely paid his 'boyfriend dues.'"
"Will, he's a vampire and I'm a Slayer."
Willow nodded. "Genius much?"
Willow nodded again. "But only pig's blood, any and all alcoholic beverages and hot chocolate. Almost forgot that. Wholesome."
"He dresses like an 80's punk rocker." Buffy's eyes got a little distant, going down the 'con' list of a Spike relationship.
Willow started to say something then, but closed her mouth. She had almost told her what Oz had said.
"He roars when he comes." Buffy complained. Remembering Willow, her eyes widened and she slapped her hand over her mouth, as her words reached her own ears.
A bit flustered, Willow stared at her. Then she grinned conspiratorially. "Well, at least he's verbal. Doesn't just grunt a little and squeak."
Head tilting and the beginning of a smirk on her face, Buffy knowingly looked at Willow.
"I've seen movies!" Willow said defensively.
"No, he didn't squeak. But he didn't roar either." Willow scolded her friend.
Willow's eyes glinted wickedly, as she had another thought. "Good thing it was an abandoned house. And that he has his own place."
Buffy couldn't help it. She started laughing. Willow joined in. And pretty soon they were wiping wet faces on the clean towels.
Buffy got up. "Well, that's it. I cannot solve the Spike problem tonight. I think I'm punchy. You gonna be all right? Need help slaying those towels?"
"Me?" Willow tried to straighten up. "I haven't been this good in a long time. Nite, Buff. Tomorrow is ... well, you know, like tomorrow."
"Don't I know it," she sighed. Buffy wished there was no bachelor party and certainly no Angel coming to grace it with his presence.
Spike drew on his cigarette and watched the light go on in Buffy's room. He dropped the fag and absently stepped on it with his boot.
It had been awhile since he'd just stood outside her house, watching and waiting. He'd been justified in everything he'd said, but he thought he might...well, not apologize precisely, but try to explain things a different way. Last chance before the poof slipped in. Spike didn't want the Slayer too angry with him. She might pick up and go to back to L.A. with Angel's crew just to spite him.
He squared his shoulders and headed for the tree. No reason to wake the whole household.
Buffy strode to the window and dragged Spike the rest of the way in. He grimaced. Not exactly the entrance he was looking for. She looked around outside. All clear. "Trying to ruin my reputation?" She complained.
"Well, it's not like you're not in and out of here at all times of night anyway," he reasoned. "Neighbors probably think you're a call girl."
She ignored the remark, looking him up and down. "Forget something? Think of some other really snarky thing to say? Any new arguments I haven't already heard a zillion times?" She breathed out in half-hearted exasperation. She loved it when he had that embarrassed little boy look on his face. Made her want to hug him.
He spread his hands in surrender. "Buffy..."
"No talking." She leaned over and kissed him.
Spike opened his mouth to protest.
"Spike, shut up. I want to be with you right now and if I have to gag you, I will. Don't want talk. Or the other thing. Just want 'close' tonight. Okay?"
Time to go. Didn't want her waking up to the new day next to a Big Pile of Dust. And he sure wasn't resting in this little girl room with this child-woman pushing her bare bottom up against him as she slept, making all those delicious little noises.
So much for 'just close.' He'd done so well keeping his distance, letting her marinate in her own juices for once, for weeks now. Blown it in an hour's time. Well, maybe two hours. He wasn't keeping track.
He reached for his pants and got one leg in before he heard Buffy start to stir. Got to move faster than this.
Buffy groggily reached across the bed. Not finding what she was looking for, she rolled over to see a shadow standing over the bed, fumbling. She heard a soft clank of metal and a smothered "bloody hell."
"What..." she muttered in a little girl Buffy voice.
"Shhh. Go back to sleep, luv." Spike whispered, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "Sun'll be up soon. Can't get stuck here."
"Spike?" still groggy.
Well at least she knew who'd been in her bed. Amazing. "Shhh." Spike leaned down and kissed her with a gentle sweep of his lips across her cheek, before she had a chance to wake up properly and ruin it all. In the same downward motion, he retrieved his boots, t-shirt and duster and slipped out of Buffy's room and into the t-shirt, traveling quietly down the stairs barefoot. He didn't stop until he heard the snick of the lock behind him.
He sat down on the doorstep and methodically pulled on shirt and boots. He didn't like this slipping out before dawn, like some thief in the night. He didn't like the slipping around period. He stood and put on his duster and walked down the front steps, digging in the coat for cigarettes and lighter.
He smoked and looked at the house, waiting for the light to come on in Buffy's room. It didn't. A little disappointed, he started walking, duster flapping, as the sky turned pink. He wasn't ready to go to the crypt.
Dawn eased back from her window as Spike strode away. She sighed and crawled back in her bed.
She knew she'd heard someone in the house.
Spike banged into his crypt. He'd really pushed it to the last possible second and without the blanket, well.... Major possibility of missing the party. He was emotionally exhausted and more than ready to invest in some sleep.
He almost missed the figure sitting in shadow in front of the television. His body skidded to a brief halt until he realized how guilty it looked. And he was anything but guilty, right? Right.
Besides, maybe it was some shape-shifting demon that just looked like Angel. The poof was a full twelve hours early.
"You're early," Spike said out loud as he threw off his duster. This was not how he had envisioned this meeting. And he truly hated to improvise.
"Maybe you're late. It's almost dawn."
"Like to live dangerously. You know that," Spike said with some of his old-time cockiness. Now that was better.
"Yeah. That you do." Angel held up a black cell phone. "Need some help making calls?"
Spike laughed. "Probably. But it's a bit early for that. World's still sleeping. Gonna get some sleep myself. You don't mind, right?"
Angel's face was still partly shadowed. "I'm still kind of geared from the drive. Maybe I'll watch some TV?"
Spike nodded. "Got cable, you know. Even some soft porn, if you're still into that kind of thing." Spike's eyes brightened. "Speaking of which. You got the girl?"
"Oh, yeah." Angel ducked his head and looked sideways at Spike. "She's staying at the Inn with Wesley and Gunn. I dropped Fred, Cordelia and Connor at Buffy's already," he added.
Spike looked unconcerned, but his mind started churning furiously. "Really? Already? That would have been about..."
"Just about the time you left there, I guess."
Continued in Part 6: The Scramble