When a Man Loves a Woman
Sequel to Try a Little Tenderness
The characters belong to Joss and co.
won't make any sense unless you read Try a Little Tenderness first. TLT assumes
some time has passed after Hells Bells and everything else follows on from
there, in total denial of any reality that Joss & co create.
Morgan warned -- "There is always the danger of becoming maudlin if you
continue the story line." I've had a few beers, so I'm gonna risk it. If
you're concerned about safety don't get in my metaphorical car. To understand
where this is coming from, you should read "Try a Little Tenderness"
first (and maybe stop there). I'm hoping to have a trilogy of stories here --
Try a Little Tenderness, When a Man Loves a Woman, and Respect -- because
maybe it all comes down to Soul. But who knows if Buffy and Spike can ever
make it through to Respect.… Don't count on it.
you want to link to this, or put this on your site, it's only fair to me that
you let me know…..
X RATING: NC-17
Deep in the dusk
of her bed, up close to his chest, she inspects his wounds. From the look of
him, vampire healing outclasses slayer healing, but still his body's a
patchwork of scar tissue. There's a jagged red line that cuts straight across
his right nipple. God, that must have hurt. The left one's intact, she
observes. Pert and pink and pretty, only inches from her mouth. She stares at
it and icy fingers creep into her gut. Here he is, real and present in her bed.
This is what she wants isn't it? No. No. No. This is not what she wants. She
wants him not to leave her. That doesn't mean she wants him here inside her
deceased and sacred mother's house, here in her bed, with Mr Gordo perching on
his shoulder. She can't do this. She wants him forever loitering under the tree
outside her window, lurking on the other side of the dance floor at the Bronze,
loving her eternally from afar. She wants to love him back, smile at him from a
safe distance, make moon-eyes at him, blow him kisses maybe. Leave him billet doux.
Yes, and he can write her love poems. They'll be kind to one another, She knows
how to do this. She's done it with Angel, when letting him in turned out to be
She thinks about
yesterday and there's a throb deep inside her that’s part thrill, part fear.
How did she let him get so close? She's never let anyone get that close before.
Now she feels -- Christ, this is beyond ridiculous! She's a slayer, she's a
warrior. She is the Chosen One -- and be sure to use upper case on those
She feels shy.
She knows with a
certainty that she'll blush and stammer if she has to meet his eyes. Because of
Spike? No, not because of Spike. Because of the idea of William. Because of the
man inside Spike she calls William. And because Spike will see right through
her. He'll wriggle his slim hips and spiky wide shoulders right inside her and
somehow take advantage.
And yet -- she
glances at his pretty, pretty nipple -- yet she so wants to touch him, kiss
him, take him in her mouth. Maybe if he were asleep. Yes that's it, asleep, or
weak, somehow needy or vulnerable. Anything other than fully himself, full of
himself, undiluted Spike.
And then she
becomes aware of the rise and fall of his chest. He's breathing. He must be
awake. He must be aroused in some way. Does he want to make love to her? The
question makes her want to run and hide. She shuts her eyes, breathes slow and
regular…. Images of sex with Spike dance across her eyelids. They've done it so
many times, so many ways, and now… You're the Slayer, she reminds herself. It's
not possible that a chipped and impotent vampire with a subconscious yen to be
human could make you tremble. Well, yes he does. Yesterday -- Oh God, couldn't
they maybe just do that again, him weak as a kitten, making her weak as a
kitten, doing their needy kitten thing together? She thinks she can meet him
like that, manage him like that. But she knows they're beyond that now. They're
going to have to carry this thing forward -- and, well, how many ways can you
say it -- she's afraid.
"This is the body of a notorious vampire, the body of some sort of
European scourge, kind of like the bubonic plague on legs." But it's like
sticking a pin into a dead limb. The cue doesn't work anymore. She's knows
that, chip or no chip, there's only one person he can hurt now, only one person
he can extinguish. No. Don't go there… And this thing they have together that
until yesterday she denied has nothing to do with fiends and vampires and
everything to do with -- she doesn't know what it's about, but it's not about
So he'll never
get a tan, who cares? Never succumb to cancer or emphysema -- sounds like a plus.
Never ever curl up with his child on the sofa, tickling her and laughing and
think yes, every painful second of my childhood, every self-conscious and
fucked up hour of my adolescence is worth this single moment of joy that I feel
Well she cares
that he'll never do that, and she's never ever played that particular tape in
her head before. What the hell does that mean?
It means that to
all her intents and purposes, he's a man. But it also means no more dry humps
in the lot behind DMP, no more collapsing buildings, no more handcuffs. No more
metaphors. No more games. And for some reason that she doesn't understand
herself Buffy's backing off here. She wants to put in a good word for trust
games and parking lot sex. These things are safe. But somehow she knows he's
going to ask for something else. Something like yesterday, except this time
he'll have his full strength and it'll be different. And Buffy wants to rise to
the occasion, but she's scared. She doesn't want to show any more than she's
Well he never
considered himself as having leadership qualities, but in Buffy's absence he
feels he's rising to the fore. Of course Willow and Tara are kind of
preoccupied. There's a lot of hand holding going on, and unnecessary adjusting
of one another's hair -- and last night they shared a bed for the first time in
months, so it's not as if they've even noticed that he's taken the driver's
seat. Of course, Dawn would like to be a contender but…. Thank God, thinks
Xander. Thank God she's only 15.
He lies on the
couch in the clothes he slept in, under the blanket Willow thoughtfully
provided, drinking the coffee Tara kindly offered and feels -- well mainly he
feels grateful that he's not in a motel, but he also feels worried. "This
Carver demon thing's still kind of spooking me," he says. "I think we
need to talk to Spike."
Willow smiles at
him, "Hey Xand, you're getting as weight-of-the-world and watchy as a
Watcher. Let Spike and Buffy have some space…." She perches on the arm of
Tara's chair and turns her smile on Tara. "I just think they need some
time together." Tara looks at the curve of Willow's lips. No-one has more
curly lips than a smiling Willow. She remembers how last night they curled
against her like a promise of happiness and offers her face up to be kissed.
Xander yells. "Hey, Dawnie! Need some help with those waffles?"
different. There's a faint scent of arousal, but something else, something he's
never smelt on her before. It's fear and it's freaking him more than the hellgod
freaked him when she groped about in his intestines for her key. And what's
with the eye closing and the heavy breathing? She surely not pretending to be
asleep? And then suddenly it dawns on him. It's him that she's afraid of. Oh
Buffy, Buffy, Buffy, I don't know what to do about you -- with you -- to you….
He considers his love and how she intimidates him. Thinks his whole unlife has
been a game of cat and mouse with her, until yesterday, when she was kind and
let him come out to play.
He wonders why it
is that he can smell her arousal and her fear, but her love has no scent. Why
is he so reliant on her to show it to him? It's a card she holds tight to her
chest. Yesterday she laid it on the table. Today it's back in the pack, tucked
away and -- sod it, he's not a mind reader. How the fuck can he be expected to
know what to do?
a shower," he says, and projects his pale and blood-stained body out of
the bed and onto the floor. She stretches into the space he's left behind,
considers the flecks of dried blood on the sheets and thinks about laundry.
Wonders if there's a wash cycle that can deep cleanse her fucking yellow,
lily-livered soul. Wonders why she just rolled onto her stomach to hide her
face from Spike.
with this Carver demon thing? Do I get to go kill it?"
in the doorway to the kitchen. She hasn't washed, he notices. Just thrown on
some clothes and run downstairs. Still looks beautiful though, even with dried
blood on her cheek.
Buff," he says.
waffles?" Dawn offers, plate in hand.
now. I'm waiting for Spike to quit hogging the bathroom so I can clean
Xander raises an
eyebrow. Separate showering? This is not of the good. Clearly something's gone
badly awry in the realm of the OK. Not twenty-four hours into her reign and the
queen's suffered a set-back. He wants to wring Spike's neck -- what a jerk.
Instead, he walks over to her. She smells of blood and Spike, neither of which
feature on his list of acceptable nose-candy, but he hugs her nevertheless, so
she'll know he's still a loyal subject.
she says with false brightness. "Carver demon? What's the story?"
said no-one knows whether they're real or not. Like maybe the term Carver demon
was coined to explain -- well, what they call a Carver incident."
this? You spoke to Giles?"
Willow. He called her in the middle of the night, night before last. Said he'd
just come across something that suggested there was going to be a Carver
incident on the Hellmouth."
"So you did
with the research? Wormed the books, went through them all like a dose of
he's been waiting forever for this moment, and now here it is. "Listen up
children, because this is a one-off announcement." He can barely contain
his glee. Steps back, makes big with the Da! Da!
said bugger the books, let's go hands-on!" he beams.
"You sure it
was Giles?" snaps Buffy, eyes narrowing.
Dawn shoots him a
withering look. "Dead-of-night phone call. Out-of-character advice from a
trusty old friend. That's so obviously a set-up."
Buffy spins on
her heel. Yells, "Willow!"
He stands in the
shower letting it all wash over him, one hand soaping his chest -- watch the
nipple! Jesus Fuck! He presses his forehead against the cold tiles and reminds
his other hand to get back to work. Stares at the pinkish water sluicing down
the plug hole. Thinks about touching Buffy. Summons forth his game face. Here
it comes. Thank fuck for that. He slumps into the wall. When he passes his hand
over the ridges on his brow he wonders what he looks like. Remembers he once
told her "a Slayer must reach for her
weapon. I've already got mine". Is this what she's scared of? I
don't think so.
He knows what
frightens her. It's the same thing that frightens him. He doesn't want to look
at it but he makes himself. Casts his mind back to that day long ago when she
was going to marry him. Examines its superficial glamour, the fake fluffed-up
lightness of it. The whole day had that dumbed-down, candyfloss quality that
you often get with spells. And he wonders if that's how she wants it -- a
romantic comedy with something for all the family, easy-on-the-ear-and-eye,
lots of smoochies, a few wise-cracks and here's your ration of manufactured
emotion before we cut quickly to a commercial break.
contrast, he thinks, to what they had going a few weeks back. Taking her in the
Bronze, outside the DMP, outside her house. Taking her. Taking her. Taking her.
As if he could never get enough. He could go back to that. He was comfortable
with that. He slams his head into the wall. No he wasn't. It was shit. It was
like reaching in, continually reaching further and deeper and your hand always
closing around thin air.
He doesn't know
how to do this. Dru sure as fuck never taught him.
Well that's his Buffster.
She may have been toppled in OK land, but she's still boss lady here. Xander
watches her cross-question Willow and can only conclude that working at DMP has
improved her grilling technique.
take off his glasses and clean them?"
"It was a
phone call!" wails Willow.
refer to any ancient and unpronounceable texts?"
mentioned the Wychburghen Chronicle, but most of his information came from the
Internet! And you didn't suspect anything? This is Mr Printed-Word-Is-Sacred
we're talking about here."
"So he got
with the Internet," Xander cuts in. "What's the big? He's made it
into the twentieth century. He's still Giles. Still a century behind the rest
Giles," Willow insists. "OK, so he's your father surrogate not mine,
but me and him thumbed the pages into the wee small hours lotsa times. I'd know
his voice anywhere. And - and, when I said Xander and me would get onto it in
the morning, because you'd be at work, he said 'Splendid!'"
splutters Buffy hand over mouth aghast. " I forgot to go to work!"
anyway," Willow hasn't finished. "The reason he said not to bother
with research is because the stuff in the books is all about Carver incidents
and he's already read that. What's lacking is information about whatever's
responsible for the incidents, the so-called Carver demons. So he said given
Spike's connections with the demon world, he might have an insight into -- well
any sort of insight would be useful since we're totally in the dark here."
phone in sick," Buffy murmurs. "I think we can safely say I've lost
my job." She blinks and gazes round at them. Squares her shoulders.
"So what exactly is a Carver incident?" she asks.
basically the hallmark of a Carver incident is slash and gouge -- but way above
and beyond your lil ole psycho-killer slash and gouge." Willow frowns.
"Giles was sketchy with the detail but I kinda got the impression that,
say Edward Scissorhands got real mad at you, what'd be left of you afterwards
would be called a Carver incident. So maybe Carver demons look like Edward Scissorhands,
but who's to say, because no-one's ever survived a Carver incident to dish the
Spike," says Buffy carefully.
why we need to speak to him," says Xander. He expects her to spin on her
heel and yell "Spike!" up the stairs. But she just murmurs,
"Speak to him?" Crosses her arms. Sighs. "Yeah, I guess I
outside the bathroom door until at last he emerges, a towel slung round his
hips and tendrils of steam curling up from his ivory skin. She hands him the
clothes Willow rescued from his crypt.
change in my room," she offers, as if he hasn't just spent the night in
her bed. As if yesterday she didn't just bare her heart to him, along with her
And then at last
she brings her hand to his cheek and looks into his eyes -- see, I did it. I
made eye contact, I'm being kind. He doesn't need to know that I'm afraid of
He turns his face
into her hand, so he doesn't have to see her stricken expression. Kisses her
palm, whispers "Buffy. We can do this. We can be OK together…. Let me
watch you shower."
She thinks about
this. Maybe he can sit on the toilet and tell her all about the Carver demon --
calm and businesslike. But she knows what he's like. He's greedy. She'll turn
her back and he'll step in behind her, and then he'll touch her and turn her
on, and before they know it….
This is what's
wrong, she realises, as she lets her head droop forward onto his chest. This
feeling I'm feeling right now is precisely what's wrong. Ever since yesterday,
after - after yesterday, she's felt all shy and girlish. Not even girlish --
slavish. Yes, that's it: the slayer feels slavish. Like she'll do anything for
him -- willingly -- anything. If he asked her, she thinks she would turn
herself inside out for him. That can't be right. These can't be healthy
feelings. They lead to dangerous places where you lose yourself entirely. And
now he's leaning in and pressing soft little kisses against her throat, on the
bruised tender place where he took her blood. And oh God they're going to go
there now, and she's not ready. Can't he see it matters too much? Doesn't it
scare him even a little?
she murmurs, casting about for escape routes. And suddenly one comes to her, a
lifeline thrown from woman to woman down the generations. She thrusts the
bundle of clothes into his arms, looks up at him. "I'm sorry, honey, I've
got a headache," she says.
His eyes widen
slightly and he steps back, raising his hands as if to say, "Whoa. Don't
want any part of this." Then without looking at her he scoops the dropped
clothes off the floor, turns his back and walks away.
Well it's a
Scooby meeting just like every other Scooby meeting since dead boy took to
sitting in. Everyone working together, pooling ideas, chasing up leads -- and
treading ever-so-carefully-on-tip-toe around the short fuses, the dry tinder,
the explosive miasma of tension that lies between Buffy and Spike. Love's young
dream, he wonders, what became of you? And what became of you and me, Anya? Why
did I drive fear in like a wedge? Why did you let me do it?
Still, he thinks,
you gotta hand it to Buff. You can exile her entirely from OK land, but she'll
still act like the queen. Shrug her shoulders, say, "I'm good," and
move swiftly on to a war-footing.
Spike," she says. "Time to share. Tell us what you know about Carver
demons?" Spike's supremely indifferent. He picks up a magazine and leafs
through it. "That's just a story for fledglings -- you know, to keep the
lower orders in their place." He looks round at their clean sun-kissed
uncomprehending faces and sighs.
to legend the Carver demon is the nemesis of master vampires -- comes and cuts
them down when their time's up. See, what you gotta realise is that aside from
the occasional slayer having herself a good day, there's only one thing a
master has to fear, and that's his fellow vamps. So the Carver demon's just a
myth, a bit of smoke and mirrors put about to deter the competition. You know:
don't try climbing the career ladder because it's dangerous at the top. Don't
get uppity or the big ole Carver demon'll get you.
'Course it's all
"How do you
Stands to reason. Why would the Powers that Be need another tool to torment us
with?" He glances at Buffy. "They've already got you."
she says, "And I'm good. Nemesis, huh? That's a new word to me, but --.
" Xander suddenly finds that it's time to hijack the conversation.
"Tell us about that demon that attacked you yesterday," he says.
"It wasn't a
demon," says Spike, pausing to peruse an interview with Angeline Jolie.
"What do you
mean it wasn't a demon?"
Xander's not sure
what to make of this. "You're saying I should avoid putting it in my
shopping trolley?" he asks.
"He means it wasn't alive, or undead, or whatever."
"More like a
machine," mutters Spike. He studies the photograph of Angeline as if her
ass holds the solution to all his troubles. "Like a cross between a
toaster and -- " He suddenly looks directly at Buffy. "What are those
things girls buy their boyfriends when they want to make them feel manly but
don't want to go to the bother of shagging them?"
at him, except for Buffy who looks away.
He snaps his
fingers, "That’s it, a Swiss army knife."
bought my own," objects Xander.
Spike slams the
covers closed on Angeline. He feels shit. Back to lobbing grenades into
fortress Buffy again. He thought they'd got beyond that. He thought they were
home and dry. He feels in his pockets. Bollocks, no fags. And no chance of a
crash off these clean-cut kiddies. No chance of a quick dash to the shop,
either, unless he wants to put a new spin on the words Smoking Kills. He tips
the magazine onto the floor and slouches back into the couch, hands behind his
head, legs apart. Listen to my body language, baby. And give it to me good,
'cause I'm not afraid of you.
think it was a robot?" Willow wonders aloud.
like any of the robots I've ever met," he says.
"You mean it
didn't prance around in a pink skirt and offer you a blow job?" inquires
Buffy. So easy to fall back into this, she can't stop herself. "Guess it
didn't, huh? That's too bad. You'd have liked that wouldn't you, having another
bot to be your sex slave, do anything you want, lick your boots, suck your
cock?" Now why's everyone looking at her as if they think she's gone too
far. What's with the Spike sympathy? Is it because they've banked their blood
with him? Do they think they have to protect their investment?
it," she says.
make some more coffee," says Xander rising abruptly to his feet. "Wanna
help me, Dawnie?" Willow and Tara drift up from their seats saying
something about fresh air and enjoying the sun while it's out. Shit, they're
going to leave him alone with her. He doesn't want to be left alone with her.
She's gunning for him. He needs protection. "Hey!" he protests,
drawing his body in, crossing his legs. "Hey. Call that a meeting? We've
only been at it five minutes!"
we're taking a commercial break," says Buffy.
him from the other side of the room, comes to a decision and stands up. The
doorbell rings and she calls, "You get it Dawn," and steps towards
him. She comes towards him across the room and he just knows she's going to
hurt him. She stops in front of him, leans in. He almost goes into game face to
ward her off -- and suddenly she's swinging her ass down hard towards his
balls. And just as he's flinching and thinking this is some new slayer move
designed to disable his wedding tackle, there she is perched in his lap.
How'd you do
that, Buffy? What made you do that? Is this you being kind? Do I get to be kind
too? He slips his arms around her, feels the softness of her breast against the
heel of his hand, sees how big are her eyes and knows he overwhelms her just as
she overwhelms him. Draws her in and goes to claim her lips, or let her claim
his, what the fuck does it matter, he thinks, we're both drowning here. Yes
drowning, love. Lay back there. No, don't be sorry. Just show me. Show me…. But
as he dives, forgetting where he is, intent only on where he's going, he's
aware in a small corner of his mind, out of the corner of his eye, that Dawn
has come dancing back into the room. Excited. Adolescent indifference thrown to
the winds. Too full of news to notice he's got his tongue down Buffy's throat,
his hand up Buffy's shirt. "Guess who it is! Guess who's here!" she
cries. "It's Giles!" And Buffy rips from his arms and across the room,
where she stands, white faced, with one hand slapped across the hickey on her
Continued in Chapter Two