Sequel to Who Am I?; part of The Bittersweets Series
Summary: Will he? Will she?
Author Notes: This is the fifth in the BITTERSWEETS series, following "Who Am I?." The BITTERSWEETS are set in a AU season 6 verging off of "Wrecked."
Dedication: As always, for Kalima first and foremost. Also for the Bitches, and Deborah M.
Completed: January 2002.
Disclaimer: Joss creates, I borrow
Formerly she was a dead girl
Left alone and forgotten
Trying hard to find something she'd won
Leave her things scattered round her
Practising such restraint
But she'll find you and she'll get you
Even she's not one of God's damn saints
--Holly Beth Vincent, "Revenge"
Buffy came back from downtown in the early afternoon to find him, once more, sacked out in front of the television. Well, at least the Scoobies hadn’t come in and dragged him away while she was out. Meeting her responsibilities. Which in this instance, had actually included picking up Willow’s dry cleaning.
“Making yourself useful, I see,” she said.
Spike waited ten seconds for the commercial to start before acknowledging her. “When’s the next Big Bad gonna show up? That’s what I want to know. I want to mix it up a bit—get your back while you take some screaming foe apart. Need to tear some beastie’s throat out with my fangs. Mind you, the sex and the 250-channel cable here’s great—“
“I’m going to have to cancel the cable.”
“The money’s not there, Spike. We have no income. I’ve got to get all the pipes replaced. And for that matter . . . if you’re going to eat people food at every meal when you’re hanging around here, then ends are not going to meet. I don’t mind bringing in the blood for you, it’s cheap, but another mouth—is another mouth.”
“You and Niblet barely eat anything. Skin an’ bones, you are. Like a bit more flesh on you, for that matter. But all’s I do is finish up what you’d just throw away.”
“Oh, is that how you think of the five lambchops you ate just now? That were supposed to be tonight’s supper for all three of us, not your lunch.”
He examined his fingernails. “Need to keep my strength up. Servicing the Slayer takes a lot out of a man.”
“Whatever. But I’m not rooting for the debut of the next Big Bad. I’ve got to find a job. And when I find it, I’ve got to keep it.”
“Bollocks. What a helpful remark.”
“What you need is a salary from the bleeding Council. Why should they expect you to save the world for free every time? They pay bloody Rupert. Whom you are supposed to be on the blower to right about now, petal, if you recall your promise.”
“I recall it.” She pouted.
The commercials were over; he turned back to the TV. “You get on to them and make them put you on the payroll. Pension, survivor benefits an’ all. Make ‘em pay for the pipe-fitting too, while you’re at it. Don’t imagine they’re not sitting on an enormous endowment, those spooks. Thousand year old secret society—rolling in it. An’ you’re the best slayer they’ve had in yonks, don’t think they don’t know it.”
“How do you know so much about the Council?”
“Made it my business to know. Hush! I think Gary’s about to jilt Lisa here. Go make your phone call, pet. Pubs’ll be open over there in a half hour, and you’ll have missed him.”
God, he was bossy. And thoughtless. Just like a man. They were all the same, dead or alive. In bed Spike might be all my mistress my heart my queen, and making her come twenty times in a night, but the minute he was standing upright in his clothes, he was just where’s the remote, where’s my cigs, where’s something I can eviscerate.
Buffy wandered into the kitchen and stood looking at the five lambchop bones in the trash. He’d gnawed them right down, sucked out the marrow; they were almost shiny. And the greasy frying pan was still on the stove. He hadn’t even put it in the sink to soak. She and Dawn would have to eat popcorn for dinner. Or maybe cold cereal. Far be it from Spike to forgo two packs of cigarettes and buy them a pizza. Not that she liked to think about where he got what little money he had.
She brought her address book and the phone to the counter island and climbed up on a stool. Tried to think what she’d say. The letter she’d dispatched just yesterday wouldn’t be there yet, of course. So she’d have to tell it to him after all, just the thing she’d dreaded doing. No one except Angel would be a less receptive audience. Buffy closed her eyes and tried to picture Giles, in the flat she’d never seen, in a town—Bath, funny name—that she had no mental image of, answering her call. How happy he’d sound to hear her voice. Happy at first. And then what? Suddenly she heard Giles in her head, saying You have no respect for me, or for what I do. Spike didn’t even have the excuse of a soul to make him quasi worthy of her. She was going to go down in the annals as that shameful thing, the slayer who couldn’t keep her hands off the stock in trade.
A cool touch on the back of her neck. She opened her eyes to find Spike bending over her.
“What? What do you want? You’ve already devoured all the protein in the house!”
“Just thought you’d like me to hold your hand while you talk to him, pet.”
“Giles! It’s me, it’s Buffy.”
“Buffy! How splendid. That is . . . is it splendid?”
“Um . . . to hear your voice, yes! How are you, Giles?” She glanced at Spike, who was perched on the stool beside her, turning a cigarette over and over between his fingers. She’d declined the hand-hold, but was glad when he’d not wandered back to the television.
“Muddling along, you know. This and that. What’s the occasion?”
The occasion?” Oh, for this call. Shit, this was it. “Giles, there’s something you don’t know about . . . about me. Since I’ve been back.”
At once, the quality of his silence changed. Buffy thought she could hear it through the line, Giles’ apprehension. In a moment, she knew, he’d be cradling the receiver on his shoulder, taking his glasses off and polishing them. He always did that when he heard something that astonished and disheartened him, and her news would do both.
She tried to plunge on. “At first I couldn’t really deal with it, because there’s sort of been a lot going on here, with Willow and all, and I didn’t want to think about it, you know me, Miss Plausible Deniability of 2001, but . . . um . . . I’ve been advised to tell you about it, so . . . “
“Buffy. Slow down. Please just describe it as simply as you can.”
She froze. How how how could she explain it, and then listen to whatever he would say? Listen to his pained silence? The strength just wasn’t there.
She shoved the phone at Spike.
He tried to push it back at her, but she shook her head fiercely. Then Spike shrugged. “Oi, Rupert. Your Slayer’s come back wrong. Chip doesn’t fire anymore when I bash her across a room.”
Buffy put her head up close to Spike’s so she could catch Giles’ end of the conversation. At first there was nothing to hear, just the silence that had turned from apprehensive to stunned.
Then . . . “Spike? Good Lord—why—why am I suddenly talking to you? What have you done with Buffy? Is she your prisoner? Is this some sort of ransom demand? Or are you just calling to taunt me before you—“
“I said she ought to tell you this herself, but you know how she gets. She’s right here, Rupes. Talk to him, love.”
“Giles, we’re in the kitchen at home. I’m not . . . I’m not a prisoner, or anything.”
“Oh thank God. But—are you quite sure? It’s not a trick? If he’s really holding you hostage, say—say ‘Willow is well,’ and I’ll hang up and phone the Magic Shop at once.”
“Giles, I’m fine. Spike is too busy digesting five goddamned lambchops thank you very much to be doing anything more nefarious. Really.”
Here was where the glasses got cleaned. Then, “So, ah . . . why is . . . in short, why is he there, Buffy? And what was he talking about?”
“I wrote you a letter. I mailed it yesterday. But you won’t get it until next week, I guess.”
“Ah. A letter. And the letter said?”
“Well, it said a lot of stuff about how everything’s different and my priorities have sort of changed, and things are weird and hard, but what it really came down to was that, um, we’ve become involved. I’m involved. With, with Spike.”
“Buffy. Good God.”
All at once her eyes burned; she felt tears gather. “Just please don’t be angry at me, Giles. Spike is worried about me. Because of the chip thing. Showing that I’m not the same as I was. Not human, somehow. And we don’t know what it means, or how to find out.”
Another silence. This really wasn’t a conversation to be having on the telephone. It was a pace up and down the training room not looking at each other but yet aware of every minute glance and expression conversation.
“Giles, please. I can’t stand it when you—“ Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Spike listens to me, and . . . keeps me from . . . from getting lost. Because . . . something’s wrong, and I’m not—I’m not—me anymore.”
She waited, her cheek pressed against Spike’s cool dry one, the phone receiver clammy against the back of her ear.
Through the wire, a sigh. “Oh Buffy. I see I shall have to come back, won’t I?”
Spike grabbed the phone and turned away from her with it. “Hey, before you do, Rupes—get on to those council blokes and tell ‘em their slayer ought to have some bloody remuneration! She’s drowning in debt, threatening to cancel the cable, worried about groceries—we can’t have that, mate.”
Buffy didn’t hear what Giles said, but Spike’s last remark before he put the phone down gave her some clue. “Yeah, well, maybe you should rethink that—what with us looking after the same girl an’ all.”
She couldn’t suppress her smile when he turned back to her. “Spike, sometimes you—“
The knock at the kitchen door cut her off. Buffy shifted the curtain and saw Tara, eyes lowered, standing outside.
“Can I come in?”
“Of course, you—you live here.”
“Well, not really.” She blushed, and looked away. “Hello Spike.”
Tara fidgeted with the points of her bodice. “I came to get some things I left here. And to see . . . if . . . .”
Spike stepped towards her. “I’m all right, thanks.”
At this she blushed harder, and tossed her head. “I’m glad. I . . . I didn’t know ahead of time what they meant to do, or I’d have—“
She turned to Buffy, and suddenly her voice was clear and strong. “I think you have the right to love whom you please.” Then the blush came up stronger than ever, and she pushed past them, saying “Stuff’s upstairs, just be a sec’.”
“Well, there,” Spike said, pulling her into his chest, “we’ve got one friend, yeah? And old Rupert’s coming, you’ll like to see him again, pet.”
“No I won’t. You know he’s so worried and angry and disappointed in me now. And he doesn’t want to keep getting sucked back here.”
“Ah well . . .” Spike said, “you and he have that in common.”
Spike bought pizza after all, without even being asked, and the three of them sat in a row on the sofa, Dawn in the middle, and watched television. Just like regular people. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so regular that Dawn was painting Spike’s nails black. Or that she herself couldn’t follow the simple action of the program they were staring at, because her mind was full of dread at Giles’ return, and wondering what Xander and Willow were doing, and whether anybody would call her on the applications she’d filled out that afternoon, and if she could really wait tables again anyway.
Feeling a twinge in her belly, and a familiar warmth, she rose and went to the bathroom. It seemed a little early, but then she’d been too preoccupied to remember to make a note on the calendar, like she usually did. She probably wouldn’t remember to do it this time either. Had Dawn used up all the Tampax again without mentioning it? She rooted around under the sink. Found some. Swallowed a couple of pills against the cramps that bloomed almost as soon as she stood up from her crouch. Washed up.
As she climbed over his legs to resume her seat, Spike caught her hand and pressed a kiss into the palm. She met his gaze for a moment. Cool, assuming, a boyfriend look. Dawn glanced at them, and smiled. A smile like the sun finally breaking through at the end of a long overcast day.
Buffy dropped back into her place and hugged one of the sofa cushions to her lap. She had no idea what the program was about, and didn’t care enough to ask. Tipping her head back, she closed her eyes.
“Right, Niblet. Bedtime.”
Buffy opened her eyes. Had she dozed? The clock showed ten-thirty. Dawn was getting up without protest—something she never did for her. She paused for a moment, then dipped down and kissed him on the point of one sharp cheekbone.
“Sis too,” Spike murmured.
Dawn’s lips felt very warm against her face; the lashes brushed her eyebrow in the briefest of touches that nevertheless made Buffy shiver. “Sweet dreams, Dawnie.”
As soon as she was gone, Spike slid across the empty space between them and claimed her, a hand on her breast, another in her hair. She let him kiss her once, then got up.
“I want to sleep alone tonight.”
He cocked her a look.
“Stay in the house. Just not with me.”
“What am I being punished for now? The lambchops, still?”
“Nothing. Spike—nothing. I just—“
He frowned, then a look of surprise flitted across his face. “It’s because you’re on the rag.”
“Dunno why you’re so coy. Can smell it on you.” He sat forward, and before she could shift away, took her hips in his hands and buried his nose in her crotch.
“Spike!” She shoved him, and retreated to the stairs.
His eyes had gone witchy with desire. “Don’t turn me out, Slayer. Forget that damn plug you’ve got up there. I’ll drink you all night, won’t spill a drop on your clean sheets. Make you come ‘til you swoon.”
The twinge that began between her legs when he’d touched her was now a flickering in her clit so intense it was almost as if he was there already. “No. No! I’m not letting you drink my blood, Spike! No way. That is just taking things too far.”
He rose and came to her. Movements slow, languid. Put a seductive hand on her belly, brought his lips down to her ear. “Won’t hurt you,” he whispered. “Never hurt you. Just want all of you, is all. Want your taste, want your delicious—“
“NO!” She pushed him back, hard enough to make him stagger, and for a moment the coffee table was in doubt. Then he straightened up, and smiled at her.
“Doesn’t hurt to ask though, does it Slayer? You smell so intense with it. Marvelous. Maybe next month . . . if I’m a good boy.” He picked up his leather, shrugged into it.
“Where are you going?”
“Thought I’d visit the witch, let her kill me.”
He laughed at the small sound she made. “No fear, petal. Just going to Willie’s for a drink. Round of pool. Don’t fancy staying here with your bouquet at my nose and no sniffing allowed.” He opened the door.
“Spike.” Her voice so tiny all of a sudden. “Be ca—watch yourself.”
Continued in Two