"Spike!" she called, dropping her bag with a thump that belied just how heavy it was as she came in the door. She jingled her keys and tossed them into the bowl on the foyer table. She looked around at the apartment, brow furrowing, mouth screwing up in a contemplative little fish face. The whole place was perfectly pristine, as if they hadn't destroyed it with sex the night before. Either Spike had gotten bored or she had dreamed the whole thing. Sometimes it got to the point where she couldn't tell the difference between the dreams and reality. Or maybe it was a prophecy. Earth-shattering sex ahead. Somehow she doubted the prophecy people would care whether she was getting any or not.
"Spike? You home?"
She could feel him, just before he attacked. His presence ran up her spine like a chill just before he pinned her against the wall with his lips, eliciting a growl from the back of her throat. She opened to him, his tongue pressing as she sucked it desperately into her mouth. The kiss slowed, drawing out the pleasure, coursing through them like the slow undulations of the sea. Her hands roamed up his back, pressing him to her, holding him against her, loving the bulk of him, relishing the feel of his muscles beneath his t-shirt. She snatched at the tip of his tongue with her teeth and he groaned, pulling back with a throaty giggle that made her grin.
He smiled, eyes soft, looming over her as he pressed her back against the wall. "How was your day?"
She closed her eyes lazily, running a hand along the top of his shoulder before she lifted her lids and smiled back. The whole situation was so saccharine it was almost putrescent. She relished it. "How do you think my day was?"
"Mm," he nuzzled the tip of his nose against her collar bone, dragging it up her neck and peppering tiny kisses in its wake. "You smell like coffee."
"Better than grease, hm?"
"You always smell good enough to eat."
She cocked an eyebrow at him with a goofy ironic smile.
"Ok, that may have been a poor choice of words."
She leaned her head forward to plant a dainty kiss on the tip of his nose.
"You picked up the apartment."
"Mm. Went to see some people. Didn't take as long as I thought. Didn't have anything better to do. Got right good at it with all that practice back in my crypt."
She wrapped her arms around him tightly, suddenly. She pressed her cheek against his shoulder, his body going into sensory overload in such full contact with hers. It did that every time. He was too shocked for a moment to move, but he wrapped her in his arms in kind, placing a soft kiss against her hair. She sighed in response and gave him a harder little squeeze. He was happy that, when it came to these hugs, he didn't need to breathe.
"Good day, then?" she said, voice too high.
"Good enough day, yeah. You hungry? I made you dinner."
She pulled back, a tiny smile on her face. "Why do you love me?"
"I hope that's rhetorical. I’d rather be stroking other things than your ego, pet," he said, letting her go and giving her hair another kiss. "Food. Eat. Now. Before you fall over. Then we'll go patrol."
"Sun's not down yet."
"It will be when you're finished. I'm still working on the T.V. anyway."
"The T.V.?" she said, heading into the kitchen and finding all the pots and pans simmering on low heat on the stove. "Uh... how bored were you today?"
"We broke it last night," he said, ignoring her sarcasm. "Knocked a tube loose or something. Not hard to fix, just have to get around to it."
She ladled out large quantities of mashed potatoes and numerous pieces of the reheated ham that she's had stowed away in the fridge. She wondered briefly if she was being buttered up for Sex-o-lympics before she realized that she wouldn't be particularly put out if she was.
The silverware drawer clattered and slammed shut again, and she plopped herself down Indian-style on the sofa to watch the Handyman-Spike-Show, plate balanced in her lap. She watched the muscles ripple beneath his shirt as he lifted the T.V. off the stand and lowered it to the ground. He knelt beside it, opening the case, and she felt a smirk twitch her lips.
"If you want this fixed you'd better quit looking at me like that."
She plopped the fork in her mouth and smiled around it. "How about if you can't see me seeing you."
He grunted in a non-committal way before he turned his back on her and set about re-seating the tubes and various other loose and questionable bits in the television. He crammed the case back together with a snap and lifted it back into place on the stand.
When he looked at her he nearly sniggered his nose off. She was wearing her sunglasses, still watching him with a predatory look, just hiding her eyes from view as she did it. He covered his mouth with his hand, trying to contain the laughter but failing miserably as he doubled over, hearty guffaws wracking at him.
She just grinned, sliding her cleaned plate onto the coffee table and dropping her shades beside it, patting her thighs, inviting him to sit like inviting a puppy to hop into her lap. He happily obliged, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and swinging his legs up into her lap, snuggling in against her neck, enjoying the warmth of her. The sound of her heartbeat pounded in his ear so hard that he felt it moving his cheek.
"Have I said enough how much I missed you?" she said.
"I missed you."
"You'll make yourself sick on sweets if you say it anymore."
She kissed his forehead with saucy relish. "I haven't O.D.ed on sweetness yet."
"Let's go kill things."
"Definitely," she said. They hopped up in unison, at the limit of their lovey-dovey quota, and--shrugging their black leather jackets on--headed for the door.
“Let me see it.”
She brushed his hand away, giving her shoulder a rolling shrug.
“It’ll be all right,” she said, throat tight. She blew her breath out between her teeth, easing her arms out of her coat and throwing it across the back of the couch. Spike grabbed it and hung it on the coat rack, hanging his up beside it.
“Let me see the damn thing, Buffy.”
They’d been ambushed on a busy street, one vamp throwing Buffy out into traffic, her shoulder getting intimately acquainted with the front end of a moving car. She’d jumped right back into the fight and the two vampires were dusted in a matter of minutes. The night was quiet after that--the rest of the beasties too terrified or too dead-already to give them any kind of fight. But she had tenderly nursed her arm all night long, trying (and failing) to hide how it bothered her.
She shot him a glare, but sat down on the edge of the couch. He sat behind her, fingertips gingerly brushing against her neck and along her shoulder. She hissed a breath in between her teeth.
“Is it broken?” she asked.
“I don’t think so. Undo some buttons.”
“Undo some buttons so I can peel your clothes off.”
She quickly undid a few of the buttons on her waitressing uniform, dropping the fabric from her shoulder and showing the swollen bruised mess that lay beneath.
“Hm. Looks like hamburger meat. Doesn’t look broken though.” He prodded it tenderly.
“Ow!” she shot at him, making the syllable two indignant tones.
“Hell of a bruise.” He dropped his cool lips in the center of the wound, soothing the swollen heat more than she would have imagined they could. “Should be better in a day or two, knowing you.”
She shrugged the dress back on and buttoned it up, flipping her hair over her shoulder as she worked at the buttons, suddenly embarrassed.
She blew a breath out of her nose, her teeth set in a grimace as she leaned back against the couch. He leaned back too, shrunken somehow, as if he were living entirely in his head.
She leaned against him, head leaning on his shoulder until he picked his arm up so she could crawl into his arms. She settled against him carefully, avoiding any pressure on her shoulder. He waited until her breathing evened, nestling his hand into her waist.
“You wanna go?”
“Go? We just got in.”
“Away from here? Just get away. Far away.”
“What the hell—Spike, what are you talking about? Like a vacation?”
He quirked his lips, annoyed.
“No, not like a sodding vacation. I just mean away. We’ll go somewhere else and fight the demons.”
“We can’t go, we’ve got a lease.”
“So break it. Sublet. Hell, who gives a bloody damn, anyway, about some stupid contract?”
“Look, I’m sick of this Grumpy Gus routine. Whatever’s on your mind just say it.”
“I’m sayin’ it right now, ain’t I? Let’s go away.”
“What did they tell you wherever you went? You've been all Broody-Vampire-Boy since you got back, and ok, just sayin', but I'm pretty sick of that particular brand. What could possibly be so bad?”
“I don’t remember,” he mumbled, ashamed. “It was part of the deal. I’d know it when I saw it, but not before.”
“So you want us to run away from San Francisco because you have a vague idea that something bad is going to happen? Correct me if I’m wrong--aren’t we here to stop the bad things?”
“It’s not San Francisco. That’s what I mean. What’s left here but frightened fledglings and altruistic demons? Nothing the Scoobies can’t handle. I just wanna go. Let’s go somewhere and be--”
“You want to run away.”
“It’s not running away? What the hell would we be running away from?”
“Spike..." She sat up, lacing her fingers with his and taking a breath before she looked him in the eyes. "Listen to me. When I was 17, I ran away. Hell, you helped me run away from Glory. Then there was the time you were burning up in a blaze of imbecilic herosim and you made me run away. I’m tired of running away from things. I’m going to face this—whatever it is. I’m going to face it with my friends.”
“Your friends? Right. ‘Cause I really see a whole lot of them here.”
“Don’t you dare—”
“Don’t what? Say what we’re both thinking? That they’ve all aban—”
They were standing. He didn’t know when they had stood, but they were standing.
“That they all ha—”
“They don’t need the protection anymore, Slayer. When was the last time you heard from—”
His vision went black, stars burst before his eyes, and he tasted blood in his mouth—grinning. She had a vicious look on her face, ready to hit him again if he said anything askance at all.
“Give it me good, Slayer,” he said, voice low, seductive. “Come on, pet. Show me what you’ve got.”
He dodged her fist, landing his own punch around her eye, sending her reeling. She hadn’t expected him to hit her. Sometimes it was like she forgot what he was. Sometimes it was like she was still the annoying idiot girl who had driven him out of his skull all those years in Sunnydale. Like she forgot he could even hit her. And sometimes they both just needed a good tussle. Always had. And they certainly weren't getting it on patrol these days.
He was in a headlock, Buffy’s arm wrapped around his neck from behind, her knees digging into his back as he slammed her backward against the wall. She gasped as the breath was knocked out of her and he heard and felt one of her ribs break. He grabbed her arm, and threw her, spinning her head over heels over his head and slamming her against the floor where she landed with a shout.
Pose victorious, smirk in place, he only barely managed the “Oh, boll—” before he realized she still had his hands in a vice-like grip and she had flipped him halfway across the room where he crashed into the newly mended old television set, shattering the screen and destroying the case—breaking it for good.
Rhythm demanded they slow. They both creaked back to their feet, Buffy catching her breath and Spike wobbling for a minute to control his vertigo. She winced when her ribs stabbed at her, and he rubbed his hand along his head trying to keep it from spinning.
“I’m not saying we should run away, Buffy. I’m saying there are better places than San Francisco. Places that need two crack demon fighters. Places that could use us. No one needs us here, love. Frisco’s dead. Hell, you killed everything in it that needed killing. We could—ow.”
He was on the ground again, in a heap, propping himself up on one hand and holding his eye with the other. She had clocked him across his brow with her vicious right.
“Shut up,” she whispered desperately. “Shut up.”
He brought his hand down from his busted eye, resting his arm along his knee, looking up at her in that way that made her know she was in trouble because he was reading the deepest darkest places of her soul. And he was undoubtedly about to say the most harmful thing possible.
He shook his head with a sigh, dropping his gaze to his lap before he screwed up his mouth and swirled his head back up to look her full in the face so fiercely that she looked away.
“People still need you Buffy,” he said softly. “Just no one here.”
“Come away with me, Buffy.”
“Are you leaving?” she was suddenly suspicious, glaring at him and completely on the defensive.
“No,” singing the syllable with a drawl. “Look,” he said, growing impatient. “You’re missing the point. I’m not going anywhere you’re not. But I’m saying there are places that need us. The Scoobies can handle all that’s left here. Except maybe the Slayer gangs—”
“But,” he cut into her protest, “you can’t handle all of them either. It’s not your responsibility—”
“It is my responsibility. It’s my fault. It’s all my fault—”
“That they’re Slayers? That’s your fault sure. The rest they did themselves. You can’t take responsibility for everything they do. Plus, if they caught a glimpse of me they’d stake me on si—”
“No,” she cut him off. “No, if they staked you I’d kill them all. And they know it. They wouldn’t touch you.” She was so... so stern and frightening when she said that that he was certain she would do it without blinking, and it suddenly occurred to him just how deeply she loved him. She didn’t say it. Not hardly ever. But the realization thrilled him and terrified him at the same time. Love did such strange things—monstrous things—to people. And if anyone knew what love did to people it was certainly him. He stood then, creaking back to his feet and put his hands on her shoulders. She was standing tall, her back straight but not looking at him at all. She looked so strong and so broken at the same time.
He ran his hands down her arms, pressing his reassurance lightly into her skin, her hands hot in his own as he picked them up and held them before him.
“We’ll call it a vacation then. Somewhere so full of bloodsucking fiends we can slay to our hearts' delight. Like New Orleans. New Orleans in winter. S’nice. We’ll raid us some vampire lairs, kill us a few demons, have a jolly ol’ time, and then come home.”
She didn’t say anything. She was staring blankly at her hands held lightly in his.
“Buffy.” She was looking askance now, avoiding his gaze, trying to block out his words. Trying to block out the sharp truth of his damned tongue. “Look at me, love.” She raised her face to his but her eyes were still closed. He waited, giving her all the time she needed. When she finally opened them she was captivated by his face in the strange light from the knocked over lamp. All the shadows and planes were just as they always were. His eyes seemed to be glowing but she didn’t know if that was the light or the demon or the wild love that she knew burned beneath the surface—hell, burned on the surface. “Call your sister. Call Willow. Call your boss. We’ll head out tonight. Tomorrow. Something. Make up excuses. Let’s get out of here.”
“Spike,” she said, her voice cracking. She swallowed, closed her eyes. She held his gaze again. “Tell me. Tell me the truth. Something’s coming.”
“Yeah,” he said simply, softly. “But we can’t do anymore good here. Won’t be any hurt we can save anyone from. Let’s go where the party is.”
She smiled a small smile and picked up the hands that held hers. “A-all right. I’ll... I’ll call them.”
“We’ll drive,” he said, his face breaking into a grin big enough and sincere enough to crack his face. “I’ll get a car.”
“Spike, that’s like a two day drive!” she shrieked.
There was a loud knock on the door. They both looked at it, looked at each other like the other had done it, then looked back at the door.
Buffy headed for it, Spike close on her heels and she stood on her toes to peer out the peep hole. She rolled her eyes with a groan. “It’s the cops again. That woman downstairs must’ve called them. Ugh!”
“Christ,” Spike said, rolling his eyes as well. “And don’t we look like hell. Well, open the door, we’ll get this over with.”
She had her hand on the doorknob. “They won’t go for the robber thing again, we told them that twice. They’re going to think we’re dealing drugs if we get that many robbers.”
There was another, much more insistent knock on the door.
“Open it, damn it.”
“Fine, geez.” Buffy pulled the door open to the full length of the chain and peered out, remembering too late that her right eye was rapidly swelling shut.
“Yes?” she said.
“We’ve had another call about a disturbance coming from your apartment. Could we come in and talk to you for a minute? Again?”
She frantically looked behind her as Spike rushed around trying to pick up and hide the suspicious looking remains of various articles of furniture. He was staring fairly dumbfounded at the miserable pieces of the television when she decided it would be a good time to open the door and let the cops in. She slid the chain off and pulled the door wide.
The officers—one male and one female and, in fact, the same Officer Kline and Officer Gettes that had responded to the last four calls—walked in as she extended her hand in invitation.
“‘Lo,” Spike nodded at them, the cut above his eye bleeding weakly and his shirt so torn it didn't warrant being called a shirt anymore. His torso was laced with bruises and bangs that were mostly from their love-making. “Was movin’ it,” Spike said, pointing at the T.V. “Fell off. Broke all to hell, i’n’ it?” He ran a hand along his abdomen, realizing just how beaten he appeared, and scurried away into the bedroom to find another shirt to pull on.
“Miss Summers,” Officer Gettes said, turning on her sympathetic girlfriend routine. “This is the fifth call in two months that we’ve investigated at this address. Could I talk to you alone for a minute? Somewhere away from your... boyfriend?”
She quirked an eyebrow. “Sure. Let’s go into the kitchen.” She wiped at her brow, rolling her eyes when the back of her hand came away bloody. "Sorry," she said. "We were practicing judo. Um... again."
Once they were settled at the tiny table in the little nook of a kitchen, Officer Gettes took a deep breath and sighed. There wasn’t even a door to the room, but it was the closest thing to private they were going to get aside from the bedroom, where Officer Kline had gone and shut the door.
“I don’t want you to feel like you’re being pressured, and I certainly don’t want to be a bully here. I’m sure you love the guy, but it’s pretty obvious what happens in this apartment. I know we’ve run through this a million times, and I’ve got a case file as thick as a book on you two at headquarters. There’s just one question you need to answer for me.” Buffy felt her eyebrow raising so high that the tight swollen skin above her other eye was getting yanked up with it. “Do you feel safe here?”
She barked a laugh, her hand going instantly to cover her mouth and try and hold it back. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Hang on.” She had her little giggles before she calmed down enough to take a breath and look Officer Gettes dead in the eye. “The only time I ever feel safe is if Spike’s around.” Her face had gone from mirthful to dead serious so quickly that it took Gettes aback. “And don’t you ever tell him that. Ever.”
Gettes cleared her throat and leaned forward, not adept at this sort of thing and knowing she’d get nothing out of either of them. She never had before and she still for the life of her couldn’t decide if this was even a domestic violence situation or not. These two were so damned weird. She puzzled about it sometimes as she was trying to sleep. “Miss Summers. The man... he seems to be... I mean, he beats you.”
“Ok, three of the times the nice lady downstairs has called you have been when we destroyed our apartment having sex. Which happens on a regular basis. The other two were mild disagreements.”
“That involved fists.”
“We were just rearranging the furniture! Geez. The T.V. stand tipped and caught him in the face is all.”
“Caught you in the face too, huh?”
“No, I got attacked coming home from work—”
“Did you report that?”
“R-report?” Buffy thought back to the vamp she had lured into an alley on her way to the trolley. “No. No, it’s all right. I wasn’t hurt.”
Gettes raised her eyebrow. Always the excuses with these two. Always the perfectly legitimate excuses. Sometimes she was tempted to just arrest the both of them and save herself the trouble.
“Look, I’m not hurt, he’s not a hurt, we’re both a little sore for a while and, seriously, even when we do fight we kiss and make up at the end and everything’s hunky-dorey. And the making up usually leaves more bruises than the fists do, ok? That's just how we work.”
“You’re not hurt?” Gettes said skeptically.
The Slayer grinned a feral little grin. “Believe it or not, yes. We’re not hurt. And the quadruple negatives in that sentence are hurting my brain.”
Gettes sighed, knowing there was nothing she could do except get them to keep it down. The various kinks of the citizens of San Francisco (if that’s what all this was) were none of her business. “All right,” she said, standing up reluctantly. “Well... all right.”
She had no idea what to say. She didn’t know if this was denial, or domestic abuse—or which side the abuse would even be from judging by the way they both always looked on these calls—or if this really was just some strange fetish thing that they seemed to get off on. She only wished they could live on the ground floor, or above someone who constantly listened to heavy metal turned up to eleven and who wouldn’t be able to hear them.
Kline had emerged from the bedroom as well, with Spike leaning against the doorway, one hell of a shiner swelling up around his eye. It wasn’t anything—it wouldn’t even be there anymore in a few hours. Neither would Buffy’s. But the cops always did seem to show up just as they’d finished a fight. Such was the way.
Buffy saw the two officers to the door and ushered them a bit too quickly over the threshold closing the door behind them. She leaned her forehead against the wood and gave it a soft little bang.
“You’re a bad girl,” Spike said, his voice right in her ear. “You beat me and I take it. Nice Officer Kline wanted me to press charges. Said there wasn’t any shame in being thrashed by a woman.” She felt him pressing against her, one cool hand against her buttocks, running down her thigh to the bottom of the waitress uniform she still wore. She melted against the door, allowing him as much access as he could ever want. His fingers played with the hem of the dress, teasing her. “Told him to sod off and it was none of his business how I got my rocks off. Think I scared him a little, regaling him with tales of our exploits.”
“Spike! That’s none of their—oh...”
“No, guess it’s not. But the only reason they haven’t arrested us yet is ‘cause I keep him updated on just what all the banging and crashing is.”
She blushed. “I—I...tell Gettes the same thing. Ah!” A moan fell from her lips. Dear god, his fingers. “Good girls love bad boys, blah blah blah. It’s—oh, there, yes—let’s... uhn. Let’s break something else. She won’t call them twice in one night.”
He grinned a devious grin. “Just how bad a girl are you, Slayer?”
She grinned too, eyes closed, thinking about just how rhetorical that question was coming from him. “Why don’t we find out?”
It was an old junker of a car, but it was one of those models that was impossible to kill and it was only $100 from the teenage punk he’d bought it from, so who was he to complain? He pulled it up outside of her apartment building and it rattled to a halt, grumbling when he powered down the motor and protesting with loud squeaky hinges when he opened the door to step out into the street. He dropped his cigarette on the cold pavement and ground it under his heavy-heeled boots. He closed the door with a slam and leaned back against it, arms crossed broodingly across his middle, waiting. She should be down soon. She would know that he'd made it back. That was the way she was. She would know.
There was a rattle up the stairs, a jingle of keys, and the Slayer came pelting out the door, skittish like a rabbit, as if someone was about to walk around the corner and call her out for stealing candy at the convenience store.
"Buffy," he said, and her head snapped around. She locked eyes with him, tempted, he could tell, to dart them every which way to make sure they wouldn't be seen. "Is that all?" He tipped his head to indicate the large leather duffle bag that she had slung over her good shoulder.
"Yeah," she said. "Mostly clothes and stuff.” She chucked it down the stairs and it landed with a flump and a thud as she ducked back through the door and called over her shoulder, “This one's got the weapons."
"Ah, yes, the Slayer arsenal," he said as she pulled an even larger bag through the open doorway behind her, whipping the door shut and locking it back with a jingle. Spike popped the trunk and, with a cocky hand-wave, indicated that the space was ready for her belongings. She slung the weapons bag up on her shoulder and flounced down the stairs so quickly he was afraid she would trip, but she just made it to the bottom and in one smooth motion, threw both bags into the back and slammed the door with a bang.
"Yeah, let's go."
She practically threw herself into the front seat and slammed the door shut behind her. He climbed behind the wheel and they headed out of San Francisco.
“This is just for a month. Just to try it out. Dawn said she’d watch the apartment, and I left her the money for rent.”
“Right. Just for a month or two.”
Or three. Or four. Or forever.