Dawn calls Buffy right after she finishes a double shift one Saturday night at the Pick Me Up, when Buffy’s too exhausted to think straight or deflect Dawn’s dinner party invitation, even though she really, really wants to.
“Ugh, Dawn. I don’t know,” Buffy says as she pushes open the door to her apartment. The place is silent and empty and dark because, apparently, her roommates actually have lives that consist of more than just slinging coffee and slaying demons. “I was kind of hoping to do the whole stay at home and relax thing tomorrow night. You know, take advantage of the one night this week I don’t have to serve coffee and make small talk with a bunch of strangers.”
Dawn sighs the sigh of the poor, unloved little sister. “It’s just that I hardly even get to see you anymore, now that you’ve moved out,” she says, sounding incredibly pathetic. Like without her big sister sleeping on her couch, her life’s just one giant, gaping black hole of depression.
“I know, Dawnie,” Buffy says. She walks over to the fridge and peers inside. It's pretty dire, just a couple of styrofoam take-out boxes, three different kinds of low-fat salad dressing, and a half-empty bottle of wine. She bypasses the food and pours herself a glass of Chardonnay. “I’m just not sure I’m in the mood to be social.”
“Pleeeease,” Dawn begs. “This is my first real, grown-up dinner party and I need you there for moral support.”
Buffy takes a sip of wine and tries to think of a way to get out of the party. She comes up blank, so: “Fine, I'll come.”
“Yay!” Dawn says, and Buffy can practically hear her bouncing up and down. “This is going to be great! Oh, and there’s this guy that’s going to be there and you are totally going to love him. His name’s Kyle and he’s in my Ancient Languages class and -- "
“No,” Buffy cuts her off. “No way. No cute Ancient Language boys. No boys of any kind. There is a Buffy-boy embargo happening right now.”
“Buf-fy,” Dawn whines. “Come on. That is absurd. And, besides, everyone there is going to be with someone and it’ll be awkward if you’re just there all by yourself…”
Buffy rolls her eyes and takes another drink. Geez, what is this, Bridget Jones’s Diary? Does Dawn think Buffy’s going to end up dying alone and eaten by a pack of wild dogs or something? She’s barely in her mid-twenties, for crying out loud.
“How about I bring a boy of my own?” she asks, because she knows Dawn's not going to let this you-must-have-a-date thing go. “So that I don’t wreck your perfect couples’ evening or whatever?”
The other end of the line is silent for so long Buffy thinks they might have gotten cut off. “Dawnie?” she says, checking the display to make sure the call’s still connected. “You still there?”
“Yeah,” Dawn says. “I’m here. It’s just -- do you actually have a boy to bring? I mean,” she adds hastily, “what with your embargo and all?”
“Uh, yes,” Buffy says, lying through her teeth. She’s trying incredibly hard not to be offended, especially since she’s bluffing and technically has no right to be upset that Dawn doesn’t believe her. Still, though. She could have someone to bring. Dawn doesn’t know. “I totally have a boy.”
“O-kaaay,” Dawn says, sounding skeptical. “But if you show up alone tomorrow night, I’m going to be pissed.”
“Fine,” Buffy says. “No problem.” And it totally isn’t. She’s got practically a whole day to find a guy. Easy.
“Great,” Dawn says. On the other end of the line, Buffy hears a door close and then Xander’s voice, muffled in the background. “Gotta go, Buff. Xander says hi. Dinner’s tomorrow at eight. Don’t forget your boy.”
“Right.” Buffy nods into the phone and hangs up with a sigh. Her wine glass is empty and she’s got twenty-two hours to find herself a guy so that her kid sister won’t think she’s a loser. Awesome.
An hour later, she’s three glasses into her wine, showered, and snuggled up in bed watching TV, when there’s a tap-tap-tap at her window.
It’s raining out, but through the downpour she can make out the gleaming, stark white of Spike’s ridiculous hair as he lurks outside her bedroom.
She sighs and throws back the covers, making her way over to the window. Luckily, the show’s gone to commercial so he’s not making her miss anything.
“I do have a front door, you know,” she says, sliding up the window and stepping back so that Spike can duck inside. “There’s no need to go skulking around in the rain and knocking on windows like a giant creeper.”
“What can I tell you, Slayer,” he says, giving her what she can only assume he thinks is a dangerous look. “I’m a rebel.”
Buffy rolls her eyes and tosses him her half-dry bath towel. “What do you want, Spike?”
“Remember those rumblings I mentioned?” he asks. She nods as he scrubs the towel over his head, making his hair stand up in about a million different directions. “They’re getting louder.”
“Meaning you actually have something useful to share with the class?” she asks, sitting back down on the bed and taking another sip of wine. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees the show start up again, the hosts getting ready to introduce the next two dancers.
“Yeah,” he says. He’s still just standing right inside her room, looking sort of awkward and like he’s not really sure what he should do. His black t-shirt is very wet, sticking to his chest like a second skin. “According to my sources, I -- ” he stops, looking over at the television. “Wait. Are you watching Dancing with the Stars?”
Buffy nods, embarrassed. She totally made fun of him less than three weeks ago for his weirdo reality-TV obsession and now she’s completely invested in a stupid celebrity dance competition. But instead of calling her on her trash-TV hypocrisy, Spike just tosses the towel down on the bed and sits next to her in front of the television, the awkwardness of being in her room apparently trumped by the possibility of watching C-list celebrities dance around a soundstage like idiots.
“There’s some hidden depths to you yet, pet,” he says, nudging his shoulder against hers. Buffy smiles and ignores the way her heart’s started skipping in her chest.
On the screen, the always-grinning hosts introduce the next contestant, some football player that Buffy’s never heard of and his impossibly-blonde dance partner.
“Look at this wanker in his poncey suit,” Spike says, sounding equal parts disgusted and delighted as he settles in next to her. His hip is bumping hers and she leans into him without quite meaning to, smiling a little as she does.
“I think he looks nice,” Buffy says, even though the guy looks absurd, three-hundred pounds of muscle stuffed into a purple velvet suit. “Dashing, really.”
Spike scoffs. “Have I mentioned you’ve got bleedin’ tragic taste in men?” he asks, shaking his head like she’s a lost cause.
Onscreen the guy and his partner dance the tango, finally doing this complicated spin move to end their routine, their glittery costumes sparkling in the bright stage lights.
“Whoa,” Buffy says. “That was pretty cool.”
“It was not!” Spike sounds so offended that Buffy almost laughs. “It was bollocks. And, Christ,” he says, running a hand through his almost-dry hair, mussing it even more. “Now Harm’s up.”
Buffy watches in horrified fascination as Harmony strides on stage, dressed head to toe in pink, feathers and sequins everywhere. The routine starts up and Buffy just stares in disbelief. “Wow.”
“I know,” Spike says, scrubbing a hand across his face.
“Aren’t vampires supposed to be, you know, graceful?”
Spike sighs. Harmony’s twirling erratically, pulling her dance partner behind her, a maniacal smile on her face. Her partner trails behind her, looking as pained and terrified as Buffy feels.
The two of them watch the rest of Harmony’s dance is stunned silence, the whole thing weirdly compelling, like a car accident. The crowd seems to love it, though, which is maybe the most depressing thing that Buffy can imagine. By the time a commercial for some travel website starts up, Buffy's pretty much lost all faith in humanity. Beside her, Spike's staring blankly at the screen, probably wondering exactly how desperate he must have been to ever have slept with Harmony.
“So,” she says, once she finally gets the image of Harmony doing the foxtrot out of her head. “Whatcha got?”
“Huh?” Spike says, still looking sort of dazed. He shakes his head, the now-dry curls bouncing in a way that Buffy definitely does not find cute. “Oh, right. The rumblings. Our guy’s started marking his territory, doing some damage over near Union Square. Roughing up demons and gathering some pet vamps. Don’t know much more yet, ‘cept my sources tell me he’s human. And that he's been asking around about you.”
“Hmm,” Buffy says, not sure how much of this she needs to worry about. It’s hard to tell these days who’s a threat and who’s not. She misses Sunnydale, where the evil was pretty much always just evil.
“Anyway,” he says, getting off the bed and looking out the window and into the night. The rain’s stopped and it’s quiet and dark out there, a thick layer of fog making everything look muted and hazy. “I’ll keep my ear to the ground. Let you know when I know more.”
“Okay,” Buffy says, feeling suddenly, strangely alone. “Thanks.”
He smiles at her and, as he heads for the window, she realizes she’s not sure where he’s staying these days -- she never hears him park the ship anymore, and she doesn’t even know if he still has it. It makes her chest ache a little, thinking about him disappearing into the night, not really knowing where he’s going.
He’s halfway out the window when she remembers Dawn’s party tomorrow night. “Spike!” she calls, before she can stop herself. “Wait!”
“Yeah, love?” He’s straddling the windowsill, one jean-clad leg still dangling in her room, a black slash against the white of the wall.
“What’re you doing tomorrow night?”
“Nothing,” Spike shrugs, ducking back in to her room. He kicks his heels against the wall, leaving two black scuff marks that Buffy’s going to end up having to scrub off in the morning. “Why? Want some company on patrol?”
“Um, no actually,” she says. Spike raises his eyebrow and waits. Buffy takes a deep breath and steels herself for what she’s about to do. “It’s just…Dawn’s throwing this stupid dinner party thing, and I have to go, and if I show up alone she’s going to try to set me up with some dork from one of her classes and, so…” she trails off and looks at him expectantly, stopping short of actually asking him to go to the party with her.
Spike stares blankly at her for a couple of seconds, looking confused. But then he gets it and he grins and, ugh, he is the worst.
“You want me to be your date?” he asks, sounding so delighted that Buffy’s pretty sure she’s going to have to smack him.
“No!” she says, maybe just a touch too defensively. “No way. Uh-uh. Not a date. Nothing like a date. Just, uh, like as a friend-type person?”
“Mm-hmm,” he says, licking his lower lip with just the tip of his tongue in this way that looks totally obscene, and taking a step towards her, getting right in her personal space.
“Shut up, Spike,” she says, punching him on the arm, hard enough to bruise.
“Hey now,” he laughs, holding up his hands in surrender. “No need for violence, pet.” He still looks sort of smug, but it’s nothing compared to how smug Dawn is going to look tomorrow night if Buffy shows up sans boy, so. Lesser of the two evils, she guesses. “What time should I pick you up, then?”
Buffy rolls her eyes and resists the urge to bury her head in her hands. “You’re not picking me up because it’s Not. A. Date. Just meet me outside their building at eight.”
Buffy’s one-hundred-percent positive that she told Spike that they were not, under any circumstances, going on a date and that he should definitely just meet her outside Xander and Dawn’s apartment building, lest them arriving together give the night any unnecessarily date-like qualities.
So of course he’s standing outside of Buffy’s front door at seven-thirty the next night, leaning against the wall and smoking a cigarette, a bottle of red wine tucked under one arm.
“Hello there, Slayer,” Spike says when he sees her, stubbing out the cigarette on the wall. Buffy rolls her eyes at him.
“Way to follow directions, Spike,” she says, and he grins. He looks nice, she notices, almost like a normal person. He’s ditched the head-to-toe black leather look for a gray army jacket, a pair of dark skinny jeans and a light blue button down shirt, which, she can’t help notice, makes his eyes look very, very blue.
“Shall we go to dinner, then?” he asks, holding out his arm for her to take, apparently determined to make tonight as date-like as possible. Whatever. She’s totally not taking the bait, even if the sight of him standing there, looking all chivalrous and normal, makes her stomach flip a little.
She ignores his arm and nods at the wine. “Planning on getting trashed on the walk over?” she asks.
Spike glances down at the bottle, looking offended. “It’s a hostess gift, yeah?”
Buffy laughs and starts walking in the direction of Dawn’s apartment, Spike falling into step beside her. “A hostess gift? Who are you, Martha Stewart?”
“Shut up,” he says defensively, his voice doing this little high-pitched cracking thing that it does when he gets embarrassed. “It’s polite.”
Buffy finds herself smiling at him as they walk, their shoulders bumping every few steps. It’s just -- she forgot how weirdly gentlemanly he can be, sometimes. It’s way more charming than she’s willing to admit.
“You brought Spike?” Dawn says when she opens the door. Xander's standing right behind her and they both gape at her and Spike, and oh God, this was such a mistake. “Spike is your boy?”
“What’s wrong with Spike?” Buffy asks, right as Spike says, “Oi! I’m not her boy!”
“You’re kidding, right?” Xander asks, pointing at Buffy. “And, yes, Dr. Seuss,” he adds, pointing at Spike. “You are indeed her boy. Don’t even try to deny it.”
The four of them stand there for a couple of seconds, Spike glaring at Xander and Dawn, and Buffy wondering exactly how big of a disaster tonight’s going to turn out to be. Spike still hasn’t been invited inside, she realizes, which makes this whole situation about a thousand times worse.
God, what if Dawn and Xander still hate him and he’s stuck out in the hall? Does that mean she’ll have to stay in the hall, too? It’s not like she even really wants to be at this stupid party and leaving Spike out in the hall seems almost unbearably cruel. Either way, neither Xander or Dawn is saying anything and Buffy can feel Spike getting tenser and tenser as he stands next to her, so she figures she needs to do something before this whole scene devolves even further.
“We brought wine!” she says desperately, trying to distract everyone from hating each other.
“We?” Spike whispers, leaning so close that his lips brush against her ear. She doesn’t even need to look at him to know that he’s smirking. Buffy ignores him.
“It’s a hostess gift,” she tells Dawn. Spike snickers, so she jabs an elbow in his stomach.
“Oooh!” Dawn says, her eyes lighting up as she reaches for the bottle, any possible Spike-hate apparently forgotten. She is such a little lush.
“Ah-ah-ah,” Spike shakes his head and takes a step back, holding the bottle just out of reach. “No invite, no wine, Niblet.”
Dawn scoffs, but there’s no malice in it. “Fine,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Spike, you -- and your wine -- may come in.”
Spike smiles a little at that, looking genuinely touched. “Thanks, Bit.”
Dawn smiles back at him, a real smile, and takes a step toward him as he crosses the threshold. For a second, Buffy thinks she’s going to hug him, but instead she snatches the wine out of his hand, a superior smirk on her face as she flips her hair and heads towards the kitchen.
Spike sighs and Xander laughs. “Don’t take it personally, dead boy,” he says, clapping Spike on the back. “I’m pretty sure Dawn would sell our hypothetical first child down the river for a glass of Merlot.”
Buffy smiles at him gratefully and Xander winks at her with his one good eye, ushering her and Spike inside. There are a few other people there already -- all couples, Buffy notes -- and Xander starts on the introductions as Dawn appears with glasses of wine for them both. Already, the night’s going about a thousand times better than Buffy had expected.
“So,” Dawn says. She and Buffy are in the kitchen, chopping vegetables for crudités, and Buffy's just past the point where she's managed to convince herself there aren't going to be any awkward Spike-related questions. “You and Spike, huh?”
“What?” Buffy says, almost slicing off the tip of her finger as she finishes cutting up a green pepper. “Me and Spike what?”
“Buffy,” Dawn sighs. “Come on.”
“Come on, what?”
“So are you guys back together now?”
“What?” Buffy says again. The peppers are chopped so she looks for something else to attack with her knife, finally spying some cucumbers on the counter next to the fridge. Perfect. “No. No way. There is no back together.”
Dawn smirks, one eyebrow cocked in that obnoxious know-it-all kid sister way of hers.
“There isn’t,” Buffy says firmly. “We’re not back together. We’re just here together. As, like, friends…or, or colleagues…or something.”
“Riiiiiight,” Dawn says, imbuing the word with more skepticism than Buffy would have thought possible.
“Shut up,” Buffy tells her lamely. As comebacks go, it's pretty weak, but whatever. Dawn’s just being a brat and Buffy doesn’t want to waste her really good quips on her annoying kid sister, is all.
After that, though, Dawn doesn’t bug her about it any more, just focuses on circulating and being a good hostess. Which means that Buffy spends most of her night hanging with Spike and Xander, the three of them watching Dawn do her thing and talking amongst themselves.
Truth be told, she was more worried about Xander’s reaction to the whole Spike thing than anyone else’s, but he seems totally cool with it, joking with Spike about living in a town full of hippies and then asking him if he’s been keeping up with the new Battlestar Galactica.
Buffy's pretty sure that Xander is just grateful to be able to talk to someone who’s not interested in discussing the conjugation of ancient Sumerian verbs to be annoyed at Spike’s presence, but even so. It’s nice, seeing Spike be able to interact with her friends like a normal person.
Dinner goes off without a hitch and by the end of the night, Buffy’s half-drunk and she can’t seem to stop smiling. Plus, both Dawn and Xander seem super-happy, which is really nice. And as they leave, Dawn kisses Spike on the cheek and whispers something in his ear that makes him give her this half-smile, one that makes Buffy’s chest feel tight.
By some unspoken agreement, she and Spike start walking in the direction of the nearest cemetery after they leave the party, both of them quiet. They’re about a block away from Mission Delores when Spike’s cell phone buzzes and he pulls it out of his pocket, checking the display and then tapping away at the keys, texting like it’s second nature to him.
It goes on like that for a while longer, Spike texting and then his phone buzzing in response. They catch a couple of vamps -- old timers, by the looks of them -- out near the church, but Spike barely even helps her with the staking, too focused on his stupid phone to bother with fighting.
“Who are you talking to anyway?” she finally asks, brushing vamp dust off her jeans and trying hard to keep the annoyance out of her voice.
Spike looks up quickly, like he’s been caught. “’S no one,” he says, typing out one last message before slipping the phone into his jacket pocket.
He’s not looking at her and Buffy gets a sick feeling in her stomach. God, does Spike have a girlfriend? Or maybe it’s business? Do giant cockroaches know how to text? Or, hey, maybe it’s just regular friends, poker buddies or something? Although, honestly, that makes her feel just as terrible as the girlfriend thing, if not worse, because she hasn’t actually made any friends yet and she’s been in San Francisco way longer than him.
She’s pretty wrapped up in figuring out how to ask him about it without seeming like she actually cares about whatever skanky loser he’s texting, when his phone buzzes again and he pulls it out, frowning a little when he looks at the display.
“What?” Buffy asks, not even bothering to hide her irritation this time. “What is it?”
Spike glances at her sidelong, and she thinks he’s going to deflect the question, but instead he sighs and hands her the phone, letting her read it for herself.
Tonight @ garage. He'll be there. She glances at the caller ID display, but there’s no name, just a number, one she doesn’t recognize.
“Is this the rumblings?” she asks, handing him back the phone. “The ones about me?”
“Some of them,” Spike says. “Yeah.”
Buffy nods, waiting for him to say something else, maybe some hint as to what the message actually means. As far as rumblings go, these seem kind of lame.
“’M probably gonna go check it out,” Spike tells her instead of explaining anything, shrugging like it’s no big thing. “Give me something else to do for the rest of the night, if nothing else. I’ll fill you in on it tomorrow, yeah? Let you know what went down.”
He starts to turn away, and Buffy tamps down another surge of annoyance. He's always walking away from her lately and she definitely doesn't like it.
“Wait,” she says, sounding way more desperate than she’d like, but Spike does stop, so. At least her desperation is effective. “This guy’s after me, right?” she asks. Spike nods. “Well, then I think I should go, too.”
“I’m not sure what exactly we’re in for tonight, you know,” Spike says, and Buffy can’t help but bristle at the note of warning in his voice. “Might be better off going home and getting a bit of shut-eye.”
“Are you saying this might be dangerous?” Buffy says, holding a hand over her heart and looking up at him, wide-eyed. “Golly gee, mister, I hope you can protect me!”
“Relax, Slayer,” Spike sighs, rustling around in his jacket for his cigarettes and finally coming up with the crumpled pack of Marlboros. “I didn’t mean to offend your girl power sensibilities. Just meant it might be boring out there tonight, is all.”
“Yeah, well,” she says, giving him a gentle shove so that he starts leading her in the direction of wherever it is that they’re going. She’s still sort of drunk from dinner, so she loops her arm through his without even really thinking about it. “I’m counting on you to keep me entertained.”
They end up in the Tenderloin, which totally figures. God forbid she ever have a rich, sophisticated stalker. Why don’t the bad guys ever live in the nice parts of town? There’s got to be some evil over near Pacific Heights or the Presidio or something, right?
The two of them end up settling in on a bus shelter bench that's across the street from a dark, empty-looking parking garage. The first hour passes in a mostly companionable silence, both of them watching the garage while Spike smokes what Buffy can only assume is three entire packs of cigarettes. She thinks about telling him to knock off the vampire-chimney routine, but the truth is that she kind of likes it, the acrid smell of smoke and tobacco strangely comforting.
“I’m bored,” she finally announces, leaning back on her elbows and sighing. “Can we go beat someone up?”
“Patience, Slayer,” Spike says, his voice taking on that long-suffering quality she remembers from back when he used to hate her. “This is just a recon mission, right? No need to blow our cover.”
“Easy for you to say,” Buffy grumbles. She scuffs the toe of her boot along the pavement and yawns. Man, when did Spike get so boring and responsible?
They watch the garage for another half an hour, neither one of them saying anything. It’s kind of nice actually, peaceful and quiet, most of the dealers and pimps apparently taking the night off, but Buffy’s still bored out of her skull. The only thing keeping her from complaining again is the worry that it would mean she has an even shorter attention span than Spike, which is completely unacceptable.
Twenty minutes later, she’s dozing off, her eyelids drooping and her head feeling heavy. She probably should have taken it easier on the wine at dinner, but, then again, she didn’t realize she’d be spending the night sitting in the dark and staring at an empty parking garage. She’s beginning to think this is just a huge waste of time.
“You ain’t fading on me, are you?” Spike asks, tapping the back of his hand lightly against her leg.
“No,” Buffy says, but then ruins it with a jaw-cracking yawn. The garage is still dark and empty, so she sighs and leans against Spike, resting her head against his shoulder. The heavy cotton of his jacket is stiff and rough, not at all like the softness of his duster, but it's as good of a pillow as she's going to get right now. After just a couple of seconds, she lets her eyes close and she drifts off, figuring that he'll wake her up if anything interesting happens.
Sometime later, she feels Spike shift beside her, one hand coming to rest on her leg, right above her knee. Buffy takes a breath, and he slides his hand up and up and up, and her eyes are still closed and she feels like she can’t move, like she can’t breathe right, like she hopes he never stops. She leans into him, pressing her body up against his hand as he moves it, stroking her back and forth until she's shuddering and breathless. Her breath catches in her throat as she gasps his name.
She wakes up with a jolt, hot and shaky and confused. Next to her, Spike is sitting incredibly still, looking straight ahead, jaw clenched so hard the lines of his face look even sharper than normal. His hands are folded tightly in his lap, and oh God, oh God, did she just have a sex dream about Spike while cuddling against him?
He’s still not looking at her. Out of the corner of her eye she can still see the muscles in his jaw twitching, so she’s guessing the answer is yes. Awesome. She’s pretty sure she’s going to die now.
She sits up and scrubs a hand across her face and tries to think of something to say. Spike is rigid next to her, sitting ramrod straight, his whole body tense.
After what feels like forever, he clears his throat and glances at her sidelong. “No movement,” he says, voice low.
“Oh,” she says. Her voice is rough from sleep and she can’t stop thinking about how dream!Spike’s hand felt, sliding up her thigh. “Okay.”
Neither one of them say anything for a little while. Buffy’s incredibly conscious of how fast her heart is beating and of the hot, languid feeling deep in her belly.
“So,” Spike says after a couple of minutes, finally relaxing next to her, all casual and loose-limbed. She doesn’t even have to look at him to know he’s smirking at her. “Sweet dreams?”
She punches him in the shoulder, hard enough that it hurts her knuckles, and he laughs. She swears to God, it’ll be a miracle if they get through the night without her staking him.
“Christ, this is dull,” Spike says, twenty minutes later. He scrubs a hand across his face and then reaches into his jacket pocket. Buffy watches him out of the corner of her eye, expecting him to grab another pack of smokes, but he pulls out a flask instead.
He takes a long swallow and then holds it out to her. “Drink?”
Buffy’s going to turn him down, but, after that dream, she’s about as tense as she’s ever been. Plus, the wine from dinner has pretty much completely worn off, so. She takes the flask and their fingers brush when she does, sending this weird little shiver all throughout her body. Whatever. His skin is cold is all.
She takes a swig and grimaces. Gross. Whiskey. It burns her throat and makes her eyes water.
"Blech," she says, passing the flask back to him. Spike smiles at her, eyes all crinkled at the corners, and it’s really not fair, how sweet he looks sometimes. He takes a drink and the two of them just sit in silence for a while, passing the flask back and forth and looking out into the darkness. After just a little while, Buffy yawns hugely, and Spike sighs, reaching into his jacket again, this time pulling out a deck of cards.
“Fancy a game of poker, pet?” Spike asks, straddling the bench to face her and starting to shuffle the cards.
“Ugh, no way," Buffy says, but she turns to face him, moving back a little so that they've got space to play. "You cheat.”
“I do not!” Spike says, looking almost hilariously offended. God forbid she accuse the vampire of being anything less than honest.
“I’ve seen you!” Buffy counters. She takes another shot of whiskey, shuddering as it makes its way down her throat. The next time she goes on a stakeout with Spike, she’s going to make him fill his flask with margaritas. “You palm cards and stack the deck and smuggle kittens out of the pot and basically just cheat all over the place.”
“Yeah, well,” he grumbles, crossing his arms over his chest and sounding legitimately offended. “That was before the soul.”
Buffy rolls her eyes and tries not to smile. “No poker. What else you got?”
“Egyptian Rat Screw?” he says.
Buffy has no idea what that is but it sounds kind of dirty. “No way,” she scoffs, hoping that it’s too dark for him to see her blush. “That sounds, just -- no way.”
Spike laughs and Buffy’s face feels like it’s on fire. “Relax, Slayer. It’s nothing sexy. Although, if you’d like to make things interesting…”
Buffy swats him on the side of the head and he grins.
“Just explain the rules, jerk.”
An hour later, they’re in the midst of the most intense card game Buffy’s ever played. Now that she’s caught on to all the rules about when to slap and when not to slap, she’s pretty into it, throwing down cards like a champ and smacking the hell out of Spike’s hand whenever any doubles pop up.
Not much at all is happening across the street, and Buffy knows they should probably just call it a night, but she’s down two games to three and there’s no way she’s going to quit while Spike’s ahead.
“So are you back home for good?” she asks, putting down the jack of clubs and trying to sound like she barely even cares. “Or are you gonna go back to doing the whole dashing space captain thing?"
“Dunno,” he shrugs, tossing a seven on her jack and pushing the stack in her direction. “Was thinking of moving back down here, actually. I do miss it sometimes, you know?”
“I know,” she says wryly, picking up the cards. “We’ve got -- what was it again? Manchester United and dog racing and Happy Meals with legs, right?”
“Something like that," Spike grins, and his eyes are very blue. "Yeah.”
"Good," she tells him. She's pretty drunk, everything feeling hazy and unreal, so it doesn't seem so bad to tell him the truth. "I've missed having you around."
She's concentrating on the cards -- the hand they're playing is getting pretty insane -- so it takes her a second to realize that Spike's staring at her, this look of wonder in his eyes.
"Is that right?" he asks, his mouth curled up in a half-smile.
"Yeah," Buffy says, smiling back at him before she can stop herself. "That's right."
After a couple of seconds, Spike shakes his head like he's trying to clear it and then looks back down at the game. He lays the queen of hearts right over her queen of spades, and then they both reach for the pile, slapping for all they’re worth.
She gets there just a split second after him, thwacking her hand down on top of his, hard enough that her whole arm vibrates.
“Ow, woman! Bloody hell!” Spike yells, snatching his hand out from under hers. He shakes his hand and gives her a wounded look. She’d feel bad about it, but she’s got some red Spike-finger shaped marks on the back of her left hand from when he slapped just a millisecond too late on a pair of sixes. Plus, he picks up the thick stack of cards without too much trouble, so.
He adds the cards to his stack and then brings his left hand up to his mouth, sucking on his fingers.
“What are you doing?” she sighs. He’s still giving her the poor, injured vampire look, which didn’t even used to work on her when she was actually cruel to him, so she’s not sure why he thinks it’s going to work now, after they just spent the whole night hanging out and playing cards and she basically just admitted that she liked having him around.
“Think you broke my finger,” he says, mumbling around his hand.
“Please, I barely touched you,” she says, rolling her eyes, but he’s still giving her that look, all sad and wounded. “Fine,” she sighs. “Let me see.” She puts down her cards and holds out her hand, gesturing for Spike to show her the damage.
He hesitates for just long enough to piss her off before he pulls his fingers from his mouth and holds his hand out to her.
His fingers are still a little wet, and Buffy tries not to notice how her stomach flips when she touches him.
His hand is cold in hers, and she can make out the finger-shaped bruises where she hit him, small red-purple marks standing out stark against the pale, pale whiteness of his skin. The nail on his middle finger's already turning purple -- so dark it’s almost black -- and Buffy feels a surge of guilt. She didn’t actually mean to hurt him.
“Geez, Spike,” she says, running her fingers gently over his knuckles. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Without really thinking about it, she leans down and kisses his hand, ghosting her lips across his finger.
When she looks up, Spike’s gone incredibly still, his eyes so dilated they look black in the half-moon light.
All around them, the street is silent, and Buffy can’t stop touching his hand. Her heart is just racing away in her chest, hard enough so that she's sure Spike can hear it.
“I’m sorry,” she says again, her voice coming out low and rough. She glances up at him and runs her thumb across the back of his hand, stroking his damaged finger like it will help, like she can do anything other than hurt him.
“’S okay,” he shrugs. He’s biting his lip and glancing up at her through his dark, dark eyelashes. He's still breathing hard in that disconcertingly human way of his.
“Spike…” she says, her breath hitching in her throat. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees movement across the street, a couple of shadowy figures emerging from the garage and heading out into the fog. Spike notices the movement right when she does, turning away from her to watch the men disappearing around the corner.
“That’s our man, Slayer,” Spike says, suddenly all business. He pockets the cards and jumps to his feet, using their clasped hands to pull her with him, possibly-broken finger apparently forgotten. “Let’s fly.”
Buffy’s head is still fuzzy from the alcohol as she follows him down the block, and she can still taste him on her lips, tobacco and whiskey and ash.
Stalking a human alongside Spike is a new experience, one that Buffy’s not too sure she likes.
It’s a bit unsettling, seeing how easily he can follow their guy. Even when they lose sight of him, falling so far behind that Buffy can’t understand how they could possibly find him, Spike assures her that he hasn’t lost the scent. It’s really a good thing that she’s gotten used to the super-smelling thing, or she’d be even more creeped out than she already is.
They trail the guy up and down the dark streets, through Nob Hill and finally over to Chinatown. It’s not an area Buffy knows all that well, so she sticks as close as possible to Spike, trusting him to take them where they need to go.
The fog's incredibly dense, making it even harder to keep track of where they are, but Spike moves forward with purpose, leading her through the maze of streets and alleys that make up the city.
It’s not until they end up in Portsmouth Square for the second time that Buffy realizes that they're going in circles, probably being led into some kind of trap. Spike seems to come to the same conclusion at pretty much the exact same time, pulling up short right on the outskirts of the park.
“Fuck,” he says, spinning around like he's trying to get his bearings. “Bloody buggering fuck.”
He glances behind them and then seems to make a decision, grabbing her hand and pulling her away from the square.
“Spike,” she whispers, trying not to panic. His hand is cold in hers. “What’re we doing?”
“This way, Slayer,” he says, low and quiet. He pulls her down an alley between a couple of Chinese restaurants, dragging her farther and farther away from the street and into the darkness.
“Spike,” she says again, but he doesn’t answer, just tightens his grip on her wrist and then spins her around, practically throwing her against the wall. It’s almost pitch-black in the alley and it smells like rotting fish and cabbage. Footsteps echo down the block, not far from them, coming fast towards the alley.
The bricks against her back are rough and hard, and they scrape her skin where her shirt’s ridden up a little, making her her wince. She’s confused and still sort of disoriented from the whiskey and the darkness and the fog, and Spike is so close to her, his body flush against hers, both of them pressed tight against the building.
He kisses her before she quite knows what’s going on, one leg pressed between her thighs as he pins her arms against the wall. His tongue is in her mouth, and she kisses him back, hard and wet and insistent.
By the time the footsteps stop, right at the mouth of the alley, Spike’s already got his hand underneath her shirt, sliding his cool, clever fingers over the hard knots of her spine, and Buffy can’t bring herself care too much about who’s watching them or why.
Spike obviously cares, though, since she feels him tense up against her. He keeps kissing her, but he’s pressing her just a little too carefully against the building, moving in this way that tells her he’s paying attention to something other than her, and she’d be pissed at him if she wasn’t so focused on the feel of his skin against her, the taste of him in her mouth.
When she opens her eyes just enough to see what's going on, Buffy sees someone -- their guy, she realizes, with the small part of her brain that’s still capable of coherent thought -- and he’s standing not five feet from them, but she doesn’t care, because Spike’s trailing kisses down her throat and he’s got one hand ghosting across her ribs and nothing else matters.
Buffy senses Spike change before she hears it, Slayer-sense tingling and her skin breaking out in goosebumps a split second before the shift of muscle and bone starts, sounding incredibly loud in the silence of the alley. She knows that she needs to stop this -- that once the game face comes out, things are about a million times more dangerous and complicated -- but instead she just squirms against Spike, moving her hips against his. He pushes harder against her, and she can just feel the prick of his fangs against her throat, hard and sharp. He doesn't break the skin, just scrapes his teeth lightly across her neck, and Buffy can't stop the way her body arches in response.
After just a couple of seconds, Spike picks his head up, yellow eyes shining as he growls at their guy, a warning so full of possession that Buffy has to bite her lip to keep from moaning.
She expects the guy to run, to scream in terror, like people used to back in Sunnydale when faced with any of the million things that went bump in the night, but he just smirks at them and strolls away. It’s a disturbing reaction, but she barely has time to think about it before Spike’s kissing her again, moving down her neck and stopping right at the jugular, licking her in time with her pulse.
The ridges of his face rub against the soft skin below her ear and Buffy’s hips surge against his. She holds him against her, one hand cupped at the back of his head, keeping him right where he is. The friction from their clothes is driving her crazy, and she reaches down presses her free hand against him, stroking him through his jeans until he moans. It’s all the encouragement she needs to keep going, rocking against him and hitching one leg up around his waist.
She’s reaching for his zipper -- tugging on it as well as she can with her hand trapped between their bodies -- when she feels his face smooth out and he moves his head up, pulling away from her. Buffy makes a quiet noise of protest in the back of her throat.
Spike moves lowers his head again, trailing his lips down her jaw before pressing a soft kiss against the corner of her mouth.
“Sorry about that, love,” he says, his lips brushing hers. He’s still holding her against the wall, his leg pressed between her thighs and his hand under her shirt, and he doesn’t sound like he’s sorry, not at all.
Her apartment’s dark when they get there, both of her roommates apparently already asleep.
“Well,” she says, once the two of them get to her door. “This is me.”
“Yeah,” Spike says, his mouth curling up in a wry half-smile. “I remember.”
“Right,” she says, laughing a little and feeling kind of dumb. It’s not like he’d have forgotten where she lives in the past few hours. “Well. Thanks for, um, you know. Coming to Dawn’s thing with me and for, uh…thanks.”
“Welcome, pet.” He hesitates for a second, raising his arm a little, and she thinks he’s going to maybe stroke her hair or do that thing where he cups her cheek, but he stops at the last second, and just awkwardly pats her on the shoulder. "I'll keep on eye on our guy, yeah? Let you know when I hear more."
"Okay," she says, trying not to think too hard about her weirdo stalker guy. She's not even sure if he knew who they were, but either way he was beyond creepy, what with the whole staring at their inappropriately-public make-out session and then the not getting freaked by vamp-faced Spike thing. "Sounds good."
He nods and turns to go, and Buffy tries to think of something, anything to say. “Spike!” she says, still not sure what she’s doing.
“Uh, how’s your hand?”
Spike blinks at her and she nods at his left hand. “’S alright,” he shrugs, holding it up for her to see. The bruises have pretty much disappeared, but the nail’s still sort of purple and there are a couple of fresh-looking scrapes where he must have cut it on the brick wall of the alley. “Give it a couple of days and it’ll be good as new.”
They stare at each other for a few beats, neither one of them saying anything. “Want some ice?” Buffy finally says, and Spike tilts his head, looking confused. “For, uh, your finger. We can ice it. And maybe put a bandage on it or something? That’ll help, right?”
“Yeah,” he says. He’s still got that confused look on his face and it kills her, how he still doesn’t ever seem to know what to do when she’s kind to him. “Suppose so.”
When they get inside, Spike follows her to the kitchen, both of them being really quiet. Buffy grabs an ice cube from the freezer and then leads Spike back to her bedroom, telling herself she's just doing this because she hurt him earlier. She’s going to get him bandaged up and on his way before sunrise.
Once they’re in her bedroom, Buffy shuts the door and turns on the little lamp by her bed, rustling around in the bedside table for the box of band-aids she knows is in there.
Spike stands right inside the doorway, the ice pressed against his bruised finger, and he looks like he might spook at any second, like if she says the wrong thing he'll just run out the door and disappear into the night.
She finally finds the bandages and then slides over on the bed to make room for him. “Come here,” she tells him, and he makes his way carefully towards her.
His hand is freezing from the ice and Buffy gasps when she touches it, ghosting her fingers over the bruise.
Spike’s gone stock-still and his skin is so white next to hers, it almost looks unreal. The soft light from the lamp makes his skin glow like white gold, and Buffy’s back still stings a little from earlier, from where the bricks scraped against her skin. And then, before she can stop herself, Buffy kisses him, clutching his cold, cold hand as she slides her tongue into his mouth.
Spike leans into her as he kisses her back, sliding his hand out of hers and moving his hands to her hips. She starts to unbutton his shirt, pushing the light blue fabric over his shoulders, trying to be gentle. His chest is smooth and cool under her hands and, God, Buffy has missed this so much. She trails her fingers down his chest, watching his muscles jump as she drags her nails across the soft, downy line of hair on his stomach that disappears into his jeans.
Spike’s touching her with a hesitancy that’s both sweet and frustrating, and she wishes that things weren't always so complicated and confusing between the two of them.
She wants to tell him it's okay, but instead she just takes his hand and slides it up under her shirt, prodding him so that he knows what she wants. The sweet, gentle thing lasts as long as it takes for him to push her shirt over her head, and then he's stripping her clothes off like he used to back then, when she'd only allow him a few stolen, rushed moments in the dark. She pushes his jeans off his hips with the same kind of urgency, not really thinking too much about how rushing through this might seem to him.
Once they're both mostly-naked, Buffy pushes him gently down onto the bed, straddling him and reaching down to take hold of his cock, teasing her fingers up his length, hard and thick and perfect. He twitches in her hand, and she brushes her thumb across the slit at the top, smiling when he makes a soft, helpless noise, deep in his throat. It sounds incredibly loud in the early morning silence of the apartment.
When she slides onto him, she’s so wet that it feels like they’ve been doing this forever, like they never actually stopped, all those years ago.
She starts to move on top of him, trying not to rush, to make it last, but he's hitting her in that one perfect spot, and she braces her hands on his chest and closes her eyes, concentrating on how he feels inside of her, the coolness of him sliding against her where she’s so, so hot.
Spike slides his hands up to her breasts, rolling her nipples between his fingers, touching and stroking and teasing until her body’s practically vibrating, and she feels like she’s going to explode.
It feels -- God, it feels amazing -- but when she looks down at Spike, his head’s turned to the side and he’s not looking at her, and it’s like he’s not really here with her. She feels a surge of panic, because she knows this is going wrong somehow -- even if she's not sure why -- so she leans down until her nose brushes the sharp line of cheek, getting as close to him as she can.
“Spike,” she says, low and quiet. He still doesn't look at her, but she doesn't stop, keeps whispering his name in his ear -- Spike, Spike, Spike, over and over and over -- until he turns his head towards her and opens his eyes. And, oh God, the way he’s looking at her -- like this is a dream, like he can’t believe it, like there’s nothing else in the world besides her -- it makes her chest ache, this feeling like her heart's not beating right.
She kisses him, slow and deep and sweet, because she gets it, she does. That he’s worried this is just like before, like she’s using him and he could be anyone. But that’s not how it is, and Buffy needs for him to know that. That it’s got to be him, always him. So she kisses him as sweetly as she can, trying to say with her body what she’s never managed to say with words, at least not in a way that he believes.
She keeps her eyes open, looking at him the whole time. The rhythm is slower and more languid now, but it's still just what she needs, so much like what she remembers from all those dark nights when he was the only thing that made her feel alive, but different somehow, too -- sweeter and less desperate.
Spike’s still watching at her, that look of amazement still in his eyes as he slides his hand down between them to press against her clit, stroking back and forth. His hand is warm from touching her and he’s so hard and thick inside of her, and it’s almost sensory overload.
“Oh God,” she says. He feels enormous inside of her, and whatever he's doing with his fingers is driving her insane. "Fuck, Spike, just--" she gasps, grinding her hips against his.
When she says his name again, he reaches up to run his free hand through her hair, tugging on it as he smiles at her, his tongue curled behind his teeth, and then suddenly she’s coming -- shuddering and shaking around him -- as she watches him watch her. His eyes are very blue.
Once the shuddering stops, she collapses against him, closing her eyes and pressing her forehead against his cool, dry shoulder. She can taste the salt of her sweat on his skin and, underneath that, the essential Spike-taste of him, dark and spicy and just a little bit sweet.
As soon as she catches her breath enough to be able to move, she lifts her head and starts pressing kissing against his jaw, trailing her tongue across his skin and biting at the ropy tendons of his neck in this way that she knows drives him crazy. He bucks against her and she uses her tongue and teeth against him until he comes, his head thrown back and his body shaking and shuddering beneath her, saying her name over and over and over again, repeating it like it’s a prayer, like it’s an incantation, like being with her is something pure and holy and good.
She stays on top of him as he comes down, lifting her head up to kiss him again, just a chaste press of her lips against his.
“Hey,” he says breathlessly, smiling against her mouth.
“Hi,” she says, smiling right back.
He’s still breathing fast, his chest moving under her, and she shifts over, curling up next to him, her head against his chest. It’s still pretty dark outside, but there’s a little bit of gray pre-dawn light coming in through the curtains.
When Spike shifts beside her, leaning off the bed, Buffy’s already half-asleep so she doesn’t even realize what's happening until he’s gently pushing her off of him and swinging his legs off the bed.
“What’re you doing?” she demands, more sharply than she means to. It’s just -- where the hell is he going?
“’S almost dawn,” he shrugs, nodding at the window as he rustles around on the floor for his clothes.
“So?” Buffy says, reaching out and grabbing his hand, pulling him back to her.
“So, I better get going unless I want to turn into a big pile of dust on my way home,” he says, eyebrows knitted together like he’s got no clue what’s happening. Like he couldn’t possibly imagine her wanting him to stay with her.
She laces her fingers through his and holds on tight, squeezing his hand and trying to tell him how she feels without actually having to say it. She’s never been very good at saying it, especially not to him. But he’s still looking at her, unsure and confused in this way that makes her chest ache, and she knows she's got to say something. “Stay,” she says, holding on to his hand like that can convince him.
“Buffy, you don’t have to -- ” he starts, but she cuts him off.
“Stay,” she says again, clutching his hand and wishing she was better at this. His body is still tense and she knows it would be so easy to screw this up, for the two of them to fall back into all of those horrible old patterns that used to define them. “Please, Spike, I just -- I want you to stay.”
For a few terrible moments, he doesn’t say anything. But then: “All right, Buffy,” he says, letting his jeans fall back to the floor and laying back down beside her. His body is cool and familiar against hers and she feels more at home than she has in years, than she has since Sunnydale, when she had a home and a place and a life, and she was needed. When she was loved.
There’s so much she wants to say to him, about how she hates him for leaving her and how she loves him for coming back and, just. How she loves him. But she did that once, and then he went away, and she's not sure she'll be able to handle it if that happens again. So she doesn't tell him, just presses her cheek against his chest and snakes her arm around him waist, holding him close.
“Okay, Spike,” she says instead, trying to make it sound like all the things she’s not brave enough to say, trying to make it sound like I love you and I missed you and please trust me with this. “Okay.”