Twelve hours later, Buffy found herself admiring the Chicago skyline in the twilit evening as they walked along the shore. Spike had vetoed any destinations that required back tracking, and they'd agreed on an itinerary that included the Windy City, an amusement park in Ohio, Niagara Falls, and NYC. Buffy wasn't sure why she was playing along, but she was. Her life had taken a turn to the surreal that she didn't dare examine too closely.
Especially considering that she was honoring her word she'd given to an evil, soulless demon, and not trying to escape or kill him, despite having ample opportunity.
She supposed it had something to do with still being grateful to him for rescuing her from a fate worse than the one he'd planned for her. And the fact that he was making it hard for her to remember that he was a notoriously vicious vampire.
Somehow, in the space of a week, Spike had transformed from a raping serial killer to her own personal tour guide of America's greatest wonders, and a solicitous and entertaining one at that. It boggled the mind, and her poor mind was already over-boggled, so she had decided to simply quit thinking about it and accept it.
Not only that, but without meaning to he was giving her a chance to be the normal girl she hadn't been in years. Deprived of her powers, away from the Hellmouth and all that reminded her of her sacred duties, there wasn't anything to do but be normal. As far as she could, considering she was the quasi-prisoner of a vampire whose stated intention was to drain her dry. So long as she ignored that fact, it was an average, all-American road trip.
"It looks so different from LA," she remarked, feeling foolishly young as soon as the words left her mouth.
Spike didn't make fun of her. He was too busy trying to wrangle his wind-whipped hair back under control without any luck. Even his copious amounts of hair gel were no match for the Chicago wind.
Buffy giggled. "Leave it," she told him, reaching up and mussing it further. "I like the curls".
"I don't," Spike said sourly. "Makes me look a nancy poodle".
"What does that mean, 'nancy'? I swear you don't speak English. Half the time I have no idea what you're talking about".
"Not my fault you're an ignorant little girl," he groused.
She stuck her tongue out at him and took his hand, giggling again. "Come on Mr. Bad Moody!" she tugged him along, "Take me out to dinner. Fatten me up for the slaughter".
Yes, Spike's craziness had obviously infected her too, and now she was glibly joking about her own death, but only because she'd come to believe he no longer meant it. She suspected that if she asked him again to let her go, he would. She found she didn't want to though. She wanted her vacation first.
She told herself it was only because he owed her for the suffering he'd put her through, and not because she was enjoying his company. And besides, even if Spike didn't kill her, something else was sure to do so soon enough. She deserved a vacation before she died.
When they went to bed that night, Spike flopped onto the sole bed, clad only in his jeans, and held his arms open. "Let me hold you tonight," he invited.
Buffy shifted uneasily from foot to foot while he waited, completely ignoring the little voice that was noticing what a delicious picture he presented. She'd been flabbergasted when she'd awoken in his arms in the pale dawn light that morning, feeling completely rested and safer than she ever had. A glance at the clock had told her that she'd slept for over twelve hours. It had been one thing then, terrified and as exhausted as she'd been the afternoon before, to let him hold her.
But this was another step, another change in their relationship that defied reason.
This isn't who I am, she thought as she crawled up the bed and snuggled into him. I've been replaced by a pod person. How on earth am I ever going to explain this when I get home?
She wouldn't be able to.
Spike was pulling out all the stops, she reflected the next day. He'd ordered room service and fed her breakfast in bed. He'd taken her to the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, and the Adler Planetarium, which he'd seemed to be as fascinated by as she was. And now they were strolling along Navy Pier. Spike pointed to the giant Ferris wheel. "S'a replica of the first one, you know. The one that Ferris made for the World's Fair in 1893".
"Did you see it?" Buffy asked curiously.
"Nah. Was still in Europe. Course I wanted to. The World's Fair Exhibitions were a big deal back then". He gazed wistfully at the slowly rotating wheel.
"Did come to the Chicago Fair in '33 though. That was a lark. There was this Sky Ride thing. And the Dream Cars exhibit". He laughed, lost in memory. "Guess there wasn't much left after I got through with it. What?" he said at her look. "It wasn't my fault! There were these little Chinese fellas after me... Always was disappointed there wasn't a Ferris wheel, though".
Buffy took his hand. "Well, come on, let's ride that bad boy!" Spike gave her a surprised grin, and they took their place in line. "Have you ever ridden a Ferris wheel?" she asked while they waited.
"Oddly enough, I haven't".
"Oooh, you're a virgin. Hope you don't get scared when we're up top and need me to hold you!" she teased.
"Not bloody likely," he retorted.
After they were ensconced in their car and began the stop-and-go ascent, Buffy's grip on the side tightened. Spike noticed and raised an eyebrow. "Fine, you caught me. I'm scared of Ferris wheels. I don't like sitting at the top, all high-up and exposed. Wigs me out".
Her companion gave a satisfied smirk. "Hope you don't think I'm going to hold you, Slayer. Wouldn't want you to take advantage of me like that, since I'm the quivering virgin here".
"Pig," she replied, but she scooted closer to him, and he wrapped his arm loosely around her.
"Why'd you want to come on this thing if you're so scared of it?"
"Pfft. Not scared. I'm the Slayer, I'm not scared of anything," she said with false bravado, but then emitted a tiny 'eep' as the wheel jerked into motion and laughed shakily. "I could tell you wanted to ride it," she admitted.
"You did it for me?" Spike asked, perplexed.
"Well, yeah. That's what friends do," she replied as if it were obvious. His arm tightened around her.
As they paused at the top, she covered her eyes and repeated, "Please don't let there be any gusts of wind, please don't let there be any gusts of wind" over and over like a prayer.
Spike's hands gently tugged hers away. "Summers, look!" The awe in his voice made her curious, and she opened her eyes, taking in the stunning view. She could see for miles.
"Ooh," she breathed. "It's amazing".
When the wheel started its revolutions without pause, Buffy kept her eyes open, but along with the view she watched Spike's face. His bright blue eyes were wide with boyish wonder, and seeing his face glow with enchantment under the afternoon sun made something in her chest catch. He was beautiful and innocent-looking. She could see the boy he must have once been and it was entrancing.
The next time the wheel came to a rocking stop at the top, he broke out into a delighted smile. Buffy took his chin in her hand and kissed him softly, her lips just brushing his.
Spike leaned away from her, looking at her in startled amazement. She blushed and turned away, fingers picking anxiously at a thread on her sweater.
"Is this what friends do too?" she heard him ask lowly.
Her blush intensified. "You looked… sweet…"
He made a choking sound. "Sweet?" he spluttered.
"Oi! No need to insult me!"
She finally looked up at him, and his outrage made her giggle. "Pure".
"Now I know you're having me on. 'M not pure, woman," he growled, but a small smile played about his lips nevertheless.
When they got off the ride, he was still smiling.
A short time later, Spike came to a stop in front of a building that proclaimed itself the Shakespeare Theater, reading the marquee to himself. Buffy glanced at it too, and seeing "Much Ado About Nothing", quickly lost interest.
"Fancy a night at the theater, pet?"
"What, a Shakespeare play? Are you serious?"
"I don't get Shakespeare. The people all talk funny and I can never understand what they're saying".
He gave her a disgusted look. "Illiterate chit. You should try watching a professional play. Much easier to follow than trying to read it in a book at school".
"Don't tell me you like Shakespeare," she scoffed.
He was affronted. "I damn well do. The bard was a genius". He glanced at the ticket booth. "If they have good seats, we're going. Consider it my gift to the world to improve the sludge between your ears that you call a mind".
He strode forward in a swirl of black leather, and Buffy hurried after him. "We can't go to the theater!"
"Why the hell not?"
"I have nothing to wear!" With a pointed look at his clothing, she added, "You have nothing to wear!"
He squinted at the sky. "We should have just enough time to get some proper togs. Come on, it'll be fun, getting dressed up fancy-like".
"What, so I can be bored and uncomfortable all night? I thought this was my vacation," she pouted, not letting on that the idea of seeing Spike in evening wear intrigued her enough that she would go to his stupid play just for that.
He ignored her protests, talking animatedly to the lady at the ticket counter. He turned back to her with two tickets in hand. "We're in luck! Great seats!"
"Yay," she answered unenthusiastically.
Spike took both her hands in his and looked down at her, his face intent and hopeful, his eyes wide, his innocent expression a sharp contrast to his punk appearance. "Please?" he asked sweetly. "For your friend?"
She laughed despite herself. "You're evil".
He leered at her, bit his lip naughtily. "Yeah, but you love it baby". Ugh, it wasn't fair that he could be so sexy.
Buffy only rolled her eyes and pulled her hands out of his. "Shopping time's a-wasting. Let's go".
Buffy needed a drink of water. She'd been swallowing repeatedly for what seemed like hours now, little gulps of surprise and breathless admiration and suppressed desire and even a slight case of feelings of inadequacy.
The man in the seat next to her was not Spike. From the moment he'd walked out of the dressing room wearing a black tuxedo and shiny dress shoes, Spike had been nowhere to be found. Instead, this gentleman, this obviously well-bred man, had escorted her to the theater.
She suspected they'd all been fooled by his rough accent and rougher ways, and that William wasn't the thug he passed himself off as before he was turned. You couldn't fake breeding like this. He made that Wesley guy look like a redneck yokel. No wonder he'd laughed so hard when she'd called him a degenerate.
Now she sat there, trying to follow the play and completely failing, distracted as she was by Spike. No, not Spike, William. Every few moments he'd lean over her and whisper explanations into her ear, and each time she'd flinch at the unaccustomed cultured voice she heard. It sounded like Giles was in her ear, but that would be worse, because then the little bursts of electricity she felt whenever his shoulder brushed her bare one would be wrong.
Not that having these feelings about Spike wasn't wrong either.
Seeing him in anything but his customary attire was shocking enough, but the change in looks reminded her just how insanely gorgeous he was, something that she tried to ignore when he was plain old Spike. She couldn't ignore it now, or the desire that was snaking through her. Images of him pressed between her thighs, lips glistening, fluttered through her mind, leaving her anxious. Those memories were not of the good and they left her trembling in confusion.
When the curtains fell for intermission, Spike (William) stood, and with a slight bow, offered her his arm. "Would you accompany me to the mezzanine for refreshments, Miss Summers?" Not trusting her voice, she placed her hand in the crook of his arm and allowed him to lead her out. Once there he purchased two glasses of champagne, and she sipped hers slowly despite the urge to gulp it down. She felt inferior to a vampire, for crying out loud, and she didn't like it at all.
The sense of inadequacy was made worse when Spike engaged in a conversation about the play with several of the patrons, as if he did this every night. Buffy stood there uncomfortably and tried desperately to give the impression of being more than arm candy, but there was no way she could participate without sounding like a fool. She still didn't even know what the play was about.
At least, she thought morosely, she looked like very nice arm candy. Spike had bought her a long, slim green evening dress that left her shoulders and back bare, and a pair of shoes to die for. After, he had helped her with her hair too, which no longer struck her as odd.
Conversation over, her date led her away from the throng, and for a moment he was just Spike again. "Are you having a good time, pet? We can leave if you're not".
She gave him a grateful smile. "No. I'm just better at hitting the ugly things that go bump in the night than mingling with high class society in evening wear. Not exactly my scene. But I want to stay. Will you explain what's happening to me again?"
The lights flicked, and he led back into the theater, re-telling her the tale of the sickly sweet love-struck pair, Claudio and Hero, and the far more sarcastic Beatrice and Benedick, who were secretly in love with each other despite the witty barbs they constantly traded.
Buffy enjoyed the second half more as she found herself caught up in the flow of the dialogue. On the taxi ride back to the hotel, she told him, "I'd rather be like Beatrice and Benedick than the other two. They were a lot more fun".
"Mmm. Beatrice could give your sharp little tongue a run for its money. She's a clever one. My kind of girl," he replied obliquely.
"Starry-eyed romance is overrated," she agreed. "If a guy can't handle a steady stream of insults then he's just not worth keeping around".