Finding a book about tarot and the meaning of the cards wasn’t very difficult; all Buffy had to do was ask Willow, who had one in her stash. It had been a few days since the spell, a few quiet days as many demons had been slaughtered with the Initiative debacle. Buffy didn’t mind the reprieve at all.
The cards Willow had used for the joining spell were still on the desk, and upon seeing them once more, Buffy suddenly had decided to look them up. It would give her a break from studying for her final exams.
The first card she looked up was Spike’s.
They had had a small argument the previous night. Small and insignificant. Or so she hoped. It was their first argument as a couple, and knowing them and their tempers, it probably wouldn’t be the last. It had scared her, to argue with him like this, but what else could she have done when he refused to listen to her point of view? He was stubborn, she had known that before, but it hadn’t mattered much until now.
The worse was that he seemed to think she didn’t want him to get rid of the chip because it would mean he could hurt humans again. That wasn’t it and if he had only listened he would have understood. She wasn’t afraid for Sunnydale’s population. She was afraid for him. She had heard Riley explain how a few experiments had turned out very wrong and the Initiative had to dust the brain-damaged vampires before finally being successful with Spike. Couldn’t he see how dangerous this was?
Hands on her hips, she stopped dead in her tracks, and soon enough, Spike had stopped too and turned to her.
“I didn’t growl at you. I just growled.”
And he did it again for emphasis.
She snorted. “And the difference would be what exactly? We disagree on something and you get all caveman on me.”
Irritation filled his eyes, his face, his whole posture.
“I’m a vampire,” he said very low, coming closer to her. “Seeing how you’re the vampire Slayer and all, you might be aware that vampires growl. Or did your Watcher forget that part of your training too?”
It would have been easy to defuse the whole thing. Point out that vampires purred too, state that she much preferred that sound coming from him, ask him if he would let her make him purr. It would have been too easy.
“Do you really have to be so annoying?”
“I’m annoying? Me?” A hand to his heart completed the indignant act. “You’re the one who just won’t listen to what I’m saying!”
Throwing his hands in the air, he walked away from her and started pacing. Immediately, the cigarettes were out and Buffy was scrunching her nose in distaste. She wasn’t getting used to his bad habit.
“I’ve listened,” she countered as calmly as she could. “I’ve heard you say you want the chip out. That you’re willing to do just about anything to get it out. Regardless of the risks…”
“You said you trusted me!” he interrupted her abruptly. “Why should it bother you…”
“I trust you. I just don’t want you brain dead. Have you heard a word of what I said?”
“And I told you it won’t happen.”
“You don’t know that. You can’t know that. Anything could happen.”
With a shake of his head, Spike sighed.
“Anything could happen now. Any human wanker who doesn’t like losing to me at the pool table could break my back and I wouldn’t be able to raise a finger.”
“Surgery is more dangerous than…”
But Spike wasn’t listening. He was striding away, without even a goodbye. Buffy watched him go, dumbstruck that he would leave like this. After a few seconds, he paused, looked back toward her.
“’ll see you tomorrow night.”
There was the barest hint of a question in his tone, and she nodded in answer. This time, when he left, he didn’t look back.
Her thoughts now a little calmer, Buffy tried again to read the entry about Spike’s card. They had thought of having him represented by the Lovers card at first, but in the end he had suggested a different one. Strength.
Mental and physical strength and health. The ability to cultivate latent potential to a higher, more developed state. A well-balanced body and mind.
She smiled despite herself at the words. The entry described Spike so well, it was almost scary. The picture on the card was oddly appropriate, too. A woman taming a lion. Although she wasn’t blind enough to believe she had tamed his demon. He had done that alone, she was well aware of it, and could only be proud that he had done it, at least she thought he had, in part for her.
Closing the book abruptly, she gave up the pretense and stood. She wasn’t going to be able to do anything productive until she talked to him and made sure they were fine.
His senses focused on her, sounds and scent, and he pictured her in his mind as she moved around the room. She tiptoed to the foot of the bed and stood there for a few instants before coming up to the side, taking off her shoes and climbing in the bed behind him. Carefully, she moved closer to him and pressed up against his back as her arm draped over his waist. He could feel her breath stirring the short hairs at the back of his neck, could hear her strong and regular heartbeat. Without even being aware of it, he let her presence lull him back to sleep and started purring softly.
When he woke again, she was still there, still behind him, her arm still holding him close. Her other hand was in his hair, fingers softly touching as if she were afraid of awakening him. It took him a moment to realize what she was doing.
“Any luck finding it?” he asked in a quiet murmur.
She froze for an instant, undoubtedly surprised that he was awake, then resumed her search.
“No. I don’t feel anything. I can’t even see a scar.”
He didn’t tell her how often he had prodded his own skull in search of the damn chip. She could certainly imagine; he didn’t need to say it.
Unsure why she was there and whether her presence meant she had changed her mind, he kept quiet, waiting for her to take the first step. She finally did after interminable minutes of silence.
“I understand why it’s so important to you,” she murmured, her fingers still raking his hair but in a caressing gesture now.
“I’m not sure you do,” he couldn’t help but reply, his tone slightly bitter.
She sighed, so softly that he didn’t hear it, only felt the air on his skin.
“Remember last year when Giles took my powers away? You weren’t in town at the time but I told you about it, didn’t I?”
He remembered. He had been in Los Angeles, at the time, freshly unsouled, still unable to kill.
“I felt so lost,” she continued. “It was as if I had lost everything that made me who I was. Is that anything like what you’re feeling?”
“A little,” he reluctantly acquiesced.
She held him almost imperceptibly tighter.
“But I was more than simple physical strength. And I survived. And you are more than that too.”
Her arm withdrew from his waist and he was about to protest when it returned; there was a tarot card in her hand.
“You can still fight demons. You still have your brain. You’re still you, Spike. Still strong, inside and out. The chip doesn’t change that.”
She paused, and then added, so quietly that he wasn’t sure he heard her right: “I don’t want to lose you.”
He turned in her loose embrace and faced her. “Not going to lose me, luv.”
“Brain surgery is risky. Even for a vampire.”
And it finally struck him. She really was worried; it wasn’t simply an excuse against getting rid of the damn chip.
“What if it was without risks?” he asked. “Would you mind then?”
“No. But there are risks.”
Running a finger along her jaw, he tried to find a middle ground.
“How about that, then, Slayer. I’ll keep looking for a way to get it out. And when… if I find someone to do it, you’ll make the final decision. Ask them what the risks are and decide if it’s worth it.”
Her eyes widened in surprise. “You would… do that? Leave the decision to me?”
“If you promise your decision will only be about the danger to my brain and nothing else.”
The smile that brightened her face was answer enough to him.
“I promise,” she murmured, and sealed the pledge with a kiss.
There was the silkiness of his skin, as smooth and as pale as paper, and no poem could have found a better canvas than that of his body.
There was the beauty of the lines his fingers traced on her skin, and she tried her best to copy them, letter by letter, word by word, as ornate and touching as they were when he gave them to her.
There was the music of his words, whispers, gasps, groans, all of them with a special meaning meant only for her ears. Her own words seemed so inadequate in comparison, none of them more effective than a simple but so precious ‘I love you’.
There was the meter of his hips, thrusting against her so regularly until she was lost in his rhythm like he was lost in her.
There were the feelings he animated in her, the colors that bloomed behind her eyelids, the sound of their mixed pleasure, the scent of them together, the taste of his kiss, the feel of him, each of them an ode to love, each of them valued beyond any measure.
Every time Spike touched her, Buffy wanted to call him a poet.
You know, I’ve read a lot in a century and half. There’s only so much sleep even a vampire can bear, and I’ve never been one to need a lot of rest anyway. Had to fill all these empty hours with something. A lot of what I’ve read was poems. Old habit from my human days, I suppose. So you can trust me when I tell you that was the lamest attempt at poetry I’ve seen in a good century. And believe me, I know all about god-awful poetry.
Why can’t you just say that we had one of our best fucks after our first argument? That’s what they want to hear anyway, don’t you know it? They don’t give a damn about why we argued or how we made peace, they want to know about the good part. With graphic details in all their glory. Want me to take measurements for you so you’ll be precise?
No? You’re sure? I don’t mind.
Whatever. You prude.
So anyway. First real argument, first compromise, first making up sex. The first of… many. Seeing how it’s the Slayer and me we’re talking about, it couldn’t really go any other way, could it? Couldn’t be all flowers and smiles, there had to be thorns and a few tears, too. Too many of these, I sometimes think, but it’s too late to change anything, isn’t it? That’s how it went, the happy and the sad, the sexy and the angry, for good and for worse.
But we’ll get to that, won’t we?