And speaking of desks, in the middle of hers was a lovely crystal-cut vase filled with red, white and pink carnations. She inhaled their heady aroma, and poked around, looking for a card – something to indicate who had sent them.
“Cara, would you come in here, please?” Buffy called out to her assistant. Cara Hotchkiss was a sweet girl and very good at keeping track of Buffy’s visitors. If anyone would know who brought the flowers, it would be her.
“Oh,” she said, looking at the arrangement. “They’re gorgeous! Who sent them? A new beau, perhaps?”
Buffy managed to keep the look of disappointment from her face. “No, no beau. I’m strictly a beau-free Buffy right now. I guess whoever it was managed to sneak by you.”
“I’ve been at my desk all morning, unless you count my trip to the loo.” Cara’s smile faltered. She’d always prided herself on running a tight office.
“No worries, Cara. After all, you’re only human and potty breaks are part and parcel of our human condition, right?”
Cara nodded her head. “I’ll keep an ear out in case someone knows who sent the flowers.”
“Thanks,” Buffy said as Cara left the office. “Might as well just enjoy the pretty and hope that someone’ll fess up.”
She went about her duties for the rest of the day without giving her benefactor much of a second though. Slayer schedules took her through the morning; sparring classes took up much of the afternoon. By the time she headed back to her apartment, the flowers were long forgotten.
The next morning, however, the carnations had been moved to a nearby table and in their place was another bouquet – this one had lilies of the valley - large green leaves and dozens of little white bell-like blooms. Just like the previous day’s gift, this one was also bereft of a card.
Buffy sighed. Maybe her contentment was more in her mind than in her demeanor. She quickly punched her sister’s number into the phone. “Hey, Dawn. Have you been sending me flowers?”
“Shyeah, right, Buffy,” Dawn snorted inelegantly after Buffy described the two deliveries. “Maybe you have a secret admirer?”
“Anything’s possible, I suppose,” Buffy admitted, slightly intrigued by the idea. “Unless it’s an evil admirer, trying to lure me in with false flowers.”
“Leave it to you to see the bad in everything. They’re not hurting anyone – just enjoy the pretty.”
Taking her sister’s advice, Buffy moved the second vase to the table with the first and went back to her daily duties.
The third day found yet another new vase on her desk, this one full of large bright yellow sunflowers. She thought they looked like little lion heads. Still no card. Buffy felt a touch of annoyance that someone was playing games with her at this stage of her life. At twenty-seven, this romance-from-afar (if that’s what it was) stuff was more annoying than giddy-making.
The following morning didn’t disappoint. Right in the middle of her desk stood the latest offering – a bowl with purple and blue hydrangea blossoms. Surely, enough was enough.
Within seconds of sitting down, Buffy had Giles on the phone. “There has got to be a break in security, Giles. I’ve asked everyone and can’t come up with a reasonable answer.”
“Why on earth are you so perturbed, Buffy?” the head of the New Council asked.
“Everybody’s whispering about it, I’m surprised you haven’t heard. I’m being bombarded with flowers. Every day for the past four days I’ve gotten new vases full of flowers on my desk, of all places, and nobody seems to know how they got there. There’s no note, no address, no bill with the florist’s name… nada!”
“Are they emitting an evil gas?”
“You’re mocking me! Giles… how can you make with the mockage?” Buffy could feel her blood pressure rise with each passing moment. “Someone is making it into our compound as far as my office, and not setting off any alarms. This isn’t good!”
Silence reigned, long enough for Buffy to wonder if Giles had actually had the temerity to hang up on her and then, “There, there, Buffy. I’m sure it’s nothing more than some harmless bit of admiration. I wouldn’t worry for the moment, and simply enjoy the flowers.”
Buffy mumbled her goodbyes and sat down at her desk, looking over at the four vases on her table. They were beautiful, she had to admit and the mixed aroma of the flowers was pleasant. She was so lost in trying to figure out where and who they came from that she didn’t hear someone enter her office.
“Wow!” Andrew gushed as he, too, stared at the table of flowers. “Look at them… they’re actually telling a story.”
“What are you talking about, Andrew?” Buffy wasn’t in the mood to listen to another flight of fancy from the man. True, he’d become far more helpful than she’d ever have thought back in…
“Just look at them,” he insisted. “Are you celebrating something special?”
“An anniversary of some sort?” he continued, blissfully unaware of her impatience.
“I’m not married, Andrew, so no, no anniversary, and the only thing I tend to remember these days is when Sunnydale went boom and… and…”
“Say no more, dear Slayer. I understand. But…” Andrew paused dramatically, sweeping his hand over the arrangements. “Carnations, Lilies of the Valley, Sunflowers, Hydrangeas… those are the first four anniversary markers. Someone is trying to share a date with you. Are you sure you don’t know who’s sending these?”
Buffy simply shook her head. As usual, she grew just the littlest bit misty whenever Sunnydale came to mind, and the only anniversary she remembered was his demise. It still made her choke up, and she surreptitiously swiped at her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Well… just keep it in mind, Slayer-fair,” Andrew said as he sketched a low bow, and headed out of the office. “Sorry to have upset you.”
“Wait!” Buffy called out after him. “What did you…?” but it was too late. He had gone.
She left for the day, telling Cara she was feeling slightly under the weather. When she got home, she opened a nice chilled bottle of white wine, and attempted to calm her soul.
Day five continued as the previous four; yet another gift of flowers – this time daisies in a riot of colors; yellow, pink, white, orange. Buffy had to fight the irresistible urge to pull of the petals one-by-one and sing-song the old childish phrase: ‘love me, love me not.’ She hastily put that thought out of her mind.
Remembering Andrew’s nonsense about anniversaries from the day before, Buffy booted up her computer and Googled anniversary flowers. Damn it if the little guy wasn’t spot on. That meant she would know what to expect in the days to come until whoever was sending the flowers had reached whatever date this was heading to.
Buffy began to anticipate arriving at her office. Day six brought beautiful stalks of white calla lilies (beauty and pride gained from shared wisdom). Day seven – bright yellow freesia blossoms (love's honorable character). Day eight was ushered in with bunches of deep lavender lilacs (love's first emotions). Day nine found a tall vase by the side of her desk, filled with beautiful multi-colored bird-of-paradise stalks (romance's unexpected side).
For some reason, Buffy’s heart filled with trepidation at the thought of day ten. The tenth of anything felt like the last of a set of… something. However, strong gal that she was, she entered her office and found an immense vase filled with several dozen bright yellow daffodils. They actually outshone the sunflowers. (singular love and chivalry)
Sadly, Buffy noted the first few bouquets had begun to wilt, even though she had the water freshened. Cut flowers were just not meant to last. She had really been hoping to find out who had sent them before she had to toss them in the trash, but like most things Buffy wanted, it appeared that wasn’t going to happen.
How much longer could this go on, she wondered. Who had she even known for more than ten years that wasn’t in close proximity to her now? She fell into a fitful slumber that night, tossing and turning; never finding a comfortable position.
She arrived at work, expecting to find a vase with tulips. At least, that’s what the internet said was the next anniversary flower. Opening her door, she found… nothing. Really… nothing. No new vase on her desk, none of the old vases anywhere in her office.
Now she was really upset. Maybe the sender got pissed off that she hadn’t guessed who he was? One never did know with people who had secretive agendas.
“Cara, could you come in here please.” Buffy actually used her intercom – something she did rarely. “What happened to all the flowers?”
Her assistant looked puzzled. “I – I don’t know, Buffy. They were here when I left last night, and I’ve been here since eight this morning. I haven’t seen anyone go into your office. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” Buffy soothed. “It’s just… first they arrive out of nowhere, and now they vanished just the same way. It’s upsetting… and a bit disturbing. Just keep an eye out for anyone weird, please? And call me if you’re not sure about anybody.”
Cara nodded and left.
About an hour later, Buffy’s intercom buzzed. “What is it, Cara?”
“There’s a man here to see you. He won’t give his name and… “
“And what? Does he have a gun?”
“No, he has flowers.”
Buffy’s heart skipped a beat. “Does he look dangerous?” she asked, her spidey-senses humming to life.
“He’s wearing a long, leather coat and… Sir… Sir! You just can’t go in there…”
Buffy stood at the panic in Cara’s voice. Any moment she was going to be face-to-face with her…
She was transfixed by what she saw. Same old black uniform: tee and jeans, duster, Doc’s… the hair was more of a light brown than the old neon-white and definitely more curly, but otherwise… those cheekbones could still cut glass, and his eyes. Oh dear god, his eyes. Beautiful blue and filled with… an emotion she couldn’t figure out. It seems he’d finally learned to keep a decent poker face where she was concerned.
“You’re dead.” Oh god, Buffy, you idiot.
“Well, yeah, love. Nothing’s changed there,” he said softly.
“N-no, I mean you died, again, in Los Angeles. Dawn and I mourned a second time for you three years ago. Dawn still isn’t over it. She even got Angel to draw… Wait a minute… did Angel know you were still alive?”
This time Spike couldn’t help the sheepish look on his face.
Buffy closed the distance between them and grabbed Spike by his (still very well-muscled) arms. “Are you telling me Angel knew you were alive all these years and didn’t say anything?”
“I asked him to keep shtum…”
She couldn’t help herself, really. She’d hit him across the cheek with an open palm, at nowhere near her full strength. However, when she raised her arm a second time, Spike caught her wrist.
“I owed you the first one, Buffy,” he said, releasing her wrist. “Not gonna go a second round without hearing me out, first.”
“Don’t, pet,” he murmured, gently pushing a lock of hair back behind her ear. “You’ve done nothing wrong.” As if remembering he was still holding the small bouquet in his right hand, he offered the flowers to her, which she accepted.
“I don’t understand. What do these mean?” Buffy asked, turning the small bunch of wild flowers in her hands. “They’re not on the list…”
Spike smiled. “See you’ve cottoned on to their meaning. One flower for each year.”
“Eloquent as ever, love,” he expression softened; his eyes showing some of the love and awe Buffy had been used to seeing there. “Ten years of flowers… one for each year since the first day we met.”
The light blinked on in Buffy’s confused mind and it was her turn to smile. “And what happens Saturday?” she asked, wondering how he was going to play this.
“I kiss you,” he murmured, pulling her in for a soft, slow smooch.
As much as she enjoyed it, however, Buffy soon pulled away. “What happened to the ‘splainey portion of our program?”
“Do you mind?” Spike asked, motioning to the leather couch. Buffy shook her head and joined him, putting a little distance between them. “Well, you see, it’s like this… I’m a bloody fool and a coward.”
“Did I mention fool?”
“I thought it bore mentioning twice.” Buffy tried really hard to keep a stern demeanor, but faced with the vamp she’d mourned twice in the past handful of years, she was failing, miserably. And don’t think that Spike hadn’t noticed the corners of her mouth turning upwards against her volition. “Go on,” she said gruffly.
“I’ve thought this through a thousand times over, pet, and it still comes out sounding like a load of bollocks – even to my ears. But… it’s all I have, so here goes. After that twit, Andrew, went back to jolly old, I was sure he’d have blabbed that I was back. Never knew when to hold his tongue, right? When I didn’t hear anything from you, I took it to mean you were finished with me. Yeah, I know – pot, kettle,” he said, pointing a finger at them both. “I did say coward, earlier, didn’t I? Then there was that dust-up with Wolfram and Hart. The poof and I both needed some healing time afterwards, and when we were ready to go our separate ways, we agreed to leave you to your life.”
“You should have known better, Spike. One, that Angel has been in touch with me – by phone, only – over the years and never mentioned you were still alive. And those words I said to you in the Hellmouth… they were the hardest words I’ve ever said. And I know I left them way too late,” she admitted. “But I meant them. And you threw them back in my face.”
Spike shook his head and looked at her like he was going to refuse her all over again. Buffy finally dropped the flowers on the table and cupped his cheeks, pulling him nose-to-nose with her. “Now you listen to me, Spike. Listen and don’t say another word. Got it?”
He nodded and mimed zipping his lips.
“I know I had issues back then, and it took me forever to even recognize exactly what I felt for you. I loved you. I did. It might not have been the whole head-over-heels kind of love, but it was getting there. Slow and steady – warming me from the bottom of my heart until I could hardly breathe…”
“And you’re sure it wasn’t the heat of the battle, love? A fight riles things up good and proper.”
Spike nodded once more and let her continue.
“I. Loved. You. I can’t say it any plainer than that. You asked me once for a crumb and I gave you the whole damned cake. Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to leave you there? It would have been so easy for me to haul you out over my shoulder – but I couldn’t take your sacrifice away from you. You’d more than earned the right to go down as a champion. And you were… you are!”
Tears shimmered in her eyes. She didn’t want to cry. Spike was here and she was happy, damn it. In spite of his stupidity… and hers.
“Would you mind telling me how you pulled off the flowery Houdini act? You had to have help,” Buffy insisted. “This place is too well warded to allow vampires free access. And if Andrew or Dawn knew about this, so help me…”
“Easy there, love,” Spike said, taking her hand in his. “Wasn’t one of the old guard. Remember that little redhead? The one with the silly hats?”
“Vi? Vi helped you pull this off?” Buffy was flummoxed. She remembered Vi cowering in Spike’s arms when the potentials were in training. Obviously Vi’d gotten over whatever fear she had of him.
“Sweet little chit. She was very protective of you, point of fact. Then she went over all gooey when I told her what I wanted to do.”
Buffy shook her head, once again trying to keep a smile from her face. “I’m gonna have to talk to her about security.”
“But not just now, yeah?” Spike was having a little trouble keeping that poker face of his, as well, which made Buffy smile even wider.
She walked to the door and twisted the lock, then punched the intercom button. “Cara – unless the world’s about to end, and you can’t find anyone else to take up the fight… I’m not to be disturbed. Understood?” She then turned to Spike, her eyes full of long-dormant emotion.
Cracking her knuckles, she offered him her hand and said, “Let’s dance.”
“That’s all we’ve ever done, love,” he said, taking her hand.
Carnations – 1st anniversary: admiration, purity, never forget you
Lilies of the valley – 2nd anniversary: purity, humility, devotion
Sunflowers – 3rd anniversary: strength, warmth, devout admirer
Hydrangeas – 4th anniversary: thankful for understanding nature
Daisies – 5th anniversary: you have as many virtues as this flower has petals
Calla lilies 6th anniversary: beauty and pride gained from shared wisdom
Freesia – 7th anniversary: love's honorable character
Lilacs – 8th anniversary: love's first emotions
Bird-of-paradise – 9th anniversary: romance's unexpected side
Daffodils – 10th anniversary: singular love and chivalry