Porque te dí todo el amor que pude dar
-Selena, “Como La Flor”
Spike was going to be sleeping on the couch.
Not that Buffy sending him off to do so had been a problem before. The one time she had—he couldn’t actually remember why—he’d woken up to her throwing herself into his arms and sobbing hysterically about missing him. She’d also been naked and more than willing to show him exactly how sorry she had been. That’d been neat.
But right now, she looked really brassed off.
It wasn’t his fault she could almost read his mind.
She’d become a champion at it during the last year and a half that they’d been together. Actually, it was right around twenty months, but who was counting. When he’d seen her, a proper Valkyrie swooping in to save the day with her army of Slayers, he thought he must have already dusted. Until she’d caught sight of him, froze, and he’d had to save her from being skewered. They hadn’t been apart since. The honeymoon phase had lasted a lot longer than he’d expected, though lately they’d settled into something more comfortable. Something more worrisome. He was waiting. Now that the high was gone and he wasn’t shining so bright in her eyes, Spike kept waiting for the day Buffy would figure out he wasn’t worth it and he’d be left behind.
Dear god, please don’t let his bloody mouth have made today that day.
The dirty patches of snow crunched under his boots as he walked and a few flakes fell from the cloudy night sky. Cleveland in late winter was just such a delight. Orange light from humming streetlamps lit the sidewalk, but it was late enough that most of the shops were closed up for the night. Buffy, wearing a black toque and pink puffy jacket, was stomping down the sidewalk ahead of him.
Usually, post-patrol, she’d be beside him with his arm draped around her shoulders, talking a mile-a-minute about everything and nothing. It was one of his favorite things, the simple feeling of being a normal part of her world. Having managed to bollix up their peaceful time together up was smarting.
Spike ran a hand over his face. This night was shite.
It was cold, the whole city stank from the sludge trapped in the old snow, and now Buffy was in a snit. He couldn’t even blame her. He was chewing himself out. He was an ass. A stupid one.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity. Fuck.
It was such a bloody ridiculous thing. They’d been patrolling in one of the city’s graveyards and surprised a couple vamps. The female vampire’s hair had been long and blonde, and Buffy had said, as she dusted the vamp: “Huh, that one kind of looked like Harmony.”
He could have made a quip. Or kissed Buffy. Or done one of a million other things besides say: “Yeah.”
Buffy had looked at him, scowled, and put her hands on her hips. “Okay, out with it.”
“Uh,” he’d brilliantly replied.
“I know you. You’ve got that look. The one that says the soul is needling you about something.” Her eyes had narrowed. “And since I just mentioned her, this something must have to do with Harmony.”
Spike had looked into the beloved face of one of the most important people to have ever entered his life and had wanted to lie really, really badly. Only he was sodding terrible at it. Plus, his soul was having fits, it didn’t like keeping things from Buffy. So he’d bowed his head and confessed. “Right after I was recorporalized, like right after, I sort of slept with Harmony.”
“Excuse me? Sort of?” Buffy had sounded bewildered, but he hadn’t dared to look up. Shame was crushing him. He had no idea what he’d been thinking, besides that he’d been drunk on being part of the world again.
“Uh, there was this whole problem-with-reality thing that was happening and we didn’t finish. Neither of us…finished.” He’d winced. God, would someone hand him a bigger shovel? He wasn’t digging himself a hole fast enough.
“Because that makes it so much better?”
He’d scratched the back of his neck. “Luv, you asked, and you have to know it didn’t mean anything.”
“I can’t believe you…with Harmony.” She’d whirled on her heel and stomped off. “Let’s go, we’re done here.”
She’d yet to say another word to him. It was driving him barmy. Buffy had to know it’d meant less than nothing. Maybe he should tell her that even wacked out, Harm had started screeching about how he only wanted his Slayer. “Buffy,” he said, jogging forward and reaching for her.
She spun to face him. “Stop, just stop.” He halted and his hand fell back to his side. The blinking red neon of the open sign of the Chinese food place they’d halted in front of was strobing across her face and making her expression difficult to read.
“Don’t,” she cut him off. “You don’t get it.”
He wanted to kick something, or yell, or punch a wall. He was bloody frustrated. How was he supposed to get anything? All he knew was that she was fuming over something he’d done what felt like eons ago when he hadn’t been firing on all cylinders. Buffy could be a jealous little thing, and usually it pleased him to no end to see her eyes flash as she put her hands on him to stake her claim, but something was different about this and he couldn’t suss out what. So he let out a breath and forced himself to calm down. “Then tell me, Buffy. Please.”
She hated to talk, some things never changed.
Her lips pressed together, but then, to his surprise, she crossed her arms and hung her head. Her voice came out reed thin. “You could touch things, could do things, and did you pick up a phone? Did you make even the slightest effort to find me? No, you bang Harmony.” Venom dripped off the last word.
Pain cinched around him like razor wire. Guilt, remorse…and fear. She’d leave him. Terror gripped his heart. He couldn’t make this better. He’d been an idiot and there was no way to fix it. “Luv, it wasn’t like that.” He went to his knees on the filthy pavement. He wasn’t worthy of her. Never worthy. Stupid. Useless. He wrapped his arms around her waist and buried his face against her hip. “I wasn’t thinking straight. Already had been hearing about how much you moved on…wasn’t to hurt you…I’ll hunt her down, dust her…don’t go, pet…please.”
There was a tug on the lapel of his coat and slowly he dropped his arms away from his sunlight and stood, ready to be told exactly where he belonged, which wouldn’t be with her.
He didn’t think he’d survive being without her again.
Buffy sighed and put her arms around him, leaning against his chest. “Chill, Spike. Now I’m the one that’s sorry. I forget that I’m not the only one with issues. I’m not about to kick you to the curb for some dumb thing you did when we weren’t actually together. Only, ugh…Harmony? At least my girlfriend was nice.”
Spike was giddy with relief. “Oh Buffy, sweets, love you so bloody much. Love you…did you say girlfriend?”
He cupped her face with both hands and he could feel her blush.
“You had a girlfriend?” he tried again. His Buffy? He couldn’t even figure out how to feel about that.
“Er…yeah. I did. For a while.”
The puzzle pieces weren’t going together. “Like a friend that was a girl? A really close friend?”
“Like I slept with her.”
A circuit blew somewhere in his brain. “Uh—”
“She was an important part of my life. I fell apart a little, after Sunnydale, and she helped me find myself.” Buffy ran her hands over the leather covering his chest. Her fingers fluttered.
Spike forced his scrambled thoughts to make sense. Buffy wanted, no needed, to talk. It was a precious gift he wasn’t going to risk shutting down. She’d been beyond reluctant to open up about what had happened to her between him burning in the hellmouth and when she’d swooped back into his life like an Amazonian goddess.
“You want to grab a bite to eat?” he asked, nodding his head towards the Chinese place.
She shrugged. “Sure.”
Inside, a lady that looked as if she might be the same age he was took their order at the front counter and took an agonizing long amount of time to count out the change from the twenty he used to pay. When she was at last done, Spike put a hand on Buffy’s back to guide her to a small table with two rickety chairs.
The plates of food arrived quickly and Buffy stuffed her cheeks like a hamster. He waited until she’d swallowed. “You want to tell me about this bird of yours, luv?”
“Kind of?” She twirled another bite of beef lo mein around her fork and looked up at him. “Are you going to get all weird?”
She wrinkled up her nose in that adorable way he loved. “Super jealous, or be more of a pig than usual.”
He smiled lopsidedly. “I’ll do my best, luv, though when have you ever known me to be able to stick to the straight and narrow?”
She snorted, then grinned. “Fine. I won’t expect you to be a saint.”
He ran his fingers over the back of her hand that was resting on the table. He felt more blessed than any saint just being in the same room as her.
“Where should I start?” she asked.
“At the beginning, I suppose,” he said, and her brows drew together. “How did that particular ball get rolling?”
She slowly ate another bite and sipped on her diet soda. He could almost smell the wheels turning in her skull. Finally, she set her fork down. “This is going to sound terrible, but I don’t know how it started. Satsu was just another Slayer, one of many new faces. I knew the basics about her, that she was a few years younger than me, was from Japan, and that she had black hair and brown eyes. I didn’t think about her more than any of the other girls, but while I was busy trying to hold myself together, she fell in love.” Buffy bit her lip. “And I never even saw it happening.”
Spike sipped his beer. “You’re an easy person to fall in love with.”
He was rewarded with a smile as she regarded him through her lashes. “You would say that,” she muttered. But he could see that she was pleased and he hid his grin behind another swallow of the yank-swill that the label on the bottle swore was a stout.
“Just speaking the truth, pet.” Her cheeks pinked up and he was glad that so far he’d been able to navigate the minefield he was walking through with her. He did feel sort of guilty over the fact that he didn’t feel more jealousy over this Satsu girl. Probably because she was a girl. If Buffy had been with a bloke named…whatever a Japanese guy would be called, he doubted he’d be so interested in hearing about it. Ugly truth, that. But he was learning something about Buffy he hadn’t known, a side of her he’d never suspected existed, and he wanted to find out about it, badly. There was no way he’d ever know everything that made her tick, but any clue was welcome.
Plus, he was going to be wanking to the idea of Buffy and a dark-haired girl writhing around together for the next little while, might as well get some details. Maybe Buffy had a picture somewhere? Er…on second thought, better not ask her that one.
“I only found out about Satsu liking me because of Amy,” Buffy said, setting her fork down and clutching her hands together in her lap.
“Amy?” he asked, trying to put a face to the name. “Wasn’t she a witch Willow hung around with for a while?”
Buffy laughed. “Way more history than that, I’ve known her longer than I’ve known you.”
That surprised him. He wondered why he’d never run into her.
“She was Willow’s pet rat for a long time.”
Christ, Sunnydale had been weird.
“Anyway, no-longer-a-rat-Amy ended up not being a good person. At all. She was part of an attack on the Slayers’ Scottish stronghold. Her role was to take me out of the fight, so she put me into a magically induced sleep. Complete with endless nightmares. Though she must not have known me at all.”
Buffy looked sad, as if an enemy not knowing her bothered her. “Why do you say that?” he asked. Their mostly uneaten food was rapidly cooling into unappetizing, congealed lumps.
“The nightmares were very generic for the most part. Scary monsters chasing me in the dark, that sort of thing. I mean, that’s my everyday reality. It’d be like having Joe-schmo dream about making toast.”
He finished his beer and set it on the table, but didn’t say anything. He doubted Buffy wanted sympathy for being a Slayer. It’d been a long time since he’d even heard her complain about her lot in life. She’d seemed to have made peace with it in the time they’d been apart. Good, that, he supposed.
“So there I was, trapped in my own head, and Amy apparently is a bigger weirdo than I thought because it was a sleeping beauty spell. For it to end, someone who loved me had to kiss me to wake me up.”
“What? Really?” Who the hell did that sort of fairy tale claptrap?
“Yup. I was even wearing a lacy nightgown. It was all so ridiculous.”
He nodded in agreement, though he wished he’d known. He would have given his left nut to be the one to ride in on a white horse and kiss her back to life. Then he’d cart her off, they’d ditch the horse, and he could give her the kind of kiss that left her all loose-limbed and panting in satisfaction.
“I wasn’t quite so asleep that I couldn’t hear the people around me.” Buffy’s face closed down and Spike shelved his fantasies. She needed him to be in the here and now.
Buffy stood up abruptly, her chair squeaking against the linoleum floor. Not even looking at him, she put her coat back on and left her partially eaten food on the table without a backward glance. She marched out into the winter night, her arms crossed over her chest.
Spike hurried after her and was relieved when she allowed him to wrap an arm around her waist. Tears were running silently down her face. “Luv?” he asked, softly as they negotiated the icy sidewalk, heading toward their flat.
“True love’s kiss,” she whispered. They were at their building, but Buffy stopped again. She looked up into his face and put a warm palm on his cheek. “I wanted…there, in the darkness of my own mind…I hoped…” Her face crumpled. “I needed it to be you.”
“Buffy,” he murmured. His heart ached and he mentally kicked his own ass one more time. He should have pretended to be Patrick Swayze in Ghost and annoyed sodding Angel until the git had broken down and called Buffy. Hindsight and all that. He gathered her against him and she hugged him tight, crying out old hurts. His own eyes were getting misty.
She’d needed him and he hadn’t been there.
Christ, he was nothing. How long before Buffy realized that and cast him aside? Tic-toc went the clock. Every minute with her was one closer to her ending things between them for good.
She gave a little hiccup.
He cursed himself again, he was falling down on his job. What he should be trying to do was make her feel better, not wallowing in his own misery. Maybe he could distract her. “I guess it was this Satsu that kissed you awake?”
“At the time I didn’t see her, but yes. There were soft lips on mine and I woke up with the taste of cinnamon on my tongue.” Buffy kept her face pressed against his neck. “I found out later when I asked for chapstick and she handed me hers and it was the same smell and taste. We were heading into a battle to rescue Willow, so it wasn’t the time for questions, but I just knew.” She took a deep breath. “I knew and it terrified me.”
“Cinnamon was her thing?” He asked, actually somewhat pleased she’d been scared of someone else feeling strongly for her, along with a pang of sympathy for Satsu. Loving Buffy wasn’t a walk in the park.
“Yeah, Satsu kind of smelled like a Cinnabon all the time.”
Buffy would have liked that. Cinnamon rolls drenched in icing were one of her favorites.
Spike touched Buffy’s cheek and it felt half frozen from her drying tears. He looked around at the piles of dirty grey snow. The city was tired, winter wearing it down. There was money sitting in their account and if he asked he was sure Rupert would give them whatever they needed with no questions asked. The berk felt guilty about how the Council had treated her for so long. Spike could take her away from this place.
Keeping ahold of her hand, he opened the door to the apartment building and led her inside and up the stairs. She followed without a word, maybe lost in thought.
“Think we could go somewhere for a couple weeks?” he asked. “I’m getting sick of Cleveland in January. And it’s nearly your birthday.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Where would we go?”
“Anywhere you want.” He silently begged her to say yes.
That’d been easy. “I’ll make reservations tomorrow. And don’t think I don’t want to hear the rest of your story.”
To his surprise, Buffy smiled. “Sure, sometime. And in Spain will you show me all the cool places? I bet you know a few.”
She looked so young and for a moment he felt hideously old, but her enthusiasm was infectious. His worry about her kicking him aside evaporated. She wouldn’t do it while they were on a trip together. “A few,” he allowed.
Inside their apartment, she quickly shed her coat, leaving it and her muddy boots in a pile near the door. Her clothes quickly followed and she walked into the bathroom. The shower started a few seconds later.
That was his girl, she didn’t complain much about the cold, but as soon as they were home she was under the hot water. He loitered in the entryway, taking his time with his boots and contemplating having a cig out on the fire escape. Buffy could be in the shower for a while, letting the warmth soak in.
She opened the bathroom door and steam swirled out. “Are you going to get your ass in here, or what?” she asked with a pout.
Some things he didn’t need to be told twice.