The first time they tried to go beyond kissing and light touches, it was a disaster. Spike came back to her place from shopping, cold and damp, and Buffy called out for him to find her when he was ready. He was kicking himself for forgetting to pick up paprika and vaguely considering a shower to warm up when he walked into her bedroom and there she was, spread out on the bed like a fifties pin-up girl. Her hair was done in a faux-messy style he knew took hours to create, and she was wearing something soft and lacy and new with peekaboo slits. In Sunnydale, it would have made him feel special – like he mattered – but now it just filled him with dread. Sex wasn’t even on his radar just then, and all he could think was that he’d end up ripping or staining or otherwise damaging the outfit so it went straight in the bin at the end of the night.
And she’d be sad. She’d pretend with all her heart that she wasn’t. She’d tell him it wasn’t his fault – laugh even, because Buffy wasn’t vindictive like that. But her eyes wouldn’t be laughing, and Spike would always know that she bought something especially for tonight, especially for him, and he’d gone and ruined it. And then everything would be awkward for a day or two – three if the lingerie was expensive enough – because they still hadn’t really learned how to argue without it feeling like the end of everything.
That was when he noticed the candles on the bedside tables, which only made him feel worse. To Spike, candles meant poverty and want and not having reliable enough power for proper lighting and the telly at the same time. Worse, Buffy’d bought the non-drip kind, which had some chemical in them that made him queasy when they burned. On top of that, there was all the anxiety around the damage a candle could do. One too-violent shake of the bed, and they’d fall onto her nice, soft carpet. Ruin it with wax – or set it on fire, if they were really unlucky. Or worse, they’d fall in the bed and set him on fire.
Buffy looked so hopeful, in her pretty negligee with the soft lighting behind her that made her seem like a haloed angel. And she had that look – that coy, hungry look no one else he’d ever known could pull off.
There’d been too much build-up. They should’ve just shagged like rabbits from day one, and then they wouldn’t have been stuck in this awkward limbo for weeks now, where they were both pretty much ready but had no idea how to even start talking about sex, let alone doing anything about it. Then Buffy wouldn’t have tried to make a surprise seduction with all and only the things guaranteed to make Spike feel least comfortable and how in holy hell was he going to get out of this without making the light in her eyes die out?
Buffy knew she’d got it wrong as soon as he walked into the room. But she couldn’t work out for the life of her what her mistake had been. She’d tried to recreate some of the atmosphere from when their sex life had been good – no, amazingly, mind-blowingly, spectacular! But Spike had that deer-in-headlights look he was still convinced was ‘neutral’ that she’d never tell him wasn’t because he’d gotten too good at hiding his feelings from her now.
He flinched when she walked up to him. She thought about kissing him, but they’d agreed – they had to communicate with words this time around, not with fists or any other parts.
“You’re not ready, are you?” Buffy asked, softly.
When Spike shook his head, coward that he was, she pulled her ratty old grey robe over her frills, and they started talking about what he was going to cook for dinner. She didn’t want to push him, but she was starting to worry that if they didn’t take their physical relationship to the next level soon, they never would.
The next time was just as bad. They’d been making out on the couch for long enough that Oceans Twelve was nearly over and Buffy still hadn’t watched past the first twenty minutes of Oceans Eleven. Her skirt was … somewhere … and they were both naked from the waist up, which was yet another careful step in the right direction. But as soon as Spike started oh-so-slowly sliding her underwear down her thighs, Buffy froze.
He immediately pulled back, leaving a slight breeze in his wake. “You okay?” Spike asked, slightly breathless, pupils blown.
Buffy nodded, then laid her right hand over his left and firmly placed them both between her legs. “I’m very okay.” She smiled, big and bright, hoping against hope that he believed it.
She heard him take a deep inhale through his nose – needing to double check – and it made her sad. Buffy ground herself into his hand, closed her eyes and bit down on her lower lip, silently willing him to just keep going. All she could think was that if they just went ahead and finally had sex, it would release all this stupid pressure and everything would be okay again.
She could feel Spike’s fingers circling, teasing her, and the anticipation was agonising. “Please,” she whispered. Only when he tried to slip one inside her, she was so tight he couldn’t get in. Buffy’s stomach dropped. This had never happened to her before.
“You’re not ready,” he said, pulling back again.
“Yes I am,” Buffy whined, grabbing at his hand. “Just force through, it’ll be fine.” As soon as she said the words, she knew it was a mistake.
“Not gonna force anything,” Spike snapped, retreating to the armchair on the other side of the room so quickly she barely saw the movement. She felt it, though.
Buffy held back her tears, not wanting to make him freak out even more. Because this wasn’t about him. He was doing everything perfectly. “I love you,” she whispered, miserable and wet. She could see something relax, just behind his eyes. And it warmed her, as it always did, to see how much a difference those words made.
“I know,” he said gently – because she had magic words, just like him. “Love you, too.”
Every time Buffy thought she might be getting better at the talking-about-her-feelings part, something like this happened. Watching him hunched up in the armchair, all she wanted to do was tell him how she was never scared of him, only of herself. But she didn’t know what words to use so he’d believe her – she’d already done to death every variation of ‘it isn’t you, it’s me’.
Spike could tell she was only just holding back the tears – of course he could. Knew, too, that he was overreacting. So they changed into their nice, safe, pyjamas and went to bed, where he held her. Or she held him. He was never really sure which it was, and there was comfort in that. But he was starting to worry that if something didn’t break soon, they’d lose the moment and fall back into being friends.
Spike had to go up to Oregon for a job. It was exactly the wrong time for them to be apart for a week and they both knew it. But to Buffy’s surprise, he suggested she drive there with him, so they could talk. It was a great idea. Perfect, even. If it weren’t for the fact that spending the best part of nine hours trapped in a car and talking about her feelings filled Buffy with pure, abject terror.
“Great!” she said brightly.
Spike laughed. “Don’t have to drive.” He shrugged. “Could fly to Eugene, I’d pick you up from the airport.” Less confidently, he added, “Don’t have to come at all, just thought—”
“I want to come,” Buffy said quickly, with a more natural smile. “I’d like to see what you do.”
His answering grin was like sunshine.