Spike ran down the sidewalk, calling breathlessly, “Buffy!”
She stopped on the second step up to the porch, but didn’t look back at him. She heard him come to a stop behind her. “Buffy, please?”
“I don’t want to talk to you right now,” she said.
“I want to make it right,” he said.
She turned, hand on the railing. “You can’t, Spike. There’s nothing to put right. Just… go home.”
“We were drunk, love. Out of our minds, and I would never have done it, if I’d known…”
“That I could see you?”
He scowled. “No! That it would hurt you.” He reached for her hand.
She leaned back. “Spike, what’s done is done. I need some time to deal. We both need to just… deal. I’m tired, and I still have to patrol tonight.”
“All right, I’ll make this quick.” He dropped to one knee. “Buffy, will you marry me?”
Buffy swayed a bit, gripping the porch railing for support, before blinking, shaking her head, and saying, “What?”
He gazed up at her, earnest and hopeful. “Will you marry me? Make me the happiest of vampires. Don’t have a ring at present, but…”
Buffy backed away from him, up to the porch. “Are you mental? I just saw you with someone else! And I’m trying not to be angry, because I know I dumped you, and it’s not fair to be angry, but I am. You broke my heart and I broke yours. There is no more us. So what, in the bizarre world of your brain, would make you think now is a good time to propose marriage?”
“It’s the perfect time, because I was thinking, see, you think you don’t love me...”
Buffy closed her eyes. “Can you please stop arguing with me about what I feel?”
“But you do love weddings! We both know how your heart goes pitter-pat at the thick glossy pages of bridal magazines. And you also don’t want anyone else to have me – that’s crystal clear. So make me yours! That’s what marriage is about, isn’t it? Not love, no matter what the adverts make you think, it’s about me, being yours. Never having to be hurt that way again.”
She stared blankly at him. He scooted a little closer on his knees. Again, she avoided his hand when he reached for hers.
“Say yes, and it’ll be just the way you dreamed. Sunny afternoon in the park? Done! I’ll carry an umbrella. You want Angel on the invite list? I’ll make him best man. And I’ll dance to ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ and love it because you love it. Hell, the song’s so universally hated, it may as well be punk.” He shrugged, and looked up at her expectantly.
Buffy turned and ran into the house.
Spike stopped with one foot on the porch, one on the middle stair, as he heard her twist the deadbolt home. He sagged, reaching toward the door a moment helplessly, but then he straightened and tugged his shirt down. “Ring. I need to get a ring. That’ll do it.” And he hopped over the steps and took off running for his crypt, vampire fast, already calculating what, among his scavenged possessions, was actually worth hocking.
Inside the house, Buffy leaned against the comforting solidity of her front door, feeling… feeling like she’d felt too many feelings for one day, thanks.
Two hours ago, she had a free evening and a semi-crack team lined up to thwart their current, albeit lame, nemeses. Now she had shame, shock, a messy living room, and no idea where Dawn was. No plans for dinner. Willow’s computer stuff was still all over the dining table, and there were crusty cereal bowls on the coffee table. The weight of the world.
Wearily she pulled herself up the stairs and to her room. She wanted to brush her hair at least before patrol. Or maybe change clothes. These clothes had had too busy a day, already.
Instead she found herself digging through her jewelry box, pulling out the heavy chunk of metal that sat like a meatball in the spaghetti of her silver necklaces and bracelets. It was as ugly as she remembered, cheap unidentified metal with sloppily-applied black enamel around the grinning skull. She remembered Spike hurriedly checking over his rings before selecting it. She remembered his self-deprecating laugh when it fell off her finger the first time, and the tender way he’d wrapped a string around the band to tighten it.
Dawn walked in on her staring at the ugly skull ring, and gasped. “Spike. Omigawd. Is… is he…?”
“He’s fine,” Buffy said, hurriedly dumping the ring back in the box. She rubbed her eyes, lest there was the tiniest hint of moisture, and pasted on a smile. “Xander might have wanted to stake him, but I got there in time.”
Dawn looked from the jewelry box back to Buffy. “Okay, so what’s with the ‘oh precious memento of my dear departed’ moment?”
“This isn’t a… whatever you just said.” Buffy started brushing her hair with a vengeance. “I was just thinking about… that time.”
Dawn plopped down on the bed. “It was kind of fun. I, for one, approved Spike’s plan to have black leather bridesmaid dresses.” She tilted her head. “Wait… wait a sec… you’re jealous!”
“No!” Buffy said, and a little too quickly, “Ew. Not at all. Spike? He’s… he’s…” All the usual insults failed her. She was shocked by her own inability to continue the sentence. She couldn’t remember what Spike used to be to her.
“Oh my god. You are! But Buffy, it was a spell, and a long time ago. Before I was real. Er… you know what I mean.”
Buffy turned and grasped her sister’s hand. “You were real. Spike said you could be a bridesmaid and I said no, I wanted you to be flower-girl, and we got in a big argument because you said you were way too old to be a flower girl. We both remember it. You are always real to me.”
Dawn smirked and patted Buffy’s wrist. “This isn’t that after-school special. I’m fine, but thanks; it’s good to know I can still make you feel guilty.”
“Yeah, so are we going to have dinner sometime tonight?”
Buffy grimaced and wiped her hands on her pants. “Right. I think there’s some…” Her mind blanked on what food-like stuff could possibly be in their kitchen. Cheese Whiz?
Numbly, she walked out of the bedroom. At the top of the stairs, Dawn caught her elbow.
“You are jealous.”
“I’m just trying to think of something for us to eat. How about cheese pizza?”
Dawn gave her the patented perfect kid-sis-knows-better face. “The way you ran out of here after Xander? The way you were staring at that ring, thinking about the fake engagement? I’m not stupid, Buffy. What aren’t you telling me? What did he do?”
Buffy bit her lip and slumped a little. “There’s… look, you’ll probably hear it from Xander, anyway.”
“Yeah, with all the hanging around Xander is doing, lately.”
Buffy leaned against the wall, looking so lost that Dawn tugged her into a hug.
“Fine. Come on, let’s eat whatever we can find and talk about how men suck. But take notes – I’m expecting you to do the same for me when I finally get a boyfriend.”