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Taking It Slow

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She doesn’t actually have to be alone if she doesn’t want to, and, believe it or not, she knows this. She’s known it for a long time now, the tantalizing temptation of it racing around inside her head, bouncing back and forth like a pinball, but the one thing she knows for absolute certain is that she needs to take this slow. Decide if it’s the right thing, if it’s what she really wants. Because if there’s anything she’s learned in her life, it’s that rushing into the romancing? Not the best of plans for Buffy. Honestly, taking on a hellgod is easier than dealing with the consequences of jumping into the sexy stuff without thinking it through. Her instincts are usually—key word being “usually”—right when it comes to slaying, but when it comes to love they lead her to boyfriends turning into murderers and Parker telling her it was “fun” and, you know, the entire world almost being destroyed. So there’s that.

Besides, she wants to do it right this time because, well, they’ve both been through the ringer one too many times, and she doesn’t really crave the big drama anymore. It would just be nice to have someone—no, not someone. Him--to patrol with who she knows can keep up with her banter-wise and someone to fight over the remote and the covers with, and okay, someone she knows she has great sex with that, at most, destroys a bed or a table or something—not all life in this dimension. And someone who always has her back and knows what to say when she needs to hear it. That would be…really great.

So she doesn’t want to mess this up. Slowly, she reminds herself. A step at a time. It’s a new thing she’s trying.

She’s just settled this in her mind and plopped down on Dawn’s couch to watch some TV when her skin breaks out into goosebumps, the hair on the back of her neck standing up the way it always does when his “ship” sets down on the roof; it gives off this electricity or something, like a muted television with its hum just beyond hearing. She hurries over to the window. This is how they meet these days.

He’s got a few tips for her about trouble in the city, says he’s still chasing down the next Big Bad, whatever it will turn out to be, and that hopefully he’ll have news for her soon. But she has news of her own.

“I’m getting my own place,” she announces, settling down on the windowsill. He’s lounging loose-limbed against the bars of the fire escape in that way of his that manages to be both lazy and predatory at the same time. The familiarness of it—sexy and comforting all at once—makes her heart clench.

“Really,” he says. He’s pleased, she can tell, but not overly interested: he’s picking at the paint peeling off the iron bars and humming some horrible punk song under his breath.

“Yeah.” She finds that she’s twisting the bottom of her sleeve around and around and forces the next words out. She can’t just say things like this, not yet. Better to ease up to it. Sneak up from behind, even. “A place just for the Buffster. Where I can play my music as loud as I want and never find another one of Dawn’s concoctions in the fridge or—ugh—“ she shudders “—hear things no self-respecting sister should ever, ever have to hear…and where I can invite whoever I want in whenever I want.”

That gets him. He doesn’t move from his position, but he goes very still, except for his eyebrows, which have jumped up almost to his hairline. Ugh. Still peroxide. Maybe she can at least do something about the helmet hair. She’d never, ever have admitted it, but it always looked a lot better after it was ruffled, especially by her fingers. For all he’s been treating the heck out of it for decades, his hair’s a lot softer than it looks. “Really,” he says, almost-but-not-quite emotionlessly. He’s always failed badly at hiding his feelings. The opposite of her, really. Maybe that’s one reason they could be good together. And they could be. She knows it.

“Yup.” She pops the p.

He seems to be casting about for a way to phrase the next question that won’t crack this façade of casualness she’s constructed. Finally he settles on, “Got any ideas about who you’d want to…invite in?”

She shrugs, biting back a smile that desperately wants to erupt across her face. “Maybe just a few.”

“Well, that’s a good start then.” He’s not smiling, either, but he’s got that awed look in his eyes that she remembers so well, the one that always makes her feel like she can’t breathe but doesn’t really need to anyways. She’s pretty sure her eyes are shining with the smile she’s holding back.

“Yeah. It really is. A great start, even.”

He straightens hurriedly. “Guess I might have to pop around ones of these days, see how you’re settling in, make with the house-warming gifts and such.”

“Sounds good. But no plants, please. I kill them. My thumb is the opposite of green. More like black, really. Black and wilting.”

“Right. Nothing you have to keep alive. Maybe just…a bottle of wine or something?”

He sounds so tentative, trying desperately to be nonchalant, and it’s more than a little adorable. So is the thought of him with wine—he’s always been more of a whiskey type, more of flask kind of guy than one who drinks out of wine glasses. Still, she understands him.

Now she lets the smile steal slowly across her face. “It’s a date, then.”

It’s a good thing he isn’t smoking right now or he’d probably be choking. “Uh. Yeah. A…date.” He nearly stumbles over the word. “I guess I should—“ He awkwardly jerks his head towards the roof where he’s left that ridiculous Pokemon ball of his parked—again. Then he makes a half-formed gesture with his hand—like an aborted wave, maybe, or like he’s going to reach out to her but can’t quite convince himself to do it—and then leaps up onto the next level of the fire escape.

She smirks as he rapidly climbs up to the roof and hears him shouting orders to the bugs from above her. It’s kind of fun, leaving him flustered. If she knew just how much, she’d probably have done it before. And often. But for now, this is enough.

It’s a great start.