Author: ever_neutral /ohwaluvusbab
Setting: BtVS S6
Rating: PG-13 for language
Word count: ~6100
Genre:: AU of “Dead Things”, curtain!fic? IDEK.
Summary: Spike has the questionable/excellent idea to help redecorate Buffy's room.
A/N: nvrbnkisst demanded to know how that "Dead Things" rug scene could have gone differently. What ensues here is entirely my fault. Thanks as always to ghostyouknow27 and diamondtook862! .
Every time she leaves his crypt, for a good fifteen minutes afterwards, Spike lies like a dead man on the floor – or sarcophagus, or whatever bleeding surface they used this time after missing the bed – and he broods.
This is strictly classified information, needless to say, because William the Bloody doesn’t brood, and he certainly doesn’t brood naked, in some sort of hazy post-erotic fugue state of angsty yearning. And the lingering smell of her hair on his skin definitely doesn’t unleash a torrent of embarrassing effusive poetry that he will in no way later surreptitiously jot down on a flower-print notebook he stole from Dawn. He’s got some scrap of dignity about him, if the records would care to know.
But as the fading rhythm of her shoes on their frantic way out echo in his head like a hurried funeral march, his thoughts stray to the tired question of what he could do differently.
(Of which one possible answer is most definitely not to start wearing some seductive cologne, seeing as how the new patterned silk shirts and jewellery seem to be doing the trick well enough on their own – so, that’d be a bird-brained idea and therefore it wouldn’t cross his mind.)
And why wouldn’t he wonder? He’s got all of sodding eternity for it, if he so wishes. And he does wish. He wishes fervently and recklessly and hopelessly, as he always has done. In his brighter moments he wishes this weren’t a truth of his condition, for better or worse –
– but then the blood inevitably rushes out of his head sooner or later and he’s back to thinking with his lesser organs. An outsider from a distance would probably assume that to mean his dick, but he knows the (possibly more embarrassing) fact that it’s his defunct heart that allows him to keep dying inside.
Yep. His old schoolteachers can go and shove that up their rectums: the brain is far more practical to one’s survival than the heart.
It’s just a pity he’s never known how to be practical if his existence depended on it.
“The New Kids on the Block posters are starting to date me.”
He chuckles. “If you want, I can...”
There is a pause. And he sees himself from outside of this moment – the two of them splayed out on his cold stone floor, and not particularly bothered about it – and for once in his pitiful existence, he takes the opportunity to not fuck it up.
She’s looking at him expectantly, and – don’t keep her waiting, you mustn’t keep her waiting, else she’ll realise that she’s waiting – he halts the progress of the words on their way out of his mouth, swallows the question lurking beneath the surface text of pleasant banter.
“– help you paint your room.”
He has no idea where that comes from – he’s tempted to look around him in shock for the source of the stupidity – but of course he really need look no further than himself...
“Okay,” she says.
The self-berating train of his thoughts stops dead in his tracks, and he simply stares at her, jaw gaping open in what he knows must look like an attractive amusement for flies.
“Okay,” he repeats, dumbly.
She seems unsure now, shifts nervously under the rug and averts his eyes, starts to look for the stray clothes she tossed aside in her haste to –
He can see that the thinking part is beginning to come back to her, and knows he’s running out of time.
“Right, then. It’s a date,” he says hurriedly. Adds in a nice leer for good measure. “When were you planning on doing this makeover thing? After a Doublemeat shift, I suppose? Dawnie helping?”
He winces to himself. Too many questions in one breath, you berk. Just shut up.
“Uh,” she replies, not looking at him, moving instead to pull her shirt over her head. “I don’t know. I… guess.” Still not looking at him. He needs to get her looking at him again.
"Great. Sounds like a plan." He leans in, feels with his lips for the pulse point just above the collar of her shirt. "I look forward to it," he mumbles against her skin.
She shies a little away from him, stifling a ticklish giggle. Fixes a frown on her face. "Yeah, okay. Don't get ahead of yourself."
He exhales, lies back and stares at the ceiling. "Bit late for that."
She looks away. "Have you seen my underwear?"
"Under the bed," he answers, flatly.
"Oh. Thanks." She manoeuvres around him, snatches the offending garment.
He tears his eyes away from his dank ceiling to watch her put the rest of her clothes on. He always gets a masochistic sort of pleasure from seeing her do this. The post-coital glaze in her eyes always clashes with the guilty twist of her mouth as she puts herself back together, reassembles the pieces of her costume she'll present to the rest of the world – who will never know how so very much she enjoys this. He gets a kick out of noting how much bigger the cracks in her facade are with each time she comes (and then, of course, goes) – the ones the rest of the world doesn't care to see.
She's finished dressing.
(Meanwhile, he's still butt naked under the rug. This is the way it goes.)
"I'll – I'll see you," she says, and she sounds heartrendingly unsure and fragile. He wants to wrap her back around him, tell her to stay. You don't have to go back out there. You can be here with me, and keep the costume off.
Instead he tells her, "Yeah. Bye."
He doesn't look at her as she walks out.
Instead, he fixes his gaze on a spot above his head and counts the seconds before the inevitable resounding slam of his front door, the one that’ll tell him he’s alone again –
– and there it is.
He exhales, feeling thoroughly hollow. Exactly like some poncey romantic ballad – there is no me without you – and more pathetic to boot. This is how it goes.
There are certain rules the universe forbids us to break.
Rule Numero Uno: You’re the one who waits, mate.
There are times in Buffy’s life where she swears, she can just see herself about to do something catastrophically stupid, and it’s like one half of her brain is yelling, “NOOOOOOOOO” in that deep, digitally manipulated slow-mo voice they use in slapstick moments on TV – and meanwhile the other half? Just doesn’t listen.
What is with that.
Saying yes to Spike’s offer to help redecorate her room?
Let’s not even talk about it.
Or actually, why not. Let’s rewind and admire the damage: She took her soulless former mortal enemy/infamous mass murderer/not-boyfriend/sickeningly frequent fuck buddy up on his offer to freaking paint her walls with her teenaged/two-year-old sister, while she attempts to ensure that said sister – not to mention the other two people who live in her house – never find out about her sickeningly frequent screwing of the aforementioned mortal enemy/ unconscionable fiend/ not-boyfriend.
Her life is a fucking joke.
“It’s okay. It’s okay,” she’s muttering as she closes her front door behind her. “I’ll just tell him I changed my mind. Yeah. He’ll be cool with that. He’s used to rejection.”
She snaps her head up to see Dawn, coming down the stairs, staring at her quizzically. “Oh, Dawn, hi,” she says, in a hopefully casual voice. “I was just… talking to myself. You know how it is.”
Dawn doesn’t seem convinced that she knows how it in fact is, but shrugs in agreement anyway. “Tough patrol?”
Buffy forces a smile. “The toughest.” She starts to move past Dawn, heading upstairs. “I’m just gonna, you know, take a shower. As per usual.”
As per usual indeed. Scrubbing her skin until it’s raw has become routine after “patrols”. Not that it makes her feel any less gross. Recently she’s entered this particularly disturbing period where she’s starting to smell him on herself, which is obviously ridiculous since vampires don’t smell like anything –
“Been seeing Spike lately?” Dawn asks from behind her.
Buffy freezes. Spins around. “What? Why would you say that?”
Dawn gives her a weird look. “I… just haven’t seen him in a while. Was kinda wondering what’s up. I don’t know. It’s no big deal.”
Buffy can tell it’s a big deal.
She feels another stab of self-hatred. (Her entire mental space is full of stabbing, okay?) Her kid sister’s lonely, and she’s too busy obsessing about stupid vampire jackasses to pay any attention.
“Well, you know, Dawn, he’s probably busy with some gross unethical vampire business,” Buffy says. “It’s probably a good thing you guys haven’t been hanging out. On account of the evil vampire thing, and stuff.”
Dawn looks thoroughly unconvinced by this argument. “Sure. Whatever.”
The cloud of gloom descending around Dawn is practically substantial. Buffy winces.
There is a long, uncomfortable pause.
Oh, for the love of God, here we go –
“Actually, Dawn,” Buffy hears someone say (might be herself; she hopes not), “I was thinking of getting Spike to help redecorate my room.”
It's times like these that Spike really regrets not having a reflection.
What does one wear to one's almost-maybe-sort-of-girlfriend-but-not-r
Well, not that it matters. He probably already looks devilishly attractive and sexually irresistible and all that.
Maybe he should have asked Dawn, when she came by before. Yeah, that would have been a useful conversation.
”Hey, Spike, my sister’s expecting you to be over at about six. Oh, and bring paint.”
“Right. She mention a dress code?”
“Oh, gee, I don’t know, maybe something riiiiight out of Skanky & Seductive Apparel for Byronic Blokes. Buffy’s usually all over that.”
"Heeeeey, buddy," a real voice cuts in. A familiar floppy-eared demon appears at the foot of the ladder.
"Oh. Clem," Spike greets, none too enthusiastic. "What are you doing here?"
Clem holds up a large tub of popcorn. "We got a Knight Rider marathon planned, man! Remember? And why are you not wearing a shirt?" He holds up his other hand. "I mean, not that I mind –"
"I'm going out," Spike says shortly. "To Buffy's." Well, this is not awkward. He hurriedly grabs a random blue shirt out of his collection. Enough waffling. "Sorry," he adds, as an afterthought.
Clem makes an amicable hand gesture. "Nah, it's cool, man. 'Hos before bros. I know how much Buffy means to you."
Spike's trying unsuccessfully to put his shirt buttons in the right holes. "Yeah. Right."
"So what ya guys doing?" Clem asks. "Romantic night in, wild night out? Wild night in?" He waggles his eyebrows.
"Uh." Spike grabs his hair gel off a sarcophagus. "No. I'm... helping her paint her room."
"Riiiiight. Domestic fun, I gotcha," Clem replies. "Boy, you guys must be gettin' serious."
Spike snorts. "Couldn't say." He squirts a dollop of gel into his palm and commences attacking his hair. This better shape up well.
"Right, right, I gotcha," Clem's saying, in the same understanding tone. "Private matters of the heart and all. What goes on between you two stays between you two."
"You can say that again," Spike mutters. Pauses. "D'you think this shirt's okay? Not too, you know, optimistic?"
"Oh, don't fret, pal. You look great! Always do."
“Ah, you get loaded with the supplies?” Clem nods at the paint cans and rollers in the corner. “She let you pick out the colours?”
“Uh.” Spike pauses. Realises that the answer is yes. Funny, that. He didn’t think twice about it. Just another errand the Slayer wanted him to run. “Well. She’s got a lotta crap to worry about, an’ all.”
Clem chuckles and lightly punches Spike’s shoulder. “See what I mean? Serious.”
Spike pretends to smile. He’s certain that it comes out a grimace.
It’s here. It’s the day.
The day of doom.
Well. That might be a little melodramatic. But, well. She’s clawed out of a fucking coffin. She’s earned melodramatic. And waking up six feet under? That’s got nothing on what she’s about to face now.
The doorbell rings.
It’s a very doom-y ring.
She swallows, sets her jaw. Opens the door.
He’s standing on her doorstep, holding a plastic bag and crushing a cigarette beneath his foot. The action makes her feel sort of nostalgic. Why, she cannot say.
Cancer stick aside, he looks perfectly innocuous and unassuming. Well, apart from the radioactive hair, and the trench-coat, and the unhealthily thin coke addict vibe he naturally oozes, but anyway.
“Hi,” she says. Her voice sounds tinny and wrong, the quality lost in transmission.
“Hello, Buffy.” He sounds nervous, though she’s probably imagining that. There’s a brief pause, then he asks, “Can I come in?”
“Oh. Right.” She steps aside, lets him pass. Then remembers. “Well, you always could.”
That’s not quite true. The “always” did include that brief period from I-can’t-stop-thinking-about-you to I’m-counting-on-you-to-protect-her during which he was not quite so free to stroll into her dwelling. (The idea that any other point was fair game briefly stuns her. She doesn’t dwell on it.)
What chapter would this be then, Buff? “I need you to slab paint on my walls?” That’s a pretty sorry excuse.
Oh, great, I’m even talking like him now. In my freaking internal monologues.
“Yeah, I know,” he’s saying, interrupting her mental spiel. “Was being polite.”
She closes the door. “You?”
“What? It happens.”
She smirks. “Uh huh.”
He gives her a half-grin in response.
This is okay. Disparaging banter, excellent life choice. They’ve been doing this forever. And if she’s lucky, they can keep it up for –
“So, this is new,” he’s saying in a voice that’s probably meant to sound cheerful. “Seeing you at your actual house, yeah?”
Her smile drops. The energy between them suddenly lies dead on the ground.
“Yeah. Right,” she says, after what seems like an agonising pause.
To her brief satisfaction, he appears to recognise he’s said something wrong. “Uh, I brought the –” He waves the plastic bag around a bit, not looking at her. “– stuff you wanted.”
She stares at him. “What stuff?”
He meets her gaze, frowning. “The… stuff? With which to paint one’s room?”
“Oh!” Her exclamation is bright, a dash of colour in the gloom. “Right.” She’d completely forgotten. How could she forget? Too busy stressing about all the other elements surrounding the actual room-painting. “Thank you,” she adds.
He shrugs. “’S alright.” He tilts his head in the direction of the stairs. “So… Shall we?”
She leads the way up, uses the opportunity to turn her back so he doesn’t see her nervously wipe her palms on her jeans.
"So, uh, what were you thinking of doing with the place?" Spike asks when they’re inside her room.
"I don't know. I don't like the… layout.” She frowns. “I don’t like the way anything is.”
There’s a shade of darkness in that declaration, and Spike hurries to fill the silence. "Well, I'm sure we can make it better." His voice sounds overwhelmingly awkward and insincere to his ears. He reaches out for her in compensation, brushes a strand of hair back behind her ear, fingers lingering on her neck.
Buffy's eyes flutter shut. She looks almost peaceful. They're both silent, but not in an awkward way – just, in a sort of enjoying-the-moment way that sometimes happens, like in his crypt when they're catching their breath after –
"Buffy, you want to come see this!"
Spike snatches his hand back as Buffy's eyes fly open. The quiet is gone, and instead there is Dawn, vibrating excitedly in the doorway. "Big ball of energy" was right, Spike notes.
"What?" Buffy starts, instantly moving several paces away from Spike. "What do I want to see?"
"Tara and Willow have a surprise for you downstairs," Dawn sing-songs.
"Uh, well –" Buffy shoots a furtive glance in Spike's direction "– Okay." She starts following Dawn out of the room, but at the last moment seems compelled to look back at Spike for assurance.
"'S okay. This is a group hug moment, I imagine," he tells her.
She rolls her eyes at him, gratefully annoyed. Then she's gone.
Spike hovers on the spot.
This is a typical moment – one he should, would, does expect – but one that still manages to sneak up on him all the same, to hiss Boo! You're out of place, aren't you? Even standing in her inner bloody sanctum, he's still the throbbing sore thumb on the perfectly manicured –
But wait up a sec.
He's in her room. Alone. How many times has this happened before? More specifically, he's in her room and not soon to be dropped out of the window head-first. Though, that could always happen. Still. The Slayer's in quite the open-house mood lately.
She'll snap out of it soon enough.
The thought is keenly depressing.
In an effort to dispel the threatening cloud of gloom, he decides to start snooping. What else?
Some stupid romantic voice in his head suggests that this will be the highlight of his week – after all, being in Buffy's room, by invitation no less, being allowed to touch her stuff – well, it's practically like he's her boyfriend, innit? Maybe she won't mind if he takes some bobble or other, as a keepsake. That's what boyfriends do, yeah?
Yes. Because nicking the girl's things so as to decorate the shrine was always the height of romance. Fuckwit.
Spike shuts up both inner voices.
After a couple of minutes of inspecting random objects on Buffy's shelves, he concludes that 1) going through other people's stuff is only an effective mood-lifter when it's soon-to-be followed by random pilfering, and 2) The Slayer's not too fond of dusting. Which, fair enough. He lives in a crypt; he should know. In fact, she might as well just move in with him, seeing as how she likes hanging out there so much. And other things.
The same stupid romantic voice thrills at this idea.
What'd she say about getting ahead of yourself? Right.
As if to punctuate this thought, an old colour photo catches his eye. It's of the Scoobies, huddled together in teenage radiance. Xander's pulling a stupid face. Willow looks innocent.
Buffy looks happy.
There's a small box next to the photo, covered in soft fabric and wrapped with a silver ribbon. The kind of box one puts earnestly treasured possessions in.
Spike opens it.
There's a ring inside. The silver band forms the shape of two hands clasping a heart, adorned with a crown.
He picks the thing up, grimly. So this would be the way to her heart, then.
"What are you doing?"
He drops the ring back in the box. Spins around.
Buffy's staring at him with an expression he can't fully discern. Part surprise, part accusation, part something else. Fear?
"I was just –"
"Go help Dawn," she interrupts. Her tone is mostly impassive, but there's a hint of a strain in it. "Downstairs."
They stare at each other for a couple of beats. Then, he sighs. Brushes past her on the way out the door. She's folded her arms in the customary ten-feet-of-personal-space-bitch-please stance he knows well.
She'll probably remain that way for the rest of the day now.
A patch of sunlight’s appeared on the landing just outside the room. Spike pauses at the edge of it. From behind him, he hears Buffy moving around in her room.
Okay, so it was probably a mistake to go snooping through her stuff. Well then. You learn new things every day. La di fucking da. She's probably moving that ring right now, then, to a place where no unworthy intruder will be able to find it. Probably next to her fucking baby teeth or something. This incident will have taught her to keep those things of value close to the chest. Well fucking done.
Spike wonders what it must be like to not be a complete and colossal fuck-up.
Must be ruddy peaceful, he decides, and lights a cigarette.
Dawn eyes him warily as he comes down the stairs. "Did Buffy say you could smoke in the house?"
"Nope.” He lets out a puff of smoke to accentuate his defiance. "But who's she to complain? I'm the one voluntarily assisting in moving her furniture."
Dawn's inspecting a big box near the door. "Isn't that what you're supposed to do for people you love?"
"Who said anything about love?"
Dawn rolls her eyes. "Oh, please. Are you trying to tell me that something's changed?"
Fuck all, really.
"Might have. Where’ve the love-birds gone?”
Dawn eyes him strangely. “You mean Tara and Willow? They went to night classes. And they’re not back together, so –”
“Right. Well, ‘m sure that’ll be fixed soon enough,” Spike says shortly. “And what, they couldn’t bunk off class once for their best pal?”
Dawn shrugs, eyes downcast. “What do you mean, things might have changed?”
Spike pauses, and decides to be vague. “Well, they might have. You don't know everything, sweet cheeks."
"Do I want to?" The question is accompanied by a suspicious glare.
"Probably a bit much for your delicate ears.”
He's met with another eye-roll.
Not for the first time, he wonders how in the dark Dawn really is. Buffy's been going home late nearly every night recently, often in disarray, thanks to him. Not to mention the marks he knows he leaves. How conspicuous can you be? Plus, the Slayer's a bad liar. He finds it hard to believe that the people supposedly closest to Buffy would swallow the idea that she's been keeping away from them against her will.
Or maybe they just believe it because they want to.
Well, that he can believe.
"For your information, I don't know anything," Dawn says, as if on cue. Her voice is suddenly small. The barely contained energy from five minutes ago has all but dissipated into the ether. "Jacksquat. That's how much Buffy lets me in these days."
He doesn't know what to say to that. There are no words of comfort, or playful jibes, that occur to lighten the mood. There is no silver lining in the oppressive grey.
"Yeah, well," he finally manages to get out. "You and me both. Now, we gonna move this box or what?"
The big box turns out to contain a spanking new dresser.
Buffy’s voice is soft. “I can't believe Willow and Tara went to the trouble."
Spike raises an eyebrow. What's really depressing about that statement is that she really sounds like she can't believe it.
"'Course they did, love," he says in a tone he hopes sounds sufficiently offbeat. "That's what bestest girl pals do." He winces. Right. Probably too much acid.
Buffy doesn't seem to pick up on it. She's fiddling with a strand of hair, her face wearing that glazed, far-off look Spike knows too well. Well. Better that than Spike-centric Slayer-wrath.
"Where do you want to put it?" Dawn's asking.
"Um…" Buffy eyes the walls with a blank expression. Shuffles nervously.
Oh, this is just pitiful. Spike clears his throat. "Maybe think about that later? I mean, if you wanna touch up your walls…"
She stares at him with the same blankness for a second. Then, pulls herself together. "Right. Furniture. Out." She turns, picks up a table singlehandedly, nods at Spike. "You help Dawn with the bed."
They get to work. It doesn't take long. That's the beauty of housecleaning with superheroes.
What's that, mate? Super-what, now?
He thuds a chest of drawers down on the landing a little harder than intended. Dawn frowns at him. He ignores her.
So what, because you're in her house, with her little sis, helping make her room look nice – that's supposed to get you one step closer to good, is it?
"Hey, Spike?" Buffy's strained voice emanates from inside her room. "I could use you!"
Yes, you could.
He goes to her.
She's having trouble moving a pesky bookcase, half the books apparently having a mind to fall on her head. He smirks. "I didn't even know you read this much, Slayer."
"Oh, shut up."
After shoving the bookcase near the stairs, they head back into the now-empty room.
"It's bigger," Buffy comments.
"It was always this big," Spike points out.
"Fascinating insight," Dawn says. "So what now?"
"I don't want this place to be anything like it was before," Buffy declares.
Spike smiles. "As you wish, sweetheart."
"Don't call me that. Do you have the supplies?"
He retrieves his plastic bag, and empties its contents on to the floor.
"Crap. What'd you get?" Buffy demands, panicked.
He rolls her eyes. She's only worrying about this now? "Just your regular serviceable off-white. Calm down. You're welcome."
"Oh." Buffy raises an eyebrow. "You weren't tempted to go for pitch black? Or blood red?"
He regards her. The blank expression is gone, and in its place there's a familiar glint in her eye. "Well, I can always run out again, Slayer. Just say the word."
"Uh, guys?” Dawn cuts in. “What are we doing about the wallpaper?”
Buffy gapes. “Ugh. I really hate that stuff.” She glowers at the offending paisley walls. “Paint over it? We can do that, right?”
“Sure,” Spike answers. “But if you hate it so much… Well, it’ll still be there.”
A pensive expression fixes itself on Buffy’s face. Then: “Right. Someone get me a utility knife. I’m slaying it off my walls.”
About half an hour later, she decides: this is actually not terrible.
Okay, so there was that weird moment with him snooping before, which duh, she should have expected as much, but thankfully he didn’t find anything too incriminating, or at least she guesses he didn’t because he hasn’t said anything, and – fine, there's plenty of time for things to go wrong, but the easy, repetitive back-and-forth movement of the paint-roller is doing a lot to calm her nerves right now, okay?
And it's been, like, a decent amount of time now, and she hasn't thought of having sex with him once! So.
Great. Now she can't get the thought of christening her new room out of her head. Bad influence, much.
"You know, this painting thing will go a lot smoother if you roll the paint over more than just one spot seventy times," he says from the other end of the wall.
She scowls at him. He raises his eyebrows at her. She rolls her eyes, and moves to a different section of the wall.
Crap. Too close to him.
She moves back the other way.
Spike eyes her strangely.
“I’m sorry, do you have something else to criticize?” she snaps.
“Not at all.”
“Good.” Yes, for the record, she knows she's acting super snotty right now, but apparently she just can’t stop herself. “Keep your eyes on the wall.” She brandishes her roller in the direction of his portion of the wall to demonstrate. This has the unfortunate side effect of sending flecks of paint on his shirt.
“Did you just flick paint at me, Slayer?”
Buffy flushes. Oh, great. If she says it was an accident, it’ll just sound lame. And he won’t believe her anyway. “So what if I did?”
“I’m sorry, did we turn twelve today?”
“One of us did.”
“Oh God, what is up with you two?” Dawn groans from the other side of the room.
“Never mind, Dawn,” Buffy tells her, at the same time Spike says, “Oh, your sister’s just lettin’ off some sexual frustration, Dawnie.”
“What?” Buffy shrieks. Gapes at him. How could – How dare – ?
Dawn rolls her eyes at him. “Yeah, whatever, Spike. Keep dreaming.”
Spike smirks at Buffy’s furious expression. “Just having a tease, Slayer.” Drops his voice a bit, and turns back to his portion of the wall. “We all know that’s a joke.”
Buffy stares at him. She doesn’t know if she wants to hit him or storm out of the room. Ideally, she’d do both, but that might really alert Dawn that something’s up.
He glances back at her. “Need help with something there?”
She turns away.
“Ugh, my arm’s gonna fall off,” Dawn complains. “Any second now. It’ll go splat. Blood everywhere. It’ll mess up these perfectly fresh walls!”
“That’s nice, Dawn,” Spike comments.
“Be careful with that step-ladder,” Buffy warns.
Dawn sighs. “Seriously, guys, can we take a break? I’m starving.”
“I could do with some blood.”
Buffy pauses in her work. Dinner with the family? That’s just asking for it.
Spike looks at her expectantly.
Oh, I’m gonna regret this.
“Um, yeah. I guess we can afford to take a break,” she hears herself say. “It looks like we’re almost finished anyway.”
“Thank God.” Dawn gets down from the step-ladder. “What do we have to eat?”
Once they're down in the kitchen, they find the answer is leftover DoubleMeat burgers.
“Oh, goodie,” Dawn remarks. “I mean, you know, I always love these things!” she corrects hastily.
Buffy tries not to wince. “Sorry, Dawn. I’ll go shopping tomorrow. I promise.”
“It’s okay, Buffy.” Dawn’s tone is nearly convincing. “Really.”
Spike tears open a blood bag from behind the fridge door. “Ahhh, my favourite."
“There are microwave-safe bowls above the sink,” Buffy tells him.
“Yeah, I know.”
“I don’t want you to get blood all over the inside of the microwave again,” she sniffs at him, seating herself at the counter.
“I’m not gonna clean it up.”
“Good for you.”
She rolls her eyes. Pauses. Okay, this is getting way domestic.
What the hell now.
“Have we got any mustard left?” Dawn asks.
“Uh, I don’t know, Dawn. Maybe at the back of the fridge somewhere.”
Spike slams the microwave closed, strolls over to lean on the counter. “So.”
Buffy gives him a flat look. “So what?”
“This has turned into an interesting evening.”
“About as interesting as watching paint dry.”
He grins at his hands.
“Buffy, there’s no mustard in here,” Dawn says from the fridge. “Can we get that tomorrow?”
Spike grabs a chunk from Dawn’s DoubleMeat Medley and promptly shoves it in his mouth. “Quality meal, this.”
Buffy glares at him. "I'm sorry, I don't see you cooking up a frenzy."
"I can cook."
"I believe you.”
"I can,” he insists. “Live on this planet for a century, you pick up a few things."
"Fine. Next time, you can provide sustenance."
"Next time, eh?"
She glares at him some more.
"Ooh, do we have any of those chicken nugget things left?" Dawn asks.
Buffy stops glaring. "Yeah, they should be somewhere in the fridge.”
Spike nods at Buffy's empty plate. "You gonna eat something or what?"
"Good." He leans in, voice low. "Gotta be well-nourished, to tackle those beasties every night and whatnot." Flash of teeth.
Buffy swallows. "Spike."
He eyes her mouth. "Yes?"
A loud bang erupts from the direction of the microwave.
Buffy and Spike start.
"Spike, your blood's ready," Dawn informs.
By the time they get back up to the room, the paint's dried.
"I can't be bothered doing the rest," Dawn announces.
"Neither," Spike adds.
Buffy frowns. "Well, I… guess it doesn't really matter."
"It doesn't,” Dawn agrees hurriedly.
"So. Furniture?" Spike proposes. "You wanted to do something different?"
"Um." Buffy bites her lip. "Yes. Different."
They contemplate the empty room.
"You believe in that feng shui stuff?" Spike asks.
"Good. Me neither."
"Why'd you ask?"
"In case you said yes."
"So, hello, are we gonna do something?" Dawn interrupts.
"I don't know, I'm still deciding, Dawn," Buffy tells her.
"You know what you should do?" Spike paces, moves to stand in front of the window. The moonlight streams in and illuminates his bright hair. "You should have your bed so it faces the sunrise."
Buffy stares at him. O… kay. "Why?"
He shrugs. "What, you don't want a view of the sun?"
Spike makes an irritated gesture. "Fine, it was just a suggestion.”
An inexplicable wash of remorse hits her. "No, it's a good one,” she says, surprising herself.
He stares at her. "Really?"
"Yeah." She wrings her hands. "I mean, I wanted a complete change and everything."
"Great.” Dawn starts exiting the room. "Now that we've got that decided, we can get to the fun part."
Spike raises an eyebrow at Buffy. "Snarky little thing there."
Buffy feels the corners of her lips prick up. "I take no responsibility."
Once they have the bed in its new location, the rest of the furniture seems to fall naturally into place around it.
"Well, congrats, Slayer." Spike dusts off his hands on his jeans. "This is an entirely different room." He surveys it. "But with the same furniture. And paint."
"But it feels different!" Dawn paces around. "Like there's a different… center, or something."
"Yeah." Buffy nods. "I can live with this."
Spike glances at her. She meets his gaze. He looks away.
"You think we're done?" Dawn asks them.
"Dunno." Spike sneaks another look at Buffy. "Shouldn't we find a new home for those New Kids on the Block posters?"
Buffy glares at him in a withering fashion.
They're coming back down the stairs when Willow and Tara come through the front door.
"Oh, hi, guys." Willow gives them a half-wave in greeting.
"How'd the room makeover-ing go?" Tara asks.
"It went.” Dawn bounces. "You missed all the fun."
"I know, I'm so sorry." Willow takes her jacket off. "There was this class that we just couldn't miss, and –"
"We're really sorry," Tara repeats.
"Oh, guys, don't worry about it." Buffy twists her hands. "Just, thank you – for the dresser. I love it."
"Really?" Tara beams. "We weren't sure you'd like it, so – yay! I'm glad."
Spike's trying to sneak surreptitiously out the door. Buffy catches his eye, about to say something. He smiles briefly at her and ducks out.
Willow cocks an eyebrow. "So, Spike was on good behaviour, huh?"
"Um, yeah," Buffy says distractedly. "Just, excuse me for a sec." She dodges round Willow and Tara, pulls open the front door and steps out just as Dawn and Tara start talking about some new book she's reading.
He's walking down the footpath away from the house.
Buffy shuts the door behind her. "Spike!"
He turns around. Raises an eyebrow expectantly.
"You didn't say goodbye to Dawn," she hedges.
"I'll see her soon.”
Buffy nods. "Right."
There's a pause. Buffy looks at her shoes.
"You want to say something, Slayer?" Spike asks, calmly.
She meets his gaze. Inhales. "Thank you. For tonight. With the… playing house, and stuff."
He smiles slightly. His voice is low when he responds, "Gratitude accepted.”
She holds her breath. Here, under the stars, with the moonlight glinting off his smile, Spike really doesn't seem like a guy who slaughtered half of Europe for fun.
This has been one strange night.
And yet, not nearly as strange as every normal night since she came out of her grave.
The thought prompts a flurry of panic in her gut.
Spike clears his throat. "So, I'll see you on patrol tomorrow, yeah?"
Buffy nods. She doesn't raise the question of what they'll be doing. They don't talk about it. It's a comforting rule.
He turns and continues down the footpath. She tears her eyes off his departing form and re-enters her house.
Willow, Tara and Dawn are in the living room, watching some horror movie. "Hey, Buffy, you want to see this?" Tara waves a remote at the TV.
"Oh. Nah." Buffy yawns. "I'm… tired. Think I'll just hit the sack."
"Enjoy your new rooooom," Dawn yells.
Buffy smiles and heads up the stairs.
She really does feel tired. All her nerves are frayed, spending the day worrying about what was gonna happen. And to think, nothing did. Weird, much.
She doesn’t know what that means. A whole lot of nothing, probably, but with a sprinkling of something mixed in that she’s too tired to mentally sift through at the moment, or – if she’s honest with herself – ever. She can’t visualise a day where she won’t be too tired.
The bedroom still sort of smells like paint, but it’s nothing she can’t sleep with. She goes to close the curtains, glances outside – and for a second, for whatever reason, she expects to see Spike. Guarding “his” tree like always, a pile of used cigarettes at his feet.
But not tonight. Best behaviour, indeed.
He’ll probably make her pay for it tomorrow. Well, there’s something to look forward to.
Wow. Okay. Boy are you tired, Buffy.
She’s drawing the curtain, but something makes her pause (just a stupid thought that doesn’t make sense).
After a second, she draws it back, allows the moonlight to shine in unhindered.
She’ll see the sun when she wakes.