Genre: Juvenile humor. With a dash of schmoop.
Standard disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, just the story.
She presses her lips together.
They defy her by pulling back and up.
Her breath has turned traitor, too, rapidly puffing in and out of her nostrils without her say-so. She's about an inch away from busting out in hysterical giggles.
She feels badly about it, because Angel is managing to look both bland and smug, all the while Spike is looking embarrassed and cursing himself for "a bloody fool."
He must have been trying to impress her, but she's not sure what he was thinking. She's not only a grown woman, and a Slayer, she's Buffy Summers, which means that half the time it seems that her life is taking place in some twisted, violent soap opera. As such, her standards for swoon-worthy feats of derring-do-slash-physical-prowess are pretty darn high.
Sliding across the hood of Angel's Batmobile the faster to reach the passenger side door is very Dukes of Hazard and all, but compared to burning up in the Hellmouth, or resisting hellgod torture, or that hip thing that he -- and she is so not thinking about that right now.
It's the butt-swatting that finally gets her.
Spike, half turned around on himself like a dog about to pounce on its own tail, frantically trying to dust the white smear of bird crap from his jeans without actually touching it, is the funniest thing she's seen in ages. She gives up and lets the laughter out then.
And then -- well, it's still funny, but she feels a tug in her chest, because underneath the cranky and the embarrassed and the foul moodiness, she catches a glimpse of Spike looking devastated, and --
"I love you."
-- because she does. Because funny Spike and vulnerable Spike are two of the places where she's most vulnerable, and both at once like this was like a pincer motion attack, and she's only -- mostly -- human, right?
And Spike's staring at her, because she's been tagging along with them on and off for months now, acting comradely and maybe flirting a bit, and she's certainly never said anything like that.
Out of the corner of her eye, she can see enough of Angel to tell that the smug is gone, but she can't keep her eyes off Spike, as his face kaleidescopes through shock and doubt and tenderness and that unsmotherable hope -- "What does that mean?" -- that used to -- "Does it have to mean anything?" -- terrify her.
She's not scared anymore.
"Yeah?", he asks softly, and the way he hesitates, like he's not sure she could love him when he's not a dying hero, when he's just a dumbass showoff with bird poop on his jeans, makes her smile, makes her have to say it again.
Author's Note: Refraining from having Buffy call Spike "Mr. Poopy-pants": missed opportunity, or mark of writerly restraint? You decide!