The water was cooling down around her, the scented bubbles slowly disappearing, and Buffy thought about getting out of her bath. She did nothing more than stretch though, and added more hot water to the tub. She had had a long day. She should have known from the start that something was wrong. If there had been another group trying to recreate the Council, Giles would certainly have mentioned it to her. She couldn’t help but wonder who had sent those ninja robots or whatever they had been.
She had just come back from Wolfram & Hart where Fred was still working on helping Spike become corporeal again, but every day that passed seemed to be one more eternity. Buffy didn’t like Los Angeles much, and she had been calling Rome to check on Dawn every few days. But as long as Spike was stuck here, she would stay. And when he would get his body back…
She was afraid to hope for too much. She was afraid to hope, period. Things between them had always been complicated at best, downright chaotic at worst, and she was rather sure that things had been simpler, quieter this time around because they couldn’t touch. No way to fuck each other’s brains out, or beat each other senseless; words had not always been easy, but they had made some progress. More and more, she kept wondering what would have happened if…
What if their relationship had remained what it had been the last few days before her death, or the first few weeks after her return? What if she had allowed herself to even look at him for who he was rather than stopping at the vampire part of the equation? What if she hadn’t cared so damn much what the Scoobies might think of her caring for another vamp, soulless this time? What if things had not been so hectic when he had returned with his soul? What if they had had time to get to know each other again, as they had done since she had come to LA?
What if she had found a way to save him from the Hellmouth?
Closing her eyes and sinking lower in the warm again water, she admitted it to herself – she missed his touch. Talking was nice, certainly, and without doubt necessary, but she could remember with the utmost clarity the last time she had lain in his arms, and she couldn’t fathom having abandoned that place of safety and warmth of her own accord. Couldn’t consider either the idea of not feeling his arms close on her ever again. Fred had to find a way. She just had to.
His name passed her lips, a barely audible whisper that yet seemed to echo in the room. She could almost feel his touch, after all these weeks, feel his hand, barely there, chaste but nonetheless present, and…
Her eyes were still closed but she realized what was happening and shook her head. The phantom touch ceased.
“I don’t want you to think that’s why I came back,” she sighed. “I used you more than enough already; I’m not getting off again unless you are too.”
A quiet snort was the only answer she received. Opening her eyes, she blinked at the incongruous image in front of her, then laughed. Appearing to sit in the tub in front of her, Spike was completely clothed, the duster bunched up behind him. His features hardened slightly at her laughter, but then he looked down at himself and seemed to understand what she found so funny.
“I could correct that very easily,” he commented with a sly grin, and Buffy shook her head again.
“How about you give me some privacy instead?”
He tilted his head to the side, giving her body an appreciative leer through the water and bubbles to the point that she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Nothing I haven’t seen before, luv. And I really don’t mind the view.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “Pig.”
It was his turn to laugh, and he made a show of standing and stepping out of the tub, shaking imaginary water off his body.
“I’ll wait for you in the other room, then. Don’t be too long.”
Even as used to his quasi ghost status as she was, it was still mildly disturbing to see him walk through the door, and Buffy lost her amused smile. Shivering, she stood and quickly dried herself before slipping on a bathrobe.
Spike was lying down on her bed when she walked out of the bathroom, hands locked behind his head on the pillow. Her heart tightened for a second at the illusion that he was fully there.
“I think it’s time for goodnights,” she murmured, unable to raise her voice or meet his eyes. “It’s been a long day and…”
“You’re planning on calling ghost busters?” he asked, his straight face only betrayed by a twitching eyebrow. “’Cause unless you do, I’m not going anywhere right now.”
She was about to insist and demand that he leave, but something in his eyes stopped her. She had seen that look before. It almost seemed like he was preparing to be rejected.
Without another word, she walked to the bed and climbed on top of the coverlet, lying on her side next to him. He turned to face her, and the wary glint in his gaze slowly faded. She only closed her eyes when it had fully disappeared.
“Good night, Spike.”
She could have sworn she felt his lips brush her cheek just as she was starting to fall asleep. She was smiling when she drifted away, and the smile was still there when she woke up. Spike was gone, but the sheet of paper on the pillow next to her, although blank, was enough of a goodbye.
As she paced through Fred’s lab, Buffy glowered at the handful of people tied to stretchers, their eyes still bleeding as they struggled in their bonds. Harmony was one of them, as was Gunn. Gunn had assaulted that annoying girl that served as liaison, and Harmony had tried to bite Fred. Buffy had arrived just in time to intervene in that last case, and it was only the lack of a stake that had kept Harmony undusty.
Fred’s explanation of what was happening incurred her bad temper: the universe was shifting, in danger of imploding, all because Spike, through a mysterious box, had regained his body.
She didn’t really mind the apocalypse warnings; she had survived enough of those to keep her cool about them. What was truly irking her was that he had regained his body, and, instead of coming to share the good news with her, he had chosen to piss off Angel.
“I still think we should go after them,” she grumbled, not for the first time, as Fred was checking Gunn’s heartbeat. The woman threw her a commiserating look.
“They were halfway there by the time you got here,” she pointed out, not for the first time. “And they’re probably… here, actually.”
Buffy turned in time to see Angel step into the lab. His face was bruised and bloody, and he walked with a limp.
“What happened?” she demanded, her heart jumping to her throat in fear for Spike’s fate. “What did you do to him?”
Angel rolled his eyes at her accusatory tone. “I’m all right, Buffy, thanks for asking.”
The retort burning her lips faded as Spike walked in. He looked as startled to see her there as she was to see him bloodied. Hurt was better than dust, certainly, but not hurt at all would have been even better.
“Hey, luv,” he said with a nervous smile in response to her frown. “I was just about to clean up a bit and come to see you.”
“I see,” she replied coldly, crossing her arms over her chest as anger and relief battled inside her. “So your agenda for the day you became corporeal again was to piss off Angel first, and come brag to me after that?”
“It’s not—” he started, but she didn’t let him finish.
“Which makes me wonder if you fell for me in the first place just so you could annoy him. Is that what it was, Spike? Get both his girl and his shanshu?”
Buffy was aware of the people around her, but all her attention was on Spike, and on his slowly hardening features.
“Didn’t think either belonged to him. Maybe I was wrong.”
The jealousy and childishness tinting his words were clear as crystal, and made Buffy wonder what it would take to make him see reason. Hadn’t she been plain enough since coming to LA? What else was she supposed to do to convince him? After worrying so much about him for the past hour or so, this was just too much.
“And maybe I was wrong to come here,” she snapped before striding out of the room, barely biting back the comment that he ought to grow up.
She had not reached the elevator yet and she was already regretting her words. She had barely walked out of the building when she realized they had literally thrown away weeks of working to get past the barrier of words. She almost turned back then, ready to apologize and start from scratch, but she was too wound up still to talk to him rationally. Maybe a couple of hours would calm both of them down.
She took her time going back to the hotel, walking rather than taking a cab, and when she reached her door Spike was standing in front of it. He had cleaned the blood off his face, but the bruises were still visible and she winced at their sight. Then she noticed what he was holding, and she blinked in surprise. She couldn’t remember him ever offering her flowers before.
“Fred suggested them,” he said, slightly sullen, noticing what she was staring at, and thrust the bouquet at her. She took the roses by pure reflex.
“It doesn’t erase anything you did,” she said, her throat tight. “Or anything I said.”
Both his hands now thrust into his coat’s pockets, he shrugged.
“Isn’t that on par for the course for us? I do something for you, and you end up angry with me because of it.”
There was such resignation in his voice that Buffy sighed. Why did they have to play this game, still? One step forward and two back, all along the way.
“Don’t tell me you fought with Angel for me.” Shaking her head, she walked to the door and opened it. Spike looked at her askance when she stepped in, and she had to open it a little wider for him to follow.
“But I did,” he insisted. “If that destiny was mine, if I’m the one who’s going to be human, then I can give you what you wanted and…”
“Wait a second there,” she interrupted him, incredulous. “Where did you get the idea what I want someone human?”
His answer was no more than a perplexed frown.
“Not sure if you’ve noticed,” she continued, “but my human boyfriends? Pretty much a complete fiasco. I don’t need you to play that game. I love you as you are.”
It was only when he stared at her in shock that she realized what she had said. She had meant her declaration back on the Hellmouth, but she had never found the courage to say it again. Until now.
And if it was time for long overdue admissions…
“I could have loved you without the soul,” she murmured. “You weren’t that different. I just don’t think I was able to love anyone at the time. All I could do was hurt. Hurt inside, and hurt you, and just be such a bitch and…”
“Hey, enough of that now,” he growled as he stepped to her. “No one can call you a bitch ‘cept me.”
Whatever she had been about to say fled her mind as his mouth found hers. The kiss held all the fire and hunger Spike hadn’t been able to express physically in weeks – and it left her a little dazed. The roses, forgotten, fell to the floor as she clutched at his back.
“We probably should slow down,” he mumbled as his mouth drifted along her jaw and to her ear. “Don’t wanna break everything by going too fast and…”
Pulling back, she looked straight into his eyes and found what she was looking for. He was looking at her today the same way he had been for years. With the same love.
“We’ve already taken things slow enough. I say it’s time to catch up.”
Somehow, she wasn’t all that surprised when he didn’t protest any further.
Another fiery kiss robbed all thoughts from her, and she soon found herself on her bed and naked – and rather unsure how either thing had happened.
“Too long,” Spike was mumbling against her skin, leaving trails of fire on her with nothing more than kisses. “Much too long. Never going to last. Can’t…”
Flipping them over so she was above him, she had no trouble understanding what he meant. Between their bodies, his cock was rock hard, and Spike practically arched off the bed she touched him, having slid to the side to give her hand enough room to play.
“Don’t try to fight it,” she whispered against his lips, pumping his dick slow and tight. “It’s not the end, just the beginning.”
As much as her touch, her words seemed to do the trick, and it wasn’t look before he shuddered and came in her hand, his moan muffled by her mouth on his.
She watched him lay still for a moment; she had never looked at him like this, right after he had come, his face so relaxed, practically glowing… He was beautiful. And she told him as much. He answered her with a kiss, and his hands seemingly all over her body at once.
Had she been able to think, she would have realized he had to be starved for touch. But then, so was she, and it wasn’t until early the next morning that they fell asleep holding each other, sated. At least for the moment.
Waking up in Spike’s arms – and realizing that there was no place else she would rather have been – was an experience in and of itself for Buffy. A small part of her had almost expected habits to take over and cause her to leave; but nothing of the sort was happening. She was perfectly fine where she was, except for the beginning of a crick in her neck that made her shift her head from where it rested on his shoulder. His arm tightened at her waist when she moved, and Spike, although still asleep, let out a quiet growl of protest that she shushed quietly.
“Shh… Not going anywhere,” she murmured. “At least not until you wake up.”
Her cheek now resting on Spike’s chest, she felt him take a breath before he replied.
“And where will you go when I do?”
Her fingers playing idly over his skin, she answered with some hesitation, fearing that she was going too fast. “Depends on where you’ll want to go with me. The planet’s pretty big, and it’s all ours.”
She had a brief vision of the two of them visiting big cities of the world, playing tourists by night and staying in their hotel rooms by day. It was – just a little – over the top, but it made her grin.
“But Rome does come to mind,” she finished more reasonably. “I can’t leave Dawn alone forever with Andrew. He acts more like a kid than she does, sometimes.”
Seconds trickled away into silence, and Buffy felt cold cover her like a blanket at Spike’s lack of response. Could it be that he didn’t want to go with her? Had she read too much into a fiery night?
“Tell me what you’re thinking?” she asked softly, shifting away from him so she could see his face. He looked very serious, and just a little bit afraid.
“Something big is brewing here. I’m not sure what, but it’s coming. Someone sent that bloody amulet to Angel; someone made me corporeal again; someone sent us to chase after an illusion. This someone wanted me to mess with Angel’s head, or dust him. Both things could have been fun, but I don’t like being anyone’s puppet. If I kick his ass, it’ll be because he’s a wanker, not because I’ve been set up.”
She watched him for a long moment; the last time she had seen him this determined he had been about to take down the Hellmouth by himself.
“That means you’re staying in Los Angeles, doesn’t it?” she asked with a slight sigh.
His smile was very close to a grimace. “I’ve got to. Just to make sure Angel doesn’t fuck up royally. Or to say ‘told you so’ when he does. And the rest of his gang isn’t half bad. It’d be a pity if bad things happened to them.”
He laughed then, and she quirked an eyebrow at him, silently asking what was so funny.
“It’s all your fault,” he accused her. “Three years ago, I wouldn’t have given a damn what happened to them as long as I got you. And now I think I can help them so I’m ready to let you go…”
The importance of his words seemed to crash down on him, and his amusement disappeared in one pained look.
“I love you,” he said, his voice almost shaking in intensity. “Never stopped. Don’t think I ever will. But Rome…”
“I do have to check on Dawn,” she interrupted softly. “And see what she wants to do. But nothing says I can’t come back. And stay.”
His lips were on hers the instant she finished, grateful, demanding and overwhelming. It occurred to her, before all conscious thought disappeared into burning pleasure, that for once she was the one giving rather than receiving. She had never realized it could feel this good, or be this easy.