"Did Angel tell you?"
Her head lifted from his chest.
"Tell me what? Oh. No, nobody told me." She laid her head back down, but she was no longer entirely relaxed.
"I-- always knew you were coming back."
"Really? Could've shared."
She shrugged a little. "It wasn't until you told me you were seeing it through. I just-- felt it." She pulled her arms in closer to her sides and tucked one hand under her chin. "I didn't feel like that about myself or anybody else, and that would have been nice because it was close, really close. I almost missed the mother of all buses. But-- I knew you were going to be OK."
Before he could think of something to say to this, he felt Buffy flush.
"I know how it sounds. I had this theory that it was some new and improved form of the denial phase. Advanced grief for experts. I didn't talk about it a lot."
He slid his arms tighter around her and pressed a kiss to the top of her head, hard enough so he knew she'd feel it. It was a little while before she spoke again, but when she did, her voice was even, a little wry.
"Everyone hung out in L.A. for awhile, afterwards. It was supposed to be relaxing, but it turns out that Angelus in charge of Wolfram and Hart is Giles' idea of a legitimate use of nuclear weapons."
"Angel's hair is a legitimate use of nuclear weapons."
"I don't think he's the one with the nuclear hair." She threaded her fingers through it and leaned in for a lingering kiss before settling herself back on his chest. "I've never seen that side of Giles before, not like that. It actually kinda gave me the willies."
"Mm, I think I'm familiar actually."
"Huh. Well, Giles wanted to forget about contacting him, but-- Did you know that Wolfram and Hart has a special alarm for the Slayer? All that ducking and covering did make me feel special." She paused. He had the feeling she was savoring. "There were booby traps. But Angel shut them down just when-- What're you laughing at?"
"You! You sound like that bloody robot, about booby traps." He adopted a tone of polite interest. "So, you popped in to say 'hello' did you?"
"Hmm? Oh, well, that and... Ah." She yawned, it was nearly dawn. "How long are you going to give me a hard time about that? Ballpark figure?"
Without thinking he said, "The rest of your days Slayer, never let you forget it."
"Mm, good thing I bought extra towels and stuff." She sounded half asleep. "I told Dawn they weren't for anything, but I'm not sure she believed me." Her body relaxed along his like a cat on a windowsill, and like a cat she began to twitch after awhile, hunting even in her sleep.
So it was settled then. Just like that.
He lay still, listened to her heart, her breathing. The rhythms were distinctive, and just as he remembered. So was the aroma of her sex, which he was so thoroughly immersed in that it had become transparent, everywhere and nowhere. There were some cracks in the ceiling, mice too for that matter. Some of her two-legged neighbors were stirring as well. Dawn wasn't at home, but she either lived here or near as. As he cataloged the various sounds and scents of human habitation, he realized he was waiting for something to leap out and make sense of all this. Something to reveal this for a dream or a spell. But nothing was wrong or out of place, except for him.
He tried to relax, go to sleep. Usually an easy thing to do when the sun was nearly up, but he kept replaying the events of the night before. A hundred kinds of sweet. I always knew you were coming back. The rest of your days. He knew what it meant, her being in Rome. Buffy battled the forces of evil, but The Intolerable humiliated them and left them on the edge of town. The ones that weren't on his A list anyway. She'd be lucky to find a vampire on the hunt that didn't still have dirt in its shoes, and there hadn't been an apocalyptic cult here since the pink pinafore and lollypop incident of '64. Whether she knew it or not, she was so far out in left field she was out to pasture really. She might very well live out a normal span of years, whatever that might be, carry on a normal sort of life. Not bollocks it up. Shit.
He sat up. Beside him, Buffy grumbled and stretched. "What is it?"
"Buffy, are you sure about this? The towel thing?" God he was such an idiot. "You know, playing at 'happy families' with a vampire."
Buffy sat up on her elbows. "Didn't we have the discussion about you trying to be honorable?"
He looked at her. She was trying the pout. On him. He blinked. A rumpled, sleepy- Ohhh no. He quit mooning at her upper lip and fixed her with his second best 'don't fuck with me' look.
"Fine," she muttered. He kept a wary eye on her as she shifted back against the pillows, tucking the sheet under her arms. "Like the way your scruples magically appear after the sex."
He was outraged. "Hey, I tried, remember?"
"Hah! That wasn't scruples that was a- a booty check!"
He pointed at her. "Well, that's all the scruples you're going to get missy, when it comes to getting you naked, so you just keep that in mind next time you throw yourself at me!"
"Throw myself- I did, didn't I?" She wrinkled her nose at him a little, and a smile that was both smug and conspiratorial spread across her face.
He shook his head, never in a million years. "Look. I'm trying to have a serious conversation here."
Her smile faded; she looked down at her hands. As if a glamour had fallen away, she was suddenly the Buffy he remembered. The one that was always a little wistful, a little weary. All his doing. Wasn't he a prince? Christ, what was he doing here? He wanted to leave. He wanted to take it all back. He wanted to rub her nose deep in 'til she never forgot what he was. Then she started to speak, and all he could do was listen.
"It's not like there's not one in me. A demon. When we were together before, I was really letting it run me. At first it seemed like- that was the only part of me that was alive. Then I hated it and I- liked it too, seeing other people hurt. And there you were, cheering it on. Feeding it."
He couldn't look at her anymore.
"You liked the way it let you in, let you- you would have let it destroy me. But, you also kept me alive. Until I was strong enough to fight it, strong enough to fight you. And then your demon slipped the leash-"
"I was there, remember? Is that what this is all about, you've decided you're -contaminated- now? Not good enough for-"
"No. No! You- You're-"
He whipped his head around. "Stupid? Evil?"
"Male?" She sighed. She eased up along his side, knees drawn up next to his, shoulder to shoulder. "OK, the short version. Neither of us is exactly safe, but you- help me be my best self now."
"So, you feel like you need a keeper. With benefits."
"No. Apparently, I feel like I need a great big pain in my-" She took a deep breath. "Look, I'm just sure." She was quiet for awhile. "Remember, I told you once that I could be alone with you around? You're the only person that's like that. It was important to me, even when it was for bad reasons. Now, it's like, you're around even when I'm alone. Sooo... I guess you could just take off then, and I'd be fine. Which, is totally true, but-" She let her head fall forward onto her knees. Her voice emerged from the fall of her hair. "Could we go back to your 'keeper with benefits' idea?"
"Not sure I'm what you'd want in a keeper. If I had it to do over, I'd let you put it all on me again, every blow. Probably even stash a body or two for you."
"What?" She lifted her head and looked at him.
"Was there someone else you'd rather? One of your friends? Dawn maybe?" He looked away. "Anyway, not preying on humans doesn't sodding make me into one. Vampires, you don't like somebody you eat em or twist their heads off or something. Beating, torturing," he shrugged, "shows you care."
"Oh my god. It was the hitting."
She waved a hand, her attention elsewhere. "Xander and I once, we tried to figure out what you saw in me."
"Oh, and I suppose you fell in love with every boy who yanked your pigtails."
If she heard his grumbling, she didn't show it. "Is that why you acted like I declared my love instead of rearranging your face? I mean, at the time it was just one more wrong thing in the big ol' Parade of Wrong that was that night, but-"
He rubbed the back of his neck. "There's things you've done I like better, but yeah, if you'd hauled me off somewhere and chained me up, I would have been one happy vamp." He'd dragged his own sorry carcass out of that alley, but he hadn't followed her out of it. Not then. Part of him was there yet, waiting for some unlucky soul to wander by.
"Things you like better- Spike. I almost staked you that night. There I was, with my- my vampire lover, looking down at a girl I killed. I was blacking out, losing time. Honestly?" She splayed a hand over her heart. "I was about ready to stake me."
The hand waving that had accompanied her little speech had caused the sheet to fall. He studied the results out of the corner of his eye.
She yanked the sheet up.
"Forget the keeper thing. I don't need a keeper." She looked away.
"Your friends, your family, they all hate me."
"Sometimes they don't like me very much," she said quietly.
"I can never go out in the light with you."
"Let's see. My schedule. Yup, graveyard shift forever."
"Buffy, this was nice -amazing- but maybe it's a better end-" He actually jumped a little when her hand closed firmly around the back of his neck.
"Spike?" Buffy finally looked serious.
"Yeah?" He frowned at her. She didn't say anything more. She just looked at him with those eyes of hers. She raised her eyebrows, like he was missing something obvious. Maybe he was. His shoulders drooped. It had been one drunken, fire-breathing, three-headed bitch-demon of a trip that had landed him here. He was suddenly too weary to care much about the advisability of it all. He wanted to pull the sheets over himself, Buffy too if she was amenable, and sleep for a fortnight.
"OK?" The hand dropped from his neck.
"OK." He slung a companionable arm around her shoulders and pulled her in. "Tell anyone that I tickled you and it's over."
Buffy sighed and tucked her head under his chin. "Nobody would believe I let you live anyway. The chaining you up and beating you thing was starting to sound really, really attractive. Torturing's not my thing though.”
"Was never mine either actually."
"Well, there you go."
He shook his head. "One more thing we have in common."
If you enjoyed or have a nit to pick, please leave a comment, it makes me very happy!