As dusk descended on Sunnydale, a vampire twitched awake in the basement of 1630 Revello Drive, ragged breaths calming as he shook off the echoes of a bad dream. It took him a moment to remember where he was – lying on a cot, blanket tossed over his bare chest. Even less time to recall that it had been quite a while since the slayer had used her fists on him to inflict hurt. Ever since the key arrived in the mail, their relationship had blossomed; moving in a direction he had forlornly hoped for, but hardly dared believe would be attainable.
Spike sat up and yawned, reaching for his tee-shirt and pulling it on as he stretched sore muscles. The Fengla demons had been tough buggers to put down last night, giving Buffy and him a good dose of violence before they returned to Joyce’s house… still, in many ways, Buffy’s home.
Buffy was, understandably, reluctant to leave her mum for long periods after the operation. Of course, with the renovations being carried out on the house Buffy’s great aunt Lucille had bequeathed to her, it only made sense for them to bunk down here. Kill two birds with one stone, so to say. The only down side to this arrangement was that it had effectively put a halt in his courting of the slayer, something he’d been pursuing with a patience he was still surprised to discover he possessed. As her new housemate, Spike was making every effort to move his few belongings into her room. Not exactly true; his motley collection of clothes and knickknacks could stay where they were for all he cared, just as long as he was invited into Buffy’s bedroom…and her bed.
Funny how things had changed after the key had arrived. One moment Spike was on the outside looking in, wishing he could change places with Captain Cardboard, prodding at the sore place in his heart that longed for the balm of the slayer’s attention. Then the wanker did him the great favour of flirting with the dark side of the force, and all because he was in a snit about the girl being nibbled on by Drac. Arsehole. Just thinking about it was enough to make him go all ‘grr argh’.
Spike shook away the bumpies and unfolded from the cot, rolling his neck and shoulders as he crossed to the dryer and pulled out the clothes he and Buffy had been wearing on patrol last night. He was glad to see the purple splodge that passed for Fengla blood had failed to stain the slayer’s third favourite top; he’d had the laundry lecture and was in no hurry to repeat the experience.
Still, the Soldier Boy’s insanity had allowed his own, faltering, attempts at change to be noticed. By Buffy. Enough for her to give him shelter when the git had blown up his crypt on his way out of town - luckily, Spike he’d been out and about at the time of the crime - and she hadn’t thrown him out yet.
She’d turned to Spike when her mom’s condition took a downturn. Brought him into the group in a casual way; asked his opinion, discarded it almost as often. Let him stand by her, alongside her friends, when the worst had been feared - included him in the group when they went to celebrate the success of Joyce’s operation.
Yeah, Spike had a lot to thank Buffy’s mysterious great aunt Lucille for.
Joyce stared at the Tupperware box in her fridge, wondering what vile concoction would be inside. She almost shook her head in rueful amusement, remembering just in time that a headache would be the likely result. Should a mother take pride in the fact that her daughter’s cooking skills – or lack thereof – suited a vampire so well?
Smiling to herself, Joyce began the ritual of making tea. Spike would be up soon, filling the kitchen with his presence, his kindnesses and roguish charm. She’d mulled long and hard on whether she should step in and put a halt to the vampire’s blatant wooing of her only daughter. Buffy had been far too good for Angel. Nothing had changed her mind about that. But Spike… There was just something about him, something that made a mother’s heart fill with tolerant affection.
And there was something about the spring in Buffy’s step lately that couldn’t be ignored. Spike was good for her. There might be some lamb in him, but the wolf could be trusted to stand his ground with her girl. He had a bluntness to rival Anya’s at times!
Joyce was still chuckling to herself when Spike yawned his way through the basement door.
“’Allo, Joyce. You’re looking right chipper, love. Suits you.”
His smile was genuine, from the heart; she could see that. Joyce could see that the irreverent creature before her, a vampire, actually cared about her as well as her daughter. Spike was nothing like the one she had sent away. Nothing at all.
“I’m feeling a lot better, thank you. Buffy’s left your breakfast in the fridge.”
There was less surprise today than there had been yesterday. Barely any compared to the day before. That Buffy was bringing in a meal for him each day, from the freezer-full she had stocked up for him in their home – Buffy’s house – always seemed to surprise him, humble him. Joyce thought it a shame her daughter couldn’t see what she saw, though perhaps she did.
Spike opened the fridge gently, not wanting to disturb the treasure inside. It was a blue box. He hadn’t dared hope… It was a blue box.
“Something good?” Joyce’s inquisitive voice broke through the bliss flooding Spike. He knew the slayer’s mum had refused to hear the ingredients of the meals Buffy sometimes knocked up for him, pleading queasiness, but this was his favourite.
The eyes he turned to Joyce were almost closed in ecstasy. “The best.”
Blood and Weetabix curry with chilli rice.
God, he loved the girl.
Spike caught the eye of Demon Girl as he exited the basement entrance to the Magic Box. Her better half… Spike snorted. Harris wasn’t anyone’s better half; being Anya’s equal would be the best he could aspire to achieve. Demon solidarity had the boy hopping to a different tune nowadays. Not quite a dance, but getting there.
Anya’s chosen consort was trying to fix extra shelving to the wall, shelves that were just that little bit longer than one man could handle with ease. Indulging in a little bit of vampiric stealth, Spike was rewarded with a gratifying squeal when he took the load at one end.
“Would you stop with the creeping up on people, blood breath?” Xander snapped, ignoring the laughter from the light of his life…and the amused smirk from his unwanted helper.
“A good turn from an evil soulless thing got your knickers in a twist, Harris?” Sometimes the temptation to cast it back was too much to ignore.
Before he could go through the whole rigmarole of asking himself what Buffy would do, he hefted the shelf level again and urged the carpenter, “Come on, get on with it. Places to go, people to see.”
Xander cast a glance back at his beloved fiancée, catching the meaning of her quirked eyebrow instantly. Orgasms rested on how he handled this. Crap.
Opening a box called Prejudice, Xander pushed every harsh thought he had about Spike into it, slammed the lid and prayed it would satisfy his world. Buffy’s life was Buffy’s life. He had his own to live.
“Yeah, that’s good. Just keep it still while I –” He used the sound of the drill to still his unwilling tongue.
He wouldn’t stand in the way; Buffy looked a lot happier lately. But he would be keeping his eye on the undead wonder, just see if he wouldn’t.
Giles opened one eye as Buffy entered his apartment, her peppy tread a joy to his ears. The killer headache from his spell of unconsciousness last night on patrol almost melted at her light steps…
But returned with a vengeance when, with an unseemly amount of perkiness, she asked, “Giles! How you feeling?”
“Much better, thank you. Should be back to normal by tomorrow.” Was he a coward to hope for one day without Spike?
The chipped vampire had somehow inveigled his way into Buffy’s good graces, lending an inordinate amount of happiness to her life. Giles hated him.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to deny the beneficial effect Spike had on Buffy’s commitment to training; the blasted thing encouraged her at every turn. With a pinch of luck, Spike’s betrayal of his own kind would prove his undoing. It was only a matter of time before some demonic beast had its one, good, day…
Giles sighed. It was unlikely in the extreme that the demise of the inconvenient vampire would have anything other than a detrimental affect on Buffy, something he couldn’t quite wish on her after the recent worries from Joyce’s health and Riley’s perfidious behaviour.
“I take it Joyce is continuing to recover apace,” Giles inquired hopefully, the smile that seemed to be a permanent fixture on Buffy’s face deepening at mention of her mother.
“Mom’s good, better than good,” Buffy agreed, moving to Giles’ small kitchenette and putting on a kettle of water to boil. Under Spike’s constant instruction, she was getting pretty good at making tea, practising on her watcher whenever the opportunity arose…which was often.
Not exactly evidence of evil intentions, Giles had to confess. But the way the vampire became his slayer’s shadow whenever they shared the same space… Thank goodness Spike didn’t have a soul to lose. Which reminded him…
“I had a call from Wesley today.”
Buffy glanced up from her tea-making preparations. “Oh? Trouble in LA?” she asked casually.
“Apparently so,” Giles confirmed. “It appears a hell god named Glorificus is causing a bit of mayhem there, searching for a lost key and making rather a nuisance of herself. Wesley’s asked me to approach the council for information after she destroyed the offices of a small firm of lawyers; unusual name, Monks & Brothers.”
“Monks & Brothers? That’s the name of the firm that handled my great aunt’s will.” Buffy considered the coincidence for a moment before shrugging. “Small world, huh?”
A small warning bell sounded in Giles’s head; the connection of two dots, no matter how flimsily linked, urging him to investigate further…which he would, just as soon as his throbbing head allowed him to do so without suffering deep discomfort. He was in no hurry to uncover a need for Buffy to travel to the city and assist in a mess that belonged to Angel.
Buffy carried the tea tray over and placed it on the coffee table, taking a seat next to Giles and grinning at him as she asked, “Shall I be mother?”
The bell over the door jangled merrily as Willow and Tara stepped into the Magic Box. Anya was serving a customer but looked over and smiled in greeting, waving them to the rear of the shop and raising an eyebrow in amusement. Tara and Willow shared an expectant grin before moving further into the shop.
It was as Tara expected; the boys were at it again. Her choked laughter joined Willow’s as they watched the pair work at Buffy’s strict demand for them to play nice…even if they didn’t like each other that much. Or at all.
Spike was flapping his right hand rapidly, glaring into the studied innocence on Xander’s face and demanding, “Does my finger look like a bloody nail, plonker?”
Xander shrugged nonchalantly. “It might, in a certain light.” His avoiding gaze lighted on the giggling girls. “Ladies! Tell me you’ve come bearing sugary goodness.” At his hopeful look, Willow held up a box of donuts, and Xander grinned as he tossed the hammer he was holding into his toolbox, saying gleefully, “Break time!”
In moments, Willow and Xander were settled at the circular table, dipping into the open box of goodies and companionably catching up on their respective days. Tara dropped her book bag on a chair and hurried to catch the vampire as he made his way to the small area put aside for tea and coffee making.
It was a routine they’d somehow got into whenever the original Scoobies gathered in a non-researchy way. Spike would slip away, leaving them to do their version of a meet and greet, speak in the language only they understood, as he busied himself with pouring mugs of coffee and making tea, properly.
As a newbie herself, Tara was content to leave the long-time friends to bond for a few minutes as she helped the vampire by shuttling the freshly made beverages to the meeting table, earning an appreciative smile or the occasional caustic remark on Xander’s wankerishness from Spike.
Spike’s acceptance into the group was only lightly marred by Xander’s rarely expressed antagonism, pretty much as Anya’s inclusion was still looked at askance by a mostly resigned Willow. Both were dealing, and it was getting better every day; practically non-existent when Buffy was present to throw speaking glares at whichever culprit tampered with her ‘play nice’ rule.
Spike’s voice interrupted her reverie. “So, good day with the learning, pet?”
She’d learned to translate this now; Spike would courteously listen to her halting description of her day’s classes, but he was really asking, “How did Buffy’s day go?” So that’s how she answered him.
“Um, English could have been better. Was pretty hard to hear over Buffy’s snores,” she informed him with a grin. “She said clean-up had taken longer than expected.”
“Nooo,” Spike drawled. “It took just as long as I told her it would. Miss Hack and Slash decided using an axe would be quicker than using a saw, though...took half an hour to stop her wittering on about the evils of demon blood on her clothes. So I told her…”
Tara listened with half her brain as Spike prepped the tea and kept up his chatter about the night’s lamentable affect on Buffy’s wardrobe, more interested in watching the flit of emotions over the vampire’s face as his mouth mocked the slayer’s actions and his face told how adorable he thought said actions were.
Boy, he had it bad.
Setting down her cup and saucer, Buffy rose and grabbed her jacket. “Can I get anything for you before I collect Spike and do an early patrol?”
Giles frowned. “Any particular reason patrol is early tonight, Buffy?” His suspicions fell uneasily on the first signs of evidence that the vampire might be tempting Buffy away from her duties. Unfortunately, the slayer’s response dashed his rising hope.
“Sleep, lots of sleep,” Buffy asserted.
And, yes, now he took the time to study her closely there was a certain amount of weariness around her eyes. Giles suspicions swung in another, equally – if not more – worrying direction. But only for a second, thank goodness.
Buffy fixed him with a strange smile and asked, “Do you know how difficult it is to get Fingle goop out of your clothes and off your skin?” Or fight the urge to just stop and stare at topless Spike? TMI? Oh, yeah, Giles would really like to hear that! “I got two hours sleep, tops, by the time we were through. I don’t know how Spike managed to nod off in the basement, not with the washer and dryer both clonking away.” But he had looked very pretty, and I was only that close to him because of the blanket, the one in my hands, my hands near his…Just doing a good deed, that’s all. Damn, I can’t even convince myself! “But you can bet he’s had a good day’s sleep while I’ve been an inch away from asking Willow for a wakey-wakey spell all day.”
The look on Giles face demanded that she clarify immediately. “Joking, Giles! I know it’s against your magic club rules, the practising of hocus-pocus for frivolous reasons. Besides, it’s nothing that can’t be cured by an early night.” Not that she’d rest easy until Spike got back from the last patrol. There was always that fear he would fall foul of nocturnal nasties other than demons.
Buffy patted her pocket, smiling as she pulled out a key, the one which opened the house from great aunt Lucille. Such a pretty key; especially when the light struck it just so, when it gave the impression of glowing greenly. The renovations to the house were complete, and if her mom was as well as she claimed to be, maybe tomorrow she could move back in…with Spike.
“In that case, I shall wish you a quiet patrol and a good night of rest, Buffy,” said Giles. “And I shall do the same…but without the patrolling element, naturally.”
Giggling, Buffy pulled open the door and called over her shoulder as she left, “Night, Giles!”
Anya closed the door behind Buffy, turned the sign, dropped the latch and followed her down to rejoin the others. The Magic Box was closed for the night and the money was tucked up in the safe behind locks and spells – approved by the magic club, of which she was secretary.
The day’s work had been most satisfying. There had been a steady stream of customers she could interact with, pouring their money into her…Giles’ cash register with pleasing regularity.
Then there had been the added bonus of having her beloved working in the store all day. Anya didn’t fully approve of how Giles had shanghaied Xander’s services just as he was about to be approached by Buffy to do some renovations on her house. The job for Buffy would have paid more, and, if he’d taken it, Xander would have been able to afford to give her pretty presents; she already had a list made out, just in case he ever needed a hint or two.
But no, Giles had decided he really must have a shelving change to enhance the ‘marketability’ of the wares held in the back of the shop. And Xander had grabbed the chance to throw a hurdle in the way of anything that would have Buffy and Spike un-chaperoned again. In Anya’s view it was a very poor business deal, and so she had told her boyfriend - twice, because he didn’t appear to have heard her properly the first time.
Watching Spike and Xander had been entertaining in the intervals between customers. How they could enunciate meaningfully through such gritted teeth was mystifying, but they seemed to understand each other passably well – and the job was progressing without bloodshed, always a bonus in an open store. And the way they made the effort to seem all chummy every time they caught her looking their way? Cute, very cute.
Now that Buffy had arrived the dance would begin. She liked to watch their faces as Spike started his spiralling steps, the ones that inevitably brought him to Buffy’s side sooner or later; normally sooner. Tara would catch her eye and smile her sweet lopsided smile, eyes sharing the joke as they both watched to see how Xander would try to come between the pair today. Or Willow. Though Anya was almost sure that any check by the witch would have more to do with uncontrolled impulse than intent to intercede in any way.
Giles could be the worst of them. If he were here tonight Anya doubted she’d be heading for her orgasms any time soon, always finding one last detail to go over with Buffy before first patrol…even on magic club nights. That stung; she really enjoyed the evenings when Giles and she would collaborate to help train Willow and Tara. Well, mostly Tara since she actually listened to her.
Anya glanced at her watch. Five minutes, maybe less. That’s how long she estimated it would take Buffy to do a ‘hi and goodbye’ and take off with Spike.
She could wait that long.
All heads turned as Buffy walked down to join the group at the table. Spike watched as the slayer did the rounds, hugging the lovebirds and giving a pat to Xander’s arm in passing. His own greeting came in the form of a squeeze on the shoulder and a smile as he twisted in his chair to look at her. She looked tired. Well, that was fine, he’d shoulder the other patrol tonight, hell, he could do both - would suggest that to her…once they were outside. If Spike suggested it now he’d wager that one of the not so bright at the table would harangue her to go for a night out dancing, or somesuch nonsense, not seeing for themselves that the girl was plum tuckered out.
Spike held out the once-full box of donuts to Buffy, the box thrust into his keeping by Harris when temptation threatened to deprive the slayer of her own shot at ‘sugary goodness’. Glad to do his bit for the boy’s waistline, and give the girl a snack before carnage, Spike had been happy to oblige. When the slayer beamed at the proffered treats he was almost willing to forgive the whelp for the blow to his hand …almost, but not quite.
He looked around, pleased to note that Anya was putting her coat on, ready to leave work for the day. Tara wasn’t far behind her, gathering her belongings, tapping Willow on the shoulder to get her attention as she stood and blathered to Buffy.
“Thanks…for the help today.”
Spike froze, turning to face Harris, looking for any sign of the usual mockery on his face; he had heard none in the words. Granted, the boy looked like he was swallowing poison but… Play nice.
There it was, that bitty Buffy voice, the guide he heard now and then when his natural urges were about to put the mockers on all the progress he’d been making. They’d been barely keeping the lid on snarling at each other since he’d arrived, and he’d only decided to help at seeing the worried frown on Anya’s face as the plank looked in danger of obliterating a goodly portion of the watcher’s stock… Still, would be churlish to toss it back in guy’s face. Like Buffy kept telling him, they didn’t have to like each other, but they did have to play nice.
And his finger had already mended.
“I’d say it was a pleasure but –”
Xander looked properly abashed. “Yeah, about that –”
It looked like Willow had finished nattering; Buffy was looking between them, a slight frown threatening to crease her forehead. Couldn’t be having that. He rose smoothly, grinning at the flash of panic in Xander’s eyes.
“Just telling the carpenter what a smashing time I had today, pet.” Spike smirked at the blush rising on the boy’s cheeks, one that Buffy would notice and question if they didn’t leave now. “So, all set for patrol, Slayer?”
“Am I missing something here?” Buffy’s tone invited them to tell her that she wasn’t missing a thing.
“Nope, no missage from where I’m sitting, Buffster,” Xander assured her, his eye caught by Anya pointedly looking at her watch. “And is that the time already? Guess I’ll just leave you guys to have all the fighty fun. Oh, there’s a bunch of new stakes in the training room. Had me a whittling itch and –”
“Xander! They don’t want to hear about your itch, they just want to patrol so they can go home and do…whatever it is they do when they’re at home,” Anya faltered to a halt as Xander swallowed hard and visibly fought not to go there, not at all.
Spike had a strangely wistful look on his face, one that dissolved into laughter when Buffy turned to Anya and said, “Tea. He makes me brew tea.”
“I do not make you brew bloody tea every night, Slayer.”
Buffy had turned down Spike’s offer to take all tonight’s patrols. But it had been cute of him to offer, and hard not to take advantage of him. She knew he needed the violence, needed that feeling of being alive, being in control, almost more than she did. But she had a feeling the council would get wind of it if too many patrols were solo runs by a chipped vampire. It was her duty…but it was nice to share.
They had yet to meet any nasties, not even a fledgling vamp to get the adrenaline kicking in, and were now on their last cemetery before turning back to Revello Drive and dinner with her mom. Maybe she should look on the bright side; at least all her clothes would still be wearable.
“Do too, you evil British vampire, you,” Buffy teased. “On the other hand, the whole steam thing from the zillion gallons of water I’ve boiled should be good for my –” The wind oophed out of her as she hit the ground, felled by…a fledging. About time!
Buffy picked herself up, brushing leaf litter from her coat and found a place among the headstones to settle for her role as spectator. There was only one piece of prey, and it didn’t look like Spike was gonna share. Not that she minded. It was good to sit back and watch him fight now and then, take the time to appreciate the lethal weapon he made of his body, and the sureness with which he wielded it.
It was hard at times to trust in the changes she could see in the vampire, especially now, when he was going fist and fangs against an opponent that wasn’t her. Once, she’d been on the other end of his punches and kicks, countering his blows and coming up with her own to stay alive. Her perspective then had been a tad slanted toward survival and victory. Now she could fully admire the strength and tenacity of Spike in motion…and flirt with wondering what other kind of motions he would excel at. Okay, maybe a bit more than flirt, better make that full on wondering.
Living with a housemate who regularly walked around half-naked, it was hard not to imagine what it would be like to touch the paleness of his skin, or how his droolworthy musculature would feel under her fingertips. And, even if she did manage to keep her eyes from lapping his nudity up, they would only fall captive of his mouth, or his eyes, if she dragged her gaze away.
The savage predator - currently teaching the young vampire a fatal lesson - was only one side of Spike, she was learning. A side she liked a whole lot more now she was dancing with him, not against him. He was more a partner to her than Riley had ever been, in all ways but one. The once unthinkable was being seriously considered, and Buffy wasn’t even thinking of fighting her growing attraction to the triumphant vampire swaggering her way, grinning for all he was worth.
“Sorry about that, love. Was only the one so thought you wouldn’t mind, just this once.”
Buffy reached up and brushed a trace of vamp dust from his face, letting her fingers trail down his cheekbones when he stilled under her touch, his eyes pinning her with a passion she didn’t want to ignore. She gazed into his eyes, opened her mouth and…yawned.
Spell broken, Spike chuckled and pulled her up from the headstone she’d perched on. “Come on, Slayer. Let’s head back to your mum’s.” He smirked down at her, an evil glint in his eye. “I’ll give you time to freshen up, then you can make me a nice cup of tea before dinner.” Dodging the half-hearted swat, Spike grabbed her hand and threaded it through his cocked arm, enjoying the warmth of their joining.
Buffy yawned again, allowing the vampire to guide her home. Her house wasn’t home, not yet. Oh, that reminded her.
“Did I tell you the house is all finished now?” Had she? She couldn’t remember. But the quick tensing and relaxing of his arm under her hand said she hadn’t.
“Is that right?” The question was left hanging for a moment before he continued, “So, we moving back in soon?”
Tomorrow. Would tomorrow be too soon? She’d have to see how her mom was tonight and tomorrow, but the day after…
“The day after tomorrow, as long as mom’s okay. Okay?”
Spike’s hand found hers and squeezed gently. “’S fine, pet. Couldn’t be better.”
“Cool.” Buffy was silent for a moment, listening to a curious buzzing. She squinted up, taking in the content smile on Spike’s face, and chose not to call him on it.
Maybe she would give him something else to purr about before too long. Not tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but soon.
Author's Chapter Notes:
My small contribution to Fall 2008 Seasonal Spuffy. Many thanks to Slaymesoftly and Alwaysjbj for betaing.