Buffy crumpled onto the couch next to Spike after her friends left. The day had been long and busy, and she was completely exhausted.
“Nights like this make you miss the peace and quiet of slaying, huh?” Spike joked, his attention still focused on the holiday special lighting up the television.
“No, no. Not at all.” Buffy exhaled deeply, turning to look at him sheepishly. “Oh, God, yes,” she admitted. “I know they’re my friends and I’m supposed to be happy to spend the holidays with them, but I’m so tired. I feel like I could sleep until New Year’s.”
“Don’t need to tell me. Only reason I agreed to join your happy little feast was for you and Dawn.”
“Well thanks.” Her cheeks heated up in the annoying way they seemed to when he was around. “I’m glad you did.”
Spike drew in a deep, unnecessary breath, finally turning his gaze away from the television to look at her. “Much as it pains to me admit this, pet, you and your mates used to be thick as thieves.”
Buffy scrunched her face in confusion. “What as…huh? I thought we were the good guys?”
“Yeah, course you are.” He paused, considering how best to explain it to her since he clearly wasn’t getting it right. “All I’m sayin’ is you all used to be real tight. Plenty of group hugs and slumber parties I bet.”
“What about us?” she asked, refusing to meet his level gaze.
“What about us?” he countered, a little annoyed that she wasn’t grasping the information he shouldn’t care about enough to share with her.
“Okay this is going to sound crazy, like lock me up in the loony bin crazy,” she warned, giving her a minute to collect her thoughts. “When I’m with my friends they still feel like people I just met. There’s no hint of familiarity, even though they are clearly a huge part of my life, if the pictures in this house are any indication. But with you it’s different. You know how people say something’s on the tip of their tongue? Well it’s like you’re on the tip of my brain, as disgusting as that sounds. When I’m around you it feels like any second I’m going to remember something.” She waited a minute for Spike to respond, but all he did was stare at her. Shaking her head to clear away her jumbled thoughts, she broke the silence. “I told you it was nuts. Apparently we don’t even like each other.” She let her voice drift off, looking up at him from under her lashes.
“Ours is a long and sordid past. One I’m much too knackered to get into with you.” Grabbing the remote, he returned his attention once again to surfing through channel after channel of overplayed holiday programs.
Buffy didn’t push him, but she was growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of information she had about her own life. She could easily explain away her interest in the vampire. Good looks aside, he made her feel as though she were on the verge of remembering something. But she knew that wasn’t the only reason she chose to spend time with him. She felt something else when he was around—something that had nothing to do with her brain.
They sat together in silence, neither paying much attention to the television they were pretending to watch. Buffy shifted on the cushion, curling her legs underneath her and subconsciously moving closer to him on the couch.
Spike cleared his throat, craving a cigarette, but finding himself unable to move from his spot next to her. “Don’t make a fuss,” he started, turning toward her and finding they were much closer than he realized. “But I got you something.”
Buffy beamed. “You did? What is it?”
Spike rolled his eyes. She looked like a kid on Christmas morning. “Told you not to make a fuss. It’s nothing special. Just saw it and thought of you.” He pulled a small box out of nowhere and handed it to her. It wasn’t wrapped—because vampires don’t wrap presents—but she couldn’t have cared less.
Buffy gasped as she held up what had been inside the box. “Oh, Spike, it’s the sweater I ruined last week.” She’d learned the hard way, trying to get demon blood out of a green sweater with bleach was not the right approach.
“Not the same one, but pretty damn close.” He caught her gazing at him with a look of astonishment so he couldn’t help but add, “It’s nothing. Really. Didn’t even pay for it.”
Buffy smiled, knowingly. “Right, because you’re evil,” she joked, because he reminded her of it often enough.
“And don’t you forget it.”
Setting the box aside, Buffy wrapped her arms around him, embracing him tightly. “Thank you. I love it,” she said, as she breathed softly against his neck.
Spike slowly returned the hug, inhaling the familiar scent that was so uniquely his slayer. In the past month, Buffy had touched him more than she ever had before. It was almost like the time Willow cast the spell to have her will done, except this time he was under no illusions of what was reality. Pushing rationale aside, he let himself enjoy the feeling of Buffy in his arms.
He felt her soft lips graze his neck and didn’t have time to protest before they latched onto his. Her kiss was tentative as she waited for his reaction. Not strong enough to deny what was already happening between them, he returned the kiss with fervor. It had been much too long since he’d felt her lips on his and this time it was different. She was really there and not just trying to lose herself in him.
Buffy grabbed the red dress shirt he wore, bringing him down on top of her as she leaned back into the couch. His body covered hers, careful not to crush her small frame with his larger one. Their lips only broke momentarily for her to quickly pull air into her lungs, smashing back together as soon as she had her fill. Her tiny hands traveled between his two shirts, feeling the hard muscles of his back. She didn’t dare be any bolder; afraid he would change his mind.
His name, a breathy moan from her lips, reminded him of just what exactly was happening between them, what he was weakly allowing to happen. He carefully pulled back, hovering above her on an elbow. She slowly opened her eyes, confusion marring her pretty face. Eyes closed, he shook his head, feeling like a real asshole. He was the one who knew better.
With a sigh he murmured, “Sorry,” and moved away from her to the other side of the couch.
Buffy sat up, self-consciously smoothing her hair down, and righting her skewed top. “What are you sorry about?”
“We just can’t all right?” He stood, casting her one last apologetic glance. “See you in the morning.”
Buffy stared at his retreating back, puzzled by his abrupt shift in mood. She’d tried so hard not to scare him off, knowing full well that he was more than a little reluctant to let anything happen between them. Buffy was now frustrated more than ever, so she turned off the television and marched in the direction of her bedroom.
That night Buffy dreamed about Spike. They were fighting in an abandoned building, and soon they weren’t fighting anymore. Suddenly, their lips were fused and she was riding him against a column right before they crashed through the floor. The dream felt so real she woke up gasping for breath with an ache between her thighs.
She glanced around her room, trying to regulate her breathing; thankful the vampire sleeping two floors below didn’t have a clue what she had just been dreaming about. A blush crept into her cheeks as she replayed the dream in her head. Could that really have just been a dream? It certainly didn’t feel like a dream, but she had no way of knowing other than asking someone, and she had no clue who she could possibly ask.
Sleep eluded her for the rest of the night, but she didn’t leave her bedroom, too afraid to run into Spike. She knew the moment she saw him she would blush furiously, giving away how incredibly uncomfortable she was feeling.
A little after eight, she heard Dawn in the bathroom then rushing down the stairs, but she didn’t move from her bed until the delicious smell of bacon invaded her nostrils. Her stomach grumbled hungrily, driving her into the bathroom for a cold shower.
Damp hair pulled back into a messy bun at the nape of her neck and dressed casually in a velour tracksuit, Buffy finally made her way into the kitchen. Dawn was sitting at the island, a full plate of eggs, bacon, and pancakes in front of her. Spike was leaning against the counter across from her, a mug of blood in one hand and a piece of bacon in the other. Both of them turned to look at her as she entered the room.
“We tried to wait for you,” Dawn admitted, a look of guilt on her young face. “But we didn’t want it to get cold while you were in the shower.”
“It’s okay,” Buffy replied, focusing on Dawn, and hoping Spike wouldn’t pick up on how fast her heart was beating just being in his presence. “Is there any more for me?”
“In the oven,” Dawn told her, already on her feet and making her way to the reserved plate of food. “Spike helped me make the eggs,” she chattered, placing the plate in front of Buffy, who had moved to sit at the island in the seat next to the one Dawn had vacated. “I suck at not breaking the yolk.”
“Well, thank you both. It smells delicious.” Buffy dug in voraciously, keeping her focus on her food, refusing to meet the gaze of the vampire staring at her.
Dawn practically skipped out of the kitchen, calling back to them about Christmas morning parades on the television and opening presents by the tree. Buffy wanted to run after her. For the first time since she lost her memory she couldn’t stand to be in the same room as Spike. She focused on finishing her breakfast, hoping he would take the hint and follow Dawn into the living room.
Unfortunately, he did just the opposite.
“Sleep well, pet?” he asked nonchalantly, trying to start conversation.
Buffy nearly choked on the bacon she was chewing. “Uh. Yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t I?”
Spike cleared his throat as if to give himself one more second before saying, “Listen, Buffy. About last night—“
Buffy jumped up from the stool, needing to be as far away from the conversation as possible. “It’s cool. I completely understand,” she told him, even though she didn’t.
“You do?” he asked, skeptically, never one to let something go.
She ran water over her dish before placing it in the sink. “Uh huh.” She closed her eyes, needing a moment before she could look at him, but it was worse when she did. Why couldn’t she stop picturing him naked? Her imagination was more than likely being too generous anyway. It just wasn’t possible for anyone to look that good.
“Maybe it’s best I don’t stay here anymore.”
Buffy snapped her eyes open to look at him. “No, Spike. It’s fine. I’m fine.”
Spike frowned, tilting his head to the side in a way that she found incredibly sexy. “You don’t seem fine, and you shouldn’t be walkin’ around uncomfortable in your own house.”
Why did he always have to be so damn perceptive? “Okay, maybe this morning was a little awkward,” she conceded, “but last night, that was totally my fault. I promise it won’t happen again.”
Spike’s protest died on his lips as Dawn entered the kitchen looking thoroughly annoyed. “What’s taking you guys so long?” she demanded, hands on her hips.
Buffy was grateful for the interruption and hoped Spike wouldn’t want to continue the conversation later. “Sorry, Dawn. We were just about to join you.”
Dawn didn’t miss the pointed look exchanged between the blonds before they followed her out of the room.
It was a few days after Christmas, and Dawn was upstairs getting ready for a day out with Tara when the blonde knocked on their door. Although Buffy had only seen Tara twice since the accident, there was something about the other woman that made her feel secure. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially given that they weren’t the closest of friends. Buffy invited Tara in to have a seat on the couch while they waited on Dawn.
“You look good, Buffy. How have things been?”
Buffy shrugged. “Fine, I guess.”
“Spike’s still living here?” Tara asked, noticing the Zippo lighter among the clutter on the coffee table.
“Much to the disapproval of just about everyone,” she confirmed with a nod.
Tara picked up on the annoyance laced in Buffy’s words. “I’m sure they’re just trying to get used to your new, uh, friendship.”
“It doesn’t feel new,” Buffy replied quietly, looking down at her hands.
“Buffy?” Tara knew she shouldn’t prod her confused friend, but something inside her was telling her Buffy needed someone to talk to.
Buffy glanced around, making sure they were still alone and not in danger of being overheard. Not quite meeting the other woman’s gaze she said, “I feel, I don’t know, closer to him than anyone else.” She peeked out from under her lashes to see how Tara was responding to this new development. To her credit, Tara was doing a good job of not looking totally shocked. “I know it seems crazy…”
“No, sweetie, it doesn’t. He’s been here for you.”
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed. “He really has been, but it’s not just that,” she trailed off, not sure how much she should divulge. Tara waited patiently for her to continue, and Buffy did if only to fill the silence. “I’ve been…there’ve been…dreams. Well not so much dreams. More like one dream, really.”
Tara didn’t need to ask the nature of the dream. Buffy’s pink cheeks gave that away. “Oh,” was all she could say before Dawn came barreling down the staircase.
Buffy had to give Dawn credit. The girl had great timing.
In her hurry to get out the door, Dawn nearly crashed into a weary looking Willow. They both righted themselves, a little thrown off balance by the almost collision. Willow and Tara made eye contact briefly before Tara quickly averted her gaze. She moved from foot to foot, nervous under the redhead’s stare. Buffy and Dawn couldn’t think quickly enough to alleviate the awkward encounter.
“Tara,” Willow finally said. Her voice was strained, like someone who had been out all night. “Wh-what are you doing here? Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, just picking up Dawnie.”
Dawn perked up at the mention of her name. “Yes! We’re spending the day together.”
“Shouldn’t you guys get going?” Buffy asked after a few more seconds of tense silence had gone by, trying to hurry along the scene playing out over her threshold. “Don’t wanna miss that movie.”
“Buffy’s right,” Tara agreed. “We really should get going.” Tara and Dawn moved out of the doorway, reversing positions with Willow.
“Right. It was really good to see you,” Willow said as Tara moved past her.
Tara looked back at Willow with a tight, barely there smile then she was gone, hurrying down the walkway behind Dawn. Willow sighed, closing the door behind her before turning toward Buffy.
“I, uh, was out with Amy. I guess we lost track of time,” she hastily explained.
Buffy knew she didn’t know Willow as well at the moment, as she ought to, but the way Willow refused to meet her eyes was concerning. “Lost track of time ‘til eleven in the morning?” She tried not to sound suspicious, but apparently not hard enough, because Willow’s tone turned defensive.
“We got breakfast. No biggie.”
“Sure. No biggie.” Buffy nodded and smiled, not wanting to provoke the other woman further. “You’re probably really tired. You should go upstairs and rest.”
“Yeah, I could use a nice long nap followed by a nice long bath right about now.” Willow barely spared a backward glance before she was moving up the stairs.