Two weeks after the New Year, Giles decided it was time to inform Buffy of her financial difficulties. It wasn’t something they’d discussed since she’d come back to them, and the situation was growing worse with each passing day. Giles had tried to help out as much as he could, but paying for two households (one with a freeloading – and unwelcome in his opinion – vampire, no less) was starting to deplete his savings.
Buffy stared at the mounds of paperwork splayed across the dining room table. She wasn’t so far gone that she didn’t know the meaning of bills and debts, and memory or not, she was overwhelmed. She was a college dropout with no skills she knew of that didn’t involve the business end of a pointy stick, and she was overwhelmed.
“I–,” Buffy cleared her throat, looking up at the older man. “What am I going to do?”
Giles’ smile was tight. It was bittersweet that even with no recollection of him, she would still look to him for guidance. “That’s up to you, Buffy. You could, for instance, get a job.”
Spike chose that moment to enter with a mug of blood and a mug of hot chocolate in each hand. “She’s already got a job,” he stated, placing the hot chocolate in front of her. He remained standing off to her side, speaking to Giles, “Doin’ a bloody fantastic job savin’ the world, with no thanks in the form of compensation comin’ in from the sorry group of wankers you call The Council.”
Giles sighed, running a hand down his face in an attempt to calm himself. What Spike was saying wasn’t wrong, as much as it pained him to admit it. But The Council held no love for Buffy, and as much as he’d like to see her rightfully compensated, it just wasn’t going to happen.
“What a brilliant idea, Spike. Why didn’t I think of that?”
In a moment of uncharacteristic self-control, Spike let that one pass.
“Okay, so I get a job. No biggie,” Buffy broke in, trying to ease some of the tension in the room by sounding confident. “I’m sure I’m good at something other than slaying.”
Spike shook his head. “She gets a day job, and she’ll be tired and unfocused at night,” he said, still speaking to Giles as if Buffy wasn’t a part of the conversation. He kindly left out the unspoken and she dies part.
Buffy shifted in her seat, so she could see Spike better. “I’m the slayer. Do I even get tired?”
“Other than nay saying, do you have any realistic suggestions to offer?”
“I can get some money.” He pulled a wad of cash he’d clearly tried–unsuccessfully–to smooth out and threw it down on the table. Giles picked it up, looking unimpressed by the amount. “I can get more.”
As much as Giles didn’t like Spike trying to help, he hated the way Buffy was looking at Spike like he was her knight in shining black armor. “And where, pray tell, did this money come from?” Giles sat back in his chair, clearly expecting an answer that would wipe the look from Buffy’s face.
“Nowhere bad.” Spike sighed, rolling his eyes when the watcher continued to stare at him. “Nowhere too bad, anyway,” he amended. “Nobody died if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“That was precisely what I was thinking.” Giles pushed the money back across the table. “It’s not enough. Buffy needs a reliable income if she wishes to keep this house.”
Buffy stood up from her seat, pushing the chair back so abruptly it fell to the floor. “First of all, Buffy’s right here. And Buffy will be getting a job. End of discussion.” She couldn’t help but smile a bit at the way the two men fell abruptly silent at her outburst. Spike picked her chair up for her, and she sat back down. This time he slipped into the chair to her right.
Giles cleared his throat. “There is also the matter of CPS. We’ve held them off as long as we could, but the case worker who has been assigned to you and Dawn is very anxious to meet you.”
“When will this case worker be coming?” Buffy asked. She couldn’t help but be alarmed that someone so important would be judging her when she wasn’t at her best.
“Friday night at six.” He glanced at Spike. “I trust I don’t need to tell you to make yourself scarce?”
"Don’t need to but did anyway,” Spike grumbled back. He knew how important this meeting would be for Buffy and Dawn–probably more than Buffy herself realized.
Giles turned his attention back to Buffy. “You’ll have until Friday to find some sort of employment. That’ll be important to the case worker.”
Buffy nodded, the weight of the situation settling on her already overburdened shoulders. Giles seemed to sense how overwhelmed she was and with a promise to talk more before Friday he left. Spike picked up the forgotten wad of cash and handed it to her. “I want you to have it. Know the old Buffy wouldn’t have taken it, but you seem to have a bit more sense than her, yeah?”
Buffy forced a smile at the mention of her “former” self. “Yeah,” she agreed, taking the gift he was so generously offering. She released the proverbial breath she’d been holding the entire time Giles had been there. “Where the hell am I gonna work, Spike?”
Spike couldn’t help but laugh at the sudden change in her mood. “Dunno, pet, but your prat of a watcher has a point. Gonna need to show some proof of employment to the bint from CPS.”
“I think I’m hanging out with you too much ‘cuz I actually understood that,” she teased him.
He growled at her–which she found oh so adorable–so it didn’t exactly have the desired effect on her. “Don’ worry, Slayer. ‘Ve got an idea.”
Spike’s idea turned out to be a good one. Once the sun set, they dropped Dawn off at The Magic Box to finish her homework while they patrolled. Instead of going on their usual route, Spike led her further downtown until they were outside The Bronze.
It was still too early for partygoers, but there were a fair amount of drunks littering the bar stools, and even a few people sitting at the tables eating. Buffy looked around, wondering why he’d brought her there.
Spike looked back at her, noticing she’d stopped walking. “This way, love.”
Buffy followed him under the staircase to a back office she hadn’t noticed on her initial perusal of the place. Spike knocked on the door, opening it a few seconds later when a gruff voice yelled for them to enter. The voice didn’t exactly match the person it accompanied. Buffy was surprised to see a man in his early forties, a little on the thin side with graying hair, sitting behind the desk that took up half the room. The man immediately stood when he saw who was paying him a visit.
“Spike! What brings you here this time of day?” he asked, perspiration already forming on his brow.
"Wanna introduce you to someone.” Spike gestured for her to come closer. “This ‘ere is Buffy Summers, and she’ll be the best damn waitress you ever had.”
The manager looked Buffy over, clearly trying to figure out if she was a vampire or not. He must’ve figured if she was a vampire, she used a lot of self-tanner because he finally asked, “You wanna work here?”
Buffy shrugged. “It’s as good a place as any, I suppose.”
Spike rolled his eyes. Maybe he should’ve given her a few pointers on how to behave at a job interview. Not that he had any firsthand experience himself. “She needs a job, and she can hold her own.”
The manager eyed her figure appreciatively this time. “All right,” he agreed. He extended his hand to her. “I’m Charlie. You can start tomorrow at three.”
Buffy beamed, walking out of the office. Spike didn’t follow right away. Instead he moved closer to Charlie, a murderous look on his face. “Don’t let me catch you lookin’ at her like that again, mate.”
Charlie shrank back, nodding furiously and stuttering his acquiescence. He had a feeling that he had no clue what he’d just gotten himself into.
Buffy was practically bouncing on the balls of her feet as she and Spike headed away from The Bronze. She felt like one of those weights had been lifted off her shoulders. She was finally beginning to feel like she was actually living her life instead of just filling in a space until the “real” Buffy returned. She was the real Buffy, and like it or not, her memories might never return. It’d been long enough since her accident that it was looking like a real possibility.
Buffy smiled up at Spike, who was looking at her strangely; most likely because of the amount of energy she was exerting just walking. She’d heard his parting words to the manager, Charlie, and she couldn’t help but be pleased. Spike wasn’t as indifferent to her as he’d like her to believe. Maybe she could use this newfound knowledge to break down whatever walls he had put up between them.
“So,” she started, just as they’d reached their first cemetery. “Tell me about this Bronze place.”
“It’s jus’ about the only decent place in town—for humans anyway,” he added as an afterthought. “Normally you and your chums hang ‘round there often. Not so much these days…”
His voice trailed off to a dangerous place. Keeping the conversation going, so he didn’t have a chance to dwell, she asked, “How’d you know that Charlie guy?”
“Guy like me doesn’t have to do much to get a reputation. Much as you and the rest of the Scooby gang like to think otherwise, people do notice the weird shit that goes on in this town. An’ we just happen to be around when all the weird shit’s going down.” Spike took out a cigarette, stopping midstride to light it. “Anyway,” he continued, exhaling a cloud of smoke. “Saved Charlie from meetin’ a nasty fate while back, so he hooks me up every now an’ then with booze an’ wings.”
“And now a job for me,” she added, following as he began walking again. “I’m sure Giles’ will be happy to hear I’m gainfully employed.”
Spike snorted. “Yeah, he’ll be just delighted.”
“Do I detect sarcasm?” she teased, knowing full well he was being sarcastic.
“Your watcher’d rather set himself on fire than be grateful to me for a thing.” Spike tossed his cigarette to the ground, stomping on it a little harder than necessary.
“That bothers you.”
It wasn’t a question, but he responded anyway. “Well, yeah. Would be nice to get some appreciation every now and then.”
“I appreciate you.” Buffy boldly looked up at him, wanting him to know that she meant it. She did appreciate everything he’d done for her since she’d woken up in that hospital bed. He helped her slay and take care of her sister, and she had no idea what she’d do without him.
And it hurt that he’d never take her words at face value because she wasn’t really Buffy.
Spike looked at her for a moment, wishing more than anything that he could take the words coming from her mouth seriously. But he couldn’t. Not when any minute she would remember and squash any hopes he dared to have. Not wanting to hurt her, he gave her a sad little smile and said, “Thanks, pet.”
Buffy sighed. “I know you don’t believe me, but you’ve been here for me. And Dawn. And now you helped me get this job, which I might totally suck at, but it means something. It has to.” She said the last bit more to herself than to him.
Spike chuckled. “If you say so, Goldilocks.” He fingered one of her blonde curls for a moment before thinking better of it and withdrawing his hand. Coming back from wherever his mind had just drifted, he started off again. “C’mon, Slayer. Let’s see if there’s anything to beat up tonight, yeah?”