“I’m sorry. I couldn’t possibly have heard you correctly. You did what?”
Buffy had prepared for this moment. Spike couldn’t stop complaining about how royally she’d screwed them. So she’d practiced in front of the mirror. She’d gone through every single possible way this conversation could go. Or at least she thought she had. Because not one of those imagined conversations ended with Giles doubled over laughing hysterically.
She couldn’t take her eyes off the older man. It was like a gruesome car accident that you just couldn’t look away from. She didn’t have a clue what to do. She’d never even seen Giles laugh before (that she could remember), and she was pretty damn sure he shouldn’t be laughing now.
“What’s so funny?” she demanded, hands finding their way onto her hips.
Glasses off, Giles wiped away a tear that was leaking down his cheek. Once he had composed himself, his expression quickly turned from one of hysteria to exasperation. “What isn’t funny about the situation you’ve so willingly put yourself in? If I don’t laugh I fear I’ll have a stroke.”
“It’s really not that bad, Giles—“
“And not only is Spike your pretend boyfriend but my pretend son as well? Do I look old enough to have a son his age?!”
Buffy smartly chose to keep whatever opinion she had to herself. “Mrs. Kroger asked how we met, and it just came out. C’mon you have to admit it works out pretty perfectly.”
Giles crumpled into a chair. “How so?”
Buffy rolled her eyes, like it should be obvious to him. “You’re both English.”
Giles scoffed. “There are plenty of English people in California, and I don’t happen to be related to any of them.”
“Well it was the best I could think of on the spot,” she admitted, taking a seat across from him. She placed her arms on the table, looking up at him with the most innocent face she could muster. “That’s not all.”
“What else could there possibly be?”
“Spike needs a driver’s license. And a green card.”
Giles chuckled humorlessly. “Anything else?”
Buffy shook her head carefully. Giles had taken the news a lot better than she’d predicted, and she still wasn’t sure he’d fully absorbed all the information she’d told him yet. “And before you go after him with a flamethrower, it wasn’t Spike’s fault. The woman got there more than thirty minutes early—before the sun went down.”
“Which is exactly why he shouldn’t be living with you in the first place,” Giles argued, growing angrier at the mention of the bane of his existence.
“He looks after us, Giles.”
“You’re the slayer, Buffy. You shouldn’t need a vampire to look after you. You’re more than capable of doing just that and much more.”
“I’m not the same old Buffy. I don’t know what her problem was with Spike—“
“Everyone’s problem with Spike is that he’s a ruthless killer, who’s tried to kill us all at one point or another.”
Giles was relieved to see Buffy pause at his words. Up until then no one had wanted to be that blunt with her about anything, much less the vampire she seemed so inclined to trust. “But,” he continued with a sigh. “It won’t look good to Mrs. Kroger if one day you have a boyfriend living with you and the next you don’t. So it looks like we’re stuck with him for the foreseeable future.”
“It won’t be so bad, Giles. You’ll see,” she promised him in a much smaller voice than she’d had just moment ago.
Giles managed a reassuring smile. He was quite certain nothing would be all right until Buffy had her memories back. He shuddered to think what that Buffy would do once she found out she had invited a cold-blooded killer into her home. Maybe then she’d put an end to their problem once and for all.
Buffy was back at the house long before Spike came up from the basement. Even though she wasn’t particularly hungry, she made herself lunch just to give keep busy. What Giles had said about Spike bothered her. She was well aware that none of her friends liked Spike, but she’d assumed it was because he was a vampire. And sure, killing was kinda a given where vampires were concerned, but she’d wanted to believe that Spike had given up killing long before he’d met them.
Apparently she’d been wrong.
Although she wanted to know more, she’d been too afraid to hear anything more from Giles. Was she putting herself or Dawn at risk by having Spike around twenty-four/seven? It didn’t seem possible. Spike had been with them for weeks now and, hadn’t tried harming a single hair on either of their heads. Much to her annoyance he’d been the consummate gentleman, and he had no reason she could see to be putting on such a grand act.
Buffy tensed when she heard a boot on the basement steps. Mentally berating herself for letting what Giles had said get to her when she knew it was all in the past, she tried to look as normal as possible.
Spike entered the kitchen noisily, heading straight to the refrigerator for his “breakfast.” “’Lo, pet,” he greeted her, pouring blood into a mug and throwing it into the microwave. “How’d it go with the watcher? Should I be hightailin’ it outta town?”
“He actually took it a lot better than we thought he would. I think he’s lost it.”
Spike looked at her with one of his heart melting, stomach dropping head tilts. “How so?”
Buffy giggled to herself. Yeah, the father and son thing was so not a stretch. “He started hysterically laughing.”
“Yeah, I’d say he’s outta commission. Doesn’t rightly know what to do with you these days.”
When Buffy didn’t respond, Spike brought his mug to the counter and sat down next to her. “Don’t worry, your watcher’ll flip his wig sooner or later. Pro’lly caught him off guard is all.”
Buffy nodded, not really hearing what he was saying. She was too busy summoning up the courage to ask, “You’d never hurt us—me or Dawn—would you?”
Spike sighed, knowing full well he had the watcher to thank for the sudden change in the slayer’s mood. Bringing a hand up, he twirled a lock of the hair he loved so much around his finger. “Not a bloody hair on your bloody head. What’s brought this up?”
She ignored his question and, kept going with the questions that were floating around in her head. “But you used to want to? Before this happened to me?”
Spike stopped playing with her hair, turning her so that she was looking into his very serious face. “Been a long, long time since I thought about hurtin’ any of you,” he promised although Giles was quickly making his way to the top of that list.
Buffy gave him a smile, though he couldn’t be sure she believed him. Looking at her, he wasn’t sure why he was working so hard to keep her at arm’s length. It’d been months, and there wasn’t any indication she remembered any more today than she did the day after the accident. She was finally looking at him the way he hadn’t dared to hope she ever would, and here he was acting like old Nancy boy William yet again.
Didn’t make a bit of sense—That much he was sure of.
Dawn chose that moment to enter the room looking for a snack and, a reason to escape the studying she’d been at all morning. Grabbing a bag of cookies and a glass of water, she jumped up onto the counter and began digging into her snack.
“When’s Spike moving upstairs?” Dawn asked around a mouth full of cookie crumbs.
Spike’s head snapped up to stare at the teenager. “What’re you on about?”
Dawn swallowed, taking a sip from her water. “Well, duh. You don’t think Mrs. Kroger would believe Buffy lets her boyfriend sleep on the tiny cot in our basement, do you?”
“And just where are you suggesting I move to?”
“Buffy’s room, obviously,” Dawn replied with a dramatic roll of her eyes.
“Not happening, Bit. I can move some stuff upstairs for when the bint comes around, but don’t think she’ll be wantin’ a sleepover.”
“Ever hear of unannounced visits? You heard her say she could show up at any time. Like say, during the day when you’re downstairs sleeping?” Dawn couldn’t believe she had to spell it out for these two. They were so lucky to have her around.
Spike opened his mouth to continue with his protests when Buffy beat him to it. “She’s right. What if Mrs. Kroger comes over during the day? I can’t keep her out of the basement without it looking suspicious.”
Spike looked at her like she’d grown three heads in the last twenty seconds. She couldn’t possibly be suggesting he move into her room with her. It was one thing for him to sleep in the basement but actually sleeping next to her—well, a man had his limits.
Buffy gently placed a hand on his arm. “You promised you’d protect her,” she reminded him softly so that Dawn couldn’t hear.
Spike hung his head in resignation. She had him there. “Till the end of the bloody world,” he grumbled, not regretting the promise for a second. “I’m sleepin’ on the floor though.”