quinara: Wishverse Buffy in a white frame. (Buffy Wish white box)
[personal profile] quinara
A while ago I tried to write a fun little extra for [livejournal.com profile] plot_wout_porn, but it didn't turn out quite as plotty as I intended. Nor did I finish it in time. Still, having polished it up a bit I don't think pushing the premise further will reap any great rewards, so here it is! Set between The Killer in Me and First Date and happily taking us a bit AU, Buffy gets Spike to help her buy a new microwave. Approximately 2,400 words. G-er than G and warning-free, though it does mention that Buffy was dead. Possibly too cheerful.

[Psst, [livejournal.com profile] snickfic - apparently this took less time than I thought it would...]

Microwave Meals (Quick, Easy and Sometimes Satisfying).

They needed a new microwave. Well, Andrew said they needed a new microwave. It would make things a lot easier when they wanted to make microwavable food, and she could heat up Spike's post-surgery-convalescence blood without burning it onto the pan, which was bound to happen.

And, OK, so with all the Potentials descending cooking in the microwave wasn't the most efficient way of feeding them, but the Spike thing still stood. And popcorn – there was always a need for popcorn.

Buffy hadn't really been following her feet, but she'd found herself in the basement anyway, eyes adjusting to the gloom and the pale shapes of Spike's head and arms on the cot. He was awake; she wasn't sure how she was able to tell, but he was awake.

“Hey,” she asked quietly. “How're you feeling?”

“Better,” he replied, turning to face her as she sat down on the floor, leaning against the wall behind his head. “Still feels like there's a hole in my brain, though.” His voice was steady, but rough, which implied to her at least that he wasn't entirely free from pain. “Not sure I like the irony.”

“Maybe your brain got used to it being around.” She kept her tone light. “I mean, you had it in there three years; that's longer than most relationships.”

He looked like he couldn't work out whether to laugh or be insulted, and the silence was long enough that she felt she had to glance away. She hadn't meant it like that, after all. Eventually he sat up, apparently going for something in-between the two options. “Yeah,” he drawled. “But not all relationships are healthy, are they?”

There was maybe a yard between them now, and to see him properly she had to tilt her head back against the wall. It wasn't a position she enjoyed, so after moment she clambered back to her feet. Of course, standing up she wasn't sure why she'd sat down in the first place. She had business to attend to. Important business.

“Actually, I was gonna ask you,” she said. “Could you drive us to Best Buy? We need a new microwave, but Xander's busy.” She hadn't really got with what. Probably something to do with the school. “They're open for another couple hours.”

He looked at her cautiously. “I don't have a car...”

“Giles is busy too.” Or at least she assumed he was. She'd been expecting a Talk all day, but he hadn't been around. It didn't stop his car still being there.

When he got it he grinned, biting his bottom lip and meeting her eyes more fully for a moment before he also climbed to his feet. Something tightened in her stomach, because, for that moment, he looked completely like himself again.

No, not completely like himself – not his old self anyway – but something new, comfortable in his own skin, the soul settled into someone who got a kick out of borrowing Giles' car without asking. Someone a bit like her, though Dawn had done the actual key-lifting. OK, Buffy, I'll do it – but only so we can have melty cookies again.

As far as she was concerned, if you turned her house into a commune (and weren't even there half the time), your stuff became usable in the noble pursuit of new kitchenware. And getting out of the house.

“Ready?” she asked, after Spike had his jacket on.

“Ready,” he replied.




They put the top up on Giles' car, because, so Spike argued, it made it look marginally less like the wanker-mobile it was. She wasn't sure she agreed. There was something to be said for having the wind clear your head on a night like this, to be able to see the stars coming out above you (or maybe just bask in the light pollution). Besides, Spike could pull off a shiny red convertible – unlike Giles he had style, and wasn't middle-aged. And he had a hot babe in the passenger seat. Though maybe Spike didn't think of her like that.

She snuck a glance at him out of the corner of her eye. He was looking at the road; apparently having a soul meant caring about driving safely. That was probably a good, because him being able to work out what she was thinking? Not.

Still, night in Sunnydale made for some really dull scenery. It was probably only because it was so familiar to her, but staring out of the window didn't hold even the tiniest bit of attraction. She would have to start a conversation. “So,” she asked, picking a subject out of the air. “What happened to your old car?”

“Sold it,” he replied, cheerfully enough. “Dawn – ” Then his hands tightened on the steering wheel and she winced internally. There was usually only one period Spike referred to when he spoke about Dawn. Way to open a can of worms, Buffy.

And yet part of her wanted them to talk about this, wanted them to be able to talk about anything. With all they'd done together, you'd think talking should be easy. At least that was the way she thought the difficulty curve should work. “Was it...” she began, then swallowed. “Was it when I was dead?”

He sighed, glanced at her before he spoke. The look on his face said it all: if she was happy to hear then he was happy to talk, but it wasn't something that came easily to him. “Money was tight back then,” he explained. “Willow wanted to keep the house – for appearances, you know – but it was a big drain. She and Tara would only get summer jobs, and Red said she needed to be studying, so hers was only part-time.” He paused, apparently trying to remember the rest of it. “The Bot did inventory stuff at the Magic Box, but Anya wasn't ever going to pay a robot anything more than minimum wage.”

She was silent as he looked up to the rear-view mirror, letting a car pass them before he merged into the right-hand lane. It wasn't clear how he wanted her to react; she wasn't sure how she wanted to react. She hadn't thought about the minutiae of her being dead, only the drama. (And wow, did she miss Tara.) Certainly Spike had never got this off his chest before, not to her anyway. “Giles said they should get an apartment,” he continued as they turned right. “So I heard. Willow and Tara's names on the lease, Dawn and the Bot as tenants. It would've made it all a lot simpler.” Then he shook his head, still concentrating on the road. “As it was, Will was still putting it all through your account, far as I could tell, helping it along with a bit of magic, the way she did back then.”

“Yeah...” Buffy couldn't help but say, hating that her voice was so quiet. “I saw.”

It made him pause, visibly setting his jaw – in annoyance at himself? “Course you did,” he murmured, before clearing his throat. “Obviously we didn't know the main reason...” He shook his head. “But that's not important. Point is, money was an issue, and there's only so long you can keep that sister of yours entertained without a cupboard full of the junk she eats.”

It was true enough, but nevertheless she found herself a little sad to hear it out that way. It was a testament to their broken friendship that Spike's information was slowly going out-of-date – Dawn still had a few vices, but Buffy was pretty sure that in six months time there wouldn't be many food-related ones left (microwaved messes aside). As it was the Potentials were eating most of the crap that was bought with Dawn in mind.

Spike continued after a second, apparently picking up something in her expression because his voice went a little dark, “Anyway, so, I needed some cash.”

“And you sold your car?” She wondered how much he'd got for the old thing.

“Tuned her up, gave her polish and tracked down a collector.” When he glanced at her again he seemed older than usual. It was more than a little odd. “Know I can be a bit dense, but I'm not completely useless. Even took half the money and tripled it at the tracks.”

“Huh?” OK, so that wasn't something she'd been expecting. It completely knocked Dawn out of her mind. “I thought you played poker?”

He rolled his eyes. “You know I'm bollocks at poker. Can actually make money on dogs. Horses too.” Then he grinned. “Always used to piss Angelus off that I was better than him.”

Buffy decided to let that hang, partly because she didn't want to talk about Angelus, but mostly because she knew there was no point asking why Spike spent time pursuing the thing he was worse at. She was pretty sure she could guess the answer.

Besides, they were almost there. “Oh, hey,” she said, cutting through the mood. “It's the next exit on the left.”




Picking a microwave was easy. Most of her choices were these days, even if acting on them wasn't. In this instance, though, all she had to do was find the cheapest model, check the box for warnings that it would blow up if you tried to use it more than once, then give it to Spike to hold in the mile-long queue.

“Didn't realise all your shopping trips were this quick,” he said as they waited.

“Well, you know,” she shrugged. “Money, lack of... It makes everything pretty easy.”

His jaw tensed. “I should be paying you back for all that blood you've bought me.”

“Eh, most of that was technically Andrew.” She didn't want to say out loud how helpful that would be. Out of all her dependents, she minded him the least, what with him getting tortured, beat up and operated on every other week. And the market in Sunnydale made blood pretty cheap.

“Tell you what.” They shuffled forward, but he met her eyes seriously. Damn, he must have noticed something in her expression. “Get Red to spend the day with that Kennedy bird, stake me a few bob on the Billy Hill website and I'll take you out to dinner.” As he said the words they both seized up and she could hear the word 'date' screaming in her head. He covered quickly, “Or, er, I won't, but you'll have a nice stack of cash to treat yourself with. Or buy Coke and veggies. Or give it to Dawn and have nothing to do with it at all...”

Bitterness brought the conversation to a halt, and she knew she should remedy that, but she was still stuck on dinner, even as the queue moved forward again. She liked dinner, dinner was good, dinner was tasty because it was always cooked better than what she usually pretended was a meal. Sometimes there was more than one course. And measured amounts of alcohol. But dinner with Spike? Was that supposed to compute? And, if it was, was she supposed to say yes or no? Was she supposed to be able to make that decision?

“Buffy?”

She shook herself, refocused her eyes on her surroundings. The glaring signage and busy shoppers, the box in Spike's arms. Though apparently he wasn't who had spoken: he wasn't looking at her at all, just staring down, jaw twitching.

“Buffy?”

She turned around, coming face to face with Principal Wood. “Oh, hi,” she said, forcing herself to smile. What was he doing here? She was having thinking time. “Sorry, I didn't expect to see you.” Out of school.

“Well,” he replied, putting on that wry smile of his. “I didn't expect to be here, but I was having a stereo emergency.” He glanced down the aisle behind her and Spike, which the queue was resolutely invading. “Did you know that boomboxes are no longer young or hip?”

She laughed, pretty much still tapping into her 'appropriate social interaction' autopilot. “I think that happened a while ago,” she confided, though she was thinking about the way their stereo had been a victim of Dawn's axe. No way she could replace that and call it a necessity.

“Thanks for letting me know...” Principal Wood replied, before looking round her to Spike. “So I see you guys are in the market for a microwave.”

She turned her head over her shoulder, catching an inscrutable look in Spike's eyes before shifting position to let them stand in a triangle. “This is Spike,” she said. “He, uh...” Was her potential date. No, that wasn't what she wanted to say, even if it was all that would come into her head.

“Lives with you?” offered the principal, taking her silence far too far.

“Rents out her basement,” Spike filled in, causing Buffy's stomach to sink. He'd spoken because he didn't think he'd like what she had to say, she was pretty sure. Was she that bad? And he didn't rent out her basement, even, because she let him stay for free. Didn't he know that meant something?

She stuck a smile on her face anyway and, as the queue moved again, Principal Wood finally got a clue. Saying his goodbyes he left them to their awkward silence.




“So, home then?” Spike asked as they left the store, clearly still a little angry, if resigned.

She'd completely screwed up all chances for conversation; they should really go home. But Buffy didn't want to. Awkward Spike company was still way better than questioning Giles company. “Actually,” she said. “I was thinking we could tail my boss and spy on him.”

Now she knew the apocalypse was coming, because it seemed like she had said the right thing: Spike's face brightened, a bark of laughter sounding cheerily around the parking lot. “Any particular reason?”

“Potential evil.” She shrugged, suppressing her own grin. “I mean, a boombox?” Really she shouldn't make jokes, not when shovels and shiftiness were involved. And yet, it was kind of worth it to have Spike smiling again.

It was when he slung the microwave on the back seat that she began to wonder whether this wouldn't be more fun than dinner anyway. By the time he'd opened the door for her (and clambered gleefully over the bonnet), she was certain.

Also, bonus? The look of awe on Principal Wood's face when they saved him from a gang of demons. They so had it.

(no subject)

Date: 17/07/2009 06:12 (UTC)
evilawyer: young black-tailed prairie dog at SF Zoo (Default)
From: [personal profile] evilawyer
Aww. Now, this was sweet!

(no subject)

Date: 26/07/2009 14:13 (UTC)
stultiloquentia: Campbells condensed primordial soup (Default)
From: [personal profile] stultiloquentia
This? Is perfect. I love their funny, awkward dialogue, the way you capture not just their Big Picture, but the little, minute-by-minute, intra-sentence smiles and disappointments as they try to rebuild their friendship. For such a short piece, this is incredibly rich.

When I first signed up for Buffy fandom, I was all over the id-stroking, sturm-und-drangfull romance plots, which is apparently a pattern, because that's what I sought out first in Potter and Stargate, too. But as I settle, I get more and more focused on stuff like this. A little less fixer-upper fantasy; a little truer to the characters' myriad hopes and pains and roadblocks: their emotional lives not a single-axis sliding scale of in-love vs. not-in-love, but 3D. I love that you avoided a shippy ending, in other words. Rather than negating the overall shippiness of Spike and Buffy, I think it supports it. It's like -- a single, high-quality, well-fired brick vs. a whole house built out of rose petals.

(There, that's what happens when you tell me I give good feedback. You get compared to a piggy.)

(no subject)

Date: 26/07/2009 15:46 (UTC)
stultiloquentia: Campbells condensed primordial soup (Default)
From: [personal profile] stultiloquentia
*chortle* As in "Three Little..."

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quinara: Sheep on a hillside with a smiley face. (Default)
Quinara

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