quinara: Spike and Buffy approaching 'their' tree in AYW. (Spuffy tree)
[personal profile] quinara
I return with the second chunk! Which is to say chapters 6-10. Not quite so much messing around with the timeline in this section - but fear not, such is not gone forever. Thanks for everyone's comments so far!

[start of fic and notes]

'I love you' is a thing you say to people who are dying

by Quinara

Season 7. Buffy/Spike. Some Watchers survived, because sometimes people do.

[free association V]

PART TWO (breakfasts)

“Why are you showing me this? To understand him? To prove to me that you do? There was a chance for this before and he didn’t want it, so I don’t need for you to make it all add up now. This is about me. It’s about getting this done.”


After everything, the next day was Sunday, so Buffy didn’t set her alarm. Usually it didn't really matter, because she woke up without it anyway, but that day she ended up waking late. It was disconcerting. The kitchen had already been raided by the time she came downstairs; it sounded like Lydia and Nigel were training the other girls outside.

Willow was there, though, and she was just the person Buffy needed to see. “Hey Will,” she said, smiling when her friend shot the greeting back. It didn’t seem like she was holding too much of a grudge from the night before. Nor did it seem that she could sense what had happened afterwards… Remaining cool, then, Buffy asked her, “What do you know about dragons?”

A spoonful of Raisin Bran lifted from the bowl and up towards her mouth, Willow looked back at her nervously. “Dragons?” she asked, before taking the mouthful. “Wha-abuff-m?”

Buffy waited, settling herself down onto the opposite stool.

“What about them?” Willow repeated once she’d swallowed. “Sorry,” she added unnecessarily, going for her orange juice.

Buffy waved a hand at her, trying to figure out if she wanted breakfast for herself. She hadn’t had much sleep, even with the extra. “Oh, you know,” she said, looking at the spread in front of them. It was attractive, in the morning light. “I mean, did you know they exist as, like, not just scary hellbeasts but with the mythology and everything?” Buffy didn’t feel hungry, though, looking at the food: all she saw was what would be mess by the evening.

“Oh, sure,” Willow replied. Buffy looked up, and the other woman was nodding eagerly; she started scooping up the remainders of cereal. “They’re demons, but they’ve had about as much contact with humans as vampires.” She paused, contemplating her spoonful for a moment. “It makes them real interesting,” she added, before taking her final mouthful, munching through it.

Buffy nodded, thinking as Willow finished her breakfast. Most of the stories she remembered, dragons didn’t much get along with humans, let alone help them out. She might have done it a bunch of times, but as the Slayer it was always difficult trying to figure out how to make deals with demons.

“Why d’you ask, anyway?” Willow continued eventually, tonguing at her teeth with only a half-empty glass of orange juice left in her hand. Mock-earnestly, she asked, “Didya pull a sword out of the stone, Buffy, when none of us were looking?”

Buffy grinned, glad to see humour rather than nerves in her friend’s eyes – always. Maybe she really didn’t have a grudge. “No,” Buffy admitted, leaning on the countertop. She wasn’t hungry, she decided. “It’s just…” she began, uncertain how much to give away. “Travers said something last night, about dragon magic, and I…” Smiling, it was for once easy to tell the truth. “I was curious,” Buffy told Willow, meeting her eyes. “Spike –” Buffy cut into her herself at the flicker in Willow’s expression. Ix-nay on the Ike-spay, I guess… She tried again, “I heard it was dangerous, but I wanted to ask someone who might have a better idea…”

“Oh, I can do that,” Willow said, once she’d taken it in. Putting down her glass and its half-inch of juice with a clunk, she slipped down from her stool and promised, “Just give me a second; I have some notes upstairs somewhere, I’ll go get them.”

Startled, Buffy wasn’t sure what to say as Willow hurried out of the room. It was nice of her, to go and get notes, but Buffy hadn’t really expected it – more like a conversation about whatever Will could remember. It seemed as though Willow was still thrilled to be needed, as nervous as she might be around magic and the First, or even Buffy herself, the same as always.

Buffy wondered if she should feel bad for exploiting that, or if she should feel bad for not using it more.

Nonetheless, she didn’t much time to think about it. Just as the energy had fallen in the room – Willow gone into the dining room and presumably up the stairs, leaving silence behind her – Buffy heard a creak.

She jumped, her whole upper body turning backwards to follow her head.

The basement door was ajar, squeaking as it opened another couple of inches.

Her startled tinglies dissolving into slightly different ones, Buffy hopped down from her stool and crossed the small distance to the door. Taking the knob in her hand, she put her head around the jamb.

“What are you doing up here?” she asked, because sure enough there was Spike, standing far enough back onto the stairs that the light didn’t reach him. So much for forgetting about him.

“Is she gone?” Spike asked, ignoring her, looking past her head. It was like he was still there in the night before, in awe of her and not so angry.

“It’s morning,” Buffy insisted, ignoring him along with everything he did to her insides. “And,” she said, because it was important, “this kitchen is East-facing.”

After a moment their eyes met. Buffy smiled. “Heard you and Red talking,” Spike went on, more relaxed; self-deprecating. “Couldn’t make out what the chat was.”

With a sigh, Buffy tossed a glance behind her. “Yeah, well…” she explained, straining her ears to make sure all was well in the garden. “She’s coming back soon and she’s gonna wonder why you’re awake.”

Spike had no response to that, it seemed, but it didn’t send him back into the dark. Instead, he took a step closer, filling Buffy’s senses.

“Go back to sleep,” she suggested, half wishing that she could do the same. I have to make up with other people.

Spike still said nothing, just looked down his nose and touched the backs of his fingers to her cheek.

It was a year ago; that was all Buffy could think. Someone had found a time machine and it was a year ago. The challenge in how Spike was looking at her and the way he filled up her space – the way her stomach was fluttering with the secret that lay between them, with the uncertainty of what Spike would do about it… It was a struggle to keep her composure, looking back at him, up a little.

She grazed her fingers on the leather of his belt, not breaking eye-contact. She was to right of the buckle, far from danger, but it was fun all the same. “Wills is actually coming straight back,” she whispered, because she had no idea what to say. She hadn’t planned on seeing Spike until later that afternoon, and then she’d thought she might have come up with something. After last night – this was all very much like the daytime.

There was a moment when she thought Spike would kiss her. “Well,” he said, leaning forward a little further. But then he came further forward and put his head next to hers, “Can’t blame me for trying.”

With the quickest peck to her earrings, then, Spike was pulling backwards and vanishing like a wraith. A snickering wraith, albeit.

It was her fault, Buffy knew as she watched him go. Her body leaned after him, but she didn’t follow. She couldn’t.

How are you? she wanted to ask, even though she knew those words were not for her. How can you…?

After a little while later, Willow was calling from the dining room, “He-ey!”

Buffy turned around, pulling her hand to her chest as she shut the door behind her. It was like every time they had forcibly held a door closed against a demon, only in this case the demon was her personal life. For a change.

“I got my notes,” Willow added, as she came into view, a huge ring-binder clutched in her arms. Taking in the sight in front of her she paused, frowning. “Buffy?” she asked.

“I thought I heard the washer beep,” Buffy said quickly, coming back over to the breakfast table, putting her mind back to business. “Turns out, it was a false alarm. Still rumbling.”

“Right…” Willow said suspiciously. There was a harshness to her now, the sort of thing Buffy hadn’t wanted to see. “And I would believe that if I didn’t know who else lived down there?” she asked, dumping her notes on the countertop.

Thankfully, this moment for true confessions was broken by Andrew storming in from the outside porch, pouring bright, deadly morning light across the whole room. “… and why can’t I train with the girls?” he was whining, loudly. “I don’t wanna die any more than they do!”

Andrew was followed by Anya, who looked as exasperated as Buffy immediately felt. “You ask annoying questions,” she explained, “and you fall over your own feet.”

“This is so unfair,” Andrew replied, inevitably stumbling over his own toes to appeal to Anya directly. They both seemed completely oblivious to Buffy and Willow’s presence in the room, which on balance Buffy thought was probably a good thing. “It's discrimination! ‘Cause I’m – it’s because I was evil, isn’t it?”

“It’s not,” Anya replied, arms by her side. “Really.”

“Then it’s – it’s because I’m a man,” Andrew exclaimed, turning away again. Buffy sighed, catching Willow’s eye across the counter. “Where’s Xander? He’ll understand…”

“Oh no you don’t.” As Buffy rolled her eyes, Anya took hold of Andrew’s shoulder and berated him. “Xander’s rebuilding the coffee table and you are not to disturb him. He has hammering to do in the sweaty sunshine and I’m gonna…”

“Gee,” Buffy asked Willow, turning away from this scene and intending to ignore it entirely. “D’you think it’s the oestrogen in this house, or has someone let off a hormone bomb?”

Willow’s gaze was still drifted over Buffy’s shoulder. “Huh?” she asked, before she tuned back into their conversation. At first she looked a little hurt, like Buffy was saying something about her and Kennedy, or at least that was what Buffy figured. Then, however, she seemed to remember her previous line of attack. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said, in something like a challenge. “You tell me.”

Anya and Andrew continued to row while Buffy looked back at Willow, trying to figure out what to say. There wasn’t much to tell, really, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to tell it.

“Are those your notes?” Buffy asked eventually, nodding at the big red file. Willow glanced down, distracted. “There’s so many of them.”

“Oh, sure,” Willow replied, turning open the worn cardboard cover. She seemed slightly less excited about them than she had a few minutes ago. The folder was stuffed with colourful dividers and a jumble of white and yellow file paper. Almost certainly, there was a system. “Haven’t you seen this before? I call it the Rosenberg Codex,” she explained, smiling Buffy’s way, only a little brittle. “’Cause, see, it’s all bound together…” Thumbing through the leaves to a particular section with a purple separator, she added, “And it’s by me, you know.”

Really, the sight of it gave Buffy the willies just as much as any of the other unreadably long books she’d encountered. Still, she knew this was the moment to play the supportive friend who wasn’t at all terrified by this sign of compulsive organisation. “It looks great, Will,” she enthused.

“It came to me one day, you know, back when we were researching Glory?” Willow continued, almost sounding like it was cheering her up. She worked her thumb through the purple section while Buffy shifted in her chair. “We did all that research in high school, but we never kept any notes… We must have wasted so much time, going through the same books over and over.”

Glory? Anya and Andrew seemed to have left now; the kitchen felt almost small. Buffy wasn’t sure she liked looking at the concrete evidence for two years of demon fighting. It was bad enough on her own body.

“I mean, I’ve had to modify my categories a little as I’ve gone along, but now at least I know what I’ve read and what it’s about and it’s come in so useful…”

When she reached a particular page, Willow paused. Buffy said nothing, trying to read the tiny rows of Willow’s perfectly proportioned round handwriting. She couldn’t make anything out; she wondered what Spike was doing.

“Hey, here we go!” Willow exclaimed, her finger pointing to a line that looked like any other. It was on a white page, written in blue and underlined with a thin stroke of red pen. She looked up, catching Buffy’s eye before she looked back down to read. Buffy listened uncomfortably. “Incantatio dracontea, the Song of the Serpent,” she said with due reverence. “Or, you know, dragon magic. Huh.”

“What?” Buffy asked, leaning forward as Willow frowned.

“Oh, Buffy,” Willow said, looking up. Her eyes looked sad. “It is dangerous. Like, changes the nature of who you are dangerous.”

“What’s that mean?” Buffy asked, a frown crossing her own face. She was resistant to the idea that this couldn’t be a way forward. Who was she anyway? Enough things had changed her over the years she wasn’t actually sure how much of Buffy there was left.

With a tight smile, as if she knew exactly what Buffy was getting at, Willow looked back to the folder. “It’s elemental,” she explained, still mostly looking down. “I mean, obviously. Most things are, really, when it comes down to it, but… This is strong.”

“How strong?” Buffy pushed her, feeling the power curling inside of her – the way she did sometimes. Couldn’t that be a match?

With a sigh, Willow met her eyes before looking off towards the backdoor. “So, everything’s connected, right?” she explained as though it was a lesson long-learned. “And when stuff isn’t going loopy, everything’s in balance. People,” she continued, pointing between the two of them, “especially magical people like us, we get caught in the centre of all that. It’s this weird species-ist thing, or maybe it’s just about the particular kind of magic we can access, but we’re a focus for that balance, like all that quack-medicine humours stuff. If we have balance, we can do whatever we want, turn things around us. If we don’t…”

Watching the faraway look enter her friend’s eyes, Buffy wondered if Willow was thinking about the only one in their group who’d had any sort of balance, who as far as Buffy knew had tried to point these things out to Willow on quite a few occasions. “So where do the dragons fit in?” she asked, because if there was one thing she knew, it was how not to dwell.

“Um…” Willow shook her head, glancing back to Buffy. “So, right, well, dragons are demons, obviously,” she said, her voice strong again. “And demons are strange, ‘cause they kind of all have their own places in the big scheme of this magical, you know –” She turned her hand through the air, like she was stirring something, as though that would make it clearer. “– network thing. Some are more one way, some are more another…”

“And?” Buffy asked, her forehead tight with confusion. Faith and experience taught her that if Willow could make it to the end of her babble, then the point might become apparent.

Looking again to the backdoor, like it would offer her some sort of escape, Willow explained. “Well, you get dragons like we would call dragons, who look like in the movies and the romances and things, but in magical terms they’re really just a category of demons.”

Buffy wondered if Willow had all of this in her notes, or if she was remembering it. Certainly she didn’t seem to be reading it off the page. Possibly Buffy needed a ring-binder of her own.

“And…” Willow swallowed, smiling again like she didn’t want to say it, or she was imagining something. “What they are is the extreme. You know? They’ll be balanced out among themselves, with one fire dragon somewhere and some ice dragon somewhere else – at least, that's is the theory,” she interrupted herself, glancing at Buffy as though to make this point extra clear. “No one’s ever seen them all, so… But,” she relented, “if humans are the focus of balance as individuals, well, dragons are the opposite.”

Buffy waited, trying to put it all together. She’d never cared about the theory of magic, really, though obviously there were things that could go wrong. Willow was the evidence of that. It was warm in the kitchen, but Buffy felt pretty zen about it. Did that make her a balanced person?

“So,” Willow finished, as though she really didn’t want to say it. “The way dragons do magic is different. Way different. I thought…” She looked down again at her notes, tracing some key words with her index finger; Buffy could only make out what was possibly ‘catastrophic’. “There’s no way of meeting them in the middle. You do a dragon spell, and you’ll be pulled right in their direction, all the way to the end.”

Maybe, just maybe, Buffy thought she was figuring this out. This would be like what the Shadowmen wanted, but worse.

Still, at least it wouldn’t be demon essence she was sucking in. “With the First, though,” she asked, pulling Willow’s attention back towards her. There was worry on Willow’s face, which Buffy tried to ignore. “Say we could do something with, what, a good dragon? Do they exist? Like, a holy dragon?”

Willow snorted, the way Buffy’s father had used to when people called American sparkling wine champagne. Her voice was full of scorn as she remarked, “Holy magic is just what people call good magic when they want to avoid the moralising undertones. It’s like evil magic and black.”

For a moment, Buffy was silent, not entirely sure how to square this particular point with all the black magic Willow had willingly conjured in the past. For all of them. “But would it work?” she asked eventually, wanting to be sure of this point, at least, before she even contemplated it.

Unfortunately, that was the moment the backdoor gave Willow exactly the escape she seemed to want. It came in the form of Kennedy, who came strolling through with a crowd of Potentials behind her. It looked like Caridad had won shotgun for the shower.

As they swarmed inside, Buffy looked around. They ignored her, most of them, when they weren’t swerving to avoid her or else shooting her with evils. “Is training over?” she asked a group of them reflexively, as they raided her cupboards for glasses and ganged around the sink.

One of them cast a glance at her; the others laughed, getting on with their task.

Stung, Buffy looked back to Willow, but she was gazing adoringly at Kennedy, who right now was flushed and smiling. This smile on Willow’s face, that was real, Buffy realised. Much more real than the ones Willow had been giving her.

The couple kissed sweetly and Buffy’s gaze bounced away from it, back over to the now empty door. It seemed as though answers would have to wait for another day.

“Everyone’s doing fine, by the way,” Kennedy shot acidly at the back of Buffy’s head, just as she rose to walk away.

The girls by the sink were laughing again, so Buffy didn’t even turn back. She paused for a moment, unsure what to do, wishing she could escape through the other way out, downstairs.

To her side, Willow was saying, “That’s not fair…” but it was only half-heartedly. When Buffy glanced back, she was smoothing tendrils of Kennedy’s hair out of her eyes, like she’d done nothing wrong.

Unable to stay and not sure what she wanted, Buffy left the kitchen to the girls and headed the way they’d come – into the sun. She tried to catch Willow’s eye, but didn’t quite make it. “I'm gonna...”

Lydia and Nigel were conferring at the end of the garden, the sunlight only highlighting the red burn that had come to rest now on Lydia’s nose and cheeks. It had been a long morning, presumably, though it wasn’t anything like midday. The V of her sports top was burned as well.

She looked different out here, this Watcher. Her ponytail was slightly undone and her workout clothes were almost like a normal person’s. She was pretty, Buffy figured, and soft like every potential Slayer would want their leader to be.

When she caught Buffy’s eyes, her expression hardened with the memory of the night before. “I’ll meet you back inside,” she said to Nigel, who turned around as Lydia made to leave.

As the other woman walked by, Buffy thought about saying something. Everything already seemed long ago, to her at least, but it was clear Lydia didn’t try for anything like so short a memory. What she was supposed to say, though, Buffy didn’t know, so she just avoided Lydia’s eyes and waited until she’d gone.

When Buffy raised her head again, Nigel was looking at her – sympathetically. He was also looking pretty worked out, Buffy realised, and it made her wonder whether she’d lost something, this past couple of weeks, getting out of sync with the Potentials’ rhythm of physical exhaustion.

Not that she wasn’t exhausted. That was pretty much a given. But she felt like the day was just beginning, when on Nigel’s face it seemed like it was almost over.

“How are they all doing?” Buffy asked the Watcher.

“Well,” he replied, with a short, proper smile.

“Good,” Buffy replied, not sure if she was approving or correcting him.

There was a nervous look in Nigel’s eyes, which didn’t sit well with Buffy as the light breeze rustled around them. Eventually, though, he sighed, and spoke as though he’d given up waiting for Buffy to continue her side of the conversation. “Some of them lack co-ordination. We were thinking,” he added, “Robin Wood might allow them to train at the school. Tennis or another racquet sport should be enjoyable enough, and be good for their sense of competition.”

Buffy nodded. “I’ll ask him.” It was a good idea. One she never would have thought of.

“Other than that…” Nigel said after another few moments’ silence. He looked wiped. “I think that’s everything.”

“Great,” Buffy replied. It wasn’t actually. Seconds more and Nigel was leaving her on the grass, as if she’d come out here for the contemplation.

A couple of birds twittered, and Buffy was struck by the question of what these girls would want from her, what they all wanted from her. What it would take. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

The sun was hot on the back of her neck; burning.

It was easy enough, later, to find a basket of laundry that needed washing. Buffy’s whole house was full of dirty laundry, or so it seemed most of the time. Pulling a basket together from the hamper in her room was enough to justify a load, and by the time she’d gone down the landing and the stairs, at least three other people had given her things to wash.

OK, so it was Andrew’s job to get stuff clean; OK, so people usually left things downstairs and let Spike do it. Since everyone was still pissed off with Buffy, she figured they would see it as penitence.

Mostly, it got her downstairs at four o’clock in the afternoon, about the time that Spike usually woke up. It was difficult to be up in the house today, with the way everyone was looking at her.

Her timing was right, thankfully. Spike was awake. Kicked back on his bed, to be precise, with one arm behind his head and a book perched on his chest, one knee cocked towards the ceiling. If he hadn’t been wearing clothes, it would have been a very familiar position. Somehow it made this whole thing seem easier, in a way that it hadn’t before.

“So,” Buffy said, as she reached the bottom of the stairs and was crossing the floor to the washer. She figured she might as well run it anyway, even while she replayed a little scenario from their past. “You never told me what your excuse was.”

Spike looked over, curious as he shut his book. “For what?” he asked.

Shrugging, Buffy kept it nonchalant. “You know – for trying to see me.”

“Need an excuse now, do I?” Spike made no move to get up, not yet, just shifted so he could look at her better. At least, Buffy assumed that was the reason.

She crossed her arms, leaning back against the machine behind her. The clothes were on top of it, and probably should have been going in, but this was much more fun. It was… Familiar. Distracting. Easy. Probably a little bit wrong. “Maybe,” she answered Spike’s question, resisting that line of thought. “At least at ten AM.”

For a moment Spike said nothing, eyes raking over her like he was trying to suss her out. Buffy just waited, willing to gamble that he would come to her – which he did, with a concerted sproing of his mattress as he swung out of bed. As he approached, she raised her chin to keep looking at him in the eye, but gave no other visible reaction. He was watching her, but she was watching him, and it was good to see him move.

“Is this yours, then?” Spike asked when he was up in her personal space, the words shadowed by a particularly seductive drawl. He nodded his head over her shoulder, one arm around behind her to tip the basket into view. “The mighty Slayer does washing?” As Buffy glanced around, wondering if this was actually the moment to put the washer on, all nonchalant, Spike tutted. “Should’ve known you couldn’t stay away.”

“Oh please,” Buffy riposted, as their eyes met again. God, this was distracting, for real. How could she have forgotten? Parts of her were feeling giddy; parts of her were feeling that first hint of implosion. All of her was feeling better. Was that bad? “Could your ego inflate any bigger?”

“Dunno,” was Spike’s reply to that, like he felt it too. He let go of the basket, his arm brushing against hers as he twirled a finger through the end of her ponytail. Buffy looked at him and he raised his eyebrows. “Wanna find out?” he asked, his voice light again.

A laugh bubbled out of her, because that was kind of funny. Spike grinned, half a laugh down his nose, and then it was easy to lean forward from the washer, put her hands around his head and kiss him. Obviously, in a very war-appropriate way, without tongue even if they weren’t entirely close-mouthed, but it was still the escape it had always been.

What she was doing here, Buffy didn’t really know. Today was a washout, as far she could figure. The girls were trained, likely ready for some sort of strategy lesson from Travers later, and she was at a loose end. In most people’s eyes, surplus to requirements. Willow and Althanea had their heads back together on the wards, Xander was still rebuilding splinters into something functional, Giles was away, as usual, and she was…

When the kiss ended, she was being held by the hips, Spike’s thumbs through her belt loops in a way that Buffy thought acknowledged pretty well how they’d been intimate enough with each other at one time. They didn’t need more than this, did they? To get through the next few months?

“Hello gorgeous,” was what Spike said, like their conversation here was only beginning, his voice everything that was wicked and tempting. His eyes were lit with passion, understanding, that other thing… It was as though she hadn’t just come downstairs and berated him.

For a few seconds, Buffy was happy to be wrapped up in it. Then she felt the grip of reality claw her back to Earth. “Stop it,” she told him, feeling the giddiness sink into the black pit of her stomach. “You can’t be nice to me.” It wasn’t his place, just like this wasn’t hers. “Everyone hates me today.”

Cocking his head to one side, Spike appeared to contemplate the idea. “Well,” he replied, scrunching up his nose, never losing the light in his eyes, “thanks to the sound hiding you gave me, I’m not all that inclined to follow the crowd anymore.”

Buffy snorted, generally relieved as she looked down. “Like you were ever.”

“It’s a fair cop.”

Their eyes met again, and Buffy had to take a breath, looking away before she kissed a vampire just for being nice to her. She let her hands fall from Spike’s chest, using them so she could hop back to sit on the washing machine. As she glanced next to her, Spike took the hint – hopping up beside her while she shuffled to accommodate him.

“I guess it’s not true anyway,” Buffy said while they were manoeuvring. She put her hand on Spike’s knee, drawing his gaze back to hers. This was better, wasn’t it? Talking was better. “Willow’s been nice to me.”

“That’s big of her,” Spike drawled, his leg twitching once under her hand. It didn’t twitch away. “What’d she have to say?”

Buffy looked off into the basement, glad to have this contact with Spike, their thighs and dangling legs brushed against each other – Spike’s hands splayed behind him for support; his left well into her half of the machine, so her shoulder brushed his upper arm. “I asked her about dragon magic. I wanted to know…”

“You wanted to know if a second opinion would tell you any different,” Spike interrupted, irritably – but he was still there.

Across the basement was Spike’s bed, the sheets all rumpled from his reading session. Really, Buffy wondered how well Spike ever slept, all alone in his camping bed. He seemed to be awake as often as her, much of the time. “It wasn’t that entirely. I guess…”

As she trailed off, Spike sighed. Apparently he was happier than she was to figure out her motives, because he told them both, “No. You’ve just already decided that you’re going through with it and want all the intel you can get.”

That didn’t sit right either, not completely. “Maybe,” Buffy accepted, offering Spike a conciliatory smile. “Maybe not.” She didn’t tell him how the thought of it scared her, the idea of this transformative magic.

Quite possibly, she didn’t need to. Spike’s expression softened as she looked at him. “Thought you weren’t going to try protect everyone,” he said softly, neither an accusation or a challenge. “Not this time.”

“They’re just girls, Spike,” Buffy couldn’t help but say, feeling like she was apologising. The scene in the kitchen earlier, it had stung at the time – but now she was over it, and the whole thing seemed so juvenile. “Scared and angry girls.”

Buffy was definitely leaning into Spike now, even if her gaze had slipped to the wall. His arm was almost around her and it was enough as he said nothing.

Really, it was hard for Buffy to say this to his face. “Maybe they have the potential,” she conceded, “but the way you find that out is when someone sticks a stake in your hand and sends you out to die.” All she could feel was the rage from the night before; the frustration; the sickening feeling of inevitability. “And…” Why was it always about death? “We’ve seen it – we’ve both seen it – how sometimes that works, but I don’t know if that’s what I’m supposed to be doing anymore. Lydia… And Nigel, really…”

“Maybe it’s time to take them out again,” Spike suggested lightly, as though there was still a way to solve this. “We could go out like last time, find a nest somewhere, get volunteers to come and clear it up. They’ll do fine and boost morale for the rest of them.”

It was a good suggestion. Buffy looked at Spike again, hoping he could see the gratitude in her eyes. “Are you asking me out on a recon date?” she asked, because she couldn’t let him get away with that part completely.

Spike smirked, and all Buffy could wonder was whether he ever would’ve gotten his ego back if she hadn’t kissed him. Although… There was a softness in this particular smirk, somehow in the way he held himself, which had never really been there before. “It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make,” he said anyway. “If it distracts you from turning yourself into some holy dragon conduit and, I dunno, scourging out everything vaguely nasty inside you.”

Buffy felt the matching grin that crept across her face. She still remembered Willow’s face from earlier. (It’s strong…) Nonetheless, she knew she could forget about it. Delaying the inevitable? She could do that. She was an expert in that. “You’re so sweet,” she said.

The night hadn’t long fallen, of course, before they were kissing again. About a block from 1630, one of the streetlights was out, and none of the surrounding houses seemed to have residents inside. The darkness was total and Buffy was caught between a tree and a hard place, like she had been so many times before, her hands still fisted around the collar of Spike’s coat from when she had dragged him to her.

Hands were smoothing along her hips again, not groping her ass, not lifting her up, not working their way under her top, not working their way anywhere. It was at odds with the hungry sweep of Spike’s tongue; the odd desire she had to gulp him down and keep him inside her for always. Buffy’s lips tingled every instant they weren’t fully crushed against his skin; she whimpered every time she inhaled and the bright, earthy taste of him rushed right up her nose to circle in the back of her throat. It annoyed her how he didn’t seem to have it so bad, given how he was the one in love with her and she was the one…

A car drove by, its lights heavy and the roar of it bright across her conscience.

“Guh!” Buffy exclaimed, popping the pair of them apart with one forcible extension of her elbows. In his surprise, Spike’s clenched his hands around her hips, pressing his thumbs into the crease at the top of her thighs. Buffy wanted nothing more than to noodle her legs around him until he begged for mercy, or at least just have him open her up. “This is your fault!” she accused, casting that muscle memory away.

My fault?” Spike shot back. He let go, but it didn’t help. Here in front of her he was all shades of blue, his skin a deep dusky grey and his eyes the same shade as the open night sky. Buffy wanted new memories with him. Thousands of them. She wanted new memories of herself. “You’re the one who’s all hot little hands and come hither eyes.” He glanced down between them, his own hands on his hips, his gaze pointing to where she could feel the ready signal of what her body wanted.

Like the signs on him weren’t even more obvious. “Right,” Buffy put him straight, glancing down for her own little look at the evidence. “Like you weren’t sidling up against me from the moment we left the house.” Yep. Those jeans looked exactly how she remembered them. “Looking at me! And… And saying all those flirty little…”

When Buffy glanced up again, she was surprised to see how much naked lust could be written into one vampire’s expression. Spike’s jaw was tense and his eyes burned into hers. It made her heart pound.

At that moment, it would have been easy to give in. Quite where it would have taken them, Buffy didn’t know, but they had been here so many times she could practically feel the force of him inside her, the rough bark against her back and the cries that would erupt from her throat.

Breaking the habit of a lifetime, though, Buffy resisted the urge to tip them both over the edge. Instead, she let Spike’s collar go, turning it right and smoothing leather lapels against his chest.

Spike shuddered, taking both her hands in his and kissing her right palm as his eyes fell closed. When he opened them again, he was himself. They were both themselves, standing firm in the night with her back against a tree.

“How did we get here?” Buffy asked, not meaning to sound plaintive, but not so good with not doing the things she shouldn’t.

Spike shook his head, holding her hands tightly in his. “No idea,” he replied, casting his mouth into a wry little grin. “Got a nasty habit of never looking back – but,” he added. “I think the plan was to recon this patrol.”

Never looking back. Now Buffy knew that wasn’t true. She could remember Althanea’s words about Spike’s trigger, about how it was psychological. Possibly he kept those memories bottled up, but they were there, stuck in his peripheral vision. Offering a watery smile of her own, however, she tried to forget that particular fact. She didn’t want them to argue. “Guess we shouldn’t have joked about the date, right?”

Spike frowned, like she was denying them. He stepped back and ignored her last point. “You should go,” he said seriously. “Get the girls out here. I’ll…”

He paused, and Buffy wanted to seize on it, interrupt him, but she didn’t; the moment passed.

With a sigh – a look like he was onto her – Spike realised it was inevitable. “I’ll go look up about this dragon,” he said. Then he left.


[breakfasts II]
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December 2015

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