Banner art: okdeanna
Pairing: Buffy/Spike, with appearances from some of the gang from both AtS and BtVS
Word Count: 1110
Summary: Six months after the battle of the Hellmouth, Buffy brings her team to Wolfram & Hart on a legal matter and finds that she’s been kept out of the loop in some important ways.
A/N: This chapter was beta'd by thepuddinhead. Thanks for talking me down, sweetie! All the standard disclaimers apply.
Chapter One on DW / Chapter One on LJ
Chapter Two on DW / Chapter Two on LJ
Part Three: We need to talk
They slowly made their way out of the ruin. Both vampires were pretty banged up, and Angel’s shoulder injury made climbing back up to the balcony difficult. Spike let Buffy take the lion’s share of that particular load. Her grim expression was enough to keep him from getting in her way, though he helped where he could. He well remembered how she channeled her anger and frustration into physical exertion. He might not be a wise man, but he’d learned that much.
The longer it took to clamber out, the more he felt a haze of unreality over the whole situation. Her scent was in the air, making him feel lightheaded. Her flushed cheeks and swinging hair drew his eye like an oasis would a parched desert wanderer. He wondered if he had really recorporealized, or if it was all a detailed mirage. He was careful not to look at her directly, nor to touch her. If this were the next stage of his ghostly torment, he didn’t want to do anything to hasten the end of the illusion.
As they emerged from the building, Willow and Xander slipped off the hood of their car.
“Hey!” chirped Willow. “All accounted for! Hi Angel! Great to see you, Spike! Didn’t expect that when I got up this morning.”
“Red,” said Spike, suddenly finding himself with an armful of witch. The affectionate gesture was wholly unexpected, and the sudden contact helped to snap him back to the here and now. She gave him a brief hug and a wide smile, and quickly stepped aside.
“So, how’d the torment work out for you guys?” she asked.
“The torment was a bust,” supplied Buffy. “Fresh out of the perpetual. We’re all going to have to make do with the regular kind.”
“Too bad. Angel,” said Xander with a nod. “Mr. The Bloody. You did good. Welcome back.”
He stuck out his hand, and Spike slowly took it.
“Harris.” They shared a firm handshake before Xander retreated to the car. That exchange surprised Spike even more than had Willow’s hug.
“I’d better get that back to the lab,” said Angel, pointing at the goblet.
“Oh. Right.” Spike handed it over without argument.
Angel gave him a hard look. Spike shrugged.
“So,” said Willow, clapping her hands together. “I guess we should all just meet back at Fred’s lab in the morning. M’kay?”
“I’ll make the arrangements,” said Angel. He looked around, but after getting no response aside from a few nods, he limped over to his car and drove off.
“Um, guys? I’m gonna ride back to town with Spike, if that’s okay,” ventured Buffy. She turned to look at Spike. “Is that okay?”
It was downright astonishing, is what it was. He wasn’t sure if it was okay or not, but he shrugged.
“Whatever you say, Slayer.” She frowned.
Willow and Xander announced they planned to stop for breakfast before heading to the rendezvous. Buffy slid into the Viper’s passenger seat and watched the others’ taillights disappear. Spike bent down and rested his forehead on the car’s roof for a moment before taking a deep breath and opening the driver’s side door. He folded himself into the seat and rested his hands on the wheel, staring straight ahead.
“Hey.” Buffy cleared her throat. “I’m really glad you’re not dusty.”
“Beats the alternative, I’m told.”
“There’s more than one of those…” Her face fell. “Oh, god, you weren’t in heaven, were you?”
He lifted a brow and slid his eyes in her direction. “Angel’s office? Hardly.”
“Oh. Good. Not that I don’t want you to end up in heaven!” She slumped forward. “Why is everything coming out wrong?”
“Maybe because you never expected to see me again? Didn’t have your speeches ready?”
She turned in her seat to gape at him. With arms crossed, she settled back against the door. He mirrored her position, raising his eyebrows expectantly. She narrowed her eyes.
“Aren’t you even a little happy to see me? I thought we had a … connection.”
It was a challenge and a plea. She wanted reassurance, he could tell. Didn’t trust her own perceptions. Didn’t want to let her down, but he couldn’t stand to live last year over again. Better to get to the meat of things right away. He was a big vampire; he could deal with reality. He’d just have to make it easy for her. It couldn’t hurt any more than say, losing a limb, could it?
“Buffy. Slayer. I’ll always be happy to see you. Always. Just don’t want you to feel obligated to follow up on anything you said in the heat of the moment.” He couldn’t look at her anymore, so he slid his eyes over to the windscreen. “A fellow goes up in a blaze of glory, it’s bound to make a girl feel grateful and all, but you don’t owe me anything.” He waited for her tearful denial or grudging acceptance. And waited some more. Finally, she spoke.
“Are you serious!?” Ah. Neither then. Full of surprises, his Slayer. He eyed her warily.
“Well, yeah. It was brilliant, what you said, but I won’t hold you to it.”
“Gee, thanks, Spike,” she said in a tone more acid than relieved. She fell silent, fuming.
He couldn’t see how she could be truly upset with him for releasing her. It was the right thing to do, even if it did about kill him to get the words out. But she clearly had something to say. He waited for it. It didn’t take long.
”Look, I know you’ve seen me at some pretty low points, but when exactly have I ever given you the impression that I’m a, well, a whore?”
His eyes snapped to hers. “What?”
“Have I ever doled out my affections for services rendered?”
“No. Seriously. In all the years you’ve known me, have I ever once said, Hey, Big Boy, if you just throw yourself in the way of this itty bitty apocalypse, I’ll make it worth your while?” She batted her eyes in a terrifying approximation of a coquette. “Or said that I’ll love you forever—or even for the next couple of hours—if you’ll just rescue my damsely self from the distress of the week?” Suddenly the car seemed much too small to contain all that righteous fury. “I’m not that girl, Spike! You, out of everybody, should know that! If I say I love you, you’d better freaking believe it!”
The Viper rang with her words.
“Yeah: ‘Oh’.” Her anger seemed to seep away. He waited for the next curveball.
After a minute, Buffy said, “Let’s walk.” He nodded.
Continued in Chapter Four: We can work it out
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