Big Girls

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The Spuffy gods were trying to keep me away, right down to a smashed computer last night that ate most of my work for this round, but I have overcome! (Yay for saved drafts!) I present to you the first of two pieces for today!

But first,
OK, I have a list of thank-yous as long as my arm. First, standing ovation to enigmaticblues for putting up with my endless list of date conflicts, and shapinglight, who may or may not have know she was sharing a day with yours truly. And don’t blame them for any mistakes that might turn up in this one, but gillo and just_sue get about a zillion karmic points for putting up with a long string of frantic, half-coherent e-mails from me over the past 24 hours or so. You’ll see their good work in the next bit.

And now, without further adieu
Title: Big Girls
Timeline: Season 8, back at the ranch, er, castle, while Faith’s off chasing socialites
Rating: PG. That Spike’s got a foul mouth.

Of course Spike turned up while she was leading rappelling practice. Because somebody upstairs clearly hates one Buffy Anne Summers, and when a cow hat isn’t handy, it can substitute flat, sweaty hair and the total smooshing action of sportsbra-plus-spaceage-fabric/metal.

Not that he was even there to see her. Ok, so she’s been hiding some stuff. And maybe by “some stuff,” she kinda meant “herself.” But, Slayer security! And besides, she’d always thought they’d figure it out if they had ever really tried. Vampire senses, right? They could have known there was no Buffy to be found in “Buffy’s” apartment, right? . Maybe it was one of Andrew’s tricky little spells, jamming their smell-dar?

Stupid Buffy, never with the taking of hints. Not like she’d dropped everything and cancelled practice halfway through – and hadn’t that been an epic mistake, because right now she so wanted to punch something – because she caught a glimpse of his stupid hair. Of course, he wasn’t there to see her. Of course not.

But he wasn’t getting out of this without a hello. Not if Spike’s forceful re-entry to the gym and less-than-graceful landing at her feet had anything to say about it.

“I told Red it was gonna be like this,” he muttered, wiggling his feet back under him.

The outside door slammed open, a giant, apologetic eye pressed against it. “Spike! I didn’t mean…”

“Bloody hell, Dawn, the stench!”

“I don’t exactly have a lifetime supply of giant clothes!”

“Clever enough to bathe, weren’t you?” Spike was upright now, in his Official Badass Stance. “An’ it’s so hard to take soap and water to your shirt.”

An enormous eyebrow lifted, the door slipped shut, then banged open again. “I do not stink!” But she was grinning and the door was closing and ok, this was a pretty major victory. Maybe Spike’s smirk was even justified. Not that she was, you know, watching him. But it was kinda hard not to, not after he’d been away for so long. Not when she just wanted to reach out and poke him – oof, Buffy, word choice – and make sure that he was really here.

At least he was watching her, too, out of the sides of his eyes. Please. Like that innocent face fooled anybody. “Didn’t think you’d find a thricewise within a mile of this place.”

Oh-kay. Not exactly the opener she was expecting. “College kids these days. The drugs, the booze, the demons…” There! That totally sounded casual.

And…. No. Screaming? Hitting? All over it. But this was not how it was supposed to be. Not that face, the same old “Ah! I see. Let me explain in great detail, Buffy, because not only are you the lone girl-without-clue, but this is all your fault.”

“We sent her to college, Spike, a real, good…”

He snorted. “An’ then she just stumbled into the only fiendish figure in the school, that’s it, ‘m sure. Not that she hated the bloody place.”

“OK, so maybe she was taking some time to adjust…”

“Because you’d so happily drop the hero gig an’ put your head to parsin’ verbs?”

God, his tone. Like he had a right to an explanation. Like he knew anything about anything. “And that’s supposed to mean?”

“That she’s seen too much to happily pretend she hasn’t, is what!”

Keep calm, Buffy. You’re old enough to have a conversation with a rude, interrupting… OK. Just… keep calm. “It might not seem that important to you, Spike, but she should have an education.”

His face was twisted, a funny, sad sort of look. It didn’t sit well with her – her stomach wanted to twist in sympathy but god dammit, she was right! “An’ old Rupert can’t step up?”

It was too much to look at him. Her head hurt, and she could feel him staring even through the hand pressed against her eyes. “Do you have any idea how many strings he had to pull to get her into a real college?”

“Real, you keep sayin’. Like what you do isn’ real. Ask Red what she thinks about that. Could’ve had any bloody education she wanted and here she is, same as you.”

“Dawn deserves better than this!” God, she hated this. On the defensive, that whiny note in her voice. She swallowed, forced her voice down. “A real education, Spike! A real, normal education!”

“A normal life?” His voice was suddenly softer. Maybe that’s why it was suddenly so hard to meet his eyes. “Whether she wants it or not, s’that it?”

“After all that she’s been through…”

“Deserves it, yeah, but poor pidge deserves whatever she wants.”

“I don’t want this for her.” And there it was, bone tired note back in her voice. She’d thought that was gone with Sunnydale. Hey, why not. Maybe a Bringer or two could drop by, join the re-enactment.

“Can’t blame her for wanting to help, Buffy.”

All of a sudden he was right there, right next to her, solid and there and it was just so easy to slip back into telling him stuff like it had all never happened. Like he was here for good. “I kept finding her digging through the library.” It was too much, that familiar Spike-feeling, his smell, all right here… She had to close her eyes against it. “Heavy-duty stuff, Spike. Like, end of the world heavy duty.” Since when did Spike stay quiet for so long? “Elemental stuff, religious stuff…”

A hand pressed briefly against her shoulderblade. “Nothin’ unnatural about lookin’ for your roots, Buffy.”

“Sometimes, it’s just better not to know.” God, she sounded tired.

But Spike had come back to life. He was tense again, dancing on the balls of his feet. You could feel the fight in him, the it’s-not-so-bad-being-a-demon speech. But he swallowed, brushed a hand over her shoulder. “Not so easy, this parentin’ business.”

She plucked at a Kevlar sleeve. “Not exactly my specialty, no.”

“Red was thinkin’ I could pitch in in that department, least for a little while.” There was no holding back her snort. God, Spike was a drama queen, hands pressed over his heart like she’d shot him. “Got her to shower, din’t I? More than you’ve managed in a month.” His nose wrinkled. “Or more.”

“I just thought a big, bad law firm hunter, or runner, or whatever it is you do these days…”

OK, either the flooring was a lot more interesting than she remembered, or Spike was just as easy to read as she remembered. At least he felt a little bad. That was something, right? “Not that I can get out of practice, mind.”

Maybe it wasn’t exactly nice, but it felt kinda good to watch him squirm. Just a little. “Good thing you landed in Slayer central.” OK, the sad little flinch was definitely less enjoyable. Big girl, Buffy. Big girls don’t play games. “Do you have time to spar a little?”

Apparently, big bads? Game central. Spike’s delighted grin flashed into “2 cool for skool” in a blink. “Not with you in that tank armor.” He snorted. “Want to land a proper punch on you.”

And again with the flashbacks. But this was the good kind, the flirty, blushy kind. The “danger, Will Robinson! Buffy has clearly been weakened by her longtime stay in the Castle Of Menstruation!” kind. Because it wasn’t like that for them, not anymore.

Still, couldn’t hurt to strip off her Kevlar right here, in front of him. A sportsbra was prettymuch same as the top, woeful lack of lift-and-separate notwithstanding. And you never know, right? And thinking had never been her friend, really, and well, too late now.

Oh, God, the look on his face, stunned, happy-scared half-leer. Too fast, maybe, but if she’d learned anything, it was that “forever” was a lot shorter than you’d think. And mixed signals were just as confusing to give as get. And a whole bunch of other things that made her feel ancient and sorta Master Splinter, and hell, she just wanted to hit something.

A leap, Spike’s wild grin, and she dissolved into giggles, Spike’s darker laugh mixed in. Even if he knocked her down with a neat sweep of a foot mid-chuckle. Oh, he was so gonna pay.

Except now she was laughing too hard to get up, covering her heaving stomach with one hand. Because this was just fun, when was the last time she’d just laughed… If somebody had asked her, she would have pictured a big fight, why didn’t you call me, why didn’t you, maybe a real punch thrown, Kevlar and all. But it was different, she was different and maybe it would all be all right this time.


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