Always Wait For You – 12

This entry is part 13 of 15 in the series Always Wait For You
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This seems like a good spot to stop again. I’ll post the remaining chapters later tonight. In this chapter, things are getting better for Spike and Buffy, realtionship-wise, but not going all that great for the kids…

Chapter Twelve

Carefully dodging the shafts of sunlight that filtered into the hallways, Spike followed Buffy to the main office where the principal greeted her pleasantly while looking him up and down with unabashed curiosity.

“Mr. Barnes, this is my husb- this is Joy and Will’s father, William Pratt. Sp-William, this is James Barnes. He’s the principal here. You two probably met at parents’ night back when Joy was in Kindergarten or First Grade…”

“Yes, of course,” the man said smoothly. “I remember meeting you. It’s been a long time since we’ve had the pleasure of your company at one of our functions. Buffy – Mrs Pratt – is one of our most active parents. But, then, you probably already know that.” He beamed at them.

“You’d be surprised what I don’t know,” Spike muttered, shaking the man’s hand firmly and forcing a smile. He could see the suspicion in Barnes’ eyes as he compared the hard-edged, leather-clad man in front of him with the glasses wearing, fit, but bookish, one he remembered meeting before. Spike tried for a friendlier and more genuine smile as he said apologetically, “I’m afraid I’ve been away for several years. I’m a bit out of touch with Buffy’s activities.”

“Ah,” Barnes replied in a “none of my business” tone of voice. “Well, we’re delighted that you’ve paid us a visit then. I hope you enjoy your time here in our school. Will you be staying all day?” he asked with a glance at Buffy.

“We’ll be stayin’ as long as it takes,” Spike answered shortly.

He felt Buffy elbow him in the side as she explained, “We’ll probably be in and out of the building – if that’s all right with you,” she added hastily. “And I’ll be driving the kids to and from school for a while.”

“That’s quite all right,” he assured them. “Everyone here knows you, Mrs. Pratt, and I will be sure that they know that the children’s father is also in the building. I sincerely hope that you will locate and…eliminate…the danger as soon as possible. We’re quite fond of Joy and Will here and would hate to see anything untoward happen to them.”

He wanted desperately to ask if the danger to their children was from human beings, or something more sinister, but neither of the two tense people in front of him seemed inclined to explain further, and he didn’t ask. There was something about Mr Pratt that gave him the idea that the much smaller man was not someone he wanted to anger. And he already knew more than most of the staff about Buffy’s nocturnal activities. Instead of asking, he just smiled and assured them that the school and all its employees were at their service, then excused himself and went into his office.

A phone call from one of the school custodians had him sighing with annoyance as he fished a large ring of keys from the desk drawer and left the office again. “I’ll be downstairs,” he called to his secretary. “George says there’s something going on with one of the air-conditioners.”

While he made his way to the school’s basement, Buffy and Spike were walking around the building, checking closets, stairwells, and empty classrooms for any sign of danger. Spike waited impatiently while Buffy explored the roof, peering into open ducts and yanking open the doors to the equipment rooms.

“I told you, you wouldn’t find anything out there in the bloody sunshine,” he grumbled when she finally assured herself that there were no vampires lurking in the formerly locked roof sheds.

“I wasn’t looking in the sunshiny places,” she huffed as she brushed past him.

“Buffy…” His hand on her arm stopped her and she turned to meet his eyes. “If you’re that worried, why didn’t we just keep them at the Slayer School? Why risk this?”

“I…I don’t know. I just don’t want him to be able to…I hate hiding from him!” she blurted. “I hate that he can make us so afraid, and I hate that my kids have to be afraid; I just wanted to keep their lives as normal as possible.” She wrinkled her forehead and bit her lip. “Do you think we’re doing the wrong thing? Should I have kept them where they were safe?”

He shook his head. “No, love, I think you’re doing the right thing. I just…I don’t like seeing you so wrought up over it. I’m just saying that if it’s going to make you worry even more, then you’re playing into his hands and it might be better to have left them where we don’t have so much to worry about.”

She wondered if he had intentionally called her “love” for the first time since his return; or if it had just slipped out automatically as he spoke.

Either way, it’s got to be a good sign, right?

She rested her head lightly against his chest for a second – not long enough create an awkward situation if he didn’t respond, but long enough to take some strength from his presence. When she pulled back and turned to go down the stairs, he brushed his hand over her arm.

“We’re going to find them, Slayer,” he said, stroking her arm lightly. “It’s going to be alright.”

“Of course it is,” she said, as cheerfully as she could. “Look what happened to them the last time the two of us ganged up on them.”

“There you go,” he agreed. “They’re as good as dust.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

In the basement, Barnes was trying to calm a very rattled custodian as the man insisted that he’d heard animals in the large vent from the roof-top air-conditioning units.

“It happens,” his boss soothed him. “Although, with the grates we’ve got on here, I doubt anything very large could get out into the building. Put a few rat traps around, just in case, and let me know if you hear anything again.”

“Didn’t sound like no freakin’ rats,” the man grumbled. He’d grown up in a tenement, and was well aware of what rats in a vent sounded like.

“Well, if something bigger fell into a pipe, we’ll know eventually. Whatever it is will starve to death – or die of thirst – and we’ll be able to smell it. When that happens, you can go in and get it and throw it in the incinerator.”

He clapped the man on the shoulder and turned back to go to his office, ignoring the muttered curses and whispers about not being paid enough to have to scrape up smelly, dead things. He toyed briefly with the idea of telling the Pratts about the noises, but decided that his theory about their origin was the correct one and it wasn’t necessary to alarm them.

Buffy and Spike passed the rest of the day trying to follow their children around without appearing to be doing so. When Joy had finally stopped with her hands on her hips and glared at Spike in a way that reminded him of her mother when a beating was imminent, he gave up and settled himself in the library to spend the rest of the day familiarizing himself with what constituted young adult literature in this day and time.

When Buffy found him there, deeply engrossed in a Harry Potter book, she smiled and watched from the doorway for several minutes. Finally he growled over his shoulder, “Can tell you’re there, Slayer. Are you plannin’ to come in or just ogle me from the doorway?”

“I thought I’d ogle for a while,” she said lightly as she joined him at the table. “Do you mind?”

“Never,” he said softly, raising his eyes to hers.

“Well, there you go then. It makes us both happy.” Her words were light and flirtatious, but the way she met his gaze was anything but lighthearted. The moment was interrupted by the arrival of a class of chattering sixth graders containing a highly embarrassed blond boy who tried very hard to pretend that he couldn’t see the two adults sitting at the table and staring at each other hungrily.

Will’s hissed, “Mom! You promised!” as he walked past them, startled her out of the blue eyes in which she’d become temporarily lost. She sat up straighter and said apologetically, “I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t know you were on your way here. Tell you what – your dad and I will leave for a while, okay? We’ll be back to pick you up, so don’t leave the building or go anywhere other than your classes or the office. Okay?”

Taking Spike’s hand, she pulled him to his feet and tugged him towards the door to the hall. “Come on. This is a parent-free zone.”

When they got to the hallway, she continued to hold on, only realizing that she hadn’t let go when he looked pointedly at their joined hands. Buffy blushed and quickly dropped his hand, saying, “Sorry. I just sort of forgot to let go. I know you don’t…”

“You know nothing about what I ‘don’t…’ Buffy,” he growled, linking their fingers again. “I just wanted to be sure that you knew what you were doin’ is all.”

“I was holding hands with my husband,” she said, lifting her chin and looking him in the eye. “That’s all I was doing.”

“Well, that’s alright then, isn’t it?” he said, giving her hand a light squeeze.

“Is it?”

“I think it could be,” he responded softly. “I’m beginning to think it could be.”

She broke into a smile that would have surprised her children. The kind of smile that she had rarely bestowed on anyone since their father’s death. Spike felt his heart thaw more than it had already at this proof of her genuine happiness that he was back.

As they walked down the hall, swinging hands like a couple of teenagers, he caught a whiff of blood from the nurse’s office where she was staunching a bloody nose for one of the students. The sharp reminder that he hadn’t eaten since before Angelus’ call had him dropping her hand and turning away before she could see the amber flashes in his eyes.

“Spike?” He turned back quickly at the tremulous note in her voice and tried to reassure her.

“ ‘s alright, love. I just was reminded that I haven’t eaten for a while.”

“Oh! Do we need to go get some blood?”

“Got some,” he said, “but it’s back at the hotel – which I guess I ought to check out of one of these days…”

“Why don’t we go do that now? While the kids are safely in class and the sun is up?”

“If you don’t mind drivin’ me over there. Don’t really feature myself taking a walk in this weather.”

“In this weather? It’s a beautiful day! It’s warm, the sun is shin- Oh.”

“Yeah, big ‘Oh’.” He smirked at her obvious annoyance with herself for having forgotten that he couldn’t go outside.

“You do remember that pesky sunlight allergy I’ve got, don’t you, Buffy?”

“I remember,” she said quietly.

While Spike headed for the lower-level outside door that he’d used to sneak into the school from the parking lot, Buffy told the main office staff that they were going out for a while and would be back to pick up their children before the end of the school day. A quick call to Willow brought the unwelcome news that Angelus – or, more likely, Dru – was using magic to scramble their location.

“It’s not like I can’t break through it,” Willow hastened to add. “But it’s a pretty decent cloaking spell, so it’s going to take me a little while. I think they might be moving around a lot, too,” she added. “What little I could get seemed to be moving all over this part of the city.”

This part of the city?” Buffy’s voice was sharp.

“Yes. There’s no sign that they’ve been anywhere but our southeast corner of the city. I suspect they have a van or something that they can park when they need to stay out of the sun. I’m sorry, Buffy,” her voice dropped. “I wish I had something better for you. I’ll call as soon as I do.”

“It’s okay, Will,” Buffy sighed in response. “You’ll have something by tonight, I’m sure. The kids are fine for right now.”

She hung up with a quick ‘thank you’ to the office staff, and ran to the car, driving it right up to the door Spike had told her about and waiting for it to burst open to let the smoldering vampire duck inside. He huddled under his blanket, muttering about the ‘bloody sun” and the inferior materials in his blanket that allowed it let through the deadly rays.

“Maybe we can find you a blanket made of asbestos or something,” Buffy mused as she maneuvered the car through traffic to the hotel he’d given her.

“Maybe we can start usin’ my car to get around,” he growled back.

“Why?”

“Got it special-made,” he said proudly. “It’s got the same window glass as they used to have in everything at Wolfram and Hart. I can go anywhere in it – as long as I stay inside and away from the open doors.”

“You could come to Will’s games then,” she said excitedly. “You could just stay in the car and watch from there.”

“I suppose I could, at that,” he agreed, pointing to the covered entrance of the hotel. While Buffy waited, he hopped out and ran inside, taking only a short time to clear out his room and pay his bill before rejoining her. He had a suitcase in one hand and a cooler under the other arm as he waited for her to lean across and open a door for him. Instead, Buffy jumped out and ran around to open the trunk and help him put his burdens in there. Before she could slam it closed, he grabbed an ordinary-looking water bottle out of the cooler and put it in his pocket.

As soon as he was safely installed underneath his sun protection again, he pulled the drink container out of his pocket and began to suck vigorously on the plastic straw. Buffy tried not to notice his brow wrinkle and his eye change as he swallowed the blood to the accompaniment of low growls. As soon as it was completely empty, as attested to by the slurping sounds he was making, he put it back in his pocket and sighed loudly.

“I’m sorry, pet,” he murmured, catching a glimpse of her tight face. “I was really hungry and my demon got the better of me for a few seconds.”

“It’s okay,” she responded quietly. “I just have to get used to it again, I guess. It’s just that it’s been a long time since I watched you…”

“Seventeen years,” he agreed flatly. “Can see where you’d not want to watch me—”

“I didn’t say that,” she answered, her lips pulled into a tight line. “I said I have to get used to it again.”

“Is that what you want to do?”

“Is what, what I want to do?” She pulled into the school’s parking lot and stopped the car so that she could look at him.

“Do you want to have to get used to it again?” he asked, holding her gaze and refusing to let her look away. “Tell me, Buffy. Am I just visiting back-up or your husband?”

“What do you want to be?” she countered. “Can you forgive me? Have you forgiven me?”

“If I hadn’t done it before, seein’ what’s happened since the pouf got turned would do the trick. I understand, now, why you were afraid, love. I don’t like it – and I think you could have given me a chance to prove myself – but I understand it.”

“You don’t hate me?” Her eyes filled with rapidly blinked away tears as she watched his face soften.

“Could never hate you, Buffy. Don’t think I have that in me. Was mad at you for a long time. I can’t deny it. But if I stopped lovin’ you every time I got mad at you…”

“We’d have killed each other a long time ago,” she finished for him with a small smile.

“We would. Gave it a good go once or twice anyway, didn’t we?” He smiled back at her, remembering the times their foreplay had consisted of pummeling each other into exhaustion.

“We did,” she agreed softly. “I’m glad neither one of us ever succeeded.”

“So ‘m I, love. So am I.”

She leaned towards him, feeling the blanket envelope her as he extended it to cover her head as well as his own. Their lips met to the accompaniment of matching sighs, and for long moments the world, Angelus and the danger threatening their children faded away.

When Buffy finally broke away from the bone-melting kiss, she rested her forehead against his and breathed heavily. His arms still holding the blanket around her head and shoulders, Spike whispered, “I love you, Mrs. Pratt.”

“I love you, too, Mr. Pratt,” she responded promptly. They remained together under the blanket, nuzzling each other and reacquainting themselves with the scents and tastes they had been missing, until they were interrupted by the sound of the school bell. They broke apart with a laugh and Buffy put the car back in drive and drove up to the door from which Spike had emerged.

“See you inside,” he said, brushing his lips across hers.

“See you”, she echoed, watching fearfully until she had seen him open the door and get safely inside the building. She then parked the car and ran quickly into the building herself. To be met by a very flustered main office staff.

“What’s wrong?” Buffy’s tense question was echoed by Spike as he appeared behind her, trailing his blanket. His vampire senses had picked up the accelerated heartbeats coming from the office, and the stench of fear that was so strong there.

“Where are my children?”

The principal’s secretary was wringing her hands.

“We’re… we’re not sure,” she ventured, cringing at the expressions on the faces of the missing children’s parents. She continued quickly. “Mr. Barnes got a phone call and…” She launched into an abbreviated version of what had occurred while Spike and Buffy were gone.

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/223622.html

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