FIC: Autumn Sunsets – 3/5 – (Overall Rating: NC17)

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Autumn Sunsets
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 Part III

The shrill of the doorbell ringing was undoubtedly the most harmonious sound to ever grace the air

“Oh, thank God.”

Already she had been cooking since she awoke and she felt her control on the situation slipping from her grasp. She had the unsettling feeling that the day was going to be a disaster.

But now it was okay. Spike would take care of everything. He was, after all, the designated cook.

Buffy threw the door open with a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank God,” she gasped again, somehow managing to avoid lunging into his arms. Cook now, play later. “I thought you’d never get here.”

“I’m ten minutes early.”

“I know!” She grabbed his wrist and jerked him into the house. It was just a few minutes before dawn, and between pacing in wait of his arrival and groaning at the sight of the mess she’d created, she’d fretted about asking him to come over so near sunrise. The day had not started off on the right foot. “Sorry, today’s just a massive wig-fest.”

Spike perked a brow. “Miss me already?”

“That and I’m about ready to bomb the kitchen.”

His eyes sparkled. “Looks like I got here jus’ in time, then.”

“Get in here.”

“I think I’d like to hear you say that when we’re both naked,” he purred, favoring her with a long, rakish leer. “Calm down, pet. We’ve got time to fix whatever you feel you’ve bollixed up.”

“This is going to be a nightmare,” she whimpered.

“Where’s the trust?”

“I’m panicking here!”

Spike smirked. “Couldn’t tell. Look, pet, it’s gonna be all right. Jus’ let me get to the kitchen. Half the stuff we won’ be able to get into until two hours before your dinner. Let’s jus’ get the turkey cookin’, yeh?”

“It’s in there. And I think the stuffing looks good, but I—”

“Buffy—”

“This is a mess. Why did I get myself involved in this? It must be some spell…some holiday-crazy spell. I’m insane. I’m certifiable. I make Drusilla look like some Aristotle-like philosopher. I—”

He burst out laughing at that and took her by the shoulders. “Sweetheart,” he said slowly, “calm down. ‘S all right. All right? Spike’s here now, an’ he’ll take care of everythin’.”

His eyes were warm and his embrace looked so welcoming that she couldn’t help herself a minute longer. The next thing she knew, she had buried herself in his arms, sighing softly when he held her against him. There was nothing suggestive—nothing much. It was nice simply being held. He gave her more comfort in a matter of seconds than any other man had given her in the duration of an entire relationship.

“Thank you.” She pulled back reluctantly, shaking her head. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“No one really does.”

Buffy smirked and hit his shoulder. “Okay…let’s get this thing done.”

“Jus’ for the record, luv, you could never be as insane as Dru.”

A shiver of jealousy surged through her at that. She didn’t handle images of the men she loved with other women very well, though the second she met his eyes, time suspended and all became abundantly clear.

“Trust me,” he said softly. “I consider that a virtue. You, I can talk to. I din’t even realize I was missin’ that until…” He glanced down awkwardly and cast a hand through his hair. “Well, I…”

It was somewhat disconcerting to see Spike get nervous and flustered when hey, that was so her role. And yet, there wasn’t even one part of her that didn’t warm in adoration. Buffy smiled softly and leaned forward, brushing her lips against his. “Gotcha,” she murmured.

“You have no bloody idea.”

She flashed a grin. “I think I have some idea.”

“An’ here I thought I was s’posed to be the evil one,” he retorted, breaking away from her and moving toward the kitchen. “Come on. We need to salvage what we can.”

“What we can? What happened to the optimism?”

He shrugged. “Calmed you down, dinn’it?”

“You ass.”

The insult had no punch. She wasn’t angry; rather, her entire being was immersed in relief simply with his presence. The burden of perfection was off her shoulders. She now had the perfect scapegoat.

“An’ don’ even think about blamin’ this mess on me, luv,” Spike said as he surveyed the kitchen.

“Why not?” she whined.

“’S your bed. You lie in it.”

“You mean you won’t…” She paused, not meeting his eyes, her cheeks flushing as she realized the full connotations of finishing that thought. “I mean—can’t I use your being British as an excuse? ‘He’s from England. He doesn’t get it.’”

“No deal. I’m not here to take the fall for your shortcomings.”

“Hey!”

Spike just tossed her a grin and pulled the fridge open. “You got the bird in the oven, right?”

“Are you kidding me? I’ve been up for a half hour. That was the first thing I did.”

“Well, it’s either gonna be extremely well done or jus’ right. I thought it was s’posed to cook for only four hours or so. ‘S a twenty-pounder, right?”

“Four to five, and yes.”

“So your guests are gonna be here at ten in the bloody mornin’?”

“It’s a noon thing.”

Spike just shook his head. “Bloody Americans changin’ traditions on me. Wasn’ the supper in the evenin’ last year?”

“I’m trying to avert disaster by not starting a tradition!” she cried. “Something you’re not exactly helping me with, Mister!”

“Anyone ever tell you that you have more mood swings than—”

“Finish that sentence and I’ll—”

“My point exactly.” He grinned. “Look, you have the thermometer, right? Turkey’ll be ready when the thickest part of the thigh reaches a hundred an’ eighty degrees.”

Buffy sighed. “How do you know these things?”

“I did my research. Din’t wanna botch up your dinner.” He gestured to the island. “Also, your cookbook is open.”

“The thermometer’s in the cabinet.”

He nodded. “An’ you said you had the stuffing?”

“It’s cooking.”

“Where?”

She arched a brow and pointed dubiously to the oven. “In the turkey.”

Spike sighed. “Bollocks.”

“What?”

“Well, now we gotta make sure it cooks. If it doesn’ cook, people are gonna get sick.” He paused. “Though that might be bloody funny. Fancy to see what shades of green we can turn your Watcher?”

Buffy froze. “Are you kidding me?”

“No.”

“Are you kidding me? Where does it say that? How do you know that? Why do you know how to cook a turkey?”

“I don’…or I din’t until I cracked open a cookbook last night.”

“You read cookbooks?”

He gave her a look. “I nicked one of yours. Din’t think you’d mind, since I did it with your best interest at heart.”

“Well, you probably took the one that mentioned that, with my luck.”

“I was gonna be doin’ most of the cookin’ anyway. Figured it was only fair.” Spike finished his survey of the fridge and closed the door with a sigh. “But let’s worry less about that right now. We have another problem.”

Buffy released a long, strangled moan. “Oh God.”

“Apparently, we forgot to pick somethin’ up at the Battle of Antietam yesterday.”

“The supermarket?”

“I hear they call it that.”

“Is it something mega important? You don’t want to go to the supermarket on Thanksgiving.”

“I din’t particularly wanna go yesterday, but yeh, I’d say it’s important.”

“Important to the point where people will notice?”

Spike tossed her a look. “I dunno, pet. How important do you think butter is?”

Buffy reached for the counter dramatically. “Oh crap.”

“In a bloody nutshell. Guess it’s back to the quickie mart for us. In the meantime…” He slid on a pair of oven mitts, which made her giggle in the midst of her panicking. “Let’s save the turkey, yeh?”

He pried open the oven door and peered inside. “Oven looks cold,” he observed. “Bet you forgot to preheat.”

“Yeah…I don’t understand preheating. How can you preheat an oven? There are only two states an oven can be in: heated or unheated.”

“Well, it might buy us some time, then.”

It didn’t take much. Spike, predictably, did the bulk of the work.

“Will you marry me and be my cook?” Buffy asked from where she was seated on the counter, mesmerized by the way he worked.

He tossed her a narrow glance. “Be careful what you wish for, luv,” he retorted, dumping the stuffing into the trash.

“Hey!”

“You made it without butter,” he reminded her, silencing her objection. “Don’ reckon even I’ll try to brave it.”

Buffy glanced down with shame. “I thought I was being helpful. I didn’t want you to have to do everything. It’s supposed to be my—”

“We’ll deal with it, sweet. I don’ mind doin’ everythin’.”

“I mind you doing everything.”

“You’re jus’ afraid I’m gonna lace the veggies with cyanide,” he teased, sliding the turkey back into the oven. “We’ll let this cook while we brave the market, yeh? Figure we have to be back within five hours.”

“Five hours?”

“Well, we’re jus’ goin’ for butter.”

“Oh God.”

He smiled. “Relax, luv. Unless you want me to get you a sedative while we’re out.”

She pouted. “Very funny.”

“Come on.” Spike placed his hand on her back as they navigated toward the basement. “It’s early enough that we might miss the rush.”

*~*~*
The statement proved to be another prime example of famous last words. Thirty minutes later, entering a place that could only be explained as D-Day sans the whimsy, a flying customer collapsed at their feet as they walked inside the sliding doors, followed by an old granny who was using language that would make a sailor blush.

Buffy sighed. “You were saying?”

“Yeh, well, I called that wrong.”

“I think this place is hexed.”

“Right there with you, luv.”

It was impossible to survey the landscape. Two rows of florescent lights had gone out, giving the market the eerie feel of being completely lost to darkness. Darkness that was definitely predawn darkness and not post-dusk—it had a completely different feel. Buffy supposed it would be different once the sun had fully risen, as she’d never been inside a grocery store before dawn; for the moment, she had her doubts.

There was no room for movement. The muffled arguments and barked commands, the battles over the shopping carts—she was beginning to resign herself to the fact that the holiday was doomed.

Spike seized her hand. “Come on,” he said hurriedly. “We’ll make a run for it.”

“I don’t—”

“Jus’ don’ let go of my hand,” he said.

And before she could object, they ploughed forward; right into the eye of the hurricane. How he navigated them through the sea of people, she would never know. She felt her body tugged in every which way. Felt her skin jabbed, her flesh bruised, her feet stepped on. She heard Spike curse loudly several times, but he didn’t stop. He kept pushing; kept moving forward.

“Are you okay?” she asked when he came to a stop in the dairy section, placing a hand to his face. He looked a bit dazed.

“Bloody chip fired about a thousand times.”

Buffy nodded, seizing the last container of butter with a long sigh of relief. “Okay. Let’s make another run for it. Keep running no matter what happens.”

“You want me to nick it?”

“Well, technically I’m ‘nicking’ it. And don’t give me that look! I think this place is possessed, and I have no qualms about stealing butter from a possessed supermarket.”

Spike nodded, impressed. “Way to go, Slayer.”

“Shut up.”

“This is a big step for you, you know.”

“I swear—”

“I’m proud, really. After all, this could—” He broke off suddenly; the tease abandoned his eyes and he quickly jerked her to him, pulling her out of the way of another flying customer. The man crashed haphazardly to the floor and hopped up again, seemingly undeterred, before leaping right back into the mounting chaos around them. “Right. Enough of that. Let’s go.”

Before they could make a run for it, however, something grabbed a hold of the vampire’s wrist and nearly tugged him to the ground.

“What the bleeding—”

Attached to his arm, seemingly from nowhere, was a small, mean-looking old woman with an intensely displeased look on her face.

“The hell!” Buffy yelped. “What’s your problem, lady?”

“I believe you’re holding my butter,” she said crossly.

Spike yanked himself free with a snarl. “You believe wrong.”

“I saw it first.”

“Says who? We’ve been over here for five minutes!”

“I’m an old woman. I can’t cross the store as quickly as you ungrateful youngsters,” she grumbled. “Now hand it over. I saw it first.”

“Well, I grabbed it first,” the Slayer retorted, her eyes narrowing. “So tough luck.”

The vampire flashed her a surprised look, as though he had expected her better angels to overcome the devil on her shoulder. He was in for it, if that was the case. The day was going bad enough without some old granny trying to rassle them over a tub of butter.

Especially with an argument as lame as hers was. She saw it first? Big whup. If everyone got what they wanted based on seeing it first, society would be an all-around free-for-all—more so than it was already.

Unfortunately, no one had told the granny that.

“Let go!” the woman shrieked. “You little harlot!”

Buffy’s eyes went wide. “What did you call me?”

Spike wasn’t quite so passive. He stepped forward heatedly, his gaze burning with animosity, his body language universal. “Look, you old bint, we nabbed the bloody butter fairly, an’ we’re leavin’ with it. Now apologize to my lady an’ go bother someone else.”

There had to be some Thanksgiving demon going around, controlling things and people at random. Either that or something truly was in the water. The next second, the old woman, unfazed, lifted her handbag high over her head, and brought it crashing down across the vampire’s back as though he had just made a lewd suggestion.

“Fuck!” Spike snarled. “What the bleedin’ hell is your problem?!”

“Hey!” Buffy cried, shoving the old woman back. She didn’t relent. Rather, the Slayer’s interference made her the handbag’s target, and Spike’s control, consequentially, snapped cleanly in half.

It was a surprise to everyone when his bumpies burst forward. An even greater surprise when he collapsed to the ground with the firing of the chip, having reacted as a vampire would. However, seeing his fangs was evidently the push the old woman needed. She ran screaming in the other direction, forgoing the butter to the Slayer’s ownership, and disappeared among the masses.

Buffy fell to her knees beside Spike and ran her fingers tenderly through his hair. “You okay?”

“Bloody hate this chip,” he grumbled, nuzzling her hand.

“I know.”

“Crazy old bird?”

“Gone.”

“Good.” He sighed and rose to his feet, holding onto the Slayer’s hand all the while. “Let’s get the hell outta here.”

Sweeter words were never uttered.

*~*~*
“Well, don’ you look edible?” Spike drawled, raking his eyes down her body as she bounded into the kitchen. “You’re bound an’ determined to distract me, aren’ you?”

Buffy flushed and looked down, inspecting her clothing. She wasn’t wearing anything special; rather, she had changed quickly into what she called ‘cooking attire,’ which basically consisted of a baggy t-shirt and a pair of sweats. Definitely nothing worthy of the lusty looks her vampire was sending her. It was perhaps the least sexy thing she owned.

“I need to find some Christmas music to play while we make stuff,” she said, averting her eyes quickly. “Giles is on his way.”

“Already?”

“Yeah. I think he wants to be near to supervise the cooking. Make sure I don’t do something…well, hazardous.”

“An’ by you, you mean…?”

She smiled and stroked his arm. “He just knows you too well to trust you.”

Spike smirked. “Funny girl.”

“Now you’re beginning to sound like me.”

“Perish the thought.” He plopped a casserole dish before her and handed her a wooden spoon. “Stir.”

“What is it?”

“The new stuffin’ plus butter.”

Buffy shook her head. “I swear, I’m going to talk to Giles about getting the supermarket exorcised,” she muttered. “There is absolutely no way those people weren’t under the influence of something.”

“I’ve been sayin’ that since yesterday, when you were under the influence.”

“What? I was not!”

Spike arched a brow. “I knew I shoulda brought a camcorder.”

“I was so not under any influence.”

“You jumped into a bloody moshpit of battlin’ customers to…what? Get a couple paper turkeys an’ festive streamers? You were off your nutter.”

She averted her eyes back to the ingredients she was stirring. “Was not,” she pouted, though the punch had abandoned her argument.

“You nearly tripped over yourself to go back an’ find whipped cream with a turkey on the canister.”

“Shut up.”

“Jus’ sayin’, luv.” He moved to the oven and pried it open. “Where’s your mum?”

“Upstairs, getting ready,” Buffy replied.

“Getting ready?”

“She wants to look nice for our Thanksgiving dinner. Is that so hard to believe?”

“Jus’ seems a li’l much to get ready for a bloody meal that’s bein’ cooked in your own home.”

“You just don’t get it.”

“Not arguin’.” He paused. “Sweetling? You say you had the turkey in the oven an hour before I got here this mornin’?”

“Half hour,” she corrected. “Why?”

“So it’s been in…hour an’ a half? Two hours?”

She moaned. “Where we really at the supermarket that long?”

Spike smiled. “Possessed, remember?”

“Yeah. Okay. Why?”

“’S not cookin’.”

There was a long pause.

“What?”

“’S not cookin’. This turkey’s a twenty-pounder; it should be…well…” He gestured to the oven. “’S not cookin’.”

“Oh my God. Why?” That wealth of panic that she was certain would be associated with Thanksgiving from this point forward surged with sudden strength. “Oh my God. Oh God. Oh God. What am I going to do? Spike, I—”

He turned to her and grasped her by the shoulders. “Calm down.”

“Calm down? My turkey—”

“I got another one.”

It took her a few long seconds to comprehend that sentence.

“You…what?”

“I bought another turkey yesterday.”

“When?! You were with me all day!”

He nodded. “Remember when we got separated in the market?”

Her eyes flashed with ire. “You got separated from me ‘cause you didn’t have faith in my ability to cook a turkey?”

“I wanted to make sure we had all bases covered.”

“Well, thank you very much.”

Spike sighed and rolled his eyes. “Look. If you wanna be pissed at me for lookin’ out for you—as usual—fine. You can yell at me all you want, but I have to make your bloody dinner right now, okay?”

He turned to the fridge without waiting for a reply. Buffy glared at his back for a few seconds, then exhaled deeply and realized she was being foolish. Unsurprisingly foolish. So what if he’d been looking out for her best interest, and that her best interest just happened to involve buying something as means of making sure they had a Plan B should her Plan A go sour? Wasn’t preparation the smart thing to do?

Logic told her so, even if she felt she reserved the right to be irritated. It would be nice, after all, if someone just once exhibited a little faith in her ability to do something normal.

“Bollocks,” she heard him murmur.

“What?”

“Never mind about the spare.”

Urge to panic rising. “What?! Oh no, why?”

“I din’t look at it. Couldn’t…too many bloody people, an’ I din’t want you to see it. Din’t want you to get all upset an’…”

“Spike?”

“’S not turkey.” He held up the package. “’S steak.”

Buffy just stared at him for a long moment.

“Yeh, I know,” he muttered, tossing the frozen meat to the island. “Sorry. I jus’ wanted to make sure everythin’ went right for you, ‘cause it was important. I buggered it up.”

No, he hadn’t. None of this was his fault.

“Spike…”

“Look, I’ll go back an’ face the mob. Bloody doubt there’s any turkey left, but we might be able—”

“What? Are you crazy? I’m not sending you back to that place.”

“Slayer—”

“Make the steak. It’ll be fine.”

He was looking at her as though she had sprouted horns. “Kitten, I’ll jus’—”

“No, you will not. I don’t want you to go back there. Especially now with Giles on the way and…look, the steaks will be fine. It’ll be our new tradition to avoid Buffy-screw-ups when it comes to thawing impossible-to-thaw meats. It’s fine.” As if to solidify how fine it was, she narrowed the space between them, cupped his cheeks, and caressed his lips tenderly with hers. “And I’m sorry for bitching earlier. I just…I wanted to do something right.”

His eyes smoldered. “You do many things right,” he retorted. Then grinned. “An’ please, Slayer. You wouldn’t be yourself if you weren’t bitching half the time.”

“Shut up,” she replied, albeit good-naturedly. “…And make the steaks?”

“Consider ‘em made.”

Buffy beamed at him. “I’m gonna go search for Christmas music.”

“Wrong bloody holiday,” he reminded her, his gaze glued to her backside as she bounded off.

“There are no Thanksgiving songs,” she retorted, turning briefly to face him, her eyes twinkling.

“I’m not singin’ We Gather Together again. No bloody way.”

“Then don’t complain about my musical selection.”

He smirked and pried open the cellophane wrapping surrounding the frozen meat. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”

*~*~*
There were certain styles, Buffy reckoned, that her mother had kept simply for the hope that one day they would be back in fashion. The sweater she was currently wearing was no exception. A big brown gaudy thing with pumpkin-orange checkers; she usually accredited her mother with dressing sensibly, though there were the noted times when her fashion radar was severely off the mark.

Nevertheless, she was her mother, and moms were prone to dress like hapless stylist victims…especially on holidays. Besides, the sweater was, if anything, seasonally appropriate.

“Hey, Mom? Where’s our Bing album?”

“In the basket of CDs next to the fireplace,” she answered. “What smells so good?”

“Whatever Spike’s cooking in there.”

Joyce favored Buffy with a long, maternal look. “Are you making Spike do all the work?”

“Mom, he practically volunteered.”

“She has me shackled!” Spike called from the kitchen, his voice full of mirth.

“Buffy!”

She rolled her eyes. “He’s kidding.”

“I thought the entire idea was that you were going to cook dinner.”

“Yeah, well, Spike’s a rare breed of…helper vamps. That’s what he does.”

“She threatened me! Said she’d bathe me in holy water ‘f I din’t comply!” Spike, however, appeared in the doorway the next second, looking anything but imprisoned. “Got the steaks on the stove,” he said, nodding politely to her mother. “’F you wanna start on the other goodies…”

“I wanna find my Bing album first.”

“I keep tellin’ her she has the wrong bloody holiday,” the vampire explained to Joyce, his voice compact with false burden as though greatly troubled.

“Just don’t let her work you too hard.”

Buffy froze from where she was digging through the CDs. She could practically hear the retort ready and curled on her vampire’s tongue, and silently begged that the one shred of tact that he had in his vile body would command his lips to keep it in that deviant mouth of his where it belonged.

Fortunately, she didn’t have to suffer through the next few seconds of uncomfortable dialogue to determine whether or not her plea had been answered. The doorbell rang.

“Oh, that’ll be Giles!” she quipped, leaping to her feet. “I’ll get it!”

She felt Spike’s amusement as his eyes followed her to the hallway. Lousy pervert vampires.

“Happy Thanksgiving!” she said as she opened the door, a large smile plastered on her face. “…Dad?”

Her smile froze. She didn’t know what to do.

From the living room, she heard her mother pause and say, “I’ll go get the Scotch.”

Hank Summers just smiled warmly and nodded at her, as though his presence after four years of missed birthdays and limited phone calls was just what the doctor ordered. Especially unannounced. On one of the biggest holidays of the year.

“Surprise,” he said.

Buffy just stared at him.

He really had no idea.

TBC

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/25530.html

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