- Fic: ‘By the click of someone else’s slippers’ [1/7] [NC-17, but not this chapter]
- Fic: ‘By the click of someone else’s slippers’ [2/7] [NC-17ish]
- Fic: ‘By the click of someone else’s slippers’ [3/7] [NC-17ish]
- Fic: ‘By the click of someone else’s slippers’ [4/7] [NC-17ish]
- Fic: ‘By the click of someone else’s slippers’ [5/7] [NC-17ish]
- Fic: ‘By the click of someone else’s slippers’ [6/7] [NC-17ish]
- Fic: ‘By the click of someone else’s slippers’ [7/7] [NC-17ish]
I’m not sure this is all that angsty, to be honest. I take it all back. Or maybe it is. It’s something or other. Anyway, the conclusion!
Hope you enjoy the fic, generally!! Thanks again to everyone who made seasonal_spuffy happen.
By the click of someone else’s slippers
S6 | NC-17(ish) | ~33,500 words total
Spike has spent the last few months in an AU LA with no memory of Buffy or even Sunnydale. Buffy comes to rescue him, but Spike’s not sure why she bothers. At the end of the day, though, it’s really just a rewrite of Smashed…
They parted on what were relatively cordial terms, at least in Spike’s eyes. From experience months ago he knew that the expected reaction from Buffy after any sort of intimacy was for her to go running off into the night. A half-smile and dissolution into the sunlight, on the other hand, wasn’t exactly an explicit promise, but it was slightly more pleasant than a kick in the head.
It did seem to have put a stay on any desire he had to go chasing after any other alternative existence. Their whole evening together had clearly been borne out of Buffy’s desire to keep him, and he wasn’t one to leave those who wanted him, however vaguely. Quite what he was signing himself up for, of course, he did not know, and – after a pint of pig and another few hours to sleep off his excesses – Spike found himself impatient to figure out what precisely was going on. Or, if not that, then at least set the ball rolling to make it happen all over again.
When it came down to it, there was nothing good on TV, so what could he do?
The result was that Spike found himself on the way to the Magic Box, treading the path through the sewers he still knew like the back of his hand. Dawn had said the next event on the horizon was Anya and Droopy Boy’s wedding, so he assumed the lot of them were due for endless fannying around with last minute details and generally getting on each other’s wick. This was an assumption based entirely on the bizarre afternoon of wedding planning he’d spent with Buffy, naturally, but that spell must’ve got its sense of humour from somewhere.
Growing lax with her impending nuptials, it seemed, Anya had only left the worse of the two bolts on the Magic Box basement door. Even perched on the ladder leading to it out of the grime, Spike easily jimmied it open and found himself released from one course of fetid air into another, though the Magic Box was mostly the stench of rotting flesh and formaldehyde, lightly alleviated by some Herbes de Provence.
Spike cadged some burba weed for later, which was at least a little more ras el hanout, and then quickly made his way out of the basement and onto the shop floor. He had his opening line ready, since the best way to play things seemed to be to act like he’d never gone away. And so with an easy-going, “Afternoon, all,” he emerged to greet his audience.
It was rather underwhelming, in the end. The bride and groom to be didn’t look over from where they were arguing in front of some giant noticeboard, with circles and squiggles presumably displaying a seating plan. Willow was ignoring them, tapping away on her laptop like the Furies were on her heels. The image Dawn presented, it seemed, was not altogether untrue. Really, it didn’t look like he’d been missed.
After a flurry of bashed out keys, Willow did finally have the grace to glance up. Spike leaned on the counter, a little unnerved when she shot him a look like he was some stubborn grime on the sole of her shoe. “You,” she said, expressly hostile.
In all honestly, it felt a bit unnecessary. “What?” Spike challenged her.
With a side-eye to Mr. and Mrs. Matrimonial Disharmony, Willow seemed to dither between ignoring him and having out whatever bee had found its way into her bonnet. Abruptly, then, she reversed her chair and rose to her feet. Spike watched as she strode across the room, raising an eyebrow as she came to a halt just by the counter. “You couldn’t help yourself, could you?” Willow hissed, strain around her eyes and not a little of that brown she pretended wasn’t her real hair colour growing in at her roots. “You figured, hey! I’m back! Now it’s time to do all the things I never could before.”
“What the bloody hell are you on about?” Spike asked her straight in reply, not bothering to keep his voice down. If he’d ended up somewhere else without even meaning to, he was going to be bloody annoyed.
“She said you guys talked,” Willow continued, ranting pretty much to herself as far as he could tell, rationalising something Spike didn’t have an in on. “Before you went away. That’s why I helped her, talked to Tara: so she could get some perspective again. Not so she could…”
Spike was more than a little confused. He assumed they were talking about Buffy, but beyond that it didn’t seem entirely clear to him what Willow’s problem was.
Thankfully, the silence was interrupted by the opening of a door and the arrival of Buffy from the back. She looked flushed – and Spike realised the sound of her working out had ceased out of the background. There were beads of sweat around her forehead and her white tank top clung to every gentle curve. “Hey,” she said, sparking off some rather pleasant memories. “What’s going on?”
Glancing back to Willow’s mulish expression, Spike wasn’t sure what to say. “I seem to have pissed off Red somehow,” he told Buffy, hoping she might have more of an insight.
“Oh, yeah,” Buffy replied, rolling her eyes, hands on hips. “She figured out that I spent the night at your place,” she continued, leaving Spike dumbfounded as she turned to face down her friend. “Guess she thinks I can’t make my own romantic decisions.” The smile at the end of that sentence was not unlike that of a big cat on the savannah.
“Gee,” Willow replied, completely unfazed. “I guess that must be because you’ve been making them so well lately.”
Spike looked around, just to check that he was still in Sunnydale and not in LA. He’d thought he’d left the bitchfights behind, but there seemed to be a remarkable lack of group hugs here. Yet he was right there all the same, caught among bright blue walls. Buffy had a stubborn look on her face, but to Spike it seemed like she was putting on a front, as though on the inside she actually was hurting, blue walls or none.
Possibly he spent too much time trying to read Buffy’s emotions.
“I mean,” Willow continued, interrupting Spike’s thoughts, “I don’t know why you think this is going to make things any better.”
“It’s different,” Buffy insisted, a little of the pink dying in her cheeks. Spike still had no idea what the hell was going on, but it seemed like a shame. “I don’t know why you have to keep…”
“He was married, Buffy,” Willow shot back, as if she were continuing an argument not long old. Spike tried to figure out what to say. “And you didn’t care. But hey, why worry about that when you’ve got Spike to…”
“I didn’t know!” Buffy immediately replied, sounding pained. “He was being all flirty, and then…” She looked up to the ceiling, clenching her jaw. “What you guys saw, in the kitchen… He came onto me, I swear it. I wasn’t gonna let anything…”
“I think you did enough, don’t you?” Willow interrupted, darkly. Even though he was still without words, Spike thought he might be starting to get an inkling of what they were about, and he didn’t much like it. “You knew we were there, me and Sam. And you still kept saying… Made him tell you those things.”
For a moment Buffy didn’t reply, but when she did her tone was just as serious. “His wife deserved to know,” she said, eyes only for her friend. “He made me feel like such an idiot, Will,” she complained. “He swept in and joked about my job and made me feel like things could go back to how they were… But it was all so he could feel like he’d won, like he’d done better; I just wanted…”
“Revenge?” Willow accused. Buffy looked chastened, but as the thoughts clicked together Spike found himself without much sympathy. “It was cruel, Buffy. I remember how it feels. Riley…”
Spike knew the name was coming, but it still hurt to hear it confirmed. Dawn had said he’d come back, hadn’t she? What a bloody joke. Finally remembering that he existed, Buffy and Willow were turned to him, one guilty and one triumphant look between them, but that was useless to him now. There were no words for this particular feeling he felt.
It didn’t stop him of course. “You brought be back because you were turned down by bloody Riley?” he demanded, for the first time since he’d been back feeling completely and utterly at one with himself. And fucking pissed off.
“No,” Buffy insisted, shaking her head, stepping close to him and bringing one warm hand against his chest. It might have felt like a victory at one time, but it sounded like Willow had seen far worse in recent days. The move did little to calm him, even as Buffy went on. “That’s not it at all,” she promised. “I told you…”
Apparently Willow had made it her mission to interrupt today, because she cut straight in, “She didn’t even mention your name until I told her you hadn’t left of your own accord.”
Why he might have imagined it differently, Spike didn’t know, but it hurt to hear it nonetheless. It seemed to hurt Buffy too, weakening the pressure of her hand on him. Spike pulled away, looking purposefully towards a pile of till receipts while Buffy turned her words on her friend. “Why are you doing this?” Buffy asked. “What did I do to you? What did I do to anyone that was that bad, huh? Did I steal my girlfriend’s memories? Get hopped up on magic and break Dawn’s arm?”
“No,” was Willow’s sarcastic reply. “You just abandoned her to spend the night in jail…”
“I wasn’t in jail!” Buffy exclaimed, raising her hands. “I had to make a statement and they’d ran out of…”
“You called her from the station and said you weren’t coming home!” Willow shot back.
“You told her they had things kept on file about me!”
Spike’s mind was racing. From a distance – that was, as much distance as Spike could get, they sounded like two people who had spent too long in close proximity, self-destructing without much life support. Spike wondered if this was what he might have sounded like, if he’d been around the last few months. If Buffy had come to him before, whether he would have held up any better, or if he’d just have been the one she argued with, in place of her friends. Maybe it was better that he’d gone.
At the end of the day, he knew where this was going. He’d made his decision in the other world, and was weak as anything back here. Was it too much to ask for to get some peace? “Will the pair of you put a sock in it?” Spike asked, raising his eyes again to look at them. Both looked surprised, but they’d at least shut up. With a glance to Xander and Anya, who were still having a go with the noticeboard, Spike tossed an arm around Buffy’s shoulders and pushed her back towards the workout room. “Appreciate the intervention, Red,” he commented as they left, “but I need a talk with this one.”
With little more than token resistance, Buffy seemed happy to go.
A little bellowing of his own, and Spike was at least able to get the story out of her. Riley had come back, apparently kitted up with even more ridiculous toys than he’d had the first time round. Buffy, who had been rather on edge ever since she’d convinced herself that she’d killed someone, had found herself swept away in the romance of demon hunting and rappelling down a hundred-foot drop with no more security than Captain Cardboard’s big strong arms. Riley had hardly resisted her attentions, but then the mood had been killed by his wife turning up.
A little later, still feeling rather sore about this, Buffy had taken the opportunity to get her own back. Riley had tried for the whole guilt-ridden ‘we can never talk about this’ reconciliation at the same time as he invaded Buffy’s personal space (and didn’t Spike remember that one?), so she’d gone with it. The plan, as much as there was a plan, had already been in motion when the poor Mrs. Finn had entered the room, and Buffy had found herself a little caught up in the moment.
“And he was just saying stuff, you know?” Buffy finished the story, shame like a heavy cross on her shoulders. “About me. And I know I should have stopped him,” she added. “But I figured… Maybe if he saw, if he got a clue about how much it hurt for him to play around from someone else, then maybe he’d get a clue.” She shrugged, apparently not all that repentant. “Willow’s been ragging on me for it ever since.”
It was times like this that Spike reckoned scruples didn’t do much for anyone, soul or not. He didn’t give a toss about Riley, of course, but there were parts of this story that came close to the bone. “So, what?” he challenged. “You got yourself wound up and then the pair of you decided, right, if that sex toy’s not kosher then we might as well get old Spike back from where he’s gone?”
For a moment Spike was struck by the harrowing thought that this dimension could well be the curse after all, the other where he truly belonged. Buffy might have easily shagged the Spike here down into dust, then gone and got him so she could do it all again.
Thankfully, as soon as the thought came, Spike was able to dismiss it. The timeline had definitely been squiffy in the other place; here, however, there were far too many tedious memories to sell themselves as a spell. No one had the time or patience to come up with that summer he’d had after the Initiative. At the end of the day, there was just Buffy and her categorical inability to make up her mind.
He tuned back in to yet another pointless defence. “That’s not what last night was about!” she was insisting. “I didn’t want… All I knew was that Dawn told me you were leaving.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “So this thing between us,” he pointed it out again, feeling like he was going round in circles, “it’s because of Dawn?”
“No!” Buffy insisted, exasperated. She turned away from him, kicking at the floor mat in a way that Spike could well and truly understand. “Look,” she continued, spinning back to face him. “There was this guy Richard, right? Xander brought him to a party.” Spike could only imagine what kind of prat had the name Richard. “And he was sweet and everything, and he got me a lemonade and we fooled around a little before he got stabbed and we had to take him to the hospital…”
Spike raised an eyebrow, happy to say he didn’t quite feel threatened by this hospitalised Romeo. Or maybe he did, but only a little.
At any rate, Buffy kept talking as if the muppet wasn’t all that important. “Anyway,” she said. “He made me remember how I’m doomed to basically kill any normal guy I try to date – even if I actually found somebody – and I guess when Riley came back I had this idea in my head that maybe things could work out this time.” She rolled her eyes. “Which obviously was stupid.”
“Is there a point you plan on making?” Spike asked her, annoyed at himself for getting angry, but still sick of her talking about these other men. It was all she ever did talk about around him, far as he could tell. “Or d’you want me to call Oprah?”
Buffy glared, crossing her arms. “It’s called context, Spike; look it up.” She was hot when she glared, but Spike didn’t think she’d appreciate him tackling her to the ground right then. “I’m trying to explain how I’ve been wanting to be wanted,” she declared like it meant something. “But maybe you missed that among all the pet rabbits or whatever.”
“Oh…” Spike wasn’t sure where to go with this, but he couldn’t be bothered much longer. “Will you stop talking bloody claptrap?” he finally replied, walking around her because he was bored of her face. It also seemed to be a good idea to get between the Slayer and her weapons, the more irate he got. “All you want,” he told her, because as far as he could see this was it, “is to back to when the world wasn’t quite so hard and you had your snookie-bear Angel to take all your problems away.” After all, Dru wasn’t anything if not perceptive, in this world or the last. “He’s not here, so I get called in to replace him and provide some actually decent quality sex that everyone always forgets he’s never been arsed with even when he was evil.”
It wasn’t the conclusion Spike thought he had come to, but it seemed as good as any. It appeared to have struck some sort of chord, in any case. When he raised his head, Buffy was there facing him. She looked more than a little peeved, the door to the Magic Box behind her not nearly the escape route she wanted. “And what, exactly,” she demanded of him carefully, steel in her expression, “is wrong with wanting things to be better?”
Spike had asked himself the same question many times, of course, so when he sneered, it wasn’t entirely at Buffy herself. Still, he told her what he knew. “It’s all a bloody mirage,” he swore, his own rage surprising him. His arm jutted out in a point back towards the shop. “You look back; you think you were better off – you think you might be, but you never bloody know.” It had messed him around, his trip abroad. He was sick of the feeling; sick of this girl in front of him. “For fuck’s sake,” he went on, wishing he could snap her out whatever train of thought it was that he’d located, “You can’t spend your life wishing on things that’ll never be. People come into your life; they go out; you keep going.” He’d seen it with Dru until it had burned his eyeballs right out of him; he’d never been enough, but not for anything he’d done. No, all he was ever measured against were the parlour games she had playing in her head, where everything was perfect and every misfortune had been settled well in time for tea.
“Right,” Buffy interrupted his thoughts, holding herself with far too much gritty rationality for him to ever be attracted to her. Or so Spike would have told himself before he’d known better. Sodding girl. “So that’s why you stuck with your other life and never came chasing after me, I guess? Oh wait…”
Spike rolled his eyes. All right, so he still wasn’t quite sure why he’d made the jump, but, even so, “That’s not what I’m saying. Point is,” he tried to explain, calming himself, “you can’t live on a dream forever.”
It hurt Spike’s head, all this rubbish with Buffy, all the rubbish he’d ever lived with Angel standing over him. Maybe that was why he’d hesitated, in the end – and maybe that hesitation was more what he should have been trying to puzzle out.
No matter what, Buffy seemed to have him pegged. She looked down her nose at him, imperious like she always would be, distant and cold and unfeeling. “What’s it to you what I do?” she asked him, then added with all the conviction of a saint, “Angel might come back for me one day.”
Spike snorted, unable to deny the truth of that. Scattering his more pathetic thoughts from his mind, he nonetheless couldn’t help but mutter, “And won’t you be glad to have spent a lifetime waiting…”
“Yeah,” Buffy challenged him finally, some part of her still dead so far as he could see it in her eyes. “And so won’t you.”
It was clear what she meant. Spike caught her gaze and tried to figure it out, how much she was fooling herself and how much it was really true: Buffy would never love him, not how he wanted. Before she’d died, that was what Spike had assumed, but since then he’d gathered far too much evidence to the contrary. All right, so the fact he’d been abandoned for months didn’t do his chances all that many favours, but the tension he knew they both felt between them seemed far too complicated to make it entirely about his one-sided feelings.
“I don’t reckon it’s as simple as all that,” Spike tried to get her talking, reveal to him anything that might give him some hope.
Buffy didn’t seem to be having any of it, however. “I’m so tired of this conversation,” was all she said, before turning on her heel to storm back into the front of the Magic Box.
The next shop along from the Magic Box didn’t do a bad selection of fags, so it wasn’t immediately that Spike slunk back into the sewers. Dashing through the sunlight from the alleyway behind the training room, he made his way in and out with enough success that it didn’t feel entirely like he’d wasted a trip.
By the time he’d made it back to his crypt, however, he still wasn’t entirely sure what to think. There was nothing that seemed like an option, not when there was still hope, of a decent night in if nothing else. Nor when it seemed like he would never live out his purgatory in peace, not with one Buffy Summers who would always be there to remind him what an unattainable target she was.
Nursing a fairly full tumbler of scotch, Spike wished more than ever that he’d never found himself in that other bleeding dimension. It was one thing being miserable when there was no way out; it was something else when he had three months’ lived experience to compare it to, in particular when those three months were of being miserable in so many exciting new ways. It made him feel like he was meant to do something about what was going on in the here and now.
There was still nothing on the TV, but Spike tried to watch it anyway. Currently he was flicking between one cooking show and another, hoping that sooner or later something would explode. It didn’t seem very likely.
Before he dropped entirely dead from boredom, however, a randy slayer kicked his door in. It made Spike jump, kicked his bloodflow out of inertia, and suddenly he felt like he could fall in love with this girl all over again. “Spike!” Buffy barked, the sunlight pouring in behind her. She’d changed out of white into some crimson red number; leather trousers. It didn’t quite make sense with the sunshine, but it sold him on her frustration.
“Do you mind?” Spike challenged anyway, because he wasn’t a complete walkover. “I’m busy here,” he added, even as he pointed the remote and turned off the telly.
Buffy cocked one eyebrow at him, before stepping forward to let the door swing shut behind her. It had been hours. No more than two or three or four sodding hours, and she’d changed her mind. “Busy doing what?” she asked, like there was nothing he could possibly have to do. No reason for him to be annoyed.
What the hell did he care anyway? “I dunno,” Spike informed her, glancing around the barren reaches of his crypt. “Waiting for you, I suppose,” he ultimately decided, likely because he’d been on a double bill of Dawson’s Creek before the Cooking Channel. Equally likely because it was true.
“It was kind of boring, huh?” Buffy asked him, wrinkling her nose as she came to sit on the arm of his chair. As if they were friends or something. “I mean,” she added conspiratorially, leaning over so he got the full head of her perfume, “that’s what I find about waiting. It gets dull.”
She didn’t want to talk about it, so it seemed, and yet she’d come nonetheless. She was going to drive him mad. She absolutely was. At the same time, it almost seemed fair enough. As far as Spike could tell, any time he tried to think things through he only made them worse, so he wasn’t sure why he hadn’t stopped trying.
Barely needing the invitation, therefore, Spike was content to reach an arm around Buffy’s waist and yank her towards his lap. She straddled him, knees squeezing between his hips and the chair arms, crotch seam squeaking over his. As she tossed her hair, Spike looked up, and wondered how exactly he was going to play this cool. Buffy bit her lip. He didn’t bother. “You ever figure you might come in here,” he suggested, “and talk to me like we aren’t playing out some soap opera of your imagination?”
“I like to think flaws enrich a person,” Buffy responded enigmatically, before she leant down to press her mouth against his, kissed him sweetly. Why she couldn’t have done that in the other world, Spike didn’t know. “I suck,” she explained, smirking one inch away from his face. It made enough sense. “You wish you could suck. It’s all a big sucking mess.”
In spite of himself, Spike laughed. It was a moment to go back to the snogging, but years of living with Dru’s quite painful temper and the argument back at the shop made him pause. Certainly, he wasn’t about to put any damper on this new seductive streak Buffy was sporting, but it was rare that Spike wasn’t concerned to find out if the joke was on him. “If a fellow might check,” he asked carefully, “is this the part where you leave me high and dry, or is that due to come later?”
“Hmm…” Buffy pretended to consider it, adjusting herself against him. Spike suppressed a groan. “I don’t know about ‘high and dry’,” she said eventually, leaning her elbows around his head so Spike found his vision entirely filled by her. “I was thinking more low and, well…”
Sometimes in life, as in unlife, Spike figured it was healthy to let oneself be seduced. As on many times before, as on this occasion, he went for it, offering a kiss that went as deep and felt as good as the air he gasped into his lungs.
“Why did you follow me home?” Buffy asked him later, after a whole load of nonsense was said and yet more pieces of furniture were irredeemably broken.
She lay amongst the wreckage looking thoroughly debauched. If Spike were still to call himself a poet, which he tried not to, he would have thought she looked like one of the seraphim who had unwittingly been shown the pleasures of sin. In any case, she was pretty to look at: he tilted his head to examine her, resting on an elbow by her side.
As his answer took too long, however, Buffy the seraph kicked him in the crotch, smacking his balls not so very lightly with the top of her foot. “Well?” she demanded, even as Spike rolled over her body for protection.
After another moment’s silence, and after Spike had adjusted to feeling of her breathing against him, he was able to centre himself and answer her truthfully. “No idea,” he said, looking his chosen one in the eye. She smiled at him, like he was as pleasant surprise. “S’pose I reckoned you’d at least keep me entertained.”
It was a lie, quite possibly. But then – so many things were once the moment passed. At that moment, it didn’t seem all that important.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/498205.html