My first Seasonal Spuffy! This was written because I’m ridiculously excited about Joss’ upcoming “Much Ado About Nothing.” Thanks to Minx and Lutamira for their help. Mistakes are mine because it’s mostly unbeta’ed.
This takes place right before “Crush.” :)
Title: English Lessons
Rating/Warning: PG-13, mild language/suggestiveness
Word Count: 2,646
For: Seasonal Spuffy
Theme: The Dance
Setting: BtVS Season 5, Right before “Crush”
Genre: Snarky Romcom?
Beta: Lutamira and Minx helped, but it’s rather unbeta’ed
Summary: Spike and Buffy talk about Shakespeare. And their urges to punch each other.
Spike kicked his boots along the neatly trimmed sidewalk of Restfield Cemetery, leaving long black scuff marks in his wake. He’d been through every bleeding cemetery in Sunnyhell, and there was still no sign of the slayer. She wasn’t in her room moping over the departure of soldier boy either; he’d have scented her when he’d stood beneath her window.
“Sodding hell,” he muttered, taking a deep drag from his cigarette. It wasn’t like her to just go MIA like this. Maybe he’d swing by Willie’s. She wasn’t likely to be there, but chances were if anything big were going on, someone in the joint would have heard of it. Not that he cared. Not that she mattered, really. It was just… something to do.
He passed through the gate of the boneyard and rubbed his chin. He had just turned toward the darker part of town when he saw her. No – that wasn’t quite right. He sensed her. His skin prickled with a familiar tingling, an itch that he couldn’t quite reach.
Pivoting around, he spotted her sitting quietly on a bench just beneath a street light outside Restfield’s gates. Since the girl he knew so well always buzzed with frenetic energy, it was unsettling to see her sitting so still. He had to squint to confirm that it really was Buffy and she was … reading a book. An extremely unpleasant one if the look on her face was any indicator.
Wasn’t she supposed to be slaying? Saving the world, quipping and all that rot instead of sloping off work early toread a book. Through their long and bruise-filled relationship, he couldn’t actually recall her ever cracking the cover of anything. Well, anything literary.
Since her attention was focused shooting daggers at her book, she hadn’t noticed little old Spike yet. He smirked and stepped silently back into the shadows to circle around behind her. She deserved a good scare after he’d spent the better part of the evening kicking around cemeteries trying to find her. He hadn’t been worried about her – not a bit. It was more the principle of the thing.
Spike slipped along the darkened pathway, easing up behind her as silent as death. God, it felt good to stalk a slayer again, even if it was a rather poor parody of the real thing. Still, he could surprise Little Miss Slack-off good and proper. Would be satisfying enough to see the startled look on her face.
Buffy was so focused on what she was reading that she’d scrunched her face up in concentration, her mouth forming words as she read them. Moving with a predator’s grace, he crouched down behind her and inched forward until his lips were right next to her ear.
“Buffy, what’s the matter? Not used to books that don’t have pictures in them?”
Well, that was what he’d intended to say. He only managed to get out “Buh …” before her fist crunched into his nose, knocking him back a good three feet. Blood spurted from both nostrils in an enthusiastic torrent.
Why the fuck had he gone looking for her, again?
“Spike? What’s wrong with you? Death wishing tonight? You’re lucky I didn’t stake your sorry ass.” Buffy jumped over the bench and stood over him giving him her patented Superior Bitch expression.
He sprang to his feet and shot her a dirty look. Since it was difficult to remain scornful while his face was covered with blood, he dug through his duster pockets for a tissue. He cursed to himself when he came up with bugger all, unless he counted a nearly empty pack of smokes. The only thing that would be less dignified than a blood-covered face would be a bloke who sopped up his blood with a crushed pack of Marlboros.
Jamming his hands into his pockets, he worked on coming up with something biting and witty when he saw Buffy rooting around in her backpack. She shook her head and handed him a packet of wet wipes without even looking his way. He accepted both her scorn and her wipes wordlessly and mopped up his face.
Regaining a patch of his pummeled dignity, he sprawled out on the bench and tilted his chin up at her. “So what’s got the Slayer’s attention tonight? Did Rupert finally identify your people and he’s got you researching Bitch Demons?”
He reached out to pick up the book she’d been so absorbed in, but she snatched it up before he could touch it. Now, wasn’t this interesting? “What ya reading, Sunshine? And why don’t you want me to see it?”
“God, Spike. It’s just a book. Something for college.”
“Is that right?”
“How is it that you can make the simplest thing seem dirty? Is it a vamp thing? The lucky ones get the ability to thrall but some of you are stuck with the power to make everything sound like a filthy joke. It’s just a book. You wouldn’t be interested.”
Though she gripped the book tightly, he could read the spine of it quite clearly: Much Ado About Nothing.
“Oh, I know this one quite well. ‘Big Fuss Over a Vagina.’ “
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yes, Beavis. You’re blessed with the power of smut, like I said.”
“No, now hold on. That is what the play was making a reference to. Nothing. No thing. It was slang for a vagina in Shakespeare’s time. He was making a double entendre.”
Buffy dismissed him entirely and shoved the book in her backpack before gathering up some crumpled bits of note paper and stuffing those in as well.
“Yeah, well, thanks a ton for the insight, but I don’t think writing an essay about the hidden vaginas in Shakespeare’s work is going to be enough to rescue my grade in English Lit.”
She zipped up her pack angrily. There was a little pinched line between her eyes that had been there all too often of late. Ever since her mother had fallen ill, truth be told. He might be a sap, but he couldn’t help but try another approach.
“I am English, you know.”
She cocked her head at him and raised a brow. “I didn’t hit you that hard.”
“I mean,” he stammered, “I have a knowledge of English. Of literature.”
She pursed her lips, clearly not understanding what he was so subtly getting at.
“When I was a human, when I was William, my degree from Oxford was in English Literature. I know Shakespeare quite well.”
“That’s nice,” she said, slinging her backpack over one shoulder.
God she was thick and absolutely maddening. “I mean to say, I could help you if you’re having trouble. At least that was what I was going to say until you made it so sodding difficult. Now I just want to find something to hit.”
“I’m right there with you. In fact, already beat you to the punch.” She gestured to his nose. “But I don’t need your help. I’m supposed to have a rough draft about a character and their traits by tomorrow at eight and it’s hopeless.”
“You could take the easy route and write it about the female lead – Hero.”
“Hero’s a girl?” Buffy expression deflated, and she slouched on the bench beside him, looking incredulous. “Here I was thinking that Europe was being all ahead of the gay marriage curve.”
He held in a chuckle, desperate not to send her off in a pissed off snit. Or possibly cause her to punch him again. “Okay, maybe a character other than Hero. Who else stood out to you?”
“Well,” she hesitated. “The professor talked to me after class about it. For some reason he thought I should write about Dingleberry’s maladjustments…”
“You mean Dogberry’s malapropisms?” He grinned. “Be careful Slayer, I think you may have just broken irony.”
“Why did you bring up irony? Professor Adams didn’t say anything about irony!”
Spike bit the insides of his cheeks to prevent himself from laughing. After all, she had her pride, and he wasn’t entirely a fool. “You’ve gotten through apocalypses. I reckon you can handle Shakespeare.”
Buffy gave him a forlorn look and he felt something in his chest twist.
“If you’ve got to do a character study, how about finding someone you didn’t like? They’re often more interesting to write about.”
“Well, there was that one guy who wouldn’t stop talking. You know… what’s-his-dick?”
“Benedick?” God, the things she did to literature bordered on cruel.
“Yeah, that’s the dick. I could write about him if I … you know, understood what the hell he was talking about.”
“What’s not to get, Slayer?”
“Well, him going on and on about being ‘horribly in love,’ for starters.”
Spike shook his head. What he knew on this topic could very well fill a small library.
“I suspect you know a great deal about being horribly in love.” His tone was low and his words sounded far more serious than he’d intended.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Good god, pet, do you ever let your defenses down? You’ve got a bloody mind – you just need to apply it to words instead of battle tactics. You’ve been in love, Buffy. By your telling, would the experience be closer to a sodding Sandra Bullock rom-com or more like a disaster flick.”
“More Jerry Bruckheimer than Rob Reiner, I guess.” She tilted her head and gave him the ghost of a smile. “So that’s what the whole ‘horribly in love’ thing is about?”
He nodded, sliding his hand along the back of the bench. His fingertips were just a few tortuous inches away from her hair. The damned stuff was like a magnet to him, and his finger constantly itched to touch it.
“Well, I don’t want to write a whole paper about Benedick, anyway. He gets on my nerves.”
Her eyes narrowed at him suspiciously.
“How about Beatrice?” he suggested. “I would imagine you’re quite fond of her.”
“Yeah! At least I can understand what she’s talking about. She said the only thing I can remember from the whole play. ‘I’d rather hear a dog bark at a crow than hear a man say he loves me.’ Easy to understand. True. I like Beatrice.”
“Shocking bit of news.”
“What? You don’t like Beatrice?”
“No, I like her just fine. It’s just… she’s you, Buffy.”
She snorted at him.
“She is your quipping self to a very T, luv.. She defines it herself. Says ‘I was born to speak all mirth and no matter’.”
“That means she likes to quip? Why doesn’t Shakespeare just say that – in English? Would it have killed him to use fewer words? Or less weird ones?”
She was working up good head of steam, and he pressed the advantage, sliding his fingertips along the back of the bench to brush up next to those golden strands that had been whispering for his touch.
Buffy continued on, oblivious. “It’s like English is great as a language, you know? But he just didn’t know where to quit. He’s so busy impressing himself with the iconic perambulator stuff that he buries the whole story under words. And syllables.”
He nodded. Her pink tongue darted out to moisten her lips, and he tamped down a flame of lust. Oh, that he could be like Benedick and offer to stop her mouth with a kiss. If he could only imagine a scenario in which that action wouldn’t be swiftly followed by a serious beating of his ass, he just might take a chance.
“Um? Spike? Are you even listening to me?”
“Are you still talking?” In his lust-addled state, he said the first thing that crossed his mind.
“God, why do I bother? You are an ass.” She shot to her feet and slung her backpack over her shoulder.
“I’m an ass? The guy that’s been wasting his night teaching you the basics of Shakespeare with only a bloody nose and sore ears for his efforts. I’m the ass?”
“Yes, you’re the ass.”
“I compared you to Beatrice, and your wittiest repartee is to repeat that I’m an ass. I have seriously overestimated your quipping abilities, Slayer.”
“Yeah? Well, I’d agree with you, but there’s no point in both of us being wrong.”
She lifted her chin in that haughty princess manner that always had a way of setting his teeth on edge, then set out towards her home with long strides.
“You’re welcome, bitch,” he shouted after her, hoping his voice sounded at least half as acidic as he felt.
“Thank you, ass,” she called over her shoulder, her words pregnant with insincerity.
He looked at his hand, laying impotently on the back of the bench, one fine strand of her hair caught between his thumb and forefinger.
“Well, bollocks,” he muttered to the space on the bench that she’d just vacated. “Could have maybe handled that a bit… differently.”
Infuriating woman. Truth was, if there was a different way to handle her, he’d yet to hit upon it. No matter how he began it, they always ended up this way, every bloody time. The steps of the dance always turned to a brawl by evening’s end.
He pulled himself off the bench and lit the last, slightly crushed cigarette in his pack, grateful that he hadn’t used it to soak up his nosebleed.
If he forced himself to be absolutely honest, he had to admit that that he hadn’t actually tried every way of approaching her. Just as it was difficult for him to be honest with himself, he’d also never been totally honest with her. Perhaps he should try to simply cut through all of the bother and tell her how he felt. If he just came out with it and said ‘I love you, Buffy,’ they could stop all this mucking about, all these pointless skirmishes.
Would she believe him? God knows, he could never predict the pathways her mind might take. It seemed she was more surprising than predictable. Just tonight he’d caught her reading Shakespeare, for fuck’s sake, which was proof enough that anything could happen.
What he needed was a solid way of proving himself to her. Show her that he was dead serious. Trouble was, she was more than likely to scoff at anything he’d do to try to prove himself. He inhaled deeply, then crushed the stub of his cigarette beneath his boot.
His verbal sparring with Buffy and the themes of the play still echoed and bounced around in his mind. The play. There’s the thing. Benedick had agreed to kill someone to prove his love to Beatrice. Who in all this miserable town could Spike kill that would impress Buffy enough to take him seriously?
Nobody – at least not with this sodding chip in his noggin. Besides, who was he kidding? Confessions of undying affection and offers to kill a lady’s foe were all well and good on the page, but in real life her response to his confession would be a merry beating of his ass. He might be miserably in love with her, but he wasn’t bug-shagging crazy. Not quite yet, anyway.
The bitch just about made it impossible to love her. Still, a fellow could hope and in the meantime … make adjustments.
He rubbed the back of his neck, then started off through the park. With a few creative shortcuts, he could even beat her back to Revello Drive where the wide, comforting arms of the tree in her front yard waited for him. His excellent night vision and her bedroom window combined in a way that created a very pleasant night garden of wonders.
Spike allowed himself a smirk. It might not be his happy ever after, but as a consolation prize it wasn’t half bad.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/796283.html