Fic: Hidden Talents (1/1)

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Hidden Talents

By: caia (thisficklemob on LJ)
Rating: PG
Standard disclaimer: The characters aren’t mine, just the story.
Summary: Buffy is a woman of hidden talents. Deliberately hidden, in some cases.
Feedback: Craved in all weathers.

He caught her at it, one brisk day when he’d turned up to find hers the only heartbeat in the house.

He almost laughed at her startled, guilty look.

“Buffy!” he exclaimed, playing up the gleeful shock. “Is that a chef’s knife I see?”

“No!” she blurted, defensive. “It’s a Slayer’s knife, slaying knife…” She mimed side to side swipes in the air, then changed grips to bring it down in slasher-movie jabs. “See, stabbity-stab stab…” The gestures weren’t very convincing, and she gave it up with a sigh. “Yes.”

She returned her attention to the cutting board, finishing her chopping with a vicious air, before dropping the pile of vegetables into the pot with a sploosh.

“What’s with the Julia Child? To hear the bit tell it, you’d burn water.”

Seeming uncomfortable, perhaps at the reminder of the time he’d spent with her sister while she was dead, she gave a one-shouldered shrug. He leaned a hip against the counter, folded his arms, and waited.

Usually by this point in one of their encounters he would have copped a feel. She would have called him a thing. Something about the moment, with the room lit only by the hood lamp over the stove, and both of them taken off-guard, seemed to created a lull. Seemed, almost, to have taken them back to the Fall. Before the kissing, and the shagging, and the mutual recrimination.

The part of him that was hungry for something beyond sex leapt to the fore. Kept him quiet, and outside her personal space.

“I can cook,” she finally told him softly, in the manner of a confessing a marginally naughty secret. “I just don’t.”

At his questioning look, she elaborated, “They expect me to slay. Save the world. Work.”

Her eyes were fixed on the simmering pot, chin jutted in a grudge she couldn’t voice.

He remembers being the un-fed guest at a Thanksgiving dinner. He was no expert, but everything had looked right, smelled right. Meat the appropriate colors, fluffy potatoes in white and orange, stuffing fragrant with herbs. If he hadn’t been so famished for his real sustenance, he might have risked making a nuisance of himself for some of the pie. Despite interruptions from vengeance spirits in their human and ursine forms, she’d put on quite a spread.

“If they knew you could cook, they’d expect it.”

Somehow, unbelievably, he’d said the right thing. Her expression eased with the license to speak.

“After Mom died, I was overwhelmed with stuff. It wasn’t enough that I had to fight Glory and be a parent figure for Dawn. I also had to do the dishes, the laundry, the cleaning, the grocery shopping. If I didn’t, no one would.

“And I knew if, just once, I’d pulled a lasagne or a tuna casserole out of the oven, it would have been like, oh, Mom-Buffy makes dinner. Taken for granted, just like we — ,” she stopped, putting the back of her hand to her mouth.

He heard the incipient sob in her breath. Clasped a hand to her shoulder, briefly, then took it away. She was still shakier than he liked to see when she remembered her mother. He still didn’t know what to do about it.

Picking up the spoon to stir, Buffy forged on. “Dawn and Mom were in Chicago at Aunt Arlene’s. When they got home, all I said was that we’d had Thanksgiving dinner at Giles’s. And Mom said something about how nice of him it was to go to the trouble, even though he was British.”

“Yes, terrible trouble, stuffing his face with stuffing.” Her little grin up at him jumped to his face once she’d looked away.

“So, yeah. They don’t know, and I don’t let on. Not like I’m eager for more K.P. after flipping burgers at the grease pit all day.”

“And, this?” Spike waved a hand, encompassing vegetables, pot, flushed Slayer with hair beginning to curl at the temples from the steam.

“It’s cold.” Spike rolled his eyes — dropping into the forties, was it? Californians. “I wanted soup. Dawnie ate the last can, so…”

He nodded, turned his gaze down into the pot. “And the evidence?” He took up the spoon and stole a slurp before she snatched it back and smacked his fingers with it like a naughty child.

“Well, that’s the other reason I don’t cook — dishes.” She made a moue of disgust.

Another man might have gallantly offered to do the washing up for her. Not him. He no more wanted to be kitchen drudge than she did. She didn’t ask.

“I’ll stick the leftover in the freezer. If Dawn finds it, she’ll assume Tara made it before she left. She won’t mention it, because she won’t want to ask if she can have some.

“Willow will probably think the same thing. Only she’ll probably leave it there as some kind of sympathetic magic to bring her girlfriend back.”

“Hope that’s just the figurative kind.”

“Yeah. But hey, if I eat bespelled soup that keeps me here, that means I can call in to work.”

More than the mild humor, he was glad to hear her skip the reflexive defense of her magic-abusive friend. Glad enough that he quelled the urge to ask why the witch wasn’t also working a soul-sucking minimum wage job. Again, he hoped just figuratively.

“S’pretty good,” he said instead, tilting his chin at the pot. “A wise bugger once said it takes a pure heart to make a good soup.”

He almost missed the flash of gratitude in her eyes — had his talk of her darkness really gotten to her, then?

He felt a stab that might be remorse, but attributed it to undercooked veg.

“Is that the excuse you use to get out of cooking?”

The Slayer, joking around with him? He knew if he remarked on it, the good humor would end. As it likely would if he reminded her that, being undead, his cookery need go no further than microwaving blood. “Nah. I just spice the hell out of everything until no one else will touch it.”

“Now there’s a plan.” Buffy grabbed a jar from the cupboard and shook some green matter over the pot before stirring and sampling. “I wonder if that’s the idea behind some of Dawn’s experiments.”

“Just as like. Even I’d know better than to try making a mustard and jam sandwich.”

“She did not.”

“Did. I made her eat the whole thing, too. Told her, in my day, naughty children who wasted food got a thrashing.”

Buffy sighed. “You should come over during breakfast some time. I can’t tell you the amount of perfectly good — ” she broke off abruptly, realizing what she’d said.

Alarmed eyes met his gleeful ones, as they both remembered his last disastrous morning visit to Revello Drive. First Xander had nearly caught him with his hand in the Slayer’s cookie jar, then Doris Kroeger had found him sprawled in the sitting room looking like a dissolute biker.

“I should, should I?”

“Spike — ”

“What a lovely invitation,” Spike said, with put-on graciousness as he backed towards the door. He was determined to make his exit before it could be rescinded. “I should be delighted to call upon the Summers household some fine morning.”

No chance of a shag, tonight, anyway; he’d never lured her out of the house once she was in it, and she was quite unwavering about what was allowed inside.

And the tint of affection in the Slayer’s frustrated expression as he stole away? That was sweeter than most of her kisses.



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