Title: Setting Up House (16/22)
Setting: Season 6, AU after “Gone”
Word Count (this part): 3693
Summary: What if the second social worker actually paid a visit to Buffy and Dawn after the incident in “Gone,” and Dawn and Spike convinced Buffy to set up house with Spike? (Eventually, it’s a bit of a crossover fic with AtS.)
Thank you: Extra special thank you to enigmaticblues for beta-ing the final chapters of Setting Up House. It was quite an undertaking as she had to read the first 15 chapters before reading the new stuff, so I’m so incredibly grateful!
Original dedication: This story is written especially for aimeedee, who believes in me! If you’re still out there, I hope you like the conclusion to your story. Sorry it took me so long to finish.
New dedications: And finishing this story, I realized how much I miss my friends from fandom who are less involved now. . .we had some wonderful times, chatting about BtVS and life and everything, learning to design websites (all those geocities sites before hosting domains), in some cases meeting in person, and creating awesome Spuffy and fandom art and writing before LJ and tumblr! You guys will always be in my heart. So this story is also dedicated to my original Spuffy and fandom friends… the ones from the beginning… _sin_attract, inxsomniax, zarrah04, indiana_jane_, jenniepennie, roxyw, ghostgirl13, lilith77, eyesthatslay, musing_mia, sweet_ali, and Aydin.
Chapters 1-15 can be found on here on AO3. The chapters on AO3 are the most up to date with small changes in plot points/grammar fixes that weren’t there 10 years ago. Chapters 16-18 will be posted today on Free for All day, and the remaining four chapters will be posted on my assigned day (along with two other fics).
Happy 10th Anniversary to seasonal_spuffy! And thanks to the mods for organizing everything! :o)
Sixteenth, Be Honest with Your Ex… and Yourself
Tangled up in one another, Spike and I fall into an unspoken haze of relaxation and satiation. I want nothing more to fall asleep in his arms, but I know that I can’t… not with everything going on in other parts of this hotel.
I force my eyes open in the dim light of his room and try to blink away the fog. Spike makes a soft noise in the back of his throat, which draws me back in, and he nuzzles my shoulder without opening his eyes. My eyes close unbidden, and I slowly swivel my hips until I’m spooning against his. I sigh at how comfortable I feel. Spike’s arm circles around me, and his hand runs over my belly so that I’m enveloped in his embrace. My hand automatically covers his larger cool one. His face presses into my hair, and he echoes my sigh with one of his own.
This thing that used to make me feel so wrong is starting to feel right, and I don’t want to overthink it.
Normally, Spike says or does something about now… something that gets on my nerves and makes me want to push him away as fast as possible, but he inconveniently articulates nothing… does nothing.
We stay that way for several minutes until he hugs and releases me, rolling onto his back.
“We should probably see what’s going on downstairs, pet,” he whispers, his tone reluctant as he absently runs his fingers through my tangled hair.
I twist my torso to face him. “Do we have to?”
He studies my face as if he doesn’t want to ever stop looking at me. The emotion is bright in his eyes even in the semi-darkness, and the shadows allow me to marvel at what I’m seeing without turning away. Where does this feeling come from? Lorne assured me that demons feel an array of emotions. I’m starting to question… and maybe even believe that it’s true.
“They might start to wonder,” he returns.
“Well, most of them already know about us.” I raise my hand to tick off my fingers. “Let’s see… Willow… sort of check, Dawn… check, Giles… check, Anya, Angel, and Lorne.” I cock my head to one side. “And probably Faith and Fred.” It dawns on me that this is pretty much everyone except Gunn and Xander. “Wow.”
“Rupert knows? Oh, that’s right. The cameras. With everything going on, I forgot that he found out.” I know he didn’t forget, and his delight is rather annoying. Spike puts his hands behind his head and sinks down into the pillow, his smirk transforming into more of a self-satisfied smile… a smile that reminds me of the time Willow made us fall in love.
My stomach suddenly hurts. Everyone knows about us. How did that happen? What have I gotten myself into? Without meaning to, I find myself clambering out of bed.
And I immediately regret the action and can’t face the hurt that comes with me pushing him away. Well, crap. I didn’t mean to do that… not again. How did we go from bliss to this crossroads again?
He flips on the side lamp so that the darkness shrouds his face, and the light illuminates me. He sits up, his right arm draped over his knee, a sheet covering his torso, and he watches me stand there awkwardly in my nakedness. I don’t move to cover myself. I don’t feel like I deserve to.
“Well, at least you’re not running.” He manages to keep his tone even, but I hear the little hitch at the end that betrays his pain.
I deflect away by confronting him, “Where were you?”
His defensive question leaves me feeling less vulnerable… the name of the game I can’t help but play with him. “Earlier. Before we left for the prison. Where did you go when we were planning?”
He hesitates, so I know whatever he says won’t be the truth. “Nowhere.”
“Buffy, I needed a break.” He doesn’t add that he needed the break after seeing me and Angel together outside his room.
I’m silent as I try to wrap my mind around forming words without lashing out in anger. We all need a break. Do we get one in this situation?
In fact, I haven’t really caught a break since Willow, Tara, Anya, and Xander brought me back to life. There have been too many things piling up. I’ve had to take care of leaky pipes and money problems, of figuring out what to do with my life, of keeping custody of Dawn and making sure she’s okay, of dealing with Warren and his pals pulling decidedly unfunny pranks on me, and of assuaging all my friends’ feelings on top of regular Slayer duties. And oh, don’t forget… those pesky re-experiencing trauma moments of fun.
I’m sick of people adding to the stress pile up… and jealousy and the weirdness that goes with it are not things I need to deal with right now.
At the same time, Spike *has* been my break… my soft place to land in a sea of heartache and fear, and for once, acknowledging this allows me to slow the surge of my reaction.
So I take a moment.
In that moment, I push past the fog of my recent struggles and neediness and pull back the curtain that’s been covering the truth of what I feel and what I know about Spike, the seeds of which have been there since before I died and came back. Then, I know what I need to do. A definitive decision is made, and my resolve increases.
Finally, all I can do is say, “I need to talk with Angel.”
He snorts. “Figures. Run to him every time you almost feel something with me. It’s becoming a pattern.”
Without looking his direction, I start to search for my prison costume, which is tangled amid pillows and the comforter which found their way to the floor in the midst of our passion. Jerking the clothing out of the mess and pulling it on so I can cross the hall to my room, I murmur, “It’s not for the reason you think.”
“Uh huh. Right.”
I pause at the door to his room and look back. “Spike, I promise.”
His hardness softens at my tone, but he turns away so that I barely glimpse it… and he doesn’t say another word.
The door doesn’t make a sound on my way out.
No one is downstairs in the large open foyer, but I find Angel tucked into the hotel office with Faith. She and Angel are standing over a small television on a stand to the right of the open doorway. They both have their arms crossed and legs spread a bit in a ready stance, and they’re focused. I almost hate to interrupt their silent camaraderie… but part of me doesn’t care. Faith sees Angel more than I do nowadays anyway. She can give us some space.
“I need to talk with Angel, Faith.” My voice is firm.
Faith doesn’t bother to face me and continues to watch the screen. “Not now, B.”
I grit my teeth. “Seriously. Go.”
Angel glances over his shoulder then. “Buffy. The news. They know Faith is out.”
I quickly join them and match their body language, squinting at the tiny television where Faith’s picture is prominently displayed and a reporter with too much makeup and perfectly coiffed hair is urgently talking about what a dangerous fugitive Faith is and how viewers should contact the police if they see her or someone who looks like her.
Angel sounds worried. “Turns out Wesley’s plan to keep the guards unaware failed, and they figured it out. So now, Faith’s name and photo is out there…”
“And the Watcher’s Council will know,” I finish.
“No kidding.” Faith is more serious than I’ve heard her sound since we broke her out. They must have filled her in on how dire the situation is.
“Where is everyone?” I gesture toward the lobby.
Angel answers. “Wesley and Lorne are setting up a magical barrier… something to give us a warning if the Council shows up here. Fred and Gunn ran out for some extra magic supplies… well, and some food. When everyone gets back, we’ll reconvene and decide what to do next.”
“And Cordy and Angel’s son are upstairs. She’s putting him down for a nap.” Faith seems to enjoy pointing this fact out.
“And Xander and Anya?” I ask, trying to push back my annoyance.
“Somewhere ‘taking a nap.’” Faith’s hand forms air quotes as she grins. “Speaking of ‘naps,’ where’s Spike?”
I ignore her and address Angel. It’s really none of her business… especially after what she did with Riley. “Well, it looks like our timeline for Faith has been moved up.”
Angel nods. “Much more quickly than we anticipated.”
“Damn.” Faith is successfully distracted. A crease appears between her eyes. “Now why did the Watchers choose me to banish to another dimension? How is that fair?”
I shrug. “Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe it has something to do with me being *out of prison* and able to do our job?”
“Yeah, but you’re obviously all weird and stuff… coming back from the dead and being all emotionally fragile and indecisive.” She’s right. Didn’t Giles say that they picked up on something with the cameras other than our poor attempts at playing house?
Still, my temper flares, and it’s my turn to do air quotes and step forward so that Faith and I are face to face. “I’m *not* ‘emotionally fragile.’”
“So why are you taking up with Billy Idol? Isn’t he all soulless and ‘evil’? You wouldn’t make that choice unless… unless something was off.” She gestures up and down at me with one hand.
I don’t want to bring Spike into this yet. I want to talk with Angel first. Damn it. How did this happen? Nothing is going the way I want. “None of your business. I came down here to talk with Angel. Not you.”
“Well, I’d say it’s our business if you’re trusting him… losing your judgment while you shack…”
I’m about to slap her when Angel steps between us and puts up his hands in a gesture of placation. “Stop it. Now is not the time for this.”
“But,” Faith protests.
“No buts right now.” Angel is studying me and not looking at Faith. “Faith give us a minute.”
Faith pushes back from us, shoving aside Angel’s hand. “Fine. Take all the time you need. My life is hanging in the balance but whatever.” She slams the door so hard on the way out of the room that it doesn’t latch and swings partly open again.
Slayer strength is nothing to mess with… doors beware.
Angel is somehow completely calm, and I take a deep breath as he moves away and flicks off the tiny television set. Then, he faces me and leans on the desk, his deep brown eyes gentle. I remind myself who this is in front of me… my first love, the one who will always have some part of my heart… someone who unflinchingly cares about me. And I also remind myself that I have to be honest with him and do this now even if it’s the most inopportune time I could have chosen.
Therefore, approaching this with the fuel of my earlier anger toward Angel will not help him hear my message.
I uncross my arms and instead hold my elbows. “Actually, Faith is right. She’s kind of like Spike that way…“
“She says it like she sees it?”
“Yeah.” I glance at my feet for a few seconds before looking back up. “She’s right, too. I’ve been putting on a brave face, but I haven’t been okay. I’ve been off.”
“What do you mean?” His voice is soft and concerned.
“I mean that coming back did something to me. I have nightmares, and I… experience like hallucinations or something. I can’t even fight properly.”
“Like my experience shifts and dirt falls from the sky and rats… lots and lots of rats biting and clawing. It’s like I’m… underground again and trying to claw my way… ” I shudder and close my eyes before forcing them open again. Don’t want to go there when I’m talking about it out loud. That way might lead to badness, and I need this conversation to happen before I lose my nerve but also before we’re distracted by the fight ahead.
“Buffy…” He reaches for me, but I take a step back because I have to say what I’m about to say.
“Spike says he’s seen this before.” I’m proud that I keep my tone even and without the tinge of accusation. That’s not my intention. There’s another reason I’m going this direction, and it’s not to hurt Angel. Got to pick my battles, and even though I’m still angry with him, I know that lashing out at him isn’t going to help him understand. Besides, we’ve rarely been that way with one another, and I don’t really want to start now.
Angel settles back, shoulders perceptibly sagging. “He has.”
I offer him a half-smile to reassure him. “I’m not upset about what you did or didn’t do in the past. I read all about what you did a long time ago. I just relate to the material in a different way now.”
“Thought you related before.” He’s referring to what happened when he lost his soul with me.
“Yeah… this is different. Spike said the people you… tortured… that he and Dru helped torture. He said they re-experienced things… like I have been.”
Angel doesn’t need to verify this, but he needs to know that I know… needs to know because of what I’m about to say.
I swallow and continue, “Spike’s been taking care of me.”
Angel watches me, waiting.
“He’s helped me when I’ve been… re-experiencing. I almost got killed while…”
I’ve already said the next part but need to again because I’m taking it a step further than yesterday. Geez, was it only yesterday?
“He’s been helping a long time. At first, admittedly, it was because he couldn’t fight anything but demons because he has that chip in his head, but later, something changed. It was slow and subtle, but something changed. He fought with us against Glory, and he’s taken care of Dawn more times than I can count. While I was… gone, he brushed her hair when she had nightmares about me and made sure she had a mom check in when she had sleepovers. I wasn’t even there to make him want to… he just did it. And when I came back… he told me… he told me that every night he…” I trail off. I can’t share that with Angel; it’s something too personal… something that is just for me and Spike.
Angel doesn’t betray what he’s feeling with his impassive expression. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because… because I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m starting to believe Spike. He can make choices. He does have feelings.” He does have feelings for me… I think he even loves me like he says he does, but I don’t say this out loud. Not yet.
Angel starts, “Buffy…”
I hold up my hand. “I had a talk with Lorne, too.”
Confusion colors his features. “You did? When?”
“Last night when I went into his room by acc… you know what? It doesn’t matter how or when. He’s a demon.”
The corner of his mouth turns up a little but goes back down. “Kind of knew that already.”
“And he said demons have a whole range of feelings… not limited to the desire to maim and kill. And he said that Spike…” I hesitate. “He cares about me.”
“How does Lorne know?”
“He heard him singing a song to Connor.”
Angel looks alarmed. “When did he do that?”
“Relax. Remember, you saw him? Spike wouldn’t do anything to Connor.”
“He doesn’t have a soul.”
I sigh. There’s that same line again. “Even if he were to think about hurting Connor, Connor is surrounded by lots of people who love and protect him.”
I’m starting to rattle Angel, and his voice is rising faster than I expected. “You sure are defensive of someone who tried to kill you and yours multiple times.”
Although part of me wants to take the bait and fire back with how hard Angel tried to kill me and my friends, I decide to say, “I sometimes even think that the choice thing has something to do with who Spike was before he became a vampire. He’s different somehow, and I think when he got the chip, that changed him somehow, too… let him see and experience a different way… something most vampires don’t get.”
One of the nights Spike and I had a moment of conversation between periods of getting lost in our passion, he told me about his poetry. He was embarrassed, but looking back, I think I thought it was sweet. As far as the chip, I hadn’t realized I felt that way about it until I said it out loud.
“A vampire loses that when he loses his soul.” Even Angel seems to recognize his argument is weak because I see the sadness coming into his eyes. I hate hurting him, but I have to be honest. I’ve always been honest with him no matter how much it hurts.
“I think it freed him from his inhibitions, but I don’t think it changed him completely. Look at how he took care of Dru. If that doesn’t require compassion and patience, I don’t know what does. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dru chose him because she saw that in him.”
“Dru was his sire… there’s a bond.”
“No… well, yes, there is a bond, but that’s not the point. The point is…” Can I really say this out loud? “The point is that I care about Spike. I care about him quite a lot more than I thought I could actually.”
“I see.” He sounds resigned to my confession and not angry or devastated, so I allow myself the next statement, which frightens me more than a little bit.
“I think I’m falling in love with him.” I can’t believe that I just said that out loud. “And not just because I’m having a hard time and he’s been the one that’s there. But because of the choices he’s made to get him here. I see who he’s trying to become, and it’s something good. I feel it.”
Angel’s eyes flick up then, and I spin to view Spike standing in the doorway, his hand lightly on the frame. His blue eyes are wide when they catch my green ones, and his disbelief and vulnerability are palpable. His lips are slightly parted like he wants to say something, but words won’t come. My heart goes out to him and then comes crashing back into my chest in fear. How much did he hear? Does he believe me? I want so much to touch him, but I remain rooted in place.
Spike’s voice is thick with emotion, and he speaks to Angel but never takes his eyes off of me. “The gang’s all here. Just wanted you to know.”
Angel brushes past me and Spike without a word, and I notice Faith hovering behind Spike. How much did she hear? Probably everything. Oh well. I’ve long since given up on privacy. The last few days have been one revelation after the next.
I really want to go home now, throw out all the cameras, and hide under the covers.
But I can’t.
Evading Spike’s gaze, I start to follow Angel, my heart aching with its exposure, but Spike lays a hand on my forearm, his fingers barely brushing my skin and sending a million sparks coursing through my body.
I feel like I’m holding my breath as he whispers, “Did you mean that, pet? Buffy?” He sounds so terrified. . . as terrified as I feel.
“How much did you hear?” I whisper back.
I have to find out where he is, so I find his eyes again. They are bright with unshed tears, and I feel my own well up in response. “I did… mean it. All of it.”
He closes his eyes as if he’s trying to contain his emotions, and I find myself brushing my hand over his forehead and cheek before leaning in to lightly brush my lips over his cheek.
His breath comes out in a sigh. “My god. I never… thought. I can’t believe…”
I chastely and gently kiss his mouth, lingering for the briefest of moments. Then, leaning my forehead against his, I murmur, “Please believe me, William.”
He’s trembling at my words, and a tear slips over his cheek. I sweep the liquid away before reaching for his hand and lacing my fingers through his. He squeezes my hand, and I hold firmly back.
I’m ready to face them all.
Unavoidy Buffy in the house.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/522220.html