Hi, all! My sole contribution today is a continuation of my WIP from the last Season, Tekubi. It is a double-sized (for me) chapter. Expect schmoop, angst, humor, and the occasional pirate suit.
Tekubi, Chapter 5
Rating: R for now. May stray into NC-17 territory later due to subject matter, but those hoping for pr0n are likely to be disappointed.
Standard disclaimer: The characters aren’t mine, just the story.
Non-standard disclaimer: Opinions expressed by the characters or implicit in the storyline do not necessarily represent those of the author.
Distribution: Do not post elsewhere without permission. Ask, I may say yes.
Feedback: Craved. Praise, constructive criticism, and stern words about taking so long to update are all welcome.
Thanks to rabid1st for the invaluable beta advice, sweet_ali and rahirah for their recent encouragement, and of course, to itmustbetuesday, for rocking our Spuffy world.
If you’d just like to be reminded what was going on, here’s the “Previously on…”
Spike loses his hands and gets depressed, then gets Fred to build him a chainsaw prosthetic, kicks some demon ass, and feels much better. Back at Wolfram & Hart, he tells Eve where she can go with her devil’s bargain to get his hands back, then bumps into Buffy. They begin a relationship, but Spike can’t deal with making love with her without being able to touch her with his hands. He breaks it off. Buffy offers him a compromise: a Victorian/junior-high-style relationship that lets him avoid the intimacy that makes him too aware of what he’s lost.
To Spike’s surprise, Buffy had meant her suggestion of a movies-and-frozen-yoghurt relationship literally. He was now sitting through the feature she’d picked with an odd combination of annoyance and elation. Annoyance because the film rivaled one of Drusilla’s tea parties for tedium and nonsense, yet lacked their quaint charm. Elation because it was his first date with Buffy — that she would cop to, anyway.
At the ticket counter, he’d had the money for their tickets loose in his coat pocket so he wouldn’t have to fumble in his wallet for it. When he’d presented the bills to the grim-faced teen behind the bullet-proof glass, using the clamp of one of Fred’s custom hooks, he hadn’t been able to resist bragging. “One for me, one for my date,” he’d said.
The megaplex employee hadn’t acknowledged this in any way, only recited the price, but Buffy had given him a small smile of acknowledgment, no less devastating for being low wattage. Even the obscene cost of two tickets, popcorn and a small soda, and the fact that Buffy had been the one to retrieve his change, couldn’t dim his glow after that.
The movie itself was another matter. Spike was experiencing a sensation that neither his souled nor his chipped selves had ever known what to do with. It was a particular variety of antsyness caused by suppressing the urge to commit boredom-relieving gratuitous violence. He might be able to talk Buffy into some gratuitous violence later in the form of patrol, but for now he was stymied.
If he’d bothered to think about it beforehand, Spike might have thought a soul would have given him more wiggle room to misbehave than a chip. He’d not found this to be the case. The chip had let him kill any sort of demon, dangerous to humans or not, and Spike had done so without a second thought. The soul was not so accomodating. There was a Chapodnirven demon two rows ahead of them, hunkered down in a hoodie and sniffling noisily at the onscreen dramatics. The chip would have let him kill her on a whim. His only hesitation would have been about the resulting commotion among the human moviegoers he could no longer hurt.
If he’d ever had the astounding good fortune to attend a movie with Buffy before he’d gotten his soul, he would have refrained from random carnage out of some dim sense that it would displease her, make him uncouth in her eyes. Now, though, even entertaining the thought of killing a harmless demon, whose only crime was bad taste in movies, evoked a twinge of guilt. Spike resigned himself to sitting through the rest of the movie without bloodshed… although if the soundtrack incorporated a Kelly Clarkson song, as it seemed sure to do, he might attack the theater’s speakers. A soul could only do so much.
A light touch below where his plastic prosthetic hand was fitted interrupted his glum mood. Startled, he looked down to see Buffy’s hand on his forearm. She was still looking at the screen, but her fingers caught and curled over his flesh, and stayed there as she rested her arm along his. Spike stared in wonder, fixated on this tiny gesture.
Buffy glanced at Spike to find him regarding her tenderly. She gave him another smile.
The rest of the movie didn’t seem to take forever, as he’d feared.
After they left the theater, Spike discovered that there were more trials to be faced by one who dared to go on a date with Buffy Summers. He’d been perfectly content to stroll along with her arm looped lightly around his elbow, but when they reached their next destination, he stopped dead with a look of consternation. They were standing before the entrance to a place that represented all that he abhorred.
“I’m not eating bloody frozen yoghurt,” Spike balked.
“Of course not,” Buffy agreed lightly. “They don’t have blood as a topping.”
“Buffy,” Spike growled.
A slight pout took up residence on her face. “I was promised frozen yoghurt.”
“I never — ,” Spike disputed. The pout deepened. “Hey now, that’s unfair — ,” he protested. A slight lip quiver began as well. “Bloody hell, woman, put up the big guns. We’ll get sodding frozen yoghurt.”
Buffy bounced in glee, then bounded into the shop to order for both of them. By the time he’d dragged himself in the door, Buffy was sitting in a booth, and a dish of what smelled to be artificial peach frozen yoghurt with cherry sauce was waiting for him at his place. He sat down, sighed, and took up his plastic spoon.
After a few bites at her cone and sneaked looks at her vampire, she had to giggle at him. He wasn’t sulking exactly. He just looked so woebegone, sitting there in the pastel fluorescence of the frozen yoghurt parlor.
“You’re thinking, ‘A hundred years spent building a reputation as a tough guy, down the drain,’ right now,” she guessed.
Spike hunched down further in his seat. The ignominy of being seen in such a place clearly hadn’t occurred to him until she mentioned it. “More or less.” Spike eyed his dessert mistrustfully. He told himself its colors were passably like clotted blood on pale flesh, and took a reluctant bite.
She almost felt sorry for him. “Would it make you feel better if I licked my cone suggestively?”
Spike gaped momentarily, then nodded.
She proceeded to demonstrate said suggestive licking with an angelic countenance.
The distraction of watching her molest her cone made the span spent in pastel hell far more bearable, but he was still glad when they left. To his great relief and satisfaction, he was indeed able to talk Buffy into some gratuitous violence after they left the frozen yoghurt place. To his mind, that ended the date on a high note. They dusted a couple of vampires, and then he walked her home.
They stopped in the hallway outside her rooms at Wolfram & Hart. Buffy hooked one foot behind the other and looked up at him shyly. “My parents aren’t home. Wanna come in?”
Spike, nonplussed, followed her inside.
Buffy made for the kitchenette. “You want some Tab?” She opened the refrigerator and perused the contents.
Spike ignored this inanity and leaned against the counter. “So,” he surmised, “what you’re telling me with this regressing business is that I’ll be with adult Buffy when I agree to an adult relationship.”
“What? No.” The notion clearly took her by surprise. Buffy shut the fridge. “I was just… enjoying pretending to be a kid again for one night.” At his blank expression, she rolled her eyes. “Who goes out for frozen yoghurt anymore? Didn’t you get the early nineties adolescent date nostalgia?”
“No. Not a common cultural reference point, remember?”
“That’s… weird.” Buffy had dropped the girlish manner, and now she looked unnerved. “I never think about this, but… you’re completely not my generation.”
Spike snorted and shook his head. “Blood-drinking undead,” he narrated to the empty kitchen, “it doesn’t faze her. No hands? No problem. Not sharing a junior high school date archetype?” He adopted an aghast feminine tone. “Wig-worthy!”
Her lip twitched. “Wig-worthy?”
“Your vocabulary’s been corrupted by scholarly English types. Mine’s been corrupted by you.”
That brought her up short. “Wow. I was going to ask if you were one of those scholarly English types, but I’m kinda stuck on the part where I’ve corrupted William the Bloody. In anything.”
“You’ve corrupted me in everything.” His words were accusatory, but his tone was fond. “Daft woman.”
Buffy ducked her head, seeming for a moment almost as young as the girl she’d been impersonating. “I’m… not sorry?”
“No,” he agreed. “Me neither.”
The day after the date, Buffy paid a visit to the person who’d made Spike’s prostheses, his clampy hooks and his beloved chainsaw hand, on the pretext of saying thanks. She told herself she wasn’t threatened, she just wanted to meet a friend who’d helped him. She steadfastly ignored the fact that she’d decided to make the visit only after discerning that the ‘Fred’ Spike spoke of was of the female persuasion.
But Fred was the very picture of non-threateningness, very proto-Willow in her earnest friendly babble, and Buffy felt her unaccustomed territorial feelings over Spike subside. Not that Fred wasn’t pretty, but Buffy couldn’t imagine her playing seductress to someone else’s boyfriend. They’d actually been chatting easily — Fred had been telling her all about the UC system’s summer college programs — when they were interrupted.
“Hey, Fred — oh, sorry,” a white-coated technician broke off as he saw Fred had a visitor.
“It’s ok — Eric, this is Spike’s Buffy. Not that he owns you. Or you own him. But that’s how you’re here, and…,” Fred apparently decided to stop throwing good words after bad. “Buffy, Eric.”
Buffy grinned and shook the young man’s hand. It was nice to have her relationship with Spike confirmed by an outside party for once. Having it be Fred didn’t hurt, either.
“Lab minion. Nice to meet you. Nice vampire you’ve got there. Not at all frightening. With the saw.”
‘Why do so many seemingly nice people work at Wolfram and Hart?,’ she wondered. ‘And what species of skeleton does Eric have hidden in his desk? It would have to be a small one to fit in the drawers. Leprechaun, maybe?’
“What do you need?” Fred asked Eric.
“Oh,” Eric started from his slightly intimidated shuffle in the face of Spike’s speculative-faced girlfriend. “The tournament is a week from Friday, and I wanted to know if you’d like to sign up.”
“I don’t know…” Fred demurred.
“C’mon, it’ll be fun. The minimum donation is just twenty bucks. Good cause, free t-shirts,” he wheedled.
“Yes!” Eric gave a little pump of his fist, and wrote Fred’s name.
“What tournament?” Ordinarily, she’d think cage matches or something, except that seemed a bit far-fetched for the lab coat crowd. Chess, maybe?
“We’re having a ping-ping tournament in the rec rooms after hours next weekend,” Eric explained. “Proceeds to go to the children’s hospital.”
“A charity ping-pong tournament,” Buffy enunciated disbelievingly. “Here. Does the loser get beheaded or something?”
“Nope. This is a pet project of mine. I like doing good right in the midst of W & H. Gives me a warm squishy feeling.” He pantomimed the feeling with a wriggle.
Fred glanced at Eric, then offered hesitantly, “It’ll mostly be lab techs, but… would you like to play?”
“Would that be ok?”
“Sure,” said Eric. “It’s my event, and I say you’re in. We’re letting demons and even a couple of the accountants play, why not Slayers?”
It wasn’t her usual crowd or her usual kind of activity, but it sounded like fun, and Buffy wasn’t exactly swarmed with friends or invitations in L.A. “Ok, why not. Sign us up. Spike’ll…” She trailed off. Her bright expression faded.
Eric looked questioningly from Buffy to Fred. When neither spoke, he made an ‘I’ll just go,’ gesture, and at Fred’s nod, left.
Buffy looked pensive. “I forget,” she admitted softly.
“Spike should like that, right?”
“I think maybe he thinks I forget too much. Or maybe that I try to forget too much.” Buffy folded her arms, realizing abruptly that she was confiding in a woman she barely knew. “I’m not too sure.” She assayed nonchalance said with a diffident wave of a hand. “This introspection… other-spection… thing is kinda uncharted territory for Buffy.” Her smile was self-deprecating.
Fred’s was sympathetic. “You knew him a long time before. It takes people awhile to accept and assimilate gross changes in their loved ones.”
Buffy didn’t answer, just looked disconcerted.
“I meant gross as in gross anatomy, not gross like grotesque, because he’s not. He’s just,” Fred waved a hand expressively, realized this was particularly unfitting, and subsided.
“No, I knew what you meant.”
At Fred’s words, all the other abrupt changes in Spike over the years, to which she’d rapidly adapted, had sprung into her mind. His instantaneous change from sworn enemy to unlikely ally; his plummet in status from frightening adversary to disparaged captive; his dizzying transmutation through nuisance, suitor, outcast, stalwart, confidant, fuckbuddy, assailant and penitent. She’d thought about the changes in him that she’d resisted versus the ones she’d run with immediately.
Now she wondered if her mental image of Spike lagged reality not because she couldn’t assimilate his alteration, but because she didn’t want to.
Buffy gave a belated smile of understanding to Fred’s nervous explanation, then her eyes unfocused as she stared away in thought. “Do you think maybe he could play?”
Fred blinked. After a moment, she replied, “I don’t see why not. It’s not like you need fingers for anything but gripping the handle of your paddle. It could just as well be attached.” She held out her own hand, almost as if she was about to shake hands with her desk lamp. “I’d have to build on the base a little, to put the face of the paddle where it would be if he had hands, but I did that for the chainsaw too. Shouldn’t be a problem.” She rotated her wrist back and forth. “Do you know what angle he’d like the paddle at?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know if he’s played ping-pong before. If he has, I don’t think he’d ‘fess up to having a favorite angle to hold the paddle.” Buffy passed an open hand in front of her experimentally, miming a basic table tennis stroke with her hand as the paddle. “I think it turns over? He’d have to do that with his forearm.” She mimed the motion again, and Fred joined her in swatting the air.
“Um.” An inter-office messenger had entered, only to stop short at the sight of Fred and Buffy each chopping and pivoting from one elbow like triplegics doing The Robot. “I can come back.”
“Uh, no.” Buffy dropped her arm quickly. She turned to Fred. “So, you think you can do it? By next Friday?”
Fred paused, then nodded decisively. “Sure. I figured Spike would ask for more prostheses eventually, so I’ve got some bases all set. Attaching a paddle to one should be easy. Oh! I can put the handle on a 3-D pivot with a lock, so he can set it at whatever angle he likes.” She beamed at her own inspiration.
Buffy grinned back. “You’re the bestest! Thanks, Fred.”
As she left, she heard the tech asking, “… paddle? Do I even want to know?”
Buffy stopped by Eric’s work station on her way out of the lab. “Sign Spike and me up.”
“Will do.” Eric pulled his clipboard from a drawer, then paused before writing. “There would be a handicap — a points handicap — for the two of you, since you have inhuman abilities,” he warned. “Just so you know. Probably big ones. Yours will probably be greater than his — ”
“No,” she cut him off. “Whatever the number is, make them equal.”
He regarded her for a moment. “Ok.” He wrote their names, and added a note. “You’re all set.”
She won. Her t-shirt read, “I PADDLED THE COMPETITION at Wolfram & Hart’s 2004 Memorial Children’s Hospital Charity Table Tennis Tournament.”
She’d only played ping-pong a handful of times in her life. A quick run-down of the rules with Eric and a few sessions tapping the ball back and forth with Fred and Spike had given her all the experience she needed to dominate the tournament’s field of chemists, bio-magicians, computer scientists, minor demons, and other subterranean lifeforms, even with a twelve point handicap.
She tried to play nice at first. She reacted to shots and batted the ball across the table with only human speed. But when her first opponent had gotten a gleam in its eye at getting a few points from her, her innate need to win had taken over.
She might not have had as much practice as the other players, but her strokes didn’t need to be terribly precise. She could just blast the ball past them faster than most of them could follow. As long as she could keep her shots on the table, she was almost unstoppable. The judges, Eric and a couple of his friends, quickly enlisted a part-demon with sharp eyes who’d gone out early to confirm whether her serves were landing on the correct quadrants of the table. For the most part, it was like setting the Chinese Olympic ping-pong players against a junior high club team. No contest.
Until her last match.
The techs folded up all but one of the tables in the large rec room and turned the remaining one lengthwise for her game against Spike, to allow them more room. They each stood ten yards back from the table and went at it hammer and tongs. She couldn’t rely solely on the pace of her shots to best him — she was far stronger, but with vamp-speed he could be quicker. He brought out his demon for the match and he dove for returns with near-blurry speed.
Between points a banter started up between them that reminded her of the old days, when their fights put far more at risk than bragging rights — only now she had the confidence to match his suggestive insinuations. After her first innuendo that called into question his sexual prowess — something about him keeping control of his balls — her eyes widened, worried that with his current sex hang-up, she’d gone too far in baiting him. His response — a sneer about her being able to handle them, accompanied by an adjustment of his belt buckle with his non-paddle plastic hand — both reassured and goaded her.
After that, the jeers and taunts flew even during play. The disqualified participants and onlookers split into vocal factions along the sidelines; some in opposition to, or support of, whoever had beaten them; some according to gender or species; some according to who they fancied, or had placed money on. They sorted themselves onto opposite sides, whirled their “I GOT PADDLED” shirts, and shouted themselves hoarse. Most points lasted minutes, leaving the spectators with sore necks from following the action.
They played to the decisive twenty-first point near even, and then on for another half hour, neither able to get the required two points ahead to win. At the last, a dizzying rally and a wicked angled backhand sent Spike crashing into the scorer’s table, and the Slayer triumphed. She was the recipient of many cheers and congratulatory slaps on the back. She and Spike both received offers to join the lab softball team and suggestions of higher points handicaps the next time — say twenty.
Spike’s runner-up t-shirt read, “I GOT PADDLED BY THE BEST at Wolfram & Hart’s 2004 Memorial Children’s Hospital Charity Table Tennis Tournament.” Those geeks were pervs.
In the elevator ride back upstairs to their apartments, she pulled her oversized t-shirt over her head and preened. Spike, predictably, was grumpy. He didn’t like to lose any more than she did.
“Could’ve beaten you if I had hands,” he grumbled.
“Yeah,” she told him indulgently. “That’s why I won. You keep telling yourself that.”
It was only then that Buffy belatedly realized that some people in her position would have let Spike win, because he was “a cripple”. The idea had never even occurred to her. She’d never refrained from kicking his ass to spare his ego, and good girlfriend or not, she wasn’t about to start.
Spike would lose all respect for her if she did.
“It’s hard to get any spin on the ball without wrists, Slayer!”
“Yeah, you’re just making excuses. Stumpy.”
Spike loured. “Watch your mouth little girl,” he warned in a low rumble. “I might just turn you over my knee and take this handy paddle to your pretty little backside.”
Buffy’s pupils dilated. First he’d gotten her all worked up, ‘fighting’ with her and taunting her, and now… “No fair, teasing the girl who isn’t getting any,” she complained.
“Who says I’m teasing?”
She caught her breath in hope. “You’re serious?”
“Yeah,” he said, after a moment’s consideration. “I mean, not about the paddle, but — ”
“Paddle, no paddle, whichever.”
“We could go out for a celebratory frozen yoghurt if you’d rather. The cherry sauce looks a bit like blood, if you squint — ”
Buffy pulled him down into a kiss.
In their tumble into bed, Spike ripped a seam of her commemorative t-shirt.
She didn’t mind.
Do let me know what you think, as usual I’m nervous about posting. But now that I have, I can finally go read all of your lovely work I’ve been holding out as a reward for myself this past month. I can’t wait. :)
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/98916.html