The Personal Touch
By Barb C
Summary: It wasn’t the big dramatic confrontations that threw her for a loop, oh no. Buffy was prepared for those, and so was he. It was the little things that caught them both off-guard.
Notes: Barbverse. This story takes place in the same universe as A Raising In the Sun, Necessary Evils, and A Parliament of Monsters. It’s set during the summer between Necessary Evils and POM. Written for the Seasonal Spuffy Summer Solstice Free-For-All day. This story is not exactly fluff, but then, it’s not exactly not fluff, either.
Buffy sat back on her heels and stared down at the plastic baggie full of assorted pills in the palm of her hand. It hadn’t been particularly well-concealed. Heck, Spike had specifically pointed out this bookshelf when she’d asked him what they should move next. He must have realized she would find it. Despite the lurid accounts of PCP-crazed gangs in the Press, Sunnydale didn’t have a huge drug problem, unless you counted that creepy black-magic dealer downtown. With only candles for illumination, it was hard to see the inscriptions stamped on the sides. Still, she was pretty certain these weren’t aspirin.
The ladder up to the main vault creaked, and a moment later, Spike jumped down the last few rungs. His hair was rumpled, and his black t-shirt was smudged with pale streaks of dust, but he looked quite cheerful. He picked his way through the obstacle course of half-packed boxes and disarranged furniture. “Got all of the last lot into the car, but we’re going to have to nick – er, rent a truck for the bed and that wardrobe,” he said. “Think we can lash that coffin to the roof, though. In fact – oh, you found ’em. Wondered where those had got to.”
Buffy held up the baggie, stony-faced, and gave it a shake. “Spike. Please, please, please tell me you’re not selling these. Unless you actually are selling them, and then you’d better tell me yesterday. The demon parts are one thing, but –”
Spike blinked. “That? Course not. Figured I’d hand ’em out to the min – uh, employees. Bonus for good behavior, like.”
Arrgh. The wiggiest part of dealing with Spike was how little the evil vampire thing mattered, about ninety-five percent of the time. After all, it wasn’t as if he woke up in the afternoon, hopped out of his evil bed, took an evil shower, and skipped evilly down the evil stairs to pour evil blood on his evil Weetabix. Well, maybe the blood was marginally evil, on the days when he splurged on the expired hospital stuff. Still, the point was, he could go for hours, days, even weeks sometimes, making it perilously easy for her to forget all about the evil part of ‘evil vampire.’
Of course, that just made the other five percent of the time that much more deeply wig-inducing. It wasn’t the big dramatic confrontations that threw her for a loop, oh no. Buffy was prepared for those, and so was he. They approached particularly fraught subjects like Who And/Or What It Is OK For Spike To Kill And When with the wariness of romantically-minded porcupines. It was the little things that caught them both off-guard.
It was great that Bloody Vengeance Inc. was starting to make a profit. Spike was getting orders from wizards all the way from Santa Barbara now, not just the Magic Box. Having customers besides Anya meant that he needed to hire more help and set up a real office, and the crypt was the logical place to put it. Which meant the logical place to put Spike was where he was spending most of his free time anyway, that is, her place. When you had a business selling demon parts to magical supply shops it just made sense to hire vampires, because no one loved killing demons like other demons, and any vampire who hired on with Spike and agreed to his no-killing-humans policy in exchange for her looking the other way when they quaffed a quasi-licit pint of O-neg at Willy’s was a vampire she didn’t have to worry about staking (yet), and, and, and… “But where’d you get them?”
He shrugged. “Some berk hanging about the high school last time I picked Dawn up. Wait, are you…” He frowned, trying to parse her expression, and drew himself up, almost offended. “Didn’t kill him, if that’s what you’re insinuating.”
“So you’re not selling them, but you are buying them?” Gritting your teeth this much had to be bad for your jaw, she just knew it.
“No!” Spike raked a hand through moonlit curls, puzzled and aggrieved. “I beat the shite out of him and took ’em. The hell, Slayer, don’t tell me you’re got a problem with that? What can a fellow do to get his violence on hereabouts?”
Buffy groaned and let the baggie drop. “Spike, what in the name of little green apples gives you the idea that that’s in any way OK?”
“Every bloody cop show on telly ever, for one,” Spike snapped back. “For fuck’s sake, pet, where’s the harm? No one’s dead, these things are off the market, and at least one little prick will think twice about waving ’em about in Niblet’s vicinity again. It’s so bloody virtuous it fair makes me sick!”
He was perfectly serious. Of course he was. He really thought he’d done the right thing, maybe even imagined she’d praise him for it. And the worst part was, she couldn’t come up with a good counter-argument. But with Spike you never got a twenty-four hour time-out; she’d have to make the bad counter-argument do. “Look, I… appreciate that you’re trying to think this stuff out, I really do, but we need to leave human crimes to the police.”
“Because the Sunnydale PD does such a sterling job of it.” He still sounded sulky, but she could practically see him making an internal note: one more item on Spike’s Big List of Evil Things Not to Do. “Any objections to my disposal plans?”
Her impulse was to say, “Many!” but… he really had tried to figure out A Right Thing, even if he’d missed the mark on The Right Thing. And it wasn’t like vampires could get addicted, or turn more murdery under the influence. “As long as you make sure they don’t just re-sell them for blood money. And also?” She pointed at the coffin. “That thing’s not coming anywhere near my living room.”
He heaved a sigh. “Our living room. Unless you’re having second thoughts about this cohabitation business. And why the hell not, may I ask?”
“A) It would be stealing, and B) it’s a coffin!” How was this even a question? “For all I know there’s still a dead person in it!”
Spike flung up his hands in exasperation. “A) Barring my recent gainful employment, everything I bloody well own is stolen, and you’ve never objected before, and B) no, there isn’t. I cleaned it up special.” At her full-body shudder, his tone grew conciliatory. “Look, I thought we could use it as a coffee table or somewhat. It’d be atmospheric.”
“Well, yeah, that’s the point!” Spike exploded. “I’m a bleedin’ creature of the night! Not to knock your mum’s taste in furniture, but I thought you liked how I’d fixed this place up.”
Oh, God, he was pouting. Spike was surprisingly house-proud for a guy whose bedroom was basically a hole in the ground. Admittedly, a hole in the ground with almost all the comforts of home. There was no denying that the crypt had a certain macabre charm, and it had been a welcome refuge from nosey younger sisters on more than one occasion. She was going to miss it, a little bit. It was a pretty nice coffin, as coffins went, all dark polished mahogany and gleaming brass fittings… no. Nope, nada, nyet, no freakin’ way. “OK, I admit your crypt is… cozy. Ish. Still. There may be a dead guy in my bedroom, but there will be no coffins, sepulchres, mausoleums, or monuments in my living room. Our living room. There’s gotta be some other way for you to express your individuality.”
He raked a hand through moonlit curls, gave her a look of studied innocence. “Could swap out those knick-knacks on your mantel for a skull or two.”
Her eyes narrowed, but the corner of his mouth was twitching. She punched his arm. “Jerk.”
“Bitch.” Spike gave her a pro forma punchback and sighed. “Sometimes I think it’d be easier if we gave all this domesticity business up as a bad job and went back to trying to kill each other. Could still have passionate hate-fucks on weekends, yeah?”
She looked up at him, serious. “You want that?”
“Hell, no. Want nothing less. It’s just…” His eyes dropped, voice dropping with them. “I think about what the First showed us, sometimes. We’re not too far gone to put all this shite back if you are having second thoughts, pet.”
“Way too late for that. I’m on my forty-third thoughts at least.” She didn’t like to contemplate that fan of alternate futures, each more disastrous than the last, any more than he did, but since when had her brain ever listened to her? But that didn’t mean she had to listen to it. She stepped over his surprisingly well-cared-for phonograph (vampires were big on analog sound) and reached up to caress his jaw. “But if there’s anything I’ve learned in my twenty-two years, it’s that you should never take relationship advice from anyone whose last name is Evil.” She considered for a minute. “Look, if you want to put a personal touch on the living room, how about we bring your armchair instead of the coffin?” It was old and grody, but at least it was just an armchair.
“Done,” Spike said, with an alacrity which made her suspect that this had been his plan all along. He dropped a kiss on the top of her head, scooped up an armful of records, and bounced off towards the ladder, humming Now I Wanna Be A Good Boy.
Damn. He really was evil.