Parts 1 and 2 are here.
Giles turned his gaze on Spike. “I suppose I should thank you for helping Buffy remain alive,” he said. “Although I’m extremely curious as to why you did it. What is your motivation for such unusual behavior?”
Buffy had turned to face Giles, leaving her back to Spike who once again rested one hand lightly against it.
“When I figure that out, I’ll let you know,” Spike said, eyes briefly flaring yellow. “Maybe. Maybe I’ll just decide it’s none of your business.”
“Maybe he just wants to add me to his list of slayers he’s killed,” Buffy said quietly. “But because he’s who he is, he wants it to be a fair fight with an experienced slayer.” She felt, rather than heard, Spike’s soft growl and reached behind her to give his leg a reassuring pat.
“Is that it?” Giles demanded? “Are you still enemies, and you’re simply keeping her alive until you’re ready to kill her yourself?”
Spike shrugged. “If that works for you, sure. Let’s go with that for now. The slayer and I are still enemies, just enemies with… what did you call it, pet? Benefits?”
“Yep. Spike and I are enemies with benefits. You know, like ‘friends with benefits’, except we’re enemies, not friends, and we’re not…” She looked over her shoulder at him. “I think I’m losing the plot here.”
“I think the plot just got more interesting,” Spike whispered in her ear. “I like the sound of friends with benefits.”
While Buffy blushed and didn’t respond, he raised his voice and spoke directly to Giles. “All you need to know about Buffy and me, is that I’ll be keepin’ an eye on her and droppin’ in from time to time to see how she’s doing. And if I think anyone she should be able to trust is going to hurt her….” He went into his vampire mien long enough to sure Giles got his message.
“Does that include Angel?” Giles asked, refusing to back down in the face of Spike’s obvious threat.
Buffy gasped when Spike snarled, “Especially Angelus. Can’t tell her what to do with her life, but she already knows how I feel about keeping him in it.”
“Okaaaay. I think this conversation has gone on long enough. Giles, Spike and I have to go back to my mom’s so she can see that I’m alive. I think you need to stay away from her until she cools off.”
Spike nodded. “She’s a dab hand with an axe,” he said. “I’d definitely say to avoid her until she’s not brassed off any more.”
Giles stared in bewilderment as Buffy and Spike exchanged soft laughter.
“What am I missing here?”
“I’ll tell you some other time, Giles. Let’s just say Spike knows better than to tick Mom off, so you should probably take his advice. Go home,” she added.
They watched Giles drive away, then began walking.
“Where’s your car?” Buffy asked, unenthusiastically contemplating the long walk home on less powerful legs than normal.
“Not far. I left it a few blocks away… just in case. Didn’t want them to know I had one.”
“Well, much as I hate to admit it, I’m glad you do have one. I can’t believe how weak I still feel.”
He frowned. “Still? Shouldn’t you be feelin’ better now?”
“Giles said it would be another day.” She nudged him, shoving him sideways. “And anyway, I am a lot stronger than I was when that vamp almost got me the other night. I just don’t want to walk all the way home.”
“My chariot is at your service, milady,” he said, pointing to his old Desoto.
“Thank you, sir,” she simpered. “You are so gallant.”
He rolled his eyes and moved to open the door for her. “In you go, Slayer.”
They pulled into the driveway, and by the time Spike had turned the engine off, Joyce was already running out the door and down the steps. She slowed when she saw Buffy in the front seat, and waited until she’d climbed out and was in the yard before grabbing her in a hug that lasted until Buffy’s muffled voice said, “Um, Mom? Air? Even slayers need to breathe.”
With an apologetic laugh, Joyce released her and cast a critical eye over Buffy.
“You don’t look like you had to fight anything very hard.”
“My fight was easy. Spike’s the one that’s beat up.”
Joyce changed her attention from Buffy to Spike, gasping at his black eye and bruised cheek.
“Oh my. Come in the house and let me put some ice on that for you.”
“It’s fine, Joyce. I’ll heal by tomorrow, once I get something to eat and some sleep. But I wouldn’t turn down another taste of that Glenfiddich you have.”
“Of course. Come in and tell me all about it.” She turned to go into the house.
Behind her, Buffy called out, “We’ll be right there, Mom. I need to talk to Spike for a minute.”
When the door had shut behind her mother, Buffy turned to a puzzled-looking Spike.
“What’s the problem, luv?”
“I just… I don’t….” She took a deep breath. “What are we, Spike? I mean, I know what we told Giles, but… are we really enemies, who just haven’t tried to kill each other for a long time, or are we… something else?”
“What did you tell the wanker when you told him you were going to be fine?” He growled, “You did tell him that, didn’t you? Or did the miserable git send you in there thinkin’ you were going to die?”
“No. He knew I was expecting to be okay. Back when I asked about the Cruciamentum, I just said I had a friend who told me to ask him. And today I told him that the friend was going to help me. I didn’t tell him it was you, and he didn’t figure it out until we walked out. We just called you ‘my friend’. I just… I guess I just want to know if that’s true. Are we friends? Or are you just extending the truce for some reason?”
He cocked his head at her. “If you’re askin’ me do I still want to kill you, the answer is ‘no’. Don’t ask me why, cos I’ve got no bloody idea. Not something I want to even think about, never mind talk about. Question is, can we be friends? Do you still want to kill me?”
Buffy shook her head vigorously. “No! How could I? You’ve saved my life at least once or twice, not counting the truce last year. No! I don’t want to.” She straightened up and put her shoulders back. “But if I had to kill you, for some reason… like you were killing people or trying to kill me…” She met his gaze firmly. “I’d do it if I had to, Spike. But I’d feel terrible about it.”
“But you’d do it.”
“I’m the Slayer, Spike. It’s what I do.”
He nodded. “You are, and it is.” He shook himself and gave a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “So…. if we’re friends, will that come with other benefits?”
“If you mean not trying to kill each other, then yes, of course, it does. If you mean something piggy, then… eww! No!”
“Just checkin’. Don’t be getting your knickers in a twist.” He gave a genuine laugh. “You are so easy sometimes.”
“Buffy? Spike? Are you two coming in?” Joyce’s voice drifted out from the still-open door.
“We’re coming, Mom.”
“Obviously, we’re not,” he muttered just loud enough for Buffy to hear as he followed her up the steps and onto the porch.
“Stop it!” she hissed as they entered the living room where Joyce was already holding out a glass of amber fluid to Spike.
“Ta, luv,” he said, taking it and going to what he was beginning to think of as ‘his chair’.”
“Are you sure I can’t get you some ice for that eye? Buffy? Why aren’t you taking care of his injury?”
“Mom. I’ve hurt him a lot worse than that and he just laughs about it. He’s a big boy. If he needs ice, he can ask for it.” Buffy rolled her eyes while Spike smothered a smile.
Looking dubious, but seeing that Spike didn’t seem annoyed at Buffy’s words, she settled back, saying, “So, tell me what happened. Did you beat Rupert to a pulp?”
Buffy shook her head and gave Joyce a quick recap of the actually quite quick event.
“So, Spike killed their bad guy vamp before I got there, then I killed the extra one, and he told the Council guys that I’d passed my test and they should go back to where they came from.” She giggled. “I think he scared one of them into never leaving the Council building again.”
Buffy sighed, which was almost drowned out by Spike’s growl. When she glared at him, he just flashed his fangs and then went back to his drink.
“I don’t know. He quit the Council, so I guess he’s out of work—not counting the library, I guess; but Snyder hates him, so without the Council’s leverage, I don’t know about that job…. I told him to stay away from you until you had time to get over being mad. And I said I quit, too, but I guess that’s not possible….”
Joyce sat up straighter, looking sudden much more alert. “You quit? Can you do that? That would be wonder…ful….” Her voice trailed off as Buffy shook her head and Spike scoffed. “Can’t you?”
While Buffy fumbled for an explanation, Spike spoke up, speaking directly to Joyce.
“She can’t do that, luv.” His voice was unusually gentle as he destroyed her hopes. “Being the Slayer isn’t just what she does, it’s what she IS. She can no more stop being a hero who fights evil than she could suddenly become six inches taller and homely. Even if she thought she could, the vamps and demons would still find her. Just like they did when she was trying to hide out in L.A. I had no trouble finding her, and neither did the other vamps. Even the ones that didn’t know what she was. They knew they wanted to kill her.”
Buffy frowned at him, recognizing the omissions and exaggerations in his description of her time in L.A. as well as leaving out his own part in bringing her out of her funk. But when she accepted the basic truth he was laying out for her mother, she nodded.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I didn’t mean I quit being the slayer. Just that I quit following orders from the Council. I’ll still have to slay. If I don’t, some evil demon will try to take over the hellmouth or something.”
“Oh.” Joyce didn’t try to hide her disappointment, taking a big swallow from her own drink before looking back at Spike. “Are you planning to stay here, then? In case she needs more help with something? That other vampire is worthless.”
Spike choked on the mouthful of scotch he’d just taken.
“No doubt he is,” he said, ignoring Buffy’s glare when he stopped laughing. “But there’s no way this town is big enough for the two of us. And trust me, if he thought I was helping Buffy again…. One of us would be dust. Don’t think the Slayer would like that.” He gave Buffy a quick glance, seeing the shock and dismay on her face. “Even if it was me that lost the fight,” he added. “I need to go. I’ll just finish up my drink and get out of your hair.”
He suited actions to words, tipping the glass up and draining it, then set it down carefully on the coaster and stood up. “Thank you for the hospitality, Joyce.”
“Thank you for being there for my daughter,” she said, also standing up. “Please come back any time. You will always be welcome in this house.”
Spike quirked an eyebrow at Buffy. “That right, pet? Not gonna do a disinvite as soon as I walk out the door this time?”
“The one you had last year is still good. I didn’t remove it when I got back.” She grinned at the surprise on his face and gestured toward the door. “C’mon. I’ll walk you out.”
“You’re not going out slaying tonight, are you, Buffy?” Joyce asked anxiously.
“No Mom. I’ll catch any newbies tomorrow night. I’m just going to walk Spike to his car. You can go on to bed. I promise not to leave again.”
“All right then. Good-night, honey. Good night, Spike.”
Standing on the porch steps, both Buffy and Spike were suddenly tongue-tied and awkward. After a few uncomfortable moments, Buffy reached up and gently brushed her fingers over Spike’s cheek, careful not to push on the bruise.
“I wish you’d let us put something on this,” she said, forgetting that she’d made light of it in front of her mother.
He grabbed her hand and held it near his face as he responded. “Heard what you said, love. You already know I’ll be fine by tomorrow. I’ll hit Willy’s for some O neg, catch a nap in my car, and be on my way before morning.”
“On your way to where?” She didn’t pull her hand away as she waited for his answer. He squeezed and kissed her fingers before letting go.
“Don’t rightly know yet. I reckon this little adventure means Dru will be too brassed off at me for it to be worth heading to South America just yet. But I can’t stay here. Much as I might like to,” he added, moving slightly closer to her.
With her on the porch, and him one step lower, their faces were even and she could see his eyes in the dim light of the street lamp. Her mouth suddenly dry, Buffy wondered why he was standing so close, and why she wasn’t moving away.
“You’d like to?” she breathed. “Really? Wouldn’t you be bored? I mean, I’m still here, so it’s not like you could go around having people for dinner.”
He gave a soft laugh. “Pretty sure I’d never be bored with you around,” he said. “But I was serious about me and the big poof. Even if he didn’t think he had some kind of right to say who you spend time with, he still wouldn’t want me here.”
He raised a hand and caressed the side of her face. “An’ I wouldn’t be very happy knowin’ how much time you were spending with him. It’s just best if I go. I’ll check in from time to time, just in case you need me for something, and if I get a permanent address, I’ll send it to you. Might just go back to L.A. That way I’ll be nearby if you need me.”
“Wha— what if I just want you? To talk to, I mean!” she added quickly. “That’s what friends do, don’t they? Talk to each other sometimes?”
Instead of replying, he tipped her chin up and fastened his lips on hers. He didn’t deepen the kiss until she had allowed herself to soften against him and begin kissing him back, but once she had, he traced his tongue around until she sent hers out to meet it. Buffy made no attempt to block the disloyal thought that Spike’s body fit against hers much better than Angel’s. As the kiss went on, she allowed herself to admit that his kisses were also a better fit. They stood there, oblivious to anything but each other until Buffy had to breathe more deeply. As she pulled her face away, she became aware of the object resting against her hip. She didn’t push back against it, but she didn’t shift away either.
Spike put his forehead against hers and whispered, “I don’t want to be your friend, Buffy. Don’t think I can do that. I’ll come back if and when you want—need—me to, but I can’t stay here to be your friend.”
“Even if there are benefits?” she whispered back, not sure how or if she really meant that, but suddenly very sure she didn’t want him to go away.
His shaky chuckle indicated he wasn’t fooled.
“Know you don’t mean that, sweetheart. If I thought you did…. But you don’t. I’d wager you aren’t even sure what it means.” He lifted his head and released the tight embrace he’d had her in. “I’ll be in touch, love. Take care of yourself.”
With one last barely felt brush of his lips, he was off the steps and into his car before she could even process that he was actually leaving. She raised one hand to her lips, and the other in a small wave as he backed out.
“Stay safe, Spike,” she whispered. “Come back to me someday.”
The end (so far)
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/697294.html