The final part of Loadstone north was just not finished in time and it is now just past midnight. There’s not that much left to do so please do go ahead and read it and I promise to post the final part in my journal in a timely fashion (i’ll even get it beta-ed)
Here are few pages of the final chapter in the hope of gaining your forgiveness and to proove i have written a fair chunk of it.
Ok so i’ve finally finished this chapter and I’m posting it here for completeness as much as anything else. I’ll put the epilogue in this post too.
Part 4: Choosing and Running
If Angel notices her turmoil he doesn’t comment on it. He reaches for her and she doesn’t resist, has no earthly reason to resist him, because he is her love and he touches her freely. And because he is Angel and he knows her heart and body so well, she can almost forget why she might have pulled away.
But not entirely. Because in her mind she is silently telling him, “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” and she can’t help but picture him shattering with pain at her infidelity. And because she keeps thinking that she owes him this and hates herself that she can treat their lovemaking as penance.
Guilt holds her pleasure at bay and so for the first time she acts it out just for his sake and chokes on guilt at the whispered “I love you” he lays against her skin. “Hmmm…” She makes a contented noise that she hopes will satisfy him because she feels she has no right to reply in kind.
In the darkness she watches his sleeping silhouette and promises him—and herself, and any deity that might judge her—that she will not betray him again. She will avoid temptation, she resolves as she strokes his hair with feathered fingers. Stay away from Spike, no matter what the cost. She should suggest they leave but she can’t think of any reasonable excuse she could give for cutting their trip short. And half of her conflicted heart is glad.
She rolls onto her back and closes her eyes, and in those few unguarded moments in the twilight of wakefulness, she is invaded. Her mind overflows with images of him, of the impetuous savagery of his fighting, of his incredible fealty. His beauty, too; his rare true smiles, his sexy smirk and all the indecent things he does with his tongue behind his teeth.
And from deep inside her soul there comes a distant sound, like the warning rumbling of a long dormant volcano. There in the deepest burrows of her heart, like some feral beast stirring after an endless winter’s slumber, hungry and cantankerous, her love for Spike is waking.
“What the hell do you want, Slayer?” Spike’s harsh voice sets her already pounding heart jackhammering in her chest as she steps quietly through the door to his room.
“Spike, don’t,” she commands gently. She can see he’s spoiling for a fight, wants to turn this into something nasty and brutish just to make it easier.
“Don’t what, Slayer?” he growls. “You come sneaking into my room in the middle of the day. Reckon I’ve got a right to ask what you think you’ve come here for.”
“You know why I’m here, Spike” she replies, although she knows she should be asking herself the same question after she promised herself just hours ago that she would stay away. “Last night—”
“Keep it, slayer” he spits, and leans back against the wall, crossing his arms defensively over his bare chest. “I won’t tell a bloody soul.”
“Kept your dirty little secrets before, haven’t I?” His eyes sparkle like heartbreak but his lips sneer upward with contempt. “So run along now. No need to worry about old Spike flapping his tongue.”
It hurts to be reminded of the worst person she’s ever been and all the ways that person hurt him; it makes her sorry and gentle. “That’s not why I’m here Spike. I want—”
“Want what, slayer?” He prowls towards her and she’s mesmerised for a moment by the journey his hand makes down over his own abs and to his belt. “Can only think of one thing you ever wanted from me.” She feels her eyes go wide and rabbity as his fingers begin to slowly work the leather through the buckle, and she’d look away if she weren’t frozen in place.
“Got that itch again, eh Slayer?” His voice is full of disdain and snarling seduction, and she’s ashamed that for all she hates this situation, she’s still faintly aroused by him when he’s this filthy. “Got a taste for lowering yourself again?”
His hands stop toying with his belt in favour of skimming lightly up her bare arms as he comes up close to her. “That clean-living all-American girl act leaving you with a yen for a quick roll in the dirt, is it?” She shudders at his words, spoken right in her ear in a voice that rumbles through her body like a seismic pulse of enticement.
“You’ve come to the right bloke, pet.” His tongue runs along the outer edge of her ear and it’s all she can do not to moan in response, because he always could flick her switch that easily. “You just tell me…” He pauses and pulls back a little as one hand roams slowly from her shoulder over her breast and towards her suddenly tingling pussy. “What do you…” His hand dips between her thighs and presses the denim of her jeans roughly against her clit. “Want?”
Her fist connects with the bridge of his nose with a satisfying crack and he staggers back clutching his face. “I want to get a word in edgeways.”
“God, Spike,” she continues in exasperation. “Why do you have to make this so difficult?”
“Don’t reckon it’s supposed to be a cake walk, slayer,” he shoots back angrily as he prods experimentally at his nose.
“Stop calling me that,” she growls out and stares him down with obdurate eyes.
He matches her glare for long seconds before rolling his eyes. “All right then, Buffy.” He flops gracefully down on the bed and leans back on one elbow making a sweeping gesture with his other hand. “Say on.”
“I…” She sighs a frustrated breath out through her nose and looks down. “I wanted to talk to you about what happened last night.”
“Because.” She shakes her head a little. “Because… I, er, we should er…maybe if…” She falls silent because he’s right. What can she possibly have thought could be gained by coming here?
“Eloquent as ever, pet” His tone is lighter and she gets the feeling he’s going to let her off again. “Nothing much to say, is there, luv?” He calls her love and gives her a pained half smile and her heart flips. “Forget it, yeah.”
She almost takes the out he’s offering her and leaves but his earlier words stop her. No, this isn’t supposed to be easy for her. “Why are you letting me get away with this, Spike?”
“Pet, you know why,” he chides gently as she comes to sit beside him on the bed. “I’m under no illusions ’bout last night. You don’t want me; I know that. I know you just made a mistake.” He drops his head and picks at his nails. “Doesn’t mean I’m too keen on hearing you say it.”
“Spike, I’m sorry.” Her apology just makes him clench his jaw and close his eyes and she berates herself for her own heartlessness. “I wish… Oh, I don’t know I just wish things were different. I wish you’d called me when you came back. I wish when I saw you in LA I’d told you how glad I was to see you instead of acting like such a complete bitch. I just wish—”
“Steady, pet.” He catches her up in the sad humour of his gaze and she swallows hard against the onset of tears. “You don’t lay off all that wishing, D’Hoffryn’ll be sending a whole bloody squadron.”
She makes a huffing sound that approximates poorly to a laugh and looks down at her hands as they fidget nervously in her lap. “God, I am so bad at this.”
“Not your strongest suit, pet.” He lays a hand over hers to still them, and the contact makes her want to laugh and weep at once. “Go on and leave me be, yeah.”
“Ok.” But as she stands to leave, she notices the open bottle of Jack waiting patiently on the nightstand. “You’re not going to drink that, are you?” she asks, pointing at the bottle.
“That was the plan.”
She snatches it up and screws the lid on tight, ignoring his affronted, “Hey!”
“Nuh-uh.” She dodges him when he makes a grab for the bottle and shakes her head. “You are not going to sit here on your own all day, drinking and—and brooding.”
“Yes, I bloody well am.” He grabs again for the bottle and she skips lightly away from him. “Give it.”
“No. You’re supposed to patrol tonight; you can’t be drunk.”
“Can too.” Another lunging swipe of his arm and this time she’s too slow and his hand closes over hers on the bottle’s neck. “Fight good when I’m drunk. Was half cut in Sunnydale every time we went out.”
“No.” She pulls determinedly at the bottle and he tug-o-wars with her over it. “Let go.”
“What the hell do you care if I’m drunk, Slayer?” He tugs sharply again and her light frame follows the bottle so that she smashes against him. “Give me my booze and piss off.”
“Of course I care.” Her eyes flash angrily and she pulls their joined hands back so his knuckles are against her chest. “I’m not gonna let you wallow—”
“Been sodding wallowing and drowning my sorrows since I met you, you irritating bint.” She holds tight as he tries to dislodge the bottle from her grip again, so that their bodies are pressed together with the bottle crushed between them. “Sort of a side effect of being in love with you, so…”
He trails off at the sudden slackening of her body and the stunned look in her eyes. “Slayer?” he asks cautiously when she stays silent. “Luv, what—”
“You still?” She knew, of course she knew. But she didn’t, too, because two years is a long time and people do move on.
He understands her like he always has, and he sighs and tips his head in that way that always precedes those wonderfully eloquent declarations of his. “Course.” His hands release the bottle and escape to lie lightly on her hips. “There’s no off switch for this, Buffy. Love you till I’m dust and even the dust’ll remember loving you.”
She draws in breath shakily. She should never have doubted his constancy or the fealty of his love. “Spike.” It’s all she can say, just his name again, but it feels so different on her lips now.
She hears a faint thump as the bottle hits the plush carpet between their feet and her hands squirm up between their bodies to cup his face. His eyes fall helplessly shut and he leans into her palm. If she doesn’t leave now—right now this instant—she knows she’s going to kiss him, throw open a whole Pandora’s box of bad. But how can she step away from him when his eyes are open again and the love she’d thought was little more than embers is blazing there again? “Buffy.” His hands tighten on her hips and she’s pulled a little tighter to his body. “God, Buffy.”
And then she’s kissing him again and soaring and falling at once. He moans into her mouth and it’s such a helpless sound that she knows he’s falling, too, and there’s no one now to catch them.
They kiss for eons, she thinks. Hours and days fly past and all there is is this. She comes to the surface of their private ocean with a gasp for air before she goes under with him again, plunging deep into the blue, lost beneath the storm-tossed waves.
“Buffy.” He pulls away and that swimming, falling, drowning, soaring sensation she’d thought would never end washes suddenly away, leaving her on dry land and staggering to keep her balance. “Pet?”
She gasps and step away, her fingers already against her own lips. And she’s terrified, afraid beyond life or death or apocalyptic battles. And for all that she’s the bravest of the brave, she runs.
A war rages in her chest. If she closes her eyes, she has painted fractured images of the combatants. One is large, strong and unshakable; the smart money she knows is on this fighter—the defending champion. The challenger is smaller and untried but cunning and tenacious, and she knows it will never give up.
She never for a moment imagined that it would come to this. To a simple, oh-so-terribly-complicated choice between the two of them. But Spike’s words are ringing in her head and his kisses still flavour her lips–different kisses these to the night before, because these are the kisses of a man she knows to be in love–and so she has a decision to make.
She thinks of Angel. Angel and how he loves her, how she has loved him for so long. She sees their future stretching out along a long, sunny road. She sees children and laughter and love. She sees a full life and a contented old age. She sees happiness.
She thinks of Spike. Spike and how he loves her, how she has fought with loving him for so long. She sees their future shattered over black rocks. She sees endless struggle and a barren womb.
To choose Spike, she knows, is to take up the sword again because he was more destined for this fight than even she. Too choose Spike is to give up everything she has found that gives her happiness with no guarantee that she will find it again. For all that they have been to one another, for all that he has given her of himself and all that she has taken, they still don’t know if they would make each other happy.
And Angel does. He knows her heart, her soul, her strange ornery ways. He is her perfect fit and he fits her perfectly. There is no risk in choosing Angel, no negative.
It should be the simplest decision she has ever made and yet she finds it impossible. And so the twisted logic of her heart spins around, like a snake devouring its own tail, and becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy of loving him.
The decision in the end is simplicity itself and once made she wonders how she could ever have not known which she would choose.
She steps past Willow’s door and on, ignoring Dawn’s. She has to tell someone; she doesn’t think she can go into this cold. But neither of them will do because Willow’ll be too fazed and Dawn might like it a little too much.
She finds Giles in the library and knows he’s the one. Because he’ll judge her, but only fairly, and she needs his calmness now. “I’m leaving Angel,” she opens without preamble and sits down heavily on the table her eyes expectantly on him.
“My dear.” He settles beside her and looks at her with unruffled concern. “Why on earth? I thought you and he were happy together.”
“We are. We were.” She shakes her head sadly. “It’s not that. It’s…” She trails off for a moment while she gathers her courage. “There’s someone else. I’m leaving him for someone else.”
“Good lord.” He looks at her with a mixture of surprise and knowing resignation. “Do I want to ask who?”
“From that reaction, I guess you guessed,” she replies dryly and with a roll of her eyes.
“Will you stop with the good lords already?” she demands a little defensively. “You can cut straight to the disapproval, give me the whole ‘it’s a mistake’ speech.”
“Doubtless it is,” he responds with the slightest of smiles. “If it were for me to choose, then no, I wouldn’t choose this for you. I want so much better for you than anything he can offer, and I don’t doubt for a moment that he’ll make you utterly miserable.”
She laughs then at his wry smile and drops her gaze. “But the choice isn’t mine.” He continues with a gentle sincerity that feels as comforting as a blanket around her shoulders. “Your heart is your own to follow. All I could ask is that you be sure, and I know you well enough to know you wouldn’t hurt Angel if you weren’t quite certain this is what you must do.”
She nods pensively. “I’m sure,” she tells him firmly. “I’m probably crazy but I’m sure.”
“Quite, quite insane.” He smiles warmly at her and affection flows between them. “But then one cannot be both wise and in love.”
“Thanks, Giles.” She pours all her gratitude into the smile she substitutes for the hug she knows would just make him uncomfortable. “Now I just need to figure out how to tell Angel. He’s going to be really hurt.”
“An understatement, I should think, but unavoidable in the circumstances.” He seems to realise that his words offer little comfort and readjusts quickly. “However, Angel is remarkably resilient. Straight to the point I think.”
“Yeah.” She sighs heavily and the sick feeling in her gut broils up into outright nausea. “Straight to it.”
He knows he shouldn’t get his hopes up. But whatever happened between them that morning, he knows it was different to anything that has happened before. He’s spent the best part of the day fretting about it, tied himself up in knots running the scene over and over in his mind, replaying every detail of her voice, her face, her incredible touch.
He knew he’d sat too long when he’d felt the sun dip beneath the horizon and the tip of his wrist had yielded only the barest trickle of liquor. He should wait for her, he supposes, to make the next move, but he always was impatient and impetuous and the waiting would kill him even more surely than her rejection.
So he’ll go to her and make her send him away. At least then he can know for sure that his love is hopeless and maybe, just maybe, he’ll be able to let her go. Bury his love for her deep in the poor earth of his derelict heart and move on to whatever approximation of contentment he can find without her.
“You think that’s what this is about?” Her voice comes loudly through the door as his hand touches the handle, and he stops dead still—still as the corpse he is—and listens. “You think I have some schoolgirl crush on Spike? You’re wrong.”
He keeps his heartbreak silent, doesn’t even sigh as he turns to lean his back against her door and hear out the rest of her judgement. “It could never be that.” She declares it like the unshakable truth he knows it is, and if he had to breathe for it he’d choke right now. “Not with him.” She pauses and his world pauses with her. Through the door he hears Angel sigh. “He’s the one person in the world who really makes me angry. He’s a son of a bitch who just loves to find my weak spots and twist the knife in. There have been times when I have hated him like I’ve never hated anything.” She drives a spear of reality through the door and pins him there like a forgotten butterfly. “He tried to rape me, for God’s sake.”
And with that every false hope that had been holding him together lets go. He slips in slow motion, down the door till he’s sitting straight legged and vacant eyed on the floor
“So if you think I’m infatuated with Spike,” she goes on after the longest silence, in which he thinks he feels his body finally acknowledge that it is dead, “then you’re crazy.”
He doesn’t know how he gets to his feet in order to sway drunkenly away from the finality of her voice, but distance gives him strength so that by the time he reaches he end of the hall he’s moving with fast, purposeful strides.
“Rogue.” The door bangs hard against the wall, cracking plaster and filling the common room with sound. “We’re leaving.”
“What? No way, man.” She glances at Xander, and if he had time to see her now he’d see that she has invested a little of herself here, more than she usually does at least, and she’s not ready to cut and run just yet.
“I’m going,” he growls, his own pain making him impatient with her hesitancy. “Come with me now, Faith, or find a someone else to watch your back.”
“Whoa.” She’s on her feet and squaring up to him then, all slayer piss and vinegar. “Cool it, badass. I’m not your dog.”
“Please, Faithful.” She sees the cracks spider-webbing out over his composure. And underneath, that fragile heart she can’t help caring for because she knows him like herself. “I can’t stay here. Please, luv.” Still she’s indecisive for a moment and her gaze flashes between Spike and Xander.
“Give me five,” she tells him and goes without a glance at what might have been, because she’s not quite brave enough yet to give up the devil she knows—at least not when she knows that devil’s heart just got broke up again.
She hears engines revving in the courtyard under her window but doesn’t pay it any mind. Not with Angel standing tearfully before her telling her not to—please not to—leave him. Trying to tell her that she is mistaken, that she is confused by Spike. Infatuated, perhaps, or moonstruck, but not in love. Not with Spike.
“If this isn’t real then nothing is.” She tells it as she has come to understand it herself and hopes he’ll accept her decision. “If I can look back at all the ways we’ve hurt each other and still find myself in love, then this has to be the real thing. I’m sorry, Angel, I really am. The last thing I ever wanted was to hurt you, but I’ve made my choice.”
“No, Buffy. Whatever’s wrong between us, we can fix it. We can—” He’s pleading now and a little desperate, and she wonders why love must steal pride as well as heart.
“There’s nothing wrong, Angel. That’s not it.”
“Because I’m in love with him. Nasty, messy, this-is-probably-a-mistake-but-I-can’t-help-it love.” She hates that she has to break it down for Angel like this but she’s already tried the gentler approach, all that trite, “it’s not you, it’s me” crap that he just wouldn’t accept. “I love you, Angel. Of course I do—”
“Then don’t do this, Buffy.” His mood shifts to an angered impatience. “We’re meant for each other. We always were. Whatever this is with Spike, it’s nothing compared to that.”
“Angel, I’m not coming back to LA with you,” she tells him firmly, and yet gentle and patient, too, because Angel never did enrage her like Spike does. “I’m staying here with Spike.” And one more useless time she’ll say it; then she has to walk away. “I’m sorry.”
“He’s gone,” Dawn tells her and frowns a worried pretty frown. “He just swooped by all creature of the night and took off on his bike. Faith went, too.”
“They left?” Buffy shakes her head and knows her face is a picture of confusion, because she can’t get her head around him going—not now, when she was finally ready for him to be here. “Why?”
“Don’t know, but he looked pissed,” Dawn shrugs and huffs. “And now Xander’s all mopey because he was so gonna ask Faith out tonight.”
“Xander was…” She lets the question go. Not her business, and she has her own love life to attend to. “He didn’t tell anyone why he was leaving?”
“Nope.” Dawn gives a slight shake of her head and studies her sister’s panicked eyes with interest. “Xander said he just charged into the library and took Faith.”
Buffy finds Xander flicking aimlessly through the channels on the common room’s television and eating crisps with a sort of determined melancholy. “About twenty minutes ago,” her friend tells her. She can tell he’s disappointed at not getting a chance with Faith, which is far too mind-boggling a thought to deal with on top of Spike’s unexplained departure. “He came in looking ready to go all Scourge of Europe on us and demanded she take off with him. Didn’t think she would, but he gives her the blue eyes and the ‘please, luv,’ and she couldn’t jump fast enough. Tell me, Buff. What the hell is it about that guy that—”
“Twenty minutes?” she cuts in. Perhaps she could catch him up if she knew which way he was heading, smack him upside the head and find out why the hell he’s bailing on them now.
She’s already taken three purposeful strides towards the exit when Xander’s voice stops her. “Buff, you can’t.” She stops and knows it’s true because they’re already two fighters down and only hours away from the Brelrog mating ritual.
“I’m sorry, Buffy,” he tells her back as she stands in the doorway, accepting her duty like always, and though she hates it, it feels a little like home and there’s comfort in it. “I know you wanna go chasing after them,” he says gently, and she loves him for understanding, for not judging her. “I kinda want to, too, but—”
“I know.” She turns to him and smiles a little, because she does so love it when they’re on the same side.
“Maybe after…” He trails off because it seems a long shot finding them when they’ve been moving under the radar for so long.
“Yes.” She nods because he doesn’t sound convinced and she is. Convinced that if he’s with her then they will succeed. “After.”
The fight with the Brelrogs isn’t exactly an anti-climax and, yes, Xander was probably right that it would have been too much for the newbies if she hadn’t been there. Still it’s a far cry from the Sunnydale apocalypses she’s used to, and without Spike around to glory in the uncomplicated brutality of the fight, she’s left with a cool, rather clinical feeling of satisfaction.
“Good work, Buffy,” Giles says in the aftermath, and she nods and smiles. It is nice that she still makes him so proud.
Xander and Willow come away from the fight far less bruised that she and her slayers despite Xander’s cut backside. “This is not a cool place for a scar,” he’d groused after the slayer central medic had stitched him up.
They’d had to laugh then, the three of them together, and she’d been glad to be part of this fight again despite the pain of returning to find Angel gone without a word and the stinging absence of her new love.
The next day it’s Xander who brings it up over breakfast. “So, Wills. Revived and recharged?”
“And ready and willing,” Willow replies with a smile. “So, Buff, you got any kinky keepsakes for me?” At Buffy’s startled look she shakes her head vigorously and babbles. “Not you and me kinky. I mean, not gay kinky. Just something you kept that might have been—or not been—kinky.” She looks at Xander for help. “‘Cos you know Spike; kinda kinky.”
“I got ya, Wills,” he assures her, and she looks relieved.
“Guys,” Buffy interjects. “What’s going on?”
“Oh, I just need something of Spike’s for the spell,” Willow clarifies. “Doesn’t matter what, just something that belongs to him.”
“We’re doing a locator spell?”
“Oh yeah,” Xander answers bullishly. “It’s not optional, by the way. I’m planning on using you and Spike as an excuse to see Faith again.”
“But…” She trails off. But what? She’s warming up to place obstacles in the way to stop this happening. And why? Because a part of her is sure she scared him off and that part just wants to hide. “I don’t have anything of his.”
“Well, he doesn’t have to actually own it. It just has to be something he’s handled a lot recently.” They all stop at once and look back and forth between each other’s gazes. She breaks first, lifting a hand girlishly to hide her giggle.
“It kinda has to be inanimate,” Willow clarifies with a grin, and Buffy nods and closes her lips against the laughter.
“Oh!” Buffy snaps her fingers. She dashes to his room and returns with the bloodstained baseball bat that he’s made his with the kills he’s made this week. “This do?”
Willow’s so powerful now, so in control, she doesn’t even need to set up. No more stinky herbs for their super witch. She just lays a delicate hand on the shaft, after spending several moments looking for a section not stained with gore, and closes her eyes.
“Oh yeah,” Willow grins when she opens her eyes. “You’ll be like Meg Ryan or Deborah Kerr, er, without the crippling car accident of course. Plus shopping.”
“New York?” She sighs a little because it seems a long way to go just to get away from her.
“Yep.” Willow gives her a perky, encouraging smile. “Come on, Buffy. Love and shoes? This has gotta be the best mission ever.”
“Classy.” Buffy looks disconsolately at the neon sign that crowns the doorway of the basement club. “Coulda skipped the whole locator spell and just hit the nearest strip joint.”
Willow gives an awkward shrug and a grimace of a smile that’s supposed to be encouraging. “It might be nice inside. Not so—” she waves a hand vaguely at the seedy entrance, “tacky.”
The slayer just raises a sceptical eyebrow and humphs a little before squaring her shoulders and facing the door. “Thanks, Wills,” she says without looking away from the peeling paintwork. “You go help Xan. I’ll call you later, ok.” And with that she’s pushing her way through the door and past the bored-looking bouncer who’s only too pleased to let her in at the cost of a smile.
Inside it’s every bit as bad as she’d imagined. The low lighting does little to disguise décor that would have been shabby a decade ago or the dismal lechery of the patrons. In the centre of the room, an emaciated looking brunette wanders disinterestedly around a pole on a low stage, stopping occasionally to swing her naked breast in the direction of a client or give a lacklustre shake of her hips.
She approaches his back cautiously and wonders, not for the first time, what the hell she’s doing tracking down a demon in a dive like this when she’d had everything life could offer and an Angel to share it with.
The waitress, a pretty topless girl with high pert breasts, cuts across her path and comes to Spike’s table. “Hey, sugar,” the girl greets with a familiarity that she suspects is more than just fishing for tips, and jealousy flares in her chest. “Usual?”
He nods and she gives him a sweet sympathetic smile and runs her hand down his arm. “You okay, honey?” she asks with a frown of concern, and Buffy thinks that his expression must look pretty damn forlorn if he’s got the clientele in a place like this showering him with sympathy.
“‘M fine, ducks,” he assures her, though there’s not much conviction in it. “Run along now; don’t fret yourself over the likes of me.”
Buffy hangs back long enough for the waitress to return with a bottle of beer and a shot of something fiery that he knocks back straight from her tray. “I get off in an hour if you want some company,” she offers, and as he leans back a little Buffy can see his profile as he gives the girl a suggestive smile and a drawled, “sure thing, pet.” And then she goes, leaving the beer and earning a light tap on her behind that the slayer suspects wouldn’t have made her smile so coyly if it’d been delivered by the sweating overweight business man at the neighbouring table.
“She got a name?” She makes her presence known with mordant dryness and he starts visibly as he turns to face her. “Really, she seems nice.” She hadn’t realised until she saw him that she was quite this bitter about his leaving. “For a stripper.”
“Buffy?” He’s all kinds of surprised to see her. Shouldn’t he know by now to expect the unexpected where she’s concerned?
“You come here often?” she continues nastily, although she’s not sure why she’s behaving like this when she’s come all this way to find him. “It’s nice, classy. Worth the road trip just for this.”
“What am I doing here?” She tosses her hair; suddenly she’s spoiling for a fight. “Gee, Spike, you know me. I’m just crazy for craptastic titty bars—”
“Slayer.” He grabs her forearm and swings her roughly into the seat opposite. She falls sullenly silent and stares him down.
“Buffy, luv, talk to me. What you doing all this way from home?” His brow furrows and he leans conspiratorially toward her. “You need help? Something going down?”
“Like you’d care,” she hisses back and snatches her arm free from his loosening grip. “Where were you when we took on the Brelrogs? Oh yeah, I remember. You bailed.”
“Time to move on was all.” He lights a cigarette and pretends he’s not just buying time. “Handled it, didn’t you? So whatever nasties got you down in this hole in the ground chattin’ up old Spike must be a sight worse that that.”
Suddenly she’s so very tired of all this bitching and scrapping they always do. These games they play. Defensiveness and mixed signals she’d called it way back before he closed the Hellmouth and nothings changed. They’re still pushing each other’s buttons so they don’t have to admit how vulnerable this love can leave them.
“Spit it out, Slayer,” he demands sharply when she doesn’t respond. “What’s your big bad?”
She swallows thickly and meets his gaze. “You are,” she says simply, and her eyes convey such a mixed up jumble of emotions that he’s left shaking his head in confusion. “Why did you run away?”
“Didn’t run a-sodding-way,” he grumbles. “Just needed a change of scene was all. Didn’t think I’d be missed.”
“What? How can you say that?”
“Heard your big show and tell for Angel. Didn’t think the pompous bastard’d be so insecure. Still, you set his mind to rest, didn’t you, pet?”
Her conversation with Angel flashes through her brain and she can just bet which part Spike heard. “Great,” she mutters with a self-indulgent feeling of resigned bitterness. “Gotta love that fabulous Buffy luck.”
“Look, Spike, I know what you heard, ok. But you heard wrong, or you didn’t hear everything.”
“No,” she tells him and she’s just the right mix of earnest and impatient to make him listen. “You really didn’t. I broke up with Angel.” She shakes her head and looks down, lost for a moment in regret for the pain she caused her beloved Angel. “I just had to. I couldn’t be with him. Not anymore.”
He narrows his eyes and watches her like she’s a serpent that might strike at any second. “Why’s that then, pet?” he asks in a voice so carefully neutral it gives him away as scared as hell. “Thought you and peaches were living the happy ever after and all that bollocks.”
She gives a rueful inward smile and shakes her head at that. “Yeah, me too.”
“So what changed?”
“What do you think? You dope.” Somehow she’s always found that being honest with Spike is easier when she’s giving him a hard time. “You think you can just roll back into my life and not change something, everything. God, Spike, are you really this big an idiot?”
“Come home with me,” she asks then, and it’s a demand and a plea and nothing in between.
He’s quiet for longer than is natural for him, and it makes her whole existence spin with anxiety. “Buffy,” he says at last, and she can tell from his tone that it’s not going to be what she wants to hear. “Nothing in the world I’d like better. But I reckon we both know it’s not a good idea. I’m all wrong for you, slayer, and being around you’s not much bloody good for me, either. You can do a sight better than me, luv. We both know it.”
She feels the first dab of moisture in her eyes and slams down hard on the impulse to cry, to scream petulantly that he’s “wrong, wrong, wrong,” that they could be the very image of love’s young dream if he’d only come with her. She doesn’t because she doesn’t know if it’s true, doesn’t know if he’s right or wrong or if it’s just pipe dreams and wishful thinking that brought her here. So she looks him straight in those gorgeous blue eyes of his and tells him the only thing she is certain of. “I love you.”
Her words rock him. Literally rock him back in his chair like she’s struck him. And for one wonderful moment she thinks it’ll be enough. “Not the bloody point, pet,” he says when he’s forced the wonder from his eyes and retreated again behind whatever delusional of nobility he’s constructed. “Point is, one way or another, we end up hurting each other. Either that or the cosmos shafts us.” He takes a sharp hard breath in through his nose and she can see him gathering his strength for what he’ll say next. “Go back to Angel, if he’ll have you,” he forces out with a stubborn, stoic look in his eyes. “Fates don’t want this.”
He’s already risen and walked by her by the time her body catches up with her furious mind and she’s leapt to her feet to drag him back around to face her. “Screw the fates, Spike.” She’s raging now and giving the bored bar’s bored patrons a show that even the dancers pause to watch. “And screw you. God, if you think I’m just gonna give up and slink back to Angel with my tail between my legs—”
“Be for the best, pet,” he interrupts with a sigh, and she wonders if her woe-is-me martyrdom act was this infuriating. “Only way we’re not gonna end up being the death of each other.”
“No.” She uses a shot of slayer power to drag him roughly into the corridor that exits the bar. “I have given up everything,” she hisses angrily when they no longer have an audience. “My job, my home, my boyfriend. I’ve chased halfway across the country just to take a chance on you.” She has his attention and she holds on to it tight with mulish eyes. “Finally, I’m being brave about this. Don’t you go yellow on me now, Spike. Don’t you dare.”
“No!” Her hands go up to silence him. To deny whatever foolish objection he’s crazy if he thinks she’ll accept. “Just shut up. I don’t know what you’re so scared of—”
“I’m scared of—”
“And I don’t care,” she cuts in, and she looks like the don’t-mess-with-me slayer that’s told the world’s greatest evil to come and have a go. “You are going to get un-scared and fast because this is happening. We are going to be together. We’re going to date and hold hands and all of it, and we are going to be happy.”
She stops to catch her breath and regards his comically startled expression, wondering if she just blew it with her bossy-Buffy routine. Then a sly grin shapes his mouth and his eyes twinkle. “Are we at that?” he asks with a teasing lift of his eyebrows. “Says you.” He steps in then, invading her space in a way she used to hate and knows she’ll hate again in the not too distant future. Right at this moment, though—just now—it makes her bubble up inside with desire. “Got it mapped out, have you, slayer?” He tilts his head and ghosts his palm over her hair. “Fancy yourself the one to get me house trained and what all?”
She supposes he meant to sound derisive, but in truth, she thinks he might like the idea of a little domesticating. “I think I’ve got a shot,” she says with a fey smile as she steps in close to kiss him. And she thinks that, for once, this is perfect. She’s had a chance to say her piece, to leave him in no doubt whatsoever about her intentions. But she hasn’t had to resort to punching him squarely in the nose.
“Buffy.” His shaky voice stops her just as her eyes are falling shut in anticipation. “Wait.”
“Wait?” She sticks out her bottom lip and all that slayer spunk is gone and she’s a pretty, pouting little girl who was promised candy. “No. No waiting.”
“Just wanna be sure, yeah?”
“When…” She feels a sudden wave of uncertainty. He did run away from her after all, and her voice shrinks a little. “When did you stop being sure?”
“Not me, love. You.” He touches her cheek and the roughness of his skin makes her own feel satiny. “Don’t want you doing nothing you’ll have cause to regret later.”
“Not gonna happen.” She’ll forgive him his hesitancy because she really has been a bitch over the years, but she won’t let it stop them. She grins perkily at him and her fingers find his belt loops so she can pull him flush against her with a jerk. “You are looking at the all-new, regret-free Buffy.”
“And bloody lovely she looks, too.” And she does, because when she’s happy like this, she eclipses everything around her. Oh, he loves her angry, too, that hotter than the sun fire in her, that flashing fury in her eyes. Loves her dirty and miserable and petty, too; more fool him.
But this uncomplicated happiness, perhaps because he’s never been the cause of it before, he thinks is the best colour in her rainbow. She smiles and blushes—another good colour on her—and hides her face from his adoring scrutiny. “Spike?”
“Any chance you could be kissing me now?”
The kiss carries them all the way to the seedy motel room he shares with Faith and Buffy can’t ignore the other slayer’s obtrusive presence in the empty room. “Cosy,” she comments dryly with a lift of her eyebrow as she picks Faith’s black lace bra off Spike’s barely straightened bedspread and tosses it contemptuously onto the chaotic heap of clothes and sheets that she assumes is Faith’s—better-damn-well-had-be-Faith’s—bed. “Faith’s quite the domestic goddess, huh?”
He gives her an embarrassed half smile that’s more little boy than big bad, and she forgets why the squalid domesticity of the room had irked her so much. “Place could probably use a clean up, yeah.” He scratches the back of his neck and glances around. “You wanna go out maybe?” he offers. “Could take you out dancing or dinner someplace nice.” He looks uncomfortable and she has to fight to keep from laughing at him, Mr Seduction himself, all at sea over where to take his girl for a date. “Or, er, there’s a bar just a couple of blocks away. It’s quite posh.”
“Sounds great.” She gives him a fey smile and tips her head towards the bed. “Or…”
In an instant he’s back to himself, prowling towards her with hunter-bedroom eyes. “Or?” he purrs as he comes up close and trails his lips lazily down the side of her throat. “Wanna stay in, pet?” His hands come gliding up her hips and his teeth find her earlobe. “Got some catchin’ up to do, me and you.”
She moves to touch him then but he’s quick, catches up her hands behind her back and restrains her wrists loosely with one hand. “Please, pet,” he murmurs as his free hand travels lazily over her shoulder. “Let me, ‘k? Missed you so much. Let me just touch you.”
She nods mutely. She had forgotten how mercurial he can be, with his swift heart and nimble moods. But when he is taken by the moment she is always taken by him, like driftwood carried on his eddying passions. She closes her eyes to savour his touch and opens them again because she can’t bear not to see him.
He makes an idol of her then, his goddess Buffy, and she feels like the queen he declares her to be as his lips and hands ghost over her skin. Finally she can’t stand it any longer and he doesn’t complain when her hands reach to strip him of the big bad uniform that defines him and doesn’t begin to touch the complexities of who he is.
“Love you,” he tells the skin of her naked breast as she fumbles with his belt, and the declaration paralyses her hands for the longest moment.
“Spike,” she gasps when she comes back to herself, suddenly desperate then to get him naked and inside her. “Please, Spike.”
She draws him down onto the bed with such a feeling of rightness in her heart that she can’t help but laugh out loud. And he laughs, too, for no better reason than that she started it. “My love,” she whispers when their laughter dies away. “My love.”
His body seems to ripple with her words and he stops touching her. He watches her eyes and denies her his body, and her neglected passion flares all the brighter. ”Please,” she whimpers, because it has never hurt her pride to beg him. “Please.”
And the rest is simple. They always were so very good at this. Their bodies fall into a rhythm no amount of time could have made either forget, and their hearts, intrepid, explore this virgin landscape of love and new beginnings.
They make love and sleep and wake and make love again. And when finally the frenetic energy that powered her quest to find him is all used up, she lies in his arms and feels the fear come.
And he knows, of course, because he not only loves her best in all the world but knows her heart like his own. “It’ll be alright, pet,” he murmurs softly, and runs soothing hands over her tangled hair. “Not sayin’ it’s gonna be all hearts and bloody flowers, but we’ll muddle through.”
She nods. She doesn’t need to tell him that hearts and flowers aren’t so much her thing these days, or that she’s half looking forward to when things get tough because that’s when their fire burns the hottest.
Still she wouldn’t be the girl she is if her head wasn’t spinning with all the ways this could go wrong, or if her heart wasn’t gripped with the fear of getting hurt again.
“Hey.” His fingers find her cheek and his eyes find her uncertain gaze. “I love you.”
It’s all it takes to make everything go quiet inside and she sighs a small, content sigh and answers him with unpractised ease. “I love you, too.”
He smirks and she’s swept away again, thinking that he’s never said a truer word. “Well, that works out nicely then.”
——– Just a short epilogue to go I’ll post it here and in my journal
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/153358.html