Obstacles Part 2/3

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series Heroes in Hell
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Obstacles Part Two 

“Give me the phone.” She held out her hand for it, but he waved her away.

“In a minute. I wanna talk to him first.”

Then, to her complete astonishment, he went back into the kitchen, slamming the door behind him. At once, she could hear his raised voice, but she couldn’t make out the words.

Her first instinct was to go after him. Angel must want to speak to her, not him. But she changed her mind when the raised voice lowered a little and there were even silences. He must be letting Angel get a word in edgewise.

Whatever Angel had called about, there was always a slim chance he could knock some sense into Spike as well.

In the meantime, she busied herself tidying the living room – stacking the piles of old newspapers ready for recycling – plumping up the chintzy cushions. The room needed to be vacuumed too, but she wasn’t the one who’d gotten cigarette ash on the carpet, and there was no way she was cleaning it up.

She frowned at the grey, powdery mark with his boot print right in the middle of it. Was this going to be her life now – cleaning up after some guy who hadn’t even noticed what a mess he’d made? Was this what it all came down to? She could remember Mom saying something similar – shouting it, more like – one time not long before she and Dad split up.

Another wave of acute homesickness overtook her. Mom – she still missed her so much, and she didn’t even have a grave to go visit.

Just then, the kitchen door flew open and Spike came back into the room, pulling on his duster. His face was set and white.

“Here. Poof wants to talk to you.” He thrust the phone into her hands, and a moment later he was out the front door and gone into the rain. Then, she heard the roar of a motorbike engine.

She put the phone to her ear. “What the hell did you say to him?”

“Hello to you too, Buffy.”

“Sorry.” She gritted her teeth. Start again, Buffy. “How are you, Angel? How’s – things?” Best not ask him, she supposed, how was life as C.E.O. of Evil Incorporated.

“Oh – you know,” he said, in a let’s-not-talk-about-that voice. “More importantly, how’re you, Buffy?”

The badly concealed question behind the question was enough to tell her that he knew.

“I’m okay,” she said, as perkily as she could. “Not a Slayer any more but, you know – okay.”

“Sure?” he asked, with what was obviously real concern, and, as with Giles before, a sudden urge to tell him everything came over her. She clenched the handset tight in her fist.

“Sure. Everything’s just peachy.”

“Er – okay.” He sounded at a loss now. Then his voice took on an irritable note. “Not now, Harmony. I’m busy.”

She grimaced. The idea of Harmony– of all people -as his P.A. was just too weird.

“How’s Willow?” he asked, then, and she realised he was going to run through all of them one by one– Willow, Xander, Giles – before he got to the point.

“What did you call about, Angel? And what did you say to Spike?”

There was a short pause. Then he said, “I found out about you losing your powers – kind of through the grapevine, I guess -Dawn told Connor, Connor told me –and I was worried about you, Buffy. I called to see how you were. As for Spike –”

He paused again.

“Yeah?” she prompted him – and how weird was it that Dawn and Angel’s son were study-buddies at Stanford now?

“I told him,” Angel went on all in a rush, “that now you have a chance to live a normal life, maybe he should do the decent thing and leave you to it.”

“What? You told him – what?” She was so shocked she almost dropped the phone.

“No, not really.” He laughed nervously. “Just kidding Buffy, I swear.”

She glared at the handset as if he could see her through it. “You know something, I’m not sure I like you any more now that you’ve gotten Angelus’s sense of humour. Living the high life in the Empire of Evil hasn’t been good for you.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” The words almost tripped over themselves trying to get out. “At least – mostly.”

“What do you mean, mostly?” Her legs felt all wobbly and she flopped down onto the couch. Was it delayed shock?

“I mean that if he carries on the way he is, I damn well will say it to him, and mean it.”

“Oh.” The prickly sensation in her eyes was back yet again. “I heard him shouting.”

“Yeah well,” Angel’s voice dropped to a sulky mutter, “guy’s an asshole – always has been.”

At once, her hackles rose. Why did old boyfriends always seem to think that bad-mouthing the current one would earn them brownie points?

“Funny,” she said. “That’s what he says about you – and at least he’s not helping run the world’s most evil law firm.”

There was another pause. Then, Angel said, “Point.” He sighed irritably. “I’m sorry, Buffy. Guess he and me just rub each other the wrong way these days, but I didn’t call to lecture him or try to make things worse, I swear. I wouldn’t do that to you.”

“So what did happen?”

“Truthfully – he asked me for advice – said you’d given up –that you weren’t interested in getting your powers back, wouldn’t even speak to the other Slayers, just wanted to sit around and feel sorry for yourself. Asked me what I’d do in his place to try and motivate you – well, he actually said to get you off your ass, but I guess that’s what he meant.”

“What?” She almost dropped the phone again. “He said – what?”

“That’s what I said to him.” Angel sighed again. “Told him he should let you work it out for yourself – you always do -and in the meantime, if he couldn’t deal with having a girlfriend who isn’t super-powered, he should – er, consider his options.”

When she didn’t speak, he went on hurriedly, “So then he said what would I know about it since I’m dating a werewolf, and I said Nina’s only a werewolf three days a month. Then he accused me of saying it was all his fault. I said I wasn’t – no way. And then he called me a dickhead and stormed off.”

She cleared her throat.

“Do you think I’ve given up?”

“Er –”

It obviously wasn’t what he’d expected her to say.

“Do you?” she pressed.

She could almost hear his embarrassed shrug. “I don’t know, Buffy. It doesn’t seem like you, but then again, you’ve been the Slayer for almost ten years now. Seems to me you’re due for a break.”

“Yeah.” She remembered thinking the same thing while staring at the crater Spike had made of Sunnydale. “I thought so.”

“Guess his reaction doesn’t surprise me, though,” Angel went on. “After all, he is a demon.”

So are you, she almost shot back. He seemed to forget that sometimes. Instead, she said, “What does that have to do with it?”

“Oh,” Angel said. “It’s change. Demons don’t cope so well with it.”

When again she didn’t answer, he went on, “I mean, you must have noticed how often vampires get stuck in a time warp – the music, the clothes?”

“Trust you to notice that.” She’d hardly heard what he said, though. At his words, it was like a light went on inside her head.

“You’re right. He is an asshole.”

“Er-” he said, again. “More than usual?” She could imagine him frowning now– that great caveman brow scrunching up – “What’d he do?”

“He hasn’t done anything. That’s the whole problem. He’s – stuck.”

Suddenly, the tears had gathered in her eyes again, and yet again she fought them off. She shouldn’t have said that – not to Angel. None of this was his business.

“Okay, it’s nothing. Forget I said it. He’s being a royal pain, that’s all.”

“So – situation normal, then?” Angel sounded nervous now – like a guy who’d just sleepwalked into a minefield.

“Something like,” she admitted. She cleared her throat. It was time to end this conversation. “He loves me, Angel. I hope you get that?”

Another of those awkward silences, then he said, “Yeah, I get it.”

“And I love him,” she went on. “But this –neither of us signed up for it.”

“No.” He hesitated. “Er -guess that’s where for better, for worse comes in. I mean, I know you two aren’t married, but -”

Her heart did the lurching thing again. She cleared her throat again, buying time while she worked out how to respond.

“Oh please!” she managed at last. “Could you be any more cheesy!”

“Sure,” he said. “I mean- I could sing you some Manilow if you like.”

This time, she laughed, though she still felt like she’d taken a punch to the gut.

“Goodbye, Angel. Thanks for calling.”

“Any time,” he said.

She heard him yawn. It must be nearly daybreak in L.A. by now.

“Take care of yourself, Buffy.” He hesitated again. “Take care of the idiot too.”

“And you.” She clicked the phone off and put it back in its cradle.


When Spike returned, he was sporting a bruise on his left cheekbone and a split lip. He shrugged when she asked him what had happened.

“Dunno. PMS maybe? They’re all on a pretty short fuse up there, specially the older ones.”

He looked her straight in the eye as he said this, but she frowned and turned away.

“Your lip is split,” she said –stating the obvious. “Can I get you anything for it?”

He shrugged again. “No bloody point. It’ll be fine.” Then he said shyly – almost like she was a total stranger –”Thanks for asking, though.”

If she still had her Slayer strength, she thought, the pencil she’d been using to write a grocery list would’ve been splinters at this point.

“Spike –” she began, but yet again, he interrupted her.

“What did the old man have to say, then? Anything useful?”

“Useful?” She blinked.

“Yeah, you know, about your – your problem. If there’s anywhere in the world they have the resources to help you, it’s there – Wolfram & Hart.”

You asked him that?” She couldn’t believe it. Why hadn’t Angel told her?

He gave her a defiant look. “Can bloody bet I did. About time Angel started doing what he said he was gonna do -using that place to help people. And how better to start than by helping you?”

“Help you, you mean.” The words were out before she could stop them.

His jaw dropped. “What?”

Now that she’d started, she couldn’t stop herself. Besides, it was about time he heard it.

“You know, Spike, right now I wish I did have my powers back, just so I could punch you in the nose like you deserve.”

“Oh, that’s nice.” He’d been taking his duster off, but now he paused with it half-on, half-off his shoulders. “I try to help you and that’s all the thanks I get.”

“But you’re not trying to help me. You’re trying to help yourself. Ah-ah- ” she wagged her finger as he opened his mouth to deny it. “I’m not done talking yet.”

“Bugger this!” He began to put his duster back on. The leather was slick with rain, she noticed. He must be soaked right through.

“You walk out on me again,” she said, “just don’t bother coming back, that’s all.”

He froze. For a moment, he looked angry – furious. There was even a sullen yellow-eyed flicker. Then he looked stricken. “Buffy-“

“No, hear me out.” She met his eyes steadily and at last his gaze fell. His voice turned pleading.

“Buffy,” he said, again.

She folded her grocery list and put it in her purse. “No – like I said, I want you to listen to me first. If you must know what Angel and me talked about, we talked about you.”

“That bastard!” he said, feelingly. “I told him to keep schtum.”

“I don’t even know what that means.” She shut her purse with a snap. “You and he may be family, Spike, but I’m the one he’s friends with.”

“Friends!” he sneered, but at least he was listening now.

“Yeah, friends. He told me you said you thought I’d given up – that I didn’t even want my powers back. And maybe there’s something in that – just maybe – but that’s not what I wanna talk about.”

“Oh?” He’d peeled himself out of his duster again and thrown it across the couch back. Taking his cigarettes and lighter out of his pocket, he stuck a cigarette in his mouth and flicked the lighter – once – twice – but nothing happened.

“Bloody hell!” He dropped the lighter on the side-table and took the cigarette out of his mouth. “Bloody thing’s out of fuel.”

It had been on the tip of her tongue to remind him he wasn’t supposed to smoke in the house, and to hang his coat up properly before it made the couch all wet, but she restrained herself. It didn’t matter, and it wasn’t like it was her couch, was it? It wasn’t even her house.

She took a deep breath. “But it was something else he said that really hit home to me, Spike – about you.”

He bristled again. “What about me?”

Opening the closet, she took her own coat out, checking the pocket for her car keys.

“That you’re a demon.”

He blinked. “Newsflash. Always have been, ever since you’ve known me. That a problem for you now, love, ‘cos it sodding well didn’t used to be?”

“Yes, and no.” She put her coat on. “It’s a problem for me cuz it’s a problem for you. See, Angel reminded me of something – that demons aren’t good with change.”

She shook her head in bewilderment.

“I don’t get it. I honestly don’t. I mean, you’ve lived for – what, a hundred and twenty years? You’ve seen -how many wars? How many fashion disasters? And yet, you get thrown by change?”

Her voice had risen, and she made a conscious effort to moderate it. She was the reasonable one, not him.

“All that stuff about being afraid of hurting me, it’s a load of bull, isn’t it? You don’t care about that, do you, Spike? You’re just afraid because I’ve changed.”

She began to walk towards the front door, while he stared at her, white-faced and stricken. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down in his long, pale throat.

“Where are you going?” he said, as she opened the door.

She paused and looked back at him over her shoulder. “Believe it or not, I’m going grocery shopping. Maybe I’ll stop off in town for some coffee, who knows?”

His hands, gripping the back of the couch, were white-knuckled. “Are you coming back?”

Her heart did that lurching thing yet again. Had she been too hard on him?

“I – guess that depends on you, Spike. I love you.” His eyes flew to her face at the words, a spark of hope in them, and she felt worse than ever for stomping on it. “I can’t live like this, though- knowing it’s not me you want, but the Slayer.”

“Christ – Buffy, no.” He made to come towards her, but she backed off fast, sliding out the open door into the rain.

“If I’m wrong,” she said, “prove it.” She slammed the door behind her right in his face.


Her driving had improved – it really had – but getting started could still be a problem.

It’s a bloody car, not a demon, Spike would say. You’re supposed to drive it, not slay it.

Not so long ago- though it seemed like forever -they’d been in the habit of going out slaying in the SUV most nights. In fact, since her slaying supplies were still in the trunk, even now the thing was loaded for bear.

Once, she’d driven all the way to Edinburgh – two whole hours – slain a pair of Fyarl demons and their vampire boss, then slept with her head on Spike’s shoulder while he drove them home again.

And what was she doing with the damn car now? Grocery runs.

She told herself not to think about it, wrestled the SUV into gear and lurched forward down the gravel drive and onto the tarmac. The road was narrow and twisty, but she was used to it, and once past the worst of the hairpins, she put her foot down.

Grey hillsides, flecked with patches of half-melted snow, flashed by, while the road unwound before her in a rain-slick ribbon.

The rain had slackened off by the time she drove into town. There was even a hint of brightness behind the clouds. The wind was still icy though, funnelling through the surrounding hills to buffet the small grey houses.

Doune Bridge was a pretty enough place in the summer, with the sparkling stream running through it under the picture-postcard bridge that gave the town its name, but right now the stream was a roaring white torrent and the sad trees lining the banks black, leafless skeletons.

She locked the SUV and went into the café. In summer, it was full of tourists and served a mean latte, along with the traditional Scottish fare. This time of year, with most of the custom from hikers passing through on their way to the mountains further north, there was more call for all-day breakfast and the air smelt kind of greasy.

She chose a table by the window and ordered coffee, then sat watching the slow slide of raindrops on the panes. Reaching out, she pressed her finger to one and followed it down the cold glass. It was kind of fascinating, the way it didn’t roll smoothly but slipped and slid, flowing at last into other drops and becoming a miniature stream.

Her reverie was interrupted by the waitress setting her coffee cup down in front of her with a bang that made her jump. As she did so, there was a snigger from across the room and she realised she wasn’t the only customer.

There were a couple of guys on the shadowy side of the room – out-of-towners, but not the touristy kind. With the scruffy sweatpants, the soccer shirts and the shaven heads, they didn’t look like they were here for the homemade shortbread.

One of them had noticed her looking. Hurriedly, she turned away and sipped at her coffee, while they whispered together and laughed. She knew they were talking about her.

“Cheer up, love,” one of them shouted, suddenly. “It might never happen.”

She ignored him, and they both laughed again, sneering and mean.

That was what she had to do these days, just like regular girls did –grit her teeth and take no notice and hope they would find someone else to pick on.

It was the fastest cup of coffee she’d ever drunk in her life.

As she got up to leave, she heard one of them mutter, “Fucking bitch! Thinks she’s too good tae talk to us, does she?” and her blood seemed to run cold.

Her hand was shaking as she opened the door and went out. What if they followed her? Should she call the cops? What would a regular girl do now?

They didn’t, however, and at that moment, the sun finally made it through the clouds, beams of bright light striking the wet sidewalks and making the whole place glitter. When she looked up, there was even a rainbow, arching across the sky to disappear behind the snow-capped hills.

The sight made her feel a little better. Those guys were just assholes, she told herself crossly. She didn’t need super-strength to deal with them. Her nerves were just shot, that was all.

Ignoring her immediate impulse, which was to hightail it home, she took a deep breath and headed for the little supermarket, grocery list in hand.

Out of season, the store was almost deserted, just a couple of local women chatting with the girl at the cash register, who was probably their daughter or their niece anyway. The girl was always friendly, though. She smiled when she saw Buffy.

“Hello again,” she said.

“Hi.” Buffy smiled back, while the older women who’d been talking to the girl eyed her curiously. She smiled at them too, but they didn’t respond and her smile faltered.

Turning away, she started down the fresh produce aisle, which was kind of depressing this time of year because of its sheer emptiness, very aware of the three women’s eyes on her back.

She supposed she couldn’t blame them for being curious – even suspicious. After all, they knew she was from the castle. Probably, they didn’t buy the whole private finishing school cover story and thought the Slayers were some weird foreign cult.

It was kind of true in a way.

She’d already put a bag of apples and a carton of milk in her basket before what had happened earlier finally hit home. Maybe it was the way the basket already felt too heavy for her to lift, or maybe it was delayed shock again after the thing in the cafe, but suddenly her knees felt all trembly and weak.

“Oh God!”

She put the basket down and leaned against the wall, eyes closed. She’d given Spike – Spike – the man who’d died for her -the man for whom she’d been to hell and back -an ultimatum. And now a pair of lowlife jerks had managed to scare the bejeezus out of her. How had it ever come to this?

“Miss – miss, are you all right?”

A hand touched her arm hesitantly, and she opened her eyes to find the friendly store clerk right in front of her, blue gaze full of concern.

She opened her mouth to say yes, but instead found herself saying, “No – no, I’m not.”

The girl indicated her own stool behind the counter. “D’you want tae sit down for a wee while?”

This time, Buffy meant to say no, but it came out as, “Please.”

The girl steered her over to the stool and sat her down. It was only then that she realised the store was deserted now except for the two of them. She breathed a sigh of relief. She hadn’t wanted to have to say anything in front of those women with their curious, half-hostile stares.

“Can I get you anything?” the girl asked her. “A glass of water?”

“Please,” Buffy said again.

She watched while the girl went off towards the back of the store, calling over her shoulder,

“If anyone comes in, tell them I’ll be back soon.”


Alone, Buffy put her head in her hands. Her temples were throbbing again, and her eyes felt sore. That was what three weeks of being constantly on the verge of tears would do to you, she supposed.

The almost-crying was making her more and more annoyed with herself. She’d been irritated by Spike’s poor-me attitude? What about her own? And just how did she expect him to accept the change in her when, despite her words, she hadn’t accepted it herself? Maybe he’d been right all along and she had given up too easily?

If not, why had she just allowed those two assholes to drive her out of the café? The old her would never have done that.

“You’re not the Slayer anymore,” she said to herself, voice sounding very loud in the quiet store, where the only other sound was the hum of the little freezer cabinet. “You’re something – else. You just don’t know what yet – and that scares you -don’t wanna be weak little Miss Nobody. Admit it, Summers.”

“Here you go, miss.” The girl was back with a glass of water.

“Thanks.” Buffy took it from her and sipped. She hoped the girl hadn’t heard her babbling to herself like a crazy person.

“You’re from the castle, aren’t you?” the girl said. She held out her hand. “My name’s Jenny, by the way- Jenny McLean.” She was younger than Buffy had realised –seventeen at most.

Buffy took the outstretched hand in hers and shook it, which felt very weird and old-fashioned. “Nice to meet you, Jenny. I’m Buffy.”

“Och, what a pretty name!” Jenny said, as if she really meant it. “And you’re Canadian? We get lots of Canadians round here.”

“American,” Buffy told her. “From California.”

Jenny’s eyes grew big as saucers. “California?” she breathed, as if it were the most exotic place on earth. “How exciting! D’ye ken Brad Pitt?”

Buffy had to smile. “Er – no. Not personally. California’s kind of a big place.”

“I suppose so.” Jenny laughed suddenly. “Och, will you listen tae me! I must sound like a right idjit.”

“A – what?”

Jenny waved her hand, as if to pluck the translation out of the air. “You know – a country bumpkin?”

“Oh no,” Buffy assured her. “Not at all. I get asked that all the time.”

Even as she was speaking, she realised Jenny would know it wasn’t true. “Er- ” she concluded, lamely, “that is, someone did ask me once.”

A short embarrassed silence fell. Then Jenny cleared her throat and said,

“I saw you come oot o’ the café. Those two big lads weren’t botherin’ you, were they?”

Buffy grimaced. “Maybe a little.”

She glanced out of the window in the direction of the café, but the sun on the wet sidewalk was so dazzling it brought tears to her eyes.

“Don’t you worry aboot them,” Jenny said, sympathetically. “We’ll soon sort them oot if they cause any trouble round here.”

“That’s good to know.”

“Yes,” Jenny went on. “We won’t put up with any nonsense frae the likes o’ them, especially towards one of our own.”

She glanced over her shoulder and lowered her voice. “And if they go asking questions, you’ve no need tae worry. Your secret is safe with us.”

“Secret?” Buffy stared at her in astonishment. “What secret?”

Jenny’s face flushed a dull red, clashing horribly with her strawberry blonde hair.

“Och, I didnae mean to say anything. Now you’ll think I’m a right nosy cow, just like the rest o’ them.” And she indicated the slate-roofed houses on the other side of the window, now sparkling in the sunlight.

“No, I don’t,” Buffy assured her, though her curiosity was kind of – worrying. “I just didn’t think you folks were much interested in us, cuz – well, why would you be?”

Jenny’s eyes widened. “You have got tae be kiddin’ me! Not interested? People round here never talk aboot anything else. It’s the folks at the castle this and the folks at the castle that. Yous’re all so glamorous – like movie stars.”

“We are?”

“Och, yes. Some think yous’re making a film, others think yous’re spies, or maybe yous’re making a film aboot spies, like James Bond.”

She leaned forward confidentially. “An’ yous’re all so good at keeping secrets. My uncle Dougal – he runs the pub – had one o’ his lock ins last night on purpose to get your boyfriend drunk and make him spill the beans – but he couldnae get a word oot o’ him – not one word.”

“Er – that’s good,” Buffy said, while a tiny part of her was ashamed to be so relieved that Spike’s story about this lock in thing had turned out to be true.

“You’re so lucky tae have him.” Jenny’s voice grew wistful. “He’s so good looking – for a Sassenach – with his hair and his leather coat. If one o’ the local lads dressed that way, he’d look like a right daftie, but him – och, he looks so cool!”

“Thanks – I guess.” Buffy wasn’t sure what else to say. Spike did stand out around here, she supposed, but then he stood out anywhere.

“And o’course he’s so lucky to have you,” Jenny went on. “You’re so beautiful, and he’s so in love with you. The way he looks at you – anyone can see. It’s so romantic.”

“It is?”

It was weird, the way other people saw you. Her and Spike romantic? She’d never thought of them that way.

“Och, yes,” Jenny assured her. “Yous’re even romantic when yous’re fightin’. I remember yous comin’ in the shop just before closin’ time back in the autumn. His cigarette lighter was out o’ fuel and he was goin’ tae buy one o’ these disposable ones.”

She indicated the shelf behind the counter, where brightly coloured disposable cigarette lighters were on display next to the packs of cigarettes with their lurid warnings of imminent horrible death.

Buffy looked from the lighters to Jenny and back again.

“That’s romantic?”

Jenny laughed. “Och, no. That’s not what I meant. You were sayin’ that you wanted him tae quit smokin,’ remember?”

“I think so.” Buffy sipped her water. They’d just gotten back from one of their slaying expeditions, as she recalled. She’d been on a high still, eager to get him back to the castle and into bed, but he’d insisted on stopping.

“So then he said that you weren’t a quitter so why did you want him tae be one, and you sort o’ rolled your eyes and called him a dummy. Then you said there was no way you were quittin’ on him quittin’, and then yous both laughed.” Jenny’s eyes were bright with curiosity. “Did you ever get him tae quit?”

“Not yet, no,” Buffy admitted. “It’s kind of a work in progress.”

“But you’ll keep tryin’, won’t you?” Jenny pursued. “You wouldn’t think o’leavin’ him, even though smokin’s a filthy habit?”

“I guess.” Buffy blinked at her, surprised at her vehemence. What was she getting at?

“Because you love him,” Jenny finished triumphantly, “an’ yous’d never give up on each other, would yous? I knew it!”

“I –“

Buffy’s heart did the lurching thing yet again. Her answer died in her mouth. Suddenly, she couldn’t get Spike’s white, hurt face out of her head – his expression when she’d walked out the door. Why had she spoken to him that way?

She sipped more water to hide her distress.

Jenny hadn’t noticed, however. She was leaning back against the wall beside the counter, framed by cereal boxes and cans of dog food, a faraway look in her eyes.

“You didn’t notice me listenin’, I know,” she said, dreamily, “but I was, and it was seein’ the two of yous together that time that made me realise what a divvy I’d been.”

“Divvy?” Buffy was glad of Jenny’s endless chatter now. At least it gave her time to get herself back under control.

“You know, an idiot.”

“Oh, right.”

Jenny sighed. “That is right. See, miss –”

“That’s Buffy,” Buffy interrupted her, because the ‘miss’ thing was just weird, like the baby Slayers calling her ‘ma’am.’

Jenny gave her a shy look. “Buffy. See, I split up with my boyfriend last summer. I got fed up ‘cos he’s so set in his ways. He doesnae want tae see the world – just stay here an’ work for his dad. He didn’t even want tae come with me on a day trip to Edinburgh.”

“Edinburgh’s cool,” Buffy said. “And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to see the world.”

“Och, no,” Jenny agreed. She made a face. “And he can be a right daftie sometimes. I think he’s just scared o’ change.”

“Oh.” Buffy blinked. That was odd. “Yeah,” she said. “Men get that way.”

Jenny beamed at her. “That’s what my mam said. Anyway, the thing is, I like him and I know he likes me – really likes me, the way your boyfriend likes you – and after seein’ the two of yous together that time, I realised I was cuttin’ off my nose tae spite my face.”

She waggled her finger in the air. “My mam always says, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

“She does?” Buffy could remember her own mother saying the same thing, usually about schoolwork.

It was weird, she thought, how moms were all so alike, no matter where in the world they came from.

Jenny nodded. “Och yes. And she was right. I just gave up too easily – not like you. You’d just carry on tryin’ until you wore him down. I realised it that day.”

At that moment, the doorbell clanged, signalling the arrival of another customer, and Jenny looked stricken.

“Listen tae me – blatherin’ on like that, and you not well. Can I get you anything else – more water?”

“No, thanks. I have to get going. I’ll just go fetch my groceries.”

Buffy stood up. Her legs were still a little shaky, but she ignored them, because she had to get home, and quickly – work things out with Spike, before he did anything stupid. Stupider.

As she lugged the half-full basket back to the counter, she found herself trying to remember just what exactly he’d said when he’d given her that pep talk back in the last days of Sunnydale – something about her being a hell of a woman and –

That he loved how she tried – that was it.

Well, she hadn’t been doing much trying lately, though she’d probably been trying to live with – and okay, so he’d had more than a few jerk-like moments himself, but even so he hadn’t deserved what she’d said to him today.

She had to get back to him.

“Is that everything?” Jenny gave her a bright smile.

“I think so.”

Buffy drummed her fingers on the countertop with impatience as Jenny entered the items on the register. Then her eye was caught again by the display of cigarette lighters.

Weird, in light of what Jenny had been talking about, but hadn’t Spike said earlier that his lighter was out of fuel? And okay, so she did want him to give up smoking, but one battle at a time.

“I’ll take one of those too, please,” she said. “A blue one. That’s his favourite colour.”

When Jenny looked surprised, she made a face. “Work in progress, remember?”

“Of course, miss.” Jenny sighed wistfully at the romance of it all and turned to reach it down for her.

As she slipped the lighter into her coat pocket, Buffy thought that it wasn’t much as a peace offering, but way better than nothing.

Part Three

Author’s note: There is a place called Doune in Scotland. It even has a castle. However, Doune Bridge is completely fictitious and bears no resemblance to the real Doune.


Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/291869.html

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