Era: between seasons/S6, post “The Gift”, AU
Rating: R (just to be safe)
Genre: lighthearted, angst, hurt/comfort, fluffy
AN: Set in my Camperverse, which includes “What Remains” and “Monongahela,” both of which can be found on EF and A03. Takes place during WR. If you haven’t read these other one-shots, pertinent information is that everyone except Spike and Buffy die in the fight with Glory and Spuffy leaves Sunnydale in grief.
Summary: Spike gets a Polaroid camera.
Banner by me. Unbeta’ed, so all mistakes also by me.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Buffy looked up from the book she’d been reading at the dinette table (one of Spike’s poetry collections that he’d picked up at a used book store in Georgia) when a clatter came from the bathroom followed by some very British cursing. A moment later she heard what sounded like the click of a camera and a bright flash of light leaked through the crack between the sliding door and the thin paneled frame.
“Spike?” she called out. “You ok in there?” Generally, they had an unspoken agreement to politely ignore one another’s private bathroom time, a necessity between two people traveling in a tiny camper together with very thin walls. But he sounded like he was having some trouble. Also, what was he taking pictures of in there? And where did he get a camera?
“Go back to your reading; I can handle my own time in the privy. And I want you ready to discuss that poem I marked by this evening.”
Buffy looked up at the dingy ceiling in annoyance. Ever since she’d made the mistake of confessing that she really missed the college poetry course she’d had to drop out of, he’d been “assigning” her poems to read. It was sweet, but also kind of irritating. But, she had to admit, he did seem to know what he was talking about when they discussed the selections. It was almost like being back in class. It was kind of satisfying, feeling like she was really learning something.
“Whatever,” she grumbled, picking back up where she’d left off.
A moment later there was a thump that sounded like an elbow hitting the wall and another curse. Then the click and flash of light again.
“Seriously, what the hell are you doing in there?” she said, closing her book and standing up to go to the bathroom door.
“‘S none of your business, Summers,” she heard Spike say.
Another thump and the door shook this time. A second thump against the door itself threatened to split the thin wood.
“Spike, I swear if you break the door to our only bathroom I’m making you sleep on the roof.”
Her only answer was a frustrated growl.
“Are you doing your makeup or something? Do you need help?” she teased.
“I’ve been doing my own makeup since before you were in nappies,” Spike shot back. “Don’t worry about it.”
Buffy blinked in surprise. “So you are putting on makeup? Hey! You better not be using mine. Even the drugstore stuff isn’t cheap.”
“Ok, I’m coming in.”
She didn’t know what she’d expected to find, but it hadn’t been this.
Spike was bent over the tiny sink, shirtless and with a towel draped around his shoulders like a cape, held closed in the front with one of her butterfly clips. He was wearing rubber gloves, rubbing peroxide creme into his hair. An old Polaroid camera she’d never seen sat on the closed toilet, several photos scattered around it and white cream smeared on the shutter button. Now that the door was open, the caustic scent of peroxide made her eyes water.
“Oh, geez, can you at least open the vent if you’re going to be doing that?” Buffy stood on her tiptoes, her body pressing against his stooped back in the cramped space as she unlatched the overhead vent and pushed it open.
“Thanks ever so for your help, pet,” Spike grumbled, going back to spreading the cream at his roots. She could only see herself in the plastic mirror over the sink, and for some reason it startled her, even though it shouldn’t have.
Buffy cleared her throat and stepped back around him. He had an expression on his face like he was embarrassed and trying to look like he wasn’t. “Do you need help?”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said.
She crossed her arms. “The way you sounded like you were putting holes through the wall in here makes me think you probably need help.”
Spike was staring down into the sink, fingers spreading cream at the back of his head. “Elbows keep hitting the door. Bloody cramped in here.”
“You missed a spot. Like, three spots, actually,” Buffy said, eyeing the back of his head.
“Bloody helpful, you are,” Spike drawled, glaring at her from under his lashes, head bent forward.
Buffy rolled her eyes and grabbed one of his wrists. “Here, give me the gloves. You’re doing a terrible job of this for someone whose fashion has been stuck in the ‘70s for the last quarter century.”
Spike growled but let her take the gloves. She slipped them on, careful to avoid getting the caustic chemicals on her skin, and set about rubbing in the places he’d missed in the back. Buffy glanced at the photos on the floor, all of Spike’s head at different angles. Huh. Clever. Spike was always finding ways around his vampire handicaps. She thought of how he’d constantly run around in the daylight under a smoking blanket back in Sunnydale and her heart lurched painfully with the memory.
“Haven’t gotten used to doing it myself,” Spike said.
“Huh?” Buffy said, his soft voice bringing her out of her thoughts.
“Dru used to do it for me,” he clarified.
She blinked, her hands slowing in his hair. “Oh.”
They were quiet while she finished filling in the roots he’d missed. Buffy tied the ruined gloves up in a plastic grocery bag before tossing them in the trash. She straightened up in the kitchenette, put away the clean dishes left to air dry over the sink, wiping down the counter and the dining table. She picked up one of Spike’s shirts he’d left dangling off the edge of their bunk and gave it a sniff test before tossing it in the dirty hamper.
Buffy was seated back at the table, reading the same line over and over again in her book, when Spike emerged from the bathroom, still bare-chested and rubbing his newly whitened hair dry with a towel. He set the camera on the table and took the seat across from her, draping the wet towel over the back of the booth. Buffy eyed it in irritation but he didn’t seem to notice. His fingers fiddled idly on the Formica, black chipped nail polish gleaming. He was staring at the cover of her book with unfocused eyes. His pale hair curled over his forehead and his eyes were so blue, faint lines at the corners that showed through when he laughed. But his lips were pulled down in a slight frown right now. He looked… soft. Or maybe lonely. Something that made her feel like cupping her hands around something tiny and fragile and warm, so gentle so she wouldn’t hurt it.
“I can do your hair for you.” Buffy blurted out what she’d wanted to say for the last twenty minutes. She swallowed, palms suddenly feeling slick against the paperback in her hands. God, why was it so hard for her to be soft?
Spike’s head lifted and his blue eyes focused on her. Buffy felt her face getting hot. “I mean, it’s probably in our best interest. You know, if we don’t want a bathroom with elbow-sized holes in the wall.”
He studied her for a moment, head tilted slightly. Then his mouth curved minutely, softly. “Yeah, probably for the best. I can do yours, too,” he teased.
Buffy glared and ran her fingers through her hair. “This is natural,” she sniffed.
Spike grinned mischievously now. “Don’t I know it,” he said.
Her eyes rounded and she blushed. She closed the book and smacked him in the arm with it. “You pig!”
“Oink, oink, luv.”
She wanted to be mad, but her mouth kept wanting to smile, the traitor. She got up to put the book away. How was she supposed to concentrate on a flowery poem with Spike all ripply and tousle-haired? “Put on a shirt so we can go patrolling. The sun’s almost down,” she threw over her shoulder.
As she slid the volume back into a cabinet they’d set aside for books and VHS tapes, Buffy felt Spike’s arms slide around her middle and his cool breath at her ear. “I’ve got a better idea.”
His hands crept up under the hem of her cami and goosebumps erupted over her skin. Her heart sped up and her nipples pulled taught. She leaned back into his chest, tilting her head up to look at him. “Your ideas are never good,” she said breathlessly, a teasing smile on her lips.
“I think you’ll like this one,” he said in that low, rumbly voice that made her ache between her thighs.
“I don’t know. I may need to be convinced.”
“Oh, baby, I can do that.”
Turned out, she didn’t need that much convincing.
Sometime in the early morning after they’d patrolled and showered and fooled around like teenagers some more in their bunk, they lay spooning under the blanket. In the dark, Buffy stared at the old camera on the table below.
In her bedroom at home, a thousand miles away, there were dozens of photos tucked around the edges of her mirror. Pictures of her and the Scoobies, of Mom and Dawn. On her bookshelf there were pictures of her and Dawnie as kids on vacations, at the beach or that one ill-fated camping trip in the redwoods. There were pictures of Buffy and Willow and Xander eating ice cream, sitting on the porch doing homework, all dressed up in their formal wear before prom. Memories, moments in her life that she’d never get back and the ache in her chest was physical. It was a chasm she could toss a pebble in and never hear it hit the bottom, because she’d never get those moments with her friends and her mother and Dawnie back and now she couldn’t even look at the pictures. She hadn’t brought any with her. When they’d left Sunnydale, she’d been too numb, too far away to think about packing pictures. She hadn’t expected to make it to some future where she was lying in the dark in a dirty old camper in some town she couldn’t remember the name of with Spike’s knees tucked into the bend of hers and hot tears sliding into her hair because she just wanted to see her sister’s face again. She’d been so stupid. So stupid and selfish. Who was going to remember them if she didn’t?
Buffy must have started sobbing because Spike stirred behind her and she found herself turned in his arms, his big hand pressing her wet face to his chest while he stroked her back and kissed her hair. She liked that he didn’t say anything. He didn’t tell her it was ok, that it would get easier. There was nothing to say to make this grief any better. He just held her so she didn’t float away and soaked up her tears and kissed the salt off her lashes.
It didn’t last long. Pretty soon her head just ached and the skin on her cheeks felt tight where the tears had dried. She sniffled and turned her face up to look at Spike. His eyes glittered in the dark and she could make out the sharp cut of his cheeks lying against their pillow. “We should take pictures,” she said, her voice coming out scratchy.
“Of course.” A moment of silence. “What do you want pictures of, luv?”
“Everything. The camper. The beach. Picnic tables. Restaurants. Just something to say we were here. So we don’t forget.”
Her face was so close to his that Buffy felt him smile against the pillow. “Sure, kitten. I can be your personal photographer. Your paparazzi. Follow you around and ambush you at the local diner when you’re just trying to enjoy your pancakes with your hair and makeup perfect.”
Buffy grinned. He loved making fun of the celebrities in those stupid gossip magazines when they were standing in line at the grocery store. “You have to be in the pictures too, though.”
She could see his lips soften, his eyes widen. “You want pictures of us?” Spike asked, his voice soft and almost hesitant.
“So we don’t forget all the places we went,” she said.
His lips descended on hers in a sweet kiss that turned sultry when she tilted her head to give him better access and slid one of her legs between his. “We’ll take all the pictures you want, Buffy. Fill up the bathroom mirror. Don’t need it anyway.”
She pulled back to look at him in surprise. “The mirror?”
“Like you had at home, yeah?”
Buffy swallowed. “Yeah. I didn’t know you’d noticed that.”
Spike broke eye contact and smiled self-deprecatingly. “Used to look at them a lot. Wanted to knick one of you and the Bit, just to have. Knew you’d notice one of your photos missing, though.”
Her eyes stung again. She tried to laugh it off. “Didn’t stop you from stealing my panties, you freak.”
“Didn’t take any of your clean ones, at least.”
She wrinkled her nose. “That’s so much worse. Now kiss me again before I remember what a pig you are and toss you out of bed.”
Over the next few weeks, they took pictures everywhere they went. They held the camera at arm’s length and took pictures of themselves eating pancakes at a diner, maple syrup smeared on Spike’s cheek where Buffy had messily fed him a bite. They got a passerby to take a picture of them on the beach at night, shoes in hand, Spike with his jeans rolled up his calves and pale skin practically glowing in the camera flash. They set up the camera with a timer on a picnic table at the campground where they’d parked and took a picture in front of the camper, string lights overhead and Spike’s arm over Buffy’s shoulders, her cheek resting against his chest. They set up the timer again inside with Buffy sat in Spike’s lap and tried to get one of them kissing. Buffy didn’t set the timer long enough and they kept getting shots of themselves mid-argument. When Mittens joined them in West Virginia, they took pictures of him too. There was one of the cat from a weird angle with his mouth wide open and his extra row of teeth showing. Spike claimed he’d caught Mittens when he was unhinging his jaw like a snake to swallow the giant hunk of Spam Buffy’d left in his bowl. Buffy had rolled her eyes. He really had something against that poor cat.
They ended up running out of room on the bathroom mirror and bought some twine and clothespins to string more photos around the camper. Buffy would stare at them as she brushed her teeth in the morning, would see Spike’s shy smile on the fridge door when she pulled out a yogurt, how soft his eyes were when they were about to kiss when she pulled a towel out of the cabinet, and the ache in her chest eased a little. Just a little.
The camper didn’t feel like an empty box anymore. It wasn’t the life she’d had before, but it was a good life. And she had the photos to remind her of it when she forgot.
Originally posted at: https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/748013.html