Show, Don’t Tell (3/5)

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Show, Don't Tell
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Title: Show, Don’t Tell (3/5)
Author: gryfndor_godess
Setting: Post-NFA, early 2006
Rating: R
Word Count: 6,000/25,500
Genre: Biting
Summary: Anya wants to know why she never sees Spike’s bite marks on Buffy’s neck. Buffy wants to know why Spike never asked her to do anything of the sort.

Part 3

While Anya helped a customer find the ingredients to make a fertility charm, Buffy loitered near the herb display. She trailed a finger down the row of packets and phials, pausing at a familiar-looking pinkish violet flower.

She understood a little better now why Willow had used Lethe’s Bramble on Tara four years ago.

Buffy looked up when the bell over the door rang and was relieved to see that the customer had exited instead of a new one entering. She stepped toward the register, where Anya was marking something in a ledger.

“Um, Anya?”

“Yes?” Anya didn’t look up.

“Can I…can I talk to you?”

“Aren’t you talking to me now?”

When Buffy didn’t respond Anya looked up. Her mouth formed a little ‘o’ of surprise.

“Oh, you mean in private. You were using a seemingly rhetorical question to imply something else.”

Buffy swallowed. “So can we…”

She must have looked really desperate, because Anya hesitated only a second before turning toward her assistant Karra, a young Wiccan whose twin was a slayer. “I need to look for something in the storage room. I’m leaving you in charge. But only for a few minutes, mind you. Be welcoming to everyone, unless they’re trying to steal merchandise, in which case you have my authority to curse them. Be careful with the money. Give back the change the register tells you- don’t try to do the math in your head. No freebies or samples or coupons. Get me if you need me.”

Anya hesitated, gave a short nod that seemed to indicate she was satisfied with her checklist, and walked toward the storage room. Buffy glanced at Karra, a high school junior who was known in the academy for her drawing talent and love of anime. The girl was looking after her boss with a wry, almost affectionate smile and flashed Buffy one as well when she noticed her attention.

Karra was also known for being quiet. That brought Buffy no little relief. The Scoobies’ lives were the main topic of gossip amongst the slayers, and if anyone else were in the shop it would have been common knowledge by nightfall that Buffy and Anya had discussed something in secret.

Anya stopped straightening shelves once Buffy walked in and closed the storage room door behind her.

“What is it?”

Buffy took a deep breath. She felt tears prick her eyes and blinked rapidly.

“Buffy?” For the first time Anya sounded concerned.

“I tried to do it last night,” she blurted.

Anya’s eyes widened almost imperceptibly, but her tone was neutral as she said, “Tried to do what?”

Buffy pulled down the neck of her turtleneck, revealing the band-aid.

“Oh!” Anya’s eyes shone, and she stepped forward. “Wow! I’m really impressed. I didn’t think you had it in you. How was it?”

Buffy took another deep breath. This time she couldn’t stop the tears.

Anya jumped. “Oh no, that doesn’t look like happy crying! Buffy, what’s wrong?” She wrung her hands before closing in and putting an awkward arm around Buffy’s shaking shoulders.

It took fifteen minutes and a wad of paper towels that Anya scavenged in lieu of tissues for Buffy to explain what had transpired the night before.

“Have you talked to Spike today?” asked Anya quietly when Buffy finally lapsed into silence.

“No. Not about that. Not about…anything. I think he’s not speaking to me. He slept in way later than I did, although I wondered if he was just pretending, you know, hoping I would leave the house. I even made him his favorite scrambled eggs with blood, but they were all cold and gross- well, grosser- by the time he came down, and he left for work an hour ago even though he doesn’t need to be there until six, and he won’t be home until two or three…”

Buffy blew her nose again as Anya tentatively rubbed her back. At some point they had sat down on an extra, overturned shelf. Her legs were sore from the low seat and she felt exhausted, but for the first time all day she also felt a lingering sense of relief. She no longer had to try to hold herself together.

“I’m…sorry. That I brought it up in the first place,” said Anya.

“Don’t feel bad,” said Buffy thickly. “I’m…I’m glad you did.” As she spoke she was surprised to realize it was the truth. “I wanted…”

“You wanted him to bite you?” said Anya after a long pause.

Buffy hesitated. “Not exactly. But I wanted to let him…I really did want…” She exhaled sharply and scrubbed her eyes with the heels of her palms. “I don’t know what went wrong. Before we started I was nervous, but I was okay. But when he bit me I- I panicked.”

She thought back to the feeling that had overtaken her. It hadn’t been fear- at least, not fear of Spike– so much as an overwhelming sense that what she was doing was wrong.

“I think…” Buffy swallowed, hoping she wouldn’t sound crazy or pretentious. “I think it was the slayer in me. I couldn’t let him bite me.”

“You’ve been bitten before,” said Anya, though there was no judgment, only question, in her voice.

“I know,” said Buffy. “Which maybe made it worse.” She reached up and began peeling off her band-aid. “These don’t represent the high points of my life. They were failures. Except for Angel, but that was different. He was dying. I had to do it. But with Spike it’s supposed to be…I don’t know.” She cast about for the right word. “Erotic.”

“And as the slayer you can’t reconcile eroticism and biting,” said Anya.

Buffy twitched and looked at her lap. “Maybe.”

She pulled the band-aid all the way off and felt Anya’s gaze zoom in.

“That’s not awful,” she said. “It’s messy now, but you’ll heal up in no time. We have some magical creams that will keep it from scarring. $14.95 for a half ounce, $27.50 for an ounce.”

“I’ll keep it in mind,” said Buffy. She tugged her turtleneck back into place and clasped her hands. “I just…I just don’t know how to fix things.”

The wave of mingled compassion and pity on Anya’s face made her want to rebuild her walls, but Buffy kept quiet.

“I’m sure Spike will understand,” said Anya. “About being the slayer. And he’ll forgive you for kicking the crap out of him. It is Spike. He’ll forgive you for anything.”

That wasn’t exactly a thought Buffy appreciated.

“But what if I freak out next time?”

Anya’s eyebrows shot up. “Next time? You want to try again?”

It hadn’t been a conscious thought in her mind until now, but Buffy found herself nodding. “Yes. I-”

I need to.

“I want to.”

“Well, that-” Anya shook her head incredulously, but she was also beaming. “That’s excellent! Then you can tell me how it is and I can have multiple opinions on the matter. Plus we can compare Spike and Angel’s biting techniques and- and I’ll save these thoughts for after you two kiss and make up,” she said as Buffy gaped. “Or bite and make up. Hee.”

Buffy tried to smile, but it was hard when she imagined the lonely evening to come and the prospect that it might be just as lonely even if Spike were home. She still had no idea what to say to him.

“Since you’re not being a prude anymore about sexual bloodplay,” said Anya, yanking Buffy right back to the present. “I’ve wanted to ask. What do you do when you’re on your period? Does Spike go down on you?”

Buffy couldn’t speak.

“No? Haven’t heard of that either?” Anya sounded disappointed.

“I’ve heard of it,” choked Buffy. “We- we tried it. Once. But it didn’t work. Like- like last night.”

“’Cause I think the biting could be fun, but oral would just be convenient,” said Anya thoughtfully. “It’s a win-win situation. He thinks it yummy, you don’t have to deal with a period. Oh, and you orgasm! It’s a triple win!”

Anya looked so excited that Buffy couldn’t find it in her to be flustered. Plus, she couldn’t help picturing Xander’s face if he knew what his girlfriend fantasized about, and that was hilarious enough to almost make her feel better.

When she saw Buffy’s small smile Anya seemed to calm. It felt much more natural this time when she put her arm back around Buffy’s shoulders and squeezed.

“I appreciate your confiding in me. Are you going to tell Willow and Xander or is this an ‘us’ gossip?”

“This is an ‘us’ gossip,” said Buffy quickly, and couldn’t help feeling gratified when Anya looked thrilled.

“I don’t think we’ve had any just us gossip before,” she said. “The novelty will make it much easier to not spill the beans to Xander- since I tell him almost everything, obviously. But don’t worry, I won’t tell him this.” She zipped her lips, mimed throwing away the key, and immediately said, “You look better. Are you better? Have I helped?”

“A lot,” said Buffy honestly. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome!” Anya patted her shoulder and withdrew her arm. “I think you’re going to be okay. You and Spike always work it out. Your superlative could be Successfully Deals With The Most Angst Couple.” She looked at her watch and stood. “I need to get back to the shop. Do you want to stay here or come out?”

Since Anya looked completely serious, Buffy tried not to grin. She stood and stretched, pretending to give the neatly shelved boxes of excess merchandise a considering eye. “I’ll come out, thanks.”

“All right.” Anya was almost at the door when she halted and looked back, her expression thoughtful. “I’ll get you some of that cream I mentioned. On the house.”

* * *

Buffy dozed fitfully when she finally turned off her light that night. When she woke with a jolt and saw that the neon green display of her alarm clock read 2:23 AM, she flipped over so fast that Spike, who had just pulled the covers up over himself, did a double take.

His eyes glinted in the darkness as they stared at each other. Buffy noted the foot of space between them and knew he hadn’t kissed her, often waking her, like he usually did when he came home late from work and she was already asleep.

“Hey,” she said softly.

“Hey.”

She waited a beat, but he didn’t continue. “How was work?”

“It was fine.”

She was really starting to hate that word.

“The band was actually pretty good. Ernie’s getting better at picking the ones with talent from all the other rot.”

Relief rushed through her that he was being polysyllabic. She had hoped for it but not dared to expect it.

“How was your day?”

“Good. I trained the slayers for a few hours. I talked to Dawn earlier.”

“How is she?”

“Doing well. She’s looking into studying abroad in China next year.”

“Is she now?”

Buffy heard his flare of interest and tried to squash her jealousy. “Yup. But she’s conflicted; she doesn’t want to leave AI.”

“Would leave them in a lurch. Sumerian translators aren’t a dime a dozen these days.”

Buffy tried to smile, but she was too nervous. In the moment of silence, Spike’s lips thinned again. He looked at the ceiling.

Buffy’s stomach clenched. What were the magic words to make this better? She should have asked Anya for advice, not just consolation. Maybe they could have practiced, role-played.

She followed her instinct and slid closer to curl up against him, trying to ignore the way he tensed. “Last night…”

His Adam’s apple bobbed several times. She was thinking so wistfully of how often they communicated through touch and eye contact alone and wishing that if she just wrapped her arms around him he could read her mind, like osmosis, that his hoarse voice took her by surprise.

“I shouldn’t have tried-” Up and down went the apple. “I shouldn’t have bitten you. I’m sorry.”

“What?” Buffy propped her elbow on the pillow and half sat up so fast that he was shocked into looking at her.

He wasn’t mad at her? He felt guilty?

For a second she felt relief, and then she felt even worse.

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” she said, and tried not to let her voice shake. Damn it, she was not going to cry again. “I’m sorry. I should have said something. I shouldn’t have kicked you. I didn’t mean to.”

His eyes flicked away.

“Spike!” She resisted the urge to grab his chin. It wasn’t like him to be so self-flagellating.

“What happened last night was not your fault.”

“I scared you,” he said bitterly. “How is that not my fault?”

“You didn’t scare me.” Buffy cupped his cheek gently and turned his face toward her. As her thumb brushed his lips he finally looked at her. Warmth flooded her at the tenderness and desperation in his gaze.

“It wasn’t you,” she said firmly. “It was me. It has to do with being the slayer. Part of me is- is-”

Yeah, she was definitely not using the word repulsed, even if it was correct.

With relief she remembered Anya’s phrasing. “Part of me can’t reconcile biting with eroticism. But it’s not because of you. It’s not.

She stared at him, willing him to believe her, and after a long moment he gave a short nod. He still looked pained, but the muscles in his arms and chest were no longer taut, like he might jump out of bed any minute.

She took advantage and bent her head to kiss him. His lips were cool and firm, but a moment later he melted under her and opened his mouth. She tasted toothpaste, and the reminder of all the little routines he had changed as they molded their lives together made her gut clench and her heart sing and ache at the same time.

I love you I love you I love you.

She would cry if she tried to speak, and she didn’t want to stop kissing him, and so she caressed his cheeks and prayed that their osmosis was working again.

* * *

By the end of the weekend Anya’s cream and Buffy’s intrinsic enhanced healing had erased any sign of Spike’s bite, leaving the old scars exactly as they had been, if maybe a bit lighter themselves. Unfortunately the awkwardness with Spike did not fade quite so easily or quickly. She saw it when she didn’t see him drink blood, his dirty mugs conspicuously absent from the sink; felt it when he didn’t cop a feel during their class demonstrations; sensed it when on his night off Spike suggested the Scoobies go out for dinner and spent most of it talking to Xander and Oz; felt choked by it when he didn’t try to make love to her all week.

It didn’t help that he had a run of busy nights at the Hellmouth. Weeks like this were when Buffy resented the fact that he worked, considering that their time together and range of activities were already limited by the sun. Resentment never ended well, though, because she just ended up feeling selfish; the Council paid her tuition, but its finances were stretched thin enough now that it funded two Academies that her salary and Spike’s stipend weren’t enough to live comfortably on. Spike’s job meant she didn’t have to worry about splurging for a mani-pedi or a new pair of stylish yet affordable boots. Besides, she knew he wanted to work- or rather, didn’t want to be dependent on her.

The night they finally clicked back into place was the night she got fed up and sent the slayers home from patrol early, changed into leather pants and a backless halter, and stalked into the Hellmouth like she owned it. She stepped over the gate to the bar, spun Spike away from a customer, and kissed him so long and hard that Emmett, the other bartender, wolf-whistled and told Spike to take a five. And though she lost him some tips, judging by some nearby women’s scowls, Spike’s dazed grin was worth its weight in gold. A few days later she stood in the kitchen throwing out her wilted roses and knew it was time to try again.

The fact that Tuesday was Valentine’s Day seemed like kismet.

Buffy had realized early on in their relationship that when given free reign, Spike reveled in holidays and special occasions. He didn’t view birthdays and anniversaries as a challenge the way some men did, but rather as an opportunity to show off and shower her with the kind of affection that on most other days of the year he would probably dismiss as ‘poncey.’ It had stressed her out at first, their first Christmas together, when he took her to an expensive restaurant and to see The Mousetrap at the West End and all she had for him was a book of poetry that Dawn had helped her pick out. The way his eyes had lit up upon unwrapping it and the hour he spent absorbed in it had allayed her insecurities, though; and the fact that he watched her more than the stage at the end of the play to see her reaction showed her he was more interested in seeing her happy than in turning gift-giving into a contest.

He had followed up on Valentine’s Day with a boat tour on the Thames and a champagne flight on the London Eye. New Sunnydale didn’t offer comparable attractions, but he wore a mysterious grin when he suggested they go dancing after dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Buffy wasn’t sure what was special about the karaoke club he chose, assuming he hadn’t taken her there to subject her to some of the worst amateurs she’d ever heard, until he took to the stage himself.

While watching 10 Things I Hate About You with him and Dawn over winter break she had mentioned that Heath Ledger’s rendition of “I Need You Baby” was one of her all-time favorite movie scenes. As Spike belted it out in front of the two hundred suddenly hushed patrons, his eyes boring into her the whole time and promising things she couldn’t even spell, Buffy actually thought for a second she might faint.

As they slow danced later in the evening, after he convinced her to perform “Dammit Janet” with him and after they spent ages bumping and grinding and laughing like kids at a high school dance, she wondered if he could sense her anticipation. If he noticed her occasional heart murmur he would attribute it to the holiday. She liked that secrecy, the slowly smoldering knowledge inside of her that tonight she would make Valentine’s Day an occasion to revel in.

And it helped that Spike didn’t know. Knowing that the thought of biting wasn’t constantly at the forefront of his mind meant it wasn’t at hers either, making her focus myopic. The only expectations she had to worry about were her own. And maybe Anya’s, judging by the numerous messages she had already received reminding her that she should feel free to text any time during the night.

They made love all over the house when they got home, moving leisurely from room to room and leaving clothes as a trail of breadcrumbs to follow in the morning. Some time after reaching the bed they had settled into a gentler pace, both upright with their legs locked around each other, and Buffy knew from the slow roll of their hips, the way he leaned his forehead to hers, that if she didn’t speak now she never would.

She kissed him before drawing her head back. He stared at her with heavy-lidded eyes, sure in his satisfaction.

“I want to try again,” she murmured, and felt her heart flutter.

“Try what again?” He thrust in an exaggerated fashion, and she stifled a smile.

“I want you to bite me.”

The gentle rhythm stopped. Spike leaned back as far back as he could without breaking their connection and stared at her.

“If this is a joke, I don’t think it’s funny.”

She frowned; she had anticipated surprise, maybe even reluctance, but not this almost angry tone. “I’m not joking.”

Spike’s jaw worked for several seconds but all he said was, “Why?”

“Why what?”

“You know what. Last time didn’t end well for either of us. Why do you want to try it again?”

“Because you want to bite me.”

“I don-”

“And I want to let you.”

That silenced him.

“And you know what they say about not succeeding,” she added airily.

For a long time he just looked at her, and Buffy felt again that shameful irritation that he wasn’t reacting with more excitement.

“What makes you think this will go any better than last time?”

“I’m not going to kick you,” she retorted, stung even though it was a valid question. “That’d be a little hard in this position anyway.”

He didn’t smile. “I don’t mean that. What you said about being a slayer. Why should now be any different?”

“I’ll make it different,” said Buffy, aware that this sounded lame. But what was she supposed to say? It’s not like anything was different. She just had her resolve- extra resolve.

Spike didn’t look convinced. She squeezed her inner muscles, and his jaw briefly slackened.

“I want this,” she whispered, and didn’t miss the flare of lust in his eyes.

When he exhaled she knew she had won. It sent a bolt of triumph through her even as her stomach turned over. She began rocking again, suddenly unable to bear the stillness. They were going to do this. For real this time. It- it would work. Not because that feeling of wrongness would be any less but because she knew now to expect it- and in expecting it she would repress it.

She took several deep breaths that didn’t match her heart’s new rhythm.

Spike slid his hands up her sides, his thumbs curving out to caress the underside of her breasts

“You’re sure,” he said warily.

Her assent caught in her throat; she nodded.

His eyes flickered between her neck and her face several times before he bent his head to the curve of her shoulders. She didn’t hear or feel his face change and wondered what he was waiting for. She tried to concentrate instead of the feel of him inside her, their slowly increasing tempo. It was good that they were already having sex. It meant biting was just another layer to the evening rather than the basis of it. Even better that they were on their- well, she’d lost track of what round they were on. But she was already loose-limbed and warm and happy, and stressful things always went more easily from a good starting position. Not that this was stressful. Because Spike biting her was not a failure or a sign of moral degeneracy. She wouldn’t be any less of a slayer. She wouldn’t be like Riley with his vamp whores- and jeez, where had that thought come from?

She let out an involuntary moan as he shifted angle unexpectedly. One arm pulled her flush against him as his other hand gripped her ass. She became aware that her own fingers were digging into his back, her nails probably scoring marks. A tremor ran through her, and she felt that certain something start to build.

The tiny grinding was a roaring sound in her ears. She felt the changed texture of his face against her shoulder, and that certain something morphed into a surge of panic-

“Stop.”

She wasn’t even sure that she’d said it aloud until Spike pulled back. Quickly suppressed annoyance and frustration flickered across his human features.

She swallowed as the heat in her core began to recede and she realized the night wasn’t going to end as she had intended.

“I- I-”

Spike seemed to be looking at a point behind her left ear. His grip had slackened so that his hands felt almost like a stranger’s, or like she was the stranger and he was waiting politely for her to find her way off of him.

Try again, she wanted to say, but held her tongue. That wasn’t going to solve their problem.

“I’m sorry,” she said instead, and saw another flicker of annoyance. Then he was lifting her up and pulling out. It wasn’t exactly what she had in mind, but she couldn’t really blame him. She’d gotten it all wrong again.

He was still hard, though, and with a flash of inspiration- maybe she could salvage things after all, return him to that sated laziness- she said, “That’s not fair to you,” and leaned down.

“What- no, you don’t need to- Christ!” His lips moved soundlessly as she sucked him in, and if she saw flashes of more frustration and resignation in his eyes, she ignored them.

Afterward they were still for a few minutes. Spike didn’t say anything when he eventually slid down her body and tended to the throbbing between her own legs. He didn’t rest his cheek on her thighs like he might have on another night, instead climbing back up the bed to sprawl out beside her, which made Buffy feel, though sated, rather like a ticked box on someone’s to-do list. Literally.

She fidgeted with the only item she still wore, the charm bracelet he had given her for her 24th birthday and to which he had added a pink crystal heart tonight, and wondered what more she could say that she hadn’t already said.

Spike made a noise as though about to speak, but when she looked at him he was silent.

She stared at the ceiling again until he made another aborted sound.

“What?” she demanded, feeling irritated herself now and despising herself for it.

“I understand why you can’t do it,” he said. “And I never expected you to.” He stressed the second part, sounding almost angry.

“But-” He broke off.

“But what?”

“Nothing. It’s stupid.”

“What. Is. It?”

Spike glanced at her, his expression a mixture of pique, defiance, and no little uncertainty. “When Angel was in trouble you let him- you-” The uncertainty won out, and he looked away.

It only took a second to understand and another second for a tickle to grow in her throat and nose. How could you think I wouldn’t? she wanted to say.

She couldn’t keep her voice from trembling, and he jerked back to her. “If you were in danger I would let you bite me in a heartbeat.”

He swallowed several times as he looked at her but didn’t speak. Then they were both staring at the ceiling again, and Buffy couldn’t help feeling that she had indeed gone wrong somewhere, but it had been long before tonight.

* * *

She didn’t bother with niceties this time.

“Can you talk?”

“That depends,” said Cordelia, with the lightning fast reflexes that had cemented her reign in high school. “Are you going to give me the scoop? Because Anya told me she was sworn to secrecy, and I feel kind of slighted.”

Buffy felt a stab of guilt, as well as a flash of gratitude for Anya. “Yes, I’ll give you the scoop…”

Though she had every intention of being transparent, it didn’t take long for the initial summary (“I brought it up a few weeks ago. He admitted he was jealous but said he didn’t want…”) to become blunter and more concise (“The first time we tried I…couldn’t go through with it. We stopped”). She had expected discomfort during this conversation, but she was taken aback by the embarrassment that stole over her as she related her experience. When she had talked to Anya their aborted attempts had always felt like setbacks. But with Cordelia Buffy was acutely aware that she was speaking to someone who had no trouble with biting…and the setbacks felt more like failures.

“Do you have any advice?” she asked in a rush after finishing the bare essentials. “Anything I can do? I really want to make this work.”

Cordelia’s pause gave her a flare of hope, but it didn’t last.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” said Cordelia. She sounded genuinely regretful but also puzzled. “Biting is…passive. You don’t need to do anything but, uh, let it happen. I’m not sure what you’re looking for.”

Buffy fought to keep from sounding tetchy as she said, “I know it’s passive.” That was part of her problem, wasn’t it? “But you must get nervous, right? Do you do anything specific beforehand that helps? Like, I don’t know, take a bubble bath or make Angel massage you or…”

An odd muffled sound came down the receiver. It sounded like a snort. Buffy clamped her lips shut.

“No,” said Cordelia, her tone neutral. “I don’t do anything special. And I was nervous the first time, but not any time after that.”

Buffy snatched at the admission like it were a lifesaver and she was on the Titanic. “Okay, so how did you do it the first time when you were nervous?”

“Um…I just did it. I think I went shopping beforehand and ran up Angel’s credit card to psych myself up. I don’t know if that helps.”

Buffy didn’t trust herself to speak.

“Oh, Angel and I talked a lot about it when I was still making up my mind,” said Cordelia. “Where he would do it, how much he would take, how I might feel afterward, et cetera. I had a lot of questions. Knowing the answers definitely helped.”

That was potentially useful. Now that she thought about it, she and Spike hadn’t actually discussed the matter all that much. He’d been so evasive about his feelings to begin with and she’d been so busy trying to not think about what they were doing- to just go with it- that they had sort of skipped the meaningful conversation.

A traitorous voice at the back of her mind asked if it would even help at this point. Spike had already admitted he didn’t know what to expect, and she trusted him not to hurt her. And if she even brought up the subject, he would just tell her he didn’t want to do it anyway.

“Do you have any other tips?” she asked, hoping she didn’t sound desperate.

A cautious note crept into Cordelia’s voice. “Buffy, if it’s this difficult for you, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.”

No. That was not what she wanted to hear. Cordelia was supposed to encourage her. She’d had enough of doubt this morning in the Magic Box; Anya hadn’t said it aloud, but Buffy had seen the thought in her friend’s eyes and heard it in her constant hesitation.

“Maybe Spike admitted to being jealous, but if he didn’t ask in the first place, then it’s probably not that important-”

“It is important!”

“Don’t get snippy.” Cordelia’s tone was mild, but Buffy heard the faint irritation, the obnoxious note of warning.

It was much too easy to slip into their old, antagonistic roles. “Then don’t tell me what’s important and what isn’t!”

“Then don’t call me for advice.”

“That isn’t advice! What I want advice on is how to actually do it.”

“I don’t have advice for that! It’s easy! You just lie there!”

“So- so you do missionary? Is that the best position or-”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, I meant ‘lie there’ figuratively! You can do it however you want. The point is, he bites you, you let him. You bare your neck, if you want to get technical.”

Frustration welled in Buffy until she felt like was choking on it and she wanted nothing more than to hang up. It could never be as simple as baring her neck. It was belying her very nature, betraying her forerunners. Cordelia wasn’t a slayer; she could never understand. It was stupid to have expected help.

“Look, I realize you have this mental block about biting because you’re the slayer and letting a vampire bite you is all kinds of weird.”

Or maybe Cordelia did understand.

“There isn’t any trick I can tell you to make that go away. That’s why it’s a mental block.” Cordelia’s voice softened. “But it’s nothing to feel bad about. Spike’s a big boy. He’ll survive.”

Buffy’s throat turned hot and heavy at the unexpected gentleness. That wasn’t an answer either, though, not anymore.

“I have to do it,” she croaked.

“No, you don’t. It’s your neck, not Spike’s.”

“That’s not what I mean-”

“He’ll get over it. It was a non-issue until a few weeks ago, so it will be a non-issue again-”

“No it won’t, because I made it an issue!” Buffy burst out. “You don’t understand!”

“Then enlighten me,” said Cordelia after a pause.

“It- it wasn’t as simple as I made it sound, when we tried and I couldn’t do it. The first time I- I didn’t tell him to stop. I just kicked him off me like- like he was attacking me. And it was instinctive, but he th-thought I was afraid of him. And last night he thought- he thought-”

He thought I didn’t love him as much as I loved Angel. Or he wondered it. Either way I made him doubt-

“It’s worse than if I had never brought it up in the first place. I need to fix it.”

She remembered the suffocating silence between them after their first try, dreaded the upcoming week of tiptoeing around each other after last night. And even when they were back to normal- they’d have to be normal again eventually, right?- the memories would linger like dormant germs, ready to infect and inflate otherwise innocuous interactions down the line.

She couldn’t bear this silence either, the idea that she had shocked Cordelia speechless. “Plus I ruined Valentine’s Day,” she added shakily.

“Was it after midnight?”

“Uh. Yeah.”

“Then you ruined February 15th. No big deal.”

Buffy smiled, but only for an instant.

“I know it seems bad now, but before you- hang on.” The abrupt shift in Cordelia’s tone had Buffy tensing herself, and she began running through the possibilities of what could go wrong during the day.

“Buffy, I have to go. I just had a vision.”

“What happened?”

“Someone’s in trouble.” Cordelia’s voice sped up as she continued. “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you what you hoped for. But if you still want advice, I think you need to calm down and take a step back from all this. Spike isn’t pushing the issue, so there’s no reason you should. Take a break. See if things actually need to be fixed or if you’re just imagining they’re worse than they are. And then talk to Spike.”

“All right,” said Buffy, even though it wasn’t. But she was calm enough now to pretend. “Thank you. Good luck with-”

But Cordelia was already gone.

Buffy put the phone back in its cradle and sank onto the couch. While talking she’d been too wound up to sit, but the conversation’s sudden, unsatisfying conclusion had drained her. Everything Cordelia had said was one hundred percent reasonable. And yet Buffy couldn’t shake the feeling that she couldn’t win. She felt like a failure of a slayer if she let Spike bite her and a failure of a girlfriend if she didn’t.

And- here was the really irrational part- it was hard to appreciate Cordelia’s advice when Cordelia so clearly wasn’t a failure.

Without meaning to she remembered their competition for Homecoming queen senior year. It was totally stupid to think there were any parallels. After sensing Buffy’s distress, Cordelia had been nothing but gracious and kind.

And yet Buffy couldn’t helping thinking, grumpily, that if they were competing for who could be the best girlfriend of a vampire, Cordelia would definitely be winning.

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Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/459346.html

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