Title: Show, Don’t Tell (4/5)
Setting: Post-NFA, early 2006
Word Count: 4,000/25,500
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.
Talk to him.
Cordelia’s instruction ran through Buffy’s mind on repeat that night as they lay in bed and watched The Daily Show. At least, Spike watched The Daily Show; the voices in Buffy’s head were drowning out Jon Stewart’s.
She glanced at Spike out of the corner of her eye when he chuckled. She felt a surge of gratitude for the late night comedians for making him laugh; it was the first time he had shown any vivacity all evening. They usually weren’t ever home early enough to watch Stewart and Colbert, but neither had been in the mood for patrolling tonight. Well, Buffy hadn’t been in the mood for being chatty with the slayers; though he hadn’t offered a reason, she suspected Spike hadn’t wanted to patrol because their stress-reducing fighting so often segued into stress-reducing sex. The thought made her heart feel like it was shriveling. He hadn’t so much as touched her tonight.
She resolved to wait until after Colbert was over to begin the talk, but the phone rang at 11:45. Their immediate shared glance of worry as she reached for the phone heartened Buffy, even as her stomach turned over. Sure, 11:45 was early by their standards, but calls this late were rarely good news.
“Buffy?” The faint Middle Eastern accent was tinged with panic. “It’s Laila. A demon captured Kirsten…”
When they returned to the house almost three hours later Buffy had to force herself to stow the axe in the weapons chest rather than just fling it into the living room. Spike wasn’t as circumspect as he slammed the front door.
“She’ll be okay,” said Buffy automatically, though she didn’t harbor any hope that it would calm him. It didn’t calm her. Kirsten had nearly died tonight because she’d taken off after a Kiplosh demon on her own rather than strategize with her team or, better yet, call Buffy and Spike. The Kiplosh considered human flesh a delicacy, and it had led her straight into the arms of its clan. Kirsten was unconscious, trussed up, and waiting for the spit by the time Buffy and Spike found her. They had left her at the hospital with a broken arm, finger, and collarbone, watched over by her best friends from the academy, and after holding their tongues in front of the other nervous slayers on the drive home, now they could vent, for what little good it would do.
“Not after I’m through with her,” Spike muttered. “What the hell was she thinking? We’ve taught them better than that, never to go alone if they don’t have to.”
Though inside she was applauding vigorously, Buffy felt obligated to point out, “It’s what I would have done a few years ago.” I wouldn’t have had a choice, she didn’t add.
Spike snorted. “Cause that makes me feel better.” The way his eyes swept her up and down, possessive, worrying, sent a surge of lust through Buffy. They had gone more than their share of rounds with the Kiplosh, but she was nowhere near ready for sleep. She was too pumped up, too annoyed.
“What I want to know is what they were doing here,” she complained. “We’re supposed to get less vicious demons now that Sunnydale isn’t a hellmouth.” She started for the stairs, and Spike followed. “Yeah, well, I guess we were overdue,” he said moodily. “The last crisis was what, early December? ‘Spect we’ll have an apocalypse on our hands any day now.”
“Don’t say that. May isn’t for two and a half months.”
The face he made disappeared as they entered the bedroom and he yanked his bloodstained tee shirt over his head. Buffy didn’t comment when he balled it up and threw it in the corner rather than the hamper. She was too busy looking at his chest and remembering their unfinished business from last night. Maybe this undercurrent of anger was just what she needed.
He was watching her, too, she realized with a jolt of satisfaction. The silver lining of the emergency? It had woken Spike from his stupor. He had paused with his hands on his belt buckle, and his eyes were deliciously narrow. He was still in predator mode.
Maybe that could help, too.
He shook himself slightly and pulled his belt off with a business-like, innuendo-free snap. Disappointment surged in Buffy when he said, “We should hit up some of the demon bars, see if there’s any word about other clans coming. And maybe the girls shouldn’t patrol for a few days. I can ditch work.”
She hated the inflection that crept into his tone at times like this, a mixture of worry, anger, and something bordering on helplessness. He rarely brooded, not the least of which because Xander immediately started calling him Angel Jr., but fear for their girls could lay him low like little else. It both tugged at Buffy’s heart and unnerved her when he showed this vulnerability; she was so used to hardening herself for the day she couldn’t save one.
“Did you see how upset Sonja was? She couldn’t stop shaking.” Spike’s voice broke. “She was getting so much better.”
All of a sudden it was too much; she couldn’t bear to see him distressed or hopeless or even helplessly agitated; she wanted that anger again, the passion; the look in his eye that said he had to have her and then everything would be better.
It was how she felt.
She was barely conscious of moving across the room, but the next moment she was kissing him. For a split second he was motionless, and then a growl seemed to reverberate from his throat to hers, and his arms locked around her. She didn’t know who moved first, if he picked her up or if she hoisted herself up, but either way she was unzipping their jeans, and then-
Then, briefly, it didn’t matter that a girl had almost died tonight and she had spent the last three hours so tightly wound up she felt like her bones might shatter when the tension broke.
When they collapsed on the bed, Buffy knew it wasn’t enough, not nearly; but it was a start. The tightness in her chest had loosened without cracking a rib; endorphins were still zipping through her, and now she knew how to turn them to her advantage; momentum would see her through the wrongness.
“This is it,” she heard herself say. Her voice sounded- felt- far away. Spike hadn’t paused a second before attacking her shirt, and now he was peppering kisses on all sorts of soft, pliant places; it was difficult to concentrate.
Buffy gasped as his lips finally closed over her nipple. “Biting. We can do it. It’ll work.”
He jerked away as fast as though her chest were covered in holy water.
“What are you talking about?”
There was the edge of anger again.
Buffy frowned. She didn’t need that anymore.
“What does it sound like I’m talking about?”
A weird noise pulsed in the back of her head, kind of like a fire alarm. Talk to him, she remembered. She also remembered her nervousness earlier in the evening. She wasn’t nervous now. She was- energized. Too wound up to talk.
“Why do you keep bringing this up?” Spike levered himself backward onto his knees. His hands clenched on his thighs, and his erection, which had been returning to full mast after their coupling, bobbed between them; she imagined it was indignant, framed but untouched by Spike’s fingers. Buffy felt an inane urge to giggle.
“Because you want-” she began.
“No! I don’t want! Stop making this about me!”
Her mirth vanished. She sat up, too, as Spike continued,
“I never asked you to do this, so don’t pretend this is about me. You want it, and I don’t understand why-”
“Because you never asked!”
Her cheeks heated as he gaped at her; it only made her madder.
“Let me get this straight.” His voice was strangled, as though he had never heard anything so ridiculous and had physical difficulty repeating it. “You want to do something that makes you uncomfortable- something I guessed would make you uncomfortable- because I didn’t ask you to do it?”
When put that way, it did sound ridiculous.
Her voice trembled as she forced out, “I don’t understand why you never asked me. You admitted you wanted to do it.”
“Everyone wants something they shouldn’t. That doesn’t mean you get it. You say you want to eat nothing but chocolate. Xander wants to retire at age thirty. Anya wants to be chairwoman of the Federal Reserve-”
“Stop it! This isn’t a joke. You could have asked me. Why didn’t you?”
“Because I like to think I’m able to rise above my baser instincts!”
“It’s not a baser instinct! You’re a vampire. It’s your normal instinct!”
The sudden silence was worse than their shouts. Spike looked away, his jaw clenched so tightly she was surprised she didn’t hear his teeth grind. His cheekbones were so hollowed out that for a second he looked skull-like, as alien as he was in his demon face. Then he turned back, and she saw that his eyes, at least, were normal, sharp as diamond and cutting through to her very core- except now the fire in them was deathly cold instead of burning.
“Do it from behind,” said Buffy.
His icy eyes widened incredulously. He made no move toward her. “What?”
The idea had just occurred to her, but it seemed fitting. “We’ve tried face-to-face. Maybe it’ll be better if I don’t see it coming-”
“Are you even listening to yourself?”
She felt an insane desire to punch him. It had worked on Angel.
“For God’s sake, Spike, fuck me and bite me!”
He snapped, as surely as she had when she’d cut him off about the slayers, only this time the kiss felt like a bruise. He gripped her shoulders so hard she knew she would see fingerprints in the morning, and then he was flipping her over, and she was hissing out wordless triumph. She braced herself on her side, and he slid into her so fast and neatly that she wanted to both scream and crow at him, See, we’re supposed to be doing this. But his blunt teeth had already latched onto her neck, and her insides had seized up.
She couldn’t see him, but she would feel him change. Any second now-
She was wrong; the anger did help. Because the anger, the shouting, the dizzying, electrifying rush- it took away the semblance of surrender, made it feel more like a defeat– and what did a vampire do when it defeated a slayer-
She dug her fingers into the sheets. He thrust, and she ground back against him, and she bit the inside of her cheek so hard she tasted blood-
And then he was gone.
Buffy gasped into the pillow beneath her cheek at the sudden feeling of emptiness. Her head spun, and it seemed to take an age to roll over and find him.
He stood a few feet away from the bed. Even more strangely, he was pulling on his pants.
She felt her neck and frowned. He hadn’t bitten her.
“I’m not doing it,” he said shortly, without looking at her.
“You can say you want to do it however much you like. I don’t care. You’re not okay with it.”
“What do you mean I’m not-”
He barked out a harsh laugh, and she was so surprised she fell silent.
“You’ve been going on quite a bit about how I’m a vampire, love, so let me explain a few things.” His eyes bored into her hard enough that she almost wished he would look away again. “I can sense a lot of things about you when we’re close. And right then you were as tense as I’ve ever felt you. You were so nervous you gnawed through your cheek. And your heart was beating as fast as though it wanted to fly away.”
How very clinical of you, she wanted to sneer, but she couldn’t. Her traitorous heart still felt like a hummingbird’s wings.
“You can’t do it, and I’m not going to-”
“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do!” She leapt out of bed so fast she got a head rush. It took all her willpower not to touch her forehead to steady herself; she didn’t want him sensing anything else.
“Fine,” snapped Spike. “You can do it. But you’re making yourself do it, and I won’t be a part of that.”
Her hands balled into fists. “You don’t get to decide what’s acceptable for me to do!”
“And you don’t get to decide what I’m willing to do! Don’t ask me to do something that hurts you!”
Before she could contemplate a retort he wheeled toward the door.
Fear burst in her, and it was such an unexpected emotion that it intensified immediately. “Where are you going?”
“Are you going out?”
“I’m going to the bloody basement!”
She stood frozen until, from far away, she heard the basement door slam. At the sound she jerked as though hit, and her gaze fell on the clock. It was almost four in the morning.
She had class this afternoon. And she couldn’t sleep in until the hour before because she would need to go back to the hospital to check on Kirsten.
Her legs carried her back to the bed, but when she lay down- fell down, more like- numbness rather than exhaustion gripped her. The numbness only lasted a few minutes though before the seething, churning anger was back, mocking her need for sleep.
The one night when she thought she could really do it, and he refused.
She wanted to hit something, but he was already in the basement with the punching bag. And they had a rule, borne out of past arguments and experience, that if they got into a fight neither could go out patrolling alone to try to take the edge off; there was too much risk of hot-headedness and stupid mistakes; too cruel to worry the other when all they wanted to do was sulk or fume.
Buffy thought about going down to the basement, too, but she would probably end up punching him instead of the bag, and that was not something she did anymore, even now when she was so livid the edges of her vision seemed hazy and red. She fumed and watched the clock and wondered if he would come back before it was time for her to get up and had no idea what she would say if he did.
“And when I got up this morning I found him in the guest room. The guest room. What the hell was he doing there?”
“Probably it was more comfortable than the couch,” said Anya. She finished pouring water into the mugs and carried them to the table, but Buffy had no inclination to sit down. She continued stalking up and down Anya and Xander’s kitchen, spinning whenever she reached the refrigerator or the hardwood floor of the hallway. Anya watched as she settled into a seat and began stirring in milk and sugar.
“I was so angry I wanted to- to-”
She was about to fib and say ‘slam the door and wake him’ when she remembered who she was talking to; Anya knew every nasty urge in the book and wouldn’t bat an eye.
“I wanted to yank open the curtains! Not actually burn him, just give him a nice wake-up call.”
“Because he slept in the guest room?”
“No! Because he’s stupid! Where does he get off- really, where the hell does he get off telling me what I can and cannot handle? He doesn’t get to decide what’s okay for me. It’s- it’s sexist! And rude! How dare he?”
Anya sipped her tea. “I don’t think there’s much to dare about. I think he’s in the right.”
Buffy halted a few steps from the refrigerator and pivoted, hoping she had heard wrong. “You think he- what?”
“I think he’s in the right,” Anya repeated. “I think you’re being irrational.” She slid forward the plate of Oreos she’d arranged. “Cookie?”
“How can you say that?” Buffy’s fingers itched to curl, but she fought to flex them. Xander would not appreciate having to fix a hole in his own kitchen, and she was not going to show aggression toward her very human friend. Even if said friend was completely out of line. She was starting to regret having told Anya everything verbatim.
Anya cocked her head. “First, I think you’re actually angry with yourself for being unable to, let’s say perform, and you’re taking it out on him. Second, he has every right to say no to something he doesn’t feel comfortable doing. Third, I think you need to look at it from his perspective.”
“From his persp-”
“From everything you’ve told me, Spike hasn’t been enthusiastic about this from the start,” continued Anya, ignoring Buffy’s outraged squawk. “But you convinced him to try it and then made him try again. And it’s fine if you have to back down, but each time you do he feels demoralized and ashamed.”
Buffy didn’t jump in when Anya drank her tea. She was too busy fighting a surge of queasiness.
“But asking him to ignore your blatant discomfort isn’t fair. He probably can’t help remembering when he-” Anya paused again, but this time her lips pursed and the mug stayed where it was. When she spoke it was in a slow, delicate, very un-Anya-like way. “He probably can’t help remembering the times he hurt you before he got his soul. And maybe he deserves that guilt and should have to relive it. But-” She bit her lip. “I’ve found since becoming human that when it comes to my friends, sometimes my compassion wins out over my sense of justice. So no, I don’t think he’s out of line for wanting to stop.”
Buffy held her next inhale, waiting to see if Anya was finished. Even when the pause was long enough that it was obvious she was, Buffy still couldn’t speak. She had no idea what she was supposed to say, or if Anya expected any answer at all.
The ticking of the analog clock on the wall was horribly loud in the silence. Buffy looked at it and saw that it was a little past six. Just thirteen hours since the last time she remembered looking at the clock in her bedroom and wondering what Spike was doing before she finally fell asleep. Anya had left work early, leaving the tidying up to Karra after they closed at five, to talk to Buffy.
“In any case I’m pretty sure he’s not sexist,” said Anya, and Buffy snapped back to look at her. “Overly chivalrous sometimes, but I think that’s Victorianism, not sexism. Spike has a healthy respect for women.”
Yes, Buffy wanted to say. You’re right. But the words stuck in her throat. She shouldn’t have needed Anya to remind her of that in the first place. Of any of it.
She had put so much effort into really getting to know Anya and learning to love her after her resurrection in 2004, that Buffy forgot sometimes how painful her unapologetic honesty could be. She remembered all too well when she would have dismissed it as tactlessness and dismissed Anya just as easily.
Tact is just not saying true stuff. I’ll pass.
The quote surfaced from some long-ago memory, and Buffy had to wrack her brain to figure out where it had come from. Cordelia. She couldn’t remember the context, but she knew Cordelia had said it sometime in high school. After Anya and Cordelia became close she and Xander and Willow had joked together about their similar views on tact, but now the parallels didn’t seem so funny. It didn’t seem like tactlessness either.
How strange it was to think that these past few weeks she had confided only in Anya and Cordelia, that she had run to them with her secrets instead of Dawn, Willow, and Xander. She couldn’t help thinking how differently this conversation would have gone with Willow or Dawn. They might have made the same argument as Anya. Or they might have jumped on her bandwagon to boost her morale. Either way, any revelations would have been a long time coming.
Anya’s face had glazed over during Buffy’s long silence. She now wore the polite, faraway expression that signified she suspected she had ignored a human more and was preparing herself for the fallout. Buffy’s chagrin grew.
She glanced at the clock again. She had to go to the Academy and talk to the girls about last night: answer their questions, preach to the choir about the merits of teamwork, and offer any comfort she could muster. Then she should go to the hospital again, assuming she could even talk her way in if visiting hours were over.
She looked back at Anya. She could have some tea first.
Buffy crossed to the table, sat, and picked out an Oreo.
She and Spike didn’t speak while patrolling that evening, and afterward he went to check on the Hellmouth. She dozed at home and kept Friends on in the background. When Spike came in after two he gave her only a brief glance before going into the bathroom. Buffy finished her episode and switched off the TV and DVD player.
She waited until the bedsprings had finished squeaking beneath his weight to say, “Thought you’d be in the guest room again.” She didn’t mean to sound acidic, but all of last night’s hurt and anger- even if maybe Anya was right about who really provoked that anger- still sloshed inside her; the guilt had joined it, not replaced it.
“It’s my bed too,” he retorted, with that curious mix of defensiveness and aggression that only he could pull off.
Rather than glare at him as was her instinct, Buffy tried to remember Anya’s speech. “I know,” she said quietly.
“Good,” he said, “Good night,” and promptly turned on his side, his back to her.
Buffy repressed a sigh. Of course he was going to act like a five-year-old just when she most needed to be mature. His angry words from last night still rang in her head, but just as clearly she could also hear, “You’re sure…we don’t have to do this…I scared you. How is that not my fault?”
She rolled over and touched his back. He stiffened.
“About last night,” she said.
He didn’t speak.
“You were right. I shouldn’t ask you to do something that makes both of us uncomfortable. I’m sorry.”
For an ugly moment she thought he was going to ignore her. Then he rolled over and she saw amidst the wariness a flicker of relief.
“You’re not going to ask-” He raised his eyebrows rather than finish.
“No,” she said. “I think we’ve tried enough.”
His torso seemed to deflate, as though this whole time he had been bracing himself and could now relax. She saw the hardness leave his eyes and his cogs turn as he determined how to reciprocate her olive branch, and before she realized what she was doing she added,
“But maybe we can try again someday. A long, long someday away.”
She held her breath, but rather than re-inflate, resignation lined his face again.
“If you want,” he said.
And that, Buffy thought with no sense of triumph, was perhaps the crux of the problem.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/459592.html