Whispers in a Dead Man’s Ear (5/8) (Part 1)

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series Whispers in a Dead Man's Ear
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Heading home from work now, but wanted to leave this before I head out.

Part 5:

Set during Older and Far Away, BtVS.  It takes a lot of work to move from awkward silences to comfortable companionship–just how did Buffy and Spike end up playing cards the morning after her party?

This one’s also in 2 linked parts due to size constraints.


Whispers in a Dead Man’s Ear (5/8) (Part 1)

The look on Buffy’s face when he’d walked in the door had been well worth the six-pack of beer cost of admission.  She certainly hadn’t expected to see him at her birthday party; then again, she hadn’t expected that he would even know about it.  And he wouldn’t have, not without the chance meeting with Willow and the stammered attempts at conversation that had resulted in her inadvertent invitation.

Of course he’d known it was her birthday.  That was something he’d known for years.  Know thine enemy, know thine enemy, know thine enemy; it had been drilled into his head for years under Angelus’ tutelage.  Then, when she’d become more than an enemy to him, or at least something different, he’d had an entirely different reason to remember, even if she’d never know that he did.  Even if she’d never let him acknowledge it, not without making him pay for his temerity in demonstrating the feelings of a heart that surely couldn’t have any.

He was here now, though; had been here for hours, and had managed precious few moments with her in that span.  He wasn’t honestly certain why he’d come, except that he hadn’t seen her since her Florence Nightingale routine and he wanted answers.  Clues, even.  Hell, all he really wanted was to see her face again, to try to see what all that had meant to her, because he still wasn’t sure he knew what, if anything, to make of it.  The week alone had been what he’d needed in so many ways, but he knew better than to believe that he could stay away from her for long.  Moth, flame.  A century or more of thinking he could defy it, and he was a damned poetic cliché after all.

He should leave, just walk right out the door and into the night.  Leave Clem to the unexpected fun he seemed to be having, find a bar, get royally pissed and get some pretty little thing with a fixer-upper complex to keep him warm for the night.  He wouldn’t, of course.  What he would do was more of what he was doing—smoking in the kitchen, being careful to hold the cigarette under the exhaust fan and to exhale the smoke as much in that direction as possible.  All the while studiously avoiding any thought that involved how very, very whipped his actions made him appear.  He was being thoughtful; far more pink lungs than black in this house, after all, and consideration…

*Consideration, hell,* he thought, pushing off the kitchen counter and turning for the back door.  Enough waiting for her to come around, for her to decide he was worth talking to.  Enough waiting on himself to get the balls to go and lure her away.  Enough of this charade.

“Leaving so soon?”  Buffy asked, tone laced with just enough disappointment to stay his feet.  “Or were you just going outside to smoke that cigarette that’s not supposed to be lit in this house?”

He raised a brow at the dig, at the humor that tinged the scolding where once reprobation would have had full reign.  “Well, well, an’ the princess makes time for the commonfolk.  Not every day I get the pleasure of one of your stature keepin’ me company.”  He turned towards her, noting with no small amount of satisfaction that she looked unsettled, unsure.  “Least, not unless she’s gone an’ gotten some little achey she needs taking care of.  Wouldn’t be that vibrator Willow gave you that you’re hidin’ behind your back, now would it?”

“It’s a massager.  And no,” Buffy answered, flushing deeply and shifting her hands in front of her, revealing two bottles of beer and a plate of cake.

“Strange combination you got there,” Spike remarked blandly, taking a long drag of his cigarette and following it with an equally long exhale directed towards her.

Buffy coughed as she put the bottles and plate on the counter, waving one now-empty hand in front of her.  “God, Spike.  I know you have manners somewhere in there.”  When he merely smirked in response, she reached over and took the cigarette from his hand, taking it to the sink and running water over all of it but the filter before handing it back to him with a sweet smile.  “Maybe the water can help with the stink.  Why don’t you light it and we’ll see.”

“You bitch.”

“I’m not the one breaking house rules I’ve known for years, now am I?  What do you think Mom would’ve done if she’d caught you smoking in here?”

“Probably asked me nicely to put it out, which I would’ve done.  I’m sure whatever it was would be a damn sight classier than what you just did.  Certain she’d be thrilled by you treatin’ a guest like this.”  He knew it was a low blow, but he didn’t care.  He had a week’s worth—more, if he was honest—of frustration to exorcise, and he’d take whatever openings he got.

“You’re not a guest, Spike, you’re a crasher,” she shot back angrily, taking a paper napkin from the stack on the island and beginning to sweep potato chip crumbs off the counter into it.

He grabbed her arm, spun her, pinned her to the counter.  “And now we’re down to it, aren’t we.  You didn’t want me here.  Care to tell me why?”

“Let me go, Spike.”

“Gladly.”  His fingers unwrapped from her wrist and he stalked back to the stove, lighting another cigarette along the way and taking a deep inhale before turning to meet her glare.  “Question on the floor.  ‘s all yours, Buffy.”

She stared pointedly at his hand, rolling her eyes when he pointed to the exhaust hood.  “You’re not even going to pretend to be civilized, are you?”

“Figure one of us is doin’ all the pretending one place can stand.  Anyone else starts tapdancin’ to keep up a good diversion, floor’s gonna fall in.”

Buffy crossed her arms in agitation.  “Can we not, right now?  It is my birthday, and my friends are in there…”

“And I’m in here.  With you.  Funny how it always seems to work that way.”

“You know what, enough of this.  Drink your beer, smoke your cigarettes, stink up my house and do whatever else it is you want to do, while I go back and try to bask in some sense of normalcy on the hell that is usually my birthday.”

“You’re not going anywhere until you’ve answered me,” Spike said, voice low and even as he remained standing by the counter.  “Wait a mo.  ‘Drink my beer’?  What beer?  All my beer’s out there, likely bein’ consumed by Captain Staypuft and his sidekick, the plank-layin’ prettyboy.”

“Oh my God, will you ever grow up?” Buffy groaned.  “A hundred years, and you still act like you’re twelve.  That beer, Spike.”  She pointed at the bottles on the counter.

“Hundred twenty-one, not countin’ the human years as change besides.  And you brought me beer.”

“So?”  The challenge was fully present in her expression, though it seemed to waver in her voice.

“You want me gone so you can make like a happy socialite, but you brought me beer?”

Buffy didn’t answer, merely stared at her hands where they lay against the counter.

“What in the hell is going on here, Buffy?”

Then came that voice again, still little-girl lost, still sweeping him away despite its fragility.  Damn it all.

“I don’t know.”  Her eyes didn’t move from their examination of her fingers.

For the millionth time, he was left wondering how she did it, how she managed to make herself look so small.  Fate of the world on her shoulders, and sometimes she looked like she could barely hold her own weight.

Spike grunted softly, shaking his head.  “Would’ve thought the earth would shake, first time I get honesty from you.”

“What do you want from me, Spike?” Buffy hissed, hands raising from and then slapping back onto the counter.  “Things were… I thought things were okay after the other night.  Or getting there.  I tried.  And then you come here and act like nothing’s wrong and you’re all ‘ooh, Buffy’ this and ‘muscle cramp candle-blowing’ that and I think things might be all right, so I come in here and you’re all moody and demanding and I don’t know what you want.”

“Maybe I don’t know either, Slayer.  Maybe I’m tired of being the one you come to for all the bloody answers.”  He took a deep breath, lowering his voice from the attention-drawing register it had been approaching.  “I know I want something other than what I’m getting, but damned if I know what that is.”  His words were as close to the truth as he had allowed himself to travel.  He knew enough to shield himself from the unfettered desires of his heart; as long as he kept his yearnings nameless, it was harder to be disappointed.  He had learned those lessons more than a century before.

“Then how am I supposed to know, Spike?  Maybe what you’re getting is all I have to give.”

They stared at each other for a long minute, postures and faces screaming stalemate;  ‘where do we go from here?’ was an even murkier question than it had been the night of their first real kiss.  The air grew stifling, and while Buffy was the first to look away, Spike was the one who broke the silence.

“It’s one step forward, two back with you, Buffy.  You can come to me an’ play pretend that something’s changed, bandage me up and act like you give a damn, and I’m still just bloody fool enough to believe it.  Believed it right up until I heard all about this little occasion from the witchlet.”  He tossed his cigarette into the sink and took a step towards her.  “You don’t want me here, that’s one thing.  You thinkin’ even now that I’m not man—no, wait—that I’m not being enough to deserve to hear about it from your own mouth, that’s another.  Another damn thing you can’t seem to decide, at the end of a very long list.”

“I wasn’t… God, Spike,” Buffy sighed, sitting heavily on one of the island’s stools.  “I wasn’t pretending.  You think that was easy for me?  To go there and face you, face what I did?  To apologize?”

“So you said sorry, Buffy, an’ the world didn’t end.  In the grand scheme, it doesn’t change a damn thing.”  Her indignant stare and the squaring of her shoulders were noted but went unremarked upon as he forged ahead.  “What of that sorry did you mean?  Sorry that you hurt me, or that you sullied your precious self to do it?  That you bruised me, or bruised your ego?  Or do you even know…”

“Stop it, Spike.  I told you I was sorry, and I’m not going to sit here and grovel and write you a list of why.  Read something into it.  You’re good at that.”

“Not a lot of time for the readin’ lately, what with you taking up all my waking hours fucking me blind.”

Two sets of furious, wounded eyes met and held.


Continues here

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/50240.html

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