Chapter 9: True Stories
Buffy went downstairs to sleep the next night, but found herself alone. Spike was asleep beside her when she got up to take Dawn to school.
When Spike woke up in the afternoon, an unfamiliar key was on the bedside table. He verified his suspicions by using it to open the small, fire-proof lock box under the bed. After adding the key to his keyring, he pulled all the 2003 letters from his coat pocket, along with the note Buffy had left on his door, and put them in the box. He helped Dawn with her homework, helped Joyce with dinner, and slipped out of the house as soon as Dawn was safely in bed.
Buffy came home from her Scooby meeting late. She made herself a snack, locked up the house, and crawled into Spike's bed. She rolled over sleepily when he joined her a few hours later. “She got it figured out,” she mumbled. “But they're tiny, like little glowy golf balls.”
“Red's version of the Dagon's Sphere? How many?”
“Two dozen. In a bag in the training room. She's going to make more. Tara's helping.”
“You want them all over the house and shop?”
“A few, but also all over town.” Buffy yawned and snuggled close to him. “Don't want to give Glory a lighted path, you know? And it might save Sunnydale a few crazies, if we're lucky.”
“I'll start on it tomorrow, General. Might stash a few at the hospital, too, just to keep Ben on his toes.”
“Sounds good. ...G'night, Lieutenant.” She didn't move again until morning.
Joyce shook her shoulder, whispering, “Honey? I need you to get up. I have an early appointment with the neurologist, remember?”
The next night, Buffy came home even later. She went up to her room to change clothes, and didn't emerge until morning. By that time, Spike had come home from what he felt was a very bizarre Easter egg hiding mission, and was fast asleep.
The following night, Buffy was covered in ashes and dust when she came home. She showered, and tried to wait up for Spike, but ended up dozing off in her own bed with a book in her hands.
Around four am, she woke to sounds from downstairs. A bag rustled. The refrigerator door opened and closed. The microwave beeped. She climbed out of bed and followed the noises to the kitchen.
Spike looked up from the microwave. “Sorry to wake you.”
She climbed on to a counter stool. “It's ok. I haven't seen you in a week. Not awake, anyway.”
“Didn't even see you asleep last night. You didn't come downstairs.” He tilted his head in question.
“Be glad I didn't. I was so tired, I fell into bed still dressed, with a stake in my jacket pocket. What have you been up to?”
Spike shrugged. “Moving some money around with the banker, playing phone tag with my estate agent, working on the downstairs of the crypt, hiding Red's miniature spheres around town, trying to help Nibblet study for her geography exam.” He poured a glass of milk and placed it in front of her.
“Thanks. I bet that was fun.”
He grabbed his mug from the microwave and took the stool beside her. “Thrilling. Pretty sure she still thinks Paraguay is in Asia. So what big nasty left you too tired to come visit last night?”
“Willow, actually. After patrol, I stopped by the dorm to talk to her about other Glory defense ideas. Tara was with her, and the three of us ended up researching stuff for hours. No joy. And this is was after I'd gotten up early to take Mom to the doctor. I was running on fumes before I even got there.”
“Ah, that explains it. Joyce came down and woke you up, yeah?” She nodded. “Thought I smelled her near the bed again when I got up yesterday.”
“Sorry about that. I should have stayed in my room that night.” She sipped her milk. “At least we were dressed. It wasn't awkward or anything. Mom knows I've been going down there. She probably expected it to be more awkward than it was, to be honest.”
“Is it gonna be?”
“We going somewhere, Buffy, or just strolling along memory lane while the pressure's low?
She looked away. “Is that what you want?”
“You know what I want. I'm asking what you want.”
“I want... I want to do better this time around. That's why we're here, right? To do better? I want that. For everything.” It was an answer vague enough to push his buttons, but before he could demand clarity, she reached for his hand. Gently gripping his fingers, she asked again, “Is that what you want?”
Spike's irritation subsided with her touch. “How we gonna do that? We can erase it all from ever happening, but we still remember. No clean slate.”
She smiled. “Well, we have a date Tuesday night. How's that for a start?”
“Yes, and it's very romantic. First, we take out the nest of the vamp that staked me. Then we eat greasy bar food while you tell me horror stories about how you used to kill my kind. Our evening culminates in threats and insults in the alley where we first met, for a nostalgic touch.”
He nodded, remembering. “Joyce goes into hospital on Wednesday, and you've already heard those stories. What say we skip it and stay home with the family?”
“Oh, no.” She shook her head. “I know for a fact that's a good night to skip patrol, that no demons are going to be starting trouble, and that you'll be here after I talk to Mom. I'm not giving that up.”
“How's patrol on Monday night?”
“Pretty light. The only trouble was the stupid stab wound.”
“Right, then. How about Monday, I take you out someplace nice and we talk about something else? We can stay home on Tuesday.”
“As good as that sounds -and don't think the offer of a real date is going unnoticed- there's still the little matter of the guy who put a hole in my gut needing to be dusted.” She looked at her glass, suddenly shy. “And I kind of had my heart set on hanging out at the Bronze with you,” she whispered.
Spike tilted his head, studying her. “You've been thinking about this.”
“It's in our notes: 'Stake the vamp who staked Buffy, then go Bronzing together.' Right next to Tuesday's date.”
“You did not write that,” he laughed.
“Go look.” She gestured toward the basement stairs. “Seriously, I wrote it down.”
“You didn't. I'm calling your bluff, Slayer.” He went downstairs, pulling his keys out of his pocket. When he returned a few minutes later, he approached her slowly. “So you do want a real date?”
“Foreign territory, I know.”
“For us, yeah. ...At least Rona's not around to catch us sneaking out this time.”
“Every bite of drunken noodle was worth it,” she said decidedly.
Spike tilted his head, studying her. “That's not what you said at the time.”
“At the time, I was worried the girls would be gossiping about us instead of sleeping.”
“They were gossiping about us, anyway. Likely thought a lot more was going on than Thai food.”
“I know. Which is why I was willing to keep doing it.” Buffy shrugged. “The damage was done.”
“Monday night, then. Early patrol to clean that nest, then we'll go to the Bronze.”
She grinned. “Are you going to take me dancing?”
“All we've ever done is dance.”
Spike came down the basement stairs after his shower on Saturday afternoon and frowned at the state of his bedroom. There was a smell of sawdust in the air, and the sound of something being repeatedly rubbed against a rough surface. The lock box that held all the paper evidence of their time travel work sat on the bed. An array of debris sat directly below: sawdust, scraps of thin, papery white fabric, a ten inch chunk of lumber, a hacksaw, and two booted feet. “What the bleedin' hell?”
One of the feet kicked up and waved. “Hi!” came the muffled greeting from under the bed.
“Hi,” Spike answered slowly. “Are you taking my bed apart?”
“I already did that. Now I'm trying to avoid future splinters.”
Spike grabbed one of the boots and pulled, dragging Buffy out from under the bed. “If you want to break the box spring, love, I think we can manage it without cheating.”
“Well, obviously! We broke a house. This box spring was a lost cause from the moment you bought it.”
He frowned at the sandpaper in her hand. Then his eyes lit up at the realization that she had taken his joke seriously, that she viewed them breaking this bed together as a given, not a question. Then he looked at her face, and broke into laughter.
She was wearing a pair of over-sized sunglasses, coated with sawdust, which she now pushed down her nose to glare at him. “What?”
His laughter only increased. He gestured helplessly at his own eyes by way of explanation.
“I was sanding over my head and didn't want sawdust in my eyes.” Buffy looked at the items scattered on the floor around her and shrugged. “I don't see the funny.”
Spike managed to calm himself enough to speak. “Only because I don't keep mirrors about, love. Your face--” He fell back into one of the club chairs, still chuckling,
Buffy scrambled to her feet and made a mad dash upstairs. He followed her to the powder room, eager to see her reaction. He wasn't disappointed. “Oh my god! I think I came out of my coffin looking better than this!”
She dropped her sunglasses onto the counter and turned on the faucet, frantically washing away the fuzzy mask of pale yellow sawdust that covered her face, forming a perfect outline of the sunglasses around her eyes. Once her face had regained its natural color and texture, she began running wet fingers through her hair, in an effort to tame the bizarre, sawdust-y version of bed head she'd given herself by sliding around on the floor under the bed. When she was satisfied she looked human again, she looked in the mirror at the reflection of the wall over her shoulder. “Better?”
“Don't know. The blind woodchuck look sort of suited you.”
She screwed up her mouth, trying to think up a retort. When nothing came to mind, she began rapidly shaking her head. Her hair whipped around her, stinging Spike with the tips of damp tendrils, first from one direction, then the other.
“Hey!” He ducked and scrambled out of the powder room.
She followed him into the hall. “If I'm a woodchuck, you're a ...a mosquito!”
Spike turned to stare at her. “What? A bit early in the day to be smashed, isn't it?”
“I'm not drunk! And before you say it, I'm not crazy, either.”
“Then what's the mess all about?”
She put her hands on her hips. “Spike, don't you think keeping a locked box under the bed is a pretty clear sign we're keeping secrets, and presents an obvious place to start looking for answers?”
“So out of sight, out of mind, then?” He leaned against the hallway wall. “You that worried 'bout your mum and kid sis getting too curious?”
Buffy leaned against the wall with him. “A little more than I'd like to be. I don't like hiding from them, and we are hiding, even in plain sight. They're definitely curious about us, Mom especially. It's the little stuff we can't explain that's bothering her. You know, how you knew where the tea cups were, why you shower in her bathroom instead of mine and Dawnie's, why I don't know immediately if you're at home, and have to actually try to sense you...”
“'Cause you're so used to me being here.”
She nodded. “I expect your presence here. Your signature in the house stopped ringing warning bells in my head a long time ago.”
“Bigger things might be what's actually on her mind, love. Like why I'm here at all.”
“All the more reason to hide the box before anyone notices it. Also, if I know my friends...”
“They might break into the house to dig for answers one of these days.”
“Willow and Xan are still a little freaked that you're living here. They may get nosy. I've been playing Year 2000 Buffy with them, trying to be what they see as normal. But I'm not sure they're buying it.”
“Are we gonna be hiding again, love?”
“Just what's in the box, and the fact that there is a box. If they get too curious, they could find out the stuff we have to hide. It's the same reason I don't talk to Tara very much around other people. If we put the unusual stuff out on display too much, we're sunk.”
“But you don't intend to hide...” He put a hand to her cheek.
“No, I don't. But I warn you, the fallout could be pretty awful.”
“Can't be worse than anything we've already been through.”
“That's really not saying much.” They both turned toward the front door at the sound of Joyce's Jeep in the driveway. “Crap. I thought they'd be gone longer.” Buffy hurried back downstairs to finish her work.
Tara looked up from her book with a warm smile when Willow dropped into the chair beside her at the round table. “Hey, Sweetie.”
“Hi.” Willow gave her a peck on the cheek, then looked around the shop. “I feel like partying tonight. Who's in?”
“You're a little late for TGIF, Wils.” Xander laughed. “It's Monday.”
Willow shook her head. “Not for me. I spent the weekend finishing that huge paper Dr. Grandstone wanted turned in today and making that third batch of mini Dagon's Spheres Buffy asked for. With only one class tomorrow, and all that stuff done, this feels like a Friday... Speaking of Buffy, what's she up to? Maybe we can do a full Scooby Bronze night after her patrol.”
“We could join her on patrol, too. We haven't done that since the dark ma-- since Dracula was in town.”
“You aren't going to go out to a cemetery to try to get yourself killed tonight, Xander Harris,” Anya said from behind the counter. “Buffy said she was going to patrol early. She has a date tonight.”
Willow and Xander exchanged worried looks. “Ahn, did she tell you who her date was?”
“I didn't ask.” Anya shrugged. “But it must be someone really hot.”
The crease in Willow's brow deepened. “Why do you say that?”
Anya rolled her eyes at Willow's uncomprehending of the obvious. “Because she's living with Spike.”
Willow's nose wrinkled to match her brow. “You're not making any sense. But you're saying her date isn't Spike, right?”
“I'm saying,” Anya added a sigh to her eye roll. “That any sane straight woman with that living in her house must have a pretty yummy fish on her line if she's not staying home for sex.”
“Ew! Anya!” Xander waved his hands around his head. “Bad pictures! Bad pictures!”
Willow's face relaxed. “Despite the ooky Anya-logic, This is kind of a good thing. She hasn't been out with anyone since Riley.”
Xander dropped his hands. “Hey, maybe it's that Ben guy she met at the hospital when her mom passed out that one time. Dawnie said he seemed interested.”
“As long as she'slooking somewhere other than home, I'll take it as good news.”
Tara bit her lip and buried her nose deeper in her book
Her face was flushed. Her heart was racing. And the scent... Spike had to keep reminding himself they were surrounded by people, that the thumping music he heard was more than the heartbeat that held his focus. When the song ended, he let her lead him back to their table. “You sure you still want food?”
Buffy threw him a sly smile that reflected his thoughts as she climbed onto her bar stool. “Someone still owes me some stories, with a side of blooming onion.”
“Stories you've heard.”
“I haven't heard all of them. Tell me the other stories.
“A century of mayhem and killing? The slayers I fought to a draw?”
She shook her head. “Stuff I don't know. Tell me... Tell me about William Pratt.”
“That man's long dead, love.”
“I know better than that, Spike. You're from a master line. I know the man survives inside the demon.”
“Yeah? So what's your excuse for Peaches?”
Buffy screwed up her mouth. “I walked right into that, didn't I?”
“'Bout seven years ago, yeah.”
“Ok, so once upon a time, Liam wasn't the world's nicest guy. I'll give you that.”
“Liam was a drunken lout with a weakness for short blondes. You know how well that worked out.”
She snorted. “Lost the breathing, kept the fixation? Yeah, I caught that memo. And William?”
“Liked unattainable women.” He gestured across the table with his drink. “You know how that worked out, too.”
“Pretty well, from where I'm sitting.”
“Think so, do you?”
“Yeah, I do.”
After a long, heavy silence, Spike nodded toward the dance floor. “You wanna head back out there?”
She tapped the table emphatically. “Stories.”
“Or we could be dancing elsewhere...”
Buffy broke eye contact. “I thought we were going to order food and talk? Maybe play some pool?”
“Don't much feel like talking just now, love.” He leaned across the table. “Neither do you.”
Spike was slow to tear his eyes away from her pouting lip. He leaned back. “Short version is that William lived up to his surname. Not a man worth your time.”
Buffy stirred her drink with her straw. “I don't know, I think I would have liked him. From the little I know, he was kind of nerdy, but very sweet.”
“Bit more nerdy than anything else. Wrote bleedin' awful poetry. Everyone said so.”
“To unattainable women?”
“Give me a sampling.”
Spike slipped off his stool. “Too sober for that, love. Should I order food while I'm at the bar?”
“And another rum and Coke for me, please. Being under-aged again really sucks.”
During the band's break, a familiar laugh caught Xander's ear. He turned toward the sound. “Buffy?”
Willow, Anya, and Tara followed his gaze to the pool tables on the far side of the dance floor. Buffy and Spike were smiling as they talked, only half paying attention to their game.
“I was afraid of that,” Willow said. She dropped her forehead to the table. “Giles is going to have a fit.” She lifted her head. “But at least he'll set her straight. He's let Spike hang around too long already.”
Anya propped her chin on her hand as she studied the scene across the room. “I don't get it. She already has him at home. Why the wine and dine? And the symbolic handling of long sticks?”
“Bad pictures, Ahn,” Xander reminded her, his eyes still locked on the pair at the pool table. “Not that this one is a whole lot better.” He stood up. “I think I'm going to go say 'Hi.'”
Tara bit her lip. If only they could see what I see, she thought. She put a hand on Xander's shoulder to stop him. “Or you could respect their privacy. Do you want Buffy to intrude on your dates with Anya?”
Xander stepped out of her reach. “If Anya were a soulless, serial killing demon, I hope Buffy would intrude.” He walked resolutely toward the pool tables.
Anya stirred the ice in her soda with a frown. “Anya was,” she whispered.
“If it weren't for all the clouds and rain, I'd have never seen 1970. Was still too buggered up to seek shelter in the morning.”
Buffy laughed as she put down her drink on the table's edge. “I'm trying to picture you blending in with a bunch of hippies. It's just so... so not you. But then, I guess this was before your punk phase?”
“The sixties were a weird time for everyone, dead or alive.”
“You aren't going to tell me how you blended in?”
Spike focused on the table as he planned his shot. “Your turn, love. Tell me something I don't know.”
“Um... I used to ice skate.”
“And thought Dorothy Hamil was the best thing since stuffed pigs. Try again.”
Buffy was silent for a moment. “You know that time I came down to the basement and found you talking and smoking with Faith?”
“You thought she was making a play for your leftovers again and got royally brassed off. Try again.”
“Shows what you know.” She fidgeted with the chalk block. “I was jealous.”
He looked up. “Yeah?”
“Green to the gills. Faith... well, you know the history. And really, you two are alike in a lot of ways...”
“Huh?” Buffy jumped when Xander tapped her shoulder.
“Hey, Buff. What's up?”
“Xan! Hi. I didn't know you were coming out tonight.”
“It was kind of spur of the moment.” Xander gestured across the room to the Scoobies' usual table. “Willow wanted to hang. We would have invited you, but Anya thought you had a date tonight. It's not too late to join us.”
Buffy's fingertips were turning blue from the turning of the chalk block in her hand. She put it down beside her drink and turned her focus to rubbing the remnants from her fingers. “I do,” she said quietly. “I mean, I'm on a date.”
Xander looked to the other end of the table, where Spike stood perfectly still with a pool cue in his hand, listening to the conversation with an unreadable expression. “I was hoping you wouldn't say that. ...But I kind of thought you would.” He waited for Buffy to offer some explanation or apology, but she stood there, as quiet as Spike. “Um, ok, then. I guess I'll get out of the way.”
As he shuffled back across the crowded room, Buffy let loose a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. “Ok. That could have gone worse.”
“How long you think 'til they go running to the watcher?”
“They might hold out until tomorrow afternoon.”
“Red told your mum she thinks I have you in a thrall.”
“Make that first thing in the morning.”
Spike came around the table to stand in front of her. “But that's still tomorrow. Would rather get back to tonight.” He ran a finger along her jawline, and gently pushed her chin upward, so she was looking him in the eye. “You were saying something about jealousy?”
She faltered under his gaze. “Um, yeah. You and Faith.”
“You forget the part where I like unattainable women? Not much unattainable about that one.”
“Good point.” Buffy smiled. “I should have known better.”
“Damn right you should... She's not you.” Spike lowered his lips to hers, drawing her into a heated kiss. When he broke away to allow her to catch her breath, he whispered. “Two options, love. Plan A, you look across the dance floor, see if your mates are watching us, and go into a panic. Plan B, you finish your drink and let me take you home.”
She kept her eyes locked on his as she drained her glass.