“Look at that over there,” Buffy brushes her fingertips over Spike’s forearm around her waist and whispers back toward him over the sounds of the jazz music at the Blue Nile.
Spike pulls her closer against his midsection in the booth they’re sharing and doesn’t stop bobbing his head with the fast-paced notes. “At what, love?”
Buffy is glad she doesn’t have to shout over the band. Put one check mark in the pro column for vampire hearing. “Over there,” she repeats. “Can’t you see?”
Sighing, Spike dips his head closer to her ear, so she can hear, “I saw the pair of them, pet. I was trying to ignore the situation so as to relax and enjoy the music with the woman I love.”
Buffy shivers with desire at his breath over her ear but doesn’t let his distraction hinder her and sits up a bit, almost elbowing Spike in the stomach. “But we can’t just ignore it. You should know that by now.”
He shifts with her. “Hey. It’s not like I would ignore it forever. . . just for now. We’re in New Orleans for fun this time, and I have every intention of having a different experience with you.”
The couple sitting next to them give them a shut-up-I’m-enjoying-the-music-and-you’re-ruining-it look, and while Buffy does her best to seem embarrassed, Spike just ignores them, too. They glare harder at him.
Luckily, a trumpet solo blasts loudly across the night club to recapture their attention, and Buffy notices the vampire pair following a few staggering party goers out into the wide-open night on Frenchman Street. She’s on her feet in an instant, unfurling from Spike’s reluctant arms and grabbing him by the hand. He takes a swig from his beer and sets it aside, sighing again but more out of amusement than anything. He follows her lead through the dim establishment as she excuses herself through the small engrossed crowd and haze of cigarette smoke to the door.
Buffy pushes through the outside humidity that immediately coats her skin and hair, hardly noticing the contrast of the quiet on the street with the hum of the music inside because the energy of the hunt is fueling her. Her Slayer instincts kick into gear, and she’s glad she only let herself have one cocktail. She catches a glimpse of the target vampires as two inebriated humans head toward the much less populated Elysian Fields Avenue and undoubtedly their car without a care in the world.
These vamps are well disguised, dressed like a normal young couple who frequents the music scene, his chin coated with a well-groomed stubble and hair in a short ponytail and her lithe form clothed in a flowing bohemian dress and her feet clad in gladiator sandals. Buffy fondly recalls when vamps used to hold onto the ways of their past. . . like the vampire who has her heart.
She turns her head to make sure he's behind her and grins. “Come on!” Buffy slips a stake into his palm, lightly kisses Spike on the lips, and virtually skips toward the fight.
Happy to see Buffy happy and more eager for a fight seeing that she is exuberant, Spike continues to go with her, his heart lighter than he remembers it being in a long time. He makes a silent vow not to take the feeling for granted.
Buffy somehow manages to contain herself until they’re out of view of the loitering locals and the shadows are longer and deeper. Sure enough, the potential victims are oblivious to their level of danger as the male half of the couple tries to open the car door for his date while she leans heavily on the bumper, looking every bit like she might throw up at any moment. One of the vampires growls as he lunges out of the dark to grab the chivalrous fellow.
Before the poor drunk guy can even react to the fangs almost plunging into his neck, Buffy's voice calls out, "Ahem." The vampire's eyes flash gold as they find the Slayer's. "Just what do you think you're doing?"
Smirking, Spike hangs back a bit, letting his girl have her moment.
The vampire lets go of his target, his fangs retracting into his mouth, leaving him looking decidedly human. "You! You're back in town?!"
Buffy raises both eyebrows in surprise. She hadn't realized that her brief sojourn in the Crescent City made such an impression in the local vampire culture. "Uh huh. Looks like." She meanders a little closer, crossing her arms.
The female vampire steps into view. "And she brought her own vampire with her." She sounds really confused and more than a little irritated.
"What the hell?" The pony-tailed vamp squints at Spike in the distance behind me. "What're you doing?!"
Spike moves to Buffy's side. "Not that it’s any of your business, mate, but I'm trying to take a vacation with my lady."
"That's just beyond wrong." The female vampire shakes her head so that her long braids move over her shoulders as if they agree with her disbelief.
Buffy frowns. "No, wrong is what you're about to do to that couple who's just out for a good time." She smiles at Spike and says brightly, "Like us."
Spike notices movement behind the vampire couple. "Um, love."
"Yep, I see them." Buffy is excited by the prospect of an unknown number extra vampires to fight. "It wouldn't be a vacation with you without a little danger, and hey, at least we can see them this time. Plus, they aren’t nearly as smart as that Taggert guy. Standard, run-of-the-mill vampires…what a concept!”
“Hey!” the male vamp protests.
Buffy’s eyes flick to Spike’s. “Ready?"
Spike shifts into his own vampire visage. "Always."
The skirmish with the vampires begins in earnest, and Buffy and Spike slip into their normal ease with one another, dancing around one another, improvising, and picking up where the other leaves off. This is the first fight with just the two of them, and Buffy's whole body vibrates with the pleasure of having him by her side, having this time with just the two of them. She almost doesn't want the fray to end, but Spike dusts the last vampire who shoved her to the ground.
She looks up at her vampire, and they grin with satsifaction at one another. Buffy briefly turns her head to pull her now damp hair into a messy bun. She accepts Spike's hand of assistance and hops to her feet, brushing the dust of the last vampire off her clothes and sliding her stake back into hiding.
Spike nods his head toward the drunken couple. The young woman appears to be half asleep or semi-conscious on top of the trunk, and her boyfriend is staring at them with bewilderment and a little fear. The vampires were luckily so focused on Buffy and Spike that they forgot about their snack. "What'll we do about them, love?"
Buffy glances over her shoulder. "Cab them? There are lots of cabs around the Quarter."
"Cabbing them seems efficient."
She pulls out her cell phone, searches for a taxi service, and calls. Within a few minutes, their rescued couple is safely ensconced in the bowels of a demon-free yellow car and headed home.
As the cab pulls away, Buffy becomes cognizant of just how sweaty and hot she is. She wrinkles her nose. "I need a shower." Then, she remembers how much Spike was enjoying the music. "Should we go back to the Blue Nile?”
"Not if you don't want to. Don't care what we do." He smiles at how disheveled she looks. He honestly doesn't care if she is stinky or grumpy or wants to do cartwheels down Bourbon Street as long as he's with her. He doesn't say this out loud though because he doesn't want her to have permission to always be grumpy; he likes how kind she is to him now. . . appreciates how hard she's trying to treat him well.
"I thought you wanted me to hear Kermit Ruffins."
"I did, but since we accomplished what we came here to do, I really just want to relax and be with you before we go back to. . ."
"Don't say it! We're not talking about ‘w’ word. I'm glad we got the other thing with Isaac out of the way, and I don't want to think about what we have to do after we leave here. All my vacations lately have sucked. . . well, not completely, but they certainly haven’t been the escape from reality a vacation is supposed to be." Buffy doesn't want to talk about how they went back to Crescent City Books to make sure William’s copies of Chosen were all gone and that no one recognized him. They did their duty; she texted Dawn that everything was all clear. Dawn told them to have fun and forget about the world for a little while, which she is determined to do.
"I think I can handle that, pet. So where do you want to go?"
Buffy starts to amble back toward Frenchman Street, and her stomach growls. "I'm thinking food now, shower later. If we shower and go out, I'm just gonna get all sticky again; it's so humid. How is it so humid here?"
“New Orleans is basically in the middle of a swamp, pet.” Spike eases his hand around hers. "How do you feel about oysters?"
Buffy grimaces. "Dawn dragged me to Acme a lot when we were waitin. . . here." She laces her fingers through his.
"Or a re-do on the beignets?"
She bounces. "With the mountains of sugar?" She could definitely use a re-do on the way that evening ended.
"With the mountains of sugar."
"You really do know the way to a Slayer's heart."
Spike can't help but laugh, which melts Buffy’s heart; she’s glad it’s Spike’s laugh and not William’s. "In what way, love?"
"The fight, the food, and the. . ." She moves both eyebrows up and down at him, and he can't help but pull her close and plant a gentle kiss in the soft place between her jaw and her neck before they head through the dark streets toward the quiet evening bustle of Jackson Square.
This time, Buffy chooses a different table at Café du Monde and moves her metal chair close to Spike's, swinging her legs over his lap. He lazily strokes her calf as he looks over the menu on the side of the napkin box. A breeze snakes its way through the open-air cafe, and Buffy leans her head back to catch the cool air.
"Same order?" Spike asks.
She covers his hand with one of hers and props her head up on the table with the other, smiling at him. "Yes, please."
After the waitress comes and goes and returns with their frozen cafe au laits, Buffy fingers the edge of the lid on her beverage and says, "I love you, you know?" She hasn’t said it since that night in Houston, and somehow being in this café with him makes her feel sad about all the times she hurt his heart in the past . . .makes her want to remind him.
Spike can't hear this enough, and it's still new enough that he almost can't believe it, but then, he reminds himself that he promised her that he would, so he does. "I know." He also can't believe that he can say his next words without recrimination, "I love you, too."
Her eyes well with tears before she can stop them. She tries to blink them away because she doesn't want to ruin their time together, but what she doesn't realize is that she can't. Spike reaches over as one tear slides past her will. "Cry as much as you need to, love. I'm not going anywhere. If the Powers couldn't stop me, nothing can, nothing will."
She laughs despite herself, and she sniffles. How does he know exactly what she needs to hear even before she knows it herself? "I hope you know I'm not going anywhere either." She suddenly finds that she also needs to meet his unwavering gaze and say, "You're it for me. You're my only. I can't imagine being with anyone else. . . if you’ll have me when I’m old and grey."
Spike wants more than anything to carry her back to the their rented condo and make love to her, but the beignets arrive, steaming hot and sugary. He lifts the top one and offers her a bite, which she gratefully accepts.
They don't say much more as they eat the rest of the beignets together, people watch some, and gaze at one another. Once their feast is done, they wander away from the café and leisurely walk back to their condo. . . the same condo that Buffy rented before, only the first floor this time because it's darker during the daytime with enough sunlight to illuminate the room but not enough to cause Spike to burst into flames. . . the best of both worlds.
Buffy heads into the shower first. Spike finds himself leaning against the sink in the tiny kitchenette to give her some time to clean up, but then, he wonders what the hell he’s doing and joins her in the shower. He approaches her slowly and with questions in his eyes, not making any moves because of where they are. She appears relieved when he joins her, and he brushes her hands away from her hair and massages the shampoo into her scalp with just enough pressure that she closes her eyes and a tiny moan escapes her lips. She is deliberate and tender with him, too, to reassure him that she is okay, and once they are both clean, she pulls him from the bathroom onto the bed where they make love.
When they are both sated, Buffy curls up next to him and lays her head on his chest. Spike’s fingers lightly trail over her hip, and she emits a contented sigh.
She’s almost asleep when he murmurs, “You sure there’s room in your apartment for me?”
She shoves him a little. “What kind of question is that?”
“Well, I mean, we haven’t exactly talked about the logistics of. . . and the Bit told me that you share a closet.”
“You won’t have to stay in the closet.” She thinks back to how he lived in Xander’s closet for a while. “And hey, if we want an extra bedroom, we can always use some of the money William left us and get a two-bedroom apartment.”
“That’s a definite no with a capital ‘n.’ No home ownership for Buffy. . . not for a very long time. ‘Sides, where go you and Dawn, ergo my home. . . or something like that.”
Spike kisses the top of her head, and they lay there quietly for a few more minutes until Buffy wonders, “So I never figured out why the ghost tour stops outside this place.”
“Thought you were a researcher of historical establishments.”
“Truth be told, pet, the place is haunted.”
Buffy’s heart skips. “Really? You can tell?”
“’Course. Any astute vamp can pick up on these things.” Spike moves one hand behind his head as Buffy lifts onto her elbow. “She’s a young girl, has a cat. She stays upstairs mostly.”
“Mostly? What did she see?” Somehow Buffy finds it ironic that she’s worried about a ghost seeing them together.
Spike chuckles. “She didn’t see anything, pet, but she is glad to see us again. Glad we found our way back to each other ‘cause see, she and her lover didn’t fare so well. Don’t rightly know what happened though. She’s not that specific.”
“Oh, that’s so sad.”
Spike runs the back of his fingers over her cheek, and she leans into the touch, her skin tingling all over again. “That was almost us.”
“Almost.” She kisses his palm and then hugs him close. “I won’t let it happen again.”
“We won’t let it happen again. No more goodbyes.”
She agrees, “No more goodbyes. Only hellos.”