The One Where You Hate Me
I took my mother’s advice and found a lawyer. I hired one in Collinsville, so there was little chance of Mark finding out, until I was ready to take the next step. It felt dishonest and sneaky but my mother had a point. I needed to build my case NOW, so when the shit hit the fan I had a raincoat on.
I wasn’t working at the time, and my mom wasn’t rolling in dough. Using Mark’s money to bring a case against him seemed like a jerk move.
Interestingly, my dad said he would help. My dad was never the crappy, missing in action father that Buffy had on the show.
He wasn’t super involved in my life when I was a teen, and he hadn’t known about the Slaying. He knew I was having a rough adolescence and getting into trouble, but he thought that was the result of my parent’s break up, not that I was an undercover super hero. He always paid his child support and he made decent money so it was a substantial help to my mother.
Obviously he saw Dawn tons more than me, but after the first few post divorce years, when I was sort of surly with him, we were on good terms. I didn’t run to him with the details of my life like I did with Mom, but when he heard that my marriage was failing and I was worried about custody he stepped right up.
He knew a thing or two about divorce and custody, and he knew that I wasn’t crazy. Most importantly, he knew Becky was the world to me.
He put down a generous retainer on the lawyer and told me he would help in whatever way he could. He’d just gone through his second divorce, no children involved, but he was feeling the hurt of a broken relationship and had a lot of sympathy for me. And so began “Operation Buffy’s Bright and Shiny New Life”.
Surprisingly, once I started talking to a lawyer, things got better between Mark and I. I felt less resentful, because I didn’t feel trapped. Sometimes I went to church with him, Jackson and Becky. I wondered if maybe there was hope for us after all.
I liked Mark. I loved him. I just didn’t know how to be a wife to him. I had begun to feel more like his daughter. It was a bit like what had happened with Xander. Once it felt more like Mark was taking care of me than being my partner, the dynamic started to go sideways.
Mark’s concern felt a little too paternal, his enthusiasm at my feeling better was like a dad praising his daughter when she learns to ride a bike and less like a husband saying “honey I’m so glad you’re home.”
I say it FELT that way, because I’m not sure it was that way. I don’t think he was overly condescending towards me, or patronizing or any of that, but that was how I took it.
Men have played a strange role in my life. There isn’t any ready parallel, in regular life, to a Watcher. He is not quite teacher, coach or dad. He’s not quite principal, police officer or private eye, but something like all of those put together, with a dollop of super intelligent sidekick on top. You know how Batman has his butler and James Bond has the guy who makes all the gadgets, there was some of that sprinkled in as well.
I had a hard time pinning down my relationships with men. I had weird expectations from them. Following my parent’s divorce, I had a ton of resentment towards my father. He had failed me, he had broken up the family. (my mom says it was as much her as him but at the time I had to blame him, because I couldn’t afford to alienate her) Next thing I know, I get called as Slayer and I’m facing ultimate evil. Where was he when I needed him?
When other men would act fatherly towards me, it really pissed me off. What right did anyone think they had to tell me what to do? I gave Giles and Angel a ton of shit over exactly that.
Any boyfriend whoever made reference to himself as “daddy” or called me his “little girl”, was summarily shown the door. Mark acting fatherly towards me, pissed all over the romantic side of our relationship.
Things showed a glimmer of improvement when I was sneaking around, behind his back, with a lawyer. I phrase it that way because sometimes when people in a bad marriage start an affair with another partner, the marriage feels a little boost of renewal.
An affair isn’t something anyone should start in hopes of saving their marriage, and the little boost is very temporary. My therapist said it’s because the partner feels hopeful because someone loves them and finds them attractive after all. They aren’t doomed to loneliness.
When you hire a divorce lawyer, it can reduces some of the stress and fear for the future, but it’s hardly a sign that the marriage is on the mend, and when the spouse finds out, clearly it’s considered a betrayal.
Wendy, who was pretty well appraised about what was going on, but didn’t know all the gory details, told me that Spike was no longer listed as unavailable.
You knew this was coming, right?
He had shown up on the dial after being MIA for years and because I had asked her to let me know if that ever happened, she did. Knowing he was out there somewhere, did not equate with me being required to see him ever again, nor had Spike claimed to be looking for me.
He had been gone just shy of 7 years. Everything in my life had changed, likely everything in his life had changed. 7 years might not be as long in vampire time, but even so, a lot can happen.
He could have found 100 new women to sleep with, or even found a serious girlfriend. He may or may not have gotten involved with one of the 4 Slayers that had been called since I retired. Anything could have happened. (but face it, I was pretty much obsessed with his relationship status)
Maybe it was Slayer instinct, or maybe I was ready to get bare bones honest with myself, but I was pretty sure the timing, on Spike’s part, wasn’t wholly coincidental.
When Spike didn’t turn up after my UCLA graduation, I believed that he had moved on. I couldn’t imagine any reason, other than him being dead or no longer interested in me, that he wouldn’t have come back to claim me. It pissed me off to think that he might have been out there, keeping tabs on me, but staying away just the same.
I probably should have told Wendy thanks, and that I was glad to know he was alive and well, and to tell Oscar to tell Spike I’d said “hi”. I probably should have waited until I had properly dissolved my marriage.
Instead, I told Wendy, to tell Oscar, that if Spike ever happened to, you know...find himself on the West Coast the next time he was in the States, I’d meet him for coffee or whatever.
27 hours later there was a knock on my door. I didn’t have to check the peephole to know it was him. Every hair on my body stood up. Every blood vessel dilated. Everything in my entire being screamed vampire.
Ironically, or perhaps predictably, he had showed up during “me time”. I was after dark, and “me time” was nearly over. Mark would be home within the hour.
“Spike?” I said through the closed door.
You know that heart swelly thing I’ve described a bunch of times. That happened…and then some.
I opened the door and there he was, looking devastatingly handsome, like he pretty much always did. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Sure he was an old friend, but he was also a vampire and I couldn’t invite him into my husband’s house.
I stepped outside.
He looked me up and down and swallowed hard. I was certain that he was looking at me and thinking that a lot had changed in 7 years. I was older, sleep deprived, and had a mom’s body.
He got that very concerned, disturbed look of his, which could mean just about anything. He stepped towards me and hooked his pointer fingers around mine.
Feelings came surging to life. I was like a blender that had been left on high. Now the cord had been plugged in and I was screeching and vibrating my way across the countertop.
He looked terrified. For some reason I found that reassuring.
Vampires don’t really blush, but they can go pale, and he went very, very pale. His toes were wiggling and tapping up and down in no particular rhythm, other than intense agitation.
“Buffy, can I?”
As former Slayer, he offered me right of refusal, even though he knew I no longer had my full strength and couldn’t throw him through a wall.
I must have lifted my face to him because I know I didn’t say anything. He took my face in his hands, held my jaw open and did his wacky vampire thing.
When he was done, he pulled back, and looked even more concerned and disturbed than he had a moment earlier. Oh dear god, what had he found in there?!
“I know you can’t invite me in.”
“No, I really can’t.” Well, no more than I just had.
“Can we meet?”
For obvious reasons, a daytime meeting was out. Every night I had Mark and Becky, so that wasn’t going to work. I could make an excuse, say I was meeting a friend…
“Are you staying somewhere?” He must be.
“Nowhere I’d take you.” I wouldn’t have thought that Cedar City had too many places less inviting than the vamp flop house in London. Either I was sadly mistaken about the atmosphere of the town I lived in, or his standards had gone up.
There was my mom’s, but asking her if I could meet Spike in her house, was unconscionable.
“We can, I mean, I want to…but I’m not sure where, or how. I have the baby at night…” He didn’t look the least bit surprised at the mention of a baby.
He took a scrap of paper out of his pocket. “Call me.”
My eyes shot nervously around, what if one of the neighbors saw? Which was a funny thing to worry about. He’d already had his tongue all up in my mouth, so him handing me a piece of paper was no big deal.
He kissed my cheek.
“I will, but if might be a few…”
He put his finger over my lip, and so help me I nipped the tip of it. His eyes went instantly dark and ageless. I backed up and shut the door.
“We’re home!” Mark called in a sing song voice when he and Becky came through the door a short while later.
“MAAA,” she yelled.
This was everything I stood to lose. I went to them and buried my face in Mark’s chest and wrapped an arm around Becky and did a group hug thing. I hated myself, for not being the person I was two years ago, for not being the wife I was one year ago, for not being able to make this be what I wanted again.
I took Becky and got her ready for bed. Mark came into the nursery when I set her into her crib.
“Mom says hi,” he told me, gathering my hair in his hand and kissing my cheek.
It irritated me more than it should have, when he referred to her as “Mom” to me, rather than as “my mom”. I had tried calling Alice “Mom” a few times, but the word came out sounding like a chicken squawk more than a term of endearment.
I don’t know if Mark sensed that anything was different that evening. He chattered on brightly about work, and about the talk over dinner at his parent’s house. I remember thinking he must know, that he HAD to know, because his voice seemed too bright. He seemed too happy for an ordinary Thursday night. Or was this his normal, and I had simply grown so far out of touch?
Later, when we were in bed, Mark pulled me close and nuzzled my hair the way he did when he wanted sex. I had never refused him outright. I mean, of course there were times I was tired or ill or something, but I’d never cut him dead, quite like I did that night.
“I can’t,” I said to him. No explanation. No apology.
He rolled onto his back. “I thought things were getting better.”
“Better isn’t enough.” It wasn’t. It had to be right. It had to be real. We couldn’t keep doing this for 17 more years “for Becky’s sake”.
“So this is it? God Buffy, what went wrong? And I don’t want any bull shit about dreams or memories or anything like that. Just tell me.”
“I’m not who I thought I was.” What a lame thing to say, but sometimes the truth is just that stupid.
“Fine then…who are you? Barbra Streisand? Nancy Reagan? Julia Roberts? Or are you a reincarnation of someone? Maybe Catherine the Great.”
I had been happy. I had liked working at the car dealership, and volunteering on the Church landscape committee. I had enjoyed planting flowers and pulling weeds. Where the fuck had I gone? Where was the Buffy who would hold one of Jackson’s hands, while Mark held the other, and we’d do 1,2,3 swing?
I gave one of those weird hysterical giggles that you sometimes get, when everything is so absurd that there’s nothing else to do, and I said, “I’m Buffy, the Slayer.”
Of course, he thought I was being a smart ass. He got pissed off and rolled over. Neither of us fell asleep for a long time, but we pretended we did, so we wouldn’t say anything monumentally stupid to each other.
My mother had been bizarrely tolerant and I didn’t want to put her in an impossibly compromising situation, but who am I kidding, that had never stopped me before. I called her up in the morning and asked if I could stay the weekend with her and would it be ok if Spike came over. All in one sentence.
“Does Mark know?”
“About Spike? No, of course not.”
“I mean that you are coming here for the weekend?”
“Yeah, we had…it wasn’t a fight…We couldn’t talk to each other last night. I told him I needed…to not be there not talking to him. I told him I was going to see you.”
“Buffy, does he know it’s over?”
“Yeah, I think somewhere around his asking me if I was Barbra Streisand, it became pretty clear.”
“And I assume that actually makes sense in your head.”
“Not really, but I think I know what he was getting at.”
“When did Spike come into the picture?”
“Last night about 7:30.”
“I’ll stay at Rob’s house tonight. Do what you have to do,” she said tiredly.
“I’m sorry.” Here I was pulling her into my issues again in ways that were invasive to her privacy.
My brain was already thinking that I had to find a place to live, someplace near her, but not with her. There I was again, making plans that included her without actually telling her I was doing it, assuming she would be a willing part of my back up team.
I called Spike and asked if he could meet me at my mother’s that night. He said yes, then asked in an impish tone if he should come to the door or to the window.
I left a casserole in the fridge for Mark. I knew he wouldn’t eat it, but felt like I needed to make the gesture. That is how it was with us, we did our polite dance for show, even though no one was watching and neither of us was fooled.
I packed up and left for my mother’s during the worst of Friday rush hour traffic. I was punishing myself, as if it would make everything that happened next, OK.
When I arrived, Mom was getting a few things together to take to Rob’s. She stopped everything and turned to me. I assumed she wanted to take Becky, but instead she put the baby down and wrapped me in a hug. She was crying.
OMG, I’d made my mother cry, she was so disappointed in me…
“It’s going to be alright Buffy. It’s going to hurt like hell, but it’s going to be alright.”
Becky, having been plopped down on the floor, now pulled herself up beside the bed and slapped at our thighs with her free hand.
“We were alright,” I said to her, us two women going it alone. “We were better than alright.” I meant it.
“Tell Spike I said hello.” She was putting things in her bag again. “I assume I’ll see him shortly.”
“Probably…” Did she assume that after all this time Spike would still want me? Did I assume that? That was a pretty damn big assumption, bizarre mouth inspection or not.
“Bye sweet heart.” She stooped to give Becky a kiss. “Gran Gran will see you tomorrow.”
“Thanks mom,” I said hollowly.
“You look like you’re about to be sick.” I think she was laughing at me. “There’s an open bottle of wine in the fridge if you need it…oh and I got some of those flavored applesauces for Beck, and there’s frozen ravioli if you want some.”
There is nothing in the entire world like a good mom. Nothing. I wanted to be that kind of mom. Becky needed that kind of mom.
Becky and I went and found the applesauce. She had strawberry and I had blueberry. Then she went to tear apart the magazines on the coffee table, while I sat on the couch with my head in my hands, rocking back and forth.
Spike came to the door, but he didn’t knock, he opened it and walked in. He had an open invitation. I wondered why I thought he hadn’t, since I’d never done anything to revoke it. He took off his jacket, put it on the coat rack and locked the door.
Becky looked at him, then at me, then at him again. I stood up but Spike motioned me to sit.
“And this is?” He stooped down beside my little girl.
“Becky, meet Spike.” Wow, that sounded weird.
He reached his hand out and she took it. “Nice to meet you Rebecca.” He has never called her anything else.
Of course I asked him why he had become “available”, and where had he been for the interim.
“I stayed away because I heard you were happy.”
“And you came back because you heard I was unhappy?” I guessed.
“I came back because I heard you were VERY unhappy.”
OK, so now I had four therapists. The next couple hours were spent with me on one end of the couch, with a pillow to my chest, and Spike on the other end with a mug of wine. (harder for Becky to spill than a glass) I told him what I thought were the salient parts of how Buffy destroyed her marriage.
“Do you think there’s any hope?” he asked me. He was handing coasters to Becky one at a time. She was dropping them on the floor for him to pick up, so they could repeat the process.
“I don’t know, things seemed…No. I guess I don’t.”
“Why didn’t you tell him?”
I would have thought that was obvious.
“You were going to spend the rest of your life with someone who would never know who you are?”
“But I wasn’t Slayer Buffy anymore, I was happy Buffy.” I toyed with the fringe on the pillow.
He eyed me, a smile teasing around his mouth. He picked up the coasters again to resume the game.
“Do you really think you’re all these separate Buffy’s? Slayer Buffy, Happy Buffy…” Whatever the next iteration of Buffy he had on his tongue, he opted not to say it.
“Not separate exactly…I don’t know how to put it.”
“I know something about separate. I wasn’t always a vampire,” he reminded me. “You’ve met William, I believe.”
I let his words settle in. Yes, I had. He was here with me now. Spike was his professional name, as he put it, but it wasn’t like he actually had a different persona. He liked me to call him William, because he WAS William. Just like Becky was herself whether I was calling her Becky, or my mother was calling her Beck, or Mark was calling her Becky Boo or Spike was calling her Rebecca.
“Are you the same as you were when you were a man?”
“Course not, that was a long time ago, but I’m not not him. I’ve learned things…DONE things… but I will never not have been a man. I can’t say. Oh, I’m done with that now. Why would I?”
“I thought it would be easier, for Mark. For Becky.” I smiled at her.
She looked at me and yelled, “MAAAA” at the sound of her name.
“Do you think he wouldn’t love you if he knew?” Spike didn’t meet my eyes when he said that.
“I think he wouldn’t know what to do with me. He can never understand what being the Slayer means. He still wouldn’t know who I am.”
“I knew a girl once. She grew up in France then moved to England and married an Englishman. He didn’t want her to speak French, so she didn’t. Learned the Queen’s English, helped run his pub and all was well till she had a baby.
“He caught her a few times, when she thought he wasn’t around, speaking French to their son. He thrashed her, but she didn’t stop. Said she couldn’t NOT speak French to her baby, that she would be lying, because a French woman was who she was.”
That was how I felt. I had been happy being non Slayer Buffy, it wasn’t a put on, but when I had Becky I didn’t want to hold back. I wanted to share all of myself with her, even the parts that I hadn’t cared to share with Mark.
When you fall in love with a person, they bring certain parts of you to life, pull them to the surface. That was how it was when I fell in love with Becky, so many things came roaring to life.
Becky tired of the coaster game. She began to fuss and stomped her way over to me.
I put down the pillow and picked her up. She cuddled against my chest, chewing on her fist. I could feel that her diaper was about to explode.
I checked the clock. It was way past her bedtime. The novelty of Spike had kept her crankies from kicking in until now.
“I’ve got to get her to bed.” I stood up. So did Spike.
“Should I go?”
“Do you want to go?” I was shocked that he’d asked that.
“Course not, but it’s a situation isn’t it?”
Yes, it certainly was.
“No, stay.” I pointed to his place on the couch. He frowned, and I realized I had just treated him like our dog.
I headed up stairs, Becky’s bag was still in my mom’s room. Spike decided not to be an obedient puppy and he followed me.
I changed Becky’s diaper and Spike went to the bathroom and came back with a wet washcloth, for me to wipe her sticky hands and face. She was in full fret mode now, wiggling and fussing and waving her angry spitty fist around.
I wrestled her into her royal blue sleeper and was about to pick her up when Spike said “May I?” Before I answered, he had picked her up and cradled her in his arms.
Becky had outgrown the cradling stage a few months earlier, and was now more in on the hip and over the shoulder mode, but she seemed fine with him, her legs dangling. Her forehead was in angry folds, but she wasn’t crying.
“You’re doing this on purpose.” I accused him, as he rocked her. “You know how women fall for guys who are good with kids.”
He grinned, and neither confirmed nor denied it. He began to sing, in French, the lullaby he’d once hummed to me. OMG, he was putting the vampire thrall on my baby…
“Did you learn that from the French girl?”
“Learned if from my mum.” He kissed Becky’s head and went on singing.
It didn’t take long for her to fall asleep, not because he was so amazing with kids, but because she was exhausted. I motioned for him to set her on my mother’s bed.
Then there we were. I made much of wiping my hands on the washcloth and went to put it in the hamper. He came up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders. “Buffy…how’s this going to work?”
I’d thought I had been terribly presumptuous to imagine he might want me, after all this time, after all this baby. After all this everything, but I wasn’t. I recognized his tone of voice and the power in his hands.
I was still the Slayer, he was still Spike. I was still Buffy, he was still William, and we would always still be this. This mad crazy thing we were.
No more status “unavailable”.
“Probably, pretty much the way it always has,” I said to him.
Strange sort of foreplay, telling him about my failing marriage. I’d probably done it on purpose, as a test-- Hey, do you want me now? Take that, and that….
“Your mum is gone.” Not a question, after all there was the baby sprawled on her bed.
We went to my room and he was about to lock the door when he looked to me. “Should we? With the baby?”
“No, leave it open so I can hear her if she needs me.”
I’m sure it wasn’t the first time he’d made love with another man’s wife. Or with another man’s baby in the room next door, or in the next bed, or in the same bed. What was that he’d said, about privacy being an American invention?
“Let me,” he said, as I began to undress. He kissed every part as he exposed it. I had to smile at how sweet and gentle he could be. I could see his own delight and excitement building. It was a little bit like he was torturing both of us, but in a nice way.
He began to undress and I sat on the bed and watched him and thought that finally it was over. I released the breath I’d been holding since I’d first felt Becky kick inside me and had known things would never be the same.
I scooted back, making room for him to crawl onto the bed beside me. The lamp was on, because I knew he liked to watch. Spike’s face was close to me, his forehead all wrinkled in consternation.
“Buffy.” His voice was thick and his hands were jumpy.
“It’s OK William, I know how you get.”
He smiled like a boy released from school early, and did that thing he does.
Becky woke up, predictably, around three in the morning. She would want her diaper changed and a drink and she’d go back to sleep.
I got up and went to change her diaper and asked Spike to get her little bottle out of the bag and fill it with water. There I was naked in the dark, with wiggly baby reaching for her bottle and watching this new man with her bright eyes.
“Will she go back down?”
“Usually, sometimes she has a harder time when we’re not at home, but she’s pretty used to being here.”
To her, to me he was old. To me he was “home” as much as this house was.
Becky made a sleepy but defiant sound, like she was planning to buck the system, and we both chuckled at her.
“Bring her to bed.” He tugged my elbow. Ah, but this was the big no no…don’t spoil the baby. I admit I didn’t always follow the rules when I was at my mom’s house, after all, what is grandma’s house for if not to be spoiled?
As if making love with Spike wasn’t insult enough to Mark, I carried Becky to my room and put her between us. Spike held her bottle with her while she finished her water. She held my finger tight with her free hand. Both of us kissed her head when her eyes closed. Spike put the bottle on the bedside table and we went back to sleep, naked, with my husband’s child between us.
There was no turning back.
“How did you get so good with babies?” I asked him in the morning while we were having breakfast. Becky was in her high chair, being spoon fed yogurt in between shoving sticky cheerios into her mouth.
Spike was having his usual weak, milky tea.
I was eating yogurt out of the same carton as Becky and she found it tremendously funny when I put the spoon into my own mouth.
“I’m not especially good. Just treat them like I’d like to be treated.” He shrugged. “I’m not much for the new ways.”
“Keeping them too clean, too safe, too bloody far away from the thick of things.” Hence the communal bed and rocking her to sleep rather than laying her down and telling her to cry it out.
“Should hardly have to teach them a damn thing about life, they should suck it up like air. Live it, not be told about it.” He was very adamant for someone, whom to my knowledge, had no children of his own.
He went to the fridge and poured me orange juice and refilled the baby’s sippy cup.
Maybe I was living on vampire time, because this felt so normal and familiar, as if we’d had breakfast here with my mom just yesterday.
Becky broke into tears, which signaled the end of her meal. That was how she went, from happily stuffing her face one moment, to immediate and total frustration with her sticky hands, messy face and the confinement of the high chair.
Spike handed me the roll of paper towels.
“Wet one.” I handed them back and while he was dampening some, he laughed and asked me, “How many adults does it take to wash a baby?”
“I thought it was how many does it take to screw in a lightbulb.”
“Adults don’t screw in a lightbulb, they screw in a bed.”
We both laughed and Becky decided, that if we thought it was funny, it must be, so she laughed too.
Reasonably clean and with most of the yogurt wiped from her hair, she took off across the kitchen floor, her bare feet slapping on the tile. She looked back over her shoulder at us, to see if we were going to follow.
I kept a cabinet of supplies at my mother’s house but I had let it run low. Spike went back upstairs to sleep and Becky and I went shopping. She was a happy baby, waving her fuzzy bear teething toy around.
She batted at the items I put into the cart, as we went up and down the food aisles. I picked up things to replenish my mother’s baby stash and a few treats for my mom, who as always, was going above and beyond.
I felt calm. Like I knew that somehow this was all going to work out. Maybe it was the result of good Spike sex. It had to be more than that. He was good, but he wasn’t magical... though he came close to it.
I wasn’t in a hurry to get back to my mom’s. I wanted to savor this for awhile. I didn’t want to rush back, acting like I didn’t believe he’d still be there, like his status had returned to “unavailable”.
“Becky.” I kissed her nose.
“Becky boo!” she said Mark’s name for her.
“Becky boo!” I agreed, to which she sagely replied,“Boo Boo Boo, mama. Daiy.” She threw her bear and squirmed. She wanted out of the shopping cart. Daiy was her version of daddy. I wonder if she realized it was Saturday and she was wondering where Mark was. She would be fine when we went back to my mother’s. She adored Gran Gran.
Becky fell asleep in the car, and I went through my usual nail biting over what to do first, bring her in, which would likely wake her, or leave her in the car while I hoofed it back and forth to the house a few times. That would make me feel like a horrible mommy for leaving my baby in the car and out of my sight for all of 25 seconds. That’s why kids need two parents, for those incredibly important monumental decisions. At home I’d just yell for Mark. Spike couldn’t help me even if he wanted to, it was high noon and he would burst into flame.
I opted for guilt, and left Becky in her car seat while I made three trips back and forth. When I got to the porch the fourth time, holding a cranky, hungry baby, Spike was there taking the bags into the kitchen.
He held up a bottle of wine and cocked his head at me. “I would have thought Rebecca tended more towards the medium reds, a well bodied Malbec.”
“Ha ha...it’s for my mother.”
“You look beat.” He noticed.
“It’s a phase, I hear it will get better when she hits 21.”
“Yes, I’m sure that’s when your mum stopped worrying about you,” he said smartly. He was unpacking grocery bags.
“MAMAMAMAMA Daiy.” Hysterical tears
I went to the fridge and pulled out a bottle to heat up for Becky. This would get her ready to settle down for a real nap, she could have a meal later.
“I don’t know where all of this goes, shall I get creative or leave it for you?” Spike had put the refrigerated items away and was now frowning over the dry goods.
“Since when did you get so domestic?” It was a bit surprising to see him putting tomatoes in the crisper.
“Life on the lam is over rated.”
“Do you actually have a home somewhere?”
“Now, now, it’s a bit early for 20 questions, Luv.” Was it? I had poured out my life story to him.
Spike dampened some paper towels and wiped angry Becky’s face, while I tested her bottle. She hung on my legs until I picked her up. “Listen here you.” I told her very sternly. “You are going to drink this bottle. EVERY drop and then you are going to sleep. Do you hear me baby?”
She drew her brows together very seriously. I did the same and she erupted in a milky laugh around the nipple of her bottle.
She motioned for down. I handed her the bottle and she wobbled away towards the dining room where my mother had a dog bed on the floor for her. Yes, you heard me. She had a big comfy pillow on the dining room floor with a corduroy cover. It was where we put her down when we were all going to be downstairs and didn’t want her upstairs alone. She loved it. It was Beck’s Bed and she regularly put herself to sleep on it.
Spike followed her to see where she was off to with such determination. He laughed when she threw herself down on her back, and sucked her bottle, occasionally stopping to sing.
When he came back, I was putting away the groceries he’d left on the counter due to his lack of creativity.
“You hungry?” I asked him. He gave me a look. “For food. I assume you ate...someone..before you got here last night.” My brain felt like it had cracked into a million pieces with that one.
“Relax, I’ve been on the up and up.”
Thank goodness. I really just didn’t want to have to think about anything that was more wrong with this situation than I already knew.
We heard the front door open. “Yoo hoo, anyone home?” my mother called.
Becky heard her and gave a yelp from her dog bed. Spike heard her and met my eye. I heard her and said “In the kitchen.”
“SOMEONE’S not in the kitchen.” I could hear Becky giggling at Gran Gran’s approach. There went nap time.
Becky didn’t have a lot of words that were crystal clear, but she could say Gran Gran just about perfectly.
“Hey Beck. Hey Becky boo!” Mark wasn’t the ONLY one who called her that.
My mom came into the kitchen and saw Spike. He went to her immediately and brought her hand to his lips. “Joyce,” he said with a bow, brushing his lips over her knuckles.
She looked at him for a full second and pulled him into a hug. They hugged, rocking each other back and forth for a second or two. Deja weird. It felt weird and normal at once. Since when did my mother love Spike?
She was clearly relieved to see him, with a dash of overjoyed and not even a hint of “oh boy, here comes trouble.”
I had expected Becky to follow my mom into the kitchen, but she stayed singing on her dog bed, until she fell asleep.
My mother didn’t waste time on banal niceties with Spike. No “how have you been” or “what brings you to town.” She seemed to assume I had brought him up to speed on everything.
I made my mother and I sandwiches while we talked about my situation.
“So how much does Mark know?” She nodded towards Spike.
“Just that I came here. I mean...I guess he knows it’s over for good, but I didn’t say anything about…”
“And you’re not going to.”
“Well, of course not.” Did she think I was stupid? “I guess I may as well talk to the Lawyer this week and file for a formal separation.”
We all looked glum.
“Are you going to move here?” My mother asked automatically.
“Well, I don’t know...I guess we need to talk with the Lawyer. He said it might be best if I don’t vacate the residence.” Here I was, already talking legalese.
“Tell Mark to go stay with Alice.” My mom smirked at me, then said, “He’ll want to take Becky with him.”
I said tiredly, “The Lawyer said that he would submit the argument that the baby stays with me in the house, so there would be the least upset to her routine. Mark will be caught off guard, he doesn’t expect this, not yet.”
“You’ve got the jump on him then?” Spike didn’t know as much as my mother assumed.
“Till he tries to prove I’m crazy and an unfit mother.” I picked at the crust of my bread.
“Good thing you never told him about the Slayer bit then,” Spike said.
My mother met my eye. “On the other hand, maybe all of this could have been prevented.”
Yes maybe all of it could have been, but then I wouldn’t have Becky and I would never wish her away.
I didn’t want to talk lawyers and strategy, but a line had been crossed and there was no time to waste now.
“I guess that’s my walking papers,” Spike said with a sigh.
Oh no, no, no. He was not just going to leave again. Give me a mercy fuck then he’s off on a jaunt around the world!
Both he and my mother noticed my face.
“Buffy, you can’t have a lover,” he said.
“Not if you want custody,” my mother added.
The Lawyer had asked me right from the start if there was another man and of course there hadn’t been, but now…
“They’re going to pick your life over with a comb, babe. If they find out you have another man, they’ll pick him over too and it won’t look good that you were exposing Becky to an affair.”
“And god only knows if they started looking into my history,” Spike added.
“They wouldn’t find anything.”
“Ok. First thing Monday, but can I have a day? One day?” I looked from one to the other.
“Buffy,” Spike called my attention to him. “I’m not disappearing. We just can’t be…”
“Humping like crazed sex poodles,” my mother finished the thought and put a potato chip in her mouth.
All three of us burst out laughing.
Spike and my mother sat down to play some backgammon. I called Mark and told him we were at my mom’s and would be staying the weekend. I reminded him about the casserole, and he asked me if I was sure I didn’t want to come home and go to church with them in the morning.
“I’d like to bring Becky,” he said, his tone just a tiny bit threatening.
“We’re just going to hang out here...you know she loves her Gran Gran.”
“I won’t have seen her all weekend Buffy. I understand things are uncomfortable between you and I, but Becky shouldn’t have to suffer for it while we work things out.”
“She’s fine here. We’ll be home Monday...or tomorrow night. We can come then. She’s...she’s so excited to be here with Gran Gran.”
“They can have their day. I’ll swing by and pick her up tonight…”
“No, don’t. I mean if it’s that big a deal…”
“It’s fine, you probably need some time to talk to your mother. Stay. I just don’t want...We don’t need to advertise our problems any more than we already have. That won’t help anything.” I knew he was thinking about advertising it not only at Church, but to his parents as well. He was being very sensible.
“Can I talk to Becky?” he asked.
“She’s taking a nap, we were shopping this morning. She’s tired.”
I could hear him considering whether or not I was telling him the truth.
“She’s sleeping Mark, of course I’d let her talk to you and of course you can take her to church.”
“I promised Jackson we’d go out for pizza tonight? How about you join us and I’ll take the kids home with me. Your mother should come too.”
Mark liked my mom, and he believed he had an ali in her. After all, she’d gone on that trip with me, and she supported me seeing a therapist and shared some of his concerns about my well being.
He didn’t know she was helping me plot against him. I am sure he thought that a fun pizza outing with my mom would have her telling me to wise up, and that I had too much to lose.
“I know she has plans this evening.” Lie. “But I’ll meet you and Jackson. Where will you be?” Perfect, Spike was going to be leaving town and I was going to have to waste an entire evening at Chuckie Cheese.
I was so going to come back to my mother’s house and fuck his brains out twice as hard, just to get back at Mark.
OMG, who had I become?
Mark and I made arrangements. I hung up the phone and went to the living room. Becky was awake, standing at Spike’s knee, handing him coasters, which he would drop on the floor. She’d laughed hysterically and hand them to him again, to repeat the process, an exact reversal of their game from the night before.
She turned, saw me and grinned, proud of herself for training him so well in so short a time. She lost her balance, sat down too hard and bumped her chin on the table. She was more startled than hurt, but she immediately began to cry. My mother reached for her, I stepped towards her, and Spike picked her up said “That’s not part of the game, Luv.” In such a serious tone that she nearly looked ashamed of herself.
He looked her straight in the eye, she smacked his cheek. He handed her his dice cup from the backgammon game and set her back down. She threw the dice cup, and began to hand him coasters once again.
My mother met my eye. Oh yeah, Becky and Spike could NOT spend time together. Without even thinking about it, he would commandeer her. In 24 hours she would be his, or vice versa. He seemed to have a way with Summers women. He certainly made an impression and I did not need for Becky to come home and tell Daiy Daiy all about Spike.
I gave Becky a bath and packed her bag. She was all ready to go meet Daddy and brother Jackson for pizza! Mom gave her a raspberry grandma kiss on the cheek, which got the anticipated giggle.
Spike took her tiny hand and kissed it and said “It was lovely to make your acquaintance Rebecca.”
She leaned toward him, mouth open, her signal for wanting to give someone a kiss. He offered her his cheek, which she happily drooled on. Then he kissed the top of her head, and the top of my head and sent us on our way.
I didn’t ask him what he and my mother talked about while I was gone. I assume she filled him in on anything he needed to know, and I assume he told her that he wasn’t going to cause any trouble. I assume, they both agreed they were going to do anything to help me through this, but it’s all conjecture. They might have ordered Chinese food, drank beer and argued over game shows, for all I know.
I played happy little family with Mark and the kids for about two hours. Mark was trying to remind me of how much fun we could all have together, here we were, out with our two great kids! They were great kids. Mark was a great guy. I was a lying, cheating, mixed up woman who was still in love with a vampire from her past.
When it was time to go, Becky cried and reached for me. “Come on Buff...follow us home. We can put the kids to bed, put our feet up...We left it on a bad note.” He put his hand on my waist and gave me his most open smile. “It’s not too late. You don’t have to come to church in the morning, or even to my mom’s tomorrow. Just come home with me tonight.”
I don’t think things would have worked out differently if I had said yes and gone home with him. It wouldn’t have fixed the marriage or changed how I felt. We might have made love. We might have bought ourselves another few weeks of marriage therapy and trying to play nice, but I didn’t go home with him.
“No Mark, I can’t.” I put my hands over his. He moved to kiss me and I turned away. “I’m sorry, I just can’t.”
I think he knew something then. This was different. I was cold now. I couldn’t stand the thought of his hands on me. Spike had come back and I was his. Just like that.
“I’ll see you tomorrow night?” His eyes were cold but his voice was gentle.
I nodded, waved to the kids and got into my car. I rested my head on the steering wheel and waited until Mark pulled away, and then a few minutes more. I don’t know if I expected him to follow me or what, but I just needed to know he was gone.
At home, I said goodnight to my mom and Spike and I went upstairs. It was early but I was worn out and impossibly sad.
“You know I won’t do anything that will jeopardize this. I’ll clear out...till it’s over,” he told me, as he sat taking his shoes off.
“And then?” What constituted “over”? When the divorce was final, when custody was worked out? When Becky was 18 and going off to college? Anyone of those scenarios could count as tomorrow in vampire time.
“We’ve tried the other, you and I. Trying to make a go of life apart. You don’t belong with Mark, or any other. You belong with me.”
“And you?” It was him who’d posted his status as “unavailable”.
“I’m done with standing on the sideline trying to behave, Buffy. I’ve been all around the world and you’re the only thing that feels like home. I stayed away because I hoped you were happy, knew you were trying to be happy.”
“I was happy...for awhile…”
“And I let you be, yeah?”
“I didn’t want you to.”
“But we would have always wondered...if you could have had another kind of life. Your mom would have skinned me, and you wouldn’t have Rebecca.”
Yes, we did all think I should make a go of it, but I wondered about my mom. Maybe she wouldn’t have skinned Spike, maybe she already knew. She had been worried about me marrying Mark. But I wouldn’t have Becky.
I sent him to get me some wine while I got into my PJ’s. He came back with a glass of wine for me and some dark whiskey for himself, something ancient my mother had in the cupboard from some long forgotten occasion.
He told me stories of his various intoxications, of one kind or another, all over the planet. Spells, potions, liquor, teas, things he smoked, popped, shot or otherwise tripped on.
“So what was the best?” I had finished my wine and tasted his whiskey.
“Robitussin and vodka,” he teased. I had once confessed to him drinking that awful concoction in middle school to get “high”. “Opium,” he said.
“That’s heroin right.”
“Heroin is stronger, but I don’t like it as much,” he allowed.
“You’ve done heroin?”
“I’ve done just about everything.” He looked at me like he expected me to have known as much. I kind of did, but I kind of didn’t understand it either. I didn’t really understand a life with no consequences, with no responsibility.
I knew what it was like to be stronger than everyone around you, to be able to physically bring anyone around to your way of thinking, but it hadn’t gotten me far. I wasn’t the type to beat people into submission. If I was...well, I could still take Mark, easily.
But Spike hadn’t often had reasons to say no. He couldn’t get physically addicted, or ill. He owed allegiance to very few. What would I do if I was like him? What wouldn’t I do?
“So how’d you do it?” He wasn’t the crack house type.
“Smoking opium in a brothel, with friends...girl on either knee and one in between….” His eyes had a far away look. This was the man who I’d let spoon around my daughter the night before.
“Why are you even with me?” My life was small and stupid and prosaic.
“Problem with you Buffy, is you’ve got your priorities all mixed up.” He tapped my head.
I had my priorities mixed up? This man who had done everything was going to talk to ME about priorities?
“What makes you think that, is any better than this?” he challenged me.
“Um, what man wouldn’t rather have three women than one?”
“One who’s got you.”
Mom always said he was a charmer.
“I tried it, I liked it. May want it again. Might want a lot of things, but now I want to be with you. If I didn’t I’d be somewhere else.” He was just saying it like it was, no hard sell.
He knew what was out there. If he wanted all those things he knew how and where to get them.
We were lying back on my bed. He held our hands up towards the ceiling, fingers splayed like the points of a star. “Only one Buffy. Only here. Only now.”
“I don’t want you to go. I don’t want to do this alone. I don’t want to do this without you.”
He didn’t say anything for a bit, he was just looking at our hands. “You need to be careful. This…” he motioned to the bed. “Not worth losing your daughter for.”
I understood that. It wasn’t sex I was thinking of. But I knew he knew that as well.
“Maybe just until it’s settled, a bit..we could meet in a time zone of our own...yeah?”
“You still have your guy?”
“He has a remedy for time shift hangovers. Tells me it works a charm.”
There had to be some upside to the crazy life I’d led. To the magics and marvels and dimensions.
I crawled onto his chest. “We can really do that?” The idea of having a “place”, even if it was another time signature, where I could be me, with Spike, was a dream come true.
“Course we can, and you’ll like it better when all of you is in the same place...and time.”
“I’ll like it better because you’ll be there too.”
“But that’s just a lark, you know that. Doesn’t replace this. This life. Us being together in this time.”
This time. We made love, to cement that we were both here, in THIS time and THIS place.
“Am I doing a terrible thing? Breaking up my family, taking Becky away from her daddy.”
“Family sounds like it’s a lost cause...but taking your baby?...It’ll likely tear his heart up.”
“You’re supposed to tell me I’m doing the right thing.” I gave him a shove.
“We’re doing what we need to do, but we can’t dress it up as a kindness to him.”
He’d said we.
“Right or wrong doesn’t count for much, it’s the strongest one wins, or the smartest.”
“Or the one with the best lawyer,” I repeated what I’d heard several people say.
“Yeah, that….probably more than the rest.” He rolled towards me and pushed up on his elbows. “I’m not like your husband, Buffy.”
Nothing like stating the obvious.
“When this is over, when it’s been worked out...I won’t let you go, not you or the little one. If you don’t want that...US...send me away now. I don’t fancy dropping in for a quick shag every now and then. Not anymore.”
He was asking a lot, or not asking, claiming a lot.
“And she’ll know who you are. None of that “explain it to her later” business…”
“You want to raise Mark’s child?”
“I don’t give a damn about Mark. She’s yours. If Mark gives you trouble I’ll break his bloody neck. He’s nothing to me.”
“You can’t do that…”
“I can, but I won’t.”
This was not a mortal man. This was a man who could afford to do anything because he had a very long time to get over it.
“Let me do this the right way.”
“I won’t stand by and let this go to pieces on you. You’ve been through enough.”
“I have to live in this world. And I chose him to be her father.”
“A mistake that can be fixed.”
“If you want me, Becky, my mom...our family...then we do this the right way.”
Of course he knew this. He was saying this all because he needed to know how I felt about it. What I expected. What I was and wasn’t willing to do to get what I wanted.
He kissed me, “Like I said, I don’t want to put this in jeopardy, not sure I’ll behave myself if I stay.”
“I have faith in you.”
“You shouldn’t.” He nipped my shoulder. “You more than anyone, know how I get.”