Chapter Notes:

To Telsa, who asks, what ever happened to Coca-Cola and aspirin?


The One Where I Try To Find  Time Zone of My Own



The longer I live, the more I’m convinced that the only thing in my life that is a direct result of my having been the Slayer, is Spike. Pretty much everything else is the result of the same day to day issues that everyone deals with. I’m not such a special snowflake after all.



From speaking with the moms in my group, I found out that having a baby, especially the first one, takes a toll on a lot of marriages. It totally throws the marriage and all it’s based on, onto its head. Even if you really wanted kids, when it happens, you can’t have been prepared for what it’s like and what you and your partner will be like as a parents.



The erosion of my marriage to Mark wasn’t all the result of the dark secret I was hiding. Once I had my own child, I didn’t want to play surrogate with Jackson and I didn’t want to share parenting decisions with Mark. I had had to sit on the sidelines and play by the rules he and his first wife had made for Jackson. I wanted to throw my own weight around when it came to OUR child. Having two sets of rules and expectations for two kids in the household did not make for marital bliss.



The week following Spike’s return, I drove back and forth to see my mother and my lawyer twice, all the while smiling and lying to Mark about where I was while he was at work. Spike said he needed to talk to his guy and cleared out, promising me it was only for a few days while he settled some things.



My lawyer did advise that I “remain in the family residence” (be prepared for lots of legal talk, it’s surreal when you find yourself speaking that way to your friends and family) He also told me to set up my own bank accounts, and designate a safe house where Becky and I could go, and where Mark wouldn’t be able to find us, in case things got dangerous.I told him they wouldn’t but he said that people do crazy things in the course of a divorce. There were lots of forms to sign, and lots of tears to cry.



Since you probably already hate me, I may as well tell you what a shit I was. I told the women in my moms group that I was divorcing Mark, before I told him. The moms pretty much told each other everything. Well, at least in groups of twos and threes. There were some gossips in the group but there were also stalwarts that would take your secrets to the grave.



I received heartfelt advice, plus understanding and solidarity out the wazoo. These women were incredible. I’m not saying they all supported my decision. Breaking up a marriage is a big deal, I had received a ton of support and encouragement to work things out with Mark during the previous year, but once it was clear things weren’t going to work out, they were there for me.



Of course a few asked me if there was “someone else” and I maintained not, except to one close friend. I didn’t tell her he was a vampire, but I did tell her that Spike was an old flame that I’d had a thing with on and off since high school. I didn’t anticipate her response. She’d been nothing but supportive, so this came out of nowhere.



“Those hardly ever work out, you know,” she told me. “They feel great at the time, like...oh, here is someone who really understands me. But it’s usually just an excuse. A safety net.”



Becky was following her two year old son around. She had no idea how to actually play with another child other than throwing small toys at each other and crying, but she liked to watch.



“I don’t think it’s like that….” I said, but it kind of was just like that. Mark couldn’t understand about my Slayer past, and Spike intrinsically did.



“Hey, I get it. My sister went through it. Divorce is a killer. You feel like a failure and there’s this guy that tells you how wonderful you are. We need that. Who the hell doesn’t?” She shook a bag of animal crackers and called to her son, much like summoning a dog.



“Truth is Buff, and nothing against your Mr Wonderful, but men don’t like raising other men’s kids. They like fucking other men’s wives, makes them feel tough, but who wants to work hard to take care of another guy’s kid?”



Her son came right over with Becky at his heels. In her attempt to hurry after him, Beck fell on her butt and yelled for me in frustration. I went to pick her up, but she righted herself, ignored me and ran to my friend for her share of animal crackers. She was already an independent girl who knew her own mind!



“You think?”



“He’s probably telling you he’ll be there for you, right? And he probably believes it, but you thought you and Mark would make it too, then you found out it wasn’t what you expected. That YOU weren’t what you expected.” She handed out crackers to the kids, one for each hand so they wouldn’t fight.



Her words were sending chills through me. I knew how it was with step kids, or at least step KID. It had nothing to do with Jackson not being loveable. It had to do with being more invested in my child than someone else’s, even though that someone else was my own husband.



“I don’t want to burst your bubble, and by all means hang onto him. You’ll need all the support you can get. You might find out that once it’s all said and done you don’t want him around after all. My sister has thrown out three boyfriends since her divorce, she says it’s not worth it. She’d rather be on her own.”



That sounded very sordid and depressing to me. Would I just end up with a string of live in boyfriends, sending Becky off to see her dad so I could have some alone time with them, then sending them on their way and my little girl asking what happened to Uncle Don, or Lou, or whatever?  If that was my future I should try harder to work things out with Mark.



“You can count on me, and your mom. It’s going to be fine.” She handed me two animal crackers, one for each hand, out of sheer habit.



I wanted to tell her Spike was different. He wasn’t with me because our relationship was convenient and I was hurting so I was an easy lay, and he could feel like a hero. He’d crossed the globe to be with me, time and time again. Still, what made me think this globe trotter was ready to settle down, and why did I think he wanted to raise a child?



My mom and I made a checklist of things to do before I told Mark, then an after list of things to expect from the domino effect. We tried to organize what is, by nature, a chaotic event. My life was going to be blown wide open, and we were trying to predict where the shrapnel would land.



Spike and I had begun talking on the phone, and it felt beyond strange. The only other time I had ever spoken to him on the phone was when I called the number he had left me and told him to meet me at my mother’s. This time he was checking in on progress, and hoping he could see me.



We needed to see each other before I told Mark, because the minute I told him I had filed for divorce, he was going to start looking for “the other man”. Since telling Mark was on the timeline for a week from Tuesday, Spike and I needed to set a date.



“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I told him. “Setting up a time to hook up with my...vampire.” This was a level of sneakery that we’d never resorted to even when I was a teen.



“Yeah,” Spike sounded puzzled. “Don’t think I ever gave a buggering fuck before if some bloke found out I was sleeping with his wife.”



Well, wow. It was heartening to hear that his sordid affair with me had at least one unique thing about it. I have to tell you now, so you won’t hate him too, or hate me anymore than you already do, that Spike actually does know a thing or two about diplomacy, has a shocking level of self control (except in bed with me), and was always appropriate around Becky.



“So, are we meeting in real time or are we trying out this time zone thing?” I mused, in for a penny, in for a pound.



“Let’s have a go in real time, probably our last for a while.” Spike’s voice sounded hollow.



“At Mom’s, for old time sake?”



He was quiet for longer than I was comfortable with.



“I have a place. Of my own. Here. Wasn’t sure if I should tell you. Don’t want you to come running here if things get ugly. It could make a hash of everything.”



He didn’t trust me. He thought I might give it all away in a fit of emotion. He might’ve been right.



“I need a safe house. The Lawyer said. A place to go if Mark goes...rogue.”



“Yeah, but that should be with a girl friend or somewhere, not here. I know how YOU are. You can’t get caught with me Buffy.”



Was I that way? Reckless? Flash back to trip to Cleaveland...point taken. When I get emotional, I’m all over the place.



“Well, you must have a friend, you have friends everywhere.” He never seemed to lack for cronies or favors.



“Don’t forget, Luv, last time I was in town I was fighting on the wrong side of the fissure, didn’t earn me points with the locals. And you know the sort I do business with, not likely to offer me a love nest with the gal who spoiled their fun.”



Consequences...the kind you never consider, like how hard it’s going to be to meet up with your lover because you fought on the side of good.



I’ve mentioned before the “it’s not personal” aspect of many of my supernatural dealings. There was a lot of ritualistic “battle” and negotiations. There is what you do in war, what you do in business, and what you do in your personal affairs and the lines of demarcation are clear. Connections that would happily hire Spike to work for them, or do business with him would still hesitate to be involved in anything that might be considered his personal life.



Personal life is a sticky area. Things get dangerous and confusing very quickly and nothing can destroy professional relationships and friendships more quickly than getting involved in another person’s love affairs. Some of these characters would have lent Spike one thousand carats of emeralds before they would offer him a place to meet his sweetheart. How could they know I didn’t have some violent, hulking demon husband who would come in and disintegrate them for getting involved?



“Ha, you should come here.” I had no right to feel that vindictive and defiant towards Mark. It wasn’t really him that I was angry with, it was the situation and all the pain ahead of us. Even though he was guilty of no wrongdoing, I had to make him the enemy somehow, or how could I fight against him? Still, having another man in his bed was a line I didn’t want to cross.



“Much as I’d love to, that would be bloody stupid.”



“And not at all fair to Mark. This isn’t his fault.” I conceded.



“Yeah well, you can’t afford to be soft on him. Someone needs to stay hard nosed. Guess I have a right to as much as anyone,” Spike said with a hint of outrage.



“You?”



“Certainly. He’s got what’s mine. Keeping my girls away from me.”



Girls. He said GIRLS. My head and heart exploded a little bit. Maybe my friend was wrong about Spike. She didn’t know about vampire time. What might feel like a life sentence to an ordinary man, might feel like nothing but a lark to him.



“You’re enjoying your role as the Happy Homewrecker.” Observation, not accusation. He certainly was stepping up for the role.



“Sure, why not?” He had no conscience at all. “Haven’t really done it up right before. If the husband caused trouble, I killed him.”



Yes, I should have run screaming, but just like there is vampire time, there is Slayer brain. You get it from having lived in a world where that sort of thing happens every day. Spike had lived in times and places and filled roles where that was what he did, but times change, and he’d traveled to other places and he’s learned how to get along with people. I knew he wasn’t going to hurt Mark. He wasn’t even going to see Mark. Spike’s days of eviscerating jealous spouses were over.

 

Spike had played hundreds of roles over the decades, and they weren’t just play acting. He was who he needed to be in the thousand different situations he’d found himself in. He’d had time and opportunity to experiment far beyond what humans have. They say you never know who you really are until you are in a situation yourself. He’d been in an unimaginable number of situations already and had that many more ahead of him. I think he was curious all the time to find out what lay round the next bend.



“I don’t want to ask my mother again.”



“I don’t think you should. Not for this bit,” he agreed. The divorce was one thing, an affair was another. In his own way I think Spike respects my mother above all people on the planet. He says that other than her inviting him into the house the first time he came to the door, he’s never seen her do a stupid thing.



“You really won’t tell me where you live?” It would be so much simpler.



He waited for me to get over myself.



I called up my Moms group friend.



“I don’t approve of what you’re doing Buffy. I mean, yeah...the divorce, that was going to happen, but having a man right now...” I could hear her scowl and sigh.” I’ll watch Becky for you if you need me to. Just tell me you have a lawyer’s appointment or are going to see the marriage counselor.”



That still didn’t solve the where, which had to be someplace Spike could get to during the day. We could have rented a hotel room like every other cheating couple on the planet, but  I balked at the idea of that. It had been different when we were in London and he scored us that posh room. Now we were scrimping pennies and I didn’t want to meet him, to cheat on my husband,  in a cheap motel.



His guy had “a guy” who had “a place”. When we met, a weird thing happened, something neither of us anticipated. We we didn’t know what to do with each other. The idea of using this time to get our rocks off in some desperate hurried rush was offensive to both of us.

 

Think S7 “Empty Places”, Spike and Buffy in an abandoned house holding each other through the night. In our case it was 4 hours on a Monday afternoon, the day before Mark was served the papers. We needed to be close to each other and enjoy a calm before the storm, the last opportunity to rest in each other and, if necessary, to back out at the last minute.



We talked about things that didn’t matter and things that didn’t pertain to the marriage or custody or any of it. I told him funny things that had happened at my different jobs, and gossip about Dawn and HE told me he had actually attended two of her performances in NYC! She was going to love it when she found out.



Spike told me a story of a woman he was with many years ago. She was a baker for a royal court, and was making an elaborate wedding cake. He was in the kitchen watching as the cake was put together. They had several people working on it and they were creating magical things out of sugar, pulling it and spinning it like glass, creating roses and ribbons and birds with fancy tails. The woman spun a little bird for him and put it into his hands. He said it was a perfect moment of magical shared delight. A moment where they were just two, amid the flurry and worry over the elaborate cake, captured in a perfect little spun sugar birdie.



He said he’d felt that way when we lay in bed with Rebecca between us. His hand and hers on her bottle and her holding my finger tight. That was when he knew it had to be. His confidence was catching. When he told of that moment, I believed that it could all come to pass, and we would have other moments.



Saying goodbye to him that afternoon was horrible. I felt like I was leaving the light of day to step into cement shoes and be tossed into the ocean.



Of course, Mark wasn’t surprised that I wanted a divorce. He was surprised that I’d had the papers drawn up already. The first thing he asked was if I planned to move to my mother’s, and I said no, I was going to stay in the house.



“You’re kicking ME out?” He almost found it amusing, but was too sad to actually laugh about it. “I’m not the one that wants this. I’m not the one who’s lost their mind.” He didn’t say that in an insulting way, if that makes any sense. He really thought I was bonkers and didn’t really understand what I was doing.



“I’m not kicking you out. I’m asking you to leave.” Semantics Buffy, especially since the lawyer had people on hand to encourage Mark should he resist.



“And where am I supposed to keep Becky and Jackson? And Mica...I know you don’t want the dog.”



“Becky stays with me.”



That actually DID surprise him. He couldn’t believe that I thought he’d let his daughter stay with her mentally disturbed mother.



“Listen Buffy...Just let me take Becky to mom’s for a few days while you pull yourself together and think things through…”



Sure, a few days during which he and his mom will find a lawyer and start building a case against me. I wasn’t letting Becky out of my sight. I knew how this legal stuff worked, I’d already done it.



“I’m done thinking things through. I’m just...done.” My voice was void of emotion because I didn’t know what to feel. I didn’t know what was safe to feel. It was better to remain inscrutable.



“Is there someone else?” He had to ask. I don’t blame him.



This I had anticipated and prepared for. I mean literally, I practiced my response with my mom. I didn’t miss a beat, nor did I rush and make it sound defensive.



“This is between you and me, and I can’t be your wife anymore.” We decided that was better than “of course not, how could you even think that of me!”



He maintained he was taking Becky and I told him he wasn’t. I stood there knowing that even though I had nothing like my Slayer strength, I still had superhuman strength for my size, and if he touched the baby I was going to put him through a wall. He must have seen something terrible in my face. Instead of further argument, he called his mom, told her he was coming by and thathe’d explain it to her when he got there. I doubt she was surprised.



I felt awkward staying in the house without Mark. I didn’t want to be there. Our house was attractive, but I didn’t love it. It was just a house in a nice enough town, but a town I wasn’t especially attached to. The house meant nothing to me other than a bargaining chip in the divorce and custody case.



I didn’t like rattling around in it just the two of us. Becky wanted to see Mark. The last thing I wanted was Becky caught in the crossfire, or used as a bargaining tool or ever made to feel like any of it was about her. I almost told Mark to come back and we’d just sleep in separate beds, because it seemed easier, and I felt guilty.



I’m an emotional person, in case you haven’t noticed. If I had known where Spike’s “place” was I would have run there. I would have run to my mother’s on the second night, just as Mark predicted, but I had a crack crew behind me, yet again. My lawyer told me what to do. My mother and Spike made sure I did it.



I wasn’t supposed to do or say anything other than what my lawyer told me. He had papers drawn up, arranging a visitation schedule from day one. I wasn’t to respond to any of Mark or his family’s comments on my mental status. The lawyer was dealing with that.  He had interviews for me and Becky scheduled with therapists recognized by the courts. He collected statements from people who knew us. All I had to do was remain cheerful and polite and tell Mark to take it up with my lawyer.



That kind of legal assistance doesn’t come cheap. Crack team to the rescue. Thanks Dad. Thanks Spike. Spike came up with money, which I felt very mixed about taking because of the weirdness of the situation.



The lawyer said he didn’t want to know anything about the boyfriend he suspected existed, but he would regularly tell me what he would advise me to do or not do IF a boyfriend was in the picture. One of those things was to not in any way, shape or form have non-existent boyfriend involved in finances.



For the divorce negotiations, I had to keep a detailed list of household expenses from gas money to cotton swabs, to tips for pizza delivery, and so did Mark. Wow, let me tell you THAT is an eye opener. Money gets spent and pissed away on really weird things.



One of the most difficult things, during the divorce process, was keeping Becky away from Spike. They were two of the most important people in my life. I couldn’t even talk about Spike with my mother, when Becky was around.



I recalled Spike’s telling me about the French girl speaking to her children in French, against her husband’s wishes. I felt like her. Now I was not only having to continue to hide the Slayer history, but Spike as well. I felt like I was a horrible mother, lying to my little girl for the worst kind of reasons. Once the divorce was over I’d be like, surprise Becky! You have a mother who is totally NOT who you think she is and a sort of step vampire. Becky wasn’t even two, and it didn’t do her any damage, but it was the sort of thing I worried about.



It was hard on Spike too. I’m not asking you to feel sorry for him, but not knowing and spending time with Rebecca, who was such a critical part of my life, drove him crazy. He felt like he was being cheated by not being able to see us together, to know us together. It also drove him crazy because in his mind, Rebecca was his. The idea that Mark might get primary custody made Spike’s blood boil.



The lawyer assured me from the start that Mark wasn’t going to get primary custody. I hated how things got, but I was willing to do what it took to hang onto Becky. One of the lawyer’s arguments was precedent. Mark already had one failed marriage behind him, in which he had lost custody of his first child. This man wasn’t good husband OR father material.



I felt that was unfair. Mark wasn’t a bad husband, and he was a good father, but I sat there and nodded my head. I had no intention of keeping him from seeing Becky but I forged ahead with whatever the lawyer said as long as it wasn’t illegal or downright dirty dealing.



I got to a point, when negotiations over the house were getting hot and heavy, of considering offering Mark the house in exchange for primary custody. He could have the house to play with the kids in on his weekends! That was fair right!? OMG, how horrible is that? I wanted to have him sell his kid out for three bedrooms and two and a half baths.



The lawyer said “no way” though for different reasons. What we were going to do was win the house, and custody, then put the house up for sale and if Mark wanted to, he could buy it. That seemed way too complicated, but my lawyer assured me that was how it was done.



I tried very hard to keep civil with Alice and Dan. I dutifully dropped off Becky for her afternoons with Grandma. Alice didn’t buy me any more scented candles or bubble bath. I think she decided I was using ME time to get with a lover.



We continued to argue about the christening. I wanted it in writing that Mark could not get Becky baptised without my written consent. The lawyer said that was going to be a tough one and impossible to enforce. If Mark had the baby baptised what could I do about it? The issues of differing religions is always a sticky one in divorce, but it was one the courts didn’t involve themselves in, unless it was proven that the child was in danger.



Spike said addressing the christening questions was easy, put a warding spell over Becky that would keep any such ceremony on Mark’s end from taking effect. Basically the baptism would slide off of her unless he actively did something to address the ward, or unless the baptism was of particularly ritual form. The form used at the church we attended was pretty generic and posed no threat to a strong ward.



I took Becky to Spike’s guy and hoped she didn’t say anything to Daiy about it, or about the strange ceremony that took place, or the weird symbol that was put on the back of her head. (good thing she had a full head of hair) Becky wasn’t talking much yet, but she was making fast progress and I never knew what would come out of her mouth. She might have words tomorrow to describe something that happened last week.



Spike and I did meet in a time zone of our own. I was afraid it was going to be like that one afternoon, and we would feel all weird about getting together under bizarre and frankly sad circumstances, but we didn’t. We talked on the phone regularly, so getting together to have sex felt like an extension of our relationship, not something desperate. Though it definitely had that forbidden vibe to it and we were sneaking around, we were fairly certain we wouldn’t get caught.



Since neither of us was being split into pieces and we were going to the same place, Spike’s guy didn’t need any assistance to put us into another time zone and then zap us back. It was pretty standard sorcerer’s stuff. Spike would show up at the location and basically disappear. I’d show up, and disappear. No one ever saw us together.



There was the issue of WHERE to put us, and that gets all kinds of crazy. Basically Oscar could have put us anywhere reasonably safe, say, where we were unlikely to get hit by traffic. Depending on the time signature he put us into, we might only flicker into sight once every few hours. So maybe someone would get some momentary flash of “what the heck did I just see”, but that would be as much as anyone saw of us.



Our bodies, however, would also be out of synch spatially. If we were on a very slow time signature, when we flickered back into this time phase, we might be several yards or more from where we started, because all the things in this world would have moved in space.



We had to pick a signature to fit the amount of real time we had, and that would keep us relatively close to a safe home base physically. This was all extremely strange, but not as strange or difficult as the last time I had done it, in three pieces. It was really nice not to be doing it alone, having my best friend (well, maybe second best friend because Spike is amazing but will never trump my mom) along made a huge difference.



It was sort of like being in a cloud, where things flashed by periodically, and sounds would turn on and off, but they were from dimensions and time signatures other than our own. Suddenly we would hear a bar of music or voices from somewhere or the smell of food cooking, when we would momentarily coincide with some other time phase.



I also got a taste of what Spike meant about privacy being an American invention. I learned what it was like to be not so private. It was eye opening to realize just how much other stuff is taking place right where we are and we don’t even know it AND how much we just get used to filtering out.



We see and hear things from other time signatures and dimensions when they coincide with ours, but our brains learn to ignore it as so much static.



The same thing happened to me after a bit. When Spike and I were in our time zone, at first the static weirded me out and I was like...omg, can they see what we are doing?  He said that yeah, if they cared to, or bothered to they could, but like us they were more interested in their own lives and to nearly everyone “out there” we were static their brains would filter out.



It’s similar to the way that people’s brains filter out the noise of the train when they live close to the track or the sound of the neighbor’s music or the smell of a factory. Or...the fact that your kids are a few feet away while you fight or have sex with your spouse or whatever.



It’s only a big deal if you make a big deal out of it and let it be the focus of your attention. I got it then. We live in our own little worlds and only interact when we choose to or are forced to by circumstance. There were some similarities to the custody battle. In the end, was it a huge deal if Becky spent Wednesday evenings at church with her daddy instead of watching TV with me? Only if we made it one.



160 years had taught Spike to filter out a lot of static. (and when to tune into it if he wanted to) It was the thing that cemented the understanding that if he waited a beat or three, people and things had a way of working out because they got back into synch with themselves.



He said it was one of the things that made him good in bed (brag much?) A lot of it was timing. Don’t rush it and don’t fall behind a beat and throw it all out of synch. He was a master of timing...when he wanted to be. Sometimes he just didn’t give a bloody fuck and did his thing. (but he always made up for it later)



I learned a great deal about timing via our supernatural liaisons. I’m not just referring to sex, though I think I got better at that as well. Spike and I didn’t just do the sexy. Sometimes we did a weird, almost tantric, thing. We’d sit either back to back, or face to face with our palms touching, and we’d ride the time signature. The feeling is a little like a tickle, but a tickle that’s all over the place, inside and outside at the same time.



It’s not sexual, but it feels sort of like sex because you’re so present. We didn’t see or hear things, but we got the illusion that we did. We were picking up sensations via a part of our being beyond the normal five physical senses. We would find ourselves smiling or laughing or experience heart stopping awe or terror at the same time without exactly knowing why or what triggered it.



My time away with Spike, was truly other worldly, and for that reason therapeutic. There was all this stuff “out there”, a plethora of Universes and dimensions beyond my custody battle. For nearly everyone and everything that existed, my divorce was less than static. Talk about putting things into perspective



“So where did you and Spike go?” My mom would ask me. At first I told her it was private, but eventually I began to explain things the best I could.



“And here I thought you two were just having sex. Silly me.”



“There is never JUST anything with him,” I assured her.



“Yeah, I guess I kind of knew that, but I didn’t expect you to be tripping on dimensional LSD on your dates.”



LSD does involve alternate time signatures, different dimensions and other sensibilities, so I couldn’t argue that some of our dates weren’t actually drug trips.



Spike and my mother sometimes met on their own. (in ordinary time and space) At first I bugged them to find out what they said about me and was ashamed of myself when Spike told me I was mighty self centered if I thought that two intelligent people didn’t have anything to say that wasn’t about me. Well...ouch.



I was jealous that they had a relationship of their own. I was jealous that my mother got to spend real time with Spike. Our time zone dates were a wacky kind of interesting, but I longed for real time with him, in our world, where things have consequences. Consequences aren’t a bad thing, they are just as likely to be wonderful as not.



The things that happened on our dates were out of context. They didn’t amount to much in any dimension, they were just interesting memories and nothing more. I wanted us to have life and memories that added up to something.

 

 

Spike met Rob. Even my mother’s boyfriend spent more time with him than I did.



The hangovers from the phase shifts were much less debilitating when I did them all in one piece than when I had been ripped into three parts. The remedy that Spike’s guy had was pretty damn good. It tasted like wintergreen Lifesavers and made me sleep like a rock. “Better than Robitussin and Vodka I’ll wager.” was Spike’s commentary on it.



My mental state improved after the separation, and even more so after a few “sessions” tripping the light fantastic with Spike. Mark’s ammunition in that quarter was quickly running out. The fact that apparently, living with him, had been a factor in how messed up I was, was further proof that I was mentally sound once out of that situation.



After 8 months of negotiations and hearings,  I was awarded primary custody with generous visitation for Mark and no custodial limitations. That meant, that  if I wanted to, I could let Mark keep Becky for a month or a year, but I couldn’t keep him from seeing her any less than he was awarded by our custody settlement.



I was awarded the house and all equity in the house but to keep it, I had to pay the mortgage. I didn’t want the house and offered it to Mark. He opted to rent a condo. The house was eventually sold and I netted a nice nest egg.



According to the custody decree, if I moved in with a partner within 12 months, we could go back to court to duke it out again, pending the suitability of the new member of the household on the child in question.



Basically, if I shacked up with Spike before a year was out, we’d go back to court and they’d do a background check on him. Mark or I could, at any time, go back to court if we thought Becky was being endangered, but the automatic rework was only for a year from the date of the divorce.

 

 

I felt numb when I stepped out of the courtroom. As far as divorces went it was standard and fair. I don’t think that after the first two months, Mark really thought he was going to win primary custody, and I don’t know if, by that point, he wanted to. Becky was better off with me than in child care or being taken care of by his mother during the week. Mark recognized that.



Of course Mark wondered how the hell I’d been living, without having a job and he knew that clearly that situation couldn’t continue indefinitely. It came up in court but my lawyer addressed it satisfactorily enough to put it to rest.



The divorce took place on a Friday and Becky was with her father for the weekend.



I called Spike. He gave me his address. Then there we were, for the first time in a very long time, together in real time.



“Can I pour you a drink?” he asked



“Got any vodka?”



“Yeah, but I’m out of Robitussin. Would you settle for iced tea?”



“You hate iced tea.”



“But you don’t.”



He already had a glass poured for me.



He sat down on his couch and pulled my feet into his lap and gave me a foot rub.



“William, William, my William….” I said dreamily. “This is really happening.”



“Yeah, nice that, eh?”



“And so begins my new life. Shouldn’t I feel happy? Or at least happier? Or glad it’s over? Why doesn’t it feel like it’s over?”



“It’s like the time signatures Buffy, nothing is ever really over or separate, there is no past and future, just let yourself go and be where you are, when you are.”



“Kind of like an orgasm…” I realized. “When you don’t want to be anywhere else.”



“Kind of like that.” At the mention of orgasms his hands began to move up my leg. “Haven’t done it in real time for forever. Think you remember how?”



“It’s only been a few months...we’ve gone years and we didn’t forget.”



“It’s been more than years this time. It’s been lifetimes and eons...you saw it all go by.” Now he was kissing his way up my leg.



I sat up. “Do you know what?”



He looked up, waiting for me to fill him in. “I really love you.”



He crawled up closer to me “My beautiful, beautiful Buffy. I so love you.”



We made love for the first time, that wasn’t stolen, uncertain, fleeting or out of context. We were together, by choice, by word and sentiment.



I had felt many times that I was Spike’s Buffy, but I don’t think I truly felt he was mine until that evening. We were in his apartment, not depending on hospitality, stolen from or offered by anyone else.  We had come together by choice, not circumstance or desperation. Spike wasn’t here trying to save my life, he was here so we could have a life together.



I began pulling him into a kiss, an embrace that made me feel as powerful as I ever had in my Slayer days. I literally felt the strength coursing through me, I knew if I held him just a little tighter I would leave bruises. I could be anyone with Spike, anything, any aspect of Buffy. He loved them all,  and could handle them all.



“Oh god Buffy, your body…” he murmured appreciatively. His hands were everywhere kneading my flesh even as he was undressing me. He adored my softer thighs, my fuller breasts, and the rounder hips I was still sporting. I had lost most of the baby weight, but I wasn’t firm and my skin wasn’t taut the way it had been in my Slayer days.



I was worried, when he’d first come back, that he would find my older, softer body disgusting. I had forgotten who he is, what he is, what he knows. I felt almost like he’d been waiting for this version of me. Using the word ravish sounds dramatic, but it’s what he did, when he made love to me then. His hands and mouth were hungry for me, it was like he couldn’t get enough and meant to lose himself in me. He was making up for things denied him for far too long.



I wanted possession of his body. I wanted him to feel the way I had since the first time we’d been together, that my mark was on him. I wanted to work him over until every inch of him was familiar territory, and I would know the sight, and smell and taste of it in a way no one else ever had or would.



Lying on his couch I felt almost a rage, over the time we had lost together, and that there were still scars on his body I hadn’t traced with my tongue, that there were still parts of him that had been withheld from me.  



I wanted to change that in an instant, in one love making session, I wanted to know him and own him more than any woman ever had, more than all the women who had known him put together, ever had. I knew it wasn’t possible, and my heart wept.



All he could ever be was here with me now, and me here with him. He was right, he and I had watched eons flash by as we surfed the time signatures.



I was crying as he fucked me, tears of frustration. He didn’t let them bother him. He didn’t ask why. He understood I needed to shed them, and left me to it. Asking why would have made it seem as if they were a problem that needed to be solved, something he could help me with. They weren’t. He couldn’t.



He couldn’t give me the reassurances I wanted then, on the night of my divorce, but he could love me, and invite me to love him. I made him make love to me over and over again. “Tell me a secret.” I demanded as he plowed into me.



“I don’t have any.” he claimed, which seemed ridiculous, of course he did, we all did. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t tell you if you asked me,” he assured me.



“But I don’t know what to ask…” I was still choking on frustration.



He laughed at that and stopped his pumping. “Then it’s not me who’s keeping a secret, it’s you keeping them from yourself.”



“You would really tell me anything?”



“Bout myself, yeah. Won’t share other’s secrets with you though. You do know the difference.”



I wasn’t sure I did. So much of who we are is bound up with other people. Most of our stories evaporate if we start withholding names and dates.



Spike pulled out of me and sat up.



“What?”



“I want you to ask me.”



“Ask you what?” Spike often turned the tables on me. He does it to everyone, it’s how he is. I always thought he did it to confuse me, but his tone was sincere.



“Ask me anything.” He gave a little laugh. “You think I’m trying to hide from you, I’m not. I love that you’re hungry for me, that you want to know. Ask me anything, Buffy.”



We don’t grow if we aren’t challenged. We don’t know who or what we can be unless someone calls that out of us. I had always felt inferior to him, he knew so much more, but there were part of himself he could not know without me. There were things he could not unlock himself. I could have him in ways no one had ever had him, all I had to do was ask.



“Will you stay with me, and raise Becky?”



“Yes.”



“And we’ll be together. For real?”



“Yes.”



“Even when I’m old?”



“You’ll never be older than me…”



“You know what I mean.”



“Yes.”



There is was, of all the secrets and mysteries I could have asked him, that was what I most needed to know.



“And will you miss me when I’m off on jobs?” he asked. “And cry when we say goodbye?”



I always had. “Yes.”



“And you won’t argue with me when I know better than you?” I could hear the tease in his voice, but also the fear that I would find him too old fashioned.



“Can we agree to disagree?”



“We often do.” He reminded me.



“And will you believe me when I tell you I love you?” He sounded very serious again.



“It’s not that I don’t believe you. I just don’t know what it means….”



“I’ve shown you what it means. Over and over. It means this. Us. “ He took my hands and kissed them. “And this.” He wrapped them around his erection. “And you not jumping to conclusions.” He put my palms against his face. “Ask me, don’t think you know what I’m feeling, and thinking…”



He’d not only handed himself over to me, he asked me to take good care of him.



My hands were there anyway, so I pressed the heels of my palms into his cheeks and he opened his mouth to me. I traced the front and back of every tooth, felt each crevice of every molar, counted the ridges in his palate and tasted forever on his tongue.

 

 

************************************

 

Q&A

What was Spike doing during the past 7 years?  Spike needed  money. Was he still taking jobs for the Tribunal? Was he just unavailable if Willow asked about him?

Unavailable covered two things. It could mean he was on a job for the Tribunal OR, that he had gone AWOL on them too, and he was off doing his own thing. At any rate, it meant that he didn’t want to be found.

In other words, he could be declared unavailable by the Tribunal, or he could declare it for himself. And, he could declare it officially, or on a more personal level, as in telling Oscar that if someone was looking for him, to cover for him.

Spike had Oscars in many places, and there is a sorcerers network. Spike could keep tabs on things from anywhere and find out if and who was looking for him.

Spike told the Tribunal to keep his status listed as unavailable. He had Oscar keeping tabs on me. He was also well aware that Wendy had standing orders to tell me if/when Spike became available, so when he turned up, it wasn’t a coincidence. He wanted to be found. It was a very clear signal that he was back if and when I wanted him. The ball was in my court.

 

Via Tribunal connections and his own personal connections, Spike can live on the cheap in many places. There is nearly always someone or some place he can put up. But of course he does need money.

When he takes a job for the Tribunal they cover his expenses. Depending on what the job is, and the deal he makes with them, he may get paid on top of that. They don’t keep him on any retainer or give him any regular living allowance. It’s completely dependent on what he is doing for them at the time.

Most of Spike’s money comes from business deals he arranges himself. Much, if not most of that involves the supernatural.

He also assures me that most business in the world get done over a handshake, a wink and the fact that two people know the same third person, rather than by signing a contract. People still barter, cut deals, pay in cash and turn blind eyes.

He reminds me over and over again how “American” my ideas are and that in general Americans are stupidly naive and idealistic. We believe that we all deserve three solids a day, our own home, privacy, and that most people are “honest”, and that our definition of honesty is like that of a child saying it’s unfair that sister got an extra sprinkle on her icecream. Meanwhile the rest of the world is turning the way it always has and people are getting by on their wits without the help of contracts and lawyers.

Then I think about how much more help I received from talking to my moms group friends and chatting with Kelly and Helen about life, than by paying a professional therapist. I realize that I exchanged babysitting with friends more often than I left Becky in professional daycare and that I saved other worlds and dimensions in supernatural deals bargained in secret meetings, not on the floor of some interdimensional UN. I see his point.

He’s not a criminal. He doesn’t rob banks and steal cars. He likes to say he connects “people” to goods and services for a fee.

Spike has worked for the Council. They pay better than the Tribunal. Spike never has and probably never will have a job with regular hours, a salary, pension plan, and benefits. If he needs money, he goes and find an opportunity to get some.

 

No on has specifically asked this, but I think it might clear some things up

There was a lot. I mean a LOT, a lot, that I didn’t understand about Spike before we got together for good. I always thought of him as nearly a James Bond type character. Mystery man that comes and goes without a word, always has money, has beautiful women everywhere and pretty much does as he pleases and gets away with anything.

I believed he lived without commitments, consequences and conscience. He gives that vibe, because it’s a handy cover, and I fell for it and didn’t look much further. I believed that things didn’t matter to him because he always had time to get over it, or could just move along and quickly find a replacement for anything he’d left behind.

That’s why I called bullshit on him when he told me he hadn’t been able to return to Collinsville. It had never occurred to me that Spike couldn’t go where he wanted, when he wanted or that any of the things that constrain mere mortals like me, applied to him.

When he told me that his paperwork had been pulled, he had no money, or that he’d burned too many bridges by working with us, I thought he was just making excuses to a stupid love sick girl. It was only after I saw hard evidence of some of those things that I realized that he is NOT untouchable.

That was terrifying to me. When he showed up ill at my mother’s it really wigged me, because even though I felt intimidated by Super Spike, global Playboy, it was also comforting, because it meant nothing really bad would ever happen to him, and there was always the chance he’d look me up if he was in town. Realizing that he was vulnerable shook me, and I resisted believing it. In my head I made excuses and rationalizations.

Part of me felt safer believing that I was one of the many casual lovers of the vampire 007, even though another part of me wanted to be his one true love. I couldn’t even imagine what that might look like. It made no sense to me and I didn’t believe that Spike would ever want to, or was capable of settling down. It didn’t fit my idea of him.

When I went to England and had Wendy look him up, he showed up almost immediately, and told me that things were different because I had come after him. He divulged his true history and identity. That was huge. That was him basically laying it all out at my feet and saying “look, this is who I am, I’ll come to you anywhere, anytime, all you have to do is say so.”

At that time I needed to go to University. I needed to put distance between my Slayer life and the life I was going to lead in the future. I still didn’t believe that Spike ever would or could settle down or that he would want me. I thought all we could ever be was fleeting lovers.

I ignored the stories he’d told me of previous loves in his life, I ignored the clear evidence that I wasn’t just another random pretty face to him. His history intimidated me. He was a world traveler, he’d seen and done it all and I was...a washed up nobody. I couldn’t imagine why he would want to be with me. I didn’t believe a relationship with me had anything to offer him.

The longer I went without seeing him, the more deeply I felt that way.

The reality is that Spike’s existence wasn’t nearly as easy, posh, and carefree as I imagined. His work put him in danger. He regularly found himself in uncomfortable circumstances. Lonely, without shelter, having to survive on his wits. While that’s exciting and on some level he gets off on it, he also likes regular meals, a comfortable bed, someone to spend time with and love, and someone he doesn’t have to hide his true identity from.

Even though he is a vampire, he still craves a normal life. The same way I loved a lot of things about being the Slayer, but I still wanted a house and children and Sunday dinners with my mom. I couldn’t understand that those things were attractive to him as well.

I was always surprised at how normal it looked when Spike was playing backgammon with Mom, or drinking tea or reading in bed, as if that was an anomaly rather than who he is. Then it finally hit me that it looked normal because it was normal. Because it was what he liked doing. He wasn’t always wishing he was somewhere else doing something else. He wasn’t as restless as I imagined.

He DOES love his work and wouldn’t give it up for anything, because he would get restless always staying in one place. He’s seen too much to not want to be part of things and there are causes he believes in. He risks his life. He believes there are things worth fighting for and he doesn’t want to sit on the sidelines. He also wants a home and a family and commitments. He says that life with no strings isn’t much of a life at all, and that there is something wonderful in that which tugs on his heart.











 

 

 


Chapter End Notes:

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions for Buffy, leave them in a review and she will respond in the next update!





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