Title: Older and Far Wiser
Rating: PG 13
word count: 3790
Disclaimer: Joss’s characters, Joss’s setting, it’s even his episode – all I did was twist it a bit.
Distribution: Only if you already have permission to grab my stuff
Summary: Meant to be a drabble, but it grew. A Spuffier twist to Older and Far Away in which Buffy admits some things and the world, surprisingly, doesn’t end.
Older and Far Wiser
“I can’t believe you told her that!”
“What? That I had a cramp? I do. Want to feel it?”
“Like she believed you.” Buffy didn’t answer his question, but her hand drifted to the bulge in his jeans. “What if it hadn’t been Tara? What if it had been Xander?”
“Caught is caught, innit?”
Not meeting his eyes, Buffy slowly stroked the hardening bulge. “She knows,” she murmured, not meeting his eyes.
He studied her bowed head, trying to ignore the way her warm hand was coaxing him to let it go.
When there was no reply, he took her hand and gently removed it. “Why does she know, pet? “
The only response was an embarrassed shrug.
“You told her because you wanted her to tell you what was wrong with you, didn’t you? Because god forbid you could just want to be with me because I love you.”
“I...no...yes...it wasn’t like that...” She refused to meet his too-perceptive eyes.
“No? What was it like, then? Know bloody well you didn’t tell her you were in love with me. Didn’t go looking for permission, did you?”
“She...she asked me if I loved you.” Her voice was barely a whisper. “She said it would be okay if I did...because you love me and you’ve done a lot of good...”
“She asked you that? Asked if you love me?” He hated the way his voice betrayed the hope he couldn’t push down.
Buffy nodded silently. When she didn’t say anything, he repeated his original question.
“What did you tell her, Buffy? How does she know what we’re doin’?”
“I...you were right...sort of. I asked her to read my aura, to see if I came back...wrong, because...”
“Because why else would you want my soulless, evil body.” His voice was flat, the hope gone before it had time to blossom. “Had to be because something was wrong with you to make you want to be with me.”
“You TOLD me there was! Isn’t that what you said? ‘You came back wrong, Slayer’. I remember it. You told me I came back wrong – that your chip doesn’t think I’m human anymore. Told me I belong in the dark... ”
“I’m a fuckin’ demon! What would make you believe me?” He threw his hands in the air and made no attempt to keep his voice down. “Jesus Christ, Buffy, I tell you that I love you and you call me a liar. I tell you something stupid about yourself, and THAT you decide is the gospel truth? What’s wrong with you?”
Her face hardened, even as he tried to recover.
“I didn’t mean that, love. You know I didn’t. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re as perfect as you’ve ever been. Please, Buffy….” His plea trailed off as she marched away from him, her back stiff. Before he could move to intercept her, Xander came around the corner and heard his plea.
“ ‘Please, Buffy’?” he mocked. “What’s the matter, evil undead? Did Buffy turn you down again? Seems to me you’d get the message by now. She will never, ever want anything to do with your undead self.” He didn’t notice that Buffy had turned around, continuing his confident dismissal of Spike’s feelings. “You’re pathetic, Spike. Really you are. At least Angel had the good sense to leave when he knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere with Buffy anymore. But you – you just keep hanging around like a whipped puppy. ‘Please, Buffy’. Please what, Spike? Please don’t hit me? Please, let me pretend you actually like me? Please—“
His vitriolic rant at Spike, who was visibly withdrawing into himself more and more with every word out of the boy’s mouth, was brought to an abrupt halt when Buffy stepped between them, her stare hard and cold.
Xander shrugged, uncomfortable with the way she was glaring at him, but not perceptive enough to understand why.
“It’s no big, Buffster. I was just asking the evil undead here why he was still begging and pleading with you – like you were actually going to listen to him.”
“He was asking me,” Buffy said clearly, stepping closer to the wary vampire, “not to be so quick to get mad at him when he tells me things I don’t want to hear.”
“Well, exactly! My point entirely. He needs to learn to leave you alone. What’s he even doing here, anyway?”
“He’s here because…because…” She felt rather than saw Spike stiffen beside her as she fumbled for something to say.
“Because I’m evil and I crashed her party,” he said, his voice tight. “It’s like you said, Harris, just making myself unwelcome again.”
“No!” Buffy’s sudden outburst surprised herself as much as it did the two men now glaring at each other over her head. “No, that’s not why he’s here. He’s here because it’s my birthday and all my friends were invited. ALL of them, Xander. Not just the ones you approve of.”
It was hard to say which of the two men was more taken back at her statement.
“You consider Spike a friend? William the used-to-be-Bloody? What’s wrong with you?”
Spike and Buffy flinched in unison as Xander unwittingly repeated what Spike had said to her, and he sighed heavily at this proof that Buffy had reason to think it was wrong of her to spend time with him. Buffy, on the other hand, stood up a bit straighter and looked her best male friend in the eye.
“What’s wrong with me is that I’ve been a coward and I’ve allowed my so-called ‘friends’ to abuse one of my other…friends. I’m done with it, Xander. You can treat Spike just like you do anyone else.”
“Since when is Spike your ‘friend’,” Xander asked in a suddenly calm voice, remembering how much time Buffy had been spending in the vampire’s company since her return from the grave.
His eyes took in the body postures of the couple in front of him. Buffy’s stiff and determined, although her brow was furrowed with anxiety; the usually snarky vampire standing, as he so often did, at her shoulder but waiting quietly to follow her lead. Unlike the reaction Xander would have expected of him, which would have included triumphant sneers and sarcastic remarks, he found Spike’s quiet patience and the easy way that Buffy allowed the vampire’s shoulder to brush hers more unsettling than any verbal retaliation would have been.
“I asked you a question, Buffy,” Xander said, his artificial calm evaporating in the face of the closeness he could now sense between the two blonds in front of him. “Since when is Spike considered one of our friends?”
“If I wanted to get technical about it, Xander,” Buffy replied, her own voice rising a bit, “I would probably say – about the time he let Glory almost beat him to death to spare me the pain of losing Dawn; or when he got thrown off the tower trying to save her; or how about all the times he took care of her last summer because of a promise he made to a dead girl? Or the times he saved your life, or Giles’ or someone else’s who you consider to be one of your ‘real’ friends?”
She stopped, fascinated by the play of emotions going across Xander’s face - anger, guilt, suspicion and a growing horror as he listened to Buffy defending the still-hovering vampire. In spite of the growing distress on Xander’s face, she continued.
“But, in all honesty? I’d say it was when he was willing to accept me the way I was when I came back. He never asked me to act happy, I never had to pretend that I wasn’t… He’s been a good friend to me, Xan. He’s…he’s important to me.”
When, without thinking, the boy pulled out a stake and lunged past her, intent on removing the latest vampire to become part of Buffy’s life, she stepped in front of Spike, and the intended death blow glanced off her shoulder, tearing her blouse and the flesh underneath.
With an inhuman snarl and supernatural speed, Spike wrenched the boy’s arm and sent the stake flying across the hallway. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he pushed Xander to the end of the hall, and threw him against the front door, his emerging fangs and wrinkled forehead making his intentions more than obvious.
Buffy’s quiet “Spike” was enough to stop the attack, and he walked back to her side, shaking his head in a vain attempt to make the pain go away. Xander immediately straightened up, the triumphant smile fading from his face when he heard the rest of her sentence. “You’ll just hurt yourself,” she finished, holding her hand out to the still game-faced vampire.
While Xander stared in bewilderment, shaking his head as Willow demanded to know what was going on, Spike’s face shifted back and he cradled Buffy’s injured arm in his hand.
“Let’s get this cleaned up, love,” he said, as though touching Buffy and doctoring her wounds was something he did every day. Without a word to anyone, they walked into the kitchen, closely followed by Tara, who automatically got out the first aid kit. Willow and Xander, flanked by a confused and angry Dawn, watched with frowns on their faces as Spike and Tara worked on Buffy’s arm – neither of the two girls appearing to be uncomfortable with his obvious familiarity with Buffy’s wound care.
When Tara went to cut away the ruined sleeve, leaving the strapless blouse to be held up by Buffy’s good arm, there was a shocked hiss from the doorway, followed closely by a possessive growl aimed at Xander. In spite of himself, the boy couldn’t help staring at Buffy’s bare shoulders and almost bare chest. If Spike’s lethal glares and low rumblings were not evidence enough that he had more of a place in her life than anyone had suspected, Buffy’s complete lack of concern for his proximity to her bare flesh completed the picture.
Paying no more attention to their audience, Spike held Buffy’s shirt together while Tara cleaned and bandaged the wound. She held her hand over the bandage and muttered a few words in Latin, ceasing her repetition of the healing spell only when she saw Buffy visibly relax, the lines of pain on her face smoothing out as the wound ceased hurting.
With a shy smile, Tara said, “That should help it heal, Buffy. And, if it doesn’t, at least it won’t hurt anymore for a while.”
“Thanks, Glinda,” Spike’s voice as he obviously spoke for both of them was warm with gratitude.
“No problem, guys. I’m glad I was here to help.”
Willow’s face twisted at their easy acceptance of her former girlfriend’s magical assistance.
“I could have done a healing spell, too,” she muttered, glaring at the three blonds who were smiling at each other so comfortably.
“Oh, of course you could have, sweetie!” Tara was quick to assuage Willow’s feelings. “It’s just…I was here, you know?”
Spike had stepped away from Buffy as soon as she had both hands free to hold up her shirt, but he remained close enough to be sure that he could get between her and anyone other than Tara.
The cold glare that he fixed on Xander only served to aggravate the man more; his own guilt over having injured his friend causing him to project his anger onto what he saw as the source of the problem.
“I want someone to tell me what’s going on here,” he demanded, ignoring the incredulous stares from everyone except Anya. The ex-demon just rolled her eyes at her financŹ’s denseness. When no one else said anything, she finally spoke up.
“It looks to me like somebody staked Buffy. I don’t know why you would do that, Xander, but I’m pretty sure Spike didn’t do it, so…”
“I didn’t stake Buffy!”
“Then who did?”
“I…he…she…” he stammered helplessly, cringing from the shocked expressions on the faces of his friends.
“You were trying to stake Spike,” Dawn said with sudden understanding. “You were trying to kill Spike, and Buffy got in the way. That’s what happened. Isn’t it?” The teen’s voice was rising into a shriek as she began to realize how close she had come to losing one of the two most important people in her life.
“Why were you trying to stake Spike?”
Willow’s question was more rhetorical than real – his protective posture and Buffy’s willingness to remain beside him making the answer obvious. Before Xander could explain himself, Buffy spoke up.
“This is my fault,” she said quietly, waiting until the disbelieving babble had died down before continuing. “I’ve been keeping a…a secret…for a few months now, and this is what happens when we aren’t honest with each other.” She stepped even closer to the astonished vampire and reached for his hand with her uninjured arm.
“It’s not a secret how Spike feels about me…” She glared at Xander when his mouth opened, and he shut it with an audible snap. “You all know what he went through last year to help me keep Dawn away from Glory; you were all here over the summer while I was…gone… and you know how he kept his promise to a dead girl. He took care of Dawn, he patrolled with you guys and saved your lives more than once.” She glared at Xander again. “And before you accuse him of doing all that to get into my pants, Xander, I’d like to remind you that my pants were under six feet of dirt – along with the rest of my body. He had nothing to gain from staying here to help you, and everything to lose.”
She pointed at the demon peering into the crowded kitchen. “Clem is probably one of the few friends Spike has left in the demon world. He would have been much better off to leave and move somewhere that he could get some minions to feed him.
“The point is,” she continued, squeezing Spike’s hand, “that he loves me, and I…I’ve been taking advantage of those feelings to help me forget how unhappy I am about being back in this world. I’ve been using him…using his love and…and his…” She paused again, at a loss for how to say that Spike could make her body happy to be alive in ways she’d never imagined.
“Buffy?” Tara’s voice was soft and quiet, but the unspoken question was there for all to hear.
Buffy’s chin came up with determination. “I can’t tell you how I feel about him,” She squeezed Spike’s hand again as she felt him stiffen beside her. “I can’t tell you, because I’ve never given us a chance to be…to be an ‘us’. I’ve had to hide what he means to me for so long that I haven’t been able to let myself feel it. He’s been my dirty little secret, and tonight that almost got him killed.”
She pointed to her injured arm. “Xander,” she said, holding her oldest male friend’s stubbornly angry gaze, “this is nothing compared to how badly you would have hurt me if you had actually taken away the one thing in this world that can make me happy about being here. Would you really want to do that to me? Have I disappointed you so much that you would rather see me in mourning for Spike than to have him in my life?”
The two old friends stared into each other’s eyes, one pair sad but determined, the other guilt-stricken. When he didn’t answer Buffy, Anya poked Xander and hissed, “You’re supposed to say something now. Something that will make all this awkward tension go away.”
He blew out a breath that he hadn’t even been aware that he was holding. “I’m sorry, Buffy,” he said sincerely. “I just thought he’d been taking advantage of your… depression, and that if he was gone, you would be all right again. I didn’t know you had feelings for the peroxided menace.”
“Neither did I,” she admitted. “Not until you started telling him…not until I thought I was going to lose him.” She turned to the still-shocked vampire beside her and looked him in the eye. “I don’t think I could take that. If he wasn’t here for me…I don’t think I’d still be here. Some vamp or demon would have had his ‘one good day’, and I’d be back where I…” She stopped speaking, the guilty gasps from those involved in her resurrection reminding her that they were well aware of where she had been and who was responsible for her not being there anymore.
“So what does that mean, Buffy?” Dawn’s voice cut through the sudden silence. “Is Spike moving in? Am I going to have to buy earplugs to keep from being grossed out every night?”
Spike’s snicker was cut short by a glare from the girl still holding his hand and he tried to appear less smug and more interested in hearing the rest of her response.
“It means we’re going to be doing couple-y things. Like, we won’t have to play footsie under the table anymore, cause it’ll be okay for us to hold hands where you guys can see--” She stopped when she was interrupted by Spike’s disappointed “No more footsie?” “Well, no more footsie just because that’s the only way we can touch when everybody’s around. I didn’t mean we couldn’t do it just cause we want to…”
“Okay, okay,” Xander seemed recovered from his guilt-induced silence. “Can I just be the first to say, TMI! Please spare us the gory details.”
“No, Buffy,” Anya pushed past her boyfriend. “I want the details. All of them. Is Spike good in bed? Of course he is. He’s a vampire – wonderful stamina as I recall from my demon days… Slayers have stamina too, though, don’t they? So which one of you gets tired first? How many orgasms do you usually have per night?”
“Speaking of TMI!” Willow interrupted the ex-demon, and said to the blushing slayer, “Dawn has a legitimate question. Will Spike be moving in? Does that mean that you’re going to move your bedroom to the basement?”
“All it means just now, is that Spike and I are…dating… for want of a better word. It means we don’t have to sneak around and hide, and yes, sometimes, I suppose, it’s possible, he might, maybe spend the night here – we’ll see how it goes.”
She took a deep, shaky breath and stepped away from Spike’s protective presence.
“The point is, unless and until I say something different, you can assume that Spike is my boyfriend; and I expect you to treat him accordingly.”
She glared around the room, knowing that the only ones who really needed to be glared into acquiescence were her two oldest friends. Her stiff posture relaxed a bit when Willow nodded and smiled timidly.
“It’s fine with me, Buffy. I’m just glad that you have somebody in your life who can make you happy. That’s all we’ve ever wanted for you – to be happy. Isn’t that right, Xander?”
She fixed her best I-can-turn-you-into-a-toad-in-a-heartbeat gaze on her oldest friend and silently pleaded with him to help her repair the damage that they had unintentionally caused.
Flinching from the pointed finger that Anya had dug into his kidney, he looked apologetically first at Spike, and then at Buffy.
“I’m sorry, Buffster. If Captain Peroxide is what you want, then Captain Peroxide is what you’ll have. You hear that, Deadboy Jr.? If she wants you, she gets you. Don’t even think about leaving her.” He folded his arms and did his best to appear firm and frightening. “Unless she tells you to, of course. Then I want you gone.”
Spike folded his arms around Buffy, taking care not to push against her wounded arm. “Hadn’t actually crossed my mind,” he said quietly, reveling in the new-found freedom to touch Buffy whenever he wanted. “Leavin’ her. Don’t plan to. Ever.”
“Okay, did anybody besides me find that just the tiniest bit scary?” Xander glanced around. “Come on, guys – ‘ever’? This is the undead talking. For him, for `ever’ is a very long time.”
“It sounds just about right to me,” Buffy whispered, not caring if anyone other that Spike heard her. An almost imperceptible tightening of his arms told her that he did.
“Can we do back to the party now?” Dawn’s voice was just shy of being whiny. “Buffy hasn’t opened her presents yet.”
There was general movement back into the living room, leaving Buffy and Spike temporarily alone in the kitchen.
“Feel like it’s my birthday,” Spike murmured, burrowing into her neck.
Buffy snorted softly and leaned into him.
“I can’t say that this was part of my plans for the evening, but I think it turned out okay.” She raised her eyes to his and forced herself to endure the intensity there. “It’s not…”
“If you’re about to tell me this doesn’t change anything, don’t bother. Know you didn’t suddenly decide you love me jus’ cause the whelp got a little meaner than usual. But you’ve let me into your life, and that’s good enough…for now.”
“For now?” Buffy raised her eyebrows. “What happened to ‘I feel like it’s my birthday’? Are you getting greedy already?” The twinkle in her eyes betrayed her attempt to sound indignant and disbelieving, and Spike just chuckled as he ducked his head and captured her lower lip in his teeth.
“Was born greedy, love,” he purred.
“Well,” she said, refusing to give in to the silent plea from his talented mouth, “so was I, and I have a roomful of birthday presents to open. So, just keep your lips to yourself and come watch me open my gifts.”
With a willing nod, he followed her into the living room, taking up his accustomed place against the wall as he watched her sit down amid her chattering friends and begin to rip open the packages in front of her. He responded to Dawn’s happy grin with a wink and a broad grin of his own. Unlife had suddenly become better than he’d ever hoped.
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