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The Ring Talks

Part 2: Under Construction

Chapter 17: Gypsy Green

“Ugh. Happy Days?” I lean over the back corner of the couch, near Spike’s shoulder. “Tell me there’s something better on.”

Spike surfs through a few more channels, curling his lip at the options. “Doesn’t look like it.”

“I think Nick at Nite has betrayed us. That show is so lame.”

“Ron Howard’s darkest years.” He switches off the TV. “Ready for the last step?”

I go over to the wall and run my hands over the smooth white patches we’ve made on Giles’ living room wall. We’ve been taking turns with the sand paper for almost an hour. “I think so.” I pry open the can of paint and wrinkle my nose at the dull sage hue. “I wish Giles would have the whole place painted something prettier. And that is not me volunteering to do it.”

I look up, expecting Spike to comment, but he’s taken his latest Jack and Coke over to Giles’ record player, and is perusing the contents of the cabinet below.

“So, since the TV options suck, plan B is music?”

“If the watcher’s got anything worth listening to. Let’s see… Pink Floyd, The Outsiders, Cream, some solo Clapton, The Doors, Fleetwood Mac–”

“Ooh! We have a winner!”

He looks up at me, clearly surprised. “You’re kidding.”

I shake my head. “What’s he got?”

He’s still looking at me like he doesn’t know who I am. “Rumours and the Greatest Hits album.”

“Greatest Hits. Ok with you?”

“I can live with it.” He shakes his head as he puts on the record. “But you knowing any music made before 1990 is spinning my head a bit.”

I stick my tongue out at him. “Hey! I like some old stuff.” I offer him a paintbrush as the first notes of ‘Rhiannon’ fill the room. “I put up with you, don’t I?”

He snatches the brush from me. “Young bitch.”

“Old pig.” I snicker and turn my focus to the job at hand as I start singing along.

*~*~*

“Lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice,” I sing as I dip my paintbrush again. At the next break in lyrics, I say, “’Gypsy’ is one of my favorites.”

Spike snickers. “You oughta sing this one to Angel. He’d love it.”

I turn to glare at him, but he’s facing the wall, and has his back to me. I shake my brush at him, flinging paint drops onto his shoulder.

He turns around, wiping a stray droplet from his ear. “Slayer,” he growls.

I raise my hands in a ‘come at me’ gesture and go back to singing.

He steps toward me and swipes at my nose with his brush, then grabs my hand to stop me from wiping the paint away. “Leave it. Green suits you.”

I laugh and keep singing. “I have no fear… I have only love…”

“Wouldn’t that be interesting.”

“Wouldn’t what– Hey!” My question is interrupted by the feeling of the handle of a paintbrush poking into my side as he starts to lead me around the dropcloth covered portion of the living room. I put my hand on his shoulder, careful with the angle of my own paintbrush. “You’re crazy.”

“You promised.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think it would be now, in Giles’ apartment… to ‘Gypsy,’ of all songs.”

“Why the hell not? Does the song matter?”

“No, I guess not. But–”

He cuts me off with a kiss.

I pull out of the kiss giggling. “Way better than baseball.”

“What’s baseball got to do with anything?”

“I’ll explain it to you sometime.”

I can’t help but smile as he spins me around on the overlapping dropcloths. One of them slides under the ball of my foot and I fall into an accidental dip, setting us both off laughing. It only gets worse when I come back up and notice he accidentally painted my elbow when he caught me.

“Oh, dear lord.”

Our laughter comes to an abrupt halt and we turn toward the front door, moving apart the instant we lay eyes on Giles.

Spike puts down his paintbrush and goes to stop the record while I try to rub the smudge of paint from my nose. “Um, hi. You’re home early. We’re– we’re almost finished.”

Giles seems to be at a loss for words. He’s looking back and forth between the two of us, and blinking a lot. I think we may have just broken his brain. I expect sizzling noises and smoke any second now.

“So much for keeping the invite,” Spike grumbles, rejoining me on the dropcloths. He subtly slips my ring off his pinky and into his pocket as he retrieves his paintbrush. “Best finish up and get out.”

“Both of us, I think.” I follow his lead, turning my back to Giles to dip my brush and remove the ring from my own hand.

Giles finally closes the door behind him and comes over to us to inspect our work. “The color looks just about right.”

“Turns out the slayer’s got an eye for it.”

“I cheated. I took a little chunk of broken wall to the hardware store with me, and got Xander and the guy at the paint counter to help me figure out the color.”

“Buffy, can I see you outside for a moment, please?”

I glance at Spike, making eye contact just long enough to relay my feeling of dread. “Um, yeah. Sure.”

I put down my brush and follow Giles out, closing the door behind us. “I know you didn’t give me permission to dig through your records–”

He’s apparently fully recovered his senses, because he’s giving me an exasperated look and rubbing his forehead. “This isn’t about Fleetwood Mac, and you know it. Buffy, what did I just walk in on?”

“Dancing? Nose, ear, and elbow painting?”

There’s a long silence as he looks me over. “Is this the real reason you helped him have the chip removed? As a favor to a… Dear lord. Please tell me you aren’t seeing Spike.”

I look down at my hands, studying the flecks of paint decorating my nails. What am I supposed to say to that? Sort of? Maybe? Kinda, but in an ‘I really don’t know where this is going’ sort of way? Maybe that answer is the thing I need to decide.

But apparently, my silence is an answer, one he isn’t exactly thrilled about. Off come the glasses. “I don’t even know what to say to you right now,” he says, almost in a whisper.

I look back up, determined to not let him assume things that even I’m not assuming. “We’re friends, Giles. There’s other stuff, but it’s mostly that… right now.”

“I see.” He rubs his lenses with a handkerchief. “Mostly. Right now. You expect…” He shakes his head. “After everything we’ve been through, I thought you’d learned that lesson, at least.”

I put my hand on the doorknob. “I’ve learned more lessons than you think. Can you even imagine Angel taking me dancing on a dropcloth with a paintbrush in his hand?”

Giles ponders that for a second. “No, but that’s beside the point. For you to get involved with another vampire–”

“No, that’s exactly the point. Angel wouldn’t have. And I seriously doubt ‘Everyone’s Favorite Human’ Riley Finn would, either. Spike isn’t like either of them.” I open the door. “Now we’re going to finish painting. If you decide to revoke his invitation, let me know.”

“Buffy,” he says, stopping me from going inside. “What do your friends say about this?”

“They don’t know.” I close the door behind me and rejoin Spike at the wall. “He’s not happy,” I warn.

“What’d you tell him?”

“As little as I could get away with.”

Giles comes back inside and goes straight to the Scotch bottle. “Spike?” he asks, holding up an empty glass in offer.

“Thanks, Rupert, but the slayer’s been pouring me Jack and Cokes all evening.”

“Oh.”

I laugh off Giles’ surprise. “He’s easier to work with when he’s not sober.”

Spike makes a swipe at my nose again, replacing the paint I’ve rubbed away. I laugh and give his shoulder a shove with my own, which he immediately returns.

Giles leans on the ledge of the kitchen pass-through and pours a drink while he watches us. I glance over at him, but I can’t make out what his expression means.

“Would have thought it’d be ‘Gold Dust Woman’, not ‘Gypsy’,” Spike murmurs, clearly trying to distract me from our tense observer.

I’m happy to let him. “Pfft! That would be you, not me. ‘Gypsy and ‘The Chain’ are probably my top two.”

“’The Chain’ is worth a listen, once in a while.”

“Ringing endorsement.”

“None of it is exactly my style. You know that.”

“How much of your style is about your image and how much is about your actual tastes?” I challenge.

“Shut it, Slayer.” He waves his paintbrush in a subtle threat to make me greener.

“That’s what I thought.” I grin at him, ignoring the brush. I love riling him up. “I bet you secretly like modern pop, too.”

“Are you high? I’d wager you listen to enough of that trash for us both.”

I shrug. “I’m a product of my generation. What did you grow up listening to? Sticks and drums?”

“I’ll have you know I was trained in the classics, including in music.”

Oh, this is getting good. Pulling personal details out of him is almost as much fun as picking fights with him, and he’s letting me do both at once. “Sorry, I should’ve remembered. They were still banging rocks together to make music back then. Drums came later.”

Spike’s eyes flash amber, a sure sign of success. “You wanna take this outside, Slayer?”

“Raincheck? I still have to patrol after we clean up here.”

“Been a while since I made the rounds with you. Figure I’m about due. Have a match after?”

“Sounds good.”

I hear more Scotch being poured into a glass, along with another whispered, “Dear lord.”


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