It wasn’t perfect. Not yet, anyway. Still and all, was a fairly good start. All the basics were there. A nightstand with a lamp. A dresser. And, of course, a bed. A nice comfortable one, easily big enough for two.
Or for one solitary vampire with a tendency to sprawl like a starfish when stuck sleeping alone, Spike thought with a sigh. Sleeping alone was like to be his default state for the next long while. No bot. No Dutchman. No…. He could always take up with some brainless bit of fluff like Harmony, but he was tired of it. Of not really being wanted for himself.
There was a sudden sound from the main part of the crypt. He tensed, morose thoughts taking a backseat in the face of possible danger, then relaxed when he heard Buffy call his name.
“Down here, love,” he hollered up.
A moment later, she was down there with him, looking around in surprise. “Wow. This is… new. Also, fast.” He could almost see her calculating it in her mind, trying to figure out when he would have time to start fixing the area up.
He shrugged and gave it all another once over. “Got a few poker buddies of mine to help out. Still needs some work.” He held his hand out in a sweeping gesture, feeling oddly nervous. “But, uh, home is… homier now.”
“It’s nice,” she said quietly, looking around again. “It seems… cozy.”
“Yeah, well, that’s what I’m going for.” He sat down on an outcropping of rock, patting the area next to him in invitation. Surprisingly, she took him up on it. “I’m thinking of adding a few nice rugs. Maybe a reading nook. Definitely need a record player.”
They lapsed into awkward silence. It had been a couple of days since she’d broken the curse on the Dutchman. Dawn had visited him once in that time, but this was the first he’d seen of Buffy. He wondered why she was there, but didn’t want to risk driving her away by asking. Thinking of Dawn did open up another line of conversation, though.
“How’s the little bit doing?” he asked. “She holding up okay after the kidnapping and all?”
“Um. Yeah. Yeah, she’s going to be okay. She’s been through a lot, but it turns out there’s a therapist she can see. A demon, but one of the non-evil ones. Giles vouches for him.”
So, Dawn was going to be seeing a shrink, then. Probably for the best. She was too young for drowning her various traumas in booze the way he did.
Another bout of silence, this time broken by Buffy. “How about you? How are you doing? Did… Did the Dutchman….” She trailed off and stared down at her feet, obviously uncomfortable. “You were his bride, and Xander was talking about tentacles and something about hens with ties. I didn’t really understand what he was talking about, but it… uh, it didn’t sound good.”
It took him a moment to figure out what she was trying to ask, and when he did, he found it both odd and touching. Dru had never really cared overmuch about such things, other than to be pleased that he and Angelus were “bonding.” Though she would get upset if the wanker roughed him up too much, pouting about someone else breaking her toy.
“No worries there, slayer. The Dutchman was a gentleman. Everything between us was consensual.”
There was a blank look as she processed his wording. Then her eyes went wide and her jaw dropped. “Wait, you and him? You guys…?” She made vague hand gestures.
Spike smirked and shook his head, not in denial, but at how bloody adorable she was. “Hey now, a man has needs, you know, and you and your mates took away my robot.” Her eyes widened a little more, and he was unable to resist the urge to tease her a bit. “All those tentacles you saw? He had one more of ‘em. Specialized for all sorts of…” He paused to slowly lick his lips, “interesting things.”
“Ew! Stop!” She put her hands over her ears, nose wrinkling as she stuck her tongue out. “I so don’t want to know about it.”
He laughed at her expression, to which she rolled her eyes before flashing him a small smile. Then she took a deep breath and blew it up into her hair.
“I’m glad he didn’t hurt you,” she said quietly. Then she grimaced. “You know, beyond the necklace causing you pain if you were away from for too long. That part wasn’t really his fault. It was just the way the curse worked.” She paused for a moment, looking down and then back at him. “Anyway, I’m glad he didn’t hurt you. For the obvious reasons. And, uh, because I really can’t turn down the help he offered. Not if I want to keep Dawn.”
Help? What help? Did she mean…? The Dutchman was gone. He’d thought that made his promise null and void, but apparently not.
Buffy nodded at his expression. “Yeah. The Dutchman’s promise is still in play. It’s until Dawn and I are both dead. It, uh, apparently doesn’t matter if he is. His lawyers got in touch with me yesterday. That’s why I didn’t come by sooner. There was all this paperwork and everything, including setting Dawn up with her therapist. That was their idea, actually.”
“Huh. Well, glad that worked out.”
“Yeah, me too.” She stood up and took a few steps, keeping her back to him. “You might have been wrong,” she blurted out.
“Possibly,” he readily agreed, wondering just what it was he might have been wrong about. “I’ve been wrong about lots of things in my life. It, uh, keeps things interesting.” He tilted his head to the side as he studied her. He couldn’t see her face, but she looked tense. And she smelt nervous. “What exactly is it I’m supposed to be wrong about?”
“I said you might be wrong.” She fidgeted a little. “Back at the house? What you said.”
“I said a lot of things,” he said quietly. She couldn’t mean…. She couldn’t, but god, he wanted her to.
“You said that you knew I’d never….” She turned around suddenly, a bright, fake smile plastered across her face. “The sun’ll be going down soon. We… we should go shopping.”
Spike stared at her, not sure he could believe what he’d just heard. If he had been wrong about that… might have been wrong, that meant…. “Are you serious about this?” The words were a bare whisper, so quiet that he almost hoped she wouldn’t hear.
Her smile got wider. “Of course. I’m always serious when it comes to shopping.”
The smile fell, and she looked down at the ground again. Then she took a deep breath and looked directly at him. “I don’t know. I don’t know a lot of things. But what you’ve been doing for us…. It all means a lot. It….” Another glance down and another deep breath. “If the chip suddenly stopped working, could you promise me that you wouldn’t kill anyone?”
“I won’t kill anyone while feeding off them. If someone comes at me with a stake or somesuch, though? Can’t really make any promises other than that I’ll do my best. A lot can happen in a combat situation. You know that.”
She nodded jerkily. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s fair.” She started to pace. Like him, she wasn’t really one for being still. “You’re a vampire. Nothing is going to change that. But if you aren’t hurting or killing people…. Then maybe I could… I could….”
“You’d trust the word of a vampire about keeping on the straight and narrow?”
She stopped and looked right at him. “No,” she said, voice full of conviction. “I wouldn’t trust the word of a vampire…. I just trust you. I know you. And I know how loyal you are.”
Spike swallowed past a sudden lump in his throat. Did she even know what she was saying? What it meant to him? The look in her eyes said that she did. And that she was nervous about it.
She offered a wobbly smile. “So, how about that shopping? I, uh, have plenty of money now, according to the lawyers. Not, like, enough to buy gold-plated toilets and fifty cars or anything, but me and Dawn aren’t going to have to worry about finances for a long time.”
He nodded slowly and stood up. “Shopping sounds good.” He let a slow, lazy smirk spread across his face. “And since you’re the one with all the dosh, you can take me out to dinner after, with a stop at Willy’s for a pint of human.”
“I can, huh?” The corners of her mouth twitched into a slight smile. “We’ll see.”
They headed out into the night together, a spring in Spike’s step as he followed her. It was all still up in the air, how things would go between him and the slayer, but a maybe was always better than a no. Maybe meant there was hope. It meant that – maybe – his loyalty would be rewarded.
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