Dutifully, Spike opened his mouth so Buffy could put a chip in his mouth. She’d been feeding him on and off since they left the gas station. He wasn’t quite sure why she thought she couldn’t leave the opened bag on the seat for him to get them himself. But it seemed that the Buffy he was in the company of this afternoon wasn’t the Buffy he was used to. This Buffy seemed almost like a typical teenager, a very young teenager, as she sipped soda and ate potato chips like it was her last meal. Early on she had changed the radio station to pop and every once in awhile she’d hum along to Britney or Justin. It was all annoying to him.
He wondered if this was the real Buffy and he had deluded himself to her maturity level. This girl was way too young for him because she was giving him the beginnings of a migraine with her antics. He glanced over at her. Once again she was eyeing the ocean with a hungry look. He’d already ascertained that she used to be quite the beach fanatic in her early teen days. A friend of hers, their family had a beach house, and she’d spent quite a few weekends there. It had to have been a happy time in her life.
And maybe that was why she was acting the way she was.
Trying to recapture the feel of the days when everything was just plain fun. He sighed. It was always a riddle with her but the answers were easy if you took the time.
“Do you want to stop and take a walk?” Spike asked, watching her reaction carefully.
Her eyes flew open then shuttered again. Her body went stiff as she vigorously shook her head no. Shrugging he let it go for the moment. There was a spot ahead along the highway where he knew the beach would be virtually deserted. The isolation should hopefully give her the confidence to tackle yet another fear.
Buffy turned up the radio, keeping her eyes fixated on the road before them, and didn’t say a word. He let it go and continued to drive along in a pop music induced haze. Finally he spotted the turnoff he wanted to take. She still didn’t say anything when he pulled off onto the small road. It couldn’t really be called a road. It was just a small break in the dunes which led to a place where you could park the car and watch the ocean. It was sort of a lover’s lane that somehow everyone knew about.
“What are you doing?” Buffy asked with a trace of panic behind her words.
“Looking at the ocean,” Spike said as nonchalantly as he could, stopping the car. He opened his window. “I needed some fresh air. My head is starting to hurt.”
“Oh,” Buffy said, settling back down. The chips and soda were put away though and her jacket pulled tight around her.
Spike pretended to close his eyes but continued to watch her. She was staring with such longing at the beach that it hurt even him. Every once in awhile she would sit up to look around but then she’d sigh and lean back again. He was beginning to think he should just give up and head for home when she patted his arm.
“Spike, do you think we could go down there?” Buffy asked in a small trembling voice.
“Yeah,” he answered, stretching like she’d woken him. “Let’s go.”
Spike took her hand to lead her down the path to the beach. It was a little rocky and steep at points. She seemed grateful. Her hand holding tight to his until they were level with the ocean. She dropped his hand and seemed to disappear within herself. Not wanting to pressure her any, he sat on the sand just out of reach of the waves. It seemed like she didn’t even notice as she looked around at their surroundings. They were isolated with the small cliff behind them and rocks running from it to the ocean on either side of them about a quarter to half a mile down.
“There’s no one around,” Buffy said aloud but Spike knew she wasn’t talking to him. She sat next to him to remove her boots and roll her pants legs up. He smiled at the bright pink polish on her toes. It was the only place that she let herself be the girl she used to be. Unable to resist he ran his finger along her toes. “Are they chipped?” She asked, putting her feet out to inspect them.
He laughed because it was such a woman thing to assume. It made her seem more normal even if he hated putting it in those terms.
“No, pet, they’re fine. I just think they’re pretty that’s all.”
“Thank you,” she told him then with a deep breath stood again.
Spike grew silent again as she made her way to the ocean. Buffy stood and watched the waves roll over her feet as if she had never seen it before. She wiggled her toes then dug them into the sand with a look of awe on her face. Finally she squatted, putting her hands in the water and turning her face skyward. She looked every bit a child that was just discovering the world around them.
It touched his very soul as he watched her. For the first time he knew without a doubt that she would find her way in the world. She was made for sunshine and light, not the deep, dankness of hell. In time she wouldn’t even think twice about leaving home. Laughter would replace the sadness. He hoped that he would be there to see the woman she would become.
“Hey,” Buffy said, returning to him. She fell to her knees between his feet with her hands on his arms.
There was a trace of a smile on her face and he returned it. She took his sunglasses from his face, letting them hang between her fingers. For a minute or two she stared into his eyes. Never breaking, holding him under her spell, as his world tilted on its axis.
“May I kiss you?” Buffy asked, barely above a whisper.
“I wish you would.”
He opened his arms so that she could crawl closer to him. The first brush of her lips was tentative. She pulled back, letting her breath caress his face before she pressed her mouth against his again. It was her discovering the joy of physical touch again and he let her lead the way. Quick, slow, tongue, no tongue, a pause then the hunger was between them again. It was inevitable. Their bodies already knew what the other could offer. He grasped her under the arms, pulling her back gently, leading her down to the sand. She was sprawled on top of him, their legs entwined, and her fingers holding his face. Afraid of scaring her, he left one hand on her lower back and the other across his stomach.
It took him back to the days when he first discovered girls. You knew you weren’t going to get sex, so you’d take what you could and enjoy it. And he did. Every sweep of her tongue, the gentle sucking of his bottom lip, her breasts pressed to his chest, and the pressure of her sex against his hip. His body gave him away. His erection pushed against her, begging for attention. She drew back.
“It’s okay, pet.”
Buffy buried her face against his neck while they regained control of their breathing. She shuddered and he wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy whispered against his ear.
“I’m not,” Spike said, kissing her cheek. “I know you need time. I can handle it.”
She nodded then pulled back so she could look down at him. “Thank you for today. It was perfect.”
“It was, wasn’t it? You made some good strides today,” Spike said. “Sorry, maybe I shouldn’t say anything but I’m proud of you for deciding to go in the store and walking on the beach.”
“Don’t forget that I left home on my own and came to LA.”
“That, my dear,” Spike said, tapping the end of her nose. “Was an act of desperation.”
It was as if a cloud had hidden the sun. Buffy stiffened then rolled off of him. She sat beside him and slipped his sunglasses on. He wondered what he had done wrong. Twice today he had upset her without realizing. He lay for a moment trying to gather the courage to face the upcoming conversation. It wouldn’t just go away by itself so he sat up. She glanced at him then returned her gaze to the ocean.
“So, the only accomplishments of mine that matter are the ones you’re involved in?” Buffy asked.
“Ouch,” Spike said, hanging his head. He sighed. It was pretty much what he had implied even if he didn’t mean it. “Don’t pull any punches, do you?”
“Not anymore. I can’t,” Buffy said then paused while she searched for the right words. “They have to be mine, Spike. I appreciate everything you’re doing for me but I can’t let everything depend on you. How else am I going to make it when you’re not there?”
“You’re right, Luv,” Spike said, nodding his head. “I know, I know.” He laughed softly. “Guess I just have a hero’s complex when it comes to you. You know the one who took the chains off and all that rot.”
“My knight in shining armor?”
“No, more like your avenging angel with wings.”
“You always will be if that helps.”
“Appreciate it, but I think it’s more a case of stumbling into a bad situation and trying to do the right thing.”
“Isn’t that what a hero is?”
“Honestly, I just don’t know,” Spike said, staring off into space. Since his father’s death he wasn’t sure where the lines were drawn between right and wrong. Maybe everything was just gray and all you could do was the best you could. He shook his head to clear it. “So, how did you manage to leave home? You couldn’t even get out the door the other day.”
“I would have eventually,” Buffy said, with a small laugh. “It may have taken forever but I would have.” She sighed. “I had everything planned. Every step of the way, from calling the taxi to the ATM machine to the bus schedule and even the hotel fees but my problem was getting out the door. I had my bags packed and every morning I’d wake up at so I could leave. I’d get as far as picking up the phone to call the taxi then I’d put it back down. Finally after a couple of weeks I actually dialed and from there, I couldn’t turn back.”
“I’m glad you did,” Spike said, with a smile.
Buffy returned his smile. “Thanks, I’m glad I did, too.”
In those few words they started to reveal the way they felt about each other. It was enough for a start. Spike leaned back on his elbows to watch the waves roll in. He felt peaceful for a change. And he knew he owed it to the girl that was sitting beside him.
The phone was ringing when they walked through the door. Spike hurried to answer it as Buffy locked them into the apartment. He grabbed the phone off the charger and gave a sharp greeting.
“Is that anyway to greet friends and relatives?” Angel’s voice mocked him.
“If I’d known it was you, ponce, I would have ignored it and let the machine pick it up,” Spike retorted, flopping onto his back on the couch. He propped his feet up on the armrest so he could kick his shoes off.
“And I would kick your respective ass.”
“As if you could,” Spike said, accepting a bottle of water from Buffy. He turned on his side when she settled on the floor next to him. He watched as she pulled the court file toward her.
“Yeah and when haven’t I been able to?” Angel asked with a laugh. It was an old joke between them. To many outsiders the cousins seemed to have an almost hostile relationship but the love and loyalty between them ran deep.
“Since I went through puberty,” Spike said then grew serious. His fingers pulled the band from Buffy’s hair and begin to undo her braid. “So, what’s up, mate? Need me to take care of another parking ticket for you?”
Angel sighed. It sounded like he was fiddling with something. Apparently Cordelia had put him up to the call. “Actually, I was wondering if you and Buffy wanted to come over for dinner tonight.”
“Don’t think tonight is a good night,” Spike said, shaking her hair loose across her back. “We were out earlier and I think maybe we should just hang out at home. I’m pretty knackered.”
“Oh,” Angel said. “How about tomorrow then? I’d like to meet her.”
“And play the parental paternal role and give me advice and sex instructions,” Spike said as a joke but stopped when Buffy turned to look at him. There was a twinge of fear in her eyes. He leaned down to whisper in her ear. “I was just kidding, pet. Angel always tries to play my Daddy, that’s all.”
Buffy nodded and turned back to the file but he had messed up. She wasn’t as relaxed when he tried to return to playing with her hair so he rolled onto his back.
“Upset her?” Angel asked.
“Guess so,” Spike said,
throwing his arm over his eyes. “Can I call you tomorrow and let you know. We
just walked in the door.”
“Yeah, that’s fine. And Spike?”
“Be careful with your heart, and hell, with hers too, okay?”
“You’re too late, Ang. I’ll talk to ya in the morning.”
Spike hung up the phone before Angel could say anything. It was no longer a question of if he was going to let her in. She was already there. And soon she would be gone. He swallowed back a lump of emotion. Every door that he had closed over the years was being battered down and he was afraid of facing them alone.
“Spike,” Buffy called to him. Her hand covered his that was resting on his stomach. “Are you awake?”
“Yeah, I am,” he said, pulling his arm down to look at her. “What’s up?”
“I was reading the testimony by the detective who arrested…him,” Buffy closed her eyes for a moment before looking back up at him. “And he was talking about the evidence they found. Something doesn’t sound right and I was wondering if there was a list or pictures of the clothing they found at his house.”
“There should be,” Spike said, sitting up. He pulled the file over and started sorting through the papers until he came across the list she’d asked for. He handed it to her. Watching as she ran her index finger down the list as she read it. She tapped an item and made a small sound of frustration. “What is it?”
“Are there any pictures?”
“Not in this,” Spike said, leaning over her shoulder to try and see what she was questioning. “What are you thinking?”
“These aren’t mine,” Buffy said, pointing to the list, “The yellow bikini underwear. Or I’m almost positive they’re not.”
“Buffy, they were found with your cheerleading uniform,” Spike said, trying to be gentle. There hadn’t been any doubt when the evidence was found that the underwear belonged to Buffy. Her mother had even identified them. “I think that…”
“Spike, I was a cheerleader,” Buffy said as if it explained everything.
“Yes, I know but…”
“And,” Buffy interrupted again with a look of disgust on her face. It was like he was supposed to follow that line of thinking. “My appearance was everything to me especially when I was wearing my uniform. I didn’t wear bikini underwear under my bloomers because they would have left panty lines. And they are also described as having a bow on the front. It would have left a bulge.”
“Are you absolutely certain?”
“Yes, I am,” Buffy said with conviction. “I know what I said but that was before…my memories got screwed up. They’re not mine, Spike. They had to be hers or someone else’s.”
“You’re mother identified them as yours.”
“I had a pair like it but I wasn’t wearing them that day.”
“We’re going to have to prove they weren’t yours,” Spike said, as his mind clicked into gear.
“DNA testing,” Spike said. “It was never done before because they just assumed they were yours. So, I guess tomorrow you and I are going to the evidence warehouse.”
Buffy grinned up at him and it felt like he was being lit up from the inside out. He smiled down at her as he twirled a strand of her hair around his finger. Maybe, just maybe he could erase the stigma of his father’s legacy and prove him wrong yet because in Buffy’s eyes, William wasn’t a disappointment.
to be continued…