Chapter 12 – The Big Ugly
The brightness of the morning was in complete contrast with Buffy’s demeanor. She felt like a huge black cloud was hovering around her. Pausing at the bottom of the stairs leading to Spike’s office, she shook her head as if to rid herself of the dark mood.
Everything is under control and I am so not going to be depresso girl.
Pasting a smile on her face she bounded up the stairs. She wanted a moment alone with Spike before facing everyone else and was using the outside entrance.
“Hey, there gorgeous, “Buffy said, flinging the door open and letting it swing shut behind her.
Startled blue eyes met hers before sweeping over the rest of her. Determined not to let him know how upset she really felt she let her hips sway a little more than necessary as she approached his desk. Spike arched an eyebrow and Buffy gave up. He knew. It was Spike. She could fool everyone else but not him. His feet hit the floor and one hand patted his lap. She practically leapt into his arms, wrapping her arms around him and burying her face in his neck.
She was safe for the moment.
Buffy breathed deeply letting his scent fill her lungs. Those hands that could draw so many things from her body and soul, stroked her back in long, slow sweeps. The tension eased and the fear dissipated as he murmured nonsensical rhythms. The words themselves didn’t mean anything. It was the tone that vibrated upwards from his chest into his throat and descending into her ear. It was a lullaby that drew her into a magical world where bad things didn’t happen and love conquered all.
“Do you have any idea how happy you make me?” Buffy whispered, her fingers tickling at the nape of his neck. “I love you so much.”
The wetness on his cheek and the arms that squeezed her tight told Buffy more than any words could. She pulled back so that she could look at him and the joy and wonder etched on his features gave her back the power she needed. Everything was all right as long as he trusted her with his heart.
The spell had to end. There were things to do, schedule to meet, battles to win, evil to conquer and after a deep kiss that held promises for later, Buffy crawled off his lap.
“Downstairs with the others,” Spike said, standing. “Guess we need to go make with the ‘play nice with the group’ thing instead of shagging on my desk, huh?”
“Later,” Buffy laughed, trailing her fingers along the polished surface on the way to the door. “Give us something to look forward to.”
“What are you looking forward to?” Angel asked, stepping into the office.
Buffy blushed, feeling like a naughty child as Angel’s eyes raked over her. Why was it like this? Why was she uncomfortable around him? He had been in her life for almost four years now but at times she still felt like she didn’t know him.
“Seeing you,” Buffy lied, wrapping her arms around him and lifted her face for a kiss. “Missed me?”
“Always,” Angel said, kissing her quickly. His fingers lingered over her cheek before tangling in her hair. “How is your mother?”
“Scared but resolved to be optimistic.”
“Good, that’s the best thing for her,” Angel replied. “When are they going to operate?”
“In a few days,” Buffy said. “Is it all right if Dawn stays with us until then?”
She could have kicked herself for asking. It just slipped out and the flash of irritation in his eyes let her know it was a mistake.
“Of course it is all right,” Angel answered smoothly. His arms dropped from around her and Buffy stepped back. “We need to meet with the others. Something has come up.”
Nodding, Buffy followed him downstairs. She wished she could have a few hours alone with him, just to talk and hold each other. Maybe she could find the connection between them again. Hating herself for even thinking it, she wished it was Angel who was still her strength instead of Spike. She knew it wasn’t fair to the vampire who clearly needed her to look up to him. But for so long Angel had been the one that protected and loved her. She missed that relationship. She missed him and the warmth she rarely saw anymore.
descended the steps and everyone was waiting for them. Buffy hesitated on the perimeter and took a
second to judge the mood. No one was comfortable and she looked at each of them
directly as Spike and Angel went to stand on opposite sides of the room. Xander
kept fiddling with the book in front of him, Anya leaned on the counter and
looked away from her and
“What’s going on?”
“The, uh,” Giles said, “demon woman was here, the one who attacked you.”
Her gaze swept over them again looking for signs of injuries or damage.
“That can create a monster,” Anya said.
Buffy closed her eyes and took a deep breath. No weakness. She could handle this. Opening her eyes again, she looked at Angel and Spike, squaring her shoulders.
“Give me the scoop,” she said, displaying confidence she didn’t feel. “Tell me what I’m fighting and how to do it.”
Buffy stepped into the house with relief. The fight with the snake monster had left her body hurting and the visit with her mother had left her emotionally drained. She still had to spend time with Dawn and figure something out for dinner.
In a minute I’ll deal, Buffy thought as she headed for the bedroom barely noticing her sister was plopping on the couch, Angel heading to the kitchen and Spike following her. It wasn’t until her bottom hit the toilet seat that she noticed him leaning on the door.
“Enjoying the show?” Buffy asked sarcastically.
“I’m offended,” Spike said, grinning. “I thought we were beyond all types of modesty.”
She couldn’t help but smile. “Sorry, I was looking to be alone for two seconds. That’s all.”
“Worried about you, pet. You say everything is fine like its some damn mantra but I can tell its not.”
“Let’s keep that our secret,” Buffy said, pulling her pants up and flushing the toilet. “I am fine. Everything is going to be fine.”
“And your blonde mate is extremely fine.”
“Ha, ego much?”
It was good to joke even for a few minutes and it was helping her mood. Turning the faucet off, she grabbed the towel behind him, rising on her toes for a kiss. He wrapped his arms around her, pushing her against the counter as he devoured her mouth. Their tongues played in a game of tag and she sighed when they pulled apart. She felt much better now and knew that had been his intent.
“Am I taking care of you?” Buffy asked, her hand cupping his face. “I’ve been taking so much from you in these past few days.”
“It’s all good,” Spike said. “I’ll collect it back when I need it.”
“You’re all good,” Buffy teased, pressing against him. “That is as much as an evil, soulless, demon can be.”
“Just good where you need it,” Spike said, his knee separating her legs.
It would be so easy to forget everything else and let him take her on the counter. A good, hard fuck that would make her mind and body only focus on him. She leaned back pulling him against her.
“Ouch,” Buffy yelped. “My shoulder.”
“Still hurting? Come on,” Spike said, leading her to the bed. His hands were gentle as he pulled her top over her head and had her sit on the bed. “Tell me where the pain is?” His fingers brushed along her shoulder and upper back until she whimpered. “There?” She nodded and he went to work relaxing the muscle.
Buffy’s head fell forward as he did make her forget everything else. The door opened and they glanced up to see Angel step into the room.
“Dawn is wondering about food,” Angel said. “Spike, why don’t you order something to be delivered? I’d like to talk to Buffy alone for a minute.”
His tone surprised them both and it was Spike who reacted first. “Is that an order?”
“If it needs to be,” Angel said, his fingers drifting along a strand of Buffy’s hair. Those brown eyes stared into hers before he added, “Please.”
Buffy nodded and she felt Spike stand. A memory washed over her of that day in the hotel room when Angel slapped her and she shivered as dread chased along her spine. Angel took Spike’s place, his fingers taking up where the blonde’s had left off. His touch was a little rougher but more effective as her body yielded to his strength.
“What did you want to talk about?”
“You,” Angel whispered, kissing the space between her shoulder blades. “Is that better?”
His fingers undid her bra and pushed the straps down her arms. She finished taking it off, letting it fall to the floor as Angel pulled her back against him. He didn’t do anything sexually, just settled her against him as his hands entwined with hers on her stomach. It felt good for him to hold her and Buffy relaxed in his embrace.
“How are you holding up?” Angel asked, his words a tickle in her ear.
“Better,” Buffy answered, not seeing any reason not to be honest to her mate. “It’s been a rough day…a rough week.”
“It’s showing, kitten,” Angel whispered, kissing the slope where her neck became her shoulder. “You need to pull it together.”
Angel directed her onto her back on the bed. He rested his head on his hand so that he was looming over her. His free hand drifted along her stomach. Buffy wanted to relax again but he seemed to have an agenda other than calming her. His fingers caressed her breast and she found herself holding her breath as she looked up at him.
“I watched you fight that snake tonight and I think you need some more intense training. I’m worried something will happen to you.”
It sounded like concern. All the right words to show how much he cared about her but it was the cold and deliberate delivery that panicked her. He suckled at her breast and she let her fingers clutch at his hair as he alternated nips and tongue lashes with the suckling. Angel was taking the arousal that Spike had stoked and taking it to a burning level. Her zipper was undone and his fingers slipped into her folds, into her body that wasn’t fully prepared, stroking her until they were coated with her fluids.
“Do you care, Angel?” She whispered as he pushed further into her body almost to her womb. “Tell me you love me.”
He didn’t answer as he continued his ministrations bringing her orgasm crashing down around her. Buffy closed her eyes as she tried to regain control over her body and senses.
“I love you, Buffy,” Angel said, against her mouth. “Why wouldn’t I love something that is mine?”
She pushed against his shoulders and slid out from under him. Anger flooded her system as she stared at him.
“Yours,” She demanded, fastening her pants again. “Is that all I am? Something for you to possess like your car or your clothes. Tell me.”
Buffy fastened her bra and reached for her blouse. Her mistake. His hand wrapped around her wrist and he pulled her down to the bed. He pushed her on her back again, covering her, as his hands pushed hers over her head.
“I am only going to say this once because I’m tired of the interrogations. I love you. You, Buffy Summers, but things change. You’ve changed, we’ve changed, all three of us and I’m only trying to hold on the best way I know how. I’m really sorry that it’s not good enough for you.”
stared down into the face he adored. He did adore her. Had since that first day
he’d seen her outside of
He closed his eyes and waited for her to reply to his declaration.
Those hands that drove him mad cupped his face and her lips touched his. Gentle and sweet just like he wanted his girl be.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy whispered. “You don’t have to try to hold onto me. I’m right here and always will be.”
It was funny that she would declare she was his but he couldn’t echo those words. He nodded and smiled at her while he hid his own unease. Did it really matter who said the words as long as they were said. She was his just like Spike was and he had already killed to prove it. Nothing was going to take his mates from him.
Maybe Spike was right. Maybe they just needed some time with the two of them. He couldn’t even remember the last time they’d been alone for any length of time and the absence of being there for her was wearing on Angel. He missed her so much and wanted to show her; wanted to take the time to make love to her.
A tentative knock on the door broke his thoughts and Spike opened it just enough to peek in. “Sorry to interrupt but dinner just got delivered.”
“Go on,” Angel said, rolling off her to lie on his back. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
“Hurry out,” Buffy said, pecking his cheek and left without saying anything else.
Spike was right. Buffy was growing up. No longer was she a girl trying to deny her destiny but was learning to embrace the path that was chosen for her. Angel hated to admit that he had made her too dependent on him to back her up and to help her make decisions. He had always been there except for that brief period last summer. He had known it then but had missed her so much that when she came back he had returned to their previous relationship. She needed to learn how to do without him. To discover her full potential before something did befall her and she paid the ultimate price for it. But every time he tried to take a step back or to explain it to her, she took it as rejection.
And as much as he loved Spike, he wasn’t making the situation any better. He stood between them. Acting as her knight in shining armor by stepping into the role he was trying to vacate. Buffy already knew there was something coming. Something she wasn’t sure she could beat and she needed to be ready. He just wasn’t sure how to get through to her or to Spike.
Angel stood up and sighed, making his way to the living room. Maybe they both needed to fly without him. His mates and Dawn sat around the coffee table eating Chinese food. The three of them were comfortable with each other. There was laughter and sharing as they ate. It was a part of their lives that he couldn’t or wouldn’t join in.
If their relationship had any chance of surviving things had to change. Choices had to be made. He didn’t want to lose either of them. Of that much he was certain.
“Join us,” Spike offered.
Two little words that held all the other things that Spike didn’t say: Don’t be standoffish, Make an effort, and Show us that you love us, Let us know how you feel. The same sentiments were echoed in Buffy’s eyes. A part of him wanted to sit with them, laugh, and pretend that their lives and relationship wasn’t crashing down around them. They blamed him for their problems and expected him to fix it, too. He wasn’t just their mate, he was Spike’s sire and Buffy’s substitute father and sometimes the burden was too much. He took all the responsibility when things were wrong.
“Later,” Angel said, forcing himself to smile. “I’m going to take a walk but I’ll be back. Maybe we can play some cards or something.”
They murmured their acceptance and he left the small family group wishing that he could join them. The wind whipped around his body as he headed for the cliffs. High above Sunnydale it made him feel like he was more than what he was; a vampire struggling to become a good man, struggling to be a champion, struggling to be a good mate, struggling to keep his alter ego at bay as he pounded away at their soul and tempted his conscience.
“Are you ever going to share what’s on your mind or are you just going to keep brooding?” Spike asked. When Angel hadn’t come back as promised he had gone in search of him. His Sire held that same mixture of pain and hopelessness on his face as he had that night in the cemetery.
“Just doing some thinking,” Angel said, glancing over his shoulder at him before returning his gaze to the town lay open before them. “You both have let me know that it is me causing the problems so I assumed it was up to me to fix it.”
Spike wanted to throttle the stubborn vampire before him. They didn’t blame him; they wanted him to talk to them, to tell them what was going on, to tell them why he was pushing them away.
“Nope, you can’t make decisions without including us,” Spike said, wrapping his arms around Angel, resting his face against that beautiful back. “Sorry, we already settled that. Guess you’re going to have to talk to us.”
Angel’s hand caressed his arm, soft strokes that were only meant to reassure. “Buffy is already overwhelmed. This time I think some things just need to be decided without her.”
“Want to tell me what they are then and I’ll let you know how I feel,” Spike said, hoping that it wasn’t Angel leaving them or something equally stupid.
“The first is the mansion. We need to find something smaller that is homier for Buffy so she can make it hers. This place was fine for a vampire and all the mystique and crap that go with it but our girl needs something else,” Angel said, hesitated for a moment. “And if…if Joyce doesn’t make it, we can’t bring Dawn here to live. And I don’t think I can live in that house so I want to find a place that we can both be happy in.”
Spike was startled by Angel’s words that were anything but what he was expecting. Times like this he was awed by the love that his Sire had for them. Ashamed at the doubts he’d had, Spike moved so that he was in front of Angel. Before he could apologize he was pulled against the brunette in hug that took all his worries away. Angel gently kissed his neck.
“You don’t think Joyce is going to make it?” Spike asked, wanting to take advantage of the openness that Angel was showing.
“The doctor said one in three does fine and that leaves two out of three that doesn’t.”
It wasn’t optimistic at all but Spike had been trying to pretend for Buffy. To maintain the façade that everything was going to be all right for his mate and her little sister. They would both be devastated if something happened to Joyce. It was a relief that Angel was already making plans in case they needed it.
“Is there more?” Spike asked.
“Yeah, I’m putting Buffy on the payroll as your assistant. We’ll figure something out so she feels she is earning it. But I want her to have an income to do with as she needs and wants. Those bastards at the Council should be paying her anyway.”
Spike nodded and stepped back. “You have been making plans, haven’t you?”
“Just trying to make sure you two are taken care of,” Angel said.
“Not planning on going anywhere, are you?” Spike asked his head tilting as he studied the man before him.
“Not unless I can help it,” Angel said, laughing as he studied the view over Spike’s shoulder.
Maybe it was his demeanor or the flash of fear in his eyes that prompted Spike to ask the question that had been haunting him. The question that had been simmering beneath the surface since the spell had been done and always resurfaced when his mate was anything but the caring man in front of him.
“I need to ask you something,” Spike said.
Their eyes connected as Angel turned to look at him and Spike knew he didn’t need to ask. Cold fear curled in his belly as for a moment he saw the creature that had once demanded so much from him.
“I don’t know, Spike,” Angel said, stepping closer to him. His hands settled on Spike’s waist. “Something is different but I’m not sure what. My soul is still here,” Angel dropped his gaze studying their shoes. “He just seems closer to the surface, taunting me, slipping out when I don’t want him to.”
Spike knew that Angel had taken a great risk by confiding in him. If anyone would reject him for the truth it would be him. Needing to connect with his mate, Spike cradled Angel’s cheeks in his hands.
“Ang, I love you and as long as the soul is there, you’ll find a way to keep him at bay. We’ll find a way to get you through this just don’t think you have to handle it on your own.”
“Thank you,” Angel whispered. “I thought maybe if I said anything that you’d go running for a stake.”
Spike kissed his Sire and whispered against his lips, “Nah, carry my stake with me.”
They both laughed and the seriousness of the moment was dispensed. Spike knew they’d find a way to make this relationship work. Angel may not be saying a lot but he was there for them. The confusion was gone for Spike now. Things had been set in motion for them to make changes that would help Buffy and in the end would benefit them all. As they approached the house, Angel rested a hand on his arm.
“Oh, there was one more thing I was thinking.”
“What’s that?” Spike asked, wondering if this was where the punch line came in and he’d wake from this dream.
“I want to know that if I’m in LA that our family is protected,” Angel said. “So, I think we should start looking for a way to get your chip out.”
To be continued in Chapter 13 – Taking Care of Business