The apartment was too quiet. No sounds came from outside the closed door of the bathroom. Fred stopped towel drying her hair as she cast a nervous glance around her. Fear shot through her at the screaming silence. Only in the middle of the night when they were both sleeping was the place void of sound. Either the television was on, or they were playing the radio. If nothing else, there should be the sound of Wesley moving about the place.
Dropping the towel, Fred grabbed her clothes off the towel rack to dress as rapidly as her shaking hands would allow. Shooting through her mind were visions of Wesley dead or bound as Buffy's killers waited for her to step out so they could take revenge on her. Despite the irrationality the reasoning, it was one more thing to lie at the blonde's feet. Anger mixed with her fear giving her a boost of courage. Fred started searching the bathroom for some sort of weapon.
"Oh god, I'm in protective custody and I have no weapon. That's really dumb of me," Fred muttered as she closed the top drawer of the vanity. Snapping her fingers, she grabbed her makeup bag. A moment later, she pulled out her cuticle scissors, winced at the futility of it as a weapon and then shrugged. It was all she could find so it would have to do. "Aim for the throat or the eye. Only chance you have," she told herself, opening the door.
A quick glance told her that the hallway was empty. She listened, but still no sounds reached her. Not even a crackle on the air. Holding her breath, she stepped into the hallway, flattening herself against the wall. As quietly as she could, she slid down to the entrance to the living room.
She stood dumbfounded when she saw that there was no danger. Wesley sat on the couch with his head down, but he was breathing and there wasn't any blood. He seemed to be lost in thought. Worry chased away the fear and the anger as she hurried to the couch to sit beside him.
"Wes, what's wrong," Fred asked, taking his hand in hers and moving both to her lap.
He blinked, before giving her a look of surprise as if he didn't know how she got there.
"Yeah, things are fine." He chuckled. "I just started thinking about things I shouldn't." After taking a deep breath, he continued, "Old stuff that doesn't really matter anymore."
Despite his dismissal of his feelings, Fred could tell he was still upset about something. She wondered if he had left behind a girlfriend when he came on this detail to watch her. Or was it something else? Something bigger? All she knew about him was that he was a cop, and that he liked reading, and went out of his way to make her birthday special. She shook her head to ward off her tumbled thoughts and the betrayal of the man whose ring she wore.
"If you want to talk, I'm willing to listen."
"Thank you, Fred." He tucked her hair behind her ear. "You're sweet."
Unexpected shivers rocketed through her body as his fingers lingered on her neck. The air between them was charged, their gazes locked, and she realized he wanted to kiss her. She tensed as she tried to figure out how to let him down without hurting him. Except when she opened her mouth, she couldn't say anything because she realized she wanted it, too.
She closed the gap between them until their lips were touching. It was tentative at first, but then his fingers slid back into her hair and he took control. The shivers turned into something hotter as she pressed herself against Wesley. Shifting, stumbling, they found a way to be closer together. He deepened the kiss so their tongues teased.
Fred pushed any thoughts of Spike away. He wasn't there. Had never really been with her and now with Wesley holding her, she knew now that she and Spike had never really connected heart wise. This knowledge thought, and accepted, she opened her heart to this man holding her with such passion. She may regret it with this whole thing was over, but she didn't want to wait anymore. She'd been waiting long enough for this feeling.
Buffy snored as she rolled on her back. Spike smiled, brushing back a lock of hair from her cheek. He was relieved she was sleeping. Not for him, but for her. She needed the rest so that she would be fully prepared for whatever was coming. Although he wasn't sure what that entailed, he knew that as long as Masters and Luke were still free, anything was possible. He wished he could have gotten her to stay with Lorne and Kate. She would have been safer with them than with him.
"Why are you staring at me?" Buffy asked, startling him.
He hadn't even realized she'd woken up until she spoke.
"Because you're cute when you're snoring and asleep."
"Humph, whatever," Buffy said as she pulled the thin sheet further up her body. "It's freezing in this place."
Laughing, Spike grabbed the blanket gathered at the foot of the bed and threw it over her. "Better?"
"Yeah." She adjusted the blanket, shifting in the bed until she was closer to him.
It was a subtle invitation to cuddle. For body warmth. For more. Knowing he was doomed, Spike closed the distance between them. Their bodies formed to one another as if time had stood still. Curves and angles melted away until they were lying comfortably as one.
"You never told me why you were staring?" Buffy whispered.
"I was just wondering where the girl I once knew went. You've grown up."
"Is that a bad thing?"
"No, its not. I miss that girl, but know that I like the woman even more."
"I’m surprised you said that, because up until this moment, I haven't seen a clue that you think that way."
She was right. He rebelled at her maturing at every turn even though he once fought her to make her face the world on her own. A paradox that confused even him, but was becoming clearer to him every moment that he was with her. He wanted what was best for her, which was for her to grow up and face the world. For him, it was an irrational fear that she would no longer need the hero she saw in him. The more he feared, the harder he pushed her away.
"I'm so proud of you," he said, deciding that although he couldn’t give her forever yet, he could give her something else. Something that might help her hold on a little longer. There was a slight turning of her head until she was tucked under his chin making him tighten his arms around her. "I was proud of you when you came to me. The day you walked into the convenience store, the way you handled leaving home, and the bravery you showed in facing Peterson. Not everyone could do that. They would have given up the chance to be free, preferring to stay hidden away instead. Not you. Despite having something so horrible happen to you, you shouldered it, found a way to deal with it and ended up a better person for it."
"Thank you," Buffy mumbled. "I couldn't have done it without you."
"Yes, you could have," Spike said. "I think that's what scares me."
"Stop it. You gave me the strength to do all of it. Remember, you had to come pull me out of that bathtub." She giggled. "Management would have found my skeletal remains if you hadn't found me."
"And without me, you've gone to college, you found yourself, and you would have continued if you hadn't called that day."
"I called you, remember? I got into trouble and I called you. Not Angel or Kate or Lorne, but you."
"Can't help it that I'm better than they are," Spike said, with a surge of pride that it was him that she did call that day.
"I get scared, and I wanted you to come rescue me."
"Don't. Open your eyes, pet, you and me, we work well together."
A silence followed his affirmation of their relationship. He figured she was silent because it was something she'd already said. It was a wonder she wasn't saying, 'told you so', but not his Buffy. She was giving him time to absorb it and waiting to find out if he was going to backtrack or not. He couldn't. Not this time.
He slid down the bed until he could look into her eyes.
"We do, don't we?" He asked with a sigh. She nodded, but with the aid of the light cast from the bathroom, he could see the apprehension in her eyes. "Oh love, I'm sorry for being such an ass. At first, I pushed you away because I wanted you to learn to stand on your own two feet, and then when you do, I push you away because I'm scared to death you won't need me." When she went to speak, he pressed a kiss to her mouth. "I'm not going to change my mind about what I said earlier. I still need to go back to Fred before I do anything else, but I want you to know that I don't want to be afraid anymore. I need you to teach me how to survive with such an open heart. Will you?"
"Yes," Buffy whispered before she kissed him.
With her arms holding him in safety, Spike let her be the strong one. He felt his doubts being pushed away by her surety of their strength when they were together.
Kate entered the kitchen, relieved when she saw Cassie sitting at the table since she'd been missing from her bed. The younger girl was scribbling in her notebook, but she looked up at Kate's entrance. Not wanting to be too obvious that she'd been searching for Cassie, Kate went to get a mug from the cabinet.
"Couldn't sleep?" Kate asked.
"Didn't want to waste the time."
Knowing Cassie had been fighting an ever-growing depression, this comment worried Kate. She filled a mug with water and slid it into the microwave before she went to take a seat across from Cassie.
"You're going to have plenty of time when this is over," Kate said, hating saying the same platitude again. She couldn't absolutely guarantee that they would survive this situation. They'd been found before so it was possible it could happen again. Cassie's expression was clear that she knew it too. "I'm sorry," Kate said with a shake of her head. "I shouldn't be patronizing you."
"It's okay. You mean well."
The microwave's beep gave Kate a chance to gather her thoughts. The routine actions of making a cup of tea calmed her so that when she sat at the table, she was ready to help Cassie.
"It still wasn't right of me," Kate said. "I've let my personal feelings get in the way of doing my job and protecting you."
Cassie covered Kate's free hand with her own. "I like that you let some personal feelings get in the way. I always wanted a big sister who would tell me that everything would be okay."
"It's nice to have a little sister," Kate agreed. "I grew up as an only child with only my father." She squeezed Cassie's hand. It was confession time. "Growing up, my Dad was never one to give reassurances. It was 'suck it up' or 'do what needs to be done'. Being a cop was my chance to prove how much like him I could be and it was my motivation for a long time."
Kate's fear of those personal feelings on this case must have shown on her face because Cassie held even tighter to her hand.
"Please talk to me," Cassie pleaded. "I can write all night but its not giving me any answers."
"Okay, I'll tell. It's the same reason that I'm going to put
aside my concerns of getting personally involved," Kate said with a
laugh. "Spike and Buffy."
"The first time I met Buffy, it was on a call. The neighbors had called in a domestic disturbance. They were both a mess, but Spike did everything he could to take care of her and she did everything to take care of him." Kate took a sip of her tea. "Spike almost got kicked off the force that night for getting involved with an old case. But he knew that Buffy needed him to be involved. To care and he gave it despite the personal cost to him. It made me start to realize that things can change by caring about someone."
"Are you happier now?"
"Yeah, I am," Kate said, smiling. "So, you know one of my deep dark secrets, do you want to share something with me?"
"I think my emotions have only gotten me into trouble," Cassie said. "Now, I might die because I loved the wrong man."
"Did you really love Luke or was he just someone to fill the loneliness?"
"The loneliness," Cassie said after a moment.
"So, trust your heart." Kate laughed. "Oh god, I'm full of clichés tonight."
"It's okay." Cassie shrugged, and then asked. "So, what's going to happen to me? When this is over."
"You go on," Kate said. "Finish school. Build a life with a little more wisdom than you had before."
"What if they get off
somehow? Or they send someone after me?"
Cassie's voice hitched. "I mean,
I want what you said, but I'm scared that I won't be able to get away, and I'll
never get to graduate, or go ice skating in
Kate's training told her not to make promises to witnesses. Especially in a case that was as convoluted and unpredictable as this one, but Cassie was desperately alone. Somehow, in this instance for her to give a scripted response would only be cruel. Therefore, she forgot the rulebook, followed Spike's example, and did what her heart told her to do. She reached across the table, taking Cassie's hands in her own, "I will fight with everything that I have to make sure you get that chance. I promise."
to be continued….