Buffy took another bite of her fast food hamburger, sinking a little further back into the deep cushions of the loveseat she was occupying. She was feeling out of place, and a little left out as she watched the others joke around. A part of her couldn’t understand how they could be laughing at a time like this, while another part understood the need to let go of the thick tension that had occupied the earlier ride to the safe house.
Lorne and Kate, who’d been assigned to watch them, were curled up beside each other on the couch. Spike was in the chair beside them while Cassie was sitting cross-legged on the floor between them. The three friends had accepted the troubled young woman as part of them, and Cassie was animatedly talking to them about some movie they’d all seen. Buffy hadn’t seen it, so it gave her the excuse to remain silent.
Until the Narcotics Unit and
the DEA wrapped up the situation with Luke, they would all be living together. Thankfully, the house where they were was large
enough for them to manage some privacy.
Buffy didn’t think she could have been able to stand it if there
wasn’t. After a tour of the gated house
Besides the usual rooms
there were also a den and a solarium overlooking the backyard. The house belonged to a family member of a
member of the LA police force. It had
stood empty for almost a month during negotiations for a sale that never went
through. Captain Roberts had arranged to
‘borrow’ the place under the guise of Lorne and Kate renting it. The owners were currently living in
Another burst of laughter made her look up, and she found Spike staring at her with concern in those blue depths. She smiled, hopefully, as if she didn’t have a care in the world before leaning forward to grab a few more fries. She wasn’t going to let him see any weakness. Pity was the last thing she wanted. Besides she was still upset about Spike’s earlier anger over her taking birth control pills.
His reaction was similar to when she’d told him that she’d met someone else…
It was almost two years after she’d left
It had taken her until Sunday to say something to him. They were walking along the beach, holding hands and talking about general things when she finally garnered the courage.
“Spike…I met someone,” she stopped so she could look into his eyes. They wouldn’t lie to her, but he was looking somewhere over her head. “He wants to…get serious and I don’t know if I want to…”
He took her face in his hands to stare deep into her eyes. “It sounds like you want to find out.” His thumbs gently stroked her cheeks, making her want to cry with the love she felt in his touch. “Isn’t that one of the reasons you moved away? So, you could find out who you are by yourself…and who you might be with someone else.”
“It hurts, Spike, I love you so much…but I like him. He’s good to me…”
“Find out, Buffy.”
He’d said all the right things. Been the perfect friend. Given all the right support, but her decision to take that chance was met with a slow simmering anger Spike refused to discuss. When she ran into him at Angel’s house a couple of months later, he was even more distant despite the fact her new relationship hadn’t worked out. Then he was gone. Not answering the phone when she called, leaving her in a confused mire of loneliness and heartache.
Blinking, Buffy looked around the room at the people gathered there. Suddenly the room wasn’t big enough, and she scrambled out of the loveseat. She gathered her food wrappings before hurrying to the kitchen to quickly dump them in the garbage pail.
“Breathe, Buffy, breathe,” she muttered to herself as she leaned against the counter. She was shaking, and she didn’t have anything to counteract the panic attack that was coming on swiftly. She dropped to her knees as she forced herself to breathe in through her nose and out through her mouth.
“Are you okay?” Kate asked, kneeling next to her on the floor. She rubbed Buffy’s back. “Keep breathing. It’s all okay…you’re safe. We won’t let anything happen to you.”
“I’m fine.” Her nails were digging into the palm of her hands, but Buffy refused to let go. The pain was helping to ground her as much as the breathing.
There was the sound of other footsteps rushing into the kitchen. They were all there staring at the sight of her being her usual weak self. It made her want to scream at them that she’d been handling everything in her life just fine until today. Why was Spike here? Why did he have to hate her for wanting to be alive? To feel? A sob escaped from deep within her soul, making her ashamed of loss of control.
Then there were other hands holding on to her, stroking her hair. New hands, but they were kind, letting her know she was safe. “I’m sorry for coming to you.”
The pain and fear in those few words were enough to bring Buffy out of her own misery. She took a deep breath before pulling herself to a sitting position. Glancing around the room, Buffy changed positions so that she was leaning against the cabinets. “I’m okay.”
“You keep saying that sweetness.” Lorne commented. He gave her a smile that let her know she was loved no matter what her faults. It gave her strength. “You sure?”
“This time I mean it.” She shook her head. “I haven’t…”
“You don’t need to explain,” Kate said, with a smile. “It’s been a rough day…and you’ve…”
“Don’t.” Buffy held her hand up. “I don’t need excuses to fall apart.” She chuckled, meeting Spike’s gaze for a mere second. “Thank you…all for being here for me.” She clasped Cassie’s hand. “Don’t apologize. I’m just glad I was there.”
“You and that truck,” Cassie grinned. “Now, that was some cool maneuvering.”
“Taught her everything she knows about defensive driving,” Spike said. “She’s hell on wheels.”
“Buffy is just a wild thing.” Kate kidded. “Now, come on, let’s go hit the Pay-per-view channels and see if we can find something funny to watch. I think we all need to unwind for awhile.”
It was exactly the perfect way to end the ‘worry about Buffy’ moment they were trapped in. Lorne came over to help them off the floor, leaving Buffy for last so he could pull her into a strong hug. It felt good. And safe. Lorne had become a good friend over the years. One that never judged, and never crossed the line.
“Thanks,” she whispered.
“You just keep it together, girl, we need you.”
Buffy didn’t respond. Just held him a little tighter and wished she could have some second chances to make things right.
Spike was worried about her. After her panic attack earlier, Buffy had seemingly changed personalities. She smiled, laughed at the movie, and made all the right comments at the right time. He knew she was putting on a brave front. Trying to be okay in a situation where few people would feel safe.
After rummaging through his duffel bag to find something for her to sleep in, he hurried down the hall.
“Buffy,” he called through the door after giving a knock. “May I come in?”
He wasn’t sure what he’d find, but he wasn’t expecting to see her sitting on the bed with an open notebook in front of her. “I grabbed my duffel bag from my locker. “ He held out the t-shirt and boxers toward her. “Thought you might like something to sleep in.”
She blinked. “Are you giving them to everyone or just me?” One eyebrow arched as she leaned against the headboard. Her arms crossed defiantly in front of her.
Sighing, he tossed the clothes on the end of the bed. “Look, Buffy, I know that you…don’t like to just sleep in…with other people around…and I was trying to be nice. Obviously that isn’t allowed anymore.”
“Oh, there are rules now? I guess you formed those about the time you stopped talking to me.”
“I stopped talking to
you?” He pointed toward himself, and
laughed. “Now that’s rich. You’re the one who decided to run off and
play with half the male population in
He heard her climb off the bed, and automatically took a step back. When he opened his eyes, he saw a fire in her eyes that he hadn’t seen in a very long time. It was life, burning a blaze that was making her slender body tremble.
“You think I’m a slut?” Buffy asked, standing so close that she had to crane her neck back just so she could look up at him. “I go out with another man, who you encouraged me to see, and now you think I’m sleeping with every man I meet.”
Well yeah…but he couldn’t say that, even though he had his reasons.
It had been one of those days at work. Days when it seemed that there was very little humanity left in people. Spike was feeling discouraged. He needed someone and there wasn’t anyone at home. So, he headed to Angel’s house to see if he could get a little dinner and family time so he wouldn’t be alone. When he’d gotten out of his car, he’d heard voices in the back so he headed that way. A smile lit up his face when he heard Buffy’s voice. Maybe she was coming back. He could only hope, but then it was dashed away.
“Just how many men have you gone out with in the last month?” Cordelia was asking with surprise in her voice...
“Ten,” Buffy said. “Oh, god, Cordelia…what the hell am I doing?”
“That’s something you’ll have to answer. I can’t do it for you.”
“All I want to do is feel…something…anything.”
Spike didn’t wait around to hear anymore. He didn’t even want to go into the house. A part of him told him that he should talk to her, find out exactly what was going on and if she was all right. But she had friends, which were his family, to lean on and help her out. She didn’t need him, and from the sound of it, she didn’t want him either.
As he was climbing into his car, Angel pulled in behind him, blocking his exit. Somehow he’d endured the night with her around, but he kept his vow, and let her go.
Spike ran his hand over his face. Anything to block out the anger in her eyes. “No, I don’t think you’re a slut, Buffy.” It was the truth. She had reasons if she was sleeping with other men. It just hurt that she didn’t want him.
“Yes, you do.” She shrugged. “Do whatever. Just stay the hell out of my way.”
“You’re the one who called me this afternoon. Remember? The only time you want me around is when you need something.”
“Take your damn clothes,” she grabbed them off the bed to throw at him. “And get out.”
“Fine and next time you call I won’t bloody answer.”
“Well, don’t worry I won’t call you if I’m dying in the street…”
Suddenly, it came rushing back to him. An image from earlier of Buffy in danger when the bullets were whizzing around them was more real than anything around him…including the furious woman he wasn’t sure he knew.
“Don’t ever say that.” Somehow he found his hands tangled in her hair and his forehead pressed to hers. “I couldn’t stand it if you weren’t in this world.” He kissed the corner of her mouth, and then left before he’d do something they’d both regret.
to be continued…