To catch a heart
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
I'm just someone with a secret obsession with Spuffy and the creativity to play around with it ;)
Warning: Major spoilers from the 5th season of Angel.
"I hate to say it, but…run?"
Buffy never got a 'Are you crazy?', nor an 'Okay!' in response – their eyes just fell on her as if she was suddenly sprouting horns. It was unnerving, really, that of all the crazy plans she'd come up with over the years, this would be the one to leave them silent. She suddenly wished Xander had come too. He was bound to make a joke and make her feel less like a quitter. Not to mention he'd agree with her in a heartbeat – running away was definitely a Xander-approved plan.
Without him there, though, the muffled sound of the heavy traffic and impatient drivers from the street outside almost reverberated within the bedroom despite the closed windows. That and the occasional rustling of wings of birds nesting on the old hotel's roof and windowsills were a background sound that had been there since she arrived, yet Buffy had never been aware of it consciously. She massaged her shoulder with her right hand, trying to relieve some of the tension. The blood – Spike's blood – on her hand was now too dry to smear on her skin as she squeezed the tense muscle.
When it became clear that no one would speak up, she chose to look at Dawn. From among her sister, Spike and Willow, Dawn would never hide her opinion to spare Buffy's – or anyone else's – feelings. Her too-tall little sister sat on the edge of Willow's bed, arms and legs crossed, and shot her a pointed look that all but said 'Ha, very funny. Now what's the actual plan?'
Buffy turned to see Willow's expression. Her forced half-smile – possibly intended to be reassuring or 'normal' – looked grimace-like when paired with her wide and slightly panicked eyes. It was like a punch to the stomach – they thought that she'd lost her mind.
Squaring her shoulders and crossing her arms, she didn't ignore the feeling of betrayal. Instead, she swallowed, clenched her jaw, and willed it to mutate into a thicker skin.
"So?" Her voice didn't break, although she couldn't have sustained the callous edge for more than a syllable. Her knees weren't as strong, and when they shook they robbed her of her put-on cold-heartedness. Spike's hand slid quickly from the small of her back to wrap around her waist and she crashed lightly into his side, reminding her further of her current uselessness. She caught the mixture of surprise and worry in his face with the corner of her eye before his head turned to Willow. From the look of concern on her friend's face, she hadn't missed the little crack in Buffy's armor either.
And the crack was all it took for the whole armor to go. Buffy exhaled a long breath, not caring to look at any of them anymore. She was too tired to fight. Just as she accepted that her body was too weak to win against demons, her brain was too spent to prove she hadn't gone mental. For once, she silenced the voice in her head urging her to DRAG THEM ALL OUT, NOW! – the same gut-oriented voice that came up with and pushed her through the craziest plans – and waited with a clenched stomach for the verdict on her sanity.
Spike was the first to speak. "It's the middle of the day, pet."
Buffy looked up, the knot in her stomach eased a little. At least he was considering it. "Can't you take the sewers?"
Spike shook his head. "Never been down there. Don't think I could find my way."
"We should stick together." Willow added as planning mode toned down the panic. "Just because we can't see them doesn't mean they won't attack us. We'll be easy targets on our own."
Buffy agreed. "We'll stick together then. But we can't stay here."
"Maybe we should regroup." Willow suggested. "There is a chance we're just in the wrong place in the wrong time and this is one of Angel's demons. Wesley is at Wolfram & Hart, so if we go there, we'll have the greater numbers and I'll be able to research what kind of demon it is, or —"
"Or what the hell is wrong with my head." Buffy finished, bitter that her best friend wouldn't fully believe her. When have I been delusional before? She wanted to ask. Yet when she thought about it…Okay, don't answer that. "Sounds like a plan. But there's still the middle-of-the-day issue. Blankets?"
"I've got another idea, pet. Meet me out front."
It took Buffy a moment to grow accustomed to the sight of the sun hitting Spike's face. After he told them to meet him up front, he showed up driving a car with clear windows, urging them to get inside. Even after he explained about Angel's necro-tempered windowed cars, Buffy still stared worriedly at him, afraid that any moment the sun would begin to burn his skin. She'd been too stunned to even ask how Spike had gotten the keys.
Her eyes must've been burning holes in his face, because he tilted his head towards her with a sideways glance and placed his hand over hers, lacing their fingers together. She gave one last look to make sure he was alright before diverting her eyes to the street up front.
The only other time she'd seen him in sunlight, there had been no love lost between them. He'd been hell-bent on killing her and she had been just as determined not to let him. The dynamics couldn't be more different now. He would let go of her hand whenever he needed to change gears, but his fingers would always find hers again, whereas she – now growing used to it – took pleasure in stealing glances of him. Spike was way too pale and his hair was so much brighter under the sunlight than she thought was possible. His clothes didn't really help – apart from the now brownish bloodstain on the shoulder, the sweater's color reflected the light back in a way that rivaled his skin and hair, yet the piece itself was completely out of character for Spike. She made a mental note to ask him about it later.
Buffy spent a good time silent, tuning in Willow and Dawn as they caught up on everything that happened on the last two days. It wasn't until Buffy looked down to Spike's hand in hers that confusion hit her. Unwilling to let go of his hand, she raised her other for a closer inspection. "What happened to my wounds?"
Spike shot her a quick sideways glance. "I, uh, I licked them closed, pet."
"You licked them? There was lickage? That's not fair, where was I?" Buffy didn't realize she had raised her voice in outraged disappointment until she noticed the silence in the backseat. She could almost feel the grin in Willow and Dawn's faces, but she didn't dare look at the rear-view mirror. She trained her eyes on the road, feeling the faintest blush creep over her cheeks. "I meant…how long until we get there?"
She could feel Spike smirking. The traitor.
Oh. My. Gosh.
Harmony stood up from her chair as soon as she saw her Blondie Bear get off of the elevator, her eyes traveling up and down his had never looked so…boyish before. Of course he always looked totally hot, but without the bad-boy look – leather duster and malicious smirk – he looked kind of cute. Harmony knew he'd kill her if she told him that.
Her hand automatically went to her hair, her fingers playing with a lock of it as she bit her lower lip. Who knew he could be so sexy when there wasn't danger bleeding out of his pores?
As he walked, still unaware of her presence, she leaned over the counter desk, propping herself on her forearms. If there was one thing she learned from High School, it was how to make a man see her assets.
He caught sight of her and seemed to have read her mind. He tilted his head to the side and rolled his eyes. She licked her lips in anticipation – whenever he snapped at her, the sex was so much rougher. But then his murderous expression softened as he stopped and looked over his shoulder.
The slayer had been right behind him as he led the way through the hall, and only then had she come into view. Harmony stood straight, sizing up her competition. A cruel smile tugged the corner of her mouth – Buffy had no makeup on and was in serious need of a hair brush. Not to mention a shower – hello, deodorant? Harmony could smell her reek from the other side of the hall! Which only made Harmony more furious when Spike held Buffy's hand. Smelly slayers are his thing? No wonder we never worked out.
Harmony kept watching them as Spike mouthed something to Buffy, and gave her hand a little squeeze before letting go. They split, and Harmony noticed Willow, who followed Spike towards Angel's office, and Dawn, who went with Buffy in the opposite direction. They all went their separate ways, without as much as a look in Harmony's direction.
She fisted her hands, then let go before she broke a nail. "Freaks."
Before going inside Angel's office, Spike and Willow coordinated their version of events. Telling him Buffy might've been hallucinating wasn't an option. If there wasn't a demon and something was truly wrong with her, they'd deal with it when they got there. If there was a demon and they didn't take her word for it, she could be in danger.
Right before he entered Angel's office – why knock? – Spike threw away the sweater. In any other law firm, the blood stain and the hole the arrow had left in it would draw great attention - that wasn't the case at Wolfram & Hart. The wanker CEO wouldn't miss it, though.
Angel let out an exasperated sigh. "To what do I owe the honor? Have I eaten little children or something?"
"We have a problem."
Angel's posture stiffened. "Buffy?"
"Plural?" Angel frowned. "What kind?"
"We don't know. Buffy's the one who saw them, we thought you might have a clue."
"A necromancer just swore revenge on us. Sent one of my employees in a bucket. I went to see him today."
"What did you do to piss him off? Oh, let me guess. He said 'relationship' and you poofed?"
Angel rose from his chair, the movement no doubt intended to make him more intimidating. He huffed a contemptuous laugh. "I recall you going 'poof' not two days ago."
Oh boy. Willow froze and chanced a look at Spike. Well done, Angel. You're really outdoing yourself these days.
Spike was, as she expected, seething with anger. Ironic that her former werewolf boyfriend never did such a thing. It took Spike three strides to stand in front of Angel and she would've cringed if there wasn't a large wooden desk separating them.
"I was sent to Hell. I'm not a bloody prat who fled to L.A. scared of a getting a happy."
"I was sent to Hell too."
"And neither of you stayed there!" Willow cried out, getting their attention. "But that's easily fixable, you know?" Reigning in her temper but keeping a stern face, she continued. "Now, we have more important things to discuss."
"Can I explore?" Dawn asked as she and Buffy headed to Wesley's office.
"Aw, but there some cute guys here. In suits."
"Evil cute guys. In evil suits." Dawn raised an eyebrow at the last bit, but was quickly distracted by a handsome guy wearing a dark blue tie.
Buffy rolled her eyes and pulled Dawn along the hall while trying to ignore the eyes following them. As they turned toward the door Spike had directed them to, Dawn stopped on her tracks and swallowed. "Demon coming at us. How bad is green and horny?"
Buffy turned to follow her gaze. Great, green and horny. "Depends on your meaning for 'horny'." She answered absentmindedly.
"You feel better already, don't you?" Dawn asked, but her eyes were still on the threat.
Despite her attempt at a joke, Buffy had also tensed. And she couldn't thank God enough as the green man went by without a glance in their direction. She had napped in the car, the passing houses lulling her into slumber after that really awkward moment with Spike, but she was still not rested up enough for a fight.
They resumed their walk until they reached Wesley's door. His office was open and he was sitting at his desk when they got in. He stood up right away, looking surprised and relieved.
"Buffy, you're alive!"
"And kicking...well, not really."
Dawn rolled her eyes. "The bad puns are just fine though."
He frowned and Buffy explained. "A green, horned demon just went past us outside. Didn't even look at us."
"That's just Lorne," The woman's voice took Buffy by surprise, as a brunette in a lab coat got up from the big stuffed chair facing away from the door. "He's a friend. I'm Fred, by the way."
When Buffy entered Angel's office, followed by Dawn, Wesley and Angel's own geek, Fred, Spike and Angel were having a glaring contest. They looked one step away from jumping each other's necks. Buffy suspected their restraint had something to do with the cross look on Willow's face.
The intruders seemed to be the proverbial knife, since they cut into the room's tension, drawing the attention of the two vampires.
"So, do we know what those demons are?" Buffy asked. She had told Fred and Wesley a brief and edited account of the facts before Wesley suggested they joined Angel and the others. Hopefully Spike and Willow had edited as well. That is, if the two vampires had actually gotten past the trading insults part.
Angel was the one to answer. "I'm fighting a necromancer."
Spike snorted, and Angel glared at him, as if daring Spike to say a word.
Buffy sighed. They didn't really have time for this. "Tall guy, no eyebrows and copying the long Dawson haircut?"
He shook his head. "Hainsley has no hair."
Her shoulders slumped. She sagged onto the nearest couch. "Not him then."
"Perhaps it was one of his minions?" Wesley suggested. "Necromancers have control of the dead. Did they look like zombies?"
"No, had some crashing a party once. The guy I shot was too articulate, and he vanished into thin air."
"Hm, sorry to interrupt, but did you touch him?" Fred asked, and as Buffy grimaced, she amended, "I meant, did you physically feel him? I-I…you know? As in punching or-or something?"
"No, I ran." Buffy said lamely. "I shot the first one, but I don't think he died." By the way he had smiled, he might have even known that the arrow would hit Spike.
"By 'vanish'," Wesley started, catching Fred's train of thought. "You wouldn't mean as Spike had been vanishing, would you?"
"You think it's a ghost?" Buffy asked, feeling a knot between her brows as she stopped to consider. She had been expecting some annoying demon with an even more annoying name that she could never say right. But ghosts? They weren't floating. Neither was Spike, now that she thought about it. You really can't trust all you see in movies. "How would I know?"
"Well, when they're visible they would emit ectoplasm and their electromagnetic readings—"
Spike cut her off. "In English, pet."
"Well, you'd feel cold."
Buffy's brows were still furrowed. "I did, but the room was cold, so…."
"That room was boiling." Willow's face was a mix of relief and guilt as she flashed an apologetic smile to Buffy.
Angel jotted something down. "Well, we'll send a team of ghost-whatever there tomorrow. In the meantime, the necromancer did promise revenge, so it'll probably—"
"—be wiser if we spent the night here. Yes, tomorrow."
"Why not today?" Fred asked. "I'm sure we have a team—"
"We had a team. Wolfram & Hart has been downsizing…"
"You fired the ghost team?"
"We never had any problems with ghosts before. Unless we count Casper here, and he never really hid himself."
"We're having a pajama party here?" Harmony's head peeked through the open door, unashamed to let them know she'd been eavesdropping. "This is so fun!"
They eventually dissuaded Harmony of the idea of a pajama party at the office, which made her glare at Buffy, even if it was Angel who told her she was in no danger of being attacked by the necromancer and dismissed her for the day.
The rest of Angel's team was called – Lorne was busy, but Gunn had been briefed and was on his way. He assured everyone that the green demon wasn't in danger of being caught off guard – something about him not sleeping.
Dawn fell asleep at some point. Fred offered Buffy the lab shower and she almost regretted having accepted when the brunette's rambling rivaled Harmony's. One pleading look at Willow, though, and the witch went with them, the little punishment of distracting Fred a making amends, of sorts, with Buffy.
"It's nothing fancy. We only really have it in case there's a contamination or something. Not that there's ever been, of course. Anyway I always keep spares clothes in case something goes kaboom and I end up covered in green goo. Last time we were experimenting with..."
Yeah, Willow was forgiven.
The hot water had done wonders for her body. Buffy curled next to Dawn on the couch and nodded off as the others brought in couches from other offices and ordered take out. She was too sleepy to feel guilty about it.
Spike woke her and Dawn gently when the food arrived. They all ate in silence – their rather large group spread around the once-large-but-now-filled-with-too-many-couches-office. For Willow, Dawn and Buffy, who had spent the day with nothing but some snacks from the vending machine, real food was a welcome addition.
"We need to worry about the zombies." Angel pointed out minutes later. "Hainsley has a living room full of dead bodies. We'll have to smash or cut their heads or they'll keep coming."
It was evidence of the weirdness of the group that that mental image didn't make them fight to keep their dinner inside.
"The ghosts can't touch us unless he gives them bodies. They're a smokescreen." Buffy looked at Spike before continuing. "But they can make us hurt each other if we're not careful."
"Well, Angel and Spike will have to sit this one out." Wesley added.
"Yeah, right." "Hell, no!"
"You're dead." Gunn said. "The last thing we need is you fighting us."
"They right," Buffy agreed. "Dawn, you'll stay out as well."
"I'm not dead!" She protested.
"No, you're not," Buffy conceded. "And I'd like you to stay that way."
As they arranged things to pass as covers and decided where everyone would sleep, Buffy glanced briefly at Spike, catching his gaze, before turning to Wesley. "Where's the bathroom again?"
He directed her to go left from the door and go take the first corridor on the left. Spike watched her go out and couldn't stop himself from following her. Whether he did so in order to ensure her safety or to spend some time alone with her, he didn't know for sure. Probably both. The fact was, it did remind him of not so pleasant times, back when he used to follow her around and watch as she fought. She had an elegance in her movements that stirred the poet inside of him, and he couldn't really tell when his demon actually fell for her. But it had, he had become obsessed with her every breath. And it had utterly repulsed her.
The memory was almost enough to make him stop in his tracks. She might think he'd been doing it again – stalking her. But in the end he couldn't really stop himself.
She took a turn at the end of the corridor and he began to wonder if she had actually paid attention to the bloody directions. Most of the staff was gone by now, but who knew what kind of monster the janitor of this place could be? He quickened his pace, anxious about having her out of his sight. He reached the spot where she escaped his view – an intersection where the lit corridor he was in met the unlit one where she had turned. Just as he quickened his pace and took the turn, he was pushed against the wall. The air rushed out of his lungs, more out of surprise than the collision with the wall. It had been too gentle a push.
"I knew you'd follow me. Well, I hoped you would, anyway."
"Why would you want me to?"
"I…are you still mad?"
He knew what she meant. He had got rid of Wesley's bloody – and bloodied – sweater, but his black shirt still had the hole, even if it masked the blood. He wasn't— couldn't— be mad at her. He cupped her face, and his eyes followed his thumb as he trailed a path from her cheek to the line of her jaw. Soft strands of hair brushed his fingertips as he caressed the back of her neck, momentarily distracting him from his answer. Her eyes were closed, and she stayed so still he couldn't help but smile. They had touched all day, yet they had never had a moment to savor it. "No, pet, I'm not mad at you."
He could feel as she exhaled, saw her eyes open slowly to face him. She moved slightly closer to him and he felt the heat go through his shirt when she placed her hand on his waist. He searched her eyes for any signs of regret, any sign that he had read too much into this, that all she wanted was his friendship. He couldn't stand it if he closed the small distance between them only to have her punch him in disgust. A stake would do less harm.
Buffy seemed to pick up on his hesitation. She raised her free hand and gently held the one he'd placed on her neck. Turning her head slowly, she placed a soft kiss on his palm.
He tried to contain his emotions even though he was failing miserably. Short of when she slept in his arms, fully clothed, there had never been another moment so…intimate. So…reverent. And it occurred to him, as his lips captured hers softly, that he had never before felt so loved.
He wasn't love's bitch anymore.
A few comments on this chapter:
1) Yes, it took me a long time to finish it. I wasn't happy with it and I wouldn't publish something I didn't like, even though it had a decent length (2,500 words) by the time I planned to post (July 22nd). It would be disrespectful to you and me both, so I didn't. And you guys are great, so you'll forgive me, right? *trying to decide between puppy eyes and a wink*
2) Rachel (nowinlivingcolor) is just awesome and without her I would never be able to finish this! So thank you so, so much, Rachel! :)
3) The "Freaks" line is from Angel, I only adapted it here. In the series Harmony mutters "Slayer-loving freak" as Spike walks away.
4) What did you think of the ending? I've never written a kiss before and I'm really anxious to know what you think about it!
Thanks to all of you following this story! And a special thank you to nrdhrd3 and thephoenixandthedragon4ever for the reviews! :)
Let me what you think and until next chapter!
P.S.: Sorry about the repost - FF went a little crazy on me.