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Title: For Want of A Back Porch (1/4)
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Joss Whedon, and I am making no money, etc., etc.
Summary: Buffy used to worry that she couldn’t love. After Twilight, she's afraid to love. But can she and Spike just be friends? Buffy, Spike, and their balcony, with a side of Dawn and Xander.  6,000 words (the whole fic is 21,000 words and it is finished; updates every day or two).

A/N: You don’t need to have read the comics to read this because I’ve only read issues 36-40, have minimal knowledge of what happened before that, and I wrote the darn thing. Here is S8 in a nutshell for any non-comic person who wants to read this anyway: Buffy and Angel frakked and it led to the apocalypse; Angel killed Giles; Buffy destroyed some mystical seed thing, thereby saving the world but also destroying all its magic; a few months later, she’s now living in San Francisco on Dawn and Xander’s couch. Meanwhile, Spike was a Big Damn Hero and Buffy fantasized about making love to him. It was gorgeous and beautiful (see the icon!) and so much better than the space porn, even if it was only in her head. I’ve set this fic starting about a month after #40 in the autumn; since I don’t know the timeline in the comics, autumn, or the Start of the Television Season, seemed as good a time as any.

Despite my usual flippancy about the comics, I did really enjoy #40 and have tried to write Buffy and Spike as realistically as possible according to the last arc and what I know.  I didn't change them up because of personal preferences.  In other words, they're not the same Buffy and Spike I usually write b/c the comic characters are, I think, very different from the canon TV-show characters.  Lastly, I’m sorry in advance to any diligent comic readers for any comic-related mistakes I’ve made.

And now that I've finished mine, I can go read other people's post-#40 fic!


Part I

October 20

When you are in a relationship, do you “cling” to your guy? Do you phone him every day or text him compulsively or insist on knowing his minute-by-minute schedule?

Buffy circled the 1 on the 1-to-5 scale in the Cosmo quiz “Are You The Bad Luck Charm In Your Relationships?”, thinking ruefully that she would have been better off with a negative number. Clinginess had never been her problem. She hadn’t been clingy enough for Riley’s tastes. Maybe she’d clung to Angel, but she’d been young and…

The cheap pen snapped in her suddenly iron grip. Her ink-stained fingers went limp just as fast, letting the plastic fall to the magazine. Buffy cradled her forehead to cover her eyes, as though that might block her mind’s eye, too.

But no. There was Giles, his neck snapped as easily as her pen-

Her head shot up at the rapping noise on the window. Grateful for the distraction, her heart beating a little faster, she rolled off the couch and rose, turning, in one fluid motion.

And this one…maybe she should have clung to him harder.

Spike stepped back a pace when Buffy opened the window. As she had last time he’d visited, a month before, she leaned against the sill instead of immediately climbing over it. Her heartbeat was still relatively erratic. She wondered if he would try to continue the conversation she’d run away from last time. Part of her couldn’t bear to hear about her failures, even in the context of how she’d made the best of it, and another part of her hoped he’d be his usual stubborn, ultimately uplifting self. Maybe he could be less with the words this time. More with the friendly, reassuring, and completely platonic hugging.

“What’s up?” said Buffy, trying to sound breezy and not like she had a) run away from him crying the last time she’d seen him or b) just been thinking about something as silly and useless as her dismal love life or lack thereof or c) been having day-mares about…

Goose bumps rose on her arms, even though the night was warm.

She glanced up and saw Spike’s eyebrows lowering, as though he’d been surprised. She didn’t blame him. “What’s up” wasn’t exactly her style; not with him.

“Is saying ‘the sky’ too droll?” he said. “Or too cutting?”

“Do your worst,” she bantered back. “I’ve had it before.”

The slightly amused lift to his lips vanished. His fingers, resting on the wrought iron balcony, turned white with tension.

Regret for her word choice shot through Buffy, quickly followed by irritation. Why did he have to be so wrapped up in the past that everything was a double entendre for him?

“So in the sense of what’s cooking, how you doin’, and who’s trying to kill me now, what is up?” she said, making her tone as free of emotion as his face.

Spike glanced upward. Buffy leaned her head out to see the fuzzy outline of storm clouds against the dark sky.

“Can we take this inside, pet?”

Pet. Innocuous nicknames he used on everyone, then. She wondered if she’d hear ‘love’ in this conversation.

“No,” she said, and couldn’t help feeling slightly vindictive. “Again, this isn’t my house. I can’t do invites.”

He frowned. “Is Dawn around? Or Xander?”

“They’re at the movies.”

“And you…”

“It’s date night,” said Buffy. The words felt weird on her tongue. The very concept- Dawn and Xander dating- still made her head buzz with confusion. “No third wheel Buffy.” She smiled, in case she sounded bitter.

Spike wasn’t paying attention, though. He was wincing.

“Ah, Dawn and Harris. That keeps conveniently slipping my mind.”

“They’re good together,” said Buffy instantly. And they were.

Still weird, though.

Spike made a dismissive noise. “He’s too old for her.”

The thought had crossed her mind before, too, but resentment flared in Buffy anyway. Where did he get off being judgmental? He had been missing from their lives for years. If you can’t pick up a telephone to let your ex-girlfriend-lover-person (whatever) know you’re alive, you don’t get to criticize.

“They’re less than a decade apart,” she said instead. “In my book, that’s pretty damn good.”

Silence, for a good five seconds. Buffy wanted to put her hand over her eyes again.

“Did I do something wrong?” said Spike finally. “Recently, that is?”

Speaking was an effort all of a sudden.

No. (you’re not him)

Yes. (you’re too much like him)

“No,” said Buffy. “Sorry. I’m tired.”

His brow creased with concern, and he stepped forward. He was close enough to touch, even from behind her window.

“Do you need help with anything? Patrolling?”

Patrolling. She stifled a smile. It was nice to hear her nightly haunts called that. No one used Slayer jargon anymore. Not since…

“I’m fine,” she said. “But thanks.”

His gaze left hers. Same old pattern. She sounded dismissive; he grew detached. Guess that answered the question of whether he would try to continue his pep talk from last time.

Before she could muster a conversation starter herself, reboot the night, Spike looked up again, and Buffy noticed the raindrops beginning to fall. She wished now she could invite him inside. She thought about getting an umbrella and climbing out so at least they’d both suffer- so it would be fair and so she’d have an excuse to huddle close to him- but Spike had already begun to speak.

“I don’t have much new information, but I think the thing that’s gunning for you is a ‘who.’ Not an organization. I’ve heard the name Meltzer.  Keep an ear out for it.”

“Meltzer. Got it,” said Buffy. Back to business.

“Good,” said Spike. He turned. “I’ll let you know when I’ve found out more. Be careful.”

“You too.”

He didn’t look back as he climbed up the fire escape stairs, but she heard him curse as the rain began to fall harder.

Damn mystical rules.

Buffy closed the window when all sounds of him were gone. She stalked back to the couch, closed the magazine, and threw it in the recycling bin.

She didn’t need a stupid quiz to know why her love life never worked out.

Love and (un)death were just non-mixy things.


November 5

Spike knocked on the window a little after eleven, a half hour after he managed to escape the brawl in the demon bar that he’d been scoping out for information. He wiped the skin between his lips and nose automatically for what felt like the hundredth time. It was hard to clean a bloody nose without a reflection. Maybe it was just as well; if he looked a little bruised and tender, maybe he’d finally get an invite. An ice pack. A glass of water that he didn’t need but would be refreshing anyway.

Maybe a hug.

There were a lot of upsides to having a coterie of bug minions at his command, but tactile comfort was not one of them.

He sensed movement out of the corner of his eye and looked through the window to see Xander. Spike struggled not to let his lip curl.

Or maybe he’d just be stuck out here.

Xander opened the window, straightened, and folded his arms across his chest.

“What?”

A humorless smile tugged at Spike’s lips. Some people never grew up. Let bygones be bygones.

“Xander,” he said, and then on a whim, because feigned politeness would piss off the boy, “How are you?”

Sure enough, Xander scowled. “Fine. What do you want?”

“How’s Dawn?”

Evidently he hadn’t masked all of his disapproval, because Xander stiffened.

“Don’t take that tone with me.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You didn’t have to,” snapped Xander. “It’s none of your business.”

Spike shrugged. “Has that ever stopped me before?”

For a second Xander seemed to jerk forward; then he rocked back on his heels, still in place. Spike could practically hear the boy’s teeth grinding.

He decided to play nice before the window slammed in his face for good.

“Is Buffy here?”

“I’ll get her,” muttered Xander.  He turned to his right. Spike leaned to the side so he could get a better look into the apartment. The living room and kitchen were connected, and there was a door that Xander had disappeared through-

And through which Buffy now came out.

She strode so quickly to the sill that Spike wondered briefly if he should protect his nose. Her eyes were narrowed, but her mouth was twitching, like she couldn’t decide whether to be angry or amused. She swung a leg out the window, forcing Spike back a step, and pulled the glass down behind her.

She faced him, arms also folded. “What did you say to Xander?”

“Nothing!”

Her eyebrows arched.

“I just asked how Dawn was.”

“Ah.” Her lip twitched again. Upward. She got it.

“How is Dawn?” asked Spike innocently.

“Very proficient at making pretend sex noises to scare me out of the apartment, I’ve found out,” said Buffy. “Spike? Are you okay?”

He was choking, making silent gasps. “Yeah- just- just trying to erase the mental image. Er, mental audio…thing.” He shuddered and tried to pull himself together. What did he care about (horrible, mind-blistering) matters like that? Best not to seem too familiar, too attached, to either Summers woman. That was the way she wanted it, and unrequited attachment never ended well for him.

“Well, that sounds like a disturbingly more grown-up version of the bit.”

“Do you want me to get her?” asked Buffy.

He ignored the pang in his chest. “Nah. Don’t bother her. I can’t stay long.” Needed to get back to his ship and drink some blood, take a nice calming shower. He wasn’t going to get any coddling here, let alone an invite. There was no way in hell he’d ask the boy for one now.

Maybe one of his bugs would be willing to go out and hunt down a blooming onion.

“All right.” Buffy leaned against the wall, her expression growing weary. “What do you have for me?”

“This Meltzer guy is some sort of demon.”

Buffy’s eyes started to roll.

“But he can shape shift. He can take on human form.”

The eyes stopped rolling and looked at him. It made her a bit cross-eyed.

And adorable.

He found his feet shuffling of their own accord. “There’s also someone named Allie involved. Not sure if that’s a male or female.”

“What else?”

“That’s…that’s it.”

“Oh.”

A wave of irritation swept through him. Wasn’t enough, was it? After he’d gotten his ribs nearly kicked in tonight when he’d asked a few too many questions about what Meltzer’s human form looked like. He might not have gotten a description, but he knew about the human part now, and that was damn useful. That meant this Meltzer person could attack her during the day-

Idiot, of course it wasn’t enough. He had to get a physical description. If Meltzer caught her unawares in the human world, when she was supposed to be safe-

“Sorry,” he muttered. “I shouldn’t have come.”

He turned.

“Spike, wait-”

He paused. He felt her draw nearer and swallowed.

“Are you hurt?”

Moonlight must have illuminated his face when he’d turned. He swiped at his cheek, but his hand came away clean. Probably bruises, then.

“It’s nothing,” he said.

She looked at him steadily for a moment before her gaze dropped. Her hand, outstretched a little, fell back to her side. “All right.”

“Be careful, Slayer,” he said. Please.

“I will. You too, Spike.”


November 30

She was preparing some post-slayage snackage when the knock came. As she crossed to the window, bowl of Oreos and peanut butter in hand, she felt her face stretch in an unfamiliar way. She was smiling. Automatically. She couldn’t remember doing that since…

No, no, bad thoughts.

“Hey!” she called as she opened the window. No ‘what’s up?’ this time. He could give her “hay is for horses” all he liked.

Buffy climbed outside without hesitation. As she turned, she caught his eyes sliding upward, away from…

He’d totally been checking out her ass as she swung over the sill. Her grin stretched wider.

“You’re cheerful,” observed Spike. “I like it.”

Buffy shrugged. “Good night. Staked some vamps. Saved some people. Back to basics, you know? And right now I like basics.”

“The basics suit you.” His eyes trailed down her again, and she felt her cheeks warm. She liked this. Not just being checked out; that happened most days at Pick Me Up. She liked him checking her out- and not least of which because he didn’t stare at her boobs. He somehow always made clear, without words, that he liked the whole package. How long had it been since he’d really scrutinized her, looked at her with anything other than friendly indifference?

She flashed back to the upstairs hallway in her mother’s house, when she’d run into him after leaving Anya in the bathroom. The camisole she’d worn had been even more revealing than this one, but back then he had scarcely looked at her.

Her eyes met his, and she realized, with a start, that it was her turn to speak. “You look good yourself. Less, um, you-should-see-the-other-guys. I’m glad.”

His eyes widened, but though his lips parted, he didn’t speak. Apparently his renewed ability to give compliments didn’t extend to receiving them. That was okay; Buffy wasn’t sure where she was going with that anyway.

“Oreo?” She proffered the bowl.

“Is that peanut butter?”

“Yes. It’s excellent.”

The look he gave her was one hundred percent skeptical.

“A Summers kitchen experiment gone right for once?”

“No! Oreos and peanut butter is a thing. Everyone knows that.”

“I beg to differ.”

“It’s good!” On impulse she grabbed a cookie, swiped it slowly through the peanut butter, getting it nice and creamy, and held it out. “Here. Try it.”

For a dizzy moment she wondered if he would lean forward and let her feed him. Instead his fingers brushed hers as he took the Oreo. She dropped her hand. Her cheeks felt hot again.

What was up with her tonight?

“Mm. Not bad.” Spike didn’t hide his surprise; she gave him a dirty look. “Not my thing, but not bad.”

“Says the man who puts wheetabix in his blood,” Buffy muttered.

His face took on an odd expression, though she couldn’t think why. She was wondering what to say next, trying to think of something else flirty or witty, when a shiver passed through her.

Camisoles, while enticing and beguiling, were not the warmest, even for an autumn night in San Francisco.

“You should get a sweater,” said Spike. “You could catch a chill.”

“Catch a chill?” she repeated as she turned to the window. “What are you, from the 1800s?”

“Damn, there’s my cover blown,” he retorted easily. “And here I thought I could convince you I was a fun-loving modern day vampire.”

“The end goal being?”

She called it over her shoulder as she went to grab a sweater from the couch and instantly regretted it. She should have said it when she could see his face. By the time she climbed back out the window, his expression was wiped clear of jollity.

He looked a little uncertain.

Before Buffy could marshal her thoughts, determine what her end goal was, he said abruptly, “I have a picture of Meltzer.”

She put the bowl down. “You do?”

Spike pulled a 4x6 photo from his duster’s pocket and slipped it out of a protective plastic slip.

He handed it to her, and in the light from the window she stared at a pale oval face. The man looked young, in his thirties maybe, but had a shaved head. He wore glasses, and his thin lips weren’t cruel. His gaze was directed at the corner of the picture.

“Did you take it?” Were you spying on him? Suddenly the fact that he was out gathering information, that he was putting his life in danger for her sake, was realer than it had ever been before. Fear gripped her heart, and she had to force herself not to clench the photo so tightly that it crinkled.

“One of my informants.”

“Oh.” Could he hear her relief in that one syllable? “Are you sure it’s him?”

Spike pulled out a second photo. Buffy gasped, repulsed. The face was scaly red now, and three-inch long horns curled behind his ears, but it was unmistakably the same person. A clawed hand reached toward his face, as though to remove his glasses.

“Keep an eye out for him,” said Spike unnecessarily. “I don’t know what sort of demon he is- what his offensive powers are- but if he can pass as a human, he could be up to something unusually insidious.”

“Like the Mayor,” she murmured.

“Who?”

“Big Bad in Sunnydale. Before you came for good.”

“Oh.”

Buffy put the photos back in their slips. “Thank you.”

“Welcome.”

Buffy looked at him and felt the possibility of silence stretching between them. She couldn’t think of anything to say; for once, he looked peaceful, content- not like a bug general and self-appointed cub scout. It wouldn’t be awkward silence. It would just be them.

And then the phone rang.

“Um, excuse me,” she said, and flung her leg over the sill again, almost knocking over the bowl of forgotten Oreos.

When she returned two minutes later, Spike raised an eyebrow but didn’t ask. That was reason enough to tell him.

“Dawn checking in,” she said. “I forgot to call her after I got home from slaying. She likes to make sure I’m, you know, safe.”

“Where is she?”

“They went away for the weekend. Xander had a construction job out of town, and Dawn went with him.”

They shared an obligatory wince.

“I should shove off,” said Spike. “Got some problems on the ship I need to take care of.”

“Oh.” Buffy tried not to sound disappointed. This had been nice. The silence. The banter. The aloneness.

The flirtation.

She shivered despite her sweater.

“Anything serious?”

“Nah, just…” Uncharacteristically, his gaze shied away from hers. Buffy was fairly certain that if he had been human, he would be red-faced.

“What?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Yes I do. Spike.”

“Had some territorial problems recently,” he admitted.

“Territorial?”

“Mating.”

“Ah.”

“Crew didn’t follow regulations and now I’ve got a handful of bug eggs to deal with. Can’t kill ‘em but I have to do something with them. I didn’t sign on to run a generation crew.”

He sounded so petulant all of a sudden that Buffy almost laughed. “Let me know how that works out.”

He flashed her a smile. “I will.” He moved to the steps.

A thought occurred to her, and the words flew from her before she could stop herself. “You didn’t ask to come in tonight!” Even before you knew that Dawn and Xander were gone. And when she was cold, he had said to get a sweater rather than suggest they go inside.

Spike paused to look at her. His eyes glinted in the darkness. His cheekbones were pale hollows.

“Asked more than once already and got the message then. Not going to keep sticking my nose where I’m not wanted.”

Buffy flinched. There was too much subtext to his words not to.

Not like last time.

Last time when he had loved her.

She swallowed and said, because she didn’t know what else to say, “Be careful, Spike.”

He had already reached the next flight, but she heard his muffled reply. “I will. You, too, Buffy.”

Once she’d put the pictures of Meltzer in the book Giles had left her, Buffy parked herself on the couch with her Oreos and dug in. She’d taken off the sweater, but she still felt hot. Unsatisfied. Alone, but not in the good way. Her cheerfulness about having the apartment to herself for the weekend had disappeared with his duster.

“Faith’s right. Slaying really does get you horny and hungry,” she muttered.

Horniness, that’s all it was. Because horniness she could deal with.

It didn’t mean any(one)thing more.


December 18

Whenever Spike thought that the years had changed him, that he had finally let go of his regrets and could-have-beens, fate liked to smack him upside the head with a reminder that he would always be a fool for love, in some capacity or another. In this instance the reminder was a tall, lithe-limbed girl with a delicate face and amber brown hair that was almost as silky as her sister’s.

“Hello, Dawn,” said Spike when she opened the window. His voice sounded foreign to his ears. He wasn’t supposed to have to be this formal, but gone were the days when he could call her ‘nibblet’ or ‘bit’ or simply smile to show he cared.

“Spike.”

Her expression was distant but not angry, which was a small relief. He’d had enough of her glares when he arrived a few months ago, and their conversations in the middle of the apocalypse had been impersonal and to the point.

“How are you?” he asked.

“I’m all right.”

It wasn’t lost on him that she didn’t return the question, but he took the very fact that she hadn’t immediately left to get Buffy as a good sign.

“How’s school?”

“Good.  The semester just ended.”

“What classes did you take?”

Dawn pursed her lips. For a moment he thought she was annoyed, until he realized she was ticking off fingers and making a mental list.

“Media studies, international relations, computer science, and Chinese.”

“That’s an eclectic course load.”

She shrugged. “That’s the point of college, right? To try a lot of new things. I figure media studies will help if Buffy ever ends up in the public eye again and needs good PR. I can apply theory of international relations to warring supernatural factions, and computer science is the start to my brilliant career of hacking and cyber-espionage.”

“Thought you had Red for that.”

Dawn frowned, her gaze growing worried and even more distant. “Yeah. She’s kind of busy with other stuff right now. I don’t talk to her much.”

Spike didn’t need her to spell it out for him. He knew the rumors in the underworld as well as the next bloke that certain former wiccas were searching for a way to restore the world’s magic. That Willow would be in the thick of it wasn’t a surprise to anyone who had known her the last few years in Sunnydale.

“And what about Chinese?” he asked, trying to steer clear of potentially sore topics.

“Have you tried learning Chinese out of a book?” said Dawn ruefully. “It doesn’t work well.”

He couldn’t keep from smiling. She was so…mature. Sensible. Clear-headed and intelligent and rational.

Terrible taste in men, though.

“How are you doing?”

The question caught him by surprise, made him blink and clear his throat. “I- I’m-”

Searching for answers. A cockroach overlord. The perpetually bruised sparring partner of a hellgod. Lonely.

“Doing best as can be expected,” he managed. There, that was a vague but honest answer. “Just trying to keep abreast of things so…so nothing happens like last time.”

Her eyes caught his and held, and for a brief moment peace washed over him. She understood him. Understood that he was keeping his ear to the ground, doing the dirty legwork so that no Twilight ever snuck up on them again. He wondered if she realized that for him, trying to protect the world still really just meant trying to protect his girls- even if they were only ‘his’ in his own head.

Dawn gave a slight nod. He thought that for a second her lips started to curl, and he wondered, with a jolt of hope, if she was going to invite him in. She cleared her throat as well. “Sounds good to me. I’ll, uh, go get Buffy.”

No invite yet. That was- that was fine. Buffy was coming.

“Thanks.”

She turned, and for the first time in a long while, the sight of her back to him didn’t cause an ache in his chest.

Spike had composed himself by the time Buffy climbed out of the window. She wore sweatpants and a sweatshirt several sizes too big for her and looked so rumpled and comfy that Spike said, “I didn’t mean to get you out of bed.”

“I wasn’t in bed.” Buffy jerked her head to the window with a small grin. “The couch is my bed. I was in the bedroom looking at Dawn’s course catalog. She wants me to apply for next fall.”

His burst of satisfaction at the idea of Buffy getting a chance to go back to school was almost embarrassing. He hoped it didn’t show. “Smart girl, your sister. You should listen to her.”

“Hmm.” She looked skeptical. “I’m not sure if slaying and school are mixy things. Maybe last time was a sign. Besides, I don’t think I’d have time, what with working and patrolling-”

“I can help patrol. I’ll take over some nights. Give you time to do homework and rot- I mean, important stuff- like that.”

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye, still skeptical. “Could you? I mean, aren’t you really busy with your ship and CIA-type work and all?”

“CIA?”

She flushed. “Secret intelligence. Whatever. Your spy work.”

“If I were a spy I think I’d rate James Bond. Not some anonymous American chump.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Fine, you’re James Bond. You’d make a good one. Already got the accent, I’m sure you look good in a tux, and God knows you’ve got the sexy vibe-”

Their eyes met for an instant, and then she was looking anywhere but at him as her cheeks darkened to scarlet. “Um, so, yeah, spy work…”

Sexy vibe. Sexy vibe. She thought he had a sexy vibe. She still thought of him like that.

The balcony was much, much too small. If it were bigger he could step away, get his emotions under control. But no, she was right there, and talk about fateful smacks upside the head, because he wanted to kiss her so badly his hands were trembling-

Spike took several even, unnecessary breaths. “I am busy but-”

“That’s why you don’t patrol with me now, right?”

She was finally looking at him again, and he felt his hopes dim. Couldn’t exactly argue with that. He was busy most of the time. In between doing his hands-on research he had to complete certain quests for the Powers That Suck, the proprietors of his ship- basic hero work, the type that Angel had been good at before he decided destroying the world was a better use of his time.

Besides, Buffy had never asked him to patrol with her.

“Yeah, I’m busy, love-”

She started, but he didn’t know why.

“-But I can change that if you need me to.” Wasn’t that a nice thought, that she might need him. “And it’s half a year away, yeah? We’ll get this Meltzer business sorted by then, and come autumn I’ll have all the free time you need for patrolling.”

Buffy gazed at him levelly, and it took enormous willpower not to avert his eyes. He didn’t know what she would see there. He didn’t want her to see all his feelings, the fact that he would still do anything for her. That sort of power imbalance wasn’t healthy.

“All right,” she said finally. “Beat Meltzer. We can do that.” There was a strange lilt to her voice, almost like excitement, that he didn’t understand.

“What do you have for me?”

Whatever had sparked her interest, be it his motivational speech or a long-hidden desire to walk the halls of academia once more, Spike appreciated it. Most of the times he came she sounded like absorbing the sparse information he had was a chore.

“I learned what kind of demon Meltzer is. He’s called a Whedon demon. Turns out that physically they’re pretty harmless. Shape shifting to human form is the extent of the innate powers.”

“I know there’s a ‘but’ here somewhere,” muttered Buffy.

“However-”

“Oh, very clever, Mr. Thesaurus.”

However most Whedon demons like to dabble in magic. And not the Good Witch of the North kind.’”

“Let me guess. Meltzer is more of the Wicked Witch of the South variety.”

“It’s West, you silly bint. Wicked Witch of the West.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. The opposite of north is south.”

“And Oz also has flying monkeys, talking lions, and tin men. Not a place of logic, love.”

“Whatever. Your point is? They don’t have magic anymore.”

“They don’t have new magic.” Spike spoke quickly as frown lines appeared between her eyes. “Whedon demons are particularly renowned for their potion-making. And any potions that were stockpiled before you destroyed the seed will still be active. Just like the vampires and demons and slayers that existed before Twilight are still around, so are the contained magical spells.”

“Oh.” Her voice had gotten very small.

“So my point is, Meltzer is undoubtedly planning to poison or curse you somehow.”

Buffy sighed. “Why can’t he just try to kill me? It’d be so much easier. I could just kick his lame ass.”

A vision of Buffy in her best fighting form assailed his mind’s eye.

“Spike? Hello, earth to Spike.”

She was staring at him, her head cocked in a way that was oddly familiar. He swallowed, pulled his duster more tightly around him.

“Also, I found out that Allie is male and also a Whedon demon. Out of the two, he’s been harder to get a lock on. Much better at slipping away than Meltzer. I think Allie is the brains of the operation and Meltzer is the muscle. Or power, in this case. And I use ‘brains’ in the loosest sense of the word.”

“Any idea on what this curse is or why he’s taking his sweet time about it?”

“No and maybe. I think the reason he’s been laying low is because he doesn’t have the potion yet. It’s possible that another Whedon demon made it and he’s trying to track it down.”

“Well that’s great. I can never drink anything again. I’ll have to start carrying around a hip flask like that professor in Harry Potter.”

“It’s good that we know about his human disguise though,” said Spike, trying to sound comforting. “He was probably counting on using that as a way to trick you into drinking something.”

“Yeah. Do you know what Allie’s human form looks like?”

“Er…no. Next on the to-do list.”

Instead of looking disappointed she grinned at him. “I like you like this. All prepared and gung-ho and research-y.”

“Just trying to keep you safe, love.”

He hadn’t meant to say that. In his head he had thought, disingenuously, “Just trying to do my duty.”

Stupid tongue.

Her breath had caught, and she was flushing again, but this time her eyes locked on his and stayed.

“You know, you could come around more often. Not only when you have bad-and-useful news.”

He was tempted to say something spiteful like, “So I can hang out on a cold balcony?” but instead said, in a huskier voice than normal, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Good. Oh, and here…”

Buffy reached into her sweatshirt’s kangaroo pocket and pulled out a small box wrapped in green and red striped paper. Spike stared at it. He understood, on a rational level, what this object was, but he couldn’t- couldn’t process that it was actually-

“Merry Christmas,” she said, sounding nervous.

Luckily his hand reached out automatically to take it, even though his brain didn’t seem to be functioning.

“I saw it at the farmer’s market last week- well, farmer and artisan’s market- and I thought of you. I didn’t know when I would see you again, so I’ve just been saving it.”

Spike slid his finger through the taped spot and unfolded the wrapping to pull out a little box.

A little jewelry box.

He couldn’t keep his eyebrow from rising.

“You never have to wear it if you don’t want to,” said Buffy hastily. “It might not even fit. And I don’t know, it may not be your style anymore-”

He opened the lid to see a big silver skull ring.

“Just say yes and make me the happiest man on earth.”

“Oh, Spike! Of course it’s yes!”


He practically had to bite his tongue to keep from echoing her words back at her. This sure as hell wasn’t a proposal.

But it was something.

Buffy had gotten him a Christmas present. And not just any present but something related to their past, that made her think of him.

“Thank you,” whispered Spike. He plucked the ring from the box and slid it onto his thumb. It was a little tight, but that was better than loose. The ring looked odd on his thumb after all these years, and he couldn’t truthfully say that it was still his style; but he wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

He looked up to find her smiling. Not waiting for him to look at her- just smiling as she watched him, like his joy made her happy.

“I don’t have anything for you,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

Even if he did keep track of the holidays, which he didn’t, he never would have expected- presumed-

“Don’t be sorry.” Buffy reached out and caught his hand. Her thumb touched the ring and rubbed idly down his knuckle.

“And I’m serious about not feeling any obligation to wear it. I just wanted you to have it.” She squeezed his fingers gently and let go.

“All the good memories?” Spike couldn’t help himself, even though he had promised himself he wouldn’t do this, pick at old scabs. But this wonderful woman and her bloody crumbs-!

To his delight, her smile didn’t fade. “In retrospect I’d say they were pretty good.” She winced suddenly. “And I figured I owed you one.”

“You gave the first one back.”

“Owed you a nicer return, then.”

Spike smiled fondly, recalling the hours after the spell ended. He was disgusted and appalled, she was disgusted and furious, they had exchanged insults, he had demanded his ring back, she had thrown it at his forehead… Quite hard. It had bruised.

“The original one is gone, right?” Buffy hesitated. “In Sunnydale?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Lost track of it long before I died, though. It probably got lost in the crypt for good when Soldier Boy blew it up.”

His tone was neutral, but her shoulders hunched and she looked away.

“For the best,” he added. “This one’s nicer. S’not ugly like the other one was.”

That earned him the return of her smile.

It was that gentle smile, her obvious tranquility, that told him it was time to go. It was best to leave on a high note.

“I have to go,” he said, and hated himself for loving her disappointed expression. “I’m leaving for Boston tonight to help out an old friend, another of the Powers’ champions. After that I’m going to Alaska. There’s supposed to be a particularly gifted tribe of Whedon demons there. They might have information on Meltzer and Allie’s intentions.”

“All right. Let me know when you’re back, okay? Remember, you don’t need to have information to come by.”

Spike nodded.

For a second her weight seemed to shift forward, as though she were going to hug him. Then she crossed her arms, digging her fists into her armpits. “Be careful.” Was it his imagination, or did she sound more concerned than usual?

Spike raised his thumb. “Got my good luck charm now. I’ll be fine. You be careful, too, Slayer. Happy Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Spike.”

Part II

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
penny_lane_42
Jan. 29th, 2011 08:44 pm (UTC)
Photobucket

ADDICTED. ALREADY.

I seriously didn't know that this was exactly what I was wanting, but it is. A nice, longish, satisfying post-comics fic, where they're tentative but hopeful and themselves and--oh, I just love it so much! I absolutely can't wait to see where you go with it! Yay!
gryfndor_godess
Jan. 30th, 2011 10:48 am (UTC)
Vomiting rainbows!!! Thank you! :D I'm thrilled you like it, and I hope the rest lives up!
snickfic
Jan. 29th, 2011 10:16 pm (UTC)
Aw, this was sweet. I'm definitely a fan of the Whedon demons - can't wait to see what they're up to. And the gradual, cautious relationship is lovely.
gryfndor_godess
Jan. 30th, 2011 10:43 am (UTC)
Thank you!! :) I'm so glad you like it, especially the Whedon demons, those nasty blighters.
ellievanna
Jan. 29th, 2011 10:37 pm (UTC)
This was exactly what I wanted after reading the final issue. I love the dialog and the banter and that the character's feel true to both the TV-show and the comics (well, I'm not an expert on the comics, but what I've read of them). Can't wait to read more!
gryfndor_godess
Jan. 30th, 2011 10:18 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm very pleased that the characters feel true, and I'm glad you like it! :)
moscow_watcher
Feb. 1st, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
I wish I could find the right words to tell you how much I love your story. I love Buffy and Spike's tentative, small steps towards each other. I love the mood, the plot, I love your brilliant occasional breaks through the fourth wall.

I'm a bit surprised by Xander's hostility. At the end of season 7 they were pretty civil to each other, and season 8 gained Spike more points as a friend rather than an enemy.

I wonder if it's a set-up for a further plot twist... *runs off to read the next chapter*
gryfndor_godess
Feb. 1st, 2011 10:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, hon! I'm very glad you're enjoying it. I agree about Spike gaining major friend points in S8. I'm not sure that Xander of all people would be willing to trust any vampire after Twangel, though; in any case, the hostility doesn't last, and here it was mostly brought on by Spike's disapproval regarding Xander dating Dawn. :)
joans_journal
Feb. 2nd, 2011 02:00 am (UTC)
*breathes* Wow, what a wonderful, wonderful story! I'm already totally hooked. I can't wait to read Part 2...
gryfndor_godess
Feb. 2nd, 2011 09:26 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm very glad you're enjoying it. :)
rebcake
Feb. 2nd, 2011 08:41 am (UTC)
Oh! Meaty! So many ways it could go wrong and right. I'm always curious to hear people's theories on what happened to the engagement ring, so that was a bonus for me!

I also enjoyed the recurring desire for hugs on both sides.

There were a lot of upsides to having a coterie of bug minions at his command, but tactile comfort was not one of them.

Awww. Poor baby. I nearly thought she'd get a kiss on the forehead for the present, but of course it's too soon. Shucks.
gryfndor_godess
Feb. 2nd, 2011 09:32 am (UTC)
Thank you for your equally meaty comment! I've read a lot of wonderful fics where Buffy had kept the ring and Spike learned about it down the line, but this fic didn't seem like the place for a schmopy anecdote, so I'm glad you liked my ring theory. And you noticed my parallelism! Thank you! :)
joans_journal
Feb. 2nd, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
P.S. I also got a kick out of your choice to name the demons after season 8 writers. It was quite amusing to imagine Spike saying "Whedon demon" *giggles*
gryfndor_godess
Feb. 2nd, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
Hee, thanks! :)
treadingthedark
Jul. 18th, 2011 06:47 am (UTC)
He wondered if she realized that for him, trying to protect the world still really just meant trying to protect his girls- even if they were only ‘his’ in his own head.

Wah! Breaks my heart. Love this though.
gryfndor_godess
Jul. 19th, 2011 01:28 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm really glad you like that line, as it's one of my favorites. I figure that even though Spike's a hero, he's not too, too selfless- and definitely wouldn't lie to himself about his motivations!
gabzillaz
Nov. 14th, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC)
I know this one is old but I had to review this chapter.

Whedon demon. Genius.

And the Dawn/Spike combo made me so sad, I loved their friendship so much.
gryfndor_godess
Nov. 15th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I love reviews on old fics. :)

Hee, I'm glad you like the demon name. All the demon names in the next chapters are actually references to comic writers.

And the Dawn/Spike combo made me so sad, I loved their friendship so much.

It gets better later in the fic. :)
Stevi Ferguson
Jan. 24th, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC)
Trying to discreetly read at work, and you throw out "Whedon Demon". My face probably turned three shades of purple trying NOT to guffaw out loud.
gryfndor_godess
Jan. 25th, 2012 02:28 am (UTC)
:D I'm glad you like it. Thanks for reading!
(Deleted comment)
gryfndor_godess
Feb. 1st, 2012 03:53 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you for commenting even though it's an older fic! It always makes me happy to know people are still reading and enjoying it. I'm really glad you like the ring and the Spike and X/D stuff (I feel like he would be over any hard feelings with both of them individually, but the idea of them dating would really freak him out! It would be nice if we saw more interaction between the three of them in S9). :)
pingback_bot
Mar. 12th, 2012 12:14 pm (UTC)
For Want of a Back Porch by gryfndor_godess
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(Anonymous)
Mar. 1st, 2014 08:56 pm (UTC)
Your stories are awesome and your writing amazing! I love everything you write!
gryfndor_godess
Mar. 1st, 2014 09:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! :)
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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