My seasonal_spuffy contribution!
Title: Hey There, Blondie Bear (Part 1/5)
Summary: Being normal doesn’t include having a vampire for a boyfriend, even one with a soul, but Spike’s not willing to be just her friend anymore. Is “normal” all it’s cracked up to be? Is it worth the price? Begins after issue #10 (which will be released 6/13), which is when Spike will temporarily leave S9 for his own miniseries. 5,200 words.
A/N: I started writing this exactly a month ago after the Spike miniseries was announced and some articles/interviews insinuating that Spike and Buffy couldn’t be together simply because he’s a vampire greatly annoyed me. As more information has come out, I’ve reconciled to the idea of the miniseries, but writing fic is still how I patch up my abused little Spuffy heart.
This fic will probably be about 15-20K words in total. About half of it’s written so far, and the rest is outlined, so it won’t be a WIP for very long.
She was not going to cry. She was not going to cry.
The bug ship shot upward, faster than she could remember it ever launching before. Had he told the bugs to put it on some full-beyond-full throttle so as to get away from her as fast as he possibly could?
She was not going to cry. She was not going to cry.
She was better off without him anyway. She didn’t need him looking like a kicked puppy and wanting to raise children with her and bossing her around like he was some expert on pregnancy and slaying. He didn’t know anything about children and pregnancy! He wasn’t normal. And she needed normal, and if he couldn’t bother being just a friend, that was- that was his loss, the selfish jerk!
The ship was just a dot in the sky now, barely visible.
She was not crying, she was not crying.
Buffy turned and began walking quickly away from the now-deserted parking lot.
He’d be back. Spike couldn’t stay away from her. That thing in LA with the law firm was just a, just a fluke. He’d be back. Tail between his legs, apology on his lips. He’d see; he’d understand why they couldn’t be together romantically, and he’d come back…
“Hey, lady, are you okay?”
Buffy halted and saw a burly African American bouncer outside a club looking at her in concern. What? There wasn’t enough light for him to see her splotchy face, was there? Not that it was splotchy. And he couldn’t hear her sniffling because she was fine-
“Did someone hurt you?” He took a step toward her. “You need me to call the police?”
“No!” Buffy snapped, so harshly that he backpedaled and raised his hands in placation.
“I’m fine.” She hurried off, faster than before, and didn’t look back.
He’d come back. Spike would come back.
* * *
“How dare you give me an ultimatum like that? I have every right to not want a relationship with you!”
“And I have every right to love someone who will love me back!”
“Wha- that’s just stupid. You can’t just tell me to love you!”
“That’s not what I’m saying! I’m saying it’s my right to- to move on. I can’t do this anymore, waiting and hoping you’ll change your mind. It’s…it’s too painful.”
* * *
“He what? He left?”
Buffy nodded, her face composed, as though she’d said nothing more out of the ordinary than that the weather was dismal today.
Dawn mentally replayed Buffy’s words, particularly the “last week” bit. “How come you’re just telling me this now?”
Buffy shrugged. “Honestly, because I thought he’d be back by now.”
“Why did he leave? Is there some big crisis somewhere else he has to deal with?”
Buffy instantly looked down at her glass of iced tea, which set Dawn’s spidey-senses tingling.
“He said he loved me, and he wanted to be with me. I didn’t want to be with him. So he left.”
She took a sip and looked back up, expressionless.
Dawn tried not to look as aghast as she felt. Spike said he loved Buffy- okay, that was no surprise. He wanted to be with her- obviously. Buffy didn’t want to be with him-
Damn, she was going to owe Xander some bedroom fantasy fulfillments.
But Spike leaving-
She didn’t know what to think about that.
Her stomach flipped nauseatingly as an awful thought stuck. Spike had left so suddenly, and Buffy was so wooden, and this all felt very familiar-
“He didn’t…try anything before he left, did he?” She spoke carefully, hating that she had to ask.
But she did.
“No,” said Buffy quickly. “He wouldn’t- not any- no.”
It was the first sign of emotion in Buffy’s voice, and it sent relief surging through Dawn, followed quickly by disappointment regarding the original issue at hand.
How could Spike leave? He wasn’t supposed to do that; Spike didn’t leave unless he screwed up or died. It wasn’t right, especially since-
They had never made up. She’d never yelled at him for dying and not finding them; she’d never admitted she was happy he was there now; she’d never told him she’d forgive him if it meant they could be friends again. She’d been stuck in the first phase, the “you’re on my shit-list, but I’m going to block you out so thoroughly that you’ll be unable to tell if I care enough about you to even put you on my shit-list” phase.
She’d never indicated that she’d missed him at all.
She had always assumed there’d be time later. Which was silly, of course. Even if Spike hadn’t already died and left them, her whole life had taught her to know better; tomorrows and second chances were never guaranteed.
Her stomach clenched into painful knots.
What if they never made up?
“Did he say anything about when he would come back?” she blurted, suddenly desperate.
“No. I don’t think he intended to come back,” said Buffy, far too nonchalantly. “Which doesn’t mean he won’t.”
“Yeah.” Dawn swallowed. Why was Buffy acting like this wasn’t a big deal? “But I still can’t believe that he left in the first place.”
“He said it was too “painful” to be around me.” Buffy dropped her hands after doing the air quotes and shrugged again. “So he left.”
There was a strange tilt to her lips that looked like it was trying to be a careless, amused smile, but Dawn didn’t think there was anything funny about the situation.
She knew she was supposed to automatically be on her sister’s side, that she should probably be righteously angry, but unexpectedly, her heart went out to Spike; she could kind of understand his point of view. If Xander broke up with her, she didn’t know how long she could keep being his friend and pretending everything was all right.
“I’m sorry,” she said, because she was, and because she didn’t know what else to say.
“It’s fine,” said Buffy, still with that strange, not-a-smile. “Really. It’s not like we were a couple.”
* * *
“Do you know what Spike’s been up to lately? When I texted him, he’d only say that something came up. Eventually he stopped responding, and when I called, I just got his voicemail.”
Buffy took a long sip of her latte to stall while she formulated an answer. She should have had one already, given that the second Dowling called and invited her to coffee, she’d known this question would come up, but she’d foolishly hoped to avoid the subject; the first twenty minutes had been Spike-free, at least.
“I don’t know the details either,” she said, which was not exactly untrue. She didn’t know any specifics about what he was up to now. Several times over the past two weeks she’d considered calling but had ultimately refrained, not wanting to seem needy; but if he wasn’t answering at all, maybe she could just call and hear the sound of his voice on his inbox message…
Fear kindled in her, unexpectedly. He was all right, right? His radio silence was just part of his hissy fit, not a sign that he was…
“Something just came up,” said Buffy quickly, before that awful thought could go anywhere. “I think an old friend needed his help.” They were in total bullshit territory now, but who cared? She wasn’t about to tell Dowling about her infallible ability to drive men away.
“Oh.” Irritatingly, Dowling looked glum. “That’s too bad. Have any idea when he’ll be back?”
Buffy felt her lips thin. “No.”
“Shame. I was hoping he’d consult for the SFPD. We need people who know how to deal with the zompires.”
Buffy had barely raised her eyebrows pointedly when he added quickly, “That was the other reason I wanted to meet today. Would you be interested in consulting for us? It wouldn’t be a full-time job, and there are no benefits, unfortunately, but it’s a stepping stone if you wanted-”
“Thank you, but I already have a job,” said Buffy. “An old friend- another slayer- has started up a bodyguard service, and I’m going to work with her.”
“Oh.” Dowling seemed to sag slightly in his chair. Buffy couldn’t help feeling touched and a bit pleased by his obvious disappointment made; someone wanted her around.
“You should have asked me sooner,” she said lightly, trying not to sound reproving.
“I figured you needed some time off after -” He waved his hand, face scrunching up; coming from anyone else, his reaction might have seemed dismissive, but Buffy saw the regret in his eyes and knew he just wasn’t sure how to react sensitively- would he make her more comfortable by addressing the robot issue head-on or by only talking about it on her own terms? He was a bit awkward and clumsy, Dowling, but his heart was in the right place. With a feeling of warmth, she remembered his repeated, vehement offers to arrest Andrew for kidnapping and “I know it’s metaphorical, but there has to be some way we can charge him for rape.”
“And I needed to make sure there was money in our budget for consultants. Lot of hoops to jump through. I didn’t want to offer you anything until I was sure I could follow through.”
“Well, I really appreciate it,” said Buffy. On impulse she reached out and gave his hand a little squeeze. He smiled at her.
“And if you need help, I’m here,” she said. “I’ll still be slaying, even if I don’t do it with the SFPD. Call me anytime. Seriously,” she added, in case he assumed that was a nicety. “If you run into something big and nasty and murderous at four in the morning, call me.”
“I will,” said Dowling. “Thank you.” He squeezed her hand back.
* * *
“This guy, okay, you won’t believe this: he has a solid gold pen.”
“I mean, the casing is solid gold, obviously the ink isn’t-”
“No, I get it, I get it. But I mean a gold pen- geez, why would anyone need that?”
“I know, right? Okay, so he has this pen, and he chews on it-”
“Chews on it?”
“Yeah, like he’s ten. Except he’s fifty. And he’s really paranoid- Exhibit A.” Buffy swooped a hand down her torso. “He definitely doesn’t need a slayer bodyguard, but whatever, I’ll take his money. So one day he’s sitting in his office chewing his stupid solid gold pen, and he hears a gunshot on television from the other room, and he bites down so hard in panic that he breaks his tooth.”
“He breaks his tooth?”
“On his solid gold pen. Yup.” Buffy grinned as Dowling doubled over, wheezing, forehead almost touching the Formica tabletop of the 24-hour diner they patronized some nights after patrolling.
“And what do you think he did then?” She took the last bite of her French toast and waggled her eyebrows.
Dowling looked confused for half a second, and then his eyes widened comically. “He didn’t!”
“He did. He got a solid gold filling!”
This time Dowling groaned instead of guffawed. “Good grief. Wealth is wasted on the wealthy. What kind of moron-”
“Does he know that there are starving children in Africa?”
“And it’s weird, because he’s actually so nice! Polite and grateful and really generous. Just zero common sense.”
“Guess he can pay other people to do the common sense thinking for him,” said Dowling. “Don’t know whether that story makes me want to laugh or cry…”
“Well, you did laugh,” said Buffy.
“Point. I’ll just cry when I go home and have to use all my normal, plastic pens…”
“At least you have normal teeth.”
“Damn straight! They’re not plastic yet!”
Buffy chuckled and wiped her mouth with her napkin.
“You ready to go?” asked Dowling.
“That eager to be rid of me? Sorry I ate so slowly.”
“No! I didn’t mean-” He looked so genuinely worried that Buffy smiled to show she was teasing.
“Just thinking of the alarm waking me in four hours,” he said apologetically.
“You know you don’t have to patrol with me. I don’t want you skipping sleep.”
“Because you’ve never done that before.” He glanced down and then up again, almost shyly. “I like helping. Spending time with you.”
“Oh.” The word came out automatically, on an exhale; Buffy felt her cheeks warm.
Dowling looked away and signaled the waitress. As Buffy got out her wallet, she saw Dowling hesitate. He didn’t say anything, though, as she put down her portion of the bill.
As they got up and left the diner, the waitress gave them a cheery good-bye wave; they were turning into regulars.
“How’re Dawn and Xander?” asked Dowling as they walked slowly down the street.
“They’re fine,” said Buffy. “Blissful as always.”
“Good.” There was a short pause, and then Dowling said, slowly, “Heard from Spike? Is he coming back soon?”
Buffy felt her humor fade, as fast and completely as though it were a garment that could be stripped off.
“I don’t know. Haven’t heard from him.”
He’d stopped sounding disappointed, Buffy noted. In fact, did he sound…pleased? Kind of hard to tell with only one syllable.
Whatever. Didn’t matter. Spike’s absence didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that he would have liked her work stories, too; she could practically hear his laughter ringing in her ears, hearty and unabashed and warm-
She shook herself. Dowling looked at her.
They were silent for a minute as they crossed another block.
“Do you have any plans for tomorrow?” he asked.
“Just work. Gold-guy is throwing a big gala tomorrow night, and I’m plainclothesmen security.
“Means I get to hide knives under a slinky dress.”
Buffy didn’t turn her head, but she was almost positive, from her peripheral vision, that he was blushing.
“What about the night after that?”
Buffy waited a beat before saying, “Nothing, as far as I know.”
“Do you want to go out?”
Her stomach tingled with memories of wings; there could be butterflies soon. Buffy bit her lip and decided to be obtuse. “Patrolling? Sure-”
“No.” Dowling stopped walking and faced her. Buffy halted, her heartbeat quickening.
“Officer Dowling, are you asking me out on a date?” she said, softly.
“Robert,” he said. “And yes. Dinner and a movie?”
A smile stretched Buffy’s face, before she could stop it. Dinner and a movie-
-sounded fun. And Dowling- Robert- was-
-a really good friend who laughed at her stories and happened to be a well rounded, functioning adult. Not the best demon fighter, maybe, but he was trying. Plus-
he wasn’t here.
-he was cute. She’d always liked brunets.
“Yes,” she said, still smiling. “That sounds really nice.”
Robert looked positively elated, which only made him more endearing; she liked guys that didn’t hide their emotions.
“Great! I’ll look up what’s playing and call you? Do you like Italian?”
“All right.” Robert puttered on the spot for a moment, looking pleased with himself, and then seemed to remember where they were. “Can I walk you home?”
Buffy smiled. “Sure.”
* * *
“Hey, Anaheed, will you cut the tags off this, please?”
“Sure.” Anaheed lowered the gas on the burner and abandoned her stir-fry to go to Buffy, grabbing the scissors out of a kitchen drawer on the way. In addition to nice jeans and leather boots, the blonde wore an expensive-looking, form-fitting green blouse that complemented her eyes.
Anaheed grinned. “Ooh, shower, make-up, and new clothes? Someone has a date.”
Buffy’s back was to her while she snipped off the price tag- definitely expensive; damn, that new bodyguard gig paid well- so she couldn’t see her roomie’s reaction, but Buffy sounded pleased as she admitted, “Yeah.”
From the couch, Tumble gave a low wolf whistle. “With Spike?”
In the split second before Anaheed let go of Buffy’s shoulder, she thought she felt the other woman tense.
“No,” said Buffy. Anaheed could practically hear her jaw clench.
Tumble, however, couldn’t. “Oh. What happened to Spike?”
“Spike and I weren’t dating!”
Tumble blinked. Buffy’s posture was rigid.
“Done!” said Anaheed brightly.
“Thanks.” Buffy looked quickly back at her in acknowledgment before storming back into her room.
Anaheed and Tumble looked at each other.
“Jeez,” said Tumble. “Could’ve fooled me.”
“Obviously,” said Anaheed.
* * *
“And they could have resolved everything so much faster if she just admitted how she felt-”
“Yeah, but then there would be no movie. Oh, rom-coms.” Robert gave a mock grown, his steps slowing to a halt as they reached Buffy’s apartment complex. “I’m sorry we didn’t get to the action movie in time. I didn’t realize how long it would take to walk to the theater from the restaurant.”
“It’s fine,” Buffy assured him, smiling. “I like a silly rom-com once in a while. I get enough real action in my life already.”
“True,” muttered Robert.
“I enjoyed it,” continued Buffy. Then again, more quietly, “I enjoyed it.”
She held his gaze. He smiled, soft and boy-like.
“Me, too. That means we do it again sometime?”
“Yes,” said Buffy. “I think so.”
His eyes traveled to the front door behind her, and Buffy felt herself blush. Now what? Did she want…?
No, not yet. It had been a good first date, but things could still go wrong. Better to wait a few more times and make sure she really wanted him-
“So I’ll see you on patrol?”
If he was disappointed, he hid it well. “Definitely.”
“Good.” Buffy hesitated, uncertain what else to say. It had been so long since she’d been on a proper, normal first date, and her date with Robin hadn’t even gotten this far. She shouldn’t ask him to come patrolling with her tonight, right?
She stared at him, realized he was staring at her lips, and felt a jolt in the pit of her stomach. Were those the anticipated butterflies? They didn’t feel like the kind she was used to, not the kind she felt whenever-
No, she was not thinking of him, because he was not here and Robert was, and that was what mattered.
He looked at her, eyes asking permission, and she nodded, ever so slightly. Robert leaned forward.
He tasted like wine instead of whiskey and smelled of aftershave instead of cigarettes, and she froze, unsure that one was really better than the other.
He pulled back slightly. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” said Buffy, and kissed him anyway.
* * *
“Thanks for having us,” hollered Dowling, for what felt like the tenth time in as many minutes, as he and Buffy walked backward, awkwardly, down the hall.
“Yeah! Bye!” called Buffy. She whispered something in Dowling’s ear, giggled, and then waved, grinning madly at them.
Shouldn’t have given her that third glass of wine, thought Dawn.
“Great to see ya!” yelled Dowling.
“Yeah!” yelled Xander, so close to Dawn’s ear that she winced and smacked him. “You, too!”
The elevator arrived, and Buffy and Dowling finally disappeared into it, the doors closing on Buffy’s continued, frantic waving. The cheesy smile dropped from Xander’s face. With an aggravated sigh he turned back to the living room.
“It wasn’t that bad,” said Dawn automatically. “He’s nice.”
Xander made a face. “Yeah, all right. He’s not bad alone. But they were acting so…”
“Gooey,” piped up Andrew, who still sat at the dish-laden table. He’d only been invited because Buffy thought Dowling might be intimidated by a double date with her sister and best friend and because Anaheed and Tumble were both busy. Plus, he was good for slave labor clean-up.
Xander grimaced. “Exactly. Buffy wasn’t very Buffy-like.”
“Agreed,” said Andrew sagely. “Kind of like a real BuffyBot, one with a fake brain, too- I didn’t do anything!” He cringed under Dawn and Xander’s identical ferocious glares.
“This time,” muttered Xander.
Dawn pointed at Andrew. “Dishes.”
Andrew pouted but grabbed a pile of dishes and slouched over to the sink without complaining.
“It’s a new boyfriend. She’s allowed to be cheesy and silly and scary,” reasoned Dawn. “I’m glad…” She paused, not quite able to fit Dowling into the sentiment. “That she’s happy.”
“Me, too,” said Xander quickly. “Just, I dunno. It’s weird to see her with a boyfriend.”
Dawn felt her eyebrows rise, but she didn’t say anything.
“You mean, it’s weird to see her with someone who’s not Spike,” said Andrew, his nonchalant voice clearly audible even over the running water.
Xander coughed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Spike’s not here,” said Dawn firmly, ignoring the twinge in her chest that accompanied the words. “And Dowling is, and I think he could be good for her. He’s nice. He’s…” He was brave right? Sure, he’d almost wet his pants when facing the zompires, according to Xander, but he’d still fought them in the end. “He helps her slay!” Cause Spike never did that…
“He has a good job,” she said quickly. “He’s mature.”
“He’s human,” said Xander.
“And cute. Sort of.”
“He looks like Angel,” said Andrew.
A moment passed.
“Oh God,” said Xander.
Dawn fought back a wave of nausea.
“I miss Spike,” said Andrew, oblivious. “I really thought they could make it work.”
* * *
“Mmm. That was nice.” Robert’s lazy whisper tickled the skin below Buffy’s ear. She stirred restlessly, hot beneath the sheets and from his body next to her. Belatedly, she gave a soft, “hmm.”
It had been nice: gentle, steady, and affectionate. It had satisfied.
It hadn’t sated.
That was only because it was their first time, though. Of course a spark would be missing when everything was still so new; they had to explore and learn each other’s bodies before they could start making fireworks.
She shifted to her side and kissed his collarbone, slipping one hand beneath the sheet and tracing the skin below his navel at the same time.
“So nice that you wanna do it again?”
“Yes.” He sounded as taken aback as he did enthusiastic.
Buffy leaned up and captured his mouth, her hand moving lower…
Robert broke the kiss, expression regretful. “I’m gonna need some time, though.”
“Oh. Right.” Buffy whipped her hand away, feeling foolish, like a child scolded to be patient. She tried not to sound surprised. “Of course.”
She laid her head back on the pillow and discreetly ruffled the sheets to give herself a bit of air. She couldn’t suppress an inward sign.
When she’d been thinking of normal, she’d forgotten to account for the refractory period.
* * *
Buffy hit the wall hard and slid to the grimy, cigarette-butt-strewn ground. Pain flared through her spine, but she was up in am instant, dodging the demon barreling toward her. It was the demon’s turn to hit the wall, but unlike Buffy, it didn’t have time to recover: she shoved her stake into its furry back as hard as she could.
The demon roared in pain, body arching. Buffy yanked her stake out and used the demon’s off-balance kilter to flip it around. This time stake met heart; there were no special dusty effects, but the result was the same: one dead demon and yet another trip to the dry cleaners in her future.
Buffy had just sagged against the wall next to the corpse, relishing her chance to finally catch her breath, when Robert appeared, half-running, half-limping down the alley.
“Buffy!” He had his arms around her the second he reached her, and even through their shirts, Buffy could feel his heart’s frantic beating.
“Oh, thank God, you’re okay! Don’t ever do that again!”
Buffy had been all ready to bury her head in his shoulder for a good long minute, but instead she straightened and pulled back.
“Don’t do what again? Kill a demon that was trying to kidnap a woman? Sure, I’ll just let it go next time.” She was going for playful, but even she could hear the annoyed edge to her sarcasm.
“You know what I mean! Don’t leave me next time. You could have been killed going after it by yourself.”
“I didn’t know if you were going to be able to come with me,” snapped Buffy. She recalled her last sight of him before she’d raced after the demon; he’d been doubled up and wheezing on the ground. “You looked like you’d broken a rib."
“I think I did break a rib.”
“Well, then, no offense, but I probably could have been killed even more easily if I’d been trying to protect you at the same time!”
Robert was silent just long enough that Buffy was beginning to regret her words when he said stiffly, “I wouldn’t have needed you to protect me. I can handle myself.”
Buffy tried not to sigh. “And I can handle myself. I’ve killed a demon by myself once or twice in my life before, you know.” She tried to smile to soften the retort, but her face didn’t seem to want to cooperate. Her cheeks felt strained, her jaw tight. She was just tired all over. A hot shower and a warm bed were what she needed, not an argument in an alley.
“You’re missing the point,” said Robert. “You don’t leave your partner. You don’t go haring off by yourself.”
Buffy felt her teeth clench. Haring? She forced her voice to remain calm. “I don’t work for you. This isn’t official.”
“I know,” said Robert, in a way that indicated he was less than pleased by that fact. “But it’s the principle of the matter. You don’t leave your partner.”
Buffy looked at his stubborn, scowl-y expression, torn between telling him where he could shove his principles and mollifying him so they could just go home.
“Sorry,” she said, as dispassionately as she could while still sounding sincere. “Guess I’m just not used to working with a partner.”
It was not exactly a patent lie; it wasn’t like Spike had stuck around long enough for them to really become partners. But if he were here, he wouldn’t be scolding her. He’d be annoyed at her for running off, sure, but it would only be because he was worried about her, and he would drop the matter quickly and understand that it was more important to kill the demon than coddle his manly pride, and he’d congratulate her and pretend like he wasn’t eying her protectively the rest of the night, and she’d pretend not to notice when really, it made her feel hot and pleased inside.
She could almost hear him: Couldn’t have waited for me, Slayer? That thing’s twice as big as you are! Which, granted, most things are…Well, you got it, s’what matters. Good on you. Nasty bugger. What say we toddle off and leave it for the bobbies to clean up?
Buffy snapped out of her reverie to find Robert staring at her. She realized that her cheeks were stretched wide in a grin. Judging by Robert’s confusion, a grin was not called for.
“Um, sorry, what were you saying?”
“I said we should go get the unit to come collect the corpse. And that I’ve never seen one of these in this part of town before.”
“Right,” said Buffy; apparently he had accepted her earlier apology and moved on. “Is a squad here?”
“They should be with the ambulance.”
“We should make sure she’s okay,” said Buffy, feeling a twinge of guilt that they hadn’t already checked on the woman the demon had been carrying away. Robert had called for backup the second they’d seen the demon, and she’d heard sirens during the fight, so the woman was presumably in good hands by now.
They crossed the street quickly to the opposite alley, which had flashing red and blue lights at the end of it and a lot of people milling around. Buffy pasted on a smile as they were swarmed by other police officers.
“It was a non-vampiric demon, species unknown,” Robert began as questions came at them from all sides. “It’s dead in the alley across the street. Buffy killed it…”
More than happy to let Robert handle his colleagues, Buffy stepped away from the throng to get a clear sight of the ambulances. Medics were closing the doors on one of them and preparing to leave, but none of them looked too grim.
She turned toward the sound of Robert’s voice. He was on the periphery of the crowd, now, and beckoning her.
“They want to examine us,” he explained as she came closer.
“I’m not injured.”
“It’s protocol,” said Robert as he turned to climb into the second ambulance. He faltered, though, and another police officer had to steady him. With a pang of guilt she remembered his rib.
“But I’m not with the department,” she said slowly, as images of hospital rooms and x-rays started to dawn on her. If Robert ended up having to go to the hospital, she would have to go, too; that was what good girlfriends did. Goodbye hot shower and cozy bed…
“You’re sure you’re okay?” asked an EMT. “It’s no problem to check you over.”
“I’m fine.” She tried to smile politely. The EMT didn’t look convinced but turned to the ambulance, where Robert and his colleague waited. Buffy stayed on the ground, loath to join what already seemed to be a pretty tight space.
“I think I cracked a rib,” Robert told the EMT.
“Why the hell weren’t you wearing your vest?” demanded the other officer.
“We don’t wear vests while patrolling.”
Buffy winced even before the other officer glared at her. She’d told Robert multiple times that he should wear the vest. Just because she didn’t want to borrow one- which was a perfectly safe and sensible choice to make seeing as how the extra weight threw her off-balance, and in the long run that would probably hurt her more than the vest would help, and her slaying powers made a vest somewhat redundant anyway, and she fought demons, not bullets, thank you very much- didn’t mean that he had to forgo one, too.
Stupid male egos.
“We’re going to need to go back to the hospital and do an x-ray,” said the EMT.
Robert sighed. “Great.” He looked at Buffy apologetically.
As she climbed into the ambulance and sat on a tiny part of the bench, next to the still scowling other officer, she tried to look gracious instead of annoyed. Sometimes you just had to suck it up and do things you didn’t want to for the people you cared about, even when they could have prevented the problem in the first place by just being more cautious; she was being a good girlfriend.
If Spike had broken a rib, they would have just gone home and set it.
No, that was unfair to Robert. He was only human; he couldn’t heal naturally fast like Spike.
She shouldn’t compare them, as partners or as- other things. They were apples and oranges, and besides, Spike hadn’t been her partner.
After all, partners don’t leave their partners, right?
* * *