A Touch of Her Style 14: Undefined Things

A Touch of Her Style

Do you think it’s a trap?

Chapter 14: Undefined Things

Joyce admitted Willow into the house shortly after breakfast. She frowned at the textbooks in the girl’s arms. “Am I supposed to believe you girls will actually be studying?”

“Well, yeah. We kinda have to. Finals week starts tomorrow.”

“But with everything going on…”

“We still have finals tomorrow,” Willow said emphatically. “Mrs. Summers, Buffy’s not going to let the world end. It’s going to keep going. And our teachers don’t exactly know or care that one of their students is the reason why.” She smiled. “Well, our history teacher does. But the rest? Not so much.”

“I like the idea of Buffy working her slaying around her schoolwork, but even I didn’t expect her to be studying today.” Joyce turned toward the stairs. “Buffy! You have company!”

Buffy came charging down the stairs a moment later. “Kendra? …Oh. Hi, Will.”

“Giles said to tell you he’d call when Kendra’s plane landed.” Willow lifted her books in offer. “Last chance for a cram session before the apocalypse.”

Buffy gave the books a sidelong look. “Are we sure the world hasn’t already been sucked into hell?” After a moment of hesitation, she lifted her friend’s burdens from her hands. “Fine. Dining room?”

Joyce shook her head as the girls moved in that direction, unsure how to respond to their casual treatment of the danger they’d be facing at nightfall.

*~*~*

Buffy peeked through a window to make sure her mother wasn’t coming back inside anytime soon. “Have I ever mentioned that I like the weeds that try to take over her flowerbed?”

Willow laughed and pushed aside the textbook she’d been reading. “I take it that means we’re all clear?”

“For a few minutes, anyway.” Buffy dropped back into a dining chair across from her friend. “You’ve been wearing Something To Say face since you came in the door.”

“Well, yeah! Buffy, this thing with you and Spike…”

“Isn’t a thing.”

“And I’m a tall, blonde supermodel with forty pairs of shoes.”

Buffy raised an eyebrow.

“Ok, twenty. But they aren’t expensive shoes.” Willow waved that away. “You know what I’m saying. I don’t think… what happened yesterday… You made it sound like it was just one of those things. Like in the movies, when a guy picks up a girl at a bar, they spend the night together, and then they never see each other again. But you are seeing each other again. And you’re trading these looks across the research table. And you’re assigning Kendra to back him up, like you’re worried about him or something. And you’re yelling at each other about your exes… Buffy, that wasn’t a one-morning-stand.”

“I told you I was kind of hoping it wouldn’t be.”

Willow’s voice dropped to a whisper, “You also made it sound like it was about sex.

“It’s not a dirty word, Will.”

“It’s also not the point.” Willow leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. “Is it?”

Buffy’s eyes drifted away from her friend’s, skimming over the textbooks and notes scattered across the dining table. “I don’t know.”

“Well, I do. I think it’s a thing.”

“With someone I hate?”

“With someone you wish you hated.”

Buffy’s expression shifted into one of defiance. “Will, I am not getting into a thing with another vampire. You do remember why the world might be ending before finals, right?”

“And you do remember that I didn’t have to do any big, scary spells to make this one want to show up to our meeting to help plan to stop it, right?” Willow countered.

“Since when did you start playing dirty?”

“Right about the time you started lying to yourself, and Spike started pacing around the bookshelves after you walked out on him last night. He worries about you, too. And I don’t think it’s just because he’s hoping for another fun morning.”

“Oh.” Buffy quirked her mouth to the side and looked around at the books again. “So you’re saying…? That maybe…?”

“I’m saying you should at least talk to him.” Willow’s expression softened. “Buffy, you aren’t fooling me, and I don’t think you’re fooling yourself, either. You aren’t the kind of girl who jumps into bed with someone she doesn’t care about.”

She gave her friend a weak smile. “How do you know? I mean, I could be, right? Or maybe he’s that type of guy?”

“So you have another explanation for him walking the floor when you went out on your own the night before we plan to take down Angel?”

The sound of the front door opening announced Joyce’s return from her yard work.

Buffy grabbed a notebook and pen and tried to look like she was taking notes. “Lying Jerkface,” she grumbled. “He said there didn’t have to be consequences.”

*~*~*

Buffy came to the kitchen doorway just as the sun was setting. She stood there for a long time, unsure what to say to the woman leaning against the counter with a drink in her hand. “Promise me you won’t go out of the house tonight,” she eventually whispered.

Joyce took a long look at her daughter. “Buffy… You’re grounded.”

“Mom…”

“Please.” Joyce pointed upstairs. “Just go to your room. Study for your finals, and come down for breakfast in the morning. I– I’ll make pancakes.” When there was no reaction to this command, she set down her glass. “Buffy, honey… I’m willing to beg.”

“I love you, too.” Without waiting for a response, Buffy walked across the kitchen, out the back door, and through the open gate of the back fence, not once looking back.

Joyce followed her as far as the porch, calling after her, “Be careful!” and feeling utterly helpless.

*~*~*

Buffy arrived at Robin’s place in time to see him crossing the driveway from the garage to the back of the house. He spotted her, and waited for her to come down the driveway to meet him at the base of the back porch steps.

“Hey. I just finished my warm up. Let me grab a bite to eat, and I’ll be ready to go.” He jerked a thumb toward the kitchen on the other side of the back porch. “Do you want anything?”

“No, thanks.” She looked him in the eye. “About what Spike said last night, about you being in this mess… Robin, I didn’t even know that was an issue.”

“He’s always been a little back and forth about it,” he explained. “Not just this. Ever since I talked him into training me when I was a kid. He likes that I can fight, but he’s never been too happy that I’m so willing to do it.”

“It’s in the bloodline.”

“And he knows it. Still…” Robin shrugged. “He can get a little protective.”

Buffy maintained eye contact, still looking for an answer. “And why wasn’t this mentioned to me? I should have been told there’s a chance he might do something stupid to keep you safe.”

“Because there isn’t. Buffy, he’s not unreasonable.”

She snorted.

“He just has mixed feelings about people he cares about being in danger… Same as you.” Robin studied her for a moment. “Which is why he paced the stacks for twenty minutes after you left last night, trying to decide if he should follow you.”

“If he had, I probably would have kicked his ass into next Tuesday.”

“Which is why he didn’t. But Buffy, the last time he didn’t chase down an angry slayer…”

She shifted her weight, looking uncomfortable. “Yeah…”

“I know it’s none of my business, but if there’s any way you could maybe not put him in that position again…” Robin gave her a pleading look. “I’ll swear not to make you want to write me an X-rated essay on your final.”

That brought a small laugh. “Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Spike pisses me off pretty regularly, and patrol also falls into the category of ‘regular routine.’ I really can’t make any promises.”

He raised an eyebrow. “About that reincarnation theory, Buffy? Don’t push it. A full replay isn’t exactly the goal.”

“I’ll try. I can promise you that much. But while we’re on the subject of the possible contents of my history final, did Giles say anything to you last night, after I left?”

“He asked. I played dumb. But I doubt he bought it. And paired with Spike’s pacing and cussing upstairs…”

“He’s probably going to corner me about it the first chance he gets. Fabulous.” Her smile shifted into something more rueful. “Fortunately, when he called this afternoon, my mom was in the room with me and Kendra was in the room with him, so that chance hasn’t come yet. I get to wait on yet another shoe to drop on my head.”

“So Kendra arrived safely?” Robin looked relieved at the nod he received in reply. “Good. I’m just going throw together a sandwich, and then we’ll get moving, before they all think we’ve stood them up.” He gestured toward the garage. “Spike’s still out there, if you want a minute with him.”

“Why would you think…?”

He shook his head at her. “I know you didn’t detour all the way out here to chat with me.”

Instead of trying to come up with a reply, Buffy turned and went to the garage’s side door, where she listened to the sounds of the punching bag being knocked around for a minute before going inside. Spike didn’t look up at her arrival, but the punches slowed, somewhat quieting the noise of the bag’s chain being rattled. She took that as an invitation to speak. “Are you ready for this?”

“Have been for decades. You?”

“Yes.”

The punching came to a sudden stop as Spike looked up. He let the bag swing as he came toward her. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you sound sure about it.”

Her brief laugh was more ironic than mirthful. “Sounding like it is progress, right?”

“It’s something.” He grabbed her as soon as he could reach her, pulling her into a rough kiss that left her breathless. “Live through this, alright?”

“What are you going to do if I don’t? Nag my corpse about tucking in my elbows?”

“I’ll sure as hell give your watcher a few words about it.”

The smile that comment brought faded quickly. “Spike, the reason I met you guys here… I wanted to say, while we were alone…” She bit her lip. “I know you’re not…”

He rested his forehead against hers. “And I know you’re not.”

“Not to say you aren’t a serious pain in the ass, of course. But I get it. I get that you’re still going to be standing beside me tonight. And maybe there don’t always have to be consequences. I mean, there could be, but not like… You know.”

Spike took a step back from her, wearing an expression of exaggerated surprise, complete with a hand held to his chest. “Did I just hear the slayer say she was listening? Proof she doesn’t live for the sound of her own voice?”

Buffy gritted her teeth. “Yes, asshole. You did. But if you’re going to gloat about it, there will be consequences, of the ‘I’m going to kill you’ variety.”

His laugh lasted only as long as it took for him to take her hand and pull her to the side of the garage that was covered in blue exercise mats. “Try it.”

She took off her jacket and tossed it onto the weight bench. “Glad to.”

Their sparring match lasted less than five minutes before it was interrupted by a knock on the side door. Robin opened it without waiting on a response. “Guys, we’ve got company. She says she has a message.” He opened the door wider and stepped back to reveal the vampire standing beside him.

Her fangs were bared, but she made no move to attack. In her hand, she held a corked bottle filled with a clear liquid. “The slayer and the wayward son?”

Spike approached the door, with Buffy only a step behind. “That’d be us,” he said.

The vampire pulled the cork from the bottle and drank the contents. “He wishes to speak to you. Now. Shady Hill Cemetery. Delay will only cause more deaths.” With an agonized scream, she began to burn from within, dropping the bottle before it could go up in smoke with her.

Buffy picked up the bottle. “What was that?

“Holy water would be my guess,” Robin said, brushing away the ashes that had landed on his clothes.

Spike touched one finger to the mouth of the bottle and immediately withdrew it. “Guessed right.” He shook his finger in the air to dull the pain of the small burn. “So Angelus knows where I’m staying and knows who’s currently visiting, even when the sun’s barely set? He’s good, I’ll give him that. Bastard always was a pro at stalking his prey.”

“And now we have to talk to him,” Buffy said, her eyes still on the bottle in her hand. “You heard what she said. He’ll kill more people if we don’t show up, and soon.” She stepped back into the garage to trade the bottle for her jacket. “Spike?”

“Something not right about this,” he murmured in response. “Which one is Shady Hill?”

Robin pointed toward the backyard. “The one about a mile south.”

“Opposite direction from the school, then?”

“Yeah. Do you think it’s a trap?”

“Dammit! Yes. He’s separating us from our back up.” Buffy sighed, returning to the doorway. “But if there are lives on the line, I have to go.”

“Already separated from them, Slayer. This is more distance, and at a time of his choosing. Don’t like it.” Spike went back into the garage and returned wearing his coat, shoving stakes into its pockets. “Rocket, head over to the school. The big git must not think you’re much of a threat, or he’d have accounted for you in this. Prove him wrong for me, will ya? Just in case?”

Robin nodded. “I’ll keep an eye on Giles and the kids. See you there?”

“Soon enough.” Spike led Buffy down the driveway, toward the old black car parked at the curb. “We’re driving.”

“Um, don’t you think telling Angel what your car looks like is a little dangerous?”

“Bastard already knows where to find Robin. That’s as dangerous as it gets.”

<Chapter 13: Uneven Terrain Chapter 15: Sideways Downpour>

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