Author's Note: Lyrics from Rogers & Hammerstein's The King & I, quotes and references are to the same movie.
Buffy came in through the back door carrying bags of groceries glad the day was almost over. She set the bags down followed by the car keys and fixed her hair as best as she could without a mirror.
"Hello," she called out. Dawn was spending the night at her friend Janice's but should have come home after school. Dawn rode to school with Buffy each morning, but Buffy's office hours went until five o'clock so Dawn went home by herself.
She took a pan out from a cupboard and filled it with marinade before setting a pair of steaks in the pan to steep until she cooked them in a couple of hours. She washed her hands and then walked to the living room, curious why neither Spike nor Dawn had responded to her.
She sighed softly when she saw Spike on the couch. He did not appear to be sleeping, but it was difficult to tell with vampires. No breathing and all. "Spike," she said softly not wanting to wake him if he was sleeping.
"I'm awake, pet. Did you have a good day?"
"Yeah. Nothing happened. So that is a good day in my book."
"Good," he said looking at her. "You look nice."
"Thanks." She smoothed her hands along her dress and smiled, glad he liked it. It was nothing fancy, just a simple green linen tank dress that fell about mid-thigh. She had a scarf tied in her hair that was the same shade green as the dress. She hated having to try and look grown up sometimes, but students did come to her office. She was in the high school as a make shift guidance counselor. Really, she was a big sister is what she was. Students came and talked, Buffy listened and occasionally offered advice. It was how the school board could justify her somewhat outrageous salary given she was a college dropout. She glanced at the TV when she heard singing and whistling. "What are you watching," she frowned. It looked old.
I whistle a happy tune
And ev'ry single time
The happiness in the tune
Convinces me that I'm not afraid
Make believe you're brave
And the trick will take you far
You may be as brave
As you make believe you are
"Hmm," he asked when the song had finished.
"What movie is this?"
"Oh," he said and looked almost embarrassed. "The King and I."
"Not much else on, pet. You didn't tell me you had your cable shut off."
"Well, it was either that or the computer. Dawn uses the Internet, so I gave her the choice."
"Well, I'm going to go to the cable company once the sun is down and pay your bill, get your box back."
"Spike you don't have to."
"If I'm going to stay here I'm going to contribute something."
"You don't have a job."
"I have been living for one hundred twenty two years, pet, I've accumulated some savings over the years."
"Oh, I didn't think. Then why did you live in the crypt?"
"Because I wanted to," he shrugged. "It seemed appropriate, needed to remind myself chip or no I was still a vampire, a creature of the night, the undead. I refused to become like Angelus and live among the masses in a right proper apartment with right proper furnishings."
"I'll pay you back."
"Don't even start. If I'm staying here then it's only right. I'm not going to freeload off you and give your friends anymore reason to disapprove of me with you." He stared at her for a moment, wide eyed. "And I can't believe I'm prattling on like a poof, but still. I'm doing it. No more arguments. You show me the bills and I'll give you half as long as I stay here. And I'll pay the cable bill. I'm the one up at night, I need cable."
She laughed at that. "All right. Did Dawn come home?"
"Yeah and left already. So I guess it's just me and you."
"I knew that it was going to be. I bought us steaks for dinner."
"You are cooking me dinner?"
"Yeah, I've improved since you left."
"Really. Over four months of not leaving the house other than patrolling I was left with time on my hands. I taught myself to cook."
"Good for you," he said.
Buffy searched his words for any flippancy or sarcasm but detected none. "Thanks," she said with a sense of pride. "In fact I've thought if I ever get back to college of going into that. It's something I could do and still be the Slayer. Be a cook or a chef."
"Sure," he said with a bob of his head that was a semblance of a nod. She followed his gaze and saw he was watching the movie and sat on the floor by the foot of the couch. "You could have told me to move, pet. No need to sit on the floor."
"It's okay. So you actually like this movie," she asked taking in the grand costumes of the English school teacher, her son and the court people of whoever the king was.
"I saw him perform the role in person."
"Sure. It's a bit of flavor from my time. I was born about the time this was going on."
"So this is true?"
"Well, it's a fictional account of the truth, but the general events happened. There's some debate about how much influence she truly had and even who she really was, but overall it's a good movie."
Buffy watched as Anna stormed up to the king without having been given time to meet with him. Apparently that was a no-no. The king being gifted with a woman was distasteful. And Spike was born when stuff like this actually happened? "Where is this?"
"Siam. Now Thailand."
"Does she ever get her house?"
"You'll have to watch and see."
"You're going to make me watch this instead of telling me the answer?"
He smirked then, his blue eyes glancing from the television to her and nodded his head. "Yes."
"And what's with all the groveling passed off as bowing?"
"Just watch, Slayer."
She pouted, something that generally worked for her when she wanted her way. He just shook his head, his eyes on the television but he had apparently seen her from the corner of his eye. "Won't work, Slayer. Do you have better plans then?"
"No," she muttered.
"What was that," he queried, his scarred eyebrow arched up in accent.
"You heard me," she grumbled and he laughed lightly. "How many wives does he need," she quipped.
"A man after my own heart," Spike shot back.
"I'm kidding, Slayer. I'm a one woman man, that should be fairly evident."
"Oh, adorable children," she said as the princes and princesses walked in to greet the teacher who had not yet decided to stay for certain.
"Yeah, they are kind of cute aren't they," Spike remarked with a slight nod of his head.
"But how does he have time to rule the country? My god, to make that many children, he can't hardly do much of anything but have sex."
Spike chuckled lightly. "Slayer?"
"Shut up and watch the movie already. You're going to drive me bleedin' crazy with the commentary."
"But you've already seen it!"
"And I want you to see it. So just be quiet and watch."
"Oh all right," she mumbled, forcing herself to concentrate on the TV.
Every day month after week there's something about house, said the king in response to the children singing a song about home.
Buffy could not help but laugh at the school teacher's persistence. Though the scene from father to son, king to prince that followed was touching and tugged at Buffy's heartstrings. A father, a king, having to admit to his son that he does not in fact know everything.
"Does she ever leave?"
"What," he asked.
"I can't imagine teaching those kids and then leaving them."
"I'm sure you couldn't. You'd get attached to them. You even slay different than other slayers."
"How so," she asked as Anna and the children sang about Getting To Know You.
"You feel," he said, turning onto his side to look at her. Finally, she had his attention over the TV. "You were willing to make a deal with me to help defeat Angelus. No other Slayer would have contemplated it. You care. You care about those you are saving, whether it be an evil vampire who has been harnessed and neutered or a total stranger who a vamp is trying to feed off."
"Thanks," she said softly and smiled at him, returning her attention to the movie without his having to say anything about it.
"They're going to get caught," she said to herself when Tuptim met with her lover in the garden. Spike chuckled. "What?"
"Nothin'," he said quietly. He patted the edge of the couch and she slid toward him but remained seated on the floor. His hand found her hair and he started to run his fingers through it.
"Feels nice," she murmured. "Oh, she does get the house," Buffy exclaimed. "Too bad she had to help save his ass in order to get it." Spike was obviously amused because he laughed again. "What?"
"Nothin'," he repeated as he had earlier his hand still running through her hair.
They watched the rest of the movie in silence. Buffy could not help but cry at the end and felt a gentle hand against her cheek brushing the tears away. "Never knew you cried at movies, Slayer," he said his voice hoarse.
"I," she said softly and shook her head. "I have dinner to fix."
"Oh come on, Slayer, you're not embarrassed are you?"
"No," she demanded. She most certainly was not embarrassed about having a heart.
"That's good because there's nothing wrong with it." She felt his eyes on her as she stood and stretched a little from having sat on the floor for close to two hours. "Need any help?"
"No, but you could keep me company if you want. I was planning on cooking your steak rare, but I have blood if you want that now."
"I'll just watch you work, Slayer. I've never witnessed you cooking a full blown meal before."
"Oh hush," she grimaced as she entered the kitchen. She poured herself a glass of water and set it on the island. "If you hadn't had Dru would you have been the type to have a different woman for every day of the week?"
"Oh yeah, pet, you saw just what I was like when Drusilla left me. I went and chained myself to that ditz Harmony. And then you."
"Not what I meant."
"I know," she said with a light laugh. "So you wouldn't have? I mean one hundred twenty years ago had she turned you and just left you."
"No, I don't think I have that in me. I just don't. Guess some of the poof is left in me after all."
"I like it. I don't think I ever would have gotten involved with you if you had been that way."
"Don't like the idea of being one of many notches, eh?"
"No," she admitted. "But neither do you, so don't tease me about it."
"You looked beautiful, you know."
"That Halloween years ago, dressed as a lady. I remember it and you looked beautiful like that."
"Angel never said anything. He just asked me why I did it."
"Why did you do it?"
She smiled wryly. "Well, Willow and I snuck a Watcher's diary out of the library about Angel and it had a drawing of one of the women he had been known to associate with or something. I just thought he'd like it, a woman from his time."
"Drusilla likes to wear period dresses. Sometimes she would drive me nuts with her insistence on it. Like we don't stand out enough never going out during the day and all. Let's dress up like the Victorian version of American Gothic."
Buffy frowned at his choice in words, using the present tense when he spoke of Drusilla. "If she came back would you go back to her," she asked surprised at the pain that ripped through her at the thought of it. She actually felt weak in the knees as she envisioned his dark princess coming back for him and Buffy being left with nothing but memories of how poorly she had treated him.
"You talked about her as if you were still with her. Like you don't stand out, not didn't."
"I meant all vampires in general standing out and those who do things that draw attention to us, pet. But to answer your question, no. I lived in darkness for far too long, I like the light. Remember I was willing to kill her for you a while ago?"
"Good and I remember," she said softly, her eyes met his. "It's hard for me sometimes. With Angel, Darla had left him so long ago I never really worried about it."
"I know, pet. It's hard for me, too. Not so much Captain Cardboard, being that he's got a wife and all now. Though if he had half a brain he'd dump her and come back to you and apologize profusely. But Angelus," he shrugged, taking a sip of water from her glass. "I worried every day that he would come back for you asking for help with the kid or whatever while I was away. And because of what happened you would go back to him, subject yourself to a life of forced celibacy because of me."
"I would have done it, you know," she said softly. "Years ago. I wouldn't do it anymore."
"No. And it's not even because of the sex, or lack of it. And it's not what Angel left for either."
"Left for," Spike asked.
"He left so I could have a normal life. Live and love amongst the humans, get married and have children, grow old with my grandchildren by my side, go to the beach and have picnics in the sunlight with my husband, and so that he would not have to watch me die."
"Oh," Spike said simply, taking another sip of water. "And you don't think those were all good reasons?"
"Not really, no. Those choices, with the exception of the last one, should have been mine to make. If he wanted to leave me because he didn't want to watch me die then that's fine, but otherwise those should have been my decisions or at least made jointly."
"True. So, why wouldn't you do it anymore?"
"Because you taught me that it's not really a soul that makes a man who and what he is. I don't want Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
"He was that, wasn't he?"
"Yeah. Why haven't we ever talked like this before now? I mean, what were we doing since you've had your chip that we couldn't just talk about things like this?"
"I don't know. But we are talking like this now, no sense worrying about the past, luv, it's over and done with. Look to the future not to the past." He stood from the stool he had been sitting on and walked behind her. He kissed the back of her head lightly. "I'm going to go shower and change. Since you're cooking us a nice dinner and all I should come to the table in something I haven't slept in."
"You can sleep upstairs when we're not here you know."
"I know I like having the tele on."
"Right, don't want to miss Passions."
"Something like that," he called as he left the room leaving Buffy to tend to dinner.
Dinner had gone well. Spike could tell that Buffy felt a little strange being just the two of them sitting at the table. It had a very couple feel to it and he hoped it did not cause her to pull away and rethink things. He needed her right now, even if she did not know he did. He had helped her wash the dishes and she had heated up a cup of blood for him once the cleanup had been finished.
He was sitting on the couch watching some gibberish on the TV thanks to the recently turned on cable. He was relieved not to have to spend another night watching network television. He looked up, surprised to see her dressed for going out rather than for bed. "Where in the hell do you think you're going?"
"Patrolling," she said, pulling her hair out from her collar looking at him as if he had grown a second head.
"Slayer, you just got home from the hospital yesterday. You were in a coma!" He still was not sure if he believed her story, but even if the coma had not been injury induced he did not want her going out patrolling.
"And I'm fine. Slayer healing and everything even though I keep telling you there was nothing wrong with me." She pouted then and had he not been so worried about losing her it might have worked.
"Come on now, we have the house to ourselves, spend the evening with me here on the couch. I went out and got the cable turned back on and everything."
"I've been living without it for months, Spike."
"Well, exactly, that's why you should stay here and celebrate having it back."
"Spike, I'm the Slayer, I have to go patrol."
"I'm coming with you then."
"I was hoping you would," she said, surprising Spike.
"Yeah. I like when you patrol with me. We fight well together and when we have nothing to fight I'm not alone."
"Oh," he said dejectedly, hoping there had been more to it than that.
"What's with the frowny face?"
"Nothing," he said as he stood and shrugged into the coat he now wore in place of the old leather duster he used to wear before. Before. Just before.
"I like when it's you I'm not alone with. Is that better?"
"Yeah," he said, feeling like the biggest pansy around but he could not stop the smile from crawling to his lips.
"Okay then. Listen Spike," she said, pausing at the front door. "I'm sorry if some of the things I say sound like a convenience thing, but I don't hope that Xander or Willow or Giles are going to join me patrolling. Just you. I even hated when Riley came with me."
"I know," he said, noticing Angel was not included in her list of those she did not hope to join her. That was in the past. Over three years in the past he tried to remind himself. It did not mean he liked it though.
"And Angel was different," she said as if reading his mind. His head snapped up to look at her and he saw knowing and empathy in her eyes.
"I know," he said with a slight nod. "I know, pet. It just bothers me is all. He was your first everything, hard to compete with that."
She let go of the door handle and touched his face, bestowing him with a gentle kiss. Had his eyes been closed the gesture could have been mistaken for a brush of a feather instead of her lips. "And you are my last. I haven't been with anyone since you, Spike, and don't plan to."
"Alright," he whispered.
"Then that's settled. Let Angel be jealous of us not the other way around. You are a good man, you don't need a soul to guide you. You don't need a soul to stop you from slaughtering people."
"The chip," he said with a shrug.
"And if you could get the chip out tomorrow, what would you do?"
He closed his eyes and shook his head. God, he wished soul or not he could say that he would go right back to being what he had been three years ago, the Big Bad, worthy of the name Spike. "Keep going on being the complete poof that I am. I'd follow you to hell and back, slay demons to keep you safe, protect niblet from heartbreak, love you."
"Maybe the Powers That Be saw something in you and just gave you the shove you needed to get to this point."
"Maybe," he said with a slight nod liking the sound of that. "Well, shit, wish we could have had this heart to heart before I went off to Africa and suffered those trials to get my bloody soul back." He realized what it was he had just said and stepped away. "Fuck," he muttered.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com