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The Body – Chapter 9 – To Walk A Crooked Mile
~One Month Later~
Glancing at herself in the mirror, Buffy was fairly well pleased with what she saw. She had actual breasts and hips once more. Gone was the walking cadaver look she’d sported when she’d first awakened. She’d even passed the Calista Flockhart starving-for-Hollywood actress stage.
Her skin was flushed pink and sweaty from her heavy exercise session. No musical accompaniment… Spike would be ticked off if he knew she were pushing herself that hard again. But it was just a step routine, even if it did feel brutal on her newly re-developing muscles.
She had to watch it around Spike, even though all he wanted was the best for her. Her vampire taskmaster had worked hard with Lynette Marcus in developing her physical therapy routine. But, knowing Buffy, once Lynette had gone home, Spike had added to the routine by half again, understanding that she’d be pushing for more.
However, even Spike had underestimated her drive to return to pre-accident form, and in defiance she snuck in extra aerobic and cardio-vascular routines whenever he slept.
With the workout finished, she’d just run upstairs for a quick shower, and he’d never –
The sound of clapping from the staircase sent an eerie sense of uh-oh skittering along her nerves.
“Did you really think I was clueless, pet?” Spike drawled as he came down. “That I didn’t know you’ve been sneakin’ extra workouts when my back was turned?”
She tried for the innocent look. “Ummmm… sorry?”
He looked personally insulted, but she guessed she could understand why. In the past month, she’d put on about twelve pounds of soft, squishy flesh. Every time she turned around, Spike was trying to shovel plates full of fattening goodness at her. She just might have to gag him if she heard ‘eat hearty’ one more time. Random wicked Buffy thought: I just might gag him anyway! Bad Buffy!
Still, Spike insisted she needed to gain another twenty pounds. When they danced – so called now because to her, it wasn’t anywhere near enough to fighting to be called sparring or training – he’d constantly taunt her with ‘chicken bone’ jokes. Tell her she had to gain more weight so he’d have something to grab onto in a real tussle.
Though she wouldn’t admit it to anyone, she’d be happy if she could gain and maintain another ten, maybe fifteen pounds. Holding onto weight was never an easy thing for her. Slaying and her super-active metabolism used to consume far too many calories to be considered healthy, and her lousy eating habits hadn’t helped.
She flashed him a mischievous grin. The moment he’d reached the bottom of the staircase, she attempted to run past him, not in the mood for another overexertion lecture. Buffy was feeling more fit and motivated than she had in a long time and was determined to continue with doing things her own way. She’d listen to her own intuition and to hell with everyone else. Even, on occasion, Spike.
Spike’s arm flashed out as she attempted to pass, catching her around the hips. He grinned like he’d discovered buried treasure. “Slayer, I’m impressed! You’ve passed the chicken-butt mark and moved on to girl-butt.” He emphasized his observation with a pinch.
“Pig!” she tossed back at him, wiggling free and waggling her duly-noted girl-butt in his direction as she continued up the stairs. She managed not to giggle. Oh yes, lately there was fun to be found in the smallest things.
She knew she could count on the sight of her luscious bottom making its way up the stairs being enough to make Spike add to the calorie count in his head for tonight’s dinner, and to her delight, her joyous mood seemed to give him an inspired idea. “What would you say to a four cheese lasagna with lots of garlic bread tonight… and a phone call to the Platelet, askin’ her back home to stay?”
Buffy squealed with joy. Lately, even thrice daily phone calls weren’t enough to satisfy her craving for family. A quick “Yes!”, and she was off to the shower while the vampire began the preparations for dinner. They’d call Dawn soon, together. It seemed like all of her decisions were made jointly those days.
Strange, though. She didn’t feel diminished in the slightest. Leaning on anyone was a new experience for her – but leaning on Spike was a learning experience. At first, it was out of necessity. There were just some things she couldn’t do by herself. The last week or so, however, she could sense a change. He pulled back. Not away – never far from her – but just far enough that she was able to rely on her own strengths more and more. Each joint decision made her stronger and seemed to shore her up.
Oddly enough, she didn’t really miss her old friends or their opinions as much as she’d thought she would. She had never realized just how overpowering and judgmental they’d become until she had someone who was willing to actually listen to her.
Spike asked her how she felt, and listened to her answers. He helped her when she asked for it, usually backed off when she didn’t need it, and made a general pain in the ass of himself in-between. She’d miss him terribly if he just up and left.
For certain, he’d been her savior, then her biggest supporter, and finally her partner – an equal, if she had to be honest with herself. She’d begun to think of herself and Spike as a couple. The problem was… a couple of whats?
What exactly was Spike to her? Maybe – partners? That was such a limiting word, though. Father Confessor? She had to giggle at that thought… but it was true, all the same. They’d spent countless hours over the last month talking about her absent family and friends, disappointments, and heartaches. They’d mapped out exercise routines and discussed hopes for her total recovery.
She’d worked on her speech until Spike finally had to tell her to shut up, shocking them both at the time. Connecty speech-brain Buffy had officially returned in full force.
Trying the word family on for size… someone to count on no matter how bad things got? Well, that was closer… but it was a little wiggy when her Bad Buffy ™ side took over. She had some very non-family thoughts about the blond vampire. Something she really needed to stop having before…
Buffy turned on the shower full blast and stripped off her clothing, promising herself the laundry would soon get done. She could always sneak in another session while the machine’s noises hid hers. Armed with a plan, she stepped into the stall, hoping to cleanse her muddled mind as well as her stinky body.
Standing under the showerhead, Buffy raised her head and her arms to greet the spray, relishing the heat and pounding of the water. She lowered her head and moved forward, allowing the water to fall on her aching neck and back muscles.
Her bathgel was in easy reach. Buffy uncapped the container, inhaling her newest favorite: ginger/lily, and poured a dab on her puff sponge. As she began to wash herself, she thought about what Spike had shared with her – about all the things he’d bought over the months of her recuperation: candles, incense, body oils, shampoos, gels, and moisturizers – all designed to awaken the senses.
His sensual assault hadn’t stopped upon her revival, either. Meals were spicier and more flavorful than the fruity yogurts that used to make up her whole diet. Lots of peppers, onions, and hot sauces seasoned Spike’s creations. Who’d’ve thought the Big Bad would have turned out to be such an excellent cook?
Even more, the house was filled with flowers on a weekly basis. Bouquets of roses, lilacs, honeysuckle graced every room, making the place smell like a florist’s shop.
But best of all, Spike’s nightly massages were still just that side of heaven. If there was a heaven. Her arms, legs, neck and back were covered in fragrant oils and pounded and kneaded into submission. No knot dared remain in her entire body by the time he was done with her.
A long, throaty, drawn out moan snapped Buffy from her reverie. Quickly coming to her senses, she realized that moan had come from herself. Thinking about Spike and his strong fingers on her, molding her, massaging her, had apparently led to the unconscious kneading of her own breasts. She’d dropped the puff somewhere along the way, and was alternating between stroking the small globes of soapy flesh with her hands and the occasional rolling pinch to her engorged nipples with her fingers.
The more she tried to stop thinking about Spike, the more firmly entrenched pervy thoughts of the blond vampire became. The strength in his hands, the feel of his cool skin against her warmer flesh, the solid feel of his magnificent torso as she collapsed, exhausted, against him after a workout.
Without her permission, her hands took on a life of their own and began to travel southward, rubbing soapy circles over her belly and smooth thighs.
In a maneuver that proved she’d regained her vaunted Slayer flexibility, Buffy raised her right leg, slowly, resting her foot about head level on the wall. When she was sure her left leg was locked and stable, she let go of the handrail Spike had installed, reaching once more for the bathgel.
Quickly lathering her hands, Buffy slid her fingers down her belly, through her coarse curls, and gently ran her fingertips over her outer lips, using just enough pressure to set off a low tingle of pleasure in her abdomen. With each successive pass of her fingers, she applied more pressure, until her fingers parted her folds, sliding knuckle deep into her body’s slick opening.
Her right hand set a demanding rhythm, bringing wave upon wave of deep seated yearning her body had long been denied. With the pad of the middle finger on her left hand, she began rubbing small circles over her clit, ramping up her pleasure immeasurably.
Eyes closed, head thrown back, it only took a few more strokes before Buffy screamed her pleasure aloud. Grabbing onto the rail for support, she lowered her leg and sat down in the tub, allowing the water to wash away the evidence of her release from her hands and the suds off of her body. She was breathing quickly, and had to say… look out, world… Bad Buffy™ was fast becoming her new bestest friend.
As she slowly came back to herself, Spike burst into the bathroom.
“You all right, luv?” he asked, panic evident in his voice. “Heard you callin’ out for me.”
“No!” Buffy shrieked, holding onto the shower curtain in case he decided to pull it back. “I-I’m fine, Spike. Honest. Just got some soap in my eye and it stung. See?” she said, sticking her head out of the shower, hoping that would satisfy her would-be savior.
Yeah, right. She was flushed and breathing hard, and the aroma of her climax was hardly disguised by the hot water and soap, even to her nose. This could prove to be embarrassing. She prayed fervently that he’d have a little tact for a change.
“Beautiful you are, pet. Nice and squeaky clean,” was all he said. “Finish up with your hair and we’ll make the call to the Poof. See if we can get little Sis home this evening in time for dinner.”
Buffy waited until he’d closed the door behind him, then hopped out of the shower and locked the door. Her cheeks were still burning. She couldn’t believe she’d called out his name as she climaxed. Stupid vampire hearing! Thank God he hadn’t caught her in the middle –
Quickly washing and rinsing her hair, she turned off the rapidly cooling water and toweled herself dry. A quick peek out the door led to a towel-clad dash across the hall to her room. While it would have made sense to use her mother’s en-suite bathroom, Buffy still felt like an interloper amongst Joyce’s things. In her mind, she’d only been gone for a couple of months, not more than a year.
She dressed in a pair of grey sweatpants and a red ribbed baby-t. A fast session with the blow-dryer, and Buffy pulled her hair back into a ponytail. Using nothing but a little moisturizer on her face, she was ready to greet the world. Spike, anyway. After how he’d seen her, makeup seemed a little unnecessary..
How he’d seen her... How he saw her now. Spike had admitted his feelings for her over and over again, by word and deed, and Buffy was having a hard time refuting the evidence. She had to admit it, at least to herself: Spike loved Buffy. Unsouled Spike the vampire loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
How could she do that again? “Very easily,” shouted Bad Buffy™. “Just look at that gorgeous hunk of vampire. And we do remember that shower, don’t we?”
Oh, that was just so wrong! She was only twenty one years old and had already lived and lost what she’d thought of as the grand passion of her life… Angel. A souled vampire – until she screwed the soul right out of him. The thought of what could go wrong with an unsouled, chipped vampire should have scared the hell out of her. Yet…
Aargh! Too much thinking. Time to go downstairs, call Dawnie and help Spike with dinner.
Tara approached the house on Revello Drive with hope in her heart. She hadn’t called before, hoping she wouldn’t be turned away if she showed up without warning.
The estrangement between the Scoobies and Buffy was destroying them. Yes, it was their fault. Each and every one of Buffy’s friends was willing to kick the vampire who’d saved Buffy’s life and had uncompromising faith in her return, to the curb. The resulting animosity isolated both camps.
As she neared the door, Tara heard a bloodcurdling scream – a sound she’d never heard from Buffy in all the time she’d known her. She rang the bell, and beat on the door, hard – hoping to be heard above the racket coming from inside the house. Oh, God, what if the others were right about…
Buffy answered the door gasping for breath, blood dripping down her face from a massive wound on her head. Or so it looked at first glance.
The grin on the girl’s face belied the probability of such a wound, and when Tara took in a deep breath, she realized that it wasn’t blood trailing down Buffy’s cheeks, but – tomato sauce? Her eyes grew wide at the sight before her. “My Goddess, Buffy… you look amazing!”
“Girl looks damned fine even covered with most of dinner.” Spike appeared suddenly behind Buffy, wrapping his arms around her waist. “What can we do for you, little witch?”
Tara blushed. “W-would you mind inviting me in?”
Buffy wiggled out of Spike’s embrace, opening the door and stepping aside to let Tara enter. “I’ll be back down in a few minutes. Seems I need to shower yet again.” She grinned, turning to the vampire. “Can you hold down the kitchen on your own till I get back?”
With a snort, he cuffed her gently on the back of her head, sending little droplets of tomato sauce flying. “You keep your sticky little fingers out of my kitchen, Missy, and I’ll keep my fingers out of…”
With a very guilty little ‘eep’ a suddenly pink-cheeked Buffy shoved Spike and started upstairs. “Don’t you go telling Tara anything I’ll have to smack you for when I get back.”
Tara watched the interplay with amazement. Whatever they did was in synch with the other. Their speech patterns, movements… it was like watching an old, married couple deep into their domesticity.
She followed Spike into the kitchen, once again surprised to see him putting together two trays of lasagna. Lots of grated cheeses, a pan of spicy meat sauce, and a pot of the sauce Buffy was obviously wearing. The overall smell was heavenly.
“I-I’m so impressed, Spike. I never figured you for a chef.”
Spike gave her a look. “Now, we both know you’re not here to compliment me on my culinary skills, Tara,” he chided. “Did the pack send you here to make sure I’m not takin’ advantage of the Slayer? Luv, I’m not keepin’ her naked and chained to the bed against her will so’s I can have my wicked way with her.”
Tara blushed again, the image in her head was a little too provocative. She stilled her vivid imagination with great effort, and managed to keep her voice level. “She looks like you’ve taken very good care of her, Spike. A-almost back to normal. The brown hair makes her look more like Dawnie.”
“Niblet’s comin’ back home for dinner, hence the fancy fixin’s. Care to join us?” he asked, half-hoping despite himself that she would stay. Buffy needed her friends back in her life, even though she wouldn’t admit it right now. The trick would be getting them to accept her as she was now; a woman more capable of standing on her own two feet than ever before.
“That’s great. I’m sure Dawnie will be happy to see her sister again. Is she coming back to stay?”
“Plan t’ask her after dinner. Make it her choice, no pressure.”
With a nod, Tara agreed. “You know the rest of Buffy’s friends miss her, too, Spike,” she said quietly. “I c-came alone today to see if we could pave the way for them…”
“Pave the way for who, Tara?” Buffy breezed into the kitchen, freshly washed and dressed in something a little less tomato-y.
Spike answered for her, hoping to keep things calm. “Just talkin’ about possibly seein’ your old friends again, pet. Tara says they miss you.”
Buffy snorted, making a show of opening and closing the cabinet doors to hide her discomfort with the subject. “Yeah, they miss me. That’s why I haven’t heard a word from any of ‘em since I woke up and wouldn’t dance to their tune.”
“It’s been a month, luv,” Spike tried, holding her shoulders and turning her to look into her angry face. “You know you’ll have to deal with ‘em again. You’re a lot stronger now… more yourself. Maybe things’ll go better this time.”
“Spike’s told me Dawnie’s coming back this evening,” Tara volunteered. “It would be good for everyone if things got back to normal.”
Buffy shook her head. “Tara, I thank you for coming over. It’s good to see you, really it is. But I’ve been finding out just what it means to make decisions without having to second guess myself as to whether my friends would approve. I’m twenty one years old and I’ve been the Slayer for the past six years. I think I can bloody well make up my own mind about the way I want to run my own life without interference.”
Tara frowned upon hearing the borrowed Briticism. “Are you sure, Buffy? Are you sure you’re making up your own mind? Don’t you hear yourself? You sound like Spike. Maybe he’s interfering with you and keeping you from your real friends.”
“Never thought I’d hear you toe the party line, witch.” Spike seemed outwardly calm, but Tara could read the hurt and anger on his face. “Buffy makes up her own mind. She wants me out, all she has to do is say so. She wants her friends in, same deal.”
The sound of breaking glass refocused their attention on Buffy, who’d thrown a glass bowl against the wall.
“I’m standing right here, people. I’m not incompetent. I said I make up my own mind about things, Tara. Nobody influences me. So I said the word ‘bloody’. I’ve heard it from Spike day in and day out for more than four years. No biggie. What if I suddenly started saying ‘Dear Lord’? Would you suddenly tell me Giles has too much influence on me?”
Spike turned his attention away from the women. He cleaned up the broken glass, and went back to finishing layering the lasagna. When the pans were finished and placed in the oven, he spoke. “Ladies, I’m goin’ upstairs to shower an’ get ready for Niblet’s arrival. Settle this shite before she comes home. She’s been upset enough by friends choosin’ sides. Don’t make it worse by fightin’ in front of her.”
Tara deflated. “Goddess, Buffy… I’m sorry, really. I-I didn’t come here to fight. I wanted to see you. I miss us being all together. Most of all, I know Spike’s been nothing but good for you. I don’t even know why I went off on him like that. Forgive me? Please?”
Buffy stared down the young woman before saying anything. “You’re the newest to the Scoobies, Tara. One with the least time put in to ties and relationships. How come you came here instead of them? Why aren’t my closest friends here fighting for our friendship?”
“Why haven’t you called them, yourself?”
Okay – stalemate.
“It’s not all about Spike, you know. All their fears and worries. They think you don’t need them anymore. That you don’t want them in your life.”
“That’s just it! I don’t need them in my life.” Buffy twisted her hands in front of her. “But I do want them in my life. That’s a whole different ball of waxy stuff. They’ve just got to understand I can make my own decisions. They don’t have to like my choices, but they have to respect them.”
“Did you ever tell them that, Buffy?”
“How could I?” Buffy snapped. “This is all new to me. It’s like I never realized how controlling my friends were. Xander and Willow were always telling me that my choice of boyfriends sucked. A-and it’s not as if they were wrong… but I should have been allowed to find that out on my own. It’s not their place to tell me who I should and shouldn’t date.”
Looking into Tara’s eyes, she said: “If I were to tell Willow that I thought it was a bad idea for her to date you… not because of the gay thing, but that you weren’t right for her… how do you think that would sit? Or if I told her that maybe she wasn’t gay, and just letting you influence her?”
This time it was Tara’s turn to look thoughtful. “I guess I never thought of it that way. It’s just that everyone was so close…”
“And we’re growing up. Relationships are changing,” Buffy insisted. “And I’ve been through a life-altering experience that everyone’s just gonna have to accept. I’m not the same little girl as I was before the coma. And I’m not going to allow anyone to push me around. Not even Spike. The difference is, he doesn’t try.”
Tara looked up wistfully. “Is there any hope for us? W-will we ever be friends again?”
Buffy unclenched her hands, grabbing onto a chair for support. “I’ll tell you what, Tara. Talk to them and come up with an evening that’s good for everyone. Have somebody call me and Spike and I will set up a dinner and a Scooby meeting for afterwards.” Obviously still upset, she added, “But respect for me and my… for me and Spike is the first order of business. If it breaks down into another ‘let’s stake the evil vampire for his corrupting influence on the poor wittle Slayer’ fest, I’m through.”
Tara nodded. “I get that. Respect on both sides. I’ll do my best, I promise. I’ll have someone call you soon… real soon. M-maybe it’s best if I just go and start to coordinate this now… leave you and Dawn some privacy for her homecoming?”
And as if on cue, Spike and Dawn walked in through the kitchen door.