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The Body – Chapter 10 - Homecomings
Tara closed the door behind her as she left the house. She’d spent a few awkward moments with Dawn, but left before the girl could question why she wasn’t staying for dinner.
The unexpected blow-up at Spike and the ensuing argument with Buffy left her feeling rattled. On the one hand, Buffy looked better than she’d expected. Her speech and brain functions were certainly up to par, and her motor skills seemed normal. Tara knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Buffy’s condition was due to Spike’s diligence and the Slayer’s intrinsic stubborn nature. On the other hand, Buffy was isolated from everyone she knew, apparently by her own choice.
Getting the Scoobies back together again might have been a pipe dream after all. Tara just couldn’t see Xander and Giles accepting Buffy’s increased independence, and yet odd reliance, on Spike without a screaming match and the ever present threat of physical violence.
Well, the ball was in her court, now. She’d promised Buffy to present her terms to the gang and with any luck, they’d all be sitting down together within the next few days.
Inside the house the very walls shook with Dawn’s squeals of joy. “Look at you, Buffy! You’re gorgeous!” she shrieked, grabbing her sister around the waist. “I’d hoped for so long and… and… I believed. I really did and we talked and I could tell, and even Spike told me, but…”
“I know. I know.” Buffy laughed, overjoyed at having her younger sister back home where she belonged. “There’s nothing quite like seeing for yourself, and holding each other in not so bony arms.”
“Geeze, you were such a Skeletor. Next to you, I looked fat.”
Buffy hugged her tightly once more, glimpsing Spike over Dawn’s shoulder. The soft smile on the vampire’s lips touched her deeply. “Thank you,” she mouthed silently, knowing the words were inadequate but they would have to do for now.
Reluctantly disengaging herself from her sister’s embrace, Buffy’s nerves got the better of her and it was her turn to babble. “Um, dinner should be ready in about a half hour or so, and you should consider yourself lucky I wasn’t cooking. Spike’s done a hell of a job with the lasagna and I did make the garlic butter for the bread, so I am getting better with the whole cooking thing and I’d get better much faster if Vampy Crocker would ease up and let me in the kitchen more…”
“I-it’s okay, Sis. I didn’t come back here for your mega-cooking skills.” Dawn began to fidget like a Mexican jumping bean. “I just want… I mean… it’s just so good to see you again. A-and Spike, too. And the house, and my room, and… and...”
With the faux sigh of the not really put upon, Spike brought his hands to his head “You women and your bloody babble-fest. Just let it go. You’re home. You’re together. Enjoy it.”
“Shut up, Spike!”
“Shut up, Spike!”
“Oi! Remind me again why I wanted to be around you two?”
Dawn grabbed him around the neck, hugging him for all she was worth. “Because you love us, silly vampire.”
In her excitement over being back home, Dawn had dropped her guard. She and Spike might have been open and free about expressing their feelings for one another, but Buffy? Buffy was treading into new territory.
“Buffy?” She watched her sister for any signs of anger or hostility towards her fangy big brother. It wouldn’t take much to make this homecoming a disaster.
Buffy sat on the couch, cringing inwardly. She’d really done a self-righteous number on her sister if the simple statement of Spike’s obvious affection garnered the worry she saw in both their faces.
“It’s fine Dawnie,” she soothed. “One thing I can’t deny is Spike’s feelings anymore. Not after all these months... all he’s done for us both. I know how much he means to you.”
“Whoa! Who are you and what did you do with…”
Jumping up, Buffy flung her hands out in frustration. “Stop! Not one more word!” she cried. “If I hear those words from one more person, no judge in the world will hold me responsible. I-I’m not… I wasn’t… am?”
Her chin wobbled and her eyes filled with tears. Gods, everybody must think I’m such a bitch.
Spike was by her side in seconds. “Oh, pet,” he murmured, taking her hands in his. “S’just a joke. You know we don’t mean nothin’ by it.”
“Buffy please don’t cry,” Dawn begged, her own eyes overflowing. “I just wanted to be here with you so bad. I missed you so much, even when you acted like a spoiled brat. Please, please, please don’t make me go back to Angel’s. I wanna stay home. With you and Spike.”
Buffy looked over at Spike, as if seeking… not exactly permission or confirmation. It was her house, after all, and her sister, but the twinkle in his eyes showed his pleasure.
“Of course you can stay. It’s your home and I’m doing great and we miss you so much.” And just when did we turn all Addams Family?
“Great,” Dawn squealed. “’cause Angel's bringing all my stuff over in a couple of hours. I so knew you'd cave.”
No one can resist the power of the Summers' pout!!!!
“Pretty sure of yourself, ain’t you, Platelet?”
“Yuh huh.” Giddy with relief that they weren’t going to send her away, Dawn whipped out her cell phone and quickly stabbed in the number. “It’s all set, Angel. You can bring home my junk any time.”
Buffy smiled at her sister, thrilled to have her little family together again. “Don’t forget the pretty vampire!” Bad Buffy insisted. “He’s as much a part of your life now as anyone. Moreso, lately.”
She really did need to have a talk with herself. And soon.
~Three Days Later~
True to her word, Tara had arranged a meeting between Buffy and her friends, and they now sat on one side of the room, Buffy, Spike, and Dawn on the other. Buffy tried to figure out just when it became an ‘us against them’ kind of situation.
Xander was the first to break the uncomfortable silence.
“Does he have to hover like that?” The angry brunet jabbed his finger in Spike’s direction. “He looks like a vulture hanging over the back of your chair, Buffy. Does he have to be here at all? We came to see you.”
“Does she have to be here?” Buffy shot back, pointing a mirroring finger at Anya. “You might have come to see me, but she’d rather be off eviscerating some poor, dumb...”
“Uh, hello? Ex-demon here and…”
“I’m not sending Spike out of the room, Xander. This whole meeting is as much about him as it is about any of us.”
“Oh my God! Just listen to you all,” Dawn shrieked. “Five years olds. That’s what you all sound like.”
“That’s the point I was trying to make. No offence, Anya?”
The ex-demon sniffed. “None taken, really. Just don’t let it happen again.”
“And just so’s we’re clear about the ground-rules…” Buffy continued, hoping to get past the opening salvos, “Tara did mention that attacking Spike and our continuing discussion were not mixy things, right?”
Buffy felt her bravado slide away as she faced her once close-knit group of friends.
The sullen expression on Xander’s face was discouraging, but at least he was silent. Anya quite frankly looked bored, checking out her manicure and yawning. Tara’s face was full of soft hope, holding hands with Willow, who looked lost. Giles’ face was neutral, giving nothing away.
And these people were her best friends and trusted allies?
She felt Dawn’s hands slip into hers and Spike’s tighten around her shoulders. They knew Buffy wanted to bolt from the room. She’d be strong, though. For them. For herself. Being avoidy-girl hadn’t done her any favors over the years and it was time to take a stand.
“I-I really am glad to see you guys again,” she stammered, not sure who she was trying to convince of the fact.
“You don’t seem overly enthusiastic about it. We’ve been here for a half hour already and there’s really been no eye contact at all.”
“Well, it’s true, Xander. It all feels forced and uncomfortable, and if all we’re going to do is sit here and be miserable, I want to go home.”
Rising quickly from the couch, Buffy crossed the room and stood between Anya and the door.
“Please don’t leave, Anya. We’ve all got to talk, and it looks like you’re the only one with the… stones to do it. Everyone has something they want to say and they’re all holding it in. Trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
“Except for Xander.”
“True,” Buffy agreed. “He’s been a bit vocal about his opinions. But I’d really like to hear what you have to say. And don’t hold back. I mean, don’t let anyone tell you what to say or not say. How do you feel about what’s going on with my life?”
Anya chewed lightly on her lower lip before speaking. She obviously wasn’t used to being asked to voice her own opinion.
“Alright, then. I’m glad you didn’t die. I’m glad you woke up from your coma. And if Spike is responsible for helping you look as good and healthy as you look now, I think we all owe him a massive debt.” She hurried to add: “Not the kind where you have to pay him money, of course. Human life isn’t to be calculated in dollars and cents, right?”
“Leave it to you, pet,” Spike chimed in. “Cut right to the heart of the matter.”
Dawn aimed a slap at the back of his head.
“Hush, Spike. Dawnie’s right. Don’t push things and maybe we’ll get somewhere this time.” Turning back to the ex-demon, Buffy asked: “Do you have any problems if I let Spike stay here permanently?”
“Makes it easier for both of you to have many orgasms if you’re under the same roof.” Anya tossed her hair before sitting back down next to a gasping Xander. “No skin off my nose who you’re boinking.”
“Now see here, Anya,” Giles interjected over the splutterings of all parties in the room. “There was no mention of ‘boinking’ or other related activities. Must everything be about sex with you?”
“Not another word, Ahn.” Xander forced the words through gritted teeth, his expression murderous. “For the love of everything non-Hellmouthy, don’t answer that.”
Giles stepped back as Buffy rounded on him. Hands planted firmly on her hips, she stared as if daring him to speak. They stood facing each other for several long, tense minutes before the Slayer broke the ice.
“Just spit it out, Giles, before it kills you. You look like you could use a half dozen bran muffins. Tell me what you think I’m doing wrong.”
A deep sigh preceded the removal and cleansing of the glasses ritual before the man was composed enough to speak his piece.
“Frankly, Buffy, I’m still just coming to terms with your remarkable recovery. I-I’d hoped… I mean, prayed for you to walk again, but this…” he said, spreading his arms out to encompass her entirety, “… this was more than I dared dream of.”
With a sniffle, Buffy threw herself into her Watcher’s open arms. It had been a long time coming, and even if the peace lasted for only a moment, she tried to draw comfort from it.
“My dear girl,” he gasped. “Oxygen is still a necessary component for breathing.”
“Sorry,” she mumbled. “Guess I don’t know my own strength anymore.”
“Well, you’ll be happy to know it’s not far off the mark from what I remember,” he groaned, holding his sore ribs gently. “How are you managing to train?”
“My physical therapist, Lynette Marcus, left a workout schedule for me, and Spike’s been sparring…”
Buffy could tell Giles was struggling to come up with the words, but she wasn’t going to let anyone off the hook. Not this time. “Hey! No fair trying to distract me, Giles. You still haven’t answered my question. I need to hear your problems with my decisions.”
“Very well, then. I find myself in the unenviable position of having to be grateful to a vampire for all he’s done on your behalf. I never thought he would see it through.” Turning to the vampire in question, he added: “Spike, truly, I owe you a debt I’ll never be able to repay as much as I am loathe to admit it. If Buffy wishes you to stay, I will abide by her decision. However…”
“Yeah, I know the song, Rupert. You’ll stake me good and proper if I hurt either the Slayer or Niblet in any way, shape or form. ‘Fraid you’re gonna have to come up with a new tune, mate.”
“As long as we understand each other.”
Buffy breathed a sigh of relief. At least several people weren’t going to give her a hard time. She was also duly impressed with Spike’s reaction, or rather non-reaction to her announcement. It was rather off-the-cuff and she’d not even broached the subject of his staying on before.
She had to admit she’d gotten comfortable with the way things were between them. It was nice not being alone, and the give and take with someone who knew her life inside and out was a pleasure. Not to mention the daily viewing of all those glistening muscles when he comes out of the shower! Bad Buffy added her two cents to the mix. And if that towel should happen to slip…?
Buffy wiped at the corner of her mouth, sure she had started to drool. Gazing around the room at all the expectant faces, she realized she must have drifted off into fantasy land for just a moment.
“Okay, then,” she continued, hoping nobody would call her on her lapse. “Tara? Willow? What’s the sitch with you two?”
“I-I’m fine if you are,” Tara offered, obviously taking their last conversation to heart. “Spike has done more than any of us expected of him.” She squeezed Willow’s hand for support, nervous at being the focus of everyone’s attention.
Willow looked around the room at her friends before resting her gaze on Spike. “I don’t exactly trust you, what with the whole bottle-in-the-face thing we had going on, but I do trust Buffy. If she trusts you I guess it’ll have to be good enough for me. For now. But…” she stated, grasping an invisible something in front of her face, “…shovel, head. Just ask Buffy to explain.”
“Oh for crying out loud,” Xander exclaimed. “Has everybody lost their minds? What is this… adopt a vampire month?”
Before Buffy could say a word, Anya fixed him with a glare worthy of her vengeance demon days. One that said if he held his family jewels dear, he’d better rein it in. And if he ever expected to get laid again? Retract, retract, retract.
For a change, he took the hint. “Fine! None of you are willing to listen to reason, and Willie Wanna-Bite gets a new home. I get it. But don’t you come running to me when he drains you dry ‘cause I’m not too proud that I won’t be doin’ the ‘nyah nyah’ dance of I told you so.”
“So we’re all clear here?” Anya stood, straightening her clothes. “Spike stays, nobody stakes him, and we’re all hunky dory friends again?”
Relaxed around her friends for the first time since she’d awoken from the coma, Buffy smiled. Maybe she could have it all.