As soon as Buffy walked out of her bedroom, she smelled pancakes. A wary frown on her face, she made her way to the kitchen, stopping short when she saw her sister at the stove. “You’re cooking? Did you call the fire department and ask them to stand on alert first?”
Dawn looked over at Buffy and rolled her eyes. “Sheesh, wake up on the wrong side of the bed much? They’re just-add-water pancakes, Buffy. Even I can manage those. Besides, I’m making them because I thought you might be hungry after leaving your dinner all untouched on the coffee table last night.”
Dawn removed a pancake from the skillet with a spatula, then moved in to add another spoonful of batter. “Was it someone eating bugs? I know I lose my appetite every time I turn on the television and see someone eating bugs.” She shivered.
“Actually, I saw…” Buffy paused and looked up. “Well, I saw Spike.”
“Oh?” Dawn asked, her back going a little straighter.
“Yeah. It was a live interview and a live performance. I’m pretty sure the song was about me, and it hit me sort of hard.” Several beats of silence passed through in the kitchen until Buffy asked, “How is he?”
“We’ve never really talked about your relationship,” Dawn said as she started on another pancake.
“I know, and I’m not trying to pull you in the middle of anything. I just… I want to know if he’s really okay—from someone who actually knows him.”
Dawn stared down at the pancake, watching the batter bubble. “He’s doing all right. Better now than he was for a while.”
“I want him to be all right,” Buffy said, her voice sounding small even though she didn’t want it to.
Silence hung between the sisters again before Buffy cleared her throat. “I’m going to go take a quick shower, and then I’ll come out and eat breakfast, all right?”
“Yeah, okay,” Dawn replied, flipping another pancake onto the plate. “I should be done with them by then.”
Buffy turned and started towards the bathroom, but stopped short when she heard Dawn call after her.
“I don’t think he loves her. Not really anyway.”
Buffy’s throat tightened on her, and she couldn’t find the words to respond.
*** *** ***
“So how about dinner on Saturday?”
Buffy looked up from her desk as she heard the door click shut, then Robin’s question. He was leaning against the now-closed door, a charming smile on his face.
“I can’t do Saturday,” Buffy replied. “And you in here with my door shut—office gossip fodder.”
Robin’s smile grew at the last part. “I can just yell at you on the way out and make everyone think you’re in trouble. And why can’t you do Saturday?”
“Don’t you dare. And because I have to be in Sunnydale. My mother’s decided to throw a big birthday party for my step-father, despite the fact he swears he really doesn’t want one. She feels like we’ve never properly celebrated his birthday—it’s a whole big thing. Anyway, partying with my parents is where I will be.”
“Oh. Next weekend then?”
Buffy started to respond, but stopped quickly. Robin was a nice, attractive man—why was she keeping him at arms’ length? He was the best guy she’d met since Spike, and really, did she want to be alone? Even if Spike didn’t really love Eve as Dawn had claimed, he wasn’t exactly trying to talk Buffy into giving their relationship a second go either. She and Spike had been over for three years now, and Buffy knew it was time for her to move on.
“Why don’t you come with me?”
Robin blinked. “To your step-father’s birthday party?”
“Yeah. I know, it’s probably not the most exciting social event of the season, but…”
“I’d love to go,” Robin said quickly. “I was just a little surprised you offered. You’ve been going sort of hot and cold on me, so I wasn’t expecting an invite to meet the parents.”
“I know I have been. And it hasn’t been because of you. I like you. But I’ve been hurt pretty badly in the past, so I’m skittish, you know?”
Robin walked away from the door and towards her, coming around the desk to crouch beside her. “I’ve picked up on that. But I like you, too, Buffy, and I think you’re someone who’s worth having some patience for. However, if you’re inviting me to this thing because you feel like you have to, don’t. I’ll keep waiting until you’re ready.”
“No, that’s not why. I want you to be there.” Buffy looked into his eyes and swallowed hard. “It’s time for me to make a real step towards moving on—and that’s something I want to do with you.”
“Then I’ll go with you.” Robin rose to his feet and dropped a chaste kiss on the top of Buffy’s head. He then walked over to the door, announcing loudly as he opened it, “So you’ll have that on my desk by lunch?”
Buffy couldn’t help but chuckle. “Yeah, I will.”
His back turned to everyone but Buffy, Robin winked before turning around and walking out.
*** *** ***
“I invited Robin to the thing for Giles this weekend.”
Across the table, Dawn froze, pizza hanging inches from her mouth for a beat before she put the slice back on her plate and looked over at her sister. “Don’t you think that’s going to be a little awkward?”
Buffy shrugged. “Meet the parents is always kind of awkward, but I like Robin, and I think it’ll be okay.”
“I meant with Spike being there and all.”
At that, Buffy went completely pale. “What?! Spike’s going to be there?”
“Well, yeah. It is his father’s party. You didn’t know? I thought you knew and just didn’t want to talk about it,” Dawn replied.
“No, I didn’t know!” Buffy leaned back in her chair, running her hands through her hair as she began to breathe spastically. “Oh god, I can’t… I didn’t…” She looked up again. “Dawnie, I haven’t seen him in three years!”
“Buffy, calm down before you hyperventilate, okay? It’ll be all right.”
“How can this be all right? The last time we saw each other, it was all bad and…” Buffy stopped, taking a deep breath and forcing herself to calm down like Dawn had said. It was hard with her heart racing the way it was…
“Maybe it’ll be better then to have Robin there,” Buffy said after several deep breaths. “Spike will know I’ve moved on, and that I’m completely fine now.”
Dawn said nothing, but she couldn’t stop her eyebrow from arching. People who were “completely fine” didn’t have panic attacks at the mere mention of seeing their ex again.
“Will Eve be there?” Buffy asked softly, turning her eyes down to her pizza as she picked at a mushroom.
“No,” Dawn replied. “She’s somewhere in Europe—Spain, I think. She’s filming some big historical epic thing.”
Buffy started breathing a little easier. “Well, good. And Mom’s inviting a lot of people, right? Maybe I won’t even have to talk to him.”
“I bet you can avoid him all day,” Dawn said, even though she knew that was going to be completely impossible. The party was being held in Giles and Joyce’s backyard—what was Buffy going to do, hide behind a garden gnome?
“Right, so I’ll avoid him, and I’ll have Robin there as a distraction, and everything will be fine. Perfectly, completely fine. Besides, he probably doesn’t even want to talk to me.” Buffy looked sharply towards Dawn again. “Does he want to talk to me?”
“I don’t know,” Dawn answered honestly. “We don’t really talk about you, Buffy. The break-up left him pretty raw.”
Buffy couldn’t fight the clenching in her stomach at Dawn’s reply. “Dawnie, when Spike and I broke up…”
“Things were rough for you guys, I know,” Dawn said quickly. “I totally get that.” Dawn cleared her throat. “He’s not drinking anymore. I mean, I think he has an occasional beer now and then, but it’s nothing like it used to be. He’s really gotten his act together there.”
“I know,” Buffy replied. “But more than that drove us apart. Things were really bad there for a while, but his drinking wasn’t the only problem. It didn’t make things any better, but we had other issues, and in the end, they proved to be more than we could make it through.” Buffy frowned, something about her words seeming hollow to her own ears.
“So you don’t think that maybe you two could ever…”
“No, Dawnie. That isn’t going to happen,” Buffy said, knowing where Dawn was going with her question. The younger Summers sister had taken Buffy and Spike’s break-up almost as hard as Buffy herself had, being completely convinced the two of them were meant to be. She’d begged Buffy in the early weeks to call Spike and tell him she wanted to get back together with him, but Buffy had told her over and over again that it just wasn’t possible.
She and Spike were over, and that was the way it had to be from now on.
“Maybe you two could talk,” Dawn said eagerly, not wanting to give up on something she still firmly believed in. “I mean, people can change a lot in three years. Maybe the things that were problems before won’t be problems anymore.”
“I don’t think so,” Buffy replied, the twisting knots in her stomach seeming to grow.
“No, Dawn,” Buffy said firmly. “Just…no.”
Silence fell over the table as the two sisters finished their dinner.
*** *** ***
Buffy stood outside the car, her hand resting on the top of the open passenger’s side door and her eyes fixated on some point off in the distance.
“We can still not do this, you know. I won’t hold it against you if you would rather I stay behind.”
The sound of Robin’s voice snapped Buffy to attention, and she looked quickly at him over the hood of the car. “No, I want you to go, really. Sorry, I just zoned. I’m all spacey Buffy today.”
“Are you sure?” Robin asked with a frown. “There really is no pressure here, Buffy. If you’ve changed your mind about wanting me to meet your family…”
“I haven’t changed my mind about that at all,” Buffy insisted, pushing a smile onto her face. “Really, the more I think about this, the better of an idea I think it is.”
She wondered if he could hear the lie in her voice. Buffy knew this whole thing had no chance of being anything but a disaster. No matter how much she tried to tell herself she could spend the day tactfully avoiding Spike, she knew him well enough to actually know better. If he wanted to talk to her, no amount of hiding was going to stop him. And even if they had been broken up for three years, Buffy didn’t think there was any way Spike wouldn’t be jealous seeing her with another man. She couldn’t think of anything worse than Spike acting like an ass instead of a mature adult who had moved on.
Unless he did act like a mature adult who had moved on…
Buffy knew deep down, even if she didn’t like admitting it even to herself, that what worried her the most about seeing Spike again was not the idea of him still having feelings for her, but the fear that he wouldn’t. As much as she said she wanted him to be over her, the thought of him actually being over her cut deeply. How could she ever look into his eyes and see them without love for her?
“Well, if you’re really sure, let’s go then.” Robin said, pulling Buffy out of her thoughts.
“I’m really sure,” Buffy insisted. And to prove it, she got into the car and shut the door behind her.
*** *** ***
Don’t worry, there’s not going to be any graphic stuff with Spike and Eve or Buffy and Robin. This story is still Spuffy, so don’t freak out on me about other pairings.