The bright beat of the music followed her as she made her way up the stairs. The party was in full swing, and no one seemed to notice that the birthday girl needed a moment.
Kind of a relief.
Buffy locked the bathroom door and sighed. She loved them for trying. She really did. It meant they cared. And she’d been on board with the whole Buffy Birthday Bash idea, despite knowing only bad would result.
But so far, the party seemed bad free, assuming you discounted the lurking vampire downstairs and possibly Clem. The jury was still out on exactly what Clem was, aside from a threat to felines.
She leaned toward the mirror and checked her eyeliner, which appeared to be smudging. Damn cheap 99 cent stuff. She repaired the damage and inspected her face closely for lines. She’d swear she saw some around her eyes this morning. Time to start moisturizing.
Twenty-one. Wow. She’d made it to twenty-one. And it had only taken her two lives to get there. She bit her lip. Not going there. This was happy fun night and she was going to go back out there and be peachy keen Buffy, Birthday Girl Extraordinaire.
She adjusted the neckline of the floaty white off-the-shoulder number she’d picked. A top that said flirty. She turned, preening just a little. Maybe even made her want to be a little flirty.
Which of course was the problem. Xander-flirting always drew Anya’s ire. The new boy, Richard, that they’d brought seemed nice, though. She sighed. That had to be the worst adjective you could apply to a guy someone was trying to set you up with. Nice. Total kiss of death. But that was her gut feeling when she looked at him. Very . . . whitebread.
She gritted her teeth. Damn Spike. Why did he have to sneak into her head like that, supplying descriptions and reminding her of Candidate Number 3?
She hadn’t seen him since . . . that night in the alley, and she’d hardly expected him to come. She’d had to school her features quickly when he burst through the back door, all swagger and swish of his leather coat. At least he’d had the decency to bring some beer.
Then she’d gotten a good look at his face, the pale skin still marred with a bruise the shape of her fist. She’d looked away, but he’d still been there, black eye and all when she glanced back.
He’d smiled, or smirked rather and seemed blissfully forgetful of their last meeting, so she’d tried to ignore it, that bruised flesh that made something inside of her squirm and twist.
It had been like that the rest of the night, every move she made seemed to lead to him, catching her in the hallway just out of sight, full of innuendo and snark. Can’t outrun your demon, Buffster.
She didn’t know why he wouldn’t just leave. Surely the rocking party games that had gone on so far weren’t his speed.
She finished up, washing her hands and drying them thoroughly as she took one final look at her reflection and straightened her shoulders. Time out over. Back to playing gracious hostess. Maybe she’d even try to give Richard a second chance.
She opened the door and stepped into the hallway, headed towards the staircase until an arm shot out and pulled her into her bedroom, shutting the door firmly behind her.
“Hey, what do you think you’re . . . oh.” She shrugged his arm loose. “Spike, I should have guessed. I thought I told you no.”
“Have a gift for you, figured you’d want to open it away from prying eyes and whatall.” Spike proffered a flat box, clumsily wrapped and a little worse for wear from where ever it had been hidden under his duster.
She took the package gingerly, wondering what could possibly be inside that he hadn’t wanted to give her downstairs. It wasn’t all that thick; surely he hadn’t decided to gift her with her very own set of handcuffs, had he? She flushed a little and looked up to find a strange smile playing across his face.
“Not going to bite you, Buffy, and it’s nothing nasty.”
“Says the ever trustworthy vampire,” she muttered as she followed him over to the bed and sat down, gingerly pulled at the wrapping. The paper fell away and she slid the cover off the box to find a silvered antique mirror and brush set nestled inside. The handle was covered with a delicate tracery of vines and flowers and she couldn’t stop her fingers from caressing the smooth, cool surface.
She glanced up and found him wearing that half hopefully, half guarded expression that she saw on his face sometimes after, like the day he’d asked if she even liked him. It always made her want to run.
This time was no different, but there was something about those eyes framed in the shades of her purple and blue handiwork that made her stop. Call it guilt, call it remorse, but she owed him, at least a little. She’d tried to not think too much about what she’d done in the alley that night, but when it nudged at the periphery of her consciousness, it made her feel more than a little sick at what was wrong inside her.
She met his gaze straight on then. “It’s beautiful, Spike. You didn’t have to get me a gift, you know that.”
He shook it off, “Didn’t have to, just wanted to. You deserve better, Buffy.” His fingers found hers as she continued to clutch the brush.
He was going to launch into his speech about how he could help her again, she knew he was, and she couldn’t take that, not right now. She could throw him against the wall, rip his clothes off, let him whisper the filthiest depravities in her ear as he fucked her into the ground. But when his voice dropped low and gentle, and his touch turned soft, it made her insides twist and rail against what she was doing letting a monster inside her. Or maybe at letting her own out.
“Spike . . .” she trailed off as he took the brush from her hand and turned her back to him, brushing the box and paper to the floor.
“Let’s just try it out, shall we?” He began to slowly pull the bristles through her hair and she couldn’t stop her eyes from closing as she relaxed against the rhythmic strokes. Her mom had brushed her hair like this when she was little and she’d always loved it.
“Ahh, Goldilocks.” He buried his face in her hair and inhaled. The hairs on the back of her neck rose and she suppressed the shiver that threatened to dance down her spine.
She turned slowly. “Spike?”
Whatever she’d meant to say died on her lips and she met his instead. She was never good with words when it came to really saying things, things that mattered anyway, but she knew how to communicate with him this way.
Except it was almost as though she’d switched languages, because the kiss she’d intended to be a quick brush, a casual thank-you morphed into something else, tender, soft, gentle.
Places she didn’t go with Spike.
But she couldn’t stop, not when she heard his soft growl of her name and then they were tangled together on her bed, making out with the intensity of teenagers who had to pour all their passion into soulful kisses alone.
She wasn’t sure how long it lasted, somewhere between an instant and eternity as she tangled her fingers in his hair and kept her eyes closed and just let the kisses unfurl between them. When she finally pulled away, gasping for breath and softly touching lips that she knew must be red and swollen, she half expected a follow-up, his hand creeping up her thigh, some lewd request for a quick shag or another offer for her to blow out his candles.
But he seemed transfixed, stroking her hair and cheek as he stared at her, his gaslight eyes more bright than she’d seen them since the night she’d come back and found him waiting at the bottom of her steps.
“Buffy . . .”
She placed her hand on his mouth, needing to stop him before the moment was shattered. “Spike, no, please. We have to go back, they’re probably wondering where we are.”
She watched those beautiful long lashes close slowly against the discolored flesh and then he nodded. “As you wish.”
She kissed him again then, one last soft sweet kiss, wanting somehow to make the moment less . . . difficult and he responded until she pulled away, slowing sitting up and straightening her now askew top.
She felt the bed shift as he righted himself and she snuck a glance, then shook her head. “Come here.”
He looked at her quizzically, until she picked up the brush and smoothed back his hair to mimic his usual look, taming the curls that had sprung up under her fingers. He arched his head back and the thought ran through her mind that she doubted anyone had touched him like this in a long time . . . maybe ever.
She pulled away. “All done.”
She ran the brush quickly through her own hair, avoiding his gaze and trying not to question his uncharacteristic silence as she flipped out the ends and smoothed out the ravages of their impromptu make-out session.
She stood as she finished, carefully placing the set on her dressing table, and he followed her as they moved to the door. “Spike, I really do love them. Thank you.”
He dropped a soft kiss on her cheek and moved past her. “You’re welcome. I’ll see you downstairs.”