Chapter 12 - Strained
Spike drove the streets for almost thirty minutes, his panic rising when every street he checked got him no closer to finding her. Flipping a U-turn he sped towards her house, hoping she was there. Five minutes later his car was turning into her driveway and he parked it quickly, shutting off the engine.
There were no lights on, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t home. He ran towards her door, banging on it with his fists.
“Buffy!” he called.
He banged on the door again. “Buffy, are you in there? Open up!”
He heard a shuffling sound inside the house. The hall light flicked on and the door swung open a fraction. Pushing it wider he swept inside and closed the door.
“Why the hell did you run off like that?” he demanded.
Buffy looked at the ground, turning her back on him to walk up the stairs. Spike wasn’t going to let her get away with it that easily, grabbing at her wrist he pulled her towards him forcefully.
“Buffy, why?” he demanded.
She blinked her eyes up towards him and he instantly dropped her arm. She’d been crying, and for a split second, she’d almost looked scared. Of him. That was the last thing he wanted. Stepping back slightly, he asked her again.
“Buffy, why did you run off like that? Do you know how worried Willow and Xander are? You just left… and then they tell me your mom’s out of town. What were you thinking? Walking the streets by yourself. You of all people should know it’s not safe to do a thing like that.”
Buffy’s eyes flooded with tears. “Spike, just go home please. I got home safely, you know I’m okay.”
Spike reached a hand to her face and Buffy flinched. He paused for a second before his hand swept up to her face and brushed the tears from her cheek. “Luv, what’s wrong?”
“Spike just go. GO!” she ordered. “I… I need to call Riley.”
Spike threw his hands up in the air. “Pet, I don’t know why you persist with this guy. He’s not good enough for you. He’s just after one thing.”
“No, he’s not!” she retorted.
“How do you know that? He’s a college boy, Buffy. You saw the kind of people he hangs around with, what makes you think he’s so different?”
“He’s my boyfriend, Spike,” she answered quietly.
Spike froze, not believing his ears. “What?”
“He’s my…” she trailed off, knowing he had heard her. “Just go please.”
Shoving his hands in his pockets, he nodded his head once and obeyed. “Call Willow, let her know you’re all right,” he said as he opened the front door and walked out of her house, closing it behind him.
Buffy slid to the floor as the tears she’d been holding back broke free.
Spike heard her sobbing and he wanted nothing more than to walk back inside and sweep her up into his arms to hold her, soothe her. But she had made her wishes clear.
Walking down the steps from the porch he got in his car and drove off into the night.
Buffy slept restlessly that night. She’d called Willow shortly after Spike had left. Her friend had scolded her for her actions but was glad she was okay. Xander had threatened to take up residence on her porch if she even pulled a stunt like that again, her own personal shadow for the next time she left the house. Buffy had laughed, agreeing not to run off like that again.
After speaking with her friends, she had called Riley and explained that she wasn’t feeling too well. It was lucky she called when she did; she’d caught him just before he was about to leave the dorms. He’d offered to come by and check up on her but she declined. A new date for coffee was planned for the next day.
The alarm buzzed, insisting that it was time for Buffy to get up and get ready. Flicking the alarm off she climbed out of bed and padded towards the bathroom, hoping a shower would wake her up.
She stripped off her pyjamas and turned on the taps, the room soon filling with steam. Some of the tension she had felt last night washed away with the water, but not all of it. Confused was an understatement about how she felt right now.
Spike had done nothing wrong; she knew that. And all she had done was be nasty to him. She closed her eyes, pressing her hands up against the tilled walls of the shower as the hot stream of water sprayed over the top of her head, and down her back. Memories of that kiss drifted through her mind, and she sub-consciously licked at her lips.
A little over a month ago they’d been at each other’s throats. He hated her, she detested him. And now… now things were muddled. Things weren’t as black and white anymore. She missed that clarity.
For a fraction of a second she let herself become lost in that kiss, not thinking, just acting. And then Riley’s face had come to her and the guilt she felt in that one moment was unbearable. She thought of her mother and how gutted she’d been when she’d walked in on her dad with his secretary that day.
Buffy never wanted to cause someone that much pain, ever. And if Riley had walked in at that moment she never would have forgiven herself. She wouldn’t have said yes to him if she didn’t like him.
She knew she had hurt Spike and she hated herself for that. The way his face had closed up when she had told him she and Riley were a couple; that had opened the floodgates to her tears. But she had to do it; she had to tell him.
Buffy was lost. That kiss had evoked so many feelings, made her feel so alive. But she also felt consumed with guilt. She and Spike were getting along, and he was obviously interested in her, but she’d also made a commitment to Riley. Would it be fair to throw that away without giving it a real chance? What should I do?
Turning off the taps she wrapped a towel around herself before walking back into her bedroom. She dressed casually, in jeans and a fitted red t-shirt. Tying her hair back into a loose ponytail she slipped on her sneakers and walked downstairs.
Buffy laughed at the joke, placing her mug down so that she didn’t spill any of the coffee.
Riley squeezed her left hand in his right, happy to see a smile on her face. She had seemed so gloomy a little while ago, but he hadn’t pressed her to tell him what was wrong. She would open up when she was ready to. Right now, he was just going to be there for her. That’s all he could do.
“I love that smile,” he informed her. “I hope I can make you smile many more times just like that.”
Buffy blushed, taking her hand from his she finished off her coffee. “So, what are you’re plans for today?” she asked politely.
“I’ve got to study for exams,” he grumbled. “I’d much prefer to spend the day with you.”
Buffy blushed again. “Next time.”
“So… next weekend. Coffee again? I was thinking I could take you to a movie?” he asked hesitantly.
“That sounds great, it really does but I can’t. I’m going to be in LA next week. I’ve got a swim meet.”
“Oh,” Riley said quietly. “Well, maybe we can do something when you get back?” he asked hopefully.
“Definitely,” she promised.
The next few days flew by quickly. Riley came over on the Monday night after her training, and Buffy introduced him to her Mom. Joyce had found him quite pleasant and he obviously adored Buffy. Buffy seemed to be at ease around him, but she wondered if her daughter was truly happy.
She’s old enough to make her own decisions, Joyce…
It was Wednesday and she had another training session. Buffy bit her bottom lip as she walked towards the pool. Spike had been avoiding her all week. He’d sat silently next to her in English Lit, and the second the bell had gone off he’d jumped up from his seat and was out of the door before she could blink. He didn’t even look at her when they passed in the halls.
She didn’t want things to be like this between them, but she didn’t know what she could do to smooth things out.
She saw him the second she stepped on to the pool deck, stretching his arms using a wall for resistance. Buffy took a deep breath before approaching him, placing her bag on the ground near his.
“Hey,” she greeted.
“Summers,” he responded curtly, before pulling his goggles over his eyes and turning away from her.
She sighed as he walked towards the diving blocks.
Quickly stripping off her tracksuit, she tucked her hair up into her cap and placed her goggles over her head.
“Miss Summers, have you spoken to your mother yet?” Coach Jones’ voice broke the awkward silence as she strolled towards the pool.
Spike half listened to the conversation as he finished his stretches.
“Ye... Yes I have. I’m coming,” Buffy replied quickly.
“Good,” Coach replied. “See me after training, I’ll give you all the necessary documentation for the meet, and information about the hotel we’ll be staying at.”
Buffy nodded and turned towards the pool, seeing Spike watching her. She blushed slightly under his gaze as she stepped towards the blocks.
“So you’re coming to LA then?” he stated more than asked.
“Yes,” Buffy nodded, hoping he would talk to her.
“And your boyfriend is allowing that, is he?” he asked sharply.
He hit the water with a splash, effectively cutting her off. Buffy’s shoulders slumped. Oh well… if he doesn’t want to talk to me, I’m not going to force him.
She stepped forward to her blocks and took position before springing into the water.
“That was a good session everyone. Hit the showers, I’ll see you all at 4pm on Friday. Don’t be late, we can’t hold up the bus.” With that the Coach dismissed them.
Spike watched as Buffy moved quickly to the locker rooms. He had purposely been avoiding her all week and he knew that it bothered her. He didn’t want things to be this way, but she was the one who had caused it. Clenching his jaw he left the pool.
“Red, just give it up will you,” Spike snapped with frustration.
“But, Spike, I know that…” Willow began.
“She’s got a boyfriend, Willow. That’s that.”
“No, Spike, that’s not that. She cares about you,” Willow insisted.
“Then why is she with that git? Explain that to me?” he demanded.
When Willow could offer no explanation he turned his back on her. “Spike, wait… she’s just confused is all. Give her time.”
“She’s made it perfectly clear what she wants - me to stay away.”
“You’re going to be staying in the same hotel together!” Willow exclaimed. “And the bus ride, are you just going to ignore her the whole time?”
“If I have to.” Spike turned around and stalked towards the other end of the hall.
Willow gave up. There was no convincing him. She just hoped he wasn’t so hostile tomorrow; it wasn’t a short trip to LA.
“Have fun, honey!” Joyce fare welled as Buffy walked towards the bus.
“Bye, Mom! I’ll call you when I get there.”
Joyce nodded, watching as Buffy climbed the stairs to the bus. Joyce returned to her car and climbed in. She hoped her daughter would be all right, she knew she wasn’t exactly looking forward to seeing her father. Starting up the engine, she pulled the SUV away.
Buffy climbed the few steps up into the bus and quickly made her way to the rear, sitting a few seats away from the back of the bus. Their team wasn’t going to have the whole bus to themselves; it seemed they were going to be picking up another two semi-local teams on the way. But until then, she could spread herself across the two seats.
Removing a book from her bag, she flicked it open and began to read. She might as make use of the time the long trip was going to take and finish off her English Lit homework.
She didn’t look up when she heard someone slump into the seat opposite hers. She knew immediately that it was him. Biting her bottom lip Buffy continued with her reading, trying to focus on the words.
Spike watched as Buffy concentrated on her book, not even looking up when he sat down. He hadn’t exactly been quiet either. He watched her closely, noting her chewing on her bottom lip. It was a nervous habit and he smiled knowing it was because of him, she’d realized he was there.
He pulled out the same book. Might as well finish the reading that was set as homework. It wasn’t like there was anything better to do.
Buffy read the same passage over about six times, before finally giving up and slamming the book shut. She couldn’t concentrate with him sitting there; she could feel it every time he looked up at her. Finally dragging her eyes away from the cover of her book, she looked over at him and found his eyes on her.
The stare was vacant, and she dropped her gaze immediately. Why does it have to be like this?
She hated things being so strained between them. You’ve brought this upon yourself… she scolded.
“Alright everyone, we’re going to have to share seats now,” Coach’s voice broke through the silence.
Buffy looked up to see that the bus had pulled up outside the gates of a ritzy looking private school, the team waiting patiently for the bus, all wearing matching uniforms. She sighed, not wanting to have to share a seat with one of them.
There was a thump beside her and she turned around, startled by the noise. Spike had moved across and was sitting next to her now.
Her brows knitted in confusion. “Spike, what are you…”
“You heard, Jonesy, we need to share now, not enough seats to spread out. It’s not my ideal situation either, pet, but it’s either you or one of them,” he said jabbing his thumb towards the students climbing on the bus.
“Oh,” she murmured quietly, unable to hide the disappointment in her voice. She opened her book again and pretended to be deeply engrossed in the passage she was reading.
A smirk spread across Spike’s face when he saw how flustered she was. He shifted in his seat, purposely rubbing his leg up against hers for a second as he adjusted himself. She didn’t flinch but he saw the colour rising on her cheeks.
“Pet, that was last week’s reading,” he pointed out.
Buffy’s cheeks flamed when she realized he was right. She had been focusing so hard on pretending to read she hadn’t even noticed she was on the wrong page. “I knew that,” she said quickly.
He chuckled as she turned the pages and found the right one. The new students now settled in their seats, the bus pulled out from the street and continued towards LA.
Spike could see how uncomfortable Buffy was and a small part of him was glad. He shifted in his seat again. One of his hands was resting on his left knee and when his leg touched hers, his fingers grazed lightly across her exposed leg.
This time she did flinch.
“Why so jumpy, pet?” he asked innocently.
Buffy glared as she looked up at him. “Pig.”
He smiled wickedly at her and she could feel her anger dissipate. “There’s my girl,” he said with a laugh as a smile crept across her face.
Buffy faltered, her smile fading slightly. “Look, Spike…”
Spike’s own smile disappeared at her serious tone. This wasn’t part of his plan. “Buffy, I get it. You don’t need to explain anything to me.”
“But I do,” she insisted. “I should have told you.”
“Save it, princess. I don’t want to hear the ‘I’m sorry but...’ speech.”
Buffy’s shoulders sagged in defeat. Why did she have to open her big mouth? And just when he was opening up to her again. Real clever, Summers…