Chapter 23 - Sugar Sweet
~ Monday lunchtime ~
Class was blissfully ended by the sound of the bell and Buffy had never been more relieved. In her mind History was an unpleasant subject on the best of days; on the worst it was the uber of all suck-fests. Two words explained why. Pop quiz.
“Ugh,” Buffy grimaced, as she tried to shake off the unpleasant feeling the test left behind. It had been… bad, and she’d be thrilled if she scraped a passing grade. Hopes would not be held high.
“Stupid History. It’s not like I’m ever going to need to know how the government was formed, or why the constitution was written,” she muttered. “Democracy, shamocracy.”
An exaggerated gasp drew Buffy’s attention away from her forceful shoving of books into her locker.
“Miss Summers, I’m shocked and disappointed by your low opinion of our Country’s administration.”
Buffy scowled. “Xander, please don’t add to the non-fun of my day.”
“Sorry, Buff.” Xander grinned as he threw an arm around her shoulder. “What’s with the scowly?”
“Pop quiz,” she grumbled.
He smiled sympathetically.
“Plus I’ve got to write a fifteen hundred word paper on…” she trailed off as she pulled a piece of paper from her notebook. “A key European political figure of the nineteenth century.”
“Tell me about it.” Crumpling the piece of paper in her hands she threw it into her locker and slammed the door. “I barely know anything about the current government here, let alone people who governed on the other side of the world a hundred years ago!” She leaned against the wall, folding her arms across her chest in protest.
“It’ll be okay,” he consoled. “I’m sure the Will-meister will be your study buddy.”
Before Buffy could respond, the schools’ resident brain appeared. “Did someone say my name?”
“Willow, just the book-geek we were looking for!” Xander greeted cheerily.
“Hey!” Willow protested indignantly.
“I say it with love,” Xander clarified apologetically.
“Well, okay then. So long as it’s said with love.” Willow grinned impishly. Truthfully, she didn’t mind being pigeonholed as a geek. In fact, she found pride in the label.
“Guys!” Buffy complained. “I’m the one with the sucky assignment, attention my way please!”
Suitably chastised, Xander offered a rueful smile. Willow, on the other hand, had a grin on her face that stretched ear-to-ear having just spotted Spike approaching the trio, his expression indicating he’d overheard the last part of the conversation.
Buffy frowned and opened her mouth to comment on Willow’s beam, only to have the words mute before they were spoken when cool lips caressed the side of her neck and strong arms banded around her waist from behind.
“Attention enough for you, luv?”
The squeak of surprise in response elicited a chuckle of mirth from Spike. When she relaxed in his hold after the initial shock of his presence, Spike couldn’t suppress the smile that tugged at his lips. As much as he’d love her to remain in his arms, it wasn’t the most practical of positions while they walked to the cafeteria. Moving to her side he settled for a possessive hand on her hip, pressing a quick kiss to her forehead as the group began the trek to lunch.
“Buffy was just telling us about her assignment for History,” Willow filled in.
“Oh?” Spike’s gaze dropped to Buffy’s pout and it took considerable restraint to not kiss it from her face. “What’s the focus?”
“European political figures of the nineteenth century,” Buffy groused.
“My uncle used to be a curator at the British Museum in London, is quite the scholar on all things History. I could ask him for some information, if you want?” Spike offered.
“Really?” Buffy squealed. Before he could respond Buffy threw her arms around Spike’s neck and peppered kisses on cheek and lips. “You’re the sweetest!”
Spike was bowled over and at the same time encouraged by Buffy’s exuberant reaction. Emboldened by her affection, the doubts Cordelia had raised earlier began to lose their weight. Maybe Cordelia was wrong…
“You’re the sweetest!” Xander mimicked in a high-pitched voice, clasping his hands together in front of him coquettishly.
The action earned him a slap on the arm from Willow and a glare from both blondes.
Buffy lifted herself on tiptoes, pressing her body closer to Spike’s so she could whisper her gratitude. “Thank you.”
The brush of her breasts against Spike was enough to render him momentarily speechless. With a nod, they continued to lunch. Everythin’ is goin’ to be alright…
~ Tuesday morning ~
Buffy arrived at school a little later than usual having overslept her alarm, thanks in part to a late night phone call to Spike. She quickly pushed through the throng of students in the hall as she made her way to her locker. It wasn’t until her fingers reached for the lock that she saw it.
A perfect red rose.
It was threaded through the loop of the padlock, and rested against the steel door.
Her gaze flicked up and down the hall in search of the culprit, but there was no bleached head in sight.
With a contented sigh she gently removed the flower, brought it to her nose and inhaled deeply. It smelled just as good as it looked. Distracted by the gift she almost missed the bell for first class. The required books were quickly removed as she tossed up the idea of placing the rose inside. But it was too pretty to shut away. Locker shut, Buffy made her way to class with the surprise gift still in her hand.
~ Wednesday after school ~
“What about training?” Buffy questioned. “Coach Jones will have a fit if we don’t turn up.”
“We’ll be there, just a little late is all,” Spike promised. Linking Buffy’s hand with his, Spike led her toward the roof access of the gym.
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll see.” With a reassuring smile and a squeeze of her hand they ascended the stairs. “Close your eyes.”
“Spike…” Buffy said nervously.
Stopping before her, Spike held her face in his hands. “Do you trust me?” Her nod was immediate, the certainty of the action encouraging him. “Then close them.”
Buffy nodded a second time as she took a deep breath before complying. When her eyes were closed Spike reached for the door handle, pushed it down and swung it open. Taking her hand in his again he led her onto the roof. Her footsteps were cautious but she didn’t resist his direction. Spike led her to the far corner and then stopped when they reached their destination. He released his hold and moved to her side.
“Okay, open your eyes.”
“Oh, wow!” Buffy gasped at the view before her. From the roof of the school gym they could see the lake behind Breaker’s Woods, a favourite local hangout in warm weather. The sight of the deep blue water against the rich green of the trees was remarkable. “It’s so pretty.”
“I used to come up here to smoke,” he informed her with a grin, a moment later his expression became more serious. “It’s just, I remembered how much you liked the view from the bluffs in LA, and… and I thought…”
Bashful was not a word Buffy would have used when describing Spike, but right now it fit. His hands were fidgeting by his pockets and his gaze kept dropping to where he was scuffing his shoes on the ground.
“Thank you, it’s beautiful.”
Not as much as you… Spike silently thought. “I… ah, I also…”
“Also…” Buffy repeated when he stopped whatever he was going to say.
It’s too soon… you’ll scare her away… Spike’s mind was a whirl of thoughts and the doubt Cordelia had planted in his mind began to sprout again. Now she’s expectin’ you to say somethin’ and if you don’t you’ll look like a right git…
A light touch of Buffy’s hand on his was all the reassurance he needed to continue. “A present, got you a little…” He fished inside his pocket and retrieved a small box.
Buffy gasped. He got me a gift… we’re at gift giving all ready? “You… you got me something?”
Spike nodded, not trusting his voice to cooperate at that moment. She was looking at him with such wonder, awe, and it was a sight that he hoped to see many times in the future. He held his hand out toward her.
The little box sat in his the middle of his outstretched palm, staring at her, and Buffy could almost here a little voice saying open me. With trembling fingers she accepted the small package and examined it for a long moment.
When she paused Spike began to worry. Definitely too soon… “If you don’t want it, I can --”
“No!” Buffy interrupted abruptly. “I’m sure I’ll love it. Just a little surprised is all.”
Spike let out a small sigh of relief, his worry slightly abated.
With a smile for show, Buffy found the side hinge with her fingers, held her breath and then opened the present. Inside was a delicate gold link bracelet, with a charm attached. On closer inspection she identified it as a cluster of three dolphins. She ran a finger over it gently.
“It’s gorgeous,” she breathed.
“I saw it and it reminded me of you.” At the hint of confusion in her eyes he explained. “When you swim, it’s like you and the water belong together.”
Buffy’s eyes misted. “Thank you, I love it. I’ll put it on right after training.”
Spike breathed another sigh of relief, the nervousness that had been hammering away in his stomach disappearing when a brilliant smile lit up her face. The way she was looking at him now, it was another expression he hoped to see again.
Carefully closing the box she wrapped her arms around Spike’s neck and drew his head toward hers for a passionate kiss. Spike’s arms reflexively wrapped around Buffy, pulling her flush against him as the kiss was deepened. It was not a kiss of duelling for dominance, but one of ardour, both of them pouring their growing affection for each other into every brush. Breaking away a moment later, Buffy hesitantly checked the time. They were going to be at least ten minutes late already and after the last thing she wanted was this perfect moment to be shattered by their grumbling coach. “We should probably head in for training.”
“Yeah,” Spike reluctantly agreed. He could have stayed there with Buffy wrapped in his arms all night. Linking his hand with hers, the pair walked toward the stairwell.
~ Thursday night ~
The buzzing in Buffy’s stomach couldn’t in anyway be described as butterflies. The way they were pounding at her insides, they were most certainly something larger, more destructive. Her anxiety was at fever pitch, and it was all because of her mom.
It was the night of the dreaded ‘meet the parents’ dinner. Or parent in her case. That thought brought her mild relief. The prospect of having to introduce Spike as her boyfriend to her father was a truly terrifying notion; that conversation would so not go well especially considering the confrontation in LA a few weeks ago.
Still, the lack of fatherly presence only caused her uneasiness to subside slightly. Buffy really liked Spike and she really wanted this relationship to work. She was in no way ashamed of her mother but a small part of her was terrified Joyce would bring out the embarrassing stories, lame jokes, or childhood photographs and scare Spike away. Not that Buffy thought it would be that simple to intimidate him, especially considering how attentive and sweet he’d been the since the night of their first date. In a word, it had been perfect. The more time they spent together the more childish notions, of a happily ever after, seemed possible. And the thought of losing what she had was the cause behind the larger than butterfly nerves.
Buffy wasn’t intentionally trying to be dramatic, but all she could think was that her future happiness was dependent on this night going smoothly.
Beneath the table she crossed her fingers.
“So, Spike, tell me a little about yourself.”
Buffy waited for the deer in the headlights look from Spike, but it never came. In fact his expression was relaxed and his voice was calm, the complete opposite of how Buffy herself was feeling. Each question was answered deftly and politely; he graciously complimented the meal, and used his manners on more occasions than Buffy had for the last week. Spike’s a gentleman, who knew?
Judging by the “he’s a good one, sweetheart, hang on to him” her mother had whispered her way when Spike had excused himself to clear the table, he had made a stellar impression tonight. Added to the numerous romantic gestures over the last few days and the suspicions she’d had all week were solidifying.
Buffy was falling for Spike.