Chapter 9 - New Friends
That Monday morning Buffy kept her eyes peeled for Spike in the halls, but she couldn’t see him anywhere. Slightly deflated by his no-show, she grabbed her books and moved on to class, cursing more than once that Monday was the day neither Willow nor Xander shared a class with her. By the start of lunch, Buffy still hadn’t run into Spike and she was starting to become a little panicked. Xander offered to get the girls their lunch for them and Buffy gratefully accepted, keeping her gaze on the table as Willow left to get them all sodas from the vending machine.
Someone sat beside her, and she jumped in fright. Turning quickly, the alarm that had risen dissipated as soon as she saw him. Buffy leapt forward and threw her arms around his neck.
“I looked for you this morning, and when I couldn’t find you I thought…” Her bottom lip quivered.
“Shh, pet. I’m here now. Had a meeting with Snyder is all,” he informed her, a sneer crossing his face as he thought of the sniveling little Nazi.
Buffy unlatched herself from him, a look of sympathy spreading across her face. She had only been a student at the school for a short time but she’d heard the stories, and witnessed first hand what the Principal considered ‘doing his job’. She didn’t know why he worked in a school when he had such obvious disdain for the students. “Is everything okay?” she asked uneasily.
“Nothing to fret about. Just riding me about overdue assignments - the usual.” It was true, but only half the story. He reached forward and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.
Buffy visibly relaxed. “He, he tried calling me. Last night.”
Spike’s nostrils flared and his grip on her hand tightened. “Who tried calling you?” he demanded.
Buffy winced. “Riley. I didn’t speak to him. Mom took a message.”
“Soddin’ hell! Prat thinks he can just --” Spike cut off his rant, releasing his hold of Buffy’s hand slightly when he realized he was holding it tightly. “I’m sorry, pet, didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“It’s okay,” she mumbled quietly.
“What was the message?” he asked, clenching his free hand.
“He wanted me to call him back, nothing else. Whatever it was he didn’t tell my Mom.” Buffy was relieved about that. If he had heard about what had happened at the party, he had the sense not to mention it on the phone to her Mom.
“Are you going to?” Spike asked, searching her face for an answer.
“Probably not,” she replied awkwardly. A part of her wanted to let him know exactly what situation he had put her in by not turning up.
Spike just nodded, squeezing her hand again. “Don’t, pet, he’ll just --” He cut himself off when he saw her friends approaching the table.
Xander and Willow both returned to their regular table at the same time, frowning at Spike’s presence. Xander noticed the handholding, jealousy rising within him.
“Don’t you two hate each other?” Willow asked with amusement, sitting down beside Buffy.
“He’s not bothering you, is he Buff?” Xander asked as he eyed Spike suspiciously.
Buffy shook her head. “No, everything is fine.” She looked to Spike for confirmation, and he nodded in agreement. “I’ll explain later, I promise.”
Willow shrugged her shoulders. “I’m guessing by the death stares we’re receiving, you having lunch with us was not something that was consulted with them first?” she jabbed a thumb in Cordelia and Harmony’s direction. Both girls were staring at the other table in utter shock.
“Who cares,” Spike replied with a shrug of his shoulders.
Xander sat across from Spike, and sized him up. There had to be a reason why he was at their table. Buffy’s the reason… a voice in his mind sarcastically informed him. He stifled a bitter laugh. No, there was more to it than that. If Buffy were all he was after, he would’ve dragged her over to his table in the center of the cafeteria, not sat on the outer with them. Since he didn’t look like moving any time soon, Xander turned his attention to the two girls at his table.
“So Buff, how was the party at the weekend?” Xander asked.
The colour rushed from Buffy’s face and was followed by a sharp intake of breath. It was enough for Xander to realize that something not of the good must have happened. “That bad,” he said a little quickly, trying to change the topic. “So, you got a training session tonight?”
Willow saw the looks Spike and Buffy shared and realized that whatever had happened, they’d been there together. A faint smile graced her lips when she saw Spike squeeze her friend’s hand reassuringly.
Buffy figured she might as well tell them now.
“I—I…” Buffy stammered. “I was attacked, at the party. Spike was there and…” She saw the glowering look on Xander’s face and quickly continued. “… and he helped me get out of there. There was a drunken frat guy.”
“Being drunk doesn’t give him an excuse,” Spike growled through clenched teeth, gripping the edge of his seat tightly.
Willow had a hand held over her mouth in horror. “Oh god, Buffy, I am so sorry.” Her eyes filled with tears at the thought of her friend being in that situation. “I was supposed to go with you.”
Buffy immediately unhooked her hand from Spike’s and turned to reassure Willow that she was alright. “You have nothing to feel guilty about Will,” she started.
“Red, listen to her, she’s right. The meathead had his eye on Buffy all night long, even when I was around.” Spikes eyes narrowed. “Don’t go blaming yourself.”
Willow relaxed a little but she still felt partly responsible. She couldn’t help wondering if it would’ve happened if she had been there to look out for her friend.
“What does Riley say about all of this?” Willow asked quietly.
Buffy’s expression fell and Spike’s hardened. “I didn’t see him there, he never showed up. He called last night but I was in bed already.”
“Bastard, leaving you alone with his drunken friends,” Spike muttered beneath his breath.
Xander heard the blond guy’s words and fought back the smirk that wanted to cross his face. He was being awfully protective of Buffy, which was a complete turn around from the way he had treated her the week before. Then ideas as to why he might be acting nicer floated in and out of Xander’s mind and it was his turn to glower. First Angel, then Riley, if he had to compete with Spike as well…
Willow reached for Buffy’s hand and gave it a quick squeeze. “Maybe he was running late. Or maybe he had to --”
“Leave town suddenly because the thought of having to see me again was too horrible?” Buffy finished before Willow could.
Three faces looked at her incredulously, and they all argued with her comment, their voices overlapping.
“Buffy, that’s not true!” Willow shook her head vehemently.
“You’ve got to be kidding me, pet?”
“Buff, that’s ridiculous, where would you get an idea like that?”
She looked up at Willow as she answered Xander’s question. “Angel left.”
Spike’s azure eyes danced with anger, the edge of his mouth twitching at the name of his friend. She couldn’t seem to get him out of her head.
“Angel’s dad moved across the country, what did you expect him to do?” he asked. “Why does it matter so much? It wasn’t like you two were together - it was one damn kiss. Get over it already.” Spike stood quickly, abruptly leaving the table.
Hurt and shock flashed across Buffy’s face at his words and she chewed on her lip as her gaze fell to the floor. Whilst Xander wanted Buffy’s mind off of Angel, he never would’ve said it like Spike just had. Willow squeezed her hand again. “Let’s go get some fresh air, shall we?”
Buffy had thought about skipping her training tonight but Willow wouldn’t allow it, practically pushing Buffy into the locker rooms and threatening her with withdrawing her history tutelage if she didn’t get changed immediately. A few minutes later Buffy walked out in her bathing suit meeting her friend’s smirk with a frown.
“You do realize this is extortion,” she started.
“Get in the water, Buffy, I’ll be watching. I don’t have anywhere to be today after school and we can go for mochas once you’ve finished.”
Buffy brightened at the thought. Willow would get to see her swim, and the thought of mochas afterwards was too tempting to resist.
Diving into the empty pool Buffy lost herself to the water, her troubles escaping her as she let the familiarity of the water wash over.
Willow watched from the stands as Buffy swam gracefully through the water, gliding through it with seemingly no effort. A noise to her left startled her, breaking her stare. She turned to see the door to the pool slamming shut and Spike walking across the pool deck.
He didn’t notice her immediately and she watched as his gaze flitted to Buffy as she swam, apparently taken with the view. A knowing smile spread across her face as she turned away from him and stomped her feet on the seat below, purposely making a loud noise to alert him of her presence.
Spike’s attention snapped towards the sound, and Willow turned towards him looking surprised. “Hey, Spike,” she called, waving him over.
Frowning for a moment he reluctantly moved towards her, sitting on the bench beside her. He didn’t know why she was here. “Red,” he greeted. “What you doin’ here?”
“Watching Buffy swim,” she answered.
“Oh, is that Buffy?” he tried to sound disinterested.
Willow snickered and Spike knew that he hadn’t managed to pull it off. “Yes, it’s Buffy,” Willow replied. “But you already knew that. I saw how you were watching her as you walked in.”
Spike looked stricken at her words and Willow laughed for a moment before a serious look crossed the red head’s features.
“You care about her, don’t you,” she stated simply.
Spike’s mouth opened and closed like a fish a few times as he tried to think of a retort. “What?” He was completely flabbergasted.
“You. care. about. Buffy.” Willow said plainly in a monotone voice. “If you didn’t, then you wouldn’t have gotten so pissed off when she mentioned Angel in the cafeteria today.”
Spike didn’t know what to say, but didn’t get the chance as Willow continued.
“I don’t know the full story, but I DO know that you were there for her when she needed someone at the weekend.” She said this with regret in her voice, her head dropping in shame.
“Red, like I said --”
“I know,” she interrupted. “And you’re probably right. Still doesn’t make me feel any better.”
“If I ever see that ponce again,” he seethed.
Willow raised an eyebrow. “Over-protective much?” she quipped.
“It’s not bein’ over-protective. The guy got off too lightly. If he so much as looks at her again…” he trailed off.
Willow smiled, his words un-consciously confirming her suspicions. Spike had feelings for Buffy. She wondered if he realized it yet.
“Well, I should probably let you get in the water, you’ve got training to do,” she fare welled. “Tell Buffy I’ll meet her at the Espresso Pump.”
Spike nodded as Willow turned and left, a smirk flickering across her face.
Buffy hasn’t been to the Espresso Pump yet… Willow thought wickedly.
Buffy lifted herself from the pool at the end of the training session and quickly wrapped a towel around her hips. She could see Spike getting out of the pool from the corner of her eye, and wanted to escape to the locker rooms before he had the chance to talk to her.
A hand tapped her on the shoulder, startling her. There was no way that he could have been that quick! She let out a sigh of relief when she identified the person as the Coach. “Buffy, may I speak with you for a moment?”
Buffy nodded, following the coach over to the table she had her files set on. “Buffy, I’m sure you are aware that we have a few meets coming up soon.” She continued when Buffy nodded, “Well, I wanted to register you with our team, for both relay and individual events.”
Buffy nodded again. “Uh ha.” She had been planning on registering anyway, once she felt her swimming was back on track.
“The first event is in two weeks and I want you on my team. It’s in LA, and the team will be staying over the weekend from the Friday night to Sunday afternoon. I’ll give you the details next training session.”
Buffy’s face blanked. Stay the weekend… she didn’t know if her Mom would let her. A mixture of excitement and hesitation built within her. It would be a chance to be free, to do what she wanted for a few days. She knew the mornings would be time for herself; so she would be able to shop, catch up with old friends. Plus if she did well in her events it could help her qualify for state championships. Then there was the hesitation. It would be a weekend in LA, where her Dad was, with his secretary. And she knew if she went down there, he would want to see her.
“When do you submit the teams? I--I would have to check with my Mom is all.”
“End of next week. Get back to me as soon as possible Buffy.”
Dismissed, Buffy moved quickly towards the locker rooms avoiding Spike’s glance.
Spike sighed at the way she avoided him, then made an effort to get changed himself. He needed to be out before she did, so he could let her know where Red was.
Buffy walked out from the female locker rooms and back onto the pool deck, and a frown spread across her face when she found the seats empty. Willow was supposed to be waiting for me…
“Buffy,” Spike called to her from behind.
Buffy jumped in fright and spun to face him. She hadn’t heard him come up behind her. “Spike! Were you trying to scare me!? You don’t just sneak up on people like that.”
Spike suppressed the smirk that wanted to spread across his face at her reaction. “If you’re looking for Red she said she’d meet you at the coffee house, the Espresso Pump.”
A frown crossed her feature. Buffy hadn’t been there before. She really didn’t want to ask Spike for directions, but at the same time, she didn’t want to wander around town aimlessly. She saw him turn to walk away from her, reached out to grab his shoulder.
“Uh, where exactly is that? I haven’t been there yet,” she asked tentatively.
Spike nodded, the smirk he had been holding back spreading across his face. “I’ll drive you there, goin’ that way anyway.”
Buffy paused hesitantly for a moment before nodding and following him out to the car park.
Spike drove in silence, and Buffy didn’t make any effort to start a conversation. He sighed, knowing why she was mad at him. He still stood by his words; he did think she was too hung up on Angel. But at the same time he didn’t want her to be hostile towards him, and then there was the whole thing with the college boy, Riley. He was sure he had heard uncertainty in her voice when she had said she wasn’t going to call him. She was considering listening to what he had to say and that infuriated Spike.
Buffy was angry at Spike for what he had said at lunch, but she also knew that if it wasn’t for him the situation on the weekend would have been a hell of a lot worse. And the look on his face when she had hesitated when he asked if she was going to call Riley back - he didn’t believe her.
The car slowly pulled up on the main street, and parked in front of a coffee house. Buffy unbuckled her belt and quickly opened the door. She spotted Willow sitting at a table, waving her over.
“Thanks for the lift,” Buffy said as she closed the door swiftly.
Spike saw Willow waving him over and shook his head. Buffy had made it quite clear she didn’t want him to be around by her silence in the car and she hadn’t tried to make conversation once. He nodded at Willow as he pulled away from the street.
Buffy glanced over her shoulder at his disappearing car and for a second was disappointed. Shrugging her shoulders she walked over to Willow and sat down. “You coulda waited for me! I haven’t been here before.”
“Oh, really?” Willow replied, feigning innocence.
“Will, I told you last week,” Buffy reminded with a frown.
“I guess it slipped my mind, sorry. But Spike was nice enough to drive you, why didn’t he join us?” Willow asked. She was disappointed her little scheme hadn’t worked.
“I dunno.” Buffy frowned, not wanting to talk about Spike right now. “Oh! Guess what? I’m registering for a swim meet in LA, I’ll be spending a weekend there.”
Willow smiled. Spike was on the team and more than likely he would be going to the meet. “Tell me ALL about it.”