It was beautiful, tender, soft... just as Buffy imagined it would be. She fell asleep while Parker spooned her, kissing her neck.
Then the alarm rang.
"Stupid-- ugh--" She batted a hand at the bedside table and shut it off, then backed into his embrace.
His non-embrace. His not-there-anymore embrace.
She shot up.
He's gonna sweet-talk you 'til you give it up, then move onto the next.
No. That wasn't Parker. He wasn't like that. He was probably downstairs, fixing her breakfast with the morning paper and a long red rose.
Buffy quickly wriggled into silk pajama bottoms, slipped on a tank top and crept down the staircase, calling out, "Parker?"
He's gonna break your heart.
In a daze, she walked to the kitchen phone.
* * *
"Ow." Spike rubbed his head. "The hell?"
"What?" He reached out and plucked the object from the pillow above him.
"Muffin. You want it or not?"
"C'mon, I didn't hit you that hard."
"Hangover." In one swift motion, he spun to look at her, then around the crisp, white, sun-drenched room, and back at Buffy. "All coming back to me." Sitting with one pale-pink pajama-covered knee up on the bed, hair in a loose bun, she was cheerfully popping muffin bits into her mouth. A raised tray adorned with fruits, coffee, juice, a bottle of Advil and a folded copy of the Los Angeles Times separated them. "More or less..."
"Hmm, let's see." She looked up at the ceiling. "You got plastered, informed me that my boyfriend was a player, then you proposed marriage and sang me a song. Milk and sugar or black?"
"Black," he said, eying her skeptically as he took the mug. "You're kidding about the... proposal thing, right?"
"Don't worry. I'm not holding you to it."
His expression didn't change. "Why you being so nice to me? And why're you so chipper?"
"I don't drink," she said pointedly. "And you were right."
"Oh..." His face fell. "I'm sorry, love."
"It's okay," she breezed, shoulder meeting her ear. "I have a terrible history with men. They never choose me."
"Maybe you choose them for just that reason."
"Eat your muffin," she said with a scowl.
He looked at it, sniffed it. Smelled like bananas and cardboard. "So you and he... last night?"
"Mmhm." She tried not to dwell on what he'd said on the phone: Sure, I had a good time, well didn't you? It was fun... Nah, I got a lot to do this week. Yeah, we'll see each other around! "I'm an idiot."
"No, you're not," he said in all seriousness. "You're human."
"A human idiot."
"Don't beat yourself up, Buffy." He sat up gingerly. "You can't live your life without taking chances."
"Like letting you drive me to Palos Verdes?" She smiled, licking the crumbs out of her muffin wrapper.
"Or making terrible mistakes like that, yeah."
"I don't think it was a mistake," she said, throwing the muffin wrapper in the trash can and getting up to leave. "My dad's coming back in two weeks. You can stay 'til then if you have nowhere to go."
He watched her, dumbfounded, as she slid the doors shut.
* * *
"What am I, your fucking pet charity of the month?"
Salsa bowl and scrub brush in hand, Buffy regarded the rumpled Spike in her kitchen with astonishment. "Excuse me?"
"I don't need your pity, alright?"
She turned back to the sink, kept scrubbing. *Now* he has pride? "Who said anything about pity?"
"You did, with your pity-eyes."
"Oh for Christ's sake." She put the bowl down, cast off her rubber gloves. "Take it or leave it, okay? I really don't care either way."
He caught a glimpse of her reddened cheeks and lost his train of thought. "Have you been crying?"
"Oh good!" A bitter grin. "I get your pity-eyes now?"
"You have," he determined, and stepped forward with his hands in his pockets. "I'm sorry--"
"Don't be. Please." She walked past him. "And this isn't part of the deal."
"What isn't?" He followed her into the dining room.
"You coming and going in my house. You're a guest. There's a house for you, and this isn't it."
"Please stop following me."
"No?" She spun around. "No? Is this the start of a fun stalker/stalkee relationship? Because if there's anything I really need right now, it's a stalker."
"What? What is it you want from me? I can't figure you out!"
"I can't figure you out!" he shouted. "You run hot and cold and -- And I don't bloody know!"
"You don't know what?"
"What I want from you..." He shut his eyes, looked up at her, poised at the staircase. "I don't know."
"Well, I don't have time to play guessing games." She jogged up the stairs. "Either stay or go, it's your decision."