Buffy was lying stomach-down on her bed, feeling hollowed-out and inconsolable, telling herself he was right, there was nothing she could tell him to make him stay, when her cell phone rang.
She didn't move for a moment. She had no desire to pick it up. Talking to a friend right now -- Cordelia, especially? Not the most appealing prospect. She reached for it to glance at the number, and frowned until she placed it. The guest house.
He was still here?
She sat up, and hit the talk button. "He-hello?"
"Drawing room. Five minutes. Bring your ears." Click.
With a giddy, widening grin, she glanced at the bedside clock and hurried to her vanity mirror.
* * *
Before she made it down the last step, she heard it. The piano: first a light tinkling, segueing into a lush classical concerto. It was something Dawn had recently struggled through; Spike, on the other hand, was playing it like he wrote it himself.
Following the sound, she entered the room. He didn't look up, but she knew he could sense her presence.
Sitting there at the Grand like it was tailor-made for him, he was a study in contrasts: a punk rock virtuoso.
Unable to keep her smile hidden, she approached him slowly, and leaned on the piano. He paused for a moment, eyes downcast, and began the song. The song she somehow already recognized as the one he wrote for her.
She watched his fingers as a slow, mellifluous tune poured out of them. Melancholy, reverent, aching, everything she imagined it would be.
And then he opened his mouth to sing:
"I was burned before I crashed in you
Strung and turned and faded into blue
Waiting for maybe someone like you
He glanced at her, and Buffy swallowed, heart suddenly pounding. Those weren't the same words she read.
"To save me like you needed saving
Too strange to be strangers
Too far gone to be friends
Too lovesick to be lovers
Only one way this could end...
But if you kiss my pages
What else can I do
Think I'll stick around and crash and burn with you
Buffy smiled bashfully. He'd rewritten almost the whole song, and this was... even better.
"You were wrecked before I smashed in you
Lost and vexed and jaded baby blue
Flashed your shine in rooms I never knew
Saw through me like I saw through you
We're too strange to be strangers
Too far gone to be friends
Too lovesick to be lovers
Only one way this could end
But if you keep your clothes on
I'll keep mine on too
She giggled. He looked up with a wink, and sang the real line, slowing it down for the finish:
"Don't know why you let me in
When you've got so much to lose...
But I'll stick around to crash and burn with you
Yeah, I'll stick around to crash and burn with you...
I'll stick around to crash and burn... with you."
When his fingers stopped moving, he looked up.
For the first time in their history together, Buffy was speechless.
He smiled, eyes locked with hers.
The phone rang. And rang. And rang.
Shit. "You gonna get that?"
She finally heard it. "Oh. Uh-huh. Yeah."
When she walked off toward the kitchen, Spike shut his eyes, exhaled.
"Hello?" Buffy had to clear her throat and ask again.
"Buffy? What happened?"
"Is everything okay?"
She frowned. "Yeah, everything's fine. What's up?"
"Martin called. He said the papers weren't faxed yet."
Oh, shit. Shit! "Oh, really? Well, I faxed them, Monday morning. Right after we talked. Maybe they didn't go through--"
"Buffy, how am I supposed to feel comfortable hiring you someday or recommending you for a firm when you can't complete even the tiniest task for me?"
"But I -- I did do it, I just didn't check the OK message!" Right after I forgot to send it...
"You want me to ask Linda to come over and do this work when you're already there, is that what you want?"
"No. I'm sorry, Dad, I -- I'll go do it right now."
"I want you to sit there and make sure every last page goes through. Do you hear me?"
She shut her eyes. "Loud and clear."
As she hung up the phone, Buffy noticed her hands were shaking. And not because of her father, who was usually the cause. But because of the man waiting for her in the next room.
She closed her fists and stood ramrod straight, trying to calm her breath. That song... It confused her even more than she had been for the last week. He was telling her he'd stay, that he'd wait to see what happens -- but he knew as well as she did that they were pretty much doomed. So what did he want her to do?
She knew what she wanted to do. She could feel it; see it happening in her mind's eye. Feel his soft lips on hers, see the clothing flying every which way, hear the piano keys clink as their bodies sought purchase.
It was a nice fantasy. But she couldn't always do what she wanted to do. And pretty songs didn't change that.
Was it finally time to talk, honestly, about what was going on?
Buffy took a deep breath, psyching herself up to leave the kitchen. Really, really going now. Here I go. Watch me.
And just as she took her first step, she heard the back door open and close.
She frowned, and her shoulders sagged.
Well. Probably for the best. Because... For the best.
With a sigh, she headed down the hallway to the office, looking forward to sending 300 pages of legal briefs to some guy named Martin.