Mucho thanks to Spikeskat for the beta and BTL for her help. *hugs*
Dinner passed by in a semi-awkward blur, with Joyce and Elaine the only two truly at ease. As far as Buffy's mother was concerned, she had her daughter sitting at her table again for the first time in a year, so all was right with the world. Anything of a negative nature just refused to register.
Willow and Xander remained unusually silent during the meal, both feeling the widening gap of friendship between themselves and Buffy broadening with each new topic that was introduced and discussed. It was becoming increasingly clear that Buffy had changed a lot since she'd been gone, more so than they had even realized, both finding they now shared little in common.
It was beyond the weird, to say the least.
It was Rick who had managed to somewhat alleviate the obvious discomfort, drawing Xander into a conversation that revolved around tools and woodworking. Willow couldn't help but stare at her best guy friend in shock, not even knowing that Xander knew what an electric drill was, much less how to wield it in a productive manner.
By the time the table was cleared of the dinner plates, Buffy was finally feeling more like her normal self. The deficit of blood that had been created earlier was no longer a concern, her red blood cells having multiplied like the good, little, supercharged slayer cells they were. Now with food and coffee in her system, she had to admit she was feeling pretty good. Better than Spike , she thought, regarding him with concern. His usual pale skin held an extra edge of atypical pallor - even given his undead status - and that concerned her. Especially knowing that he had already consumed what she felt was more than an adequate amount of blood from the butcher's shop. Blood that should have done the trick to replenish his own depleted stores.
Well, now that she was feeling better, she knew exactly how she could aid him with that little problem, she thought, trying to hide the secretive smile that insisted on playing across her lips.
And damned if she wasn't looking forward to it, especially given their little tryst earlier at the mansion. She had gotten off - he hadn't, and that just wasn't acceptable. Or at least that's what she tried blaming her lusty thoughts on. But that episode in front of Giles and her mom had held a different flavor, one that she wanted to get another taste of. Aside from that time when he'd claimed her in the elevator and again when she'd forced him to feed from her just after they had left Sunnydale, Spike's fangs had only pierced her flesh during the peak of passion, when his bite would most assuredly send her over the edge into sheer orgasmic bliss.
It had never been the other way around. Never fangs first, then hot sex. Almost as if he was too afraid of reminding her of what he was. But, oh yeah, Buffy definitely wanted a very up-close and personal reminder of exactly what he was - and better yet, how much she enjoyed that grrr aspect of him.
Just as soon as they went to bed...
"I know what you're thinking about," Elaine teased in a sing-song voice, breaking Buffy from her increasingly lust-addled reverie.
"Huh?" Buffy blinked rapidly to clear her mind and get herself back to the present, a touch of crimson staining her cheeks at the knowing smirk she caught Spike throwing her way.
"Welcome back to the present, Miss. Spacey Casey." Elaine winked in Buffy's direction. "So... what do you think?"
Buffy looked around the table, realizing she had missed out on something. And obviously a big something, noting the expressions on Willow and Xander's faces. Buffy recognized the amused tilt of Spike's head and his exaggerated, deep inhalations, knowing she would receive no help from him. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at him, her look clearly threatening retaliation. Well, later, anyway.
The silence stretched on until it breeched the barrier between comfortable and the not so much, and Buffy finally sighed, realizing she was going to have to admit her mind was elsewhere.
Like fang-deep in the gutter elsewhere.
Just as she opened her mouth to admit the truth, Willow saved her from a world of unmerciful teasing. "Um, you know, what do you think about your mom and... someone named Dr. Adler?"
"Oh, that," Buffy bluffed, loving Willow at that very second. But her relief at being clued in suddenly gave way to the dawning horror of the true subject matter, and she turned to Elaine in shock. "You're trying to set my mother up - with Dr. Adler!" she demanded, eyes wide with disbelief. "He's my boss! I work with him! I can't believe you! I leave town for one day and you're playing matchmaker with my mother?!"
Elaine's face broke out in a big smile, finding Buffy's outrage highly amusing. "I had nothing to do with it, dear friend of mine, which you would have known if you hadn't been sitting there daydreaming about the very sexy hunk of dead man over there."
"I wasn't!" she immediately denied, color rushing to her face once more. "Ok, fine, maybe I was," Buffy finally conceded, ignoring Xander's muffled groan at Elaine's terminology. "But that is so not the point here. Make with the major spillage and like, now ."
"Buffy, it's not a big deal. Really," her mother injected when Elaine refused to answer, just continued to sit there amused. Buffy whipped her head around to stare at the woman who had brought her into the world. Judging by the pleased look on Joyce's face, Buffy realized that it was, in fact, a very big deal.
"Elaine was just informing me that Dr. Adler called her regarding a league matter - and that he just happened to ask a few questions about me while he had her on the phone."
Her mom managed to give her another clue on the importance front with the poor attempt at feigned nonchalance and Buffy looked at Elaine suspiciously. "What kind of questions?"
Elaine shrugged. "Oh, you know. The normal kind. Her bra size. If she was the type of loose woman who gave it up... if he went to the trouble of taking her someplace nice. The usual."
Ignoring the snickering of the vampire seated next to her, Buffy glared at her friend. "You realize that you are in no way ,whatsoever, amusing? You know that, right?"
Elaine burst into loud, infectious laughter. "God, you should have seen your face." she grinned at Buffy, ignoring the icy glare sent her way - she knew there was little ire behind it. "He just wanted to know what her sitch was. If she involved with Dinglebert or not. If she'd be coming back to town. You know, the sort of questions a man asks when he meets a woman he's interested in."
Before Buffy could respond to this latest revelation, she tensed at the sound of a low knock on the front door, hearing the knob turn and the door swing inward.
"Er, Joyce?" a voice called out, one that Buffy easily recognized as belonging to her watcher.
"Ah, speaking of all things that go Dingle Dingle in the night," Elaine announced cheekily. "The man does have impeccable timing, I must admit." She turned around her seat and called over her shoulder. "Yo, you're just in time for pie. Better chop chop in here before Spike eats it all."
Joyce stood up to get another plate from the kitchen. "Have you eaten? There is chili left," she asked as Giles stepped into the dining room. The look on his face immediately making Buffy wary. She hadn't been away long enough to forget Giles and his 'but' face. There was a 'but' around here, she was sure of it. She wondered idly if something had happened to Angel.
"You're wearing your 'but face ', Giles. What's up?"
"Butt face?" Elaine echoed, perplexed. "As in, 'ass face'?"
Buffy rolled her eyes at her friend, not even bothering to shush the snickering vampire next to her. "No, silly. 'But face' as in 'oh sure, Buffy, everything is fine... but .' And that 'but' has never led to anything good, let me tell you. I've grown to fear Giles' 'but face.'" She turned to stare at her watcher. 'So what's the 'but' this time?"
It was at that moment that Angel stepped into the room behind the watcher.
"Ok, not exactly the 'but' I was expecting, since I figured I'd get a bit of warning," Buffy commented dryly, crossing her arms defensively over her chest. "You could have called and made with the warn-age, you know, Giles."
Giles ripped his glasses off in consternation, sighing heavily. "Yes, well, if I had remembered to bring my cellular telephone with me, I most assuredly would have."
Buffy nodded her understanding, tensing for the anticipated verbal assault from her thus-far silent ex-boyfriend. The next few seconds of silence proved to be excruciating, and for the first time in over a year, Buffy actually found herself thankful for Xander's and his big mouth
"What in the wild world of flaming frijoles is dead boy doing here?" Xander yelped, his eyes wide with confusion as he stared at the posture-deficient vampire slouched in the entryway, before his gaze flew wildly around the room, searching for an answer.
Giles sighed heavily once more, the tension growing more palpable by the second. "Joyce, I do believe that I will take you up on your offer of chili."
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