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Laundromatic by Verity Watson
Ch. 2: Bounce
She’s folded up towels and tees, and so have I.

“Give you a lift?”

“Yeah, ‘cause that ended so well the other night.” She swings on her backpack and hefts her bags.

“Or if you want to haul your bundles and risk getting the whites back to Revello Drive in less than pristine condition …”

She pauses.

“Wouldn’t want mum to know you’ve been sneakin’ out of the house to do the washing.” I play that sentence back in my head. “You really don’t have any kind of a life, do you?”

Damn, I think, wishing I could filter my words a little better. Or even just a little.

“Fine,” she agrees, to my surprise, and lugs her bags out to the DeSoto.

She’s still huffy and grumbly as she flounces into the passenger seat. I ought to drive her royal highness home, tip my hat and hope for something better the next time.

Then again, how often are the Slayer and I out alone together without something trying to kill us?

I turn the key in the ignition. “Didja ever think that it might be incredibly unfair to Joe Normal?”


“You have a shelf life considerably shorter than the average cheese. Protecting Joe Normal gets you killed, and he’s gotta live with that forever. Assuming something doesn’t take him out as soon as you’re cold in the ground.”

“Is this a commercial for dating vampires, Spike? Because I’ve seen the previews, and it’s gory.”

“Just a fact, Slayer.” We pull out of the parking lot of the Laundromatic. “Everyone around you is a target. How many times have you had to thwart some baddie from sinking his claws into your kid sis?”

Buffy frowns. If she’s mentally counting the number of times she’s saved Dawn, we’ll have to drive to San Francisco before she speaks again.

“Better off with old Broody Pants Angel in some ways. He could hold his own.”

“Can we not, Spike?”

“Not what?”

“Not dissect my love life. Or the shredded remains of my former love life?”

“Just saying.”

“And I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be saying it.”


“Okay?” she sputters.

“What? I argue with you and you kvetch. I agree with you and I get those daggers stared into my back.”

I’m pulling up in front of Revello Drive now, dimming the lights and coasting the last little bit.

There’s something about this time of night, just before dawn breaks.

“I … I don’t know what I’m saying, Spike.”

I snort. “Gee, you don’t say, Slayer.”

She’s not listening, though, and I realize she’s trying to tell me something. Something real. “It just feels like … I can handle the slaying, right? But real life is getting away from me. Riley and Mom and Dawn. It’s like Slayers die young because we’re not built for all the grown-up stuff. Especially with our stupid secret identities.”

“Hey … none of that,” I tell her, fighting back a wave of panic. “That’s surrender. And you don’t do that. It’s not your way.”

“How do you know what my way is?”

“I’ve been around a bit longer than you, kitten.”

She scowls at me.

“And I know,” I add. Instead of fighting it, I let all the tenderness I feel flood my voice. “I know that there are rough patches on the road. Even for one as flawless as your precious self.”

She smiles.

Thank god, she smiles.

“You’ve changed, Spike.”

It’s more than I could have hoped for. I think it’s more than I love you. I love you could never happen. This … this is world-shattering.

“Don’t let that get out,” I mumble, looking down and willing myself to stay calm.

When I look up, she’s holding my gaze and leans in to kiss me.

On the cheek.

“Thanks for being my friend, Spike,” she says, and before I know it, she’s out of the car and unloading her laundry bags.

I follow her around to the trunk. It’s strangely familiar, even though we’ve never been here before.

“We’ll never be friends, Slayer,” I tell her, closing the gap between us and pulling her in for a kiss.

She drops her bags; struggles a little against my chest. “Spike-”

“It’s too easy. Too easy for you to take what you want and ignore the rest. I’m not gonna be that guy, that guy who gets chewed up and spit out and runs home to somewhere he can still feel like a man.”

I pull her a little tighter. She’s still now.

“Gonna be the one you want, in the end.” I lean in and kiss her, hard, and unlike last night, she’s ready and responsive and liquid in my arms.

With a force of will that surprises me, I push her away. She is panting, and her lips are bruised.

“I don’t want you,” she lies.

“In the end, you will. You will, Buffy.”

And with that, I unload the last of her laundry sacks on the walkway to Revello Drive, and step back into my car.

A year ago I’d have never believed it, but now I think that it’s just possible that my bravado might be right.

I check the rearview mirror. She’s watching me, bags clustered at her feet, her hands clutching a bottle of Tide and a box of Bounce.

There’s something poetic in that.

AN: Thus ends Laundromatic, but I plan to write at least one more in this little series of mini-tales set in Season Five. I'm not making it into a formal series because, well, I still owe the 'verse a finish to two much bigger WiPs, and don't dare take on one more. Yet. Thanks for reading, and please leave a review!