Dawn snagged the popcorn bowl as soon as it landed on the coffee table.
“Hey!” Buffy complained. “Pop your own!”
“Oh, geez! You put the bag in the microwave. It’s not like you actually turned on the oven or something. Thank God,” she added low.
“So what’s happening?” Willow asked rushing back from her bathroom break.
“N-nothing much, they’re still avoiding each other as much as p-possible,” Tara answered, not taking her eyes off the television screen.
Buffy looked at her companions, “Are you sure we should be doing this? Doesn’t it feel…wrong?”
“Wrong schmong,” Dawn snorted. “This is for their own good. We gave them a chance to do this without interference and they blew it. Now it’s time for drastic measures.”
“We have g-given them a lot of encouragement,” Tara added.
Willow nodded in agreement, “And gentle pushes. And I even ‘accidently’ locked them in that closet for almost an hour and nothing, bumpkiss, not even a little gratuitous groping session.”
“And how do you know that?”
“Um, there might have been a sound amplifying spell on the door,” the redhead blushed.
“Oooookay!” Buffy said, turning back to the TV.
Willow blushed even harder. Tara patted her girlfriends’ leg sympathetically.
“Oh look, they’re talking,” Dawn bounced, leaning forward as if she could learn what was happening by proximity. “You know, sound would be so much better. I don’t read lips very well.”
“Yeah, and lets keep it that way,” Buffy muttered cryptically. The two sisters glared at each other for a moment before turning back to the movements on the screen.
“Oh look! They’re getting closer,” Dawn squealed, shifting perilously close to the edge of the couch.
The girls watched eagerly as the two figures closed the distance between them. Willow bit her lower lip nervously as Tara brought her lover’s fluttering hands to her lap and covered them with her own in an effort to calm her.
“Well, they’re talking and there’s no bloodshed, no violence, no destruction of property…which I’m sure that Giles would appreciate,” Buffy said as she quickly grabbed the popcorn bowl back from Dawn.
“Oh!” Tara gasped.
The girls turned to the quiet Wicca before following her stare back to the screen, trying to see what had caught her attention.
“What? What?” Dawn asked excitedly.
“I-I thought I saw—” Tara started.
“There!” Willow shouted.
The key snorted. “He handed him a box of—” She paused squinting at the screen. “Snail intestines? Eww!”
“It was the <I>way</I> he handed it to him,” Willow answered smugly.
Dawn looked cynical. “Yeah, nothing says lovin’ like snail guts.”
“Th-that wasn’t what I saw,” Tara offered hesitantly. “T-they…smiled at each other.”
“Really?” Buffy looked back at the two on the screen doubtfully.
The girls ate their snacks as they watched the figures move around in the Magic Box. They seemed to be in orbit of each other, neither getting too close, if one moved within reach the other backed away quickly. Customers came and left. As the brunette worked the cash register efficiently, the blonde stalked the floor, scowling at the patrons that lingered in one spot too long.
Soon a bold shopper approached the blonde, asking for help with an item behind the counter. The girls snickered at Spike’s disbelieving look and the look he threw the woman as she pointed at the container on the top shelf before standing back expectantly. The vampire finally threw he hands up in disgust and moved quickly to the shelves, his jaw locked firm and stubborn.
The voyeurs watched with baited breath as Spike sized up the shelving unit and looked around casually, searching in vain for a stepstool. Finally giving up, he slid off his duster and placed one booted foot carefully on the bottom shelf. Four heads tilted, watching the tightly clad ass wiggle as the blonde struggled to reach the canister. Four mouths gasped when the vampire lost his footing, his natural grace temporarily lost as his arms flailed trying to correct himself. A hand shot out, pressing against the blonde’s back and righting the falling body, allowing Spike to step down awkwardly. Four voices ‘aww’d’ as the two stared at each other for a long moment before Xander stepped forward to snag the canister and moved away, smiling brightly at the customer as he rang up the sale.
The last shopper exited the building and the two began the ritual of closing up shop. They finished quickly, the final task of locking the receipts and money in the safe accomplished by Xander and then the lights turned off. The girls could barely see the outline of the two men as they moved toward the door. The faint glow from the street light illumintated the duo before the door closed behind them.
“That’s it?” Dawn huffed in disgust. “All this watching and that’s all we get? One lingering look? What a crock!”
“Well, i-it is progress,” Tara tried to reassure the girl.
“Poo! I had tonight in the betting pool,” the redhead pouted.
Tara patted her girlfriend’s leg. “I’ve got two weeks, so we still have a shot.”
“I still say one month,” Buffy declared, gathering bowls and empty soda cans before heading to the kitchen.
“You’re all wrong!” Dawn laughed, snatching up the last Hershey bar and running up the stairs.
Outside the Magic Box, Spike watched as Xander locked the door. The brunette turned back to him, his eyes twinkling brightly in the moonlight and the false light of the street lamps. “So…”
“So,” Xander laughed. “Is there where you say ‘your place or mine’?”
The vampire shrugged. “Could be.”
“Well, how about we narrow it down a bit,” Xander smirked. He stepped forward and a calloused hand reached out to run down the side of his companion’s neck. The vampire moaned softly and leaned into the touch. “My place has heat, hot water, and a nice comfy bed just big enough for two, although I have been known to be a bed hog. You might wake up with me trying to take over your side of the bed,” Xander whispered confidently.
Spike swallowed hard. “I think I might be able to live with that.”
“Good. That’s settled then.” The two turned away from the shop and headed towards Xander’s apartment.
“So…you don’t think the girls suspect anything, do you?” Spike asked casually.
“Nope, not yet anyway. I figure next week will be soon enough to tell them.”
Spike nodded. “Fine by me,” he said, feigning indifference before lowering his head and letting a smile stretch across his face.
“Good.” Throwing an arm around the shorter man as they walked, Xander leaned into him lightly. “Cause Dawn’s got nine days in the pool.”