She thinks of him sometimes. She
thinks of all the ways he has hurt her and healed her, loved her and abused
her. She remembers the way his eyes never wavered when she told him that
she didn’t love him.
There has to be a way to know
that I’ve done the right thing, she thinks. There has to be a way to know
that at least. But, of course, there never is.
She had stabbed Faith.
She had stabbed Angel.
Now, poised over him, she longs
to trace the hard-edged curve of his cheek, the little dip you could rest your
knuckles in. Instead, her fingers rub against the smooth wood, testing the
Then, his eyes open, immediately
finding and focusing on her face. She thinks he will say something.
What are you doing?
But that’s not what he does. He
remains silent and lets her see that he is not afraid of ending his long,
long life if only she will be the one to end it. He waits and she thinks
she can see his life flashing across the dark blue of his eyes: a movie in
William, foppish blonde hair
tumbling over a smooth brow, wineglass cupped in one hand, book pressed
tightly against his narrow chest in the other.
Spike. The man she tries her
best not to love, but whom she can’t help but love just a little bit.
She thinks she can read his
Buffy. Buffy. Buffy.
She raises the stake and closes
her eyes, depending on her intuition and her luck to drive the weapon
through the wall of muscle and bone, into his dead heart.
Open your eyes.
She hesitates and feels his
hand, rough and strong, on her wrist. It feels like slow motion as he
guides her hand down to his chest and at the very second when the point
comes in contact with his flesh she calls out.
He pushes her from him, and she
falls hard. “You can’t bleedin’ do it, can you?” he asks, his voice quiet
and disappointed. “Shit.”
Buffy rights herself and shuts
her eyes, unwilling to look at him and see what she knows will be written
all over his face. Coward. Bitch. Whore. And then behind the insults, the
tenderness. Then, he’ll reach for her and she won’t back away. She’ll stay
as still and silent as she can while he strokes her. More silent still when
The house is too full. Giles had
gone off to collect assorted pre-slayers. Still, there’s Dawn. Willow.
Xander and Anya, who seem to be drifting back toward each other out of
necessity or boredom. Andrew, finally untied from the chair, is clean and
spouting Star Trek facts to anybody who will listen. Too many people
expecting too much from her.
She can’t sleep, but she goes to
her room so that she can be alone, so she won’t have to meet those
expectant eyes. Her room isn’t the refuge it once was. It’s changed. Or she
She sits on her bed. She waits
for the exhaustion that covers her like a dirty layer of skin to claim her,
to knock her over and out. But, no, it’s not going to be that easy. Nothing
A tapping at the door.
She says nothing, knows they
won’t go away.
“I’m here,” she says.
The door opens and Willow’s
smooth red hair peeks in between the door and the frame.
Buffy can’t talk to her. Can’t
tell her all the things she wants to say to her.
I don’t trust you anymore.
I’m still fucking Spike.
I miss my mom.
Xander didn’t tell me you were
trying to restore Angel’s soul.
“Hi,” she says.
“Hi,” Willow says. “I’m sorry.
Alone time is a rare commodity around here, I know.”
Buffy doesn’t reply. What Willow
says is true.
“It’s just that…” Willow pauses,
licking her lips nervously. “Giles got a call from Wesley.”
Buffy feels her spine stiffen.
“He’s okay,” Willow says, not
wasting any time assuring Buffy that he is okay. “I mean, he was hurt, but
he’s okay.” Willow throws her glance across the room and tries to gauge
Buffy’s reaction to this news, but Buffy remains motionless. “Buffy?”
She nods. “Thanks, Willow.”
“Are you…” She wants to ask if
Buffy is okay, but she knows it’s a stupid question. Buffy hasn’t been okay
for a long, long time.
There is a moment when Buffy
knows that her past transgressions will hold her back. Before the First
Evil came, before he tore at her dressing gown in the bathroom, she let
Spike do any number of unnamable things to her in alleys and crypts and
even here in this very bed.
What she appreciated the most
about Spike was his willingness to hurt her in the name of love. It softens
her heart toward him.
Someone once told her that there
are always two sides to any story and somewhere in the middle is the truth.
Her truth. Her truth is opaque.
Her truth is all about spinning plates and not letting the home team down.
Her truth is about having something just for her. She thinks back to when
Angel returned from hell and remembers how she’d kept him secret from the
others. He was just hers. Her truth.
It was the same with Spike. Her
dirty little secret: His cold flesh married to her warm skin. But hers and
the most honest thing she’s done since they’d brought her back.
She knew how it would all play
out. Now here she was, alone in her room, worrying about Angel and worrying
about Spike and worrying about keeping her friends alive. They’d faced the
Big Bad before, but somehow this felt different. Like punishment. Like
someone knew she no longer felt worthy.
She glanced at the phone and for
a moment considered the consequences of calling him. Since they’d met after
she’d come back from the dead, they hadn’t spoken or seen each other. It
had been a mutual decision, one that had made her neither happy nor
unhappy. It just was what it was.
Buffy rested her hand on the
He can’t save you.
He can’t even save himself.
Buffy retracted her hand as if
the phone was scalding hot.
Spike watched from the shadows
outside Buffy’s bedroom window. He’d hardly ever used this method to gain access
to her house, but he couldn’t face the others, whom he’d seen huddled over
cups of something steamy in the dining room.
Now as he watched, he could feel
the shivering air around him. He wasn’t alone.
You bloody ponce.
Look at her.
I am looking at her, mate.
That’s all I do is bloody look at her.
And then, a new voice.
My Spike’s gone all soft. All
soft like muck.
Spike closed his eyes against
the sound of Drusilla’s voice, cool breath against his ear.
She’ll only kill you in the end,
One can only hope.
I can read her thoughts. Do you
want me to tell you what she’s thinking about, my love?
She’s thinking about him. She’s
always thinking about him.
Spike ground his teeth together
and remained silent.
It’s not like you to play second
fiddle, Spike. Or are you just a beaten-down dog, now? Kicked once too
often and now you’re just gonna lay there in your own shit and piss.
Spike lifted his leg over the
window ledge, pouring himself into Buffy’s room like spilled ink.
Buffy regarded him with wary
“We were looking for you.”
“Are you okay?” she asked.
He nodded again, just a downward
tip of the chin.
Buffy pulled her knees up to her
chest and wrapped her arms around her folded limbs.
“Do you know that there are over
two hundred bones in the human body?” he asked suddenly.
Buffy blinked once as if her
eyes were very dry.
“There are limitless ways to
break those bones. The littlest bones, sometimes they hurt the most when
you break them.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Ask Giles how it felt when
Angel broke his fingers, snapped them in two like he was making a wish with
the turkey bone.”
Spike closed his eyes as if
remembering something particularly pleasant.
When he opened his eyes, Buffy
was standing in front of him, holding a stake.
“Do it,” he hissed.
She shook her head.
He reached out a hand and traced
a finger along her jaw. “Sooner or later you’ll have to, pet.”
She doesn’t love you, Spike.
She’ll turn you against me. She has a black heart.
Not now, Dru.
Buffy trapped Spike’s hand in
her own. “You have to fight, Spike. You have to fight it.”
“Why? What for? What have I got
to live for?” He stepped back toward the window.
“Spike,” she said, as he lifted
a leg over the ledge.
He hesitated, kept his eyes
“I need to be able to believe in
you,” she whispered.
But he was already gone.
The night was eerily calm. The
moon seemed to follow them as Buffy, Willow and Xander entered Restfield
Cemetery, its milky glow lighting a path that both trailed them and lit
their way. A bruise blossomed along Buffy’s right cheek, the spoils of last
“Where is everyone?” Willow
“Well, isn’t this the season the
vamps usually head south to their condos?” Xander quipped without
“Quiet,” Buffy said, stopping.
“There’s something following us.”
“Something or someone?” Willow
“Someone, I’d say,” Xander said,
pointing to a figure emerging from the grove of trees further up the path.
Willow squinted her eyes and
peered through the darkness.
Buffy started forward, motioning
with her hand that Xander and Willow stay where they were. She met Angel
further down the path, where he had stopped to wait for her.
“Buffy,” he said.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
“I know. I know you don’t. I
came to help you.”
“You can’t help me,” Buffy said.
She stepped forward, reaching up a hand to touch him.
“Don’t touch you?”
He smiled, his lips pulling into
a crooked grin that nearly split her heart in two.
“If you touch me, I might not be
able to leave,” he said.
She pulled her hand back, tucked
it into her jacket pocket, the residual tingle from being so close to him
crawling up her arm.
“I just,” she started and then
stopped abruptly. “I thought you were hurt.”
Angel turned his head away
revealing the angry but considerably faded scar on the side of his neck. “I
“What did it?”
“We’re working on it,” he said.
She nodded. “We are too. I mean,
they are,” she tossed her had back towards Willow and Xander who remained
in the spot Buffy had left them, their heads pitched together.
I wouldn’t have killed you if
I’d known, she
Buffy looked back at Angel,
startled. Had she said something? Her world was precariously tilted.
“Why did you come?”
Angel motioned to a bench at the
curve in the path and they moved toward it.
“I think about you…” he started,
sliding infinitesimally closer to Buffy on the bench.
“Angel,” she said, his name a
“…all the time.”
His hands traveled across the
mere inches that separated them, and slid smoothly over her rigid fingers.
“I can’t…we can’t….”
Buffy was mesmerized by Angel’s
fingers; by their slow precise ascent up her bare arm, and the trail of
screaming nerve-endings they left in their wake. Long, strong, fingers
pressing into her flesh and leaving her gasping for air.
He leaned forward and pressed
his mouth against her temple. Buffy leaned into his lips.
“Angel,” she said. “Why did you
“I didn’t,” he whispered close
to her ear.
And when she turned to look at
him, he dissolved into dust before her eyes.
She stood up, took a step away
from the bench and heard Willow scream, “Buffy!”
Strong hands whirled her around.
Spike’s hands: she’d know their
punishing pressure anywhere.
“Did you see him?”
“Angel. He was here. Did you…”
Buffy stopped. “Where did Willow and Xander go?” Buffy looked around
Spike’s shoulder and down the path from where Willow had screamed only
“Buffy. You were here by
yourself,” Spike said, bending down so he could look her in the face.
“Hit me,” she said.
“Bloody hell,” Spike replied.
“Do it. Hit me.”
“You know I can’t,” he said
“That’s not true. You can hit
me,” she said, stepping back and drawing back her arm to launch a fist at
Spike’s placid face. Her knuckles connected with his cheek, splitting the
thin skin and sending a mist of blood across her face.
“Hit me, damn you,” she
repeated. She jabbed at his face again and again and still Spike didn’t
move, didn’t duck, didn’t raise his own hands against her.
She made my dear boy go all away
and she’ll do the same to you if you let her.
Not now, Dru.
“Who are you talking to?”
Willow was standing, limp-armed,
in front of Buffy on the path that cut through the Restfield Cemetery,
dividing it in a pie-shaped wedge.
“You told me to wait back there
and I did, but you were…I came because I could hear you talking to
Buffy’s eyes whipped around the
graveyard. She lifted her hand, examining her knuckles by the light of the
Willow looked at her curiously.
“Nothing. I mean, it’s okay. We
Buffy moved down the path, her
eyes darting from side to side, waiting for another apparition to leap from
the darkness but all was deathly quiet.
“I’m telling you, Giles,
whatever this thing is, it’s in my head,” she said, clutching the telephone
close to her ear and whispering urgently into the mouthpiece.
“You’ve had dreams before,
Buffy. Was this like them?” Giles’ voice crackled across the phone wires
and Buffy was suddenly hit with a deep feeling of remorse. He was too far
away. Something bad was going to happen.
“Yes. No. I don’t know,” she
said. “When are you coming home?”
Static interrupted his response.
Another reply, again the
“Giles, I can’t hear you. Call
me back,” Buffy said.
The sun was coming up. Dropping
the receiver into its cradle, Buffy walked over to the window and looked
out into the promising day. The sky was blurred pink and gold, and in the
distance Buffy could see the crescent of the sun pushing itself up over the
lip of the horizon. She wished she could take this as a sign, but there was
a measure of futility in the sun’s attempt: Set. Rise. Set. Rise. Buffy
choked back a sob and wondered how she would manage to make it through
another day, knowing that when the sunset, she’d be right back at the
beginning, fighting a fight she no longer understood.
She had questions and there
seemed to be no answers for them.
We let you go, but that doesn’t
mean you’re free.
For pity’s sake, I’m not going
to kill her.
Spike hunched his shoulders
forward, curving his spine against the rough wool blanket. It scratched
against him, an uncomfortable reminder of the comforts he was no longer
privy to, but he was loathe to cast it off.
I’m disappointed in you, Spike.
You said I was the only one you loved.
I did love you, Dru, until I
didn’t anymore. I guess I like my girls a little saner, after all.
But don’t you see that she’ll
never love you?
It doesn’t matter.
Perhaps. We’ll see.
And then another voice.
Hello, Spike. Long time.
Not bloody long enough. What do
I want what everyone wants, for
this to be done. Don’t you want to rule the world, Spike?
You mean, don’t I want to let
you rule the world? That’s the question you’re really asking, isn’t it?
And here I was thinking that you
didn’t understand me.
Angelus squatted down, peering
into Spike’s face.
In this instance it may surprise
you to know that I’m willing to take a back seat.
How incredibly selfless of you.
Thanks. I thought so. But we
have a little problem, Spike. You know what it is.
If you want her dead, do it
yourself, you wanker.
I don’t need your permission, of
course, but I’m glad that we’re on the same page.
Spike pulled the tattered edges
of the blanket up around his ears and closed his eyes. When he opened them,
he was alone.
They met by the Winslow family
tomb. For a long time it had been a favourite spot of theirs: private,
hidden, a bench placed in front of the grave marker where family members
might have sat to have conversations with their departed loved ones.
Sometimes that’s all they had done, just sat, staring at the names engraved
on the granite in front of them, neither talking nor touching. That had
been in the early days. She had just disclosed to him that she hadn’t been
in hell, and they had yet to consummate their relationship. She had felt a
kinship with him, and he hadn’t demanded anything from her, so they’d meet
and they’d sit and it was good.
After. After it was different.
Tonight she went hoping to find
him and there he was, long legs splayed in front, a bottle of Jack Daniels
nestled against his crotch. The cigarette he was holding was burnt down
almost to the filter and, fearing for his fingers, Buffy removed it and
pressed it against the tombstone before sitting next to him.
“It’s getting worse, isn’t it?”
“Define worse, pet?”
“Well, yeah, if that’s what
you’re talking about.”
“I want to help you, Spike, but
I don’t know how.”
He turned to look at her and she
was surprised to see that he looked exhausted. She thought that vampires
could manage on very little sleep, but Spike looked as though he hadn’t had
any rest for days.
“You can’t help me,” he said
“Maybe that’s true, but we won’t
know if you don’t let me try.”
He rewarded her with a crooked
“These guys fight dirty,” he
announced after a long moment of silence.
“I know,” she said, thinking
about her meeting with Angel in this very cemetery.
“Yes, maybe you do,” he agreed. He
reached out a hand and touched her thigh, high up.
Buffy felt her skin prickle and
she willed herself to stay on the seat next to him.
“When it comes down to it,
Buffy, you have to be prepared to kill me. Promise me that you won’t let me
hurt you or the others.”
Buffy rested her hand on top of
his and nodded.
“You can’t show me any mercy,”
he continued, slipping his hand out from underneath hers and wrapping his
fingers around the neck of the bottle. He took a long drink and wiped his
mouth with the back of his hand. “I don’t deserve it. Not from you.”
The wind slipped through the
trees and for a moment they were quiet.
“The Winslows’ve seen a lot,
then,” Spike said suddenly, motioning toward the headstone.
“They have,” Buffy replied, her
cheeks colouring as she remembered Spike pressing her back against the
curved edges of the stone, then hooking her legs under his arms and
balancing her on top. She was at the perfect height for him then, and he’d
taken advantage of that over and over until she couldn’t breathe.
“Spike,” she said.
Buffy looked over at him, the
harsh line of his cheek and the firm set of his jaw glowing alabaster in
the night. He was a puzzle, that much was true.
“I never told you…”
Spike pressed a finger against his
lips and whispered, “Shhhh.”
“No, I want to,” Buffy said.
“It doesn’t matter anymore,”
Spike replied. “I wouldn’t change a thing.” He stood up, made to move away
and then paused, “That’s enough for me.” Then, he was gone, sucked into the
shadows; swallowed whole by the night.
“Do you think you should call
him?” Willow asked, her eyes glittering nervously in the pale glow of the
kitchen at dusk.
Buffy shook her head. “And tell
him what? I need him to come rescue me?”
“That’s not what I meant, Buffy.
You know that’s not what I meant.”
Buffly slumped into a chair and
nodded. “I know, Willow, I’m sorry.” She rubbed her eyes and stood back up.
“Tired. You’re exhausted, we can
all see that, Buffy.”
“Why don’t you let Xander and Anya
and me patrol tonight and you get some rest?”
“It’s too dangerous, Willow. I
can’t let you go out there alone.”
“We won’t take any chances and
we’ll stick together. I can do a spell, something to give us extra
protection,” Willow said. “You need to rest, Buffy. You can’t do it all
anymore. Let us help.”
“Alright,” Buffy said quietly.
The truth was she doubted if she could have taken a step that wasn’t in the
general direction of the tub and her bed.
“Good. Good,” said Willow.
Something woke her, though she
couldn’t say afterwards what it was. Not a sound, not a light, just a
feeling that she wasn’t alone. Through slitted eyes she surveyed the room
and there he was, sitting on the window ledge watching her with intense
Buffy felt her heart leap
forward and she almost sat up until she remembered her last encounter with
Angel. So she kept her eyes closed and she concentrated on breathing
slowly, feigning sleep.
He didn’t move. His face, half
in shadow, was blank. He was so still that Buffy was almost lulled into
sleep again; her mind half thinking he was just an apparition, or this was
just a dream. Then he said: “I know you’re awake, Buffy.”
She opened her eyes, but
“You look tired.”
She said nothing.
He pushed off from the window
ledge and floated toward her. She watched him come, half expecting him to
pass right through her and was almost surprised when he sat on the bed and
it shifted under his weight.
“Is this a dream?”
Angel smiled. “Are you prone to
dreaming about me?”
“Sometimes,” Buffy said, looking
at his fingers, splayed open on the covers of her bed.
“What kind of dreams?”
Buffy felt the sudden rush of
blood to her cheeks and knew that Angel could see the colour, despite the
“Why did you come? I thought you
were hurt. I thought things were bad in LA.”
Angel was silent. “Are you
No. No, I’m not alright, Buffy thought. “I’m okay,” she
“You weren’t out patrolling and
I was worried,” Angel said leaning closer.
“Willow and Xander and Anya
went. I was tired,” Buffy replied. “How did you know that I wasn’t out
“No more talk,” Angel said,
shrugging off his leather duster and stretching out beside her. He slid his
hand across Buffy’s stomach and around the curve of her waist and pulled
For a breathtaking moment, Buffy
thought he was going to bite her, but instead his lips pressed against hers
with such sweet pressure she thought she’d cry. And they were his lips, soft,
firm, cunning lips that teased her own into submission. The smell of him
almost made her come.
His knuckles traced the bone of
her jaw, slid down the slope of her neck, over her collarbone, down over the
top of her tank top, past the swell of her trembling breast, nudging its
way over each rib, before resting at her hip.
He lifted his thick eyelashes
and pinned her against her pillow with those eyes, his eyes, endless
mahogany eyes flecked with gold.
“What are you doing here?”
He traced the curve of her lower
lip with his thumb and smiled his trademark smile, a gesture so slight only
Buffy would have realized it was a smile at all.
“We were going to meet,
remember, at Restfield. You didn’t come and so I came here. Are you sure
you’re not sick, Buffy?” he replied.
Buffy shook her head. “I’m not
sick,” she whispered. Something was wrong, but she couldn’t quite reach out
and touch the wrongness; it was somewhere out of reach. She lifted her chin
and willed Angel to drop his mouth against hers once more, to feel the
weight of those lips on hers, to be drugged by their smooth touch, by his
tongue reaching into her mouth.
She felt him shift closer, felt
his fingers flutter over the exposed skin along the scoop of her top before
tiptoeing down her bare arms.
“Kiss me,” she urged.
“Are you sure you want that?”
She reached leaden arms up and
slid her fingers into the crisp hair at the back of his neck, drawing him
“Buffy?” he said.
“Haven’t we waited long enough?”
He rested his hand between her
breasts, over her heart and felt the vibration of its steady rhythm through
“You know we can’t,” he said.
“I know,” she said, and felt the
familiar sting of tears in her eyes.
It was Spike sitting next to her
on the bed when she slid down the slippery slope of her dream into
wakefulness. Spike’s smooth cheek turned toward her, his eyes narrowed with
concern and suspicion.
“Yeah, luv,” he said. “You alright,
Buffy reached up a hand to
smooth back her hair. Her head throbbed, deep behind her eyes. “What time
is it?” she said, squinting at the numbers on the alarm.
“It’s early,” Spike said. “About
five I think.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Well, I…” Spike stood suddenly.
“I heard you call out. I was worried.”
“Did you come through the
“What?” Spike asked.
“I just…I had this dream.”
Spiked nodded, but remained
silent. He knew exactly what she was talking about. She was talking about Angel.
She was talking about how her mind had convinced her that it was Angel
sitting on the window ledge watching her breathe the easy breath of sleep.
How easy it was for her to see Angel looking down at her, feel his fingers
on her skin, his lips against hers. The deception was so simple, so simple.
I knew she’d never be faithful.
Spike cocked his head to one
“I’m sorry, Spike.”
“It’s alright, luv,” he said,
sincerely. Carefully, he brushed his fingers against her temple, smoothing
her hair and feeling the jittery jump of her pulse.
She’s playing you.
“I’m afraid, Spike.”
You should be, my dear.
“It’s alright, pet. I’ve got
“I’m worried about her,” Willow
said, over a cup of coffee in the Summers’ kitchen. “She just seems, I
don’t know, out of it.”
“She’s tired, Will, that’s all.”
“No, Xander, I think saying
she’s tired isn’t saying enough. She’s tired, yeah, we’re all tired. I’m
not hallucinating. Are you hallucinating?”
“Qualify hallucinating. Is that
Willow paused before punching
Xander’s upper arm.
“Be serious, Xander.”
Xander nodded. “Okay.”
“Be serious about what?” Dawn
said, drifting into the room with an armload of books.
“Nothing,” Willow said.
“I think we should tell her,” Xander
said, looking pointedly at Willow. “I think we need to include Dawnie in
what goes on around here.”
“Yes. I think I need to be
included. Inclusion is a buzzword these days,” Dawn said.
“We’re worried about Buffy,”
“Oh my God. I am so glad you are
worried,” Dawn said, setting the precariously piled books on the counter
and joining the others at the table. “She’s been acting weird. I mean,
weirder. Than normal.”
“What have you noticed?” Willow
said, leaning forward.
“Nothing,” Dawn said, shrugging.
“Then why do you say she’s been
acting weirder than normal?” Willow asked.
“Spider senses are tingly,” Dawn
“Whose? Yours or hers?”
“Mine,” Dawn said.
“Great,” Xander said. “We’ve got
a tingly spider but no evidence.”
“I have evidence,” Spike said
from the door.
“Where in the hell did you come
from?” Xander said.
Spike nodded his head up toward
“I’m not going to pretend that
I’ve been playing with a full deck these last few weeks,” Spike said. “But
I’m worried about her, too.”
“Yeah, one fry short of a happy
meal pretty much sums you up,” Xander said under his breath.
“Like I said, I’m not one
hundred percent,” Spike retorted. “But the Slayer’s really not well. She’s
“And you’re not?”
“Look, Harris, I’m not trying to
start something here, I just want to pass on what I know and go downstairs
and get some shut eye,” Spike said evenly.
Xander waved a hand in
“What sort of things?” Willow
“Oh,” Willow and Dawn said
“In her room just now,” Spike
started before being swiftly interrupted by Xander.
“You were in Buffy’s room?
Buffy’s room is off-limits!”
“Keep your shirt on,” Spike
said, stepping further into the shadows as the sun shifted in the kitchen.
“I heard her call out. I went into her room and she was having a moment.”
“A moment?” said Willow. She
paused. “Oh, a moment.”
“But the First can’t touch
anything, not really,” said Willow.
“I thought about that. But maybe
because we’re dead, but sort of alive, it can use us in a way that it can’t
use others,” Spike said.
“That makes sense, sort of,”
Dawn said. “In a squicky sort of way.”
“We need a plan,” said Xander.
“Do you think?” Spike said, crossing
his arms in front of his chest.
“Look. You haven’t exactly been
the poster boy for mental health, Spike,” said Xander.
“I don’t disagree,” Spike
“We need Giles,” Dawn said.
“We don’t have Giles, so we’re
just going to have to think of a way to help Buffy on our own,” Willow
“Help me do what?” Buffy said,
appearing behind Spike in the doorway.
For a moment, no one said
“Fight evil,” Dawn said, with a
Buffy didn’t smile back. “Okay,
what’s going on?”
“We’re worried about you,”
Willow said, pushing back from the table. “We’re worried that the First may
be playing on your weaknesses.”
“What do you mean?” Buffy said
“Showing you things, things you
might want to see, things that aren’t real,” Spike said, without turning to
look at Buffy.
“That’s not true,” she said.
“You saw Angel upstairs, didn’t
you?” Dawn asked.
Buffy lowered her eyes and
sighed. “You told,” she said to Spike’s stiff back.
He turned slowly to look at her
and nodded. “I told.”
“They’ll use him against you,
Buffy,” Willow said. “I know I don’t need to tell you that, but I’m just
“I just want this to be over,”
Buffy said, lifting her head. “I’m so tired.”
“I know, luv,” Spike whispered.
I can see into her mind, Spike.
Do you want me to tell you what I see?
Spike ignored Dru’s insidious
voice, concentrating instead on Buffy’s pale face, worried eyes.
Dru’s voice hissed against
Spike’s ear. She wants you to put her down, down like a rabid pet. She wants
you to end her misery. She’s so miserable, my darling. If you love her,
you’ll help her.
“I have to get some sleep,”
Spike said, moving back from Buffy. “I’m gonna go downstairs for a while.”
Dawn opened the door leading to
the basement and without another word, Spike disappeared into the darkness
She went to him, without
thinking of the consequences. The cot was pushed against a wall, away from
any direct light and he lay there, a shadow against the rumpled wool
blanket. He didn’t stir as she moved across the cement floor, and she was
struck by how he had changed.
She remembered the first time
she’d seen him, all cocky, swaggering walk and curled Billy Idol lip. Had
she known, even then, that she’d take him to her bed? Maybe not consciously
but, deep down, his darkness had called to her in the same way as Angel’s
light had beckoned.
Buffy knelt beside the cot and
drifted her fingers over his slack jaw. His skin was smooth and cool, and
Buffy was reminded of how it had felt to lie beside him, their legs
entwined like the tangled roots of a tree.
“Spike,” she said, close to his
His lashes fluttered and then he
lifted one eyelid, his blue blue eye focusing immediately on her face.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“What’s wrong with me?” she
He closed his eyes and emitted a
low groan. When he opened his eyes again, Buffy was crying. “There’s
nothing wrong with you, Slayer.”
“That’s not true,” Buffy said.
“Bad things are drawn to me.”
Spike rolled over onto his side
and reached out a hand to wipe away her tears. “Bad things aren’t drawn to
you, Buffy. Bad things are drawn to the Hellmouth.”
“You were drawn to me,” she
“Indeed I was, but that hardly
proves your point,” Spike said.
Buffy’s fingers fluttered at the
top button of her blouse, popping it free. “I need…”
Spike sat up, and reached out to
stop Buffy’s hands. “Not like this, pet,” he said.
“Since when have you been all
about the moral ground?” she asked bitterly.
Spike smiled, tapping his chest.
“Soul, now, remember? I can sometimes choose to take the high road, even
when other bits of me would rather go in another direction.” He sat back,
leaning against the wall. “Besides, Buffy, it’s not me you really want.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look, luv, I’m not the person
you should be having an intimate discussion about Peaches with. I’m not
that high and mighty, yet,” Spike said with a small smile. “If it’s
meaningless sex you’re after, you’ll have to go elsewhere. I can’t do that
with you anymore.”
Buffy stood and fumbled with the
button on her shirt.
“You’re vulnerable, Buffy. And
right now, under the circumstances, I’m the last person you should be
“I’m not sure I can trust
anyone,” Buffy said quietly.
“Trust yourself,” Spike replied.
She couldn’t remember exactly
where she had put the claddagh for safekeeping. She rooted through the
drawer in her bedside table, in the jewelry box she’d received for her
eleventh birthday, the ballerina now headless but still spinning happily to
“When You Wish Upon A Star,” and in the box she kept pushed to the back of
the shelf in the closet.
Frustrated and close to tears,
Buffy slumped on the bed before remembering her weapons’ trunk. It had
seemed like an odd place to put the ring at the time and yet, somehow, it
had seemed fitting. She had a sudden memory of Angel giving her the ring
back, weeks after she had said her goodbye and placed it on the floor of
the mansion. She’d had no way of knowing that this simple act, this attempt
to let him go, was the very thing that would bring him back to her.
One day, just before the others
had found out he was back, Buffy had visited him at the mansion. They’d
fallen into a routine of working out together, Angel carefully explaining the
ancient art of Tai Chi. Buffy found that the slow, rounded movements of the
martial art helped to center her conflicted feelings about Angel’s sudden
reappearance in her life and her increasingly complicated feelings about
keeping him a secret from her friends.
Buffy’s mind had drifted along
with the movements her body now knew well enough to perform by rote.
Moments passed before she realized that Angel was no longer a participant
in the exercise. He was instead standing to the side, watching her with an
intensity that was palpable.
She stopped. “What?”
“You’re beautiful,” he’d said,
moving closer to her. Reaching out, he’d taken her hand and slipped the
claddagh back on her finger, kissing her knuckles before releasing her.
“You dropped this.”
Buffy lifted the lid on the hope
chest cum weapons repository and lifted out the top tray, which held
non-vampire related items. In the cavity below were assorted stakes,
knives, a cross bow and stray arrows, a few bottles of holy water and a
small ring box. Buffy reached for the box and lifted it out.
Returning to her bed, Buffy sat
for a long moment before opening the box. There it was: crown, hands,
Wear it with the heart pointing
toward you, like this. It means you belong to somebody.
She slipped the ring on and held
out her hand to admire it. It was a beautiful piece of jewelry and a
reminder of another life. Not this life. A souvenir.
There has to be a way to know
that I’m doing the right thing, Buffy thought.
But there never was.
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