He had attacked first. In Buffy's eyes, in everyone else's, he would be condemned. In his own, he was only sorry for the fact that he hadn't made the boy suffer more. He couldn't be sorry for killing him, not after everything he had done to him and everyone he cared about. Nope.
He shifted his eyes from the boy's face to his hand. A blunt bit of wood still held in his death grip, red with blood. When Spike first saw it, he figured he was only seconds from covering Warren with his own ashes. But it was only a knife, the blade broken off and still lodged in his chest. He barely noticed the pain, only felt the annoying sensation of a splinter, something forgotten within his body.
Dumping the body and washing his hands of the whole mess was out of the question. Last week's (last month's? Last year's?) little debacle with Katrina had shown how out of practice he was with that. And questions would be asked about his wound. He would need help getting the blade out, in any case.
He laughed to himself, watching the body as if it were going to hop up and dance around any moment now. How things had changed. A decade ago, he wouldn't be having this problem. He would have displayed the body, written his name on the walls in blood, bragged to the nearest ear, written to the local newspaper. But that was before Buffy, before the chip...
His thoughts came to a screeching halt. The chip. Confusion and dread spun in his stomach. Oh god, the chip. If he'd killed Warren, it must be gone. Or not working. Maybe he hadn't felt the shocks because of his burning rage. He hadn't felt the stab wound. Or maybe Warren wasn't human.
But the chip had always had the power to knock him out of killing mode, piercing the soft and vulnerable tissues of his brain and making his legs shake. And Warren WAS human, he'd smelt it, felt it....
A part of him, the part that still reveled in the thought of burning this town to the ground and dancing in the raining ashes, celebrated. Another part, the part that had grown to love and protect Buffy and Dawn and the Scoobies, recoiled in horror.
His mouth was already watering at the thought of feeding again.
Oh God, what if I'm not strong enough? What if...
A series of scenarios burned though his head. Xander staking him, not even giving him the benefit of the doubt. Buffy, with fire in her eyes, pulling back her arm for the killing blow, blood of some unnamed victim still warm on his lips. The twisted and mangled forms of Dawn, Tara, Willow, Giles, Xander, Anya, Buffy....after he'd finally snapped.
The fog started to roll back in. His eyes searched frantically, looking for something sharp and wooden. He couldn't let himself be unleashed on them. He owed them that much. He'd kill himself after he killed them, surely, so why not save their lives, one last time?
He crawled across the floor, groping under the bed until he found his prize. Returning to his spot against the wall, he stripped off his shirt, and pressed the wooden point to his chest, pushing...
He choked in pain, the splinter of steel twitching, digging deeper into the rib it had lodged in. He wasn't at his best, his own strength couldn't force the blade to break the bone and allow the stake to pierce his heart.
He laughed, tears forming, looking at the dead boy.
"What do you know? Looks like you get to kill them after all..."
The fog formed, thickened, and trapped him.
Buffy pushed open the door of the crypt, frowning softly. Angel stepped in after her, eyeing the room with distaste. She had sent the other off to various demon haunts, cemeteries. Tara waited with Dawn at home, just in case he came back.
God, the nerve! What the hell was he thinking, sneaking off like that, when he's so weak, so...needy. And damnit, SHE needed him. He was not allowed to just dissapear! When she found him....
"I smell blood." Her thoughts were interrupted with all the grace of a bowling ball to the head, with a statement like that.
"Spike?" she called, moving deeper into the crypt, Angel following.
He scented the air, and nodded toward the opening in the floor.
"Down there." And vanished down the hole a second later.
This time she was following, descending the steps with only a little less grace than her compainion, and was chilled by the scene presented to her.
Spike was backed against the wall, a firm hand holding a stake to his bloody chest.
Angel was one step ahead of her.
"Goddamn it, Spike!" He jerked the stake away, flinging it across the room where it clattered useless to the floor. Her eyes unconsciously followed it.
At the foot of the bed, on the rugs she'd had so much fun under, lay Warren. His neck was at an odd angle. It was obvious he was dead.
"Spike, what happened?" She asked, her voice coming out a little colder than she intended.
"Buffy..." Angel said, his voice softer now. He'd seen the corpse as well, but turned his gaze back to Spike. "He's gone again."
She turned to look, and indeed, his blue eyes were far away. He was motionless, only trembling slightly at their presence, not even looking at them. His gaze was locked on a point across the room. It was an even deeper fugue than he'd put himself in before.
She knelt at his side, shaking his bare shoulder.
"Buffy..." Angel said again, frowning slightly.
She didn't look at him.
"Get the body out of here. And...give me some time."
He was silent for a long moment, looking from her to his grandchild, the frown deepening. Then he nodded, and did as he was told. Within moments, they were alone.
First things first. She ran her fingers over his chest, examining the wound. It didn't look too bad, it wasn't bleeding much. The glint of metal worried her, however.
Swallowing, she rose and found a switchblade on the bedside table. Flipping it open, taking a breath, she dug into his chest, half not wanting to hurt him, and half wanting the pain to wake him. He didn't move, however, as she made the cut a bit deeper, and dug her fingers in, removing the five-inch blade with little trouble. All he did was twitch.
A square of gauze and a little tape, and he no longer looked so...dead. She stared into his eyes, which refused to meet hers, and wondered what the hell she was going to do.
He'd killed again. So he knew the chip didn't work anymore. There had obviously been a struggle, and the part of her that Faith, Dracula, and Spike had seen cheered at his triumph over Warren, human or not.
But it was wrong. Killing people, even criminals like Warren, just wasn't to be done. Not by her. Not by him. Their punishment was decided in the human world, not in the world where she dealt justice nightly with a pointy stick.
But what would have driven him back into himself? Killing Warren? Or realizing the chip was gone?
'Love. Give. Forgive.'
She'd forgiven him so much. She could forgive him this. They would need to talk about it, discuss it, but she knew she could. He'd already wormed his way into her heart, and she wasn't going to repeat past mistakes. She'd already locked him in. Her beast was no longer leashed, but he was still hers.
She moved closer to him, pulling his form against her, and took his cheeks in her hands. She turned his head, looking into his still distant eyes.
"Spike." She kissed him softly, his lips cool and unmoving. "Spike."
Her hands drifted through his hair, down his neck, over his chest.
"Spike. Wake up."
Continued in Chapter 17