RATING: Series NC-17, this part PG-13
SPOILERS: I started this series after Gone and it’s AU but spoilery in general for S6.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Don’t sue.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Part three, in which we find out more about Buffy’s problems and what Spike’s doing about them.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it's headed. This is posted along with a couple of other stories at http://www.geocities.com/cxyzjacobs/btvsfic/chrisindex.htm
FEEDBACK: Yes please. Constructive criticism is most welcome. firstname.lastname@example.org
Part Three: Imprinted
“I don’t understand it,” complained Xander. “I thought when we kicked Spike out of town, she’d start coming back to normal. But it’s getting worse. I mean, look at that guy she’s dancing with. You’d think Angel was here or something…”
“She looks feral,” said Anya. “I told you there was more to her problems than Spike. She’s in heat.”
“Well, I’m going to do something about it,” Willow announced as she stood up. “Xander, go tell the DJ to switch to something, umm, peppy.”
“All-righty. Pep squad music, coming up!” said Xander. “What do you think, Anya? Katrina and the Waves?”
“I want rockabilly music, Xander. I’ll choose. We can practice our swing dancing for the wedding,” she replied. And I know just the group to send you a hint…
Willow made her way to the dance floor as the music shifted to the “Stray Cat Strut”. Groaning inwardly, Willow began bopping to the music, singing along, “…well I’ve got cat class and I’ve got cat styyyyyyle.” But when she grabbed for an arm to swing, Buffy jerked back, as if she’d been burned.
With confusion in her eyes, Buffy stopped moving to the music and stared ahead, tilting her head as if listening to something other than the music. Seeming to find what she was listening for, she said, “I’m thirsty. Going to get a drink,” and wandered off.
Willow watched Buffy’s back in bewilderment until Xander and Anya joined her on the dance floor.
“Where’s she going, Will?” asked Xander.
“I don’t know Xander. She said she was thirsty. Interesting musical choice...”
“I thought it was very appropriate,” giggled Anya. “She’s probably off hunting in the back alley as we speak. Now let’s dance! We’ve only got a month until the wedding.”
-- -- -- -- -- -- --
After finishing her glass of water, Buffy wandered trancelike from the bar to the stairwell, and up the steps to the balcony. An almost predatory quality entered her eyes as she scanned the shadows.
Here. Somewhere – There.
Having located the blond vampire against a column in the corner, she approached steadily, taking in the contrast of pale skin, shining hair and black as night clothing. Near enough to touch, she stopped. For a moment, clarity shone in her eyes and she poised as if on the edge of flight. But her vision clouded over instantly, and she took a step forward instead.
“Like what you see?” Spike queried quizzically.
“What . . . what are you doing here?” she asked, leaning ever closer. “You’re supposed to be . . . ”
“I told you I’d be back, luv,” he said, tilting his head slightly to one side. “Have I ever lied to you?”
Does it matter?
Primal instincts took over. Closing the space between them, Buffy reached for his head, pulling his lips fiercely down to hers. Biting and groaning like an animal, she took possession.
Spike allowed it, briefly, reveling in the lightening that ran through his body at her ferocity. “But this isn’t how the game goes,” he said, pulling back from her. “You’re in the shadows, now, Buffy. And the rules are different here.”
Leading her over to the balcony, Spike took hold of her shoulders. From behind her, he leaned in and whispered in her ear, “Look at them. Only a few feet away, but they might as well be on another planet for all the good they do you now. Do you remember your lessons, luv?”
Can’t you see that you need them? Even more than they need you?
Buffy flexed her body against his with a feline stretch. Rolling her head back into the crook of his neck and closing her eyes, she breathed, “Lessons?”
Lesson the first – a slayer must always reach for her weapon. He already has his.
He waited a moment for it to sink in, trailing his hand across her chest and then lower… She began to shiver slightly, when the words he hadn’t spoken penetrated her consciousness.
Buffy jerked away from the hand now caressing the skin of her inner thigh, fire in her eyes. “Why won’t you leave me alone?” she growled as she shoved him away.
“Lesson the second,” he called as she fled down the stairs. “Ask the right questions. You ask why I won’t go; you should ask: why do I stay?”
To keep you alive, luv. To keep you sane.
Pulling his duster closed, Spike took a deep breath and followed her out the back door and into the alley.
One more lonely night of following, luv. Don’t know how much longer I can keep this up
-- -- -- -- -- -- --
”I told you that you had to stop enabling her denial, Spike. I did not tell you to tease her into a complete frenzy,” Tara lectured as she moved books from a stack on the floor to the bookshelves they’d just built. The cavern was turning out to be a very homey place, now that she’d installed the Tinkerbell lights.
The vampire seemed to be listening, but only with half an ear. He was a bit distracted – Tara could tell by the faraway look in his eyes. He’d seemed off in general these last two or three days.
He’s got to start paying attention. If we don’t all work together, we’re never going to get her back to normal. She should have been tearing down Willie’s to find him by now…
“Listen. To. Me.,” said Tara, thoroughly exasperated with the vamp. “We thought that having you out of the picture for a while would help Buffy stand on her own two feet, maybe even give her a little push in your general direction. But it was not part of the agreement that you’d keep paying her these little ‘visits’. You’re making things worse, Spike. Much worse.”
“You don’t get it, do you?” Spike answered with an intent look in his eyes.
It’s not my visits making her worse – it’s the lack of them.
“I *can’t* stay away from her. Not completely. Lord knows I’ve bloody well tried. No matter where I go, I can feel her. Feel her pain, almost as if it’s my own. Could have been my own, you know -- if she hadn’t come back. If I leave her now, if I really leave her, she’ll break in two.”
Pausing for just a moment to see if Tara was hearing him, Spike heaved a huge sigh.
“I’ve tried every way I know how to bring her back. Truth doesn’t cut it. She won’t talk, at least not since the bloody songfest. And she’s torn apart inside. I don’t care if you say she didn’t come back wrong – there’s a huge black hole in there, sucking the life out of her. How’m I supposed to… oh bloody hell!”
Dawn stood in the makeshift doorway to the cavern that was Spike’s new home, glaring.
Catching himself, Spike toned down the expletives, “You’re not supposed to be here…” How much did she hear?
“Oh, no,” the teenager remarked snidely. “I shouldn’t be here. I’m away on a field trip for a week and you disappear, all because of her? All hail Queen Buffy. God forbid anything should be hard for her.”
“Now, Bit,” he said. “You really ought to give her a break, you know.”
More than a little flustered at Dawn’s presence, Tara stammered, “I’m going to go get the rest of the bookshelves from the apartment, Spike. Sounds like you and Dawn need to have a chat.”
Tara rose from the bed and walked toward the exit. “And Dawn? Don’t stay long. She can’t find you here.”
“You’d better do some more checking into that spell before you come back, Tara. There is more going on here than a psychic suntan,” he called after her.
And I can’t fix it alone.
-- -- -- -- -- -- --
“What psychic suntan, Spike?” Dawn asked after Tara left.
“Nothing to worry your head about,” said Spike. “You’re here because you’re mad at me, remember?”
With a pout, Dawn sat down on the edge of his bed. “I’m not mad at you. Not really. It’s her. Missing-In-Action Barbie. Why does she have to drive everyone away?”
“And don’t treat me like a kid,” she shot. “What’s this psychic suntan business you’ve got Tara scurrying after?
He gave her a piercing look. “I suppose you’re not, at that. But if I’m going to explain this to you, you’ve got to bloody listen. None of that teenaged eye-rolling bollix...”
“As if!” Dawn grinned, pleased to be having a conversation with someone who wouldn’t treat her like a kindergartener. “Lay it on me. I may be a self-involved teenager, but I do love her. And I know something’s wrong, Spike. The bot was more like Buffy, than Buffy is like Buffy, since she came back.”
“Right, then. So you’ve got a good head start on the issue.” Taking a deep breath, Spike began, “How much do you know about how they brought her back?”
“Only that Willow cast some kind of spell and almost messed it up. And that it was such Big Hocus Pocus that it overloaded Willow’s circuits and made her go all addict-y with magic. Are you saying that the spell has something to do with why she’s acting all ‘I’m not really here’?”
“Hum. Well, yeah. That’s part of it. I asked Tara to look into the spell to see if something else could be wonky with her. Mojo that big never comes without a price, especially if it wasn’t worked properly to begin with. But more than the spell, Dawn, you need to go easy on her because you’re her sister. Blood bonds are the strongest.”
“What do you mean, something else? There’s something?”
Spike shifted uncomfortably on the bed. “Yeah. There’s something.”
“So tell me already. It can’t be that bad…” said Dawn.
“Well, it’s not all that bad. Really – and this isn’t what I meant to tell you about. But, “ Spike cleared his throat and looked away from her questioning eyes, “Icanhurther.”
“You can hurt her? Well duh. She’s half in love with…Oh. Wait.” Dawns eyes grew huge as she realized, “You mean your chip doesn’t work anymore?”
“No. I mean yes, the chip still works, just not on Buffy. I figured she must have come back demon or something. But Glinda says something’s off with her aura or some such – that it’s like a psychic suntan. Not anything really wrong with her. But Glinda’s wrong. There *is* something wrong with Buffy.”
“I’m confused, Spike,” said Dawn. “First you say I should give her a break, then you say there’s nothing wrong with her. Then you say there is something wrong?”
“Well, maybe I’m putting it wrong, Bit. See, Big Sis is hurting. She’s hurting so bad I can feel it from here, right now. None of you folk who’re supposed to really love her seem to see it . . . Only soulless demon here, apparently, gets the big pain from her.”
“What do you mean, ‘the big pain’?”
“I don’t quite know how to explain it to you. I can feel her. Down deep inside. Back after the Big Forget, I only felt it a little. But lately, it’s like I’m getting zapped by the chip, but in a steady stream. It gets better for her, sometimes. Like when she’s with you. Or the scoobies.” Or when she’s hunting, whether it’s beasties or me
“But she’s never, ever with us, Spike. I don’t think she wants to be here at all,” Dawn said sadly.
“I know, Bit. I know. She can’t help it. But for her sake, you can’t stop trying to make her connect.”
And neither can I.
“But what can I do, Spike? I try talking to her, and she’s not really there. She’s always leaving to go patrolling. There can’t be a big nasty left anywhere this side of LA by now. And besides,” Dawn began to pout a bit again, “Isn’t she supposed to be taking care of me?”
Spike moved closer to Dawn on the bed, drawing her head to his shoulder. “That’s the thing, pet. She’s not capable of it at this point. I don’t really know why, exactly, but we’ve got to take care of her right now. Before it’s too late.”
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Returning with the missing bookshelf, Tara found Dawn, sleeping in the vampire’s lap, Spike stroking her hair with his hand and humming a soft lullabye. Poor things. It’s so hard on them… I wonder if they have strength enough between them?
“Did you find out how she got here, Spike,” Tara asked quietly. “We’ve got to get her home soon, or Buffy will come hunting.”
“Little Bit hitchhiked her way out here,” Spike replied. ”I told her she’s too tempting a morsel to be riding around with strangers. Some boogiemen have hearts that beat and ride around in the light of day, but she said she figured I’d take care of it if there were problems… Still thinks I’m her protector…” he trailed off softly as Dawn began to stir.
“Wake up, little sis. It’s time to go home… you have work to do,” he said a little louder.
To his consternation, Dawn gave a little bounce and hugged him.
“Go on, then. Get,” he growled. “And witch, you’d better fill her in on all the details. She’s bound to muck things up trying to help if you don’t. I’ll come find you after sundown to finish our conversation.”
Continued in Part Four: Catalyst