Once or twice we spot him at the Bronze but he never joins us. He just nods, finishes his drink and leaves.
It's almost as if he's trying to be invisible. He's not inaudible, though. I'm a light sleeper these days. I can hear the door, the shower, the occasional squeaking of the springs of his mattress. No, he's actually not that loud, but his room is next to my bedroom and the wall is thin.
Whenever we do happen to meet, he's civil (and fully dressed). No innuendo. No talk of entrails or leg overs and no more offers. It's like none of that ever happened. As far as I can tell, he never tries to cut himself again, either. It looks like he's getting saner. But almost every morning the first thing I hear when I wake up, is Spike tossing and turning. Sometimes he's talking in his sleep. Whenever that happens I get up quickly and make my escape into the bathroom. Under the shower I don't have to listen to his pain and despair. And after that I make enough noise preparing my breakfast to wake the dead. Literally.
One morning, after more than a week of avoidance, I get up and realize I forgot to barricade my bedroom door last night. Does that mean I'm no longer afraid he'll murder me in my sleep or does that mean that part of me is hoping for him to just come in and. I don't know, jump my bones? Like that's ever gonna happen. The old Spike might have, but I'm beginning to think that he's gone. Anyway, it feels kinda pointless keeping up the Alamo stance when there's no real siege going on. I keep the stake but ditch the routine.
About two days later, while I'm at work, a furious Buffy storms in on me just as I am explaining some blueprints to my crew. "How long have you known that Spike has a soul?" she blurts out, eliciting funny looks.
Uh oh. "Coffee break. Back in ten," I tell the guys and herd Buffy into a quieter corner. "Buffy, be careful what you're saying and where."
"How long?" She interrupts me.
"Ten days or so," I admit.
"And it didn't occur to you to tell me? I have to find out from a student I'm supposed to be counseling? Who, by the way, is in serious need of saving. What were you thinking?"
"Gee, let me see, Buff. I was thinking, if Spike had wanted you to know he'd have told you. Why do you even care? That thing between you, it's over and out, right? Tell me, you two are not going to have another boinkfest now that he's got himself a soul." The mere thought makes my fists clench.
"Xander, we talked about this. That thing. with Spike. It's so over. I'm the Slayer. Whatever Spike does, it's my job to know about it."
"Your 'job' is to counsel students during the day and stake vampires by night. And my job is to build a gym."
She glares at me. We are cut off in mid-argument when one of the guys comes up with a problem. She chews on her lower lip. I spread my arms and give her an apologetic 'can't help it, I'm needed' look, although I don't feel sorry at all. She nods, obviously still peeved but heads back to her counseling office.
I watch her retreating back, remembering something she said. How come one of Buffy's student cases knows about Spike's soul?
That student, Cassie, talking about Spike's soul, turns out to be a subset of a larger puzzle. One that raises all kinds of questions about big-wordy stuff like destiny and predestination. It also makes you wonder what's the point in trying to help someone. I mean, we all pooled resources, wracked our brains, did the research and legwork, did all we could, Buffy whupped the demon's ass, saved the girl from ending up as demon chow, even Spike lent a hand. And then she just drops dead because of a heart-failure? Because she has an appointment with death? Hello? Wouldn't you feel like a puppet on strings if that happened to you?
We all go to the funeral, and by 'we' I mean Buffy, Dawn, Willow and myself. When I get home to change into my work kit, I bump into naked Spike!
"Spike!" I exclaim, proving that even in the face of his sudden and mind- blowing nakedness I can still remember his name.
Okay, he's not all-the-way naked because he's got a towel wrapped around his hips, but naked enough. I stare. I know I do. I can't help it. The scars and burns - gone. Plus, he's filled out a little, doesn't look quite so starved anymore.
Spike closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, then briskly strides past me into his room. A moment later he's back, buttoning his pants. He pulls a black tee shirt over his head and slicks back his wet hair with his fingers.
"Posh," he says, glancing at my dark suit. "What's the occasion?"
He appears confused. "Who?"
"The girl with the visions. Who thought she'd die? Well, turns out she did, right on time, like a little clock that stops ticking." Do I sound bitter? You betcha.
"She looked alright to me," Spike mumbles with a shake of his head.
"Yeah well, she's not." I snap. As far as I'm concerned this conversation is over. I turn and walk into the bedroom. I toss my jacket on the bed and start unbuttoning my shirt.
"You say she had visions? Knew stuff?"
"Gah!" I squeal. "Spike!" He's followed me inside the bedroom! I glare at him. "Off limits, oh obnoxious one!"
"Oh, um. sorry, I wasn't thinking." He mumbles, dropping his gaze. He raises his hands defensively and backs off, until he stands outside. But instead of closing the door behind him, he kinda hovers.
"What?" I ask brusquely.
"The visions?" he prompts.
I sit on the bed and take my shoes and socks off. "Yes," I say tiredly, "Cassie had visions, saw all kinds of weird things like her own death. That's what the whole hubbub was all about the past few days." I see a certain realization dawning on his face and my own light bulb goes off. "Why, what did she say to you?"
"Nothing," he mutters and turns away. Moments later I hear the door of the closet fall shut. Was he always this bad a liar?
Continued in Part Eight