Buffy read the card that rested in the center of the flowers as the last of the customers left the store. The grand reopening of the Magic Shop was… well, if not a resounding success, then a good solid attempt at one.
“Wasn’t that thoughtful? And put down that crystal Phurba!” Anya said cheerfully as she noticed Dawn handling the daggers on display. Buffy looked up, then stepped quickly away from the flowers.
“I still can’t believe he did it,” Anya said. Buffy looked at her, confused.
“Sent flowers for the reopening?”
“No, dummy. Got his soul back. I have never in all my centuries heard of a vampire getting his soul back voluntarily.”
“Really? Not ever?” Willow asked, looking up from the pile of books on the table. “I mean, the literature never mentions it, but I thought maybe you’ve crossed paths with ones before.”
“Nope,” Anya shook her head. “It was supposed to be impossible even if the vampire wanted a soul. Besides, vampires aren’t supposed to feel anything resembling humanity. I mean, nothing, zilch. No remorse, no guilt, no affection…”
“No love,” Dawn finished softly, not looking at them.
“Exactly!” Anya said, locking up the register. “And yet. First you guys talk about Spike with Drusilla. And then he almost died to protect Dawn. And then Spike went and got a soul, apparently for Buffy, after what he did.” She paused and looked around the now-silent room, then focused on Buffy. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you sad.”
Buffy looked up. “I’m not sad.”
“You look sad,” Anya insisted.
“I am NOT sad!” Buffy bit out.
“Now you look mad,” Anya sighed matter-of-factly. She looked around her store, a contented smile on her face. “Thank you all. For staying and helping. And I actually mean it when I saw I most likely couldn’t have done it without you.”
“It’s the least I could do, at any rate,” Willow grinned. “And thank you for letting us continue to research here.”
“Well, Giles is still half-owner. Plus, I… I don’t mind you being here.” Anya cleared her throat. “So, when is Giles’ plane due?”
Buffy looked at her watch. “Right about now. Xander wanted to get to the airport a little early.” Buffy turned to Anya. “You want to come back to the house, get something to eat?”
“Thanks,” Anya said, “but I’m extremely tired. I’m going to read the Financial Times and head straight to bed. Tell Giles I said hi, and he should come by tomorrow. He won’t recognize the place.”
“You’re not sad, are you Buffy?” Willow asked on the walk home.
Buffy looked at her friend and at her sister. “Not sad, no… I don’t know what I am.” She frowned, trying to understand, but instead of clarity she just had glimpses of memory, a smart-ass grin, clear blue eyes that saw straight through her. Even when he wasn’t here, he was always… present. She found herself missing him when he wasn’t around. It wasn’t like this time last year, when she needed him to make herself feel anything. Now, even when she was happy, like right this moment, walking with her best friend and her sister to go see Giles, her feet itched to go find Spike, her brain itched to get into a stupid argument with him. She wanted to fight alongside him and then laugh with him over the danger they just faced. And, okay, while she was letting these thoughts surface, she sometimes kind of vaguely wondered if he ever thought of kissing her. If he even wanted to anymore. He treated her more like a sister, and she knew she should be relieved. Sane Buffy would be relieved, but Real Buffy was… well, confused.
“Stupid emotions,” Buffy grumbled. Dawn just looked sideways at her sister and said nothing.
Willow draped an arm around Buffy. “Tonight, I promise. Nothing but happy, reunion-y emotions. Plus, hey! Short week because of Thanksgiving.”
They reached the house just as Xander was pulling into the driveway. Buffy broke into a sprint and launched herself into Giles’ arms before he had a chance to say hello.
“Ribs. Can’t breathe,” Giles sputtered. Buffy let up a little, right before Dawn and Willow came at him with almost-as-strong hugs.
“Hey!” Xander said, grinning as he walked around the car carrying Giles’ bag. “How come I never get a greeting like that?”
Buffy walked over to Xander and gave him a big hug. “You know we love you, Xander. But if you want the extra-special hugs you have to leave the country for months and leave a big gaping hole in the hearts of those you left behind.”
“Gotcha,” Xander said. Buffy looked over at Giles, who was smiling at her. She could only smile back.
Long after everyone else had gone to bed and Xander had left, Buffy and Giles stayed up talking in the living room. He told her of his work with the coven in uncovering the mystery of the newest rising evil, she told him of her work with the kids at the high school. They talked about Anya’s ex-ex-ex-demon status and Dawn’s developing self-defense techniques. Buffy told Giles of the dreams involving the fallen girls, and Giles asked how Willow was faring back at college.
“I think that covers it,” Buffy yawned.
“Not exactly, Buffy.” Giles gave her a knowing look.
“How is he?”
Buffy took a deep breath, then let it out slowly and tried to sound normal. “Well, he’s actually earning money legally now. As a bartender at the Bronze. And he’s been extremely helpful with all the demon activity around here. He and Xander even have poker night once a week at their place but I think Spike wants to move out soon cause he… well, he’s pretty much a loner these days.”
“I’ll need to talk to him. Soon. They are very interested in him back in England.”
Giles grinned. “More parties than I care to admit. The coven, the Watcher’s Council. There’s talk of a prophecy involving a vampire with a soul. He might be a key to whatever is building.”
“So, you’re not mad at me for not staking him as soon as he came back here?”
Giles leaned forward, studying her face. “No. He’s an excellent fighter, a strong ally. And the soul… it’s true?”
“Extraordinary. Has he… tried to resume relations with you?”
Buffy shook her head vehemently. “No, Giles. It’s not like that. He’s so different. Besides, Xander and Dawn let him know he’d be dust if he even thought that way.”
“And you? Have you let him know?”
Buffy sighed, remembering when he first got back, how she had snapped at him. “Yep, I guess you can say I did let him know that he didn’t stand a chance.”
“You owe him nothing, Buffy,” Giles said gently after a minute.
“God, I know that. Believe me. He’s asked for nothing.” Buffy rubbed her temples. “I wanted to hate him, Giles. I wanted to tell him to leave and never come back. But I couldn’t.” She swallowed, her throat suddenly too tight. “You think I’m crazy,” she whispered.
Giles covered her hand with his. “No, my dear. I know you’re crazy.”
Buffy looked up at him, blinking back tears, and she laughed. “Thanks.”
“I don’t envy you at all. I don’t know what to tell you to do.”
Buffy looked down at her hands. “What do you do when you think you feel something for someone, and you don’t want to feel it, and then you’re not even sure they feel the way they used to feel so you’re not sure how to feel about their feelings?”
Giles thought hard. “Drink heavily?” he suggested.
“Nah. I think I’ll just mope.”
“Always a wise choice.” Giles grinned. “Besides, I might get to remove the problem entirely.”
“What do you mean?”
Giles watched her, then spoke slowly. “The council wants Spike to come to England. For research, but also to help. There’s been demonic uprisings all over Europe. You tapped into it with your dreams, and if we had Spike to help, we stand a better chance of figuring out why those girls are being killed. The Council has facilities there are so much better than here. Besides, it might be better for everyone if he left Sunnydale for a while.”
The room fell silent. Buffy tried to digest what Giles was saying.
Spike. Spike not here. Again. He’d be out of everyone’s hair. Dawn would be happy. Xander would probably be happy. He might be more useful there.
Finally Buffy spoke. “Yes. He would… like that. He’d be home. That makes sense. I’m… I’m going to bed now, Giles.” She hugged him quickly and went up the steps, her mind gone numb.
Continued in Chapter Six