The rest of the walk home, I heard nothing but
“Big guy with flamin‘ fists…”
Spike’s hands flew up in front of him, “Hit faster and hotter than anyone… ’cept
you, of course.”
I smiled. I didn’t think Spike would want to talk about the
soul-getting. Thought he’d be all guarded and secretive… yet here he was,
talking my ear off…
“So, he got in a couple good shots first… you
know, catching me off-guard and all that. Even grabbed his fist once.” He
shook his head with a chuckle, “Felt like he damn near burned my arm off.”
My smile faded. Way to turn your soul-getting
into a bad topic, Spike. I should ask him to stop… before it gets too bad, and
I get all uncomfortable and guilty. Maybe I should feel guilty. Does he want
me to feel guilty?
“Flipped him right quick… twisted his head like
a doorknob.” Spike was still explaining.
“And then what?” Why am I asking that?
His hands fell to his sides, “Well… then, there
“Another fire-guy?” Shut up, Buffy…
“Trial,” he corrected, “Another trial.”
“What was that one?” Fine… keep asking
His hands disappeared into his pockets, “Don’t
I wanted to argue with him. I know you remember
it all, Spike. You fought for your soul, for crying out loud. I know you
recall burning skin and broken bones. But I gave him a break, and I let it get
quiet as we neared the house.
He spoke not long after, “Feelin‘ any better?”
Less than an hour ago the Bringer’s foot had
smashed my low rib. It hurt like hell then, but slayer-healing had kicked in
just as Spike started talking about how he got halfway around the world. I
“Thought we could poke by the cemetery before…
only if you’re up for it. We haven’t patrolled in a while, eh?”
“If I’m up for it?” I rolled my eyes.
“I just meant—”
“I mean, I’m the Slayer, Spike—”
“Yeah. I didn’t catch that the fir—”
“Then don’t act like—”
“I don’t act, Buffy.”
I stopped walking. That’s not fair. I didn’t get to cut him off.
He moved next to me, “I don’t pretend. You
What? Where the hell is that coming from?
Where the hell is he going with that? “I… don’t. I don’t pretend.”
“You know you do…” he kept at a distance, and
lifted his eyes, “Don’t pretend with me.”
What? I could only stare. Pretend? You never stop, do you
Spike? Always think you know me… what I’m thinking… just by what you’ve heard
me say. You never really know, though. Because I never say what I’m thinking.
I’m doing it right now, and you don’t even know it.
“You’re right.” I said finally.
His forehead crinkled, studying me. Trying to
read my thoughts again… how about I just say them this time, Spike?
“I don’t want to patrol.”
He took a step back, and I took a step forward.
“And don’t talk to me about pretending, Spike,
because you don’t want to patrol either.”
He looked away, another step backwards. I still
stepped after him.
“Because you pretend, too, Spike.”
He backed into a fence then, his eyes focused on
the grass below my feet. We stood there for a long time, both of us waiting
for the other to do it. To jump and tear and moan, just as we were an hour ago
under the trees. But just like then, he didn’t budge, and I watched him not
“I want to go home.” I said.
He didn’t lift his head as I left.
It was a short, quiet walk back.
Spike kept behind me the entire time, as if making up for all his rambling
earlier. I reached the front door.
I sighed, and turned. “What?”
He didn’t move up the steps, and I
knew he was trying to find his words.
I don’t have all night… “What,
He glanced up, “Sorry for… for what I said.”
I rolled my eyes, “Great,” and
turned to go in.
“Great? That’s all you’ve got to
say?” he pulled me to a stop with his words.
“What am I supposed to say?” I
didn’t turn around.
“Bloody hell, maybe that you’re
sorry too? Maybe that you didn’t mean what you sa—”
“I meant all of it.”
He growled, “On quite a roll
tonight, aren’t you? Hell, I’d rather have a heart-attack than listen to—”
“You can’t have a heart-attack,
Spike. Your heart would need to, like, beat first.”
He stormed past me, throwing the
door open and going in without a glance my way. I heard the basement door slam
the second I stepped inside.
“Hey,” Dawn came downstairs, “I
thought I was the only one who could do that stuff.”
I nodded, “You should go lecture
him about that.”
“Sounds like he’s had enough
lecturing,” Dawn followed me to the couch, crammed with slayers-to-be whose
wide eyes darted around at all the commotion. “What happened?” Dawn asked.
I sighed, moving from the crowded living room to the empty kitchen,
“The First… was being Dru. I think it got to him or something.” I opened the
“Are you hungry?” Dawn asked,
“Because there’s nothing in there.”
I peered in the vacant fridge, remembering
the place Princ—damnit!—Robin had taken me for dinner. Just one bite sounded
so good… I spotted a lonely string-cheese. Dawn choked back on a laugh when I
I pulled off a strand, “What?”
She stifled it, “Nothing.”
Rona stepped into the kitchen, “Hey
Buffy, we were thinking maybe order a—oh my God, Buffy… what are you doing?”
“If Kennedy saw you eating that…”
I stopped chewing, “What?”
Molly’s horrified face popped up next to Rona, “You ate her string
“Excuse me,” I opened the fridge,
“You girls eat me out of house and home… but what, Kennedy thinks her cheese is
off limits? What is it, magic cheese?”
Molly’s head turned, then she
whispered back with wide eyes, “Kennedy’s coming!”
I took another bite of cheese, “Let
Dawn shook her head, pulling me
towards the basement door.
Oh, no way, Dawnie. I’d rather
stand on the Hellmouth than go down there right now.
“Just until she’s gone, then we’ll
call you back up.” Dawn swung the door open and pushing between frantic
whispers, “Buffy, she’s going to flip out.”
The basement door slammed behind
me, and I found myself staring down the black stairwell. The next noise was
enough to make me jump and tiptoe down the stairs:
“WHO ATE MY STRING-CHEESE?”
I snuck to the bottom of the
stairs, knowing Spike was there… knowing Spike knew I was there. The light was
off, and I stumbled over equipment.
“Christ, Slayer,” I heard him
mutter from his bed, “Sod off, will you? Not in the mood.”
“I would, but I guess I’m not in
charge of the house anymore.”
He grunted, “So they sent you down
to the pits, eh? That it?”
I sighed. He’s still pissed.
Okay, make a joke fast. That works sometimes. Only nothing came to my mind.
No joke, anyway.
“Want a bite of Kennedy’s forbidden
string-cheese?” I ventured. Please let that be good enough…
He snickered, and I heard his
“Kinda dark down here, don’t you
think?” I gained confidence.
“Creature of the night here…” he
muttered, “Plus, you know, sleeping.”
It fell quiet again. Dark and
quiet… and all my confidence became as scarce as the light. God, how did I get
down here? Dawn. Oh, you are so dead, Dawnie… I know you planned this all
out somehow. I glared at the ceiling.
“Lemme know if you plan to stand
there all night, Slayer,” Spike muttered, “’Cause there’s nothing quite like
the threat of death looming over me while I sleep.”
I plucked another piece of cheese.
Does everything have to be so eternally dramatic with you, Spike? Could you
just once let it go? God, it’s only string-cheese…
“Turn on the light, then,” he
groaned, “Can’t sleep with you here. Might as well—”
“You’ve slept around me before.”
I could hear his anger, “Well, this
is after, isn’t it?”
After what? The sex? The soul?
What was he trying to say, that he doesn’t want to… no, he wants to be around
me. I know he does. But he can’t sleep around me. But he could just fine
before… before I realized how hurtful I was. So now, after… after I changed
from that—learned from that—and now I’m not as hurtful. And now he won’t sleep
That doesn’t make any sense, Spike.
“I think this counts as during,” I
said, “Like a middle-spot.”
He didn’t answer.
“Because, you know, we’re not like…
More silence from him, and more
words from me.
The basement had never been
quieter. I ate the last of the cheese.
Finally his bed creaked, as if to
wake him up, “I don’t… want to be.”
Now it was my turn to be silent.
The bed creaked again, and I knew he was getting up.
“Buffy, I…” his voice gave way, and
was so small I still couldn’t place him, “I love you.”
Oh God. Oh no.
“You think you’ve been selfish…” he
was moving, but I didn’t know where, “But you’re not. It’s me… the selfish
one. Because I can’t stop…”
“Even though it hurts you, I’ll
Somebody make this stop…
“Love ’til it kills you,” he
paused, “And then I’ll love you dead.”
Stairs. Get upstairs now. My mind
pushed, but my body wanted to hear more.
“You see that now, right?” he was
getting closer, “That it doesn’t matter if you love me… wouldn’t change me…
wouldn’t make me any stronger, or more loyal… wouldn’t make me love you more
’cause that’s bleedin‘ impossible.”
Finally I could make him out—his
feet appeared in front of me… at the floor I couldn’t look away from. Part of
me wanted to look up at him, but the smarter part knew better and focused more
intently on his feet. Love. Dark room. Tension. God, I’m tired. Just fall
into him. Take comfort. Spike. What if… what if…
“What if I said it?” my throat
scratched out in a whisper.
“What?” he asked like he didn’t
think I had listened.
“What if… I said I loved you?”
Continued in Part 22