Setting: Post-Hell's Bells
Entry 8 - Pain
At least he'd have a quiet evening for it; no guests were invited over and he wasn't supposed to see Olivia until tomorrow. His plans had been to follow down some Sumerian texts that might have collateral bearing on the Nyzian Prophecies, but he couldn't resist the lure of news from Sunnydale.
Time heals wounds, even gaping ones like I suffered. I'm doing better than in my last letter. Sorry you had to read that; not really certain why I let the damn thing be mailed.
I'm no longer considering leaving Sunnydale, either.
That line had Giles off the couch and reaching for the phone, mentally calculating the time difference between Bath and California. What was Spike talking about? He'd made no reference to leaving town in his last letter.
Last letter. He must have accidentally grabbed the second letter first. Putting the pages aside, he slit open the other envelope. The first thing he noticed was that the writing seemed somewhat shaky, as if the author had been putting words on paper as quickly as he could. With a feeling of dread, he began to read.
I'm about to make you very happy. Buffy and I are quits. She's told me it has to stop, and this time I believe she's serious.
Giles suddenly felt his blood run cold. He'd been anticipating this moment from the start, wondering what would happen when Buffy came to her senses and decided to end the affair. Intellectually, he knew Spike wasn't like Angelus, had seen it proved often enough, but there was always that small kernel of doubt in the back of his mind. Drusilla was mad and no one understood how that might affect a turning, and Spike had once admitted that Angelus, for all practical purposes, had filled the role of his sire. What lessons had he learned?
Jenny so still in his bed, the perfect scene set for the discovery.
Giles pushed the image away and focused back on the letter.
Oh, she's been singing the same tune for weeks now — "We can't keep doing this." "This is the last time." "Don't tell anyone." Each time, though, she kept coming back for more. I'd even begun to hope she might care for me deep down under all the mess. Just kept thinking that if I kept working at it, things would get better, that we might have a chance.
Would you believe she actually told me she wanted me? She's denied it from the start — acted as if each encounter was an aberration. Now, when she's leaving me, she finally admits it. Said it made things simpler for a little while when she was with me. She said she was using me, that she couldn't love me, that she was being weak and selfish.
Then she told me it was killing her.
The words caused Giles to wince. He could only imagine what effect they must have had on Spike. He remembered all too well in those first days how Spike had blamed himself for not keeping Doc from Dawn, how he should have been faster, stronger, a bit cleverer.
I never wanted to hurt her. I thought — I hoped — that our time together might be helping her. She'd reached a point where she'd relax, not run off once the deed was done. We'd talk, I'd see her laugh and smile. She'd even started to trust me.
Other things had changed. In the beginning, every time we were together was like a battle. We destroyed things, Rupert, and never noticed, so caught up in the moment. Buffy would limp home with bruises, I'd be nursing bites and we'd lick our wounds until the next round. The last week or so, though, it was different — gentler, sweeter. We weren't so frantic to get down to business. And I began to hope.
Spike's words caused him to wince again. Giles had tried not to think of the mechanics involved and Spike had been blessedly mum on the subject, but now he couldn't turn away. There was pain in these words, and he felt his throat tighten for the hopes that had been dashed.
Can't really blame it on Captain Cardboard, though his arrival was the signal of the end of days. Yes, Riley Finn came back from the jungle long enough to wreak havoc on my life. I swear, if this chip was out of my head, I would have drained the bastard dry without a second thought. Should have suspected something was up when Buffy came to my crypt, looking very cute in black commando gear, wanting information on someone called "The Doctor" who was trafficking in nasties on the Black Market. She tried to be all business, but there was something about her that said she wanted more. Asked her if the business was urgent, and she asked if I loved her. What could I say? I've loved her for so long now. She asked if I wanted her, and again, what could I say?
She was so vulnerable, so in need of reassurance. I thought this was going to be it, the moment when she told me I was more than just a convenience, that she actually cared for me. We made love that night, different from all the acrobatics that had gone before. She even drifted off to sleep next to me when we were done, something she hadn't done since our first night together. I just watched her, wanting the moment to last forever.
Then Finn walked in. We were in the top level of my crypt, so he found us immediately. I was stupid, didn't put things together immediately. She must have known Soldier Boy was back, been working with him to track down this dealer. She must have known he'd come to my place sooner or later. Instead, I couldn't resist the opportunity to crow over what I saw as a triumph. Before he left town, Finn had told me he would stake me if I ever touched Buffy — and here she was with me. If he was gonna dust me, I was at least going to have a little fun first. Angelus always said one of my problems was that a lot of times I don't use my head to think.
As much as it hurt, Giles could almost see the scene. Of all the people to uncover this liaison, why did it have to be Riley? He'd never been overly fond of the boy and more than a little suspicious of his continued ties to the government, but Buffy had thought she loved him and it must been shattering to have him find her that way.
Strange thing was, Finn didn't even react to seeing Buffy and me together. Buffy reacted; she started scrambling for her clothes and hiding while she got dressed. But Finn, he just stared at me and kept calling me "Doctor" — the name of this dealer Buffy had been looking for. Didn't understand what he was talking about, just wanted him to get the hell out of there so I could get back to Buffy.
A stray thought crossed through Giles' mind. Of course Riley would have gone to visit Spike if he was hunting for information; he'd done it frequently before — most likely because he knew he could bully whatever information Spike had out of him without fear of repercussions. Buffy had to know that. So why go to Spike if she knew Riley would follow?
Unless Buffy had wanted to be found
Giles didn't want to think about the implications of that train of thought. Even with their friendly communications, he'd always cast Spike as the villain of the piece, taking advantage of Buffy in this difficult time. If Buffy had gone to Spike knowing they would be discovered, that vision began to shred.
Then he mentioned the eggs.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. An acquaintance of mine let it be known that he needed someplace to store some Suvari eggs for about 48 hours and was willing to pay for it. I checked the books at the Magic Box and learned Suvari are pretty harmless and their eggs are considered a delicacy by some. I agreed to do the job and got the eggs moved into my downstairs. No special handling needed, but I decided moving upstairs would be more comfortable for the duration. That's where Buffy had found me when I came in. I'd had some wild idea that I could give her the money, maybe ease some of the strain on her. I've been doing odd jobs for a while now, trying to build up a fund for that proverbial rainy day. It's not a lot, but it's enough to keep her utilities going for a couple of months. The money I hoped to make from this would have kept the wolf from the door for longer than that and still have given me plenty to spend on blood and smokes.
I tried to laugh Finn's accusations off, but he just punched me and started searching like he own the place. Believe it or not, Buffy actually came to my defense, said I couldn't be this doctor. Said I was too incompetent, which bloody well hurt. Finn countered that I was deadly, amoral and opportunistic. Buffy didn't have an answer. It was like everything I've done over the past year didn't matter. It hurt.
Finn headed for the basement and I couldn't stop him. I tried to explain to Buffy what was going on, but she wouldn't listen; just punched me and told me to stop playing games with her. That was a laugh. She's the one who's been playing games, running hot and cold, pulling me in then pushing me away. She didn't want to hear that I loved her, then she wanted to be told. I was a thing, I was what she couldn't live without. It's been nothing but games this whole time, and I'm not the one who's been making up the rules.
I had to leave. I knew nothing I said or did would make any difference at that point and I might well say some things I'd regret later. I just got the hell out of the crypt, found a place where I could be by myself. Behind me, I could hear Finn telling Buffy to get out of there, that the eggs were hatching.
About two minutes later, I heard my home explode.
Giles had to put the letter down again, pacing about his flat. What the hell was going on in Sunnydale? Demon eggs as delicacies? Riley accusing Spike of being a black-market demon dealer? The crypt exploding? Unable to stand it, he grabbed the pages and continued to read as he paced.
Didn't see Buffy again that night. Just sat out in the cemetery until daybreak, trying to figure out what was going on. It felt like Angelus all over again. I loved Dru for over a hundred years, but Angelus comes back, crooks his finger and suddenly it was all about her daddy. I didn't matter. I know it's not uncommon for a vampire to have deep ties to their sire, but I loved Dru and it hurt to be thrown over so easily.
This hurt worse, though — deeper, harder more painful than losing Dru to Angelus or finding her with one of her demons. At least Dru felt some affection for me over the years. If Buffy feels any, it is so far buried she can't admit it to herself. I was just a "convenience" as she so quaintly put it, something to help forget her problems for awhile. I've listened to her for hours on end. I've watched her back on patrol. I've worried for her, over her. When she needed to lose herself, needed someone's arms around her, I was more than happy to give her that. Even when she needed something to vent her rage on, I was willing to take that as well. I love her and I know she's going through a hard time, and I've wanted to be her strength when she needed it. I've given everything I have, but it doesn't seem enough.
It was a cry of pain, of a man deeply hurt by the woman he loved. Giles glanced at the clock, realized Anya should be in the shop and headed for the phone.
For the second time that evening, he put the receiver down without dialing. Anya and Xander were on their honeymoon. Giles wasn't certain who'd be watching the Magic Box, but it was likely the Scoobies, perhaps even Buffy herself at that moment. For some reason, he didn't particularly feel like speaking with Buffy. There was too much here, a glimpse at an aspect of her that Giles wasn't quite ready to deal with.
When the sun peeked over the horizon, I headed home to see what damage had been done. Remember when we wrestled the bed downstairs and Tara and Willow helped me pick out the carpets? It's all gone now, blown to bits. Someone, probably Captain Cardboard, had tossed some grenades to stop the eggs. Just about everything is wrecked; my records, books, my bed, the mementos I'd kept from years gone by. I've got some clothes, sheets, a few pillows and whatever I'd brought upstairs for what I thought was only going to be a few days. Don't know if I'll fix up the place again; don't know if I should bother.
Buffy did come back that morning, much to my surprise. I hadn't expected to see her, figuring she'd be off with Finn, trying to recapture whatever fantasy of normality he offers. She told me he was gone, and I stupidly hoped that she'd come back for a little more comfort, maybe to apologize. No, she'd come to break if off for good this time.
For one hundred and forty-seven days, my dreams were filled with ways I could have saved her. For almost fifty days, I thought I had, only to learn I'd done more harm than I could have imagined. She said she had to be strong. Then she told me she was sorry and called me "William."
That's when I knew she really meant it. She wouldn't have used that if she weren't saying goodbye. A hundred things, a thousand things flew through my head, but I couldn't say a single one as she walked away, out of my life.
I understand why Angel took off for LA now; he couldn't bear to be in the same city with her and not be able to touch her or be with her. For the first time since I woke into this life, I actually feel sympathy for him. The thought of leaving's crossed my mind. Part of me wants to flee, put as much distance between her and me as possible. Part of me wants to just curl up in a hole until the pain stops, but that probably won't be until I turn to dust. Maybe I should leave Sunnydale, travel the world again. Maybe I should come home. If I show up on your doorstep, would there be a place for me, Rupert, until I got my bearings again? I have a few friends here, some acquaintances, but most of them know Buffy. As for family, there's only Angel and Drusilla. Don't know where Dru is and don't really want to know. Angel would probably stake me on sight, which is making Los Angeles sound like an awfully attractive possibility at the moment.
There's still the Bit to worry about, but I doubt I'll have the chance to see her again; Buffy won't want me around now that we're quits, and I won't have the girl sneaking off in defiance of Big Sis. If I do go, I'll make sure I say goodbye, spin her some tale — don't want her hating Buffy on my account. She'll be hurt and cry, but I'll try to make it right by her.
I'll end this now. I've laid enough of my troubles on you and I don't know what to do next. I will promise you I won't do a love spell and I won't go stalking or hurting Buffy and her friends. Even with everything, I just couldn't do that to her.
Even with everything, I still love her.
The words blurred and Giles reached under his glasses to press his fingers to either side of the bridge of his nose. His eyes were itching and no matter how much he wanted to deny it, he knew the reason why. For the first time since Spike had blown into their lives some four years ago, he sounded completely adrift. There had been times when Giles suspected he might be aching, but it was always hidden under that bravado, the snarky smile and the easy assurance that he was, indeed, evil. When Buffy had been dead, Spike had hidden his grief behind complaints that the Scoobies were holding him back from killing things while on patrol. Only in rare, unguarded moments had the pain been obvious in his eyes. He wasn't bothering to hide it now and Giles knew how deeply he must be aching to let the mask drop.
Worse, in defiance of everything he had been taught and believed, Giles couldn't help but feel Spike was the wounded party here. He was a vampire, a soulless creature of evil who'd tried to harm them all more than once. Buffy should have staked him long ago and never given it a second thought. And yet, it was hard to picture Sunnydale without Spike now. He'd very much become a part of their lives — an annoying, irritating part, to be sure, but a part nonetheless.
Giles glanced through the pages again, wondering why Spike had chosen to open his heart so fully to him. Ironic that in the midst of all the pain he felt, he even tried to put to rest the fears he must have known Giles would have about revenge. Perhaps he was the only one Spike felt comfortable dropping his mask to; he certainly couldn't imagine any of Buffy's friends providing a friendly shoulder and news like this would travel fast in the demon community if Spike unburdened himself there.
Still puzzled, Giles poured himself a scotch and reached for the second letter.
Time heals wounds, even gaping ones like I suffered. I'm doing better than in my last letter. Sorry you had to read that; not really certain why I let the damn thing be mailed.
I'm no longer considering leaving Sunnydale, either. While things are painful, I do have a life here and people I care about. Besides, there's always hope. I know what you're thinking — crazy, obsessed vampire doesn't know when to quit. He's dangerous; stake him now. Grrrrr.
Giles felt himself smile. This was more the Spike he knew; clever and not above a bit of self-mockery.
Tell the truth, don't know how Buffy and I will end up, but I think we might be at a point where we can actually communicate again. It got lost in all the kissing and the shagging, and I've missed it. Nice to think we might be able to actually sit out on her back porch of an evening and talk. Will it happen anytime soon? Not likely, but the possibility is there.
Went off to Whelp and Demon-Girl's wedding two days after I wrote you last. Interesting cross section of humans and demons and Harris' family. The Bison Lodge actually looked pretty nice; the bridesmaid's dresses were among the most appalling things I've ever seen. Don't know if you're old enough to remember Carmen Miranda, but it was one of those types of dresses, square neck, little bit of fluff for the sleeves, close fitting down to the knees, then rows of ruffles to the floor. Big fabric cabbage rose corsage right over the heart. Best part? They were made from this bright shiny satin in a green a frog wouldn't come near. Glad to see Anya decided to follow the human tradition of making the bridesmaids look as hideous as possible.
Dawn was serving as greeter and have to say that the Little Bit isn't quite so little anymore. Getting as tall as me, when last summer she barely came to my chin. Turning out to be quite the beauty, too, all thin and Audrey Hepburn-like. I can't imagine Anya not wanting to send you pictures of the wedding party when she gets back from her honeymoon, and I'll think you'll be surprised to see how grown-up Dawn looks.
She's got poise, too, which was good because I'm afraid I'd come up with one of my less brilliant ideas. Harris had said I could bring a date, so I decided to take advantage of the offer and asked someone I knew to come along. I'm afraid I was trying to make Buffy jealous and succeeded in looking like a complete ass to Dawn. Hit the idea that the lady with me was my date a little too hard, though I think she couldn't resist the temptation to run and tattle to Buffy like I wanted. Gave me that look she has, though. You know the one — the "why are you being so stupid?" look.
Giles knew that look very well. There had been times when Dawn seemed to wear it constantly, and he knew Spike had been on the receiving end as often as any of them.
There are moments when I actually feel sorry for Harris. After spending time in his basement, let's just say I hold the Fungus Demon Drusilla left me for in higher regard than the Whelp's parents. The wedding hadn't even begun and already his father was three sheets to the wind, publicly insulting his wife and trying to pick a fight with Anya's friends. Buffy came running to the rescue, facing a challenge never faced by a Chosen One before: keep the groom's dad away from the booze, while trying not to mangle him for making a pass at her. She rose to the task, though.
Did some mingling, but felt too itchy to sit down when everyone else was getting settled for the ceremony, so I just kinda loomed at the back against the wall (it's a vampire thing). So I'm looming and Buffy comes by. We managed to say hello in a civil manner and exchange a few words. She actually admitted that it hurt a little to see me with someone else and I found myself at once glad and wanting to make it better. That was when I decided that it was likely best I go. I mean, if Harris saw me with Tarantula (yes, my date was named Tarantula; she's a waitress at a club I know), he'd feel compelled to make some comment, I'd feel compelled to respond and it wouldn't be a good thing. Besides, Buffy seemed to be having a good time and I really didn't want to ruin it for her.
She told me I didn't have to, that I had a right to be there, but I could see it was hurting her. She's got so little joy in her life at this time, who am I to take it away? Told her to wish the happy couple best of luck and that it was nice to see her happy, even if it was just for them. She was beautiful, with that glow she gets when everything's going right. Told me she was glowing because her dress was radioactive.
I'm getting soggy again, and I swore I wouldn't do that, but it was nice. We shared a laugh and then she had to take off, see to things. It was good though, and that's why I can't give up hope completely. May be a fool's dream, but it keeps me going.
Didn't stay for the wedding, but grabbed Tarantula and took off. She knew why I'd invited her, so there wasn't really a problem, although I had promised her she'd get fed. Took her along to dinner then headed home. I decided to stay where I am at the moment, so there's a lot to do there. Sorry I don't have a better report for you on the festivities, but I think you'll understand why I felt it best to depart.
Anya did remember to pick up the flowers you sent for Joyce. Funny, I thought she would have forgotten with all the last-minute wedding plans, but the last time I talked to her she mentioned them and that she found the gesture very thoughtful. They were beautiful, even if I only saw them by moonlight.
Any luck on the stipend from the Council? The Doublemeat Experience continues and I think we'd both like to see her out of there as soon as possible.
I should mention that Miss Chalmers thesis survived the Finn invasion; I'd brought it upstairs with me to make some notes, so I should be able to send along some commentary soon.
All the news I have for the moment, though I imagine something will pop up soon since Sunnyhell is never quiet for long. Do me a favor and forget what I said in my last letter, please? Better still, if this one has gotten there first, just burn it without reading.
Giles folded the pages once he was done and slipped them back inside the envelope, as was his habit. The tone of this letter reassured him somewhat that perhaps the situation was not as disastrous as Spike's last letter had made it sound. The question also arose, disastrous for whom?
Since the day he'd received Spike's first letter, Giles had been hoping Buffy would come to her senses and break off the affair. There'd been enough repercussions within the Council concerning Buffy's relationship with Angel; the reaction to an affair with a non-souled vampire who'd killed two slayers was not something Giles wanted to contemplate. A slayer and a vampire were simply not compatible.
For a brief moment, Giles considered calling Buffy and breaking Spike's confidence to ask her side of the story. He couldn't picture the girl he knew diving into a relationship where she didn't at least think she cared for the man. Yet, according to Spike, Buffy had said she couldn't love him, that she had simply used him.
The idea was considered and discarded almost instantly. Buffy would not be forthcoming and his questions would only raise questions of her own as to why he knew this information. Besides, such a delicate conversation was best handled face to face rather than over the phone and such a meeting would not occur anytime soon. Worse, if Spike was indeed the injured party in this situation, he would likely only suffer from Buffy's discovery that he had communicated with Giles.
The pages of Spike's first letter still lay on the coffee table where Giles had left them before picking up the second. He considered them for a moment before folding them and replacing them in the envelope. Perhaps it would be best to do as Spike had asked and pretend he hadn't read it; that would be one way of dealing with the situation. But that was where these problems had started, hadn't it? All of them, even Spike, had ignored things they didn't want to see — Willow's addiction to magic, Buffy's withdrawal from the world around her, Dawn's loneliness, Spike's feelings — and that way why things were reaching a point where some sort of explosion was inevitable.
Time to stop hiding. At this moment, he didn't think flying back to Sunnydale would serve much use, but there were things he could do here, advice he could give, that might help matters. Buffy was still his slayer and he'd come to regard her and her friends as family. He'd speak with Lydia in the morning, push ahead on the idea of a stipend. No, it wasn't a stipend; a young woman who had died twice and nightly put herself forward against the forces of darkness deserved a salary to keep her and her sister in reasonable comfort.
There were letters to write, too. Just because Buffy hadn't written didn't mean Giles should let himself be slipshod. He'd get the e-mail account set up, try to stay in contact that way. He should do more than just be content to Anya's quarterly statements about the shop come without question.
Feeling a bit more energized, Giles made his way to his desk and pulled out his stationery. Yes, he needed to write Buffy and get e-mail addresses from Willow and Xander, but there was another letter he needed to write first, advice and support offered. He owed him that much, at least.
My dear Spike,
I received and read both your letters. You may not believe this, but your news did sadden me
Continued in Entry 9 - Support