"I see thee better in the dark"
-- Emily Dickinson
Buffy found herself walking back to the cemetery, her mind whirling. She had tried not to think as she had left the Trial, and she had tried not thinking as she made her way back through the dark streets, but it hadn't worked. Thoughts kept popping stubbornly to the surface of her mind, flashes of memory going through her while she walked.
The first time she had met Spike, in that dark alley so long ago... Her mom hitting him over the head with an axe... Spike, stopping his minions from wreaking havoc when she had threatened to kill Drusilla... Her uneasy alliance with the vampire and the bizarre image of him sitting at her kitchen table drinking hot chocolate... The vampire chained up in Giles' bathtub...almost destroying her relationship with her friends...and saving her life. The moment when he had sat down beside her on the back porch with kind words -- and a shotgun. The kiss -- kisses. The memory of his weight on top of hers, his fangs locked in her throat...and most of all, the image of his burned and scarred body hanging from chains while he calmly gave up everything that mattered most to him. For her. All for her.
He loved her.
Spike loved her.
Somehow Buffy couldn't quite make that sink in. She knew it was true, knew that what her instincts had been telling her all along was correct, but still...she couldn't make herself believe it.
Why? How? Why would he possibly...? No. Buffy shook her head unhappily...then went back to the not-thinking.
It even worked for a while -- right up until the moment she found herself outside Spike's door.
* * *
Spike twisted around in his chair, a warning tremor going through him. She was here. Just outside the crypt. He could smell her.
He didn't need this right now. One look and she'd probably guess everything. His feelings were probably written all over his face. Wearing his bloody heart on his bloody sleeve, he was. Sodding wonderful. Just what he needed.
But then again -- this was better than the alternative, right? Hiding out in his crypt, diving around corners whenever he saw her. No. Let her come. He wasn't William the Bloody Wanker, for god's sake. He was Spike. And it was high time he started acting like it...
The door swung open behind him but the vampire carefully did not move, his gaze remaining on the TV in front of him. All his other senses, however, locked on the Slayer the moment she entered, tracking her as she stepped into the crypt, coming to a hesitant stop a few paces back.
"Summers," Spike said casually, not looking behind him. "Still alive then?"
Buffy didn't answer him. Instead she moved forward, crossing in front of him, then reached down and turned off the television.
"Hey! I was watching that!"
"Newsflash, Spike. The ship sinks. Jack drowns."
"And thank you very bloody much." He glowered at her. "So what do you want now? More help saving the world? Battling the bad guys? A few more lessons on Slayer slaying?" He paused, a grin appearing on his face. "Or would it be Slayer saving this time?"
She shifted her weight, looking uncomfortable.
"I need to talk to you."
"Well, since you just ruined the movie and the only other thing on right now is 'Jerry Springer', which I'd rather be buried six feet under again than have to watch, I'd say you've got my undivided attention. So what's the topic of conversation gonna be this time?"
Buffy hesitated, then said flatly: "I went back to the Trial."
Spike froze, staring up at her in disbelief. "You what?"
"I went back."
She swallowed. "I...I had to know what you did. What your...sacrifice was."
Ice began to form in the pit of Spike's stomach and his mind started spinning in circles. Big, violent, nerve-wrenching circles. She knew? Bloody hell. What was he supposed to say now? How could he explain?
He gave it a good try though.
"Well, don't flatter yourself, Slayer. It was...I was... just wanted to make sure I'd be the one what finally kills you. Didn't want some demon to get all the fun..."
Bollocks. That was terrible. He could do better than that, right? He thought for a moment. No. No he couldn't.
And then he was on his feet, trying to put some much needed distance between them while he attempted to figure out what to do, how to handle this.
"It's not all about you, you know," he said belligerently. "I mean, it may have looked like I was doing it for you, but really, I was just..."
"Spike!" Buffy spoke more forcefully this time, cutting him off in mid-sentence.
The vampire swallowed then turned and looked at her with just a hint of trepidation on his face.
The Slayer took a step toward him, her eyes boring into his. And she said, very slowly:
"Do you love me?"
* * *
Buffy stared unblinkingly at Spike, waiting. She knew the answer already -- really she did -- but there was still that one small uncertainty in the back of her mind. And she had to know. Somewhere along the way she had decided, even if only on a subconscious level, that she had to know the truth, no matter how difficult it might be. She had to hear him say it. Only then would she be able to decide what to do. Only then could she face her own feelings.
The vampire swallowed again, an expression of sheer panic flashing across his face, tension written in every line of his body.
She shook her head. "No. Just one word, Spike. Yes or no. Do you love me?"
Another endless pause. Buffy noticed distantly that her nails were once more digging into her hands and she forced herself to relax. Finally though, Spike's shoulders straightened, his chin came up...and he met her eyes unwaveringly.
* * *
Time seemed to crash to a halt. Finally the silence became too much for Spike to bear.
"I know you don't feel that way about me..." he began hesitantly.
Buffy shook her head. "No. I don't."
It shouldn't hurt this much. Really it shouldn't. He had known all along that she didn't love him, probably never would... But to actually hear her say it, to shred all his hopes -- and his heart -- like this...
Anguish tore through Spike, ripping through every aspect of his being. So this was what being staked through the heart felt like, he realized distantly. He had suffered his fair share of pain in his time, a hell of a lot of it in just the past week, but this...this was beyond words. Nothing had ever hurt quite this much. Nothing. It felt as though small pieces of himself were crumbling away, breaking off into some void that threatened to consume him.
And suddenly the need to hurt her back was too much to bear. His fists clenching, Spike took a step forward and said viciously:
"You really are a piece of work. A right little bitch. This is all some game to you, isn't it? Make Spike admit he's gone all soft then spit in his face. So what's next? You go back to your little fanclub and you all have a good laugh together? Laugh at the vampire that's got the hots for the Slayer..."
He ignored her, his voice trampling over hers. "You don't care, do you? Just 'cause you've been hurt in the past, you think that gives you the right to do anything you want, hurt whoever you like..."
Buffy took an angry step forward. "Will you let me finish?"
"Why? So you can twist the knife a bit more? No thanks. I can see why Angel left you. Self-bloody-preservation..."
* * *
That did it. Without warning Buffy's fist slammed into Spike and he crashed to the floor, laying still for a moment, slightly stunned. Then she stepped forward and stood over him, speaking coldly.
"I'm going to ignore that last comment. And you're going to shut the hell up so I can finish."
Spike raised one hand to his jaw, glaring up at her with something very close to hatred in his eyes. But he remained silent.
This wasn't going the way Buffy had planned. Actually, she hadn't planned it at all -- hence the problem. But she couldn't change things now. All she could do was move on. And to do that, she had to be completely honest with him. And herself. No more holding back. It wouldn't be easy and it was probably going to hurt like hell...but it had to be done.
After all, she had no choice.
"What did you expect me to say, Spike?" Buffy's voice was calmer now, only a faint tremor in her body betraying the myriad emotions running through her. "Did you really think I would declare my undying love for you just because you saved my life? Well, I'm sorry, but that sort of thing only happens in bad romance novels. One good deed isn't enough to make up for 120 years of carnage. I can't just forget what you are, what you've done."
He snarled up at her, pain etched on his face. "That's rich, coming from you. You were all over Angel from the minute you met him, weren't you? Never asked what kind of a monster he was. If you'd seen some of the things he did, you'd..."
"Shut up," Buffy snapped. "When I said I didn't love you, that was the truth. But...it wasn't the whole truth. And...and you deserve to know everything."
She took a deep steadying breath, then continued.
"Part of me hates you, for what you've done to me and my friends, for what you did in the past. I've read the Watcher's journals, Spike. I know how dangerous you were. Still are. Part of me is afraid of you, of what you might do if you ever get that chip out of your head. And an even bigger part says you're not trustworthy and never will be."
He climbed to his feet slowly, glowering at her. "You're really enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Not really," she said flatly. "And I'm not done yet. You see, the part you don't know is that it...it's not just hate and fear between us anymore, Spike. Something's changed. I'm not sure when it happened. Maybe when you saved my life last week. Maybe earlier. I don't know. What I do know is that you've always understood me better than anyone else. More than my family, more than Giles even. Definitely more than Riley ever did. You...you can see right through me, see through all the lies I tell myself and no one else has ever been able to do that. And while most of the time I hate that...sometimes I find it comforting too. How strange is that?"
She smiled painfully, crookedly, then went on, not waiting for an answer.
"A lot of the time I think you're bad for me. But sometimes I think you're the only one I can ever be with, should ever be with. When I'm with you Spike -- I can be myself. I don't have to pretend to be something I'm not. I can just let go. No one else has ever done that for me. Not even Angel."
"So I guess it doesn't matter if part of me still thinks you're a killer, if I don't know if I can trust you, or even if you're bad for me. Because there's a much bigger part of me saying...saying..."
Her voice trailed off. She couldn't go on, couldn't get the words out. Her throat was tightening, fear clenching in her stomach. She couldn't do it. She didn't have the courage.
"Saying what?" The anger was almost gone from Spike's voice now, only a faint residue of hurt still remaining. But there was something else in his eyes...something that gave Buffy the nerve to take that final step. The step that would change everything between them.
It came out as a whisper, so faint that only a vampire could have heard it.
"I want you," she said.
Continued in Part 23