By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Sequel to The Waiting Season
SUMMARY: As old friends return to Sunnydale and life begins to move on, a new adversary comes to town and shows Buffy more about herself than she ever wanted to know. B/S
SPOILERS: Through "Grave"
DISCLAIMER: The characters within this story are the property of Mutant Enemy Productions, except for the ones that you don't recognize, because I made them up all by my lonesome. Aren't I cool? No? Shut up. You don't know me. Bitch. Music will be disclaimed as it is used, and it will be used occasionally. Like in this chapter. Really, it will.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I have had this idea brewing in my head for what seems like an eternity, and only now is it finally coming together on paper. Or screen. Whatever. Anyway, the necromancy information is a combination of genuine research and Lovecraft's mythology, as well as some embellishments from yours truly. It may help if you read my The Waiting Season series of vignettes to help establish this story, and those are also on my site.
I'd just like to make a shout-out to my beta dawg, Devil Piglet. Big props to her mad grammar skillz. You know you a pimp.
Chapter Four: Forget-Me-Not
It was snowing in August again.
Flakes of white flying through the sky, and the children were all standing on the sidewalks, laughing and skipping rope, sticking their tongues out to catch the scraps of ivory raining from the skies. Elegant women with diamond jewelry and mink wraps hid under the shade of umbrellas, only worried about protecting their expensive coifs from the strange weather. The streets were covered in layers of it, and it piled up on the sidewalks so that the youths of the city could lay down and make angels in the snow.
Elsa thought that she was going to be sick.
I could say bella, bella
Even say "vunderfal"
Each language only lets me tell you
How great you are
The record shop was bustling with swing kids, saddle shoes polished and gleaming, girls walking around with polka-dotted dresses snapping with the shaking of their hips. Trumpets sounded in the background with flair and oomph, and the boys were nodding their heads and looking at secret jazz records, black music, music banned by the Nazis. Oh, how dangerous and daring they all were, with their defiantly tight dresses and the boys with their messy outfits.
They're all going to die pretty soon.
Numbly, her fingers flipped through the stacks and rows of records, ears distantly hearing the tinny sound of big band swing rolling through the cramped store. Outside, the ashes were still falling freely from the sky, a harsh contrast to the cheerful bop of the trumpet and crooning. Giggling children ran past the store, throwing balls of the black and gray ash at each other, and Elsa sucked in a shaky breath.
The crematoriums were working overtime today.
It was not an uncommon sight nowadays, the children frolicking in the streets while the soldiers marched by in their straight, jerky motions, flakes of ashen bodies raining down on the streets from the nearby death camps. This was what life during wartime was like. Depraved, deprived, distraught.
Sometimes, Elsa wondered if the people just claimed blissful ignorance when they marveled at the miraculous snowfall. They had to know. They could smell it, couldn't they? The charred odor, the stench of burning things overpowering the flowers in the windows or the bread in the bakery. They could look at the way that the ashes left streaks of dark gray death on their clothing and tell, right?
Would it be worse if they knew and just didn't care?
More soldiers marched down the street in their roaring fashion, stomping heels and strict, sharp movements, the swastika blazing from their jackets. She shivered as she saw them, ducking behind the listening booth with a copy of Ella Fitzgerald in her hot, sweating palms. The swing kids noticed, too, turning their heads to stare dully at the invading army, and she could not take it anymore.
When she finally found the strength to flee from the shop, night had fallen and the ashes were still raining down on the streets, on the sidewalks, on everything. This was her home, the place where she had grown up, and now it was coated with the remnants of dead things. No, no, don't think like that. Don't think like they do. Those were men and women, innocents and children, all of these lives and...
She could not do it anymore.
Furiously, Elsa pulled the wooden stake out from underneath the sleeve of her dress and flung it to the ground, satisfied when it splintered into pieces from the force of her throw. "No," she said in a clear, harsh voice. "I will not do it anymore. Never again. I quit, you hear me? I quit. It's done. Finished. Over."
No one answered her, and the splinters rolled around on the street.
Exhausted, she slumped against the brick side of the building, covering her face with her hands as ashes and cinders rained down on her, catching in her honey hair, staining her red dress. Another gown ruined, another life lost. It didn't matter. The Nazis were taking people away faster than she could save them. And that brought her to the conundrum, to the part of her battle that she could no longer understand.
She remembered the before time, the nice period of quietude before the Nazi beast invaded her country and overtook her streets, littering the sidewalks with broken glass from Jewish stores and stealing away the "unworthy", hiding them away in ghettos and camps. When she was called, told her destiny, given the stake and the skill, Elsa believed in it wholeheartedly. The fight, the fury, the evil to be extinguished...
But the evil was humanity itself now. There were no vampires or demons underneath those crisp uniforms, wielding the machine guns and barking orders in German. Those were men, destroying other men with an exactitude and precision that the demon underworld admired and adored. Was this the world that she was saving? Monsters in men's skins, shooting people in the streets because of yellow stars and pink triangles... Were those the lives she was supposed to save?
What kind of world was Elsa fighting for?
Screams and the frightful noise of machine gun ammunition firing, and Elsa ducked down, wrapping her arms around her legs and covering her face with her hands until there was nothing but silence. Another life lost, and nothing that she could do about it. It did not matter that she knew how to fight, knew how to wage war, but not this. Not against her fellow men.
Not even if they were slowly changing from men to monsters.
Tired. She was so tired. Every part of her body ached, begging for rest, and she was all alone in this world. Nobody could help her, nobody could lay her arms down and comfort her. There was nothing for her but the fight, and now... God, what was she supposed to do? She could not liberate the whole of Poland, could not destroy the Third Reich, and what was the use in protecting the innocent when they would suffer at the hands of Hitler in the end?
"Too much," she whispered. "It's all too much."
The voice came from nowhere, and she lifted her head, looking around the dingy, grimy alley for the owner of the sleek, cool voice filling her head with water and dreams. "Hello?" she called, but there was only the scurrying of rats. "Who..."
I'm the only one who knows what it is like to live this kind of life, poor little Slayer.
Blinking tears out of her eyes, Elsa stood up and walked waveringly to the corner, looking down the streets. Rush of traffic, soldiers laughing drunkenly, the distant sound of gunfire coming from the Krakow ghettos. Lightning in the sky, from either thunderstorms or war. It was all the same in the end.
It's all right, Elsa. There is nothing that you can do to save them now. Just come to me, and we'll rest together.
Frightened, she walked down the street, her shoes clicking on the pavement, eyes scanning the storefronts until she stopped, stunned before a windowpane. With a shaking hand, Elsa reached out and traced her own reflection in the mirror, seeing the Aryan features that kept her alive, the blond curls, the blue eyes. But...
"My God," she whispered, picking up a lock of hair, bits of ash still clinging to her tresses.
Half of her hair had gone gray.
The pink flamingo was planted firmly into the plush green yard, its salmon-colored brilliance breathtaking against the healthy sprawl of kelly-colored grass, plastic wings folded and beak proudly lifted, waiting to do battle. It was the protector of the lawn, the mascot of the house, and the key element in the battle of the Neighborhood Association versus the Summers Household.
Haughtily, Buffy wrapped a hand around the flamingo's neck, clenching her jaw and staring defiantly at the elderly man staring at her from across the street. Chuck Kellogg, who had appointed himself the Fuhrer of Revello Drive, and therefore become her newest arch-nemesis. The retiree had nothing better to do than stare out of his windows and think of ways to annoy her and her unconventional family, which he did in spades.
She couldn't help it if she didn't have the time to sit around memorizing every minute bylaw in the Neighborhood Association Code of Conduct; she had more important matters to attend to, like saving the world and getting Dawn to school on time. Hell, Buffy hadn't even known that there was such a thing as a Neighborhood Association until Chuck started dropping little notes and letters on her doorstep two weeks ago.
No parking on the street.
All parties should disperse around 11:00.
No unidentifiable fluids are allowed in the lawn of the homeowner, or in the neighboring lawns.
Ms. Summers, if I have to tell you one more time to stop slamming furniture around in the middle of the night...
Buffy was extremely proud of the fact that she was the first homeowner in the history of the Neighborhood Association to receive her very own copy of the Kinko's-bound bylaws, every violation and infraction incurred by her highlighted in the pages.
The flamingos were Dawn's idea, after the bylaws were left on the doorstep with a threat to start issuing fines and increasing her monthly fees (which Buffy was refusing to pay anyway, upon discovering that failure to pay the neighborhood fees could not legally result in eviction). The best retaliation in suburbia was to abide by the laws of tackiness. Flamingos were valuable arsenal in a war of witlessness.
Frowning, Buffy looked out at the spare lawn décor. The sprinkler chucking water over the wet blades of grass, the gently singing wind chimes dangling from the branch of the cherry tree, the cheerfully obnoxious pink flamingo. "I don't know," she said discerningly, bringing the Nikon up to her eye to look through the lens. "It's missing a certain... Clutter. Yeah, clutter."
Dawn frowned from the sidewalk, where she was stretched out in her cherry-print bikini, slurping happily on a virgin strawberry daiquiri. "We could get some lawn gnomes," she suggested. "Lawn gnomes are the ugliest things ever made."
"Too ugly," Anya said, shaking her head from her own towel. "I suggest more flamingos. A flock, perhaps."
Buffy nodded her head as she carefully zoomed in on the lone flamingo, his bright pink plastic shining in the sunlight. Whap! The picture was taken, stored on film for later development. More flamingos. It was a good suggestion, and they were on sale at Wal-Mart. Besides, lawn gnomes gave her the creeps, especially after the last one they'd somehow acquired held a video camera in its round, merry little belly. "Flamingos it is. Besides, I think that Frederigo is lonely."
From the shade of the front porch, Willow arched her flame-colored eyebrow underneath her wide-brimmed straw hat. Even though she had languished in the shadows all afternoon, her pale, delicate complexion was already turning as pink as the flamingo's plastic body. "Frederigo?" she asked. "When did we start naming our lawn animals?"
"When we acquired lawn animals," Buffy replied, snapping off a picture of the sunburned witch, complete with a strip of white sunblock down her straight, freckled nose. "He's Frederigo Flamingo, the latest addition to the Summers household, and the closest thing Dawn will ever have to a pet."
"Hey!" Dawn protested, pouting as she flipped pages in the ninjitsu manual that Giles had helpfully supplied her with, carefully concealed between the pages of Seventeen magazine. "You promised me a gerbil, remember?"
Anya wrinkled her nose, brushing stray grass from her mocha, polka-dotted bikini. "Gerbils are disgusting, filthy creatures," she said. "They're almost as bad as rabbits. Vermin."
Willow hid a smile as she bowed her head and absorbed the language of the book spread out across her Indian-style legs. She had too much studying to catch up on, as she'd skipped out of town before exams and had therefore delivered a highly unsatisfactory academic performance for her sophomore year. No more early graduation for Willow Rosenberg, no more dreams of valedictorian medals or special scholarships. Evil did not pay, especially not for master's degrees.
Yet she found it very difficult to concentrate on the development of western civilization while Buffy positioned plastic yard ornaments, Dawn babbled about ninja arts, and Anya complained about bunnies and gerbils (which was strange, because she'd never had a problem with Amy the rat). It was a fine balance, walking between academia and reacquainting herself with her lost and distant friends.
Two weeks had passed since the morning of her return, and she'd discovered that everything was different. Her friends had grown up in the meantime, changed for the better and left their problems behind, sunning during the day and making margaritas at night. Her bedroom at the Summers house was now crammed full of pressed and prim linen suits, and it smelled not of Tara and incense but of Anya and money. Fortunately, Xander was more than eager to take her in, and she thought that she understood why.
Preschool, kindergarten, high school, apocalypse. They were together throughout it all, and those were the kind of ties that could not be severed easily. Even when she'd screamed murder at him on the hillside, before the twisted temple, he had drawn her into his arms and given her his love. Xander the Courageous. The heart of their operation. She had a feeling that she might need that in the days to come.
Fourteen days. Funny, how she had thought that it would be easier than this. Silly, naïve little Willow, thinking that she could go home to find her friends all picking up the pieces, shattered like she was, and they would have that instant connection of recovery and sorrow. Life was not that simple. Her bedroom, her house, her friends...
The ease in which Buffy interacted with Anya. The sisterly pranks between the Slayer and Dawn. The yard art. All of these little, inconsequential things, and she felt like she was watching the world through Styrofoam, padded and secure, locked away from the harsher, sharper edges. Keep Willow away from all sharp objects; get the blunt-ended kiddie scissors from now on.
Yet she could not bring herself to be bitter about it. What she'd done... She deserved this exclusion, this forced isolation. No one had invited her to patrol, and even Giles watched her warily whenever she walked into the newly remodeled Magic Box unattended.
Nobody accepted the fact that she was still a witch.
Magic was not something that she could expel from her system. There were no rehabilitation centers for the magically-addicted, because magic was not addictive. It was the person who was, and that spoke volumes about her character (or lack thereof, ha-ha). Tara had been a witch for years, and she had never succumbed to the thrall of darker arts. Only Willow, with her constant need to be in the spotlight, in control of the situation, had needed that to validate her sorry, geeky existence.
A disgusted noise drifted over from Dawn's direction, and the gangly teenager flipped over onto her back, tossing the ninjitsu guide and the magazine aside for the moment. "I don't get why Chuck has this big vendetta against us," she grumbled. "I mean, it's not like we haven't been causing trouble for years now. Can't they just get used to all the death and the fighting? Jeez."
Buffy frowned across the street, where Chuck was watering his prize-winning begonias, glaring at the scantily-clad girls loitering on the lawn. "I don't know," she said. "I think he got mad at Xander's Fourth of July fireworks display."
Dawn turned her head around to Willow, pushing her sunglasses down her nose so that she could look over the rims, like a 1940's bathing beauty. "One of Xander's bottle rockets ended up going straight into Chuck's crepe myrtle," she explained. "The tree hasn't been the same since."
Ah. All was explained.
The baby's head is hot and sweet smelling, cradled in his long fingers as the infant kicks and cries for his mother. Spike pulls the child close to his face, burying his nose in the fat folds of the baby's neck, inhaling the powdery smell of new life and new diapers. Pale, new skin, roseate with life and potential. Fragile little fontanel, vulnerable to the slightest pressure, and he can press his finger in the hollowed out bone and feel the baby's brain beneath his fingertip. Amazing, that people can create that kind of life, that they possess that miracle, and amazing that he has the power to take it away.
Screams turn to wails, wails turn to mewls, mewls turn to whimpers, and then silence.
When he woke, he was not very surprised by his evening erection.
Happened a lot; he was a potent man, a manly man, with needs and feelings that she didn't want to tend to, and he had all of these lovely memories that liked to dance around in his head, poisoning his thoughts and filling his heart with a numbed, terrible certainty.
Still wasn't good enough.
Groaning, Spike threw the thin cotton sheets off of his body and stretched languidly on top of the sarcophagus, muscles spreading and unfurling from the tension of nightmares and naughty dreams. Dusk had only graced the land a moment ago, still light vanishing from the horizon and receding into the pitch-black nothingness. New moon tonight, ruling the tides with an iron hand and pushing them towards the shore, and he closed his eyes, seeing the baby's red squall of a face, scrunched up with pain and confusion as he tore into the thick, ripe wrinkles of the infant's fat neck. Remembered how warm and new the blood was in his throat as he swallowed, coppery pennies fresh from Mother Nature's mint, warming his belly with the intoxicating richness of innocence wasted.
Weakly, Spike sighed and hated himself.
The stone floor of his crypt was a blessed relief to his feet, overheated by the soaring summer temperatures. Naturally, he'd have to return to Sunnydale in the height of a heat wave, when humidity reigned supreme. Grimacing, he made his way towards the makeshift kitchen, stepping over debris from his trashed crypt and carefully avoiding puddles of spilled blood and wine. A fine layer of cigarette ash seemed to coat most of the crypt with tiny flakes of gray, and he swiped at the counter before pulling out a cracked ceramic mug. "Really let yourself go, mate," Spike muttered under his breath, looking around at his home.
Disheveled honey hair, glazed green eyes, sheen of sweat covering silken, seawater-flavored skin. She looks magnificent and luscious when partially buried by cheap carpeting. "You know, this place is okay for a hole in the ground," she compliments, and he thinks that it's the first genuine compliment she's paid to him since this entire decadent disaster started.
It was why he'd destroyed the place.
Filmstrip reels flashing through his mind, showing his arms laying Drusilla down on the bed of bodies, her pale skin preternaturally luminous when displayed against the cold flesh of the dead and bloodless. Tattered remnants of photographs and tintypes of grieving mothers weeping over children's caskets, buried in the fog and mist of Europe while he spied on from the shadows, reveling in the glee of taking what was not his to take. Wet dreams about killing infants.
Buffy didn't need any of that.
Bones aching, Spike dropped himself into the comfortable, battered armchair, fingers curling around a mug of hog's blood while his other hand blindly patted the end table, searching for his smokes. Stupid him, thinking that she deserved him. That this soul would mean anything other than suffering. Should've kept going, past California, back across the Pacific Ocean towards the shores of China, where he could find that poor little Slayer's descendants and offer his pain as justice for her loss. But he shouldn't have come back here, not when she was so...
Gentle, sweet fingers stroking through his hair, tugging at the curls, winding white-gold locks around her fingertips. Smooth, collected, poised. Pleased. Satisfaction radiates off of her like light from a candle, and Spike knows that this is how she is meant to be, and he'll only ruin it if he stays.
Spike had not left the crypt in two weeks.
Fourteen days without company; he'd kicked Clem back out to his shoddy apartment in the demon district as soon as he returned, not wanting to be coddled by offers of fried food and weepy Sandra Bullock films. He had his own company to keep. The dead were all around him, rising from shadows to fill his heart with the memory of how good it felt to take their lives, to drink their blood, and then the crashing shock of morality destroying the revered high of murder. Wrong, wrong, all wrong.
Shouldn't have killed that little bathtub-gin-loving flapper, skinny legs doing the Charleston underneath beads of red fringe, eyelashes thick and false, strings of pearls scattering to the floor as he tore her necklaces off and ripped her throat out with his fangs.
Shouldn't have hunted the ghettos of Warsaw with Drusilla by his side, taking the damned little children wearing their cloth stars sewn onto their ratty garments into the alleys and draining them dry before the Germans could turn them into ash.
Shouldn't have pushed her to the floor and clawed greedily at her robe, pressing his knee into her thigh and prying her legs apart, intoxicated with the pulsing, hot smell of her screaming and squirming, reaching for what was never his.
Oh, his sins were great and should not have ever been forgotten. Gone soft, she had, laughing at him on the front lawn with her tender, bare feet sinking into blades of dew-drenched grass. Hugging him, teasing him, kissing him and promising better days. She should have clung to her memories of him, the evil thing throwing punches into her face and promising her bloody murder, because that demon never lied. The newer Spike had, giving her vows of undying love and never-will-there-be-pain, only to turn around and try to...
Buffy thought that he never would have gone through with it. She should know better by now.
Those were the worst dreams, the dreams where he did it. Where he ripped open the robe and found her shaking and frightened underneath the cloth, her sobs echoing throughout the poor acoustics of the bathroom while he roared at her and thrust inside of her. Feel it again, feel it again. I'll make you feel it again. Big hands bruising her small breasts, pumping into her so hard that a part of her heart broke off and was left blackened and charred on the tile flooring. Raped her and left her, spat in her face and strutted away.
The kicker was that every morning after one of those dreams, Spike woke up hard as a rock and panting for more.
Of course, this was why he'd locked himself in his crypt and refused to go out. Not to her, not around her. Not around anyone, because that bloodlust was still there. The desire to beat the snot out of some foul-mouthed little tosser who didn't know what he was dealing with. The aching for the sound of bone splintering underneath fists. The rush of ecstasy after taking a woman's virginity, and then her life's blood. Oh, yeah, he remembered how wonderful he felt when he committed his crimes. It was the worst punishment of all.
Remembering how much he enjoyed everything.
Dully, Spike looked down into the dark, burgundy contents of his mug, smelling the slaughtered hog beneath his nostrils. He'd always hated the stuff, the animal's blood stolen from veterinary clinics, occasionally taking the blood drained from corpses in funeral homes or knocking off Red Cross wagons for the good stuff. Humanity had a far more piquant flavor than that of animals. It was the spice of the soul.
Of course, he couldn't bear to think of taking it and drinking it now. Someone had died for that blood, someone would die if he took that blood, something awful would result from any minor action and maybe one of those something-awfuls would be the last straw. He was clinging to his sanity with desperate fingers, but with every nightmare, every memory, every moment, he felt it slipping.
"I'm a dangerous man," Spike said seriously to the cup of pig's blood, but it had nothing to comfort him with save for the taste of traif nourishment.
Frederigo Flamingo sat in the front yard in all of his glorious kitsch beauty, colors drained by her achromatic photography, smirking at her through the picture hanging from the length of clothesline. I know what you're thinking, he teased. You're thinking that it's been two weeks and he doesn't love you anymore.
"Am not," Buffy retorted to the piece of lawn tack, frowning at the flamingo like it had actually spoken. "I'm thinking about that gorgeous autumn-colored leather skirt at The Limited, thank you very much. Stupid psychic flamingo."
But it had been two weeks and what if the flamingo was right?
Two weeks. She'd spent the majority of it in the darkroom, surrounded by the glow of dark red lights, developing photography with her bare hands and finding discomfort and tension in every shot. Every picture was a failure, completely dissatisfying, not reflective of the ease and comfort of her earlier attempts. It was difficult to find the glory in a brilliant summer sunset, or the majesty in the cliffs overlooking Miller's Beach. The edges around her world had darkened when Spike waltzed in and out of her life in one night, leaving her empty-handed and wondering:
Was it too late?
Spike had been right about one thing. She did not see him again until he was captured in the permanence of celluloid and reeking of developing chemicals. Achromatic photography served him well, his sharp and angular features bending and twisting the shadows to work for him. He looked at home in the grays and patches of black, eyes muted to a shade of clear smoke, hair blazingly white with darker spots at the roots. He needed to bleach his hair again. She missed it like she missed the taste of his mouth.
When she tried to smoke a cigarette last night, she found that it had gone stale against her lips.
Wincing, Buffy tapped her fingers impatiently on the table. New nervous habit, acquired especially for the stress of Spike over the past two weeks. She had a few of those, like the smoking and the redecorating whims.
The Hellmouth was slower than molasses, the monsters and demons apparently as worn out by the heat as she was, which gave her extra time to throw herself into battle against the evil tyranny of Chuck Kellogg and his perfect begonias. What an asshole. He so needed to get a life, and what was up with his constant watering? Really, could his grass get any wetter at this point? She'd started photographing it, and was seriously considering creating a multimedia presentation displaying Chuck's obvious obsessive-compulsive disorder, and...
Buffy really, really needed to get laid.
The red lights of the darkroom flooded down on her with its deep, vivid hues, and she felt like a poor, doomed chicken in a rotisserie oven, spinning around and around, basting in her own juices. "This is all Spike's fault," Buffy declared, because it really was. Why had he even bothered to come back if he was just going to avoid her? Weren't they supposed to be doing the whole maturity thing, growing up and out of their violent, immature sex-fling? She'd tried to reach him, tried to touch him, and...
"Terribly sorry," he says in a deep, serious voice, bending over the jagged glass and liquor, shoulders hunched and hands neat and slow, careful. Not like Spike at all, and she wants him to sneer in her face and tell her to clean it up herself, not his house, not his booze, not his broken glass. She wants him to be proud and passionate, with just a touch of sweetness that says he doesn't really mean it, and he's just...
As always, her eyes went back to the photograph. The first one, the one where he first saw her, standing on her sidewalk in a battered black shirt that clung to all of his sinuous lines and musculature. The hair was disheveled, which was unlike his usual blade-sharp appearance, but she preferred it mussed and tumbled anyway. She liked her Spike skewered.
What bothered her was the expression on his face. Mouth slightly open, head tilted to the side in classic Spike fashion, blue eyes half-hidden by long, pretty lashes. He was only cotton soft when he kissed her afterwards, when she was too tired to make him fight for it, when she was too lost in the ecstasy of orgasm to slap him and tell him not to love her. It was too open, revealing too much, wonder and worship evident on his face.
She'd never seen him look that way before, not even when she came back from the dead.
He stands at the foot of the stairs, mouth open and eyes wide, wonderfully blue, and she feels like she's in a dream, but the dream is reality.
She dropped the picture like it was developed in acid, burning the skin off of her palms. It drifted to the floor as she spun around, and she paled when she saw the expression on Giles's face as he looked down at the ground, drinking in the image of Spike enraptured from the ground. "I..." she said, but she could not bring herself to finish her sentence as Giles bent down to the ground, carefully rescuing her photograph from the dust. "I... I know I forgot about... Training, but..."
Tiredly, Giles turned away from her, not wanting to listen to her stammer out excuses, instead focusing on the photograph. Spike sans duster and cigarettes, standing there on the obvious plush greenery of Buffy's front yard, hope and love written across his face. He did not have to ask if this was a recent photograph; she had not bothered with capturing the beauty of the world before Spike left. "I see," he murmured, and Buffy closed her eyes, hurt.
"He came to me," she said defensively, like it would help. "I didn't... It's not like that, Giles. I took that picture two weeks ago, and I haven't seen him since then. Honest."
"Buffy, you've been seeing him for years."
Startled and stunned, Buffy widened her eyes and all the blood drained from her face as she stared at Giles. "What?" she asked in a breathless voice, and he sighed, carelessly tossing the photograph on the ground, not wanting to see that encompassing, brilliant love etched into Spike's murderous, arrogant features.
"Dawn has gone on patrol with Willow and Xander," he said in a calm, even tone. "I think that we need to talk."
This was the moment that she had been dreading ever since the debacle with Spike began, a moment put off for months by healing and simple denial. No one wanted to confront her about what had happened between the vampire and the Slayer, and now she was going to reap the consequences, in full.
Miserably, Buffy's shoulders sagged and her face fell. "Yes, sir," she mumbled, and readied herself for the worst.
(end part four)
Continued in Chapter Five: Second Grace