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 Five: Second Grace
Not unbearably silent, just... There was no noise. No sound, except for the smooth transition of the gears as the dreaded automatic BMW purred down the streets, gracefully gliding over the pavement in the direction of the Magic Box. No radio, no conversation, only quietude and the barest thread of tension.
Giles was calm. Utterly calm, as a matter of fact, coolly watching the speedometer and occasionally glancing at the slender blonde sitting in the passenger seat. The convertible's top was down, and the twilight wind rustled through the blonde curls and tendrils of her summer-streaked hair. The daughter that he'd never had, the child that he'd given up to fight the Good Fight. She was the one that he adored above all others, the girl who'd wormed her way into her heart, despite her atrocious fashion decisions and her propensity towards falling for the undead.
It did not take much to tell that she was in love. No, not much at all; her face was always an open book for him to read, even after she'd returned from the dead, skin like spun glass, eyes hollowed out and mouth too thin and tired. Now, with her skin awash in the resplendent colors of raspberry and indigo dusk, head tipped back and camera dangling around her neck, Giles could see the way that her love radiated throughout the night. The love of a hero, meant for a monster.
Obscene. Abominable. Doomed from the start-up.
Yet as always, there was nothing that Giles could deny her, even this strange and twisted romance.
"You know that he's a monster," he said quietly, and Buffy closed her eyes, bowing her head and turning away from the summer night that rolled past her window. "He's not a man, Buffy, no matter what he might tell you, or what he might lead you to believe."
"I know," she murmured, feeling her hands twist and turn in her lap. She feared his disapproval, his disappointment, but she could never lie to Giles with much success. It only served to fuck things up in the end, and their relationship was too deep and unfathomable for those bonds to be broken. Watcher and Slayer, father and daughter, man and woman. They were connected by destiny, and she could not bear to look at him and see that crushing sadness that her failures always brought.
The deep onyx of his pinky ring flashed as a car zoomed past them, and she saw the Magic Box coming up on their right. Surprisingly, Giles passed it by, choosing instead to continue down the main strip, giving her a measured look. "I thought we might just drive for a bit," he said. "Is that all right with you?"
"Sure," she said, blinking at him. "Where are we going?"
A smile curled on Giles' lips, and he shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know, really," he admitted, "but we'll find out when we get there."
Never one to argue with illogical rationalizations, Buffy nodded her head and turned her face out to the stars again.
His tidy hands reached towards the radio, and he turned on the CD player, the enchanted nighttime giving him the strange urge to listen to Nick Drake. Damn that Volkswagen commercial; it had cheapened the meaning of a deep, beautiful song about suicide and now gave Giles the urge to listen to "Pink Moon" whenever riding down the road with the top of the Beemer down. Dreamy guitars, wistful voice, enigmatic lyrics and humid blooms of oleander scattered across the roads... "It's a beautiful night," Giles murmured, and she hummed in reply.
"It's been a beautiful summer," she said, and then she turned back to him, brow knitted with worry. "Are you going to yell at me soon?"
A chuckle, and then he shook his head. "Why should I yell at you?" he asked. "You can't help what you feel, Buffy. I may not be precisely thrilled with your decision on the matter, but that doesn't change anything, does it?"
No, she supposed not. She'd tried to fall out of love with him after she first found out, tried to make herself think of the many bad and awful things that Spike had done to her in the past. All of the times he'd tried to kill her. Selling her secrets and friends out to Adam in the hopes of becoming a homicidal maniac again. Chaining her up in his crypt and trying to force her heart to tell him what he wanted to hear. The robot; God, that stupid robot. And then, oh, the bathroom. It always came back to the bathroom.
"I can't help it," she whispered, knotting her fingers in her lap. "I've tried to leave him, but I keep going back. And it's not like the whole magic addiction thing, not at all..."
"Of course not," Giles agreed, and then he arched his eyebrow, turning his face in her direction. "You know that Willow wasn't addicted to the magic, don't you?"
Startled, she blinked her eyelashes and then held up a hand. "Whoa. Changing subjects awful fast there, Giles."
"Not really," he said, turning away from the strip and towards the outer boroughs of Sunnydale, the expensive houses and the gardens undoubtedly filled with colorful scraps of blossoms. "After Willow came home, we sat down and had a long talk about what happened before she left, and why it happened. She knows the truth, and that's what has allowed her to come home. You see, Buffy, she was never addicted to the magic. It was the power. The control. That's what made her go mad, and that is what made her lash out against all of us."
Dark, cold Willow standing in front of her, black hair severe and shot through and through with shades of former copper, smiling like a sharp blade, hands on her hips and veins crackling through her face. "Now I get to be the Slayer."
Succinct as always, and Giles hid a smile, fighting the urge to touch her hair. It was disheveled and rustling in the open air of the convertible, tossed about the wind while the moonless night streaked her through and through with cerulean. "What I'm trying to say is that you were not addicted to... Him."
Buffy frowned. "I was hooked on power? I don't get it."
Giles shook his head. "No. What I'm trying to tell you is that not everything is an addiction, Buffy. Life does not work that way." He lowered his voice. "You've been in love with him for quite a long time, haven't you?"
Wincing, she sucked in her cheeks and then sighed. "I don't know," she said truthfully. "It's strange. Weird. I know that I haven't treated him like I should have, and not just talking about the constant beating him up for information."
She meant that she should have staked him years ago, should have killed him from the beginning, but the world had always seemed less interesting and vibrant without Spike in it. Life would not have been the same if he was exorcised from the planet, and so she kept him around because he was vivacious. Funny, how a dead guy could love life that much.
Thoughtfully, Giles nodded, and the car plunged into momentary silence while he contemplated this new, odd development. After he'd returned from London, he'd known that he should never have left; things had taken a disastrous turn and everybody in Sunnydale was in shambles. Now, as he looked over to Buffy, he thought that perhaps things might have a chance of working out. "There's no sin in your being happy."
Cocking her head to the side, Buffy parted her lips and looked at him in wonder. "What..." Her voice trailed off when she saw the way that he was smiling at her, felt his warm, comforting hand close over her small fingers and grip them tightly. It was true. She was happier than she had been in ages. She could smile, laugh, sing, dance, and all without the aid of demonic choreography. It was not just him, not just this love for Spike, but the notion that she could love again. The sight of Anya yelling at MSNBC when the stocks went down. Dawn throwing quips and daggers like a pro. Hardhat askew, Xander leaning in her doorframe and offering chocolate milkshakes after work. Willow's sunblock-coated nose, and Frederigo's pink, plastic feathers.
The way that Giles was humming along with the radio.
Her smile faltered briefly, and she sighed, furrowing her brow and looking at Giles with worry. "I think I messed it up, Giles," she said softly, and he snorted.
"Don't be silly," he said. "I highly doubt that Spike has managed to somehow fall out of love with you. The little blighter's had a yen for you ever since he set foot in Sunnydale, much to my disliking."
But Buffy shook her head, looking down at her lap and biting on her lip. "Things got really bad at the end, Giles," she said. "I mean, yeah, we weren't exactly the picture-perfect happy couple, but still. We weren't like... Like we were in the end." Like we were in the bathroom, when he tackled me to the ground and tore the robe from my body, and it hurt when he put his knee on my thigh even though nothing hurt like the sound of his voice saying all of those awful... "I just wonder if it's too late. And then it makes me crazy because I thought that everything was over. You know?"
Giles said nothing; he merely steered the car over to the side of the road, right by the Starbucks parking lot in the expensive Garden Heights district. There was a small gravel road, and the wheels crunched over the rocks as he drove the car down the unbeaten path, towards reeds and cattails, the darkness concealing what lay beyond the tall grasses. Willow trees were hunched over, weeping over the small, moonlit pond in the back of the lot, and it was here that Giles stopped the car and sighed.
"Life isn't a wound that you can heal," he said. "It's constantly changing. Some parts hurt, and other parts don't. That's simply the way that it works. But there are choices that you can make to prevent that suffering, and there are mistakes that we make in trying to figure out how to go about it properly. Life's a lesson, Buffy."
He pursed his lips then, and gave her the serious look, the one that meant "I'm cutting all the bullshit now and telling you what I want to say". "For the record, I can't say that I don't question the object of your affection. Spike's still a vampire, and a soulless vampire at that. He has the capacity to do great evil, Buffy, and I don't want to see you hurt again." Giles did not have to mention Angel's name. She understood him implicitly.
"I won't," Buffy promised. "Giles, I'm not going to go into this all doe-eyed and innocent. Trust me, that is one thing that is not a part of the Buffy/Spike relationship." And I've got the handcuffs to prove it.
"I know," Giles replied. "Because after we leave here, we're going to go back to the Magic Box, and I'm going to give you every single piece of documentation that I have on Spike. You're going to learn exactly what he has done and why he has done it. It's the only condition that I'm placing on this nightmare, and you must admit, that's terribly open-minded of me."
Buffy flashed her eyes at him, cracking a smile that was wicked and wonderful. "That's cool," she said. "Do you want me to give you all of the documentation that I have on Spike?"
The only thing better than chocolate was Xander.
"So I said to Joe, I said, 'Joe, you've got some serious issues there, buddy,' and Joe said 'Yeah, tell me about it -- I'm in love with the foreman's daughter,' and I said, 'No, Joe, I was talking about your B.O.' and he got really mad and wouldn't talk to me for a week," Xander said, taking a long lick from his double cone of cherry fudge ripple. "But he started wearing stronger deodorant, so I guess that's a plus."
The cemetery was deadly quiet in the sleepiness that it possessed every summer, when it was too hot for the vampires to scheme up apocalypses and the student body dispersed for its better, much safer locations. Dawn, Willow and Xander strolled easily down the main path, Dawn swinging her battle axe while taking liberal sips of her caramel milkshake while Xander told stories about his coworkers. Not a vampire in sight, and with the stars twinkling in the night sky, Willow felt at ease.
It was difficult to keep away from Xander, difficult to spend moments outside of him, because there was something warm and easy about the way that he treated her. The others tended to handle her with kid gloves, like she was made of glass and if she broke, there would be hell to pay. But not Xander. He bought her ice cream and led her into the nostalgia of their past, telling old stories and reviving old memories, giving her their history and letting her heal. When she woke up in the morning, he made her omelets and read the newspaper with her.
He was the only one who knew about the magic.
She sits in the middle of her makeshift bedroom, surrounded by a circle of white candles, legs crossed Indian-style and head tipped back, lost in the trance. Xander sits on the bed, flipping through comic books, occasionally turning his glance to her and smiling.
Frowning, Dawn took a long sip of thick, sweet milkshake and sighed, heavy with disappointment. "This is so not fair," she groused. "I have to go back to school in six days, and that means no more late-night patrolling. You'd think that the vampires could at least come out and let me have a little bit of fun."
Sympathetically, Willow shook her head. "Those spoilsport vamps," she said. "Never wanting to kill anything anymore. It's a crying shame."
But Dawn had already tuned her out, looking around at the scenery, at the stone and marble marking the places where the dead rested. The axe was heavy in her arms, caramel ice cream sweetening her mouth, and she was content. Distantly, she listened to the laughter of Willow as Xander told dirty jokes, saw his sticky, messy fingers touch the back of his best friend's neck, and wondered what the future held in store for her.
When Tara was still alive, she'd read Dawn's palm for her. Smooth, warm fingers caressing the creases in her hand, telling her stories about the lines and giving her insights into destiny. Candles had burned in the bedroom, and there was the faintest whisper of black rose incense burning, magic undulating throughout the air. She'd told her fortune, spoke about how deep and ancient her life was, tracing her fingertip down the heavy fold of skin circling her thumb.
"You'll have children one day," Tara had foretold, counting the little nicks and marks near her pinky. "And you're going to meet a boy and fall madly in love with him, and this line here says that he's going to be an artist. You'll do beautiful things together, but even better, you'll do beautiful things on your own."
For the first time, Dawn believed it. This summer had been incredible, teaching her things about herself that she'd never conceived of before. She could make stunning violence out of swords, dance like mad at the Bronze, and then go home to dream about hopes and wishes, safe in her bed while her sister slumbered next door. It felt like the world had somehow shifted in her favor, and she could look at the other gossiping, self-absorbed kids around her and smile, like she possessed knowledge that they had not yet uncovered.
Life is short, life is bitter, but sometimes, life can be so sweet.
"Help! Oh, God, please, somebody help me!"
And sometimes, life can be really, really fun.
The three broke into a stride, carelessly disregarding the environment by scattering the remnants of ice cream cones and non-biodegradable Styrofoam cups in their wake. Dawn raised the battle axe, clenching her jaw and racing towards the sound of the victim's voice, long legs carrying her faster than Xander or Willow could manage.
She arrived underneath the oak tree first, where a newly-risen vampire was throwing a young, dark-skinned boy against a tree. The vampire's dark blue dress was slit down the back, revealing preternaturally pale skin, her snarls and hungry growls sending chills and shivers down Dawn's spine. "Hey!" she called out, tossing her hair out of her eyes and giving the vampire the best cheerful smile she could muster. The vampire snorted in irritation, turning around to glower at the teenaged girl. "I think you've got a tear on your dress."
Blinking in surprise, the vampire changed out of game face and wrapped her hands around her back, frowning. "Really?" she asked, and Dawn took that moment to throw the battle axe at neck, efficiently beheading the newborn monster.
There was nothing but ash as she ran forward, towards the boy who was slumped against the tree, eyes wide and terrified in his strong, well-defined face. Blood ran down the front of his yellow tee shirt, crusting over the links of his gold necklace, and Dawn knelt down in front of him, pressing her hand to the gashes in his neck. His pulse was still strong, and she felt it flutter when she touched him. "You okay?" she asked with concern, and the boy nodded his head.
"Yeah," he croaked, and she picked up his large, warm hand, guiding it to the wound on his throat.
"Press down on this," she instructed, "and get yourself to the hospital, okay?"
Panting, Willow and Xander showed up behind her, and yet the boy did not look away from her. For a moment, Dawn felt like she was going to drown in the warm, melted chocolate of his eyes, and she swallowed hard as he licked his lips. "I... I don't know where the hospital is," he confessed. "I just moved here, and some guys from that club knew this shortcut..."
Ah, yes, the famous path through the cemetery, where so many kids met their fates. It was becoming an initiation ritual in the classes, to run through Shady Rest after dark and see who could outrun the boogie men hiding through the tombstones. Dawn knew it well; Spike often liked scaring the foolish teenagers when he was bored. "Well, here's some advice from the Welcome Wagon," she said. "It's not a nice town after dark."
Xander smiled a little sympathetically, offering a hand to the boy and pulling him to his shaking feet. "Come on," he said. "I'll take you to the hospital. It's not far."
Licking her lips, Dawn put her hand on Willow's shoulder. "Why don't you go with them?" she said, and Willow frowned.
"I can't leave you all by yourself, Dawnie," she said, and Dawn gave her a reassuring smile.
"Please," she said. "I've killed like, so many vampires. I just want to make sure that there aren't any other kids around, maybe grab a mocha on my way home. Don't worry."
Willow still had a wary look on her face. "I don't know," she said, and Dawn restrained the urge to roll her eyes.
"Look, I've got my cell phone on me. I'll call you when I get home, and if it takes me longer than a half an hour, you can call Buffy and she can make my life miserable. Deal?"
Reluctantly, Willow nodded her head, and then put her hand on Dawn's cheek. "Just be careful," she warned, and Dawn flashed her a smile.
Dawn had a dream.
It was a beautiful vision, one that gave her great pleasure while she slept, of storming into Spike's crypt upon his inevitable return, armed to the hilt with a giant cache of weaponry. Swords, axes, throwing stars, daggers, maybe even Riley's leftover tazer just for that little something personal. In her fantasy, she kicked his ass six ways to Sunday and left him crying and whimpering in the corner, all sad like a kicked puppy dog.
Of course, her plans never panned out like they should have.
The crypt was a mess. A total, absolute disaster area. Spike was no Martha Stewart with fangs, but he had always tended to his home, tried to make it somewhat cozy, so that she used to curl up in the big, spacious recliner and eat Jelly Bellies from a jar while he channel surfed. Now, candle wax was streaked across the walls along with blood, and there were torn fragments of plastic baggies discarded carelessly on the floor. Her favorite chair was overturned, and the neat bookshelf filled with eclectic, ancient volumes was torn away from the wall, books and papers scattered, ripped from their bindings.
She found him sitting atop the sarcophagus, sullen and smoking, tearing pages out of Shakespearean plays and tossing them hopelessly to the wind, his drunken voice slurring out sonnets.
"'Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.'"
"It's not winter," Dawn said, her voice cutting through the hazy fog of his inebriation. Squinting, Spike stared across the room at her, bright and pissed in the middle of ruined literature, one hand on her hip and the other loosely gripping a stake. Pretty little bit, all dressed up in dark blue jeans and glittery camisole. Taking a lesson from big sister's skimpy slut-wear.
"Nope," he agreed. "It's Shakespeare. Richard III, to be precise. You like the Bard, sweetbreads?"
Warily, Dawn stepped a little closer, trying to play nonchalant when she was actually growing nervous and scared of him. She'd seen the bruises on her sister's body, heard the stories, and knew that a drunk, Shakespeare-quoting Spike was probably not exactly safe. "Yeah," she said. "We read Romeo and Juliet freshman year. I got to be Juliet."
A high, tittering giggle, the kind that he only elicited when he was really good and smashed. His clawed, white hands tore down the side of the leather-bound volume, pulling out a handful of pages and throwing them into the air, where they flew and glided on the wind like paper cranes. "Would've pegged you as an Ophelia, myself," he said, and he shrugged. "But then again, what the hell do I know? I'm Richard, you see."
"No, you're drunk."
The sound of his wild, nervous laughter was like nails on a chalkboard, and hackles rose on Dawn's skin. "That I am, pet," he agreed, pointing at her like she'd just invented cold fusion. "Smart little snack, you are." A deep, heavy sigh fell from his chest, and Spike looked down at the book in his hands. "It's all meaningless, you know. They're just words, strung together all pretty. No way to live a life, by a bloody book."
Dawn snorted. "Spike, you're the last person on this planet who'd ever live by the book."
This seemed to crack him up; he doubled over from his perch on the sarcophagus, and then lost his precarious, uncertain balance and fell onto the floor in a heap of black denim and indigo silk. Funny, the little details that she noticed, but his shirt was buttoned all crooked. Like he hadn't even cared enough to sober up and try. When Dawn turned her head and looked around, she could see the dozens of empty liquor bottles distributed among the crypt's trash and paper, and she wondered how long he'd been drunk.
Dawn stalked across the room in long paces, skirting broken glass and puddles of blood and ashes from long-dead cigarettes. "You're revolting," she declared, putting her hands on her hips and looking down her sweetly freckled nose at him. She delicately sniffed the air, and then wrinkled her nose. "And you smell like a dead wino."
"I am a dead wino," Spike said with all seriousness, and she rolled her eyes, flipping her hair over her shoulder.
When she bent down to try and help him up, Spike snarled and jerked away from her, arms lifted protectively, eyes briefly sparking gold. "Don't touch me," he said. "I'm dirty."
"Duh," she said, lip curling at the smell and look of him. "You really need a shower, like, yesterday."
No, no, silly little flighty thing. Didn't understand. Maybe all of her sweet-smelling, shiny hair got in the way of her brain. Sighing, Spike rested his head on the cold, smelly floor and looked up at the cobwebs and grime coating the ceiling of the crypt. "No, I'm dirty," he said. "Unclean. Impure as the driven yellow snow." He dissolved again into laughter at that, and Dawn stood above him numbly.
Oh. That kind of dirty. The soiled, tainted feeling that she got whenever she heard the words "Key" or "Glory". The feeling that crawled over her and rested rotting in her belly after she lifted earrings from Anya or stole jewelry from Afterthoughts. Guilt twisting, regret and pain, and the feeling that she was a Very Bad Girl for doing the things that she did. "Oh," she said faintly, and she swallowed hard, kneeling down next to him. "Is it... What happened? Between you and Buffy?" Her voice was little more than a whisper. "In the bathroom?"
In the bathroom.
His face crumpled, and he covered his face with his hands, clumsy and uncertain. Dawn knew, the one person in the world who might've accepted him, and now she'd throw him out like the trash littering his crypt.
Spike was not surprised when she punched him.
Her fist landed sure and strong in his face, smashing across his cheek, and he rolled with the punch, took what she dished out, because he deserved it. Oh, he'd earned this blow tenfold, and Spike lay there, staring off at the broken glass and crumpled paper, all of the lovely language of his literary heroes strewn across the floor like garbage. "Stupid vampire," Dawn said, hurt. "You left us when we needed you."
"Yeah," he muttered through thick, dull lips. "Sure did, pet. Can't expect much better from the likes of me, remember? Bad old Spike, chasing skirts right out of town, even when little Red Riding Witch decides to go all homicidal, even when sweet little Tara..."
"Stop," Dawn said, grabbing his shoulders and shaking them, desperation evident in her big brown-green eyes. Chameleon eyes, always changing, like her moods. "Just stop it. God, what's wrong with you? You're acting all freaky."
"I am freaky," he insisted. "Fucking freak of nature, right? That's what she thought, and now she wants to trot around doling out kisses and pretend everything's all peachy keen. Like she doesn't even care, like she doesn't even remember, but I do." He remembered every screaming, blinding moment, the way that the shower curtain snapped from its rings and the sound of tearing fabric. How soft and fragile her skull was, pressed between his crushing palms.
"But you're sorry, right?" she asked, all of her hopes riding on that one question. He had to be sorry, because even if he didn't have a soul, he still loved Buffy enough to regret it. He had to, or else nothing he'd ever said to her mattered. If he could do that to her sister, that violent, awful act, and then not even feel a twinge of regret...
Spike snorted, his long fingers splayed out as he tried to pull himself up. "Course I'm sorry," he muttered, a headache starting to split through his head. Looked like the sobriety train was pulling up, toot toot, and he had a ticket to Hangoverville. "Lot of good that it does. Sorry's nothing but a word, Dawnie dear, and it don't mean a hill of beans when you put it up with everything else."
Confused, she frowned. He was taking her on a loopy trip of Spike-logic, and she thought that she might be a little more suited for the ride if she were as wasted as he obviously was. "I don't get it," she said. "You're sorry for what happened. You apologized, she forgave you. So what's the big deal?"
Wincing, Spike pressed a palm to his aching head and rested against the wall. Blindly, he reached for a half-empty bottle of Grand Marnier, but Dawn swiftly took the liquor away from him. Little prig. "Big deal is that I can't tell her that I won't do it again," he muttered. "Thought I'd solved it. Thought I'd fixed it right and proper, came back to Sunnydale all sad and guilty, and turns out that you can put the man in the monster, but you can't take the monster out of the man."
Cold, navy-colored eyes turned up and grabbed her gaze, fixing his eyes on her until she couldn't move. "I'm a bastard, Dawn," he muttered, self-loathing thick in his dark growl of a voice. "A rotten-to-the-core, selfish, violent bugger who shouldn't have ever been allowed to crawl out of his mum's womb."
Dawn grimaced. "Nice visual, Spike," she said.
His long, elegant fingers suddenly latched onto her slim shoulders like spiders, crawling over her skin with cool, feral grace. "Listen, girl," he snarled. "You'd be best to stay the hell away from me. I don't bring nothing but pain."
"That's such fucking bullshit," Dawn said harshly, and she jerked away from him, shoving him against the wall, her manicured nails wrapped around his neck. "Listen to me, boy. I don't know if you've ever noticed it or not, but I love you. Really, I do. It's the only reason I stopped by here tonight. Well, that and to kick your ass, but you seem to be doing a good enough job of it already. What the hell happened to you? You're all gloomy and doomy, like Angel was, and believe me, that act gets old really fast."
Her needy fingers wrapped around his collar, and Dawn jerked him to his stumbling, drunken feet, bringing his face so close to hers that she could smell the cheap booze on his tongue. "You want some advice, Spike-o?" she asked. "Get a grip. Yeah, you fucked up. So what? Everybody does. And yeah, you might fuck up again, but everybody makes mistakes. So move on. Get with the now. Because I need you. God, Spike, you're my best friend."
You're my best friend.
Nobody had ever claimed that about him. Oh, certainly, he'd had his share of lovers, and he'd had his share of acquaintances and chums, but not like this. Not with a girl like Dawn, so sweet and untouched, untarnished and innocent. Spike ached for acceptance, longed for it like blood, but all that he saw when he looked at her open, heart-shaped face was Buffy, pleading and begging for him to stop.
Sadly, he shook his head at her, his hand hovering over her head like he yearned to touch her, but would break her if he did. "Sorry, bit," he said, "but you've got lousy taste in friends."
Heartbroken, she stood up, trying not to cry. Not in front of him, not after what he'd just done to her. "Fine," she spat, fighting to keep the tremor out of her voice, replacing it with venom instead. "Sit here and die in your hellhole. See if I care."
With that, Dawn stormed out of the crypt, refusing to cry until she got far enough away that he could not hear her.
Dully, Spike silently picked up the bottle of Grand Marnier and drank it until it was as empty as he was.
Clapping a hand over her mouth, Buffy stumbled off of her bed and ran blindly for the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet before she threw up.
In 1973, the Council came across a rash of murders in Munich which fit William the Bloody and Drusilla's modus operandi. Seventeen young women ranging from the ages of 14 to 19, all preparing to take the holy vows and become sisters of the Church of Holy Reunion. They were raped and mutilated, as shown in Illustration 19.4., displaying a crime scene photograph of victim Greta Jenson, age 16.
Long, dark hair streaming down across her shoulders, the tips soaked in blood from the gaping wound in her chest. Bits of rust stained her skin from the railroad spike resting snugly in her navel, her torso split open and ribs cracked apart like a watermelon, heart scooped out like useless seeds and replaced with the fine beads of a rosary.
Little Greta Jenson could have been Dawn.
Her shaking hand flushed the toilet, and she felt her legs giving out from underneath her. "Oh, God," Buffy whispered, her skin coated with sweat, eyes blurring as she slumped down on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor, pressing her forehead against the seat of the toilet. "Oh, fuck... Fucking God..." She couldn't take it, the thought of it all, the horrendous acts and murders that he had committed, and all so perfectly documented for her love-blind eyes to see.
Thousands of people. Men, women, little children, all dead at his hands. The hands that had stroked her body, had fluttered so gently through her hair when she tried to catch sleep in his bed. That mouth had bruised unwilling women's lips, his mouth so sweet and tender, breathing passion in paths down her neck and towards her belly.
She'd taken his history for granted, like some distant fairy tale that was completely unrelated to the version of Spike she knew today, shady snippets and scraps that reminded her of his evils and atrocities. But Buffy had never read it in black and white, with terrible, stark illustrations and photography documenting the full extent of his darkness. His cruelty. His inhumanity, absolute.
Buffy released a sigh and stood up, her shaking fingers pressed to her throbbing temples, and she almost tumbled back onto the floor when she realized where she was standing. Her bathroom. The scene of his last great crime.
That night, she sits sobbing and aching on the edge of the bathtub, the water running behind her to mask the sound of her hitching crying. Her body hurts, bones aching and bruises exploding over her skin, and stray beads of cold water hit her naked back. Oh, how Spike has left his mark on her, his harsh handprints rising into purple and blue, scorching her like tattoos. All that she can think of is the way that he looked, the way that he touched her...
Abruptly, she stops crying and steps into the shower, engulfing herself in the icy spray of water. It's better this way, this terrible ending, because this way she does not have to feel anything about him ever again. Erase him. Forget him. He is nothing, and now, so is she.
Everything spun around her for a moment, the world tilting on its axis, and Buffy clung to the edge of the sink for support as she felt the walls of the bathroom closing in on her like a prison. You're sick, they told her. You're depraved and disturbed for this. Don't you remember what he tried to do here? What he almost did to you?
"Yes," Buffy whispered. "I remember."
When she walked out of the bathroom, she found Giles sitting on her bed, surrounded by the books and papers he'd given her. His tie was loose around his neck, his suit rumpled, glasses in his hands. "Do you still love him?" he asked quietly.
Buffy gave him a tired, pained smile. "Why else would I be throwing up?"
It was not what he had done that made her ill, though God, there were some images she'd never wanted to see in her lifetime. It was the fact that she could know with all certainty the extent of his crimes, and still ache for him. Still burn for him. Her hands begged to crawl down the column of his spine, and all that she could hear was the sound of his voice purring his love for her into her ear. Spike was a monster, and yet her heart was still his.
Sighing, Giles scooted over on the bed, patting the empty space beside him. Obediently, Buffy sat down, and instantly rested her head on his shoulder, tired and still sick to her stomach. "I read them all," she said through numbed lips. "Every last page. All of those people, those victims, those innocent lives and he killed them. And I can't make myself hate him."
His warm hand rubbed gentle circles on her shoulders, soothing her, comforting her. "It's all right, Buffy," he murmured, and she shook her head.
"No, it's not," she whispered fiercely. "I'm supposed to be the Slayer. The hero. The good guy. It's not... I shouldn't love him, but I do. And I know what he's done, what he could do again. He's evil, Giles, but God, there are these moments, when he'll just look at me or say something and all that I can see in him is the good. And there is good in him. I believe it."
"I believe it, too," he said quietly, and she pulled away, frowning at him. "Of course I do. He's done some remarkable things in the past. What he did for Dawn, being tortured by Glory, helping us last summer. People change."
"But he's not a person, is he," she said, and then she shook her head, standing up abruptly, her motions jerky and wild. She was pacing now, back and forth, walking that damned line again, never knowing which way was right and which was wrong. "No. No, no way. I can't do that to him, not again. He's not a thing." Pleadingly, Buffy looked at Giles, begging him to understand her. "He loves me. He really does. He loves me so much that it kills me reading about these things. It breaks my heart."
Giles knelt down in front of her, gathering her hands in his, smiling at her gently. "I love you," he said, and Buffy blinked at him, startled. He'd never said it before, though she'd always known it. It was part of what kept her alive. "You're the most astounding girl I've ever seen. No matter who you love, or why you love him, nothing can change that about you."
Riley touches her hair, sadly, with a bit of longing, and she wishes that things had been different between them.
Torn, Buffy turned away from him, biting her lip. "But I still don't understand," she said, and Giles nodded.
"Then perhaps you'd best talk to him," he suggested, and she frowned, surprised. He wasn't really encouraging this, was he? Giles, pushing her into the arms of Spike? Not in a million years. The look on her face must have told him something, because he chuckled and shook his head. "Believe me, I wish that you had fallen in love with the mailman rather than... Spike." He spat out the vampire's name, like it tasted bitter on his tongue.
Buffy arched her eyebrow, digging up the last shreds of her sense of humor. "The mailman?" she asked. "Giles, in case you haven't noticed, those aren't exactly the safest guys either nowadays."
He gave her that look that told her that he was Not Amused. "You have a good heart," he said, compassionately but firmly. "Follow it, but not blindly."
Heaving a great sigh, Buffy laid the papers down on the bed and ran her hands through her hair, a smile tugging at her mouth when one photograph caught her eye. Occasional pictures of Spike popped up in the reports and documents, and this one in particular tugged at her heartstrings.
The photographer had caught him off guard, alone in a dirty diner in New York City, late 1970's, probably around the time he had slaughtered his second Slayer in the dirty subway. He was surrounded by crumpled pieces of paper, steam from a cheap cup of coffee swirling around his unusual face, luscious mouth chewing irritably on the end of a ballpoint pen. One hand was in his wild, untamed white-blonde hair, and his eyes were laden with mascara and eyeliner, dark and dangerous, her deadly beast.
His ratty CBGB tee shirt was streaked with dried blood.
(end part five)
Continued in Chapter Six: Glory Box