Part Seven: And then
Giles saw an expression on his Slayer’s face that he had trouble identifying. Oh, yes. Fear. Of what? He watched as she slowly relaxed and loosened up, and had the momentary thought, of me. But that was patently ridiculous. There was no way she could be afraid of him...He would never disapprove of her. Clothes, grammar, maybe. But not her.
They stared at each other, and then Giles blinked. That seemed to snap the tension in some way. Buffy, after a moment’s freeze, gave an exaggerated sigh, and managed to look bored. Good job, looking bored. Come full circle. I used to be afraid of pissing him off, and now I’m afraid of…what, exactly? What if he tells me to cope with it by myself again?
Why do I feel so guilty?
Giles raised his drink. “Will I need more, do you think?”
Buffy shrugged. “Yeah, Giles. I think you definitely will.”
“Well, I’ll start with this.”
Rather like an uninvited guest, Giles hesitated at the doorstep a moment and then gingerly stepped across the threshold. “So..” He set his drink down carefully, and sat down at the vanity. Once she would have smiled at the sight. Now it just seemed like another upside-down sight, Giles at her mother’s vanity, yet another incongruous sight in a life full of nothing but.
Where do I start?
“Giles...” Buffy started, then gave up with a sigh.
“Well.....” She slumped. “I just don’t know how to say this.”
“Just say it.”
“That would be unfair.”
“Spike,” she muttered. “It would be unfair to Spike.”
“I’m just wondering exactly what constitutes unfair when one is discussing a vampire known as the Scourge of Europe.” He glanced at her, then away, somewhat abashed. “Sorry.”
She looked suspiciously into his glass. “Are you going to be like that?”
“No, no, I’m fine.” He squared his shoulders. “Go on.”
“No, really, go on.”
“You don’t approve.”
“Well, Buffy...” He shifted uncomfortably on his chair. “It’s just that I get the distinct impression you’re protecting him, and will disapprove of me if I criticize......Spike.”
After a moment’s thought, she said, “You’re right.”
“Spike was always good at defending himself.” Giles said dryly, and Buffy winced.
“Not...good enough, Giles. Not good enough.” She got up and stretched, then sat down again. “I, uh...It’s just that....It’s, uh.....You remember you said I needed to grow up?”
“I...ah, didn’t, say it exactly like...”
“That was the basic message,” Buffy contradicted gently. “And I really wouldn’t recommend you try it again with somebody else. It...didn’t work really well.”
“I know.” Giles stared into his drink. “I know.”
“But you are here, now, though.” Buffy said. “You came back, and I feel more grown up already, you know?” She had to sniff for a moment. “Is it bad that I want...you here? Is that ungrownup?”
“No,” Giles whispered. “No, not at all.” He got up and sat next to her on the bed, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. “No, not after your year. I..” He made a tsking sound under his breath. “I really should never have....”
“You know?” Buffy leaned away and looked directly at him. “You’re here. You came back. Stop apologizing, okay? You are required by contract to issue only one heartfelt apology, as long as you keep your butt here as long as needed. Anything above that, and I’m going to have to pay you overtime or something.”
He took off his glasses. “It’s just that every time I hear Spike’s name, I keep thinking that if I hadn’t left, so much unpleasantness wouldn’t have happened.”
“So much unpleasantness?”
“Xander...” Giles said quietly. “He did mention some things.”
“Which things?” Buffy demanded.
“He said that Spike...” Giles had to glance down, then, grimacing. “He said Spike slept with Anya, and then tried to....”
“Oh, God, I am going to kill him!” Buffy exclaimed, jumping to her feet. She stomped to the bedroom door, snapped her arms across her chest, and whirled around to face him. “You know, Xander’s not exactly the poster child for normal relationships, and he doesn’t know what went on between Spike and me, and he never got over that crush he had on me, and he’s the one dating the ex-demon who used to castrate men, and furthermore, he left her at the altar! He’s dated an insect and a mummy, and a Slayer, and he’s, he’s... Well, okay, he didn’t date her, but hey.....”
“Giles, don’t look at me like that.” What is this? Am I looking for his blessing? “Stop.”
“Well, Buffy, it’s just that Xander, despite all his flaws, is human.”
“Yeah, so? He told Dawn that Spike tried to rape me, why did she need to know that? Why would anybody think she needed to know that?”
“Well...” Giles said wearily. “You have to admit that there is some danger....”
“Of Spike raping Dawn?” She crossed her arms tighter, till she was practically hugging herself. “No, there’s not, Giles.”
“Buffy, I know you’re fond of him, still, but you have to think of Dawn.”
“I wish I weren’t the only one. Did she need to hear that from Xander? He sure got over Anya’s past fast enough once they started,” she shrugged uncomfortably, “you know.”
“Buffy...Spike is a vampire. That’s always a risk.”
“Yeah, it was such a risk you left me here with him.” With that, she slapped a hand over her mouth. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.”
Giles gave her a pained smile. “No, Buffy, you have every right to say that.”
“But it just doesn’t go away.”
“Maybe it will? Eventually.” He pulled off his tie. “Maybe, Buffy, it’s that you’re saying things to me which you should be saying to Xander?”
“Oh.” She seemed to shrink in front of him. “I can’t, Giles, I can’t.”
“Buffy, the fact that you can’t....Well, I can’t help but think that’s very bad.”
“But I’m so mad at him! How can I say that? Because I should be feeling that he’s right, but I don’t. He’s always thought that Spike was evil....but...but....there’s being evil, and there’s doing evil. Spike did a lot of...” She sighed heavily. “You were here this summer. Spike deserves something for that, for caring about Dawn, even when he never thought he’d see me again. And Xander......I don’t even have the vocabulary for this, Giles! I’m really pissed off at him! It wasn’t his business to say that to Dawn, and, besides, how come he’s so mad at Spike? It’s not like----”
“Buffy, he is your friend, and the thought that someone had tried to rape one’s friend...”
“He tried to himself.” Buffy muttered.
“I beg your pardon.”
“He tried to rape me himself.”
“Spike, we’re talking about Spike?”
“Xander? But...Xander....” He stared off into space, running over events in his mind, trying to picture it. “When was this?”
“That hyena thing.”
The spell. The ‘amnesia.’ He had helped Xander by keeping his secret—and here was one of the secrets. “He-he--was possessed, Buffy.”
“How possessed?” She muttered. “How possessed was he then? Kind of funny he didn’t try it on the first girl who came along. He waited for me.”
“So.” She said briskly. “Do I tell Dawn that, too? Because I’m pissed off at him now? I mean, she’s lost Mom, she’s lost Tara, but I shouldn’t think about what’s good for her welfare, you know, when I’ve got an old grudge to----”
“Buffy, he.... he was upset by what happened. I believe he was terribly upset.”
“I don’t think that’s exactly true, Giles.” He wasn’t so upset, for instance, that he really hung around the bathroom after he found out....Nope, he had to run off and drive a wedge between Dawn and Spike. Because, hey, it’s way more important to take a shot at Spike than protect my sister’s feelings. Or mine. Another memory surfaced, Xander lecturing her on the virtues of the man who’d cheated on her with vampires. Nice to know that it’s okay when Riley hurts my feelings but not when Spike does it. “He wasn’t so upset that he missed this big opportunity to, you know, gloat about Spike.” Gloat about Spike? Her brain prodded, but she was already brushing it aside, moving on.
“I, ah, Buffy....”
“What do I do, Giles? Who do I get mad at?”
“Buffy, I’m trying to understand, exactly, but...it seems you’re angrier at Xander than at Spike.”
“No.” Buffy said softly. “No, I’m not. I’m just so mad I don’t know who it’s at, you know? And...” She sighed. “I’m mad at myself.”
She thought about it for a long minute, trying out sentences in her head. He loved me and I used him. I knew he loved me. He loved me and I treated him bad. He’s a vampire and I’m a human being, and I took everything he had to give and gave nothing back. “ I need to know...what happened when I was gone. When I was dead.”
“Ah.” Giles pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, squeezing his eyes shut. “Ah. Buffy, I have to say, I find this very confusing.”
“Well, like you’re the only one.” She looped her arm through his. “I thought I was a good person, you know? I always did. I Slayed, I protected people from evil, and then...You know the worst thing? I was just so tired when they brought me back. It was like being in bed, you know, when you’re really tired, and you just kind of relax bit by bit, and you’re all sore and worn out. I was just getting to that stage, where I was, relaxing, like I was lying on a big pillow, and then I was here.”
“And Spike was so...gentle about it. We never would have gotten together, you know, except for me. He would have...just waited. Forever.” She sighed again. “He would have been happy enough being my friend, but....I kissed him. I, uh.....We had sex, and it was too many different things all at once, you know? It was like I’d never seen him before, and.....” She had to swallow around a lump in her throat. “Does any of that make sense?”
“Yes, all-too-unfortunately, it does.” He rubbed his eyes again. “It sounds to me as if you’re blaming yourself for this...incident.”
“No. No, I’m not.” She looked at him. “No, Giles, I’m really not. But I....I just.....He’s a vampire, Giles, why didn’t he just do that from the get go? Why didn’t he do that instead of getting a ...a...Bot? Why? He’s got the chip, yeah, but...he could have made minions. He could have found a way. Especially after the....” She stopped suddenly.
“Especially after what?”
“The chip.” She said quietly. “It doesn’t work on me. He could hit me again.”
“Ah.” This time the eye-rubbing was accompanied by something that sounded a quietly-exhaled breath. “And am I to assume that he did precisely that?”
“I hit him first. That first time.” All the time, interjected the little voice in her head. All the time, who are you kidding? “I thought the chip still worked, Giles. I hit him and I knew he couldn’t hit me back.”
“And then....he tried to....?”
“No.” Buffy said quietly. “We were together...We were together....all year. After you left and before you came back. And then....Riley came back...”
“Riley? I’d thought, well....”
“Nothing.” He waved the question away. “Nothing.”
“Yeah, I guess he got rid of the vampire addiction and discovered Martha Stewart.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“He got married.”
They sat in silence for a moment, then Giles said, “I was wrong to have left you all alone to deal with...all these things.”
“You can shut up now,” Buffy said. “You know? It just makes it better to hear you say it at intervals.”
“But when did this....incident happen?”
“Riley came into town and was looking for some guy who was selling demon eggs. And he walked in on Spike and me.”
“He walked in on....? Oh, dear.’
“Not like that. We were asleep.”
“Buffy....” Giles said wearily. “Well, no, never mind.”
“What?” Another nose-pinch with an eye rub, Buffy thought. I give it a five point six for execution. “Well, it turned out that Spike was...the person Riley was looking for.”
“Then I broke up with him.”
“Ah. And then....?”
“No. Giles....there’s something else, too.”
Buffy stared into space, looking for courage. “There was something weird with the Trio. Before Riley came back. The trio of geeks that Warren was part of.”
“What was that?”
“They killed a girl, I think. But they made me think I did it.”
“And what does this have to do with Spike?”
“I was going to go to the police. And he stopped me.”
“I’m sorry, Buffy, but....I must ask, didn’t it occur to you to....wonder how you could have killed a girl? If this trio of, well----“ he shrugged apologeticaly,” if this trio, as you say, used some method to make you think that you’d killed this person, weren’t there any signs?”
“Well, yeah...” Buffy said reluctantly, thinking over that night. “But I...” I wanted to be punished. I felt so awful, it had to be guilt, it had to be bad, I deserved to be in jail. Never occurred to me that treating somebody who loves you like shit might make you feel like that. “I just knew....I really, really wanted to go to the police. I wanted them to arrest me. I really thought I’d killed her.” She gave him a diffident shrug “It would have kept me away from Spike.” In more ways than one.
“Did he have some kind of ...power over you? Is that what you’re saying?”
The power of his eyes and his body and his voice. The power of my depression. The fact that I had more power over him than he did over me...and I was bad to him and he wasn’t bad to me until....Even now, she couldn’t stop the memories, not of what had happened in the bathroom, but in his bed. Her desperation, his tenderness, all the tiny moments, all the little flashbacks....I thought those would go away.....I was hoping I’d forget all those things he did.....”No, Giles, not like that.” All the nice things Spike did, she thought, turning to ashes in the confines of the most ludicrous place possible, turning everything they’d ever had inside out.....”We....we...It was only that he was a vampire. I couldn’t get over that. No soul. But when we were together....It wasn’t like...It--it---.” She shrugged, flushing, unable to continue. The deep breath she took then shook slightly and said more than she had.
“Oh.” Giles muttered. Then it hit him. “Oh.”
“Spike was trying to keep me from going to the police, and we fought. Well,” she took a deep breath. “We didn’t fight. I...Oh, God, Giles....I kept.....” She bowed her head, then, overwhelmed. “I...I...Couldn’t stop.”
“Couldn’t stop....?” Giles asked softly.
“I.” Buffy sniffled. “I...oh, boy. I started....hitting him. And he just didn’t do anything.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
Buffy bowed her head, too embarrassed at the astonished tone of his voice to repeat herself.
“Buffy, forgive me for saying this, but I’m deeply confused.”
“No,” she nodded, “go ahead.”
“I still don’t understand how and when any of this happened. There’s Riley, and your relationship with Spike, and this incident....and I believe I need another drink.” He knocked back what was left of his drink, and got up.
Buffy got up and followed him, not surprised when they got to the kitchen and he poured a finger of Scotch for her. She wrinkled her nose at him. “Ugh.”
“That’s twelve years old, I’ll have you know.”
“Then shouldn’t you buy some that’s a little newer?”
For this, she got one raised eyebrow, so she regrouped. “If I can’t finish all that, you’re doing it.”
“Buffy, there’s little more than several molecules in that glass.”
She grimaced and drank it down, wrinkling her nose at the taste. Giles took a swallow, savored it for a moment, then set his glass down again. They both looked at their hands, folded on the counter of the kitchen island. “Now, then.”
“Now, then,” Buffy repeated.
“This is not going to make it easier, delaying it.”
“No.” She said. “I just...Giles....I just...I felt so....disappointed.”
“Spike,” She said quietly. “Spike. I keep telling myself, I shouldn’t be surprised, right? I’m telling myself that right now. I shouldn’t be disappointed in him, right? He was just a vampire, he didn’t know any better.”
“You wouldn’t be this upset if you truly believed that, Buffy.”
“Oh.” Buffy whispered. Even in that one syllable, her voice cracked. “Oh, God. I don’t even want to think about that.”
“The unfortunate thing I’ve discovered, Buffy, is that the things that you don’t want to talk about are the very things it’s most important to think about. Oh, dear.” He looked accusingly at the contents of his glass. “I just ended a sentence with a preposition.”
“C’mon.” Buffy said. She yanked open the back door and led him out on the porch, slapped by all the memories of Spike sitting silently by her side on that porch. “Okay.” She caught Giles’ eye, knowing he was seeing every flinch. “We used to sit here all the time, you know.”
“I’m sorry, then. Let’s go sit somewhere else, shall we?”
“No.” Buffy said. “Watch me take some of your advice. We’re sitting here.”
She sat down gingerly, automatically avoiding her usual spot. Sitting where Spike had sat at her side was no better; it made her think of him, and then her own reactions. Not good.
“So,” she said finally. “Should I start over?”
“Yes,” Giles said. She detected great reservations in that simple word. “I think it’s a good idea to get it all out and deal with it.”
“We kissed after that musical demon, you know.”
“That was probably the spell.”
“It didn’t feel like a spell.”
“I remember how it felt to be engaged to Spike. It was partly, like, ew, you know----I sort of realized I shouldn’t be engaged to Spike. But it was....” She’d always kept that memory at bay, the brief betrothal that had left her with a curious glimpse into Spike’s emotions. She’d felt oddly comfortable with him in a well-what-an-interesting-kiss-that-was type of way. At one point he’d muttered to her what a pity Giles wasn’t deaf as well as blind, because if she wriggled around on his lap any longer, he really would give the old fart something to go blind over. She snapped out of that particular reverie because Giles was clearing his throat and glancing off away from her. “So I remember what it felt like to be under a spell. That wasn’t a spell.”
“And then there was that spell of Willow’s, about erasing all our memories, and after that was over, it was like I started at the beginning all over again. It just hit me worse than it had at the beginning. I was...” She stopped, remembering. “I was so mad at Willow, you know, for doing that to me without asking, and I was so mad at Spike for asking about stuff that Willow didn’t ask about, you know? It should’ve been the other way around. But I just couldn’t...” Couldn’t very well slap some sense into your best friend, could you? She thought angrily. “I couldn’t tell Willow that I was so mad at her, Giles....and I think....” She stopped, again, something like horror dawning on her face. “Giles, do you think Willow knew?” She thought about it, then answered her own question. “I don’t know if she knew how scared I was of her...but I think.....she didn’t try to find out. She didn’t act like somebody who didn’t want people to be scared of her. I mean, she did that to Tara twice without asking, and then me, and I don’t think she thought Tara would ever leave her. She thought she could get away with it, and...and....she was, like, mad, that we wouldn’t let her, I think.....And....” She’s always the one that gets pissed off at me, Buffy thought. When I came back after that summer, and wanted to leave just about right away, Willow was pissed off at me, but at least then I could yell at her. She wasn’t really a witch then, though. She cleared her throat. “You know, when I ran away that time, Willow was so mad at me for going, and then I wanted to leave because nobody understood how bad it was, and they just...they just didn’t care. At least that’s what I thought. And....and Willow hasn’t gotten that angry at me since.” It’s hard to get that angry at somebody who’s afraid of losing you, she added mentally.
“Buffy,” Giles said softly. “We did care.” They both stared off into the shadows, resolutely ignoring each other’s suddenly-trembling chins. “But...” How do you explain? How does it happen that you open your mouth to say, ‘I was so worried,’ and instead find yourself muttering, ‘You should have...’? After several moments of staring, he managed to find his firm voice again. “Have you been angry at her? Have you gotten angry at her? Recently?”
“Yes,” she muttered.
“Did you tell her?”
“What would I tell her? ‘You need to get slapped? You’re overdue for a spanking?’ She was mad at me, Giles. All through that....fight. All through that fight, she kept making fun of me, for losing Mom, and you, and....I was afraid of...that.”
“Of getting her more angry?”
“No.” She struggled for words, which, as always, seemed to dam up in her throat. How to put it into words, the way it felt to come back from the dead, the way the grave kept trying to pull you back, and the only thing that could keep you from falling was the grasp of your friends? They were supposed to hold you back from the edge, except once she was back, they kept their distance, when what she’d needed was exactly the opposite. The only person who dared to get close enough was Spike. “Yes,” she muttered, then changed her mind again. “No.” The Slayer, able to slay many vampires with your basic pointy stick, afraid of pissing off her best friend. “How could I get pissed off at her? How could I tell her? She sure didn’t ask before she tried spells out on us, and I didn’t want her to even think about doing that when she was pissed. I heard you,” she added quietly. “That night in the kitchen. I was on the porch. It was like...I’d been her experiment.”
“Oh, God, Buffy,” he whispered. “I’d no idea you overheard that.”
“It was kind of hard to miss it. She threatened you. I don’t know what happened to her. That just wasn’t...Willow.”
“I don’t know what happened to her, either.” Giles said quietly. He sipped at his drink thoughtfully, then stared at the dregs in the bottom of his glass. “Have you talked to her?”
“No,” Buffy said firmly.
“Not at all?”
I couldn’t tell Spike how I felt about him, how on earth could I tell my best friend how mad I was at her? Is there such a thing as being too close? “I’m afraid of excuses, Giles. I know what she’ll say. She’ll talk about losing Tara, about being the quiet one, stuff like that. I don’t know if I can stand it. And it wouldn’t be really in her interest, either, for me to go all gushy and, oh, you’re forgiven!”
“What makes you think that that would happen?”
“Because I want her back, Giles. I want to have a best friend again. I mean, this whole year, I just felt so...isolated. I know I wouldn’t be able to not forgive her...and I think that would be bad.”
He looked at her curiously. “Why?”
“She keeps doing the same stuff. So does Xander. And now they’re together.”
“What do you mean?”
Buffy pressed her hands to her cheeks, face flushing with the pressure of things long unsaid. “You know, spells and stuff. That I-meant-well stuff, I-didn’t-know-that-was-going-to-happen stuff. Xander and the dancing demon, the hyena, Willow with all the magic? The I-got-dumped-so-I’ll-do-a-spell? I never did a spell,” she muttered.
“Well, yes,” Giles said quietly. “But you’re the Slayer. You’ve never really needed to, I suspect.”
“Needed to?” Buffy exclaimed. “You mean, did I ever feel the need to do things to my friends so that things would be the way I wanted them? No, never wanted to. I just wanted them to talk to me, for God’s sake. That’s all.”
“Well, that’s precisely the thing that’s difficult to do.”
“You have a—“ Her voice cracked just a bit, but she squared her chin and kept going. “You have a hard time talking to me?”
“No, Buffy, not that.” He looked at her. “But this does put a bit of perspective to it. Had you ever considered that...well, they might be somewhat envious of your status as the Slayer?”
“What? No,” Buffy scoffed. “No, I don’t think that has anything to do with it. Get envious of having no life, killing things all the time, the injuries, the...dying? I just...I don’t think it was that. It was just...being impatient, I think. Xander, and the hyena thing? That wasn’t his fault, I know, but....he used it to his advantage, he used it as an excuse, because he had something he could blame his behavior on. He and Willow, they keep....trying spells, and they just don’t think about what’s going to happen to other people. I don’t think Xander’s ever been under a spell, and Willow just...There was that spell of Xander’s when Cordelia dumped him, but Willow keeps putting other people under spells even though she knows what it’s like! And then, it’s all ‘oops, didn’t know that was going to happen.’ ” Giles glanced at her startled, but even Buffy herself was surprised. “I have no idea where that came from, Giles. I really don’t.”
“You do tend to keep things inside, Buffy.”
“I didn’t used to.”
“Well, I’m glad you seem to be making some progress.”
“Is that what this is, progress?”
“Of a sort,” Giles said. He sighed and studied his hands. “You won’t be able to make much further progress unless you actually speak to Willow and Xander, though.”
“And Spike?” Buffy asked. “Does that mean I have to talk to Spike, too?”
“I’d thought....you’d want to, actually. From the way you’ve been talking...?”
“I don’t think I want to talk to anybody but you.” Buffy said firmly. “Right now, that’s all.” She, too, looked down at her hands. “Not yet, anyway. Not right now. I don’t know what else I want, but I do know, I don’t want that.”
Continued in Part Eight: Secrets and Lies