You ask me to enter
But then you make me crawl
And I can't be holding on
To what you got
When all you got is hurt
I pulled my car into a parking space and turned off the engine. Thunder sounded loudly overhead, and I heard a bolt of lightning strike. Immediately, rain began to pour, hitting the windshield in loud steady thumps. Wonderful.
I unfastened my seatbelt and leaned over to get the small black umbrella Mom had always stashed under the seat. It wasn’t there, and now I remembered Dawn taking it from the Jeep the last time we went out. I looked around the car for anything I could hold over my head. Not a damn thing.
With a curse, I grabbed the plastic grocery bag off the passenger seat, tossed in my cell phone, and ran for it. The rain turned to sleet, little drops of frozen rain soaking my clothes. I got halfway up the steps to Xander’s apartment before my foot slipped on the icy pavement and I fell. My knee smashed into one step, my chin into another. I bit down on my tongue, and the salty taste of blood filled my mouth. Stupid slippy new shoes. I hadn’t felt so uncoordinated since ever.
I scrabbled to my feet, pushing off with one hand. The sleet picked up, coming down harder, pelting me mercilessly. I’d scraped my knee in the fall, shredding my hose. A red dot formed on my shirt and I dabbed at it. Blood. I reached up and felt my chin stinging. My fingers came away streaked with red.
Something smacked me in the top of the head, hard. I looked up, confused, and a chunk of hail the size of a golf ball landed on the bridge of my nose. Rain, sleet, hail and snow within five minutes. That seemed awfully Hellmouthy. Ice clattered all around me in a torrent, and I rushed up the remaining stairs and pulled open the door.
The AC was cranked in Xander’s building. I shivered as the cold air hit me. I was totally soaked from the rain, right down to my underwear. It felt slimy and gross.
I knocked on Xander’s door. After a moment, Spike opened it. He wore a set of black sweats, his hair curly and loose. He was barefoot, and he held open a fat novel. “Hisself’s not here, Slayer,” he said, without looking up.
My stomach did the little flippy thing it always did when I saw him. “C-can I come in?” My voice was shaking as bad as I was.
He looked up, puzzled, and his eyes widened. “Bloody hell, Buffy!” He held open the door and gestured for me to come in. “What happened to you?”
“I fell down some stairs,” I explained, my teeth chattering.
He looked at me. “Well, I buy that, but- how’d you get ice in your hair?”
“It’s probably sleet. That was the happy prelude to big chucks of hail hammering me in the head.”
He put down his book with a sigh. “A hailstorm in November. Just the thing you’d expect-” He looked me full in the face and tilted his head, his brow furrowing. “You’ve got blood running down your neck, Slayer.” My face was numb with cold; I couldn’t feel anything. “Your chin’s all bollixed up.” He reached out for my jaw. Inches away, he stopped. “Just want to see how deep it is,” he explained.
“I’m not afraid of you touching me, Spike.” His soft hands closed on my jaw, and I shivered, my entire body jerking. He stepped back, looking away. “Stop making the kicked puppy face. It’s not you. I’m just so cold that your hands feel really warm.” He shoved his hands in his pockets, still not meeting my eye. Back to square one. “Hot shower. That’s all I need.”
He gave me the patented “you’re an idiot” look, usually reserved for Xander or fledgling vamps. “You should tend to your chin,” he argued. “It looks bad. You may need some stitches."
“I’ll deal with it when I’m not freezing to death.” I shoved the paper bag into his hand and went into the bathroom. In a rush, I stripped off my sodden clothes, threw them into the sink, and stepped into the shower.
It felt so amazingly good, the steaming water pouring over my body. It stung like hell when the lather hit my knee. It was a total boy setup in the shower: Irish Spring, one big bottle of Kirkland brand shampoo and no conditioner. No washcloth. No shower gel.
The clods of ice melted away as the hot water ran over my head. I twisted off the water and stepped out onto the slippery tile floor. There were no towels, no bathmat, just a white terry robe hanging from a peg. I put it on, tying a huge loop at the waist. It was massive, hanging down to my ankles, but it was soft and snuggly, and smelled like Polo.
I grabbed my clothes and headed into the hallway. After pulling open the accordion doors that hid the stacked washer/dryer combo, I threw my clothes in on low heat. With a buzz and a rumble, the dryer began to turn, filling the eerily quiet apartment.
The living room was empty, and so was the kitchen. My knee and chin were throbbing now that I was warmed up, so I made two icepacks, emptying a tray of cubes into dishtowels. “Our Happy Home”, one of them said. It made me feel sad. Anya had really wanted this to be her happy home; they both had.
I lay down on the couch and put my feet up. My knee was swollen already, puffing up around the scrape, and I balanced a cold pack on top of it. I pressed the other pack to my chin and laid my head back. I hurt, really hurt, my knee and the scrape on my palm and above, all, the chin. I could still feel the blood trickling out of the cut. I pulled the towel away, and saw that it was soaked with blood.
“Spike!” I called out. “Spike?” It was so quiet that I’d wondered if he had left.
The hall closet opened, and Spike came out. He stood all the way across the room, as if he didn’t trust himself to come any closer. “I can get you some clothes, if you’d like to cover up.” He looked embarrassed that the robe left me bare from the thigh down, lying open so I could ice my knee. Pretty bizarre considering that he’d licked every square inch of the flesh he was working hard to avoid looking at. But that had been before everything had become so utterly messed up.
“I’m fine like this,” I said. “I need you to get my first aid kit. It’s outside in my Jeep.” I shifted the ice pack on my knee and some ice spilled out, falling on the floor.
Spike frowned. “You need a decent pack on that knee, Slayer. It’s swelling up like a melon.” He walked into the kitchen, coming back out with a hospital ice pack, cracking it to activate it and contouring it to my knee. He took away the towel and ice, handing me two white pills. “Just Tylenol,” he said. “Xander’s got none of the good stuff here.”
I swallowed them dry, grateful for any relief from the pain. “I have some codeine in my kit.”
“Where are your keys?” he asked, as he walked back into the kitchen. I heard the clatter of ice being tossed into the sink.
“In my-” I started to explain. But they weren’t in my jacket. In my minds eye I saw the keys hanging from the ignition, decorated with a smiley face key ring and a lanyard with beads that spelled “#1 Sister.” “I left the keys in the car.”
“Locked?” he asked.
“Not sure.” I told him.
“Not a problem,” he said. He went back in his closet, returning with a hanger in his hand. “Back in two shakes.”
“It’s sleeting and hailing,” I reminded him. “You should take an umbrella.”
“Yeah, and I’ll be sure to put my Wellies on too.” He snorted and slammed the door shut behind him.
I closed my eyes and waited. It was nice, in the big, soft robe, with the sounds of ice hitting the windows. I remembered one winter night when my sister and I were tucked into bed with my parents. We had come in, scared by the storm. Hail was clattering down on the roof with a huge racket, and thunder was booming, making the windows shake.
Dawn was tucked between me and Mom, her fine hair tickling my chin. “Why is it doing that?” she asked worriedly. She was shivering, really scared, and I held her tight.
“Doing what, baby?” Mom smiled at my sister and smoothed down her hair.
“Why is the sky making snowballs?”
Mom and I both laughed and Dawn frowned, her little cherub face comically angry. “Don’t laugh at me!”
“Pipe down, little women,” my father said sleepily.
The three of us giggled. “Go back to sleep,” Mom had whispered, and pulled the covers tight around us all.
It was so hard to remember that it hadn’t really happened, that it was all made up. I could feel Dawn’s shoulder underneath my chin and feel the warm flannel of my footie pajamas against my legs.
A loud electronic ringing disturbed my sleep. I opened my eyes, and saw that I was covered with an afghan. “Yeah?” I heard Spike say softly. He was rustling around in the kitchen, opening and closing cupboards. “Yes, this is Spike. She’s here, at Xander’s. She hurt herself, came to get fixed up.” He listened for a moment. “Her chin, mainly. Closed it up with some of that liquid stitch stuff. She slept right through it. Yeah, the girl is exhausted. She’s racked out now on the sofa.” There was a pause. “Yeah, I’m behaving myself,” he said angrily. “I’m not going to molest the Slayer while she’s sleeping. Well. Yes, that’s true. Don’t blame you for thinking it.” A kettle whistled for a second, and then abruptly stopped. “Harris will be home shortly from his meeting. I’m sure he’ll see her home. Yeah, I’ll have her call you.”
The aroma of toasting bread filled the air. Cinnamon raisin bread, my favorite. My stomach gurgled and I sat up. God, I was really sore. I limped into the kitchen, and saw Spike sitting at the counter, smearing butter onto toast. “How you feeling?”
“Like crap, really,” I said. “I can’t believe I hurt myself so badly slipping on some stairs.”
“You weren’t expecting it,” he said. “That’s when you really get hammered, when you’re taken off your guard.” He stuffed a mug full of marshmallows and tipped a teapot over it. The mug filled with bubbling light brown liquid.
“You made cocoa?” I asked. Spike, being domestic, struck me as funny. But if I mocked him, he might not share, and it smelled really good. “Can I have some?”
“Sure thing,” he replied. “Want some toast as well?” I nodded, and he popped some bread in the toaster. He pulled a mug down from the cabinet and set it in front of me. “Sunnydale High School,” was embossed on it in large crimson letters.
“How long was I asleep?” I asked. I felt clear and focused, as if I’d had a full nights rest.
He filled my mug with cocoa and looked at the clock on the wall. “Nearly four hours.”
“That’s more than I’ve been getting every night. It’s been a really busy week. Work, slay.”
“Have to make time to rest, catch your breath. A tired Slayer is a Slayer off her game.” Spike picked up my cell phone and handed it to me. “Dawn called, reminded you that she’s going to a lock in with her friend Kit. Giles called, said you’d missed your appointment with him.”
“I was supposed to help him apartment hunt,” I explained.
“When did he get back?” Spike asked.
“Yesterday. He’s been offered his old job back at the high school.” The toast dinged and Spike retrieved it, setting it before me on a plate. “Apparently, the new librarian decided to ‘leave town abruptly’.” I made air quotes with my fingers.
He laughed softly. “What a rare occurrence in Sunnydale. What he eaten by a beastie or munched by a vamp?”
“Munched,” I said. “And it really pissed me off, because the little bastard that did it was the only one that got away from a whole nest I took out on Heyward.”
He looked at me quizzically. “Another nest moved onto Heyward? Where, that abandoned warehouse?”
“You got it,” I confirmed.
He shook his head. “Someone should really knock that building down.”
“Great minds think alike,” I said. “I torched it.”
He laughed, his eyebrows raised. “You torched it?”
“Flame-thrower, bottle of gas. Kerboom!” I made a big gesture with my hands. “No more vamps moving on up to the top.”
“Old building, wooden,” he said. “Must have gone up like a roman candle.”
“Much sparkage, big whooshy flames. It was really beautiful, actually.”
“Wish I’d seen it,” he said wistfully. He tilted his head and smiled at me, and I smiled back.
“You know, I can really see the appeal of pyromania,” I said. “It’s such a satisfying feeling, seeing something so big and tall come crashing down. Knowing you were the one to destroy it.”
His mood abruptly shifted, his face going hard and closed off. “Need to finish up what I was doing,” he said, as he stood up and set down his mug. “Thank you for the blood.” He was gone before I could respond, and I hear the door of his room slam and lock.
I felt hurt and abandoned. He’d said that we weren’t best friends any more. I’d truly forgotten, sitting with him. Forgotten that we weren’t anything to each other, anymore.
I’d missed him after we’d broken up, for lots of reasons. I’d missed the way he listened, his head tilted, as if I was the only thing in the world that he could hear. It felt awkward fighting without him, without having him there to watch my back. And, yes, I’d missed the sex, the feel of his hands on me, the sensation of his body within mine. But there was always the nagging sense of shame, the guilt that I felt something for a monster, that I had taken evil inside myself and found solace in it.
The rape attempt had been the clincher, the confirmation that Spike and I were a big ball of wrong. But that Spike was gone. This new Spike who had come back had a soul. I didn’t have to be ashamed of him any more, of caring about him. There was no reason why we couldn’t be friends. Although I wasn’t holding my breath that anyone else would give him a chance.
The front door opened and Xander walked in, shaking an umbrella. “What’s your vote?” I asked. “Bad weather, or a signal of impending Apocalypse.”
“Well, I just put a down payment on an a house, so I vote for bad weather.” He smiled at me happily. “Ooh, big bandagy chin.”
“Got my butt kicked by a stair monster.”
“Sounds painful, and yet, kind of funny,” he said, as he hung up his coat. He came into the kitchen. “So I see you have food a la Spike. The guy can’t make anything that doesn’t involve the toaster or the microwave.”
“He boiled some water,” I pointed out. “That’s stove skill, right there.”
Xander frowned. “Is he bothering you? Because I specifically told him to stay the hell away from you.”
“He helped patch me up and made me a snack,” I said. “Gee, let’s stake him.”
He gave me a worried look. “Are you sure you’re all right?” he said. “You seem a little- cranky.”
“Just tired,” I said. “I’m going to get dressed and go home.”
Xander looked at me. “You’re not starting up with him again are you?” he asked, his voice hard.
“No,” I replied defensively. “No, no and more no. Why would you say that?”
“Because you’re wearing his robe,” he said.
The demon was running really, really fast for something that weighed a ton and was nine feet tall. He hustled through the graveyard at full throttle, just out of my reach. I pushed as hard as I could, ignoring the ache in my knee, and vaulted into the air using a tombstone as leverage. Landing on his back, I held on with one arm as I struggled to get the right angle with the sword to shove it through his head.
He roared and shook, trying to knock me off. One huge arm grabbed my thigh and squeezed. I bit my lip hard to keep from screaming, Agony. My leg, my leg, oh, this demon had fucked up my leg. It was snapped or broken or something else bad and crunchy. Red hot pain speared through my thigh.
My vision began to blur, and I heard a faint roaring in my ears. Grabbing the hilt of my sword, I tilted it and rammed it home. The demon fell, and I fell with him. I rolled away, stopping when I slammed into a gravestone. Red sparks filled my field of vision, my eyes burning. The impulse to curl up in a ball and rest was nearly overpowering, but I fought it and tried to stand.
I did scream them. Deep, searing pain crashed over me like a hammer. Using all the energy I had left, I pulled out my phone and hit the arrow button, one, two three and then send. Brriiing. Brring. The tone seemed loud in my ears.
“Hello?” said a tinny little voice.
“Help me,” I said loudly.
“Hello?” said the voice. “Can’t hear you.” It was Spike, and he sounded annoyed.
I brought the phone to my mouth. “Leg’s broken,” I said, gasping with pain. “Help me.”
“Buffy! Buffy, where are you?” Spike screamed. “Slayer!”
The world was growing dark. But it was night. This was darker than dark. Was there a word for darker than dark? Darkerest? I really needed to go back to college.
“Rest in peace,” I told him. It began to snow, little flakes landing on my face. It felt nice, and gentle. Little wet hands, Dawn grabbing my nose with her mittens and giggling. “Let’s make a snowman, Dawnie.”
I dozed, the snow falling on me from heaven. I wish I remembered if it snowed in heaven. If it did, where did it come from? What was higher than heaven? Something in between outer space and heaven. That place that must be where the snow came from, for the angels, and my mother.
I saw myself lying on the ground. I looked uncomfortable, down there in the icy grass. My leg looked funny, all bent, and the snow around it was dark. A shadow was moving, faster than anything could move, coming straight for me. The figure knelt at my side. “Buffy? Wake up love.” He sounded so sad.
Strong hands lifted me, pressed me to a broad chest. I knew those hands. “Spike,” I said.
“Thank God,” he said. “Thank God.” He was running, running fast, and my head banged against his shoulder.
“I don’t like it when you call me Slayer,” I told him.
He laughed oddly, his voice strangled. “Bossy bitch.”
“You know you love it.” I closed my eyes, and let go. Spike was here, and he could fight the demon. He was strong, like me.
“Open your eyes, Buffy! Don’t you die on me,” he said. “Don’t you fucking die on me again, Buffy Summers.”
“I can rest now,” I told him. “I’m so glad that you’re here. I really wanted to rest.”
“Buff-” he began, but it was too late. I couldn’t hear him anymore.
“Buffy?” I opened my eyes, and it was hard work, because they felt so heavy. Giles was looking down at me, his face haggard.
“You look tired.” My voice sounded weak and scratchy, not like my voice at all.
“We’ve been up all night waiting for you to regain consciousness,” he explained. “You had surgery on your leg, and they put you under for it.”
“Why did I have to have surgery?” I asked. “I’m all superpowery and stuff.”
“You had a compound fracture of the femur,” said Giles. “You lost a great deal of blood.”
“Oh,” I closed my eyes. “That sucks.”
“Indeed,” he said.
When I woke up again, it was dark outside. Dawn sat next to me, her head bent forwards. She was making another lanyard. This one was red and black. “SPI”, it read.
“He’ll really like that,” I said. “Anything you gave him, he’d like.”
She looked up at me with a smile. “Hey, Buffy.” She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to my forehead. “I’m really glad that you’re awake.”
“I feel a lot better now,” I told her. “They must have me on some big drugs.”
She nodded. “I think- morphine?”
“Wow,” I said, impressed. “Very big drugs.” I tried to shift, and realized I really couldn’t. A pulley, keeping it immobilized, held up my leg. “Oh, I hate this. When can I go home?”
“Tomorrow night,” she said. “But you’re going to have to take it really, really easy.”
“I have to work, and slay, and-" I stopped. “How the hell am I going to do any of that?”
“You won’t,” Dawn explained. “We’re getting you some help.”
“I need to get paid,” I said. “We have bills-"
“Giles spoke to Principal Wood,” Dawnie said. “You’ll be on leave with pay. It’ll be fine.”
“And the slaying?” I asked. “Who’s going to be doing that?”
Xander walked in, carrying a big bouquet of Mylar balloons. “Yay! It’s Xander!” Dawn said gaily. She got up and gave him a big hug.
He smiled, the wide grin lighting up his face. “That’s the kind of greeting that I like.”
She picked up her backpack, tucking in the lanyard she was working on. “I have school tomorrow, so I’m heading home.”
“Wait until Xander can drop you off,” I protested.
“Spike’s going to take me,” she explained, waving as she left. “See you.”
Xander sat down, handing me an open box of chocolate covered cherries. “For you."
“I took them for a little test drive,” he explained with a smile.
“I don’t like them that much,” I protested.
“Really?” He looked at the box. “I thought they were your favorite.”
“Anya,” I corrected. “I’m the one that likes the chocolate ones with the chewy stuff in them.”
“Oh, yeah,” he said, remembering. "Nougats."
“But these are a nice change of pace,” I said. I took one out of the box and popped it in my mouth. “Mmm, yum.” Yuck. I chewed it quickly and then swallowed. “So what’s with the change of heart with Spike?”
Xander looked at me oddly. “Huh?”
“Dawn, all wearing her ‘We Like Spike’ button. Last time I tuned in, she wanted Spike flambé.”
“He saved your life, Buffy,” Xander said seriously.
He looked at me, his brown eyes concerned. “Don’t you remember?”
I thought about it. Running, running, falling, fumbling for the phone. “No, I don’t.”
“Well, he saved you,” Xander explained. “He ran here with you, and thank God he did, because you lost a huge amount of blood and the doctors said-" He broke off, looking sick. “It was bad, Buffy.”
“How did he find me?” I asked.
He shook his head. “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him.”
“I hate these things,” I complained, struggling to get out of the car. I fumbled with the crutches, trying to figure it out.
Xander stood in front of me, his hands extended. “Let me help, Buffy.”
“I don’t want help,” I said, gritting my teeth.
“Buffy, you’re going to have to let us help you,” he said.
“I’m stronger than all of you put together,” I reminded him.
“Don’t be a bint,” said a quiet voice. Spike reached in the car and pulled me out. “Grab your crutches.”
“Put me down.”
“Grab the bloody crutches, Slayer,” he said. He glared down at me, his jaw set.
“Put. Me. Down.” He dropped me, and I landed on my bad leg. Big, serious pain flared in my thigh. “Ow!”
He picked me up again. “Take two, pet. Pick up the motherfucking crutches, alright?”
I picked them up, and he carried me across the lawn. He smelled of Polo, and Irish Spring, and he wore a white oxford shirt and chino pants. His hair was slicked back, and I noticed that a small silver stud gleamed in each earlobe. “Why did you pierce your ears?” He ignored me, and climbed up the stairs, pushing open the front door. “You look totally gay.”
Willow turned to look at me, screwdriver in hand. “Thanks,” she said with a grin.
“Not you,” I said.
“You’re really, really early,” Willow said to Spike. “You aren’t supposed to be here for another hour.”
“Miss Thing here kicked up a fuss,” he said. “They gladly threw her out of the hospital.” He set me down, holding me up as I braced myself with the crutches.
“That’s not entirely true,” I said. “I very nicely asked-”
“How did you become broken?” asked a cheerful voice. A really, really familiar voice. I swiveled to see the Bot standing in the doorway of the dining room. “You should ask Willow to repair you. She has very gentle hands.”
“Buffy-” Willow began.
I swiveled and stared at Spike. “How could you?”
“Me?” he asked, staring at the Bot.
I couldn’t recall ever being so angry in my life. Not ever. “You asshole!” I picked up my crutch and hit him with it. It hurt like hell, but I just didn't care.
He looked at me with surprise. “Buffy!“
“Willow fixed your fuckbot for you?” I yelled. “How could you?”
“It wasn’t me,” he protested.
“Bullshit!” I hit him again. Willow grabbed at my arm, trying to take away the crutch.
“Buffy, stop!” Dawn ran downstairs, standing in front of Spike. “Stop it.”
“You don’t understand!” I said.
“No, you don’t understand,” Dawn explained. “She’s going to patrol for you, so that you can rest. That’s why Willow fixed her, as a favor to you.”
“Spike didn’t know about it,” Willow said. “I knew he’d be really upset. I was going to break it to him gently, but you guys came early.”
All of the anger drained out of me in one moment. “Oh.”
“The Bot patrolled for you all summer,” Willow explained. “It was the best option we could think of, to have her fill in while you recuperate.”
“We went back patroling in teams,” Dawn said excitedly. “I’m in Tara’s place with Spike and Giles on Team B.”
Spike wasn’t standing behind her anymore. In typical Spike fashion, he had slipped out, unnoticed. “I need to go apologize to Spike.” I set down my crutch and leaned on it.
“You really should,” Dawn said. “I can’t believe that you’d just start hitting him like that. How could you?”
Because it was what I’d always done. “I’m really tired,” I said, and I let them help me upstairs.
The voices woke me up. I looked at the clock. 3:30 AM. Someone was arguing right outside my window.
“Why don’t you love me anymore?”
“Keep your voice down,” Spike hissed. I carefully slid to the edge of the bed and got up on my crutches.
“Why don’t you love me any more?” I hobbled over to the window and pulled aside the drapes. Spike and the Bot stood on the front lawn, under the tree.
“Go to Willow, and tell her to refresh your programming again.” He said, trying to step around her.
She sidestepped in front of him. “You can’t leave me,” said the Bot. “I love you.”
“You don’t love me,” Spike said, exasperated.
“I do,” the Bot insisted. She grabbed his wrist, looking at him beseechingly. “I love you with all my heart.”
“You don’t have a heart,” he said. “You’re a thing. You can’t love.” He tried to jerk away from her, but she held fast.
“But I do!” she said insistently. “You’re all I think about, all I dream about, all I want in the whole wide world.”
Willow ran across the lawn. “I’m sorry, Spike. I shut her down for the night. I don’t know what happened.”
“Just get her off of me,” he snapped. “You don’t know how much I wanted to knock her head off.”
“Override,” Willow said. The Bot dropped her hands, staring into space. “I’m so sorry, really, Spike.”
He turned and ran. I watched him run up Revello Drive, moving faster than any human being ever could.
“Engage,” Willow said.
The bot turned back on and looked at Willow. “He doesn’t love me any more,” she said sadly.
Willow looked at the robot sympathetically. “Sometimes- sometimes love just doesn’t last.”
“But true love should last forever and ever,” The Bot said fervently. “If you really love someone, it never stops, no matter what.”
Willow smiled sadly. “You’re absolutely right.” She put her arm around her shoulder and steered her into the house. “Now, let’s tweak your programming a little bit. It’ll be better for everyone.”
God, what a freak show. I sat down on my bed and set the crutches down. The Bot was so pathetic. How could he ever imagine that I would act that way? I plumped up my pillow and lay down. The pain in her face, the desperation of her voice. “I love you with all my heart.”
I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. My body was throbbing with pain, even with the medication. “You’re a thing. You can’t love.” Odd to hear it coming from his mouth instead of my own.
I’d been wrong, though. He could love. At least, he had loved me. I was pretty sure that he didn’t, not any more. He looked at me now the way he did the Bot- wary.
I shifted my pillow, trying to become more comfortable. How could he have imagined that I’d be like the Bot when I was in love? So demanding and psychotic and driven, as if love was the only thing in the world that mattered. As if I’d be like him.
Someone knocked on my door. I opened my eyes and yawned. “Come in.”
Dawn came in, carrying a tray laden with a carnation in a vase, cereal, and seriously burnt toast. “Good morning!”
“You made me breakfast,” I said. “Thank you!”
“I’m leaving now for school,” she explained. She set down the tray on my bed and pulled a small plastic appliance from her pocket. “This is an intercom. Spike has the other one down in the kitchen. If you need anything, just press the button and talk into it. She demonstrated. “Testing 123.”
“Very creative,” Spike’s voice replied.
“Why is Spike here exactly?” I asked.
“He’s the only one who doesn’t have something to do during the day,” Dawn elaborated.
“I guess better him than the Bot,” I grumbled. “Not that I imagine he has a great bedside manner.”
“Call my cell phone if something happens and you need me,” Dawn said. “I can come right home from school and take care of you.”
“Nice try,” I said. “But you’re really going to stay in school. This isn’t an excuse to ditch.”
She pouted. “It’s a really good excuse.”
“Have a nice day,” I told her. “Good luck on your history test.”
“Bye,” she said, leaning over to kiss my cheek.
Being in bed was really boring. I ate my breakfast, painted my fingernails, and leafed through Vogue. After sighing over clothes I would be able to afford exactly never, I opened Cosmo. “Is he the one?” blared a banner across one of their quizzes.
Well, apparently not. I decided to do it anyway.
“ Question 1: Do you share secrets with him that you don’t share with your best friends?”
“I was in heaven.” Spike stared at me as the wind kicked up in the alley behind the Magic Box. I picked up a pen and starred the box next to “All the time.”
Question 2: “When you are having financial problems of conflicts with family, is he caring and supportive?”
Spike leaned over the counter of the Doublemeat, his eyes wide. “I can get money. Walk with me now.”
Question 3: “Does your guy escort you to weddings and family gatherings?”
I never gave him a chance to. I thought of the winner he’d brought to Xander’s wedding. What a gum snapping skank. Leave it to Spike, he who had chose Harmony freely, to pick another rocket scientist.
Question 4: “In bed, how interested is he in learning about your needs?”
Lying in the rubble of the basement, looking down at him, breathless from our fall. “Can you bite me?”
He looked at me, still stunned. “Bite you or feed?”
He pulled the jacket from my arms and stripped off my blouse, all the time staring at me as if I was something precious, an icon that he adored. Every movement shifted us both, his cock growing ever harder as I grew more and more slick.
Question 5: Since you've gotten to know him, has he increasingly opened up about more personal things?
“She was sleeping with him, you know,” he said. “When I was in the wheelchair.”
“I had no idea,” I said. The idea disgusted me. Drusilla and Angel, together in bed.
“Not Angel,” he said, looking serious. “Angelus.”
“I know the difference,” I said. “I don’t need you to explain to me who Angel is.”
“You have no idea who he is,” Spike said. “Not a glimmer of a drop of a clue of what you were dealing with.”
“You knew Angelus, not Angel,” I reminded him. “Don’t pretend that you know anything about the man I loved.”
“Not a man,” he said. “And I hate to break your bubble, high and mighty, but I knew them both, quite well.” He looked at me, his gaze devoid of warmth. “Much, much better, than he would ever want you to know.”
Question 6: What kind of embarrassing, blackmail-worthy information do you know about your guy?
He looked at me seriously, and I burst out laughing. “I’m not joking,” he said.
I calmed down, still smiling. “Tell me the truth.”
“I was studying to join the clergy, but I really wanted to be a poet.”
I lost it again, the laughter bubbling up from me uncontrollably.
“I’m serious!” he said, looking mightily irritated.
Question 7: After a sweat-soaked sack session, what's been his most emotional statement?
We lay together atop his sarcophagus, our clothes scattered everywhere. He kissed my shoulder and ran his hand through my hair.
“I’ve never loved anyone the way that I love you,” he said, smiling at me. I opened my mouth, and he gently placed a finger to my lips. “Don’t tell me how much you don’t love me. Don’t ruin it. You asked me to tell you that I love you. I know what it means, petal. It means that this, here, now. This is the beginning of us.”
He cuddled me close on his chest, and I closed my eyes. He felt so good, so strong.
“I cannot exist without you. I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again. My Life seems to stop there; I see no further. You have absorbed me.”
I opened my eyes and looked up at him. His eyes bored into mine, and I could see it, burning inside. The love.
“Make love to me,” I asked. “Tell me all the things that you feel about me.”
He moved over me, his eyes a clear, cornflower blue. “You are my soul, my life, my existence. Without you, I am nothing.”
The quiz ended, and I totaled up my score. I flipped to the next page to read my result. “You have found your soul mate,” it proclaimed, in large pink script. “Sweetheart, they don’t get any better than this. Lacking intimacy and trust issues, he’s revealing who he really is- and he cares who you really are. This man is a lifetime keeper.”
He is your soul mate. Complete with a brand spanking new soul that he got just for you. I felt a rush of anxiety and confusion. He is your soul mate. Yeah, it was just a stupid quiz. But-
There was a knock at the door. “Buffy?”
I let the magazine drop behind the bed. “Come on in, Spike.”
“That’s okay. Just making sure you hadn’t knocked yourself unconscious or something.”
“I’m fine. Come in and keep me company.”
Spike opened the door and came in, standing barely over the threshold. He was wearing chino pants and a blue rugby shirt, brown oxfords on his feet. “Why are you dressed all preppy? You looked like that last night, too.”
“Dress code,” he said simply. “Work.”
“You have a job?”
“Half the rent on the apartment.”
“Xander shouldn’t make you pay half,” I argued. “You’re living in the closet!” He shrugged, crossing his arms over his chest. “What kind of a job did you get?”
“I’m a host.”
“A host of what?” I asked.
“Italian restaurant. Hand out menus, show people to their table, take reservations.”
“Like a real person,” I said. He flinched and turned away. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
“Yes you did,” he said. “Don’t bother pretending.”
“I know you’re a real person,” I argued. “You have a soul, you’re real.”
“Is that the criteria?” he asked bitterly. “Because all this time, several human lifetimes worth, in fact, I thought I was real.”
“Stop twisting things around,” I told him.
“You stop twisting things around to please yourself, Slayer,” he said.
“I’m acknowledging you’re real," I said. “You, Spike, have a soul. You are a real person. There. Is that good enough for you?”
“Not really, no,” he said.
“Well, what the hell do you want?” I asked. “I got you a place to live, got you out of the evil brain sucking basement. What else do you want from me? My undying love and affection?”
He wanted to hit me. I could see it in his face, read it in his eyes, watch his fingers opening and closing, as if he wanted to squeeze the life right out of my body. “Right now, Slayer, that’s the last thing I want from you.”
Continued in Part Two