No memory can erase it
And I know I'm never gonna find
Another one to compare
-“I Lost It”, Lucinda Williams
I slipped out of the house onto the back porch and took a large breath of fresh air. Instead, I got a chest full of cigarette smoke. Coughing loudly, I tried to breathe, and a large hand patted me between the shoulder blades. "Sorry, Willow," Spike murmured.
"When did you start smoking again?" I asked, sitting down on the stairs.
Spike shrugged and sat next to me. "Little after Slayer saved me from the Big Bad. Not my preferred method of relieving tension, but it'll do."
“What's your preferred method?" I asked. He turned and smiled, his teeth white in the dark. "Oh, right. Bitey goodness."
He took a long pull on his cigarette, the cherry flaring bright orange. "No, not killing, Willow."
What else would Spike- "Oh. Well, if it’s any consolation, no one's getting any. It's like Girl Scout camp in there now, with the Potentials and Dawn and Anya all staying here." I sighed. "They're braiding their hair and talking about N'Sync. Even Anya."
Spike snorted. "Oh, sing another song, love. I'm sharing a basement with Xander, Giles and Andrew." He shook his head in disbelief.
"Well, hopefully it won't be for too long," I said.
"Yes, hopefully soon the world will end and none of us will see another day.” Spike inhaled sharply, the length of his cigarette turning to a column of ash.
I looked at him askance. "Positive thinking would be a good thing."
He tossed his cigarette on to the lawn. "Not much to be positive about, pet. We don't know a sodding thing about the First Evil, and it doesn't look like there's any way of knowing."
"We have the materials Giles brought from England," I reminded him. "That's better than nothing."
"You and I both know there's not a scrap there for us to work with," Spike said.
I considered what I wanted to say. "Spike, there's something I've been thinking, but I haven't really wanted to say anything."
He looked at me, his eyes curious. "About the First Evil?"
I shook my head. "About Giles." I took a deep breath. "I don't think he's being completely honest with us."
"You think he's holding back information?" Spike asked.
"What he told us, about the Watchers’ headquarters being destroyed, I do believe that," I said. "But all of the books that they had, there must have been copies elsewhere. I did some research on the Internet, and for a secret organization, they've had some pretty major leaks."
"You think that you can find more information?" Spike asked.
"The Watchers had auxiliary offices in Cairo, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Sydney and New York," I explained. "Some of the buildings were listed on a website I found. Very large buildings, possibly holding lots and lots of helpful reference materials."
Spike stood up and put his hand on the doorknob. "You've got to tell the Slayer about this. We're all just sitting ducks here. This could be the break we need."
I put my hand over his, and he turned to me with surprise. "Spike, Giles must know there's more information out there. There's only one reason why he wouldn't."
"You think he wants us to all meet a searing apocalypsy death?" Spike said. "C'mon, Willow, this is Giles we're talking about."
"I don't think Giles is Giles," I explained, "any more than Cassie was really Cassie, or Drusilla was really Drusilla."
Spike looked at me thoughtfully. "If Giles isn't Giles-"
"Then we have the First Evil, bringing all the Potentials left in the world to the one place where they're assured of dying," I said.
Spike's mouth compressed to a thin line. "We're taking this to Buffy. Now."
We walked into the kitchen. There was a group of girls making brownies, the Finnish girl arguing with the Potential from Baton Rouge over the proper conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius. In the living room, another group was filling containers with holy water from one of the jugs Buffy had brought home from the Mission earlier in the day. We went upstairs, and passed the open door to my room. Anya and the three girls that were sharing my room were still braiding their hair, using some plastic gadget Anya had bought from TV. Spike knocked on Buffy's door. Inside, we heard Dawn’s high pitched yelling, Xander’s low rumbling and the smooth, even tones of Buffy's voice. The debate inside continued, and Spike knocked again, loud enough for the door to rattle. The voices ceased, and Buffy opened the door. "What's wrong?" she said briskly, all business.
"Willow's got a bit of intel that you need to hear," Spike said forcefully. Buffy and I both looked at him with surprise. This was by far the most animated he'd been since we'd saved him.
Buffy turned to me. "What's the sitch, Will?"
"I'd like to tell you in private.” She opened the door and Spike and I walked inside, shutting the door behind us. I explained to her the same thing I'd said to Spike.
Buffy frowned. "But if what you're saying is true, then Giles is the First Evil." She looked at us. “Wouldn’t we know?"
“I could never tell the difference, the hallucinations,” Spike explained. “When the First pretended to be you, I could hear your heart beating, smell your scent. Giles, he seems real enough as well.”
“We’ll just have to assume that he is guilty until proven innocent,” Buffy said grimly. “Otherwise we’re all at risk.”
“Especially Faith,” Xander said, his face concerned.
“What does Faith have to do with anything?” I asked.
Buffy looked away. “Giles is on his way to L.A. now, to bring Faith back."
A cold feeling of fear twisted in my gut. "Faith is coming here?"
Buffy nodded. "It's the marshalling of the troops, Will. We need her."
"But she's in prison!" I protested. "She’s a murderer!"
“Glass houses, Wicca,” Spike said quietly, and I felt my face flush with embarrassment.
“Shut up, psycho killer,” Xander snapped.
Buffy ignored the sniping, as usual. "Faith’s been out on parole for a few months. She was let out early for good behavior."
I laughed, a cold brittle sound. "Good behavior? What, she’s cut back to only choking people a little or maybe stabbing them just a tiny bit?”
"Apparently, she's really changed," Xander said. "We have to give her the benefit of the doubt." There was a look in his eyes, one that wasn't lost on me, of all people.
"You just want to get her into bed again," I snapped. "Even though she almost killed you last time!"
"Xander slept with Faith?" Dawn exclaimed. "Evil skanky ho bag Faith?"
"This is not an appropriate topic of conversation with Dawn in the room," Buffy reminded us.
"Oh, I remember hearing about her," Spike said. “Dark hair, yay high-”
"I can’t believe that you got with her!" Dawn exclaimed, looking at Xander with indignation. “That is so gross.”
"Well," Xander said defensively. "It wasn't one of my finer moments-"
"Shut up!" Buffy said loudly, and everyone did. She began to pace, her arms folded. "Okay, here's what's going to happen. Willow, you and Spike go to New York, and see if you can find any books that can help us fight the First."
"I can't go," Spike protested. "I have to stay here and help you train the Potentials."
She shook her head, still thinking. "I don't need you anymore, not with Faith coming."
Spike's face went blank as Xander looked at him with a smile. "So much for your indispensable fighting skills," Xander cracked.
"What about me?" I asked. "Don't you need me here?"
"You can't use your magick anyway," Buffy said. "Finding the information about the First is more important than anything else."
"Xander can go with me, then," I argued. "You don't need him here, either."
"You need to take a strong fighter with you," Buffy explained. "I can't risk the Bringers finding out what you're up to and going after you. They've been killing Potentials and trained Watchers; you wouldn't stand a chance." She smiled at Spike. "You are indispensable, Spike. I trusted you to take care of Dawn, and now I'm trusting you to take care of Willow."
"I won't let you down this time," Spike said intently.
"I know," she said, her voice soft. She turned to me briskly, her tone hard again. "You need to go as soon as possible. We're running out of time."
I nodded and turned to leave. "I'll call the airport, make reservations for us."
"Book my ticket under William Wallace," Spike instructed.
"Like the Braveheart guy?" I asked, laughing.
"Just like," he said, rolling his eyes.
Kennedy looked at me curiously as I pulled down my suitcase and set it on the bed. “Going somewhere?”
“Just a trip out of town,” I said, pulling out the zippered pouches I used when I traveled. Stuffing several pairs of panties in one, along with chemises and tights, I crammed it full and zipped it tight.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“New Orleans,” I lied smoothly, recalling Buffy’s instructions to conceal our destination. “We’ve got a lead on a Voudoun priestess who may have some concrete information on the First Evil.”
“I could come with you,” Kennedy offered.
“Afraid that she’s stuck with me,” Spike said from the doorway.
Kennedy turned and looked at me with surprise. “You’re taking him?”
I placed some sweaters and skirts in my suitcase. “Buffy asked him to go with me.”
“Why?” the Potential asked, her brow furrowed.
“To protect her,” Spike explained.
“I could protect you,” she offered. “Be your bodyguard.” She smiled at me flirtatiously, her meaning clear.
“Fine by me,” Spike said agreeably. “I’d be happy to stay here.”
“Then I’m going to go tell Buffy I’m going to go instead.” Kennedy slipped past Spike and left the room.
I carefully folded a few dresses and my winter coat into the case and locked it. “I really wish that you hadn’t done that,” I said, irritation bubbling under the surface.
“Why not?” Spike asked. “Cause we’re such good pals, you can’t imagine sharing the trip with anybody else?”
“Because she has a thing for me,” I said in a low voice, “and I don’t really need to be dealing with the flirty banter when I’ve got serious research to do.”
“All work and no lay makes one cranky Wicca,” Spike said. “She’s a good looking girl-”
“I don’t want another girl,” I snapped, pulling my suitcase off the bed. It was heavy, and I let out an unflattering grunt as I took the weight of it.
“Swung back the other way again, pet?” Spike asked curiously, reaching out and taking the suitcase easily.
“I swing no way,” I said, pulling out my box of spell components from under the bed and carefully placing them in the doctor’s bag that had belonged to my grandfather. “I am swing free.”
Buffy appeared in the doorway, arms crossed. “Spike is going with you to New York, not a Potential that hasn’t even been trained. It’s not negotiable.” She turned to Spike. “Xander’s coming to take you guys in just a few minutes.”
We left the room and headed down the stairs. In the dining room, I packed up my laptop in its case, slipping some notebooks and a few books in the other pocket. Spike and Buffy stood in the hallway, and she pulled out down his duster from the coat rack. They had a low, earnest conversation, and he slipped it on. She took his hand in hers and whispered to him quietly, her eyes boring into his. Xander opened the front door, and Buffy quickly dropped Spike’s hand.
“I got the phones,” Xander announced. “Uncle Hal may have ripped me off, but they’re activated and ready to go.” He handed two small silver phones to Buffy. “They’re on the same family plan that you and I and Dawn are on, and these have nationwide coverage. Guaranteed to work like a charm in the Big Apple.”
“Thanks,” said Buffy, handing a phone to Spike and the other to me.
“We ready to get this show on the road?” Xander asked, clapping his hands.
“I’m ready,” I replied, closing my hand around the doctor’s bag. Xander took my laptop and carryon bag as Spike followed behind with the suitcase.
“Call and check in a few times a day,” Buffy called from the front door.
“Yes, Mom,” I called back, looking over my shoulder. I saw Kennedy in the front window, looking out at me.
Xander opened his trunk and stowed my bags inside. “Aren’t you taking any baggage?” I asked Spike.
He shrugged. “Don’t need to bring anything.”
“Don’t you need a change of clothes, or a toothbrush?” A thought occurred to me. “Or blood? Don’t you need blood?”
He shrugged. “I won’t need to feed until I get there. “
We got into the car and Xander drove through town. I sat next to him in the passenger seat, Spike in the back. “Got you a present,” Xander said, handing me a small white cardboard box. I opened it and looked inside. Inside was a small cloisonné pentacle, in shades of black and gold, on a thin chain. I looked at him quizzically. “Promise me you’ll wear it all the time. I want to know that you’re safe, even in Spike gets all Exorcist vamp again.”
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” I said. “I appreciate you not getting me a cross, but-”
He gripped my hand hard and I turned to look at him. “I don’t want to lose you, Willow. I already came really close, and I just can’t do it again.” His jaw was set tightly, and I could see how afraid he was for me. I fastened the clasp and slid the pentacle under my shirt, and Xander’s shoulders visibly relaxed.
After a quiet ride across town we arrived at the airport. Xander pulled up in front of the departures terminal and pulled out the baggage from the trunk. Hugging me tight, he whispered in my ear “Be careful.” I kissed his cheek and watched him drive away.
“Which airline are we going to?” Spike asked. He looked ridiculous, my carryon slung across his chest, laptop bag over his shoulder, a suitcase in one hand and the doctor’s bag in the other.
“Worldwide,” I replied, and he turned and headed for the blue and yellow sign.
We stood in line, and Spike set down the baggage and pulled a wallet from inside his duster. “Let me see your license,” he said.
“I don’t have one,” I said. “I just have a passport.” I held up my passport case. He opened it, and looked at the picture. I’d originally gotten it for a French class trip to Paris, the summer before sophomore year. He looked at it for a long time. “I know it’s a really bad picture.”
Spike shook his head. “No, it’s just that you look so sweet, and so innocent.” He said it reverently, like those were things he cherished.
“Well, that was two months before Buffy came to town,” I said. “Got a bunch of innocence stripped away then, with the imminent death and monsters and all.”
He frowned. “You were Dawn’s age, here?”
“A little younger,” I replied.
“I feel bad for all the Potentials,” Spike said. “Knowing there’s this horrible death out there, coming for you. Childhood should be a happy time, not a breeding ground for death and trauma.”
“I don’t have any regrets,” I told him. “The girl in that picture, she was happier, but she didn’t know what true love, or loyalty, or joy really meant.”
He handed me back the passport. “Did you ever wish that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, ever resent her for taking away a normal life from you?”
“Nearly everything in my life that ever meant anything was because of her,” I said. “I’m grateful to her, for opening up the world to me.”
Spike nodded. “It must feel good, to be free of regret.”
“I do have regrets,” I said. “Every day of my life.”
He looked at me. “How do-”
“Next, please,” said the clerk, and we stepped up to the desk. After checking my bags, we walked towards the waiting area for our flight.
“What were you going to ask me about?” I said sitting in a seat in an empty row.
“How do you live with the people you killed?” he asked quietly, sitting next to me. “How do you set that aside and go through life?”
“Do you want the shiny, happy, feel good answer I gave my friends, or do you want the truth?”
“I want the truth,” he said. “I need to hear the truth.”
“Will you promise not to tell anyone?” I said. “I really will stake you, if you do.”
“I promise,” he said, covering his heart with his hand.
I pulled up the sleeves of my blouse and turned my wrists outward. The scar on my left arm trailed vertically from wrist to halfway up my elbow. The right one began at the wrist but only made it a few inches before stopping abruptly. “The first thing you do is try to destroy yourself. Not to make amends, or give back a life for a life, just to make things easier for yourself. To stop the voices in your head, telling you that you’re evil, you’re a killer. To make the whispering go away, the ones that sound like the dead, the ones you made dead. You put them in the grave yourself, and the least you can do is crawl in there after them.”
Spike reached out a finger and slowly traced the longer scar. “You would have bled out in minutes.”
“Unless, of course, there was a surveillance camera in the bathroom, and your librarian turned back from brewing a cup of tea to see you starting on the second wrist.”
“I can’t believe you would do anything so stupid,” Spike said. “Your friends would have all been devastated.”
“I know that now,” I admitted. “But before, then, I thought it would be a relief. For everyone.”
He looked at me with sadness and pity. “And then, when the dying didn’t take, what did you do?”
“I lived,” I said simply. “I can’t take away the things I’ve done. I can’t bring the dead back to life. All I can do is just live my life, and make it mean something.”
“Flight 371 for Los Angeles now boarding at gate three,” a crisp voice announced. We walked to the gate and waited our turn, walked down the stairs and stepped out onto the tarmac. My heart began to thud as we climbed the metal steps, entering the body of the small, cramped plane.
We took our seats and buckled in. The seats were small and close together and I was crushed between the window and Spike’s leg and arm. I open my carryon and pulled a pack of gum, a box of apple juice and an airsickness bag and placed them in the seatback pocket in front of me. “You can have some gum if you want to,” I offered, and Spike took a piece.
The stewardess ran through the safety instructions and then we taxied down the runway. I shoved a couple of pieces of Juicy Fruit in my mouth and began to chew vigorously. The plane lifted off and the pressure in my ears began to build. I chewed faster but the pain began, sharp agony in both ears. I chewed vigorously, willing my ears to pop so that the pain could end. I tried to pull down within myself and use my magick, but there was nothing to draw from, no earth to pull energy from. The attempt to use it left me in worse pain than before, and the pain built up more and more sharply, accompanied by a wave of nausea.
I grabbed for an airsickness bag and puked, retching so hard that I saw stars. I did it again and again, bending in half with the force of it, the seatbelt cutting into my waist. Finally I could breathe again. I folded over the top of the bag and stuck it in the back of my seat. Leaning back into the seat, I closed my eyes, and felt a cardboard box slip into my hand.
“Here’s your juice,” Spike said softly.
I sipped slowly, the warm juice running down my throat. When the box was empty, I opened my eyes. Spike was looking at me worriedly. “This always happens,” I reassured him. “It’s the change in air pressure- it makes my ears hurt and then I throw up.”
“Can’t you take any medicine?” he asked.
I shook my head. “It just comes back up.” I closed my eyes and leaned back. “It’s much worse in these little planes; it’s going to hurt until we get to LA. But hopefully I won’t throw up again.”
I was wrong. A few minutes later, I was puking again, the acidic tang of the apple juice burning my throat. I finished and Spike took the bag from me and shoved it at a passing flight attendant. “Will your head hurt less if you lie down?”
“There isn’t anywhere to lie down,” I said petulantly. I knew I sounded pathetic, but I was in too much pain to care.
“Here,” Spike said. He unbuckled my seatbelt and pushed up the armrest between our seats. “Lie down.”
I didn’t really want to lie down on Spike, but I also didn’t want to puke again. Slowly, I leaned over and put my head in his lap, resting my cheek against his thigh. I curled up into a ball, my feet pressed against the wall of the cabin.
His pants smelled strongly of fabric softener, which was unexpected, and it made me smile. “Something funny?” he asked.
“Your pants smell very girly.”
He snorted. “Yeah, well you smell like something much less floral, so I wouldn’t throw stones.”
“I smell all vomitey?” I asked.
“You smell like puke and sweat and fear.”
“I’m sorry. I’m just so sick.” I closed my eyes.
“Shouldn’t kick you when you’re down,” Spike said, gently patting my shoulder. “You feeling any better?”
“A little,” I said.
“You want me to rub your neck?” he offered.
“Okay,” I said.
He gently brushed my hair aside and pressed his thumbs on the sides of my neck, sliding up and down. It was very, very relaxing, and my muscles loosened. He massaged my skin with his fingers, strongly and smoothly working out every knot until I was peaceful. As his hands kneaded my flesh, I fell asleep.
“Time to get up,” Spike said. He lifted me up into a sitting position as I opened my eyes and yawned, and my ears popped loudly. My hearing sharpened, everything becoming louder. “We’re in L.A,” he said. “Got to put your belt on for landing.”
I buckled my belt and we descended into Los Angeles. Soon we were in the international departures terminal, getting boarding passes for the next flight. “Want to get a bite to eat?” Spike asked. “We’ve got an hour to kill.”
“I don’t think I should,” I said.
He frowned and looked around. “Follow me,” he said. I followed him as he went into a gift shop. “My friend gets sick on airplanes,” he said. “Throws up, pain in her noggin. Got anything that can help her?”
“We have Dramamine,” the clerk said, pointing.
Spike walked over to it and took down a box. “I’ve tried Dramamine before,” I said. “But like I told you, I just puke it up. It doesn’t seem to work.”
There were packages of wristbands and earplugs hanging next to it. “Helps fight motion sickness,” Spike read. ““Did you try the wristbands?”
“No I haven’t,” I said, grabbing one set of each. “It’s worth a shot.”
I wandered over to the magazine rack and pulled out a spiral bound crossword puzzle book and a book of trivia questions. “Do you want a magazine or something?” I asked Spike, and he picked out a paperback novel and a tin of cinnamon mints.
I dumped our stack of purchases on the counter and paid for them, and we headed out into the concourse. I spotted a trashcan and stood next to it. “I hope these things work,” I said, ripping open the package of wristbands, discarding the cardboard, and putting them on.
“Worst thing than can happen is I’ll have to watch you chunder and then have you sleep on me again.”
I blushed. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m not. You make a fairly decent blanket.” Spike grinned at me, and I smiled back. “Let’s get something to eat.”
We walked along the concourse, passing people of all types, families, businessmen, tourists chattering in a dozen languages. “This is all rubbish,” Spike commented, seeing the fast food offerings. “Eat any of these grease, you’re guaranteed to get sick, motion sickness or not.”
“I’m kind of off the fast food thing, since the Doublemeat experience,” I said.
We passed a coffee shop, and Spike abruptly grabbed my shoulder and turned around. “Here we go.”
“Coffee?” I asked.
“Nope, something better,” he said. “Go sit down, lunch is on me.” I watched as he spoke to the clerk, and he returned with an orange, a cup of yogurt, and a coffee. “Here you are.”
“I don’t like yogurt,” I informed him.
“It’s got cultures in it, it’ll soothe your stomach,” he said. He opened the yogurt and stuck the spoon in it, handing it to me.
“I’d rather eat the orange,” I said.
He shook his head. “The orange is mine.” He stuck his thumbs in the peel and pulled, leaning down to take a whiff. “That smell, I never tire of it. God, I love oranges.”
“Me too.” Thinking of a conversation that I’d once had with Tara, I smiled.
“Something funny about oranges?” he asked.
“Tara and I, after the first time we were together,” I said. “She asked me if it was different, being with a woman. I meant to say it was apples and oranges, you know, comparing them, but instead I said oranges and lemons.”
Spike laughed. “So men are all lemons, huh?”
I laughed, coughing on a mouthful of yogurt. “Yeah, you’re all lemons.”
“I think it’s pretty close-minded of you to dismiss one half of the world’s population, based on Wolf Boy alone,” he said.
I shrugged. “Men all look sweet and sunny and happy on the surface. But you peel back the skin and there’s a whole bitter layer there, and if you get past it, there’s just more bitterness. Women, they’re like oranges. You get past the bitter part, and there’s nothing but sweetness.”
“But that’s based on one woman alone,” Spike replied. “I don’t think you’re qualified to judge, pet.” He broke the orange apart, carefully separating each section.
“All I know is that Oz brought me misery, and Tara joy,” I said. “It seems simple enough to me.”
“Then why don’t you want another woman then?” Spike asked. “You’ve got a very fine looking woman sniffing around you, and you don’t want to give her a go.”
“I had perfection,” I said. “I don’t want less than that, and without Tara, I’ll never have it again.” A wave of longing for her swept over me, and I blinked away tears.
“I’m sorry you lost her,” Spike . “She was a sweet person, the kindest I ever knew.”
“She annoyed the hell out of you, Spike,” I reminded him.
Spike nodded. “Yes, she did. Sometimes you don’t really appreciate what you have, until it’s gone.” Looking maudlin, he sipped at his coffee.
“You talking about Buffy?” I asked him.
He looked surprised. “No. I meant Dawn.”
She absolutely loathed Spike now. “Well, she’s pretty justified in hating you. You tried to rape her sister.”
“That I did,” he said quietly. “Can’t say that I blame her.”
“I don’t hate you,” I said. “I don’t even blame you, not after Buffy told me the whole situation. She told Xander and Dawn too.”
“So why don’t you think I’m a horrible rapist like they do?” he said.
“I did worse to Tara than you did to Buffy. I really did rape Tara.”
He looked at me quizzically. “I don’t understand.”
“I wiped her memory, and then had sex with her,” I told him. “She would never have consented, if I hadn’t done it. I forced my will upon her, because I loved her and I needed her. The same thing that you did to Buffy, only Tara couldn’t fight back.”
He looked at me for a long moment. “And she forgave you?”
I nodded. “And we started over again, and if it could happen to us, then it could happen for you and Buffy.”
Spike finished his coffee. “We should go.”
“Did I say something wrong?” I asked, standing up and throwing out my empty yogurt cup.
He shook his head. “Not at all.”
He was quiet as we walked to our gate. The flight had begun to board, and we filed through the line and walked down the tunnel to our plane. We stepped on, and Spike showed the stewardess his boarding pass. She smiled at him, her teeth gleaming white. “You’re right here with me in first class, Mr. Wallace.”
He nodded and followed her to our seats. Once again, I was the window seat and Spike took the aisle. I stowed my bag under the seat in front of me as Spike balled up his duster and shoved it in the overhead compartment.
“I figured we’d be shoved back in steerage,” Spike commented as he sat down.
“I put the tickets on my Am Ex,” I replied.
He looked at me quizzically. “Thought none of you lot had any money, other than Harris.”
“I don’t,” I explained. “My parents do.”
He stared at me for a moment. “Then why didn’t you pitch in, help out Buffy when she was broke?”
I bristled at his confrontational tone. “I pay half the bills, just like I’ve done since I moved in.”
“Oh,” he replied.
“Why did you think I didn’t?” I asked. “Is that what you all think, that I’m just sponging off of her?”
Spike shrugged. “All the to do over money last year, seemed like Buffy was in it on her own.”
“Giles, Xander and I all gave her money,” I told him. “We tried to help her out.”
“I tried to,” he said. “She wouldn’t take it from me.” Something flashed across his face, and he turned away.
I was surprised that he’d offered, but not that she’d turned it down. “It’s different taking money from someone that you’re in a relationship with,” I explained. “Tara and I had the same arguments, but she did take money from me, because she didn’t have any choice. Her dad cut her off after he came to Sunnydale, and she only had a tiny annuity from her mom’s life insurance.”
“Buffy had nothing either. But she flipped burgers, rather than take a dime from me.” His voice was cool and distant, and all I could see what the back of his head, the smooth paleness of his neck against his black shirt.
He was in so much pain, as much as I was. “I’m sorry she hurt you,” I said, touching his shoulder. “I know how much you love her.”
He got up abruptly and walked down the aisle. I sighed, knowing that I’d most likely said exactly the wrong thing. I pulled out my gum and the crossword puzzle book from my carryon. I was trying to figure out the missing word when Spike tapped me on the shoulder. “We’re getting ready to take off.”
Gingerly I put in the earplugs and stuck some gum in my mouth. I closed my eyes as we took off, my hands gripping the wrist rest. After endless minutes of waiting for pain and nausea to kick in, Spike reached over and unbuckled my seat belt.
I took out the earplugs. “How do you feel? You want to lie down?” Spike pulled a pillow from under the seat and looked at me expectantly.
I wanted to lie back down in his lap, and close my eyes, and let him comfort me. No one had touched me since Tara died, and it felt like cool water after a long walk in summer. But I had no right to seek solace in anyone, not after what I’d done. “I feel just fine,” I said brightly.
“Glad your little Wonder Woman bracelets worked for you,” he said with a smile, and then he leaned over and retrieved his new book, flipping to the beginning.
I pulled my iPod from my carryon and turned on some Saint-Saens, focusing my attention on the crossword puzzle. “Pinocchio, at times,” I read. Four letters down.
Continued in Part 2