Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, UPN, Mutant Enemy, etc.
Summary: Answer to Lisa's “after Showtime” challenge, sort of (because I think Spike's gotta rest up). Part 1 - part 2 follows shortly. (Buffy's got more lines than Hamlet in this part - good thing it isn't really a script!)
Setting: Spike comes home
By the time they reached Xander, waiting in the SUV with the engine running, Spike could barely stand.
“Just hold on,” Buffy urged. “Let’s get you in the car.”
She opened the back door and pushed him inside, clambering up after him.
“Let’s go,” she told Xander. As he stepped on the gas and they pulled away from the cavern exit, Spike slowly collapsed sideways, and Buffy pulled him across her lap, her arms around his shoulders. But he was still conscious, and Buffy blinked back tears as he gazed steadily up at her with a heart-rending expression of wonder – though, of course, she could only see it in the one eye that wasn’t swollen shut. With his last bit of strength, he reached up to touch her cheek with bruised fingers. His lips moved, and she bent her head to catch his words.
”I knew you’d come,” he whispered. “I saw you coming for me a hundred times. I knew sometime it would be true.”
“And you were right,” Buffy said. “Shhh. We’re almost home now.”
He closed his eyes (or, eye) then, and relaxed against her. Buffy could feel her own heartbeat, strong and even, thudding against his cheek, and hoped he was aware enough to take comfort from it, too. She heard Xander let out a gusty sigh from the front seat.
“What?” she said.
“Whenever I get my car detailed, they’ve always gotta clean bloodstains off the upholstery,” he complained. “Somebody’s gonna notice, one of these days, and my insurance will skyrocket. I’m just sayin’.”
“Yet another peril of the Hellmouth,” Buffy replied.
* * * *
Buffy and Xander carried Spike in the back door, and through to the living room. The others all stood away, their faces stamped with varying degrees of fear, concern, revulsion, and pity. They laid him down on the sofa, and she covered his bloody, naked torso with a chenille throw. Xander stood irresolutely beside her for a moment, and then stepped back.
Buffy’s eyes never left Spike’s countenance. They might have been the only two people in the world.
“Buffy?” he said, in a thread of a voice.
“Shhh. It’s okay. We’re home.”
Her throat closed, suspending her voice for a moment. A memory flashed into her mind of his silver head bent tiredly over a smoking cross, and his plaintive plea for rest, that night he’d revealed his restored soul to her.
“You can rest now, Spike,” she finally got out.
“For a little while,” she added, in a whisper.
* * * *
“She’s going to get us all killed!” Rona hissed.
“I don’t understand bringing him here, after everything they said he’s done,” Chloe added, in a furious whisper.
The teen slayers-to-be stood in a group in the front hall, their heads together, arguing about the latest development.
“She must know what she’s doing,” Kennedy said, keeping her voice down. Not that she wasn’t uneasy, herself, but the slayer – THE Slayer – had been right about everything, so far. And Willow trusted her completely – that had to count for a lot. She went on, “The way Buffy does things might be unorthodox, but it gets the job done. We saw that with our own eyes…”
“But he’s a VAMPIRE!” Molly wailed. “Right in the same house with us! I don’t think I want to stay here anymore!”
They all jumped guiltily when Buffy’s voice sounded right next to them. Kennedy looked up and saw the Slayer standing there, arms folded across her chest, her expression determined.
“Girls?” she said. “I’d like to see you all in the dining room.” Then she looked around. “And everyone else, too, please.”
* * * *
“All right,” Buffy said, standing behind the chair at the head of the table. The girls watched her with wide eyes. “Lesson the second. We’re going to talk about Spike.”
“We’re not safe with him here!” Chloe said wildly. “None of us!”
“Why not?” Buffy asked, her eyes intent.
“He’s a VAMPIRE!” Rona exclaimed. “We’re supposed to KILL vampires, not run a nursing home for them!”
“Okay.” Buffy leaned forward, her arms braced on the back of the chair. “Let’s start at the beginning. What IS a vampire? Who knows?”
“Well… it’s a demon. In the body of a human. And it still looks like a human, but it’s not,” Kennedy offered.
“That’s right. And how does the demon get there? If a vampire bit you, what would happen?”
“You – you’d die… and you…” Molly’s voice trailed off.
“You become a vampire when someone kills you,” Buffy said firmly. Who taught these girls, anyway? Their watchers must have been pretty lax. When she was their age, she knew a lot more about – well, okay. Maybe not. But she learned fast. And that’s what they needed to do.
“You are murdered, and the soul that every person is born with is torn from your body. You die, and you’re buried, and you rise again. You become stronger than you ever imagined, and fast, and deadly – but more importantly, you’re freed from all those painful human feelings, like love, and responsibility, and guilt. You live for yourself, and yourself alone. No one has any claim on you. You can prey on humanity, indulge any violent, ugly whim, commit any atrocity, without a single pang of remorse. The world is pretty much your oyster, as a matter of fact. Nothing can stop you. Except for us, in this room.” The girls sat back in their chairs, looking rather impressed with themselves, for a moment.
“That’s what happened to Spike, over a hundred years ago…” Buffy continued.
Andrew, who was standing a little apart from the others, raised a diffident hand. “It was a hundred and twenty-three, actually,” he said. Buffy stared at him, her face severe. He hunched a shoulder, suddenly ill at ease. “What? I looked it up.”
Buffy cleared her throat. “As I was saying, Spike was turned over a hundred years ago. But there was something strange about him from the first – wasn’t there, Giles?”
“Well…” Giles seemed reluctant to commit himself. “In a manner of speaking.”
“He was bad, all right. He was probably one of the worst – though not quite THE worst, as some of us here can tell you. But there was one odd thing about him. And it was something that allowed us to defeat him again and again.’
‘He DIDN’T live only for himself. He WASN’T free from human feelings. He could love.’
‘That went against all the rules, all the reference books, as Giles can tell you. But Spike’s always been different, and over time, he saved me, saved my friends, over and over again.”
“But he also tried to kill us a lot,” Xander interrupted. “Lest we forget.”
“But that’s what vampires are supposed to do, Xander. They’re not supposed to save the world, though, like Spike did, and you know it. Eventually he – he decided he had to change, to become a better man. Literally. So he fought for, and won, the restoration of his soul.”
There was a gasp from one or two of the girls. The others just looked confused.
“You mean – he did it on purpose?” Kennedy exclaimed. “It’s not, like, a curse, or something?”
“But – but how? I don’t understand. How can an evil demon decide to be good?”
Buffy was beginning to like this girl. A lot.
“There is no explanation,” she answered. “The watchers never heard of such a thing, and neither has the demon world.” She drew a deep breath, and let it out slowly. “It’s a kind of miracle, I think.”
She saw her friends watching her, disquiet etched on their faces. Giles stood apart, his hands shoved in his pockets, his head bent in thought. Xander’s eyes were dark and troubled; he didn’t wholly believe her explanation, she knew. He didn’t want to believe it. But she believed it, passionately, and she wanted these girls to understand - for a variety of reasons.
“And right at that point – when Spike was most vulnerable,” Buffy continued, “when his conscience returned, and the knowledge of what he’d done over a century came crashing down on him – that’s when the First struck, and took control of him. Brainwashed him. Made him do what he most dreaded and loathed – made him kill.’
“That’s important. Remember it. Because that’s what It does – it probes for your weak points, your guilt, your pain, your insecurities, and that’s where it attacks you. It doesn’t just want to defeat us – it wants to cause maximum suffering and misery when It does it. It wants to make us hate ourselves, and each other; it wants to rob us of all hope.’
‘And that’s why you need to know about Spike. That’s why he’s here. Because his whole existence is a beacon of hope, for everyone.”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
“Yet died he by a stranger's hand,
And stranger in his native land;
Yet died he as in arms he stood,
And unavenged, at least in blood.”
George Gordon, Lord Byron
Continued in Part 2.