Well, there was always Spike....
She could barely look at him, her bravado having deserted her after the spat. She noticed, with a shiver, that she got goosebumps next to him, and that the hairs on her arms stood right up whenever he got too close. And he was always too close. Odd how hard it was to be around him, all dressed and buttoned up, when some instinct told her that if they were naked, all the strangeness would disappear.
She practically had the car door open before the car stopped, so eager to get away from him, but Dawn had whimpered at the idea of sitting anywhere but next to him, so she had to sit in the back seat with Willow. Willow stared out the back window and her lower lip periodically trembled, and Buffy wondered where her best friend had gone. Unpleasant, angry thoughts crowded around in her brain, but she refused to let them loose. Bad enough that Dawn’s arm was broken. That had to be dealt with, but at least Dawn was drugged. What she really wanted to do was give everyone some of Dawn’s medication, and then curl up on the couch and stare into space until she felt capable again.
Which would be never.
Dawn scrambled out of the car the minute it stopped, while Spike grimaced at the reckless way she banged her cast around, and dashed around the front of the car to rein her in a bit. Willow unsteadily stood up, looked up at Buffy plaintively for a moment, then looked down. And Buffy was horrified to find herself thinking, “Good. Feel guilty. I hope you….” And then horror swept over her, but not so much that she retracted the thought. When had that happened? Had it been like this since she left? Or just since she…got back?
Willow didn’t move, and Buffy’s instincts told her that the witch desperately wanted her to say something first. And just as certainly, that same instinct told her that Willow owed her something more than apologetic looks with whined apologies. She wondered how long before the remorse would morph into self-pity. Even in her weariness, she didn’t try to suppress that thought, either. She just gave Willow’s collarbone a stern look, and followed the other two into the house.
Willow disappeared while Buffy tended to Dawn, getting her to bed, and tucking her in, and watching her slip into sleep almost instantly. Ah, good drugs, she thought. Thank God; at least Dawn wouldn’t have to deal with reality for a while.
She paused on the top step, considering. No sound from Willow’s room (Mom’s room, her brain objected angrily) and nothing from downstairs. She didn’t think, however, that he had left. She just wasn’t that lucky.
Sure enough, there he was, smoking in the kitchen door, tossing the butt aside when he saw her. “She asleep?”
She nodded wearily. Oh, God, another talk. He just had that look about him, the I-want-to-talk look. She just couldn’t think of a thing to say.
“Beats me. I didn’t check.”
He grimaced at that, too. She was startled to find out that talking wasn’t so difficult at all, at least when the subject wasn’t the Subject That Dare Not Speak Its Name.
“Doc give her some stuff?”
Buffy nodded wearily.
“Might consider taking some of it, yourself, luv.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Didn’t mind last night.”
“That was before I realized you just wanted to do another Slayer.” She snapped, then clapped her hand over her face when she realized how much she’d revealed with that remark.
Spike closed his eyes and sighed. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Yes you did, you…”
“At least I didn’t say you were convenient.” He spat, then squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed his forehead. She jumped to her feet.
“I left before you could.” Then she stomped out into the hallway, stopping at the foot of the stairs before she realized it was her house, why was she the one leaving in a fury, when it should be him, making an exit? She turned abruptly, and found him right behind her. He grabbed her by the shoulders and shoved her up against the wall.
“You’re going to use that as an excuse? You remember that but none of the other stuff I said?” She had to gulp at the way he said it, throwing her head up till the back of her head actually hit the wall and gave her nowhere else to go. That was the problem. She did remember. She remembered everything, and it seemed that her memory wasn’t equal to the task.
She gathered her breath, trying to steady herself, but the voice that came out wasn’t the impressive snap she’d hoped for. It was a whisper. “That’s the important one.”
“Why? Because you want to start running now?” His fingers tightened around her upper arms, certain to leave bruises the next day, but why would that matter? His mouth had left its marks elsewhere. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m not forgetting anything.”
He was pressed against her so tight, so seamless, that she could feel his belt buckle, and, it seemed, every pore on his body. One of his thighs was lodged between one of hers, and his whole body, from pelvis to chest, was molded to hers, recalling traitorous sensations that had swamped her, and made her remember the naked words he’d drawn from her. “Don’t leave me. I’m so scared. I’m so scared. Don’t leave me.”
How could it be, when he’d stripped her clothes from her, she felt warm, and now, clothed with layer upon layer, she shivered with the cold of it? He was the most dangerous person for her, no he was a thing, a thing, that was all, but he’d made her feel safe for the first time…since she’d come back.
“Why not? You got what you wanted.”
He shook his head in disgust, but she couldn’t tell at what. All she knew was that he was too close, too much, and much too threatening. Why, she couldn’t have said. She knew he’d rather die than see her harmed; she knew he’d put himself between her and harm. Why couldn’t he just leave now and make it easier? Did he have to take all this time and draw it out so it hurt more? Was that too much to ask? You got what you wanted, what’s the deal, take off already?
She still couldn’t speak, but her body took over, and she found a grip on his body, so different from the one that haunted her now, and shoved him. He reeled backward, arms flailing, trying to find his balance, but the armrest of the couch hit him exactly at the back of the knee, and he thumped downward onto his back with a thud. In a moment, she was upon him, stake in hand, and he recalled a dim dream, long-forgotten, with a shudder. He echoed its movements with a jerk, yanking open shirt and coat with one movement, exposing the skin of his chest and the marks she’d left there all at once. She froze on top of him, stake poised over him, and he could feel both her heat and his arousal all at once. His fate hung in the balance with her reflexes, and he had time to marvel at how far he’d come and how far she’d retreated, before she retreated still further, and silently clambered off of him and backed away.
He lay there, assessing the situation, while her hand slowly rose to her mouth, and he realized she was trying to wipe his kisses from her lips. They stared at each other, as naked as they’d ever been, and he knew that if he said one thing, did any thing, she’d shatter, and take him with her. With the silence of a ghost, he pulled himself up and slipped through the kitchen and away, pausing at the door, seeing the shades of past memories, and mourning a future that felt, for now, poisoned beyond repair.
Buffy, silent as the grave she’d crawled out of, hit the wall as she backed away from him and from her actions, and slowly slid down it till she hit the floor and the end of her capabilities. Alone, lonely, she clutched her arms around herself, and tried to banish all feeling that might have come from the grave with her.
Outside, Spike hesitated, his hand over his mouth, his heart in his throat, and waited for her. He had forever. What did she have but him?