Before she could rouse herself to undress, a gentle knock sounded at her door. Why couldn't they just let her be? She needed to face her latest onslaught of fears alone.
The door opened slowly to reveal Spike, peering in at her, looking unsure. He was the last person Buffy expected to see.
"Hello," he greeted her, softly.
"I just wanted to check on you." Spike remained in the doorway.
After the day's events, she felt so small...so insignificant. Spike seemed taller to her. Maybe it was the duster.
"Stay for a minute?" Buffy sat up, and patted the spot Willow had just vacated.
Spike closed the door behind him and cautiously walked towards her bed.
"God, I really did a number on you, didn't I?" she said. It came out as a statement, rather than a question.
Spike's eyebrow shot up, but he was silent, hands plunged into his coat pockets. The ball was apparently still in her court.
"I mean, you look like you're walking on eggshells," she volleyed.
Spike sat down beside her, hands still buried in their leather restraints. She nervously fingered her collar.
"Thank you. For bringing me back." She didn't look at him when she said it, but she could *feel* him hear it.
"I did what you needed me to do."
Spike wasn't cutting her any slack. His tone was even, each word enunciated, the accent perfect. She snapped her head up. She had to look at him...had to see if she had gone too far with her "speech" tonight...had to see if he still cared.
There it was. The fire still smoldering in the midnight of his eyes. She sighed in relief.
Spike fingered something in his pocket...his lighter? "You said what had to be said. S'no time to let my soul rule. You needed the demon in me. Wasn't for that, you might still be lost to...us."
"But I'm sorry." It was almost a whisper.
He swallowed hard and looked away, back at the door. She willed him to stay. Taking this opportunity while he couldn't see her, she let her eyes drink him in. She allowed them to caress his profile, the furrowed brow, the sculpted cheekbone, his strong neck, the leather collar. When he turned to look at her again, Buffy could see that he was composed, but his features were softer. He had forgiven her...again.
"So. What went on there...wherever the hell you were?"
Buffy took a deep breath to clear her head. "I was just telling Willow. I'm pretty sure I made a huge mistake." She fidgeted with her comforter.
"The Shadowmen. They offered me some kind of black, demony power. It's what they gave the First Slayer. I kinda got wigged and freaked."
"Power you'll need to fight the First?"
"Or its agents." The vision she was given of the Turok-han army filled her head and she closed her eyes, suddenly nauseous.
"What'd you do?"
"I refused it."
"You what? Why?" Spike was frowning, his expression incredulous.
Buffy shook her head. "The power...it was doing everything it could to get inside me... I fought it off. But then, it came back and tried again, and...it went up my skirt."
She let herself look at him again. She wanted so badly to ask for a hug.
"God...Buffy..." He hung his head.
She immediately realized he was thinking of what he did last year. That was the furthest thing from her mind.
"No, no...Spike. Look at me."
His tortured eyes found hers, and she gave him a little smile...the best she could do after having found out what she had from the shaman.
"I wasn't thinking about that...that's so over...really."
He expelled air suddenly in a huge sigh of relief.
"Sorry you had to go through that, Pet. Seems better to me that you didn't take the soddin' power. We'll make due."
"Willow said the same thing."
His voice was stronger. "See that? Red's got it right."
Spike rose to go. Buffy wanted him to stay and tell him about the vision, but she was too weary.
Instead, she asked, "Why are you so sure we'll come out okay?"
Spike smiled gently, looking down at her.
"Because, Slayer...I believe in you."
Buffy bit her lip to hold back the tears at the echo of her words to him. She smiled, bravely, hoping he couldn't see her lower lip trembling. She held out her hand to him, which he quickly grabbed and squeezed.
"Thank you," she murmured.
Spike winked and released her hand. "'Nite, Buffy."
And then he was gone.
Buffy sighed and slipped under her covers, bringing the hand he had just held to her lips. She closed her eyes and immediately felt the exhaustion overtake her. Her last coherent thought was that pajamas are severely overrated.