All About Spike

The Way It Works
By Kimi

Rating: PG 13, except for one bad word
Spoilers: Post-"Chosen"
Summary: Buffy reflects on... things. Immediately follows "Chosen"
Feedback: You beta, you beta, you bet! Kimi37212@hotmail.com
Disclaimers: All Joss, all ME, all the time...
Author's Notes: I was just clearing my head on this one. But Chris and Colleen thought it needed to be posted. Hope you enjoy.



She would like to believe that she'd always loved him. That she'd sensed something in him the first time she'd turned in shock to hear his appreciative, if somewhat sarcastic, applause.

That's what great loves were, right? All star-crossed from the first glance? Doomed to fail? But if she could believe that she'd loved him all along, and believe that the self-preservation instinct that was Denial!Buffy had kicked in even then, she could live with that.

It would be romantic. Fitting.

But not true. And it wasn't fair to him to think it, even if it made her feel a little better.

She hadn't loved him at all those months they'd secretly met for the intense and exhilarating sex they'd enjoyed until she'd pulled the plug on it.

Pulled the plug. Like for a brain-dead patient in a hospital, she'd put their relationship out of its misery.

There had been moments, though - a few that she'd let her guard slip. She liked him, yes. She could admit it now. And there had been times when she'd felt herself almost sink into his love for her. But it had been one-sided. Her reveling in the comfort of what he felt for her.

God, when had it happened then? When he told her he'd won back his soul? When he'd offered himself to her stake in a dead woman's basement?

Maybe, she thought. Maybe. Or perhaps it had just been the dawning of it. A beginning.

Had it been that moment that she'd cut his bonds and her spirits had soared when he looked at her with dumbstruck relief?

The time she'd been told it was her decision to repair the chip or remove it?

That frozen moment in time when he'd said he needed to go, and her momentary surge of... something... that had almost choked her?

She smiled softly. Or the night he'd pressed a kiss into her hair while they both pretended she slept? Laid beside her and around her all night, immersed in their...

Their what?

All of those moments had had a part in it. Had been milestones in their journey. But she knew deep down that the moment she realized that she loved him was the very moment that she told him so.

And despite his words, she was sure that he believed her. That he knew that it was true.

Surely, he knew. There had never been anything she could hide from Spike.

He had to know, then, she thought in relief.

Didn't he?

*

Buffy sat on the edge of the bed in Angel's room. The old Hyperion Hotel had been the only place she'd known to go. A woman named Fred had let them in, eyes widening as she saw their bloody wounds and torn clothing.

Only seventeen Potentials had made it out of the Hellmouth alive.

Willow had been the one to call Angel at his new office, leaving Kennedy and Giles to help fend for the girls. Xander had sunk onto the sofa, quiet to the point of catatonia. Andrew had sat close by, as if buoying him up. It seemed to Buffy, distracted as she was, that Xander was almost leaning on him, without touching him at all. Somehow, sometime, Andrew had become a part of them.

Fred had said Angel had vacated the premises sometime earlier that day, taking a few of his personal things with him, to his new place. She'd been very vague about it and Buffy sensed that there was a story there, but right now she didn't care. She was sure she'd see Angel soon enough. Too soon, she suspected. Looking around, she idly reviewed the secondary importance of the things she still saw there.

The books he'd return for, Buffy thought. Although there didn't seem to be as many as she remembered.

Except for Fred, they were all gone. Including Mr. Ex-Watcher Wesley Windham-Price, who Buffy was glad she didn't have to see right now. Two others lived there, Willow had told her. A green demon, who her friend had particularly liked, and a man named Charles Gunn. Fred had remained, slowly and methodically packing her things with bubble wrap and putting them away in shiny new U-Haul boxes, until the knock came on the door of the old hotel.

Now the woman was handing out clean linens and opening long-locked doors. There were, for the first time, enough beds to go around for all the new slayers. One girl to a room.

It hadn't worked out that way, though. Just as Rona was rooming with Vi, many of the others had paired up. Faith seemed to be... with Robin. He'd released himself from the hospital emergency room, armed with a large supply of antibiotics, the moment he'd found out that the Bringers sword had missed all his major organs and totally missed the artery. Now he was sore. And pissed.

A staff of maids and cooks had miraculously arrived at Angel's behest just before Buffy had been shown to her room. The old Hyperion was suddenly functioning as it had in its glory days. A hotel with guests in its rooms. Short-term guests who would be going home soon. Because now they could.

But no one felt like being alone tonight, except maybe Xander.

And Buffy.

Dawn had been crying off and on. Buffy wasn't sure whether it was over Spike or Amanda. Probably Amanda, she thought resentfully. Dawn and Spike had never been able to mend their broken fences. And now it was too late. Suddenly, the thought of their estrangement hurt deeply. Everything that pertained to him did.

Numbly, Buffy thought about the slayers who'd died down there. About Anya, who would never, ever embarrass Xander again with one of her ill-timed outbursts about his sexual prowess.

It was all too much to process. Becoming a buzz like white noise in her head. Like the sound of cable when it went out. Like the sound of a ceiling fan, running on high speed.

And so the night had passed as Buffy stared sightlessly at the faded wallpaper, hearing the same words over and over in her head like a mantra.

'So what do we do now, Buffy? What do we do? Whatdowedo? Whadowedo?'

Along with the wonderment in Willow's voice, Buffy had detected a thin edge of panic. At the time, she had ignored it. She couldn't anymore.

Before yesterday, Buffy had been defined by her 'onliness.' Chosen 'one'. 'The' Slayer. No longer able to feel alone in her uniqueness, she searched for a new definition. A new 'thing' to be now. No more excuses for who and what she was.

Finally, she crawled up the bed and onto the pillows, dry eyed, as dawn painted the sky.

*

"B?"

Buffy glanced up. Faith had pushed the door open and was hovering just outside, wearing a questioning frown.

Faith took the silent acknowledgment as permission to enter. Once inside, though, she hesitated, fidgeting as she tried to decide what to do. At last, it seemed to Buffy, she made her decision and sat down beside her on the unmade bed.

"Didn't get a chance to say anything," Faith began, as she wiped her suddenly sweaty palms on her jeans, "and I'm not real good at stuff like this. But I just wanted you to know that I'm sorry about your guy."

Buffy stiffened. "He's not..." She stopped, eyes widening as she realized that she was speaking of Spike in the present tense. The need to use the past verb tense struck her in the gut like a knife wound. "He wasn't... my guy," she corrected herself weakly, aware that the line was getting old and wasn't really true. Hadn't been for a while. "He was..."

Mouth quirking up in a sad little smile, Faith looked Buffy up and down. "C'mon, B. this is me here. Not goin' all judgmental on your ass. He did good, your guy."

Buffy sighed. No one would ever understand. Except maybe Faith. "He was..." Her voice trailed off.

"Yeah, he was!" Faith said heartily. "A *fuckin'* champion! Angel would be staking himself if he knew." She grinned naughtily. "Which I guess he does, by now. Damn, B, how do you get these guys in such a big ass uproar over you? Spike *died* for us, man! Doesn't get any better than that. In fact," the other slayer said conspiratorally, "I'm a little green thinkin' about it. Envious, you know?"

Ensouled, but stronger than human, she thought, remembering Angel's words. Faith could have worn the amulet. Almost wincing, Buffy shook the thought out of her head. It had been for Spike to do. He wouldn't have had it any other way, she thought, remembering his preemptory command to give him the 'trinket'.

"It was his choice, B," Faith said softly, almost answering Buffy's traitorous thoughts. "To go to the end with it like he did. Finish it once and for all. You didn't choose him to do it, *he* chose him."

Buffy shook her head. "I know that he wanted it, but I chose him. When I sent Angel back here, I knew where it was going. I just didn't know..." Spike was unkillable. Everybody knew that, her most of all.

"You wanna talk?" Faith asked earnestly, covering her discomfort. "Cause we could, you know, just 'talk'."

Nodding, Buffy distractedly stared at the old waterstain on the wall near the ceiling. Her attention had been straying back there all through the night and morning. "How's Principal... Robin?"

Faith drew back slightly, as if surprised. Chuckled wryly. "Bein' stupid. It's a guy thing, I guess, so I don't say much, but..." She grinned, the smile a little lopsided. "It's weird. Either they're great big babies or Mr. Stoic. He's the stoic type. And be proud. I worked on my vocabulary in prison some. Hell, don't stop at proud. Be impressed!"

Grudgingly, Buffy smiled.

"He's... well, like a surprise. Like a visit from St. Nick or the Easter Bunny or something. Which is not anything I expected from *any* guy."

Why hadn't someone fixed the wall paper? Just put new paper up? Surely Angel had noticed that dark stain on the otherwise light wall? "Well, surprise can be good," Buffy answered, only half of her mind on their conversation. "If it's in a non-Hellmouthy kind of way."

"Yeah..." Faith breathed out quietly. They both fell silent. Finally, Faith cleared her throat. "But the talkin' thing I mentioned? I meant, well, about Spike."

Buffy stared at the wall. "He liked hot chocolate with little marshmallows in it. Hated pig's blood. He wouldn't smoke anything but Marlboro Reds. He loved my mother and he loved Dawn. He hated Angel's guts. He liked Xander, but he'd never admit it. He mostly drank Jack Daniels, but he loved tequila. He..." Buffy choked a little and fell silent again.

Faith swallowed and slowly, tentatively, laid a light hand on Buffy's shoulder. "B?"

"And he loved me," Buffy said finally. "Just like he said he did. And I loved him, I guess, except I *didn't* say it. Until the end. Because I was stupid and I didn't realize that was what I was feeling."

Faith took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "God, Buffy, some of us don't even get to do that much," she said in exasperation. "You think I got to tell my Watcher how I felt before I got her killed?"

"Well, I got the chance. And it didn't even matter. He didn't believe me," Buffy said flatly.

Faith let out a low, patronizing chuckle. "Oh, B. Sure he did."

Buffy's head swung around, narrowed eyes going to Faith's. "How would you know? You don't know anything - *nothing* - about Spike and me."

Faith laughed ruefully. "Don't get your thong in a twist, B. And I think I do know. I saw your guy go into busted boyfriend mode when you caught us flirting in the basement." At the fiery glint in Buffy's eyes, she threw her hands up in surrender with a laugh. "Okay, okay. *I* was flirting. Your guy was just... well, playin' at it." She rolled her eyes. "Hell, B, anybody could see how you felt about him. Even him. Damn, I know *I* sure could."

"Except me," Buffy muttered.

"Huh?"

"Everybody but me. Could see it." She remembered Xander's dropped eyes and Dawn's suspicious stares. Giles' heated words.

"So he could, too," Faith assured her. "If you told him, he knew you meant it. Just wanted you out of there, B. Wanted you safe. Like anyone would who loves somebody. That's the deal. That's the way it works."

Buffy smiled softly, mind elsewhere. "He's... such a jerk."

She didn't even realize she was talking in present tense. "Yeah, well," Faith got up from the bed, stretching languidly, working for the usual Faith nonchalance. "They're *all* jerks, B. Men, I mean. Dead. Undead. No difference." She strolled to the door. "Some of them are just jerks *less* of the time than others, like I'm findin' out. Just part-time jerks," she said in a worldly voice. "Not full time."

"Faith?"

Buffy's voice sounded almost... grateful. The other slayer didn't turn back. Tears were stinging her eyes and there was no way in *hell* B was gonna see that! "Yeah?"

"Thanks."

"Sure," she said it with a shrug, making certain that it didn't seem like the big deal that it really was. "Anytime, B. Anytime."

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