All About Spike - Print Version
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Believe
By Rocky

Part 1

He rested in the basement now—cold and dark—the only place fit for him.  And I tapped my boots against the deck, the lone sound under the late-night sky.

The house was finally quiet.  No nervous soon-to-be slayers chattering away about the indestructible monster—they didn’t have to worry about him anymore.

I smiled to myself.  Been a long time since I’d made like a queen and killed all off-with-his-head-like.  I drew in the cold night air, and the chilling air in my lungs reminded me of him.

They wanted to chain him—Xander and Giles—but one glance from me and they gently laid his broken body onto the blanket before marching obediently back upstairs.  I watched his face wince, but he didn’t open his eyes.  Like he was afraid to.

I sat on the step and tapped my foot again, glancing around the backyard.  All the Bringers had left?  Could’ve used a little fight to get this anger out of me.  Where was all this anger coming from anyway?  Was I this mad about what It did to him?

I hugged myself.  Cold tonight.  Bitter night.  The bad and bitter kind of cold.  I watched my breath twirl in the air as I spoke to myself.  “Then what the hell am I doing out here?”

But I knew as soon as I had said it.  I was waiting for him.  I was waiting for Spike to wander up the grass and sit next to me.  Waiting—wanting—to tell him about all what I had done, and all that was going on.  But he wasn’t going to come.



He knew I was next to him.  Underneath the puffy bruises I saw his tiny smile.  It made me smile, too.

He sucked in air, and my smile grew.  He didn’t need that air, he just wanted to smell it—smell me in it.  Yuck.  I just got done cutting off Supervamp’s head, don’t smell it!

But he reveled in it—holding the air tight in his chest.  My eyes wandered down his body, squinting at the sliced patterns in his skin.  I bit my lip, floating my hand just above the wounds, not daring to touch them.

His hand crossed over mine, pressing it down into the middle of his chest.  He let the air out as I touched his skin.  I couldn’t look at those wounds, so I faced him.

He was peering up at me, barely able to see through his puffed face.  The slight smile faded, and he smoothed a finger over my bloodied knuckles.

My eyes wandered back down to his chest, where his hand still rested on mine.  I heard him swallow, followed by quiet stutters.

“C-can you…feel it…there?” he exhausted himself to say.

“Feel what?” I looked at his face again, gently tracing my finger over the pattern.

His mouth parted as he tried to finish.  The whispers were too soft for me to understand, so I brought my face closer to his.  He hissed, and stopped trying to talk, closing his eyes and breathing me again.  His hand pressed mine harder into his chest, as if he had to force this out of him.

“The…the sp-spark?” he uttered, closing his mouth into a smile again.

I let air out of my tense body, and my parted lips opened into a comfortable smile.  His hand slid back to his side, leaving my tiny fingers alone to trace his wounds.  I brushed them around the triangle before I lifted my hand and stood.

He sighed and sank into the pillow, begging for me to stay.  He knew I was already gone.



My sleep was quick—the short hours filled with visions of shattered buildings and burning streets, and me, standing alone at the center of it all.  And I couldn’t move.

I clenched the bathroom doorknob.  Locked.  I heard two of the girls in there.  I certainly don’t remember being so damn vain at that age.  I peeked in the kitchen, seeing three more girls with Willow and Dawn.

“He did.” Dawn sat with two of them, eyes focused and voice intense, “And after that, he—Hi Buffy!” she scooted off her stool and fidgeted.

I nodded, and walked towards Willow and the third at the stove.

“Mm.” I sniffed.  “Blueberry?”

Willow smiled.  “Kennedy knows how, even though, you know, she used to have her own cook and everything…”

This one was Kennedy.  Thought it was Chloe.  So hard not to mix them up.

“It’s not like it’s that hard to learn.” Kennedy scraped the pan with a spatula.  “Except…well, it’s kinda hard to flip’em when they’re like this.”

The misshapen pancake flopped onto itself.  “Funny shapes.” I said.

Willow smiled.  “Just the way I like’em.”

“Hey, you guys, or…girls, have you seen Giles around?”

“Oh, I did!” the perky one called out.  “He took his tea ’round to the front.”

I stepped down the hall.

“Hey, Buffy.” Kennedy stopped me.  She was still holding the spatula.

“Hey, Kennedy,” I smiled.  “How’d you sleep?”

She nodded.  “Better than ever.  Even better than back in my old bed.  But, look… I just wanted to tell you—” she tapped the spatula.  “You really kicked his ass.”

I smiled.  “So will you.  Just give it some time.”

Her eyes lit up as she bit her lip.

“Kennedy!” Willow shouted from the kitchen, “We need the spatula!”



“Did you see them, on his chest?  Those markings, Giles, what are they?”

Giles sipped his tea.  “Y-yes, I saw them Buffy, but I don’t know what to make of them yet.”

“We need to find out.  Giles, they might give us something.”

“And we will, Buffy.” He assured me, then after a pause added.  “You can’t think I just jump into the books first thing in the morning.”

“You don’t?”

“God, no.  Especially not the books I’m going to be looking into.”

“Big dusty Watcher’s Council ones?”

“No, I’ve…I’ve got somewhere else I plan to look for…those markings.”

“Well, if you’re planning to leave the house, don’t even plan on using the shower!  Two of them locked up in there right now…even though some of us are coated in Big Bad dust!”

“Indeed.” Giles sipped his tea.



“Dawn?” I asked.

She gasped and slammed the basement door shut.  “Jeez, Buffy!  Did you take lurk-lessons from Spike or something?”

I shrugged, peeking around her.  “What’re you doing?”

“Nothing.” Her wide eyes told me different.  “I just wanted to see…if it was as bad as they were all saying.”

“Dawn, could you do something for me?”

She nodded.

“Go to the butcher shop and get some blood for him?”

She started to pout.  “Buffy—”

“Take some of the slay-girls with you.  Show them around.  They need to get out of this house—and not just when they’re running for life.”

She jogged up the stairs.  I opened the basement door and walked down.

A sheet was draped across him.  He lay motionless with his back to me.  I stepped closer, focusing on the lashings across his spine.  Some were still red, but others had already faded to scars.  A muscle in his shoulder twitched, and I backed away as he rolled over.

His open eyes squinted at me, one still too puffy to open all the way.  “Don’t go away.” His voice came easier now.

“I’m not.”

“No, just…” he closed his eyes.  “Just, a little closer.”

I stepped towards him, keeping my eyes on my boots.

“Stop…there.”

I froze.

“No shower this mornin‘, love?”

I laughed almost inaudibly, but he could still hear it.  He smiled, waving me closer.

“Did you talk to Dawn?” I asked him.

“Think she came halfway down the stairs before she packed it back up.”

I was standing alongside him now.  “She’s just scared.”

He broke eye contact.  “Got quite a bit to be scared about, doesn’t she?”

I shook my head.  “Not down here.”

He nodded towards the dryer.  “Watcher set the chains down over there.”

“Spike, I’m not—”

“No,” he faced me again.  “I’m not.  Not again, Buffy.  C’mon, put’em on me.  They’ll stop me from it.”

“I’ll stop you.”

He chuckled, “Spose you have the upper hand at the moment.”

“I always have the upper hand.”

“Not this time,” he became concerned.  “Buffy, we’re weak…and It knows that.  It knows that too bloody well.”

“Then I’ll stop It.”

He clamped his mouth shut.  Always holding back.  Just say it, Spike.  Say it.

“You don’t think so?” I asked.

We were quiet for a long time—and still, very still.  After the pause, I turned my back on him to go back upstairs.

“Buffy, wait—”

His deep voice halted me, and I turned from the third step. He struggled to sit up, and tried to make our eyes meet, but I fixed my gaze to the beams above.

“You’ll stop it.  I believe in you, Buffy.”



Part 2

The pavement was shattering under my feet—burning, and quaking.  But the rumble of the ground could not compare to the sky.  The clouds battled, smothering each other and striking bright red lightning across the violent heavens.

A hoard of Bringer-bodies piled around me, their black cloaks torn and stained as they slipped into the cracks in the ground.  A high scream sounded in the distance, and I closed my eyes as all fell silent.

My body was shaking.  I sat up on the sofa.  Xander’s wide eyes relaxed.  I caught my breath, and settled back down.  “I’m okay.”

“God, Buff,” he sat down next to me.  “When I heard you screaming like that, I thought,” he looked away, “I thought maybe he was…”

Oh, Spike.  Of course you would think that, Xander.  The sun crept through the open door, warming the cold sweat on my face.  If Xander heard me scream, I bet Spike…

He was pulling himself up the stairs.  His feet dragged behind him, and his head fell after I stepped through the basement door.  I pulled him up, and he groaned once his feet were under him, leaning heavy against me.  He braced himself against the banister as I walked him down the three steps.  Once at the bottom, his arms fell limp to his sides and strained to hold him up as nearly all strength left him.

“I thought something…I had to try…”

I didn’t answer, taking it slow across the floor before setting him back on the bed.  He had just started to raise his arms as I backed away from him.  They dropped into his lap.

“The ankle’s out.” He stared at it.  “I figured it’d be alright, but…”

“You made it worse.”  I knelt to check on it.

“Couldn’t stand it…you carryin‘ on like that—screamin‘ like that.” He fell back onto the bed.  “I’d never heard you…like that.  What happened?”

“Me…resting.”  He shook when I touched his ankle.  “And you wanted me to wrap chains around this?”

He winced as I lifted it onto the blanket.  “I wanted…” he closed his eyes, then slightly opened them, “Don’t fret yourself about what I want, love.  Got bigger things to fret ’bout.”

I was at the sink now, washing him off me, scrubbing soap up my arms.  The clearing of my skin felt smooth and relaxing...And all the slay-girls are out of the house.

“I’ll be back.”

He gave no answer, asleep.  I crept up the stairs.

“How is he?” Xander was leaning against the fridge.

“Xander, let’s talk about this after I…” I nodded my head upstairs.

“Oh, sure.” He sniffed.  “I’ll just be down here…well, unless you, uh…need any help?”

“I’ll manage.” I smiled.  He looked like old Sunnydale-High Xander—all playful with the big goofy grin-like.  Felt good to see him like that again.

I took my time.  The hot water relaxed all my sick and tired muscles.  I intended to relax completely, so I forced myself not to think about stuff.  Didn’t last nearly as long as the shower.

Hot water stung inside the cut on my cheek.  That was gonna scar, Slayer-heal or no.  Just what I need, a big nasty scar across my face.  Real come-and-get-me look I’ve got going on lately.

But, as I scrubbed my shoulders, I pictured all the marks on Spike.  There would be so many scars after he had healed.  I felt my body tensing up, and I dipped my head under the water.  I ran my fingers through my hair, and the thoughts rolled off with the warm water.



“Any talk of more slayer-wannabes?”

“Nah,” I told Xander.  “We’re probably getting close to the last of’em.”

“’Cause I was thinking, you know, they’re not really…fighty.” He put his feet up on the table.  “I mean, I don’t think I could take’em, but they definitely need some work.”

“Some real work.”  I agreed.  “Think I should make’em patrol with me tonight?”

“I dunno, Buff.  We don’t know how many of those Trekkies are roaming the streets.”

“Trekkies?”

Xander’s hands flew into the air, “What?  What’d Giles call that thing?”

“Turok-something.”  I answered.

“Turok, Trekkie…” Xander’s spoke quieter, “Same thing.”

“And that attitude is why Giles is doing research without you.”

“Oh, yes.  I still can’t believe he went to the big library full of dusty, fat, and boring books without me!” Xander looked around the empty house, “And, speaking of Trekkies, where’s Andrew?  And, you know, everyone?”

I looked out the window.  The sun was going down and Dawn was still out with the slayers-to-be.  “I gave’em the day off.  Guess Andrew went with them.”

“Kid makes me all kinds of nervous,” Xander wiggled his shoulders.  “I mean, Jonathan…he…”

“He killed him.”

“They were best friends, Buff.  If this thing’s powerful enough to turn best friends on each other…”

“I’ll stop it.”

Xander’s face lifted, and his mouth turned up into a smile.  “I’m with you, Buff.  No matter…I mean, even if…even if Spike…”

I smiled.  This was so hard for him to say.

He clapped his hands together.  “Spike and me, we’ve fought side-by-side before…and, we can do it again.”

His words came as a sudden relief to me.  It felt good to have friends behind me again.  I could see how he got to Willow that day.  “Thank you.”

He patted my knee and smiled.  “Plus, you know, I’m kinda likin‘ the whole save-the-world persona.  Chicks really dig it.”

“We do.” I hugged him.



They devoured the pizzas.  Giles had just placed them on the table seconds ago, and boxes were already opened and emptied.  I picked a mysterious-looking mushroom off my slice before taking a big bite.

“So, any luck with the books?”  I watched Giles remove his glasses.  Probably didn’t want to watch me chew my food.  I swallowed the pizza.  “Sorry.”

“Yes, that’s quite alright.” He wiped them clean and replaced them.  “I found…something.  Although, I’m not quite sure it’s going to be of…of use to us.”

“So what do we got?  Stuff on the markings?”

“Well, yes, I found them…Buffy, I was really focusing more on you.”

“On me?  Why?” I sat down, blocking out the chatter and laughter from the living room.  “What did I do?”

“Well, we’re not sure if it is you, Buffy.  I just want to go over all areas.”  He could see my discomfort, and lifted his tone.  “And, Spike?  How is he?”

I sighed.  “He twisted his ankle up pretty bad when I…Oh, God.  The dreams.  I forgot all about them!  Giles, I’ve been having these dreams.”

He sat down next to me, intrigued, no doubt.

“They’re…vivid.  More real than the others.  And it’s like I’m not even really there…like I’m just watching it all happen, and there’s nothing I can do.  Places are burning and…”

I clamped my mouth shut as Dawn bounded into the kitchen.  She grabbed a box off the table and skipped back out.

“And I heard a girl scream.”

“Dawn?” he asked.

“I’m not sure.  I—I don’t know.”

“Well, it’s quite obvious that it’s an apocolypse you’re foreseeing, Buffy.  Quite natural, seeing as we are flying head-on into one.”

I shook my head.  “They’re different.”  After a moment of silence, I tossed the crust into the trash and stood.  “I’m off to patrol.”

“Can I come?” a girl’s voice asked.



“God, this is great!” Kennedy sniffed the night air in.  “I’ve never gone out hunting before!”

“Patrolling.” I corrected her.  She glanced at me.  “We aren’t doing this for sport—it’s our job.”

She nodded, clenching her hands tighter on the crossbow.  “Sure is a big cemetery.”

I smiled.  “Yeah.  That happens at the Hellmouth.”

“I’ve only been in a cemetery once…” her voice grew softer.  “For my mom’s funeral.”

My heart ached, and my stomach started to churn.  Mom.  So quickly her image came up in my head.  I nodded to Kennedy.  She stopped before a tombstone.

“I mean, I was younger then…” she traced the letters in the stone.  “And she—my new mom—she’s great.  My step-sister’s great, too…”  her arms dropped.  “Really great.”

“Do you miss them?”

She turned to me.  “I miss a lot of things.  But this is my job.”

We started walking again.  “You know, I was the first Slayer who actually had friends?  And family?  They—the Council—they were bigtime against it.  But they didn’t know.  They don’t know.  What it is…to be the Slayer.”

I felt her eyes on me again, but she was silent as I spoke.

“But you do.” I looked at her.  “You feel it.  Inside you.  The good…and the bad.  You know it.  Because it is who you are.”

A chill ran down my spine and I froze.  Kennedy stopped as well.

“Did you feel it?” I whispered to her.

She nodded.

“Close your eyes.  Feel it out.  Find it.”  I smiled, “It’s more fun this way.”

Her eyes were closed, and her face crinkled.  She took deep breaths and began to take slow steps.

I stayed put.  “Quietly.  Slowly.  Don’t forget, they have power too.”

She raised the bow, creeping around the tombstones.  I knew exactly where he was.  I gripped my stake and crossed my arms.

She stopped, and quickly turned around.  Her wide eyes looked past me.  I smiled.

“Buffy!  He’s behind you!”

The vamp grabbed my shoulders and pulled back.  I whipped him over my head with ease.  He slammed on his back at my feet.  I looked back at Kennedy, “Now, he’s not.”

I pinned him down.  He struggled, growling and ew, stinking.  Kennedy came up alongside me.

“I’m gonna let him up.  Get ready.” I handed her the stake.

She dropped the crossbow and got into fighting stance.  I rolled off the vamp.  He jumped up, quickly knocking the stake from her hand.  She blocked a punch and swung, but he grabbed her fist and twisted her arm.

“That one’s easy!”  I yelled,  “Just flip it back around on him!”

She looked back at me.  The vamp moved her arm against her back and brought his teeth towards her neck.  She struggled and whimpered.  For a second I looked in her eyes and thought she was too scared, but I knew what that kind of fear would build up inside her.

Kennedy closed her eyes and thrust him off her, grunting as she pushed him to the ground.  She sat on his back, yanking his hand to the back of his neck.

“Grab the stake.  You can hit the heart through his back.”

The vamp cried out as she leaned forward.  She placed the point square into his back and shoved.  He crumbled beneath her.  She scooped up some of the dust and blew it into the cold air.  She did good.  Big smudge across her cheek.  She looked stronger.

“Not bad.” I helped her up.  “How’d it feel?”

Kennedy twirled the stake.  “Not bad.”

I picked up the crossbow, aimed, and fired at the vamp behind her.  Dust poofed around her back.  She looked over her shoulder, then back at me.

“Why didn’t I feel that one?” she coughed.

“Because you weren’t alert.  You weren’t ready.”  I started to walk again.  “It’s okay.  It happens.  Just don’t let it happen enough.  Because one night…” I stopped and faced her.  “One night, when you alone are the Slayer…I won’t be here.”



Part 3

Cold air pushed into the house, and I jumped up off of the comfortable couch.  My blanket landed on the coffee table.  “What is it?  What happened?”

“That stupid vampire damn near killed me!” Rona held her shoulder and rushed into the kitchen.

Willow and Spike stepped through the front door.  As I approached them, Spike’s sheepish eyes drifted to the floor.

“Some vamp got her?” I asked.

Willow took one of her nervous breaths as Spike remained silent.

“Well…yeah…” Willow motioned to Spike, who bit his lip in a grin.  “Some vamp…”

My eyes fell on Spike.  Willow sighed and went in the kitchen.

“Well?”

He scratched his neck, glancing up and down again.  “It was…I didn’t mean for it.”

“You staked her?” I smiled, closing the door.  That was definitely going to get him…

He turned around shaking his head.  “No, no.  She was…he had her by the throat, real tight grip…so, so I shot…and…” he ran his fingers through his hair and sat on the couch.  “And then she moved.”

I sat next to him and shuddered.  His body froze the air around us.  I pulled my blanket off the table and relaxed into the warmth.  Spike scratched at his hands, and scooted further away.  He lifted his eyes to the book-buried table and sat up to look at them all.

“Find anything?”

I shrugged.  “Couple of the pages had some words I could pronounce.”

He chuckled and selected one.  I watched him thumb through it, carefully turning the tender papers over.  His cold fingers ran down the spine…

I pulled the covers to my chin.  Stupid sleepy brain!  Focus!

His attention moved from the book to me, as if he was listening to my stupid sleepy thoughts.  He closed the book, and gently laid it back on the table.

Rona stormed out of the kitchen seconds later, a nasty glare thrown in the direction of Spike.  She muttered something on her way up the stairs.

Spike shook his head and stood.  His eyes fell on me as he backed away.  “Just a thing…always…just that.”  He turned his back on me.  “G’nite Slayer.”

I watched him leave.  Willow stood at the hallway, and he darted past her.  Her face softened as she spoke to me.  “You didn’t yell at him, did you?  I saw the whole thing, Buffy, it really was an accident.”  She sat down where Spike had been, and picked up the same book he had held.  She flipped through the pages.  “And I got really scared, too.  I thought that…that I was gonna have to do something.” Her body seemed to quake and she closed the book.  “And, I don’t think I was ready…not tonight.”

I reached out to pat her shoulder.  “It’s okay, Will.  We’re all scared, but Will…we are ready.”

She half-nodded.  She doesn’t believe me.



The lightbulb swayed, flinging shadows past my steps.  I caught a glimpse of him by the sink, the light dancing off the scars on his back.

“Something on your mind, Slayer?”

Damn!  I thought I was being quiet.  I dropped down the last few steps.  I stood at the foot of the stairs, setting my eyes on his back.

He splashed water over his head before turning the knobs.  After a short sigh, he pulled his shirt over his head and faced me.

I smiled.  He didn’t.  What?  Why?

He shook his head.  “You shouldn’t be down here.”

“Okay.” I looked away, “Sorry.”  I turned to go back upstairs.  What the hell was that?  Don’t look back, just go upstairs.  I was about halfway up when I paused.  No, don’t pause.  All the way up!  My mind fought with my eyes, begging me not to look at him.

“Buffy, look…”

I turned.  Amazing.  Two words and he won the battle.  He was looking up at me.  I drifted back to the night I died, then shot forward to the night I came back.  His sad face, staring up at me in both memories.

“It’s not…it’s not that I don’t want you here…” he kept his eyes on me.  “I do… because…you make the air soft, and I feel…” his eyes closed,  “But it’s deja-vu, that’s all it is.  We’ve done this before.”

“I don’t think so.”

“How?” he moved up the stairs, his hands clinging to the banister.  “How is this any different?  You used me then, and now…” He stopped several steps away.  “You don’t want it, Buffy.  I know it.  I got it wrong, I know that now.”

“Spike, what are you talking about?”

He threw his arms in the air.  “The soul!  You don’t want it!”

I searched for something—anything—to say.  Nothing.  My mouth hung open, with the words stretching on my tongue.  Say them!  Say something!

He watched me, backing down the steps.  “You don’t want it…” he pulled the cord and the basement fell dark.  “I know you don’t.  I don’t blame you for it.”

I closed the basement door, and the words finally came.  “I do.”



The wind was powerful.  I had to fight just to stand.  My hair whipped across my face and sand scratched into my eyes.  Tears fell down my cheeks, and when I tried to call out, the gusts sucked the air out of me.  I gasped for air, like the night I had clawed out of the ground.  The debris blocked away all the light, and I fell to the hard ground in search of something bright.

My throat was dry when I woke—probably not from dream-dust, but from screaming.  I sat up in bed.  No one had come in to check on me?

I came downstairs and passed into the kitchen, where I was surprised to find a light on.  I was even more surprised to see Spike sitting with one of the slay-girls.

He stopped midsentence, gazing up at me.  The slay-girl turned around in her seat.  Which one was that?  I stared at her, trying to remember.

“Hi Buffy.”  She smiled.  The accent—it was Molly.  She stood, and nodded to Spike.  “Think I’ll just crawl back into bed.”  She left us alone.

Spike stood, filling a glass with water.  “Rough night, Slayer?”

“What are you doing up here?  And what were you two…?”

He grinned, handing me the glass.  I gulped it.  The cool water tickled my throat.  I squeezed my eyes shut, feeling his eyes on me.  He placed the glass in the sink and leaned against the counter, his eyes burning.

I yawned, settling onto a stool.

“What was it, then?”

“What was what?”
            “Something got you up outta bed, love.  Wanna tell me what it is?”

“Oh, I…” I rubbed my forehead.  “Just…a dream.”

He straightened up.  “You have a lot of them lately…”

I nodded.  “Too many.”

He stepped closer, but was still at a distance.  “You never had them when…”

I looked up at him, but he shot his eyes away.

“I just mean…I don’t recall you ever cried out—in your sleep, I mean.  You were always…” he smiled, eyes fixed on the countertop.  “Always peaceful…quiet.”

“Never in here.” I rubbed my head, then tucked my arms together.  Too cold.  I need my blanket back.

“No,” he shook his head.  “You wouldn’t let me in there.”

I sighed.  I don’t want to do this…not now…not at “Three a.m.?” I said aloud.

He looked at the glowing microwave clock, then nodded.

I stood.  I’ve only got about three more good hours left.  Then my eyes fell on Spike.  He was doing that thing…where his body gets all wriggly and uneasy.  I screwed something up again.

“Hey, Spike?” I turned around before leaving.  “Up for patrol tonight?  Just me and you?”

His brow furrowed, and he did the wriggly thing again.

Don’t do that, Spike!  “Been a while since we’ve gone…I just thought it…”

“I’ll be there.”



The day was slow.  Don’t teenagers have problems these days?  I could’ve bored a young sexy counselor for days about my problems in high school.  I put use to my hours of non-work, scribbling thoughts onto the yellow notepad.  Thoughts about The First, about training the girls, and a few Spike-related sentences.

God, that’s the last time I act on impulse at three in the morning.  Not a good time to be throwing out suggestions.  What was I thinking?  Would this lead him on—make him think that I want him again?  Do I…want him?

Frustrated with thoughts, I ripped the pages out and started on a fresh page.  Blank.  Be blank.  Stop thinking.  Hours later, when blank paper was covered with sketches from my recent dreams, Dawn wandered up to the desk.

“Um, Buffy?”

Uh oh, puppy-dog face.  She wanted something.

“You know how people, like, date?” she bit her lip.

“Actually…no.  I don’t.”  I said with a sad smile.

She turned to pout-face.  “Okay, well, it turns out that Scott McMann, he does…  With me…” her bottom lip slipped out.  “If—if you let me…please?”

That begging smile, I’m such a sucker for it these days.  Little Dawnie, boys fighting over her…evil undead boys…  “Does Scott meet the requirements?”

Dawn returned a blank stare.

“You know?  Cute butt, half a brain, and…I don’t know…a pulse?”

She smiled.  “Yes, yes, and yes!  He’s right outside, in the sun and everything.  He came to meet you, ’cause he didn’t want to be disrespectful.  Isn’t that so mature?”

I shrugged.  “Doesn’t sound too bright.”

“But you…you don’t really want to meet him, do you?” her face was covered in concern.  “Because…”

“You can go.” I nodded.  “But you’re home by ten, and if you’re so much as two minutes late, Mr. Man loses an appendage.”

She nodded, turning to leave.

“I’ll be patrolling, but I’ll know if you’re late Dawnie.”

“I won’t be!” she jumped for the door.  “You’re the best!”



“Let us come with you!” Kennedy begged.

“Not tonight.  I want you girls to get some sleep.”  I tucked a stake into my back pocket.  “Giles said The First is gonna lay off for a while, so I want you to rest up tonight.  Trust me, you’ll all be begging me to let you stay home next week.”

“But we…” Vi piped up.

“No buts!  No slaying tonight.”

“Just make sure he knows that.” Rona held her wrapped shoulder, glaring across the room at Spike.  He looked at the floor, then stepped out the front door and let it slam shut.

I herded them all under Willow’s watchful eye, then went after Spike.  He was leaning against that tree, like he always did back then.  He watched me come down the steps before standing up straight.

“They sound more like you every day, you know?” he walked alongside me.

We walked in silence all the way to the cemetery.  His boots skudding against the dirt, then brushing against the grass—all I heard for some long minutes.

Once amidst the stones he cleared his throat.  Oh God.  He was gonna start it.  I’m not ready yet, Spike.  Don’t say anything about it yet.

“Watcher’s overseas now, huh?”

“Yeah.” I breathed a sigh of relief.  “He’s…there were more girls…for him to find.”

He nodded.  “They’re getting good…the girls.”

I glanced at him, looking away when he looked back at me.

“Well, they aren’t that good.  Not good enough to stake me yet.”

I grabbed his hand.  “I haven’t gotten that good yet.”  Oh my God, why did I grab his hand?  And what did I just say?  My eyes wandered to our hands as he squeezed mine, then dropped it.

“Don’t do that,” his voice quiet, his hand tucking into his pocket.

“What?  Why not?”

“Look, you don’t have to…” he stopped, turning his face to mine.  “It’s enough for me…to be around you…”

I tried not to look hurt.  “You don’t…want…me to touch you?”

His eyes were watering.  God, don’t cry in front of me Spike.  But then he caught himself, blinking it away.  He let out a broken sigh.

“Buffy,” he stared at the blades of grass, “I know it…it can’t ever be how I want it.  It can’t even be how you want it.”  He glanced up.  “And after I…it wasn’t your fault.  I thought I saw it…the last night, when we were…your eyes, they said it to me…” his eyes closed, and he started to walk again.

I followed him through the tombstones.  He finally settled against one.  I stood behind him, waiting to hear him out.

“I thought you loved me…” he whispered.  “And I wanted to…because I didn’t deserve then…” his shoulders hunched and he dropped his head.  “I still don’t deserve…”

My eyes stung, and I quickly wiped them dry.  I took two deep breaths, trying to turn my voice normal again before I spoke.

“Alright, Spike.” I walked around to face him.  “Now, it’s my turn.”

He raised his eyes.  They looked past me, then his head shot up.  He stood, pushing me to the ground.

I heard his deep-throaty growl and quickly got to my feet.  We were surrounded by Bringers.  Spike pulled a knife out of his side and muffled his pained yowl.  His face vamped and he tossed me the knife.

And we went to work.



Part 4

“Don’t!  It’s fine, leave it!”

“See?  This is what I’m talking about.  Let me see!”  I reached for his side.

“No!” he stumbled down the stairs to escape me.  “I bloody told you it’s fine!  Now, sod off!”

I chuckled.  “You always get all English when you’re mad.”

“Not mad,” he turned around.  “Just don’t need you being all touchy.”

I followed him to the floor.  He crossed to the sink.

“I can help.” I told him as he began to lift his shirt.

“Don’t want…” he froze halfway up, obviously pained.

I stepped closer, and he yanked the shirt off.  I couldn’t see his face, but I knew it had hurt.  He threw the shirt and clenched his hands hard to the sink, mumbling nonsense I couldn’t hear.  I stepped behind him.

“Slipping…” he muttered.  “Can’t keep up.  Drag you down.  Make you weak.”

“You don’t, Spike…turn around.”

He shook his head.  “Stake me.”

God, I am getting sick of this.  “Spike, you need to listen to me.  Now turn around and face me.”

He did.

“Now, if I stake you, you think it’s gonna make things better?  With you, or me?  Or between us?”  Oh God, I hope that came out right.

He didn’t answer, just stared back at me.

“I was gone, Spike.  I was gone, for months—dead, for months.  Did that help you?”  I watched him open his mouth to speak, but he held back as I continued.  “It didn’t help, Spike.  Every night you saved me, remember?”

His eyes fell.  “That is different.”

“How?  Tell me how—”

“Because I love you.”

He said it again.  How many times would I have to hear him say that before I die…again?  I couldn’t say anything back—my mouth clamped shut.  Nothing short of those three words said right back at him would work, and I was not going to say them.  Over my dead body…the final dead body.  Any man—or vamp—I said those words to was gone.  And I don’t want Spike to go.  I need his help.  Besides, I don’t love him…so I shouldn’t say it…right?

He was looking into my eyes now as he spoke.  “It’s not the same…not like it was with him.”

I realized who he was talking about and sighed.  “Spike, please don’t bring him into this.”

“He’s always bloody in it, Slayer!” his eyes closed and he stepped past me, holding his side.  “Always!  Just then, I could see him in your eyes.  You never let him out…and you never will…”

I started past him.  No way I was sticking around to hear him tell me what I think and feel.  But he grabbed my arm, his cold fingers digging into me.

“He’s the one who makes you walk away now.”

I wrestled for my arm, but he held strong.  “Let me go…”

His eyes met mine.  “Why don’t you see?”

I felt my heart burn.  Why does he have to look like that?  Doesn’t he know how hard this is?  “Let go!”  I slammed my fist into his side, and he cried out, crumbling to the floor.

Guilt singed my eyes as I watched him fall.  Why did I do that?  He balled up at my feet, coughing.  What now?  God, just get out of here.  He was struggling to his feet as I struggled up the stairs.

“Sweet dreams, Slayer.”

I slammed the door shut.



“At least you’re sleeping more these days.”

“Mom?”

It was her.  I opened my eyes, and her gentle eyes stared back at me.  Her warm smile, and a flowing white gown.  She looked so right.

“Mom?”

She nodded.

“What’s going on?”

“You’re having a well-deserved rest.” She smoothed my hair.  She felt like warm air—smelled sweet.  It was her.

“Mom?” I tried to touch her hand, but passed through it.  “I know I’m being all nosey and big-sistery, but…what did you tell Dawn?”

Her eyes saddened.  “The truth.”

“Okay, but…could I get the actual words?”

She leaned forward and whispered, “You're weak. Everybody is.

Everybody fails.”

I gasped, her words all too familiar.  I tried to place them as she continued.

“Maybe this evil power did bring you back, but if it did it's because it needs you. And that means you can hurt it.”

It hit me then.  Those were my words…to… “Angel?”

And Mom stood, smiling.

“Mom, wait!”

I sat up to my empty room.



“C’mon Buff, or you school-girls are gonna be late.” Xander warned.

“Just a second…” I stepped down into the basement.

Spike was stretched across the top of the blanket.  His side was wrapped.  Poorly.  Stubborn…should’ve let me help him.  He kept his eyes closed until I was next to him.

“Don’t talk.  Just listen.”

He squinted up at me, stretching his arms over his head.  He winced, bringing them back down again quickly.

I took a deep breath.  “Last night...can’t happen again.  Do you understand me?  We can’t talk like that anymore.…”

He was going to say something, but probably remembered my warning him not to talk.  He nodded, urging me to keep going.

“It makes us weak, Spike…Takes away our strength.”  I looked at his bandages.  “When we…talk…like that, we don’t pay attention to what’s going on around us, and…”

A slight smile crossed his face, and quickly disappeared.

“And we lose control of the power.”  I finished.

He sat up slowly, biting his lip as he bent his middle.  It was quiet for a few minutes before he spoke, “Can I say something now?”

I nodded.

“You sure?  Not gonna punch me in the gut now, are you?”

“Promise.”

“Okay…” he sighed, “So, here goes…”  he placed his feet at mine and stood, moving his body close—too close.

I stopped breathing.  God, what is he doing?  I closed my eyes.

He tipped his head towards my ear, cold air brushing as his words came out,  “You prefer the fighter to the lover, then?”

Something inside of me shivered, and I gave him a slight nod.

His quiet eyes watched me, pulling himself away.  He stared in silence for a moment, biting his lip, before he seemed to find his words.  “Right then.  There’s something I need you to do…”



I stumbled down the stairs.  Dust pillowed up around my head, choking in my throat.  I glanced around when I reached the dirt-floor.  Something is seriously wrong with this basement.  I clicked on the flashlight and began to tiptoe through the halls.

It wasn’t long before I found some crates and boxes.  I rummaged through the wood.  Nothing.  A screeching rat scurried across a lid as I went to pick it up, and I jumped back.  Ew.  That box can stay open.

I wandered down more dark hallways, shadows passing over the weak walls.  I came to another opening—a more familiar one.  The light flashed over the bloodied rack that had held Spike…tortured him.

I ran my fingers across the dirt where Supervamp was born.  It was hardened now.  I stepped to the stained wood, touching where the beams met.  Blood began to pour down the wood.  This isn’t it.  Isn’t where I need to be.  I backed away and turned, and two Bringers waited for me.

They charged.  I threw the flashlight at one, but he must’ve blocked it.  They still came at me, so I rolled across the floor.  The continued past me and vanished into the wall.

I felt my heart in my throat.  It’s okay…nothing to worry about.  Just get it and…

“GET OUT!”  a dark scream boomed in my ears, pushing me to the gound.

Oh God.  I felt it all around me.  Just like that night with Miss Calendar…when she changed into that…

Run.  I pushed out of the room, or the fiery air pushed me out.  I didn’t look back at it.  What if it’s the Hellmouth?  What was I thinking?  Coming down here all by…

But then I saw it, out of the corner of my eye.  Draped across an old bookshelf.  Just get it.  Run over there and get it!

I sprinted towards the shelf.  A beam fell, pushing dirt up into the air.  I jumped and finally reached it.  Spike’s lousy leather jacket!  I clenched tight, pulling it up the stairs.  Boiling wind smoldered around me when I reached the door.  I went to yell as I pulled the knob, bolted or locked on the other side, and the wind pulled the air from my lungs.

I fell to the floor, pulling the coat over my head.  The wind swirled around, trying to lift it away, as the dark voice roared and echoed in my head.  My hand deep buried into a pocket, where I found the cold metal of Spike’s lighter.



Spike stepped into the living room.  I was at the weapons chest, pushing stakes and holy water aside for my axe.  I grabbed it out, and looked to Spike.

“See you’ve got what you want…” he nodded to the axe.  “What ’bout me?  Do I get what I want?”

I gripped the axe and went towards the door.  He followed, stopping with me at the closet.  I pulled the door open.

There it was.  His Big-Bad leather duster.

I watched his face.  His eyes seemed to gaze in wonderment before he lifted his hands to pull it out.  “Thanks,” he said softly.

“Alright,” I said as he pulled it on.  “Ready to kick some ass?”

A playful smile popped up.  “After you, Slayer.”

I turned, smiling with my back to him, and stepped outside.

He shut the front door.  “So, was it hard to find?”

My boots clicked against the steps.  “Nope.  Not hard at all.”



Part 5

The stake landed dead on, and the vamp poofed out of sight.  Getting late, probably should get home.  I headed towards the fence.

“Had enough?” Spike jogged up next to me.

“Yeah.  Looks pretty dead.”

He half-smiled, following me back to the house in silence.  Not next to me—behind me.  Wonder why he’s back there… what if he’s looking at…  Oh, God!

“Spike!” I turned and his brow rose.  What was I going to say again?

We stood still, waiting for me to finish it.  Nothing came.  He sighed, stepping ahead of me.  I followed him all the way to the steps, but he turned, stopping me there.

“I need to…” his hands fled to his pockets.  “I need to say something before we go back in there…”

Oh no… this can’t be good.  My breath fell uneasy, and soon stopped altogether.  He knew he was making me uncomfortable, but he just took a deep breath and stepped down.  He’s got those remorse-eyes… God, this isn’t going to be good.

“It’s about… earlier…” his body was shivering, “Last night… when, when I…”  His shaking hand lifted now, fingertips brushing against my arm.

I didn’t move—I still wasn’t even breathing.  Hurry Spike, say it and let’s go in.

He sighed.  “I’m sorry for it… what I did… what I said…”

It flashed back to me, the second I pushed all my strength behind my fist, ramming it into his side.  And he had fallen.  I had to say it back—because I am sorry.  He didn’t deserve that… even if he did say… that.

I lifted my arm to his side, and he slid away from me, drawing his arms his body.  I pulled my hand away, tucking hair behind my ears.  “Sorry.”

His stone-face seemed to melt like a candle, no doubt realizing that I wasn’t trying to hurt him.  He had every reason to believe that I would.  I rose my eyes to his, trying to see past the color of them… trying to see what Anya saw—what I hadn’t seen before.

Nothing.  Just his eyes.  They’ve always looked like that.

I stepped past him and into the house.  He hesitated before following me in.



“Buffy!” Xander shouted out.  “Just in time!  Ready to hear the latest great news?”

I came slowly into the living room.  All the Scoobies—even Anya and Andrew.  All the SITs—were there always this many?  And Giles is here?  Looks like more bad news for Buffy.  The basement door closed.  Spike wasn’t going to hear this?

Giles stood, “Yes, well… indeed.  It seems things are getting a little bit…”

“Sacrificial!” Anya piped up.

I glanced around at the worried faces.  Xander’s looked more… annoyed.

“Meaning?” I asked.

“To offer something as a homage—usually involves slaughtering of some kind.” Anya answered with a smile.

“It doesn’t say anything about pig-slaughter…” Andrew’s whiny voice emerged, and grew quieter as he finished, “Does it?”

Giles glanced at me before blinking away.  “According to this passage…” he lifted a book and read from it, “The First will send Bringers to… well, bring… four items for a, um… some form of ritual…”

“Ritual?” I placed my axe in the chest.  “So what’s the sacrifice?”

“The text says… Breath of Fire, uh…” Giles shrugged as he read on, “Heart of Strength, Ghost of Passion, and…” he paused, blinking furiously at the page.  “Eye of Toad?  Egg of Turnip…”

“Uh, Giles?”

“It’s written in hideously condemned text, Buffy.” He dropped the book, which gave a loud thud.  “And I… I haven’t figured the final…”

“Yeah, but… Giles… Breath of Fire?  Where is that?  What is that?”

“We, um, haven’t gotten to that part yet…”  Anya spoke softly.

My eyes looked to the ceiling, then back to Giles.  “Well, what about this ritual thing?  What’s it for?”

Giles glanced around the room.  I followed his gaze to Anya.

Anya rubbed her fingers.  “We, um, haven’t gotten to that part yet…either…”

We all sighed together, and the room stayed silent for some time.  I checked out all the girls, each looking back and forth at each other—like cartoon characters.  Xander and Dawn were standing, both pairs of eyes on me.  And Willow stared at her computer, as if she wasn’t even really there.

I rubbed my eyes.  “Maybe Spike knows something.”



“I don’t know anything…”

I had just opened the door when he spoke from his place on the first step.

I closed the door behind me and sat next to him.  “You could have been in there.”

His eyes rolled, and he turned his head from me.  “Not one for crowds.”

“That crowd is all you have.”

He snorted.  “Angry eyes and jeering mouths… Reminds me of the old Angelus days.”

Now I rolled my eyes.  “Do you have to keep bringing him up?”

His eyes searched me for a moment.  Then he stood, breaking the gaze, and went down the stairs.

I sighed, standing.  “Now what?”

He was sitting on the bed now, his head in his hands.  “I don’t know.”

The silence was sickening, and I walked down the stairs only to break it with the sound of my boots clicking softly against the wood.  He didn’t move.  Just held his head as I reached the floor.

Then he chuckled, and it grew into a whispered laugh.  His head bobbed up and down.  I smiled, but it quickly faded when I realized this wasn’t his funny-laugh.

There was a strained smile on his face when he lifted it.  “You know, sometimes I think I think about him more than you ever did…”

Angel?  I wanted to ask him, but something kept me quiet.

“How he helped you… and hurt you…” his head fell into his hands again, and his words became muffled, “How he… survived… you.”  His fingers scratched into his skull.  “And it stings… the thinking… it stings, and I… if I could just… stop.”

Survived me?  What is that supposed to mean?  Again, I kept my thoughts to myself.  My silence seemed so golden—bringing out whatever it was that kept him at such a distance.

But he seemed to catch on, and also fell silent, pressing his palms against his temples.  We could only hear muffled words upstairs, until he fell back onto the bed, seemingly pushing words out of him… again with the laughter.

“I forgot…” he said between chuckles, “You want the fighter.” He lifted his legs onto the bed and stretched out.  “Right then, Slayer!  Come talk to me when you know what the hell is going on.”  He kicked his boots off, “When there’s something I can kill for you.”

“Alright, Spike.  Those mood swings are way too regular nowadays.  I stood here and listened, and it’s still not enough.  I’m out of ideas.”  I turned to go upstairs.

As expected, another mood swing.  He was behind me in a second.  “Wait!  Don’t go.  I’m sorry, Buffy.  I just thought…”

“Thought what?” I crossed my arms, “What?  I can’t understand?  I don’t know how it feels?  That I can’t feel anything?”

He was blown back by my words.  His speechless mouth hung open.

Might as well finish it up, now.  “This is hard for me, too.” I felt my voice weaken, and quickly gulped away the lump in my throat.  “Don’t you get that?”

He was taking air in slow and unsteady now, lowering his eyes to my stomach.  I could see it—that he wanted to hold me, maybe even kiss me, but was fighting himself from it.  Am I so terrifying?  Is he so afraid?

The lump came back to my throat, and I felt my face grow hot.  The image of Spike became blurry, and I blinked.  A salty drop slid down my cheek, and Spike came into clear view again.  His eyes followed my tear.  He lifted his hand to it, but brought it away quick with wide eyes.  He dropped to the step in an instant and placed his palms over my boots.

“Buffy…” he rubbed my feet and up my ankles, burying his face into my knees.  “I’m so sorry, love…”

Another tear fell down.

He looked up, and in seeing it he hugged my calves.  “What a monster I am…” he groaned, and bent lower.  He spoke between gentle kisses, “Make you cry… make you weak…” he kissed my ankle one last time before he dropped his head against the wooden stair.

I looked down at him—crumpled at my feet, sobbing or shaking.  I stepped down behind him, then crouched alongside him.  I drew my arm across his back and hugged him close.

He didn’t hug back.



Part 6

This is a dream. The glow washed over me. The warmed surrounded my arms and body. So warm. So smooth. I was back. Back in my peace.

The mist flowed freely as I began to move slowly and aimlessly. The quiet was empowering, strengthening my every silent step. The peace. So right. So long. My place.

It came fast then. The glow ripped itself apart, and tore a hole through the peace, chilling my spine as it sucked out all the warmth. The silence was gone, too, and the wind screamed all around me.

This is a dream. This is over. Wake up! I pushed myself, trying to wake. But my arms just flailed helpless before me. Then the wind swirled faster, and wrapped cold fingers around my wrists, pulling me into the angry hole.

And all the light was gone. It was cold, and dark, and I was powerless.



I clutched the mug, staring out the kitchen window. The warming tickle from the sun graced over my pounding flesh. But again the cold chill returned to my spine, and all the warmth fled again.

He didn’t say anything. I knew he was there. He knew that I knew, and he still tried to hide it—standing so silent and still in the entrance. I sipped, and the warm drink flowed through me, taking away the chill. At least, I thought the sip took away the chill, until I turned to see that he was already gone.



“If you please… Put that down!” Giles’ voice grew quieter as he had moved away from the phone. “That’s not to be toiled wi—” a loud crash interrupted him, and I could hear several of the slay-girls gasping.

“Giles?” I finally called him back.

“We’re going to move downstairs,” he had picked up the phone again, “Everyone to the basement.” He spoke directly into the phone now, but quietly, “Silly, strong, and stubborn…”

“What was slain? A lamp?”

“No… Vase.” I could hear the glass shifting. Giles must’ve been cleaning it up.

“Bummer.” I said, not really caring much about flowers or destroyed vases that had held them. “You had something to tell me?”

I glanced up. Principal Wood peered over my cubical wall.

“Something about… that boy? The boy who… broke up… with you?”

Principal Wood smiled.

“Boy who broke up… Buffy, what in God’s name are you talking about?” Giles asked.

My eyes widened, “Because, you know, there’s plenty of fish in the sea. You just have to find them. Better yet, you could find, like, four of them…”

Principal Wood looked confused, then shook his head and smiled before he walked away.

“Buffy, are you suggesting that I find some sort of—”

“Giles!” I whispered frantically into the phone. “Ritual! Get on with it, will you?”

“Oh, yes… the counseling, forgive me.” He cleared his throat, “We’ve translated what we believe may help locate one of the ritual… ingredients.”

“Great! Where?”

“Um…” he stuttered, “Breath of Fire burns within the one who combats in flames.”

What? How was this helpful? I fell back into my chair, exhausted. “Giles, that doesn’t tell us anything. I mean, what the hell does it even mean?”

“Well, I haven’t a clue, Buffy.”

“Couldn’t you have called me when you had something a little more… solid?”

“Spike… Spike has an idea on what it could mean. Says there’s a demon in Sunnydale that fits such a description.”

“Then we wait.” I hung up the phone.



Rain fell as I stepped onto the grass, matting down my hair. Spike closed the door.

“Pretty far from here, Slayer.” He didn’t leave the shelter, “Think maybe we should ask the boy for a lift?”

I didn’t slow at his suggestion—just kept walking. “Nope. Don’t want to worry about protecting him if things get ugly.” Soft rain flattened into my skin and clothes. “Besides, nice night for a walk.”

“Humph,” he sniffed, opening the door again. I turned to watch him disappear inside. He returned having shed his duster. “Nice for you.”

We crossed Revello, heading away from the graveyard. For the first couple miles the air was filled with silence. My head was filled with noisy thoughts.

Should I talk to him about last night? About Angel? He thinks I still love Angel. Crazy, because I don’t think he still loves Dru. Not like he did. Not like he loved me. Or he did… or does… love me. I know it. Accepted it. It wasn’t the right kind of love before, but now, I don’t know. He’s all soul-having. But does that really change it? Angel was souled when he broke my heart. Didn’t stop it from happening. Why am I bringing it back to Angel, anyway? This isn’t the same. It’s different. He did it for me… Spike fought for that soul… for me. Even if it wasn’t what I wanted, it doesn’t make his intentions any less noble. Noble? Is that what he is?

I glanced over at Spike, and he quickly returned it. Rain dripped off his cheek. His face looked nervous from the silence, or he was uneasy that I might end it. I couldn’t tell.

I wonder how it feels… to suddenly have part of you that was gone for over a century. Does he know why it’s there? Do I? I placed my hand over my heart, feeling the steady beat. Is this it? The beat? At least the heart feels… you know that it’s there. With the soul, it was harder to feel it. Hard to find it. Spike had gone halfway around the Earth to find his.

For me.

“Left ahead,” he pointed. “Gonna run outta road soon.”

Great. Dark forest with Spike. This was such a bad idea.

He sighed. Too quiet. Say something to him.

“So what’s this Breath of Fire demon like?”

“Big. Nasty. ” Spike chewed his bottom lip. “Should be right fun.”

Fun? “And we’re going to… Did Giles say to kill it?”

Spike shrugged. “Way I figure it, we poke around his pad first. See what he’s got.” His eyebrow rose. “Gives us trouble, we give him the axe.”

Rain pinged against the axe as I held it up to look at it. “What if we… need him? Maybe we should just… cage it up… or something.”

Spike chuckled. “Don’t count on it, pet.”

The trees sheltered out most of the rain. Spike bent over and slapped the water off his head. He whipped his head back up, and his hair curled. Naturally-curly Spike. I chuckled. He glanced over at me.

“Hold still,” he came next to me. Shivers. He moved his hand to my ear. Oh, God, he can feel my shivers. Stop it!

His fingers pinched a lock of my hair, and slowly dragged a leaf from it. He twirled it before my face, and water sprinkled off onto me. He dropped it, watching it fall to the ground. His gaze rested on my body. I was soaked. The clothes stuck to me. He could probably see right through them.

Shivers, again. What is he doing? What am I doing?

He lifted his hand, stopping it inches away from my waist.

Don’t touch me, Spike. I don’t know what I’ll do. I don’t know what I think of this. But it would feel so nice… to feel a gentle touch again after… And the decision was made. I slid my hand out towards his and pulled it to my waist.

He clung to me, moving closer. Oh no. I started it. Can I make him stop? Do I want him to stop? The other hand slid around me now, and I looked at his face. Still lowered, looking down at his careful hands. They moved up my arms—rubbed my arms. God, I can’t breathe. My eyes closed, and I sucked air in as I spoke, “Spike…”

He froze.

Scared. I scared him. I lifted my eyes to his, letting air out and quickly drawing more in. His eyes met mine. We stood like that, until finally he brought his face closer.

No, no, no. Don’t do it. Don’t kiss him. But my tongue still jumped across my lips. He closed his eyes, and I closed mine.

And then his forehead rested against my own, but his mouth was far from mine. It was open—I could hear his panting. Quick, frightened panting. My heart beat to the pace of it. And again, we stood like that.

I opened my eyes and watched him. His eyes still closed tight, his face wincing and worried. He looked hurt. I moved my head back, and his fell forward slightly. His eyes gazed back at me now.

“Are you…” I thought about moving out from his hands, but they felt so good. “Are you okay?”

Still open-mouthed, he nodded.

“Because you look…”

His eyes closed again, followed by another wince.

“… hurt.” I finished.

He pulled his hands from my sides and over his head. They clutched at the top before resting at the back of his neck. He blinked, then looked at me again.

“It’s…” he scratched at his shoulder, “It’s gone now.”

“What? What was it?”

He turned, walking further into the forest. “Chip… it stings… sometimes it stings.”

I followed him, grasping my axe with cold fingers. “The chip? Were you trying to… were you going to bite me?”

He swung around. “No!”

“Then why did it zap?”

His fists were clenched. “It wasn’t you, Slayer. It just… sometimes it just does.”

My arms lowered the axe, “That’s it?”

He sighed. “Yeah. That’s it.”

He walked away again, and I moved quick to catch up. I stumbled over a dip in the ground just as he turned.

“Does the Watcher know? About it?”

“About what?”

“The soul. Did you tell him about it?”

I hesitated, confusing thoughts in my head. Why doesn’t he ever call it ‘his’? Always ‘the’ soul. Never… ‘my’ soul… but my soul? Does he think of it as mine? I glanced at him, realizing he was still waiting for an answer. I quickly ran over conversations with Giles in my head… remembered the time I was going to tell him once… Something came up. Doesn’t matter really. Xander or Dawn or Willow must’ve said…

“I’m sure he knows,” was all I could offer.

He scowled, “It really is nothing to you, isn’t it? Doesn’t matter that I… Doesn’t change… You still think of me as soulless.”

No I don’t! My head screamed in my defense. Why couldn’t I say it? I don’t know what I think, I wanted to say that to him. But I could only stare at him in silence.

He approached me again, outstretching his hand, locking our eyes. His hand rested against the middle of my chest. Oh no. He held it there for so long. Oh, God. I felt my heart pounding. He could feel it too. What is he thinking? I stared into his eyes, trying to figure him out.

He spoke in a low voice, “It’s not hard… you know… to find it.”

I didn’t break eye contact, even as I felt his cool fingers tapping my skin.

“I see yours now, you know? So clean, and strong. I can feel the strength. I don’t need proof of it. I know it is there.”

I shuddered as his hand slid down to my stomach, reaching my wrist and grasping it. I dropped the axe and he pulled my hand up. He held it to his chest, focusing on my eyes.

“Can’t you know it? It’s there, love. Can’t you see it? Feel it?” He dropped his hand.

I lost myself in the depths of his eyes, searching for it. I pressed my palm hard into his chest, desperately trying to feel it. His eyes squinted, and tiny raindrops dripped softly off his lashes.

I don’t. I don’t see it. Why can’t I see it? I could hear Spike already asking it.

But he didn’t ask it. He sighed. “I can’t make you see it, Buffy. You can’t trust… you don’t believe it.”

I do. Tell him I do! God, Buffy, say something… he’s waiting. He’s fading… he’ll turn his back. Walk away hurt again. Do I want to hurt him again? Trust him? Should I…

“Believe?” the rest of the thought whispered over my lips.

He blinked, giving a slight smile. “Believe me, Buffy. Believe… in me. Don’t just say it to me… do it.”

My hand fell. So wrong. How can he be so wrong, and so right?

His smile faded as he bent down to grab the axe. I stood speechless… thoughtless… powerless.

He held it out, “Not far now. Off we go.”

I took the axe, and followed him deeper into the forest.



Part 7

“Should be that one, there.” Spike motioned to the cavern ahead, “What’s the plan?”

We’ve had hours to think up a plan, but no. We had to go all talky again. I sighed, “Dark. No flashlight. You?”

“Left my lighter in my jacket,” he muttered, glancing up at the branches. “Don’t fancy just a casual stroll in there. Won’t see a damn thing without a torch or somethin‘.”

God, we’re stupid. “Should’ve brought Willow. Bet she could’ve done a spell or something.”

“Yeah, or we could’ve just brought a torch,” Spike shrugged, “Wicca’s spells always seem to go all wonky, if you ask me.”

“Not anymore,” I ripped at one of the lower branches. “And no one’s asking. Now find some rocks to spark this.”

“I’m not a bloody caveman, Slayer.”

“Just find two,” I strained, tugging hard at the branch. “Stop wasting my time.”

I heard him chuckle, fumbling around the ground. The branch came loose, and I pulled the bark away, fraying a driest corner. Spike handed me two stones.

“Hold this.”

He did so, and I placed one rock close to the frayed side. I clacked the rocks together a couple of times before a spark ignited. The branch began to burn.

“Well, well, well…” Spike smiled. “Something new every day, Slayer. Never stop surprising me.”

I raised the axe. “Let’s go.”



Serious business now, Buffy. Stop looking at him. I have work to do. I told him to stop with the mooneyes, now all I have to do is… stop… with the… mooneyes. He walked in front, holding the torch up towards the wall. God, I can’t even focus. I don’t even know which way we’re going.

Spike disappeared behind a wall, the glow from the fire still easy to see. He hadn’t said a word the whole time we’ve been in here. Just scenting and walking. Good. I liked it that way. Easier to focus. It’s what I asked him to do anyway—stop with the talking when things were serious. And they are. Focus. Work to do. I rounded the corner, and jumped.

“Bloody hell, Slayer!” Spike spoke in a low whisper. “Awfully jumpy tonight.”

“Spike! This demon, you know what it looks like?”

“Sh!” he turned around. “We’re getting close, you wanna lose a limb?”

I pulled him back down the other hall. “Don’t you think we should plan this out a little?”

He smiled—that mischievous smile. God, I hate that smile… a little. “Don’t want to wing it? Think it’d be more fun for you if we did…”

I yanked the torch from him. “We’re not going any further until you tell me what we’re up against.”

“Nothing we can’t handle, Slayer. You know I wouldn’ta brought you here if I thought otherwise,” a slight smile appeared.

I glared back at him.

He sighed. “Big beastie. Lots o‘ fire, lots o‘ muscle.”

“So how do we kill him… it?”

Spike pointed to the axe.

“That’s it? That’s your plan?”

He nodded. Shadows stretched over his head.

“Spike…”

“What?” More shadows, big shadows. “You got a better idea, Slayer?”

My eyes opened so wide I thought they might fall out. Whatever was rushing up behind Spike was more than just ‘big.’ The flames licked the cave’s ceiling. I pushed the torch into Spike’s hand and grabbed his arm.

“Run!”

We turned back down the other corridor, and then I let go of Spike’s arm and sprinted faster. Outside. Get outside. Too big. Spike’s footsteps were behind me, and then we could hear the demon’s steps: shattering slams against the rocky floor. The walls shook around us. I rounded another corner. Then another. More corners after that one. I stopped, staring at the three passages in front of me. I don’t remember this...

Spike came to a scudding stop at my side, breathing heavy. My thoughts sidetracked. He’s always doing that. Why? What’s he trying to prove? He has no breath to be out of…

“Slayer,” he said between gasps, “I think you took a wrong turn.”

The walls shook with a thundering smash. Spike looked behind us.

“I think you took a lot of wrong turns.”

“Well, I didn’t know!” I kept staring at the three choices. “You should’ve said something!”

He sighed. “I think we should go left.”

“I think right.”

“Right, left then?”

“No! Right. Go right!”

“Let’s compromise: Middle?”

I shook my head, and began stepping forward. “We’re going right.”

“What if I want to go middle?” Spike protested. A large crash sounded nearby, and he eagerly followed me to the right.

I rounded another corner and stopped, pushing Spike back as he came around it. He fell on his back, dropping the torch. “What the bloomin‘ hell was that for?”

I stepped over him. “Big? Nothing we can’t handle? Are you insane?”

He shrugged. “Guess he grew up…”

I leaned against the wall. “This is the stupidest goose-chase I’ve ever been on.”

He struggled, using the wall to help himself up. “Been fun though, hasn’t it?”

I rolled my eyes, but a smile came up anyway.

“Been a long time since we had fun… together.” He leaned next to me.

It had. Everything so serious all the time, especially with all The First’s latest antics. And the year before, with Willow… and Spike… and everything. It had been a long run for hard times. But this was fun… he’s right. I smiled.

“I miss that.” I said.

“The fun? The innocence, that’s what it was, pet. The chastity… the virginity…”

I glanced at him, and he was quick to reply.

“I mean, you were naïve then. Things weren’t so complicated, because you didn’t know any different.”

“No.” I looked at the ground. “It was… it was hard then, too.”

A pause. A long pause.

“Before I came along?”

I nodded. “Long before. I may have been naïve, but I was learning.” I looked over at him, “Learning fast. Hard lessons, Spike. The life-changing kind.”

“I get that,” he looked at the ground, probably regretted bringing it up. “That’s why… It’s something I wanted to change. Make it easier...”

The wall behind us shook, and we both stood away from it. Spike slipped into another passage, and I followed.

“Never did, though,” his words echoed slightly in the air, “It’s why I left. To get it… do the right thing. It’s what you’re all about… the right things.”

“Perfect Buffy died a long time ago.” I sighed, glancing his way.

The torch lit the wall behind him, forming a bright glow around his head as he murmured, “Always be perfect to me.”

God. Is he serious? Is he trying to make me cry? Who knows what he’ll do if I cry again… here, in this dark hole. God, he’d do… that thing. I bit back on my expression, and a laugh pushed its way out.

“Perfect to you? Is that some kind of joke?” I chuckled harder. “Because it’s funny. I mean… Spike, I’ve treated roaches better!”

He looked surprised at my reaction, and stopped walking. “After everything I’d done to you? Pfft, don’t even bother ’bout my forgiveness, pet.”

What’s that supposed to mean? God, he’s a bad liar. What does he think I am? “What would you say if I asked for it?”

He shook his head, turning his back and walking again. “Don’t ask it.”

“Why not? You beg for mine every day!”

He pointed the torch, “I think we should go left up ahead.”

I stopped, crossing my arms. He stopped walking, knowing I had stopped walking. He dropped the torch and faced me.

“I think you can’t forgive me. That’s why you can’t answer me.”

His face crinkled, eyes staring like I was upside-down. And he stood, silent and staring, as I found more to say.

“It’s true, isn’t it? You can’t forgive me.” He’s right not to. I was wrong. I needed to hear it, and he didn’t need to say it.

He kept his eyes on me, moving closer. Oh no. Not again. Too much contact already tonight, Spike. He set his hands over my shoulders. Oh no. Bad, bad. No, no. Forget it, Spike. Forget I said it.

He blinked, and his lips twitched. A hand fell against the back of my neck. So familiar. So comfy. It settled into place, rubbing a cool finger across the top of my spine. I strained to keep my eyes open. If I close them, it’s over.

I closed them.

Oh, bad. Oh no. Please don’t. Fire monster, Xander—anything turn that corner right now and stop this.

His cool lips pressed against my forehead. My thoughts melted away, as if his chilling touch was too hot to bear. He held there a short moment, and it was over so fast that I had to fight not to pull him back.

I opened my eyes. His fixed in them—entranced them. I couldn’t look away if I wanted to… I didn’t want to. Say it please. I need to hear it.

He brushed his hand across my cheek. “There’s nothing to forgive, love.”

There is! God, there is! Why won’t you? He turned again, and was picking up the torch. No! That’s not what I wanted! Tell me what I need to hear you say, Spike! I stood there, begging him with no words. Forgive me.

He turned, motioning me in front of him.

It came to me then as I stepped forward. Things really are different. Not long ago I could’ve said all those words to him, and he would have said it all right back… in any language I wanted... as many times as I wanted. But not now. I couldn’t even bring the words to my tongue. They didn’t taste right.

“Buffy?”

God… I’m still naïve.



“I… I don’t want to wander like this anymore.”

Spike shrugged. “Like to stay here forever, then?”

No. I want to fight. I need to fight. “Where’s the demon?”

Spike glanced about the hall. “Not sure. Smell’s harder to pick up. Must’ve given up on us.”

“Hunt it.”

“What?”

I looked at him, not showing any expression. “We’re going to kill it. Now.”

He stopped, and began walking the other way. I followed.

“You sure ’bout this, Slayer?”

Oh God, yes. I’ve never wanted to kill anything this badly. Well, maybe equal to how much I used to want to kill you, Spike. “Just… get me to it.”

His eyes closed, and brow rose. “You’re the boss, pet.”

God, I need to kill something.



He stopped. “This is it. You hear it? Right through this wall.”

“So why isn’t it busting through?”

“Breathing slow. Must be asleep.”

Perfect. I gripped the axe tight. “Let’s go.”

The lair was open, and empty except for the demon. Lots of running room. Not a lot of high points. My eyes fell on the demon, resting in the far left corner. The scaly back moved up and down slowly. I glared hungrily. You are so dead.

“Got a plan, Slayer?” Spike whispered from behind me.

I shrugged, and stepped lightly towards the demon’s back. I pulled the axe back, and the blinding rage inside took over. I swung down, hard and fast, chopping right down the spine.

The wound exploded, forcing me back in a rush of heat. Spike caught me, but the force pushed us to the ground. Then the roar came, shaking my insides with the walls. The ground vibrated as it struggled to all fours, favoring its back. Then it turned to us, the face twisted in bloodlust. The golden eyes burned through me as I got to my feet, pulling Spike up. I heard him pull a knife… from his boot? Didn’t know that was there. I lifted the axe, sidestepping. The demon’s glare followed me.

The mouth—more like a beak—stretched open, releasing a deep growl. Spike had moved to its other side now, crouching slightly, the long knife held before his face.

I moved in quick, spinning the axe over my head for more power. The demon crouched, and sprung forward at me. I dove under it, the sharp beak catching my shirt. I got to my feet again, touching the rip over my shoulder blade. The ground shook as the heavy body landed.

“Fire, Slayer!” I could barely hear Spike shout over the deafening screech of the monster. “Get down! Buffy!”

I fell to my hands and knees, the fire rushing just above me. I rolled to my right before I stood. The demon’s back was to me now, the face focused on Spike dancing in front of it. I ran at it again, winding the axe before landing it hard into the hind leg.

The demon squealed, lunging forward at Spike, who leapt out of the way. I pulled the axe out, and the demon’s head turned to me. The piercing screech started again, and I sprinted away from it. I heard the fire rushing behind me—felt the heat building up, and dove face-first against a wall, pressing my body hard against it. The wave pushed past me, singeing the torn fabric on my shoulder. Then it stopped, and the demon howled, shaking the wall I was up against. I blinked to clear my blurry eyes, and then was able to see it again.

Spike had pushed his knife into an eye, and a massive front claw lifted and knocked him away. He flew across the lair, crying out before landing hard on his back.

The demon lifted the front claws, scratching at its face. I stepped into the open again, ignoring the pounding sounds as the paws slammed into the ground. I crouched low as a claw finally scratched out the knife. A deafening roar again, and it turned to me.

I took a deep breath as the demon screeched again. The bloody head lifted high, then pushed forward with a fierce shriek. The smoldering flames flew at me. I still crouched as it came, faster and faster. Louder and louder. Focus. Wait. Wait. Almost…

Then I felt it. The surge of strength as the flames came too close. I pushed my legs up, rolling to my right. The blaze fed past me, devouring to the back wall. I regained my footing, stood fast, and gave a tiny yell as I heaved the axe across the lair. The blade spun at the demon’s neck, still stretched out to scream the fire. It landed with a sick thud, forcing the demon to its side. The chamber fell silent, and the fire burned out. All was dark except for the torch near the entrance that dimmed by the second.



Part 8

It was so dark.  Stupid torch had burned out the second I got to Spike.  His hand found mine.  He whimpered as I tried to pull him up, so I knelt.

Muddled words came quietly, and I was certain he had said, “Just go.”  I wrapped my arms under him gently, and lifted him to his feet.

And now, he was draped over me again—just like the night I had saved him.  The night I had saved him.  Like I’m some big hero.  Yeah, that’s reason to think he’d forgive me.  After what I made him think?  What I made him do?  My thoughts were so loud I glanced over at him, positive he could hear them.  How could he not?

But his bruised face was lowered, watching our invisible feet kick up dust as we wandered down another dark hallway.

God, we need to get out of here.  Those claws had shredded his shirt, which still clung about his neck.  But it wasn’t his neck or shirt I was worried about.  It was all the blood seeping through the shredded shirt.  I felt cold air against my forehead.  An opening?

“Spike, here…” I stopped him against a wall, then let him go.

He slid back against it.

“Don’t sit.  It’s too hard to stand you up again.”

He grunted to hold his footing as I walked away.

I followed the breeze.  Again, Spike was hurt… unable to stand because he was with me.  I don’t get it.  We weren’t talking this time.  We were both focused.  Or was he?  I lifted my hand above my head, trying to feel more air.  Nothing—it had come and gone.  I walked back to Spike.  Maybe he tried to go to me, after the demon spit that fire.  I should ask…  no, wait.  I shouldn’t.  I don’t want to know, anyway.  If he was, and he tells me he was, I’ll yell at him… and we’re stuck in this cave.  Okay.  Not now.

His arm found its way around me again, and we started down another dark path.



My feet were throbbing when he finally muttered something.

“Slayer?”

I jumped a little.  It was creepy hearing him whisper that in the dark, when I couldn’t see his gentle eyes to soften the word, or that smirk across his face to lighten it.  The way it sounded in the dark made my skin tingle.

“What is it?”

His arm dropped heavy onto my shoulder, and he pulled us to a stop.

“I have to tell you something.”

I nodded.  Stupid.  He can’t see a nod; it’s pitch-black.  I went to answer aloud, but he began talking again… as if he had seen my nod.

“Won’t get mad?  Won’t run off and leave me?”

“Spike, you can’t even stand.”  I faced his direction, “What is it?”

He leaned in closer, his face inches from mine—the chill of his skin cooling mine.  Does he know he’s this close?  Too close.  Again.  I shivered.  He knows.

“Could’ve walked on my own for the past hour.”

My mouth dropped open.  His head fell against my shoulder, and he let out a soft laugh.  I started to back away.

His arm slid down mine, hand tugging at my wrist, “Don’t get mad, love…  You said you wouldn’t run off.”

I slipped out of his grasp, able to feel his hands waving at the empty air.  “I never said that.”

I heard him slump to the ground before he spoke—almost singing, “Slayer?  Oh, Slayer?  Where have you gone?”  His feet were dragging—still on his knees.  “Over here?  I think you are…”

I gave him an amused smile, that turned into a quiet giggle as I sensed him come to a stop right in front of me. He stayed there, inches away from me.  Close enough to touch, but still not touching.  I strained to see him there, and made out his hair.  He was looking up—straining to see me.

I felt a chill up my body as he stood.  I grabbed his hand, pulling his arm over my shoulders again.

“Let’s get out of here, Spike.”



“Oh, crap!” I squirmed out of Spike’s hold and sprinted for the mouth of the cave.  Sunlight beamed through the trees and into the first few feet of the cave.

“Yeah.  It’s been up for ’bout ten minutes now.  Been thinking ’bout what I’m gonna do stuck in this cave all day.”

“And?” I walked back in his direction.

He smiled, tilting his head slightly, “Think of you.”

I rolled my eyes.  “I’ll call Giles from the school.  He’ll get you back to the house.”  Where you can still think of me, if you want.

He nodded, “Thanks.  Better be off soon, Slayer.  Gonna be late for work.”

I rubbed my eyes, “What time is it?”  God, I want a shower.

“I’d say a little after six.”

Good-bye, shower.  I looked down at my ripped, bloody, and burnt clothes.

“Should run to the Harris’ first…  get yourself cleaned up.”

I looked up at him.  Right, Xander!  Shower there and change when we get Dawn for school.  Oh, mother of all good ideas, thank you Spike.  I smiled at him, and he stretched against the wall before slipping to the floor.  My smile left.  I forgot how hurt he was.  I took a couple steps forward.

He glanced up, “What’re you waiting for?  Run along, Slayer.”

But I kept walking towards him, until I was standing at his tired legs.  Spike, Spike.  Old Spike wouldn’t have let that scratch happen—would’ve moved out of the way.  Something is bothering you.  You really are slipping… and it’s my fault.  I knelt next to him.  How can I help you?

He sat straight against the wall, rising a knee to stop me, “Don’t.”  His eyes followed my hand in fear as I lifted it to his chest.  “Buffy… don’t.”

Why?  God, Spike, just let me help you… or thank you.  Let me do something.  I watched more blood seep out of the wounds as my hand hovered over them.  He was breathing hard, pushing the blood out by working his lungs.  His eyes shut tight, but his mouth sucked air in and out.  His bloodied bottom lip started to tremble a bit.

Why?  What is so scary about this, Spike?  You have to stop it.  Being afraid like this.  Don’t you want to help?  Do you think this helps?

But I didn’t say anything, holding my thoughts as he held the air now.  He stopped breathing, biting his bottom lip.

Fine.  I don’t need you to look at me when I say it.  I pulled my hand away and stood, shoving it in my pocket.  “See you tonight.”

He hissed out the air.

What?  I started to walk away.  No, I was supposed to tell him thanks.  Where did those words come from?  I made it to the sunlight, expecting him to call out to me.  He didn’t.  I wouldn’t have heard him over my noisy thoughts anyway.



“It’s dead.”

“Are you sure?”

“It’s dead.”

“Buffy,” Giles’ voice was concerned, “I’ve done some reading on that demon... in one of the books I read about Glory.  Very common in her dimension.  Apparently the creature was spawned when Glory…”

“When the portal opened.  I get it.  Was it our guy?”

“It’s doubtful, if it came from Glory’s dimension, that it was what we were looking for.  Of course, I would like to see it up close to make sure… And dead.  You are quite certain you killed it?”

“Giles, it’s dead.” I assured him.  “But if you’re planning on going back into the caves to look at it, bring weapons and flashlights.  Something else could be in there.”

“Not likely.  If this demon is, indeed, as big as you say… probably scared anything else out.”

“It is that big.” I gave a restless sigh, wishing I could leave and meet Giles at the cave.  Spike would be there.  Oh, wait.  “Giles, Spike’s hurt.  If you want him to take you back through the cave, bring him some blood.”

“Spike’s hurt?”

“Kinda,” I replied, more important ideas popping into my head, “And you should take the girls with you too.  And Willow.  It’d be a good—”

“They’re not all here, Buffy.” Giles interrupted, “Kennedy asked Willow something about her craft, and the both left.  Snuck out, now that I think about it.” Giles sounded irritated.

Another sigh.  “Well, take Vi, and Rona, and whoever else is there.  I’m sick of this take-them-under-my-motherly-wing stuff.  It’ll do them good to see the type of creatures a Slayer is up against.”

“Well… a Slayer and her brooding vampire.”

“Giles!”

“Well, I’m sorry to be the one who has to say it, Buffy… Spike’s delusional and bursting with self-loathing and pity.  I can nearly smell it.”

I had no answer.  Probably because Giles is right.  Spike is still all broody.  After I told him to stop, too.  How dare he ignore me like that!

“I’ll take your silence as an agreement.”  Giles got his smarter-than-you voice on, “Something should be done about it… the brooding, I mean.”

“I’ve tried, Giles.  I’ve tried to talk to him about it.  It doesn’t get through to him.  What should I tell him?”

Giles chuckled, “Tell him he’s the spitting image of Angel… should disgust him enough.”



Angel.  He’s all anyone ever talks about these days.  Oh look, another vamp with a soul, just like Angel.  Back to start.  Am I the only one who sees a difference?  Even Spike doesn’t know it.  It’s not the same…

My thoughts wandered as I walked down the halls of Sunnydale High.  Back to start.  Back to high school.  Souled vamp, fifteen year-old Slayer-girls, and the end of the world.  This is square one.  Why?

I stared at my reflection in the mirror—remembering the girl who once walked these halls.  The girl who lived then.  Starry-eyed teen and her star-crossed lover.  Regular friends who didn’t have dates… let alone a fiancé to leave at the alter, or a soulmate to lose to a hate-filled bullet.  We are all back at square one.  Alone.  Taken all the way around the board, complete circle, only to wind up back where we began.  Just us… with the Hellmouth under our feet.

I splashed warm water up my arms, soothing the bruises and aching muscles.

What am I missing?  What’s been added?  Another battle coming, and how will it end this time?  Who will be lost this time?

My thoughts were racing—connecting—stringing together like shoelaces.

I was back in my chair now, scribbling with my thoughts.  Mom.  The dream.  What had she said?  Everyone fails.  Why?  Why tell me that?  Will I fail?  Fighting-The-First kind of failing, or am I going to fail someone?  Dawn?  Giles?  Spike?  The Slayers-to-be?  It didn’t make sense.  She could have said more… she should have said more.

I rested my head to the cool desktop.



Part 9

“Buffy, are you alright?”

I sat up quickly.  Principal Wood.  Oh no.  Boss.  Say something! “Sorry.”

“Just making sure you’re alive.”

Alive.  Right.  I nodded.  “Don’t I look like the model employee?” I straightened my hair.

“Seems like you have a lot on your mind…”

I’ve got the weight of the world on my mind, pal.  Don’t say that.  I managed a slight smile and nod instead.

He had crossed into my cubicle now, pulling the chair out as he spoke, “So, is the schedule too hard for you?  The job?  Do you stay up all night worrying about the students?  Because, no offense, you look like you haven’t slept in days.”

Great.  Thank you very much, Mr. Tactful.  I pulled my sweater on to hide all the bruises on my arm.  I fake-shivered.

“Everything okay at home?  With Dawn?  Must be hard for the two of you...”

“Oh no, nothing like that.” I answered.  “We’re okay.”

He waited.  What’s he waiting for?  Does he want me to talk to him about… stuff?  What stuff?  Why is he staring like that?  He snapped out of it then, glancing at his watch.

“I’ve got a meeting,” he stood, then said with a smile, “Get back to work.”



“Sorry.  I didn’t know you were out here.”  I knew he was.  I had been looking for him.  I had the whole speech planned since noon, and had spent the entire rest of my working-day trying to memorize it.  Still, I backed inside again… I had to make it look believable.

He looked back, “You don’t have to go.”

I paused, then came back out the door.  He had turned away again, and was looking up at the moon in the otherwise empty sky.  I stepped behind him.

“You can sit,” he scooted over, still not looking back.  “I won’t bite.”

I sat with a smile, “You can’t bite.”

“Can’t I?” he kept still, but his eyes glanced in my direction.

“Oh,” I moved away a bit.  Right.  Forgot about all that…

He brought his hand to his mouth, and looked at the ground.  We didn’t say anything for a while.  I listened to the crickets, and his other hand drumming against his knee.  He found words first.

“Watcher tell you about our beastie?”

I nodded, “Big waste of time, is what I heard.”  I glanced over at him, “How’s your… um, are you okay?”

His eyebrows perked up as he faced me, “Fine.”

Okay.  Start it off.  ‘Look Spike,’—that’s how it starts.  Go ahead.  No better time.  It’s quiet again.  I took a deep breath.  Here we go.

“L—”

“Buffy, I have to tell you something.”

Oh no.  The speech.  How did it go?  I took panicky breaths as Spike went on.

“I saw someone today… while I was waiting for the Watcher.”

That caught my interest.  Alright Spike, you’ve got full attention now.

He looked away, taking a deep breath before speaking again, “She… she didn’t say anything.  I just saw her… for a short second.  Might not have even been there.”

God, get on with it, Spike.  “Who?”

He rubbed his hands together, “Either way it’s not good, Buffy.  If I’m seeing… seeing ghosts again, it’s bad news.”

I pulled my sweater tighter, hugging my knees.  Don’t push him.  He’s freaked.  Don’t push, just wait.  He’ll say it.

“Only for a moment, though.  And she didn’t say anything.  She was just there… then she was gone.  Like that, you know?” he snapped his fingers.

Who?  I wanted to shout at him.  Okay.  Just wait a little longer.

He bit his lip, looking at me again.  “She was crying…  I think… I think she was crying…” his hand came to his face, fingers pressing into the spot between his eyes.

“Spike, who was it?”  I couldn’t wait any longer.

His hand fell, and he squinted at the grass.  “The bird…” he sighed, “Willow’s girl… she was there… in the cave…”

“Tara?”

He nodded, rubbing his hands together.  “She was only there a second.  I’m not insane again.  She was gone so fast, I wasn’t even sure…”

My hands tucked between my legs to keep warm.

His hands slid over his head, “’Cause before she came, it was… the chip was… again, and I must’ve just been thinking about her.”

I frowned.  Thinking about Tara?  Why?  I didn’t think Spike ever thought about her… I never thought they were close enough… for him to grieve over or something.  Maybe the soul…  He stood now, pacing in front of me on the grass.  He chewed at his fingers, staring at his feet, mumbling nonsense to himself.  Then he focused entirely on me.

“Do you think it was real?” his eyes were wide.

I looked away.  He was certainly sounding and looking like Crazy-Spike.  “I don’t know, Spike.  The First has never been Tara before…”

“You think it was all in my head, then?” he was kneeling in front of me now.  “Think I’ve lost it again?”

I tried to be reassuring.  “Spike, I think you just imagined it.”

“Because Giles showed up right after, and she was gone again… like the last…” he stopped himself, terrified.  His looked so worried.  So concerned.  What was he afraid of?  Has he…

I felt my throat tighten before the words came out, “Spike… have you seen her before?”

He closed his eyes, probably thinking they had given it away.  He nodded, opening them again as he spoke, “But it was before… right before I got it.  And she didn’t cry then, she just showed up… smiling.  And I talked to her, but she didn’t say anything… she just… left.”

He placed a hand on my knee.

“’Cause I didn’t wanna go back… come back here, I mean.  Even if I did get it… the soul… I thought it would be better if I just… stayed away from you.  Make it right, you know?  But after I saw her…” he squeezed his hand tighter around my knee, making me draw in a deep breath.  “I had to.  She was telling me to… to come back to you…”

I closed my eyes, sitting up straight.  This isn’t right.  I should have said my speech…

I felt him come closer, “Because you needed me…”

I let air out, opening my eyes.  Cold air overpowered me… his air, and my unclenched sweater letting it in.  He was so close, staring at my bare collarbone.  His hand hovering just below it... where the scar was… Warren’s scar.  Oh, God.  Don’t, Spike.  Please.

He ignored my silent cries, placing his hand over my heart.  His eyes closed, and he sighed heavy against me.  He leaned in closer, and I closed my eyes when his lips whistled silently, brushing cool air against the scar.

Oh, bad.  Again.  Why do I keep letting this… I whimpered at his chilling fingers slid down to my stomach, wrapping around my side.  Stop him.  Time to stop him.  My eyes opened, staring wide up at the moon.  I sighed, placing my palms into his chest.  He lifted his lips away, opening his eyes up into mine.

“I’m sorry…” his eyes were wet, “I didn’t mean to—”

“It’s okay.” I didn’t want to crush him.  Just… stop him.  “It’s okay, Spike.”

He looked down at his hand, quickly pulling it away.  His eyes fell on the scar again, and he closed them, sliding back down to the grass.

“Should have been here…”

I pulled the sweater closed as he stood.  The scar was pulsing… throbbing… begging me to let Spike at it again.

“It’s better that you weren’t.”

He nodded, eyes red and swollen.  “Right.  Better that I was gone…” he wrapped his arms together.  “Why she came cryin‘ today... ’cause it’s better when I’m gone.”

I blinked up at him.  He wants to go?  Where is he gonna go?  Not tonight.  That’s enough for tonight.  I stood, heading for the door.  I turned to him as I opened it.

“Time to come in, Spike.”

He came up the stairs, wiping his eyes clear.  He stepped inside, and I closed the door behind us.



Spike had gone into the basement when I started looking for Xander.  He had just gone out the door to go home, and I stopped him at the tree.

“You told Spike about Tara?”

He shrugged, “Yeah.  I’m sorry if it… I thought I was helping, Buff…”

“When?  What did you say to him?”

“When he was leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor,” Xander answered, “One night he brought up Tara… he asked about her.  Where she was; if she was still into the witchcraft stuff.”

“And Warren… you told him about the shooting?”

He nodded.  “I told him all of it, Buffy.  You know how I get about my saving-the-world story…”

“Right.”

“He took it pretty hard… when I got to the part about you and Tara, he was just about in tears…” he shuddered, “Have you ever seen that, by the way?  Uber-creepy.”

Have I ever seen it?  I inspire it daily, Xander.

“He already knew about Willow—said he heard about it when he was traveling.  But what really freaked me out was after I told him about my saving-the-world speech.  He gave a shocked look first, but then he kinda smiled at me… like he was proud or something.” Xander made a face.

I smiled.

Xander frowned, “That’s the smile!  Stop it!”

I laughed, hiding my smile.  “It was nice of you to tell him, Xander.” I stopped laughing, “With all the stuff going on… I forgot… that he didn’t know.”

He shrugged.  “What can I say?  Guess I can’t afford to be the critic these days…”

We stood in silence for a minute.  Xander finally broke it.

“Okay, long enough awkward silence for me.  See you tomorrow, Buff.”

I washed my face and went out into the hall.  I could hear Willow and Kennedy in her room.  I went to mine, pulling back the sheets and sliding into them.  I sighed.  I never got to say the speech, and now I’d forgotten the whole thing.

Better work on a new one tomorrow.



This part contains spoilers for The Killer in Me



Part 10

My door swung open, and I sat up straight in bed.

It was Spike.  He stood tall in the opening, blinding light stretching his shadows

to the foot of my bed.  Something’s wrong.  Unless something isn’t wrong.  Except, wait… Spike… in my bedroom… in the middle of the night… is wrong.

“Spike?” I gulped as my eyes adjusted.  “What’s going on?”

He slipped quietly into the room then, shutting the door behind him.  The room fell dark as he drifted to my bedside.  I watched him move slowly... his dark eyes avoided mine; never leaving the sheets I was clutching… the outline of my body under them.

“Spike?”

I blinked, and then he was on top of me.  The sheets were gone, along with our clothes, and he pressed his hard, cold body against me.

I tried to push him off, but watched my arms wrap around his shoulders instead.  I went to scream his name, but my voice never came.  I felt my nails scratch hard into the skin on his back as he slammed into me, and I cried out in disbelief that he could still feel that good.  Then he lifted himself away, his yellow eyes glaring down at me, blood painted on his sneering lips.

Oh, God!   What did he…

My hand lifted to my neck, where I felt the hot blood trickling down onto my fingertip.  I gasped, closing my eyes.  When I opened them, he was gone.



I flipped him off the bed. “Get up!”

He landed hard on his back, a surprised grunt came as he hit.

I pulled him to his feet.  “I said get up!  You think you can do that to me?”

He rubbed his eyes, opening them up into mine, “Buffy… what is it?  What’s the matter?”

I shoved him against the wall, “What’s the matter?” I pulled out the stake.

His eyes popped open.  “Buffy!  What are you—”

No talking, Spike!  I pushed the stake to his chest.  That shut him up. “It’s not gonna work…  Soul or no soul… you’re dust.”

He sucked the air in, gazing up with those stupid, bruised eyes.  Then he closed them, as if he had been waiting to hear that—waiting for this moment.

The anger burned through me, “You bite me and…”

His eyes shot open.  He glanced from my neck to my eyes several times.  His face switched from terrified to confused, and back to terrified again as he softly shook his head.  Somehow he got hold of my empty hand and pulled it to my neck.

There was no blood.  What?  No blood?  No blood.  No wound.  Nothing.  I dropped the stake, and it clanked to the floor.  No blood?  What?  I rubbed my neck.  Oh God.  What happened?  It was a… Spike was…

His eyebrow rose, “It was just a dream, love.”

I closed my eyes tight.  No.  It wasn’t.  It was real.  It was too real.  I felt him coming closer, and I backed away, not daring to look at him or touch him.  But he still scooted forward, one arm reaching out towards me.

“God…” I finally looked him in the eyes as he slipped a hand over my shoulder, “Spike, I’m sorry.”

He pulled me closer, and held me there.  “It’s alright, love.  I know.”

“I just… I was so scared.”  I let him hold me, but I fought back my tears.  Don’t cry.  Things get too crazy when I cry.

His mouth was against my hair.  His head lifted slightly as he spoke, soft whispers brushing my hair, “I know.”

His body was warm when I backed away from him.  He shivered, opening his eyes, fingers sliding off my back and to his sides.  His gaze followed me up the stairs.  He didn’t move, and he didn’t speak.  Just watched me go.  Let me go.



I woke up to reality that morning.  Oh God.  I tried to stake him.  Weirdness.  Again with the weirdness.  He’s gonna be all rejecty again.  Why did I do that?  That dream.  That stupid dream.

I sighed, tying the scarf around my not-bitten-by-Spike neck.  I’ll go down and talk to him.  Now.  No, not now.  After breakfast.  What day is it today?  Oh, right.  Retreat day.  Giles is taking the girls to the desert.  Thank God.

I walked down the empty hall, passing the empty bathroom to go downstairs into the empty kitchen… and filled an empty mug with coffee.  Then the frenzy surrounded me.  I could hear Giles at the door, his timid voice begging orders.  Xander rushed in and out of the house with bags.  Dawn, Molly, and Amanda came into the kitchen.

“So, Buffy,” Molly asked as Dawn packed up various foods, “What’s the retreat like?  Is it dangerous?”

I chuckled, “Only if you don’t like the hokey-pokey.”

“That’s what it’s all about!” Dawn turned with a pleased smile, and then shrugged.   “That, and, you know, muddy-killer-First-Slayer-ghosts and stuff.”

The girls’ eyes widened with Dawn’s smile.  She looked at me with her “See?  Look what I did!” face.  Then she waved a bag of marshmallows before tossing them into the supplies bag.

Then they cleared out, and I was left alone to stare at the basement door.

Oh no.  Okay.  I can do this.  Just go down there and… and what?  Tell him ‘Sorry’?  ‘Sorry for trying to stake you… again…’?  Oh no.  I can’t do this.  I have to do this.  Go down there and see what he says.  He deserves that… at least that.  After they go.  Yes, after everyone goes.

They were gone too soon.

I took a deep breath before opening the door and stepping down.  Here we go.



I never should have gone into that basement.  This never would have happened.  I wouldn’t even know about Spike’s chip going all wonky… unless I had heard Spike scream, which I probably wouldn’t have.  And I wouldn’t be in this stupid cave, and that top-secret military guy wouldn’t be trying to rush me into a decision like this.  And did I just think ‘wonky’?

I crossed my arms.  Just this morning, coming down into the basement to find Spike in chains.  In chains because of last night.  Definitely my fault.  Locked himself up because I dreamt he bit me.  Good going, Buffy.  Real leadery, aren’t you?  General Buffy’s army chaining themselves to walls…

My hands pressed into my head.  Stop thinking about this morning.  Now.  Think about now, please.  Military-guy wants to know what to do with Spike.  Remove it or repair it.  All decisions regarding Hostile 17 are mine to make.

What about Spike?  God, doesn’t he get to make a decision?  No, of course not.  Spike’s fate is always in my hands.  Always.  I determine his existence.  Everything that he is.  When have I ever made the right choice regarding Spike?

My eyes fell on him then.  He was resting on that cold metal stretcher… a gurney.  That’s what it’s called.  And the bright light shone over his face.  His eyes were closed, and he looked patient.  Well, he kinda is a patient...  But, waiting.  Just… calm and waiting… for me to decide.

I came closer then, trying to explain this to him without words.

Last time you were down here Spike, you were desperate to get that chip out… desperate to kill me… over and over you’ve tried.  I’ve lost track of how many times you’ve tried.  And now that man’s staring at me, trying to hurry me along.  Like he knows the situation.  Like he knows anything about me.  Or about you.

But I remember more than just how many times you tried to kill me.  I remember how you saved me.  I do.  I remember that night… God, that night was so long ago.  When you offered to help me… the night I stabbed Angel.  You didn’t even have the chip back then…

And when Glory… had you.  I remember that too, Spike.  I haven’t forgotten it.  I told you I’d never forget it.  What you did for us.  Saved us.  And after that, you were always there.  Right up until… the end.  And even then, you fought so hard… tried so hard to help me… to save Dawn.  And you didn’t even have the soul back then…

“Miss Summers,” Military-guy said as I placed my hand over Spike’s.  “Miss Summers, we can’t wait here all night.”

He was cut off by a brief but loud wail from Spike.  I jumped back a bit, lifting my hand away.

“And neither can he…” Military-guy finished.

I didn’t answer, watching Spike’s face as I brushed my hand up his arm.  He trembled, and his eyes blinked open.

“Buffy?”

“Sh.  I’m right here.”

I held my breath, focused on his mouth.  His bottom lip curved slightly at a corner—a definite smile.  I let the air out, stopping my hand at his elbow.

His eyes lingered there before he bent his arm, taking my hand in his.

I squeezed his hand then, trying to push all my tenseness away.  Push away all that decision-making tension inside me.

“You don’t have to…” he started.

“Stop.”

He let out a pleading sigh, but closed his mouth.  Then his eyelids fell.

I came closer; so I could whisper to him, “Don’t worry.”

His eyes opened again, surprising me enough to move back a little.  He had that tiny smile again, and he silently begged me to finish.

“I haven’t forgotten, Spike.”



Part 11

“Chains…” he muttered, “Chains, love.”

“Spike, no.” I lifted his feet onto the cot, “Besides, you can hardly move.”

“Buffy…” he started to sit up.

“Sh.” I placed my hands on his chest.  “Just rest here for a minute.  Okay?”

He fell back against the pillow.  “Melts like butter, you know?”

“What?”

His eyes opened, “Like butter; not scalding.  Make me cry at the moon… to the stars…”

What the hell?  “Spike?”

He shook his head, closing his eyes again, “Sorry, pet… it’s just… harder to keep everything in place.”

“Because… the chip?”

“Or lack of, I reckon,” he settled, resting his eyes on me. “Feels a little… funny is all.”

Funny?  Like, ‘wrong decision’ funny?  God, it was supposed to be better without the chip…

Spike frowned, obviously seeing the concern in my face. “I’m alright, Buffy…  I’m… I’m not sure why you—”

“Why I what?  Did the right thing?”  Been so long since you’ve seen me do that, Spike.  It’s no wonder you don’t know it when you see it.

He sighed.  “That what you think it is?”

“I think…” what?  What do I think?  That the chip never really mattered.  Never stopped you from biting me.  You stopped you from biting me, Spike.  Every time, you… Oh, God.  What?  Why is he staring at me?

His lips sucked in, and his eyes widened with a nod… That’s his ‘please, go on’ face.  His ‘talk to me’ face.  ‘Say it’ face.

Say what?  What, Spike?  Tell you what I think of you?  No.  I don’t… Not the right time…

“Silence her weapon… her only defense, it is…”

What?  His whispers fell almost silent.  I came closer to him, listening harder.

“Hides behind it… only time she’ll hide.” His lids never opened, even as I came inches from his face.  “But she’ll brave all others… all odds.  Clean and safe.”

I lifted my hand to his mouth, but didn’t cover it.  Something told me to keep listening.  It was like reading a journal.   All these thoughts… that were just supposed to be… thoughts.  Things he never said; things I shouldn’t hear.  All these thoughts just running free.  I couldn’t stop him.  I want to hear more.  Don’t stop, Spike…

“She’s the heart of it… the center.  Of the moon, and the stars.  Or the sun.  They all turn to her.  Need her...” his eyes blinked open.

I lifted my face, watching him watch me.  He swallowed.

“I… uh, should…”

I nodded, standing up.  “Get some sleep.”

He stared a moment, taking quick breaths, before dropping his head.



“Buffy!”

I slammed the basement door.  “Willow, hi, I… Willow!”  I watched her settle onto a stool.  “Willow?  How did—”

“Hey, Buffy!” Kennedy lifted a kettle off the stove.  “Did you want some tea?”

I eyed Willow.  More tea, huh?  “Um, no thanks.  So, Willow?  How did you… fix you?”

Willow shrugged, “It was, um… like a… a fairy-tale thing…”

“Fairy-tale thing?”  I looked at Kennedy.

Kennedy smirked, picking up a piece of paper off the counter.  “Um, Buffy, there’s a note here…” Kennedy stopped reading and pushed it into my hand.

“‘We think Giles is The First—Anya.’  What the…”  I stared at the paper.

“Here, lemme see.” Willow snatched it away.  “Well… maybe this is… maybe it’s old.”

“I don’t think so.  Unless… did everyone know that Giles was The First already?”

Kennedy shook her head.

“Um, maybe Spike knew?” Willow offered.

The basement door slammed behind me.  It’s okay.  Be calm.  Be tactful.  Use a quiet, slow voice.

“Spike!”

He shot up.  “God!  Buffy, what is it?”

“Is Giles The First?”

Spike still struggled to breathe, “Is Giles the… who told you that?”

“Anya.”

Spike blinked, looking away.  “I don’t… I mean you’ve… you’ve touched him, haven’t you?  Hugged him?”

No.  Oh, crap!  No!  I ran up the stairs, slamming the basement door behind me again.  Kennedy and Willow followed me upstairs to my room.  Crap.  Pack, and get out there.  All those potentials… alone with The First… Oh God.

“Buffy, it’s alright.  Xander left a message on my phone, see?  He says Giles isn’t The First.”  Willow waved to phone towards me.

Kennedy sidled up beside Willow, “Well, unless The First killed Xander and is pretending to be him now…”

“Listen, you guys stay here and watch Spike.  I’m going to—”

“Don’t worry, Buff.” Xander came in the room, “Giles isn’t The First, and neither am I.”

He glanced at Willow and Kennedy, who took turns poking fingers at him.

“Hey!  Easy with the pokes, ladies.”

“Xander!” Willow hugged him.  “What happened?”

“It’s a long story.” Xander backed away from her.  “We’ve got another potential on the way.  Giles took Dawn and went to pick her up.”

“And…” I dropped my bag, “All the… the girls are back?”

Xander nodded.

“That isn’t fair!  They were supposed to be gone for two days!”

Three pairs of wide eyes stared back at me.



Spike was sleeping.  Maybe not sleeping, but not really awake either.  Somewhere in-between.  I sat on the steps to listen... for a while.  He never stopped talking, of course.  Always talking.  Always has something to say…  Eventually I stepped next to him, but his words were muffled and I couldn’t make them out.

I crouched alongside him, watching his lips barely move.  He muttered senseless words, and then his muscles tightened and the lips froze.  Something’s wrong.  Something hurts.  His eyes closed tighter and he broke the silence with a tiny gasp.

I lifted my hand to his head, stretching my fingers through his hair.  I moved slow as I scratched around to his ear.

He shuddered, opening his eyes.  “Buffy…”

“Sh.  Let me help.”

His eyes closed again and he swallowed hard when I reached the back of his head.  “Don’t…”

He gasped again as I circled my fingers, “Don’t help?”

His eyes opened again, and he lifted his hand to mine.  “Please… don’t.” Then he pulled my hand away.  “Don’t… it… melts…”

I crossed my arms.  Okay.  It melts.  I melt?  What is that supposed to mean?  So, no touching Spike.  This is so unfair.  Why won’t you let me help?  I felt myself glaring at him.

His hand fell with his eyes.

The basement filled with the noise from upstairs.  The girls stomped through the kitchen.  Spike’s eyes closed again.

“The girls… they’re alright?”

I nodded.  “Yeah.  I’m taking some of them out for patrol.”

“And… Giles?”

“Just rest.  I have to go.  They’re… They’re waiting for me.”



This part contains spoilers for First Date



Part 12

Here we are.  Just the two of us again.  Sitting on the couch.  Dead silent.  Serious.  ‘Time to get serious,’ that’s what Giles had said.  It’s not fair.  Things just got un-serious.  I glanced over at Spike, who was—of course—all serious-looking.

“I, uh…” he rubbed at his neck.  “Did you have a nice time?”

Yes… I think.  Why am I not saying that to him?  Because I don’t want to… to say that.  Time’s running out.  Say something fast!

“Well, you know, dates are always fun when there’s a buncha demons involved.”

He smiled… a small smile.  Okay.  I think that’s good.  Wait, smile’s gone now.

He faced me, looking me right in the eyes, “I don’t… like him.”

I nodded, “Well, I don’t think he likes you either.”

“Take off points for that, love… pretty unoriginal to dislike me.”

“Hey!” I scooted lower, “Does that make me a freak?”

His face lit up, and his eyes wandered over me.  Puzzling over me.  What?  Like that’s so unexpected?  Yeah, so I like you, Spike.  So what?  He blinked at my internal questions, and the warmer smile came up… I felt my heart beat rise.  A second later he was aware of it, and immediately looked away and dropped the smile.  He shuffled around a bit before settling further away.

Always going away.  Every guy… every time.  I still can’t believe he thought it was a good idea for him to go.  Why do they all think that?  ‘Things are rough; I better run!’  Things would only get harder if he left now.  I’m not sure how… or why… but they would.  I need us all together right now.  All around me.  Why don’t you see that?  God, you see just about everything else.

His fingers gripped his other arm, “Missed most of the fray tonight.”

“She wasn’t much of a fight,” my hands clenched each other, “And you’re still kinda recover—”

“Kinda apathetic.”

I sat up, “You just got the chip out, Spike… It’s alright if you—”

“If I what?” he glanced over.  “Fail?  If I don’t care?  That’s not… it’s empty.  If I can’t help… I’m nothing. ”

I shook my head.  “It’s not like that.”

“Yes, it is.”

Roll the eyes and tell him he’s wrong...  That always solves it.  Tell him he’s wrong… always used to solve it.  But I can’t do it anymore.  He’s not wrong.  I won’t do it again.  So what do I say instead?  My hand was reaching out to him, and my whole body leaned closer.  I don’t know where the words came from.

“Believe me, Spike…” I rested a hand on his knee, “It’s not.”



“Giles, it’s not like that!”

“I must say your decisions of late have been all but inspiring.”

“You’re still mad about the chip?” I followed him outside, “That’s what this is about?  You think I’m against you, Giles?”

“I believe you’re hiding things from me.”

“What?  Giles, why would I—”

“I don’t know why, Buffy.  Would you care to tell me?”

He was leaning against the banister, staring at the setting sun.  I sighed at his back.  “Look… you left… to make me stronger.  You… you made me like this.  You pushed me up here, and now—”

“For God’s sake, Buffy!  Do you not recall what happened while I was away?”

“It’s different now.” I crossed my arms as he turned around, “I know what I’m doing.”

His glasses were off.  “There is work to be done.  We don’t have time for this… this nonsense.”  He brushed past me.

I dropped onto the step.  I felt like I was sixteen again.  Taking orders… Giles felt like I was sixteen again.  That’s why he’s acting like this.  Looking after all those girls… he’s forgotten that I’m not a girl.  Not some potential… I’m the Slayer.  I make the rules.  I’ve been the one doing it for years now… running things.

I hate that I yelled at him.  I hate when I have to get like that… all defensive with Giles.  So why can’t I just tell him?  Because he doesn’t believe me…

“You alright, Slayer?”

I hadn’t realized it was dark already.  I could hear him step behind me and the click of the door.

“Yeah.”

I glanced over at the empty spot next to me.  Sit, Spike.  Sit and listen to me… talk to me… help me.

But he didn’t sit.  He stood right behind me, and I could feel his eyes burning through my back.  Finally, he spoke; his words hushed, “Watcher makes a point.  Time to get serious, yeah?”

Silence settled before I replied, “I’ve been serious since I was a teenager.”

He sat now… close… and heaved a sigh.  His shoulder touched mine, and his head turned to watch me.  He bit his bottom lip, careful not to speak.  He was waiting for me to say more.

I took a deep breath, “I’ve lived longer than any Slayer.  I’ve made choices… good and bad choices.  I’ve… I’ve died…”

Spike shut his eyes.

“And… if that doesn’t mean anything… I mean, if that’s all that I am…  Slayer.  Choice.  Death.  Over and over, until—”

“’Til it’s over…” his arm was around me now.  He didn’t pull me any closer… just draped the arm around my back… fingers barely touching my sides.

We sat there a moment before my thoughts blurted out, “I’m not backing down.  No one is backing down.”

Spike’s arm dropped as he slid away, and we both turned.  Dawn stood in the doorway.



Spike stood outside, looking stunned, “Just us?  I thought Giles was—”

“Giles is busy with the books and the potentials.  Anya filled me in on where we’re going.”

He walked alongside me, “And, where are we going?”

“Anya talked to a demon the other night.  He told her The First was preparing to start a ritual in the school basement.”

“We’re going there… tonight?  Just the two of us?”

“Apparently you’re the only one that’s worried.”

He pulled me to a stop, “Buffy, we don’t know what’s down there.”

“Spike, we were just down there last night!”

“We’re just gonna barge in on The First’s ritual and kill us some Bringers?”

“We’re gonna kill us all the Bringers down there.”

“Alone?  What about the witch?  Something she can—”

“She’s afraid to use her powers against The First.  Look, Spike, it’s just us.  We have to do this.”

He sighed, following me again.  What’s he so worried about?

“What about the principal?  Gonna meet us there?  Let us in?”

“Nope.”

A scowl, “Gonna bloody die.”

This time, I pulled him to a stop, “Don’t talk like that.”

He frowned.  God, he really is worried.  “I just can’t… can’t get goin‘ like I used to, pet.”

Can’t get going?  Spike, please.  You can take out a group of Bringers with me.  Don’t be ridiculous.  I pulled on his arm, but he crossed them, stopping me again.

“Let’s go get the Watcher, then we’ll head down.”

“I told you he’s busy!”

Spike stiffened.  I tightened my grip, but he didn’t budge.

“Fine.” I pushed him.  He stumbled back.  “I’ll do it myself.”

I turned my back on him then, heading for the school.  Don’t look back.  You know he’ll follow.  He always follows.  It wasn’t until I stepped on the school’s lawn that I realized he hadn’t.



Part 13

I stood in the darkened hall, listening through the door. Something was moving down there, but not a lot of noise. I pressed my palm flat against the door and pushed. It didn’t budge.

Okay. Locked. Kick it down. Sure, it’s not stealthy… but it’ll get the door out of the way…

I took a step back, and lifted my foot.

"Buffy! Wait!"

I stumbled to regain my footing, facing down the hall again. Giles jogged up to me, Spike stepping soft behind him.

"What are you doing here?" I asked Giles, but glared at Spike.

Spike lifted the blade of an ax, and then tossed it my way.

"Your intentions were to run down alone and unarmed against the ultimate evil? God, Buffy, I know you know better…" Giles shook his head.

I lifted the ax. "I am armed…" I glanced at Spike, "And I’m not alone."

Spike looked at the floor.

Giles rolled his eyes, placing his glasses on his nose, "Yes, well… a plan, then?"

I shrugged, "Kick down the door and start beheading… Spike, you help with the fighting. Giles, you run for the ritual stuff."

They both gave stunned looks back at me. I smiled. "Ready?"

Spike took Giles’ ax away.

"Oh, really now! You’ve got vampire-strength, here!" Giles pouted, pulling the ax back.

Spike let him keep it.

"I don’t care which one of you fights, just… somebody stop the ritual."

And with that, I kicked the door down.



"We’ve been walking around down here for ten minutes, Spike."

"Just… hold on… I think we’re close."

I gripped the ax, glancing back at Giles.

"Are we sure the ritual is on the seal?" Giles tried to help.

"No… but, where else would it—"

"Here." Spike pulled me to the left. "It’s through here."

I stared at the wooden door before us. A light flickered through the cracks.

"Okay, everyone knows what to do." I whispered.

Spike smiled, stepping forward. "I’ll get the door." He vamped, and Giles lifted his ax. One swift kick and the door was down.

The first Bringer went down fast—one swing from the ax. I caught the whole layout then: about twenty Bringers gathered around the seal, and a couple heading towards us.

The closest one swung his ax, and I easily ducked under it. Giles swung his ax over my back and swiped off the head. I grabbed his falling ax and swung up fast, knocking away the second.

"Spike!" I threw the Bringer-ax to him before picking mine up again. "Get to the seal!"

He gave a quick nod before batting another Bringer out of the way. That Bringer was up quick, and running at me. My foot struck him between the eyes… or, the no-eyes. Giles was behind me, and I could hear him struggling. I whirled the ax around, striking another Bringer in the back.

I turned to see Spike against a wall... unvamped and… losing. A Bringer held his ax up. He’s gonna…

"Spike!" my call came from nowhere, and I did a quick cartwheel, kicking away the Bringer. I pulled him forward, staring into his eyes. Wake up, that’s what I’m telling you, Spike. He gave me mooneyes back. Oh, that’s it Spike. C’mon. I pulled him with me into the circle of Bringers.

We pushed them out of the way until I finally saw the middle. Three stones circled around a table… and bright glowing lights twirling to the ceiling. What’s dripping? I looked up. Blood was dripping from the ceiling… from the center of the lights… down to… the seal! Another Ubervamp!

I rushed forward, but was forced aside. Three Bringers circled me.

"Spike!" I dodged one and kicked another, "Get the rocks! On the seal!" Another Bringer charged, "They’re gonna raise up—" the Bringer knocked me to the ground. My eyes widened when I saw the seal light up.

Spike struggled towards the glowing seal as I crawled for it. Another Bringer pulled at my foot, but fell dead when Giles landed his ax. I jumped to my feet, then flipped the table over onto two more Bringers.

The seal slammed shut, and I stepped on top of it. The ceiling was back to normal. A Bringer slammed into my back, and pain jolted down my legs when I slammed against the opposite wall.

"Buffy!" Spike swept up next to me, pulling me to my feet.

"I’m fine! Go help Giles!"

Spike looked hurt… not just Bringer-hurt, either. He tackled a Bringer behind Giles.

I rolled across the floor, picking up two of the stones. A Bringer beat me to the third. I stood slowly, never taking my eyes of his hand. He clenched it, and then threw it across the room. I watched it land, then felt a sharp pain in my neck. The Bringer’s feet tangled with mine and I fell to the ground, dropping both the stones. A kick to my side sent me flying, and I hard onto the seal again. My shoulder popped.

Spike was next to me again, helping me up again. This time I let him, because every inch of me felt sore and tired. I took a deep breath and sprinted back towards the two stones. I dove and grabbed up one, and again a Bringer beat me to the second. He held his hand high… is that a smile? I glared up at him from my hands and knees. His arm moved to throw, and I swept an ax from the ground and sliced him good.

The stone fell to my feet, along with the Bringer’s body. I bent over, grabbing the second stone. "Not so funny now, is it?"



"It was fun!" the excitement was still pumping through me, "C’mon, Giles… you know you had fun!"

"We’re all lucky to be alive."

"Um…" Spike lifted his hand.

"Oh… right." Giles removed his glasses, "I’d like to look at the stones, Buffy. Do you have them?"

"Nope! Left’em all in the basement."

Giles’ face looked horrified. Oh, right… no more jokes. Serious time. I pulled the stones from my pockets and handed them over. He lifted one close to his face. His pace slowed as he examined it, and soon he was walking behind Spike and me.

"Good fight tonight, Slayer… bit of slicin‘ an—"

"Yeah. My fight was great. Don’t know about you two."

His eyebrows got all furrowed… frustrated. Spike’s frustrated face. I almost giggled.

"Meaning?"

"Oh, come on… You saw you."

"I saw you."

There wasn’t anything about that sentence that was sexy, but I suddenly felt everything tingle. I tried to hide it, taking a deep breath… trying to slow my racing heart. It must not have been what he said… it was how he said it. I kept taking deep breaths.

He eyed me, "You alright, Slayer?"

He did it again. More tingles… and the heart raced again. Oh, God… Oh no. It’s all that slaying… that’s what does it! God, he’s staring! Say something… anything…

"Fascinating, really." Giles muttered from behind us. Oh, thank you, Giles!

"What is it?" I turned around, pretending to be interested.

"Well, this one should be the Breath of Fire stone… triangle-shape for a flame… nothing very special about it," his voice got all excited, "At least, it appears that way to us. But it is, indeed, fatefully important. I’m… I’m much looking forward to further research!"

"What’s this one here?" Spike pointed to another.

"I can only assume that is the Ghost of Passion." Giles held it up. The carving in the center looked like a stick-person.

Spike shuddered, backing away. He turned around, trying to get us to walk again. I jogged up to him.

"Hey, what’s wrong?"

He shrugged, "Just looked familiar, is all."

"Really? Where?"

His fingers raked through his hair, "Later, Slayer."



"Okay," I stepped down the last stair, "Tell me."

He turned the water off and faced me. "Tell you what, pet?"

"About the stick-person." I stepped closer, "You’ve seen it before?"

He was looking everywhere but at me… breathing quickly. "I, uh… I’m pretty tired, Slayer."

He crossed over to the bed, lifting his chains. I was at his side when he clicked the first cuff around his wrist.

"Tell me." I placed a hand over his wrist.

His eyes were closed. Why won’t he look at me? Why won’t he tell me? I unlocked the shackles. His arm lingered towards mine, then dropped to his side.

"Alright."

I stepped back as he began tugging at his shirt. He pulled it off, and every part of me jumped. Then my eyes settled on his bare chest. Scratched into his pale skin were all the markings from the stones. Scars from when… when The First had him…

He took slow, deep breaths… the patterns heaving up and down again. Rhythmic… dancing… hypnotizing... I couldn’t look away from them. My hand was rising now, drifting near them.

"It doesn’t… doesn’t hurt. They’ve all healed now. Scars’ll go too…" he kept his eyes on my hand, "Don’t scar easily…"

Our eyes met then. I was supposed to be looking at his scar… that eyebrow-scar that he’s always had. I was supposed to make some comment about it, but words had run off and left me. And now we were just staring, and my hand was just drifting.

His eyes glanced down before returning to my gaze again. He blinked, as if… what? Give permission? I rested my hand to his chest, over the stick-person scar. He let air out, but kept his eyes open… focused in mine.

And I saw it then… at least, I think I saw it. Something past the lashes… past the deep blue, and the promising look of his swollen eyes… Something sparked.

I think… maybe something sparked.



Thanks for all the e-mails and reviews. Please keep them coming! I can't think of anything more motivating or inspiring than the words of readers. Keep reading! Keep feeding! Thanks again.

This part contains spoilers for Get it Done.



Part 14

I couldn’t sleep.  Nothing but visions of Ubervamps every time I shut my exhausted eyes.  God… not enough.  It’s not enough.  I wandered aimlessly around the house, tiptoeing past sleeping bodies… dead bodies.  Could be dead.  Would be dead.  Because I turned it down.  Why?  Why did I think I knew what to do?  The whole reason I jumped through that portal was because I don’t know what to do.  God… what are we gonna do?

I was stepping down the basement stairs before I actually realized what I was doing.  Going to Spike… for what?  To cry?  Should I tell him what I saw?  He’s… he’s probably still mad about what I said.  And, if anything, now I’m going to be even worse about it… now that I know what’s coming…

I saw him when I reached the bottom.  I could smell the cigarette smoke rising to my nostrils… dizzying me a little.  He’s smoking again?  He was crouched in the center of the basement, shiny leather-clad back to me, thumbing through a book.  Smoke billowed up as he flipped a page.

“Bad dream, Slayer?”

I stepped closer, noticing blood dripping down his ear.  My hand stretched over it on instinct, “Are you okay?”

His head jerked away, “’m fine, Slayer.”

Okay, only a couple words so far and Slayer’s been two of them.  Something is wrong with him.  Great.  Mood-swing much, Spike?  I ran a finger over his ear again.

I jumped when he slammed the book down.  He stood, whirling around, “God, Buffy!  Don’t bloody touch me!”

My jaw could have just slammed to the floor like the book… and if I opened my eyes any wider, they could hit the floor too.  The hand that touched him was now a tight fist, clenched hard to my side.

“Don’t… touch you?”

The cigarette drifted to his lips again and he nodded, blowing smoke my way.

“Why not?”  My voice cracked, probably from anger… maybe sadness… maybe from cigarette smoke.

He backed up, leaning against a pillar, hands in his pockets, “That’s how it all started, isn’t it?”

I didn’t say anything… partly because I didn’t have anything to say, and partly because I wasn’t sure about what he was saying.

“Isn’t it?” he stood straight up now, “The touching… made me soft, didn’t it?  The warmth of you… obsession with you… started it all.”

“So, everything is my fault?” I knew it was a childish thing to say.  I wasn’t even sure why I said it.

“Damn right it is!” he flung the cigarette to the floor and stomped on it, drawing himself closer, “One day it’s ‘not ready for you to leave, Spike!’” his foot scraped against the wood, but his eyes never left me, “And the next it’s ‘go ahead and go, Spike.’”  His eyes narrowed.

I couldn’t look at him.  My eyes fell to the floor.  I’m sorry, Spike.  It’s been so hard.  Everything’s just so… I have to make all the decisions, and I think I just made the worst one.  The girls… it’s all my fault.  Everything is my fault.  My thoughts ran like railroad tracks, intersecting each other.  They never formed into words… instead they piled inside of me until I felt hot tears in my eyes.  They rose to find blurry Spike.

The hardness was leaving his face, and he stepped back a little.  “See?  I don’t know what to do with tears, Buffy, I don’t know… dunno if you want me to… to hold you or… to kill you.”

It didn’t help that he said that.  Why did he say that?   Tears slipped out, stretching warmth down to my chin. Don’t do that.  Rub them off.  It doesn’t help to cry like this.  Doesn’t make pain or bad decisions go away.

His cool fingers began to brush them away, finally cupping over my cheek.  His stare fell into my eyes just as I started to clear away the stupid crybaby feeling.  He dropped his hand.

“Whatever you want…” his voice shook, and he gulped before speaking again, “I’ll do as you ask…”

I focused on not crying, even though every word pierced my heart.  I don’t know what to ask for.  I don’t know what I want.

“I’ll always do as you ask of me.”  He hung his duster on a nail, “I’m yours.”

Hold me.  Be strong.  Help me.  Save me.  I don’t know…  So many words flushed over my mind, trickled over my tongue.  Nothing came out.  Just silent pleas to his silent back.

I was up the stairs in a flash.  I slammed the door so hard I was sure it woke up every potential in the house.  I splashed water over my face, trying to cleanse off the feeling.  The feeling of guilt… of failure… of desperation.  I’m the Slayer.  I need to be stronger.  I have to be.



“I mean, they never stop!” Xander glanced away from the road, “Giles just picks up more girls anywhere he goes...  He’s like a rock star!  That’s what it is!”

“He’s not bringing anymore girls, Xander,” Dawn spoke up from the back seat.

“See, that’s what he says, but I’ll bet he’s already got four new push-Xander-over-the-edge teenage slay-girls on the way!”

“You’re on.” Dawn sat back in her seat, “How much?”

Xander glanced into the mirror, “What?  How much?  It’s a gentleman’s bet, Dawnie.”

“Spike once told me gentlemen’s bets were for tightwad money-grubbin' po—”

“Could you just, like… not do Spike quotes in the car?  We could end up in a ditch.” Xander sighed, “Besides, what does Spike know about being a gentleman?”

The conversation drifted out of my head.  I stared out the window.  At least Dawn and Xander think about Spike, too.  Maybe everyone’s in a think-about-Spike phase.  Maybe it’s not just me.

Spike... Spike.  Just… all I can think about.  I have outdone myself this time.  I’ve screwed him up so much with orders and requests and actions.  I just string him along… I think.  Just keep him around until he’s gone.  Because he will be gone.  He can’t live forever.   Well… he can, but he can’t stay with me forever.  He won’t… stay with me forever…

And the night I told him to just go… if he was gonna keep holding back, he might as well go.  His face just twisted when I told him he was better then… more useful to me without the soul… more convenient.  I shuddered, just the thought of the words chilling my spine.

“You alright, Buff?” Xander asked.  “Been kinda quiet.”

“I, uh… just feel a little…”

“Yeah, I get that.  Traveling millions of years through time’s gotta take some kind of physical toll... even for our Buffster,” his hand patted my shoulder.

That’s not even it, Xander.  It’s what I saw.  It’s what I know.  It’s what I did.  I closed my eyes.  Gnashing teeth opened wide, crying out, swallowed me whole.

Then we pulled up next to the Hellmouth.

Principal W—Robin sent me home early.  ‘Get some sleep,’ is what he had said.  Get some sleep?  Yeah.  Great idea, Prin—Robin.  ‘I’ll just get right home and start dreamin‘ up our apocalypse!  Hey, I might’ve even helped start it!  Go me!’  That’s what I should’ve said back to him…

I could hear the girls in the backyard.  I went in the house, heading for the kitchen.  The basement door was open, and I could hear girls down there too... training.  I had just started to walk away when the girly shriek came from below.

“What is it?  What’s wrong?” I bolted downstairs.

Spike was crouched in a corner and turned his head when I reached the bottom.  The girls were huddled together near the stairs.  Vi’s shocked face turned to me.

“Buffy!  Did you know you have rats in this house?”

My heart stopped racing, and my hand rubbed my eyes.  “Rats?  Uh, no.  I didn’t know that.”

“Pretty nice-sized one, Slayer.” Spike stood, dusting his hands. “Ran behind those boxes there.  Can still smell ’im.”

The girls made a combined, “Ewww.”

“Okay, girls.  Go outside and practice with Kennedy.” I huddled them upstairs, “Spike and I will take care of the rat.”

He half-smiled, turning back to the boxes.  “Look tired, Slayer.  Must be runnin‘ on empty.”

“Yeah,” my eyes wandered across the floor, “Not much with the sleep lately.”

“Anything you’re sharing?” Spike glanced back before sidestepping quickly.

“Oh, it’s… it’s nothing really.”  Nothing really?  It’s enough to keep my eyes open every second… why didn’t I tell him?

“Right,” he nodded, like he had expected my non-answer, “He’s back there.  Behind the shelf.”  He stood across from it, “You pull out the shelf, and I’ll catch him when he darts out.”

I grabbed the front of the shelf, “You sure you can catch it?”

He chuckled, “Had enough practice, love.”

I yanked out the shelf, and jumped back when the brown fur scurried across the floor.  Spike dove on top of it.  I heard him grunt, and his bones shifted.  I heard his teeth sink into the squeaking rat.  My stomach turned, and I felt the air catch in my throat.

He must’ve heard me, because he stopped seconds later, throwing the rat to the floor… either that or he had… drained it already.  He stood, wiping his mouth on his sleeve before turning around.  His face was soft again.

“Sorry, love… force of habit.”

Oh, God.  That was just disgusting.  “It’s okay.” I tried to lie, “I, uh… I think I better go upstairs now.”

He nodded, looking embarrassed.  He stepped back towards his bed.

As soon as I closed the bathroom door I lunged for the toilet.  God, as long as I live, please don’t let me ever see that again…



Part 15

“Dunno why I did that, you know?” Spike was leaning against the tree, waiting for me like he always used to, “The rat… drank it up like that. Worst kind of blood there is… tastes like poison.”

We headed for the cemetery, “Maybe you wanted to…”

“What’s that?”

“The rat’s blood… the poison… maybe you wanted to drink it.”

He shrugged, “Didn’t taste as I remember it.”

“Like poison?” I gulped, trying to keep my stomach from bubbling.

“Little sweeter… not so rancid, you know?”

“Really don’t.”

“Right.”

We were among the gravestones now, “So, why do you think it would taste… non-ratty?”

“Not sure,” Spike lit his cigarette, “Could be me. Could be that any living thing in the Summers’ home is sweet.”

Bad, bad words. Not the greatest conversation, Spike.

Smoke whistled from his lips, “Seemed strange, is all.”

We fell silent then, both of us picking up on the nearby vamp.



“Six vamps… busy night, eh Slayer?”

I pocketed the stake, ready to go home and snuggle into my blankets and pillows. Nightmare or not, I could tell tonight I’d be too tired to see them.

Spike nudged me, “Did you see?”

“What?”

“My dance?” his eyes were low, and his bottom lip sucked between his teeth.

I tucked my arms over my chest, trying to hide the bit of excitement that was obvious in my heartbeat.

“Are we near him yet, Slayer?”

The words touched my skin like ice. I felt frozen… numb, and speechless. We walked by a tomb and I imagined him slamming me up against it. Fighting for my life against him. Then the thought of him pressing against me… I shuddered. His wicked smile showed up then. God, he’s just pulling out all the stops… I felt myself squirm as he came closer… too close.

My phone rang, making the both of us jump. I flipped it open as Spike slid away. “Hello?”

“Buffy!” Willow’s voice rang in my ears, “You have to get back here now!”



“Will?” I pushed through the door, “Willow!”

“Buffy!” Dawn sprinted from the kitchen and jumped in front of me, “Oh my God, Buffy, you are not going to believe this!”

She pulled me back into the kitchen, leading me to the top of the stairs where Willow and Xander stood. Their eyes were wide at the bottom of the stairs.

“Oh my God…” fell out of my mouth as I gazed at the moving floor. The squeaking was horrible as hundreds… maybe thousands of rats crawled over each other, covering every inch of floor in the basement.

“Bloody hell.” Spike brought his head down, glancing down across where his cot was home to several rats.

“Will, what happened?”

She glanced over, “I’m… I’m not sure where they came from.”

“Spike probably left some crumbs on the floor, didn’t ya?” Xander piped up.

“They’re…” Dawn screeched as one scurried up a few steps, “They’re starting to climb up here, Buffy.”

“Well… what do we do?”

“I’m thinking exterminator-time.” Xander offered.

“I could… I could do a spell to…” Willow trailed off, “Wait a minute…”

She left, heading for the living room. We all followed, Dawn slamming the basement door tight before she came.

Willow pulled a book from the shelf, “I know this, I…” We waited, each of us settling in separate spots around the room. Willow flipped another couple pages before, “Ah ha!”

“’Ah ha’ what, Will?” Xander asked.

“It’s a curse. An old… Egyptian curse. It’s… believed to be the cause of the Black Death,” she glanced at Spike, who was nodding. “You know, in like the 1300’s, all of Europe became infested with these rats, and… didn’t you two pay any attention in high school?”

“Hey,” I tried to defend, looking to Xander, “I remember it!”

“Yeah, me too!” Xander tried to sound annoyed. “Big English Black Death… of course I remember it…”

Dawn shrugged, “How about a lesson for those of us not done yet? So, this ‘Black Death,’ what’d it do to people?”

“Uh, swollen lymph glands…” Spike spoke up, “And these big, red, diseased spots form all over the skin.”

“Oh my God!” Dawn pulled up her sleeve, “I totally have a spot on me! I saw it today at school!”

Xander was already lifting his shirt, “Does that… does that look like a disease-spot to anyone else?”

“The point is,” Willow laid the book open on the table, “Somebody cursed us.”

“With rats?” Dawn was poking at Xander’s not-spot now, “Who would curse us with—”

“Amy.” I answered.

Willow nodded. “I can do a reversal, but I’ll need you to get some supplies.”



“Sure you want me taggin‘ along, Slayer?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, did you already have plans? In the basement… with the rats?”

He chuckled, “It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet down there. Reckon I could take care of them given the…” he bit his tongue when he saw my disgust-face, “Certainly explains why they tasted funny… magic rats, you know?”

“Guess so.” I stepped down one of the alleys, “You sure this place will have everything?”

“Cat’s eyes and such? Sure.”

I scrunched my face up, “Why does it have to be cat’s eyes? Why can’t it just be like… a little bitty kitten? A not-sacrificed little kitten?”

He chuckled, “Kittens are worth a lot more than cat’s eyes, love.”

I rolled my eyes. Demons are so weird. “Still, I’d rather see a spell that didn’t involve dead-animal parts. Makes me think of—”

A hard shove cut me off, and I slammed against the alley wall, landing hard onto a garbage can. Ow, and ew.

Spike’s hand found mine, and he pulled me to my feet. I brushed myself off, ready to fight the attacking vamp. I glanced behind Spike, who pulled a cigarette from his pocket.

“Somethin‘ on your mind, Slayer?”

“Where did…” I stepped past him, “Where did he go?” God, Spike, if you let him get away…

Spike slid the cigarette between his lips, and then stepped over to the other side of the alley. He bent over, scooping up dust in his hands and presenting it before clapping it back to the ground.

“You… he’s dust?”

Spike eyebrows jumped, and he pulled out his lighter, flicking fire over his cigarette.

“Oh…” I tried to unwind from slay-mode, “Let’s get moving, then.” I walked past him.

“‘Let’s get moving?’ That’s it?” he caught up to me, “Surprise you, Slayer?”

“No, I just… I just…”

“You are surprised,” smoke swirled as he spoke, “You don’t know how serious I am, Buffy…” he tapped away at the ash, “When I say… that I’m yours… when I say I’d do anything…”

Would you just stop talking, Spike? That wasn’t what came out… “I know.”

“Gimme some time… I’ll do right by you someday, Slayer…”

This time I couldn’t even say ‘I know.’ It was like my tongue stopped working… but my heart was just pounding with words.

“We’re close now,” he sucked the night-air deep into his useless lungs, tossing his cigarette to the ground, “Just up ahead.”



“Oh, thank God!” Xander met us at the door, pulling up the back of his shirt, “Do you… can you see anything there?”

“Oh my God!” I stared at his skin. Spike glanced towards Xander’s back and smiled.

“What?” Xander freaked, “You can see one, can’t you? I knew it. I’m always the guy who ends up diseased!” he turned to face us, scratching at his back.

“Xander, there’s nothing there.” I said with a smile.

“Are you… are you sure?”

“You’re one-hundred percent sickness-free!”

“Really?” he followed us into the kitchen, where Willow was preparing for the spell. Spike set the jar on the counter, then placed the bag of eagles’ feathers and tiger claws next to them.

“Okay. I’m not… I’m not really sure what this is going to do, but it should get rid of them.” Willow began sorting through her ingredients. “It has to be totally silent, or else it won’t work.”

“I’ll take scratch ’n sniff here to the other room,” Spike yanked Xander out of the kitchen with him.

Willow knelt, and then looked up at me, “You should probably get behind me.”

I did so, watching her spread the feathers over the tile. She placed the claws in a foursquare, then placed two eyes in the middle. Then she sprinkled some kind of shiny powder over everything and began to chant.

I couldn’t make out what she was chanting… and all I could think about was whether or not this spell was going to burn a hole through the floor. Please, no.

The air around us began to glow, and Willow’s chant changed languages as she got louder. Her hands lifted through the glow.

Glowing is not a good sign… glowing means fire… fire means big black hole in the middle of the kitchen…

A deafening roar interrupted my thoughts, and Willow stood up. I closed my eyes, feeling the air swirl all around me. When I opened my eyes again, I couldn’t breathe. Standing in front of Willow was a shimmering white tiger… with pure white wings tucked to its sides.

I stared at the blurry image. Willow only stared too as it turned, spreading its wings, and then swooped down the basement stairs. Rats screeched as Willow closed the door, breathless.

I caught her, and she leaned against the counter. “That was… did you… that was…”

“It was amazing, Will,” I steadied her, listening to the wind rush beneath us, “What happens after it…”

“It’s supposed to disappear after they’re gone.” Willow was starting to catch her breath.

I squatted, rubbing the dark spot in the middle of the kitchen floor. I looked up at Willow with a sigh.

“Oops…” she made her pout-face and cringed, “Sorry.”



Part 16

“NO!”

It was too late… I was too late.  The wooden piece splintered through Spike’s back.  His blue eyes blinked at me, as if he couldn’t believe it had actually happened.  Eyes so sad… and then his lips curled, forming a tiny smile.

“Spike!”

I ran for him, but he had already shattered… down to the ground.  The feet of Ubervamps trampled him as they made their way to Dawn and the potentials.

They clamored past me… not one of them attacking as I knelt in the pile of dust.  I slid my fingers over his remains.  All that was left… nothing.  He’s gone.  I pressed my hand to my face, smearing his dust with my tears.

Then I stood, holding the broken ax that had taken him from me.  I whirled it over my head, hacking away at anything that came close.  A girl screamed.  Dawn!  I swung harder, almost sprinting through the mess.  I have to get to Dawn!

“Buffy!” the next cry was further away, and I pushed every bit of me to get there.  To save her.  It’s why I’m here.  Dawn, the potentials… everyone.  They’re all the reason I came back.  The reason I crawled out of the ground.

I caught a glimpse of her then, just as another scream rose above the crowd over Ubervamps.  Then there was a loud crash, and a bright white light sent several vamps flying.  I ran past all of them.  Willow stood at the top of the hill.  Her eyes were as black as the sky, and everyone was crowded behind her.

Lightning flashed over us all, striking down vamps all around me.  Willow fell to her knees, and the light faded.  One of the vamps lunged for her, slamming her to the ground.

“Willow!” my strength was gone, and I was slow getting to her.  The vamp clawed at her viciously as her arms flailed at it.  By the time I reached them, her arms had fallen to her sides.

I swung the ax, taking the vamp’s head off.  He vanished… to reveal Willow’s body.  She… she… so much… I couldn’t look.  I couldn’t touch her.

“I’m sorry, Will.” I wiped my eye, standing again to follow the vamps.

Only Wood and Xander stood in their way now, both hurling back and forth trying to fight them off.  I sprinted past them, knowing Dawn was back there.  Knowing that I had to protect her.  I heard Xander scream, but forced myself ahead.

Dawn stood in front of me.  All the noise disappeared when I looked at her.

“This isn’t right, Buffy…”

“It’s okay, Dawnie…” I tried to catch my breath, “I’m here…  I’m—”

“Buffy, you’re not supposed to choose me!” Dawn cut me off.

“Dawnie?” I reached out for her, but she ran behind me.  “Dawnie, no!”

The vamps surrounded her, and she turned to look at me.  Our eyes met.  And then she began a shrill scream.

“Dawnie!”



“Shh, Buffy…” a cool hand pressed over my mouth.

I sat up, the hand falling away.  “Dawnie!  Dawn!  Willow…” my open eyes fell on the hand that settled on my shoulder, “Spike?”

“Shhh,” the hand pushed slightly, trying to coax me back towards the pillow.  “Just a dream…”

My head shook as it hit the pillow, and I turned to see Spike.  He was there, kneeling alongside the bed… his worried eyes watching.  His hand wandered to the back of my neck, where he rubbed gently.  I fell back into it, closing my eyes… letting him take away the tension.  My heart slowed.  His hand moved up then, smoothing my hair.

“I… I don’t…” Words were lost in blackness, and I forced my eyes open.  Maybe if I’m more awake I’ll know what to say.

“Sh, it’s alright, Buffy…” his words closed my eyes, “Just rest… you don’t have to say anything.”

I felt his knuckles brush against my cheek.  They didn’t chill me… just cooled me… a relief to my burning face.  I blinked my eyes open again.  “I think I… I messed something up…”

He paused, then slid his fingers through my hair again, “Think you should rest now…”

My eyes closed, visions of Ubvervamps clouding my head again.  I shook my head, looking up at Spike, “I can’t, I…” all common sense left me before I continued, “Can you… will you help?”

His hand lifted away then, reaching back behind his shoulder, “I… uh,” he rubbed at his neck, keeping his eyes off me, “I should… go…”

No, don’t… please stay.  The words refused to come out, but tried to meet his eyes… tried to tell him that way.  He closed his eyes and stood.

“Don’t… belong…” he whispered, turning his back, “Not here.”

I sat up, begging him to come back.  Just hold me, Spike.  That’s all… just until I fall asleep again.

The door clicked softly, and I wrapped the blankets tight around me.



“Is he… afraid of you?” Dawn sounded almost too scared to ask it.

“I… I don’t know… Sometimes I think…” I paused, trying to voice my thoughts… voice them well.  I never do it right.  They always come out… not sounding like my thoughts, “I think he is trying to be good… a good man…”

“But he’s not a man…” Dawn shook a little at her own words, showing in her face that she wished she hadn’t said it.

“It’s okay, Dawn…” I flashed back to the time I said those words to him… nothing regretful about my face… nothing to try to ease his pain… God.

Dawn woke me from my memory; “It was… intense… when he said that… in front of everybody.  About the soul… why he got it.  I mean we all knew why he got it, but, to hear him say it…”

I nodded, “Most Spike-related things are intense…” I glanced towards my bedroom door, making sure no shadows were listening, “But I couldn’t… I couldn’t tell him that I…” that I what?  That I know why he got the soul… I know what he had to do.  That part of me… melts about what he did… for me… “I had to be strong that night.  I had to be the leader.”

“I know… I get it.” Dawn nodded, “And I’m gonna try harder, Buffy…”

I smiled, and then looked away from her… out the window.  The sun was up, warming the world… the harsh, cold night long-washed away.  I watched the leaves dance outside my window.  Leaves are always dancing… dancing and changing… and then they fall.  Spiral down to the earth… where color fades, and life dries up and shrivels away…

“We’d better get going, Buffy…” Dawn stood.

I stood fast and hugged her close.  God, Dawnie… I can’t lose you.



Part 17

I left work early.  Xander stood in the school parking lot.

“Ready?”

“You betcha.” I got into the car.

“I mean, tiles can be hard to find, Buffy,” Xander had begun, “I can’t believe I found the same style.”

I nodded, only half-listening.  Hardware-talk, not one of my favorite kinds of talk.  What is my favorite kind of talk?  It’s not pep talks.  I hate those.  I hate droning on for ten minutes… but someone has to say that stuff.  I’m the someone.  The Slayer always has to hide behind herself…

“…Pick up a putty knife while we’re there.  And maybe a chainsaw… have you ever thought about slaying with a chainsaw?”

“Uh, not really.”

“I mean we could all get’em… like a ‘Sunnydale Chainsaw Massacre’ thing.  For the… Ubervamps…” he turned us into the parking lot.

He hadn’t finished the sentence before I gave him the look.  He nodded.

“Alright, maybe not the best idea…”

We walked down another aisle full of screws.

“Xander, do you really need all this to replace a couple tiles?”

His hands were motioning with his words, “Well, no… but you know… good to be prepared.”

I picked up a doorknob and began to twist it, “I don’t like hardware stores… they’re… too manny.”

“C’mon now, Buff… you could beat up any man in this place.”

“Yeah… I guess…”

“Check-out time… sure you don’t want that chainsaw?”

I nodded, tossing the doorknob into a basket.  “Xander?”

He stopped at the end of the line, “What is it?”

We’ll never make it… “You talked to Giles?”

“Yeah, looks like more girls are on the way… Looks like Dawnie loses our bet... knew I shoulda bet her some cash.”

A sigh.  More girls… to protect, and then lecture.  “I’m… I don’t know what to do with them, Xander.”

“It’s alright, Buff… we’ll think of something.”



“Bloody hell!  What’s a bloke gotta do to get some sleep ar—oh, it’s you.” Spike stopped at the kitchen counter. “You’re home early.”

“Yeah.” I muttered from my knees, tugging back on the crowbar.

“Hard time?  Where’s the carpenter?”

“He couldn’t get it loose… we think the magic might’ve…”

“Lemme help you, then?”  It was a question, and he stood behind me, reaching around my shoulders.

I nodded, and I controlled it.  For once I controlled the shudder.  I gripped the crowbar tighter instead, taking my frustration out on its cold surface.

His arms were wrapped around me now, and he brought his face up behind me.  His low words whispered in my ear, “Ready?  Count of three… one… two…”

We both yanked back, and the tile gave.  I tumbled backwards, knocking Spike to the floor underneath me.  His hands gripped tight on my hips, then quickly loosened. “You alright?” his hands didn’t move.

I couldn’t control it again… too familiar… too close.  I stood.  Everything was shaking.  God, he’s shaking too.  He stayed on the floor until I offered my hand.  He took it, steadying himself to his feet.  He was inches away from me, and I had to step back.  Too close… I couldn’t handle him that close.

He bent, picking up the crowbar and the tile and holding them out.

“Thank you.” I took them.

He gave a little nod, “Glad to help…” A silent stare, and then he blinked, cocking his head to the side.

“Um… listen, Spike, about last night—”

“Hey!” Xander made us both jump, “Got it up?”

Spike sucked his lips in, “Uh… pretty beat… think I’ll go... down… now.”

“Hey, yeah, great idea Spike.” Xander knelt before the tile.  “Could you hand me that adhesive off the counter, Buffy?   Buffy?”

I closed the basement door behind me.



“Didn’t think you’d come down…” Spike stood at the bottom of the stairs, eyes fixed on me.

Yes you did, Spike.  I stepped down in front of him.

He drew in a deep breath, and the room fell silent.  I fought myself not to take his hand and lead him to the bed.  Part of me came down here for that.  The tumble upstairs was too much… too overpowering… but too wrong.

We’re wrong, Spike.  I’m wrong.  I walked past him, keeping my monologue to myself.  I can’t give in to you, because it won’t last… it won’t.  It never does.  Doesn’t matter what I do… With Angel, I gave everything… with Riley, I gave some things… with you… I gave nothing.  I took… I took everything from you… and never gave.

He still hadn’t followed me, but I felt his eyes watch me.  I stopped in front of the punching bag.

And then you left… like the rest of them… you left.  But you came back… with something more to give… something else for me to take.  Like it’s why you’re here… for me to use.  I don’t want it like that.  You make it so hard for me not to just use you…

I swung hard, knocking the bag to the floor.

Spike was fast behind me, “Slayer?”

You’ll never know that… because I can’t say it.  I glanced over at him.  It’d only be more abuse if I told you it hurts to think of you sometimes…

“Buffy, what is it?” his hand snuggled against my shoulder, “You can tell me…”

No, Spike… I can’t.  I shook my fist, loosening my body.  Spike’s hand dropped away.  “We’ve got another potential coming tonight.  I’ll be down to get you when it’s time.”

I was halfway up the stairs before he stopped me, “You called last night…”

I turned.  What?

“You called me… in your sleep…” he shook his head, looking away, “Do you remember it?”

Stupid useless words were gone, and all I could do was nod slightly.

Just a tiny smile before he stepped down again, “I heard you.”

I stared at my feet.  God, my feet.  Yes.  Feet.  Move them.  Go upstairs.  Please, before I say something dumb.  Just move away from here…

“It was bad…” he spoke before I managed to, “Wasn’t it?  It was just a dream, though, right?  Not a vision?”

“I, uh…” yeah, there’s a good start, “I don’t think it was a vision.”

He nodded, “Shook you up, still, huh?”

“Yeah.” I stared at him wide-eyed, forcing my eyes open… if I close them, I’ll… I’ll see it again.

He backed away, across to his bed, where he lifted his chains.  “Better rest up if we’ve got fightin‘ tonight.  Didn’t wear’em last night… still awake when you…”

You don’t have to, Spike.  My feet betrayed me, stepping back down the stairs.  No, no.  Up.  Please, up.  Before I could stop myself, my feet had led me right behind Spike.  Okay, now stop him from putting those chains on.  It’s wrong for Spike to chain up.

“Spike, I…” I jumped as the metal clanged together.

He turned fast, eyes to mine, “What is it?”

I looked at his hands so fast I nearly fell from dizziness.  I took the chain from him and began unraveling it from the hook on the wall.

“Buffy…”

The cold metal scratched against itself, clattering out anything I might’ve said.  I pulled up the last link, “I don’t want it like this anymore…”

“Well, what if I wan—” he paused, “Doesn’t matter what I want, now, does it?”

I sighed, letting my shoulders drop at the weight of the chains, “Spike, it matters, but…” I lifted my eyes with the chains, “You don’t need them.  You have enough strength insi—”

He shook his head, looking away.

No.  No, listen to me Spike!  I grasped his chin with my free hand to make him look at me, “You are strong enough to fight it.  You don’t need a leash.”

His blue eyes blinked, then closed as his skin warmed to mine.  I let my knuckles slide across his cheek, but stopped myself from tracing a finger around any lips.  His eyes drifted open, and his lips drifted down to the back of my hand, softly pressing against it.  His hand lifted, and his eyes watched intensely as he lifted my hand away.

“Get some rest…” I pulled my hand away, shaking the chains, “We’ll leave at nine.”



Part 18

The air outside the Bronze seemed noisier than usual.  Probably because the entire walk there had been silent… Spike and I hadn’t said a word.  Now even our uncomfortable silence was gone. I sighed, and glanced at the long noisy line out the Bronze door.

Spike moved closer as he spoke in an almost whisper, like what he had to say was secret, “You’ve got somethin‘ to tell me.”

“I do?”

“Don’t you?” his head turned, “You haven’t made a peep since we left… that means you’re thinkin‘ about something… plottin‘ out your words…”

My chilled fingers wrapped around my arms.  Never any fooling him… unless he’s so blind that he starts to see what he wants.  Then he’s fooled… dangerous fool, that’s what you are, Spike.  So am I, of course…

“Figured it might be about the other night…”

My head lowered.  A strand of hair stuck to my lip, and I smoothed it back.

“You saw something… you can tell me, unless you can’t.  Either way… your decision.”

“It’s not—” I stopped, lowering my voice, “It’s not like I want to keep things from you, Spike.”

“It’s not?”

Tonight is just way too conversational, “Of course it’s not!”

Spike stopped.  A couple Bronze-ravers glanced our way, and Spike fished his cigarettes out.

I took a deep breath, “Look, the other night I… the three men… one of them showed me a vision of what’s coming, Spike.”

The flame flickered in his eyes before he clicked the lighter closed.

“It’s bad.” I stepped closer, “I’m talking thousands-of-ubervamps bad.”

He pulled away the cigarette, taking a step forward.  Smoke trickled off his lips and into the air, “I’m bad.”

The scent filled my nostrils… filled my senses.  The old-Spike scent… the bad-Spike scent.  His fingers slid around my hip.  Oh, bad Spike.  Please don’t do that… please no more touching.  I dropped the weapons bag.

His mouth opened as my eyes begged him to stop, and he tightened his grip on me.  I gasped, closing my eyes.  No, no, no…  I could feel his lips at mine.  Just tickling above mine, a soft whisper of wind and cigarettes I could almost taste.  Then his head tilted, and the lips moved to my ear.

“You’re afraid?” his other hand had dropped the cigarette, and now rested on my shivering shoulder.

I opened my eyes to the shining duster and his pale neck.  I backed away, but he stepped with me, and I kept moving until I bumped into a wall.  He backed his head away from mine then.

“You don’t have to run…” he said, lifting his hand to push my hair back, “Too strong to run.” His eyes twinkled, “Too stubborn, you are…”

My hands had met his at my waist, where I pushed him off.

He dropped back a couple steps.  He chuckled, and then pouted. “See?  Stubborn.  Didn’t let me finish…”

“We don’t have time—”

He was up next to me again, “I’ll be quick,” his eyes locked mine as his hands held me in place.

“Spike—”

“Just… let me say it, will you?” he begged.  His voice was almost desperate.

I nodded.

He sighed, smiling slightly.  It quickly faded as he searched for words, “I’ll… I’ll be here… when it happens.  I’ll follow you to that battle, Buffy, and I’ll fight however you want.”

Spike… “I already know that.”

“No,” he blinked, looking down, “This isn’t a promise… don’t act like it’s a promise.”

            Not a promise?  “Spike?”

“It’s a surrender, Buffy…” he lifted his eyes to mine, “The vow of a warrior.  Your warrior…” he blushed a little, stepping back, “If you’ll have him…” he stared at my feet.

I smiled, my hand sliding around his arm.  It was all I could do.  ‘I’ve always had him,’ or ‘If he’ll have me,’ just sounded so lame compared to his words… I couldn’t bring myself to say anything.  I hoped my actions said enough.

His smile told me they had.



We were early, and I slipped away from Spike to wander around the trees surrounding the bus stop.  Spike sat on the bench.

“Seems to me those blind blokes should be here by now.”

I pulled a sword from the bag, “Potential’s name is… Melody… I think.”

Spike stood, rummaging through the weapons, “Melody, eh?” he pulled away with a crossbow, “Slayers always got the wackiest names…” he trailed off when I glared at him.  “I didn’t mean you…”

“Right… because when you’re talking about Slayers, you couldn’t possibly be talking about the actual Slayer.”

“Right,” he crouched and loaded the bow with a teasing smile, "But I guess I’m really not one to talk

I leaned against the bench, “One more thing you and I have in common, eh pet?”

He blinked up, his face sincere.  It didn’t last long, and he was digging through the weapons again, “Besides,” he set a knife on the sidewalk, near a whisper, “Love your name…”

“Oh, please…” I turned around, rolling my eyes.

I heard him stand, “This makes how many potentials, now?” he scowled, “Might be time to start lookin‘ into hotel rooms.”

“You’re right,” I twirled the sword, watching the moonlight beam off the blade, “We’re running out of vacancies.”

“Gotta stick’em somewhere…” he was in front of me now, “’Fore you know it, house’ll be just like that Council building…”

I glanced at my watch and sighed, “Still another twenty minutes.”

He bounced back and forth in front of me, “Up for a dance, Slayer?”

            I couldn’t hide my smile, “What?”

“C’mon,” he lifted his fists, “Nothing heavy… just a warm-up.”

I pressed the sword into the grass.

“That’s it…” his fingers flickered, “Wow me, Slayer.”

I sprung forward, flipping off my hands and landing a foot to his chest.  I regained my footing just above him.

His eyebrows perked up, “Not bad…”

I bent to grab him by the duster, but his legs tangled mine and twisted me to the ground.  He rolled me on my back before pinning me there.  My blood rushed through me, every inch of my skin begging for his lips.

“Now, that was bad…” his tongue teased from between his teeth.

I flipped him off easy, quickly relieved to have my jumpy nerves calmed.  He flew to my right, landing against a tree.  I snapped up to pin him there.

His breath came uneasy as I pressed his wrists against the bark, twisting his hands behind his back.  His arm finally fell into place, and I found myself strapped against his body, holding his arms to the tree-trunk.

He took three short breaths, and then dropped his eyes to mine.

“Wow.”



My sword had been out of the ground for ten minutes, and there were still three Bringers to be slaughtered.  Spike got the potential, and she stood behind him with the crossbow as he beat down two attackers.

I ducked under a blade and slid the sword into the last Bringer.  He plopped at my feet, and I wiped the blood onto his cloak before walking towards Spike.

“More than usual,” Spike panted.

“Yeah.  The First must be gettin‘ desperate.”

“Could be,” he stepped away, motioning for the girl to go to me.  She didn’t move, still holding the crossbow up.  She was trembling.

I stepped forward and smoothed her blond hair, “It’s alright.  You’re safe now.”



“Safe now?” Spike said when the girl went upstairs.

I shrugged, “Safer, I guess.”

“Start her up tomorrow mornin‘,” Spike settled on the couch, “Actually, morning’s only a couple hours away… better make it tomorrow night.”

“I’m, uh, gonna go get a glass of water… did you…” I shut my mouth when his eyes opened up at me, “Are you… did you want me to get you some blood?”

            He gave a heavy sigh and stood.

What?  Spike?  “You don’t have to get up, I’ll get—”

“No,” he marched past me, “I’ll take care of it…”

I followed him into the kitchen, “Look, I wasn’t trying to make you uncomfortable…”

“You didn’t,” he opened the freezer, frosty air surrounding him, “Don’t worry.”

I pulled a glass from the cupboard, and handed him a mug, “I’m sorry.”

The ceramic mug dinked against the counter, “Don’t say that.”

I paused, and then stepped past him to open the fridge, “Is there anything I should say?”

He sighed, stopping all his movements and closing his eyes.  His hands dropped to the countertop.

I lifted the pitcher and the silence was broken by the sound of the water filling my glass.  Then came the noise as he placed his cup in the microwave.  He beeped a few buttons.  The whirr began, and he stood palms-down in front of it.  His head fell forward.

I took a drink, the cool water soothing my tired muscles.  I stood there waiting.  Say something, Spike.  Talk to me.  What did I do wrong?  But he didn’t say anything.  Only the whirr of the microwave filled the room.  I took another sip.

Finally, the microwave dinged, and he popped it open.  He still kept his back to me as he lifted the mug.  He paused, moving his head slightly, “Say goodnight, Buffy.”

I stood behind him a little longer before dumping my water into the sink.

“Goodnight, Spike.”



Part 19

“Do you see that?” Anya paced around her kitchen, “It’s hideous! It’s the most meanest, cruelest thing anyone’s ever done to me!”

“Anya…” I looked away from the roomful of bunnies.

“I mean, the meanest, cruelest thing regarding bunnies.” Anya corrected herself, “If this is another curse from that Amy girl, there will be strong repercussions… not like how you all were about the rats!”

Spike picked up a white bunny, stroking its neck, much to the disgust of Anya.

“You can eat that,” Anya suggested, and then backed away when Spike glared up at her, “If you want to.”

“Anya, do you think D’Hoffryn could’ve?” Dawn piped up from behind her.

“Bunnies?” Anya turned, “I think his idea of vengeance is just a little bit more dead—AH!” She shrieked as Spike held his bunny out towards her. She ran from him, and he chuckled, moving after her.

“Buffy!” she screamed, lifting up a chair to fend him off. “Hello? Protector of the innocent?”

“Alright, Spike,” I stopped them, “Anya, do you have a box or something we could put them in?”

She nodded, slamming the chair down, “Yes, I’ll get one. And you,” she glared at Spike, “I hope the First makes you kill everyone!”

Spike’s eyes widened and he frowned, and Dawn and I followed it.

“I mean…” Anya looked at the three of us, then gave a bright smile, “I’ll be right back with that box!”

Dawn stepped into the bunny-filled room, and I turned to follow her.

“Somethin‘ I wanna ask you…” Spike stopped me with his whisper.

“What is it?” I came closer to him.

He spoke lower, “Later… when the bit’s not around… we can talk?”

I nodded, “Sure.”

“You know, I can hear you anyway,” Dawn called from the other room, “Now or later… I’ll still hear it.”

Spike rolled his eyes, and then followed me into the room.



“So, I’m gonna go check into who could’ve cursed Anya with those bunnies,” Dawn said, heading upstairs, “And now you’ll be free to talk about whatever it is I’m not supposed to know you’re talking about.”

Spike sighed, “How long before she grows up?”

“I’m mature for my age!” Dawn yelled from the top of the stairs.

The door slammed shut, and I watched Spike silence himself. His fists knocked against his hips, and he bit his lower lip.

“Spike?”

He glanced up, “Just… I’m…”

I crossed my arms. “You know better than to beat around the bush with me, Spike. Spit it out.”

His hands stopped fidgeting and fell onto his hips. He looked at me, “I wanted to ask you about your mum.”

My mouth fell open… it had to. I was going to say something, but only managed to open my mouth.

He took a step back, “Look, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want—”

“What do you want to know about her?”

He was sitting on the bed now, and nodded me to sit with him.

That’s a bad idea. Too physical with you lately, Spike. I’m not sitting there. I’m not… I was sitting next to him now.

“She was… she was sick for a while, yeah? Before…” his hands gripped at each other, as if fighting over which one got to touch me.

“Yeah,” I watched his hands, “Before she died.”

His hands clenched his knees now, “Did you… did you want to do something about it?”

My shocked face met his, which had already winced at what he said, “Of course I wanted to do something about it.”

“I mean…” he stammered, trying not to look at me but failing, “Something… anything… to stop it? To keep her with you… forever?”

I don’t know what you mean… I felt my head start to shake.

“Even if…” he swallowed, looking right through me, “Even if it wasn’t the right thing?”

I blinked, and in the flash saw Mom lying on the couch… saw Mom brushing her hair. The air suddenly smelled of her, and I stood up.

He was standing next to me fast, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…”

I stepped away from him, his words barely interrupting my thoughts of Mom. Her smell… her touch… her voice… it all took over inside me. It had been so long since I’d thought of her… since I’d remembered her like this… I’ve been so busy. I’ve forgotten her. What have I…

“Mom…” the words fell out, and I could hear Spike gasp from behind me. His arms wrapped around me, but I pulled away from them. Can’t think about you now, Spike. I have to think about Mom. God, Mom. I’m sorry, Mom. I’m so…

“I’m sorry…” Spike’s words came with my thoughts, “I didn’t mean to…”

Mommy…

“I didn’t mean to hurt you…” he was very quiet now, like he didn’t want to disturb me with what he was saying. He didn’t care if I heard it or not. “Just… wondered… shouldn’t have asked…”

I turned to him then, my blurry eyes unable to really make him out. I blinked. It’s the only way I know how to stop the blur… just blink. Spike had his eyes to the floor, and he blinked too.

“Shouldn’t have asked…” he whispered again.



“Why did he ask?” Dawn cuddled into her blanket, “I don’t get it.”

Me either… I don’t know…

“Well, it… probably has to do with the soul…” Willow shrugged, “Right?”

“Maybe…” I nodded. “Nightmares or something…”

“Yeah, but… why Mom?” Dawn sat up straight, “When Angel was having his soul-nightmares, he wasn’t dreaming about Mom, was he?”

“No,” I told her. But Spike’s not Angel… it sounded in my mind like an alarm.

“I think it will get better… once Giles is back.” Willow stood.

I nodded, “It has to.”

Willow nodded and stepped out.

Dawn smiled.

“What?”

“Nothing… just… all of us talking like that…” she started to get out of bed, “It was nice.”

“Yeah.”

“Are you gonna talk to him about it some more?”

“I, uh… I don’t know.”

“But you never really answered…” Dawn picked through her clothes, “I mean, maybe you should tell him?”

“I wouldn’t know what to say.”

“Say what you’re thinking,” Dawn faced me, “You know that’s really all he wants to hear.”

I stood, suddenly remembering my plan for today, “Listen, I need you to tell Wood I’m taking today off. Anya had an idea on the demon that could’ve—”

“I’ll tell him,” she stepped towards the bathroom, “But we both know the real reason why you’re taking the day off.”



She hadn’t been gone ten minutes before I realized how right she was. I was already at the basement door. My stupid fingers couldn’t stop fidgeting. I don’t know what to say to him. Just say what I’m thinking? I can never do that right.

The door swung open, and I was suddenly terrified of his mere presence.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said. His voice is more terrifying than his presence.

“It’s me,” I managed out.

“Usually gone at this hour,” he stepped past me, “Thought it might’ve been one of the girls.”

“Do they usually come down this early?”

“No,” he muttered, fixing his blood, “That’s why I came up.”

Awful silence fell between us. I struggled onto a stool and he stood in silence as the microwave heated. The entire kitchen felt like one big microwave.

Finally he spoke, “No counseling today, then?”

“Yeah,” I was eager to break the tension, but couldn’t find any more words.

He sniffed, “Principal make you mad?”

I smiled, and he turned to show his little smile before the microwave beeped.

“Just trying to think of a way to help Anya.”

“Right,” he crossed towards the basement again, “The bunny thing.”

“Spike, I…” I have to tell you what I’m thinking.

He turned at the door, his head tilting a little. The mad silence fell again and I shrugged.

“Never mind.”



“I knew it was him!” Anya’s shout echoed off the walls of the apartment, “He warned me. He told me not to tell anyone about the ritual, but look what I did!”

“Anya, you were helping. Now I’ll help you.”

“Help me what? Clean up all the little bunny pellets all over the floor?” Anya scowled, “I always suspected it was him, but this is absolute proof.”

“These?” I picked up the pair of glasses.

“Yes.” Anya nodded, “Even demons need to see, Buffy.”

I shrugged, “Guess he’ll have to retake the eye exam.”

“You know, I can’t believe he left them,” she squinted at them, “He’s so stupid like that.”

“Anya, where can I find this guy?”



Contains foreshadowing for episode 17.



Part 20

“Any idea how much further?”

“Why?  You getting tired, Spike?”

He snorted.

“Probably not much longer.”

“Long way for a walk, don’t you think?”

I turned around now, “Xander’s moving potentials.  It’s not like we had a choice.”  I faced forward again and quickened the pace, “And you don’t care anyway.”

“You’re right,” he stepped up next to me, “I don’t.  Not really.”

“So what’s with the big are-we-there-yet?”

He shrugged, “Like to have a smoke.”

I felt my face scrunch, “So have one.”

“Right.  Repulse you.  Like I need to do more of that.”

“You don’t repulse me.”

“You know I do.”

God, he’s talking a lot tonight.  “I think you repulse yourself.”

“You’d think right,” he muttered low, thinking I wouldn’t hear.

“Stop it.” I crossed my arms and looked at him, “I thought you hated pity, Spike.”

He glanced over, “Exactly.  I hate your pity, and I hate my self-pity.”

“So stop it.”

His teeth clenched, “I’m trying.”

“No, you’re not.” I almost laughed at him, “You’re—”

“You have no idea what it’s like!”

He must’ve picked up on the laugh anyway…

“Buffy, you went wrong for a couple of months…” he shoved his fists into his pockets, “And you still try to repent.” He looked up to the stars, “I’ve been wrong for centuries.”

My eyes followed his to the sky.  The bright lights twinkled for us like fireworks.  I sighed, “But you don’t see the difference?”

“No,” he pulled out a cigarette, “You don’t.”

This time I did laugh, “I think I know that we’re different, Spike.”

He’d already lit the cigarette, and sucked in the smoke, “I don’t think you do.”

Silence took over then, and I listened to the trees rustle, and his smoke hissing from his lips.  We walked like that for some time.



“She said she liked Poe,” he suddenly said.

“What?”

“One of the girls…” he fixed on his boots, “A girl I killed… we were talking about Poe.”

“Isn’t that a Teletubby?”

He frowned, “Edgar… old poet.  Wrote a lot of horror stories…” he trailed off, then glanced over, “How do you know names of Teletubbies?”

I shrugged, and he let it go.  “So you talked about Poe?  So what?”

“And she liked the Grateful Dead… and she loved strawberries.”

“Spike?” I searched for a point to all this rambling.

“She’d be alive right now if…” he brought another cigarette to his mouth.

It got quiet again, and for once I decided to say what I was thinking.

“My mom, she always used to say ‘If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, oh what a Christmas it’d be.’”

Spike frowned.

“Yeah, I never really got it either…”

More quiet, but I knew both our minds were deafening.

“Never heard it before.” Spike muttered.

Quiet.

“She said a lot of stuff I never really got…”

Dead quiet.  Long quiet.  More suffocating than just a pause.

He broke it, “Sometimes… kids make mistakes, I think.”

“Yeah,” I sighed, “But we all make mistakes.”

My clicking heels bugged the hell out of me, and I fought to make them stop without slowing down.

“Am I one of your mistakes?”

I could feel his eyes on me, prying for the answer.  Always searched for it in my body language and facial expression if I didn’t answer him directly.  Doesn’t he see how unfair that question is?  But I kept silent, and tried to hold in any reaction.

And I let him guess from that.



“Here’s our spot?” he peeked through a window, “Don’t see any lights on.”

“Maybe he’s out getting new glasses.”

“How’s that?”

“I’ll get the door.” I readied for a kick, “You get my back.”

“Pleasure,” he stepped behind me.

The door crashed down and the lights flicked on.

“Slayer…” Spike whispered, “Tell me you see that, too...”

“Ooooooh,” Drusilla danced around the demon in the middle of the apartment, “We can have our picnic now!”

I nodded, “I see her.”

“Not her.” Spike muttered.

“But it is, my Spike…” she hissed, “And his keeper.”

I felt Spike stand up straighter, and we both listened.  I eyed the demon as she spoke.

“But where has my Spiky gone…” Dru wiggled her fingers in the air, coming closer, “To bring nothing more than this shadow?”

Anya’s demon never spoke… it growled, in the middle of the room, waiting for the action to start.  I know how you feel, pal.  I felt like if the fighting started now, Dru would still only talk to Spike.

“Broken.  Beaten.  Bitter.” Dru smiled, “Like smashed dollies with no arms and no homes… forgotten and—”

“Hey, Dru?”

She glared at me.

“It’s not her, Slayer.”

“Oooooh, naughty words!  Bad Spike!”

“Shut up!” I turned to Spike, “What?”

“Buffy, it’s The First.”

“No!  Nasty lying soul!” Dru shouted, “I’m the last!”

Real easy way to figure this one out.  I lifted a lamp and threw it at Dru.  It passed through her and smashed against the wall.  The demon seemed to wake up, watching it shatter to pieces.

“You’ll pay for that, Slayer!” he suddenly growled.

“You know—the last time I checked—I think you demons owe me.”

He charged, and I tripped him into a table.  It smashed underneath him and he pounded the floor with his fists.

“Clumsy Slayer follows glasses…” Dru chuckled, pointing at the window, “Bites the hook.”

“Bringers…” Spike muttered, “Whole lot.”

I glared at The First as I snapped the demon’s neck.



“You alright?” he took my hand, pulling me off the floor.

“Yeah.  Thanks.”

He dropped my hand and waved his in the air, “Was nothing.”

“Right.  Saving my life.  That’s nothing.”

“I didn’t save…” we made our way out the door, “You would’ve been fine.”

I flinched, clutching my hand to my side.  Please, not a broken rib.

“Think it’s broken?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Let’s have a look?”

I stopped walking, raising my eyes to his.  He kept his eyes focused in mine… and concerned, lacking any look of lust or… intention of sliding hands…

“Alright.”

I stepped behind the trees, gasping as the pain shot up my body while lifting the shirt.

Spike crouched low, studying my side.  He shook his head.  His hand slid around my stomach, pressing in soft spots that jolted pain to my spine… and other parts jolted in the good way.

The hand slid up my side then... close to… to that place he needs to stay away from.  My heart raced, and he dropped his hand.

“Think you broke one.”

I let the shirt drop as he stood, “Thanks, doc.”

He let some air out in a smile, and blinked up at me.

“So, um…” I looked him over, “How about you?”

His eyebrows jumped, “Fit as a fiddle.” He bit his lower lip.

I slid my hands over his stomach.  His head tilted, and then he closed his eyes.  I ran my fingers around his sides, and he winced slightly when I pinched him.  I brought my hands back.  His eyes opened.

“Just checking.”



Part 21

The rest of the walk home, I heard nothing but Spike.

“Big guy with flamin‘ fists…” Spike’s hands flew up in front of him, “Hit faster and hotter than anyone… ’cept you, of course.”

I smiled.  I didn’t think Spike would want to talk about the soul-getting.  Thought he’d be all guarded and secretive… yet here he was, talking my ear off…

“So, he got in a couple good shots first… you know, catching me off-guard and all that.  Even grabbed his fist once.” He shook his head with a chuckle, “Felt like he damn near burned my arm off.”

My smile faded.  Way to turn your soul-getting into a bad topic, Spike.  I should ask him to stop… before it gets too bad, and I get all uncomfortable and guilty.  Maybe I should feel guilty.  Does he want me to feel guilty?

“Flipped him right quick… twisted his head like a doorknob.” Spike was still explaining.

“And then what?”  Why am I asking that?

His hands fell to his sides, “Well… then, there was another.”

“Another fire-guy?” Shut up, Buffy…

“Trial,” he corrected, “Another trial.”

“What was that one?”  Fine… keep asking questions, idiot.

His hands disappeared into his pockets, “Don’t really recall.”

I wanted to argue with him.  I know you remember it all, Spike.  You fought for your soul, for crying out loud.  I know you recall burning skin and broken bones.  But I gave him a break, and I let it get quiet as we neared the house.

He spoke not long after, “Feelin‘ any better?”

Less than an hour ago the Bringer’s foot had smashed my low rib.  It hurt like hell then, but slayer-healing had kicked in just as Spike started talking about how he got halfway around the world.  I shrugged, “Kinda.”

“Thought we could poke by the cemetery before… only if you’re up for it.  We haven’t patrolled in a while, eh?”

“If I’m up for it?” I rolled my eyes.

“I just meant—”

“I mean, I’m the Slayer, Spike—”

“Yeah.  I didn’t catch that the fir—”

“Then don’t act like—”

“I don’t act, Buffy.”

I stopped walking.  That’s not fair.  I didn’t get to cut him off.

He moved next to me, “I don’t pretend.  You shouldn’t either.”

What?  Where the hell is that coming from?  Where the hell is he going with that?  “I… don’t.  I don’t pretend.”

“You know you do…” he kept at a distance, and lifted his eyes, “Don’t pretend with me.”

What?  I could only stare.  Pretend?  You never stop, do you Spike?  Always think you know me… what I’m thinking… just by what you’ve heard me say.  You never really know, though.  Because I never say what I’m thinking.  I’m doing it right now, and you don’t even know it.

“You’re right.” I said finally.

His forehead crinkled, studying me.  Trying to read my thoughts again… how about I just say them this time, Spike?

“I don’t want to patrol.”

He took a step back, and I took a step forward.

“And don’t talk to me about pretending, Spike, because you don’t want to patrol either.”

He looked away, another step backwards.  I still stepped after him.

“Because you pretend, too, Spike.”

He backed into a fence then, his eyes focused on the grass below my feet.  We stood there for a long time, both of us waiting for the other to do it.  To jump and tear and moan, just as we were an hour ago under the trees.  But just like then, he didn’t budge, and I watched him not budge.

“I want to go home.” I said.

He didn’t lift his head as I left.



It was a short, quiet walk back.  Spike kept behind me the entire time, as if making up for all his rambling earlier.  I reached the front door.

“Wait.”

I sighed, and turned.  “What?”

He didn’t move up the steps, and I knew he was trying to find his words.

I don’t have all night… “What, Spike?”

He glanced up, “Sorry for… for what I said.”

I rolled my eyes, “Great,” and turned to go in.

“Great?  That’s all you’ve got to say?” he pulled me to a stop with his words.

“What am I supposed to say?” I didn’t turn around.

“Bloody hell, maybe that you’re sorry too?  Maybe that you didn’t mean what you sa—”

“I meant all of it.”

He growled, “On quite a roll tonight, aren’t you?  Hell, I’d rather have a heart-attack than listen to—”

“You can’t have a heart-attack, Spike.  Your heart would need to, like, beat first.”

He stormed past me, throwing the door open and going in without a glance my way.  I heard the basement door slam the second I stepped inside.

“Hey,” Dawn came downstairs, “I thought I was the only one who could do that stuff.”

I nodded, “You should go lecture him about that.”

“Sounds like he’s had enough lecturing,” Dawn followed me to the couch, crammed with slayers-to-be whose wide eyes darted around at all the commotion.  “What happened?” Dawn asked.

I sighed, moving from the crowded living room to the empty kitchen, “The First… was being Dru.  I think it got to him or something.” I opened the fridge.

“Are you hungry?” Dawn asked, “Because there’s nothing in there.”

I peered in the vacant fridge, remembering the place Princ—damnit!—Robin had taken me for dinner.  Just one bite sounded so good…  I spotted a lonely string-cheese.  Dawn choked back on a laugh when I opened it.

I pulled off a strand, “What?”

She stifled it, “Nothing.”

Rona stepped into the kitchen, “Hey Buffy, we were thinking maybe order a—oh my God, Buffy… what are you doing?”

“What?”

“If Kennedy saw you eating that…”

I stopped chewing, “What?”

Molly’s horrified face popped up next to Rona, “You ate her string cheese?”

“Excuse me,” I opened the fridge, “You girls eat me out of house and home… but what, Kennedy thinks her cheese is off limits?  What is it, magic cheese?”

Molly’s head turned, then she whispered back with wide eyes, “Kennedy’s coming!”

I took another bite of cheese, “Let her come.”

Dawn shook her head, pulling me towards the basement door.

Oh, no way, Dawnie.  I’d rather stand on the Hellmouth than go down there right now.

“Just until she’s gone, then we’ll call you back up.” Dawn swung the door open and pushing between frantic whispers, “Buffy, she’s going to flip out.”

The basement door slammed behind me, and I found myself staring down the black stairwell.  The next noise was enough to make me jump and tiptoe down the stairs:

“WHO ATE MY STRING-CHEESE?”



I snuck to the bottom of the stairs, knowing Spike was there… knowing Spike knew I was there.  The light was off, and I stumbled over equipment.

“Spike?”

“Christ, Slayer,” I heard him mutter from his bed, “Sod off, will you?  Not in the mood.”

“I would, but I guess I’m not in charge of the house anymore.”

He grunted, “So they sent you down to the pits, eh?  That it?”   

I sighed.  He’s still pissed.  Okay, make a joke fast.  That works sometimes.  Only nothing came to my mind.  No joke, anyway.

“Want a bite of Kennedy’s forbidden string-cheese?” I ventured.  Please let that be good enough…

He snickered, and I heard his sheets shift.

“Kinda dark down here, don’t you think?” I gained confidence.

“Creature of the night here…” he muttered, “Plus, you know, sleeping.”

It fell quiet again.  Dark and quiet… and all my confidence became as scarce as the light.  God, how did I get down here?  Dawn.  Oh, you are so dead, Dawnie…  I know you planned this all out somehow.  I glared at the ceiling.

“Lemme know if you plan to stand there all night, Slayer,” Spike muttered, “’Cause there’s nothing quite like the threat of death looming over me while I sleep.”

I plucked another piece of cheese.  Does everything have to be so eternally dramatic with you, Spike?  Could you just once let it go?  God, it’s only string-cheese…

“Turn on the light, then,” he groaned, “Can’t sleep with you here.  Might as well—”

“You’ve slept around me before.”

I could hear his anger, “Well, this is after, isn’t it?”

After what?  The sex?  The soul?  What was he trying to say, that he doesn’t want to… no, he wants to be around me.  I know he does.  But he can’t sleep around me.  But he could just fine before… before I realized how hurtful I was.  So now, after… after I changed from that—learned from that—and now I’m not as hurtful.  And now he won’t sleep around me?

That doesn’t make any sense, Spike.

“I think this counts as during,” I said, “Like a middle-spot.”

He didn’t answer.

“Because, you know, we’re not like… done.”

More silence from him, and more words from me.

“Are we?”

The basement had never been quieter.  I ate the last of the cheese.

Finally his bed creaked, as if to wake him up, “I don’t… want to be.”

Now it was my turn to be silent.  The bed creaked again, and I knew he was getting up.

“Buffy, I…” his voice gave way, and was so small I still couldn’t place him, “I love you.”

Oh God.  Oh no.

“You think you’ve been selfish…” he was moving, but I didn’t know where, “But you’re not.  It’s me… the selfish one.  Because I can’t stop…”

Please, stop.

“Even though it hurts you, I’ll never stop.”

Somebody make this stop…

“Love ’til it kills you,” he paused, “And then I’ll love you dead.”

Stairs.  Get upstairs now.  My mind pushed, but my body wanted to hear more.

“You see that now, right?” he was getting closer, “That it doesn’t matter if you love me… wouldn’t change me… wouldn’t make me any stronger, or more loyal… wouldn’t make me love you more ’cause that’s bleedin‘ impossible.”

Finally I could make him out—his feet appeared in front of me… at the floor I couldn’t look away from.  Part of me wanted to look up at him, but the smarter part knew better and focused more intently on his feet.  Love.  Dark room.  Tension.  God, I’m tired.  Just fall into him.  Take comfort.  Spike.  What if… what if…

“What if I said it?” my throat scratched out in a whisper.

“What?” he asked like he didn’t think I had listened.

“What if… I said I loved you?”



Part 22

“Buffy… don’t do that.” Spike sounded sick.

I pulled the cord above me, bringing enough light to make shadows behind him.  I focused on him… even though he was shirtless, and his eyes were sleepy, and his hair had that disheveled look that I love… or, used to love.  But if I told him I loved him?

What if I said it, Spike?  Wouldn’t make you any stronger, right?  That’s what you told me, and you were right.  Because it wouldn’t make you stronger.  It’d only make you weaker.  You’d fall, crying on your knees, wouldn’t you?  Chain up to the wall again, maybe?  Don’t you get it, Spike?  It doesn’t matter if I want to say it… I can’t say it.  There’s too much at stake.

“Doesn’t matter…” he straightened up, “Right?”

The light bulb swayed in circles, and I watched Spike’s shadow grow and fade.  I focused on that shadow.  That shadow is Spike.  Talk to the shadow, not the vampire.  The shadow can’t touch you or talk back.

He stepped in front of the shadow.

“But we’ll never know,” he paused, and lifted a hand to my chin, “Buffy, look at me.”

Bad idea.  I slammed my eyes shut when he lifted my face, but a sudden terror of me looking kissable came to mind, so I opened them.  He was staring right back at me… shirtless… sleepy eyes… disheveled hair… looking kissable.  Worse idea…

“You can’t love me…” he whispered.

“Buffy?”

I jumped, and Spike backed into the punching bag.  He glanced up the stairs and rolled his sleepy eyes.

I turned, and Dawn spoke from the top, “You can, um, come back up now.”

“Be right up.”

“Hit the light first, eh Slayer?” Spike pulled back the sheets.

I clenched my fist, ready to break that bulb… but tugged the cord instead.  The light went out.



I look dead.

I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at a stranger’s reflection.

This can’t be me.

I let my palms rest on the cool sink, bringing my face closer to the stranger’s.  She was so tired… so sad… she looked desperate.

Is that how they see me?

Is that how Spike sees me?

I always thought he was the desperate one… but looking in these reflected eyes I can see down into that girl’s soul… I can see her despair… and she’s scared.

She’s terrified.

And she’s alone.

And she doesn’t know what to do.

And she’s me…

The quick knock on the door surprised my hand, and I knocked three toothbrushes to the floor.  I knelt to pick them up.

“Buffy?” it was Dawn, “Buffy, can I come in?”

“I, uh…”

But the door was already half-open, and then quickly shut behind Dawn.

“You’ve been in here for awhile…” she stepped closer, “I…we were getting worried.”

“I’m fine,” I stood with the toothbrushes and placed them back on the sink, keeping my eyes off that strange girl in the mirror.

Dawn snuck behind me, “What happened?”

“Huh?”

“In the basement… with Spike…”

What happened in the basement with Spike?  It sounds like such a simple question.  It sounds so plain… like the sentences teachers would write on the board, and then underline the nouns, and circle the verbs…

“Did he…” Dawn interrupted my private English lesson, “Are you two…”

I lost focus and looked up at the mirror.  I saw Dawn standing behind the stranger… I saw Dawn watching my back.  And Dawn looked at me like I was a stranger, too.  Like she doesn’t know me anymore…

“It’s okay if you don’t tell me,” she added, “I just… want to help.”

I must look really desperate.  My eyes drifted towards the stranger in the mirror again.  I stared at her… hard at her… almost through her.  Then the words just came out.

“I think I said something wrong.”

“What did you—”

“I…” I wasn’t sure why I stopped her, or what I was going to say when I did… but I knew that I had to stop her, “I’m really tired.”

Dawn was hurt now.  She was hurt that I didn’t tell her.  And she was trying to hide it, but I could see her eyes starting to swell up.

“I’m sorry,” I watched the stranger tell her, “I can’t say… because I don’t know.”

Dawn nodded, straightening herself up.  And I watched her stand taller, and she looked so pretty.  So alive and aware.  She looks strong.

“It’s okay,” Dawn smiled a little, and then she wrapped her arms around my shoulders.  Her head fell against my back.

And I lifted my eyes to the mirror again… and finally saw my true reflection.



Contains spoilers for Storyteller



Part 23

I didn’t cover the seal after Andrew cried on it.  We just left it, Andrew and I.  With all the dead Bringers-to-be lying around it.  Because it didn’t matter if it was covered… we beat The First tonight.  We won a battle, and it was hard.  And it will only get harder.

Andrew didn’t stop shaking all the way up the stairs.  When we reached the top the door opened, which made Andrew jump with a squeal.

It was Spike, who held the door open with a smile, “Got it done.”

Andrew zipped through the door

“Break his heart?” Spike asked.

“What?”

“Been crying,” he motioned to Andrew.

“Oh, yeah,” I paused, wondering if it was that easy for him to know when I’ve been crying… “His, uh, tears… closed the seal.”

“That right?” we followed Robin and Andrew down the hall, “Get it on film?”

“I don’t think we’ll see much of that camera after tonight.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because I’m going to break it.”

Spike nodded, and then smirked when Andrew looked back, “Likely she means that, by the way.”

Robin held the door open, and we all left the school.

“So,” Robin locked the door… like it matters if a trashed school is locked… “Go ahead and take the next couple of days off, Buffy.”

I nodded, “Sure you don’t want my help fixin‘ up the place?”

“Swings an ungodly hammer…” Spike took the lead, pulling out a cigarette.

Robin glared at Spike’s back.  Alright… I can relate to that.  I’ve glared at him before, too.  Usually to his face, but…

“I really don’t think it’s fair to break the camera,” Andrew came up next to me, “I mean, it could be useful for, like, family occasions, or holidays, or… um, weddings?”

I plucked it from his hands, “No more camera.  And no more weddings… they’re very…”

“Catastrophic,” Spike murmured, blowing smoke above his head.

“I was going to say demony… and it’d just be more footage of me slaying stuff.”

“Bet that sets the newlyweds back a pretty penny.” Robin said, “But then, which is more important in a wedding, anyway: the cake or the bride and groom?”

I smiled, and Spike gave an annoyed glance.

“I think what’s most important is… remembering the good times,” Andrew reached for the camera, “And looking to the future…” he reached again, and I lifted it up higher, “And…” he jumped, “Come on, just one more night.  I won’t film you at all, I swear.”

We reached Robin’s car, which Spike was already leaning against.

“Alright,” I handed the camera to Andrew, “But I want it back first thing in the morning.”

Andrew nodded, tucking it into his jacket.

“Sorry, Spike, no smoking in the car.” Robin’s eyes were slits.

Spike took a long drag, tapping the ash when he finished, “Come put it out, then.”

Robin’s fists clenched.

“Spike…”

Spike tossed the cigarette at Robin’s feet, “Bugger it.  I’ll walk.”

Robin crushed the flicker of light and opened his door.

“I, uh… think I better go with him.” What?  Why?

“What?” Robin almost barked, “Why?”

“You know… just don’t want anyone to—”

“Get hurt?”

“Well, yeah, but I don’t think Spike would—”

“Right.  The soul.  Almost forgot.”

I nodded, very nervous about his tone, “Besides, it’s been a while since we patrolled…”

Robin started the car, “Is that when you hunt vampires?”

“Well, not really hunt, per se, but—”

“I’d like to go one night, if that’s alright?”

Okay, why does he keep cutting me off?  “Sure.” I looked past the car.  Spike was already out of sight.



“I know you’re back there,” I called down the dark alley, “I can see the light from your cigarette.”

“Aren’t you bloody clever?” the light flickered, “Don’t ’spose anyone else in this town smokes.”

“No one else in this town calls me ‘bloody clever.’  Come on, we’re going by the Bronze.”

He was coming into view now, and dropped the cigarette, “What for?  Look like I’m in the mood for drinkin‘ and dancin‘?”

“No,” I said as he stepped onto the sidewalk, “But you do look like you’re in the mood for a good fight.”

“Soddin‘ principal of yours…” he walked alongside me, “Why can’t you ever make a friend I like?”

“You like you,” I crossed my arms, “Isn’t that enough.”

He looked surprised, then stared down at the sidewalk.  It got quiet.

Ah yes, the old shocked-that-Buffy-cares look.  Shocked-that-Buffy-understands.  I sometimes think that you really don’t believe in me at all, Spike.  Sometimes think that after everything I’ve done, you just don’t have any faith left in me.

“Good fight…” he muttered, “Like any o‘ the wankers we stake tonight are gonna come close to a good fight,” that dark tone of his took over, “Close to a good…”

It got quiet again.

And this time it stayed quiet… on the outside.

But my insides were ripping at each other.

What were you thinking?  Alone, just you and him, after what happened last night?  Don’t you remember?  What happened in the basement with Spike?  Do you remember that question at all?  Are you insane?

Yes, I am insane… because only insane people have mind-arguments with voices like this.  Only insane people follow Spike to a dark alley.  Only one insane person.  And that’s me.  Insane Buffy.

Spike lit another cigarette, oblivious to my insanity.

And just what did happen in the basement with Spike?  He’s obviously okay with it.  He’s walking right next to me, isn’t he?  If he had been upset about it, he would’ve shown it by now.  He’s terrible at hiding that kind of stuff.

Besides… we’ve been through worse.  A little talk in the basement is a cakewalk compared to our worst times…

We walked past a smashed building.  The roof had caved in, and the walls were falling down.  One of the windows framed a broken lamp.  It was familiar.  It wasn’t the place… it wasn’t the house we smashed… together.  But it was close.  Close enough to send shivers through every bone in my body… to bring back flashes of memories shattering into each other… close enough to make me catch my breath.

Spike was looking at it, too.

“They should knock that place down.” I looked away from it.

“Probably still means something to somebody…”

I looked over at him.

He shrugged, “I mean… Magic Box’s still standing, innit?”

“Barely,” I thought of the old store… the jingly bell… the weird customers… Willow slamming me into hundreds of books, “I don’t think I like what it means to me anymore.”

“Still means, though.  Still important.  Shaped you,” he paused, “Part of you?”

He’s not just talking about the Magic Box…

“I guess.”



“Spike!  He went left!”

He backed up, then followed me to the left, “You know, maybe you should try not tellin‘ every vamp you’re the Slayer…” he panted, “Try to play the victim, lure’em in and stake’em up close and personal…” we rounded a corner as he finished, “Save you a lot of bloody running.”

“If they run…” I gasped, “They could… lead me… to more.”

“Or too many.”

“No such thing.” I sprinted faster, “C’mon, he’s slowing.”

We raced down the alley, turned right and raced down another.  The vamp disappeared into a door on the left.

I slowed to a walk, and Spike jogged up next to me.  I pulled out a stake.

“What’s the plan?” Spike caught his breath… for no reason.

“Kick the door down.  Slay.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s all there ever is.”

The door crashed to the ground.



Part 24

The Bronze vamp did lead us to more vamps.  A lot more vamps.  Not too many… never too many… but a lot.  I glanced around the room.  Most of them were in the middle, but there were some on a balcony… about thirty altogether.

Okay, maybe this could be too many.

“That’s her!” Bronze-vamp pushed through the crowd. “She’s right there!  I told you I’d get her here!”

“The Slayer!” another vamp cried out.

“Spike,” I looked behind me, “You take the top—Spike?”

Spike wasn’t back there.

I stared at the empty spot—the spot Spike was supposed to be, “Spike?”

“So!” a snarling voice made me face forward again,  “This is the Slayer?”

I straightened up.  This vamp wasn’t from around here… had a thick Hispanic accent.  His red robe reached the floor… Okay, lame much?

“So, this is… I’m sorry, who are you?”

He showed a toothy grin, “I am Raphael Ortíz.”

I gripped the stake, “Correction:  You were Raphael Ortíz.”

The door behind me slammed, but before I could turn I was wrapped up in familiar arms.  One leather-clad arm had me in a chokehold, while the other twisted my arm behind my back.

“Bloody gotcha now, don’t I Slayer?” Spike growled as his hand twisted the stake from my own.

What the hell is he doing?  The First?  No… if it was the trigger, he would’ve sunk his teeth in by now…

“Amigo!” Raphael and his gang stepped forward, “She belongs to us.”

Spike chuckled, pushing me forward, “You know how long I been trackin‘ this girl?”

“That is no ordinary girl,” Raphael folded his hands, “That is the Slayer.”

“Damn right it is,” Spike had vamped now, “Think I don’t bloody know that?  Don’t you know who I am, mate?”

Raphael squinted as a protégé whispered in his ear.

“William the Bloody…” Raphael mused.  “I’ve never heard of you.”

“And I’ll bet this is your first attempt at killin‘ a Slayer, eh ponce?”  Spike’s tone was confident… bragging.  His hand dropped mine, and he wrapped an arm around my waist.  A sudden flashback shot shivers through me.  I forced my eyes open again to stop the flashes, and focused on three vamps that were ready to fight.

Okay… all part of the act… nothing to get all shaky about, Buffy…  Spike must have sensed my discomfort, because he eased up on his grip.  Raphael had backed up, and the rest of the vamps followed his lead, allowing Spike and I to move towards the middle… doesn’t seem like the greatest plan, Spike.

“Fact is, she’s not your ordinary Slayer, mate,” Spike pushed us through the crowd, until we finally reached the middle.  Spike halted us in front of the ratty pool table dead center.  Two pool-cues lay crisscrossed over the top.  One of the three vamps roared as my eyes went from them to the table.  He crouched low.

“Special, this one…” Spike finished, and gave me a tight squeeze.  He was warning me… almost time.  Or maybe he was just… squeezing…

“Nothing special that I can see,” Raphael stood alongside us now, eying me closely, “Dígame, señor. Mira viejo y cansado a mí, señor…  Mira muerto.”

Spike’s elbow cracked Raphael’s nose.  The vamp hit the floor, and Spike flung me towards the table.

“This Slayer’s always got backup, mate,” Spike pounced on Raphael.

I rolled onto the table, collecting up the two cues.  I knocked away two vamps before they could get to Spike.  The third grabbed at the poolstick.  I swung the other rod down fast, cracking it over his shoulder.  The wood splintered, giving me all that I needed.

The three vamps went poof as another two jumped up onto the table.  One threw a quick kick, landing it on my stomach.  I bent over, and then forced the stick straight up through his chest.  The second vamp pushed through his dust and grabbed the wood.  I pulled back and the vamp fell off the table.

Raphael went flying over my head, and then crashed hard against a beam under the balcony.  It started to sway.

I looked down at Spike, who offered his hand.  I grasped it, and hopped down off the table.

He picked up the second cue from the ground and broke it over his knee, “Robe-idiot’s mine.”

I twirled my very long stake, “Then you better dust him fast.”

He nodded, quickly jabbing just above my head.  I didn’t have to look… the dust rained down over us.  He stood there with his arm alongside my cheek.  I could feel the soft leather brush by when he pulled back.  He placed the second cue in my hands.

“Amigo said some stupid words… needs a good beatin‘ before he’s dust… you just watch my back.”

I hurled a cue, sticking it through the vamp behind him, “Not a problem.”

A quick smile showed, and then he took off towards Raphael.



It had been about ten minutes, and I had dusted more vamps than minutes gone by.  Most of them had retreated to the balcony, and I was so busy slaying, I hadn’t seen Spike or Raphael at all… until now.

They came into view under the balcony.  Spike had somehow gotten his hands on a crowbar, and was swinging down at Raphael.  I watched Spike drop the heavy weapon to the floor… I heard the clang from the metal.  Dust was billowing up, but I could make it out when Spike slammed Raphael into the final pillar

The balcony started to fall, and Spike disappeared behind the crashing pieces of wood.  I moved closer to the disaster, driving the stake into anything that moved.

There was another crash, and I heard a howl come from Raphael.

I jabbed a couple more spots, but then there were no more… a lot of them must have been killed in the fall.

“Please!” Raphael shouted, and then screamed.  I began to follow it.

“Please?” Spike roared, and another scream sounded.  “Don’t you mean ‘por favor,’ mate?”

There was another smash, and I turned a corner and finally saw them.

Raphael was bloody, disrobed, and kneeling in front of Spike.  Raphael looked powerless, and fell back against the broken pillar behind him.

Spike’s fists were clenched tight around the crowbar again, and he stood menacingly before the begging vampire.

Raphael’s eyes opened, and he began to crawl towards me, “Oh, thank you…”

Spike turned.

“Thank you, thank you,” Raphael lifted his hands in the air, “For the love of God, stake me!”

I took a deep breath, then stepped closer to them, lifting the cue higher.

But Spike beat me to it, clutching Raphael and lifting him to his feet.

“No!  Please, no more!” Raphael was in tears.

He exploded into dust as Spike slammed him on a broken pillar.

The room went quiet, and I waited for the dust to settle before I spoke.

“So much for not ‘relishing in the kill…’”

Spike sighed, “Should’ve remembered his manners.”

“They never do.”

He shook his head, “Still it… doesn’t feel right somehow…” he turned to me, motioning to the dust that was Raphael, “Feels like I should be...”

I looked down at my broken cue, gripping it with both hands.  Why does he think that?  Am I the only one who can see what Spike could be?

“You’re better than them.”

I couldn’t see his face, but by the sound he had made I guessed he was smiling.

“Was I?”

I tossed the wood to the floor, looking up at him.  He had dropped the smile.  He couldn’t just let things go… Spike can never just forget the past… he’s so wrapped up in it that he can’t see now.

“It doesn’t matter what you were, Spike.  It’s now that matters.”

“And what am I now?” his fingers tapped against his leg.  I honestly believed that he didn’t know himself… there’s no way he’ll ever know unless I tell him right now.

What are you, Spike?  The dusty floorboards creaked under my feet as I came closer.  Not too close… “You’re fast, you’re strong,” I looked him right in the eye before finishing it, “And you’re good.”

I can’t believe I got that out…

He blinked, “That’s what you see now, is it?”

I looked around the broken building… God, this is just like our… why do we keep wandering around places like this?  Places where I treated him like an animal… and why do I always have to repeat my—my eyes fell onto a dusty silver platter buried in rubble.  I could see my tiny reflection in it.

And I didn’t look pathetic.  I actually looked sure of myself… like how I looked that night with Dawn.  Strong… confident… If there was ever a time to tell Spike these things, it should be when I look like this…

“I know why you don’t believe me,” I said it plainly, with no shakiness at all.

He didn’t move.

“It’s because you can’t see yourself, Spike.  You can’t see how you’ve changed.”

He shrugged, “Another downside to being a vampire, love.”

“That’s not what I mean,” I picked up the platter and dusted it off, “I’m not just talking about reflections like this,” I held it in front of his face, then pulled it away again, “Because that reflection says you’re nothing, Spike.  It’s not true.”

I threw the platter down, and Spike blinked again.

“Do you know what my reflection has told me?” I asked him, “Do you know what I’ve seen in my eyes?  I’ve seen fear… and anger… parts of me that you had to face every day.”

He dropped his head, “It’s wasn’t—”

“It was, Spike,” I was getting too close now, “It was my fault.  Do you know why?”

He shook his head, not lifting his eyes.

“Because I used to believe what I saw in my reflection… I believed I was evil… and cold… and dead.  I believed I could never be happy again.”

He glanced up, eyes full of confused remorse… he still doesn’t get it.

“But I’m… I think I’m happy now.”

His head tilted, watching me search for anything left to say.  Silence fell, and he focused on the floor again.  I found the words then:

“You don’t need a reflection to know what you are, Spike.”

A moment of silence passed.

Spike’s head rose, and he finally looked like he got the idea.

“And I’m good?”

I smiled, and then nodded, “Yeah.  You’re good, Spike.”

He was smiling… his mouth… his heart… his soul… they all wore that slight smile.

I took a deep breath, trying to shake away the sudden warmth swelling inside my chest… suffocating me.

“Not too bad yourself, Slayer.”