Part II: Reconnection
The tension that filled the room was now creeping across her shoulders and up her neck, making her head ache. Giles had asked Spike the same few questions in a myriad of ways.
“How long were you held?”
“I don’t know.” Spike’s voice was carefully controlled, “but I think I rolled into town sometime in October.”
Buffy thought that was the third time Spike had given the same response; if Giles was hoping to trip Spike up, he wasn’t having any success.
“And what did they do to you?”
“I already told you.” Spike’s anger was like a living thing, and Buffy knew that it was only a matter of time before he snapped.
In fact, she had no doubt that Spike would have already ripped Giles’ throat out some time ago if he’d been capable of it. That was the only real proof she needed that the thing the Initiative had put in his head was working.
“Giles,” Buffy began, ready to tell her Watcher to back off, but she was interrupted by a perfunctory knock on the front door, followed closely by Riley’s entrance.
She shot Giles a betrayed look, but his face remained impassive. “He can corroborate Spike’s story,” he murmured.
Riley and Spike were staring at each other, and Spike had risen to his feet, hands flexing and the muscle in his jaw ticking. “What is Hostile 17 doing here?” Riley demanded.
“Hostile 17?” Buffy asked, a little confused.
Riley took a menacing step towards Spike. “He should still be in the Initiative.”
“Well, he’s not,” Buffy snapped irritably, stepping in between Spike and Riley, trusting that she would be able to stymie an attack if necessary. “Giles wanted you to corroborate his story.”
“So, you don’t trust me?” Spike growled behind her.
Buffy threw him a look over her shoulder. “I didn’t ask him to be here.” She turned back to her boyfriend. “Well? What did you guys do to him?”
“We put a behavior modification chip that send an electric charge any time he harms someone—or attempts to harm someone.” Riley’s hand drifted to his chest, and Buffy knew he was thinking of his own chip. Any hope that Riley might have an ounce of empathy for Spike died in the next moment, though. “But he’s a vampire, Buffy. Aren’t you going stake him?”
“No.” Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not.”
“What is it with you and vampires?” Riley demanded.
“Buffy—” Giles attempted to interrupt, but she ignored him.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Buffy felt herself flush.
Riley took another step towards her. “You seem pretty cozy with vampires.”
“Two vampires,” Buffy corrected him angrily.
“Oh, so you slept with him, too?” Riley asked, his voice rising.
“As a matter of fact…” Spike drawled from behind her, and Buffy whirled to glare at him. There was a gleam in Spike’s eyes that told Buffy he was enjoying this confrontation all too much.
“Get out of here, Spike,” she said through gritted teeth.
His lips curved up in a cruel smirk. “My pleasure.”
Giles and Riley began protesting at the same time, and Buffy cut them off with a loud, “I’m the Slayer, and if I say hands off of Spike, then it’s hands off.”
All eyes followed Spike as he slipped out the door, and Buffy turned to face Riley and Giles again. “Look, Spike saved my life a couple of years ago when I was in L.A. Anything else that happened is no one’s business.” She headed for the door. “And I’m late for patrol.”
“I’ll come with you,” Riley called.
“Don’t bother,” Buffy said coldly. “I’ll call you later.”
Buffy wanted to be alone; she wanted to hunt vampires, to lose herself in the night.
No matter what else happened, she still had her sacred duty.
Spike’s first objective, after leaving the Watcher’s flat with a sigh of relief, was to find out what had happened to his car. He wasn’t surprised to discover that the DeSoto wasn’t where he’d left it, and a quick trip to the police station gave him the answers he needed—although not the ones he wanted.
Turned out the DeSoto had been towed months ago and sold at a police auction when it wasn’t claimed.
Leaning against the wall outside the police station, Spike wished for a cigarette and considered his options. If he’d been able to find his car, he probably would have hightailed it out of town, shaken the dust off his feet and tried to forget the last year.
Without the car, Spike’s options had narrowed. He could steal a vehicle, but the idea held little appeal. He wanted his car, and he wanted his coat.
Spike had lost everything, and he had no idea what to do next.
Running a hand through his long hair, Spike grimaced. First off, he needed to find out if the demon barber was still in the same place and get a haircut, then he wanted clothing he hadn’t worn for a year straight.
And he really wanted a smoke.
He pulled out the wallet he’d swiped from the Watcher with a smirk and searched its contents, coming up with a couple of credit cards and two twenties. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
Several hours later, Spike stood outside the Summers’ house, sucking on a fag and wondering what it was about the Slayer that kept him coming around. She was shagging one of the sodding Initiative soldiers for fuck’s sake, he thought, taking another furious puff.
It was clear that she’d put the girl she’d been in Los Angeles behind her, not that he was surprised by that. Buffy had gone back to her life, and he’d gone back to his, such as it was, and they had both moved on.
But Spike found he couldn’t just forget. He held no hope of getting the chip out of his head, but he knew that at least around Buffy he had a chance of surviving. Anywhere else, and the other vamps and demons would be on him like a pack of wolves on fresh meat.
Tossing his cigarette butt aside, Spike headed toward the nearest cemetery. There was bound to be an empty mausoleum or crypt he could sleep in once the sun rose. After that, he’d consider his options.
He took a deep breath of the warm night air and glanced down at his dark jeans and long sleeved gray t-shirt; it wasn’t his usual wear, but he’d reinvented himself before. This time would be no different.
Buffy wished she could be surprised when Riley showed up at her house the next day. She hadn’t called him the night before, but it had been late when she’d arrived home, and Buffy didn’t want another argument.
She’d been too defensive on the subject of Spike, but it was a period of her life that she had blocked out, tried to pretend hadn’t happened. No one talked about the summer she’d spent in Los Angeles; no one mentioned that she’d disappeared for three months or asked what she’d done while she’d been gone.
It had been easier to forget, even though Spike’s appearance had immediately brought those memories to the surface.
She had been a different person then; that’s what Buffy had told herself, anyway. That was the only thing she could tell herself to explain why she had spent a month with Spike, or why she had missed him.
Not that she could tell Riley any of that.
“Can I come in?” he asked, managing to look sheepish and defiant all at once.
Buffy nodded and stood aside. “Sure. Mom’s at work.”
“Did you see him again last night?”
Buffy thought what Riley really wanted to know was whether she’d looked for him, whether she wanted to see him again, but she responded to the question he’d asked. “No, I didn’t. For all I know, Spike left town.” Buffy didn’t think he had, but Riley didn’t need to know that.
Riley shoved his hands in his pockets, and Buffy crossed her arms in front of her, mirroring his defensive stance. The awkward silence built, but she kept her mouth shut.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said.
“I just—” Buffy wondered what Riley would say, what he could possibly say to bridge the distance that had sprung up between them. Although if Buffy was honest with herself, the distance had been building since he’d slept with Faith during their body-switch. “It’s weird.”
“You’re the Slayer, and you’ve…”
He trailed off, but Buffy could complete the sentence for herself. “Slept with two vampires?” Embarrassment and disgust flashed across his face, and she continued, “I haven’t asked you about every single woman you slept with. I think I deserve the same courtesy.”
“You do, absolutely.”
The tone of voice Riley used told Buffy that he didn’t believe his own words. “Yeah, but?”
“They’re vampires, Buffy. If you stake Spike, it’s all over with. You can be rid of him.”
“He’s a vampire,” Riley said, as though that was the only thing that mattered.
Buffy forced a neutral expression. “He saved my life.”
Riley looked away, and Buffy had to wonder if this was the end. She understood that it was easier for him to see things in black and white. There were humans and HSTs, and nothing in between. She couldn’t see it that way, though.
She still remembered what it had been like to believe that everything could be seen in black and white, with no shades of gray.
“He’s still evil.”
“Maybe,” Buffy acknowledged. “He was evil when he saved my life, Riley.”
Riley paused for a moment. “The army offered to take me back,” he said. “I haven’t decided yet.”
Buffy knew where this was going. “Are you going?”
“Do I have a reason to stay?”
“I love you, Buffy. Do you feel the same way?”
Buffy gaped at him. She wasn’t sure, that was the thing. She loved him—or she could—but only if he gave her the time.
Or maybe if she’d been able to be the woman she’d been with Spike.
“Can’t you give me time, Riley?”
“This isn’t easy for me.”
Buffy waited, wondering if she would be enough for him, just what she was, just what she could give him.
“Do you love me?”
Buffy rubbed her eyes. “I could,” she finally said. “If you gave me time.”
Riley sighed. “I can’t. I can’t stay not knowing how you feel.”
“I don’t even know how I feel!” Buffy protested.
“But you should know if you love me,” Riley responded.
Buffy wanted to; she wanted to be able to respond, but she couldn’t, not right now. “I wish I did.”
“I’m leaving town.” Riley swallowed; she could hear it. “They need me.”
It shouldn’t have been that easy. Saying goodbye to the guy she’d been seeing for six months should have been difficult at best, but Buffy found it all too easy.
“That’s all you’re going to say?”
“What else am I going to say?” she asked. “You’ve already made your decision.”
Riley couldn’t meet her eyes, and Buffy wished that it could have turned out differently. Maybe it would have if Spike hadn’t turned up, but that was a moot point now.
“So am I.”
And that was that.
Smoking was the one constant; Spike had been smoking cigarettes since the ‘50’s, even if he was missing the lighter he’d had for most of that time.
The sky was bright with stars, and he counted them silently, naming the constellations that he remembered from his youth.
Spike had missed this. He’d missed the night and the hunt, and he’d take one, even if he couldn’t have the other. Lying on the grass outside the crypt he’d stayed in that day, Spike blew out a cloud of smoke that briefly masked the stars.
He recognized Buffy’s voice right off the bat. “H’lo.”
“Doing all right.”
“You look better.”
Spike tried not to respond to that comment, even though it meant a lot that she had noticed. “Thanks.”
“You got a haircut.”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious.”
“And new clothes.”
Spike didn’t bother to respond to that.
“I didn’t know Riley was going to be there.”
“I figured that out.” Spike didn’t feel like sparing Buffy’s feelings.
“Spike, that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“You were the one who wanted me to talk to your Watcher.”
He clambered wearily to his feet. “What do you want, Buffy?”
“I don’t want anything.” She stared at him exasperated. “I just wanted to be sure you were okay.”
“Now you know.”
“Are you staying here?”
“Where else am I gonna go?” Spike asked bitterly. “My car’s gone, I can’t fight, I can’t hunt. I’ve got nothing left, Summers, so yeah. I’m staying.”
He could see the pity in her eyes, and he hated it. Spike wanted to tell her to take her pity and leave him alone, but the words wouldn’t come. As pathetic as it might make him, he craved her company.
Buffy took a step closer, and her eyes were soft in the moonlight. “The Initiative is gone; Riley left, too. You’re probably safer in Sunnydale than you’d be anywhere else.”
Spike gave a half-hearted shrug and stubbed out his cigarette against the stone, then shoved his hands in his pockets. “Great. Then I guess I’m staying.”
He couldn’t prevent the bitterness from creeping into his voice, and he wasn’t looking at Buffy, which was why her shoving him up against the wall of the crypt came as a surprise. Spike tried to shove her back, more out of instinct than anything else, but he was forced to stop as the chip fired.
“Sorry. Sorry,” Buffy muttered at his involuntary cry of pain, pulling back. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
“No.” Spike couldn’t believe the word was coming out of his mouth, “Please.”
It felt so good to be touched; the Slayer’s hands were squeezing his shoulders, running down his arms. Her lips pressed into his again, and Spike nipped at her lower lip, this time feeling no twinge from the chip.
For a moment, Spike could believe that it was two years ago, before his life had gone to utter shit, before he’d been turned inside out while men in white coats watched.
Before he’d lost everything.
Buffy’s hands fumbled at his fly, and Spike shoved his hands up her skirt, pulling down her underwear and letting them drop to the ground. He picked her up, feeling Buffy’s legs wrap around his waist. He turned them both around to brace her back against the cold stone, burying his face in her hair, breathing in her scent, driving deeply into her.
She came apart around him, and he held her tightly, taking deep, unnecessary breaths as he came.
Buffy leaned her forehead against his and whispered, “This never happened.”
Spike closed his eyes. “I know.”