Part III: Rebuilding
“I come bearing ice cream,” Willow announced at the front door.
Buffy accepted the plastic sack and peered inside, seeing several tubs of Ben & Jerry’s. “Where’s Tara tonight?”
Willow shrugged. “She had to work, and with Riley leaving, I thought you could use the company.” She entered the house, looking around in an exaggerated fashion. “Unless you already have company.”
Buffy headed to the kitchen for spoons. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Come on, Buff. You and Spike?”
She stiffened. “There’s nothing going on between me and Spike.”
Willow plopped down at the kitchen table and gave Buffy her resolve face. “Okay,” she said slowly. “But you went back inside the Initiative for him, and he’s here in Sunnydale, and Riley leaves. And you and Giles aren’t speaking.”
“We’re speaking,” Buffy said carefully, sitting down across from Willow and pulling out a pint of Cherry Garcia. “We spoke yesterday.”
“I was there,” Willow replied dryly. “I would have thought it was January with the chill in the air.”
Buffy remained silent, poking at the soft ice cream.
“Is it true that you…” Willow trailed off.
“That was a long time ago,” Buffy said softly, knowing that she wasn’t exactly answering the question.
“Yeah. It was a screwed up summer. I was screwed up.”
“He was part of that.”
Willow focused on her own ice cream. “You had to have liked him a little bit, to go back for him. You could have been killed.”
Buffy had no idea how to explain her feelings for Spike, or what he was to her. It wasn’t love; she didn’t have a name for it.
“He saved my life,” she finally managed. “I don’t know if I would have come back to Sunnydale if it hadn’t been for him.”
“You never talk about that summer,” Willow observed.
Buffy swallowed. “Why would I? After what happened when I got back, I didn’t think anyone would want to hear about it. And Spike was—is—a vampire. With Angel, and everything…”
“Is it true that he can’t hurt anyone now?” Willow asked.
Buffy thought about his cry of pain when she’d jumped him in the cemetery, and he’d tried to fight back. “It’s true.”
“Is Spike why you’re mad at Giles?”
Buffy sighed. “He shouldn’t have interfered by asking Riley to come over.”
“He’s your Watcher. It’s kind of his job.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Maybe, but that was a lot of awkwardness I wanted to avoid.”
“What are you going to do about Spike?”
Buffy had been asking herself the same question; she still didn’t know, so she remained silent and instead changed the subject. “Are we still on to go to the Bronze tomorrow?”
Willow’s expression indicated that she knew exactly what Buffy was doing, but she went along with it.
That was one of the reasons Willow was her best friend.
Spike had spent over a hundred years enjoying every moment—or nearly every moment—of his undead existence. He had fought and fucked and hunted. Every night had been a party, full of new experiences and old alike.
And now, time stretched before him in an endless stream; meeting the sunlight was beginning to look better and better.
Coming to the Bronze had been a bad idea, he realized, as he slipped through the doors. The smell of young flesh, the blood pumping quick and hot, was nearly overwhelming. Spike had self-control, and it had been a long time since he’d had human blood, but the temptation was still nearly overwhelming. Not being able to give into temptation made it worse, and tension crept across his shoulders as he stepped up to the bar.
“Jack, neat,” Spike ordered, passing the bartender a bill. He took his drink and his change and found a seat at the end of the bar, his eyes drawn to the dance floor.
Although he knew he was torturing himself, Spike watched the dancers, picking out the one he’d have fed from a year ago. Throwing back the drink, he approached the young woman; she was in her early twenties, and definitely not blond.
She greeted him with a smile and a shimmy of her hips; her tight, short skirt showed off long, tanned legs, and her blouse displayed her cleavage to good effect.
Spike must have been off his game, because it took a few minutes for him to realize that she was a vampire, and a young one at that. For a moment, he was tempted to continue the charade, to let her take him out to the alley, where they would either fuck, or she would try to feed, but he knew it was a bad idea when he couldn’t fight.
The crowd parted, and he caught sight of the Slayer staring at him, her eyes narrowed with an emotion he might have thought was jealousy, if that was even a possibility. Buffy started across the dance floor towards him and his companion, and he grasped the young vampire by the wrist.
“Let’s get some air,” he whispered.
Spike led her out through the back door, the same one he’d watched Buffy disappear through all those years ago, when he still wanted to kill her.
“So, what do you want to do?” the vampire asked, once they were outside. She trailed her hand up his chest, over his t-shirt. “Do you have a place we can go?”
“We’re not going anywhere,” Spike replied. “I think you have an appointment with the Slayer.”
Buffy didn’t pause to make one of her trademark quips; dust drifted in the slight breeze coming through the alley. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Where the hell else am I going to go?” was Spike’s rejoinder. “I just wanted a drink.”
“I’m here with my friends,” Buffy hissed. “If you—”
“They won’t have to know if you don’t tell them,” Spike snarled. “If you don’t follow me around. You keep doing that, they’re going to know that something is up, Slayer.”
“I wasn’t following you!” she protested. “I was going after the vampire.”
He shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
Turning on his heel, he began to walk away. The truth was that he couldn’t quit her, but that didn’t mean he had to offer himself up for punishment.
He paused, waiting until she’d caught up to him. “What?”
“Just—this is hard for me, too.”
Spike turned to face her, meeting her eyes, remembering the girl she’d been in Los Angeles—weary and half-broken. She hadn’t been the Slayer then, or she’d been denying that part of herself.
That was clearly no longer the case.
“Yeah, I get that.”
Spike walked away, because it was the only option left open to him.
Buffy couldn’t help but feel torn. She wanted Spike, and not just for the sex; he had been a good companion once upon a time, to the girl she’d been then. He’d listened and been silent and taken her out, and he’d known what she needed.
But he was a vampire, and he didn’t have a soul, and the chip could stop working someday, and she would have to let him go again. There was no point in getting attached.
Of course, she was already attached, bound to him by a sense of duty, knowing that she owed him. Buffy could sense that he was clinging to his life, such as it was, by his fingernails.
She’d seen the same despair in the mirror before.
Seeing him in the Bronze had been a rude awakening. Xander had spotted him first, and had asked what Spike was doing there, and for one shameful moment, Buffy had thought that Spike had come for her. He was going to let it be known what they’d done in a moment of weakness in the cemetery, and her friends would hate her.
Instead, he’d just been there, like anyone else was there—for a drink or a dance or a chance for a little human contact. And he’d led the female vampire out into the alley for her, so that she could perform her duty. Something about that hurt just a little.
Buffy hadn’t seen Spike for a few days, not since that night at the Bronze. She thought he might be avoiding her, but she hadn’t tried seeking him out.
So, she was more than a little surprised to see him sitting in the kitchen with her mom, drinking cocoa.
“Oh, Buffy, there you are. Spike and I have been having a nice chat.”
Her mother was in no danger from Spike, but Buffy still had to bite her tongue to keep from demanding to know his business at her house.
For his part, Spike appeared to be very interested in the melted marshmallows floating in his hot cocoa, and he refused to look up at Buffy.
“Hey,” Buffy finally managed. “It’s been awhile.”
Buffy decided she didn’t want to know what could have kept him so busy. “I, uh, I’m going upstairs. I’ll see you tomorrow, Mom.”
She fled, knowing full well that’s exactly what she was doing. Joyce could ferret out her feelings better than anyone else, and if Buffy stuck around for too long, Joyce would figure out that there was more between her and Spike than a sense of duty.
It turned out that she hadn’t fled fast enough.
“I think you should talk to Spike,” Joyce said the next evening while they ate dinner together.
Buffy froze, trying not to allow her alarm to show on her face. “About what?”
“He’s lonely, Buffy.” Joyce’s tone was reproving. “He’s had a hard time lately, and he could use a friend.”
Buffy blinked. “He told you?”
“He told me enough, and he told me in confidence.”
Buffy knew her mother well enough to know that she wouldn’t get more information than that. “It’s not that simple, Mom,” she finally said. “He’s still a vampire.”
“He’s not hurting anyone.” Joyce’s expression was definitely motherly. “I thought I told you not to judge someone based on what they look like, but on their actions.”
Buffy couldn’t believe she was getting this lecture from her mom, now, and in relation to a vampire. “You did,” she said carefully. “But being a vampire isn’t something you can just stop. Come on, Mom. It’s not that simple.”
“Nothing ever is.” And that sounded like a parental proverb if Buffy had ever heard one.
For a moment—and just for a moment—Buffy was tempted to confess the whole thing, to tell her mother that she and Spike had been together, and he’d been the one to drive her back to Sunnydale. In a way it would be easier, whether her mother gave her blessing or turned on Spike.
Instead, she said, “I’ll do what I can.”
Spike knew that he had no business following Buffy around. He’d done it before, of course, but that was when he’d have been able to gain the upper hand during a fight. Now, he’d be lucky to get off with a beating.
That didn’t mean he could stop himself, however. Buffy fascinated him, and drew him to her like a moth to flame. He wanted her, and yet he hated that he wanted her.
Her friends were nowhere to be seen tonight; she was patrolling alone, and he admired her quick and graceful movements. Spike had noticed that she was hunting in earnest these days, chasing down vampires like a lioness chased a gazelle. He saw a fierce joy in her movements that he hadn’t noticed when Angelus was around, and Spike wondered at the source.
Spike suspected that she was coming into her full power.
Right now, however, Buffy had found herself in the midst of a knot of vampires; Spike recognized a couple. They were old, tough, and were moving into the power vacuum left by the departing Initiative.
Spike watched as they surrounded the Slayer with taunts and sneers; given what he knew, he’d put good money on Buffy. Even five against one wasn’t even odds when Buffy was the Slayer.
To his dismay, one of the vampires managed to disarm Buffy in the ensuing fight, and her stake went flying. The vampires closed ranks, and Spike realized that he could either stand by and allow her to be killed, or he could risk his head exploding.
His feet were moving before Spike realized a decision had been made.
Spike hit the biggest vampire with a flying tackle around the waist and waited for the migraine. It took a moment for him to figure out that the pain wasn’t coming, and another to recognize what that meant. But when he did, Spike threw himself into the fight with abandon, venting all of his pent-up rage on the vampires in front of him.
Not until they were all dust on the ground did Spike think about the fact that he’d killed his own kind to save the Slayer.
“I thought you said you couldn’t hurt anything.” Buffy stared at him, suspicion warring with gratitude in her eyes.
Spike shook his head. “Didn’t think I could. I can’t hurt humans. I’ll bet those Initiative wankers didn’t mind if the chip let me hurt demons.”
Buffy pushed her hair out of her face and retrieved her stake. “So, you just happened to be passing through the area?”
“If you like.” Spike wasn’t about to admit to anything he didn’t have to.
She regarded him with narrowed eyes, and he found it impossible to read her expression. “Do you want to join me? I still have a couple of cemeteries I should patrol.”
The thought of another round of violence before sunrise brightened Spike’s mood considerably. “Yeah, sure. I could do that.”
He fell into step beside her and kept his eyes forward when she said, “Thanks.”
Spike found that he had a spring in his step that had been missing for quite some time.