Author Brutti ma buoni
Setting 507 days after Chosen. Give or take an hour.
A/N: There’s a loose backstory to this in which an AU post-Sunnydale Slayer Council set up somewhere in New York City, and Angel’s gang did join W&H but without the Black Thorn climactic fight. Largely unexplored here. Go with it?
“This isn’t what it looks like.” Buffy tried for non-defensive. It didn’t noticeably work. Something about looking upwards from kneeling at an almost-altar of remembrance didn’t make her feel overly assertive at this point.
Willow ignored it, and stuck with literal. “Well, good. Cuz it looks kinda like you’re trying to raise the dead. And, take it from me, there’s a world of bad there.” She frowned down, steeply. When did Willow get so tall? Or was that Buffy’s shifty guilt speaking?
“Yanno… I could be offended by that,” replied the actual Willow-raised ex-dead Slayer, aiming for ironic this time, fighting back a little. This one came off. But, eh. Buffy shrugged away the topic. Old news. “I’m not trying to raise the dead. Definitely not the formerly-living-dead-dead. That’d just be confusing.”
Willow nodded. Cautiously, it looked like. Which- Buffy stared down at her candle circle, the flowers and the incense. Okay, she could see why Willow was thinking things. “I’m not trying to raise Spike,” she said. “I just can’t believe he’s really gone.”
The sigh from Willow didn’t lack for sympathy, but it had an edge all the same. She looked guilty, instantly, and sank down beside Buffy, visibly groping for a better vibe. “I know. I know, it’s a part of the grieving process. An important part. It feels like he’s right there, ready to answer you any moment, if only you could just get through the fog and-“
A pause. Tara-shaped, and grieving.
“But, Buffy- It’s been a year.”
More than a year. Sixteen months, two weeks and five days, and let nobody think Buffy wasn’t counting. “Well, I’m sorry if you’d like me to be through denial by now.” It came out snappish. Buffy failed to apologise. It was how it was, right? Grieving but honest.
“I thought you’d got past this.” Willow was too honest, sometimes. Not evil, not grouchy, just- kinda wishing Buffy would get her shit together.
“I did. I am. Just- tonight felt different. Closer. Like I could just reach out and touch him-”
She was staring down at her candle circle again as she spoke. Hard to look away from the flames, and what they encircled. The skull ring, and his picture. She didn’t have a whole lot of photos from the Sunnydale years, what with the collapsing Hellmouth and all, but Dawn’s birthday photos had made it onto the internet courtesy of Clem, so she had Spike immortalised (hah) from that night. His thinness, the fading purple of the black eye she had given him on that night, the one she tried hardest to forget. The fondness and desperation in his face, as he’d felt her slipping away and hadn’t been able to find the key to keep her by him. All in the lost world of Revello Drive, when it was a home.
It wasn’t how she preferred to remember him, souled-up and naked with loving, the smoother, warmer Spike of their last few nights together. The guy who held her hand through the flames, and saved the world with love and a super-magic amulet, and all that. That was Buffy’s preferred iteration of Spike, the guy she wanted to reach out and touch. But the Apocalypse of the First hadn’t been big with cameras, or photo ops. So this was the Spike she still had. All she’d ever have. She choked a little. “I just- I want him to be here so bad, Will.”
She waited for a Willow-murmur, helpless sympathy, the rote-repetition of friendship. It didn’t come.
“Well, you could give it a shot, love. Bloody boring in here, could do with a hand.”
It was Willow who spoke first, though she said just exactly what Buffy would have said if she could have forced the words past her hope-closed throat. “You, uh- You heard that, right?”
Buffy nodded, nodded till she almost couldn’t stop.
There was an irritated sigh, from neither woman, “Bloody hope you could hear it, been shouting long enough.”
The mouth in the photo was moving. Definitely. Shaping Spike-words, and not remembered ones. (Probably? Buffy couldn’t absolutely swear she’d never heard Spike say those words. They sounded very Spikely. But the photo was a photo, not, like, a video still from a film she’d ever seen, so did it matter? The photo was speaking to her, that much was, apparently, clear.)
She said, “….Spike?” Willow inhaled sharply beside her, mostly because the photo nodded back.
“Yeah, the one and only. Any chance you could see about getting me out of here? Dunno how long it’s been, but it’s dull as-“
“Uh, Spike?” Willow sounded uncertain, still, like there could be a shared psychotic break occurring here. Although why would Willow be imagining Spike too? Spike wouldn’t come back for Willow. Willow’s dead people were different- And that was a whole ‘nother thing that this could be. Something that gave Buffy a pang of utter fear. Not again.
Willow’s follow-up, “Where’s here, exactly?” clashed with Buffy’s hissed, “It’s the First!” and caused a pile-up of speech from all three.
Spike always could shout over a brawl, so maybe it wasn’t so surprising that he outlasted their stutterings, “-bloody know, but it must be your amulet, love. Didn’t really read the terms and conditions on that one, but whatever happened to me it wasn’t normal. And I’m not your sodding First, as I’ll prove the second I’ve got some kind of body back, okay?”
“Totally reassuring,” Buffy said, and found she was smiling. God, she had to be careful. Just because that sounded right for Spike, didn’t mean it was anything other than one very weird evening’s hallucination, or more likely an evil plan to take down Slayerdom through her weakness, because always with the evil plans in Buffy’s life. She kept right on smiling at him, though, and his face kept right on looking back at her, grumbling about women who didn’t pick up on psychic signalling till a vampire had shouted himself hoarse ten nights running and-
“I’m just- Just gonna… go research,” Willow said carefully, backing away on hands and knees like she was scared to break the connection. “Keep him talking, huh?”
Two hours. Buffy had two hours of Spike before her bedroom became full of Giles and Willow, Dawn and Vi, and books. Many, many books. And a cellphone with Wesley Wyndham-Pryce and his unnatural library at the other end, in case they needed, you know, more books.
Two hours more than she’d ever expected to have of him again, but not enough. Enough to get it into his thick-ass skull that dying guys don’t reject love messages, maybe, because rude and traumatising for the women they leave behind. Enough to hear about his latest death experience, which sounded weird, all right. No hell, no heaven, just bare rooms of silver-blank metal. “Like the Initiative, but without all the invasive medical investigations,” he’d described it. “Boring as fuck, love. Right glad to see this sofa when it popped into existence.”
Enough to hear about the recent click of opening up to the world, of feeling her presence, of knowing that he could get out if he could get her attention. It had been a while back – “Not too long. I say ten days, hard to tell, but a lot less than I’d been prowling here bored out of my gourd.” He paused, turned his head away a little (resting it on her old couch, that she’d also never expected to see again as actual furniture, how weird, how weird, but focus, Buffy), and tried for casual. He fell way, way short of even faux-casual when he said, “How long was that, by the way?”
“Five hundred,” she said. And then shook off any pretence of casual herself. “Five hundred and seven days and eight hours and-“ checking her watch, “-I think forty-six minutes? I got a little fried while I was escaping from the Hellmouth, might be out by five minutes round the edges.”
“Fucking hell,” he said, and she laughed. “Sorry I made you wait so long, love.”
Which was when the bookmaggeddon happened and they weren’t alone any more.
So it turned out that world-saving amulets received from evil empires came with very long terms and conditions which nobody bothered to check before inflicting them on dead heroes. Wesley eventually found a clause about enduring durations of half-a-millennium, realised they referred to days rather than decades and at least the date of Spike’s return was explained. “How odd,” quacked his voice on the speaker, “It’s not a classically magical period. I wonder if this is a more Roman than Wiccan-influenced spell?”
Buffy held her tongue for a full minute of isn’t-that-interestinging among the research crew before she cracked. “So, we can get him back?”
“He is back,” said Giles, quite calmly. “What we need to consider is how – and whether – to get him out.”
It had been a while since she and Spike shouted in unison but they managed, “What the fuck are you talking about?” pretty well.
“We simply don’t know,” said Wesley after a long pause in which everyone tried to silently force someone else to speak, “What will emerge if we release Spike from inside the amulet. He was associated with the demise of the First. He is a twice-dead vampire with a brutal history. Any number of risks present themselves, and the fine print is, I am afraid, entirely unspecific about the side-effects. It merely notes the term past which retrieval of the deceased Champion is possible. What might we unleash?”
In the photo, Spike slumped forward on the Revello Drive couch, head bowed and staring at his hands. His hands with the chipped black polish that she’d missed so much. The hands that, when this photo was taken, had been all over Buffy, had known her intimately and loved her well. Though, probably, not wisely. She could see him deciding, then, that he could take it. That he was the guy who’d do anything for Buffy, and by extension for the world and if that meant burning up in fire or living out his unlife in a featureless metal cell, he’d do it. Which was exactly why she wouldn’t let him.
“We’re getting him out,” she said. “He’s not a sacrifice. We’re getting him out. And if there are consequences-“ There’s always consequences hung silently in the air. “-then we’ll deal.”
Maybe not everyone in the room met her eyes after that. But nobody spoke up. Good enough.
They had to keep the candle-circle around Spike’s photo going for over a week until they worked out a way to free him. Buffy’s bedroom became a site of intense research and zero sleep. Not that she wanted to sleep in a bed overlooked by Spike, who didn’t seem to need to sleep and was passing the time ogling her in among his more combative moments. She’d forgotten how much he could rile her, somehow. And yet having that irritation back was sweeter than she could have imagined.
People tried to talk to her. Of course they did. Giles, especially, though he had the grace to admit he’d been wrong before the last Apocalypse, and that killing Spike wasn’t on the agenda this time. Keeping him safely locked up, though… or at least at a safe distance, maybe. He looked pretty set on that.
“You know Angel’s working for Big Evil, right?” Buffy checked, after another lecture on the benefits of reacclimating Spike in the Wolfram and Hart cellars instead of Slayer Central. (As if Slayer Central didn’t have holding pens, if he turned out dangerous. Apparently, sending him near-three thousand miles to put him in a different cell would make all the difference to the world. Giles could be so transparent.)
“I believe he and his companions have not lost their sense of mission,” Giles returned. Which was 100% not what he’d been urging the Slayer Council to write in their risk register a month back, so Buffy snorted at him and carried on bugging Willow for more, faster magicks.
She was even there when Willow let out a triumphant “Got it.” She looked happy-smug, the way she used to look when set some extra-challenging math that she could work through in a minute.
Buffy tried to tamp down the warm surge of hope. “You sure?”
Hand-wiggle. “Not 100%, but I’ll check it, run a test to make sure it doesn’t go explody. We should be ready to roll tomorrow.”
Tomorrow. Buffy couldn’t sleep that night for reasons not totally connected to the unfamiliar dorm cot she was camped out on.
“And return him from the walls, return him from the dark, return him from the nothingness,
The Champion walks.”
Willow broke the ampoule of something stinky over the chalice of something sludgy. Giles wafted incense in a precise wavy pattern. Dawn kept right on chanting. Buffy tried to breathe.
Two feet, shod in heavy black boots, clumped onto the floor of her former bedroom. Skinny legs in skinny jeans. A coat, swinging with heavy leather, even sounding the same, creaks she hadn’t known she missed. Her gaze climbed. He looked thin, tired, the black eye still as bruised as in the photo. He looked the same as he had been.
She swallowed hard, and watched his eyes flick down to watch her throat. “You’re back.” It came out wavery.
“I am-“ He started to smile, then stopped. Frowned. Looked around, like he’d lost his keys. “Oh no. No. Get away!”
She started toward him. He held out his hands, palms out. Warding off. “Get chains. Don’t come near me. Lock me up right now.”
No spell involving potential First Evilness came without a side of Council guards now. They looked to Buffy for confirmation but were already moving to surround Spike, shackles at the ready. “Okay,” she managed. “Do as the vampire says, guys. I guess we’ll talk it out in the cells.” They got busy with the chains and tranquilisers. Pretty slick work, she noted. Team working well.
Shouldn’t have let herself have that moment of hope. God dammit.
The Council’s NYC headquarters had been pretty much spared by the minions of the First, but the Slayer Council takeover hadn’t yet extended to shinying up the basement cells. They still looked pretty definitively “demons bad, torture super”.
Spike looked around slowly as he came to. “Always with the basements, mmm?” He sounded calmer. Resigned, maybe.
She tried to smile. “All the better to not burn you to a crisp.” It was noon, outside. Hot September noon, with leaves just starting to bronze and fall. The sunshine would definitely charbroil Spike in a second. She’d started to forget what having a vampire around really meant. Time passing, when she’d thought she remembered everything.
He hauled himself semi-vertical on the bare cot. The space looked like the Revello basement late on, where he’d screamed during his chip breakdown, and freaked out the Potentials with his semi-naked sleeping in their training space, and, in the end, loved her with all he had to give, that last night. No chains by then, of course. Seeing them back on his wrists didn’t make her happy.
He didn’t speak, so it was Buffy that had to ask. “Something’s wrong, huh?”
Spike closed his eyes. “Took me a while to recognise where I was,” he said, obliquely. “When I got through to you. Then I worked out it was your place. The living room, right? Those nice comfy chairs you got after-“
After your Mom died on the old couch, he didn’t say, but he left the space for it.
It hadn’t even been Buffy. Tara found those chairs while Buffy was gone. She hadn’t really noticed, when she got back. Furnishings not big on her agenda anyways since they persistently got demon-wrecked, and the whole post-heaven downer had been intense. Apparently Spike was better at chair-recognition, but she still didn’t understand why it mattered. She shrugged, nodded. Left it to him to continue.
“Wasn’t too surprising you’d have a pic of me there,” he said. “If anywhere, you know? Not like we took cameras in the cemeteries.”
He’d wanted, once, to snap polaroids of them together. Suggested it with a dirty grin, and the camera already in his hand, down in his own basement crypt, with her just wanting him naked. He’d told her how beautiful she was, how badly he needed her when she wasn’t around. How you hadn’t lived if you hadn’t taken a few dirty pics, don’t need to show your face love, just your beautiful body, want to show you how I see you. Won’t ever share them around. Don’t fancy sharing you, ever. She’d kicked the camera out of his hand and dragged him down under her where she had control and nobody could document what they had.
She remembered that. But she still didn’t understand why it mattered which actually-existing photo she’d used to remember him by.
“Only just worked out when I was,” he said, after a pause. Ducked his head to his shackled hands, and pressed fingers lightly to his beaten brow.
“I’m sorry about that,” she replied. She had never apologised for it before. Never apologised for beating him to a pulp for rescuing her, for making her face herself. Never thanked him for taking on her pain.
“Not the point,” he said, sharply. “Bruises heal. Even second time around. But if I’m me, from then, that’s not the man who died for you. Is it?”
It took her longer than it should to work out what he meant. Because bruises, sure, that’s corporeal, and if a bunch of witches have to reconstruct your dead lover from one of the few images you have of him, maybe he arrives with a few dents contemporary with that image. But there’s stuff that doesn’t show up in photos that matters too.
He said, with a shake underlying the calm tone he was aiming for, “Should have built a shrine to something from later in my story. Not got anything of me from that last year? Did you check?”
She had checked, and she hadn’t used one in her Spike-memorial, because there were a few, but they were blurry, unsatisfying. In the background at one Potential training session. Stills from Andrew’s film, Spike posing as the worst and not being the guy she really knew by then. Not much to remind her. It hadn’t been enough to spark memory the way the birthday party photos did, of Spike on that one night in their lives together, being an uncomfortable but fitting part of her world. It hadn’t seemed like it mattered which picture she chose.
Her breath turned choppy as she worked out exactly why it did matter. He laughed, a bark, unamused.
“Got it, love? Your magicks just rebuilt my body from two years back. Lacking some vital component I went off and added later.” He dragged in a breath, theatrical and useless. “Easy come, easy go, huh? Guess I’ll get used to being soulless all over again. Congrats, love – just another vampire for you to off. Make it quick, eh?”
Giles used the words fascinating paradox way too much. “…the resurrected body from a past beyond which the mind has lived. That he should remember his later unlife, and yet physically, even spiritually, be the vampire he was at one specific point in time. Fascinating. The corporeality of a soul-”
“Assume I’m not fascinated,” Buffy said, after a while. “How do we fix this?”
He glared at her, aborted in mid-flow about the mind retaining consciousness from the actions of the body after the point at which Spike had been resurrected. She could almost see the journal article forming. Which was great for Giles’s brain, and no use at all for Buffy’s sense of peace.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think we can re-resurrect him using a different, later, image, not now we have his consciousness out of the amulet. I think the Spike we brought back is the Spike we have.”
“So,” Willow said. “If he consents, I think we just magic up his soul, yeah? Just pop it right up out of the ether and curse him with it? It’s not like it’d be my first re-ensoulment.”
It was a plan. It was a plan everyone was down with. Even Spike, though he grumbled about the Angel copycat factor enough to salvage some pride. Good plan. Great plan. Right up till Willow started the ritual and- “It’s not here.”
“Spike’s soul. It’s not…. Um, here?”
“Anywhere?” Willow sounded questioning, but after a few moments she nodded. “Yep. Not here. Like it’s been Muo Pinged or something, but I’m guessing we left it behind in the amulet when we called back an earlier Spike edition.”
”So get it out of the amulet,” Buffy said. Said? Shouted, maybe. Or something stronger.
Willow started work again, so much magic swirling around her that Buffy could feel the charge in the air, and Willow’s eyes started to darken dangerously. Then she stopped, blinked away the darkness, and said weakly, “So, funny story-“
No soul. Or at least, no amulet to hand, so they couldn’t smash it to get the soul out, which might apparently have worked. They had no image of the soul itself, obviously (“Incorporeal isn’t a strong enough word,” Giles said), so their previous extractor ritual had no chance.
“Don’t give up hope,” Willow said, after days of zero progress. “We might find the amulet someday and then-“
The amulet was under many, many tons of Sunnydale. Magic search had produced zip after the dust settled. She had no reason to think it would be different now. Buffy nodded, and didn’t bother saying the obvious. They weren’t going to find the amulet. Spike’s soul was stuck. As was the rest of him, soulless and chained.
“So,” she said, walking into the cell days later, carrying the keys to his chains. “Tell me why the soul matters so much.”
He looked more tired now, though the bruising had faded to dirty green. She didn’t see him like this, last time he had those wounds. They’d stayed apart, by mutual wariness, after the enforced togetherness of Dawn’s party. She hadn’t wanted to see her handiwork again, and the raw anguish she had sobbed into Tara’s lap had shaken her. And then, there had been very few hours together remaining to them.
But she suspected he hadn’t looked this defeated last time. Now, he was vanquished. He rolled his head against the cell wall, avoiding her gaze. “You know why.”
“No. I really don’t. As I recall, the whole soul-quest thing happened without my input.”
It was dangerous water. She wasn’t surprised he threw scorn at her in response. “Because I couldn’t be near you. Because I didn’t deserve to be near you. Because you could never trust me again. Because I couldn’t trust myself.”
“And the soul is the only fix.” It sounded flat in her voice. Like prejudging.
She was totally prejudging. He knew it. But he said it anyway. “I had to find an answer. I had to be different. I had to show-“
“Yeah.” She cut him off, flat again. “But you know it’s crap, right? I know you skipped town for the whole shooting/flaying extravaganza, but everyone in that show was fully souled-up. Didn’t stop Warren. Didn’t stop Willow.” She threw a silent apologetic thought to Willow, in case she was watching. Nobody was letting Buffy into this cell completely unguarded. Not yet. Not in spite of all her pleadings. And she didn’t like to remind Willow of the past without a warning.
Spike was calm. Horribly calm, like when he’d been repenting all over her while tied to a chair the last time. “It’s different. I’m a vampire. Badness in the blood, and no brakes.”
“It’s no goddam different.” She was shouting. When did she start that? She had no idea. “You made your own brakes. You lived that way. Two years. You went wrong, you recognised it, you live with it. It wasn’t the soul that made the difference. It was knowing you had to be better.”
He didn’t shout back. Just… blinked at her. Then turned his face away.
She didn’t go back that day, or the next. Had no idea what to say to make him see.
Then she heard Giles arranging surgery, and-
“He’s getting the chip taken out?”
Giles nodded, unperturbed. “We know it will degrade, if it’s in the shape it was in two years ago. Better to remove it entirely, now.”
“And Spike’s okay with that?”
Giles’s face was unhelpful with the lack of emotion. “Resigned, would I think be a more appropriate term. I think he anticipates a poor outcome thereafter.”
She didn’t follow. “Because?”
“Because he will then be a soulless, chipless undead fiend. And the Slayer Council has a policy on those. Rather a firm one.” From imperturbable, his face changed dramatically to alarm. Probably because Buffy suddenly had him by the throat.
“You touch him, I gut you,” she said. It came out strong, like she was sure she’d do it. Which was almost surprising.
“I have no intention of touching Spike,” he said, strangulated. Not till Buffy let his feet touch the ground again could he continue, more Gilesishly. “Or not unless there is a very strong imperative to do so. My point, rather, was that it is his assumption of the situation that once his chip is removed we will be able to regard him as a dangerous and demonic and that we will therefore consider it time to end our association. I have attempted to convince him otherwise.”
“You tried to kill him even when he did have a soul.”
“That was rather the tenor of his response, yes.” Giles looked thoughtful. “He doesn’t appear to consider himself the man who saved the world for us. And yet, he has the mind and memories of that man. Parad-“
The “ox” of his “paradox” died on his tongue, as Buffy’s gaze burned back at him. Giles coughed, and said weakly, “Let’s get the killer chip out of his brain first, hmm? And then we can work out the next step.”
There was a part of Buffy that wanted instant fixes. Spike back from the dead equalled Buffy happy, yes?
Apparently not so easy. Wasn’t that a surprise?
Spike got his chip surgery. He didn’t try to kill anyone. After a while (and a lot of testing to see whether the trigger was still there – apparently not, which made Giles mutter about fascinating physicality of neural pathways this time, and Buffy grit her teeth so hard she almost broke a molar), they tried unchaining him. After a while longer, he let them. The Council ran as many checks as they could think of. Then more, at Spike’s insistence. He passed them all, aside from the snarky side comments and occasional reminders he could kill them all if he chose. He never chose.
Time passed, though. It passed a lot. And Buffy tried, she tried hard to keep up a good front, but doing that took more energy than she sometimes had after long nights of world saveage, so it wasn’t entirely surprising that one hard night (read: early morning), Willow greeted Buffy back from a righteous slaying with a mug of hot cocoa and the face of a friend who was determined to let you let it alllllll out.
There were tears. Also Kleenex and snot. It was not Slayerdom’s finest hour. But, at the end of it, Buffy had decisions. Which went super-good with her puffy red eyes, but okay.
She waited till noon next day, the kind of time when respectable vampires might be awake, and went down to the cellar. She locked the door behind her.
Spike was clothed, but otherwise giving no evidence of having done anything at all since waking. He twitched alert to her step, and looked truly startled that she’d deign to visit, which pissed her off considerably. Again.
“Hey,” she said, giving him no space to respond. “So, I’m going to ask you some stuff, and then we’re going to walk out of here, okay?”
“Buffy, you know I can’t-“ She hated that. The defeated, apologetic slump of him. Not her Spike.
“I locked the door,” she said. “You can wrestle me for the key, but otherwise, you’re gonna listen. Because this is killing me.”
He looked up at that. No more slump. Apparently the no-hurting-Buffy reflex was still working pretty good. She wondered if he registered it.
“What’s the last thing you remember? From before you died.” She asked it firmly, but in her mind were images of horror. Horror and love.
He didn’t mess around asking which death, which she chose to take as promising. “Flames. Burning me from the inside. Burning my soul.”
Which she wasn’t about to let him linger on, so- “And before that?”
“You.” She took it as even better that he didn’t try to wriggle out of that. “You touching my hand. Telling me you loved me.”
She held up her hand, palm toward him. “Yeah. That’s what I remember too.” He didn’t respond. “I remember it. I can feel it, in my mind and in my fingers, when I let myself remember it. I remember how you were burning around me and I didn’t want to let go. Can you feel it too?”
“No.” Well. That was better still. He’d snapped it out fast, denying everything. Denying himself.
“Try,” she said, and reached out for his hand. He didn’t stop her as she raised it to meet her other, extended palm. Hand to hand. No fire this time. He was basement-cold, and familiar, and she was touching him again. “See?”
He was silent for the longest time, looking at their joined hands like he expected them to burst into flames again. When he did speak, he sounded rusty, but full of wonder. “…Yeah. I can feel it.”
“You’re still that man,” she said. “You still did those things. You still went to get a soul to make yourself a better man. Even if the soul got lost along the way, you’re still that man, Spike.”
A big bonus of Slayer strength is if you have someone by the hand, they don’t get much chance to get away. But Spike wasn’t fighting her this time. She leaned forward, and kissed him. Really light, but on the lips. Like the first time she kissed him (curses excepted). It felt as uncomfortably revelatory as that time, at least to Buffy.
She pulled away reluctantly, fingers lingering against his cheek. He looked at her in confusion, but with maybe a little wonder or hope dawning? “I know you need space to work this out,” she said. “But I’m not going anywhere. So it’s time to come out of the basement, Spike.”
There was really no way to follow that but walking away. It hurt. She left the door unlocked and open on the way out, not sure what happened next.
At the top of the basement steps, she paused. She was being followed. Slayer senses never stop working. Spike never had been perfectly safe to be around, and turning her back on a vampire would never feel less than a risk. But a risk worth taking.
She turned. He was standing at the bottom of the stair, looking up. Then he put one solid-booted foot on the lowest step, and pace by pace he came up to meet her.
He held out his hand, and she took it. Nobody burst into flames.
“One step at a time, huh?” he said, a little shaky.
“Yeah.” She swallowed. “Or faster, when you’re ready.”
This time, it was Spike who kissed her first.