Chapter 3, in which there is a great deal of conflict.
“What do you mean it was my turn?” Buffy snapped. She let out a roundhouse kick and knocked the demon she was fighting against the pavement.
Spike growled into the face of the demon that was trying to strangle him. “Well, it’s not as if I eat, is it slayer.”
“You eat all the damn time,” Buffy said. “I swear, you eat like a teenage kid. We’re going bankrupt with the amount of onion rings you go through. The amount of everything you go through!”
“Hey come on! Blood’s more expensive to buy than to take,” Spike said, trying to pull the hands off his throat.
“You expect me to feel sorry for you, because you can’t kill anymore?”
“That’s not only horrific,” Buffy said, punching her demon in the jaw. “That’s disgusting.”
“Like you don’t kill something every night!”
Buffy rounded on him. “I kill monsters!”
“Kinda... like... this one?” Spike was still struggling.
“Don’t change the subject,” Buffy snapped. “You eat like a hog.”
“I’ve got to fill up on something.”
“You’re supposed to fill up on blood! Thought you needed it or whatever.”
“I do need it,” Spike said, “but it’s bland, all that pig stuff. I need something else to round it out.”
“You mean everything else. And by the way, you keep eating my fat-free fudge cookies, and I’m going to break you.”
“Gk...They gk... go good dipped in the blood!” Spike protested. Buffy could barely hear him, as his throat was pretty much closed by then.
“That’s even more disgusting.” Buffy bent down and shouldered the demon off Spike. “It was your turn to do the dishes, and even when it isn’t, rinse out the damn mason jars before the blood dries in them. I’m sick of having to scrub it off!”
“They wouldn’t dry if you’d do the dishes before you headed off to your first class,” Spike said, his throat hoarse.
“Like you do anything all day besides sit and watch television!” Buffy snapped. The demon tried to get back to Spike. Buffy threw him off. “I’m talking here!” she told the leathery thing, then turned back to Spike. “I’m trying to graduate!”
“You’re just there waving your T and A at your TA.” Spike kicked the demon away.
“And you’re not doing anything at all, except watching Passions and insulting Xander!”
Spike glared at her. “Hey, I’m protecting your little demon magnet, while you’re off playacting the school girl.”
“Yeah, playacting!” Spike shouted. “You’re a goddamn slayer, not the coquettish co-ed.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means, none of the other slayers I fought pretended they were Cinderella dressed in yella. You’re only playing in that school because you like flirting with the boys.”
“You’re just jealous of Riley.”
“I’ve never even met your precious Riley,” Spike said. “Though hell, the way you talk about that milquetoast moron, I might as well have.”
“You just said you don’t even know him,” Buffy snapped.
“I saw enough of him from across the street. Excuse me, if I’m a little touchy with you off flirting all day with your strong-arm ex!”
“Riley and I went on exactly one date, which I shared with Willow, I might add. And you don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to exes!”
“At least I don’t go playing the silent martyred oh so glad to see you with Harmony!”
“Hey! No one could talk that day, and I was just glad to see Riley doing some good. How else was I supposed to tell him?”
“Because you grope everyone who does a good deed,” Spike said with sarcasm.
“It was a hug. And I don’t recall you out and about keeping the public happy!”
“Because I was out tracking your Gentlemen for you. I would have got them too, if I hadn’t –”
Spike rounded on her. “Excuse me for having to hide! Or have you forgotten, I’m hiding from those commandoes as much as Xander’s got his little demon problem.”
“Leaving me to take out the Gentlemen on my own, right?”
“Hello! Slayer! Thought that was your job.”
“Poor Spiky, the big bad humans too much for you?”
Spike snarled. “Like you know who or what those commandoes are! I’d really rather not get captured again.”
“It’s not like they killed you or anything.”
“No! They just tortured me and ruined my life!”
Buffy rolled her eyes, and rolled her demon onto the ground. “Your life’s not ruined.”
“I’d like to see you screaming each time you try to stake a vamp.”
“Your stupid chip didn’t stop you from wanting to go punch out Riley over a hug.”
“Well, I couldn’t talk any more than anyone else. How else was I supposed to let him know to keep his hands off my girl?”
“I’m not your girl, I’m my own girl!”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t hit him, did I.”
“No, you almost made yourself pass out, instead. You know, it just makes you look like a big baby when you go off all manly and end up rolling on the ground in pain.”
“I forgot about the chip, all right? He pissed me off.”
“And I keep telling you, it was just a hug.”
“With your ex!”
“With a nice guy! You don’t get all freaked out when I hug Xander.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Ugh, get over it already!”
“Maybe I would, if I thought I could trust you.”
“You think you can’t trust me, Big Bad? That’s rich!”
“Hey, I’m not the one who’s always going on about trying to break the spell! I think you can cut me a little slack, slayer.”
“I’ll cut you,” Buffy said. The three demons had joined forces now, and were advancing. “I’ll show you how deep I can cut you!”
Spike automatically turned to guard her back as the demons tried to flank them. “Going to resort to school-girl threats now, are you?” he asked over his shoulder. “I’m just telling you, it was your turn to do the sodding dishes. You can’t just threaten that fact away!”
“I did them last – night!” Buffy grunted as she punched a demon in the stomach.
“And I did a sink full this morning.”
“You washed one bloody mason jar and threw out my grapefruit rind!” Buffy retorted. “That is not a load of dishes!”
Spike double-handed a demon on the back of its neck, bent it over his knee, and set about kicking it in the stomach over and over again. “It – was still – doing – the dishes.” He broke the demon’s back and threw out a war whoop at the kill. “Woo!” He turned back to Buffy. “Just because you eat like a super-model doesn’t mean I have to treat you like one.”
“No, I’m a super-hero!” Buffy snapped. “And you do have to treat me like one!” She punched out the demon who was advancing on her.
“Or what?” Spike asked. “You’ll slay me?”
“I should!” Buffy snapped.
“Go ahead, slayer!” Spike said. He shouldered the final demon who was attacking Buffy out of the way and stood before her with his head high. “Do it! I dare you!” The demon tried to attack again. Spike shoved it away with one hand. “Can’t you see we’re talking?” he asked the thing.
“Yeah, jeeze, intrude much!” Buffy told it.
The last demon looked confused suddenly. It pointed at them. “Wait. You two are on the same side?”
Spike and Buffy looked at each other, then back at the demon. “Shut up!” they both said in unison, and punched it in the head. The force of the enraged aged vampire and the furious slayer combined took the demon’s head right off. It went sailing over the street like a football.
“So, I’m next is it?” Spike asked Buffy. “Gonna stake the evil vampire, and make yourself into a widow?” He waited. “Well? Go ahead!”
“I didn’t say that!”
“Sounded like it to me!”
“Um... can I come out now?” Xander asked from the back of Spike’s Desoto.
“No!” Spike snapped.
“Yes,” Buffy said. “Come on out, Xander.”
“Is that all of them?”
The two fighters looked about them. “I think so,” Buffy said.
“All right.” Xander got out nervously. He’d been getting steadily more and more nervous and twitchy in the last month. Things had been getting a little better now that everyone had moved into the three-level, but only a little. Xander was still constantly under attack. He had claw marks on his cheek which were going to become scars, and he’d been suffering minor bruises and contusions left right and center. They had only left the house because Xander had gotten another injury – a massive slice down his right arm – that had needed professional stitches. They’d just gotten back from the hospital.
The front door opened, and Anya poked her head out. She’d been staying with Giles, who was still adapting to his blindness. “Is the coast clear?” she called out.
“Yes,” both Buffy and Spike called back.
Anya ran out and tenderly collected Xander. “It’s okay, baby,” Anya said. She kept a wary eye around her as she led Xander inside, where it was safer.
Buffy and Spike followed, still arguing. “You don’t have to be so rude to Xander.”
“If he hadn’t decided to go taunting the demons, the git wouldn’t have been hurt,” Spike said, following them in.
“He only went outside for the paper!” Buffy snapped. “I don’t blame him. He’s been stuck in this house all week with you.”
“Well, you should take him for walks, then,” Spike said. “Put a leash on him. Don’t forget the pooper scooper.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Give it a rest, Mr. Passive Aggressive. Xander’s my friend.”
“And your taste in friends includes the best selection the bargain basement can offer.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, let’s see, now. We’ve got Mr. Demon Bachelor Number One, and his bird Vengeance Veronica, we’ve got Little Witch Curses-A-Lot, your ex Mr. Milksop, and lets not forget the enormous poof who’s pranced off to LA.”
Buffy glared. “You’re the one who insisted we never bring up Angel. As if your taste in friends is any more stellar. Not as if you weren’t the one dating the blond bird brain.”
“What, you mean you?” Spike said with what he thought was a teasing grin.
“I meant Harmony,” Buffy snapped. “Oh! Blondie bear!” she mocked. “What are you doing to my sweet boo-boo! You and the slayer, my god! That’s so disgusting! I knew you had some sick fascination with her, but how could you!” She laughed. “I still think you lost a bet.”
Spike looked embarrassed. They’d run into Harmony at the mall three days ago, when they were getting Xander an arm-brace to support a sprained elbow. She’d left before Buffy could stake her – Buffy seemed strangely reluctant to do it, possibly because she’d known her. “Like Harm had any call to get pissed off. Last I saw her, she kept a stake in our bed, just to drive me off with.”
“Huh. Harmony’s more clever than I thought!”
“Least ways she’s smarter than you!” Spike snapped, coming up to her.
“Yeah. At least she knew a woman’s right place!”
“In the kitchen?” Buffy dared him to agree.
“No. In the bedroom.”
“Like you’re ever seeing that again, blood-sucker,” Buffy snapped. “You are so going back to the couch.”
“And what’s that look?”
“Just remembering what happened the last time you sent me to the couch.”
Buffy blushed, remembering the position over the back rest, and how they’d had to freeze when Giles walked in, asking if there was another demon attack, what with the noises.... “Not gonna happen again. This freak show has ended.”
“You’re always saying that!” Spike grabbed hold of her. “I’m sick of it!”
“You are sick. Everything about you is sick!”
Spike released her. “God I wish I could hit you! You deserve it, bitch!”
“Just like you deserve ten inches of pointed wood somewhere between your ribs!”
“Well, you deserve wood somewhere, missy.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
Spike kissed her. Buffy fought him, as always never sure if she was trying to fight him off, or fight in closer. “God, I hate you!” Spike breathed into her mouth.
“I hate you too!” They couldn’t stop kissing. Spike pushed her up against the wall and began to tear at her clothes. Buffy reached up under his coat, raking at his back with her nails.
“I love you, slayer,” he growled into her ear as he pushed against her. “I love you so much.”
Spike growled and grabbed at her shirt, holding her angrily. “Stop saying that!”
Buffy ignored his ire and went back to kissing him. He growled in his throat, but he let her. “Come on,” Buffy said through their kisses. “You know it’s a spell. This can’t be me.”
“Why’s it all about you?” Spike snarled.
“It’s not,” Buffy said. She pushed him down to the ground and straddled him. “Come on. Are you happy?”
“You know I’m not!” Spike roared up at her. He rolled over and pressed her down, kissing her fiercely. “I want to kill you all the bloody time!” He kissed her again, scrabbling to get closer to her flesh, then he screamed again, as the chip fired. Making love to her was constant pain, from her and from himself. “And I want you more than anything.” He gnawed at her neck more gently – not hard enough to satisfy him in the least. Sometimes not killing her was agony. It wasn’t fair. “Ugh. Maybe you’re right. Maybe this is a sodding spell!”
“I hate you.”
“I hate you back!” Spike snarled. They rolled over and over, breaking a coffee table and knocking the still-undone dirty dishes off the counter.
They’d been at it for forty minutes when they finally paused, still heated, not quite satisfied, but the urgency had been slaked. They stared into each other’s faces. “Bloody spell,” Spike breathed.
“So now you agree it’s a spell?”
“I’m hating you too much,” Spike said. “Most vampires are kinda kinky, but... my god. This is just....”
“No. Not wrong,” Spike said. “Just... out of hand?”
Spike gazed at her. “Did it always feel wrong?”
“It should have,” Buffy said. “I think I had to learn more about you to know how wrong it was.” And she had learned a lot about him. She’d learned he loved paranormal soap-operas and talked at the television. She’d learned he could dance back and forth between tender and brutal without any transition between. She’d learned he craved both love and violence with the same fierce intensity. She’d learned he could dismiss anything he didn’t understand with brutal sarcasm. And she’d learned he gave great back, neck, and foot massages, and could dance like a dream, and liked to give her roses, and preferred to live by candlelight. Sometimes she wondered if it wasn’t them that was wrong, it was just him. For a violent soulless death-dealing-demon, he didn’t make any sense. Angel always made sense. Soulless – evil. Besouled – good. Spike was both and neither at the same time, and it drove her crazy. She couldn’t stop wanting him. “It’s like a drug.”
Spike nodded. “It’s worse than the blood,” he said. “I crave it more.”
“An addiction,” Buffy agreed. She pushed closer to him. His cool but animated flesh against hers felt as needed as a cessation of pain. “So now we agree. What do we do?”
Spike tilted his head back, and let his hand caress her hair. “I don’t know,” he said. “All I know is I love you. Completely. And I don’t want to.”
“I don’t want to, either.”
Spike swallowed. “Don’t want to what?”
“Same as you.”
Spike let it hang there for longer than he was comfortable with. “I want you to say it, Buffy.” He hated himself. It amounted to begging, but he desperately needed to hear it tonight. She seemed to find it so hard to say sometimes. It was as if her emotions were locked off, and he had to dig like a miner to find those precious gems of affection. But when he found them, my god... she could be the sweetest thing in the world, blowing Drusilla’s mad distant affection out of the water, making his insides melt and his knees buckle. But it was so hard to find... and she swore it wasn’t real. “I need you to say it.” He bit back the please.
“I don’t want to love you,” she whispered.
It wasn’t enough. “Buffy...”
She softened against him, and he was so afraid it was despair. “I love you,” she breathed. Then she started to cry.
Oh, god, not again. Spike was always torn when she was crying about him. Hearing her say it had felt so good. Listening to her cry about it felt so terrible. But that she was crying in his arms.... “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Me too,” Buffy said.
Spike turned her, kissed the tears from her face, kissed her deeply, held her closely, and did the only thing he knew could make her feel better. He made love to her again.
It was so much easier to shag than it was to talk.
“No, it’s not.” Buffy clutched her pillow tightly and wept. Again. Still. “Why else do you think I persist in it?” She’d outlasted Spike this time, and he’d fallen asleep in shaky exhaustion. She’d lain there beside him, but the tears kept coming without his lips to kiss them away, his body to soothe away the confusion. She didn’t feel it right to wake him when he was the problem, so she’d come up to cry to Giles. Again. She’d been doing this at least five times a week. “I can’t just up and stop!”
“Why not? I keep telling you. Just get a divorce, send him away!”
“Just open your eyes,” Buffy said. “Just send the demons away. I can’t do it, any more than you and Xander can.”
“It’s different for us.”
“I don’t see how!” Buffy said. “I’d keep loving him whether he was here or not. If I don’t touch him, I ache for him. Why do you keep telling me to drop it? I still love him.”
“You still loved Angel, the two of you broke it off.”
Buffy drew in a deep breath. “It’s different with Angel,” she said. “That was real. I had a choice. He had a choice. Spike and I... we’re trapped in this. And it’s no more fair to blame us for loving than it’s fair to blame you for your blindness.”
“But you’re miserable.”
Buffy sniffed. “Angel made me miserable, too,” she said. “But at least I know Spike feels the same way about me. There’s no way he can’t. We’re both stuck here.” She started to cry again.
“My god, Buffy.” Giles sat beside her. “It kills me to see you like this. And I can’t see you! I wish I could make this easier for you. To be forced into loving someone you hate...”
“But I don’t hate him,” she said. “And I do. It’s all twisted up. We come together, and he touches me, and we’re both so happy. We’re just burning with happiness. And then we step a little apart, and it’s nothing but anger, and I want to shove him away. And I do. And then we step further apart, and it feels like I’ve been torn in half, and I’m starving for him.”
“And he feels the same way?”
“Yes. But when we’re together... unless we’re together... it just doesn’t work!” Buffy sat for a long moment trying to console herself, but it wasn’t working. “Oh, god, Giles!” She reached forward and wept on her Watcher’s shoulder.
Giles felt odd about it. He really wasn’t comfortable with his slayer crying. She knew that, and tried to control it for him, but she couldn’t always help it. Particularly not recently. “There, there,” he said, patting her shoulder awkwardly. “We’ll... we’ll think of something. There’s got to be something we can do.”
“I’ve been fired too, Wes,” Giles said. “And I assure you, I am deadly serious. This is not a joke.”
Wesley sputtered. “They’re married. Seriously. Buffy and a vampire. An actual, no holds barred, dead, soulless vampire. Married. How?”
“We think it was a spell,” Giles said over the phone. “Willow, if you remember, was a burgeoning witch, and apparently she performed a spell which has gone awry. Unfortunately no one has seen her since the spell was activated. But before she vanished, the spell did plenty of damage. As well as casting a strong demon summoning charm on Xander, and cursing me with blindness, she said that Spike and Buffy should get married.”
“And they’re still married?”
“Yes,” Giles said. “But even with this chip thing in place, things are not going well.”
“I can imagine they’re not. Why don’t they get a divorce?”
“I’ve discussed that. They both seem against the idea, though at least they have now both acknowledged that there is a supernatural aspect to their... ah... affection for each other.”
“So why are you calling me?”
“Buffy needs help,” Giles said. “Well, the relationship is impossible, isn’t it. Angel knew that, that was why he left. It’s even worse with Spike. He has no soul, no compassion. She’s crying all the time, and seems constantly at war with herself. Spike is, of course, behaving as cold and frightening as a vampire would – though Buffy tells me he’s not like that all the time. The chip keeps him from harming humans, and he does seem devoted to Buffy. And he is helping to keep Xander safe from the demons which are still hunting him. Truthfully, his assistance is vital, with me blind and Xander always on guard, but Buffy is finding the whole experience traumatic.”
“Why don’t you simply get the spell reversed?”
“We’ve tried. It’s a fearsomely powerful thing. We think it might be one that can only be rescinded by the one who cast it, and Willow seems to have vanished without a trace. Anya seems to think she may have been made into a vengeance demon, but there’s no proof of that. But the marriage is the problem. Spike on his own appears... containable. He enjoys killing demons, and I believe we could keep him content with money and animal blood in exchange for his assistance. As an ally, he’s not the worst thing that could happen, but with Buffy as his wife...”
“The slayer must be going mad. What do you expect me to do about it?”
“Well. I was talking with Buffy’s mother about it, and Joyce had an interesting idea. I’m considering marriage counseling.”
“You’re calling in a marriage counselor?”
“No,” Giles said. “I’m calling in you.”
Wesley was dead silent for a moment. “Why?” he finally asked.
“Because most of their issues center around their being slayer and vampire, and an ordinary marriage counselor will be able to do nothing with that. Buffy needs someone trained in the history of the slayers, and that means a watcher. I can’t do it. I’m too close to Buffy, and the whole situation. But you know the council...”
“They’d go off the handle,” Wesley said.
“I know,” Giles said. “They might even kill Buffy, hoping for another slayer to take her place.”
“Do you really think they’d do that?”
“What do you think the Cruciamentum is really about?” Giles said. “In any case, I don’t want to call them in. Not for this. Do you think you could handle a little marriage counseling between slayer and vampire?”
“I don’t know,” Wesley said. “If I brushed up on my psychology I might be able to handle some kind of Rogerian style psychotherapy....”
“We’ve very little choice, at this stage, Wesley.”
“Well. There is the obvious solution.”
“Kill this Spike character.”
“It’s more complicated than that,” Giles said.
“Why? If it’s only a spell they are under, and he is a vampire. It’s not as if he’s an innocent.”
“We don’t know if the spell would end with his life. And Buffy would grieve. She would grieve horribly. It would be worse than when Angel left.”
“She would probably get over it,” Wesley said. “I mean, how long have they known each other? Three weeks?”
“Try three years,” Giles said. “It’s only that they were mortal enemies to start with. Which means they each know each other’s weak points and which buttons to press. Then they were allies, but strained ones – Spike actually helped save my life, long before this chip or this spell. He helped Buffy defeat Angelus, helped her to save the world – and that was years ago. He’s a complex character.”
“But they’ve only been – together – for a short while.”
Giles sighed. “I’d agree with you, but I’ve seen some things... or shall we say, heard some things. For one, they’re very... physical... with each other. And you know that’s always a difficulty with the slayers.”
“Well, usually it’s not a problem for long–” Wesley cut himself off. The reason why the Slayer’s physical strength wasn’t often a problem for their lovers was usually because they were killed before they had many. Buffy was already older than most slayers in history; most died before the Cruciamentum was even enacted. Now that Wesley thought about it, he wondered if Giles was right, and whether that was the intended role of the trial – to clear off the old slayer to make way for new. Younger slayers were easier for the council to control. Giles might have had the right idea about the council, too. They might well kill Buffy if they thought she was turning to the dark side. And marrying a vampire... yes. They’d assume as much.
“Well, it has been an issue,” Giles went on, “and Spike’s vampire strength has mitigated that. As I said, it’s complicated. Spike can be... I hate to say this, but romantic? He’s dedicated songs to her on the radio, for Christ’s sake. You know she’s still a teenager, it makes her positively giggle! He’s started her a flower garden, and he really will put himself in actual danger to protect us all. He’s saved Xander countless times. He does tend to listen when Buffy insists. And he can’t hurt people – I think by now we’d all feel... I think Xander put it best when he said it would be ooky to see him dusted. There are two sides to it. They’re mortal enemies, but they are also husband and wife. When things work well between them, she’s happier than I’ve ever seen her. But when it doesn’t... and it doesn’t more than not.... In any case, it couldn’t possibly be worth it to kill Spike, particularly since we do need his help protecting Xander.”
“Is he really helping?”
“He’s invaluable. With his help we’ve established enough of a demon neutral zone that the poor boy can finally go outside again. Spike’s a master of street style martial arts, particularly skilled in fighting group assailants. Buffy’s still a little lax in that area, if you recall. Also, I can’t train her any longer, and she’s keen on restarting her training, with Xander in such danger now. Spike has taken over my role in physical training, and he spars with her – as much as he can, unable to strike her back. He speaks several demon languages, has actually managed to talk some of Xander’s attackers into actually helping us. The spell only calls them in, it doesn’t force them to fight him. Some of them seem to want to mate with him, in fact... which gets awkward. I truly hate to say this, but Spike really is an asset to the team. So long as he continues as he is, we couldn’t possibly just turn Spike into dust and not expect repercussions.”
“Spike...” Wesley mused. “Spike... have we heard of him?”
“William the Bloody,” Giles said.
“Good lord!” Wesley was horrified. “The slayer killer? The only vampire worse we have on record is–”
“Angelus. Apparently there’s some kind of connection there, through Spike’s old paramour. That makes things complicated between them as well.”
“It would!” Wesley sighed. “I see you do need some help. Have you thought about calling in Angel? I know he and Buffy had... a complicated relationship themselves. Could his presence shatter this love spell?”
“Tried it. He did arrive at their wedding. His presence altered her opinion not at all.”
“All right,” Wesley said. “I’ll do a little research into marriage counseling. I understand it’s usually some form of mediation, and I’ve had some training there.”
“You know what you need to know about slayers and vampires, and that’s the most important thing.”
“Indeed. So. I suppose I’ll be back in Sunnydale within a few days. Tell the pair of them to prepare for couple’s therapy.”
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