Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns all the cool characters, I just use them to shorten my commute.
Destroying Entropy – Chapter 7
Dawn groaned as her alarm clock went off. Monday, she thought blearily. Then she suddenly remembered all the events of the day before. She flung back the blankets and raced down the hall to Buffy’s room, hoping that she had returned. Dawn was dejected when she saw that Buffy’s room was as she had last seen it – messy and empty.
“Dawn? Are you ok?” Tara had come out of her room to see what all the noise was about.
“Yeah,” said Dawn. “I was just seeing if she had come back yet.”
Tara came over and gave Dawn a hug. “She’ll be ok. And she’ll be back soon, you know that.”
“I’m really worried, Tara!” moaned Dawn. “I can’t take her constantly bouncing in and out anymore! I can’t stand this wondering every day if she’s going to leave me again!”
“Shh, Dawnie,” Tara said, stroking her hair. “We know she’s alive. I’m sure she’ll be back in a day or so, just like she said.” Dawn hugged her tight, burying her face in Tara’s shoulder. “But in the meantime, you have to stay out of trouble, ok? So why don’t you go get dressed and I’ll make some breakfast.” Dawn nodded and disentangled herself, slouching off toward the bathroom.
Tara and Dawn ate a mostly quiet breakfast. Afterward, Dawn cleared her plate and slowly gathered up her school things. “Dawn?” Tara said.
“You really need to go to school today. If you skip out, I’m worried that you and Buffy are going to get into trouble. But if she comes home or we get any leads, I’ll call school and have them give you a message, alright?”
Dawn came over and hugged Tara again. “Thanks for being here,” she said, grateful for Tara’s understanding nature.
“Anytime, Dawnie,” Tara replied. “Now, straight to school, got it? You can meet us at the Magic Box this afternoon.”
“Ok,” Dawn agreed, and in a moment she was out the door.
Tara was just finishing straightening up when Willow came downstairs in her bathrobe. “Any news?” she asked.
Tara shook her head. “Nothing. I sent Dawn off to school, but I’m not sure what to do now.”
Willow poured herself some coffee and a bowl of cereal. “Do we do another locator spell?” she asked as she munched. It was the only thing she could come up with before the coffee sunk in.
“Not sure that would help,” said Tara as she sat down and stirred her own coffee. “If she doesn’t want to be found right now, then we should probably leave her be.”
“But what if Xander’s right?” Willow persisted. “What if she’s in trouble?”
Tara stared into her cup. “I really don’t think Spike would hurt her, regardless of what Xander thinks.”
“Could it be whoever is spying on her?” Willow offered. “Maybe they got lucky while she was incapacitated.”
Tara couldn’t figure out why Willow had such a hard time with the idea that Buffy might simply be upset and need some time alone. “I really think we should be careful about assuming things,” she said, looking into Willow’s eyes. “We assumed she was in hell, and that was wrong. We assumed she would want to drink that antidote and come back to reality, and she nearly killed us. She could just… need a break.”
Willow shrugged. “Maybe you’re right. I just feel so helpless! Like I’m letting her down.” Willow finished her cereal and put her bowl in the sink. “I just had a thought. Maybe we should go check out the camera Anya found at the Magic Box. It could give us some sort of clue as to who’s been snooping around. Whether or not Buffy is in trouble, that’s something we should work on.” Tara agreed on this course of action and they went upstairs to shower and get dressed.
By that afternoon, Buffy and Spike had managed to clear up the bulk of the mess. The larger pieces of junk – primarily his destroyed bed and mangled sink – had been moved into the tunnel to clear space. The rest of the garbage was now bagged in a rather large pile on one side of the upstairs, to be taken out after dark. The small pile of salvageable mementos had been gathered into a cardboard box. They surveyed the room, which was empty, if not exactly spotless.
“Never thought I would ever get up the energy to clear all that out,” Spike said. “Thanks for the help.” His stomach rumbled a bit, and he realized they had been working for hours. “You hungry, Slayer?”
“Ravenous,” Buffy replied. She, like Spike, was streaked with black smudges and dirt. But she felt much calmer than she had in a while. Spike’s words had struck a chord with her, and something had changed. She couldn’t quite quantify the change, but she felt more at peace with him and their situation. The Scoobie situation was still up in the air, but she would deal with that later, she decided. For now, she followed Spike upstairs.
“I tried to find something you could eat that didn’t require cooking,“ Spike explained as he offered her a tub of hummus and some crackers.
“This is fine,” Buffy said as she sat down and dug in. Spike was quietly pleased, and poured himself some blood. He found he was truly hungry himself, and gulped it down in a minute before going for seconds. After he closed the fridge, he rummaged around in one of the shopping bags and turned to Buffy with the box of chocolates.
“Dunno if you want any of these for dessert, but…” he said shyly.
“If I ever refuse chocolate, you will know that there is something terminally wrong with me,” she said, eagerly accepting the treats. She closed her eyes and savored the sweet taste. Spike watched her, reveling in the simple pleasure of giving her something she enjoyed. She ate several of the chocolates in silence before closing the box. “I really needed that,” she sighed gratefully. She was about to say something more when she spied the prescription bottle and her mood sank again.
Spike followed her gaze and frowned a bit. He handed the bottle to her and passed her a bottle of water to go with it. “Best finish these off, pet,” he said.
Buffy took the last of the medication and then sat there, staring pensively at the empty bottle. “I guess I have to go home sometime,” she said quietly.
Spike went back over to the pile of shopping bags and handed one of them to her. “Got you some spare clothes. Nothing fancy, but at least you won’t have to go home looking like something the cat dragged in.”
Buffy looked in the bag and saw a comfortable looking pair of gray sweats, some underwear, and a light blue t-shirt, along with a bottle of her favorite shampoo. She was touched and amazed by his thoughtfulness. “You got all this for me?”
“Well, the girly shampoo doesn’t exactly go along with the whole vampire look so, yeah,” he said. He was certain he would be blushing if he could. Ponce, he told himself. Bloody well going to start spouting awful poetry again if this keeps up.
Buffy got up and gently planted another kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, Spike. You… you’ve been amazing through all this. I don’t know that I deserve it, but I do appreciate it.”
“You’re more than welcome, pet,” he said. “You go hit the shower first. Should be a semi clean towel down there you can use. I’ll stay up here, so you needn’t worry about the lack of shower curtain.”
Buffy gave him another grateful look, and made her way downstairs. The space seemed cavernous and echoing now that it was mostly empty, but it somehow suggested possibility, rather than despair and destruction. She felt minutely less guilty about the whole affair, having done something tangible for Spike, however lame that might be. She made her way to the shower, which still didn’t exactly look like the Ritz, but it was better than nothing. Going home filthy would just mean more well intentioned interrogation, she realized. The water was lukewarm at best, which made lingering unappealing, so she quickly de-sooted herself and her hair and got out. The clothes he had gotten her were just her size. She idly wondered if he had been used to shopping for Drusilla, and thus had acquired a knack for figuring out women’s clothing sizes. Why am I only now finding out about his hidden talents? she wondered. Maybe you were too busy beating the shit out of him to figure it out earlier, you think? she answered herself. She borrowed Spike’s comb to tackle her hair, assuming he wouldn’t mind. As she attacked her tangles, she grew more pensive. I wish I knew what I felt. I’ve been reeling for so long, I don’t even know which way is up, which voice to listen to, or who to trust. She sighed, once again pushed the task of figuring things out to the back burner, and went upstairs.
Spike had cleared away their meal and was watching the end of Passions on his battered TV. When he saw Buffy come upstairs, he grinned and said, “What do you know? There was a Slayer under all that grime.” Buffy half smiled, but otherwise said nothing. Spike clicked off the TV and cocked his head to the side. “You alright?”
“Yeah,” she said unenthusiastically. “I just feel… confused. I don’t know what I’m going to say to the others, but I’m afraid they’re going to do something stupid to mess my life up more if I don’t go back and let them know I’m ok.”
“If you need moral support…” he began.
“No,” Buffy interrupted. “I’m afraid that if you’re there, they’re just going to blame everything on your bad influence or something.”
Spike knew she had a point. But he still worried that she wasn’t strong enough to make the Scoobies understand. She could face a dozen vampires and all manner of demon foes. But lately, all it took was two or three ‘friends’ to utterly defeat her. “I understand what you’re saying, Buffy. Just… don’t let them talk themselves out of this, ok?”
“I’ll try,” she said, without inspiring a lot of confidence.
“I’ll be here if you need me,” Spike promised. Buffy came over and gently planted one more kiss on his lips, then took a deep breath, turned, and left. Spike watched her go with a great sense of unease. Good luck, Buffy. You’re gonna need it. Frowning, he made his way downstairs for his own shower.
Outside, Buffy blinked in the afternoon sunlight. She hadn’t really been out in the daylight except to sprint to Spike’s crypt since that night. Given the hour, she decided to head home. The gang usually convened in the Magic Box in the afternoons, and she wanted to ease her way back into things. If she called the store from her house, she would have a few minutes to collect herself on her home turf before she had to deal with the others.
As she walked, she tried to puzzle out how she felt about Spike. Spike still loved her. She had never wanted to admit that it was real, that it was possible, but it was clearly true. She had used him as a punching bag and a sex toy, treated him like garbage, and yet he let her in, took care of her, and comforted her. There was no denying it anymore – he loved her, and he wouldn’t leave her unless she drove him away. That fling with Anya had been the result of her pushing him away, not him pulling toward another. She got that now. But where would they go from here? Was he just being nice because she was traumatized? Would he disappear as soon as she was herself again? Would they go back to fighting and hurting each other?
And how was she going to face Xander again? What had he told the others? If they didn’t believe her, how was she going to be able to stay around them? And if they did believe her, what then? What was the protocol for a friend changing from a person who was there every day, to someone that she never wanted to be alone in a room with again? She rubbed her arms as she walked, having absolutely no answers. She was just going to have to play it by ear, and that fact alone made her nearly nauseous. She fought the overwhelming urge to flee back to Spike’s crypt and forced her feet to continue toward Revello Drive.
She got home and found to her relief that the house was empty. She checked the answering machine and found one message, from the Doublemeat Palace. She hadn’t shown up for work in two days, and was going to lose her job if she didn’t call and explain herself, said her manager. Buffy stared at the machine for a long time. I don’t know if I can go back there, she nearly whimpered. God, I’m just so tired of it all. She deleted the message, throwing yet another thing on the infamous Back Burner of her mind. Someday there was going to be an avalanche in her brain of all the thoughts she had pushed aside until later, and she was just going to completely lose it. At which point maybe they’ll lock me up in a nuthouse again and I can finally get a break.
She wandered around the first floor of the house for a few minutes. She noticed Tara’s jacket hanging in the hallway. Guess Tara’s back to stay. Great – another body soaking up utilities. She continued her circuit until she arrived back at the telephone. She stared at it for a few long minutes, then snatched it up and quickly dialed the Magic Box number before she lost her nerve completely.
“Magic Box, how may I help you?” Anya chirped on the other end of the line.
“Hey Anya, it’s Buffy,” she said. “Is Dawn there?”
“Buffy! Where are you? Were you captured by something while you were intoxicated?” Anya’s usual lack of tact instantly drew the attention of Tara, Willow, and Dawn, who had been sitting around the table looking at spellbooks and homework, respectively.
Dawn leaped to her feet and all but knocked Anya down for the phone. “Buffy? Are you ok? Where are you? What happened?”
Buffy had to yank her ear away from the onslaught of questions coming over the phone. “I’m ok, Dawn. I’m at home.”
“Are you staying there?” Dawn asked defensively. “Or are you going to disappear during the time it takes the three of us to get home?”
“I’ll be here,” Buffy said. I can handle Tara, Willow, and Dawn. I can handle Tara, Willow, and Dawn, she repeated to herself, hoping she would believe it by the time they got there.
“You’d better be,” snapped Dawn. “See you soon.”
Buffy said goodbye and hung up the phone, slowly. So what do I tell them? If she hadn’t promised Dawn that she would be there she would have bolted again. How could she look them in the eye and tell them she had gotten so completely drunk that she had tripped over her own feet and knocked herself out? Or that while she was incapacitated Xander, their trusted friend, had taken advantage of her? How could she ever admit to anyone, even Spike, the horrible, twisted, possessive words he had spouted while violating her? She fought the rising panic and went into the living room, curling up on the couch to wait for the others.
When Dawn hung up, she turned to Willow and Tara with a look of joyous relief. “She’s at home! She’s ok! Can we go home? Please?”
“Of course,” said Tara, sharing Dawn’s relief. The three girls gathered up their things, said goodbye to Anya, and headed out the door.
“Where are you off to?” came a voice from behind them. The turned to see Xander, who had just gotten off work and was on his way to the Magic Box to check for updates.
“Buffy’s home!” said Willow. “We’re heading there right now.”
“Do you want me to drive you? Car’s right here,” Xander offered.
“Sure,” said Tara uncertainly. She wondered about whether having all four of them descend on her at once would be a good idea, especially since they weren’t really sure where she had gone or what had happened to her. She still had a nagging feeling that Xander was covering something up. But since she didn’t want to cause a scene, and didn’t have a good reason to refuse the ride, she held her tongue.
Dawn heard the tone in Tara’s voice and looked at her, but also said nothing. She wanted to get home to see her sister, and quicker was better. “Thanks for the offer,” Dawn said as she followed the others to the car.
Xander carefully guarded his expressions. On the one hand, he really wanted to see Buffy alone, so he could apologize and explain himself without an audience. On the other hand, he didn’t mind having the others as backup in case he had to deal with a severely pissed off Slayer. Besides, he wanted to be able to give his version of the story, in the hopes of not coming out the villain of the piece. As soon as the others were situated, he drove off toward Revello Drive.
The second the car stopped Dawn leaped out and flew up the walk and into the house. “Buffy?” she called. Buffy sat up on the couch and smiled faintly at her sister. Dawn ran up and flung her arms around her, practically tackling her as she said, “Don’t ever disappear like that again! You gave me a heart attack!”
“Relax, Dawn,” Buffy said, trying to disentangle herself. “I just went away for a couple of nights. I didn’t run away to join the circus.”
“Buffy! Are you ok? What happened?” said Tara as she joined them in the living room.
Buffy stood up and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry I took off on everyone. I needed to…” Her voice trailed off as Willow entered the room, followed closely by Xander. She felt a rising nausea as he came into view. Should have been me, his voice echoed in her brain. She winced and squeezed her eyes shut, blocking out the memory.
“Buffy?” said Willow. “What’s wrong?”
She looked into Willow’s earnest eyes, but couldn’t entirely block out Xander, looming in her peripheral vision. “I… um…” she stammered. “Sorry, it’s just… I’ve had a rough couple of days.” Can’t do this. I just can’t do this.
“But where did you go?” Dawn persisted. “Xander said you left his house drunk and we were worried something had gotten you!”
His stinking breath on her mouth, crushing her lips with his. The pain. It had never, ever been painful after her first time. Her voice sounded distant to her own ears as she said, “I had had a lot to drink. Needed to be somewhere else for a while.”
“We were all worried about you, Buff,” said Xander, wading tentatively into the conversation.
Buffy teetered on the edge of control. What do I say? Her eyes got a bit wider as the silence stretched out and she bit the inside of her cheek trying not to scream. Finally, she blurted out, “I can’t talk about it all right now, OK? I was gone, I’m back, so just… drop it.”
Tara was alarmed at Buffy’s behavior. “Buffy, what happened? You can tell us, you know that?”
Buffy shook her head and backed away toward the stairs. “No. No I really can’t. Not now. Later,” she said as she turned and fled up the stairs to her room, slamming the door. The others stared after her in shock.
Tara turned to Xander with accusation in her eyes. “Xander, the truth! What did you do to her?”
“What do you mean, what did I do?” Xander sputtered defensively. “We drank together! She got drunk! I didn’t force beer down her throat!”
“Then why is she acting all skittish around you?” Dawn asked. My God, was Spike right? The idea nauseated her.
“She’s acting weird around all of us, not just me!” Xander argued.
“I think we need to give her some time alone,” said Willow. A tiny niggling of doubt was flashing in the corner of her mind. Was it just me, or did she clam up when Xander come in? What’s wrong here?
Dawn spoke up. “Xander, I don’t know what the truth is, but Buffy seemed to get all upset when you showed up. So maybe you need to leave for a while until she’s herself again.”
Xander was a little taken aback at the steel in Dawn’s voice, but finally he said, “Fine. I’ll call later.” He turned and left, closing the door slightly harder than strictly necessary.
Dawn left the witches in her wake and went up to Buffy’s room straight away and knocked softly. She got no answer, so she pushed the door open. “Can I come in?” she asked. Buffy was curled up on her bed, facing the wall. Dawn came over and curled up behind her on the bed, resting her head on Buffy’s shoulder. “Please, Buffy, don’t ignore me,” she pleaded.
“I’m sorry I took off on you again,” Buffy said in a flat voice. “I was just really stressed out.”
Buffy shook her head. “I just can’t talk about it yet. It’s too much.”
Dawn bit her lip then said, “I saw Spike yesterday morning. He told me that Xander had…” Dawn searched her brain for the word Spike had used. “Assaulted you.”
Buffy closed her eyes against the flood of memories. “Dawn, I know you’re trying to help,” she said quietly, “But it’s just not something I can talk about yet, ok?”
“But if he did something, he shouldn’t get away with it!” Dawn protested.
“I know,” Buffy whispered. “Just please, don’t make me face him. Not yet.”
Dawn was helpless in the face of Buffy’s desperation. Not knowing what else to do, she wrapped her arm protectively around her sister and held her tight.
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