The Puppet Show
Author's Note: Dialogue from Season 1, 'The Puppet Show'
Tonight, she actually had a legitimate reason for being here. She’d rooted out a small nest of vamps a few streets down, and one of them had made a run for it. Taking her into what she had now come to define in her mind as Spike’s Territory.
Still, that didn’t stop the little spiders of shame from scrabbling down her spine when she saw him. Stake in hand, a layer of vamp dust collecting on her shoulders, she looked across to the other side of the small courtyard, and there he was. Leaning against a lamppost, cigarette dangling from his fingers. The startled look on his face belied his casual stance.
Running a hand through his hair, he straightened up and moved to step towards her. She mirrored his movement, but in the opposite direction. Spike frowned, his head cocking, and he took another step.
She turned and ran out as fast as she’d come in.
“I’ve been giving it some thought.”
Buffy jumped at the sound of his voice. Hopped off the tombstone she’d been sitting on and spun around to face him, body reflexively working under the assumption that she was being attacked. Halfway through her turn though, she realized who it was.
It was impossible to deflect the wrecking ball of emotions that slammed into her at the sight of him. Lust. Yearning. Anger. Loneliness. Anxiety.
…To say that things had been tumultuous between them over the last month would be like saying tornadoes are a little windy.
“Been trying to figure it out, you see,” he continued, his voice anchoring her in place. “Reason why nowadays, you turn tail and run every time I’m around.”
He took a step towards her, and for the second time in a week, she uprooted one foot and paced backward. It made him smile, and shake his head. “Yeah. Just like that.”
“Spike…” she responded with a frown. What was he doing, talking to her like this? Like he didn’t know why she fled at the sight of him. Like he didn’t know he was the reason she did it.
Like it hadn’t been his suggestion in the first place for her to do so.
A sharp sigh from him stopped her from voicing any of those thoughts. “I get the feeling, Slayer… that at some point I said something to make you think I’d rather not have you around.” He cocked is head, eyebrows going up. “But, seeing as that’s not the case, I can’t figure out how I managed to pull that off.”
Buffy set her jaw, trying not to let the caress of his words act as a balm for the searing pain in her soul. Instead she frowned at him, resolute. Expecting that he would straighten up, realize that she wasn’t going to explain what he already knew to be the problem, and apologize.
Unfortunately, he just continued staring at her. Waiting. Looking like he was sincerely trying to figure this situation out, but he couldn’t do it without her help.
Crossing her arms, Buffy decided to go ahead and unfold her little emotional road map for him. Lay it out where they could both look at it, so he couldn’t go on playing the part of clueless bystander. After all, he was sort of undead. Could wait forever for this conversation to move forward if he wanted to. She didn’t have the same luxury. “You… said that it wasn’t an accident. That we’d been running into each other. After… what happened.”
“All right…” he said, unfazed. As if he were expecting her to deliver another blow. Apparently not realizing that that was it.
“And… so yeah.” She gave a one-shouldered shrug.
Spike stood there, looking as though he was scrolling through the conversational rolodex in his mind, finding and then tracing over the dialogue in question. As he did, a smile bloomed between his cheeks, cradled beneath a gaze that was now full of amused disbelief. And a little bit of frustration. “Hold up.” He raised his hand, giving a little shake of his head. “Wait. You mean to tell me that we’ve gone nearly a week without seeing each other… all because I decided to take this piss a little?”
Buffy wrinkled her brow in confusion. What did him going to the bathroom have to do with any of this?
Laughing, the sound shook her out of her reverie, and he advanced on her again. This time her feet remained in place, deciding not to protest such a move. “Dammit, Slayer… here I thought that was our primary mode of communication.” He shook his head again. “Why’d you choose that moment to think I actually meant it?”
“I just… thought…” Looking up into his gaze, which was like looking up into the vast freedom of a clear blue sky, Buffy found herself struggling to come up with an answer.
Why had she interpreted his comment that way?
After all, Spike was right. The bedrock of their relationship consisted of sarcasm, reinforced with banter rebar and decorated with a lattice of insults. The very first words he’d ever spoken to her were full of mirth. Hell, right up until the point when his lips had met hers for the first time, she wasn’t sure their interactions would ever transcend the realm of snarkiness.
Before she could agree with him about the absurdity of her reaction though… Before she could laugh with him and sigh and hold his hand as they stepped across the chasm that had separated them for what already felt like too long… an awful truth hit her.
It was cold and slimy and harsh. Slapping against her flesh like a wet rag. Then sliding down her spine with the lethargy of a slug.
She felt out of breath in that instant. Like she was suffocating. A haze of panic stormed through her eyes, and she looked up at him in desperation. Hoping he would have an answer that could peel the slug-rag off her back.
“But… what if you’re right?” she asked, her voice timid. As if it understood that the rest of her brain didn’t even want to broach the subject with him. Wanted instead to continue living in ignorant bliss. “I mean… what if… what if it is best for us to just… stay away from each other?”
Spike drew back from her at that, clearly confused.
“I mean… it’s not exactly fun. Being around you. Feeling the way I do and knowing that I can’t… that we can’t…”
“I get where you’re going, Slayer,” he said, raising his hand in a move to touch her, but drawing away in the last instant. Knowing that at this point, physical contact might just make things worse. “You really gonna suggest we stop seeing each other altogether though? I mean, I get why you want things to be the way they are now, but-”
“I don’t want things to be this way, Spike,” she protested, choosing that moment to step away from him. Feeling hurt by his implication. “You think I actually want to not to be able to be with you? You think it’s my fault?”
He growled at that. “No, Slayer… I’m not-”
“That’s exactly it, Spike! God knows you say it enough. Slayer. I’m the Slayer. You’re a vampire, and I’m…” she sighed, looking away from him as she felt the first sharp sting of tears against her eyelids. Everything was surging within her at once. All of the excitement and frustration and pain and loneliness of the last few weeks.
The intense, unquenchable feelings she had for this creature before her. Feelings she couldn’t soothe by bathing in his presence, but also could not erase from the chalkboard of her mind. There was the despair she’d felt at thinking he no longer wanted anything to do with her. Then the relief that she’d been wrong. Finally, the reminder that it still didn’t make a difference, because he was still what he was, and so was she.
“This thing that’s between us,” she said, turning to look him in the eye again. “I want it. I do.” A shake of her head. “But how can I…? Knowing what you are. I mean… I know you have a soul… I know you’re literally just a heartbeat away from being a real live person, but… you’re still a vampire. You’ve killed people.” The words felt vile as she swept them out of her mouth. “A lot of people.”
Clenching her fists, she became aware of the stake she’d been holding all this time. Looking down at it, she shook her head. “I still don’t even know how to be the Slayer. Not really. And I just… I don’t know how I can be her and be with you at the same time. I don’t-”
“Buffy.” His hands wrapped around her shoulders. “Stop. It’s okay, love. It’s all right.”
Looking up at him, she saw pain in his eyes. Empathy. As if he were trying to neutralize some of her turmoil by affecting the same in his own soul. Basic chemistry. Like dissolves like.
At that thought, Buffy couldn’t help but laugh internally.
Willow would be so proud.
“You don’t have to… Wasn’t trying to blame you for any of this. Really.”
“I know,” she sighed. “I’m sorry. There’s just so much…”
In that moment, it was nothing but sheer willpower that stopped her from leaning into his chest. Welcoming the strong, solid belt of his arms that would’ve embraced her if she did.
She couldn’t let herself do that. Bury herself in him. She’d probably never climb back out again.
“Listen…” he prompted, the finger that appeared under her chin helping to draw her back to the present. “What’s between us and what isn’t… We don’t have to figure it out tonight. Can fight that battle some other time if you want. Only just started speaking to each other again, after all,” he said, the tone in his voice telling her he was trying to lighten the mood. Keep her afloat in her mental whirlpool.
Buffy knew that such a notion would, in the end, be a small comfort. Wouldn’t really make things any easier, really. Because she already knew how this story would have to end. Or, more accurately… she knew there never could be a story in the first place.
She and Spike were two separate novels. In the same genre, of course. Perhaps sitting on the same shelf with each other. They might share similar plot points, maybe even a crossover between characters here and there, but they would always be separated by their hardcover bindings. Would ultimately have to start and end in completely different places.
For now though, she was willing to jump on board whatever train happened to pass her by with the promise of making her journey a little easier. “I think I’d be okay with that.”
“Right then,” Spike said, straightening up with a satisfied grin. “What say we go see if we can’t find something to kill?”
“You?! You’re the Slayer?” Amazing how expressive a dummy could be, considering he only had a set of eyebrows to work with. Buffy nodded. “Damn! I knew a Slayer in the thirties. Korean chick. Very hot. We’re talking muscle tone. Man we had some times.”
From the colour of his voice, Buffy guessed he wasn’t talking about the kind of muscles people typically worked on at the gym. And until that moment, she hadn’t realized that was an actual… thing. Also, she kind of wondered how it was that Sid would have any idea about… or why he’d be talking to her about it.
And then decided to stop thinking those thoughts, because… yuck with a side of eugh.
“Hey, that was pre-dummy, alright?” he said off the look she gave him. “Now, I was a guy!”
She wasn’t sure what triggered it… his talk of the Slayer, of being a guy- a demon hunter guy -who had a thing for a Slayer, or the fact that he was speaking of things that happened around the time her grandmother would’ve been her age, but… she suddenly realized that she maybe had an opportunity here. For some insight. It was a long-shot, but… well, she was sitting on a catwalk talking to an animated dummy. Pretty much the definition of a long-shot, right there. “So you’ve… been around for a while then. Probably seen a lot, met a lot of people.”
“More than I like to think about most days.”
“Did you…” Buffy knew there wasn’t really any way to ask this question without being totally obvious about it, but nevertheless she continued forward. “Ever meet a vampire by the name of Spike? Or, he might’ve also been calling himself William the Bloody…”
Those hairy caterpillars on his forehead dipped downward, and he thought for a moment. “Met a lot of vamps in my day, but the name does ring a bell… Hm.” He pondered for a few long seconds, and Buffy was about to tell him to forget about it when he looked at her again. “This guy a Limey?”
“Scar right about here?” he asked, pointing over his left eye. “Lean build, average height?”
Sid nodded, turning to look over the stage again. “Met him back in the twenties. Wisconsin. He helped me take out a pair of Meklin demons on their way to a Packers game.”
Buffy decided she wasn’t even going to ask him to explain that one.
“Saw him again in the late sixties after that. Betting he didn’t recognize me though.” He laughed, looking down at himself, and then up again. “He was in a club that night, watched my set. I was getting shoved into the van later on and saw him at the other end of the alley, taking out a few of his own kind.” Sid shook his head. “Never did ask him why he was hitting for our team, but then, wasn’t about to complain either.”
“So, he’s been good for a while then…” Buffy murmured, more to herself than him.
Sid heard her though, of course. He might be made of wood, but somehow his ears still functioned just fine. “What’s got you asking about a demon I’d bet has a good half century on me, toots?” He lifted one eyebrow at her. “You two got a thing going on?”
“What? No! No, there’s no thing. There’s…” A whole lot of confusion, and heartache, and desire, but… “There’s nothing.”
“Mhm,” the dummy grunted, falling silent with her none-too-subtle hint that she wouldn’t be persuaded to discuss it. Neither of them said anything else for a moment or two, until he turned to look at her. “Listen sis, can I give you some advice, one demon slayer to another?”
“As long as it stays of the PG thirteen variety, then sure.”
“I know I’m an exception to the rule, but for the most part, for people in our line of work, life is short and brutal. Ain’t much sunshine when you spend all your time in the dark fighting evil, know what I mean?”
“Yeah,” she said, voice quiet as she tried to keep her mind from going to all the scary places it stumbled upon when she contemplated her existence as the Slayer. “I do.”
“So, do yourself a favour. You manage to find yourself someone, or something that makes you happy, gives you a reason to go out every night and risk your hide for a world that won’t thank you for it, and that’s already pretty rotten as it is…” He snared her gaze in his own, and again Buffy couldn’t believe how deep those glassy, inhuman eyes really were. “If you find that… you grab hold of it and don’t even think about letting go.”
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