Everything Old is New Again
Ohmygod, ohmygod. His soul. Spike got his soul. Because of what he—ohmygod. How did he do that? Why did he do that? For me? I’m not worth... Ohmygod, ohmygod. Spike!
Torn out of her self-absorbed thoughts, Buffy sniffed the air. Was that burning flesh?
“Spike! What are—Get off there!”
When there was no response, she covered the distance between them in two jumps, pulling him off, wincing when she saw the burnt flesh sticking to the arms of the big cross.
“You moron. What are you trying to do? There’s crazy, and then there’s CRAZY.” She shook him, then let go when she realized she was holding him by his burnt arms.“Come on, let’s get you home where I can put something on these burns.”
Spike kept mumbling about wanting to rest, his voice barely audible to her ears as he obediently followed her out of the old church, his hand limp in hers.
“Yeah, yeah. As soon as we get home you can rest all you want. But you’re going to do it where I can keep an eye on you for awhile.” She thought she was doing an excellent job of keeping the quaver from her voice as she thought about what she’d just learned and how close she’d come to letting him burn up, but when she felt him try to pull his hand away, she knew she’d failed. Tightening her grip, she continued to drag him with her.
“Have you found out why Spike has joined his ex in crazyland?” Xander had come all the way into the living room before he saw that not only was the vampire in question lying on the couch, but Buffy was daubing some kind of ointment on some very nasty-looking wounds. “Ugh! What made that disgusting mess?”
“He got burned,” Buffy said, not looking up from her tending to Spike’s torso and face. “On a cross.”
“He’s so crazy he hugged a cross?”
“So heis crazy then. Stark raving. What do you think happened to him while he was gone? Not that I care,” he said quickly. “Bastard deserves whatever he got for what he—”
“Hurt the girl. Never want to hurt the girl. Never again. Can’t. Won’t.”
“Shut up, Spike.” Buffy’s tone and her touch on the unburned side of his face were much more gentle than her words. “We’ll talk about it when you’re... later. We’ll talk about it later.” She turned her gaze back to Xander, the pain and fury in her eyes making him flinch. “But, just so you know? Whatever happened last spring —and it’s not exactly what you think it was—it’s none of your business. It’s between Spike and me. And trust me – whatever he did, he made up for it.”
“By going crazy? I’m not seeing that, Buffy. He escaped to some kind of la la land, so where’s the guilty groveling in that?”
“Guilt is what’s making him crazy,” she said, still stroking Spike’s face soothingly. “And not just for what you think he tried to do to me.”
“What else does he have to feel guilty about?”
“Hurt them. Hurt the girl. Hurt the people. Bad man. William is a bad, bad man.”
Buffy sighed. “I think he’s being haunted by all the people he killed before he got the chip. Whatever he was before he got turned, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the tough guy he wanted us to think it was.”
“Okay, I get why he’s feeling all guilty about whatever it was he did—” He held up his hand before she could correct him again — “or didn’t do to you. But why does he give a crap about all those other people? Since when do vampires care about somebody they had for dinner a hundred years ago?”
“When they get their souls back,” Buffy said quietly. “They care when they get their souls back for... so they won’t hurt anybody ever again.” She stroked Spike’s head. “I guess he forgot that Angel was crazy with guilt for a long time after he got his soul.” She raised her gaze to Xander’s stunned eyes.
“He thought it would just keep him from hurting me, or that I’d.... He thought I wanted him to have one. He got it for me, and now he has to live with a hundred years worth of guilt.” She dropped her gaze down to Spike again, and touched his cheek. “That’s enough to make anyone crazy—let alone a good man who never wanted to hurt anyone.”
“He has a soul? Spike has a soul? Did you curse him?”
“Don’t be an ass. I didn’t do anything to him. He went somewhere and got it back somehow. He asked for it. For me.”
“I’m sensing this is some kind of a really big deal for you....”
“How can it not be? I don’t even know how he did it yet—” She turned her glare on Spike for a moment. “—but he’s going to tell me about it as soon as he’s sane...” Spike gave a twitch but remained silent and kept his eyes shut.
“But, it doesn’t matter how he got it, or why, even. The point is, he did it, and now he’s paying for it. And I’m not leaving him out there on his own. It doesn’t look like he’s eating very well, and obviously he’s not thinking straight....”
Xander sighed and sat down on a nearby chair. “Okay, Buff, I get that it’s a big deal. And that he did to impress you. So what else is new? Got to say, though, I don’t think anything else he did ever backfired on him quite like this....” He shook his head. “And I get that you feel responsible for whatever he had to do to get it.” He pointed at Spike. “But you didn’t make him crazy. And you shouldn’t have to put up with taking care of him. Taking care of crazy exes is his thing, not yours.”
He sat back, sure that he’d put the situation in perspective for Buffy, only to have her nod her head and give a strangled laugh.
“I’ll give you that. He’s a lot better at taking care of the people he loves than I am. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. I can keep him from hurting himself again until he’s better.”
“And then?” Xander deliberately pretended not to have heard “the people he loves”.
“And then... I don’t know. I’m not sure where we... I don’t know. But I know I’m not throwing him back out there until I know he can take care of himself.”
“Buffy, if you don’t want to admit—” Xander stopped when she glared at him. “Dammit, Buffy! He did try to rape you! I was there. I saw you, crying and trying to hide the bruises. How can you forgive him for that?”
Buffy didn’t answer immediately, and Xander nodded his head. “That’s what I thought. This is just guilt because you think he did this to himself because of you.”
Her eyes snapped up to meet Xander’s smug expression. “How can I forgive him? The same way I forgave you for trying to rape me when you were possessed by a hyena. And for lying about it. Do you think I really believed you when you said you didn’t remember anything you did while you were possessed? Grow up. I let it go because you’re my friend and it wasn’t your fault.”
Xander’s self-satisfied expression faded as he listened to Buffy blow his assurance that he’d been able to talk his way out of any blame completely away.
There was a steady rumble coming from the chest of the vampire struggling to get off the couch, and Buffy put a gentle hand on an unburned portion of Spike’s shoulder. “Down boy. I kicked him off just like I did you. I’m stronger than both of you put together, and the only reason either one of you got as far as you did is because....” She bit her lip, then continued, “...because I trusted you.”
Spike’s snarl subsided to a moan of despair and he appeared to shrink into the furniture. Keeping her hand on Spike’s shoulder, even though he seemed to trying to pull himself as far away from her as he could get, she addressed Xander again.
“Okay, we’re only going to talk about this once, so pay attention. You know nothing about the relationship Spike and I had last year. Nothing. And I get that, so I’m cutting you some slack. All you need to know is that... vampires and slayers aren’t like other people.”
She paused. “You do remember Faith, don’t you?” When he gave a full body shudder, she nodded.
“So, when I tell you Spike was drunk, hurting, and had no reason whatsoever to think I really meant ‘no’ when I said it, you need to take my word for it. Those bruises were nothing compared to—okay, TMI, I guess,” she said at Xander’s puzzled frown. “The point is, he assumed if I meant for him to stop, I’d do something about it. And I did. As soon as I realized he was out of control.
“You didn’t see his face when he realized what he’d been doing. I did. I knew he’d never forgive himself.” She squeezed Spike’s shoulder. “I forgave him by the next morning, but he was gone, and I didn’t know where. I wasn’t sure he didn’t.... But then I saw Clem and he told me Spike left town on his bike, so I knew he wasn’t dusty.” She gave a soft laugh. “First time in my life I was glad to know a man left me of his own accord.”
There was a soft growl from Spike and a gasp from Xander, then silence as the two men considered Buffy’s words. Buffy gave Xander a warning look and went into the kitchen to get some old blood from the freezer.
Finally, Xander sighed and stood up. “All right, fangface. I guess you go from somebody I think should be dust to somebody I just don’t like very much.”
Spike’s snort sounded much more like himself than anything he’d said or done since they’d first seen him, but he remained on the couch with his eyes shut. Xander shrugged and followed Buffy into the kitchen where she was thawing a bag of pig blood.
“Is he going to stay here?” He put his hands up quickly when Buffy whirled around. “Not judging, just asking.”
“I’ll put him downstairs for a while. When I think he’s going to be able to take care of himself without doing anything stupid, I’ll let him decide if he wants to go back to his crypt. Just so he stays out of the school basement.”
“So, downstairs, huh?”
Buffy put her hands on her hips. “What did you think I was going to say? That he’s going to say with me? In my room?”
“Hey, not judging here. It’s just, you sounded like maybe... and I doubt he’s over his obsession with you—”
“He loves me, Xander. If I can admit it, why do you have such a hard time saying it? He loves me, and I....” She sighed. “I guess I need to decide what I feel. I honestly don’t know... but it doesn’t matter. I know I don’t want anything to happen to him and I want him to get well, so.... yeah. In the basement for now.”
The microwave pinged and she pulled out the mug with the warmed blood. She stuck a bendy straw in it and went back into the living room without waiting to see what Xander was going to do. He stood, shuffling from one foot to the other, while she knelt beside the couch and touched the straw to Spike’s lips.
“Come on, Spike, you need food before you can heal. I know this is probably a little freezer-burned, but it’ll do until I can get you the good stuff.” She rubbed the straw against his lips until he sighed and opened his mouth far enough for her to slip it in. Giving a satisfied smile, Buffy settled against the couch and held the mug up so he could reach it easily. Spike took several deep swallows, then gave a grunt and sat up, taking the mug from Buffy’s hand.
“Can feed myself, Buffy,” he said. “No reason for you to bother yourself like that.”
Buffy sat back on her heels and stared up at him. “I don’t mind,” she said softly.
He shook his head. “You shouldn’t be taking care of me,” he said, not meeting her gaze. “It’s not fittin’....”
“Notfitting?” She sighed. “Still crazy, then.”
Spike’s eyebrows went up. “You thought a couple swallows of pig blood was gonna cure me?” He was wearing his I’m-not-sure-which-of-us-is-crazy expression.
Buffy glared at him. “Enjoy it while you’ve got it,” she said with a huff. “It’s not like I’m planning to wait on you forever.”
“Wouldn’t expect it of you, Slayer. I’ll just get myself all sorted out and be out of your hair soon’s I can.” Once again, he seemed to fold in upon himself and take up as little space as possible.
“Asshole,” she muttered. “I just meant—forget it. Drink your blood. Heal. Stop being crazy.”
“Yessum.” Buffy glared at him in case he was being sarcastic, but he was drinking his blood and paying no more attention to her. She sighed heavily and stood up to walk Xander to the door.
“Did you need me for something?” she asked him. He shook his head.
“Not really. I was in the neighborhood and when I saw the lights on, I thought I’d check in. I have to pick Anya up at a ‘Young Businesswoman’ meeting a few blocks over. If you’re okay, I’ll just be on my way.” He cast a glance into the living room. “But I can stay if you need me...”
“I’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. I mean, I guess one of us will still be crazy, but—”
“I heard that!”
“Sounds like he’s getting better already.” Xander shared a muffled laugh with Buffy.
“I think he’s a lot better now that he’s not on the hellmouth. That school basement was killing him.”
“Well, I hope your basement works out better. Call me if you need anything.”
“At Anya’s?” Buffy arched an eyebrow, but Xander shook his head.
“No. She just needed a ride. She says I owe her, so I’m her taxi of choice.” He shrugged. “I guess she’s right about that.”
“Oh. Well better get going then if you want a good tip.”
“Yeah. Okay. You and fangface....”
“Spike and I will be just fine, Xan. I’m sorry you had to see that, last year. And that I let you go all summer thinking.... what you were thinking. It just didn’t seem important to talk about it when he wasn’t here.”
“Yeah, well, it might take me a while to adjust my thinking. But I’ll work on it.”
“I’m going to talk to Dawn. She’ll freak when she wakes up and finds him here. But since the reason she hates him so much is because you told her he.... It wouldn’t hurt to have a little support from you.”
He nodded. “Message received. Good night, Buffy.”
“Night,” she said, closing the door behind him and a locking it. “Why does everybody think they can just walk into my house?” she muttered to herself. “You’d think I was running a hotel.”
“Sorry, pet. This was your idea, not mine. I’ll just go.” Spike had put his mug in the sink and was reaching for the doorknob when Buffy got to the kitchen.
“I didn’t mean you. I invited you. I just meant... I don’t know what I meant. Never mind. I’m just tired and cranky.” She grabbed his arm and tugged him away from the door. “Come on. Let’s get you fixed up downstairs.”
Rolling her eyes, Buffy preceded him down the stairs, walking over to the shelf where the cot was stored. She began to pull it out, surprised when Spike grabbed the other side. With both of them working, they soon had it set up against the wall away from the washer and dryer. Buffy pulled some sheets from the dryer and threw them at him.
“Here. I’ll find you a blanket somewhere.”
“Don’t need it, Buffy. You know that. I don’t feel the chill the way a human would.”
“I know. But you like to be warm... I remember, you....” Their eyes met and held for several moments, her gaze confused but filled with sympathy and sadness, his one of wonder and adoration, tinged with shame.
“I’ll be fine, pet. More’n I deserve.”
“Well, if you’re gonna be okay then, I’ll just....” She gestured toward the stairs.
“Go. Get a good night’s sleep for a change. Don’t worry about me.”
“Okay. I have to go to work tomorrow, but I’ll get you some blood on the way home. Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone.”
He gave a small smile. “I promise not to do anything to myself without your permission, Slayer.”
“And stay here,” she added.
“I’ll stay. Long as you want me here.”
“I... I want ... it could be a long time. Are you okay with that?”
“Are you sure I’m the crazy one?”
She glared, then shook her head. “I think you’re getting better already. Good night, Spike.”
“Good night, lo-Buffy.”
Upstairs, Buffy got ready for bed. She stared at Dawn’s door briefly when she left the bathroom, then shook her head. “I’ll deal with a Dawn meltdown tomorrow.”
Under the house, Spike lay back on the cot, hands behind his head and pretended he could see through the ceiling and the floors above. He pictured Buffy brushing her teeth and hair, slipping into her bed and closing her eyes.
“Sweet dreams, love,” he whispered, shutting his own eyes.
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