Let Me Explain
He looked up at her. “I’ll live,” he said. “For now.” He tried to sit up and lost his balance, collapsing back to the ground again. “Oh, bugger!” he moaned.
“Come on,” Buffy said. “We’re not far from the lab now. We can afford a rest.” She helped prop him up against the tree he’d collapsed under. He was paler than usual, and his usually angular face had softened more since he’d come back. She’d always been surprised by his face, the angular cheekbones and sharp definitions touched by a softness around his nose, his chin, his lips...
“What?” he asked, his voice weak.
She realized she was staring. “Nothing,” she said. “Just... you’ve been going through enough hell, lately. Like we needed this on top of it.”
“Hey,” he said. “Whatever hell I go through, I’ve earned it a hundred times over. Believe me.” He sighed. “I’ve earned all the pain, and all the hatred, pet. I’ve accepted that.”
“I don’t hate you, Spike.”
He raised his eyebrow. “That’s a first.”
Buffy blushed, remembering all the times she’d told him how much she hated him. It had fallen out of her lips like an endearment, the counter to the painful way he’d told her he loved her, over and over and over again. She shook her head.
“Don’t worry ‘bout it, love,” he said, tilting his head back to the stars. “Vampires should be hated.”
“I never hated vampires,” Buffy said. “I exterminate them, I’ve never hated them.” She shrugged. “It’s not their fault they are what they are.”
Spike tilted his head at her. “You sure hated me,” he said, light and conversational.
“I didn’t hate you because you were a vampire, Spike,” she said. “I hated you because you confused me. You were... I don’t know. This weird mixture of cruel and nice. With a bit of pathetic thrown in.” He chuckled. “Chivalric cold killer,” she finished.
“Well, I tried,” he said. “But you were never really partial to nice anyway. You always seemed more fond of dangerous.”
“Well, you sure carried that one just fine,” she said.
Spike laughed, then growled, and then groaned as another spasm of pain rocked through him. He took deep breaths when it was over, his head against the tree. He seemed to be shaking.
“God, I wish I’d gotten that message through to Riley,” Buffy said.
“You really think he would have helped me?” Spike said. “I wasn’t exactly seen on my best footing last time he was around.”
“Well, he wasn’t exactly pleased with you,” Buffy said. “But you can’t exactly blame him. You were trafficking in demon eggs.”
He rolled his eyes. “Gor, Buffy. You never did let me explain that, you know.”
“It was pretty self-evident, Spike. You were dealing in deadly demon weaponry that could take out whole villages. It–”
“And they really weren’t mine,” he interjected. “Look, I know it wasn’t the real reason you broke up with me, but honest, I wasn’t your dealer, your ‘Doctor’ or whatever. I was a bloody patsy is what I was. I took those eggs in for a friend of mine – or, well. A bloke I met down the bar. He offered me five hundred dollars to keep some stuff in my crypt for a few days. I needed the money. I didn’t ask questions – I should have, but I didn’t. Hell, I didn’t know what they were. Believe me, I was no more keen to be eaten in my sleep than anyone else.”
“Well. Anything for money.”
“No,” he said, decisively. “Not that. Nothing that you wouldn’t like. Certainly nothing that would take out whole villages, I was on shaky enough ground with you as it stood. Obviously. Not that you cared. You never even let me explain. I could have led you to the guy, you know, or tried to anyway. That warlock had probably moved on once he saw your sweetie bear in town hunting him down. He’d been planning on getting the merchandise the day before, he never came. Leaving me with the bloody boot bag.” He shook his head. “Lost everything that day. You, half the crypt. You bloody shot right through my Ramones albums, kitten." He looked down. "I never even got my payment.”
“Poor baby,” she said, more mocking than scornful. “No more cigarettes.”
She’d expected him to chuckle, but he closed his eyes, the bitterness burning in his clenched jaw. “I wanted to buy you a present,” he said through his teeth.
Buffy gulped. She felt as if someone had just poured ice down her throat. “Really?” She suddenly felt terribly cheated, and the fact that she was the one who had cheated herself was the most galling part of it. “Why?”
He glared at her. “Buffy. We were a burning house on shifting sand, you think I wouldn’t have done anything to try and shore it up? I couldn’t show you tenderness, you always ran away. I couldn’t make up to your friends, they all hated me. The only thing I had going for me was Dawn, and you were... getting really itchy ‘bout me being near her. You think I was blind?” he asked. “I saw us crumbling. You hadn’t even given us a real chance. Things had to change, one way or another. We were coming to some kind of crisis point as we stood, and when it broke, I wanted to be on the same side as you.” He shook his head. “I just wanted to do something I hadn’t tried with you before. Just see if you’d accept it.”
He was looking at the ground, and he looked so sad. “What were you planning to get?” she asked, in spite of herself.
He closed his eyes. “Well, I figured you’d freak if I got you a ring,” he said with dark certainty, and they both smiled at the idea. He looked shy. “It was cross,” he whispered.
Spike tilted his head and wouldn’t meet her eyes. “24 karat gold filigree,” he said. “I’d had my eye on it for weeks. I knew you wouldn’t want me to steal it. Purest gold, very beautiful... and would burn me like a brand,” he said. He finally looked at her, more fond than anything else. “I thought it fitting,” he said. “You were always wearing crosses, like the good slayer you are, I figured,” he finished in a sigh, “if you didn’t throw it in my face, your friends would never have to know I gave it you.” His voice got very quiet. “I had it all planned out. I’d wrap the chain ‘round your hand while we were... and then I’d....” He placed his palm over his heart, though he didn’t look at her. “I thought it would help us both. I thought hurting me with it would... let you take it. Get past whatever kept blocking you. I’d have loved seeing the burns later. Marked as yours. And if I saw you wearing it around, I’d know... know you accepted it. Me.” He closed his eyes. “Without you having to say it.”
The pain in his face was clear, and Buffy swallowed. “Spike...” she whispered.
“Just forget it,” he muttered. “It’s all blood under the bridge now.”
Buffy felt terrible. “I had no right to treat you so," she said quietly.
Spike gazed at her for a long time, and then grinned. “Well, you dragged me out of a torture chamber, what do you say that evens it?” He climbed to his feet. “I think I’m okay to keep going.”
Buffy stood up and straightened her scarf. “Lets go,” she said. They walked in silence for a moment. “Spike?”
It took her a moment, but she said it. “I wouldn’t have thrown it in your face.”
Spike smiled at her slyly. “Well. It would have left lovely burns.”
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