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Chapter 7, in which Angel has made it all worse.
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It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.
Frederick Nietzsche


    Spike headed straight to the workout room when he got back. He didn’t check to see if Buffy and Angel were still in the house. He headed straight in and tried to work out his feelings. It was an uphill battle. He sketched out the face of Angel on a piece of note paper and taped it to the punching bag. Over and over and over again he punched the sticky-up haired face of that stuck-up poof until his knuckles were sore, but he couldn’t bear to stop. How dare he come here – punch, punch, punch – stirring up trouble between Spike and Buffy – punch, punch – that look on her face – punch – bastard deserved – punch, blow, kick – like to tear out his spleen and rip his – punch, punch, punch!

    That memory. The Boxer Rebellion. God, that had torn him up. Seeing himself as he used to be, not the Buffy-whipped, chipped up disaster he’d become lately. And Drusilla. Oh, her love for him. He’d forgotten what she was like when she was sweet. She could be the evil demon she was when in one of her worse states, but when she was pleased with him... oh, that night she had been so pleased. The passion of that night. The kind of passion he would never feel again....

    No. He’d felt different passions these two months. Living passions, war-like passions, and he’d felt so alive and so heated and so... complete. Buffy. Buffy, Buffy... he hit the punching bag over and over.

    It’s like being chained. Just let me be free, Spike.

    God, how could she...?

    He didn’t want to think about it.

    Then he caught her scent. Not just her scent – the scent of her tears. Buffy had come in behind him, silent as a cat.

    He turned and looked at her. She was white faced and staring, her eyes dark with past tears. She’d stopped crying, but the tears were still on her face, on her hands, saturating her shirt. God, her face. She looked as if she’d just witnessed the violent death of a loved one, that state after the screaming. The shock. He knew that look very well. He wanted to hold her close, shield her from the pain, lick her all over. He wanted to kiss her tear-stained face as if he’d consume it, and he knew... he didn’t have the right. “Finally done shagging the not-so-fallen one?”

    It took her a long moment to speak. “We weren’t shagging.”

    Spike scoffed. “Gone off all martyred and tragic again, has he?” Spike shook his head. “You know, I’m not surprised he wanted to end this spell. All he ever wants to do is destroy love wherever he finds it. He ruined it for me and Dru, you know. Sliced us apart as if with a bread knife, sawing so carefully away between us. Did it from the sodding beginning, he did, never–”

    He didn’t have a chance to say any more. Buffy threw herself at him. Her mouth still tasted of salt from her tears, and her skin was aromatic with them, as if she’d anointed herself with fine perfumes. He groaned at the taste of her, the heat of her. Her arms went around him, tearing at his clothes, shredding them under her powerful hands, and she gnawed at his mouth so roughly he wondered if she was trying for his blood. This wasn’t just the heat between them as before. She didn’t just want him. She was devouring him.

    Then she pulled away, quite suddenly and hit him, hard. He went back, denting the wall. She followed, grabbing hold of his shoulders, bruising him with how hard she held him back, desperately clinging to his lips again. She dug her sharp nails into his arm, actually drawing blood. He groaned and twisted her hand off him, never letting go her lips, but striking her a rough blow all the same. It wasn’t entirely an attack – he only winced a little as the pain chip fired a sort of glancing blow. But Buffy cried out at the pain he’d just caused, and stepped back. She grabbed him by his tattered shirt and threw him at the ceiling. He flailed, and three ceiling tiles came down around his ears as he landed, only barely catching himself on his feet. “Foul play, slayer!” he cried out. “I can’t hit back!”

    “Do it!” she cried out. She chased him down and pounded on his chest. “Hit me, damn it!”

    He couldn’t. He couldn’t, and god he wanted to! He almost sobbed with how much he wanted to. Instead he kissed her, pulling her into his arms with all the passion he wished he could kill her with.

    Buffy hit him again a moment later, and again, and again. Spike was having a hard time blocking her blows. She was unbridled, furious, charged with rage, and Spike realized he was just going to have to take it. What the hell had pissed her off? The spell had driven her mad, or maybe it had worked and she was punishing him for his part in her violation – as if he’d had a choice in the matter! But if that was the case, why did she keep kissing him?

    Because she was doing it again, passionate, violent kisses like he’d never even gotten... well, from anyone. The power of it was enough to slay in and of itself. And then she was hitting him again, and tearing at his jeans, and then she had him on the floor, and had straddled him, and if she had been any one else, it would not have been unreasonable to call her next act a rape, plain and simple. She’d forced him down, beaten him, torn his clothes off, and now she was having her way with him. But she was Buffy, and he was a vampire, and he adored her. He did not mind in the least. It was actually really bloody hot.

    “I love you,” he snarled up at her.

    “Shut up,” she moaned through clenched teeth. “Just shut up! I don’t want to hear about love.”

    Spike almost barked his annoyance. He reached up and wrestled her over, forcing her down in turn, having his way with her. “Too bad!” he growled. “I love you, slayer, you hear me? I love you!”

    “I hate you!” she sobbed, clutching him closer to her. She gnawed at his throat, sending fire down his chest.

    “I hate you, too! Argh!”

    She’d dug her nails in. They rolled over and over, knocking over the workout equipment, breaking furniture, denting the walls whenever they used them for leverage. Spike’s pain chip fired again and again, as he had to keep using more force to protect himself from Buffy’s violent ardor. Good god, she was raw tonight. What the hell had happened?

    It wasn’t until the third time she came that Buffy seemed capable of slowing down. Spike could hardly breathe by that time. He could tell he was bruised. Badly bruised. He couldn’t give back as good as he got, and it galled him, but good god that had been so damn hot. Finally her kisses stopped biting at him, and she shuddered beneath him. He lifted himself off her and looked down at her in the dim light – they’d broken three of the wall lamps. She was bruised, battered, sweating and exhausted, and he’d never seen her more beautiful. He lifted her hips and pulled her legs around his back as he pushed himself into her, up on his knees, staring down at his glorious slayer. The slayer. He was shagging the slayer. His slayer. Buffy. “Oh, god, Buffy!” he moaned as he came in her, finally letting himself. He’d been forcing it back, over and over again, until she had seemed remotely sated. He had had to keep himself hard for her. She’d needed it so badly.

    He felt half slain by the time he was done. He’d been so close for so long, it was starting to hurt. He crawled over her and kissed her, and then collapsed, panting.

    They lay in the rubble in a state of semi-catatonic numbness. Buffy’s head lay on Spike’s pale torso. She wanted to grab him again. She wanted more and more of whatever he could give her – pain, pleasure, it didn’t matter – to block out what she was feeling. It was working. It was transferring. But her legs were numb, and her secret spaces were torn and tender, and she was so tired.

    Spike's hand was laced through her hair. Slowly he lifted his other hand and touched the corner of her eye. She hadn’t realized that water was streaming from her eyes. “Is it the dust?” he asked, not sounding in the least like he thought that was it. “Or is it ‘cause I’m not Angel?”

    “If you were Angel, you’d be dead,” Buffy said, hard as a stone. She didn’t feel like she was crying. Her throat wasn’t thick and she had no impulse to sob. The water poured down anyway.

    Spike shifted a little so he could look down at her, but Buffy did not meet his eyes. “You mean I’m not a replacement for Angel right now?”

    Buffy shook her head. “It’s never like this with Angel,” she said. “If I was seeing you as Angel this would have been... very... different.” She shuddered suddenly, finding it hard to breathe. It passed quickly, but she was afraid for what it meant. The shock was wearing off, and she couldn’t keep the damn thoughts at bay any longer by pouring herself into Spike. It seemed she could reach the end of her endurance eventually. She glanced up at him, and gasped. She hadn’t realized what she was doing. He looked battered. “Oh god.” She reached up and touched a slowly ripening purple mark. “What did I do to you?”

    He shrugged it off. “Buffy. Tell me what happened.”

    “Are you okay?”

    “I don’t care about me. What happened with Angel?”

    Buffy scoffed, pained. “He’s gone.”

    “Gone?” Had she dusted him? Was that what was going on? “Where?”

    “Back to LA, I guess,” Buffy said. “He promised he’d never try to see me again.”

    Spike raised an eyebrow. “Was that your idea, or his?”

    “Mine, for once,” Buffy said. She looked down. “I nearly killed him,” she confessed. “I really, really wanted to. Instead I let him try to explain... and I don’t get it. His explanation didn’t make sense. This whole night...” Buffy buried her head in her hands. The whole night hadn’t made sense. Angel’s memories, Spike’s acquiescence, even Buffy’s own behavior. None of it matched what Buffy thought of as normal. For any of them. Good and evil were getting so twisted.... She shuddered. The world felt like it was closing in on her.

    “Was it the memory spell?” Spike asked gently.

    “Yeah,” Buffy said. “Yeah, it was the spell.”


    It took Buffy a long time to speak.

    “What was Christmas?” Spike prompted.

    “That wasn’t Christmas,” Buffy spat. “Angel was gonna commit suicide and I stopped him at Christmas, that was all. That was when he knew I forgave him. He said it was his strongest memory of me. I would have thought it should have been. But it wasn’t. He’d thought he could make it his strongest memory, by thinking about it a lot. But I got another memory instead.”

    “Which one?”

    “Oh. It’s really complicated,” Buffy said, with a bite in her tone. “Really, very complicated indeed.” Buffy gave a sound that was almost a laugh. There wasn’t any humor in it at all. She somehow felt panicked amidst her post coital lethargy. “And I got it all at once, you know. Just one moment, but all these little moments kind of linked up to it, like in a dream? Like, here’s this moment, but you remember everything that led up to it, you know?”

    “Yeah, I got that too, in the memory for me. All the things that led to it, like how he’d got his soul, and how he been teaching me, and how he’d... let me get to that point.” He swallowed his ire.

    “Yeah, so, you get it.”

    “So what was this strongest memory?” Spike asked.

    “It’s very recent,” Buffy said with a false smile. “Just in his head, all fresh and shining and new in his mind. It still has that new car smell, you know? Not that I’d know it. Because it’s a memory I don’t share. Do you know how weird that is, to be given a memory of yourself that you, yourself, have no memory of?”

    Spike just waved his hand. Didn’t matter either way. “Anyway, it was just a month or so ago,” she went on. “Just before you and I got together. You remember when we got together? You remember that day, when it all seemed so perfect, and like, it hadn’t really sunk in yet? And then Angel shows up like a big old moose, getting his nasty little comments into our beautiful day? Remember that?”

    Spike nodded.

    “Well, he came and did that. Came to break us up. Came to kill you, and he did that with this memory right there in his mind, from like a week before. No wonder he was so pissed off at you.”

    “Buffy, will you tell me, or no?”

    “Oh, I can tell you. It’s not like it’s a traumatic memory for me, or anything. It’s not a memory for me at all, you know that? It’s not my memory. It’s only his. I went down to L.A.,” she said in a sing song voice. “Thanksgiving weekend, you remember?”


    “I saw Angel there.”

    Spike’s jaw grew hard, and he nodded.

    “Apparently,” Buffy said, “we were attacked by a demon,” Buffy said. “Now, from my perspective (this is what I remember)Angel kills the demon in like two seconds, and I go back to my dad’s house, feeling kind of resentful that he gets to play the stalker, but I have to be ‘strong’. But from Angel’s point of view – bear with me, it’s all a little vague, ‘cause I only caught a few moments. Important moments. They were to him. He says.”

    Buffy’s lips were tight, as if she were fighting off nausea. “But from Angel’s point of view, we were attacked, and fighting, and we kind of lose. And suddenly we’re like on the floor, and everything’s all pulse pounding. And then we go to hunt the demon, and he gets all freaked out ‘cause I go into the sunlight without him. You know. To go hunt a demon. ‘Cause a slayer,(you know, The Slayer,) she shouldn’t go hunting a demon alone and all. And then suddenly it turns out his blood mixed with the demon, and got all regenerated and he’s alive. Woo! Angel’s alive.” She waved her hands in the air in sarcastic enthusiasm. “So he comes up and kisses me, and then–!” she burst into hysterical laughter. “Then says no! No, we shouldn’t be together. He comes up, kisses me, then says no! Because... you know. That makes sense. Here, Buffy, everything you’ve dreamed of on a silver platter, let me tease you with it, and then emotionally slap you around a bit.”

    She rolled over and stared up at the ceiling. She was definitely crying now. “And he remembers this bit, because he was being all ‘logical’ and ‘good’ and then he crumbles of course, because why wouldn’t he? and suddenly he’s got me down on the table, and we make love and... we make love.” Those last three words were incredibly small. The giddy hysteria in her voice was fading. Spike wished it had remained. The pain behind it was like needles. “And he takes me to his bed.” More tears fell. “And he sees me as so small and perfect. And he goes and gets us ice cream, and we fall asleep... and he loves me. You know. For all of like two seconds. Because then, he hears the demon’s shown up again, and he looks at me, asleep in his bed... and he leaves!”

    The hysteria had been replaced by rage. Buffy sat up and glared at Spike. “And like, I don’t have any memory of what that was like, because you know, my memories aren’t there. I only have his. But we’ve been together less than half a day, and he leaves me asleep in his bed. Like he leaves me asleep in his bed. After we made love, he leaves, no note, no touch on the shoulder, ‘Be right back, honey, didn’t want to alarm you.’ No, he just up and walks off, leaving me to wake up in his bed alone. Like, if it isn’t completely clear I’d understandably have a complex about that.”

    Spike laughed for her. It was funny, and she seemed to expect it.

    “Yeah! I mean, that couldn’t possibly be traumatic for his girlfriend. It couldn’t possibly be shades of the worst moment in my life! I couldn’t possibly have nightmares again and again of waking up alone in a bed and everyone has turned on me and become vampires and betrayed me, over and over and over again. I couldn’t possibly have other nightmares where I wake up alone in his bed and find everyone in the world dead at his goddamn feet. No. Waking up alone in his bed after making love? That’s just my dream come true!”

    She stood up, nude and glorious, and began to pace through the rubble. “And it’s insane, because he’s going out, newly human and awkward to fight the demon, leaving The Slayer asleep in his bed! It’s like... he doesn’t see me! I’m this little blonde thing he likes to screw, but it’s like he doesn’t really see me as the slayer! Or... like that doesn’t matter or something, when, dear god, it matters!” She threw her hands up in the air. “He was always going on about whether or not it was right to be with me, because he’d live forever and I’d want to have babies, and my god, can you wrap your head around this? I’m the slayer! There’s not a single slayer who has lived beyond the age of twenty-four, it’s not as if I’m gonna live to see that I’m growing older and he’s not.

    She spun around again, throwing her arms around expressively. Definitely in rant mode. “So then, sure enough, I have to come save him from the demon, because he was an idiot in going after it in the first place, and then he runs off again, because that makes sense, and he runs off to the oracles that be, (and what do they have to do with us, anyway?) and he hears that I’m gonna die when the world ends... well, DUH! The world’s ending! Of course the slayer’s gonna nix it, that’s what we do! And by the way, that’s not the first prophesy about my death; I know better than to believe that shit anymore, he should too. And it’s like he still doesn’t see me, because he’s all, ‘I wanna fight it for her’ which is nuts, because that’s MY job!” She faced Spike as she said this, roaring her fury at him. “Mine! Do you hear? Me!” She pounded at her chest. “And then he comes back, and he tells me he’s gonna go and have the day swallowed, and I won’t remember anything, and what the hell!

    Buffy stared at the ceiling, and the tears came thick and fast then. “Did he just want to see me tortured? Because all he did was come and tell me that it was all ending, and that I wouldn’t remember, and I’m looking at this through his eyes, so all I see is this tiny little girl just crumbling in horror and grief, and crying and crying, and chanting, ‘I’ll never forget, I’ll never forget,’ in the most tortured way I can possibly imagine. And that’s what he chose to do. Tell me it was ending. Not come home and give me a sweet little hug, or start to make love to me, so that I wouldn’t even know and it wouldn’t even matter. No, he comes and chooses to torture me with the knowledge! I mean, what, does he get off on that or something?”

    “Yes,” Spike said honestly.

    Buffy looked down, startled out of her rant. “What?”

    “Yes, he gets off on it.” Spike stood up. “Come on, you know that, slayer. That’s what he’s always gotten off on, the mental torture, tear ‘em apart.”

    “Well, he succeeded!” Buffy shouted. “And that’s his strongest memory of me. Not me dragging him back from the cliff as he’s about to throw himself into the sun. Not the first moment he saw me, still all happy and innocent on the steps of the highschool with my lollipop. Not even, you know, my current favorite moment, when I stabbed him in the god-damned chest and sent him to hell where he clearly wants to be!” She slammed her own hand with her fist. “No, when he closes his eyes and thinks about his Buffy, he sees me collapsing into horrified tortured grief as he abandons me yet again!”

    Spike nodded. “Yep. That sounds like Angel.”

    “And it wasn’t just his decision!” Buffy barked at Spike. “He went off without talking to me about it first. Again. He goes to eat this day alive, and it wasn’t only his day to eat! But he says it’s all because he loves me, and he wants to be with me, but–”

    “If he wanted to be with you, he’d be with you,” Spike said. “Even here and now, even as a vampire, if that’s what he wanted, it’s what he’d do.”

    “But he swears he loves me! The memory is totally tortured for him.”

    “And that’s what he wants,” Spike said. “Haven’t you gotten that yet? He’s a narcissist with a martyr complex. He feels all soulfully guilty for what he’s done, so he wants to be tortured. So he figures out what will torture him the most, and ‘cause he went and fell in love with you what’ll torture him most is torturing you. But the funny thing is, torturing women is what he’s always done, so he’s just following the same patterns, over and over again. And then sure enough, he gets another great hit on the image of a broken woman in his psyche. He broke you, he has the power. He doesn’t need to eat you, he just needs to break you. He’s still a vampire, pet, I keep trying to tell him that.”

    “You’re a vampire,” Buffy said. “Do you get off on tortured women?”

    “Not like he does,” Spike said. “Torture was never really my thing.”

    Buffy raised her eyebrows. “And the name ‘Spike’ came about because of your pet hedgehogs?”

    “I was young,” Spike said. “And that’s a long story, involving a lot of nasty blokes from back when I was human. Doesn’t even matter, torture just takes too much time. Not my cup of tea, and never with anyone I love.”

    “Mr. Tie Her Up And Torture Her Until She Loves Me Again?”

    Spike looked grave. “That was Dru. That’s what she is, what she’s always been. She needs it sometimes. Hell, Angel made her so she needs it sometimes. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. If he has a memory of you breaking down into emotional hell, then yeah. He’s so totally getting off on that. His favorite moment in life was when he drove Dru stark staring barmy. He bragged about it so many times. He even turned her so he could keep looking at it every day. And then he neglected her, because it was fun watching her need him and not have him. Not torturing her is what tortured her then. Anyway Angel, he was the one who taught me how to torture. I lost interest in it quick.”

    “You mean Angelus.”

    “I mean Angel,” Spike said, annoyed. “If you’re allowed to bawl me out for still being a vampire, you’re not allowed to let him off the hook because he didn’t have a soul then. He is who he is. And he likes tortured women, still. It’s what he does, pet. He’s selfish.”

    “But if he’s so selfish, why doesn’t he want me?” Buffy asked. “I don’t get it, what did I ever do? What did I do? Why is he so much happier with misery than with me?”

    “He gets to stay a vampire. I keep telling you, it’s actually fun, pet. Strength, freedom. If the choice is between that, and you, I can’t even imagine Angelus picking the lady over the power.”

    “But he’s miserable!”

    “He’d probably be miserable as a human, too,” Spike pointed out. “You’ve got the wrong idea, slayer. It’s not because he’s a vampire that he, quote, Can’t be with you. Hell, given what you’re like in the bedroom, you’d both be better off.”

    “Then why is he so convinced that he’s bad for me?”

    “Well, look at you, he is bad for you. But that’s not why he’s doing it.”

    “And why’d he leave?” Buffy asked, unable to get that image out of her head. Herself, alone in the bed, as he went off. Angel had seen her as perfect and innocent in that bed, and he didn’t want to disturb her. It didn’t even make sense. She hadn’t been innocent since the first time he’d left her alone in his bed. “And I mean, just me in the bed, why’d he do that? I’m the god damned slayer, I kill monsters, why is it okay for him to try and take that away from me?”

    “It’s not,” Spike said. “It’s not okay. I never thought it was okay. I always thought he was daft, he never knew what to do with you, he was always wasting his time. He should have taken you to battle, or taken you to bed, none of this poncing around like an enormous poof leaving gag-gifts in your friends’ beds. You’re worth more than that. You’re glorious. You’re amazing. You’re... resplendent.”

    “But why?” Buffy asked. That crying little girl image was horrifying to her. “Why is that his strongest memory? Why when he thinks of me, am I that?”

    “Because that’s what he wants!” Spike said. “He doesn’t want you strong and powerful. He doesn’t love the image of you piercing the night like the goddess of the sun, pulling him from the brink of hell. That doesn’t give him the power, that gives you the power. But when you’re broken, crumbling, weeping from the pain he causes? If you’re reaching for him in desperation? When you’ve had all your choices taken from you, and he’s the only thing in the world? That’s what he wants. That’s what he’s always wanted.”

    “Is that why you like it when I cry?”

    “God, no. I wanna make it better. Angel only wants to make it happen. Buffy, hear this. I only want to be your strength when you’re falling.”

    “But Angel wants that too.”

    “No. Angel doesn’t want to hold you up, he wants to make you fall so he can stand in your place. You know, I wonder if he had some idea this might happen when he thunk up this spell. ‘Cause I’m sure he had a blast watching you get all grievey and pissed off over it, too.”

    Buffy closed her eyes. “I don’t know anymore,” she said. “Yesterday I’d have told you that was bullshit. Now I... God! I can’t believe he did it. If he could do that to me, eat our one chance alive, and then violate me, steal...” her tears fazed her for a moment, “... what would have been the best day of my life. Or should have been, until he told me he was ripping... it out of me... like a still beating heart.” She stopped and sniffed. “Why did he have to tell me? Tell her? It served no purpose except to hurt me! It was too late to change it! It’s not like it made it any better saying goodbye.”

    Spike wasn’t liking where this was going. Sure enough – “He was okay with how much it would hurt me,” she realized. “If he could do that even with a soul, what else could he do?”

    “Anything he wants,” Spike said. “I keep telling you, pet, that soul doesn’t stop him from being bad. It just makes him feel bad when he does. But here’s a secret, slayer – he likes feeling bad. Always has had. Why do you think he stuck with Darla? You think she was nice to him? No. Vampires? We’re never sure what’s good or bad. Power is what he wants. Power over you. So whatever he’s done to you, so long as he can control the outcome, that’s what he’s gonna choose.”

    “You sound so sure.”

    “I know ‘im real well,” Spike said. “You spent, what, two years with him? I had over twenty, souled and not. He’s the same damn guy either way. He likes to think he’s in charge; he’ll kill, eat, and turn people if he feels he wants to; and he makes blanket decisions without thinking about the consequences for others. Yeah, he feels bad if he eats innocent people.” Spike shrugged. “So? There are soulless suckers out there who only feed on willing victims. I’ve run into some who’ve never killed a single person. Now, I hate ‘em, they’re cowardly assholes who live like crackheads, but they’re there. Compared to Angel those suckers are saints. They wouldn’t feel bad if they killed, but they don’t – for whatever reason. It’s not the soul that makes someone good or bad.”

    “Then why was he so different? Why did he seem to change so much? Why didn’t he love me when he didn’t have a soul?”

    Spike didn’t state the obvious. “That’s just him,” he said instead. “Think about it, pet – if he pushes you down, that makes it all about him. And you know how much he loves it when it’s all about him. He only loves the things he can hurt, Buffy. Believe me, I know this. That’s his kink. He doesn’t love the slayer, he loves the broken little girl, and he wants to keep you that way. Maybe he doesn’t want to admit it, but that’s always what he wants.”

    “But I’m not a little girl!” Buffy said. “I’m the slayer! I have powers that blow his out of the water! I have powers I don’t even understand, and he wants to just leave me behind? All of that power I have, and it seems to mean nothing to him.” She stopped in sudden realization. “I’m nothing to him, aren’t I?”

    Damn, thought Spike. Here it comes.

    She froze, her breath catching in her throat. The words poured out of her as the thought coalesced, and she wished she could shut herself up. She wished the thought hadn’t come at all. “He... he doesn’t love me,” she heard herself saying. “He thinks he loves me, but he doesn’t. He never has. He loves some idea of me, and what he’s going to be to me, and what he’s going to do for me, and... and it’s not... it’s not me... it’s just... it’s him....” She started to crumble, her breath coming hard, as if she were fighting. “It’s him, he loves himself.” She was horrified by the words she was saying. “It’s all him, and it has my face on it!”

    The horror of it fazed her and her sobs were in earnest now. She bent over as if she’d been punched in the stomach. She tried to control it, and couldn’t. Suddenly she was screaming and screaming, rage and horror and grief all coming out over and over again, scream after scream after scream, rhythmic with her breath, and Spike was holding her, steady, knowing he couldn’t stop it, but she didn’t have to be there alone in it.

    He’d been hoping she wouldn’t realize this.

    He’d done this before. He’d done this a thousand times before, when Drusilla’s madness reached its dark points and she lost all grip. And she was a vampire. But Buffy was a slayer, and no matter how strong, she was still mortal. She’d been so young when Angel had gotten to her. He’d torn her down and built her up around him so perfectly, shaping her mind to his will. She shouldn’t have to endure this. But Spike knew it was inevitable. It was the fate of everyone whom Angel had gotten a hold onto. Spike had spent some time screaming over Angel himself.

    Buffy sank to her knees and screamed into Spike’s chest, furious, terrified, so horribly twisted up that she couldn’t even think. Angel’s emotional torture – yes torture in that moment, when he’d come just to tell her it was ending. There was no reason for that apart from to see her tears. Yes, it had hurt him. And yes. Spike was right. It was what he’d wanted.

    Hurting her was what Angel had wanted.

    She was only ever useful to him for what he wanted.

    “He never loved me, did he. Never. It was... the way he wanted to be redeemed, and without a soul, he didn’t want to be redeemed. So I didn’t matter anymore.”

    “He didn’t stop wanting you,” Spike said gently. Her pain was like knives in his chest. He had to ease it somehow.

    “Yeah, but it wasn’t love,” Buffy said. “All the things he said, all the things he wanted, he didn’t want them for me. He wanted them for himself.”

    “Well, I want you for myself,” Spike said quietly. “There’s usually at least one selfish aspect to love. But you’re right, he can’t see you. You’re the slayer, he doesn’t get that. He set off to kill you by destroying everyone around you. That’s not a worthy death for a slayer. I knew that.” He kissed her flushed forehead. She was so hot with rage and tears she felt like a furnace. “I knew whatever was going to take you out, you deserved to face it head on. Even if it couldn’t be me.” He brushed back her hair. “Even the assassins, at least it was a fight. I never wanted to destroy you, not like Angel. I just wanted to kill you.”

    Buffy looked up at him. “Do you still want to kill me?” she asked. “If the chip were out, would you?”

    Spike smiled suddenly, looking down at her with desperate love. “You don’t get out that easy, pet. You’re just gonna have to know that he’s still himself under that soul. He was a selfish libertine as a man. He was a selfish torturer as a vampire. He’s a selfish wanker as a so-called redeemed git. And you’re gonna have to live with that.” He kissed her. “I’m not gonna kill you to get rid of it.” He kissed her again, harder, with teeth. “You just gotta live though the pain, slayer. Dru cracked, but she did it. Darla hated him eventually, but she did it too. And you,” he kissed her one more time. “You’re a goddess. You’re worth a thousand of him.”

    “You only think that ‘cause of the spell,” Buffy whispered.

    “No way,” Spike said. “No way. I worshiped you as the slayer long before the spell took me. I respect that about you. He never did.” Spike kissed her forehead. “He told me, back when he thought I was hamstrung and helpless, that when he saw you... the first thing he thought was, ‘She’s just a kid.’ When he turned all soulless, he planned to use that against you.” Spike shook his head. “You know what I thought when I first saw you?”


    “Glorious. Look at her, so strong, so confident. She glows with it.” He kissed her gently. “You’re the angel, Buffy. The warrior of light.” He brushed her hair back from her face. “You’re everything I ever wanted.”

    “Wanted to eat.”

    “Wanted to fight. Wanted to dance with. Wanted to be a part of. I couldn’t bear watching him try to tear you down. Even being slain by you would have been an honor, Buffy. Killing you, as you were? It would have been my crowning achievement. No slayer could ever surpass you. But Angel?” Spike shook his head. “He couldn’t bear to face you. All he ever wanted was to destroy you. When he was proper evil, he wanted to break you down and crush all the little bits. Now he’s got a soul, he wants to cut you into pieces he can box up and put away, because you glow too bright for him to face. He wants to turn you into something you’re not, so that he can feel worthy of you. ‘Cause he’ll never be worthy of you, pet, and he knows it. No matter how many beasties he fights or prophecies he fulfills. You will always glow like the sun, a light he can’t face. And like the sun, you’ll always be above him. Always.”

    Buffy was touched by his description. But if that was how he thought about her... “And what about you?”

    Spike smiled. “I’m okay with being beneath you, sunshine,” he said. “I’ll just bask in your light ‘til it burns me up. How’s that sound?”

    Buffy looked up at him. “I’m done,” she said.

    Spike felt as if he’d been slapped. After all he’d just said, all he’d just confessed, she said this now. She was leaving. Angel’s memory spell had worked after all. This was just their goodbye shag. He swallowed. He should have known. “Are you.”

    “Yeah,” she said. “Completely done. It’s not worth it.”

    Spike bowed his head. “Oh.”

    “This spell has given me more happiness than any tortured love with that... jerk,” she said. “I don’t care anymore if it isn’t right, or it isn’t real. You treat me right. You make me happy. You see me. We fight too much, we always will, I know we will. But I’m done trying to end this spell. It’s not worth it.” She touched his astonished face. “You’re evil. This is wrong. I can’t change you, and part of me is always going to be miserable about it.” She shook her head. “But this spell’s too strong. It hurt like hell trying not to love Angel, and that was just me. It hurts too much trying not to love you. I can’t do it again. I’m done.” She sank onto his chest, gripping him tightly. “This feels too good. You feel too good. How am I meant to go on without it? If Giles wants to end his blindness, I can’t stop him. But I’m not helping him anymore. Spell or not, I love you. I’m done.”

    Spike was dumbfounded for a few moments. Then he gasped – it was almost a sob. He gave a burst of laughter and then caught her in his arms. “You mean that, slayer?”

    Buffy chuckled. “Yeah, you miserable fiend. I mean it.”


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