Chapter 10, in which Buffy does not cry.
For the longest time, marriage has had a guilty conscience about itself.
Their counseling session was supposed to start at eight. Spike got there just after sunset. He’d thought he’d have a chance to sort some of this madness out with that watcher bugger, if only to have someone to talk to who wasn’t a demon. The other demons never did get him and Buffy. They’d been able to accept it when he told them it was a spell. In fact, now that he’d thought about it, Buffy had done much the same with her friends. They’d both been hanging their relationship on this “spell” as a shield and excuse for everyone else. With Willow showing up and letting the cat out of the bag – that the love had snuck up on them – there was nothing left to hide behind.
Spike wondered if that was why he’d moved out. No one had specifically asked him to. He’d spent the rest of that afternoon in his and Buffy’s shared bedroom, drowning in memories of their shared moments, her scent, her belongings, their wedding pictures. He’d waited until nearly midnight, and she hadn’t come back. He took that as a message. He went upstairs to get a cardboard box from Xander. Xander had plenty of cardboard boxes; he’d been practicing his cabinetry, and making some hand-crafted furniture in his apartment to provide a small income, and Anya had been able to sell it in some local stores. He’d gotten pretty good at it, and frequently had deliveries of raw materials shipped to him.
Xander hadn’t seemed to know what to say. He came down and offered to help Spike pack – but since Spike wasn’t planning on bringing more than a single box of spare clothes and a few jars of blood, (and a couple keepsakes) it was really only a symbolic gesture. “No thanks, mate,” Spike had said. “I’m good.”
Xander stood there by the bedroom door for a few more moments, then said, “It’s been real.”
Spike had burst into tormented laughter, and Xander had blushed. “I didn’t mean...”
Spike looked up at him, “‘S all right, mate. See you ‘round.”
Xander nodded. Before he went back upstairs, he said, “Thanks, man.”
It seemed small, but it wasn’t. Thanks. Man. Nope, wasn’t small at all. They didn’t need heartfelt speeches. It was a guy thing.
As Spike was heading out the front door, Giles stopped him. Spike had wondered if he was going to tell him not to leave. He’d saved Giles a lot too, in the last six months. But no. All Giles did was offer him money, like he was being paid off. The hired thug’s contract had been fulfilled, time for a final paycheck.
It galled Spike that he actually needed the money. Giles was offering it with the air of a benevolent step-father sending his ward off to college. Not one of them questioned Spike’s moving out. Spike figured it just saved them the trouble of evicting him. “I realize this probably isn’t what you want to hear right now,” Giles said, “but really, this is for the best–”
“You’re right,” Spike said, snatching the money out Giles’ hand. “It’s not.”
He started counting it, which struck him as the most insulting thing he could come up with.
“You know, it has occurred to me that perhaps this experience, combined with your condition, of being only able to hurt demons, might be indicative of some kind of higher–”
“Shh. You’re making me lose count.”
“Right,” Giles nodded. “Well. It has been... interesting....”
“Right,” Spike said. He walked off, box on one hip, waving the hand with the money in the air without looking behind him. “See you ‘round, blinky.”
“I suppose I actually will,” Giles said behind him.
Spike had gone back to the three level several times in the last three days, just to stand about outside it, see if she returned. She never did.
But he kept the appointment to see Wes. He didn’t even know if Buffy was planning on coming, but he wanted to get there before she did, whatever.
He didn’t. Buffy had walked through the sun, and was looking serious and grave in Wesley’s office by the time he got there. She didn’t even look teary. That was a bad sign.
“Been a few days,” he said quietly when he saw her. In fact, it had been nearly four. Four days without her in his bed. Four days without the sound of her voice, the sweetness of her scent, the seduction in her touch. Four days cold and lonely and confused. Four days – he couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep. Four days without Buffy and he already felt like he was dying.
“Um. Yeah,” Buffy said. “I... I went back to my mom’s.”
“I’m renting a bed in Willy’s back room,” Spike said. “There’s a crypt I got my eye on, but I’d have to clear out a couple fyarl demons. Waiting for them to be past their mating cycle. Bit too sticky for my taste during.” Why the hell was he making small talk? Why hadn’t he caught her up in his arms already, begged her to let him back into her life? But he was too scared. Even seeing her eyes, he already felt like he was being flayed. She looked so cold.
Wesley looked up at Spike. “Buffy has relayed the circumstances to me,” Wes said. “It would seem your spell was lifted, and neither of you noticed?”
“We’d been living with it for so long,” Buffy said, half to Spike, half to Wes. “I guess we’d just... fallen into the habit.”
Spike wanted to hold her so badly, he felt like he was burning. He said the only thing that was in his mind, the thing that had been burning inside him since she’d turned around and walked away from him. “I miss you.”
Buffy sagged as if her strings had been cut and took a deep breath. “Spike, I... we.... Wes, could you excuse us for a moment?”
“Would you like me to step outside?”
“No,” Buffy said. “No, just....” She stood up and went to Spike, pulling him across the room. She didn’t need an audience, but she wanted a witness. This was another bad sign.
“Buffy, don’t,” Spike said. He didn’t wait for her to say it. He already knew it was coming. These last four months, when she’d decided to stop fighting. These months of acceptance and flirtation, of un-restrained grumbling and annoyed eye-rolls countered by powerful lovemaking and sweet, sweet moments of unfettered tenderness. These months, happy together, as husband and wife. They’d been killed, as surely as if Red had sunk her demonic teeth in and drained their love dry.
“Don’t,” he said. “Please.” He reached up and touched her hair. “These last four days, I’ve felt like an empty shell. You’re in me, Buffy. You’re in my throat, in my blood, in every part of me. You haunt me. I’ve been steeped in you. I can’t let it go, now. I love you. I don’t care if it was a spell, it’s real now, it’s got to be real. I. Love. You.”
“I know...” Buffy looked down.
“I know you feel like I do,” Spike said. “I know you love me, I know it.”
Buffy tried to steel herself. “Spike. I do... I do care about you.”
She’d already thrown the word away. The love was gone. All her rigid moralizing had tainted her, and she’d had four days to stew on it. He should have gone to find her. He should have come into her house at night, caught her up while she was half asleep, made love to her, shaken her out of her logical torpor. But he’d just been so scared. “Don’t do this.”
Buffy looked up. “I have to do this.”
“No!” Spike took hold of her, held her at arms length. “No, no, you don’t! Four days ago you were ready to live with me forever. What was that? You were happy! Even without the magic, we were happy! You were ready to live your life under a spell and just be my wife, what changed?”
“Everything,” Buffy said.
“No. Don’t you see, that’s the point. Nothing changed. We were still in love, we were so happy.” He glanced over at Wesley, who was pointedly looking down at his notes, but it was clear as hell he was straining to hear their every word. Spike didn’t blame him. This was daytime soap drama here, muttering in the corner. “We made love that morning, don’t you remember?” he said low. “With the handcuffs, and the long stemmed rose, don’t you remember the scent? The touch? How I made you feel? There was no magic there – we were the magic. It was just us. It was just us, and it was so beautiful....”
The look on her face... he wasn’t getting anywhere. He might as well have been talking to a woman made of stone.
“I need you to listen, Spike,” Buffy said.
“No,” he said. He didn’t want to listen. This was why he hadn’t sought her out, because he hadn’t wanted to hear this. “Listen to you tear us down, and get your knickers in a twist for some rubbish the witch says? After everything we’ve been through, all the work we’ve done? When there’s no bloody reason for any of it!”
“There are reasons,” Buffy said. “Spike, please. I do have feelings for you now, after all that. Real feelings. And that’s a problem. Because I can’t live like that.”
“Like what? God, Buffy, please! What the hell am I doing wrong?”
“Nothing, Spike. I thought and I thought about it, and I talked it over with Giles and with Willow and my mom. And they all said different things. I tried to decide if I could stay with you... because I really have been happy. But... I can’t.”
Spike tried to keep his trembling tamped down. “Bollocks. You can, Buffy. We can, we can make it work. We were making it work. Wes!” He turned to the watcher. “Weren’t we making it work?”
Buffy turned Spike’s head back to her. “Spike, this isn’t about Wes, or about whether or not we work.”
“Then what the hell is it about?”
“I just can’t be with an evil vampire. I cannot be with someone who doesn’t care about people. I can’t do it. It’s against everything I am.”
Spike clenched his jaw. “You were just fine when it was bloody Angel.”
“Angel has a soul.”
“That doesn’t make him good!”
“No,” Buffy said. “I know that now. But it gave him the potential to be something other than evil.”
“But I’m... I’m doing it, Buffy. For you, I’m doing all of it. I haven’t killed, I’ve been helping, I’ve been wanting to help. Angel had his soul, but he was still a killer. I’m... bloody castrated from evil, doesn’t that make me good?”
“No,” she said. “I wish it did, but it doesn’t. It’s just holding you back, Spike. It isn’t you. You’re still evil.”
“But you were fine with that when there was a spell! You even wanted the spell. We still feel it without it, what makes the difference?”
Buffy drew in a breath. “It isn’t what you do. It isn’t even what you are. It’s what I am. I am the slayer.”
“And you want me,” Spike said. “All the grand titles in the world won’t change what you want.”
“I know that,” Buffy said. “I do want you.” She looked down. “I may even love you,” she said. “I thought I did. When I thought it was a spell, I thought it wasn’t real, and that was why it felt kind of... off. Now I’m not sure.”
“I’m sure!” Spike hissed at her. “You love me, you have to love me. You couldn’t make me feel like this if you didn’t love me.”
Her voice was very low and hoarse. “Maybe I do.” She swallowed. “But that doesn’t make it any better. In fact, it makes it worse.”
“Makes what worse?”
“Angel’s soul meant that he at least regretted his crimes. He cared about people. He was going to do everything in his power – even if he wasn’t very good at it – to be a good person. Even all by himself.”
“I’m doing that.”
“I know. I know you’re doing that, for me. And it’s... the greatest gift you could ever give me. And I know how hard it is for you, and I’m so proud every time you make the right choice. And with the spell, that was enough for me.”
“Why? What’s the difference between with a spell and without one, if you feel the same?”
“Don’t you see, Spike? The spell. It shielded me.”
“From your friends? Forget them! Who cares what they think, they can just deal–”
“Not from them,” Buffy said.
“Then from what?”
She looked up. “Willow’s spell absolved me of your evil.”
Spike felt like she’d punched him in the gut. He stared at her dumbfounded for a moment. “How can that even touch you?”
“Because I’m embracing it,” Buffy said. “And by embracing you, I’m condoning it. With Angel’s soul... he wasn’t condoning evil either. Before he lost it, and after Willow cursed it back for him, he didn’t want people to be hurt. That’s what made the difference. But here....With the spell, it just meant that it wasn’t me. Without it, it is. And I can’t just embrace evil, Spike. It would make me evil, too. It would make me like those crazy women who marry serial killers, its madness.”
“You’re just as much of a killer as I am!”
“Which is why I can’t indulge this,” Buffy said. “Maybe, if I hadn’t realized what Angel was really like... I could risk it. But the soul didn’t save him. And it won’t save me, either. I can’t forget my nature.”
“What hell do you mean, your nature? Your nature draws you to me, damn it. To the shadows, you know it does. You’re always drawn to evil.”
“I am drawn to evil, to slay evil. I slay evil, because I must,” Buffy said evenly. She’d been speaking very quietly, very clearly, almost no inflection. It was like she’d practiced this for hours. “I slay evil, because if I don’t, the evil slaughters the innocent. But I’ve seen what can happen when you let that dark, killing side of you take over. That’s why there are watchers. That’s why any potential, when found, is put under the auspices of someone who can make hard choices.”
Spike could almost hear Wesley saying those words, words Spike knew the watcher had just put into her mouth. The scary thing was, he wasn’t sure Wes was wrong. He’d felt her power. He’d felt her darkness. It wasn’t so different from his own. “Slayers are human,” he said. “No better or worse than any other human.”
Buffy shook her head. “Not entirely. We’re there to stop the vampires. When we go bad... there’s no one to stop us. There was a slayer I knew last year... her name was Faith. She became the most poisonous and powerful thing. She was almost unstoppable. In fact, the only thing that stopped her was me. She could kill so easily, and she let that corrupt her, completely.”
“So? You’re not gonna turn all evil, Buff. Believe me.”
“When I want to hold you, despite all you’ve done?” Buffy asked. “What is that, if not... corrupted? I can see it could happen to me, Spike. I could let the dark take over. I could be weak and selfish and just take what I want. You saw what happened to me when I was mad at Angel. Hell, you let me take it out on you. You had bruises for weeks, and I loved you.”
“Not really complaining here, slayer.”
“I know. But if I can do that, what else could I do? I could kill the demons, not to save lives, but for the love of killing. I could just start killing anyone who got in my way. Any teachers I didn’t like, or any girl I got jealous over, or... anyone. If I can just kill demons, and go home to pizza afterwards – and you know I can – are people really so different?”
Spike had been trying to tell her that since they’d been married. So it had finally gotten through to her. But in the worst possible way. This wasn’t why he’d wanted her to realize it. This wasn’t how he wanted this to go.
“I could do that,” Buffy said. “I could become judge, jury, and executioner, and kill anyone I didn’t like, human rules and demon rules aside. But I won’t.” She shook her head. “I can’t let that happen to me.”
“What’s that got to do with being with me?” Spike demanded.
“Because you’d be just fine with it if I did that,” Buffy said. “If I turned around and started killing for the fun of it, you wouldn’t care. Hell, you’d drink the blood and laugh.”
“That’s what you are,” Buffy said. “It’s not your fault, it’s how you were made. You’re trying to be good now, because you love me. And that’s... amazing, Spike. Truly amazing. And the chip helps. But it’s not what you are. You’re only doing it for me.”
He was finding it hard to speak already. “W-what’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing. Not for you. But for me.... I can’t be responsible for both of us, Spike. It can’t be only because of me that we are a force for good. What if I fall?”
“Never happen!” Spike snapped.
“It did,” Buffy said. “It did, earlier this autumn. A demon was pulling out my soul, and it was only my friends – my good friends who believed in being good – that stopped me from turning into a complete monster.”
“So? Why does that mean you couldn’t be with me?”
“Because you wouldn’t have done that. You wouldn’t have tried to stop me. This whole house of cards only stands because I’m determined to stay good. I can’t be sure I’ll always do that, even though I have a soul. Angel couldn’t.”
Spike grunted. “No. No, Buffy that’s... that’s not what I meant...” It was, actually, exactly what he had meant. But this wasn’t what he had meant to happen when she realized it.
“I know. But it’s true. When there was a spell between us, I could say that was why I loved you. Not because... you make something sing in me that I shouldn’t let take me over. Just like when Angel had a soul, I could tell myself... that the regret mattered. That the evil was something other than him. But the truth is... I still loved Angel even when he didn’t have a soul. That’s why it took me so long to kill him. People died because of that. And maybe... I still love you, even without the spell. But if I let myself be with you... it means I’m as bad as you are.” She looked up at him. “And I can’t live like that. It would kill me.”
She stepped away. She slipped from his benumbed hands, her heat and her light all fading away from him. “I’m so sorry, William.”
She went out and closed the door of Wesley’s office between them with a final, steady, click.
Spike wanted to be in a rage. He wanted to jump up and follow her in a fury of passion, and make her listen to him, make her love him, shake the sense into her head. But he was in shock.
A long moment later, Wesley cleared his throat.
“If you ask me how I feel about what just happened,” Spike said, “I’ll find some way to kill you where you stand.”
“I didn’t tell her to leave,” Wes said quietly.
“Didn’t you? Watcher?”
“No. That was all her.”
Spike finally looked at him. “Then what advice did you give her?”
“None,” Wes said. “That’s not my role, here. I’m here to ask questions, not make decisions for you.”
That was what he had been doing, Spike knew. Twice a week. Asking questions, giving possible solutions, and then letting them get on with it. “Then what was she here for?”
“She was mostly here asking about slayers, and the history of them.”
“What did you tell her?”
“The truth. She knew most of it anyway. Giles is... he tends to coddle her a bit, and she knows it. She just wanted me to confirm.”
“That there have been slayers who have gone rogue. More than just Faith. When they do... they are hard to contain.”
Spike closed his eyes. They would be.
“It is easier when they are younger,” Wes continued. “When they have not truly become adults, they are less likely....”
Spike knew what he meant. Young teenage girls who were not sexually active were very easy to order around. Young women in the first flush of their sexual awakening could be forces of nature, even without slayer strength. Older slayers were more dangerous. His second slayer was in her twenties, and she’d nearly killed him. His first... she was young. Powerful, but more predictable. Buffy blew them both out of the water. Given the sorts of predilections she had in the bedroom... yeah. Slayers could become cold blooded killers easily. If she did go rogue... she’d be more dangerous than he had ever been.
And it would eat her soul.
“So it wasn’t you? Who told her she couldn’t let herself embrace evil?”
“No,” Wesley said gently. “That was entirely her. She barely mentioned you, except to tell me what happened.”
Spike took a deep breath. He had only one more question. “Did she cry?”
Spike looked to Wes. “When she told you. Today. At any point. Did she cry?”
Wesley shook his head. “No.”
Spike swallowed. She’d taken his entire world away as she left. And she hadn’t shed a single tear.
Spike left Wes’s office, and immediately had to find a dark shadow somewhere. He didn’t want anyone to see how many he was shedding.
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