Buffy’s sleep had been dreamless and when she had awoken, it was much into the late morning, the bright California sun creeping into her room through the barely closed blinds. She felt as though she had been beaten with the Troll Hammer about seventy times and any movement she made set her stiff muscles ablaze. Buffy had to get to the bathroom; a shower would help. Actually, what would help would be that Slayer healing kicking in, but a shower wouldn’t hurt. She hoped.
The slayer slowly dragged herself out of bed, placing both feet on the floor and steadily getting up. She had never been this weak. Was it the demon mist? Why didn’t she feel any different? Correction; why didn’t she feel any different inside? She had some demon spirit or demon heart or whatever the hell it was, in her. Shouldn’t she be a little demonic? The contemplating gave Buffy a headache so she just focused on getting to a shower.
Emerging from her room, Buffy entered an empty upstairs hallway. No girls, which meant a free bathroom. With some perseverance, she managed to get undressed and get under the hot spray of the water, allowing its therapeutic warmth soothe her aching body. Only now did Buffy allow herself to continue her musing. Grabbing the bottle of shampoo, she squeezed a dollop onto her hands and massaged it into her scalp. If the demon spirit was what made the first Slayer, then it had to be what was passed down from one slayer to another. This meant that every slayer before her had been part demon, and that since the moment she had been called, Buffy was too.
Finished with the scrubbing, she rinsed her blond head. The essence that had taken over her should only then magnify her strength, right? Then why didn’t she feel any different? Buffy didn’t feel stronger or like she had this great power surging through her. All Buffy felt was just violated. Completely violated. She had begged them to stop and they still did that to her. She had felt like this once before and she never wanted to again, but here she was, in her bathroom, wondering what the hell they had actually done to her. The slayer realized as she looked around that she had somehow ended up sitting in the middle of the bathtub with her arms wrapped around her. Buffy was crying, sobbing and she hadn’t even noticed. ‘What’s wrong with me?’
Sipping his afternoon mug of microwaved pig’s blood, Spike lounged on his basement cot, content with the solace his new abode offered. It let him think without having twenty something teenage girls bugging him every other bleedin’ second. It was just too hectic for him, and since Buffy was resting, there wouldn’t be any slayerette training so he could keep to himself and enjoy the partial silence of…a washer and dryer?
“Must you do that now?” Spike asked, clearly annoyed.
“Well, yeah,” Dawn replied. “Clean clothes, up there on the Important Things To Do list. Bad enough we got a house full of girls; don’t need them all wearing sweaty clothes. Funky smells not so fun.” Stuffing the machine, she closed the lid and made her way to the vampire. Smiling, she scooted over next to him, her back flat against the wall.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Spike asked.
“What’s it look like? I’m sitting here,” she replied, grinning.
“I can see that. But why?”
“Cuz, I feel like it. Plus, Andrew’s starting to videotape everyone and it’s kinda creepy.”
Eyeing her, he shrugged. “Whatever. Just don’t start up with the yammering. Came down here for some peace and quiet.”
“Peace and quiet? What reality are you living in? You know there’s no such thing,” Dawn stated. Taping her fingers on her leg she searched for a conversation starter. “So, other than being antisocial, what d’you plan on doing today?” she asked, cheerily.
“Dunno. Smoke, sit, might go out and patrol when it gets dark,” he answered, unenthusiastically.
“Never said it was gonna be fun.”
Dawn shifted to Spike, studying his apathetic demeanor. Turning to look out at the empty space in front of her, she asked, “Why aren’t you waiting for Buffy to wake up?”
“Who says I’m not,” he replied, a little surprised at the shift in discussion.
“I do. You’re not pacing, or making snarky impatient remarks, or smoking fifty cigarettes one right after the other. You’re just here, wallowing.”
“I’m not wallowing!” he indignantly stated.
“Oh, please. If it’s not wallowing then it’s brooding. Either way, it’s not you,” she said, looking back at him.
“Damn right it’s not. I do not wallow and I sure as hell don’t brood.”
“Well, then tell me what you’re doing sitting here all unSpike like?”
“Just thinking, is all,” he admitted.
“About what?” she asked, her tone conveying utmost seriousness.
“Lil’ nosy today, aren’t we?” he joked without intending to.
“Hey, that’s what little sisters are for, right?” She said it so casually that Spike might have almost missed it. Almost. Did she think of him as her brother? Had she always felt that way, even the past year when things had gone so horribly wrong? Did she love him like she would a brother? He didn’t deserve her love, especially after how he had decimated their friendship. The total black and white shift in their relationship made him wonder if she had forgiven him. And if his Nibblet could forgive him, then maybe there was hope for him yet. His hand started to tremble and he tried to desperately keep it cool. He couldn’t loose face, even if it was with Dawn. She continued, oblivious to his inner struggle. “So spill.”
“Buffy,” he managed to say. Clearing his throat to wave away the emotions playing with his vocal chords, he tried again. “I was thinking about Buffy.”
Giving him a ‘no, duh!’ look, Dawn asked the obvious question. “What happened last night, you mean?”
Spike nodded. Deciding to take the first step, he told her. He could trust lil’ Bit. “She’s hidin’ something.”
Dawn stared at him for a good minute. He wasn’t sure if she was going to disagree, but he didn’t really care if she did. He knew he was right. But having Dawn on his side wouldn’t hurt. When she finally spoke, it wasn’t what Spike had expected. “I think you’re right. I had this feeling after she told us what happened, but it didn’t make sense. Sure, army of hell, but Buffy never gives up, or at least never admits it. Something else happened in that dimension.”
“Have to agree with you there, Bit. Didn’t say anything last night ‘cos didn’t think you an’ Red would believe me,” he admitted.
It was Dawn’s turn to shrug. “We might have but it doesn’t really matter now. We gotta find out what happened to her.”
“She isn’t gonna tell us. Not willingly anyway,” Spike commented, putting his finished cup of blood on the floor next to the cot.
“We’ll figure out a way. Maybe we should wait. She might just be a little shook up. Maybe she will come to us,” Dawn said.
“I hope you’re right,” Spike replied, unintentionally placing his hand on top of hers.
“Do you still love her?”
The question startled him. He hadn’t expected this little reunion with Dawn to be so expositional.
“Yeah, I still love her.”
His dead heart nearly burst out of his chest when he felt her warm hand curl. up and give him a reassuring squeeze.
Buffy made her way down the steps, feeling a little better after a shower and a good cry, but it still took her a while to get downstairs without loosing her balance and falling on her ass. There were a few girls in the living room, but from what she could see, she figured they were out in the backyard training. A little relieved, she made her way to the kitchen, where she could see Willow and Xander. She stopped near the doorway, listening to what they were saying, not wishing to interrupt.
“…I’m so stupid,” she heard Willow exclaim.
“Hey. There will be none of that. You did what you had to, Will. She knows you didn’t mean to hurt her, but you had to, to bring Buffy back,” Xander consoled.
“It’s just, what if she doesn’t want to be with me anymore now that she knows what I really am? What if it all ends before it even begins?” Willow asked, choking with emotion.
“It’ll work out. Kennedy will realize she can’t be without you and learn to forgive. If you’re meant to be, she’ll realize that beneath the sometimes scary witchy exterior, is a gorgeous woman whose only human and makes mistakes,” Xander told her, never more sure of himself.
“You were always good with the cheering up,” Willow sniffled.
“It’s the thing I do. That and fixing stuff.”
Buffy could hear her two best friends laughing and wished she could be that easily comforted. It was at that moment that she wished Spike were there, with his out of nowhere presence, nonchalant attempts at comedic relief and long silent pauses. Instead, she was standing in the kitchen doorway and he was most likely asleep in the basement, both of them alone.
“Buffy, you’re up!” Willow said, pulling Buffy out of her train of thought. “You should have stayed in bed. I was just about to go up and check on you.”
“It’s okay, Will. I’m fine. Just caffeine, please,” Buffy replied, sitting between the two, accepting the cup of java Xander handed her.
“Hungry?” Xander asked.
Buffy nodded which made Xander offer her some of his buttered toast. “Thanks,” she said, nibbling on the food, still unsure if the nausea from bizarro world had completely dissipated.
“Will told me what happened, Buff. So, an army of hell, eh? Don’t worry; we can take ‘em,” he declared, smiling as only Xander could smile at the most inappropriate times.
“There were just so many. We’re basically sitting ducks ‘til the First decides to open up the seal and unleash hundreds upon hundreds of ubervamps,” she said, wishing it weren’t true.
“So we prepare and research and plan. Full out Scooby tactics,” Willow babbled, needing to lessen the burden on her best friend.
“I’ll even go on a donut run,” Xander offered.
“Promise? Jelly-filled, too?” Buffy managed to smile.
Looking down at her watch, Buffy couldn’t believe it was already noon. Oh crap! Her job. “Please tell me its Saturday,” she groaned.
“Okay, it’s Saturday,” Xander replied.
“Yeah. And if it weren’t, Principal Wood would totally understand. Easy day off,” Xander reassured as Buffy let out the breath she’d been holding.
“Buffy are you okay? I mean, wonky portal and shadowmen encounters aside, you really freaked us out last night. You kinda went all Linda Blair,” Willow told her, concerned.
“You mean with projectile vomit and three-sixty head spins?” Buffy inquired, getting a slightly freaked.
“Uhh, no. More like uncontrollable thrashing,” Willow explained. “It was like you were having a seizure. I had no idea how to help you and before I could even suggest anything, you stopped.”
“And then I woke up, right?” Buffy asked, receiving a nod from Willow.
“Do you remember any of it, Buffy?” Xander asked.
“No. Last thing I remember was blacking out in the other dimension. That and the not so reassuring vision of the First’s army.”
“So what do we do now?” Xander asked.
“You can keep an eye on the training; I don’t want Kennedy to get carried away. And Will, I know were running low on food, could you…”
“Grocery shopping, no problem. I’ll go over the list before I head out.”
“Thanks,” Buffy said as she stood up.
“What about you Bufffster? What’s on the day’s agenda?”
“Gotta check up on Dawn. After that, I’ll join you and supervise the girls.” And with a smile, Buffy made her way out of the kitchen and into the foyer. ‘Where the hell was Dawn, anyway?’
“Better get upstairs, ducks. Big sis is probably up and most likely lookin’ for you,” Spike stated, motioning for Dawn to head back upstairs.
But before Dawn could even lift her butt off the cot, she heard her sister head down the basement steps. She was happy she was awake, but as she watched Buffy descend, Dawn spotted the flinches and the knotted brow. Her sister was in obvious pain, but was too stubborn to stay in bed. It made her feel a little relieved; she was still the same old Buffy, in that respect anyway.
“Buffy, you’re awake!” Dawn called out.
“The way you all talk around here, someone would think I had some sort of sleeping disorder,” she commented sarcastically, coming to stand before her sister and ex-lover.
“Well, it’s not completely untrue,” Dawn retorted, smiling. Her face was starting to hurt from all the happies going on today, but she didn’t really care.
“Ha, ha, ha,” Buffy faux laughed, offering her own smile in response to Dawn’s.
All the while, through the sisterly banter, Spike sat unmoved, scrutinizing Buffy’s every appearance, every action, in the attempt to catch something, a clue or anything that might indicate that she was keeping something from them. He tried to not appear blatant in his scrutiny but she caught him. He quickly said something, “Feeling alright, pet?”
“Yeah. Willow told me I was all Exorcist girl before I woke up last night. Probably explains why my muscles were all achy this morning,” she replied, needing them to believe she was fine. Deciding she wanted to talk about anything else, she eyed the two of them comfortably sitting on the cot. “And when did you two form the Basement Club?”
“We were just hanging out. Geesh, Buffy,” Dawn exasperated, smiling at Spike as she slinked off the bed and headed to the stairs. “See ya later, Spike?”
“Sure thing, Nibblet.”
Buffy stood and watched the spectacle, her eyes narrowing in suspicion as her head went from Dawn to Spike and back to Dawn. Turning on her heel, she followed Dawn up the steps, wondering what had transpired between her little sister and her once vampire lover so that they were now again on friendly terms. She couldn’t help but wish that her relationship with Spike was that easily fixable.
Smack. The fledgling went sprawling to the ground, never knowing what hit him. Suddenly, someone pounced on him, fists pounding his face, making it impossible to get up. “First, she doesn’t love me,” Spike growled, punching the newly risen vamp in the gut. “Then, she starts shagging me; usin’ me,” he continued, roughly picking the vamp up by the lapels of the suit he’d been buried in. “Couldn’t love me ‘cos I was lacking in the soul department,” he stated, tossing his victim into a nearby tombstone. “Go out and get my bleedin’ soul back, go bug shaggin’ crazy and for what? For her to call me a bloody poofter in front of everyone!” he exasperated, throwing his arms up in the air.
The vampire he had been pummeling groaned as he slowly rose to his feet, wobbling around as he tried to get his bearings. “Dude, who are you talking to?” he asked, his hand holding his head and he staggered toward Spike.
“Nobody,” Spike answered as he backhanded the vamp, the blow making him fly back into the crumbling tombstone. “So then, I do what she wants. Get all bad ass again; kill the fucking demon and does she even notice? Do I get a little recognition? Did I even get a fucking hello this morning? NO!” Spike screamed as he rammed the stake in his hands into the vamp’s chest, the dust coating his boots.
Letting out a depressed sigh, Spike trudged along the cemetery, continuing his patrol. That had been his seventh vamp that night. He hadn’t told Buffy he was going out. He should have since the First still technically had its hold on him, but he couldn’t bring himself to actually face her. He knew if he had, he would have said something that he’d immediately regret. So he decided to go out alone, let out some steam and then head back and face the music. Lord knows that the moment she’d ask something of him, he’d do it. Glutton for punishment, love’s bitch after all.
Figuring the night’s hunt was most likely finished, he turned around, ready to go back to Casa Summers. Spinning on his heal, he knocked right into Buffy.
“Bloody hell! Where’d you come from?” he asked angrily.
“Whatever happened to heightened vampire senses? I could have staked you and you’d have been none the wiser,” she scolded, her arms crossed over her chest.
“Was distracted is all,” he answered, starting on his way back to the house with Buffy keeping pace by his side.
“Distracted with what? Watching vampire dust in the wind?”
“I was thinking. I know it’s hard for you to imagine, but I do reflect upon things on occasion,” he stated, clearly upset at the tone she was using with him.
“Sure, in a school basement, not in the middle of a cemetery where you could get killed!” she retorted, her arms flying in exaggerated gestures.
“Fine! I’m sorry for getting you all riled up with my almost possibly getting killed. Happy?” he asked.
“No,” she grumbled.
“Why am I not surprised?” Spike mumbled as he quickened his step.
“Why did you leave without telling anyone, you know…?” Buffy started, but was cut off by a growling Spike.
“I know the trigger’s still active, alright? My bloody conscious won’t let me forget it. But I was willing to risk it; needed to get the hell out of that house.”
He peered over at Buffy who appeared somewhat saddened. A long pause passed between them, only the sound of Buffy’s heeled boots echoed through the silence around them. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“Wha?” Spike barely verbalized, coming to a complete halt.
Buffy looked up into his flabbergasted face. “I’m sorry. About what I said yesterday. Chloe died and I felt so helpless and the First was taking advantage of the fact that nobody’s meeting up to their full potential, so I kinda exploded.”
“Noticed, pet. Didn’t hold much back, did ya?”
“Trying to apologize here. What part of ‘I’m sorry’ are you having difficulty with? I said those things yesterday without really thinking about what was coming out of my mouth,” she said, motioning for them to continue on their way home.
Spike followed, head slightly bowed. “But you still meant it.”
“Yeah I did. But it doesn’t mean I was right,” she commented as the approached Revello. “It doesn’t mean you were wrong either.”
“How so?” Spike asked, giving her one of his infamous head tilts.
“It was what I wanted. The soul. But I don’t know if that’s what we need right now,” she answered, the hem of her jacket becoming suddenly very interesting.
“Guess that’s just too bad, luv. It’s not going anywhere,” he declared, realizing they had finally arrived.
“I know. That’s why it wasn’t fair for me to ask from you what you couldn’t give. And I’m sorry.”
Spike didn’t say anything; he just stood there, his glance fixed on her face as a wave of emotions coursed through him. He wasn’t sure what the apology signified. It was a rare occurrence when Buffy admitted she was wrong; especially with him never being on the receiving end of those few admissions of guilt.
“So we’re okay right?” Buffy asked, still fiddling with her jacket. When Spike didn’t respond, she started to worry. “Spike? We’re cool right?” she pressed, the hint of fear affecting her voice.
With his gaze still locked on her face, he shook his head. “No, luv. We’re not okay.”
“What? Why? I said I was sorry about yesterday.”
“’S not ‘bout what you said. ’S what you’re not sayin’ is what’s makin’ us not okay, Slayer,” he said. He knew it could blow up in his face, but maybe if he could get her to consider telling him what was wrong, she might actually do it.
“What the hell are you talking about? What is it that you think I’m not telling you?” Buffy vehemently demanded, hoping he wouldn’t notice that the fear she had managed to push all the way down inside of her was now working its way back up.
“You bloody well know what I’m talkin’ about.” It was all he said in response. He wouldn’t prod any further because it would most likely make her close up. What he hadn’t expected was to see Buffy suddenly crumple, collapsing to ground, sobbing. He instinctively sunk down next to her. “Buffy, luv, what is it?”
She didn’t reply, she just continued to give out these gut-wrenching sobs that burned right into him. Spike had never seen her so broken and vulnerable, it made her seem so human. Nervously, he reached out a hand and placed it gently on her shoulder, expecting the physical contact to somehow pull her out of her hysteria. She flinched and shook her head erratically, scooting away from him as she hugged her arms around herself. The rejection hurt a bit, but he was used to it. Why would his attempt to comfort her be any different?
Her crying suddenly ceased and she began to stammer, her vacant eyes fixed on the ground in front of her. “I thought I was fine. That nothing really happened and it had all been some wacko hallucination. But I don’t feel right. They did something to me Spike; I’m not Buffy.”
Panic took hold of Spike. “’S not a relapse, is it? ‘Cos there’s nothing wrong with you, luv. The spell Red did, it didn’t change you.”
Buffy hysterically shook her head at his words. “It’s not about me coming back wrong. It happened last night, when I met with the shadow men,” she explained, hiccups occasionally cutting her off.
“What did they do, luv?” he asked, inching his way closer to her now that she was calming down.
Her eyes slowly glided up to his face, the emotionless stare she sent him caused him to shudder uncontrollably. “They…they…” she paused, her eyes brimming once again with tears. “They put a demon in me.”
Spike looked at her confused. “I don’t follow, pet. How could they put a demon in you? You’re alive and from what I can tell,” he took a quick sniff, “still human.”
At Spike’s statement, Buffy appeared to relax a little. “I still smell human.”
“Same scent,” he reassured.
“It was demon spirit or demon essence that got sucked into me. They said it was how they made the first Slayer,” she explained, her breathing easing into a steady rhythm.
“So what you’re sayin’ is that you got a bit of demon in you? More than you had before, anyway,” Spike inquired.
“Yeah,” Buffy confirmed. She let out a noise that was between a laugh and a whimper. “Guess you we’re right after all. I am a creature of the darkness.”
Suddenly, she felt Spike grab her upper arms, twisting her to face him. “Don’t ever say that,” he firmly told her, his fierce blue eyes aching with remorse for the fact that he had once said those same words to her. “I was a bleedin’ fool. You deserve to be in the light, luv; not in the shadows with me.”
“You don’t understand. The fact that the Slayer was made with demon essence means I haven’t been human since I was chosen. How can I possibly kill them now knowing what I am?” she asked, her voice hoarse with emotion.
“I do it all the time, pet,” he mentioned, receiving a contemplative look from Buffy. “Demon might be in me, but it doesn’t define me; like it doesn’t define you. You’ve had this demon mojo in you for all this time and it never changed who you really were inside. If anything, it made you more human, luv,” Spike stated, easing his grip on her.
“How’s that?” she snorted through her sobs; not the least bit convinced by the statement.
“You save the world. Not many people can even aspire to such a thing. You made the ultimate sacrifice for mankind and you’d do it again if you had to. Buffy, you are the bravest and most selfless person I know. Demon quality super powers might have started it, but it was you, luv, who kept yourself in it. In the face of adversity, you triumph again and again. Not ‘cos of the sodding demon voodoo, or Slayer obligation but because of your heart,” Spike whispered, believing every word his inner William was spouting.
“You make me sound like some sort of saint,” Buffy chuckled sadly as Spike let go of her.
“Not a saint. Just a woman who makes mistakes but who never stops trying in spite of ‘em,” Spike retorted, offering her a warm smile.
“Spike, the demon mist should have had done something to me, but all I feel is messed up in here,” she told him, clutching at her chest.
“Buffy, maybe you just haven’t tested it out yet. But that doesn’t matter anyway. Look, this thing that they did to you, it doesn’t make you any less of a person than you were before. If anything, this could help you against the First.”
Buffy watched as he stood up and eyed the hand that he offered her. Taking it, she was lifted to her feet, her face mere inches away from his. Smiling, he bashfully took a step back and nodded. “Better get inside, luv. Tomorrow’s another day.”
Spike started toward the front entrance, expecting her to follow. When he didn’t sense her behind him, he stopped and turned back only to find her standing in the middle of her front yard. His brow knotted in confusion as she remained perfectly still. “Pet?”
“We okay, Spike?” The question was so low; he barely heard it even with his vampire hearing. She seemed so open, so exposed that whatever he said could strike her down. Giving his trademark smirk, he replied, “Of course.” And with that, Buffy moved past him and entered the house with Spike not too far behind.
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