Spike the Cryptic Guy
Buffy cocked her head at him. “Your fault? Is this one of those times where you’re being all noble and blaming yourself?”
“No,” he watched as his toes jumped up and down erratically. “This is one of those times where it was my fault. The exchange.”
She folded her arms. “The exchange. What was the exchange?”
“You for a demon.”
“You didn’t find the demon?”
“No, I found it.”
Buffy sighed. “Spike, stop being so cryptic. What happened? Why was it your fault?”
He blew out a long unnecessary breath and stood up, face serious. And it suddenly seemed absurd to her that they were about to have a conversation about this when he was dressed only in a couple of towels. Spike seemed to notice her gaze because he folded his arms over his chest and lifted his chin.
“I killed it. The demon,” he said softly. “And that’s why you couldn’t get back. It invalidated the exchange. In fact…we thought that it meant…that because I’d killed the demon…we thought it meant I’d killed you too.”
Buffy’s balance wavered for a moment before she righted herself. She didn’t know what to do, what to feel. She went through the emotions – anger, upset, confusion…but she settled on something else. She settled on sympathy. Not for herself. But for Spike. For what he must have put himself through. For what her friends no doubt put him through. To have thought his actions had ended her life – his earlier comments about trying to off himself became even more clear now, and his upset when he thought she was the First.
Spike turned away, pale back rippling. “I was stupid. I was reckless. And it cost you everything.”
“I understand if you want to go,” he said flatly, still not looking at her. “I won’t tell the Council.”
Buffy took a step toward him but stopped. “I don’t want to go and I don’t blame you. You weren’t stupid. Tell me, Spike, if you hadn’t killed that demon would it have killed you?”
“Not the point.”
“It is the point,” she replied. “It’s the whole point. First rule of slaying – don’t die. You didn’t die.”
Spike whirled around to her, throwing his arms up. “But you did! I mean, you could’ve have. And you lost thirty years because of me!”
She shook her head. “Not because of you. Because of them. The Shadowmen and their games. They took those years from me. Not you. You tried to get me back. I could never blame you.”
“Dawn, Giles…both gone and you never got to say goodbye. That’s my fault. I should’ve been more cautious. I should’ve –”
Buffy held a hand up. “As I recall, the last conversation we had before I jumped into that portal, I told you –”
“’You keep holding back, you might as well walk out that door’,” Spike interrupted. “I remember. Played it over in my head a thousand times. A thousand thousand.”
“I told you to act. And you did.”
Spike looked away. “I don’t think Giles ever forgave me. Not sure any of them did. I sure as hell didn’t.”
Buffy took another step towards him. “Spike…I’ve missed thirty years, and that’s still sinking in with me. I’ve lost Giles. I’ve lost Dawn. And I don’t think that will ever sink in. But one thing I am sure of? I’m glad you’re here. You’ll never know how happy I was to see your face in that cell.”
“And you’ll never know how happy I was to see yours,” he countered, eyes searching hers.
Buffy smiled slowly and though he didn’t return the smile Spike seemed visibly relieved. As though a giant weight had been taken from his shoulders. She was sure he still blamed himself in part and that he always would no matter what she said. Hearing her say she didn’t hold him responsible meant a great deal to him, though.
Buffy wanted to hug him but she couldn’t. She didn’t know if it was okay. They’d hugged once but twice? That might be going into territory she wasn’t sure either of them could deal with. All through the past year – or her past year, anyway – she’d come to him for counsel, for guidance…but they hadn’t been physically close for some time. And now with Spike’s wife and his daughter things had become infinitely more complicated. She didn’t know where the boundaries were anymore.
Were they friends who touched? Who hugged? Were they just exes? That seemed too distant. Too cold. She wanted to be his friend. But there was something else there, even now. Even after it had been thirty years for him Buffy could swear he still looked at her with the same glimmer, albeit fainter.
“One thing doesn’t make sense to me,” Buffy frowned. “Why thirty years? Why keep me there for thirty years?”
Spike shrugged with one shoulder. “That’s something I’ve been wondering too. Probably the only way to find out would be to ask the ‘Shadowmen’…did you say? What was in that portal?”
“Just three scared guys. Kind of an anti-climax, actually. They tried to force feed me demon goo. I think it’s needless to say I won’t be going back there to question their methods.” She walked over and sat down on the bed before realising that maybe it would be impolite to do so, and stood up again.
Spike used the towel that was draped around his shoulders to dry his hair, fluffing it up amusingly in the process. “Demon goo?”
“Essence of a demon or whatever,” Buffy shrugged. “I was a bit busy trying to get out of the chains and screaming to take much note of the details.”
Spike shuddered. “Chained? Just like…”
“The First Slayer. They created her. I guess they were the First Watchers.”
He poked the corner of the towel into one of his ears, trying to get out any remaining water. “Sounds like. I’d ask if they told you anything useful, but I guess it’s a bit late for that anyway.”
“The First still exists, though, right? I mean you thought I was…”
“Right. Yeah, it’s still around. Haven’t seen one of its manifestations for a while but every now and then it’ll crop up and try and taunt one of us lot. Bit pre-school, now that I think about it. But in a really evil way.”
Buffy smiled briefly but soon turned serious. “But, I mean, you guys must’ve won? I still see a world. You stopped the apocalypse?”
“Barely,” he murmured. “With a little help turning up at the last moment.”
“We lost some people that day,” he said, skilfully avoiding her question.
A sense of foreboding dread filled her. “Who?”
“Some of the Potentials, Wood was touch and go for a while too but he made it,” Spike looked at her solemnly. “Anya didn’t.”
Buffy sat back down on the bed then, no longer caring if it was impolite. “God. I didn’t…I mean, we weren’t that close…not as close as we should’ve been but…”
Spike just nodded. Buffy hurt. She sat in silence for a few minutes. There had been too much loss. Though Anya hadn’t been one of her closest friends she still considered her a friend. And she couldn’t even begin to imagine what Xander had gone through. Just as it occurred to her to ask about him Spike spoke again.
“I was dead for a while too,” he told her, then paused. “Deader.”
Buffy looked up at him, alarmed. “You died? You died died?”
“Burnt to a cinder. Painful, that.”
She stood and her legs wobbled a bit. “Then…I…how are you…?”
“Got brought back,” Spike rolled his eyes as if it were all so commonplace. “Happens to us all at some time, it seems.”
“Christ, no,” he walked over to his dresser pulling some clothes out. “She’d have no reason to bring me back. In fact I wager they were all glad I’d buggered off. No, I was brought back from the dead by a Texan urban cowboy.”
Buffy frowned. “O-kay.”
“The story lacks some punch, I’ll admit.”
“I get the feeling there’s more to it.”
“Isn’t there always?”
She tilted her head and regarded him. “And I guess from that reply you aren’t going to tell me?”
“All in good time,” Spike turned back to her, holding a pile of clothing. “But I tend to think you need to know about the big things first.”
“These aren’t the big things? You dying isn’t a big thing?”
“Not in the grand scheme of it all,” his eyebrows raised. “The whole world is a very different place, and you’re up for first degree murder. That takes priority for me.”
Buffy took a breath and nodded. “I guess knowing how vampires are now up there with humans would be good.”
“It’s a long story.”
“I thought it might be.” She started towards the door. “I’ll be in the living room.”
Spike dropped the clothes down onto the bed. “And I’ll put some clothes on and then we’ll start.”
“Funny, you used to say the exact same thing thirty years ago. Except back then it was ‘I’ll take some clothes off…” Buffy mused as she walked out of the room.
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