A/N:After so long a delay (so terribly sorry! Between RL and the previous computer issues this one just stalled. I vow not to do that to you again gentle readers!) Hope I haven't lost you on these lasts bits of the tale. There are another couple of chapters (estimate) left and they will be forthcoming in a timely way, I swear!
Since it has been so long, here's a quick reminder of the events in the previous chapter. Spike's chipless state was revealed along with the fate of Ben/Glory and much discussion took place about Spike's fate.
Spike detoured to Willie’s for a bottle of comfort on his way to the crypt. He was fairly certain that none of the Scoobies would be by immediately to stake him. His mother’s presence alone would slow that decision.
There would, however, be a price to pay and he had known that going into the situation. He was the only one able to take out Glory before she did any further damage, but it was unlikely that gratitude alone would outweigh years of mistrust and fear.
He knew the sensible choice would be to take the short space of time he had and get out of Sunnydale quickly, never to return. Still, everyone he had ever loved was here in this hell hole. Buffy and Dawn had been enough to hold him before, but now his mother was a resident as well. He couldn’t see dragging that good lady from pillar to post. Likely her consumption would only return and he would have to watch the life drain from her once again.
No, his mother had found friendship among his enemies and was getting a foothold to good health. What did a life on the run with him have to offer her? She was a human meant for human company, not that of a demon, a monster. Sooner or later, even his mother would turn from him; that was how it always was for him. Better to leave her in good company and move on without her.
But what sort of unlife would it be without love of any kind? Dru was his past. Buffy was his heart. As long as the Slayer lived, he could not love another. He was damned before dusting because of it, being love’s bitch. He could no more leave than change who he was.
No matter what he chose to do he was buggered. The only choice he really had was to wait and see how it all played out. Waiting was not his strong suit, but at least he would have the company of Mr. Daniels and Mr. Walker while he awaited his lady’s pleasure. He had a feeling her pleasure would be delivered in the form of a sharp wooden object.
“That’s it?” Xander sputtered, “You’re just going to let the evil bloodsucker walk out of here?”
Buffy was still staring at the door that had closed after Spike’s abrupt exit.
“I do think Anne is correct in her suggestion that we all sleep on things before making any determinations,” Giles said tiredly. He looked at his Slayer with concern. Judging by the look on Buffy’s face, it was not a foregone conclusion about the disposition of the now chipless vampire in their midst. “Spike made many valid points that need pondering, amongst other things.”
“So we take him at his word that he’s not going out there and making up for lost time at the all-night diner we call Sunnydale after dark?” Xander found it hard to work up the indignation he should have, but the words tumbled out on automatic anyway. He found it even harder to look in the direction of Anne Pratt.
The lady in question sighed. “I had thought you were going to use that head of yours for more than a hat rack in the future. You disappoint me.”
Xander looked at the woman who had been more motherly to him in a few days than his own mother had been in his entire life and sadly pointed out, “You don’t understand. Spike has no soul. Even if he wanted to not be the monster that he is, he can’t help himself.”
Anya looked at the gathered humans and shook her head in amazement. It was all playing out just as Dawn had feared in their conversation earlier. “Soul schmoul! You people amaze me with what you don’t know and what you assume.”
She looked at Giles and asked, “Where did you get all your information about Spike anyway? From watching?”
“There were books,” Giles replied quickly. “The Council keeps records on the more notorious demons.”
Willow chimed in, “Yeah, I remember that book. It said Spike was about two hundred years old and that Dru was dead.”
Xander went back to the same old argument, “Okay, flawed, but demons still have no soul, no moral code.”
Anya flared at that. “What, and humans do? You’re standing there and telling me that all humans are good? Buster, I had a thousand years of dealing with humans who were anything BUT good. And this whole moral code thing…what makes you think that just because it might be a different set of rules that demons don’t have them?”
“Really, Anya, you cannot compare some demon codes of honor with a human conscience. Human beings have certain standards agreed upon centuries ago,” Giles began, only to have Anya cut him off.
“You do not!” Anya was indignant now. “You can’t even decide on a common belief among your own different religions! How many places are women nothing but chattel still? How many cultures see nothing wrong with cooking up Fluffy for dinner? How many religions would want to stone Willow and Tara to death for loving each other?”
“We don’t kill and eat each other,” Xander insisted.
“Jeffrey Dahmer!” exclaimed Dawn.
“Yeah, but he was nuts,” Xander countered.
“Humans kill to eat; just because it isn’t usually other people doesn’t change that,” Anya reasoned. “Besides, canabilism still exists in some places among humans and not just wackos like Dahmer do it. Maybe you buy your meat at the local grocery, but someone did the killing to feed your need.”
“Spike’s been eating pigs’ blood from the butcher,” Dawn pointed out.
“See," Anya nodded, "he’s been eating unnaturally, to his detriment, just to please you people.”.
“Yes, well, that has kept him from being dusted thus far.” Giles set his lips firmly on that point. “Were he to indulge in a normal vampire diet there would be no point in this discussion at all.”
“What do you mean ‘detriment’?” Dawn asked cautiously.
“Well, a vampire needs human blood to be at his peak efficiency. It’s their natural food goup,” Anya explained. “Haven’t you people noticed that Spike and Angel are slowly showing a bit of aging?”
Blank stares greeted that bit of information, and then Giles’ inner Watcher came forth and he reached for pencil and paper to take notes. “Are you saying that human blood is why a vampire does not age?”
Anya huffed a bit, then preened at being the only one with information on the subject. “Of course! Just as a human’s health suffers for a poor diet, so does a vampire’s. Oh, they won’t get old for a long, long time on an all-animal diet, but they will age a bit. It takes longer to heal without human blood too.”
“That can’t be,” Xander insisted, “Angel’s had that soul for a century and he doesn’t look that old!”
“What makes you think Angel only eats pigs’ blood?” Dawn put her hand on her hips and looked at Xander challengingly. “I remember him ordering O neg from Willie’s all the time when he and Buffy were dating and I don’t think animals have that type of blood.”
Dawn turned to where her sister had been sitting for confirmation only to note that at some point Buffy had left the room.
“Hey, where’d Buffy go?”
Spike could feel her before he opened the crypt door.
The chamber was dark. Buffy hadn’t seen fit to light the candles he had available, but his enhanced senses knew where she sat.
“So at least plan a goodbye before you use that,” Spike indicated the stake she had in her lap.
“I’m hoping you can convince me you meant what you said back home so I won’t have to use this,” Buffy replied honestly. “Where were you?”
“Not out huntin’, if that’s what your mind’s been imaginin’,” Spike snorted in disgust. “Told you a million times I’m off the human for good. I’ve turned myself inside out for you, tryin’ to be the sort of man you could love. I know what I am disgusts you. If you think I’d add to the body count now, you’re crazy.” He looked at her with every emotion laid open for her to see. “This chip was done to me. And I hated it, hated being vulnerable to every soddin’ human who might want a piece of me. Still, it let me get close to you, so I can’t wish I never had the bloody thing.”
“I wish it were that simple,” Buffy sighed. “I trusted Angel, and in the end I still had to send him to hell on the point of my sword.”
“’M not Angel.” Spike nearly whispered. “Not going to do anything that’ll put you in that position again. Was there, wasn’t I? Saw what it did to you.”
“I don’t know if I can do it, Spike. To go each day on trust that you won’t slip up. I don’t know if I have it in me to trust that much, or the energy to keep watching you to be sure.” Buffy’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “But I don’t know if I can stake you either.”
They sat in silence for a while, neither knowing what they could say or do to take the burden off the other.
“Thought of packin’ up and leavin’ so you wouldn’t have to do either,” Spike began.
“NO!” Buffy’s eyes widened with the fear of being left yet again. She seemed to realize how much she was exposing with that exclamation and rushed to add, “No, you can’t leave. Your mom’s here now and she’d be lost without you.”
“That the only reason I shouldn’t go, pet?” Spike ventured.
Buffy was quiet as the grave she sat in as she wrestled with her emotions. “Spike, you asked for crumbs and I think I have a whole cake here and it scares me. This would be hard enough with the chip, but now….”
“For even one crumb, I’d let the soddin’ butchers put another chip in to replace the one Glory dug out,” Spike offered spontaneously. His expressive face clearly showed his willingness to back up those words with actions if she but said the word.
Buffy felt the sincerity of his offer and knew in that moment that he had meant every word he had said in her mother’s living room earlier.
Suddenly she knew, to the depths of her soul, that she could trust him to not go back to killing.
She smiled. She stood. She laid the stake on the chair and walked away from it.
Spike watched, not certain of her intent but hopeful since she was approaching unarmed.
When Buffy got close enough to be toe to toe with the vampire, she reached out a hand and gently cupped his face. “I’d never ask that of you, Spike. I only ask that you always remember your promise and give me no reason to lose the trust I’m about to place in you.” She sealed her decision with a soft kiss.
He raised a tentative hand and threaded his fingers through her hair, finally drawing her closer and deepening the unexpected kiss as her lips parted beneath his. He poured all his love into that kiss and sensed his spirit leap to realize she was there with him, he felt it. There was no going back after this.
Both were breathless with the passion they had but touched upon. Spike was the one to draw back first. The budding was too fresh, too fragile to trample in haste. He held her in a lover’s embrace and breathed in the scent of her hair, listening as her heart pounded hard and wild.
Buffy was in a daze. The kiss touched her more than any kiss she had previously experienced with anyone else. There was no doubting Spike’s love now and no more denying her own heart’s involvement. She might not be ready to declare undying love but she was well on her way and for once that thought didn’t scare her one bit.
“So I’m thinkin’ this is not what your nearest and dearest expected you to do when you left to find me.”
Buffy giggled, “Not what I expected either. I’ll need to work on the gang a bit, remind them how you just saved us all from Glory and how you haven’t even bitten Xander since you got all chip-free. Somehow they’ll come around. I’m sure your mom will help me out with that.”
Spike no longer feared the mighty Scoobies; he could defend himself against them easily now, even without doing major damage. He was, however, a bit terrified by what the kiss had meant. He wasn’t used to holding out much hope when it came to his love being requited. Hope made one soar. If she backed down now the crash would likely destroy him. Still he couldn’t stop himself from asking.
“What about what just happened here, love?” Half of him was already berating himself for even asking. It would be just like Buffy to bolt and run.
“I really don’t know.” Buffy surprised them both by snuggling closer. “I had some advice recently that was pretty good. She said I should forgive and take a chance. She reminded me that I have to judge everyone for themselves and be merciful. Maybe if you’re patient with me, I’ll get there.”
“Would wait an eternity for you, Buffy,” Spike sighed into her hair. “Never been a patient man, but for you I’ll learn.” It was enough, it had to be enough … for now.
“Guess we’re good then, huh?” Buffy smiled. “Take it a step at a time and see where we go?”
“Can do that. ‘Spect the journey’ll be half the fun. Long as you’re there too, I think we can make it.”
“I can be a bitch,” Buffy warned.
“Know that already, don’t I?” Spike snorted with laughter.
Buffy swatted him on the arm in mock irritation. “Yeah, and you’re Mr. Perfect all the time! I’ve never met anyone more annoying. Just who thought chaining a girl up was the perfect way to declare his feelings?”
“Guilty,” Spike admitted sheepishly. “Never claimed to be perfect, but I do vow to love you perfectly, Buffy, if you’ll let me.”
“I think I can live with that,” she happily replied.
This time Spike initiated the kiss and it put the first one to shame.
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