It isn’t just the evil thing. The vampire thing actually makes it easier to understand, easier to work it all out in her head. Riley thought that’s what it was, anyway: his adventures with vamp suck-jobs made it more than clear that he thought that the reason she wasn’t giving him what he needed was because she was so into vamps. At the time, she’d burned with fury over just how not-true she thought that was (“A vampire got me hot. One. But he is gone.”)—when she wasn’t burning with shame over how she’d failed yet again and how the men in her life seemed to leave her behind no matter how hard she tried.
Now, though, she clings to the idea. Wicked energy. That’s what she’s attracted to. Just torn out of heaven, she’s longing for death again, and it’s clear enough where she can find it. Vampires: Angel, Dracula, Spike. Maybe there’s even something Slayer-y that causes it or maybe it really is that she came back wrong, maybe even the first time she died. Either way, that explanation is easy to wrap her mind around, and it’s the one she’s settled on.
Sometimes, though, like now, late at night and lying naked and covered in love-bites (oh God) in a crypt, the thought plagues her that it isn’t a good explanation. That there isn’t a good explanation for Spike. Because nothing about him makes sense.
It has to be the vampire thing, she tells herself. It has to be a death wish, or the fact that he’s here and convenient, or maybe the fact that he’s still here when all the other men who claim to love her leave or something. Because she refuses to believe that it could possibly just be Spike.
He’s not attractive. She has to remind herself of that, now, though it didn’t even occur to her for years that he might be. She knows what she likes when it comes to guys, what turns her on, and it’s height and bulk and muscles and the kind of features that Angel had, and Riley. She likes men who exude that kind of football-playing All-American manliness, stoic and competent. They had made her feel tiny and delicate, and she had liked the size of them—she’d even liked Riley’s heat, the smell of him, musky and so different than the scents that filled up her house full of women.
Spike is nothing like that. He’s short, for one thing, and way skinnier under the folds of his duster than she’s ever found herself drawn to. His face is a little too pretty and narrow, and that stupid hair doesn’t help anything. She’s pretty sure she’s seen him wearing eyeliner before, which—yuck. And the ugliest jewelry she’s ever seen, which is just weird. And he wears nail polish, for God’s sake. She remembers storming into his crypt more than once and finding him applying it, and that just seemed wrong to her. As much as she might enjoy her little routines of makeup and choosing outfits and such, it just seemed wrong when it was a guy who did it. What the hell was he thinking? He probably paid more attention to his looks than most women, and what was up with that? That alone had been enough to keep her from ever finding him hot.
And it isn’t just the way he looks, though that’s enough in itself. It’s just who he is that doesn’t fit her idea of what’s sexy in a man at all. Angel’s mysteriousness, the way he popped into her life and disappeared, doling out helpful information in tiny doses and then disappearing—she had claimed to find it annoying at the time, but she knows it reeled her in. She had been really young, and he had been everything she’d imagined she could want in a guy. Tall, Dark, Handsome, the Stranger who popped into her life for the kissing and the heart-wrenching confessions (mostly on her part, and that was okay) and then disappeared again while she dealt with life. That had been too much with the drama-filled, maybe, probably it never would have worked out for good. But she’d thought she’d traded up with Riley, at least in theory; he may not have been able to make her cry like Angel, but that was a good thing, wasn’t it? He came along and seemed like the perfect boyfriend—the physical type she liked without the accompanying coldness and blood addiction, and while he was competent and manly in the right ways, he didn’t do the whole mysterious thing—he was straightforward and forthright and all those things that former Boy Scouts were supposed to be without ever being too honest or open. And yeah, that hadn’t worked, and she still doesn’t like to think about how she ran him off—the thought plagues her at night that maybe she wasn’t woman enough for him. Not needy and fragile and totally invested in their relationship above all other things. Dawn says that it’s because he wanted her to be as crazy over him as she was over Angel, but that doesn’t make sense, because she can see now that that craziness wasn’t healthy, and besides, Dawn is fifteen and not at all the person she should be listening to when it comes to her love life.
Anyway, the point is, she totally gets Angel and Riley and who they were. They made sense to her, unlike Spike, who continually baffles her. He just feels too much, and it’s all there on the surface, in his expressions, in his eyes. There’s something so hungry and eager and earnest in him, and it repulses her even as, now that she’s come back to life, she can’t help being drawn to it. It’s too much, too open, and she wants to scream at him not to do that, not to give so much away, but acknowledging it would just make it worse and so her fist finds its way to his nose again and again. It kind of terrifies her, honestly, and she doesn’t know what to do with that level of vulnerability from a guy. The fact that he keeps putting all his feelings out there means that she has to deal with them, has to acknowledge them, and she is just not down with that at all.
And he talks and he talks and he talks, and God, that is so annoying. He wants to talk about what she’s feeling and how they relate to each other and what they are, and aren’t guys supposed to be the ones who hate talking about that stuff? Aren’t they supposed to be the ones who are afraid of commitment? Spike, in his stubborn, stupid way personifies commitment, and she finds that she’s the one who finds it terrifying.
What it comes down to is that guys are not supposed to act like that. And she isn’t supposed to want guys who act like that.
She didn’t, at first. It didn’t even occur to her to think about whether he was hot or not. That’s pretty standard—even when they’re in human face, as they rarely are, she just doesn’t think of vampires in those terms (she hadn’t known about Angel till after she started to fall for him). But it wasn’t just the vamp thing: she remembers that night in the alley, and at first she didn’t even realize he was a vampire. Her eyes flicked over him from head to toe, and she doesn’t remember even considering his attractiveness. It was kind of like looking at Xander or Giles: in that first second of meeting him, he’d been relegated to guys whose attractiveness she didn’t even gauge. Everything about him seemed designed to be everything she doesn’t find appealing in guys. And it pretty much stayed like that until he came back for the Gem of Amara and then the whole chip thing happened and suddenly he was around all the time, annoying and running his mouth and in her space, and that’s when the dreams started.
She actually hadn’t really worried about the first one. It wasn’t all that explicit, just some kissing and such, a fight morphing into something else. Yeah, it was weird, and she still didn’t think he was hot, but dreams were crazy things, even if other Slayers weren’t interfering in them, and you couldn’t really control them, she knew that. It didn’t mean anything. She knew that for sure. Just chemicals and memories mixing around in there, and spitting out randomness that meant about as much as a guy offering up cheese for no reason. She’d shoved it away.
But it kept happening, and she grew horrified. It wasn’t all the time or anything. It wasn’t even as often as she had sexy-type dreams. Most of them were still Angel-shaped with some nice ones featuring Riley, and that was fine. But every once in a while, it would be Spike instead, his skin cool where Riley’s was warm, his body streamlined where Angel’s was large. The first time it happened while she was sharing a bed with Riley, she was so disturbed that she’d slid out of bed, dragged on her clothes and went another round of patrol, beating up on fledges until the burn of exercise made the memory of the dream fade a bit.
She’d tried to figure it out then, because it was ridiculous. Spike wasn’t hot. Or, well, now that she thought about, she guessed she could see what somebody like Drusilla would see in him—they were of a type, weirdly enough, kinda Goth-y and alternative, and that was okay. But she wasn’t any of those things. She was beach bunny Buffy, and she didn’t even think he was hot, so why was he popping up in her dreams like this?
And maybe she took out her frustration—no, not that kind, at least not at first while Riley was still around—on him with the punching of the noses and the scathing remarks, or maybe she just enjoyed those things and that was why she did them (“I do beat him up a lot. For Spike, that’s like third base.”). But she found herself studying him sometimes, probably with her nose all scrunched up in thought, trying to figure out why her subconscious kept trying to convince her that this guy was sexy when he so totally clearly wasn’t.
And okay, he had pretty eyes, she could admit that; the color at least, though those eyelashes totally belonged on a girl. And cheekbones, while not something she’d ever spent a lot of time thinking about before, could be rather striking, she supposed, when they were as defined as Spike’s. But his mouth was too pretty by far and nothing about him matched up with her ideals of masculinity and there was no way in hell that she’d ever want a guy who wore jewelry like that—and did she mention the nail polish?
After the whole chaining-her-up-and-threatening-to-feed-her-to-his-crazy-ho-bag-ex, she became even more convinced that he was everything that was repulsive and wrong in the world, and for the most part she did a pretty good job of just not thinking about him at all. Still, there were the dreams, and as much as she tried to tell herself that they were just the result of her not getting any ever since Riley left (another man she ran off) and Spike sort of always just being around, she finally had to admit to herself after she kissed him in thanks for standing up to Glory that, okay, she must be at least a little bit attracted to him, even if that didn’t make any kind of sense at all. She wouldn’t have kissed Xander or Giles in that situation. But she hadn’t really thought twice before she kissed Spike, even if it was the sort of brief, passionless thing she could write off as meaningless afterwards. Still, her own newly-self-confessed attraction continued to confuse her, even if Glory and taking care of Dawn and mourning Mom hadn’t left her with much time to think about it.
But she could pinpoint the exact moment it kind of began to make sense to her. It was the night she died, the night Dawn was taken, the night when everything changed, and he was standing below her staring up at her with these eyes that were shining way too bright and this face that said way too much—and this mouth that was saying way, way, way too much—and she thought, “He’s beautiful.”
That was not the right moment for thinking about him like that, so she shoved the thought away. But then she died and came back, and suddenly she found herself sitting in his crypt and his knuckles were bleeding, and he was telling her way too much again, and she knew that if she was feeling like herself, she would have wanted to punch him because guys just weren’t supposed to show this much of their hearts like this, especially with no prompting whatsoever and to someone who didn’t return any of the sentiments. But she wasn’t herself and hadn’t been since they brought her back (dragged her out, really, but she didn’t let herself think like that)—the world was still kind of cottony while simultaneously being way too harsh, and so she’d only had the distant thought that he was really, really pretty to look at and that maybe the way his face and his voice decided to broadcast every feeling he ever had wasn’t really so bad as she’d once thought it was.
She didn’t really think about it much after that, because she just didn’t seem to have the emotional energy: life was hard enough as it was without trying to figure out at which point Spike had really become so very pretty. But then there was the singing and the kissing, and okay, that she could admit quite freely: he was really, really good at it. She’d thought so when they’d been engaged, but that wasn’t real, and she’d quite easily determined that it was just because of the spell that she’d enjoyed herself so much. And if squirming on his lap and kissing his lips off popped up again occasionally in her dreams, well, she often relived some of the more memorable supernaturally-type things in her life through dreams. It made sense.
But they wouldn’t make sense, not together. She told herself that after the kissing the first time, and the second time. For one thing, they’d look ridiculous together. She was almost as tall as he was, and they both dyed their hair blonde (and she didn’t even want to know how much money he’d spent on hair upkeep over the decades), and their clothes would look totally and completely jarring even in the same room, not to mention next to each other. No one would ever believe that a girl like her was with a guy like him. They’d clash. Not like him and Drusilla—they had looked right together. She and Angel had, too, she was sure, even if she’d never seen them side-by-side because of the whole mirror thing: she could easily imagine, though.
And it didn’t even stop with the looks, the not-sense-making-ness that would be her and Spike. They were both with the talking—well, her not so much right now, but once she felt more like herself again, probably she’d go back to that—and she had liked the way Angel’s silence balanced her out. And he liked the world’s worst music, all that screeching and howling. Riley had liked country and oldies rock, and even though they hadn’t been her thing, she could see the appeal and some of it hadn’t been awful at all. She and Spike didn’t seem to have overlapping taste about anything at all.
And okay, he likes to fight and is good at it, and she doesn’t totally hate him patrolling with her. But if they were in any kind of actual relationship (not that she’s considering it at all), would he, like, want to paint their nails together and stuff? That’s something she does with Willow—or, did, back when they were close—or with her sister—again, back when she knew how to interact with people. She doesn’t do that with guys. Wouldn’t. Just another reason why she and Spike would make the world’s worst couple.
But even those things don’t count as much as just who he is. More than anything, his kind of openness, his absolute devotion to her, his desperate, obvious, vulnerable craving to be loved just terrifies her. She’s not used to guys feeling those things. Or maybe Angel and Riley felt them, but they had the good sense and the decency not to show them. She doesn’t have any idea how to react like to that, and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of pattern she can follow. Cosmo only has quizzes on what to do when your guy won’t commit or can’t communicate, not any on how to handle it when he’s way too good at communicating and the depths of his emotions scare you. And even if Mom were alive, Buffy’s not sure she’d be of any help; her parents had loads of problems, but none of them were like this.
Strangely, she finds herself thinking of her friends back in L.A. She hasn’t thought of them in years, but she imagines what those giggly girls who remind her of some of Cordelia’s crowd would think if they saw her with Spike. She can only imagine them wrinkling their noses in disgust at his jewelry and his almost feminine flair for drama; they’d be completely bewildered by his emotions. And none of them would understand what Buffy saw in him. Which doesn’t surprise her, because she still mostly doesn’t understand what she sees in him.
It’s gotta be the vampire thing, right? Or the sex thing, maybe, because even she has to admit that he’s mindblowingly good at it—and that she’s better at it than she thought she was. With Angel she was mostly just terrified, and she was insecure enough with Parker even before he made her feel like an immature, needy little girl. She’d been self-conscious the first few times with Riley, but after a while she became confident that he really was into her and really did enjoy their time together, and after that she didn’t spend much time analyzing things at all. They just…did them. And they experimented a little and figured out some new things, but they were the kinds of things she’d read about in Mom’s stash of romance paperbacks back when she was first figuring out that she might like to kiss boys. Sometimes adventurous, but never…abnormal.
Spike, though, seems to have no limits, and she would have thought that that would make her feel inadequate: he’s had over a century to have sex and get good at it and learn things, and he’s a vampire and they’re not exactly the most vanilla in bed. But not once has she felt judged or self-conscious: it was kind of hard to feel that way after their first time. She can’t help but feel excited about all the things she’s learning, and that makes her feel guilty, because shouldn’t she be horrified at herself? But she never is when they’re exploring each others’ bodies, only afterwards when she’s panting and the sweat is cooling against her skin and it comes home to her just exactly who he is and what they’ve been doing. While they’re in the middle of it, sex with Spike just feels like the most natural thing in the world.
And the thought does occur to her, once or twice, though she tries not to dwell on it (trying-not-to-dwell seems to be the chorus of the song that is her relationship with Spike) that maybe they don’t clash so bad when they’re naked, when the clothes and the drama is stripped away and it’s just her and him and skin. His body, which she never would have found sexy before, suddenly becomes beautiful, which just gives her the wiggans. Because before that night on the stairs, she had never, ever thought of a guy as beautiful. Gorgeous, sure. Hot, sexy, handsome, any other number of adjectives (those are adjectives, right? She thinks she was paying attention in English class that day). But not beautiful. Beautiful is a word that should apply to women or sunsets or paintings or something. Not guys. But he kind of is, weird as that is.
But then she’ll see his jewelry or look at him while he’s dressed or he’ll say something a little too sweet, a little too vulnerable, and she’ll be jolted back into remembering (he’s stopped painting his nails since she last made fun of them, and she’s at least grateful for that. She thinks she might lose it if she looked down at the sight of those black-tipped fingers against her skin). It was that ugly, random necklace around his neck that first morning after that pissed her off at him just as much as his words did ( “I knew it! I knew the only thing better than killing a Slayer would be fu—“). She’d had a very clear moment of, What the hell, Buffy? How could you sleep with a guy who wears that thing? How could you want to? But then there’d been the kissing, and that was so, so distracting—until he mouthed off again and she had managed to flee.
Fleeing is the only word for it, because every time he distracts her with all the amazing things he can do with his body (with all the amazing things her body can feel), she forgets for a little while. And then it all comes slamming back into her, the wrongness that is Spike and her being with Spike and her wanting to be with Spike. The cycle keeps repeating itself over and over again and yes, it’s got to be the vampire thing or the amazing sex thing. Really amazing sex.
And that’s understandable, right? If those Harlequins of her mom’s taught her anything, it’s that other women like great sex, too. So it’s acceptable that that’s how he reels her in, right? Except she never really heard of a guy who was as…orally fixated as he is. Sometimes he almost seems like he enjoys getting her off more than he does getting off himself, and there’s nothing normal about that, right? Either way, she can close her eyes when he goes down on her, and she tries to pretend like he’s someone else—she can’t quite bring herself to pretend he’s Angel, because that seems too cruel, even if it’s just in her head (she shouldn’t care that she knows that it would hurt him, but somehow she does). But she tries to imagine someone more along those lines: taller, broader, more rough-hewn, more rugged, and far, far less vulnerable. Stitching together a perfect man in her mind.
It doesn’t work. It never works. Because she’s constantly aware that it is indeed Spike, and the fact that it’s Spike is the point, and that the hotness, the feeling that it’s so good that her skin is going to slide right off of her bones, all of it comes back to Spike and his stupid eyelashes and his stupid fingers and his stupid way of looking at her like she’s the entire universe in human form and his stupid way of lovinglovingloving her.
Sometimes, when it’s late at night and the whole world is still and she can’t sleep—or when her mind drifts during a particularly horrifically monotonous/stressful day at the DMP—or when Spike is deepdeepdeep inside her in ways that should terrify her—sometimes she finds a place inside her that craves Spike’s kind of loving, type of giving, brand of honesty.
And it’s in those times that she’s most certain: something has to be wrong with her.