The small gust of wind that signaled the door's closing was strong enough to blow him over. He blinked at the wood not an inch from his nose, not seeing it. Instead, he saw the Slayer on the other side of the door; the coldness in her eyes. The utter lack of emotion on her face. He felt himself raise on his tiptoes to see inside the house through the small windows, but there was no one on the other side.
He'd gone and braved spilling his guts to her, and this was his reward. Uninvited from his love's house, rejected and abandoned to the cold.
Okay, so it rarely got below 30 degrees in Sunnydale; that was beside the point. She'd rejected him. Turned him down. Protested heartily at her loathing and contempt for him. Protested, yeah. Protested so much her eyes were huge and panicked. Who was she more afraid for: her or him? Could it be possible she did have feelings? Was she afraid of loving another vampire? Sodding, bloody vamp Angel, getting to the Slayer first and ruining any other bloke's chances with her.
But if that's what worried her, loving another vampire, there wasn't much he could do about changing that. Except to prove to her that he had changed; that he didn't need a soul to be a good person worthy of love.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, imagining he could still smell her. He wanted to seal his car so her scent wouldn't disappear from the cracked leather. Bloody hell, he was pathetic. Did she think he wanted this? Did she think he set out to want her constantly in his thoughts; in his dreams? She was the Slayer. It was her job to kill people like him. But he wasn't people like him, anymore. His love for her changed him. When Dru tossed him that succulent, dead woman, he had to make himself drink. His natural instincts to feed had been curbed - okay, forcefully at first, but now it was habit. He didn't need fresh human blood. He only had the urge to kill now and again, usually the vamps and other baddies that ganged up on the Slayer. But not humans. No, he didn't want to kill humans anymore. Why couldn't she see he'd changed?
He heard his name being hissed, and warily searched the area. A familiar dark head peeked up from the bush beside the house and a hand waved him over.
With a sigh, he turned and started walking down the sidewalk, away from the Slayer and her sister.
He heard rustling and a soft "ow," behind him, followed by pounding footsteps. He didn't look at her as Dawn caught up to him.
"Hey, Spike, what's going on? Why didn't you come in?"
"Can't," he mumbled, choking on even that word. It was starting to sink in: the Slayer didn't love him. It was bad enough when he carried his love in secret, but now that he'd opened himself to her and told her how he felt, to have his feelings stomped down right good and proper -- he swallowed and demanded he stop thinking about it.
Dawn grabbed his arm and tried to slow his walk. "What do you mean, you can't? Is something stopping you?"
He slowly turned his head and glowered down at the youngster.
To her credit, she cowered back a bit, but still asked, "What - what happened? Does it have something to do with Willow coming over? Did she do a spell or something?"
Red. It'd been a long time since he'd thought of Red. She understood his pain when Dru left him. She was feisty, though very reserved back then. Now that she'd found her witchy ways and gotten herself a good woman, she'd become a formidable force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, she was reckoning with him, and he didn't have a defense against her. "Or something. Look, you best get back inside before your mum decides to have me drawn and quartered for influencing her precious daughter into my wild and devious ways."
"She wouldn't do that -- and she's not my mom," Dawn reminded him. "Come on, Spike. Tell me what's going on. Buffy wouldn't tell me --"
He yanked himself out of her grasp. "Don't. Don't say her name. The sound grates on my nerves." He looked anywhere but at Dawn, though he could feel her eyes on him. She was a smart kid; smarter than the Slayer gave her credit for. He didn't mind spending time with her. They were both on the outside of the Scooby gang. They'd formed some sort of friendship around their mutual exclusion from the inner workings of the Slayerettes. That also meant she knew him better than any of the gang. Even though he didn't tell her about his feelings for the Slayer, he was pretty sure she'd guessed.
"Did you tell her?" she asked simply.
He shrugged and buried his hands in his coat pockets. "Yeah. And a fat lot of good it did."
Her hand returned to his arm, and she squeezed gently. "You wanna talk about it?"
He almost said no, but then he weighed his options. Harm was gone. Dru was gone. The Slayer had uninvited him. He had no one to talk to, and going back to an empty crypt didn't seem very appealing, especially not with her presence still there. "Will they miss you?" he asked, jerking his head back toward the house.
Dawn stood up taller. "They think I'm tucked in, all safe and sound. I left the window open so I can sneak back in."
"You'd planned this little excursion, then?" he asked, suddenly very glad for the distraction from his thoughts.
"I wanted to see you. Bu--I mean, my sister," Dawn corrected herself hastily, "I told her how you felt about her."
Anger flared in his gut, then died quickly. If the Slayer had time to think about his feelings for her, and she still rejected him, then it didn't matter when she found out. He glared at Dawn nonetheless. "Why'd you go and do a thing like that for? You had no right to interfere."
"Yeah, but it put an idea in her head." She grinned. "You should have seen her face when I told her. She almost wet herself."
He raised an eyebrow. "Not an image I'm particular to."
"Yeah, but this one might be. See, at first she thought that I had a crush on you, but I just think of you as a cool guy, which I told her, but she didn't believe me, so I said that you wouldn't notice me anyway because of your feelings for her, which totally threw her for a loop, and she just went into this pre-programmed defense mechanism about how vampires are all bad and monsters and junk like that. So I pointed out the whole Angel thing, and she really got defensive. So, don't you see?"
He shook his head and tried to process everything Dawn had just said. "See what?"
She rolled her eyes. "Because of what Angel did to her, she'll never trust another vampire again, unless that vampire proves to her that he's different. Angel didn't just break her heart; he massacred her entire being. Personally, I think she's still trying to get over him. That's why her relationship with Riley never got as deep. She just couldn't give him her all."
He mulled that over. "So you're saying, that Buffy's still getting over all the hurt Angel did to her, and she's lumping me in with that pouf because I'm all fangy?"
"I think so. I'm no expert - at least I don't think I am - but that's what it looks like to me. I know she had major issues when Riley left her, but not until he left her. She realized too late that he meant something more serious to her. It's possible she feels the same way about you. She just doesn't know it yet."
Hope flared in Spike's chest before he could stop it. Could the soulful pouf still be affecting the Slayer's judgement of men? She didn't love Riley; not until it was too late, anyway. He watched the Slayer use and abuse the poor lad for her own purposes, and when the relationship didn't suit her, she'd push him away. He didn't want that for himself. If the Slayer was to love him, she needed to love him. None of this on again - off again crap. No taking Spike for granted.
Except she already took him for granted. Every time little sis disappeared, who did the Slayer accuse? Whenever a new big bad arrived, who did the Slayer run to for information? And he gave in, time after time. Yeah, the money she paid him was helpful, but that wasn't why he did it. It kept the Slayer coming back to him; needing him. Maybe a little hard-to-get was best. Time for the Slayer to want him.
He draped his arm across Dawn's shoulders and pulled her tight against him. "Little girl, I've got a plan to turn the Slayer's affections my way."
She beamed up at him. "Great! What can I do to help?"
"Come with me, and I'll tell you all about it." He led them back to his lair.
He worked out the details with Dawn as she sat, unperturbed, on top of the tomb. One thing about the Summers' women; nasty things didn't phase them. She made some suggestions and promised to do her best to help, but soon she was yawning and Spike escorted her home.
Vamps weren't relocating to Sunnydale anymore - word of the Slayer had gotten around - but the few who did remain tended to appear at the worst times. Like on their walk back to the Summers' house.
He sensed more than one vampire following them. Fearful for Dawn - more for himself, actually - because if anything happened to the precious Key, the Slayer and her mum would tear him apart - Spike grabbed Dawn's arm and vamped out.
"She's mine; get lost."
Two vampires advanced on them. "Come off it, Spike. We know you can't harm anything, so just hand the girl over."
With a growl, Spike launched himself at the vamp who was doing the talking. He pounded on the vamp's face until he was attacked by the other vampire. With a roundhouse kick, he sent that vamp against a tree, with just enough of young growth on its lower trunk to pierce the vamp's heart. He disappeared in a dust cloud, and Spike turned to the remaining vamp.
"So, I can't harm anything, can I? What do you call your split lip; luck?"
The vamp gaped at him. "But I heard -"
"You heard wrong," he insisted, tough attitude once again coming to the forefront. "Now get lost before I introduce you to the indigenous foliage."
The vamp wiped blood off his face and looked appropriately stupid. "Huh?"
He broke off a tree branch and held it up threateningly. "Wood, you idiot. I'll run it through your heart. Now get out of my sight."
The vamp sulked off, and Spike tossed the branch away. "Pet, you there?" he called.
Dawn poked her head out from behind a tree. "Are they gone?"
"One's dusted; the other's got his tail between his legs. They won't bother us again tonight." He held out his hand. "Come on, let's get you home. You're gonna have a hell of a time getting up for school in the morning."
She took his hand and stumbled back to the Summers' house. He watched her carefully as she climbed up to her window, ready to catch her if she fell. She wagged her fingers at him before she closed the window. He raised his hand in answer, then let it fall to his side. His gaze shifted to the Slayer's room, where a slight breeze ruffled the curtains. It was dark inside, but he could picture her perfectly: asleep in her bed, hand tucked under the pillow, breathing shallow and even. He forced air out of his lungs in a sigh and headed back to his lair.
It was deathly quiet. The torches he'd lit had long gone out, leaving the crypt in darkness. His eyes quickly adjusted, and he could make out footprints in the dust. He stepped in them, following them down to his secret place where he kept the Slayer's things. He hadn't processed the extent of damage while the Slayer was there, but now he could see the ruin. His carefully rendered drawings were either crumpled or ripped. Hard to come by photographs were scattered across the floor. He slowly dropped to his knees and picked up the blue cashmere sweater he'd lifted from her room a few weeks ago. Her scent was still strong, and he filled his lungs until he thought they would burst.
He forced his mind back a year, to a long-denied memory. Under the influence of one of Red's misplaced anger spells, he'd asked the Slayer to marry him, and she'd agreed. The warmth of her kisses seared him in his mind, burning with life and passion and love. Even the simple act of holding her hand left him shaking. Was it the spell that made him feel this way even now? Or was love blooming back then, and he just didn't recognize it? Thank God the spell didn't last much longer. Imagine having to get divorced from a demon. Or a Slayer.
A chill swept through him. In order to be divorced, one had to be married. Imagine being married to the Slayer. Always rushing off to save the world once again. Going on patrol together. Watching each other's backs. Walking through the cemeteries together. Unable to walk in the sunshine. Unable to take her to the park, walk along the beach, or any of the hundreds of other normal things that human women liked to do outside during the day.
He spread the material with his fingers, tracing over the neckline with his thumb, imagining her skin just below his hands.
How could they work, really? People would start to question why her husband couldn't meet for afternoon tea, or why he didn't volunteer like all the other good little husbands. His physical limitations would hold her back, and he didn't want that for her. She deserved everything, and he couldn't give it to her. Family. A home. Children, especially. What would they do when she wanted children? Would she want to use a surrogate father? Could he stand that thought? Or would he be jealous that the child wasn't his?
He raised his head and let forth a heart-wrenching yell. Why couldn't they be together? Why couldn't they have met a hundred and fifty years ago, after he'd his heart dashed to bits by his sweet Cecily? Why couldn't it have been the Slayer, instead of Dru, who rescued him from the pits of misery? Why wouldn't women stay with him? Dru left him after a hundred years of killing together. Harm left him on a whim. No other woman held his attention except for the Slayer. The little bit of darkness he sensed in all Slayers was a bit stronger in her. It pulled at him; called to him. Her darkness balanced out his, and it made them one whole person. They needed each other - why couldn't she see that?
He threw down the sweater and stood up. He would make her see that. All he needed was time, and that he had in abundance. Time would work in his favor. Little sis was right; the idea was in the Slayer's head now. He just had to let it ferment - become something she couldn't ignore. Then she would come to him.
His eyes swept the damage around him, and he began gathering the pieces of the torn drawings and putting them back together. He rooted around for his tape, and then started assembling the ripped images. He worked meticulously, wanting to put the pictures back in the most perfect way possible. It was easy; he had all the time in the world.