Trying not to sigh again, Buffy let her eyes go from one member of the group to the next, until she finally stopped on Giles. They were in his apartment, supposedly for a post near-apocalypse debriefing; but so far, the only topic had been Spike.
“It wasn’t his fault,” she repeated, as calmly as she could. “He wasn’t aware he was biting me. I trust him. And so do you. All of you. So stop that act.”
She wished Giles hadn’t seemed like he saw right through her.
“I still don’t see why we can’t resoul him,” Xander muttered, his brow deeply furrowed.
“Me too!” Willow piped in. “I mean, the spell is foolproof now; so why don’t we just…”
To Buffy’s surprise, Giles slowly shook his head.
“If that’s what we decide to do,” he said tiredly, “we might as well go ahead and stake him. It would be more merciful, and he has certainly earned our mercy.”
Once more, Buffy repeated her thrall story. Repeated that Spike hadn’t realized he was so close to killing her. Repeated that he was fighting on their side now. She eventually convinced them to drop the subject. And to postpone the resouling indefinitely.
So, it wasn’t Spike Giles was observing, but rather Buffy. He had expected Angel’s departure to affect her, to distract her to the point that she’d put herself into danger; so far though, she wasn’t showing much reaction. She hadn’t talked to anyone about him – Giles had checked – and for all intents and purposes, she didn’t look heart-broken.
Then again, Giles reflected, Spike could be dangerous on an entirely different level than what he had expected. There had been their dance on prom night. Giles hadn’t believed it meant much, but maybe…
Maybe he did need to keep an eye on Spike after all. He had no right to interfere in Buffy’s love life. He wasn’t her father or even her Watcher anymore; but he had seen how her attraction to a vamp had ended the first time around.
She could tell that he had something to say, that he had wanted to talk to her for a week now, but he never had so far because they always had company. She wondered what it was.
“Slayer? Why didn’t you stop me?”
Startled, she stared at Spike.
“Why didn’t I stop you?” she repeated, unsure of what he meant.
“You know, when I bit you. Why didn’t you just stop me? Or stake me?”
He looked at her attentively, and her thoughts accelerated. What could she answer? She couldn’t say that it had felt right at the time, could she? The truth was, she wasn’t sure anymore why she hadn’t stopped him. She had just been tired, so tired of everything; his fangs had held the promise of rest.
She definitely couldn’t say that. Not to him, not to anyone, not ever. No one would understand, no one knew what it meant to be the Slayer.
“You put me under thrall,” she finally answered. “I couldn’t stop you.”
She started walking again, hands now deep in her pockets. After a second, Spike caught up with her. Did she truly believe what she had just said? Had she said the same thing to the others? Come to think of it, they hadn’t mentioned at all that he had almost drained her.
The thing was, he had no thrall.
He refused to consider the alternative. She couldn’t have a death wish already. Not so soon. Not before he had a chance with her.
As she cast a glance at Buffy on the side, Willow’s grin abated slightly. She knew what her friend had felt for Angel, as much as she herself felt for Oz; and Willow suspected that his departure had hurt Buffy more than she showed. But of course, she was being strong and hiding her pain.
Now frowning a little, Willow shifted her gaze to the silent shadow patrolling with them. She still believed, deep down, that they should have resouled Spike, if only for everybody’s peace of mind. She still couldn’t understand why Buffy didn’t want him souled. But then, maybe…
Buffy would have told her.
She wouldn’t keep something as serious, as important as falling in love with someone new – even a vampire – from her best friend.
Willow needed to know.
She knew that Buffy still patrolled with Spike, and that, unlike Angel, he hadn’t listened to her and left town for Buffy’s own good. She knew despite not having seen him since her request. Buffy had casually mentioned him, a couple of times, as she did her friends. He had stayed away, and Joyce had not sought him out. On one hand, she was convinced that she was right, that Buffy deserved a shot at a real life. On the other, Spike’s words and warning still echoed in her and her heart tightened whenever she thought of them.
She went to open the door and smiled. Despite their disagreement, she had missed their chats. He smiled back.
They shared a cup of cocoa and didn’t talk about Buffy, leaving the subject of Spike’s feelings for another time. As long as Buffy did not return them, his feelings were irrelevant. All Joyce hoped was that her daughter would understand that she had no future with a vampire, souled or not. Even if they both liked Spike.
It didn’t fit the demon image, and he was quite aware of it; but he found in these moments glimpses of a past that he had never realized he missed. Not his humanity in itself, he never had and never would regret that loss. However, quiet chats and laughs, with someone who cared about him even when she disagreed with him, were deliciously sweet. He couldn’t forget that Joyce had contributed to breaking the curse of his soul, and because of that, he still couldn’t help seeing her as a mother figure, he still held her dear.
The only remaining shadow in their quiet evenings together was what Joyce thought of his growing involvement with Buffy. She hadn’t mentioned it since she had asked him to leave her daughter alone; he wasn’t sure he wanted to know if she had changed her mind.
He had a lot to do in Los Angeles. A city that big needed people like him to protect its nights. Or so he tried to repeat to himself whenever the temptation resurfaced to return to Sunnydale. Which was becoming more and more often.
He did return, one night not even a month after he had left. Thought about it all day, drove out as soon as the sun had set, probably broke a few traffic laws, and arrived on the Hellmouth in time to see his ex-girlfriend laugh as she patrolled with his grand-childe. The bitterness left a bad taste in his mouth and crescent-shaped cuts in his palms from his nails. He had to fight both himself and his demon not to intervene. Quietly repeating over and over that he had given up the right to say anything, he managed to walk away and was back in Los Angeles before morning.
A good bottle of whisky helped. For a little while, at least.
A snort and a double kick later, Spike was sprawled in the grass on his back, Buffy standing over him with her hands on her hips and laughter in her eyes.
“Really?” she said in feigned shock. “Could that be because I am a girl?”
He smirked at her, taking a second to rediscover that she was indeed a girl. Or rather, a woman. Lovely curves, beautiful smile, and a body he so wished to explore.
“Ah, but you’re not just a girl,” he drawled. “You’re the Slayer.”
He punctuated his last words with a swipe of his foot. She jumped, narrowly avoiding the impact. The next second, he was standing and they were dancing again, taunting each other between blows, trading puns as well as punches.
Every few days, whenever the night was quiet and vamp-free, they sparred together. No holds barred, they had each inflicted bruises on the other during these training sessions, but they both needed this. Buffy because she wanted to remain in top form, Spike because combining his two favorite things – a good fight and the Slayer – was just too good to pass.
He wished it never had to end.
She had thought that Angel leaving her would make her summer vacation terrible – too much time to think and brood, too little to do. But it hadn’t been that bad. She still thought of him of course, sometimes wondering what he was doing, sometimes cursing him for going away. As a whole though, it didn’t hurt as much as it had when she had first lost him to Acathla a year before.
Had it only been a year? It felt more like ten. So much had happened, in these few months. So much had changed.
So much, actually, that she felt ready to move on. Get back on the dating scene. Find someone who could love her, someone she could love.
She had suspicions – very heavy suspicions, increasingly leaning toward certainty – that Spike was only waiting for a sign from her to declare his feelings.
The problem was that she simply wasn’t sure it was wise to move on to another vampire.
Three months of nightly patrols with her after Angel had left. A summer’s worth of falling a little deeper each night if that was even possible. With, every now and then, guests for the evening, sometimes Giles, sometimes Red and her wolf. Thankfully, Harris was off on his little road trip thing, so we didn’t have the displeasure of his company. Not that I couldn’t stand the boy but… Alright, so maybe I couldn’t stand him. Who could blame me?
He had gotten along pretty well with my souled self, but the soulless me sent chills down his back. Of all of them, I think he was the one who had the hardest time coming to grips with the fact that a vampire doesn’t need a soul to play nice with humans. Only takes proper motivation. It took me years to finally understand why he couldn’t get it – and I think it was a revelation for him too. Something to do with a childhood friend being turned and coming after him. Nothing I could do about that; he had to work through his own issues. We’re getting along, now. Not best friends and we’ll never be that, but we’re not at each other’s throats either.
Red and wolf-boy? Not as judgmental. Then again, seeing what he has inside him, they weren’t well placed to throw stones. Red used to allude at giving me my soul back, saying how much better her spells were and things of that nature; but I eventually got through to her that I wasn’t interested. Or at the very least I thought I had gotten through to her.
Now, the Watcher was something else. Overprotective for a while, present night after night, watching her more than me, as if he expected her to collapse or something. Then, when it became clear she was fine, and that Faith’s fate, her own near death, the Ascension, Angel’s departure, hadn’t driven her around the bend, his focus changed. His patrols with us became less frequent, but I could tell that when he tagged along he was observing my actions and recording my words. He admitted it, later on, and confirmed my suspicions as to why he had been watching me so closely. At the time, it both amused and annoyed me. Amused, because Buffy was oblivious, and thought that she was the one he was keeping an eye on; annoyed, because I enjoyed my nights with her too much to appreciate someone standing between us.
The other one keeping a concerned eye on me was Joyce. She never mentioned again that Buffy deserved to have a normal, vampire free life, but I could see it in her eyes, sometimes. Might be why I didn’t go there as often anymore. Dawn wasn’t happy about it, protesting in her not always subtle ways that I saw Buffy every night yet I barely ever came to see her. Truth was, I…
And we’re there again, aren’t we? Truth was, she wasn’t there at all. Truth was, then or now, I care for her as I would a younger sister. I guess I’ll never know if I care about her because the monks made me, or because of reasons that were mine only. Whatever the cause, the results were the same, for better or for worse.
Buffy, through it all, confused me as much as she confused herself. She didn’t want me invited into her house, but she didn’t seem to mind me having a cuppa with her mom or kid sister. She fought with me, laughed with me, but always when she smiled too much she’d snap back, as if startled by her own actions. And I… I just waited for her to be ready.
It still amazes me that, for so long, I was content with simply patrolling with her, when inside I was screaming for a touch of her skin, the feel of her body, the taste of her. Every night, when we said goodbye, I returned to my crypt and reached for some cold, lonely relief. Every night it was her image dancing behind my eyelids as I climbed toward pleasure; her name on my lips when I finally found it.
I’m not the most patient of vampires. Never was, never will be. But I had it in my mind that if I rushed her, if I tried to push her when she wasn’t ready for me, she’d fall in my arms, yes, but still dream of another vamp, souled, that one, instead of seeing me. Because I couldn’t stand that thought, I managed to wait, be patient, give her time to discover who I was, who I could be.
She soon did. Or so I thought.
It’s almost funny how wrong I was. It wasn’t going to be that easy. Far from it.
So go ahead, tell the sad tale of this old fool. Just try not to make me look like a ponce, would you?