Even though he practically ached to go after her, Spike gave Buffy a twenty-minute head start before following. She had been upset to realize he was a vampire again, that much had been clear; he supposed that giving her some time to calm down would help. Maybe it would allow her to remember that she had said herself she wished he had still been a vamp. And once she understood what it meant that their bond was whole again, things would certainly go more smoothly. At least, he hoped they would. She hadn’t staked him on sight; that had to be a good sign.
Following her scent, he quickly realized she had run home, and let habit guide his steps as his mind wandered. Somehow, he couldn’t make himself think of the Revello house as of his home. It had been his home when he had been human, but deep down, it felt as though that person hadn’t been him, so the home hadn’t been his either. When he had lived in Revello before, it had never been for more than a few nights at a time, and he had always felt like a guest.
Even as he knocked on the door, he was intensely aware of the key in his duster’s pocket, but he left it where it was and waited for someone to open for him. For all he knew, he might need an invitation to get in anyway.
He had hoped for Buffy, but Dawn was the one who opened the door. The expression on her face was one of pure joy, and she immediately hugged him. Strangely enough, it made him realize that Buffy hadn’t done as much and had remained a few steps away from him while they had talked. He tried to ignore the pain of that unexpected cut to smile back at Dawn.
“I knew you’d be back!” she exclaimed as she stepped back from the hug. “You’re here to make up with Buffy, right? So much happened while you were gone.”
He was a little amused, by both her babbling and how she was even more right than she knew. Reaching with his left hand in front of him, he tested the entryway, a little puzzled but happy when he met no barrier. Dawn watched him do this, her eyes widening in realization.
“Spike? What are you doing?”
“Just checking if I need an invite. Although you shouldn’t have invited me in if I had needed one. You remember that lesson, right?”
She rolled her eyes at him and opened the door more widely as an answer, standing aside so that he could enter. “I trust you,” she said simply. “And you can trust that I’ll stake you if you make Buffy cry any more.”
“Don’t plan to,” he assured her as he entered. “But maybe I’ll teach you how to stake vamps one of these days, just so you know where to aim in case you need to.”
She shook her head, but hugged him again, mumbling: “I’m glad you’re back.”
Somehow, Spike had a feeling she didn’t mind too much that he was a vampire once more.
He could hear the water of the shower even before he reached the second floor, and for a moment, he thought of joining Buffy in the bathroom. The idea vanished as the muffled sound of sobs reminded him how their last conversation in the bathroom had turned out. Wincing at the memory, he decided that it was best to wait. The door to her room was open and he walked in, feeling awkward as though he hadn’t spent the last few months sleeping there.
His nerves felt raw and he had a cigarette in his mouth before he could even realize what he was doing. A sure way to piss her off, certainly, but he needed to calm down, and a cigarette was better than any alternative he could think of. Opening the window, he leaned against the sill and made sure to direct the smoke outside.
The sound of water soon ceased, and he unconsciously tensed as he waited for Buffy to come to him.
At least, he wasn’t evil. Or he hadn’t looked evil. He could have snapped her neck with ease, while she had been too shocked to react, but he hadn’t done anything to hint at violence. All he had done was make her become conscious of what had replaced the ache in her chest. It had hurt for so long that she hadn’t realized, until he had pointed it out, that the warm flame of their bond had returned. She couldn’t believe, now that she knew, that she had failed to notice and understand. Maybe she had known, deep down, and had just refused to admit it to herself. Just like the impression she had had all night that a vampire was close to her, and that she had ignored until Spike had shown her his game mask.
The same impression she was having now, in fact.
Shutting the water off, she stepped out of the tub and dried herself quickly, regretting not having brought clothes into the bathroom with her. Securing the damp towel around herself, she walked out of the bathroom and followed the instinct that was calling her to her bedroom.
For a moment, she almost believed she was dreaming. The room was dark, the only light coming from outside, and all she could see was his silhouette in front of the window, then the glowing red tip of his cigarette. She had awakened more than once, in the past few days, seeing Spike next to her only to realize that she was still dreaming. This time, though, when she turned on the light, he did not vanish; instead, he merely turned toward her after having flicked his cigarette out the window.
“Are you OK?” he asked, his voice a mix of concern and guilt; he must have heard her cry.
“I’m fine,” she lied, and then realized what she was doing. This was how they had gotten to this point. Maybe it was time for complete truth. “And by that I mean I barely know what I feel anymore. I’ve missed you. I’m glad you’re back. But…”
At a loss for words, she shrugged. She could barely express her fears and hopes to herself, any more than that was just too much. A shiver ran through her, the damp towel and open window giving her goose bumps; she reached for the pajamas at the foot of her bed and eyed Spike for a second. She felt a little reluctant about dropping the towel while they were having a serious talk. A few delicate maneuvers later, she had dressed without flashing him while he observed her with a look of puzzlement.
“Are you afraid of me?” he asked, his voice too quiet to pick up his emotions from it.
“No, I’m not afraid,” she replied, this time truthfully. “Is that why you think I ran away?”
“Was wondering. I expected you to try to stake me, not that.”
She blinked, unsure what he meant exactly or why he would think she’d want to stake him. He seemed to notice her confusion because he added quickly: “Not that I did anything to deserve a staking.”
Somehow, she wanted to believe him. If he had gone and gotten himself turned because of her, she doubted he would have risked losing her by starting to kill again.
“I didn’t run off because I was afraid,” she said with a slight shake of her head as she sat on the edge of the bed, her legs curled beneath her. “I… It’s the second time in a year that you’ve died because of me. I’m not getting used to it, I guess.”
Her voice remained smooth, even though inside she felt like crying again.
“You’re wrong,” Spike answered flatly. He didn’t move from where he stood by the window, but his hands tightened so much on the sill that she heard the wood creak. “I didn’t die because of you. Neither time. I made choices, and I won’t— I can’t let you take that from me.”
As much as she wanted to believe him, she remembered what she had said before he had left, and she was lucid enough to admit her responsibility.
“You don’t have to pretend,” she told him with a slight smile. “I know what I said, and without me you wouldn’t have…”
“Without you,” he interrupted her, “I would have gotten my fangs back months ago. I thought you wanted me human. That’s the only reason why I didn’t do it sooner. When you showed me I was wrong about that, you freed me, more than anything else. Freed me from myself, so that I could do and be what and who I wanted.”
Her mouth opened, ready to protest again, but closed without saying a word. She wasn’t sure what to think anymore. If that was really what Spike had wanted…
“I’ve come a long way, luv,” he said as he slowly walked around the bed and to her. “Never thought I’d travel this road, but I have, and it’s been my choice. All the way through. Ever since the first time you invited me into this house. Remember?”
She thought briefly before nodding. She remembered it as clearly as though it had been the previous night. Kendra’s blood on the library floor, Willow in the hospital, Giles kidnapped, and Spike coming to her with a truce offer.
“When you offered to help me take down Angelus,” she murmured.
One last step and he was standing by her side. She raised her head toward him just as his hand came to brush a wet strand away from her cheek.
“I didn’t have a soul when I came to you that night,” he murmured. “And when it comes down to it, getting one didn’t change me. I was the same man before and after. What the soul did was push me on to your side of the fight. So that instead of thinking about killing you and your friends, your family, I could just see who you all were. And I liked what I saw. Fell in love with you. And you… you did the same when they shoved that chip in my head. You saw me, you saw the vamp without seeing the killer, and you accepted the idea that you could love me.”
It wasn’t that easy, she wanted to protest, but again she remained quiet. Because in a way, it was that easy. Their relationship had always been about looking past the surface and seeing what hid beneath.
“We’re back to that beginning, Buffy. You need to decide again if you can live with the fangs.”
After what she had told him a few nights back, she found it strange for a moment that he would even question her feelings toward the vampire part of him. But then, she understood what he meant. They had hurt each other a lot, during these long months, sometimes without meaning to, sometimes on purpose. They couldn’t just forget everything that had happened and pick up where they had left things at the foot of Glory’s tower. It would have been easier, of course, but it would have felt like cheating.
“We’re starting again, aren’t we?” she asked as she took his hand and squeezed it lightly.
“Looks like it. We’ll get it right eventually. Just have to keep trying.”
She didn’t reply, but she smiled.
Yes we did.
I was there, wasn’t I? I know what happened. And if I tell you…
Oh, all right, don’t get on your big horses. We took it slow for three days. Happy? Hell, for us that is slow.
We had been through these first, hesitant steps more than once before. A first time after the big poof – wait… I should show a bit more respect for my Sire, shouldn’t I? Let me correct that – a first time after the wanker had left for LA, a second time after I had been chipped, a third time when I came back from the dead… Yeah, it was our fourth time starting over, our fourth first time when we fell into bed three nights later… Although now that I think about it, it was more grass and tree leaves than soft mattress and silk sheets. It didn’t matter, though, we were back together, back to trusting each other in a fight and in life, and that was the important thing.
That didn’t mean smooth sailing from then onward, though, not for us, not with both our tempers and not as long as we lived on the Hellmouth. But I’m sure they’ve heard enough by now to realize that. There were tempests. There were wrecks, or near wrecks, and shouting, and sulking, and messy making ups. But there was also love. So much of it that nothing else mattered in the end.
There was a vamp, a bloody foolish one at that, who loved the best Slayer there had ever been with all of his silent heart, all of his inexistent soul, all of his demon, all that he was.
And by some strange miracle, she loved him back.
That’s the stuff they make fairytales from, that, ain’t it?
So, what do you think? Does that make me Prince Charming or the big, not so bad ogre?