Part I: Recognition
Buffy nearly missed him in the melee. She was concentrating on her friends, who were bolting for the exit, and Riley, who looked as though he might topple over without her assistance. Her eyes scanned the room again, searching for threats that could come from behind, and passed right over him the first time. Other than his eyes, he was unrecognizable.
A second sweep, and Buffy’s eyes met his; she felt the shock of recognition in her bones and froze just long enough to have Giles turning to check on her. “Buffy?”
In an instant, Buffy made her decision, nudging Riley in Giles’ direction and turning back to the battle. “Get out of here!”
“Buffy!” Giles protested, and Xander and Willow turned to stare. “We need to leave!”
She shook her head. “Get Riley and the others out of here, Giles. There’s something I have to do.”
Buffy couldn’t explain, so she didn’t try. Instead, she worked her way through the fracas, avoiding the knots of fighters with the skill born of a hundred fights and made her way over to Spike.
She still had a hard time picking him out among the throng, he looked so different than when she’d last seen him. His hair was longer and curly now, his face bearded, his clothing hanging off of his thin frame. Spike had been lean before, but he appeared to be on his way to emaciated, his duster, which might have added bulk, nowhere to be seen.
Buffy wasn’t sure if he’d recognized her; after their eyes had met, Spike had gone back to concentrating on the battle, avoiding rather than engaging the foes surrounding him. His appearance, combined with how he seemed to duck the battle instead of fighting his heart out, told Buffy that quite a bit had changed in the last two years.
As she approached him, Spike whirled to face her, his face a mask of grim determination, and for a moment, Buffy wasn’t sure that he recognized her. “Spike?”
“Slayer.” His voice was toneless, and hoarse with disuse; it sent a chill down Buffy’s spine.
“We need to get out of here.”
He stared at her for a moment, his expression unchanging, and Buffy grabbed his arm to make her point. “Let’s go.”
Spike finally nodded, some hint of emotion entering his eyes as she led him through the fray. She noted that he continued to dodge blows and flying objects without attempting to fight back, and Buffy followed his example.
She didn’t have time to fight; Buffy needed to get both of them out of the Initiative before they were trapped; she didn’t think it would be too long before the rest of the army arrived with reinforcements.
Linking her hand with his, Buffy waited until they had reached the relative safety of the elevator shaft before speaking. “Can you make it up on your own?”
Spike regarded her silently for a moment before nodding. “Yeah, think so.”
“We’re below a frat house. Don’t stay down here any longer than you have to in order to let us get away. It’s still light out, but there should be places to hide in the house.”
Spike’s face remained stony. “All right.”
“Do you remember where I live?” When he nodded, she continued. “Go to my house. I’ll leave my window unlocked and the light in my bedroom on.”
Spike gave a short, jerky nod. “I’ll see you later then.”
Buffy nodded, searching for any sign of the Spike she’d known in Los Angeles two years ago. Most of the time, she forgot they’d even been together—but there were moments in the dead of the night when she remembered lying next to him in her narrow bed. Spike had been the best part of that summer in L.A., and her biggest secret.
The vampire who stood before her now, however, was ragged and obviously weary, bearing little resemblance to the one she’d known.
He said nothing, and Buffy had no choice but to strap herself into the harness that still hung down. Buffy gave a sharp tug on the rope and began to ascend slowly, Spike’s still, pale face growing smaller and smaller below.
Spike hadn’t been certain that he was actually seeing the Slayer until she touched him and he smelled her distinctive scent. For a moment, just a moment, Spike thought he was dreaming—but since his dreams usually ended with Buffy naked, spread out on silk sheets, he knew it was real.
Trusting her was another matter altogether; Spike had no idea what her connection with the Initiative was, although it appeared as though the Initiative might be crumbling.
Without money, or the ability to defend himself, Spike didn’t have another choice. He didn’t even know where his car was.
Buffy’s room was easy enough to pick out. She’d left the light on and the window open as she’d promised, and the branches of the tree in the front yard hung over the roof just outside her window. Spike found the leap to the roof more difficult than it would have been a year ago. He hadn’t had a good meal in months now, and he was weak.
Spike half-fell through the window, bracing himself on the floor with one hand and taking a moment to gather his strength.
Rising slowly, Spike glanced around the room, feeling like an interloper. Decorated in light colors and pastels, with posters on the walls and clothing scattered on the floor, Spike knew he had no place there.
He suspected that he had no place in Buffy’s life, and yet he would have to beg for mercy; it went against every instinct he had.
The door opened, and Spike whirled. Buffy slipped inside and softly shut the door behind her. “I stopped for blood,” she said, and he saw the tub of red liquid in her hand. “Thought you might be hungry.”
“Yeah, thanks.” Spike didn’t have the control to prevent the demon from coming to the fore. He drank quickly, draining the tub in a minute or two.
Buffy perched on the edge of her bed. “I guess you were hungry.”
“Been a while.”
“How long has it been, Spike?”
The Slayer’s expression was compassionate, and Spike looked away, unable to meet her eyes. “Long enough.”
“Okay,” she said slowly. “You want to tell me why you weren’t fighting back there?”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Buffy rolled her eyes, and the sight was so familiar that a smile tugged at his lips. “Come on, Spike. I might be blond, but I’m not stupid.”
“But you’re not a natural blond.” She gave him a dirty look, and his smile grew.
He shrugged. “You brought it up.”
“There was a battle raging all around us, Spike, and you weren’t fighting. That’s not like you.”
Spike stared at the floor, oddly unwilling to tell Buffy he’d been defanged. “No. S’pose it isn’t.” Buffy remained silent, and he paused a moment before continuing. “They did something to me, put something in my head. I can’t hurt anyone, Buffy.”
She stared at him. “They what?”
“They put something in my head,” Spike repeated. “If I even try to hurt someone, it’s like my head is exploding.”
Spike had expected the look he got from her, a mixture of pity and relief. “Oh.”
Suddenly angry, Spike spat out, “You might be okay with it, but I’m fangless. I can’t even protect myself.”
“I know. I’m sorry, Spike.”
“No, you’re not.”
Buffy looked at the wall just beyond his left shoulder, unable to meet his eyes. “Okay, I’m not, but can you blame me? I don’t want to kill you.”
Spike didn’t respond. He felt a boiling rage under the thin sense of relief from being out of an Initiative holding cell. “How did you get mixed up in this?”
“The usual way. I couldn’t help but notice when vampires and demons went missing around campus.” Her fingers worried the fabric of the bedspread; Spike knew she was lying, or at least wasn’t telling the whole truth.
Spike ran his fingers through his beard, scratching at the skin below. “Right.”
“Look, why don’t you stay here tonight?” Buffy suggested. “Mom has work tomorrow, so you can sleep, maybe get cleaned up.”
Spike snorted. “Yeah, I could stand a shower and a shave.”
“I’ll see what I can find,” Buffy promised, then rose, appearing nervous. “Why did you come back to Sunnydale, Spike?”
“What do you think I came back for?” was his rejoinder. “I wanted to see how you were getting on.”
Buffy offered a tentative smile. “I’m good. Really good.”
He had to ask. “Seeing anyone?”
Buffy shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah.”
“I don’t know.”
That was a lie, too, Spike could tell, and he vaguely remembered the tall, beefy man he’d spotted next to Buffy in the heat of battle. He found that he didn’t want to know; Spike hadn’t expected Buffy to not date again, but it still hurt to know that she was with someone else.
“Yeah, all right.”
“Do you want to sleep?” Buffy asked. “We can probably share the bed. It’s big enough.”
Spike looked out of her window at the velvety, dark sky and thought of all those weeks underground. “Think I’ll sit out on the roof, if that’s all right.”
“Sure. I’ll leave the window open.”
Their eyes met, and Spike remembered other nights spent tangled up together, in silence, or listening to Buffy cry out in ecstasy as she came against him.
It was all he could say, however inadequate.
Giles’ grave tone notified Buffy that she was not going to like what he had to say. “What, Giles?”
“Why did you go back into the Initiative?”
Buffy wanted to look anywhere but at Giles, so she studied the titles on the spines of books littered around his living room, the fabric of the chair she sat on, the pattern of the blanket tossed carelessly over the back of the couch. Her Watcher knew her too well to be fooled by her lies, the way she could still fool her mother.
“I just had to go back for something,” she finally replied evasively.
He pulled off his glasses, and dug a handkerchief out of his pocket; it was a familiar sight that might have been comforting if she hadn’t felt like she was hiding something huge, or if shame wasn’t dogging her footsteps.
She had dreamed of Spike the night before, not Riley—of Spike’s hands and lips and cock.
“I know it’s more than that,” Giles said gently.
Her relationship with Giles was such now that Buffy wanted to tell him. She wanted to tell him about Spike, their relationship in Los Angeles and how he was holed up in her bedroom for the day—with certain pertinent details omitted, of course.
Buffy sighed, deciding that she had no other choice but to be honest. “It was Spike, Giles. I went back for him.”
Giles didn’t ask her if she was insane, which was probably a positive sign. “I see. And you helped him to escape?”
“Yes.” Buffy decided that now was not the time to tell him Spike was currently asleep in her bedroom.
“Was there a reason you didn’t leave him to rot down there?” Giles asked.
Buffy winced, then decided that she didn’t have another option. “Do you remember the summer I was gone?”
Giles’ gaze remained steady. “Yes, of course.”
“Spike was one of the reasons I came back,” Buffy confessed. “We ran into each other when I was in L.A., and he…helped me.”
“He helped you.” Giles’ tone was carefully neutral.
Buffy rolled her eyes, more of a reflex than a response. “That’s what I said, Giles. He helped me.”
She thought of the sex, and remembered what she’d gained and what she’d lost. “Yes, for free.”
Giles sighed. “Where is he now?”
Buffy hadn’t wanted to answer that question, and she still didn’t. “Does it matter?”
“He’s in your home, then,” Giles stated, sounding tremendously weary. “Buffy, do you know the risks you’re taking by—”
“Do you think I’d risk my mom?” Buffy shot back. “The Initiative held him for a long time, Giles, nearly a year. He said they did something to him, put something in his head so he can’t hurt anyone.” When her Watcher still didn’t appear convinced, Buffy forged ahead. “He kept his promise; Spike stayed away. He’s not going to do anything that will make me stake him.”
“You know this for a fact.”
“I do.” Buffy met Giles’ steady regard without blinking or otherwise showing discomfort, and he finally nodded.
“Very well. I want to see him.”
“I’ll ask.” Buffy wasn’t going to make promises on Spike’s behalf, not when he had refused to pressure her one way or another. “I’ll talk to him.”
Giles raised an eyebrow. “What will you do with him, Buffy?”
“I guess I’ll wait to see what he needs.”
Giles nodded. “I see. And Riley?”
Buffy tried to keep the guilt off of her face, but didn’t think she’d been successful. “Riley doesn’t have to know.”
Spike ran a hand over his now-smooth face, then ran a hand through his hair. It was still too long, but he’d have to live with it until he could find a barber that was willing to serve a vampire. There had been a woman who had taken strictly undead clientele, but he had no idea if she was still around.
A knock came at the door, and Spike straightened slowly. “Spike? You okay?”
“Yeah. Be out in a minute.”
He finished drying his face, then opened the door, and saw Buffy’s eyebrows go up. “Looking good.”
“Thanks.” He jerked his head toward the bathroom behind him. “And thanks for the place to clean up.”
An awkward pause followed. “I should get out of here, leave you in peace.”
“Giles wants to see you,” she blurted out.
His eyes narrowed. “You told him?”
“He knew I went back. I didn’t have much of a choice. I told him about L.A., too.”
Spike raised an eyebrow. “Everything?”
“I left a few things out,” she admitted with a coy smile.
Spike took a step closer. “You ever think about it?”
“Sometimes,” Buffy admitted. “It’s like it was another life.”
“Yeah, I guess it was.” Spike stared down the hallway, seeing the pictures on the walls, the homey touches. Buffy’s house was as different as could be from her dingy L.A. apartment, or the white cells of the Initiative.
Spike froze as a female voice floated up the stairs. He gave Buffy a panicked look, and she shook her head. “Hey, Mom. I’m up here.”
“Is there someone with you?” Joyce called out.
Buffy met Spike’s eyes and shrugged. “It’s Spike, Mom. It’s okay.”
Spike had forgotten that Buffy’s friends and family would be underfoot; they had always been alone in Los Angeles.
Joyce appeared in the hall, giving both of them a quick look. “Hello, Spike. It’s been a while.”
He tried to summon up a reassuring smile, remembering the ax Joyce had wielded, and knowing that he was defenseless against her these days. “It has been.”
Joyce looked to Buffy, and when Buffy nodded her reassurance, she turned back to Spike. “Would you like some hot cocoa?” she offered. “I remember you liked those little marshmallows. I think I still have some in the cupboard.”
Spike felt her kindness like a blow, and he nodded sharply. “Yeah.” As an afterthought, he added, “Thanks.”
Joyce gave him an uncertain smile, then went back downstairs. Buffy asked, “Will you talk to Giles?”
Spike shrugged. “Why not?”
It wasn’t like he had anything better to do.
Part II: Reconnection
The tension that filled the room was now creeping across her shoulders and up her neck, making her head ache. Giles had asked Spike the same few questions in a myriad of ways.
“How long were you held?”
“I don’t know.” Spike’s voice was carefully controlled, “but I think I rolled into town sometime in October.”
Buffy thought that was the third time Spike had given the same response; if Giles was hoping to trip Spike up, he wasn’t having any success.
“And what did they do to you?”
“I already told you.” Spike’s anger was like a living thing, and Buffy knew that it was only a matter of time before he snapped.
In fact, she had no doubt that Spike would have already ripped Giles’ throat out some time ago if he’d been capable of it. That was the only real proof she needed that the thing the Initiative had put in his head was working.
“Giles,” Buffy began, ready to tell her Watcher to back off, but she was interrupted by a perfunctory knock on the front door, followed closely by Riley’s entrance.
She shot Giles a betrayed look, but his face remained impassive. “He can corroborate Spike’s story,” he murmured.
Riley and Spike were staring at each other, and Spike had risen to his feet, hands flexing and the muscle in his jaw ticking. “What is Hostile 17 doing here?” Riley demanded.
“Hostile 17?” Buffy asked, a little confused.
Riley took a menacing step towards Spike. “He should still be in the Initiative.”
“Well, he’s not,” Buffy snapped irritably, stepping in between Spike and Riley, trusting that she would be able to stymie an attack if necessary. “Giles wanted you to corroborate his story.”
“So, you don’t trust me?” Spike growled behind her.
Buffy threw him a look over her shoulder. “I didn’t ask him to be here.” She turned back to her boyfriend. “Well? What did you guys do to him?”
“We put a behavior modification chip that send an electric charge any time he harms someone—or attempts to harm someone.” Riley’s hand drifted to his chest, and Buffy knew he was thinking of his own chip. Any hope that Riley might have an ounce of empathy for Spike died in the next moment, though. “But he’s a vampire, Buffy. Aren’t you going stake him?”
“No.” Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not.”
“What is it with you and vampires?” Riley demanded.
“Buffy—” Giles attempted to interrupt, but she ignored him.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Buffy felt herself flush.
Riley took another step towards her. “You seem pretty cozy with vampires.”
“Two vampires,” Buffy corrected him angrily.
“Oh, so you slept with him, too?” Riley asked, his voice rising.
“As a matter of fact…” Spike drawled from behind her, and Buffy whirled to glare at him. There was a gleam in Spike’s eyes that told Buffy he was enjoying this confrontation all too much.
“Get out of here, Spike,” she said through gritted teeth.
His lips curved up in a cruel smirk. “My pleasure.”
Giles and Riley began protesting at the same time, and Buffy cut them off with a loud, “I’m the Slayer, and if I say hands off of Spike, then it’s hands off.”
All eyes followed Spike as he slipped out the door, and Buffy turned to face Riley and Giles again. “Look, Spike saved my life a couple of years ago when I was in L.A. Anything else that happened is no one’s business.” She headed for the door. “And I’m late for patrol.”
“I’ll come with you,” Riley called.
“Don’t bother,” Buffy said coldly. “I’ll call you later.”
Buffy wanted to be alone; she wanted to hunt vampires, to lose herself in the night.
No matter what else happened, she still had her sacred duty.
Spike’s first objective, after leaving the Watcher’s flat with a sigh of relief, was to find out what had happened to his car. He wasn’t surprised to discover that the Desoto wasn’t where he’d left it, and a quick trip to the police station gave him the answers he needed—although not the ones he wanted.
Turned out the Desoto had been towed months ago and sold at a police auction when it wasn’t claimed.
Leaning against the wall outside the police station, Spike wished for a cigarette and considered his options. If he’d been able to find his car, he probably would have hightailed it out of town, shaken the dust off his feet and tried to forget the last year.
Without the car, Spike’s options had narrowed. He could steal a vehicle, but the idea held little appeal. He wanted his car, and he wanted his coat.
Spike had lost everything, and he had no idea what to do next.
Running a hand through his long hair, Spike grimaced. First off, he needed to find out if the demon barber was still in the same place and get a haircut, then he wanted clothing he hadn’t worn for a year straight.
And he really wanted a smoke.
He pulled out the wallet he’d swiped from the Watcher with a smirk and searched its contents, coming up with a couple of credit cards and two twenties. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
Several hours later, Spike stood outside the Summers’ house, sucking on a fag and wondering what it was about the Slayer that kept him coming around. She was shagging one of the sodding Initiative soldiers for fuck’s sake, he thought, taking another furious puff.
It was clear that she’d put the girl she’d been in Los Angeles behind her, not that he was surprised by that. Buffy had gone back to her life, and he’d gone back to his, such as it was, and they had both moved on.
But Spike found he couldn’t just forget. He held no hope of getting the chip out of his head, but he knew that at least around Buffy he had a chance of surviving. Anywhere else, and the other vamps and demons would be on him like a pack of wolves on fresh meat.
Tossing his cigarette butt aside, Spike headed toward the nearest cemetery. There was bound to be an empty mausoleum or crypt he could sleep in once the sun rose. After that, he’d consider his options.
He took a deep breath of the warm night air and glanced down at his dark jeans and long sleeved gray t-shirt; it wasn’t his usual wear, but he’d reinvented himself before. This time would be no different.
Buffy wished she could be surprised when Riley showed up at her house the next day. She hadn’t called him the night before, but it had been late when she’d arrived home, and Buffy didn’t want another argument.
She’d been too defensive on the subject of Spike, but it was a period of her life that she had blocked out, tried to pretend hadn’t happened. No one talked about the summer she’d spent in Los Angeles; no one mentioned that she’d disappeared for three months or asked what she’d done while she’d been gone.
It had been easier to forget, even though Spike’s appearance had immediately brought those memories to the surface.
She had been a different person then; that’s what Buffy had told herself, anyway. That was the only thing she could tell herself to explain why she had spent a month with Spike, or why she had missed him.
Not that she could tell Riley any of that.
“Can I come in?” he asked, managing to look sheepish and defiant all at once.
Buffy nodded and stood aside. “Sure. Mom’s at work.”
“Did you see him again last night?”
Buffy thought what Riley really wanted to know was whether she’d looked for him, whether she wanted to see him again, but she responded to the question he’d asked. “No, I didn’t. For all I know, Spike left town.” Buffy didn’t think he had, but Riley didn’t need to know that.
Riley shoved his hands in his pockets, and Buffy crossed her arms in front of her, mirroring his defensive stance. The awkward silence built, but she kept her mouth shut.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said.
“I just—” Buffy wondered what Riley would say, what he could possibly say to bridge the distance that had sprung up between them. Although if Buffy was honest with herself, the distance had been building since he’d slept with Faith during their body-switch. “It’s weird.”
“You’re the Slayer, and you’ve…”
He trailed off, but Buffy could complete the sentence for herself. “Slept with two vampires?” Embarrassment and disgust flashed across his face, and she continued, “I haven’t asked you about every single woman you slept with. I think I deserve the same courtesy.”
“You do, absolutely.”
The tone of voice Riley used told Buffy that he didn’t believe his own words. “Yeah, but?”
“They’re vampires, Buffy. If you stake Spike, it’s all over with. You can be rid of him.”
“He’s a vampire,” Riley said, as though that was the only thing that mattered.
Buffy forced a neutral expression. “He saved my life.”
Riley looked away, and Buffy had to wonder if this was the end. She understood that it was easier for him to see things in black and white. There were humans and HSTs, and nothing in between. She couldn’t see it that way, though.
She still remembered what it had been like to believe that everything could be seen in black and white, with no shades of gray.
“He’s still evil.”
“Maybe,” Buffy acknowledged. “He was evil when he saved my life, Riley.”
Riley paused for a moment. “The army offered to take me back,” he said. “I haven’t decided yet.”
Buffy knew where this was going. “Are you going?”
“Do I have a reason to stay?”
“I love you, Buffy. Do you feel the same way?”
Buffy gaped at him. She wasn’t sure, that was the thing. She loved him—or she could—but only if he gave her the time.
Or maybe if she’d been able to be the woman she’d been with Spike.
“Can’t you give me time, Riley?”
“This isn’t easy for me.”
Buffy waited, wondering if she would be enough for him, just what she was, just what she could give him.
“Do you love me?”
Buffy rubbed her eyes. “I could,” she finally said. “If you gave me time.”
Riley sighed. “I can’t. I can’t stay not knowing how you feel.”
“I don’t even know how I feel!” Buffy protested.
“But you should know if you love me,” Riley responded.
Buffy wanted to; she wanted to be able to respond, but she couldn’t, not right now. “I wish I did.”
“I’m leaving town.” Riley swallowed; she could hear it. “They need me.”
It shouldn’t have been that easy. Saying goodbye to the guy she’d been seeing for six months should have been difficult at best, but Buffy found it all too easy.
“That’s all you’re going to say?”
“What else am I going to say?” she asked. “You’ve already made your decision.”
Riley couldn’t meet her eyes, and Buffy wished that it could have turned out differently. Maybe it would have if Spike hadn’t turned up, but that was a moot point now.
“So am I.”
And that was that.
Smoking was the one constant; Spike had been smoking cigarettes since the ‘50’s, even if he was missing the lighter he’d had for most of that time.
The sky was bright with stars, and he counted them silently, naming the constellations that he remembered from his youth.
Spike had missed this. He’d missed the night and the hunt, and he’d take one, even if he couldn’t have the other. Lying on the grass outside the crypt he’d stayed in that day, Spike blew out a cloud of smoke that briefly masked the stars.
He recognized Buffy’s voice right off the bat. “H’lo.”
“Doing all right.”
“You look better.”
Spike tried not to respond to that comment, even though it meant a lot that she had noticed. “Thanks.”
“You got a haircut.”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious.”
“And new clothes.”
Spike didn’t bother to respond to that.
“I didn’t know Riley was going to be there.”
“I figured that out.” Spike didn’t feel like sparing Buffy’s feelings.
“Spike, that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“You were the one who wanted me to talk to your Watcher.”
He clambered wearily to his feet. “What do you want, Buffy?”
“I don’t want anything.” She stared at him exasperated. “I just wanted to be sure you were okay.”
“Now you know.”
“Are you staying here?”
“Where else am I gonna go?” Spike asked bitterly. “My car’s gone, I can’t fight, I can’t hunt. I’ve got nothing left, Summers, so yeah. I’m staying.”
He could see the pity in her eyes, and he hated it. Spike wanted to tell her to take her pity and leave him alone, but the words wouldn’t come. As pathetic as it might make him, he craved her company.
Buffy took a step closer, and her eyes were soft in the moonlight. “The Initiative is gone; Riley left, too. You’re probably safer in Sunnydale than you’d be anywhere else.”
Spike gave a half-hearted shrug and stubbed out his cigarette against the stone, then shoved his hands in his pockets. “Great. Then I guess I’m staying.”
He couldn’t prevent the bitterness from creeping into his voice, and he wasn’t looking at Buffy, which was why her shoving him up against the wall of the crypt came as a surprise. Spike tried to shove her back, more out of instinct than anything else, but he was forced to stop as the chip fired.
“Sorry. Sorry,” Buffy muttered at his involuntary cry of pain, pulling back. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
“No.” Spike couldn’t believe the word was coming out of his mouth, “Please.”
It felt so good to be touched; the Slayer’s hands were squeezing his shoulders, running down his arms. Her lips pressed into his again, and Spike nipped at her lower lip, this time feeling no twinge from the chip.
For a moment, Spike could believe that it was two years ago, before his life had gone to utter shit, before he’d been turned inside out while men in white coats watched.
Before he’d lost everything.
Buffy’s hands fumbled at his fly, and Spike shoved his hands up her skirt, pulling down her underwear and letting them drop to the ground. He picked her up, feeling Buffy’s legs wrap around his waist. He turned them both around to brace her back against the cold stone, burying his face in her hair, breathing in her scent, driving deeply into her.
She came apart around him, and he held her tightly, taking deep, unnecessary breaths as he came.
Buffy leaned her forehead against his and whispered, “This never happened.”
Spike closed his eyes. “I know.”
Part III: Rebuilding
“I come bearing ice cream,” Willow announced at the front door.
Buffy accepted the plastic sack and peered inside, seeing several tubs of Ben & Jerry’s. “Where’s Tara tonight?”
Willow shrugged. “She had to work, and with Riley leaving, I thought you could use the company.” She entered the house, looking around in an exaggerated fashion. “Unless you already have company.”
Buffy headed to the kitchen for spoons. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Come on, Buff. You and Spike?”
She stiffened. “There’s nothing going on between me and Spike.”
Willow plopped down at the kitchen table and gave Buffy her resolve face. “Okay,” she said slowly. “But you went back inside the Initiative for him, and he’s here in Sunnydale, and Riley leaves. And you and Giles aren’t speaking.”
“We’re speaking,” Buffy said carefully, sitting down across from Willow and pulling out a pint of Cherry Garcia. “We spoke yesterday.”
“I was there,” Willow replied dryly. “I would have thought it was January with the chill in the air.”
Buffy remained silent, poking at the soft ice cream.
“Is it true that you…” Willow trailed off.
“That was a long time ago,” Buffy said softly, knowing that she wasn’t exactly answering the question.
“Yeah. It was a screwed up summer. I was screwed up.”
“He was part of that.”
Willow focused on her own ice cream. “You had to have liked him a little bit, to go back for him. You could have been killed.”
Buffy had no idea how to explain her feelings for Spike, or what he was to her. It wasn’t love; she didn’t have a name for it.
“He saved my life,” she finally managed. “I don’t know if I would have come back to Sunnydale if it hadn’t been for him.”
“You never talk about that summer,” Willow observed.
Buffy swallowed. “Why would I? After what happened when I got back, I didn’t think anyone would want to hear about it. And Spike was—is—a vampire. With Angel, and everything…”
“Is it true that he can’t hurt anyone now?” Willow asked.
Buffy thought about his cry of pain when she’d jumped him in the cemetery, and he’d tried to fight back. “It’s true.”
“Is Spike why you’re mad at Giles?”
Buffy sighed. “He shouldn’t have interfered by asking Riley to come over.”
“He’s your Watcher. It’s kind of his job.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Maybe, but that was a lot of awkwardness I wanted to avoid.”
“What are you going to do about Spike?”
Buffy had been asking herself the same question; she still didn’t know, so she remained silent and instead changed the subject. “Are we still on to go to the Bronze tomorrow?”
Willow’s expression indicated that she knew exactly what Buffy was doing, but she went along with it.
That was one of the reasons Willow was her best friend.
Spike had spent over a hundred years enjoying every moment—or nearly every moment—of his undead existence. He had fought and fucked and hunted. Every night had been a party, full of new experiences and old alike.
And now, time stretched before him in an endless stream; meeting the sunlight was beginning to look better and better.
Coming to the Bronze had been a bad idea, he realized, as he slipped through the doors. The smell of young flesh, the blood pumping quick and hot, was nearly overwhelming. Spike had self-control, and it had been a long time since he’d had human blood, but the temptation was still nearly overwhelming. Not being able to give into temptation made it worse, and tension crept across his shoulders as he stepped up to the bar.
“Jack, neat,” Spike ordered, passing the bartender a bill. He took his drink and his change and found a seat at the end of the bar, his eyes drawn to the dance floor.
Although he knew he was torturing himself, Spike watched the dancers, picking out the one he’d have fed from a year ago. Throwing back the drink, he approached the young woman; she was in her early twenties, and definitely not blond.
She greeted him with a smile and a shimmy of her hips; her tight, short skirt showed off long, tanned legs, and her blouse displayed her cleavage to good effect.
Spike must have been off his game, because it took a few minutes for him to realize that she was a vampire, and a young one at that. For a moment, he was tempted to continue the charade, to let her take him out to the alley, where they would either fuck, or she would try to feed, but he knew it was a bad idea when he couldn’t fight.
The crowd parted, and he caught sight of the Slayer staring at him, her eyes narrowed with an emotion he might have thought was jealousy, if that was even a possibility. Buffy started across the dance floor towards him and his companion, and he grasped the young vampire by the wrist.
“Let’s get some air,” he whispered.
Spike led her out through the back door, the same one he’d watched Buffy disappear through all those years ago, when he still wanted to kill her.
“So, what do you want to do?” the vampire asked, once they were outside. She trailed her hand up his chest, over his t-shirt. “Do you have a place we can go?”
“We’re not going anywhere,” Spike replied. “I think you have an appointment with the Slayer.”
Buffy didn’t pause to make one of her trademark quips; dust drifted in the slight breeze coming through the alley. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Where the hell else am I going to go?” was Spike’s rejoinder. “I just wanted a drink.”
“I’m here with my friends,” Buffy hissed. “If you—”
“They won’t have to know if you don’t tell them,” Spike snarled. “If you don’t follow me around. You keep doing that, they’re going to know that something is up, Slayer.”
“I wasn’t following you!” she protested. “I was going after the vampire.”
He shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
Turning on his heel, he began to walk away. The truth was that he couldn’t quit her, but that didn’t mean he had to offer himself up for punishment.
He paused, waiting until she’d caught up to him. “What?”
“Just—this is hard for me, too.”
Spike turned to face her, meeting her eyes, remembering the girl she’d been in Los Angeles—weary and half-broken. She hadn’t been the Slayer then, or she’d been denying that part of herself.
That was clearly no longer the case.
“Yeah, I get that.”
Spike walked away, because it was the only option left open to him.
Buffy couldn’t help but feel torn. She wanted Spike, and not just for the sex; he had been a good companion once upon a time, to the girl she’d been then. He’d listened and been silent and taken her out, and he’d known what she needed.
But he was a vampire, and he didn’t have a soul, and the chip could stop working someday, and she would have to let him go again. There was no point in getting attached.
Of course, she was already attached, bound to him by a sense of duty, knowing that she owed him. Buffy could sense that he was clinging to his life, such as it was, by his fingernails.
She’d seen the same despair in the mirror before.
Seeing him in the Bronze had been a rude awakening. Xander had spotted him first, and had asked what Spike was doing there, and for one shameful moment, Buffy had thought that Spike had come for her. He was going to let it be known what they’d done in a moment of weakness in the cemetery, and her friends would hate her.
Instead, he’d just been there, like anyone else was there—for a drink or a dance or a chance for a little human contact. And he’d led the female vampire out into the alley for her, so that she could perform her duty. Something about that hurt just a little.
Buffy hadn’t seen Spike for a few days, not since that night at the Bronze. She thought he might be avoiding her, but she hadn’t tried seeking him out.
So, she was more than a little surprised to see him sitting in the kitchen with her mom, drinking cocoa.
“Oh, Buffy, there you are. Spike and I have been having a nice chat.”
Her mother was in no danger from Spike, but Buffy still had to bite her tongue to keep from demanding to know his business at her house.
For his part, Spike appeared to be very interested in the melted marshmallows floating in his hot cocoa, and he refused to look up at Buffy.
“Hey,” Buffy finally managed. “It’s been awhile.”
Buffy decided she didn’t want to know what could have kept him so busy. “I, uh, I’m going upstairs. I’ll see you tomorrow, Mom.”
She fled, knowing full well that’s exactly what she was doing. Joyce could ferret out her feelings better than anyone else, and if Buffy stuck around for too long, Joyce would figure out that there was more between her and Spike than a sense of duty.
It turned out that she hadn’t fled fast enough.
“I think you should talk to Spike,” Joyce said the next evening while they ate dinner together.
Buffy froze, trying not to allow her alarm to show on her face. “About what?”
“He’s lonely, Buffy.” Joyce’s tone was reproving. “He’s had a hard time lately, and he could use a friend.”
Buffy blinked. “He told you?”
“He told me enough, and he told me in confidence.”
Buffy knew her mother well enough to know that she wouldn’t get more information than that. “It’s not that simple, Mom,” she finally said. “He’s still a vampire.”
“He’s not hurting anyone.” Joyce’s expression was definitely motherly. “I thought I told you not to judge someone based on what they look like, but on their actions.”
Buffy couldn’t believe she was getting this lecture from her mom, now, and in relation to a vampire. “You did,” she said carefully. “But being a vampire isn’t something you can just stop. Come on, Mom. It’s not that simple.”
“Nothing ever is.” And that sounded like a parental proverb if Buffy had ever heard one.
For a moment—and just for a moment—Buffy was tempted to confess the whole thing, to tell her mother that she and Spike had been together, and he’d been the one to drive her back to Sunnydale. In a way it would be easier, whether her mother gave her blessing or turned on Spike.
Instead, she said, “I’ll do what I can.”
Spike knew that he had no business following Buffy around. He’d done it before, of course, but that was when he’d have been able to gain the upper hand during a fight. Now, he’d be lucky to get off with a beating.
That didn’t mean he could stop himself, however. Buffy fascinated him, and drew him to her like a moth to flame. He wanted her, and yet he hated that he wanted her.
Her friends were nowhere to be seen tonight; she was patrolling alone, and he admired her quick and graceful movements. Spike had noticed that she was hunting in earnest these days, chasing down vampires like a lioness chased a gazelle. He saw a fierce joy in her movements that he hadn’t noticed when Angelus was around, and Spike wondered at the source.
Spike suspected that she was coming into her full power.
Right now, however, Buffy had found herself in the midst of a knot of vampires; Spike recognized a couple. They were old, tough, and were moving into the power vacuum left by the departing Initiative.
Spike watched as they surrounded the Slayer with taunts and sneers; given what he knew, he’d put good money on Buffy. Even five against one wasn’t even odds when Buffy was the Slayer.
To his dismay, one of the vampires managed to disarm Buffy in the ensuing fight, and her stake went flying. The vampires closed ranks, and Spike realized that he could either stand by and allow her to be killed, or he could risk his head exploding.
His feet were moving before Spike realized a decision had been made.
Spike hit the biggest vampire with a flying tackle around the waist and waited for the migraine. It took a moment for him to figure out that the pain wasn’t coming, and another to recognize what that meant. But when he did, Spike threw himself into the fight with abandon, venting all of his pent-up rage on the vampires in front of him.
Not until they were all dust on the ground did Spike think about the fact that he’d killed his own kind to save the Slayer.
“I thought you said you couldn’t hurt anything.” Buffy stared at him, suspicion warring with gratitude in her eyes.
Spike shook his head. “Didn’t think I could. I can’t hurt humans. I’ll bet those Initiative wankers didn’t mind if the chip let me hurt demons.”
Buffy pushed her hair out of her face and retrieved her stake. “So, you just happened to be passing through the area?”
“If you like.” Spike wasn’t about to admit to anything he didn’t have to.
She regarded him with narrowed eyes, and he found it impossible to read her expression. “Do you want to join me? I still have a couple of cemeteries I should patrol.”
The thought of another round of violence before sunrise brightened Spike’s mood considerably. “Yeah, sure. I could do that.”
He fell into step beside her and kept his eyes forward when she said, “Thanks.”
Spike found that he had a spring in his step that had been missing for quite some time.
Part IV: Resolution
Buffy had heard the old saying that you didn’t know what was missing until it was gone; she thought that sometimes you didn’t know what had been missing until it reappeared, though.
She’d known that Spike was different when she dragged him out of the Initiative, but had chalked it up to a long ordeal. Then, when nothing had changed, Buffy had thought that perhaps it was her imagination. Two years had passed since the last time she’d seen him, and Buffy figured that her memory was fuzzy.
Lying in her bed, thinking back to the night before, Buffy finally figured out what had been absent. Spike had always had a certain reckless joy about him; he’d thrown himself into whatever fight was before him without thought to the consequences.
Until last night, that fire had been extinguished. He’d seemed to be simply existing, except for those few moments when they’d fucked against the wall of the crypt.
Buffy grew warm at the thought, and though it might be wrong, she wanted Spike again.
It couldn’t happen, she thought silently. Everything was different now. She was different. Buffy was no longer the desperate, hopeless girl she had been; Spike wasn’t some white knight come to save her.
She was the Slayer; he was a vampire caught up in a really messed up government experiment. That was it.
Buffy sighed. She only wished it were that simple.
Rolling out of bed, Buffy got ready for the day, knowing that she owed her Watcher a visit. He would want to know about the previous night’s events, particularly the fact that Spike’s chip didn’t work against anything other than humans.
As far as Buffy was concerned, that was good news.
“And you’re certain he wasn’t lying?” Giles asked when she told him what had happened.
Buffy raised her eyebrows. “Of course I’m sure, Giles. I saw it work.”
He frowned. “When was this?”
She felt heat rise to her face. “A few days ago.”
“He attacked someone?”
“No,” Buffy said slowly. “I attacked him, and he struck back out of reflex.”
“Did he do something?”
From the expression on Giles’ face, he had a pretty good idea of what had happened, but Buffy wasn’t about to describe the circumstances in detail. “Very well,” he finally said. “Where is Spike staying currently?”
“A crypt in the Restview Cemetery,” Buffy responded. “Why?”
Giles leaned back in his chair. “I heard your warning loud and clear, Buffy. I have no intention of doing Spike harm—unless, of course, he deserves it.”
Buffy looked away; she’d given too much away just then. She shouldn’t have been concerned at all.
“I can understand that you would feel some connection, Buffy, given what happened.”
Buffy rose and walked over to the window, looking out at the peaceful courtyard. “I don’t want to be connected to him, Giles. It’s not like I want to care.”
“But you do.”
“I do,” she admitted.
Giles sighed, the sound harsh in the silence that hung between them. “Be careful, Buffy. He may appear harmless now, but he is still a vampire.”
Buffy turned to face him. “He saved my life last night, and he didn’t have to. Even thinking that he was going to be in pain, he saved me.”
That was what Buffy kept coming back to; she didn’t mind if they kept saving each other, just as long as they didn’t destroy one another while they were at it.
Spike wished he could be surprised at Giles’ arrival, but he wasn’t. Spike had expected a visit from the Watcher at some point, telling him to get out of town and leave his Slayer be.
“How did you find me?” Spike asked, wanting to postpone the inevitable.
“Buffy told me you were at Restview. There aren’t many crypts suitable for a vampire around here.” Giles glanced around the interior of the crypt, distaste clear in his expression.
Spike sat on the sarcophagus, his feet hanging down, drinking from a flask he’d stolen. “Yeah. They don’t make crypts like they used to,” he said with a sardonic smile.
Giles faced him fully. “Buffy told me that the chip doesn’t work against demons.”
“Looks that way.”
“She also said that you saved her life.”
“I suppose I did.”
“Perhaps you might find a new purpose for your life,” Giles suggested. “You could be of great service to Buffy.”
Spike blinked. “Excuse me?”
“You can protect her in the way others cannot.”
“What’s in it for me?”
Giles raised his eyebrows. “I suppose the satisfaction of saving lives isn’t sufficient.”
Spike snorted. “I’m still a vampire, Watcher. You’re going to need more than pretty words to convince me to kill my own kind and protect the Slayer.”
“Then let me put it this way,” Giles said. “You can help the Slayer, or you can be at the mercy of every vampire and demon in Sunnydale when they find out you’re working for us.”
“I won’t be working for you.”
“They won’t know that.”
Spike looked into Giles’ eyes and knew he was dead serious. Oddly enough, it was easier to say yes when he knew he was being blackmailed.
“Yeah, alright, but I want something from you.”
“A carton of smokes every two weeks, and enough blood to live on.” Spike shrugged at Giles’ expression. “I can steal it, but it’s risky, and I hate getting shot.”
A smile tugged the corner of Giles’ mouth. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Spike nodded. “Fair enough. Tell Buffy she can meet me here if she wants a partner on patrol.”
“I’ll do that.”
Giles left, and Spike finished his drink, considering the strange turn his life had taken. He would much rather be hunting down sweet young things, but he at least had some purpose now. It was a fucked up purpose, but it was what he had.
And he’d be able to take his rage out on something.
“So, Buffy, need some company tonight?” Xander asked from his lounging position on Giles’ couch. “I brought popcorn.”
“Thanks for the offer, Xander, but I’ve got company,” Buffy replied.
“Who?” Willow asked, reaching a hand into the bag of popcorn Xander held.
Buffy sighed, knowing that this wasn’t going to go over well. “Spike.”
“What? Why the hell would you go with Spike?” Xander demanded.
“Because I asked him to,” Giles said calmly from the kitchen as he finished making a pot of tea. “He’s a capable fighter, he can’t harm Buffy, and he’s unlikely to be hurt. And if he is hurt, he will heal quickly”
Willow looked from Buffy to Giles to Xander. “He’s right, Xander. Spike is way more indestructible than we are.”
“He’s evil!” Xander protested.
“Maybe, but he’s a good fighter, and he saved my life the other night,” Buffy responded. “If he’s willing to help, I’m going to take him up on the offer.” She rose from the chair. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, Giles.”
Buffy left before Xander could offer any other arguments. He had a point; Buffy knew that the chip hadn’t changed Spike in any fundamental way. Spike was still a vampire, and would likely feed on a human just as soon as not.
But she was finding it hard to focus on Spike being evil. Buffy would much rather focus on how Spike seemed to know the best way to get her off.
“Thought you might be by,” Spike said from the roof of the crypt as Buffy reached for the door. He leapt down nimbly. “We patrolling any particular place?”
“Just the usual rounds.” Buffy looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “Any reason you were on the roof?”
Spike shrugged. “I’d rather not be inside if I can help it.”
His tone of voice made it clear that he had no intention of discussing his time in the Initiative.
“Thanks for caring.” His dry tone got her back up, but Buffy didn’t respond. Technically, she shouldn’t have cared; the fact that she did—just a little—made her squirm a bit.
Patrol was uneventful, not too surprising since a lot of the demons and vampires had been killed in the final battle inside the Initiative. Buffy finished her usual rounds only a couple of hours after they’d started, and she was loath to leave Spike at his crypt and head back home.
Spike raised an eyebrow as she dawdled. “Want to come in for a drink?”
It was a bad idea; it was a really bad idea, but Buffy couldn’t say no.
Spike led the way inside the crypt, shutting the door before pressing his lips to hers. Out of necessity, he was gentler than he’d been in the past, but Buffy clutched him tightly, pulling him closer.
She could feel his fingers thread through her hair, and he gently pulled her head back to leave her neck exposed. His kisses there were tender, careful. “I have a bed downstairs,” he murmured against her skin.
Buffy knew that she should leave. She should keep her relationship with Spike strictly business—they could do friendly business, but that was it.
“Yes,” she said instead.
“Hang on.” Spike released her, and Buffy was dismayed at the whimper coming out of her throat. He opened a trap door behind the sarcophagus and disappeared into the darkness. Buffy peered over the edge and saw a soft glow start up. “Come on down.”
She hesitated only a moment before she dropped down, seeing Spike in the dim candlelight. There was a mattress on the floor in one corner, covered with a thick comforter. She couldn’t tell what color it was in the flickering light, but they had fucked in worse places.
“What are we doing, Spike?” she asked.
He shrugged. “We’re finding comfort. There’s precious little of it in this world, Summers.”
The explanation was enough; Buffy surged forward, pushing Spike backwards, both of them stumbling over their feet as they fought with lips and tongues. Buffy pushed him onto his back on the mattress and straddled him, their position an unconscious mirror of one of their first nights together.
They undressed each other quickly and without care for ripping seams or tangled limbs. Buffy saw familiar, pale flesh, decorated with new scars. There was a large patch of scar tissue on Spike’s chest where it appeared he’d been burned, and she mapped the area with her fingertips, giving him a questioning look.
“Don’t heal as fast when I’m not drinking human blood,” Spike explained, his face going blank.
“When did you get burned?”
She couldn’t read him, and his tone was expressionless as he replied, “Inside the Initiative. I was lucky.”
“Lucky?” The patch was larger than her two hands, and although she knew Spike would eventually heal completely, it made her sick to see it and the other scars she could just make out in the dim light.
“They put a lot of research into the chip in my head,” Spike said, his laughter devoid of humor. “They wanted to know how quick I’d heal, but they still needed test subjects to find out how quick vampires burn.”
Buffy had no words to reply to that, so she pressed her lips to the scar tissue, nipping around the borders, causing Spike to twist beneath her as she used her tongue to good effect.
She moved lower, kissing and licking her way south until Spike stopped her with a harsh, “No! Not like that, not this time.”
Buffy knew what he meant, and she allowed him to pull her up until they were joined—kissing wildly, Spike’s arms holding her tightly.
They kept up the rhythm they’d learned by heart so long ago, and it was just as easy now as it had been then.
Spike made sure she got off first before his own release, and they collapsed on the shoddy mattress, Buffy half-draped across him. She could smell sex and sweat, old earth and stone, and Spike.
“I should go,” she said without moving.
“Mom will be worried.”
“She won’t be waiting up for you.”
“I’ll wake you before dawn. Sleep.”
She wanted to stay; Buffy was sated and wrung out. In the darkness, here and now, she could pretend that this relationship had a chance at working out.
And sometimes, she needed to pretend. “Okay. Don’t let me sleep too late.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll wait until daylight for a nap.” He pulled her closer and Buffy was too tired to resist—and it felt too good to be in his arms. “Go on, luv.”
The endearment fell off his tongue easily, and Buffy moved closer, feeling Spike drag the comforter up over the both of them.
“I’m glad you’re staying in Sunnydale,” she whispered against his chest, and Buffy felt him tighten his grip on her.
“Yeah. I’ll stay as long as you need me.”
And really, Buffy thought as she drifted off to sleep, that kind of promise was better than a declaration of love.
Spike made certain that the comforter was securely tucked around Buffy’s shoulders. The candlelight intensified the golden color of her hair and the tan of her skin.
What he was feeling couldn’t be love; Spike thought he’d had enough pain to last a lifetime, and a vampire loving the Slayer was a masochist’s game.
But he thought he’d stay with her, given the opportunity. Spike knew he’d protect her, with his life if necessary.
He owed her that much, and her touch was a balm to him; her company a blessing.
And maybe, given what he knew of love, this was better.
Brushing Buffy’s hair back from her face, Spike laid down next to her and closed his eyes, letting the sound of her heartbeat lull him to sleep.
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
in which there is no I or you
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is your hand
so intimate that when you fall asleep it is my eyes that close.
~Pablo Neruda, Sonnet 17