Buffy glanced at him. “Right,” she said. “Werewolf.”
“Will you be okay?”
Buffy shook her head. “Not until I find him,” she said.
“I’ll pick up some more books. We can keep looking for spells,” he said. “I’ll be back after the sun rises.”
“Unless I find a way to track him,” Buffy said, “I’ll be here.”
She didn’t make any progress without Angel, either. Buffy sagged at the desk in Spike’s vacated room, exhausted, tired of getting nowhere with phone call after phone call, spell book after spell book. This was fruitless. Spike wasn’t going to be using the normal parameters to travel. She was pretty sure he didn’t even have a passport – it wasn’t as if he still used his last name. He was going to go as someone else – and there was no knowing what that alias would be – or he was going to disappear secretly, and there would be no tracing him, no matter what they did. She hoped Angel would get back soon. Maybe he’d have an idea. If nothing else, he had that necro-protective whatever glass in that car he was using, so the two of them could at least check things out in person, on the docks if nothing else. That was the most likely way she’d find Spike, she knew. In person. He might come to her if he saw her. She feared she’d never see him again otherwise.
In despair her head sank onto her hands, and she rubbed her eyes, exhausted, miserable, hopeless.
There was a soft knock on the edge of the open door. Angel had come back. The moon had sunk down a while ago, the sun had already paled the night sky to teal. He had probably come to tell her that Nina was fine, but that finding Spike was still fruitless. She did not lift her head from her hands. “Come in,” she said, wearily.
“Hello, cutie,” said a voice she hadn’t heard in far too long.
She felt as if someone had just poured hard liquor down her throat. She turned in her chair, relief and anger and shock and joy all fighting for space inside her. “God damn you!” she cried at Spike, standing up so clumsily she knocked her chair over. “God damn you, you idiot, what the hell did you think you were doing? Are you insane?” She came up to him, shouting, her accusatory glare fixed on him. “You sick, sadistic serial killer!” And then she had her arms around him, and her head buried in his collarbone, and her tears ran down his neck. “I missed you,” she sobbed. “I missed you, you idiot.” She pulled away a little and looked at him. “And the second I stop crying, I’m gonna be really angry at you!” she said. Then she fell back against him, and held him hard enough to bruise.
It hurt like hell, and he didn’t try to get her to ease up. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. “I – umh!” God, her lips tasted like wine! He let himself kiss her back, sensuously, hungrily, and then froze in surprise as her knees buckled and she slid down. She’d have fallen if it hadn’t been for his arms catching her. “Buffy?”
“Sorry,” she said. “Little faint.”
Spike lifted her, ignoring the pain in his burned hand, and the ache in his injured one, and carried her to the bed. He set her on it, sitting up to look at him. “You all right?” he asked, concerned.
Buffy nodded. “I’m just anemic.”
“Yeah, I can tell,” Spike said, looking at her color. He looked her over. “How much did you give me?”
“Just a pint,” she said.
He raised an eyebrow.
“Every day. For a week.”
His shoulders sagged in disapproval. “Bloody hell, slayer. I always said you had a death wish.” He reached out for her throat, taking her pulse with his fingers. “You’re not good, pet.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Barely,” he said.
“Well,” she confessed. “I was about to give it up, for a while.”
“From your color, I’d say you should have given up three days ago,” Spike said.
“You were alive,” Buffy said.
“I wouldn’t have cared, if you’d killed yourself for it.”
“I was hoping it would work,” Buffy said. “The blood of a slayer restores, gives power. I was going to stop for a while, and then try again once I’d recovered.”
“For how long?”
“As long as it took, you dope,” Buffy said. “Until you came back, either sane or not.”
Spike gazed at her. “Was that in question?”
“Did you think I strapped you down for the fun of it?” At the look on his face, she changed tacks. “While unconscious, I mean?”
He smiled at the reference, but awkwardness quickly rose up between them. “Blood loss aside, you’re looking...” he trailed off.
“I haven’t brushed my hair in three days, or changed my clothes in four, so I’m pretty sure I look awful,” Buffy said.
“Not to me,” he said quietly. “It’s been a while.”
“Yeah, it has,” Buffy said pointedly. “You wanna explain what the hell you thought you were doing?”
Spike didn’t know what to say. He swallowed and looked at the wall.
“Spike,” Buffy said. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
He shrugged. “I didn’t know what to say.”
“Okay,” Buffy said. “I’m alive. How’s that for a start?”
Spike smiled and shook his head. “Not so easy as that.”
“I’m back? Hi Buffy? Up for a shag? Any of these would have been better than silence.”
Spike laughed. “God, I’ve missed you.”
“That’s another good one,” Buffy said. She reached out and rubbed his neck. “I missed you, too.” Her hand traced his collarbone and down his arm. “God, I was so scared. This wasn’t fair to me, Spike. According to Angel, you all planned on dying the other night. If we hadn’t taken it upon ourselves to come rushing into the apocalypse, you all would have. Not to mention, utterly failing to stop the apocalypse as it happened, because you lot weren’t up to it. LA would have looked like Sunnydale does, and that’s some millions of people, Spike. What the hell were you all thinking?”
“Yeah, well, not evacuating LA was Angel’s call, not mine,” Spike said. “Probably no one would’ve have listened to us, anyway,” he added. “You can ream him out for it.”
“I’ve been too busy reaming him out for not telling me about you,” Buffy said. “When I wasn’t giving him the silent treatment. Do either of you have any respect for me at all? Let’s just leave Buffy grieving, it’ll be a laugh!”
“That wasn’t what I was thinking,” Spike said.
“Well, what the hell were you thinking, because I just don’t get it, Spike. I would never have known you were alive. You want to explain that?”
Spike hesitated, and then shook his head.
“Okay, you want to explain why you did it all over again tonight?”
“I’d have thought that one was obvious,” Spike said.
“What, Angel?” Buffy asked.
“Because you happened to wake up on two people who had just passed out from exhaustion and blood loss from trying to bring you the hell back.” She glared at him. “I’d have thought that was obvious, since you took the damn blade out of your hand.”
“It was just hard to watch,” he said quietly.
Buffy sighed. “At least you came back, this time,” she said. “Why did you?”
He held up his hand. It was ripped open, still oozing blood. “I smelled you,” he said. “Your blood is pretty distinctive, pet. It’s a little tainted with Angel’s, but... I’m actually saturated with the two of you at the moment. Was that the plan?”
“No,” Buffy said. “Angel surprised me tonight.” She relayed the information about the ritual.
“So where is he?”
“He went to let his girlfriend out,” Buffy said. “She’s sort of... locked up.”
“Right,” Spike said.
Buffy was just as annoyed by his casual acceptance as she was by his walking off. “And you knew he had a girlfriend,” she said. “Did you know about Cordelia?”
“So you knew he wasn’t after me.”
“I know nothing of the kind,” Spike said. “He still goes on about your forever love, your bloody destiny.” He shook his head. “He’d take you in an eye blink.”
“And you didn’t think to ask me first?” Buffy demanded.
Spike’s injured hand clenched in a fist, and he stepped away. Here they were, reunited for less than ten minutes, and all that anger and defensiveness had risen a wall between them again.
“I don’t understand,” Buffy said – pleaded, almost. “How could you do that? Just throw this – us – how could you throw us away like that?”
“I wasn’t throwing this away. I just... couldn’t decide what to do.”
“So you abandoned me.”
Spike whirled on her, his voice firm. “No!”
“What did I do wrong, Spike? I thought you trusted me.”
“I did. I do. I... thought I did.” Spike sighed. “Buffy,” he said. “At first I couldn’t – I couldn’t leave LA, and I couldn’t touch anything, so I couldn’t even call you. And Angel wouldn’t, and...” He shook his head. “I just... I started to doubt.”
“You doubted me,” Buffy said, hurt.
“No. I doubted me,” Spike said. “Buffy, I was going to hell,” he said. “I kept flashing out of reality, and I... I found myself in hell. I mean, what did that mean? Everything I did, all the pain I went through, all the torture, all the suffering, all the madness, even the ultimate bloody sacrifice, and I was going to hell. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered to you, but... it mattered to me. You deserved better than that.”
“Than a reformed demon who hadn’t redeemed himself completely?” Buffy asked. “You think I wouldn’t have wanted you to keep trying?”
“I did keep trying,” he said. “But I did it... without burdening you with it.”
Buffy lost the tentative reign she’d tried to put on her temper. “If I hear one more martyred vampire tell me that he was avoiding me for my own good, I’m going to scream.”
“I wasn’t playing the martyr, that’s Angel’s game.”
“Then what is your game?”
Spike felt flustered, and completely at sea. “I don’t have a game!” he cried out, his hands to his eyes. Then he had to pull them away, because both hands hurt like hell. He sank down onto the guest couch and tried to breathe. Everything hurt, he just wanted to go to sleep, the love of his life was glaring at him, and he had to find a way to explain what he had never even properly explained to himself. “I was afraid, all right?” Spike said.
Buffy’s hands clenched in irritation. “Of what?”
“Of this,” Spike said. “This moment. This fight. This... thing. This... whatever was going to happen. I was afraid you’d yell at me, or hate me, or wouldn’t know what to do with me.”
“Since when has that ever stopped you?” Buffy asked.
“I.... It just did.”
“You thought I’d turn on you?” she asked. “God, you’re a jerk. You know, I thought you knew me. I thought you believed in me.”
“Doesn’t look like it,” Buffy pointed out. “You know, I thought you were just trying to protect me, but... I was there at the Hellmouth with you. You heard what I said. Did you think I’d make that up?”
“You think I’d throw everything away, forget what you’d done, what we had been to each other? You really think I was lying?”
“No,” Spike said, a quaver in his voice. “I was afraid you were telling the truth.”
Her anger faded a bit. Whatever he’d been thinking, he seemed to be getting to it. Buffy stood up off the bed and went to him, kneeling on the floor so she could look at him.
“I believed you,” he said, refusing to meet her gaze. “It just... it hurt. After so long... longing for you in so many ways... to know the end was coming, and have complete bliss put before me, only to burn to ash in my hand. I didn’t want it. Not then. It was only going to hurt both of us.”
“I had to,” Buffy said. “It was my last chance. It was the first time I was sure. What love was, what it meant. I reached out, and I felt you, and... there was no real change in how I felt about you... I just finally knew it was there. It was... like what we had had been too big and complicated to sort through before, and the love was just mixed up in all of it, hiding in it. I don’t even know when it showed up, but it was there. It hurt that you wouldn’t accept it.”
“It felt so good to hear it,” Spike said. “But what? Have love die for you again? You said it yourself – the moment you call it love, it’s doomed.”
“It was already doomed,” Buffy whispered. “Why not name it?”
Spike shook his head. “It just didn’t feel fair to either of us.”
Buffy sighed. “Love or no... I still don’t understand how you could let... this... die down there,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you let it come back with you?”
“Because it was already gone,” Spike said. “Buffy,” he said. His eyes looked so lost, like a little boy. “I haven’t been my own man since I met you. I don’t know who the hell I am anymore. All I know about myself is that I belong, heart and soul, to you. I mean, how is that fair to either of us?” His head sank. “Yeah, I knew you were grieving,” he said. “I was too. But I knew you could handle it. You had your slayers, you had your Scoobies, the niblet, you had all you needed to keep going. All I’d ever had was you, and...” He closed his eyes. “Soul or not, it just seemed like an empty spirit to offer.”
Buffy was annoyed. “So, like Angel, you made that choice for me.”
Spike shook his head. “I never made a choice,” he said wearily. “I let the wind take me, and wished I’d just been allowed... to stay dead.”
Realization dawned. “Oh,” Buffy said. She let the moment hang for a long time, as Spike stared at the floor, and she stared at Spike.“So you and I,” she said, no anger left anymore. “You just let it be finished.”
“After a while,” he said. He rubbed one eye. “I spun in circles a lot. Living itself just seemed... complicated enough, and it was easier to not... really care.”
“Or feel,” Buffy said quietly.
He got very distant then, his eyes closed, his soul very far away.
“I get it, now,” she said. “You can make crazy decisions when you were ready for it all to be over.” She felt such sympathy for him. “You know I know that.”
“It’s not quite the same,” Spike said, refusing to look at her. “I wasn’t pining for heaven, I was being dragged into hell, over and over and over again.”
“But you felt finished,” she said. “As if nothing were quite real... and this wasn’t meant to be your life.”
“I guess,” he whispered. “I tried not to think about it that hard. I told Angel, before this last fight, no bloody jewelry. I’ve just been existing, not really... living. Things were dropped on me, and I reacted. I tried not to think beyond the moment. I didn’t look forward, I barely looked behind. A fight, a death, a mission, whatever fell in front of me. Anything beyond the moment seemed out of reach with... too many possibilities, and choices that weren’t supposed to be mine. Angel’s the one who thinks in forevers. I only wanted to think in now. It was just... you and me, it felt... too big. Too far away. Too important.” He cringed a little. “It was hard to face.”
“Life can be,” Buffy said. She crept up closer to him and placed her hand on his bleeding one. “Life is complicated, and crazy, and painful.” Then she smiled. “Life’s not a song,” she whispered to him, an echo. “Life isn’t bliss. Life is just this.” She let go his hand and touched his cheek. “Don’t throw this away.”
He sighed, with something akin to relief, and some of the terror left his eyes. “I don’t want to,” he said. “I just didn’t know how to reach for it again. Just going on was hard enough, and you... terrify me. You tear me apart, Buffy. If you love me, or if you hate me... either way, I’m lost.”
Buffy considered this for a long moment. “Do you want me to just leave?” she asked.
There was a beat as he considered it, and then his face crumpled. “Oh, god, no,” he breathed. His breath caught and he nearly collapsed into tears of panic. He pulled her close and held her tightly – tighter than he knew, with all the slayer’s strength in his system, but Buffy didn’t care. “Buffy...” he breathed.
“It’s over, Spike,” she whispered into his ear, knowing that was all there was to say. She kissed his jaw and ran her nose along his hairline. “It’s over.” She pulled away and he gazed at her, fully there with her, the wall of defensiveness down completely. She gave him a brief kiss. “I’m in front of you now.” She smiled. “So. React.”
He bit his lower lip seductively and leaned toward her, breathing in her scent – god, her scent had driven him crazy from the first night he met her – and sensuously nuzzling up to her ear. “I love you, slayer,” he whispered, his cool breath sending a shiver up her spine. She kissed him properly then, gently, passionately, just the smallest edge of teeth to please the demon in him.
When they separated, his eyes were languid with desire. “Bloody hell, I suddenly want to bite you,” he said. He gave her a peck and pulled away with a smile. “I’m going to have to wait at least eight weeks, you suicidal git.”
Buffy hugged him, kissing gently at his throat before she whispered in his ear. “I guess that means we’ll have to stay together at least that long.”
“At least,” he whispered back.
“Not too far beyond the moment?” she asked.
“Not at all.” He kissed her neck, licking and nibbling on it gently until she was weak in the knees with it, then actively faint – again. She sank, and he caught her. “Whoops,” he said. He made himself stand, picked her up and carried her back to the bed. “Ow,” he grunted as he set her down. “Bugger,” he said.
“You’re a blooded victim, I feel like a train hit me, we’re gonna have to wait to do anything else, either.”
Buffy almost laughed as she realized he was right. Neither of them were up for it, even if they were a lot more careful than either of them much liked to be. “Well, I guess we’ll just have to stay close,” she said. She shifted in the bed and held out her arms. He slipped off his coat and joined her with a sigh. He pulled her against him in the way that always made him feel like a completed puzzle, all the pieces in place. “Oh, thank god,” she sighed. “I’ve been holding you for a week all dead, I’ve been longing to feel you breathing.”
“You’ve been holding me?” he asked.
“Mm-hm,” Buffy hummed, nuzzling into his chest.
“Sorry I missed it.”
“I’ll do it again,” she said.
He kissed the top of her head. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Buffy sighed happily. “You don’t want to run away again?” she asked.
“Of course I do, love. I’m scared to death,” he said. “This takes terrified to a level beyond all sense or sanity.”
“But are you going to?”
Spike shook his head. “No.”
“Good,” Buffy said. “I didn’t want to have to strap you down again.”
Spike chuckled, and then asked what he had to ask. “And Angel?”
“What about Angel?”
“I know you still love him.” There was no judgement in his tone. Only truth.
Buffy sighed. “I do, in my way,” she said. “But Angel’s not enough. Love isn’t enough, not by itself. You know,” she shifted to look up at him, “when I fell in love with Angel, it was pure. It was really easy to see, because there was nothing else. It was young. It was empty. But with you... there was always so much between us. There still is, so much more than love.” Then she reached up and kissed him. “But the love’s there, too.”
“You’re sure?” he asked.
“I’m sure,” she said. “It’s been there a long time. It was just complicated. A lot harder to see it in all the mess.”
“So, at least we’re still messed up,” Spike said. “Glad we’re on familiar ground.”
Buffy laughed. “So this is back?” Buffy asked. “We have this, you and I?”
“We have this,” Spike said. He squeezed her hand, bending down to whisper into her mouth before he kissed her. “And no matter how this changes, love, or what it becomes, or what gets tangled up in it... I am never, ever, going to throw this away.”
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