banner by Always_jbj
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You Always Hurt the One You Love
He stepped out in front of her just as she reached the end of the alley beside the Police Department’s main door.
“What are you doing?” he growled.
“What I need to do. Get out of my way.”
“Spike – that girl, they’ll find her. I have to...”
“I told you I’d take care of it and I did.”
She wavered - just a little - just enough to see him begin to hope. A flash of her dream in which she’d let him handle everything swept through her.
“I threw her in the river. They’ll never find the body.”
The loud conversation from the open door to the police station put an end to that hope, and her face hardened with resolve.
“Get out of the way, Spike.”
“I won’t let you—“ In his desperate need to prevent her from ruining her life and Dawn’s, he grabbed her arm and threw her back into the alley.
She came up with more fury than she’d yet felt since her resurrection. She punched him – hard; knocking him into the trash cans and following up with a flurry of punches before he could get back to his feet. Suddenly, his words about belonging in the dark with him, her memory of the way Faith had so easily slipped into evil after accidentally killing a human, and her own concern that Heaven hadn’t wanted her, combined to focus her pain onto the man in front of her. The man who she constantly had to remind herself was just another soulless vampire and not a fit companion for a Chosen One.
The point at which their disagreement ceased to be a fight between equals and became a one-sided demonstration of internalized disgust, disappointment and rage slipped by without her noticing.
Blood splattered over her hair and clothes with each wet smack of her fist against his battered face. All the fury she felt at being yanked out of Heaven, all the disgust at herself for the craving of his body that she couldn’t deny, her anger at him for being the only one who could make her feel alive – she poured it all out on the unresisting face and body in front of her. His soft voice, encouraging her to take it out on him, only fueled her rage, and she increased the speed and force of her blows until he was unable to speak any more.
Fatigue eventually slowed her fists enough for her to get a good look at what she’d done; horror wiped away the anger as she stared at the battered face in front of her. She flinched away from him, shock and dismay warring for the upper hand in her eyes.
“You always hurt the one you love, pet,” he managed to rasp out past his swollen lips. Lips that attempted a smile that turned into a grimace.
What have I done? He was right – I AM a killer. Something is seriously wrong with me. I mean, yeah, it’s just Spike, and he was asking for it, but…
She glanced down at the barely conscious vampire at her feet and felt her righteous indignation slipping away. Her breath came hard and fast as she stared at the bloody mess she had made of his face. He was only trying to help me! Oh my God. Oh my God.
She stood on trembling legs, closing her eyes briefly as a wave of nausea passed over her. Spike lay where she’d left him, dragging unnecessary breaths in ragged gulps that left no doubt that she’d broken several ribs and possible pushed one through a lung. She held her hand over her mouth, tasting the coppery blood that coated her knuckles.
Buffy spun in distracted circles, small whimpers coming from her throat as she struggled to reconcile what she was looking at with her preferred view of herself as one of the good guys. The main good guy – Heaven’s Chosen One. Surely the warrior for good would never take out her self-loathing on something – someone who loved her?
What can I do? I can’t leave him here. I can’t tell anyone. What could I say? ‘ I killed a girl and Spike was trying to stop me from going to jail so I tried to beat him to death?’
“Buffy…” Spike’s mumbling of her name brought her attention back to the vampire as he tried to sit up. “Don’t…It’s alright, love…Jus’ help me get up.”
Her body wracked by silent sobbing breaths, she cautiously approached, searching vainly for an uninjured body part that she could use to help him up. She finally settled for crouching beside him and slipping one arm over her shoulder, rising slowly and carefully to her feet, ever conscious of the bones she’d broken and alert to his slightest groan or gasp. When he was swaying on his feet beside her, she waited patiently for him to tell her what to do next. Her desire to put her arms around him to hold him up was smothered by the knowledge that the slightest touch to his broken ribs and bruised organs would just cause more pain.
“Alright, pet,” he said through clenched teeth. “My legs are fine – I think I can make it back to my crypt now—“
“No,” she said quietly, her voice trembling. “I’m not going to let you try that by yourself. I’m going with you.”
They were making slow progress toward Restfield, Spike having to stop periodically while the pain from his broken bones and damaged internal organs subsided enough for him to think about moving again, when a car pulled up beside them and Tara’s soft voice asked, “Do you guys need some help?”
“Wouldn’t object to a ride, luv.” He tried to send the shocked girl a reassuring smile when she visibly recoiled at her first glimpse of his battered face.
“Please, Tara,” Buffy added her own plea. “Help me get him home – to his crypt, I mean.”
She nodded silently and got out to help maneuver Spike’s battered body into the back seat. As she frowned at the clearly disabled vampire, she asked softly, “Are you sure his crypt is the right place for him? He looks like he’s in pretty bad shape. Are you sure he’ll be safe there?”
“What? Why wouldn’t he be?”
“Well, whatever did this to him might still be after him. Unless you killed them all, he might still be in danger.”
Guilt twisted Buffy’s gut as she realized that Tara had no idea who was responsible for Spike’s condition. She nodded her head and avoided meeting the other girl’s eyes.
“You…you’re right,” she agreed. “Let’s take him to my house. I can take better care of him there.”
“And he’ll be safe with you,” Tara added, missing completely Buffy’s shudder at her words. If she heard the wet cough from the back seat, she made no connection between it and her words, only glancing at Spike to make sure that he wasn’t choking on something.
The ride to Buffy’s house was made in silence, Tara waiting for someone to volunteer information about Spike’s attackers. Buffy watched the small frown that crossed Tara’s face when neither vampire nor slayer had offered any explanation by the time they reached the small bungalow. She felt her face crumble under Tara’s inquisitive glance and she closed her eyes and turned her face away.
She continued to avoid Tara’s gradually more suspicious eyes as the two of them half-carried the almost unconscious vampire into the house. When Tara asked somewhat tersely where they were taking him, Buffy eyed the stairs wistfully; but the idea of trying to get him up the stairs in his current condition was obviously not in his best interests and she pointed silently to the living room.
By the time they had put him onto the couch, lifting his feet carefully so as to keep his body level, Spike appeared to have passed out from the pain. His face was twisted into a grimace, but his eyes remained shut and he gave no response to Buffy’s tentative question about what he needed. Risking the disapproval that she could see growing on Tara’s face, Buffy asked quietly, “Can you do anything for him? A healing spell, maybe? Or something for the pain?”
Tara nodded and walked into the kitchen to gather herbs for a pain-relieving potion.
“Are you going to tell me what happened to him?” she asked as she mashed and stirred. “Since you’re all right, I assume you must have rescued him after the fact?”
“I am the fact,” Buffy said, her voice barely audible. “I…I did this to him.”
“Buffy?” Tara’s horror and disappointment were soon replaced by something as close to anger as she ever exhibited. She mashed harder on the herbs. “I’m doing this for him,” she said. “Not for you.”
Buffy nodded numbly, not caring for the moment what Tara thought of her, only that she do something to repair the damage caused by her powerful fists. She watched mutely as the other girl crushed the herbs into a paste, which she mixed with water and then poured half into a cup. Tara hesitated a minute, started to hand the glass to Buffy, then changed her mind and carried it into the living room herself, leaving Buffy to trail behind her helplessly.
She knelt down beside Spike and gently raised his head, wincing when he moaned without speaking.
“Spike?” she asked softly. “Will you try to drink some of this? Come on, drink it. You’ll feel better, I promise.”
When he made no attempt to drink, she emitted a frustrated ‘Goddess’, then felt a timid hand on hers. Without meeting her eyes, Buffy whispered, “Can…may I try? Maybe if you hold him…” Tara gave a nod and passed the cup to Buffy, using both hands to hold Spike upright. Buffy lifted the cup to his lips again and, heedless of the onlooker, she coaxed and pleaded while she dipped one hand into the liquid.
“Come on, Spike. Do this for me – not that you have to do anything for me,” she amended hastily when she heard Tara’s gasp. “But, it will make you feel better. You won’t hurt so much…please? Drink for me?”
Buffy ran the finger around his swollen lips, which opened automatically. Quickly, she scooped up some of the liquid and dropped it into his open mouth, then gently tipped the cup up until she could dribble more in. As Spike reflexively swallowed, both girls relaxed and when the cup was empty, Tara gently lowered his shoulders until he was lying on the couch.
He gave a brief shudder, then relaxed and went limp in her arms. At Buffy’s frightened whimper, Tara said reassuringly, “It’s okay. He’s going to sleep for a while and when he wakes up, he should be in much less pain. With his vampire healing, I think he’ll be all right in a few days.” She slid her arm out from behind the inert vampire’s back and straightened up, looking directly into Buffy’s eyes.
“Now, do you want to tell me what happened? Can you tell me what he did that was so bad that you needed do this to him?” Tara’s voice was as soft and gentle as ever, but her face was stern and her eyes were disappointed and puzzled.
Buffy shook her head dumbly, unable to think of any explanation that didn’t make her sound like the worst bitch in the world.
“Buffy, if he did something so awful to you that you needed to do this to him, why didn’t you just stake him?”
“He…I…it wasn’t awful. It was…” She shuddered all over. “I almost killed him because he was trying to save me from myself,” she whispered. She looked up with suddenly frightened eyes.
“There is something seriously wrong with me. Something that you missed when you checked me out before. What does my aura look like? There must be something wrong with it, that I could do something like that to someone who loves me. What’s wrong with me, Tara?”
She broke down, sobbing. Only after some time had passed did she realize that Tara was not trying to comfort her, and she glanced up at the other girl’s sad face.
“Right now, I would say that the worst thing that’s wrong with you is that you’re still thinking about yourself when the man who loves you so much he allowed you to take out your anger on him is barely clinging to life.”
The normally gentle and understanding girl was standing behind Spike, one hand resting protectively on the top of his head. Buffy gaped at her, smothering a jealous pang at the possessive way Tara was protecting what Buffy thought of as hers.
“It’s Spike, Tara. He’s a vampire. Remember? Evil?”
Without blinking, Tara responded, “Yes, it’s Spike. The vampire who protected your sister for you. Who was tortured and thrown off a tower for her. Who helped us all summer while you were…”
“While I was dead,” Buffy whispered as she remembered what she’d asked of Spike before they’d left to battle Glory.
Tara continued, barely acknowledging Buffy’s interjection, “The man who has been your refuge and comfort since we - your friends mistakenly pulled you from Heaven…stop me when I get to anything even remotely evil!”
“He doesn’t have a soul,” Buffy muttered, unable to come up with anything more telling to say in face of Tara’s litany of Spike’s good deeds.
“And yet, he loves and protects and…”
“Okay, okay. I get it. He’s not the same evil creature who came here to kill me. I know that.”
“Did he come here to kill you?” Tara’s voice was skeptical. “I thought he came here because he wanted to heal his girl friend – the one he’d loved for over a hundred years? “
“Tara!” Buffy paused, remembering the vicious, taunting slayer killer that had shown up in Sunnydale when she was just a sixteen-year old in love with his grandsire. Visions of her mother hitting him on the head with an axe just as he was about to brain her with a wall stud joined her memory of the way he had planned to kill both her and an entire club full of stupid vampire groupies. Which led to remembering how she’d prevented the massacre by holding a stake to the chest of the woman he loved… Shaking off that memory, and helpless to explain to someone who had never met him what Spike had been like before the chip, and how that had contributed to the suspicion with which Willow and Xander continued to view him, she settled for a lame “It was different then. You didn’t know him. Ask Willow about him – about what he was like before the chip.”
“I know him now. And I know there is no way he deserved this from you.”
Buffy wasn’t sure how to deal with the sudden steel now visible behind the normally gentle girl’s soft voice and mannerisms. With a shudder, she sank down onto the floor and rested her head near Spike’s lifeless hand.
“You’re right,” she whispered. “He didn’t deserve it. He was only trying to help me…” She glanced up at Tara, her face a mask of despair. “I killed somebody tonight, Tara. A girl. I didn’t mean to, but I did. Spike was trying to stop me from turning myself in to the police.”
“Well, good for Spike.” Dawn’s cold voice came from the bottom of the stairs. Neither Tara nor Buffy had heard her quiet footsteps. “I hope he did a better job than I did.” Then she spotted the inert body on the couch and ran into the living room.
“Is this what he got for his trouble?” She turned furious eyes on her sister. “I guess I should be glad that you only told me ‘no’ when I begged you not to do it.”
“Dawn, I…” Buffy started, then transferred her attention back to Tara.
“You must have messed up somehow when you were checking me out, Tara. I’m wrong, and it allowed me to kill an innocent girl and made me almost kill my…Spike.”
Tara’s face visibly softened as Buffy’s genuine regret radiated from where she crouched on the floor by her secret lover. Her full skirt billowed out as she sank down to join Buffy on the floor. She seemed willing to ignore the “my…” slip in favor of addressing more serious issues.
“I don’t think you’re ‘wrong’, Buffy. I think you’re seriously depressed – as you have every right to be,” she admitted quickly, her own face reflecting the shame she felt at the part she’d played in Buffy’s resurrection. “I think you should get some professional help for it – before you hurt someone else. Someone less able to take it than Spike.”
Buffy gave a half-sobbing snort of laughter. “Yeah, that would go well –‘Hello, I’m Buffy and I was dead, but my friends resurrected me and I’m not happy about it. Can you help me?’ That’d be a one-way ticket to the funny farm. Trust me – been there, done that.”
Tara shook her head sympathetically. “I wasn’t thinking of just anybody – surely the Council has psychologists on staff? Or, maybe even the Initiative? If they’re still hanging around, I’ll bet they have people who know about demons and stuff.”
Buffy shrugged. “The Council wasn’t told that I died – really don’t want them knowing it didn’t take. And the Initiative…I don’t trust them. They were never big on magic, anyway. It’s all technology to them. They’d want to experiment on me to see what I am now. Assuming they even believed me.”
Buffy stopped talking and raised her eyes to Spike’s still face. He looked more dead than she’d ever seen him. Even in sleep, he usually seemed animated; for the first time in her memory, he really looked like a corpse.
“I have…had somebody to talk to. I have Spike. He listens, and he doesn’t judge me…At least he didn’t before I…” She shuddered all over as she thought about losing the only thing keeping her sane.
“I would guess that you’ll still have him. I’m sure he will forgive you. The question is, do you care enough about him to apologize and really mean it? Not because you feel guilty about hurting him, or because you need him to help you feel better, but because he means something to you. Can you forgive yourself for doing something like this to someone you care about?”
Buffy’s eyes flew to Tara’s, reading in their soft but perceptive depths everything that she’d thought was a secret from everyone except Spike. Dawn was staring back and forth between the two older girls, her brow wrinkled as she tried to process what she was hearing. She hadn’t missed Buffy’s slip when she started to refer to him as “my…” and while it came as a shock at first, she quickly lost the sense of surprise as she remembered how much time Buffy had spent with Spike when she first came back, and how often she was out almost all night with no explanation of where she’d been.
Buffy was shaking her head. “I can’t forgive myself. I’ve killed a human, and I beat the hell out of the man who loves me.”
She stood up and took a deep breath. She ran a gentle hand over Spike’s head as she said quietly, “I know he’ll be okay with both of you to take care of him. I’ll just go…”
Dawn’s outraged shriek almost drowned out Tara’s softer, “I don’t think you should do that, Buffy. Not until you know more about this girl that you think you killed…”
“I know I killed her,” Buffy replied dully. “I know dead when I see it. And Spike knew she was dead, too. He threw her in the river, but the police found her body. I have to turn myself in.” She tried to smile. “Hey, on the plus side, they probably have psychologists in prison, don’t they? Free medical care – can’t beat that.”
“Free medical care and never mind that your sister has no one to take care of her,” Dawn said bitterly. “Buffy gets to be taken care of for the rest of her life and I get to what? Starve? I’d have been better off if you’d stayed dead!” she finished, tears already rolling down her cheeks as she sank to the floor. “You don’t care about me, anyway. I’m just another burden to lose when you go to jail.”
Dawn’s angry words, intended to remind her sister that she had obligations to someone other than herself backfired immediately. Buffy gasped and clutched her stomach as Dawn’s tirade emphasized exactly how wrong it was that she was even alive, never mind free.
Beside her, Buffy sensed that Spike was stirring, and she immediately dropped back down beside him. Bleary eyes pleaded with her to listen to Dawn and Tara, even as he drifting into sleep again.
“I…all right. I’ll wait until tomorrow. Maybe…” She stood up and waved her hands around. “But it’s not going to go away! An innocent girl is dead, and I did it. We can’t pretend it didn’t happen.”
“No, we can’t,” Tara soothed, “but we can wait until we have more information.”
Dawn interrupted eagerly. “Yeah! You don’t know – maybe she isn’t as innocent as you think. I mean, what was she doing in a cemetery after dark? Nobody in Sunnydale would do that unless she was up to no good.”
“Dawn’s right, Buffy. Maybe she isn’t even human--”
“She was human,” Buffy said dully. “Even if a demon could have fooled me, Spike would’ve known. She was probably a prisoner of those weird guys we were fighting or something like that. I should have been rescuing her.”
“What guys you were fighting?” Tara’s voice was sharp. “You didn’t mention any fighting.”
“I kinda forgot about it,” Buffy said sheepishly. “There were these weird guys – demons, I guess – in capes, and everything was all confused. Stuff kept happening over and over, like we were caught in a…”
“In a loop? A time loop?”
“Yeah,” Buffy raised a surprised eyebrow. “I guess that would describe it. Time was all wonky, and we were fighting and hitting and then all of a sudden the girl was there and I…”
“So you and Spike weren’t the only ones there? Didn’t that make you think at all, Buffy?”
“No,” Dawn said bitterly. “She just saw a good excuse to run and hide and jumped on it.”
“It wasn’t like that!” Buffy protested, even as her internal voice insisted on asking, Wasn’t it? It never crossed your mind that jail could be quiet and peaceful?
“Buffy.” Tara’s soft voice interrupted the pending argument between the two sisters. “I think it adds another dimension to the situation. You can’t know if it was coincidence that those demons were there, near Spike’s crypt. They were near Spike’s crypt, weren’t they?”
Buffy nodded numbly, unconcerned that the other two girls might know why she’d been there.
“So you don’t know at this point if you really did it, or if someone else is trying to make you think you did.”
“You think I was set up?” For the first time since she’d stopped punching Spike, a trace of genuine anger flooded through her. “But who would do that?”
“Gee, who would want to put the Slayer safely away in jail?” Sarcasm dripped from Dawn’s tongue. “I can’t imagine, can you, Tara?”
“Dawn…” Tara’s voice was soft, but Dawn subsided, muttering to herself.
“Okay,” Buffy slumped in resignation. “I’ll wait till tomorrow and see what Willow can find out from the police computer. And what she knows about time loops.” She frowned in sudden recall. “Something like that happened to me a while ago – but it was daytime. Time kept repeating.” Her chin came up and her face hardened. “Something or somebody in Sunnydale can mess with time.”
“So,” Dawn asked quietly. “Is it safe to go back to bed now? You’re not going to go running off to the police station?”
Buffy shook her head. “No, I’m not. Not until we know what happened for sure, anyway. You can go back to bed. I’m going to stay here with Spike.”
“I hope you’re going to tell him you’re sorry,” Dawn’s voice floated back from the stairs. “You owe him, Buffy.”
“I do, don’t I?” Buffy said quietly, ghosting a hand over his battered face. “I don’t know why he stays with me…”
Before Tara could point out the obvious answer, Spike gave a disgusted moan and turned his head to glare at Buffy.
“Because I love you, you stupid bint,” he rasped. “Don’t know what I have to do to convince you…”
“I believe you,” she whispered. “I know you do. I just don’t know why.”
“Having a bit of problem with that myself, at the moment,” he said with an attempt to pull his ripped lips into a grin. “Must be your sunny disposition.”
“Very funny,” she growled, unable to hide her relief and happiness at his obvious improvement.
Tara cleared her throat and waited until they glanced at her.
“I’m glad to see you’re feeling better, Spike,” she said with a gentle smile. “That tonic should keep the worst of the pain away long enough for you to get some blood and start the healing process. I’ll check on you tomorrow and bring some more over, just in case.”
She turned to Buffy and said sternly, “He probably needs blood right now, but I left another dose of the drink in the kitchen. You can give him more if the pain gets too bad. Just remember it’ll put him to sleep, so make sure he isn’t where the sun can reach him in the morning.”
Buffy started to bristle at the way Tara was instructing her in how to take care of the injured vampire, but Spike’s hand on her arm forestalled any angry remark.
“Thank you, luv,” he said softly, doing his best to smile at the gentle witch. “Appreciate it more than I can say…all of it.”
Tara nodded and smiled. “You’re welcome, Spike. Feel better.” Without another word to Buffy, she let herself out of the house and started towards her car, but turned quickly when Buffy ran out the door behind her.
“Is something wrong?”
“No, nothing’s wrong. I just wanted to…to say ‘Thank you’ – for everything.” She eyed the car and pulled a stake from her waistband. “And to make sure you get back to the dorm safely,” she added, yanking the vamp that had been hiding under the car out onto her stake. “What kind of an idiot stalks somebody in the Slayer’s driveway?” she asked rhetorically as the dust drifted away.
After a quick look in the back of the car, she gave Tara a hug and repeated her whispered “Thank you”.
“You’re welcome,” Tara said. Disengaging herself from the almost painfully tight hug, she pushed Buffy towards the house. “Now go take care of your man. He needs you.”
With a silent nod, Buffy waited until Tara was in the car and safely backing out of the driveway before returning to the living room and the vampire who loved her.
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