Setting : A few hours after the end of "Listening to fear."
Anya and Xander had left around four, bringing Dawn along.
There was no point in keeping the kid at the hospital all day. The whole
brain tumour ordeal was very hard on poor Dawn and anything that could
make her life feel less stressful and more "normal" was welcome. For the
first time that day, Buffy smiled. A genuine smile. Not one of them I-know-I'm-not-fooling-anyone-
Willow and Tara had been the last ones to leave.
"Are you sure that you don't mind us leaving Buffy? Cause
we can totally stay, you know."
"If it wasn't for this exam I have to study for you know I'd be on total support-Buffy-duty don't you?", Willow assured her best friend. "Besides, it's 7 o'clock, so Riley's gonna be here in no time. Right?"
"Right. And I totally understand your circumstances. You've always been there for me Will." Buffy hugged her friend. "But you need to go! Go study this thing for the both of us so you can give me pointers when it's time for me to take the exam."
"Don't worry Buff, we're gonna ace this thing! And you call me as soon as you get any news on Joyce."
"I Promise. Bye now."
Buffy watched the two witches leave and she went back to her chair.
"Waiting is such an horrible mean of torture", Buffy thought. It was 8 o'clock by then and still no sign of neither Riley nor the surgeon. The lonely wait was tormenting. "Why did people go through the trouble of inventing elaborate torture devices such as the stretching rack with all it's bars and levers? All they had to do was sit the people they wanted to extort information from on some bench and make them wait. I mean waiting is mentally disorienting enough to make someone do or confess anything. I'm talking about the real stuff tough, not the goody-goody leisure kind of waiting, you know, in a comfortable seat with the latest issue of Seventeen and a loaded disc-man."
"O. K. girl!", the Slayer told herself aloud, "Enough talk about torture already! It's not like it's helping."
It was time for another walk down the hall to the vending machine. On her way back toward her own torture device masquerading as a chair, she was stopped by one of the nurses.
"Miss Summers there's a young man looking for you at the front desk."
When she heard the tone of her own voice Buffy realised just how worried she had been the last few hours. Not only about her mom but about Riley as well. Part of her was relieved that she needn't worry about the later anymore. But another part of her was furious at Riley for putting her in that position. Didn't he know better? With mixing feelings of gladness and anger, Buffy hurried toward the front desk. Even before she had reached the end of the corridor, as she was about to take the turn that would bring her to the nurses' station she started to call his name.
She stopped in mid word. She saw all the components of the addition: the black leather duster, the bleached blond hair, the… could it be?... flower bouquet. Her eyes saw everything, but somehow she couldn't do the math.
"Hey, Buffy.", the vampire greeted her, somewhat hesitantly.
"Spike!?", she answered, somewhat bewildered.
Spike was used to a much more hostile rendition of his name by the Slayer so it kind of made him think that his being there might not be the most stupid thing the universe had ever seen after all.
"Hum... what are you doing here Spike? And why are you
bringing me flowers? And please tell me you didn't steal them from a grave."
"Oh?...Who are they for?"
"Great job on the reassuring you stupid git!",
the vampire reproached himself before resorting to divert the conversation.
"Huhhh…You know I brought Joyce a get well card too. Wanna see it?"
Spike had been barely able to sound as insulted as he
wanted to. The sight of Buffy just made him want to smile. Her face was
flushed, she was still giggling and tears were rolling freely down her
cheeks. Tears he knew were not from pain. And that fact soothed the less
pleasant emotions he should of felt from beeing sor overtly mocked. "The
gas station where I got it didn't have that big of a selection you know!
It was either this one or one that read 'No more brats for you eh ! Hope
the vasectomy went well!' I figured it wasn't very suiting. Besides, isn't
what one writes inside the card what really counts?"
"Well, on the surgical level, everything went according
to plan. But as we discussed before, when brain tumours are involved it's
hard to be one hundred percent sure that we took it all out. So I'm still
going to prescribe radiation therapy. But all things considered, Joyce
is a healthy woman. So, God, time and care willing, I think we can expect
a full recovery."
Spike still had his arms wrapped around Buffy's waist
and they had been kissing for what seemed like an eternity and not nearly
long enough all at once. Buffy marveled at the fact that she wasn't out
of breath yet. "Or is it that I'm so oxygen deprived that I don't even
need to breathe anymore?", she asked herself.
The sight of her lover with his toussled hair and a smile
of pure contentment spread from ear to ear choked her with joy.
"Spike, don't say that. I would choose you over a million normal guys. There are things about me that only you can understand and accept, therefore there are things that only you can give me. I know you can't come with me now. But, somehow, I have a feeling that you will be there for me forever."
Spike didn't answer right away. Not that Buffy had really expected him to answer anything. In fact she hadn't even expected herself to speak her mind so openly. And now, the awkward silence made her wonder if she hadn't been a little too honest and open-hearted about her feelings. "Good God, woman! Won't you ever learn?", Buffy reprimanded herself in thoughts. "Why did I have to go and dump the whole heavy 'forever and ever' stuff on him like that?! Okay, so I love him and he loves me. I felt safe and happy. But that's no reason to just hand him my heart and soul, no emotions barred... Is it?"
A little voice inside Buffy had tried to warn her to be careful since the moment she had let Spike console her at the hospital. The voice came from the part of her that was still hurting from all the times she had been abandoned by men who claimed they loved her. And she was starting to allow it to be heard.
Spike, who was still holding his Slayer close to him, sensed the insecurity and doubt course through her entire being. He hadn't spoken simply because he was at a loss for words following such a genuine and unexpected declaration of trust and love from her. Just a day before, he had still believed he would be condemned to love her secretly forever. Without any chance of ever seeing his feelings shared.
So much had changed, so fast. Not only had she told him she loved him back and given herself to him, she had also chosen him and declared it out loud. She had claimed him, among all other men, as the one worthy of her love. He found himself unable to speak because they were so many things he wanted to say. He wanted to tell her that he would do everything in his power to protect her and her family. That he would help her fight the good fight because his feelings for her were so much stronger than the demon part of him. He ached to tell her how much he loved her again. He just didn't know where to start. But he knew the silence was scaring her. So he tightened his strong arms around her and bent his head forward to press his forehead to hers.
"Buffy, I will always be there for you. Always!"
Spike feigned a shameful look and smiled back at her. "See you
tonight luv." God he wished it was night already.
When she got downstairs she grabbed a bagel and an orange and then she
left the house.
Buffy was sitting on a chair in Joyce's room. Joyce had opened her eyes a few times during the day but every time she had seemed confused and had gone back to sleep almost immediately. What had happen every hour or so happened again. Buffy saw her mother stir in the bed, lift her head and open her eyes. But this time it seemed different, more vigorous. Buffy got up from the chair and walked up to the bed. She leaned over it and started to gently stroke her mother's face.
"Oh! Buffy I'm so happy to see you."
"Good afternoon Sleeping Beauty."
Buffy called the front desk to let them know that Joyce was awake.
A moment later, an army of doctors and nurses invaded the room. Buffy had to step aside to let them do their work.. The head surgeon informed Joyce of the success of the operation while nurses checked her vitals. When they all left the room, Joyce noticed the flowers on the table next to her bed.
"Oh! You brought me flowers. They're lovely."
"Actually, they are from Spike."
"From Spike. Really. How nice of him! We have to thank him for that. Can you try to figure out a way to thank him Buffy?"
"Oh don't worry Mom I already took care of that."
"And the winner for understatement of the year is... Buffy Summers!" the Slayer thought a wide grin spreading on her face as she recollected the many ways she had thanked Spike the previous night. She wanted so much to tell her mother what was happening to her, but she knew that it wasn't the time or place. As much as she considered it good news, Buffy knew very well that her getting with Spike was something that everybody would need some time to accept. She figured that life changing surprises were not really the best thing to give to a person recovering from brain surgery. Then her attention went back to Joyce who had sat up a little and was rearranging the flowers in the vase. Buffy smiled. "How is it that my mother isn't the least bit unnerved by the fact that she got get well flowers from my so-called vampire archenemy.?", she wondered. Joyce had always been civil, friendly even, towards Spike and Buffy had always had the hardest time comprehending why. Was it Joyce's maternal instinct that had let her see that Spike posed no real threat to her daughter? Had she known all along that behind his Big Bad attitude, hid love unspoken?
"I have to go call Dawn to let her know that you're awake and feeling better. Everybody's coming over to pay you a short visit later."
"Oh, that's nice!"
Buffy bent down and gave her mother the gentlest kiss on the forehead. Just as she was about to get out of the room, Joyce spoke again.
Buffy turned around.
"When I first learned that you were the vampire Slayer, I didn't react very well. All I wanted was for my baby girl to have a normal, happy life. But now I understand why you are the chosen one. You're the strongest, bravest, kindest person I know. And I am so proud to be your mother. I want you to be just as proud of yourself Buffy. Never doubt yourself or your decisions. Whatever bad things life puts on your way, you can overcome them. And whatever good things life brings you, you deserve them. You are my hero."
Could maternal instinct let a mother read her children's minds? If Buffy had had any questions left regarding her relationship with Spike, they just had been answered.
"I love you mom."
Dawn and the gang arrived around 5:30 h. They were let in the room two at a time as a measure to prevent over exhaustion for Joyce. Dawn and Willow were the first to come in. Dawn gave her mom a loving but careful hug. Joyce could expect to get the porcelain doll treatment from her daughters for a while.
"How was your evening with Xander and Anya honey?"
"It was okay. Anya insisted on teaching me how to make a spending budget for my allowance."
"Oh! That's good. I guess."
"But I'm gonna spend tonight at Willow and Tara's. We're gonna cast a good grades spell. Isn't that cool?", Dawn said excitedly.
"That's if it's okay with Buffy of course.", Willow looked at her friend for an answer. The read head thought her best friend looked a little tired so she figured that some more quiet time would do her good.
"Why not?" Buffy was excited at the prospect of another night spent in Spikes' arms. She figured some more alone time with her new boyfriend would do her good. "You can go."
While everybody paid a brief visit to Joyce, it was decided that Tara
would leave with Dawn while Willow would make a stop by the Summers home
to pick up some clothes for Dawn. Buffy and Willow left when the visitation
hours ended. It was 7 o'clock and the sun had started to set.
Buffy was starting to feel the emergency of letting Willow know about Spike. They were already half way to her house. But she just had no idea how to bring it up. Willow gave her the opportunity.
"So where's Riley?", she inquired, "Is he waiting for you at home?"
"Willow, there's something I need to tell you. I know that you probably won't understand or approve but something important happened to me and you're my best friend and I really want to share this with you."
"Buffy, you can tell me anything. You know that don't you?"
"Well, about Riley You should know that we're not together anymore."
"What? When did that happen? You guys got into fight or something?"
"You should of seen him Will, he went totally King-of-the-Jerks on me."
"Buffy, whatever it was, you guys can work it out."
"No we can't. Do you remember our conversation when I started dating Riley? From the get go I thought that something was missing. I guess that he probably felt my doubts all along and he just acted out his frustrations last night. Besides, even if it was possible, I wouldn't want to work things out with Riley."
"Will, this is where I need you to be open minded and understanding." Buffy took a long, deep breath and went on. "Last night, I realised that I'm in love with someone else."
Willow was taken aback. That revelation was so unexpected.
"Oh I see. Who is it?"
"I know that what I'm about to tell you is going to be hard to believe. It's probably the last person you'd expect me to be in love with. It's gonna sound shocking and impossible and "
Willow didn't know what to make of Buffy's rambling. She was obviously trying to delay telling her who the mystery person was. Suddenly, Willow's eyes opened even wider. A crazy thought had just crossed her mind. "No it simply cannot be.", she thought, dismissing the absurd idea. "But it would explain why Buffy is having such a hard time admitting who she loves."
"Uhmm Buffy, the person it's not Of course it's not! I mean that would be shocking and impossible it's not me is it?"
A lot of things went through Buffy's mind. First she wondered if she'd really just heard what she thought she had heard. Then she thought mainly "What?!". But finally the humour of the situation dawned on her and she started laughing.
"Will, you're my best friend in the whole world and I do love you very much. But not that way."
"Well that's a relief.", the witch sighed, "Cause I love you a lot too but not that way either! Besides, I'm with Tara and... God that was weird! Can we forget it ever happened?"
"Forgetting gets my vote." Buffy hastily agreed.
"Listen Buffy, why don't you just tell me? End this charade before I get some other wacky idea, okay?"
"Okay. Right! Willow, the person I love is " Buffy stopped speaking for a moment. Her head dropped in despair and she wondered why this was so hard to do? But of course it was hard to do. Admitting her love for Spike to herself had been hard. Admitting it to the world could not be easy. Then Buffy lifted her head and remembered that she was standing in front of Willow, her best friend. Being the Slayer involved a whole lot of unpleasant things like the sacrifice of a normal innocent youth. But one of the positive things it brought her was that she could be sure of the value of her friendships. Willow had been through so much with her. Buffy realised that of all people, Willow was the one who was most likely to understand her. Suddenly, the words she had been looking for came to her quite easily. "Willow, the man I love is Spike. There, I said it."
"Wow! For a moment there I thought I heard you say Spike. How wacky would that be?", Willow said amused.
"You heard me well Willow. It is Spike. Open mind remember?"
Willow was trying hard to find something to say. She was thoroughly dismayed and she knew it. So she wasn't trying to find something great or profound or even remotely intelligent to say. She was simply aiming for words to come out of her mouth. But it was above her capabilities.
"Uhhh ppssfft naaa hunh!"
"I know!", Buffy agreed with a sigh.
By then, Willow had found a bench to sit on. Buffy joined her and took her hand in hers.
"Spike has always been able to read through me. He sees who I really am and he loves me just the way I am. My strength doesn't scare him. He can love Willow! And doesn't even have a soul. I know it goes against everything Giles and the Watcher's Council and all the darn books have to say about Vampires. But I don't care. I know what I have seen and felt from him. There are exceptions in every field on this world. Some people overcome the worst odds and accomplish marvels when nobody gave them a chance to succeed. There are people everywhere who defy the laws of Nature. Spike is one of them. He can choose to be good without a soul. I would rather have yours and all of my friend's blessing but I won't let anyone get between Spike and me."
"Okay ", Willow was trying to be understanding, "It's just so sudden Buffy. But I guess that as long as you take the time to think this through and you don't go and do something irrational or rash "
Willow realised that Buffy was biting nervously on her lower lip and that her eyes were avoiding her at all cost.
"What?!, she inquired woriedly, "Buffy, don't tell me that you've already told him! What did he say? How did he react?"
"Oh! Willow, we're way pass telling each other anything."
"What do you mean?! You like... kissed him?"
"Yeah I did that and we sortta spent last night together. You know? 'together'."
Willow flat out fell off the bench.
"Will!", Buffy kneeled next to her friend, "Are you okay? Please say something."
"No Buffy, I think that you are the one who needs to be telling things here. I mean it's one thing to tell me that you're in love with Spike. But this is something else. How could you go from being Riley's girlfriend to being Spike's lover overnight? You say you want me to have an open mind but please help me understand."
Buffy helped Willow back on the bench and then she proceeded to relate the events of the previous day. By the end of Buffy's story, Willow did understand her friend's behaviour better. She still had a lot of concerns but everyone in their right minds would have. Still, Willow had seen Buffy's eyes light up at the mention of Spike. In fact, her whole being had seemed to reach a state of peacefulness and cheer. It had been a while since she had last seen her friend this genuinely happy. "It can't be all that bad.", she assumed.
It was completely dark by then. Buffy stood up, took her best friend's
hand in hers and led the way toward her house. She was in love head over
heels, Willow didn't seem to completely disapprove, her mom was out of
the woods : life was good! Buffy was only five minutes away from the loving
arms of Spike, she was happy and she felt like nothing on the face of
the Earth could ever take that away from her.
Buffy and Willow had finally reached the Summers domicile.
Willow : "Are you sure you want me to go in?", the red headed witch asked her best friend, hoping she wouldn't have to go through with the potentially awkward situation presenting itself. "Maybe I could wait outside and you could bring me Dawn's stuff here."
"Don't be silly, Spike is going to be very happy that I told you about us."
Buffy was standing in front of her door looking through her purse for her keys. But then she noticed that the door wasn't completely closed. She pushed it open and got into the house shortly followed by Willow. Buffy stood in front of the stairway and called out for Spike. She got no answer.
"Spike! I'm home.", she called again. Still no answer.
Buffy started to look through the rooms of the first floor. When she got into the dinning room, she felt a tremendous relief. The table was set for a romantic dinner, with candles and her mother's fanciest dishes. Buffy relaxed. Spike hadn't left her, he was probably just out to get a missing ingredient or something like that. Buffy walked over to the kitchen and then the exact opposite feeling than what she had felt when she entered the dinning room overcame her. Her heart contracted to about the size of a pea as her eyes took in the horrifying scene that played before her. A fight had obviously taken place there. There was food and pans and utensils everywhere. And, Buffy's heart skipped a beat, there was a streak of fresh blood on the floor going from one end of the room to the opened back door.
Buffy dropped to her knees.
"Spike, where are you?", she wispered desperatly.
"Buffy, maybe he's still in the house. Maybe he's upstairs we haven't checked there yet."
Willow was still some distance away from Buffy so she could not see the state the kitchen was in. But she only had to walk a few steps to witness the devastation.
Buffy could not speak. Her head was nodding no and she pointed to the bloody trail that led into the ruthless night.
"Oh! Buffy, what happened here?"
"Weapons!", was Buffy's only answer.
"What?", Willow did not understand.
Buffy stood up and headed for the living room. She was in integral warrior mode.
"I'm gonna grab my weapons. Then I'll follow that trail of blood until it stops. And then I will turn everything on this planet upside-down if I have to but I will find Spike, bring him back here safe and sound and be happy with him. Now tell me Will, am I not entitled to that?! Don't I deserve, for once, a love story that won't end up with my heart being ripped out of my chest and my soul dying, again?"
"Buffy of course you deserve to be happy. All that you give to the world, it's gonna come back to you. You just wait. We're gonna find Spike. I'll help you. Maybe I could do a location spell. Okay so it's not like it's gonna point out an address or anything but it can really narrow it down for us. I'll need something that touched him recently, clothing maybe or even sheets."
Buffy started to walk away from Willow, she was pleased that her friend was willing to help her but something had caught her attention. Buffy was under the strange thrall of a tiny, gleaming red light beckoning her. She reached the table where the phone laid, oblivious to the broken glass from last night's shattered vase. She hit the play button and the answering machine's little red light stopped flashing.
"I Buffy, it's me Willow. Are you there? I just called the hospital and they told me that you had left a while ago. They wouldn't tell me how your mom's doing because I'm not family. I really hoped I would reach you. Maybe you didn't get home yet. I'll try later. Bye."
Willow seemed embarrassed.
"Hey Buff. It's me again. And I get the machine again. Maybe your at Xander's. But maybe you're not. I don't wanna call there and freak Dawn out if you're not there. I'm a little worried. Call me!"
"Sorry.", Willow said sheepishly. "There's one more.", she hurriedly warned.
"Buffy, I'm freaking out! I know you're a big girl and you can take care of yourself but it's just not like you not to call. God knows what could of happened. Just call me back okay!"
"That was it, I swear. The fourth time I got you."
"That's not me!" Willow defended herself..
"Hello my dear! Guess who? "
Buffy's heart stopped for more than a beat.
" Well, I must say I got quite a surprise when went to your house a little earlier. But I have a surprise for you too. Oh! You're just gonna love it "
Then, Riley was interrupted and a distant sound was heard on the machine, a muffled scream reverberating on the walls of a vast, empty room.
" Oh! Well, look who's awake! Ah! The sweet memories it must bring back to you being here. Buffy, your evil men are waiting for you. Isn't it one of women's secret fantasies, to see two guys fighting over her? But I'm lacking patience today, so hurry up. Or you might miss the show."
"Riley has Spike!", Buffy felt her stomach churning again, "I think he's holding him in the Initiative's caves."
"What a sinister message. What's up with him?"
"We're about to find out!"
"Buffy, what are we going to do?"
Buffy was already out of the house.
Buffy felt claustrophobic in the elevator, and the ride down to the underground compound seemed to take forever. She didn't know what was waiting for her down there. She was so worried that she hadn't even realised she was alone. Willow was still a good block away. She hadn't been able to keep up with Buffy. Slayers run faster than witches. When the doors of the elevator opened, Riley was standing just a couple of feet in front of it. Buffy only needed to look at him for a split second for her slayer's sixth sense to gear up. There was no denying what was standing in front of her.
"Oh, my God! Riley! What have you done?"
"Told you you'd be surprised!" Riley grinned evilly, revealing
two scabrous fangs.
"Because of you. I did that so you would love me."
"Oh no! Take that back!" Her shock was quicly replaced with anger. "How dare you? How can you say you became a vampire because of me? My fate is to fight vampires."
"Ya, well, according to Spikey-Boy over there. You didn't spend last night fighting a vampire as much as you did something else starting with f with one."
At that, a gagged Spike started to vehemently protest against Riley's vulgar assertions.
Buffy looked up towards where the sound was coming from. She got in the room and saw that Spike was chained to the opposite wall. He had duct-tape over his mouth and he was red with rage. But before she could get to him, Riley caught her by an arm and made her face him.
"Look at him all furious. Funny isn't it? Oh! you should've seen the look on his face when I put my game face on and he realised that since I'm not exactly human anymore, he could've defended himself. I'd of course waited for him to be all chained-up before I vamped. It was quite an evening I had! Fisrt, the whole 'rising' thing was pretty intense! Then I decided to go to your house... After stopping for a snack, if you know what I mean. I get there and who don't I see through the window putting fancy dishes on the table like he's the new maid or something? Yes! William the Bloody himself! I was all like "Unh? What is going on?" So I decided to get in the house, you know, ambush the trespasser. But guess what? Can't get in! Need an invite. Can you appreciate the irony here?"
"Not really.", Buffy said coldly but still pretty shaken by what Riley had done.
"Anyway, like any good little soldier, I resorted to plan B. Plan B was to go to the back door, leave it opened and then have Spike get close enough so that I could yank him out. Didn't have to wait for long. And this is where things get hilarious. Just picture the scene Buffy : Spike comes into the kitchen, he sees me on the porch, I go all "What the hell are you doing here?" and then he tells me about the two of you. So I go "I'm gonna kill you!" and he answers "Come in, if you dare." And I was able to. Can you imagine how insulting that was?"
Buffy could hardly process what was going on. She wanted to run to Spike and deliver him but she had to deal with Riley who had deliberately been turned into a vampire for the sake of her love.
"I'm your boyfriend Buffy! And just because I went a little undead, I can't get into your house anymore. But Spike spends one, one single night with you and he's got the power to invite vamps in. Do you see now why I had to do this? I've seen how you change when your around vampires and other beasts. When you fight, you seem more alive then ever. Monsters bring out the best in you. It's like you're not complete without them."
Riley seemed actually sad. Buffy envisioned her mission as the slayer becoming more and more ambiguous. If vampires around her kept expressing feelings, killing them remorselessly might raise some moral issues. Was Riley right about her needing monsters in her life? That would explain first Angel and now Spike. At the thought of Spike, Buffy turned around to look at him. There was definitely something different about being with a vampire. Buffy experienced a mind blowing, heart shaking, paradoxical feeling of wholeness when she loved a man she was destined to slay. Suddenly, Spike started to move as much as he could, the heavy chains blasting every time they hit the wall, she could see alarm in his eyes, he was trying to point to something with his chin.
When Buffy turned around, she saw that if there was any humanity left in Riley, the demon in him was still able to completely overpower it.
"I see you brought diner along, how thoughtful of you!" Riley was holding Willow and his head was bent over her forcefully extended neck.
Buffy reached them with one powerful jump. She landed, spun around and kicked Riley in the face hard enough to send him flying a good ten feet away.
Willow ran across the room to where Spike was, while Buffy ran after Riley.
The witch gripped at the chains restraining the blond vampire.
"Chains of iron I command thee
With this quick spell, Spike was released. Magick can be so practical.
When Buffy got to Riley, he jumped up and punched her in the face. She instinctively reached for a stake and aimed it at his heart. But she stopped at about one height of an inch from his chest.
"I knew you could never do it.", he scoffed at the Slayer.
"Don't flatter yourself. I just don't want to kill you right away because I think that there's still something of your human self in you. Just let it through Riley, give it a chance. You don't want this life, believe me. You can fight the evil Riley. Like Spike did, you can choose to be good."
"Who knew Slayer powers came with the strange ability to change the nature of evil demons by way of sex? You sleep with Angel, he looses his soul. You sleep with Spike, he apparently grows one back. I'm really curious what will happen to me when we do it. Will I get my soul back too or will you go for something knew, more inventive? Like maybe I'll grow a third arm or something. Bet you can't wait to find out honey!"
Then, to Buffy's surprise, Riley fell to the ground, unconscious.
"That's no way to talk to my lady, mate!"
Buffy ran into Spike's arms, like she had just crossed the largest desert and he was the purest river in the world.
"Oh Spike! I thought I had lost you."
"That would be too unfair luv, we just found each other."
Some time later, Spike was guarding a chained-up Riley while Buffy was finishing to make arrangements about him. Willow was given the more delicate task of calling Xander and Giles for back-up.
"I bet she didn't trust you enough to tell you what she's planning to do with me, did she?"
"That boy really has a gift for getting on my nerves", Spike thought. "Bugger off!"
"Oh! no, I think you should really hear this. You see, she contacted my old pals from the Initiative. You'll be happy to learn that I'm going to know the same fate you did. By this time tomorrow I'll be all chipped-up. Unable to work my evil ways to the demise of the poor defenceless common beings known as humans."
Spike snorted with disgust.
"Might I ask what you find so funny?"
"Funny?", Spike started, "There is nothing remotely funny about this whole mess you've made. I think that you're bloody pathetic, is all. You where a 'common being' yourself less than one bleeding day ago. And you know what? You still are. You're soddin' crazed if you think that merely becoming a monster makes you evil. And your delusion is even greater if you think that what Buffy needs, what she wants is evil. She doesn't love me because I'm bad, she loves me because I'm real. You see, I may be evil in nature, but I'm honest about it. I've always been. But you, you were never honest with her. From the very start you hid your true identity. And even when she found out about that, you were all about trying to look stronger than you are, braver than you are, nicer than you are and ultimately, more evil than you are. What Buffy is destined to do, the sacrifices she makes every day for the sake of humanity, they are very real. So she needs the people around her to be equally real and sincere. Otherwise, what she does, how much of herself she gives, wouldn't make sense anymore. Because I never tried to play somebody I'm not, Buffy now knows that my love for her is real. Look chum, in a way, I don't blame you for trying to fool her. Your true self is so bloody plain and boring that you would never have stood a chance with her. But you couldn't keep up the masquerade for ever now could you?."
"Don't you realise the opportunity you have here, you idiot.", Riley chose to ignore everything Spike had said. "The surgeon who's going to put the chip in my head, can very well take out the one that's in yours. Even as a vampire, the Initiative still wants me. They always wanted me to go back.. I can convince them to free you from the chip if you promise to leave in return."
"Shut up! Just how stupid do you think I am, you bleeding wanker?! Exit evil Spike, enter chipped Riley. I don't bloody think so! I am with Buffy now. We love each other. And I'm not letting you bloody near her ever again! You got that?"
"Think about it Spike. In less than a day from now you could be yourself again. Free to kill, free to feed on the real stuff. Free to beat down the people who insult you. Now that I'm a vampire myself I totally understand it you know. The necessity to kill. It's our very nature. That's what we need to do like humans need to breathe. Oh! To feel a river of warm blood rushing through you, every drop of it giving energy to your every cells. But it's not just the blood we need is it? It's the life too. When you're just about done feeding, you can feel it slowly leave your victim's body and just as slowly enter yours, making you stronger and stronger, alive among the dead. If I had a soul, I'd be truly sorry right now, sorry that I've been part of an organisation who prided itself on depriving demons of their Hell-given right to be evil. Anyway, the Initiative's helicopter is going to pick me up here at midnight."
"I said shut up!"
Xander and Giles arrived at the compound around nine o'clock. Giles went to help Buffy while Xander had a little chat with Willow.
"So Buffy and Spike hey?"
"Yep ", the witch answered, still dealing with the news herself.
"Will, did you cast another 'My Will Be Done' spell, by any chance?"
"Oh no! I learned my lesson the first time believe me. This time it's for real."
"Yeah, I was afraid of that.", Xander admitted a pondering look crossing his features.
"What do you mean Xand?"
"Oh! You know I was afraid that yet another unnatural creature had been crowned King over good old, friendly Xander in the land of Buffy-Love."
"Xander... don't tell me that you still have a crush on Buffy. After all this time? Besides, your with Anya now."
" I don't listen to me. I don't have a crush on Buffy. I do love Anya very much and I'm very happy with her. It's just that every time Buffy gets with a vampire or a Super G.I. Joe type o'guy, it awakens the insecure, rejected teenager who still lives in me and shows up every once in a while."
"Well, you shouldn't listen to him. Because now you are a grown man with a beautiful chick by your side and a manly job."
"Yeah! You're right you know! I shouldn't listen to him. I should tell him to shut up and go to his room. And also that as long as he will live under my roof, he'll do as I say because in my time, we had to walk miles to go to school... barefoot!"
At that, Xander and Willow burst out laughing.
"Oh, Willow!", Xander sighed, "It's nice to see that in spite of everything, we still have a sense of humour. Well, I guess it's time for me to go relieve Buffy's vampire boyfriend of his functions as Buffy's newly vampire former boyfriend's warden... To think I was planning on spending the evening writing out cheques for the bills I have to pay. Ooh! the excitement I would of missed!"
Xander left Willow on that ironic note and walked across the room to where Spike and Riley where.
"Spike.", Xander directed a nonchalant nod the vampire's way.
"Harris.", Spike greeted the carpenter the same way.
That moment was weird an uncomfortable for both men. Spike realised that he had a lot of proving to do before he could be fully accepted by Buffy's friends. But he was willing, more than ever, to show how much he had changed.
"I'm here to take the next shift. You can go."
"Thanks.", Spike hhen he pointed Riley and added, "Be careful, he might bore you to death."
"Don't forget the clock is ticking Spike.", Riley reminded the other vampire. "Midnight!"
Spike put his left hand into a fist and gave Riley a 'goodbye' uppercut. Then he left to join Buffy.
"Are you ready to go luv?", Spike asked his girlfriend before cupping her face in his hands and leaning forward to kiss her.
"Just give me a minute, there's something I have to do."
Spike understood, he waited while Buffy said her goodbyes to Riley.
Buffy crossed the room to where Riley was being held. She still could not believe he had done such a stupid thing. And she didn't want to acknowledge her fear that she could of prevented things from turning out that way. She was too tired to feel guilty. Besides, deep down inside, she knew that she hadn't seen this coming. When she reached him, he growled at her. But she had things to tell him whether he liked it or not.
"Being the Slayer is my destiny. And believe me, my powers are as much a curse as they are a gift. Sometimes I wish so bad that I could be just a normal girl. You changed ever since the whole Initiative thing went down. You couldn't accept to be just a normal boy. And that's not just because of me. I think it's because you have low self esteem. You see, you don't have to be a super-hero to be somebody. And now you're gonna pay a very high price to learn that lesson. Riley I'm sorry if I hurt you and I want you to know that I forgive you for the pain that you have caused me. You may not believe me, but I did love you, just not the way you wish I had." Buffy stopped talking, she looked down for a moment and then looked up again and smiled. A smile she hoped conveyed repentance, compassion and concern. Then she spoke her final farewell to Riley. "Good luck."
Buffy and Spike's walk to the Summers house was as strangely quiet as the night before. They held hands extremely hard, to reassure themselves of the other's presence all along.
Buffy broke the silence shortly after they had entered the house. They were standing in front of the beautifully set dinner table.
"Tonight could have been very different."
"Yes Buffy, tonight should have been very different. But it's all over now luv."
"No! It's not over Spike. This is just the beginning. You told me yoursel, every man I love eventually packs up and leaves. I'm bad news. Why don't you run while you can?"
Buffy was on the verge of tears. Spike took a step toward her to take her in his arms but she backed away.
"Buffy don't say that! Please. You're not bad news. You're nothing bad. You're good! You're so bloody good that you inspire people to be good, even me."
"How can you say that? I sent Angel to hell and what Riley did Oh, God! Spike, something terrible could have happened to you tonight."
"Buffy, luv, Angel is cursed and what Riley did is in no way your fault, you know that. And believe me, something terrible happens to me whenever I'm not with you. I'm the guy who's here to stay. You can count on that! I love you."
"Why?" Buffy started to cry, Spike pulled her to him. She opposed no resistance.
"Why? You want to know why I love you. Buffy, when I died and became a vampire, I gained immortality. Do you have any idea how long forever is? The one certainty you have as a human is that you are going to die. You don't know when, you don't know how but you know you will. And that gives your life worth. The one thing I have truly missed about living all those years is being alive. You know? Feeling your heart beat and knowing that it could stop at any moment, fearing that you could die. Buffy, I love you because you make me feel alive. Before, you made me feel alive because your very existence challenges my immortality. You have the power to take it all away. But now, you make me feel alive because, even though I can live for ever, I'm afraid that it won't be enough time to love you as much as I want to love you. I wish that I could spend every single second of eternity screaming out my love for you. I wish it was dark all the time, everywhere, so that I could consume myself telling the world you're mine. I want to spend every minute of every hour of every day kissing you, holding you so close to me I bruise, making love to you until blood runs so fast in my veins it makes my heart beat once more. I want to make love to you until I have to pass out, otherwise I would die. But I don't want to die. I wanna live and do it again. I want to write poetry for you. I want to love you strong enough to make you a baby even if it's not possible. Buffy, I love you because when I'm with you, I fear that I could die."
Buffy stopped crying. She had never been this happy nor this scared in her life. Spike's words had gone directly to her core and opened wide the doors of her damaged heart. She was his forever. Knowing this brought her peace and terror all at once. She grabbed him for dear life and kissed him so hard it hurt.
They made love like it was the first time, like it was the last time.
So passionately and so tenderly. They made love until they both passed
out. Otherwise they would have died.
Shortly after, Spike woke up. His sleep had been agitated and restless. He stood up and got dressed. He looked at Buffy. His Buffy, sleeping soundly and looking amazingly serene despite the chaotic day she had spent. Spike was filled with an incredibly moving feeling of pride and merit.
"I did that for you my beloved. My love evened out your pain."
He whispered softly, choking almost on every word, trying to repress a
flow of tears. He bent down to kiss her, letting a single cool tear fall
on Buffy's cheek. He kissed her again where the tear had fallen to erase
the tiny fluid proof of his unrestrained sensitivity.
He decided to go for a walk. He hesitated a long time before walking across the threshold. The Summers house symbolised Buffy's very life. In this house she wasn't just the Slayer. In it, she loved people and let them love her. That was where she felt safe and happy and free. When Spike had ask her to invite him in her house, he had ask her to welcome him in her heart. It felt wrong to get out of the house. As Spike walked out into the night, he was invaded by a strangling and spreading feeling of dread and loss. As if, with every step he took, he was getting further away from himself.
Spike walked for a while, his mind utterly blank. He was struggling hard to keep himself from thinking at all. He just refused to acknowledge the doubt that Riley had instilled in his mind. But he couldn't avoid it forever. Eventually, he reached a pivotal point. Both mentally and physically. He was standing at the juncture of two roads : one lead back to the Summers house and the other lead to the Initiative's helicopter.
Spike looked down one road and he could see the harsh glow of the helicopter's headlights shine through the obscure night. He could hear the thunder made by the already spinning rotor blades. Then he remembered Riley's proposition and he imagined what it would feel like to let his fangs penetrate into the tender flesh of a barren, anonymous throat, he smelled and tasted warm blood feeding him, giving him strength. He imagined all that happening without the siring, punishing pain being induced.
Then, he looked down the other road. He saw Buffy burst out laughing when she opened the card he had bought for her mother. He heard her tender voice telling him "Spike, I love you too." He replayed the events of the last two days in his mind and suddenly he could feel Buffy underneath him again, warming his cold body with her life. He could smell her unique scent all around him and he was intoxicated once more when he recalled the distinctive tang of the Slayer's blood running along his tongue, burning his mouth with passion.
Spike was standing at a crossroad, isolated from the world by the strain of the dilemma playing out in his head. He had to choose between who he had been for more than a century and what his heart wanted forever. The Evil he knew, or the unknown possibilities of a new life.
A ghost from his past made it's way to him as the last lines of one of his favourite poems, by Robert Frost, echoed in his head :
"Somewhere ages and ages hence :
It was five minutes to midnight, Spike chose a road and started to run.
Buffy was standing at the bottom of the stairway. She called out Spike's name but got no answer back. A nauseating impression of déjà-vu expanded in her throat.
"Please no, not again!"
Buffy started to run frantically through the house bashing doors open and turning lights on as she entered every room looking for Spike. She was crying her heart out, her sobbing was making it impossible for her to call out for Spike. When she came up from the basement, she slowed her pace and reluctantly returned to the one room that was still in the dark.
She stood in the doorframe of her bedroom, she warily reached for the
switch and turned the light on. Her heart skipped a beat. All of his clothes
were gone. Buffy dropped to her knees and started to scream.
Buffy sat up straight in her bed, out of breath and disoriented, like nightmares tented to leave her.
Spike woke up for the second time that night and sat up too. He took a shaking Buffy into his arms to clam her down. He looked her straight in the eyes and bent down to kiss her. Then he lifted his head a little to whisper softly in her hear.
"I'm here luv."
He was, and he knew that was where every road he would ever choose to
take would lead him :