Giles had promised her future would look brighter, now that the Hellmouth was all zipped up and buried under a collapsed town—now that a certain irritating vampire was no longer hanging around to muddy the perfect waters. Funny how these past months in Italy hadn’t looked anything but shady and grim. The only brightness she’d been privy to at all was Willow’s intelligence shining through as she resumed her studies and aced it all, just like everyone had expected. Despite all those ‘brighter future’ pep talks from Giles, no one seemed to expect the same scholastic brilliance from Buffy. She’d been corralled into the family business—which she would so never have guessed was the all new improved Watcher’s Council.
She supposed it was possible. All those enthusiastic over-eager vibes she’d been exposed to from Giles could have sucked her in and made her all ‘steam ahead with the happy’ girl too, if only she’d been able to forget. Or if she’d been able to believe that her time with Spike had been just a requirement to saving the world like all her friends were telling her it was.
Buffy knew differently, though. She’d spent too many years with her head in the proverbial sand, only it felt much less gritty and a whole lot more like dirt. And every time she’d dragged it out to brave the sun, Spike had filled her vision. It wasn’t convenience that had joined her time with his—it wasn’t even an unlikely truce they’d struck in order to save the world. Buffy had sought him out—even before he’d regained his soul—and she knew deep down that it had been blossoming love that had made her want to be around him. Want to show him that he finally meant something to her. Or not finally, exactly—more like she was ready to let him see a little inside her heart and see that pretty shade of love. That she was consumed with affection whenever he was around—so much that she couldn’t think straight. When he was hurt—she was in agony. When he was being attacked, she felt murderous rage flow through her and a need to damage those that wanted him out of her life. Giles could just thank his lucky stars that she didn’t kill humans, because that night he’d conspired to make Spike dust, she really thought she could have hurt him.
She couldn’t even forgive Giles for getting it wrong now, because other than that watery smile she’d shared to show how proud she was of Spike, she’d made no effort to happy herself up and mislead them all into thinking she wasn’t grieving. As was his way, Giles just ignored the obvious and ploughed on with the distraction. At first it had been the getting used to a new city—God, a new country. Then it had been extra special bonding time with the brat little sister, followed laughably by the combined efforts to get her into dating.
A single Buffy was apparently a disastrous and unconfident Buffy. She gave them points for one lesson learned, though. There was no more of that awkward human/slayer match-making. Oh no, they’d finally received the memo on what kind of guy got her blood running hot. Apparently ones that could threaten the continuation of its flow in her veins. She had nothing to excuse her complete lack of observation about some of the guys her friends had set her up with. Their lack of a pulse completely got by her radar, so deep was her longing for only one member of the undead team. Only he was much deader than those eying her neck over a pasta and wine dinner date. And seriously, who could have ever predicted that her friends even knew ambiguously evil undead guys—or strangely human-shaped demons? Buffy certainly hadn’t, so that vamp tickle that had always set her on alert was pretty much ignored, believing any vampire activity must have been occurring around her and one of the many new slayers would take care of it.
She’d been ordered to rest. After fleeing the destroyed Hellmouth, a really good, hard look into a mirror had told her the real physical toll the past two years had had on her body. The first time she’d laid down to sleep—and not so soon after vanquishing the world of the First as one would imagine—revealed the mental and emotional damage that she’d been able to postpone a reaction to.
She’d lost Spike in the battle.
After fighting evil together—really together—for three years, he’d succumbed to a higher purpose right on the brink of when Buffy was ready for him. It was just so typical of her luck. From the moment he’d professed to love her he’d been suspended on the edge of truly dying—he’d been willing against Glory if it saved Dawn, he’d fought the odds to regain his soul, he’d fought her friends and her watcher just for the right to stand by her side. And in a twist of irony that made Buffy want to scream and kick the world apart, her first love had eradicated the presence of her last. Angel may have given her the instrument needed to save the world, but it had surely burnt up her own.
It was a night like so many others that found Buffy hiding in her room and contemplating the past. She had trouble sleeping now, amazed at how fast she had become accustomed to loving arms around her and a black t-shirt against her cheek. Everything around her seemed so much duller now. Though Spike had represented monochrome in its most extreme, she now saw that he added the most colour to her life.
Contrary to popular belief, Willow and Xander hadn’t lost sight of their parents. Xander hadn’t been able to get rid of them for the wedding that wasn’t, so it should have occurred to them all that once they’d all settled and the dust of their ruined lives had cleared, her two friends would be able to grasp hold of their pasts and be content. They’d lost things in the sinking of the town—of course they had.
Tara’s grave and Anya to name just two.
But their parents had had the sense to take almost all their possessions with them, so they still could cling to childhood memories captured forever at the click of a shutter. But still it didn’t make Buffy crumble in misery. They may have had all those mementos, but Buffy had Dawn. In all her years beside her friends, it had never occurred to her that they were both only children in the middle of family dysfunction. She was suddenly grateful to the monks for making Dawn and entrusting Buffy to the teen’s safety. With that responsibility had brought moments of strength from her vampire and had begun the slow process of her trusting him and allowing him by degrees into her life.
The Rosenberg’s and Harris’s hadn’t chosen to reside near each other once they left Sunnydale. It had taken only a week for both Willow and Xander to touch base with their family before they’d made it back to the core group and prepared to embark on the next leg of their journey. And embark they all did, Buffy feeling the flutterings of both nerves and fear that she was about to face a world that had been so closed off from her, and essentially alone. Where once upon a time she would have loved to see what the world had to offer, the option of leaving the Hellmouth had been a big self-imposed no-no. Spike had told her some stories of the places he’d visited, often instigating a festering craving to experience life the way he had—without all the blood and bad that he’d thrived on of course. But now that she’d had the chance, he wasn’t there to show her the reality of his tales.
Every place she went there was a memory of Spike tagged to it. London was wonderful—despite the cold and sludgy wetness of it—because it was where Spike was born, and reborn. Europe had many flavours merely because she knew Spike had trod the ground. Much of her time was spent wondering if she ever stepped on one of his long absent footprints. It all brought one alarming thought to Buffy, and she was finding herself broaching crazy because of it. She couldn’t do this without Spike. As much as he may have died for them all to live, it was infinitely difficult and extremely unsatisfying to do it without him.
The thoughts that occurred to Buffy scared her so much that she’d taken to hiding from people. From her own sister, too. Andrew lived with them and provided all the entertainment Dawn could possibly need, so the guilt of her detachment wasn’t quite as much as it could have been. But Buffy felt so afraid that if she stayed in their presence—particularly Dawn’s—she wouldn’t be able to stop talking about him. Not that she’d ever really started, but the urge to just say his name, to let her voice worship his memory with soothing lilting love, was getting way too strong for her to hold it back. So when she couldn’t escape to kill demons, she hid in her room, letting her friends and family pass beyond her bedroom door and pause to observe the panel with worry. It protected more than her heart—it meant they wouldn’t have to be faced with her preoccupation and she wouldn’t have to hear their disdain for a being that had deserved so much more.
For some reason, knowing that Willow had taken a break from her busy study schedule at Oxford to come and visit made it all so much harder. Made bad selfish thoughts tear through her head until Buffy found herself several times on her feet to seek out her best friend for one of those monumental examples of badness in their past.
Being resurrected had almost killed her. Buffy could still feel the slimy hands of death claw at her as she was returned to her own skin, her hair regaining life as it grew lush and healthy. She could still feel the ache that she mostly ignored to return to the one place that didn’t judge her every breath; her every thought and action. She’d hated them for bringing her back, and yet if Willow could bring Spike to her, she thought it was just possible a little of that hate could be chipped away.
She tried so hard not to start thinking that Willow owed her. Her friend had caused so much of her pain in life and really, now that she was so very able if not so willing, Buffy didn’t want to allow herself to fall so many levels that she became that kind of friend—the type that looked at their past and dragged out all the wrong moments and used it as ammunition to get her own way. But in the dark when she was alone, sometimes it was difficult to quiet that little voice that reminded her that if she’d remained in Heaven she wouldn’t know Spike’s love, she wouldn’t have wanted to return it, and she wouldn’t be here now mourning its loss.
That was when her thoughts got a little bit out of control. She’d justify it all in her head, know that it would be okay—he was a vampire, and he’d loved her. He’d want to come back to her, right? It wasn’t until she had her hand on the doorhandle that Buffy would remember the peace she’d felt, the familiarity of being home and accepted that being dead actually gave her. And she felt overwhelmed by guilt that she wanted to rip Spike away from that.
If that was where he was.
It was on Willow’s third day in her apartment that Buffy realised something. Willow was much more powerful than she had been before, now that she’d achieved the kind of spell most witches only dreamed about. She could tailor a spell to make sure they knew where Spike had come to rest—unless he’d very unfairly gone to Hell—before displacing him and maybe bringing him back to the world that had lived on without him, yet only thanks to his sacrifice.
It took another day to work up the courage to leave the quiet, private memories she’d hoarded within her bedroom walls in secret and seek Willow out. She was scared—she was big enough to admit that. And when she finally came face to face with her friend and saw the depth of her concern, it made the fear advance to terror. How could she ask this of Willow?
How could she ask it of Spike? God, what if he came back wrong and hated her? Could she live with the same degree of abuse she’d given him? How could she not? She owed him so much—if not for the beatings she’d given him then for the calm acceptance he’d given her when no one else knew she needed it. Of course, this time would be different. She’d be the one in love and him the one in doubt. Did she have enough faith in the love that Spike had been lavishing on her for the three years before he erupted into flames?
Those arguments were so valid, yet Buffy couldn’t discard the selfish need to have him back. Just to surrender in his embrace once more would be worth everything to her. But even if she couldn’t have that, even if he came back hating her, she could live with it just to see his face again. But it wouldn’t go like that, not if Willow took proper precautions this time. Not if they knew where he was before they attempted to bring him back.
Buffy’s bottom lip wobbled and her eyes were watery when she stood before Willow, the words stuck in her throat. All it took was one step and Buffy crumbled in Willow’s arms, all the built up grief and plans tumbling out in a fury of emotion that neither girl could comprehend what was actually said. Willow’s embrace was warm and firm and Buffy gave into the need to be held by someone; even if it felt slightly wrong—it comforted just the same.
Succumbing to the expected despair of failure, Buffy blocked out everything around her and just let it go. The grief that none of them had allowed her to share now broke forth and defied their coldest shoulders. And she was surprised. There was no pushing away, no shocked exclamation as to why she should be broken and in pain. All she received for her careful hiding was a warm hug and tearful commiserations.
Buffy soon became the centre of a three way hug as Dawn attached herself and added her tearful contribution, and Buffy suddenly realised that maybe her pain hadn’t been so isolated at all. Here was her sister and her friend, completely understanding what the loss of Spike meant to her—and not a judgmental word of denial was uttered.
“I am so glad you finally got that out. It’s been like living with ghost Buffy the past few months. The scary sad presence drifting around the place but never really seen. It’s good to actually see your face again,” said Dawn with a watery smile, looking to Willow incase her outspokenness backfired and she had backup.
Willow’s eyes were filled with her relief, and maybe a tinge of remorse, and Buffy felt the tightening in her heart toward another bout of self-release. No way was one tearful episode enough to wipe away the grief, to replace that hollow of loneliness that the loss of Spike had caused.
“Okay, I’m confused. You’ve been waiting for me to go all with the waterlogged grief look while you’ve been throwing dateage material at me?” Her voice held a tinge of whine and disbelief, the hurt still there that they could think she’d want to move on so quickly after her last two years of disastrous relationships. And move on to someone that wasn’t Spike-shaped when she hadn’t had anywhere near enough time to resolve that the hesitant start they’d made back to each other was so totally over. A relationship promising depth and fulfilling love was wiped out of her flaming hands without a backward glance.
Buffy couldn’t miss the pointed look that Dawn and Willow shared, no matter how blurred her vision was. It made her feel angry, wary that yet again her feelings were expected to be swept under the carpet, denied for the truth that they were in favour of some warped view of happiness they expected of her.
“B-Buffy, I don’t know what to say. I know that we weren’t confidant buddies in those last days before the fall of The First, but we weren’t blind. We knew that Spike meant something to you, and even if you just cared for him as a friend, we expected you to grieve.” Willow paused to take a noisy breath in and looked at Dawn again. Buffy had lost a little of her defensiveness and waited to see what else would be said. Gaining some courage in the face of Buffy’s clear disbelief, Willow persisted, hoping that finally they could clear the air. “We tried to get you to open up by making you angry—thus the evil bad dateage. Kinda didn’t work, but it was a last resort, Buffy. You clammed up so tight and you look so unhappy and we don’t want you to be unhappy, really just want you to be mega with the wattage and please don’t kill us.” She finished on a teeny scared pitch that just begged to remember the early, more geeky Willow. The one that cared and tried to see what Buffy actually needed to be happy. Somewhere along the way that had been diverted by suspicion and prejudice until the one thing that might have made her happy was severely out of bounds.
Buffy gave into her first true response and giggled, shaking hands covering her mouth as hysteria threatened to erupt. And then the real impact of what they’d done for her—for Spike—really hit her. They wanted her to grieve and they’d wanted her to admit the truth. They’d finally been ready to hear it and Buffy had kept the power and beauty of Spike all to herself when everything about his specialness should have been shared. He’d saved the world. Her vampire champion/lover/friend had saved the world for them all to continue living and breathing and she’d kept him her guilty secret because she loved him and didn’t think anyone would care to know it.
So maybe she could take the risk and tell Willow what she wanted—and maybe she wouldn’t be condemned. Maybe the witch could see her pain and do her utmost to right so many wrongs. Maybe she could locate Spike and retrieve him from whatever hell dimension he’d fallen into so that Buffy could finally be forthright and honest with him.
And just maybe pigs might fly.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
In a rare act of intuitive goodness, Andrew had come home and tempted Dawn out to the movies. As much as she loved her sister, Buffy really didn’t want her around for the tell-all-and-beg. Willow and Buffy had retired to her bedroom to hash out the angst and for Buffy to share a wish.
It had taken an hour to argue her point, another twenty minutes of staring at Willow’s too-wide eyes and not collapse again in another round of grief. She couldn’t lose the plot now—not when it was finally out in the open and the possibility of success was so close. Not when she could almost feel Spike in her arms and his hair against her lips. God, she tingled, hope almost making her heart beat too painfully for her chest.
“B-but Buffy, you remember how bringing you back wasn’t one of our most shining moments. I mean, what if Spike hates you for bringing him back? W-what if he’s in Heaven?” There were tears in her voice that just the memory of the pain Buffy had almost buckled under inspired. Her face looked miserable, her eyes scared and Buffy wondered if she’d been half crazed to think up such a scheme. No, not crazed. Desperate. Desperate to have her friend back, her greatest support even if their love could never get off the ground. If it didn’t match, or if they slipped past one another in the night and friendship was all that could be caught, then she would take grip of it happily. With relief.
She wasn’t going to do it. The resolve on her face that gave her the look that caused so much solidarity and fun in their younger days was planted so firmly there now that Buffy felt the resignation slash her heart to pieces and her throat clogged. Willow was going to refuse and she really would never see him again.
“Oh god,” she gasped and the mental and physical pain felt overwhelming. Buffy felt all the strength revolt from her body and she ended up lax and exhausted on her bedroom floor, nothing left to say and nothing left to do as Willow watched helplessly.
It wasn’t that she didn’t know that eventually she’d be okay—the loss of Spike and the pain it wrought would one day recede and life would continue to go on. But it didn’t stop it for now and as if all the tears and memories and plans and schemes she’d focused on for the past months were swept away, Buffy was left reeling from the emotional impact of an end.
The end of an existence for Spike and the end of a dream for her.
The voice was small and Buffy almost missed it in the darkness that she’d fallen into. Willow was pale and scared when the despair shifted and she could see around her without the shaded haze. The hope that welled up inside was almost too much to bear and Buffy begged without words for a repeat.
“I’ll do it,” Willow said again, firm resolve making her nod and then smile at the shocked Buffy with tear streaks down her face. “A-as long as you understand I’m doing this for you, not because I need to flaunt how good I am?”
Buffy could see the vulnerability and almost laughed. She didn’t, though, knowing that Willow had tried as hard as the rest of them at various points to put the demons of their pasts behind them. But she’d do it, and that made Buffy feel the strange tingle of life again.
In the first speck of peace to cross over to her since the end of The First, Buffy felt calm. And she thanked the witch who would bring it back permanently—as ironic as it was that she deprived her of it in the first place.
Now they had a resurrection to plan.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/99357.html