And that’s all she wrote for this one. Hope you enjoyed the journey.
Part V: Begin Again
Spike had been looking for hours, since the sun had gone down, and there had been no sign of Buffy. He’d gone to all of her usual haunts, the cemeteries she patrolled, even his own crypt on the off chance she’d gone looking for him.
He’d even gone so far as to go to Willy’s bar, just in case she’d headed there.
“Bloody hell,” he muttered. “Where are you, Buffy?”
It was a rhetorical question, not meant to produce answers, but no sooner had the words left his mouth than he saw Buffy standing on the sidewalk not twenty feet away. When she turned in the direction of home, Spike broke into a jog. “Buffy!” She turned, smiling when she recognized him, which startled him. “Where have you been?”
She frowned. “I’ve only been gone for a few hours, Spike.”
He stared at her, wondering if she’d been hit on the head at some point. “Try twenty-four,” he suggested. “You’ve been gone since you went out to patrol last night. At least, I’m assumin’ that’s what you were doin’.”
“I was patrolling,” she said. “And then I ran into this guy, Casamir, and he said he could answer my questions.” Buffy gestured over her shoulder. “So, I thought I’d try it.”
Spike looked behind her to the shuttered windows of a storefront that looked as though it had been unoccupied for a long time. “What shop?”
She turned, pointing impatiently. “That—” She stopped, her hand dropping to her side. “It was right there. I swear. I am not going insane.”
“Luv, we live on a Hellmouth,” Spike replied. “Don’t know what you saw, but I’m sure it was just like you said.”
Buffy shook her head. “But it was so real.”
“Had to have been,” Spike pointed out. “You were gone for so long. You okay?” He reached out to touch her shoulder; he wanted to be sure that she was alright, but he dropped his hand at the last moment. She’d hardly welcomed his advances.
She grimaced. “That would explain why I’m so hungry, I guess.”
“There’s leftover Chinese at your place,” Spike said. “I ordered it for Nibblet last night when you weren’t there.”
Buffy gave him an odd look. “You stayed with her last night, didn’t you?”
“Was supposed to just be until you got back,” he replied. “But then I fell asleep, an’ the Bit said I should stay there since the sun was up, an’—”
She put a hand on his arm, startling him into silence. “It’s okay, Spike. I’m really glad you were with her.”
Risking her wrath, Spike put a hand on her forehead. “You sure you didn’t get hit on the head?”
She grabbed his hand, but instead of pushing him away, she squeezed it gently. “Very sure. I just got a glimpse of what might have been.”
Spike decided not to question. There was a light in her eyes that had been missing ever since she’d been brought back from the dead. “Good or bad?”
“Both.” She didn’t release his hand. “Come on. I need to get home, and we need to talk.”
He wondered if he should be worried.
The house was bright with lights as Buffy approached, and her steps slowed. She wanted to see her friends, but she didn’t want to deal with the recriminations she knew were coming. “Spike, would you wait out back for me?”
He hid the hurt expertly. “Yeah.”
She stopped him with a hand on his arm. “It’s not that. This is going to get messy, and I want to deal with one thing at a time.”
His brow furrowed. “What’s going on, Buffy?”
“I’ll tell you all about it, but I have to deal with my friends first.” Remembering what he’d done for her—what he would have done for her—made it easier to touch his cheek, to give him something to hold him over. “I promise. We’ll talk as soon as this is done.”
“Alright, luv,” he said gently. “I’ll be out back.”
Spike disappeared into the shadows, and Buffy squared her shoulders. When she entered the house, she wasn’t surprised to see that everyone was there, even Tara. Spike had told her on the way back that he’d asked her to stay with Dawn since Willow wasn’t home yet. The tension was almost tangible, and she sighed.
“Where have you been?” Willow demanded. “We tried to do a locator spell, but it didn’t work.”
Buffy looked past them to Dawn. Her sister’s stare was accusatory. “I’m sorry I didn’t come home last night, Dawn. I should have called.”
Dawn’s face softened slightly. “Why didn’t you?”
“I didn’t know how much time had passed,” she replied honestly.
“Well, where were you?” Xander asked. “We were worried.”
Buffy smiled tightly. “I know, and I’m sorry. It couldn’t be helped.”
“Is everything okay, Buffy?” Tara asked softly.
She nodded. “Better than it’s been for a while.” She took a deep breath. Honesty was hard. “I needed some answers, and I found them, but I need you guys to give me some time and space to work through it all.”
Willow stared at her, hurt. “But, Buffy—”
“You pulled me out of heaven, Willow,” Buffy stated flatly. “And then you tried to erase my memories, because you want me to get over it. You all expect me to be the same person I was before, and I’m not.”
The room was silent. No one would meet her gaze except for Dawn, who was looking at her with wide eyes. “I know you guys meant well,” she continued, “but that doesn’t mean that I’m not having a hard time.”
No one seemed to know how to respond.
“What do you want us to say?” Xander finally asked.
She sighed, knowing from his tone that he didn’t quite get it yet. She wondered if they ever would, if they would ever know what she’d given up.
“You don’t have to say anything,” she replied. “And I hope you won’t say anything when I tell you that I’m in a relationship with Spike.”
As she’d suspected, that was a little too much to hope for.
Buffy might have asked him to wait out back, but she hadn’t forbidden him from listening in. He’d had a hard time catching the first part of the conversation, but their raised voices carried outside easily. Xander shouted something about dangerous vampires and how she couldn’t be serious, and Willow fretted about how it was all her fault, and Buffy was clearly going through a hard time, and how she shouldn’t do anything she’d regret.
Since Spike hadn’t been able to hear precisely what had set everyone off, he wasn’t going to jump to conclusions.
The back door creaked as it opened, and Dawn slipped out. “I thought you might be out here.”
“How’d you know?” he asked.
“I’m a good guesser.” She sat down next to him. “So, you and my sister, huh?”
Spike felt his heart leap. “I guess so. Is that what she said?”
“She said you guys were in a relationship. You didn’t hear?”
“Didn’t quite catch that part.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Shouldn’t you be in there with her? She could probably use the moral support.” Giving her a sharp look, he added, “That’s assuming you’re in favor.”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “Duh. And Buffy’s doing fine on her own. I think she was getting ready to kick everybody out.”
Spike snorted. “Right. The day she chooses me over her friends—”
Buffy’s voice was clear as she said, “Spike spent all summer taking care of Dawn and watching your backs. I don’t know what your problem is now.”
He swallowed the rest of what he was going to say, muttering, “She must have been hit on the head.”
“I don’t think so,” Dawn said thoughtfully. “I think she just figured out what she wants.”
Buffy’s voice broke through the furor again. “No. I’m not going to talk about this, and I don’t need an intervention. I don’t know if it’s going to work out, but I know we have a shot at it. So, you can either sit down and listen to what I have to say or leave.”
Spike stared at the door. What the hell had happened? She’d been insisting that there wasn’t anything between them just the other day, and had refused to talk to him. Now, she was defending their relationship—the relationship she’d insisted they didn’t have.
Silence followed her ultimatum, then came the sounds of people leaving. Spike could make out voices, but not what was being said. From the voices, however, no one sounded very happy.
Buffy stuck her head out the back door a few minutes later. “You can come in now, Spike.” She looked weary, but her expression was one of grim satisfaction. “The fireworks are over.”
He followed Dawn inside, watching as Buffy began to pull the cartons of Chinese food out of the fridge. “Dawn, have you eaten?”
“I’m good,” she replied. “Tara made dinner tonight.”
Buffy nodded. “I’ll have to remember to thank her.”
“Where did Willow go?” Dawn asked.
Buffy shrugged. “I think she was going to stay with Xander. She was a little upset with me for reminding her what the road to hell is paved with.”
“And Xander?” Dawn asked.
Buffy began to dish up, seeming strangely calm, given everything that had happened. “He’ll get over it eventually. You know how Xander is about vampires.”
Spike met Dawn’s eyes, and she shrugged, indicating that she had no idea what was up with her sister. “So, uh, what exactly happened, Slayer?” he asked.
“Pretty much what I told you,” she replied. “There was an old man who offered to answer three questions, and I took him up on it.”
“What three questions?” Dawn asked.
Buffy pulled her plate out of the microwave and began to eat. “What if I hadn’t come back, what if I hadn’t jumped, and what if I dated Spike.”
Spike’s eyebrows rose at that last question. “And did you like the answers?”
“Not really,” Buffy admitted. “Not the answers to the first two anyway.”
“And the last one?”
A real smile formed. “That one was okay.”
“Just okay?” he pressed.
“Don’t push it, mister,” she warned, but there was an amused glint in her eye.
Dawn blurted out, “Does this mean that I can hang out with Spike again?”
“Yes, but not in the cemetery,” Buffy insisted.
“Okay,” Dawn agreed quickly, clearly willing to take what she could get. She looked at the clock. “I, uh, should get to bed. School tomorrow. ‘Night, Spike. ‘Night, Buffy.”
“Good night,” Buffy said, pulling her sister into a hug. Spike could just hear what Buffy whispered into her ear. “I love you.”
Dawn gave her a strange look but smiled. “Love you, too.”
Spike bade her goodnight, then turned to Buffy. “So, about that talk.”
“Yeah.” She sighed. “Let’s go into the living room.” He followed her, standing uncertainly when she sat down on the couch. “Sit down, Spike. Please?” She patted the cushion next to her.
He sat down. “What the hell happened, Buffy?”
She sighed. “It’s a long story.”
“I’ve got time if you do,” he responded.
Slowly, she began to explain. Spike stayed silent, listening incredulously as she told him how Casamir had showed her what might have been, and what could be. “It was a little It’s A Wonderful Life,” she admitted.
“You think it was the truth?” Spike asked.
Buffy shook her head. “I don’t know, but it’s plausible, right? I killed those Hellions when I came back. If I hadn’t—they’d already destroyed the ‘bot. The only way to close that portal was for either Dawn or me to die, so if I hadn’t jumped…” She trailed off.
Spike put a hand on her shoulder. “Glad she didn’t have to.”
“Yeah.” She stared off into the distance. “That’s just it, Spike. Every ‘might have been’ was worse than this one, but the one constant was you.”
He kept his peace, wondering where she was going with this.
“I thought—I thought if I let myself feel something for you, I’d make it worse,” she admitted. “Everything is already so messed up—I’m so messed up—and I figured us being together wouldn’t make it any better.”
“Have you changed your mind?”
“After what I saw, how could I not?” she asked. “I guess the question is if you think what I saw is even possible.” Buffy met his eyes, and he could see that she was still troubled by the idea. “I know I’m asking a lot of you, Spike.”
Spike looked away, wanting to give her an honest answer. She was asking a lot; being with the Slayer meant turning his back on everything he’d been.
Of course, he’d been walking that road for a long time. He didn’t think he could go back to what he had been now.
Spike met her eyes, willing her to believe him. “I love you, Buffy. I’ve been changin’ for a long time now. Don’t think I could go back, even if I wanted to. Nothin’ to do but go forward.”
“That’s what I thought you’d say.” She offered him an apologetic smile. “I can’t tell you that I love you, but I think I need you.”
Spike cocked his head. “Luv, you told your friends about us. That’s goin’ to hold me over for a long time now. Besides, all I want is to be with you. The rest will come.”
She sighed, pressing her forehead against his chest. “Thank you.”
“For what?” he asked, putting his arms around her and pulling her close.
“For everything. You make it easier to be here.”
Holding her in his arms, Spike was content. For Buffy to admit that she needed him, that he loved her—well, it was a good beginning. He could work with that.
It was more than he’d hoped to have.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/177759.html