Apologies for the just-under-the-wire posting and also for the rush job on this part. I had set aside the weekend to finish off this story (started during the last round of seasonal_spuffy ), as well as a Randy/Joan story in the same AU-verse as “Mortgage Crisis” and “Dear Randy”. But real life had other plans, so I’ve been finishing up this one tonight and I’ll just have to finish and post the Randy/Joan ficlet to my LJ at a later date. Hopefully soon.
Many thanks to the lovely moderators for making it possible for us to share these characters we love so much.
Title: I Never (2/2)
Setting: Season 9 comics (AU post-Issue #1)
Warning: Slight mention of Spike/Other
Genre: Um, not sure. Relationship fic? Comics fic?
Summary: Did they or didn’t they? Plus Buffy has a little competition for Spike’s attention and she’s not sure how to handle it. (Yes, I’ve taken so long to wrap up this little two-parter that I’ve been thoroughly and irrevocably Jossed by the latest issues of Season 9. Just consider this my own little version of an AU world where Buffy isn’t as hung up on “normal” as her current incarnation, ’kay?)
For those who haven’t read Part 1, it can be found here.
As soon as he slams through the door and they’re alone together out in the cool night air, he drops her arm and whirls around. “You want to tell me what’s got you in such a bloody buggering snit?”
Looking into his scowling face, she shrugs. “Just playing the game.”
“No,” he contradicts tersely, “you’re not. You’re embarrassing yourself. Trying to stir up trouble. It’s mean, and it’s not like you.” His gaze narrows as piercing blue eyes study her intently. “Question is why. Care to share?”
She snorts and tosses her head defiantly. Or tries to. Halfway through the move, the world slips off kilter and she winds up taking a half step to the side. When it finally rights itself, she looks down to find Spike’s steadying hand cupping her elbow.
So she answers his question with a demand of her own, but it comes out more lost than accusatory. “Why did you let me?”
To punish her because she gave herself to Angel? Or for the distance she’s put between them ever since Spike returned? It’s something she needs to know.
“Let you! I bloody well—” He stops. Squints at her and cocks his head. “You’re not talking about tonight.”
He’s always been quick on the uptake. That much hasn’t changed, at least. She looks away and another beat passes. Then his voice sounds in her ear, so very, very gentle, damn him. “Let you what, Buffy? Tell me what’s wrong.”
She turns back, gazing into eyes that caress, filled with softness and concern. She braces herself and takes the plunge. “The first party… what happened that night… what I did. What you did…”
She sees the light of recognition dawn. Everything about him softens even more, and his voice takes on that rumbly-soothing note that leaves her longing for things she refuses to name.
But as his words start to register, it’s like she’s flashing back to Drusilla’s Spike.
“It’s not surprising, love. Was only natural. No cause to be ashamed. It was way the bloody hell overdue, if you ask me. You’d been buttoned up good and tight since…” He trails off. Huffs a bit as he shakes his head. “Sooner or later something was bound to pop. Better with me than someone who might not understand.”
She stares at him, all but speechless. Then finds her tongue as she takes a swing. “You jerk!”
Any other time and he’d be sprawling at her feet, hands to his nose, scowling up at her in wounded outrage. But in her present state of tipsiness, she can’t quite compensate for his speed. So he ducks her fist and takes a wary step backwards, regarding her with clear astonishment.
“Have you lost your sodding mind? What’s wrong with you?”
Isn’t that the million-dollar question, a part of her thinks, even as she points an accusing finger.
“You! You’re what’s wrong with me! How could you say that? How could you even think it? And how could you not tell me you weren’t dead anymore? It would have taken… what? Two seconds to pick up a phone? Instead you come swooping in out of nowhere… like… like you’ve never even been gone! Mr. I’m Too Cool for Words come to save the world with the fancy space ship and the big yucky bugs and the ‘Your Majesty’ this and ‘Your Majesty’ that!”
As her voice rises, she waves her arms around like a demented windmill. Knows she’s careening out of control but can’t seem to stop. “And everything’s different,” she accuses. “You’re different! You know things. And people. And you can do stuff! And when you look at me that’s different, too! All loyal and best-friendy like nothing ever happened. Like we never… like we didn’t… like…”
Losing steam, she trails off, in part because he’s staring at her like she’s lost her mind, but mostly because she’s so not ready to go there yet. And her train of thought has derailed so badly, it’s taking all of her focus just to get it back on track.
She takes a moment to regroup then hardens her voice to match the steel in her gaze.
“You took advantage.”
“Took—” He squints at her, brow furrowed. Shakes his head like he’s lost his way. “What are you on about?”
She gapes at him. “What am I on about? I’m on about us having sex that night at the party! When I was so out-of-my-head drunk I can’t even remember! Was it worth it, Spike? Was it good for you? Because in case you didn’t notice, I’ve got no idea how it was for me!”
Chest heaving as if she’s run ten miles, she stops and waits for his move—the next step in their forever fucked-up dance. But he’s frozen in place and she can’t read his expression. Which is oh-so peachy since Inscrutable Spike is just one more thing Buffy can’t wrap her head around.
When he finally does react, it’s not what she expects. No explanation. No defense. Just a swirl of black as he pivots on his heel, heading for her front door and the party beyond. He makes it only a step or two before she lurches forward to grab his arm and whirl him around.
“No! You don’t get to walk away from this!”
Despite her anger, that small bit of physical contact sends a heated rush of sensation coursing through her. And what a world of wrong there is in that.
He leans in close, strong fingers forming an iron circle around her wrist, and somewhere in her nether regions that illicit thrill blossoms into a full-blown ache. His fingers squeeze until she loosens her grip.
“Tell me something,” he grinds out—eyes cold, voice harsh. “If you can’t remember, why are you so sure it happened?”
“Because it did!” But she takes in his furious face, and certainty fades. “Didn’t it?”
Still in her face, he studies her as if they’re meeting for the very first time. “Let’s put it this way… you may have got your jollies on, Slayer, but it wasn’t with me.”
And there’s her answer, at least part of it. Because she knows he isn’t lying. It’s a relief… and a disappointment, although the latter is not something she wants to explore.
“But those things you said… about me being harsh ‘after last night.’ And just now… how it was ‘natural’ and ‘overdue’…if we didn’t… what did all that mean?”
She watches as his glare fades, his head bows. He inhales deeply then exhales. When he looks at her again, there’s such compassion in his gaze she can hardly bear it. And though a part of her knows what’s coming…
…the name cuts through her like an expertly wielded sword.
“Kept it locked inside all these months. Then Andrew said something. Don’t know what. You ran out of the apartment. I found you out here.”
“Held you while you cried. Listened. We talked some. And that’s all we did.”
A sick feeling creeps into the pit of her stomach, and she wishes desperately to take it all back. Her accusation. That unremembered night. But most of all…
A flood of grief comes rushing back, strong and hard. The loss… the disbelief… the unbearable guilt. There’s a fleeting certainty that it has to be a nightmare. That she’ll wake up any second to find out everything is really okay.
But it isn’t, and she doesn’t.
Her knees give way and she follows them down to the ground. Spike is right there with her. She wants to cry but she can’t find the tears. It’s one more thing she’s lost and she wonders if she’ll ever get it back.
“It’s my fault, Spike. Giles. All those girls. And Willow with her magic. It was me. I did that.”
There’s a long moment of silence.
“Some of it, yeah.”
The breath rushes out of her like she’s been sucker-punched, then his hand is on her chin, forcing it up till she meets his eyes. They’re brilliant blue windows to his soul, no longer cold and remote. But the pity she finds there feels almost as bad.
“As for the rest of it… Buffy, you did what you had to do. Told you that before. And
what happened to Rupert? That one’s not on your head,” he says grimly.
And suddenly the tears are there. She studies him through brimming eyes. Wonders what she ever did to earn his kindness. Then confesses what she should never admit.
“I don’t know what to do.”
There it is, out in the open now. She’s officially childish and stupid and an utter failure at everything that isn’t slaying. She can’t even blame it on the beer.
But for reasons she can’t fathom, Spike doesn’t seem to see her that way. There’s a total lack of condemnation in his gaze as he takes her by the hands and coaxes her to stand. Once she’s gained her feet again, he lets go but steadies her with a smile and a nod.
His voice is almost painfully tender. “Not hard to figure. You’ll go to bed. You’ll sleep it off. Then you’ll do what you always do—take care of business and make the old bastard proud.”
“Even if I do, he won’t know,” she counters, hating the way her voice breaks on the last word. Hating the loss of control and how vulnerable she feels.
“Oh, he’ll know, all right. Got a part of him that’s still here… with you.” He places his hand over her heart, and it rests there with reassuring certainty. “He’ll be there, and he’ll know.”
She holds her breath and tries to read his face but it’s even harder now to see through the tears. Feels warm and comforted, even though it’s not what she deserves.
Something else she doesn’t deserve? The apparently lone constant in her life—that no matter what, Spike always has her back. That much hasn’t changed, even if his underlying feelings have.
She remembers a time when all she wanted was to have him out of her life. Now, she wants him to look at her the way he used to look at her. The way he very clearly hasn’t looked at her since he swaggered down the ramp of that stupid bug ship. She wants the special connection they once had—whatever it was, whatever it could have been.
“Spike, are you over me?”
It’s not at all what she meant to say and please can she stuff the words back into her mouth? But she can’t un-embarrass herself and she can’t un-speak what’s already been said. So she waits and hopes…
The saddest part is, she’s not even sure what she hopes. That he’ll swear he’s still hers and always will be? Then what? Is that something she’s ready to accept and return? How can she commit when she carries around so much unresolved baggage—much of it concerning him, in one way or another?
He’s not moving. Not talking. He’s even stopped breathing, which is unusual for him. She can’t catch his gaze and the silence keeps growing. She wonders if he’s forgotten his hand still rests on that tingly spot over her heart because she certainly hasn’t.
Oh, god. Are her eyes as wide as they feel? Of course he’s over her. It’s all in the past. Nothing will ever be like it was. Willow avoids her. Magic is gone. Spike has moved on…
And Giles is dead.
She squeezes her eyes shut. Turns away from the pain. Too much. That’s another place she can’t go—not all the way. Doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to finish that journey.
But she’s started something here that needs to be finished. It occurs to her that she’s really an adult now and maybe she needs to start acting like it.
His hand abandons her chest an instant before the door opens behind her. Laughter spills out into the night as Buffy turns to find Ms. Perfect framed in the light from the apartment, purse and jacket in hand.
“Sorry, you two. Not trying to butt in or anything, but… it’s late and I have to head home. Gotta sleep it off before the evening shift. Silly hospital doesn’t like on-the-job inebiation… ineb…” She stops. Then smiles and shrugs. “You know… that word that means you had too much to drink.”
Just like that, Spike is gone from her side. Buffy isn’t surprised. He’s probably eager to avoid her question. Doesn’t want to kick her when she’s down. Plus she knows how seriously he takes his boyfriend duties. Or would have, if she’d ever let him. Spike is nothing if not chivalrous to his lady loves.
He’s also clearly conflicted. The quick, concerned glance he casts her way confirms it.
At that moment, Buffy knows what she has to do. She may be devastated, a little drunk and utterly pathetic, but a slayer’s got her pride. And her duty. It’s way overdue for Bitchy Buffy to vacate the premises.
So she summons up a 1000-watt smile. “Perfect timing! He was just looking for you. Or…about to look. Definitely heading that way. It’s like you’re on the same wavelength or something. Spooky, huh? You sure you’re not twins separated at birth?”
Okay. Not exactly her best effort. But she’s already made a fool of herself in front of Spike. What’s a little extra helping of humiliation between ex-lovers?
Ms. Too Annoying For Words looks a little started then raises a perfectly arched brow. “Considering he’s a vampire who’s over a century old and I’m not…kind of doubt it.” But she smiles warmly as she says it, like they’re two old friends sharing an inside joke.
It makes Buffy hate her just that much more. And if it already hadn’t, her next words would.
“Look… let’s just get this out in the open, okay? I’m a big girl. I can find my own way home. Been doing it for a few years now. And since it’s obvious you two used to be an item, whatever this unfinished business is between you… you should get it worked out. For all our sakes.”
It sounds annoyingly reasonable to Buffy, but Spike, it seems, doesn’t agree. Instead, he takes Ms. Perfect’s jacket and holds it so she can slip into it.
“Don’t be daft, love. Not about to let you go it alone at this time of night. What’s going on here can keep. It’s just a bit of leftover baggage to sort out.”
Buffy’s suddenly glad Spike won’t meet her gaze because she can’t pretend that doesn’t cut. And when his declaration is punctuated by a faint, off-in-the-distance scream, she’s perversely grateful. His hope-crushing words are just one more thing she can place on her overloaded backburner.
For the moment, she’s got a job to do.
Unfortunately, Spike thinks he does, too. Even as she takes off running, she can hear him ordering The Girlfriend back inside the apartment, promising to return for her as soon as they’ve “sussed out the trouble.”
The sound of pounding boots on pavement tells her he’s hot on her heels. He passes her an instant later as she curses the beer that churns in her stomach and tangles her feet.
A brief flash of movement up ahead catches her eye just in time to spot a greasy-looking vampire dragging a struggling woman into the shadowy depths of a nearby alleyway. She gives a mental snort and ramps up her speed. Of course it would be an alley. San Francisco vampires are so predictable.
Barreling into the alley’s mouth, Buffy reaches for her stake. Realizes she doesn’t have one at the same instant Spike reaches him and the vamp in question explodes in a big poof of dust. She barely has time to curse herself before his three hulking companions appear out of nowhere. They form an unliving wall that cuts her off from Spike and the now-hysterically sobbing girl.
Even worse? They’ve also cut her off from a strategic retreat, with nothing but a brick wall behind her back and some scattered garbage at her feet.
Spike’s shout gives her a heads up just in time to catch the stake that comes sailing through the air. A surge of adrenaline blasts away the fuzzy cobwebs in her brain, jumpstarting a familiar dance that’s over almost before it begins. Before they can even blink, three piles of dust have joined the first. Once the way is clear, their would-be victim wastes no time fleeing the scene.
Buffy lifts her head as quiet calm returns to the alleyway. In the dim light cast from a nearby lamp post, she flashes a triumphant grin.
Spike catches the grin. Turns it into a smirk that echoes her silent laughter. She moves toward him. Halts in front of him, Offers up the stake he tossed her. Their eyes meet and hold, just for a fleeting moment. Then he looks down, takes the stake, pockets it and turns away.
But in that instant, what she’s seen there is enough.
He’s still hers. Always has been. Always will be. Even though she can’t understand why.
As Buffy follows Spike out of the alleyway, she knows they’ve got a long road ahead of them. There’s trust to earn back and her own long-standing walls to break through, and it won’t be easy for either of them.
It’s taken her a long time to admit it, and it may take even longer to convince Spike. He’s been burned once too often and she’s never given him much reason to hope. But eventually, they’ll get there.
She almost feels sorry for the woman waiting back at the party. Because now, at long last, Buffy finally knows another truth about herself and Spike.
It’s always been their dance.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/794882.html