Part III: Regret Is All I See
Spike stood in the doorway of the Summers’ residence. “Dawn here?”
Buffy wouldn’t meet his eyes. “Why?”
“I thought we talked about this.” He felt himself tense, the anger rising. She still refused to listen to him. Spike thought that he’d helped with the nerds; he’d given her the space she asked for—and now she was going to refuse to let him see her sister?
“What are you doing here, Spike?” Buffy asked wearily. “If you’re going back to your crypt—”
“There’s not anything to go back to, is there?” He was having a hard time keeping a rein on his anger. “Besides, I moved. I’m not at the crypt anymore.”
“What?” She stared at him, and Spike thought he saw hurt flash in her eyes. “When were you going to tell me?”
“Dawn knew,” Spike replied stolidly. “Thought she’d tell you.”
“She didn’t ask,” Dawn said, appearing behind Buffy. “And he’s taking me out for my birthday, Buffy. We’re just going to get something to eat.”
The Slayer visibly hesitated. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea. The money—”
“Told you I could get money,” Spike replied, not bothering to hide his irritation. “So, you letting us go, or not?”
When Buffy opened her mouth, Dawn cut her off. “No. I’m going. You can ground me after I get back if you want, but you have no right to keep me from seeing Spike.”
Spike knew that wasn’t precisely true; Buffy had every right to protest Dawn’s choice of companions if she chose. Still, he was grateful when she didn’t press the issue. “Fine, but I expect you home by midnight.”
“Fine,” Dawn said, stalking out of the house without another word.
He waited a moment longer, wanting to see if Buffy would say anything more, or if she would even meet his eyes.
She did neither, and so he left in silence.
They weren’t more than a block away from the house when Dawn burst out, “God! What the hell is wrong with her?”
“Language, Bit.” Spike said it more because he knew that Buffy would have if she’d been there than because he cared. In truth, she was more voicing his own feelings than anything else.
“I don’t care,” she replied rebelliously. “I tried to tell her about the eggs, but she wouldn’t even listen to me. It’s like she doesn’t even care why you had them.”
“Don’t think she does, Nibblet,” Spike said softly. “I think she was just waiting for a chance to get rid of me.”
Dawn frowned. “That’s stupid!”
“Not arguin’ with you over that one.”
“Maybe if you got proof that Riley was lying about the demon. I don’t think Buffy seriously buys the idea that you’re an international arms dealer.”
“Like I’d have time for that,” he scoffed. “An’ if I were, I certainly wouldn’t be hangin’ around Sunnydale and the Slayer’s bratty sister.” Spike winked to soften the words, but he couldn’t quite keep the bitterness out of his voice.
“Hey!” she protested. “I am not a brat.”
“No, you’re not.”
There was a pause, then Dawn said with forced cheerfulness, “This is my birthday, and I say we celebrate. Forget about Buffy.”
“Right,” Spike agreed, trying to shake off the melancholy that seemed to follow him these days. “Where did you want to go to dinner?”
Looking back on everything that had happened in the last few months, Spike didn’t know that he would have done anything differently. The favor he’d done had been legit, and if Buffy had taken the time to listen, she would have figured that out. Besides, the money he was supposed to get for the incredibly easy babysitting job would have gone to Buffy.
How was he supposed to know that the Initiative would kill mama and papa before the eggs hatched? Granted, without their parents, the baby Suvolte demons were uncontrollable, but that wouldn’t have been an issue if Riley hadn’t killed the adults.
Sighing, Spike tipped back the bottle. He’d sobered up long enough to take Dawn out for her birthday—he’d promised, after all. Seeing Buffy had brought it all back, however, and he was about ready to call it quits in Sunnydale. What the hell was he doing here these days anyway?
“She’ll never love you, you know.”
He glanced up to see Angel standing in the middle of his living room. “Yeah, think I got that, thanks.” Spike paused to wonder how much he’d had to drink, since he was clearly hallucinating. “An’ I don’t need a figment of my imagination to tell me what I already knew.”
“Does this help?” Now Drusilla was watching him, swaying back and forth to music only she could hear. “My poor Spike. No one to care for him.”
“Like you can talk,” he shot back, no longer caring that he was talking to people who weren’t there. What the hell did he care, anyway? He was of no use these days. “You’re the one who left me for a bloody Chaos demon, an’ the fungus demon! That was worse.”
“You were the one who stopped loving me first,” Drusilla reminded him. “The Slayer has always floated over you. You taste like ashes.”
“Sod off,” Spike muttered. “How do I know that it wasn’t you sayin’ it that put the idea in my head? I tried to kill her for you! I spent months in a fucking chair for you!”
The bitterness came spilling out of him, the anger and the hurt that coated his days. Nothing gave him pleasure these days—it all tasted of failure and disappointment.
“There’s my bad dog,” Drusilla said with a cruel smile. “Wouldn’t you like to snap her pretty neck? Wouldn’t you like to taste your third Slayer?”
Spike sank back into his chair morosely. “No. I love the bint, an’ it’d bloody well kill the Bit.”
“If she were dead, you could move on,” Angel said. “To kill this girl, you have to love her. Didn’t I tell you that?”
“Yeah, if I’m goin’ to kill anybody, it’d be you,” Spike shot back. “You’re the one who taught her that a vampire needs a soul to love. Load of shit is what that is.”
Angelus moved around to the back of his chair, leaning over to whisper in his ear. “And wouldn’t it be something to see her dead? If you can’t be with her, if she wouldn’t listen to you, you could make her listen.”
“I tried that before. Girl won’t let an idea go once she’s got it in her head.”
“Think how easy it would be.” Now the woman kneeling beside his chair was the Slayer he’d killed in New York City, the one he’d taken his duster from. “She’s got a death wish already. You’d be doing her a favor.”
Spike realized quite suddenly that he wasn’t nearly drunk enough to be imagining all of this, nor was he dreaming. “I’m not killing her. I don’t do that. I don’t hurt the woman I love.” He rose abruptly. “I don’t know what the hell you are, but you can get out now!”
The New York Slayer’s eyes were hard. “You’re going to regret this, vampire. There’s only one winning side in the war to come, and that’s mine.”
Spike heard it shriek as it left his apartment, and he felt a chill. Whether he wanted to see her again or not, he needed to talk to Buffy about this.
It turned out that knowing he was being haunted by the First Evil, and doing something about it, were two completely different things. If he’d hoped that his dilemma would change Buffy’s perception of him at all, he would have been greatly disappointed. If anything, she became warier because the First Evil had gone after Angel, too. Angel had, in fact, tried to kill himself to get away from it.
Spike had no intention of killing himself, not even if it would get him back into Buffy’s good graces.
But even knowing that the First couldn’t actually touch him, after a few months of its company, Spike was beginning to think that it might annoy him to death. He’d thought it would give up after it figured out that he wasn’t going to kill the Slayer, but it was more stubborn than he was.
And Spike had finally had enough.
Buffy was staring at him. “Spike—”
“I haven’t slept in two months, Buffy,” Spike continued, as though she hadn’t said anything. “There’s nothin’ left for me here. Tell me that there is, an’ maybe I’ll change my mind, but you don’t need me.”
She shook her head, a little desperately he thought. “We’ll figure it out,” she promised. “Willow’s working on it.”
“You’re dating again.” It was as much an accusation as a statement, and he knew it. They both knew it.
Buffy shifted uncomfortably. “It’s not serious.”
“I’m not sure that matters.” Their eyes met and held, and Spike asked softly, “What am I to you?”
Her head dropped, and in a voice so low even he could barely hear her, Buffy replied, “Someone I thought I could have loved.” Then, even more quietly, she added, “I was wrong.”
Spike swallowed hard, feeling as though he’d just been punched in the gut. “Yeah. I get it. Is Dawn around?”
“She’s upstairs.” Buffy refused to look at him. “Do you want me to get her?”
“Yeah, you better. She’d be pretty brassed off if I left without saying goodbye.”
Spike stood in the front hallway, waiting for Dawn and wondering if he was giving up too easily. Maybe this was the wrong way to go about things; maybe he should have fought harder. Maybe the Nibblet had been right, and he should have obtained evidence to support his story and refute the soldier’s.
Then again, wasn’t that a capitulation of its own? If Buffy really couldn’t trust him, maybe it was time to leave, the same way he’d left Drusilla—although only after she’d left him.
Dawn came hurrying down the stairs, Buffy nowhere in sight. “What’s going on?” she demanded.
The expression on her face was a mixture of anger and resignation, and Spike thought that maybe she’d expected this to happen. “When?”
“Soon as I get my stuff together. It won’t take long.”
Dawn nodded, her chin lifting bravely. “Will you call?”
It was one promise he could keep. “As often as I can.”
“What if I need you?” Dawn asked. “You said you were going to take care of me.”
“Can’t do that if the bloody First drives me barmy.”
“I guess not.” She swiped a hand across her nose, and Spike knew that she was trying not to cry. “Be careful, okay?”
“You do the same.”
He turned to go, and Dawn took three quick steps to throw her arms around him. “I love you.”
“Love you, too, Bit.”
And Spike left, knowing somehow that it was the last time he’d see either of them.
“Okay, I need you to sit down.”
Buffy really didn’t like the sound of that. “Why, Willow?”
“I got some news today, and I thought you should know about it, but I think you should be sitting down. So, are you?”
There was something in friend’s voice that told Buffy she might be right, even half a world away. Spotting a bench, she took a seat in the warm afternoon sun. “Okay, I’m sitting down. What’s up?”
“Spike’s alive.” Willow sounded breathless, and Buffy could understand that, especially since she had to be lying. It was a good thing that she was half a world away, because Buffy thought she might have killed her if she’d been there, playing that kind of a prank on her.
“That’s not funny, Will. Did Dawn put you up to this? Because—”
“I’m not joking!” Willow protested, the hurt in her voice obvious. “I wouldn’t do that. I know what it’s like to lose someone you care about.”
She took a deep breath. “What are you saying, then?”
“Fred called me earlier,” Willow explained. “We’ve been keeping in touch since I re-ensouled Angel the last time, and she didn’t know your number, so she thought if she told me, then I could tell you, because—”
Buffy was quickly losing track of what Willow was trying to say. “Take a deep breath and slow down,” she advised. “Then tell me from the beginning, in shorter sentences.”
“Fred called today, because Spike’s on his way there, and she was worried about him showing up and you not being there.”
“It was the amulet,” Willow explained. “Somehow it got sent to Angel, and when he opened the package Spike came out.”
“Okay,” Buffy said slowly. “When?”
“Awhile ago, but Spike was a ghost, so he couldn’t contact you, and he couldn’t leave Los Angeles because of the amulet. It bound him there somehow.” Willow took another deep breath. “And now he’s solid, and he’s on his way to see you.”
Buffy was still stuck on the part where Spike had been back for a while, and no one had told her; she knew that Angel had her contact information, and while Spike might not have been able to pick up the phone, the same couldn’t be said for him. “Why didn’t Angel call me?”
“Because he’s stupid?” Willow suggested tentatively. “I don’t know.”
It was the best explanation Buffy could think of. “Probably. When does Fred think he’ll get here?”
“She didn’t know. He left the other day, but I guess he was kind of beat up, so she didn’t know if he’d left immediately, or not.”
Buffy closed her eyes, trying to decide what the best course of action would be. She couldn’t very well stay in her apartment until he showed up on her doorstep, and what if something happened to him between L.A. and Rome? How was he going to travel, and long would it take him?
“Call Fred back and give her my number,” Buffy instructed. “Tell her that if she hears anything from Spike to call me. Does he know how to find me?”
“I guess so,” Willow said. “I don’t know.”
She sighed. “Okay, well…”
“I’m sure it’s going to be fine, Buffy. Spike knows how to take care of himself.”
“I know he does. It’s just—I’m sure it’s true, but I don’t think I’m going to believe it until I actually see him for myself.”
“I know the feeling,” Willow replied. “Call me as soon as you can.”
“Sure.” Buffy ended the call and stared off into space. She wanted to believe it was true, but at the same time, she was afraid. She didn’t think she could survive losing him again.
Spike stared at the grain in the table, as though it held the answers he sought. Knowing that if he’d never gone after his soul, Buffy would never have changed her mind allowed him to have no regret about that choice at least. If the answer had been different, if she could have loved him anyway, Spike wasn’t sure he would have viewed the pain as worthwhile.
This last question, though—he wasn’t sure he wanted the answer.
“You can still change your mind,” Casamir said softly. “If there is another question you would like to ask.”
Spike shook his head. “No. I think that would be worse.”
“You can’t know that on this side,” Casamir said.
“Maybe.” He looked down at his clenched fist—not quite ready to let go of the question.
“You must let go to step forward.”
Now that he could believe. Spike nodded and watched as the man cast a few more shavings on the fire, and the aromatic smoke once more drifted up. He cast the slip of paper on the flames and watched it turn to ash.
“What if I hadn’t died in the Hellmouth?”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/248898.html