Part IV: Possibilities
“I love you.”
“No, you don’t, but thanks for sayin’ it. Now go, Buffy!”
This time, she didn’t listen to him—not that she often did anyway. Instead, Buffy reached out and snatched the amulet off of his neck, throwing it at the Turok-Han that were still approaching. “Let’s go.”
Spike didn’t have a choice once she grabbed his arm and slung it over her shoulders. With the amulet off, the pain became overwhelming, the burns on his chest excruciating. “No…”
“Yes,” Buffy replied stubbornly. “I’m not leaving you down here, and I meant what I said, so just shut up.”
He didn’t have much of a choice; Spike was in too much pain to do anything else. She hustled him up, out of the Hellmouth, and through the halls of the school. He didn’t see anything, as his vision was graying out.
“Not gonna make it,” he mumbled. “Buffy, get out. Leave me here.”
“Forget it,” she said grimly. “I’m not leaving you, so you can just forget it.”
Spike didn’t have the energy to fight to stay behind, and he still wanted to live, so he helped her along as best he could.
The burn of the sunlight barely registered as Buffy tossed him bodily onto the school bus they’d used to get to the scene of battle. He heard the murmur of voices around him and the squealing of tires, then felt gentler hands maneuver him onto the floor between the seats.
“You’ll be safer down here,” Buffy said, in obvious reference to the sun, then he felt the covering of a blanket, and for a time, knew no more.
When Spike started to gain consciousness, he noticed the pain first, before anything else. “Easy,” Buffy’s voice said as he groaned. “You were burned pretty badly.”
He didn’t ask whose fault that was; if she hadn’t pulled the amulet off of his neck, he’d be dead now—at the moment, he wasn’t ready to thank her for saving his life. “How bad?”
“It’s not pretty.”
Spike managed to open his eyes to see a straw floating in front of his face, and he felt her lifting him so that he could drink. “Where—”
“Don’t talk,” she ordered. “Drink. And to answer your question, we’re in a hotel halfway between what’s left of Sunnydale and Los Angeles. There were a few people who needed medical care, so we stopped at the closest hospital.”
Spike heard a sucking noise as he hit the bottom of the mug. “How many died?”
“Anya,” Buffy said softly. “We lost—I don’t quite know how many Slayers we lost. I think at least half a dozen. Giles has the numbers.”
He realized that he could smell blood. “You’re hurt.”
“It’s not that bad. You’re worse.”
“But not invincible.” Her expression was fondly exasperated. “Don’t argue with me, Spike. How often have I offered to wait on you hand and foot?”
“Never,” he replied with a half smile.
She nodded. “There you go, and it’s probably never going to happen again, so enjoy it while it lasts.”
“You said ‘what’s left of Sunnydale,’” Spike said, suddenly realizing what her words meant. “It’s gone?”
“Yeah, whatever that amulet did packed quite a punch. The ground started—I don’t know, dissolving, as soon as we left.”
Spike frowned, realizing that something was missing. He hadn’t noticed it before, simply because the pain was too overwhelming, but now his heart sank. “Buffy—the amulet used my soul.”
“I know, I felt it,” Buffy replied. “It’s okay, Spike.”
“No, it’s bloody well not,” he snapped. “It used it up, Slayer. My soul—it’s not there anymore.”
She sat back suddenly, the hand that had been resting on his arm gone. “How can you be sure?”
“I think I’d know,” he replied quickly. “It was a part of me, an’ now it’s not there. It’s gone.”
The expression on her face was a mixture of guilt and fear. “It’s going to be okay,” she promised.
Spike didn’t know who she was trying to convince—herself or him.
When they left the hotel, it was after the sun had gone down, and Spike knew that it was in deference to him. He kept to himself on the bus, sitting in the middle—away from the girls who wanted to sit in the back, and those who had chosen the front. He was surprised when Dawn came to sit next to him.
“I hear you were hurt pretty bad.”
“I’m alright,” Spike replied.
“What’s your deal?” Dawn demanded. “You haven’t even talked to Buffy, and she’s avoiding you. Did you do something?”
Spike resented the implication, and he raised his shirt to show off his burns. “You think I could hurt her when I’ve got these?”
Dawn flushed slightly. “Sorry.”
“What’s wrong?” she asked, her voice gentler. “You don’t sound the same.”
“That’s because I’m not the same,” Spike said glumly.
Dawn frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothin’. It means nothin’.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Guess that’s just too bad for you, then.”
She stared at him, hard. “You’re different.”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You don’t have your soul anymore,” Dawn accused, although she kept her voice low.
Spike’s jaw tightened. “I said I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Spike—” Her voice took on a pleading note. “I’m sorry.”
He sighed. “For what?”
“For saying I was going to set you on fire,” Dawn replied. “I didn’t mean it.”
A smile touched his lips. “I know you didn’t.”
“Was I right?”
“It was the amulet. Didn’t exactly ask to lose it.”
“So it was Buffy’s fault?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“No, I did.” Dawn sighed and leaned back against the seat next to him, her shoulder just brushing him. “I didn’t really mean it like that.”
He smiled sadly. “Yeah, I know.”
“Dawn?” Buffy stood in the aisle next to them. “Do you want to sit next to Vi?”
Dawn raised her eyebrows. “Not really.”
There was no room for argument in Buffy’s tone, and her sister sighed. “Fine.”
Once she’d gone, Buffy slid into the seat next to him. “She knows,” he said.
“Did you tell her?”
“Crap.” Buffy gave him a rueful look. “I tend to forget how smart she really is.”
“I know.” She rested her head against the seat, not looking at him. “I need to know what you’re going to do.”
He glanced over at her out of the corner of his eye. “That would depend on you, I guess.”
“It’s just—if anyone finds out that the soul is gone, with the chip gone—”
“I guess you should have repaired it,” Spike muttered.
“No, I don’t believe that,” Buffy hissed, keeping her voice down. Her hand found his. “We’ll figure it out, okay?”
Spike looked out the window, seeing only Buffy’s reflection against the darkness. “I need to know what happened to it.” He didn’t specify what he wanted to know—his soul might be gone, and with it the guilt, but it had still been a part of him. His demon had sought it out, and so the battle between them hadn’t been as fiercely fought as with Angel.
He wasn’t sure he’d willingly go after it again, but he needed to know if it still existed.
“We’ll find out,” Buffy promised.
It was all he could ask for.
Spike didn’t know if anyone else noticed the change, other than Dawn. He’d been in Cleveland with Buffy for three weeks now, while they regrouped and tried to keep a lid on the active Hellmouth. He knew that she was tired; hell, he was downright exhausted. Getting his soul sucked out with that amulet had really taken it out of him.
So far, there was no clear indication where his soul might have gone, and whether it had merely gone to where it had been before, or if it had been destroyed completely. There was also no indication that Buffy meant her words now.
And wasn’t that a kick in the pants? Buffy loved him enough to save him, and risk the world, only to find out that she hadn’t actually saved the man she loved. That his feelings hadn’t changed went without saying.
After three weeks of living in limbo, waiting for Buffy to make a move one way or another, to decide one way or another, Spike couldn’t deal with it anymore. The soul hadn’t changed his feelings for Buffy, but it had given him the patience to wait her out.
Patience was what he no longer had.
“What are you doing?” Buffy asked when she saw him standing in the doorway of her bedroom, bag in hand. They’d kept separate rooms after coming to Cleveland, and while Spike would have waited for the physical, he didn’t feel like she even had the trust in him that she’d once had.
There was a small part of him that hated her for it, that hated her for the empty place inside, even though the guilt was gone.
“I’m leaving,” he said simply. “You don’t need me anymore.”
She shot to her feet, marching over to him and yanking him inside, shutting the door behind him. “What are you talking about? Of course I need you!”
He shook his head. “No, you don’t. You haven’t talked to me in three weeks, Buffy. Not really. I’m tired of waiting. I’m not cut out for this Champion shit. You know that.”
Her eyes went wide. “You nearly died, Spike. How can you say that? You are a Champion.”
Spike raised an eyebrow. “An’ that explains why you’ve been avoidin’ me.”
Buffy’s face went red. “I—I thought you might hate me now.”
That had been the last response he’d expected. “Huh?”
“I thought you would hate me,” she repeated, staring stubbornly at the floor. “It’s my fault that you lost your soul. I’ve tried everything, Spike. I talked to Willow about it—”
“She knows?” he interrupted.
“She swore she wouldn’t tell anybody,” Buffy assured him. “That’s not the point. The point is that she said there’s no way to know for sure. I mean, she could try to curse you, but she doesn’t know what it would do if it worked, because it’s a curse, and it might just hurt you more, and that—”
Spike was beginning to understand. “You don’t want her to curse me?”
“No! Of course not.”
“But I don’t have a soul.”
“Well, it’s not like you’re going around eating people,” Buffy replied in a low voice, sounding almost sullen.
Spike blinked. “I don’t have the chip either.”
She made a sound that spoke of nothing more than supreme frustration. “You went to get your soul for me! Because I was stupid and wouldn’t listen to you, and you almost died, and it was my fault, and—”
He stopped her from saying anything more the only way he could think of—with a kiss. Buffy seemed to melt into his arms, clinging to him in a way he’d never experienced before. She was hanging onto him as though she’d never let him go.
“I love you,” he whispered when he finally broke it off to let her breathe. “Couldn’t hate you, even if I tried.”
“And you’ve tried?”
“Thought you had said what you did, an’ then…”
“Then I didn’t mean it because you didn’t have a soul?” Buffy asked ruefully. “I just—I couldn’t figure out how to explain it to you.” Her head resting on his shoulder, she admitted. “I’m kind of glad you’re packed up, though.”
He wasn’t sure he liked the sound of that, but given her enthusiastic response to his kiss, he had hope that she meant it in a different way than he feared. “Oh?”
“I want you to stay here.”
“As in your bedroom?”
“As in my bed.” She pulled back to look him in the eye. “I love you.”
“Even without a soul?”
“With or without.” Her hand cupped his cheek. “You’d do anything for me.”
He smiled, feeling a pang of sadness, wishing it hadn’t taken her this long to figure that out. “Damn right, I would.”
Buffy drew him towards the bed. “Then let me prove the same thing to you.”
Spike realized that she didn’t know that she already had.
“Where is he?” Buffy muttered, pacing back and forth across her living room. “He should have been here by now.”
Dawn made a face. “Would you sit? You’re making me seasick. And this is Spike we’re talking about. He might have gotten lost for all we know.”
“What if he changes his mind?” Buffy demanded. “What if he decides not to come?”
Her sister turned so that she was sitting sideways in the chair, her long legs hanging over one side. “Again I say—this is Spike. Why wouldn’t he come?”
“Because I don’t know if he believed me. He said he didn’t, but he could have been saying that to get me to leave. I know he’d do something stupid like that.”
Dawn held up a hand. “Okay, let’s think about this logically. If Spike didn’t believe you, and he decides not to come, then we call Fred or Willow or both of them, and we find him. Once we’ve found him, you can go drag his ass back to Rome and then live happily ever after.” At Buffy’s look, she added, “Well, you can try.”
“Why me?” Buffy asked softly, finally sitting down on the couch.
Dawn frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I treated him like crap, Dawn. I broke up with him, and I was a—a—”
Buffy glared at her. “I wasn’t very nice,” she allowed. “And he got his soul for me, and now he’s back, and we—I—have a second chance. Not everybody gets one of those.”
Dawn took a deep breath. “I don’t know. It kind of makes sense to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“You both died to save the world, Buffy,” her sister reminded her. “Maybe this is the universe’s way of rewarding you for that. Assuming that you don’t screw it all up again, of course.”
“Just keeping it real.” Dawn rose. “I’m meeting some friends soon. Give me a call when he gets in? Unless you’re too busy doing the horizontal tango, in which case, hang a sock on the door or something, okay?”
Buffy shook her head, letting out a chuckle that sounded only slightly annoyed. “Go, and be careful.” She watched her sister go and wondered if Dawn could possibly be right.
If so, that still begged the question of where her reward might be, because Spike should have arrived by now, assuming he’d left when Fred thought he had.
“An interesting choice of question,” Casamir remarked when Spike held his silence.
Spike didn’t respond right away, his head still full of what he had seen. Buffy had loved him—with or without a soul. “I had to know,” he finally said simply.
“Understandable.” His head cocked to one side, he asked, “What will you do now?”
“I don’t know.” Spike shook his head to clear it. “What will happen if I stay here?”
Casamir smiled gently. “I cannot tell you that. The smoke is what give the visions.”
“You know something, though.”
“I know that there is a coming storm, from which you may or may not emerge unscathed—or at least alive, so to speak.” The man leaned back in his chair. “I also know much about lost opportunities. What you have now is something not many have been given.”
“What do you mean?” Spike asked.
Casamir raised an eyebrow. “My son, have you still not understood, even after all you have seen?”
Spike couldn’t seem to look away from the dark eyes that threatened to swallow him up. “I don’t—”
“You are a gambler, yes?” Casamir continued, as though Spike had said nothing. “Love is always a gamble. You risk everything on the slim chance that the other person will love you in return, knowing that you might be disappointed.”
Spike frowned, stung. “She loved me, though.”
“Indeed, she did, likely better than even she knew.” Casamir sighed. “William, we always hurt the ones we love. Did you not say the same thing once?”
He blinked rapidly, remembering the look on Buffy’s face when she’d broken things off with him, the expression she’d worn when he’d returned. “But, without the soul…”
“Without the soul, she never would have understood how much you’d truly changed,” Casamir acknowledged, “but once she knew, her love could grow unhindered by fear.”
“Then was my death worth nothing?” Spike asked, knowing that it was a rhetorical question.
Casamir shook his head. “A sacrifice such as yours is worth everything.” He rose from the table, and when Spike looked up, his eyes seemed dazzled. Casamir had changed, become—different. “Do you still not understand? ‘No greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for his friends.’ Such a love will always be rewarded.”
And with those words echoing in his ears, Spike found himself suddenly standing outside the store, with no idea of how he’d come to be there. When he turned, the storefront was boarded up, without any signs of life, and he shook his head.
“Bloody hell,” he murmured, almost reverently. “That was somethin’ else.” He looked up at the sky and suddenly laughed. “Fine!” Spike yelled, not caring that he probably looked like a crazy person. “I got your message!”
Straightening his shoulders, Spike began walking. He had to see a girl.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/249306.html