On to the next part…
Part II: Fading
Spike curled up on the make-shift bed he’d cobbled together and tried not to think. He didn’t understand her. He didn’t think he ever would. Buffy had always run hot and cold on him, but this was a bit much. She tells him she doesn’t want him around, and then she goes looking for him.
In fact, if he didn’t know better, Spike would have said that she was actually concerned about him.
He sighed and shifted, trying to find a comfortable position. Spike was tired, and yet he never slept these days. It was probably part of the change. They’d warned him what would happen. As the time drew near, he’d become less and less a part of this world, and more—
Well, they’d had a fancy word for it. That had been the catch. Spike should have known that you never trust the guy with all the cards, and old Lurky had been no exception to the rule. Not two seconds after the demon had slapped the soul inside Spike’s chest, a couple of others had shown up.
Spike had been able to smell the power on them. They looked fairly human, except for the fact that they glowed in the cave’s dim light, but he couldn’t be entirely sure about that. That could just have been him hallucinating. It was possible.
Apparently there was something they didn’t like about a vampire asking for a soul. It threw off the balance, or so they claimed. With his wish, Spike had inadvertently caused a minor mystical faux-pas, and they had threatened some rather dire things.
That had been a paraphrase, and Spike wasn’t sure he’d caught everything they were saying to him. The words had been longer, and there had been a lot more of them, and he’d drifted in and out the entire speech.
“We’ll tell you what, vampire,” one of the demons had finally said. She had just gotten done explaining how the world was going to end because Spike had switched sides and asked for his soul back. “We’ll make a deal with you. Find someone who is good that is willing to love you—enough to risk death for you—and balance will be restored. If that person can love something that is evil, then that will keep the balance between darkness and light. Otherwise, your life and your soul are forfeit to us. You have until All Hallow’s Eve.”
Looking back on it, Spike knew he’d been stupid to agree to the deal. They had probably been lying through their teeth about the whole world being thrown off balance. People switched sides in the battle all the time—it wasn’t like he was the first, nor would he be the last.
Although, he might just be the only vampire ever to have asked for his soul.
Spike had done some asking around on his way from Africa to Sunnydale, and no one knew what they were. The more time passed, the more certain he was that they were some mystical con artists, out to harvest the souls of anyone stupid enough to believe their line of bullshit.
And he’d just handed them his on a silver platter.
In his own defense, Spike had been in more than a little pain at the time and had been chock-full of guilt. The idea of sacrificing himself to save the world—and, incidentally, Buffy—had been appealing. They’d caught him at a weak moment, and he had agreed to the deal before he’d had time to think it over.
Even so, on the off chance they were telling the truth, there was no way he was going to be the one responsible for the world ending. If he caused the next apocalypse, Buffy would be the one fighting on the front lines to prevent it, and he wouldn’t hurt the girl. Not again.
Now he wasn’t entirely of this world, which meant that he couldn’t be killed. It was a little protective measure they’d put into place so that nothing happened to him before they wanted it to. Come the end of the month, though, he’d be gone for good, and there was no hope of escape.
He was bound to the bargain, and there was no way that Buffy was ever going to love him, and there wasn’t anyone else he knew of who would be willing to stand for him. Maybe he could have managed to charm his way into someone’s good graces in a few months’ time, but he refused to use someone in that way. Spike hadn’t come back to Sunnydale in the hope of saving himself. He’d come back because he wanted to make things right—or to try, anyway.
Sitting up, Spike sighed. It didn’t look like he was going to be getting any sleep.
He wasn’t sure that he’d ever be able to sleep again.
Spike didn’t have any trouble finding Buffy the next night. These days, he seemed to have a sixth sense for where he’d find her. Of course, it might have something to do with her being the reason he’d gotten his soul.
The ability to disappear was actually a disadvantage since it wasn’t something he was in control of. Plus, it was a bit scary to not know where he went in between point A and point B. Spike wondered sometimes if he’d come back. It was one of those things he tried not to think about. It was easier that way.
Tonight, however, Spike didn’t try to sneak up on her. He moved towards her, making certain to make some noise as he went. Buffy actually smiled when she saw him. It threw him off. “Buffy.”
“So where have you been staying?” she asked.
Spike lifted an eyebrow. Buffy had asked the same question the previous night, and he hadn’t wanted to tell her then. He had no intention of telling her now. There were things she just didn’t need to know. “Told you last night. Here and there.”
Buffy frowned. “Come on, Spike. How am I supposed to find you if I need you?”
Spike shook his head. “I’ll be around. You won’t need to come looking for me.”
“Does that mean you’re going to be stalking me again?”
She almost sounded like she was teasing him, but Spike wasn’t quite sure how to take her question. “Don’t have to stay around. If you don’t want me here, just say the word.”
“I didn’t mean it like that, Spike,” Buffy said.
Spike looked down at the ground, wondering why he’d even come back to Sunnydale. The first night he’d seen her, when Buffy had punched him in the nose, he’d wondered if she’d stake him. Truth be told, he’d wanted her to. Spike was sort of hoping that if Buffy tried, she’d succeed. There was a large part of him that wished he’d never left Sunnydale. Maybe if he hadn’t left, Buffy would have just dusted him.
He couldn’t help thinking that would have been a better alternative to what he had to look forward to. “Yeah, alright.”
Buffy looked uncomfortable, and Spike sighed. He had wanted to come back here to make amends, not because he expected anything from her.
Why had he even bothered? It wasn’t like she was ever going to love him.
“I should go,” he said. “I never should have come back here.” Spike could feel himself fading out, and he couldn’t stop it. It was just like the previous night, when he’d felt as though she was getting angry with him again and dismissing him out of hand.
Treating him like a non-person.
“Spike, wait.” Buffy grabbed onto him again, but this time her eyes were devoid of anger. “Please tell me what’s going on. What’s happened to you?”
“There’s nothing you can do about it, Buffy,” Spike said, knowing as he spoke that it was nothing but the truth. The Slayer couldn’t help who she loved, or didn’t love, any more than he could.
There was a kind of fear that entered her eyes then. “How long do you have?”
“Few weeks,” he replied, knowing that he couldn’t lie to her. Perhaps he wouldn’t tell her the whole truth, but he owed her a piece of it anyway. “I just wanted to make my peace with you is all.”
She started shaking her head. “No, we can stop it. We can save you. We’ve done it before.”
“No.” It was one word, but it held all his resignation. Spike meant it. Even if he told her what it would take to win that bet, even if Buffy agreed to a charade, telling them she loved him when she didn’t—it wouldn’t work. They would know. Of that he was certain.
Spike knew he was their prize catch, and they weren’t going to give him up without a fight.
Besides, he really didn’t want to look like a total git for being stupid enough to make the deal in the first place. Spike didn’t want her to rescue him.
He wanted her to love him just because she did.
“I told you I changed, Buffy,” Spike said quietly. “This was part of the deal.”
Buffy took a step back from him, staring at him in horror. “You changed for me, because—” She stopped, unable to go on. “You’re saying I did this to you.”
“No!” Spike said quickly. “I chose this. I didn’t have to—”
The damage had already been done, however. Spike felt himself wink out of existence.
And then he was nowhere.
When he found himself somewhere again, Spike was outside the old high school. They had apparently torn the old husk of the building down and put up a new one, and he wondered whose bright idea that was. Sure, put a bunch of teenage hormone bombs right on top of a mystical convergence, because that made so much sense.
Spike felt a vague tug in the general direction of where Buffy probably was, but he ignored it. He had apologized to Buffy. That was really all he’d needed to do. It wasn’t like he had all that much time left anyway. Why torture himself with something he could never have?
“What are you doing here?”
The cold voice snapped him out of his melancholy thoughts, and Spike stared at Dawn. She seemed taller to him, and he found himself at a loss for words. “Wh—”
“Why did you come back?” she asked. “Why did you even bother coming back?”
Spike backed up a step, knowing that he was probably not going to be able to stick around for very long in the face of the girl’s righteous anger. “Dawn—”
“Why did you have to leave?” Dawn demanded, moving closer again. “You didn’t even say goodbye to me! I thought you promised to protect me!”
Spike took a cautious step forward. “Dawn, luv, I—”
“You weren’t there, and I needed you!”
She still wasn’t moving, and Spike reached out and ever-so-tentatively touched her arm. “I’m sorry. I needed to tell you that. ‘m real sorry.”
Dawn smacked him on the chest, but she didn’t pull away. “Buffy told me what happened,” she said. “She said she told you not to come around.”
“You never let that stop you before,” she said with a pout. Dawn sat down on the school steps that rose just behind them. “I was really mad at you when she said you were back.”
“You still mad?” Spike asked, not joining her.
Dawn glared at him. “Duh. Maybe, if you stick around long enough this time, I’ll get over it.”
Spike winced. “Yeah, about that—”
“Is Buffy making you leave town?” she asked. “You didn’t hurt her, did you? Because if you did—”
“I didn’t hurt her,” he interrupted. Spike hated that Dawn would think him capable of hurting someone he loved.
Of course, he had hurt Buffy. He’d hurt the girl, and he’d broken his promise, so he couldn’t feel too bad about going to hell. It was no more than he deserved.
“It’s just that I can’t stay past the end of the month,” Spike finally said. “I—I’ve got a bargain. Didn’t have much of a choice.”
Dawn shot up. “So you came back just so you could leave again? What kind of a stupid deal is that?”
“That was the deal I made,” Spike said softly. “I wanted to change, make sure I wouldn’t ever hurt Buffy—or you. I’m sorry.”
He seemed to be saying that a lot lately.
She glared at him. “Fine. You have to leave.” Dawn turned to stalk off.
Spike hurried after her. There was no way he was going to let her walk home alone. He also felt a lot more solid around Dawn. Buffy made him feel transparent.
As though he wasn’t really there at all.
“I’m not letting you walk home by yourself,” he told her.
Dawn glared at him. “I don’t need a babysitter.”
“And I’m not letting you walk home alone.”
They stared at one another for a long moment, and then Dawn rolled her eyes. “Whatever, Spike. Walk me home.”
“What were you doin’ out late anyway?” he asked, belatedly realizing how that might sound. He didn’t have the right to ask those kinds of questions anymore.
Dawn seemed to accept it from him, though. “I had a meeting after school,” she explained. “The guidance counselor said that I should get involved, so I thought I’d join yearbook.” Her face softened. “Mom was on yearbook.”
“Bet she was good at it, too.” Spike had no doubt that Joyce could do whatever she put her hand to. She had been one determined lady.
Dawn shrugged. “I don’t know. It might be cool, though.” She seemed to be considering her next words carefully, and Spike stayed silent, waiting. “Why did you come back, Spike?”
“Had to patch things up if I could,” Spike replied. “After…” He trailed off, not sure of how much Dawn knew, or how much he wanted her to know.
“Buffy told me,” Dawn said. “Well, Xander told me, and then Buffy refused to tell me anything at all, so I kept bugging her until she did.” She paused. “And then I read her diary, and if you tell her about that, I will hurt you.”
Spike’s lips twitched. Same old Dawn. “My lips are sealed.”
“What did you agree to?” Dawn asked.
Spike shrugged. “Everything comes with a price, Dawn.”
“Yes, it does.”
“Not to you.”
“Just tell me.”
Dawn glared at him. “Stubborn vampire.”
“Yeah, what of it?” Spike asked, unrepentant.
Dawn’s eyes softened, and for just a moment she looked at him like they were friends again. “I don’t want you to leave again, Spike. It’s not the same without you around here. Besides, I’m not done being mad at you yet.”
“Got some groveling to do, huh?” Spike asked, although whatever humor there was in his voice was overlaid by a thick regret.
She nodded. “Yeah, you do. How long do you have?”
“Until Halloween,” Spike replied. He shrugged, trying to sound nonchalant about the whole thing. “Guess it’ll actually be interesting this year.”
Dawn swallowed hard. “Will you come back?” she asked, although she could see the answer already in his eyes.
“I’ll be around, Dawn,” Spike said softly. They were at her front door, and he had no desire to find out whether or not Buffy had rescinded his invitation again.
He started off down the front walk, and he could hear Dawn’s voice behind him, too soft for anything but vampire hearing to pick up. “I don’t want you to go.”
Spike didn’t turn. He didn’t want to leave again, either, but he didn’t have a choice. At least he knew that there was one Summers who didn’t hate him.
“Is it working?”
“Considering that their conversations haven’t lasted for more than ten minutes, I’d say it was working.”
“You were the one who had the bright idea of making him disappear every time she started getting snippy,” he said. “I wanted to lock them in a room together.”
“So they could kill each other?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Either that or they’d start doing each other upside down and sideways.”
She made a disgusted sound. “These things take a little more finesse than that. Screwing each other silly is what got them into trouble in the first place.”
“The Slayer’s denial is what got them into trouble,” he corrected her. “I don’t see how she’s going to come out of that when the vampire disappears every time she talks to him.”
“If she finds a different way of talking to him, he won’t disappear,” she pointed out smugly. “You were the one who decided they needed a nudge in the right direction.”
“Obviously,” he observed dryly. “They still do.” He shook his head. “This really is pathetic. The Slayer only has a few more weeks.”
The woman shook her head. Sometimes her companion had no idea how to handle people. The Powers had seen a need for someone to deal with the vampire who had actually asked for his soul. Without some sort guidance, it was all too likely that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill his destiny as a champion. Far from being the one to upset the balance, he was one of the ones who was going to be responsible for keeping it—and he needed the Slayer to do it.
Of course, it was rather a dirty trick they were playing on Spike. The poor creature thought he was going to be dragged down to hell.
“Give her time. She’s a smart girl, and she wants him around. She’ll figure out how to keep him.”
He raised an eyebrow but decided not to argue with her. It was unlikely that either the Slayer or the vampire would figure out who was behind this little charade until they were ready to reveal themselves.
“You’re the one running the show,” he replied. “Although I’d like to know what you’re going to tell the vampire when he finds out that we aren’t sending him to hell, no matter what the Slayer chooses to do.”
The woman shook her head. “I told you. She’ll do no such thing. Do you know how rare it is for a mortal to know a love such as his?” She sighed. “Isn’t that the reason why we’re here?”
“So much love,” he replied. “It’s altogether too rare. Perhaps she’ll finally realize that he’s exactly what she needs.”
The woman shook her head. “She’s lucky the Powers sent us to get involved. Knowing how stubborn those two are, they’ll need more than a nudge in the right direction.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/12789.html