Disclaimer: Not mine, though I wish they were.
Summary: A little “fill-in-the-blanks” Spuffy ficlet set directly post-Lies My Parents Told Me. What might have happened after Buffy closed the door on Giles. A little bit angsty.
A/N: Written for the Fall 2008 round of Seasonal Spuffy. Pulled this one out my WIP folder, dusted it off and finished it up. The theme is “obstacles,” and it’s the first of three ficlets I’ll be sharing. The other two are definitely on the light side and won’t be posted until tomorrow evening after work. (I’m going to be really sorry I stayed up this late. Heh.) So pleased I got my Internet connection back in time to come out and play this time around! Many, many thanks to the lovely and talented enigmaticblues, who makes it all possible. I can hardly wait to enjoy all the Spuffy goodness!
No Day But Today
From her vantage point on the stairs, Buffy could see him seated on the cot below. A soft pool of light illuminated his tiny area of the basement, glinting sharply off tousled platinum hair as it spread outward, only to be swallowed up by the surrounding darkness.
The tiniest quirk of her lips acknowledged the irony of that particular image.
Spike had to be aware of her presence. He seemed to have his own brand of Buffy radar, just as her body became intensely aware anytime he was nearby. And she couldn’t forget those pesky vampire senses of his. It made it hard to sneak up on him, even if she tried.
A soft sigh escaped her. He knew she was there, though he was busy pretending he didn’t. He was seated on the edge of the cot, leaning forward with muscled forearms resting on black denim knees. His head was bowed, his attention fixed on something in his hands, though she couldn’t tell what. His leather coat had been tossed across the foot of the bed, one sleeve trailing on the basement floor, almost like an afterthought, as if its presence didn’t matter.
Buffy frowned. When she’d finally returned the coat to Spike toward the end of his time in the school basement, she’d hoped its familiarity would shore up his tenuous grip on sanity. That he would see the coat and finally snap out of it…whatever “it” was. That had been her first real attempt to reach out to him, an urge she hadn’t let herself fully accept until much later.
But things hadn’t gone as planned. He’d stared at it blankly, and some time after she left the coat had disappeared. She hadn’t seen it again until its recent resurrection. Now it served a different purpose – a link not to sanity, but to a part of him he’d tried to leave behind.
Until she’d goaded him into reclaiming it, that is. And thank god she had or Robin Wood’s vendetta might have had a tragically different outcome.
An icy shiver ran down her spine. Buffy tightened her resolve and shook it off. “Hey,” she offered quietly, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Hey, yourself.” The platinum head remained bowed, Spike’s gaze still fixed on whatever he held.
Reaching his side, she realized with an uneasy pang that it was the prokaryote stone, now nestled quietly in its box. It was solid and inert once again, its work done. And it was done. Contrary to Giles’ earlier assumption, the stone had actually achieved its purpose.
Don’t ask her how she knew. It could have been Slayer instinct or the subtle change she’d seen in the way Spike carried himself, like a man once more in control of his own destiny and determined to stay that way. But more likely, it was the simple fact that he had chosen not to kill Wood when he’d had every provocation to follow through.
She’d seen the room, its walls covered with crosses. She’d seen the burn mark on Spike’s face, the gash on his lip. She might not know exactly what had gone down before her arrival, but her mind could fill in the blanks well enough.
Buffy took a deep breath. “I heard you come in. Wasn’t sure where you went after…” Voice trailing off, she waited for him to lift his head, to meet her gaze. When he didn’t, she shifted uncertainly. “I was…worried. A little.”
That got his attention. Piercing blue eyes locked with hers. “No need.” His voice was deep and steady, a low rumble that masked any clue as to what he might be thinking. “Can take care of myself.”
Was it her imagination or was there more to that statement than simple reassurance?
“Pretty clear on that point,” she agreed. “And so is a certain worse-for-wear principal, I think. Not so big with the ‘sorry for trying to stake you,’ but definitely on notice.”
Spike’s eyes narrowed. “Meant what I said. He tries it again, I won’t hold back.”
“I know. So does Robin. And he also knows I won’t do anything to stop it. If it comes to that. Hence, the ‘on notice’ part.” Ignoring Spike’s obvious surprise, Buffy sat down next to him. While their bodies didn’t quite touch, the invisible current between them felt so strong she actually shivered a bit, breaking out in delicious goose bumps. She clamped down hard on the feeling, regarding him with a steady gaze. “You want to tell me what happened?”
Something flashed in his eyes an instant before he looked away. Closing his fingers tightly around the prokaryote stone, he shrugged. “Think you know the pertinent details. I killed his mother. He tried to kill me. Don’t entirely blame him, but I’m not exactly feelin’ the warm and fuzzies either.”
Buffy hesitated then took a deep breath, glancing down at her own tightly clasped hands. “You should know…it wasn’t just Robin. It was Giles, too. He took me out to the cemetery to distract me. To keep me there until it was…too late.” When she raised her gaze again, she found Spike’s face devoid of emotion. Then she looked a little closer and caught a glimpse of surprise and disappointment in his eyes, along with resigned acceptance.
But all he said was, “Right, then.” And nodded.
Buffy stared. “Right? No right! There’s nothing right about this. They ambushed you…tried to kill you. It wasn’t even… Why aren’t you angry?”
Spike quirked an eyebrow. “Reckon you’re angry enough for the both of us, slayer. Not that I don’t appreciate it, mind.”
His tone was mild, but she heard a tinge of smug satisfaction that also colored his voice. He seemed a little amused by her righteous indignation on his behalf.
“That doesn’t answer my question. What’s going on with you? What happened tonight? And don’t try giving me the abridged version again because this affects me as much as it does you.”
He cocked his head at her. “Does it?” He smiled a little. It wasn’t one of his usual smiles, like the one he gave her when she said something unexpectedly clever. Or the one that always made her feel a bit like a kick-ass Juliet to his bad-boy Romeo. Or even the one that said he was pissed off at her assumption but keeping a tight reign on his temper because he loved her so much.
This was a smile she hadn’t seen before and she didn’t know quite what to make of it.
In fact, she didn’t know what to make of anything about him. His whole demeanor felt off. Just when she’d gotten used to the new Spike, learned how to read him a little bit, there he seemed to have gone and metamucilled again…or whatever that Giles-type word was that meant he’d undergone another big change.
That was the thing about Spike. It seemed like ever since she’d known him, he was always reinventing himself. To be honest, it threw her a little off-balance where he was concerned and she hated feeling that way. Mostly.
Angel was nothing if not consistent. And Riley…well, with Riley what you saw was what you got. At least until the little surprise that had ended their relationship. But Spike was a living, non-breathing example that death and taxes weren’t the only things considered inevitable. She could add a bi-annual Spike “update” to that list.
Weird. For someone whose fashion sense seemed permanently stuck, how ironic was it that Spike would become the poster boy for change.
Buffy felt a little lost now. “You have to ask me? I thought you’d know it does.”
“Your Watcher tricking you like that. Must hurt.”
She frowned a little, noticing that he hadn’t answered her directly. “That’s not why. Not only.”
He took a moment to digest that and seemed to reach a decision.
“It was hers.” At her blank look, he gestured toward the jacket laying beside her. “His mother. Took it from her when I killed her.”
The significance of that caught in her throat. “Oh,” was all she could squeeze out.
“Not ashamed of it. She was a warrior. Best I’d ever fought, until you.” He exhaled heavily. “That’s just how it is with slayers and vampires.” He shot her a sideways glance, his lips quirking in a faint smile. “Usually,” he added. “Still, if it had been yours, if someone had done that to you, I’d have gone after him any way I had to. Only difference is, he wouldn’t have walked away.”
And there, as always, was the elephant in the room. But Spike didn’t give her a chance to acknowledge it. Or not.
“The trigger doesn’t work anymore.”
He snorted softly. “Surprised the good principal bothered to mention that part.”
“He didn’t. When I saw you down here, I knew.” Intercepting his piercing stare, she gave a little shrug. “And before you ask, I don’t know how. I just did.”
“The stone made me remember. Things I’ve been trying to forget.” His voice dropped to a soft murmur that did something to her insides and she had to fight to focus. “About my mum and what happened when Drusilla turned me.”
She held her breath. “Did you…?”
He shook his head quickly. “No! Well, not exactly. I loved my mother, even then. Didn’t want to hurt her. Just wanted her to be all right. She’d been sick, you see. For quite some time.”
A cold knot formed in her stomach. “Oh, god.”
Spike wouldn’t look at her. “Yeah. Didn’t turn out so well. But if I had it to do over again…” He stopped. Left the thought hanging.
For her part, Buffy couldn’t imagine anything more horrifying than being turned. At the same time, the fact that Spike could have cared that much, even then, should have surprised her. But it didn’t. Once, yes. Now she knew better.
Reaching down she took his hand, the one not holding the stone, and cradled it in hers, studying muscle and sinew, tracing the intersecting path of veins, remembering the magic of those strong, talented fingers. Then she turned it over and lightly caressed the palm before twining her fingers with his.
“It must have been hard for you. Reliving it that way.” She looked into his eyes. Marveled at the way they could say so much. “I’m sorry.”
He started to speak. Stopped. He was so close she could feel his breath on her mouth. Her lips tingled with anticipation and her tongue darted out to soothe them. She wondered if he might take that as an invitation. Almost hoped he would.
But he didn’t move, didn’t blink, and he’d even given up breathing, reminding her once again of the fundamental difference between them. The seconds stretched out, filled only with silence and the telltale sound of her own rapid breathing.
Then slowly, maybe even gratefully, he turned his attention back to the prokaryote stone. He cleared his throat a bit. “Have to say, not lovin’ the whole me-gettin’-dusted part of the plan, mind you, but I expect Rupert was doing what he thought he had to – savin’ the world and all.”
Buffy blinked. Then let her earlier anger resurface, putting it out there for him to see. “No.” Her voice was hard. “He wasn’t.” Afraid he might jump to conclusions she wasn’t ready to face, she hurried on. “I mean…if Giles thought you were really a threat to everyone, that The First was going to use you against us, he wouldn’t have left it to someone else. He would have taken you out himself…or tried, anyway.”
She looked down at their joined hands, and it was kind of scary how easily the next part slipped out. “It wasn’t the world Giles was trying to save. Just me.”
When she glanced up, Spike was studying her again. “Even more reason,” he whispered. Then he huffed out a laugh. “So Rupert thinks I’m a bump in your road to happily ever after, does he? Could be he’s right.”
He tilted his head, his fingers still entwined with hers. “Been a lot between us, Buffy. Not always easy to let it go. Even when you know it’s best.”
“Is that what you want? To let go?”
“Lot of things I want. Things I shouldn’t.”
“You used to know. Reckon you still do.”
She didn’t answer him because he was right. She did know. But now, those reasons didn’t seem half as important to her as they once had. Only for some reason she couldn’t say that. Instead, she took in his battered face, the tired slump of his shoulders, and chose the easy way out for both of them.
“It’s late. You should get some rest.” Removing the stone from his grasp, she stood up, letting her fingers glide along his palm as their hands parted. She placed the stone on a wall shelf then picked up his coat, stared at it a moment, and draped it across the back of a nearby chair.
When Buffy turned back, she found Spike frozen in place, watching her intently. She summoned up a faint smile. “I’d ask if you want me to tuck you in, but I think I’m afraid of the answer.” Folding her arms, she looked around the basement, waiting until he was stretched out on top of the covers. He shucked off only his boots and shirt, out of deference to her, no doubt, and she tried hard to ignore a sharp pang of disappointment.
“Spike?” His head turned to meet her gaze and this time she faced him straight on. “I’m glad you’re okay. Really…really glad.” Buffy swallowed. Had the tiny catch in her voice betrayed her? A flicker of something in his eyes, so fast and faint she might have imagined it, told her that it had. But he gave no other sign, his face an impassive reflection of what she knew must be her own carefully schooled expression.
She started to leave but heard his voice, soft and uncertain. “Buffy?”
She turned back.
“Stay? Just for a bit.”
She barely hesitated. “Okay.” Then she surprised both of them by settling cross-legged on the floor next to his cot. Seeking out his hand again, she threaded her fingers through his and smiled at his shell-shocked expression. “Sleep,” she ordered.
And, surprisingly enough, he did.
She sat there for a long time, thinking about something Spike had said earlier. About how much there was between them. He was right, of course. Almost always was when it came to her. He’d been right about something else, too. She wasn’t ready to let go. Didn’t think she could. Wasn’t sure she ever would be.
It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t even something she could articulate. Not to herself and definitely not to anyone else. But Spike belonged to her in a way that no one ever had. And all at once, she got it. Understood what Giles already knew. What he’d hoped to change before it was too late.
Spike belonged to Buffy, and Buffy belonged to Spike. She was his, as much as he was hers. And even though it scared her more than anything else she faced, in this moment at least she felt a kind of easy acceptance that would have shocked her not that long ago.
Eventually, she’d be brave enough to tell him. After The First had been vanquished and life was back to normal, or as normal as it ever would be for a Slayer and her vampire living and loving on the hellmouth. They would win, and she would tell him. Anything else was simply not an option.
Carefully, she leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on bruised knuckles. Then gently sliding her hand free of his relaxed grasp, she rose, her eyes never leaving his face.
“I will tell you,” she whispered. “Promise.”
She smiled a little then, envisioning the look on his face. Imagining what he’d say, how he’d react. There’d be euphoria and maybe a little gloating. But she could deal. He’d earned it…the gloating and the euphoria.
Glancing back at her still-slumbering vampire, she made her way up the stairs. With each step, the peaceful basement oasis she’d found with Spike grew more and more distant. She found herself contemplating the fight to come, realizing that the days ahead would not be easy. And she worried that her resolve might waver. But in the end she would tell him. Of this, she had no doubt.
When the time was right.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/273234.html