Hero’s Reward 3/12

This entry is part 3 of 12 in the series Hero's Reward
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A/N: Some dialogue taken or modified from the script of “Wrecked” by Marti Noxon

~*~
Chapter 3, Restored
~*~

Buffy felt lighter than she had in the weeks since her return to life. She poked through the cupboards looking for something other than cold cereal to fix for her little sister’s breakfast and wished for the millionth time that she had paid a bit more attention to her mother’s domestic skills over the years. Of course she hadn’t expected to be the mother of a teenager before her twenty-first birthday either!
“Willow didn’t come home last night,” Dawn managed to sound miffed through her yawned comment. “Tara and I waited up for her after you went to bed and she never did come in. Think she’s all right?”

And here was someone else who seemed to think she was the one who should be responsible for reigning in Willow from her galloping run with magic! “I’m not HER mother too! God, isn’t it enough I have to have a teenager to be worried about without adding a juiced-up, almost adult witch to the mix?”

Dawn looked as if she had been slapped in the face, “Well, EXCUSE me for existing! I didn’t ask those monks to make me your sister and I sure didn’t ask for you to have to take Mom’s place.” The hurt girl fled the kitchen, heading loudly for her recently abandoned bedroom. The slam of her door knocked the ‘The Kitchen is the heart of the home’ plaque from the wall, sending it to the floor with shattering accuracy.

“Way to go, Buffy. Good way to start fixing things with Dawnie,” she grumbled to herself as she swept up the fragments. As a shard pierced her finger, drawing blood, Buffy mused on the symbolic perfection of the moment. Her mom had been the real heart of their home and all that was left of it, and of Buffy’s life itself, was a broken mess of pieces that could never be put back together again. She stared at the dripping red droplets of life that exited her body and wondered how she might convince Spike to just drain all of it from her once and for all, now that he could. “Just my luck, stupid vampire doesn’t even want a taste now that I’m offering.” Whether she meant her life’s blood or her sexual favors, Buffy could not be certain.

Her previous night’s encounter with Spike had been both comforting and confusing. She had immediately gone into her defensive mode of denial and refused to think much at all about their conversation. Instead she nursed her feelings of rejection like a cherished babe at her breast. She let her bruised ego whine as she finished tidying up the mess. ‘Yeah, like the real mess can be just scooped up and tossed,’ she snarked as the back door opened with a force usually reserved for Dawn’s comings and goings.

Willow looked wild yet exhausted at the same time. It took Buffy a moment to remember that Amy had been de-ratted after all those years in a cage and the sight of the girl gave Buffy a bit of a start before her mind supplied the missing pieces. “You two look like you’ve been painting the town red. Hope you picked a different color though. Painting in red here at the hellmouth is usually of the bad,” she quipped.

Amy looked avid, a bit like a junkie onto a good source. “Willow is AMAZING! I mean I knew she’d developed ‘cause, you know, no wheel and pellets anymore, but wow! Last night was nuts!” She looked at Willow and grinned. “She’s a FREAKING amazing witch now. I couldn’t even keep up with her last night.”

Willow had the grace to look a bit uncomfortable with the dubious praise. “Amy…”

“No, really, it’s true! I mean, I can do some transmorgraphy, but she’s messing with dimensions and everything. It was awesome. This creep, first she made his mouth disappear…thank God…then….” Finally Amy noticed the chill in the room and tried to pull her foot from her mouth. “And I’m talking too much. Sorry…too many years in a wire cage, that’s all.”

“I thought you were going to go see your dad,” Willow encouraged her fellow witch. The last thing she wanted was a lecture from Buffy, or for Tara to find out about her wild night of spell casting at the Bronze. “I’m pretty wiped and Buffy isn’t interested in silly little spells, right, Buffy?”

On one hand, Buffy thought that since everyone seemed to think she should be fixing Willow’s problem with magic, maybe she should listen to more of her wayward friend’s exploits, but she just couldn’t summon up the energy to tackle that problem. “As long as no one got hurt, I’m willing to wait to hear the tale.” She could see Willow visibly relax at her sidestep and nearly changed her mind. If Willow were that reluctant to talk about it, the previous night’s events might come back to bite them in the butt all too soon. Maybe Spike calling Giles wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

After Amy left the awkward duo alone together, Willow tried to laugh it all off. “Heh, heh. We went out, guess we kinda lost track of time.”

“You made some guy’s mouth disappear?” Buffy tried to wrap her mind around her oldest girlfriend having that kind of power but then remembered that Willow had just managed to pull HER out of heaven. ‘Guess a simple mouthectomy’s nothing after that.’

Willow looked sheepish as she tried to downplay her part in the magic fest of the night before. “I had a few too many smiley drinks and he was a total jerk–one of those guys that think they’re a gift from the goddess and a woman’s place is worshiping at their feet.” She spotted the pursed lips of disapproval on Buffy’s face and added, “It was only for a minute. I fixed him right away.”

“Amy’s right,” Buffy answered, but not with the tone of awe the former rat had displayed. “You are one powerful witch lately. Guess we’d all better hope we don’t piss you off.” As Buffy said it, she felt a slight shiver that might be an omen or might just be thin blood. It was much easier to go with the thin blood angle and she decided to buy a multivitamin with iron supplement at the store later.

“You know I’d never hurt you!” Willow looked shocked at the idea.

The look on Buffy’s face made it clear that promise had already been broken in the most tragic of ways. Willow looked shamefaced as she amended, “Not on purpose.”

“I know, Will.” Buffy sighed deeply. “Look I have Dawn crisis number twelve to fix. Mind if we talk about stuff later?”

Willow nearly cried with relief. She was so blasted tired of everyone judging her and telling her she was overusing magic! With any luck Buffy’s normal apathy would swallow any conversation they might have had over her night out with Amy. She’d have to talk to Amy about her big mouth later.

“No problemo. Think I’ll take a shower and hit the sheets. I don’t have class today, so it’s the perfect day to sleep in, recharge those batteries.” Willow smiled and turned to go upstairs, missing the flash of concern on Buffy’s face over her choice of words.

Buffy watched the flame-haired blur of Willow making a fast retreat and sighed wistfully. ‘Right. You only have a higher education to worry about! I’ve got a stack of bills and no money to pay them, a teen bomb to defuse, the world to save on a regular basis and one massively confusing vampire to figure out. Enjoy your sleep, Will. I’d say rest in peace, but you evidently don’t believe in that…at least not for me!’

Ah, confusing vampires.

Angel turning her world view upside down was just another day at the office, but Spike had always been so easy to read until now. It was all too much. The rushed meeting with Angel had not led to the peace and comfort she had expected. She had listened to him detail how he had anguished over her death at some monastery somewhere and how he had left Cordy with so much responsibility. He could hardly wait to get back to L.A. and, Buffy suspected, Cordy. ‘He never even came to the funeral! Didn’t try to help with Dawnie or the Hellmouth…nothing! Just went off to dally with some llamas or something.’

Then there was Spike, suddenly a vampire full of surprises. The first was realizing he had been fulfilling his promise to take care of Dawn while she had been in heaven. Dawn had let those details slip; none of her friends said a word. Evidently he had also helped patrol with the gang. She would have expected Spike to leave before her body had even cooled. He could’ve headed back into Dru’s waiting arms, sought out a doctor to remove the chip and let the festival of blood begin again.

The first clear thought she had after clawing her way out of the ground had been amazement at the look of awe on Spike’s face as he realized it really was her walking down those stairs. She had been self-conscious as never before in front of the vampire. His tenderness and understanding had left her even more confused than before. Since then he had become her confidant, her sounding-board, her…friend. Last night he had nearly become her lover, and it had been HIM preventing it, claiming it was Buffy’s best interests he was guarding! Sometimes she wondered if she were in another dimension altogether.

She heard Dawn banging things around in her room and shook her head in frustration. “No time to even think around here,” she muttered to herself as she stood to go address her duties as substitute mother.

~~~

Spike figured the time difference in his head and decided Giles would likely still be sober enough for his call even if it was the middle of the night for a vampire. “’Lo Watcher?”

There was dead silence on the other end as Giles wrapped his mind around just who it was that had called him. He wasn’t sure which surprised him more, that it was Spike calling him or that it was not a collect call. His frenzied mind sifted through all manner of dire reasons the vampire might have for calling him at all. At the same time, the shopkeeper within dreaded the notion Spike was likely calling from the Magic Box and that was the reason for no reversal in charges. Thus, with double urgency, he finally spoke, “What new disaster could possibly be at the heart of your calling? We are hardly phone pals.”

“Miss you too, Rupes,” Spike smiled at the memory of the man Giles had been at this point in time. Not nearly the wanker who later betrayed him to the cross-happy principal. This was still the Giles at whose side he had fought all summer, one he had even joked with and come to admire. ‘Wonder what the old geezer would think if I told him where I’m really from and what’s ahead? Likely wouldn’t believe me anyway.’

“Wondering if you looked into that little ritual your redheaded wonder girl pulled off getting Buffy back? You and I both know magic always has a price and that was some mighty mojo; likely to be a bundle owed.”

Giles instantly became alert. Something had to have happened for Spike to call him about this now. “What’s happened?”

“Not so much what’s happened as what COULD have happened if I wasn’t an honorable bloke in love with your Slayer.”

Giles snorted, “Obsession! And as for the ‘honorable’ portion of that tripe….”

“Look, you wanna give over and listen for a minute, old man?” Spike was sick and tired of every one of these humans trying to tell him what and who he was all the time. Seems a bloke would know himself a bit more than some tweed-bound twit who believed everything he read in a bunch of flawed books! If Buffy didn’t need all the help she could get, he would have hung up on the wanker. Instead he sighed audibly and continued, “Something’s different about your Slayer. Not just depression and the like either. My chip don’t work on her. Got into a tussle with her and it didn’t fire when the punching bag punched back. Works on everyone else; got the soddin thing checked out and I’m fine. Nothing wrong with the hardware, I just don’t see Buffy as something on the menu’s all.”

Giles automatically reached for his crossbow, forgetting for the moment that he was five and a half thousand miles from the Master Vampire renowned as the Slayer of Slayers. He got a grip on his emotions before the panic could set in. “And you are telling me this…why? Do you intend to torture me knowing it will take hours for me to get there and make a dusty end of you, while all the while you are taking advantage of Buffy’s indifference to drain the life from her?” The Watcher gritted his teeth.

Spike was deeply hurt that Giles would immediately suspect his intentions, but then the man never had seen him as someone separate from the mighty Angelus. He fought to keep the emotion from his voice as he answered as coldly as possible, “NO. Wrong vamp, gramps. I’m the one that loves Buffy, no matter what you lot choose to believe. Would never hurt her…not now anyway. “ He had a slight guilty start as he remembered just why he was back in this torturous year and how he had, indeed, hurt the girl. “She’s safe as houses, always will be. Thing is, I suspect something went wrong with the witch’s spell, not that that should come as a great shock to anyone. Maybe Buffy isn’t adjusting to being among the living again because of it. Need you to do your geeky best to suss out the whys. Think someone ought to look into just what Willow did to get our Slayer back and what she likely messed up this time.”

“And I should take your word that Buffy will be safe from you, why?” Giles was already looking up the number for the airline to book passage immediately.

“’Cause it’s the truth, but don’t think you’ll accept that. Look, Watcher, just get your wooly-suited self over here and help put her back to right, you bloody berk! You scarpered off like that no good dad of hers right when the girl’s at the bottom end of things, leavin’ her care and tendin’ to a well meanin’ vampire who’s still not sure how to go about bein’ human, and you were expectin’ nothing bad to happen? The girl’s drownin’ in something and I can’t pull her out by myself, so get your arse back here and do more than watch.” Spike slammed down the phone, sure that the Watcher would be on the next plane out–if for no other reason than to see to his quick dusting.

~~~

“So my guess is your Watcher’ll turn up on the next possible flight with a trunk full of sharp pointy prezzies for yours truly,” Spike finished relating his phone conversation to Buffy. “We’ll get on the whole thing right away, unless he has me blowin’ in the breeze too quick.”

They were in the training room of the Magic Box and had begun to spar without even discussing the idea. It felt good to fight a worthy opponent and they fell into a natural rhythm of give and take, punch and parry. Part of Buffy was still resentful enough of her Watcher having deserted her that she wanted to tell him to get back on the next plane and never darken her door again, but the needy little girl that she became when Hank Summers exited her life wanted to chain Giles in her attic lest he leave again. Like all her other emotions since returning, she was left scattered and adrift. The only sure thing she had felt had been that crystal pure moment of want when her legs wrapped around a certain vampire.

“Course he might just make me get a job to pay that long distance bill first,” Spike chuckled. He had no doubt the Watcher guessed that his call had been made from the office of the shop.

Buffy was too distracted to pay full attention to the conversation and only caught part of Spike’s narrative. “You can’t get a job Spike. What would you do anyway, snark at people for pay?”

“Might look into that possibility, pet. Solve all your money troubles and make a tidy fortune with my natural talents, yeah?”

The smile that briefly lit Buffy’s face would have been worth every cent of it had he that fortune easily at hand.

“Looked into that frost monster thing too.” Spike smiled to himself at the memory of the research challenged Scoobies during those bitter months without the Watcher. “No such thing. Word is the theft was all human, so that takes it out of your hands, Sheriff Andy.”

Buffy began to think about all the odd incidents since her return. It was as if the demon population were on holiday and Marvel Comics had set up shop in Sunnydale. “Lots of really stupid things have been happening. That whole day from hell here and the demons at the construction site…oh, and time going all wonky at school too! There was that bank robbing demon while I was trying to get a loan, that’s not something you see every day. I’ve got a feeling it’s all tied together somehow ‘cause it all has that key element of…lame.”

“Like something Harris might put together if he went over to the dark side, you mean?” Spike couldn’t help putting in a jab at the boy who was still dead set on making him as uncomfortable as possible in their company.

“Yeah, like that…dangerous, but silly too. The only thing missing is a jet pack or death ray or something.” Buffy grimaced. “And now I’ve just jinxed the whole thing and I’ll have to deal with just that.” Her sigh came from the soul and made Spike tired to hear it. Suddenly she had a terrible thought. “You don’t think one of those magic consequence thingies you were talking about could be Xan going dark, do you? I mean. he IS marrying Anya and God knows he’ll be looking for a way to come up with lots of cash pretty soon. That diamond was big enough to keep even her happy for a few weeks at least.”

Spike had to laugh at how quickly Buffy had come to this entertaining thought. He was half tempted to encourage it just to watch the fallout but then remembered that, as much as the boy annoyed him, Harris was still a steadfast friend to the Slayer and she needed all of them at her side. He’d already made the mistake of planting seeds of distrust among the group before and knew how easy it would be. ‘No, I’m here to help the girl, not mess with her mind.’ “No, pet, think this is a different geek…maybe a gaggle of geeks. I’ll keep askin’ the right questions and you can figure out what to do with the info.”

~~~

Amy popped her head in through the back door and startled Willow as she was finishing the dishes from her meager late lunch. She was still tired, even after having slept the day away. She wanted to conjure something, anything, to take her mind off the dull grey her life had become without Tara. The sparkle had gone out of everything when her beloved had walked away in a combination of disgust, hurt and worry. Surely there had to be some spell to make everything better! But if Tara ever suspected she had done such a thing, she would be lost to her forever. What good was magic if you couldn’t use it to make life better anyway? There had to be some way to convince her precious to return to her.

“So what do you wanna do tonight? Gonna be hard to top last night though.” Amy had that hungry look again, the look that vaguely unsettled Willow and made her flesh crawl. It must have something to do with Amy’s years spent as vermin.

“I don’t know if I’m up to it. I feel awful. I couldn’t even do a simple spell all day. I think we should just take it easy.” Willow hated to admit being tapped out, but that was the bald truth. She felt drained after her excesses of the previous night.

She hadn’t slept well in ages, not since her bargain with the otherworld that let Buffy return to them. There was a constant feeling that she was needed somewhere or that there was a task needing to be done. Her dreams were troubled and muddy and she remembered none of them the next morning. Willow assumed it was some post-traumatic stress from having to slit the innocent fawn’s throat to have the necessary sacrifice for her ritual. At the same time her dream time drained her, the opposite was happening in her waking moments. She was on fire, filled with magic energy that demanded use. She had never felt so powerful, so in charge of her own destiny. That such a miracle should cost her the very heart of her, her Tara, was unfathomable to her.

Amy licked her lips and slyly hinted, “I know a guy and he knows spells that last for DAYS. The burnout factor is, like, nothing! He’ll blow you away with the places he can take you…you can’t imagine!”

To feel that power course again! Willow heard the song of the serpent and bit. “Is it dangerous?”

Amy giggled. “Would that stop you?”

They headed to a part of town that even Willow had never explored. It was the human side of dangerous in Sunnydale, a place to avoid if you wanted to keep your wallet or your virtue. Amy was nearly skipping in anticipation, keeping up a patter of small talk about all the fun they would have once they had tapped into the power this guy, Rack, had at his command. “He’s kind of sexy too, in a dark way, even if he is way old and a little creepy. I know you don’t swing that way anymore, but there’s something about him, the power…it rolls off of him, gets me hot.”

Willow avoided showing how disgusted she was with that description. Dark and creepy did not sexy make. Even when Willow HAD swung that way her taste had been the sweet and clever. Oz and Tara had much in common, their unassuming ways hiding pure gold beneath the surface.
Amy pulled to a sudden halt in the middle of the street and closed her eyes, swaying slightly. “This is it. Can’t you feel it?”

Willow could feel something, it tingled and caused the hairs to raise on her arms while making her blood heat up. Yes, there was lots of power here in this unseen place.

“Come on,” Amy urged and tugged Willow forward into the rippling air.

One moment they were in a dimly lit street and the next they were in a rather seedy parlor filled with anxious, desperate-looking people who could all have stood a good scrubbing down. It looked like opium dens from the history books Willow had read, only with the people in modern dress.

“Cool, isn’t it? He keeps it cloaked.”

“Hope he keeps it fumigated,” Willow said under her breath as the door to another room swung open and a man every bit as dark and creepy as Amy had said came into the room. He was greeted like a mighty religious leader by his adoring unwashed flock. They all jostled one another, claiming to be first in line for his attentions.

Something inside Willow screamed for her to run and not look back, but then Rack turned his eyes on her and smiled. He looked every bit as unwashed as his followers and his eyes were wrong in a way she couldn’t quite put her finger on until she realized they each looked in different directions, making it impossible to look him square in the eye as her father had once said was the measure of a man.

He motioned for Amy and Willow to follow him to the inner room and Amy began rattling off her adventures as a rodent.

“Hope that taught you not to mess with spells you can’t handle. You should leave that in the hands of a professional.”

Amy looked a bit crestfallen, as though a special hero had found her wanting.

As he rubbed his hands together, never taking his eyes off of Willow, sparks flew from the tips of his fingers. Willow could feel the magic, so much magic one man could not contain it all.

“You have power, girl. It comes off of you in waves,” Rack whispered far too close to Willow’s ear for her comfort. Fortunately, he didn’t smell as bad as he looked. Funny, the one giving off magical power was her host, or so she had thought.

“You’ve been interesting places and touched some very powerful beings, haven’t you, little girl,” He ran a dirty finger down Willow’s cheek as he asked. “Met Taweret, didn’t you, while raiding Neter-Khertet, bargained for her to let you bring one of hers out, a rebirth of sorts? There’s a price, you know. You’ve violated the universal order and there’s always a steep price for that, little miss. Are you here for protection or to offer your services to balance things?”

“What?” Willow was panicked. Something in his words touched on her unremembered dreams and it made her squirm in fear mixed with eager anticipation. “I don’t know what you’re talking about…Jewish witch here. Haven’t met any old Egyptian goddesses.” ‘How did I know who Taweret was?’ Willow was pretty sure she hadn’t paid so much attention to Egyptian mythology that one or two names would stand out now.

Rack curled his lip and let out a chuckle. “Never mind, you’ll get it in time. Wasted some of that power, didn’t you? Amy here never did learn how to value it. Want a recharge from one of Set’s sons now, don’t you?” He licked his lip in a way that reminded Willow far too much of boys who needed their mouths removed. She suddenly wanted nothing more than a long hot shower and lots of soap.

While she shuddered at his whole presence, Rack had moved closer into her personal space, holding a hand out to her. “Relax. I’m not going to hurt you. You gotta give a little to get a little, right?”

Amy saw the terror starting on Willow’s face and jumped in. “It’s okay, it’s over fast and doesn’t hurt at all.”

Before Willow could decide what she really wanted to do, Rack had ghosted his hand over her chest, not actually touching her but she could feel it as clearly as if he had. It was loathsome. Sparks began to fly between his hand and her body as the light took on a blood red glow. Willow stood as if in a trance. Finally he released his hold on her and backed away. “You don’t need any recharging, little lioness, you just need to let it flow and stop trying to dam the river.” He leaned in closely and whispered, “You taste devine, just like what’s in you.”

Willow had ceased hearing anything, not even the keening of a whirling Amy as she spun in a circle like a Turkish Sufi in religious ecstasy, less the religion of course. When she opened her eyes she was startled to discover she was plastered to the ceiling looking down upon the spinning form of Amy and a smug-looking Rack. Her blouse was nearly completely undone and she felt GOOD, as powerful as the warlock had implied she was, as powerful as she often felt of late. She writhed in pleasure as sensation after sensation flowed through and out of her. She felt as if she could summon entire universes into existence!

When she finally came back to herself, she was in the middle of the Bronze and had she seen how black her eyes were at that moment she MIGHT have lost the contented smile she wore.

Again, the scene shifted and she was outside the Magic Box watching Xander and Anya work on inventory and give each other subtle touches they thought no one would see. Once more, it phased and she realized she was in her own bedroom on Revello Drive. “Cool! Teleportation! Gotta do that more often!” As the words left her lips, she felt the beginnings of nausea and rushed to the bathroom. After losing what little had been in her stomach, she rinsed her mouth out in the sink and gazed in wonderment at her black-eyed visage looking back at her in the mirror. Finally, fear and a sense of violation ran through her and she trembled.

As she cried under the shower head, Willow began to wonder if all this power was such a good thing after all.

~~~

Buffy had Spike pinned on the mat of the training room. He couldn’t help his body responding to her warm Buffy parts right on the source of his current discomfort. Buffy had made a second attempt to turn their slaps into slap and tickle and he was holding her as far from him as he could in that position, trying to remember just why he was so against letting her have her way with him. ‘Oh, yeah! It’s poison right now.’

“Buffy, I already told you, it’s not that I don’t want you. God , I’ve wanted you for what seems like forever, but tumbling you in my bed isn’t gonna help you. It’s not what you need, pet.”

“And suddenly you’re the expert on what Buffy needs like everyone else? Who died and left you in charge…oh, yeah, that was me. So Mr. Expert, what is it you think I need?”

“You’re broken, love. Back in the day, I had the best teacher anyone could have in how to break a person–Angelus.” That led to Buffy getting off his prone form like a shot.

“Don’t bring Angel into this. Your stupid vampire jealousy…” Buffy was ready to rip into Spike, but he didn’t want to get completely off track. The Watcher was on his way and Buffy had to be kept from pulling down his defenses long enough for them to figure out what was really going on.

He rolled his eyes and let out a sigh of deep frustration. “Look, I can call the sod Mr. Potato Head, but you and I both know Angelus was the vamp that showed me the ropes…literally. Not the point of who he is or if you ever even met the Wanker, the point is the lessons I learned.” He had to make her see that now was NOT the time no matter how their bodies denied the truth of it.

Buffy was still feeling the sting of his rejection but decided to hear him out. She nodded for him to continue. Her narrowed eyes gave silent warning, however, that he was on thin ice.
Spike sat up and began, “I was never interested in torture.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and started to interrupt him, but he didn’t give her the chance.

“Not saying I was less evil or anything like that, ‘cause we both know better. Fact is, I never had the patience for it. Give me a full-out fight, fist and fang, where it’s not a cake walk and I’m your vamp. Takin’ months to turn some poor bugger into a quiverin’ mess just beggin’ to be put out o’ his misery and I get bored. Never learned, even though the ‘great artist’ tried his best to show me the tricks of the trade. Point is, I had the lesson given often enough to understand it, even if I don’t want to try my hand at becoming some undead Picasso.

First you take away everything that gives the person security. Then you work on the person so they can’t even remember who they really are anymore, or what they want, who they care for. You chip away at their soul. When you’ve got them down, then you make them think they are responsible for every bleedin’ bad thing that’s happenin’ to the ones they love and to themselves. Do it right and you wind up with Dru.”

Too much of what he had just said resonated deep within her and she rushed from uncomfortable and slightly afraid towards a feeling she was better able to deal with. Buffy began to get pissed. “So you’re saying I’m what…crazy? Thought we already decided you’re not Freud.”

“NO, I’m sayin you’re damaged, but Dru was destroyed. Life and Glory came along and did a number on you that you haven’t had a chance to deal with yet. You were halfway there before you took that header off the tower and got some peace. Bloody meddlers dragged you back and just added more to it without meanin’ to. You’re lost, Buffy. You don’t even remember who you are. Not the Slayer part, the Buffy part. ‘Til you get that sorted, you’re just goin’ to keep on hurtin’, and hurtin’ everyone around you.”

The anger and hurt she had felt the day she last tried to let Spike make her feel came back full force. “So you’re saying I’m crazy. Need to be locked up. Came back wrong.”

“You came back hurt, not wrong,” Spike repeated patiently. “You need help, pet. You’re reactin’ in a normal way and you need a hand findin’ your feet again, that’s all.”

“And you’re suddenly a psychologist? Why even call Giles since you’ve got it all worked out?”

“I’m just a mite older, pet, and I’ve seen a bit more. Also lived for over a century with someone too far into it to be fixed.” Spike wasn’t really sure WHAT was going on with Buffy, but he somehow knew all that happened before she died played some part in it. After all, the girl had completely collapsed not long before taking that final dive off the tower.

Buffy was getting royally pissed. “Really not liking this. First rejection and then being compared to your nutbag of an ex.”

Spike was losing her. If he weren’t careful, she’d push him away and then he couldn’t even help her this time. He’d never been more frustrated. The first time he’d tried to love her back to life. Now he was turning down the best sex he’d ever had and he was still blowing it. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Buffy, I want to help you, really help you…not take advantage of the fact you’re so desperate to feel that you’d sleep with someone you weren’t too sure you even wanted in your life not that long ago. There’s counselors can help you deal.”

Buffy sputtered with laughter. “With having witches pull me out of heaven?”

Spike saw her point. Even in Sunnydale it wasn’t likely there was a professional ready for that. “Maybe, but that’s not what I meant. I was thinkin more about dealing with losin’ your mum like you did. About havin’ the responsibilities of a middle-aged woman tossed on your shoulders, raisin’ a teenage hormone bomb with attitude, payin’ a lifetime’s worth of bills. Havin’ to carry your friends and the whole world on your back while everyone expects you to be perfect and not mess up.”

Buffy had begun to cry as he spoke his litany of her pain.

He pressed on. “Someone who can help you remember the strong, loving, fun woman you are in there. Help you see that even if they tell you it’s all up to you, it isn’t and you can let some of it go.”

Buffy slumped in defeat and despair, “I can’t let it go. Even Giles said I need to assume my responsibilies.”

As much as he was glad Giles was coming back to help figure this out, Spike wanted to twist the Watcher’s head off for that! “Bloody git! Like he has room to talk, scarpering off to Merry Ol’ and leavin’ the bloody hellmouth to you when you’re all wobbly legged! Look, some of the crap burying you I can help with. I can do some patrols, give you rest time. I can figure a way to help you with the mountain of bills. Hell, I can even help get through to the Bit. Made her listen to me all last summer.”

Buffy drew herself up and said in indignation, “I’m not crazy, Spike, and I’m not going near any of those places ever again,” before huffing off. Spike wondered if some of the damage had begun long ago when her mum and dad had put her in that hospital when all the girl had done was say creatures like him existed!

“Okay, that went a bit better than last time… I hope,” he tried to reassure himself. At least she had listened and hadn’t staked him. Spike needed the Watcher here to check all the mystical stuff she had to be dealing with, while he tried to break down the walls that kept his Buffy from feeling again. He remembered that the first time it had taken Buffy nearly dying again to finally begin to live. He’d be double damned if he let it get that far this time.

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/261019.html

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