Title: Like a Bad Penny(3/24/04)                                                                    Rating: R                                                                                                             Season VII                                                                                                 Summary: What if Spike had come back sane, if feeling unworthy, and went back to his crypt rather than to lurk on the hellmouth? What if Buffy missed him and was at the crypt when he showed up?

 Like A Bad Penny

 “Yes, Giles. I understand. Thanks for calling, and tell Willow we’re glad she’s getting better.”  Buffy hung up the phone with a sigh.

 “What’s wrong?” Dawn asked. “Things not going well in Merrie Olde?”

 “No, things are good there.  The coven is helping Willow to re-channel her energy and power positively.  Giles says she’s making great progress.  I’m just.... I miss them, that’s all.  It’s lonely here with just you and me and Xander .  And Anya,” she added quickly when she saw Dawn’s raised eyebrow.  “But they’re always busy, and they don’t want to be in the same place at the same time very often.  I miss Giles and Willow and, and... everybody,” she finished softly.

 “Do you miss him too?”

 “Sometimes I do.  I guess I just got used to the idea he would always be here; no matter what.”

 Buffy saw no reason to let her sister know that she missed him the most when she was alone in her bed at night and woke up touching herself because she was dreaming about hands and lips and other body parts that could make her feel.....

 “Buffy? Uh, Buffy?  Where did you go?”

 Buffy sat up quickly and shook her head. “Oh, sorry, Dawn. I guess I was daydreaming for a minute.”

 “Not about that jerk who tried to rape you, I hope?”  Dawn gaped at her in surprise.  “You can’t have forgiven him!  I haven’t forgiven him.”

 “Dawn, I forgave him almost immediately.  And, since I’m the injured party here, I think my opinion is what counts.  Xander had no business telling you about it.”

 “Well, he did tell me, and I think it sucks, and if he comes back I’ll stake him myself.”

 “No, Dawn, you won’t.”  Buffy’s voice was suddenly hard and cold.  “You don’t know what happened, and neither does Xander.  There’s a lot you don’t know - either one of you.  What he did was wrong, yes. Very wrong. But the reasons were... complicated.”

 “Wrong is wrong,” Dawn grumbled. “I don’t care how complicated it is.”

 “Dawn, I’m going to say this once, and only once - and then we are not talking about it ever again, Okay?”  Buffy looked into her sister’s suspicious eyes and took a deep breath.  “He was wrong. But I was wrong first.  We – he hurt me – but only after I hurt him... over and over.  We hurt each other; and believe me, if it was a contest to see who could hurt who the most, I would be the winner. Hands down.”

 Dawn looked at Buffy’s sorrowful face and said tentatively, “Does this mean I don’t have to hate him anymore? Can he be my friend again?”

 “Oh, Dawn, of course you shouldn’t hate him. He loves you; you know that.” Buffy paused for a moment. “But it’s going to be hard to be his friend if he isn’t here, and we don’t know where he is.”

 “Do you think he’s coming back?”

 “I wish I knew, Dawn,” she replied sadly.  “I wish I knew.”

 ~~~~~~~~~~

 Later that evening, after a halfhearted patrol, Buffy found herself in front of Spike’s crypt.  She hadn’t been in or near it since the episode in her bathroom.  If not for running into Clem one evening, she would not have even known he was gone from Sunnydale. 

 Giving in to a sudden impulse, she pushed open the heavy door and entered.  Although her slayer senses allowed her to see in the dark better than the average human, it was so dark inside that she needed to feel around until she found some candles and matches to provide some light.  It was obvious that someone – probably Clem — had been coming by occasionally to make sure it was not being vandalized.  While the downstairs had not been touched since she and Riley torched the eggs, the main part of the crypt look like someone had cleaned it up in case the owner came back.

 The refrigerator was empty and clean except for a bag of Cheetos – undoubtedly Clem’s.  Everything was too clean, too neat, too obviously not anyone’s home anymore.  With an impact that she wasn’t expecting, the realization that Spike had really gone and might not be coming back hit Buffy, causing a sudden ache in her chest. Tears filled her eyes and she slid down to the floor next to the tomb upon which they’d had sex   Made love? Maybe he was... so many times when they couldn’t wait long enough to get downstairs to the bed.

 She wasn’t sure how long she had sat there sniffling and feeling sorry for herself, when she was startled by sounds from outside the crypt. She jumped to her feet, stake at the ready.  The door opened slowly and she relaxed when she saw Clem’s head peering cautiously around it.

 “Oh, Slayer. It’s you.  I was afraid someone was trying to steal....” His voice trailed off as he noticed her red eyes and the tearstains on her face.

 “Hi, Clem,” she sniffled as he came the rest of the way in, dragging a baseball bat with him.  “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.  I shouldn’t be here; I’m going now.”

 “It’s OK, Slayer.  I’m sure he wouldn’t mind your being here. I’m just trying to keep out the riff raff,” Clem responded apologetically.  “You know, just in case he....”

 “Comes back?” she finished for him.  “So you don’t think he’s going to? Come back, I mean.”

 “I don’t know. I don’t think he expected to be gone this long. But he didn’t say he wasn’t,” he added quickly as her face fell.

 “Well, I guess there’s no reason for him to, really.... I mean except to get his stuff.” She gestured to the dusty books and CD’s on a low shelf.

 Clem looked at her as sympathetically as a demon could. “I wouldn’t say that, Slayer.  Maybe I'll hear from him soon. He has my cell number.  Do you want... should I give him a message from you?  Say ‘Hi’ or something?”

 

            “Tell him I said I forgi—no, Just tell him I’m sorry. For everything,” she said softly.  “Thanks, Clem.”

 She started out the door and stopped at the threshold. “Uh, Clem? I might, I mean if you see....” She blew out her breath.  “I’m going to try to clean up the downstairs – just in case.  Probably be in the daytime, but just so you know.  In case you’re wondering where the stuff went.”

 “Sure, Buffy.  No problem.  Good night.”

 “Good night, Clem.”

~~~~~~~~~~

 Over the next few weeks, Buffy got in the habit of stopping by the crypt two or three times a week to work at cleaning up the mess in the lower chamber.  There really wasn’t much left after the grenade and fire, but she grimly worked her way through the room, filing trash bags with debris and shovels full of cooked demon eggs.  By the time she’d worked her way to what was left of the bed, it had become such a routine activity that she almost shoveled up and threw out a metal box that seemed undamaged by the fire.  Buffy turned the box over in her hands, debating about opening it, then decided it would be all right.   It’s just debris, after all. If it was important to him, he would have taken it with him.

 Inside were some photos, older books and what turned out to be a journal. She glanced at the first few entries; realizing with a start that they were addressed to her.  She could see from the dates they had been written while she was dead.

 Picking one at random, she began reading. “Hello, darling girl. It’s day seventy-three since I failed to stop Doc from cutting Dawn.  I am so sorry I failed you like that. I know if I had done what I promised, you wouldn’t have had to jump and the world wouldn't be such a dark place. My golden girl would still be in it.  I didn’t keep my promise then, but I’m doing my best now to keep the Niblet safe.  I’d walk out into the sun and end this pain if it weren’t for her. She still needs me to guard her and keep her spirits up.  And, she helps me be strong. I have to stay strong for her.  I don’t think she realizes it’s my fault you died.  I should tell her, I guess. but I’m such a coward.  I love her - not just because she’s made from you, but for herself.  I couldn’t stand for her to hate me.  I have to stop now. It’s time to meet her at the Magic Shop and see her safely home.  I miss you, Buffy.  Until tomorrow, love.”

 By the time she got to the end of the passage, Buffy was sobbing so hard she couldn’t breathe.  Great racking sobs that felt like they would tear her throat.

 Oh my god. All this time he blamed himself for my death. How could I not have seen that?

Closing the box and clutching it and the journal, Buffy carried them up the ladder to the crypt.  She put the journal on the shelf with the books, planning to take it with her to read at home. At the last second, she changed her mind and put it back in the box. She knew, although the entries were addressed to her, she was never meant to see them and she had no right to invade Spike’s privacy. 

As she walked in the direction of the door, rubbing the tears off her face with the back of her hand, she noticed that the sun was down and she could hear voices outside.  Voices that seemed to be coming straight toward the closed door.  She quickly glanced around for something to use as a weapon, settling on an old broadsword hanging on the wall.

 Holding the sword loosely at her side, Buffy waited to see who or what was walking toward a crypt after dark.  This being Sunnydale, the odds were pretty slim that it was human and benign.

 “I’m finding that pretty hard to believe, Clem...” she heard in a familiar accent. “I doubt the Slayer would be caught anywhere near here, ‘less it was to blow it up again.”  His voice trailed off as he took in the girl holding his sword and facing the door with wide eyes.

 He stared at her for a full minute before reacting. “Of course, I could be wrong,” he whispered, almost to himself.

 Clem glanced from one to the other, realized they didn’t even know he was there, and silently slipped out of the tomb.

 “Spike...”

 “Buffy...”

 “You first, Slayer.

 “No, you first. Where have you been?”  She cringed at the sharp tone of her voice, but Spike was responding before she could apologize.

 “What do you care?” he growled. “I was away from you. Was what you wanted, wasn’t it?  Me out of your life?  I didn’t – don’t – belong in it.  I get that now.  I’m sorry I couldn't see it before.”                     

 “Oh,” she said faintly, the joy she had first felt beginning to fade in the face of his seeming indifference.  “Then why did you come back?”  She turned around to hang up the sword so that he couldn’t see her face or the tears standing in her eyes.

 “Just to get my stuff. Then I’ll be gone.  Not much left, I guess,” he added, looking around the neat and tidy crypt.  “What are you doing here, anyway? Burnin’ the rest of it?”

 “What? Oh, no! No, I was just, I mean Clem and I....” In her eagerness to deny that she was trying to damage anything, Buffy whirled around and Spike could see the unshed tears in her eyes.

 “Slayer? Buffy? What’s wrong?” He glided across the floor to her so quickly she barely had time to take a ragged breath and try to slow her beating heart.

 Spike faced her from only a foot or so away, staring at her with bewilderment .  She knew he could hear how fast her heart was beating and she tried control the trembling she couldn’t help.  She could see the instant he misunderstood her reaction, his thoughts clear on his expressive face.

 “Buffy, please, love. Don’t be afraid of me.  I could never hurt you – again. Never.  If I could take back what I did... tried to do... before, believe me, I would.  I’ll never forgive myself for that.  I don’t expect you to forgive me, but please don’t look at me like that... Don’t be afraid of me.”

 His anguished plea startled her out of her daze and she reached a hand toward him.

 “I’m not afraid of you, Spike.”

 “Then what’s wrong?”

 “I’m afraid you’re going to leave again and... and... I....” She looked directly into his eyes, saying softly, “I don’t want you to leave.  I missed you.  Please don’t leave me again.”  The brimming tears spilled over and ran down her face.

 Astonishment, hope, fear chased themselves across his face as he gaped at her.

 “What are you saying?” he choked out.  “You want me here?  After what I did? Are you daft, woman?”

 “May - maybe. Probably.” She gave a shaky laugh.  “All I know is these have been the longest three months of my life. Not knowing where you were, why you left—well, okay, I get why you left, but.... Not knowing if you were alive or a pile of dust somewhere.”  She stopped and looked at him.    “I know I have no right to ask.....

 He stepped closer, so that they were almost touching, “You can ask me for anything, love.  That hasn’t changed and it never will. But how do we come back from....” His gaze searched her face, seeking some clue to what she wanted.

 “I forgive you for what you did, and you forgive me for driving you to do it.  And, then, maybe we can start over?”

 “I’ll never forgive myself,” he growled.  “I can’t now.”

 “Now? What’s now got to do with it?”

She reached a hand toward his cheek but stopped before she touched it.  There was something different about him, something new; but she couldn’t put her finger on what it might be.  She tried looking into his eyes more closely but he quickly turned away.

“Nothing,” he sighed.  “Don’t know what I’m saying.  Never mind.... So,” he continued after an uncomfortable minute of silence during which she stared at him and tried to figure out what was so different. “Starting over. How do we do that, exactly?”  He looked down at the face he knew so well and had never expected to see gazing at him with as much affection as he saw in it now.

 “Well, we could just, you know, start spending time together on patrol, hang out at the Bronze, stop apocalypses, the usual stuff.”

 “Alright. Sure. That sounds like a plan,” he agreed. “Take it slow. Get to know each other again.”

 Even as he agreed with her, his eyes darkened with desire and she knew he was responding to her reaction to his nearness. Without either of them consciously moving, they suddenly found themselves standing close enough for him to feel her nipples touching his chest and for her to feel the growing bulge in his pants. 

“Or,” Buffy said hoarsely,  “We could just skip right to the kissing...”

 She reached up and pulled his mouth down to meet hers.   Spike groaned as he pulled her closer in an effort to feel every square inch of the body that had melted into his.

 “I missed you so much,” he whispered into her mouth.

 Buffy found that her legs had turned to jelly and she clung to his neck to keep from sinking to the floor. Not as much as I missed you.  Why can’t I say that out loud? To him?  He has a right to know. As she rethought the value of staying upright and pulled Spike down to the floor with her, she decided he was probably getting the picture. Even if I can’t say how much I missed him.  He’s got to be figuring that out about now....

 For minutes their hands flew around, touching, caressing, tactile memories emerging immediately as though the past few months had been only days.  Buffy could tell Spike was still unsure about her willingness to continue.  His kisses were long and deep and full of tenderness and barely-suppressed passion, but except for holding her to him as though he was drowning and she was the only thing keeping him afloat, he was hesitating to put his hands on her bare skin. 

 Buffy stopped running her hands over his lean, muscular body long enough to rip off his shirt so she could feel him completely.  She put her mouth on his chest, covering it with kisses and stopping to run her tongue around his nipples.  When she reached his navel and began to unbuckle his belt, Spike finally accepted that she meant what she said about forgiving him and with a growl he pulled off her shirt and bra to gain access to her breasts.

 He began a running monologue of endearments as his hands and lips traveled around her body.   Although his hands were cool, they left heat everywhere they touched, and Buffy was soon moaning and trembling as the rest of their clothing was pushed off.   When Spike tried to move his mouth down her body to bring her to orgasm with his tongue and mouth as he always had before, she stopped him and pulled him up onto her body.

 “No,” she murmured.  “I want you inside me, now.”

 “Buffy,” he hesitated, his erection pushing gently at her entrance, “Are you sure about this, love?”

 She met his worried eyes without a qualm and told him firmly, “I’m very sure. “

 For the first time since the night she climbed up his body and lowered herself onto him so long ago, they maintained eye contact as he slid into her.  When she saw the adoration and awe on his face, Buffy smiled and clenched her muscles around him.  “Welcome home, William,” she said gently.

 

            The End