Title: Even Champions Need a Home

Author: Slaymesoftly

Rating: PG13

Disclaimer: It didn’t happen this way, because the man who owns these characters didn’t write it. But he said I could. J

Summary: It’s the summer before Season VII; Buffy is led to Spike and told he is a champion that she must take care of until it’s time for him.  She’s dubious at first, but very glad to see him again.  Important conversations are had, as they should have been, before he goes up like a candle.

AN:  Although, this was written for Seasonal Spuffy, I started it based on a banner that I liked at a “fic for banner” community – may have been WriterCon UK, I don’t remember. Anyway, it turned out that someone else had already chosen that banner and I didn’t want to share (lol), so I chose another one and tucked this idea away.  But I wanted to tell the story, so I brought it out and tried to bend it so as to at least approach the “Humor” “Hope” themes. 

This gorgeous banner, as was the original one, is from my wonderful beta, Always_jbj, who is multi-talented.  Aren’t I lucky?

 

Description: Patti_champ

 

 

Even Champions Need a Home

 

Chapter One

 

“You miss him, don’t you?”  Dawn’s voice held an accusatory tone that Buffy just wasn’t in the mood to hear.

 

“What if I do?  It’s none of your business.”

 

“You’re mooning over a soulless demon who tried to rape you, and you don’t think it’s my business?”  Dawn’s voice rose as she got into her subject.  “You carried on a sleazy affair with him all last year that you couldn’t even tell me about, you were so ashamed of it, and I’m not supposed to care that you obviously want to start up all over again?”

 

“Since when do you call Spike a ‘soulless demon’?  And I never told you he tried to rape me—“

 

“You didn’t have to.  We all know what he did.”

 

“Xander.”  Buffy’s voice was hard and cold.  “I guess that explains the ‘soulless demon’ remark from the girl who used crush on Spike so hard she couldn’t see straight.”

 

“At least my eyes were opened before he got a chance to hurt me.”

 

Buffy whirled on her sister.  “If you believe that Spike would ever, ever do anything to hurt you, you’re... you’re even dumber than you look!”

 

Without another word, Buffy left the house, storming down the street without a clear destination, but knowing that she had to get away.  A small voice in her head was suggesting that instead of getting angry at Dawn, she could have quietly explained that the situation was a bit more complicated than Xander had indicated.  She told the little voice to “shut up” and continued walking, resolutely turning her eyes away from the gate to Restfield Cemetery. 

 

She still checked Spike’s crypt once or twice a week when she patrolled there, but she’d long since quit expecting to see him. She and Clem had settled into a quiet understanding that when Buffy wanted to spend some time in the crypt, he would go out for snacks, returning only when the dark interior told him that she had left.  His tentative question about whether she wanted to talk had earned him the first Slayer glare he’d ever received, and he quickly decided he never wanted that look turned his way again.  So he hadn’t mentioned that he thought he’d seen Spike slipping through an alley several weeks ago.  When, after a couple of weeks, the vampire hadn’t shown up to reclaim his crypt, Clem decided that he must have been imagining things and was very glad he hadn’t mentioned it to the Slayer.

 

After walking most of the way through Sunnydale, Buffy finally decided that the only thing that was going to take the edge off her anger was to slay something, and she headed for the nearest graveyard.  Luck was with her as she came upon a small group of vamps clustered around a new grave, clearly waiting for its inhabitant to rise. 

 

“Is this a private party, or can anyone play?” she chirped, mentally chiding herself for the lameness of her quip.

 

“It’s private,” one of them snarled without even looking at her.  When one of his more alert companions began to poke him, harder and harder as Buffy continued towards them, he finally lifted his gaze from the still-undisturbed grave in front of him.

 

“Slayer.”

 

“Vampire.”

 

“Get her, boys!”

 

By the time he finished speaking, two of the “boys” were drifting away and Buffy was punching the remaining one while she alternately pretended it was Spike, Xander or Dawn.  By the time she drove a stake through the bewildered vamp’s chest, she had worked off enough anger that she was able to shrug when she realized that the leader of the little gang had run off.  She sat down on a nearby tombstone and waited for the new one to rise – which he did very soon, not even making it out of the ground before she turned him to dust.

 

            “I guess Spike would have said that wasn’t very sporting,” she mused, staring at the dust falling back onto the barely disturbed grave.  “But he’s not here, so, hey, bonus points for not making a dusty mess on somebody else’s grave.”

 

            With a sigh that there was no one around to appreciate her humor, she allowed herself to admit how much she missed the latest man that she appeared to have driven out of her life.  Unlike Xander and Dawn, Buffy was more than aware that she had allowed Spike to work himself into the frenzy that led to his attack on her, and that she hadn’t stopped him when she should have. By the time she’d realized that he was seriously planning to physically ”show” her that she loved him, he had already gone so far beyond what was acceptable – even between them – that her final ugly words were unnecessary.  His face had said everything about how he felt about himself.  She couldn’t even claim to be surprised when she’d taken Dawn to his crypt and found that he had left Sunnydale.

 

            Even as she’d told herself that it was good that he was gone – that they were not good for each other – she accepted his desertion with the resignation of someone who had never had a man stay by her when things went wrong.  If there was a small trace of relief that he had only left town and not dusted himself, she’d smothered it under her self-righteous anger that he would take the easy way out and leave, rather than to stay and face her.

 

            With a small sigh for what was past, she turned her feet towards Revello Drive, determined to go home and talk it out with her sister.

 

```````````````````````````````

            The following evening, Buffy patrolled with little enthusiasm.  As usual, the Hellmouth was quiet during the summer months, the small group of vamps she’d met the night before being the first action Buffy had found for weeks.  So, when a strange, funky–smelling, almost human-looking demon began strolling beside her, she didn’t look at him with her normal suspicion. 

 

            “Go away.  It’s summertime and I’m on vacation.”

 

            “The Slayer doesn’t get vacations,” he responded without missing a beat.

 

            “So, you’re here to be slain?  Happy to oblige...”

 

 She shot out one arm and grabbed him by the throat.  She listened to his frantic gurgles for a few minutes, watched his bulging eyes and waving hands, and cocked her head at him.  With a shrug and a harsh laugh, she released his neck and continued walking.  She had several minutes to enjoy her solitude before he caught up with her, his hand rubbing his throat protectively.

 

“Can’t take a hint?”

 

“Oh, I got the hint, Slayer.  Loud and clear.  Just my luck, I have to answer to somebody even crankier.”

 

“Crankier than me?  Hey! Would you come home with me and tell my sister that you know someone like that?”

 

“You’re kidding, right?” he said uneasily. 

 

Buffy gave the patented Summers eye roll.  “Why, no, I’m not kidding. I always invite disgustingly dirty demons back to my house to meet my little sister.”  She smacked him on the side of the head, knocking him into the side of a building and pinning him there with her glare.  “Tell me what the hell you want and then get out of my boring life.  Now,” she added, in case he hadn’t understood clearly.

 

“I’ve been trying to,” he mumbled, hastily changing to “yes, ma’am” at her growled, “What was that?”

 

“The Powers That Be have sent me to Sunnydale to tell you that you need to find their champion.  He needs help, and you’re the only one who can save him.”

 

“Find their champion?  Angel’s in trouble? Why didn’t you just say so, you moron? Where is he?”

 

“Not Angelus.”  He shook his head.  “There is another...”

 

“Another?  The Powers have another champion? And he needs me?  Sheesh! Can’t they pick on somebody else?  How did I become the keeper of the champions?”  Buffy waved her arms around, sounding more annoyed than she actually was.  At least she now had something to do.  Something to brighten up her boring, lonely summer.  “All right.  Where is he?  And who is he?  How will I know if I’ve found him?”

 

“You’ll know.  It might take you a while, but you’ll figure it out.  They have faith in you.”

 

“Faith in me.  Great – faith? Yes. Information? No.  Typical!”

 

“I’m... um... just going to... to go now.  That was all I was supposed to do – just tell you to find the champion and to help him.”  He started to slink away, only to be pulled up short by Buffy’s hand on his collar.

 

“Ewww – when was the last time you washed your neck?” she said, making a face, but not relinquishing her hold.  “And where the hell do you think you’re going?  You’re not leaving until we find this so-called champion. So get over that idea.”

 

“But… but…”

 

“But me no buts, buddy…” She paused to appreciate her alliteration, then continued, “You’re not leaving until we find this so-called ‘champion’ and figure out what exactly I’m supposed to do with him.  It is a him, I take it?”

 

“I guess so,” he muttered rebelliously. “Never heard of a woman being called a ‘champion’…” One look at Buffy’s narrowing eyes and he hastily added, “Unless she was a slayer, of course.”

 

“Right. So we have to find some guy who is supposed to be the Powers’ next champion… and then what? Give him the good news and tie him down so he can’t escape his fate?”

 

“Uh… well, they did mention ‘helping him’, so I’m not sure if—”

 

“Figure of speech, Pigpen.  I’m not really going to tie anybody up and force him to be a champion.  If he wants it, fine; if he doesn’t, he can complain to the PtB.  The line forms behind me.”

 

She started walking again, making no attempt to slow her gait enough for her new companion to keep up. 

 

“So where does one go about finding a champion – especially one who doesn’t know that’s what he is?”

 

“Well,” he hesitated, then plunged ahead, “where did you find Angel?”

 

Buffy’s brow creased as she tried to remember the first time she saw Angel.  “I think he found me,” she finally answered. “Came to give me some kind of cryptic advice or something… or maybe he helped me out in a fight… something like that.”

 

“Maybe all you need to do is get into a fight, then,” he said cheerfully.  “Yell, ‘help, help’ and the new champion will come running.”

 

She just glared at him until he turned away.

 

“Fine, if you don’t want to do that, why don’t we look where you would least expect to find a champion?  Someplace only evil things would go.  Got someplace like that around here?”

 

“There’s the Hellmouth…” Buffys said reluctantly.  “But it’s underneath the new high school.  I don’t think…”

 

“Hellmouth. Right. Now that I think of it, it seems to me that they did say something about a hellmouth.  What was it…? Something about getting their champion out of it “until it is his time”.  He retreated from her lethal glower.  “What?  I just remembered it. It’s not my fault it didn’t sound important.”

 

“If this turns out to be a wild goose chase, I’m going to make it your fault,” she said, grabbing his collar again.  “Let’s go, Pigpen.  Let’s go find this “champion” who’s so lame, he needs my help.”

 

“My name’s Harry.”

 

“Whatever.”

 

Buffy approached the newly finished school building with mixed guilt and trepidation.  She tried to tell herself that the students would be grateful to her for blowing up the old building and giving them this nice, shiny new one, but she couldn’t help peering over her shoulder as though Principal Snyder could have survived being swallowed and then blown up with the snake that ate him. 

 

It would be just like him to haunt the place and try to expel me for blowing it up.  “Miserable little weasel…”

 

“Hey! I’m cooperating here. Can you lay off the name-calling?”

 

“Huh?”  Buffy blinked at the insulted demon, then realized that she’d spoken aloud.  “Oh, I didn’t mean you – I was thinking about the man who used to be the principal here.  He didn’t like me very much.”

 

“What a shocker,” the demon muttered, earning himself another cuff on his ear.

 

In preparation for the planned opening of the new school in a few weeks, the building was unlocked and lights were on as workers ran in and out finishing last-minute touch-ups and painting.  They easily entered through an open door, dodging men carrying paint cans and drop cloths, and Buffy headed unerringly for the fire stairs.  She opened the door and nodded for the demon to go first.

 

“After you, Pigpen.  Maybe you’ll get another flashback and remember something useful – like where in this warren of rooms and hallways, a “champion” might be lurking.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Buffy stared at the stairway leading to the old basement and sighed heavily.

 

“We’re going to have to go down there, aren’t we?” she asked rhetorically, ignoring the demon’s “Duh!” and pushing past him.  

 

“Well, there’s no way a champion is hiding anywhere up here,” the recently renamed Pigpen pointed out unnecessarily.  The level of activity on the upper floors and in the new basement was too great for anyone to have hidden away in one of the rooms.

 

They had been walking for what seemed like hours, first through the newly constructed parts of the basement, and then into the debris-filled older areas.  As they approached the actual location of the Hellmouth and Buffy pushed open the door into that room, she said firmly, “I’m giving this ten more minutes and then I’m--”

 

“Bingo.”  The whispered comment from her companion shocked Buffy out of her complaint.  Her eyes followed his awed stare until they encountered the half-naked vampire flinching away from the opened door.

 

“Sp-Spike?  What are you doing here?”

 

She walked towards him slowly, taking in the fearful look on his face and the bleeding cuts on his chest.

 

“And what happened to you?” she asked more softly, raising a tentative hand towards his chest.  “Why are you hiding down here?”

 

“Hurts,” he said, pointing to his bare chest and clawing at the fresh wounds marring the smooth skin there.  “Tried to take it out, but it won’t.”

He raised anguished eyes to Buffy.  “Hurts,” he repeated, before retreating to a nest that he had obviously made for himself against one wall.

 

            “Well, stop pawing at it!”  Buffy’s sharp tone was all it took for the vampire to cringe into a whimpering ball, cowering against the rock wall. She bit her lip, but couldn’t bring herself to apologize; instead, she approached him again, intending to coax him into standing up.

 

            “Wait, Slayer.” Harry’s voice was suddenly less deferential than before.  “Let me see him.”

 

            “What’s to see? It’s Spike.  He’s not the champion.  I don’t know what he’s doing here, or why he’s acting so weird, but—”

 

            “Let me.”

 

            Harry stepped closer to the wary vampire and studied his chest and face.  Spike never looked at him or acknowledged his presence, keeping his eyes firmly focused on the girl standing by and tapping her foot.  When she continued to fidget impatiently, he squeezed his eyes closed, muttering to himself.

 

            “Beneath her. Not worthy.  Know that.  Mustn’t hurt the girl.  Not for me. Never for me.”

 

While Buffy watched, embarrassed at Spike’s babbling and hoping that Harry wouldn’t understand what he was talking about, the demon leaned forward and stared intently into the vampire’s damp eyes.  An expression of awe came over his face, and he backed away, shaking his head.

 

“Whoa!”

 

“Whoa? What, whoa?  It’s Spike.  He’s not a ‘whoa’, he’s a…”

 

“He’s a vampire with a soul,” Pigpen said, still backing away. “An’ it looks like this one went and got it put in on purpose.”  He pointed at the gouges on Spike’s chest and continued, almost to himself, “I think he might be having second thoughts about it, though.”  He moved close again, flinching when Spike went into game face and snarled at him.  “Easy, fella.  I’m not gonna hurt you…”

 

In his eagerness to get closer to Spike, he accidentally brushed against Buffy, causing her to stumble.  Immediately, Spike lunged at him, fangs and claws bared.  Buffy’s hand on Spike’s chest sent him cowering to the floor, vampire mien gone, replaced by a mournful human’s apologetic face.  He shrank back away from the touch of her hand.

 

“Mustn’t touch. No touching.”

 

Buffy knelt beside the muttering vampire, her hand suspended over his cowering body. 

 

“Spike?” she said softly. “Spike, it’s me, Buffy.  What happened to you?  Where have you been?”

 

“Away. Gone away. Africa.”

 

“Africa?”

 

She raised puzzled eyes to the still awe-struck demon beside her.

 

“Do you know what he’s talking about?  Why would he go to Africa? What could he do there that he couldn’t do here?”

 

Without actually answering Buffy, Harry shook his head, whispering softly to himself.  “I thought that was just a legend.  Nobody ever told me it was real…”

 

“What was a legend?”  Buffy’s impatience was making Spike cower even further into his corner, and without taking her eyes off the whispering demon, she put a soothing hand on the vampire’s arm, stroking it softly. 

 

“There’s this old story, about a really ancient demon that lives in a cave somewhere in Africa.   If you can survive his trials, he’ll grant your wish – whatever it is.  They say the only reason there isn’t some demon ruling the world right now is because it’s so hard to find him and those few that do never come back out of that cave.”

 

‘What’s that got to do with Spike?  I’m sure he didn’t make a wish to find himself living over the Hellmouth and eating…” Her gaze fell on the small bones littering the floor,  “rats,” she finished, unable to hide the disgust in her voice. 

 

“I think he wished for his soul.” Harry’s voice was still soft and full of awe.  “He passed all those tests and asked for his soul.”

 

He turned his eyes on Buffy.  “I think you’ve found your champion, Slayer.  I suggest you take good care of him.  This is one very special vampire.”

 

The demon turned to go, making it almost to the door before Buffy recovered her voice enough to snap, “Where do you think you’re going?”

 

“I’m done.  Told you what to look for, helped you find him, what else do you want from me?”  His voice took on a whiny tone. “I want to leave now.”

 

“First you have to help me get him out of here,” Buffy said firmly.  “And explain to my friends what you just told me about the soul.”

 

“They won’t believe you?”  He couldn’t hide the surprised interest in his voice and Buffy glared at him.

 

“It’ll go over better coming from you,” she finally admitted.  “They think I’m a little… biased… when it comes to Spike.”

 

“Interesting… Heaven’s Chosen One’s own friends don’t trust her judgment.  Might be worth sticking around here for a while after all,” he added with a grin as Buffy’s expression darkened. 

 

After much coaxing from Buffy and encouragement from Harry, Spike consented to try to follow them out of the basement.  He alternated between scolding himself for touching Buffy, and clinging to her hand like a lost child.  They were at the foot of the stairs, looking up towards the new building overhead when Spike suddenly froze and cowered again.

 

“No!  No! Not real.  A trick.  Trying to trick me…” He struggled to pull away from Buffy’s hand, staring intently at something neither she nor Harry could see.

 

“Help me!” she demanded, holding on the frightened vampire as best she could.

 

 Very reluctantly, the demon took Spike’s other arm and between the two of them they began to pull him forward.  Harry looked over his shoulder in the direction that Spike was still staring and shuddered.

 

“Let’s get out of here, Slayer,” he said through clenched teeth. “I’m not sure what’s spooked him, but I’m feeling something…something very—”

 

“Evil,” Buffy interrupted.  “Yeah, I got that. My slayer senses are going crazy.  There’s something here – something besides us and a crazy vampire.”

 

Half-dragging and half-carrying the protesting vampire, they made their way up the stairs and into the well-lit hallway above.  Hissing at Spike to “stand up and act normal!” Buffy smiled her best cheerleader smile at the workmen who were staring curiously at the pretty girl and the two very scruffy and strange looking men with her.   Hellmouth born and raised, the foreman quickly called their attention back to their work, allowing Buffy and her two companions to pass unmolested.  He gave the grateful slayer a small salute when she mouthed “thank you” to him as she tugged Spike towards the exit.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Now what?”

 

Buffy hadn’t stopped moving until she felt that they’d put a respectable distance between themselves and the unseen, but clearly there, evil that had haunted the basement.  She watched Spike carefully, noting how he was visibly relaxing with each long stride away from the Hellmouth.  When she was sure that he wasn’t going to tear away from them and run back to his lair in the basement, she stopped.

 

“Now we go to my house,” she said in response to the Harry’s question. “There’s nobody there but my sister, Dawn.  We’ll try to fill her in and maybe we can get Spike to speak to us.”

 

“I can speak!” Spike said indignantly. “To be or not to be, that is the question,” he declared in a voice that carried down the street.  “Et tu, BrutŹ!  How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”

 

“Speak intelligently,” Buffy said with a sigh.  “You know, like a sane person?”

 

“Oh.” He subsided immediately. “Well, you didn’t say that, did you? Not sane, you know.  Mad as a bedbug, I am.”  He seemed almost proud of the fact that he wasn’t sane, saying conversationally, “Did you know that there were bedbugs down there?  Tasty little critters, but not much to them. Left me a bit peckish.”

 

“Bugs. Wonderful.  As if the way you smell wasn’t a good enough reason to throw you in the shower when we get home.”  The rest of his rambling sentence finally registered and she asked sharply, “What have you been eating? Are you hungry?”

 

“No,” he said hastily.  “Haven’t been feeding.  Wouldn’t do that.  No feeding.  It would be wrong.  Can’t make me.  Won’t!”

 

He was becoming visibly agitated and Buffy rolled her eyes but said soothingly, “It’s all right. Nobody’s going to make you eat.  I just thought maybe we should get some blood on the way home.”

 

“Home?  I’m going home?”  He looked around in bewilderment, then began to pull in the direction of his crypt.

 

“Not there, Spike.”  Buffy tried to soften her tone when he cringed again.  “Not that home,” she said more softly.  “We’re going to my house.  I need to find out what happened to you.”

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Spike continued to mutter to himself, alternating between poetry, lines from plays and apologies to invisible people.  Holding tightly to one hand, Buffy towed him along behind her.  As they approached the house, she began to regret not having had the planned talk with Dawn before she went out for the evening.

 

With some trepidation, she opened the front door and pulled a reluctant Spike and even more reluctant Harry into the house.  Dawn glanced up, her face going hard and cold as she saw who Buffy was bringing in.  She took in the cowering vampire and the uncomfortable and seedy–looking man behind him, then stood up and crossed her arms over her chest in an unconscious imitation of her sister.

 

“What is he doing here?”

 

“He’s… he needs… he’s got some problems, okay?  I need to figure out what’s going on and what’s wrong with him before I let him go.  I’m afraid he’ll hurt himself.”

 

“And that’s a bad thing, because…?”

 

“Dawn.”  Buffy gave a sigh and signaled for the demon to close the door.  “Just listen, okay?  You can be mad at him if you want, but I need to talk to him; and you need to hear what he’s done.”

 

“I’ve already heard it,” Dawn said flatly, turning her back on them.  Spike never saw the turned back, as his own gaze remained fixed on the floor.  If he was at all bewildered or upset about her rejection, he gave no sign of it.

 

“No!” Buffy said loudly, causing Spike to whimper and pull away.  She quickly pulled him back to her side, then forced him into a chair.  She pointed at the wary Pigpen and said curtly, “Stay right there and make sure he doesn’t leave.”

 

She walked up and spoke to Dawn’s rigid back.  “No, you don’t know,” she said firmly.  “You know what Xander thinks he saw, and you heard his interpretation of what it was.  And that’s not what I’m talking about now, anyway.”

 

“You never denied it.”

 

Buffy sighed. “No, I didn’t, and that was wrong of me.  But I was angry and upset and… and then he was gone and it didn’t seem to matter what anyone thought.”

 

“So, you’re saying he didn’t try to rape you?”

 

“It’s complicated, Dawn….”

 

“Not really. It’s a pretty simple yes or no question. Either he did or he didn’t.”

 

While Buffy’s struggled with what to answer, Spike’s suddenly sane-sounding voice came from the depths of his chair.

 

 “I did,” he said quietly. “You’re right to be angry, Bit.”

 

“Don’t call me that!” Dawn’s voice was trembling, whether with anger or something else, it wasn’t clear.  “You don’t get to call me that.  You don’t get to call me anything.  Don’t talk to me!”

 

Without another word, she left the room and stomped up the stairs to her room, slamming the door hard enough to rattle the pictures on the walls.

 

“Well,” Harry said cheerily, “That went well, don’t you think?”

 

“Shut up.”

 

Before Buffy could elaborate, Dawn came storming back down the stairs and stopped in front of the startled demon.

 

“And who the hell are you, and what are you doing in my house?” she demanded, casting an unforgiving teenaged eye over his rumpled and dirty clothing and lack of haircut.

 

“That’s Pigpen,” Buffy explained quickly. “The Powers that Be sent him here to--”

 

“Name’s actually Harry,” he interrupted, holding out one grimy hand; then thinking better of it, he stuffed the hand in his pocket and tried to look harmless. “And I’d be more than happy to be on my way now that I’ve shown the slayer here where her champion was hiding.”

 

“Her what?”

 

“If you’ll just sit down and listen for a minute, I – we – he can explain,” Buffy pleaded.  “And stop yelling. It frightens Spike.”

 

“Spike is NOT afraid of my yelling,” Dawn huffed, as she came into the room further but remained standing.  “He’s used to it.”

 

“That was before.  He’s a little more… vulnerable now,” Buffy said softly.

 

“He’s going to be a little more dusty once Xander finds out he’s back,” Dawn pointed out.  She cast a glance over the oddly silent vampire, taking in for the first time his half-dressed state, the gouges on his chest and the uncharacteristic meekness of his demeanor.  “What happened to him?” she finally asked, doing her best to appear uninterested in the answer.

 

Buffy pointed to Harry.  “You’re on, Pigpen,” she said.

 

“Harry,” he countered, crossing his arms stubbornly.

 

“Fine. Harry.  Doesn’t make you any cleaner, you know,” she muttered.

 

Satisfied that he had gotten all he was going to get in the way of civility out of the slayer, the demon looked at Dawn and began to recite his orders.

 

“I’m here because the Powers sent me to help the Slayer find their new champion so that she can protect him until he has to do whatever it is they need him to do.”

 

“Spike is the champion?” Dawn put every ounce of disbelief she could into her voice, but she couldn’t resist taking another look at her former friend and caretaker.

 

“It seems so.  I mean what with the having got his soul, and all…”

 

“His what?”  Her eyes flew to Buffy who nodded reluctantly.

 

“We’ll have to ask Willow to find out for sure, but Harry says he’s got it.  And he did it on purpose – not a curse like Angel’s. He wanted it.”  She looked at Spike’s chest and absently batted his hand down as he began to scratch at it again. “Although, it kinda looks like he might have changed his mind…”

 

“Is that why he’s acting so weird?”  Dawn moved closer to the vampire, her curiosity overcoming her reluctance to talk to him.  “Is that why you’re acting so weird?” she asked directly.  “Cause you got your soul?”

 

“Can’t hurt the girl,” he mumbled, not meeting her eyes.  “Give her what she wants, what she deserves.  Don’t hurt the girl – never again.”

 

Dawn gave Buffy a suspicious look, then said shrewdly, “I’m guessing you’re the girl he’s babbling about?”

 

“Maybe. It’s not clear.”  Buffy refused to meet Dawn’s eyes, clearing her throat and trying not to seem as uncomfortable as she felt.  “The point is, it’s making him crazy – and scared of everything – so we have to be really… nice… to him for awhile.”

 

Dawn shrugged. “You’re the only one who wasn’t nice to him,” she said disdainfully.  “You, and maybe Xander after the whole Anya thing…”

 

“Sorry,” Spike blurted.  “Sorry, sorry. Hurt the girl. Didn’t mean to hurt the girl.  Jus’ wanted to forget—”

 

“That’s enough, Spike,” Buffy said firmly.   “You didn’t hurt Anya.  At least not while I was watching,” she added bitterly.

 

“Not demon-girl,” he growled.  “Didn’t hurt her. Someone else did that.  I hurt—” He stopped, shaking his head.  “Always hurt the girl.  Bad rude man, I am.”

 

“Can I go now?”  Harry’s plaintive voice broke into the vampire’s whimpering confession.  “I mean, now you’ve got a witness – and whoever this tree person is—”

 

“Willow,” Buffy said without taking her eyes off the muttering vampire. “She’s a powerful witch.  Should be back tomorrow.”

 

“Right, Willow. Anyway, if she can see souls in vampires, you’ll be golden.  You could also ask another demon – if you know any live ones.”  He raised an eyebrow at her doubtfully.

 

“Anya,” Dawn said quickly.  “She went back to being a vengeance demon. She’ll be able to tell.”

 

“Well, there you go.” Harry sighed in relief.  “You’ve got your champion – all you need to do is keep him safe until it’s time for him to do whatever it is he needs to do.  It’s been a pleasure.”  He had his hand on the doorknob when Buffy’s voice cut through air.

 

“He’s crazy!” Buffy protested.  “What am I supposed to do with a crazy vampire?”

 

“Well, I didn’t know him before, but…  are you sure he’s crazy?  Maybe he’s just a little confused?”

 

“He wasn’t crazy before. He was a little…” Buffy searched for a word. “…impulsive, but he wasn’t crazy.”

 

“He probably just needs a little TLC.  I mean, it’s got to be a shock, having a soul after all those years without one.  Might take him a while to get used to it.”

 

“Fine,” Buffy huffed.  “Go. I don’t want you around here anyway.  But you can tell the Powers that Be that it seems to me he’d be a lot more useful if he was sane!”  She waved her hand in dismissal and Harry quickly let himself out the door, muttering to himself about slayers with PMS and unreasonable expectations and issues.

 

“What are you going to do with him?” Dawn questioned, as the door shut behind the demon’s dirt-covered back.  “How do you know he’s safe to be around?”

 

“Look at him,” Buffy said quietly.  “He’s afraid of his own shadow.  I can’t even touch him without sending him scuttling away.  He isn’t going to hurt anybody.  Not while I’m around, anyway.”

 

Dawn walked over to the muttering vampire and bent down to stare into his eyes. When he tried to turn away, she grabbed his chin and forced him to look back at her.  As she watched the fear and remorse whirling in his eyes, her expression softened.

 

“It’s okay, Spike,” she whispered.  “I was mad at you, but I’m over it.  We aren’t going to hurt you; we’ll take care of you.”

 

“Hey, hey! What are you promising, Dawn?”

 

Her sister straightened up and stared at her.  “Well, we are, aren’t we?  Isn’t that what Dirty Harry said? That he was yours to take care of until he has to do his champion thing?  Anyway, he was my friend, and if he really didn’t try to rape you, then I’m going to take care of him.”

 

Spike’s eyes were moving anxiously back and forth between the two girls – one so small and deadly, the other so tall and passionate.  His gaze stopped on Buffy, uncertainty temporarily replacing the remorse that seemed to be his most consistent emotion.  She gazed back at him, her expression softening as his obvious vulnerability tugged at her.

 

“Buffy?”  His voice was small and hesitant; his eyes questioned her – unsure, but suddenly sane.  “Did you come for me?  Did you bring me… here… to your house?”

 

She exhaled loudly and came to kneel in front of him.

 

“I guess I did,” she said, touching his hand briefly and drawing back before he could finish his flinch.  “So don’t make me sorry I did it, huh?  Can we just be done with ‘crazy Spike’?”

 

“I’ll do my best, pet,” he smiled briefly as he spoke, sounding almost like himself for a second, before reverting to the shy, uncertain man who seemed so much smaller than the vampire she’d known. 

 

Buffy said quietly, “Dawn? Would you go upstairs, please?  I need to talk to Spike for a few minutes.”

 

Dawn’s normal rebelliousness was quelled by the unusually soft look on her sister’s face and by the way the former Big Bad was huddled in the chair.

 

“Okay,” she agreed. “But I’m not staying up there all night.  I need to know that you’re taking care of him.”

 

Buffy nodded, not taking her gaze off the vampire and his downcast eyes. “Fine,” she responded.  “Just give us a little while, huh? I think we have some stuff to work out.”

 

“Ya think?” Dawn snorted as she started up the stairs.

 

Spike turned his head just enough to watch the teenager leave the room, then looked down at the hands he was twisting in his lap.  Buffy was still kneeling in front of him, but after Dawn left the room she shifted so as to be sitting on the couch.  She stared at him for a few minutes, not sure where to begin; but when his eyes began to dart about and she was afraid that he was going to go back into what she was already referring to mentally as his crazy place, she quickly spoke up.

 

“Why did you do it, Spike? What would possess you to get your soul back?”

 

He shot her a disbelieving look from under his brows, then dropped his eyes again. 

 

“ ’S what you want, isn’t it? What you need?  Somebody who wouldn’t hurt you?  Couldn’t hurt you now. Wouldn’t.”

 

“You weren’t trying to hurt me, Spike. I know that.” Buffy’s voice was soft, her expression sad.  “You just wanted me to… acknowledge my feelings.”

 

“Hurt you,” he said stubbornly.  “Hurt the girl.”

 

Buffy waved her hand in front of his face. “Whoa, there, buddy. Don’t go wandering off into crazy Spike land again.”  The import of what he’d said finally sank in and she sank back with a gasp.  “For me?  You got your soul for me?”

 

“ ‘S what you wanted, isn’t it?”  Suddenly, the fear and uncertainly was back in full force.  His eyes began to dart around the room, and he rose to his feet.  “Not what you wanted. Stupid, stupid.”  He grabbed his head as though the chip was firing and moaned; then headed for the door, head down and muttering to himself.

 

“Spike!”

 

He paused with his hand on the door, but didn’t turn.  She could see the tremor in his arm as he tightened his grip on the doorknob.  She leapt to her feet and ran to get between him and the door, resting a hand on his chest lightly.

 

“Come back,” she said softly. “Please? I didn’t… I don’t… Please don’t think you’ve done something wrong.  You just surprised me, that’s all.  Come back to the living room.”

 

He stared at her hand where it rested just over his heart, trembling all over with the effort not to flinch away from her.  When she noticed his distress, she snatched her hand back but remained between him and the door. With a nod, he turned to go back into the living room, his hand brushing her arm as he took it off the doorknob. 

 

“S… sorry!”

 

Buffy shook her head and gave him a gentle shove towards the couch, following him and sitting down beside him, but safely out of accidental touching range.

 

“You know, if that soul means you’re going to be apologizing every time we touch, I think it might be defective.”  She smiled softly, willing him to see the humor in her words.  Instead, he flinched again.  “Not a good soul?  Not what you wanted?  Wrong. I did it wrong.  Not what you wanted…”

 

“Shhhh, shhhh.” Ignoring the way he cringed away from her, she took both of his hands in hers and squeezed them gently, only releasing her hold when he stopped trying to pull away. “I was making a joke.  Because you won’t touch me – or let me touch you.  There’s nothing wrong with your soul.  It’s beautiful.”

 

In one of his sudden shifts from bewildered and confused to focused and sane, he reared back and raised one eyebrow at her.

 

“You can’t see it, you daft bint.  It’s inside me. Here.” He rested a hand on his chest just over the ragged wounds from his fingernails.  “The spark is here.”

 

She rested one hand lightly on top of his, leaving it there long enough to be sure that he wasn’t going to pull away. 

 

“I know,” she said. “And I know what’s in there. I know the heart in there, and I know that any soul taking up space with it would have to be beautiful.”

 

He narrowed his eyes suspiciously, pulling his hand away and leaning back. “Who are you? Where’s the Slayer?”

 

Buffy gave a shaky laugh and moved back far enough to give him some space.

 

“Okay, I guess that was a bit much – especially for me.  But you… you’re so… fragile… right now.  I’m trying to keep you from running away again.”

 

“Again?”  He glanced around. “Haven’t gone anywhere, have I? Did I go somewhere?  Where did I go?”

 

 She could see the agitation building again and quickly, interrupted his string of questions.

 

            “I meant… when you left… before.  When you ran away after you… we…” She twisted her hands together, then stood up and began to pace. “I know that was partly my fau—”

 

            Suddenly sounding very much like his old self, he snarled, “Don’t you even THINK about finishing that sentence, Slayer.  There was only one monster in that bathroom, and it wasn’t the injured girl fighting off a rapist.”

 

            “All right, fine!” she responded impatiently.  “Have it your way. You were wrong, okay?  It was a shitty thing to do to somebody who couldn’t fight back…” She froze, memories of a bloody beating administered in an alley flooding her mind.

 

            “Don’t go there either, love,” he said, more softly but still sounding very certain. “I didn’t fight back then because I didn’t want to – not because I couldn’t. You know that.  Not the same thing at all.”

 

            “Close enough,” she muttered, resuming her pacing.  “Where was I?”

 

            “It was shitty thing to do…” he contributed helpfully.

 

            “Right.” She resumed her rant. “It was a terrible thing to do.  You’d just… with Anya… and then you wanted me to… and it was wrong!  You needed to be groveling, and bringing me flowers and… and… not trying to have sex with me! I don’t care if you did think you could use it to prove to me that I love you! It was inexcusable!”

 

            “And yet, you seem to have excused it,” he said quietly. “Else, why am I here, Buffy?”

 

            “And, we’re back to it was partly my fault,” she replied, resuming her seat on the couch.  “I know that I was the queen of mixed signals the whole time we were… whatever we were… together.  And I know that Dawn had told you how much it hur—how I reacted to seeing you with Anya’s legs wrapped around...” She bit her lip, which wanted to tremble at the memory of seeing him buried in another woman.

 

            He grabbed his bloody chest with one hand and clutched at the skin there. “You know I would rip this heart out and hand it to you, if I thought it would make up for hurtin’ you like that.”

 

            “I told you to move on,” she sniffed. “I just wasn’t expecting….”

 

            “I wasn’t expectin’ it either, love,” he said, his eyes pleading for understanding.  “Didn’t go there for that  – I went for something to make my pain go away and all she had was a bottle of scotch.  And her own crushed dreams to cry over.  We got drunk and sought some solace with each other.  That’s all it was, Buffy.  Just solace for two miserably unhappy demons whose humans didn’t want them anymore.”

 

            “So, you’re saying it’s my fault that you were boinking one of my friends? And Xander’s fault that she was boinkable?”  Her face settled into very dangerous lines, and he flinched in spite of himself.

 

            “Not saying that, love.  Nothing was your fault. You did what you thought you had to do.  And, I guess the whelp did what he thought he had to do…” He snorted. “Stupid git. Like he’ll ever get another girl to love him like that.”

 

            “Xander was an ass,” she agreed quietly.  “But I thought I was-- I didn’t like myself very much just then and I didn’t like knowing that I was using you and your feelings for me.  I didn’t want to be the kind of person who would use someone who loved her.  I thought I was doing the right thing – for both of us.”

 

            “You know how much you hate it when somebody does something ‘for your own good?’ he asked mildly.  At her guilty nod, he continued, “Don’t fancy it all that much myself.  Don’t know how you could think that taking away what little I had of you was goin’ to be good for me.”

 

            “It seemed like the thing to do at the time,” she grumbled.  “I didn’t think I loved you back, so it was wro--”

 

            “That’s twice now that you’ve said ‘love’ and ‘you’ in the same sentence.”  Spike’s voice was tightly controlled, but his hands were clenched into fists. “You want to explain that to me?”

 

            Buffy’s eyes darted around the room and she wrapped her arms around herself as she realized what she’d been implying.  She didn’t respond, too engrossed in what her subconscious had done to her to notice his tense posture.

 

            “Buffy?”

 

            “Huh? Oh. No.”

 

“No? No, what?”  His eyes hardened, even as his shoulders slumped.

 

 “No, I don’t want to explain… anything.  No explaining. Explaining wouldn’t be good. It could lead to badness…”

 

“How bad could it get?  If you want to, you can always tell me I’m daft and didn’t hear you right.”

 

“You ARE daft, whatever that means.  You were acting crazy as a… a crazy person.  And now you’re all… you again.  It’s confusing.”

 

“Yeah, it’s a mite unsettling from my side, too,” he said with a wry twist of his mouth.

 

“Well, there you go!  See? You’re all… weird and crazy and it would be very wrong of me to say anything that might confuse you even more.”

 

Buffy beamed at him, quite proud of the way she’d saved herself.  As he just held her gaze, his eyes never wavering from hers, her smile faded and she swallowed hard.

 

“Not buying that, huh?”

 

He shook his head silently, waiting patiently for her to acknowledge her own words.  She took a deep breath and slid to the floor in front of him, resting her hands on his knees and gazing up at his puzzled face.

 

“So, is this where I tell you that you were right?  That I did love you? That if I hadn’t been so hurt and angry about Anya – not to mention the big ouchie on my back – that you probably would have got what you wanted that night? That I would have admitted it?”

 

Did love me,” he repeated dully.  “Buggered that up, didn’t I?  Showed you how much beneath you I am.  Showed you just how right you were to hate it that you wanted me.”

 

Buffy shook her head.  “All you showed me was the pain you were in and how much damage my denial was doing to both of us. “  She moved from her knees back to a seat on the couch, keeping one hand resting lightly on the arm closest to her. “My stubbornness hurt you, hurt me, hurt Xander – the only one who didn’t come out of it more hurt than she was before I did it, is Anya.  She got her vengeance on Xander… and she got to make… have… get… with you.  She’s lucky I’m a forgiving person, or…”

 

Spike’s head shot up and he stared at her with wide eyes.

 

“You didn’t hurt her, did you, Slayer?  Wasn’t her fault – I made the first move. An’ the poor bint had no idea the girl I was torn up about was one of her friends.”

 

“You do understand that defending her like that isn’t exactly helping her case, don’t you?”  Buffy gave him a twisted smile, but she couldn’t hide the very real jealousy behind her question.  “And, no, I didn’t hurt her.  I’m not that unfair.”

 

She ignored his snort, choosing to believe it was only an unconscious reaction to some scent in air.

 

 “You weren’t mine anymore – and she didn’t know that you ever were.  Things were a little tense for a while, but I think we’ve worked it out.  It’s not like she’s around a lot anyway.”  She waved her hand around in a circle.  “She’s always off doing vengeance demony things, I guess.  Anyway, we don’t see much of her.”

 

“And the whelp?”

 

Buffy smiled, happy at the change of subject.

 

“Xander’s done a lot of growing up in the past few months.  He still loves her, you know – and I think she still loves him.  She’s just still really, really mad at him.  He’s taking it one day at a time.  I know they’ve been out on dates once or twice, but now that she’s a demon again…”

 

“Right up his alley, isn’t it?” 

 

Buffy nodded at his small smile and agreed with a rueful one of her own.

 

“Well, yeah, in a way it is, I guess. But he didn’t know the other girls were demons until they tried to kill him.  Anya isn’t hiding it.  She’s a full-fledged vengeance demon and she doesn’t care who knows it…”

 

“Bit of a dilemma for Mr ‘All demons are evil’ innit?”  Spike’s face was carefully neutral.  “What with the lack of soul, an’ all.”

 

“He’s having to do a little attitude adjusting,” she admitted.  “So am I, for that matter.  Anya’s a working vengeance demon; I should probably slay her.”

 

“Why haven’t you?”

 

“Well… in the first place, I haven’t actually caught her doing anything vengeancey around here.  So I don’t know that she is for absolute sure.  And in the second place, Xander would never forgive me if I did. He does still love her. And nobody would believe I was doing it because of her being a demon – they’d all think it was because of you.”

 

“Should I be flattered, or just gobsmacked that your friends think you cared that much?”  He shook his head and muttered to himself.  “All that time I wanted you to tell them about us, and turns out all I had to do was shag somebody else.”  He gave her a look that wavered between fearful and wistful. “Think of the all the opportunities I wasted, when I could have been…”

 

“I’d have staked you,” she said flatly.

 

“Yeah,” he sighed. “I suppose you would have.”  He brightened up. “Might’ve been worth it, though.  There was this girl I knew, with really big— Did you just growl at me?”

 

“No!”

 

“You sure? Cause it definitely sounded like a growl.” He drew himself up and said with great dignity, “I might be crazy, but I’m not deaf, you know.”

 

“I did NOT growl at you just because you were talking about some other girl with big… whatevers.”

 

“You growled.”

 

“I did not!”

 

“Did too.”

 

“Did not!”

 

“Too”

 

“Not”

 

“Well,” Dawn’s voice preceded her into the room.  “It’s nice to see you two having a calm, adult conversation for a change.”

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

“Spike’s crazy. He’s hearing things.  I was just trying to get him to admit it.”

 

Buffy stood up and walked out of the room.  “I’m going to fix up a bed in the basement and you can stay down there for a while. Till you get over being crazy.”

 

Dawn watched Buffy leave, then cocked her head at Spike.

 

“What was that all about?”

 

“Your sister is crazy,” he muttered.

 

“I thought that was you?”

 

“Might be.  But if I’m crazy, she’s not far behind.”  He looked at her with eyes that once again seemed to be almost normal.  “Did you know she could growl? Not as good as I do, mind you, but a real growl.  Makes you wonder what kind of stuff they stick into these little girls to make them killers, doesn’t it?”

 

“I try not to think about things like that,” Dawn said.  “You know – it just reminds me about being all green and glowy.  I don’t want to know what’s inside either one of us.”

 

“I’m just saying…most girls can’t growl, and Buffy can.”

 

“Will you drop it?”  Buffy’s voice came from the entrance to the room.

 

“Wasn’t talkin’ to you,” he grumbled. 

 

“You were talking about me.”

 

“Always talk about you, don’t I?  Even the voices in the cellar knew about you.  Used to come to me looking like you, they did.  Just like you. Sounded like you.  Didn’t smell like you, though.  That’s how I knew.  That and they couldn’t touch me.”

 

“Well, I can, and if you don’t stop saying I growled, I’m going to bloody your nose.”

 

“You just growled again…”

 

Buffy snapped her fist out and, while missing the much-abused nose, managed to knock him against the back of the chair. She was immediately sorry, but before she could say so Dawn’s furious “Buffy!” and the vampire’s retaliatory “Nice to know some things never change,” combined to keep her irritation level up.

 

“You started it.”

 

“I did.  And I’m sorry.  You have every right to… I’m an evil man, Slayer.  You should send me away.”  Once again, Spike was cringing back in his chair, refusing to meet her eyes and withdrawing into himself.

 

 With an annoyed huff, Buffy tried to control her impatience, snapping, “You’ve been away.  I want you here.”

 

There was a crashing silence while Buffy bit her tongue and Spike stared at her with confused eyes.

 

“You want me here?”

 

“Well, in the ‘I don’t want you to not be here’ sense of the word,” she muttered, refusing to look at him.

 

“You know,” he said almost to himself, “if I wasn’t already crazy, being around you would probably do it…”

 

“Don’t start,” she warned.

 

He nodded his assent.  “Right, then. Don’t talk to you, but don’t leave again. I think I’ve got it.  Anything else I should know?”

 

“You should know that the room I fixed for you downstairs is ready, and if you were smart, you’d get your insane ass down there before I forget that you’re not responsible for what you say right now.”

 

With another silent nod, he stood up and slipped past her, shooting Dawn a shy smile before disappearing into the kitchen.  They heard the basement door close behind him, and his boots thumping on the steps as he followed instructions and went down to live in their basement.

 

“So, a soul, huh?”

 

“So it seems.”

 

“How long was Angel crazy when he got his?”

 

“This is nothing like Angel’s!  Spike went and got this soul – for me.  And yeah, I guess it’s hard to get a soul and still remember all the evil things you’ve done… but Spike will be all right.”  She stared at the doorway through which Spike had disappeared and repeated softly, “He’ll be all right. He has to be.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Buffy went to bed that night, congratulating herself on how much better Spike had appeared to be when she checked on him before going to her room.

 

All he needed was to get out of that place and away from the Hellmouth. He’ll be fine now.  He should be back to normal pretty soon and then he can…

 

She lost focus when it came to thinking about what she would do with him once she was sure he was sane again.  She gave a brief thought to calling Angel to ask him to come to Sunnydale and help Spike learn to live with the soul, but quickly abandoned the idea when she had a vision of them trying to kill each other over which vampire was the more soulful.

 

Yeah, okay, maybe not.  I’d end up with two piles of souled up dust.  Stupid vampires.  You’d think the testosterone would have died off with the rest of their hormones.

 

Snuggling into her blankets, and telling herself that the fact that she couldn’t stop smiling at the thought of having Spike back, safe and secure, if not quite sane, did not mean that she was still in love with him.  She held onto that denial until his screams startled her awake and sent her flying downstairs to find out what was hurting him.  She was vaguely aware of Dawn pounding right behind her as she followed the screams into the basement where they found the vampire crying his apologies and screaming for peace.

 

“Spike!”  “Spike!”

 

 The simultaneous shouts did nothing to wake the vampire up from what was clearly a nightmare.  Buffy approached the cot upon which he was thrashing and crying, chewing her lip and wringing her hands.  When she did nothing but watch Spike flail around, Dawn made an exasperated sound and shoved her sister out of the way so that she could grab Spike’s arms and try to stop his struggles.

 

When he threw Dawn away as though she was a toy, Buffy snapped out of her daze and leapt onto him, holding his arms still and calling his name.

 

“Spike!  Spike, wake up.  It’s just a dream, William.  They can’t hurt you now.”

 

Slowly, as though her words were reaching him through water, he began to struggle less against her strong hands and his crying and shouting tapered off to soft sobs.  As he stopped flailing and settled into a steady trembling, punctuated by the occasional whimper, Buffy found herself sitting on the cot beside him.  Her arms were now wrapped around his trembling body and she began rocking gently, murmuring soothing phrases as she held him firmly.

 

She had completely forgotten Dawn’s presence until her quiet whisper interrupted Buffy’s soothing murmurs.

 

“What’s wrong with him?”

 

“Shhh. I’m not sure, but I think he’s being haunted by all the people he killed before he got his soul.  I was hoping getting him off the Hellmouth would get rid of the voices, but I guess not.”  She glanced over at her sister.  “Are you all right? Did he hurt you?”

 

“Hurt the girl!  Never meant to hurt the girl!”  Spike’s sudden cry reminded them that he was still physically present, even if he did seem to be trapped in a dreamworld.

 

“Shhhh, shhhhh.  She knows that,” Buffy crooned, pulling him against her a little harder and beginning to rock again.  “You didn’t hurt her.”

 

“I’m fine, Spike. You didn’t hurt me.  I know it was an accident.  But I’m okay, see?” 

 

Dawn tried to get where Spike could see her, but he kept his eyes squeezed tightly closed and she finally shrugged and straightened up.

 

“Okay, if you’ve got this, I’m going back to bed,” she said, trying to hide her disappointment. 

 

She flashed back to the previous year when her constant companion over the summer had suddenly gone missing as soon as her sister returned.  Although her middle school crush on the vampire was long gone, it had been replaced by a deeper and more enduring affection based on Spike’s care and the genuine friendship they had developed over the summer.  It had been a blow to her self-esteem when she saw even less of him after Buffy returned, rather than the more that she’d been expecting.  But now she understood.

 

“I’ll be upstairs, if you need me,” she said, turning to go and leaving her sister to comfort the vampire who loved her enough to get a soul for her. As she walked out and left Buffy cradling Spike’s now-quiet body, she suspected that neither one of them was likely to need her. She paused partway up the stairs and looked back over her shoulder to see them now curled up together on the cot, their arms around each other and their heads sharing the pillow as they exchanged whispers.

 

 They had what they needed.

 

the end

 

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