Title: Users  (8/15/04)

Author: Slaymesoftly

Season VI – before “As You Were” happens; non-canon

Word Count – 9350

Rating – PG, PG13 maybe

Disclaimer – Joss is the meanie who wouldn’t let them be happy this season; oh well, they’re his, after all, aren’t they?

Distribution – sure, just tell me where you’re taking it

Feedback – Please.

 

 

USERS

 

1 – Forcing the Issue

 

As the small blonde woman beside him let out a deep breath and rolled away, he thought he’d try one more time to get her to stay with him all night.

 

“So, Slayer,” he said carefully as he leaned in to kiss her shoulder, “ the Niblet’s not home tonight, the witches are out witching, I guess you can stay awhile.”  When there was no response he added softly, nuzzling her shoulder,  “Please, love?”

 

With an exasperated sigh, she sat up; snapping automatically, “Don’t call me that! How many times do I have to tell you?”

 

 Till it’s no longer true.

 

  Out loud, he just said with a shrug, “Come on, pet.  You know I call everybody pet or luv, or....”

 

“Well, not me. Okay?” she grumbled at him.

 

He closed his eyes briefly and summoned patience.  “Fine, Slayer. Not you.  Heaven forbid there should be anything remotely resembling affection or friendship here.”

 

“Exactly,” she said as she searched for her clothes.  “I don’t want any misunderstandings about what this is.”

 

The vampire silently handed her the shirt from the floor on his side of the bed, then stood up and turned his back to put on his pants.

 

“What it is, is shameful,” he muttered, yanking the zipper up with more force than necessary.  “I’m ashamed of both of us.”

 

She blinked at him in astonishment.  “Isn’t that my line?  I’m always ashamed of myself.  And disgusted,” she added.  “But I don’t know what your problem is. You’re getting what you want.”

 

He turned sharply and his eyes were blue ice.  “No, love.” He saw her flinch at the endearment, but ignored her glare. “I’m really not.  If anything, I think I’m more disgusted with us than you are.”

 

A soulless vampire is disgusted with me?  That’s it. I’ve officially reached the depths of .....whatever.

 

“You....you think I’m disgusting?  YOU think I’M disgusting?” She stared at him, horror and dismay clearly visible on her face.”

 

He looked at that beautiful face, the fright in those big green eyes and forced himself to resist the urge to pull her into his arms and tell her he could never, never think she was anything but perfect. 

 

“I think WE’RE disgusting, Buffy.  Both of us and it’s turning us into people I don’t think I like very much.”

 

Buffy’s forehead was creased as she frowned and tried to understand what he was saying.  He didn’t like her?  Spike, her stalker for years, didn’t like her?  But he loved her, didn’t he? 

 

“You don’t lo-like me anymore?” She was annoyed at the anxiety she could hear in her voice.

 

Spike rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. “I still love you,” he growled, ignoring her attempt to avoid the word.  “Of course, I love you.  If I didn’t, we wouldn’t be in this bloody mess. We could shag like bunnies whenever you got an itch, and it would all be fine.”

 

She continued to look at him with genuine bewilderment and he shook his head as he tried to explain.

 

“You know how I feel about you, and you’re taking advantage of that to get what you want.  And I was okay with that when I thought it was helping you adjust to being back and learning to enjoy life again.  But that’s not it, is it?  Coming to me is just your way of convincing yourself that something is so wrong with you that they kicked you out of Heaven. ‘I’m not worthy, so I might as well fuck a vampire.’ “  He gave her an anguished look, “You’re using me to punish yourself.”

 

There was a sharp inhalation from Buffy as Spike articulated the very thing she had been worrying about.

 

How does he do that? How does he know me so well?

 

  “You don’t care,” he continued,  “or even want to know, what it’s doing to me.  To have you and yet not have you.  I thought we were becoming friends before we.... well, before.”  He waved his hand in the general direction of his bed.  “But the girl I fell in love with wouldn’t treat one of her friends like this.”

 

“You’re getting what you want, Spike.  Don’t pretend you’re not!” the insulted Slayer spit at him.

 

“No, I’m not, Buffy.  And that’s why I’m disgusted with me.  I’m letting you use me because I’m not strong enough to refuse you – even though I know it’s not really making you happy.  I’m letting you do this to yourself just so I can pretend for a few minutes, or a few hours, that...that we have something.  That you care for me, at least a little.

 

“I love you, and yet I’m letting you use me to hurt yourself.  Letting you give yourself to someone – something - you hate; letting you punish yourself for something that wasn’t your fault ....” He snarled at the thought of the arrogant red-haired witch who had pulled her out of heaven.

 

Buffy was still staring at him, wanting to look away, wanting to stop listening, but unable to resist hearing him tell her all the things she’d been trying not to think about.

 

He took a deep, unnecessary breath and tried to control the tears threatening to fill his eyes as he struggled to finish what he was trying to say.

 

“It’s time for me to stop being selfish, time to admit that holding you for a few hours every night, touching you, kissing you....” His voice trailed off as the reality of what he was about to do took hold of him.  He growled and forced himself to continue. “That those things, as much as I want them, and as much as I will miss them...” He couldn’t control the tremble in his voice and stopped for a second to regain the control he needed to finish.

 

“Those things aren’t helping you.  They’re hurting you.  And hurting you is the last thing I want to do.”

 

“What are you trying to say?” Buffy asked as coldly as she could.  She felt a ball of ice forming in her stomach as she watched the emotions playing across his expressive face.

 

“I’m saying, lo-Slayer, that we’re destroying each other and one of us has to be strong enough to end it.”

 

“And that would be you?” she sneered in disbelief.  “Right, Spike. “

 

The sneer faded from her face to be replaced by dawning realization that he was serious.  All it took was a look at the heartbreak in his eyes to know that he meant what he said about ending it.

 

“You...you’re breaking up with me?”  She cursed the tremor she could hear in her voice as she stared into the beautiful blue eyes looking at her so sadly.

 

“Nothing to break, pet.  ‘There is no us’, remember?” He threw her own words back at her. “I’m just helping you end what’s become a destructive habit.”

 

He turned his back so that she couldn’t see his face as he added, “You’ll thank me for it someday...” It was taking every bit of self-control he had not to break down in front of her.

 

The Slayer reacted, as he knew she would, with cold anger. “Oh no, Spike,” she said venomously, “I’m thanking you for it now.  There’s nothing like having a monster tell you he’s too good for you, to put your life in perspective.”  She whirled and marched toward the door, throwing a snarl over her shoulder, “I hope you got something out of it, vampire, cause you can be sure you’ve touched me for the last time!”

 

As soon as the crypt door slammed shut behind her, the heartbroken man sank to his knees and let the sobs he’d been holding back take over.  He knew she was furious and had been looking for anything hurtful to throw at him, but her words still cut. When he could move again, he made his way to the sarcophagus that was still warm from her body.  He rolled himself up in the sheets that smelled like Buffy and cried himself into an exhausted sleep.

 

Outside the crypt, the Slayer clutched her anger to her like the life jacket it was.  As long as she had her anger, she could stay afloat and not drown in the despair she knew was waiting to pull her down.

 

 

2  Realization

 

Buffy was able to hang on to the anger for the next three weeks.  As long as she stayed angry with him, she didn’t have to face the emptiness she felt when she finished her solo patrols and had to turn her steps towards home rather than the crypt that had been her refuge from the world since she’d come back from Heaven.

 

As long as she stayed angry, she didn’t have to admit how much she missed hearing him exchange snarky remarks with Xander; missed watching him dote on her younger sister and coax her into better behavior than Buffy could get with threats of grounding.  She didn’t have to think about how much she missed his unquestioning acceptance of her every whim. And she definitely didn’t have to think about how her body ached for him when she was alone in her bed; about how she missed the cool hands that could soothe or excite her as needed; didn’t miss his warm voice murmuring endearments as he brought her mind-numbing pleasure over and over for hours.

 

When Dawn or any of the Scoobies asked about him, she blew them off with an airy, “Oh, he’s around somewhere, I guess.”  She tried not to notice the looks they were exchanging behind her back and Dawn’s steadily growing hostility.  When Dawn finally broke down and asked, “What did you do to Spike?  Why won’t he come around anymore?  What did you do, Buffy?”  She exploded with all the anger she’d been holding and stoking for weeks.

 

I  didn’t do anything!  I’m not the evil bloodsucker. I’m not the sleazy pervert, I’m not the chained demon; not the soulless monster, the crypt-dwelling petty thief who thinks he’s capable of loving just because he......”

 

She stopped to catch her breath and saw everyone was staring at her with open mouths.  “I’m not the vampire,” she continued, not noticing the edge of hysteria shaking her voice.  “I’m the Slayer.  Anything I do to him is perfectly okay because ....because ....I’m the Slayer.  I’m Heaven’s Chosen One.....I.....” Without warning, the rage that had been shielding her from the feelings she didn’t want to acknowledge was gone and with a strangled cry she ran from the Magic Box.

“Well,” Xander began, “that was.... unexpected.  I guess she and Spike must have had a fight about something.”

 

Willow frowned and looked around the table, “Buffy and Spike fight all the time.  There’s something else going on here.  Has anyone actually seen Spike in the past couple of weeks?”

 

As heads shook all around the table, Dawn’s face paled and she turned a horrified face to Tara.  “She staked him!  She staked him and she’s afraid to tell us!”  The teenager whirled and ran toward the door.

 

“Dawn! Where do you think you’re going?” Xander grabbed the hysterical girl and folded her in his arms.

 

“I’m going to his crypt.  I’m going to find...to find.” The thought of what she might find was finally too much and she collapsed in Xander’s embrace sobbing as only a child who has lost too many loved ones in too short a time can.

 

Tara and Willow came forward to add their arms to Xander’s and to try to soothe the sobbing girl.  “Dawnie, you know you can’t go to Spike’s crypt after dark without Buffy.  Tomorrow we’ll all go look, OK?  First thing in the morning.”

 

Anya spoke up from the outskirts of the group with her usual blunt assessment of a situation, “ Buffy wouldn’t stake Spike, Dawn.  She’s probably just mad because he won’t give her orgasms.”

 

“Ahn,” Xander groaned, “Buffy doesn’t need or want orgasms from Spike. And, I sooo did not use orgasms and Spike in the same sentence!”

 

“Well, why wouldn’t she?” his fiancée asked him with some asperity, “He’s good-looking, he’s sexy, he loves her, and vampires have wonderful stamina.  And they don’t have to breathe,” she added brightly.  “If I didn’t have you, I’d certainly want Spike to be giving me orgasms.”

 

“And yet another visual I didn’t need!”  The carpenter left Dawn to be comforted by the witches and went to his girlfriend’s side.  “Can we just drop all mention of things Dawn doesn’t need to hear?”

 

“Fine,” Anya huffed. “But you’ll see.  I’m probably right.”

 

 

 

Buffy ran away from the Magic Shop as if, if she went far enough, fast enough, she could outrun the growing ache in her chest and the lump in her throat.  Her feet pounded the ground as she ran, never noticing the landscape as it flew by.  All she could do was run and run away from the emotional monster she could feel chasing her.

 

I will NOT cry over Spike!  I will not let a soulless bloodsucker make me cry.  I hate him and I’m glad he’s staying away from me – us.  We don’t need him. I don’t need him.  I don’t want him.  I’ll never want him....

 

Even with Slayer powers, there was a limit to how long she could run all out and eventually she had to slow down and breathe. And when she did, the grief was there to ambush her.  As Buffy began the long walk home, she could no longer pretend there weren’t tears pouring down her cheeks. 

 

She got home without actually seeing anything she passed.  It would have been very easy for any of Sunnydale’s less respectable denizens to take out the Slayer as her sobs were making it impossible for her to hear anything but her own harsh breathing.

 

Fortunately, the first demon attracted by the sound of human crying was a blond vampire who stayed just out reach of her Slayer senses in order to handle anything that tried to take advantage of her distraction.  He resisted the urge to take her in his arms and soothe her; instead taking out his frustration on the few demons that actually did show up.

 

Spike worried briefly that something had happened to someone Buffy cared about, but he couldn’t imagine why she would be out alone if that was the case. Whatever was making her cry was obviously something she didn’t want to share with her friends or family.

 

Even though none of the Scoobies had seen him, he had been keeping his eyes on them.  Using vampire skills that he hadn’t bothered with in years, he followed the witches when they walked home from Wicca meetings at night, hovered near the Magic Shop when Anya was closing up late, and trailed Dawn and her friend Janice whenever they went anywhere after dark.  None of them were aware of him, but his silent presence made them the safest citizens in Sunnydale.

 

He gave Buffy a wide berth when she patrolled, knowing she wouldn’t want to see him and wouldn’t accept any help.  But this night, with her obviously blinded by tears and distracted by whatever had upset her so much, he couldn’t resist following her to keep her safe.

 

When she got to the house on Revello Drive, she went directly up the stairs to her room, refusing to even acknowledge the worried looks from Willow and Dawn.  She shut the door, shrugged out of her jacket and shoes and threw herself down face first on the bed.  Between the miles of running at top speed, and the gut wrenching sobbing, her body responded to the soft bed in the most sensible way – it went immediately to sleep.

 

Buffy’s comfortable sleep was interrupted by the feeingl of cool hands stroking her head and running softly though her silky hair.  The hands moved to her neck and began gently rubbing the tension out.  “Feels almost as good as ice,” she thought to herself as she felt her muscles relaxing under the gentle massage.  As her neck relaxed, the hands moved to her shoulders and back, always gentle, but always finding the tight spots and working the knots out.  Sighing her contentment, she slipped back to sleep with the wonderful hands still gently stroking her back and shoulders.

 

The next time she woke up, it was to find that she was crying about something and she was folded in strong, cool arms.  Again, gentle hands were stroking her, this time rubbing small soothing circles on her back and running up and down her arms as a warm baritone voice murmured comforting things in her ear.  As the voice and hands soothed her, she drifted back to sleep.

 

Once again she woke up with hands moving around her body in small circles, across her buttocks, down her legs, up the insides of her thighs.... The effects were much less soothing and she rolled over to face a pair of beautiful blue eyes darkened with passion and desire.  While the talented hands continued to wander around her body, leaving heated trails wherever they went, soft cool lips moved in to touch hers with gentle demands. 

 

At the touch of a cool tongue on her lips, she opened her mouth and welcomed it in, sending her own tongue seeking to caress and explore.  She felt heat suffusing her body, spreading from her lower abdomen out to all her extremities and she moaned as she felt cool skin pressed against her suddenly naked body.  She could hear that voice again, this time whispering of love and desire as he slid into her willing body and began to move slowly.

 

With a moan, Buffy writhed on her bed for several seconds before she realized that she was still dressed and still lying on her bed in the same face-down position she’d put herself in when she came home.  Her body was still reacting to the incredible real sensation of having naked Spike in her and she struggled to resist the urge to finish off the dream herself.

 

Without conscious effort on her part, her hand slid down into her pants and she began to rub her throbbing clit.  While she stroked herself and rolled it with her fingers, she closed her eyes and imagined longer, cooler fingers bringing her to orgasm after orgasm.  When she reached her release and shouted her muffled “Spike” into the pillow, she could no longer pretend to herself.

 

Tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes and she cried softly for the man she had driven away with her refusal to allow him to love her. 

 

 

3 – Secrets Revealed

 

Outside the house, the blond vampire waited under a tree until he was sure Buffy was safely in her room and sleeping.  Then he strode up the walk and entered the house quietly.  Dawn spotted him immediately, but stiffed her happy shout when he shook his head and put his finger to his lips.  She ran up and hugged him silently; clinging to him to reassure herself he was really there.

 

Listening carefully in case Buffy should wake up, he entered the living room and gestured for Dawn to follow him.  Willow walked up to him and looked at his face carefully.  The past three weeks had taken as much of a toll on him as they had on Buffy.  His face was drawn and pale, even for a vampire. His always-prominent cheekbones stood out like knife blades and his eyes were sunken and dark.

 

“What the hell is going on, Spike?” Willow demanded.  “Where have you been for the last three weeks?  And why do you look more dead than usual?”

 

“I’ve been around, Red.  You Scoobies just haven’t seen me.  Watched you and Glinda holdin’ hands and playing kissie-face on the way home from your Wicca meeting last night.....saw the Bit sneak out of Janice’s house to go to an R rated movie.......” he paused to glare at Dawn who looked at the ceiling with great interest.  “Been watching the Magic shop at night to be sure no nasties try to take demon girl’s money.”

 

Willow looked at him dubiously.  “Why haven’t we seen you?  Have you been helping Buffy?”  At his wince on hearing the Slayer’s name, understanding began to fill the witch’s eyes. 

 

“Something happened between you and Buffy, didn’t it?  Something bad?”

 

“We’re just not......not workin’ together quite as much right now.  Don’t go makin’ a big soddin’ deal out of it.”  His expressive face made it very obvious just how big a deal it was for him.

 

Dawn cocked her head at him and asked,  “What did she do to you?  It had to be something really bad to keep you away this long.  What was it?  Did she try to stake you?” Righteous indignation filled the teenager’s face at the thought of her sister causing her best friend more pain.

 

“No, Bit.  She didn’t do anything.  It’s......between us.  Nothing for any body else to get upset about.”  He shook his head at her and turned back to the witch.

 

“The question isn’t what’s wrong with me, it’s what’s wrong with her.  I followed her home tonight from miles outside of town and she was cryin’ the whole way.  Anything could have taken a piece out of her if I hadn’t been close by.  What’s going on?  Do I need to kill something?” he asked almost wistfully.

 

Willow shook her head.  “We’re as mystified as you are,” she said quietly. “All we did was ask her where you’d been lately and she went nuts on us.  Then she ran out of the magic box and disappeared.  When she came home, she ran straight up stairs and slammed her door.  You say she was crying?”

 

“Yeah, waited for her to calm down and fall asleep before I came in.  Didn’t want her to know I’d followed her....” Pain crossed his face again and the two girls exchanged looks.

 

Suddenly, the vampire raised his head, listening.  “She’s cryin’ again,” he growled.  “What the hell is goin’ on?”

 

“Why don’t you tell us?” Willow said coolly, forcing him to look her in the eye. 

 

“Cause it’s not mine to tell, witch,” he answered sadly. “Why don’t you ask the Slayer how she feels.”?

 

“She always says she feels fine, “ mumbled Willow.  “She won’t admit to anything wrong.”

 

“And you lot believe her because......?”

 

“It’s Buffy, Spike, “ Willow snapped at him.  “If she doesn’t want to talk, she won’t talk! And if she says she’s fine....”

 

“Well, guess we can tell it’s a lie, can’t we?” he said flatly.  “I’m gettin’ out of here before she sees me; but somebody needs to get her to tell them what’s wrong before she gets herself killed.”

 

He gave Dawn a quick hug and left the house.   He ran toward his crypt to get away from the sound of Buffy’s soft sobbing.  He wanted nothing so much as to hold her and tell her it would be all right; but he knew he didn’t have the right and wouldn’t be welcomed.

 

Dawn and Willow exchanged puzzled looks and looked at the ceiling as though they could see through the floor to Buffy’s room.

 

“What do you think is going on?” Dawn asked timidly.  “Spike looks awful, Buffy won’t talk about him, and he won’t tell us what’s wrong...”

 

“I don’t know, Dawn.  I ....I’m going to call Tara and see if she has any ideas, OK?”  Willow was delighted to have an excuse to talk to Tara and ran to the phone.

 

The following evening, while Buffy was out patrolling, the Scoobies gathered at the Magic Box to discuss what was obviously a Spike and Buffy issue.  Everyone had their own theory – especially Anya who stuck to her “he won’t give her orgasms” idea.  Finally Tara spoke up softly.

 

“I think I know what’s wrong.”

 

Willow whirled to look at her.  “You do?  Why do you know?  How do you know?  Why don’t we know? We’re her friends.”  She cringed as Tara’s face closed and she shrank back in her chair.  “Oh, baby, I’m sorry!  I didn’t mean it like that.  I just .......”

 

“It’s OK, W-W-Willow,” Tara said, without looking up.  “I understand what you meant.  I think the reason Buffy told me is because I’m not as close to her as you guys are.  My opinion p-p-probably isn’t as important to her.”  She ducked her head and blushed behind her long hair.

 

“Well, my opinion isn’t important to her, and she hasn’t told me anything,” Anya grumbled.

 

“What could be so bad that she wouldn’t want us to know about it?  And what could it possibly have to do with Spike?”  Xander looked at Tara with genuine bewilderment.  Being a little quicker on the uptake, Willow breathed, “Oh, Goddess!”

 

“What? What”, Xander and Dawn said together.  Anya just clapped her hands and crowed, “Oh, I knew it!  I knew it!”

 

Dawn was next to understand what Willow had guessed.  Unlike Willow, who still looked shocked, Dawn broke into a grin.  “Buffy and Spike.  Alright!”

 

Ignoring Xander who was still in the land of denial, the girls leaned toward each other to discuss the situation.

 

“So,” Willow ventured, “You think this has to do with....” She didn’t finish her sentence; not sure what to call it.

 

Tara gained some confidence now that everyone seemed to be aware and told them what she knew.

 

“Buffy and Spike have been.....together......for a while. But she was worried about it.  She was afraid something was wrong with her. That she came back wrong and that allowed him to  - never mind.  The point is, she and Spike have had some sort of relationship and she has been hiding it from us –from you - because she is afraid of what you will think of her.  And, she’s been telling herself that something is wrong with her or she wouldn’t....want him.”

 

“There IS something wrong with her!” Xander had finally realized what they were talking about.

 

The sound of Dawn’s slap on his cheek echoed as loudly as his words. 

 

“That’s why she was afraid to tell anybody!  Whatever’s wrong, she’s afraid to talk about it with her family and friends because she thinks we’re going to judge her.  She thinks we won’t care because it’s Spike.” 

 

“Well obviously there is something-“ Xander started, only to be silenced by the glares from the women in the room.  Anya added a hard poke to his ribs for good measure.

 

“The question now,” Willow started, “is how do we find out what went wrong and how can we fix it?  Do you know what it is?” She turned to her former lover for an answer.

“N-n-no, not exactly.  I don’t know why they aren’t together right now, but it’s pretty obvious neither one is happy about it.  I know Buffy was worried about how she treated Spike; but she wasn’t willing to accept that it was okay to care about him.  I tried to tell her it was all right to be with him, but she was so worried about what you guys would think or say....” When Willow and Dawn winced, and even Xander looked somewhat ashamed, she continued gently, “ and I think she was ashamed of herself for using him the way she did.  I told her it was OK to be in love with him, because he has done a lot of good this past year and because he loves her so much, but she insisted she isn’t and that it was wrong of her to use his love to make herself feel better.”

 

“Feel better about what?” Dawn asked in confusion.  Willow’s face fell and she whispered, “Feel better about being back.  About not being in Heaven anymore.”

 

“Oh,” Dawn’s eyes teared up at the reminder that her sister wasn’t nearly as happy to be alive as they were to have her.

 

Tara hastened on before anyone else could interrupt, “She said he makes her feel alive.  And, I do think she was getting better, but...”

 

“So, we made her miserable and an evil, undead bloodsucker makes her happy?” Xander’s disbelief was palpable.

 

“Yes, Xander,” Tara said with more firmness than she usually showed toward him, “that’s pretty much it.  And the fact that she had to pretend to hate the man whose love was making her feel good was eating her up inside.”

 

“Not to mention what it was probably doing to Spike,” Dawn said quietly. “I’ve heard her say some awful things to him. Things that hurt him.”

 

“Yes, I think we’ve all seen her say and do things to Spike that we would be appalled to see if he was a human man who loved her.  If I had to guess, I’d say either she broke it off because she was afraid you’d find out and be disgusted with her, or he broke it off because he saw what it was doing to her.  Either way, they’re both hurting and as their friends –“ She glared at Xander when he tried to interrupt to insist Spike was not his friend -  “As their friends,” she continued firmly, “ we need to come up with a way to help them.”

 

“I am not doing anything to help her with another bloodsucking boyfriend,” Xander huffed. 

 

Anya spoke up quietly, “Xander, do you love Buffy?”

 

“What?  Of course I do, that’s why I won’t – “

 

“Then why don’t you want to help her be happy?  Which is more important – that her boyfriend makes you happy or that he makes her happy?”

 

Her fiancée looked down at his feet and tried not to look as flustered as her question had made him.  “I....I’m just thinking of Buffy,” he stammered.

 

Anya was relentless.  “No, you’re not.  If you were thinking of Buffy, you’d want to do whatever would make her happy.  It’s as simple as that.”

 

The brunette’s complaints subsided to mumbling, and the women began to discuss strategies.

 

“I think the first thing we need to do is find out what went wrong,” Willow began.

 

“And why they aren’t having orgasms anymore!” Anya contributed brightly.

 

“An,” Xander groaned. “Please...”

 

“We need to talk to Spike again,” Dawn said firmly.  “He can tell us what happened. Then we can figure out what to do about it.”

 

The group agreed to meet at Spike’s crypt at three o’clock the next afternoon and force him to tell them what was going on.

 

              Buffy was working an afternoon/evening shift at the Doublemeat Palace, so Dawn was free to head for Spike’s crypt right from school.  When she got there she saw that Willow and Tara had already arrived.  The two witches looked like they might have been talking very seriously and Dawn was almost reluctant to interrupt them. 

 

              However, the noisy arrival of Xander and Anya destroyed any sense of privacy and serenity that the witches might have had and Dawn quickly joined the four older Scoobies.

 

              When no one else made any motion toward opening the door or knocking, Dawn pushed in front and banged on the door with her hand, yelling,  “Spike! We’re coming in, ready or not.”  She pushed it open and they spilled into the crypt, temporarily blinded by the abrupt change from bright daylight to darkness.

 

              “What the hell is this?” Spike asked as he took in the small group of humans standing in his doorway.  “And shut the soddin’ door before you turn me into ashes.”

 

              “We need to talk to you about Buffy,”  Dawn said as she walked over and sat in his comfy chair.

 

              “So, you found out what was wrong, then?” He tried to appear casual as he leaned against the sarcophagus and lit a cigarette.

 

              “Well, we think so....” Willow began hesitantly.  “We need to know why you two broke up and who did it.”

 

              The blond vampire choked on the smoke he had just inhaled and threw her a startled look.

 

              “What the hell are you talking about, Red?  Told you already, I’m just not helpin’ her patrol right now.  That’s all.”

 

              He stared stubbornly at the five disbelieving pairs of eyes looking back at him.

 

              “Spike, it’s alright.  We know.” Tara said softly.  She looked into his troubled eyes and tried to send him reassurance that they were okay with the situation.

 

              “You know what?” he demanded, still trying to pretend he didn’t know what she was talking about.

 

              “Buffy told me.”

 

              He gaped at the blond witch.  “She told you?  All of you?”  He began to fear that they were there to stake him and looked towards the disgusted young man warily.

 

              “No,” Tara continued.  “She only told me.  She had a.....question.....that she thought I could answer for her.”

 

              He looked at her speculatively then said sadly, “She asked you if there was something wrong with her, didn’t she?”

 

              Tara flinched at the pain on his face and the shrewdness of his guess.  “Yes,” she said gently, “she wanted me to check if she came back human.”

 

              “I told her she was,” he said, shaking his head.  “She was just so sure there must be something wrong with her.”

 

              “So,” Dawn put in, “Which one of you broke up with the other?  Cause it’s pretty obvious that’s what’s wrong with her.”  She glared accusingly at her protector, hoping it would turn out to be somebody else’s fault that her sister was so unhappy.

 

              “I did,” he mumbled.  “I thought I was doing the right thing.”

 

              “Oh yeah, right!” Xander snorted.  “Like you’d ever give up a chance to play obsessive stalker up close and personal.   Ow!” he broke off as Anya whacked him on the head.  When he saw the other three women in the room glaring at him as hard as his girl friend, he decided to remain silent for a while.

 

              “It was killin’ her,” Spike continued as though Xander hadn’t interrupted.  “She was eatin’ herself up inside thinkin’ she wouldn’t want to be with me unless there was something wrong with her.  And she was so.......” he paused; reluctant to share with her friends how cruel the Slayer could be to him when she wanted.  “She was not....herself.  Not the kind, loving.......” His voice trailed off.

 

              “She was a bitch and she treated you like you were her personal whipping boy.” Dawn dared him to contradict her then slumped when she realized he wasn’t going to.  “I’m so sorry, Spike.”

 

              “S’alright, Bit.  She’s been hurtin’.  I know she wouldn’t be treatin’ me like that if she was herself.  I could take it, if it was just me being hurt.  But she was hurtin’ herself by being that way.   It’s not who she is and it was makin’ her worse, not better.   I thought if I cut her loose, she’d see that she was okay.  That there wasn’t anything wrong with her that made them throw her out of heaven.” 

 

              He shot a look at Willow whose eyes had filled with tears as he spoke.  The four Scoobies cringed as they were reminded of what their spell had done to their friend.  There was silence in the room for several minutes as they each tried to absorb what they were learning about the Slayer and the vampire who loved her.

 

              “So,” Xander’s voice was still dubious, “you broke up with her for her own good?  Oh, she’s soooo gonna love that!”

 

              “Yeah,” Spike rubbed a hand across the back of his neck, “She was a little ticked off when she left here.  But she was just mad.  Still doesn’t explain why she’s crying now.”

 

              The women in the room exchanged exasperated and disbelieving looks.  After much eye rolling, Willow asked, “OK, who wants to tell the stupid vampire?”

 

              Spike looked indignant and growled, “Tell the vampire what?  And I am not stupid!”  He turned to look at Xander.  “Do you know what they’re talkin’ about, Harris?”

 

              Xander was shaking his head slowly.  “God, I hope not....”

 

              “He knows, he just doesn’t want to admit it,” Anya chirped.  Her fiancée groaned and tuned away. 

 

              Spike looked at Dawn, trying to smother the shaky feeling of hope growing in his chest. 

 

              “Niblet?”

 

              She rolled her eyes again, then explained slowly, “Buffy is unhappy because you broke up with her.  She could pretend it didn’t happen, or stay mad at you, or whatever, until we asked her where you were.  Then it hit her and she ran out crying.  And she’s been crying ever since, when she thinks we can’t hear her.  She misses you, you dope.”

 

              He looked at the other women for confirmation, but what really convinced him was the sight of Xander shaking his head and muttering, “Not another vampire.  Not another vampire...”

 

              “Oh, well that’s alright then.....now what?”

 

              “Well, now you find a way to tell her you’re sorry.  That you didn’t mean it...and she’ll forgive you and.....and.....”

 

              “This is Buffy we’re talkin’ about here, Bit,” he said wryly. “What makes you think she’s gonna forgive me?”

 

              “Because she doesn’t want to be broken up.  If she did, she wouldn’t be unhappy about it.  So it’s just a question of making her realize...”

 

              “Grovel,” Xander said gruffly.

 

              Spike whirled to stare at the brunette man.  “Say what?” he asked incredulously.

 

              “I said, grovel.  You’re going to have to grovel.   A lot.”

 

              “And you’re all right with this?” Spike asked carefully.

 

              “I’m all right with Buffy being happy,” Xander replied. “If a bloodsucking, soulless, undead – ow! Anya!  If you make her happy, then I’m all right with it.  But if you ever hurt her again.....Just remember, I work with wood.  Every day.  Keep the truck full of it....”

 

              “Get the picture, whelp.” Spike smirked. Then his expression softened, “and Harris?”

 

              Xander looked at him quizzically.

 

              “Thanks”

 

              Both men immediately turned away so that there could be no question about their feelings for each other.  The women just laughed at them and began trying to figure out how and when to get Spike and Buffy together.

 

              It was agreed that an “accidental” meeting would be best and that they needed a few days to subtly let Buffy know that they would be OK with her being in a relationship with Spike.

 

 

4 – Making it Right

 

              For the next several days, Buffy tried to pretend there was nothing wrong as she went to work, patrolled and slept.  The stony look on her face discouraged anyone from asking what was wrong, but they could still hear her sobbing in her bed at night.

 

              Willow and Dawn used every opportunity to talk about Spike in front of her.  They pretended not to notice when she stiffened at the mention of his name, or to be aware that she was listening to everything they said.

 

  Dawn talked about how sad he seemed lately, and how helpful he’d been with her schoolwork.  Willow wondered aloud why he would be sad, since as far as they knew his life hadn’t changed except for not patrolling with Buffy.  And she certainly hadn’t been treating him any differently.  Anya piped in with a comment about how if she were Buffy and someone that sexy loved her, she’d never let another woman near him.  Willow and Tara agreed, that if they were straight, he would certainly be on their list of potential boy friends.  Everyone reminisced about how devoted he’d been to Drusilla for so long, and how much he’d done for all of them since he fell in love with Buffy.

 

              When even Xander had a kind word for the bleached blond vampire, Buffy began to wonder if she had fallen into an alternate reality.  The idea that the Scoobies might actually like Spike, or think that he was an acceptable romantic partner for someone, had her reeling.

 

              Was I wrong?  Have I been pretending to hate him all this time for no reason? Could they possibly be okay with my seeing Spike?

 

Ų            Her fists clenched as she remembered that she wasn’t actually seeing him any more and hadn’t been for several weeks.  The thought that she might have driven him away unnecessarily made her feel sick to her stomach.

 

              If all my friends like him, maybe it’s not so wrong of me to have feelings for him.  Maybe it’s okay to want to be with him. Not that I am with him.  Drove him right off, just like everybody else.

 

              By Saturday night, the women concluded that they had softened her up as much as they could, and they sent Xander to get Spike and meet them at the Bronze. 

 

              “Buffy, you can’t sit around here by yourself while we’re all out Bronzing it.  You have to come with us tonight.  We aren’t taking ‘no’ for an answer.”  Willow faced her friend wearing her best “resolve face”.

 

              “I appreciate the thought Will.  I really do.  But.....”

 

              “No buts, Missy.  Get your glad rags on.  We’re leaving in thirty minutes.”  The witch debated about telling Buffy that Spike was coming, but she wasn’t sure if that would ensure Buffy’s presence or send her back to her room in tears.  She opted for letting Buffy think it was just going to be a Scoobie night out.

 

              Buffy stared into her closet, at a loss for what to put on to go to the Bronze on a Friday night.  She really didn’t feel like dressing to attract male attention, but her inner fashion plate just wouldn’t let her throw on jeans and a sweatshirt.  She finally settled on a soft, clingy blouse and a longer than usual skirt that swirled around her knees as she walked.  She decided to wear her new high-heeled sandals, as she was sure she wouldn’t be dancing very much.  A brush through her freshly washed hair and some gloss on her lips and she was ready to go.  She had been crying so much lately that her eye make-up was limited to some subtle eyeliner. She decided to skip the mascara that tended to run all over her face when she was in tears.

 

Maybe I should buy some waterproof mascara,  she mused as she studied her demure, but still attractive reflection in the mirror. Or just stop crying over the latest man – er, vampire – to leave me.

 

              When she got to the Bronze, it was so crowded that she at first had trouble finding her friends.  Eventually, she spotted Dawn’s shiny chestnut hair, and worked her way toward the table they had found.  As she went to sit down, she gasped and froze with her hand on the chair.  Only a short distance away, Xander was laughing as he lined up a shot at the pool table.  His partner was a lean, muscular-looking man in pressed khakis and a form fitting silk shirt.  One look at the platinum hair on his head told Buffy what she was going to see when he turned around.

 

As though he could sense her presence, Spike slowly turned and looked towards the table.  Dawn held her breath as her sister and the vampire stared at each other.  She thought it was a toss-up which of them seemed the most frightened.  William the Bloody, 126-year-old master vampire, wore a look of what could only be called abject terror as he met the eyes of the woman he had loved and hurt.  The longest-lived Slayer in history, destroyer of Angelus and the Master, stopper of apocalypses, looked ready to bolt at any second.

 

Buffy’s hand was trembling on the back of the chair.  The only reason she hadn’t turned and run from the club was that she wasn’t sure her legs would work. 

 

I can’t do this!  I can’t be around him.  Oh my god, he looks so good.  When did he start dressing like that?  Why is he here?  Why is Xander talking to him?  Why does he keep looking at me like that?

 

Eventually, Xander poked Spike with his cue stick to indicate that it was his turn and the vampire reluctantly tore his eyes away from Buffy to complain, “Oi! Watch it with that bloody stick, Whelp.  Be careful where you point it!”

 

“Like you would have even noticed if I’d dusted you just now,” he snarked.   “It’s your turn, Evil Undead.  Stop gawking and play.”

 

When she was no longer held captive by those amazing blue eyes, Buffy was able to force herself to move and she collapsed into the chair.  She resolutely turned her gaze to the dance floor, refusing to watch as Spike moved gracefully around the pool table. She smiled gratefully at Willow when she put a diet coke down in front of her.   She blinked rapidly as she tasted the drink and looked at Willow quizzically.

 

“I thought you might need – want something a little stronger than coke just now, so I...”

 

Buffy shook her head wryly. 

 

I must be more obvious than I think.  But Will seems okay with it. She even seems like she’s .....Nah, that must be my imagination!

 

She smiled her gratitude at the red-haired witch and sipped her rum and coke carefully.   She continued to face the dance floor and tried to ignore the two men behind her as they insulted each other and argued over their shots.  Eventually, she realized that Xander was now on the dance floor with Anya and before she could wonder where Spike was, she felt the familiar tingling on the back of her neck that meant he was near.

 

She stared hard at her drink, trying not to tremble as she felt him moving closer and closer.  Finally, she couldn’t pretend any longer that she didn’t know he was there and she glanced up at him out of the corner of her eye.  She flinched from the intensity of his gaze.  He was looking at her like he wanted to devour her, although she was sure his demon was nowhere around.

 

“Can I......Is it okay......”  he stammered as he began to pull a chair out next to her.  When she flinched at his nearness, his face crumpled and he stopped before he had sat completely down.

 

“I’m sorry, pe-Buffy, I’ll go somewhere else.”  He started to leave; sure he had bungled his apology before he had even begun.

 

“No!” She shocked them both at the intensity of her reply.  She took a ragged breath and repeated more softly, “No, Spike.  P – please.  Sit down.  It’s okay.  We can be adults about this......”

 

I don’t want to be an adult.  I want to cry and scream and kick my feet until you love me again.

 

What do adults do when they’ve fucked up this badly?  I just want to get down on my knees and beg you to forgive me.

 

Instead of begging or crying, both unhappy blonds sat at the table and stared morosely into their drinks.  The Scoobies gave them their space for as long as they could, but when it became obvious they were just going to sit there forever not talking or looking at each other, they all drifted back to the table and tried to pretend there weren’t two mute, unhappy people sitting there.

 

Buffy and Spike sat side-by-side as conversation flowed around them, neither one participating unless asked a direct question.  The vampire could feel the heat radiating off her body and wanted nothing more than to be touching her and feeling that heat all around him.  The Slayer could feel the tingles she got only when Spike was nearby and she wanted to be touching him so that the tingles would relax her instead of making her nervous.

 

 As the Scoobies became more relaxed and spread out more, the table became more crowded and at one point both Buffy and Spike moved their chairs closer together so that others could have more room.  Buffy gasped when their hands touched where the chairs met, and Spike was sure his heart had actually beat for a second as they both froze in place.  Dawn was quick to see what had happened and pushed her chair even closer to Buffy’s so that her sister couldn’t retreat.  On the other side of Spike, Xander leaned back and put his feet on the rung of Spike’s chair; effectively holding it in place.

 

Pulling their hands out from between the chairs allowed them to slide together and they found themselves sitting side by side with their shoulders touching.  Spike held his unnecessary breath waiting for her to lean away from him, but when she didn’t, he relaxed and settled back in his chair, grateful for the little bit of contact they had.  He thought he could feel Buffy trembling, but he couldn’t be sure if it was really her or if it was his own body betraying him.

 

They sat in uncomfortable silence for minutes, neither one willing to relinquish the physical contact even though they had yet to speak to each other since he first sat down. The others went back to the dance floor, hoping the proximity would bring some sort of resolution for the two very stubborn blonds at the table. Eventually Anya approached them and in her blunt way forced the issue.

 

“We’re are not going to stay away from the table so that you guys can ‘talk’ any longer, because you obviously are not going to talk so why should we? So we’re going to sit back down and you can either talk in front of us or just leave and start giving each other orgasms again so we don’t have to deal with all this tension.”

 

With a final snort, she flounced into her chair ignoring the flaming red face on the Slayer and the death glare from the vampire.  Xander shrugged apologetically and slid into his own chair as gently as possible.  He used the time while Buffy was staring at the floor in humiliation to gesture to the vampire.  He mimed begging and then pointed to the dance floor.  When Buffy looked up suspiciously to see why he was waving his arms around, he stopped in mid gesture and stretched to put his arm around Anya.

 

Meanwhile, the other Scoobies had drifted back to the table and were standing around anxiously waiting to see what Buffy would do.

 

Spike slowly held out his hand to Buffy and asked softly, “Would you dance with me, Buffy?  Please.” He tried not to sound too much like he was begging, but he knew he did.  His eyes pleaded with her to accept his hand.

 

It took everything she had to smother the automatic, “In your dreams, Spike” that wanted to come out of her mouth.  While her entire body yearned toward his, her stubborn heart struggled to swallow the pride that was keeping her from saying yes. 

 

When she reached tentatively for his hand and stood up, a collective sigh went around the table as everyone released the breaths they had been holding. 

 

He led her to the floor and gently put his arms around her waist.  With a small sigh Buffy surrendered to the feeling of being in his arms again and relaxed against him, laying her small hands on his shoulders and resting her head on his chest.   Tears pricked his eyes as he felt her rigid body relax into his and he put his head down to breathe in the scent of her hair.

 

They stood together for a minute, then gradually began swaying to the music.   The longer they swayed together, the more they melted into each other until there was finally no space between them and Buffy was clutching his shoulders while he held her so tightly he would have injured a normal woman. 

 

Suddenly Buffy slid her arms around him completely and he felt her body shaking with sobs that she tried to hide by burying her face in his neck.

 

“Ah, no, love, don’t do that. Please don’t cry.  I am so sorry, baby.  I never meant to hurt you.  I only wanted you to feel better.  I’m sorry; I’m sorry, please, love.  Please stop crying.”  He whispered frantically into her ear, fighting back his own tears as she continued to cry softly into his shoulder.  “Please, love.  It’s okay.  I take back everything I said.  I’m a bad, rude man and I don’t deserve you.  Please stop crying. Please.  What can I do to make it better?  Tell me what to do, Buffy,” he pleaded as he held her and rubbed small soothing circles on her back.

 

Their attempt at dancing had gradually moved them toward the stairs, and Spike pulled her into the shadows under the stairs away from curious eyes.  He continued to hold her and murmur soothing apologies into her hair until she finally ran out of tears.  With a final sniffle and a hiccup, she leaned back in his arms and looked up at him with damp eyes.

 

“I knew there was a good reason I didn’t wear mascara tonight,” she said in a trembling voice as she wiped at her face.  He used his thumb to wipe the tears off her cheeks and smiled down at her softly.

 

“Don’t need it anyway, love,” he said gently. “You’re gorgeous just the way you are.”

 

She tiled her head back and smiled at him tremulously.  “You are such a liar.” 

 

He smiled back and shook his head slightly.  He tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and said gently, “It’s all in the eye of the beholder, pet.  You’ll never be anything but gorgeous to me.”

 

She shook her head at him, then changed the subject. 

 

“They all know, don’t they?”

 

“Yep.  Seems we’re not quite as subtle as we think we are.  Or as we thought we were,” he finished with a wince, remembering that technically they weren’t together anymore.

 

“And they’re okay with it?”  Disbelief and hope fought for dominance in her voice.

 

“Well, as okay as they’re likely to get.  The Bit is happy, o’ course, the witch is feeling too guilty to say anything, you already know Glinda’s okay with it.....” He looked her in the eye and she had the grace to look embarrassed.  “Demon girl doesn’t care about anybody’s love life but her own, and the whelp just keeps reminding me that he’s ready to dust me the minute you look unhappy.”

 

He studied her carefully for a minute, then leaned in and rested his forehead on hers.

 

“It’s all about you now, love.  Either you want me or you don’t.  Nobody else cares what we do.  Just you and me.”

 

He held his unneeded breath as he waited for her to say something.  In spite of all the crying, he knew how stubborn she could be and how willing she was to hurt herself if she thought she was doing the “right” thing.  It still came down to whether the Slayer would allow herself to love a soulless vampire. 

 

Buffy leaned against him, basking in the feeling of being sheltered and loved that being in his arms always gave her.  Never, in her most vehement denials of her feelings, had she bothered to try to lie to herself about how safe she felt with his arms around her.  They were her refuge from the world and she had been shaken to her core by how alone she felt when she no longer had them.

 

So softly even his vampire hearing barely picked it up, she said, “I want you.”

 

He released his breath in a relieved sigh and pulled her into his chest again as he replied, “And you have me, my love.  You will always have me.”

 

The end.

 

 

AN  --  No smut.  Sorry.  This one was all about the relationship.  Feel free to imagine how they celebrated when they were alone.......

 

 

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