* * * *
* * * *
Buffy stopped as she came downstairs. Dawn was in the living room, sitting on the couch and watching TV. She glared momentarily at her sister before flicking her eyes back to the television.
“You are OK, right?” Xander asked with a big smile as she reached the bottom of the stairs.
“I’m fine. I don’t plan on feeding my friends to a demon any time soon if that means anything.”
“That means a lot to me,” he replied happily, giving her a hug. Buffy smiled and looked through the kitchen doorway where Tara was putting away what remained of the magical ingredients she had used to make the antidote. Willow was watching her but did not help, instead she stood rigidly by the refrigerator.
“Buffy,” she said warmly when the Slayer entered the kitchen. “You’re better? Good!” She looked over at Tara. “Good.”
Tara smiled at Buffy. “I’m glad I could help.” She glanced at Willow as she closed the bag with magic ingredients inside of it. “I-I should go, now.”
“Listen,” Buffy said as Tara turned to leave. “I’m sorry… all of you. I’m sorry that I—”
“It’s OK, Buffy. You don’t have to apologize,” Willow told her with a smile. “We understand.”
“Sure we do,” Xander said genuinely. “Heck, I don’t know what I would’ve done if I thought my life was just some schizopsychosathingie.”
Buffy smiled. “Thanks. You guys are the best.”
“Take care,” Tara said with a smile before walking out the door. Willow watched her longingly as she went.
“So Buff, want me to stick around? Keep you company?” Xander asked.
“No thanks,” she said distractedly as she watched Willow’s shoulder's sink as the door closed behind Tara. “I need to go do something. Willow, watch Dawn for me?”
Willow turned away from the door. “What? Oh, Dawnie. Sure.”
Buffy went to the hallway to grab her sweater and head for the door. As she passed the living room Dawn gave her a knowing look. Buffy turned away from her angry eyes and walked out the door.
* * * *
Buffy entered Spike’s crypt, not bothering to close the door behind her. If she kept it open then she wouldn’t stay too long, and she wouldn’t be tempted to do… things.
“Spike!” she hollered. She looked around her. Had Spike been cleaning? The crypt seemed noticeably tidier than usual. This was odd behavior for the usually sloppy vampire.
Spike appeared at the top of the ladder. “Listen,” he sighed as he climbed onto the floor and faced her. “I know you’re here to give me the one-two for what happened back at your place, but you’re the one who kissed me, remember?”
Buffy stared blankly at him.
“Oh, I-I guess you wouldn’t. You’re not still crazy, are you?” he asked nervously.
Buffy shook her head. Spike smiled. “So you’re better now?”
She sighed and said what she came here to say. “Spike, we’re over. I thought I made it clear.”
Spike’s shoulders sank and he frowned. Buffy stared him down. He was going to say it, what he always said—something that reminded her that she didn’t love him. Spike gave in to her stare and looked down at his shuffling feet. “You called me by my human name,” he said quietly.
“William, please don’t go.”
“And then you…” He looked her in the eyes. “I’m weak, you know that. No soul. I’m an evil, disgusting thing. I haven’t forgotten.” He turned away. “It’s not fair.”
Buffy's brow furrowed. “Not fair? What are you talking about?”
“You,” he said angrily, striding towards her. She took a step back but he closed the distance. “Making me love you. Making me think that you could…” he broke off, a pained look crossing over his face. He slammed his eyes shut and turned away from her. “You make me weak.”
Part of her wanted to apologize to him, to comfort him. She reached out to him without thinking and put a comforting hand on his back. Spike shrugged away.
“No!” he protested. Buffy could see tears in his eyes. “You make me feel like him; that sodding poof who never amounted to anything until he died.” Spike began pacing in front of her. “Made me feel human, like I had a heart,” he said through closed teeth. He put his hand over his chest and then clenched it into a fist. “And then you rip it out,” he mimicked the action with his hand. “I can’t be a man to you,” he said, moving closer towards her. His hand grazed her thigh and Buffy shied away. Spike winced at her disgust to his touch. “And I can’t be a monster,” he said in a hushed voice, touching the side of her face gently. “Otherwise you’d have killed me already.”
Buffy froze and closed her eyes. She could see William looking at her with such human compassion and love. She could feel his warm fingers graze the skin of her cheek…
Her eyes shot open as she felt Spike grab a handful of her hair in his hand and pull her head back. “But you probably like keepin’ me around, hmm? So you can play games with me. Games where I lose,” he spat. Buffy could smell whiskey on his breath. “I don’t like to lose.”
Buffy reared her fist back and punched him in the nose. Spike stumbled backwards and then vamped out and hit her back. They continued like this until he grabbed her by the shoulders and slammed her against the wall. “Don’t know why I don’t just drink you and get it over with,” he said with a nasty grin that made his demon face look even more grotesque. “Seeing as you’re the only human I can bite without the bloody chip going off.”
“Get off me, Spike,” she demanded in a low tone.
“Oh-ho-ho,” he laughed. “Look at you, being all demanding when the Big Bad’s got you pinned against a wall.”
Buffy struggled to break free, but Spike pushed her harder against the wall. He was overpowering her, and part of her was letting him.
“Would you like that, Slayer?” he asked. “Would you like to die? Or would you rather live forever? The darkness looks much better on you when you’re part of it.”
“You’re not going to bite me, Spike,” Buffy told him impatiently. “Let me go.”
“No!” he whined. “What makes you so sure I won’t sink my teeth into your delicious little neck, hmm? I could drink you for hours, nice and slow. Savor the taste of you.”
As he spoke the hunger in his eyes changed to desire. “Why wouldn’t I drink you?”
“Because you love me,” she said slowly.
Spike looked at her in shock, his face returning to normal as he removed his hands from her arms.
“I don’t love you, Spike,” she said quickly. “I can’t.”
“Have you even tried?” he asked pathetically.
“Love isn’t supposed to be an effort. There’s no trying.”
“Yeah, but you won’t let yourself love me. You hold back, you won’t—”
“You have no soul,” she interrupted. “There’s nothing for me to love.”
Spike looked away, looking as though she'd slapped him in the face. No, she'd done worse...
“Right.” He sniffed and straightened up. “I guess it’s time for you to go, innit?” He pushed her towards the open door. “It’s getting’ late. Wouldn’t want to be late for work. I’m sure those burger boys can get real nasty.” He pushed her through the door.
She hadn’t walked three paces before he spoke again.
“Buffy,” he called out. She stopped but did not turn to face him. “If…” he began quietly. “If I had a soul… do you think that you could love me?”
Buffy closed her eyes, seeing him again at the asylum. His gentle kisses, his warm hands… “I love you,” she said slowly and with some difficulty. She swallowed hard.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said sadly. “We’ll never know.”
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