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Previous Chapter: Isolation
Next Chapter: Ministration

Knew it was only a matter of time before she came to her senses. He was surprised it hadn’t happened sooner, really. Not that it made the sting of rejection any less painful. God, he’d been such an idiot, pushing her like that. Wanted too much, too soon. Bloody stupid to think she was ready. That she’d let him into her life, just like that. Couldn’t lower herself that much. Couldn’t be with somebody like him. Not even in the dead of night when nobody would know, and certainly not openly.

But she’d been alright, around her mum. Lost in thought, sure, but… She’d been with him. Curled up against him like she always was when she needed a bit of comfort. That was something. Small crumb of hope, and that was all he needed. Hell, even if she hadn’t given him that much, wouldn’t have stopped him trying. He had to do what he could. Even if that meant giving her space.

Distance was supposed to make the heart grow fonder, right?

He was bloody lucky enough to find an empty crypt in the nearest cemetery. Much as he loved the Slayer, it was a bitch move to kick him out right before dawn like that. He’d had to book it, sprinting as fast as he could toward Restfield, hoping he got there before the sun peeked over the horizon. He didn’t fancy spending the day wandering through the sewers. Between his erection rubbing against his jeans, and the bullet still working its way out of his rib cage, he was in excruciating pain by the time he kicked the door open and threw himself inside.

Should’ve tried to argue with her. Tried to get her to at least let him crash in the basement until nightfall. Promise he’d stay out of her sight, quiet as a mouse. She’d never even know he was there. God, he couldn’t believe he’d already let her out of his sight. So much for watching her back. She was still in rough shape. No matter what her Watcher said, if those bastards decided to come back to town for revenge, she was a sitting duck. He’d promised himself he’d be there for her. Keep her safe. And he hadn’t even tried to put up a fight. He’d just turned and ran. Like every other wanker of a man in her life had.

If anything happened to her… That was on him. For not being there when she needed him to be…

Couldn’t be strong with him there. Yeah, he’d just bet. Couldn’t stop herself from putting her hands all over his body, is what that was. She was just scared. He wasn’t stupid. She had to feel something for him. She wasn’t exactly the type to lock lips and hips with just anybody. Had to feel some kind of connection to them. Even that Parker git. Oi, there’s a thing to do. 

No, she had to have some kind of feelings for him. Otherwise she would’ve just killed him when Walsh gave her the chance. Wouldn’t have been crying like she’d been at the thought of him being dead. Wouldn’t have fought by his side. There was something there, he just had to be patient with her. Let her work it out on her own, in her own way. In her own time. That’s exactly what she’d asked of him, right? She already knew it. Somewhere in there. All he had to do was wait it out. She’d come to him when she was ready to.

And in the meantime, he’d be trying his damnedest to figure out how to be a good man for her. Don’t kill, don’t hunt. That part was obvious. She protected people, fought the bad guys, saved the world. That was the black and white. Kill demons instead of people. He could manage that. But he knew it wouldn’t be enough. It wouldn’t make him good. He didn’t know if he even could be. He didn’t exactly have a moral compass, other than her, and there was so much more gray area than he’d thought.

All he wanted was to get a few hours of rest, and go out on the town, and do what came naturally to him. What his instincts had been telling him to do for the last century. Go kill someone. Something. Anything. Embrace it. Feed. Months of hospital bags and pig’s blood didn’t compare to that feeling. Scanning a crowd and finding the perfect person. Somebody social. Open. Vulnerable. That first whiff of excitement. The anticipation building. Knowing what would soon be happening. A heart pounding so hard that it pushed the blood into his mouth without him having to draw it out. Hot and thick and tinged with fear and arousal. The way their pulse slowed just as he finished drinking his fill. That feel of them going limp in his arms. Knowing that their death made his unlife possible.

Made a man feel invincible. Immortal. Complete. There was nothing so pure as fulfilling your purpose in life every single night. Knowing what that purpose was. He was a killer. An evil, soulless monster. His human life had never had direction. Poetry and parties and social graces. At least his death had served Drusilla. He’d given his life to sustain hers. And he’d been reborn, for one reason. And he’d known with certainty, the moment he woke up in that coffin, what that reason was. To be like her. To go where he liked, to do what he wanted. To kill who he wanted. And as long as he did that, he was satisfied.

And if he ever did it again… Buffy would kill him. And he’d let her.

He didn’t want that anymore, no matter what his cells were screaming at him. How the hunger nagged in his stomach. How he could feel his fangs itching to be used. Even if that was the singular thought in his head as the minutes turned into hours. Walsh was the last. The last time he’d have fresh human blood. The last time he sank his fangs into somebody. The last life he ended. At least she’d deserved what he’d done. That had to count for something, right?

He could resist. He knew he could. Didn’t get as old as he was not being able to control your impulses. God, it was gonna be hard for a while. Old habits. But he had a goal. And quite a prize if he accomplished it. Just needed to stay focused, keep his mind occupied, and kill what he could when he could. It would be a hell of a lot easier with her by his side reminding him what was right and what would get him turned into a pile of dust. But that wasn’t an option, so he’d just have to make do. Stay out of the gray until he figured it out a little better.

 

***

 

These are my things. My clothes. My books. My hairbrush. My makeup. See? It’s on my side of the room. On my dresser, and my desk. All these things belong to Buffy. This top? Buffy’s top. This pen? Buffy’s pen. 

She slowly looked around the dorm room again. Everything on this side had to be packed up. She wasn’t a student anymore, and it all belonged to her. So why didn’t any of it feel like hers? Why didn’t her life feel like hers? 

Pretending to be Normal Buffy was exhausting. How the hell had she done all this stuff before? Scooby meetings, and going to parties, and talking to other people. Remembering to eat. Slaying was about the only thing that came easily.

She wasn’t Normal Buffy. She was… just not. Her days had started to blur together in a haze of brain fog. She felt like she was just existing, floating through the time and watching it pass too quickly. Wake up, get ready for the day, eat whatever her mom put in front of her, and go do the things. Try to hear the words people said to her. Try to respond appropriately. Try, try, try. That was all she did, and she felt like she never succeeded. Like she never would again. Everything was muted and she felt like she was under water. Drowning. And nobody was reaching in to help her surface.

They didn’t even notice her flailing in the deep end.

She loaded her clothes into boxes absently, her mind drifting to Spike. Back to the first night she’d spent alone in… months. How she’d spent hours crying, until she felt sick to her stomach and her entire body hurt. Wondering if he was alright, if he’d found somewhere to sleep before the sun came up. Worrying that he’d gone out and done something stupid. How isolated she felt without him there. On some level, she’d realized how dependent on him she’d become. For the sense of safety. With him gone, everything was… harder. Waking up from nightmares and finding only an empty room. No gentles strokes to soothe her. No soft humming. Just her, and the waves of panic as she returned to reality. Her own ragged breathing breaking the still of the night. Tears that never dried up. And that overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.

All she wanted to do was… sleep. Rest. Wake up when she was better. She wanted her head to be clear. She wanted to stop hurting. She wanted to feel again. She wanted to find enjoyment in being alive again. She wanted to be normal. She wanted to be herself.

But how could she be herself when it felt like part of her was missing?

She pushed down the tears that were threatening to well up again. She couldn’t cry in front of Willow. Couldn’t let her know how much she was struggling. She couldn’t be a burden. She was the strong one. The one that always carried everyone else. If she tried to explain the way she felt, her friends wouldn’t even understand. 

How could they? It would be pointless. Just more ‘tell us what you need’. Asking something of her that she wasn’t capable of doing. She didn’t know what she needed. She just wanted it to be better.

“Do you need help carrying things? I can do that. I can help.” Willow chirped, half enthusiastic, half overzealous. 

You really can’t.

“No, I’ve got it, Wil. Besides, super strength is kind of my thing, right?” Buffy tried to mirror the chipperness of Willow, but it still came out sounding dead to her. It was a good enough impersonation to fool her friend though, and that was what counted.

“Yeah, that’s true. I just, you know. You’ve been gone for so long, Buffy. And we finally got you back. I’m sorry we didn’t listen to Spike.”

“What?”

“When he told us the Initiative had you? You didn’t know..? He tried to get us to help, and we… Kind of thought he was lying, I guess.”

He’d told them. Before he’d been caught. And they’d just brushed it off… They’d left her in there all that time, knowing where she was. Knowing the kinds of things they did there. They left her in there. They left her. They left her.

“oh.”

“Buffy?”

That was concern in Willow’s voice, but it was far away. Buffy was far away. Floating high up, watching the scene in front of her play out. Watching her own body’s stiff movements as she grabbed her coat and headed for the door. Heard the words I have to go uttered from her own mouth. Watched as she took long strides down the hallway, and then out the door, down the steps. Watched her get into her mom’s car and whisper take me home please. Watched the houses and trees and world pass by in a blur of color. Until the car pulled into her own driveway, and she took a deep breath. She was home. In a safe place, right?

“Are you alright, honey? Did something happen?”

“Fine. I’m fine.”

 

***

 

This was Normal Buffy’s room. But she was gone now. She wasn’t coming back. Normal Buffy had been abandoned, by the people who were supposed to be there for her. The people she’d depended on. Her friends. And now she was dead. But her body was still here, and there was still a person driving it. 

New Buffy.

She looked around the room, taking in all the Dead Buffy things. The posters on the walls. The stuffed animals. The butterfly decals. The mirror covered in brightly colored scarves that had never even been worn. 

None of it felt like her. None of it belonged. She didn’t belong. But this room was supposed to be her safe space. The place she laid her head at night. The place she felt at home. She was supposed to belong. So the things that didn’t… the things that belonged to Dead Buffy… They had to go.

She started with the superficial things first. New Kids on the Block became Teenage Crush in A Garbage Can. She tore them into tiny little crumpled up scraps and shoved them in with almost too much force. Then the little butterflies. She’d have to apologize to Joyce for ruining the paint job, and probably work to earn the money for a new color. Maybe a nice slate gray, if it was allowed. 

The brightly colored scarves all went into a pile on the floor. The only time she ever wore them was when she got bit by a vampire, and that wasn’t exactly a frequent occurrence. Once a year, tops. And she wasn’t planning on letting any vamps get that close to her. Except for maybe one specific vampire, and if he ever got his fangs in her, he’d make it count. She still didn’t need a single scarf.

She liked most of the jewelry. That stuff could stay, she supposed, minus a few rings she was never going to wear. It means you belong to somebody. Well, New Buffy certainly didn’t belong to anybody, and somehow the gesture of the ring seemed pretty insignificant in retrospect. What was a shiny trinket compared to risking your life? She tossed it into the garbage can, along with all the sentimental attachment that went with it. Spike’s ring remained, bulky and oversized for her thin fingers. But she had plenty of chains she could hang it on, and that did seem like something she’d like.

The wardrobe was the last thing to be gone through. She rifled through Dead Buffy’s closet, yanking shirts off their hangers and tossing them on top of the scarves. All the bright and colorful and patterned and good God that goes with literally nothing. Why would anybody ever need so many clothes? She didn’t need that jacket, since she’d only bought it to go with that one shirt that was buried underneath all the flowy tops. Or that one. Or-

Her fingers touched something familiar. Comforting. Leather. Her biker jacket. The nice heavy one that made it super hard for things to sink teeth and claws into her. The one with that nice inside pocket that was just the right size for a stake. The one that kept her safe. She needed that one. Her fingers trembled as she ran them down the sleeve, and she felt herself come back to reality just a bit.

God, she’d been so stupid. The only person who could understand what she was feeling, the only one who knew what she’d really gone through… The only one who had tried to help her that entire time. She’d pushed away. Because she’d been pretending to be somebody else. Normal Buffy would never have allowed herself to depend on Spike for anything. Never would have let him in. Never would have developed feelings for him.

But maybe…

She pulled the jacket from the closet and tossed it onto the bed. If she was going to make things right with him, she’d have to find him. And that meant getting dressed and going out to do something other than kill monsters all night. This shirt… these pants. Yeah, this can work. 

She wanted to shower first. If she did manage to find him, she didn’t want to smell like day old funk. Vampires had that oh so powerful sense of smell. And yeah, he was probably used to the months of funk she still wasn’t sure she’d managed to get rid of, but… something in her wanted to make an impression. New Buffy wanted him to know that she was all clean. She wanted him to know her outfit was picked out with him in mind. And she wasn’t exactly sure what she was going to do to try to make things right with him, but… best to just be prepared, right?

As for actually finding him? That part might be a bit harder. She hadn’t seen him out on her patrols all week, and she’d been through. Unless he was purposefully avoiding her, she’d almost have thought he’d left town completely. But he promised he wasn’t going anywhere. He didn’t seem like he’d been joking. 

Which led to the question: 

Wednesday night on the hellmouth, where does a vampire like him go to pass the time? There was Willy’s, if he wanted to get his ass kicked while he was still healing. Doubtful he’d risk it, even if Willy did have human blood on tap. And she was really gonna have to talk to him about where he got that when she got a free afternoon. 

Not really a big college party night. Whether Spike was drinking or drinking, it wouldn’t be on campus. He’d want to be somewhere crowded where he could blend in and be inconspicuous and enjoy the atmosphere, regardless of intentions. Some random ass crypt he’d holed up in and decided to lock the door behind himself. She hadn’t seen him out on patrols all week, and she’d been thorough. Which left…

The Bronze. Which would have people and alcohol any day of the week.

 


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Previous Chapter: Isolation
Next Chapter: Ministration

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