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Previous Chapter: 16.5 Interim
Next Chapter: Disruption

Dark and light, night and day
Which is which? Who can say?
Monster? Man? Some of both.
Neither lesser nor greater than.

He woke with a strangled gasp, and would have sat bolt upright if he could have. But there she was, nestled against his chest like she always was, fast asleep. The Slayer. His mortal enemy. The bane of his existence. Killer of things that went bump in the night. Thorn in his side. The one girl in all the world that he shouldn’t want. The only one it was taboo to have. Buffy. God must have hated him.

Oh, god, no. No, no, no. 

He couldn’t breathe. He needed to get away from her. As far away as he could. All several feet of it. He wanted to run. He wanted to scream. Wanted to fly into a rage. But at the same time… That undeniable urge was there. To hold her closer, to kiss her, to shower her in words and phrases and poetry. And she was so hot against him that she’d warmed him through, and it almost made him feel alive. He loved that feeling.

He’d thought… He didn’t know what he’d thought. He’d just assumed that this thing with the Slayer was like with Harmony. Lonely and latching onto her just so he’d have someone to take care of. Someone to hold and cuddle. But he’d known damn well he hadn’t been in love with Harmony. But with Buffy… 

God, Drusilla had known. She’d seen it. The words she spoke in Brazil came rushing back. It finally made sense. He’d tasted like ashes. The Slayer was surrounding him, floating all around his head. And he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, push her away. He’d thought she was nutty at the time. Hell, he always thought she was nutty, but… That’s why she’d left him. And then he’d come back to the Hellmouth, to kill Buffy for her, to win her heart back. And ended up with a bloody chip in his head, locked in a cell with…

It had to be some huge cosmic joke. Done by somebody with a shit sense of humor.

Buffy took in a deep breath and muttered, rolling slightly and cuddling closer to him. She wrapped her arms around his stomach and squeezed, nuzzling the bare skin of his chest in her sleepy state. He’d found it… cute, before. Now it just hurt. She couldn’t do casual, and she’d never want a relationship with him. She’d never be committed to him, the way he knew he already was to her. He was just an undead soulless creature of the night with a bit of plastic lodged in his gray matter. Hardly a replacement for a soul. Hardly enough to make her see him as something more. To give him a chance to prove…What, exactly? That he could be good? Good for her?

He wasn’t stupid. He knew what it meant, for him to be in love. He’d spent a century with Dru, completely dedicated to her, catering to her whims, taking care of her. There was no question of ‘how high’ when she told him to jump. He just did it until it made her happy. Before that, he’d been devoted wholly to his mother. It would be the same with the Slayer. With Buffy. Except she wouldn’t let him anywhere near her once they were free. He was just a convenient, comforting presence. 

And that stung.

He needed booze, and blood that wasn’t hers, and a bloody cigarette would be real nice. Something to do with his hands, to have in his mouth. Distractions. He kicked himself the moment he thought it, when images of how she could fulfill those needs pretty easily came to mind.

Buffy stirred in his lap, waking up more fully, and he couldn’t help but look down at her just as she opened her eyes. And she smiled at him, so softly, and the tenderness was more than he could take.

He let his fangs descend with a growl, and he did exactly as Dru had wanted him to. He pushed Buffy away. Not hard enough to hurt her, physically, but the pain and confusion was clear as day on her face. He could not be in love with her. He couldn’t let himself be her lap dog. Not hers. God, not hers. There had to be some reason for it. Had to be. That stupid spell of Willow’s, or the chip modifying his behavior. 

He scrambled away, to the furthest corner from her, where he could crouch and freak out and hopefully she’d just be smart enough to stay away from him. He clung to himself, nails digging into his shoulders, desperate for a distraction. Anything to focus on other than the way his world was crashing down at that moment.

“Please, no,” he muttered, rocking back and forth as an ache grew in his chest. “No, no, no…”

Maybe if he begged, pleaded enough, it would go away.

He knew already. He knew exactly what it meant, that he felt this way about her. Years of devotion, never to be reciprocated. Not by her. Not ever. But he’d still try. He’d try so hard. He’d try until it killed him, or until she did. And how the bloody hell… He couldn’t tell her. God, he couldn’t even face her. But there he was, stuck a few feet from her when he’d rather be anywhere else.

“Spike..?” she asked, her voice concerned. “Are you alright?” 

“God, what’ve they done to me? This… No, no…”

Her hand touched his shoulder lightly, and any other time it might have been comforting. At that moment, not so much. He jerked away from her, recoiling from the contact. He didn’t want her kindness, or her concern, or whatever mixed signals she wanted to send. Even if she had no idea what she was doing, it would all be different now. To him.

“Hey, I’m right here,” she crouched down next to him, draped her arm around him, and forced him to look up at her. “Not like I can go anywhere, right?”

She wouldn’t let him look away, so he closed his eyes instead. So he didn’t have to see her. Her concern. Her pity. Whatever it was he’d find lurking in her eyes. If he looked at her too long, he’d-

Her lips pressed against his very softly. Feather light, lingering, managing to be equal parts yielding and commanding. He stiffened, torn between wanting to get away and wanting to give in. His natural instinct was to give himself, completely and utterly, to Buffy. To be whatever it was she needed him to be. He wanted to resist it. He didn’t want to change. But maybe… maybe he didn’t have to. 

Don’t kill people. Be a good little white hat. Be on the side of good. Be on her side. He could do those things, and still be himself. No matter how many small changes he made, he’d still be true to the bigger part of him. The core of himself that demanded he surrender himself to her. Even knowing she didn’t love him, and probably never would, it didn’t matter. He could still commit to her. Commit to changing, and being better. He was adaptable. And maybe, someday, she’d see him for what he really was. Let herself love him. 

He had to try, right?

Calm washed over him, like an undertow pulling him down. But it didn’t scare him anymore. He’d gladly let himself drown in it. In her. As the panic receded, so did his fangs. He let out a shaky breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding. She was kissing him. Because she wanted to. And she wanted him, and that was already a good start. Better than nothing. After he’d-

“Oh, god, pet. I didn’t mean – Did I hurt you?”

His hands flew to the hem of her shirt, pulling the material up to check if he’d reopened her wound. No fresh blood scent. She hadn’t cried out when he’d pushed her. The chip hadn’t fired. She was alright?

“Think you’d know if you hurt me, Spike. Are you okay? What happened?”

Her hand settled on his, warm and soft. It made his chest ache, that she would show him kindness after what he’d just done. After everything he’d done to her. God, he didn’t deserve it. Didn’t deserve her.

“Just a dream. That’s all. Scared me.” He took in a deep breath and blew it out slowly. Let it go. “But it’s okay now. I’m okay.”

He was still scared. He had no idea how to love her. How to show it. A hundred years with Dru hadn’t exactly prepared him to love a human, let alone this one. He couldn’t just bring her a puppy to eat whenever she got in a mood. No bloody hearts for special occasions. Torture victims probably weren’t real high on her list either. What the hell did one do to win a Slayer’s favor? Sharpen and polish all her weapons? Carve out stakes? That was a thought.

If they ever got out of her, that was the first thing he was doing. Knew she’d just had a birthday. He could say it was for that, right? Would she accept a gift from him?

“Hey, you with me?”

He blinked, realizing he hadn’t said anything for a few minutes. God, this was going to be impossible. He cleared his throat, forcing himself to get his head in the game. 

“Yeah,” Buffy. “Slayer. I’m here. Just…” dealing with the sudden realization that I’m in love with you, but it’s fine. “Bit shaken, is all. Could really use a smoke.”

She sat down next to him, with her back against the wall, and opened her arms. “Come here.” She wasn’t asking. 

So he listened. He gave into the need. He crawled to her, and laid his head on her lap… It hit him, then, like a punch to the gut. He was cuddled up to her the same way she’d been cuddled up to him. Give and take. Dru had tried her best, but she’d always been better at the taking than the giving. But there in the Slayer’s arms, with the gentle finger strokes through his hair bringing an overwhelming sense of belonging, he couldn’t help but think… With Buffy, maybe….

Maybe they’d be alright. Even if this was all they’d ever have, it was enough.

 

***

 

Everything happened so fast, he didn’t even have time to process it. One minute he was snuggled in his Slayer’s lap, purring happily while she stroked him, and the next thing he knew there were ten assholes in full riot gear standing outside their door. He said something sarcastic, the glass slid open, a taser was fired, and Buffy yelped and slumped over. He was so overcome with rage, he didn’t even feel the chip firing at first. He tasted blood, then lost consciousness.

“Buffy..?” 

He spoke her name before his eyes were even open. He knew she was there, somewhere close by. He could smell her. Fresh blood again, too, but not hers. Thank god. They were back in that damn training room again. Great. Time for another round of kill the thing. Just as well, he needed to release some pent up frustrations. Only one better way to do that than killing, and it wasn’t an option right at that moment, so dealing out some death would have to do.

His eyes found her, hunched down near one of the walls far away from him. But something wasn’t quite right. She was rocking a bit, arms clutched to her knees, and she was mumbling something he couldn’t quite make out.

“Slayer…” He rolled over, managing to get his feet under him and take a few stumbling steps toward her. “Pet, you okay?”

“Stay away. Don’t make me hurt you, Spike. We don’t… we don’t have to do this.”

She didn’t turn to face him, she didn’t stop rocking. Something was really not right with her. And that terrified the hell out of him. He had no clue how long he’d been out, or what they could’ve done to her in that time. He wasn’t about to let her deal with it on her own though, whatever it was. He’s made his decision already, and he was devoted to it. To her.

“Do what?” He asked, still walking slowly toward her. “We’re not doing anything. I’m coming to check on you, alright?” 

“They… you don’t know what they did, do you?” Her voice trembled, and God he wanted to rush to her, to hold her. Cradle her in his arms like something precious.

But something inside told him not to. She’d take it the wrong way. She wouldn’t understand that he just wanted to help her.

“Just woke up, so no. Tell me what happened. I can help, if you let me. I can try, at least.”

“Your chip.”

The chip? “What about it?”

He’d nearly reached her now, but he stopped. He wouldn’t touch her, not until she said he could. Her trust in him was fragile at best, and it was going to take a long time proving himself before she really believed in him.

“They said…When you attacked that guy, after they knocked me out… you went down. And the chip kept firing. And you, you were convulsing. So they…they had to turn it off. And they took it out, cuz you broke it. And Walsh, she said…”

He was trying to process the part where he didn’t have that bug zapper in his head anymore. The headache, he could deal with. The brain cells would probably be fine, at some point. He seemed just fine, even with the damage. A little wobbly and uncoordinated maybe, but overall just fine.

“What did she say, Buffy?”

“She’s gonna make us fight. I don’t want to fight you, Spike. I really don’t. These last few weeks, you’ve… I owe you so much. Please…”

“Oh, she’s gonna make us, is she? And how’s she plan on doing that? She gonna point and yell ‘get her’? I’m not fighting you, Slayer. Bloody hell, I owe you my life. Would’ve been starving by now if it weren’t for you. That’s not the kind of thing you repay by trying to kill somebody.”

He knelt down next to her, and stretched out his hand, hoping she’d reach back with her own. And when she did, he damn near fainted with the relief.

“Not a person on this planet can make either of us do anything, save for maybe your mum.” She cracked a smile at that, which was good. A good sign. “Look, Slayer. In case you haven’t noticed, things have… changed between us. I’m not sorry they have. Alright? So if she wants us to fight, she’s just gonna have to go kick rocks.”

She threw her arms around his neck, pulling him into a nice, full strength slayer hug. And he relished in it.

“When they told me that thing had fried… I thought you were dead. I thought it had killed you. And then… you were alive, and I thought-“

“Thought I’d want anything to do with your death? Oh, my unbeating heart. You wound me.”

She slapped his chest lightly. Playfully. He couldn’t help the little smirk creeping onto his lips at that.

“I thought I’d lost… you. This. Whatever it is.”

“You’re not scared? I could kill you in your sleep, easy as anything. The way you always let your head fall to the side, you give me perfect access.”

“Try it. I dare you.”

Oh, there it was. That heady scent. No, she wasn’t scared at all. She was excited.

“Well, it seems the two of you have bonded far more than I surmised. You’re choosing the other option, I presume?”

Walsh. That absolute ghoul. She’d taken up a spot up on the balcony, looking down her nose at the two of them. Like she was any better, any more human than he was.

“Other option? Didn’t tell me we had options, pet.”

“One of you can die, and the other will be released. We thought that would be an easy decision for her, but she refused. So we left it up to you. You also refuse?”

“You daft cunt. You ever listen to yourself talk and realize how off your rocker you are? You realize the Slayer is human? You’ve kidnapped her. Tortured her. Pumped her full of all kinds of drugs. None of that seems wrong to you?”

“I’ll take that as a yes then. The other option… Was that both of you can die here, together. As I understand it, every Slayer meets her end at the hands of a demon. So, I thought it best to give her that. A warrior’s death.”

So, they’d finally decided to off the two of them, then. Fine. Let them try. He had no chip, and Walsh didn’t exactly look like she clocked field time. None of the white coats did. Between him and the Slayer, they didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. It was the big guys that posed a problem. One on one, not so bad. But there were so many of the wankers.

Still, he and Buffy had a chance. A real one, finally. Walsh had slipped up, just as he knew she eventually would. Got too confident and made a mistake. If they could play their cards right, he could have Buffy home in her bed, safe and sound, and he could be sipping hot cocoa in the kitchen with Joyce. Pretty damn good option, by his way of thinking.

“What the hell would you know about being a warrior? Bitch. Already died once. Didn’t exactly stick.”

“Same here. Bring it on. Slayer?”

She nodded, her eyes focused on Walsh. And the look she was giving her was enough to give him chills. She was out for blood, that much was certain. She probably had the same thought he did. Get the hell out of that place, and take down whoever got in their way in the process. Starting with Walsh.

“Hey, Spike.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I thought so.” She smiled wickedly, and god was it a good look for her. “Give it your best shot, Walsh. You remember when I said you were going to find out what a Slayer was? Get ready.”

God, he loved her. Loved that they’d had an entire conversation between them in only three words. Loved that he’d get to fight by her side. Her determination after everything she’d been through. That she wasn’t afraid of him. That she’d challenged him. She squeezed his hand, and he could almost convince himself that maybe she was thinking the same thing. Probably not, but he was going to make sure they both got out of there alive, so he had a chance to find out.

“Listen. We ain’t getting out of here without one of us killing at least a few people. You know it. I know it. No bloody way are we going back to that cell though. Don’t want that on your conscience. You just… Let me handle it, look the other way this once.”

“Without your chip…”

“I can kill again. I know. But, seems to me… I do that, and you’ll have to stake me good and proper, won’t you? So, guess I’m staying on donations.” She looked stunned at that. “What? You thought I was… You think I have no self control? Think again. A man can change.”

“You’re a vampire.”

“Yeah, and? That means I just mindlessly go about killing people whenever I want to?”

“Yes?”

“Well, I don’t want to. Happy now? I get an itch for a spot of violence, I’ll go on patrol and fight some other demon. I get a craving for some fresh blood, I’ll-”

Don’t! Don’t lie to me. Not after all this. We get out of here, you need to leave town, or I’m going to have to kill you, and-”

Spike grabbed her by the arms and pulled her to him, his lips crashing into hers. One way to shut her up and let her know he was serious about changing. Her mouth opened, a moan escaping as his tongue darted out to taste her.

Buffy. I am telling you, right now, I’m not going anywhere. And I’m not going to be hunting. You got it? I don’t want you having to kill me. See, I’ve grown… kind of fond of what we’ve got going here. And I’d rather not muck it up because I want a nummy snack.” She was crying. Quiet little tears slipping down her face, and it broke his heart. He brushed his thumb over her cheek. “Don’t cry, pet. Have you ever known me to lie to you?” She shook her head. “Right. Now, we got a fight to win. Need you focused on that. Worry about other things later.”

He pulled her in for a hug, holding her tight against him. “Listen,” he whispered in her ear, “Soon as you can manage, you get up on the balcony. I’ll throw you if I have to. Alright?” 

Metal scraped against metal as a huge bay door slid open. Their heads turned to look, and Spike’s heart dropped into the pit of his stomach. Walsh wasn’t joking about it being a fight. She looked like she’d decided to clean house of every useless, weak demon she had at her disposal, and it was… not a small number. Dozens of them, and a few had weapons. Wasn’t a fair fight, not at all. Didn’t matter. Buffy was going home to her mum today if it killed him to make sure of it.

“Spike-”

“Plan stays the same, Slayer.”

They stood shoulder to shoulder as the demons realized what was in front of them. An enemy and her ally, the traitor. They started moving, running, into the room, roaring and snarling and generally making more noise than necessary. But Spike could relate. The anticipation, the excitement. He let out a roar of his own as the first demon with a weapon came within striking distance.

 


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Next Chapter: Disruption

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