Spike woke slowly, the pain in his head and the foul taste in his mouth were what he noticed first. He groaned loudly and came awake quickly when he moved his arm, spraying himself in the face with beer. It was then that he realized his clothes were damp and smelled almost as rank as his mouth tasted. "What the bloody hell," he mumbled, regretting making the noise for the further pain it caused his head.
He released the nozzle head and sat up, raking his fingers through his hair. He had no idea what time it was or even why exactly he had been sleeping on the basement floor in a puddle of beer. The basement had no windows for him to judge the time that way.
As he stood, he removed both shirts and decided that burning them would probably be better than ever trying to wash them. Stale beer was a rank smell. The conversation he had had with Buffy floated around his mind and he wondered if she was still upstairs. It would serve him right if she had packed her things and gone back to her mom.
He checked the garage before going upstairs and not surprisingly her Jeep was gone. He tossed his shirts in the trash can and then ascended the stairs. He was a little surprised to see Willow in the kitchen. From the smell of it, she had made grilled cheese.
"He lives. Or he has risen. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say."
"Yeah, I'm still here."
"You look terrible."
"I feel terrible, Red." She smiled widely. "What are you smiling at?"
"Oh nothing. It's just funny to see a hung over vampire."
"Glad to be a service to you. I'm going to take a shower. Your sandwich smells good, don't suppose I could talk you into grilling one for me."
"Sure, I'll wait until I hear the water's stopped."
"Thanks, Red." He turned to go and paused in the doorway. "Is Buffy gone?" Her silence made him turn to face her. "Well, is she?"
"She went to her mom's."
"She coming back?"
"As far as I know," Willow said and Spike could hear the caution in her voice.
"That's better than a flat out no I guess," he said and walked to the bedroom.
He returned to the kitchen a short while later, feeling a little better. He learned while in the bedroom that he had spent the entire day and most of the evening passed out in the basement. It was almost eight o'clock and Spike wondered just how long she was going to stay at her mom's. He sat at the table just as Willow placed a grilled cheese in front of him. He looked around the kitchen, taking in his surroundings. How in the hell had he gotten here? And why was Buffy here with him? Even sober he did not understand it. He sighed heavily, a finger grazing along the edge of the sandwich waiting for it to cool.
"Do you want to talk about it," Willow asked.
"Not much to say. I guess whatever needs to be said should be said to her."
"True. If you wanted to sound things out or anything, though," she offered.
"Thanks, Red. Not much to say. I was feeling sorry for myself. Don't know if I have the right to or not, honestly. Everything's about give and take, right? You give something up to get something else. That's the way it works. Why should I be any different?"
"I don't think you are. Is it worth it?"
"What you got in exchange for what you gave up?"
"Well, I didn't exactly give it up, it was taken from me, but yeah, she's worth it, Red. I just," he shrugged. "I don't think she's treating this like it's real, more like some sort of fairy tale that if she wakes up tomorrow unhappy or wanting the real Prince Charming we can end this and I'll go away without much of a fight. I don't think she believes I care."
"Have you told her this?"
"Because I don't want to sound like a bloody poof or an idiot is why. Having her around for a little while is better than not at all." He shrugged, taking a bite of his sandwich. "Besides, she doesn't love me, she's never going to love me. She loves Angel. I didn't do the things to her he did yet I can't cut a break."
Willow shook her head and frowned. "I don't think she loves Angel. I think when she went out with Parker she put him in the past."
"Right. A one-night stand puts the love of her life in the past?"
"Well, yeah. It meant she was ready to move forward, move past him, she was ready to deal with it. She knows what she's getting with you."
"A neutered animal?"
"Well, in a way, yeah I suppose, but no. I mean, she had to put Angel in the past. I mean, what is she going to do kiss him for the rest of her life?"
"I don't know that this is making me feel better, Red."
"No, wait, just hear me out. Angel was good, Angelus was evil. There was no good in Angelus, he was incapable of it. You, on the other hand, even without your chip you've done some good things."
"I have not."
"You have too! I know you like to talk big and I remember Giles telling us about you when you first came to town. I know you've done some bad things. Some really bad things," she said under her breath. "But you also helped Buffy before you got your chip."
"You did so. She told us about it."
"She's a liar."
"Why is that so hard for you to admit?"
"Don't know, don't like it being pointed out to me that I might have loved her even then. I remember one of the first times I saw her. It was a videotape and I watched it over and over and over again. Of course I justified it, the watching it repeatedly I mean, by telling myself I was familiarizing myself with her moves. Like a coach I guess preparing his team for the next week's game."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. So what's wrong with loving her?"
"Haven't you been listening, Red? She doesn't love me and she's not going to. She can shag me until the cows come home and I'm not going to go and lose my soul - or my chip. So she gets her fill of whatever it is about vampires she likes without that as a consequence. But this chip comes out and I'm back to being the me I was and then we'd be right back to where we were a year ago. Vampire and Slayer, adversaries."
"You don't have to. That's up to you. You ‘re already in the habit of drinking pig's blood."
"It's a rather poor substitute, Red."
"Well, but if you love her," Willow started and then stopped.
"If she loved me back."
"Ask her. Tell her. You're both scared, that's your problem. Tara and I both know you love each other, you just have to tell each other and be done with it."
"Dracula suggested he might be able to see to my chip being removed."
"Oh," she said simply.
"For a price, of course. I'd be indebted to him, and someone never really pays a debt back in full to him."
"But you're thinking about it."
"Not really. I mean," he shrugged. "It would be so much easier to take him up on his offer if I knew when she was going to end it."
"I don't think she will, Spike."
"Because that's just not the way Buffy is. She's here with you, she's your wife, she's not going to walk away from you unless you do something really wrong. Or unless you walk away from her first."
"But what can I really give her, Red?" He sighed heavily, unable to meet her eyes. "I dread watching her grow old, watching her die, knowing that I will go on, knowing that she sacrificed so much for me."
"What is she really sacrificing? So you can't go out for walks during the day together. Otherwise, what?"
"She could adopt one if she really wants one. There's also artificial insemination if she really wanted to have a baby. Though I have to admit, I don't see Buffy as a mom. So what else?"
"Growing old with someone."
"So you don't get any older and she does, don't you think she's thought about this too?"
"Knowing that I'll have to go on without her after she's gone, and even if I walked into the sun I'd never see her again. This time is all I will ever get with her. There will be no afterlife for us, not together anyway."
"So, I guess that means you'd better make the most of it, don't you?"
He was quiet for a while as he finished his sandwich. "Is she coming home tonight?"
"As far as I know."
"All right, Red, I make no promises, but I'll give this honesty bit a try. I haven't done this in a hundred or so years, and the last time did not turn out too well."
"You never told Drusilla you loved her?"
"That was different. Can't compare the two, human and vampire. Things are different. I could apologize to her by bringing her a fresh heart and she'd be happy. Won't work on Buffy."
Willow laughed, though Spike noticed her face had paled considerably with his heart comment. "No, I don't think that would work on Buffy. I don't think you really need to apologize, Spike. I mean she didn't say she was mad at you. She was concerned, worried she'd done something wrong."
"Christ, what would she possibly do wrong? Doesn't she get it? She is incapable of doing wrong where I'm concerned."
"Well, look at why and how Angel lost his soul, Spike and I think you might understand her reason."
"I suppose," he said, taking his plate to the sink. "Thanks for the talk, Red. You're surprisingly good at this relationship stuff."
"Not really, it's just that you two are so obvious it's pretty easy. And Buffy hasn't asked me for advice. So you were the lucky winner of Willow's advice."
He smiled with a light laugh not altogether sure he considered himself lucky. "I'm going to go watch some television, I feel like I just returned from the dead, again. I'll just wait for her in our room."
"Hey Will," Buffy said when she got home a couple hours later. "I saw Spike was gone from downstairs. Is he okay?"
"Yeah, I think so," Willow said. "He's in your room. I think the whole Dracula thing kind of freaked him out."
"I don't know why, it doesn't seem like he wants me for any reason. In fact, he seemed to go out of his way to say so." Willow gave Buffy that half-smile she had grown accustomed to seeing when her friend had something on her mind but was not sure if she should say it. "What?"
"Maybe it's not you he wants," Willow said softly.
"Well, what else would he want? I mean, I can't believe Dracula would have any real need to set up shop at the Hell Mouth."
Willow did not answer her and Buffy thought about it a little more. If Dracula did not want her, what else would that leave him to want? As far as Buffy could tell the Count had not gone on a killing spree while here in town, in fact no one among the demon underworld seemed to know that he was in town. No closer to her answer than she was a minute ago she was perplexed. "I guess I should go talk to Spike."
"I think you should," Willow agreed.
"I thought you didn't like him, Will."
"A year ago I didn't, but, well, he's changed and," she shrugged. "He's not so bad now that I know him. I mean, he's funny sometimes and Tara likes him, and he's never afraid to help out."
"Well, of course not, this is his house, too."
"Oh right, no I didn't just mean the house, though. I mean like listening to us and just being nice. He gets me to help him with the computer sometimes, which is always funny," she said and then grew quiet.
"What? Why did you stop?"
"I don't know, I just think you should talk to him not listen to me talking about him. He's not a bad guy, Buffy, vampire or not."
"No, he's not. I never thought I'd say it."
"Well, Tara and I are going out. We're going to catch a movie and then go to the Bronze for a while, so you two have the house to yourselves. Don't do anything I wouldn't do," she said before making her way toward the stairs.
"Like that leaves a lot for me not to do, Will."
Willow turned and smiled widely at Buffy. "Yeah, I know, but it seemed the thing to say. Anyway, don't be too mad at him for getting drunk."
"I'm not mad," Buffy said softly, surprised that she really was not.
"I hope you remember that when you're talking."
"I hope so, too, Will. Have fun tonight and thanks again for cleaning up earlier."
"You're welcome. We didn't mind, honest."
Buffy entered the bedroom not altogether sure what to expect. She had seen Spike when he had been drinking before, but she suspected this was far worse than anytime prior. She guessed she might find him in the study at the computer. He seemed spellbound by it and its capabilities sometimes. "Spike," she called as she opened the study door. "I'm home." But the room was empty.
"Spike," she said as she walked toward the main room of their suite. She saw the bluish hue emitting from the television set once she got closer. "Spike?"
"I'm here, pet," he said, the sound of sleep in his voice. His forearm was draped over his eyes, so he was not watching the television.
"I woke you."
"No," he said unconvincingly. He lifted his arm from over his eyes a bit to peer at her. "All right, you caught me, I was dozing a bit."
"Do you feel okay?"
He sat up in the bed, his arms propped up on either side of him. Just like him to distract her by not wearing a shirt. "I feel all right. Are you all right? You spent the day with your Mum I understand."
"I did. We had lunch and then it turned into dinner. We talked. It was nice. It's different."
"Different," he asked, moving to the foot of the bed and sat.
"Yeah, I haven't really gone back home to see her. I've always needed something or have just gone by to warn her about something," she shrugged. "Today it was like I was an adult."
"You are one, love."
"I know, but I don't think she really saw me as one until today."
"I think that's difficult for most parents to see. It's good that you had a nice time though."
She took a deep breath. This was not getting them anywhere. Willow suggested she talk to him, and if she had done something wrong she needed to know. If she was doing something wrong that he needed to drink himself into oblivion she wanted to know what she was doing or why he did not just leave her and be done with it.
She closed the distance between them, a hand reaching for his hair. She ran her fingers through it until her hand was at the nape of his neck. "I wasn't sure you wanted me to come home or not."
"And whatever gave you that idea? Without you there is no home, Slayer. I have no need for these things, they're for you."
"Don't you like them?"
"I can't say I don't, but I don't need them. I have lived over one hundred years without them."
"Is that what's bothering you?"
"No, Slayer, it has nothing to do with it. If it makes you happy it does not bother me."
"But what about making you happy," she said hesitantly, half questioning with her tone.
"Until last night I thought I was, as happy as I'm capable of being. Why you even put up with me I don't understand. I have tried to kill you. I wanted to kill you even without knowing who you were merely because of what you were. For years I tormented you, got off on seeing you suffer. I wouldn't give you an annulment, despite knowing I was the last thing you wanted to be stuck with. And yet here you are, sharing my house, sharing my bed," he sighed softly. "I don't deserve you, no matter how short the time I get with you might be."
"Spike, you talk as if I'm going somewhere."
"Where would I go?"
"I don't know. I guess the better question is why wouldn't you? Why would you stay?"
"Because I want to. I thought we had been over this."
"You want to see if it works, is that it? And if it doesn't? A year from now some guy in one of your class's turns your head what's going to stop you from ending whatever it is we have?"
"I don't want some guy in one of my classes, Spike. If I had wanted that I would have stuck it out with Riley."
"Speaking of the Boy Scout. You smell like him. Why is that?"
"He came by Mom's house today."
"Oh really. Convenient for you that you happened to be there."
She slid her hand up from the nape of his neck to the back of his hair and tugged none too gently. She drew his head back so that she could see his face clearly. His blue eyes were focused intently on hers, she for the first time noticed the pain in them. Was she the cause of all that? "I told him about us. He was there for all of fifteen minutes, didn't even come in past the front hall. Nothing happened."
"I said you smelled like him, but it was not intense enough for you to have been with him."
"Spike, I don't know what I've done to make you think I want anyone but you. Do you honestly think that I would do this? Live with you, sleep with you, love you if I wanted a different life or thought that in a year I wouldn't still feel like this?"
"What did you just say," he asked, his eyes wide.
Buffy knew her eyes were just as wide as his. Had she just said what she thought she said? Had she just told Spike she loved him? She was quiet, trying to read him, to see what his reaction was to her having said it. He did not look amused, instead he looked like a child waiting for a precious gift. Had she resorted him to this? Waiting patiently but expectantly for words from her of how she felt about him? And she never did tell him. She had not admitted to herself until just now that she loved him. She just assumed her actions, being here with him were enough. She closed her eyes, not wanting to see him laugh at her.
"I said I love you," she whispered.
She felt his head turn, his face rub against her forearm and she felt dampness there. He was crying. "I've waited forever to hear you say those words, Slayer," he said his voice hoarse and shallow. "I don't deserve you. I don't deserve your love. I'm a monster, not even human," he continued mumbling, his face buried against her forearm.
"Spike," she whispered and kissed the top of his head. "Please don't do this. You're not a monster, I think you lived as one once, wanted to believe you were one, but you're not."
His arms went around her, and he drew her against him pressing a cheek against her abdomen. "Oh God, Buffy, don't. I don't deserve your forgiveness. I don't deserve redemption."
"Granting redemption is not within my powers. I can forgive you for the things you've done to me, Spike. If you can forgive me for making you feel like this."
"It's not you, love. It's me. I just kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for some classmate to ask you out and for you to realize you want that life. Football games, picnics in the park when the sun's up, parents."
"I have my own parents, I don't need some other guy's parents, too."
He laughed lightly. "It's Dracula, he's messing with my head. Offering to take out my chip. I can't decide if he wants you or me."
"He wants to take out your chip?"
"He hinted about it last night, yeah."
"That's what got you thinking about it."
"Thinking about what?"
"Missing blood, human blood."
"Yeah, I guess so. A year or so of not feeding does not make you forget the hundred and twenty-five you fed."
"Well, you have me," she whispered.
"Yeah, you're worth keeping the chip in for I guess. If you didn't love me, if you were treating this like a temporary thing until something better came along I'd go to him and tell him to do it. As much as I dread the idea of watching you grow old, watching you die I dread even worse you walking away from me before it's your time to go."
Her hands went to either side of his head, tilting his head back. She lowered her mouth to his, kissing him. "It is temporary, Spike, to you. We may only have a few years together, we may have eighty I don't know. But even still, it's only a drop in the bucket compared to what you've already lived and what you will live after I'm gone."
"I know, Slayer. I know. I've thought of that," he met her eyes and she was captivated by the intensity in them, the sincerity there.
"Will you get the chip removed then? When I'm gone I mean?"
"And go on a rampage you mean? I don't know. I suppose it's either that or take to the sunrise. I pity anyone who gets in my way if this chip is gone and you are gone. Demon or human, it won't matter. I may not have a soul or a heart that beats, love, but I don't need those two things to feel these things for you. If your life is taken from me through an act of violence, yes I would do it."
"It almost makes me feel bad for doing this."
"Giving you this life, knowing it's going to come to an end eventually."
"Don't feel bad, pet. You have no idea what you do to me. You bring out the poet in me, something that had been lost since Dru turned me. You made me believe in love, the healthy kind, the kind that people envy. I do love you. We can have that, don't you think?"
"Yeah, I think so. I hope so, but," she said softly and she smiled at the look of worry that entered his eyes. "When I told you earlier you had me, I didn't mean it like that. I mean, you do have me, Spike. You are right, I need your darkness, I need your monster, it calls to me. But what I meant was if you crave it, you have me."
"No, Buffy, I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to turn you into my food source."
"Oh God Spike, the other night on the deck was not about being a food source."
"No, it wasn't."
"I'm just saying," she shrugged. "If the craving gets real bad and you begin to really think on Dracula's offer, it's here. I'm here. A slayer's blood offered to you."
"Come here," he bid, his voice charming, enthralling.
"What," she said coyly.
"I was an ass to you this morning."
"You were," she agreed.
"But you shouldn't have kept leading me to believe you wanted an annulment, that I was more of a boyfriend than a husband."
"I thought you knew, Spike. I thought you knew."
"I didn't, but I do now," he said as his hands moved to her hips drawing her onto his lap.
"We've admitted we love each other, everything should be just fine, right? So now what do we do?"
"Well, I'll tell you what I'd like to do right now, pet."
"What's that? Let me guess, it involves taking off my clothes?"
"It could, doesn't have to, clothes on or off makes no difference."
"You're so bad," she said, kissing him deeply before drawing back.
"I love it when you call me that," he murmured, taking her lower lip between his teeth.
"Bad? You like it when I tell you you're bad? The big bad Spike," she whispered as she drew away from him, shaking her head slightly.
"Yeah, that. But I don't want to be that tonight. The big bad Spike is on a vacation."
"Where did he go," she whispered followed by a loud gasp as he nipped at her throat.
"Don't know. Don't rightly care. But tonight, Mrs. Summers-Harrison, I want to make love to my wife."
"That's an easy thing to arrange, I think, since she's right here and more than willing. You know, it's a good thing Will and Tara are going out tonight. I swear they're going to think this is all we do."
"It's what we do best together, Slayer. Besides we have the strength and the stamina to go at it like animals for days, why shouldn't we?"
"You heard me, Slayer."
"I've got class on Monday."
"Well, I guess we'd better make the most of the two nights we have then."
"I guess so."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com