He hadn’t been… normal. Even for Spike. Jumpy. Almost… scared. And why hadn’t he told her that he was back? How long had he been back? Where had he been? And why hadn’t he dyed his hair in… who knows how long? These were questions that needed answering, and the ‘person’ with the answers was currently holed up in the new school’s basement. So, Buffy would go to him. She’d told him that she’d be back.
Buffy walked down the darkened corridors of the newly rebuilt Sunnydale High, still marveling at just how different, and yet how similar, everything looked. The lockers alone… Well, if they’d had pretty blue lockers when she’d been there, maybe she would’ve done a little more to keep them safe and un-denty.
It hadn’t been hard to get in, really. Not after she’d gotten a good look at Xander’s rebuild plans. He’d been very thorough, making sure that there was a hidden exit from almost every room, just in case something creepy locked the doors or… whatever the monster of the week decided to do to block the obvious ways out. She’d just used one of his built in exits backwards. As an entrance. She’d have to remind him that they needed to be locked at night. Of course, now that she was in, she’d have to get into the basement. Thankfully, that would be easy. Hello, giant hole in the girl’s bathroom floor.
Within minutes of entering the school, she was in the basement’s corridors. Why they would build what basically was a labyrinth under the school, she had no idea. She also had no idea how Spike’d gotten down there without anyone seeing him. Ah. Speaking of Spike, there’s the door. Open door. No Spike.
“Spike?”, she called. “Hey! Spike? Where are you?”
“Hiding.” A quiet, almost inauditable reply. But thanks to Slayer hearing, she tracked it. There was a small cot in this room, with a blanket on it. With a lump, under the blanket. A Spike-shaped lump.
She dragged a crate over next to the cot and sat down. “Hiding from what?”
Considered the lump. When he spoke, it moved. So it was him under there, and not a big.. demon dog or something. “What’s ‘it’?”
“Everything… it’s all of them.. more, less, all, gone, but here. Is it still here?”
She looked around. The small space was empty except for the cot, a small lamp on the floor, and a chest in the corner. “It’s gone. Just you and me. Can you come out?”
“Uh-uh.. Nope. Don’t think so. You could be it. It would be you. Knows what hurts.” The Spike-lump shivered a little as he said this.
What had happened to him?, she wondered. He seemed like a scared, whipped little puppy. “Spike, it’s me.”
“Told you so.”
She shook her head. “No.. not the ‘it’ you keep talking about. I’m me. Buffy.” Lifted the corner of the blanket a little, so she could see one bloodshot blue eye. “See? Me.”
He focused on her. “Buffy?”
She nodded. “Yeah. Can you come out now? At least a little?”
He pulled the blanket down a ways, exposing his head up to his nose, looking ready to dive back under there at the first sign of his.. ‘it’. Whatever ‘it’ was. He sniffed a little. “Buffy.”
Nodded again. “Uh-huh. Buffy. That’s me.” Man, he looked awful. Like he hadn’t slept in… weeks, a month? Maybe more. His cheekbones were more pronounced than usual, too. He hadn’t fed in quite some time. She cocked her head, studying him. There was something… different. Something that she couldn’t quite put a finger on… and he was talking. “What?”
“Said I had a speech….” Trailed off with a shrug. “Memorized it. But now I forgot it again.”
She tried to give him a comforting smile, wanted to touch him, but in the state he was in… Who knew what he might do? “Spike.. where did you go?”
He came a little further out of the blanket and licked his lips before responding. “Got something. Got it for you. Hard. Bad. But good, now. I think…” Shook his head. “Confusing. Hurts. But it’ll be good. I’ll be good. No more bad dog. Wanna be good.”
He was babbling a little. That wasn’t normal. She risked a touch, resting a hand on his messy hair. “Shh. Okay. Let’s try that again. You got what?”
Cocked her head. “You sold something?”
Shook his head. “No. Souled, not sold. It’s a homophone, you know. Sounds the same. Different meanings. Souled, sold. Two, to, too. Died, dyed. Read, red…”
He was starting to sound like her third grade teacher. And on top of that.. “Wait a minute. Are you telling me that you have a *soul*?”
Slow nod. “For you. Had to do something… didn’t want to hurt you.. again…” He sniffled a little, and disappeared under the blanket again. “Now you’re mad.. I did it again.. Screwed up. Can’t do anything right… worthless, pathetic, useless sod…”
She tugged on the blanket. “Spike.. come back out. I’m not mad, really. Just.. surprised..” More like shocked senseless. “Please come out. I.. I’ve missed you.” Whoa. She hadn’t meant to say *that*. Darn emotional moments! But, it did have the desired effect.
He peeked out of the blanket. “You did? Missed me? Why?”
“‘Why’?!” Oops. Too high pitched. He winced. Lower voice, try again. “You left without saying goodbye, or where you were going, or if you were coming back. And I missed you. I wanted to talk to you about what happened.”
Hid again. “Don’t wanna talk ’bout that…”
Sighed. This was almost like when Dawn was five and had a nightmare. Well. That, she could handle. “Okay. We won’t talk about it if you don’t want to. I just want to tell you…” This had been a revelation when she’d first allowed herself to see it two months before, so it was not easy to say. “To tell you that.. It was my fault, too. Not just you.”
Peeked out again. “No. All my fault. All me. Bad. I was bad. Wanna be good, now.” Back to talking like a five year old.
She risked stroking his hair. “I know. So.. you got a soul, then what?”
Shrug, causing the blanket to come a little more off of him. “Don’t really remember. All blurry. And so much blood… so many lives…gone.. all gone..” Snuffled, and started to hide again. Only the fact that Buffy cupped his cheek gently stopped him.
“Don’t hide again, okay? I’m getting tired of coaxing you out of there.” Sighed, stroking his cheek with her thumb. “Okay. Let’s talk about me, then. I just got a new job. No more DoubleMeat Pukefest. And, I get to keep an eye on Dawn, in the process.”
Spike’s eyes lost a little of the inward looking glaze that they’d had. “Nibblet?”
Ah, good. Focus was good. “Yeah. She misses you, too, you know.”
“Doesn’t hate me?”
Buffy shook her head. “No. She was mad at you. Furious, for awhile. I’m not gonna lie. But she’s over it. Just like I am.”
Focused a little more on her. “You are?”
Nodded. “Mostly. And you should be, too.”
“You are not bad, Spike.” Okay, add something else to the list of ‘things I never thought I’d hear myself say’ list, Buffy thought. “Stop thinking of your mistakes. We’ve all made mistakes. I’ve personally made a bundle. And that was just last year.”
Small smile from the vampire. Progress. Buffy continued. “But you can’t concentrate on them. That makes you live in a past that you can’t change. Don’t you think it would be better to live in the now? The time where you *can* change things? Where you can.. where *we* can start over?”
Spike’s eyes lost a little more of the glazed over look, and for the first time, *both* eyes focused on the Slayer. “Yeah. Help?”
She smiled at him, and gently untangled him from the blanket. “Now, can I look at those cuts?”
He nodded, letting his unbuttoned shirt fall open. Ooh. It looked worse in the better light. “Wow, Spike.. How did you say you got these?”
“Tried to cut it out,” he muttered.
She examined them. Some of the cuts were old. Months old. Others were new. Maybe even from that very morning. She looked at him curiously. “I thought you got your soul on purpose. Why’d you try and cut it out?”
He shook his head. “Didn’t. Not the soul. Tried to cut out the monster. So it can’t hurt again. So it’d stop remembering… everything…”
Oh.. it was worse than she’d thought. Angel had told her about when he’d first gotten his soul. He’d tried similar things, even going as far as to nearly drink holy water to try and burn the monster out. That did it. He couldn’t be left alone. Not if he was going to hurt himself. She stood up, aware that his eyes were following her, and looked around. Found a few more articles of clothing in the chest she’d noticed earlier. A cotton shirt. That probably wouldn’t hurt the cuts as much as the rough… whatever that material was that he was wearing. “Here. Put this on. We’re going for a walk.”
He wanted to be good. To obey. So he changed shirts, and stood on slightly shaky legs. “Don’t want to walk. This is home, now.”
She shook her head. “Oh no it’s not. I’m not leaving you down here to kill yourself. You are coming with me. First to the butcher, because you look like a bag of bones, and then to my house. Willow’s in England with Giles, so you can use her room. Dawn’ll have to deal.” She seized his arm, gently, because for once, she was actually worried about hurting him. He was so weak, he let her pull him through the corridors, and out the hole in the floor.
He glanced around. “Bathroom… Don’t like bathrooms…” Thankfully, she pulled herself through the hole at that moment, because he was either about to bolt out the door, or jump back down through the hole. In his condition.. well, that fall wouldn’t do him any good, that’s for sure.
She gently grasped his arm again. “It’s ok. We’re leaving, see?” Pulled him out the door and into the hallway. Within a few moments, and only one other near escape attempt, they were outside.
Spike looked up. “Stars were brighter in Africa…”
Still holding his arm, and now partially supporting him, she glanced up. “Oh yeah? Is that where you went to get your soul?”
“Yes.” Nothing more. He was being quiet again. Well, she could deal with that. About an hour later, because of the stop at the butcher’s, and because Spike was so weak, he’d needed to rest every couple of blocks, they made it home. Thankfully, Dawn was out with her new friends that night. That was why Buffy’d chosen that night to go find Spike in the first place. No questions, and an empty house to come home to. She’d thought that she might have to bring him home with her, after she’d thought about his condition for awhile.
She let him sit at the kitchen table as she warmed some blood in a mug and fed him through a straw, worried that he’d drop it if she let him hold it himself. Man.. He looked even worse in the bright kitchen lights.
After he’d eaten, and she’d cleaned and bandaged his cuts, she lead him upstairs to the master bedroom that had been vacant since Willow’d left with Giles right after her little stint as… whatever she’d been that day. It still bothered Buffy to think about. That her friend. Her best friend, was capable of such horrors. It did make it a little easier to forgive Spike, though. At least it’d been years since he’d killed a human.
She laid him on the bed, and put a blanket over him. He just lay there, staring at the ceiling. She sat on the side of the bed, and started stroking his hair again. Without all the gel and bleach, it was actually quite soft. And curly. She loved it when he let his hair curl naturally. It made him look.. cute, really. But, no. Not thinking of him that way right now.
“I can’t sleep..”, he said quietly after a few minutes.
She kept up her stroking. “Hmm. You know what mom always did for me when I couldn’t sleep?”
“Sing to you?”
Paused for a moment. “How’d you know?”
Shrug. “I guessed. My mum did, too.”
Buffy smiled at the sudden mental image of her mother singing to a mini Spike. “Got a request?”
He looked at her. Since his meal, he’d become a lot more lucid and focused. A little like the old Spike. “No. What’d your mum sing to you, luv?” Even the nickname had returned. Somehow, that made her feel a lot better.
“It’s from a movie. Kind of an old movie. Mary Poppins.”
He smiled a little. “I’ve seen it. Dru had quiet a Disney movie collection. Which song?”
She thought for a moment. “The lullaby, ya know? It’s like.. reverse psychology in song.”
Spike nodded a little, the motion of his head prompting her to start stroking again. ” ‘Stay Awake’?”
She smiled and nodded. “Yeah, that’s it.”
“You remember the words?”
She thought long and hard for a few moments. “Ya know what? I think I do.”
Spike snuggled down, watching her with his brilliant blue eyes. “Sing it for me?”
She smiled, started humming a little to help her remember the tune.
Don’t rest your head.
Don’t lie down upon your bed.
While the moon drifts,
In the sky,
Don’t close your eyes.”
Spike’s eyes closed in defiance of that line, a quiet purr rumbling from within him. It rattled a little, almost as if it’d been so long, he’d almost forgotten how to do it. She smiled, and continued stroking his hair as she sang.
“Though the world is
Though your pillow’s
Soft and deep.
You’re not sleepy,
As you seem,
Don’t nod and dream…
By the end of the song, Buffy’d stretched out on the bed beside Spike. Against his back, her arm draped around his waist. He was almost asleep, his reflexive breathing slowing dramatically. Only then, cuddled up against him, only then did she allow herself to realize just how much she’d missed him. And the reason why. Suddenly, there was something that she just needed to know.
“Spike?”, she whispered.
“Do you still love me?”
The reply was sleepy, but had the same intensity as always. “Of course I do, luv. I’ll always love you.”
A few moments passed in silence, then:
“I love you, too.”