She didn’t know why- No. That was wrong. She knew exactly why she was going down there again. To find him. Spike. She hadn’t been able to look at him when she’d walked away, saying, as her excuse, that she thought it was worse when she was there. Some part of her believed that. And yet she was going into the basement again. She was probably the only person who *wanted* to be at school on a Saturday.
It had been a hectic week. A horrible, and yet wonderful week. She was still upset over Cassie’s death, but knew now. She knew that she, for all her strength, speed, and whatever else came with being the Slayer, knew that she couldn’t stop a heart condition. But, at least she’d saved the girl from being a demon’s lunchable. Even if she did die a few minutes later. Right now, though, her thoughts were focused elsewhere.
She’d walked away. She’d left him there. After he’d asked for her help. She’d known that if she looked at him, if she made eye contact after he asked, seen his ‘whipped puppy’ face, she’d have stayed. She’d have blown off the rest of the day’s work just to look after him. To take care of him. Like he so desperately needed. Well, now she had time. And now she was going to get him, drag him out of that basement, take him back to her house, clean him up, and fix him. Ok. So maybe it wasn’t the best thought out plan. And maybe some of the details, like how exactly she intended to ‘fix him’, were a little… Well, nonexistent. But it was a plan. And plans were good. Plans were- How the heck did he find his way around down there, anyway?! She was totally sane, and swore that the walls were never in the same place twice. And yet, she found him. She could always find him. And there he was. Doing his little ‘staring into space’ thing again. She had the time now. It wasn’t a matter of life and death. She crouched down next to him, and tried to focus her eyes on whatever he was looking at, even though she had the feeling that she probably couldn’t see it. After a moment, she spoke.
“What’re we looking at?”
He jumped a little. As if he hadn’t been aware of her presence until she spoke, even though his eyes were looking in her general direction. She was beginning to realize that where he was looking, and where his focus was were two very different things. Bleary, bloodshot blue eyes focused on her. Spoke quietly. “Shhh. I’m bein’ quiet. You don’t want to help.”
Ouch. That was a statement, not a question. “Yes I do. Now. I came back, didn’t I?”
“Always come back. They all come back. Why should you be any different?”
Sighed. Forced herself to remain calm. Patient. He didn’t need her snapping at him. She knew what he was talking about, or at least.. she thought she did. The people he had hurt. They came back in his mind. Yelled at him. “This is different, Spike. I want to help you. But we can’t do it here.” Stood up slowly. “Wouldn’t you like a nice, warm bed? Maybe.. No. Definitely a shower first?”
“I don’t deserve a bed. I’m a bad man, Buffy. Hurt the girl. I hurt you.” Slight whimper.
Conflicting urges shot through the Slayer. Hug him, or hit him. Chose neither. Squatted in front of him again. “You saved the girl yesterday, Spike.” No need to tell him that she’d died later. He’d probably find some way to blame it on himself. “You’re not bad. You’re one of the good guys.”
He looked at her, not seeming able to refute that. Maybe it was the way she said it. With such certainty that it pushed through the haze that was hanging over the vampire’s brain. Looked down, muttered. “I’m supposed to be bad.”
Sighed, and very slowly, carefully, touched his shoulder. Had the instant thought of ‘progress!’ when he didn’t flinch away from her. “No you’re not. You haven’t been bad for a very long time. Spike, Willow’s killed more people in the last two years than you. And she’s recovering. She said that she came to talk to you.”
He nodded. “Everyone was talking to me, and no one talking to each other. Then you went through her.” Shook his head. “It was confusing.”
Buffy nodded. “Yeah. And when I think back on it, knowing that you were talking to Will part of the time, and me and Xander part of the time, you made a little more sense.” Slight laugh. “Except for the part about the permission slips.” Smiled at him. “Where did you get that?”
He seemed confused by her smile, but slowly returned it. Shaky, but there. Pointed at the ceiling. “Up there. They talk all about permission. And how the slips must be signed. Parent or guardian. On the dotted line.” Whether or not he’d meant to rhyme that was unclear.
Suddenly, it made sense. He’d been down there during school hours. With vampire hearing. He’d been listening to teachers talking about permission slips, and it’d just become stuck in his mind. “Oh. We must be under the clerk’s offices.”
He pushed against the wall, struggling to stand up. Buffy gently took his shoulders and helped him get to his feet. He weaved for a moment, but managed to steady himself with a hand on the wall. “And the buttons.”
Ok. She was confused again. “Buttons?” Remembered him saying something about them the other day. “Where did you hear about the buttons from, Spike?”
He gave a half grin. “Didn’t hear about them. Read. My favorite book.”
A book about buttons? Nothing sprung to mind. “What book?” Very slowly, she began backing away from him, hoping he would follow on reflex. And he did.
“I’ll give you a hint. There’s a rabbit, and a cat. And how is a raven like a writing desk?”, he said, following her on shaky legs.
She thought. It sounded familiar. But not a book. A …. movie? A cartoon? Oh! It WAS a book! “Alice In Wonderland?”
He nodded, smiling hugely now. “Yeah. My favorite book.”
She smiled at him. This was good. And! They were almost to the exit, if the stupid walls hadn’t moved around on her again. Reached out, and gently took his hand, steadying him and speeding him up a little at the same time. Took it as a good sign when he just looked down at their joined hands and gave a kind of goofy grin. Lead him up and out of the basement, out the emergency exit, and out into the moonlight. He let go of her hand to look up at the stars for a moment. Too long a moment. She didn’t want him spacing out again. Think fast. Oh! “Spike? How *is* a raven like a writing desk?”
He focused on her, cocking his head in thought. Began following her as she walked again. “The March Hare didn’t know. Neither did the Dormouse. Or the Hatter. And it was his riddle.”
She nodded. Made a mental note to actually read the book. “Is there an answer, then?”
“Yeah. I think. I used to know it.”
“Well, you figure it out, and I’ll get us back to my house.” Took his hand again as the vampire went into a deep thought, trying to figure out a riddle that she was pretty certain didn’t have an answer. At least it kept him busy. All the way home, for that matter. And up the front walk, and through the door, and up the stairs, and into her room. Thankfully, Willow and Dawn were already asleep, or so she assumed from the faint log sawing noises coming from both their rooms. Sat Spike on the edge of the bed. “Spike.” Snapped her fingers. She needed his attention. He focused on her. “Good boy. I’m going to go get some washcloths. You keep figuring out that riddle, okay?”
He nodded, grinned. He was a good boy. She’d said so. “Okay.” Now. How *is* a raven like a writing desk? How…?
Satisfied that he was sufficiently occupied to give her a couple of seconds, she went into the bathroom and began running warm water. Please don’t let him come in here, she thought. I have to keep him *out* of this bathroom until he can deal with it. Got four washcloths, two with soap, and two without for rinsing. Went back into the room to where Spike was still sitting on the bed, muttering about ravens and writing desks. She made sure that he was aware of her presence, then sat on the bed next to him. Carefully unbuttoned his shirt, wincing when she saw more fresh cuts on his chest. He’d been doing it again. Carefully began washing him as he continued to try and figure out the riddle.
About fifteen minutes later, she was relatively sure that Spike was clean. And bandaged where one of the cuts had opened. Through out the whole thing, he’d just kept trying to find the answer to the riddle. But he’d been aware of what she was doing, because when she’d been rubbing at his side or stomach, places that she knew he loved to be rubbed, he’d pushed into her hands and purred quietly under his muttering. She couldn’t help but smile. Made sure not to rub too lightly, knowing how ticklish this particular vampire was, especially on his sides. But, despite trying, he’d still twitched away from her a couple of times, snorting out a half laugh here and there. She’d laughed a little. Insane or not, he was still Spike. Her Spike. Didn’t really know when she’d started thinking of him as ‘hers’, but it felt right. And right now, he *was* kind of like her pet.
She found an old clean shirt of Giles’ that she wasn’t even sure why she had, and let Spike have it, knowing it would be big on him. Especially in his semi-emaciated condition. Made a mental note to have Willow stop off at the butcher’s in the morning. If Spike was going to be staying, (and he definitely was, cause there was no way she was letting him go back down into that creepy basement/labyrinth again), then he’d need to eat. So she’d feed him. No big. She’d done it before. Not willingly, but… Hey. Things change.
“I’ve got it!”, Spike suddenly said happily, startling her out of her thoughts.
“Shh!”, she shushed him gently. Didn’t want to wake the family.
He gave an embarrassed nod, but grinned again. “I know the answer. To the riddle.”
That was strange. She’d been almost certain that there wasn’t an answer. “Oh? What is it?”
“Poe,” he said, looking extremely proud of himself. “Edgar Allen Poe wrote on both.”
She was now confused. “He wrote on a bird?” He’s insane, she reminded herself. Don’t try to make sense of this.
Spike shook his head. “No. It’s a homonym. Words that are spelled and pronounced alike, but mean different things. I can write *on* a desk. And I can write a book *on* birds. Edgar Allen Poe wrote *on* a writing desk *on* a raven. See?”
He was making sense. So, either she was insane, too, or he HAD solved the riddle. It made sense to her. She smiled at him. “Congratulations, Spike.”
He purred happily, then yawned. She smiled. “You’re sleepy. Solving riddles must take a lot out of you.”
Yawned again by way of answering her. Very carefully, she laid him down on the bed, on top of the comforter, putting a blanket over him. Then, in her oh-so-comfy Sushi pajamas, she slipped under the comforter and covers beside him. The comforter made sure that their bodies wouldn’t touch, so she could be close to him, without any threat of scaring him by being *too* close. Now she yawned. The curtains that she’d put over the window assured her that, when morning came, this story wouldn’t have a burning, dusty ending. And she’d locked the bedroom door. So he couldn’t get out without her knowing, and Dawn or Willow couldn’t barge in and scare him.
Suddenly, Spike spoke up. “Luv?”
Well, that was a pleasant surprise. She almost couldn’t remember the last time he’d used that little nickname for her. It made her feel good. And a little stupid when she realized that she’d spent most of the last two years trying to get him to *stop* calling her that. “Yeah?”
What was he talking about now? “Some time in the future. Beyond tomorrow, I guess. Why?”
“No reason.” Quiet. Then. “If someone told you that you were going to find out something ‘someday’, and if that was before now, could now be ‘someday’?”
In some strange way, this made sense. More sense than the permission slips and buttons had when she’d first heard them, anyway. Decided to humor him. “Yeah. I guess. Why?”
“No reason.” Quiet again. Buffy sighed. Maybe now he’d go to sleep- “Do you want to tell me something?”
Her stomach clenched, and she was not sure why. “Uh.. How about, ‘good night, Spike’?”
She felt the bed move as he shook his head a little. “No. That’s not it. It’s not ‘someday’ yet, I guess. And I was so sure it was.”
Slightly annoyed, now. “Spike, what are you talking about? And don’t say ‘nothing’, cause I know it’s something.”
Felt him flinch a little. “She said… ‘She’ll tell you, someday. She’ll tell you.’ I just wanted to know if it was ‘someday’, yet.”
Softened her voice, not wanting to make him flinch again. “Who said? ‘She’ who?”
“The girl. Cut her loose. Got the tape off. She said, ‘She’ll tell you, someday. She’ll tell you.’ ” He looked at her. “And the ‘she’ is you, I guess. Everyone else doesn’t have anything to say.”
Cassie. Cassie with her uncanny premonitions. So that’s what this was about. She’d given Spike some kind of premonition that she’d tell him… something. Someday. Now it made sense. But what did she have to tell him? ‘I’m sorry’? ‘I forgive you’? ‘I love-….’ Oh no. Uh uh. Not. Going. To. Happen. It was just her sleepy brain, grasping at straws. But, there were good things there. “Spike, I want you to know that I’m sorry for the way I’ve treated you. Last year, and before that. And also that I don’t want you to feel guilty about me anymore, okay?”
“No. I have to. I’m a bad man. Hurt the girl. Bad-”
Rolled over, and gently touched his cheek, pausing his speech. “You can’t feel guilty for something that someone’s forgiven you for, right? That makes sense, doesn’t it?”
He nodded a little.
“Good. I. Forgive. You. For everything. For the bathroom, for anything you feel bad about concerning me. I forgive you.” She felt as if a load had just flown off her shoulders. Wow. If that felt so good to say.. No. Not going there. Not- “And I love you.” Well. Where had that come from?
Spike stared at her. “What?”
‘Funny, I was just thinking that’, she muttered mentally. But, she’d said it. And what’s more, she’d meant it. And it had felt.. good. Said it again. “I love you, Spike.”
His eyes locked on hers. “I love you, Buffy. Always you. Only you.”
She smiled. Knowing it in her heart for the first time. “I know. I love you, too.”
They lay there for awhile, before sleep claimed them. But, before he drifted off, Spike had one last thing to say.
“I just *knew* that today was ‘someday’.”