Buffy just stood there. Watching as the whisps of smoke rose from Spike’s quaking body. He was still draped over the cross. Hugging it, alternately whimpering, and lamenting that he didn’t deserve forgiveness. Suddenly, she snapped out of the shocked daze she’d been in, and launched herself at the vampire, shouting his name. She grabbed him by his shoulders, and forcibly yanked him from the cross, throwing him to the ground behind her, much harder than she’d intended. His flying body broke another pew.
He lay there, in the pile of wood, whimpering. His body still smoking. She winced. She really hadn’t meant to throw him. It just.. happened. She took a step toward him, saying quietly, “Spike?”
“Get ‘way…” He scrambled to his feet, and then slipped on some loose wood, sitting down again. “Go.. gone. ‘Way. Far ‘way. Go.” It was unclear as to whether he was talking to himself or her.
She bit her lip. He was being nuts again. But.. at least now she knew why. Poor Spike. A soul. How had he gotten it? Where had he gotten it from? Could he lose it? No. His rant earlier seemed to suggest that he at least didn’t think he could. Man. He’d done it for her. What he thought she wanted. He’d obviously thought that the soul would stop him from being able to hurt anyone. His encounter with Worm Boy had obviously proved that preconception wrong. Oh. That was the problem. He was feeling guilty about hurting Worm Boy. Well, maybe she could help that.
“Spike.. I’m not leaving without you. The guy.. he’s okay. Xander called a hospital. He’s gonna be fine.. You didn’t know. You couldn’t know.” With every word, she took a step closer. He was muttering to himself, and not looking at her. She had to get him to look at her. She didn’t want to startle him. She kicked at a piece of wood, making it clatter, and causing him to jerk and look up. Focused on her. She spoke quietly, slowly. “Spike. It’s okay. Let’s get you up, and put something on those burns. Come on..” She extended a hand slowly.
He looked at it, then up at her face, then back at her hand. Finally, he tentatively grasped it, and allowed her to pull him to his feet. Then he just stood there, muttering about how they’d made a mess and it wasn’t even their house.
She sighed, then winced when she saw how badly he was burned. Somehow, knowing that it would be mostly if not totally healed in a couple of days didn’t help. And he was saying something that seemed coherent. “Sorry. What?”
“Said she hates me. Nibblet. Everyone hates me.” He sounded as if he was about to cry again. “Got no one. No one who cares. Good. Don’t deserve care. No one should care about a monster. I’m a monster. They all say it. All of them.” He had started pacing again, one hand on his head, rubbing hard. “And they won’t shut up! Why can’t they leave me alone!? I can’t help them. I did all I can. Did all I can… Can’t take it.” He fell to his knees in front of her. “Buffy.. please make them stop… Tell them I can help you. Let me help you. Please…” By then, he *was* crying. “…please…”
She bit her lip, and tentatively reached out a hand, resting it on his shorter, but still messy hair. Made him stop his frantic tugging. Used one of her hands to lower his, the other one petting his hair gently. He looked up at her, tears making his beautiful sapphire eyes glisten. Eyes that now truly *were* the windows to his soul. And what she saw was a scared, troubled, young man, who just wanted to be loved. “It *was* all you ever wanted, wasn’t it?”, she said, without even realizing that the words had left her mouth.
He just looked at her. She’d once written, so long ago, about another souled vampire, who she’d thought had the most penetrating eyes she’d ever seen. At that time, it was true. But not anymore. There was so much Spike’s eyes told her. They always had. Spike’s eyes were more expressive than his voice. Most of the time. And not as prone to blurting out the wrong thing at an inappropriate moment. Angel’s eyes, on the other hand… They’d always been just about as mysterious as the rest of him.
She’d moved to sit on an unbroken pew, Spike still on the floor at her feet. Like an obedient puppy. And she wasn’t helping that mental image much by petting him the way she was. But it kept him quiet, and kept her mind off the burns on his chest, arms, neck, and chin where he’d draped himself on that huge cross at the alter. “Poor Spike..”, she whispered, still speaking without really registering that she was. “Poor, poor Spike.” She looked into his eyes, still flooded with tears. Used her other hand to gently wipe some of the ones on his cheeks away. “I know why you did what you did tonight. Anya could see it, couldn’t she? The soul, I mean.”
Spike was chewing on his own bottom lip, but he nodded. Blinked a couple of times. Still didn’t speak. So Buffy continued, reasoning it out.
“So you hit her, cause you didn’t want us to know. Then you hit me. That’s what I don’t get, Spike. I get you hitting Anya. Really. I do. But why’d you hit me.”
“I know the burns hurt-”
“No. You asked why. I’m telling you. It hurts. Don’t want pity. Didn’t want you to know. Wanted to show… Be the Big Bad… then you wouldn’t know. No pity. Can’t take pity. Don’t want it. Don’t need it.” He was still sobbing between sentences.
She had to ask. “And the blue shirt? I’m not complaining, mind you. It looked good. I liked it.”
He kind of gave a half grin. “You do? You did?”
She smiled encouragingly at him. “Yes. I did like it. Brings out your eyes. But you said it was…”
“A costume. It was. Thought.. Bright colors. Like one of you. Scoobies. Blend in. Help. Wanted to help. Like a human.”
Ah. Now it made sense. She felt tears well in her own eyes, but forced them back. He’d just stopped crying. He didn’t need her to start. “Poor Spike,” she said again, resuming her stroking of his hair, almost not noticing when his eyes closed. “You’ve tried so hard. Gone so far, to such lengths. Done so much for all of us. I still can’t believe you got a *soul* for me.”
His eyes snapped open. “You didn’t want it? I did bad? Got something wrong?” Growled softly, pulling away from her. “Knew I’d screw up. Knew I couldn’t do it right. Stupid. Worthless-”
He jumped and fell down, and she bit her lip. She hadn’t meant to yell. Or to scare him that badly. His eyes were huge, and if he’d had a heartbeat, it would’ve been racing. “Spike, I’m sorry..”
“No. No. You’re not sorry. You’ve got nothin’ to be sorry ’bout. Now me. I’m sorry. But that doesn’t help, does it? Can’t change the past. So much past. The past is in the past, but it’s like yesterday… Which is past, too, I guess….” He trailed off, looking as if he’d confused himself, cocking his head left and right.
She tried for a joke. “Looks like your train of thought derailed.”
He muttered, “Derailed. Puh. Didn’t even leave the station…”
She laughed a little, unsure whether or not he’d meant that as a joke. He looked up at her when she’d laughed, one corner of his mouth turning up slightly. Oh, so he had been joking. She laughed a little more, and was rewarded by a happy grin from the vampire. He got up slowly, moved toward her, cocking his head. “No more shouting. Got enough of that in here.” He tapped his head.
She nodded. “Ok. No shouting. And you. No running away. Took me fifteen minutes to find you tonight.”
Ducked his head. “Sorry. Ran. Scared, cause I hurt ‘im.” Looked up. “You said he’s alright, right?”
She nodded. “Oh, yeah. Definitely. He’s fine, Spike.” Eyed his burns again. “Much better than you. Let’s get you somewhere, and fix those, okay?”
He chewed his lip for a moment, then nodded, started to follow her out the door, then paused. “Wait. Gotta do something. Apologize.”
“Spike, I already said-”
“Not to you, luv…” Backpedaled. “Uh, I mean… Cause you told me you didn’t need an apology… I just want…” He made a motion that encompassed the wrecked side of the old church. “I’ve got enough people mad at me. Just.. I want to..”
She was still unsure what he meant, but she motioned for him to do what he needed to do. “Okay. Go on. I’ll wait here.” Mentally added, ‘And if you try to hug the cross again, I’m dragging you out of here.’
He did approach the cross, slowly, reverently. Chewed his lip. Looked up at the cross, and the crucifixion picture that hung lopsided on the wall behind the old alter. Whispered, “I’m sorry… Everythin’. Know I can’t make it right. Just thought You should know. I’m not gonna ask for forgiveness, cause I know I don’t deserve it. Just thought… If I’m gonna make amends… better start at the Top, Ya know?” Ran a hand through his hair. “Guess You know what I’m tryin’ to say, huh? You know everything, after all. Just… I’m sorry. Thanks for listenin’ to me.”
Buffy was speechless. This was something… something she’d never witnessed. Even Angel. Even with everything he’d done… He’d never.. ‘started at the Top’, as far as she knew. Wow. She’d have to call Giles later.
Spike fidgeted a few more moments, then turned, retrieving his blue shirt from where he’d discarded it. Gave one last glance at the cross, and kind of a nod toward it, then turned to her, slipping the shirt over his head, covering the burns. “I’m ready now, luv.”
She snapped out of the thoughts that she’d been in, and nodded at him. He passed her, going outside through the old doors. She started to leave, then turned. Looked at the old, broken down alter. Whispered, “If it makes a difference… I’m sorry, too. Thanks for listening.. To both of us. Uh.. Amen..” Turned, and hurried out the door.
It didn’t take long to get home, really. Only about fifteen minutes. Spike was pretty silent the whole way, except for a couple of bouts of muttering and one, rather pointless tracking of a squirrel. When they reached the Summers household, Buffy paused by the mailbox, and gently grabbed Spike’s shirt sleeve. “Wait right here, Spike. Okay? Promise me you’ll stay right here until I come get you.”
He nodded, then bit his lip again. “I can’t come onto the porch?”
She shook her head. “Not yet. I don’t want Dawn hearing two sets of footsteps until I tell her you’re here.”
“Tell her not to be scary, this time.”
It was hard to tell if he was being serious or not, so she played it safe. “Okay. Check. No scary Dawnness. I’ll be right back.” She headed up the front walk, and into the house. As she’d suspected, Dawn was on the couch. “Dawnie. I’m home. And no more worm, either.”
She got up. “Xander called. Said that the worm was Anya’s fault, and that Spike hurt the guy.” Looked around. “Where is he, anyway?”
Ah, what an opening. “Actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Dawnie, Spike’s outside. But.. Remember how I said he’d changed? Well, I just found out how much.” No bush beating. “He’s got a soul. He got it fo-”
“WHAT!?” Dawn flew at her sister, seizing her shoulders and shaking her slightly. “Spike. Has. A. Soul?”
Buffy nodded, a little surprised by her sister’s outburst. “Uh, yeah. And he’s hurt. Burned… Not that bad, really. And I was gonna- Dawn, where are you going?”
“To let Spike in.”
Buffy shrugged, and followed her sister to the door. Dawn opened it, and saw the vampire leaning on the mailbox, fiddling with his shirt. “Spike!”, she called. The vampire jumped, and looked toward the door. Buffy could tell from his posture that he was chewing his lip again. Dawn continued. “Get in here before you catch… whatever vampires can catch that’s like a cold.”
He slowly came up the walk, and slipped through the door. Keeping a good three feet between himself and the youngest Summers. “Nib- Dawn.” Figured he didn’t have the right to use a pet name anymore. “Hello.”
She approached him slowly, walking around him. Buffy could see Spike getting more and more nervous as the moments passed. Finally, Dawn stood right in front of him, gently seized his face and pulled it down so that she could look into his eyes. “Oh my… You really did it, didn’t you? I thought Buffy was just telling me that you had a soul to make me not kill you. But you really have one, don’t you?”
She’d released him, and he nodded a little, visibly uncomfortable. “Yeah. I mean, yes. I do. Have a soul, I mean.”
Dawn looked to Buffy. “He did it for you, right? Is that what you were going to say earlier?”
Buffy nodded. “Yeah. That’s what he told me.”
The Key looked back at Spike. “You got the soul to protect us, didn’t you?”
Very quiet. “Yes..” Looked as if he was expecting to be hit. Dawn surprised him.
She moved, very slowly, and wrapped her arms around him, resting her head under his chin. “Forget everything I said this evening. I’m not gonna stake you while you sleep.” She snuffled quietly. “I missed you, Spike. A lot.” Looked up at him. “Promise me, cause I know you don’t break your promises. Promise me that you’ll never leave us again.”
Spike’s own eyes welled to overflowing, and he whimpered softly. “Never again. I promise you, Bi- Dawn. I promise with every fiber of my being, soul and all, that I’ll never leave either of you again.” Locked eyes with Buffy. “Either of you.”
Dawn nuzzled her head under his chin again. “Call me ‘Bit’ again..”
Spike sniffed. “I love you, Bit.”
“I love you, Spike…” Dawn glanced up at him again. “You still love Buffy, right?”
“Always. Till the end of the world…” Looked to Buffy. “Even if that happens to be tonight..”
The Slayer snapped. With a little sound of happiness that she wasn’t even aware she’d made, Buffy moved forward and made it a group hug. Within a few moments, all three were sniffling, and crying, and even laughing a little. Buffy suddenly pulled back. “Oh no. Spike.. Your burns… This must hurt.”
He looked at her, then down at his own blue clad chest curiously. “You’re right. But.. it doesn’t. Hurt, I mean.”
Dawn looked at both of them, then grabbed the hem of Spike’s shirt, and tugged it up a ways. She frowned. “Buffy. What burns?”
“What?”, the Slayer and vampire said in unison.
Spike took the hem of his shirt from Dawn and tugged it over his head. Sure enough, the burns were gone. Completely healed. As were the cuts from earlier. “What the bloody…”, Spike trailed off, then he grinned. Looked at Buffy. “He heard me. He heard *me*!” Looked down, then back up again, then at the ceiling. “Wow…”
Dawn looked confused. “Okay.. what’s he talking about? Buffy?”
Buffy was staring at Spike’s burn free chest, then she too looked at the ceiling. “Wow..”, she echoed the vampire’s sentiments. Looked at Dawn. “I’ll tell you in the morning, Dawnie. Shouldn’t you get to bed? School tomorrow.”
Dawn yelped. “Oh my G-”
“Stop there!”, Spike said quickly. “Best you not finish that sentence, Bit. Leave it at ‘oh my’, if you would.”
She still looked confused, but headed up the stairs.
Buffy looked at Spike, and smiled. “Come on. I’ve got an idea. How does chocolate ice-cream and a funny movie sound to you?”
Spike nodded, slipping his shirt back on.
A couple of hours, and an empty half gallon of ice cream later, Buffy was sitting on the couch, watching the credits to Monsters Inc. She wasn’t the only one on the couch, however. Just the only one who was awake enough to watch. Her companion was sound asleep. With his head on her lap, none the less. She stroked his hair softly. Thought about that night.
During the movie, at a rather sad seeming part, Spike’d actually started sniffling. That was how he’d wound up with his head in her lap. Not too long after that, he’d dozed off. But the most recent part of the night wasn’t what had her current attention.
The burns induced by his rant in the church, the cuts from earlier, all gone. All healed. Much faster than his usual physiology should’ve allowed. And there weren’t even any scars. It was as if they’d never been there. But she knew they had. She’d seen them still smoking. Seen the charred skin and muscle. Seen the smoke. And yet they were gone. It wasn’t unexplainable, though. In fact, it was clear to her what had happened. And it was truly a miracle. Spike had received something that night. Something he hadn’t asked for. Something he didn’t believe he deserved, but he still received it. And not just from her, either. From Someone much, much more important. It was a simple miracle, but it would make all the difference in the world to Spike, she knew. And to her as well. For it was something she needed as well. And she had the feeling that she’d gotten it.