Title: First Sights, Last Sights Summary: Ramblings and memories. Buffy's thoughts on Spike. Spoilers: Until season 7, "Selfless". Tiny, tiny spoiler for AtS, fourth season. Disclaimer: All owned by Joss, Marti and the rest of the brilliant scribes at ME. Thanks to: HonorH for a quick beta.

First sight, or second: he's standing in the alley, applauding. You're a bit flushed with the satisfaction of a job well done, but what you call your spidey sense is still alert, and you just know he is anything but harmless himself. "And what happens on Saturday?" "I kill you." Sheesh, you think, vamps are such posers. This one might look better than the Master and his minions did, but he's all with the big talk and the threats. In a fake-sounding English accent, too. (You know your English accents now; this guy doesn't sound like Giles at all.) Come parents' night, you find out he isn't all talk. He's pretty good, actually, and able to reply to your quips, which no vampire since Darla has been up to. Fighting him is a challenge, and you might have lost that first time, lost for good, if your mother hadn't been there. Mom with the axe. He never forgot that. All in all, this encounter ends well: your mother is proud of you, and you were able to save most people at the school. Xander is muttering something about Angel, but when isn't Xander? You're left feeling pretty good about yourself and eager for a rematch. Because, this guy? Way better to fight than those losers the Master left behind. Something of a hottie, too. Your appreciation doesn't go further than that; you're completely, utterly in love with Angel, and know with the certainty of your sixteen years that it will be forever, that nothing will ever come between you. So, a rematch, and you'll stake the Bleached Menace, who advertises himself as the Slayer of Slayers.

Fighting Spike, that year: when you and Kendra are going after him and his sidekicks, that's when you discover you've grown sort of possessive about him. Of course you had to switch places with Kendra. You're going to be the one to finish Spike off. The wish to kill him is pounding in you at this point; he's been trying to kill Angel for his Drusilla, after all. Still, the actual event is sort of an anticlimax. There's no staking him, just the wreckage of the building, and you had imagined seeing his look when you put the stake in his heart, that brief moment before he'd fall to dust. Surprise, Spike. I'm better. No more Slayers for you. And leave my boyfriend alone.

(Years later, in another building falling apart around the two of you, you do see that look of surprise: but the girl who'd have treasured it is gone, and there's just you, watching him watching you, for a moment not sure whether you had finally done it, staked him, or whether you really went through with what's been in your blood ever since.when?)

Not fighting with Spike; there's a whole other series of memories. Kendra dead, Willow injured, police on your trail, and Giles taken prisoner, and there is he is, turning up like a bad penny and a perverse glimmer of hope. Giving you a spiel on why he wants to save the world. Happy meals on legs indeed. Walking with him to your home, between anger and despair and the desperate hope you will be able to come through for Giles and the world after all, there's the sudden realisation that he's totally checking you out. Just in a gross "vampire looks at prey" way, of course. He's doing this for his loony of a girlfriend, after all, the one the shell of your boyfriend, who isn't, isn't, isn't Angel, has probably been boning since he lost his soul. So you take Spike in your house, and you make your plan, and listen to his promise never to return to Sunnydale again. In all honesty, you don't care whether he keeps it or not. If only all this stops, and the world doesn't end. Then your mother wants to have the talk, and there's no more room for thoughts of vampires, save for the one whom you'll have to kill in a few more hours.

One year later, and Spike apparently thinks it's simply hilarious, turning up at your mother's for chocolate and sympathy. If he'd killed her, you'd have staked him then and there, no matter which hostages he had, but here's the odd thing: Spike and Mom always got along. He liked her. Willow tells you he brought flowers for her funeral, and it doesn't really surprise you. Perhaps that was why you told him, that night, sitting beside him at the porch. About the cat scan, and your fear of what it might mean. He didn't say anything in reply, which was just was well. Most things Spike said to you were designed to infuriate.

That night. That night to top all bizarro nights, well, save one, that is when he takes the veil from your eyes, and starts to become blind himself. Once you told Angel you couldn't lie to Spike, for some reason, and one of the many annoying things about Spike had always been his ability to see things about you nobody else could. That night at the Bronze, he reaches the apogee of his insight, and then starts to look at you through glasses thicker than Giles ever wore, glasses showing him only what he wants to see, right until the moment when the pitiless light in your bathroom glares at both of you. The night the tide starts to turn, though, when you listen to him bragging about the Slayers he killed, the glasses are still off. Oh, he is full of it, of course. Having the time of his life, taunting you with what you had not known, had not realised until that night. "Every Slayer has a death wish. Even you." And there he is, death's avatar, and your desire to fight and stake him takes a very different colour. "You think we're dancing?" "That's all we've ever done." He comes close to killing you that night, you understand later, with the gun he carries. What he doesn't know is how close you come to killing him. It was that or kissing him, you feel, there in the alley where you first spoke to him, when he comes closer and closer, but you have your confidence still, your confidence and your wish to live, and it saves you. So you go for a third option.

(Beneath you, he murmurs, not one year later, I'm beneath you right now, but not as you thought I'd be, right, Slayer?)

Xander and Giles don't really get it, when you launch into your rant about Spike. Well, they get you're grossed out about the stalking, and the photos, and the stolen underwear, but they don't understand why you feel this reflects on you. How could they? They don't know you felt it that night, that this makes you ashamed and even more angry. They must never find out.

Then Mom dies and the whole Spike affair becomes irrelevant for a while.

The sight of him, covered in wounds. Why did he let her do this to him, you think, and forget to be disgusted about the robot for a while. You're still going to slap that Warren guy silly when you meet him. You go on with imitating the 'bot, and then it hits you: he truly didn't say anything to Glory, and he did it because of Dawn and because of you. This goes way beyond the dark undercurrent of unfulfilled promises of death and sex between the two of you which he brought to the surface with his words. This is real, you think, and then, you step forward and kiss him. The kiss is unlike any of the kisses you shared when Willow put the whammy on you two and made you believe you were engaged. There's nothing teasing or sexual in it at all. He chained you up, pulled an incredibly stupid "love me or die" stunt on you, stalked you and had the gall to order a sexbot in your image, but somehow, at this moment, with him looking worse than you've ever seen him looking, and ready to die so your little sister remains safe, it doesn't matter, not really. And as he pulls back from you, from that brief, strange kiss, you know he understands.

The first time you seek him out without any reason but wanting to be with him: after they brought you back.. There's no question of sex or anger then, either. What you feel is being skinless, the world rushing at you, screaming at you, and the almost unbearable urge to escape while your friends are all concern and questions and expectations. That's when you remember that it felt soothing, him taking your hands, that he felt right in a way they did not because he must have known this, too, once. This violation. Rising from the dead. So you go to him, and sit with him in his crypt, and the voices grow silent for a while. There's only his voice, and he doesn't question. It's peace, of a sort.

The first time you realise he's producing other thoughts than peaceful ones: when you're getting drunk with him after having a horrible day and feeling like a complete loser, again. There he is, smiling at you. "You're a creature of the darkness, like me." And you suddenly remember that he's attractive in his evil undead way, and that there have been times when you felt other urges than just wanting to stake him. Bad thought. You get more drunk, post haste.

The first time you understand what he can do for you, and the end of all peace between the two of you: when he sings. Because you're angry, and annoyed, and aroused, and more alive than you ever were since Willow made you return. And that confidence, that certainty that protected you before you died, it's gone. There's just him, and he's burning with need, and you're cold, so cold, but you know he could warm you. You run away in time before anything happens, but a few hours later you are in his arms, and you're kissing him the way you never kissed anyone since Angel left, kisses without any consideration or restraint, and you feel again.

Sometimes you wonder what would have happened if that demon had not come to Sunnydale. Whether you and Spike would have gone on with peaceful visits and unspoken thoughts. Then you decide, not for long. Perhaps the singing made everything happen faster. In any case, it produces feelings in you alright, desire and shame and hate, for yourself because you know very well you're doing this for all the wrong reasons, and for him, because he is what he is. And sometimes, rarely, but still sometimes, there's an odd moment of joy and freedom. He can still make you smile as well as he can make you angry. But no matter whether it's in his crypt or later, when you arrive at your home, the guilt always comes back. You're not sixteen anymore, or falling in love for the first time. You're not falling in love at all. You don't know what to call it, the ever more suffocating web of emotions between you, but it's not love. You cannot allow it to be. You know how it will end, sooner or later. The chip will fail, because if the interlude with the Initiative has taught you one thing, it's that technology ultimately always loses against the Hellmouth. The chip will fail, and he will kill again, secretly perhaps, in order not to disturb you, but he will kill, because he genuinely can't understand why he shouldn't, and then you will have to stake him. There are no excuses for you, none at all, and yet you keep coming back to him, again and again.

Last sights of Spike: there's that last fight you two had before the chip, when he was still your enemy and nothing else. Looking quite unnatural in the sunlight, and incredibly pleased himself. "Did you bruise the boy? Come on too strong?" And you're all shame and humiliation, because that is what you're afraid of: that you're a freak who did everything wrong and always will. "You didn't think I'd stay around after THAT," Angel said, when you didn't know yet he lost his soul, and even though later you told yourself time and again the demon was just taunting you, you never stopped wondering whether you did not really disappoint him. "Come to think of it," Spike goes on, "someone already told me you weren't worth another go - ah yes, Angel," and suddenly, his unerring ability to say the worst possible thing returns your strength to you, and you beat him.

Beating Spike, and not in a Slayer way; there's another last sight. Another alley, but no dance. There is no heat in you, no dark satisfaction governing your blows; you just want to end it, end it, end it. He's saying the same thing she did, Faith. One life is nothing against all the ones saved. "There's my girl." What she said, word for word, and you look at him and see not just her, but yourself. Unbearable. Punch after punch after punch, and then you stare at his bloodied face, and you realise what you did. This has to end. But you don't see a way out yet.

The time you told him it was over: of course he didn't believe you. He had not reason to, not after all the other times. But this time you try to be as honest as you can. No insults. It's not another dance. You look at him, and you see the demon who tried to kill you and your friends and who killed two Slayers and countless other humans. You look at him, and you see the man who was ready to get tortured for you, who helped you as much as he could, who loved you when you despised yourself. There aren't really any good ways to put all of this into words, and so you try by using the name you first heard, all those years ago, from Giles, reading an entry from his chronicles. "I'm sorry, William."

The bathroom, then. Strange, but you never expected this. Spike trying to kill you, that would never have surprised you. Or Spike killing someone else, once the chip is gone. But not this. There he is, apologizing, and you just feel tired and sore and sorry for Xander and Anya and the whole mess. Sorry for him, too. So you try to explain one more time. But he doesn't listen, he doesn't see you anymore. You say "feelings, but not love", he hears an additional "yet" you never implied or meant. You say "no", he hears the "yes" which your no meant all the other times, and he, who once was so insightful, does not acknowledge that things have indeed changed. He has you pinned on the floor, and you can't believe this is happening. That he's doing this to you. Anything but this. You plead, but he still doesn't hear, and then you find the strength to kick him away. The look on his face, the horrified, appalled look, that one is familiar again. Not on him. You felt it in your own heart, not too long ago. Here's the irony, though, which you only realise much later: this look is the last thing you'll ever see of Spike, William the Bloody, the soulless demon who was your enemy, lover, and sometimes your friend. When next you'll see him, he'll be gone, hidden somewhere in someone you have never met before.

So here you are now, in a basement, in a church, in a basement again, with Spike-who-is-not-Spike. What you deserve, he says. You don't know what you deserve. You have the idea of a trap closing in on both of you, and the urge to escape is incredibly strong. You can't even be angry with him, or grateful, or anything, because he's not really Spike anymore, is he? He's somebody new, whom you have no idea how to handle. It freaks you out. You toy with the idea of asking Angel for his help, but you haven't heard from Angel in a long time, and when you do call Los Angeles, there's a strange girl you don't know on the phone who tells you Angel is so worried about Cordelia and someone named Connor, and if this Sunnydale business is not end-of-the-world stuff, can't it wait? Angel deserves that much consideration, doesn't he? Well, yes, you say, and hang up. Would probably have done more damage than good, anyway. So it's just you, and the insane vampire in the basement, who got that way not because of gypsies, or curses, but because of you. It drives you a little mad yourself. I didn't ask for this, you want to scream at Spike. I never asked you to do this. I never would have. But Spike isn't here any more, or at least not in charge, and with his last act, he has again managed to tie you to his fate for good. You try to be matter-of-fact with Not-Spike, talk to him as little as possible while you still try to figure out a way to make sense of it all. Find a way for him which does not involve you.

But sometimes, you see echoes in his eyes, and it all comes back.