Poor kid.
I've never in my entire existence felt as bad for a human being as I did for Buffy Summers.
Sure, for the first fifteen years of her life, she'd pretty much been a spoiled princess, but what
happened after her Calling more than made up for that. And I swear if I could've known what
those later years would bring, I'd've been a bit more on the ball.
She was counting - actually *counting* - the number of licks it took to get to the center of
a Tootsie Pop when she was first pointed out to me as the Slayer to be called when the one after
the current one died. I didn't pay much attention - the kid obviously didn't have two brain cells to
rub together to make a thought, and besides, there'd been some rumor about a girl named Kendra
stepping in after Thandie and Midori were gone. So I assumed the whole thing - "You are from
this moment her Guardian. Do you accept?" intoned in deep, chiming tones in my ear as I
watched her sit in the sun - was just a big joke. Big mistake. Why didn't I ever remember that
*nobody* up here had a sense of humor? Of course no one on earth seemed to either - my
carefully rehearsed "Englishman = nun" joke had fallen pretty damn flat. By the time I finally
cottoned on to the fact that they had been serious, I'd missed the boat. The moment for assuming
Guardianship was long gone, and she was alone.
At that psychological moment, weakened by remorse and still a little giddy from a torrid
three-week tryst with a hot little Melgara, inspiration struck. There was Angel, who had become
one of my wards, squandering his immortal existence - why not use him?
I'd "won" Angel - more like had him foisted upon me - by his true Guardian, my buddy
Vince. "Christ!" he'd exclaimed, teeth clamped around a cigar as he dealt the cards at our weekly
poker game. "I can't take it anymore! Rats, rats, rats for a hundred fucking years! He *used* to
be interesting - I used to get asked all the time how he pulled off some of his stunts. Now it's
only rat imitations wherever I go." His aquamarine face brightened. "I'm betting him - loser of
this hand gets him and his damned rats." With my usual luck, of course, I ended up being the one
who fell.
I decided to take a direct approach. I interrupted his busy pouncing-on-rats schedule to
appeal to his desire to see himself as a hero. I showed him her sun-kissed face, her long, flowing
hair, her ripening body; I whispered that he could act as her Guardian (actually, he couldn't, but
that was just a technicality). He was clearly itching - fleas aside - to be useful, and what better
protection could a fledgling Slayer have than a reformed enemy? Two birds, one stone.
Of course it didn't work. Angel's idea of Guardianship seemed to be an odd blend of
stalking, avoidance, and condescension, but the two of them muddled along until the night she
thought they'd be separated indefinitely and - hadn't Vince told him *anything?!?* - they got rid
of his soul. I missed the show due to a return engagement with Annie, my pretty Melgara, but I
wouldn't have been allowed to interfere in any case. I've often wondered if in the back of his
mind he knew the consequences, and yearned to be free.
I have to say she impressed me. I'd been proud of her death - a true Slayer's end, fighting
bravely in the face of irrefutable prophecy - but her sad determination to save the world despite
her erstwhile lover's asinine plots was downright moving. But it was her cool-headed alliance
with Spike - which pushed Sita, Spike's Guardian, into a state of nervous exhaustion, rendering
her unfit for active service - that showed me how far she'd come from her days in the sun. Poor
Not that Sita wasn't perpetually on edge. The assignment to William was a sinecure; the
pretty poet was supposed to be a nice rest after Guarding one of the most ferocious Slayers in
history. Once he was turned, however, everybody had a hard time keeping up with the bad-ass he
tried to become overnight. It wasn't hard to see that she still had a soft spot for him, though; all
chicks - even Guardians - are suckers for a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve - even if he's
eating someone else's at least once a week. Sita even became friends with Drusilla's Guardian,
Joanna, and when she collapsed because of the truce Spike and Buffy had struck, Joanna stepped
in to watch over the pair of vampires speeding away in a blacked-out DeSoto. I'm sure Jo did her
best, but . . . we all know how the Brazilian adventure turned out.
I came in for a lot of flack for that one, as Sita and Jo claimed that if I hadn't pushed
Angel and Buffy together, Angelus wouldn't have arisen again, and Dru wouldn't have been
seduced, and Spike wouldn't be lonely, and the king and queen of the vampire prom would still be
together. Oh yeah? The Brenda-and-Eddie thing is big everywhere, I said. Whoosh - it went
right over their heads. But their persistence started to piss me off, and put me firmly in the Buffy
and Angel corner. I orchestrated Angel's return from the Leeor Hell Dimension - dog collars and
pink leather - to give them another shot. I even gave Buffy a hint, a dream of the two of them on
a beach, as a way to buck her up. That didn't seem to work too well. Whatever the opposite of
the Midas touch is, that's what I've got when I get involved in that girl's love life.
And then Angel, the big dummy, spoiled it all over again. It's true that they didn't seem
to be making a wild success of the second chance, but neither one was willing to acknowledge
that fact. I was just thinking, Buff, you can do better than this guy, when he had that moronic
dream about their wedding. Slayer and poofy skirt are, as my girl would say, unmixy things. And
then he dumped her, just when she'd gotten that pink dress that she loved but I thought looked
like a shower curtain. But what do I know? Comments have been made about my own sense of
style. He broke her heart again, and then showed up in his trying-too-hard-to-be-James-Bond
tux, as if that would erase her pain. Someone really should sit down with him and explain how
the love thing works. Oh, wait. Guess that would have to be me.
It's true that I have an insider's edge when it comes to his mind, but his thought-processes
aren't that complicated. Sure, he thought he was being noble, galloping off right after the sunset,
but little Angel was also making a bid to get the hell out of Dodge and into a place where he
could party. Girls weren't off-limits, Buffy was; if he couldn't have the one, he'd have the other.
I didn't think Darla fit into either category, but he made it work, and his boys apparently swam
that frigid English Channel, and whaddaya know, Angel's a daddy. A daddy with feelings for the
nanny, or whatever the hell Cordelia's doing these days. How tacky . . . and trite. It's been done
to death. At least I've managed to keep it from Buffy.
His leaving took a lot out of her, but she seemed to have cried herself out. Suddenly she
was baby-shampoo-Buffy: no more tears. She wasn't, however, up to making good decisions in
the boyfriend department yet. That Parker punk could have spared us all the sob story about his
dead dad (who is very much alive in Michigan) - Buffy had already been drawn in unconsciously
by his resemblance to Xander, believing that it promised comfort she needed. That's not exactly
what happened, but then she stumbled on Riley, or as I like to think of him, the Oaf. Even his
Guardian, Jason, has that holier-than-thou attitude, and never goes anywhere without his golden
fleece cloak. Trust me, there's nothing that looks stupider than curly yellow lamb's hair over
superhero spandex and tighty-whities. Riley was nice and boring for awhile, and things were
going okay. Buffy got to be the supportive friend for a change when the redheads split up, and
she was Slaying better than ever. Even the engagement to Spike failed to shake her. Maybe
that's because she liked it.
How long had it been since she'd been so important to someone? Sure, as the Slayer she
was important to all of humanity, but all of humanity tends not to send thank-you cards. And all
she was to most people who knew her by sight - Scoobies, parents, Watcher, and fellow
graduates of Sunnydale High's class of 1999 excluded - was a bleached blonde who'd mercifully
put down that Bozo eyeshadow palette and retired her push-up bra. I considered making another
appearance on earth to assure her of how many people loved her, but something that came out of
her mouth stopped me cold. She said - to Riley, naturally, who wasn't eager to remind her of it
when Willow's spell wore off - that she and Spike fought in order to hide their true feelings.
Whoa, there, cowgirl. Back it up a minute. This changes everything.
I knew that there was something going on with the two of them. There had been since
they first laid eyes on each other. There was something about the way they fought that suggested
infinite deferment, that each blow was the penultimate simply because they couldn't bring
themselves to end the fight so soon. Or at least that's what my therapist said. But what had sent
the first major electric shock through Buffy - and by extension, me - was, reeling from her friend
Ford's betrayal and Angel's lies and confession of his past sins, she spotted Drusilla in the shelter,
ready to feed alongside Spike and his gang. When she held her stake to Dru's heart, she tested
Spike's love, but he'd already passed a test she didn't know she'd set: he didn't equate love with
overprotectiveness. He would save Dru, but he wouldn't keep her at home and bewail the
dangers she faced, or keep her ignorant "for her own good." Angel should have been taking
But he never seemed to be paying attention to the important stuff. Or much of anything.
Just doing tai chi really freakin' slow. But Buffy was at that age when her own feelings were
enough; all she needed was a big strong body and a pretty face to project them on. It always
amazed me how long she let the Angel thing go, considering how strong her other relationships
were. I mean, come on - she can recognize her Watcher in a whole new skin and *without his
glasses*, but she can't figure out that her boyfriend's the strong, silent type because he's got
nothing to say? If you think about Angel and Riley, it's no wonder Spike made her a little dizzy.
I used to think that maybe Dru was slipping him a little something, because I'd never seen
anybody so hyper-aware. But that's just how he is. He's got a finger in every pie and an active
interest in each of his digits. I admired his inventiveness, his resourcefulness, which stood him in
good stead not only when he fought but when he loved. When Dru insisted on checking to make
sure the stars were still hovering in the sky in the daytime, he kept her from walking in the sun by
showing her that she could see stars anytime she wanted if she pressed her fists against her closed
eyelids. Clever. And she did it so many times she was convinced Andromeda and Orion and all
their pals in the constellations were smiling down on them, and she led him outside that night to
put on a show for the voyeur gods. When I finally went down to meet Spike - to feel him out, see
if he would pick up Angel's slack - it was so nice to hear my introduction "Whistler" met with the
lines, "Parrot-voiced and whistler, / Helter skelter, hurry skurry." He paused to suck in some
smoke and say, "Bloody brilliant poem. Good to know you, mate." Despite the fact that he knew
how I'd chosen my name, I never pitched the Guardian thing to him - he didn't seem the type to
stay in any one place long enough, and of course then he didn't see Buffy as a reason to stay.
Or at least not a reason to stay in the way I meant. He'd killed two slayers before, after
all, both in single combat. That was how he truly fought; the gang he had when he first popped
up in my slayer's life was to keep him free to devote himself entirely to Drusilla. But the
connection to Buffy was there, the connection for which Dru raked him over the coals in Brazil.
And Buffy moved on to Riley.
At least that ho-hum relationship gave me a chance to warm things up with Annie again.
And this time I hadn't been the matchmaker, so I had no guilt when Mr. Cabbage-Patch-Kid-Nose
turned on first his high-and-mighty and then his idiot-vamp-food acts. And when he finally left, I
was sure Spike was going to make his move.
But instead he went back to his old pal Joyce and made friends with the new kid sis. And
he went and got himself a brand new look, all pastels and khaki. I wanted to pull him aside and
shout at him, Don't change a thing - can't you see she was responding to you, black leather,
cigarette smoke, nail polish, and all? But his real mistake was chaining her up. Some part of her
knew his declarations of love were real, but all she could think of was the last time she'd been in
chains, pretending heartbreak at Angelus's supposed return; she was so convincing because she'd
lived it before. Once she awoke in chains in Spike's crypt, she closed her mind, and even when
her mother died, that part of her brain that had believed Spike, that remembered how much Joyce
had liked Spike, stayed resolutely shut. As did the entrances to her house. And she ran off to
hold hands, over her mother's grave, with the one creature Joyce truly hated. Never mind the fact
that Spike had himself been hurt by Joyce's illness and death, or that he'd been someone for the
big-eyed brat to talk to. I wanted to smack Buffy upside the head and show her what should have
been obvious, but I remembered my track record and steered clear of the whole mess.
She let him back in, of course, only in time to die again. I know it was heroic, but I also
know there was part of her that just wanted her mommy back by her side. I get it, even if I don't
have a mommy myself. Although sometimes Annie likes to discipline me. But that bright blue-
white light solved Buffy's problems, even as it created new ones for everyone she left behind.
When they brought her back, she seemed to think the answer to her new problems was the only
other person she knew who'd died before.
And he let her use him, telling himself that she was on her way to loving him, that she
already loved him but couldn't quite bring herself to say it. Boy did that blow up in his face.
Yeah, she kissed him a couple of times, kisses even better than the ones he remembered from their
moments of spell-driven mutual adoration, but she refused to assign a deep meaning to her
actions. He knew that that was not how she worked - this was Buffy, after all, not Faith - but
nothing he did unlocked her lips and got her to spill her dirty little secret. Not even that night
they brought the house down.
Now, I have to admit, that when Dru sensed somebody watching, she wasn't wrong.
We're divine Guardians, but that doesn't mean we're holy beings. And there's no faster way for a
new Guardian to make friends than to invite some of the others to watch when his Charge starts
getting down and dirty. I wasn't the one putting out the welcome mat - Sita was - but I was the
one, as usual, who took the fall. Buffy's and Spike's gymnastic exertions in that ramshackle
house were like nothing any of us had ever seen. Sita had been bragging for years about Spike's
prowess, but I'd never said a word about Buffy's abilities. They all assumed I'd been hoarding
the knowledge, unwilling to share, but the truth was that I was as surprised as the next guy -
Vince, as a matter of fact, who kept lighting and dropping his cigars. "Holy Christ!" he yelled as
they went at it again and again, shooting me an evil glare. But how could I have known what she
was capable of? She'd lain still under Angel, trying not to make too much noise, and Riley - well,
let's just say that he really was a regimented soldier, needing a training manual for *every*
procedure. So the carnal possibilities of Buffy Summers had been untapped, and those of us who
witnessed the first night with Spike were blown away. After eight straight times, the two of them
lay back, exhausted, and the audience disappeared in a hurry, off to find someone they could test
this stuff out on. Only I stayed there - even Annie had gone off in a huff, thinking I'd been
holding out on her - and so I saw what happened next. Spike began again, this time slowly,
sweetly, telling her he loved her. And she pretended that she was too spent to protest, and she let
him have his say and let him love her. They both knew that this was something different, and she
was on the verge of telling him, but then the morning came and she refused to let it last. When
she insisted that their relationship was a freak show - Angel's words again! - but then was enraged
that Spike called it fucking, I knew that what I'd seen had been real, and that she loved him too.
But was there ever a girl as stubborn as Buffy Summers? As stubborn as the mule-
goddess. She denied every last bit of it, from the dream she had of his sliding into her bed and
comforting her, to the real reason she smashed his head into a bloody spot on the pavement. She
even convinced herself that her whole life had been a hallucination. And when Spike - jettisoned
when the Oaf returned, complete with Mrs. Oaf - wanted to continue the conversation they'd
begun at the abortive wedding, wanted to hear her say she loved him, thinking that if he just could
get at her body then her mind would succumb, he made the worst mistake of his existence. He
hated himself even more than she hated him in that moment, and no penance seemed great
enough. He tore himself away from her, denying himself the chance of seeing her, and prepared
to face a new death or a new life.
He was off winning his soul in the birthplace of the First Slayer when Buffy's world was
shaken by Tara's murder and Willow's assumption of unspeakable powers. It was rocked to its
foundations, however, when she realized the cruel trick the Powers - nasty bastards - had been
prepared to play. As she'd said to Giles, a new Slayer would have been Called had she been
allowed to remain in heaven; it wasn't until she saw the ease and assurance with which Dawn
moved in that hole in the ground against those bony swordsmen that she realized that it was her
baby sister that was meant to be the universe's new stopgap solution to the problem of earth's
demon infestation. Those monks really had made Dawn out of her.
Crazy as it sounds, that moment of revelation made me think that Spike would get the
welcome he dreamed of when he finally came back to Sunnydale. Understanding that Dawn could
have walked the line between life and death just as she had done startled Buffy. She spent the
summer getting her house and relationships in order. She and Dawn watched Audrey Hepburn
movies once a week, as a way of mourning Tara, who had adored the actress, and as a way of
bonding. I watched right along with them; it was sweet to see them curled up against each other,
and sad when they both held their breath after one of Tara's favorite lines was spoken. They
saved *Breakfast at Tiffany's* for the end, and one line - "I believe you are in league with the
butcher!" - made Buffy turn involuntarily as if to see Spike's reaction. He wasn't there, of
course, being at that moment involved in self-mutilation in his new underground digs, but she
could see that half-smile he wore when she was around so clearly. She wondered about the fact
that it was only for Dawn that he smiled fully, and then realized she'd never given him much cause
to lavish that smile on her. She had him on the brain from then on, both waking - when she
realized the Buffybot must have been programmed in part with a picture of Spike, and going on a
quest to find that photograph or drawing - and sleeping - when she lay in the divot of her mattress
she'd made and dreamt of him, of the way he would smile for her when she said what she finally
wanted to say.
Her timing, let me just say, is as bad as mine. When she finally saw him again, he was
crazed and hurt, unable to process most of her questions and formulate appropriate responses.
Only one question her startled "What did you do?" - got an answer, and that was because her
words and even her tone were identical to his on seeing her newly resurrected the year before. He
remembered for the millionth time her death - and that was why he was back in Sunnydale after
the summer break most demons took, ready to keep Dawn from harm until the end of the world -
and her return to life. He remembered how he had failed her on the tower. He remembered what
he had tried to do to her in her own home. And he refused to believe Buffy was ready to say she
loved him. I don't know which one of them I feel sorrier for. Poor kid.